Monday, June 28, 2010

Urban Gardening, Take 2


Remember this post about my sprouting ginger and sprouting sweet potatoes? Haha, well since then, my "urban gardening" has advanced a level or two, thanks to A Taste of Koko. About a month ago, she held a contest on her blog to win a Chia Herb Garden set, and color me shocked, I won! I never win anything! Thanks, Jane!!

Picnik collage

The kit comes with 6 different seed packets, 3 little pots, and 3 planting "pods." I went with cilantro, parsley, and basil for my first attempt. This photo above is a shot of the basil, two days after I planted them. TWO DAYS, PEOPLE. And you know how crazy-fast this stuff started to grow? The left hand photo was taken at 7 a.m. The right hand photo was taken at 7 p.m. THE SAME DAY. I'm a little worried that I'm going to come back to find my apartment taken over by basil...


And here's the basil today, 7 days after planting. It seems to have slowed down a little :)


The cilantro and parsley are both taking a bit longer, but this morning I found that one of the cilantro seeds is an overachiever.


And here's the parsley, which is starting to get going too. I can't wait until they're big enough to harvest! Oh, and the ginger from my previous post? Well, I've been trying to grow that too.


It seems to be growing horns...which either means this is some Eeeeeevil ginger, or that it's a supporter of Spain. I think I'd prefer the Eeeeevil ginger. ;)

P.S. It is too freaking hot to turn the oven (or stove!) on. I've been doing most of my cooking in the rice cooker, so baking posts will probably be a little light until it cools down some. I guess I'm just going to have to do some more eating out, or else I won't have anything to post at all!

Friday, June 25, 2010

I made it! A Week of Bento

6/25/10 Lunch

So, I think I made a resolution sometime this year (presumably during the New Year, but who knows!) that I would bring lunch more often. Well, you know how resolutions go--I did pack a few lunches here and there, but mostly I resorted to buying lunch around my office (which I think I have complained about before). But I'm trying to make it a more consistent thing and so I set myself the goal of bringing lunch every day this week. And I made it! Above is today's lunch! Let's hop in the wayback machine and check out the rest of them :)

6/21/10 Mr. Bento Lunch

Monday's lunch: rice, stir fried snow pea shoots, braised cabbage, stewed pork belly and tofu, and fruit (local strawberries and blueberries, very much not-local mangoes.)

6/22/10 Lunch

Tuesday's lunch: rice, the rest of the snow pea shoots, braised cabbage and pork meatballs (these are the mini versions of shi zi tou, or "lion heads"), rice, and more fruit. Oh, and Tintin and Snowy visited--doesn't Snowy look like he's very interested in the giant meatball?

6/23/10 Cold Peanut Noodles Lunch

Wednesday's lunch! I think this is my favorite lunch of the week--cold noodles with peanut sauce, topped with shredded cucumber, carrot, omelet strips and chicken. I brought the peanut sauce in a little yogurt jar and added it at lunch, so the noodles wouldn't get soggy. And of course, fruit! I love the color combination of the fruit, it's so pretty.

6/24/10 Lunch (day 4!)

Thursday's lunch--ginger and shallot fried rice, watermelon and mango flowers, stir fried baby bok choy and tofu puffs, and sliced cucumber sprinkled with chili, with a piggie bottle of black vinegar. Can I just tell you that I apparently put way too much chili on those cucumbers? Which resulted in me sending an email to some of my coworkers with this message: "Eating cucumbers oh my god too much chili my MOUTH IS ON FIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRRREEEEEEEE!!!!" Also, I decided the fried rice was ugly enough that I had to try to ahem, draw the eye away from it by prettying up the rest of the lunch. Hence the fruit flowers! But even that's deceiving--all the scraps leftover from cutting out the flowers are on the bottom of that container. Waste not, want not! :)

So, I actually felt like I really got into the swing of packing lunch. I think the key is just to always have enough leftover to pack, even if it's leftovers from several meals. There's no way I'm waking up extra early to both cook and pack lunch! Also, washing my bentos out right away when I get home is important, because then I have no excuse NOT to pack (I am notorious for leaving my Mr. Bento containers unwashed for days.) Now let's just see how long I can keep this up!

Happy Friday everyone--the first of the knockout stage games start this weekend, so I'm sure I will be spending a fair amount of time shouting at a TV screen or biting my nails :)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hong Kong Post 5: Macau


Oops, I got derailed from posting about this, but damnit, I am determined to finish this series!! I'm guessing there is not a single person who's gone to Macau who has not taken a photo of this scene. These are the ruins of St. Paul's, and I have to say, it's quite a scene. All that's left is this front (don't worry, it's supported with framework behind it) and the crypts at the back.


By the way, this is the reverse view, looking down into the street that leads up to the ruins. It is quite the tourist hotspot, and this was during the off season! The street leading up here is filled with shops selling souvenirs, particularly the edible kind; can someone tell me why there are so many outlets selling jerky here??


From St. Paul's, it's a short walk to Monte Fort. This is the view from the walkways around it.


A gorgeous water lily...

Grand Lisboa

And in the other direction, the inescapable casinos. (Actually, we did end up at the Lisboa, and spent an inordinate amount of time playing the slot machines. Hey, we're both card carrying members now!) The best thing about Macau, in my opinion, is the architecture! (Er, well, okay, maybe the architecture is second to the Portugese egg tarts, but SOMEHOW, I failed to take a picture!!!!!! Well, rest assured, it was delicious.) So, here are some photos:






Aaaaand, here you go, a night shot of the Lisboa. I can't remember if we came out ahead or not against the slot machines. But I did notice there were noooo clocks anywhere in the casino; obviously they want you to lose track of how much time you're spending with the one-armed mistress! And I failed to get any photos, but we had a really nice dinner at a restaurant called Solmar (actually Googling shows it to be a fairly well known restaurant). Of course, since I have failed to write these things down in a timely manner, I can't remember what we ate, except for African chicken, which was delicious. Oh god, I'm such a bad food blogger! But, never fear--my next post will have pretty much nothing BUT food. And then after that, one more post on Taiwan, and I think I will be caught up. :)

Happy Wednesday! We're on the countdown to the weekend again, woohoo!

Hong Kong Post 4: Lamma Island
Hong Kong Post 3: Ocean Park, Going to the Races, Samurai!
Hong Kong Post 2: Tourism!
Hong Kong Post 1: High Tea at the Peninsula

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Cheddar-scallion scones


Okay, apparently what I really needed was a weekend of doing nothing productive (well, I guess I did clean the kitchen). I spent most of Saturday day lazing around, watching soccer (hmph, my picks are all shot), eating blueberries, drinking watermelon juice...yes, it is every bit as restorative as it sounds. So you would think with the heat, there is no WAY I would be turning the oven on, right? Well, ordinarily, I would not. But sometimes, a girl gets cravings, and I can't fight them. Anyway, these don't bake for very long, so it didn't get TOO warm in here.


I used to live around the corner from this really excellent bakery/cafe that had DELICIOUS scones. Almost all the varieties were great (so buttery!) but my favorites were currant, and scallion-cheddar. I don't want to know how much butter they actually used, but it must have been a very large amount. The scones were more crumbly than flaky and the scallion-cheddar had a very, very mild hint of heat to it. Man, I miss that place (although, ordering anything that needed to be prepared was a test of patience). Anyway, this recipe does not compare, but it's great in a pinch. It's also somewhat healthier; the scones are made with whole wheat flour and what I am SURE is a much smaller amount of butter.


I like to cut these pretty small, my cutter is maybe an inch and a half across. But obviously, you can make them as large or small as you want! And, if you don't want actual spiciness, substitute a bit of paprika for the cayenne. The scallions add a nice, fresh bite.

Oh yeah, and that watermelon juice I keep yammering on about?

watermelon juice

I think it might be the only thing that'll get me through the hot weather.

Cheddar Scallion Scones
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 tablespoons butter, cold, chopped into small chunks
2 large eggs
1/3-1/2 cup cream
1 cup sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
2-3 scallions, finely sliced (white and green parts)
Additional cream and cayenne for the tops of the scones

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk the flour, salt, baking powder, and cayenne together in a medium bowl. Drop the butter bits in and cut in with a pastry blender or rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Whisk the eggs together with 1/3 cup of cream and pour into the flour mixture; stir with a fork until just moistened. If it's still dry and not coming together, add a bit more cream. Add the cheese and scallions and mix briefly until everything is blended. Gather the dough together and pat it out on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of about 1/2 inch. Either cut with biscuit cutters or just slice with a knife into squares. Arrange on the prepared baking sheet. You can brush the tops of the scones with a bit of cream and then sprinkle a bit of cayenne on top, but this is purely optional. It will look nicer though! Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden and risen. Cool slightly before eating. These also freeze beautifully; just make sure they're well wrapped, and reheat them for about 10 minutes in the oven.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Catching Up (Momofuku Ko, Cupcakes, Slump)

pork chop udon soup

Hello, everyone. I know, it's been over a week since I've updated. Even though I have lots of things to talk about (like finally eating at Momofuku Ko), I just haven't felt like writing; uncharacteristically for me, I've been doing a lot of thinking instead. Anyway, no more excuses, I'm just going to get back to it, before I forget how to write entirely. And by write, I mean, ramble and subject you all to it! So, since this is a photo-light entry, here is a random photo of some udon soup I made.

So, last week my brother took me to Momofuku Ko for a belated birthday dinner (also, he gave me a new baking book, woohoo! I have so many recipes bookmarked right now, not to mention the evergrowing collection of links that I want to try out (like these rainbow cookies, they are SO PRETTY). But, alas, we are hitting that point in the year where I am reluctant to turn the oven on, unless there is a really really good reason, and no reason is usually good enough except for birthdays.

Karaoke Cupcakes

I made these for my friend's karaoke birthday celebration--they are the same as the ones I've blogged about before (er same recipe that is, not the same actual cupcakes). It was very dark when we got around to eating them (and we were well and truly into our unlimited drinks) so I don't know what they looked like at that point, but they started out pretty!

Oh wait, I totally got sidetracked, I was talking about Momofuku Ko. Anyway, I had been trying to get reservations for ages, and then I sort of lost steam and then imagine my surprise when my brother emailed and asked if I was interested in going. Heck yes I am! If you don't know, this is one of David Chang's restaurants, and it is a tiny place, seating about a dozen people at a counter. Which is cool, because you get to watch the chefs prepare your food and chat with them (I've read reviews that some of the chefs are surly, but ours were pretty friendly and answered my questions). So it's a set 11 course menu (they have a 17 course one at lunch which I am 100% sure I would not be able to finish), and you don't have any say in what you get--vegetarians, they will not accommodate you, so skip this place. Oh, there is also a no photo policy, which I find mildly irritating, but I must admire this blogger who drew pictures instead. Me, I was not so ambitious and merely wrote up notes when I got home. Just as well, this way I could focus on the food. So, without further ado (because this has gotten too wordy already, did I say I was having writer's block???) here are my (ahem, unedited) notes on what we ate:

Amuse bouche: mirin glazed black pepper biscuits with chicharrons, pita with roasted eggplant, sausage ball with pickled beet. Biscuits are amaaaaazing

1st course: fluke sashimi (from long island apparently) with...I dunno, I can't remember. Yuzu something or other? Oh and some tiny Japanese rice crackers

2nd course: beef carpaccio with fresh horseradish crème fraiche, pea shoots

3rd course: roasted bone marrow toast in gruyere broth. This was one of my favorites

4th course: Soft boiled egg with caviar, onion soubise, and fingerling potato chips. Everything was great except for the onions, which I thought were too sweet for the rest of it

5th course: Handmade orechiette and crayfish with ricotta salata (delicious, slightly too salty)

6th course: Shaved foie gras over lychee, Riesling jelly, and pine nut brittle. I've never had foie gras before, and this was....amazing. But it was only amazing if you ate everything together in one bite, because then the sweet and alcohol and salt and fat all balanced each other out.

7th course: grilled brook trout with bean salad

8th course: slow roasted lamb ribs, ramps and cheese stuffed in leek skin (I ate the least from this course, I think because I was really, really full by now)

First dessert (9th courses): apricot sorbet with pie crust crumbles

Second dessert (10th course): pretzel pannacotta with root beer ice cream and brown mustard gummies (everything was awesome except for the brown mustard gummies, ARGH)

Regular blogging will resume shortly, I hope. Have a great weekend--I'll be watching lots and lots of soccer!

Momofuku Ko
163 First Ave (between 10th and 11th)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Strawberry Quick Bread


Well, the thunderstorms that were forecast never materialized (of course, because I carried an umbrella around all day--if I hadn't, it would definitely have poured) but somehow it's cooled off anyway! Hooray! Good thing since I just happened to pick up some mini loaf pans today (I also bought new cookie sheets, but, grr, I didn't account for the handles, and they are too wide! Sigh. Stupid tiny oven.) I used to have this great recipe for strawberry quick bread, but I don't know what I did with it--it was more of a cake and involved creaming butter and sugar etc. but I wanted something I could just stir together. Hey, it's Sunday! I'm allowed to be lazy! So, basic buttermilk quick bread to the rescue. I used the basic recipe from the Joy of Cooking, and just stirred in a cup of chopped strawberries.


Aren't they cute? A standard quick bread recipe will make four mini loaves (I'm planning on freezing two of them.)


They are moist and lightly sweet, good with a cup of tea or coffee (preferably iced in this weather!). Not quite as good as my old recipe, but definitely much less work. Next time, I'm thinking I'll have to make some mini ginger loaves, and use up some of this giant stash of candied ginger I have (where did it all come from?). Have a good week everyone!

Strawberry Quick Bread, adapted from the Joy of Cooking
2 cups all purpose flour, divided
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 tablespoons butter, melted (or vegetable oil)
1 cup small-diced strawberries

Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease and flour 4 mini loaf pans or a 9x5 loaf pan.

Toss the diced strawberries together with 1/4 cup of flour. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together remaining flour and other dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk, sugar, vanilla, and butter until well combined. Add all at once to the dry ingredients, and stir until just combined; lumps are perfectly fine. Fold the strawberries in with a large rubber spatula. Divide between the mini loaf pans (or pour it all into the large loaf pan). If you want, you can slice up a few strawberries and line them up on top; they'll get jammy and sticky and look nice, so I recommend it! Set the loaf pans on a baking sheet and bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck into the bread comes out clean. The large loaf pan will take longer, I would start testing at 45 minutes. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then turn out and serve warm.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Playing with Food


As I mentioned in my last post, I had my bday dinner Wednesday night--as usual, we came out of there completely and utterly stuffed with Peking duck (and ribs, salt and pepper pork chops, fried rice, kailan, seafood baskets, chicken, ice cream....yes, we may have ordered a tad to much food). I brought brownies, and my friend brought TWO giant boxes of macarons from her cafe (Artichoke Cafe). I know I may be a bit biased, but I really think these are the best macarons I've had in NYC so far (Silver Moon coming a close second). We finished most of one box at dinner and I brought the rest home--and in the face of such riches, what's the natural course of action? Well, take pictures, of course! (I didn't take a single photo at dinner because it was too dark. No, it had nothing to do with the fact that I was stuffing my face.) So enjoy my newfound and COMPLETELY DORKY love of putting speech bubbles into my photos:

Mukmuk's definition of happiness


Happy Place

Ah, everything tastes better when it's shared. Or so I'm told. :)

red velvet cheesecake

Another friend showed up with this cute little red velvet cheesecake from Magnolia Bakery. I am not a fan of their cupcakes, so I haven't been to one of their bakeries in ages, and had no idea they made cheesecake! This is yummy, especially the crust, but so rich I can only eat a bite at a time. Good, it'll last longer. The same friend also made me adobo! How sweet is that? It's so delicious and I'll be bringing some for lunch next week.


And here's a gratuitous shot of the chocolate brioche I got at Silver Moon Bakery this morning (along with a loaf of gruyere bread, yum). The weekend's here, HOORAY!! It's supposed to thunderstorm, which hopefully means it'll cool off, which means I can squeeze in some baking! Fingers crossed! In the meantime, I am attempting to teach myself to crochet--not very successfully, I might add.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Bits and Bobs: Ichigo-shu, Earl Grey cookies


*Yawn*, happy Wednesday! I love short work weeks--the week is already half over, hurray! And I'm hving my official bday dinner tonight (yes I know, it's not even my birth MONTH anymore), yay! Anyway, let's rewind a bit--I mentioned a couple of posts back that the farmer's markets here are overflowing with strawberries, and I have been powerless to resist. Aren't they beautiful? I bought a whole bunch of them, some to eat out of hand, but some for my new project--ichigo-shu! I've actually been dying to make this since I read about it over on Blue Lotus (um, well, I read that entry sometime in the last year, I haven't been yearning to make strawberry liqueur since 2005. I'm not THAT much of a procrastinator!). Of course, this is also a test of my patience because I'm not going to be able to taste this for a couple of months.


I was on a shopping trip to Mitsuwa a couple of weeks ago and when we walked in, there was a display right by the door of shochu, glass jars for making liqueur, and bags of ume and rock sugar. The ume was shockingly priced, I have to say, and didn't look that fresh either, so I just picked up some of the shochu and some rock sugar. I'm sure I could have just used vodka instead, but, well, when in Rome! Anyway, so I spent a couple of hours washing, drying, and hulling (oh, okay, and eating) my strawberries on Sunday. They were then layered into a jar with the rock sugar, some quartered, peeled lemons, and covered with shochu. (I gather the recipe for this is not super precise, so I didn't worry too much about quantities.)


Doesn't that one strawberry look like it's going "Heeeelp, let me out!!! I'm getting drunk and sugary!!" (Am I anthropomorphizing my food too much? Okay, maybe I have a problem.) I can't wait to see what it looks like in a couple of months! For now, the jar is reposing in a dark corner of my kitchen (which is, like, every corner of my kitchen).

Earl Grey Tea Cookies

Ahem...for someone whose blog title is about eating cookies, I realize I don't actually post about cookies very often. So, lest I be forced to change my blog name, here are some Earl Grey tea cookies! I was a bit alarmed by the color of the dough when I was putting these together; it was very, very grey. But after baking, they look fine, and I love having the little flecks of tea. They aroma of the tea is pretty strong, but the taste of it is very light. I wonder if steeping the tea in butter would help, but then the cookies might be greasy....well, that'll be an experiment for another day!

Have a good Wednesday everyone!