Monday, August 29, 2011

Drop Sugar Cookies

Yesterday was the worst of Hurricane Irene and I decided that baking would be a good idea. But I was not really in the mood for a lot of fussing with a complicated recipe. So cookies seemed to be a good idea. Given my mood, I didn't feel like dealing with cookie dough that had to be either frozen or rolled. My lazy attitude led me to focus on drop cookies.

I am a fan of simplicity. Drop sugar cookies certain fell into that category. With little searching, I came across a straightforward recipe on I cut the recipe in half and still had plenty of cookies.

The drop sugar cookies were easy to make and the results were perfect on a rainy, windswept day. I tend to prefer crunchy as opposed to chewy cookies. These came out nice and crisp. I served them with chamomile anise tea. For a variation, you could add ground coriander and ground cardamon.



1 cup butter
1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup white sugar for decoration


Preheat oven 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, oil, confectioners' sugar, and 1 cup white sugar

until light and fluffy.

Beat in eggs one at a time, and stir in the vanilla.

Combine the flour, baking soda, and cream of tartar;

stir into the creamed mixture.

Roll dough into 1 inch balls, and then roll the balls in remaining white sugar. Place onto ungreased cookie sheets, and flatten with a fork.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges begin to brown. Cool on wire racks.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Quick and Easy Thai Beef Stir Fry

Pressed for time? Or maybe you just don't feel like spending lots of time in the kitchen. The good news is that you don't have to choose between a good meal and spending lots of time in the kitchen.

I pulled Thai Cooking, published by Bay Books, off my shelf. The cookbook is full of food pornography. It is full of beautiful photographs that make you want to make every single dish! As I was flipping through the pages looking for a recipe, I came across a section entitled "Quick Stir-Fries." There were four recipes with short paragraphs of ingredients and instructions. I decided to try the Stir-Fried Beef with Greens, which seemed very simple with a low fuss factor. I didn't spend more than 30 minutes making this dish and I served it with white rice.


Slice 14 oz lean sirloin steak across the grain into thin slices. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a wok or large heavy-based frying pan. Add to the pan 4 cloves of chopped garlic,

a 2 inch piece of ginger, grated (I chopped it finely),

2 teaspoons of chopped red chilies (I didn't have any on hand and substituted a few teaspoons of chili sauce) and 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (I used white pepper, which is a common spice in Thai cuisine). I also added some sliced red onion;

cook for 1 minute.

Heat the wok to very hot and add 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the beef in 3 batches and stir-fry each batch for 2 minutes, tossing constantly.

Transfer the meat to a plate. Add 2 bunches of baby bok choy cut into short pieces, and some broccoli florets; toss.

Cover and steam for 1 minute. Return the meat and red onion to the wok; add 2 tablespoons of lime juice and 1 tablespoon of fish sauce.

Serve immediately with rice.

Serves 4

Monday, August 22, 2011

Honey Chicken Wings with Tumeric

Ok, by now you've figured out that I dearly love chicken wings, especially when they're marinated and broiled, baked or grilled.

And you've also figured out that I tend to love the cuisines of Southeast Asia. Many of the recipes for chicken wings on my blog are from either Malaysia and Thailand.

Usually the marinades are heavily spiced. It's nice, however, to change things up a bit. So I decided that I wanted a milder marinade for the wings.

I was looking on and found a nice, simple recipe. It didn't have the same level of spices that many other Malaysian chicken wing marinades do, so I was curious to try it. Tumeric and chili powder are the main spices.

Recipe: Honey Wings with Turmeric
1 lb chicken wings (middle section)
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/8 teaspoon chili powder
2 inches ginger (skin peeled)

Prepare the ginger

by pounding with a mortar and pestle or grinding with small food processor. Extract the juice by squeezing with your hand and discard the ginger. (I used a garlic press and kept a bit of the ginger pieces.)

Add the honey.

Then the soy sauce.

And the salt.

And the colorful tumeric!

And chili powder, for a little kick.

The marinade looks like this:

Chicken wings cleaned in white vinegar. You could also use lemon.

Marinate the chicken wings with the ginger juice and all the seasonings above for 1-2hours.

Grill or bake them in oven (at 375 degree F) for 20-25 minutes until cooked or golden brown. Serve hot.

Cook’s Notes (SECRET TECHNIQUES revealed):
1. At Asian restaurants, chefs often pan-fried satay and then grill them over the stove top flame to get that perfectly charred surface.
2. I baked my honey chicken wings for 20 minutes in the oven (when they just cooked through) and transfered the wings out of the oven. I then held the honey wing with a tong, and grill them over my gas stove top (set to medium heat). Voila. You’ve got picture perfect grilled honey chicken wings that are juicy and moist. :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Learning to Cook Khmer Cuisine: Part III - Cambodia's National Dish: Fish Amok

One of the main reasons that I decided to take the Khmer cooking class offered through Frizz Restaurant in Phnom Penh (, #67 Street 240, Phnom Penh, Cambodia; tel 855 (0)12-845525) was the opportunity to learn how to make Cambodia's national dish. Learning to make the amok was definitely the highlight of the class, at least for me. Fish amok is a sublime fish curry custard that is steamed in banana leaves. It's elegant, moist and flavorful.

As in many Southeast Asian dishes, a wet herb paste is the basis. Called kroeung in Khmer, it usually includes a combination of garlic, chilies of some kind, lemongrass, kaffir lime, garlic, shallots and other ingredients that are blended or processed into a thick paste.

Our instructor had us blend the ingredients the old-fashioned way -- with a mortar and pestle. While more time-consuming than a food processor, I found the task to be satisfying.

Then we added dried red chilies, which surprisingly, were not hot. The addition turned the yellow curry into a red one.

We added coconut milk, egg, fish suce and palm sugar to the kroeung.

The fish amok dishes uses a local river fish, usually one that is meaty. We used a firm-fleshed, large tiger fish that was cut into small pieces.

We put the fish in our individual cups with the red curry paste and added coconut milk.

As the tiger fish sat in this rich mixture, we turned our attention to making the banana leaf cups in which the fish would be steamed. Our instructor cut circles from the banana leaves,

flash-heated them over the electric griddle

and then showed us how to use toothpicks to fashion them into a cup that would hold the fish.

Of course, our instructor made it look quite easy. His cup was perfectly formed!

It took me a little while to master the cup, but I did.

The fish mixture is carefully poured into the banana leaf cup.

The filled up is placed in a steamer

covered with a lid

and steamed for about 15 minutes or so. A bit of coconut cream is poured on top. Then it's steamed further until the mixture is solid, but moist.

We took the fish amok out of the steamer and placed it on plates.

We turned the amok over and then wiped away the excess liquid with a napkin.

We added rice to the plate and served the dish.

By the time I made the fish amok, I had been thoroughly immersed in Khmer food. I had eaten my fair share of noodle dishes, curries and rice plates. The fish amok really stood head and shoulders above the rest of the Cambodian meals that I had had the pleasure of eating. It's an elegant, rich dish that should be savored. I certainly enjoyed it!

It took the longest to prepare of the four dishes we made. It was well worth the effort!

Reading about how fish amok is one thing. It's entirely another to actually watch it being prepared by a Khmer chef. I'm sharing two videos that are fun to watch. The first one is of fish amok being prepared by Heng, the instructor at Frizz Restaurant in Phnom Penh:

The second one features Heng, the chef instructor at Frizz. He explains more about Cambodia's national dish:

Fish Amok - from Cambodia Cooking Class's Khmer Recipes Cookbook

5 dried red chilies (soaked, drained and chopped into a paste)
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp galangal (cut small)
1 tsp. lemongrass (thinly sliced)
zest of 1/4 kaffir lime
1 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend to a thick paste. Alternative (and more traditionally) this could be created with a mortar and pestle.

Refrigerate any paste not needed for the amok. It can be used to add a little kick to soups and stir fried dishes.

Amok (Serves 4)
30 g young nhor leaves (no real substitute)
3 tbsp fish sauce
3 tbsp kaffir lime leaves
3 chili peppers
500 g fish (any meaty fish)
3/4 cup coconut cream
2 cups coconut milk
1 egg, beaten

Further procedures
Slice the fish thinly and set aside. Remove nhor from stem, slice the kaffir lime leaves and cayenne peppers thinly.

Stir the kroeung into 1 cup of coconut milk. When it has dissolved, add the egg, fish sauce and sliced fish. Then add the remaining coconut milk and mix well.

Make the banana leaf cups, then put in the nhor first and top with the fish mixture. (We didn't use nhor in our class.)

Steam for 15-20 minutes, then put the coconut cream on top and the thinly sliced kaffir leaves and cayenne peppers. Steam further until the mixture is solid, but still moist.

Making the banana cup
First clean the leaves with a wet cloth, then dip them into boiling water so they are soft and do not crack when being shaped.

Cut circles 25 cm in diameter and place two together. This is important as one leaf is not strong enough to hold the mixture.

Make the square in the middle of the circle. This will be the bottom of the cup.

Then, put a thumb on one right angle of the square and pull up 2 sides, tucking the fold, and pinning together with a tiny bamboo stick. (We used toothpicks.)

Move to the right and repeat.

Continue until all 4 sides of the cup are held together.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Malaysian Glazed Chicken Wings

When presented with a choice about which part of the chicken I prefer, I tend to opt for the wing! It's flavorful, succulent, holds spices and seasonings well and is just fun to eat! When presented with a choice about which cuisine I'm in the mood for, very often either Thai or Malaysian wins out.

Combining the two is a recipe for success.

I really enjoyed hawker food when I visited Malaysia and often look for recipes along those lines. I recently came across a recipe that Zak Pelaccio created based on his experiences in Malaysia. The recipe, reprinted below, is available at:

I've learned from my experience in making foods from South and South East Asia that grinding spices produces a better end product than using pre-ground spices. This is especially true if the spices are heated before in a non-stick pan to release their fragrance. If I can, I avoid using powdered spices.

Malaysian Glazed Chicken Wings

12 small dried red chiles
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 1/2 tablespoons fennel seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup molasses
1/2 cup Asian fish sauce
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup soy sauce
8 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
One 4-inch piece of fresh ginger, thinly sliced
5 1/2 pounds chicken wings

In a small skillet, toast the chiles, coriander seeds, fennel seeds and cumin seeds

over moderate heat until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder or mortar and grind to a fine powder.

Transfer the ground spices to a medium bowl

and whisk in the sugar, molasses, fish sauce, soy sauces, garlic and ginger.

Divide the wings among 2 or 3 resealable plastic bags and pour in the marinade. Refrigerate for 4 hours, turning occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 425°. Remove the wings from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels; reserve the marinade. Arrange the wings on 2 wire racks set over a foil-covered baking sheet. Roast for about 40 minutes, or until well browned and cooked through.

Meanwhile, strain the marinade into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook over moderately high heat until thick and sticky, about 20 minutes. Transfer the marinade to a large bowl. When the wings are done, add them to the bowl and toss to coat with the sauce.

Pile on plates and serve immediately.

Make Ahead The wings can be marinated overnight.