Friday, November 13, 2015

Cookbook Review: Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes

Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes is such an interesting book to read.  I’m not sure if the team at Lucky Peach was poking fun at Asian cuisine or trying to introduce delicious but simple Asian food to the public with the premise of no frying, no sub-recipes, and 100% inauthentic.  The book started off with a quick intro into necessary equipment and pantry items accompanied by very useful pictures of what the items look like.  Broken into many chapters that include cold dishes, breakfast, pancakes, soups and stews, noodles, rices, warm vegetables, chicken, meats, seafood, super sauces, and dessert, there’s something for everyone.  Many classic dishes like green papaya salad, dumplings, miso soup, okonomiyaki, Massaman curry, pad see ew, chicken adobo, Hainan chicken rice, and kung pao shrimp are included but don’t expect every single Asian dish featured.  If you’re looking for a comprehensive book on Asian cuisine, you’re looking in the wrong place.  Scanning through the recipes, I’m familiar with ninety percent of the dishes and probably won’t be cooking from it.  Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes would be perfect for someone who’s interested in Asian food but doesn’t know where to start.  It’s like a mini introduction to Asian food just to whet your appetite.  I have mixed feeling about this cookbook and don't know if I hate it or like and highly recommend stopping at your local bookstore and flipping through it before buying.

*I received this book to review complementary of the publisher

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Vietnamese coffee ice cream

Considering how we can’t start our morning without a glass of cafe sua da, it was a no brainer to turn one our our favorite drinks into a frozen treat. We’ve been making Vietnamese coffee ice cream since we got a Cuisinart ice cream machine years ago but haven’t thought about putting it on the blog until recently. After testing it out at several parties and ice cream socials, it won first place for the most popular ice cream among ten other frozen treats. A very coveted spot! The Earl gray and honey blossom ice cream and passion fruit frozen yogurt were trailing right behind. 

My friends and coworkers were pleasantly surprised at how similar in taste it was to the actual Vietnamese coffee drink minus the caffeine high. Many people asked for the recipe so it would be a crime not to share! You can now enjoy this delectable treat at home or find someone that is willing to make it for you!

Vietnamese coffee ice cream
1 cup of organic heavy cream
1 cup of organic 2% milk
½ cup of condensed milk
3 tablespoons of Vietnamese coffee (my favorite is Cafe Du Monde with chicory)
2 tablespoons of sugar
2 large organic egg yolks

1. In a heavy saucepan, combine cream, milk, and condensed milk.
2. Put the pan over medium heat and let the mixture boil gently to bubbling just around the edges (gentle simmer). Remove from heat.
3. Add the coffee and let it steep for 8 minutes until the cream has taken on the coffee flavor, stirring occasionally and tasting to make sure it’s not too bitter.
4. While waiting for the coffee to steep, in a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the yolks just to break them up and whisk in sugar. Set aside.
5. Put the saucepan back on the stove over low heat and let it warm up for 2 minutes.
6. Carefully measure out ½ cup of hot cream mixture.
7. While whisking the eggs constantly, whisk the hot cream mixture into the eggs until smooth. Continue tempering the eggs by adding another ½ cup of hot cream to the bowl with the yolks.
8. Pour the cream-egg mixture back to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until it is thickened and coats the back of a spatula, about 5 minutes.
9. Strain the base through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean container.
10. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziplock freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in an ice bath until cold, about 30 minutes. Refrigerate the ice cream base for at least 2 hours or overnight. I like to refrigerate the base overnight for the most flavor.
11. Pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister of your ice cream machine and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
12. Spin until thick and creamy about 25-30 minutes.
13. Pack the ice cream into a storage container, press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Cookbook Review: Slow Fires Mastering New Ways to Braise, Roast, and Grill


Slow Fires by chef Justin Smillie is definitely one of my favorite cookbooks published this year.  With cookbooks by chef, it can be a hit or miss but this one is a home run.  I have gone through this book cover to cover twice already and still enjoy reading it and learning from it.  Chef Smillie teaches you the fundamental techniques of braising, roasting, and grilling, but shows you how to break the rules to bring more flavors to your dishes.  The book is divided into four chapters, braising, roasting, grilling, and foundations and finishes with many delicious recipes and accompanied step by step pictures.  Some recipes are more complicated than other and can take two days to prepare but under his guidance, even the home cook can bring restaurant worthy dishes to the dinner table.  

With regard to the recipes, I tried the red wine-braised oxtails with marinated savoy cabbage and and peppercorn crusted short ribs.  Both dishes were so delicious and a big hit with the family.  With the short ribs, I learned a new technique of steaming the ribs first then searing them to a crisp and will apply this to other dishes.  I can’t wait to try the crisp pork belly braised in milk, stovetop cassoulet, black garlic rubbed hanger steak, real porchetta, zuppa di pesce and many more dishes.  The gorgeous photography by Ed Anderson makes the food beyond drool worthy.  Slow Fires is a masterpiece on braising, roasting, and grilling that will be treasured by chefs and home cooks alike for years to come.  

*I received this book to review complementary of the publisher

Giveaway: The Homemade Kitchen

The really nice folks over at Clarkson Potter gave us an extra copy of the Homemade Kitchen Recipes for Cooking with Pleasure to give to one of our lucky readers.  To enter, please leave a comment below and let us know your favorite fall dish.  The winner will be selected at random.  Comments will close on Monday, November 30th at 9 P.M. Pacific. US residents only please :)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Cookbook Review: This Is Camino!important;%20margin:0px%20!important;%22%20/%3E

I have to premise this review by telling you that I haven’t even heard of Camino prior to reading this book even though I’ve lived in the Bay Area for a number of years and visit frequently.  Camino is the locally beloved but nationally acclaimed restaurant in Oakland known and respected by foodies and chefs alike.  

At first glance, This Is Camino is a beautiful restaurant cookbook with many interesting recipes.  As I read further, I became disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to use much of this cookbook because most of the recipes require a kitchen with a giant wood fired hearth.  I certain don’t have that nor can I think of anyone I know with an open fire pit in their kitchen to try these recipes.  The chefs do offer campfire alternatives but what’s the point?  I definitely don’t want the neighbors calling the firemen if they see smoke billowing from my backyard.  While I won’t be able to cook from Camino, I was able to tease out a few recipes that I can try with my oven or grill like the apple calvados tart, buckwheat rhubarb tarts, cherry tarts, grilled fig leaf ice cream, yogurt sesame pudding, mashed beets with mustard seeds, baked oysters with breadcrumbs, and roasted petra sole with preserved lemons.  

I did enjoy reading about the restaurant’s operation with a breakdown of hourly schedule from the setup of the cooking stations to the cleaning of the restaurant at the end of the night .  While I appreciate the authors’ passion for open fire cooking and focus on the use of wholesome and fresh ingredients, This Is Camino is not written for a home cook like myself.   

*I received this book to review complementary of the publisher

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Homemade banana granola

A while back we promised that we would share our banana granola recipe so here it is. We find ourselves making banana nut bread and banana granola when we have an abundance of overripe bananas. I like to make the most of our oven so I bake the banana bread first, then turn down the temperature for the granola once the bread is done. 

When baked right, you get clusters of soft and moist granola with rich banana flavor. This is hands down Vu’s and Aiden’s favorite granola. I pack this banana granola as a snack for Aiden when he goes to school.  It's also our go to breakfast or snack when we don't have time to cook, and we go through a batch just about every week. Hope you like it!

Banana Granola
4 medium sized overripe bananas, mashed    
½ cup of honey
2 tablespoons of coconut oil, melted
3 cups of rolled oats
1 cup of unsweetened coconut threads

1 cup of sliced almonds
1 ½ cups of dried cranberries

1. Preheat the oven to 300°F.
2. In a food processor, combine the bananas, honey, and coconut oil and blend until smooth.
3. Place the oats, coconut threads, almonds, and cranberries in a large mixing bowl.
4. Pour the banana mixture over the dry ingredients and mix to coat. Make sure all the oats are moistened.
5. Spread the granola evenly on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
6. Bake in the oven for 60 minutes or until golden and dry, making sure to turn the granola with your spatula every 15 minutes to ensure even color and to prevent it from sticking to the pan.
7. Set the granola aside to cool to room temperature and crisp up.
8. Transfer to an airtight container and store up to a month.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Cookbook Review: Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees!important;%20margin:0px%20!important;%22%20/%3E

Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees is one of two Chinese cookbooks in my collection.  The other cookbook is Chinese Unchopped.  To be honest, we don’t cook that many Chinese dishes at home.  The Chinese restaurants that we frequent serve really good Chinese food so we never felt the need to recreate them with a few exceptions like Shanghai beef noodles, roasted pork, and roasted duck.  

I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of detail provided in this cookbook.  Broken into 17 chapters, you’ll learn the history behind regional Chinese cuisine (Guangdong, Fujian, Sichuan, Hunan, Beijing, Shanghai, and many other regions), how to stock your kitchen with ingredients and essential equipments to facilitate the cooking process, and learn many cooking techniques to create authentic Chinese dishes at home.  This cookbook outlines the fundamental techniques in Chinese cooking, including stir-frying, deep-frying, steaming, poaching, braising, and roasting.  With more than 200 photographs, including helpful step-by-step images and clear instructions from culinary expert Kian Lam Kho, you’ll be well on your way to making delicious Chinese food.     

I already have my eyes on the Peking duck recipe!  You’ll definitely see a blog post about this one.  Other recipes that I can’t wait to try include bbq pork (to compare it to my mom’s recipe), oil poached flounder, red-cooked lion’s head, pan-fried soft shell crabs, and marbled tea eggs.  Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees will definitely have its permanent place in my kitchen, stained and loved.  I highly recommend this book to home cooks who love Chinese food and want to recreate authentic Chinese dishes in the comfort of their kitchen.   You can't really ask for a better book on Chinese cooking techniques!

*I received this book to review complementary of the publisher