Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Fennel and Orange Salad

After getting disappointed with his Cheese Straws recipe, I totally scored with this Fennel and Orange Salad from the How to Cook Everything book - it's refreshing, tasty and crunchy. I thought the fennel anise taste would overpower the dish but i was wrong... marinating it with lemon & orange juice made it mellower. I added some raisins, avocado slices and a soft boil eggs and oh it's so good!

1 pound fennel (1 large or 2-3 small bulbs)
3 small sweet oranges or tangerines
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

  • Trim and core the fennel and cut into thin slices.
  • Squeeze the juice from one of the oranges, pour over the fennel, add salt and lemon juice, and let it sit for a couple hours while preparing the orange slices.
  • Peel the remaining oranges and segment into orange slices.
  • Add the oranges and cilantro to the fennel, toss, taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.
  • Add raisins, avocado slices and soft-boiled.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Chicken with Carrots, Mushroom & Figs

I was searching for what to cook last Sunday and stumbled across several interesting recipes on Martha Stewart's website. Since I could not decide which one to cook, I decided to combine those recipes together and made this Pan Seared, Roast & Braised Chicken with Carrots, Mushroom and Figs. It tasted so delicious and comforting ... yum yum!

4 chicken thighs
4 drumsticks
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 carrots, thinly sliced
1 pound assorted mushrooms (such as shiitake, cremini, and white), stemmed and quartered
1 1/2 cups chicken stock (or white wine)
1 cup quartered dried figs
1 tablespoon corn starch
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Season both sides of the chicken pieces with salt and pepper.
  • Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large ovenproof skillet or a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
  • Add chicken, skin side down; cook until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Flip and cook for another 3 minutes on the other side. Transfer to oven and roast for about 10 minutes, transfer to a place and cover.
  • Cook the onion in the same pan with a couple tablespoons of olive oil for 2-3 minutes and then add in the carrot slices and cook for 5 more minutes.
  • Add mushroom, chicken stock and the chicken pieces back to the pan, cover, cook stirring occasionally for another 3 minutes.
  • Dissolve corn starch in a small bowl with a couple tablespoons water and add into the pan.
  • Add dried figs, chopped parsley and adjust seasoning if needed.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Cheese Straws

I made these Cheese Straws using Mark Bittman's recipe because I wanted to have some salty snacks in the afternoon and also use them as substitutes for croutons for our salad. They are pretty easy and tasty but I noticed that the direction and measurement in the book are not very clear - I had to add more water than 'a few drops of ice water' because the dough was not doughy enough and baked them for twice as long. I think next time I make them, I would use Smitten Kitchen's recipe since hers is clearer and easier for me to follow.


1/2 lb cheddar or other flavorful hard cheese
1/3 lb Parmesan cheese
2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder
8 tablespoons (1 stick) chilled butter, cut into chunks
~1/4 cup of ice cold water
coarse salt (optional)

  • Heat oven to 450F.
  • Grate the cheese in a food processor, then remove from the bowl.
  • Add flour and cayenne to the processor and pulse to mix.
  • Add butter and process to combine, pulse in the grated cheese.
  • Knead the dough by hand until the dough comes together, adding ice water one tablespoon at a time.
  • Roll the dough out into a rectangle about 1/4 inch thick, using flour as necessary, and cut into long strips and about 1/4-1/2 inch wide.
  • Put on a lightly greased baking sheet or a silicone mat and sprinkle with salt.
  • Bake until golden brown, 12-15 minutes.

Bacon Fig Scones

I made this Bacon Fig Scones using Macheesmo's recipe because I was still in the mood some bacon-y scones even after having Bacon Cheddar Scones in the past week and since I had some dried figs that I needed to use. I thought that if bacon and figs are great together with Brussels Sprouts, they would be perfect in pastries too - sweet and salty goodness.


3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks (1/2 lb) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/3 lb dried figs, cut into small dice
8 slices bacon, cooked and roughly chopped
1 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 egg
2 tablespoons cream or water
raw sugar for sprinkling

  • Mix flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda together.
  • Cut in the butter until you have pea-sized pieces.
  • Add in the chopped figs and bacon and stir to combine.
  • Add all of the liquid and stir a few times until just mix.
  • Remove dough from bowl and place on a lightly floured flat surface.
  • Pat the dough into a ball.
  • Using a well-floured rolling pin or palms of your hands, flatten the dough into a flat disk about 3/4 - 1 inch thick.
  • Cut the dough into 8 to 10 wedges, depending on the size scone you prefer.
  • Whisk the egg and water in a small mixing bowl.
  • Brush each wedge with the egg wash.
  • Place scones on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone mat; bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown and no longer sticky in the middle.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Eggplant and Tofu in Spicy Black Bean Sauce

This Eggplant and Tofu in Spicy Black Bean Sauce is another vegetarian dish that is easy to make and super tasty. It is similar to the one that I made last year but I added Chinese black bean garlic sauce after I saw this dish on Veggie Belly.


4 medium Chinese eggplants
2 package of cooked fried (yellow) tofu
3 tablespoons oil
1 head of garlic, finely chopped
8 slices ginger, finely chopped
2 Serrano pepper, seeded and finely chopped
4 green onions, cut into 1-inch section
1 tablespoon chili paste (I used Sambal Oelek)
1 tablespoon Chinese black bean garlic sauce
1/2 cup water

1.5 tablespoons soy sauce
1.5 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon mirin
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon salt

  • Cut eggplants length wise and then cut each half into 1-inch pieces.
  • Cut tofu into 1-inch pieces.
  • Combine all the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.
  • Stir fry garlic, ginger and Serrano pepper over medium low heat in a heavy bottom pan or a wok for 5 minutes fragrant.
  • Add in the eggplant pieces, cook until the eggplants absorb the oil and begin to soften (about 5 minutes).
  • Add in tofu, green onion and the chili paste and cook for another 2 minutes.
  • Add the sauce and mix carefully to combine all the ingredients.
  • Add the water and cover the pan with a lid, lower the heat, simmer for 6-8 minutes until eggplants are fully cooked.
  • Stir to mix carefully and serve over rice.

Lima Beans, Leeks & Artichoke Stir-Fry

I came across this recipe from Bitter Sweet when I was looking for a simple vegetable stir-fry dish that is different from the usual Chinese stir fry. I like the fact that it uses frozen vegetables so you can cook it all year round and it has artichoke - as much as I love artichoke, I always think that it’s such a hassle to peel and eat them. I cooked this at the same time I made Spaghetti with Spiced Meat Sauce so I was able to use the same pot of boiling water to blanch the vegetables and cook the pasta.

1 1/2 cups frozen shelled and skinned lima/fava beans, blanched quickly for a couple minutes
1 bag frozen artichoke hearts (8oz or 12oz whatever available in your grocery stores), blanched quickly for 1 minute
1 red bell pepper, cut into small diced
1 leek, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Serrano pepper, finely diced
2 sprigs rosemary, finely chopped
¼ cup roughly chopped parsley
Grated zest from 1 lemon

  • Cook the garlic, Serrano pepper and rosemary with a couple tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat until fragrant (~1 minute).
  • Add in the leeks and cook until the leeks started to soften up.
  • Add in the blanched lima/fava beans, artichoke hearts and red bell pepper and cook for 3 more minutes.
  • Add in the chopped parsley and lemon zest, stir to combine and serve.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bacon Cheddar Scones

Ever since I got back from my Napa Valley trip, I have been thinking about Bouchon Bakery’s bacon cheddar scone. I searched all over the web trying to find the recipe and if there is a Bouchon Bakery cookbook. Unfortunately, I could not find any – although now I know that the Bouchon Bakery cookbook is on the work to be released some time in 2012. I decided to use the recipe from Dork-a-thon (thank you, Emma!) because I had to have some bacon cheddar scones soon! They turned out really good although they’re not the same as Bouchon’s scones – maybe not enough cheese & bacon? Next time, I’ll try to add more to the mixture. Now, if only I know how to take good pictures of these scones... it's hard to take a good one!


3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup chilled unsalted butter, grated
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
4 green onions, thinly sliced
10 slices bacon, cooked and chopped into 1 inch pieces
3/4-1 1/2 cup buttermilk (I used heavy whipping cream instead)
1 large egg
2 tablespoons water

  • Preheat oven to 400°F .
  • Stir together flour, baking powder, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl.
  • Gradually cut butter in with a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture resembles small peas.
  • Stir in cheese, green onions, bacon.
  • Add in 1 cup heavy cream to the flour and cheese mixture.
  • Mix by hand just until the ingredients are incorporated.
  • If the dough is too dry to hold together, use the remaining heavy cream, adding one tablespoon at a time, until dough is pliable and can be formed into a ball.
  • Stir as lightly and as little as possible to ensure a light-textured scone.
  • Remove dough from bowl and place on a lightly floured flat surface.
  • Pat the dough into a ball.
  • Using a well-floured rolling pin or palms of your hands, flatten the dough into a flat disk about ¾-1 inch thick.
  • Cut the dough into 8 to 10 wedges, depending on the size scone you prefer.
  • Whisk the egg and water in a small mixing bowl.
  • Brush each wedge with the egg wash.
  • Place scones on an ungreased baking sheet lined with parchment paper (or silicone mat); bake 20-22 minutes, or until golden brown and no longer sticky in the middle.
  • Serve warm and enjoy with a fresh brewed coffee.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Spaghetti with Spiced Meat Sauce

I was not in the mood to make anything complicated and fancy because I was feeling a bit hungover from Saturday night outing so I made this simple & quick pasta dish using Martha Stewart’s recipe. I substituted the rigatoni with organic spaghetti and used ground veal instead and I used the whole (12 oz) can of tomato paste and pasta water to help thicken the sauce and add more flavor. It turned out really good and we didn’t even need to add grated parmesan cheese on top because it’s already so tasty.


12 ounces spaghetti (or other pasta)
1 pound ground veal
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 12oz can tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 Serrano pepper, finely diced
1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar
¼ cup roughly chopped parsley

  • In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente; drain, and return to pot. Set aside.
  • While pasta is cooking, cook lamb in a large saucepan over medium-high, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Add Serrano pepper, onion and garlic; season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is tender, 4 to 6 minutes.
  • Stir in tomato paste and cinnamon, and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  • Add 2 cups of pasta water; bring to a boil.
  • Reduce to a simmer, and cook until slightly thickened, 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Stir in vinegar, and season again with salt and pepper.
  • Add pasta to the sauce pot and the chopped parsley, and toss to combine.

Thought For Food - Hands On

Do you like to play with your food or ever wonder how you would cook if the evil kitchen elves place things at the bottom of the drawer and hide all your utensils? Well, if you do, this event does just that. Recently our friend Lisa at Autofuss, an amazing production studio here in SF, invited us to attend a food/cooking experience founded by her office called Thought For Food - Hands On.

We cooked a three-course meal without using any utensils, just our hands. No measuring spoons/cups, no forks/spoons/knives, no rolling pin, no whisk – just our two hands, the ingredients, a set of instructions, a couple of bowls, pot of boiling water and diagrams on how to measure ingredients with just your hands. Not to mention the endless glasses of wine.

The menu:
  • Italian wine
  • Traditional Caesar salad
  • Homemade pasta with pesto sauce
  • Tiramisu
It was a little weird at first using just your hands to scoop up the mascarpone cheese for the tiramisu and rolling out pasta dough with a carrot, but it brought me back to my childhood playing with playdough. As you can see from the pictures below, Porgy and I were not very successful in creating our pasta dish. Some couples were able to rollout their dough thin enough to make pasta strips and ours looked more like potato chips. Although the pasta texture was a bit chewy, the flavor was fantastic.

All in all, it was a fun and educational evening for us – catching up with old friends, doing some experimental cooking, getting our hands really messy and most importantly, I learned that I am totally dependent on my cooking utensils. If you’re interested in checking out Autofuss' next event, Hunger Tool, go to their site for more information.

Napa Valley

A couple weeks ago, Porgy and I took an impromptu day-off from work and went to Napa Valley for some delicious wine and food loving.

We first stopped at the Bouchon Bakery in Yountville for yummy pastries – I had the bacon cheddar scone and Porgy had the cross bun. Heavenly!

then off to Frog’s Leap Winery to sample their wine flight...

more wine flight at Grgich Hills Estate ...

and finally we had a couple glasses of smooth Cabernet Sauvignon tasting at Silver Oaks.

On the way back we stopped by at BarbersQ to fuel ourselves for the drive home. I got the full rack of baby back ribs while Porgy had the lamb sliders. Their ribs are definitely one of the better ones that I have had since I moved to the SF Bay Area a decade ago. It is annoying that I cannot find a good American-style BBQ restaurant in San Francisco. Do you know a good BBQ restaurant in San Francisco that I should check out?

PS: Since I was the designated driver, I only sipped, swirled and spit the wine. It’s hard for me but it’s the responsible thing to do.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hawaiian Shoyu Chicken

After hanging with Auntie Sandy and Mo-Fo at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, I got inspired to make a Hawaiian-inspired dish since they are from Kauai so the next day I made this Hawaiian Shoyu Chicken. It is a delicious meat dish to be eaten with rice for lunch and with salad for a light dinner.

½ cup of low sodium shoyu (soy sauce)
½ cup of brown sugar or ½ cup of honey
½ cup of chicken broth or water
2 tablespoons of sake (I used dry white wine)
3-6 cloves of garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons of fresh ginger, grated fine (skins on)
1 teaspoon of Chinese five spice powder
Hot sauce such as Sriracha to taste (I used Sambal Oelek)
5 pounds of chicken thighs
Green onions and sesame seeds for garnish

  • Whisk together soy sauce, brown sugar (or honey), chicken broth, sake, garlic, ginger, five spice powder and hot sauce in a large bowl.
  • Add the thighs to the marinade and stick in the fridge for one hour.
  • Heat up the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Pour the chicken and the marinade onto a large baking pan, arrange so the meaty side is down. Cook for about 40 minutes, turning the chicken 3 or 4 times.
  • Turn up the oven to 450 degrees our put chicken in a broiler for another 5-10 minutes to brown the chicken, skin side up. Sprinkle with green onions and sesame seeds and serve with white rice.