August 4, 2012

Osmanthus Blossoms Jelly/Guì Huā Gāo (桂花糕)

On my recent tour to Kunming in China, one of the excursions was a visit to an ancient home that once belonged to a famous Chinese general. The main house was located in a courtyard surrounded by beautiful gardens of sweeping willows and water lilies.
Along the perimeter of the gardens were rows of medium height trees with small clusters of yellow and white fragrant Osmanthus Fragrans blossoms. The blossoms have a heady fragrance that is sweet and fruity, it reminds me of sun ripened apricots and peaches--intense and intoxicating, yet not overwhelming. In the afternoon a cool gentle breeze swept through the entire courtyard bringing forth the scent of joy and natural sweetness. It was a delightful experience to be in the midst of it all, as it brings to mind nostalgia of bittersweet and its sentiment.
Osmanthus Blossoms

May 27, 2012

Soy Bean Pudding/Dau Fu Fah

Douhua 豆花, dòuhuā, or doufuhua 豆腐花 in Chinese literary translates to soybean flower. It is dessert made by cooking soybean milk with calcium sulfate (gypsum) as a coagulant. This popular dessert is found  in most dim sum restaurant. The texture of this wonderful dessert is smooth and silky and delicious when served in a warm sugar syrup. A Japanese friend told me that she used to make all her tofu with nigari, another type of coagulant that is commonly used in Japan. Nigari is magnesium sulphate made by evaporating sea water and can be found in some health food stores. For this post, I'd used gelatin, however, you can also substitute with agar agar powder.

May 18, 2012

Roasted Butternut Squash with Quinoa and Beet Salad

This summer,we have been eating a lot of salad lately. Perhaps it's my excuse for being tired after the long drive home from work. I am glad that John is not a picky eater and he enjoyed most of what I cooked. This is mostly how it goes the minute I got home from work: feed the cat, check on the chicken for eggs, picked some greens or whatever is available from the garden. Then it's back to the kitchen to whip up something simple for dinner. Here's one of my version of a summer salad using leftovers from the fridge.

May 6, 2012

Risotto Con Funghi Porcini

Here's a hearty recipe for someone like me who has to have rice at least once a week. This traditional Italian dish is prepared with some of my favorite fungi’s (porcini and chanterelle). Risotto is a versatile, flavorful and nutritious dish and can be prepared with a variety of ingredients to suit any taste and occasion. Buon Appetito!

May 1, 2012

Sweet and Spicy Chicken Drummettes

I am an easy target (sucker) for finger food! Today I have a great recipe for chicken drummettes. Chicken drummettes are the fleshy part of the wing and it reminds me of a mini chicken thigh. It is versatile and a great appetizing snack. This recipe is easy to prepare and it's full of flavor and mouthwatering--yummy!

April 26, 2012

Parmesan Baked Fish with Onion and Leek

My son-in-law made this for dinner one evening while I was visiting. It was something that he came up on his way home from work. It was baked fish fillets with onion, leek and cheese stuffing, and polenta on the side. You can use any variety of firm white fish: cod, catfish, or grouper works well. If you are looking for a simple yet elegant fish dinner--this is the one!

April 20, 2012

Goji Berry, Date, & Pistachio Nut Slices

Here's a great tasting treat to perk up that mid-day at work! These buttery fingers are filled with dates, goji berries, and pistachio nuts. For nutritional purposes, I've added goji berry to the recipe. Goji berry or wolfberry can be found in many health food stores. They are often used in Chinese herbal soups as they are high in antioxidant, help eyesight, improve circulation and boost immune function. I have a goji berry shrub in my garden and it provides me a good supply of plump and sweet berries. Enjoy it with a cup of your favorite tea or coffee.

April 6, 2012

Pistachio Nut Brownies

The trend in brownies over the past several years is ever gooier creations that seem to overwhelm you with chocolate and sugar. They are really only suitable for dessert. I wanted something that was a bit more versatile and could be enjoyed in the afternoon with tea without ruining your appetite for dinner. This brownie can even be enjoyed mid-morning with tea or coffee. Though I like walnuts, they never seemed quite right to me in brownies, their slightly bitter aftertaste always seems to be what I taste last as I eat a brownie. Instead I‘ve used pistachios, their mild and nutty taste matches this sparingly sweetened brownie and gives it added texture and notes of other flavors, not just chocolate.

April 1, 2012

Cannellini Beans and Kale Soup

This vegetarian soup is hearty enough for winter, yet has enough different delicate flavors to work well with a light meal. Normally this soup, which features cannellini beans (white kidney beans), calls for cabbage among its ingredients. I enjoy cooked cabbage, but I don’t think it does so well as a leftover. In this recipe, I’ve substituted Lacinato Kale (dinosaur kale) for the cabbage. Dinosaur kale or Tuscan kale is a hardy cooking green with dark curly wrinkled green leaves. I really like the flavor it brings to this soup and it maintains a firm texture even when served the next day.

March 23, 2012

Stromboli with Salami and Cheese

Stromboli is a type of turnover filled with various meats, such as salami, prosciutto, coppa, vegetables, and cheese, typically mozzarella. You can use any variety of ingredients of your preference for the filling. This is great to serve on a picnic or a light brunch. Enjoy!

March 16, 2012

Quinoa Maki Rolls with Orange Ginger Sauce

Lately I've been using Quinoa as an alternative to rice in my meals. Quinoa are the seeds from a flowering plant that is grown primarily for it's edible seeds. When cooked it has a light fluffy texture with a mild nutty flavor. I've been using it on salad for a light and satisfying meal.
I found some seasoned seaweed in the pantry--and an idea came to mind! I could use some of my leftover quinoa instead of rice when I make sushi. I thought to myself, what a genius idea, until I Googled and found tons of sushi roll using quinoa as a substitue for rice. Oh well, I am not going to be disheartened by the fact that I wasn't the first to think of it, what is it they say, "great minds think alike." Most importantly is that this is my version and I love it.

March 3, 2012

Pistachios Wafers with Sesame Seed Crust

I have every other Friday off, and with the weather still a bit to cool to start serious gardening, I've devoted my time to trying some new recipes. The cold weather puts me in the mood for savory dishes, and I have found a wonderful cookbook that has may wonderful and inspiring recipes. I've come up with a variation of one of Mary Cech's wonderful recipes, a pistachio wafer. In asian cooking, sesame seeds are quite common and it struck me that this would make not only a good substitute, but give the recipe a bit of an asian influence. This recipe is not for the sweet-tooth, however it is great to serve plain or paired with other condiments, such as cheese or fruit chutney.

February 17, 2012

Savory Butternut Squash Soufflé

Winter still has its icy gripe on the weather around here, and I am in the mood for recipe that includes winter squash. As you might have noticed by now, I can't just boil a vegetable and call it a meal. Earlier this year I ran across a recipe that includes butternut squash, but with a twist. Imagine a souffle, but with the flavors of squash, cheese and savory herbs. I've adapted this recipe from Savory Baking with some minor changes. 

February 11, 2012

Remy's Ratatouille/Confit Byaldi

Bell peppers in vibrant colors of red, orange, and yellow were on sale at our local grocery store. They are just 99 cents a pound--such a deal! This is wonderful, as I wanted to make something light with vegetables for dinner tonight. These luscious and plump peppers inspired me to make a classic recipe made famous by Remy.

February 2, 2012

Grilled Tuna Steak with Mango Salsa and Sweet Potato Sticks

Today it's my day off and the car in the workshop. I have all the time to pick up on my knitting and prepare a nice lunch for John. I have some lemons that I picked from an abandoned office lot. The tree is no taller than me and it's abundant with fruits all year round--it puts my gardening skills to shame. Well, so much for the lemon story.

February 1, 2012

Grilled Sardines with Caramelized Onions

When one think of sardines, the canned version often comes to mind. They are the ones in oblong or round tin cans flavored in oil or tomato sauce. Sardine or Pilchards are small oily fish. They have high levels of Omega-3 and a good source of healthy nutrients, such as vitamin D and calcium. When I was a teenager, we used to make sardine sandwiches for our school lunch. Today, I am going to grill them and serve on caramelized onions with a twist of lemon.

January 29, 2012

Baked Savory Mushroom Clafouti

Well it's Sunday and I am inspired to cook this exciting recipe. The recipe calls for a medley of mushrooms cooked in a rich and flavorful cream sauce. The cream is infused with an aromatic and earthy fragrance from the mushrooms with a Clafouti batter for the crust.
Clafouti is a classic French custard with a berry or cherry filling. It is easy to prepare and it has an elegant presentation, which makes it a perfect choice for any occasion.
So after brunch with Kwan and Steven, we drove over to Berkeley Bowl to get some fresh mushrooms. The recipe called for Portobello mushrooms, but I've decided to use fresh shitake, dried chanterelles and porcini. Hmmm, this dish will be perfect paired with a glass of cabernet or pinot noir--life is good!

January 28, 2012

Curried Vegetable with Dried Figs Potpies

I love making potpies as they are perfect for this wintry weather. This recipe is full of flavor with root vegetables and spices to make a satisfying meal. Jean gave me a set of Le Creuset's enamaled cast iron Gratin baking dishes in sea blue and orange. I just love the pretty colors. Thank you Jean!

January 23, 2012

Chinese New Year Dishes

Gong Hay Fat Choy! Here are some Chinese New Year dishes that I've cooked for my family over the years. It is good luck to prepare an even number of dishes, such as 8 which means prosperity in Chinese.
Here is a compilation of festive dishes to help you celebrate this Lunar New Year of the Dragon. May we all be blessed with good health and prosperity for 2012! (Mouse over picture to view recipe).

January 21, 2012

Sizzling Vietnamese Crêpe/Bánh Xèo

Bánh Xèo (ban say-oh) is a light and appetizing rice crêpe with meat and vegetables fillings. It is served with the nuoc cham, a spicy and piquant fish sauce, along with a side dish of various types of aromatic herbs and lettuce. To eat it, you would wrap a small piece of crêpe with lettuce and herbs into a bundle and dip into the sauce.

January 16, 2012

Blueberry Clafouti

I am glad to find blueberries in the store today, so I picked up a pound of it to make this recipe for a clafouti. Clafouti is a soft and custard-like baked French dessert that is made with fresh seasonal berries. Depending on the sweetness of the berries, you should adjust the sugar accordingly, unless if you have a sweet-tooth it didn't really matter.

January 15, 2012

Crispy Bacon and Fingerling Potato Pizza

John and I made this wonderful recipe for brunch today. Instead of using the regular pizza dough, it uses Phyllo dough for a crisp and delicate crust. You can use any of your favorite topping ingredients to make it your own signature pizza. I called this recipe taking pizza to a higher level, as it is not only a satisfying meal; it is wonderful to serve on any occasion!

January 14, 2012

Roast Chicken with Olives/Chicken Mhammar

One of my favorite cuisines is Mediterranean--it is the food from the different cultures adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea. Mediterranean cuisine is not Spanish, French, or Italian food--because of the complexity of its history, cultures, religions, and geography. Mediterranean food has developed not as national cuisines but as a variety of regional cuisines based on an extreme geography.
One of the regions is Morocco and its cuisine is extremely diverse due to its interaction with other cultures and nation over the centuries. Their food is colorful, and tastefully seasoned with herbs and spices to create a rich and flavorful aroma. I stumbled upon this recipe online while searching for Argan oil (more about this wonderful oil in my next post).

January 11, 2012

Classic Pear and Almond Tart

This is a classic French tart to make. It is easy to prepare and looks elegant for a special Sunday dinner. I've made this some weeks ago and quite forgotten to post it. I'd used two adaptations for the recipe and the credits are listed below. Bon Appetit!

Ingredients: (Adapted from Bon Appetit, February 2005)
4 firm and ripe Bosc pears, peeled, cored and cut into halves
1 cup sugar
3½ cups water
½ Tbsp. lemon juice
Almond Filling:
2/3 cup blanced slivered almonds
1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
6 Tbsp. sugar
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg, beaten
½ tsp. almond extract (optional)
Sweet Tart Crust: (Adapted from Dorie Greenspan)
9-inch tart pan with removable bottom
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup confectioner's sugar
¼ tsp. salt
9 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large ege yolk
1. For pears: In a medium pot add water, sugar and lemon juice to a boil over medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolves, then add the pears. Reduce heat to medium low heat and simmer until the pears are tender. Turn them over occasionally, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and let pears cool in the syrup.
2. For almond filling: Grind almonds and flour in a food processor until well mixed. Add in sugar, then buttern and almond extract, if using. Pulse until mixture is smooth, add in egg yolk to blend. Remove mixture into a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.
3. For Tart Crust: Add flour, sugar, and salt into a food processor and pulse to combine. Add in the butter and pulse further until mixture resembles bread crumbs. Stir in the egg yolk a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. Pulse for another 10 minutes until the mixture begins to clump to a dough. Tum the dough out onto a floured work surface. Knead the dough lightly to just incorporated any missed dry ingredients on the surface. From into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours before rolling.
4. Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter bottom and sides of a 9-inch fluted tart pan. Place a piece of parchment paper on work surface and gently dust over with flour. Roll dough to form a large round, about 12-inch. Using the parchment paper as aid, turn dough into the pan. Remove paper. Seal any cracks in dough, trim overhand to ½ inch. Fold overhang in, making double-thick sides. Pierce bottom of crust with folk.
5. Line crust with buttered foil side down, then fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake crust in the middle of the oven until sides ar set about 20 minutes. Remove foil and pie weights. Bake further for another 8-10 minutes until golden and bottom is set. Remove and cool crust in pan for later. Reduce oven to 350°F.
6. Let almond filling thaw at room temperature. Spread filling evenly in crust. Cut pears in slices and gently press pear slices in filling, overlapping them. (You can be creative at this point)
7. Bake tart in middle of oven until golden and when inserted with a toothpick into the center comes out clean, about 50-60 minutes. Cool tart in pan on rack. To serve push pan bottom up to release the tart. Place on serving plate and cut into wedges.
Printable Recipe

January 9, 2012

Apple and Pear Soup

I've have been feeling under the weather since the middle of December. I got the chills, cough, and congestion during the holidays. John was away visiting his parents back east and I spend the holidays with the boys in SF instead. Just like myself, they were both sick with the cold. Instead of the regular festive spread on Christmas Eve, I made onion soup with crusty bread. It was wonderful that we had the entire weekend off, so we could all stayed home to rest.
This is the time of the year where the summer heat evaporates into dry fall weather--people develop colds and cough. Besides taking lots of rest and decongestion medicine to ease the symptoms, another remedy is Chinese soup. I like to share this appetizing soup that is believed to nourish and strengthens the lungs. It is a perfect soup for all seasons.
2 unpeeled apples (red of green)
2 unpeeled Ya Li pears, or Korean pears
4 Chinese dried figs
30 gms sweet almonds
30 gms bitter almonds
½ lb lean pork
6 cups water
salt to taste
1. Rinse and ingredients well with water. Core and cut fruits into quarters. Cut lean pork into small chunks.
2. Add enough water into a pot and scald the pork to remove scums and impurities. Remove from heat and pour away the water and rinse the meat with some water.
3. In a clean pot, bring the 6 cups of water to a boil (the water should be enough to cover the ingredients, add more if necessary). When water comes to a fast boil, add in all the ingredients, except the salt. Cook over high heat for 20-25 minutes. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low and simmer to cook for another hour.
3. Remove from heat and season with salt. Remove meat and serve the soup with the cooked fruits.
Tips: You can purchase the almonds and Chinese dried figs in most Chinese medicine shops.
Printable Recipe

January 8, 2012

Candied Pork Ribs

I simply love this dish because the cane sugar and the vinegar gives it a sweet and sour taste with a rich caramelized brown syrupy aroma. It is a colorful dish for any occasion.
5 strips of baby pork ribs, cut into bite sized (between the bones)
1 egg yolk
All-purpose flour for coating
salt and pepper
1 piece of brown candy (cane sugar imported from China)
¼ cup brown rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
Oil for deep frying
1. Pat ribs dry, season with salt and pepper and egg yolk. Set aside. Add enough flour in a bowl to coat the meat.
2. In a deep pan, heat enough oil for deep fry. Turn heat on high. Using a long chopsticks or tong, pick a piece of meat and coat with flour, shake off access flour and gently put into pan. Fry till golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Note: Do not add too much meat to cook at one time and discard used oil.

3. Remove oil from pan, reheat pan on low heat. Break the cane sugar and let it melt in the pan, stirring to prevent burning. Warm the vinegar slighty and add to the sugar mixture slowly, stirring to prevent sugar from crystalizing. Adjust to your taste, add a little more cane sugar or vinegar to balance the sweet and sour taste. Next toss in the ribs and give it a quick stir to mix well with the sauce. Serve hot with rice.
Note: A friend suggest that I submit this dish to "Aspiring Bakers #15-Auspicious Dishes for CNY, hosted by Wen's Delight.
Printable Recipe

January 7, 2012

Savory Fennel, Onion, & Orange Zest Upside-Down Shortcake

Last night John and I had dinner at Coconut, a Caribbean restaurant in downtown Palo Alto. After the meal, we walked down a couple of blocks to Bell's, an independent bookstore (you don't find many around these days). It is a two story historic building with over 300,000 volumes of used and rare books. This place is definately for a voracious reader. We joked that this will be a perfect place for anyone in exile or retired.
I picked up a wonderful recipe book on savory baking by Mary Cech. It has quite a few of warm and inspiring recipes that I like to bake. This one is my favorite with caramelized onions baked upside-down--great for brunch or as a side dish. The recipe asked for fennel seeds, but I opted for fresh fennel, and I've added some plum dried tomatoes to enhanced the flavor of the balsamic vinegar. The onion fillings are wonderful paired with roasted lamb chops!