Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Baked Butternut Squash and Cheese Polenta

I found this recipe through Food and Wine magazine and the other night I had my future parent-in-laws over for dinner and it was a success. Served it with seared sea scallops and roasted Brussels sprouts and it was quite yummy!
I made it again for Thanksgiving and it was just as good. I use 5 minute quick cooking polenta to cut down on the time.

One 2-pound butternut squash—peeled, seeded and sliced 1 inch thick
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan
1/3 cup pine nuts
1 large onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried sage, crumbled
Salt and freshly ground pepper
6 cups water
2 cups wick cook polenta
Unsalted butter
4 ounces smoked Gouda, shredded (1 cup)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preheat the oven to 375°. Arrange the squash on a large oiled baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, until tender. Transfer the squash to a bowl and mash coarsely. (You should have about 1 1/2 cups.) Spread the pine nuts on a pie plate and toast in the oven for 4 minutes, until golden. Coarsely chop the nuts.
Meanwhile, in a skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion and sage and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until golden, 25 minutes; add a few tablespoons of water if the onion looks dry.
In a saucepan, bring the 6 cups of water to a boil. Whisk in the polenta and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook according to package directions. Stir in 1 tablespoon of butter along with the mashed squash, pine nuts, onion, Gouda and half of the grated Parmigiano cheese. Pour the hot polenta into a buttered large cast-iron skillet. Flatten the top of the polenta slightly without spreading it to the edges; refrigerate until firm, about 3 hours.
Rub the surface of the polenta with softened butter and sprinkle with the remaining grated Parmigiano cheese. Bake in a 375° oven for 1 hour, until the top and side are lightly browned and crisp. Let stand for 20 minutes before cutting it into wedges.
SERVE WITH Sautéed mushrooms, braised greens or tomato sauce.



Saturday, September 29, 2012

Seared Sea Scallops over Shrimp and Truffle Risotto

Scallops are so quick to cook up,I thought this would be a great after work meal to whip up. Turned out great! Recipe from epicurious.

3 8-ounce bottles clam juice
1 cup low-salt chicken broth
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 uncooked large shrimp, peeled, deveined, diced
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup arborio rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
6 large sea scallops
Truffle oil*
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Bring clam juice and broth to simmer in medium saucepan. Reduce heat to low; cover to keep warm. Heat olive oil in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add shrimp; sauté 1 minute. Using slotted spoon, transfer to bowl. Add onion to pan; sauté until translucent, about 1 minute. Add garlic; sauté 15 seconds. Add rice; stir 1 minute. Add wine; simmer until absorbed, about 1 minute. Add 1 cup clam juice mixture to rice; simmer until liquid is absorbed, stirring often. Continue adding liquid 1 cup at a time and stirring often, allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding next, until rice is tender but still firm to bite, about 20 minutes. Stir in butter and shrimp. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat vegetable oil in heavy medium skillet over high heat. Sear scallops until golden brown and just opaque in center, about 1 minute per side. Divide risotto among 6 plates. Place 1 scallop atop risotto on each plate, drizzle lightly with truffle oil, sprinkle with chives, and serve.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Vietnamese Shaking Beef

Bo luc lac, or shaking beef, is a yummy and simple Vietnamese dish. Cubes of marinated steak are shaken while cooked, which is where the name comes from. It's served on a bed of watercress, tomatoes, and pickled red onions with a sour vinaigrette. The recipe I used here is adapted from The Ravenous Couple food blog:

Beef Marinade
1.5 lbs beef sirloin cut into 1″ cubes
1 tbs minced garlic
1.5 tbs sugar
2 tbs oyster sauce
1 tbs fish sauce
1 tbs sesame oil
1 tsp soy sauce

1/2 cup rice vinegar
1.5 tbs sugar
1/2 tbs salt

Dipping Sauce
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 ts kosher salt
1/2 ts fresh cracked pepper

1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 bunches of watercress, long stems trimmed
2 tomatoes, thinly sliced

Cooking oil for frying

Prepare marinade by combining garlic, oyster sauce, sugar, fish sauce, thick soy sauce and sesame oil with the beef for at least half an hour, preferably 1-2 hrs.
Prepare vinaigrette by mixing rice vinegar with salt and sugar. It should be a balance of sour, salty and sweet.

Thinly slice the red onion and use about 3-4 tbs of the vinaigrette to pickle and set aside covered in fridge for about 10 minutes. Prepare bed of watercress and tomatoes in a serving platter and set aside.

Heat a large wok or pan over high heat. Add about 2 tbs cooking oil and when it begins to smoke, add an even layer of beef and allow to sear for about 2 minutes, before “shaking” to sear the opposite sides for about another 1-2 minute more to brown all the sides. Do not overcook! The goal is medium-rare. If overcooked, the meat will be tough and not very good. Do this in batches to cook all the beef if necessary.

Transfer beef to bed of watercress and tomatoes. Drizzle another 3-4 tbs of vinaigrette over the beef and greens and top with pickled red onions. Lastly, squeeze lime juice over salt and pepper in a small ramekin.

Serve with rice and enjoy!

Salami and Pepper Pizzas

This month's Real Simple magazine had a spread on 20 minute dinners and since I'm pretty busy with work, I thought I'd try some of the recipes out. This one was really yummy and super quick and simple!

2 tbs olive oil
4 5-to-7- inch flat breads, naan bread or pocketless pittas (I used naan)
1/2 c marinara sauce
8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced
2 oz sliced salami, cut into bite-size pieces
1 lg bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 cup baby arugula

-Heat oven to 450*F. Brush 2 rimmed baking sheets with oil and place 2 flat breads on each. Dividing evenly, top with marina sauce, mozzarella, salami, and bell pepper. Season with 1/4 tap each salt and pepper
-Bake the pizzas, rotating the sheets halfway through, until the cheese is melted and the flat breads are golden, 8-10 min. Top with arugula.

Monday, July 2, 2012

La Madeline's Tomato Basil Soup

The chain French restaurant La Madeline has a delicious tomato basil soup. It's just pure yummy. I have a recipe that came from a cookbook my friend's parents put together. They got the recipe when it was printed in the Houston newspaper and it is delicious! Plus it's super easy! Made it tonight. It's great with a nice crusty bread.

-Tomatoes, 4 cups (8-10), peeled, cored, and chopped [or 4 cups canned whole tomatoes]
-Tomato juice, 4 cups [or a mixture of tomato juice and vegetable or chicken broth]
-basil leaves, 12-14, + additional for garnish
-whipping cream, 1 cup
-unsalted butter, 1/4 cup
-cracked black pepper, 1/4 tsp
-salt and pepper to taste

1. Simmer tomatoes and juice over medium low heat for 30 minutes
2. Cool slightly, then add basil and purée in a food processor or blender
3. Return to sauce pan. Add cream and butter
4. Stir over low heat until they are blended well
5. Add salt and pepper
6. Serve garnished with basil (optional) [bread goes nicely]

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Tandoori chicken with turmeric rice

My fiancé and I were hanging out at our friends pool when we walked by a party grilling tandoori chicken. It smelled so good and we instantly had a craving for it. Later that week, I tried a recipe to make some at home. The recipe is from Epicurious. It was very good and pretty easy. Reid loved the spiciness of it (I added a lot of cayenne to the yogurt sauce).
Tandoori chicken is traditionally cooked in a clay oven, a tandoor. In this version the chicken is broiled.

Tandoori chicken
For spice paste:
1 large garlic clove
1 1/2 tsp coarse salt
1 small fresh red or green chile
1/3 cup low fat plain yogurt
1 tbs fresh lemon juice
2 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
3/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground clove

4 skinless boneless chicken breasts
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 tsp vegetable oil

For yogurt sauce
1/2 cup low fat yogurt
1 tsp fresh yogurt
Pinch cayenne

Combine spice paste ingredients in a food processor.
Make 3 diagonal cuts about 1/4 in deep in each chicken breast and rub spice paste into cuts and all over chicken.
Marinate chicken, covered, 30 minutes. Soak 1/2 red onion in ice cold water.

Preheat broiler. Brush chicken with 1 tsp oil and broil about 10 minutes. Flip chicken and brush with oil. Broil another 10 mins.

Make yogurt sauce by combining 1 tbs of minced red onion and yogurt and cayenne.

Drain soaked red onion and pat dry in paper towels. Top chicken with onion slices and yogurt sauce.

Turmeric rice
I have a rice cooker so I just combined these ingredients in a rice cooker. If you don't have one you could make it on the stove.
2 c basmati rice
4 c water
4 tbs butter
1 tsp salt
1 tbs ground turmeric
Once the rice is down, stir in 1/2 c frozen green peas.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Whole Foods Copy Kale Salad and Petite Lasagnas

The kale salad from the salad bar at Whole Foods is delicious. My fiancé introduced it to me and a few friends and it is amazing! The dressing is sweet and a little citrusy and perfectly compliments the fresh, slightly bitter taste of kale. It's one of those dishes you don't feel guilty about when you eat a giant portion of it. But it, like everything at WH, can be pricey if you're hooked on it. I tried to look up a copy cat recipe online but wasn't very satisfied with the results. So, I did some investigating (IE reading the ingredients label at the salad bar) and came up with something pretty close.

Whole Foods Kale Salad
1 bunch kale, washed, de-stemmed, and torn into bite-sized pieces
1 c. dried cranberries
1 c. sliced blanched almonds
(the Whole Foods version also has dried apples, but the chewy texture kind of throws me off so I keep it out of mine)

1/3 c orange juice
3 tbs white balsamic vinegar
1/4 c olive oil
1 tbs honey
1/2 tsp ground oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 thinly sliced shallot

Mix together dressing ingredients.
Toss with kale, cranberries, and sliced almonds (+/- dried apples)

I made this salad to accompany petite lasagnas. I didn't want to blatantly plagiarize, so the recipe can be found at this blog:
The novelty of the cute lasagnas, or meat pies as my fiancé called them, outweighs the tastiness of it (not as yummy as the sage Italian sausage lasagna recipe I use from Epicurious). Maybe next time I'll use my Epicurious recipe in the petite lasagna format.

Pesto and Portobella Orzo

Years ago, my mother made up this recipe.  I had totally forgotten about it until one of my friends, Tina, was talking about how she loved it so much and wanted to make it now that she'd become vegetarian.  It is a really simple dish and very tasty.  The measurements might be weird.  I usually make the pesto by taste/feel so I'm kinda guestimating the amounts now.

Pesto and Portobello Orzo
Pesto and Portobello Orzo
2 cups orzo
1 bunch basil
1/4 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
1/8 to 1/4 c. pine nuts (I put about a handful in)
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil
1 carton sliced Baby Bella mushrooms

  1. Boil orzo according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.
  2. Combine basil, parmesan, and pine nuts in a food processor.  Mix while drizzling olive in until you get the consistency you want.  I like a thicker consistency for mine.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Saute the mushrooms in a little bit of olive oil over medium high heat until soft. About 5 minutes.
  4. Combine orzo, mushroom, and pesto and warm through.  Serve with parmesan on top.
I sliced up some grilled portobello caps, covered with olive oil, minced garlic, and salt and pepper on the lean mean grilling machine to go with this.  Yummy vegetarian dinner!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bun Bo Hue

Bun Bo Hue is a vietnamese spicy beef noodle soup.  Kind of like Pho's spicy cousin.  It originates from the central region of Vietnam, where my dad's side of the family is from.  This recipe is my aunt, Co Be's, recipe and it is deeeeeelicious!  My sister really wanted to preserve this recipe so she had my aunt film a tutorial on how to make it.  See below! Hope you enjoy.

20 lemongrass stalks (3 bunches), depending on the size
1 package pork baby back ribs (3 lbs). Co Be only buys pork and beef at the American groceries.
3 packages beef shanks (3 lbs each)
6 beef tendons (bought at the VN store)
2 sweet onions, peeled
1.5 cup of canola oil
4 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoons black pepper and about 3 tablespoons of salt, to taste
30 cloves garlic, finely minced
About 6 tablespoons nước mắm (fish sauce), to taste.
8 tablespoons red chili powder (buy these at the American grocery store), to taste. Cayenne pepper is fine, but then you should decrease the amount as cayenne pepper is spicier.
4 (8-ounce) packages rice noodles, boiled
8 cubes beef bouillon, to taste
10 kaffir lime leaves, chopped
chả lụa Huế, thinly sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
6 limes, cut into wedges
1 bunch of rau kinh doi, rinsed and chopped
2 bunches of rau răm, rinsed and chopped
1 bunch of cilantro rinsed and chopped
2 bunches of green onions, rinsed and chopped
1 jar mắm ruốc (shrimp paste): not optional! If you want Bun Bo to taste like Bun Bo, this has got to be the main ingredient.
1 bag of bean sprouts, optional

For the lemongrass: Wash the lemongrass stalks. Remove all the white powder from the leaves. Bruise the younger part using a mallet and tie into bunches of 3-4 stalks.
Making bún bò Huế broth:  Rinse the pork ribs and beef shanks, place them in a pot and cover with water. Add garlic powder, salt, black pepper and 1 onion. Bring to a boil, remove cloudy film on top, then lower the heat to a bubbly simmer. Simmer for 1 hour and constantly remove cloudy film on top.
Fish out the beef shanks and pork ribs using a slotted spoon; transfer to a cutting board. Allow to cool and slice the meat (don’t slice them too thin). Make sure the beef shanks are sliced against the grain to ensure optimum tenderness. Cook the tendons for about ½ hour to 1 hour more to desired tenderness, then sliced.
For the rocket fuel:  In another stockpot, heat the canola oil. Add 1 ½ chopped onions and garlic. Cook over high heat for about 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent the onions and garlic from burning, until the color is evenly golden brown. Turn off heat and add red chili powder.
To the broth, add fish sauce, 4 tablespoons mắm ruốc or however much to taste, beef bouillon, few tablespoons of sugar, few tablespoons of “rocket fuel”, lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves. Add sliced meat and tendons back in and cook for another 30-45 minutes under low heat until desired tenderness.
Serving time:  Fill each bowl with rice noodles, sliced red onion, beef bones and the sweet spicy broth. Serve immediately. Garnish with chả lụa pieces, lime wedges, bean sprouts, and the Asian herbs on top. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Roasted Vegetable and Beef Moussaka

Moussaka is a Mediterranean dish that is traditionally made with eggplants and ground beef.  I found a vegetarian recipe for roasted vegetable moussaka that I thought looked so pretty with all the different colors, but I also wanted some protein in it so I could eat it as a main dish so I combined it with a more traditional type of moussaka.  The end result turned out very nicely and I'll definitely be making it again.
Roasted Vegetable and Beef Moussaka
serves 6
1 small eggplant, sliced
1 medium zucchini, sliced thickly
1 onion, cut into small wedges
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped coarsely
2 garlic cloves, chopped coarsely, divided
1 lb fresh lean ground beef
5 tbs olive oil
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
salt and pepper
14 oz canned chopped tomatoes in juice
10 fluid oz strained plain yogurt
2 eggs
2 oz feta cheese

  1. Put eggplant, zucchini, wedged onion, bell pepper, and half the garlic in a roasting pan.  drizzle over the oil, toss together, then sprinkle over the thyme and season with salt and pepper.  Roast in preheated oven, 425F for 30-35 minutes, turning pan halfway through cooking, until golden brown and tender.
  2. Add beef to a skillet and cook for 5 minutes, stirring, until browned.  Stir in the sliced onions and garlic and cook for 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper, then bring to a boil and let simmer for 20 minutes, or until meat is tender.
  3. Arrange half the roasted vegetable mixture in an oven proof dish.  Add the meat mixture, then a final layer of the remaining roasted vegetable mixture.
  4. Beat the eggs in a bowl, then beat in the yogurt and season with salt and pepper.  Pour the mixture over the roasted vegetables and crumble over the feta cheese.  Bake in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until golden brown.  Serve straight from the dish

Pink Lemonade cupcakes

I found this recipe, of all places, in the magazine my utilities company sent me.  I've tried several recipes form their recipe collection of all have been pretty good.  This turned out really good but soooooooo tart! I'm posting the adjusted recipe with cut backs on pink lemonade mix.

Pink Lemondae Cupcakes (24 cupcakes)
1 cup butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/8 cup powdered pink lemonade mix
4 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk
cooking spray
Pink Lemonade Frosting

  1. Preheat oven to 340 degrees.
  2. Cream butter, sugar and lemonade mix at medium speed with electric mixer until creamy
  3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until blended after each addition
  4. In small bowl, combine flour, baking pwoder and salt; add to butter mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
  5. Beat at low speed until blended after each addition.
  6. Place cupcake paper sin two 12-cup muffin pans and coat with cooking spray
  7. Bake 12-15 minutes or until wooden pick insrted in center comes out clean.
  8. Cool in pans for 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks and cool completely.
  9. Frost with Pink Lemonade.  Decorate with sprinkles.
That's some pink batter!
Pink Lemonade Frosting
1/8 cup powdered pink lemonade mix
1/2 cup butter, softened
2-3 tbs whipping cream
1 package (16 oz) powdered sugar
  1. Dissolve pink lemonade mix in 3 tbs water
  2. Beat butter, lemonade mixture and whipping cream at medium speed with electric mixer until creamy.
  3. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at low speed until blended.
  4. Beat at high speed two minutes or until creamy

Spinach and Feta Swirls

This appetizer or side dish is yummy and pretty.  I combined two different recipes in order to come up with this one.  Made this two times now and always very satisfied with the result.

1 lb fresh baby spinach, chopped or 1 10 oz package frozen spinach
1 small onion, chopped finely
4 oz feta
1 egg, beaten
1 tbs. fresh dill, chopped
2 tbs. fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
salt and pepper
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, defrosted

1) Preheat oven to 400F and lightly grease one baking pan.
2) Sautee onion in about 1 tbs olive oil in a large skillet.  Add fresh spinach with just water from leaves and cook for about 2-3 minutes or until wilted.  If using frozen spinach, cook until no longer in chunks.  I've done it with fresh spinach or frozen spinach and I personally think the fresh spinach is easier.
3)Allow to cool.  Drain spinach and onion mixture in a kitchen towel.  Combine spinach, onion, dill, parsley, egg, feta, and salt and pepper.
4)Unfold puff pastry and top with spinach mixture
5)Roll up on short side like a jelly roll.  Slice into 1/2 inch pieces.
6)Place sliced pieces cut side down on greased pan and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Another food blog?!

I come from a culture where recipes aren't really written down. In Vietnam, girls learn how to cook from watching and helping their mothers, aunts, and grandmothers in the kitchen. Unfortunately, that tradition is hard to maintain when your parents immigrated to the US as war refuges and your grandparents live in France.

But I'm lucky to be able to enjoy food from several different cultures. Vietnamese food we ate at home, American (and also Italian, Tex-Mex, Greek) from eating out and growing up in America, and French food from my grandparents and mother's side of the family who live in Paris.

I wanted to have a place where I can share and keep the recipes I've learned from my mother, family, recipe books, or online recipe sites that I want to remember.  The name of my blog comes from a very special type of Vietnamese salt and pepper called Muoi Tieu Hue.  It's from the central region of Vietnam that my father is from.  It is salt and pepper that is smoked for a very long time until the crystals burst and you get a very fine salt and pepper that almost looks like sand.  It is amazing for stir frys, vietnamese soups, pretty much anything.  My mom's cousin makes the stuff and it is one of the things I cherish in my kitchen.  So I hope you enjoy this culinary journey with me.

Hope you enjoy!