Spiked Passion Fruit Sparkler

Sunday, October 30, 2011

I love lazy weekends, waking up late, trying to stay underneath the warm blanket just a tad longer, and not hurrying anywhere.  Even Betsy, our maltipoo, feels the same.  Work has been hectic for both Vu and I.  We sat on our balcony, enjoying the warmth of the glorious San Diego sun.  Sorry East Coast peeps!  The heat was making our throat a bit parched so I made a spiked version of the passion fruit drink we had in Vietnam.  So simple yet refreshing!  Vu and I enjoyed our drink while reminiscing about our Vietnam trip back in 2009, wondering when we will see the motherland again.  A trip shorter than three or four weeks would not be worthwhile but we cannot afford a vacation that long. There are many regions of Vietnam that we have yet to explored.  Oh well! Until then, we have plenty of memories, pictures, and passion fruit drink.

Spiked Passion Fruit Sparkler

2 cups club soda
2/3 cup vodka (more if you like)
1 cup passion fruit pulp
2/3 cup sugar
2 cups of crushed ice
Mint for garnish

1. Combine the club soda, sugar, and passion fruit together.  Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
2. Stir in the vodka.  Add ice.
3. Garnish with mint before serving.

Fudgy Chocolate Brownies

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Everything tastes bland when I am sick especially with a diet consisting mainly of soup and congee.  My taste buds are craving for chocolate and lots of it.  

I wanted something quick and simple so I made a batch of brownies.  

These chocolate brownies are dense, fudgy, and full of chocolate goodness.  

If you like your brownies cakey, this is not the recipe.  They taste amazing while still warm and paired with a glass of milk.  

This is the perfect pick-me-up!

Fudgy Chocolate Brownies

1 stick of butter and more for dusting the pan (you can replace this with applesauce for a healthier alternative)
8 oz bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghiradelli)
1 ½ cups sugar
3 large eggs
½ tbsp vanilla extract
¾ cup all purpose flour
¾ cup cocoa powder
½ tsp salt
Powdered sugar for dusting
Fresh raspberries for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
2. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan and line with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on two sides.
3. Place the butter and chocolate in a large heatproof bowl set over simmering water.  Stir frequently until the chocolate and butter are melted.
4. Remove the bowl from heat and let it cool for 10 minutes.
5. Stir sugar into the chocolate mixture.
6. Whisk in one egg at a time.
7. Add the vanilla.
8. Shift the cocoa powder, flour, and salt into the chocolate mixture and whisk until everything is well blended.
9. Pour the batter in the pan and bake for 35-45 minutes.  When you insert a toothpick in the center, it should come out clean with only a few moist crumbs sticking to it.
10. Let it cool until the brownie is just a bit warmer than room temperature.
11. Run a knife around the edges of the pan and use the parchment paper to lift the brownie of of the pan.
12. Cut the brownie into the size that you prefer, dust with powdered sugar and garnish with fresh raspberries before serving.

Crab and Ricotta Stuffed Squash Blossoms with Lemon Truffle Vinaigrette

Saturday, October 22, 2011

My dad is an avid gardener and he has grown some of the most amazing red chili peppers, tomatoes, snap peas, pumpkins, squash, pomegranates, dragon fruits, and Vietnamese herbs.  As a little girl, I was fascinated with the squash blossoms from our garden and always wondered what they tasted like.  

When I saw them at the Hillcrest Farmer’s Market this weekend, I was super excited.  Squash blossoms are not utilized in Vietnamese cuisine and I could not find a recipe that I liked after a thorough web search.  After much contemplation, I stuffed them with some of my favorite ingredients—ricotta cheese and crab meat.  They were too fragile to be fried so I baked them in the oven.  I created a vinaigrette using truffle oil and lemon juice and drizzled a generous amount on the plate.  The combination was amazing.  The stuffed squash blossoms tasted fresh, sweet, and delicate.  The vinaigrette brought everything together.  I cannot find the right words to describe this dish.  You have to try it yourself!  

Crab and Ricotta Stuffed Squash Blossoms with Lemon Truffle Vinaigrette

12 squash blossoms (you can substitue zucchini flowers)
½ cup of crab meat
¼ cub of ricotta cheese (more if you like)
Sea salt and pepper
¼ cup of truffle oil
2 tbsps of lemon juice
1 tbsp of olive oil for baking

1. Gently wash the squash blossoms in cold water. Carefully twirl to remove most of the water, then drain thoroughly on paper towels.  Remove the stamen from the male flowers.
2. Combine the crab meat and ricotta cheese.  Season with salt and pepper.
3. Gently open each blossom and spoon in about a tablespoon of filling.
4. Brush a baking dish with olive oil. Place the stuffed squash blossoms in the dish and bake for 15 minutes at 350˚F.
5. For the vinaigrette, whisk the truffle oil and lemon juice together.  Season with salt and pepper.
6. Remove the squash blossoms from the oven and let them cool for 5 minutes.
7. Place them on a plate and drizzle with the vainegrette.

Buttermilk Panna Cotta and Passion Fruit Pulp

Monday, October 10, 2011

It has been a week since I bought passion fruits from the Hillcrest Farmers Market.  I was happy to see the purple skin becoming brittle and wrinkly, which means they are ripe and ready to be eaten.  Passion fruits bring back fond memories of my rotation in Vietnam.  For lunch, I frequented a local restaurant walking distance to the pharmacy school, where I was introduced to passion fruit, or “chanh day,” for the first time in my life.  I still remember my first sip, an intense flavor, both sweet and sour, hitting my taste buds, unmatched by any other fruits.  I would enjoy a bowl of banh canh and a glass of “chanh day” while taking in the crowd, motorcycles zooming by, and the hot, humid weather of Saigon.  

Ever since I came back to the states, I have not been able to find passion fruits until this fall. Passion fruits are only available in early spring through summer so I definitely hit the jackpot.  I was wavering between passion fruit mousse, sorbet, or crème brulee.  In the end I went with something unexpected, panna cotta, an Italian dessert, and used the passion fruit pulp as the topping.  What an amazing combination!  The intense flavor of the passion fruit complimented the lightness and delicate taste of the panna cotta.  The seeds added a wonderful crunch.  It was a perfect dessert to end the weekend. I am looking forward to growing my own passion fruits one day!

Buttermilk Panna Cotta and Passion Fruit Pulp (adapted from Miette)
2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup of sugar
Vanilla bean paste
1 ½ tsp unflavored gelatin powder
2 tbsp warm water
1 cup of butter milk
Fresh passion fruit pulp

1. Place the water in a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin over the surface.
2. Combine sugar and cream in a saucepan over medium heat and whisk until the sugar is dissolved.  Add in the vanilla bean paste.
3. Stir in the gelatin until dissolved.
4. Add the buttermilk to the cream mixture and continue whisking.  Allow the mixture to boil for 5 minutes.
5. Remove from heat and strain the mixture into a container.
6. Pour the strained mixture into jars just to the base of the neck and refrigerate for 6 hours or until set.
7. Serve with passion fruit pulp.

A Perfect Sunday for Hillcrest Farmers Market

Monday, October 3, 2011

After years of living in San Diego, Vu and I finally made it to the Hillcrest Farmers Market.  What a hidden gem!  It has an amazing assortment of fruits, produce, flowers, arts and crafts.  Let's not forget the food vendors.  You can find anything from Russian blinis, Thai spring rolls,sambussas, gyros, fish tacos, fresh oysters and sea urchins to gluten free pastries to satisfy your growling stomach.  The sea urchin got my attention!  I have never seen one splitted opened while the spiny halves are still moving.  Unfortunately, they were sold out when I got to the front of the line.  Next time! My disappointment soon dissipated as I moved onto the fruit and vegetable stalls.  Even though summer is over, everything looked fresh and ready to be transformed into an amazing meal.  I was ecstatic to find something I have been searching for a long time--squash blossoms and passion fruits!  I spent a fortune but it was worth every penny.  The Hillcrest Farmers Market has become one of my favorites, among Pike Place Market in Seattle and St. Lawrence Market in Toronto!  It was a perfect way to spend a beautiful Sunday.