February 10, 2015 § Leave a comment

3:00 am Korean BBQ at Miss Korea in K-Town…

An impromptu, late night meal at Benchmark in Park Slope with the most awesome foie gras dish served with peppered pineapple, pecans and bourbon glaze (so good we ordered a second one) and filet mignon with purple potato gratin and caramelized marrow

Pecorino, golden raisin and pine nut kale salad to balance out all the gluttony

Homemade chicken parmesan during the night of the snow storm that turned out to be no big deal…

The roast beef press during lunch with Cindy at that old standby, Grey Dog

Greatest delivery pizza ever from Spunto (with caramelized onions, mushrooms, hot Italian sausage and a ton of red pepper flakes)


Fatty ‘Cue

September 14, 2012 § 1 Comment

Damn, just saw that these photos were taken on June 28…boy, am I behind.

Anyway, this was a meat-centric dinner with Laura and Katie at the amazing Fatty ‘Cue in West Village (just a couple blocks from my summertime apartment), one of Zak Pelaccio’s many awesome restaurants. By the way, I liked this a lot better than Fatty Crab, which was still pretty good in itself. Lament the lack of greens and fiber all you want, but at the time, we were in the mood for juicy, Asian-influenced barbecue and little else.

Ham, jam, butter and bread

Toasty pretzel rolls served with rosy, fatty ham, a condiment called cincalok made with itty bitty fermented shrimps, and dry-fish-dusted butter. So many funky elements in one starter…

1/2 pound deep-fried bacon with sweet and spicy salsa verde

Yes, you read that right, and it was bleeping delicious. Slightly charred pork belly with layers of fat and lean meat, paired with a picante, acidic sauce to balance everything out.

Heritage pork ribs with Indonesian long pepper, fish sauce, and palm sugar

Incredibly tender and running-down-your-arm juicy…Pelaccio emphasizes palm sugar, fish sauce, and lime juice as the holy trinity of Southeast Asian cooking and it comes across the most in this simple-looking dish. The best part was tearing meat off the rib with our sticky fingers and dragging it through that sweet, sweet jus.

Fermented sausage with asparagus, ginger, chili, toast and poached egg – more funk (in a totally good way)

Lamb shoulder with yogurt dip and grilled pita

For a primer on Southeast Asian cooking with Zak Pelaccio, Bon Appetit has a pretty cool feature which you can find here

Fatty ‘Cue
50 Carmine Street
New York, NY 10014

Caramelized pears with mascarpone cream

September 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

When it comes to home cooking, Mark Bittman’s recipes are my favorite. He’s covered all the basics, food recipes from all over the world, local and whole food eating and on and on. I bought his Kitchen Express in a second-hand bookstore, and it’s been one of my best buys (and I’m an avid bargain hunter). One of the things I like best about the book is that he forgoes formal measurements and actually encourages flexibility in the home cook. Usually, when I read a new recipe, I get discouraged when I realize I have to buy 3 or 4 new ingredients (especially since I’m living on the budget of a poor grad student), but Bittman is the king of substitution, within reason of course. Plus, he assumes that you know what you’re doing in the kitchen and doesn’t spend a lot of time walking you through every little step.

Pears and walnuts

His recipe for caramelized pears with mascarpone is a prime example. It’s quick and easy but refined enough to serve as a dessert when company’s over.

A dessert for fall

Caramelized pears with mascarpone cream (adapted from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express)

Slice a couple pears (I like Bartlett variety) into wedges and toss with a few tablespoons of light brown sugar and a teaspoon of cinnamon. Heat a couple tablespoons of butter; cook the pears and a handful of walnuts until the wedges are a bit soft and the walnuts are glossy, about 4 to 5 minutes. Whip together a third of a cup of mascarpone, a couple tablespoons of heavy cream, and a tablespoon of sugar (you can also add a tablespoon of good brandy), until thick. Serve the warm pears with the cream mixture.

Seahorse salt cellar

May 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

seahorse salt cellar

second view

The one time that I’ve gone to Catbird‘s store in Williamsburg was the one day they decided to close and do inventory. Bah. I’ve always loved their jewelry selection online, from the stag rings to the frog skeleton necklace, but I noticed lately that they’ve expanded into housewares and non-jewelry gifts.

Take this whimsical salt cellar by Flotsam and Jetsam for instance. Italians say that when you cook pasta, you should salt the water you cook it in so it’s just this side of the Mediterranean. The seahorse motif is pretty fitting then, isn’t it?  Personally, I tend to salt from the container but I could also see this little piece serving as a really pretty albeit somewhat pricey dish to hold rings and charms.

Note: this barrage of random jewelry and house ware coveting is what happens when I have some extra time on my hands.

Prune’s open-faced avocado sandwich

May 12, 2011 § 1 Comment

Prune's avocado sandwich

Open-faced avocado sandwich (adapted from The Amateur Gourmet adapted from Prune)

A great, healthy sandwich for spring.  

2 slices crusty bread (I used a rosemary ciabatta from Ithaca Farmers’ Market)
ricotta (a little or a lot depending on your taste)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
coarse salt and black pepper
1/2 ripe avocado, thinly sliced
grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
red onion, thinly sliced
extra virgin olive oil  (optional)

Mix ricotta and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread ricotta mixture on each slice of bread. Layer on slices of avocado, then tomatoes, then red onion. Drizzle with the olive oil, if using. Salt and pepper.

Turning a new leaf

April 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’m not a big fan of salads or raw vegetables. I think it partly has to do with growing up in a Chinese-American family, where all vegetables were stir-fried, steamed, or cooked in some other way. However, I’ve always been a sucker for the ubiquitous carrot-miso-ginger dressing you see at Japanese restaurants, where they toss some grated carrots, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and romaine together and present it as a throwaway appetizer with the miso soup before your bento box.

Last week, the Ithaca Farmers’ Market opened for the spring season, and aside from the usual baked goods (chocolate brioche oh mah gah), the produce was still pretty sad looking – just some leeks, spinach, greens, and root vegetables here and there. But I remembered the salad dressing from Goop and Smitten Kitchen and I knew that I already had the other Asian ingredients in my pantry, so I figured I’d grab some shallots and carrots, break out the blender, and give this a whirl.

It comes surprisingly close to those restaurant dressings. I threw in a pinch of sugar to balance the bite of ginger and tossed it with some organic mixed greens that I also picked up at the market. And even though I paired this with yet another grilled Brie sandwich, the salad still made it one of the most virtuous meals I’ve had in a while.

Carrot-ginger dressing

Carrot-ginger dressing (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 small shallot,  roughly chopped
2 tablespoons freshly chopped ginger
2 tablespoons sweet white miso
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons dark toasted sesame oil
pinch of sugar (optional)
1/4 cup neutral oil, such as grapeseed
2 tablespoons water

Blend the carrots, shallot, and ginger until finely chopped. Then add the miso, vinegar, sesame oil, and sugar (if using). While blending, add the neutral oil and water until you reach the desired consistency (I tend to like a smoother consistency for this particular dressing). Serve and toss with your favorite greens and vegetables.

Buttercup brie sandwich

April 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

Buttercup brie from Cherry Grove Farms

One of the three cheeses we picked up at Bedford Cheese Shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn was a rich and creamy Buttercup brie from Cherry Grove Farms in Lawrenceville, NJ. I usually like to keep things simple and bake Brie with honey and walnuts or caramelized onions, but this weekend I picked up a loaf of buttery brioche from Just Desserts at the farmer’s market and apples at Wegmans, so, with the addition of Honey Dijon I had in the pantry, I decided to make a grilled cheese sandwich instead. I’ve also seen other combinations, like pears instead of apples, maybe a bit of thinly sliced ham or even crisp bacon, etc but you want to make sure you don’t overpower the subtle richness of the cheese. Easy, quick, but still very special.


Buttercup brie sandwich

2 oz creamy brie, at room temperature and thinly sliced
1/4 tart-sweet apple like a Gala or Empire, thinly sliced into wedges
honey Dijon mustard
sea salt and black pepper
2 1-inch slices buttery, eggy bread like brioche or challah
1 tablespoon butter

Assemble first five ingredients, adding or subtracting amounts depending on personal taste, on the brioche slices. Add butter to a non-stick skillet on medium heat. When the butter’s melted, grill the sandwich for about 3-4 minutes on each side or until golden-brown and the cheese has melted.

Streamlining eggplant parmesan

March 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

A healthier and simplified version of the breaded and fried classic. I also like that the servings come in uniform parcels of eggplant stuffed with seasoned ricotta and herbs. Leftovers taste great in a sandwich the next day.

Eggplant Parmesan Rolls (adapted from Bon Appetit)


2 medium eggplants, trimmed and cut lengthwise into 1/4 inch thick slices (I used three small ones because that’s all that was available in the produce section that day)
coarse salt
extra virgin olive oil
2 large eggs
1 15 oz container of whole-milk ricotta cheese (none of that low-fat crap)
1 1/4 cups of grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (supplied by my new hydroponic basil plant)
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
about 4 cups tomato sauce
8 oz mozzarella, sliced (preferably fresh but regular mozzarella will do)

Cover bottom and sides of large colander with 1 layer of eggplant slices; sprinkle generously with coarse salt. Continue layering eggplant slices, sprinkling each layer with coarse salt, until all the eggplant slices are used. Place the colander over a large bowl and let stand for 30-60 minutes. Rinse eggplant slices to remove excess salt and then dry thoroughly using paper towels.

Brush eggplant slices with olive oil and grill on grill pan, griddle, or even nonstick skillet, about 2-3 minutes on each side, until each side is browned and the eggplant is fairly tender. Put eggplant slices to the side to cool while preparing the filling.


Whisk eggs and pinch of coarse salt in medium bowl. Add ricotta cheese, 1 cup Parmesan, basil, and black pepper.

Lightly oil 15x10x2 baking dish. Spread half of tomato sauce evenly over the bottom of the dish. Divide ricotta mixture filling among eggplant slices, placing about 1 tablespoon filling in the center of each. Starting at 1 short end of each, loosely roll up eggplant slices, enclosing filling. Arrange rolls, seam side down, atop sauce in baking dish. Spoon remaining tomato sauce over. Place mozzarella slices in a single layer over rolls. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake eggplant Parmesan rolls, covered with foil, until heated through, about 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until browned on top and bubbling, about 15 to 20 minutes. Garnish with chopped basil.

Three cheese mac and cheese

March 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

When we were younger, my sister Laura loved Stouffer’s microwaveable macaroni and cheese dinners. For the longest time, her after-school routine consisted of throwing her bookbag on the floor after getting home, walking to the fridge and pulling out a mac and cheese dinner, nuking it for two minutes, and then plopping herself in front of the television.

I, on the other hand, hated the stuff. I wasn’t a fan of dairy products in general, and everytime she’d pull out that tray of yellow gunk, I’d gag a little, which was a shame because mac and cheese seemed like such a quintessentially American food and I was all about the hamburgers, fried chicken, and mashed potatoes while growing up.

Then, when I got to college, something changed. Maybe it was because I started baking brie for wine and cheese gatherings and making grilled cheese sandwiches for quick dinners, but one day I went to Trader Joe’s and randomly picked up their four cheese macaroni, and since then, I’ve been hooked.

This past Thanksgiving, I decided it was high time to do a homemade version and went with Ina Garten’s classic, topped with sliced tomato and fresh breadcrumbs. It was a big hit among the guests, but when I made it again last night, I decided to do away with all the embellishments. Even when cut in half, the recipe has a high yield. But for someone who’s trying to get into the habit of cooking batches of food and then saving them for meals during the week, it totally works.

And in relation to a “flexitarian” lifestyle, this obviously falls under “unrestricted” meals due to the generous amounts of butter, milk, Gruyere, sharp cheddar, and parmesan. It’s well worth it though.

Three cheese mac and cheese (adapted from the Barefoot Contessa)


vegetable oil
1/2 pound elbow macaroni
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 oz Gruyere, grated
4 oz extra-sharp cheddar (I like Cabot)
1  teaspoon salt or to taste
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan


Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling and salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan but don’t let it boil. In a deep skillet, melt the butter and then add the flour. Cook over low heat for about 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute until it thickens a little and reaches a smooth consistency. Off the heat, add the cheeses and the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and mix well. Pour into a 8 x 8 baking dish or whatever else fits. Top with grated parmesan. Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the mac and cheese is bubbly.

A Summertime Salad

July 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

It’s currently 102 degrees in Edison right now, and I haven’t left the house even once over the past 24 hours because it would mean parting my air-conditioned bubble. The suffocating heat also means minimal cooking, minimal physical labor when it comes to food. And maybe a huge bowl of Dutch chocolate ice cream…

I’ve always wanted to make panzanella, the Italian-style bread salad that uses day-old or stale bread. But watching Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie and its episode in Tuscany again finally pushed me over the edge.

This is a really easy light lunch or dinner, perfect for the summer, when tomatoes are at their very best, and there isn’t any need for a recipe since the ingredients are pretty much whatever’s currently in your fridge.

Here’s what I did to make my version:

Cut 6 leaves of romaine lettuce and 1 juicy beefsteak tomato into bite size pieces. If you have onions available, you can caramelize those and include them too. Take day-old Italian bread (or any other hearty bread like sourdough) and tear into chunks. Since the bread is most likely going to be very dry, add just a little water to soften it up again.

Put lettuce, tomato, onions and bread in a large bowl. Add whatever dressing or vinaigrette you prefer; I added my own Dijon dressing (Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, E.V.O.O., salt and pepper) but balsamic would work great here as well. If you have fresh herbs like basil on hand, that adds an extra dimension to the dish. Mix everything with your hands so the flavors marry and the juices from the tomato and dressing soak into the bread. Let sit for about 15 minutes before eating.

So simple, so filling. And relatively healthy too, at least compared to all the barbecue food I ate this past weekend. Seeing how I’ll soon be leaving for school again in little over a month, it’s time that I started cooking regularly again to develop a good habit.

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