1 c rice, rinsed until the water runs clear then drained (long or short grain are both fine)
1 c filtered water
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp garam masala
3 bay leaves
2 tbsp dried currants
1 tsp olive oil
In the pot of a rice cooker, combine all ingredients. Add 1 cup of water to the outer pot.
Cook until the rice is tender but well-defined. Fluff with a rice spatula, put the lid back on and keep warm.
Roasted Garlic Tahini
1 c roasted garlic
3/4 c tahini
1 tsp honey
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
water, as needed
Place all ingredients besides water in a blender and blend until smooth. Add enough water and blend through to adjust the consistency to that of thick yoghurt. Store in a mason jar and refrigerate until needed. Stores up to 3 weeks.
1/2 c Roasted Garlic Tahini (above)
1/2 c plain Greek yoghurt
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
salt, to taste
Stir together all ingredients until smooth. Use immediately.
2 small eggplant, washed
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Slice each eggplant lengthwise in half, and cut off a thin slice from the rounded side of the eggplant so that the slices have a flat base.
Season both sides of the eggplant and brush generously with olive oil.
Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes or until completely tender.
Let cool for at least 10 minutes.
1 cup Tahini Crema (above)
1 cup Rice with Turmeric and Currants (above)
Roasted Eggplant (above)
arils from 1 small pomegranate
2 tbsp crushed pistachios
1 handful torn mint
pomegranate molasses, to drizzle
pistachio or extra-virgin olive oil, to drizzle
sumac, to finish
Place the roasted eggplant slices on 2 plates (as main course) or 4 plates (as starter). Spoon over the tahini crema to cover the eggplant.
Add some clusters of rice around the eggplant.
Scatter all over with pomegranate, pistachios, and mint.
Drizzle with pomegranate molasses and oil, then dust with a pinch of sumac.
“Definitions look good only in ink on paper, for midterms, thus implicitly are useless for life in general.”
These days, between fires in a barrage of assignments, midterms, and projects I’ve been burying myself (and possibly my responsibilities) beneath a commendable mound of food literature and documentaries, two of which include Anthony Bourdain’s Layover on Netflix, tand a veg-driven number by chef-turned-farmer-turned-chef Joshua McFadden.
Each of these offers a slightly different perspective on what good cooking is. Considered in isolation, each would appear to be the bottom line.
Bourdain argues that the most genius cooking comes out of desperation, of a need to make ends meet and thereby elevating low-rank ingredients to iconic heights. McFadden simply states that great cooking starts and ends with pristine ingredients.
Is there a right and wrong? You cannot blame a mother for seeking out only the freshest organic produce to feed to her two young children. You cannot say that an age-old dish that has carried its nation through famine and drought is bad cookery. But what happens when you push these to the extreme?
Before that let’s lay down some rules, so that our ‘extremes’ are realistic (oxymoron, but a needed one nonetheless.)
Resources are finite
As a millennial, raised in an era when sustainability, greenness, and the food crisis are all the rage, I understand this intuitively. However, to many in my parents’ generation, the ocean is still bottomless, the soil is still inexhaustible, and they have no idea that a couple of drops in their glass of water probably came from Bathsheba’s bathtub that night David saw her from his balcony.
Rich and poor people exist
I’m not talking about the poverty line. I’m simply saying that wealth and resources are not identically distributed among each person on Earth.
Ingredients are either “high” or “low” end; the sum of both may feed the world.
While my definition of high might not coincide with yours, in this simplified universe everyone’s definition at any given point in time of these terms are identical. We also assume that neither of these categories alone can feed the world. I’m feeling generous, so I’ll say that high end ingredients can feed half the world’s population (the rest is fed by low end ingredients).
At this point if you’re still with me, then you’re basically done the proof.
If in pursuit of great cookery everyone cooks with only high end ingredients, then the poorer half of the world would starve to death. Or they might decide that they’d rather have bad cooking than death, if they’re not such die-hard foodies. Thus one’s ability to produce great cooking is first and foremost defined by your wealth. In other words, great cookery is a privilege, not a right.
I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time stomaching such a conclusion.
Now suppose that great cooking is driven out of desperation, of transforming low end ingredients to palatable dishes. Then yes, the world is fed, but then there would be no need, nor reverence for great ingredients and those who painstakingly produce them. Ingredient quality would deteriorate, and so would production integrity. Soon to follow would likely be a plummet in public health, due to prolonged consumption of degraded ingredients and excess salt, sugar, and fat.
To be honest, a world like this doesn’t excite me at all.
So what to make of all this? I say, definitions look good only in ink on paper, for midterms, thus implicitly useless for life in general. A great dish at the end of the day should be something that moves you – be it because of its history, or the way it connects you to nature, the person who prepared it, or the way it embodies the moment. In other words:
A chef does not qualify the dish, the dish qualifies the chef.
If you’re comfortable with making fresh pasta and have your favourite recipe tucked in your back pocket, this is a dish where it will really be worthwhile to get your pasta machine rolling, just use a higher ratio of egg yolks to whites. If you’re not too keen on the idea, by all means just seek out a good quality dried pasta which you can easily find in any well-stocked grocery. The key here is to toss your pasta in the dandelion pesto while drizzling in hot pasta water until the sauce becomes creamy and coats the pasta entirely. Blanching the dandelion greens and garlic before blending into the pesto helps keep the greens vibrant, tames the bitterness, and extends its shelf..err, fridge life, so don’t skip that step.
1 bunch dandelion greens, ends trimmed
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 c grated pecorino romano
1/2 c almonds, well roasted
1 strip lemon zest
1 tsp sea salt, or more
crushed coriander seeds and chile flakes, to taste
3/4 c good olive oil (one that you’d be happy tasting straight out of the bottle)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Meanwhile, prepare a large bowl of iced water.
Plunge the dandelion greens and garlic cloves in the pot and stir until all of the greens turn a deep, vibrant green. Drain and shock in the bowl of ice water until completely cold. Squeeze out any excess moisture.
Add the roasted almonds, chile flakes, coriander seeds, salt, lemon zest, pecorino, garlic cloves, and dandelion greens to a blender or food processor.
Pulse on medium speed to roughly chop the ingredients, then with the motor running, dribble in the olive oil until a textured sauce comes together and there are no discernible chunks of garlic or almonds remaining. You may need more or less olive oil, so don’t add it all at once. Don’t use a speed any higher than medium as that could turn your olive oil bitter.
Taste and adjust your seasoning – it be mildly bitter near the back of your palate, assertive with salt, and slightly tingly with the chile.
Spoon into a mason jar, tap gently to release any air bubbles. Pour in a slick of olive oil at the top to seal and screw on the lid. You can freeze this for up at least 3 months, store in the fridge for 2-3 weeks, or enjoy straight away.
Pappardelle with Dandelion Pesto and Small Poached Eggs
1 1/2 lb fresh wide pasta, such as pappardelle, or 1 lb dried
1 cup dandelion pesto
10 to 12 small eggs, or 6-8 large, poached
grated pecorino romano, to serve
chile flakes and black pepper, to serve
extra virgin olive oil, to serve
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a rolling boil, add the pasta and cook for 2-3 minutes until supple but toothy in the center. (If using dried pasta, cook according to instructions on the box, subtracting 1-2 minutes from the stated cooking time.)
Fish the pasta out of the pot and into a large bowl with the pesto. Toss gently, adding a bit of the pasta water at a time until the sauce emulsifies and becomes creamy, coating each strand of pasta.
Divide among 4 plates, top with 2-3 small poached eggs, or 1-2 large ones.
Top generously with grated pecorino romano, sprinkle on some chile flakes and black pepper, then finish with a flick of extra virgin olive oil.
I’ve always loved the combination of deep green, grassy flavours with sweet, cool dairy. Like charred broccoli rabe on mascarpone, sauteed spinach on ricotta, and in this case, edamame marinated in fruity olive oil with parsley stems and mint. The labneh adds sweetness, and the sourdough gives crunch and substance. This is as simple as it gets, and feel free to substitute the edamame with thawed peas, fava beans, or if you’re feeling fancy, pois mange-tout. As for the labneh, goat cheese, greek yoghurt, fromage blanc, or hummus will all do nicely. Feel free to use any soft herbs you have on hand – lemon balm, basil, chives, tarragon. And any day-old bread. At this point, I hope I’ve gotten the point across that this is not a recipe. So go ahead, spend the next five minutes reading the ‘recipe’, and the five minutes after that to make lunch.
Green on White Tartines
1 slice sourdough, or whatever bread you have
3 tbsp labneh, or whatever soft unripened cheese you have
1/3 c thawed edamame beans, or whatever peas you have
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
6-8 mint leaves, torn, or whatever soft herbs you have
2 tsp minced parsley stems, completely optional
Toast the bread on both sides to your desired colour.
Slather the top side of the toast generously with your choice of cheese.
In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and spoon over the toast.
Where I am, the high tops of conifers are draped underneath a veil of fog just thin enough for a few branches to poke through. The ground is missing the crisp touch of frost, and is instead drenched in a blanket of condensation to be lifted once the day begins.
This is not quite the Vancouver I grew up in, but the humidity made the air familiar as I drove down Dewdney.
I am not quite the one who left three years ago, but the few I was about to visit were so much a part of me that setting foot back in their corridors did not seem like an act of trespass. And for all the roots they gave me, I was grateful.
Every good gift
is from above, coming down
from the Father of
with whom there is no variation or shadow
due to change.
1 mini pumpkin, seeded, diced
3 small sweet potatoes, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 small onion, diced
2 tsp sea salt
few rounds black pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
3 tbsp melted coconut oil
Toss all ingredients together until evenly coated and roast at 450 degrees F for 25-30 minutes or until tender.
Charred Scallion Dressing:
1 bunch scallions
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp chili flakes
2 strips lemon zest
1/2 lemon, juice only
12 almonds, toasted
1 tsp sea salt
Char the scallions on a grill or on your stove’s electric coils.
Brown the butter on medium heat until the milk solids are well-browned and the butter is very nutty. Remove from the heat and stir in the chili flakes.
Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend into a chunky paste.
Serve the roast vegetables with the scallion dressing. This dressing is also great for sandwiches or to stir into puree soups.
Bonus question: who inspired you in 2015, and how? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear your stories!
It’s the ordinary things that seem important to me.
This Sunday I enjoyed the rare luxury of having the entirety of an afternoon liberated from any obligation to weigh it down. So I went see the lovely mister Alex Colville at the gallery across the bridge. If you’re anyone like me, regardless of the reason (be it the need to get the most bang for your buck, pure curiosity of a three-year-old, or genuine appreciation for the arts), you’d make your way along the walls of the gallery at approximately sloth-pace for the sake of reading every single description, quote, and commentary of every single painting.
Colville’s works, in all truthfulness, did not appeal to me in the least when I stood in front of the gallery, staring into the woman with the binoculars’ forehead on the oversized promotion poster. No vivid colors, nothing provocatively creative about it, just painfully ordinary.
But as I moved from frame to frame, I became moved frame by frame. Something about the way his impeccably detailed brush strokes merged into minimalism and the way the intense reality of each subject somehow hinted at the surreal was simultaneously familiar and refreshing.
Indeed enjoyment, at least for the modern busy soul, rests in the down of the everyday, and is defined by a taste for the yesterdays.
a great storm on the sea,
was being swamped
by the waves;
but he was
My grandmother had an unwavering belief in eggs. In the mansion in southern Taiwan where my mother and her three siblings grew up, they kept chickens on the rooftop terrace. It was at once a delight and a pain to reach past the menacing beaks of the angry hens and to sneak out a couple of down-specked eggs each morning. For my ah-ma a few eggs symbolized the wholesomeness she worked so hard to provide for her children. In retrospect, the eggs tell a different story – one of contentment, and how it only decays as our haves become greater.
Ingredients for the Tomato Creamed Eggs:
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp canola oil, divided
3 large free range chicken or duck eggs
2 tbsp milk or water, optional
3 large vine-ripened tomatoes, halved and thinly sliced
2 tbsp loosely packed brown sugar
sea salt, to taste
splash of white vinegar
1 tbsp corn starch, stirred well with a glug of cold water
freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Preheat a non-stick skillet on medium heat. Meanwhile, beat the eggs with the milk or water lightly using a fork in a small bowl.
Add 1 tsp of the oil into the skillet and pour in the eggs. Stir and break up the mixture by pushing the outer edges into the center using a pair of wooden chopsticks. Dump everything back into the bowl once the eggs just begin to set. Set aside.
Preheat a wok or a sauce pan on high heat until very hot. Tip in the remaining oil, swirl the pan to cover (it should be a shimmering coat), and add the sliced tomatoes. Add the sugar and season with salt to draw out the moisture. Cook the mixture on high heat until the tomatoes have dissolved and the juices have become syrupy, about 8 minutes.
Add a splash of vinegar to brighten the tomatoes, stir, and fold through the eggs, breaking them up a little. Immediately pour in the corn starch mixture in a round motion and stir through until the mixture tightens up. Remove from heat immediately and transfer to a deep plate.
Serve with freshly steamed short-grain rice or some crusty bread.