Monday, October 31, 2011

Bolognese Meat Sauce

Oh happy day! My photo of sambal goreng udang was featured on Tastespotting! If you who are visiting my blog from Tastespotting's link, thanks for checking this out and a big welcome to you! This is a rather new food blog, but do stay tuned and subscribe for I'll be posting more exciting recipes and reviews in time to come! :) Also, feel free to leave a comment and say hi!

Today, I'm going to share with you one of the best, if not the best, beef bolognese recipe!

Although this recipe requires hours of preparation, it is not difficult, and your efforts will pay off. I've never had better beef bolognese in my life, not even in restaurants. This recipe is from my favorite italian cookbook, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. Love her work, love her recipes, love her book!

I'd usually save at least my afternoon and evening to make this because you need at least three hours to simmer the sauce and that is not counting simmering the milk and wine before that. But, it is worth the time because you can make a huge batch and portion them out (like what I did in the picture) and keep them in the refrigerator (more on that in the after note). So I'd say if you have a day, give this a shot and savour one of the best beef bolognese!

Bolognese Meat Sauce (from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan)

Some things to note:
Ragu, as the Bolognese call their celebrated meat sauce, is characterized by mellow, gentle, comfortable flavor that any cook can achieve by being careful about a few basic points:

The meat should not be from too lean a cut; the more marbled it is, the sweeter the ragu will be. The most desirable cut of beef is the neck portion of the chuck.

Add salt immediately when sauteing the meat to extract its juices for the subsequent benefit of the sauce.

Cook the meat in milk before adding wine and tomatoes to protect if from the acidic bite of the latter.

Do not use a demiglace or other concentrates that tip the balance of flavors toward harshness.

Use a pot that retains heat. Earthenware is preferred in Bologna and by most cooks in Emilia-Romagna, but enameled cast-iron pans or a pot whose heavy bottom is composed of layers of steel alloys are fully satisfactory.

Cook, uncovered, at the merest simmer for a long, long time; no less than 3 hours is necessary, more is better.

(2 heaping cups, for about 6 servings and 1 1/2 pounds pasta)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons butter plus 1 tablespoon for tossing the pasta
1/2 cup chopped onion
2/3 cup chopped celery
2/3 cup chopped carrot
3/4 pound ground beef chuck
(see prefatory note above)
Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
1 cup whole milk
Whole nutmeg
1 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cup canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds pasta
Freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese at the table

Put the oil, butter and chopped onion in the pot and turn the heat on to medium. Cook and stir the onion until it has become translucent, then add the chopped celery and carrot. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring the vegetables to coat them well.

Add the ground beef, a large pinch of salt, and a few grindings of pepper. Crumble the meat with a fork, stir well, and cook until th beef has lost its raw, red color.

Add the milk and let it simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has bubbled away completely. Add a tiny grating - about 1/8 teaspoon - of nutmeg and stir.

Add the wine, let it simmer until it has evaporated, then add the tomatoes and stir thoroughly to coat all ingredients well. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, turn the heat down so that the sauce cooks at the laziest of simmers, with just an intermittent bubble breaking through to the surface. Cook, uncovered, for 3 hours or more, stirring from time to time. While the sauce is cooking, you are likely to find that it begins to dry out and the fat separates from the meat. To keep it from sticking, continue the cooking, adding 1/2 cup of water whenever necessary. At the end, however, no water at all must be left and the fat must separate from the sauce. Taste and correct for salt.

Toss with cooked drained pasta, adding the tablespoon of butter, and serve with freshly grated Parmesan on the side.

Ahead-of-time note: If you cannot watch the sauce for a 3- to 4-hour stretch, you can turn off the heat whenever you need to leave, and resume cooking later on, as long as you complete the sauce within the same day. Once done, you can refrigerate the sauce in a tightly sealed container for 3 days, or you can freeze it. Before tossing with pasta, reheat it, letting it simmer for 15 minutes and stirring it once or twice.

Variation of Ragu with PorkPork is an important part of Bologna's culture, its economy, and the cuisine, and many cooks add some pork to make their ragu tastier. Use 1 part ground pork, preferably from the neck or Boston butt, to 2 parts beef, and make the meat sauce exactly as described in the basic recipe above.

And that's my beef bolognese, all set and ready to go! :) Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Victoria Sponge Cake

This divine looking cake that you're staring at is named after Queen Victoria, who loved to enjoy this with her afternoon tea. I've been really excited to share this recipe because not only does this cake look so pretty and taste delicious, it is really not as difficult to make as it looks.

A typical Victoria Sponge cake would consist of strawberry/raspberry jam with cream sandwiched by two sponge cakes, and is usually finished with just a simple dusting of icing sugar. I believe we can all give this a try! The most crucial step in this recipe is to make sure the eggs do not curdle when incorporated, so for a beginner, it is best to add it teaspoon by teaspoon. After that part, the rest is a breeze. I made mine with a little vanilla essence added, but that is purely optional.

Victoria Sponge Cake (from Delia Online)

4 oz (110g) butter (must be at room temperature)
4 oz (110g) caster sugar
2 large eggs
4 oz (110g) self-raising flour
Icing sugar

This recipe is for two 7-inch pans (at least 1.5-inch deep), but I only had 9-inch pans so I doubled the recipe and it worked fine.

Preheat your oven to 325F. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until you get a pale, fluffy mixture that drops off the spoon easily (an electric hand whisk speeds this up considerably, but a wooden spoon will do).

Then in a separate jug or bowl, beat the eggs thoroughly together, then add them a little at a time, beating well after each addition. For a beginner, I would recommend just a teaspoonful of egg at a time: if you add it like this, it won't curdle. (Why shouldn't it curdle, you're thinking? Well, some of the hidden air that by now has been beaten into the mixture will escape if the mixture 'breaks' and as air is what makes a cake light, curdling will make it heavier.)

When the eggs have been incorporated, take a metal tablespoon, which will cut and fold the flour in much better than a thick wooden spoon. Have the flour in a sieve resting on a plate, then lift the sieve high above the bowl and sift about a quarter of it on to the mixture - then replace the sieve on the plate and lightly and gently fold the flour into the mixture (if you beat the flour in, you'll lose some of the precious air). Then repeat this until all the flour is incorporated: lifting the sieve up high above the bowl will ensure the flour gets a good airing before it reaches the mixture. Now the flour has been added you should have a mixture that will drop off the spoon easily when you tap it on the side of the bowl. If not, add some hot water, one or two teaspoonfuls or if you're using medium eggs you may need a tablespoonful more.

Now divide the mixture equally between the prepared tins - if you want to be very precise you could place both tins on the balance scales (I've never bothered because, quite honestly, I don't mind if one sponge is fractionally larger than the other.) Place them on the centre shelf of the oven, and they'll take about 25-30 minutes to cook. When they are cooked, the centres will feel springy when lightly touched with a little fingertip and no imprint remains. I think the secret of success here is to be patient and not to have crafty peeps halfway through: a sudden rush of cold coming into the oven can cause the cakes to sink.

When they're cooked, remove them from then oven, then after about 1 minute turn them out on to a wire cooling tray, loosening them around the edges with a palette knife first. Then carefully peel off the base papers and leave the cakes to cool completely before sandwiching them together with jam and sifting a little icing sugar over the surface.
Then fillings can vary from just jam or a mixture of jam and whipped cream, to lemon curd or chocolate fudge icing. Also you can flavour the cake mixture with grated lemon or orange rind or a few drops of vanilla extract. For a coffee flavour, dilute a tablespoon of instant coffee with a dessertspoon of hot water. For a chocolate flavour, take out a level tablespoon of flour and replace it with a level tablespoon of cocoa.
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Saturday, October 29, 2011


At the gatecrash of my wedding, one of the questions my hubby had to answer was, what is my favourite food. Without hesitation, he replied, "sashimi!". And he is right! Sake, Ikura, Ebi, Hamachi... I love them all! So imagine my trepidation when I came to America, wary that I may not be able to find good japanese food.

The truth is, I have been able to find good Japanese food, but not good sushi. I've been to several restaurants so far and many of their sushi rice lacked flavor. It is almost like just plain japanese rice, without a tinge of rice vinegar or mirin. The problem is not with the ingredients, but mostly the rice itself. I'm not sure if I am just too used to the way we Singaporeans have our sushi, but I was certainly disappointed. After several failed visits to different restaurants, I decided to make my own sushi rice at home (which is another story/recipe altogether).

However, my dismal feelings about the state of sushi in LA ended when I visited Kabuki. I first read about this restaurant in the newspapers, where it was voted by readers as the best japanese restaurants in Pasadena. When I saw that, I just had to give it a shot. I tried their special (picture above), which is a spicy roll topped with seasonal raw fish, and this is the first restaurant I've been to that actually sold decent sushi! Their roll was tasty, and it had a good crunch when I bit into it. The toppings were fresh, though I would have liked it even more if they came with uni and hotate.
Salmon and tempura lunch set.

One thing worth noting about Kabuki is their value for money set lunches. For $10.95, I can have a set meal, choosing between chicken, beef or salmon teriyaki and tempura complete with rice (you can opt for brown rice), salad and miso soup. Their miso is mediocre, but I love their salad dressing, which is sweet, salty and tart all rolled into one. They have other items on their set lunch menu too, such sushi and chirashi set meals.

I ordered the beef to be cooked to medium, which is the way I like it, with a nice pink centre. The beef tasted not bad, though the texture was a little too sinewy for me. My friend thought her salmon was ok, but would have preferred a bigger slice. Other than those slight misses, Kabuki is a place I'd return to because it serves good food with affordable prices. They also served us a side of edamame beans before our meal, which is a nice bonus.I hope their other sushi, besides their special roll, is equally good because I'd be coming back to try them again!

88 W Colorado Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91105 Best Blogger Tips

Friday, October 28, 2011

Heirloom Bakery & Cafe

When I see the word heirloom, images of vibrant red, juicy heirloom tomatoes pop to mind! I wonder if that is why they gave it that name?

I brought my Singaporean friend to Heirloom Bakery & Cafe for brunch a few days ago. Even though it was a weekday morning, the place was packed! It was our first time there and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. What made an impression on me was not only the food, but the people. The lady who took our orders was chirping away, and such cheerfulness is certainly contagious. You feel welcomed before even taking a bite!
I loved the casual feel of the place, which is nestled in a corner of a quiet neighbourhood. We started off with a scone, which was pretty decent. They didn't give me a coffee menu when I asked for it, but they make your usual latte and mocha, etc. I ordered their pressed sandwich, which consists of provolone (yum), salami, egg, tomatoes and pesto dressing. 
This was, to me, the highlight of the day. It was simply delightful! The country bread was toasted just right, not burnt, the melted provolone cheese paired well with the grilled tomatoes and the pesto dressing gave it the tint of herb without overpowering the cheese. The portion was big enough, making it really value for money.

My only gripe was that they got my friend's order wrong. She wanted mushrooms on a side, but they ended up scrambling her mushrooms with her eggs, which didn't turn out very good. But the lady apologised for the error, and we were ok with that. It's not an error hideous enough to stop me from coming back.

They have a daily special menu on top of their usuals, as well as a range of sweet treats such as brownies and cupcakes. While this is not the best brunch I've eaten, I'd say with the friendly staff and cosy ambience, I'd definitely make a trip back to check out their other stuff.

Heirloom Bakery & Cafe
807 Meridian Ave
South Pasadena, CA 91031

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Baked Hoisin Chicken

While searching for recipes online a few months ago, I would often come across the ingredient "hoisin sauce". I never had any on hand at those moments so one day, I decided to buy a bottle to put on standby.

As fate would have it, after I did that, I never saw a recipe calling for that ingredient anymore. Still, I was adamant about using it and decided to just bake the bird with it. I love how the sauce reminds me of one of my favourite dishes, peking duck! Maybe I should try making that someday. Meanwhile, here's the recipe I used. I'm not even sure if I should call it a recipe because it is so simple. Some recipes would steam the chicken and then spread the hoisin sauce over it. However, I prefer to bake both the chicken and sauce together because I love how the sauce will caramelize on the chicken skin towards the end. The result? A plate of tasty chicken that is sweet and salty on the outside, and juicy and tender on the inside. YUMS!

Baked Hoisin Chicken
(serves 2)

4 pieces of chicken thigh
3 ounces of hoisin sauce (I use Lee Kum Kee Hoisin Sauce)

Marinate your chicken thighs with the hoisin sauce and place it into a ziplock bag. Ensure that all the air has been pressed out before zipping it up. Leave it in the refrigerator overnight.

Preheat your oven to 400F. Place the chicken thighs on a baking tray with its skin facing up. Chicken is a self-basting bird so it would not get stuck onto your baking tray without an aluminium foil. However, if you want to prevent the hoisin sauce from sticking/staining your baking tray, then you can layer the aluminium foil on the baking tray.

Bake the chicken thighs for 15 minutes before flipping them over, with the skin facing downwards. Cook for 10 minutes before flipping them back up. Cook the chicken for another 10 minutes or until the chicken thighs turn a dark golden brown (like the photo above). Depending on the size of the chicken thighs, some may get burnt quicker than others. So, always keep a watchful eye on them and not let the skin get charred! Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Creamy Corn Korokke

I love korokke! Not so much those potato kinds, but the creamy ones that ooze with bechamel sauce and stuffed with corn nibblets. I used to over snack on those in Secondary school. Being in a foreign land brings out even the most distant cravings, and so I decided that it is time for a korokke that afternoon!

Luckily, making one doesn't require much ingredients and you probably have most of the stuff in your own kitchen. Although the origins of a korokke is not from Japan but France (korokke = croquette), it is has been deeply embraced by the Japanese and have since been modernised to include various stuffings. You can add to the bechamel sauce corn nibblets (like me), or crabmeat, tuna, etc. But whichever ingredients you decide to use, make sure that they are cut into small pieces. The last thing you want is a 3-inch crabmeat snaking its way out of your otherwise perfect korokke!

Creamy Corn Korokke
(makes 5 to 6 pieces, depending on the size of your korroke)

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour for the sauce, and some for dusting
440ml of milk, warmed (stir it over a low fire or place it in a hot water bath)
150g of corn nibblets
1 egg, beaten
Canola oil
Salt and black pepper to taste

In a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter with a little bit of oil over low heat. Blend in the flour and stir for about 2 minutes.

Remove the saucepan from heat. Make sure the sauce is not bubbling before pouring in the milk. Beat the mixture vigorously with a whisk to blend the milk thoroughly with the roux.

Set the saucepan over medium-high heat and bring it to a boil, stirring it constantly. Reduce the sauce until it is viscous and consistent, with no lumps. Add salt and pepper to taste. This is your homemade bechamel sauce. When you are satisfied with it, add in the corn nibblets, stir it through quickly and remove it from heat.

Pour your creamy corn mixture into a tray or container and set it aside to cool for a few minutes. Then, put it into your freezer until the mixture becomes semi-solid (it has to be manageable when you take it out to roll it in flour and panko).

Meanwhile, prepare pour out your panko onto a plate, and the flour onto another separate plate. Take out your creamy corn mixture and shape it into round balls, about 3-inch wide. Here's the process: Coat it with flour, then egg, and lastly panko. If your mixture is still somewhat creamy and you are pressed for time (like me), depending on the dexterity of your hand, you can still give it a shot, as long as the mixture is not falling apart all over your hands and you get a decent panko ball at the end.

Heat your oil on a skillet over high heat. You need at least oil that is half and inch deep to get a good crsip. Make sure that the oil is heated to about 365 F. My favourite way of checking this is using a wooden chopsticks. Just stick it in. If there are bubbles forming at the side, your oil is ready. If not, until it is. Make sure your wooden chopsticks/spoon is not coated with oil when you test, because you won't get those bubbles even if your oil is very hot.

Fry your korokke in the oil until each side is golden brown. I'd advise against putting all in at one shot, because you need space to flip your soft korokke in the pan, and you don't want to risk bursting it. In the event that it does burst, just continue frying and try not to let the cream spread too much into the oil. Putting two korokke into the pan at one time would be good.

So there you have it! Homemade creamy korokke! Best to pair it with an episode of The Simpsons like what the hubby and I did. :) Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sambal Goreng Udang

I'm really excited because a very special friend from Singapore is coming to visit today! :) So between sprucing up my place and a starving hubby, I didn't have much time to prepare lunch. So, pre-mix to the rescue!

Although I don't often use pre-mix, I don't think there is any shame in using it. Sure, it's a shortcut, but if you are very pressed for time, then why not?

This dish takes less than 15 minutes to make. In fact, I'd turn on my rice cooker and before the rice is done, the dish is ready! Easy peasy!

Sambal Goreng Udang

16 large prawns, shells removed
1 green capsicum
1/2 onion
1 tablespoon of canola oil
1/4 cup of water
one packet of Sambal Goreng pre-mix (I use Indofood brand)

Heat oil in skillet over high heat. Fry onions until fragrant then add the capsicums. Stir fry the capsicums until semi-soft.

Add the pre-mix into the skillet and fry for one minute. Add water and fry for until capsicums are tender before adding the prawns. If the sauce is too spicy for you, add a bit more water. If it is too watery, just reduce the sauce by saueting it further. Best Blogger Tips

Monday, October 24, 2011

Basic Pizza Dough

Tomato-based pizza topped with honey baked ham, mozzarella, parmesan cheese and fresh basil.
I have always been very fascinated by people who can make breads and pizzas. I used think that it is very difficult to knead a dough from scratch. The thought of following those instructions on cookbooks to make a well in the flour and break an egg into it was paralysing enough.

So, when I decided to try making a pizza, my hubby looked at me semi-doubtfully and politely asked if it would be less troublesome to just go out and buy a pizza from a parlour - especially since we ARE in America! But who can blame him? The first one I baked did NOT look like the picture above. My dough did not rise properly and I rolled it too thick. However, I was determined to get it right. It's a little hard to explain, but I think baking can get a little addictive. From a person who used to NOT bake at all, I am now getting periodic urges to bake something. A cake, a cookie, pizza, anything!

So, I decided to try again, this time keeping a watchful eye on my dough and making sure that it rose. I would also like to disclaim that this is a pizza that was made successfully with the limitations I had. I don't own a pizza stone, so I used a skillet as a substitute. Pizza purists would probably gasp in horror at what I had done, but to me it did the job well enough! Also, a more preferable workcounter would be a sturdy, wooden table to knead your dough but I don't have that either, so I had no choice but to use my granite countertop. The end result is that beautiful pizza (above). I know I kind of folded  the edges all wobbly, but it kind of lends a rustic look to it, don't you think? :)

Basic Pizza Dough
(makes 2 pizzas about 10-inches wide)

1 1/2 teaspoon of active dry yeast
1 cup of lukewarm water
3/4 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, and some extra for coating the dough
1/2 tablespoon of salt

Dissolve the yeast conpletely in a large bowl by stirring it into 1/4 cup of lukewarm water. Try not to use a metal bowl, because metal tends to be colder than other materials, which is not good for the yeast. However, I only have a metal one, so I warmed the bowl with some hot water, dry it and then dissolve the yeast in it.

After 10 minutes, add 1 cup of flour and mix it thoroughly. Then, gradually add 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, the salt, another 1/4 cup of water and 1 cup of flour and mix thoroughly again. If it is too difficult to use the spoon, just use both hands to collect the dough and knead it, like play-doh, within the bowl.

When pouring in the water and flour for the last time, hold back some of both and only add until the dough is soft and not too sticky. For mine, I ended up adding all the water, plus a tablespoon extra, and I had about 1/4 cup of flour leftover.

Take the dough out from the bowl. Holding the edge of the dough, slap it down hard against your workcounter several times until it is stretched about 10-inch wide. Then, reach for both far ends of the dough and fold it into the center, and then pushing the dough away from you, and then collect it by rolling it back to you. Slap the dough down again and repeat the procedure until the dough becomes soft and uniform, for about 10 minutes. Then, pat the dough into a round bowl.

Now, it is time for the dough to rise. You can put the dough back into your large bowl. As I wanted to avoid using the metal bowl (as mentioned, it is not good for the yeast, especially for rising it) so I split the dough into two and put them into separate ceramic bowls that has been lightly coasted with olive oil. Roll the dough around the bowl to lightly coat it with olive oil, then cover it with a plastic wrap.

For the dough to rise properly, it is important to put it in a draught-free place. I put mine in my unheated oven and turned the oven light on to give it some warmth. Then, wait for three hours. The dough should have risen 2 times its original size. When done correctly, not only will the dough look much bigger, but it will feel much less dense. It will have this soft, airy texture when you likely prod it with your finger.

Preheat your oven to 450F. Meanwhile warm your skillet over your stove for 5 minutes. I used a shallow baking tray the first time I did it and the dough wasn't able to be cooked properly. So, i decided to use a skillet to emulate a pan.

Take your risen dough out of the bowl. If you have halved it, fine. If not, halve it now and set it aside. Use a rolling pin and flatten the dough as thin as you can. This is important as the dough will rise again while baking. I did mine super thin, like 1mm thick, and that's how I like it. If you are confident enough, you can toss your dough up in the air like a pro. Leave the edges of the dough slightly risen, or you can, like me, roll it inward with the toppings to make my own stuff crust pizza. If not, you can leave it empty too. FYI, i don't own a rolling pin (still contemplating if I should get one) so I used my old wine bottle instead. :D

Spread your sauce onto your dough and then place it into the pan. Top it with any toppings of your choice! I wouldn't recommend topping it before placing it into the pan because the weight might tear your thin sheet of dough and it would just get messy.

Pop the skillet into your preheated oven for about 15 minutes, or until the dough is coloured light brown. When done, drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil! :)

For the other half of the dough that has been lefover, you may start making your second pizza if you have a bigger crowd, or if not, you can save it for later. You may store the dough in your refrigerator for up till 48 hours to give it a slow rise, or you may also put it into the freezer to be stored for a longer period of time. However, when you take it out, you must wait much longer for the dough to be at room temperature and to let it rise a little bit again. I'd suggest to just use up the dough as soon as you can! Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Kuro Ramen $7.95
Was hit with a sudden craving for a hot bowl of ramen with thick, milky pork broth since yesterday. As our favorite ramen place was not opened on Sundays, I had to wait until today to have it. But boy was it worth it!

I've been to a couple of ramen shops in LA so far but none was more satisfying than Kosuke. Even the one we had at the Little Tokyo didn't have the depth of flavor that this chef was able to summon from the pork bones. To me, a good bowl of ramen must first have good stock, then decent noodles, followed by whatever ingredients you like to go with it. The only downside for this is the egg, which is hard-boiled. I'm not sure if it is because of the danger of salmonellosis or the fear of a potential lawsuit, but they really cook their eggs through. Anyhow, aside for not getting my onsen, I am very happy with this place!

From left: Gyoza ($1 with any ramen) and Tonkotsu Ramen
I would usually go for the spicy ramen, which by the way, has spicy levels between 1 and 5. I usually take no.2. Today, however, I decided to try their Kuro Ramen, which is topped with their special blend of black oil (made of garlic, I believe). My initial hesitation was due to a rather bad experience of a similar type of ramen back in Singapore. The place where I tried was really popular, so I thought I was just not fond of the "special black oil". But after today, I'm a convert! This Kuro Ramen was fragrant with a hint of garlic flavour. The stock is similar to Tonkotsu ramen, but the added dash of oil really adds another layer of flavour to the noodles.

Kosuke is a cozy little place that can hold no more than 40 people. However, I've never had to wait long for a seat. Service is fast and the staff are friendly. So yep, this is definitely a keeper for us. And just for kicks, I like how I can choose among a variety of side dishes to complement my ramen for just a buck or two. I've only tried their gyoza so far and it is not bad. Although the skin is a little thick, its crsipiness more than makes up for it. FYI, they also sell other japanese dishes like tonkatsu curry, which I often see many people ordering) and unagi rice.

618 West Main St
Alhambra, CA 91801
Monday to Saturday: 11:30 am to 9:30 pm Best Blogger Tips

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pasta Bianco

It is amazing how something so simple, made with few ingredients, can taste so heavenly!

A few months ago, I watched an episode of No Reservations by Anthony Bourdain, where he made a trip to Rome. The entire show was shot in black and white to capture a sense of Fellini's films, and in one scene, we saw an italian chef preparing a plate of pasta for Bourdain. It looked rather simple. make the pasta, toss some cheese in it and crack black pepper over it. In fact, it looked so ordinary that I didn't pay much attention to it until Boudain starting eating and finishing every last morsel of it. In fact, he did not even reveal the name of the restaurant to prevent it from becoming a tourist attraction. That piqued my interest.

Fast forward a few months later, I received Jamie Oliver's Dinners cookbook as a gift and I saw the recipe for pasta bianco. I was thrilled! Even though it was a different dish from the one shown on No Reservations (which, by the way is tagliolini cacio e pepe), it reminded me of that dish and I wanted to try!

The secret, as in many italian recipes, is in the pasta. I like mine al dente, with a firm bite to it. Once you've got that right, you've won half the battle. The other important thing to note is the use of good parmesan cheese. I use freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and believe me, there is a distinct difference between that and pre-shredded ones. Just a fun fact, according to wikipedia, under the italian law, only cheese produced in Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna and Mantova can label their cheese Parmigiano-Reggiano. That's how fiercely they guard its reputation! But if you can't get your hands on those, a block of good parmesan cheese is can do (just not pre-shredded!).

Pasta Bianco (adapted from Jamie's Dinners)
(serves 4)
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely grated
1 1/2 of ounces butter
1 pound tagliatelle or fettucine (I used linguini)
2 or 3 handfuls of freshly grated parmesan cheese
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small shallow pan, slowly fry the garlic in the butter without coloring for a few minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, add the pasta, and cook according to the package instructions. When it's done, drain it in a colander over a bowl so you save some of the starchy cooking water. Reserving this water and using it to finish off a pasta sauce is absolutely critical to getting any pasta sauce right, especially this one.

Get yourself a big, warmed pasta or salad bowl and pour your melted garlic butter into it so that the whole surface is covered. Then toss in your cooked pasta with about 5 or 6 tablespoons of the reserved cooking water and the parmesan cheese. Season to taste. With tongs or two forks, toss the pasta around. The butter, garlic, water and Parmesan will form a really creamy sauce.

What you need to do next is get everyone round the table. You may have to keep feeding the pasta with a little of the reserved cooking water, so the sauce stays silky and delicate and not too sticky. Once you get the consistency right, serve the pasta into bowls and pass round a big chunk of Parmesan cheese and a grater.

There are many ways of varying this sauce - you can lay some prosciutto over, or stir some chopped tomatoes into your garlic butter before removing from the heat, or you can incorporate different cheeses, but the key is to get simple, well seasoned, delicate pasta coated in a butter cheese sauce.

Once you get this pasta exactly right, try to make it with a bit more speed the next time - the quicker you can do it and get it right, the better the pasta will be. Best Blogger Tips

Friday, October 21, 2011

Spanish Eggs

If there's one thing I love in fall, it's piping hot breakfast on a chilly morning. That morning, I was reminscing about those spanish eggs I used to have at Jones The Grocer. I don't know about you, but I love my yolks runny. To me, a hard yolk mutes out the rich flavor of an egg. To combat the craving, I decided to make my own version of spanish eggs!

Although most recipes would call for ramekins, I don't own one so I decided to use my trusty skillet in place of it. Turns out to be a good substitute as you can see from the picture! It was so good that I just ate it off the skillet. Having said that, I think ramekins would be a great way to brown the parmesan cheese.

For those who prefer a meatier option, you might like to throw in some chorizos. 

Spanish Eggs
(serves 2)

4 eggs
1/2 a can of diced tomatoes
1/4 medium onion, finely chopped.
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
2 stalks of fresh thyme, stem removed
2 stalks of fresh oregano
1 teaspoon of dried rosemary leaves or 1 big sprig of fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 tablespoons of freshly grated parmesan cheese
salt & black pepper to taste

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Fry garlic and onions until fragrant.

Put in the chopped tomatoes and add a little salt and pepper to taste. When the sauce is bubbling, add in the herbs.

Cook the sauce for about five to eight minutes. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese and carefully crack two eggs on it. Cover the skillet and wait for the eggs to be cooked to your preferred doneness. Serve hot.
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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hello, my friend. Welcome to my blog.

For as long as I can remember, I love food. I would scour online for recommendations on where to get the best hokkien mee and sashimi. While friends would return from a holiday gushing about their latest bags and shoes, I would rattle on about German sausages and peking duck. My idea of a good date is one that would tantalize my tastebuds, and the last one had left me trigger-happy, having overindulged on truffles and saffron gnocchi.

But that is not the reason why I’ve created this blog. Well, not the main reason anyway.

I used to think I cannot bake. The thought of kneading dough or baking cookies from scratch seemed impossible. Sure, I enjoy watching cooking shows, reading food magazines and surfing food blogs. But to bake that cake? No way.

Then, I relocated to America and had more time on my hands to cook, coupled with the incentive that it is more economical to do so. Moreover, it is not always that easy to find asian food here, especially when I am hit with those midnight cravings. There aren’t those 24-hour hawker centres here that I am so fond of.

So, I started cooking. And baking. And cooking. Before Iong, I realized it isn’t that difficult after all! In fact, I am convinced that with the right tools, ingredients and with some patience, cooking and baking is within reach of everyone. In fact, pretty often, u can substitute one ingredient for another.

There are many reasons why I created this blog. Like keeping in touch with family and friends, and feeding the writer bug in me. Sure, I'd probably be posting up some food reviews along the way, but if I have to zero in on the one reason why I'm doing this, it is to let budding cooks and bakers know that it is not impossible to whip up delicious meals for your family, friends and yourself.

So come, join me on this journey and let’s start cooking. Best Blogger Tips