Sunday, July 27, 2014

Fried Shrimp Banh Mi (Vietnamese Sandwich)


Fried Shrimp Banh Mi (Vietnamese Sandwich)

One of the best sandwiches on earth is the Vietnamese banh mi. As with any other subs, it can be made with a variety of fillings. My two favorites are pork (shredded or grilled) and cold cut with pâté. (If you don’t eat pâté, you will like it in these sandwiches. I don't eat the stuff either, but I enjoy it in my cold cut banh mi.) What makes banh mi  a standout from all other sandwiches is the baguette. It has the flakiest, crispiest, and lightest crust you will ever eat…and the inside is wonderfully light and airy. Making them from scratch is on the list of things I want to master..someday. Until then, I use regular sub rolls which are delicious in their own right. If you have never had one of these flavorful, scrumptious sandwiches from an authentic Vietnamese sub shop, you are missing out on something wonderfully unique, so put it on your bucket list. Please!

Fried Shrimp Banh Mi (Vietnamese Sandwich)


Not to be outdone by the bread, the filling is equally amazing with a perfect balance of salty, sweet, and sour (and spicy if you choose). These sandwiches are typically served with pickled carrots and daikon, cilantro, cucumber, and mayonnaise. There is also a perfect unison of texture where crispy and crunchy work in harmony with soft and chewy. The banh mi is a mouthful of righteousness. Did I tell you that you have to try it?
  
I’m throwing my hat into the ring with my own version of this marvelous sandwich. My Shrimp Banh Mi is absolutely delightful. It has all of the qualities of that you would want in a Vietnamese sandwich. Each bite will leave you wanting more. If I didn't already stress to you, you really have to try it!!

Fried Shrimp Banh Mi (Vietnamese Sandwich)




Fried Shrimp Banh Mi (Vietnamese Sandwich): 

1/3 cup flour
1/2 scant tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp. agave nectar
1 tsp. sriracha hot chili sauce (optional, for heat)
2 cups canola oil
1 lb. small (60/80 count) peeled and deveined shrimp
4 sub rolls
1/2 cup pickled carrots and daikon (recipe to follow in next post)
1/2 small cucumber, cut into 4 thin wedges
12 sprigs of cilantro


In a bowl, blend flour, salt, ginger powder, and garlic powder. Set aside. In a separate bowl, combine mayonnaise, agave nectar, and sriracha (optional). Blend well. Set aside.

Add oil to a medium heavy bottom pan and preheat to 360 degrees F. Pat shrimp dry with paper towels. Place in a medium bowl. Add flour mixture and thoroughly coat shrimp. Scoop up half of the shrimp using a fine mesh strainer or a large slotted spoon. Shake off excess flour. Place in hot oil and fry for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes or until shrimp is opaque throughout. Stir shrimp a couple of times during cooking to ensure even cooking. Place on paper towels to drain oil. Repeat cooking the remaining shrimp.

Toast sub rolls for a minute or two to crisp up the crust. Split open one side using a serrated knife. To assemble sandwiches: spread on a little mound of mayonnaise mixture, add some shrimp, add pickled carrots and daikon, followed by one cucumber wedge, then add 4 cilantro sprigs. Repeat assembling the remaining sandwiches. Makes 4 servings.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Eggplant Caponata with Goat Cheese Wrap


Eggplant Caponata with Goat Cheese Wrap

I recently went on extended weekend trip to New York City. It was a self-guided culinary tour of The Big Apple and I loved every bit of it. My husband, our two friends, and I grazed our way throughout the city. Needless to say, I have a few inspired recipe ideas and copy cat recipes (all of which are deliciously artery-clogging) that I will be working on and will share in the future.

To maintain some sort of nutritional balance, I have a healthy caponata wrap recipe for you today. Caponata is an Italian cooked eggplant relish that is commonly served as an appetizer or side dish. I’m using it as a sandwich filling. To make it even healthier, choose a multi-grain or high fiber wrap…lavash or pita pocket are also good options. And if you don’t like goat cheese, you might like it in this as it blends well with all the other flavors, so give it a try first. But if you really don’t like it, use mozzarella, feta, or whatever strikes your fancy.

Enjoy!

Eggplant Caponata with Goat Cheese Wrap



Eggplant Caponata with Goat Cheese Wrap:
  
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced 1/8-inch thick
1 cup sliced (1/8-inch thick) celery
1 eggplant (between 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lb.), sliced 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick
6 sun dried tomato halves
2 tbsp. sugar
1/3 cup red wine vinegar   
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1/4 cup sliced green olives
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
6 oz. goat cheese
16 large basil leaves
4 multi-grain wraps


Preheat a large saucepan on medium heat. Add olive oil. Add onion, celery, and eggplant. Cover and reduce heat between medium-medium low. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes and bringing the content on the bottom of the pan to the top to promote even cooking.

Meanwhile, soak sun dried tomatoes in boiling water for 5 minutes (skip this step if using tomato packaged in olive oil). Remove tomatoes and slice into 1/4 inch strips. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk sugar, red wine vinegar, and tomato paste.

After 15 minutes of cooking, eggplant should be tender. Add sun dried tomatoes, olives, garlic, salt, and pepper to the pan. Cook and stir, uncovered, for a minute or so. Pour in the red wine vinegar mixture. Cook, stirring frequently until liquid is absorbed for 2 – 3 minutes. Serve on wrap, warm or at room temp.

To assemble wrap: Spread or crumble 1/4 of the goat cheese onto the middle section of the wrap, avoiding the edges. Layer with 4 basil leaves followed by 1/4 of caponata. Fold in the edges and roll up wrap burrito-style. Continue assembling the remaining three wraps. Slice on a diagonal and serve. Serves 4.



Tuesday, July 15, 2014

S’mores Stuffed Cookies with Coconut


S’mores Stuffed Cookies with Coconut

I had to try these S’mores Stuffed Cookies I found at A Cookie Named Desire. What pulled me in were the white and gooey marshmallows that were stuffed in the center. I had to find out how they did not completely melt. The secret, it turns out, is to chill the dough prior to baking to prevent the marshmallow from overheating and dissolving.
                             
My attempts at these cookies have been successful overall with the majority of the marshmallows surviving the baking process. After a couple of batches, I quickly realize that timing is key and waiting too long to remove the cookies from the oven will affect the marshmallow success rate. Cooling them is also key. I would even suggest placing the hot cookies in front of a fan to speed up the cooling process.

made a few of changes to the original recipe. I use entirely all-purpose flour as opposed to the combination of half-all-purpose-and-half-wheat flour, mainly because there wasn't any wheat flour in the house the first time I made the cookies. They turned out great, so I stuck with all-purpose. I also used cinnamon graham crackers as opposed to honey flavored. Lastly, I added sweetened coconut flakes. The flavor complements the cookies perfectly. It is truly a winning combination of flavors—the cinnamon graham crackers, the chocolate chips, the marshmallows, and the coconut flakes blend into a symphony of deliciousness.

S’mores Stuffed Cookies with Coconut



These cookies will take a little bit of effort. Hand stuffing the marshmallows and forming the cookies take some time. The result is worth it though. Make some the next time you want to impress. They will go fast!

Here’s how you can make them.



S’mores Stuffed Cookies with Coconut:
adapted from A Cookie Named Desire

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour or half AP and half wheat flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
16 whole (2/3 of a 14.4 oz box) cinnamon graham crackers 
1 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup roughly chopped milk chocolate
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
2 cups mini marshmallows


Whisk flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon in a bowl. Set aside.

Crush graham crackers into crumbs, being careful not to take them to the powder consistency. Set aside.

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla. Blend well. Slowly add flour mixture blending until just incorporated. Stir in graham crackers, chocolates, and coconut.

Scoop 1 tbsp. dough and make an indentation. Place 4 to 5 marshmallows into indentation. Cover with another 2/3 tablespoon of dough. Form into a flat disc, making sure that the marshmallows are completely covered with dough. The cookie will not spread much during baking. Place on a greased baking sheet. Repeat forming the remaining cookies. Cover and chill overnight or up to three days.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  

Uncover and bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Cool on baking sheet for a minute. Transfer to a cooling rack. Place in front of a fan to speed up cooling process, optional. Makes about 24 cookies.



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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Caramel Vodka Root Beer Float Shooter



Caramel Vodka Root Beer Float Shooter

Would it surprise you if I said I had more fun than usual with this recipe? And would it surprise you that I have had no shortage of guinea pigs to try this beverage? This root beer shooter is a fun adult twist on a classic and beloved drink. Serve some at your next gathering and watch them disappear!



Caramel Vodka Root Beer Float Shooter



I used caramel flavored vodka in this beverage, but there are a variety of other flavors that are equally tasty: marshmallow fluff, vanilla, and whipped cream. (I have tested them all!)  Have fun experimenting them on your own.You too will have no shortage of ready and willing taste testers!!

Caramel Vodka Root Beer Float Shooter




Caramel Vodka Root Beer Float Shooter:

2 oz. Edy’s Caramel Delight ice cream or similar
1 oz. caramel flavored vodka
3 oz. root beer
1 dollop whipped cream

Note: Adjust quantity to the size of your shooter glass, using a ratio of 1 part vodka to 3 parts root beer. This recipe is for a 5 oz. shooter glass.

Place two leveled scoops of ice cream into a  shooter glass using a 1 oz. scoop. Add vodka. Slowly pour in root beer, waiting for bubbles to subside before adding more. Top with a dollop of whipped cream. Serves 1.



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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Banana-Chocolate Dessert Shells


Banana-Chocolate Dessert Shells

I should have called this post “Plan B” because it was supposed to have some sort of strawberry shortcake title. My original thought was to do a twist on strawberry shortcake. As you can see, that did not happen. I played around with different ideas for the shortcake portion of the dessert. When I came up with this banana-chocolate sponge cake version, I knew I had a winner. Then it occurred to me that the dessert shell is too pretty to cover up with strawberries and whipped cream. Don't get me wrong—strawberry shortcake on a banana chocolate shell is a fabulous thing (I had a few the last couple of weeks)! But why limit the possibilities? I decided to make the dessert shells the star of the show.

Banana-Chocolate Dessert Shells



These shells could be the base for so many other things. How about topping them with ice cream sundaes? What about caramelized bananas, walnuts, and whipped cream? Try chocolate mousse. Now that I got the ball rolling, you can probably come up with some fantastic versions of your own.

If you are not familiar with dessert shell pans, this is what they look like.


The one on the left is the top side and the one on the right is the underside. It is essentially a muffin pan with the bottom of each cavity pushed in creating dome. Once baked, you invert the pan and the bottom becomes the top. All you need to do is fill the bowl with a whole lot of goodness.

This recipe yields 6 shells. I like to keep my dessert recipes small, mainly to avoid a lot of leftovers. My family of four is not a huge consumer of desserts (although ice cream, chocolate chip cookies, and chocolate brownies do disappear at warp speed). Generally, we enjoy sweets in small quantities and in a nonconsecutive fashion. So when we have leftover, it is a lose-lose situation for me: I would have to deal with the guilt of throwing away good food or the guilt of overconsumption to avoid the guilt of throwing away good food. To avoid this dilemma, I like to create smaller portion desserts. If you need larger quantities, this recipe can easily be doubled.

Enjoy!

Banana-Chocolate Dessert Shells



Banana-Chocolate Dessert Shells:

3 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup mashed banana
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder  
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Beat eggs on high until pale yellow, thick, and creamy, about 3 minutes. Slowly add 1 tablespoon sugar at a time and continue beating for a total of 2 minutes. Add banana and vanilla extract. Blend well.

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Stir into egg mixture, blending to incorporate without overmixing. Grease a 6-cavity dessert shell pan. Pour 1/3 cup batter in each cavity. Using only half of the chocolate chips, sprinkle some into each cavity. Pour the remaining batter over chocolate chips, filling the cavities no more than 3/4 full. Top off with a sprinkling of the remainder chocolate chips. Bake for 10–15 minutes, checking at the 10-minute mark. Done when an inserted toothpick with a few specks of crumbs. Store in an airtight container. Serves 6.

Note: Best eaten the same day. If kept refrigerated or dries out, microwave each for about 15 seconds or until barely warm to soften before eating.



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