Friday, December 16, 2011

Comfort Food


I've been bad. It's been almost two months and I've done enough cooking to fill up an entry each day. Something my friends and I have been noticing, is that Christmas commercials have started earlier and earlier each year. I think the first one I saw was out before Halloween. Not that I don't like Christmas, it's always been a special holiday for me, though as I get older it's more bittersweet than the sheer joy it was when I was a kid. But by the time Christmas comes around and you've been watching the layaway commercials since mid-October and hearing music in the stores since before Thanksgiving, you're just sick of it. And that's wrong. So this year, I decided to embrace the long holiday season, which has led to me being so busy cooking and baking I haven't had the energy to post. I baked and brined my first turkey. (Pictures to come). I've made dozens and dozens of cookies and still dozens more to go. But what I'm going to leave you with are two comfort foods I've managed to successfully recreate, despite my fear of attempting Chinese cuisine. Just to give you a break from all the Christmas cheer.


The first is chee cheong fun. Thin wide rice noodles rolled up, steamed and so delicious with a hoisin/peanut sauce, tabasco and sesame seeds on top. A memory from my childhood, where for $1 you would go to a tiny food cart in Chinatown and get a little styrofoam box full of these noodles. These carts seem to have disappeared, but you can still by the noodles plain to flavor yourself. But I wanted to see if I could make them from scratch.

The second are soy sauce eggs. Basically hard boil eggs, remove the shells, and simmer submerged in a broth of lots of light soy, dark soy, brown sugar and slices of ginger. You will never think of a hard boiled egg the same way.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Gougères (Cheese Puffs)


Cheese puffs. Need I say more? Okay, maybe a little. I've been wanting to make pate a choux for awhile. It's a versatile dough that can be used for savory or sweet treats (cream puffs anyone?) I prefer savory, and had some gruyere in the fridge and made my version of David Lebovitz's gougères. I made mine about the size of a donut munchkin, so I ended up with half the batch than his recipe, and within a few minutes out of the oven, they were almost gone.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Tomato Tart Take 2


For someone who once said she hated tomatoes, I've been buying them a lot this past summer. They're growing on me. I think it's to blame on a first bad experience with a watery, flavorless tomato as a child who mistook it for watermelon, bad watermelon. So the idea of watermelon tomato salad kind of disturbs me. I like tomato sauce (homemade), sundried tomatoes, salsa, so what's the deal? I figured with all the flavorless tomatoes out there, I've only liked them when the flavor is concentrated enough to be what a tomato should be - acidic and sweet at the same time. And so I must cook them.


This is a second attempt at my tomato tart from two posts ago. The crust is exactly the same but I didn't take any short cuts this time and it came out completely different - that is to say, what a tart crust should be. After skimming through a long article on how to make pie crusts, I learned that to make a flakier crust, you need to mix in the water by hand. Last time, I cheated and cut the butter into the flour with the food processor, and just poured the water/egg in til the dough formed. But that resulted in a dense, albeit, tasty crust that was more like a cookie than pastry. This time, I still used the food processor to cut the cold butter into the flour, but removed to a separate bowl to mix in the water. And with my fancy new non-stick tart pan, I successfully made my first tart crust. To make things interesting, I changed up the filling with pesto, gruyere cheese and tomatoes and it was like a fancy pizza. Who would've known I'd be drooling over tomatoes.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Chicken and Rice for the Soul


I bought a giant family pack of chicken breast this weekend to make soup for a cold that snuck up on me Friday night. The soup was good, flavorful and comforting. The most soothing part of making it, I think, was sitting around actually relaxing while my first homemade stock simmered away. I followed some of Barefoot Contessa's recipe, minus the whole chicken, since bone-in skin on chicken breasts were cheaper. And my cold is gone! Coincidence?


With about 3 pounds of chicken left, I was worried I wouldn't be able to use it up in time. Then it hit me, of course, chicken and rice! The infamous late night meal of clubbgoers found almost everywhere in New York, but non-existant anywhere else. Within the past year, more recipes have popped up on the internet for a dish that can't be found anywhere but a New York street cart. I tried out a recipe I found on Huffington Post because it had tons of spices which would mean tons of flavor. It was very tasty, especially the yogurt based "white sauce," but I didn't use dark meat like the streets cart do, and did not marinate overnight, two things that I think would have made my dish taste even more authentic. Something to try next time! And find a recipe for the hot sauce. Not to say it was all for nothing, because there are no leftovers today.


Sunday, September 11, 2011



It's been a little while, so excuse me as I bombard you with photos of food! I finally started using my food processor, so recipes that I've been collecting that called for one have been on the top of my list. Above is a free form tomato tart from David Lebowitz's blog. It was my first "tart" dough and came together SO easy with a food processor. I am in need of a tart pan, so I made it free form as he suggests. It was very tasty with some heirloom tomatoes from the Union Square Farmer's Market, and the dough was still crispy despite the tomatoes sitting on top. My only qualm was the crust wound up being more like a cookie crust than the flakier one you might expect in a tart.


The second photo is my version of the classic quiche lorrraine adapted from Smitten Kitchen. The dough was similar to the tomato tart, but was harder to handle as it kept crumbling when I was putting it in the pie plate. It also came out more cookie-like and dense, possibly a result of over rolling the dough. It was pretty tasty considering 1) I substituted organic skim milk for the usual heavy cream and 2) I forgot to put the cheese (gruyere) IN the egg mixture so wound up sprinkling it on top near the end. I think next time, I'm going to have to give in try the heavy cream...


Lastly, after a semi-successful first quiche attempt, I tried this insanely easy plum clafouti recipe. This was my first clafouti and thankfully, does not require a tart crust, and it came out great. All you have to do is slice the plums, and mix the rest of the ingredients in one bowl, pour over and pop into the over for about an hour, and voila! It looks much more impressive than the effort and made me feel a bit better about the quiche lorraine faux pas of earlier in the day.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Lahmacun (Turkish Lamb Pizza)


Sorry it has been too long! I don't know where the summer has gone. We still have days here in New York that almost hit 90 degrees, yet the early morning chill in the air has started, which no matter how old I get, still makes my stomach slightly queasy with the memory of starting a new school year. To ease that discomfort, I watch Anthony Bourdain before I go to sleep, and one I have on replay is his Istanbul episode. Not good to watch late at night when you have no access to shish kebob, donar kebab, fried cheese and one I was dying to try: lahmacun (or lahmajoun). After an hour of recipe searching on the web, compared with what ingredients were in my kitchen, I chose this recipe. It looks like a lot of ingredients, but they're all easily found in your local supermarket. The dough is easy to make, although I would suggest adding a pinch or two of salt to the mixture, because while it came out cripsy, there wasn't much flavor to it. The meat mixture was nice and well rounded, but I added some extra hot sauce to mine.

As a condiment to slather on top, I mixed together a quick yogurt sauce. I used a 6 oz. container of plain greek yogurt, a tablespoon of chopped parsley and two cloves of garlic - minced. Something I would definitely make again in the future, though I'd rather try the original in Istanbul.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ginger Syrup & Homemade Ginger Ale


I first saw ginger syrup at a booth at the Brooklyn Flea. I was really tempted by it's neat glass bottle, but after learning how simple it was to make and hearing the $10 price tag, I thought, why can't I make this myself?

So with the air conditioner blasting, I decided to try my hand at some homemade ginger syrup. It was very easy, with only three ingredients and at the end I had half a wine bottle of some yummy syrup to make homemade ginger ale! It would also be great used in cocktails, which I am looking forward to experimenting with.


Approx. 6" hand of ginger
1 cups sugar
3 cups water

Chop the ginger (you can leave the skin on) roughly, and combine with the water and sugar in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20-25 minutes. Cool, strain and enjoy!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Endive & Pear Salad


Such an amazing combination. After a long weekend of overindulging (eh, it was a holiday!) I decided I needed to get out and do some healthy walking to my green grocer. On my mind was Barefoot Contessa's special Barefoot in Paris and the endive and pear salad she made. I swapped out the wine vinegar for balsamic vinegar and it was still very good. Make sure to toast the walnuts for a few minutes, it makes them even crispier!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Eye Candy


Taking a little break from my cooked food photos to enjoy the beauty of raw food. Not to worry, I'm not becoming a raw foodist. Nothing against them, I just like my cheese melted sometimes, thank you very much.

The first photo is a sicilian eggplant, isn't it cute?? I was having a bad day but finding this little round, spongy veggie in a tiny green grocer made it a little better.

Below, what might be mistaken for green roses, is actually the very end of bok choy which I discovered when I cut them off to clean the vegetable. Nature's pretty freakin' amazing sometimes.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Egg Curry


Continuing on with my no meat dishes, I tried a dish I've wanted to cook for awhile: Bal Arneson's egg curry. I love eggs and I love curry but I wasn't sure if the two would work together. It turned out to be a very rich and filling dish, even without cream. I omitted the fennel seed since I didn't have any, and added my must-have ingredients, garlic and onion. My family loved it and didn't miss the meat at all.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Chickpea Mughlai


After watching Food, Inc. for like 5 minutes, I decided I didn't need to eat so much meat, particularly chicken and eggs. I LOVE eggs, so I'm in a bit of a moral dilemma because stopping eating them myself isn't going to change the egg industry. Anyway, I had made this dish the first time following Nigella Lawson's recipe for chicken mughlai down to the inclusion of heavy cream and it was delish. This time, I didn't have any cream, but the yogurt is creamy enough, and I went with two cans of chickpeas instead of the chicken. Still very tasty, and you can eat and ease your conscious for a night.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Welcome and thanks for reading! I've been busy looking for work (and my oven was broken for a few days) but it's fixed now and I'm ready for some cooking inspiration. Feel free to post any recipes you love, or would like to see me cook and photograph.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Mushroom Risotto & Powder Puffs


I guess the heat isn't bothering me that much, because despite having no air conditioner in the front of my apartment, I have not let that stop me from 1) standing over a stove (literally) for almost an hour stirring risotto yesterday and 2) baking on one of the hottest days so far (today). Maybe I'm just crazy.

The risotto is based on a basic risotto recipe, but I add garlic to almost everything, so there's 4 huge cloves in there, along with 12oz. of cremini mushrooms. This is my 4th time making risotto and the last two times I still found many undercooked grains of rice, even after cooking for over the 30-40 minutes. The next day, it's all good.


The first time I saw these powder puffs on Laura Calder's French Food at Home, I knew I had to make them. They taste like giant eggy macarons, and are a lot easier to bake - no worrying about if they rise properly or grow their "feet." Filled with vanilla whipped cream and raspberry jam, they are insane - though you may want to hold back having too many because I'm having a total sugar rush right now!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Beef Bourguingon & Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake


It feels like forever since I've been able to cook, photograph and post! My third time making beef bourguingon, but first time photographing. I use Anthony Bourdain's recipe from his Les Halles cookbook. I couldn't find a good chunk of beef, so wound up using thin chuck steak which is nice and marbled which means lots of flavor. The broth that results is so rich in flavor, it's unbelievable how simple it is.


May is the start of birthday season for most of my family and friends, so one of the cakes I've made is a chocolate chip sour cream coffee cake from Smitten Kitchen's awesome blog. The batter is thick and rich and that just tells you how moist and dense the cake will be. I also love the combination of cinnamon and chocolate chips. I didn't even use all that is called for the in recipe and it was still very chocolately.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Strawberry Lemonade Cookies


I hardly ever go to Walmart - it's nowhere near me and I have mixed feelings about doing "real" grocery shopping there, but my dear friend A. offered to take me for some necessities that somehow there's never time to buy during the week (like soap and conditioner). But being hungry and it being Walmart, I wound up buying a whole bunch of snack foods that offered no nutritional value, unless orange cheesy powder counts, but lots of nostalgia.

The healthiest item I bought was a bag of frozen strawberries, which threw me back on the hunt for a strawberry baked good that actually uses fresh strawberries. Ninety-five percent of the recipes on the internet either use strawberry cake mix, strawberry gelatin or strawberry jam to achieve their flavor and signature pink color. Go on, google it. I refused to make any of them and decided to find a good basic cookie recipe and convert it into a strawberry recipe.

The result? Martha Stewart's glazed lemon cookies sans glaze, plus a cup of thawed chopped strawberries. Oh and a little pink food past, just because. Pretty yummy if I do say so myself.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Acorn Squash Tea Bread


I'm a rebel. I bought my first acorn squash - at the end of winter/squash season. I was planning to just heat it and eat it, but while researching cooking methods, I came upon a recipe for Squash Tea Bread. So I, uh, made a cake out of it instead. Hey, it's from, so it's healthy, right?


Moist, dense and spicy. Yum.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Curry Deviled Eggs


My first deviled eggs. I have some issues with mayonnaise that I need to resolve, because there are a lot of recipes that use it. I just threw a few things together for this filling, including honey mustard, curry powder and sriracha, but no mayo.

Thursday, March 3, 2011



My day off was a nice relaxing cooking day. I won't say much since this recipe is everywhere online, but they all go back to Smitten Kitchen's blog, and there isn't much variation between recipes. I will say that 1) This is one of the fastest cookie recipes I've done and 2) I need new cocoa powder. My sister reminded me the can I almost finished was from my trip to California 7 years ago -- eeek! In my defense, I didn't cook much back then. It was a sweet tasty cookie, though it lacked that something extra that makes the chocolate wafers in an Oreo so good. Possibly the cocoa Nabisco uses isn't 7 years old. Possibly.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Anniversary Meal


Today is my parent's 28th anniversary. Instead of wrestling with my mom to go out to a restaurant, I offered to cook dinner. It was relaxing to spend a day cooking a whole meal, complete with dessert and some bubbly. I started with a few recipes as a base, but added a few other ingredients to make it even more special.

Main Course/Side:
Alton Brown's steak au poivre - Alton's recipe is a twist on the classic au poivre sauce, but in my book, you can't go wrong with cognac and cream. My family aren't such big pepper fans as I am, so I toned down the usual pepper crust on the meat. My additions were to add some ingredients from a tarragon sauce, which also uses cream and cognac, but lots of sauteed onions, garlic, mushrooms and a dash of chicken stock. The result is a very rich and flavorful sauce that beats your bottled steak sauce any day.

Laura Calder's Savoy Cabbage in butter - To go along with the rich and creamy theme, I made a French Food at Home recipe. This was my first time using savoy cabbage, and it was a lot prettier than your normal cabbage. I shredded a whole cabbage, as if you were making cole slaw, and sauteed for about 8 minutes in 4 tablespoons of butter, salt and pepper and voila!


David Lebovitz's panna cotta - My first attempt at panna cotta. I first had it a few years ago and it has been my go-to dessert whenever I can find it on a menu. I feel it might be taking over as the next molten lava chocolate cake, which although I love, can get a little boring after the umpteenth restaurant is serving it. David Lebovitz's recipe couldn't be any simpler, and within 4 hours chilling in the fridge, I had a soft, milky white pudding. I used half and half instead of the usual heavy cream and it came out tasting different than what I usually have in outside, making me think they use all heavy cream. But now that I have the basic recipe down, I can experiment with some amaretto and other flavors. So all in all, a successful cooking day, if I do say so myself!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

First place


My photo of my red velvet cupcake as well as my pink macaroon came in 1st and 4th place respectively in my local neighborhood's Why Leave Astoria? blog today!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Lemon Poppy Cake


It's been a while since I've been able to cook and post, sad how much time working takes up! So I apologize if you are overwhelmed with some food candy for the next few days as I try to catch up with what I've been cooking. I bought a one pound container of poppy seeds at my local supermarket, partially because they looked so pretty gray-blue, and partially because I love baked goods with them. They're pretty versatile, as they can be used in savory recipes (onion poppy rolls, anyone?) or sweet recipes like this lemon poppy cake. On a search for a unique plum/apple/walnut/poppy seed cake from the Austrian bakery, Demel, I came upon Smitten Kitchen's lemon poppy cake that she actually got from the Neue Galerie's Cafe Sabarsky. It isn't no ordinary lemon poppy pound cake, though there are two sticks of butter in it, but also 8, yes, 8 egg yolks plus one whole egg.


The result is a dense, rich, eggy cake, similar in taste to the sponge cupcakes in Chinese bakeries. And I just love how the poppy seeds create a speckled effect through the cake.

You can be sure to expect more recipes with poppy seeds from now on!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Birthday Macarons


Fifth time's a charm? That's how many times I have attempted this finicky sweet. The last two "failed" attempts, I didn't post because they didn't have the signature "feet" at the base, which is caused when the cookies push off from the baking pan. I also over-mixed the 4th batch in hopes of a smoother shell and no bumps, but they wound up not rising.


I had also been experimenting with different temperatures/baking times and the resting time before putting the macarons in the oven. *Note to self: If something isn't broken, don't fix it! I went back to the proven Martha Stewart recipe, maybe slightly undermixed my batter (but under-mixing is better than over-mixing)


Voila! My most perfect macaron yet! Oh, and I'm telling everyone it's because it's my birthday tomorrow.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Chinese New Year


My attempt at one of my favorite Chinese bakery items - a cha siu bao (baked roast pork bun). This one is filled with beef and Japanese curry sauce since I had a hard time finding ground pork in an American supermarket, but next time, I will definitely go all the way authentic. Don't you just want to bite it?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Macaron Obsession


Simple almond macarons with home made lemon curd filling.


I never knew how easy lemon curd is to make! Some recipes call for butter, but really, why do you need butter? Save a few calories here, so you can eat that creamy mac and cheese later.

Simply mix in a small saucepan on low heat 1/4 cup sugar with the juice and zest of 3-4 lemons. When the sugar is melted, temper in 3 egg yolks (and you will use the whites for your macarons which is perfect!), and stir slowly until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and let cool, voila! Recipe courtesy of

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

French Macarons with Rasberry Jam


Despite the gloomy, rainy weather and my all day headache, one thing has managed to make me happy - I made macarons! In my months of research, this seems to be an intimidating recipe for a lot of cooks and bakers. The recipe looks simple enough and has very few ingredients, but for a perfectionist like myself, the idea of not being able to whip up the egg whites to a satiny finish, or pipe perfectly round circles, or a list of other potential problems is enough reason to make one hesitate until exactly the right moment to attempt them. But today I was ready. I used Martha Stewart's recipe because 1) Reviews made the success rate sound high and 2) the measurements were in ounces, not grams like 99% of the macaron recipes out there.


I bought my almond meal at Trader Joe's and the almonds are ground with the skins on, which creates a flecked cookie, which is fine by me. My pastry bag/tip setup was not ideal (no round tip, argh!!) so my first batch came out very lumpy. (The photo above is my second try.) I slightly undercooked the cookies to prevent them from browning and discoloring, but either way they still tasted deliciously sweet, like I remember from my first macaron in Tokyo. Yes, the Japanese love their French sweets, and food, and just about everything else.

Lacking ingredients to create proper buttercream or chocolate filling, I opted for a simple spread of raspberry jam. Though I could just eat them as is, and I did eat quite a few in celebration of creating a successful macaron - phew! Now to study some more colors/flavor combinations for next time.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Spaghetti Carbonara


Hope everyone's new year is off to a good start! If good is busy, then mine has been good, since I have a few dishes and photos waiting to be posted. Starting off with one of my all-time favorite dishes from Italy, if not the whole world, is spaghetti carbonara. This is one dish I've made so many times and tried so many variations, from Giada's to Lidia's, that I've come up with my own recipe.

4 oz. prosciutto or pancetta or just regular old bacon if neither is available, cut into strips.
8 oz. spaghetti (or any pasta, but I like the classic shape)
2-3 whole eggs (sometimes I just use egg yolks but then you have leftover egg whites, arg!)
1 medium yellow or white onion, diced fine
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
Chicken stock (optional)
1 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
Fresh ground black pepper
Olive Oil

Carbonara is such a simple recipe - what makes it better is the order you prepare the ingredients. One thing I usually stay away from is adding cream, it's not necessary nor the traditional way you would find it in a Italy. The creaminess will come from the eggs and the cheese, who needs cream?

Set a large pot filled with enough water for the pasta to boil.

In a large non-stick pan, heat about two teaspoons of olive oil (if you're using fatty pancetta or bacon, you don't even need oil). Add your sliced/diced meat and cook on medium-high until it's nice and brown.

Next add the garlic and onion and continue to sauté until the onions are translucent and the garlic is slightly browned. To add even more flavor, you can add about half a cup of chicken stock, and scrape the bottom of the pan to remove the browned bits. Turn heat to low and reduce the stock by half. You want it to look like a light sauce, not a lot of liquid.

Add pasta to boiling water and cook according to box directions.

In a little bowl, whisk the eggs, add the grated parmesan cheese and black pepper to your taste preference.

Once pasta is cooked, drain (reserving half a cup of pasta water to thin out sauce if it's too thick). Add pasta to frying pan and turn off heat. Finally, pour in egg/cheese mixture and quickly stir into pasta. This is supposed to cook the eggs. If you are worried about salmonella, you could use pasteurized eggs or those eggs in a container, but I like my eggs in their natural form and couldn't live without a runny egg yolk, so I take the risk, and haven't gotten sick yet! If you feel the sauce is too sticky, add a little pasta water, but it usually doesn't need any.

Plate, and sprinkle some more parmesan cheese and black pepper on top, pour yourself a glass of red wine and enjoy!