Tag Archives: sweet

Sweet and Spicy Fish (Vietnamese)

Happy weekend!

Fritz and I were running around all morning (we went to the gym, the library, donated blood like good, caring citizens, and then headed to the mall for some returns) and we got completely and totally exhausted.  It was probably due to the missing pints of blood, but at 3:00 we got home and just collapsed onto the couch.  It was definitely a movie moment, so we watched Bourne Identity  until I had mustered up enough strength to make dinner and force Fritz into his study mode. 

It had been a while since I’ve been that tired.  How do all those 14 year olds stay at the mall all day long?  When did I turn 79?

The food definitely revived us, so on a second wind I decided to blog the second half of our Valentine’s Dinner.  This fish worried us a lot as it was cooking (let me tell you–Thai fish sauce does not smell good.  Like Henry’s morning breath), but as the sauce thickened and the flavors developed, we were won over by the perfect sweet and salty balance.

Vietnamese Sweet and Spicy Fish (adapted from Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet)

  • 1/2 lb fish (we used tilapia–in traditional Vietnamese recipes ca bac is used)
  • 1/2 t white pepper
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 1/4 C warm water
  • 2 T Thai fish sauce
  • 2 t vegetable oil
  • 1 T finely minced lemongrass
  • 2 scallions, minced

Dry the fish and sprinkle with the pepper, and set aside. 

While you’re at it, soak some rice noodles in warm water (they need about 20 minutes), so you can serve the fish over ’em.

  Place a heavy skillet over high heat.  When it’s hot, add the oil and coat the pan by swirling.  Toss in the lemongrass (we only managed to find a tube of pre-minced lemongrass paste, but it worked fine!), and immediately place the fish in the pan and sear for a few seconds, then flip and repeat on the other side.  Add the water, sugar, and fish sauce and bring to a rapid boil, then reduce the heat to medium and add the scallions.

This is the part where you might be nervous.  Some boring fish fillets floating in a watery yet incredibly stinky sauce.  But don’t give up now!  As the fish continues to cook and the sauce thickens, turn the heat down to prevent burning.  Soon the sauce will be a thick, brown, bubbly, fragrant syrup–exactly what you want! 

And if you dare–taste it.

So good!  You won’t believe what your taste buds are tellin’ you.

When the sauce is almost-but-not-quite fully cooked down, drain the rice noodles and toss them in a hot skillet with a touch of canola oil for a minute or two.  They cook fast, so be ready!  We also microwaved a steam-fresh pouch of frozen asian-inspired veggies to go along with this and the spring rolls.

Serve immediately over the hot noodles, and spoon some of the extra sauce over the top.

You may need to physically restrain your dinner guests as this point (and your cat should definitely be locked in another room).

Fritz and I were so relieved that this turned out well, since it was supposed to be a romantic dinner that we weren’t too sure about once we opened that fish sauce bottle.  It just goes to show that you can’t judge a food by its inital stench.

Actually, you probably can for the most part. 

This might just be the exception!

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Filed under Entrees

Chicken a la Nueces de la India

Otherwise known as chicken with a ground cashew sauce.


By the way, I’m sorry that I haven’t been as consistent with my blogging lately.  Tomorrow is my last day of vacation (sad), and then I’ll be back to my regular routine again.  However, we spent one of my last nights of freedom doing this:

Oh, I just love my friends.  Eber, Bre, and Zev (henceforth known as Breberz) came to visit!  We met up with Jun Oh and had a lovely night.  Crazy, and lovely.

But back to the chicken.  This is Fritz’s new favorite way to have chicken breasts–and that’s a big statement coming from a man who only makes chicken when he’s home alone.

Chicken a la Nueces de la India (from Padma Lakshmi’s Tangy Tart Hot & Sweet)

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 3 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
  • dusting of flour
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 C cashews
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 C onion, diced
  • 1 t red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 t dried thyme
  • 2 C chicken stock
  • 3 T honey

Layer the chicken in plastic wrap and pound with a mallet (or in my case, large, heavy spoon) until they are about an inch thick.  Dust both sides with flour, and lay in a glass roasting pan (sprayed with oil) and roast in the oven at 350 degrees until cooked (about 20 minutes).

Meanwhile, make the sauce.

Toast the cashews in the oven (350 for about ten minutes), then grind them in a food processer into powder.

Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat until translucent.  Add the pepper and thyme and cook for 2 more minutes, then add the chicken stock.  Pour in the honey and stir until the mixture comes to a gentle boil.  Turn the heat down to medium low and slowly add the cashews (I actually just dumped it all in, which turned out fine!), mixing constantly to avoid lumps.  Add salt and pepper to taste, and allow the sauce to thicken to a gravy-like consistency.

Padma’s book says the chicken can be added to the sauce and served, but I chose to cut each breast in half (they’re huge!), and plate them on top of a mound of cooked bulgur wheat, and pile the sauce on top of the whole thing.


This was a delicious number, and the sauce tasted very creamy and sweet–perfect over the bulgur wheat.  Definitely try this recipe–I give it five stars for being even better as leftovers.

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Filed under Entrees, Sauces

Scottish Shortbread; Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup

I have my first big test of the year coming up on Thursday, which is why I have spent every day baking and making large, involved dinners.  Basically I’ll do anything to avoid studying, but especially when it’s cold outside (finally!) and I have gone grocery shopping twice in the last few days.  

I wanted to bake a surprise for Fritz, and I found a Scottish cookbook and shortbread mold that was given to us as a wedding present by the Zietsmans’ (Scottish…duh) family friend, the Mitchells (thanks!).  Having never used a wooden mold before, I had to do a little scientific (google) research first, but I knew Fritz liked shortbread and thought it’d be fun to try.  

Basic Shortbread (adapted from Scottish Home Baking)  

  • 6 oz (175 g) plain flour
  • 2 oz (50 g) rice flour
  • 2 oz (50 g) caster sugar (I substituted powdered sugar)
  • 4 oz (110 g or 1 stick) butter


Sift together the two flours (I only had all-purpose flour, so I used 8 oz of that), then cream the butter and sugar in a separate bowl and work in the flour.  Knead until the mixture is smooth and without cracks.  I used my mixer for this, but eventually it does have to be kneaded by hand to warm the butter and improve the flour absorption.  You can now cut in half and simply shape the dough into two rounds, about 1/4″ thick.   

Otherwise, if using a mold, shape the dough over the mold, then remove carefully from the mold and bake on a cookie sheet, on parchment paper.  For me, that was easier said then done.  I tried first oiling the mold and then flouring it to get the dough to unstick from the mold.  Neither really worked that well, most likely because either I had too much butter in the shortbread ratio or my caster sugar/powdered sugar substitution didn’t work very well.  I ended up basically prying it out and reshaping the edges afterwards.



Now is a good time to refrigerate the dough so it will maintain its shape while baking (I skipped this step–bad idea).  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, then bake for about 1/2 hour or until golden brown.  Sprinkle with granulated sugar and let cool on a wire rack.  Cut into wedges to serve. 

The shortbread only lasted for about 2 days, and I am definitely a bit suspicious that Henry was unfairly blamed for this (umm…Fritz?). 

For an equally rich tasting but much healthier fall food, today I made a big pot of butternut squash and sweet potato soup.  I am super excited to take it to school for lunch tomorrow, when I am freezing cold (why they can’t regulate the temperature in there, I don’t know) and bored.  Yum!  Fritz also misleadingly calls this “pumpkin soup” and I’m deducing that in his vocabulary, pumpkin means any squash.  Is that normal? 

Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup (adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, and cubed
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 2 T butter or olive oil
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 5 C chicken broth
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • dash freshly grated nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 C skim milk

Brown the onion in the butter until soft.  Add the squash, potato, thyme, cinnamon, and broth, and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until the squash and potato are soft.  Remove the thyme and cinnamon stick, and blend in batches until smooth.  


Add milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste and return to a simmer for about two minutes, then remove from heat.  Serve with a fresh dash of nutmeg on top. 


You’ll love this, I promise.  The original recipe didn’t have sweet potato or cinnamon, but I wanted the soup to have a sweeter taste, which worked out wonderfully.  Anyway, I need to stop procrastinating and start learning some Adult Neurological Rehab for my test–please let me know if you have used a shortbread mold before and have had more success!  Also, I just bought some cans of pumpkin on sale, and I’d love some unexpected or unusual recipes to try (Mom and I settled on pumpkin muffins for one of the cans, but I have some more that are unclaimed!).


Filed under Desserts, Soups/Stews