Friday, December 24, 2010

Just Desserts: Cream Puffs

Cream puffs, my favorite dessert growing up... What's not to love? These bite size treats are light and airy yet rich and decadent, filled with whipped cream and dipped into chocolate. My Baba made these all the time for special occasions and, on request, when I needed to quench my sweet tooth. After eating countless cream puffs throughout my life, I figured it would be beneficial to learn the recipe from our family's master baker. So this Christmas Eve Baba and I had a baking class.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Quick Dill Pickle

I've been out of the country for the last 2 months, away from the kitchen and totally removed from the holiday frenzy. Just hours after I landed from a 14-hour flight, my sister, mom, and I are back together, in the kitchen, doing what we love to do best - cooking!
Christmas is about being with family enjoying their presence, sharing memories, and rejoicing in traditions from the past. For my family, this dill pickle is one of many Russian traditions. It's a flavor of my childhood that has been served at every holiday meal. Eat this pickle for a refreshing and crunchy bite that cleanses the palate and cuts the richness of the holiday meal.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Just Desserts: Light Biscotti

The holidays are here and that means cookies! For a variation on the typical Christmas cookie, try this great biscotti recipe. I got this recipe from my grandmother, but I changed a few things (adding vanilla, dried cherries, and the final chocolate dip). The result is a decadent, flavorful, but not overly fattening biscotti.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cooking in Chiang Mai: Pad Thai

Ahhhh...What is better than a plate of pad thai? A plate full of gooey rice noodles, rich scrambled egg, crunchy roasted peanuts, and fresh bean sprouts all seasoned with the sweet, salty, spicy, and sour flavors that are typical in Thai cooking. This is my perfect noodle dish. In Thailand pad thai is fast food, cheap food, and good food. The endless street vendors whip this dish up in minutes and serve it piping hot to drooling locals and tourists.

I took a cooking course at Asia Scenic in Chiang Mai, learned to make eight local Thai dishes, and chose to make pad thai as my third course, my noodle dish. I have made pad thai at home but my dish always fell far short of authentic. After cooking this dish in Thailand I understand my mistake - I have been over complicating the flavors and the technique, adding way too many and overworking all my ingredients. After cooking class I learned that less is definitely more when making this dish. This dish is aroi (delicious) so read below and learn how to make authentic pad thai in less than 15 minutes!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Welcome, DCBlogs readers!

To everyone visiting the site from DCBlogs, welcome and enjoy! There are plenty more SE Asian recipes to come once we get back to DC!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Lao Meatball Sandwich

We have had a wonderful week in Laos of swimming in waterfalls, riding elephants, boating upthe Mekong, and exploring the numerous Wats. All this activity left us hungry, and we enjoyed feasting our way through the country. And since we have been eating Lao food all week, I thought it would be a great time to post this particular recipe. I had made this dish before I left DC, after being inspired by the Lao meatballs from the Adams Morgan Day street fair a couple of months ago. After tasting real traditional Lao food here in country, I will admit this recipe is not completely authentic. However, it is very close to what I ate in DC and very reminiscent of the flavors here in Laos. More importantly - it tastes great!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Just Desserts: Honey Vanilla Frozen Yogurt with Fig Compote

Just because winter is just around the corner doesn't mean you have to give up frozen treats. In fact, when I lived in Russia, I quickly learned that you eat cold foods on the streets when it is cold outside, so as not to shock your system, according to folklore. As a result, in the dead of winter you could find vendors selling dirt cheap ice cream cones on almost every corner. This honey vanilla frozen yogurt with fig compote is the perfect treat for winter when you're desperately craving summer to return.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Good Eats: Ha Noi, Vietnam

It has been two weeks since we landed in Vietnam. We have been moving north during this time - from Ho Chi Minh City to Hoi An, to Hue, to Ninh Binh - and have now settled in our last stop in Vietnam, Ha Noi.

Ha Noi is electric, with the fast moving motor scooters weaving and honking through the narrow streets of old town and creating a frenzied musical soundtrack for the city. The markets and street vendors are endless; the streets are packed with vendors selling their prized dishes - pho, com, or bun. We have gladly taken up the challenge, picked up our chop sticks, and eaten our way throughout the city. We found a real gem when we stumbled upon Ly Van Phuc street, or as it is know by the local HaNoians, "chicken street". This is a narrow alley filled with open air grills cooking nothing but chicken parts marinated in honey. The aroma is enticing and will lure any drooling carnivore to take a seat in the nearest plastic chair and start calling out orders of wings, thighs, and feet - oh my! The heavenly chicken was served with the most delicious banh my (crusty french baguette) glazed with honey and toasted lightly on the grill pan. In addition, cucumbers quickly pickled in quat (similar to lime) juice, and khoai (potato) skewers accompany the juicy yet crispy chicken. All the delicious morsels are dipped into a lime, salt, and chile mixture and eaten off the skewer. This lime dipping sauce has become my new favorite condiment - salty, spicy and tart - cutting the richness of grilled chicken. It is addictive and will be making many appearances on my table once I get home. In the meantime, here is the recipe so that you can make it in your home.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Made It! Chilaquiles Soup

The weather has been rainy and cold in Victoria lately. As a student, I love to take soups to school to have a hearty, warm meal in the middle of my day that takes literally no time to prepare in the morning. This Chilaquiles is a great Mexican twist on the classic chicken noodle soup that will definitely be making many reappearances on my staple menu.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Tomatillo Poblano Chilaquiles

This dish was inspired by an episode of Rick Bayless's One Plate at a Time show. I watched it about a year ago, and the tomatillo poblano chilaquiles left me drooling - and running to the market to make my own version. What I discovered is that this traditional Mexican dish is easy to prepare, is a great leftover meal, and tastes oh so good! So grab your apron and your dutch oven, and get into the kitchen!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Good Eats: Cooking in Hoi An, Vietnam

Jeremy and I just left rainy Hoi An, Vietnam. We had previously left sunny, hot, and humid Sai Gon and had landed in central Vietnam to be greeted by winter – cold with grey skies and rain. The gloomy weather did not hold us back, however. In fact, we had the best time, cooking and eating our way through this quant old town.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Good Eats: Hong Kong

Jeremy and I have been exploring Hong Kong for the last three days – the harbor and its breathtaking cityscape, the Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island, and the packed, busy streets of Kowloon. We’ve been doing our best to take in the culture and, of course, the food. Walking through the Pei Ho street market in the Sham Shui Po neighborhood of Kowloon was an amazing experience in particular. Three floors of pure food delight – here you will find everything you need to make a delicious Cantonese dinner. Animal proteins are on the first floor - fresh whole pigs butchered on the spot, live chickens in cages waiting to be bought for dinner, huge prawns swimming in tanks, the freshest fish resting on ice. On the second floor you'll find fresh veggies, eggs, dried sausages, noodles, rice, and beans. And moving up to the third floor you'll find food vendors slicing and dicing all the ingredients from the levels below, offering locals (we were the only tourists) a delicious breakfast – including dim sum, chow mien, and congee.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Made It! Mushroom Migas

I was really excited to try this recipe since Lisa sent me some extra dried mushrooms from her Marx Mushroom competition. I changed the recipe quite a bit since I didn't want to make a special trip to the grocery store. Traditionally, migas is made from whatever is lying around the kitchen, so I felt my modifications would speak to the versatility of this dish.

I love having breakfast for dinner. But sometimes an omelet or french toast just doesn't cut it for me. This migas is a perfect way to elevate breakfast for dinner to another level. I loved how earthy the mushroom medley tasted. I made my pesto with fresh basil and jalapeno. I modified the gastrique by using balsamic vinegar and red wine instead of cognac and sherry vinegar. The final product had it all: heat from the jalapeno, sweetness from the gastrique, saltiness from the bacon, and creaminess from the poached egg. I tried to get a little bit of every flavor onto the crispy toast for the perfect bite each time. My only hesitation with this dish was that it required a lot of different pans. But if you don't mind a little extra clean-up and are looking for a special twist on breakfast for dinner, you should definitely try this recipe!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Good Morning Hong Kong!

As some of you may know, my husband and I will be backpacking around SE Asia over the next 2 months, living out a dream. Since I will be away from my kitchen, Sasha and I have invited some guest bloggers, who have graciously volunteered to share their favorite recipes. Let us know if you are interested in being a guest blogger yourself! I am not sure if I will get the opportunity to cook while traveling, but I fully intend to eat and post about my foodie adventure.

See you in Hong Kong soon!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Clam Chowder

I woke up craving clam chowder. I mentioned our dinner plans to my husband, who, having lived in Boston for 12 years, was not shy about sharing his advice.  So you could say I felt a little pressure to get it right, especially since this was my first chowder. But I am a San Francisco girl, born and raised, which means my idea of clam chowder involves eating from a sourdough bowl, sitting on the wharf, listening to the fog horns blow.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Head over Heels: Immersion Blender and Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

This week I am head over heels for my immersion blender, an inexpensive, space-saving, jack-of-all-trades kitchen appliance that is guaranteed to make your cooking experiences easier. The immersion blender, or stick blender, looks like a wand. On one end there is a handle with the power, on the other end there is the blending attachment, which is great for blending soups, smoothies, and purees. All the blending is done in the same pot, bowl, or other vessel you're already cooking in - a huge plus in my book because that means less time cleaning! Also, it is a great space saver, since most immersion blenders come with whisk and chopping attachments.  As a result, this single tool can replace the handheld mixer, food processor and stand blender - freeing up kitchen counter space, which is in high demand in my DC condo. After using the blender, just rinse, wrap up the cord, and store it in a drawer.  My immersion blender gets a lot of use in my kitchen, and I hope it can help you in yours!

Red pepper hummus (well, technically just a "chickpea puree" since there's no tahini):
  • 1 can chick peas
  • 1 roasted red pepper, peeled and seeded 
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste
Place all the ingredients in a tall plastic cup or similar container (1-quart plastic yogurt containers work well) and use your immersion blender to puree until smooth. Garnish with a drizzle of good olive oil and serve with toasted pita chips for a delicious, nutritious snack.

Made it! Ravioli

I absolutely love homemade ravioli. I was so excited when Lisa made her goat cheese and sausage ravioli because it inspired me to take a few hours off in the afternoon and devote myself to making these delectable dumplings. Unfortunately, tomato season in Victoria has come to an end, so I decided to change Lisa's recipe to make sure I was cooking with products that were in season and local. The version I made was butternut squash ravioli in a browned butter sage sauce topped with roasted hazelnuts and I must say, this was the best ravioli I ever tasted!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cooking with Friends: Goat Cheese and Sausage Ravioli

A couple of weeks ago my friend Ingrid and I hit up the U Street farmers' market with the hope of finding ingredients that would inspire a culinary feast and impromptu cooking lesson. We were in between seasons - summer's second tomatoes and fresh corn looked great, but there was also kale, squash and pumpkin, representing fall's best. We were torn between the two seasons' bounty until we tasted the fresh chevre from Cherry Glen Goat Cheese Co. At that moment our recipe fell into place - goat cheese and sausage ravioli with a fresh tomato jam sauce. We picked up some eggplant, zucchini and spicy goat sausage and were off to my kitchen to cook up our feast.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Good Reads:

Fooducate is a blog that is trying to demystify the supermarket, making sense of all the nutrition labels with a kind of "Michael Pollan" approach. After reading a few postings this morning, I am left with with the same discomfort I had after reading Fast Food Nation, which changed the way I look at food and America's food system.

My personal favorites from the blog:

I thought the post on phosphoric acid was particularly interesting - see my comment!

The most recent post, Confusing Egg Labels, gives advice on how to buy eggs at the supermarket, and the video clip is eye-opening. When I visited Sasha in Victoria last May we bought fresh eggs from a local farm. The yolks were bright orange, and we made the most delicious creme anglais to pour over our chocolate soufflé. I always joke with my husband that I want to turn in my stethoscope, leave the city and build a small farm where I can tend my vegetable and fruit gardens and raise chickens... Maybe only half-joking - these are my dreams!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Help Me Win Mushrooms - Vote Today!

Polls open today at Marx Foods for their Blogger Mushroom Challenge... Support FoodieRelations and our Mushroom Medley Migas by voting here today! All proceeds will go to a good cause - more mushroom recipes on this blog!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cilantro Chile Quinoa Salad

DC has had an amazing Indian summer, so I embraced the hot weather and lightened things up in the kitchen with a salad. I ate a version of this salad at Sweet Green and loved it, so I decided to make it for dinner a couple of months ago. To be honest, I wasn't sure it would work, but I was so very wrong. This dish tastes great and is beyond healthy. Just thinking about it makes me feel good! This salad has a great flavor profile - bitter endive lettuce leaves, rich and buttery avocado, and sweet and tart granny smith apples. Additionally, the serrano lime yogurt dressing punches your palate with sweet, salty, tart and tangy flavors. The "super grain" quinoa and seared tofu round out this dish with a bit of carbohydrate and protein. It may sound a little crazy but give it a try... I promise, it's tasty! 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I Cooked My Heart Out in NYC

Last month Good Housekeeping flew me to NYC to participate in the finals of their Cook Your Heart Out competition. Initially I was nervous - this was my first recipe competition, my first time being televised and my first time having to cook for kids - oh my! But in the end, it was a whirlwind adventure that I wished would never end! Ultimately I overcame my nerves of being on camera, I met 17 other talented contestants, the kid judges loved my dish (phew!) and I won my category!  The biggest plus was that this contest made me realize how much I love to cook and share my passion with others - and thus this blog was born.  

Good Housekeeping announced that the TV special will air 10/18 through 11/20. They are still adding air times in various markets so they will continue to update this page. Unfortunately it looks like it may not be shown in DC, but I will be getting a DVD, so for those close by that want to watch let's plan on having a Chicken Lettuce Wrap dinner/DVD viewing party!

Good Housekeeping has put together a behind the scenes compilation of the all the weekend's events and the seven winning heart-healthy recipes. My Chicken Lettuce Wraps recipe is light and healthy, packed with flavor and texture, easy to make and kid-approved!

Chicken Lettuce Wraps.  Photo by Greg Baker

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Marx's Mushroom Medley "Migas"

A couple weeks ago I was introduced to Justin Marx of Marx Foods, a web-based fine foods retailer, who was ramping up for his Blogger Mushroom Challenge. The challenge: to use Marx's dried mushrooms to create a new recipe and post it on your blog. The prize: three shipments of fresh wild mushrooms. My reaction: I love mushrooms, I love to cook and I have a food blog... I'm game - let's get cooking! I received a box of goodies - filled with the most earthily fragrant dried lobster, porcini, matsutake, morel, and black trumpet mushrooms - and was immediately inspired.

My inspiration was migas, a traditional Spanish shepherd's dish that involves frying leftover bread with whatever other humble ingredients are handy into a rustic, hearty meal. Migas screams earthy and wild to me - I imagine a shepherd foraging in the woods for mushrooms and herbs, then cooking his newly found treasures over an open flame, all the while drinking great wine and singing folk songs. My version is full of those rustic flavors but has been updated and refined. The mushroom sauté is the foundation of my recipe, but the dish is built with a layering of flavors - the salty crispy bacon, the spicy chile herb pesto, the wild mushroom gastrique, a lusciously creamy poached egg and crunchy bacon-fried bread combine to make something out of this world.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Made It! Pasta Carbonara

I got Lisa a pasta-maker and then, after we made fresh pasta together during one of my visits to DC, I came home and bought one for myself! I find that there are certain dishes that taste better with fresh pasta and others that taste better with dried pasta. This carbonara is one of those dishes where taking the time to roll fresh pasta makes a world of difference since the sauce is fairly subtle, allowing the pasta dough flavor and texture to really come through.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Kitchen Tips: The Virtues of Salt

Salt has gotten a very bad reputation.  High consumption of salt is linked to hypertension, heart disease, stroke and a host of other chronic diseases.  Our increased dietary salt intake is due to the highly processed foods that we are eating, and with our busy hectic lifestyle, the desire for a cheap meal on the go is leading us to eat even more of these fast food items.  However, salt in moderation is not the evil ingredient that it has been made out to be.  Instead it is a vital mineral that is essential to cooking - it increases the complexity of foods by brightening the sweet, tart, sour and bitter notes and harmonizing all the flavors into one dish. Moreover, you will use less salt cooking fresh ingredients because you'll just be enhancing flavors rather than creating or hiding them.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Fettuccini Carbonara

Sasha gave me a pasta maker four years ago. Back then it got a lot of use, but lately it has been sitting idle in the drawer. But tonight I am resurrecting the pasta maker and making fettuccine carbonara. There is something about making pasta - the feeling and texture of the dough, getting messy, flour everywhere - ultimately it's about having fun rolling and creating a delicious, rustic, meal by hand. It may sound daunting, but with the right tools and techniques, it's really simple and the outcome is a bowl of delicious, tender pasta that can't be beat.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Head over "Heals" for Agave Syrup

I am head over heels for agave syrup, the nectar from the Agave tequiliana plant. My new favorite natural sweetener is low on the glycemic index, which means that it causes small fluctuations in our blood glucose and insulin levels - that means no major sugar highs or sugar lows. It is also 25% sweeter than regular sugar, so you use less.  I use this every morning in my coffee and found that it is a great way to sweeten iced coffee because it dissolves so easily.

Here my recipe for iced coffee:

  • 1/2 cup dark roast coffee beans
  • 6 cups of boiling water
  • 1 tbs agave syrup

Add the coffee grinds and the hot water to a French press, stir. Brew the coffee for 10 minutes.  Press and pour the coffee into a pitcher.  Add the agave syrup and stir, cool then place in the refrigerator overnight.  The next morning add milk and enjoy.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Made It! Zucchini Risotto

I've made risotto before, but this zucchini risotto was out of this world! I couldn't really taste the shredded, caramelized zucchini, but I loved the deep, rich color it gave to the dish. The technique of shredding the onion was a new concept for me and I thought it worked really well - no tears! The bacon added a delicious saltiness and I am now worried I may never make risotto again without bacon. Although the parmesan tuiles were easy to make, I didn't care for the flavor; they were a little bitter. The highlight of this dish, however, was the balsamic reduction. It took a simple, rustic meal and elevated to a gourmet level. If you make this dish, you have to try the reduction! It was simply exquisite!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Good Reads: "The Kitchen must be as Crucial as the Clinic"

This quote is from an awesome article in the NY Times, Doctor's Orders- Eat Well to be Well, about one doctor's mission to teach patients about the link between cooking and nutrition as a way to combat disease.  As some of you know, I am an ICU RN, and I have seen the debilitating effects of heart disease, diabetes, obesity on many of the patients that I care for.  Recently, I have been trying to find a way to bridge nursing and my love for food and cooking (hence this blog).  As the article points out, rather than seeking medicines and scrips for every ailment, we need to get into the kitchen and learn how to cook healthfully.  The idea of healthy eating may make some people squirm - some may think it is flavorless and dull.  But to me healthy cooking is about respecting the ingredients and the environment - making a conscious choice to eat locally and seasonally - using fresh, unprocessed foods and to capture the essence of the ingredient at its peak.  It all starts by getting back into the kitchen and cooking!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Zucchini Risotto with Crispy Bacon, Balsamic Reduction and Parmigiano Crisp

It may be hard to believe with this hot summer-like weather, but today is the first day of fall.  I can feel the seasons shifting - the days are getting shorter, and the nights are cooling down.  For dinner tonight, I am looking for a dish that retains the freshness of summer while moving more towards the typical fall comfort food.  This zucchini risotto is the perfect dish to say goodbye to summer and hello to fall.  I am using fresh lightly sautéed zucchini and water instead of broth to give this dish its summer lightness, however the deep base of caramelized zucchini along with the creaminess of the risotto creates a comforting fall dish.

Made it! Chilled Noodle Salad

I made a variation of the Chilled Udon Noodle and Shrimp Salad yesterday night for dinner. It was absolutely delicious! I added some peanut butter to the dressing since I was in the mood for a creamier sauce. It was a really nice addition. I didn't use the tamarind paste or the hot pepper, but those were optional extras in my opinion. I only pickled the cucumbers and radishes for about an hour and I thought they turned out really well. Instead of shrimp, I pan-fried some steak and then thinly sliced it for placement over the top of the salad. I also changed my veggies a bit too and used raw tomatoes and carrots. I garnished with cilantro, mint, thai basil, toasted salted peanuts, and toasted coconut (just because I had some leftovers from another meal). The best part of this dish is that you can prepare most of it in advance (all the chilled components) and then within a matter of minutes (or however long it takes to grill steak or saute shrimp), you have a really satisfying meal.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Pesto Pizza

Tonight I made pesto pizza using the basil and poblanos from my roof deck garden. I decided to throw in the poblanos at the last minute because they were sitting on my counter, left over from a previous meal. The poor rejected poblanos ended up adding a bonus piquant flavor to a traditional basil pesto, which was delicious.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Made it! Chicken Flatbread Wrap

I made this Chicken Flatbread Wrap last night and had mixed feelings about it. Overall, I thought the flavors had potential. My version lacked some heat, so when I make it again, I will not be shy about seasoning well...maybe even over-seasoning. Normally, I am not a fan of eggplant, but I loved this baba ganoush. It was so easy to make and provided a nice, healthy creaminess to the sandwich. The onions added a needed sourness. I also wanted to get a veggie in there (so I wouldn't have to make a side dish) so I simply sauteed some extra rapini I had, which added a nice bitterness. The chicken patty itself was the star of this dish. It was packed with flavor and was very moist. I pre-made two extra patties and froze them for easy re-heating for another meal later in the week.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mediterranean Chicken Flatbreads with Baba Ganoush, Pickled Onions and Feta Cheese

This dish has become a regular on my dinner table.  It was inspired 5 years ago, after moving to DC and meeting my husband, Jeremy.  I was immediately smitten and knew Jeremy was special when he told me he had just bought a leg of lamb from, of all places, Costco - my favorite!  We spent hours on the lamb, infusing it with garlic and olive oil and grilling/smoking it low and slow over charcoal on the roof deck.  Then we built an amazing sandwich with the lamb and grilled eggplant.  Most of the time, however, slow cooking for 4+ hours is not an option.  This recipe has been transformed over the years, still capturing the essence of the original dish, but now it can be easily prepared after a long day's work.

Left: the inspiration - grilled lamb sandwich.  Right: the new, easier recipe

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Lao Pork Meatball Skewers at Adams Morgan Day

I just got home from walking with my husband through the Adams Morgan Festival, which is a street fair that celebrates local establishments in my neighborhood in DC.   This was the first time I have been able to attend since moving here 5 years ago.  After running errands all day, I was tired and not expecting much from the outing to the street fair.  We got to 18th Street, and it was packed.  This morning’s rain storm gave way to sun, and everyone’s mood was elevated – everyone was dancing, smiling and eating their way up the street.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Chilled Udon Noodle and Shrimp Salad with Pickled Cucumbers and Radishes

I woke up today excited about the prospect of this blog, but then I realized that I needed to get cracking on my dinner plans.  But what do I feel like eating and making?  I ask this question everyday. To me it is the most important question of the day.  My answer put me in a great mood, excited about the whole process of preparing the meal - the shopping, the cooking and, of course, the eating (it also makes the dreaded cleaning bearable).  Today I was inspired by summer's end and wanted to revive one of last year's favorite summer meals, Chilled Udon Noodle Salad, and I felt like adding shrimp tonight as the protein (I have used skirt steak, tofu and chicken in the past).

The end product, Chilled Udon Noodle and Shrimp Salad with Pickled Cucumbers and Radishes