Sunday, May 31, 2015

Chicken Pad Thai Pizza

Here I am, enjoying Bangkok's amazing street food scene that rivals that of Mexico City.
สวัสดี! My four hour “flight” from New Delhi to Bangkok got me to Thailand around 1 p.m. local time, so I was starving for some lunch when I “arrived.”

And what immediately comes to everyone’s minds when they think of Thai food? Pad thai (ผัดไทย), of course, a stir-fried rice noodle dish filled with a multitude of flavorful ingredients and toppings. Thai cuisine is known for its complexity, variety, and depth of flavor, and sweet, spicy, sour, savory pad thai reflects all of those elements.

Pad thai is often served out of street stalls in the streets of Bangkok, which has a strong street food culture similar to Mexico City's. Therefore, I thought yet again about the ideas of ease and efficiency. How can I make my pad thai better suited to a quick, on-the-go lunch? Well, a favorite, portable lunch in America (and in Italy) is pizza. You guessed it; we’re making fusion food again!

For my tasty Thai lunch, I decided to take all of the classic pad thai elements and put them on a pizza (yes, even the noodles)! Haven’t you ever had spaghetti pizza? Not only is my pizza topped with a traditional chicken pad thai stir fry and all of its garnishes, but its base is also influenced by another popular Thai flavor—instead of tomato sauce, I spread spicy peanut sauce on the pizza dough. I hope you enjoy my unique, mouth-watering chicken pad thai pizza!

This is the end of my three-week edible adventure; now I'm headed home to Philadelphia. But I won't stop "traveling" through cooking, so keep up with my blog for some weekend trips "abroad" this summer!

Pad thai pizza:

2 chicken breasts

½ lb rice noodles
1 egg
2 cloves garlic
1 medium carrot
1 red pepper
1 tbsp cilantro

½ cup tamarind paste
½ cup lime juice and 3 tbsps brown sugar
2 tbsps fish sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp water
2 tsps cornstarch

½ cup peanut butter
¼ cup hoisin sauce
¼ cup canola oil
2 tbsps soy sauce
2 tbsps water
1 tbsp honey

2 1lb balls of store-bought pizza dough

3 cups mozzarella

½ cup bean sprouts
¼ cup crushed peanuts
2 tbsps green onion
1 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsps cilantro
2 tbsps Thai chili sauce or sriracha

1. First, prepare all the ingredients that will go in the pad thai stir fry. Sauté the chicken and cut it into bite-sized pieces, julienne the carrot and pepper, mince the garlic, chop the cilantro, and crack and beat the egg. Then, cook the noodles in boiling water for 4 minutes. Immediately drain them, and rinse them with cold water to stop the cooking process.

2. While the noodles are cooking, whisk together the tamarind paste (or the lime juice/brown sugar substitute), fish sauce, soy sauce, and water, and cook it in a wok with the cornstarch to thicken it.

3. Then, mix in the noodles, carrot, pepper, and garlic, and toss to coat everything with the sauce. Once this mixture has cooked for a few minutes, make a well in the middle and add the egg. Let it cook, then toss to combine it with the rest of the pad thai. Stir in the cilantro, and take it off the heat.

4. Make the peanut sauce that will be the base of the pizza by combining the peanut butter, hoisin sauce, oil, soy sauce, water, and honey in a food processor.

5. Roll out the dough into two large rectangles on a floured surface, then place them on two lightly greased baking sheets.

6. Cover the dough with the peanut sauce, then spread ½ cup of mozzarella on each pizza. Put ½ of the pad thai noodle mixture onto each pizza, then put 1 cup of the remaining mozzarella on top of the two pizzas. Bake the pizzas at 425 degrees for about 10-12 minutes.

7. When the pizzas come out of the oven, top them with a drizzle of chili sauce, a squeeze of lime juice, crushed peanuts, bean sprouts, green onion, and cilantro. Use a pizza cutter to cut slices (or leave it as one big slice for you and only you!). สนุก!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Mango Lassi Cupcakes

Cooling off in New Delhi with a fresh mango lassi.
नमस्ते! If only I had postponed my “trip” to New Delhi, India, until July 2—that’s the date of the annual International Mango Festival in India’s capital (here’s a hint…mangoes are essential in today’s recipe)! Alas, I “arrived” a few nights ago, around 8 p.m., after an 8-hour flight from Italy. By that time, I was ready for a sweet treat.

My favorite Indian recipe to order in the States is the mango lassi, a creamy, tangy, yogurt-based smoothie that is the perfect accompaniment to a hearty meal. Different types of lassis are popular all around India—savory lassis with spices such as cumin, sweet mint lassis, bhang (basically, marijuana) lassis, and my favorite, mango lassis. These tasty mango concoctions can be infused with other aromatic ingredients, such as rosewater or cardamom, adding even more depth of flavor.

With the high temperatures of New Delhi summers (often 90 degrees Farenheit, sometimes even 110!), a tall, cool drink is just what people need after a long, hot day. Naturally, that’s exactly what I went for the second I “stepped foot” in India.

But don’t expect me to make a simple mango lassi and be done with it! One of my favorite concepts ever is fusion food, or a culinary combination of two cultures. I decided to take the refreshing, sweet flavors of a mango lassi and use them in a distinctly American creation—a cupcake. What could possibly be a better dessert than classic vanilla cupcakes stuffed with tart mango curd and smothered with creamy mango lassi icing? Nothing.

See you tomorrow for lunch in Thailand!


1 cup softened butter
1½ cups sugar
4 tsps vanilla extract
4 eggs
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1-1/3 cup milk

Mango curd:

3/4 cup sugar
2 tbsps cornstarch
1 cup puréed mango
¼ cup butter
1 tbsp lemon juice
½ tbsp lemon zest
6 egg yolks, beaten

Mango lassi icing:

1 cup puréed mango
4 tbsps honey or agave nectar
1 cup chilled yogurt
6 cups powdered sugar
½ cup butter, softened

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cream together the butter, sugar, and vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Next, beat in the sifted dry ingredients and the milk until combined. Pour the batter into a lined muffin tin, and bake the cupcakes for 22-24 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let them cool.

2. While the cupcakes are baking, combine the sugar, cornstarch, mango, butter, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a saucepan to make the mango curd. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until the mixture is thickened.

3. Temper the egg yolks by stirring half of the mango mixture into the yolks, then stirring the yolks back into the rest of the mango mixture. Bring this just to a boil, and cook, stirring constantly, for two more minutes. Cover the curd with plastic wrap, and chill it until ready to use.

4. As the curd and the cupcakes are cooling, purée 2-3 chopped mangoes with the honey until smooth, then add the yogurt. Cream the butter in a different bowl, and add half of the mango lassi mixture. (Add some ice cubes to the other half, and enjoy a drink with your dessert!) Next, beat in the powdered sugar until the mixture is smooth, thick, and spreadable.

5. Make a hole in the center of each cupcake (I used an apple corer), and fill them with a dollop of chilled mango curd (I used a squeeze bottle). Top with a spoonful of mango lassi icing, and dive in! आनंद!

My most innovative cupcake yet!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Prosciutto Caprese Panini with Parmesan Focaccia

I'm off to buy some famous prosciutto in Parma!
Ciao! I left Paris on a 10 a.m.”flight” after a few magical days, and I arrived shortly in Parma, Italy two hours later. This historic city in Northern Italy is well known for its cheese, especially parmigiano reggiano, and its meat, specifically prosciutto, a type of Italian ham.

I knew I wanted to use both of these traditional savory ingredients, and when I figured out that part of my family actually comes from Parma, I was even more excited to “visit” the area and explore my heritage.

When I “reached” the city around 12 p.m., I was starving and ready for il pranzo (lunch). In most European countries, lunch is the formal meal of the day, and Italy is no exception. Traditionally, the meal begins with a starter, un antipasto. A first course, un primo, follows, and then a second course, un secondo. As people now have less time for lunch breaks, lunch is often not as structured or homemade. Instead of savoring a formal, sit-down affair, many workers grab a quick meal in a restaurant, then head back to the office.

With these changes in mind, I wanted to blend care and tradition with efficiency and simplicity in my ambitious Italian dish. I baked some homemade parmesan focaccia bread to use in my take on a quick, flavorful caprese panino, which has many classic Italian flavors and ingredients, including spicy basil pesto, salty prosciutto, and gooey mozzarella cheese. Squisito!

I hope you enjoyed this savory lunch. Join me in India next week for some sweet dessert!

Parmesan focaccia:

1 package fast-acting active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
6 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 tsp salt
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup parmesan cheese
2 tsps sea salt

Caprese panino:

8 slices prosciutto
1 cup arugula
4 oz fresh mozzarella cheese
1 beefsteak tomato
½ cup mushrooms


2 cups fresh basil
¼ cup pine nuts
2 cloves of garlic
½ tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsps parmesan cheese

1. Whisk the yeast with the warm water and let it stand for a few minutes, then whisk in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, ¼ cup of parmesan, and salt. Next, use a wooden spoon to stir in the flour until the dough comes together.

2. Place the dough on a floured surface, dust it with more flour, and knead for a few minutes until the dough is soft and smooth. Drizzle and coat the dough with 1 tbsp of the olive oil, and knead until it is incorporated. Repeat this step two more times (three times total).

3. Place the dough into a bowl with 1 tbsp of olive oil and turn it to coat. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap, and let it sit for around 30-45 minutes until the dough has doubled.

4. Drizzle a sheet pan with more olive oil, and place the dough on the pan. Press the dough into a rectangular shape and cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap. Let the dough sit for 15 more minutes.

5. Then, drizzle another tablespoon of olive oil onto the dough and spread it all over. Press your fingers into the dough to make dimples all over the surface. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese over the dough. Let it rise until it has doubled again, about 20 more minutes.

6. Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. Bake the focaccia loaf until it is golden brown (about 10 minutes). Sprinkle with sea salt, and let it cool.

7. While the focaccia is baking and cooling, prepare the other ingredients for the panino. Sauté the mushrooms in butter, and slice the tomato and the mozzarella.

8. To make the pesto, combine the basil, pine nuts, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and lemon juice in the food processor. Slowly add in the olive oil while pulsing. Once it is all incorporated, spoon the pesto into a bowl and mix in the parmesan cheese.

9. Slice the cooled parmesan focaccia loaf, and then load up some slices with the pesto, prosciutto, mozzarella, tomato, arugula, and mushrooms. Cook it in a panini press, or place it on a grill pan and press it down with a heavy pan for 2-3 minutes on each side, until the mozzarella is melted.

How incredible does this look? Buon appetito!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Crêpes with Nectarine-Blueberry Compote, Strawberry-Blackberry Compote, Chocolate Ganâche, and Caramel Sauce

One of the most well-known crêperies in Paris, located in the heart of the incredible city.
Salut, ça va? After my amazing time in Mexico City, I “jetted off” to one of my favorite cities in the whole world—Paris, France. I left Mexico on a 2 a.m. red-eye “flight,” and stepped off the plane in Charles de Gaulle Airport at 8 p.m. local time (can you say jet-lag?). Thankfully, I arrived in Paris just in time for dessert!

What better way to represent such an iconic city than with crêpes, a classic French dessert? Crêperies are scattered throughout the streets of Paris, as quick street stalls or more formal sit-down restaurants, serving all types of crêpes, from flambéed crêpes suzette to savory buckwheat galettes.

The perfect crêpe needs the perfect filling, and, since it’s springtime, my mind immediately went to fruit. A compote (French for mixture—you’d be surprised at how many of our cooking techniques come from the French!), made of fruit cooked in a simple syrup of sugar and water, is the perfect topping to spread inside of a warm crêpe.

To create two unique flavor profiles, I combined juicy nectarines with bright blueberries and paired sweet strawberries with tart blackberries. Then, I added some fresh mint to both compotes to enhance the fruity flavors.

But you can’t have dessert crêpes without chocolate, of course, so I couldn’t help but whip up a rich chocolate ganache and some caramel sauce for a tasty third type of crêpe. And, finally, I topped each and every crêpe with some light homemade whipped cream, or chantilly, as the French would call it. Magnifique!

I’ve had a love affair with crêpes ever since my real-life visit to Paris seven years ago, and I can’t wait to visit an authentic French crêperie again. But, for now, my homemade crêpes will hopefully satisfy my wanderlust (and yours too!). Bon appétit! I’ll meet you in Italy on Friday, just in time to grab some lunch!

Nectarine blueberry compote:

2 nectarines
½ cup of blueberries
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp fresh mint

Strawberry blackberry compote:

1 cup strawberries
1 cup blackberries
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp fresh mint

Chocolate ganâche:

1/2 cup heavy cream
4 oz. semisweet chocolate
1 tsp vanilla

Caramel sauce:

½ cup sugar
3 tbsps butter
¼ cup heavy cream

Crème chantilly:

1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla
¼ cup powdered sugar


1½ cup flour
1 tbsp sugar
¼ tsp salt
3 eggs
2 cups milk
2 tbsps butter

1. To make the nectarine-blueberry compote, chop the nectarines into bite-sized pieces and throw them into a saucepan with the blueberries, water, and sugar. Cook the mixture until it’s thick and bubbling, and the fruit is tender. Chiffonade the fresh mint (yes, another French technique!), and stir it into the compote.

2. Repeat step number 1 with the chopped strawberries and the blackberries to make the strawberry-blackberry compote.

3. For the chocolate ganache, bring the heavy cream just to a boil, then take it off the heat and add the finely chopped chocolate and vanilla. Whisk the mixture until it becomes smooth and shiny.

4. To make the caramel sauce, cook the sugar in a saucepan over medium heat until it’s completely melted and dark amber-colored (around 350 degrees). Stir the butter into the caramel until it’s melted and combined. Slowly drizzle in the heavy cream while stirring continuously, and then let the mixture boil for 1 minute. Next, take it off the heat and let it cool.

5. Finally, whip the heavy cream with the vanilla and powdered sugar to make the chantilly.

6. Now that all the toppings are done, you can begin to make the crêpes! Blend all of the crêpe ingredients together in a blender.

7. Pour a few tablespoons of batter into a hot, buttered pan. Tilt the pan in a circle so the batter covers the entire bottom. Cook until the crêpe is golden brown on both sides, then transfer to a plate and cover to keep the crêpes warm.

8. Assemble the crêpes by filling them with the nectarine-blueberry compote, strawberry-blackberry compote, or chocolate ganache and caramel. Fold them in half and then in half again. Top with chantilly and powdered sugar, and try not to eat every last one of them!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Grilled Steak Tacos with Pineapple-Mango Salsa and Mexican Street Corn

One of many taco stands that line the streets of Mexico City.
¡Hola, vamanos! I left Philly on a 12 p.m. “flight,” and I arrived in Mexico City at 6 p.m., just in time for dinner. In the United States, dinner is usually the big meal of the day, but in Mexico, the main formal meal is lunch. So, tonight, I decided to hit the road for some traditional Mexican street food instead.

For my take on antijitos, or little cravings, I just had to try the tacos—after all, they are the most popular street dish. Grilled meat (carne asada) tacos usually make an appearance in the evening and night, so I chose to make grilled flank steak tacos for my Mexican feast.

The spicy chipotle marinade needed a sweet element for balance, so I paired it with a well-known topping—salsa. But this salsa was no ordinary salsa: pineapple and mango took it to the next level. To spice things up even more, I put my own spin on some Mexican street corn, a traditional side that is a favorite in Mexico City. After I cut the kernels off, I mixed them with bold flavors that mirror those in the tacos to make a dish called esquites

Street vendors truly make Mexico a unique culinary hotspot, so I hope you enjoy my trip to the taqueria as much as I did. Enjoy the meal, and I’ll see you in France for dessert next week!

Carne asada tacos:

8 medium flour or corn tortillas
1-1.5 lb flank steak
For the marinade:
            ½ a 7oz. can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
            2 tbsp canola oil
            1 tbsp lime juice
            1 tbsp cilantro
            ¼ of a jalapeño
            2 tbsp brown sugar
            1 tsp cumin
            ½ tsp salt
            Dash of pepper
For the salsa:
            ¼ of a pineapple
            1 mango
            ¼ of a jalapeño
            ¼ of a red onion
            1 tbsp cilantro
            1 tbsp of lime juice
            Pinch of cumin
            Dash of salt

Mexican street corn:

5 ears of corn
1 stick of butter (softened)
1 tbsp cilantro
¼ of a jalapeño
½ tsp cumin
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
Pinch of salt and pepper
1 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp of parmesan cheese
Cilantro, for garnish

1. First, chop the chipotle peppers roughly, and mix them in a bowl with the oil, lime juice, chopped cilantro, minced jalapeño, brown sugar, cumin, salt, and pepper to make the marinade. Then, put the steak into a plastic bag and pour the marinade on top. Seal tightly and set aside for 1-2 hours.

2. Next, start grilling the corn. Spray them with cooking spray and place on an outside grill or a hot grill pan. Turn them slightly every 5 minutes for 20 minutes to get good grill marks all over.

3. While the corn is cooking, mix the softened butter with the chopped cilantro, minced jalapeño, cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper.

4. After the corn comes off the grill, let it cool. Cut the kernels off of the cob and place them in a large serving bowl. Mix the kernels with the spicy butter. Garnish with lime juice, parmesan cheese, and more cilantro.

5. Next, place the marinated steak on the grill or the grill pan and cook for 8-10 minutes on each side. Let it rest 5 minutes before cutting.

6. While the steak is on the grill, peel and dice the pineapple, mango, and red onion. Combine with the chopped cilantro, minced jalapeño, lime juice, cumin, and salt, and set aside.

7. Warm the tortillas by throwing them on the grill, in a skillet, or in the microwave. Then, cut the meat against the grain and assemble the tacos. Put a few pieces of meat in each tortilla along with a scoop of salsa. Enjoy one (or two…or three) with a side of Mexican street corn!

The best plate of food I've ever eaten. Delicioso!