Tuesday, November 24, 2015


It's an international constant: savory fried discs of eggy batter studded with goodies are delicious. The latest iteration of such foodstuff to cross my plate is the Japanese okonomiyaki, which I had for the first time a couple months ago at a local Japanese grocery and food stand in Ardmore, Maido!, which also provided all the ingredients necessary to make such a quick and tasty treat at home (I am beyond thrilled to have this market a mere two blocks away!). Okonomiyaki is a Japanese pancake which, like all other pancakes, is eminently customizable. Since I've taken to making them at home, I have made a slightly different version each time, depending on what's in the fridge. The recurring themes are usually shrimp, cabbage, bacon and the toppings, bonito flakes and the umami-licious okonomiyaki sauce. Bonito flakes really are a wonder; fine filaments of deep fish flavor that wave and undulate lightly the moment they alight onto the pancake. I highly recommend getting yourself a stockpile online if you're not close to any Asian retailer.

Forgive the photos - I have to change the lighting in my kitchen, somehow.

Makes two entree-size pancakes or four 6-inch pancakes

Recipe adapted from the recipe affixed to the packaging on my bottle of Otafuku Okonomi Sauce!

*1 cup flour
*2/3 cup very cold water
*Big pinch dashi granules
*Big pinch sea salt
*4 eggs, beaten
*1 cup green cabbage, cut into thin strips and chopped
*3 scallions, sliced thin, plus an extra sliced scallion for garnish
*1 heaving cup of mixed meat/seafood (I usually use small shrimp, sliced in half lengthwise, bay scallops and squid, plus a couple crumbled strips of fried bacon)
*Peanut or Vegetable oil, for frying
*Okonomi sauce (sold in Asian retailers, or you can find recipes online), for garnish
*Bonito flakes, for garnish
*Kewpie mayonnaise is good on this too, I just happen to be all out

Mix the flour, dashi, salt and water in a bowl, then add the beaten eggs. Stir until combined; it doesn't have to be lump-free. Throw in the meat and vegetables, then set aside and heat the oil in a skillet over medium. When hot, ladle batter out to make the first pancake. Cook about 5 minutes on each side, then dish out and top with all the garnishes. Repeat with the rest of the batter 'n dig in.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Caprese Salad with Lemon-Basil Ice Cream

As July rolls around, my porch is practically exploding with greenery and I am finally in the privileged position of trying to find a wide range of uses for the enthusiastically bushy basil plant. My thoughts turned to David Lebovitz's excellent recipe for basil ice cream, which I've made numerous times and is fabulous on its own (or with a drizzle of balsamic glaze and macerated strawberries!), but for this post I decided to put the ice cream in a different context and paired it with rounds of fresh mozz and a juicy tomato for an especially refreshing caprese salad. I quite liked it! It certainly makes for a fun spin on a summertime classic.

Caprese Salad with Lemon-Basil Ice Cream
Ice cream recipe produces a quart; salad recipe is for two people

Ice cream recipe adapted from David Lebovitz's basil ice cream from The Perfect Scoop

*1 cup packed basil leaves
*3/4 cup sugar
*2 cups heavy cream
*1 cup whole milk
*5 egg yolks, lightly whisked
*The zest of 1 large lemon (optional, but I like the citrus zip)

*1 large heirloom tomato per two people
*8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced
*Freshly cracked black pepper & pinches of sea salt
*Fruity olive oil
*Splashes of balsamic vinegar, if you please
*Palmful of small basil leaves, to garnish

To make the ice cream: blend the basil leaves with the sugar and 1 cup of the cream in a small food processor until the leaves are finely minced. Put half of the basil mix in a large bowl with the other cup of cream and chill. Meanwhile, warm the rest of the basil mix with the milk and salt in a pot until steaming, then slowly temper the egg yolks by pouring the hot liquid into the eggs, whisking all the while - then scrape everything back into the pot and continue to cook over medium, stirring constantly. Cook without bringing to a boil just until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon.

At that point, remove from heat and pour through a sieve into the chilled cream mix. Add the lemon zest. Stir until cool, then pop in the fridge to chill thoroughly for a least a couple of hours, preferably overnight. Churn the mix in your ice cream maker, then store in an appropriate container to ripen further until you're ready to assemble the salad.

Drape slices of tomato over rounds of cheese and adorn with basil leaves. Sprinkle some salt and pepper across the salad, and add splashes of any oil/vinegar you'd like to use as well. Scoop out two or three little pats of lemon basil ice cream and serve!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Asparagus, Potato and Pancetta Hash

Old blog, new kitchen! I'm (finally) back with a new recipe, celebrating ol' Zou's 3rd anniversary from my new digs in Ardmore, PA. The kitchen is about 3 times the size of my former galley number and boasts a gas range, so I'm happier than ever to be spending time over the stove. I promised the other household half that I'd make mole sometime soon, a task that was almost unbearable in previous close confines. 

This morning, however, I'm sharing a recipe for the perfect breakfast to enjoy with a pot of coffee while hashing out some apartment projects that need to get done: this mess of potatoes, pancetta, crisp twiggy asparagus, scallions and eggs. It's just the savory, nourishing pile needed before attacking the old carpet staples left in the nice wood stairs....(wish us luck).

Asparagus, Potato and Pancetta Hash
Makes 2 servings

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

*2-3 fist-size Yukon Golds, diced into 1/2-1/3 in cubes
*1/4 lb pancetta, cut into small cubes
*3 scallions, white and light green parts sliced in 1/4 in rounds
*5 young slender asparagus spears, trimmed and sliced into segments
*Big pinch red pepper flakes
*An egg per serving
*Freshly ground black pepper (and salt, if you're a sodium fiend)

In a wide cast iron pan over medium heat, render the pancetta for about ten minutes, turning frequently, until it's nice and crisp. Remove and set aside (I usually store it in the little pan I'll later be frying the eggs in to take advantage of the pancetta's sweetsweet fat). Add the potatoes with a little extra fat if need be and leave them to saute without touching them for about 5-6 minutes. Turn and repeat until the potatoes are evenly browned on all sides, about 15-20 minutes total. At about 15 minutes in, add the scallions, asparagus and pepper flakes and after a good toss, add the pancetta back in. Cover the skillet so the asparagus can saute and steam for a bit, a couple minutes perhaps. Meanwhile, fry the eggs. When the asparagus has cooked to your liking (I prefer it still on the toothsome side) check for seasoning and dish out the hash, topping each portion with an egg. Serve with your favorite vinegar-y hot sauce, if you please.

Snapshot of the lovely eggs fresh from my friend's hens that topped the hash

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Cornbread Panzanella

Since snagging an eyeful of a gorgeous-looking cornbread salad on Beth Kirby's Instagram the idea of a winter panzanella has sat warming on the back burner of my mind. The occasion arose to make cornbread this past weekend when I cooked up a stew, and I saved a couple slices to be toasted up for a salad the following day. The Homesick Texan's cornbread is my go-to recipe, and it held up beautifully for the occasion. Since I usually smear leftover cornbread with a maple-butter mix, I brought some maple sweetness to the table by coating the cornbread cubes with maple & melted butter before toasting them, and swirled some maple into a quick vinaigrette for the salad as well. The final result was incredibly tasty and satisfying - it might even be good enough to warrant baking cornbread for the salad alone!

Cornbread Panzanella
Makes 2-3 servings

*1 scant tablespoon butter
*3-4 cups of cubed cornbread, made the day before
*Handfuls of spinach & arugula
*1/4 small red onion, sliced into thin half moons
*2 cups roasted Brussels sprouts (trimmed, halved, tossed with evoo, S&P at 375 for 30-40 minutes)
*1 scallion, green part sliced
*1/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola
*2 tablespoons pepitas
*2 tablespoons EVOO
*1 tablespoon maple syrup + 1/2 teaspoon
*1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
*1/2 teaspoon whole grain mustard

Melt the butter with the 1/2 teaspoon of maple syrup and toss the cornbread with the mix. Toast in the oven for about 15 minutes, stirring once, until well crisped. Prepare the vinaigrette by shaking together the evoo, a tablespoon of syrup, the vinegar and mustard with pinches of salt & pepper in a small mason jar. Lay the greens in a serving bowl and combine the onion, freshly roasted sprouts, scallions, cheese, pepitas and cornbread to serve over top. A little cracked pepper and salt to finish, and serve with the dressing on the side so people may use it at their discretion.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Pho Ga

The confluence of chicken carcasses building up in my freezer and the miserable weather brewing outside led me to thoughts of chicken soup this weekend, and when I consulted my fridge and pantry my thoughts were immediately pulled East to pho. Pho Ga is a lighter, brighter alternative to the delicate yet unctuous (and better known) beef pho, and proved to be just what I was craving. Piquant with fresh chili and sriracha spice, pungent from lime and fish sauce, aromatic wafts of ginger and warm spices rising with the steam... it's already a bowl of absolute comfort before you even get to the tender chicken and toothsome noodles! I can't recommend it enough as a curative to the winter blues 'n greys.

The recipe is an accumulation and synthesis of various tips gleaned from friends and on Chowhound, but the necessary framework came from Andrea Nguyen , whom I always consult first on all matters Vietnamese. Grab your chopsticks and your slurpin' spoon and enjoy!

Pho Ga
Makes 6 servings

*1 small chicken, cut up (whack at the bony pieces with a cleaver to expose more marrow)
*At least one other chicken carcass, chopped into pieces
*2 onions, unpeeled
*Chubby piece of ginger, about 4 inches, unpeeled
*3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
*2 tablespoons coriander seeds, toasted lightly
*2 cloves
*2 star anise
*1 inch piece cinnamon stick
*1 heaping teaspoon demerara sugar
*3 tablespoons fish sauce
*Small bunch of cilantro stems
*1 lb dried rice noodles (banh pho)
*Any combination of the following, for garnish: bean sprouts, cilantro leaves, Thai basil, mint, finely sliced hot chilis, lime wedges, thinly sliced scallions, sriracha, hoisin sauce...

Set a toaster oven or regular oven to broil. Place the ginger and onion on a baking sheet and broil, turning occasionally, for 15 minutes or until nicely charred.  Add the garlic in the last couple minutes. After they've cooled to the point where you can play with 'em, remove the charred skin from the onions and ginger, and peel & smash the garlic (you may have to use the back of a spoon with the ginger).

Fill a stockpot with enough water to cover your cut-up chicken and any parts you're using. When the water boils, add all the chicken sections, the carcass, and any other carcass parts and boil on high for a couple minutes. You’ll see lots of foam and gunk roil up to the surface. Drain, rinse your chicken of the scum and quickly rinse the pot. Refill with 3 1/2-4 quarts of clean water. Add the chicken and pieces, onions, ginger, cilantro stems, fish sauce, sugar and all of the spices to the pot. Turn heat to high – let it come to boil, then turn the heat to low. After 15 minutes or so, remove the chicken breasts, shred with your fingers when cooled and set aside. With a large spoon, skim the surface of any impurities in the broth every so often to keep the broth clear. Simmer for about an hour and remove the rest of the chicken pieces, leaving the carcasses in the broth; shred & set aside the chicken meat. Continue simmering the stock for a bit longer, perhaps another 1/2 hour. Taste and adjust seasoning with more fish sauce and/or sugar.

Strain the broth in a colander lined with cheesecloth and discard solids. Pop the broth in containers and store in the fridge for a while, until you can skim the congealed fat off the surface (which I always save because hey, Vietnamese flavored schmaltz!). When ready to serve the pho, reheat the broth. Prepare noodles per directions on package. Ladle broth into bowls, add shredded chicken and soft noodles and have your selected garnishes on hard for each person to add to their bowl.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Grapefruit Blush Cocktail

In the depths of winter I find I will sometimes go a couple weeks without eating an orange or a grapefruit, and then suddenly the citrus craving will hit hard. Over the past couple days I've binged on clementines and cut up some grapefruit to slip into a salad, and today I decided to extend the citrus trend to late afternoon tipples, too. The same friend who gifted me with maple bitters last year recently gave me an awesome bottle of hibiscus-orange blossom-ginger simple syrup from the Bang Candy Co, and I found it paired quite well with the grapefruit juice I'd just squeezed. A little Cointreau and club soda later, and I was sipping this very easy and tasty cocktail.  It's sweet, tart, juicy, effervescent, and most importantly, makes you briefly forget the dull grey chill awaiting you outdoors. Looking forward to seeing where my current citrus obsession takes me next.

Grapefruit Blush Cocktail
Makes one drink

*4 oz fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
*1 oz hibiscus-orange flower-ginger syrup (ginger simple syrup will work well as a sub)
*2 oz Cointreau
*Club soda
*Sugar & grapefruit zest, for rimming the glass

Mix some sugar and zest together on a plate and run a wedge of grapefruit around the rim of a short tumbler, then place it rim-side down in the sugar. Chill the glass.

Mix the first 3 ingredients together in a shaker filled with ice, then strain into your chilled glass and top with a little club soda.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Some traditional Italian pasta dishes have fabulously evocative names; like spaghetti alla carbonara, this pasta dish also paints a vivid picture of its supposed originators. Puttanesca derives from puttana, a prostitute, and the name connotes an easy, cheap, and deeply savory meal a working girl might hasten to throw together between, ahem, clients. Whatever its real origins, I love the name. Slattern spaghett'.

Those familiar with the basic ingredients of puttanesca might note that cured olives go conspicuously missing in mine. As I've mentioned a few times before, I just can't ....do....olives... but, I do love tapenade! The tapenade I use is actually a sundried tomato version which I absolutely adore and think adds a lot to the flavor of the sauce, so if you opt for a 1/4 cup of cured olives instead of tapenade, maybe chop up a few sundried tomatoes too! Puttanesca, much like its namesakes of yore, is very accommodating.  

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca
Makes 3 servings

Adapted from A Food Obsession

*1/2 lb high quality spaghetti (De Cecco! I never use anything else.)
*3 large cloves of garlic, minced
*6 anchovies, chopped
*1 tablespoon chopped capers
*Pinch red pepper flakes
*1 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes
*Pinch sugar
*Pinch oregano
*Freshly ground black pepper
*1 "big spoonful" tapenade, about 2-3 tablespoons (or, cured olives)
*3-4 leaves basil, torn

Heat a puddle of evoo in a pot over medium and melt the anchovies into the oil for a bit before adding the garlic, capers, and a big pinch of red pepper flakes. After a minute or so, pour in the tomatoes and stir in the tapenade with a pinch of sugar and oregano. Tear in the basil leaves and grind some pepper into the mix, too.

Let the sauce cook over medium-low, stirring frequently, as you put the pot of water on to boil for the pasta. Salt the water well and boil the spaghetti until al dente, then drain and toss with the sauce. Reserve a smidge of the pasta water in case the dish is a little dry.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Eggnog...and Eggnog Ice Cream

Talk about having your cake and eating it too - over the holidays I had a mind to make homemade eggnog AND David Lebovitz's eggnog ice cream...and found I could do both at the same time. When I was reading Lebovitz's recipe from The Perfect Scoop it struck me that the ice cream's custard base was so extremely similar to most recipes for (cooked) eggnog I'd seen, that if I made a big enough batch, I could have both nog concoctions! 2 cups of the base went into chilled glasses and the other 2, into the ice cream maker: perfectly unctuous, rich eggnoggy deliciousness in both liquid & solid form. I prefer eggnog with black spiced rum but feel free to sub in your alcohol of choice - Lebovitz recommended bourbon & brandy. Sip your nog and eat it too!

Eggnog/Eggnog Ice Cream
Makes a quart of the base

Adapted from David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop

*1 cup whole milk
*2 cups heavy cream, divided
*Good pinch salt
*2/3 cup sugar
*1/4 cup black-spiced rum (I use Kraken)
*1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
*Pinch cinnamon
*Pinch allspice
*6 organic eggs, divided
*1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Combine the milk, sugar, salt and one cup cream in a saucepan over medium and keep stirring until the sugar has dissolved and the milk begins to steam. Put the other cup of cream into a bowl and chill well. 

Whisk the egg yolks until the yolks are glossy. Temper the yolks by slowly adding hot milk mix to them, whisking until fully incorporated. Pour the eggy liquid back into the pan and cook, stirring all the while, until it thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon – just don't bring to a boil. Pour the mix through a fine mesh sieve into the bowl of chilled cream and add the spices, rum and vanilla. Stir well, then put in the fridge to chill overnight.

When you're ready to churn, use as much of the eggnog base as you would like, reserving any extra for immediate sippin'. To pump up those sipping servings, take about a tablespoon of egg white and a heavy pinch of sugar per serving and whisk together until peaks form, then gently fold the egg whites into the servings. Garnish both liquid and solid servings with freshly grated nutmeg and allspice.