Ginger Scallion Crab Cakes

I'm a little bit obsessed with a restaurant here in the city called Fatty Crab. A funky take on Malaysian street food, the menu is an absolute assault of spice and flavor (in the best possible way). I went there for the first time last August for my friend Lindsay's birthday, during which she, a few friends, and I spent two hours splitting spicy family style dishes and moaning over every new flavor.

Think dishes like crispy pork served with gingery pickled watermelons, sticky sweet coconut fried rice, giant bowls of messy and fiery chili crab, and cocktails flavored with cilantro, lime, and generous shots of chili-infused rum. And I didn't even have to order dessert (which I *always* do!) because they just always give it to you automatically. For free. (Usually a delicious chewy mochi cake that's so good it keeps me up at night gnawing on my pillow.)

I seriously loved my first meal there so much, that I spent the next month daydreaming about it and trying to recreate the dishes at home. After hearing about me rave and rave for months, Eugene finally agreed to join me for a meal there. I was so psyched about this, and bopped around the apartment in expectation for days, convinced that he, too, was going to love it.

But he didn't!

For some, weird strange reason that I still don't understand, he doesn't like the place. You can imagine how much of let down this was; I would eat at this place constantly if I could, but my main and most adored dining companion is... Just. Not. A fan.


So, while I hunt around for a dining buddy with a similar interest in the bold and the spicy, I've been forced to continue and try to chase down these intense flavors in my own kitchen. (The aforementioned Lindsay, who is herself rather bold and spicy and whom would have made a fine dining companion, is unfortunately disqualified from this role due to distance and upcoming international gallivants.)

I've come close a few times; once with a recipe for gingery meatballs that have been sitting in the queue for ages (soon! I promise!). My latest creation are these ginger and scallion crab cakes, which are packed with ginger and cilantro and enough heat to quell my Fatty Crab fantasies, at least for a week or so. Even if you have no idea what I'm talking about when it comes to this place, trust me when I say that these crabcakes are absolutely delicious and make for a brilliant dinner or lunch. They can even be prepared ahead of time, so that all you have to do before dinner (or a dinner party) is heat the oil and sizzle them until golden.

And yes, if you are one of those poor people who can't handle cilantro, you can skip it. (Though it breaks my heart to even type that...)

If you're wondering how to serve them, I love them over a big bed of mixed greens dressed with a mustardy vinaigrette (just whisk together a tablespoon of mustard with some red wine vinegar, diced shallots, and olive oil and toss with the greens). Depending on how big I make them, 2 or 3 crab cakes per person is enough for a meal. If you want something a bit heartier, you can also serve these with a lemon risotto, or with any number of grilled or steamed vegetables. I dig them with the salad though; crab cakes and salad are just perfect in my book.

I hope you enjoy these! And if my raving has motivated you to check out Fatty Crab for yourself, email me first at and I'll send you a list of my favorite "must try this" items from their menu.

A BONUS Challenge For You: I'm going to officially put it out there that I will bake a big 10" cake of your choice to the first person who obtains and sends me the recipe for those freaking amazing chewy mochi cakes (the actual Fatty Crab recipe, that is).

New to Always Order Dessert? Consider subscribing to my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates by filling in your address in the box on the right.

And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to
e-mail me.

Thanks for reading!

Ginger Scallion Crab Cakes
Serves 2-4

olive oil
2 garlic cloves minced
1 shallot minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 jalapeno, minced
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
juice of 2 limes
1 teaspoon soy sauce (optional)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs/flakes) or 1 cup plain regular bread crumbs
1 pound fresh or pasteurized crab meat (claw or back-fin is fine for this dish, but you can also use the pricier jumbo lump)

Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a medium sized skillet over medium heat, and add the minced garlic, shallots, and ginger. Saute for 2 minutes, just until they start to get a bit of color and release an aromatic smell. remove from heat and pour (along with oil) into a large bowl.

To the bowl, add the chopped scallions, cilantro, minced jalapeno, red pepper, mayonnaise, lime juice, soy sauce if using, egg, salt, and black pepper. Mix until well combined. Fold in the panko and crabmeat and gently mix until well combined (careful not to break up the crab meat too much).

Use a large spoon to scoop up servings of about a 1/2 cup and shape into a patty with your hands. Place on a wax or parchment paper-lined baking sheet and repeat with the rest of the mix (depending on how big you make the patties you should get about 8-10 patties).

Let the patties set for about 10 minutes (I used the time to clean up).

Pour about a 1/4 of olive oil into a heavy bottomed skillet (meaning the oil should come up the pan about a 1/4 inch) and heat over medium heat. When the oil is hot, use a spatula to gently slide the patties into the oil in batches. (I do 2-3 at time, max). Let fry on the first side for about 2-3 minutes and then flip using the spatula. Let fry on the other side for another 2-3 minutes or until crisp and golden brown. Remove from oil and let drain on a paper towel lined baking sheet.

Continue with the rest of the patties (you can also just make a few of them and leave the rest covered with plastic wrap in the fridge for up to 2 days).

Serve immediately on a bed of dressed mixed greens or with another favorite side dish. Offer cocktail sauce on the side, if desired.

A Little Weekend Link Love

This weekend, Eugene and I will be checking out a couple more wedding venues, and hopefully doing a little baking (well...I'll be doing the baking; Eugene will be doing the eating.)

I'm also hoping to make it to the farmer's market and for the weather to stay lovely so that I can continue to wear my clothing swap finds! (I've worn at least one clothing swap item every single day this week; awesome!)

Below are a few of the things that have caught my eye this week! As always, if you have any cool suggestions for me to include in my weekend link lists, please email me at And don't forget to tell me what your plans are for the weekend; I love knowing what other folks are up to!



P.S. If you're wondering, those are vintage Mrs. Butterworth's bottles I spotted at the flea market last weekend. I don't know why they are all missing the face, but suspect it has to do with the sugar content in her syrup. ;)


I raved about this on Twitter yesterday, but it begs repeating. Cucumber Sangria via Fare a La Femme. How fab is this idea?

Five tips from Jamie Oliver (via

Fellow retro food fanatics should check out this very cool timeline to food in the 1950.

Purple (Moon & The Stars) Watermelon!

Chorizo Quesadillas!

Gorgeous Chocri Customized Chocolate Bars (via Pie of the Tiger)

I love these Vintage Silverware Garden Markers

Coconut Peanut Butter is a favorite of mine

I’m always inspired by the ideas and sentiments in Makeunder My Life

Beautiful colorful doors

Cute summer romper

I love open kitchen shelves (I...err...Eugene just installed one in our kitchen a couple months ago). Here is a great DIY project

The Waffle & Dinges truck parks in front of our office every Friday and it now has me thinking about making them at home. I need to get a waffle maker so I can make these Pecan & Banana Bread waffles from Everybody Loves Sandwiches.

LOVE this tree wall

How to Throw a Clothing Swap Party

A Clothing Swap Party is a fantastic way to get a bunch of friends together and revitalize your wardrobe...all without spending very much money! With Earth Day right around the corner, it's also a really great reminder that being green (by choosing to reuse) does not have to be boring or sacrificing; it can actually be a heck of a lot of fun!

There are as many ways to run a swap party as there are outfits to swap, but below are a few tips and suggestions that will help you throw your own swap party without a hitch!

Creating the Guest List
With any party you throw, the guest list is key. But it's particularly important to plan carefully when throwing a clothing swap to ensure a successful mix of girls AND clothing.
  • Invite the friends who like to shop (perhaps a bit TOO much!), the ones who have a great (or eclectic!) fashion sense, and the ones you know take good care of their clothing.
  • Don’t feel restricted by age or styles; at my party, my fiance’s 15-year-old cousin ended up taking home a purse and a cute romper that belonged to my 56-year-old mother. My mom also passed on a pair of (very sexy!) dresses to one of my best friends. I nabbed a couple great sweaters from my future mother-in-law (and she, in turn, found a cute shirt that used to belong to her niece).
  • Be considerate about sizing. While it doesn't have to be exact, try to invite girls in a range of sizes, and make sure that there is at least one other woman with a similar size for everyone you invite. That means, don't invite five girls who are a size 6 and one who is a 14; that's not fair to her. Also encourage everyone to bring shoes and accessories since regardless of size, anyone can enjoy a great purse or a gorgeous new shawl.
  • Invite new friends! A clothing swap is a natural ice breaker (you’ll be surprised how quickly women who just met will start sharing body issue!), so if you know a couple girls that you’ve been wanting to get to know better, go ahead and invite them!

No need for fancy printed invitations for this kind of party. A nice email or evite (I actually swear by Pingg) will be perfect. Just make sure you include all the relevant information. Some things to consider:
  • Depending on the size of your apartment, plan for no more than 10-15 girls so that everyone can comfortably shop and try things on. Remember that the unspoken rule about party planning is that no matter how many people you invite, only about 60% will accept and only 80% of those will actually show (annoying but true!) Plan accordingly.
  • Clothing swaps require some preparation on the part of your guests since they need time through sort through their closets. Make sure you give them at least 3 weeks of advanced notice. If you know even earlier, send out a “Save the date” email so they can start mentally setting things aside.
  • State the purpose of the party clearly on your invitations and note what time you’d like everyone to arrive. A clothing swap might be a new (or weird) concept to some so begin by explaining briefly what it is and what you’d like them to bring.
  • I think it’s best to suggest a minimum number of items (say about 5) but to encourage them to bring as many as they’d like. You can also say things like “any season” or “spring/summer items only.”
  • Be sure to also specify what is NOT ok (e.g. “Items should be clean and free of stains or tears. All seasons are OK, but no used bathing suits, socks, or lingerie, please.”)
  • If you’re planning on serving food or if you would prefer people to bring something, state that on the invite. (e.g. “Lunch and champagne will be provided. All you need to bring is your clothing you’d like to swap!” or “I’m making guacamole and hummus; feel free to bring anything else you’d like to snack on!”)


Beyond a good excuse to see your friends, do some free shopping, and doing something good for the environment, clothing swaps are also a great way to donate to a worthy charity without writing a check.
  • Pick a charity to donate the leftover clothing to the day after the party. (And yes, there will definitely be leftover clothing.) In New York City, I’m a huge fan of Housing Works, but there are also Goodwill and Salvation Army stores around the country. Many suburban grocery stores also have clothing drop-off boxes in their parking lots. You can also look into local thrift stores, or check in with your church or a nearby women’s shelter to see if they accept clothing donations.
  • Make sure to determine if there are any restrictions on what can or can’t be donated ahead of time so you don’t end up driving around town at the last minute with a big box of shoes.
  • Decide this in advance and let all your guests know where the clothing will be going (you can put this on the invitation).

Food & Drink

While you don’t need food to host a party, I think it’s important to have something to offer your guests. If you're on a budget, you can definitely still make this happen. A few ideas:
  • A few bottles of wine or champagne will help guests relax, but there is no need to spend out. Instead of champagne, look for sparkling wine or Prosecco; there are several delicious options for under $10. You only need a few, and you can even ask guests to contribute. Or make a big bowl of punch and let them serve themselves! Don't forget to make sure you have some equally delicious non-alcoholic options for the drivers and non-drinkers.
  • I love a brunch/lunch party with a full buffet, but if you don’t want to make a whole meal, try setting out a selection of small bites and dips from the local gourmet or grocery store that will allow the ladies to graze while shopping. Olives, cheese, grapes, hummus, bread, guacamole, and crudite are universal crowd pleasers. For dessert, check out the recipe index for a selection of easy cakes that you can quickly throw together. Add some strawberries or sliced melon and you're good to go!
  • Though the idea might seem good in theory, I would avoid a potluck since your guests will already be lugging in bags of clothing. It's not fair to make them also carry a casserole dish!
  • Avoid messy or saucy foods like pizza, pasta, or fondue; you don’t want people spilling things all over the clothing!

The Day of the Party

  • Plan to have guests arrive at least an hour to an hour and a half BEFORE you start swapping. I had guests arrive between 1-2 and we started the swap at 2:30. This gives everyone a chance to organize their clothing, have a cocktail or two, and get to know each other.
  • Designate “dressing room” areas where guests can try on clothing. This doesn’t have to be totally private (a hidden corner in the next room works nicely), but be sure that it’s well-lit and that you have mirrors available (at least one full-length) so they can see how it looks.
  • Set up a rack or two, where guests can hang the dresses and other clothing they bring. Bed, Bath & Beyond sells some great $20 racks that are collapsible and can be easily stored in a closet or cabinet when not in use. (You can use it to hold people’s coats during winter parties!)
  • Have a flat table or bed where people can display folded items like pants and sweaters. Shoes can go on the floor or on a different surface.

During the Party

  • As guests arrive, show them where to leave their coats and where to set up the clothing and shoes they brought. Advise them to keep an idea of how many items they brought.
  • Once all the guests have arrived and set up, you can begin the swap. Encourage everyone to shop like they would in a regular store and to just grab and try on items that they like. Tell them to keep the original number they brought in mind as a guideline for how many items they can take (don't feel the need to be strict about it though; in the end just let people take what they want).
  • When you notice a lull, or when everyone seems to stop shopping, take over. Go through each unclaimed piece and show it off. If you see someone you think might look good in it, suggest it to her. Do this with every item until everything has had a full consideration.
  • Remind guests that they can easily get things altered if it's not an exact fit. ($30 in alteration fees on a free dress is still an amazing deal!)

The Day After

  • Fold and sort all the unclaimed items into bags, and deliver to the charity you chose.
  • Don't forget to send a thank you note to your guests! You can include photos from the party or let them know how big the final donation was.


  • Have plenty of shopping bags available so that guests can easily bring home their new finds.
  • I’m actively working to bring back the goody bag for adult parties (why should kids get all the fun?) and am a huge fan of sending my guests home with favors. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy: a little bag of candy, a pretty soap or candle, even some homemade cookies make guests feel special and give them something to enjoy the next day. (See how excited Vanessa was to get her goody bag?!)

    For my clothing swap party, I gave each guest a small bottle of hand lotion, a nail file (decorated with illustrations of clothing!), a small basil or parsley growing kit, a little bottle of bubbles, a chocolate truffle, and a candy necklace.

And Finally...

Remember to enjoy yourself! There is no reason why you shouldn't be a guest at your own party. (And as a bonus, the hostess gets one last glance at all the leftover clothing before it gets donated. I found these beautiful shoes after everyone had left!)

So, tell me! Have you ever hosted a clothing swap party? Any other tips that you'd suggest?

New to Always Order Dessert? Consider subscribing to my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates by filling in your address in the box on the right. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!

We Brunched & Swapped (a clothing swap party recap)

Guys, I can now tell you this with 100% certainty: clothing swaps are awesome! And clothing swap brunch parties--with cocktails and delicious food--are double-awesome.

As you may know, I hosted a groovy little clothing swap brunch party on Saturday in my apartment. I invited a random mix of friends and family to join and asked them each to bring along all the clothing, shoes, and accessories that they no longer want (or fit into). I set up racks and hangers so we could display the clothing just like in a chic little boutique. The plan was to get all the girls together, offer them lots of champagne and delicious food, and then set them loose to “shop.”

And the plan worked!

To eat (because this *is* a food blog), I prepared a brunch buffet with a selection of sweet and savory items: a baked spiral ham with a brown sugar glaze, fresh steamed green beans tossed with thinly sliced shallots in a mustard vinaigrette, a big salad of mixed greens with a homemade dressing of lemon juice, garlic, shallots, and olive oil.

A cheese plate, of course, with big bunches of grapes, slices of freshly baked baguette, goat cheese with lavender and fennel pollen, and a small wheel of brie. I made a traditional Tortilla Espanola (Spanish Omelet) with potatoes, onions, and a dash of smoked paprika. I also made a lemony chicken salad that I served over a bed of mixed greens.

I bought some of my absolute favorite par-baked croissants from Fresh Direct and baked them just before the guests arrived so that they would be hot and buttery right out of the oven. [These things are delicious and a regular in my home! If you live in New York and use Fresh Direct, I urge you to try them out immediately!]

I love flavored butters, so I whipped together a stick of softened unsalted butter with a pinch of salt and a 1/4 cup of honey. This made a sweet honey butter that was lovely on walnut raisin rolls.

Every good brunch needs fruit, so I set out a bowl of strawberries and sliced up a cantaloupe. I also put out some snacks and candy in little bowls around the room: dried chili mangos, dried edamame, fruit chips, strawberry licorice twists, chocolate covered pretzels, and raspberry slices.

For dessert, I made a flourless chocolate almond cake (using this recipe, but subbing almond flour for the hazelnut meal). It’s rich and chocolate-y, and also gluten free so that my friend Vanessa could partake.

(And partake she did; even taking home three slices after the party!)

To drink, I had several bottles of rose and sparkling wine chilling in the fridge. I also prepared a huge batch of Passion Fruit Lemonade (my new favorite summer drink) that I served in the mason jar beverage dispenser I was raving about last week.

The nonalcoholic lemonade was paired with a boozy (and pink!) punch. I ran out of gin so I just made this recipe using vodka instead. It was just as delicious, although I may have been a little heavy handed with the vodka (not that I had any complaints!).

I provided the racks and the hangers, and just let the girls arrange their clothing wherever. I originally planned to hand out tickets to keep things fair, but in the end I just asked everyone to remember how much stuff they brought and to stick to that number when selecting stuff to take home.

That worked perfectly, and we had so much clothing leftover that there was enough for everyone to really just take as much as they wanted!

Most of the girls seem to make out very well! Lara, my friend and fellow blogger, got some gorgeous shoes, some jewelry, a few cute dresses, and an awesome little terrycloth romper that I still insist she should pair with roller-skates. ;)

Fellow blogger/writer Stephanie and my coworker Aryanna both got some great dresses (and Steph got the coolest hat!) My mom (yes! I invited my mom) got herself a dress to wear while accompanying my dad to the Emmys last night along with several other pieces.

My future mother-in-law, Tatyana, also made out like a bandit with several dresses, shirts, and some jewelry. As did my future aunt-in-law, Yelena, and future cousin-in-law, Michelle, (the latter of whom scored a really great pink leather purse that will be fabulous for the spring/summer).

I got several dresses, a few pairs of shoes that I can't wait to wear, and some sweaters (a couple of which used to belong to Tatyana who also got one of my former dresses; Eugene noted that seeing his mom and future wife wearing each other’s clothing might prove “confusing.”)

Once everyone had their final selections and had settled back down in their chairs, I jumped up and started hawking some of the unclaimed goods [“How about this sweater? This would be fantastic for a cozy afternoon at home! Or this little slutty dress from Frederick’s of Hollywood? Vanessa try on this hooker dress!”] until every single item had gotten a thorough consideration.

(For the record, Vanessa did try on the hooker dress and she loved it. Also for the record, the hooker dress originally belonged to my mom!)

After the girls went home, I packed up all the leftover clothing, shoes, and accessories (6 huge bags worth) and Eugene and I drove it all over to Housing Works where the goods will be sorted and sold and the money will then go to benefit homeless New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS.

Actually, that's totally a lie. After the girls went home, I ate a plate of leftovers and passed out on the couch. The NEXT DAY, I packed up all the clothing and (with Eugene's help) brought it over to Housing Works.

Good times, clean closets, new clothes without spending money, and a big donation to charity. Have you ever heard of a more perfect win-win-win situation?

Tomorrow I’ll go into more detail on how you can throw your OWN clothing swap party. I highly recommend it!

New to Always Order Dessert? Consider subscribing to my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates by filling in your address in the box on the right. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!

Passion Fruit Lemonade

This easy Passion Fruit Lemonade was a hit at my clothing swap brunch party this past Saturday. Freshly squeezed lemon juice is combined with tart and tropical passion fruit pulp (purchased frozen from the freezer section of my local grocery store) for a cool beverage that tastes like vacation in a glass!

Mix up a big batch and serve in a punch bowl or pitchers at your next gathering (I poured it into my brand new beverage dispenser).

The recipe is non-alcoholic, but if you'd like to kick it up a bit, just keep a bottle of vodka nearby and let your guests add a shot of it to their glass if they'd prefer something a little stronger.

(Some rum would be delicious, too!)

If you can't find frozen passion fruit pulp at the store and don't want to buy it online, you can also halve the simple syrup and add a pint of passion fruit sorbet instead (Ciao Bella makes a good one); it'll melt into the drink and serve to sweeten and impart the passion fruit flavor.

Looking for more something a little boozier? Try this Sparkling Gin Punch, which I learned this past weekend is just as good at the beginning of spring as it is in the dead of winter.

(And just as good today as it was in the 1960s!)

Loved this recipe? Here are three other passion fruit recipes you might like:

And let's connect so you can find out the next time I post! Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates.

Thanks so much for reading! 

Passion Fruit Lemonade
Serves 10-12, can be halved.

2 cups sugar
2 cups water (for simple syrup)
2.5 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups frozen pure (no sugar added) passion fruit pulp [usually available in the freezer section of your supermarket or Latin grocer; look near the frozen Goya brand products. It may be labeled "maracuya" or "parcha" (the Spanish names for the fruit)]
4 cups water (for diluting)
5 cups ice cubes


Combine the two cups of sugar and first two cups of water in a small saucepan over high heat until the water boils. Stir until all the sugar dissolves and remove from heat. Let cool to room temperature.

In a large punchbowl or pitcher, combine the simple syrup, 2.5 cups lemon juice, 2 cups frozen passion fruit pulp (still frozen and broken up into chunks), 4 cups water, and 4 cups ice cubes. Stir well to combine and leave in the refrigerator to chill for at least 1 hour (up to 4). Note that it will be very strong at first; the ice will melt so that come time to serve it, the lemonade will be perfectly chilled and balanced.

Serve immediately. (I've stored leftovers in the fridge for up to 2 days, just stirring a bit before serving.)

What are you up to this weekend?

You have no idea how excited I was to wake up this morning and realize it was Friday. It kind of snuck up on me this week, which makes it all the better. Almost like checking the mail and finding a package you forgot your ordered.

I’m hosting my little ladies Clothing Swap Brunch Party tomorrow at my apartment, and have been spending all my evenings this week running around preparing for it. Eugene has been an absolute saint; even giving up a night out with the boys last night to help me carry packages home from Bed, Bath & Beyond and Pottery Barn. And then he happily drove me to Target & BJs on what was quite possibly the worst night EVER to go to Target & BJs due to the fact that it was both the 15th of the month (AKA the day many families in our neighborhood get their grocery money) and the Yankees were playing (our local Target & Bjs is next door to Yankee Stadium).

This means it took us two hours to, essentially, buy a ham and some grapes. Eugene was starving by the time we got home so I made us lobster ravioli in Newburg sauce for dinner. We ate it sitting on the couch while watching reruns of The Real Housewives of New York. At midnight.

Here are the things that have caught my eye this week. I hope you have a great weekend planned (tell me what you're doing in the comments, Ok? I'm nosy!) As for me, I'll be spending most of tonight and tomorrow morning in my kitchen cooking for the party (that's my kitchen in the photo up there).




I love vintage etiquette and educational videos. Here is a fabulous Emily Post video from 1947 on dinner party etiquette.

Did you love that cooking flash mob in Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution last week? Yeah, I did too. And now I can't stop listening to the song they danced to. It's called Jungle Flames by the band The DNC. Listen to it here.

By the way, you DID sign the petition to support the food revolution already, right? Right?

How to make your own lunch box ice pack. (Or "bump in the head" ice pack.)

Old fashioned paper stripey straws. (but I recommend you do what I did and get more for less by buying similar ones here)

And you should also get this adorable bakery twine. This is also the store where I buy the vintage paper ice cream cups I use when I make ice cream.

This morning I remembered just how very cool Lenny Kravitz is: (Can you believe this song is now 12 years old?)

I ordered two pounds of these Dried Chili Mangos this week and am officially obsessed. They're amazing. (This store, btw, is one of my absolute faves for ordering baking supplies. They sell all kinds of flours, and almond and other nut meals in bulk.)

When I'm looking for party inspiration, I love staring at the dessert table photos on Amy Atlas's site

Rhubarb Lime Spritzer seems like a perfect way to get through spring and summer.

And you know how much I love passion fruit!

I have this dream where I have a huge kitchen and one wall of the kitchen is just built in shelves that I fill with all kinds of gorgeous plates and dishes, with one entire shelf dedicated solely to glass cake stands. Because I just love cake stands.

Julia Child would throw cilantro on the floor!

I'm in Real Simple Magazine!

I spent much of this morning at work thinking up excuses to walk past my office mailbox. Located in the kitchen area near the water cooler and tea, it's usually more of an afterthought. I don't really get much mail at work, save for the occasional invoice (which goes straight to accounting) or--more often--catalogs from Pottery Barn and the Oriental Trading Company. Today however, I had a reason to keep checking. Today, the May issue of Real Simple magazine containing an article about my mom and me was scheduled to arrive!

It was probably about 11AM when I finally spotted it. I'd walked over to get a bit of milk for my cereal and there it was, its characteristically thick and wide body slightly curved in the narrow box. I grabbed it and ran back to my desk, rhw cup of dry cereal in my left hand, Real Simple flapping in the air in my right.

"It's here!" I breathlessly announced to my coworkers who knew all about it. I set the magazine down and flipped quickly to it, everyone crowding around me to see what the commotion was.

And then I found it! On page 240 part of the story called From My Mother's Kitchen, a 1/4 page photo of my mom and me cooking (though really, I was just stirring a pot of boiling water), a brief article, my recipe for Camarones Enchilados (or deviled shrimp), and--on page 241--a gorgeous full-page photo of my beautiful shrimp shot by the fantastic photographer Ditte Isager.

I was so honored to be part of this story. It's a Mother's Day piece that features six women talking about a treasured family recipe that they learned from their mother. I talked about Camarones Enchilados, which is a wonderful dish of shrimp stewed in a spicy tomato sauce.

You should read the article for the story, but what I will tell you (what isn't in the magazine) is that this has become one of my favorite things to make. I actually updated the recipe a bit from what my mother originally taught me (sorry, Mama!) by adding smoked Spanish paprika and serving it differently. She serves it with white rice, salad, and plantains; I prefer it on charred whole wheat tortillas with a side of sliced avocado and a bit of salty white cheese. The recipe in the magazine is my updated version, but sentiment comes straight from my mom.

Another cool thing to look out for: check out the wooden pilon (Spanish for mortar and pestle)that is on the shelf above the stove I'm cooking on. That's my real pilon that my mom got me in Puerto Rico several years ago; I use it regularly and I brought it with me to the photo shoot.

The photo shoot was one of the most fun parts of the whole thing. My mom and I filled bags with clothing we wanted to wear and we met the team from Real Simple at a gorgeous loft down in the West Village. They welcomed us with an amazing breakfast, did our hair and make-up, and helped us choose outfits from what we'd brought.

I had just come back from Puerto Rico (hence my very dark tan in the photo; I'm not usually that golden). I had also been freaking out a bit because I happened to come down with a ridiculous and rather inopportune case of UV poisoning on the last day of the trip. You can't tell from the photo, but I'm actually covered in a prickly UV rash from my neck all the way down to my toes! I mentioned it the photographer and photo editors who assured me that the final photo wouldn't show it (Yay, Photoshop!).

After we shot our part, they let us hang around while they shot the food. It was my first time watching a professional food photography shoot and I was absolutely fascinated. The food was set up on a rustic wooden table next to one of the huge windows and the photographer stood up on a ladder to get the shot. It was exciting seeing the way that all the editors worked together to set everything up. I wish I could have a few assistants like that when I'm taking my blog photos! (Come to think of it, I also wouldn't mind having a make-up artist and hairstylist around to touch me up every few minutes. That would be cool too.)

I am, as I'm sure you can imagine, absolutely delighted! The subscriber copies of the May issue are already arriving, and it will be on newsstands this weekend. I'd love it if you pick up a copy and let me know what you think! Try the recipe too (it's a really good one). The article isn't up on their website yet, but the recipe is (they spelled it wrong on the site, though; it's enchilados with an "o," NOT enchiladas with an "a.")

And if you do try it and like it, it would be awesome if you'd let the folks at Real Simple know so. Because I would really love it if they were to ask me back. ;)

[Photo Credits: Scans from Real Simple May 2010 issue; photo of Yolanda Ramos and Alejandra Ramos by Ditte Isager; photo of shrimp in black pan by Alejandra Ramos]

New to Always Order Dessert? Consider subscribing to my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates by filling in your address in the box on the right. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!

On wedding planning and other matters

Did you have a lovely weekend? It was a bit chillier than I would have liked, but we still made the best of it. On Saturday, Eugene, my dad, and I went to check out my first choice wedding venue, 632 on Hudson, an incredible three-story townhouse downtown near the meatpacking district.

It used to be a sausage factory back in the 1800s, but was converted into this absolutely gorgeous home decorated with eclectic antiques and details. It's like each room has it's own theme--from art deco to Asian to Tuscan farmhouse--and yet it all melds together beautifully.

I'd been kind of obsessing with this place since I saw a story in the NY Times about a wedding that took place there. I was really happy when we finally saw it because it was just as gorgeous (perhaps even more so!) as I'd imagined.

Of course, this being New York City, it's a little bit on the pricey side of the spectrum for the space alone (not even including things like catering, rentals, etc.) so it's definitely something we'll have to think about. It's kind of amazing though because it really fits the vision that I have in my head quite perfectly; that being something a little less traditional and much more like a relaxed and flowing old-fashioned house party than the usual seated "check one for chicken or fish" type of event.

Fortunately (for the budget), there are already a lot of typically expensive things that I know are not that important to me in terms of the party. I'm not, for example, really all that interested in flowers; I may even skip them altogether and stick with lots of candles and some kind of fun alternative like those big oversized paper flowers I was raving about last week; mostly because I love the kind of Mad Hatter's tea party feel of them. Or I may go with something edible like bouquets of giant lollipops. I'm planning on making my own sparkly heirloom bouquet out of bits and pieces of flea market costume jewelry and brooches from family members.

I'm going to design the invites and other stationary myself. I have no need for calligraphy or expensive letterpress. I really don't want a video (I think they're annoying; I'd rather my friends just bring their Flips and record stuff they think is fun so we can upload to YouTube later) and I don't really want any limos or cars; the ceremony and reception will be in the same place so there is no need for that since I can get ready there. (I also kind of just love the idea of being whisked away, with Eugene in his tux and me in my wedding dress, in a classic NY yellow cab at the end of the night.)

One of the things I was talking about with my dad (on saturday as we considered the option of a destination wedding) was that I really do want to do as much as I possibly can myself; not to save money (although there is definitely that) but rather because this is what I love to do. I love to throw and organize and plan parties, and that includes being a part of every little detail, from designing my own invitations and doing my own make-up to making the cake, decor, and favors. I so wish that I could cater it myself, but even I can admit that's totally ridiculous.

But for the most part, I don't want to hire other people to do what I know I can do well myself; what makes it special for me is to be able to say, at the end of the night, I did this. (And fortunately I'm blessed with a fiance who is OK with this; "hey, it's less work for me!" he happily says).

Besides the above wedding planning, I did a little bit of housekeeping here this weekend. Most notably, I changed the commenting system over to Disqus. I'm really excited about this latter change because it's going to allow me to reply directly via email to any questions that you may have. So be sure to ask away! :)

I also had a bit of fun playing around with Google Search Stories. Have you tried it? If you remember that wonderful Google commercial about the Parisian love story that was on during the Super Bowl (not that I was watching) you might know what I mean. The application lets you enter search terms to create your own little story and then turns it all into a little movie via YouTube. I created the one below.

I hope you enjoy!


Photo Credits: 632 on Hudson photos by Toni Meneguzzo; brooch bouquet photo from; cake tiers by Alejandra Ramos (me!)

Have a beautiful weekend!

Can you believe it's the weekend again?

I am so glad! This weekend, I'll be doing my first bit of official wedding planning. Specifically, Eugene and I have an appointment to go check out a possible wedding venue called 632 on Hudson. It's actually my favorite (in theory and on paper and in my daydreams) so I'm very excited and hoping it will be just as fantastic in real life. Fingers crossed, please!

I'm also busy planning the menu, decorations, and other details for the Clothing Swap Brunch I'm hosting next weekend at my apartment for a few girlfriends. I'm stoked because I haven't thrown a "girls only" party in several years; the last one was a "ladies who lunch" party I co-hosted with my friend Anne, back when we both lived in DC (she's now in Chicago).

Hope you enjoy this collection of links that have inspired me or caught my eye this week! (And do be sure to let me know about any interesting things you've come across!)


Planning for my ladies brunch has me all excited about glass cold beverage dispensers with little spigots. Crate & Barrel has a really classic one on the cover of their latest catalog. Bed, Bath & Beyond has an inexpensive but sturdy looking version. But I admit that my FAVORITE is this charming Mason Jar drink dispenser that I spotted at Pottery Barn yesterday afternoon.

In fact, I'm heading over there right after work today to bring it home. The plan is to fill it with gorgeous mint lemonade or perhaps something pretty pink and boozy; just perfect for a ladies lunch!

Famous chefs teaching basic cooking tricks: Learn to roast a chicken with Thomas Keller! Chop onions with Anthony Bourdain! Make an omelet with Jacques Pepin! And learn the secret to a classic red sauce from Scott "I hate cheese with fish" Conant.

Two new blogs I encountered and instantly fell in love with this week: Apron Anxiety by Alyssa Shelasky and this one (which doesn't really have a name) by Caitlin Dentino, who just seems like a really cool girl that I'd probably like to hang with in real life.

You know I plan to bake my own wedding cake, and when I spotted this gorgeous technique, I decided I need to master it. How perfect would this be for our wedding cake?

Spectacular foyer decor ideas. (The hot pink/black/white one is my favorite!)

Wicked cool party banners that would work for any kind of gathering.

I just love the look of these little lime & ricotta cheesecakes. And I also own those tiny springform pans she baked them in!

This chic black & white apron has a very Parisian feel to it.

Have you ever tried LaVanilla perfumes? They're kind of amazing! I've been using their scents for the past couple years. I love Vanilla Grapefruit, but my current favorite is Vanilla Passion Fruit. They're wonderful, but beware that they'll leave you smelling rather edible; the office manager at work is forever telling me that I "smell like a cake." Which is just fine with me!

I've been reading this book on the subway all week. It's full of wonderful little retro housekeeping and entertaining tips. And I found out there are a whole bunch of these mid-century cookbook facsimiles. I'm adding all of them to my wishlist asap!

New to Always Order Dessert? Consider subscribing to my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates by filling in your address in the box on the right. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!

Bay Scallops in Brown Butter Cream Sauce

There are some nights when I come home from work feeling so exhausted that I tell Eugene, "I'm tired. I don't think I'm going to cook tonight." He'll nod and simply say, "OK, do you want to order something? Should I just make a sandwich?" No," I reply as I get up and walk into the kitchen. "I'll figure something out."

A little while later, I'll walk back out holding a couple plates that look like the one above. Eugene will roll his eyes and say, "Man...I'm SO glad you didn't cook tonight."

I realize that this sounds kind of ridiculous, but the point is just to show that there are dishes--even ones as pretty-looking as this one--that are pretty pain-free to make. Even (or especially!) on those days when you feel like you just don't have it in you. The trick is just making sure you have the right ingredients on hand.

Last week, I did an interview for a magazine during which I confessed to the reporter that one of my secrets for getting weekday meals on the table quickly is frozen seafood. Not, mind you, those oddly rectangular pieces of pre-flavored fish "filets", but rather the large bags of frozen raw shrimp or bay scallops that you can usually find at warehouse stores like BJs or Costco.

I like to keep a bag or two of these in the freezer so that on those evenings when I get home late from work, I can still quickly throw together a satisfying meal with very little effort. I like to think of them as my kind of convenient foods. Not processed and loaded with scary unfamiliar ingredients, but rather foods that even in their natural state are simply and naturally convenient.

The beauty of frozen shrimp or bay scallops is that you can always keep them on hand, but you don't ever have to plan ahead. While most other meats and fish freeze are wonderful to have in the freezer, they still require a bit of advanced planning. I, for example, ALWAYS forget to pull the steaks or pork chops out of the freezer the morning (or night) before I want to cook them. Often this will happen to me 2-3 days in a row before I manage to get my act together. I think it must be hereditary; while we were growing up, my mother regularly would call home from the office asking someone to "please take the chicken out of the freezer," so that it would be defrosted by the time she got home from work.

Hence these wonderful little bay scallops! Which don't need to be thawed, and which cook so quickly that they can literally just be stirred into a simmering sauce or hot pan while still frozen.

I came up with this particular recipe on a night when both groceries and patience were in dangerously low supply. A stick of butter, simmered on the stove until nutty and brown became the basis for the sauce. A few herbs, a splash of cream, and a few generous handfuls of the sweet little bay scallops where all I needed to round out the dish, which I served on a bed of whole wheat spaghetti (because I firmly believe the whole wheat cancels out all that naughty butter and cream).

You know I love when you play around with my recipes and make them your own, so if you're not a scallop fan, remember that you can easily substitute shrimp, or even small pieces of chicken (adjust the cooking time to make sure the latter is fully cooked if you go that route). The sauce is also lovely on seared bay scallops. Heck! It's actually even good without any kind of meat or fish over the pasta.

New to Always Order Dessert? Consider subscribing to my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates by filling in your address in the box on the right. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!

Bay Scallops in Brown Butter Cream Sauce
Serves 2, can be doubled

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
12 oz dry whole wheat linguine or spaghetti
2 garlic cloves, smashed
3/4 cup heavy cream or half & half
1/4 cup sherry or white wine
1 lb frozen or fresh bay scallops
1 cup parsley, roughly chopped
Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Place a large pot of water to boil.

Place stick of butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Let butter cook until golden brown with a nutty aroma. Typically at this point I would ask you to strain the butter so that the solids are removed, leaving you with a nice clear browned butter. I find, however, that for a quick meal like this, it's perfectly OK to just pour off the top 3/4 of the butter into the skillet you'll be cooking the sauce in; the solids will have sunk to the bottom anyway and won't get in the final dish.

Season the boiling water and add the whole wheat pasta. Cook for 7-8 minutes or until al dente as directed.

While the pasta cooks, in a separate large skillet over medium heat, pour in the top 3/4 of the brown butter as described above, and add the garlic cloves. Let cook for two minutes before adding the 3/4 cup of cream and the 1/4 cup of sherry.

Stir together and bring up to a simmer. Add the bay scallops and stir until well coated in the sauce. Stir in the chopped parsley and season with salt and black pepper.

Let cook for 2-3 more minutes or until the bay scallops are all cooked (they will look opaque and crackle a bit at the sides). Serve the scallops and accompanying sauce immediately over the cooked and drained pasta.

Farro, Beet & Citrus Salad w/ Goat Cheese

I realize I've had this wicked salted fudge recipe in your face for the past few days, so I figured we'd start this week off by talking about something just a tad bit more virtuous. (I promise I'll be back to talking about cake by Friday!)

This farro salad is definitely going to play an important role in my repertoire this spring. Mostly because it's delicious, but also because it's delightfully easy to throw together, and because it literally (best part!) keeps for about a week in the fridge once made. This means I can toss it together on a lazy Sunday afternoon, and then take it to work for lunch throughout the week until I get sick of it. It's meant to be eaten cool and keeps well so you can pack it into your picnic basket or take it with you for lunch on an airplane (lest you have to shell out 7 bucks for a beef jerky "snack pack"). Once you get tired of eating it as a salad, the leftovers can be re-purposed quite easily. In my house, my healthy weekday salad became a creamy and very cheesy breakfast "risotto" come Saturday morning. (More about that later...)

I first learned about farro back when I was in culinary school in Florence, but I admit that I was never really that interested in it until now. Farro, though not quite as well known here as risotto and pasta, is quite common in Italy. Essentially whole spelt (which may sound a bit more familiar to you), it's very similar in texture to brown rice or barley, but with a much more pleasant, almost nutty, taste. Some die-hard fans claim the uncooked grains smell like Tuscany, but I'm afraid my memories of Tuscany smell more like rolling tobacco and cheap wine so I can't really confirm that.

There is a bit of work involved when preparing farro, but it's that hands-off lazy kind of work; more waiting than fussing. The grains should be soaked first for about 20-30 minutes, much in the same way you might soak dried beans or bulgar wheat (the latter actually makes a good substitute for farro if you don't have any on hand). I simply toss them in a pot and cover with water until it's about an inch above the surface, then just leave it on the counter while I run off to watch an episode of Community. By the time the show is over, the farro is about ready to cook. I strain all the water out and then add 6 cups of chicken broth, a bit of salt, and a crack of pepper and let it simmer for another 30 minutes (or an episode of Parks & Recreation). Once the show is over, the grains are tender, I drain them (reserving the chicken broth for another meal) and spread them out on a cookie sheet to cool.

The salad making part is really simple and easily adaptable to whatever ingredients you may have on hand. For this recipe, I added the cooled farro to a big bowl and drizzled it generously with good fruity olive oil. I tossed in two large roasted and diced beets, two big handfuls of baby arugula, and a peeled and segmented orange. In a separate small bowl, I whisked together a teaspoon of strawberry preserves, a tablespoon of lemon juice, and a couple tablespoons of good balsamic vinegar. I added a few teaspoons of this to the mix and tossed everything together well until coated. I served it in big bowls and topped with a few pieces of crumbled goat cheese. The sweetness of the beets, oranges, strawberry, and balsamic are wonderful against the rich nuttiness of the farro. The arugula adds a bit of lightness to it. The salty and tangy goat cheese and the sour notes from the balsamic and citrus balance the whole dish out perfectly.

At the grocery store, look for farro in the pasta and grain aisle, perhaps near the imported packages (it usually comes from Italy). A package at a store like Whole Foods will typically cost about 7-9 dollars which may seem like a lot, but consider that, much like rice, a little goes a long way. One cup of uncooked farro makes about 4 entree servings; more if you're serving it as a side dish. It's also packed with protein, good carbs, and other nutrients so you're definitely getting quite a bit of bang for your buck.

If you're wondering how you'll use it, remember that the grains can be added to soup or to the bottom of a braised dish (it needs some kind of liquid to cook). You can also make a creamy risotto-like dish with it much the same way you would with arborio rice, or you can cheat and do what I did on Saturday morning: combine a cup of cooked farro (perhaps left over from this salad!) with a cups of sauteed mushrooms, a 1/4 cup of heavy cream, and 3 tablespoons of cream cheese in a 3 quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring throughout. Season with cracked black pepper and salt before serving. It's a lovely creamy dish that's all kinds of comforting and (when starting with the cooked grains) takes just about 15 minutes to get on the table.

New to Always Order Dessert? Consider subscribing to my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates by filling in your address in the box on the right. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!

Farro, Beet & Citrus Salad w/ Goat CheeseServes 4 as a main course or 6 as a side dish


1 cup uncooked farro
6 cups chicken broth
2 medium-large beets, roasted and diced
2-3 large handfuls of baby arugula
1 large orange, peeled, segmented and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3 oz goat cheese, crumbled

For the dressing
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon strawberry or raspberry preserves
Juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper

Pour the farro into a large pot or bowl and cover with water. let soak for 30 minutes to an hour. drain, discard water, and return soaked farro to pot.

Cover soaked and drained farro with 6 cups chicken broth and bring to a boil. Lower heat and let simmer for 30 minutes or until farro is tender. Drain farro (reserve chicken broth for other use) and spread a baking sheet to cool. (about 15 minutes)

While farro is cooling, make dressing. Whisk together the olive oil, balsamic, preserves, lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper.

When farro is cool, combine in large bowl with diced beets, arugula, orange segments, and dressing. Toss well and serve topped with crumbled goat cheese.


Happy Easter Weekend!!

It's a gorgeous (Good!) Friday and I'm so excited for this weekend! Do you have any fun plans?

To celebrate the beautiful weather that has finally arrived in New York, I want to share a few random links to things that have caught my eye and inspired me this week. Some are food related. Some are wedding related. Some are simply lovely!




Mallory from the Salty Cod got married!! AND she made her own cake (just like I plan to).

A new friend gave me this Wedding Cake Art & Design book the other day. I've been getting lots of ideas from it.

Gorgeous giant paper flowers! I definitely plan on incorporating these into my wedding decor (for now they're just lovely-fying my living room).

Ramshackle Glam! My latest blog addiction (don't you just love the name?!)

I'm definitely going to be trying my hand at making some homemade mascarpone this weekend!

Pretty white porcelain tumblers from Williams Sonoma (definitely going on my registry).

Why oh why can't we have Cadbury Cream Eggs all year long like they do in Europe?

Turn discarded wine corks into a cork board!

I love going into Flickr and typing the phrase "chocolate bunnies" into the search box.

And even better than chocolate bunnies? A bread bunny!
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