Archive for the ‘Food Books’ Category

Enliven your taste buds!

So, every month I get together with a group of women to cook. To be quite honest, while the dishes we make are tasty, they are not the most adventurous. Usually we prepare something from Ina or Giada’s latest tome. More recently, we’ve been cooking a lot from Suzanne Goin (you’ve read her book, yes? If not, stop reading immediately and go get it!). This always promises great results, but sometimes I crave something a little more exciting. 

Enter Clifford Wright’s Some Like It Hot. If your weekly meals are a little on the blah side, or you’re stuck in a rut, this book is exactly what you need. From Jamaican Jerk Shrimp to Indian Pork Vindaloo to Louisiana Gumbo, Wright takes you from Peru to Ghana – one spicey dish at a time. He gives a little history of the region, introduces you to a few new spices and guides you through authentic recipes. Great food AND you learn something new!

Can this be as good as my favorite Thai place?

A greater depth of flavor than my favorite Thai place.




Crying Tiger

My all-time favorite restaurant dish is from a Thai place nearby my house. It’s an appetizer consisting of chargrilled flank steak doused in a sauce containing typical Thai hot, sour, spicey and sweet flavors. The dish at this particular restaurant is called Neau Sa Ded, but more often, you’ll see it listed as Crying Tiger or Tiger Cry.

I crave it.


When all the beef is gone, I swat away my server’s attempts to remove the dish before I can pour the sauce on anything/everything else that comes to the table. It’s on my “if you could only have one dish for the rest of your life” list. I think you get the picture, yes? I’ve tried semi-successfully to recreate it at home. Thanks to Clifford Wright, I’m getting quite a bit closer. In fact, this is probably more complex than my beloved Neau Sa Ded. 

Dipping sauce - this is some hot stuff!!

Dipping sauce - this is some hot stuff!!

Dipping Sauce

 The dipping sauce uses quite a few dried chili peppers. If you can’t stand the heat, by all means, tone it down (I would never do such a thing myself…). The recipe also calls for galangal. I came across this root at Whole Foods a few months ago and quickly snatched it up and stashed it in my freezer for safe keeping. I always came across recipes requiring it but could never find it. Of course, once I found it, I had lost the recipes. Anyway…now I’ve had it and I can say I prefer the taste of ginger and would use that instead.

The only major changes I made to the recipe were to add a little sugar to the dipping sauce and finish it off with a little more vinegar – just to make sure the sweet and sour flavors were covered.  To make a meal, I served the meat and dipping sauce over jasmine rice and stir-fried green beans. Hot stuff my friend! But I loved every minute of it!

Crying Tiger

Adapted from Clifford Wright’s Some Like It Hot


1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup Thai fish sauce
1 T sugar (beef) + 2 t sugar (dipping sauce)
1 lb beef rib eye or beef round (London Broil) in 1 piece
2 heads garlic
2 t oil
1/4 cup dried and crumbled birds-eye chilis, piqun chilis or chile de arbol
1/2 t salt
1 shallot chopped
1 T chopped cilantro
1 one-inch cube of fresh galangal or ginger, chopped
3 T fresh lime juice
1 t rice wine vinegar


1. In a baking dish large enough for the beef, combine soy sauce, 2 T fish sauce and 1 T of sugar. Stir till sugar dissolves. Place beef in dish, let marinate for 1 hour, flipping once.

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut tops off of heads of garlic. Drizzle with vegetable oil. Wrap in aluminum foil and roast until insides are soft – about 40 minutes. Cool, the squeeze garlic out into bowl of food processor. Set aside.

3. Prepare the dipping sauce. In a small cast iron skillet, dry-roast the chilis over high heat with salt until chiles begin to blacken – 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat, cool and add to the food processor.

4. Add the shallot, cilantro and galangal to the food processor. Puree into a paste. 

5. Add the remaining 2 T fish sauce, lime juice, vinegar and remaining 2t sugar to the food processor and continue to puree, scraping down the sides when necessary, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl for serving.

6. Preheat grill. 

7. Place steak on the grill and cook until center is medium rare – 8 to 10 minutes. 

8. Remove the steak and let rest for 10 minutes before carving.

9. Slice crosswise into thin slices and serve with the sauce.



Ms. Pantry Raid

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Transports you right to France - although I've bastardized it by adding Feta and Mascarpone

Transports you right to the south of France - although I've bastardized the effect by serving it with Feta and Mascarpone


AKA – Food only chicks like

My husband has an aversion to olives. Most men seem to share this trait and I simply do not comprehend it. I do try to help cure him of this ailment, but to no avail. Unbeknownst to me, he also has an aversion to capers. And sundried tomatoes. And basil. After 10 years together, I JUST found this out. And sadly, these are a few of my favorite things.

As I was reading The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry, I came across a delicious sounding dish that had all of the above in it. A Provencal Tomato Spread. Paired with bread slathered with mascarpone and feta cheese shot under the broiler and a nice salad, what could be better? This is my kind of eating. Too bad my husband doesn’t agree. 

What else could you do with this?

Toss with pasta. Serve over chicken. Wish fish. It’s highly versatile. I’m quite certain it will end up with pasta by week’s end – that is, if I don’t tire of loading it on top of fresh bread first.

Provencal Tomato Spread

From Kathleen Finn. Read her book for more great recipes (and a lot of fun too).


4 tablespoons olive oil
1 red medium bell pepper, peeled, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped (1 ½ cups) 
3 to 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (1 cup) 
6 to 8 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (¾ cup)
12 Nicoise olives, chopped
3/4 tablespoon capers
2 cups chopped fresh basil


  • In a small sauté pan, warm the oil over medium heat.
  • Add bell pepper, onions, and garlic and cook until soft.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, olives and capers and cook gently.
  • Remove from heat. 
  • When cool, add the basil.
  • Add coarse salt and pepper to taste.


Ms. Pantry Raid

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Food Books

 The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry by Kathleen Flinn

I actually rather enjoyed this story of woman in her mid-30’s, recently fired from her office job, on a quest to “find herself” by enrolling in Le Cordon Bleu cooking school for a year. What did she have to lose? So even though this book might scream Eat, Pray, Love, it, thankfully, is not.  Instead of complete vapid narcissim (oy, the ENTIRE India section, anyone?), it’s a fun little tome of one woman’s day to day life at the school – an experience she’s always wanted to have, but career and life got in the way in the past. It’s not glitz and glam – it’s a lot of hard work (and some of it is quite graphic surrounding the gutting of fish and other creatures) and the author seems to spend a lot of her time shuttling herself back and forth to the school instead of enjoying the city. Still, it’s a fun, light read and a bit of a glimpse into what it’s like attending the school – for those of us mere mortals who do not have the where-with-all (i.e. funds) to spend a year of our lives learning to be better cooks.

The dough had a lot of flavor, but was too chewy for me.

The dough had great flavor, but was a little chewy for me.

An added bonus in the book is the handful of recipes Ms. Flinn has included in the work. Today, I’m attempting her Pizza with Herbs recipe, although I’m not grilling it as she suggests. I also wish to try out her Tomato Provencal Spread and of course, the Nutella Crepes – she sprinkles brown sugar over the top and pops them under the broiler. How good would that be??

Anyway, here’s the pizza recipe as I’ve made it. Check out her book for the exact recipe (I’ve kept the crust pretty much intact – just didn’t grill it).

Pizza Grillee from The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry

Ingredients for the Dough:

1 package active dry yeast

1 cup warm water

2 cups all purpose flour

1 T olive oil

1 t Italian seasoning

2 t sugar

1/2 t salt

1/4 t garlic powder

Extra flour for kneading


  • Dissolve yeast in warm water – set aside for 10 minutes or so. 
  • Mix flour, oil, seasoning, sugar, salt and garlic powder in a large bowl.
  • Add water mixture to flour mixture. Stir to mix.
  • Gently knead for a few minutes on a lightly floured surface.  The dough will be very soft and elastic. 
  • Shape into a ball and place in an oiled bowl.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot for an hour – or until doubled.
  • Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.
  • Punch down, divide dough into two balls.
  • Stretch dough into circular shape. If you have a peel and a stone, you know what to do. Otherwise, stretch on a pizza pan.
  • Top and bake in your pre-heated 450 degree oven for like 10 minutes. 

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