Resistant Little Heart

If you’re cooking for a woman, make a good risotto and a salad. If you don’t have time to make dessert, you can go and buy some macaroons to have later.”

-Wolfgang Puck

The man’s right. On so many levels that probably never crossed his mind when he said those words.

One. Women I know love risotto. While there’s evidently something very attractive about the idea of rice that’s so immensely creamy and sensuous that it becomes one with your tongue, I would argue that it’s the al dente heart of that rice, a proof of perfect sensibility and restraint, that makes risotto that much sexier than rice pudding. You can quote that.

Two. Women are defensive of their toys, I mean, kitchen. Because, just like how children are forever fearing that their out-for-the-evening parents are late to return because they’ve died in a car crash, we girls grow up to fear that boys will burn down our kitchens once 30 minutes pass. Sorry, it’s not you, it’s me. But that doesn’t matter – risotto only takes 25 minutes, phew.

Three. Women love men who can cook. It doesn’t have to be a romantic relationship. It’s just that everyone loves to have someone close who will, on the right occasions, cook for them. It could be a best friend, a brother, perhaps from a different mother, who cares? Who cares if they bought the dessert? They cared enough to make you risotto.

I cared enough to make risotto.

In all honesty, that’s all you need to make a good risotto. It’s not some pretentious art as gastromedia casts it. The only thing, which isn’t even difficult, is the constant stirring. Stirring increases the amount of the rice’s surface area which comes into contact with liquid, which in turn helps release the starch. This means you will have a very creamy risotto as the “creamy” texture is essentially the married portion of stock and starch.

And at all costs, keep tasting – that’s key to catching your perfect al dente!

I remind you that you should

stir up the gift of God

which is in you through

the laying of my hands.

-2 Timothy 1:6

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As much as I love risotto, I think I would still appreciate it more if it goes along with several varying textural components, not to mention a even coverage of all the flavour bases. Here, aside from the creaminess and al dente of the rice, there is equally the buttery firmness of the halibut, the crunchiness of its skin, as well as the near-transparent crispness of the fried basil and ginger. The acidity of the lime is hardly detectable in the finished dish, but it is crucial to the balance of flavours – it’s what keeps you coming for another bite without feeling weighed down.

Ingredients for the green basil risotto, serves 6:

3 tbsp coconut oil

1 c diced white onion

1 1/2 c short grain rice, do not rinse this!

2-3 tbsp green curry paste, depending on its strength

4 c unsalted chicken/vegetable stock

1 can unpasteurized full-fat coconut milk

1 c gently packed fresh basil leaves

1/2 lime, juice only

sea salt, to taste

To make the risotto, melt the coconut oil in a deep saucepan or small pot. Add the onions and sweat them until soft, being careful not to brown them. Tip in the rice and stir until the grains are evenly coated with oil and are translucent. Stir in the curry paste until fragrant.

Pour in 1 cup of stock and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Continue to add stock, 1 cup at a time, still stirring and keeping the heat low for about 15~18 minutes.

Meanwhile, puree the fatty portion of the coconut milk with the basil and lime juice to a vibrant green milk shake. Chill until needed. Stir the remaining watery portion of the coconut milk into the rice.

Once all the stock has been absorbed, taste your risotto and see if you like the doneness. It should be very creamy, but still retaining a bit of nutty texture in the center of each grain.

Incorporate the coconut basil mixture and take away from the heat. Spoon onto warmed plates and top with the seared halibut, fried basil and ginger (follows).

Ingredients for the crispy-skinned halibut, fried basil, and ginger:

2/3 c mild vegetable oil, for frying

12 ginger slices, thinly sliced with a mandoline or very sharp knife

18 fresh basil leaves

1 lb thick halibut fillet, cut into 6 neat portions

sea salt

To make the fried garnishes, heat the oil in a small saucepan until a chopstick’s point submerged bubbles vigourously. Add half the ginger slices and fry, spooning the oil over the slices occasionally until golden and crisp. Take them out and drain on a plate lined with paper towel. Repeat with the rest of the ginger.

To fry the basil, lower a couple basil leaves to the hot oil – be careful, it will sputter. Fry for 5-10 seconds, until crispy and bright green. Drain on paper towel.

For the halibut, blot the portions dry with paper towel and season the skin side generously with sea salt. Heat a heavy-bottomed pan on medium-high heat.

Add a couple spoonfuls of the basil frying oil to the pan and swirl to coat in a shimmery layer.Place the halibut portions (don’t crowd the pan, do it in two batches if you need to), skin-side-down in the pan and leave them there for 3 minutes, to really crisp up the skin. Flip them over and cook for another 1-2 minutes, you want to see a thin line that is still translucent beige along the sides. Transfer them onto the plate, keeping the skin side facing upwards, and allow to rest for a couple of minutes before plating.

Plate up and serve with a salad as WP suggests or, if it’s a chilly day where you find yourself, consider steaming some green beans and yellow zucchini to brighten up your day!

Enjoy! (And for once, dessert is optional!)

Pulled Over

“No sir, you can’t just throw barbeque sauce onto some grey pork floss and call it pulled pork.”

We all have something to fight for, something grounded jn the depths of our memory that we treat in a do-or-die sort of way. That is, if you’re going to do it, you better do it right, or don’t even.

Most often our brain’s preference of these subjects is based on our upbringing, in my case, that would be my mother. A treat to imagine though, that my timid, loving, born-and-raised in Taiwan mother is actually a barbeque pulled pork enthusiast.

Thus, by default, I fall somewhat in that category too. Genetics, man.

But I think that gene is secretly inherent in any human being. Seriously, that moment when the pork fibers fell apart at the tip of my fork, the steam burst forth, and the dark amber fat cap unraveled to reveal the rusty pink hued, scallop textured flesh beneath…something instinctive resonated within me.

Epic.

Four ingredients is all you need,

so thank me for blowing your mind up, you’re welcome.

Finishing is better than starting.

Patience is better than pride.

Ecclesiastes 7:8

 

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You don’t need a smoker or anything fancy for this. All you need is time, and not even that much of it compared to some other methods you’ll find. One could certainly power through the entire recipe and have it on the table in 7 hours, otherwise you can chill it after shredding for up to 5 days, then finish with the last 2 hours of baking before serving, which thickens the sauce into a sticky, molasses-like glaze. The choice of fruit juice is arbitrary, but I like mango because it reduces into the richest glaze.

Ingredients for the pulled pork, serves 16:

8 lbs local pork shoulder, choose one that’s well marbled

3 tbsp kosher salt

1 bottle (400-425 ml) barbeque sauce ,use your favourite, but if don’t have one, get a darker one that’s more smoky than sweet

1 bottle (400-425 ml) mango juice (I’ve also succeeded with pomegranate, peach, and apple)

To make the pulled pork, remove any string from the pork if it’s in the form of a tied roast. Make a deep cut to butterfly the pork so it is about 3-4 inches thick throughout. Do not trim any of the fat.

Rub the pork all over with salt and place, fat side facing up, in a roasting pan. Squeeze the barbeque sauce over the pork without smearing – you want the sauce to form a cap and sit on top of the meat. Fill the barbeque sauce bottle with the juice and shake it to dissolve the bit of sauce remaining. Pour the mixture around the pork.

Seal the pan tightly with aluminum foil, overlapping a couple of sheets.

Bake at 295 degrees F for 5-5 1/2 hours, until the fat is rendered and meat shreds effortlessly. Shred the pork with two forks while it’s still hot in a separate large bowl and return it back to the pan of pork jus. Discard any visible lumps of fat.

Bake at 300 degrees F, loosely covered for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, or until the sauce reduces into a thick glaze and the color intensifies.

For the coleslaw I did not want anything heavy or mayonnaise-y at all since the pork itself is rich enough. In fact, this method of making coleslaw is inspired by the Taiwanese pickling technique of first making a vinegar simple syrup, then pouring the hot syrup over the vegetables and letting it sit for three days. The result is something incredibly flavourful with a gutsy balance of acidity to cut through the pork’s fattiness just barely mellowed by a touch of mayonnaise.

Ingredients for the lime slaw:

100 ml rice vinegar

100 ml sugar

1 kg coleslaw blend (shredded green cabbage, purple cabbage, and carrots)

1 lime, zest and juice

3 tbsp good quality mayonnaise

To make the lime slaw, dissolve the sugar with the vinegar in a small sauce pan. Pour over the coleslaw blend and mix thoroughly with the remaining ingredients. Cover and chill at least overnight, though it will be best three days later.

To assemble the sandwiches, just pile the warmed pork and cold slaw onto your favourite buns, I recommend a stronger-bodied bread, but really, anything goes. You can’t go wrong with pulled pork.

Enjoy! (And don’t forget the napkins!)

giv’em the karats, but save me the carrots

Is it wedding season or what!? This summer alone five couples I personally know (as in not my great-aunt’s friend’s son-in-law’s nephew) are getting married! It really is stunning here in Vancouver at this moment though. The days are long, and tender foliage shimmers under the late afternoon sun, casting my studio in its bosky glow.

And of course, with this buzzing symphony of summer weddings, you can’t help but get a little bit bubbly about all the new beginnings. I mean, if you live in Canada it’s hard to consider spring as the season of new life and energy, but summer is a whole different story (even here in the laid-back West). For me, summer’s when I’m most inspired, and when I have the luxury to dream. I do find myself doing more things outside the box (euphemism for my narrow comfort zone), so maybe that’s pushing me to find out more about myself, and the God who I trust – what He has given me, what He wants me to give.

I’m clear on this fact: God has given me full-on freedom to explore, grow, and lead in Him. As for the rest of life’s worries, He says, He will shoulder. All I have to give is, ironically, my all. But hey, I think that’s a pretty good investment if it’s the Creator rooting for me.

So for now, I’ll take the carrot – to cultivate, to nourish, and to share. Because I can’t yet see the beauty in a karat.

In the meantime, congratulations to all the gorgeous brides out there! You are not just beautiful, but strong and courageous. All the best and be very blessed.

I want you to be free

from anxieties.

The unmarried man is anxious

about the things of the Lord,

how to please the Lord.

1 Corinthians 7:32

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Ingredients for the Tropical Carrot Cake, makes two 9-inch layers:

3 c oat flour (grind oats in your coffee/spice grinder)

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

2 c brown sugar

1 large orange, zest only

1 tbsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla paste (use pure vanilla extract if you don’t have this)

1 1/2 c extra virgin olive oil

1 medium, ripe banana

2 c coarsely grated carrot

1 c finely chopped fresh pineapple

1 c sultana raisins

1 c chopped walnuts, toasted

To make the carrot cake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, with the rack placed in the center of the oven. Line the bottom of two 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper.

Whisk together the oat flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

Whiz the brown sugar, orange zest, cinnamon, vanilla, olive oil, and banana in a blender or food processor until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture becomes a thick caramel consistency.

Pour the brown sugar mixture into the flour mixture and stir just to combine. Fold in the carrot, pineapple, raisins, and walnuts until well combined.

Scrape the batter evenly into the prepared pans and smooth out the top. Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes. The cakes should have crisp and very golden brown tops, and the sides should be pulling slightly away from the pan. Cool completely, cover, and chill overnight.

Ingredients for the Coconut Vanilla Bean Mousse, makes enough for 2 layers:

400 g traditional or silken firm tofu

1 can coconut cream, chilled, solid fat only

1 generous tsp vanilla paste

2-3 tbsp agave nectar, to taste

To prepare the tofu, tip out any liquid in the container. Rinse the tofu under cold running water, and put it back in the container. Fill the container to the top with filtered water, and place it in the fridge for at least 4 hours. Repeat this step.

Drain the tofu and pat dry with some kitchen towel. Fold a new sheet of kitchen towel in half and place it on a clean working surface. Cut the tofu into 2-cm thick slices and arrange them, cut side down, on the kitchen towel. Cover with another folded sheet of kitchen towel. Put a heavy wooden cutting board on top to give it some pressure. Let sit for 10 minutes. Change the kitchen towel, then let it sit for another 10 minutes to fully extract the moisture.

Puree the tofu in a blender or food processor and puree until extremely smooth. Add the coconut cream, vanilla, and agave and blend until creamy. Cover and chill completely.

For the cake assembly you’ll need:

1/2 c pineapple compote (home made of course, or yuzu preserves, even sauteed apples will work)

1/2 c unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted

To assemble the cake, run a knife along the sides of the pans to loosen the cakes. Invert one cake layer onto your cake stand and peel off the parchment. Cover the top with the pineapple compote, and invert the remaining cake layer onto the cake. Cover the entire cake (top and sides) with the mousse frosting and smooth it out.

Garnish with the toasted coconut and edible flowers (not necessary, but it’s pretty!)

Store in the refrigerator and, as always, enjoy (with a nice cup of earl grey or black coffee)!

A Bit of Spring Cleaning

Get ready! Because you’re about to be hit by a blizzard , no it’s not winter anymore, I mean, explosion of recipes, all of which are vegan, super vibrant, fresh, and absolutely delicious! For those of you who are staying in touch via instagram (it’s on the right-hand-side, just click and follow to stay up-to-plate with everything I’m whipping up), you’ve probably been wondering why I haven’t put up the recipes to those pictures and I apologize!! Sorry, I truly am because sometimes I click on something that looks totally yum hoping to find its recipe but then it just turns out to be foodporn, and that makes me really disappointed.

I get that. So here’s a treat: a collage of recipes to kickstart spring!

Here I wanted to feature some of those under-acknowledged ingredients such as beet greens, parsley stems, green peas, and grainy mustard. Beet greens and parsley stems tend to just get trimmed off and thrown into the garbage which I find to be such a waste. Beet greens are actually loaded with all the great nutrients its roots has, but with more fibre and less sugar while parsley stems have even more flavour than the leaves, not to mention the nice texture it gives to the green falafel mash (recipe below!). Green peas and grainy mustard, on the other hand are like ugly christmas sweaters – you have them lying around not because they’re a kitchen staple, but because there was this one day when some magazine or trend convinced you to buy a bag/jar of the stuff (like how your friends convinced you of the sweater at Value Village). Then ever since that day it’s just been a shameful lump stuck in your pantry or fridge door.

It’s okay, it’s all good, literally. And I encourage you to really take this as a new starting point, see what poor miserable thing is your fridge or pantry that you’ve been wanting to get rid of, and cook dat thang!

For those who exalt themselves will be humbled,

and those who humble themselves

will be exalted.

Luke 14:11

Collage

Rice with Beet Greens (Top Left):

1 tbsp avocado oil

1 medium brown onion, finely diced

1 bunch beet greens, stem portion diced, leaf portion shredded

2 cups cold, cooked red and brown basmati or jasmine rice

sea salt

white pepper

pinch of cinnamon

To make the rice with beet greens, heat the oil on medium in a skillet or wok. Add the onions and let it sweat until translucent and fragrant. Turn up the heat to high and add the chopped beet greens, continue stirring until tender, then add the rice and season well to taste. Stir until the liquid is fully absorbed and mixture is heated through.

Serve immediately, with an earthy wild mushroom or nutty pureed squash soup.

 

Garlic Coconut Butter Grilled Naan

with Green Falafel Mash, Parsley Mango Slaw, and Sriracha Aioli (Top Right):

for the garlic coconut butter grilled naan:

2 fat cloves of garlic, minced

2 tbsp coconut oil

4 pieces whole wheat naan bread

To make the coconut butter, put combine garlic and coconut oil in a small bowl and microwave for 30-45 seconds until fragrant. Brush the mixture onto one side of the naan and put that side down on a hot grill pan (it’s still pretty cold where I am, but if it’s summer wherever you are and you have the luxury of using a grill, by all means fire it up!). Lift up a corner to see if it’s nicely charred, once it is, brush the oil on the upper side and flip it over to get it grill-marked.

for the green falafel mash:

2 cups flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped (throw the stems in there!)

1 can (540 ml) chickpeas, drained

1 generous tbsp madras curry powder

3 tbsp tahini

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

juice of 1 lemon

sea salt, to taste

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until a coarse puree forms. Transfer to a bowl and drizzle with some more EVOO and set aside.

for the parsley mango slaw:

1 large mango, ripe but firm, thinly sliced

1 cup finely shredded flat leaf parsley

Stir together the mango and parsley in a bowl and set aside.

for the sriracha aioli:

2 heaping tbsp good quality mayonnaise, feel free to use your favourite vegan mayo or cashew cream!

1 tbsp sriracha hot sauce (don’t tone it down, go beyond if it’s your thing!)

1 tbsp lime juice

In a small bowl stir together the mayo, sriracha, and lime juice, adding a bit more sriracha or lime juice to get a nice drizzling consistency. To assemble, spread the falafel mash onto the grilled naan, top with the mango slaw, and drizzle with the sriracha aioli.

Serve immediately with a minty cooler : blend together frozen yellow watermelon cubes + fresh mint + lime + coconut water!

 

Roasted Aloo Gobi (Bottom Right):

1 head cauliflower separated into bite-sized florets

1 large baking potato, diced into 1-inch pieces, boiled for 12 minutes

8 cremini mushrooms, sliced

1 cup shelled green peas, frozen is fine

3 tbsp madras curry powder

2 heaping tbsp grainy mustard

1 cup crushed tomatoes

2 tbsp melted coconut oil

sea salt, to taste

2 tbsp honey or agave

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Combine all ingredients besides the honey and place into two large baking trays. Bake for 1 hr, stirring every 10~15 minutes. Drizzle with honey and bake for another 10~15 minutes until vegetables are tender and caramelized.

Serve with coconut steamed basmati rice or garlic coconut butter grilled naan (above).

 

Lemon Butter Bean Tartines  with Spring Sugar Peas, Butter Lettuce, and Radishes (Bottom Left):

for the Lemon Butter Beans:

1 can (540 ml) white or butter beans, rinsed and drained

1 heaping tbsp grainy mustard

zest and juice of 1 small lemon

2 tsp honey or agave

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

sea salt

black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth, you might need to scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple of times. Set aside.

for the tartine assemby:

few slices toasted baguette or spelt or dark rye bread, really anything goes

1 head Boston or butter lettuce, leaves washed and patted dry

1 cup shelled sweet peas, frozen ones are fine, just let them sit at room temperature for 20 minutes

2 scallions, thinly sliced

4~5 radishes, thinly sliced

Spread a bit of the bean puree onto the toasted bread, then put the lettuce on (that way the lettuce will actually stay on the tartine). Fill the lettuce with more of the puree and garnish with the peas, scallions, and radish rounds.

Serve  with a strawberry almond milkshake: blend together frozen strawberries + almond milk + agave + vanilla extract

Happy spring cleaning your body, mind, and pantry!

 

Con Fusion

Yes it’s January and the skies are a depressing blue hue, but hey, there’s still plenty of reason to celebrate. This past weekend I was told by a wise man that the concept of time-management is an oxymoron in itself, and therefore should not be a destination towards which we strive. Yeah, right, right?

Right (trust me, this wise man has got more than just a few witty words to share). What he meant was, since there exists no methods by which time may be slowed down, sped up, nor gained (though losing time is far beyond a normal phenomenon), time itself simply cannot be “managed”. The dark-blue sky above your head may have just turned pitch black as you read this, but there’s light in this insight. Just stick with me. You can do it, one word at a time. That’s it.

Actually, there’s no point in managing time. In fact, since it’s really an impossible task, time-management is just a pure waste of your time. Thought I was going to give you hope? Be patient, I’ll get there, like now. So don’t manage time, instead, manage opportunitiesOpportunities are vouchers for gain, the more you seize and seek them, the more you will succeed. The worst case scenario? You don’t grab any of ’em, and you stay just as you are, which, might not be too off-putting depending on your current state.

Now compare that mentality to the convention that binds you to manage a constant, unchangeable loss.

Go get’em tiger.

So be careful how you live.

Don’t live like fools,

but like those who are wise.

Make the most of every opportunity

in these evil days.

Don’t act thoughtlessly, but

understand what the Lord wants you to do.

Ephesians 5:15~17

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Ingredients for the mushy avocados tartines:

1 small, ripe avocado

1 tsp honey or agave syrup, to taste

1/2 ~ 1 tsp wasabi paste, to taste

juice of 1 small lime

1 large thin slice sourdough bread (I used dark sourdough rye)

to garnish:

scant 1/2 c chopped kimchi

1/2 sweet soy sauce or tamari

1 scallion, thinly sliced

1/2 tsp toasted white sesame seeds

1/2 toasted wakame sea weed, crumbled

To make the mushy avocados, halve, pit, and peel the avocado, then mash roughly in a small mixing bowl with a fork with the honey, wasabi, lime juice, and some sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste, adjusting as needed. Meanwhile, cut the bread slice diagonally in half (no, they will not be symmetrical) and toast them until medium brown and thoroughly crisp.

Once the mushy avocados and bread are both ready, just slather the avocados onto the bread half-slices, then top equally with the garnishes in the order listed, starting from the kimchi. If you’re not vegetarian, I strongly urge you to crush some toasted bonito flakes on to in addition to the garnishes given above.

Serve immediately, enjoy!

why am I always in a curry..

Two weeks into university and the new people I’m meeting have already thrown at me a  stupefying sum of questions.

What’s your name?

Jen, but you can call me Ann, whichever works.

Why did you choose this program?

Well, for the longest time I wanted to be a plastic surgeon, but then one day Jesus told me to go into ActSci and PoliSci so..

Are you vegetarian?

Um, I’m actually closer to vegan (and wheat-free) since I don’t consume dairy, but I do eat meat on occasion.

Then what are you?

(**What kind of question is that!?**)

Well, it’s not that I’m contre-cruelty or pretending to be a health fanatic, because I do thoroughly love food and the rich stories that go along with it. So basically, I’ll eat with respect.

Huh?

For example, if it’s a piece of local, organically farmed short rib, carefully and patiently cooked with the most simplicity such that the natural deep earthy flavour of the marrow and fat permeates every fork-tender strand of flesh, then yes I do. I do very much want to consume that piece of meat.

So in the end, I guess I found my answer.

I don’t have a problem with “meat” – the concept.

Rather, I am appalled by inhumain farming practices, and the greed for money that is the root of this evil.

After all this, it’s only fitting that I dish up some heart-warming breathing space.

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Ingredients for the thai basil pesto:

30 g thai basil, woody stem trimmed

2 medium garlic cloves, roughly chopped

handful raw whole almonds, roughly chopped

generous pinch of sea salt

60 ml avocado oil, or other mild oil

To make the pesto, put all ingredients in the food processor (a small one will work better, or use a mortar and pestle) except for the oil. Pulse until evenly chopped and mixed, then slowly stream in the oil until incorporated. Store in a small glass jar and pour an extra layer of oil to seal, then cover and refrigerate until needed, up to two weeks.

Ingredients for the curry:

1 tbsp coconut oil

2 tsp minced ginger root

1 small onion, chopped

3~4 cups cut-up vegetables of choice, such as broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, carrots, mushrooms, asparagus, green beans, water chestnut, etc..)

3 tbsp thai basil pesto (above)

1 can coconut milk

ground chili pepper, optional

sea salt, to taste

water

lime wedges, to serve

To make the  curry, heat the coconut oil in a hot wok or large saucepan. Add the ginger and onions and saute on medium heat until fragrant and the onions are softened. Add the vegetables and stir in the pesto. Saute for 1~2 more minutes. Add the coconut milk, chili, sea salt to taste, and enough water to barely cover the vegetables. Turn the heat to high and cover, until brought to a rolling boil. Check the seasoning, and the vegetables should be tender but still vibrantly colored.

Serve as is or with brown jasmine or basmati rice, and a wedge of lime should bring the whole plate alive with its fresh brightness.

Enjoy!