Sweet and Sour Shrimp

shrimp dish picture

Last week, I stumbled upon this great sweet and sour shrimp recipe in Food & Wine. The simplicity of a sauce has made it for me, even though I’m not usually a big fan of ketchup. Although I just tried the actual recipe with shrimp tonight, I’ve made this sauce a few times now, serving it with juicy rib eye, baked salmon and even over a tuna salad. It goes with pretty much anything! Gotta love these simple ideas for quick weeknight meals that don’t require much effort and time in the kitchen. I adjusted the original recipe – no sugar and cornstarch for me! I also wanted to make it spicy, so I added some red chili flakes.

Ingredients (for 4 servings) 

For the shrimp

1 1/2 lb. medium raw shrimp, peeled

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger

1 garlic clove, peeled and minced

Salt

Pepper

For the sauce

2 tablespoons ketchup

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce

1 1/2 tablespoon rice vinegar

About 1/3 teaspoon red chili flakes

Directions

  1. Whisk all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl – voila, the sauce is done!

  2. Heat a skillet until very hot, add vegetable oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the skillet. Add  garlic, ginger and shrimp and cook for about 2 minutes, until the shrimp gets pink but not yet cooked through. Add the sauce, stir well and cook for about another minute or two.  Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Serve over rice garnishing with your favorite fresh herb!

Advertisements

Potato Rosti with Smoked Salmon and Capers

Potato Rosti (Pancake) with Smoked Salmon

I love breakfast food and am always looking for new breakfast and brunch recipe ideas. Of course, I stick to my favorite oatmeal with fresh fruit and Greek yogurt during the week, but there is nothing better on a weekend than a hearty brunch! When I tried this dish at one of my favorite local tapas places, I knew that it’d make a perfect breakfast! It’s basically a giant potato latke garnished with smoked salmon and capers. What’s not to love, right?! Serve it with some mint yogurt sauce. Delicious!

Ingredients (for 2 servings)

For the rosti

3 large Yukon gold potatoes, peeled

Smoked salmon to taste (about 4 oz.)

1 tablespoon capers

Salt

Pepper

About 2-3 tablespoons canola oil

1 tablespoon butter

For the mint yogurt sauce

1 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt

Handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Salt

Pepper

Directions

  1. Make the mint yogurt sauce – mix yogurt with olive oil, lemon juice and fresh mint, season with salt and pepper and set aside.

DSC_0144

  1. Julienne potatoes on a mandoline; if you don’t have a mandoline, you could grate potatoes on a cheese grater. I prefer the texture of the julienned potatoes though for this dish!

DSC_0143

  1. Heat a non-stick skillet on medium, add some canola oil and about half of the butter. Transfer the potato pieces into the skillet and press into the bottom to distribute evenly. Cook for about 8 minutes, lowering the heat if needed to make sure it’s not burning. To turn the rosti to another side, cover it with a plate and turn the skillet upside down. Add more canola oil and butter to the skillet and gently transfer the rosti uncooked side down back to the skillet.

DSC_0145

DSC_0148

DSC_0146

  1. Cook for another 8 minutes or so until the potato is cooked through. Transfer to a plate, season with salt and pepper and arrange smoked salmon pieces on top. Garnish with capers and fresh herbs and serve immediately with the mint yogurt sauce (optional).

DSC_0154

Simply Divine Cheesecake

Cheesecake

Merry Christmas to everyone celebrating today and happy holiday season to all of you! I brought this cheesecake to the Christmas Eve dinner at my friends’ house last night. My friend and a fellow food blogger made an incredible meal and the cheesecake was a perfect way to finish off our feast.

Cheesecake is my very favorite dessert. My mom tells me that when I was little, I had my particular way of eating a cake. I’d just pick on cream filling, icing or custard, without touching the actual cake. When I came to the US and tried cheesecake for the first time, it was love at first bite. Cheesecake embodies all that I love in a cake – no cake, just the luscious, creamy filling.

I’ve always thought of cheesecake as a very difficult dessert to make and was surprised how simple it actually is! I’ve tried a few recipes throughout the years, and this one by far is the best. It’s a modified recipe based on this one from Tyler Florence with some tips from Jamie Oliver and Martha Stewart. Don’t be afraid of orange and lemon zest, it adds so much flavor without overpowering this delicate dessert. Baking the cheesecake in boiling water is key. In the past, I’ve tried a recipe that didn’t call for that and while the end result was pretty decent, the cheesecake baked in water is definitely creamier and has that melt-in-your-mouth texture.

Ingredients (for a 10-inch springform pan)

Crust

1 1/2 cup honey graham crackers, ground
1 stick butter, softened

Filling

2 lbs. full fat cream cheese (I had 1 lbs. of regular Philadelphia cream cheese spread and 2 8 oz. blocks)
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
Zest of one lemon
Zest of one orange
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Boiling water (for the baking)

Directions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Make the crust – combine ground graham crackers with the butter and mix well with a fork. Arrange baking paper in a springform pan and spray it with a non-stick cooking spray. Transfer the graham crackers mixture into the pan and press the crumbs down into the base. Refrigerate for 5 minutes.

cheesecake crust

DSC_0044

  1. Make the filling. Beat the cream cheese with a hand mixer for a couple of minutes until smooth. Add eggs one by one and continue beating on slow until smooth. Gradually add sugar, lemon and orange zest, and vanilla extract. Beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Refrigerate for 5 minutes. Pour over the crust and smooth with a spatula.

DSC_0047

DSC_0048

DSC_0052

DSC_0051

  1. Set the cheesecake pan on a few pieces of aluminum foil and fold the foil around the sides of the pan. This will prevent the water from getting into the pan. Place the cake pan into a larger roasting dish or pan and fill it with boiling water. Transfer the pans into the oven and bake at 350F for about one hour (depending on your oven) until the cake starts browning a bit on the top. It should still jiggle – don’t overcook it as it will firm up after refrigeration.

DSC_0053

DSC_0056

  1. Cool for half and hour and place in the fridge. Refrigerate for at least five hours until completely firm. To cut, dip a knife in hot water after you cut each piece. Serve with your favorite fruit spread or fresh berries, it’s also quite perfect on its own!

DSC_0117

Truffled Eggs with Roasted Vegetables

Breakfast of Eggs and Roasted Vegetables

Weekend breakfasts are the best. You don’t have to rush anywhere and can really enjoy making a special, indulgent breakfast. I love hearty, savory breakfasts, but often get tired of same old eggs. I saw a brilliant idea of roasting mushrooms and tomatoes on the vine a while ago on one of Gordon Ramsey’s cooking shows. Adding these to a breakfast plate really brightens it up and makes it look restaurant-quality. Pour some truffle oil over eggs to make this meal completely indulgent.

By the way, you can get cheap and decent truffle oil at Trader Joe’s. Love, love, love Trader Joe’s for amazing finds like this one!

Trader Joe's Truffle Oil

Ingredients (for 2 servings)

4 eggs

1/2 bell pepper, cored and sliced

2 vines with 2-3 baby tomatoes

6 baby mushrooms

1 shallot, sliced

2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard

Olive oil

Vegetable oil

About 2 tablespoons truffle oil

Handful of fresh parsley leaves, chopped

Salt

Pepper

Directions

  1. Heat some olive oil in a small pan on medium. Add garlic, shallot and pepper slices. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pepper slices are slightly golden and soft. Add mustard, season with salt and pepper and set aside.

picture of roasted peppers

  1. Heat some olive oil in another small pan on high, add mushrooms and tomatoes. Cover the pan and cook on high for about 3-5 minutes.Turn the heat off and let them rest covered, for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

DSC_0097

  1. Heat vegetable oil in a small non-stick pan. Add eggs and cook for about 5 minutes until whites are completely set while yolks are soft and runny. Season with salt and pepper, and garnish with chopped parsley.

DSC_0099

  1. Transfer roasted peppers onto plates and arrange eggs on top. Pour some truffle oil over eggs. Arrange the remaining vegetables on the plates and enjoy with toasted bread.

DSC_0105

Lemon Glazed Cookies

Lemon Cookies

I have to confess that I’ve never in my life made cookies. Yes, I love cooking and although I rarely bake, I’m a pretty good baker, but for some reason I’ve been intimidated by cookies. No joke! This week, my company is having a cookie (of course) bake off contest and I decided to face my fear and try this cookie thing out. After all, I really want that Target gift card!

I wanted to make something easy and different, so this recipe by Giada De Laurentiis has caught my eye. I loved that I didn’t have to refrigerate the dough for hours or even roll it out! I’m also a huge fan of lemon desserts (like this yummy lemon apple cake) so this recipe seemed right up my alley. These cookies turned out delicious! Now, all I have to hope for is to win the contest! Ah well, even if I don’t win it, I’ll have leftovers to enjoy and a great go-to cookie recipe.

I did make some adjustments to Giada’s original recipe  – I had to bake my cookies longer and added more lemon juice to the glaze because 3 tablespoons weren’t enough for 1 1/2 cup of powdered sugar to absorb. Also, these cookies definitely look and taste better when smaller, so I suggest scooping no more that 3/4 , even 1/2 tablespoons of the cookie dough for each individual cookie.

Ingredients (for about 40 small cookies)

Cookies
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 15 oz. container whole milk ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon

Glaze
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 lemon

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt and set aside.  In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar with a hand mixer until until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated. Add ricotta cheese, lemon juice and zest. Beat to combine, stir in the dry ingredients and beat until the dough is smooth. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Spoon the dough (about 1/2 tablespoon) onto the baking sheets making sure the cookies are spaced out. Bake for about 20 minutes, until slightly golden. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet until cool.

DSC_0076

DSC_0077

DSC_0079

  1. Make the glaze. Combine  powdered sugar, lemon juice and  zest in a small bowl and stir with spatula until smooth (add more lemon juice if needed). Spread about 1/2 teaspoon of glaze on each cookie and let them rest until the glaze completely hardens for a couple of hours.

photo of lemon cookies with glaze

Pineapple Salsa

This is an effortless “recipe” that I just can’t help but share because it’s so delicious on its own as well as served with seafood dishes. Try adding some on top of the usual boring pan-fried cod or baked salmon to add more flavor and texture. I also love adding this salsa to salads to dress up bland winter greens. If you make it too spicy by accident, adding more olive oil would help tame the spice down a notch.

Ingredients (for a medium bowl)

1 pineapple, peeled and cored

2 tomatoes

1 shallot (or 1/4 of red onion), peeled

Juice of one lime

Cayenne pepper or hot sauce to taste

Handful of fresh cilantro

Olive oil

Salt

Chop pineapple, onion and tomato into small pieces, add lime juice and cilantro. Season with salt and cayenne pepper or hot sauce to taste. Add some olive oil, mix and serve with chips!

Butternut Squash Omelette

Image

I love summer and typically dread fall because of a long and cold New England winter which comes after it. This year, I feel surprisingly different about Autumn. I’ve truly been enjoying its gorgeous colors, cool weather, soft sun and the smell of fallen leaves in the air. I think my recent trip to a beautiful and romantic Quebec city made me fall into the fall. Was it a long spectacular drive through Vermont and New Hampshire with breathtaking mountain views and foliage colors? Maybe, postcard-like views of Quebec city’s streets – so picturesque during this time of year – did it. But I’m a foodie. So, it must have been those pumpkin spice lattes, French onion soups and traditional gross Poutine (which was just what doctor ordered after long walks in brisk air).

Although I haven’t always felt this passionate about fall, I’ve always loved its seasonal fruits and veggies. I get butternut squash pretty much every time I go grocery shopping now, sometimes forgetting that I still have some left at home. That said, I was getting pretty sick of one of my favorite soups, and wanted to try something new. The butternut squash omelette  turned out perfect! I highly recommend trying it out for a lazy weekend breakfast or brunch, even a light dinner.Image

Ingredients (for 2 servings)

5 large eggs

2-3 tablespoons milk

About 1/2 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped into medium pieces

1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced thinly

About 2 oz. goat cheese (I had goat brie)

2-3 springs fresh thyme

Salt

Pepper

Chives for garnish

1-2 tablespoons butter

1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped

Vegetable oil

  1. Pre-heat the oven on broil setting. Heat a small skillet with some vegetable oil. Saute onion until translucent, add garlic, thyme leaves and 1 tablespoon of butter. Add butternut squash and saute on medium to low heat for about 10-15 minutes, season with salt and pepper. You may have to add some water to the skillet and cover it – make sure the squash is completely soft and cooked through.

  2. Make an omelette: whisk eggs with milk, salt and pepper.  Heat a large oven-proof skillet with some vegetable oil and the remaining butter,  and pour the egg mixture into it. Let the omelette set for about 5 minutes on low-medium heat. Arrange the vegetable mixture on top, sprinkle with you favorite cheese. I had goat brie and the flavor combination was absolutely fantastic, but feel free to use something else if you don’t like goat cheese. Transfer the skillet into the pre-heated oven and broil for about 5 minutes until the omelette is completely set. Garnish with herbs and enjoy immediately!

Pistachio Lime Squares

These creamy lime squares are easy to make and delicious – a guaranteed hit at your next dinner party! The crust is made out of graham crackers, so all you need to make is the filling. Cook them in advance and amaze your guests without spending hours in the kitchen.

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living

Ingredients (for about 10 servings)

For the crust

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for pan

2/3 cup shelled pistachios

1 cup (4 ounces) graham-cracker crumbs

1 tablespoons grated lime zest

 For the filling

2 large egg yolks

1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup fresh lime juice

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush an 8-inch square baking dish with melted butter and line bottom and sides with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two sides.

2.In a food processor, grind pistachios with graham-cracker crumbs and lime zest; add the butter and grind until smooth. Press the pistachio/cracker mixture  into the baking dish bottom and sides. Bake until lightly browned for about 10-12 minutes. Cool the crust for about 30 minutes.

3. In a large bowl make the filling by whisking together egg yolks until they whiten, add condensed milk and lime juice; whisk the mixture until smooth. Pour the filling into cooled crust; carefully spread to edges.

4. Bake until set, about 15 minutes. Cool in pan on rack; then chill at least a couple of hours before serving or overnight. Using parchment paper overhang, lift out of pan, transfer to a cutting board and cut into squares.

Croque-Monsieur Sandwich

Croque-Monsieur is my favorite sandwich. Don’t be intimidated by its fancy name, it’s basically your typical ham and cheese panini but you make it with bechamel sauce and Gruyere cheese and voila – you got yourself a Croque-Monsieur. Put a fried egg on it and that’d be a Croque-Madame. Bread is key here – get country-style bread with thick crust (like pain de campagne).

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living

Ingredients (for 2 servings)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 1/2 tablespoons flour

1 cup 2% milk

8 oz. Gruyere cheese, grated

4 pieces country-style bread with thick crust

Few slices ham or prosciutto

Dijon mustard

Coarse salt

Pepper

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Few spring fresh thyme

Fresh finely chopped parsley

Directions

1. Pre-heat the oven until 425F and toast the bread until golden brown and crispy.

2. Make the bechamel sauce. Melt butter in a sauce pan over medium heat, add flour and cook for 2 minutes constantly stirring with a wooden spoon. Slowly add milk and cook whisking constantly until the sauce thickens, about 3-5 minutes. Add salt, freshly ground black pepper, nutmeg and 2/3 of Gruyere cheese. Mix well and set aside. The sauce should be very thick.

3. Brush the toasted bread with Dijon mustard to taste, cover two slices with ham, sprinkle with some cheese and thyme, and cover with the other two slices of bread.

5. Slather sandwich tops with the bechamel sauce and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake until lightly browned on top, about 12-15 minutes. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve with pickles and arugula.