meatless meatballs roasted porcini with gremolata gluten-free chocolate chip cookies venison with morel sauce

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archive for February 2013

celebration and remembrance

Friday, February 8th, 2013

Recipe: chinese eight treasure rice pudding

I really loved reading about your valentines. There were lots of husbands, some wives, partners, lots of moms, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, children, pets, friends. It’s incredibly gratifying to see all of this love and appreciation for the special people in our lives. So thank you for sharing with me and with everyone else. Now on to the winners! Jeremy picked our winners at random, but his method was a little more cerebral than Kaweah’s selection style. I’ll let him describe it for you:

Two winners were selected using the least significant digits of the coordinates of water discovered in the Antennae Galaxies (Brogan, Johnson, & Darling 2010). The water seems to mark the birthplace of massive clusters of new stars created by the collision of two galaxies. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, and our nearest large neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy, will likely experience a similar fate in several billion years.

the antennae galaxies (image by the hubble space telescope)

The winners are commenters #97 (Sheryl) and #335 (Megan F.)! Congratulations ladies! I’ll be in touch with you via email to get the shipping addresses of your intended recipients. And a huge thank you for all of your enthusiastic entries. I love you guys! Even if you didn’t win, I highly recommend these chocolate truffles – they are beyond exquisite.


Sunday, February 10th is the new moon and the Lunar New Year or Chinese New Year. I can close my eyes and recall vividly the sounds, sights, feelings, and smells of the kitchen where my parents and grandmother sat together to make dumplings on Chinese New Year’s Eve. Other special dishes were cooking on the stove, plastering steam on the windows and filling the house with aromas of the feast to come. I especially enjoyed running around the next morning and wishing everyone gong xi fa tsai (wish happiness and make money) or just gong xi gong xi (congratulations). Very few of my friends celebrated or were aware of Chinese New Year and so in many ways, I felt it was my family’s personal holiday.

When I went away to college, I was surprised to see Chinese New Year is indeed a big deal to A LOT of people in Southern California as well as some of the student body at Caltech. In my junior year, I called Grandma and asked her how to make Chinese dumplings and potstickers. The new year was approaching and I was feeling a little homesick. I began to pay more attention to our family traditions (mostly food) and fed them to Jeremy and friends throughout the years.

My sister didn’t share my interest in the lunar new year traditions until she had her son. After he was born, Kris suddenly became quite proficient at spoken Mandarin, began to read a little Chinese, and spoke Chinese with my nephew. It delighted my parents, my aunts, my grandma, family friends… And it melted my heart every time he called me A-yi (auntie). Without fail, my workaholic sister would call me up on Chinese New Year’s Eve every year to consult on what she needed to purchase or prepare for dinner. Dumplings? Noodles? How about a stir-fry? Don’t forget something sweet for the next morning. You see, you don’t eat just any Chinese food for Chinese New Year because everything has meaning for luck, prosperity, a promotion, good health, happiness, abundance, family, wealth.

The last time I saw Kris was over Chinese New Year. I had guilted her into flying out to California to meet me at Grandma’s place for a quick weekend trip. She was pregnant with her little girl and I almost felt bad about making her travel, but I knew the chances of seeing her and Grandma together decreased with every day she became more pregnant. Grandma made us sweet soup, took us to a New Year’s party (it’s not what you think – everyone there was Chinese, over 70, hard of hearing, and tone-deaf, but it was very entertaining), ordered our favorite dishes, and laughed at our dumb jokes.

I look back on that Chinese New Year with deep longing because both my sister and grandma have since passed on.

Chinese New Year is a time of celebration, but it is also a time of remembrance. I was only familiar with the celebratory side of things as a child. Now, I understand that we honor our ancestors and loved ones who are no longer with us and we embrace the loved ones we still have. For all of the rushing around to gather ingredients and make the right dishes to ensure good things in the new year, there can be a pang of sadness, sometimes a flood of unexpected tears, and a quiet heartache. Sure, we focus on the foods during this holiday, but really – the food is about family. Chinese New Year is all about family.

And food.

Food, family – they are inextricable.

A popular traditional dessert served at Chinese New Year dinners or other special occasions is Chinese eight treasure rice pudding. Now before you get excited about rice pudding, it’s not THAT kind of rice pudding. It’s a combination of sweet rice, also called sticky rice or glutinous rice (it contains no gluten), sweet red bean paste, dried fruits, and a sweet syrup. And there should be eight kinds of fruit because eight is a lucky number. You don’t HAVE to have eight, but if you choose to make a lucky dessert versus regular dessert, why not go for the lucky dessert?

sticky rice, sweet red bean paste, sugar, cornstarch, shortening or lard, lemon juice, dried or candied fruits

glutinous, sticky, or sweet rice – (glutinous rice has no gluten)

mango, dates, lotus seeds, maraschino cherries, goosberries, buddha’s hand citron, kumquats, apricots

Typical fruits include dried dates, candied cherries, lotus seeds, dried raisins… but you just use what you like or what you have available. I went to the big Asian market to hunt down candied lotus seeds, candied gooseberries, and candied kumquats. The rest of the items I got at the western supermarket or had made (like the candied Buddha’s hand citron). You can also use candied ginger, dried papaya, dried pineapple, winter melon candy (it’s a Chinese thing – it’s green and typically comes in strips), candied orange peel, dried cranberries, raisins. Endless possibilities.

slice up the fruits

arrange the fruit in a nice pattern

**Jump for more butter**

slow down

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Recipe: quick kimchi

Have you entered the giveaway yet? Win a 12 of hearts box of chocolate truffles from Robin Chocolates to give to a loved one or keep for yourself! Get on that before the end of the day, Thursday, February 7, 2013.

sweet sweet lovin’

The other day while finishing a shoot, I had the deck door open for Kaweah to wander in and out at her leisure (she really takes her time). As I was walking back to the work area, I noticed Kaweah was pointing intently at something on the ground below. I figured it was one of my neighbor’s feral dogs. Kaweah looked like she wanted to bark. I walked out and told her it was okay to bark, figuring it would get whichever dog out of our yard. She gave a great big bark – it’s really very cute how such a little dog can produce a big dog bark – and wagged her tail. I peered over the edge and saw…

the fantastic mr. fox

This is our neighborhood fox. I immediately felt bad for giving Kaweah permission to bark. The fox didn’t seem to care about her at all. Smart fox. Kaweah got all excited and growly, so I carried her inside the house and returned with my camera. This fox traipses through our yard regularly… daily. I hadn’t seen it in a while and I realized it wasn’t because the fox hadn’t been coming around, but that I’d been completely immersed in work. It reminded me to pay attention to the little things, to take a break and look up every now and again. So I asked Jeremy if he’d like to go on a lunch date the next day. It was lovely.

oysters and sparkling rosé at the kitchen

The whole reason for plowing through the work schedule is to have a few free days to prepare for Chinese New Year which is this Sunday. In my fledgling blogging days, I referenced a handful of Asian food blogs to expand my understanding of techniques and traditions, particularly for this important holiday. Some have since gone silent, but one of my favorite resources is thankfully still going strong. Jaden of Steamy Kitchen is a wealth of information and recipes. She documents her knowledge for the rest of us on the website, in newspapers, on television, at conferences, in person, and in books. I say BOOKS because the second one just came out!

lookin’ good

Jaden’s book, Steamy Kitchen’s Healthy Asian Favorites transforms popular Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Indonesian, and Vietnamese dishes into simple, easy, quick, and healthy masterpieces. The collection is also punctuated with modern fusion recipes applying an Asian twist to western fare. The pages offer Jaden’s vibrant and tantalizing food photography as well as endearing snapshots of her family, friends, and life. Sprinkled throughout her stories are Jaden’s cheeky humor and delightful enthusiasm. It’s a personal cookbook. She is sharing herself with the reader while simultaneously making several cuisines entirely accessible to the average home cook.

Disclosure: I received a review copy from Jaden’s publisher, Ten Speed Press. I get to say what I want.

There were so many recipes to choose from, but I was ultimately drawn to the quick kimchi. I’m a bit of a kimchi fanatic, although I’ve never made it myself. Jaden’s quick kimchi was a good baby pool introduction for me before I dive into the deep end of traditional kimchi. Bonus: the quick kimchi doesn’t make people wonder what died in the refrigerator (I personally love that smell).

simple as: napa cabbage, salt, sugar, ginger, garlic, green onions, rice vinegar, sambal oelek (chili paste)

shred the cabbage by slicing it into thin strips with a sharp knife

salt the shredded cabbage

toss it together

You can pretty much make this in under a half hour. Salting the cabbage helps to draw the excess liquid out of the vegetable and that takes 15 minutes. While the cabbage gives up its water, you can prep the rest of the ingredients.

grated ginger, minced garlic, chopped green onions

**Jump for more butter**

i do déclair

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

Recipe: chocolate éclairs

Around this time of year, I’m usually too busy cleaning my house and cooking traditional dishes for the Lunar New Year to take notice of Valentine’s Day. That and the fact that I am not romantic AT ALL. Honestly, Valentine’s Day would not have been on my radar this year if it weren’t for my client’s product shoot last month. Since several of you inquired about the chocolates from this post, I thought I’d share some Robin Chocolates with you.

say hi to the valentine’s day chocolate truffle lineup (each is a different flavor)

Robin Chocolates is a local chocolatier based in Longmont, Colorado (just outside of Boulder). The confections and pastries that come out of that store are simply gorgeous, matched in beauty by the incredible quality of these award winning chocolates (rose caramel, salt caramel, raspberry, irish cream, molé, pomegranate, lavender, orange blossom, key lime pie… to name a few). I love working with Robin, the chocolatier and owner, in part because her candies are such a pleasure to photograph. The other reason is because Robin is badass. She is this petite, smart, no-nonsense, hard-working, talented, passionate, funny woman who is on her third successful career and loving it (first was Navy, then tech). BADASS, I say.

meet robin

Each chocolate is a work of art – elegantly decorated and lovingly hand-crafted. Whenever I pick up product to photograph, Robin leads me around the back and fills a bag of “rejects” for me to give to Jeremy (because I don’t really eat chocolate and yes, she thinks I’m crazy). I mentioned the Valentine’s shoot to my mom a few weeks ago. Mom likes chocolate. She asked if I could send her the truffles when I’m done photographing them. I explained that I didn’t think they were suitable to send to her since they are heavily handled and kept around for almost a month until we are sure there are no reshoots. I could detect the disappointment in her voice even though she said it was okay. So I ordered a box of the Valentine’s truffles just for Mom.

12 of hearts: now that’s a pretty gift

And because I like you guys, I asked Robin if I could give away two boxes of her VERY AMAZING Valentine’s Day chocolate truffles. Robin does not screw around, kids. She uses Valrhona chocolate and magically weaves flavors and textures together into a most decadent and sublime masterpiece. You want a box, or at the very least, you want to send a box to someone you love… I mean someone you REALLY love. This is coming from me, the person who doesn’t really dig on chocolate, but who won’t shut up about Robin Chocolates.

THE DEALIO: It’s a giveaway! Win one of two 12 of Hearts boxes (heart-shaped chocolate truffles) shipped anywhere in the United States. That means if you live outside the US but want to ship the chocolates to someone or someplace in the States, you can enter.

1) Leave a comment on this post sharing who your favorite Valentine is.
2) One comment per person, please.
3) Comments must be received by 11:59 pm Mountain Standard Time, Thursday, February 7, 2013.
4) The chocolates can only ship within the United States (winner’s recipient must have a US mailing address).
5) Two winners will be selected at random by Jeremy (Kaweah has retired).
6) The two winners will be announced on Friday, February 8, 2013.

Good luck!

kaweah can’t eat the chocolates, but she’ll taste the props

We’re not done with chocolate, not by a long shot. Back in the day, when I was a member of the Daring Bakers and our ranks numbered in the hundreds, one of our monthly challenges was éclairs. I was excited because éclairs had been on my “learn to make” list for a while. But the week before the reveal date, I went into the ER with a leaky appendix (unbeknownst to us, it had been leaking for months) and left a few days later without my appendix. I had missed the August 2008 challenge, but the éclairs remained on my to do list for four and a half years. I finally crossed it off the list this weekend. The recipe has multiple parts mixed and matched from two different sources, so I’ll present them to you in the order I made them. First: chocolate pastry cream.

milk, egg yolks, cornstarch, sugar, butter, chocolate

heat the milk in one pan

stir the yolks, cornstarch, and sugar together in another pan

temper the egg yolk mixture with the hot milk

If I were eating the éclairs, I would have made regular pastry cream. But I made these for Jeremy (and my neighbors) and I knew that a chocolate pastry cream would appeal to him. This chocolate pastry cream comes from the Daring Bakers challenge which follows Pierre Hermé’s recipe. It’s probably the nicest and most well-behaved pastry cream I’ve ever made – thick and smooth with terrific flavor. I think as long as you use good quality chocolate (I used Valrhona 66%) and other ingredients, it can’t go wrong.

add chocolate to the pastry cream

finish with butter

rich, silky, smooth

**Jump for more butter**