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.

I'll have them Nick's Way...

Nightclub Rouge by night, Nick's Crispy Tacos by day! I've never been to Rouge, but I can definitely tell the place is a nightclub. There are chandeliers, red velvet booths, and a bar. It's very campy and I enjoy the contrast between the food and the setting. On Tuesdays for happy hour starting at 5pm, it gets really full and it can be hard to find a seat.

After the first time I went to Nick's Crispy Tacos, I started thinking it was a very good thing I did not live next door. I would probably be here every Tuesday if that were the case for Taco Tuesdays! On Tuesdays, tacos, quesadillas, chips/salsa/guacamole are all $2, and there are drinks specials as well.

For messy, fattening, delicious food, there's nothing like Nick's.

Chips, salsa and guac. Although some people have taken issue with the creamy consistency of the guacamole, I actually really like it. This is a classic and for $2 for this amount of guacamole, it can't be beat. Their chips are a nice crunchy consistency without being too hard (maybe they're homemade?)

The quesadilla was huge! I got the pollo asada. It was nice, but a little greasy. I can't help but think I prefer my own quesadillas.

And finally, the tacos. These are the main attraction at Nick's. Everything is $2 except for the seafood tacos. The pesco asada, fried fish, is the best taco there. I always get it even though it's not a special. You have to get them Nick's Way (with guacamole, cheese, crispy taco) which makes it almost $5, the price of a burrito at many other restaurants! This practically is a burrito though in size, so it's worth it to me. These are the best!! It's a perfect balance of flavors and texture: the creamy softness of the fish, the crispy fried shell, the soft taco, the fried taco, the crunch of the veggies, the smooth guacamole. Nick's really balances the flavors and uses the freshest ingredients; I've never had a stale taco. I really swear by this!!

Overall, I think Nick's is great. It's definitely a staple. My one gripe is that they could cut back on the oil in some of the dishes. It's comfort food though, so I can't complain too much. I would definitely recommend this as a weekly Tuesday spot.

Nick's Crispy Taco
1500 Broadway San Francisco
CA 94109-2516
(415) 409-8226

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Ode to a lemon- Lemon Bars

Finally, I can start a blog post to explain the name of my blog!!

Without noticing it at first, lemons crept into my cooking, baking and eating. From lemon slices squeezed onto seafood for acidity, a fragrant lemony basil pasta, the crisp taste of fresh-squeezed lemonade, and the joy of a lemon meringue pie-- lemons are really a common thread in the foods I enjoy.

Despite the fact that I love baking, I have never had a sweet tooth- if anything, I prefer the salty, spicy and sour. I prefer strong flavors that please my palate. In many dishes and desserts, it seems like lemons are the perfect foil to delicious food! So my rule of thumb for preparing food- a spoonful of lemons (or lemon juice)- will get you there. It's what you need to take many foods to the next level. What would buttery crab be without a spritz of lemon?

And that's why I prefer a spoonful of lemons to a spoonful of sugar.

Lemon bars are a perfect example of the beauty of the lemon. I despise overly sweet lemony desserts- if there isn't a bite to it, then what's the point? So this is an Ina Garten recipe- altered to cut the sweetness. It's not mouth puckering by any means- no one who has tried it has said that this was too sour. I hope you find it delectable!
For the crust:


Adapted from a Barefoot Contessa Recipe

  • 1/2 pound butter (or 1 cup), room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup flour
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl with an electric mixer.
3. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed.
4. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes.
5. Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.
6. For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.
7. Cut into squares, dust with confectioners' sugar, and serve!