Wild ramps pesto pizza with asparagus and peas

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Pizza was not something that I grew up with. It was my husband who introduced me to pizza when we met in college. While I grew up with Vietnamese food, Vu grew up with American food. I credit him for my love of pizza as well as Italian food. A few years ago, we began making pizza at home and started experimenting with seasonal ingredients to expand our arsenal of pizza recipes. It’s been a very rewarding journey in pizza making. 

Today, we’re sharing one of our favorite vegetarian pizzas--wild ramps pesto pizza with asparagus, peas, and ricotta. Everything is homemade from the pizza dough, to ricotta cheese, and wild ramps and hazelnut pesto. All the flavors marry together and sing of spring.

Wild ramps pesto pizza

8 oz pizza dough
Semonia or all purpose flour for dusting
½ cup shredded mozzarella
¼ cup homemade ricotta cheese (recipe here)
2 tbsps wild ramp and hazelnut pesto (recipe here)
¼ cup fresh/frozen peas
5-6 spears of young asparagus
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
4 chive blossoms

1. Place a pizza stone in the oven and preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. It will take about 15 minutes for the pizza stone to heat up.

2. Lightly dust a clean work surface with semolina or flour. Roll out the pizza dough into a rough 12x6 inch oval about ¼ inch thick.

3. Transfer the pizza base to a piece of parchment paper.

4. Prick the base with a fork, place the pizza on the lowest rack, and bake for 7 minutes. Leaving the pizza on the lowest rack helps crisp the base.

5. Remove pizza base from the oven. Spread the wild ramp pesto evenly over the base leaving a ¼ inch border.

6. Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella over the pesto. Top with asparagus and peas. Dot the top with ricotta cheese. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

7. Transfer the pizza onto the heated stone and bake for 10 minutes or until golden and crisp.

8. When done, transfer the pizza onto a serving plate and top with cut chive blossoms.

Fava bean tahini and pepita dip

Monday, June 6, 2016

Fava bean, or broad bean, is one of my favorite spring ingredients and only available for a short period from mid March through May. They’re an ancient member of the pea family with a delicious nutty and buttery taste. It takes a bit of work to get to the edible part--shelled, blanched, then removed from their tough outer skin--but completely worth it. 

Although most people like to make a fava bean soup, add them to salad and risotto, and even a tart but I love making a fava bean dip for flatbread and vegetables or as a spread on toast with soft boiled eggs. 

This fava bean is quite versatile so use your culinary imagination and enjoy!

Fava bean, tahini, pepita dip

¾ cup fresh fava beans
½ cup roasted pepitas plus extra for garnish
1 tbsp tahini
2 tbsps lemon juice
6 tbsps olive oil and extra for drizzling
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tbsp roasted sesame seeds for garnish

1. Remove the fava beans from the shell.

2. Bring a small saucepan to a boil over medium heat. Add the fava beans to the boiling water and cook for 5-7 minutes depending on the size of the fava beans.

3. Drain the fava beans and add the fava beans to a bowl of cold water.

4. Drain again and pop each bean out of its skin and set aside.

5. In a food processor, add the fava beans, pepitas, tahini, lemon juice, and garlic and process for 2 minutes until the mixture resembles a course paste.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

6. Remove the fava bean mixture and place it in a serving bowl. 7.Drizzle with extra olive oil, sprinkle with sesame seeds and extra pepitas, and serve with vegetables as a dip or as a spread on toast with soft boiled eggs.

Wild Ramps and Hazelnut Pesto

Monday, May 16, 2016

Let’s talk about ramps! Ramps are, ramsom, wild leeks or wild garlic, not to be mistaken with scallions, shallots, or onions. When spring arrived, their images flooded across social media--Instagram, Pinterest, and you name it. Why are ramps so popular? They grow wild in only certain regions along the Appalachian ridge from Georgia to Quebec, and are foraged like truffles. Chefs and home cooks alike go wild for their pungent garlicky-onion flavor. I personally have never seen them at our local farmers markets or even Specialty Produce.

When I saw a picture of a field of wild ramps on Lawrence’s IG feed, a friend I had met on Instagram, I left a teary emoji knowing the chance of me finding ramps is like winning the lotto (I’m exaggerating of course but it would require a trip to the east coast in the spring and a full force hunt for them). Imagine my surprise when Lawrence sent me a text that the ramps were on their way to my kitchen! Aaaaaaahhhhhh! I jumped for joy! 

When I finally got that precious gift in the mail, I jumped for joy again and dropped everything I was doing to take a few photos for evidence that they were real and not a figment of my imagination. The possibilities swirled in my head--saute, pickle, grill. In mid April, I had gone to Chicago and got to taste both grilled ramps and pickled ramps and decided to do something different. In the end, I went with a ramp and hazelnut pesto since their long trip from the east coast to San Diego took some life out of the leaves even with Lawrence packing an ice pack to keep them fresh. I gave them a nice cool bath as Lawrence had suggested to plump them up then salvaged as much of the leaves as I could.  

For the pesto, I purposely did not add any garlic to preserve the unique flavor of ramps. I kept my pesto simple with hazelnuts, a little Parmesan cheese, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and lemon juice to keep them from turning brown. This ramp pesto is quite versatile and can be used in pizza, paired with gnocchi or pasta, and even chicken or fish. It’s the perfect blank canvas for your culinary imagination. Good luck finding some and have fun cooking!

Wild ramps and hazelnut pesto

⅔ cup hazelnuts
1 ½ cups ramps (leaves), washed and roughly chopped
¾ cup olive oil
2 tbsps freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Dry-fry the hazelnuts in cast iron skillet over medium heat until golden brown, stirring frequently to avoid burning them. Once they’re done and cool enough, peel the skin off.

2. In a food processor, grind the hazelnuts to a fine texture and set aside.

3. Add the chopped ramps, olive oil, and lemon juice to the food processor and puree until smooth.

4. Stir in the grated Parmesan cheese and hazelnuts and pulse for about 1 minute until everything is well combined.

5. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

6.Transfer the pesto to a glass container and store in the coldest part of your fridge for up to a week. Or you can freeze the pesto and thaw it when needed.

Cookbook Review: The Basque Book

Thursday, May 12, 2016


I love Spanish food and couldn’t be more excited to cook from The Basque Book by Alexandra Raij.  It’s been many years since I’ve taken Spanish and have forgotten about the Basque region and its food.  Chef Raij prefaced that this cookbook is her and her husband’s interpretation of Basque cuisine adapted for home cooking and the modern kitchen.

The book starts off with the Basque Basics where she teaches you how to make different types of mayo, seafood and meat stocks, sauces, and paste.  Pintxos is the next chapter, and one of my favorites from the book given my love for tapas. I really enjoyed the explanation for different types of pintxos--banderillas, montaditos y bocadillos, hojalderes, cocina en miniatura, and raciones.  My favorite dishes from this chapter are the open-faced fried quail egg and chorizo sandwich and gratin of deviled crab.  Those recipes were easy to make and weren’t time consuming.  I used pre-picked lump crab meat from a jar instead of fresh blue crabmeat but didn’t feel like it took away from the dish.  The poached leeks with chopped eggs were good but not something I would have craving for.  Eder’s avocado salad, though simple in nature, was quite good because of the harmony of flavors created by the balsamic vinegar, Spanish paprika, and olive oil.  I can eat this every day! Another dish that took me by surprise is the soft scrambled eggs with garlic chives and shrimp.  Garlic chive is very common in Vietnamese cooking and is usually sauteed with shrimp but never in a scrambled egg.  I will definitely be making this again for lunch.  The Basque-style French toast with pineapple was a breakfast hit and will be on regular breakfast rotation.   

I’m looking forward to trying the scallops in its shells with jamon iberico fat, Basque fisherman’s stew, Chinatown-style periwinkles, squid in its ink, poached monkfish with garlic soup, seared croissant with honey butter and orange marmalade, and red wine poached cherries with creme fraiche flan.     

Some of my favorite parts of this cookbook are the suggested dinner menus, basic recipes, and how easy and straightforward the recipes are.  I was pleasantly surprised at the number of recipes with Asian influences in this book.  If you’re looking for a cookbook on classical Basque cuisine, you might want to browse through it before making a commitment.  I also own Basque Spanish Recipe from San Sebastian and Beyond and like both of these books for very different reasons.  The Basque Book is perfect for someone who loves Basque food but is adventurous enough to try these recipes with a modern take.        

*I received this book to review complementary of the publisher

Giveaway: The Vegetable Butcher and Zwilling Pro Prep Knife

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


Hi everyone! I'm excited to partner with chef Mangini to give away a copy of her just released book The Vegetable Butcher and a Zwilling pro prep knife to one lucky winner.  To enter, please leave a comment about a vegetable you find most challenging to prep or cook with. The winner will be selected at random and announced on Saturday, May 14th.  US residents only please.

Kimchi Fried Rice (Kimchi Bokkeumbap)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

When I was first introduced to Korean food in high school, I immediately fell in love with three dishes--cold noodles, bibimbap, and kimchi fried rice. Being Vietnamese, I grew up on noodles and rice so it wasn’t a surprise that I gravitated toward those dishes. I usually order the cold noodles and bibimbap at the restaurant since they’re a bit more complicated to make. 

On the other hand, when I’m craving for rice and something spicy, kimchi fried rice is my go to! Surprisingly simple but so darn addicting, it’s on regular rotation with our traditional Vietnamese fried rice and Thai pineapple fried rice. 

My Korean friends told me that the eggs are usually cooked with the rice but I prefer mine with a fried egg on top, actually two because one fried egg is never enough!

Kimchi Fried Rice (Kimchi Bokkeumbap)
3 tbsps olive oil
¼ cup white onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ tbsp ginger, minced
1 cup of Napa cabbage kimchi, chopped
2 cups of cooked white rice, one day old
4 eggs, fried sunny-side up
Scallions and cilantro for garnish, both sliced thinly
Freshly ground pepper
Extra kimchi to serve (optional)

1. Heat a wok or large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.

2. Add 2 tbsps of olive oil and stir-fry the onion and ginger until fragrant. Add the garlic and continue cooking for another minute, making sure the garlic doesn’t burn.

3. Add the chopped kimchi and rice and stir-fry for another 5 minutes.

4. Decrease the heat to medium-low and press the rice down with a spatula and let the bottom crisp for another 5 minutes then turn off the heat.

5. In a separate pan, heat the remaining olive oil on medium-high heat and fry the eggs, one side until the white is just set.

6. Divide the fried rice among four plates, top each plate with a fried egg, and garnish with freshly ground pepper, scallion, and cilantro.

Cookbook Review: Good and Simple by Hemsley Hemsley

Thursday, April 21, 2016

I was so excited to get the Hemsley sisters’ book Good and Simple since healthy and plant centric food is a part of our lifestyle.  After perusing the book three times, I was rather disappointed in the recipes.  Most of the recipes have been done in other books like chia pudding, smoothies, huevos rancheros, zucchini and carrot noodles, and many egg dishes.  There were a few that stood out to me like the butternut and almond butter porridge and brocomole but even then they didn’t sound tempting enough to try.  I was left rather uninspired to cook anything from Good and Simple.  If you’re looking for delicious and creative plant-based recipes then get a copy of Green Kitchen Travels, My New Roots, or a Modern Way to Eat.  I have cooked from all those books and found the recipes fantastic and left even my non-vegetarian family members and guests wanting more.             

*I received this book to review complementary of the publisher