Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sweet Thai Chile Sauce


There’s not much to say about this other than it’s freaking fantastic!  This stuff tastes like unicorn blood, I swear.

Lightly sweet, with a slight tang, and a punch in the face of heat (if you choose, and you should).

I ran into this recipe a long time ago, and I’ve been devouring it ever since.  I’ve probably had more people ask for this recipe than any other, and I go through this stuff like it’s going out of style.

My favorite way to eat this sauce is when it’s drenching sticky calrose rice.  Nothing more, just rice and this killer sauce.

Sweet Thai Chile Sauce

3 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 Tbsp salt (yes, I know the spoon in the pic is tsp…)
2 Tbsp Sambal

1 Tbsp potato starch
1 Tbsp Water

**NOTE: You could certainly use 7-8 red bird thai chiles if you can find them instead of sambal, and you could also cut back on the sambal for less heat.  I don’t  recommend using the more common green bird thai chiles, or other green chiles like jalapeno or serrano.  There’s something about their herby green flavor that turned me off.

And if you don’t have potato starch, corn starch would work, but make sure you continue the cooking for a couple of minutes afterwards to cook off the commonly starchy flavor that corn adds.  Your sauce might be slightly more cloudy if you use corn instead of potato.  Also, you could use arrowroot, but I noticed in the past, that it tended to separate in the ‘fridge after a couple of weeks.


Put the first 6 ingredients in a blender and buzz for a while, until orangey and kinda frothy.  Everything should be well blended, but you should still see small chunks of chiles and garlic.


Put the blended mixture into a small pot and bring to a simmer.  Cook the mixture about 15-20 minutes on a low simmer, for the flavors to blend.  Meanwhile, mix the starch and water in a small container, and after the sauce has cooked for a couple of minutes, slowly add the starchy water to thicken.  Don’t just dump it all in! Depending on how much starch you used, your sauce will thicken differently.  Dribble a little in, stir, and then cook a couple of minutes (~5) while the starch thickens.  Look at the consistency and judge if you need more.  I’ve definitely messed this up, and ended up with sweet thai chile pudding before, so don’t over do the starch!

I hope you find this sauce as delectable as I do, and now I can just direct people to this page when they inevitably ask for this recipe!

Kale, Bitter Kale (Chips)


I’ve been meaning to put these up for quite some time now, because, simply, they are AMAZING.

Even though some of you might balk at the idea of bitter greens (which I, by the way, LOVE), you still have to try these.  They’ll change how to look at greens.

Once the kale has baked in the oven, they turn ultra crispy, way crispier than a potato chip (but still nice and salty, if you’re a salt monger, like I am), but they still have a little of that veggitive undertone.  It’s really wonderful.  And these chips are soooooo easy to make!  Plus kale is hyper nutrient dense (Score)!

Kale Chips

1 bunch of kale
Olive Oil
Kosher Salt (or other flakey salt)
Fresh Cracked Pepper

Heat your oven to 350 F.

For each leaf, in a bunch of kale, fold the leaf in half so the spine is exposed on one side.  Use a knife to cut the stalk/spine off (it’s too tough and bitter), and then roughly chop the remaining leafy parts.  Be sure to rise the kale well, as they usually have quite a bit of dirt on them.  Lay them out on a towel lined sheet to wick away some extra moisture.  Place all your leaf pieces into a big bowl.


Toss the kale with a just enough olive oil to coat, and season with big flakey kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.  Now here’s where you can be creative, if you choose.  You could certainly toss in some garlic, or maybe some balsamic, what have you, but I think you’ll be surprised at just how good simple ol’ salt and pepper are on these chips.

Line a baking sheet with parchment, and then dump your kale out onto the sheet.


Place in the oven for about 40 min, or until the kale is crispy.  Touch them every 15 or so minutes, because they may look limp, but they’ll be crackling crisp before you know it!



Saturday, March 20, 2010

Devoured Phoenix

A couple of fellow food lovers and I got together to attend the annual Devoured Culinary Festival in Phoenix a couple of weekends ago.  This time the promoters held the festival at the Phoenix Art Museum, which was a wonderful backdrop for all the tasty festivities.  The day was practically perfect, a grassy lawn, sunny skies that weren’t too hot (yet), and all the food and wine you could manage!

The idea around this festival is to connect the people eating the food with the people making and growing the food.  Along with all the restaurants that lined up in tents to showcase their wares, some of the local farms attended to make their presence known.  There were seminars and cooking demos every hour on the half hour and while they were interesting, let’s be honest, everyone is there to stuff their faces.

I managed to snap a couple a shots of some of the food we tried, but of course, i couldn’t manage to get it all.  I’m sorry i don’t remember which restaurants they all came from, so I guess you’ll have to just try all the restaurants in phoenix metro…

I wasn’t able to snap some photos of the awesome drinks we tried, but to elucidate, there was a dragon fruit infused rum from Bacardi that they had mixed with lemonade.  It was far and away my favorite drink of the show.  They also had some tequila from Corzo, that they had infused with watermelon, cucumber, and jalapeno.  They shook it with some ice and served it straight up to sip on.  It was much more nuanced than i would have guessed.


Rachel, I, and Brent.

002 Different types of bruscetta.  On the right was mascarpone with figs, and pistachios, the middle (my fav) was homemade whole milk cheese with a tomato jam, and the far left was a homemade prosciutto and some other things i can’t remember.


Probably on my favorites, a smoked salmon mousse crostini with black caviar and drizzled with basil oil.


Brussels sprouts salad, shredded with cranberries, raisins, large flakes of parmesan, olive oil, and lemon.  I <3 brussels!


Shrimp cheviche with jicama


Tuna Tartar with avacado and a radish chip.  very rich and oily.  great mouth coating.


Bolognese (pretty basic in all honesty)


010Seared Shrimp with guac and a yellow tomato puree



Shrimp tacos and quesadillas (really, what would the southwest be without some mexican influence…?)


Deviled eggs and caviar.



Another one of my favorites.  Tuna Tartar (there was a lot of tuna at this shin-dig), on a garlic tortilla chip, with cucumber, avacado puree and caramel.  The rich taste of the tuna and avacado cleaned nicely with the fresh cooling taste of the cuke, and the crisp crunch of the chip finished off nicely what could have been a whole lot of mush in your mouth.


Roasted yam with a teriyaki glaze and sesame, with some seared beef tenderloin and “sashimi” seasoning (whatever that is…).


Some strange white fish that i don’t remember what it’s called, but it was delicious.


Again, a favorite (so much so, we went back for seconds).  The most tender gnocchiette ever in a garlic cream sauce drizzled with truffle oil.  wonderful.

020  I forgot what they actually called this, but it reminded me of a cross between panna cotta and mascarpone.  served atop arugula and drizzled with balsamic and little red things, it was cool and refreshing.


and of course, carnitas.  need there be explanation?

All in all, a wonderful time.  If you get a chance and are in the phoenix area next time, go!!!  I’ll go with you!

Sunday, February 14, 2010


These are some of the most awesome cookies by any standard I’ve ever made.  I used the recipe from the awesome Cook’s Illustrated cook book “Bakers Illustrated.”  I *finally* got my Vietnamese cinnamon in the mail, and i figured this would be a perfect way to try out the potent spice.  My house smelled like cinnamon for a couple days after!  These cookies are so light and airy, with a nice chew, and a slight tang from the cream of tartar in the recipe.  And the essence of cinnamon fills your nose as bite into one.  I took them to work, and they were gone a couple of minutes.



11.25 oz AP Flour (2-1/4 cup)
2 tsp Cream of Tartar
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
12 Tbsp Butter
1/4 Cup Shortening
10.5 oz Sugar (1-1/2 cup)
3 Tbsp Sugar (for rolling)
2 Eggs
1 Tbsp ground Cinnamon

Oven at 400 F.

Whisk flour, tartar, soda, and salt together

Mix the 3 Tbsp of sugar, with the cinnamon in a bowl and set aside.

Cream the butter, shortening, and sugar.  Add the eggs, and beat until combined.

Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  Scoop balls of dough, roll in the cinnamon sugar mixture and bake 9-11 minutes.

Guinness Brown Mustard

I think mustard is one of my favorite condiments.  I don’t know why people don’t make their own.  It’s actually a lot easier than you may think.  Basically, you just soak all the spices in a liquid for a day or two and then grind it up.  The results are well worth it too.  The spices come through a lot stronger than anything in the store, and you can control the elements in the mustard.  I chose to use Guinness stout and Canadian brown mustard seeds.  This mustard has a substantial kick.  Right after I ground the mustard in my food processor, I made the mistake of taking the lid off and inhaling the mustard vapors that I had just released. It basically burned my face off.  So needless to say, you can go light on this mustard when first putting it on things like crackers and sandwiches.  It does tend to mellow with age.  I found this recipe on Saveur.


Guinness Brown Mustard

12 oz. Guinness Stout
1 Cup Vinegar (i used red wine, but anything would work)
10 oz. (1-1/2 Cup) Mustard Seed
1 Tbsp Kosher Salt
1 tsp Black Pepper Seeds
1/4 tsp ground Cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground Cloves
1/4 tsp ground Nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground Allspice

Place all ingredients in non-reactive bowl, with a lid.  I used a ziplock container.  Let the ingredients soak for a couple days, and then process in a food processor or blender.  Make sure you check the consistency of the mustard when you’re done, and add water if you want it to be a little more spreadable.  Mine is pretty thick.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

When Engineers Build Gingerbread

You should have seen the blueprints… no I’m serious.

Picture 111

Picture 114

We had to specifically keep the meddling hands of our non-engineer friends out of this until the last moments so that they wouldn’t interfere with our “vision,” complete with balcony, pool, and bay windows…  with a little architectural flare.

Sure, sure some of you may disagree with the non-candy decorations, but honestly, what makes a better looking tree?  I’ll tell you what, NOT pretzel's and M&M’s glued with frosting.  In fact, that combination of confections along with some “grass” sprinkles turned into more of an alien spaceship irradiating ants in the back yard.Picture 106

Which of course, at that point called for an exterminator…

Picture 083

Here’s a quick look at the custom pieces we baked to make the house.

Picture 049

 Picture 051

Picture 060

Picture 063

 Picture 072

Picture 074

Picture 094

Picture 117

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Nothing Says Autumn Like Cacti!

Or at least, nothing says autumn in the desert like cactus fruits, otherwise known as prickly pears, or in Mexico, "tunas."

It's really strange to think that something this juicy and sweet is all over the place out here.

You should note however, that picking these fruits off of state, county, or city land without a "removal of natural resources" permit is against the law, so you either have to get a permit through your state (which is expensive...btw), or you can harvest them from your property, or someone else's private property (with the land owner's permission, of course.) Or... if you live in a really exciting place, you may have a farmer's market where these are sold.

Harvesting laws aside, these fruits are a rare gem in the desert. They tend to be slightly sweet, very juicy, and have a real sour kick. Not like a lemon, but more like a tart kiwi, with some cherry, and berry flavors. They can be used for all sorts of goodies. I made a classic prickly pear jelly, a tuna infused tequila, and some prickly pear syrup for drinks. You can even eat the tunas straight up, but watch out, since they're full of seeds, and remind me of chewing on tasty gravel.

Preparing them is a somewhat laborious process, but doesn't have to be tricky or hard. You just have to take your time. Of course, since they're cacti, they have pokey thorns of death. And even worse than the large obvious stickers, the tunas have very tiny barbed spines called "glochids." These are the things that usually stick in you and give you a pain in the ass when you rub into a cactus. Although they're on the tunas, if you follow a few steps you can avoid getting poked by them, in your finger, throat or otherwise.

Harvesting requires some "ingredients" if you can call them that...

Bring with you:

a pair of leather gloves
long metal chef's tongs
a cardboard box or bucket you don't mind throwing away afterward

Dress in jean pants, and a long sleeve shirt in case you brush against any cacti.

Search for the bright colored tunas atop the prickly cacti. The ripe ones will be dark reddish-purple, uniform in color, and some what plump. It's easiest to remove them by grasping them with the tongs and twisting the tunas off. If you just pull them, they'll usually tear and leave some of the fruit left on the cactus. Once you twist them off, if you look into the tear wound, the flesh inside will be brightly colored and juicy. Some of the fruits may even gush magenta colored liquid down the cacti pads when you pull them off.

These are my tunas in a box. My box made a double batch of jelly, 750 ml of tuna tequila, and about 2 cups of prickly pear syrup.

Once you have obtained the fruits, now you have to prepare them for whatever.

This mostly involves washing any tasty nature bits off, as well as, scrubbing out some of the glochids.

For this part you'll need:

Lab gloves (vinyl, latex, nitrile, whatever)
Dish Brush that you don't mind throwing away afterwards
Sheet Pan
Pairing Knife (if you're planning on skinning them. we'll get to that later)

Put your gloves on!!! I learned this the hard way. If you don't, you'll end up with glochids in your fingers.

Start by stabbing a tuna and running it under cold water. I found it easiest to stab the top dried-out looking part. Use the dish brush to scrub off bird poop, and insect leavings, and also in the process start removing the glochids in your scrubbing. If you look closely in the sink, you'll see them going down the drain. They look like little hairs.

This is the part where you skin them. For making my tequila, I skinned mine. I wanted the tequila to get the best contact with the juicy flesh, since I wouldn't be squashing them like in the jelly/syrup recipe. If you're not going to do the skinning step, you just half the washed tunas and place them in a giant stock pot. We'll get to the jelly recipe and steps later.

Still holding the tuna with the fork, place it on the sheet pan like shown. It's important to use a sheet pan! If you use your wood, or plastic cutting board, you'll ruin it. It will become full of glochids and you'll have to throw it way. Metal washes off nicely. Hooray for hard materials!

Use your pairing knife to cut the skins off the tunas. This is just like skinning an apple, or grapefruit. Don't worry about getting really close to the top where the fork is. We're going to cut the top off anyways. When you're done rotating and skinning, you should have a little flower looking shape at the bottom. Hold the skin down, and pull the fruit up and off.

Now maneuver the fork so you're stabbing in horizontally, and chop the top off.

Halve the fruit, marvel at the obnoxious pink/red/purple/magenta color, and then chuck into a jar.

that's it!! (for preparing at least...)

Now you get to make stuff.

I'll start with my tequila infusion. I used two quart jars for 750 mL of tequila.

You'll need:

1 750 mL of blanco tequila
2 Quart Mason jars
your prepped tunas

Half the tequila between the two jars, and then fill with prepped tunas. Let sit for a week or so, and give a good shake once a day to the jars! it's that easy!

When the time is up, begin by coarse filtering the slop. This step will remove all the fruit and seeds. I used an unlined colander and filtered into a big bowl. I also pressed on the solids to extract as much juice as I could. Then fine filter the bowl of liquid. This step is for removing any extra glochids in the solution. I used a fine meshed sieve, lined with several layers of cheesecloth. Let the solution filter, ring out the cheese cloth if you're anal about getting all that tequila back and then place back in your bottle!! TADA!!

You can use this to make prickly pear margaritas. Although, I noticed that the prickly pears already added quite a sour kick, so you may be able to cut back on the lime juice, and possibly add a little more triple sec, or even some orange juice to cut the tang down.

Now... on to the jelly and syrup!

These recipes didn't need skinned tunas, so they were a bit easier.

For either recipe you'll need to first cook down the tunas to make "juice."

This is easy. Just dump the halved and washed tunas in a stock pot, add enough water to just come to the edge of the tunas, and then simmer. While the tunas are simmering, use a potato masher to mash the tunas and extract more juice. Cook 'em up for a while, and then strain the liquid just like in the tequila recipe.

Once you have strained, glochid free juice, you're ready for jelly/syrup!

I started by reserving 2 cups of juice for the syrup. Everything else went into the jelly.

Jelly Recipe:

2.5 cups of juice (or however much juice you have, and the rest is made up with water)
1.75 oz powdered pectin (1 package)
3 Tbsp lemon
3.5 cups sugar

begin by heating the juice in a pot. When boiling, add the pectin, and continually stir for a good 10 minutes. Skim the foamy stuff off the top for a clear jelly. Add the lemon juice, and then gradually whisk in the sugar until it's all dissolved. Ladle the hot jelly into jelly jars (i used 8 oz masons), and then follow the typical canning procedure of capping, submerging, boiling, and cooling the jelly. It should set up nicely, and you'll have the most obnoxious colored jelly to give to all your friends.

The syrup, is just a simple syrup, with 2 Cups juice, and one cup of white sugar. Boil to dissolve, and cook to allow some of the sucrose to break down, preventing it from crystallizing when it cools. Bottle it up and use it for things!!

I found a delicious drink was:

1 shot Gin
8-10 oz ginger ale
some of that syrup...

shake, mix, rattle, roll, drink, spill... what have you. oh yeah, it's more pink that you even know what to do