Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Sticky rice two ways: mango coconut, scallion mushroom

Living in the south is confusing. I know it's fall because it's been cooler ... as in it's only been in the high 80's in the morning these days. So even though it's autumn, it feels perfectly good eating mango sticky rice when I get inside from that Louisiana heat. 

I love sticky rice. It's sweet, it's got a nice bite. It's higher in calorie and more dense, but oh does it carry flavor. I called up my grandma for her basic instructions on how to steam sticky rice, and I improvised the rest to recreate my favorite Thai dessert. For the savory version I used a simple recipe from my other grandmother and it paired perfectly with my pan seared gulf drum. 

Perfect transitional post because sticky rice is eaten when the weather gets colder because it sticks to your belly and warms you up! 

My Mid-Autumn Festival dinner, complete with mooncake! 

Mango Coconut Sticky Rice
1 cup glutinous rice, presoaked in water for 30 min 
~ 6 oz coconut milk
1 ripe mango, sliced
to serve: sweetened condensed milk, mint 

1. Prepare a large pot for steaming.* 
2. Fill flat dish with presoaked rice.
3, Pour in coconut milk until it is level with the rice
4. Steam for 45 - 60 min or until rice is cooked
5. Serve with fresh sliced mango and drizzled sweetened condensed milk 

*I used a deep skillet, a wire rack, and flat dish as my steaming contraption  

Scallion Mushroom Sticky Rice
1 cup glutinous rice, presoaked in water for 30 min 
~ 6 oz water/rice wine, 2:1 ratio 
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced 
1 tbsp dried shrimp 
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
pinch of salt
Optional: 1 link Chinese sausage, sliced
to serve: sliced scallions, cilantro

1. Prepare a large pot for steaming.* 
2. Fill flat dish with presoaked rice
3. Pour in water/rice wine until it is level with the rice
4. Mix in mushrooms, shrimp, soy sauce, and salt
5 Steam for 45-60 min or until rice is cooked
6. Drizzle with sesame oil and top with scallions and parsley before serving 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

On ramen

The worst part about growing up is no longer being able to go on vacations with your parents. The best part? Receiving delicious care packages in the mail once they return from their travels. 

yes, those are wasabi Kit Kats.
When my parents came back from their trip to Japan to see the cherry blossoms, they returned with lots of goodies to share. My favorite was this fresh ramen pack (not featured in the photo below) that came with this rich fatty pork based sauce packet. Though I didn't have the char siu to go with my ramen, the soup base definitely convinced me otherwise. 

So this is not a real blog post. It's just some tips on how to make your homemade packaged ramen more than just plain ramen with... and an attempt to make ramen somewhat healthier. 

My ramens of choice (for flavor and texture) are the original Nissin with sesame oil and Shin ramyun. To be honest, I've been having a love/hate relationship recently. I love ramen because who doesn't love ramen? But because I've been eating ramen way less frequently than my college days (twice a year compared to twice a week), I've recently been having very negative reactions to it. I can no longer eat an entire pack (2 servings) without having to drink a gallon of water and take a long nap right afterwards. I don't know how I did it so often in college. So now whenever I make instant ramen, I can only have half a pack at a time. Yes, I save half the seasoning pack too. 

Nutrition-wise, this is definitely the way to go. At 40 - 45 gm of carbohydrates and 900 - 1000 mg of sodium a serving, no one needs 2 servings at once. And now that I'm an adult and a real person, there's no excuse to having plain ramen. Ramen is incomplete without some sort of egg yolky egg and some greens. The greens can be as simple as some fresh scallion on top, or I love serving my ramen with a side of vegetables for the fiber and other myriad of health benefits that come with eating greens. And no need to stop there, I've also made ramen bases with shiitake mushrooms and dried shrimp fry. The possibilities are endless to make your ramen less basic and a little healthier! 

Fun fact: in Cantonese, we call instant ramen "gong zai meen," which translates to doll noodles. I'm guessing because it's curly like a doll's hair. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Peach Ice Box Pie

I have a new favorite season. Peach season. How was it so fleeting? When I asked the farmers at the market what type of peaches they'll have next week, they told me that they were out and to see them next year. It came and went, leaving me with the sweetest taste in my daydreams. To preserve some of that summer goodness, I decided to sacrifice two of my ripest plumpest peaches for an ice box pie. 

Because you know me, and I can't seem to follow directions, I made my own version of the decadent southern dessert. I crushed up shortbread biscuits for the crust and mixed the sweetened condensed milk with coconut milk. Perfect pie for a late summer Louisiana afternoon! 

Coconut Peach Icebox Pie
2 peaches, sliced

for the crust: 
1 cup almond flour
6 pieces shortbread biscuit, crushed
2 tbs butter, melted
1 tbs coconut oil, melted
2 tbs maple syrup 

for the filling:
8 oz sweetened condensed milk
4 oz coconut milk
2 tbs lemon juice

to serve: mint leaves

1. Mix together all ingredients for the crust and press down evenly into a pie dish. Place in freezer for at least 2 hours. 
2. Remove pie dish from freezer and line with peach slices.
3. Pour filling over peach, place in freezer for 3-5 hrs or until frozen. 
4. Thaw for 5-10 minutes before serving 
5. Serve with mint! 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

My week with Blue Apron

Thanks to a fellow dietitian, I got a free trial of Blue Apron! I know, I'm only years behind on the very successful recipe + ingredients delivery start up train, but hey, can't say no to a free box! 

For those of you who have never used Blue Apron before, it's a great service that provides all the necessary ingredients for a delicious meal that you typically wouldn't cook for yourself. I chose the one for 2 people (not trying to feed a small family right now) and got to choose 3 of the featured recipes of the week. Blue Apron caters to many different diets and allergies, so no problems there putting in food preferences. The ingredients all come in an insulated and highly ice packed box, that if you everything carefully, you can ship all the packaging back to Blue Apron for them to reuse!! That was a biggie for me, finding out how on earth this was somehow sustainable in the long run. 

Anyways, challenges. Sorting out all the ingredients for the 3 separate recipes was pretty pain staking. Just imagine getting a new toy only to realize that much assembly is required before you can actually play with it. Been there too many times. Following the instructions for any one of the recipes was also a struggle... they trick you by showing only 6 steps. However, each step easily contained 3 or more sub-steps. And you know how great I am at following directions... so I had to make up a lot of my own steps simply because I can't follow a list of instructions. Pro tip: don't use all the spices and seasonings they give you, I find it almost a third too much as what you would actually need to thoroughly flavor your food! 

Here are general thoughts of the recipes I received in this week's box:
  • BBQ Pork Burgers & Corn on the Cob: ain't nobody got time to fry onions at home. Great idea, though! Also, really glad my fridge is stocked with extra vegetables because pickles, onions, and corn is not my idea of a balancing a diet. Also, there's no burger without cheese! Wish I could've prepared myself better for that one. But overall delicious burger with great flavors (BBQ sauce + mustard). The best part of the meal: that herb butter, doe! 
  • Spicy Chicken & Korean Rice Cakes: You can't give a Korean inspired recipe without a side of kimchi. It's just not right. I also thought the amount of hoisin sauce provided would make the recipe way too sweet because corn and mushrooms already provide a lot of sweetness! I opted to marinate the chicken in a soy sauce/gochujang blend for more depth and of course liberally used some rice wine here or there. I love rice cakes / dduk / leen goh!!
  • Curried Catfish & Coconut Rice: Lots of flavors going on in this one. There's the raisin ginger chutney, the curry dusted catfish, and the coconut green bean herb rice. I must admit that catfish is a fishy choice. Even all the coconut spice and chutney couldn't mask its innate flavor. The star of the recipe was clearly the coconut rice. I'm going to start making rice like this all the time now! So addictive.  
Will I do it again and pay for it? Maybe. I already opted out on the next few deliveries because I don't see a combination of recipes that truly appeal to me. As someone that goes grocery shopping and cooks for myself regularly. there were many recipes that I thought were not worth the value (vegetarian options) or that I could easily procure for myself. 

So here you have it, my first attempts at Blue Apron. The following 3 recipes are my own rendition of what Blue Apron provided. I added quite a few of my own knick knacks that I hope you enjoy! 

BBQ Pork Burgers & Corn on the Cob (serves 2)

BBQ Pork Burgers
10 oz ground pork 
1 onion: 2/3 sliced in rings, 1/3 minced
1 tbs dijon mustard
3 tbs oil (olive, canola, peanut, avocado, up to you!) 
2 tbs cheese (I had parmesan, but wish I had Swiss) 
to season: 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 1/4 tsp Cajun seasoning
optional: white wine 
to serve: 2 sesame seed buns (toasted), pickles, tomato slices 1/2 cup mixed greens, 1/4 cup BBQ sauce

1. In a small bowl, mix together ground pork, minced onion, dijon mustard and seasonings. Set aside,
2. In a small skillet, brown sliced onions in 1 tbs of oil. 
- Add a generous splash of white wine (or water).
- Turn heat down to low and allow to soften. 
- Mix once every few minutes. 
3. Pour remainder olive oil in a larger skillet on medium high heat. Add the patties and sear for several minutes on each side. 
- Add a generous splash of white wine (or water). Cover for a few minutes to ensure meat is cooked through. 
- Add cheese on top of patties, cover for another minutes
4. Serve on a toasted bun topped with softened onions and all desired garnishes and BBQ sauce

Corn on the Cob with Garlic -Herb Butter 
1 ear of corn 
1 tbsp butter, soft
1 clove garlic, minced
3 stems parsley, minced 

1. Boil half a small pot of water with a dash of salt. 
2. Insert corn and boil for about 3 minutes or until bright yellow and slightly softened
3. While preparing the corn, in a small bowl, mix together butter, garlic, and parsley. 
4. Slather on corn once corn is removed from the water

Spicy Chicken & Korean Rice Cakes (serves 2)
4 chicken thighs, sliced
1/2 lb rice cakes
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 sprigs scallion, sliced
1 ear of corn, kernels sliced off the cob
1 in knob ginger, slivered 
2 tbs rice vinegar
2 tbs rice wine
1 tbs gochujang
1 tbs hoisin sauce
1/4 oz dried shiitake mushrooms, pre-soaked and sliced
3 tbs oil (olive, canola, peanut, avocado, up to you!) 
marinade: 1 tbs soy sauce, 1 tbs rice wine, 1 tbs gochujang, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp sesame oil
to serve: kim chi

1. In a medium pot, boil a pot of water. 
- Once boiling, add the rice cakes and cook for about 3 minutes
- Drain and run under cold water, Set aside
2. In a large deep pan, heat oil. Sear chicken. 
3. Add garlic, scallion, ginger, shiitake mushroom, and brown.
4. Mix in gochu jang, rice vinegar, rice wine, and corn. 
5. Once thoroughly mixed and chicken cooked through, incorporate rice cakes. 
6. Serve with kimchi!

Curried Catfish & Coconut Rice (serves 2)

Coconut Green Bean Herb Rice
3/4 cup white basmati rice
4 oz green beans
1 in knob ginger, minced
3 tbs dried coconut flakes
4 sprigs cilantro, minced
2 sprigs mint, minced
2 tbs coconut oil
To flavor: salt

1. Heat 2 tbs coconut oil to brown the ginger and 2 tbs coconut flakes.
2. Lightly sautee green beans. Mix in rice.
3. Add 1 1/4 cup water with a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Turn heat on low and simmer with lid on for 12-15 minutes or until rice is cooked.
4. Remove rice from heat and fluff with remaining coconut flakes, cilantro, and mint.

Golden Raisin Chutney
2 tsp chutney spice (brown mustard seeds, yellow mustard seeds, nigella seeds)
3 tbs golden raisin
1 in knob ginger, minced
1/2 lime

1. In a medium pan, toast chutney spices.
2. Add raisins, ginger and brown.
3. Add 1/4 cup of water and boil down until it all evaporates.
4. Scoop out raisin chutney in a small bowl and mix with the juice of half a lime. Set pan aside

Curried Catfish
2 catfish fillets, patted dry
2 tbs curry spice blend (Madras curry powder, rice flour)
1 tbs oil (olive, canola, peanut, avocado, up to you!)

1. Coat the catfish generously in the curry spice blend
2. Using the same pan (less dishwashing!), heat oil.
3. Sear catfish for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown and cooked through
4. Serve atop coconut rice with raisin chutney

Sunday, July 31, 2016

I left my heart in Italia

Classic Caprese celebrating the colors of Italia!

Every summer my posts are few and far between, but I promise it's with good reason. This time around I was a bit preoccupied being the happiest glutton in Italy. We took a family vacation to the magnificent Lake Como, marvelous Milan, and mysterious Venice. Every meal we drank about 3 bottles of San Pelligrino, had either a Caprese or proscuitto e melon, and my dad would most certainly order the linguini alle vongole. I ate a surprising amount of eggplant parmigiana and ordered zucchini blossoms and tiramisu whenever it was on the menu. My mother was all about the Adriatic seafood, wanting to try everything from the lake fish to sea snails. My brother developed an obsession with pappardelle Bolognese, and I with proscuitto di Parma and gelato, though that's not new. I love eating in Italy, and Italian cooking is clearly a big part of my life. It's all about the fresh ingredients used in simple ways to bring out the natural flavors of the food. Also, major shout out to everyone in the service industry. Every server was so professional and courteous! Oh, I reminisce sometime;  how I wish I were sipping a cappuccino in Milano right now!  

the most impressive crab pasta by Villa Olmo
a beautiful butter roll at Ristorante Raimondi

the original Bellagio

Como lakeside lunch
linguini alle vongole, the family favorite
zucchini flowers everywhere! (before)
zucchini flowers (after) by Giacomo Arengario
such a great strawberry tart, we had another one
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II by night

fresh on fresh at Antica Trattoria della Pesa
osso bucco with risotto Milanese in the back at Antica Trattoria della Pesa

my brother's favorite, the pappardelle Bolognese at Peck
figs and peaches for my morning proscuitto
the bustling city of Venice
mornings at the Rialto fish market
the perfect way to end a meal: ricotta cheesecake at Al Covo
the amuse bouche at Il Ridotto, watermelon tomato soup with fresh ricotta
the whimsical island of Burano
7 euro pitcher of house wine
the legendary seafood risotto at Trattoria da Romano
and but of course, gelato all day erryday

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Easy barbecue country style ribs

Just got back to New Orleans from New York and a family holiday to Italia (photos to come)! After some time away from the south, I was really missing barbecue. Lucky me, the first day back I went grocery shopping, there was a pack of country style ribs on sale. Got the pack, seasoned the ribs, slow baked them in my skillet, and had amazing tender barbecue all in less than 2 hours. So easy, so good, so can't believe I didn't try making my own ribs until now. 

Next time I'm going to try making my own char siu honey soy sauce! 

Barbecue country style ribs 
2 lb bone in country style ribs
1/2 tsp Cajun spice (Slap Ya Mama spicy) 
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/3 cup barbecue sauce * 

1. Mix together all spices and rub seasoning onto ribs 
2. Preheat oven to 315F 
3. Line ribs on roasting rack and bake for 90 minutes or until ribs are tender
4. Brush barbecue sauce on ribs and broil on high for 3-5 minutes
5. Remove from oven and serve! 

* For barbecue sauce, I used Jay D's hand crafted Louisiana small batch barbecue sauce that I got for free (best swag bag ever!) from a lecture I attended at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.