Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Christmas cookie exchange sparked the integration of my favourite ingredients....Earl Grey Infused Dark Chocolate Cookie!

~ Earl Grey Infused Dark Chocolate Cookie ~
Since I work at a nutrition research laboratory, to make these cookies just a tad healthier, grapeseed oil is used.

This recipe is an extension to a recent article on Earl Grey:
"Earl Grey....from an obsession to a devotion"

Makes 2 dozen cookies

135g grapeseed oil
100g light brown sugar
150g granulated sugar
55g unsweetened cacao
2 Earl Grey tea bags, grind finely with a coffee grinder
3 large eggs
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
50g bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
180g all-purpose flour
7g baking powder
1 pinch salt
200g bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350oF. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl with the grapeseed oil, stir in the brown and granulated sugars, then stir in the cacao and Earl Grey tea powder until incorporated.

3. Stir in the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla. Scrape in the melted chocolate, and mix until incorporated.

4. Gradually stir in the flour mixture in 3 additions, do not over mix. During the final addition, add the chopped chocolate along with the flour.

5. Freeze the dough for 4 hours or overnight.

6. Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper. Scoop the cookie dough into tightly formed balls using a small ice cream scoop (size 24). Arrange the dough on the prepared baking trays, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 8 minutes, then turn and bake for another 4 to 5 minutes. Remove cookies from trays with a wide metal spatula and cool on wire rack.

Bon Appetit!

Friday, December 25, 2009

A spicy cheesecake for a white Christmas with friends....

~ Spicy Kabocha Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust ~

This recipe is an extention to a previous article on Kabocha.
"Giving Thanks with Kabocha....the Japanese Pumpkin...."

1 3/4 cups ginger snap crust
1 stick melted salted butter

500g cream cheese, at room temperature
100g mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
1 cup roasted Kabocha, pureed
4 eggs
~2/3 cup sugar, depending on the sweetness of the roasted Kabocha
1 teaspoon pumpkin spice mix
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1. Preheat oven to 350oF.
2. In medium bowl, combine crumbs and melted butter. Press down flat into a 9-inch cake pan. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
3. Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add pumpkin puree, eggs, yogourt, sugar and the spices. Beat together until well combined.
4. Pour into crust. Spread out evenly and bake in a waterbath for 45-60 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it cool at room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Macaron de la divinité captures the essence of this mulberry purple coloured root....

~ le Macaron aux Taro~
Taro flavoured macaron filled with coconut white chocolate ganache

This article is part of "The Macaron Series"

As the potato of the humid tropics, I consider Taro is one of the most flavourful root, is commonly used within Chinese cuisine in a variety of styles; in desserts it is used in sweet soups, bubble tea, and as a flavouring in ice cream and other desserts in the China. McDonald's sells Taro flavored pies at their stores in China! To celebrate my inner passion for this mulberry purple coloured root, what could be more suited than disguising its essence behind the shining dome of a macaron?

For the Macaron Recipe, please click on this link below for the recipe for the Earl Grey Macaron:

* Replace the 8g of Earl Grey tea powder with 8g of Taro powder

~ Coconut White Chocolate Ganache ~

4 tbs Coconut Powder (can be found in Asian supermarkets)
4 oz White Chocolate Couverture, finely chopped and place in stainless steel bowl
1/2 cup Heavy Cream

1. Mix 2 tbs of heavy cream into the Coconut powder to form a smooth paste
2. Place the remaining heavy cream in a saucier over medium heat and bring it to a near simmer
3. Pour the hot cream over the finely chopped white chocolate, and very gently stir until all white chocolate pieces have melted
4. Stir in the Coconut paste until it has completely incorporated with the white chocolate ganache
5. Allow the Coconut ganache to cool and thicken
6. Place the Coconut ganache into a piping bag to assemble le Macaron aux Taro!

Bon Appetit!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Choux shines and shimmers upon your holiday dinner table....Cygnes pâte à choux!

There’s something about choux paste that is both merrily absurd and very much miraculous. With a preparation that seems to defy pastry logic, a wicked but sensual challenge lays ahead to perfect this tricky treat!

You cook a paste of water, butter and flour over the stove and then furiously beat eggs into the irredeemable mess looking dough. But with some love and patience, and the blessing from your mixer paddle, the dough comes together into a glossy, golden thick lava. When baked, it inflates into gloriously hollow ornaments, perfect for filling. It’s no wonder choux paste inspires goofy desserts like the towering, pyramidal croquembouche, the bicycle-tire-shaped Paris-Brest and the special Cygnes pâte à choux, shimmering swans that are magical for the most special occasions.

With its almost impossible flexibility, pâte à choux can be used to make profiteroles, croquembouches, eclairs, French crullers, beignets, St. Honoré cake, Indonesian kue sus, and gougères. A chef by the name of Panterelli invented the dough in 1540. He used the dough to make a gâteau and named it Pâte à Panterelli. Over time, the recipe of the dough evolved; a pâtissier in the eighteenth century, created what were then called Choux Buns or Pâte à Choux, as they resemble cabbages – choux in French.

Pâte à Choux

1/4 cup water
1/4 cup whole milk
Pinch salt
Pinch granulated sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 cup bread flour
2 to 3 large eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the water, milk, salt, granulated sugar, and butter in a 4-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan, set it over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil. The butter should be completely melted by the time the mixture boils.

2. Remove the saucepan from the heat immediately. Add the bread flour all at once and incorporate it thoroughly with a wooden spoon.

3. Return the saucepan to the stove and cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes to dry out the paste. Keep the paste moving, or it will burn. The paste will dry out and leave a thin film on the bottom of the saucepan.

4. Remove the saucepan from the heat and transfer the paste to a large mixing bowl. Mix with an electric mixer set on low speed for about 2 minutes to release some of the steam.

5. Continue to mix and slowly add the eggs 1 at a time, incorporating well after each addition. After you have added 2 eggs, check the consistency by scooping a large amount of the paste onto a wooden spoon. Hold the spoon horizontally about 1foot above the bowl and watch as the batter falls from the spoon back into the bowl. If it is pale yellow, smooth, moist, slightly elastic, sticky, and takes 5 to 7 seconds to fall into the bowl, it is ready. If it appears rough, dry, and falls into the bowl in 1 big ball, it needs more eggs. Add another egg and check the consistency again after it is well incorporated.

6. Transfer the pastry to a bag fitted with a small coupler. Pipe about 1/2 tablespoon of the pastry into a mound on the prepared baking sheet, spacing pastry about 1 1/2 inches apart.

7. Brush the top of each mound with water. Bake until the puffs are golden brown all over, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, transfer to a wire rack, and let cool completely.

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The craving for Zenzai rises....reciprocal to the rapid plunge on our thermometers....

As the temperature plunge below zero Celsius, I am reminded of how much I miss the homemade Zenzai I had at a Japanese-run restaurant when I last visited LA, a rare find as most restaurants would attempt the usual short cuts with pre-made azuki or red bean paste or powder. One spoonful of this homemade Zenzai was enough to immerse yourself in the determination of the chef in bring out every essences of these tiny red coloured beans. The texture from the warm mochi heightens the experience as it lively dances between your molars.

Zenzai, or red bean soup refers to a number of traditional Asian soups, all made with azuki beans. In Cantonese cuisine, red bean soup is one of the most popular dessert. The love of this dear sweet bean among the Cantonese has led to continuous experiments in kitchen closets, generating an exponential explosion of ideas that put spins on this famed sweet soup that is traditionally served hot after dinner. From pairing the soup with the Chinese sesame glutinous rice dumplings to a fusing it with the Chinese tofu dessert, from coagulating it with coconut milk into a mousse-like pudding to freezing the leftover soup into icicles, we have just begun to explore the potentials of this bean.

Among all the various and fasinating trends, it has always been the traditional steamy one, with its comforting texture and luring scent, that captures my heart. Different from the Japanese cousin, the textural component of the Cantonese red bean soup comes from the cooking method for the beans. It takes a skillful master to simmer the selected red beans to perfection, where they remain visually intact, but melt into sandy sweetness with just the slightest pressure at the tip of your tongue.

The aroma from the red beans is an essential component, but if it is not accompanied with the luscious scent from the sun dried Chinese tangerine peels, this sweet soup would not be complete. Similar to some red wines, the magical scent of this peel increases in complexity and character as well as intensity with age and attention. I was often caught taking whiffs of my father's thirty years old batch, I have yet to try making red bean soup with it. I could hardly imagine the experience of taking a sip of the version from a famed Hong Kong restaurant, where their master secretly slip in a piece or two of their highly treasure tangerine peels, at an age of over 100 years!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Earl Grey....from an obsession to a devotion....

For those who knows me well, or not, it is certainly not a secret when it comes to my obsession towards this tea, the Earl Grey, which in my opinion has the most provocative aroma that excites both our olfactory and gustatory neurons. An unexplainable but a magical bond, very much like love....it is what makes us homosapiens unique, whether the other end of the bond is a person, or just a simple cup of tea.

This obsession became a devotion, as I marry my passion in pastry making, with this loose leaf of heaven. The versatility of teas are visioned in variety of cuisines; from the infused Oolong duck served at a Chinese banquet, to an addictive homemade potato chips sprinkled with smoky black tea, the idea of tea as an ingredient has just begun to unfold.

Named after the 2nd Earl Grey, British Prime Minister in the 1830s and author of the Reform Bill of 1832, Earl Grey tea is a tea blend with a distinctive flavour and aroma derived from the addition of oil extracted from the rind of the bergamot orange, a fragrant citrus fruit typical of Southeast Asia and grown commercially in Italy. Traditionally the term "Earl Grey" was applied only to black tea; however, today the term is used for other teas that contain oil of bergamot, or a bergamot flavour.

Apart from the original blend, many boutique tea stores sell a similar blend with added rose petals known as French Earl Grey. My choice has always been the Earl Grey with Blue Flowers, which has an elegant touch.

Ohh the "London Fog", not the well famed brand for their trench coats in defense against the Britain's foggy weather, is a combination of Earl Grey, steamed milk and vanilla syrup, the perfect combination of the calcium rich dairy and this fragrant tea.

With the "Earl Grey Macaron" as the debut of the Earl Grey series, there are many more luring recipes yet to come, as my tribute towards this love of mine....


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Recipe: Canh chua....the Vietnamese Sweet, Hot and Sour Soup!

As I unwind myself after work on a Saturday afternoon, I gazed towards my window and watched as the snow began to flutter down and lightened the concrete pavement. My stomach began to crave for a bowl of Canh chua, or the Vietnamese Sweet, Hot and Sour Soup. It is the perfect remedy for the cure of any stuffy noses!

A bowl of Canh Chua is a sour soup indigenous to the Mekong River region of southern Vietnam. It is typically made with fish from the Mekong River, pineapple, tomatoes, and bean sprouts, in a tamarind-flavoured broth. It is garnished with the lemony-scented herb ngò ôm (Limnophila aromatica), caramelized garlic, and chopped scallions, coriander), and Thai basil.

The sour taste of the soup comes from tamarind, which is mixed with a small amount of hot water; the mixture is then stirred for a few moments to release all the essence, and the liquid is then added to the soup.

Since this urge for the soup was spontaneous, I had to improvise with the lack of tamarind and fresh Thai hot chili, and replaced it with fresh lime juice and Tabasco.

~ Vietnamese Canh Chua with Shrimp ~

8 ounces medium shrimp

4 garlic cloves, chopped

1/4 cup, plus 1 teaspoon nuoc mam (Vietnamese fish sauce)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 shallots, thinly sliced

1 stalks fresh lemongrass, white bulb crushed and sliced

8 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved

4 tablespoons sugar

Juice of 1 fresh lime

1 cup fresh or frozen pineapple chunks

1 bunch Chinese celery, cut into 2 inches in length (can be replaced with regular celery, but I just love the flavour and the intense aroma of Chinese celery)

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup fresh bean sprouts

4 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Toss the shrimp with 1 teaspoon of fish sauce, chopped garlic, and pepper. Let stand for 30 minutes.

2. Heat the oil in a 3 quart sauté pan. Add the shallots and lemon grass and sauté briefly without browning. Add the tomato and sugar and cook over medium heat until slightly soft. Add the pineapple and celery and cook stirring for about two minutes.

3. Add 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add the lime juice, salt, and the remaining 1/4 cup fish sauce. Turn heat down, and simmer gently for about 5 minutes. Stir in bean sprouts and the shrimp. Cook for about 30 seconds, than remove from the heat and allow to sit for about 30 seconds to 1 minute more, or until the shrimp is cooked through. Be careful not to overcook the shrimp here.

4. Add cilantro, black pepper and Tabasco, and serve.

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Recipe: Szechuan Spiced Israeli Couscous with Infused with Dried Shiitake

~ Szechuan Spiced Israeli Couscous with Infused with Dried Shiitake ~

An Asian flavoured vegan side dish that is a perfect addition to your holiday dinner!

This recipe is an extension to a previous post:
Where a mushroom intertwines with the receptor of the fifth taste....the Dried Shiitake and the Mysterious Umami....

1 lb package Israeli couscous
1 lb Frozen edamame, defrosted and shelled
8-10 Dried whole shiitake
4 cloves garlic, smashed
2 tbs Toasted sesame seeds
2 tbs Toasted sesame seed oil
2-3 tbs Szechuan Chili Bean Paste
1 tsp Szechuan peppercorn
3-4 tbs Chinese chicken marinate sauce (this is vegan)
1 tsp sugar
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
12 Sweet roasted chestnut - optional

1. Soak the dried shiitake in ~1 cup of COLD water overnight, then squeeze out the excess liquid from the reconstituted shiitake and slice thinly.
*Do not discard the soaking liquid, as it has now been infused with the luring aroma of the shiitake, which will be used later to cook the Israeli couscous
2. In a 4-6 quart pot, heat the Toasted sesame seed oil in medium heat, then add the sliced shiitake.
3. Stir fry the shiitake till lightly golden, then add the smashed garlic and Szechuan peppercorn and toast them until golden.
4. Stir in the Israeli couscous and allow it to toast for 2 minutes, turn the heat to high then add the amount of liquid as instructed on the package (use the shiitake soaking liquid plus water). Cover and allow it to come to a rapid boil.
5. Reduce heat so the mixture returns to a simmer. Stir occasionally with spoon and cook until the Israeli couscous has absorbed all the cooking liquid and has become al-dente.
6. Mix in the defrosted shelled edamame and allow it to heat with couscous for 2 minutes.
7. Stir in the marinate sauce and chili bean paste and allow the couscous to absorb the sauce for about 1-2 minutes.
8. Remove from heat and stir in the toasted sesame seeds and sweet roasted chestnuts.
* I think the sweetness and the chewy texture from the luscious chestnuts give this side dish a special touch and an unique sensory experience!

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Where a mushroom intertwines with the receptor of the fifth taste....the Dried Shiitake and the Mysterious Umami....

As I ponder for a savoury non-Asian side dish that is vegetarian/vegan friendly for a Thanksgiving potluck, the heavenly aroma of the dried shiitake somehow found its way from my Tupperware into my imagination. A rare find in western cuisines, the dried shiitake with a feathery weight packs a hefty umami punch that is common to savoury products such as meat and cheese; it is the perfect item that complements vegan dishes.

The shiitake is an edible mushroom native to East Asia, which is cultivated and consumed in many Asian countries, as well as being dried and exported to many countries around the world. Shiitake is native to China but have been grown in both Japan and China since prehistoric times. It has long been considered a delicacy as well as a medicinal mushroom. They have been cultivated for over 1,000 years; the first written record of shiitake cultivation can be traced to Wu Sang Guang, born during the Song Dynasty (AD 960–1127). However, some documents record the uncultivated mushroom being eaten as early as AD 199.

In China, it is called xiānggū "fragrant mushroom". Two Chinese variant names for high grades of shiitake are dōnggū "winter mushroom" and huāgū "flower mushroom", which has a flower-like cracking pattern on the mushroom's upper surface); both are produced at colder temperatures.

Shiitake are often dried and sold as preserved food in packages. These must be rehydrated by soaking in water before using. Like most Asians, I prefer the dried shiitake to fresh; the sun-drying process draws out the umami flavour from the dried mushrooms by breaking down proteins into amino acids and transforms ergosterol to vitamin D. The stems of shiitake are rarely used in Japanese and other cuisines, but they are excellent in flavouring stocks and broths.

Apart from its unique texture and the intoxicating aroma and flavour that continuously excite your sensory neurons, nutrients found in the shiitake mushroom has been suggested to possess anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. It has been shown to carry the ability to stimulate the immune system, and consists of a compound known as eritadenine that could potentially lower blood cholesterol.

With all that put into words, I hope I have erase any of your doubts to introduce this dried delicacy into your kitchen cabinet!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Let's Give the American Classic with an Asian Kick....The Luscious Pecan Pie with Roasted Kabocha!

Recipe: Luscious Pecan Pie with Roasted Kabocha

This article is an extension to a previous post on Kabocha:
"Giving Thanks with Kabocha....the Japanese Pumpkin...."

Since most of us have our favourite recipe for this American Classic, I will not insert a recipe here.

~ Roasted Kabocha ~

1 (~ 2lb) Kabocha
2 Cinnamon Sticks
2 tbs Unsalted Butter
4 tbs Brown Sugar
1 pinch salt
1 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350oF
2. Split the Kabocha in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds with a spoon
3. Place 1 tbs of butter in each of the halfs, sprinkle evenly with brown sugar, salt and pumpkin pie spice
4. Place 1 cinnamon stick in each half and bake for 1 hour
5. "Base" the Kabocha with the melted butter and sugar in its cavity, then bake for another 30 minutes, or until golden

~ Pecan Pie with Kabocha ~

1. Follow your favourite recipe for Pecan Pie, first prepare the crust
2. Slice the roasted Kabocha thinly and evenly spread the slices at the bottom of the crust in one single layer
3. Pour the filling over the Kabocha and decorate it with pecan halfs

4. Bake the Pecan Pie according to the time indicated in your recipe, plus 3-5 minutes

Bon Appetit!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Giving Thanks with Kabocha....the Japanese Pumpkin....

Sugar pumpkins....mm mmmm....often the choice for the luscious yet velvety pie to celebrate the season filled with foliage, and thankful wishes. While roaming the farmer's market that spanned the 3 square blocks of Union Square in NYC, bombarded by stands with farmers proudly displayed various species of squash and pumpkin, I could not pass on this opportunity to conduct experiments with this knobbly-looking one....the Kabocha!

Kabocha is a Japanese variety of winter squash that is commonly known as the Japanese pumpkin. Today many of the kabocha in the market are of the type called Kuri kabocha, which was created based on Seiyo kabocha (buttercup squash). It's popular for its intense yet sweet flavour and moist, fluffy texture, which is similar to its perfect partner, the chestnut.

Kabocha is firm one shaped like a squatty pumpkin, and has a dull finished deep green skin with some celadon-to-white stripes that wraps the an intense yellow-orange flesh within, which often reminds me of sunflowers gazing the setting sun in Italy.

With its amiable flesh comes the explosive package of nutrients; Kabocha is high in carotene and could provide protective effects against vision loss, heart disease, and cancer. It is also a good source of fiber, potassium, vitamins C & E and iron, with smaller traces of calcium, folic acid, and minute amounts of B vitamins.

When kabocha is just harvested, it is still growing. Therefore, unlike other vegetables and fruits, freshness is not as important. It should be fully matured first, in order to become flavorful. First, kabocha is ripened in a warm place (77°F) for 13 days, during which some of the starch converts to carbohydrate content. Then it is transferred to a cool place (50°F) and stored for about a month in order to increase its carbohydrate content. In this way the just-harvested, dry, bland-tasting kabocha is transformed into smooth, sweet kabocha. Fully ripened, succulent kabocha will have reddish-yellow flesh and a hard skin with a dry, corky stem. It reaches the peak of ripeness about 1.5–3 months after it is harvested.

With this golden gem roasting in the oven, the experiments begin....

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Macarons that Shimmered for the Union of Two Hearts....the Perfect Couple....

~ le Macaron de l'amour ~
Almond Macaron with Matcha Ganache

This article is part of "The Macaron Series"

For the Macaron Recipe, please click on this link below for the recipe for the Earl Grey Macaron:

* Replace the 8g of Earl Grey tea powder with 8g of almond powder

~ Matcha Ganache ~

1 tbs Matcha or Green Tea Powder
8 oz White Chocolate Couverture, finely chopped and place in stainless steel bowl
1/2 cup Heavy Cream

1. Mix 2 tbs of heavy cream into the Matcha powder to form a smooth paste
2. Place the remaining heavy cream in a saucier over medium heat and bring it to a near simmer
3. Pour the hot cream over the finely chopped white chocolate, and very gently stir until all white chocolate pieces have melted
4. Stir in the Matcha paste until it has completely incorporated with the white chocolate ganache
5. Allow the Matcha ganache to cool and thicken
6. Place the Matcha ganache into a piping bag to assemble le Macaron de l'amour!

Each Macaron was dust with Super Pearl Luster Dust....

le Macaron de l'amour was used as the decor for these cupcakes....for the very special couple~!

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Pineapple Bun with Chestnut Cream questions the mathematical principle of one plus one....

Does one plus one always add up to two? To most of us, we would not have the slightest doubt in answering yes, but in the minds of certain brilliant mathematicians, we can see the dawn to a hefty debate, and the same could be said in the world of gastronomy. Two perfectly lovable ingredients with their own individuality could cause a cosmic collusion when brought together, leaving a dark void on your sensory palate....I was fully aware of such consequence as I took a bite of my Japanese curry panini, drizzled with a sweet balsamic dressing....

Though the contrary can be said when this Chinese bread is under the spotlight. These two sinful treats are destined to meet, and unify into one bite-ful of love....the crusty sweetness Pineapple Bun filled with Chestnut Cream!

For those who have never savoured a Pineapple Bun, it is a signature icon that represents Hong Kong, both its history and character. It is believed that with the lack of resources during post-war periods, and the preference of locals for sweets, left over breads were topped with a pastry made of a dough similar to that used to make Chinese sugar cookies, which consists of sugar, eggs, flour and lard. The crusty sweetness complements the embraced bread that is soft and slightly sweetened. Lard is the key for the dimensions of texture; the sweet crust should be slightly crispy and flaky on the exterior, yet moist and tender at where it meets the bread component.

As if this soft pillow is not sinful enough on its own, the creamy yet aromatic chestnut filling heightens the body and the textural complexity of this bread. Although most Chinese bakery uses boiled chestnuts for their puree, as you take the initial bite, the nuttiness from the chestnut puree begins to invade your tongue, follows by the mesmerising aroma as it slides down your throat. It makes me wonder how much more intoxicating when this chestnut filling is made with the Sweet Roasted Chestnut!

For those who might be interested in making this lovable treat, please check out my recipe for the Pineapple Bun:


The Marrons Glacés cream recipe, please check out the following page:


Let's get baking =)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The warmth brought forth by the Umami-licious Sundubu Jjigae....

The sudden arrival of moisture and cold humid air has overcast a relaxing weekend, and intervened my planned date with the ingredients for macaron making....my interrupted mind began to ache for the comforting aroma that drifts from a steaming pot of Sundubu Jjigae, the very one I had a few days ago at this NYC restaurant that I would always return for this specialty dish....Kunjip Restaurant in Korea Way.

It almost create the same sensation as another famed Chinese dish, "the" fried Rice with cured fish and chicken; the scent of the Sundubu Jjigae from Kunjip is impossible to resist, even before you have a moment to lay your eyes upon the succulent looking cast iron pot, filled with porcelain white tofu immersed within the sea with an orange red glow that reminds you of the setting sun.

For those who have not had the pleasure to take a sip, Sundubu Jjigae is a hot and spicy jjigae (Korean stew) made with uncurdled dubu (tofu), seafood, vegetables, mushrooms, onion, green onion, and gochujang or gochu garu (chili powder) in Korean cuisine. A raw egg is put in the jjigae while it is still boiling, creating the effect of an egg drop soup, an essential component to complete this bowl of heaven. This dish is eaten with a bowl of cooked white rice and several banchan (side dishes).

Why am I so obsessed with Kunjip's? With the very limited versions I have tasted, as I have yet to pay my visit to Korea, Kunjip's broth brings forth the near perfect harmony of all sensory taste to accentuate the delicate flavour and texture of fresh tofu. More importantly, it is the "Umami" of the sea that captures my taste buds with every spoonful. Please do share your thoughts and your favourite place for this mesmerising dish!

I have yet to find the definition to describe the sensory taste "Umami" outside of the Chinese language....it is something I am currently exploring, but hope to write about it soon!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Recipe: la bruschetta du marché des agriculteurs....

A recipe that is dedicated to the hardworking individuals at the farmer's market, and an extension to a previous post "For the Love of Figs":


This simple recipe is basically a collusion of flavours from the freshest ingredients selected at the local farmer's market, further enhanced with a homemade Black Mission Figs infused balsamic vinaigrette!

I love how the beams of the Sun glaze over this dish....it gives the relaxing sensation of a lazy Sunday afternoon....

1 loaf of rustic bread, sliced into 3/4 inch in thickness
6-8 heirloom tomatoes, sliced into 1/2 inch in thickness
3 cloves garic, minced
1 lb fresh mozzarella, sliced into 1/2 inch in thickness
Coarse salt
freshly grounded 4 blended peppercorns
good extra virgin olive oil
Black Mission Figs infused Balsamic vinegar - see below for recipe

1. Marinate the sliced tomatoes and half of the garlic with just enough olive oil to coat them, set them aside for 15 minutes
2. Lightly drizzle the sliced bread with olive oil, and sprinkle with the remaining minced garlic
3. Place the bread slices evenly on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, and toast them in a 400oF oven for 5 minutes, or just till golden
4. Place the sliced mozzarella over the bread and return it to the oven to toast just till the cheese is gently melted
5. Place the bread slices on a serving plate, and decorate them with the marinated tomatoes
6. Sprinkle them with salt and freshly grounded pepper, and drizzle generously with the Black Mission Figs infused balsamic vinegar

Black Mission Figs Infused Balsamic Vinegar

8oz Dried Mission Figs, remove the stem and quarter each fig
750mL Balsamic Vinegar of Modena
1 pinch of salt
Sugar to taste

1. Place the Balsamic vinegar in a saucier over high heat until it reaches a simmer
2. Reduce the heat to medium and add the Dried Mission Figs
3. Allow the figs to simmer in the balsamic vinegar until the vinegar has reduced to half its original volume
4. Remove from heat and using a hand blender, blend until figs are completely incorporated into the vinegar. I leave this un-strained, as I think the grittiness of the seeds from figs gives the vinegar its character

Bon Appetit!

Mission Fig on Foodista

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

For the Love of Figs....

As I stroll along the local farmer's market and mingle with fellow patrons, I have set it as my mission to absorb the diversity in colours and textures of various produce prior the approach of Thanksgiving, which marks the end of the 2009 farmer's market season.

As my eyes glaze over the glorious gems of heirloom tomatoes, my mind began to mesmerise the rich scent and flavour of black mission figs....yes, Figs indeed. The magical union between these two "fruits" is the result of the most refreshing salad for your sensory palate on a Sunday afternoon....

The fig could be considered the perfect fruit, except that it's not a fruit at all, but rather a "false fruit," or syncomium. Within the globe of the "fruit" are little clusters of flowers that look similar to threads.

The edible fig is one of the first plants that were cultivated by humans. Nine subfossil figs of a parthenocarpic type dating to about 9400–9200 BC were found in the early Neolithic village Gilgal I (in the Jordan Valley, 13 km north of Jericho). The find predates the domestication of wheat, barley, and legumes, and may thus be the first known instance of agriculture. It is proposed that they may have been planted and cultivated intentionally, one thousand years before the next crops were domesticated. The ficus carica, which produces the fig, is just one of more than 800 species, including trees, shrubs, and vines, within the ficus genus.

Figs can be eaten fresh or dried, and used in jam-making. Most commercial production is in dried or otherwise processed forms, since the ripe fruit does not transport well, and once picked does not keep well.

~ These jams from France are among my favourites! ~

Apart from its deliciousness, figs are also an excellent snack packaged with health benefits. Figs are one of the highest plant sources of calcium, and has more fibre, both soluble and insoluble, than any other fruits, which is excellent for cardiovascular health. According to USDA data for the Mission variety, dried figs are richest in fiber, copper, manganese, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and vitamin K, relative to human needs. They have smaller amounts of many other nutrients. Figs have a laxative effect and contain many antioxidants. They are good source of flavonoids and polyphenols. In one study, a 40-gram portion of dried figs (two medium size figs) produced a significant increase in plasma antioxidant capacity.

Though my favourite variety is the Black Mission, there are also others available in the U.S. market:

~ Calimyrna, Kadota, Turkish, Black Mission ~

Calimyrna figs ripen to a purpleish blue sometime between October and November. Less sweet and moist than mission. These figs, whose season begins in August, are named for its variety, the California smyrna.

Kadota (Fresh):
Kadota figs, also known as dottato, can be green or white. They have few seeds and can be used for many purposes. They have a wonderful flavour, but a shorter season that ends in late September or early October.

Brown Turkey (Fresh):
These dark brown figs are one of the most abundant varieties in the United States. Their flesh is pinkish amber, and they are sweet, with a juicy pulp. They are available from May through October/November.

Turkish (Dried):
Original smyrna cultivar, they are large, sweet, and light colored.
Turkish figs are primarily used for drying; their season is August to September.

Black Mission (Fresh and Dried):

Black Mission figs have a blackish-purple skin with pinkish flesh. They are the most common and popular variety in the U.S. Introduced to California in 1769 when the San Diego Mission was established, these figs, also known as franciscana, are good for drying. Their season is July to September or October.

Conadria (Dried):
Conadria's season is August through September. They are yellow-green with thin skin and white to red flesh. They are good for eating fresh or making into preserves.

Having said all that, lets FIG out!


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