Lightly spiced red lentil and coconut soup

February 26, 2017 § Leave a comment

*Hey guys, I wrote this 2 years ago but didn’t post it because I never took a photo – I’ll make it again soon and snap a pic, in the meantime…

This soup is so lovely – creamy, warm, lightly spiced (and vegan!).  Stir in some baby spinach or kale, and garnish with cilantro and you’re set!  This recipe is an amalgamation of several, but this was the base, and I’m pretty pleased with the results!


  • oil for pan
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp minced ginger (pssst – I buy it already minced in a jar)
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • Spices:  OK, so here I winged it and didn’t measure.  But – my estimates are below.  You could also just use 1-2 Tbsp curry powder.
    • 1-2 tsp cumin
    • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp turmeric
    • 1/4- 1/2 tsp coriander
    • 1/4 tsp garam masala
    • pinch cayenne
  • 1.5 cups red lentils
  • 1 russet potato, peeled and diced
  • 4  cups vegetable broth
  • 1 can coconut milk


  1. Saute the onion in oil until soft and translucent.  Then add the garlic and cook for a minute.
  2. Add in the ginger, tomato paste and spices, and cook for a minute or so until fragrant.
  3. Dump in the lentils, potato, broth and coconut milk.  Cover and simmer for at least 30 minutes, or until lentils and potatoes are cooked.
  4. Eat and enjoy with cilantro or spinach stirred in at the end!

A Louisiana staple: Chicken and Andouille Etoufee

January 8, 2017 § Leave a comment

Shortly after we moved down to Baton Rouge, we discovered etoufee. This really is right up there with gumbo as a staple menu item for anything claiming to be cajun or Louisiana cuisine. Basically it’s a meaty gravy based on a dark roux and served over rice (so it doesn’t take a great picture…). I’ve recently just discovered that it’s a local favorite to serve gumbo over mustardy potato salad, but I haven’t heard the same for etoufee…yet.

img_1485Etoufee is typically of the seafood variety, much like gumbo, with the predominant ingredient being crawfish. Crawfish etoufee is served on it’s own or as a sauce, albeit a thick one, over filets of fish and all kinds of different things. Now since I’m allergic to shellfish, crawfish etoufee is a no go for me. It isn’t super easy to find the chicken or duck and andouille version, but it’s out there. So we decided we should make it at home to feel like real Louisiannes. We’ve made this recipe several times since our first trials about a year ago now.

One of the keys to this and a good gumbo is the roux. Making roux’s over the years for all kinds of things, I never realized that you could or should cook it until it becomes the color of milk chocolate. But that’s exactly what you do and it’s super important. It also takes about 15 minutes. It’s so important that you can buy jars of dark roux at all the grocery stores and other markets around the area. Kind of weird, but it really does matter. The second key ingredient is the sausage. We’ve found a really good fresh andouille here at Whole Foods but they don’t always have it. We need to try some of the new butcher shops that have popped up in the city. It’s really going to affect the flavor of the dish though. The third is the cajun seasoning. You can use one of the standards here “Slap ya mama” or others that you can find around the rest of the country. Here stores devote an entire aisle to this and related items. It’s pretty intense. This recipe is derived from one in Saveur  from February 2011 and they basically use a set of more traditional spices (basil, thyme, black pepper, cayenne). If using the creole spices, then that takes precedence.

The Stuff

  • 34 cup canola oil
  • 34 cup flour
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 12 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • Cajun seasoning (otherwise use: 1 tsp. cayenne pepper, 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper,1 tsp. freshly ground white pepper, 1 tsp. dried basil, 12 dried thyme)
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed
  • 2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 lb. andouille sausage, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 12“-thick pieces
  • 6 large scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • Cooked white rice, for serving

The Details

1. Heat oil in a 6-qt. Dutch oven over medium-high heat until it begins to smoke. Add flour, whisking constantly, and cook for 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium and cook, whisking constantly, until roux is the color of milk chocolate, about 12–15 minutes.
2. Add celery, onions, and peppers, and cook, stirring constantly, until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the spices/cajun seasoning, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more.
3. Add 2 cups chicken stock, and bring to a boil; cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, heat butter in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken with the cajun spices. Add chicken, and cook, turning once, until lightly browned, 4–6 minutes; transfer chicken and butter to Dutch oven.
5. Brown the andouille sausage as well to bring out it’s flavors.
5. Pour remaining chicken stock into skillet, stir to scrape up any browned bits, and then pour into Dutch oven along with andouille; cook, stirring occasionally, until thick and chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes more. Remove pan from heat, stir in scallions, and serve étouffée with rice.



Cranberry-Lime Pie: a holiday treat or a new gift to the rotation

January 3, 2017 § Leave a comment

This recipe came out in the November 2016 Bon Appetit at the time when I and likely everyone else are trying to find the perfect new holiday recipe. My family typically only reserves one new spot on the holiday menu for something that may become a new classic. Some end up being part of the typical rotation, some end up on the holiday memory floor. This is one that I think will be repeated again and again throughout the year and not just relegated to the holiday table. I think if I were to make it, say, in the Summer, I’d probably go with just a graham cracker crust or make it in a tart shell instead of the gingerbread crust used here and in the original recipe. Then it’s basically a replacement for Key Lime Pie.

cranberry-lime-pieUnfortunately I didn’t take a picture yet, so the picture here is curtsey of the magazine,
but I’m sure I’ll be able to replace it with a picture of the next version. The original recipe calls for a fussy garnish of half-cooked, candied/sugared fresh cranberries. A sprig of fresh mint with a little piped whipped cream would work really well or a candied lime. If you want to go fancy a meringue topping would be excellent. Serving with whipped cream is a nice counterpoint the tartness, so garnishing with that alone around the edge would work out very well.

The Stuff

Gingersnap crust (use this or your favorite graham cracker or tart shell recipe)*

  • 4 ounces gingersnap cookies
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar

Filling And Assembly

  • 1 12-ounce package fresh (or frozen, thawed) cranberries
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar (divided into 1 cup and 1/2 cup)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest
  • ½ cup fresh lime juice (took me 5-6 limes)
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into pieces
  • Whipped cream (for serving)

The Details

  1. For the crust: Preheat oven to 350°. Pulse cookies in a food processor until very finely ground (you should have about 1 cup). Add pecans; pulse until finely ground. Add butter and brown sugar; pulse to combine. Transfer to a deep 9″ pie dish. Using a measuring cup, press firmly onto bottom and up sides of dish. Bake until firm and slightly darkened in color, 10–15 minutes. Let cool.
  2. For the filling: Bring 12 oz. cranberries, 1 cup granulated sugar, and ¼ cup water to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high. Reduce heat; simmer until cranberries burst and most of the liquid evaporates, 12–15 minutes. Let cool. Purée in a blender until very smooth.
  3. Cook purée, eggs, egg yolks, lemon zest, lime juice, salt, ½ cup sugar, and 1 tsp. lime zest in a double-boiler (heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water with bowl not touching the water), stirring with a rubber spatula and scraping down sides of bowl often, until curd thickens and coats spatula, 8–10 minutes. Let cool until just warm.
  4. Using an electric mixer on medium-high, beat curd, adding butter a piece at a time and incorporating after each addition, until curd looks lighter in color and texture, about 5-8 minutes. Scrape into crust and chill until firm, about 2 hours.
  5. Make and assemble the pie 1-2 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled.


*For the record, I didn’t make the crust following this recipe, but used the makings for another gingersnap crust. Also didn’t use a deep-dish pie pan, but just a regular one. This led to an extra jar of “cranberry-lime curd,” which was enthusiastically eaten up after it set up with just whipped cream, smeared on cookies, and the like. Really wasn’t an issue getting rid of what didn’t fit in the pie crust.

Scallops with Almond Gazpacho

July 7, 2015 § Leave a comment

There is a wonderful little restaurant just down the block from our house. It’s close, it’s cozy, and it boasts enough booths that there’s never any need to fight with the neighbors for a prime spot, to say nothing of the ample and well laid-out bar. But laudable though the layout may be, it ain’t got nothing on the scallops with almond gazpacho.

Over the course of many months, I have found myself thinking about this dish constantly. It is on this dish’s account that I have tried to justify semi-weekly visits to said restaurant. It is the stuff dreams are made of. I have, quite literally, dreamt about this dish.

If, for whatever reason, I have yet to make myself clear: Trusty sidekick asked me what I wanted for my birthday this year. I told him that I wanted the proprietors to cough up the recipe, but then, days later, grew impatient and figured it out for myself. You are welcome.


sea scallops- approximately 3 per person
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons olive oil

1 (3-inch-long) piece baguette, crust discarded
3 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 lb whole maracona almonds (3/4 cup)
1 tablespoon (+) sherry vinegar (“reserva” if available)
1/2 cup mild EVOO
2T ice water
Garnish: 1 handfull seedless green grapes, halved or quartered

The how-to:

Scrape the inside of the baguette (I’ve found a knife works well for this) and discard the crust. Soak the bread insides in 1/2 cup of water for 1 minute. Squeeze dry and discard soaking water. (In the alternative, this tedious task becomes a breeze if you keep baguettes on hand in the freezer. Just saw off an appropriately sized hunk and saw off the crusty bits. You can soak what remains straight away in warm water).

Mash garlic and salt with a mortar and pestle until it resembles a paste. Or give up because it isn’t getting pasty and throw it all in the food processor. Blend garlic/salt mash and almonds in a food processor until smooth. Add bread and 1 tablespoon vinegar (or more, if you’re so inclined. As I am a devoted fan of the sherry vinegar flavor in this dish, I am rather more heavy-handed– I usually end up putting in 2-3T of vinegar, and then sprinkling additional vinegar on the serving plate, for good measure). image2

Create an emulsion by adding oil in a slow stream with the motor running. Add ice water one tablespoon at a time (depending on the texture, I will use 1-2T) until the gazpacho has reached the desired consistency (think a well-whipped hummus).

Refrigerate gazpacho until ready to serve.

While the gazpacho is chilling, prepare the scallops. Remove the side muscle from the scallops, rinse with cold water, dry, and salt and pepper.

Add the butter and oil to a skillet over high heat. When the oil and butter just begin to smoke, CAREFULLY add the scallops to the fat, making sure they do not touch one another. Sear the scallops for 90 seconds on each side. (I will say that this is where kitchen tongs will come in particularly handy, since splashing liquid-laden scallops into a bath of bubbling fat = significant risk of burns of the not-messing-around variety). When the scallops have finished searing, they should have a golden crust on each side of approximately a quarter inch, but should still be translucent in the center.

Smear the gazpacho on a plate and scatter halved grapes about. Plate three scallops per plate atop the gazpacho. Sprinkle with salt and an additional dash or two of vinegar. Serve immediately.


1. Gazpacho can be made up to 2 days ahead and stored in the fridge, in which case this becomes the world’s quickest dinner to pull together.

2. The almond “gazpacho” is derived from a soup, as the name suggests. If you’re interested in giving that a try, replace the 2T of ice water with 2 cups of ice water and strain the soup through a sieve. Chill in the fridge for 2-3 hours before serving.

3. If you’re not a scallop person, shrimp or a whitefish of your choice will also work quite nicely.

Falafel (super, super scrumptious and maybe healthy?)

May 24, 2015 § Leave a comment

I’d been wanting to try to make my own falafel for a while now. Always taking an opportunity as it arises to try a new recipe, I thought a picnic with a vegetarian friend was just that opportunity to go ahead and finally take the plunge. 

These falafel remind me of those from a local Raleigh restaurant, Neomonde, that makes the best that I’ve tried. They have a bright green interior, crunchy on the outside nice and delicate and creamy on the inside with the perfect blend of fresh and dried herbs and spices. 

I made these pretty much following this recipe from The View from Great Island. I didn’t want to deep fry, so I made them into thick discs and pan fried them. Using dried chickpeas (soaked overnight) is key to the texture. See the original post for notes if you want to try canned ones. 

The stuff

3 cups chickpeas that have been soaked overnight (measure after soaking)–start with 1 1/2 – 2 cups dried chickpeas

1/2 medium red onion

2 cloves of garlic

1 Serrano chili

a large handful of parsley, ~1 cup

a large handful of cilantro, ~1 cup

zest of 1 lemon

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 Tbsp ground coriander

1 Tbsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp garam masala or cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 Tbsp flour

~3 Tbsp vegetable oil for frying, more or less depending on how you want to cook them
The plan

  1. Rinse then soak the chickpeas overnight or at least 12 hours in lots of water. Drain well then spread out on a paper towel lined baking sheet to remove any excess water. 
  2. Quarter the half onion and chop in a food processor. Add garlic and the chili, followed by the parsley and cilantro. Process until finely minced, scraping the bowl down as needed. 
  3. Add the zest, lemon juice, coriander, cumin, garam masala/cinnamon, salt and chickpeas. Pulse in second long bursts until the mixture is even and finely ground. It shouldn’t get to a paste, because then it’s pretty much hummus. It is ready when a bit of the mixture holds together when you press it between your fingers.
  4. Add the baking soda and flour and either pulse 1-2 more times or gently mix it in a bowl. 
  5. Form the mixture into discs from about 2 Tbsp of the mixture. I put them in the fridge for a couple hours to help them firm up prior to cooking. These were fairly delicate but did hold together. 
  6. Heat oil in a skillet. Work in batches so you don’t crowd your pan. Fry the falafel for about 6-7 minutes, until they are a nice deep brown on both sides, flipping gently after a few minutes. 
  7. Drain on a paper towel or cool them on a rack. 
  8. Serve with a tahini sauce (1/2 cup tahini, juice of half a lemon, pinch of salt, and enough water to thin it out–several Tbsp), greens or other items of your liking. 
  9. Enjoy! This should make about 24 small falafel.

Smashed chickpea and almond sandwich

January 4, 2015 § Leave a comment

I got an awesome cookbook for Christmas called Thug Kitchen (thanks Evan!).  I can’t recommend this cookbook enough – it makes vegan food tasty and awesome.  I made a sandwich from the cookbook earlier this week, with a few of my own alterations of course, and it was fab!

Mmm, smoky...

Mmm, smoky…

This makes about 3 cups of filling, which I managed to turn into about 4 sandwiches.

The stuff

  •  a can of chickpeas
  • half an avocado
  • couple Tbsp of minced onion
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice or vinegar – I used lemon juice but will try rice vinegar next time so it’s not so in my face acidic
  • 1 rib celery, tiny dice (I think grated carrots would also be good)
  • couple Tbps basil or cilantro
  • small squirt of Sriracha
  • a handful of smoked almonds.  These are essential and SO good.  *Top tip: if you don’t plan on eating all of this in one go, don’t add the almonds to the mix, they’ll get soft.  Just add them to the mix when you’re actually going to eat it so they stay crunchy.
  • salt and pepper
  • Good hearty/sturdy bread


Mash all of the ingredients, except the almonds, together. Stir in the almonds when you’re ready to eat.  Spread mixture on bread (I lightly spread mine with mustard) and EAT!  It would also be really good on a bed of lettuce as a salad.

Christmas cake – the UK way

December 29, 2014 § Leave a comment

The fruit cake gets a bad rap in the US, but it’s prized across the pond – it’s the traditional wedding cake mix (it’s what Kate and Wills ate!), and is also used for Christmas cakes.  As an homage to my Irish side and my mother’s childhood, I made her a Christmas cake this year.  As the Brits would say, what a palava!  But it came out OK in the end:

christmas cake

There are as many recipes for Christmas cake as there are tiny currants jammed in there (some recipes called for almost 2 pounds of currants!).  This is an amalgamation of many I read online as I researched, and my mom LOVED it.  I tried it, and it’s not half bad! 🙂

*Top tip: this cake needs to mature.  So make the cake in November, around Thanksgiving (seriously.  Some people start theirs in October).  Then put the marzipan and icing on closer to the big day.

The stuff

  • 2 pounds (yes, pounds) of dried fruit.  (I used a mix of about half currants, and then threw in chopped dried figs, glace cherries, dried cranberries, dried blueberries, candied orange peel…  the dried fruits section of Trader Joe’s was my friend.  *Update Dec. 2016: now I buy one 10-oz box of currants, then use 1-2 of the 8 oz bags of Trader Joe’s ‘Golden Berry Blend’ [raisins, dried cherries, cranberries and blueberries], then round out with dried cranberries or cherries and candied orange, all from TJ’s)
  • zest and juice of a lemon
  • zest and juice of an orange
  • 150 mL of brandy
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 200 grams light brown sugar
  • 175 grams all-purpose flour
  • 100 grams almond flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp all spice
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp dried ginger
  • 100 grams chopped or flaked almonds
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla


  1. Put the dried fruit, zests and juices, brandy, butter and brown sugar in a pan over a medium heat. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Dump the fruit mixture into a large bowl and leave to cool for 30 minutes.
  2. Turn the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a deep 8 inch cake pan with a double layer of baking parchment, then wrap a double layer of newspaper around the outside – tie with string to secure.  (I used a cake pan with a removable bottom; a springform would also work well.  All this nonsense with the paper prevents the cake from burning because it is about to spend a LONG time in the oven.)
    • Update Dec. 2016: I have made this in other size pans well – this very same recipe will also make two 6-inch round cakes, or 1 loaf cake and one 6-inch round.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients to the fruit mixture and stir well, making sure there are no pockets of flour. Pour into your prepared tin, level the top with a spatula and bake in the center of the oven for at least 2 hrs.  (Mine took almost 3 hours to be done for the 8-inch cake).
    • Update Dec. 2016: Bake times for other size tins – a 6-inch round it takes ~80-85 minutes; for the loaf it took ~70 minutes.  I simply baked until toothpick came out clean/with a few crumbs attached.FullSizeRender (1)
  4. Remove the cake from the oven, poke holes in it with a skewer and spoon over 2 tbsp of brandy. Leave the cake to cool completely in the cake pan.
  5. To store, peel off the baking parchment, then wrap well in saran wrap. Feed the cake with 1-2 tbsp alcohol every 2 weeks, until you get ready to ice it. Don’t feed the cake for the final week to give the surface a chance to dry before icing.


  • apricot jam, or fig jam, or whatever jam – you use so little you don’t need to go buy apricot jam just or this (it’s used as glue)
  • 500 grams (~18 oz) of marzipan or almond paste (marzipan = almond paste + loads of powdered sugar.  I used marzipan, but after my mom tasted the cake, she said she remembered almond paste as a child, not marzipan. So since then I’ve used almond paste).
    • Dec. 2016 update: if decorating a 6-inch cake, 7 oz of almond paste is enough if you roll really thin (Odense sells a 7 oz roll; obviously 8 oz would work too!)
  • For the icing:
    •  3 egg whites
    • 500 g powdered sugar
    • 1 tbsp lemon juice
    • 1 tsp glycerine*
      • * Added after icing was too hard the first year
      • Dec. 2016 update: This amount is for an 8-inch round cake, but it will also cover two 6-inch cakes. I have scoured the internet to find a recipe for less icing if you are only icing one 6-inch cake, but to no avail.  So I just make the same recipe and throw the leftover away.
  1. Do this the week before Christmas, leaving a few days between putting on the marzipan layer and the icing, and the marzipan has to completely dry before the cake can be iced.
    • Dec. 2016 update – I have let the marzipan dry for only a couple hours, and it’s just fine.  This allows me to finish the cake the day before I intend to box it up – e.g., put almond paste on around noon, ice the cake that evening, box up next day.
  2. Almond paste: roll out the almond paste to ~ half a cm thick.  Cut out a circle the same size as the top of the cake.  Then roll out a rectangle (or a couple if one is too unwieldy) as tall as your cake, and as long as the circumference of your cake (do some math: circumference of a circle = pi*diameter).
  3. Brush the cake all over with warmed jam – it will glue the almond paste to your cake.  Then set the circle on the top of the cake, and wrap around the sides with the long rectangle(s).  Pinch the top and sides together to seal in the cake.  Set aside for a few days to let the almond paste dry out.
  4. Icing: whip together the egg whites, powdered sugar, lemon juice and glycerine (if using) on low speed until glossy and smooth – this takes only a few minutes.  Spread all over the cake!  Let dry for at least overnight before moving.


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