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!

Some Sage Advice

Whether it’s the strokes of color representing specific flavours that streak across my mind when I “see” certain flavour combinations or something as straight forward as smelling the steam wafting lazily up from a finished dish, I think, flavour has to do with instinct and chemistry.

Like people, food has its own invisible forces of abstract attraction and repulsion. The only way one can go along with anyone and everyone and become absolutely essential is to be the salt of the world. Matthew 5:13

As for all the other foods, some clash and cause destruction on a plate, others are somewhat mellow and therefore go forgotten before the next meal. Then, there are still the harmony and excitement in other ensembles of flavours that make magic happen.

Crisp purple sage, kabocha squash gnocchi, brown butter, shaved Grana Padano, and caramelized balsamic vinegar.

I think these struck a chord with me.

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Ingredients for the kabocha squash gnocchi:

2 cups kabocha squash* puree (made from half a steamed squash)

1 1/3 cup potato starch

1 1/3 cup white rice flour

1 1/3 cup glutinous rice flour

3/4 tsp fine sea salt

2 free range eggs

2 tbsp water, as needed

To make the kabocha gnocchi, mix together the kabocha puree, potato starch, rice flours, and salt in the stand mixer using the paddle attachment. The mixture will look sandy and dry. Mix in the eggs, one at a time until well combined. If a dough forms and cleans the sides of the bowl, then you don’t need to add any water. Otherwise, drip in the 2 tablespoons of water as the machine mixes, until a dough forms.

On a smooth, clean working surface (I did this on my countertop), roll handfuls of the dough into inch-thick logs. Cut it into 1/3-inch thick pieces, or bite-sized. Roll it into a flat-ish round between your hands then roll it on the “teeth” of the fork, giving it some pressure, and voila, a perfect little dumpling!

Now, all you need to do is repeat that last step a few dozen times until all the dough is used up. Freeze them in a single layer, on a plate or baking sheet until rigid, then you can dump it all into a freezer bag for convenient storage.

When ready to cook, bring a pot of water to the rolling boil. Add a tablespoon of sea salt and 2 cups of frozen gnocchi. Stir gently with a wooden spoon to keep it from sticking at the start. They are ready when they float to the top. Drain.

Ingredients for the sauce:

4 tbsp unsalted butter

36 purple sage leaves (regular sage leaves work just as well)

1 small brown onion, quartered, then thinly sliced

1/2 tsp sea salt

3 generous tbsp balsamic vinegar

lots of freshly ground black pepper

shaved Grana Padano or parmesan cheese

To make the sauce, heat the butter un a pan on medium high heat. When the butter begins to foam, add the sage leaves. Now listen, because at first there will be quite a bit of noise from the water vapour escaping the leaves, but as the leaves dehydrate, there will be less and less evaporation occuring, hence less noise. Once the sputtering dies down, you know the sage is crisp, so remove them with a slotted spoon onto a plate. Then, add the onions and salt. Fry the onions until brown and crispy around the edges and the butter is richly brown – this will take 2~4 minutes, and stir constantly to avoid the milk solids from burning. Now add the balsamic and cook it down until it is sweet and sticky (reduced by a third) before adding the cooked gnocchi. Stir until the gnocchi is evenly coated in the sauce and the sauce is sticking onto the gnocchi.

Serves 2, garnish with the reserved fried sage, black pepper, and shaved cheese.

LBFM

It’s the first full day since the spring forward! Those of you who haven’t advanced your clocks by an hour, make sure you remember to get on that so you won’t be late tomorrow for any important date (or school or work)!

An extra hour of sunshine means, for me,

a relaxing apres-dinner walk with my mum in a hazy sunset while hearing the first honks of the returning Canadian geese.

a little less stress about starting my runs at 3pm.

better light in which to enjoy the most loving meal of the day.

What do you do with your extra bit of sun?

Where there’s a gain, there’s a loss, in last night’s case, it was an hour of sleep. Not too bad, for an 180 extra hours of sunshine over the next six months!

So since I sort of have a short day, I think it’s fair that this post be kept short and sweet.

Arancini are deep-fried risotto balls stuffed with cheese, herbs, and/or meat. As deep-frying nearly never happens in my kitchen, I made a baked version that’s just as crispy golden, and with the same ooey-gooey cheese filling of fresh mozzarella.

You can use any leftover cheese risotto, set in the fridge overnight, to make these, and just serve with a simple green salad and cold marinara sauce for a light dinner!

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There’s no recipe, really, but here’s the idea:

Set up a dredge station. Put 1 cup each of rice flour and crushed cornflakes in two separate bowls. Season the rice flour with salt and pepper, and the cornflakes with lots of grated parmigiana, italian herbs, and more salt. Crack an egg into the third bowl and beat it lightly, adding a couple tablespoons of water.

The complete assembly should be, from right to left: 3 cups cold risotto, 20 mozzarella cubes, cup rice flour, beaten egg, crushed corn flakes, baking sheet sprayed with a little oil.

Now, use an ice cream scoop to scoop out similar portions of risotto. Push a cube (2 cm) of mozzarella into the center of each portion and seal the opening shut by shaping the risotto between your hands. Roll the risotto balls in the rice flour, then dip it in the egg, finally, coat it completely with the corn flakes and set on the baking sheet. Repeat until you use up all your risotto. Drizzle with a little olive oil.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes or until golden, crispy, and the center is piping hot.

Serve immediately with a cold, tangy marinara sauce for dipping!

Bittersweet

This is a tart special for plenty of reasons, the greatest being that it encompasses two of my “firsts”. The crust is the first gluten free crust I have ever attempted, and thank God, it turned out quite pleasantly. The second first (oxymoron there!) is the chocolate silk filling, which is absolutely, undeniably, and impossibly to die for.

That being said, there are many foods that we do, with or without knowing it, kill ourselves eating. With minimal investigation, our eyes become opened to the fatal consequences of red meat, butter, wheat, dairy, refined sugars…the list goes on, but one thing to rejoice about is this: this tart has nothing to do with that list.

The chocolate custard, is cunningly not a custard at all. Not only does it not contain any cream (and also no dairy), it doesn’t use milk or fat substitutes to fill the “void”. Nor does it contain any eggs, so lacto-, ovo-intolerant friends, to that, you may do a happy dance. And of course you won’t find any refined sugars in this, either.

One thing to know about me: I dislike falsehood. So naturally, I don’t use certain ingredients to replace or pretend to be something they’re not. Every ingredient exists perfectly as itself; almond milk should taste like almonds, it’s not fair to treat it as if it should taste like moo’s milk. If you really want moo’s milk, by all means, just have less of it.

On that note, I present you a slice of wholesome indulgence.

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Ingredients for the tart crust:

125g rice flour

125g brown rice flour

70g melted coconut oil

60g almond, rice, or soy milk

60g agave nectar

To make the tart crust, pulse together the flours in a food processor. With the motor running, gradually add in the coconut oil until the mixture becomes sandy. Scrape down the sides, then add the almond milk and agave nectar. Pulse until a crumbly dough comes together. Press this mixture into a non-stick 9-inch fluted tart pan. Chill in the fridge while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Dock the crust with a fork, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until fragrant and golden. Cool completely, then chill until needed.

Ingredients for the chocolate custard:

half a cinnamon stick

800g medium firm tofu, cut into four bricks

1 packet gelatin, soaked in water

100g agave nectar

scant 1/2 cup dutch processed cocoa

30g unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped

15g vanilla extract

To make the chocolate custard, put the cinnamon stick and half a saucepan of water to a rolling boil. Add the tofu and poach it in the infused water for 12 minutes. Remove the tofu with a slotted spoon and drain, sandwiched between two clean towels and beneath a heavy plate.

Meanwhile, tip out the poaching liquid until about 2 cups remain. Add the soaked gelatin and agave nectar and simmer, whisking constantly, until the gelatin is fully dissolved. Set aside.

Break up the drained tofu into a food processor or blender, add the cocoa and chopped chocolate. Blend on high speed until impossibly smooth. With the motor running, gradually add the gelatin mixture until blended, then add the vanilla. Pour this mixture into the chilled crust and refrigerate until set.

Serve well chilled, garnished with bruleed banana slices or chopped salted nuts (I used pecans and almonds).

The chocolate custard recipe makes enough that you don’t have to use all of it for the tart. I recommend pouring any extra custard into a couple of espresso cups or small ramequins to make petit pots de cremes, simply because that’s what I did. Chill until set, covered with plastic wrap, and serve fresh from the fridge.

PB&A Brownies

P is for peanut, B is for butter…as for A, it is for adzuki. It may seem like an uncertain rendez-vous for the two, but peanut butter is nothing new in an oriental pantry. Just think peanut-coconut dipping sauces and peanut-butter-stuffed glutinous rice balls simmered in ginger muscovado tea. I love peanut butter in both its savoury and sweet state, and certainly when it’s used in a traditional manner, swirled up to make something a little special.

My taste buds have an amazing memory, one that whimsically decides to sweep me into gastronomic nostalgia in the most peculiar moments. My old man, born and raised in Keelung the northern extreme of Taiwan, knows the Miao Koh (temple-front) night market like an eight-year-old knows his monkey bars. Though over the years the place has gotten exponentially crowded with foodies from around the world, Pa can still pick out from the many impostors the true, vintage originals. One of which would definitely be the red bean peanut butter pao-pao ice – essentially syrupy red beans and natural PB whipped by hand with finely shaved ice into a sorbet…made to order.

It’s sort of a family legacy. My Pa‘s Pa ate at that stand. My Pa ate (and still eats) at that stand, and I, who inherited their taste also have become a returning seat taker at that stand. Surely you can imagine my joy when I found two-pounds worth of homemade red bean paste in the freezer upon coming home from Costco with a two-pack of natural roasted peanut butter.

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Ingredients for the brownie base:

450g semi-sweet adzuki bean paste*

10 medjool dates, pitted and chopped

4 tbsp coconut oil, melted

3/8 c Dutch-processed cocoa

1/2 c rice flour

1/2 to 2/3 c almond milk*

1/3 c agave nectar*

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, with the rack placed in the center of the oven. Line a square (9 x 9-inch) brownie pan with parchment paper. To make the brownie, puree the adzuki and dates to a smooth puree in a food processor or blender. Add all other ingredients and blend until smooth and thick. Spread the batter into the prepared pan.

Ingredients for the peanut swirl:

1oog medium firm tofu

3 tbsp natural peanut butter

In a separate blender, puree the tofu and peanut butter until light and creamy. Drop spoonfuls of the tofu mixture onto the brownie batter and swirl with a knife following your own artistic intuition. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out with moist crumbs. Cool completely before slicing.

These will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for 3 days, or up to 5 days in the refrigerator. Enjoy them warmed up in the microwave, at room temperature, or chilled. I personally find the latter the most appealing (likely due to my childhood memories). Whatever you decide, the fudginess of this brownie will not be changed. I mean it.

*choose Japanese varieties of adzuki bean paste if you don’t plan on making your own. However, it is guaranteed that whichever brand you choose to buy will be very sweet, so omit the agave nectar and replace the missing moisture with almond milk. If you don’t feel too hot towards the refined sugars in the sweetened adzuki paste, use two 540ml cans of unsalted black beans instead: just rinse and drain well before using, and add a little extra agave, say, 1/2 cup or so instead of just 1/3 cup.

This is a very forgiving recipe, so have fun and eat, a la sante!