Sunday, August 24, 2014

Tom Kha Thai Soup

Accompanied by my illustrious photographer and culinary muse, JiJY, I present to you: Tom Kha. This fragrant soup is made with chicken and is bursting with flavor from the aromatic spices (and no curry powder/paste at all), and brought together with coconut milk and lime.

Finished product, garnished with Thai basil and an egg. Photo by JiJY Thanwalee.


  • 1 chicken
  • 4-5 quarts water
  • 1 chicken boullion cube
  • 3-4 stalks lemon grass
  • 1 galangal root
  • 6-8 kaffir lime leaves
  • 4 large shallots or 1 red onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 Thai chilies

Simmering the broth. Scoop off the scummy bits so you get a nice clear broth. I accelerated the process by using a pressure cooker. Photo by JiJY Thanwalee.
Place the chicken, aromatics, and water together in a large pot or pressure cooker. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 1 hour (or 35 min in pressure cooker). Drain the broth for use in the soup and discard the aromatics. Remove the chicken and when it is cool enough to handle, strip the meat from the bone. Use half of the meat in the tom kha (use the rest of the meat in some other recipe such as chicken laap salad).

Coconut Milk & Veggies:

  • 1 can (14 oz) coconut milk
  • 1 bunch Thai basil (reserve some for garnish)
  • 1.5 c. oyster mushrooms (or 1 can straw mushrooms)
  • 6-8 green eggplants, stems removed and quartered

NOTE: other vegetables are possible, such as long beans, tomatoes, or bamboo shoots, but I recommend restraint so that the other flavors shine through


  • 1-2 Tbsp. palm sugar or brown sugar
  • 3-4 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • Juice of 1 large lime

In a separate large pot, simmer down the coconut milk for 10-15 minutes to concentrate it. Add the broth and veggies and simmer until they are tender. Add the palm sugar, fish sauce, and lime juice and adjust seasonings to taste.


  • Thai basil
  • Cilantro
  • Thai chilies
  • Green onions
  • Beansprouts
In some ways, garnishing the soup is the best part...other than eating it, of course! Photo by JiJY Thanwalee.

Enjoy the amazing flavors of the soup, along with the crispy garnish. I froze some, so I'll let you know how well it works as leftovers.

Sometimes the chefs get hungry, so I recommend a meaty snack with a spicy kick: Hmong sausage and a chili pepper. Photo by JiJY Thanwalee

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Braised Shortribs

Sometimes you just want a pile of hot beef, and you don't want to chew. This is the recipe for you. It can be made in the pressure cooker or slow cooked. The onions, carrot, and celery cook down and make a delicious gravy, which you could blend if you want it to be smooth.

Fortunately, my cooking is much better than my photography. This is the short ribs served over potato gnocchi, with a side of turnip greens. I kept the onion/meat juice mixture chunky and used it as a sauce for the gnocchi.

3 lbs short ribs
1 large onion, minced
3 stalks celery, minced
2 carrots, grated
3-5 shallots, minced
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/3 c. dry sherry or 1 c. dry red wine
1 large bundle fresh thyme, or 1 tbsp. dried
1 pkg French onion soup mix
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
1/4 c. cooking oil
~3 c. water

Sprinkle the short ribs with salt and black pepper. Heat the oil until very hot and brown the short ribs in a few batches, to avoid overcrowding the pot. Do this in the base of your pressure cooker (if using that method); if you are using a slow cooker, use a separate pan. Remove the short ribs from the pot. Add the onions to the hot oil and stir until they begin to brown. Add in the celery and carrots and stir to cook for 2-3 min. Add the tomato paste and stir until it is well-distributed. Add the sherry and onion soup mix. Stir the short ribs and any meat juice they produced back into the pot. Tuck the bundle of sage into the pot, and then add just enough water that the short ribs are partially covered.

If you are using a slow cooker, bring the liquid to a simmer and then pour it into the cooker. Cook on low 6-8 hours or until fall-apart tender.

If using a pressure cooker, bring to a boil and then put the lid on and take it up to high pressure. Cook for 45 minutes and then off the heat allow the pressure to escape naturally from the pot.

Once the ribs are cooked, you have options with how to serve them. I recommend putting them over wide noodles or gnocchi, but would also be very good on top of polenta or mashed potatoes.
1. (for picky eaters) Remove ribs from pot and, slip out the rib bones and chop up the meat (it's up to you if you want to get rid of the connective tissue, but it should be very tender and delectable at this point).
2. OR For more adventurous types, leave on the bone
3. Either use a slotted spoon to strain out the veggies and use these as a chunky sauce for your starch.
4. OR once you have removed the meat from the pot, use an immersible blender to make a smooth sauce with the meat juice and veggies.
5. Either mix the meat back into the sauce, or serve it on top of everything.

Now you are probably confused. However, if you have a big batch of these savory, tender ribs, I am sure you will figure out a satisfactory way to serve them!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Easy Berry Tart

I was invited to a dinner party with rather short notice, and asked to make dessert, which isn't really my specialty. Luckily, I got this ginormous, very British cookbook "1000 Classic Recipes" for $2 at a book sale. Being British, probably half the recipes are for cakes, pies or tarts, and flipping through I found this recipe which was ludicrously easy and required very few ingredients. It's low fat (for the gallbladderless among us), it could probably be made with gluten free flour, it takes maybe half an hour to make from start to finish, and it's really tasty - a nice, light summer dessert. The one caveat is that it's best to serve fairly soon after making, otherwise it gets a bit mushy from the berry juice. Also, it doesn't make a huge amount - I'm not sure how amenable it would be to doubling, though it sufficed for six people for a light dessert. 

It's best served with vanilla ice cream.

2 c. worth of berries (I used raspberries, strawberries and blueberries, but your berries may vary)

2 eggs
1/4 c. superfine sugar (you can just put granulated sugar into the food processor and blast it a few times)
1 Tbsp. flour
1/4 c. ground almonds
Parchment paper

Preheat oven to 375.

Grease the inside of a pie dish, and line it with parchment paper (which you may have to cut into a circle to fit into the pan easily). The grease mostly serves to hold the paper in place. Cut any berries that need cutting (e.g. strawberries) and place those and the other berries (blueberries or raspberries for example do not need to be cut up) into the bottom of the pan. If you think the berries will be too tart, toss a little sugar on them.

If you don't have superfine sugar, since you'll be using the food processor anyway for the almonds, you can just blast normal granulated sugar a few times and it'll be fine for this recipe. Grind the almonds in the food processor once you're done with the sugar.

Crack both eggs into a bowl, add the sugar. Here's the only weird part - you're trying to get as much air as possible into these eggs, but since the yolks are still included, it won't make stiff peaks like it would with normal egg whites. Beat it until it is pretty stiff though, to the point where beaters make short-lived trails in the eggs.

Mix the flour and almonds, then fold them into the eggs. Try not to lose too much of the air during that process. Pour the batter over the berries. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the dough part is golden brown and cooked through.

Remove from oven, wait until it has cooled off a bit, then invert onto a serving plate and carefully remove parchment. Cut into slices and serve with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Hearty Lentil and Weiner Soup

Hot dogs and lentils are a match made in heaven and are also extremely cheap! You can keep it basic and use regular hot-dots, or get fancy ones from Kramarczuk's or another meat market. I used their coarse-ground weiners with great results. Use green or brown lentils, not the red ones. I added orzo pasta to thicken it up, but you could also use rice or potatoes and adjust cooking time accordingly.

4 weiner links
1 c. green lentils
1 c. orzo pasta
1 qt. beef or ham broth
2 qt. water

1 large onion, diced
3 stalks celery, sliced
2 medium carrots, diced
3 Tbsp. tomato paste
3 sage leaves, sliced (or 2 tsp. dried)
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. whole cumin seeds
1 tsp. dried coriander
2 Tbps. Crystal or Tobasco hot sauce
2 Tbsp. oil
1 Tbsp. black pepper
handful of fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
salt to taste

Slice up the weiners and saute them in the oil in a heavy soup pot until they brown slightly on the edges. Add the onion and half of the celery and saute until the onions begin to cook through. Add the tomato paste, cumin, coriander, black pepper, and toss to coat. Add the broth, sage, bay leaves, and water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and simmer 20 minutes.

Add the remaining celery and carrots and the orzo and increase the heat to boil the orzo, carrots, and lentils until just tender (~10 min). Add the hot sauce and parsley and adjust the seasonings to taste.

NoneMoreBlack pointed out that this recipe is similar to Cotechino con Lenticchie, an Italian dish traditionally served at New Year's Eve. If you are somehow able to source the specialty cotechino sausage, please make the Italian recipe and tell me how it is!

Chicken Pasta Operation Icebox

Dan claims this is an original recipe, but I think it's just a variation of Pasta Fazool and Pesto Sausage Desperation. He absolutely loved it and insisted that I post it on the blog. It is indeed delicious. The basic idea is protein (could be leftover meat) + pasta + miscellaneous color/flavor agents that do not require a trip to the grocery store = dinner.

1 package pappardelle or fettuccine (long wide noodles)
1-1.5 lb chicken breast
2 medium onions
1/2 c. roasted red pepper, chopped (i.e. from a jar)
1/2 bag/block frozen spinach
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 glugs dry vermouth
3 Tbsp. cooking oil + a dash olive oil
A few sprigs of basil and parsley from the garden, chopped
OR 2 tsp. pesto
2 tsp. oregano
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese

Boil the noodles in plenty of salted water until just tender (they will cook more in the pan). Drain, reserving 1 c. of the cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, cut the chicken into cubes and toss them with salt and pepper and dried oregano.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick pan until quite hot, then add the chicken and brown on the edges, but do not fully cook through. Remove to a bowl.

Return the pan to high heat and keep it very hot through the next few steps. Add the onions and saute until they have toasty edges, tossing in the garlic and red pepper flakes part-way through. Deglaze with the vermouth and add the roasted red peppers and spinach, tossing them until the pan becomes dry again.

 Push the veggies to the edge of the pan and add the noodles. If they have become a solid glob, pour some of the hot noddle water over them to loosen. Allow the edges of the noodles on the bottom of the pan to crisp a bit.

Start folding the veggies into the noodles until they are well-combined. Toss in the chicken and the herbs or pesto. Once it has heated back through and the chicken bits are fully cooked, turn of the heat and grate fresh Parmesan cheese over the top (optional) and adjust the seasonings.