Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Book review: Green Smoothies


We were excited to read Green Smoothies by Fern Green since we’re avid juicer and smoothie maker.  The book has three recipe sections for juices, smoothies, and nut milk.  Overall it’s a very comprehensive book with tips on choosing equipment, ingredients, and how to do a detox with a 7-day detox plan.  My favorite part of this book is the layout of each recipe with a picture of all the ingredients included so you know exactly what to shop for. With regard to recipe, I tried a few of the green juices and didn’t like them too much.  They were a bit strong in taste and leaned toward savory instead of sweet.  On the other hand, the smoothies were much more delicious.  I’m used to incorporating spinach and kale in my smoothies, but adding bok choy, cabbage, fennel, leek, and watercress was a new concept.  The strong taste of those veggies needed some adjustment so I added half of the quantity in the smoothies.  Overall, Green Smoothies is a wonderful start for those interested in making juices, smoothies, and nut milk.          

*I received this book to review complementary of the publisher

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Tonkatsu with napa cabbage slaw and miso tonkatsu sauce

You probably noticed that the blog has been quiet since late December but there’s a good reason for that. We took time off near the end of the year and traveled to the Bay Area to visit family. When we came back, everyone got sick and and is barely getting over our cold. Even though we all felt under the weather, we’ve been cooking as usual and can’t wait to share some of the delicious meals we’ve been making with you. 

For our first post of 2016, we’re sharing this delicious tonkotsu dish from our favorite Japanese cookbook, Japanese Soul Cooking. Japanese food was foreign to me for the first twenty years or so of my life. Sushi, what’s what? Ramen, is that cup noodle? And tonkotsu, sounds kinda strange! It wasn't until I met my husband that I was introduced to Japanese food. He would order tonkotsu whenever we had Japanese food but I usually stuck to ramen or udon. One day, my curiosity got the better of me and I asked him for a bite. A crunchy, crumbly panko coating with a thin layer of tender pork hidden beneath! I haven’t eaten pork this way before. Fried and delicious! Since then I’ve been hooked. 

We usually make this dish when we crave for pork and are short on time. In less than an hour, you can whip up a delicious and comforting meal of tonkotsu smothered in miso tonkatsu sauce with a bowl of steaming white rice and a refreshing side of napa cabbage slaw. When we have extra time, we usually make a nice yellow curry to go with the tonkotsu like how some restaurants serve it. The recipe for Japanese curry will be posted at another time. Once you make this tonkatsu at home, you might not want to order it from the restaurant again!

Tonkatsu (recipe adapted from Japanese Soul Cooking)

4-6 fillets of boneless pork loin, about ¾ inch thick (about 1 lb)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup of all purpose flour
¼ cup of cornstarch
1 cup of panko crumbs
vegetable oil for deep-frying
white rice for serving

Miso tonkatso sauce
2 tbsps sake
2 tbsps mirin
2 tbsps water
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsps Hatcho miso or red miso
1 tbsp ground toasted white sesame

Napa cabbage and carrot slaw
2 cups of napa cabbage, thinly sliced
½ cup of carrot, shredded
1 green onion (scallion), thinly sliced
2 tbsps light soy sauce
1 tbsp white rice vinegar
1 tbsp of honey
1 tbsp of toasted sesame

1. Make the tonkotsu sauce first by adding sake, mirin, water, and sugar to a saucepan and simmer for about 5 minutes. Whisk in the miso until it’s well combined. Remove from heat and whisk in the ground sesame until smooth. Let the sauce cool to room temperature.

2. To make the slaw dressing, in a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, vinegar, and honey. Place the cabbage, carrot, and green onion in a bowl and toss with the dressing.

3. For the tonkatsu, lay the pork fillets on a cutting board and pound the meat with a meat mallet to about ½ inch thick.

4. If the sides of the pork has fat, cut ½ inch notches into the white fat of the fillets to prevent them from curling when frying.

5. Season the fillets on both side with salt and pepper then transfer them to a plate.

6. Prepare 4 plates. Whisk together the flour and cornstarch and put the flour mixture in plate 1.

7. Pour the beaten eggs in plate 2.

8. Place the panko crumbs in plate 3.

9. Reserve plate 4 for breaded tonkatsu.

10. Place a cast iron skillet on a burner and fill it with vegetable to a height of at least 1 ½ inches.

11. Attach a deep-fry thermometer to the side of the skillet and wait for the oil to heat to 350 degrees F.

12. While the oil is heating, bread the fillets. First dredge a fillet in flour lightly and shake off any excess.

13. Dip the fillet into the egg, coating both sides.

14. Dredge the fillet in the flour again and shake off any excess flour.

15. Coat the fillet generously in panko on both sides.

16. Repeat with the remaining fillets and place them on plate 4.

17. Carefully slide the breaded tonkatsu into the skillet and cook them for about 3-4 minutes, turning only once during the frying process, until the fillets turn golden brown.

18. Cook the fillets in batches so you don’t overcrowd the pan. Make sure that the temperature remains at 350 degrees F. If the oil is too hot, the tonkatsu will burn. If the oil temperature is lowered, the tonkatsu will come out soggy and greasy.

19. When the fillets are golden brown, transfer them to a paper-lined plate to drain.

20. Transfer the fillets to a cutting board and slice them into strips.

21.When ready to serve, divide rice among serving bowls, top with pork, and napa slaw. Drizzle tonkatsu sauce on top and garnish with toasted sesame and green onions.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Book review: The Knot Outdoor Weddings


I was excited to read The Knot Outdoor Weddings to get inspiration for styling tables and food for our dinner parties and not so much for wedding planning because my hubby and I have been married for a while.  From first glance, this book is gorgeous with many real life weddings featured.  If you follow the magazine, this book is an extension of the magazine.  There are a lot of helpful tips peppered throughout the book for wedding planning but I wish a bit more details were included in the 4 pages devoted to each wedding.  As beautiful as this book is, it lacks detail.  There's a nice credit page at the end if you want to look at vendors, venues, or photographers.  Comparing the book to the website, I find the website to be more helpful.  Skip The Knot Outdoor Weddings and use their website or pinterest if you want better ideas for planning your wedding.  

*I received this book to review complementary of the publisher

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Salted chocolate chip cookies

When we posted a picture of our salted chocolate chip cookies as part of our edible gifts for friends and family on Instagram, people went wild. Never had it occurred to us that our followers would go banana for something as simple as chocolate chip cookies topped with a few grains of sea salt! 

So we're making good on our promise to share our simple but delicious salted chocolate chip cookie recipe.  It's amazing what heat can do to the chemistry of sugar, flour, baking powder, and butter! 

They’re perfect on their own with a glass of milk, as a pizookie, or an ice cream sandwich. We hope you like it!

Salted chocolate chip cookies (about 18 cookies)

1 stick of butter, cubed
1 ½ cup of all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
¾ cup of dark brown sugar
¼ cup of turbinado sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 oz of semisweet chocolate chips (use the best quality chocolate you have)
½ tsp sea salt for sprinkling

1. In a small sauce pan, on low heat, add the cubed butter and let the butter melt into a liquid, about 5 minutes.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the sugars and melted butter and beat on low speed until homogeneous, about 5 minutes.
4. Add the egg and vanilla and beat on slow speed until well blended.
5. Sift in the flour mixture into two batches and beat until combined.
6. Scrape down the side of the bowl as needed.
7. Fold in the chocolate chips.
8. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes. If you have time, refrigerate dough overnight which allows a deeply caramelized flavor to come through.
9. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
10.Remove the dough from the fridge and use an ice scoop to scoop out about 2 tablespoons of dough for each cookie.
11. Roll the dough into balls and place them on the parchment paper, about 2 inches apart.
12. Use the bottom of a measuring cup and gently press on the dough to flatten them slightly.
13. Sprinkle a few grains of sea salt on top.
14. Place the baking sheets on the lowest racks of the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
15. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and let the cookies sit on the pan for another 5 minutes. Transfer them to a wire rack to cook.
16. Enjoy immediately or store them in an airtight container for up to a week.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Truffled polenta with mushroom ragu

Mushroom was not a part of my culinary repertoire until we lived in Washington and our friends introduced us to most amazing varieties. Every fall they would trek to Olympic National Forest and hunt for golden chanterelles and lobster mushrooms deep in the forest, turning over salal and fern to look for these treasures on the forest floor. When the mushroom crop was good, we were gifted with pounds of chanterelles. I’m smitten with the chanterelle because of its lovely peach-like fragrant, golden color, and meaty texture. I love turning chanterelles and other mushrooms into a ragu to pair with a bowl of polenta. This dish is one of our favorite fall comfort foods especially for those nights when we want a hearty vegetarian meal.

Truffled polenta with mushroom ragu
½ lb of chanterelle mushrooms (cleaned and cut in big chunks)
½ lb of portobello mushrooms (cleaned and quartered)
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of butter
2 sprigs of thyme
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 small shallots, chopped
½ cup of white wine
½ cup of creme fraiche
salt and pepper
½ cup of polenta
1 1/2 cups of water
1 cup of milk
¼ cup of Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon of truffle oil

1. To make the mushroom ragu, heat oil oil and butter in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat for 30 seconds.
2. Add the shallots, garlic, and thyme and let everything cook until soft and fragrant, about 3 minutes.
3. Add the mushrooms and coat them in the butter and shallot mixture. Let them cook for about 10 minutes until their juices start release and evaporate.
4. When the mixture starts to dry up a bit, add in the white wine and creme fraiche and cook for another 15 minutes.
5. Season the mushroom ragu with salt and pepper to taste.
6. For the polenta, pour water in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and slowly pour the polenta in the pan while gently whisking the mixture together. Stir the polenta occasionally with a wooden spoon while it’s gently simmering to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
7. Add in the milk and continue cooking the polenta for another 30 minutes or until softened. If the mixture starts to dry out, add two tablespoons of water at a time to soften the mixture.
8. When the polenta is softened, stir in the shaved Parmesan cheese and truffle oil. Season with salt to taste.
9. Divide the polenta between four bowls and top with mushroom ragu. Garnish with chopped parsley and additional Parmesan cheese if you like.


Thursday, November 26, 2015

Cookbook Review: Donabe Japanese Clay Pot Cooking!important;%20margin:0px%20!important;%22%20/%3E

I was really excited to read Donabe by Naoko Takei Moore and Kyle Connaughton as it’s foreign topic for me. For those who are not familiar, donabe is a cooking method using Japanese clay pots. After a thorough introduction of donabe history, production, seasoning and care of donabe, the authors shared seven chapters full of delicious recipes: Classic Style Donabe, Double Lid Donabe Rice Cooker, Donabe for Soup and Stew, Donabe Steamer, Tagine Style Donabe, Donabe Smoker, and Dashi, Sauces, and Condiments.

I avoid buying a lot of kitchen gadgets but I couldn’t resist trying some of the recipes from this book and had to rush to our nearest Japanese supermarket to buy a donabe. Before committing to one, keep in mind that a donabe is best used with a gas or a portable butane stove but not with an induction or ceramic cooktop. Even though the recipes are meant to be used with a donabe, I couldn’t see why you can’t try them using a Emile Henry clay French oven. So far, we’ve only tried the smoked duck breast, smoked miso tofu, crab rice with charred green onion, and tofu hotpot but they all turned out delicious. One thing that caught me by surprise is the versatility of a donabe--you can use it as a steamer, rice cooker, smoker, hot pot, and so much more. I’m excited to try more recipes and really love that everything is thrown into one pot.

Overall, Donabe is well written with amazing recipes. Granted some of the recipes are fusion but still delicious. The photography by Eric Wolfinger is gorgeous and make you want to run to your nearest Japanese market to buy all the ingredients and bring these dishes to life. Donabe is the perfect cookbook for those who like Japanese comfort food and one pot meals.

*I received this book to review complementary of the publisher

Friday, November 13, 2015

Cookbook Review: Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes!important;%20margin:0px%20!important;%22%20/%3E

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