Mapo Tofu

Mapo Tofu

A couple years ago, there was a lovely Chinese restaurant in Naperville that my family used to eat at all the time . While my brother constantly berated it as “inauthentic”, I loved the spicy and mouth-numbing flavors of the Sichuan specialties on the menu, particularly the Mapo Tofu. When I moved to Connecticut a few months later to start grad school, I couldn’t find any decent Sichuan, let-alone Chinese restaurants in the area and found myself missing this dish dearly. It was from this longing, that I begin experimenting with trying to recreate this spicy braise at home, first starting with a recipe from Saveur magazine as a template and gradually modifying it over the years until I had found the perfect balance of flavors from the ingredients I was able to find. This is probably the closest I have managed to get to restaurant-level Chinese cooking at home, and I’m excited to finally be able to share the recipe with you!


  • 1 ½ lbs tofu, cut into cubes
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • ¼ cup Sichuan chili oil (do not skip this!)
  • 1 bunch, chopped scallions, white and green parts separated
  • 1 tablespoon black bean paste
  • 1 tablespoon gochujang
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce, plus more to taste
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns, ground
  • Salt, to taste
  • Chopped cilantro, optional



Cube the tofu and submerge in boiling water for about 30 mins. This helps to pre-cook and firm up the tofu so that it doesn’t crumble easily when being tossed with the sauce.

Heat a wok over medium-high heat and add the chili oil. Throw in the garlic, ginger, and the white parts of the green onions and stir-fry for about 2-3 minutes, until softened and aromatic. At this point, you can add another spoon or two of chili oil, if desired, before adding the black bean paste and gochujang. Mix around the pastes with the ginger-garlic-onion mixture until well-incorporated, about 1 minute. Then add the sugar and soy sauce, followed by the broth and tofu. Bring the mixture to boil and cook uncovered for about 5 minutes more, until the sauce has thickened nicely. Mix in the ground Sichuan peppercorns and green portions of the scallions, and cilantro, if using. Season to taste with extra soy sauce and salt if needed.

Recipe Notes

  • Virtually all of the ingredients for this recipe can be found in Chinese, Vietnamese, or Korean markets. I haven’t been able to find Sichuan chili-bean paste (known as doubanjiang) anywhere, which is why I use gochujang as a substitute. It’s definitely not exactly the same flavor, as it’s missing the fermented broad beans, but it still adds a good amount of heat
  • Using chili oil is a must, it helps to achieve that red color and infuse the dish with that citrusy, and characteristic, mouth-tingling Sichuan flavor. I actually make my own at home by simmering some Sichuan peppercorns, cinnamon stick, star anise, and bay leaves in vegetable oil for about 30 minutes. Then I simply strain the oil into a bowl/container filled with red-pepper flakes (I used gochugaru but crushed red-pepper works too if you want it spicier) and stir. Chili oil is complete and can be stored in the fridge for a couple months.
  • Mapo Tofu usually has some sort of ground beef or pork in it, but I find that it doesn’t add much to the dish flavor wise, so I leave it out. Additionally, you can also replace the chicken broth with vegetable stock or water to make this recipe entirely vegan!
  • For those of you wondering, the Naperville restaurant I was talking about was called Schezwan House, but last I heard, it has closed permanently. What a shame!

Dals of India Ep. 1: Dal Makhani

20190221_194307Creamy, hearty, and sometimes smoky, this is the dal you most often find in the buffet lines of Indian restaurants. It’s a treat to make at home once in a while when I’m craving something a little rich, and it quite-frankly tastes better than what I find outside!


  • ½ cup whole urad dal
  • 2 tablespoons chana dal, optional
  • ¼ cup kidney beans (rajma) dried OR 1 14 oz can kidney beans
  • 2 tablespoons mustard oil
  • Pinch asafoetida (hing)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 3-4 dried red chiles
  • Medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, grated
  • 3 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
  • 4 Thai chiles, sliced
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon garam masala
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon dried fenugreek (methi)
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter, optional
  • Salt to taste
  • Fresh cilantro



Soak the urad, rajma, and channa overnight.

In a large pot/pressure cooker, heat some mustard oil over medium-high heat until warm. Then add the hing, cumin seeds, and dried red chilies, allowing them to crackle in the oil for a few seconds. Proceed with adding the onions and sauteing until translucent. Add the ginger, garlic, and chopped green chile next, sauteing for a minute. Then add the ground spices (turmeric, coriander, and garam masala) and mix to incorporate. Next add the tomatoes, stirring them around vigorously to release any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Add a little water and allow the mixture to thicken into a jam-like consistency, about 3-5 minutes.

Drain the water from the soaked lentils and add them to the wet masala in the pot. Cover with enough water to submerge the lentils completely, and pressure cook the dal for about 30 minutes.

Once finished, allow the pressure to release from the pot naturally or vent if you are in a hurry. Add the methi to the dal and taste for seasoning, adding salt accordingly. Finish the dal with a splash of heavy cream (around ¼ cup) and some butter if you like. I find that this butter/cream combination helps to tone down the heat. Sprinkle in the cilantro and serve over rice or with naan.


  • Mustard oil, made from the seeds of the mustard plants, is the cooking oil of choice in the Punjab region, where this dish originates. It has a deeply pungent aroma and slightly bitter flavor. Find it in Indian stores or online. I’m currently using the Dabur brand.
  • You can omit the cream and butter if you want to keep things healthier. Urad dal can be quite creamy on its own, but the word makhani roughly translates to buttery so it makes sense to have a little bit of richness, doesn’t it?

Unusual is Good: Aloo-Gobi (Potatoes and Cauliflower)

finishedSo WordPress tells me that it has been 6 months since I last published a post, and frankly that’s quite pathetic. Blogging lately, along with becoming fluent in French and working out more is something that I keep saying I want to do but can never fully commit to. Sure, I’ve been busy; I moved to the East Coast in August to start grad school, and it can be hard to both slay the role of an aspiring scientist and maintain an on point food and travel game, but I have had time to write here and there. I literally took these photos almost four months ago, but for some reason, it has been a struggle to bring myself on here and write about them. Why have I become such a bad father to my first born?

This is not a comeback so much as it is a desperate need within me to keep the creative spiritspiced up alive. I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions, but writing on here has been the easiest way for me to commit to a change. Let’s hope we can get more of that moving forward.

I have been told that my aajibaa (maternal grandmother) was a fantastic cook, and while there were many dishes she was known for, the one that my mother always seemed to make for us growing up was humble aloo gobi. It’s almost too simple in some ways. Potatoes and spicescauliflower, stained yellow from a good dose of earthy turmeric, are quickly stir-fried with some whole spices and then finished off with plenty of fresh ginger, green chilies, and cilantro. The tempering of the hot oil with cloves at the start is an addition that many would find unusual, but it was my grandmother’s unique touch. I don’t know why she chose to add them, but these cloves are now a family tradition, one that I shall proudly keep alive.

Recipe: Aloo Gobicover


  • 2-3 tablespoons neutral-tasting oil
  • pinch of asafoetida (hing), optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 5-6 whole cloves
  • 1 large russet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1 green chili (jalapeno, serrano, Thai), diced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced fine
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • salt, to taste


  1. In a large frying pan, skillet, or wok, heat the oil over high heat. Once hot, add the asafoetida, followed by the cumin seeds, fennel seeds, and cloves and allow the spices to toast in the oil until highly aromatic, about 1 minute.
  2. Proceed to add the potatoes, stirring and pan-frying in the oil until softened and golden-brown, about 1o minutes.
  3. Add the ground turmeric and coriander, and stir for a minute to coat the potatoes.
  4. Now add the cauliflower florets and stir the entire mixture around, making sure that the vegetables and spices have incorporated well with each other. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for about 15 more minutes, undisturbed, till the cauliflower and potatoes are tender.
  5. Gently toss the vegetables with the ginger, green chilies, and cilantro. Season to taste with salt.

Cooking Notes

  • Aloo Gobi can be served as a main dish with some chapati or naan, or as a hearty accompaniment to some dal and rice.
  • The biggest mistake people make when cooking aloo gobi is to continuously stir it after the cauliflower has been added. This will only cause the florets to break up and your dish to subsequently reassemble a mushy mess. After you have incorporated the vegetables and spices together (you’ll know you’ve achieved this because the turmeric will stain them yellow), LET THEM BE.
  • You might also notice that no water is added here. Aloo Gobi is supposed to be a dry dish. Any water needed to prevent the vegetables from sticking to the pan is created through the condensation generated under the lid when the vegetables are covered. It’s that simple!
  • As I have mentioned before, the cloves are a unique touch as is the addition of ginger and green chilies at the end rather than before. I feel, as does my mother, that keeping these pungent ingredients rather raw adds a vibrant pop of flavor to an otherwise, tame dish of sauteed potatoes. It may not be something practiced by some of your other Indian friends and family members, but variation is what truly keeps family recipes genuine!




On The Loose: “Cassoulet” in a Slightly-Toulousian Style

The fortified Berber village of Ait-ben-Haddou in the Moroccan Sahara
The fortified Berber village of Ait-ben-Haddou in the Moroccan Sahara

Sup everyone! Been vagabounding quite a bit lately, visiting Morocco, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, and various parts of France with my trusty travel companion (aka my brother). While we have definitely gotten into

Urban Sprawl in Frankfurt, Germany
Urban Sprawl in Frankfurt, Germany

many arguments and dealt with a constant storm of drama, the trip has still been totally worth it because I get to spend time in one my favorite places ever, Nimes. I have certainly written about this gem of a city before, but to quickly recap, Nimes is an ancient-town in the Southern-French region of Languedoc-Roussillon, and we have had the pleasure to own a second home here for the past three years. This is perhaps the most time I have spent in the apartment, and the amount of life buzzing around here lately has done nothing but make me love it even more. The struggle is going to be real when we have to return to reality on Monday (via Paris).

sausagesNaturally, I love experimenting with French flavors whenever I’m here. When I’ve got the energy, I will walk into town to shop at the Marche des Halles, but the local Carrefour around the corner can suffice when one is too lazy, which is usually the case on Sundays. Perhaps it was a better choice, for it means that one does not need an open-air market to obtain the ingredients used in this recipe.

Cassoulet is a meat and bean casserole from the city Toulouse, located in the set tablesouthwest part of France. Before I continue, I must put out a disclaimer that I have never been to Toulouse, nor have I had this dish before. My desire to try it out at home only came when I spotted a package of Toulousian-style sausages sitting in the meat section. Immediately inspired, I ran around the grocery store picking up ingredients that would probably be needed: cannellini beans, tomatoes, carrots, and a bouquet garni of rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves. Stewed together for a little under an hour without any of the other traditional cuts of pork that are typically featured, this really isn’t anything near to the original. Slightly Toulousian in name, but possibly a little Tuscan in character, this hearty meal has gotten itself a spot now on my list of Sunday lunch favorites.

cassouletRecipe: Cassoulet

A CookingFever Original

  • 1 medium white onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium carrot, sliced
  • 14 oz can tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, optional
  • 1 bouquet garni (assembled with a couple of sprigs of rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf)
  • 2, 14-oz cans cannellini beans, drained
  • 3 Toulouse-style sausages, chopped into inch-sized chunks
  • salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Heat up some olive-oil in a heavy-bottom saucepan over medium heat. Once warm add the onions and sauté for about five minutes, until translucent
  2. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute longer, followed by the carrot, tomatoes, bouquet garni, and cumin, if using. Cook for about five minutes more, until the flavors have blended together.
  3. Add the beans and enough water to submerge them. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Cook the sausages over high-heat in a frying pan for about 3 minutes, till they are browned all over. Add them, along with any juices, to the beans and simmer the entire mixture for another 15-20 minutes more. Adjust for seasoning as needed.
  5. Remove the bouquet garni before serving the cassoulet with plenty of crusty baguette for sopping up all the delicious liquid.

Cooking Notes

  • The cumin is completely non-traditional, but I feel it adds a nice smokiness that is needed when one is not using the full repertoire of meats typically in this dish.
  • It’s likely that Toulouse-style sausages might not be available in your area. As they are on the sweeter-side with notes of garlic, a sweet-Italian or simple pork sausage can also work as a good substitute
  • Ideal wine pairing for a cassoulet would definitely be a dryer and slightly minerally red to counteract with the tomatoes. However, if you’d like to take a walk on the wild side, go ahead and experiment with a crisp white, such as I did with a glass of viognier.

Umaminess: Seared Salmon with Miso-Potato Hash and Mint Raita

completed close upHiatuses from cooking have happened before, but with all the chaos and stress of wrapping up my undergraduate career, my inspiration simply drained out. I was remaking the same collection of meals week after week and eating the same dish day after day. Everything food-related suddenly seemed boring and the biggest part of me was starting to die. Worst of all was that I was just standing there like a confused bystander, letting it all happen.

Now I sit at my computer as a college graduate, yet in some ways, nothing has DSCN2235changed. Five years of graduate school still lie ahead of me, with a boatload of life changes to follow suit. As I grow and evolve into scientist over the next few years, I don’t want this creative space to disappear. CookingFever has always been more than a token hobby, it’s an outlet for me to chase a vague dream that I can’t quite materialize in reality. I’m not sure if I will ever be featured in food magazines, publish a cookbook, or be paid to travel the world and eat. That version of me is embedded in a fantasy and trapped behind heavily fortified walls. Not that becoming a scientist is necessarily any bit easier, but for now it’s what seems right. If those walls do fall in the future, I’d be happy to welcome the person who walks out of them.

potato hashPeople have always asked me why I never thought about going down the culinary route and opening up a restaurant. I’ve always said that I’ve wanted to keep professional and personal pursuits separate, but in all realness, I have always been on that culinary route. CookingFever is my virtual restaurant where I’ve been creating a massive menu of special recipes. Last night, I took inspiration from one of Chicago’s most celebrated chefs, Stephanie Izard, and used her brilliant knowledge of flavor profiles to craft a perfectly juicy salmon filet and a deeply savory potato and pea hash. While Stephanie uses lamb in her hash, I decided to keep it vegetarian by using potatoes but still playing with the same flavoring components of soy sauce and miso, a fermented paste of rice and soybeans. Japanese cooks best describe umami as the distinct “savory” taste. Soy sauce is perhaps the best used example, but I have found fish sauce and now miso to be top candidates as well. Many of you have probably had miso soup, where its funky, almost hoppy, beer-like qualities shine through, but a spoon or two of the paste mixed into your favorite recipes will have its bolder qualities melting away and the overall depth of flavor increasing. As such, use any sort of white miso to get this flavor boosting effect and watch how you’ll suddenly be unable to keep your fork away from the plate.

As the hash boasts subtle Japanese flavors, some of my Indian sensibilities come into play in the turmeric-marinated salmon, and I swapped the mint yogurt sauce that Stephanie used in her dish for some leftover raita I had in the fridge. Typically used as a condiment to help tone down some of the spiciness that one finds in Indian meals, the tang of the yogurt works surprisingly well with the fish, cutting through some of that meaty salmon taste and meeting with the potatoes to create a glorious marriage of Asian flavors.

Recipe: Seared Salmon with Miso-Potato Hash and Mint Raitacomplete dish overhead

Adapted from Girl in the Kitchen by Stephanie Izard



  • 2, 6 oz salmon fillets
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil


  • 2 cups green peas
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
  • 2 large or 4 medium yellow potatoes, cut into small cubes
  • 2 teaspoons white miso paste
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 small red onion cut into a fine dice, optional
  • 1 teaspoon dried mint
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper, to taste

potato peaMethod

  1. Prepare the raita in a bowl by mixing together the yogurt with the 1-2 tablespoons of milk, depending on how thick the yogurt is. Stir in the dried mint, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, and red onion, if using. Allow the mixture to sit in the fridge while you prepare everything else.
  2. Rub the turmeric, cayenne pepper, sugar, salt, and olive oil over the salmon fillets, making sure they are evenly coated. Marinate the salmon in the fridge for about 30 minutes to an hour.
  3. To prepare the hash, start by boiling the peas with some salt until they are just tender. Drain the peas and set aside
  4. Then in a large pan or skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Once warm, add the onion and saute until translucent. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and saute for a minute more.
  5. Add the potatoes to the pan along with the miso paste and soy sauce. Mix the ingredients together and cook in the pan over low heat, for about 15-20 minutes, until the potatoes are soft.
  6. Add the peas and stir for a minute or two more. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Heat some oil in another pan over high heat. Once hot, add the salmon fillets and sear for about 2-3 minutes on each side, till they have reached your desired level of doneness (I like mine slightly pink on the inside). Serve the salmon warm on a bed of hash and top with a dollop of raita.

A Boozed-Up Beauty: Cerveza Mac and Cheese

DSCN2229Last Thanksgiving, I created this exceptional macaroni and cheese creation that has quickly become a family favorite and my go-to recipe when I want something extra naughty. Because the menu that night had a Latin-American theme, I titled this dish, “Cerveza” (Beer) Mac and Cheese, even though I’ve never actually made this with a Mexican brew (although I pretty sure Dos Equis would work well here). This creation has a Mexican aunt if anything (the chipotle peppers bare homage to that), but it really was a smokehouse whom served as the true mother, for I have produced a gutsy sauce DSCN2223utilizing a blend of sharp cheddar and smoked gouda cheeses, a burst of garlic, and lots and lots of beer. As it is the most important component in this dish, make sure you pick a beer that’s teeming with flavor. I chose a sharp and spicy IPA this time around, abundant with citrusy notes of orange peel and a jolting, bitter kick that lingers in the mouth and counteracts, yet still plays well with, the complexities of the cheese. Gone are the days where we should get content with one-note, boxed mac. Surrender yourself to this loud, raunchy, and bold symphony of flavors that takes the “night cheese” to a whole new level.

Recipe: Cerveza Mac and Cheese

A CookingFever Original

  • 3/4 pound macaroni, elbow-shaped pasta
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk, use at least 2% fat content
  • 12 oz beer, recommend anything flavorful and hoppy, such as a dark ale or IPA
  • 2 canned chipotle peppers, chopped
  • 3 plump garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 pound smoked gouda cheese, grated
  • 1/3 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, optional


  1. Melt the butter in a sauce pan over medium-high heat. Once melted, add the flour and whisk rapidly, cooking it out for a minute until it has changed to a slight golden brown color and the raw-flour smell has disappeared.
  2. Add about half of the milk, whisking until the mixture has thickened. Then add the rest of the milk.
  3. Add the garlic and chipotle peppers, along with a little bit of salt and good amount of cracked black pepper, Simmer the mixture for about 2 minutes, whisking constantly so that nothing sticks to the bottom or burns.
  4. Begin streaming in the beer adding it in increments, waiting for the mixture to thicken before adding more each time. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the bottom of a wooden spoon but not so thick that its super glopy. Feel free to add extra milk or beer if you need to thin it out.
  5. Add the cheese and let it melt over low heat. Once melted in, taste the sauce for seasoning, adding more salt if needed.
  6. Stir in the cooked macaroni, tossing for about a minute or so. The sauce should stick to the noodles. If the dish seems a little too saucy, that’s fine for the noodles will continue to soak up the sauce as they sit.
  7. Serve warm with garnish of fresh cilantro on top, if desired.

A True Yuletide Treat: Chocolate and Bourbon Pear Bûche de Noël

DSC_0342Chocolate, bourbon, vanilla, pear. How bad could that be? This holiday recipe, drawing inspiration from a variety of sources, arrives just in time to be included in your celebrations this year!

Bûche de Noël, translating into yule log, is a traditional dessert served all over France during the holidays. A light and airy sponge cake is wrapped around a custard filling and then coated in a rich butter cream. Often decorated with little toy ornaments on top, these “logs” are both a festive and fun way to bring yuletide cheer to bakery window-displays and parties alike.

Making a yule log is not difficult, but it does involve a preparing a couple different components and DSC_0324pulling out several mixing bowls. I used a recipe from pastry-god Dominique Ansel as a base, but played with the flavors a bit by swapping out cherries for pears and using bourbon because it pairs so well with chocolate. Showcasing French technique with a slight Southern American twist, this yule log is the wonderful way to say Happy Holidays to your loved ones this week.

DSC_0346Recipe: Chocolate and Bourbon Pear Bûche de Noël

Adapted from Food and Wine


  • 6 eggs yolks, room temperatureDSC_0315
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 5 egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (recommend 100% or Special Dark varieties)

DSC_0328Bourbon Syrup

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon


  • 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Bourbon Pears

  • 2 pears, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon
  • 1 tablespoon sugar


  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • unsweetened cocoa powder, for dusting


Cake: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and line a 9X13 inch bakingDSC_0303 sheet with parchment paper. Beat the egg yolks with six tablespoons of the sugar until the mixture is pale and fluffy. In another bowl, beat the egg whites together with the remaining six tablespoons of sugar until the egg whites have formed stiff peaks. Fold the egg DSC_0311white mixture with the egg yolk mixture followed by the cocoa powder and salt. Spread the batter evenly on the baking sheet and bake until the cake is dry and springy, about 18-20 minutes.

Syrup: Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-heat heat. Boil the mixture for about a minute, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the bourbon. Allow the mixture to cool.

Filling: In a small bowl, soften the gelatin with the water. In a small saucepan,
combine the milk, vanilla bean and seeds, and bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Meanwhile in a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks with the sugar. Stream in the warm milk into the egg yolk mixture, whisking rapidly until incorporated. Pour the combined mixture back into the saucepan and stir constantly over low heat until the custard has become thick enough to coat the back of spoon. Strain the custard into a bowl. Heat the gelatin in the microwave for about 15 seconds, until melted, and stir into the custard. Allow the custard to cool before whipping the cream and folding it in.

Pears: Combine the pear slices with the vanilla pod and seeds, sugar, and bourbon. Saute over high heat for about 5 minutes, until the pears have softened and the alcohol smell has mellowed out a bit. Discard the vanilla pod and allow the mixture to cool.

Assembly: Run a knife around the edges of cake to loosen it and invert it onto a DSC_0334new sheet of parchment paper. Soak the cake liberally in the bourbon syrup, making sure that it’s covered evenly. Then spread an even layer of the custard filing on top, followed by the pears. Roll the cake up to form a 13-inch log. Because the cake is stiff, it might break on you at this point. That is completely fine. Just use the parchment paper to squeeze the roll together and place it in the fridge to set overnight.

Topping: Beat the heavy cream, vanilla extract, and powdered sugar together until whipped and firm. Coat the cake evenly with the whipped cream followed by a dusting of cocoa powder on top. Cut into slices and serve.

Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année!

My Gift to You: Hosting Opportunities with Vizeat

One of my fondest memories from studying abroad was being able to enjoy intimate, home-cooked meals with my host family each night. Gathered around thMedistepolsee table, always candlelit in accordance with the Danish concept of hygge or coziness, we not only shared wonderful food, but also got the opportunity to exchange stories and learn more about each other’s cultures. I would love to have the chance to be able to do that again, but for those of us who are by now hardworkingDSCN9318 professionals or getting close to that state, an extended trip overseas might not be possible at the moment. How then, might we able to continue facilitating cultural exchange?

vizeat_logo-def+lineWell the truth is, you can do it from your own home! Allow me to introduce to Vizeat, an online service that allows travelers from around the world to enjoy an authentic meal at the home of a gracious host. Becoming a host is easy. All you have to do is register online, pick your menu and price, set a date, have guests signMarie-Claude's dinner & Friends up, et voila, you’re well on your way to hosting your first meal! Vizeat already has numerous hosts across Europe, Asia, Africa, and the North America, but that is a hardly an all-encompassing list. How cool would it be if you were the first to bring Vizeat to your town? Signing up is completely free and you can even make a couple extra bucks in the process!

Carol's dinner in St Germain des Prés - Crédits Adélie VernhesIf hosting is not your thing, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy this service as a guest on your next vacation. Imagine devouring this roast chicken on your next trip to France in a posh-Parisian apartment, or partaking in a cute little tea party in Bangkok. There are certainly quite a few meals that I would Ido's Tea Time in Bangkoklike to attend, such as French Flavorsoffered by hostess Caroline of Nice or From Rome with Lovehosted by sisters Benny and Bula in Rome.

VizEat ApéritifWell, so are you interested in hosting and meal opportunities with Vizeat now? Check out their website for more! Perhaps even you and I might get to meet over a meal and share our stories one day. 🙂VizEat-Values

Disclaimer: All images, with the exception of the first two, were provided courtesy of Vizeat. CookingFever is an affiliate of Vizeat Ltd. 

Winter is Coming (but so is Thanksgiving): Acorn Squash Soup with Lemongrass

DSCN1564If you were a Stark of Winterfell, you would know that your words would never hold more true than on a day like this, WINTER IS COMING.

Even if you don’t live in the realm (or know what I am even talking about for that matter), it’s no joke that it has become quite frigid here in the Midwest, signaling the start of a season that might put a damper on your mood, making you feel tired all day and have you partaking in some rather odd behaviors, such as eating a slab of melted cheese for dinner (I may or may not be guilty of doing that right now, don’t judge me).

However, Thanksgiving is on its way as well, and I live for that holiday. It is my everything, the one night where food becomes more important than anything else, where feuding friends and family put aside differences for a day of forgiveness, an evening when we can all be truly thankful and blessed to be alive and healthy. Just in time for this glorious occasion, I share with you all a recipe that would be very happy to have a spot on your Thanksgiving menu this year.

Are you one of those people, who come October begin eating practically anythingDSCN1569 orange and wholesome in large quantities? Sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and squashes of every kind have begun showing up on my grocery list practically every week. With just sweet potatoes alone, I made stews, enchiladas, and even risotto, and a can of pumpkin puree lent itself toward the creation of an ultra moist, dark chocolate loaf cake, and an Afghan classic, kadu bouranee. Two days ago, I cut open an acorn squash and massaged it with a dab of Thai green curry paste before roasting in the oven until it was soft and scooping away from the skin like a creamy batch of gelato. Mixed into a highly aromatic broth flavored with fresh lemongrass, a dab of smoky cumin, and a splash of quintessential coconut milk, this Asian-inspired soup is sweet and savory, spicy and smoky, and will warm you down to the tips of your toes. Even if you don’t get a chance to include it this Thanksgiving, I suggest giving this soup a try anytime before Santa comes down your chimney this year.

Wishing you all a happy Thanksgiving and joyous holiday season!

DSCN1575Recipe: Acorn Squash Soup with Lemongrass


  • 1 medium acorn squash
  • 1 teaspoon Thai green curry paste
  • 1 medium red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and left whole
  • 1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 small stalk lemongrass, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 cups chicken stock or water
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped


Cut the acorn squash in half and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Place the halves on a lined baking sheet and rub each half with a 1/2 teaspoon of the green curry paste. Drizzle with olive oil and cracked black pepper before roasting at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 40 minutes, until the squash is browned and very soft.

While the squash is roasting, get started on the soup base. Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Once warm, add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, and lemongrass and cook for a minute longer. Then add the ground cumin and crushed red pepper and cook for another minute, allowing the spices to toast and become fragrant. Add about a 1/2 to 1 cup of the chicken stock at this point and deglaze the pot. After five minutes, add the sweet potatoes and the rest of the stock. Bring the mixture to a boil and then simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes.

Once the squash has finished roasting, use a spoon to scoop out the flesh, leaving the skin behind. Add the flesh to the soup base followed by the coconut milk plus additional water if the consistency is too thick. Simmer this mixture now for another 15 minutes. Then using a standard or immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. Return to the heat and adjust for seasoning, adding salt as need. Garnish with fresh cilantro before serving warm with plenty of crusty bread for dipping.

Sunday Salan: Classic Murgh Masala (Chicken Curry)

DSCN1540I have warm memories growing up of my mother preparing this sort of curry in some shape or form almost every Sunday. Back when we were younger and less adventurous, this was our non-veg meal of choice. Sometimes they would be potatoes, sometimes we would have it with bread, and sometimes we would have it for dinner. It’s the best meal for a lazy Sunday afternoon, one where all you want to do is eat, drink a few beers, binge on Netflix, and then fall asleep in front of the TV. Too bad I don’t have time for that in college because if I did, I’d assure you that not a lot of work would be getting done!

Enjoy this as next Sunday’s salan (gravy)!

Recipe: Classic Murgh Masala 

My take on a traditional North Indian chicken curry. 

Serves 4


  • 1 large white onion
  • 1 Serrano pepper, use Thai or bird’s-eye peppers for more heat
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 3 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, adjust to personal preferences
  • 6 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • 6 cloves
  • 2, inch-long, flat cinnamon sticks (desi cinnamon)
  • 6-9 whole black peppercorns
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 14 oz crushed tomatoes
  • salt, to taste
  • 1.5 pounds boneless and skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 2-3 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried fenugreek (kasuri methi) leaves, optional
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves and stems, finely chopped
  • lime wedges, for garnish


Place the onion, Serrano pepper, garlic, and ginger into a blender or food processor and grind until the mixture resembles a fine, but not liquidy, paste

Heat the oil in a, large heavy-bottom pot, such as a dutch oven or a Moroccan tagine, over medium-high heat. Once hot add the DSCN1522cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon sticks, and peppercorns. Allow the whole spices to sizzle in the oil for minute before adding the blended onion, serrano pepper, and ginger-garlic mixture. Saute this wet masala mixture over medium-high heat for about 8-10 minutes, till the onions are starting to brown. 

Add the bay leaves, turmeric, cumin, coriander, and salt to the wet masala and cook out these spices for a minute before adding the crushed tomatoes to free any browned bits sticking to the pan. Continue cooking this mixture, stirring continuously and adding about 1/2 cup of water in intervals, for about another 10 minutes over high heat, till an oily sheen begins to appear on the surface.

DSCN1528Add the chicken pieces and mix vigourously to coat the pieces in the masala. Brown the chicken over high heat for another 10 minutes. Then add 1 1/2 to 2 cups of water (enough to create a sauce) and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the curry over low heat for another 20 minutes, till the chicken has cooked through and the sauce has thickened slightly. Adjust the seasoning at this stage if needed.

Add the dried fenugreek leaves, if using, and cook for another five DSCN1535minutes. Garnish the curry with fresh cilantro leaves and serve with steamed rice or crusty baguette slices to mop up all of the delicious juices. Finish with a squeeze of lime juice on top.