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

Blueberry and mascarpone galette

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Galette is definitely one of my favorite desserts, even more so than pies or cakes. I love how rustic and forgiving the crust is. The spelt flour and almond meal crust is a wonderful base for all seasonal fruits--apples and figs in the fall, citrus in the winter, rhubarb and strawberries in the spring, berries and stone fruits in the summer. 

With the warm weather in San Diego, the berries started appearing early at the farmers market so I made one of my favorite galettes instead of waiting until summer. I love adding a layer of mascarpone and almond meal to give the galette a subtle richness. 

Wonderful on its own but even better when eaten with a few scoops of vanilla ice cream, this galette is a perfect way to end a meal.

Blueberry and mascarpone galette

2 cups of organic blueberries
Finely grated zest of 1 organic lemon
1 tbsp lemon juice
¼ cup of brown sugar
1 tbsp of cornstarch
¼ cup of mascarpone cheese
2 tbsps of almond meal
2 tbsp of sanding sugar or turbinado sugar

For the pastry dough

¾ 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
2-3 tbsps of ice-cold water

For the glaze
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tbsp heavy cream

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. In a bowl, add the blueberries, lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, and cornstarch. Toss with your hands to combine. Set aside.

6. Remove the dough from the fridge. Roll it out on a lightly floured surface to a circle of about 12 inches wide and ¼ inch thick. Move the dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

7. Spread the mascarpone cheese on the dough and leave about 1 ½ inch border. Sprinkle 2 tbsps of almond meal on top of the mascarpone cheese.

8. Arrange the blueberries in the center of the dough leaving a one and a half inch border uncovered. Fold the dough edges over the blueberries, pleating it loosely and leaving the galette open in the center. Patch the dough together if it breaks. Pour the juice from the blueberry mixture into the galette.

9. For the glaze, whisk the egg with heavy cream in a bowl. Brush the dough with the egg mixture and sprinkle the sanding sugar over the whole galette. Refrigerate the galette for 30 minutes.

10. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

11. Remove the galette from the fridge and bake for 40-50 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and crusted with sugar, and blueberries softened. Remove the galette from the oven and let it cool on the baking sheet.12. When ready to serve, cut the galette into eight pieces, transfer them to a serving plate, and top with vanilla ice cream.

Cookbook Review: Food with Friends

Monday, April 4, 2016


Food with Friends is such a gorgeous book and a great cookbook for entertaining.  Broken into six major sections--breakfast and brunch, tea time, happy hour, potlucks and picnics, desserts, and tiny takeaways--you’ll find many ways to cook for two, small gatherings, and big groups.  

Breakfast is one meal we rarely skip so I picked a few recipes from that chapter.  We loved the different steel cut oats with toppings especially the tropics (coconut, pineapple, and passion fruit) and the cozy (apples, cranberries, almonds, and cinnamon).  Similar to other porridge recipes, Leela’s recipes were easy and quick to put together.  The strawberry and balsamic lassi was really different but in a good way.  I’m used to balsamic strawberry ice cream so the flavor profile wasn’t entirely new to me but I would probably use less cardamom and eliminate the pepper next ime.  The lemon-poppy seed Dutch baby was a hit and it rose nicely in the oven, unlike many of the Dutch baby recipes that I’ve tried.  Unfortunately, the lemon and lavender French toast was a flop because the lavender flavor was overpowering and we didn’t particularly enjoy something that reminded us of soap.  The breakfast section had a great selection of recipes and I’m looking forward to trying the chocolate orange challah and roasted plum with burrata when stone fruits are in season.   

Other recipes that are memorable are the beet pickled eggs featured on the front cover.  We made this for our friends and they were mesmerized by the color and wanted to know how to make them.  This recipe is a keeper for the next Easter brunch we have.  My favorite recipe so far would be the the blueberry galette with oat crust which had an amazing texture.  This recipe would taste amazing with seasonal fruits--stone fruits in the summer, apples and figs in the fall, and even cranberries in the winter.   

Besides the delicious and creative recipes, Leela also included a lot of helpful tidbits on how to create an inviting table, where to source for housewares, stocking the pantry, and sending guests off with delicious parting gifts.  My only complaint is this book has too many sweet recipes and not enough savory.  The photography is absolutely gorgeous and vibrant, truly reflective of her work.  I really enjoyed cooking from Food with Friends and can’t wait to try more of Leela's recipes.

*I received this book to review complementary of the publisher