Saturday, March 26, 2011

Thai Tamarind Duck Breast with Baby Bok Choy, Snap Peas, and Potatoes

It's always a risky proposition to cook something for the first time when you are inviting a new guest over for dinner. Example: my recent failed fish quenelles (luckily my guest was polite about it, and even asked for seconds). However, on a much more successful note, I recently made my own version of a dish from my favorite Thai restaurant in Paris (Au Petit Thai in the Marais - only about 7 tables, great service, and amazing food). My friend Jacinthe ate at this restaurant last December with a friend from out of town, and they loved it so much that they brought me along with them the very next night. That night, I ordered a duck breast with a tamarind sauce served with rice and broccoli that I have since ordered at almost every visit to this restaurant. I've been wanting to try to make it myself, and here's what I came up with from my memory and from perusing some other websites that offer suggestions for tamarind sauce:

Thai Tamarind Duck Breast with Baby Bok Choy, Snap Peas, and Potatoes

Prep time: about an hour and 100% worth it!

2 tbl olive oil
2 cloves garlic, smushed and chopped
2 small shallots, diced
1/2 cup tamarind sauce (I found some in a new ethnic grocery store in Paris)
2 tbl honey
1 tbl chili paste (or hot sauce)
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp ground cardamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 small duck breasts
several pieces of baby bok choy
a few handfuls of sugar snap peas
several small potatoes, chopped into 1" pieces
salt and pepper and 1 tsp thyme
1 tbl olive oil
1 cup rice


1. Mix herbs in a small bowl: coriander, tumeric, cardamon, salt and pepper
2. On a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, place chopped potatoes, salt and pepper, and 1 tsp thyme. Drizzle with olive oil and put in the oven at about 400 degrees. Add 1 cup of rice and 1 cup of water to a saucepan. Heat over high to boiling, then cover and simmer until the water is absorbed.
3. In a frying pan, heat olive oil. Saute garlic, and add shallots and cook until soft.
4. Add dry herbs and stir over heat for about a minute
5. Add tamarind sauce, soy sauce, hot sauce, and honey to the pan and heat through to gentle bubbling.
6. Place the duck breasts skin side down on the frying pan. Cook for about five minutes and then flip to the other side for about five more minutes.
7. While the duck is in the pan, heat a pot of water to boiling.
8. Slice bok choy into halves and then place in the boiling water for 1-2 minutes.
9. After about 20-30 minutes, check the potatoes. When they are almost softened, place the duck breasts on top of the potatoes and put the baking sheet back in the oven for about 4 minutes, taking care to reserve the sauce.
11. In a different frying pan, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil and saute the bok choy and sugar snap peas for about 4 minutes.
12. Assemble on a plate the rice, potatoes, duck, and vegetables. Drizzle with the tamarind sauce from the pan.

Enjoy! This dish received two thumbs up from my guest!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Raw Zucchini Salads

My love affair with zucchini can be traced to when I was sixteen and living with a host family near Venice for the summer. My family had a beautiful garden with bean and tomato vines, and, conveniently, zucchini plants. They used to go out to the garden and pull fresh zucchini off the vines, and zucchini fritto became an immediate favorite. I also fell in love with fresh zucchini blossoms (and was thrilled when a colleague from my department in St. Louis gave me a head's up that a local pizzeria named Katie's was offering a special pizza with zucchini flower). I have cooked zucchini in a lot of different ways - fried, sauteed, as a soup, combined with pasta and shrimp - but I have never been excited about raw zucchini. The only time I had ever really had this was as strips sometimes served with a dip at a party alongside carrots and celery. But recently, while staying with wonderful friends in the French countryside, my eyes were opened to the possibilities of raw zucchini. My friend Miranda made this simple salad, which we devoured on their patio overlooking the Seine on the last day of winter, and inspired me to make a variation. I offer both here:

Miranda's Zucchini Salad with Pine Nuts
2 large fresh zucchini
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons pine nuts

1. Toast pine nuts in a dry frying pan.
2. Slice zucchini very thinly and layer in slightly overlapping rows.
3. Sprinkle toasted pine nuts over zucchini and salt and pepper to taste
4. Pour balsamic vinegar over plate.
5. Enjoy!

And here's my variation:

Zucchini and Tomato Salad with Brin d'Amour Cheese
1 small zucchini
1 cup of grape tomatoes
2 cups of fresh spinach
1 tbl olive oil
2 tbl white wine vinegar
1 large chunk of Brin d'Amour cheese

1. Slice zucchini into very thin rounds
2. slice each tomato in half
3. On a plate arrange spinach, tomatoes, and zucchini together
5. Add some thin slices of Brin d'amour cheese (known affectionately by me and my fellow Terra fellows in Giverny this past summer as the love cheese - check out this website: This sheep's milk cheese is encrusted with rosemary, thyme, and other herbs and is a delicious addition to this salad.
6. Top with a bit of olive oil and white wine vinegar.
7. Enjoy with fresh baguette!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Dinner Party: FĂȘte du cuisine indienne!

One of my favorite things to do is to host themed dinner parties. This one celebrated Indian cuisine, which I love. I find it difficult to make these recipes, but frequently enjoy the results! Sadly I can take credit for NONE of these recipes, but am glad to share my sources (mostly links from the internet and a few from Julie Sahni's fantastic cookbook called Classic Indian Cooking -

For this party, I made, from top to bottom in the image on the right: Chicken Tikka Masala, Chick Pea Battered Fish, Broccoli and Cauliflower, Bhindi Masala, Raita, several types of flatbreads, Bombay potatoes, and rice. A friend, Maeva, brought a delicious daal with peas.

Some more detailed photographs, and links for recipes:

Chicken Tikka Masala
Definitely adjust the salt content called for here - just a teaspoon or 2 in total!

Bhindi Masala

Chickpea Batter for Fish or Vegetables
from Julie Sahni

from Julie Sahini - basically just chopped cucumber and tomato, Greek yogurt, fresh coriander leaves, a bit of salt, and some cumin

Bombay Potatoes

Chickpea Flour Bread
from Julie Sahini

Coriander-Cilantro flatbreads (these are my favorite! from Bon Appetit, May 2008)