Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Valrhona Cake

I made a cake from 71% Valrhona chocolate. It was labor intensive. Here are some pics.

Wish you could have a room temperature bite with some port,

Monday, November 26, 2007

Soup for the Soul

What do you do with a turkey carcass, 5 lbs of carrots, and fresh herbs? Duh, turkey soup...The great thing about roasting the turkey is that half the work is done for you, so it's just up to you not to f&#% it up!

I start with sweating a mirepoix in some olive oil, then add the carcass and whatever turkey trimmings didn't make it into my belly (reserving some meat for the finished soup), turnips, parsnips, parsley, thyme, whole black peppercorns, a couple goldfish, my cat if I had one, and of course some fresh water. (BTW, for the record I do not like cats, even though I had a couple for 2 years but not by choice. No offense cat lovers.)

Then I boil rapidly for a few minutes and skim off the impurities (scum), lower the heat and simmer in my 7 quart Le Creuset Dutch oven until I forget it's on the stove and exclaim, "OH S$%#!!!!" But by then my stock is perfect.

Strain into my 4 quart All Clad stock pot, add fresh veggies, thyme leaves and torn turkey meat and I'm in business, 10 hours later. Now that's soup for the soul.

Wish you could have a sip,

Friday, November 23, 2007

I'm thankful...

Some pics from the festivities...

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I know I did!!!


Monday, November 19, 2007

Blue and Blackberry Pie

So I'm hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year with the help of some family members and friends, but I'm making the turkey, stuffing, pie, and biscuits. Let's start with the pie...I know I have a picture of a berry pie here (because I had my berries in the freezer, of course), but I think I'm going to make the traditional deep dish apple pie. In my opinion it's all about the crust, and if you can't get the crust right you might as well just make an apple cobbler or fill a bucket with water and throw some apples in there for bobbing.

It's just like making biscuits, really, except your ingredients have to be F-CKING cold. Dice your butter and put in the freezer. Use a Cuisinart to coarsely chop the also frozen shortening and butter into the flour so as not to heat up the ingredients with your hands. Or if you don't own a Cuisinart use 2 knives or a pastry blender. And of course, when adding the ice water, DO NOT OVERMIX. Pulse, pulse, STOP. I promise you it'll come together, even though it may look like coarse sand.

In making this double crusted blueberry pie I added pulverized tapioca pearls to the blueberries to thicken the juices. It's nice because it doesn't add any noticeable flavor to the berries, like cornstarch or flour might. Try it and see, or use potato starch if you can find it!

Oh, and for my apple pie, just a little sugar, a couple pats of butter, a tiny bit of cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg, allspice, lemon zest and juice and that's it. Let the apples speak for themselves, and let the crust do its thing.

Pics to follow on the big Day. Also, to brine or not to brine--that is the question...

Wish you could have a blueberry bite,

Monday, November 12, 2007

Flied Lice

All right all right that's a little racist, but hey, everyone's a little bit racist sometimes... That's from one of my favorite musicals, Avenue Q, because it was named after me. Racist and egocentric. What more could you want?

You can make fried rice however your heart desires, from shrimp to pork to vegetarian to plain. The one thing I always do consistently, though, is how I cook the rice. If you go to a tepinyaki restaurant they usually cook the egg separately from the rice. What I like to do is stir the raw egg INTO the cooked rice. This way every grain stays fluffy, light and flavorful. With a searing hot wok I drizzle in a little canola oil then add my rice. Working quickly with a spatula, constantly work the rice until it is cooked, being mindful not to smash it against the wok. I like mine a little toasty. Sometimes I even add the canola oil into the rice with the egg. I also add Maggi sauce to the rice at this point to give it a little more flavor and color. You could use soy sauce as well.

I then cook all my vegetables separately from the rice so as not to make the rice soggy. Who likes soggy fried rice? Not the puppets from Avenue Q that's for sure...In Thailand they always serve fresh cucumbers on the side, so I've started doing that as well. They provide a cool, crunchy contrast to the dish. Finally, no chopsticks. Did you know that they use forks and spoons in Thailand?

Enjoy. Don't burn yourself, especially if you have a stove that goes up to 17,000 BTU like mine. I love it.

Wish you could have a bite,

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Oh Snap!!!

So I'm back from Iowa, where I made friends with the kind folks at the Twisted Chicken and McGregor Coffee Roasters--catering and crafty on the show we just wrapped. Among my favorite snacks were the snappy yet chewy ginger snap cookies Diana made us. Holy crap they're amazing...

Just because they're called "snaps" doesn't mean they should be rock hard, the way they usually come in those brown bags at the general store. You know, the general store on the corner that sells everything from leather cleaner to cowboy hats to eggs? Do you think the snap refers to a "snap of the tooth?" Regardless, these cookies are awesome and you should make them for all your friends until they turn into unfiltered molasses.

So here's the recipe.

3/4 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup molasses (I use the unfiltered kind...dark and nasty baby)
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp ginger powder
1/2 tsp salt (although I used a little more in one batch and it was DELICIOUS)

Cream together shortening and sugar. Add egg and molasses and beat well. Sift together dry ingredients and stir into the wet mixture. Refrigerate until chilled. Form 1 inch balls, roll in sugar, and flatten them out onto a baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes in a 375 degree oven. Thus begins the addiction.

Chewy, moist, delicious. It's like Christmas all year round. Enjoy!

Wish you could have a gingery soft bite,

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Oh Wisconsin!

Ah Wisconsin! Oooh Wisconsin Cheese!!!! Remember that jingle?

So I'm in McGregor, Iowa right now for a month and as quaint as it is, there's no major grocery store. So...we have to go across the border to Wisconsin to get our groceries, and when in Wisconsin...well, you know the rest.

I won't be blogging much, as I will be "working", but I will post pics from my iPhone, as I am doing now. They're not Foodsnob-worthy, but it's either that or nothing for all you loyal fans (i.e. Lillian and Sam, and sometimes Michelle).

I got some nice Wisconsin, Extra Sharp, 2-year Aged Cheddar...YUM.

Wish you could have a bite,

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Lunch: Halibut and Squash

When your fishmonger recommends the halibut, you get the halibut. When he tells you creepy jokes about women, graveyards and meatballs you listen. You do whatever it takes to make him happy because he is your best friend. And I mean it...I'd do anything for love, but I won't do THAT.

So for lunch earlier I made pan-seared halibut and sauteed squash with thyme. So simple. When the halibut is that fresh, or any fish for that matter, I like to season with just a sprinkle of sea salt and black pepper. And of course to get that beautiful golden crust, DON'T TOUCH IT as it sizzles away (in a little olive oil and butter.) Bad touch, bad touch! A couple minutes per side and you've got yourself a healthy meal.

Hot and simple, sort of like myself...I kid, I kid...

Wish you could have a bite,

Friday, September 21, 2007

Everyone say Mac 'N' Cheese!!

Those poor kids on Kid Nation...if only someone there knew how to cook, their pasta wouldn't be so mushy! Didn't they know the water should come to a rolling boil before you add the macaroni? Sehr traurig, ja.

I LOVE CHEESE. I love it almost as much as I love bacon, and you know I love bacon. I think the beauty of mac 'n' cheese is that you can put ANY cheese you want into your meal...it might not always work so nicely, but at least it's your own creation.

I make my mac 'n' cheese with penne pasta, cooked a minute under al dente, and then let it finish cooking in the oven. I find the ridges in the penne really hold the sauce nicely. Starting with a basic bechamel sauce (more on that later...should the milk be hot or cold you might ask?), I added grated fontina, gruyere, and white aged cheddar on this particular occassion because I could, or maybe that's what happened to be in my fridge. Oh, and I like to add a teensy dollop of whole grain and dijon mustards. Then a little bit of the pasta water to loosen up the cheese and we're cookin'! I find that toastin' Panko bread crumbs in butter before topping off the dish really adds a deeper golden crust, and I love me some crispy crust set against a creamy backdrop of cheesy goodness. I suppose you could add cream if you wanted, but why the extra calories? A little time in the oven and the house is sure smellin' good.

Mmm mmm mmm...A simple salad dressed with Morgenster cold extracted olive oil from the Stellenbosch region of South Africa and some balsamic fig vinegar from upstate California and you've got yourself a complete meal! Oh, and don't forget the vino. This time--an Amarone della Valpolicella.

Wish you could have a creamy but also crunchy bite,

Friday, September 14, 2007


Apologies for being absent. I was up in Copperopolis. I kid thee not. There is a town about 2 hours east of San Francisco and it's called Copperopolis. No lie. Anyway, I was there for a whole week enjoying the 110 degree weather, the lake with the dead bodies in it, and being the only non-Caucasian person there.

Anyway, back to the topic of food--I made blueberry pancakes for breakfast recently and forgot how delicious blueberries are with maple syrup and pancakes. Usually I opt for strawberries, but thanks to all the frozen berries in my freezer, I was feeling a little blue that morning. A quick warming through of the frozen berries with some vanilla sugar and a touch of Canadian maple syrup and I was in business.

For the pancakes themselves, here is a recipe I've committed to memory for as long as I can remember...

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp sugar
pinch of salt
2 eggs, separated
1/2 cup buttermilk

Mix together dry ingredients. Add the buttermilk to the yolks. Whip the whites until stiff but not dry. Mix dry ingredients with buttermilk mixture until just combined. Fold in the whites. It's OK if it's not fully combined. The less combined the more ethereal and fluffy your pancakes! Cook your pancakes in some butter. Mine usually end up being about only 3 inches in diameter. Cute and delicious.

Please don't buy that prepackaged pancake mix. If you LOVE pancakes, you can place all the dry ingredients in a tupperware and just shake before use, but none of that boxed stuff...I beg of you!

Wish you could have a bite,

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Blueberry Muffins for Breakfast

A benefit of having frozen berries at the ready is you can whip up muffins in a pinch. Seriously, though, muffins don't take long at all. So long as you tie yourself over with a banana and a glass of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice you'll be fine. An hour later you'll have your muffins and be late for your "job" or whatever it is you do.

What you CAN do, though, is prep the muffin mix the night before. Separate the wet from the dry, keep them in the fridge. When you wake up, preheat your oven and grease your muffin tins. Whatever recipe you may use, try substituting some sour cream as part of the liquid (whether it be milk, buttermilk, or yogurt.) There's nothing better. The key is, of course, need I say it???? Do NOT overmix. Stir with a chopstick if that helps. Barely moistened...I like to top my muffins with however I'm feeling that day. Crushed almonds, butter, brown sugar, a touch of flour?

Jump in the shower and by now your timer should just be going off, unless you're a water whore.

I think I ate four of these. Me not too smart.

Wish a bite you could have,

PS By the way I totally burned my fingers with boiling blueberry juice as I was trying to take this pic.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Friday, August 17, 2007

Biscuit Recipe SHHHHHH!!!! It's a secret!!!

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
6 T f$*king cold butter, cubed
7/8 cup uber cold buttermilk
melted butter, cooled (for brushing tops, optional)

Preheat oven to 425. Whisk together dry ingredients. Using a pastry cutter or working quickly with your hands, cut in the butter until it resembles coarse crumbs. It's OK to leave some lumps. (When the heat hits the butter, it turns to steam and creates the fluffy layers.)

Using a wooden spoon, stir in the buttermilk until the mixture just comes together. Dump out onto a cold pastry stone (or whatever you might have) and GENTLY knead until light and gorgeous, no more than 6 turns. It's tempting, yes, but don't do it.

Gently roll to 3/4" and cut with 1 1/2" to 2" biscuit rounds that have been dusted in flour. Having a clean cut ensures a better rise in the dough.

Brush the tops with melted butter, or more buttermilk, and bake for 11-13 minutes until golden. Take pics, send to me, then serve immediately.

Go make those biscuits!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Biscuits Biscuits Biscuits

Biscuits remind me of my homeland...the hot humid summers, mosquitoes galore, little Asian kids running barefoot. Sound like Vietnam? Think again. Think the American South. Think Virginia.

Do you think about fried chicken and biscuits when you think about the South? Do you even THINK about the South ever? Yes I am ashamed that Virginia was part of the Confederacy, but I forgive Mr. Robert E. Lee. It wasn't his fault. His momma probably convinced him to stay with her tasty Southern delights.

So, I freakin' LOVE biscuits. I love carbs in general. I made these to go with a chicken soup I'd made for lunch. I know there are tons of biscuit recipes out there, but what it really comes down to is technique. How many times do I have to say DO NOT OVERMIX? DO NOT OVERMIX. And, REALLY COLD ingredients. Scones and biscuits are in the same category. Rock hard = bad.

If you want my biscuit recipe which I've painstakingly developed over the years, I'll post it up for you :)

Go test out your biscuit hand!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Berries for Breakfast

I think one of my favorite weekend breakfasts is challah french toast with a fresh berry compote. I get my challah from Canter's, always uncut...very un-Jewlike...oh, sorry, wrong blog. That way I can make my slices as thick as I like 'em to be. Mmm.

Anyway, if the berries are really sweet and fresh (which is such a rarity these days) I might opt for keeping them fresh sprinkled with some vanilla sugar and grated lemon zest. However, cooking them down a bit with some sugar and water usually results in a more palatable accompaniment to the toast. I even like to add maple syrup at the very end for that extra bit of sweetness.

It's really important to add your water and sugar at the beginning of cooking, as adding it later on will give you a gummy texture, and that's not delicious, is it?

Oh, and something else I like to do (there's ALWAYS something.) I buy a TON of berries at their peak season, freeze them on a flat tray so they don't stick to each other, then date and bag them. That way I have berries for months on end.

Add a little berry to your breakfast. Everybody's doing it!


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Chocolate Grand Marnier Cake

What do you do with 5 bars of Valrhona 71% chocolate? Hmm...I've got it!! Melt down 3 of them, add some eggs, Grand Marnier, a touch of flour (or cocoa if you're really hardcore), and bake it. With the other 2 bars, make a ganache for the icing on the cake.

I'm a huge fan of grand marnier, as you may know. The combination of orange and chocolate is divine. Try dipping orange zest (but not the pith, as that is bitter) in a chocolate ganache and make your own chocolate orange peels. I can't seem to shake this chocolate obsession. Oh well.

WARNING: This cake is not for the faint of heart. Perfect with raspberries, tea, coffee, or ice cream. If you'd like the recipe, please let me know and I'll post!

Wish you could have a bite,

Friday, August 03, 2007

Why's it gotta be about black and white???

Sometimes it should just be about GREY (SALT.) Now grey salt is pretty damn spectacular. An unprocessed sea salt hailing from the Brittany coast of France, its slightly moist crystals deliver an oceanic punch straight to your mouth, which also means you don't need to use a lot.

The grey hue comes from all the minerals present in the salt, including magnesium, iron, zinc, potassium, sulfur, copper, silicon, iodine, among others. I love finishing off salads, fish and meat with this stuff, and also cook with it. I love it in stocks and soups as well, adding it during the cooking process and then to finish it off.

And please, none of that table salt. At least go Kosher. You'll also start using less salt on your food.

Have a little salt tasting. You'll really notice the difference!!!

No matter how you spell it, it's great,

PS It even says "flavorful" on the label. Now are you really going to challenge that?

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Burrata How I Love Thee

Let me count the ways...

with gray salt, cracked pepper, extra virgin olive oil

melted on a hamburger with roasted tomato, rocket and crispy prosciutto

on crostini with roasted red bell peppers and basil

a la caprese

fresh heirloom tomatoes and torn basil

atop a bed of penne

with pancetta, rocket, and tomato on toasted ciabatta (BLT ish)


in my belly

PS To make crostini, cut a baguette on the bias, brush on olive oil, sprinkle with S&P and bake for 10 minutes at 400 F. Delicioso e semplice.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Yet another beautiful YELLOW food

First egg yolks, now CORN! Love it. 'Tis the season, so go get some. As pictured in my SMORES post, I like to grill corn still in its husk. I don't like rubbery blackened corn. Keeps it crunchy al dente, and also keeps the carcinogens in check if you're worried about that sort of thing.

I like my corn raw if it's super sweet, but one of my favs is sauteeing it in butter with leeks, seasoned with salt and pepper, then tossed with chiffonade of basil. A perfect summer side dish to grilled fish or chicken.

Come and get it!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Iced Green Tea

Nothing refreshes like iced green tea.

Aerated water, brought to just before the boiling point.

Matcha powder.

Electrical whisk.

Wish you could have a sip,

Monday, July 23, 2007

20 Minute Meal--Eat THAT Rachael Ray!!!

Sorry Rachael...I'm competitive, and this quick fix is both healthy and pretty on the plate.

On the lunch menu:

Pan-seared center cut pork loin w/ a shallot and white wine reduction
Spinach w/ pignoli and cranberries

STEP ONE: Dry off your pork cuts completely. (This reduction of moisture ensures a nice golden crust, but you already knew that because of an earlier blog and if not shame on you.) Pat on crushed black pepper, freshly ground of course. Sprinkle on some gray salt. Drizzle a hot skillet with EVOO (as Rachael likes to call it) and a pat of unsalted butter if you can afford the pounds. Get out that bottle of buttery Chardonnay you drank from last night, or this morning if you're a wine-o like myself.

STEP TWO: Pan fry your cuts for 4-5 minutes per side. Don't play with them either. Let them sear to perfection. While this is going on, wash and dry your spinach and heat a second skillet with some more EVOO. Add some pignolis until slightly toasted, then add your spinach and dried cranberries. Wilt spinach. This should take just a few minutes. Remove from heat.

STEP THREE: By now your pork is perfect, so transfer onto a plate and let rest--cover with foil. Chop some shallots and add to the pan (or you could've done this in step two if you're a serious multi-tasker). Cook for a minute or two, then add a couple splashes of your white wine. Reduce a bit, and off the heat add a pat of butter you big fatty.

STEP FOUR: Enjoy your somewhat healthy lunch with the same wine you cooked with. I promise this meal in my photo wasn't nuked for the picture. Everything should be perfectly hot. Always cook with wine you would drink. ALWAYS. And please please please never buy that "COOKING WINE." All it is is oversalted cheap wine.

STEP FIVE: Comment on my blog to thank me for helping you get lucky with that chic you were trying to impress with your cooking know-how.

Have a bite for yourself,

PS Next time try fennel-encrusted pork chops! YUM-O.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Chocolate Makes Everything Better

There are two things that make the world go round--money and chocolate, but not necessarily in that order. This morning for breakfast I made banana bread. Bad idea. If you're hungry, make eggs and toast. By the time it was finished I was basically cramped over with hunger pangs, but it was worth it. You know why? Because I added dark chocolate chunks that's why!!

There are a bizillion recipes for banana bread out there, but you gotta own it. Using any standard banana bread recipe, make it your own. I like to add coconut and dark chocolate to mine, and even if you're not a fan of coconut, trust me on this one. Just like the carrot cake, the coconut adds just enough texture and interest, but doesn't overwhelm the bread.

Also, I like my banana bread to be extra moist, so instead of mashing the bananas to the consistency of mashed potatoes I use a fork and just break it up into small chunks. Add to your wet ingredients (sometimes I use buttermilk, but this morning I used Greek yogurt), making sure they are at room temperature, and fold in your sifted dry ingredients. As always, DO NOT OVERMIX. There's nothing worse than developing the gluten...

Wish you could have a bite and a sip of my tea latte,

Monday, July 16, 2007

Who Cut the Cheese???

PHOTO: My lunch today. Not pictured: crostini drizzled with olive oil, sea salt and cracked black pepper lightly toasted to perfection.

So while in Aspen, we ate lunch at a cute place called The Wild Fig, where we ordered charcuterie and queso (and of course a nice cab, which later proved to be a bad idea as we hiked Hanging Lake). Yum anyway. What I liked best, however, was how they served the cheese. If you want to give your platter a more rustic look, opt to NOT cut it into those rectangles. Besides, it's rude to cut the cheese in public.

Rather, using the point of your 10-inch uber sharp chef's knife (or whatever inferior knife you may have) break it off into chunks. In particular, pecorino, parmeggiano reggiano, or a blue cheese will work nicely utilizing this technique. Make little piles, and pile up the prosciutto, dried figs, basil leaves, walnuts, or whatever else you have on hand.

Also, having your cheese at room temperature is a must--just like how you should never refrigerate your tomatoes, but I'll save that for another day.

Enjoy your gorgeous cheese and meat platter!

Wish you could have a bite,

Saturday, July 14, 2007


I just got back from camping in the Rockies, and what better way to end a day of roughin' it than to roast up some smores? OK, just because you're in the middle of nowhere doesn't mean you can't kick it up a notch. No, not by adding some essence of Emeril, (although that would certainly kick up those burgers.)

I'm talking about dipping your marshmallows in some Grand Marnier before roasting them. Oh my goodness. Maui Wowie. Delicioso nervoso. Ginormously good. Did you know that "ginormous" is officially a word in the Merriam-Webster dictionary?

So next time you go camping...scratch that...next time you're making smores over the BBQ, and heaven forbid you make them in the oven, try this one out. Impress your friends. Just don't sear your eyebrows--or theirs.

And one more thing for the perfectly roasted marshmallow--indirect heat. (Ignore the picture where it looks like very direct heat. NOTE: I wasn't holding this marshmallow, OBVIOUSLY.) Also, here's a pic of me grilling corn, but I think I blinked in this one...

Wish you could have a bite,

Thursday, July 12, 2007

RED VELVET, carpet or dessert?

Red velvet and that little boy's smile. Red velvet with that slow southern style. A new religion that'll bring you to your knees. Red velvet if you please. Or black velvet. Whatever. I never know the lyrics to songs.

Who invented red velvet? Who would think to ever add vinegar to a cake? Sounds strange, but apparently this results in a chemical reaction with the baking powder and buttermilk which deepens the signature red color of the cake. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

Forgive me for not making this a triple-tiered cake. I only have two springform cake pans.

Need I say more?

PS For more on this cake, check out this NY Times article.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

What the PHO?

pho [ /fə/ or /fʌ/ ] , rhymes with huh?

noun: the best damn Vietnamese noodle dish in the galaxy.

If you've never had pho in a cafeteria-like setting with servers who actually speak Vietnamese, and where the cafe sua da (Vietnamese iced coffee made with sweetened condensed milk) comes in individual filters for you with a big glass of ice on the side, then you've never had pho. OK, sure, there are some pretty cool pho cafes and Vietnamese restaurants that serve this culinary delight, but unless you've gone to a no frills cafe, it just isn't the same.

I ain't talkin' bout no Korean pho (no offense to my Korean friends) where you can eat it at all hours of the day. True pho is like chicken soup for the soul...except that it's made with beef and lightly toasted spices including cloves, star anise, and sometimes Saigon cinnamon (I prefer to leave it out). The broth should be clear, not cloudy--an indicator of inferior quality. Another indicator of true pho are the accoutrements: Thai basil, mung bean sprouts, limes, saw leaf lettuce, mint, onions, Sriracha hot sauce, hoison sauce. I personally don't add hoison. And go easy on the hot sauce--it'll definitely sneak up on you.

So next time you have pho, ask yourself, "Is this really pho? Do the servers speak Vietnamese? Are the appropriate accoutrements present? Am I sweating uncontrollably?"

Pho that makes you sweat is H-O-T. Take a blind date to have pho, see what happens, maybe videotape it, and email me.

Wish you could have a bowl,

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Lemongrass Vodka

I just made some lemongrass vodka. I'm cooking up some PHO BO this weekend so I figured some "exotic Asian" cocktails would accompany the spring rolls quite nicely. It's so easy to make...I think the hardest part about making it is finding fresh lemongrass. What I do, then, is buy a ton of lemongrass whenever I'm down in Little Saigon and freeze it whole. Works like a charm. That way, whenever I'm in the mood for lemongrass beef over rice vermicelli noodles served with "nuoc mam" on the side, I can make it in a snap (sort of not really.)

To make this delicious vodka, just infuse vodka with freshly chopped lemongrass and steep for at least 24 hours and up to a week. Another way of adding a hint of this refreshing herb to your cocktail if you haven't prepared in advance is steeping it in your simple syrup, which is equal parts sugar to water, heated through until the sugar dissolves.

I think I'll make a lemongrass martini using the vodka, lime juice, and a touch of simple syrup, garnished with a kaffir leaf or piece of lemongrass. Or maybe I'll make a mojito with the vodka, freshly grated ginger, and muddled mint leaves. The possibilities are endless...

Try something exotic. Like I said months ago, lemongrass is the new lavendar.


PS Thanks for the mason jars, opus2.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Not just your every day CARROT CAKE

Carrot cake is one of those hit or miss desserts. It always looks and sounds SO good, but hardly ever delivers. Why? Why?

I don't know, that's why I'm asking! So, I never order it anymore, unless it's one of the offerings at a really really shi-shi restaurant. I just make it at home for myself and others. And I must admit, this last cake I made was pretty awesome. Just look at the picture. And yes, this one tasted as good as it looks. I'm sure it doesn't hurt that it has 1 1/2 cups of canola oil in the cake and 2 sticks of butter in the frosting.

I think the secret to a moist carrot cake is combining the oil and the eggs until completely emulsified. I use a food processor for that. I also double sift the dry ingredients and fold them into the carrots, shredded coconut, and crushed, drained pineapple. No raisins or nuts. Then I barely stir in the wet ingredients.

I don't know. I'm no professional baker. Just a professional snob.

Wish you could have a bite. Seriously, though, don't you?


Friday, June 29, 2007

The Incredible Edible Egg

Remember that jingle? Love it. But what I don't love are green rings around the yolks of hard-boiled eggs. Tastes fine, looks unattractive. So how to avoid it?

STEP 1: Place eggs in a medium saucepan. Cover with cold water an inch above the eggs.

STEP 2: Heat until water boils rapidly. (Large bubbles breaking the surface).

STEP 3: Cover, remove from heat, and let sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare a ice bath (water and ice) in a large bowl.

STEP 4: When 10 minutes are up, place eggs in ice bath for at least 5 minutes. This helps to separate the shell from the egg, preventing tearing.

STEP 5: Remove eggs, deshell, and enjoy.

You should have gorgeous, bright yellow creamy centers and perfectly cooked whites. Enjoy with salt and pepper, devil them, or make a delicious egg salad. Not just any egg salad...a delicious egg salad.

The color yellow is a beautiful color.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Deconstruction of a Salad

You know what? I think it is "funny" when people don't like certain foods. (And by funny I mean they don't deserve to eat at my table.) Like, "Oh, I don't like cucumbers" or "olive oil tastes funny" or "Ethiopian bread has the same texture as human skin." All right so maybe I don't like Ethiopian bread but that's the ONLY thing I don't like, and it's taken years of therapy to admit this so lay off.

Anyway, it's tough to make salads at dinner parties when certain guests don't like, say, tomatoes (eh-hem...Thabo), and rather than having your guests pick at their plates and waste food, why not have a mini salad bar right there on the table?

I made a deconstructed tuna nicoise salad last week for lunch with a friend of mine, and not only does it look pretty, but everyone's happy in the end. If you have a large platter, just pile whatever you like in little clusters on the plate, decorating with lettuce or kale or sprigs of parsley. It's fun for the whole family! Plus, healthy and delicious.

On the menu:

Seared Tuna (45 seconds each side...it helps to rub the olive oil onto the fish, not the pan)
Herb potato salad (much healthier than the mayo version: champagne vinegar, olive
oil, fresh chopped herbs, dollop of mustard)
Tomatoes (sorry Thabo)
Boiled eggs
Blanched green beans (shock in ice water after boiling a few minutes; retains bright
Fresh greens

Champagne Vinaigrette served on the side

Deconstruct away!


Sunday, June 24, 2007

Orange You Glad You Like Carrots??

For you vegetarians out there, I'm sure you have your own carrot soup recipe. I swear this photo has not been enhanced at all, so don't eat too much of this soup or else you'll turn orange. People will point and say, "Wow, that's a bad fake tan." And you'll laugh and stare them down with your 20/5 vision...ha ha ha!!!

Here's how I make mine:

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, sweat onions in olive oil until translucent...DO NOT BROWN. (This is true in making most soups and stocks.) You can also add some garlic and / or ginger a few minutes in. When onions are ready, add your carrots (cut into large chunks--the smaller ones with the tops on them tend to be sweeter, if not also more $$$). Cook for 5-10 minutes.

Cover the carrots with vegetable broth (homemade if you can) and cook until carrots are tender. If you want, I love adding fresh tarragon at this stage. Puree and put back on the heat, adding more stock if necessary. Season with salt and pepper.

Garnish with fresh tarragon you're ready for your fake bake.

Wish you could have a bite,

Friday, June 08, 2007

French Laundry

Damn you French Laundry! You've ruined my future restaurant experiences FOREVER. Seriously, if you've got a special occasion and a lot of money, or if you're just a crazy foodie, you must eat here. I was up in Napa Valley this past weekend, and the 2-month advance booking was worth every single penny.

Food, presentation, service, ambiance...impeccable. How do they do it?

Thomas Keller really knows his shit. I love him.

OK, enough already. Recipes to follow from my latest adventures in the kitchen...I must get back to my afternoon Bollinger with raspberry, pear, and chocolate dipped strawberries (in Valrhona, of course.) Just another ordinary Monday late afternoon...


Thursday, May 31, 2007


A little Foodsnob vocabulary, as coined by Foodsnob...

choc block \CHOC BLOCK ; CHALK BLOCH\, noun, verb:

1. A willfull interjection of hand, limb, or other obstruction between a Chocolate Seeker and Chocolate.

E.g. "That was MY 71% Valrhona Chocolate bi-atch!!"

See also: Choc bloc-aholic (antonym: chocoholic), one addicted to the act of the choc bloc.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


I know all two of you readers of my blog have missed me dearly, so I just wanted to let everyone know I'm back! I'll make this short and sweet, but since my last entry I've learned to kick it up a million notches in terms of spice, thanks to the culinary delights of Thailand. Also, I've a new appreciation for smoothies...my new favorite of the week:

Fresh pineapple (frozen if you don't want to use ice)
Freshly grated ginger
Freshly squeezed orange juice
Dollop of plain yogurt (optional)
Crushed ice (optional)

Missed you all, but I promise to write more now. No more traveling for a while!!!


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

One Potato, Two Potato, Three Potato GNOCCHI!!

Photo: Quyen's Gnocchi with Pancetta and Sage and her favorite Brunello di Montalcino. Try a simple brown butter and sage sauce for a lighter first course.

What do you do with a couple potatos? Hmm...do you slice them, boil them for roughly 7 minutes, pour sherry vinegar and olive oil over them and toss them with fresh herbs? Or, do you make gnochhi???

I'm not really good at listening to and following directions. When I was in elementary school, I received an "O" (for Outstanding) in every category except this one, where I got big, fat, ugly "N's" all the time (for NEEDS IMPROVEMENT.) Screw you teachers! I still went to college, and even graduate school!! Don't let discouraging marks stop you from pursuing your dreams, kids.

With that said, I hardly ever follow recipes, except when I bake because you kinda need to follow those carefully, baking being a science and all. But even in baking I tend to deviate.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is...go by FEEL and TOUCH. The humidity in your house can change how much or little liquid or dry ingredients you need when you cook (and even bake!) So, live freely and it'll get you into grad school. I guarantee.

To make gnocchi, boil some potatoes, peel them, and while still warm, rice them. If you don't have a ricer, use a cheese grater. Works like a charm. (Ricing potatoes gives them a light, fluffy texture, perfect for "mashed" potatoes as well.)

Make a well in your potatoes, crack an egg yolk in it, add a pinch of salt(or full egg if you have several potatoes), sprinkle some flour over everything, and using a fork, start to combine everything, like making pasta. Add flour if too wet. Soon you'll have a lovely soft dough. Let rest, form into dowels, cut, and flick off a fork. You're ready to rock.

Wish you could have a bite,

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Maximizing your Oven - Part IV: Salmon en papillote

Photos: Julienned vegetables over salmon, packages ready for oven.

Everyone likes opening gifts right? Well this method of cooking allows every guest at your table to feel special, and it's also a one "pot" meal. No separate side dishes necessary.

It works best with heartier, thicker filets of fish such as salmon, cod, or halibut. All you need is parchment paper for the "giftwrapping" and some patience. First julienne your vegetables. This is integral to the success of the dish in both presentation and taste--since the fish only cooks for about 10 minutes, you want to make sure your vegetables cook all the way through. I like to use asparagus, red bell pepper, zucchini, mushrooms and carrots for color and texture.

Next cut out rectangles of parchment paper large enough to contain the fish when folded over. Gather some herbs together (parsley, thyme, tarragon, dill, whatever you like) and make a bed for the fish. Salt and pepper your fish, and place a little olive oil or (herb) butter over it. Arrange your vegetables neatly over the fish, maybe another sprig of herb, and wrap your package, making sure your folds are tight. Brush the paper with some oil and place in a 400 degree preheated oven for 10 - 12 minutes, depending on the thickness of the filet. Serve immediately.

Surprise! Be careful not to burn your guests with the extremely hot steam rising from your "gift." Probably better if you make a slit for your guests before serving.

Pretty and delicious. The fish should be extremely moist and succulent.

Wish you could have a bite,

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

That's My Hood!!!

This is a quickie--just wanted to share an article that my friend just sent to me. Apparently, my hood is the place to eat in Los Angeles--smack dab in the middle of the Fairfax District.

Love it!

NY Times Article

Thursday, January 04, 2007


Photo: Quyen's beef stew served with asparagus, carrots, and garnished with parsley.

I LOVE BRAISING, stews, soups... Does that make me a lazy cook? Or a crazy cook? Whatever. I love it, and so should you. Turn cheap into luxurious--a rags to riches story every time, without fail.

This past week has been uber slow in terms in cooking. That is, long hours for every dish, and loving every minute of it. After having been spoonfed by my mom as my muscles atrophied over the holidays, I didn't think I would have missed cooking my own food so much until I got back to LA. Sure it's nice to not have to cook and have every meal--whatever your heart desired--prepared for you with absolute love, but I must say it was too easy. I can only imagine what it was like for our hunting and gathering ancestors. Any man who comes to me with a bison draped over his back will win my heart forever...or maybe a paycheck and a set of good knives will do.

Anyway, this week was ridiculous. I cooked all 3 meals every day. I was on fire. Literally...just now I made carrot ginger soup and seared mahi mahi with herb butter for lunch, and my fish caught on fire. Forget about waxing those eyebrows. I'll follow up with my carrot soup recipe later for all the vegetarians out there...

The cheap in me finds incredible pleasure in turning inexpensive cuts into gold. You can find meat as cheap as $1.99 / lb under the label "chuck" or "stew meats." I had a slight cold this week so decided to make a hearty beef stew. The secret to developing flavor lies in really really SEARING well seasoned (S&P) meat in a very hot pan, until all sides are a dark, rich brown. The rest is easy, but if you take the time to do this first step (and it does require patience), you can't go wrong.

So after you've done that, remove the meat (cut into chunks), set aside, turn the heat down and add your onions. Sweat until translucent, add the bouquet garni, red wine, carrots, add the meat back in, fill with water or stock to cover the meat by at least a third ABOVE the meat, and simmer for several hours. The meat will melt in your mouth. Perfection guaranteed. (I like to make my stews in a Dutch oven, placed in a 325 degree oven for several hours, but you can do it on the stove top in a heavy bottomed pot over a low flame.)

Try it. You'll love it. Other dishes I made will follow when I get back from (another holiday).

Wish you could have a bite,

PS What do to with heavy cream and herbs so they don't go to waste? Make a rich dark chocolate ice cream from Valrhona 71% cacao and herb butter. Duh. Or, chop your herbs, place them in ice cube trays and water, freeze and you'll have fresh herbs all year round.