Cookbook Review: Eating in the Middle

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Eating in the Middle initially caught my eyes because I saw Aran Goyoaga (one of my favorite photographers) photographing the cookbook.  I didn’t read Andie’s memoir It Was Me All Along so I have no preconceived notion of who Andie Mitchell is.  I’ll just dive into the book and the recipes.  

Her baked banana donut recipe was the first one that caught my interest.  The recipe itself was pretty easy to make but texture-wise, it was not what I would imagine a donut would taste like. My husband is a huge donut fan and he didn’t approve.  If anything, it leaned more toward banana bread.  I also tried the Greek yogurt pancakes but they were just ok, nothing spectacular to be honest.  That light, fluffy texture that you would expect from a good pancake was definitely missing.  

I was about to give up on trying more recipes but the  tomorroats with blood orange and mint salsa sounded really good.  We usually buy about 20 pounds of citrus from the farmers market every weekend so I had a lot of blood oranges lying around.  I didn’t have any excuse not to try it.  Finally a winner!  The blood orange and mint combo was so refreshing and added so much flavor to the oats.  I will definitely be making this again.  The last recipe that I made was the skillet apple crisp with whiskey caramel sauce since both my husband and I like apple desserts.  The whiskey caramel sauce added so much goodness to that dessert and definitely made us feel like we weren’t cheated out of a real dessert.  We also had it with a few scoops of vanilla ice cream so that might have defeated the healthy factor.

Overall Eating in the Middle has a lot of healthy recipes but they might be too healthy for my taste.  I applaud Andie’s effort for creating these healthy and delicious recipes but felt like some of the recipes could have had better substitution in ingredients to really make the dishes shine.  My standard for healthy eating without sacrificing the delicious factor would be Diana Henry’s a Change in Appetite and haven’t found a book to beat that.  To pit Andie Mitchell against Diary Henry is definitely unfair so you'll have to check out Eating in the Middle for yourself. 

*I received this book to review complementary of the publisher

Cookbook Review: Sweet off the Vine

Sunday, March 20, 2016!important;%20margin:0px%20!important;%22%20/%3E

I have been a follower of Yossy’s blog since its beginning and couldn’t be more excited to have her book Sweeter off the Vine in my hands.  The recipes are divided by the seasons and focus on fruits.  If you don’t like fruit desserts then you probably won’t like this book.  You’ll find just about any fruits--rhubarb, strawberries, and cherries for spring, stone fruits, berries, melons, and figs for the summer, grapes, persimmons, pomegranates, apples, pears, quince and pumpkin for fall, and cranberries, citrus, and dates for winter.  Yossy also included a  helpful chapter on recipes for year round essentials like pie crust, pastry cream, vanilla extract, etc.

Let’s dive into the recipes!  My husband is a huge fan of mint chocolate chip ice cream so I had to make the fresh mint ice cream with cacao nibs.  We used fresh mint from the garden and the flavor was phenomenal.  The only thing that didn’t work well was the cacao nibs.  We both prefer good old fashion chocolate chips over cacao nibs as they tend to be a bit more bitter.  Since citrus is in season, I made the grapefruit and Meyer lemon bundt cake.  It was bold in citrus flavor but nicely balanced by the sweet glaze.  I can't wait to bring this in for my co-workers. This would be a very nice dessert served at  Sunday brunch.  We also tried the gingery lime posset since it was simple to put together and had such a beautiful lime flavor.  We didn’t have any candied ginger but didn't feel like it would take away from the dessert.  Overall the recipes were easy to follow and worked out very well.  

There are so many recipes I’m looking forward to making like the chamomile honey panna cotta, rhubarb galettes, rhubarb upside-down cake, cherry and rhubarb slab pie, blueberry skillet cobbler, concord grape pie, and Marie-Danielle’s apple tart.  If you’re a fan of rustic fruit desserts and seasonal fruits, Sweeter off the Vine would be a wonderful addition to your cookbook collection.  Mine is already stained with splatter of fruit juices and butter.  As a food photographer, I appreciated how Yossy included a picture for every recipe!  Sweeter off the Vine will definitely have its place in the kitchen’s shelf next to one of my favorite books, Ripe by Nigel Slater.  

*I received this book to review complementary of the publisher

Korean Fried Chicken Wings

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

People often ask where I get ideas for recipes and my answer has always been--EVERYWHERE. Sometimes, it’s a recipe from a cookbook, a food magazine, pinterest, or someone’s blog. Most of the time though, it’s a delicious dish that I had a restaurant and tried to recreate at home. In the case of these Korean fried chicken wings, the inspiration came from a food court at a Korean supermarket near my house. I had many wings before but these Korean fried chicken wings were different! Flavorful, crunchy, sweet, and tongue hurting hot from the gochujang. They would give those hot sauce wings a run for their money. 

I couldn’t bear to pay $6.99 for a pound of wings so I set my mind to make them at home. Over the course of a few months, I would ask for tips from my Korean friends and used my wings making experience to develop the recipe for these morsels of deliciousness. I made mine a little less spicy than the restaurant’s so I can still taste other foods afterward. If you can handle the heat from the gochujang, feel free to add more, double or triple the gochujang!  Enjoy!

Korean Fried Chicken Wings
1 tbsp garlic, crushed
1 tbsp ginger, crushed
1 ½ tbsps gochujang (more if you like)
2 tbsps white rice vinegar
2 tbsps soy sauce
¼ cup of honey
1.5 lbs chicken wings, joints separated and tips removed
1 ½ tsps salt
Vegetable oil for frying
1 tbsp of toasted white sesame seeds, for garnish
¼ cup of green scallions, thinly sliced for garnish

Flour paste
½ cup of rice flour
½ cup of water

Flour dredge
1 cup of rice flour
1 tsp baking powder

1. To make the sauce, in a food processor, combine the garlic, ginger, gochujang, soy sauce, vinegar, and honey and pulse until well combined.

2. In a small saucepan, pour the sauce and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Once it starts bubbling, remove from heat and set aside.

3. Season the chicken wings with salt.

4. To make the flour paste, in a bowl whisk together the rice flour and water until it becomes a thin paste.

5. In a different bowl, whisk together the rice flour and baking powder.

6. In a large stockpot, heat 3 inches of vegetable oil over medium-high heat until it reaches 350 degrees F.

7. Dredge the wings in flour, dip them in the flour paste, and dredge them again in flour and shake off any excess flour before placing them in the hot oil. Fry for about 4-5 minutes until lightly golden.  (If you decide to use the whole wings, they'll need to be fried for about 6-8 minutes.)

8. Transfer the wings to a baking sheet lined with paper towels to drain the excess oil.

9. Place the wings in a large mixing bowl, pour the sauce into the bowl and toss to coat evenly.

10.Put the wings on a plate, garnish with toasted sesame and scallions, and serve immediately.

Meyer lemon yogurt and pistachio cake

Friday, March 4, 2016

We love cakes at our house but not those sugar laden cakes. I tend to focus on flavor instead of sweetness when it comes to desserts. I first made this cake a few years ago when our Meyer lemon tree was bearing lots of fruits but it caught the citrus greening disease and was finally retired this year. I was really bummed about our lemon tree but my friend Gail came to the rescue and gave me many pounds of Meyer lemons over the past few months. 

When your friend gives you lemons, there’s nothing to do but to bake a lot of cakes and make a lot of ice cream and sorbet. This will be the first Meyer lemon dessert I’m sharing with you. If you don’t have Meyer lemons, regular Eureka lemons will taste just as good. 

This cake has a nice lemon flavor and makes the perfect afternoon treat!  We've been guilty of eating it for breakfast and after dinner with a scoop of vanilla ice cream too! Enjoy!

Meyer lemon, yogurt, and pistachio cake
1 ½ cup of all purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
3 organic eggs
¾ cup of granulated sugar
½ cup of Greek yogurt
½ cup of olive oil
¼ cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice, strained
1 tbsp lemon zest
2 tbsp of unsalted pistachios, chopped

Meyer lemon syrup
¼ cup of sugar
2 tbsps water
2 tbsps freshly squeezed lemon juice, strained
2 small Meyer lemons, thinly sliced

1. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a mixing bowl.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, and zest until well combined and set aside.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

4. In a stand mixture, fitted with the whisk attachment, beat eggs on high speed while gradually adding in the sugar until the volume doubles and becomes thick and pale yellow, about 5 minutes.

5. Decrease the speed to slow and whisk in the yogurt mixture until well combined.

6. Add the flour mixture in two batches and mix until combined, scraping down the sides as needed.

7. Pour the batter in a 10x4.5 inch loaf pan lined with parchment paper. (If you don't have a rectangular cake pan, a round cake pan will suffice.)

8. Top the batter with chopped pistachios.

9. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Check on the cake 30 minutes into baking and if the top starts to brown too much, place a piece of foil loosely over the top. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool for about 20 minutes.

10. To make the syrup, add the sugar, water, and lemon juice to a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring frequently.

11. Decrease the heat to low and add in the lemon slices and gently simmer for 10 minutes.

12. Remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature.

13. With the cake still in the pan, take a skewer and pierce the top all over, to about three-quarters of its depth.

14. Drizzle the syrup all over the cake and arrange the reserved lemon slices on top.

15. When ready to serve, slice each piece to about half an inch. 

16. The cake is best eaten immediately but will keep for 5 days in an airtight container or up to 1 month if frozen.

Cookbook Review: Koreatown

Wednesday, March 2, 2016!important;%20margin:0px%20!important;%22%20/%3E

Koreatown is such a fun and interesting book to read.  The authors definitely captured the spirit and food of the Koreatowns that I’m familiar with.  I’m huge on photography and although it lacks those beautiful pictures of dishes that make me want to lick the pages, its authenticity makes up for it.  The photographs, captured through a documentary style, take the readers on a tour of people, supermarkets, bars, and restaurants across the US. The stories and interviews are interesting but I was most excited about the food.  My first introduction to Korean food happened in high school and I find myself eating Korean food pretty often--whether it’s going to eat Korean bbq with friends or having a jar of homemade kimchi in my fridge.

Let’s dive into the food!  The list of banchan (small dishes of food served along with rice) is extensive, ranging from fish cake, different kimchi, bean sprouts, to spinach, etc.  The recipes seem very simple and easy to follow but I can easily find them at my neighborhood Korean supermarkets so I won’t spend time making them.  I made the kimchi pancake first and it turned out delicious and didn't have a hard time finding the Korean pancake mix at the supermarket.  The kimchi fried rice was next on the list.  I don’t think adding bacon to it added extra flavor to the recipe and it definitely asked for way too much kimchi.  I couldn’t taste anything for a couple hours and will definitely cut the amount of kimchi in half next time.  The japchae (wok-fried glass noodles with crispy shiitakes) was on par with the ones I usually order from our favorite Korean restaurants even though I only used two of the four types of mushroom that the recipe asked for.  The last and definitely my favorite recipe would be the toasted rice ice cream!  The ice cream was gone in a couple days so I’ll need make another batch to soon.  

Overall, Koreatown is a great introduction to Korean food culture.  The recipes are authentic and have different levels of difficulty that can be accomplished in the comfort of your own kitchen.  Shopping for the ingredients might pose a challenge if you don’t live near a Korean supermarket but can definitely source them on Amazon.  If you’re interested in making Korean food at home, Koreatown is a great starting place.  

*I received this book to review complementary of the publisher