Green Eggs and Ham

“How dare I tamper

  with a recipe that

  literally breaks every

  Masterchef contender

  and elevates all

  Italian nonnas

  to culinary sainthood?”

 

This recipe is one of my weekday staples for one major reason –  it takes only 5 minutes which coincidentally happens to be what you need to poach your eggs and fry your bacon!

The trick is to par cook your rice in a reduced amount of water so that the center still has some bite. But if you just cook that further in the pan with stock until it becomes creamy, you’ll end up with congee, because the additional liquid means that the rice will eventually absorb more water and lose its perfectly cooked center. To fix this, we want to keep the amount of time the rice spends in the pan as short as possible.

But how do we get the stock to become creamy and “one” with the rice without the 20 minutes of stirring? Oldest trick in the book – corn starch. While I’m usually not a proponent for thickening agents in sauces (I prefer to either go through the pains of reducing it, or I’ll add some sort of ingredient that is meaningful in more ways than just to add body to the sauce), starch is a perfect fit in this case because the creaminess of a risotto comes from the starches released from the rice through relentless stirring anyway.

So there you have it – a risotto that’s essentially been segmented into

a) perfectly cooking the rice, and

b) adding liquid and adjusting the consistency

And how dare I tamper with a recipe that literally breaks every Masterchef contender and elevates all the Italian nonnas to sainthood? I’m a fourth-year UW student who can’t find it in her to shovel out 20 minutes to make dinner after a long day of class, that’s how. So if you want to go all traditionalist/purist/conservative on me, be my guest, just know that I am hangrily jealous of all that time you have on your wooden-spoon-holding, risotto-stirring hands.

Try them, try them, and you may! Try them and you may, I say.

-Dr. Seuss, Green Eggs and Ham

Kale and Arugula Risotto with Poached Eggs and Bacon

Arugula and Kale Risotto with Poached Eggs and Bacon

Serves 2 to 4

Herb Puree

  • 2 c lightly packed baby arugula
  • 2 c lightly packed baby kale
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  1. To make the greens puree, bring a large pot of water to a vigorous boil and add the baking soda. The alkaline baking soda will help intensify the green colour of the herbs.
  2. Blanch the greens for 10-15 seconds, or until wilted.
  3. Fish out the greens with a slotted spoon and plunge into an ice-bath immediately and stir until completely cold.
  4. Drain the greens and transfer to a blender to puree until smooth. Add a splash of water to help the blades grab onto the greens if necessary, and be careful not to blend for too long – the heat caused by the friction from the blades will dull the bright green colour.
  5. Push the puree through a fine sieve and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days until needed.

Note: the water will separate out into a layer on top of the puree after a day in the fridge – I actually prefer to let the puree settle slowly in the fridge for that reason. When I use it, I can just pour out the clear liquid, and I’m left with an ultra-concentrated shot of chlorophyll.

Risotto

  • 1 1/2 c al dente cooked short-grain white rice, chilled**
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp olive oil or butter
  • 1 c vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 tsp corn starch
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 batch herb puree (above)
  • Extra virgin olive oil or truffle oil, to drizzle
  • Poached eggs and fried thick-sliced bacon, to serve
  1. In a heavy-bottomed sauce pan, heat the oil and garlic gently on medium heat until the garlic is soft and fragrant.
  2. Add the cold rice and stir to coat each grain in the oil.
  3. Add the stock, stir, and bring to the boil. Simmer for 2 minutes, meanwhile in a small bowl mix together the corn starch with 2 tbsp of cold water until smooth.
  4. Add the corn starch water and salt to the rice and stir until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the herb puree.
  5. Spoon into small bowls, top with a poached egg and a slice of bacon, then finish with a few drops of good olive oil.
  6. Serve immediately!

**to par-cook rice, reduce the amount of water by 25% to 33% depending on how much bite you like in your risotto. For example, 1 cup of rinsed uncooked rice should be cooked with 2/3 to 3/4 cups of water in the rice cooker (with additional water in the outer pot). If you don’t have a rice cooker, reduce the amount of water in your usual stove top recipe by the same amount. Once cooked and completely chilled, you can store the rice in the fridge for up to a week and turn it into risotto in under 10 minutes on any week night (or morning)! You’re welcome.

 

Recipe Only: Pan Seared Trout with Pickled Fennel, Grapefruit, and Mustard Creme Fraiche

Today I had a grilled salmon salad with a few of my colleagues at a harbourfront restaurant. It had a small mountain of sweet and bitter lettuces of various textures tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette, a small mound of diced tomatoes, a few spears of smoky charred asparagus, and a haystack of crispy shoestring potatoes and it was delicious. The salmon was well seasoned, with grill marks to put any neighborhood barbecue daddy to shame and cooked perfectly – buttery with the fat between the muscle layers just melted and the flesh itself just turning opaque.

But c’mon guys, it’s 2017, it’s okay to show some skin.

Which brings me to this salad, which screams spring to me and justifies the fact that I’m sharing a salad because it’s 68°F in Baltimore today and also because lunch reminded me. The crispy pan-seared trout has skin you can hear crackle under the pressure of your knife. The sweet fennel-pickled-fennel cuts through the fattiness of the fish and provides a refreshing crunch to the salad. Bright ruby red grapefruit has bitterness that harmonizes with the muted bitter tones of the kale. All of this is brought together with a smear of mustard creme fraiche for tang and because the tiny pops of mustard bring this dish to a new level.

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Crispy Seared Trout with Pickled Fennel, Ruby Grapefruit, and Mustard Creme Fraiche

Fennel Pickled Fennel

  • 1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp toasted fennel seeds
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 c white vinegar
  1. Put the fennel seeds, sugar and vinegar in a small saucepan and bring to the boil until sugar has dissolved completely.
  2. Pack the shaved fennel tightly into a large mason jar.
  3. Pour the hot sugar-vinegar liquid over the fennel and seal with the lid.
  4. Cool to room temperature before storing in the fridge for at least 3 days and up to 4 weeks.

Mustard Creme Fraiche

  • 2/3 c creme fraiche, sour cream, or Greek yoghurt
  • 2 tbsp grainy mustard
  • sea salt and black pepper, to taste
  1. Stir together all ingredients in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for up to 2 days or until needed.

Crispy Seared Trout

  • 2 portions of pin-boned trout fillets, with skin AND scales
  • sea salt
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  1. Preheat a cast iron skillet until very hot.
  2. Tip the oil into the skillet and swirl it around so the bottom’s evenly coated. The oil needs to look shimmery – it means that your pan is hot enough. Season the skin-side of your trout and lay the skin-side down in the skillet. It should sizzle immediately. Shake the pan a few times to prevent it from sticking, but if it does just be patient – once the skin is ready and crisp it will loosen from the pan.
  3. Season the top side and watch the flesh turn opaque up the sides – this gives you an idea of how cooked the piece of fish is. Once it’s opaque past halfway, and the skin releases from the pan (about 3 minutes), flip it over and cook another 2-3 minutes before transferring to a plate to rest with the skin side FACING UP (we didn’t go through all that tending and watching to have our skin go soggy at the last minute)!

Kale and Grapefruit Petite Salade

  • 3 c baby kale
  • 1 large ruby red grapefruit, segmented and with 2 tbsp juices reserved
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • sea salt and black pepper, to taste
  1. In a salad bowl, whisk together the reserved grapefruit juice, olive oil, mustard, salt, and pepper until emulsified.
  2. Add the kale and grapefruit segments, then toss gently with your hands to coat and combine.

Assembly

  • mustard creme fraiche
  • seared trout
  • fennel pickled fennel
  • kale and grapefruit petite salade
  1. Plop a dollop of the mustard creme fraiche on a plate and smear it across with the back of your spoon. Top with a piece of seared trout.
  2. Grab a handful of the petite salade with your two hands and lay it down gently beside the trout. Finish with a few pieces of pickled fennel here and there, as you like it.

Enjoy! I think something bubbly would be appropriate, because it’s spring and we’re eating pretty things. Yeah?

ostroconophobia

For many, the very thought of oysters sends them bolting straight to the opposite direction. I found this somewhat true in Taiwan where oyster pancakes, popcorn oysters, and dilled oyster fritters. Seriously, how can you not like oysters?

This phenomenon only inflated when I came to Vancouver, yes, sushi capital of North America (sorry, Los Angeles), where I learned that two of my best friends mentally vomit when they see, not just oysters, but shellfish in general. And then I came to Waterloo, practically a fish desert.

Fish? What fish?

But then again, you can’t blame the region for being landlocked. And they do preserve fish very well, especially the oily Atlantic fishes such as mackerel, cod, and sardines. These are generally processed by means of smoking, salting, or confiting then canned. All of these concentrate the fish flavour into the intensity of shellfish.

And when the same things are done to oysters, you essentially end up with the bacon of the sea. Except with the ever-welcomed addition of umami, the latest culinary beau.

I cared for you in the wilderness,

in the land of drought.

Hosea 13:5

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The key to mellowing the smoked oysters’ intense brininess (which is mostly concentrated in the oil) into a lovely umami base is by cooking it out. The baking then further transforms the flavour through caramelization and bringing out the sweetness of the cream. What you end up with is something so ridiculously addictive with a je ne sais quoi that nobody will suspect to have come from smoked oysters.

Ingredients for the Oyster Creamed Kale, serves 4-6:

1 tin smoked oysters in oil

3 tbsp butter

small brown onion, finely diced

60 grams AP flour

375 ml light cream (10%~18% MF)

125 ml water

pinch nutmeg

sea salt, to taste

2~3 bunches kale, leaves only, wilted and squeezed dry

To make the oyster bechamel, tip the oil from the oyster tin into a saucepan, reserving the oysters. Add the butter and heat until melted and beginning to sputter. Add the onions and fry without coloring until soft, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Stir in the flour to form a paste, then gradually whisk in the cream a little at a time until smooth and creamy. Whisk in the water, nutmeg, and sea salt to taste. Remove from the heat.

Transfer the bechamel to a blender, add the reserved oysters and puree until completely smooth.

In a large bowl, mix the cooked kale thoroughly with the pureed sauce and spoon into a baking dish.

Bake at 425 degrees F until golden and bubbly.

Enjoy with whatever cool-weather offerings you plan to dish up!

 

Mien Attitude

Noodles, beyond any other food group has the richest history and diversity. One can tell plenty of dish’s origin by simply reading its name as long as it involves a noodle of some sort.

I am, by no means, an expert on noodles – especially so when it comes to western pastas. BUT, to be honest, if your food memories have been pickled since childhood in Taiwanese gastro-culture, you probably know a thing or two about an iconic bowl of #saucyasiannoodles.

Now, as I’ve mentioned, noodles are very revealing. Just as how table manners of a kid will show you the discipline of the parent, a humble bowl of noodles will tell you the style of its cook, and maybe get even more personal.

This recipe here, please don’t smash it to bits, because it got me through freshman year. It’s unpretentious, but it insists on keeping the details. It’s cheap, but not so it should apologize. And it’s so damn delicious it will fix all of your problems.

That’s just me though, so I have no idea what this bowl of noodles will say to you.

Guess you’ll have to find out for yourself ! But in case you missed it, I’ll start you off and tell you that this is a “dan” good bowl of noodles! (No, do not excuse that pun!)

But solid food is for the mature,

for those who have their powers of discernment

trained by constant practice

to distinguish good from evil.

Hebrews 5:14

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Ingredients for the Szechuan dan dan soba with kale and chili oil, serves 2:

2 tbsp Chinese sesame paste (not tahini or the pastry filling)

4 tbsp natural smooth peanut butter (unsweetened)

2 tsp brown sugar

1/3 c soy sauce

1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil

1 tbsp Szechuan fried chili in oil and more to taste

1 bunch kale, trimmed and torn

3 bunches buckwheat soba noodles

3 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced

To make the dan dan soba, bring a large pot of water to the boil. Meanwhile, combine the sesame paste, peanut butter, sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and Szechuan chili in a bowl and stir well.

Once the water is boiling, blanch the kale until wilted and lift them out to drain, then squeeze out any excess moisture. Separate the kale leaves and put them in a large bowl. Add the sauce on top.

Keep the pot boiling, and add the soba noodles to the pot to cook until tender, not al dente (this is one of the biggest differences between Asian noodles and Italian pasta.) Lift the noodles out and transfer them straight into the bowl of kale. Make sure you are combining piping hot noodles with the sauce as the heat is what makes the sauce aromatic. Mix and toss thoroughly, adding a couple ladles of hot noodle water to reach your desired consistency. (Again, don’t just add plain water, as that will break the sauce.)

Divide among two big bowls, and garnish with the scallions and more Szechuan chili oil. (I usually add an additional teaspoon to my bowl, but I’ve been told as having a pretty h-core heat tolerance. However, I strongly recommend starting with a whole tablespoon in the sauce as a starting point.)

Enjoy with a cup of hot green tea!

It just creped into my mind

“Even shit sounds sexier in french.”

I totally abide that. No shame either.

I don’t know if it’s the fact that the french language just forces out the sexy voice of whoever speaks it, or is it just the fact that the language is inherently elegant. My point is, it’s sad, but most of us will voluntaritly listen to farts spewing out of someone else’s mouth if that person has even so much as a great smile, bright eyes, or a really attractive voice.

Nah, are we really that shallow? That a heart-to-heart conversation is not as high on our bucket list as being seen with a pretty-face? Perhaps we kid ourselves as we plow through the garbage that’s up to our eyes, trying to find some evidence of worth, some evidence that tells us that we are not so merely-skin-deep and that see? this dump is worth preserving because look what I found! A dime!

You are not a dump site, so stop setting yourself up as one.

And believe me when I say this, if you would just slow down a bit, and just stop looking for the most eye-catching person in the room, the conversation will find you. It will be when you least expect it, and it will be a surprise. It will be completely new, and it will be familiar at the same time. You don’t have to try to make an impression, because it wasn’t of your doing that it started in the first place. Just relax, because that’s when you are most lovely.

Humble yourselves, therefore,

under the mighty hand of God

so that at the proper time

he may exalt you.

~1 Peter 5:6

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Savoury Crepes with Kale Bechamel and White Button Mushrooms

Ingredients for the kale bechamel:

2 tsp olive oil

1 clove garlic, thinly sliced

4 cups loosely packed torn kale leaves (stem removed)

1/4 cup water, divided

1 1/2 tbsp corn starch

3-4 tbsp heavy cream or half-and-half

pinch nutmeg

sea salt and black pepper to taste

To make the kale bechamel, heat the oil in a pan. Add the garlic and fry until fragrant, then add the kale leaves. Stir and add a splash of water and cover to steam the kale. Stir the cornstarch into the remaining water. Once the kale is completely wilted, pour in the corn starch mixture and stir until the mixture tightens. Transfer to a tall container, season with sea salt, black pepper, and nutmeg. With a hand-held blender, blend the kale with the cream until a thick puree forms.

Ingredients for the rice crepes:

45 g fine rice flour

20 g tapioca or potato starch

1 free range egg

125 ml almond milk (soy, rice, or cow’s will all work)

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp sea salt

pinch nutmeg

To make the crepes, heat a heavy non-stick skillet or seasoned crepe pan on medium-high heat. Meanwhile in a bowl, whisk together all ingredients until very smooth. ( I like to whisk everything together in my beaker which has a handle, this makes the actual cooking part very clean and easy.)

For the crepe filling you will also need 1 cup sliced mushrooms and 3 tbsp god quality mayonnaise.

Once the pan is hot, dampen a piece of kitchen paper towel with oil or butter and wipe the pan all over with it. Pour in the batter and swirl it around the pan to form a thin layer. Place mushroom slices on one half of the crepe, spoon over the kale bechamel, then dot with the mayonnaise. Put the lid on to let the mushrooms soften a little, about 1~2 minutes. Lift up the untopped half of the crepe and fold it over to enclose the filling. Slide onto a hot plate, and serve. Do the same until you use up all the ingredients. You should be able to get 6 small crepes or 4 medium crepes.

Enjoy!