Posts filed under ‘Entrees’

Homemade Ratatouille over Rice

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I’ve decided to do something different from my other entries in the past. This entry has been divided up into 4 sections: food trends, recent happenings, culinary school, and charities. These are a culmination of thoughts that I have been meaning to put into writing the past few weeks. Biggest complaint? So much to write so little time!

Food trends this past summer:
1. Vietnamese food – it has been getting a lot of props lately in NY, which has become such a relief for me. Back in 2002, I noticed there was a lack of a Vietnamese population that existed here. How could this be since this is a city well known for its diversity? I was convinced and told friends and family members that I was part of the 1% Vietnamese population that probably exists in NY. There were many times when taking a cab that the driver would ask what ethnicity I was. They always thought I was either Japanese, Korean, Chinese, or all of the above, but Vietnamese never came to mind for them. One cab driver, in fact, has never heard of Vietnam. I asked, “Seriously? You’ve never heard of the Vietnam War?” I don’t know what’s more insulting: being called “exotic” or not ever hearing of a country called Vietnam.

Mind you, there were Vietnamese restaurants around, but it wasn’t a place where all hipsters would flock to. Nowadays, there are hipster approved joints such as An Choi in the LES that serves up Vietnamese sandwiches aka banh mi and pho (vermicelli noodle soup) amongst other standard Vietnamese options. On Mondays, tucked away in the back yard of An Choi, sits Asia Dog. Asian Dog is usually set up at the Brooklyn Flea on the weekends. Their story was rather simple: they had backyard BBQs with friends all of the time and once the demand grew, they decided to officially make it into a business. Can’t beat grilled hot dogs coupled with Asian toppings of your choice! There are vegetarian options as well. Next time, I’ll be sure to try the bulgolgi burger.

Another example of the Vietnamese food trend’s existence is the banh mi cart that sits just outside of Hanover Square in the Financial District. The line is always long and many people are willing to wait as long as 45 minutes just for a banh mi sandwich. They also sell spring rolls if you don’t mind getting hit with severe food coma later at 3 o’clock.

2. People’s Pops
One of the more popular (no pun intended) stands at Brooklyn Flea is People’s Pops. After asking if they could make a Watermelon Mint pop (recipe found in Food and Wine magazine), strangely, they were already in the process of making them. So this became my number one mission: to taste the watermelon mint popsicle. The apricot lavender seemed to be a crowd pleaser. As my friend, La and I walked around shopping and sopping up popsicle juice drippings from our chin, others walked by with a nod of approval with their popsicle in hand. Pretty much the equivalent to a popsicle high-five! These pops became a summer favorite rather quickly. Not from marketing, but from word of mouth. This seems to be the most effective method of selling any product to the public.

3. Gourmet Food Trucks
Gourmet food trucks have been on the rise not only in NY, but in LA also. The Korean taco truck, Kogi seems to be the new rave. A similar truck just opened up in Jersey City. It’s only a matter of time when NY will have one of their own. The Dessert Truck closed unfortunately earlier this month, but will be setting up a storefront downtown very soon in November. Location is TBD. Other favorites seem to be the Big Gay Ice Cream truck, the Cupcake truck, and the Rickshaw Dumpling truck just to name a few.  The best thing about these gourmet trucks is that you can either fan them on Facebook and/or follow them on Twitter.  With all of these new gourmet trucks coming out of the woodworks, there has caused a bit of a turmoil for existing food trucks that have dominated the street vendor scene for many years. Such vendors include the hot dog/pretzel carts and halal/kabob carts.

Recent happenings:
I attended a cooking class at the Whole Food Culinary Center recently in celebration of Julia Child’s birthday that focused on recipes from her infamous cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. Overall the class was fun-filled and buttery, except for the two instances when I was paired with the cooking nazi. She apparently liked to be in control during most of the cooking process. Insert good thoughts here [___]. This weekend, I’ll taking another class with an emphasis on dim sum. This is going to be really fun. Our culinary teacher, Wai Hon Chu just wrote a book called “The Dumpling: A Season Guide” soon to hit shelves late October.

I have to admit, I was never a fan of Julia Child. I remember cringing everytime I saw her cooking shows when I was younger. Her voice really irritated me, but after the movie Julie and Julia came out, I can see her in a new light now due to much press as the revolutionary chef/home cook. I would rate the movie 3 out of 5 stars. Meryl Streep played Julia Child very well, while her husband’s role lacked personality. Although Julie Powell seemed so perky and loving in the movie, the real Julie Powell seems to be the complete opposite. Not that she’s a sad person full of angst, but they have very different personalities. The movie was disappointing in a way that the ending left us all hanging with the notion that Julia Child wasn’t very happy about Julie’s blog and passion for emulating her recipes. Julie seemed to brush it off with “I’ll stick to what I think Julia is like in my head and that’s what counts” sort of attitude. This seemed a bit too contrived for my liking, but it’s a Hollywood film so it was expected. Tom, who had finished reading “My Life in France” by Julia Child made a good point about the movie though. Julie made blogging look so easy and light hearted. On the contrary, the reality of blogging involves much contemplation on words and phrases. Editing and re-editing. It’s not as easy as it looks. Writing can be mentally draining and once it’s completed, there is a huge sense of accomplishment.

Update on culinary school:
I almost forgot how complicated the whole financial aid process can be when starting school. Its great that there are tons of scholarship/grant options, and different loan options, but because of the language and extensive paragraphs of terms and conditions, this is no easy task. This is also when I regret not doing more philanthropic work in the past. I have supported many charities financially however in the past, would this count? Probably not.

Charities:
1. To anyone who watched Top Chef Masters, I was so glad Rick Bayless won for his charity. His non-profit organization called the Frontera Farmer Foundation supports small sustainable farms throughout the Chicago area, which in turn helps to promote farmers markets and helps to build a better relationship in their community through food and their environment.

2. A charity that has been left under the radar is the UXO LAO organization. Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations episode on Laos made me realize how farmers have been affected by the Vietnam War in Laos. Many people are malnourished and/or out of work due to disabilities from land mines exploding while walking on their own land. I had no idea there were so many more bombs underground that have yet to be resurrected. This is definitely the US’ responsibility to clean up after ourselves and to not put innocent victims in danger because of our actions.

3. Last, but not certainly not least, I wanted to close this entry with another great cause. It’s an organization called KOTO, which hits close to home for me. I hadn’t realized there was such an organization until I watched Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie a few weeks ago. It’s a not-for-profit restaurant and vocational training program located in Hanoi, Vietnam that provides its disadvantaged youth a culinary opportunity to build a better future and at the same time reduce street crime. I am a huge advocate for this charity because I couldn’t imagine not being able to go to culinary school or training for something I am passionate about. Sometimes I wonder how difficult it must be for people who do not have a job and might not be qualified for a school loan, and/or financial aid.

In honor of French cuisine and Julia Child, I’d like to include this blog entry with a ratatouille recipe I’ve concocted myself. It was inspired from a wonderful dining experience at Zucco’s with my friend, Amy Lee (“AL”), who made a trip out to Paris a couple years ago. Zucco’s, a small hole in the wall, no frills, French diner that makes incredibly authentic French fare for a fraction of the price.
“Bon Appétit!”

Ingredients:
1 zucchini (sliced into half moons)
1 yellow squash (sliced into half moons)
1 small eggplant (sliced into half moons)
1 small yellow onion (sliced into half moons)
2 ripe vine tomatoes (diced)
1 carrot (cut into 1/2 inch widths)
1/2 can tomato paste
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cans low-sodium chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 cup cooked rice
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a medium to large stock pot, combine all ingredients until it boiling then let simmer for 45 minutes or until it thickens into a stew like texture. Serve over rice. Also fabulous when served over scrambled eggs.

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August 28, 2009 at 8:38 PM Leave a comment

Asian Greek Pasta

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In continuation of my last entry, and careful consideration after touring each culinary facility, I have decided to apply to the French Culinary Institute.  It’s a 9 month evening program consisting of M/W/F classes starting in mid-November.  It’s official in a sense that I’ve already received the nod of approval from my manager at the office.  I’ll have to leave the office early those three days at 5pm.  Everyone seems to be really supportive, which makes me appreciate the team I work with on a daily basis.
FCI seem to be extremely organized in the adminission process and have an amazing support system.  Once you become a student, you have access to their resources for life.  The career services center has been really helpful and available for me whenever I needed them.  The tour lasted approximately 2 hours strolling along between their portait filled walls of celebrity chef alumni such as Momofuku’s David Chang, WD-50’s Wylie Dufresne and Sam Mason, Food Network’s Bobby Flay, and program directors Jacques Pepin and Jacques Torres (just to name a few). I had a chance to sample some of the best morsal of chocolate/carmel/nut goodness I’ve ever had in my life.  And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better than the loads of baguettes I’ve smuggled home from LA (long story).  We peaked into the bakery where some of the students who came in at 2am would start creating one of the best baguettes I’ve ever bit into.  It was moist and airy inside with a nice crackly crust on the outside.  That said, I was thorougly impressed.  The resources that FCI has to offer are astonishing.  The fact that they offer an online account for students to contact the above mentioned chefs (and then some) directly via personal email, is priceless.
And although I was sold at FCI, I still did not want to sell myself short of other possibilities.  FCI’s immediate competitor would have to be The Institute of Culinary Education, who recently won an IACP award for best culinary program in 2008.  Both schools have had plenty of recognition and awards so I’m not worried about FCI’s credentials in the least.  To sum up the brief tour (all of 15 minutes) for all four floors, I was not impressed.  Yes, their tuition is approximately $12,000 less, but I’ve decided to not go the less expensive approach in life this time.  I’ve learned in the past – “you get what you pay for”.  The tour guide was quick and unapproachable, which meant, he just wanted to get it over with and not have to answer any redundant questions.  There was no free baguette nor chocolate sample in hand, but a folder packed with tuition/loan information.  He was not thorough in explaining the programs and opportunities the school had to offer.  I was also not comfortable with a couple of questions in their application.  It asked, “How long have you been thinking about a culinary career?”, and “How serious are you about attending culinary school?”.  Is the latter question used for gauging how serious they should take their potential students or how much of an effort they should put into a tour?
What is it that I want to achieve after culinary school you ask?  Well, I would love to get my hands on food styling for various forms of media (movies, TV, periodicals, etc.) or work in a test kitchen for Cook’s Illustrated.  I would prefer not to work in a restaurant, but it may become a possibility if the experience is needed in order build my portfolio for a private chef  career.  I also wouldn’t mind being a chef instructor either.  Oh the possibilities are endless!  Perhaps in a couple of years, I’d also like to take a few courses at the International Center of Photography to perfect my passion for food photography. Here’s another success story of an FCI alumni I just happen to run into online while browsing the Yelp website [http://www.yelp.com/biz/yum-yum-chefs-brooklyn]:   http://www.yumyumchefs.com/chefs/vanessa_cantave.html.  For now though, I’m going to see where my interests lie as the classes progress.
When it comes to establishing a reputation in the culinary world, there seems to be a sense of comraderie amongst food lovers/chefs that I just absolutely love.  Yes, it is a competitive field, but what isn’t competitive in New York?  Just the lifestyle in New York is competitive.  I think I just might have this one in the bag, folks.  All of this is starting to sound all too familiar.  :)[http://www.apple.com/trailers/sony_pictures/julieandjulia/].
My recipe for this week calls for a quick-fix after a long day at work and wanting to put a few ingredients together from the fridge/pantry in about half an hour.
Ingredients:
1 pkg of whole wheat penne pasta (boiled/drained)
1 broccoli spear (blanched 1/2 inch chunks of flowers/stems)
1/2 feta cheese
1/2 sliced yellow onion
1 tbs garlic powder
1 tsp crushed red pepper
2 tbs  soy sauce
1 tbs vegetable oil
Directions:
Cook onion until translucent.  Add cooked pasta and broccoli.  Then pour in all seasonings while stiring on high heat.  Let pasta brown a bit until a bit crispy.  Remove from heat and stir in feta cheese crumbles.

In continuation of my last entry, and careful consideration after touring each culinary facility, I have decided to apply to the French Culinary Institute.  It’s a 9 month evening program consisting of M/W/F classes starting in mid-November.  It’s official in a sense that I’ve already received the nod of approval from my manager at the office.  I’ll have to leave the office early those three days at 5pm.  Everyone seems to be really supportive, which makes me appreciate the team I work with on a daily basis.

FCI seems to be extremely organized in the adminission process and has an amazing support system.  Once you become a student, you have access to their resources for life.  The career services center has been really helpful and available to me whenever I need them.  The tour lasted approximately 2 hours strolling along between their portait filled walls of celebrity chef alumni such as Momofuku’s David Chang, WD-50’s Wylie Dufresne and Sam Mason, Food Network’s Bobby Flay, and culinary/pastry program directors Jacques Pepin and Jacques Torres (just to name a few). I had a chance to sample some of the best morsals of chocolate/carmel/nut goodness I’ve ever had in my life.  And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better than the loads of baguettes I’ve smuggled home from LA (long story), we peaked into the bakery where some of the students who came in at 2am would start creating one of the best baguettes I’ve ever bit into.  It was moist and airy inside with a nice crackly crust.  That said, I was thorougly impressed.  The resources that FCI has to offer are astonishing.  The fact that they offer an online account for students to contact the above mentioned chefs (and then some) directly via personal email, is priceless.

And although I was sold at FCI, I still did not want to sell myself short of other possibilities.  FCI’s immediate competitor would have to be The Institute of Culinary Education, who recently won an IACP award for best culinary program in 2008.  Both schools have had plenty of recognition and awards so I’m not worried about FCI’s credentials in the least.  To sum up the brief tour (all of 15 minutes) for all four floors, I was not impressed.  Yes, their tuition is approximately $12,000 less, but I’ve decided to not go the less expensive approach in life this time.  I’ve learned in the past – “you get what you pay for”.  The tour guide was quick and unapproachable, which meant, he just wanted to get it over with and not have to answer any redundant questions.  There was no free baguette nor chocolate sample in hand, but a folder packed with tuition/loan information.  He was not thorough in explaining the programs and opportunities the school had to offer.  I was also not comfortable with a couple of questions in their application.  It asked, “How long have you been thinking about a culinary career?”, and “How serious are you about attending culinary school?”.  Is the latter question used for gauging how serious they should take their potential students or how much of an effort they should put into a tour?

What is it that I want to achieve after culinary school you ask?  Well, I would love to get my hands on food styling for various forms of media (movies, TV, periodicals, etc.) or work in a test kitchen for Cook’s Illustrated.  I would prefer not to work in a restaurant, but it may become a possibility if the experience is needed in order build my portfolio for a private chef  career.  I also wouldn’t mind being a chef instructor.  Oh the possibilities are endless!  Perhaps in a couple of years, I’d also like to take a few courses at the International Center of Photography to perfect my passion for food photography. Here’s another success story of an FCI alumni I just happen to run into online while browsing the Yelp website:   YumYumChefs.  For now though, I’m going to see where my interests lie as the classes progress.

When it comes to establishing a reputation in the culinary world, there seems to be a sense of comraderie amongst food lovers/chefs that I just absolutely love.  Yes, it is a competitive field, but what isn’t competitive in New York?  Just the lifestyle in New York is competitive.  I think I just might have this one in the bag, folks.  All of this is starting to sound all too familiar.  🙂

My recipe for this week calls for a quick-fix after a long day at work and wanting to put a few ingredients together from the fridge/pantry in about half an hour.

Ingredients:

1 pkg of whole wheat penne pasta (boiled/drained)

1 broccoli spear (blanched 1/2 inch chunks of flowers/stems)

1/2 feta cheese

1/2 sliced yellow onion

1 tbs garlic powder

1 tsp crushed red pepper

2 tbs  soy sauce

1 tbs vegetable oil

Directions:

Cook onion until translucent.  Add cooked pasta and broccoli.  Then pour in all seasonings while stiring on high heat.  Let pasta brown a bit until a bit crispy.  Remove from heat and stir in feta cheese crumbles.

July 23, 2009 at 6:27 PM 3 comments

Rustic Beet Soup

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It’s been about a month since I last wrote a recipe entry. I’ve been thinking a lot about the purpose and use of this blog for quite some time now, which can easily be translated as “writer’s block”. Little to my knowledge and with a dash of naivety, it’s been difficult to come up with a story behind each recipe. When I first started this blog, my intentions were to write a story that inspired my recipes and to submit one each week. Hence, the title. As the weeks breezed by ever so rapidly over the month of June, there were a few reasons for the writer’s block.

1.  allowing myself to think there is nothing interesting or important enough to share with readers
2.  lacking interest in writing; although still active in the cooking and photography part of the process
3.  starting to realize where my main interests lie (cooking/photography); not necessarily writing [if I no longer have any interest in writing, should I remove this blog altogether?]

I’ve also had culinary school on my mind and have registered to tour the FCI (The French Culinary Institute) and ICE (Institute of Culinary Education) in a couple of weeks. The FCI would be ideal because Jacques Pepin has been my on-screen mentor for many years.  He and Jacques Torres developed the culinary program at FCI. So it must be good! However, the program does not offer the kind of flexible scheduling I need in order to maintain a 50 hour work week. Plus tuition is $40,000! I will most likely be taking the $30,000/9 month culinary plunge at ICE this fall instead. Thank goodness they offer flexible course schedules that take place 9am-5pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Not only does the thought of being $30,000 in debt frighten me, but the fact that my free time will ultimately be limited. I just have to keep reminding myself that it will only be for 9 months. I am going to recruit my best friend, Brian for strength and support. If he can somehow manage 4 years of working and maintaining a 4.0 GPA in college, then I can too, damn it! The realization of becoming a chef hit me last night (in a positive way) and the thought of having a career in the culinary world felt really satisfying. This may sound a bit surprising, but I’m embarrassed at times when I tell people (especially family members) what I do for a living. Coming from a family with a medical background, particularly in nursing. I haven’t felt like I’ve succeeded in life and I’m already 31 years old. I’m now more ready than ever to take the bull by the horns and go for the ride no matter how bumpy it may be. Another fear I have is not being able to live comfortably as I have been for the past 6 years. This is the main reason why I’ve committed myself to an administrative field. I know how it feels to be poor/unemployed. I know how it feels to live off of ramen, iceberg lettuce, and one egg a day. I know how it feels to not make rent for months at a time and to ask mom for help in desparate situations like these. And I know all too well how it feels to be delinquent on $15,000 in credit card debt. My goal since those first two extremely rough years of living in New York is to never be in debt again. I was able to wipe my slate clean after a couple of years by maintaining a job at a corporate insurance firm. Since then, I haven’t had much luck attaining a permanent position with any firm, yet I’ve somehow managed to remain debt-free. Long story short: to be $30,000 in debt can be quite overwhelming especially if it’s only for 9 months of school.

I’ve signed up for a couple more culinary recreational courses at the Whole Foods Culinary Center on Bowery coming August. My experience with the knife skills class last month really inpired me to take the leap into culinary school. Everything about it seemed so natural. Now I don’t mind, in fact, I love cutting and prepping vegetables whenever I can. It allows me to perfect and hone (no pun intended) the foundation to cooking.

This week’s beet soup recipe is perfect for practicing your knife skills because of the mirepoix that becomes the basis for the soup.  This recipe also comes from a cooking class “gone awry” taken several months back. It was taken through a meet up group a co-worker had introduced me to. The whole experience turned out to be a disaster. The kitchen location changed at the last minute (day before event) to a comedy club kitchen. We walked in and their was an electric stove, no mixing bowls, and porn magazines out in the open. I couldn’t believe my eyes! My friend, Lisa, on the other hand,whom I met at the aforementioned insurance firm, thought otherwise.  She has such a kind heart, that she went along with punches and never complained one bit about the whole experience. The bathrooms smelled like piss and there was no soap to wash our hands with.  From that moment on, I knew it was going to be a very interesting day.  We managed to mix our salad dressing in an old plastic spice container and we somehow managed to cook the soup (had no luck bringing it to a boil by the way) on the electric stove. The wild rice the “chef” made earlier that day was horrific. There’s nothing worse than eating cold half-cooked wild rice. I can’t believe she calls herself a natural health chef. Everything was vegan, gluten-free, and pretty much tasteless. I could see how this would become every carnivores nightmare. I used to be a vegetarian for 7 years and would cook food that was a lot more creative and appetizing than this. Cooking classes like this gave vegans a bad rep. However, I could see where she was trying to go with the soup, which is why I wanted to experiment with it and make it my own. Later that day, after we chewed and swallowed, the “chef” started to talk about the reason (other than her father’s heart disease related death) why she wanted to become a natural food chef.  She made  a couple book references that inspired her to eat and cook healthy as part of her lifestyle. The fact that I love reading how food affects people and their environment, peaked my interest. After researching tirelessly on Amazon.com that very night, I then realized she gave us the wrong name of the author for the book she recommended to us! I cursed under my breath and thought about how my Saturday and $65 all went down the drain unforgivingly.  Lesson learned:  only take cooking classes via Whole Foods going forward.

Ingredients:
Mirepoix
2 cans chicken stock
1 can water
1 red beet (halved/cut into wedges)
1 yellow beet (halved/cut into wedges)
1 peeled red potato (halved/cut into wedges)
1 medium rhudabaga (halved/cut into wedges)
1/2 cup chopped dill
2 bay leaves
Kosher salt/Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
Follow mirepoix cooking instructions and pour in liquids. Add root vegetables and bay leaves. Cook for about 30 minutes until vegetables are tender. Season w/ salt and pepper if needed. Add dill at the last minute before serving.

July 2, 2009 at 5:40 PM 1 comment

Orecchiette Pasta w/ Pancetta and Peas

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Apologies to anyone who may have wondered where my blog entry was last week.  Although, it was a 3-day weekend, I found it difficult to stay indoors slaving away behind a computer when I could be taking full advantage of the beautiful weather outside.   This is only one excuse.  The other excuse is that I really wanted to write a recipe for the Monkey Bread I made for Tom’s Antony & Cleopatra soiree over last Memorial Day weekend.  Although it turned out to be a big hit amongst others, the recipe and pictures turn out to be rather disappointing.

This week’s recipe was something I thought was going to be original until I stumbled upon Food & Wine’s version of the pasta dish.  I still like my verson more.  🙂

There was plenty left over to put into small tupperware containers for nights when I didn’t have time to cook.  It froze surprisingly well.

Ingredients:

Orecciette Pasta (full box/pkg)

1 cup frozen peas

1/2 cup diced pancetta

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 white or yellow medium onion (diced)

2 tbs butter

1/2 cup white wine (your preference)

3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Over medium-high heat, cook pancetta and onion together for about 5 minutes.  No oil is needed because the pancetta will release its fat during the cooking process.  Add frozen green peas, butter, and white wine.  Cook until the alcohol has been reduced.  Add cooked pasta, heavy cream, and parmesan cheese.  Mix until properly distributed.  Add freshly ground black pepper.  Cook until parmesan has melted and serve.

May 31, 2009 at 8:34 PM Leave a comment

Spring Salad Mix

 

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My best friend was having brunch at her place in Brooklyn  Saturday morning and I agreed to bring something healthy to balance out the meat and carbs (Ashley’s succulent baked chicken wings, Kristen’s “crack” mashed potatoes, and Cresha’s flaky, yet moist biscuits, nicely browned sausage links, and bad ass mimosas) we were about to inhale before hitting the Cherry Blossom Festival at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden.    

I was at my favorite grocery destination in the Lower East Side (The Essex Street Market) the night before and discovered ricotta salata in the dairy case.  In addition to this mysterious block of cheese, I also bought endive and bibb lettuce.  I already had a bag of baby spinach in the fridge at home so I thought how refreshing it would be to create my own “mixed greens”.  I also had an heirloom tomato and a bottle of ready-made dressing at home in order to create the perfect salad.  

The Food Network peaked my interest after watching a couple of shows that incorporated ricotta salata, but I hesitated at first since there was a presumption of having a sharp cheese flavor.  It turned out to be pleasantly mild however, with a feta-like texture.  

Candied walnuts or pecans are a great addition to the recipe below.  Any mild flavored ingredient such as beets would work great with a salad that contains ricotta salata.  Anything pungent such as sliced red onions or green olives may overpower the subtleties of the dish.  

Ingredients:

1 head bibb lettuce

1/2 cup crumbled ricotta salata

1 medium ripe vine or heirloom tomato (4 wedges)

Handful baby spinach

1/2 head endive (sliced)

Freshly ground black pepper

Favorite dressing – mine happens to be Newman’s Own Olive Oil & Vinegar

 

Directions:  

Toss various salad greens with dressing and add tomato wedges and ricotta salata.  Grind fresh black pepper to taste.

May 3, 2009 at 5:23 PM Leave a comment

Asian Lettuce Wraps

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When it’s warm and sunny outside, all I want to do is go out and play the whole day.  Which means I want to do as little cooking as possible.  I also want to save money by eating at home.  The solution? Asian lettuce wraps.  They make a satisfying, yet light lunch/dinner.  This inspiration came from several SF Bay Area restaurants serving this dish in various ways.  I’m not a big fan of the Cheesecake Factory, but their version was probably the best one I’ve tried.  My recipe does not contain a dipping sauce since I felt there were already a lot of flavors in the dish that the sauce would overpower.  I’ve also added just a few of my favorite vegetables to this recipe.  Feel free to substitute any other varieties of vegetables you would prefer.  For instance, bean sprouts, red bell pepper, and mustard greens (instead of leaf lettuce) would be a nice variation of this recipe.  The key is to just have fun with it by experimenting.  

Ingredients:

1 tbsp vegetable oil

3 large leaf lettuces

Handful of carrot sticks

1 medium zucchini (cut into same size sticks as carrots)

1/2 medium yellow onion (1/4 inch thick slices)

1 1/2 cups of sliced shitake mushrooms

2 tbsp Soy Sauce

1 1/2 tsp Hoisin Sauce

1/2 lean ground pork

Black Pepper

 

Directions:

Cook ground pork until dark brown over high heat.  Add 1 tbsp soy sauce and cook for another minute.  Place cooked ground pork to the side into a dish.  Using same skillet (on high heat), add vegetable oil and sliced onion.  Cook until it starts to turn brown.  Add zucchini, mushrooms, and carrots until tender.  Add remaining soy sauce at the last minute and cook only for another minute.  Important to add soy sauce at the last minute.  The sodium will draw out excess moisture from vegetables and would make the stir-fry watery.  Add freshly ground black pepper.  

How to assemble the wrap:

Smear 1/2 tsp of hoisin sauce onto one large lettuce leaf.  Add 1 tsbp of ground pork.  Then top off with one large spoonful of cooked vegetables.  Roll lettuce leaf over to create a wrap.  Repeat with remaining lettuce leaves.  

Bon Appetit!

April 25, 2009 at 10:36 PM 1 comment

Singapore Curry Noodles

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Everyone knows that the key to man’s heart is through his stomach.  So I decided to make my friend, Tom one of my all time favorite comfort foods:  a special Singapore noodle dish for his 30th birthday.  It was raining out and didn’t have many ingredients in the pantry and fridge to work with except for a bag of frozen shrimp, a can of bamboo shoots, a bag of frozen peas, and a carton of eggs.  The best part about making stir fry noodles is that there is so much room to improvise.  I had  originally planned on making this dish with shrimp, shredded celery and carrots with mushrooms, but time was limited.  I had to make do.  It turned out to be a hit amongst friends and family (although my noodles should have been a little more al dente).  

Ingredients:

1 pack of rice vermecilli noodles (thickness is personal preference)

3 tbsp Singapore Curry Powder (or regular curry powder will suffice as substitution)

2 large eggs beaten

1 cup of frozen green peas

1 can of bamboo shoots (drained)

1/2 lb halved shrimp (40+/- count)

1/2 yellow onion (thinly sliced)

3 tbsp vegetable oil

5 tbsp fish sauce

 

Directions:

Bring water to a boil and once noodles are al dente, rinse thoroughly in cold water to prevent from sticking.  Pour 1 tbsp of oil in large non-stick skillet.  Add eggs once pan is hot.  Scramble until well done (not runny).  Then set aside into a bowl once cooked all the way through.  Using the same pan, add another tbsp of oil and sliced onion.  Cook over high heat until well browned.  Then add shrimp, frozen peas, and bamboo shoots.  Stir for a couple of minutes on high heat or until the shrimp are cooked all the way through.  Then add noodles, remaining tbsp of oil, scrambled egg, fish sauce, and Singapore curry powder.  Use tongs to toss/stir noodles efficiently.  Cook over high heat for 5 minutes.  Serve warm and garnish with basil.

April 12, 2009 at 12:53 AM 1 comment

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