Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fluffy Coucous

Since I've started making tagine on a fairly regular basis, I've also started making couscous regularly. When I was in a Moroccan restaurant in Paris, the chef would bring the couscous fresh out of the kitchen and fluff it right beside your table before serving...since then, I realized that fluffiness is a sign of good couscous. I found this blog online and it's a few extra steps but it's worth it.

Fluffy Couscous
Serves 6
Vegetarian and Vegan
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

  • 3 c. couscous
  • 4.5 c. boiling water
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 T. olive oil...drizzling on extra before serving is yummy.
Add the salt and oil to boiling water. Spread couscous evenly in the bottom of a large casserole so that it is in as thin a layer as possible. Add the water and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Wait until all the water is absorbed (about 15 minutes), then fluff with a fork. Enjoy!

Olive Oil Cake! Mmmmmm....

So one of my favorite coffee shops in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn is Cafe Peddlar. Their Stumptown coffee is amazing and their olive oil cake is the perfect accompaniment. It's owned by the Frankies--of Frankie's 457--restaurant extraordinaire where my Frankie and I had our wedding reception. So without further ado, here is their lovely olive oil cake recipe. This cake is great for breakfast or a snack at tea time.

Frankie's 457 Olive Oil Bundt Cake

5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups cake flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt (do not skimp on this one!)

Preheat the oven to 325° and butter and flour a 10-cup bundt pan. In a bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar and orange zest at medium-high speed until smooth. Gradually beat in the olive oil until creamy, about 2 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk the cake flour with the baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture in 3 batches, beating on medium speed between additions.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the center of the oven for 1 hour, but do check it at 45 minutes as mine was done then. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then invert onto a rack. Let the cake cool completely before cutting into slices and serving. This cake freezes well and is very tasty sliced and toasted for breakfast the next day (if you have any leftovers).

Monday, August 29, 2011

Ground Beef w/ Star Anise, Carrots and Celery paired w/Brown Rice & Kale Cooked in Beef Stock

Okay, so I don't know what to name this so it's a loooong title.
I was inspired by Katie's dishes (my neighbor's girlfriend) that she made on Sunday, so I wanted to try my own version. Her dish had spunk, so immediately I thought of Star Anise. It's usually put in Chinese dishes and soups, but I wanted to experiment. So glad I did. Makes 4 servings:

Brown Rice & Kale Cooked In Beef Stock

4 cups water
1 cup brown rice (rinse in strainer under cold water until it is clear)
4 beef bouillon cubes
3 cups of chopped kale (unstemmed and dried)

Cooking instructions:
In a pot, add water and bring to a boil. As soon as it boils, add bouillon cubes. Let is dissolve, stir then add brown rice. Stir rice once. Bring heat to medium heat, and cook uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 30 minutes, turn off heat and pour rice in a strainer over the sink. Let rice strain for 10 seconds. Add rice back to the pot, but not on the heat. Immediately add kale, and cover rice tightly for 10 minutes to let it steam. I had to cover with aluminum foil first before covering with the lid because it was not tight enough. After 10 minutes, remove lid and fluff. While the rice is cooking, go ahead and begin preparing the ground beef.

Ground Beef w/ Star Anise, Carrots and Celery

1 peeled and chopped carrot
2 chopped celery sticks
1 lb ground beef
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 T brown sugar
1/2 cup water
2 T worcestershire sauce
1 star anise (I bought the organic kind)
1 t olive oil
2 t pepper

In a medium nonstick pan, turn heat to medium high. When pan is hot,  add ground beef. Break it up with a spatula and add 1 clove of the minced garlic and 1T worcestershire sauce. Continue breaking up the beef until brown. Turn off heat. Drain beef and set it aside.

Add about a teaspoon of olive oil to the nonstick pan and turn on heat to medium. When pan is hot, add the other clove of minced garlic and stir. Once you smell the garlic, add the carrots and celery. Add 1/2 cup water and let it simmer. Add the star anise to the water so the flavor distributes throughout the water and into the vegetables. Simmer for about 5 minutes or until water is pretty much gone. Add ground beef and stir/mix for another couple of minutes. Add 1T worcestershire sauce and pepper, stir and turn off heat.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Slow Cookin' Spare Ribs with Zucchini

All I have to say is wow. When I took a bite into the rib, I couldn't get enough. I found this recipe on allrecipes.com and I am so glad I did. The only thing I added to the slow cooker is zucchini. I am someone who always has to have vegetables, so I wanted to see how it would turn out. Darn good. That's all I have to say. 

Since Hurricane Irene is on her way, I also wanted to make brown rice in case our electricity went out. It's perishable, but I feel okay eating rice that's not refrigerated. Well, I'm glad I paired it with my slow cookin' spare ribs and zucchini. It balanced perfectly. 

Here is the recipe from Allrecipe.com. Just add one chopped zucchini (chop it kind of thick because it becomes very soft) 


  • 1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed tomato soup
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 pounds pork spareribs
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch (optional)
  • 1/4 cup cold water (optional)


  1. Place ribs in a large stock pot, and cover with water. Bring to a boil, and cook for 15 minutes.
  2. In a mixing bowl, mix together soup, onion, garlic, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and soy sauce. Remove ribs from water, and transfer to a slow cooker. Pour sauce over ribs.
  3. Cover, and cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours, or until ribs are tender.
  4. If sauce is too thin when cooking time is done, drain sauce from ribs, and pour into a sauce pan. Combine 1 teaspoon cornstarch with a small amount of cold water, stir into sauce, and bring sauce to boil. Cook until sauce has reached desired thickness.

You know how to make rice, right? I hope so, because I use a rice cooker. You can always follow the instructions in the recipe Spiced Ground Beef Mixed With Vegetables on how to make brown rice.

Whole Wheat Flour Banana Bread

Hurricane Irene is on the way, so I ended up cooking and baking since our subways and buses are shut down and it is raining.

I had the ingredients for banana bread, so I decided to bake that. It is so easy to make and it's so good. You can add chopped nuts, or chocolate chips but I didn't have those on hand so I didn't add. Also, though I used Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Pastry Flour, you can use All Purpose White Flour and it will do its job.

1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup Melted Real Butter Unsalted
2 Eggs
3 Mashed Very Ripe Bananas
Pinch of Salt
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 3/4 Cup Flour (All Purpose or Organic Whole Wheat Pastry Flour)

Preheat slow oven 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, mix in order given. pour into a greased baking dish (at least 4x8) with a spatula. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes.

Fresh from the oven! 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Frozen Dumplings and Taiwanese Style Baby Bok Choy

I have to admit. I bought my dumplings frozen at a restaurant in Chinatown NYC, Super Taste. Click on the name for a Yelp review. It rocks. The only thing I don't like about it is this woman who screams in your ear in Cantonese even if there are only 2 people in the place. That's why I get them to go. Haha! They are the best frozen dumplings thus far, and for a person who doesn't have much time, it's perfect.
BUT...I think that it is well worth your time if you do want to make homemade dumplings. I've been to dumpling parties, and I have helped my mom make them. It is so much fun when you do it with a significant other, a friend, or many friends. So... I don't want to discount that and found a really good recipe on About.com. Click on the name. In one of the reviews, looks like she makes a mean dipping sauce.
My sauce was a little different (see below).

Frozen dumplings from Super Taste in NYC Chinatown. Pan fried at home. Use the About.com recipe's cooking method
Ingredients for dipping sauce: 
Makes 1 serving
1/8C soy sauce
1t      sesame oil
2t      hot oil
3t      rice vinegar
1T     chopped scallions 

The veggies, however, are my own concoction, learned from my grandmother in Taipei, Taiwan. You simply boil them. She would add a little bit of pork fat to add flavor and to make it less dry. I use sesame oil. She doesn't use hot oil and she buys veggies from the street vendor in Taipei. I get them at a grocery store like Whole Foods or Fresh Fanatic.

Ingredients for vegetables: 
Makes about 4 servings (also depends on how much you like veggies)
6-7 small bunches or 3-4 big bunches of organic baby bok choy
1-2T sesame oil 
2T soy sauce 
2-3t hot oil
1t black pepper

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add washed bok choy to pot and boil for 5 minutes max, or until it begins to soften. Remove from water and shake out excess water. In a bowl, mix bok choy, sesame oil, soy sauce, black pepper and hot oil together. That's it. Seriously. It's that easy. My measurements may not be precise, like most people, we just throw it in. It's up to you if you want to add more sauce.

Small bunches of Baby Bok Choy from Fresh Fanatic

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Halibut with Tomatoes and Fennel

Total cook and prep time: 25 minutes! I love fast recipes!

I got this recipe from Martha's Food Every Day. I recommend this little zine which also comes with a larger version called Whole Living. 2 years for $20 for 2 magazines!

haha... ok now that I've got my advertising out of the way I think I have to say that if I make this again i might improve on it some.
I felt that it was lacking in some flavor... maybe I didn't use enough salt. But that was just me. My husband loved it.

  • cups of couscous - it doesn't say what kind but if you can add some flavor to your couscous, or get a flavored couscous this would be much better!
  • 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil + more for drizzling
  • 1 large fennel bulb thinly sliced lengthwise (I'm not sure what this meant but i basically julienned the bulb i also did some thin circle slices which i think i liked as well) + some fronds for garnish
  • coarse salt and pepper
  • 1 garlic clove minced - I would add more garlic
  • 4 large tomatoes diced large
  • 1.5 lbs of halibut - I used Tilapia b/c it has less mercury content but maybe the halibut has a better taste.
Cook couscous as you normally would or according to package.
In large skillet heat oil over medium, add fennel and cook until translucent ... stirring frequently, about 4 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper, add garlic cook until fragrant.
Add tomatoes until they begin to soften and release their juices - 3-4 minutes.
Nestle halibut in mixture and season with salt and pepper. Cook until fillets are opaque - about 8 minutes.

Fluff couscous with fork and serve with halibut and tomato mix... sprinkle with fennel fronds if desired.

Recipe says that you can substitute striped bass or salmon for the halibut and onions for the fennel. I think i might opt to add both onions and fennel ;) Love onions! Or maybe even use a can of diced tomatoes for more of that tomato flavor.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Makeshift Ma Po Tofu

I love this dish, especially the way my mom makes it. The directions below are not the traditional way of making Ma Po Tofu, so please know that this is an alternative to the standard dish you see in restaurants. My mom doesn't like spicy but I like a little, so I added some spice to this. She also uses pork:


Serves 4
  • 1 block soft or medium-firm tofu (about 1 pound), drained and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (in place of Canola or peanut oil)
  • 1 pound ground turkey (in place of pork or beef)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon black bean sauce
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons tabasco sauce (in place of chili paste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper ( in place of ground Sichuan pepper)
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon  rice wine 
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons  granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water
Optional garnish: 1 tablespoon thinly sliced scallions
1. Heat a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil. Add the turkey and stir-fry until  starting to brown but not yet dry, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, then add garlic and stir-fry until fragrant, about 1 minute.
2. Add the black bean paste and mix with meat. Add the tabasco sauce and black pepper and stir-fry for about 1 minute. 
3. Pour in the stock and stir well. Mix in the drained tofu gently but don’t stir too much or the tofu may break up. Add the rice wine, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and pepper. Simmer for about 5 minutes, allowing the tofu has absorb the flavors of the sauce.
4. Add the cornstarch mixture, mixing well, until the sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Garnish with optional scallions, and serve hot and with rice.

Enjoy! - Minna

Monday, August 8, 2011

Best Fruit Smoothie In The World

My good friend Christine has been making smoothies ever since we were at UT Austin, and I gotta tell ya, it's still the best smoothie I've ever had. She makes them thick, and there is no need to add yogurt or ice. I don't have a photo but it looks just like the smoothie images you see in Google. 

organic fruit smoothie:
16 ounces of organic orange juice (i use the organic valley brand sold
on freshdirect)
16 ounces of organic frozen fruit (whole foods and freshdirect sell
packages of ready-to-use frozen fruit...strawberries, peaches,
blackberries, mangoes, pineapples, bananas, blueberries, etc.)

pour orange juice and frozen fruit into blender and blend until smooth.
add more fruit for a thicker smoothie, less fruit for a more liquid one.
makes two 16-ounce servings.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Quick Fix Beef Salad

I have been working all afternoon until now on a dress that I am making. Too tired to go crazy in the kitchen, I fixed myself a beef salad. I actually bought pre marinated beef at Fresh Fanatic in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. You can always marinate your own beef with the following ingredients:

0.70 Oz. Flank Steak
Olive Oil
Lemon Juice

I think that you should add however much you feel of each ingredient. If you want it more garlic-y, add more garlic. If you want more sour taste, add more lemon. I would say though that you should not go more than 1 T lemon.

Salad Ingredients:
2 cups arugula
1/2 cup of cherry tomatoes cut in half and stems cut off

Heat frying pan on high. Add about 1T olive oil. When the pan is hot, add flank steak and cook both sides for about 3 minutes or until it is brown on each side. Remove from pan and cut into thin slices. You may want it more well done, so you should cook it longer.

Add arugula and cherry tomatoes to plate, and add steak on top. Voila! Finished.

Optional: A few thinly sliced red onion, and/or take out cherry tomatoes. This salad is already very flavorful so adding in and taking out will still make it good. Also, this salad is more on the acidic side so adding bread to absorb it would be a suggestion.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Who Wants Cake??!!

Now, I never need an excuse to bake a cake—but today I had the perfect reason: my daughter’s second birthday. So I thought to combine two of her favorite things: chocolate cake and pink frosting. The following recipe is for moist chocolate cake with whipped cream strawberry frosting. Note: this is not an elegant cake by any means—it’s the kind of gloppy good old fashioned cake that makes you want to hug yourself and the person next to you, it’s so tasty. Happy birthday, baby!! Mama sure does love you!


Bottom of Form

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, very soft
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup brewed, cooled coffee, or water
  • 4 large eggs

1) Butter and flour either a 9" x 13" pan, two 9" round pans, or three 8" round pans. Tap the sides to remove excess flour. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2) In an electric mixer, measure in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cocoa, and sugar. Beat on low speed for thirty seconds to eliminate lumps and combine ingredients.

3) Add the butter and mix at low speed for 1 minute. With the mixer running, add the oil and continue mixing until the mixture looks like sand.

4) Combine the vanilla with the milk and coffee or water, and add all at once. Mix for 1 minute at low speed, stop and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, then mix for 30 seconds.

5) Add the eggs one at a time, beating well at medium-high speed between additions. The batter will be thin.

6) Pour the batter into the prepared pan of your choice and place in the preheated oven for 34 minutes for a 9" x 13" pan; 28 to 30 minutes for 9" layers; or 24 to 26 minutes for 8" layers. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack before frosting.

Strawberry Whipped Cream Recipe

  • 1 C heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3 C sugar
  • 4 T food processed strawberries (take some fresh strawberries, wash them, remove the stems, and throw them in the food processor until they become a thick, seedy liquid)
  1. Whip cream until it looks like whipped cream.
  2. Mix in sugar.
  3. Mix in strawberries until just combined.
  4. Try not to eat more than half the frosting before frosting the cake.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

corn salad

okay so....

cut 2 cobs of corn off cob.
press/dice - 4 cloves of garlic
1 small onion
mince 2 scallions
1 beet
1 zucchini
2 tomatoes
a handful of fresh cilantro
salt/pepper to taste

cut your corn off the cob. cut your zucchini into smallish pieces.
melt some butter into your large-ish sautee pan. throw in your diced small onion and pressed garlic into the butter.

when you can smell the garlic/onion aroma, then throw in the garlic and zucchini. sautee. salt/pepper and cilantro after 4-5 min.

dice tomatoes and diced grilled/cooked beets

mix everything together and enjoy! super simple! add as you please...this is just enjoying the good summer vegetables while they are at their peak.

Sidenote from cook like yo mama: Cooking beets is easy.
http://www.ehow.com/how_3093_cook-beets.html. Also, since you can add any kind of vegetable, then you can use any kind of onion!

Gallo Pinto

Hello all.... Minna asked me to contribute this recipe for Gallo Pinto from Costa Rica. The chicken in the picture is just skinless chicken thighs with Adobe seasoning on it. Here is the recipe for Gallo Pinto .... enjoy!

Ana M.

1 lb (450 gr.) Black beans. Fresh are best but most likely you’ll find them dried.
8-10 sprigs cilantro (coriander leaf) fresh or frozen, not dried!
1 small or medium onion
½ small red or yellow sweet pepper (optional)
3 cups (700 ml) chicken broth or water
2 cups (350 ml) white rice
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) salt
1 Tablespoon (15 ml) vegetable oil
1-3 Tablespoon oil to fry the Gallo Pinto

If beans are dried, cover with water and soak overnight, if they are fresh, just rise them off. Drain the beans and add fresh water to an inch (2.5-cm) above the top of the beans, salt, and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and reduce heat to very low simmer until beans are soft (~3 hours).

Chop cilantro, onion, and sweet pepper very fine.

Add 1 Tablespoon oil to a large pan and sauté the dry rice for 2 minutes over medium high flame then add half of the chopped onion, sweet pepper and cilantro and sauté another 2 minutes. Add water or chicken broth, bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer until rice is tender ( depends on type of rice used).

Once the rice and beans are cooked you can refrigerate or freeze them. Keep a significant amount of the “black water” with the beans (½-1 cup 120-240 ml). This is what gives the rice its color and some of its flavor ( in the picture above I forgot to include the water ) . Sauté the rice, beans reserved chopped onion, sweet pepper and cilantro together in vegetable oil for a few minutes. Sprinkle with a little fresh chopped cilantro just before serving.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Easy Breezy Ravioli

I love quick fixes during the week. I made this within 10 minutes BUT from leftover marinara sauce.

Sidenote: Thank you to my neighbor Gil for the homegrown fresh basil and to my friends Frankie and Carolyn for the marinara recipe.

When you have extra time, make more than enough marinara sauce so you can freeze the rest

Chopped fresh basil -- As much as you want or about 3T.
1 can real San Marzano or organic whole plum tomatoes
1 can organic tomato sauce
2t. chili pepper flakes (more if you like it spicy)
2T red wine
2 cloves minced garlic
1 minced whole onion

Mix all ingredients in a pot and crush the whole plum tomatoes until they are smooth. You can always blend it. I like it a little chunky so I just crush it. Let all of this simmer for longer than 1/2 hour. Store the leftover in a glass jar and freeze.

During the week, add kale and pre made ravioli:

A handful of chopped kale
1 clove minced garlic
1T olive oil
A package of ravioli
2 cups unfrozen marinara sauce (or to your liking)

Rinse kale, and add to a pot of boiling water. Let it boil for about 5 minutes. You don't want to take the nutrients away. Take it out of the water,  but don't drain the water. Add the pre made ravioli to the water and let it boil 7-9 minutes. The water has nutrients and flavor which adds a little something to the ravioli.

Mix garlic with kale. Add olive oil.

Warm the marinara sauce in a small pot.

Once the ravioli is cooked, drain the water and there you go! Add ravioli to your plate, pour some marinara sauce and kale on top. Top it with parmesan cheese if you'd like or black pepper.

It is delicious because the marinara sauce is excellent when it sits for awhile.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tonight's perfect for summer dinner

Last nigth I made pasta shells with no cook tomatoe sauce ;)
I'm a sucker for easy recipes... especially ones that require little cooking for the summer and this one is perfect.

  • 2 cups of cherry tomatoes - the more colorful the prettier dish but not neccessary
  • 1 red pepper
  • diced onion ( recipe didn't call for it but i didn't have a pepper so i used this for the crunchiness and it was good.)
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 3/4lb of pasta shells
  • ricotta cheese for serving
  • coarse salt and pepper
Cook the pasta shells in salted boiling water.
In the mean time cut the tomatoes in half. Add them to a large bowl with diced red pepper, garlic, onion, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Drain pasta shells when cooked and add to tomatoes with basil.

serve with a dollup of ricotta cheese and garnish as you like ( I added shredded Parmesan).

Monday, August 1, 2011

More watermelon salad!

Hey ladies,

I made this salad twice now...its sooooo good. It's so refreshing. I used a mix of basil and Italian parsley for this recipe but I think next time I'll try mint and basil.

More soon!