Here are the facts: I bought some green goods that I intended to use for recipes to post, but having your nose rubbed raw in revision books tend to chase away ideas and then slam you into a brick-wall that is writer’s block. So here I am, a day before my [meticulously scheduled] 13-day trip to Saudi Arabia (holla!), brushing up my Arabic mainly in preparation to place an order on the very, very delicious food they have over there (srsly guise) when an inner gong resonates and I realize I have a fridge-full of asparagus, parsley, scallions and a few green tomatoes that the gardeners unearthed from a tomato vine hidden behind the bushy terrains that is our back garden.
Shite. What to do, what to do?? I have to be honest, at first I thought of making a pot of kalgooksoo and then just slice the green onions to sprinkle on top. The asparagus I can just blanch and eat with eggs. The tomatoes for a salad - it is springtime after all, isn’t it? It was a sound idea, except that 5 stalks of green onion will make more than just a sprinkle, I hate the taste of blanched asparagus and…I’m just not in the springtime state of mind yet! I’d rather turn the tomatoes into hearty soups than eat them raw but time is running short. So I gave them all a whazzy whaz in the blender (ideally you should use a food processor) and made three pesto, all without pine nuts or basil. Is that sacrilege? Oh, I hope so. You can store these in the fridge for a few days or freeze them up to a couple of months. What I like to do is refrigerate them for a few hours to let the flavors marry, and then stick em in the fridge for an eternal union. All in all, pesto-fying saved the day and I can’t wait to smear some under the skin of a chicken and bake it to crispy oblivions when I get back. Toodles!
GREEN TOMATO PESTO:
[ 4 medium green tomatoes + 1/2 cup packed parsley leaves + 1/3 cup salted almonds + 2 cloves roasted garlic if you have them, or 1 clove of fresh garlic + 1/2 cup olive oil + salt and pepper to taste, but start with 1 teaspoon ]
Throw everything in the food processor and pulse until the ingredients achieve a uniform consistency, then whiz it until it reaches your preferred smoothness. This can be stored in the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Great as: Dips, spreads for pizza and sammiches.
CHARRED SCALLION AND GINGER PESTO:
[ 5 bunches of scallion, trimmed and cut in half + 2 garlic cloves + 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled + 1/2 cup olive oil + 1 teaspoon sesame oil + 1/4 cup sesame seeds ]
Heat a skillet or grill pan on medium-high. In a bowl, drizzle the scallions with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Season the scallions with sea salt and pepper, then sear or char until lightly caramelized at the edges and blackened in a few spots, about 3 minutes. Set aside to cool for 5-10 minutes.
Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and and pulse until the ingredients achieve a uniform consistency, then whiz it until it reaches your preferred smoothness. Use immediately or store in the fridge for a couple of day or in the freezer up to 6 months.
Great with: Fish, chicken, rice, mashed tate’orrs.
[ 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch segments + 1/4 cup almonds + 1 clove garlic + 1/4 cup olive oil + 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese + juice of 1/2 lemon ]
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook until fully tender but not mushy, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain well, reserving some of the cooking liquid, and let the asparagus cool slightly.
Transfer the asparagus to a food processor and add the garlic, almonds, 2 tablespoons of the oil, parmesan, a pinch of salt and a couple of tablespoons of the cooking liquid. Process the mixture, stopping to scrape down the sides of the container if necessary, and gradually add the remaining oil and a bit more of the reserved cooking liquid to moisten if necessary. Add the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste and pulse again until it reaches the consistency you prefer.
Great with: Pasta, fish, chicken - pretty much anything you can spread with pesto.
Can we just take a moment? Because I don’t think I’ve ever had someone rub their thumb against the middle finger so hard it makes a sound, at me. There just simply was a lack of ghettoliciousness where I went to school. So before I break out into the cup song by way of reply, let me say that YES, I’m sorry it took so long to write a shawarma post because you see, it’s very difficult to get shawarma (I downright refuse to spell it out as ”shwarma”) right in home kitchens.
When done right, a chicken shawarma consists of succulent, tangy chicken pieces shaved off a mothership stack of flattened chicken breasts that’s been marinated overnight in a carefully concocted mixture of tenderizing yogurt and spices, which is then roasted in a vertical spit that turns against a soft grilling fire. This fire is so, so soft that it merely kisses the meat. KISSES it. For HOURS. When done right, you’ll find pieces of grilled tomatoes that’s been cooked on the wide skillet that lies under the twirling mothership stack, Catching and tumbling in the rendered juices and fat. When done right, there is always a squirt of creamy toum; a pungent garlicky sauce that some might mistake as garlic mayonnaise. Never make that mistake. Like, ever.
When done right, there’s pieces of Lebanese pickles punctuating every bite; not too overpowering, but enough kick to show its presence. This is all completely wrapped (i.e. none of that incompletely-wrapped-because-there’s-too-much-filling or stuffed inside a split pita nonsense) inside the day’s pillowy khubz for easy handling, which as you can see I completely ignored because an all-wrapped up shawarma unfortunately isn’t very photogenic. Apologies. It’s all in the name of aesthetics, so make sure you wrap yours all snug and tight.
PS:To other foodwishers: You know the deal guys! Foodwishes here have no expiration date so I’ll get to them eventually. And for the anon who made a foodwish for Salbutes (new food!yay!), I’ll make ‘em once I locate a bag of masa harina. Peace out!
LEBANESE GARLIC SAUCE/DIP (serves 4-6)
[ 4-5 cloves of garlic, peeled + 1/4 cup vegetable oil + juice of 1/2 a lemon + a generous pinch of salt, about 1/4 teaspoon ]
Make sure that all the ingredients are at room temperature. Using a food processor or a pestle and mortar, mash the garlic and salt until it turns to a paste. Stop the processor and scrape garlic down the sides before running again, and repeat this process.
Keep the processor running before adding the vegetable oil, a teaspoon at a time until the mixture has emulsified. Add the lemon juice last and give it a final 20-second whiz before storing until needed. You can make this up to a week ahead and refrigerate it. Just make sure to bring it to room temperature before serving.
LEBANESE QUICK PICKLES:
[ 2 garlic cloves, peeled + 1 cup vinegar + 1/2 cup water + 1/2 cup sugar + 1 tablespoons kosher salt + 1/2 tablespoon each of peppercorns, mustard seed, celery seed and coriander seed + vegetables like carrots, cucumbers, green beans, peppers and hot peppers, washed and trimmed ]
In a small sauce pan, bring the vinegar, water, sugar, salt and spices to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat; cool.
Cut the vegetables into bite size pieces. Pack a jar (or two) tightly with vegetables and garlic cloves. Ladle the vinegar solution into the jars to cover the vegetables. Screw the lids on and refrigerate for a whole day before serving. This can also be made a week ahead.
Cut each chicken breast horizontally so that each piece is about 1/2 an inch thick. If you have small breasts (cue the giggles), give it a good whack with a rolling pin so they’re all the same thickness. Mix all the marinating ingredients in a blender. Transfer the chicken pieces into a shallow container and coat well with the marinade. Cover and marinate in the fridge overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Place a griddle pan or a skillet on high heat until very hot. Cook the chicken pieces for 2 minutes on each side until brown. Transfer chicken to an oven tray and finish off in the oven for 4–6 minutes, or until cooked through and no pink meat remains. Remove and allow to rest for a few minutes before cutting the chicken into 1cm-thick slices. Drizzle one or two tablespoons of remaining juices from the tray over the meat. Keep warm
Then, ideally, you should cut the tomatoes to “a little bigger than bite-sized” pieces, toss it with the remaining juices in the tray and blast on the broiler until the tomatoes are just roasted.
To assemble, grab a pillowy pita and form a line of chicken pieces. Spread a thin layer of garlicky toum, line up some grilled tomatoes and pickled vegetables. You can add some shredded lettuce and sliced red onion if you please, but nothing more! Roll a good, tight one and eat. Immediately.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking mashed sweet potatoes. You’re thinking roasted beets. You’re thinking peas. You’re thinking soft patties that don’t hold well while cooking. You’re thinking patties that collapses as you give the buns a squeeze. You’re thinking patties that coat the back of your mouth. You’re not thinking about this burger. You see, unlike some veggie burgers recipe that comes out purely from wanting to eat healthy, where nutritional values takes precedence over taste and mushy red patties are an acceptable replacement for beef, this was concocted in the Serious Eats Food Lab. And there’s none of that nonsense happening there.
This patty is so flavorful you might opt for it instead of meaty goodness. There’s an abundance of texture at play; a touch of crisp on the outside, tender but firm on the inside. I used portobello instead of button mushrooms to give it an extra touch of umami and I think it was a pretty good call, but do refer to the original recipe for the complete list of ingredients. I also don’t have a food processor and pulsed the ingredients in my blender, so those without one have no excuse. This will seriously change your views about veggie burgers, and that’s the Winger guarantee.
VEGGIE BURGERS (tweaked from the original recipe by Serious Eats, makes 8 patties)
[ 1 1/2 pounds portobello mushrooms, trimmed and chopped into halves + 1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil + Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper + 6 thyme sprigs + 1 whole small eggplant (about 1/2 pound) + 1 large onion, chopped + 1 large celery rib, chopped fine (about 1/2 cup) + 1 medium clove garlic, minced + 3/4 cup dry lentils + 1 (14-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and patted dry on paper towels + 1/4 cup all-purpose flour + 2 teaspoons baking powder + 1 teaspoon Maggi seasoning + 1 cup toasted almonds + 1 teaspoon soy sauce + 1 1/2-cups panko bread crumbs ]
Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, toss mushrooms with 1 tablespoon oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Coat eggplant with another tablespoon olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Wrap eggplant with heavy duty aluminum foil. Transfer mushrooms and eggplant to a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Scatter thyme over mushrooms. Bake in the middle rack, turning mushrooms and wrapped eggplant occasionally until mushrooms are dark brown and eggplant is completely tender (test with a cake tester or thin skewer), about 35-40 minutes. If you find that the mushrooms are cooking faster than the eggplant, then take those out and leave the eggplant cooking a little longer. Remove from oven, unwrap eggplant, and set aside to cool.
While mushrooms and eggplant roast, heat remaining two tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and celery and cook, stirring and tossing occasionally, until completely softened but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl and set aside to cool.
Place lentils in a pot and cover with water by 2 inches. Stir once then place over high heat. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lentils are completely tender, about 20 minutes. Drain completely, patting with paper towels until dry and transfer into a large bowl.
Add half of garbanzo beans to the bowl of a food processor along with flour, baking powder, soy sauce, Maggi seasoning and half of eggplant (reserve remaining eggplant for another use). Process until a smooth paste forms, scraping down sides as necessary. Transfer mixture to the bowl with lentils. Pulse remaining chickpeas in food processor until beans are chopped to about the size of a lentil (5 to 6 short bursts), scraping down sides as necessary. Transfer to bowl with lentil mixture. Chop almonds in the food processor the same way and add to lentil mix.
When mushrooms are cool, add to bowl of food processor and pulse until finely chopped but still coarse in texture, about 8 to 10 short pulses. Add to lentil mix. When onions and celery are cool, transfer to food processor. Chop with 8 to 10 short pulses and add to lentil mix. Using bare hands or a spatula, stir together mixture until completely homogenous. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mixture can be refrigerated and stored for up to 5 days at this point or frozen in an airtight freezer bag for up to 3 months.
When you’re ready to serve the burgers, Add breadcrumbs to mixture and work them in with your hands. Make a sample patty. It should have the texture of ground beef and hold together easily. If not, add water a tablespoon at a time until it comes together. Divide mixture into eight patties about 4-inches across and 1/2 an inch thick. Patties must be cooked within 30 minutes of adding breadcrumbs.
Heat three tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add four patties and cook without moving until first side is well-browned, about 3 minutes. Flip burgers and top with cheese (if desired) and cook until second side is browned and cheese is melted, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer to a toasted bun and serve with condiments as desired.
For once, I’m going to tell you not to make this unless you really, really want to. Actually, unless you really really want to and own a mandolin. I spent a considerable amount of time sitting in front of my laptop twirling three ginormous carrots in my hand, contemplating whether or not I should make this. You see the thing is, I have this compulsion to do things that should not be done with food (need I remind you of the feta frosting? That’s what I thought). This recipe was meant for potatoes, thinly sliced by mandolins and painted with butter before stacked on top of another with a delicate herb sandwiched in between. I have potatoes in the fridge, yes I do, but I wanted to see if it would work just as well with carrots.
Never mind that I really don’t have time for this, never mind that I don’t have all the necessary tools (parchment paper? pfft, haven’t seen that in this kitchen in almost a month), never mind that it could’ve ended up in disaster with me eating limp carrot chips for the remainder of the week while crying over revision books. Suck it, I thought. Studying always gives me the munchies and unfortunately, despite how much I wanted to I can’t just dive head first, mouth-open at that bag of yogurt & herb salt flavored chips, just sitting there enticing me with its evils. Those salt and MSG man, they mess with your brain (a bit hypocritical coming from a self-proclaimed instant noodle enthusiast, I know. I KNOW) and I need all the brain cells I can get to get through this period of solemnity (read: hell) a.k.a USMLE prep. That in itself was worth the risk so I marched into the kitchen and armed myself with a vegetable peeler, a piece of aluminum foil and the promises of failure.
Only it wasn’t. It actually worked, against all odds. It did leave me very slightly tired but the end results? It was magnificent. Crisp, lemony and sweet. Slightly chewy in the middle parts. Was it worth the work? Probably not. But as I always say at the end of my culinary experiments - at least now I know it can be done.
LAMINATED CARROT CHIPS (recipe slightly adapted from the ever fabulous, ever angry, Mandy Lee):
[ 3 large carrots + 3 tablespoons butter, melted + 1 tablespoon olive oil + salt & black pepper + dried thyme, in my case, or any fresh delicate herbs you like ]
Disclaimer:I’m going to write this as if I own a mandolin; it’ll be easier for all of us and will save me the trouble of telling the part of the story where I accidentally shaved a piece of skin off my left index knuckle with the vegetable peeler. Oh. Oops.
I’m also not going to write how I used aluminum foil instead of parchment paper, for the sake of not being a bad influence (dear, oh dear).
Preheat the oven on 300ºF/150ºC. Take two baking sheets of the same size and preheat it in the oven as well.
Fill a shallow pan with a big pinch of salt and water, stir to let the salt dissolve. Peel the carrots and cut across in half. Cut each of the halves in half again, lengthwise. Use a mandolin and attach the carrots to the hand guard (safety first), cut side facing the mandolin blade. Cut the carrots to long, paper thin slices.
Keep the slices in the correct order/sequence so they’ll match in shape/size later. Every time you finish shaving a small stack, carefully move the stack into the salt-water pan to submerge. Repeat until the whole carrot is shaved.
Melt the unsalted butter in a small pot over medium-high heat until very slightly browned. Take it off from the heat and combine with the olive oil. Set aside. Wash whatever herbs you’re using and dry thoroughly with a clean kitchen towel. I used some dried wild thyme here which has a very nice lemony-scent to it. Set aside. Keep another clean, dry kitchen towel by the carrot-slices for easy drying.
Lay a piece of parchment paper that’s the size of the baking-sheet you’re using on the counter, and brush very lightly with the melted butter. Starting with the very first stack of carrot-slices, lay one slice flat on the kitchen towel and gently press the other side of the towel on top to dab it dry. Then lay the slice on top of the parchment paper, and place 1 small leaf of whatever herbs you’re using in the center. Dab/dry another potato-slice and place it right on top of the other (they should match in shape/size). Use your finger to gently push out as much air-pockets in between the slices as you can. Brush the top very lightly with melted butter. Repeat with the rest of the slices and leave about 1″ (2.5 cm) of space in between each.
Lay another piece of same-sized parchment paper on top and press gently to eliminate air. Place the entire thing on the preheated baking-sheet. Press the other baking-sheet on top to keep it flat. Bake in the oven for 15 ~ 20 min, checking every 10 minutes or so, until the chips are golden browned. If the chips aren’t browned yet, remove the top sheet and bake for another 5 min.
7 years ago today, I had a double birthday celebration with my Biology teacher. In a cafe in a remote village of Kritou Terra, where the air always smell like oranges and the population seems to consist of elders that wake up with the sun and sleep when the streetlight turns on.
“καλημέρα!" is shouted with a wave whenever we pass these elders on our way to the study center in the morning, and "Καληνύχτα!" on the way back to our lodges (one of us said the former once, which drew amused looks), a little past 9pm. Dinner was memorable, to say the least. Chef Mario would bring out a huge bowl of a simple salad of shredded lettuce, carrots and, introducing itself to my untrained palate, fragrant, crisp shredded fennel bulbs. All tossed in what I can only guess is some salt, lemon and olive oil. This was followed by thick slabs of lasagna on some nights, spaghetti and stuffed baked tomatoes on others. Among the six girls on the trip, two were strong eaters. I was one of them, obviously. The other one sat next to me here; cute as a button, appetite of a Roman warrior - in the best way. Somehow we’re always the last one to finish off the food, because Mario refuses to take up the dishes otherwise.
On the evening of my birthday, my thighs burned from walking uphill for 2 hours from the river stream we’ve been collecting our data in, but a friend forced me into a pair of her black jeans and a white crocheted top my Mother sneaked into my suitcase, just in case I “needed to look nice”. They practically dragged me into the cafe where they made me sit at the head of the table (my head was also on the table - 2 hours of walking uphill for 3 days straight will do that to you) and I just wanted to eat monstrous amount of food and sleep, when out came Mario with a beautiful, albeit simple, cake. With candles. And happy birthday written on it for me and my Biology teacher (who didn’t have to dress up), who had his birthday 2 days ago. It was a birthday surprise I’ve never hoped for, and glad to have had. We feasted on grilled chicken and rice pilaf with vermicelli. And chocolate cake, of course. I didn’t know then what Mario put in that chicken, but I think I do now. He was, at the end of the day, all for simple ingredients and big flavors. Come relive that memory with me.
SHAVED FENNEL with LEMON AND PARSLEY SALAD (serves 4):
[ 3 medium sized fennel bulbs + 2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley + 1/2 a lemon, juice and zest + 1/2 of a small red onion + 4 kalamata olives, pitted and chopped + 3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil + 1/2 teaspoon sugar + salt and pepper to taste ] OPTIONAL: a 1/4 cup of feta, crumbled.
Slice the red onion thinly and soak it in a bowl of water for 15 minutes to mellow it out.
Meanwhile, if you have a mandolin in your possession, break it out and slice the fennel thinly with it. If you don’t then use a knife to cut the fennel bulb in half from top to bottom and then slicing it as thinly as you can crosswise.
Combine the onion, fennel, parsley and olives in a bowl. Add the fennel fronds if you’ve saved them as well. Add in the zest and juice of a lemon and sugar and toss to coat. Add the olive oil just before serving. Season with salt and pepper. Crumble the feta on top, if using.
LEMON THYME GRILLED CHICKEN (serves 4):
[ 4 chicken thighs, or any part you like + 2 tablespoons olive oil + 1 tablespoon lemon juice + 1 tablespoon dried thyme + 4 cloves of garlic, minced + 1/2 teaspoon salt ]
Combine oil, lemon juice, thyme, salt and and garlic in a small bowl. Plate chicken in a shallow baking dish and cover with mixture. Let sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
Preheat the grill, and place the chicken on grill and cook for 6-8 minutes per side, or until the juices run clear. Alternatively, you can cook this in the oven at 350F for about 25-30 minutes. I had some leftover marinade so I cut up a potato into wedges and tossed those into the marinade, added a bit more pepper and olive oil and roasted it in a separate pan along with the chicken. Turn on the broiler on low for an additional 3 minutes for some crisping action.
VERMICELLI RICE PILAF (serves 4):
[ 1 oz vermicelli + 1 tablespoon unsalted butter + 1 tablespoon olive oil + 1/2 small onion, chopped + 1 cup long grain rice + 2 cups low sodium broth + parsley for garnish ]
Break the vermicelli into 1-inch pieces. In a medium saucepan, heat the butter and olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion and saute while stirring until it turns a bit brown, maybe even a bit too brown for comfort (but not burnt!). This is okay. This is going to give the rice some colour. Add the pasta and rice and cook while stirring frequently for 30 seconds. Add broth and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low and simmer until the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Add parsley and fuff pilaf with a fork.
Yo. Somebody better tell me real quick that you can clearly see the Pi symbol here or else I’m gonna walk and make no mistake, I’m taking my pie with me. My sister kept saying that you can’t see it so somebody better verify my craftsmanship with broken shards of caramel.
In any case, there is half a carrot cake with feta frosting, a quarter of a sister’s birthday chocolate mousse cake, a few boxes of Choco Pie, a tray of 36 Ferrero Rocher chocolate balls, and a few tins of Quality Street chocolates from birthday gifts so we clearly don’t need any more sweets or desserts in this house. And that’s just swell, except for the fact that today is Pi day! And if the calendar says you have to make and/or eat pie, you shall make and/or eat pie. It’s all for the commemoration of Mathematics, guises. Long live pies!
ICE CREAM PIE (serves 10-12, downsize accordingly):
[ 1 18oz package of oreos + 1/2 cup or 1 stick of butter, melted + 1 cup sugar + 2 tablespoons flour + 1/2 cup cocoa powder + 1 cup milk + 1 tablespoon butter + 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract + your favorite ice cream ] OPTIONAL: 1/4 teaspoon instant coffee granules.
Using a food processor, crush the cookies until it becomes crumbs. Add the melted butter and press into the bottom of a round pie pan (I lined mine with some cling film because I wanted to serve it outside the pan. Totally optional). Freeze for about 1 hour. Alternatively, you can put the cookies in a ziploc bag and crush it to smithereens with a rolling pin, whichever works for you.
While the crust is chilling, make the chocolate fudge. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder and instant coffee granules, if using. Heat the milk, butter and vanilla over medium heat until the butter has melted. Add dry ingredients to the milk mixture while constantly whisking. Bring to a boil, constantly stirring until thick and smooth, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Take out the ice cream 10 minutes before the crust is ready to soften and be easier to spread. Take out the crust, add scoops of your favorite flavor ice and smooth over the crust. You can literally put any flavor you like; strawberry cheesecake, mint & chocolate chip, feta ice cream, coffee ice cream (yum!), mango ice cream (double yum with chocolate, I swear!). We only had a tub of boring old vanilla, buried under a bag of frozen strawberries and the grapes I stashed in the freezer for smoothies, so I dug that out and mixed it with some peanut butter and leftover oreo crumbs from the crust.
You can pour the fudge on top of the ice cream layer now or chill the ice cream pie until it sets and then pour the fudge on top, whichever floats your boat.
Leave it to set for at least 4 hours. You can serve it as it is, or decorate it any way you like. I made some almond pralines and scattered it on top for some extra pizzazz. Cut into slices and serve immediately.
I love you guys. But you shouldn’t have told me not to do it. Actually, even if you told me to do it I would’ve done it. It’s a catch 22. But with every “Nay! Do noth do it!” warning, I was cackling maniacally while thinking about how to make feta palatable enough in a frosting. Let’s take a walk.
The first and obvious step was to find a recipe for a carrot cake that’s foolproof and delicious. This is crucial since this cake is going to be the savior of this experiment. Cue Sally’s Baking Addiction's recipe for carrot cake, with a few tweaks:
[ 1 cup brown sugar, packed + 3/4 cup vegetable oil + 1/4 cup regular yogurt, plain or vanilla + 3 large eggs + 2 teaspoons vanilla extract + 2 cups all-purpose flour + 1 teaspoon baking soda + 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon + 2 cups very finely grated carrots + 3/4 cup pecan pieces ]
Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Spray a 9 or 10 inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Sally doesn’t recommend using a regular circular or square baking pan since the cake might rise above - which to be honest didn’t quite matter to me, since I didn’t have a springform pan AND can’t find any circular cake pan. So I had to use the next best thing:
What’s that, you ask? Why, it’s my mother’s jello mold made out of metal. Greased it, floured it. Set it aside.
In a large bowl with a handheld or stand mixer on medium speed (My mixer was missing a beater attachment, just sayin’), combine the brown sugar and oil. Beat in the yogurt until fully combined - about 60 seconds. Mixture will be gritty and thick. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and cinnamon. With a spatula, manually stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined and all flour pockets are gone - do not overmix.
Fold in the finely shredded carrots and pecan pieces. Speaking of pecan pieces, I didn’t have any on hand. But what I do have is close enough - a packet of airplane assorted nuts! There was cashew, almonds, pistachio and candied fruits. I took out the candied watermelon - those do nothing for cake aesthetics, and pretty much pulverized them - with my knife, for “volume”. Then I realized I should save half to put on top of the finished cake, so I only put maybe a 1/4 cup of nuts into the batter.
Pour into prepared springform pan. Bake cake for 32-38 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Do not overbake, which will dry out cake. Check the cake at 30 minutes, then again at 32. My cake took around 35 minutes.
While the cake is baking, it’s time to make the frosting (oh yeah).
Now I started out with 200 gr of feta cheese and a few triangles of soft cheddar. I could’ve used the cheddar, I suppose, but that would go against my principles.
So in goes the 200 gr of feta into a bowl - I knew I wanted to use all of it. It’s all or nothing, babes. I tasted a bit of it just to gauge the amount of sugar needed. The thing that came to mind when I tasted it was “Brine! Pickles!" - it was so, so salty, so I added 150 gr of icing sugar, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and then I beat it with a mixer. At least, I tried to beat it to combine, because the feta was bit hard and won’t budge. I coaxed it with a spoon by smushing it around a bit before using the mixer. When it was smooth-ish, I added 150 ml of [very] COLD heavy cream and just kept mixing at medium speed until it became thick and frosting like.
Then it was time to taste and adjust. It tasted alright at first lick, but then the sweetness disintegrate to leave a mouthful of pungent, salty taste. So I added another 50 gr of icing sugar, another 50 ml of cold heavy cream and another teaspoon of vanilla. Mix again.
It didn’t taste that bad. Sure, it doesn’t taste like your regular cream cheese frosting, but it doesn’t scream “BRINE! PICKLES!” either. I decided it’ll have to do and put it in the fridge to chillax. Meanwhile, cake’s done!
I detected some underbaking in the middle, but for now it’ll have to do. I set it aside to cool completely before turning it out because I wasn’t even sure if it will come out intact from the pan.
It did, and beautifully too. I got the frosting out of the fridge and it was the moment of truth. It spreads out alright, not too thick, not too thin. But 200 gr was a mighty amount of cheese, so there was a LOT of leftover. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Because I’m thinking FETA CHEESECAKE! Just kidding. Maybe.
Anyways, the frosting is on and the chopped nuts are sprinkled on. Time to taste the cake.
It wasn’t….bad. Surprisingly. Definitely not as bad as you think it would be. It’s good, but not cream cheese good. I think the cake made up for whatever the frosting is lacking, and I’m glad I left out the salt in the cake batter. All in all, I thought it was a good experiment. At least now I know you can definitely use feta when you’re in a pinch. Actually, more like if you’re a rat stuck between two bookcases. A fat rat. In a very narrow space. In any case, here’s the recipe for the frosting:
FETA FROSTING (oh yeah):
[ 100gr feta cheese, crumbled + 100 to 150gr icing sugar + 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract + 100 to 150 ml cold heavy cream ]
In a bowl, beat together the crumbled feta and sugar until combined. Add in the vanilla extract and beat again for 30 seconds. Add in the cold heavy cream and beat until smooth and thick. Refrigerate until needed.
Put on carrot cake and serve. Enjoy!
EDIT: Refrigerate cake overnight before serving! I just tried another slice after it’s been sitting 2 hours in the fridge and it tasted way better. Perhaps refrigeration will improve its taste.
PS: I tried looking up posts with “feta frosting” tag, but in vain.
So I’m going to add that tag to this post with “feta frosting”, just in case someone else is curious enough.
PSS: Thank you to those who answered! Without your ”Aye!(s)” or “Nay!(s)”, it wouldn’t have happened. Thanks again, guys!
Isn’t food wonderful? If you had told me a week ago that I’d be having radish as more than just mere slices of garnish in my noodles or pickled in strong vinegar, I’d be laughing. I hate the stuff. Yet now I’m scooping it up with toasted bread and pretty much inhaling it down my trap.
I don’t think much else can change your mind about itself like food does. Take this for example: I’m deathly afraid of snakes. So much that if I see a large picture of one in books, I’d scream. Internally. Then I saw this. Yep. Still scared shitless. Every single time I swim in a lake I’m reminded of the Loch Ness Monster, and that under my unsuspecting feet could be a behemoth taking a leisurely swim. Every single time I’m above two storeys, my hand starts sweating. You get the point.
But this. This roasted radish on top of toast topped with feta and egg. This is wonderful. Roasting makes the crispy, bitter little buggers mellow with the texture of potatoes and tastes like roasted turnips. I tossed it with a dressing slightly resembling a bagna cauda sans capers. Sans anchovies. Sans pepper flakes too because I haven’t got any and it still it was good. Try it, it might also change your mind.
BREAKFAST RADISH ON TOAST (serves 4):
[ A bunch of radish + 4 shallots + 3 tablespoon olive oil + 1 tablespoon butter + 4-5 large garlic cloves + 1 tablespoon kalamata olives, pitted and chopped + 1 tablespoon lemon juice + 4 ounces of feta + 1 teaspoon thyme + 4 slices of bread + 4 eggs + salt and pepper to taste ] OPTIONAL: 1 tablespoon of honey.
See here, how much “a bunch” is depends on how much you like radish in the first place. Get the stems trimmed and cut radishes in half. If your radishes are pretty big, quarter them. Peel and hallve the shallots.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter. Arrange radishes and shallots in a single layer and cook without moving until light brown on one side. Shake the skillet and reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking until radishes are tender, about 5-10 minutes.
In a small skillet over low heat, add the rest of olive oil, garlic, olives and lemon juice. If you’ve got them, also add a tablespoon each of capers and anchovies, half a teaspoon of pepper flakes will take this to new heights. Slowly cook for 8-10 minutes. The garlic should be soft and falling apart, but not brown.
Toast the bread and cook the eggs the way you like them. Brush the bread with some of the garlic-olive oil mixture. Tip the roasted radish into the garlic-olive oil mixture, add honey if using, and season to taste with salt and pepper, adding lemon juice if needed.
Spoon the radish on top of the toasted bread, crumble some feta on top and top with the eggs. Serve immediately.
Making Baked Baguette French Toast with Blackberry Sauce
So early it's still almost dark out.
I'm near the window with coffee,
and the usual early morning stuff
that passes for thought.
When I see the boy and his friend
walking up the road
to deliver the newspaper.
They wear caps and sweaters,
and one boy has a bag over his shoulder.
They are so happy
they aren't saying anything, these boys.
I think if they could, they would take
each other's arm.
It's early in the morning,
and they are doing this thing together.
They come on, slowly.
The sky is taking on light,
though the moon still hangs pale over the water.
Such beauty that for a minute
death and ambition, even love,
doesn't enter into this.
Happiness. It comes on
unexpectedly. And goes beyond, really,
any early morning talk about it.
- Raymond Carver
BAKED BAGUETTE FRENCH TOAST with BLACKBERRY SAUCE (recipe from Dash and Bella, serves 4):
[ 1 stale baguette + 3 tablespoons butter + 3 eggs + 2 cups whole milk + 2 teaspoons vanilla extract + 2 tablespoons orange juice + 1 teaspoon orange zest + + 3 tablespoons brown sugar + powdered sugar for dusting + 2 tablespoons sugar + 1 tablespoon water + 3 cups blueberries or blackberries + 1 tablespoon lemon juice + kosher salt ]
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Trim 1/2 inch off of each end of the baguette (I ended up using the ends to fill my baking dish) and slice baguette in half. Cut into 4-5″ long pieces. Place bread cut-side up (don’t overlap them) in an ovenproof dish and butter the top of each piece.
Whisk the eggs in a bowl. Add the milk, vanilla extract, orange juice/zest, and salt. Whisk until foamy and pour over bread. Flip the pieces around every 10 minutes or so for 30 minutes in total to make sure both sides are soaking up the liquid. After the 30 minutes of flipping, you can also leave it overnight if you want to. It will have a soft, souffle texture when baked. The bread should be resting in a small pool of the liquid but not drowning in it. You might need to pour off a few tablespoons of the liquid if the bread doesn’t soak most of it up.
Meanwhile, make the blackberry sauce. Place sugar and water in a medium-sized saucepan. Cook over medium heat. Swirl it around by the pot handle to keep it cooking evenly. When it starts to smoke and turn light brown, toss in the blueberries. Stir until blueberries have released their juices (2-3 minutes). Take off the heat and stir in the salt and lemon juice. Let cool for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool completely
Make sure all pieces are cut-side up. Sprinkle brown sugar all over the top. Bake until the bread is puffed up and golden (30-40 minutes). You might need to throw it under the broiler for optimum crispy crunchy caramelized beauty. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with blackberry sauce or other toppings you like.
When I was doing the internal medicine rotation one of the attendings was actually my first cousin, twice removed. I had a Nephrotic Syndrome patient at the time and I thought I’ve known everything there is to know about his disease. The theory, the patient history, his daily fluid balance, his current weight and waist circumference. In came this attending, sauntering by his bedside and what did she ask? “How many grams of protein is he allowed for his meals?”
Stumped. And about dietary needs too, ironically. The devil’s in the details. It really is.
I have noodles in my nostrils. I have noodles on my nose. There are noodles on my cheeks and chin and dripping down my clothes
I've got more upon my forehead. Some are sticking to my neck. It's completely disconcerting. I'm a noodle-covered wreck.
I can see them on my kneecaps, and I know they're in my shoes. (When I stand they're somewhat squishy and I feel them start to ooze.)
There are several in my pockets. There's a handful in my hair And I'm pretty sure that some are even in my underwear.
So try not to do what I did (I'm a total nincompoop), and don't ever fall asleep while eating chicken noodle soup.
- Kenn Nesbitt.
Thankfully this isn’t chicken noodle soup, but it will warm you up nonetheless.
KAKIAGE SOBA NOODLES (serves 2):
[ 1 medium carrot, cut into matchsticks + 1 small onion, sliced thinly + 3-4 green beans, cut into thirds, then cut the thirds into halves + 1 green onion, sliced lengthwise thinly + 1/4 cup all purpose flour, sifted + 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon rice flour or cornstarch + 1/2 cup ice cold water + 1 egg + 1/4 teaspoon baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon salt + + vegetable oil for frying + 2 bundles of soba noodles + 4 tablespoons Mizkan (bonito flavored) soup base + 3 cups of water + 3 radishes, sliced + 2 green onions, sliced thinly + 1/2 cup of pre-cooked or canned sweet corn + 2 egg yolks + dried seaweed, for garnish ]
Prepare the soup broth by heating up the water and bring it to boil. Add the bonito flavored soup base and boil for one minute. Add in the sweet corn (if you’re using canned sweet corn, drain and give it a good rinse with water) and the sliced green onion. Set aside.
Cook the soba noodles until al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside in a bowl.
Heat the vegetable oil in frying pan to 350F.
In a bowl, sift the cup all purpose flour and baking powder. Add in the 1/4 cup rice flour and salt. In another bowl, gently beat the egg with the ice cold water. Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients until just combined. The batter can be a little lumpy but it should be slightly runny.
Add the vegetables into a bowl. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon rice flour and coat the ingredients. Pour the batter over the ingredients and mix.
When the oil reaches 350F, take a scoop of the ingredients with a mesh sieve or spider catcher and let the excess batter drip off. Slowly slide the ingredients into oil. Keep the ingredients from separating by gathering them together with a chopstick during frying. Deep fry until golden-brown and put into a cooling rack (not paper towels!). Repeat with remaining mixture.
Reheat the soup broth. Divide the noodles into two bowls and ladle with the hot broth. Top with egg yolks, sliced radishes and the deep fried kakiage. Garnish with sliced green onions and dried seaweed. Serve immediately.
Making Brown Butter Shrimp Spaghetti with Dandelion Greens
For someone who cooks food, talks (in sleep too, apparently, as verified by the Sister) food, dreams food and eats [a whole lot of] food, there are a lot of staple ingredients I have yet to taste; kale, canned anchovies, watercress, ricotta cheese, capers, all dried herbs save for oregano and basil, butter beans, dandelion greens. Sometimes I convince myself that I know what these ingredients taste like, based on hours of procrastinating, when I should be studying reading and extensive research. And in my head these informations stay, until one day when I finally taste the real thing.
As it happens to be, our small patch of garden is of the unruly sort. I think the last patron of the house had a green thumb, since there were already an eggplant patch and a papaya tree, if I’m not mistaken, when we took the place. Alas, it is now a weedy affair, with bushes I can’t identify threatening to take over. Weeds have grown through the cracks in the pathway and I saw a yellow flower that reminded me of younger days, blowing dandelion seeds across the wind. Now I’ve read one or two Kinfolk magazine to know that they’re edible, but what does it taste like?
Bitter. That’s a common word in all my searched results. Boil it twice, they say, to leech off the bitterness. Pair it with rich flavors, they say, cheese, bacon, cream, egg, bacon fat and more cheese. Perfect, I say, a new ingredient to cook in hearty ingredients to taste and commit to memory.
BROWN BUTTER SHRIMP SPAGHETTI with DANDELION GREENS (serves 4) :
[ 1 lb whole wheat spaghetti + 1 lb large shrimp, cleaned and deveined + 8 tablespoons of unsalted butter + 2-3 rashers of turkey bacon (or bacon) + 2 cups fresh dandelion greens, torn into 1” pieces + 4 cloves of garlic + 3 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley + 1 teaspoon chopped red chili + juice of 1 lemon + 3/4 cup panko, or regular bread crumbs + 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg + 1/3 to 1/2 cup parmesan cheese ]
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta al-dente according to the package instructions.
In another pot, heat water to a boil and cook the dandelion greens for 5 minutes. Drain, and cook again in a new pot of water for another 4 minutes. Rinse with cold water and set aside.
Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Chop the bacon and add to the skillet and brown. Take it out and set aside. Remove oil and fat until you have about two tablespoons left. Add in the breadcrumbs, nutmeg and 1 tablespoon of parsley. Stir occasionally until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
In another skillet, heat the remaining tablespoons of butter over medium heat. When the butter melts and begins to foam, give it a good whisk and add in the garlic and chopped red chili. Keep whisking until the butter begins to bubble and brown flecks begin to form at the bottom of the pan, about 5-8 minutes. Add in the shrimp and cook until they just turn pink. Add in the parsley and lemon juice and stir. Add in the dandelion greens and turn the heat to low.
Drain the pasta and toss it into the butter-shrimp mixture. Stir to combine, making sure all the pasta is coated in brown butter. Throw in the bacon and toss again. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Divide into plates and top with breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. Serve warm.
I’ve lost love which was fine, but realizing that it won’t ever come back in the form of friendship makes me sad. I’ve lost a feline companion to old age. He once sat with me while I challenge myself to see how much caffeine I can consume in one go (a large mug of black coffee and a large bar of dark chocolate affair that left me throwing up with a side of throbbing headache when the caffeine crashed). We’ve just gotten out of the woods with my mother’s illness and are now back home safely after two flights that were delayed. Twice. It’s exhausting and for the past few weeks it has gotten harder and harder to cook anything worthwhile. Until yesterday, when I found the kitten that used to hang around the house before we took off for the 17 day treatment. It has grown now. Sturdier, its meows less raspy. But still hesitant and eyes me with distrust, even with my rapidly blinking eyes and crouched stance next to the eggplant patch it cowers itself in.
I went inside and looked at the stacks of cans of tuna we left for the housekeeper to feed my old feline friend. I picked one of up pulled the tags and as I did, it felt like everything’s going to start to be okay. Why mourn things you cannot change? There is a perfectly ripe eggplant waiting to be picked, a scared and hungry kitten waiting to be fed and loved. A sliced olive salad in paprika oil from a salad bar last night waiting to mingle in a stew. I’ve left the candied ginger aside for another time and ice creams begone (for now, at least); I can’t keep up the fruity, cheerful charade. It’s time for some real cooking. I’m back, and I’m planning to make it worthwhile.
MORROCAN CHICKEN WITH EGGPLANT RAGOUT (adapted from this recipe, serves 4)
[ 3 tablespoons olive oil + 1 1 /2 pounds chicken legs, or any cuts you like + 2 small or 1 medium eggplant + 1 small onion + 4 cloves of garlic + 1/4 cup water or low sodium broth + 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes with juices, or the same amount of chopped fresh tomatoes + 1/4 cup chopped or sliced green olives + 2 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice + 1 teaspoon sugar + 2 tablespoon minced parsley + salt + ground black pepper ]
Cut the eggplants and onion into cubes and mince the garlic. In a bowl, season the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and black pepper and 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice. Toss to coat.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and heat 2 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the chicken, skin side down, and cook for 8-10 minutes per side, turning once. Remove the chicken and set aside in a plate. Drain off excess fat until you have only 2 tablespoons left.
Add eggplant cubes to the pan and cook until almost tender, about 5 minutes. Add remaining olive oil, onion and garlic. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Increase the heat to high and add water or stock to the pan. Scrape up any browned bits and add in the the tomatoes, lemon juice and sliced olives. Season to taste and place the chicken top. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for 35 minutes.
Sprinkle with chopped parsley and cut a lemon wedge or two to serve on the side.
Serve immediately with bread or oven chips. Enjoy!
Just going to say that this is my favorite so far. I think a more sour strawberry works better with the coconut cream, but any fresh or frozen will do just fine.
VEGAN STRAWBERRY RIPPLE ICE CREAM:
[ 2 cups coconut cream + 3 cups fresh strawberries + 1/3 cup raw honey or 3 tablespoon agave + 1/2 teaspoon agar-agar powder + 1 tablespoon cornstarch + 1 tablespoon sugar + 1 teaspoon lemon juice + 2 tablespoon water ]
Blend the coconut cream, 1 1/2 cup of strawberries, agar-agar powder, cornstarch and honey or agave in a blender until well combined.
Pour ice cream base into a bowl and freeze for 1 hour, stirring occasionally as it freezes to prevent crystals from forming.
Meanwhile, heat the rest of the strawberries, sugar, water and lemon juice in a large pan and bring the mixture to the boil, stirring regularly. Reduce the heat until the mixture is simmering, then continue to simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until the fruit has broken down.
Give the ice cream base a final stir either with a fork or better yet, a hand held mixer until it smooth.
Take an airtight container and put half of ice cream and spread at the bottom. Take half of the cooled strawberry sauce and dump it on top. Repeat with the other half of ice cream and sauce mixture. Using a blunt knife, marble the ice cream and sauce lightly, then cover the container with a lid and freeze for 3-4 hours, or until solid. Thaw at room temperature for a few minutes before serving.
There’s a slight change in the line-up of ice creams to be posted. It was supposed to be one involving candied ginger (and lemongrass!) but today the old and faithful “banana soft serve” trick is coming back with grassy matcha, a kick of peppermint and bites of chocolate. It takes virtually no time to make, so long as you have a food processor or high speed blender, which I don’t. If your blender is as desolate as mine, then whiz up the ingredients in batches. You can of course omit the peppermint and chocolate and up the coconut cream to 3/4 cup for the sole matcha flavor .
VEGAN MATCHA MINT CHOCOLATE CHIP ICE CREAM:
[ 4 bananas, peeled, chopped and frozen + 1/2 cup coconut cream + 1/4 cup condensed rice milk (recipe here) + 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoon matcha powder + 2 teaspoon peppermint extract + 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract + 1/2 cup mini dairy free chocolate chips or chopped chocolate ]
Combine two tablespoon of coconut cream with the matcha powder and whisk until there are no more lumps.
In a food processor (S blade attachment) or blender, blend all the ingredients except for the chocolate chips. Blend at high speed until smooth and thick.
Pour into an airtight container and fold in the chocolate chips or chopped chocolate.
Freeze for at least 3 hours before serving. If it freezes solid, then leave to sit at room temperature for a few minutes until scoop-able.
When I was writing the first draft of this, I was waffling on and on about the different milk and cream alternatives you can use for a vegan ice cream base. Then I realized that the writing comes across as insincere, less personal. The truth is this: I’ve never made vegan ice cream before. I don’t wish to purchase pricey cashews and/or almonds and then soak them to make cream. I don’t have an ice cream maker. I don’t quite understand why raw sugar is considered superior to brown or white sugar (I’m pretty sure the body can’t tell the difference).
What I do know is this - that there is a universal recipe for a no-churn ice cream base consisting of heavy cream and condensed milk. With that in mind, I tried recreating it by using coconut cream and condensed rice milk (recipe below). I’m not oblivious enough to say that this tastes exactly like vanilla ice cream, but the coconut flavor itself is very subtle and if you amp up the vanilla by throwing in the real deal; as in real vanilla seeds from a real vanilla bean instead of drops of essence like yours truly, then it’s a pretty close approximate.
CONDENSED RICE MILK (makes 1 cup):
[ 2 3/4 rice milk (can be substituted with any non-dairy milk) + 1/2 cup sugar + 1/4 teaspoon salt + 1 teaspoon vanilla extract ]
Simmer all the ingredients in a small pot on low heat for approximately one hour and 15 minutes while whisking occasionally. Don’t let the mixture boil aggressively; a very mild simmer is okay.
As the mixture reduces, lower the heat a bit more. In the last 10 minutes, whisk in the vanilla extract.
Transfer the condensed non-dairy milk to a container, cover and cools to at least room temperature before using.
Making Honey Pan Roasted Butternut Squash Grilled Cheese
I love honey. I love any and all variaties of them. Clover honey? Sure. Black Forest honey? Bring it on. Honeycombs? Bring me some and we’re best friends. On the day that I finished my water-fast, I took a piece of white bread, slathered it with peanut butter and Nutella, folded it in half and set it on a small plate. I then drowned it in honey and ate it. With a fork. It promptly came back out after 15 minutes, because anyone who’s ever done a water fast knows that you need to ease back into food. I knew too, but that’s just how much I love honey.
I’ve never had butternut squash. I’ve had the old sugar pumpkins, yes, but never butternut squash. My mother’s feeling unwell so all she eats as her in-between meal snacks of grilled fish and porridge are bananas and steamed butternut squash. I sneaked a bite and now here we are. I had to cleave off a large chunk of her last butternut squash for this. Sorry not sorry (I’ll buy you another one, mother!).
The steamed bite that I snuck was tender and sweet, and while that tasted pretty good, I wasn’t sure it would work in a grilled cheese. So we’ll cook this like we would gyozas - by searing them over high heat before throwing in some water and covering the pan to make sure the buttery notes come through. This then gets tossed in a honey dressing with sultanas and sauteed onions. This mixture will work with any cheese, I think, including *cue dramatic music* processed cheese. So let’s stop the hate.
[ 1 small butternut squash, cut into 1/2 inch cubes + 2 tablespoon olive oil + 1 teaspoon honey + 1 clove of garlic, minced + 1 tablespoon lemon juice + a small handful of sultanas + 1 large onion + 4-6 slices of bread + cheese, type and amount of your choice+ salt and pepper to taste ]
Slice the onion and saute in a pan or skillet over medium heat with 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil until translucent and soft and brown in some parts. Season with salt and set aside.
Combine 1 tablespoon of olive oil, lemon juice and honey in a large bowl and give it a good whisk. Add in the sultanas and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Using the same pan, heat 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-low heat and saute the minced garlic until fragrant. Toss in the butternut squash cubes to coat with the oil and turn up the heat to medium high. Cook for 3 minutes.
Give it a gentle stir to make sure the all sides brown up, and cook for another 3 minutes. Add two tablespoons of water and cover up with the lid. Turn the heat to low and cook for another 2 minutes or until fork tender. Take off the lid and give it another stir to make sure all the water has evaporated.
Tip off the butternut into the dressing and toss to coat.
Built the sandwich by dividing and piling the butternut squash on top of 2-3 slices of bread. Top with cheese and another piece of bread and butter the outside of both bread. Cook in a pan or in a panini press until cheese is melted. Serve immediately.
Are you ready for this? I ask because if you’re still in that “eating healthy resolution” phase, you might want to skip this. Actually, if you’re a burger purist, you also might want to skip this because we’re going to talk about not just any old burger - we’re going to talk about the Ramly burger.
Imagine this: two thin yet juicy patties sandwiching a slice of processed cheese. Now imagine it smothered with a deluge of Worcestershire sauce, a shake of Maggi seasoning, and a healthy dollop of margarine. Margarine, please, never butter. This then gets placed in a thin layer of omelette and folded in such a way that it seals all the condiments. A few slices of tomatoes, shredded cabbage usually (emphasizing the word “usually”, since some forego it altogether) crowns this creation before it’s transferred between a split bun that’s been slathered with margarine and toasted on the flat top.
Takes on recreating this burger attempts to get it to pay homage to its burger roots by adding things like caramelized onion, arugula, coleslaw, cheese not of the processed kind, butter; sacrilege! Its rudimentary components are its charms. It’s quick to make. It’s messy, it’s calorie laden. It looks pretty ugly but tastes damn delicious. Hey, if you’re going to do something wrong, you might as well do it right. Then you contemplate upon it, and never do it again. That’s how we learn, baby. So let’s get started.
RAMLY BURGER (serves 2, but will allow 4 for the faint hearted):
[ 2 burger buns + 4 homemade or store-bought beef or chicken patties (if you’re making your own, make sure the patties are no more than 1/2 inch thick) + 2 slices of processed cheese + 2-4 eggs + 1-2 tablespoons margarine + 1/2 teaspoon Maggi curry seasoning powder + 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce + 4 slices of tomatoes + a small handful of shredded cabbage + mayonnaise and ketchup to taste ]
Beat the eggs and season with a little salt.
Heat 1 teaspoon of margarine in a skillet and cook the burger patties to your preference. Put a slice of cheese on top of a patty and stack another on top. Repeat with the other patties. Set aside.
Turn the heat to medium high and heat another teaspoon of margarine. Add half of the beaten egg and spread thinly. Place one patty stack in the middle and put half a tablespoon each of Worcestershire sauce and ketchup, 1/4 teaspoon of curry seasoning powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of margarine. Wrap the patty stack with the egg to make a nice pocket. Keep warm.
Split and spread the buns with margarine and toast it on the same skillet. Place the patty-egg pocket between the buns and top with 2-3 slices of tomato and some cabbage (I didn’t have any). Drizzle with mayonnaise and ketchup. Serve immediately.
I tried your Lemon loaf recipe but unfortunately the result was not satisfying. It's a matter of measurements. Somehow all recipes I try with a conversion from cups to grams (or ml) don't end up right. Can you please give the measures in grams/liters? Thanks a lot. I love your recipes!! So inspiring!
My father told me I should just catch the red eye from Kuala Lumpur to Doha to get there as soon as possible . It wasn’t a bad prospect. If anything, you’d remember looking down, misting the windows, watching the lights blurring together with the night sky. New Year’s Eve at 30,000 feet, sitting next to a complete stranger.
Was the year kind to you, I’d ask. And I would listen to their answer. And if the gesture was reciprocated, what would I tell them?
I’ll tell them that it’s been peachy. That I started the year sitting at the opposite side of the physician’s table that I’m used to. That I celebrated my birthday in the “pit”, a high five from an anesthesiology resident. That April fools coincided with the 7th year anniversary of a relationship. That May to August was uneventful, but I’ve second assisted an orthopedic surgery and scrubbed in for a craniotomy. That September brought with it bounties - a first signed contract and a kind offer to contribute to a calendar and cookbook. That December came in with heartbreaks and a revelation. A gamble on a future career path.
I’ll tell them I find resolutions poignant. The truth is it is just as easy to break resolutions as it is to make them, but I’ll leave you with a few words of others that I will strive to live by in the following year;
That much unhappiness has come into the world because of things left unsaid. If you cherish a person, find a way to tell them, and then hope for the best. Parents don’t live forever, fathers have buried their sons. People don’t pine for eternity, so grab your chance.
That when nobody else celebrates you, learn to celebrate yourself. It’s not up to other people to keep you encouraged. Also to never dismiss the achievements of others. We are akin to dew drops hanging precariously on a spider’s web, each movement affecting us and those near.
That people are not always what you want them to be. Sometimes they disappoint you or let you down, but you have to give them a chance first. You can’t just meet someone and expect them to be everything you’re looking for and then be angry when they’re not everything you projected onto them. Sometimes, when you give them a chance, they turn out to be better than you imagined. Different, but better.
Perhaps most of all, though, is the assurance that you deserve to be okay. You deserve to know that a day in which you can just barely get out of bed because you are sad, or sick, or simply not ready to see the outside is not the end of the world. You deserve to know that moments of weakness do not make you fundamentally weak, only fundamentally human. And that sometimes it is okay to be selfish and have things turn out the way you prefer them to.
Which is why I chose to stay a little longer to have these with friends and sister on New Year’s morning, instead of being a chatty stranger up in the air.
SHORTCUT CROISSANTS with HONEY CARDAMOM BUTTER:
[ 1 (13-ounce) packet ready rolled butter puff pastry + 1 egg, beaten + 1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature + 1 tablespoon honey + 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom + a pinch of salt ] OPTIONAL: sliced almonds + powdered sugar.
Thaw the puff pastry by leaving it at room temperature for an hour.
To make the honey cardamom butter, mix butter, honey, salt and cardamom to combine in a small bowl. If you wish to, you can shape it into a log with some cling film and refrigerate it until needed.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or sprinkle it with a bit of flour evenly.
Place the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. With a light floured rolling pin, gently roll out the puff pastry, extending the dough about 1 inch on all sides. Lay the dough horizontally and divide into 4 rectangles. Cut each rectangles diagonally to make a triangle.
Place each triangle so the wider part is toward you and the point is away from you. Cut a little slit at the base of the triangle and roll towards the point. Once rolled, curl the ends toward the center slightly.
Place the croissants on the prepared cookie sheet. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle each top with a bit of sliced almonds if using.
Bake at 425 degrees F for 10-15 mins or until golden brown. Leave to cool for 5 minutes before lightly dusting them with powdered sugar, if using. Serve warm with the honey cardamom butter.
It’s been a jjigae kind of week here, with all the downpour. Today is no different. Budae jjigae, or Korean army base stew, was an invention of necessity during and after the Korean war. People made this dish by combining leftover Spam and hot dogs from U.S. Army facilities (hence its other name, “Johnson tang”), and mixed it with whatever else that was available. All the ingredients were combined with water and red pepper seasoning in a large pot and boiled. Essentially, it’s a hot and spicy stew with one packet of ramen and a sliced of processed cheese slapped on top, with the seasoning packet chucked out and chock-filled with pseudo-healthy proteins and vegetables and shared between 2 or 3 people. Not very photogenic, but excellent for the nippy weather (and your wallet) and possibly a good hangover cure.
[ 3 cups low sodium chicken broth + 2 tablespoon gochujang + 2 teaspoon gochugaru + 1 teaspoon sesame oil + 1 teaspoon soy sauce + 2 garlic cloves, minced + 100g minced beef + 3-4 sausages, score lightly and slice into thirds + 150g tofu, sliced + 1 onion, sliced + 1 cup kimchi + 6 mushrooms, sliced + a handful of baby bok choy or other greens you like + a bunch of spring onions, chopped + 1 packet of Korean instant ramen + 1-2 slices of processed cheese + 1 tin baked beans (I’m using kidney beans) ] Note: I didn’t use Spam because there wasn’t a kosher alternative for one here. You can just add more sausages (which I did) if you like.
In a bowl, mix together the gochujang, gochugaru, sesame oil, soy sauce and minced garlic. Add in the minced beef and mix to combine, being careful not to mush up the beef too much.
Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a saucepan.
Arrange other ingredients except cheese and ramen in a wide, flat bottom saucepan, claypot or heatproof casserole dish. Put the gochujang beef mixture on top. Add the prepared soup base to the ingredients and bring stew to a boil over medium heat.
Reduce heat and simmer covered for 10 minutes. Add the ramen (without the seasoning) to the stew. Simmer uncovered for another 3-5 minutes. Add cheese and simmer till cheese melts. Top with a sprinkle of chopped green onions, sesame seeds and a drizzle of sesame oil.
Serve hot with rice (double carbin’ yo) and banchans.
Making Jjajang-myeon (짜장면) / Black Bean Sauce Noodles
Some days when I’m feeling upset, I like to make pickles and sauces. Frustrated? make a bottle of pesto. Depressed? pepper relish sounds good. Stressed out? make two pounds of kimchi. It gives another meaning to bottling up your feelings. I like to think that it’s much more lucrative than just brooding around indulging yourself.
A few days ago my paternal grandmother was hospitalized due to GI-tract bleeding. It’s been managed and she’s much better since, but I was home that day and felt helpless and ended up making two batches of Korean pickled radish - kkakdugi and danmooji. Add that to the lingering wad of kimchi and now I’m in a bit of a pickle. No one in this house is as big of a pickle enthusiast, so I’ll have to find a way to eat them all before I leave to Qatar in a few weeks. This is one of them. It’s a re-post but with a bit better pictures, methinks. Feel free to add minced chicken, beef or pork and fry them with the garlic in the cooking step below.
JJAJANG-MYEON (serves 2-3):
[ 1/2 cup diced carrots + 1 cup diced zucchini + 1 onion, diced + 1 cup peeled and diced potatoes + 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms, any kind + 3 cloves of garlic + 2 tablespoons vegetable oil + 1/4 cup Chunjang (Korean black bean paste) + 1 1/2 cup water + 2 tablespoons cornflour dissolved in 1/4 cup water + 2 tablespoons sugar + 2 teaspoon sesame oil + noodles or spaghetti ] OPTIONAL: 1 teaspoon grated ginger.
Heat one tablespoon of vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Saute the garlic and ginger, if using, until fragrant. Add potato, onion, and zucchini and keep stirring until the potato looks a little translucent.
Clear a space in the center by pushing the ingredients to the edges. Add the other tablespoon of vegetable oil to the center of the wok, then add the black bean paste and stir it with a wooden spoon for 1 minute to fry it. Mix the vegetables in the pan into the sauce and keep stirring.
Add water and let it cook with the lid closed for about 10 minutes. Open the lid check if the vegetables are fully cooked. Stir in the dissolved cornstarch. Keep stirring until it’s well mixed and thick. Add the sesame oil and remove from the heat.
Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the package. Warm the sauce if needed. Serve with hard boiled egg, cucumber strips and danmooji.