Meatless Wednesday – a quick, easy, tasty and healthy kale pasta

Kale – why does it get such a bad rep as being this granola hippie and not-very-tasty vegetable?  Maybe it’s because people don’t cook it the right way?  Or maybe it’s one of those “so-good-for-you-veggie” that you just assume it to taste bad?  Besides being a super anti-oxidant vegetable choke-full of chlorophyll, calcium, iron and lutein to protect

the eyes – it CAN be a super tasty vegetable.  A “grandmother of the cabbage family” , it comes in many varieties including purple kale and cool names like dragon kale and Tuscan kale.  Try and see which ones you like, as they vary in texture and colors.  I personally like the dragon kale as it tends to be smaller, more tender and bit smokey in taste.  As it cooks up, the rather tough and even plastic-y kale leaves transforms into this hearty, savory, bitey goodness that will have you do a headturn and say, “this is kale?”

In honor of Meatless Wednesday, I served a kale penne pasta.  Enjoy!

(what to cook with kale – quick and easy healthy dinner):

Kale penne pasta with sauteed leeks, onions and truffle oil

Ingredients:

4 cups Kale (leaves removed from stalk – hold middle of the stalk with one hand, pull the leaves with the other – no knife needed) and julienned

1/2 cup sliced leeks (white part only – which is tender and sweet)

1/2 onion sliced

3-4 cloves garlic, olive oil and salt to cook/season

1/2 lemon (zest and juice)

1) Boil water in pan for pasta.  Cook penne or other pasta al dente – about 10 min.  And while it’s cooking…

2) In a pan (big enough to add all the veggie and the pasta) – sautee garlic, leeks and onion in olive oil with a 3-finger pinch sprinkle of salt until translucent and slightly caramelized.  Add kale and stir.  Pour a ladle-full of pasta water into the vegetables tenderizing the kale.  Cook until most of the water evaporates, about 5 min in total.

3) Add the pasta to pan #2, toss to warm/coat pasta with the vegetables.  Squeeze lemon/add zest and drizzle extra olive oil and stir again.

4) Right before serving, drizzle some truffle oil (I actually use a truffle-infused olive oil since the real stuff is pretty pricey) and serve hot.

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Candied kumquats – like little oranges but better!

Translated from Chinese as “gold orange“, kumquats are quite the beauty. It’s pretty amazing how these cute little guys pack so much punch!  Used in China as a cold remedy relieving cough and moving energy, they are in full season at farmers market now here in LA!

I must say that I was intimidated the first time I saw them – like oranges that’s been shrunk big time.  ”Eat them whole, rind and all!”, the guy at the Farmers Market said.  If it’s too sour, then squeeze out the juice and just eat the rest.  Having memories of having bit through the rind as I attempted to peel an orange – I expected it to be bitter and unpleasant.  Indeed, it does takes some getting used to as it’s not a texture you’ve experienced before, “bursty”, crunchy and chewy all the same time.  First bite – the bold, sour juice bursts in your mouth.  Pucker up, baby!  It’s pretty tart!  Then it’s followed with a mellow orange rind taste and texture as you bite into it.  Pretty kewl~  Now – I’m not one of those folks who can pop them in my mouth like popcorn but I do think it’s a pretty sexy fruit that can be incorporated into many everyday dishes, everything from yogurt to poultry.  Your guests will be impressed!

Here’s a way to enjoy them, bit mellowed and lasting through more than a few days~

Candied kumquats recipe

1 cup of kumquats (sliced)

1/2 cup evaporated cane juice

1 inch vanilla bean (scraped) or vanilla extract (1 tsp)

1/8 tsp cinnamon

1) Toss kumquats with evaporated cane juice, vanilla bean and cinnamon.

2) Pour mixture into a medium size pan with ~ 1/2 cup of water (until submerged) and cook on medium heat for ~15-20 min until ~1/3 of the water evaporates and it’s no longer watery but slightly syrupy and clings to your spoon.

3) Cool candied kumquats, pour into a wide-mouth jar and store in refrigerator for ~2 wks.

Ways to enjoy candied kumquats:

1) As a topper on greek yogurt (my fav) with some slivered almonds.

2) As a salad topper or chopped in your vinaigrette (I used non-candied ones here but would be even better with the candied ones~)

3) As a relish to a poultry dish (mmm~  mixed with some jus from roasted chicken) or as part of a marinade (candied kumquats, ginger, garlic and soy marinated pork chops) brighten up the flavor and add some “zing”.

4) Sliced thinly to serve with bouillabaisse (wish I had it before I made this).

You could even mix it with some vanilla ice cream for dessert~  That would be good.

Keep ‘em ideas coming and happy eating~

made with 2 tbsp of love~

-ck

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The sun will rise soon again in Japan – Green Day to share with the ones you love

I can only imagine all the sadness and turmoil experienced by the Japan earthquake, tsunami and now the scares of the nuclear plant catastrophe.  I’m also in awe by the calm and collectedness of the Japanese people uniting in a time of need.  The faces of the survivors and what they’re going through – I wish there was something more that I could do to help and make it all better.  What a crazy set of disasters – it’s at these times that you are reminded of what’s important, what’s not, and how sometimes nature has a way of setting things straight.  And bit sad that it takes such a tragic event to bring people together.

Being on the west coast, with constant alarming headlines of nuclear radiation danger – I can’t help but feel helpless.  On the net, on TV and radio – videos, interviews, pictures – it’s just unbelievable how bad it is.  And sometimes you just want to turn it off and look the other way.  Crawl into a ball and just cozy up with the ones you love sharing some comfort food along the way.

Japan, the land of the rising sun, with the tenacity and the goodness of the people – the sun will rise again soon.  Even as the world continues to turn, sun rising and setting, I would guess that tomorrow’s St. Patrick’s Day will be somewhat subdued.  Inspired by friend, Kim’s post – Hot Chocolate in sharing all things warm and fuzzy that connects us – here are some Green Day dishes to share some happiness, to your body and with those whom you love.  No pinching, no drinking green beer til you pass out, just some flavorful healthy food, continued on the theme of Meatless Monday and Meatless Wednesday.

Challenged by British pubs’ bubble and squeaks – this is the ultimate comfort food that you actually feel good about eating (first left pic)

Asian bubble and squeaks -

Boil sweet potatoes & carrots until soft.  Sautee finely minced onion and garlic in olive oil.  Smash vegetable mixture with the onion mixture.  Pan fry the mixture on a non-stick pan or skillet along with brussel sprouts and shiitaki mushroom.  Serve with lemon juice/garlic/cumin yogurt dollop.

5 other GREEN DAY St. Patrick’s Day dishes (left to right):

Warm swiss chard salad with shoyu, olive oil and lemon juice.

Korean cucumber salad – salted English cucumber, baby carrots, garlic, Korean red pepper flakes, evaporated cane juice and roasted sesame seeds.

Sauteed sugar snap peas – blanched sugar snap peas, sautéed in garlic, ginger, salt and Aleppo pepper.

Japanese gobo (burdock roots) – sautéed gobo, ginger, garlic, shoyu and agave syrup.

Warm purple broccoli salad – sauteed purple broccoli with garlic, roasted beets, kumquat, walnuts and meyer lemon dressing.

Tossed edamame – cooked edamame tossed with fresh cumin, sesame seeds, Aleppo pepper and light shoyu.

With two tablespoons of love,

-ck

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Trifecta celebrity chef spottings in Chi-town – Cora, Morimoto and Symon

One good thing about my job is that I get to attend the International Housewares Show. This has to be the behemoth of all home shows, kinda like the Detroit Auto Show (from my automotive days – miss, miss:( ) – maybe a little less sexy but who can resist the latest and greatest home stuff that promises to take your cooking, eating, and entertaining experience to the next level?

Spanning through three separate halls at the McCormick Place in Chicago – it’s anything and everything to do with all-things-home, which naturally fits my love of kitchen gadgets and doo-dads  NY Times quotes that it’s 13 miles of aisles.  Good thing I had my convention shoes on (as I snickered away at those convention first-timers who’s struttin’ down in heels only to realize that it’s hell by hour 3).

Little did I realize that in addition to all the cool new products ( I think I need that mortar & pestle, that pressure cooker, that dehydrator, ooooh, the new microplanes…) – I would be shoulder to shoulder with my fav celebrity chefs including sassy Chef Cat Cora, Chef Morimoto, Chef Michael Symon and even Guy Fieri~  Emeril looked too stuffy and business-like as he stood talking business with the Viking appliances folks, Rick Bayless just seemed too geeky/creepy that I lost interest watching his cooking demo after the first few minutes, and in squeezing in work, I missed some others like Chef Ming Tsai who I was told is very very nice – next time, Ming!

Guy Fieri & Michael Symon Reunion - - Guy jumped out of nowhere and scared the living daylights out of Michael Symon and then it was the nicest reunion that I had to snap a video.

But the best part was Morimoto’s impromptu singing of a traditional Japanese song – how appropriate~  He’s such a happy guy – I’ve never seen an adult so silly and kid-like before.  And his knife skills (as he’s cutting thru the huge slab of tuna) – AMAZING!

Chef Morimoto singing a traditional Japanese song

I’m still star-struck by how real they all are, how in real life, they truly seem just like you and me.  And talent coupled with hard work and luck – they’ve become huge.  And to stay at a place that reminded me to create myself, not find myself…Thanks, W.

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Here’s a challenge – Add two days of meatless dinners; Meatless Monday & Meatless Wednesdays

Didn’t matter that our household is equipped with a beautiful Smooth Fitness elliptical machine and a Concept2 rowing machine (the rower being used as a clothes drying rack), I had excuses.  Oh – we just moved.  Oh – we’re remodeling the house.  Oh – I just don’t have the time with two new babies (pug puppy ones) and a new job (even though I work at home).

Then as do most folks, I simply ran out of excuses.  Actually, I looked in the mirror.  It’s 2011, the year of the rabbit.  My late 30s ticking closer and closer to 40, first gray hairs sticking out like straws reminding me of the inevitable (my heart sinking and sending chills up my back as I pulled the gray hairs out) and slower metabolism creeping in ever so sloooowly.  OMG – it’s all downhill from here!  Not that I was eating bad, in fact, I think I’m pretty healthy but it just sort of catches up with you, you know?  And being the food lover that I am makes it oh-so-difficult.  Lay down those chocolate chip walnut scones that everyone loves.  A cookie a day does NOT keep the blues away… well, sometimes;)

SO – the new year includes a regular commitment to the local Equinox gym (and yes – it IS a commitment but where I’m having a ball in some awesome classes like yoga, spinning and my new fav, tabata) and a new focus on making a healthier me.  I don’t want to be extreme; watch and write down everything I eat, count my calories, spend hours working out and look at all the ingredients.  I am comfortable with my body and will NOT working towards a six pack or even a four pack in exchange for a fat-free diet.  However, I could lose few pounds, feel a little lighter, more importantly tone (as the muscles we have start to “melt away” as we age) and feel stronger.  Importantly, this also means being even more conscious about what I put in my body, my temple.

With me and my new goals and my lovely hubs watching his elevated blood pressure and cholesterol – it made perfect sense for our household to adopt *drumroll…* Meatless Mondays and Meatless Wednesdays.  The idea behind these two days is to try to eat less meat, eat fresh and local vegetables and grains (when you can) and to avoid processed foods.  With an all-time-high obesity (look at the “World is Fat” post on NYTimes – scary) and associated illnesses of heart disease, diabetes and much more – we need to change how we eat.  Conglomerate food companies have been brainwashing us and putting all kinds of junk but with savvy marketing that make us believe that it’s still healthy.  For instance, for years, I thought that Vitamin Water was great!  Not that sweet, full of vitamins and minerals to pick you up when you need it, to give you extra immunity when you were feeling sick.  Imagine my shock to find out that it has just a little bit less sugar than a can of Coke!  That’s over 30 grams of SUGAR.  WTF?!?  How could they do that to me?  But then again, I should have READ THE LABEL.  It’s really my fault to get suckered in and think that it was actually a healthier alternative.

Chef Jamie Oliver’s revolutionizing healthy eating across the globe, Oprah’s going vegan, even McDonalds tries to keep up with the times with their “healthy” oatmeal (puh-leez) and the movement of Meatless Mondays – is getting a lot of legs. I realize it helps that I’m in California where we’re blessed with year-around fresh fruits and vegetables but there’s plenty of fresh ingredients available across the states only if we try to stay out of the center aisles of grocery stores (all processed food) and the back meat section that is strategically located for you to hit it every time you go up and down the aisles.  Visit that local farmers market when you can and really get to know where your food’s coming from.  They’ll even let you taste it before you buy it and finding that new ingredient really makes me happy – oh the joy of fresh garlic sauteed with some olive oil or pureed parsnip with maple syrup and a dollop of butter – mmmm~

Some others are doing Meatless Mondays and Beefless Tuesdays (which just sounds weird) but with my Meatless Mondays AND Meatless Wednesdays, it’s not as though you’re gorging on meat on all other days except for that one Monday but you’re conscious of what you’re eating throughout the week, balancing your diet and gradually changing your lifestyle.

And I have to say that with spices and herbs full of flavor, discovering new ingredients and experimenting, we really have not missed having meat.  In fact, I look forward to the challenge of making a dish taste savory and tasty without being dependent on a meat protein.

I don’t think I’ll ever go vegan – I love that juicy steaks, braised meat and hamburgers on occasions too much.  I even tried going vegan for a month after reading The Skinny Bitch (a quick and humorous recommended read) and although a good challenge, I missed my proteins and wanted to bring it back to my diet.  When I do eat meat, I try to ensure that it’s just a part of a plate and not taking the center stage, that it’s free of hormones and antibiotics (and thereby more expensive at times) but make it up by having a smaller portion.  And it does a planet good, right?  I love how Mark Bittman summarizes some pointers on eating less meat in general.

So in spirit of Meatless Mondays and Meatless Wednesdays, let’s get started with some savory meatless dinners and hope that it inspires you to come up with some of your own to share.  Bon appetit!

Meatless Monday: Butternut squash farrotto with cumin yogurt dressing (inspired by Bon Appetit’s Heirloom Squash Farrotto recipe from fall)

Farro is one of those newly discovered ingredients that I’ve been falling in love with.  An ancient grain and in the same family as spelt and much popular in traditional italian cuisine, this complex carb has a hearty, chewy texture full of fiber, easily digestible and even almost mimics the “chewy bite” of meat.  I’ve certainly made Mike, my hubs a convert.  And with a tangy, smokey cumin dressing – it’s a real crowd pleaser.  Plus, it’s just fun to say, “farro~”

Ingredients:

1 small butternut squash (peeled, seeded and cubed) These semi-sweet squash have a smooth satin outer layer and usually has the shape of a bell. Some could even say it looks a bit phallic.  You could also substitute sweet potatoes using the same directions below if not in season.

2 tbsp olive oil

Sprinkle of salt and pepper

½ white onion (chopped)

1 tsp chopped garlic

½ c semi-pearled farro (Italian grain similar in texture to pearled barley but more robust in flavor.  Could substitute pearled barley for farro)

4 cups of water

¼ c chopped cilantro

½ c greek yogurt or yogurt (strained in a cheesecloth overnight in the refrigerator if possible – leaves a thick, creamy yogurt)

Fresh juice of ½ a lemon

1 tbsp of cumin seeds

¼ tsp turmeric (optional)

½ c green grapes (each cut in half)

1)    Preheat oven to 350.  Soak farro in water for at least 30 min.  Soaking longer is fine – it just cuts down your cooking time later.  Prep your squash and onion.

2)    Toss butternut squash with 1 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast a pan at 350 for 45 min covering the first 30 min with foil and then lifting the foil the last 15 min until slightly golden brown.

3)    Drain farro that’s been soaking in water.  To a medium pan (as the farro will double in size at least), add farro and 4 cups of water and a pinch of salt.  Boil on medium heat, stirring often until it’s tender but still has an al dente bite (about 20 min).  Drain farro and set aside.

4)    Roast cumin seeds – This has become my new favorite ingredient.  If you have never had fresh roasted cumin seeds – you got to try it.  It doesn’t even compare to the dull powdery stuff they sell in bottles.  Pour the seeds into a small dry pan on medium high heat.  You will hear the seeds crackling after being heated for a few minutes.  Start stirring the pan until you see smoke – this is normal and part of the ritual of infusing the entire kitchen with roasted, complex, cumin perfume.  Let cool and grind in a small mortar/pestle – I found one at Cost Plus for $2.

5)    Combine 1 tsp of cumin seeds (reserving rest for another time) with yogurt, cilantro, grapes, lemon juice and turmeric until mixed well.  Store in fridge until ready to serve.

6)    Using the same medium pan used to cook farro (as I’m all about having the least amount of dishes), sauté chopped onion with the remaining olive oil and garlic until translucent.

7)    Add farro and butternut squash to the pan until well combined.  Turn off heat.

8)    On a plate, serve farrotto with cumin yogurt dressing dollop and sprinkled with additional cilantro.

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Soup dumplings from Din Tai Fung – How I love thee…

I <3 Chinese soup dumplings.

And locally, the place to get it is Din Tai Fung (pronounced “din_ty_fung”) dumpling house in Arcadia, CA.  Actually – I must say that I REALLY <3 Din Tai Fung Beijing and Hong Kong where I first fell in love with the beautiful, utter perfection of the xiao long bao (juicy pork soup dumplings pronounced “zao-long-bao”).  Each made by hand by “dumpling artisans” as I’ll call them – they fold each xiao long bao into precise 18 folds.  Place gently on a soup spoon, poke lightly with your chopstick until the warm, savory umami broth spills out, place soy-sauce soaked slivered ginger, slip the broth/dumpling into your mouth and experience the addictive, luscious unctuousness.  See how the bottoms of the dumplings sag a bit?  That’s the soup ready to jump out and into your mouth.

It seems to be the craze now with mentions of soup dumplings in NYT, Joe’s Shanghai in Flushing, NY and even a Din Tai Fung that just opened in Seattle.  And a recent visit to the Arcadia location revealed not one but TWO locations in the same shopping center (recently visited by Erika from Erika’s Kitchen) where she tried to get the hang of eating the soup dumplings.  Both of the locations last Saturday had a 30-45 min wait – each location working independently – so get a number for a table at one location & get wait time…walk all the way around to the other location and get their wait time and see which one’s shorter.

(Pork and shrimp dumplings from Din Tai Fung while tasty has a thicker skin which is great pan-fried as leftovers but the soup dumplings win over hands down).

The secret is the gelatinous cubes of cured or frozen concentrated broth as beautifully illustrated by blogger Jaden of Steamy Kitchen.  I usually get this gelatinous action going on when I put leftover chicken soup or oxtail soup in the fridge.  It jiggles in its glorious unctousness and melts beautifully when you heat it up, which is what happens when you steam the dumplings.

One of these days, I’ll attempt making it from scratch at home but I don’t think I’ll have the patience for the 18 folds for each dumpling.  I’ll stick with my dumplings a la store-bought wonton skins and rather drive an hour and wait for 30-45 min for my soup dumplings at Din Tai Fung, thank you very much.

I’ll be back, very soon, DTF.

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LudoBites nite @ bulthaup LA’s new showroom opening

aren’t u jealous;)  what a blast i had tonite.

my brush with fame, the hot and happening Chef Ludo Lefebvre of LudoBites in celebrating bulthaup Los Angeles’s new showroom.  Ludo’s the real deal – not just someone who looks like a rock star but has awesome talent not to mention being super nice~

Not only was the new showroom gorgeous with beautiful design and functionality (hello?  solid stainless island, I’m in love!) – but I’ve been dying to check out LudoBites and was never able to get in.  But tonite – I not only got a pic with Ludo but also experienced his creative and beautiful culinary bites that almost had me becoming a stalking fan/groupie. What a coincidence.  Me – a small aspiring chef with bold but healthy flavors of “perfect umami bites” and Ludo – LudoBites:)  I’ll save my soap box and dive right into the menu.I had to be one of those crazy, star-struck fans who took pictures of everything, checking out his knives, kitchen gadgets…isn’t his cutting board cool?  Where can I buy one of those??

1. fois gras gougere or cream puff with red port.  light yet decadent, the cream puff was a little dry but the whole experience was pretty cool.  luscious cream that almost disappears once you’ve eaten it, making you want to pop in another one.  It was pretty funny though as it was NOT a one-biter for me and in the midst of me trying to look cool while holding my champagne in the other hand, the fois gras oozed all over my fingers as I looked to my husband – “Help!  I’m looking like a slob and need napkins please!”

2. Ludo’s version of caprese with heirloom tomato, oatmeal parmesan, purple basil and mozzarella ice cream.  Heaven! Just the right juxtaposition of umami, sweet, salty, creamy and crunchy.  How did he do that mozzarella ice cream?  I give you props Chef Ludo – that was pretty original.

3. The star of the night – the hanger steak with smoked eggplant puree and pickled vegetables.  The hanger steak?  I had to ask Ludo – how did you marinate it?  It’s freakin’ awesome! He says (in his leeetle french accent) – “I poot a leetle soy sauce, geenger, zum sugar, you know, a KOREAN marinade but weeth zum other stuff” – his secret ingredient, I’m sure.  It was so tender and perfectly seared, not too salty and plenty of flavors that went beautifully with the pickled radish and cauliflowers – which were sliced so thinly that it took you a while to figure out it was cauliflower.  I could eat that by the jar.  The fatty umami meat cut with the crunch and the acid of the pickled veggies and balanced by the bitter eggplant.  Beau-ti-ful.  (No pix:(  None to show you cuz we ate them all – but promise they were supreme).

4. Perfect comfort food and apparently a “very old french kooking” – salted cod with luxurious velvety mousseline or I’ll just call it salted cod and mashed potatoes drizzled with olive oil and some chili flakes.  I think I had at least two of these.  Few bites of this and you just want to get in your pajamas and snuggle up.  Pure comfort food, like mac-n-cheese:)

5. Creme fraiche panna cotta with caramel and CAVIAR.  Who would have thunk it?  and I don’t even like caviar (I may be the first to admit it but there. I said it).  But t’nite makes me wonder if I’ve just had bad caviar as the combination of the firm, sweet panna cotta with the salty/sweet/smokey caramel teased or cut with the salty caviar – that was simply brilliant.  In retrospect – I think it could have used some crunchy texture but it was a pretty beautiful cloud nine.

I hear he’s going to host Elton John’s Oscar party next weekend so I feel very lucky to have experienced tonite.  And he said something about a TV show he’s going to be in soon – so that he won’t have the next Ludobites until July or so.  I’ll watch out for you on TV, Ludo:)

You’ve made me a fan, Ludo – and can’t wait to taste your new culinary creations at the next Ludobites~  Thanks for the inspirations and much thanks to bulthaup for making it a wonderful nite.

Many thanks to David Westover (the ceo of bulthaup) – who inspired me tonite to “follow my heart” – with two tablespoons of love – nite nite~

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Year of the Rabbit – Chinese New Year Chef Kelly-style~

Chinese New Year Cooking Event & Professional Women’s Networking Party hosted by Linda Press of Corpcommunicators and taught by moi.

A great event held earlier this month introducing those perhaps unfamiliar with all-things-asian cuisine; hoped to have inspired if not rid of the fear of cooking especially for those who are hard at work and don’t have too much time for cooking.

(Photo courtesy of the lovely assistant, Aryn – who took this picture).

On the menu included:

Korean rice cakes with turmeric sesame mayo & hot Korean pepper paste (always a crowd pleaser).  This thing is magic.  With (sliced) rice cakes purchased from the Korean market, soak for 30 min, drain and pan fry with a little bit of oil.  This plastic-y looking thing turns into a lovely crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside nibblers that’s sure to please all kids and adults.  The kids asked – do you have any more of those korean rice cakes?…I got them hooked;0

Elk dumplings with green onion & star anise – see my recipe below.  We had some lovely ground elk that proved that fusion IS a good thing.  Tender, succulent and umami with some soy dipping sauce.

Buddha’s delight stirfry – I really can’t imagine writing a recipe as it really IS that simple.  Pick your veggies – I picked:

Carrots (1/2 cup sliced)

Bok Choy (4 cups, washed and separated)

Sugar snap peas (1/2 cup – be sure to pull the stringy sides)

Shiitake mushrooms (caps only, washed and sliced thickly)

Sauce/zinger: fresh ginger, garlic, yuzu paste, sake & Bragg’s amino

((no pic here – as I was too busy cooking and teaching))

The key is to stirfry the longest cooking veggies first; Start by making a marinade oil by sautéing ginger with garlic, then tossing in the carrots (2-3 min) followed by shiitake, snap peas, and bok choy.  When all the veggies start to wilt, add your yuzu paste (found at local Japanese grocery stores and a really cool zinger spice, a combo of lemon/lime & hot green pepper adding just the right amount of “zingwing”, followed by Bragg’s amino and sake.  Toss and serve.

Jasmine rice- The same – super easy.

1 cup jasmine rice (cooked in rice cooker, as you would cook white rice)

¼ cup finely chopped cilantro

1 tbsp roasted sesame seeds

½ of a lemon or lime (Meyer lemons are wonderful for this – and you can even save some zest beforehand

Sprinkle of good sea salt

Toss cooked jasmine rice with cilantro, sesame seeds, lemon juice and sea salt.  Serve hot.

Here’s a picture of the same rice made tonite and served with some teriyaki salmon & tempura zucchinis.

Magic ginger milk pudding

Thanks to a recipe by Francis Lam originally discovered in Salon.com –  I think it’s quite beautiful, magical and just perfect.  My adopted version has four simple ingredients:

-       3 cups Whole (organic) milk

-       2 tbsp ginger juice (from fresh ginger)

-       6 tbsp evap cane juice

-       Vanilla bean (scraped)

Fresh ginger has an enzyme called protease that has this awesome chemical reaction with the milk when steamed and turns the milk into, well, pudding!  Not a jello-custard like pudding but one that’s an quasi altered state between milk and pudding.  It’s luscious, sexy and oh-so-comforting.  Not for the faint of heart as the ginger does have a nice spicy kick (the kids didn’t dig them as much as the adults) – it’s simple, easy, and just perfect palate cleanser after a much flavorful main course, I think.

So – onto the magic.  Boil water for steamer – a pasta pot will do.  Mix all three ingredients in a measuring cup and pour equal amounts into shot glasses or small ramekins.  Place the shot glasses or ramekins slowly into the steamer and gently steam in medium heat for about 10 min.  Shake the pot gently and you’ll be able to see the milk pudding firm up.  Longer than 10 min and it curdles so no longer than 10.  Let cool for 10-15 min or you’ll burn your mouth~  Serve it warm or cold (in fridge) topped with some mandarin orange, almond slices and some Scharffen Berger dark chocolate shavings – down the shotglass and taste it going down into perfect bliss.

Hope you enjoyed some of Chinese New Years and wish everyone a prosperous, calm and importantly happy new year!  Happy 2011~

2tbsp of love; love for food and love for life.

-chef kelly

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Chinese New Year – celebrated with homemade dumplings & korean rice cakes

CNY or Chinese New Years is today, February 3rd but guess it could also have been yesterday since they’re a day ahead of us here in the USA.

The year of the rabbit according to the holidayspot says that 2011 is going to be a “placid very much welcomed year after the year of ferocious tiger in 2010”  And somewhat ferocious 2010 it was –laid off from work, got another job and welcomed two new puppies into my world (albeit not so ferocious;)).  Hope that means that with all this craziness of the world that things may soon be more peaceful and pleasant leaving room for relaxation, laughter and happiness.  Along with that – some bonus – “money can be made without much labor”, it says but don’t be lazy or take advantage of it.  Sounds like a fortune cookie or my grandma lecturing me on one of her sayings, huH?!

In celebration of CNY – which btw is celebrated by MANY many Asians and not just Chinese – I wanted to share a recipe as well as some traditions and symbolisms associated with CNY. I’m also excited to be hosting a fabulous CNY cooking class at Linda Press’s pad this weekend meeting many power supergirls who seem to make it all happen and doing it with finesse and a smile.

Korean tradition of CNY –

Morning of CNY – Korean families including extended relatives gather around the table to make dumplings; meant to bring luck and wealth kinda like black eyed peas, I guess.  And along with dumplings, Korean rice cakes (pronounced “duk” or “taeok” according to wiki) are a must.  My mom says that over the history of Korea that these tasty rice cakes of all colors, sizes and variations has come to symbolize celebrations of life because rice was hard to come by and was often enjoyed by the aristocrats or special occasions only.  So with time, rice cakes has become like birthday cakes; enjoyed at these special life moments such as CNY, birthdays and even deaths.  And eating rice cakes on CNY is symbolic of turning a year older; obviously you couldn’t double count cny + your bday but when older Korean people like my grandma asks you how old you are – you are supposed to assume you’ve already turned a year older that year even if you haven’t celebrated your birthday yet, confusing and not fair, huh?

Homemade Dumplings (inspired by flavors of chef kelly, of course)

(makes approximately 45 dumplings or serving 6-8 people with side dishes)

Ingredients:

-        1 lb. ground pork (You can use a mixture of pork/beef/bison even chicken & actually used elk provided by Ms. Press for this recipe)

-        1 cup thinly minced green onion

-        1 box organic medium or firm tofu (14 oz) – squeeze out excess water using cheesecloth

-        2 tbsp shoyu or light soy sauce

-        2 tbsp olive oil (if your protein has little fat)

-        1 tbsp sesame oil

-        1 tbsp minced garlic

-        1 tsp rice vinegar

-        1 tsp japanese mirin

-        4 cloves, 1 star anise (crushed finely)

-        1 tbsp finely minced fresh ginger

-        1 tsp black pepper

-        1 package of round gyoza skins (available at all grocery stores)

Make:

1) Start boiling water in a large pot – this is where the dumplings will be cooked if boiling is the way you want to go.  You also have the option of pan frying it (~2 min on each side with a drizzle of oil) which takes longer and has more of a “snack” appeal than a formal meal.

2) In a large bowl, combine all ingredients until mixed thoroughly.

3) Dumpling assembly: you’ll need a bowl filled with water, a teaspoon and a tray lined with parchment paper & sprinkled with some flour so that your assembled dumplings don’t stick.

4) Lay your wonton/dumpling skin on the palm of your less dominant hand.  Using your dominant hand, dip your fingers into the water and wet the outer edge of the dumpling skin so that you’re getting the outer edge of the dumpling ready to be sealed.

5) Take a teaspoon of the dumpling “stuffing” and lay it right in the middle being careful not to get it toward the edge.  Flip one side of the dumpling skin to the other side until it becomes a half circle.  Then take special care to individually seal the edge (so that stuffing does not explode out) by pinching your thumb and index finger around the entire edge inch by inch. Set aside on a tray.  Repeat.  Trust me – it’s a lot easier and fun to have the entire family/friends involved in this project as making it is almost as fun as eating itself.  And don’t be intimidated by the sheer # of dumplings – you can easily freeze them (freeze them individually on a tray and then store in a ziplock bag) and store up to 1-2 mo.

6) Place dumplings into the boiling water and cook until translucent and floating to the top – about 3-4 minutes.  Drain and serve with dipping sauce.

Dipping Sauce:

-        1 green onion (minced)

-        ½ inch fresh ginger root (finely julienned)

-        2 tbsp shoyu/light soy sauce

-        2 tbsp Bragg’s liquid amino

-        1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

-        1 tsp sesame seeds

1) Mix all ingredients and serve with dumplings.

Korean rice cakes are usually served with the dumplings in a beef broth soup and eggs drizzled in like egg flower soup.  For this recipe – I’ve made the fun “snacking” dumplings:)


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Bon appetit mag brownie recipe – tweaked

Latest weakness lately? All things chocolate.  So when this month’s issue of Bon Appetit arrived in the mail with a cover page of luscious brownie – I had to try out the recipe.

Mine turned out bit fudge-y and VERY chocolate-y, just like the way I like them.  My own translation meant using evap cane juice instead of sugar and at that, 1/4 cup less; and just for kicks, switched 1/2 of the walnuts for 1/2 macadamia nuts- which resulted in a slightly varied crunchy texture you don’t get with just walnuts (at least that’s what the hubs said – and a big thumbs up).  Needless to say, we ate them all but here’s my pic and the link to the recipe from Bon Appetit!  Thanks, bon appetit!

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