Sunday, January 25, 2015

SRC Rescue: Coconut-Almond Barfi

It's time for Group D's Secret Recipe Club January reveal. This month I get to post a bonus recipe from, who was left out of Group C's reveal last week.

Nanya lives in the United Kingdom and started in October 2008. She shares: "I love spending time in the kitchen, creating and styling my dishes so that they can be captured on camera and of course eaten. I have a passion for food props and I adore authentic crockery. My cupboards are exploding with tea towels, crockery of all shapes and colours and many home made props." I'd love an afternoon in her cupboards.

I realized, as I perused her site, that I have cooked from her blog before...sort of. Three years ago, I took part in her Flavours of Singapore Challenge when I made Gajar Halwa, carrot halwa. Here's Nanya's Carrot Halwa.

Her blog provided several options for a dessert to go along with our lamb curry. I thought about her Singapore Coconut Milk Pudding or Barfi (a Milk Pudding). And on the savory side of things which is where I usually land, I considered making her Lesun Chutney (garlic chutney); you can scare away many a vampire with that recipe!

I decided on a version of her Coconut and Mixed Nut Barfi, a quick and easy no cook barfi that's delicately fragranced with ground cardamon and sweetened with rich condensed milk. I didn't have any whole nuts, so I added in black and white sesame seeds to create a visual contrast.

Coconut-Almond Barfi

  • ½ C sweetened condensed milk
  • 1½ C dried, unsweetened coconut (I used finely shredded coconut)
  • ¾ C finely chopped almonds
  • 1 t ground cardamom
  • 1 t black sesame seeds
  • 1 t white sesame seeds

Butter a dish and set aside.

Place the coconut, almonds, cardamom, and sesame seeds in a medium mixing bowl. Mix well. Stir in the condensed milk and create a stiff mixture. Add in more coconut if the mixture is too sticky.

Pat the barfi mixture into your buttered dish, smoothing the surface with the back of a spoon. Refrigerate for 1 hour, then cut into desired shape. I made diamonds...or are these parallelograms? I'm geometrically-challenged. 

HOW TO: Make a Heart-Shaped Cake without a Heart-Shaped Pan

I don't do many how-to posts. Would you like to see some more?

I thought I'd share this "hack" so you don't feel as if you have to buy a heart-shaped cake pan just to make a heart-shaped cake. This is really a piece of cake...or two cakes. Hehe. Here you go...

For each layer, bake an 8" round and an 8" square. You can use 9" also. Just make sure that the diameter of your circle matches the side of your square. Let cakes cool. It's actually easiest to work with cake layers that have been frozen.

Slice the round cake in half.

Arrange pieces to form a heart.

Adhere the round halves to the square with frosting. Shave the cake down so that the surface is flat.

Eccolà! A heart-shaped cake without a heart-shaped pan. It's almost magic!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Syrena's Seduction Kimchi for #TripleSBites

You will see this Syrena's Seduction Kimchi as part of an upcoming dish. But we will be enjoying it in many different ways.

When I received the Syrena's Seduction hot sauce from Pirate Jonny's* - for participating in the upcoming online blogging event #TripleSBites - I knew that I wanted to make some kind of kimchi. We just love homemade kimchi.

  • 1/4 C salt (I used a red salt from Hawaii)
  • enough warm water to submerge all the cabbage
  • 1 large head of savoy cabbage, cored and leafed
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1/3 C hot sauce (I used Syrena's Seduction by Pirate Jonny's*)
  • 1/2 C apple cider vinegar
  • 3 T ginger syrup

In a large mixing bowl place salt and cabbage pieces. Add in enough warm water to dissolve the salt. Submerge the cabbage into the salt water and weigh it down with a plate, so it stays submerged. Let cabbage soak and soften in the brine for 2 hours.

Once the cabbage has finished soaking, drain, rinse it and squeeze it gently to remove excess liquid. Tear the cabbage into 2" pieces. Place everything in a large mixing bowl.

Use your hands (or tongs instead if you have any open cuts as the vinegar can sting) to thoroughly incorporate the hot sauce mixture with the cabbage.

Pack the kimchi into a clean jar - or a few jars. Screw the lid on tightly and keep in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight (my pantry worked well for this) for 3-4 days. After 3 days, open the jar and look for tiny bubbles. If it’s begun to bubble, it’s ready to serve or to be refrigerated. If it hasn’t yet begun to bubble, leave it for another day. The kimchi will continue to ferment in your refrigerator and should be consumed within a month.

Thanks, Pirate Jonny's* - just one of our #TripleSBites sponsors - for ingredients used in this recipe.

*Full Disclosure: I received a bottle of Syrena's Seduction from Pirate Jonny's for participating in #TripleSBites. Feel free to use whatever hot sauce you have on-hand. I received no additional compensation for this post; all comments are 100% accurate and 100% my own.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Chai Sweet Chili Pickled Cherries for #TripleSBites

You will see these Chai Sweet Chili Pickled Cherries as part of an upcoming dish. But they would be a wonderful addition to any cheese and charcuterie platter.

When I received the Chai Sweet Chili sauce from Intensity Academy* - for participating in the upcoming online blogging event #TripleSBites - I knew that I wanted to make some kind of pickles. Then I saw cherries at Whole Foods and a lightbulb went on. Pickled Cherries. I mirrored the spices you would use in chai instead of the typical pickling spices.


  • 1/3 C organic granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 t salt (I used a red Hawaiian salt)
  • 1 t coriander seeds
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 3 star anise
  • 1/2 C organic unfiltered apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 C water
  • 2 T Chai Sweet Chili sauce (thanks, Intensity Academy*)
  • 1 pound fresh cherries

In a small saucepan, combine water and vinegar and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and stir in Chai Sweet Chili sauce. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Destem and pit your cherries. You can use a cherry-pitter or, as the Precise Kitchen Elf demonstrated for me, you can use a straw. So, I pushed the pits out with a stainless steel straw. Easy peasy.

Place cherries in a glass jar. Layer in the spices, sugar, and salt.

Pour in enough vinegar mixture to cover cherries and almost completely fill the jar. Place the jar on a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and no more than 2 weeks.

Thanks, Intensity Academy* - just one of the #TripleSBites sponsors - for ingredients used in this recipe.

*Full Disclosure: I received a bottle of Sweet Chai-Chili Sauce from Intensity Academy  for participating in #TripleSBites. Feel free to use whatever sweet-hot sauce you have on-hand. I received no additional compensation for this post; all comments are 100% accurate and 100% my own.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Cook the Books: Braised Duck with Vanilla Bean Sauce

This round Rachel, at The Crispy Cook, selected Sustenance & Desire: A Food Lover's Anthology of Sensuality and Humor by Bascove for our December 2014-January 2015 Cook the Books project. Click to see her invitation.

This post contains an Amazon-affiliate link at the bottom 
- for the book.

This was the perfect selection to span the holidays. There was no plot to follow, characters of which to keep track, all the while trying to balance holiday parties and general end-of-the-year mayhem. This was a delightful collection of poems, paintings, and short editorials that could be read, furtively, while waiting for the kids to fall asleep so Santa could crumble the cookies and fill the stockings!

There were many moments of inspiration. I considered doing something with artichokes...

The artichoke
of delicate heart erect
in its battle-dress, builds
its minimal cupola...
-Pablo Neruda
...or something with cheese...

...O cheese of gravity, cheeses of wistfulness, cheeses
that week continually because they know they will die.
O cheeses of victory, cheese wise in defeat, cheeses
fat as a cushion, lolling in bed until noon.
-Donald Hall

In the end, I found inspiration in Natasha Sajé's "Creation Story."

Green pods are cured dark walnut brown.
Sliced open lengthwise: infinitesimal seeds,
printer's ink. Their black flecks ice cream
or a sauce for pheasant...
...From the Spanish vainilla,
diminutive of Latin, vagina,
the term for sheath.

I thought I'd make a vanilla sauce for pheasant, as she mentions. I made Pheasant en Crème for my mom's birthday dinner one year and we thoroughly enjoyed it. But I couldn't find a pheasant this week. So, I decided to make braised duck with vanilla bean sauce instead.

Braised Duck
  • 2 duck legs
  • 2 duck breasts
  • 2 large onions, peeled and cubed
  • 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and thickly sliced
  • 2 C diced celery root
  • 2 C chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 vanilla bean, sliced open lengthwise
Vanilla Bean Sauce
  • 2 T butter
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 medium shallots, minced
  • 2 vanilla bean
  • 2 sprig rosemary
  • 1/2 C vodka
  • 1 C chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 C cherries
  • olive oil
  • fresh rosemary, for garnish

Braised Duck
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a Dutch oven, place duck legs and duck breasts, skin side down. Turn heat to medium. Cook for 6 to 7 minutes until the fat is rendered and the skin golden and crisped.

Flip to the other side and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes.

Remove the duck to a plate. Place the onions, fennel, and celery root in the Dutch oven. Lay the browned duck pieces on top. Pour in the chicken stock and add the vanilla bean. Bring to a boil, cover, and place in the oven. Braise for 90 minutes.

Raise the temperature of the oven to 450 degrees. Toss the cherries in a mixing bowl with a splash of olive oil. Place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Return the duck to the oven, uncovered, on one rack. Place the cherries on another rack. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes.

Vanilla Bean Sauce
While duck is in the oven, make the vanilla bean sauce. Melt the butter in a large, flat-bottom pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook for one minute, until softened and translucent. Split the vanilla beans and scrape the seeds into the pan, then drop in the pods. Pour in the chicken stock and vodka. Add the rosemary and stir. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half in volume. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until the sauce coats the back of the spoon. Set aside; keep warm.

To serve, plate the duck. Spoon the vanilla bean sauce over the top. Top with a few roasted cherries. Garnish with a few sprigs of fresh rosemary.

This was a treat to read and a treat to eat. I will definitely keep this on my bookshelf for inspiration.

Deb of Kahakai Kitchen selected our February-March selection. Comfort Me With Apples: More Adventures at the Table by Ruth Reichl. Deadline is March 30th. Hope you'll join us.

*This blog currently has a partnership with in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to and search for the book or item of your choice.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

HOW TO: Crisp Mushrooms

After attending the cooking class at the Big Sur Foragers' Festival - read my blogpost about Cooking Foraged Foods with Incredible Chefs - I was inspired to try my hand at crisping mushrooms as Chef James from Affina did during the class.

We are not a fungi-averse household, but crisping mushrooms elevates the experience of eating mushrooms to something exquisite. And who knew it was this easy? The key: use a big enough pan and leave them alone.


  • mushrooms (Chef James used hedgehog, yellowfoot, and black trumpet mushrooms; I used canary oysters, oysters, and shitakes)
  • butter
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper

Melt butter in a large, flat-bottom pan. When the butter begins to brown, lay your mushrooms in the pan. Make sure that you can see the bottom between the mushrooms and that the mushrooms aren't touching.

Let the mushrooms brown and crisp. Flip the mushrooms and crisp them on the other side. Only after they are crisp should you season them. Adding salt when they are cooking will lead to soggy mushrooms. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

That's it. Easy peasy. I placed a few crisped mushrooms on top of a pasta with a cream sauce. Yum.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Cooking Foraged Foods with Incredible Local Chefs

Forage - ˈfôrij,ˈfärij (verb) - to search widely for food or provisions

Do you forage? When I first mentioned this assignment, a friend from high school asked for clarification. "'Traditional Foraging' as in the fields and woods? Or 'Urban Foraging' like the hipsters do in SF dumpsters?" she queried.

Hmmmm...the former. I don't even know what a hipster is.

So, after I packed a picnic lunch for my boys and friends as they headed out to the archery range, I drove down the coast yesterday. If I had to work on a Sunday, at least this was my commute...

My assignment was to photograph the five local chefs who were doing cooking demonstrations with foraged foods. I have to admit that watching the chefs was simultaneously inspiring and intimidating. I was duly humbled by their talent and skills. They were truly incredible.

Class participants were divided into five groups, then they were treated to a cooking demonstrations by each of the chefs. We watched Chef Justin Cogley of Aubergine make a Fennel and Seaweed Jam.

I cook with seaweed, but I would never have foraged Turkish towel from the beach and made a jam with it. It was just delicious - salty and toothy. I can imagine it on a piece of poached fish or maybe as a condiment to Chef Justin's abalone.

Chef Yulanda Santos of Sierra Mar at Post Ranch Inn shared her Sorrel Granita, pairing it with a bit of vanilla ice cream as a pre-dessert. "Pre-dessert?" asked one of the attendees.

More of a palate cleanser before your actual dessert, explained Chef Yulanda. What a crisp, bright dish!

I learned that wood sorrel, Oxaylis, is the true name of what we called 'sour grass' when I was a kid. I have eaten plenty of those plants, but I never thought to cook with them. Chef Yulanda sniped the stems, blended them with a simple syrup, froze it, and scraped it to make her granita. 

Chef James Anderson of Affina Carmel prepared a mushroom risotto with three different kinds of mushrooms. Note - Affina does not have a website or even a sign on the street, but they do have a twitter account!

Chef James used hedgehog mushrooms, yellowfoot mushrooms, and black trumpet mushrooms, cooking them till they were crisp. It was a tremendous contrast to the creamy, goat cheese-dotted risotto.

Big Sur Bakery's Chef Jacob Burrell surprised me - maybe - the most by choosing sea water as his foraged ingredient.

He used the foraged sea water to boil baby potatoes, steam mussels, and poach fish. Then he composed a plate with the different components.

And last, but definitely not least, was Chef Brad Briske of La Balena Carmel. I told Chef Brad that my sons would be very upset to discover that I ate a Chef Brad creation without them! We adore La Balena.

Chef Brad utilized stinging nettles from his friend's yard to create these verdant pillows of deliciousness. I have read his recipes for stinging nettles before but still wasn't brave enough to try it myself.

Now that I've seen him do it, I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.

What an absolute delight it was to watch these chefs create with foraged ingredients! Maybe that will be my stated culinary adventure for 2015: forage. I've eaten miner's lettuce and sorrel - straight. I've never cooked with it. You might be seeing more of this from me...not the hipster version. This version - foraging from the woods and local natural environments. It's fascinating and resourceful. Who's with me??

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Crisis Averting Two-Layer Brownie Cake

What do you do when you look at the dessert you had planned - Lychee Panna Cotta - and you realize that it's not setting up firm and your dinner guests are arriving in less than two hours? Panic? For a second, yes. I did. Run to the store for a pre-made dessert? Not my style.

So I took a deep breath, opened my cupboards, and realized that I always have ingredients to make brownies. So, I split the brownie batter into two pans, found some chestnut paste to use in place of frosting, cut out a heart-snowflake, asked D to use his Hand-Dipped Candles, and dusted the whole thing with powdered sugar. Crisis averted! 

Do you have a go-to sweet that you can whip up in case of a dessert emergency?


  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 C organic granulated sugar
  • 1 C organic coconut sugar
  • 1 T raw honey
  • 1/2 C butter, melted
  • 1-1/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 t organic chocolate extract
  • 1 t coffee liqueur
  • 1/2 C white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 t freshly ground salt
  • chestnut puree, for finishing
  • organic powdered sugar, for finishing

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Butter two 8-inch round baking pans. In a large mixing bowl add all ingredients, except flour, and mix to combine. Add flour and stir till just moistened.

Pour the batter into prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Check for doneness with a toothpick method. When it's done, remove to a rack to cool.

To finish invert one cake onto a serving plate. Smear a layer or chestnut paste over the surface. Invert the second cake layer on top of the chestnut paste. Dust with powdered sugar. Serve in thin slices...this is very dense and very rich.

Tillykke med fødselsdagen, Ulla!

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