We’ve all been there. You get to the farmers market and it’s so beautiful and inspiring and you want this and that and the other. Everything is so gorgeous… but where do you start??
I collabed with Quiddity on a short video on how to shop the farmers market. Here’s my shopping strategy, and how I use my market haul to make a dish.
Though farmers markets can be a little overwhelming at first, remember that seasonal, local cooking is actually quite easy. If they grow together, they go together. Chances are, crops that come into season around the same time will naturally pair with one another on the plate.
Secondly, the ingredients are so good, you don’t need to do much. The best way to honor your ingredients is to prepare simply and then get out of the way.
And that’s what I did with my spring radish salad with aged Havarti, creamy horseradish dressing, and cru-tons. I left the beautiful lettuces and cheese as-is. I left the bread unadorned and untoasted so you can fully appreciate the texture (and use it to sop up the dressing).
Because this dish was an ode to radish, I showcased it in three different preparations: raw, roasted, and pickled. Roasting brings out the radish’s sweetness and earthiness. Pickling draws out the spiciness. And raw is like the flawless no-makeup selfie — the radish is naturally beautiful thankyouverymuch.
Finally, I made a simple dressing that amplified and unified the flavors already in the salad. This horseradish dressing is creamy (to give heft to the leaves and unify them with the heartier radishes, cheese, and bread), sweet (to balance out the bitterness of the radishes and greens), and spicy (to alert our tastebuds to the subtle spiciness of the spring radish).
You might be tempted to eat this salad with your hands, savoring each ingredient one by one. Do it! That’d be the ultimate way of honoring these great spring offerings.
CREAMY HORSERADISH DRESSING
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup kefir yogurt
¼ cup olive oil
2-4 tablespoons prepared horseradish (depending on how potent your horseradish is)
1 ½ teaspoons honey
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
Whisk all ingredients together and drizzle onto salad just before serving.
If I could only have one fruit for the rest of my life, it’d be the orange.
Think about it — it’s food and juice. It’s sweet and tart. You can candy the peel or spritz it into a cocktail. The pith adds a welcome bitterness if you want to change it up.
Kumquats are like super-charged oranges, which make them perfect as pops of contrasting flavor in a rich cake. Because you can eat the skin, you get the bitterness along with juice, sweet, and tart.
To me, kumquat is a very adult flavor because of its mouth-puckering flavors. Adult taste, adult beverage, so I added a healthy dose of Grand Marnier to soak the kumquats. Rosemary amps up the somewhat savory notes of kumquat and adds a lovely aroma — if the kumquats and booze weren’t doing that already.
1 3/4 cup kumquats
1/2 cup Grand Marnier
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of kosher salt
1 1/2 stick butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup Greek yogurt
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
6 sprigs rosemary
Thinly slice the kumquats and add to a medium bowl. Pour the Grand Marnier over them and allow to soak. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9-inch bundt pan.
Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl and set aside.
In an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until incorporated. Reduce mixer speed to low and add one-third of the flour, then half the yogurt, then one-third the flour, then the rest of the yogurt, then the rest of the flour. Add kumquats and Grand Marnier.
Gently pour into prepared Bundt pan and smooth out top, careful not to the smoosh the fluffiness. Bake for 60 minutes, rotating midway.
Remove cake from oven and immediately start making glaze. Mash three sprigs of rosemary with the lemon juice. Strain, then add infused juice to powdered sugar. Mix thoroughly. You will think you need more liquid, but you don’t. Keep mixing until you reach a stiff but still fluid consistency. Invert Bundt pan onto wire rack on top of a baking sheet (to catch the dripping glaze). Immediately pour glaze on top and top with the rest of your crushed rosemary. The cake must be glazed while the cake is hot, so work fast!
When it comes getting your collagen fix, I’d say this is a lot prettier than bone broth, right??
This dish is inspired by mango sago, an Asian dessert made with tapioca-like pearls derived from the palm tree. Sago and tapioca are quite tasty, but don’t offer much nutrition-wise. Peach resin is a perfect substitute for taste and texture, and also gives you a wallop of collagen goodness.
The sweet coconut milk and peach resin mixture is also great for other applications — add it to your iced coffee or matcha for a super-charged pick-me-up. Or, serve it with pineapple for a piña colada vibe. I sometimes steal a couple sips in the middle of the day. The sweetness + healthy fats + pop of collagen always hits the spot.
1 can of light coconut milk
2 tablespoons of blonde coconut sugar (or the sweetener of your choice)
1/3 cup water
2 cups prepared peach resin (see here for instructions)
3 mangos, any variety
black sesame seeds
zest of one lime
Add coconut milk, sugar, and water to a small saucepan and simmer until sugar is dissolved. Add peach resin and simmer on low for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
Add to blender and gently blend, breaking the pieces of peach resin into smaller chunks. Chill.
When ready to serve, add coconut milk and peach resin to shallow bowls. Peel and slice mango. You can cut the mango any way you want, but to get the fanning effect, slice the pulp on each side of the mango seed. Choose one pointy end of the mango as your central point. Slice the mango very thinly, radiating from this central point. Make sure your slices do not intersect with one another, because you want the mango half to stay in one piece. When finished, gently pat the top down and to the side so it fans out. Repeat with the rest of the mango halves. Use a spatula to pick up the pieces one by one, and gently lay them on top of the coconut milk and peach resin.
Sprinkle with lime zest and sesame seeds. Serve cold!
We’ve covered the basics, and then the traditional. Now we’re bringing peach resin into the here and now — how you can integrate this amazing plant-based source of collagen into recipes you make and eat and drink everyday.
First up is one of my favorite flavor combinations ever — cantaloupe and ginger.
If you haven’t tried it, you must (with or without peach resin). When you think about it, cantaloupe is a very unique flavor. Lots of greens taste like spinach, and of course many meats taste like chicken. But nothing quite tastes like cantaloupe. You know it’s unique when you can’t really describe it. It just tastes like… cantaloupe!
The ginger really perks up the cantaloupe flavor without overpowering it. Cantaloupe is an awesome food to get your glow on — making it the perfect partner for peach resin. It’s super hydrating and loaded with antioxidants that fight inflammation.
The key here is to puree part of the cantaloupe, and then leave some chunks of melon and peach resin semi-blended. The result is a fun pulpy drink. The peach resin, when broken up, tastes like little tapioca pearls — soft and a little gummy and totally delightful.
1 ripe cantaloupe, chilled
2 ½ teaspoons minced ginger
1 cup peach resin, soaked for 24 hours and cleaned (see here for further instructions)
Bring pot of water to a boil and add peach resin. Simmer on low for 5 minutes. Drain in colander and run under cold water until cooled.
Puree ¾ of the cantaloupe and all the ginger until smooth and totally liquid. Add peach resin and remaining cantaloupe and blend on low, making sure ingredients you’ve just added are just chopped more finely and not totally blended.
Towards the end of any Chinese banquet -- a wedding, birthday, and most definitely Lunar New Year -- you will get a giant platter of noodles.
You’ll reach for your serving but the noodles won’t stop. They’re long and tangled. You look for a knife, but of course there aren’t any knives at a Chinese banquet table, just chopsticks. Not that your grandma would allow you to cut them. Aiya, do you want to cut your life short?
So you pull and pull and before you know it, your small chopstick pinch turns into an entire plateful.
These noodles aren’t just any noodles, they’re longevity noodles -- uncut and extra long. The long life symbolism and somewhat comical way you eat them got me thinking… what if all the ingredients in Longevity Noodles were long and uncut?
And so I added long beans, flat Chinese chives, enoki mushrooms, and bean sprouts. No stunted peas or diced anything -- we’re looking for length! I gave the veggies a little trim but otherwise kept them at full length.
When it comes to a long life, might as well quintiple down, right?
Note: Stir-fries are easy and very adaptable. All the work is in the prep. Cooking happens in a matter of minutes. The key to stir-frying is to time your ingredients and know how they cook. For example, of all the vegetables in this recipe, only the long beans and Chinese chives sear quickly. The mushrooms and bean sprouts are very watery and will steam before they brown, if they do so at all. So you have to decide what you want to sear and what you want to steam. If you want your ingredients to brown, you may have to cook them in batches so they have room to expel water and brown. Or, you can do as I did and only sear a couple of ingredients, and then add the rest of the watery ingredients to steam all together. This is technically more of a stir-fry/braise, but is equally delicious and a whole lot faster than a true stir-fry.
½ lb longevity noodles (Or any Asian wheat noodle. I like thinner noodles, but they are more prone to breaking which kinda happened here 😬)
1 ½ tbsp oyster sauce
1 ½ tbsp hoisin sauce
3 tbsp soy sauce
½ tsp white pepper
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp grapeseed oil
⅓ lb long beans
½ lb Chinese chives
⅓ lb bean sprouts
⅓ lb enoki mushrooms
Cook noodles according to package instructions. Remove from water when very al dente, since they will continue to cook and absorb water once they’re re-added to the stir-fry. For fresh noodles, this means you could be cooking the noodles for as little as a minute.
Wash, dry, and trim all your vegetables. Mix the oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, white pepper, and sesame oil and set aside.
Heat the wok on high until a drop of water sizzles immediately. Add grapeseed oil. When the oil shimmers, add ginger and stir until fragrant, about 15-30 seconds. Add long beans and stir-fry until the beans start to get some color. Season the beans and other vegetables as you go. Add Chinese chives and continue to stir-fry until they take on color.
Add the mushrooms and bean sprouts. Stir-fry until wilted, about 2-3 minutes. Add the noodles and oyster sauce mixture. Mix gently so you don’t break the noodles.
TIPS & TRICKS
A wok is ideal for stir-fry because its shape is conducive to the browning/steaming method I described above. The ingredients on the bottom sear while the ingredients, piled on top like a bowl, are cooked with steam. (As opposed to a skillet where everything is basically level.) It’s also easier to mix ingredients in a bowl shape. Of course, the classic way of using a wok is to put all ingredients in contact with the wok, ensuring even browning. You control the heat level by moving the ingredients up or down the sides of the wok.
The standard for Chinese chefs is a carbon steel wok, but they can be hard for the beginner or casual cook since they require a somewhat onerous breaking-in process, consistent seasoning (maintaining the oily surface that keeps the wok nonstick-like), and can’t be used with acidic ingredients. That’s why I use the Hestan Nanobond Wok, which combines the best of all worlds. It can be heated to extremely high temperatures like a carbon steel wok (and unlike a non-stick pan), but the titanium coating is non-porous, meaning foods easily release without seasoning or a chemical coating. And unlike cast-iron, the Hestan wok conducts heat quickly, meaning you can cook in a flash. That’s the spirit of stir-fry!
If you love Thanksgiving, you’re bound to love Lunar New Year too. The holiday is all about family, beloved traditional dishes, and copious amounts of food.
I’m not here to start beef with Thanksgiving -- as far as I’m concerned, we should have a big eating holiday every month -- but Lunar New Year has a couple extra things going for it.
(I’m writing from a Chinese perspective, but countries throughout Asia celebrate with their own traditions.)
For one, when you’re a kid, you get hongbao or lai see, red envelopes filled with money. You receive them from all the married people in your family and at a big party, you can make quite the killing. (This is fun in a different, more expensive way once you’re married.)
Second, Chinese culture is filled with food symbolism. Noodles are a symbol of long life. Fish is good luck because the word is pronounced the same as the word for abundance. Dumplings symbolize gold ingots. The more you eat, the richer you’ll be in the next year. Win-win.
I invented Lion’s Head in the Grass as a way to merge two symbolic powerhouses. We are entering the Year of the Pig, so pork is a must. Pigs are lucky animals and eating pork is said to bring strength and prosperity.
And with its plentiful leafy greens, cabbage represents wealth. This is why you’ll find jade cabbages in many Chinese households. Just make sure you point them inwards, or according to feng shui, your money will fly right out the door.
Lion’s Head Meatballs are Chinese steamed or braised pork meatballs. Stuff that flavorful pork mixture inside a head of cabbage? Lion’s head in the grass.
1lb ground pork, 80% lean
½ cup garlic chives, chopped (if you can’t find, can also substitute scallions)
1 tbsp minced ginger
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp grapeseed oil
1 ½ tbsp soy sauce
1 ½ tsp Xiaoxing wine
¼ tsp white pepper
2 tbsp salt
½ tsp sugar
1 medium head of cabbage
1 tbsp sliced ginger
Mix all the meatball ingredients together. Stir until just incorporated, making sure not to overmix, otherwise the meat will be too dense. Set aside and let the meat mixture come to room temperature.
Remove the core of the cabbage using a paring knife. Continue cutting into the cabbage, carving out pieces of cabbage. Once you begin seeing the layers of the cabbage, and you have enough room for leverage, use a spoon to scoop out the inside. Make shallow cuts into the cabbage with the paring knife, then remove the excess cabbage with a spoon. Continue until the outer shell of the cabbage is ½ inch - ¾ inch thick.
Fill the inside of the cabbage with the pork mixture. Pack lightly, making sure there’s still some airiness inside.
Boil a full kettle of water. You will need this as you replenish your steaming liquid.
Place a round pan grate in the bottom of your wok. Pour hot water to the level of the grate and add sliced ginger.
Place stuffed cabbage onto the grate, cover, and simmer on medium for 50 minutes. When the water gets low, refill with the water in your kettle. Serve in a bowl with your steaming broth.
TIPS & TRICKS
If you don’t have a wok with a domed lid, you can use a wide skillet and then cover with a foil tent. You can also use a lidded pot.
Ideally you should use a wok. I use the Hestan Nanobond Wok, which is wide and flat at the bottom (as opposed to narrow or rounded), which means better contact with my range’s flame. When compared to a flat lid, the domed lid fares better with moisture retention and air circulation. Plus, a domed lid is high enough to clear a whole head of cabbage. :D
I tend to think of desserts in categories. For Thanksgiving or Christmas, I must bring 3/4 of these flavors:
Citrus or Berry*
*#4 is never up for debate -- it’s an essential ending to any long meal. You want something bright and fresh to cleanse the palate.
Keep in mind, I didn’t say “light”. I’m talking bright… but also rich, indulgent, and over-the-top.
So that’s how I came up with my raspberry tiramisu. I wanted to play with tiramisu flavors, but also felt coffee and cream wasn’t enough to jolt your burdened tastebuds. Raspberries were introduced. Then freeze-dried strawberries to boost the sweet-tart berry flavor. And then Chambord -- the raspberry liqueur -- to bring out the berry notes of the coffee.
The rest of the players are the same: ladyfingers, heavy whipping cream, mascarpone. And just one more thing for contrast. Heavy is to bright as creamy is to… crunchy!
Yes, I added Biscoff cookies, which everyone knows are amazing on their own, but really make this a crowd-pleaser. (Just watch people perk up when they hear, “Biscoff”!)
This is a dessert recipe for savory cooks. You can taste and improvise as you go. Feel free to add more or less sugar or condensed milk. Amp up the booze or add another type of crunch. Just do me a favor — if you don’t use coffee and mascarpone, call it a trifle instead of tiramisu.
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1.2 oz freeze-dried strawberries (I got mine from Trader Joe’s)
1/4 cup sugar
11 oz sweetened condensed milk
16 oz mascarpone
18 oz raspberries
20-30 ladyfingers (I used Casa Rinaldi brand)
3 tablespoons strong coffee or espresso
3 tablespoons Chambord
20 Biscoff cookies (also called speculoos)
Beat 2 cups heavy cream with a pinch of salt in an electric mixer on medium-high until you achieve stiff peaks. Use a spatula to transfer to another bowl (don’t worry about removing all the cream). To the same mixing bowl, add freeze-dried strawberries, sugar, condensed milk, mascarpone, and one third of the raspberries. Mix on medium until everything is well-incorporated. Gently add three quarters of the reserved whipped cream until mixed well. Swirl the rest of the whipped cream into the mixture, so you get some white streaks.
Mix coffee and Chambord in a small bowl. Crush Biscoff cookies in a large Ziploc bag, leaving some larger pieces for extra texture.
To assemble, spread whipped cream mixture on bottom of deep glass container. Add ladyfingers and soak with coffee/Chambord mixture with a silicone brush. Add raspberries, making sure to line the edge so we can see them. Sprinkle Biscoff crumbs on top. Start again with your layers until you finish all the components.
Cover and let sit in the refrigerator. Three hours will give you half-crunch, half-crunchy. Six+ hours will give you a more uniform bite.
I talked about this during my NYCWFF demo, but in brief: this is the most requested, most beloved food item in my family. We usually make it for Thanksgiving and Christmas, or a special occasion like a baby’s birth or my book launch.
It’s a family affair, with my brother peeling the spring roll skins, my mom and I folding and stuffing them, and my dad deep-frying them.
Sambos are a street food from Madagascar (where my mom is from) and are influenced by the country’s Chinese and Indian influences. Because they’re so tasty, people assume they must be hard to make. They’re actually quite simple.
WARNING: These are meant to be apps, but people will still eat too many and spoil their appetites for the rest of the meal. It happens all the time — to sambos newbies and veterans alike.
Curried Beef Sambos (pronounced “shambosh”)
Makes 13-15 sambos
1 package 8”x8” spring roll wrappers (I prefer Spring Home brand)
1 lb ground beef, 85% lean
1 tsp + 6 cups vegetable oil for frying
2 tsps kosher salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
3 tbsps Madras curry
10 scallions, diced
2 tbsps flour
2 ½ tbsps warm water
2 lemons, cut into wedges
Heat 1 tsp canola oil in large frying pan. Add beef and sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper. Cook on medium-high until almost all browned, 5-8 minutes. Break up any large pieces. The beef should be broken up as much as possible so it can be easily spooned inside the sambos.
Drain any excess water/fat and return to heat. Add curry and continue to cook, allowing curry to warm and bloom, 1-2 minutes. Turn off heat and add diced scallions. Allow to cool and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes. The mixture will be very heavily spiced and seasoned -- this is what you want because the deep-frying will temper the flavors.
When ready to assemble and deep-fry, cut spring roll wrappers in half, so the sheets are long rectangles (not squares). Separate 20 or so sheets and lay them under a damp paper towel. (You will make 13-15 sambos, but you may need extra in case you mess up).
Make the flour paste by mixing the flour and water. If the paste stiffens, just add more water. It should be the thickness of craft glue.
Remove the beef from the refrigerator and start assembling the sambos.
Here’s how you fold them:
Bring remaining vegetable oil to 375°F. Deep fry until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Place on paper towels with the pointed end (ie: the tip of the arrowhead) pointed downwards to help drain excess oil.
Serve hot with lemon wedges.
Feel free to swap out the meat and seasoning. I once even made a raspberry-Nutella sambos, though I encourage you to start with the original.
Oh I know what you were thinking when I said I was making ketchup shrimp on Episode 4.
Ew, ketchup? That’s an insult to shrimp.
But trust me, ketchup shrimp is a nuanced and complex dish. If I didn’t mention its main ingredient in the title, you wouldn’t even know it had ketchup.
But I think ketchup is great, so I let the dish wear its name loud and proud. So what’s the story behind it?
Ketchup shrimp is a treasured Tom family recipe. I’ve eaten it for as long as I can remember. Without fail, my dad makes it for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but he’s also known to make it just because. And why not? It just takes a few pantry ingredients + shrimp. It seriously takes 10 minutes or so.
But ketchup shrimp isn’t a Tom family invention. In fact, it’s a staple in many Chinese-American households. When you think about it, ketchup is a magical ingredient. It’s sweet, a little tart, and has tons of umami, a “meatiness” that fills your mouth.
When Bobby and Giada announced that our challenge was to make a typical weeknight meal, I immediately thought of ketchup shrimp. It's fast, interesting, and has a bonus: if someone else got the shrimp before I did, you can easily use this same recipe (with some considerations for the meat) with chicken or pork.
1 lb shrimp, cleaned with shells on
10 cloves garlic
3-inch knob of ginger
1 tbsp vegetable oil
½ cup ketchup
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
2 tbsp Chinese black vinegar (if you don’t have this, you can substitute rice vinegar or even balsamic vinegar)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Peel ginger. Finely dice the garlic and ginger. Heat a frying pan on medium. Add oil and heat until shimmering. Add garlic and ginger and saute until fragrant and golden, about 2-3 minutes. Remove the garlic and ginger, while keeping the oil in the pan.
Increase heat to high. Add the shrimp in the fragrant oil and saute for 2-3 minutes on each side, until the shells have a bit of color on them. Remove the shrimp and add them to the garlic and ginger.
Mix all the remaining ingredients together -- ketchup, hoisin sauce, black vinegar, and worcestershire sauce. Add to the hot pan and reduce for one minute, until just slightly thickened. Add the shrimp, garlic, and ginger and stir, coating the shrimp with the sauce. Keep stirring until the sauce is thick and clinging to the shrimp, about one minute more.
TIPS & TRICKS
One of my goals as a cooking teacher is to eliminate the need for a cooking teacher. So I try to explain why steps are the way they are. For example, why do you cook the garlic and ginger first, remove them, and then add the shrimp? Well, garlic is notorious for burning and turning bitter, so it needs to be cooked at a medium heat. Shrimp needs a high heat to achieve browning. When you saute the ginger and garlic on medium first, you ensure you don’t burn the garlic, and you also flavor the oil for the shrimp.
This dish is endlessly adaptable. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever made the same version twice. Sometimes I’ll add sriracha, sometimes soy sauce or fish sauce. Sometimes I’ll add sesame oil. The proportions are very flexible, so feel free to experiment.
Yes, keep the shell on! The shell has so much flavor. Think of it this way -- seafood stock is made from crustacean shells. By keeping the shells on, you are getting both the meat, and a super-concentrated “broth”.
So you have the shell on, how do you eat it? That's up to you. Personally, I suck the sauce and use my tongue and teeth to finagle the meat out. Sometimes some shell will accompany your bite… just spit it out. My husband peels the shrimp, and then swipes up the sauce on the serving plate. Whatever floats your boat, but remember -- shells are your friend!
The challenge: make a dish in the shades of your spatula. The options were: red, yellow, purple, green, and red. Which one would you want?
As I mentioned in my Episode 2 recap, I was pretty happy with yellow. You can go sweet: mango, pineapple, oranges. You can go savory: curry, turmeric, spaghetti squash, corn, yellow squash, endives…
In the end, my teammate Adam and I chose to go savory and made a chicken meatball in a coconut curry with crunchy spaghetti squash and pickled corn. What I love about this dish is the different textures. Oftentimes, curries or stews suffer from sameness syndrome -- an unexciting monotony because everything kind of blends into each other. We tried to avoid that, building flavors and textures from top to bottom, including an al dente spaghetti squash, a creamy curry with bell peppers, a pillowy flavor-packed chicken meatball, bright and fresh pickled corn, and toasty coconut.
I’ve slightly adapted the recipe from what we did during the competition, and made it more suitable for a single person to cook in a home kitchen. For example, here the meatballs are smaller and simmered in the curry, rather than pressure cooked. On the show, I used a method of blanching, salting and squeezing the spaghetti squash (described here), but that’s a bit labor intensive with all the other components so I left that out here.
Also, since this was a team challenge, I’m not exactly sure what Adam did. So… I filled in the blanks with what I know and love.
Yellow Chicken Curry with Spaghetti Squash
1 2-lb spaghetti squash
1-inch knob of ginger
1 large onion
3 cloves garlic
2 yellow bell peppers
1 lemongrass stalk
1 can coconut milk (reduced fat or full, whatever your preference)
2 oz yellow curry paste
1 lb ground chicken or turkey
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
3 tbsp dried chopped onion
1 tsp black pepper
½ cup water
½ cup white vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
3 ears of corn
½ tsp grated ginger
¼ cup grated coconut
Slice the spaghetti squash and remove all the seeds. Microwave for 15 minutes.
Prepare your curry ingredients. Mince the garlic and ginger and dice the onions and bell peppers. Heat a large pot to medium-high and add olive oil. Add all the ingredients and season with salt. Sweat until onions are semi-translucent, about 7-10 minutes. Add the coconut milk and curry paste. Slice lemongrass into three large pieces and add to pot. Simmer for 5 minutes.
To make meatballs, mix all ingredients until just incorporated. Do not overmix or else the meatballs will be too dense. After the curry has simmered, make small, loosely-packed meatballs and gently place them into the curry. Simmer with the lid on for 10 minutes.
To make the pickled corn, add the water, white vinegar, sugar and salt to a small saucepan. Heat on medium-high until sugar and salt have dissolved. Take off heat. Slice the corn kernels off the corn and add to pickling brine. Add grated ginger. Let sit for at least 10 minutes -- the more time, the better!
Toast the coconut in the oven using the broiler, or use the toast setting on your toaster oven. Remove when golden brown.
Scrape the strands out of the spaghetti squash. The interior strands should still be crisp, like biting an apple. Remove the lemongrass from the curry. Place the spaghetti squash on the bottom of the plate, then add curry and meatballs, pickled corn, and toasted coconut.
We got some flack for our plating, so if you have a better presentation idea, let me know :P.
TIPS & TRICKS
Don’t worry about browning the meat or onions. The curry has so much flavor, that it would overpower any browning flavors anyway. Plus, brown would ruin the yellow look!
The microwave can be your friend! I love it for vegetables because it heats the existing water in the plant -- unlike steaming or blanching which *adds* water, resulting in a potentially waterlogged or diluted end-product.
I’m a fan of adding chopped dried onions into my meatballs. They act like bread crumbs -- absorbing the meat juices, adding texture and lightness -- but also bring a lot of flavor.
Okay, so you’ve been dropped onto a fake beach in the middle of an amusement park. What now? You cook, of course!
I've watched enough seasons of Food Network Star to know that the first challenge usually involves your signature dish. But here was this season's twist: it had to park-friendly. Explicitly, that meant no utensils, and it had to be plated on servingware normally found in an amusement park. Implicitly, that meant a world of intangible things that you might expect from park food.
What are those intangibles? Here were the musts I considered:
Fun -- think churros and Groot bread
Light -- this was a water park after all and I didn’t want to serve anything too heavy or hot
Easy and relatively unchallenging -- no one comes to an amusement park to take culinary risks
So I decided to convert my miso-glazed halibut with turmeric tiles into a skewer, cooked en papillote. The parchment papillote would keep the dish neat, ensure everything inside was warm and tender, and provide a little mystery.
In my presentation, I ended up calling this a “Two-in-One Surprise Skewer”. After our cook, I had looked around and seen people had beautiful dishes -- all visually exciting colors and textures. I had… a brown paper pouch and a piece of brown bread. Blech.
So I tried to spin the negative into a positive. Can’t see what you’re eating? It’s a surprise! Don’t know what’s inside? It’s actually two things, a skewer and brothy veggies to sop up with the bread.
Sadly, neither the park guest, Giada, nor Bobby commented on my expert re-branding. But it didn’t hurt me either :P.
2-in-1 Surprise Skewer (aka Miso-Glazed Turbot and Zucchini Skewers with Turmeric Veggies and Garlic Sesame Naan)
I changed this recipe a bit from what I cooked on the show. My original signature dish used yellow squash, and that’s what I used here. On the show, I couldn’t find/they didn’t have any yellow squash, so I ended up using bell peppers.
I also used turbot here because my local Whole Foods was out of halibut. Feel free to use any firm, thick white fish like halibut, turbot, or cod.
4 cups water
1-inch knob of ginger
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
½ head Napa cabbage
3 yellow zucchini
2-inch knob of ginger
6 cloves of garlic
¼ cup white miso
2 ½ tablespoons mirin
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
1 lb firm white fish like halibut, turbot, or cod
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic
Pinch of salt
Splash of sesame oil
Black sesame seeds
Preheat oven to 400°F. Peel and dice ginger. Slice Napa cabbage into ¼ inch strips. Slice zucchini into ¾” half moons. Add water, ginger, salt, turmeric and peppercorns to a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the Napa cabbage and zucchini and lower to a simmer for 3-5 minutes, until the cabbage has wilted and the zucchini is fork-tender, but still firm.
Puree all the skewer ingredients (except for the fish :P) in the blender. Cut fish into 1” cubes and mix with the miso marinade.
Use pre-cut parchment paper squares, or cut them yourself. Lay out skewers diagonally on the paper. There should be at least one inch of room on each side of the skewer. If not, trim your skewer.
Lay out one square. Spread a bed of cabbage along the diagonal of the square, where the skewer will be. Build the skewer, alternating zucchini and fish. When done, place the skewer on the parchment paper. Trim the corners of the parchment paper “wings”. This will reduce excess paper. Crimp the edges of the parchment paper by rolling and pinching, sealing the skewer.
Place on a sheet tray and bake/steam in the oven for 13 minutes.
As the fish cooks, make the garlic sesame naan. Add olive oil and garlic to a small frying pan. Slowly bring to a simmer, until garlic is lightly golden. Add sesame oil. Brush oil on naan with a pastry brush. Toast in the oven or on a grill. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Serve hot so your guests can open the pockets and enjoy the aromatic steam.
We need a new word for fusion...the good kind. Fusion cooking is forced. It’s mango salsa on your spaghetti. Or a sushi casserole. No no no.
But mixing cultures and cuisines can also create some really great dishes. The question is: what makes one dish a revelation and another just plain revolting?
It’s a delicate line and I don’t have any hard-and-fast rules about it. For me, it’s a gut feeling. Does it feel contrived, like a mix-and-match experiment? Scrap. Does it feel fresh and interesting? Keep going.
It helps to look at cultures that created their own cuisines by mishmashing others. Think: Hawaiian spam musubi (canned meat from soldier rations + sushi), or Vietnamese banh mi (French pate and baguettes meets Vietnamese herbs and pickles).
Macau is a striking example of authentic fusion cuisine. I visited in 2006, knowing little about its background. Long story short, Macau is an island 40 miles from Hong Kong. It was colonized by the Portuguese 400 years ago. Today, it’s a special administrative zone of China and the only place where you can legally gamble in the country. All of these influences -- Portugal + China + Las Vegas -- make for some really interesting cuisine.
Here’s an example of a dish that doesn’t seem all that “fusiony” but actually has a lot of history to it. This coconut lime pudding doesn’t have cornstarch, like you’d expect from a pudding. It’s actually thickened with egg and cornmeal, similar to papas de carolo or cornmeal pudding. The coconut makes it more suited to Asian tastes.
When I was in Macao, I had this flavored with ginger. But here I added lime instead. Not because I was trying to be clever and fusiony. But because it was good.
1 ¼ cup milk (regular, soy, almond)
Scant ½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons finely-ground cornmeal
½ cup coconut milk
4 egg yolks
Zest of two limes
Shredded coconut for garnish
In a saucepan, add almond milk and sugar. Simmer on medium until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool at least 5 minutes.
In a separate bowl, mix cornmeal, coconut milk, and egg yolks. Whip with a fork until frothy. Place saucepan with almond milk back onto heat and whisk cornmeal mixture slowly over medium heat until thickened, about 10 minutes. Maintain a low simmer, increasing or reducing heat as necessary. When ready, stir in zest of two limes, reserving some for garnish.
Spoon into individual cups or one large bowl. Chill until set, at least 3 hours. When ready to serve, top with shredded coconut and lime zest.
TIPS & TRICKS
When you’re dealing with eggs, milk, and something with a light color and subtle flavor, you really need to keep an eye on your heat. Avoid scorching by going slow and steady. If the mixture starts bubbling furiously, turn down the heat and let the pot cool off-heat before returning to the burner.
Other fun variations … Add in place of the lime zest: lemon zest, orange zest, grated ginger; Steep with the milk and sugar: pinch of cinnamon, dark rum
As anyone who watches Food Network Star knows, you can’t just be a good cook and an engaging TV personality. You have to have a CULINARY POV. This might seem simplistic -- I can’t be boxed in! -- but just think about it. Bobby Flay = Southwestern flavors and grilling. Giada De Laurentiis = Italy meets California. Ina Garten = simple but luxurious crowd-pleasers.
But I’m a home cook and I basically just cook what I feel like. There’s no reason to limit my repertoire in the same way, say, an executive chef has to. Bobby Flay can’t just decide to serve ramen at Bobby’s Burger Palace.
The casting agency even asks you in the very first application: What is your culinary POV?
I’ve watched enough seasons of Food Network Star to know that your best, most authentic culinary POV is never some convoluted, contrived thing. In fact, it’s the cuisine that’s right under your nose. What you grew up with. What you crave.
I love my "ethnic" supermarkets, my international cookbooks, my food travel shows. My family lives all around the world in Madagascar, China, France, and Norway. It took me a hot sec to realize it, but my culinary POV is: easy international cooking tweaks -- with a focus on Asian cuisine.
When I say “easy”, I mean no special equipment or hard-to-find ingredients. I mean food that can be transformed using a simple spice blend or sauce. I mean demystifying ingredients that’ve been staring you down at the grocery store, daring you to tackle them.
Which brings me to hot and sour soup. If you’ve had it, it’s very likely you don’t even know what’s in it. Pork and mushrooms, okay. But bamboo shoot, wood ear mushroom, lily flowers? Even I don’t really know what lily flowers look like. Once I *thought* I bought them, but they turned out to be pickled mustard greens. Based on the ingredient list, you might think hot and sour list is out of your reach.
But I’m here to tell you -- it’s not! It’s actually a really easy soup that you can make with items you can find at any grocery store -- not even a fancy one.
(adapted from Joanne Chang's Food 52 recipe)
1 tsp olive oil
½ lb ground pork (I used 80% lean, but feel free to use whatever.)
7 scallions, sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch knob of ginger, minced
1-1 ½ lb mushrooms, chopped to bite-size (I used a combination of beech, shiitake, and oyster. You can use any combination you like, or even dried.)
32 oz chicken broth
1 tsp sugar
3 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
8 oz firm tofu cut in ¼” slices (I used baked tofu, which is denser than regular tofu, but either works.)
½ cup unseasoned rice vinegar (if you can't find unseasoned, just skip the sugar in the recipe and proceed as normal)
1 tsp white pepper
2 endives cut in ¼” slices
Add oil to a large pot and heat on medium-high until shimmering. Add pork, separate the meat, and cook until some of the fat is rendered out, about 1-2 minutes. Add scallions, garlic, and ginger. Season and cook until aromatic and slightly browned, about 2-3 minutes. Add mushrooms and season again. Cook mushrooms until they have reduced by half, 4-5 minutes.
Add chicken broth, sugar, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Bring to a boil then simmer for 1 minute. Add tofu, rice vinegar, white pepper, and endives. Simmer for 2 minutes. Serve hot!
TIPS & TRICKS
White pepper might be the most esoteric ingredient in this recipe. You can substitute black pepper no problem, but I’d encourage you to add white pepper to your pantry. White pepper is actually the same plant as black pepper, but it’s just processed differently. It has a musky heat that’s characteristic of Chinese dishes, and is an easy Asian twist you can add to any dish that normally calls for black pepper.
Why endive? Endive isn’t a typical hot and sour soup ingredient -- or an Asian ingredient for that matter -- but it does a great job pinch hitting for bamboo shoot’s bitterness and lily flowers’ crunch.
I don’t like gloopy soup, so I don’t use cornstarch or any other thickener. Chef’s prerogative!
Many recipes might call for you to add the mushrooms with the broth. You know this type of mushroom, whether it’s hot and sour or tom yum soup. It’s spongy and floats around. It’s fine! But I want a full-bodied soup so I cook the mushrooms down *before* I add the broth. This concentrates their flavor and makes sure they aren’t water-logged and flabby once the broth is added.
Adding the vinegar and white pepper at the last minute is key. Cook either of them too long, and you'll lose the hot and sour of hot and sour soup.
Which came first, the reader/writer or the cook?
Some days I think it’s the former. I was a voracious reader growing up and still am. I’d have my nose buried in a Babysitter’s Club while vacationing in Hawaii, preferring preteen drama over boiling magma. When I worked in the far reaches of East Williamsburg, I’d spend my 10-minute walk from the subway staring at my Kindle, stepping over broken glass and ignoring honking truck drivers.
But maybe I was a cook first? In elementary school, I wanted DIY lunches like Lunchables and tuna salad kits, even if my classmates found me weird. In high school, I was sent to the principal’s office for using a George Foreman grill in the cafeteria.
But it’s dishes like these that prove I’m a little bit of both. I was thinking about cream puffs and their French dough, pâte à choux, meaning cabbage pastry. Literally… cabbage! This is the same dough that’s used for sweets like éclairs, profiteroles and savories like gougères.
Once I’m fascinated by words and food, I’m off to the races. I immediately thought of cabbage’s versatile cousin, the cauliflower, and then the cauliflower gougère was born.
I love these because the cauliflower is perfectly tender -- enough bite to give the rich gougère some texture and freshness, but supple enough to melt with the buttery, cheesy dough. See? It pays to be a bookworm.
Adapted from David Lebovitz
½ cup water
3 tablespoons butter
¼ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon freshly-ground pepper
½ cup flour
2 large eggs
⅜ cup grated Gruyère
⅜ cup cauliflower rice
Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line baking sheet with parchment paper.
Mix water, butter, salt and pepper in saucepan. Heat on medium until butter is melted. Add flour all at once, then mix until well incorporated and the dough pulls from the side of the saucepan. Remove from heat and let cool for 2 minutes.
Add eggs, one at a time. Mix them immediately so the eggs don’t cook. Mix until there are no more lumps, about 2 minutes (or use a stand mixer with the paddle attachment). Add cheese and cauliflower and mix until incorporated.
Using hands, form small balls of dough and place on baking sheet. When done, clean the dough off your hands. Keeping hands wet, smooth out the gougères so they are nice and rounded off.
Bake at 425 for 5 minutes, then lower to 375. Bake for 15-20 minutes, when they are just starting to get color. Remove tray from the oven and create a small slit in the side of each gougère with a sharp knife. Return tray to oven and bake for another 5 minutes, until lightly golden brown.
TIPS & TRICKS
Don’t want to buy cauliflower rice? Good for you! It’s easy to make. Just add cauliflower to your blender with enough water to cover it. Pulse on its highest speed until you get the consistency you want. Then drain the cauliflower.
Typically gougères are piped using a pastry bag. The cauliflower rice makes the dough a bit less fluid, so I opted to use my hands instead. But if you want these to look perfect, feel free to use a pastry bag with the largest tip or no tip at all.
Why puncture the side? This allows steam to exit -- extra important because we’re using moist cauliflower rice -- resulting in a crisp exterior.
It’s that time of year again. The sun has a kiss of heat. The birds are singing. The flowers are blooming. And your nose can’t. Stop. Running.
For about a week a year, I’m knocked out by allergies and the last thing I want to do is cook. You might think of slow cookers as a winter tool -- stews and casseroles and all that. But I find the slow cooker useful when I’m sick, too.
Slow cookers have a tendency to create murky flavors, but not so with the savory miso, sharp ginger, and assertive garlic. Between the three, they’re enough to make you forget about your stuffed nose and make you feel normal again.
Miso ginger slow cooker chicken is actually the most popular recipe on my blog. Here's the original post. It doesn’t even have real measurements! So this time around, I’m getting more detailed but keeping the same spirit. No cheffy flourishes. No pre-heating or fussing. Just a quick make-ahead dinner you can prepare in the time it takes to make your coffee.
2 lbs air-chilled chicken thighs and/or drumsticks
1 to 3 inch ginger knob (less if you want a milder flavor, more if you want to bring the heat)
1 head of garlic
3 tablespoons miso
Peel and finely chop ginger. Peel and finely chop garlic. Mix miso with enough hot water to loosen it up, about 3 tablespoons. Add chopped ginger and garlic and mix.
Add chicken to slow cooker. Coat with miso mixture. Cook on low for 8 hours.
Taste the sauce. Depending on how watery your chicken was, you may want to reduce and concentrate the sauce. To do so, place the chicken in a separate bowl and add the sauce to a saucepan. Simmer on low until reduced. Re-mix sauce with chicken and serve.
TIPS & TRICKS
Why air-chilled? Unless otherwise noted, all chicken is water-chilled, meaning it was dunked in cold vats of water, resulting in diluted, watery meat. Air-chilling uses no additional liquid, meaning a stronger flavor and better textured meat. Air-chilled is a great way to go all the time, but especially for slow cooking. When sauteing or roasting, excess liquid can escape as steam. But in a slow cooker, the steam is trapped, so a water-chilled chicken will quickly go from water-logged to water-drowned.
For a complete meal, add some veg to the sauce as you reduce it. I like enoki mushrooms, bok choy, or even broccoli. You can also do this if your sauce is too salty. Noodles (or zoodles) would also make a great addition.
Boneless dark meat is okay. I accidentally bought boneless chicken thighs, even though the “rule” is to only slow-cook meat on the bone because the bone helps keep the meat moist. Well, you know what? The sauce and moisture from the chicken kept the chicken moist. It all worked out, so don’t sweat bone/boneless -- as long as you use dark meat.
I’m a jealous woman. The other day, my husband came home raving about a cornbread he had at a BBQ place. “It was so moist! There were bits of corn in it! It was a little sweet, but not too sweet!”
Well why don’t you marry this cornbread then???
I knew then that I’d have to make my own cornbread -- uber moist, bejeweled with corn, and a perfect balance of sweet and savory -- and give it a unique twist. A head-turning cornbread that leaves all other cornbreads in the dust.
Twist #1: Creamed corn instead of whole corn kernels. Creamed corn adds extra moisture and silkiness. Plus the corn kernels aren’t too big and jarring, they’re already soft and supple.
Twist #2: Corn nut streusel. I had a vision of a cornbread coffee cake. But what to put in the streusel? Nuts seemed out of place, but I wanted some crunch and depth. Enter corn nuts.
Twist #3: Candied Jalapeno. The cherry on top. The shaving of truffles. The nail in the coffins of all those other cornbreads (see: jealousy, above).
The husband pronounced it the best cornbread he’s ever had.
Makes one round 9” cornbread
adapted from The Kitchn
½ cup fine cornmeal
½ cup coarse cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon honey
1 stick of butter, melted and cooled
1 can of creamed corn (14.75 oz)
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 ½ tablespoons light brown sugar
¼ cup corn nuts (I used Incan Corn for this, which are bigger, starchier corn kernels. Either work!)
3 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces and room temp
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter or spray a 9” cast-iron skillet or pie plate.
To make the cornbread, mix cornmeals, flour, salt, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the honey, eggs, butter and creamed corn. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients until just incorporated.
To make the streusel, add all ingredients into the food processor and pulse until chunks form and everything is well incorporated.
Spread streusel on top of cornbread and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the center is firm and a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean.
To make the candied jalapeno, add water and sugar to a saucepan and heat on medium-high, stirring occasionally. Slice jalapenos, removing seeds. When all the sugar is melted, add the jalapenos. Simmer on medium-low for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest until the cornbread is done.
When the cornbread is done, remove from oven and cool for 15 minutes or longer. Strain the candied jalapenos and add to the top. Serve with leftover jalapeno syrup.
TIPS & TRICKS
The streusel and jalapenos make this a bit of a project, but the cornbread itself is super easy. You can do all the prep in 5 minutes.
I am a very messy cook, so I try to minimize messes whenever I see an opportunity. One trick -- instead of using multiple mixing bowls, just mix in your measuring cup. I add all my cup measurements first. Say that’s ¼ cup sugar and ½ cup milk. I’ll add the sugar first, then fill with milk to the ¾ cup mark. Then add all your non-cup measurements, like things measured in teaspoons or singular units (ex: eggs, juice of one lemon). Bingo! You were going to dirty the measuring cup anyway, but now you’ve saved yourself one bowl (at least).
If you don’t have time to cool your melted butter, no worries. Simply add colder ingredients first to temper the heat. Then add the eggs. If the butter is too hot, it will cook the eggs.
Keep the seeds in the jalapeno if you want to keep them hot!
You’ll most likely have extra jalapeno syrup. Save it! Once you strain it, it will keep in the refrigerator for 3 months. Use it for a limeade, smoothie, or cocktail. I’m partial to grapefruit juice, mezcal, and this jalapeno syrup. Muddle some cilantro in there if you’re feeling frisky.
I’m an inefficient shopper -- and I’m okay with that. I’d like to think I shop in the French style, but with a twist.
When the French shop, they don’t head to the megamart. They get their baguette at the boulangerie, meat at the butcher, cheese at the fromagerie, and produce and fresh flowers at the farmer’s market.
Talk about #grocerygoals! But I’d venture to say you can do something a little different. Nowadays, I bop around with my groceries, but with ethnic markets. I get my spices, herbs, and rare mangoes from the Indian grocery store. I get much of my produce -- especially fruit, mushrooms, and chilis -- from the Korean grocer. I get my olives and pastry fixes at the Greek grocery, tomatoes and corn from my Jersey Local farmer’s market … you get the idea.
I love Wegman’s and Whole Foods as much as the next girl, but their “international” sections can be a little underwhelming. Why limit yourself to 1/16 of an aisle when you can have the whole store?
This Italo-Asian Mushroom Melange is an example of what multicultural shopping can get you. I got these adorable mushroom pasta shapes and Calabrian chilis from an Italian specialty market. I got fresh mushrooms from the Korean grocer. And dried morels from a long-ago French vacation. You might be tempted to make one Italian dish out of all Italian ingredients, but that’d be like wearing head-to-toe of one brand. You can do better!
Is this an efficient way of grocery shopping? Absolutely not. But it’s a lot more fun and horizon-expanding.
2 lbs fresh mushrooms -- I used a combination of baby portobello, oyster, white beech and shiitake
1 oz dried morels (optional but a lovely touch)
¼ cup dry white wine like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio
2 cups pasta -- This is a fun mushroom shape that actually tastes like mushrooms because of dried porcini in the dough
1 ½ tablespoons butter
1 heaping teaspoon crushed Calabrian chili (if you don’t have this, feel free to use red pepper flakes)
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
If using, rehydrate morels for at least 10 minutes in lukewarm water. Save the soaking liquid.
Dice shallot and wash and cut mushrooms. Place two frying pans on the stove on medium heat. Once hot, add olive oil, season shallot with salt then saute until translucent. Add mushrooms to both pans, season, and saute until mushrooms are browned, about 4-5 minutes. Deglaze both pans with white wine.
Fill large pot with water and liberally salt (it should taste like the sea). Bring to a boil. Cook pasta until slightly underdone, about 6-7 minutes. Do not rinse the pasta because you want some of the starchiness in the final dish.
Consolidate the mushrooms in one pan. Add the soaked morels, butter, and pasta. Add ¼ cup of the pasta water and ¼ cup of the morel soaking stock (if you didn’t use dried mushrooms, add more pasta water). Stir until butter is melted and the pasta is fully cooked. Add more liquid if the dish seems too dry.
Right before serving, add parsley and Calabrian chilis. Stir.
TIPS & TRICKS
It might seem fussy to use two frying pans, but you don’t want to overcrowd the mushrooms. Mushrooms contain a lot of water and if they’re packed too tight, the water will steam-cook the mushrooms, rather than brown them.
It’s okay if your pasta isn’t totally ad dente. A softer pasta will mimic the texture of the mushrooms, making for a more blended bite. The fun of this dish is that the pasta seamlessly meshes with the mushrooms.
When you add the butter with the pasta water and mushroom stock, you’re creating an emulsion. An emulsion is two unlike ingredients (like oil and water) that are suspended together. The pasta water is key because the starches create a sort of “scaffolding” where the butter can hang out. Think of roux in a mac and cheese -- the flour stabilizes the cheese. In this case, the starch in the pasta water stabilizes the butter.
Some people run. Others doodle. I like to make dumplings.
To me a stack of dumpling skins is like a yoga class -- no distractions, just a moving meditation while you focus on spoon, fold, cross, pinch and repeat.
While dumplings aren’t strictly weeknight meal-material, they are easy weekend projects that set the groundwork for easy weeknight meals. Though if you’re reasonably nimble with your hands, you could knock out 50 dumplings in 40 minutes and if you have a helper, half that! Pop some veggies in the oven and roast them while you prep. You can have dinner on the table in an hour or so.
This is what a weeknight meal typically looks like for me: a small amount of meat, a small amount of carbs, a cooked veg and a raw veg. I also try to make enough for my husband and I to eat for lunch the next day. See? Small weekend project, big weekday payoff.
Makes 50 dumplings
1 lb raw, peeled, deveined shrimp
1 lb ground pork
½ cup of chopped garlic chives, flowering chives, or scallions
1 teaspoon shaoxing wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon white pepper (black pepper also works)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons salt
1 12-oz package of wonton skins
Finely chop the shrimp so it is almost paste-like (but not quite). Mix with the rest of the ingredients, except for the wonton skins. Br careful not to overwork, otherwise the meat will be tough. I recommend using your hands!
Set up your station: a sheet tray (for your finished dumplings), a bowl of water (to seal the dumplings), your meat, and the wonton skins, covered by a damp paper towel to prevent drying out.
Spoon about 1 heaping teaspoon of meat into the center of the wonton skin. Fold your dumpling like the image below, using water to seal the triangle and the “arms”. When done, place on the sheet tray, careful not to overlap the dumplings. Repeat until all the wonton skins are done.
To cook: Bring water to a boil in a wide saute pan. Drop dumplings into water and cook for about 5 minutes, or until meat is cooked through. If boiling from frozen, boil for 6-7 minutes.
To freeze: Place baking sheet filled with dumplings in freezer. Freeze until just-frozen, about 1 hour. Then place in a freezer bag and save for a weeknight meal!
Serve with a dipping sauce of soy sauce and rice vinegar. Proportions are to taste! If it’s still too salty for you, add water.
TIPS & TRICKS
If you want to experiment with adding more flavorings to the filling like cabbage, water chestnuts, etc… don’t. You only have 1 teaspoon in each dumpling so they’ll come at the expense of the meat.
You can pulse the shrimp in a food processor, but be careful not to overdo it. You still want the shrimp to have texture (think salsa and not tomato sauce).
It might seem like the meat mixture has a lot of salt, but remember that the salt will leach out into the boiling liquid/broth.
You want to use a wide saute pan when boiling the dumplings so they cook in one layer. If you boil in a pot, the wontons will knock against each other not only side-to-side, but also top-to-bottom, potentially ruining all your great folding work!
Make an easy broth out of the boiling liquid. Add a couple slices of ginger and soy sauce to the water. Then add dumplings and cook. The pork/shrimp/chive mixture will add flavor and the wonton skins will add starchy body. Serve with sliced chives.
If you have extra meat after you’ve used all your wontons skins, fry it up with a little oil and deglaze the pan with black or rice vinegar. This creates an extra-savory topping that gives a hint of what’s inside (think spiced chickpeas on top of hummus).
Round 2...candy! Oh boy. I don't know about you, but I've never cooked with candy before. As Bruno and Geoffrey Zakarian pointed out, it's hard to know how candy will cook. Will it melt? Hold its shape? Curdle?
I once tried to brûlé gummy bears and it was a disaster. The heat seems to toughen the gelatin, making an impossibly tacky bite.
So instead of opting for licorice, gumdrops, or jelly beans, which contain mysterious ingredients with unknown properties, I used clean and simple lollipops. Sugar, flavoring and coloring. Not ideal, but not horrifying either.
We weren't allowed to make desserts (too easy), so my mind immediately went to Korean food. Korean food is actually pretty sweet, but it's tempered by salt, spice and funk. No one-note sweetness here. I called on my go-to flavors: miso, soy, ginger, garlic and sesame (the same flavors that are in one my most popular recipes of all time). I chose pink lemonade and lemon lollipops, thinking that citrus flavors were better than, say, cherry or grape (gag).
Once I knew how I'd feature the surprise ingredient, I worked from there. What works best with sweet and spicy marinated beef?
Bibimbap! Concepting the rest was easy. I'd adapt the classic Korean rice-and-veggies dish with my own spin. A quick pickle added some brightness and crunch, toasted quinoa with nori contributed an earthy, umami base (and mimicked the delicious burnt rice in the bottom of a stone bibimbap bowl). I also made a miso-egg emulsion, a hollandaise-like sauce that nods to the raw egg that is traditionally stirred into bibimbop.
The recipe below is sequenced for a tight 30-minute cook. There's no wasted time waiting for things to cook. But if you want a saner experience, then you can always make each component one by one.
1/2 cup of sugar -- ground-up citrus candy or actual sugar
1 small onion
8 cloves of garlic
1 ping-pong-ball-sized knob of ginger
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 Scotch Bonnet chili
1 lb thinly sliced top sirloin
1 cup red quinoa
10 sheets of roasted seaweed
3 baby cucumbers
1 tablespoon salt
Miso Egg Emulsion:
4 egg yolks
1 heaping teaspoon miso paste
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
½ teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons black sesame seed
¼ cup chopped chives
Rinse quinoa and place in pot with two cups of water. Bring to a boil on high, then cover and simmer on low until nice and fluffy. The "tails" of the quinoa should be sticking out. (This didn't happen during my episode... perhaps because the stove was so hot the water boiled off too quickly and/or the quinoa was old and took longer than normal to "bloom".)
For the marinade, blend the onion, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil and chili. Place in saucepan and reduce on medium-high.
For the miso egg emulsion, blend the egg yolks, miso, rice vinegar, chili powder and butter.
For the quick pickles, slice the cucumbers and radishes with a mandolin on the thinnest setting. Salt and let rest.
Slice the beef and place it in the reduced marinade. While the beef is cooking and picking up the glaze, toast half the quinoa in a frying pan with a teaspoon of olive oil. Add the other half of the quinoa, add sliced nori and reserve.
Assemble your plate. Squeeze out the excess water from the pickles and place. Add the toasted quinoa with nori and Korean candy beef. Pour miso egg emulsion on top, or serve on the side. Add chopped chives and black sesame seeds.
RELAX because that was an intense 30 minutes of cooking.
When Geoffrey Zakarian announced we had to make pasta for the first round of Cooks vs Cons...I wasn't very excited.
I'll occasionally eat pasta when I'm out to dinner, but I rarely make it at home and when I do, it's always dried pasta or sometimes pre-made fresh ravioli. I know I must make fresh pasta. This has been ingrained in me after years of watching cooking shows.
But I do have one pasta recipe up my sleeve: gnocchi. With some adjustments, I thought I could make it a 30-minute version, with some extra time for a dynamic, complex sauce.
My first trick was adding polenta to the dough. Usually pasta dough needs ~30 minutes for the gluten bonds to form, but I had no such luxury. So I added instant polenta, which creates instant dough "glue". Bonus points because corn is the surprise ingredient and of course polenta is cornmeal.
My second trick was to make an onion soubise. I first had soubise at Momofuku Ko, in a now-iconic poached egg with caviar and potato chips dish. A soubise traditionally calls for softened onions and cream or bechamel. But what about using corn as a not-too-rich thickener?? I gave it a try, and it worked!
And finally, corn and pasta are both soft and starchy. Where's the pop? So I added chipotle puree to the dough, along with ground annatto seeds for color. I swapped the traditional Parmesan with Mexican cotija, to keep with the Mexican flavors. I also added some tortilla chips and popcorn for texture.
This was a tough round, especially since I don't really make or eat pasta. But these gnocchi may make it into my everyday rotation...
POLENTA GNOCCHI WITH CREAMY CORN SOUBISE RECIPE
¾ cup ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons grated cotija cheese
2 tablespoons potato flour
1 ½ tablespoons instant polenta
1 ½ tablespoons flour + extra for rolling
2 tablespoons chipotle puree
1 tablespoon ground annatto seeds
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
semolina flour for gnocchi dusting
2 tablespoons butter
2 large Vidalia onions
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
¾ cup heavy cream
1 cup of corn
salt / pepper
Sandwich the ricotta between four paper towels to soak up excess water. Salt your pasta water and bring to a boil.
Melt butter in a saute pan. Slice onions and add, along with cumin, oregano and salt. (If you want to do this under 30 minutes, I recommend using a mandolin to sweat the onions faster. Slice the onions directly over the pan.) Sweat the onions until semi-translucent, about 7 minutes.
Mix the ricotta, cotija cheese, potato flour, flour, polenta, chipotle puree, annatto and eggs. Form into a dough. Roll into snakes a little wider than your finger and cut into 3/4" slices with a bench scraper.
Add the sauteed onions to a blender and add the cream, corn, white wine vinegar and salt to taste. This is your creamy corn soubise.
Add the gnocchis to the salted boiled water. Remove with a spider or slotted spoon when they float at the top for about 30 seconds.
Place gnocchi in a bowl and add onion soubise plus cilantro, sumac, chili powder, more corn, sumac, crushed tortilla chips, and chili powder. Or not! The judges weren't fans of all the fixins, and I kind of agree. But at home, it's up to you.