Strawberry and basil mascarpone tart

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Somehow this past winter felt like the longest winter ever. As much as I love the cooler weather, I was ready for the temperature to warm up and work on my garden. I had planned on adding a few more garden boxes for a lot of veggies and fruits, in particular alpine strawberries. It will be my third attempt growing them from seed. It takes anywhere from a few weeks to almost two months for the seeds to germinate and a whole year before the first harvest happens. Wish me luck! In the meantime, I’m content with buying strawberries from the farmers market, enjoying them fresh, showcasing them in tarts and galettes, and the most refreshing treat of all, ice cream! 

Before we get to the ice cream (recipe coming soon I promise!), let’s talk about tarts! It’s been years since I posted a recipe for strawberry tart, so we’re overdue! With strawberries, their flavor is so delicate, I try not to do too much otherwise they lose their sweetness.  I also added some basil leaves to the cream to provide some contrast to the mild flavor of the tart.  Strawberries and basil make such a tasty combination anyway!  This tart can be made the day before your gathering so it will be a bit less stressful while you're running around trying to prepare dinner.  We've been enjoying this tart since strawberry season started and will be making it often until the end of summer!  We hope you enjoy it as much as we do!      

Strawberry and basil mascarpone tart

1 quantity of pastry dough
12 oz of strawberries, hulled and halved (leave about 4-5 strawberries unhulled for garnish)
2 tbsps icing sugar
¾ cup of organic heavy whipping cream
4 oz of mascarpone cheese
¼ cup of icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp of Genovese basil leaves, finely chopped
Icing sugar and a few baby basil leaves for garnish

For the pastry dough
½ cup of spelt flour (if you don’t have spelt flour, you can replace with another wheat flour or all purpose flour)
½ cup of almond meal
6 tbsps of butter, chopped into cubes
2 tbsp of icing sugar
pinch of salt
3-4 tbsps of ice-cold water

1. Sift the flours together. To make the pastry crust, place the flours, sugar, salt, and butter in a food processor and process until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

2. While the mixture is being processed, gradually add cold water until the dough comes together.

3. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead gently.

4. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for 60 minutes before rolling.

5. Remove the dough from the fridge. Roll it out on a lightly floured surface to a circle of about 10 inches wide and ¼ inch thick and line an 8-inch tart pan. Trim off the excess dough. You can save the extra dough for up to one month in the freezer.

6. Prick the tart base with a fork, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for another 30 minutes.

7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

8. Remove the tart base from the fridge, line with parchment paper and fill with baking weights (you can use rice or beans if you do not have any baking weights).

9. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the weights and bake for another 10 minutes until the pastry is golden. Let it cool to room temperature.

10. While the tart base is baking, prepare the filling. In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk together the heavy cream, mascarpone, icing sugar, and vanilla until thick. 

11. Gently fold the chopped basil into the cream mixture. Put the cream mixture in the fridge while the tart base is cooling.

12. Place strawberries in a bowl and toss with the icing sugar. Refrigerate the strawberries if the tart base is still cooling.

13. When the tart shell is ready, fill the tart shell with the basil cream and arrange the strawberries on top.

14. Before serving the tart, garnish with baby basil leaves and a dusting of icing sugar.

Cookbook Review: Dinner Changing the Game

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

I was excited to read and cook Dinner: Changing the Game by Melissa Clark having read all the praises from Yotam Ottolenghi, Diana Henry, and Amanda Hesser.  The book is broken into ten chapters with a focus on chicken, meat (pork, beef, veal, lamb, duck, and turkey), the grind (meatballs, sausage), fish and seafood, eggs, pasta and noodles, tofu, beans/legumes/veg dinners, rice/farro/quinoa/other grains, salad, and dips/spreads.  Many recipes had global influence ranging from Southeast Asian to Middle Eastern.  I tried the sticky tamarind chicken with crisp lettuce which had a nice balance of savory and heat.  On the other hand, the Vietnamese caramel salmon tasted a bit off to me.  The seasoning in this dish did not taste like the authentic savory caramelized taste of ca kho to that I grew up with.  I also really enjoyed the asparagus polenta with burrata, so cheesy and delicious.

I really appreciated that the recipes in Dinner Changing the Game took only a page and the instructions easy to follow.  For a book receiving so many accolades, I was rather disappointed that I didn’t learn anything new that would change the way I make dinner compared to many cookbooks (ie. Food52 a New Way to Dinner) that I own.  It definitely didn't up the ante on the dinner game for me.  Although Melissa Clark’s Dinner is gorgeous and filled with many versatile recipes, I didn't feel inspired by the recipes focused in this cookbook.  Overall Melissa Clark’s Dinner would be a good cookbook for someone who is looking for easy and delicious recipes and needs to not fuss over the cooking too much.

*I received this book to review complementary of the publisher        

Blood orange and chocolate chip sorbet

Saturday, February 25, 2017

As the end of winter is approaching, I couldn’t be more excited to share a regular winter dessert that we make when blood oranges are in abundance. When we took a trip to Rome for our honeymoon many years ago, I was surprised to find that my favorite part of visiting Rome was not the sightseeing or the pasta, but tasting all the different gelati and sorbets. At just about every corner, you’ll find a gelateria claiming to have the best flavors in the eternal city. Instead of ordering a decadent dessert at the end of our meal, we would head to a gelateria and grab a scoop (usually two or more) to cool down in the scorching summer heat. With the cones in our hands, we made our way to the steps at Trevi fountain to enjoy our gelato and sorbets and people watch. 

One of my favorite sorbets was blood orange and chocolate chip because it was unlike anything that I had in the US. The flavor of orange was intense with a raspberry undertone and nicely balanced with the dark chocolate chips peppered throughout. Since our trip to Rome, I tried to recreate that sorbet every winter when blood orange is in season. This is the closest I got to recreating the blood orange and chocolate chip sorbet from memory. Enjoy!

Blood orange and chocolate chip sorbet

½ cup of simple syrup
2 cups of freshly squeezed blood orange juice, strained
pinch of salt
¼ cup of your favorite dark chocolate chip, chopped
2:1 simple syrup
1 cup of sugar
½ cup of water

1. To make the 2:1 simple syrup, whisk water and sugar in a small saucepan and cook on medium heat and stir until the mixture comes to a boil and the sugar has dissolved completely.

2. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let it cool completely.

3. To make the blood orange sorbet, add the simple syrup, orange juice, and salt in a saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium heat.

4. Remove the mixture from heat and let it cool completely.

5. Refrigerate the mixture for 4 hours or overnight to let the flavor develop.

6. When ready to churn, pour the blood orange mixture into the your ice cream machine, stir in the chocolate chip, and churn according to the manufacturer’s instruction. (My machine takes about 25-30 minutes to get a lovely soft serve consistency.)

7. When the sorbet is ready, scoop out the sorbet into a freezer proof container. The sorbet can be served after 4 hours or stored up to two weeks.

Pho Ga Vietnamese chicken noodle soup

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Can you believe it’s 2017?!!! It caught me by surprise how the new year came upon us in a blink of an eye. I did away with New Year’s resolutions years ago because I never seemed to stay on top of them. One intent I did want for the blog in 2017 is to share with you more of the food from my culture. Yes, that means more Vietnamese recipes! For the first post of the year, I’m sharing one of my all time favorite recipes, my mom's pho ga, as part of the #noodleholicsparty that Soe of Lime and Cilantro is hosting. 

Pho has always been my comfort food for as long as I could remember. It’s a quintessential food of Vietnam, as ramen is to Japan. Growing up, I ate pho bo (beef noodle) because beef was a commodity. I didn’t really appreciate pho ga until my husband introduced me to Pho Ga An Nam in San Jose when we first dated. It was the best pho ga in town, almost two decades ago. From then on, I begged my mom to cook more pho ga instead of pho bo. She always uses free range chicken because the meat remains firmer after cooking. The spices used in pho ga are similar to pho bo and lend a fragrant and intoxicating broth. During cold weather and rainy seasons we find ourselves gravitating toward pho ga. Each family has their own variation but most of the ingredients are very similar. We hope this will become your go to pho ga recipe!

Pho Ga (4-6 servings)

1 3-lb free range chicken
2 lbs of chicken carcass
12 cups of water
1 medium yellow onion
2 thumb sized pieces of ginger
1 cinnamon stick
10 cloves
5 star anise
½ tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp salt
2 tbsps fish sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1 16-oz package of rice noodles (pho noodles)

For the garnish

1 bunch of Thai basil
½ cup of chopped cilantro
½ cup of chopped green onion
1 green jalapenos pepper, sliced thinly
2 cups of mung bean sprouts
1 lime cut into wedges
Freshly ground pepper for serving
Hoisin sauce for serving
Sriracha sauce for serving

1. Char the onion and ginger pieces on both sides over a gas stove. If you don’t have a gas stove, broil them for a few minutes in the oven. Set aside.

2. Roast the spices in the oven at 375 degrees F for 10 minutes until fragrant. Place the coriander seeds, fennel seeds, star anise, and cloves in a piece of muslin/cheesecloth and tie with butcher’s twine to secure. Set aside.

3. Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the chicken carcass, chicken, onion, ginger, and spices and let everything simmer over medium-low heat. Occasionally remove any scum from the surface.

4. Prepare a large ice-water bath 30 minutes into cooking. When the chicken is done, remove it from the pot and immediately submerge it in the water bath to stop the cooking process and give the meat a firmer texture. Let the chicken stand for 15 minutes until it’s cool enough to handle.

5. Remove the chicken meat from the bones. Set aside. Throw the bones back into the stockpot.

6. Continue simmering the broth for another 90 minutes. Season with salt, fish sauce, and sugar to taste. Add a little more water if too much water has evaporated during the cooking process.

7. While the broth is simmering, bring a small sauce pan to a boil.

8. Add the noodles and cook for about 2-3 minutes or just until al dente.  The noodles will finish cooking in the broth.

9. Prepare the plate of garnishes with Thai basil leaves, mung bean sprouts, lime wedges, and jalapeno peppers.

10. In a small sauce bowl, add the Hoisin sauce and the Sriracha sauce for serving.

11. Chop the green onion and cilantro.

12. To assemble divide the noodles between soup bowls. Top with chicken meat, scallions, and cilantro. Ladle the hot stock over the top, sprinkle with freshly ground pepper, and serve immediately with the garnishes. 

Cook's note: for a less fatty broth, make the broth a day ahead and leave the broth in the fridge overnight.  Remove the layer of fat at the surface before rewarming the broth.   For a cleaner broth, strain it before serving.

For more delicious noodle recipes, check out all the other #noodleholicsparty dishes from bloggers from all part of the world!

Rakhee Yadav |Vegetarian manchurian with stir fry noodles by Boxofspice

Erin Clarkson |Beef ragu with pappardelle by Cloudy Kitchen

Ingrid Goesnar |Indonesian boiled noodles (mie rebus) by Piquecooking

Christine Leong |Malaysian Laksa with Pumpkin by Vermillionroots

Ashley Cuoco |Chestnut Tortellini & Fettuccine in Sage Cream Sauce by Cuococontento

Ryan and Adam |Vegetarian Tteokbokki by husbandsthatcook

Regan Baroni |Shrimp Scampi with Tagliatelle by Regan Baroni

Nevada Berg |Juniper Berry & Barley Noodles with Creamy Chantarelles by North Wild Kitchen

Joanne |Vegan Jjajangmyeon by the Korean Vegan

Lindsay Radcliffe |Duck Noodle Soup by Lindsaysfeast

Lyndsey Eden |Avocado pesto cream sauce with homemade fettuccine noodles by Lyndsey Eden

Aimee Twigger |Homemade soba noodles in a lapsang souchong broth with crispy tofu by Twiggstudios

Haiya Tarik |Malaysian Laksa by Passmethedimsum

Maggie Zhu |Shanghai Scallion Oil Noodle (Cong You Ban Mian) by Omnivorescookbook

Lauren McDuffie |Oak-Smoked Pasta Cacio e Pepe by Harvest and Honey

Soe Thein |Noodle in Burmese coconut and chicpea broth (Oh- no-khao-swe) by Lime and Cilantro

Marvellina Goh |Aceh noodles (Mie Aceh) by Whattocooktoday

Mahroo |Persian Noodle (Reshteh) by Noghlemey

Spiced hot chocolate

Thursday, December 15, 2016

On a recent trip to Seattle, I was introduced to Intrigue Chocolate Company where I had the best hot chocolate ever. I initially picked the Jamaican hot chocolate because of the interesting name but was completely blown away by the flavor when I had my first sip. No ingredients were listed on the menu but I could taste the richness of dark chocolate spiced with cardamom and cinnamon, a slight note of vanilla, and a touch of rum. Since coming back from Seattle, I have been obsessed with recreating that Jamaican hot chocolate. While this cup of hot chocolate won’t be the exact replica of Intrigue Chocolate’s, it’s pretty darn good and perfect for sipping on these chilly fall days.  If you're serving it to the kids, don't forget to skip the rum.

Spiced hot chocolate

1 ¾ cup of milk
1 cup of heavy cream
¾ cup of semi sweet chocolate, chopped
7 cardamom pods, crushed with a pestle and mortar
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbsp rum
1 vanilla bean, splitted
½ tbsp sugar (to taste)
Marshmallow and cocoa for serving

1. In a small saucepan, heat milk and heavy cream over medium-low heat.

2. Add the crushed cardamom, cinnamon stick, and vanilla bean. Let it simmer on low heat for 10 minutes.

3. Add in the chopped chocolate and whisk until dissolved.  Whisk in the sugar.

4.Remove from heat and strain the hot chocolate.5.When ready to serve, stir in the rum, garnish with marshmallow and cocoa powder.

Hidden Rose Apple Tart

Sunday, December 4, 2016

I could hardly believe that December is here and in a blink of an eye the new year will be upon us. I’m not ready for fall to be over let alone for 2017 to arrive. So many fall dishes still on my list to cook and bake. Another squash and apple soup. A pear and chocolate tart. Chicken stewed in apple cider. A savory fig and goat cheese tart. Butternut squash and ricotta ravioli. And many more apple cakes and tarts. I'm like that little girl that kept on asking for one more song at the end of the party. One dessert that I was really happy to cross off my list was this hidden rose apple tart. These hidden rose apples came all the way from Oregon and are famous for their deep red fresh and crisp with balanced flavor of tart and sweet. I was lucky enough to get my hands on them soon after they arrived at Specialty Produce.

When it comes to desserts, I kept things simple to enhance the flavor of these delicious apples. Paired with puff pastry for a shell and flavored with a touch of cinnamon were all they required.

Not too long after the tart came out of the oven, my little guy caught sight of it and demanded to try it. So there we sat in the kitchen, just the two of us, and polished off this tart. He picked off the best part, the apples and crunchy crust, but I didn’t mind one bit. He liked it so much that I made it again the next day. And hopefully again next year when these apples are in season.

Hidden Rose Apple Tart

½ pound of puff pastry
2 hidden rose apples, sliced thinly
Freshly squeezed juice of one lemon
2 tbsps granulated sugar
2 tbsps almond meal
1 small egg, lightly beaten
1 tbsp turbinado sugar
¼ tsp Saigon cinnamon
powdered sugar for dusting
vanilla ice cream or creme fraiche for serving

1. Place the lemon juice in a large mixing bowl and set aside.

2. Peel, core, and slice apples into ⅛ inch with a mandoline. Gently toss with the lemon juice to prevent the apples from discoloring.

3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

5. On a floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to about 5mm thick and trim it into a 10 inch circle.

6. Sprinkle the sugar and almond meal over the top, leaving a 1 inch border.

7. Arrange the apple slices on top of the dough with slight overlap, leaving a 1 inch border around the edges.

8. Fold the edges of the puff pastry over the apple slices and press gently to seal. Pop the baking sheet in the freezer and freeze for 15 minutes or until the dough is firm.

9. Mix the the turbinado and cinnamon until combined.

10. Brush the dough with egg wash and sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture over the apple slices and edges.

11. Bake the tart for 30-40 minute on the middle rack, turning halfway through to ensure even baking.

12. Remove the tart from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes before serving.

13. When ready to serve, dust with powdered sugar.  Slice the apple tart and serve warm with vanilla ice cream or creme fraiche.

14.The tart will keep for another day in an airtight container.

Cookbook Review: French Country Cooking

Saturday, December 3, 2016

I was really looking forward to the release of Mimi Thorisson’s French Country Cooking given how wonderful her first book is.  French Country Cooking is as gorgeous as her first book and similar in term of style but it delves deeper into how her family bought their chateau in Medoc and turned into a restaurant/workshop space.  

From the sweet recipes I really enjoyed Plantia’s tarte tatin, fig and pistachio cake, beignets with apricot filling, and strawberry tart.  The beignets were so good warm and tasted similar to the beignet mix we got from Cafe du Monde but we skipped the apricot filling since it wasn’t apricot season.  For the savory recipes, chanterelle and garlic tartlets, roast duck with cherries, and lobster bisque. There were other recipes that looked really interesting but ingredients were hard to find like the guinea hen ravioli, quail stuffed with foie gras, and turbot with vin jaune sauce.  

Even though I really enjoyed the recipes from French Country Cooking, they do require a lot of planning and prep work.  These recipes aren’t meant for a beginner cook.  Overall French Country Cooking is a beautiful book full of delicious recipes and perfect for anyone who wants to delve deeper into French country cooking or entertain family and friends.          

*I received this book to review complementary of the publisher