Saturday, August 22, 2015

Cookbook Review: Near and Far Recipes Inspired by Home and Travel">Near & Far: Recipes Inspired by Home and Travel</a><img src="" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" />
Near and Far is one of those cookbooks that I’ve been anxiously waiting for since I read this post. Even though I’m not a vegetarian, I love plant-based dishes and have drawn from Heidi’s blog for culinary inspiration over the past few years. The dishes featured in this book are inspired by Heidi’s San Francisco home as well as travel to Marrakech, Tokyo, Paris, Jaipur, Rome, Kyoto, Palermo, and New Delhi. I love the stories behind the recipes as well as the beautiful photography of the aforementioned destinations.

With regard to recipes, her dishes reflect her philosophy on making natural food delicious and feature lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. After perusing Heidi's book, I had mad craving to create a meal with Middle Eastern influence so I made the red lentil hummus and harrisa farro from her book as side dishes to the lamb kofta that we usually eat. Traditionally, hummus is made with chickpeas so the use of lentil was quite clever. The combination of flavors through judicious use of spices made her dishes sing. The spring rolls were a hit even though they're vegetarian. The addition of mushrooms made them filling and delicious. There are so many more recipes that we can't wait to try from Near and Far.  The pozole verde, quinoa blini, lilikoi curd, moka pot espresso, and saffron lassi are next on the list.  Another thing that I appreciated about this book is Heidi's deliberate effort to keep the integrity of the regional ingredients and giving a lot of room for substituting seasonal ingredients.  I also like the fact that many of the ingredients are accessable through Whole Foods and you don't need to find a specialty store. 

By far, Near and Far is my favorite book from Heidi Swanson and also one of my favorite vegetarian books. I own over 200 cookbooks and this is one of three vegetarian cookbooks in my collection (the other two are Green Kitchen Travels and A Modern Way to Eat). I can’t rave enough about Near and Far.  The photography, writing, and recipes are awe-inspiring. Even if you’re not a vegetarian, this cookbook will inspire you to seek out the freshest ngredients, explore different flavor combinations, and bring Heidi’s dishes to life.

*I received this book to review complementary of the publisher


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Cherry Salsa

We love salsa at our house, especially the fruit salsa--cherry, strawberry, mango, and peach.  These fruits seem to take on the lime juice and heat from the Serrano chiles quite well.  The result is a refreshing and delicious salsa that pairs well with both meat and white fish.  Cherry is our favorite because they hold up a lot better than the other fruits and have a nice texture if you can get your hands on the firmer ones.  We enjoy cherry salsa with grilled chicken burger, grilled fish burger, and pan fried white fish.  Grab some cherries and make this salsa before they’re gone!

Cherry Salsa
3 cups of cherries, pitted and quartered
¼ cup of Persian cucumbers, diced
2 tbsps white/red onion, chopped
2 small Serrano chiles, stemmed and seeded (more or less depending on your taste)
¼ cup of cilantro, chopped
juice of 1 lime
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Combine cherries, cucumber, onion, Serrano chiles, cilantro, and lime juice a serving bowl and mix thoroughly.
2. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Cookbook Review: A Jewish Baker's Pastry Secrets">A Jewish Baker's Pastry Secrets: Recipes from a New York Baking Legend for Strudel, Stollen, Danishes, Puff Pastry, and More</a><img src="" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" />

A Jewish Baker’s Pastry Secrets is a wonderful book from James Beard award-winning baker George Greenstein.  The book teaches you everything you need to know about making bundt, babka, strudel, gugelhopf and Portuguese sweet bread, stollen and Polish Kolacz, puff pastry, Charlotte dough, and Danish pastries with more than 200 variations of classic pastries.  It also has two chapters on basic techniques and recipe and equipment, tools, and ingredients.  My only gripe is the lack of pictures in the this book.  The only picture that you’ll get is the one on the cover.  I would definitely be more interested in trying out the recipes if I know what my end product would look like.  I would recommend flipping through the book at your local bookstore before committing to it.  A Jewish Baker’s Pastry Secrets has a lot of good recipes and tips if you can get past the lack of pictures.
*I received this book to review complementary of the publisher

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Homemade Granola with Yogurt and Blueberries

If you had told me five years ago that I would be making my own granola, I wouldn't have believed you!  We eat quite a bit of granola at our house, usually for breakfast with milk and as a topping for yogurt and cottage cheese.  We recently switched from store bought to homemade granola because of Aiden's allergy.  A few months back, we gave him a cluster of granola and he immediately broke out in hives.  It was the only thing that he had eaten so I suspected granola as the culprit.  Aiden has a milk protein allergy which predisposes him to hives, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and respiratory issues when he eats anything containing casein and/or whey.  Sadly, he can't have any milk or milk products--cow's milk, goat's milk, sheep's milk, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream.  Anywho, imagine my surprise when there were not just one but two things, dry milk powder and whey protein, on the ingredient list!  DOH! We totally failed to read the label.  Shouldn't granola just contain rolled oats, nuts, seeds, and honey/maple syrup as a sweetening agent?!  Why would dry milk powder and whey protein be incorporated in granola?!  We still can't figure it out but lesson learned! 

Since then, we started making our own granola and it's a lot more easy than one imagines.  Throw whatever you like in a bowl, mix, and toss it in the oven.  Thirty minutes later, you have a delicious granola packed with healthy nuts and seeds for breakfast or a snack.  We feel much better knowing that Aiden can enjoy homemade granola without an impending allergic reaction.  We're sharing our basic granola recipe today that we often eat with yogurt but you can eat it whatever way you prefer.  Enjoy!

Yogurt with homemade granola and blueberries
1/2 cup yogurt

1/4 cup homemade granola (recipe below)
a handful of blueberries
1 tbsp honey (optional)
Just toss everything together and enjoy!
Homemade Granola
2 cups of rolled oats
1 cup of sliced almonds
½ cup of sunflower seeds
1 cup of dried cranberries
½ cup of unsweetened coconut threads
⅔ cup of honey

1. Preheat the oven to 300˚F
2. Place all the ingredients in a bowl and toss to combine.  Make sure all the oats are moistened.
3. Spread evenly onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
4. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until golden and dry, making sure to turn the granola every 10 minutes or so to ensure even color and to prevent it from sticking to the pan.
5. Set the granola aside to cool and crisp up.
6. Transfer to an airtight container and store up to a month.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Cookbook Review: The Broad Fork Recipes for the Wide World of Vegetables and Fruits">The Broad Fork: Recipes for the Wide World of Vegetables and Fruits</a><img src="" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" />

The Broad Fork is an amazing, seasonal cookbook with focus on 50 ingredients from kohlrabi, persimmons, sunchokes, bok choy, collard, endives, fennels, ramps, berries, okra, to summer squash and many more.  Chef Acheson gives the readers three simple recipes and one involved recipe for each ingredient.  Whether you’re a beginner or someone with a lot of cooking experience, you’ll find this book very helpful.  

So far, I’ve only tried the simple recipes but they’ve all the turned out really good.  Some of my favorite recipes are fig jam (I’ve eaten with toast for breakfast and roasted meats), chilled avocado soup with crab (you can skip the crab and it would still be good), and raspberry cobbler with drop biscuits (I’ve substituted strawberries and peaches and they worked really well).  I would love to try the more complex recipes like lobster salad with persimmon, sweetbreads with sunchoke puree, lobster with peas and fingerling potatoes, braised veal cheeks with crushed peas and green garlic gremolata, and grilled venison with blackberry gastrique, just waiting  for a special occasion.  

One thing that can make this book more complete is  a short section on how to shop for and store your vegetables and fruits.  This book is perfect for people who struggle with their CSA box With over 200 recipes, you’re sure to find something you like.  This beautiful book will like be dog eared, stained with oil, and much loved on your kitchen counter instead of collecting dust on your bookshelf.  The Broad Fork is a great book for turning your home grown vegetables or farmers market finds into delicious breakfast, lunch, dinner, and desserts.

*I received this book to review complementary of the publisher

Friday, July 17, 2015

Strawberry and Elderflower Sorbet

When I come across a new ingredient for the first time, I want to explore all the culinary possibilities.  I am driven, like a mad scientist to derive its property, to break it down, to transform it, and ultimately to learn as much as I can.  Over the past few months, my mind has been consumed by elderflower.  The tsunami of Instagram posts on elderflower since spring piqued my curiosity.  I haven’t felt this way for a long time.  The last time I felt like this was six years ago, sitting in a noodle shop in Vietnam sipping on a glass of passion fruit lemonade wondering what the heck I’ve just inhaled.   After a bit of research, I found that elderflowers grow mainly in Europe and are prolific in the spring.  People pick the aromatic blossoms from elderberry shrubs and transform them into beautiful concoctions.  Unfortunately, they are not readily available in the US so I found the closest thing I could get my hands on--elderflower cordial from St Germain.  When Vu and I took a whip of the cordial, we were blown away by the beautiful fragrant reminiscent of lychee and an indistinguishable floral note.  

So the experiments began!  They went into drinks, cocktails, and desserts!  Yes, many desserts!  We’re sharing one of our favorite concoctions today--strawberry and elderflower sorbet.  The flavor of elderflower is quite delicate and I wanted to preserve it as much as possible.  Sorbet was the best dish for it to shine.  It definitely held its own next to the sweet, exquisite taste of strawberries.  The end result was a refreshing and delicious sorbet!  If you haven’t tried elderflower, this sorbet will win you over.

Strawberry and Elderflower Sorbet
1 pound organic strawberries, hulled and sliced (about 16 oz when pureed)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup elderflower cordial (Saint Germain brand)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

1. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil. Remove from heat as soon as the sugar has dissolved and set aside to let it cool to room temperature.
2. In a food processor or blender, puree the strawberries with lemon juice.
3. Add the cooled syrup to the strawberry puree and blend again for a minute.
4. Stir in the elderflower cordial until thoroughly mixed.
5. Pour the strawberry mixture into an ice cream machine and churn till frozen according to manufacturer's instructions.
6. The sorbet is best served immediately or can be kept in the freezer for up to 5 days.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Chicken and Egg Breakfast Tart

Breakfast is really important to our family.  Growing up, I remember rarely skipping breakfast. Either my mom would cook or she would hand me a wad of money to buy breakfast from the street vendors.  Now, it’s even more important to continue that tradition for Aiden.  We’ve been trying to be more creative with our options, expanding beyond Vietnamese noodles and porridge or American pancakes and oatmeal.  My mom stockpiles puff pastry from a wonderful Persian supermarket that makes the perfect pastry, each sheet already precut.  I’ve been experimenting with puff pastry, making breakfast tarts with ingredients inspired by my favorite pizzas.  I would love a good breakfast pizza but busy mornings call for easy breakfast options instead of making the dough, waiting for it to rise, and rolling it out.  This chicken and egg breakfast tart is filling and will keep you going until noon.  It has everything you need, carb, protein, dairy, and veggies.  If you’re a vegetarian, skip the chicken and you’ll still have a delicious breakfast tart.  Now go make some!    

Chicken and egg breakfast tart (serves 4)
4 sheets of frozen puff pastry (5x5 inch)
¼ cup of chicken breast, cubed
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tbsp of olive oil
¼ cup of heavy cream
6 tbsps of mozzarella cheese
4 egg yolks
1 egg
one small heirloom tomato, sliced (you can use cherry or grape tomatoes)
a few basil leaves, chopped
salt and pepper

1. Thaw the puff pastry according to the package directions.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the puff pastry on the baking sheet.
2. Fold over one fourth of an inch on each edge of the square and press down to form a rim.  Use a fork and prick inside the rim of each pastry square to prevent the center of the pastry from puffing up while baking.
3. Whisk one egg in a small bowl until frothy and brush each square with the egg.  Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
5. In a small skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil.  Add the minced garlic and let it saute until fragrant, but not browned.
6. Add the cubed chicken and cook until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
7. In a small mixing bowl, add the heavy cream and ¼ cup of cheese.  Spread the cream and cheese mixture equally between the center of the pastry squares.
8. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes or until light golden brown.
9. Remove the puff pastry from the oven.  
10. Add 1 egg yolk to each square.  Arrange the cooked chicken, tomatoes, and basil leaves on the pastry making sure not to break the yolk.  Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of cheese over the tarts.  
11. Bake for another 5-7 minutes, until the egg yolks are slightly cooked.  
12. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately.