"The people who give you their food give you their heart" - Cesar Chavez

Monday, June 28, 2010

Milan, Florence, Rome, Sicily!

Dear Readers,

I apologize for being MIA for a while. I have actually left New York to take up a cooking opportunity in Italy, go on a big adventure, and ultimately, move back to California. Until I am settled and back in San Francisco, my posts will most likely be a bit sporadic however I have already had so much delicious food and experiences here that as soon as I get the time (and internet connection!) I am looking forward to a serious blog update!

I will miss NYC and all the wonderful people there terribly but I know I will be back for visits and that I will never forget everything I learned there and all the incredible people I met.

At the moment, I am getting a crash course in Italy culture, food and landscape with my good friend from CA, Julietta. On July 8th I will start working at a villa/vineyard in Puglia, southern region of Italy.

Thanks for checking out my blog and I hope you return for another visit!


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day Tie Cakes

It's not very often that I get emails about my blog so when I was recently contacted by Matt, who wanted to put up a guest post. Matt is all about neckties. He loves them as you can tell from his blog Tipedia. Matt did this awesome post that was essentially a collection of cakes he found that were decorated like ties! Here it is!

Not Your Father's Ordinary Day Ties

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Andy & Yihsin's Vietnamese Spring Rolls

I recently made summer rolls for dinner and while they were yummy, they were not even close to Vietnamese spring rolls. My first encounter with Vietnamese spring rolls was when I went to Hanoi, Vietnam while studying abroad in Singapore. Every little nook and alley was jam packed with small plastic tables and colored chairs, the kind you used in Kindergarten while doing art projects. Women were crouched down with large flat pans and mounds of lightly fried Vietnamese spring rolls oozing with delicious aromas and flavors. Throughout the night markets and at little cafes, you would have the option of fried or fresh spring rolls. I loved the crispy outside of the fried ones but in the hot and humid weather I nearly always opted for the fresh spring rolls. On a recent dinner gathering, my good friends Andy and Yihsin teamed up to make and roll  the most delicious spring rolls I've had since the alleys of Vietnam. Here is a picture of Andy and Yihsin, working a filling and rolling assembly line to make their own mound of delicious spring rolls:
They served their spring rolls with a delicious fish sauce pictured here:

Rice papers
Rice noodles
Bean sprouts
Beets, thinly sliced like matchsticks
Peanuts, crushed
Carrots, shredded

For sauce:
Fish sauce
Jalapenos, diced

1. Stir sugar and salt in a pot of boiling water until it dissolves.  Pour it into a large boil filled with ice. Put in the raw shrimp and let it sit in the brine refrigerated for 20-60 minutes. Remove from brine and drain and rinse it thoroughly.
2. Cook the rice noodles according to directions.
3. Mix all the ingredients for the fish sauce, cover and refrigerate.
4. Working with one wrapper at a time, place the wrapper in a shallow pan of room temperature water, about 7-10 seconds per a side. Then place the sheet on a plate, fill it with all  the ingredients and wrap into a summer roll. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Andy's Strawberry Millefeuille

My good friend Andy is a huge fan of the Top Chef show. So as you can imagine, he was really excited when he got to go to the Top Chef's, Anita Lo's, restaurant, Annisa. He got to have the special Chef's tasting menu with 7 courses! For the dessert course he had a strawberry millefeuille with ricotta, pink peppercorns and a balsamic reduction. I did some research on this dessert and it turns out Annisa doesn't even have a pastry chef, Anita Lo does it all herself! I also learned that "Mille-Feuille" is French for "a thousand leaves." I guess that is where the
Last Sunday evening I had Andy and Yihsin over for dinner and they had constructed their own version of the strawberry millefeuille in Andy's kitchen. He adapted his strawberry millefeuille from this recipe from Anito Lo in Self magazine. It was so delicious that even though Andy and Yihsin brought a full plate of them over, I had them all that night! They had delicious layers of buttery phyllo with a creamy ricotta filling and a touch of lemon and layers of strawberries. This was a wonderful wonderful dessert!
Andy's Strawberry Millefeuille
(Adapted from Anita Lo's millefeuille)

4 sheets phyllo dough, thawed according to package directions

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, divided
4 teaspoons sugar, divided
1 1/2 cups ricotta

1/4 cup sugar
Zest of 2 lemons
Fresh lemon juice
Strawberries, sliced

1. Heat oven to 325°. Phyllo: Brush a large, shallow baking sheet with some butter and lay 1 phyllo sheet on top. (Cover remaining phyllo with a damp cloth.) Brush phyllo with butter and sprinkle on 1 tsp sugar. Layer another phyllo sheet on top and press down. Repeat layering until you use all sheets, ending with 1 tsp sugar on top. Cut phyllo stack into 32 equal squares. Bake until squares are golden brown and crisp, 15 to 17 minutes.
2. Mix ricotta, sugar, lemon zest and a pinch of salt; add lemon juice to taste.
3. Place a dab of ricotta mix on a plate. Top with 1 phyllo square, 1 tbsp ricotta and fig slices. Repeat for a total of 4 layers.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Best Cuban Sandwhich: Kuba Kuba

My good friend has been telling me about Kuba Kuba forever. This place was the best Cuban food he ever had and I was determined to try it at some point. While in Richmond for his friends' wedding we got to go to Kupa Kupa for lunch and so we shared their classic Cubano sandwich served with a side of tostones and a couple of 7 ounce Miller High Life ponies to wash it all down. I can't say that I've had many Cuban sandwiches in my life, but I can say that this was delicious! The roast pork was melt-in-your-mouth tender, the Smithfield ham had that perfect subtle salty flavor, the Swiss cheese was wonderfully melted over the sides and the pickles added the perfect amount of crunch and the hot pressed Kuban bread was very soft with a slight crunchy crust. This entire sandwich was only $6.95, which, when compared to Manhattan prices, is a steal. And here are the adorable 7 ounce beverages:
Kuba Kuba
1601 Park Avenue
Richmond, VA

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Pam's Vegetarian Quesadilla

Friday was my last day at work and for the past six months I had the pleasure of sitting next to this awesome and very funny girl named Pam. She sent me this picture from her phone (shout out to the Droid!) of a quesadilla she made for dinner. While the picture is slightly blurry, you can tell it looks very yummy! The recipe is quick, easy, healthy and filling. Enjoy!

Pam's Vegetarian Quesadillas
(Makes 3 quesadillas)

1 can organic black beans
1 whole tomato, diced
1/2 white onion, chopped
2/3 cup shredded cheese, (Pam recommends Monterrey and Cheddar)
1/2 avocado, sliced
3 whole wheat tortillas

1. In a pan, saute the black beans, tomato, and onion. Let the mixture simmer for about 10 minutes.
2. Place a tortilla on a plate and sprinkle the cheese on it, place the avocado slices on it. Microwave the plate for 30 seconds.
3. Place the bean mixture on the tortilla, fold, press, enjoy!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Halibut Fish Sticks with Dill Caper Tartar Sauce

When most people hear the words "fish sticks" they think of those unidentifiable pieces of breaded fish that come packaged in a box and we heat up in the oven and eat with ketchup. I remember my mom heating up fish sticks and I loved them! We usually had them with ketcup, a side of steamed green peas and a warm loaf of San Francisco sourdough. For me, fish sticks out of a box is comfort food. So, taking it to the next level, I decided to make a healthier, maybe a slightly gourmet, version of fish sticks. And, since they are supposed to be served with tartar sauce, I did that too. I had some really great ingredients to work with: like my good friend's mom's homemade dill pickles! Fresh halibut. Honey panko crumbs. On a sunny Sunday some friends and I met for a picnic and I brought these fish sticks, some may call them fish nuggets due to their size, and tartar sauce. I will definitely be making these again and most likely in a larger quantity. The great part, is that these are super easy to make and healthy.

Halibut Fish Sticks with Dill Caper Tartar Sauce
(Adapted from recipe on epicurious.com)

For tartar sauce:
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
2 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons drained capers
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 heaping tablespoons chopped dill pickles
1 tablespoon juice from dill pickle jar

For fish sticks:
2 pounds halibut fillets, cut into strips
2 cups honey panko
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed

1. For the tartar sauce, mix the ingredients in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
2. For the fish sticks: whisk the eggs in a small bowl. Pour the panko crumbs onto a shallow dish.  Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium high heat. Douse the halibut strips in the egg mixture then generously coat with the panko. Place them on the pan and let cook until golden brown on each side, about 2-3 minutes per side. Serve with tartar sauce.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Summer Slaw

I needed some inspiration for a salad to make for a little evening dinner so I went to Whole Foods to browse their salad bar and their combinations are always delicious. I saw  few different types of slaw so I decided to give it shot and make my own. The flavors and textures were really delicious and the sweetness of the cranberries and apples is a great addition. The key for a good slaw is to make every vegetable or fruit piece as close to the same size as possible. A fork full of evenly chopped items is really lovely. I used a honey and lemon based dressing for this slaw to keep the apples from browning and add some sweetness to the bitterness of some of the vegetables. This dish keeps well too so you can enjoy leftovers for lunch or dinner.
Summer Slaw

3 broccoli stalks, finely sliced into matchsticks
3 carrots, finely sliced into matchsticks
1/2 head green cabbage, finely sliced into matchsticks
1 red apple, sliced into matchsticks
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 white wine
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons lemon juice

1. Place all the fruits and vegetables in a large bowl and mix to incorporate.
2. In a small glass, mix the ingredients for the dressing until you have an even consistency. Drizzle the dressing over the salad. Cover with plastic wrap and chill until ready to serve. At least for 15 min.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Virginia is for Lovers....and Really Delicious Food

I recently went for a long weekend with my good friend for his good friends' wedding. The groom is a food aficionado so I knew that I could expect some delicious cuisine throughout their wedding festivities. The couple had their first date at the upscale restaurant, Acacia, so that is where they held a lovely pre-wedding dinner reception for their family and out of town guests. The menu at Acacia changes every night which is exciting and Andy emailed my friend a copy of the planned menu ahead of time so I was able to get excited and figure out what to order. Just as a little extra shrimp for the barbecue, the Acacia chef, Dale Reitzer, was named America's Best New Chef in 1999 by Food and Wine Magazine. Before the food parade began, there were specialty cocktails being prepared at the bar. I'm no cocktail connoisseur but I've had a few good ones from a couple places in New York. I had a really fresh and creative cocktail made with cucumber, gin, and a bunch of other ingredients I forget. It was very spring-time and tasty and served beautifully in a cocktail glass and a beaker for extra:
The show stoppers were the hors d'oeuvres served with cocktails before dinner. Each bite was amazing but what really stood out was the spoonfuls of tuna ceviche and the crab cakes with maple bacon butter. The tuna ceviche was spectacular. Each ingredient included in the spoonful was exactly the same size, which, while we don't often think of that, really adds to the pleasure of a dish. Here is a picture of the tuna ceviche topped with a small bit of tempura:
Next up were the mini crab cakes with the maple bacon butter. These crab cakes were melt-in-your-mouth good. Addictive, warm, lovely crab flavor with subtle bacon undertones all melded together with maple butter...need I say more?
For appetizers we had a delicious salad of apples, raisins, blue cheese, roasted cashews, mixed greens and a drizzle of celery seed vinaigrette.
For main course I had a sauteed grouper with Parmesan risotto and American caviar sauce. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of this! I may have accidentally deleted it or it may have been so delicious that I never even took a picture....this is impossible actually because I always snap before first bite. The dessert was definitely like the fireworks show you weren't expecting. I had the luxury of trying each dessert listed on the menu because my table was open to sharing and my friend isn't really into desserts so I got to eat his too! The desserts had an excellent variation in flavor and texture. Each one deserves a pedestal of its own. Our first dessert pageant contestant was a rhubarb strawberry crisp with coconut sorbet:
Next up was the sweet potato cheesecake with a caramelized marshmallow on top and candied pecans. This was maybe a little out of season but still really delicious and beautiful!
Last but certainly not least was the chocolate espresso cake with coca nibs and vanilla bean ice cream:
Sorry for the really bad picture....I had a couple cucumber cocktails by this point...
2601 West Carry Street
Richmond, VA

Monday, June 7, 2010

Celadon's Delicious Chocolate Chip Cookies

One recent evening, after our little enchilada feast, my roommate Celadon made some delicious chocolate chip cookies! She is a big fan of the Tate's Bakeshop Chocolate Chip Cookies so she decided to make a version of them. While Tate's are normally thin and crisp, Celadon's cookies had the perfect amount of chewiness while still maintaining a little crispness around the edges.

Celadon's Delicious Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Tate's Bake Shop recipe: Makes 4 1/2 dozen)

2 cups all-purpose pour

1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup salted butter
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon water
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two baking sheets.
2. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt. In another large bowl, cream the butter and sugars. Add the water and vanilla. Mix the ingredients until they are just combined.
3. Add the eggs and mix them lightly. Stir in the flour mixture. Fold in the chocolate chips. Don’t over mix the dough. Drop the cookies 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets using one tablespoon measurements.
4. Bake them for 12 minutes or until the edges and centers are brown. Remove the cookies to a wire rack to cool.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Blueberry Crumb Bars

It's picnic time finally! Perfect consistent weather, minimal wind, good friends, a few blankets, fresh grass, and a potluck picnic. My good friend Andy and I had a little last minute picnic in our apartment complex park that is newly opened. I have two bags of large blueberries frozen in my refrigerator and I have been really wanting to use them in a dessert. I decided to make a fruit crumble bar and I adapted my recipe from one I found on epicurious.com. This crumble is delicious, fruity, moist and tastes incredible with a little ice cream. This is very easy and good, I am looking forward to making this again and using different fruits. A little tip I learned from this recipe is that these bars are best enjoyed the day they are baked. You can prepare the crust and crumb topping two days before and cover and chill and assemble and bake when ready.
Blueberry Crumb Bars
(Adapted from epicurious.com)

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup old fashioned oats
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup chilled unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1 12 ounce package frozen blueberries
1 cup strawberry preserves
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel

For crust:
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter the bottom of a 13x9x2 inch glass baking dish.
2. In a large bowl whisk the flour, oats, sugar, salt and cinnamon. Add in the diced butter and use your fingertips to work the mixture into small clumps.Transfer two cups of the mixture to a smaller bowl and mix in the walnut pieces. Place the remaining mixture evenly on the bottom of the glass dish and bake until golden brown 15-20 minutes.
For filling:
3. Mix all the ingredients in a medium bowl. Spread evenly over the crust then sprinkle the remaining topping over the fruit mixture.
4. Bake the bars until they are thick and bubbly, about 40 minutes.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Breakfast Burritos Made with Leftovers and Love

What to do when you have leftover enchilada filling and someone special who is hungry for dinner? Scramble some eggs, get creative and make breakfast burritos! The spiciness of the enchilada filling from my turkey enchiladas combined with the creaminess of the avocado, fluffiness of the scrambled eggs and the freshness of extra cilantro is a great combination. A dollop of sour cream and some extra cilantro for garnish, you have a lovely plate of breakfast burritos in bed.
Breakfast Burritos Made with Leftovers and Love
(Makes 2 burritos)

2 eggs
1/2 avocado, sliced
2 dollops sour cream
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

1. Make turkey and  black bean filling according to directions and set aside.
2. Crack two eggs into a skillet over medium high heat and scramble.
3. Warm two tortillas over a stove grill. Place them on a plate, add the turkey enchilada filling, scrambled eggs and avocado slices. Wrap up tortillas and add a dollop of sour cream and some cilantro. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Turkey and Black Bean Enchiladas

I love enchiladas! This is maybe the second time in my life eating enchiladas and my first time making them. So easy and delicious! What is great, is that it is really easy to make these super healthy too! With a little extra effort in your ingredient shopping, you can find healthy versions of all the ingredients.  I don't cook with turkey very often so I thought this would be the appropriate time to give it a swing. I'm looking forward to making many more variations of these enchiladas with all sorts of different fillings. After assembling the enchiladas you bake them in a dish with the sauce and cheese, they become succulent and the tortillas absorb the flavors of the sauce, the melts and oozes deliciousness. I served these with fat free sour cream and some hot sauce. Last Thursday evening my good friend and his friends came for dinner. Any leftover filling you have, and I had a lot, can be used to make breakfast burritos, tacos, or mixed in with pasta to make a lovely spring time pasta salad.
Turkey and Black Bean Enchiladas
(Serves 5 with more filling for leftovers)

Tortillas (I use Tumaro's Multi Grain Tortillas)
1 1/2 lbs extra lean ground turkey
1 1/2 cans low sodium black beans, drained and rinsed (I use Eden's Garden)
5 small green chilies, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, chopped
2 1/2 cups diced Roma tomatoes
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
4 teaspoons cumin
1 1/2 Pepper Jack cheese, shredded (A soy substitute for cheese works perfectly)

Enchilada sauce:
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 small green chilies, chopped
3 tablespoons sofrito (Mexican tomato base)
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
1 teaspoon cayenne powder
1 teaspoons cumin
3/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
Pinch of salt and pepper

For the sauce:
1. In a medium sauce pan drizzle olive oil and saute the garlic until golden and fragrant. Add the chilies, sofrito, tomato sauce, cayenne powder, cumin and chicken broth. Pinch in the salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and let simmer for 7 minutes. Set the sauce aside until you are ready to use it.
For the filling:
2. In a skillet over medium high heat, drizzle some olive oil and cook the turkey until it is evenly browned. Use a spatula to break up the turkey as it is cooking. When turkey is browned add in the garlic, onions, black beans, cilantro, chilies, diced tomatoes, cumin and cayenne. Mix well, cover with some tin foil and let simmer for 10-15 minutes.
3. meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle a little olive oil over a 13x9 dish. Plop a generous amount of the turkey filling on the tortillas and wrap them up and place them in the dish, seam side down. When dish is full, pour the enchilada sauce over the wraps, sprinkle on the grated cheese. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the cheese is completely melted. Top with a little low fat sour cream and cilantro for garnish. Enjoy!