Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Steakhouse at home

Sometimes when I eat out at restaurants I think to myself, "I could make this better at half the price..." That's how I feel about the steak at Black Angus, Outback, etc. These restaurants serve steak that is highly overrated- the meat quality is suspect, and the steak is doused in butter to mask this. Of course this is not the case for premium steakhouses such as Tom Colicchio's Craftsteak (amazing, but with a hefty pricetag.)

Occasionally I do crave a good steak. When I do, I like to have meat that stands on its own, with very simple seasonings. Recently, my family and I had a nice cut of ribeye with simple salt and pepper- yet it was amazing! Add a few great sides (we had garlic mashed potatoes and sauteed snow peas and carrots) and you have a meal that will blow Outback out of the water.

Look at the marbling on these!

Place settings

A nice cab complements the meal


  • good quality ribeye or other
  • salt
  • pepper
  • canola oil or other high-smoking point oil (not olive oil)
  1. Cut the steaks into individual portions. Coat the steaks lightly with canola oil. Salt and pepper liberally on both sides. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Heat a cast iron pan on high. When the pan is hot, place one steak in the pan and do not move for 1 minute. Turn the steak and cook for another minute. Using a spatula, brown the sides slightly. Place in a baking pan lined with foil. Repeat for each steak.
  3. Bake the steaks for 5 minutes for medium rare, 10 for medium.
**Note: You want to make sure you have a good stove exhaust or at least an open window. Cooking on high heat will inevitably result in some smoke.

Holiday Baking: Chocolate whoopie pies with peppermint filling

After seeing these pop up in several blogs, I decided to try these out for myself. I am not really into sweets myself, but I love making sweets for other people. Every holiday season I make a batch of something and wrap them up in cute little bags for the neighbors.

I was excited to make whoopie pies because they look so delicious and they are retro, a throwback to the 1950s. According to an article I read in the NY Times, they are making a comeback because they are reminiscent of a simple and carefree era. Also, I was drawn to these peppermint whoopie pies because I like the combination of chocolate and peppermint.

Who knew these would be such a nightmare. They took forever to make and the recipe I chose seemed to make double the amount I expected. They tasted okay, but not as good as I thought they would. The chocolate flavor was not strong enough (chocolate desserts rarely satisfy me unless they are rich and decadent) and the peppermint was a little overwhelming. I won't post the recipe because I was not satisfied with the taste. If you like whoopie pies, and have the urge to try the, then google peppermint chocolate whoopie pies and you can find a recipe easily. I will say one thing- they are cute though!
Here they are all packaged up and ready to go. I package them in cute bags I got from Daiso!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Winter Soups

I know I shouldn't whine about San Francisco winters. It doesn't snow, it doesn't go below zero... that said, it's rainy, muddy, windy, and downright depressing. And for a girl who has spent practically her whole life in warmer parts of California, the SF winter is particularly unbearable!

Soup is my favorite winter food. Remember those Campbell's commercials where the snowman comes in for a bowl of chicken noodle, and melts into a cute, freckly little boy? That's exactly how I feel... it's so warm and comforting!

Sometimes I have the kind that comes in a can or box for convenience reasons. However, I honestly haven't found one that met my standards. So I've started making soup in big batches, so I can freeze individual portions for later on. My favorites are corn chowder, tomato basil, butternut squash... and lately, turkey chili!

Here's my recipe for a fast turkey chili. I know it's not authentic... I actually just used a black bean soup recipe, but added corn and ground turkey and random seasonings on a whim. Even though it was a random experiment, it turned out really well for some reason. It's not prize-winning, but it definitely beats the can. With salsa and canned black beans, you can make it in less than 30 minutes. I love serving it with shredded cheese, sour cream, and diced onions. (Random note: I used to detest sour cream, but I think sour cream on chili has finally converted me. Not sure if I can stand it outside of this soup.)

Fast Turkey Chili

  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 jar Southwestern salsa
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup diced onions
  • 1/2 lb ground turkey
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp chili powder
1. In a saucepan, combine black beans, salsa and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then simmer.
2. In a pan, saute onions in a little bit of oil. After the onions have caramelized, add ground turkey and bay leaf. Add salt and pepper and brown the turkey.
3. Add turkey, chili pepper, cumin to the saucepan. Simmer for 15 minutes or until thickened. Serve with cheddar, dollop of sour cream, and green onion.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Comfort food- Mac n cheese

Growing up, the only macaroni my brother and I knew was the blue box- Kraft dinner. My dad made it for us when we were little, and we gradually started making it on our own. To this day, my brother and I love mac and cheese! It was the comfort food of our childhood.

Eventually, we outgrew the blue box. Kraft mac n cheese tastes a bit sad to an adult palate- the noodles are limp and the cheese comes in powdered form. I searched for alternatives- recipes, restaurant dishes. While I can appreciate baked varieties of macaroni, it just isn't the kind I grew up with. I wanted something familiar: creamy, smooth sauce but with a sharper flavor.

This is what I came up with. It's a grown-up recipe for mac and cheese, but still with the same qualities you loved as a child. It's just as fast as boxed macaroni. I like my macaroni simple, but you can add bacon bits, onion, crab, or cheese and breadcrumbs and bake. Try it, you won't regret it!

Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese
loosely adopted from an Alton Brown recipe

1/2 pound macaroni or shell pasta
4 tablespoons butter
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon mustard
12 ounces shredded cheese (sharp cheddar, provolone, mozzarella a mix, whatever you have on hand)

1. Cook the pasta to al dente. Drain and return to the same pot. Add in the butter, tossing to coat.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, cheese, milk, hot sauce, pepper, and mustard. Add the mixture to the pasta and stir over very low heat for a few minutes. Be sure not to curdle the egg with too much heat. Serve immediately.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Summer treats

This summer has been one of the coldest on record in California. Still, there were a few hot days, and there surely will be a few to come in our "Indian summer."

Hot days mean that I usually have no desire to cook. There are a lot of easy recipes that don't require slaving over a hot stove all day. Instead, I usually opt to make some of my favorite summer treats: lemonade, ice cream, guacamole, and sushi.

Sushi is not hard once you figure out how to roll the seaweed tightly and get a sharp knife for cutting. But one way to avoid all the trouble is inari. Inari are seasoned tofu pockets that you can easily buy in the store. Fill them with rice and a filling of your choice and you have a cool, (but spicy!) summery meal.

Spicy Shrimp Inari

  • 2 cups rice, cooked
  • 2 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • mayonnaise (about 1/3 cup)
  • sriracha hot sauce
  • 1 diced green onion

1. Dissolve sugar in the vinegar. Add to the cooked rice, fanning it and letting it cool.
2. Boil the tofu pockets or prepare according to instructions.
3. Boil the shrimp but do not overcook. Slice into 3/4 inch cubes. Set aside the shrimp to cool.
4. Mix the mayonnaise and sriracha to taste. In a bowl, add enough of the mayonnaise mixture to the shrimp to coat.
5. To assemble, open a tofu pocket and stuff it about halfway with rice. Fill the rest with the shrimp mixture. Top with chopped green onions.

Lemonade is one of my favorite beverages. (You could probably guess that from my blog title.) You can always make the standard lemonade, adding lemon juice, water, and honey to taste. I like to spice up my lemonade with two twists- Lemon ai-yu and strawberry lemonade.

Lemon Ai-Yu is basic lemonade, with cubes of ai-yu cut up into it. It's a Taiwanese beverage that is probably popular throughout Asia. Ai-yu can be purchased at Asian grocery stores, and it basically tastes like sweet, mostly flavorless gelatin. It gives the drink some texture and it tastes refreshing when cold.

I make pink lemonade with strawberry puree added to plain lemonade. I have been experimenting with different amounts of the strawberry puree, but it never seems to have a huge impact on the flavor. I like the color it lends the lemonade, though. I have learned to strain out most of the strawberry seeds before adding it to the lemonade.

Drinking lemonade brings me back to summer days when I had nothing to do but hang out with friends, laugh, and enjoy life. I miss those days! Growing up is hard to do.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Picnic in the Presidio

On a sunny San Francisco afternoon, I decided to celebrate the unusually warm weather with a picnic at the Presidio. It's gorgeous with an open grass field where you can spread out and relax.

I bought this gorgeous basket from Pier One. You can fit in tons of goodies and a bottle of wine.

I brought crackers, goat cheese with herbs, a peach, sliced mangoes, sparkling fruit wine, berries, and mini sandwiches.

I made these sandwiches with asiago foccaccia, grilled peppers, ham, and pepper jack cheese. They were really delicious. The flavors really melded together and they traveled really well. They might be even better with a nice aioli.

If you ever have a day off, it's nice to go out with some berries, cheese, crackers, and just enjoy the sunshine. We've lost a lot of the romanticism that we had before in picnicking. People just pack a sandwich and some potato salad and call it a day. Sure, that's probably more efficient, less messy, and less time consuming. But would it hurt if we all had a little romance and optimism in our lives?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Ferry Building Fun!

The ferry building in SF is iconic. Originally just for ferries, now it's home to the most well-known farmer's market in San Francisco. On a beautiful Saturday morning, who can resist? The farmer's market isn't restricted to fresh fruits and vegetables, or even the delicious tapenades, hummus, nuts, and freshly baked breads. There are also a ton of food stands that rival fine dining restaurants. It's pricey, but it's definitely worth a try.

First up: Namu. A modern Korean food stand. There are breakfast items like French toast, fries with toppings, okonomiyaki and other goodies.
Namu's "original" Korean tacos. I guess this is probably a jab at Kogi (which I'm not a huge fan of.) These are good, but not really tacos by any stretch of the imagination. They are made up of two sheets of nori, some rice, some galbi beef, and chopped onions and kimchi salsa. These have a ton of potential. The flavors really work. However, it could use a bit more punch. The portion is tiny, and at 2/$5 they aren't cheap. They are literally bite size (okay, maybe two.) It would be great if they used a big sheet of nori, more rice (rice is cheap right??), more beef, more salsa/kimchi. It would make for a more satisfying bite. Nevertheless, I liked these reasonably enough.

I also tried the gamja fries. These looked great- perfect drunk food- fries covered with salsa, beef, salsa, some mayo, pretty much the same stuff as the tacos. They were disappointing though- very greasy and not in a satisfying way. I think they were around $6.

Next: 4505 Meats. A meat place, with lots of hot dogs, sausages, burgers. Apparently they are really famous for their hot dogs with chicharrones. Unfortunately I didn't try that, but I will next time. Instead, I tried the burger. At $7 it is not bad, but of course small. The meat is juicy and the patty is toasted and crispy at the edges. It's a pretty good burger, all in all. Made of fresh ingredients and done just right, which is what a ferry building lunch should be about.

Roli Roti is a hugely popular stand. There is always a huge line. I made the mistake of getting the rotisserie chicken and rosemary potatoes. I was tempted by the short chicken and potatoes only line. While perfectly adequate, it was your basic roasted chicken with tender skin, crispy herby skin, complemented with rosemary potatoes. Delicious, but not what everyone was waiting for. The porchetta sandwich is the real star, which I will get on my frequent trips to the area. They also have pork knuckles and a variety of meats which they seem to rotate. At $6 (I think) this was a steal compared to the rest of the market!
Finally, inside the market I have tried the oysters on the half shell. It was my first time trying raw oysters. I really like cooked oysters and I loooove sashimi, so I didn't think it would be a problem. However, the taste was really slimy and fishy... it's probably supposed to taste like this but I just didn't like it! You get an oyster and you can help yourself to any condiments for just $1.50.

All-in-all, visit the ferry building for free samples, fresh produce, and a nice lunch as well! I recommend bringing friends so you can try multiple items. No, I did not eat all this by myself!

Ferry Building
1 Ferry Bldg
San Francisco, CA 94111

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Parmesan Chicken- easy but impressive

So I guess I'm on a Barefoot Contessa kick on this blog.

I should mention that several years ago, I went to Wolfgang Puck's restaurant for my birthday. I got butternut squash ravioli, which was delicious! However, the real star of the night was my cousin's dish- chicken parmesan with a light salad and lemon vinaigrette. When I saw this recipe on Ina Garten's show, I knew I had to make it. Sure enough, it was very similar. Even better, it was very simple to make and you could even make it for a weekday dinner. At the same time, it is very impressive and tasty and would definitely impress at a dinner party. And it features my favorite condiment- the lemon!

I would like to note it could use an extra kick of flavor in the batter- I will experiment with that next time. Without the lemon it is not as remarkable.

Parmesan Chicken
Adapted from an Ina Garten recipe

  • 4 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 extra-large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
  • Unsalted butter
  • Good olive oil
  • Ready to use arugula salad
  • 1 recipe Lemon Vinaigrette, recipe follows

Pound the chicken breasts until they are 1/4-inch thick. You can use either a meat mallet or a rolling pin.

Combine the flour, salt, and pepper on a dinner plate. On a second plate, beat the eggs with 1 tablespoon of water. On a third plate, combine the bread crumbs and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan. Coat the chicken breasts on both sides with the flour mixture, then dip both sides into the egg mixture and dredge both sides in the bread-crumb mixture, pressing lightly.

Heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan and cook 2 or 3 chicken breasts on medium-low heat for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until cooked through. Add more butter and oil and cook the rest of the chicken breasts. Toss the salad greens with lemon vinaigrette. Place a mound of salad on each hot chicken breast. Serve with extra grated Parmesan.

Lemon Vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Taiwan- Photo Post 2

shaved ice with strawberries and milk pudding

ramen served on a burner stove

cheesy seafood rice

dim sum sold at a street cart
more xiao long bao

A lady making candied fruits and tomatoes

Friday, February 26, 2010

A Photo Post- Taiwan

sticky rice with meat and mushrooms

This winter I visited Taiwan. I'm not going to lie, a major reason was the food. I am seriously convinced that this is the best food in the world. (I may be biased.) There really is no comparison. Around every corner, there is a stand or a restaurant to be tasted. With so many choices, there are bound to be some really great foods. One of the things I love about Taiwanese food is that much of it is prepared by mom-and-pop shops. There are few chains; small businesses are king. I think there is something very special about a family-owned business that has spent years, maybe generations, perfecting one recipe.

But enough chatter, let's get to the first round of pics:

xiao long bao (soup dumplings)

fried agedashi tofu
famous fried sandwiches
mango mixed ice

best breakfast ever: rice ball and yogurt drinks
tofu and mustard greens (?) soup
fried chinese tofu

pan-fried bao

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Food and Love

Food and love go together so well.. it seems that we celebrate all of our special occasions with a delicious meal. For me, food is an expression that I care for people- my friends and family as well as my significant other. That's why I wanted to cook for Valentine's Day.

On Valentine's Day, I was spoiled with a meal at a yummy French place with a prix fixe Valentine's menu (a pricy one, but in the city, what can you expect?) The next day, I made a romantic dinner menu to celebrate at home. You can really save so much money eating in. This dinner, plus wine probably cost me $40.

First, French onion soup. This I learned from my roommate's boyfriend. It's now one of my favorite soups! I crave it all the time now. It's really quite easy to make: just caramelize a large amount of onions in butter until almost jammy, season, then add beef broth. Serve with bread and cheese. I used a nice nutty Gruyere. The melty strings of cheese oozing with the soft bread and onions... this is comfort food, through and through. Yum! I will post a detailed recipe soon.

For the main course, I thought a rack of lamb would be delicate and not too heavy. It turned out very well. This is a Giada recipe, with basil and mint pesto. Like many Giada recipes, it's a simple recipe with bold, beautiful colors. The recipe is below.

Lastly, I made a chocolate torte. It was supposed to be a souffle, but it was kind of a fail. It didn't rise and I know why... During the beating process of the eggs, I stepped away for a moment. At least it was full of chocolaty goodness!

Rack of Lamb with Mint-Basil Pesto


  • 1 1/2 cups lightly packed fresh mint leaves
  • 3/4 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 (1 1/2-pounds each) racks of lamb, trimmed and frenched

Blend the mint, basil, nuts, cheese, lemon juice, garlic, 3/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper in a food processor until the herbs are finely chopped. With the machine running, gradually blend in 1/3 cup of oil until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Generously sprinkle the lamb racks with salt and pepper. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a grill pan or heavy large skillet over high heat. Place 1 lamb rack in the skillet and cook just until brown, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the lamb rack meat side up on a heavy large baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining 2 lamb racks.

Roast the lamb in the oven until cooked to desired doneness, about 20 minutes for medium-rare. Transfer the lamb racks to a work surface. Set aside for 10 minutes. Cut the lamb between the bones into single chops. Spread the pesto over 1 cut side of each chop. Arrange the chops, pesto side up, on plates or a platter, and serve.