Thursday, September 29, 2011

Muji Pasta: Cod Roe

Did you know that the Muji's in Asia sell a lot more than just stationary? When I was in Hong Kong this summer, I picked up a few packs of their instant sauce kits, and I finally got around to trying them.

Muji offers a bunch of instant mixes ranging from ice cream to pumpkin scones. Here are the few pasta sauces that I purchased: cod roe, arrabbiata, urchin cream, and porcini.

Today I tried the cod roe pasta sauce. Roe is fish egg, and is eaten most commonly, I find, in Japan. It is salty by nature, and therefore has a rather high sodium content. I decided to pair it with mini spinach wheel pasta (it was the only thing I had, I wish I had some linguini), a fresh chopped tomato, and three cloves of minced garlic.

I boiled about 100g of the pasta in water with 2 teaspoons of salt, and sauteed the garlic and the tomato with 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a separate pan. I then added the cod roe sauce to the tomatoes and garlic, and then mixed in the cooked and drained pasta. Finally, I sprinkled the accompany packet of dried seaweed on top of the pasta dish and mixed it all together in a small bowl.

The sauce, as I expected, was a bit on the salty side, so I would probably use more pasta or add less salt while boiling the pasta. Adding the tomatoes were a great touch, I only wish I had more materials to work with.

Oh well, quick and easy study-break lunch!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

No. 9 Park

Not going to lie, I'm very spoiled when it comes to food. My mom's hobby for awhile was trying new restaurants, and living in New York City makes that immensely easy. We average eating out probably 3-4 times a week, especially since I no longer live at home full-time. Therefore one of the things I miss most when I'm living in Boston is haute cuisine. It's hard to find a group of friends willing to invest more $20 a meal at this age. And it's even harder to get by when every time you call home, your family is having a casual lunch at Les Halles or just another dinner at Daniel. 

So last Spring, I made a few restaurant week reservations and ended up dining at No.9 Park with Victor and Chelsea. First off, we made the wrong reservation. Instead of March, Chelsea had somehow booked our table for May, so there was no way of getting seated with the restaurant week menu, so we made the decision to try to regular dining room. I think it was the right way to go. I had such a memorable meal there (it helped that the waiter didn't card us when we ordered a bottle of red wine), that I brought my mom and grandma when they drove me up to Boston for school. 

No. 9 Park offers a three course prix-fixe menu for $69, and this is what I ordered: 

Toasted golden beets- served with Constant Bliss, a semi soft Vermont cheese, walnuts, and petite greens. 

Pekin Duck Breast- confit leg, baby vegetables, prune plums

Poppy Seed Cake- with blackberries, sour cream, and violets

Barbara Lynch's No. 9 Park is nestled right at the end of the Boston Commons and at the start of the busy Park Street. Their dining room is intimate and comfortable, and their staff is very attentive and professional. The meal is definitely worth the price, and I even remember that I ordered a pork belly and a divine fig cake more than a year ago. The menus options have both French and Italian influences and are prepared in a modern fare. They incorporate a lot of locally attained seasonal foods, and also serve a chef's tasting menu that changes regularly. This is a must-go location in Beantown for special occasions or anniversaries. 

No. 9 Park
9 Park Street
Boston, MA 02108

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Chewy Chocolate Cookies Accident

Let me just put this out here: I am the worst baker ever. I am horrible at baking. It doesn't make sense to me, because I've been in quite a few chemistry classes, and I am confident in my measuring and following direction skills. 

Over the weekend, I had a girl's night in with Jen and we did this great experiment compiling a few different recipes (not on purpose), and we ended up with a large batch of quite tasty chocolate cookies. Though I must admit that they're not that visually appealing. 

Chewy Chocolate Cookies
8oz unsalted butter
2 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
3 medium sized eggs 
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
8oz chocolate chips
4oz pecans 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Sift flour, cocoa, and baking soda. Beat the butter in as well and add both sugars, sea salt and eggs. Mix until smooth. Add the chocolate chips and the pecans and fold together. 

Drop the dough in 2 in balls on a baking pan, space evenly. Bake for 15 minutes. 

So somehow, all the above directions gave us something that looked like this: 

Not exactly what I expected, for it was almost a complete flat sheet of cookie.

Regardless, they were still crispy due to the thinness and extremely chewy in the centers. Good enough for me!

Serve with milk. 

Bake safely at home, kids! 

Saturday, September 24, 2011


I'm sure you've all seen the Disney/Pixar Animation, Ratatouille, featuring the master chef and rat, Remy and the clueless restaurant heir, Alfredo Linguini. At the end of the movie, Remy prepares a classic French dish and wins over a notoriously harsh food critic's heart. What Remy the rat served?The Provençal French stewed vegetable dish, ratatouille. I never was too intrigued in trying this dish until I traveled abroad in Haute-Savoie, the French Alps. 

My host family in Veyrier du Lac cooked dinner every night, and about a half of the produce we ate came from fresh their own garden. One summer night, I finally tried a homemade ratatouille. I remember it being a tomato and olive oil based stew with lots of squashes and eggplant. I had it over rice, and it was perfect. It easily became my favorite dish; it was good fresh and even better the next day for lunch. 

When I came home to New York, I attempted making ratatouille several times. It was never the same, but this recipe comes pretty close. My host family didn't prepare their ratatouille in layers, and cut their vegetables in more cube-like forms, but I found this method to be carry out the flavor better.

3-4 small tomatoes
1 large onion
1 eggplant
1 squash
1 zucchini 
4 tablespoons olive oil
Herbes de Provence (or Thyme, Sage, Oregano, Basil) 

1. First, cut all the vegetables into thin slices.
2. Heat up the skillet and sautee the onions with two tablespoons of olive oil. Then layer all the tomatoes on top, turn the heat to medium/low and cover the pan so that the tomatoes cook. Sprinkle on about of 2 teaspoons of salt. Eventually the tomatoes will be more of a sauce than distinct tomato slices.
3. After about 10 minutes, layer on the squash and zucchini and cook with the cover on for another 5-7 minutes before layering on the eggplant.

4. Sprinkle about a tablespoon of the herbs onto the eggplants along with the two tablespoons of olive oil, and let it simmer with the lid on for another 20 minutes, so all the vegetables become softer, like a stew. Afterwards, remove the cover and let it reduce for 5-7minutes. Then sprinkle fresh basil on top. 
5. Finally, mix gently to maintain the layers in the dish.

This is a great, healthy, and flavorful dish to go with any meal. Perfect for the remaining produce from the end of summer/beginning of Fall !

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Paris, France

I have done quite a bit of travelling in my time, and recently I have been missing Europe, namely Paris, a lot. Something about the atmosphere, the food, and the culture, makes me want to go back time and time again. Here are some snap shots of the meals I ate and the places I visited when I was there. I hope to share my gastronomic adventures more often, and this will be the first of many. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Simple Stir-fry

Living alone is definitely not easy. Especially when I'm cooking for myself. My friend Lukas noticed yesterday that my fridge is very sparse. That is true, however, it is also because I buy my groceries on pretty much a day by day basis. Since I am a full time student, my work and reading schedule is not very regular, and I never know when I will have the time to prepare a decent meal. 

So today, I went out and bought half a pound of shrimp. I have quite a love hate relationship with shrimp. First off, shrimp is one of my favorite foods of all time. However, preparing shrimp is a pain. I think I've spent more than a handful of hours peeling and de-veining shrimp this summer. However, the results are usually worth it and it's a good time for character building and self reflection. 

Shrimp and Cellophane Noodle Stir Fry
These ingredients are enough for one very hungry person or two moderately hungry people, or as a dish served with rice on the side, in which case you would want to double the amount of shrimp. 
1 pack cellophane noodles (100g or 3.5oz)
5-6 pc dried mushroom
1/2 lb shrimp
5 cloves of garlic
1 sprig of spring onion
Soy Sauce
Salt, pepper
Sesame Oil
Vegetable Oil
3-4oz Chicken broth

First off, if you want to include the dried mushrooms in this dish (it definitely adds a lot of aroma), let it sit in water with a loose cover for at least 2 hours before preparation. This is to rehydrate the mushrooms so that you're not chewing anything resembling cardboard during your meal. 

Prepare the cellophane noodles (粉絲) by letting them sit in room temperature water for at least half an hour.  The best thing to do is to soak the cellophane noodles just before the rest of your preparations, so that it will be ready when you start the actual cooking. 
When purchasing cellophane noodles, the packaging will most likely say vermicelli, but be sure to not confuse it with rice vermicelli (米粉) upon your purchase. Cellophane noodles are made with mung bean starch and are considerably low in calorie for a carbohydrate. 

Next comes the shrimp. As previously mentioned, shrimp needs to be de-shelled and de-veined. I usually purchase shrimp in seafood markets where they come headless and on a bed of ice (Unless I'm serving steamed shrimp, which in that case I would purchase live shrimp). It should be about $5.99 a pound.  After the shrimps are peeled and veinless, chop them into halves or thirds depending on the size. Then season with some salt, pepper, a drizzle of sesame oil, and cornstarch. Here's the thing about shrimp: (and a lot of other meat) it will exude juices when you cook. Therefore, to keep the juice inside, you should toss about a teaspoon of cornstarch into your seasoning so that the meat will remain succulent after cooking. 

Next comes preparing all the other ingredients that go into the stir fry. Chop the garlic, spring onion, and mushroom into fine pieces and set aside and prepare the wok and cellophane noodles. 

My friend Winston recently purchased a wok, in which he seasoned himself, but I just got a non-stick wok, which comes in very handy when cooking things like eggs or shrimp! 

In a small separate pot, bring the chicken broth to a boil. Once it is ready, drain the cellophane noodles and toss them into the broth. Cellophane noodles are very absorbent, and if you don't pre-boil it or cook it with a high water exuding food, your dish will be very dry. This needs to be cooked only for a few minutes. Set aside for later use. 

So, once the wok is on high heat, pour in about two tablespoons of vegetable oil. Once the oil is boiling, dump in the garlic, spring onion, and mushroom and cook until it is slightly brown. Then add all the shrimp  into the wok and stir fry.  When the shrimp is half cooked, add 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, and continue stir frying until the shrimp is cooked. 

When everything in the wok is done, extract the cellophane noodles from the pot and fold into the shrimp stir fry. 

Honestly, this meal was a bit of an experiment, but it turned out surprisingly delicious!