Red Curry with Fish


It was my first year out of college and I was in the process of coming out to all of my friends. It was exciting and exhilarating but also a little terrifying, like a roller coaster ride. Every time I told someone I was gay, I felt my lungs expand, my heart beat stronger. Beyond the emotional changes I felt physical ones too. I slept better than ever and had a voracious appetite. I was ready to eat the world.DSC05134

When I came out to my college friend Linda over the phone she suggested I come to Chicago, where she lived at the time, to visit her. I booked my flight as soon as I could. The first night there, she took me to a local Thai restaurant for dinner. I hadn’t really experienced Thai food before. There weren’t any Thai restaurants in Philadelphia where I lived for four years and I didn’t know of any in New Jersey either, where I lived at the time. I ordered some kind of curry and I fell in love. The flavors were classic: coconut, peanut, chilies, and lime. But to me they were magical. The constant back and forth between sweet and spicy, salty and sour, made me feel like a kid with ADD, not knowing which to experience first. I couldn’t wait for the next bite.

The following night Linda asked me if I had any requests on where to eat. “Let’s go back to the Thai place,” I said immediately. It didn’t matter that I was in Chicago, a city with amazing food. I wanted to eat Thai food again.

Since then, I have eaten a lot of Thai food. In New York city there are countless Thai restaurants, some right next to each other, but much like the equally countless Chinese restaurants here, most of them make terrible food. Overly sweet or watery, loaded with cheap bell peppers or drowning in cloying sauces. Some friends told us to always ask for our food “Thai style” when we order it, but it doesn’t seem to make a big difference. At least not for us.

This recipe may not have its origins from a remote region of Thailand or be the dish Thai mothers make for their children, but it’s simple and adaptable and very flavorful. It’s quick to make and does not require any special expertise or equipment. You might even like it enough to make it two nights in a row.DSC05151

Red Curry with Fish – Adapted from Bon Appétit


1 large shallot
6 garlic cloves
1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons red curry paste
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1½ cups whole peeled tomatoes, plus juices from one 15-ounce can
1 13.5-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
1 tablespoon sugar
4 kaffir lime leaves (if not available, substitute with three strips of lime peel, using a vegetable peeler)
Kosher salt
1 pound carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 large shallots, peeled, edges trimmed, and halved lengthwise
1 pound firm white fish (such as halibut or cod), skin removed, cut into 2-inch pieces


Pulse shallot, garlic, and ginger in a food processor to finely chop. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium. Add shallot mixture and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Add curry paste and turmeric; cook, stirring, until paste is darkened in color and mixture starts to stick to pan, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, breaking up with your hands, then juices. Cook, stirring often and scraping up browned bits, until tomatoes start to break down and stick to pot, about 5 minutes.

Stir in coconut milk, sugar, and kaffir lime leaves (or lime peel) and taste, then season with salt. Simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until mixture is slightly thickened and flavors meld, 8–10 minutes. Add carrots and shallots and pour in enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are crisp-tender, 10-15 minutes.

Season fish all over with salt and nestle into curry (add a little more water if it’s very thick). Return to a simmer and cook just until fish is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove kaffir lime leaves (or lime peel).

Spoon curry over plain white rice and serve with a lime wedge to be squeezed over curry before eating.

Blueberry Coconut Cake


One of my favorite cooking challenges is using up food that’s about to expire or go bad, in ways that are unexpected or inventive. Last week, my challenge was tricky. I had blueberries that were almost past their prime, shredded coconut that had expired a month ago but seemed fine (I keep it in the fridge, which keeps it fresh longer), and some coconut yogurt that was about to expire. DSC05079

That last one is interesting. It’s a yogurt made with coconut milk, using probiotic bacteria, just like with milk-based yogurt. I had bought it for my vegan friend Lisa who was visiting us, but she didn’t finish it. I tried eating it myself but I found it too rich for my taste, a little like eating thickened coconut cream. So I figured that I could put all three together in a cake. Since I had the coconut yogurt, I decided to adapt the yogurt cake recipe that I love and really amp up the coconut flavor with the shredded coconut. I tasted a single blueberry with a little bit of coconut and found them compatible, so I threw the berries in as well.DSC05082

The result was delicious. The cake is tender and not too sweet. It has a delicate coconut flavor that’s expanded by the toasted coconut topping. The blueberries add a little tartness and a beautiful color contrast. Not only did I not have to throw anything out, we ended up with a breakfast treat that we devoured the next morning. If you can’t find coconut yogurt, you can use regular whole-milk yogurt. It won’t have as strong of a coconut taste but it will still be delicious.DSC05098

Blueberry Coconut Cake


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (135g) blueberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened), plus 2 tablespoons for topping
3/4 cup coconut yogurt (not coconut-flavored yogurt; if unavailable, replace with whole milk Greek yogurt)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350°. Coat 9″x5″ loaf pan with a little vegetable oil and cover with parchment paper leaving some overhang on both of the long sides.

Whisk 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, and kosher salt in a medium bowl. Add blueberries and stir with a spoon.

In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, shredded coconut, yogurt, oil, eggs, and vanilla extract. Fold in dry ingredients and blueberries just to blend.

Pour batter into prepared pan; smooth top. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of shredded coconut on top. Bake until a tester inserted into center comes out clean, 60-70 minutes. If coconut topping is getting too brown, cover with tin foil.

Let cake cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Invert onto rack and let cool completely.

Dairy-Free Coconut Passion Fruit Pound Cake

DSC04029 The first time I flew in an airplane, I was a teenager. My parents, my sister and I flew to Athens to visit our relatives. I was so excited to finally fly. I don’t remember much from the flight but I do remember that it was a very turbulent approach to the Athens airport. In my excitement, being a teenager on his first flight, I didn’t care. I kept turning to my dad who was sitting next to me trying to show him all the things I could see from my window seat but he was still as a statue, gripping the arm rests, trying hard not to throw up. DSC04016

Before that first flight with my family to Athens, I had always loved going to the airport to pick up aunts and uncles visiting us from abroad. It seemed like such a magical place of people appearing, literally, out of thin air. I loved the chimes sound that preceded every announcement and the constant hum of people moving about. My love of airports continued for a while. The second time in my life that I boarded a plane, it was to travel to Philadelphia to begin my life in the U.S., a life that gave me many trips all over the world. For many years, I loved the different airports I got to visit. It wasn’t until much later, especially after 9/11, when airports became synonymous with stress, worry and unhappy crowds for me.

I remember talking with my mom one day after that first family flight to Athens. We were remembering all the things we did on our trip and we were reliving them by retelling them. “This is why I love the idea of traveling,” she said. “Because it means I get to see things I’ve never seen before and eat food I’ve never tasted before.” That last part always stayed with me and still makes me excited about traveling. It meant tasting fresh coconut for the first time in my life. Or curiously slicing into my first ripe passion fruit, wondering if it has gone bad, all wrinkly and hard as leather, and greeted with a bright yellow liquid interior studded with seeds, perfuming the air with its intoxicating scent.
DSC04020Dairy-Free Coconut and Passion Fruit Pound Cake


2/3 cup virgin & unrefined coconut oil
1 1/3 cups sugar
3 eggs and 1 egg yolk
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
2/3 cups of passion fruit pulp


Preheat the oven to 350º F. Lightly grease an 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan and line with parchment paper leaving extra paper overhanging over both long sides.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a mixer with the paddle attachment, add the coconut oil and mix for 10 seconds at medium speed. While mixer is running, add sugar and mix for another 2 minutes, stopping half way to scrape the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs and yolk and continue mixing until combined, about 10-15 seconds more.

Add half of the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Add passion fruit pulp and mix a few seconds more to incorporate. Add remainder of flour mixture and mix until just combined (do not overmix).

Scrape batter in prepared pan and bake in preheated oven for 70-75 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out mostly clean.

Place pan on rack and let cool for 15 minutes before removing cake from pan and letting it cool completely on the rack before slicing and serving.

Burmese Semolina Cake


During my daily commute I often daydream about all kinds of stuff. One of my favorite daydreaming activities is trying to figure out what I would name my restaurant, if I were to open one. I have absolutely no intention to ever actually open a restaurant. It would take away all the joy of cooking and sharing food with others. But it’s fun to try and think of a name for this fantasy restaurant.


I don’t know how important a restaurant name is to its success. I’m sure that a really bad name (“Crappy’s” or “Slime and Sweat” or “Danger”) could sink a place. But is there really any difference if a place is called after the owner’s name or a combination of two food ingredients or some made up word that sounds appetizing? Probably not.

So for my restaurant, I’ve gone through many ideas. There are many Greek words related to food but a lot of them just don’t sound right in English or they are hard for Americans to pronounce right. The word for salt in the Cypriot dialect is “alas,” which in English is, according to the dictionary, “an expression of grief, pity, or concern.” The word for vinegar is “xydi” but it’s pronounced kseethee (with the th as in “they”).


It turns out, it’s really tough to find a good name for a restaurant. I’ve been going over this for a while now and I think I finally have a name. I would name my restaurant “Tatounna”. It has nothing to do with food, but it’s what I called my sister when we were little (I think it’s what she called herself first, because she couldn’t pronounce her actual name). My sister and I both love food, though she’s not as interested in cooking it as I am. But most of all, it’s a happy sounding name and it’s my sister, whom I love so very much.

I probably wouldn’t serve this Burmese semolina cake at Tatounna restaurant. But I’ve found myself with a bunch of draft blog posts for recipes that involve apricots and plums and cherries. And the season for them is over. So, instead of giving you a recipe that you can’t make for another 10 months, Burmese semolina cake it is. It’s actually a peculiar cake. It’s dense and intensely fragrant with toasted semolina, but only slightly sweet, with the texture of a very thick and gritty pudding. It makes for a great afternoon snack or it can be topped with ice cream or fruit salad for a more complete dessert.


Burmese Semolina Cake – Slightly adapted from Bon Appétit


2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly, divided, plus more
1¼ cups semolina flour
1 large egg
1 14-oz. can coconut milk
1½ cups half-and-half
⅓ cup sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt


Preheat oven to 425°. Butter an 8×8” baking dish. Toast semolina in a large dry skillet over medium-high heat, stirring, until darkened and nutty-smelling, about 2 minutes. Let cool.

Whisk egg, coconut milk, half-and-half, sugar, salt, and 1 Tbsp. butter in a large saucepan. Gradually whisk in semolina and bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking, until mixture is very thick and pulls away from the sides of saucepan, about 4 minutes. Scrape batter into baking dish.

Bake cake until golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 45–50 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack. Brush cake with remaining 1 Tbsp. butter; let cool slightly.

Braised Kale with Lime and Coconut


I have a new addiction. It’s called Good Eggs and it’s a relatively new online company where you can order fresh food from local farmers and producers and have it delivered at home. It’s only available in Brooklyn, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and San Francisco for now. I ordered for the first time last week and I was immediately hooked. This is basically the kind of stuff you’d find at Union Square Market, but ordered online and brought to your door.


Don’t get me wrong, I love going to the farmer’s market. Both the one at Union Square and the smaller one near us in Brooklyn. At the peak of the season, I’ve been known to get teary-eyed over the bounty of fruits and vegetables surrounding me (I can get pretty emotional about food). But getting to the market isn’t always possible, especially since it’s not available every day. And some of the producers don’t sell at the market. So Good Eggs comes in handy.



One of the things I ordered last week was sorrel, which I had read about but never tasted. Oh my goodness, it was a revelation! When Steve came home, I didn’t say a word and I just handed him a sorrel leaf and told him to eat it. His eyes opened wide. “What is that?” he exclaimed. Its sharp lemony flavor is such a surprise and lends itself to so many different uses.

But today is not about sorrel, whose season is pretty much over (next year, I’ll have a recipe with sorrel, when its season comes around again). Today is about kale. I know you’re probably sick of kale. It comes in salads, in smoothies, roasted until crispy or added to soups. Pretty soon it will be in desserts. But the other day, as I was trying to think of a different way of preparing it, I came up with this recipe that seemed different than any other way I had tasted kale before. It combines the sweetness of maple syrup with the zing of lime along with the nuttiness of toasted coconut flakes. Next year, maybe I’ll throw in some sorrel too.


Braised Kale with Lime and Coconut

Serves 2


1 tablespoon olive oil
12oz kale
1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chicken stock
½ teaspoon salt
black pepper
¾ tablespoon maple syrup
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted at 350º F until golden brown
juice of half a lime


In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil. Add the shallot and cook over moderately high heat until softened and just beginning to brown. Add garlic and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock, then add the kale in large handfuls, letting it wilt slightly before adding more. Season with salt and pepper, cover and cook over moderate heat until the kale is tender, about 5 minutes.

Remove the lid and cook until much of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes longer. Add the maple syrup and lime juice and cook another 3 minutes.

Serve with toasted coconut flakes sprinkled on top.

Chocolate Coconut Pound Cake


“We had dinner last night with our friends and there was another couple with us. The woman, Mrs. P., said that she was your teacher and that she remembers you. Do you remember her?” my mother said to me on the phone the other day.

I definitely remembered Mrs. P. She was my very first chemistry teacher, back when I was in 7th grade. In fact, I remember the first day she showed us a chemistry experiment because it was the day I decided I would be a chemist.


She stood there, behind the large chemistry lab table, a young woman with a pixie cut, explaining to us the difference between an acid and a base and what happens when the two mix. We listened to her patiently but our attention was focused on something else: the test tubes and beakers in front of her. We had heard from older kids in the school about the “cool” experiments you got to do in 7th grade and we couldn’t wait to witness them.

She didn’t disappoint. When she added the pH indicators, we watched in awe as the clear liquids changed colors indicating their nature. But it was the grand finale, when she combined the hydrochloric acid and sodium hydroxide, changing the color once again to indicate their transformation into water and common table salt, that my heart started to race. In that instant, I knew that I loved chemistry and I would dedicate my life to studying it.



It wasn’t until many many years later, after playing with a Christmas gift of a chemistry set, after the introduction to organic chemistry that bored me to tears, and after years spent over a mixing bowl, that I realized that what I experienced in that chemistry lab on that day was not a realization of my love for chemistry. That it wasn’t the chemicals and their nature that excited me. That it was the process of combining things to create new ones that made my heart burst with possibilities. I didn’t know it then, but I had just discovered my love for cooking.

So, here’s my favorite kind of chemistry experiment: a recipe for a tender and rich chocolate pound cake. I’m sure there are laws of chemistry behind the whole process, but who really cares when the end result is so delicious?

Chocolate Coconut Pound Cake – Slightly adapted from Bon Appétit


¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ cup virgin, unrefined coconut oil, room temperature
1½ cups sugar (plus an optional 1 tablespoon sugar for topping)
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
⅔ cup buttermilk
¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes


Preheat oven to 325° F. Butter an 8×4” loaf pan and line with parchment paper, leaving a generous overhang on long sides. Whisk flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl; set aside.

Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat oil, ¼ cup butter, and 1½ cups sugar until pale and fluffy, 5–7 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions; beat until mixture is very light and doubled in volume, 5–8 minutes. Add vanilla.

Reduce mixer speed to low and add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients (do not overmix; it will cause cake to buckle and split). Scrape batter into prepared pan and run a spatula through the center, creating a canal. Sprinkle with coconut. If you want, sprinkle the optional remaining 1 Tbsp. sugar on top.

Bake cake, tenting with foil if coconut browns too much before cake is done (it should be very dark and toasted), until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 70–80 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack; let cake cool in pan 20 minutes before turning out.

Toasted Coconut Waffles


Steve and I went to Smorgasburg for lunch yesterday. It’s the outdoor food market that has been operating in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for the last few years. If you like food, it’s paradise. Stand after stand of prepared food from all corners of the world. Not your typical New York city street fair stuff, but quality food, like fried anchovies, fresh lobster rolls, beet sliders, ramen burgers, and little mini filipino spring rolls that burst with flavor.


When the weather is nice, it’s a beautiful scene. The Manhattan skyline in the background frames the smells and people mingling on the concrete plaza of the East River park, creating an urban tableau that attracts tourists from all over the world. But yesterday was the first day of its outdoor operation for this season (it moves to a smaller, indoor location in the winter) and let’s just say the weather wasn’t quite ready.



It was sunny but cold and really windy. Steve and I walked into the park and it was a like a scene for some yet-to-be-produced comedy series lampooning the new Brooklyn. Flannel shirts were fluttering everywhere. People were dodging garbage that kept being swept up by gusts of wind and thrown about. Hipsters were trying to eat their asian hot dogs without quite succeeding at preventing the toppings from flying straight into their unkempt beards. It was pretty funny.

Anyway, this recipe has absolutely nothing to do with Smorgasburg, Brooklyn, or anything else from this story. But these toasted coconut waffles have become our current favorites, especially since we’ve needed a break from the raised waffles we’ve been eating for years now. These are heartier waffles and the taste of toasted coconut is assertive but not overwhelming.



Toasted Coconut Waffles Sligthly adapted from Bon Appétit

Note: You really need to use virgin, unrefined coconut oil for this, the kind that has a coconut taste and some coconut flakes in it. The refined kind will make these somewhat bland.


¾ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup whole milk
⅔ cup virgin, unrefined coconut oil, melted
¼ cup sugar


Preheat oven to 400° F. Toast coconut on a rimmed baking sheet until golden brown, about 5-8 minutes. Let cool.

Whisk flour, cornstarch, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl. Whisk eggs, buttermilk, milk, oil, and sugar in a medium bowl. Whisk buttermilk mixture into dry ingredients (do not overmix). Mix in coconut.

Working in batches, cook waffles in your waffle iron until golden brown. Serve topped with butter, syrup, and fresh fruit.