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Archive for October, 2009

I have a confession to make.

“My name is Shelly, and I am NOT a Choco-holic.”

Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy my molten chocolate cakes and my hazelnut Ferrero Rochers from time to time. But unlike 99% of the female population, my face does not transform into a look of sheer bliss at its very smell; my lips do not part with the anticipation of that first taste with my tongue, and I do not make sounds of orgasmic pleasure as I savor its decadence in my mouth.

Yes, I am that 1% anomaly. Call me peculiar, call me crazy, but I rather snack on a bag of 90 calorie Popchips than devour a chocolate brownie square. My friends love sharing desserts with me, because I’ll take 2 mini bites before the chocolatey richness overpowered my taste buds, and then turn it over for them to ravage in ecstacy.

So I was the last person who would bet that I’d one day compete in a cookoff featuring chocolate, but indeed on November 15th, I will be a proud contestant at:

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The Brooklyn Food Experiment is brainchild of Theo Peck and Nick Suarez, 2 brilliant cookoff competitors themselves, and the chocolate experiment is the 3rd in the series.  Amateur chefs will compete in 3 categories (sweet, savory, & drinks). Judging will be at the mercy of the audience as well as an impressive panel of judges including Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs of Food52, Andrew Knowlton of Bon Appetit, and Nick Fauchald of TastingTable. It’s an event not to be missed. So if you live in the NYC area, please come out to join the ranks of competing chefs, or just to sample the succulent chocolate dishes and…support me!

With my lack of patience and the meticulous skills required for the art of pastry-making, I’m sure you’ve already guessed that I will be entering with a savory creation of my own. I’m still tinkering around to perfect the recipe, so I’ll wait until after the event for the unveiling here on this blog, but here’s a clue: It’s a comfort dish that’s spicy, rich, hearty, & warm, with just the right hint of chocolatey smokiness. So come out and taste for yourself!

More details can be found on the website http://thefoodexperiments.com/. See you there!

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Blogger Awards!

When I started this blog, I was just seeking a creative outlet to pour in my passion for food and document my experiments in the kitchen. Then I discovered a whole entire food community, with lovely like-minded people, who share with me a voracious love for all things food-related and have given me so much support and advice.

So when I received these Blogger Awards from my dear foodie friends, I was astonished and flattered beyond words. I received the first award from Simply Life about a month ago (sorry, I’m so behind!). Gina is one of the most diligent bloggers I know. I look forward to reading her daily postings of healthy, delicious comfort dishes. I get so many ideas and inspiration from her ingredients. So now, I’m passing this on to 10 other bloggers with lovely blogs

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  1. Nicole @  Making Good Choices – A fitness-ista with great recipes that are well-ness focused
  2. Karine @ Food Gourmand – A converted cook who could not tear herself away from the kitchen once she discovered the pleasure of creating meals
  3. Taste Hong Kong – A blog filled with beautiful mouth-watering Asian dishes
  4. Lori Lynn @ Taste With the Eyes – Photos so mouth-watering, you’ll want to lick your computer screen!
  5. Mary @ Foodo Del Mundo – Also another blog with delicious photos, and someone who is always there to give me advice as I’m a newbie exploring this blogosphere
  6. Tasty Trix – One of the most witty blog writers – reading her posts always gives me a good belly laugh
  7. Little Chef and I – Along with her little chef, she creates delectable dishes complete with step by step photo instructions
  8. Debi @ Debi Shawcross Table Talk – The hostess with the mostest. Everything you need to know on how to beautifully entertain
  9. Rouxbe – If you are a visual learner, her cooking videos are absolutely unrivaled
  10. Terry and Reiko @ Culinary Tribune – Where I visit to learn about everything Japanese Cuisine related

A few days ago, I also received a Kreativ Blogger Award from the wonderful couple at  Vegetable Matter. They cook these amazing meals with the most exotic vegetables grown out of their magical garden.  Each time I see one of their lush, juicy ingredients taken straight out of their backyard, I am just green with envy! The rules of this award is to confess 7 things people might not know about me, and pass on to 7 bloggers. First the confessions:

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  • Up until 2 years ago, before I started taking cooking seriously, I used to cook with Prego. I know, embarrassing, but true.
  • I am terrified of pigeons! Something about their red beady eyes and erratic flapping scares the living daylights out of me. I will seriously give them the right of way when encountering them on the street.
  • On that same note, I became a vegetarian after I read and watched Hitchcock’s “The Birds” in Freshman English class, and dreamt that night about chickens attacking me. That was the last time I ate chicken nuggets or any meat.
  • As a child, I thought avocados and eggplants were mushy and bland, but now they’re 2 of my favorite things.
  • My guilty TV pleasure is Gossip Girl. I have a group of girlfriends whom I watch this with religiously to the point that our boyfriends have taken to referring to us as the “gossip girls”.  When they filmed 3 buildings away from my apt last Friday, I gave up all shred of dignity as I shrieked “Chase Crawford”!
  • Even though I speak and think in English, I apparently sleep-talk in Chinese from time to time.
  • The best way to get on my bad side is to call and wake me up before noon on a weekend.

Now, the passing of the baton – 7 Kreative Bloggers –

  1. Alta @ Tasty Eats At Home – Delicious comfort food, all gluten free, but so tasty you wouldn’t even suspect
  2. Elizabeth @ Guilty Kitchen – The best of both words – Healthy guiltless entrees followed by decadent guilty desserts
  3. Mr and Mrs Bear @ Bears Kitchen – The largest, most eclectic collection of recipes from countries I haven’t even heard of
  4. Big Girls Small Kitchen – This should be every post-college grad’s bible to cooking
  5. The Ungourmet – Simple yet delicious meals
  6. Tania @ Dulcis In Furno – Inspiring recipes, amazing photos. I draw so much inspiration from her
  7. Five Star Foodie – Yummy foodie dishes beautifully presented

There are so many great bloggers and I wish I could’ve given out more! I tried to pass on to those who haven’t already received the same awards, so if I didn’t pass it on to you, it wasn’t because I didn’t want to, but because you’re already too in demand!

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Autumn, the season of colorful food harvests and warm gatherings of friends and family. Color palettes of vibrant orange, brilliant browns, and rich reds. Memories of families reuniting once again for the Mid-Autumn Festival and Thanksgiving. All this imagery should evoke warm fuzzy feeling all over.

Well, up until recently, I never liked Autumn. Growing up in a dry desert region, Autumn just meant an end to lazy days lounging by the pool, impromptu trips to the beach, and farewell to flip flops + sundresses. The evergreen trees in LA did not turn a wonderous golden hue, and “back to school” was just a harsh reminder that the real world held real responsibilities.

This all changed when I went apple picking and wine tasting in the Hudson River Valley last year. Never had I seen fall foliage like that of a kaleidoscope, splattering color in every direction. Never had I experienced the exhilaration of a hay ride and the delight of biting into a freshly picked apple. For the first time, I saw the magic Mother Nature planted into this delicious season, with its warm cinnamon and nutmeg infused cider, and its pumpkin dishes, so decadently sweet and buttery.  I was entranced by the splendor of it all.

And so, this year, I find myself irresistibly experimenting with Fall ingredients like Butternut Squash, Pumpkin, Apples, Pears, and now Stuffed Acorn Squash. I’ve always been fascinated with its cute acorn shape and its pretty green & orange skin. The savory filling I chose to cook in a Japanese Miso sauce, brought out the natural sweetness of the squash. And the juicy smooth texture of the mushroom, green beans, and eggplant perfectly balanced the squash’s slightly fibrous texture.

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Ingredients:

  • Acorn Squash. Halved and seeded
  • Shitake Mushrooms (sliced)
  • Green Beans (cut in half)
  • Eggplant (sliced)
  • Miso Sauce (Japanese Shiro (white) Miso, Mirin or Sake, and Honey/Agave/Sugar. I consulted various recipes, and the ratio of Miso:Mirin:Sugar should be approx 3:1:2)
  • Sesame Seeds for extra roasted flavor

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Putting it together:

  • Brush squash with olive oil/butter and bake for 20 min on 400degrees
  • While squash is baking, cook eggplant, mushrooms and green beans in a little oil until veggies turn slightly brown and tender. Stir in the miso mixture and coat all over the veggies. Sprinkle in some sesame seeds
  • Scoop filling into the center of the squash and bake for another 20-30 min on 350 degrees
  • Squash shell also serves as a bowl! When you eat, make sure you scoop out the flesh of the squash and mix it with the flavored filling. Bon Appetit!

Variations:

  • You can stuff with the more traditional orzo/rice. Add some raisins and parsley for a sweet tangy flavor.
  • If you don’t have miso, you can replace with soy sauce, bbq, or peanut sauce
  • Veggies like celery, corn, zucchini, and carrots would all go beautifully with the squash

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It was one of those days. One of those days when you want to crawl back into bed, when everyone is out there to “get you”, when you want to just simply disappear.

Ok, so maybe it wasn’t all that bad – but hey, it’s my blog and I’ll bawl if I want to…

It all started when I walked out of my apartment with a bounce in my step, marching towards the NYC Food & Wine Festival and ready to revel in all the mouth-watering festivities. Tickets – check, Camera – check, Words To Say when I meet Bobby Flay – CHECK! As we descended the elevator, my stomach lurched with the appalling realization that I forgot my keys and had locked us out.  On any other day, I would’ve gone to the F&W Festival and dealt with it afterwards, but that day Brian was flying out to UK in 4 hours and had yet to pack for his trip.

The next hours were spent on a scavenger hunt for the elusive Super.  Then in a fit of desperation and fear that Brian would miss his flight, I called the dreaded Locksmith. I watched him drill and destroy my high security lock in a matter of 12 seconds, and then  replace with a low security lock at the “discount” price of $125, all the while with tears streaming down my cheeks. As I walked to the ATM to retrieve the $390 total cost for “emergency lock out services”, I could only think of 2 things:

1. I am NEVER living in an apartment without a doorman ever again!
2. Goodbye, new winter wardrobe 😦

So to uplift my spirits and redeem myself for this careless mistake, I needed to create something – but not just anything. I needed a familiar friend, a comfort dish that I can melt into and lose myself in. But that “something” was actually 2 things – Japanese Curry and Veggie Pot Pie – I wanted both.

Why Curry? I grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles. It was the land of bubble tea, Chinese supermarkets, and yes, Japanese Curry Houses. Although I now consider myself a proud New Yorker, some of my fondest memories were spent at the Curry Houses with my friends, debating about the color of our Homecoming dresses, analyzing the confusing signals boys sent, and contemplating our future, so full of promise and possibilities. And pot pie? Well, there’s just something irresistible about that warm crispy crust wrapping around the steamy delicious filling, like a loving comforting hug.

So I thought, why not combine these 2 ideas together? It was just what I needed to cheer up.

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 potatoes
  • 1 cup of broccoli and cauliflower florets
  • 1 small japanese eggplant
  • 1/2-1 pkg of baby bella mushrooms
  • Pastry crust (I use ready made, because as explained in the “About” section, my pastry experiments tend to come out awry)
  • 1  3.5 oz pkg of Japanese Curry cubes (sold in your local Asian market, or the “ethnic section” of your supermarket)

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Begin Culinary Therapy:

  1. Cube potatoes, eggplant, slice mushrooms, and cut broccoli/cauliflower into 1 inch pieces.
  2. Cook in a pot or deep saucepan until veggies are tender. Add 1 cup of water and bring to a boil.
  3. Add in the curry cubes and slowly stir in 1-2 more cups of water so that all veggies are covered in sauce but taking care mixture is not too watery.
  4. Bring to boil again and simmer until sauce thickens.
  5. Line a baking dish with pastry crust. Pour filling into the dish and cover top with another layer of crust, puncturing some holes so the filling can breath. You can make the dish superpretty with patterns on the side but well…I was feeling down, so I went with the “home-made, rustic” look.
  6. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, and…Enjoy!

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 Suggestions for your own twist:

  • I often like to use black, shitake, or oyster mushrooms too
  • Other veggies you can throw in: Carrots, celery, zucchini, green beans, corn, bell peppers, pumpkin.
  • **Usually starchy veggies like potatoes, pumpkin, and cauliflowers work well to thicken the sauce, so make sure you include some of them in your combination.
  • Try replacing the pastry crust with mlti layers of phyllo dough
  • If you crave proteins, add in extra firm tofu, fried tofu cubes, tempeh, soy nuggets, or meat like chicken/beef/turkey
  • Experiment with other cuisines like Thai green curry, Malaysian red curry, or Indian yellow curry.

Japanese Style Curry on Foodista

Pot Pie on Foodista

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“The secret to staying young is to live honestly, EAT slowly, and lie about your age” ~Lucille Ball

Another year older, another excuse to eat cake! As we prepared to celebrate the “N”th anniversary of Brian’s 25th birthday, I threw ideas back and forth for a month. Should I cook him an extravagant 20 course meal? Should I table my experiments and finally follow directions to bake a cake? Finally I decided that birthdays should also be about giving back. So in the spirit of stimulating the economy, I planned an adventurous foodie day traipsing around NYC.

Feel the Zen Brunch at Five Points
One of my favorite brunch destinations, Five points has an amazingly relaxing ambiance, complete with a babbling brook & an airy skylight above the open kitchen. The menu changes seasonally, but always with creative and flavorful selections.

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Usually I am wary of Huevos Rancheros because a heavy breakfast of black beans + excessive cheese + salsa + guacamole makes me feel compelled to run to the gym afterwards, but at Five Points, it comes out fresh from the wood oven – crispy on top, and then delicately scrumptuous on the inside with mouthwatering Mexican flavors done just right. Brian had the Pork Fennel Benedict and though I could not judge the quality of the meat, the holladaise sauce was supremely created – creamy with the right balance of acidity and spice.

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But the real highlight of every trip to Five Points is really their Churro in Mexican Hot Chocolate. Let me just start off by saying, I never really liked Churros. Growing up, the only time I’d eat them was when I’d go to Costco and sample the oversweetened, soggy microwaved ones. But the Five Points Churros were MmmmMM! Crispy, not oversweet, and with just a hint of cinnamon. The Mexican chocolate with a blend of bitter cocoa, cinnamon flavor, and nutty aroma, is one worthy of the Inca gods.  It’s a must-have if you ever go!

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Ooh Baby Babycakes!
After an adventurous guided tour of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum (highly recommended – it’s amazing “How the Other Half Lived”!) we worked up an appetite and I decided it was time for a birthday cupcake.  I was first introduced to Babycakes Bakery when my best friend’s Ayurvedic nutritionist claimed that she was soy, gluten, and dairy intolerent. It turned out, her upset stomach episodes were just due to stress, but we’re both glad it led us to this amazing, cozy bakery with its vintage girly but also funky atmosphere. Everything is organic, and most of the goodies are made without wheat, gluten, sugar, and eggs?! At first I couldn’t believe it, but after my first bite into that heavenly carrot cupcake, I was hooked and have been in love ever since!

Carrot Cupcake and Cinnamon Toastie

Carrot Cupcake and Cinnamon Toastie

Trust Me, I’m a Ninja!
The secretive Ninja castle (located in Tribeca – ha now everyone knows) impresses its visiters with an experiential dining affair, visually stunning presentation, and to my pleasant surprise, quality of food! As you descend into the subterranean space, you enter the mysterious world of ninjas, with danger lurking at every corner. But for us, the greatest danger was directed to our waistline, with the 5 course meal that left us wanting to unbuttoning our pants. Here are some highlights:

Fried "Dancing Plantain" with Guacamole and Tomato Dipping Sauce

Fried "Dancing Plantain" with Guacamole and Tomato Dipping Sauce

Miso Nasu - Eggplant broiled to perfection and infused with golden sweet miso and stuffed with cherry tomatoes and bell peppers - One of the best things I've ever eaten!

Miso Nasu - Eggplant broiled to perfection and infused with golden sweet miso and stuffed with cherry tomatoes and bell peppers - One of the best things I've ever eaten!

22 oz Ribeye Steak - I can't believe Brian ate it all!

22 oz Ribeye Steak - I can't believe Brian ate it all!

Bonsai - Sweet Potato Custard with Twisted Pie Crust. I ate about 2 bites before I couldn't go on anymore, but isn't it pretty?

Bonsai - Sweet Potato Custard with Twisted Pie Crust. I ate about 2 bites before I couldn't go on anymore, but isn't it pretty?

And last but not least, A Rock is not a Rock unless it’s TOP OF THE ROCK as the final surprise for Brian to top off the gluttonous night. This has nothing to do with food, but the views are just so stunning!

View of Central Park

View of Central Park

The Stately Empire State Building

The Stately Empire State Building

And so concludes an eventful and (hopefully) unforgettable day for Brian. We’re hard at work cutting back on the calories this week, but thankfully goodness food comes in all forms – even low-cal incarnations!

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When I think of the Falafel, I think of late night post-party joints, where the young and restless recount their night of adventure, and soak up some much-needed carbohydrates.  Or I think of street vendors efficiently serving these tasty treats to snack-hungry passersby looking for some fuel before continuing on their daily pursuits.

What’s not to like about these crunchy fried balls? The crispy outer, breaded to perfection; the tasty bite, bursting with flavor; and the accompanying yogurt/tahini/hummus sauce, balancing it all out. Just thinking about it had me salivating, so I just HAD to make this for dinner!

 

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But of course, I had to throw in some experimental cooking of my own, so I made a healthier version by baking instead of frying. I gave the traditionally Middle Eastern dish an Italian twist with a red pepper & mushroom sauce, and Voila! A Falafel Casserole suitable to put on the table for a family dinner or a potluck gathering!

What You Need for the Falafel Balls:

  • 1 can or 2 cups of chickpeas/garbanzo beans
  • 1 cup of bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup of chopped cilantro
  • 2 tsp of cumin
  • 1 tsp of ground coriander
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • a drizzle of olive oil
  • chili pepper flakes (i put in 1/5 cup!)
  • 1 egg

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce:

  • 3-5 Roasted Red Peppers (broiled in the oven and skin peeled off)
  • 2-3 Tbsp Tomato paste (just a little to thicken the sauce)
  • 1/2- 1 cup Veggie Stock
  • 1 pack of Baby Bella Mushrooms, sliced
  • Cream (i use non-fat 1/2 & 1/2)
  • Dry white wine
  • 2-3 cups Mozzarella Cheese
  • Parmesan Cheese (for topping)

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Roll with it and get Saucy:

  1. Mix all the ingredients in a blender/food processor until it becomes a thick paste. Taste to make sure you like the flavor and add more of what you think is missing.
  2. Roll into balls around the size of walnuts/golf balls
  3. Bake in the oven for 20 min at 400 degrees (flipping over once in between).
  4. While falafels bake in oven, heat a sauce pan and saute some mushrooms in the tomato paste.
  5. Once mushrooms are brown, add in the stock & wine and bring to boil, then simmer.
  6. Puree the roasted red pepper in a blender/food processer, leaving some chunks remaining. Add to the mushroom mixture and slowly add in the cream. Let stand until sauce thickens.
  7. Remove falafels from the oven. Pour sauce over the falafels. Add the mozzarella cheese. Mix well, top with parmesan cheese, and yes, stick it back in the oven!
  8. Bake again for around 15 to 20 min at 350 – just enough to melt the cheese and have the red pepper sauce envelope the falafels. Serve warm!

 

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Some variations to play with:

  • Make the falafels into smaller balls (1/4 the size) for more thorough flavor integration with the sauce
  • Add another solid (like rice, orzo, or black beans) to make the casserole more robust & filling.
  • I used mozzarella because I was afraid a stronger cheese might overpower the other flavors, but I secretly wanted to try the following: Goat, Feta, Vermont Cheddar, Gruyere

Falafel on Foodista

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After a grueling morning of back-to-back meetings, there is no sweeter feeling than to walk out of the office building and be welcomed by a bright turquoise truck toting delectable sweets.

Across the street - a dessert oasis greeting the work-weary

Across the street - a dessert oasis greeting the work-weary

The Street Sweets truck has been traveling around Manhattan since beginning of summer, but since I spend my 9-7 workdays locked up in my office (seriously, sometimes I don’t see the sun at all), this was my chance to finally sample the much tweeted and tooted dessert truck.

Featured among the menu selections are “create your own” croissants with creative fillings like nut butter, honey, and praline cream.  There are also cookies, macaroons, cupcakes, and other yummies enough to fill up your calorie quota and happiness meter for the day.  My eye was drawn to the Whoopie pies beckoning to me from the window pane. I bought a couple of each (chocolate and pumpkin) and…maybe it was my hunger, maybe it was my stress, maybe that Pumpkin Whoopie was just really good, because it was a “hallelujah” moment!

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One of the owners (I assume) was the one who said “The Chocolate is delicious. The Pumpkin is magnificent!” He also graciously gave me a sampling of their candied ginger shortbread cookie. It was a burst of spiced ginger, warm and cozy on a breezy fall afternoon. I’m definitely going back for more next time!

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To top it off, they use all natural ingredients, and run on energy efficient fuel – way to go for making us feel that somehow, eating sweets = doing good for the earth! I asked if they would make 50th St a regular location and they confirmed they’ll be at W 50th btwn 6th & 7th ave every Tuesday and Thursday. You can also follow their whereabouts on twitter http://www.streetsweetsny.com

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