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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lemongrass Wild King Salmon Spring Roll

Among Asian cuisines, Vietnamese food has always been an unfamiliar territory to me. Growing up, I never had the chance to sample authentic Vietnamese food. That changed when I tried my very first Vietnamese Spring Roll, with the fragrance and freshness wrapped in one spring roll, paired with a garlic spicy dip. As a part of the 5 Star Makeover Cooking Group, I made a deconstructed Vietnamese Lemongrass Wild King Salmon Spring Roll.

Lemongrass Wild King Salmon Spring Roll

The key to making the perfect spring roll is to keep the ingredients as fresh and flavorful as possible. I poached the Wild King Salmon in lemongrass, chicken stock, white wine, orange juice, and garlic. The usual plain rice vermicelli was lightly sauteed in olive oil and green onions. Accompanying the poached salmon are cilantro dust, pesto drops, and steamed baby carrot. For the dipping sauce, I made a spicy garlic sweet and sour jello with fried mint chips.

Lemongrass Poached Salmon, Green Onion Fried Vermicelli, Steamed Baby Carrot,
Cilantro Dust, Pesto Drops, and Spicy Garlic Jello with Fried Mint Chips

I have to thank 5 Star Foodie and Lazaro Cooks! for a fun lesson on sustainable fish. As a part of the 5 Star Makeover Cooking Group, our March theme was Sustainable Fish. It was interesting to learn from the Monterey Bay Aquarium website sustainability of different types of seafood. I have always been a huge fan of salmon and now I know to select wild-caught salmon from Alaska due to the excellent monitoring of fish populations and fishery. To me, understanding the ingredient is just as important, if not more, as cooking or consuming.

At Santa Monica Seafood, I picked out a beautiful fillet of wild-caught Alaskan King Salmon.

Wild Alaskan King Salmon
I was so excited to cook with these ingredients and enjoy my spring roll with sustainable seafood!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ready for Snack Time?

In my free time over the past week, coupled with a visit from our good friends (and newlyweds), there were quite a few snacks being concocted in the kitchen. I love snacks - for appetizers, for coffee time, for breakfast and just for whenever. So here's a few for your enjoyment:

Italian Sausage and Ricotta Stuffed Pasta, Mushroom Caviar, and Apple Sausage Pie
The Trio
Mini BBQ Brisket Slider, Onion Bun
BBQ Brisket Slider
Olive Oil & Thyme Monkey Bread (Credits go to MB and I)
Monkey Bread
Praline (Credits go to Jason and DB)
Creme Anglaise with Praline (Credits go to Jason and DB)
Creme Anglaise with Praline
Garlic Olive Crostini (Credits go to MB and I)
Garlic Olive Crostini
Craving yet?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Seriously, it takes 10 minutes! Chinese Bolognese.

After driving around in the city all day, we decided that we were famished. I was lazy to cook. He had cravings. He wanted Chinese, and I thought Chinese restaurants were too far. But we both wanted food. After some thinking, I finally decided that it would take less time to whip up a great bowl of Chinese Bolognese, or black bean sauce noodles, than to drive to a restaurant.

10 Minute Chinese Bolognese

Often referred to as the Asian version of Italian bolognese, black bean sauce noodles are more extreme in flavor and much quicker to make. The black bean sauce that tops the noodles consist of ground turkey (traditionally minced pork), spicy black soybean paste, sweet bean paste, soy sauce, garlic, green onions and ginger. Once the sauce is well incorporated, it is served on top of hot Chinese noodles. Though in my photo above, the overwhelming amount of sauce buried the noodles underneath. This is why a famished cook should never be in the kitchen. It took less than 10 minutes and we knew we made the right choice after the happy filling meal. 

Bolognese Steamed Buns

Not knowing what to do with delicious leftovers the next day, I decided that the rich flavoring would be a great bun, or bao, filling. So I made whole wheat bolognese steamed buns for lunch. I absolutely love steamed buns. I can eat them in any way imaginable, from BBQ pork filling to sweet sesame buns to just plain tasty buns. Mmm.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Alinea's Cheese in Cracker

I came across a short, easy, fun recipe in the Alinea cookbook called Cheese, in Cracker. The simplicity of a cheese cracker in the Alinea book was all it took to draw my curiosity, so I went about my afternoon snack of cheese crackers.

Cheese, in Cracker

The dough was made the day before and baked the day of. After the crackers puff up, I made a melted cheese sauce. Right before serving, the hot sauce was injected into previously punched holes on the crackers. A bite into the crunchy cracker with hot melted aged Wisconsin cheese, and you will understand why Chef Achatz had to put this simple snack in his book. Seconds later, I found myself making a second batch of crackers. Compared to other dishes in the book, this cheese cracker snack lacks complexity and layers of flavors. The combination of crackers, cheese, and milk also seems rather traditional. What makes this so special, however, is the pure cheesiness in one, hot explosive bite.

Here is a quick recap of the process:

Cutting dough into 1-inch squares
Puffed Crackers out of the Oven
Injecting Hot Wisconsin Cheese Sauce into Crackers
Melted Cheese inside of Each Cracker

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Milan, Veneto, and Sicily in One Dinner

Lately, my husband and I have been debating where we should go for our next vacation. Italy has come up a couple of times - to give a not-so-subtle hint, I prepared a taste of Italy dinner. Hopefully, the "hint" will be as memorable as this dinner!

Osso Buco with Creamy Polenta, Wild Mushrooms, and Mascarpone
accompanied by Cipollate con Pancetta
Starting from Milan, I prepared an Osso Buco, which was topped with braised vegetables and garnished with gremolata, an herb condiment of parsley, garlic, and lemon zest. 

Moving on to a specialty of the Veneto, the osso buco was served with a Creamy Polenta with Wild Mushrooms and Mascarpone. Although the authentic version usually calls for white polenta made from stone-ground white grits, I opted for my favorite version of polenta made from cornmeal instead. A mixture of oyster and shiitake mushrooms were made into a thick sauce to add to the polenta. A single dollop of mascarpone adds a thick creamy texture to the dish. 

Lastly, Sicily brings the delicious Cipollate con Pancetta, which is a simple dish of bacon-wrapped scallions. The sharp flavors of both the scallions and the bacon spice up the more mild, complex flavors of the osso buco and polenta. 

We had a nice bottle of wine to go with dinner. Life is just too good to be true sometimes.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Easy and Tasty: Pan Roasted Duck Breasts

When I reach for something at the grocery store, I always know exactly what dish it is for; it could be chicken breasts, oranges, or just a single red onion. My type A personality is easily reflected in my cooking. So when I asked for two organic duck breasts without any idea on how to cook them, imagine my own surprise.

After some research, I learned that duck legs are usually gently braised to make a very rich, flavorful dish like duck confit. Duck breasts, however, should be seared and pan roasted to extract maximum flavor. I decided to sear the seasoned breasts and roast them in the oven for a few more minutes.

Pan Roasted Duck Breasts with Mushroom Gravy and Lemon Quinoa Salad

It was unbelievable how easy it was to make and how delicious the dish was. I think I will be reaching for duck a lot more from this day on.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


I had the most amazing tasting quesadillas in Playa Del Carmen. Unlike the quesadillas I was used to, usually consisting of a flat tortilla + melted cheese + some sort of meat + additions like guacamole/sour cream, the quesadilla I had actually resembled a soft taco with flavorful shredded beef and oaxaca cheese inside. The quesadilla is then topped with sour cream, shredded lettuce, and some more crumbled oaxaca cheese. Oh, did I mention that it was blue corn tortillas? I never thought a quesadilla could taste so filling, yet light and refreshing.

Quesadilla with shredded beef brisket, cotija cheese, whipped sour cream, cilantro, and pickled onions
To satisfy my craving for that experience, I decided to replicate the quesadilla. I used a basil tomato tortilla here, along with shredded beef brisket that has been roasted in the oven for 2.5 hours. I couldn't find oaxaca cheese in the local grocery stores so I used cotija cheese instead, which was perfect for the dish because of its sharper, saltier taste. The onion was pickled in Mexican seasoning, water, and vinegar. Finally, I added some whipped sour cream and chopped cilantro to complete the quesadilla. I would definitely trade the usual quesadilla for this version any day!