Malaysian Coconut Milk Soup


before and after

No time to angle and fillet one the ugliest eating fishes available?  Not a problem…this a deceptively easy seafood soup, especially if you purchase a firm white fish or prawns from your grocery store.  This recipe is also versatile in that it can be served as a canapé such as above, or in a soup bowl with rice.


serves 4-6 as an entree


4 pounds of firm white fish, or 20 prawns

1 stalk of lemon grass

1 shallot, finely chopped

1/4 – 1/2 red chilli, finely chopped

1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

pinch of saffron

1 tablespoon sunflower oil

1/2 cup of coconut milk, well stirred

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1-2 teaspoons Nam Pla or other fish sauce

lime or lemon juice to taste

Cilantro rough chopped

rice (optional)


Remove tough outer leaf of the lemon grass and grate or chop finely.  Place lemon grass, shallots, chilli, ginger, garlic, spices and oil into a bowl with choice of seafood.  Let marinate for an hour in the refrigerator if you have time.

Place a pot over medium heat.  Add marinated seafood and cook until just fragrant, about 3-5 minutes.  Add coconut milk, salt and pepper.  Bring to simmer and cook until just cooked.  Add fish sauce and citrus to taste stirring to incorporate.  Garnish with cilantro.

Perfumed Sea Scallops

fresh and delicate

Scallops have such a mild flavor, it often gets lost when paired with heavy accoutrements such as bacon. Goodness knows I love bacon, but I think a lighter hand with this bivalve is the best approach.  When more robust flavors are incorporated the scallop becomes more like tofu or a cracker where it’s just a vehicle for less subtle elements.

serves 4 appetizer portions

12 sea scallops

1 teaspoon basil, chopped

1 teaspoon mint, chopped

1 teaspoon lemon thyme, chopped

1 teaspoon chives, chopped

1 teaspoon tarragon, chopped

1/4 teaspoon culinary lavender, chopped

extra virgin olive oil, about 2-3 tablespoons (the good stuff)

coarse salt

black pepper, fine grind

agave nectar

Squeeze of fresh lemon

8 metal skewers

Dry the scallops with a paper towel.  Place scallops, herbs, oil, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix until combined.  Let marinate in the refrigerator for about 1/2 hour to an hour.  Meanwhile prepare grill for medium heat.  For every three scallops thread two skewers, leaving a bit of space between the scallops for more even cooking.  Lightly drizzle both sides of the skewered scallops with agave nectar.  Rub grill with more oil to prevent sticking.  Cook for about 2 minutes per side.  Try to get a light caramelization without overcooking the scallops.  Give a quick and light squeeze of lemon over the top.

Hawaiian Ono Poke’

nephew Grant holding our dinner

Ono, also known as wahoo or peto is a delicious saltwater sporting fish found in warm waters.  The flesh of the fish is mild and is easily adapted to various cooking (or non cooking) methods such as grilling, braising, sashimi,  and Hawaiian poke’.  There are as many poke’s as there are Texas chili’s, but this particular mixture went over very well in our group.

serves 4-6

I pound sashimi grade Ono, cut into 1 inch pieces

2 tablespoons Maui onion, minced

1-2 tablespoons quality mayonnaise

1 tablespoon flying fish roe (tobiko)

Sriracha sauce to taste

Combine cut fish and mayonnaise.  Add onion and Sriracha tasting for heat.  Gently stir in roe until combined.  Chill for 1 hour.

Ono Poke'

Spicy Mango Wings & Bacon Wrapped Shrimp

A few bottled products are used for these dishes, not necessarily as shortcuts-although welcome, but because they add a truly unique flavor boost!

serves 4 as main or 6 as appetizer

For the Wings:

8 chicken wings

5 ounces of PickaPeppa Spicy Mango Sauce (not so spicy actually)

1 teaspoon coarse salt

Preheat (toaster) oven to 350°. Place wings in a sealable container, add sauce and salt and mix thouroughly.  Let marinate for 1-3 hours in the refrigerator. Spray a sheet pan with non-stick spray and line with foil.  Spray the top of the foil with non-stick spray as well.  Place the wings on the sheet pan so they don’t touch.  Bake wings for about 3o minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare or preheat the BBQ for a 2 station area – one at about 300° and the other about 350°.  Your shrimp will cook over the 300° and your chicken will brown over the 350° area.

For the Shrimp:

8 extra large or jumbo shrimp (26/30 or 21/25)

8 strips of bacon, thick cut

1 tablespoon of maple syrup

salt and pepper

8 toothpicks, soaked in water

Preheat (toaster) oven to 400°.  Place a wire rack into a rimmed pan and lay the strips of bacon on the rack.  Bake the bacon for 10 minutes.  Remove pan from oven.  Add a grind or two of pepper.  Turn bacon over and brush with maple syrup, adding more pepper.  Bake for another 3 minutes. Place bacon maple side up on paper towels.  The bacon should be soft, pliable and just about cooked through.  Cool.

Remove the shells and de-vine shrimp.  Season with salt and pepper.  Wrap each shrimp with maple bacon and secure with a soaked toothpick.

When your BBQ is ready, place the wings over your hotter station and the shrimp on the cooler one.  Watch, and turn each piece so that it browns but doesn’t burn, moving if necessary.  Cook for about 5-10 minutes.  Use Patak’s® Medium Mango Relish as a dip for both the wings and the shrimp.

far tastier than it appears! Patak's Mango

The Patak’s® Mango Relish medium is actually pretty darn spicy so a little can go a long way.  It’s intense and very unique flavor adds an amazing dimension to many dishes.



Simple Cedar Planked Salmon

We have cooked salmon many ways, but planked outdoor BBQ is hard to beat, especially when the weather starts warming up and you don’t want to heat up the kitchen.

This simple planked salmon is low on fuss, but big on flavor.  Because the salmon is planked on a soaked board this cooking method allows the fish to maintain much of it’s moisture making a succulent, smokey meal.

serves 2-4

1 cedar plank cut to slightly larger than filet, soaked

1    2 pound salmon filet with skin

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon coarse salt

Use an untreated board that is 1/2 inch thick and a bit longer and wider than your salmon filet (about an inch perimeter around the fish).  Soak the board in water for at least an hour, weighting it down so it is completely submerged.

The planked salmon is better cooked ‘low and slow’ as opposed to fast and hot.  When preparing your BBQ you may want to consider using fuel that allows a slower, longer burn like charcoal chunks (or wood if you have time).  Briquettes tend to burn hot and die quickly – not the best choice for this cooking method.

Wearing a ‘skirt’ while barbecuing is optional.  Steve is from Africa and in many countries a skirt (in this case a ‘kikoi’) is common – a daring fashion move for someone now living in the Pacific Northwest.  Back to the salmon…

The coals are ready when the temperature is cooler then what you’d cook a steak on, again ‘low and slow’ for planked salmon – you don’t want the plank to ignite for many reasons.

If you hate to waste good heat, throw some veggies or shrimp on the grill before the coals get to the lower temperature as a quick appetizer.

Once the coals have mellowed (about a 5 count hand) place the salmon on the prepared plank and sprinkle about 2 teaspoons brown sugar over the filet.  Place the plank carefully on the grill.

Place a lid over the plank checking the salmon after 15 minutes or internal temperature about 145°.  The sugar should be slightly caramelized and fish should have a good smokey ‘blanket’ of color.

During this particular BBQ, we had an impromptu eating frenzy as soon as the fish left the grill.  I was able to give the filet a little squirt of lemon before Steve nipped at my fingers.

The origin of planked foods is said to have been developed by early Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest, although some believe that the method of cooking came from Scandinavia.  Both are probably true.  The early method in the PNW was usually done by tacking the filleted fish to large boards (normally western red cedar) and placing them around a fire pit for slow, smokey cooking.  This preparation was normally done in large quantities during the salmon run.  The volume of smoked fish allowed the villagers to have protein year round, especially important during the hard winter months.

Hail Caesar Salad!

This is not your purist’s approach to this dish, and it is heavy on the anchovy – perhaps not a ‘First Date’ salad… unless of course you both revel in the beautiful stinkyness of tiny, salty fish.  I don’t recall how I came to start making Caesar salad this way, but it has stuck.  Hope it’s sticks in your repertoire as well.

serves 4-6


2 cups sourdough bread or any style bread, cubed

1 teaspoon herbs de provence

1/2 teaspoon salt, preferably coarse

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

olive oil for drizzling


1 3.5 ounce jar or can of anchovy fillets in oil, drained

2 garlic cloves

1/2 cup or more extra virgin olive oil (amount explained below)

1/2 cup or more lemon juice, about 1 to 2 big, juicy lemons

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 to 2 heads of Romaine lettuce

4 ounces plus Parmesan

1. Preheat your (toaster) oven to 350°.  Place the cubed bread into a bowl and drizzle the olive oil while gently stirring.  Add spices and stir again.  Spread the seasoned bread crumbs in a single layer on a sheet pan and bake for 12 to 15 minutes.  Taste

2. Drain the oil from the jar or can of anchovies (preferably not down the sink – or add to your pet’s food for a tasty treat).  Place the anchovies in a small pot and pour in olive oil just enough to cover.  I like to use a more robust oil to match the intenseness of the fish.

3. Give each garlic clove a gentle bash with the side of your chef knife.  Peel and plop the garlic into the pot.  You may choose to mince the garlic and then add it, for a more garlicy taste.   Gently simmer the oil for about 6 minutes on low.  Please do not allow the oil to boil as it will turn the anchovies into jerky. Let cool. Discard garlic cloves.

4. While the oil is simmering, chop, wash and spin your lettuce.  In a small bowl, squeeze the juice of one lemon.  Slowly pour in oil mixture into the lemon bowl while whisking vigorously.  Add more lemon juice to taste.  Salt and pepper.  Taste with crouton or piece of lettuce for seasoning.

5.  Plate the lettuce into bowls.  Using a peeler grate the Parmesan over the lettuce, add a handful of croutons and spoon enough dressing to coat making sure you scoop up anchovies with your drizzle.

The history and origin of Caesar salad is cloudy; some have even suggested it’s creation was directly related to Julius Caesar, the controversial Roman leader.  Slightly less well known, and more likely the creator of this dish was Caesar Cardini originally from Italy.  The confusion of THE real inventor doesn’t stop there.  Cardini and his business partner had a restaurant in Tijuana, MX (choosing Mexico over the U.S. to avoid the then prohibition laws).  It was at this restaurant that Cardini was said to have ‘thrown’ the salad together with great flair and with the only ingredients he had left in the kitchen when a particular group of patrons had wondered in.  The dish, and Cardini’s performance caught on rapidly.  It was then that Cardini’s business partner said that it was he who(m) invented the salad.  A few other individuals wanted their names associated with the dish, but ultimately most people are settling with Caesar Cardini as the father of Caesar salad.

for your listening pleasure (not for the faint of heart):