Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Coconut Shrimp with Creamy Mango Dipping Sauce


So, remember last post when I bought a pound of shredded coconut? Well, I wasn't sure how long coconut lasts before it goes bad, so I just decided to try and use as much of it as possible as soon as possible. Thus, coconut shrimp!

When I'm dining out, I always order this as an appetizer if it's on the menu (and if it's relatively affordable). I have not, however, attempted to make this delightful food until this past weekend. It turned out truly superb, but I do have a word of advice. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT purchase shrimp that hasn't been shelled and/or deveined!!! I thought I would save myself $5 and buy the cheaper uncooked bag of shrimp, not realizing that it wasn't cheaper because it was uncooked, but because it would take about 2 and a half hours to shell and devein 2 pounds of shrimp by myself. 

Normally prep time doesn't bother me, nor do fish guts (I used to gut and prep the squid at my parent's Greek deli as one of my many childhood past times), but something about pulling a tube of feces out of a tiny grey creature that, when its tiny claw-arms are attached, bears strong resemblance to a blossoming human fetus really puts a lid on my appetite. So please, unless you've done the whole shrimp-cleaning thing before and it doesn't bother you, save yourself the displeasure and buy it shelled and deveined.

That being said, the tangy mango dipping sauce is a fantastic pairing for the sweet crunchy coconut! It's really easy to make too, as long as you have some sort of blending appliance on hand. And I hope that my previous paragraph doesn't dissuade you from trying this out, it's really quite easy to make once the shrimp is in prime cooking condition. Enjoy!


Ingredients:

Creamy Mango Dipping Sauce

2 Large Ripe Mangoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
2/3 Cup Whipping Cream
1/4 Cup Fresh Mint, minced
2 Heaping Tablespoons Honey
2 Tablespoons Vinegar
Juice from 2 Limes 
1 Teaspoon Chili Powder

Coconut Shrimp

2 lbs Medium-Sized Shrimp, shelled, deveined, washed and patted dry, but with tails attached
1 and 3/4 Cups Flour
1 and 1/4 Cups Seltzer Water, plus more as necessary
1 Cup Honey
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
3 Tablespoons Hot Chili Paste, also known as Sambal
2 Teaspoons Salt
1 Teaspoon Pepper
5 Cups Flaked Coconut
3 Quarts Vegetable Oil, for frying


For the mango dipping sauce, place the mangoes, whipping cream, mint, honey, lime juice, and chili powder into a blender or food processor. Turn on and blend at medium-high power until the mixture reaches a smooth consistency. Turn off the blender and add the vinegar. Turn on the blender again and let it run for one minute, or until the dipping sauce is completely smooth and there are no chunks of mango left. Pour the mixture into a serving bowl, cover and refrigerate.


For the coconut shrimp, mix the flour, salt and pepper to together in a large bowl. Add the seltzer water, honey, soy sauce, hot chili paste and mix until it becomes a smooth batter, adding more seltzer water if needed to reach ideal coating consistency.

Begin heating the vegetable oil until it reaches about 350 degrees Fahrenheit on a deep-fate thermometer.  In the meantime, set up your frying assembly line. Place a large platter to the side of the fryer. Place the coconut flakes in a large bowl to the side of the large empty platter. Place the batter on the side of the coconut flakes, and place the raw shrimp on the side of the batter. Then, set a large platter on the opposite side of the fryer and place a few paper towel sheets on top of the platter to help absorb excess oil dripping off of the shrimp. Now you are almost ready to fry.


Take a shrimp by it's tail and dip it into the batter, then shake it gently for a few seconds, allowing excess batter to drip off. Take the battered shrimp and roll it gently in the flaked coconut until it is generously covered. Place it on the large empty platter. Continue this process until all of the shrimps are battered and covered in coconut. Once that is accomplished, place about 5-8 shrimp in the fryer at a time, (depending on the size of your fryer), and cook for about 4 minutes. Then, use a slatted spoon to remove the shrimp, one at a time, and place them on the large platter with the paper towel on it.

Once all of the shrimp have been fried, move them onto a large clean platter. Serve them hot with the creamy mango dipping sauce on the side.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Coconut Rose Almond Cake


On a recent trip to Surfas, (my favorite specialty ingredient supply store), I stumbled across a one pound bag of unsweetened coconut shards. I didn't purchase them at the time because I didn't know what I would make with them. They stuck in my mind, however, and over the past few weeks I daydreamed about what I could possibly use them for. They have such an airy look to them, so I knew I wanted to make something that would relate to clouds or the sky in some way. In the end I decided to make a white cake with light blue vanilla buttercream icing and sprinkle the coconut shards over the top of it. I also added a splash of rose water, (Lord knows how I love rose water!), to the white cake for some extra sweetness. Yum!


White Cake

Ingredients:

1 and 1/2 Cups Ultrafine Baking Sugar
2 and 3/4 Cups Cake Flour
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Rose Water
2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1 and 1/2 Teaspoons Almond Extract
3/4 Cup Unsalted Butter, softened
1 Cup Whole Milk
4 Egg Whites
1 Whole Egg
1/4 Cup Unsweetened Coconut Shards

Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add each of the egg whites separately, mixing well after each addition. Add the egg with yolk and the softened butter and mix well.

In a small bowl, mix the milk with rose water, vanilla and almond extracts. Slowly add the milk mixture to the large bowl, blending for a minute after each addition. Once the cake mix is smooth and fluffy, pour it evenly into two well-greased 8-inch cake pans and bake them in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean.


Once the cake is done, remove it from the oven and allow to cool for about 15 minutes. Shake the pan a little bit to loosen the grip of the cake, then place a plate on top of the pan and, wearing oven mitts, flip it over so that the pan is on the top and the plate is on the bottom. Gently remove the pan and place the plated cake layer in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Repeat this process with the second cake pan as well.

While the cake layers are cooling, make the Buttercream Frosting recipe below. Once the cake layers and the frosting have finished cooling, place the bottom cake layer onto the display surface, (i.e. a cake stand or pretty plate that you will serve it off of), and begin evenly frosting the top of the bottom cake layer. Then, center the second cake layer on top of the bottom cake layer so that they line up perfectly. Now frost the sides and top of the cake so that the entire cake surface is frosted and no cake surface is visible through the frosting. Sprinkle the top of the cake with the coconut shards and serve at room temperature.


Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients:

3 Cups Sifted Confectioner's Sugar
1 and 1/4 Cups Unsalted Butter, softened
2 and 1/2 Tablespoons Whole Milk
1 and 1/2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
11 Drops Blue Food Coloring

Mix together the confectioner's sugar and butter until they have a thick and heavy consistency, (about 5 minutes). Mix in the milk, vanilla extract and the blue food coloring until the frosting becomes creamy and is a solid, even light blue color (no color streaks!) Place the frosting in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes to prevent it from becoming too runny, but not any longer otherwise it will become too hard and tear at the cake while you're frosting it.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Spring Salad with Dark Chocolate Cardamom Dressing


The Albertson's market in my neighborhood has been having ridiculous sales this past week, which is how I ended up with a bag of spring salad mix (only $1!) and a large amount of grapes (only $1 a pound! OMG!) I'm not really a salad person, but I've been making the effort to eat healthier as of late, so I bought some. The only real question was what I should do with it. I have a generic tomato balsamic dressing in the 'fridge, but that seemed kind of blase tonight. So I decided to combine salad, something I don't really like, with dark chocolate, something I really really like. I also added a small amount of Cardamom to the dressing because it seems to go well with chilled dishes.


Ingredients:

2 Cups Spring Salad Mix
3 Heaping Tablespoons Dark or Bittersweet Chocolate Chips, plus 6 individual chips for garnish
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Sunflower Seeds
1/2 Cup Red Grapes
1/8 Teaspoon Ground Cardamom
 
 

Place olive oil, cardamom and 3 Tbsp chocolate chips in a small saucepan. Melt together over lowest heat setting, stirring constantly to avoid burning the chocolate. If you have a double-boiler on hand, use that to melt the chocolate while still making sure to stir constantly.

Once the chocolate chips have melted completely, remove from heat and transfer to a small bowl. Refrigerate for an hour until chilled.

In a large bowl, toss together the spring salad, sunflower seeds, and red grapes. Place on a dish. Drizzle with the dark chocolate cardamom dressing. Crush 6 individual chips with the back of a spoon or a meat tenderizer and sprinkle the chocolate crumbles over the salad as a garnish.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Squash Tomato Stir Fry


Squash is one of those vegetables that just doesn't get used as much as it deserves. My favorite member of the squash family is pumpkin, but unfortunately that is very difficult to find at any time of the year other than the fall. I did, however, come across some yellow squash today at the supermarket and grabbed it with the hope of throwing something tasty together. I ended up making a stir-fry, and it turned out fantastically delicious. It was pretty easy and healthy to boot. I hope you enjoy it!

Ingredients:

2 Small Yellow Squash, peeled and cut into quartered chunks
1 Medium Yellow Onion, chopped
2 Large Roma Tomatoes, peeled and chopped into chunks
1 Tablespoon Fish Oil, Thai-style
1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar
1 Tablespoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Paprika
1/8 Teaspoon Cloves
2 Tablespoons Water
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
3 Cups Cooked White Rice


Place the olive oil in a large wok and add the onions and cloves, cooking at medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the squash, water, fish oil, brown sugar, salt and paprika. Cook at medium-high heat for 15 minutes, stirring once every few minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for another 15 minutes, or until the squash is soft and the tomatoes have nearly disintegrated.

You can either serve the squash over the rice, or you can add the rice into the wok and serve it as a traditional stir-fry.