Sunday, December 20, 2009
The first major snow storm just hit the New York area yesterday. It started out as flurries in the late morning, just like the weather report predicted. It stopped awhile so I didn't pay much attention until later... Then at around 6pm I looked outside the window, and wow! It was really SNOWING; not just snowing but it was downright blizzard. And it continued to snow through the night.
It's cold, I'm snowed in, what do I do? Cook slow food, of course! I was in the mood for coq au vin AND the pot roast. I need the dish that lasts for a long time once cooked, because I'm expecting another round of baking for Christmas. You gotta eat!
First, the chicken: Organic, no-hormone chicken legs and drumsticks go into the 12" frying pan. Brown both side. Add plenty of salt & pepper, and dried oregano & thyme harvested from the yard. Throw onions that's cut in big pieces, and half a head of garlic. Then pour some white wine. Reduce the heat and cook for one hour with lid on.
The pot roast is equally simple. First, add salt & pepper to the meat which is about 3 lbs. Then I browned all sides of the beef. In a meantime cut onions and the rest of the garlic. I also wanted to finish off cabbage in the fridge, so cut that, too. When the meat is browned, add those to the pot. Add water about half an inch high and simmer it for 2 hours, rotating beef a couple of times. Then add carrots to the pan, too. I am going to slice the beef and save a lot for the later. It will make a nice sandwich, great addition to the ramen noodle, stewed in sweet-soy sauce with more vegetables - the use of it will be endless. The vegetable & soup is stored separately in the freezer for another snowy days...
As always, my walkway to the street, about 30 feet long, collected the 12" deep snow drifted from the schoolyard next door. Oh man, I have to dig myself out tomorrow morning.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Sunday, October 18, 2009
I had craving for a curry the other day. Rummaging the fridge, I found: one piece of chicken thigh, eggs, bits of vegetable and beets. Hmmm...beets...
This root vegetable is another one that I don't have a history growing up together, so I am eager to get acquainted whenever there's a chance. But what makes beets so uniquely challenging is its sweetness because the distinctive flavor limits the cooking options to salad or one of the side dishes of Thanksgiving dinner (which a lot of people apparently complain... "Beets, bleah!")
Normally would I serve the roasted beets sliced, dressed in red wine vinegar and sea salt, sometimes sprinkle feta cheese on top. But I already determined I wanted curry that day. So, yeah, it probably sounds rather strange but I made curry with beets.
I sautéd minced onion, diced green pepper and corn. Added chicken broth and, my 'secret' ingredient, Japanese curry paste. When it cooked down chopped roasted beets went in. Adjust the spiciness (more curry powder!) and let it sit to marinate all the flavors together. In a meantime, I boned, butterflied, dredged in flower and pan sautéd the chicken thigh. One measly thigh is not enough protein, so I also cooked egg sunny side up - not only it adds to nutrition, it also brightens the whole dish.
Well, because I love beets, the result was yummy & satisfying lunch. But I don't think this is for everyone. Don't try this at home if you are fainthearted.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Last week at the Union Square Greenmarket I took this snapshot: Two shades of green sitting next to deep orange. Totally symbolizing the change of season.
From now on, the color scheme of the market is definitely turning earthy...subdued...solid. I find the subtle differences in yellows, oranges and browns quite beautiful. They're my kind of colors!
Sunday, October 4, 2009
At the Union Square Greenmaket, I wasn't the only one lured by the sweet, irresistible aroma of concord grapes! There were many honey bees also keeping busy. Maybe the aroma is too intoxicating because they were the mellowest bunch of bees. I was able to pick my grapes without worrying about an unfortunate encounter.
So, me and the bees, perfectly content and happily sharing the fruit of autumn.
So, me and the bees, perfectly content and happily sharing the fruit of autumn.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
I can't believe how short this summer was! Yes, August was ridiculously hot and humid, a typical New York summer. Then as soon as hearing the voice of September, the air suddenly cooled and at night I am already needing a comforter. Oh well, I think I had to give up a hope of harvesting more tomatoes from the yard.
That is the bad news. The good new is? That's right; it's a perfect baking weather. The oven will not transform the kitchen into a sauna. The butter will not melt in room temperature. And I don't have to put the pie dough back in the fridge every 5 seconds because it gets immediately sticky.
To kick-off the new 'season', I found a new recipe: Honey Cake. As always for the first try, I faithfully followed the recipe to see how it comes out. And since I didn't grow up having a honey cake, I am not sure how it is supposed to taste, either. So I test baked two loaves and brought to work where 50 hungry artists await.
Everyone who tasted loved it! I thought it is a tad sweet, but that doesn't seem to bother anyone because the wonderful sweetness of honey does not linger too long in your mouth. People liked its texture - very moist - and the crunchy almond top. It's a keeper!
Saturday, August 8, 2009
In my opinion, okra is one of the most misunderstood, misrepresented, and unfairly disliked vegetables. Take my friend - she grew up eating okra that is 'cooked to death' - who wouldn't even want to look at it. Well, I do understand her repulsion. A slimy, stringy texture on any food can make a lot of people uncomfortable. So I did what a good friend would do. I cooked some okra for her birthday.
I blanched some whole okra in salty boiling water. As soon as they turn to a hue of bright green, you should take them out of the pot and quickly submerge in icy water to stop the residual cooking. And then I dressed them with soy sauce and a little bit of wasabi and bonito flakes. I don't think it was a life changing event, but at least she now accepts okra as edible food.
Longer you cook it, the slimy it gets. So the key is to keep the cooking time to the minimum. Blanching is always good, so as pan sautéing. I'm sure fried okra has a good crunch, too! Just don't make it into a stew...unless you are cooking delicious gumbo.
Maybe because I wrote "...I will trade a few weeks of sleepless night with the joy of tangy & sweet juicy tomatoes"... So we got it. For the second week we are 'enjoying' the extremely humid and hot weather. But look! Tomatoes are finally getting red.
Other heat-loving fruits & vegetables - peaches, apricots, corn, okra, squash, kale, chard, green & red peppers, hot peppers - finally started showing up in the market, though the size of its pile looks tad smaller than usual. I really hope the crop will recover and we can catch up with the flavors of summer a little longer!
Saturday, July 25, 2009
...Or at least I think that's what it is. I 'harvested' it from the blooming garlic scape tops. I haven't quite used them yet, but just thinking about what I can do with it is fun enough already. Maybe I will sprinkle over salads. Maybe I will mix in pasta dish. I want my tuna and scallops adorned with these beautiful pearly granule! They are about the size of rice grains. As tiny as they are, they do taste the garlic, so be careful!
I am growing total of 9 tomato plants this summer; 6 on the ground and 3 in the pots. Normally I would be making tomato sandwiches every day by this time of year, they are slow to get big and still quite green.
The cooler weather gave us a longer season of asparagus and peas; which is not a bad thing by itself. I stockpiled them in the freezer, oh yeah. At the same time, I'm still waiting for the explosion of corns, peppers, and yes, tomatoes. Although I prefer the cooler weather - hey, we can sleep at night without the A/C! - it makes me think about the cause and effect of the climate. So this is another reason to love the Greenmarket. It is a barometer; it opens a little window that I can peek in to see what's going on the outside the big city made of steel, glass and concrete. I don't think I can notice these little seasonal quirks if I buy my veggies only from the store.
Well, we still have August. I think I will trade a few weeks of sleepless night with the joy of tangy & sweet juicy tomatoes.
Monday, July 13, 2009
For some reason the idea of buying fresh tuna in New York never occured to me. I think, because my concept of tuna fishing is that you sail out hundreds of miles and many days away from the shore with the huge boat and after catching them you have to bring them back frozen. You know, something you'd see on TV program like "The Deadliest Catch" where men constantly fighting against the harsh element in high seas. So when I saw the tuna stakes sold at Blue Moon Fish, I felt a strange delight. Wow, really? I can have fresh tuna for dinner?
Most of the times I would simply cook the chunk of tuna in little butter or sesame oil with minced garlic, finishing off with the splash of ponzu. This one shown, however, is breaded with potato chip crust, made up from variety of flavored chips like salt & pepper, BBQ, vinegar & salt, jalapeno, honey mustard, you name it. I keep one bag in the freezer where I saved all the pulvalized chips that's left on the bottom of the bag. It makes a rather tasty breading that can be used for pork cutlet or chicken breast. I would cook this in small amount of olive oil, with dash of valsamic vinegar.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Let's face it. There are times even my cakes want to look pretty.
My friend asked me to bake for a small wedding reception that she was attending. Although the reception was to be held in informal locale, the occasion certainly calls for something special. I mean, wedding is wedding! It's not an everyday event. My friend knew I don't do designer cakes but her request got me thinking. I wanted to make a memorable cake; not just it tastes good but also comes with the 'wow!' factor.
Well, you can't tell from the picture, but it is actually a green tea flavor cake. I covered it with white frosting made from combination of cream cheese, Mascarpone, and whipped heavy cream (it was SOOOO good if I may say so myself.) On it, I dusted some green tea powder and arranged the beautiful bright orange Nasturtium flowers I bought at the Greenmarket. When I looked at the finished cake, I was really happy because it came out exactly the way I envisioned. I also baked 3 doz. apple-cranberry cupcakes to supplement for the 30-plus crowd.
Of course the only thing I wasn't sure was....will the bride like it?
Happily, my friend reported back it was a big hit! Phew. I was relieved, and knowing I was able to contribute to her special day made me feel content. Thank you for letting me be the part of it.
Monday, May 25, 2009
After picking up a bunch of fresh asparagus, organic eggs, and a hunk of bread from the Saturday Greenmarket, I now prepare a leisure weekend breakfast.
First, make coffee (saving the used grinds for the yard, of course.) While it's brewing, I put a greased frying pan on the gas, wash and snap the ends of asparagus. Let's not skimp at all, let's cook a handful! As I sip coffee, I slowly pan roast them, turning once or twice for an even roast. When they are done, take 'em out, and add a pat of butter. It slides down to the middle of pan where it creates a foamy puddle, quietly sizzles, browns a bit, releasing the sweet aroma. Two eggs into the pan, sunny side up. Oh, and let's not forget the toast.
The whole process could take up to 30 minutes until I can sit down. But, patience my dear...this is so good...
Monday, May 18, 2009
It's been a while since the last time I invited some ancient friends, some recent friends, and some whom I didn't know, for a get-together. I don't remember exactly when that was, but I do remember it was very hot. So this time I wanted to have it in May. It's a good month in many ways. First, the winter weather should have been gone. Second, the heat wave shouldn't have arrived. And third, the yard should be in the state of the best looking - dead leaves cleaned up, new crop of flowers, herbs & tomatoes planted, and thank goodness the weeds are not quite yet taking over - oh how I wished each year I could keep this up for the rest of summer!
The month of May is a tricky one though, because there are not many weekends without plans or obligations. The 2nd weekend is reserved for the Mother's Day. The 4th weekend is already the Memorial Day Weekend; the first official summer getaway! So I announced well in advance that people should pencil in the 3rd Saturday for this party. The total of 27 people came between 6pm and 11pm.
The miracle of miracles; rain held up. From the morning it was foggy & cloudy, with chance of thunder shower all afternoon & evening. So I was begging 'someone upstairs', please no rain between 5 and 12. I even made some Teru-Teru-Bozu, the little paper doll you make when you want to fend off the rainy weather. And it worked! Literally ten minutes after the last guest left, I heard the rain coming down. Amazing.
Meatball Sliders (2 of my friends who don't eat meat, ate them. I take that as the highest form of compliments)
Shrimp Cocktail [cocktail sauce, lemon wedges]
Falafel [tahini sauce]
Sauteed Spinach & Ramps
Bell Peppers in Balsamic Vinegar
Asaparagus, Baby Carrots, Broccoli [garlicky cheese dip, roasted pepper dip]
Black-eyed Peas in Basil Vinaigrette
Pasta with Roasted Asparagus & Mushrooms
Olives, Pickled Ramps
Rainbow Fruit Salad
Grapes, Mini Clementines
Maybe I want to make this an annual event...? It was so great to see everyone at once! And I didn't have to travel 'home': I guess that's the best part of throwing a party at home...
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Holy Mackerel! Last week there were tab full of them. This week they are gone for the season.
I like mackerels because: a) they are small and easy to handle, b) they are great source of Omega-3, Vitamine D and B12, and perhaps most conveniently, c) there aren't scales! (I guess that makes them certified kosher.) You know how messy and annoying it can be...finding bits of scale dried stuck everywhere in the kitchen!
Before its abrupt disappearance, I was able to haul them back home a few times to practice my fish cleaning skill, which I think is showing improvement. Like I said, it is relatively easy. First cut off the head. Then slit the underbelly and take out innerds. After that, you can either keep it whole or fillet. A few of them were even carrying delicate egg sacks that I cooked in style of "Nanban-zuke", similar to "escabeche". They were delicious.
OK, gorgeous mackerels, we'll meet again when the water gets cold and air clean & crisp. See you later.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Sunday, April 12, 2009
You know this cardboard 'wraparound' thingy so that you don't burn yourself when carrying the hot coffee, right? Time to time I buy coffee when I go outside for a quick walk around the block, and this thingy started piling up in the drawer. So I thought: "hey let's reuse" and put one in my bag.
The other afternoon I went for a walk; it was Friday, it was not raining, and I needed to get a whiff of outside air. Yes, the kind of situation screaming for "Coffee!". I got on the line, asked for my small coffee, and handed the thingy to the server. I think I startled him. The server was a little taken aback, and then, started chuckling as he realized what I just did. "Is it funny?" "No, noooo!" "I guess I'm the first one to do this?" "Yes, you ARE the first!" It must have been so amusing - or inspiring - he gave me a 10% discount on the spot.
Ha, now I feel even better for doing my tiny part. Hey, every little step counts, right?
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Spring has officially arrived on 3/20. Then we got bone-chilling frigid weather in NY, which is stubbornly lingering. But there is one event that really marks the arrival of spring every year. It is when my favorite fishmonger, Blue Moon Fish, comes back to the Greenmarket. ( http://www.bluemoonfish.com/ )
Before Blue Moon Fish, my supply of fish mostly came from Chinatown and UWS übermarket Fairway. (Whole Foods and Citarella are the last resort.) Chinatown is a good place for bulk purchase; a sure destination when shrimp boil or jellyfish salad is 0n the menu. Fairway is also good because it offers relatively inexpensive fish chunks or tail end of salmon; you can make no less decent meal than buying 'prime' parts.
Well, then came Blue Moon Fish. First I was hesitant. Maybe I was a little intimidated. Then I tried once, twice, a little by little I went back and again, realizing the fish in season is a delicious thing and worth every penny. Right now I'm enjoying the scallops, mackerel fillet and cod. I usually cook them simple; saute with vegetables with minimum seasoning. You don't really need salt because they already come with the wonderful taste of sea. The mackerels are fresh enough to make "shime-saba (vinegar-cured mackerel)" when I feel like indulging myself.
A peculiar thing happened since I acquired the taste of really fresh fish: I could smell and taste of chloride in the fish I buy from supermarket. Is it because they clean it with tap water? So now I buy fish only when my beloved Blue Moon Fish is in town. That means my fish season is from late March to mid December. I think 9 months of bliss is not a bad deal. The rest of 4 months? I go back to other animal flesh, also purchased at the Greenmarket during winter time. Well, that's another entry.
Thank you, Blue Moon, you are my lifeline; I owe my high level of HDL to you!
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Recently I am fixated on microwavable popcorn. Until then I've been enjoying potato chips and ice cream (in the same sitting, mind you) for quite some time, but finally came to my senses and switched to something considerably less caloric. The brand I purchase is "Newman's Own". As is known, this is a brand founded by late Mr. and Mrs. Paul Newman. It started from humble salad dressing, but then kept adding more and more food items to the roster. I don't buy much 'food in the box', but if I do, I want something tastes good and can feel good about buying. So, why pick this brand?
Long long ago when I was working in the editing rooms of a movie I encountered Paul Newman. The editing rooms were situated on the entire 7th Floor inside famed Brill Building on Broadway. Mr. Newman was then editing "Color of Money" on the 3rd Floor. One day he came to our office (OMG! Paul Newman!!), perhaps looking for my boss's boss's boss Warren Beatty. When I told him he wasn't in his office, Mr. Newman saw a bag of Pepperidge Farm cookies on the fridge and asked me: "Would you mind I take it? I'll replace it later." Of course you may! In fact, take the whole fridge for I care! Anyway he left with the cookies. ...Just when I must have forgotten about the cookies, he appeared again at our office. "Here." He brought back a brand-new bag of Pepperidge Farm cookies. Can you believe it? I was so impressed that he actually remembered. Paul Newman was a star. But for me, he became a star I respected.
When I leanred of his passing last year, it was very very sad as if someone I 'knew' was gone.
My heart warms up a little when I see his smiling face on the "Newman's Own" products. RIP, Mr. Newman.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
One has to indulge the moment of weakness. You know I usually make my own dessert from scratch. But sometimes I don't feel like taking time; I want something sweet and creamy...NOW!
What would you do? Run to the corner bodega and grab a Sara Lee's frozen cheesecake? Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey? Or suck the cream inside Twinkie?? Been there; done that: now an instant pudding is my "It" junk.
"Jello-O Cook & Serve Vanilla flavor" pudding was what used to satisfy my craving. But of course you just can't simply follow the instruction. You have to make it the way you like, right? So I use 2.5 cups (instead of official 2 cups) of 2% reduced fat milk. Don't get fooled by the '2%' milk - I'm not thinking of diet. This way the pudding comes out softer and lighter, I can feel free to add more stuff to embellish, like handful of blueberries & cream. (See the picture? It doesn't look bad at all!)
Then recently I spotted "Dr. Oetker Original Pudding Vanille Geshmack" while I was stolling the food mall inside Grand Central Terminal. First its price got my attention. Even thouth it's imported and more likely comes with a hefty mark-up (after all, the store is in prime location), the package of 3 costed $2.70, whereas one pack of Jello-O costs $1.30. So I had to try it. And you know what? I liked its flavor better too. It feels 'nostalgic' and less aggressive in comparison. So I gleefully made the switch. Yeah. Cheap, yet it hits the spot every time.
Monday, February 16, 2009
I always move some of the herbs indoors with the first sign of frost. This winter, oregano, thyme, chive and basil plants are waiting for the arrival of spring; I'm sure they can't wait to go outside...NOT!
They have it really good - the room is warm and full of sunshine (albeit via window glass). But the best part is the daily dose of nutritious water, thanks to my goldfish. Instead of relying on the Miracle-Glo, I started taking advantage of the 'fish water'.
I read it somewhere, I think it was an article on NY Times Magazine, that the fish poopoo is an excellent source of nutrients for the plants. I have been adding used coffee grinds to the pots for some time, and this year I wanted to see if fish water makes a difference. Every morning I scoop up the water from fish tank and pour it over the herbs.
I think they are really happy. I'm happy too, because I don't have to schlep the bucketfull of dirty water up and down. Plus, less chemical they absorb the better. So it's defiitely a win-win situation.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Over the years I became a big fan of frozen food. I'm talking about freezing fruits and vegetables when they're in height of season, and enjoying them when the farmer's market is barren.
What's typically in my freezer? Blueberries (whole and cooked), rhubarb (cooked), green peas, corn, haricots verts, broccoli rabe (blanched), red pepper (roasted), asparagus (roasted), tomato (roasted), zucchini slices (roasted), garlic (roasted), basil (pesto). Sometimes broccoli and cauliflower florettes join the list whenever there's extra space. Another staple of the freezer are containers of homemade chicken broth. They are so handy and versatile, not to mention laughingly easy to make; I haven't bought a broth from the store in many years.
Even though the day is short and weather is cold, I always have something to remind me that there will be spring, the season of colors will return soon.