Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Marco Polo Bakery/English School

It is still somewhat beyond my logic why a bakery would be in the same space as an English school, but whoever came up with this idea is a genius. In the Chun Chung area, Wooyi took us to the marvelous Marco Polo bakery where she bought a warm, crusty roll stuffed with cubes of mild cheese. (Amy, sorry we didn't take you!) I don't know why the cheese didn't melt during the baking but the cheese cubes retained their shape pretty nicely.

Unsurprisingly, I have not had any brilliant bakery finds since I have returned to California. BUT, I have realized that the idea of combining a bakery with any other type of business is totally brilliant! Now if I can just get my Honda dealer to build a bakery inside it...

Monday, June 11, 2007

Pancakes for Dinner

...or, linner! My favorite meal, somewhere between lunch and dinner, is a perfect time for pancakes. Below is a great recipe by Nigella. It doesn't have the weird baking soda taste, and you can disregard the salt (I've never tried it without the salt but I think it should be OK.)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 1/3 cups milk
butter for frying

Nigella writes: "The easiest way to make these is to put all the ingredients into a blender and blitz. But if you do mix up the batter by hand in a bowl, make a well in the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar, beat in the eggs, melted butter, and milk, and transfer to a pitcher: it's much easier to pour the batter into the pan that to spoon it. I like to leave the batter for 20 minutes before using it; you may then want to add more milk to the mixture if you're frying in the blini pan, so that it runs right to the edges. When you cook the pancakes, all you need to remember is that when the upper side of the pancake is blistering and bubbling it's time to cook the second side, and this needs only about 1 minute, if that. 1 get 11 blini-sized pancakes out of this, maybe 16 silver-dollar sized ones on the griddle."

Try adding bananas and/or walnuts like the picture on the left!
Serve with sausage meat, which you can also buy salt free from the grocery store. Just add some AlsoSalt and you're home free!

Let me know how it turns out.


Thursday, June 7, 2007

Who's afraid of home-made mayo?

I read an article in this month's Martha Stewart magazine about how easy and wonderful home-made mayonnaise can be. Oh, mayonnaise: there's the mayo that went on top of the french fries in Amsterdam (somewhat unthinkable but immensely edible); then there is the Japanese Cutepie mayonnaise which (guiltily I must admit) is delicious with spam and rice. It also made me think of the decadent potato salad we make in the summer, for which home-made mayo is a must.

But then Martha goes on to give a recipe that uses egg yolk, vinegar, and olive oil. Olive oil? Ack. I think not.

Martha's tip said that mayonnaise is more difficult to make on a hot day. True?

In her magazine Martha uses a Kitchenaid mixer to make the mayonnaise, a luxury -- or perhaps unnecessary because I recall wooyi and cousin wawa whisking mayonnaise with a couple of chopsticks in a big bowl.

What's our family's mayo recipe?

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

A delicious blog

My friend Ted recommended this very popular food blog maintained by a lady who calls herself "spot." Her blog is called 甜蜜的邂逅. Most of her posts are about her cooking, including excellent photos like this one, of organic aiyu jelly !

I think the author had received some organic aiyu jelly seeds in the mail and perhaps made it herself...I'm not totally sure but she definitely takes beautiful photographs and does a great job styling her food! She doesn't always have complete recipes but the photos and sentiments on the blog are enough to get me into the kitchen. . . or at least in front of the computer to post something of my own.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Scallops on a hot summer day -- adapted from Gourmet

It was nice and warm for a change here so I decided to make a scallop dish I saw in this month's Gourmet magazine. The magazine calls for a kind of scallop "ceviche" -- grilled scallops, cucumbers, lime, and orange segments all marinated together and chilled. But after making the dish I discovered that chilled, cooked scallops aren't as exciting as scallops coming hot from the grill (or hot pan). So here is my adaptation of the Gourmet recipe.

Scallops with cucumber salad

3/4 of an English cucumber, halved, seeded, and thinly sliced
1 navel orange, cut into segments
1/2 carrot, thinly sliced (optional)
2 tablespoons of shallots, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt
freshly grind pepper
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 lb large scallops

In a bowl, combine cucumber, oranges, shallots, lime juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Chill thoroughly.
Combine the scallops with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. IN a hot pan or grill, sear the scallops on both sides until cooked.
On a plate, set the cucumber salad and put scallops over them. Serve immediately.

*I am also thinking that a balsalmic vinegar glaze might be nice over the scallops..more experimentation for this weekend!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Everything is better with butter...and bacon

Uncle #4 made a truly delicious bean sprout stirfry with some pretty surprising ingredients. I could have eaten the whole plate myself. But then, you can't go wrong with bacon!

Stir Fried Bean Sprout with Bacon

Half of an onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup of bacon, diced in about 2 cm by 2 cm pieces
1 clove of garlic, sliced
1 red chili pepper, sliced (optional)
4 - 6 cups bean sprouts, wash and dried
salt and black pepper to taste
MSG (Uncle #4 claims we are all too afraid of MSG! But Wooyi says you can use mushroom-based granules)
1/2 tablespoon butter

Over medium heat, stir fry onion and bacon for a few minutes. Then turn down the head to medium low and add the sliced garlic and the red chili pepper (optional). Stir fry until onion is translucent. Add a dash of black pepper. Turn the heat to high and add bean sprouts. Stir fry until bean sprouts are cooked. Add salt, MSG (optional) and combine to taste. Melt the butter over the side of the wok and stir until combined. Serve immediately (over rice, of course).

Friday, June 1, 2007

Meatballs! YOM.

1 cup fine fresh bread crumbs
1 1/2 cups milk
2 medium onions
1 1/2 pounds ground pork
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leafed parsley leaves

1/2 cup olive oil

In a large bowl soak bread crumbs in milk 10 minutes. Finely chop onions. Add onions and remaining meatball ingredients to bread crumb mixture and with your hands blend together until just combined well (do not overmix). Form mixture into walnut-size balls and arrange on large trays or baking sheets.

In a large heavy skillet heat 2 tablespoons oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and brown meatballs in batches without crowding, shaking skillet to maintain round shape and adding remaining oil as necessary.

Parmesan Chicken with Baby Greens

Here is my contribution. I made it the other day and it was very good and easy. You can also use pork chops instead of chicken breast. You can also omit the baby greens part, if you don't like vegetables.

2/3 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) or fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram (or any herb you choose, like basil, thyme, etc. Or you can omit it completely.)
1 egg
4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves (about 1 1/2 pounds total)

4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar (don't really need that either if you don't have it.)

6 cups mixed baby greens

Stir together panko, Parmesan, and marjoram on large plate. Whisk egg in small shallow bowl. Place chicken in plastic bag. Using rolling pin, pound to flatten to 1/2-inch thickness. Place chicken on plate; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Brush on all sides with egg. Dredge in panko mixture, turning to coat evenly.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook until deep golden and cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to plate. Reduce heat to medium; cool skillet slightly. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil and vinegar. Stir, scraping up browned bits, until vinaigrette is just hot.

Divide baby greens among 4 plates. Drizzle with vinaigrette and top with chicken. Sprinkle with pepper and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Kabocha: cook at your own risk

I was making kabocha (Japanese pumpkin) last night while talking on the phone with my grandmother. I thought of simmering it Japanese-style like she always does. So I carefully cut off the seemingly tough green skin, dicing it and throwing it in a soy sauce broth that I sweetened with brown sugar.

I told her that I was making Japanese pumpkin for dinner and she seemed really excited.

"Kabocha! So easy. No need to peel the skin. That's the best part! Great texture. And just simmer it in some soysauce and water -- no need for sugar! The kabocha itself is very sweet!"

Hmph. Oops.

Well, what can I say. She was right.

Made correctly by someone with a good camera, the dish should look like this:

Simmered Japanese Pumpkin (Kabocha)

1 kabocha squash, diced into 1"x1" cubes
1/2 cup water (Or you can use water + two pinches of Hondashi granules)
3 Tablespoons brown sugar (if you like it sweet. Or if you're me)
1 to 2 Tablespoons soy sauce

Combine water with soy sauce and sugar in a shallow pan. Add squash, bring to to boil over medium high heat. Turn heat down and simmer for about 15 minutes, add more water if the broth dries out. Serve warm or room temperature.


1日本南瓜, 切成1 " x1 "

1 / 2杯水(或你可以用水+兩匙的Hondashi )

3大匙 紅糖 (如果你喜歡甜一點. 或者,如果你像我, 聽奶奶)


水加紅糖, 醬油, 煮開. 放入南瓜, 用大火蒸5 - 7分鐘, 用小火10分鐘. 如果醬汁乾了, 放多一點水.

Plum juice from Grumpy

On a very hot day, Auntie #5 took us "Chung-zhon Market” – City Center Market. It was an area that we hadn’t been to – at least not for the last 20 years. When we arrived at the market via Taipei’s subway, the day seemed to have gotten hotter. Coming out of the 228 Peace Park from the MRT station, Wooyi pointed to a big, cracking wood sign and told us that this food stall has been there for many many years.

Under the sign was a very tall and very cranky man who was filling plastic cups with a light brown plum juice. Wooyi walked up to buy a cup of plum juice, but when the man wasn’t looking, she whispered for us to grab an extra straw so we can share -- the man will get mad if he sees us sharing.

Behind the man was a plain white freezer that I couldn’t see inside. It turned out to be “three-flavored ice cream” – an old fashion treat that tasted like it was made out of rice milk, not cream.

What were the flavors? The man grumbled and said, “You’ll know when you eat it.” Our guesses were taro root, vanilla, MAYBE strawberry.

Auntie #1's stir-fried mushroom with pork

This is the big meal that Auntie #1 made for us in Bianchao -- she was kind enough to be my first guinea pig of the family recipe project when I sat down with her at Ahma's house. Here are two recipes she shared with me. I don't have exact measurements as I haven't yet reproduced this dish myself so I am just guessing here. But if you have better measurements please comment and let me know!

Stir-fried mushrooms with pork
(lower right corner of the photo)
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 cup to 2/3 cup pork, sliced
1 tomato - diced
half a red bell pepper, roughly chopped
half a green bell pepper, roughly chopped
mixture of your favorite mushroom -- we had shitake, maitake, and brown, all in big irregular slices
1/2 to 1 pork flavor boullion cube
cooking oil

Over medium heat, stir fry garlic until fragrant. Add pork and tomato, stir fry until cooked. Add the mushroom, stir fry until combined. Add pork boullion cube. Then add the red and green bell peppers.

Whether you should thicken this dish with cornstarch is still under debate between Aunt 1 and Uncle 4, who made this dish again a few days later.


The crowning glory of the dinner was the Mapo Tofu, of which I had obtained the recipe from Aunt #1 a week before I went to her house for dinner.

Mapo Tofu

2 cloves of garlic
minced pork
soy sauce
water (I am guessing 1 to 1 1/2 cups but she said just use your judgment)
mushroom essence/powder
pepper (white or black?)
1 red chili pepper, sliced
2 large pieces of tofu, diced
corn starch to thicken
dash sesame oil
green onions, sliced, to taste

Marinate minced pork in soy sauce for 5 to 10 minutes. Slice one clove of garlic. Finely chop the other clove, set aside. In a wok over medium high heat, stir fry the garlic slices until fragrant. Add minced pork to the wok, stirfry until cooked. Add 1 to 1 1/2 cups of water, more soysauce to taste, and the mushroom essence, pepper, and chili pepper. Stir to combine. Add the tofu and bring to boil. Thicken with corn starch. Turn off the heat and sprinkle with the finely chopped garlic, green onions, and a dash of sesame oil.

Ready, set, blog!

Tonight while eating my lackluster dinner, I started reading recipes from my trip in Taiwan and wishing that I had some of the mushroom stirfry from Auntie #1's house back in April.

I realized that just about everyone in our family is a food expert. You all have been my culinary and gastronic guides. Some of you know that I have been wanting to gather a family cookbook, so here I have set up a space where we can share everything and anything gastronomic:
a new recipe
an interesting dish you ate at a restaurant
a new food discovery
a good book about food
a great food memory

The Blogger software is incredibly easy to use so I hope you will participate and put up some of your own posts to share!