Category Archives: recipes

The Family Styles Holiday Eating Escapades, Part Five: Momofuku Inspired Miso Butter Scallops

If you’ve been reading this blog recently, you know quite well that Irene and I have a bit of a thing for David Chang and his small East Village Momofuku restaurant empire.  The cookbook has been bedtime reading for both of us as well as the source of three or four or maybe eight dishes over the past few weeks. I’m almost glad I left the book back in Boston with Andy (it was ostensibly his Christmas gift anyway) because things were getting a bit out of hand.

I first ate at Momofuku Noodle Bar in its initial tiny incarnation about four years ago and felt a pressing and insistent desire to return after finishing the cookbook.  Luckily I was leaving for New York the next day, so less than 24 hours later I found myself alongside devoted noodle fans Lexi and Rachel, hunkered down over steamed buns glistening with fatty pork belly, pungent and slippery ginger and scallion noodles, and a steaming hot porky bowl of classic Momofuku ramen that I could now recreate if I had a ridiculous amount of time and an even more ridiculous amount of pork.

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The Family Styles Holiday Eating Escapades, Part Three: Chinese Home Cooking and Tea Glazed Eggs

One of the best things about being home at my parent’s house is the likelihood that any given moment – approximately 89.75% of the time – the Bean and I can walk into the kitchen and there will be delicious Chinese food cooking.  Yep. It’s pretty sweet.  There’s a lovely Chinese couple, Jenny and Don,  living there who help our Dad around the house and also cook tummy filling and seemingly effortless and homestyle Chinese food.

Quite often these dishes are aesthetically pleasing and easily replicable, like the black tea and spice glazed eggs above.

Other times, these dishes are neither easy to prepare nor particularly attractive…

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The Family Styles Holiday Eating Escapades, Part Two: The Wake and Bake

I am a gloriously productive person every time I return to the States. Blessed with a five-hour time difference from London, I arise at the I-do-lots-of-useful-and-important-things hour of 7am (a time of day I am generally unacquainted with, especially on vacation) and…I do lots of useful and important things.  Like bake lots of focaccia.

Okay, so obviously this is a relative usage of the words ‘useful’ and important’.’  But I do consider baking to be a valuable activity, particularly so over the holidays when the day’s activities consist primarily of getting together with family and eating, meeting up with friends and eating, catching up with old family friends and eating…you get the picture.  In such a gastronomically focused time, baking and other food production techniques grow to paramount importance.

Thus, I present to you the newest addition to my useful brunch party repertoire: The Wake and Bake Eggs. Simple, cheap, non-labor intensive, adaptable, and basically idiotproof.

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The Family Styles Holiday Eating Escapades, Part Two: The Wake and Bake

I am a gloriously productive person every time I return to the States. Blessed with a five-hour time difference from London, I arise at the I-do-lots-of-useful-and-important-things hour of 7am (a time of day I am generally unacquainted with, especially on vacation) and…I do lots of useful and important things.  Like bake lots of focaccia.

Okay, so obviously this is a relative usage of the words ‘useful’ and important’.’  But I do consider baking to be a valuable activity, particularly so over the holidays when the day’s activities consist primarily of getting together with family and eating, meeting up with friends and eating, catching up with old family friends and eating…you get the picture.  In such a gastronomically focused time, baking and other food production techniques grow to paramount importance.

Thus, I present to you the newest addition to my useful brunch party repertoire: The Wake and Bake Eggs. Simple, cheap, non-labor intensive, adaptable, and basically idiotproof.

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Sugar and Spice is Nice at the Rambling Restaurant

Bright colors are nice too.

At the last Rambling Restaurant of 2009, we served a trio of richly colored dips – chickpea hummous, beetroot hummous, and carrot cumin dip. So pretty in pink.

For maximum dippability, we prepared straight-out-of-a-hot-oven-and-onto-the-grill flatbreads. Take Moro flatbread recipe (recipe below), multiply by 15 (eek!) and you have a lot of steaming hot fresh bread  in your future. Also a lot of rolling pin action. Stop whining, it’s good for the arm muscles.

I know making your own bread for a meal sounds thoroughly unrealistic, but this pita-like bread only needs about 20 minutes to sit. This means you can take about five minutes to make the dough, let it sit while you chop vegetables or prepare something else, and have WOW-YOU’RE-AMAZING homemade bread to accompany your meal. Even if it’s only yourself you’re impressing, it’s totally worth it. Especially when you fold it over and stuff it with sauteed spinach and halloumi cheese and roasted eggplant and other such delights.

We followed up the onslaught of foldable starch and pretty bowls of mush with a Turmeric Lime Chili Chicken over a Roasted Eggplant, Pomegranate Seed, Scallion, Parsley, Mint, Tomato Fattoush with a dollop of Cumin Yogurt Sauce. It’s a lot of ingredients that somehow all work in symbiotic grace to produce a happy mouthful of amazing.

But a discussion of odd-sounding ingredients that don’t really seem like they’d work together but actually will blow your mind would not be complete without Chef foodrambler‘s dessert: Orange Blossom Almond Polenta Cake with Coriander Syrup.  You might not think you like coriander, but I DARE you not to like this cake. I like this cake so much I am actually going to make it right now for a Christmas Eve Day Brunch.  I also like you enough to show you this pretty picture which does no justice to the rich, moist, exotically sweet and just a touch of spicy cake perfection.

Garnish with a twist of orange, a sprig of cilantro, and a spoonful of honeyed syrup with dots of coriander seeds.  Staring at this picture makes me very happy that this cake is only several hours in my future.  For those of you gluten-free people out there (sis Irene Bean is testing out a potential gluten allergy),  this cake is made with polenta and not flour. Woohoo!

Now go find yourself some cake too. Happy holidays!

Moro Flatbread

What You Need:

1 cup flour
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp dried yeast
a bit less than 1/2 a cup lukewarm water
1 tbsp olive oil

NOTE: this amount makes about four small-plate size flatbreads, enough for one very very hungry carb fiend like me, or two normal people. Multiply appropriately depending on your eating party’s level of carbophilia.

What You Do:

1. Mix the flour and salt in a big bowl and activate the yeast in the water, if necessary.

2. Slowly pour the water and yeast into the flour and incorporate by hand. Once all the liquid has been mixed in, punch the dough around for a few minutes. If it’s too sticky, add a bit more flour. Add the oil and keep kneading until you have a single ball of dough with a relatively smooth texture and a bit shiny with oil.

3. Let sit, covered with a damp tea towel, for about 20 minutes.

4. Pull off small balls, larger than a golf ball but smaller than a tennis ball, and roll them out to your desired thickness onto a sturdy floured surface. A good rolling pin is handy here, but floured wine bottles work just as well.  We decided to go super-thin at Rambling Restaurant, but I like the thick and fluffy kind too.

5. Once the dough has been rolled out, you can either put them on a lightly floured baking tray or a lightly oiled pan. At RR, we decided to do both – stick it in a hot oven until they puff up and lose their wet doughy sheen, then finish off on a griddle pan for some tasty brownedness. Either way is delicious.

6.  Cook until puffy, browned, and yearning to jump into your mouth. Dip in something tasty and pat yourself on the back for having produced your very own homemade bread. That is, if your hands aren’t busy tearing apart your creation and stuffing it in your mouth.

like you enough to leave you with a picture so you can start drooling yourself.
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Holiday Happiness With Perfect Pork Shoulder and Crunchy Crackling

One of the most deliciously useful bits of knowledge I have gained so far in my time in London: how to roast a perfect pork shoulder, complete with addictive crunchy little strips of crackling on the top. At Rambling Restaurant a few weeks ago, chef foodrambler made a classic Sunday roast from the excellent River Cottage MEAT book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. While flipping through the cookbook, I happened upon this recipe for Aromatic Shoulder of Pork ‘Donnie Brasco,’ so named because you can put it in the oven on low heat overnight and ‘fuhgeddaboutit.’ Oh Hugh F-W, you are hilarious. Also, a meat genius.

Since the mere reading of the recipe made my stomach grumble with longing, we decided to make the pork shoulder for three consecutive Rambling Restaurant suppers. After a day’s worth of roasting, you pry apart the brittle outer shell of crackling and dig through a shuddering layer of burning hot pork fat to find the most perfect, tender, juicy, falls-apart-with-the-tug-of-a-fork meat. Shredded with two dueling forks and bathed in an impromptu soy-hoisin-chili-garlic-leftover spring roll dipping sauce mixture, we had guests raving that it was the best pulled pork they’d ever tasted.  And so I recreated it for my family back home in Boston, introducing them to the joy that is garlic and spice-rubbed, high heat-blasted pig skin.  Here’s the recipe so you can do it yourself, very very slightly adapted from Hugh F-W’s recipe in ingredients and time, should you decide at lunch that pork shoulder is essential for dinner, without quite enough time to ‘fuhgeddaboutit.’

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Exporting the Valuable American Traditions of Turkey, Pie, and Stuffing…Your Face

Thanksgiving is without question my favorite holiday of the year.  It involves all the things I love most – family, friends, fun in the kitchen, and obscene amounts of food. Before returning back to Boston for the annual FamilyStylesFoodFestFunTime, Chris and I decided to organize a London Thanksgiving to comfort the Americans missing their annual tryptophan hit back in the States and to introduce some Brits to their FirstEverThanksgiving. Such a phenomenal opportunity to welcome foreigners to a holiday that revels in stuffing yourself beyond capacity.  Oh and we tossed a few Australians and Canadians in the mix too. I only wish we could have invited about thirty other friends, but we could barely pack the 20-odd guests into the living room already.

The menu was a classic Thanksgiving feast for the first-timers but also involved some first times for me. Like my first time brining a turkey! Apparently the ratio of one gallon of water to one cup salt and one cup sugar  is ideal to unwind the meat proteins of the turkey, allowing the flavored solution to be drawn up into the meat. Sweet. More moisture + more flavor = happy eaters. There’s nothing worse than dry turkey breast. And you can add your choice of spices, aromatics and flavorings to make things even more exciting. Here’s what I came up with based on the contents of the kitchen:

Brine For A Juicy Turkey:

1 gallon water
1 cup salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 orange, sliced
1/2  lemon, sliced
4 cloves smashed garlic
1/2 tbsp black peppercorns
about 1/2 tbsp white pepper
about 1/2 tbsp Chinese five-spice
a few sprigs of thyme

Here is Boris (named for our London mayor) or Natasha (named for Boris) in his (or her) bag of spicy salty sweet bathwater.

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Kitchen Experiments: Roasted Fennel, Squash, and Asian Pear Soup

roasted fennel squash and asian pear soup newI’ve just spent the last few hours greedily devouring the food porn and travel tales in Anthony Bourdain’s round-the-world eating book, No Reservations. It makes me want to eat coconut water-basted roast pig in Indonesia, steamed shark’s head in Singapore, fois gras burger in Montreal and white clam pizza in Seattle (pictured above behind the soup). Hell, I’d even consider testicle terrine in Iceland, raw seal in Northern Canada, and ‘sand-, fur-, and crap-laden warthog’ in Namibia to be able to eat and travel like he does, although I could do without the nasty details of the hospital visit resulting from getting a little too friendly with the lower intestines of said warthog.

Since I can only vicariously live out my gluttonous international foodie fantasies through Bourdain’s book (at least for the evening) I consoled myself with soup. It’s become perfect soup weather in London, so I finally stopped longing for my lovely red immersion blender back in San Francisco and buckled down and bought another one. Can’t do soup without it!

With delicata squash and a big bulb of fennel in last week’s veg bag, I had the basics of a flavorful autumn soup based on an amazing roasted pumpkin soup recipe with cinnamon and chilis from the cookbook of the fabulous Moro Restaurant  on Exmouth Market (so far the best meal I’ve had in London…go eat there now). And then I remembered that I bought a bag of Asian pears on Brick Lane today and decided to include one for an additional sweetness and a texture that is  somehow on the positive side of slightly mealy and almost gritty.  I roasted half a pear with the squash at first but then decided more was needed and diced another half directly into the boiling soup. It’s probably easiest to just toss it all in at the end along with the potato that I added to thicken the soup. Then go to town with your immersion blender  – aka  your onomatopoeicallynamed zjzjzjzjzjjjzzher  – and your soup goes from ugly lumpiness to smooth and creamy like MAGIC.

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Insanely Indulgent Butter-Fried, Onion Soup-Simmered Pasta with Roasted Butternut Squash and Ricotta

butternut squash butter roasted pasta

This may look appear to be normal pasta – if anything, a bit mushy and brown looking,  but otherwise nothing special. But no. This is some seriously, insanely, unnecessarily butteriffic pasta.

Butteriffic: (adj) infused with a completely superfluous amount of butter to the point of unsurpassed deliciousness and extreme caloric overload.

TV is generally full of all sorts of useless drivel, which is why I don’t own a television. However, sometimes TV teaches you important things. For example,  how to take a decadent and already relatively unhealthy dish such as macaroni & cheese and then infuse it with more deep, rich, buttery flavor to the point of…well, I was going to say heart attack, but I’m still standing.  So then, more accurately, to the point of AMAZING.  For this knowledge, I owe thanks to the final episode of MasterChef, which, based on my one viewing, appears to be  a British show of similar concept and nearly identical name to Top Chef.  In the ultimate challenge to determine a winner, the contestants had to recreate the dishes from a Michelin-starred chef for thirty other Michelin-starred chefs.  Yikes. I learned that Michelin-starred food is precise, complex, innovative, boundary-pushing, technological, demanding, beautifully presented, really ridiculously complicated, and most importantly – you guessed it, butteriffic.

The macaroni & cheese, elevated to Michelin-starred standards, involved dried pasta pan-roasted in butter,  simmered in veal stock, covered in stock glaze, cut into perfect circles, and stacked into a tower with layers of butternut squash and another over-the-top indulgence, duck confit.  Apparently the dish took four hours to make,  and that’s along with the 18 ducks that Steve, the ultimate winner, had to simultaneously roast.  Obviously I have neither the skill nor the time to recreate this dish, although maybe I should try because then I could eat it. But pan roasting in butter and simmering in stock? That I can do.

And now you can too, if you’re looking for that extra hefty dosage of calories. But hey – it’s also an extra hefty dose of seriously tasty comfort food, perfect for curling up in a comforter on the couch on a cold day.  This would also be an excellent dish if you were a bear looking to stock up on fat for hibernation. If you’re not a bear…well, you’ll just have to take my word for it that the buttery goodness is worth the fat.

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Roasted Lemon and Vegetable Bulgur Wheat Pilaf

bulgur wheat pilaf with roasted vegetables

One of the exciting things about living in a new place are all the new and different ingredients  to sample, eat, delight in, purchase, cook with, and integrate into your kitchen repertoire.  Thanks to my dear friend Michelle and her excellent dish from the stunning Feast of Strangers, I’ve become acquainted with bulgur wheat, which tastes to me like a cross between couscous and brown rice.  The grains are slightly larger than the average couscous and a little rounder than rice grains and apparently have more fiber and vitamins, as well as a lower glycemic index than either of those two close cousins (at least for white rice). More importantly, they’re delicious as well as inexpensive and versatile.

I’ve taken to buying various cereals and grains in bulk for those exact reasons. Any given evening, I generally have enough fresh vegetables or canned items or refrigerated goodies to toss into a very simple bulgur pilaf or couscous. The following recipe can be adapted depending on whatever items you may have around but what makes the recipe a bit more special is Michelle’s roasted lemon trick. Tangy, zesty and slightly caramelized, the browned lemon rinds add a fantastic and unexpected kick of flavor.

The rest of the recipe is fairly nebulous, which, if you’ve read any of my other recipes,  you will most likely find unsurprising. But I think that’s the best part – it’s not particular or demanding or complicated or requiring of your full undivided attention. Essentially, you roast the vegetables that need roasting, sauté the vegetables which would taste better sautéed, slice up any delicious items you might have in the fridge like marinated olives or peppers, and boil the bulgur. Combine in dish, stir, and eat. Easy peasy. But don’t worry, I’ve also spelled out directions after the jump…

orange peppers and uncooked bulgur

Bright orange peppers and uncooked bulgur!

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