Saturday, August 9, 2014
Eating this is like eating summer. Not sunscreen lotion, grass clippings or algae-infested lake water—although I’m pretty sure they serve a cocktail like that in some hipster bar on Capitol Hill, fresh grass tincture anyone? This dish only tastes of the absolute best of summer’s bounty, concentrated sunshine on a plate: golden, sweet yellow corn with a hard, smoky char from the grill and tomatoes still warm from the vine, full of mineraly earth and water from the backyard hose.
Friday, May 16, 2014
Another example would be paella; more than a dozen ingredients including pricey saffron and fresh seafood to be prepped, layered and cooked in an intricately timed dance (ideally) over an open fire.
The result of these efforts should be celebrated with great ceremony and company, for they do not happen nearly as often as they should. *Side note, if you’re having a paella party this summer, please invite me.
Then there are the culinary triumphs that require no practically no skill at all, yet still yield delicious results, such as pickling. Hardly a recipe and more of a technique—a lifestyle really—a refrigerator with jars of various pickles will yield countless satisfying meals. We’ve talked about it before; it merely involves chopping up the freshest produce from your CSA basket or nearest farmers market and dunking it in a savory brine for at least 24 hours and up to 2 months (but probably even much, much longer than that).
This is my latest pickle permutation; a spicy batch of garlic-and-dill-flavored asparagus spears. If the first thing that popped into your head was “Bloody Mary!”, then you clearly you, dear reader, are awesome. *Side note, if you’re having brunch next weekend, please invite me.
Spicy Garlic & Dill Pickled Asparagus
Serves 12-14 as an appetizer
360g (1½ cups) distilled white vinegar
360g (1½ cups) water
54g (3 tablespoons) kosher salt
2 dried birds eye chiles
5 whole peppercorns
2 bay leaves (fresh if possible)
1 bunch fresh asparagus
1 small head garlic, peeled
3 sprigs fresh dill
Trim the tough ends (usually 1-2 inches from the bottom) of the asparagus. If the spears are especially large, steam over simmering water for 3 minutes until bright green, yet still very crisp. If the asparagus are pencil thin, skip the steaming step. Place the asparagus in a container just large enough to hold them, along with the garlic and fresh dill.
Combine the vinegar, water, salt, chiles, peppercorns and bay leaves in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and whisk until the salt is dissolved, then pour over the asparagus until they are fully submerged. Allow to cool uncovered until room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for at least one day and for up to two months (or probably longer!)
Saturday, May 10, 2014
Besides the fact that tomorrow is Mother’s Day, spring always reminds me of my mom. She would get so excited at each little indication of spring from under the gray blanket of Seattle winter; the first tulip emerging from the soil, the fluffy pink cherry blossoms and blooming dogwood trees were all celebrated with as much gusto as us kids celebrated the first snow storm.
This is the perfect spring brunch dish that I know my mom would have loved. A tender cake of asparagus and potatoes, held together by a light batter of eggs, olive oil and a little flour with some baking powder for lift. The cake can be cut into squares and eaten warm or room temperature and would probably be quite excellent in a sandwich or wrap for lunch on Monday.
It was inspired by the traditional Spanish tortilla Española, a rich, olive oil-infused potato omelet and Ottolenghi’s genius cauliflower cake. You could swap out the potatoes and asparagus for any cooked vegetables; steamed asparagus, broccoli, caramelized onions, butternut squash, fennel, sweet potatoes, wilted greens like spinach, Swiss chard or kale, sautéed mushrooms, etc.
I have a feeling you could use chickpea flour instead of the all-purpose flour, or tinker around with a mixture of gluten-free flours if that's your thing. You could top the cake with cheese, but it certainly doesn’t need it. What makes the dish sing though is a generous drizzle of zesty salsa verde.
This isn’t the tomatillo-based version you may be familiar with on your enchiladas. This sauce is a riff on the classic Italian salsa verde, packed with fresh herbs, lemon, capers, Dijon mustard and olive oil. The secret ingredient is fish sauce; it brings salty, umami-packed flavor that rounds out the sauce and doesn't make it taste the least bit fishy.
This sauce would be fantastic on any steamed vegetable, or even grilled salmon or chicken. Actually, my fiancé loves it so much he told me he would drink it by itself, which I can't say I recommend.
Happy Mother’s Day Mom! This one’s for you xoxo
Asparagus & Potato Cake with Salsa Verde
Serves 8 generously
For the salsa verde:
2 cups chopped Chinese chives or green onions (about 2 bunches)
1 bunch cilantro or parsley (leaves and stems)
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 lemons, zested and juiced
2 tablespoons brined capers
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fish sauce
For the cake:
1 bunch asparagus
2 large baking potatoes, scrubbed
8 large eggs
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
For the salsa verde, place all the ingredients in a blender. Puree until very smooth, adjusting the consistency with water as necessary to form a thick, yet pourable sauce. Taste for seasoning, and add more lemon juice and fish sauce as desired. The salsa verde will keep for up to one week in the refrigerator.
For the cake, trim the tough ends of the asparagus and cut into 1-inch lengths. Place in a steamer basket over simmering water and cook for 5 minutes, until bright green and tender; remove to a plate and set aside. Leaving the skin on, slice the potatoes into ¼-inch slices and steam for 10-12 minutes, until tender and set aside.
In a blender, combine the eggs, olive oil, flour, salt and baking powder. Whip until completely smooth and frothy. Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease an 8x8-inch baking dish liberally with olive oil. Arrange the asparagus and potatoes in the dish, then pour over the batter. Bake until a skewer comes out clean and the top is lightly browned, about 30-40 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before cutting into pieces and serving with the salsa verde. Alternatively, the cake can be made several hours in advance and served at room temperature. Leftovers will keep for 3 days, refrigerated.
Sunday, May 4, 2014
If you’re a fan of dim sum, then it’s probable that you and I would get along famously. Whether it’s crispy pan-fried pot stickers, fluffy char siu bao with red barbecue pork, unctuous soup dumplings, steamed lotus leaves with glutinous rice and pork belly, steamed gai lan with oyster sauce, chewy red bean sesame balls or flaky egg tarts, there’s something for everyone…that is, unless you’re vegan. Don’t worry; we can still be friends, just not dim sum friends.
It’s safe to say that if you’ve pulled off your fair share of bamboo steamer baskets and platters from the rickety wheeled carts, there’s also a good chance that you’re familiar with shumai (also siumai or shaomai), the delectably moist pork and shrimp dumplings chock full of Chinese chives, garnished with a dab of orange roe. In Seattle, they are easy to find, whether at the high end Din Tai Fung or any of the small, steamy dim sum houses in the International District.
Also easy to find in these parts are the laundry list of prerequisite ingredients for the somewhat intricate process of making homemade dumplings: shaoxing rice wine, black mushrooms, toasted sesame oil, crispy water chestnuts and fresh ginger. What’s not easy is locating the fresh Chinese chives, emerging only in the spring at Asian markets and ethnic produce stands. Also called garlic chives, gau choy, or nira, the beautifully flat emerald leaves are over a foot long and sold in thick bundles.
Homemade dumplings are one of those traditional, old school foods that are a pain in the ass to make, but well worth the effort (just be sure to invite a few friends over, so someone can appreciate your hard work besides your Instagram followers).
There’s something ritualistic and sacred about setting up a dumpling production line; hand-kneading the supple dough on the countertop, rolling it out into paper thin rounds, and stuffing each with a spoonful of filling, aromatic with rice wine, ginger and garlic. Finally, the hardest step is crimping each one shut with little pinched folds, a skill acquired only over hours of dumpling formation. Then comes the ten longest minutes of your life, while the little pouches steam over simmering water, before being lightly dipped in soy sauce with maybe a splash of black vinegar and a few shards of julienned raw ginger. The filling is tender and juicy, savory and aromatic, encased in its chewy wrapper.
But unfortunately (for you. And me) this post isn’t about making shumai; it’s about a creamy buttermilk pea soup, made bright green with Chinese chives. The sweet green split peas offer heft; rich in fiber and protein (11g each per serving!), B vitamins and iron, this soup will undoubtedly keep you satiated for hours. The tart buttermilk, leftover from a baking project, lends a creamy texture and acidity, much needed in the otherwise garlicky pea soup.
I’m saving shumai production for another day; perhaps one where there’s less laundry and weeding, errands to run for Grandma and spreadsheets to populate for work. Side note—anyone up for an afternoon dim sum run?
Buttermilk Pea Soup with Chinese Chives
Fresh favas or field peas would be mah-valous; just blanch them until tender and puree with the stock, buttermilk and chives. If you can’t find Chinese chives, use a combo of regular chives and spinach.
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow or sweet onion, chopped
1 small head garlic, chopped
1 pound split peas
2 quarts chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
2 bay leaves
2 cup Chinese chives, cut into 1-inch lengths (plus extra for garnish)
2 cups buttermilk
Salt to taste
Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sweat for 10 minutes, until translucent. Add the peas and stock (or water), bay leaves and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1½-2 hours, until the peas are completely tender and the soup is thickened; remove from the heat and pull out the bay leaves.
Heat the remaining olive oil in a skillet over high heat. Add the chives and sauté for 2-3 minutes, until bright green and tender. Add the chives and buttermilk to the pea soup, stirring to combine.
Puree the pea soup in batches, until completely smooth. Stir all the soup together adjusting the consistency with water if too thick and add salt to taste. Serve hot or chilled, garnished with a swirl of buttermilk and chopped chives.
Friday, April 18, 2014
Sometimes, the idea of getting out a bunch of ingredients and measuring cups and whipping egg whites and tempering chocolate sounds like fun (no one? Ok, I guess it’s just me). But sometimes, you just need a cupcake, in your face, like 10 minutes ago.
I happened to be especially desperate today, because well, it’s Friday. Luckily, my friend Amy was kind enough to have sent me a pouch of her new dark chocolate cupcake mix. She owns the Denver-based company SweetVictory, maker of fine, handcrafted baking mixes, candies and fruit preserves, and needed someone to test the new mix at sea level. Being in Seattle, I happily volunteered my baking-and cake-eating services.
Having no milk and no eggs, and cupcake liners a size too big, I wasn’t the most prepared tester. But once a chocolate craving starts, it’s pretty much impossible to stop. Like an insidious little seed, it starts in your brain and quickly spreads throughout your body until the only thing you can think about is getting your fix. I’ve never done crack, but I’m pretty sure this is what it feels like (or so the scientists say).
Upon inspection of the package though, I realized these were gluten-free, vegan cupcakes—SCORE! I could make these without a trip to the store and would make do with the wonky liners. I quickly grabbed some almond milk and vegetable oil from the pantry and furiously whisked in some espresso powder, to which Ina Garten would certainly approve (almost all her chocolate confections are enhanced by some sort of coffee flavor).
I dumped the mix and the milky, latte-like wet ingredients into a bowl and in 20 seconds, I had cake batter. Now, I will confide that because these babies are gluten-free, the batter is not quite as lick-able as regular batter; it’s gritty from the mixture of brown rice flour and starches. Obviously, this did not stop me from licking the spoon. Crack, people—it’s like crack.
To my great pleasure, the batter baked up into beautifully tender and fluffy cupcakes. They were surprisingly un-vegan and gluten-free-like, with an especially deep, dark chocolate crumb and small fissures on top.
Luckily, during the short 20-minute bake time, I had enough sense about me to whip up some sesame buttercream with tahini instead of butter. Think peanut butter + chocolate. This is similar, yet different. Not only does this keep the cupcakes vegan, but the nutty, rich flavor of toasted sesame is quite a sophisticated accompaniment to the chocolate. Well, as sophisticated as a lazy, chocolate-feening baker can manage anyway.
Chocolate Cupcakes with Tahini Buttercream
Get your pouch of vegan, gluten-free dark chocolate cupcake mix here, and while you’re at it, pick up some of this blueberry amaretto jam. Trust me. This vegan cake recipe would also work, although it's not gluten-free.
Makes 12 cupcakes
1 pouch Sweet Victory Dark Chocolate Cake Mix
1 cup liquid (250g) 1 used almond milk
1 teaspoon (1g) espresso powder (optional)
1 cup (220g) vegetable oil
1 cup (200g) coconut oil, room temperature (or butter, if you don't care about them being vegan)
¾ cup (200g) tahini
¾ cup (200g) tahini
¼ cup (60g) water
½ teaspoon ground vanilla beans (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
1 pinch kosher salt
3 ¾ cups (450g) powdered sugar, sifted
Line a cupcake tin with paper liners (or nonstick spray) and preheat the oven to 350°F. In a measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together the liquid, espresso powder (if using) and vegetable oil and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the cake mix and wet ingredients until thoroughly combined. Scoop a heaping quarter cup of batter into each cupcake liner. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean, rotating halfway through baking. Allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely (about 1 hour).
For the buttercream, beat together the coconut oil (or butter), tahini and water in a bowl with a handheld mixer until smooth. Add the vanilla, salt and powdered sugar and continue to mix for 2-3 minutes, until thick and fluffy. Scoop the buttercream into a pastry bag and pipe onto cooled cupcakes. The frosted cupcakes will keep for a couple days in an airtight container at room temperature.
Monday, April 14, 2014
This dish is the delicious love child of an excessive amount of spring produce and Greek yogurt. If warm, yogurt coated vegetables sounds ridiculous, trust me—just go with it; you can thank me later.
If you're still not convinced (when have I ever led you astray?), chances are also good that you my friend haven’t met Yotam Ottolenghi yet. The Israeli-born chef, restaurateur and author is quite possibly one of my biggest culinary inspirations. I’ve yet to visit his restaurants, but I pore over his books like a sorority girl reading Cosmo.
His food is produce-heavy, with a strong Middle Eastern & Mediterranean influence. Ingredients like fresh herbs, za’atar, toasted nuts, labneh and tahini punctuate his dishes with bold flavors and textures.
But what’s truly amazing about it isn’t that his cooking is stuffed with obscure ingredients or weird flavor combinations, it’s that he takes everyday ingredients and reworks them into completely fresh dishes with just a few simple twists. Like, absolutely genius combos that make you feel stupid for not having tried them before. Like yogurt and vegetables.
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Spoiler alert: there's no groundbreaking culinary masterpiece or scientific theory below. There's no complicated steps or even a process to follow. It's kind of a ridiculous post, but I love this snack so much that I have to share it with you. You might already be familiar with the concept; if so, it's because I totally jacked it from the fruit vendors in Mexico.
Sold in cups from a street cart on wheels, chunks of fresh fruit like mango, watermelon, and papaya, sometimes cucumber and jicama, are doused with lime juice and sprinkled with salt and chile pepper. They offer a cooling respite from the heat and, in my opinion, help to offset the tequila and tacos al pastor. Mmmmm tacos...
I recently bought a huge case of my favorite fruit, Ataulfo or Champagne mangoes at the produce stand. Bright golden yellow, they were starting to wrinkle and were a little sticky, perfectly ripe but turning fast.
Feeling the pressure to use them up quick, I happily infused my diet with fresh mangoes. I ate one plain and then a few chopped into yogurt. I blitzed them into thick smoothies with tangy buttermilk and fresh turmeric, and stir fried them with vegetables and sambal ooelek for lunch.
Friday, March 28, 2014
Homemade granola is one of those things that almost makes you feel duped the first time you make it. You start questioning everything about your life: if homemade granola is ten times tastier and 5 times cheaper than store bought granola...then what else am I doing wrong?!
It makes a respectable breakfast, sprinkled onto yogurt, hot cereal or chia pudding. I’ve also decided it is also completely appropriate to shove it in your face by the fistful, any time of day.
I started playing with this recipe a couple years ago, originally from Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain. It’s extremely versatile, and works well with any permutation of ingredient swaps: honey instead of maple syrup; rolled rye or barley instead of oats; butter or olive oil instead of coconut oil; and any kind of seed and any kind of dried fruit. It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Once upon a time during my college years, when I was not yet 21, I did a stint living with my dad in Southern California. Most mornings I slept in till 11 am, then picked a grapefruit from the tree in the backyard for breakfast and laid out by the pool for a couple hours to work on the essential SoCal perma-tan. Like a college student before their first loan payment, I really didn’t know how good I had it til it was over.
By night, I worked at a fine dining restaurant, tossing salads, shucking oysters, grilling asparagus, brûléing crepe cake, burning chocolate tarts and shaving paper thin carpaccio. I got my ass kicked on the line and got some well-deserved forearm burns.
After work, I would hang out with some of the other girls from the restaurant, and sometimes we would go into bars that didn’t notice (or care?) that we recycled the same ID at the door. We drank tequila sunrises and rum & cokes with lime and somehow, we only got 86’d once.