Wednesday, May 19, 2010

reclaiming the south in the kitchen - recipe: cream cheese pound cake

A few years back, my husband David and I took a trip to celebrate my 30th birthday. I’d always wanted to travel around the southern ‘US of A’, so we flew into Atlanta and then spent a few days in each of Charleston and Savannah, with a couple days between those two beautiful cities on the beach in Hilton Head.

I knew I’d love the weather (I like it H-O-T), the history, architecture and of course, the people famous for their hospitality. I wasn’t sure how much I would love the food, though. I adore Paula Deen – I’ve even met her in person, and yes, she is actually that friendly & charming! That being said, I’m not as crazy about her recipes.

Paula says that there are 3 reasons why southern cookin’ tastes so good – mainly, the frequent use of: 1) mayo, 2) cream cheese, and 3) any part of the pig. Well, I certainly concur with Paula on the last point. Chef Mark and I regularly joke that a pig would definitely be tops on our list if we could only choose one type of meat for an extended stay on a deserted island. As for the mayo – I’m not a huge fan, and in my house, cream cheese is generally used on toasted bagels or in pound cake.

Long story short, I fell in love with South Carolina and with the city of Charleston in particular. The food was pretty good too! One of the best meals of my life was at a restaurant called Sienna, a few minutes outside Charleston, on Daniel Island. In fact, there is a big joke around the shop that I want to franchise my business so that I can eventually open up a store in Charleston. I can’t wait to go back, but I have no idea when that next trip will happen.

Over the last few months, I’ve been borrowing all kinds of southern cookbooks and stories from the public library in order to get my fix. One of my favorites has been “The Lee Bros Southern Cookbook – Stories and Recipes for Southerners and Would-be Southerners”. Shortly after moving to Manhattan, these southern brothers were homesick and found themselves craving a taste of the Carolina’s. After cooking up some hard-core southern comfort food, they felt more at home and said they could almost see the creek banks and marshes of South Carolina. They declared that “the feeling of having cheated geography through food was exhilarating.”

Isn’t that a great thought? Whenever I find myself longing for a trip down south, I can be found in my kitchen making any combination of these items: cheese straws, pulled pork and cornbread, spiced pecans, sautéed mustard greens, anything with sweet Vidalia onions, shrimp and grits, and cream cheese pound cake. As Paula might say, Bon Appetite, Ya’ll.

cream cheese pound cake


  • 1 (one) cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1, 8-oz (one eight-ounce) package of cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3 (three) cups sugar
  • 1 (one) teaspoon salt
  • 6 (six) large eggs, room temperature
  • 4 (four) teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 (three) cups all-purpose flour, sifted


  • Butter and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan. Using an electric mixer, beat butter and cream cheese in a large bowl until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add sugar and salt; beat 10 minutes, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl.
  • Add eggs 1-at-a-time, beating until blended after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Beat in flour at low speed until batter is smooth (do not overbeat). Transfer batter to pan.
  • Place pan in cold oven. Set temperature at 200°F; bake for 20 minutes. Increase temperature to 250°F; bake 20 minutes. Increase temperature to 275°F; bake 10 minutes. Increase temperature to 300°F; bake cake until tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 1 hour longer. Cool cake in pan on rack 15 minutes. Turn cake out onto rack; cool completely.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

go to the sea without the boat - recipe: pan fried tilapia with mango and nuoc nam sauce

I often imagine living by the sea. I love the smell of the salt lingering in the air, the sound of the waves and the peaceful feeling that I have whenever I am near the ocean.

Ah . . . a girl can dream. For now, mentally transporting myself to the beach through reading my favourite magazine, Coastal Living, will have to do.

The magazine is “for people who love the coast” and month after month, I am inspired by the beautiful beach homes, exotic locales and coastal kitchen recipes.

Whether we like it or not, bathing suit season is just around the corner! I’m trying to cook a bit lighter to look a bit lighter, and seafood fits the bill. I’m also trying to squeeze in a few more workouts — which is harder now that John is almost two and starting to resist the jogging stroller. Luckily for me, I recently won a free trial membership to Columbia Lake Health Club. I can’t wait to try Zumba, a dance-fitness program.

This week’s recipe is from the April 2010 edition of you guessed it, Coastal Living. I knew I had to try it as soon as I read it. I’ve lightened it up a little by omitting the cream and pan frying the fish instead of shallow frying it. The original recipe calls for yellowtail snapper but it wasn’t available so I substituted tilapia.

I’ve made some lower-cal fish dishes over the last few weeks, but I want to share this one with you because it is so good.

pan fried tilapia with mango and nuoc nam sauce

serves four


  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons of canola or peanut oil
  • Four 6 to 8 ounce tilapia fillets
  • Hot cooked rice


  • Combine milk and egg in a large shallow bowl. In a separate large shallow bowl, combine flour and cornstarch
  • Place tilapia in the flour mixture, coating both sides and shaking off excess.
  • Dip the tilapia into the egg mixture and then back into the flour mixture, shaking off excess.
  • Pour three tablespoons of oil into a large sauté pan and heat over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, place tilapia into pan, and fry for three minutes on each side or until golden brown and crispy.
  • Serve immediately over hot cooked rice with Nuoc Nam sauce, mango and jalapeno.

nuoc nam sauce


  • 1 mango, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 to 1 fresh jalapeno, thinly sliced (use more if you like it spicy)
  • Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 jalapeno, thinly sliced


combine all ingredients

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