Things that come from the ground are my friends. All year round I’m steaming, frying, roasting, chopping, and devouring tons of fresh produce. Salads however I have a complicated relationship with. I rarely crave a simple salad unless it’s over 90 degrees outside. I’m a little envious of the people who actually look excited while in the lunch line for their custom salad creations.
Cherries have arrived, and as my favorite summer fruit (well, they tie for first with blueberries), they get plenty of special attention.
When Ari and I visited Turkey a couple years back we got to know cherries through new eyes. They were used in so many recipes, drinks, and candies and even as fresh fruit chasers after downing a shot of raki. Many of my favorite Turkish dishes were perfectly crafted combinations of sweet and sour, or sweet and tart. Cherries fit that profile so nicely and this salad is a twist on a Turkish one.
The salad also has pomegranate molasses in it, which if you haven’t read many of my posts, is one of my all-time favorite ingredients (which I first learned about in Istanbul). I really recommend stocking your pantry with it, you’ll find so many delicious uses for it!
Something else you might have heard me sing the praises of is a cherry pitter. Once upon a time I thought it was a silly kitchen tool that I didn’t need cluttering my precious drawer space. Oh how I was wrong! This little tool has come in so handy both with cherries and with olives. It keeps whatever you’re pitting intact and beautiful. Trust me. Get it. You’ll use it.
The original recipe calls for a chili that I’m not familiar with (and can’t find), so I’ve substituted jalapeño’s which add a good heat to what’s already sweet, tart, savory, and fresh. (Is fresh an ok word to describe cilantro? Only answer that if, to you, cilantro doesn’t taste like soap.)
I’m adding this salad to my list of good things for outdoor eating. Well, maybe not for the White Picnic (my grace+cherries = irreparably stained clothing), but for all other gatherings in parks and backyards. Happy Summer Salad Season to all!
This post was supposed to be about mint meringue cookies, and it’s not. Instead, this is a post about mint simple syrup and how to use it to make the best (that’s not hyperbole) mojitos. Clear out some refrigerator space, you’re going to want to keep this syrup on hand.
The creation of this syrup was fueled by wanting to make mint meringues that actually looked like mint meringues. Not that you wouldn’t believe me if I said a white meringue was mint flavored, but I wanted the cookie to visually match the description. Also, I don’t cook with food coloring so making them green that way wasn’t an option.
Growing up we had mint growing around our house in different small patches that my father would cultivate every year, helping them to grow and spread. We used mint in cooking and especially for tea. In the ways of our family living in the Middle East, we would steep mint leaves in hot water and sugar to make mint tea, the perfect end to a big meal. Very quickly, the mint leaves got darker and by then end of the night they were muddy colored in little heaps at the bottom of the glass.
Mint turns black quickly once chopped or cooked. That’s why you’re often advised to wait till the last second to use it on your dish if you want the bright green color. I wanted the bright green color so I thought about blanching and set off online to look for advice or thoughts on blanching mint and making mint syrup.
I ended up reading a great article about making vibrant green mint simple syrup. I made the syrup and then when I was ready to make the meringues I prepared them Italian style which meant pouring super hot syrup into the egg whites as you’re beating them. I upped the sugar in my syrup, brought to temp, poured it in, made incredibly light and fluffy meringue, sloppily used a plastic bag with a corner cut off (I think I really need to invest in a basic pastry bag and tips), and piped out some mini mint meringue drops.
They were so delicious right out of the oven. The delicate wafer-like crispiness when you bit into them gave way to a beautiful mint flavor. Then I left them to dry. And that’s when I learned I had failed.
Without thinking it through, I had made meringues on what would be the beginning of the most humid week we’ve had so far. The humidity didn’t let the cookies dry and as the wet in the air increased throughout the afternoon the cookies became sticky piles of egg whites and sugar melting into themselves. Hopefully, I’ll redo them one day to share the recipe. Failing in the kitchen is never fun.
As I mourned this mess the next couple days, it was becoming increasingly humid, hot, and straight up gross outside. So…mojitos.
Even though it’s a little extra work up front in making the syrup, once that’s done you’ll have it hanging out in your fridge and then putting together a mojito can happen incredibly fast. I was so excited by the recipe that I made a bunch throughout the week for friends who stopped by. Because who can say no to a mojito?
Here’s to summer and all the wonderful warm (and hopefully not too humid) days ahead!
Mint Syrup, adapted from this Food Republic recipe
*The original recipe calls for a 2:1 ratio of sugar and water to make a sweeter syrup. I prefer my drinks less sweet and a 1:1 ratio was spot-on! I often find mojitos to taste way too sugary, but this was really well-balanced and perfectly sweet.
Make the simple syrup by combining the sugar and water in a small pot, and over medium heat, stir till the sugar is fully dissolved. Immediately remove from it from the heat and allow it to cool a little.
Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. While it's boiling prep a bowl with ice and cold water and set to the side.
Using tongs, grip the mint stems and submerge the leaves in the water fully for 15 seconds. Remove them and immediately place them in the ice bath to cool. Leave them in the water for 1 minute.
Take them out and remove the leaves from the stems, place them on paper towels, and pat dry.
Combine the blanched mint leaves and simple syrup in a blender and blend on high until it's super well blended and you can't see any visible leaves (about 1 minute). Strain the syrup through a fine strainer and keep the syrup refrigerated until you're ready to use it!
Combine the lime juice, mint syrup, and rum in a shaker with ice. Tear the mint leaves and add it to the shaker. Shake the ingredients well and strain over a glass of ice. Garnish with mint or lime and serve!
A few weeks back, Ari did some quick grocery shopping. One of the items on his list was almond milk. We’re both lactose intolerant and even though with the help of pills I can eat pretty much everything dairy, drinking real milk in cereal or coffee leads to truly terrible things. We’ve gone the almond milk route for awhile now. On this trip, accidentally, Ari grabbed a box of coconut milk instead. It’s like the almond or soy but made from coconuts and heavily processed to be a milk alternative.
We both bravely tried it the next morning, him in his cereal, and me in my coffee. It was pretty horrible. Coconut coffee is not my thing.
Instead of throwing it away I resolved to come up with a use for it and went about making a rice pudding because, why not? I might have mentioned this before but I’m not a big sweets person but when I was a kid Kozy Shack rice pudding was a favorite treat for me. I almost always prefer a cheese plate over chocolate cake to end a meal, and rice pudding blends sweet and savory so nicely.
The coconut milk rice pudding was really delicious but A. it wasn’t very pretty (the “fake milk” got sort of grayish after cooking) and B. I kept thinking how much better it would be with “real milk”. Thankfully…Lactaid.
Everyone makes rice pudding differently and the biggest difference is in the type of rice used. Some people take using basmati rice as a personal insult and swear by short grain only. In my pantry, I always keeps wild rice and basmati rice because they are delicious. Thinking that wild rice pudding might be a bit of a stretch (or maybe not?) I went with the basmati. What’s so cool is that the taste of the rice came through without being overwhelming and made the dessert all the more tasty and awesome-smelling.
After making the coconut milk batch I learned just how cinnamon-y the rice pudding gets during cooking. The cinnamon sticks, after being dropped in, open up and infuse the pudding with a rich cinnamon flavor and aroma. While it was cooking I started to think about other toppings that wouldn’t include more cinnamon.
Recently I had bought a large container of strawberries hoping for a juicy and sweet summery snack. Unfortunately, it’s still too early for that perfect bite of summer. Roasting them, I thought, might help bring out the sweetness, and soften their pre-ripeness. And it did! The bourbon and vanilla infused a little more flavor, and with the help of some sugar, they softened and melted in pools of sweet delicious syrup.
Cooking from my fridge is always fun and often leads to delicious results. Sometimes having limited ingredients to work with leads to great things and loads of my meals start with going on a treasure hunt through the pantry and refrigerator.
Whip up the rice pudding, make the strawberries – eat them together or separately. Now that I have a jar of roasted bourbon vanilla strawberries, I’m working out plans about how to put them to good use. Suggestions?
Rice Pudding with Roasted Vanilla Bourbon Strawberries
Rice Pudding with Roasted Vanilla Bourbon Strawberries
½ cup basmati rice
¾ cup + 2 Tbsp water
¼ tsp kosher salt
2¼ cup whole milk
¼ cup heavy cream (or use all milk if you don't have cream)
½ cup + 2 Tbsp light brown sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
Roasted Bourbon Vanilla Strawberries
1lb fresh strawberries, cleaned, hulled, and sliced
1.5 tsp Bourbon
2 Tbsp sugar
1.5 tsp vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean scraped (I tested both and while the bean contributes a much deeper flavor the extract works just as well!)
Bring rice, salt, and water to a boil in a medium sized saucepan, then lower the heat to a simmer. Cook partially covered until the water is absorbed (about 10 minutes).
Add the milk, cream, brown sugar, and cinnamon sticks to the rice. Stir well and bring to a boil. After it reaches boiling, lower to a simmer and let it cook, stirring often (I stood by the stove for most of it, stirring, but you can let it go a couple minutes here and there without stirring) for 20-25 min until the mixture is thickened and not too liquid.
Add the lightly beaten egg yolk and stir it in well. Cook 1-2 minutes more. Take off the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
Let it cool a little off to the side before diving in. Warm rice pudding is delicious but if that's not your thing, once it's cooled pop it in the fridge for cold dessert optimization.
Roasted Bourbon Vanilla Strawberries
Preheat oven to 425°
Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl. If using the fresh vanilla bean, just add the scraped out insides. Let sit for 8-10 min, until juice begins to gather in the bowl.
Spread out the berries (in their juices!) on a baking sheet in a single layer. Make sure to use a baking mat or parchments paper - this would be zero fun to clean off the sheet!
Roast for 18-20 minutes and if your oven is anything like mine, rotate the sheet halfway through.
Let cool. Add them to your rice pudding or keep them in your fridge for the week.
The mad rush for ramps is akin to Black Friday deals. They happen quickly, tend to be hectic and full of elbowing, and if you miss out you’ve got to wait till the next year rolls around. I was walking by the Union Square Farmer’s Market two weeks ago when I saw unusually long lines at some of the booths, and then I saw the signs: “WE HAVE RAMPS!”
If you aren’t familiar with this Allium, a ramp is a wild leek and has a quick season right at the beginning of spring. It’s versatile and delicious. They’re a little garlicky, a little oniony, and cross somewhere between savory and sweet. We love them grilled up with a little olive oil and salt and eat tons while they’re in season.
When my cousin’s girlfriend told me she was going foraging for ramps last weekend and asked if I wanted some, I answered with an emphatic yes! (Also, how cool…foraging for ramps?!)
The most annoying part of a ramp? Just like a leek it needs to be seriously cleaned before using. Especially when they’ve just been pulled up from the ground and still have the dirt attached to them.
Totally worth it, even if it took the better part of a half-hour to get these cleaned!
I’m a big fan of quiche – both for eating and baking. Making your own crust isn’t necessary, especially if you’re short on time. There are so many good frozen and pre-made crusts out there.
Though, I really love making dough and pastry so this was worth the extra time. I also like a thinner quiche. If I’ve got a pie or something in a crust at home, it’s not going to last long. A shorter crust at least helps ensure that I won’t be eating too much at once. ..Cook’s logic?
My friend, who foraged for the ramps (again, foraging, so awesome) proposed a barter for the ramps I was getting. Instead of money she asked for a quiche which is how this post came to be.
I firmly believe we should all be exchanging/bartering more often.
For her quiche, I did a ramp and asparagus version because that felt so incredibly spring-like and perfect. For this post, I realized that I had last posted about asparagus and should probably try on a different veg to pair up with the ramps. I’ve been really into peas recently and for this recipe I grabbed a bag of frozen peas to save on time (and money!).
The combination of cream, eggs, cheese, vegetables, and some basic spices goes a long way. It’s incredibly satisfying, is great warmed or room temp, and can be eaten any time of day. For instance, I had a piece for dinner and for breakfast! See how that works? Quiche: the all day, any day food.
If you’re on the ramp train this season, what delicious things have you been creating with them?
Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s lunchtime and there’s a piece of quiche calling.
Blanch peas in salted boiling water for 2-3 minutes (if fresh, blanch longer till cooked). Remove and plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking and cool them. Take them out and let them dry.
Finely chop the ramps (stems and greens included!). Heat up a sauté pan and add the butter. Once hot but not browning, add the ramps and sauté for 4 minutes or so, until the greens are soft and smell amazing. Add the peas, salt and pepper to taste, and cook 1 minute more. Take off the heat and let cool.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, nutmeg, and cheese. Mix in the ramps and peas until thoroughly combined.
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (to catch leaks) and place your prepped pie crust on top. Carefully pour the mixture in. Any leftover filling can be poured into a buttered ramekin and baked alongside the quiche. That way you get to taste your finished quiche filling without have to cut a slice before you serve it!
Bake for 30-40 minutes, until a knife or toothpick comes out clean, the quiche doesn't jiggle, and the top has turned a golden color.
Once all my Passover kitchen things were carefully packed away, I started in on all flour-based products really hard. I’m pretty sure that’s why I had a cold the whole week of the holiday: bread withdrawal. (That could totally be a thing, right?)
Somewhere in between matzah and a couple strangely cold days, Spring showed up. The whole city is buzzing with renewed energy and the promise of warmer weather. The best part of all this is the fresh and local produce starting to appear at farmer’s markets and groceries.
This week I combined the two things I was just so excited to have back in my life: fresh greens and flour!
Tempura is something that I love to eat but haven’t ever made. Recently, I’ve started ordering it more often at Japanese restaurants. It’s rarely overly greasy and usually it’s a great balance of flavor, texture, and acid (in the dipping sauce/vinegar) to start a meal off on the right foot.
For this tempura, I wanted to create a dip to pair well with the fresh greens. I’m a sucker for mayonnaise based sauces with fried foods and went with the gorgeous brightness (in taste and color) of the blood orange to provide the acidity that comes alongside a classic tempura dish. You could also use the citrus of your choosing for similar results!
Normally I would be all about making my own aioli/mayo as the base, but in the interest of saving time to focus on making the tempura, I went with ready-made mayonnaise. It’s so easy to add ingredients to it, to quickly kick it up.
The last year has been the first year that I’ve gotten into frying. The one tool that helped me concur my fear of frying? A thermometer. Seriously. Before, there was no way to know when the oil was hot enough and now I have a clear way of being sure.
While eating tons of fried food probably isn’t the way to go, knowing how to fry is a great tool to whip out when you need to add some punch to your weekly menus. The textures you can create in bubbling hot oil just aren’t replicable through other cooking methods.
Tempura is such a unique texture too. This recipe in particular, results in a thin batter coating, but fried at the right temperature and for long enough leaves the vegetable perfectly cooked with an amazingly light and crunchy exterior.
Since it’s usually just me in the kitchen as I put together the blog, I get to do most of the eating. I was a little hesitant about polishing off most of the tempura for lunch, but it was filling and delicious without that heavy, oily feeling you can get after eating a plate of fried food. I’m definitely going to break this recipe out as an appetizer or snack for large groups of people and maybe experiment with cubes of fish or meat too!
Green Bean and Asparagus Tempura with Blood Orange Aioli
Blood Orange Aioli
1 Garlic clove
½ cup Mayonnaise
1 tsp Dijon mustard
¼ tsp (scant) Blood orange zest
1½ Tbsp Blood orange juice
1 tsp Olive oil
Salt to taste
Green Bean and Asparagus Tempura (This recipe makes a lot of batter! I used about a quarter of it for 10 stalks of asparagus and 20 green beans)
Asparagus and green beans
1.5-2 quarts Canola or Vegetable Oil
¼ cup Sesame Oil
2 Egg yolks
2 cups Ice cold water + ¼ cup ice
2 cups Flour plus a little extra for dredging (optional) The original recipe calls for cake flour as its low-protein and will help reduce the gluten development. I used AP flour with great results.
Salt to finish
Make the Aioli:
In a small food processor, chop up the garlic. (If you don't have a machine to mix this in, you can do it by hand but make sure the garlic is crushed very finely.)
Add the mayo, mustard, zest, and juice to the bowl and blend together until smooth. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and mix it once more. Salt to taste.
Put it in the fridge while you make the tempura and allow the flavors to meld.
Make the Tempura:
Wash and thoroughly dry your vegetables. Trim the ends. For the asparagus, pick uniformly thick stalks so that they will cook evenly. I chose the thinnest ones in the bunch.
Set up a sheet pan lined with paper towels to drain the tempura on after cooking.
Begin to heat up your canola or vegetable oil in a deep heavy-bottomed pan or cast iron pan to 350°.
While the oil is heating, make your batter.
Mix the two egg yolks with the water in a mixing bowl and add ¼ cup of the ice in with the water and egg. Keeping the batter as cold as possible will limit the development of gluten and help make your tempura crispy.*
Mix in the flour - but do not overmix! The original recipe advised using chopsticks to mix the liquid and flour. I used a fork pointed downwards (so as not to beat) and left the batter with visible lumps of flour still in it.
Once your oil is at the right temperature add in the ¼ cup sesame oil. If the temperature drops, wait for it to come back up.
Optional: Place a little bit of flour on a plate for dredging the vegetables in before frying them to help the batter stick better. I found that the flour stuck to my green beans but not to my asparagus. Ultimately, I didn't notice much of a difference between the two.
Working in small batches, dip the vegetables in the batter and then place into the hot oil. Small batches will help keep the oil temperature consistent. Cooking will be quick- about 2-3 minutes. Make sure to turn them over once when in the oil. You can also dip your fingers in the batter and sprinkle the batter over the frying vegetables to add more crunchy texture!
Let the tempura drain and serve immediately with the blood orange aioli for dipping and eating awesomeness!
*You can do other things to help ensure low gluten and extra crispy tempura, like chilling your bowl before mixing the batter and also prepping everything else before making the batter so it won't stand for any length of time allowing gluten to develop.
The last two weeks have been an awesome but sleep-deprived blur. Ari and I had been looking to adopt a dog for awhile now and, after a few bloody mary’s at a friend’s birthday brunch, we decided to spend the rest of that beautiful Sunday looking at dogs at the North Shore Animal League. We’re so happy we did because we came home very late that night with Jax.
Neither myself or Ari grew up with dogs and we’re still adjusting. From walking and feeding schedules to figuring out vets and dog walkers, it’s been a busy couple weeks. But while spending so much quality time with this amazing addition to our family, I’ve spent less time in the kitchen. Not just for this blog, but for cooking for us as well.
Here’s Jax giving you some amazing puppy eyes:
Now that things are at a new normal and schedules are working themselves out, I’m back!
One thing I noticed that I gave up pretty quickly when I was tired and busy was breakfast. Which made me sad because I really love breakfast! I’m not a daily cereal and milk person and prefer eggs, vegetables, fruits, and breads in the morning along with my gigantic cup of coffee. I know, it takes a lot of efforts to put together a whole breakfast dish when you’re running around in the am, so let’s call this a weekend breakfast dish. Or a quick weeknight dinner. One that doesn’t take a ton of time…but tastes like it did.
Bulgur is a grain that I love to keep in the house because it’s just so incredibly easy to make. My favorite way is to mix the grain in the boiling water and let it sit, covered, for 20 minutes. Then drain the excess liquid and fluff up the grain. Bulgur has great texture and is light enough for salads so that it doesn’t weigh down or take over all the other ingredients.
We’re close to finally having fresher fruits, vegetables, and herbs again! I’m SO ready for spring to be here already and this recipe is partly an attempt to recreate fresh spring and summer flavors before we have them in the markets. In the summer, I might substitute fresh cherries but for now I’m using dried cherries. Truthfully, dried cherries can be pretty pricey, especially if you buy the tart ones without added sugar. Check your supermarket’s bulk section for cherries! I found them at Whole Foods and was able to buy just what I needed at a super affordable price.
Living in Astoria, I have eaten more than my fair share of fried cheese (saganaki) and hold a special place for crispy, warm, salty cheeses.
After some googling, I discovered that rolling the cheese in sesame seeds before frying has some Greek roots! While this isn’t a strictly Greek salad, it has Meditteranean flavors which, hopefully, will bring some warm weather feelings into your kitchen too.
In the meantime let’s work with what we’ve got to create bright and satisfying dishes! Break out this recipe on the weekends when you’re craving sweet, salty, and something totally satisfying but still a little healthy. (It has green in it!)
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an adorable wiggly pup at my feet who’s super ready for some quality playtime!
Cherry, Mint, Almond Bulgur Salad with Fried Sesame Feta
1 cup of bulgur wheat
3 cups water
⅓ cup dried cherries
⅓ cup lightly toasted almond slices or slivers
½ cup fresh orange juice
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
¼ cup honey
½ tsp orange zest
2-4 slices of Greek feta cheese, ¼-1/2 inch thick
2 eggs, lightly beaten
¼ cup flour (enough to dip the feta in)
1 tsp paprika
Fresh ground pepper
Sesame seeds (enough to coat the feta)
Either prepare the bulgur according to the package directions or bring the three cups of water to a boil in a saucepan with a pinch of salt. Once the water is at a rolling boil add the bulgur, give it a stir, cover the pot, and take it off the heat. After 20 minutes drain the remaining water, put the bulgur into a mixing bowl, and fluff it with a fork. It should be cooked but not mush. You want it to have a bite to it still. Leave it to the side to cool.
Warm the orange juice slightly. It should be warm to the touch but not hot. Add the dried cherries to the orange juice to soften and absorb some of the liquid, about 10-15 min. When you take the cherries out, make sure to reserve the orange juice to incorporate back into the dressing!
If your feta came in liquid take it out and pat dry. Line up three shallow dishes for the eggs, flour, and sesame seeds. Mix in the paprika and pepper with flour. Dip the feta slices first in the eggs, then the flour, then the eggs again, and finally the sesame seeds so that they cover all the sides of the cheese.
In a frying pan heat up your olive oil. I used a non-stick pan and added enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan and added more oil between batches. If your pan isn't non-stick I would add a couple more tablespoons of oil.
Fry the feta about 2-3 minutes on each side over medium heat. The sesame should be a golden brown but not burnt. Lay the feta on paper towels to absorb excess oil.
Mix together the bulgur, cherries, mint, and almonds and spoon into serving dish. Lay a piece of fried feta on top.
In a small saucepan warm the honey over medium-low heat and whisk in the orange juice. Let them warm together about a minute. Take off the heat and whisk in the orange zest.
Pour the dressing over the feta cheese so it drips down over the salad and serve!
The past couple weeks have been all over the place for me, in good ways, but it’s left me with less time than ideal to work on recipes and blogging. Things that have taken precedence – paying short-term work in the food industry, running around meeting potential pups to adopt, and some much-needed reflection time for myself.
When I started this blog six months ago, my goal was to post at least once a week and I’ve kept up that promise nearly 100%. I’m going to have to keep this one short and sweet to stick to that plan.
Although it’s really easy this week because this recipe is both super short and super sweet! Ha, unintentional parallel but it totally works! With only four ingredients, this caramel is easy to throw together and keeps in the fridge for a long while.
You might be wondering why use miso in a caramel sauce? Think of it as the salt component. We all like salted caramel right? Well, this is just that with a different version of salt, and it adds a deeper umami flavor as well.
Caramel isn’t hard to put together, but you need to keep an eye on it. I don’t have dairy (I use separate pots and pans for meat and dairy in our Kosher kitchen) heavy-bottomed pans so I had to keep the heat lower and watch it intently because it can go from being ok to being burnt in an instant.
You can see my two versions above. The one on the right was my second try, and exactly what I wanted. The one on the left is just on the edge of tasting burnt. It has a bit of a smoke taste to is but it isn’t bad and I’m going to save it for something else.
Caramel sauce is a great ingredient to have in the fridge. I put it on ice cream and popcorn, but you can also mix it into a pie, spread it on apple slices, and use it in cookies with chocolate. It’s an ingredient that is so many times better for you to make than to buy and try to decipher all the chemicals that are in it.
It’s definitely worth it, and also one of those things that you can whip out of your refrigerator when you want to impress, well, everyone. Tell your hips I’m sorry.
½ cup heavy cream, warmed very slightly (just to take the chill off) or room temperature
2 Tbsp white miso paste
In a heavy-bottomed high-saucepan (if you have one - if not use what you got!), mix together the water and sugar and turn the heat to medium-high (or medium if you aren't using a heavy pan). Do not mix again! Let it boil and bubble. Use a wet pastry brush if you see sugar creeping up the sides and wipe it back down.
You'll begin to see the color change and take on a golden color. When it's edging towards a deep golden brown get it off the heat and stir in the cream. This will cause the caramel to bubble up but if you keep stirring it will settle down. If it seizes, put it back on the heat at a low temp and stir till it loosens.
Once smooth, whisk in the miso paste. Let it cool before putting it in the fridge. Keep sticking a spoon into taste-check the temperature. It's not the only way to check (using your hands on the container is also a good way to see if it's cool enough), but it's definitely the tastiest.
Whether you call them Bao, Baozi, or Bau, these doughy buns can be filled with any delicious combination of ingredients that strikes your fancy. Meats slathered in sauce are traditional but I’ve made these with roasted vegetables, mushrooms, and today, some more traditional Chinese flavors in honor of Lunar New Year.
Truthfully, I made these on the New Year but spent last week completely immersed in some work stuffs and an amazing EatWith dinner we hosted last Friday night. Gathered at our table was probably the most varied group of people we’ve had to date. Our guests were incredibly interesting folks who represented different generations and countries. I was so thrilled to be sharing our table with them.
Even though we’re about a week late (on the blog) to celebrate Chinese New Year, bao are an anytime food. I’m even working on crafting some breakfast bao – which is how they’re usually eaten! For breakfast that is, not necessarily with the egg yolk I’m trying to engineer to stay inside the bao. The dough is pillowy, sweet, and takes on the flavors of what you choose to fill it with.
They also take very little time to make and would serve as a great snack or as hors d’oeuvres at your next party since they fit so nicely in a hand and, depending what you put inside, aren’t terribly messy.
It’s also a good to make them when other people are around because they’re best when eaten right away and, trust me, you’ll feel pretty terrible after eating a (nearly) full batch of them.
You don’t need any special equipment to make these happen. I use a metal steamer basket in a stock pot to steam them. Every time I walk down the Bowery I’m eying the bamboo steamer boxes but I have limited enough space already and the same piece of equipment that steams my broccoli does a find job of steaming my buns…er, bao!
Next time you have a couple of hours free, give these a shot. It takes a little practice filling and sealing the buns and the day that I made these I was a bit out of practice. Here’s a video that beautifully demonstrates how to create the petal-like seal. I might be making some more of these soon to work on my form. Keep an eye on my Instagram account (@SaritWish) for more bao soon! Did you do or eat anything special to celebrate the Lunar New Year?
1 Tbsp sesame oil (or you can use another oil if you don't have sesame!)
½ cup warm (not hot!) water
Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Drizzle in the sesame oil and mix lightly. Add the water and mix together. As the dough begins to come together, take it out of the bowl and onto a surface to knead. Knead until smooth (a few minutes).
Place the dough ball into a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place it in a larger bowl that has a couple inches of hot water at the bottom and place the bowls in the oven (I like to warm it to 170°F or the lowest temp and shut it off) or in a warm, draft-free place for a half an hour or until the dough doubles in size.
Meanwhile, make your filling. I don't have an exact recipe to share here but I used a combination of steamed boy choy, shitake mushrooms, and scallions all chopped up and tossed with some chile pepper, minced ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, and hoisin sauce and threw some crushed peanuts on top before sealing up the bao. Throw in some roasted veggies is or sauté some eggplant or tofu! Mix up whatever ingredients you have on hand and let the bao be your delicious blank canvas.
Once the dough has risen, take it out and lightly press the air out of it. Divide into 8 equal pieces, and with a little oil on your palms, roll into balls and place them under a wet kitchen towel to rest for about 10-15 min.
While the dough is resting again get your steaming vessel ready. I used a stockpot with a few inches of boiling water and my metal steamer basket. You can also use a bamboo basket or rice cooker. Also, cut out 8 squares of parchment or wax paper. You'll place your buns on the paper to keep them from sticking during steaming.
After 10-15 min, once the buns are well rested and have puffed up a little more, you're ready to fill! Roll out each ball in a circle to about 4/4.5 inches in diameter. Try to leave the center of the circle a little thicker to help hold your filling. Place a small ball of your filling in the middle and begin to seal the bao by pleating along the edges.
Unless you have a very large steamer you'll need to work in batches. If you're using a steamer basket like a did, place the buns with their paper bottoms in the basket. Drape a towel over the top and then cover the pot with the lid. The towel will help keep the steam inside! Let them steam for about 15 min-18 min.
Take them out carefully, wait a couple minutes so they cool a little, and enjoy!
We keep a well-stocked bar here in Astoria. We love tasting new bourbons, gins, and interesting liqueurs, but we’re not big spirit drinkers, so our bar sits relatively undisturbed. The wine extension to our bar does just fine, but our collection of liquors and mixers just seems to grow and grow. Here’s hoping that my resolution to craft more cocktails in 2015 sticks!
That resolution, coupled with Valentine’s Day, made for the perfect occasion to whip up a fun drink like this one. It’s got the color and a touch of sweetness to make any occasion special…even if it’s a Saturday night in, watching movies.
Growing up, I didn’t get to celebrate Valentine’s Day. The schools I went to were Jewish day schools where hearts weren’t passed around and we didn’t craft sweet messages to our friends in art class. As an adult, it doesn’t hold any interest for me. I don’t think it’s a cynical thing, it just never sparkled for me in that way. However, I do love sharing food and drink with the people I care about, so this could make for a sweet love note.
This drink is also inspired by the crazy amounts of citrus that I’ve been consuming recently. January and February have been so good about providing perfect fruits that I can’t help but turn them into foods and drinks. This cocktail not only uses fresh grapefruit juice, but there’s some candied grapefruit on top for a sweet garnish.
For all the cool stuff on our bar, you’d think we would have cooler glasses to serve our drinks in. I kind of like the “mad scientist, everything in a jar” look but I can see the benefit (especially from a photography point of view) of using gorgeous barware to present beautiful drinks.
So, I’m raising my glass to many things this week, including: writing this blog for 6 consecutive months (woop!), to a recent weekend jaunt in Stockholm where much herring was consumed, to love, and to turning 30. I’m pretty sure I’ve been telling people I’m 30 for a while now, but it still feels nice to actually be here. What are you raising your glass to this week?
Remember last week when I baked English Muffins and then made Salmon Eggs Benedict? Well, I was patting myself on the back quite a bit for that and said to Ari how cool it was that I made almost everything on the plate from scratch, except the smoked salmon.
So that got me thinking about what goes into curing salmon and could I do it on my own?! Just so you know how my brain works – when it comes to food, my stubbornness and curiosity know no bounds. Now if only I could apply that to other areas in my life…
Anyhow, ’bout that salmon: it turns out that it isn’t at all hard to do.
It takes, literally, minutes to put together. Most of the work happens in the time it sits in the refrigerator under a few pounds of weight. Mind you, this isn’t smoked (I wonder if I could do that at home?), but rather cured. You’re pressing out most of the moisture and infusing it with fresh dill and parsley flavors as well as lemon zest, salt, and sugar. The texture is similar to lox but the flavor is different.
Please don’t judge me for the hack job on slicing the fish! I don’t have the right knife yet. Though my birthday is coming up soon…
Since I’d already done enough talking about Eggs Benedict, I wanted to create something that could showcase the salmon as well as the all the beautiful citrus flavors of the season.
I decided to incorporate the salmon into a classic fennel/citrus salad and use dijon mustard in the dressing to pull it all together. I am a HUGE fan of mustard and knew that it would play nicely with both the fish and salad.
Funny story, a few weeks back I came home to a ginormous box of grapefruits and oranges at my front door. These were a surprise gift from someone who likes me. (I have to specify they were from a friend, because when you open a box and see the massive amount of fruit you have to fit in your NYC sized refrigerator it’s hard to tell the spirit they were sent in.) It’s been fun using them up in different and creative ways!
Obviously you don’t have to cure your own salmon to make this dish. The salad can be served on its own and/or you can buy cured or smoked salmon. I chose to put slices under the salad instead of in it because I preferred controlling the amount of salmon per bite, and the pieces caught the dressing drippings perfectly.
In the spirit of being adventurous in our kitchens, do you have something you want to make just to see if you can? Or have you done it already? I’d love to hear about your epic kitchen moments!
Fennel Citrus Salad and Cured Salmon with a Grapefruit Vinaigrette by Herring and Potatoes
Recipe for Salmon from CHOW: Cured Salmon
I didn’t have white peppercorns so I upped the lemon zest (almost a whole lemon for a half pound of fish) and it came out great!