Friday, August 31, 2012

Tres Leches Cake

Tres leches = three milks in Spanish; tres leches cake is a lactose-intolerant person's nightmare but it's my dream. I used The Pioneer Woman's recipe and it came out way delicious. I even brought it into work and my Latina coworker gave it a stamp of approval so I was satisfied that it was authentic as well as delicious. I definitely recommend that if you love tres leches cake but have never made it, you should make it. And if you've never tried it, you should definitely find a restaurant that serves a delicious slice or be adventuresome and make it. And if you already have a great recipe for it and make it all the time, well, good for you.

Since PW does the recipe better, takes prettier photos, and tells a nice story along with her recipe, I'm not going to go into the gritty details. Instead, I'll just slap this photo collage down and call it a day. Reminds me of my sticky buns post, except the photos aren't as comprehensive - I just snapped them whenever there was an "OOH!" moment.
I particularly like this photo with the perfectly unpopped yolks. Pristine.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Pasta Puttanesca

Spaghetti alla puttanesca literally translated is "pasta in the style of a whore" - is that not beautiful and poetic and doesn't it make your mouth water? But seriously, puttanesca sauce is DELICIOUS. There's some debate on where it originated and what the ingredients are supposed to be but whatever. Screw the haters debaters and tweak the recipe to your liking. To me, it's puttanesca if there are anchovies and crushed red pepper flakes in it - those are the special ingredients. Anchovies? Yes, anchovies. Cue chorus of little kids yelling, "EWWW!" They have this terrible reputation - the majority seems to agree that it's the most repulsive pizza topping - but they're just so delicious in this sauce. They dissolve and disappear right into the sauce so don't freak out about biting into a piece of fish; they just add a salty something that you'd definitely miss if it weren't there. It's that ingredient that makes you go, Hm, what IS that?

So without further ado, here's how I make my puttanesca:

Ingredients (serves 4)
1 lb pasta (which technically serves 8 but a 1/8th lb serving of pasta is pretty pathetic so I'm saying 4 servings per box of pasta)
28 oz. can of San Marzano tomatoes, which are sweeter and less acidic than regular canned tomatoes (if all you have is regular canned tomatoes, it's not the worst thing in the world; deliciousness will still happen)
1 tablespoon olive oil
5 anchovy fillets (packed in oil)
1 teaspoon of oil from the anchovy can
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flake (adjust the amount to your spiciness tolerance)
1 tablespoon of capers, drained (I usually count 12 capers)
1/2 sweet onion
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon oregano
drizzle of honey
pinch of salt
bunch of basil
Start your whore-style spaghetti by chopping up some garlic and onions. I like a rough chop to my aromatics because I like a chunky sauce. If you're a smooth guy/gal, give it a fine chop or a mince or if you want to be extreme you can take it to the food processor. Be your own chef. Make your own decisions.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Ggaeneep (깻잎)

Perilla leaves are often mistaken for "sesame leaves" because that's the literal Korean translation of 깻잎. Too bad the two aren't even related. Regardless of the weird naming scheme, I love perilla leaves. They have a really distinct flavor and I find that most people love it or hate it. We grow them in our backyard so I'll pick them and often use them for ssam (the lettuce part of a kalbi lettuce wrap). And once in a while, I'll add a bit of seasoning to them and make pickled perilla leaves because that side dish reminds me of my childhood.

30 to 40 perilla leaves (available in Korean supermarkets, sometimes it depends on the season - definitely in the summer, winter isn't guaranteed)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes (gochugaru).
3 drops of sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 scallion, finely chopped
Start by assembling the sauce/pickling liquid. Mix all of the ingredients, except perilla leaves, in a bowl.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

White Lasagne

Garfield's favorite food! U.S. spelling is "lasagna." Possibly the oldest pasta shape. Hm, and those are the only fun facts I have in my brain regarding the subject of lasagna. I'm sure google would be much more helpful than I.

Why white lasagna? Because I like it and because I can. Any other questions?

I used a 9x9 casserole dish because I wanted to; it would be just as easy to use a normal 9x13 pan
1/2 box of lasagna noodles
8 oz container ricotta cheese
1/2 lb sliced mozzarella (or 2 cups shredded if that's what you have)
6 to 8 basil leaves
1/3 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup broccoli florets, cut up tiny
1 or 2 small eggplants
1 yellow squash
1 zucchini
1 small sweet onion
3 to 5 cloves of garlic
3 links of sweet sausage (or 1/2 lb of whatever sausage you like) ** omit for a vegetarian lasagna
olive oil
butter for greasing pan
Start by preparing the vegetables. Slice up the zucchini, eggplant, and yellow squash (using a mandolin slicer if you have one); slice the onions a bit thicker, and give the garlic a rough chop (unless you hate big pieces of garlic, in which case, mince it, by all means).

Monday, August 27, 2012


Béchamel (beh-SHAH-mell) is a creamy white sauce, which is one of five French "mother sauces" because it's a simple base for a number of other sauces. When a secondary sauce is created from the mother sauce, it's called a "daughter sauce" (just a fun fact). I made a béchamel recently because I was making a lasagne (which I'll share in tomorrow's post). Add some grated cheese to a béchamel (a.k.a. Mornay sauce) for a lovely fondue dipping sauce or add to pasta and you have mac & cheese. You could also add mustard (I like dijon); mustard sauce is delicious with chicken and vegetables.

There are a few recipes and methods but I like mine because it's easy to remember and easy to make.

1 cup milk
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon butter
salt & pepper to taste

Some people use different proportions but I think it's just easy to remember 1 cup, 1 tablespoon, 1 tablespoon. Don't you agree?
Start by melting the butter in a saucepan. Once it's liquefied, add in the flour and whisk vigorously to make sure there are no lumps. Let it cook for a minute or so until it's bubbling so much that it's almost foamy. There, you've just made a white roux. Add in a half of the milk slowly, whisking to combine, and make sure the mixture is smooth before adding the rest of the milk. **Some chefs swear that you MUST add warm milk to avoid lumps. I've never had a problem with lumps when I've used cold milk so I just stick with fridge-cold milk and save myself a step, some time, and a pan.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Providenciales: Bay Bistro

Our final meal on the island was at Bay Bistro.

Taste: yummy
Portion size: generous
View/ambiance: it's right on the beach so the view is lovely. There was actually some sort of wedding party going on right on the beach which looked fun. Saw a bunch of people on dates as well as families so it's friendly for both romantic evenings and casual ones.
Price: typical for the island
Service: prompt and friendly
Other notes: we paid $120 with the tip, which wasn't included on the bill
The breadsticks were made with pesto and parmesan (like a few other places on the island).

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Providenciales: Fresh Bakery

Fresh Bakery is a great and affordable place to grab breakfast on the island. It was within walking distance of our hotel so we headed there on our last morning to treat ourselves to a hearty meal before a day of snorkeling.

Taste: great and a lot of things are customize-able to your liking
Portion size: large
View/ambiance: no view, bar seating
Price: cheap for the island and comparable to diner prices in the States
Other notes: our breakfast was $11.10 - since you have to clean up for yourself, there's no tip required but there is a tip jar if you're feeling generous

There's enough parking space for two or three cars if you end up driving over.
We got this apple pastry, which was baked fresh and tasted like it. Not overly sweet, really delicious.
We also got an omelette (forgive the ugly photo - fluorescent lighting doesn't make anything look good) with peppers, onion, bacon, and mozzarella cheese. It came with a huge salad, which, even though it's weird for breakfast, was fresh and we ate the whole thing so no complaints from us.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Providenciales: Hemingway's

Hemingway's is a lovely spot in the Sands Resort. Unfortunately, that day, we'd tried to go to Sapodillas, in the Beaches Resort, only to find out since it was all-inclusive, we weren't allowed in without a day pass, so we didn't have reservations. However, we were seated, though we were at a table without a view.

Taste: delicious
Portion size: HUGE
View/ambiance: we weren't in great seats, but there is beach-side seating with a view so ask for that when making your reservations
Price: cheap compared to the rest of the island; this menu had the lowest prices we'd seen all week, especially considering the giant portions
Service: smiley and accommodating
Other notes: we paid $120 with tip, which was not included on the bill. Get the fried ice cream because it is amazing.

The conch chowder wasn't spicy enough for us so we had to ask for some hot sauce. It was kind of like Manhattan clam chowder. As you can see, it was a v. generous portion, especially for an appetizer, and it was full of vegetables and conch.
After gorging on seafood all week, our bodies were craving a little red meat so we had the beef skewers. They were well cooked and definitely hit the spot.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Providenciales: Da Conch Shack

Da Conch Shack is probably one of the best known places on the island - or at least it seems that way because everyone mentions it.

Taste: fresh and yummy
Portion size: generous - two of us shared a platter
View/ambiance: tables and chairs are a little salt-worn and old but comfortable and the view of the ocean (and all the conch shells) is great
Price: cheap for the island but pricey compared to the States
Service: they're all on island time so it's hard to flag down a waiter but once you put in your order, your food comes out quickly
Other notes: there are stands with conch shells in all sizes, painted and natural, for sale. You can also go dip your toes in the water and there are tons of conch shells sitting in the ocean. Tip isn't included in the bill; we paid $38 with tip.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Providenciales: Anacaona

Anacaona is known for its infinity bar and great view. If you don't go there to eat a meal, I'd definitely say venture over to sit at the bar.

Taste: some dishes were phenomenal and some were disappointing so I think it's a matter of what you order
Portion size: normal - neither stingy nor generous
View/ambiance: beautiful! Ask for a seat near the beach for a great view and photo opportunities with the sunset
Price: typical of the island
Service: friendly but a little slow - the slowness is just because everyone's on island time so just be patient and get in tune with the same schedule
Other notes: bottled water is free! Or at least, it's built into the price of the food. And it's kept in ice buckets to keep it freezing cold and lip-smackingly fresh. Our bill came out to $143.99 which included a 10% tip, incorporated on our check.

This tiny kitty hung out near our table the whole night. He/she (not sure which) was the cutest cat ever!!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Providenciales: Seven

Seven is the fanciest restaurant we visited while in TIC. It's located in the Seven Stars Resort, which is fancy shmancy and lovely.

View Providenciales, Turks & Caicos in a larger map

Taste: really delicious
Portion sizes: on the smaller side. Having been to two restaurants with HUGE portions already, we assumed that was typical of the island so we tried getting two appetizers and sharing one entree. We were sated but we definitely could've eaten more.
View/ambiance: outdoor seating is in an enclosed courtyard-like area with lovely linens and twinkle lights - all around lovely and romantic vibe
Price: expensive, but I think you're paying a lot for the service and ambiance
Service: so so so attentive, but not in an overbearing way - best service on the island
Other notes: our waiter set up an ice bucket so that our bottled water would stay chilled which was awesome because lukewarm water is not appetizing (yes, bottled water - because though the tap water is potable, it's not the tap water we're used to). Our bill came out to $156.24 with tip; 15% tip was included on the bill.

The restaurant was really lovely with comfortable seating and crisp linens.
As soon as we were seated, we were set up with an array of four different salts - a salt tasting, if you will - to go with our assorted breads. The fleur de sel was soft and had a higher moisture content so the grains stuck together, which made it smooth and almost buttery. The red sea salt had a pretty distinctive flavor beyond just salty and went really well with the bread. The black lava salt, which the waitress described as slightly smoky, did have a charred taste and since the flakes were so big, they added texture and crunch to whatever it was sprinkled on. Lastly, the TCI salt, which was my favorite because it was so subtle and not as salty as I thought it would be.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Providenciales: Mango Reef

Mango Reef is a restaurant that used to be located at the Royal West Indies hotel (where we stayed) but relocated to a larger property due to its popularity.

Taste: yummy
Portion size: HUGE, sharing is recommended
View/ambiance: the restaurant is on the beach so it's very beautiful and romantic but it's casual enough that you'll feel comfortable bringing kids
Price: typical for the island but good value for your dollar since the portions are incredibly generous
Service: courteous but a little slow - which I just blame on "island time"
Other notes: they offer a three course special meal for $44, which includes an appetizer, entree, and dessert and it's a really good deal. We paid $92.00 with the tip, which was not included on the bill.

The bread just looked like nothing special but it was actually really good - crispy exterior, fluffy and chewy interior.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Providenciales: Las Brisas

We decided to have lunch at Las Brisas because we wanted to check out Chalk Sound. I'd read that it was the most beautiful and interesting water color ever so we were excited to go. If you're ever in Provo, you HAVE to visit Chalk Sound. It's breathtaking.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Providenciales: Coco Bistro

One week before we took off, we made dinner reservations at all of the restaurants we wanted to try. For our first night on the island, we ate at Coco Bistro, which was just a short distance from our hotel. It's located near the casino and there's a big sign for it so it's hard to miss.

Taste: delicious! Coconut pie for dessert is a must.
Portion size: generous - 1 appetizer + 1 entree could be shared by 2
View/ambiance: this is not a beach side restaurant but there are towering palm trees surrounding the outdoor seating with twinkling lights here and there so though it is casual, it's still lovely and romantic
Price: typical for the island, not as cheap as some places, but also not as expensive
Service: prompt, friendly, manager even came by to make sure our dining experience was satisfying
Other notes: tip is included in the bill (we paid $127.05 with tip for our whole meal)

And now, some photos:
They gave us a little plate so we could dip our bread in the balsamic vinegar and/or oil and/or pepper.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Providenciales: Cooler

So a couple weeks ago, I was relaxing on holiday in Providenciales, Turks & Caicos. Back in January when I went to Hawaii, I really got to see how grocery stores have to mark up the cost of food because everything is imported. So, this time, we decided to pack some food to take down with us. We bought a cooler from Target that was small enough to be convenient to carry but large enough to hold quite a bit of food. We also made sure the dimensions would qualify the bag as carry-on luggage because though we planned on checking it on the way down, we didn't want to go through that hassle on the way back up.
Here are a few of the things we packed:
Not pictured, we also brought along pudding snack packs, a small vaccum-sealed package of kimchi, apples, and a box of cereal, which all fit neatly into the cooler.

I think we saved quite a bit of money because we had breakfast and lunch for every day we were on vacation (minus 1 day where we went out for lunch at a place with a great view and on our last day when we went out for breakfast, just because). It was also nice because I always crave Korean food when I'm away and it was nice to have some of the comforts of home.

Always remember that if you're bringing canned goods, buy the ones with easy-open tops, in case your hotel doesn't have a can opener for you to use. Also, make sure the bag is packed tightly because once you hand it over to your airline, it's going to get manhandled by the luggage movers and you don't want everything to get jostled and crushed.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Wasabi & Sriracha Peas

Happy Friday :) I'm keeping it casual today because it's almost the weekend and I'm feeling a little sluggish. Plus, I'm gearing up to share all of my eats from my holiday to Providenciales - which I plan on sharing starting Monday.

Have you ever had Wasabi peas and/or Sriracha peas? I love them. They make a great snack, although they're deceptively high in calories so watch out.

I thought it didn't get any better than Wasabi peas but the Sriracha peas are much yummier, I think. They're kind of sweet and kind of spicy (like Sriracha, duh) and the more you eat, the more your tongue burns. The Wasabi peas only burn for a second and then it's all gone and your sinuses are magically cleared. Target sells hapi brand in both flavors.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Bibim Gooksoo 비빔국수 (Mixed Noodles)

There's also a newer and updated recipe (and prettier photos), if you're interested.

Bibim gooksoo literally means mixed noodles. I feel like every household makes its own version with their own sauce recipe, spice/seasonings, and vegetables (or lack thereof). In my house, bibim guksu was an easy Saturday afternoon lunch or snack that my parents would whip together on hot summer days when cooking was the last thing on their minds. It's a dish in the same genre as bibim naengmyun, jjolmyun, and jaengban gooksoo because they're quick, simple, the only cooking you have to do is boil water, and it's a perfect summer dish.

Ingredients (per person proportions):
1 serving somen noodles (Japanese white noodles)
1/2 cup kimchi (cabbage kind), chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 teaspoon hot pepper paste
1/2 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
few drops sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds

*optional: fresh crunchy vegetables like lettuce, bell peppers, onion, etc.
*optional: hard boiled egg
**If you don't have kimchi on hand, you can omit it but in its place, I'd also add 1 clove of garlic, minced, and a 1/2 teaspoon more rice wine to offset that missing flavor profile.
The noodles come wrapped up in individual portions so its easy to determine serving size. These somen noodles are available in most markets (I've seen them in the Asian section of my local grocery). They're made with wheat flour and they're really thin and delicate. Cook in boiling unsalted water for about 6 minutes until cooked through. The noodles will start to become slightly translucent so you'll know when they're ready.
Drain and rinse in cold water immediately to stop the cooking process (unless you want congealed gummy noodles). Shake off any excess moisture, otherwise prepare for a really watery dish.
While the noodles are cooking, you can be assembling the sauce. Mix the chopped kimchi, hot pepper paste, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, and sesame seeds until everything is combined. Add in the noodles and toss and then garnish with some more sesame seeds.
Lovely, right? Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Spicy Oyster Mushroom Stir Fry

I know that lovers of mushrooms are (usually) HUGE fans of mushrooms and haters of mushrooms refuse to even look at the stuff. However, haters, if you've never had oyster mushrooms, I recommend you try them. They don't have that earthy, meaty flavor that's super pungent in hearty mushrooms like portabella and shiitake. Instead, they're basically sponges that will soak up the flavors of the spices and seasonings you want to add.

I like to prepare the oyster mushrooms as a Korean-esque side dish, à la ma maman (in the style of my mom).

1 package oyster mushrooms (yields about 2 cups, uncooked)
2 tablespoons olive oil (or canola or vegetable or what have you)
1 Korean long hot pepper, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon Korean hot pepper flakes (gochugaru)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 or 3 scallions, chopped
Start by pulling apart the clusters of oyster mushrooms. Pull off each individual mushroom and rip up any bigger pieces so that they're bite-sized.
Pour oil and place sliced peppers in a cold skillet and then place over medium heat. This allows the peppers and oil to slowly heat up together so that the oil can absorb the spice from the peppers. When the oil starts to sizzle and the peppers begin to lose their crispness and grow limp, add in the mushrooms. Toss to coat in oil and then sprinkle on the hot pepper flakes. Add soy sauce, sesame oil, and sugar and toss. You could also stir the soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and hot pepper flakes in a small container beforehand and add them all at once.
Toss until all of the ingredients are combined and the oyster mushrooms are brown from soaking up all the soy sauce.
At the end, toss on the chopped scallions and serve. I serve this as a banchan (side dish). You'll find that the mushrooms are tender with a salty, sweet, and spicy kick.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Spicy Vegetable Pasta

This is the type of meal I always end up making for myself when I'm not sure what to eat, I'm feeling a little lazy, and I just want to use up stuff I already have in the pantry and refrigerator.

1 lb pasta - I used spaghetti but whatever you like or have on hand (including short cut pasta) will work
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
salt (to salt the pasta water)
black pepper to taste
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon butter
1 egg yolk
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
handful of mushrooms (baby bella or button mushrooms)
1/4 cup diced red onion
3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 cups baby spinach
Start by prepping the vegetables. Roughly mince the garlic if you like rustic pieces or finely mince it if you're not a fan of biting into a piece of pungent garlic. Then halve the tomatoes, squeeze out the pulpy seeds, and then give them a rough chop (bite-sized pieces). Cut up the onions as small as you prefer them and slice up the mushrooms.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Tofu Boochim (두부부침)

I LOVE TOFU! I feel like tofu gets a bad wrap as being a flavorless, for-vegetarians-only, culinary pariah but I think it's so yummy. So today, I'll share one of my favorite ways to prepare it (as a side dish).
1 lb package of firm tofu
1 egg
1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
1 scallion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely minced
sprinkle of sesame seeds
sprinkle of hot pepper flakes

Start by cutting up the tofu. I like a more cube-ish shape rather than slices because you can cook it on all sides (which will become clear later). Salt the tofu generously and let sit for at least 30 minutes to draw out some of the moisture. Then (gently) rinse and dry with paper towels and set aside.
Next, set up a dish with flour and a second with an egg, beaten, and then dredge each piece of tofu in the flour and then coat with egg.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Spa Food

Here are two "recipes" for a spa day, using stuff (re: food) you probably have around the house.

First: a sugar scrub. Mix together sugar and olive oil (I like storing it in these Ikea jars) until the all of the sugar is moistened. Rub all over your legs and arms and body to exfoliate (with the rough sugar) and moisturize (with the oil). Use it on your nails and cuticles too. Try it. Your skin will thank me. And so will your wallet because sugar scrubs at bath shops can be something like $20 per jar. **If you're looking for a bit of aromatherapy while you're scrubbing, you can add in a little vanilla oil or vanilla extract.

And the other recipe is for a face mask. Whisk together 1 egg white with 1 tablespoon of Greek yogurt. Spread on your (clean) face and neck and hang out for five minutes. Greek yogurt is thick enough that this stuff shouldn't drip off (unless you've applied way too much). Rinse off with warm water and if you're up for it, place a steaming hot towel over your face immediately after. Your skin should feel really soft and amazing; the yogurt's active cultures kill the germs on your face and help clean your pores and the egg whites will tighten your skin for a youthful glow.

Food that's good for the tummy and the skin.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Jjajangmyun 짜장면

One of my favorite dishes is jjajangmyun, which is a Korean adaptation of a Chinese noodle dish. If you go to a good jjm place, the wheat noodles are handmade, which means you get a few fatter noodles and some skinnier noodles, which is something I love. Then they're covered in a sauce made with a black soybean paste and vegetables and sometimes meat or seafood. It's like Korean spaghetti. In Korea, you can get it delivered.
You can also get jjamppong (짬뽕), which is a spicy soup with the same noodles, and it's always full of seafood. Both jjm and jjamppong are favorites among many so many restaurants will offer jjamjjamyun, which is a bowl with a divider and half-sized portions of each dish are offered.
And my family likes to also get kanpoongi to eat with our meal. It's breaded and deep fried chicken (or shrimp) which is covered with a sweet and sour and spicy sticky sauce.
All of these photos were taken at Mandarin in Palisades Park (yelp review here).

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Garden-Fresh Peppers

I think gardening is so rewarding. Sure, you can try buying organic or buying local (who doesn't love a good farmer's market?) but how about just stepping out into your backyard and picking what you want to eat fresh from the garden?

Here's what our garden looked like at the end of May:
The garden box was first lined with newspaper and then filled with top soil. The newspapers help prevent weeds from sprouting up through the bottom of the box and choking the important plants but it's still soft enough to allow the important plants' roots to push through if necessary.

The daisies were planted to attract butterflies and bees and other pollinators but they actually got chomped by deer just a few days after they were planted. And recently, squirrels and rabbits have been eating the budding tomatoes! So we've been learning about "pest control" and how to protect the garden.

BUT, a few peppers survived and look at how well they've grown! Apologies that the photo is a bit out of focus.

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