Sunday, July 3, 2011

CSA Eating

This summer, thanks to the company sponsored CSA (= Community Sustained Agriculture) program, we receive fresh organic produce twice a week. About 15 of us share a couple of bagful of mystery vegetables just dug up in that morning. Displayed in communal table, they look big & wild, somewhat gnarly, still full of dirt & occasional bugs are included. So far we ate radishes, arugula, variety of lettuce, pan di zucchero chicory, green cabbage, savoy cabbage, nappa cabbage, kabu, turnip, eggplant, beets, sugar snaps, English peas, string beans, fennel, tatsoi, bok choi, spinach, kale, Swiss chard, collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, basil & cilantro, and totally unfamiliar leaves that resemble giant dandelion (they look & smell "bitter green" all over) called Chickendive. There was no taker, so I end up taking them home. And yes, the leaves are extremely bitter, I couldn't eat them raw.

So there is a new agenda: "Make meals with whatever already in the kitchen first" because eating up all the vegetables became my mission. I wasn't really a salad person before, but it is a good way to systematically go though the large amount of leafy greens.

I made a salad of chopped lettuce & shredded beets with mustard-ponzu dressing (whole grain mustard, ponzu, mirin, rice vinegar, sesame oil). Sweet & Sour & Hot dressing (hot sauce, garlic sweet chili paste, rice vinegar, fish sauce) is perfect for a slaw of nappa cabbage & shiso leaves. Red skin potato, tomato & parsley salad can be dressed with simple Lemon Oil dressing (lemon infused rice oil, rice vinegar, salt & pepper). If I need the protein, I add hard boiled eggs, bacon, smoked fish, chopped peanuts, sunflower & pumpkin seeds, etc. If I want substantial meal, I mix Korean style vermicelli, ramen noodles (without soup!), small shaped pasta, kasha, or potato. So every morning I consult my mood and decide what to make, that are relatively balanced in nutrients, flavor and volume. I am taking my mantra "East what I make" to the next level.

Ku Cake

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I Came a Long Way

Remember I used to have strange aversion to oatmeal? Well, maybe my taste buds have matured... or my mind became more flexible... In any which way, I am very happy to admit that I now enjoy a sweet version of cooked oatmeal.

Lately, I am incorporating more soy milk into the diet because of some health benefits. OK, I draw a line, though, for adding soy milk into the coffee. (NEVER!) But it's easy to replace, either partially or entirely, the cream or milk with soy milk when you're cooking. I made soy milk white sauce, chicken dish instead of yogurt marinade, and red curry soup with soy milk with satisfying results. Then I decided to give the hot oatmeal a try, hoping I outgrew the fear I had.

I prefer the soy milk unsweetened so I can control the degree of sweetness, which in this case, comes from a ripe banana. Mash the banana, combine with soy milk, and if there's an apple or pear lying around, by all means add to the mix. Add oatmeal and cook it until it's piping hot. Well, the rest is all free style: sprinkle cinnamon, ginger powder, sea salt, drizzle the honey, maple syrup, top with dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, or pepitas... For the extra oomph, I sometimes add peanut butter into the mixture before the cooking process.

Since the weather turned cold, there are much discussions among the food sites on the best take-out oatmeal breakfast around town. Although some looks really tempting, there is really no need. I mix everything, except for the topping, in the morning and carry it to the work uncooked. By the time it reaches the microwave, oatmeal has nicely absorbed the liquid and ready to go.

Ku Cake

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Seriously Chocolate

February seems to be the last chance for baking something so dark and deep. That only means chocolate, folks! I don't think it's a coincidence that someone decides chocolate is the official currency of Valentine's Day. Well even without it, I wanted to try something new, a little more complex, and definitely more decadent, chocolate dessert.

Gâteau au chocolat came to my mind.

Usually I resort to more simple recipe in which one ingredient is added to another until the batter goes into the oven: too lazy to separate the egg yolks and whites, not to mention whipping it! So until now, there was no angel cake or soufflé or anything requires a meringue. Well, it's time to conquer the fear of vigorous whisking.

I was afraid of facing a lengthy recipe, but it turns out rather simple: dark chocolate (using 70% cacao), heavy cream, butter, sugar, eggs, cake flour and cocoa powder. We don't need any exotic ingredient. The resulting cake is surprisingly airy in texture. But that is rather deceiving; the piece I took (and it wasn't that big!) was so rich, it is almost qualifies for a small meal.

Ku Cake

Friday, February 4, 2011

Setsubun - 節分

Well, I still don't know exactly how this prediction business works - it only means that particular morning is either sunny or cloudy, doesn't it? - but I simply take the Groundhog Day as another step toward the spring approaching. The day also reminds me to buy some dried soy beans.

The day of Setsu-bun usually falls around this time. This year it was yesterday, the 3rd day of February. I opened the front door, grabbed some beans and threw them outside: "Oni-wa-soto!" Grabbed more beans and this time, threw them inside over my shoulder: "Fuku-wa-uchi!" There are a few rituals I am meaning to keep doing it, no matter where I am, and this is one of them.

Inside, Jumpy is delighted to dig up and play with the beans all over the floor. Outside, hungry birds flatter to peck on the beans scattered around the icy pathway and snow covered yard. Another sure sign that says: "Just hold on, the spring is coming!" (Apparently, in less than 6 weeks!)

Ku Cake

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's Resolution

A Happy New Year!

We have a new baking wish for 2011: to become a friend with Yeast. We would love to bake our own bread! Or make pizza from scratch! And there is a cinnamon buns recipe we'd like to try!

As for the rest, the last year's resolution still stands...

Ku Cake

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Snowed In: 2010 Christmas Edition

Doesn't this picture look familiar? ....Oh wait...yeah, here it is...

Some of us wanted to have the White Christmas, and think we had our wishes, well almost, come true. The snow storm came roaring in NYC on Sunday, the 2nd Day of Christmas, and it did not stop until the next morning. As always, all the drifts from adjacent school parking lot ended up in our yard. It measured 80cm pileup.

We did not step outside since Christmas Eve - busy cooking and baking and playing with the new cat - but finally emerged to get to the grocery store and saw the street is snow-blocked. This photo is just taken this afternoon, around 2:30pm on 12/29. And when did it snow? 3 days ago? We kept hearing some parts of the City was neglected in terms of snow removal, but didn't think our street was one of them... The blockage spans almost 2 blocks. Sure we had some heavy snow storms in the past, but can't really remember the street was left untouched for 3 full days after it stopped!

Glad we didn't have to go anywhere. But for those who had to travel, please be careful!

Ku Cake

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

He Came in Peace...

The backyard kitten of the summer is now officially welcomed into our household.

For weeks we contemplated the manner of taking him in. The process of indoctrination started as we put the food dish inside and leaving the window open. The kitten comes inside but he jumps back outside as soon as finished we weren't sure if it would stay indoors. Then one weekend, we were hearing a whiny meow all night without seeing the kitten. Turned out he was trapped by the neighbor (he keeps a sizable flock of pigeons in adjacent backyard) and was about to be sent far away, who knows where! Sensing the urgency, we went to retrieve the kitten, even though it was not technically ours, yet. The kitten escapes the cage and hides in the backyard for another day.

Next day he came inside the house to eat the food. That moment the window was closed shut.

To make the long story short, he has not stepped outside since. Well, except for the trip to ASPCA... Maybe when the weather gets warmer we'll let you run around the front yard.

Ku Cake

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pumpkin Goodness

I love butter. And eggs. And sugar. And cream. In other words, I love any dessert comprised of these sweet ingredients. But lately I am slowly branching out, exploring alternative recipes because some of my colleagues are vegan, lactose intolerant, allergic to nuts, etc, etc... I want to bake something they can have a taste, too. Although I will not convert all my recipes, I am finding some good ones that are not compromising my taste buds.

This pumpkin bread is one of those happy recipes. It is dairy-free, so light, moist and delicious as is. But with cream cheese-y frosting (made with Tofutti, vegan friendly!) it really sings! I'm so glad to add it to my roster.

Ku Cake

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Autumn Baking

I think I mentioned this before, but this apple coffee cake is the hands-down my favorite. I must have found this one while looking for a basic pound cake batter recipe, and somewhere along the line stumbled onto it. It well could be a newspaper clipping. Or maybe from Penzy's catalogue? (This catalogue is a treasure trove of quintessential 'home made' recipes....) Original recipe calls for a cinnamon streausel topping. I omitted that, and with a whim, mixed in a bunch of chopped apples. And the result was... oh it was so good, I instantly fell in love. Since then I am using this batter recipe for various flavors and mix-ins. Really, it's that versatile. So far I've made: blueberry, strawberry, apricot, pear, Earl Grey, Green Tea, rum & raisin... the possibilities are endless!

This time I baked it in a sheet for the masses. Apples and cranberries are baked in the batter, and thinly sliced apples and pears adorn the top, adding the caramelized crunch. I had to secure my own piece before the whole thing is devoured.

Ku Cake

Sunday, August 29, 2010


This year, all the stone fruits taste particularly wonderful, surely due to a hot & relatively dry weather during August. Apricots, plums, nectarines and yes, peaches... every one of them are plump, juicy and fill the mouth with deep sweet-tangy flavor.

My favorite sweets to bake in the summer is this Peach Crostata. Its crust can be prepared in 5 minutes. The best part is you can just press it against the baking dish and pop right into the oven. No need for resting and kneading and more resting like a regular pie dough. I clipped the recipe from the Daily News may many years ago (by Arthur Schwartz) and ever since it became almost a ritual to bake this dish, at least once, in summer.

So I grabbed the window of opportunity last week when the heat cooled a bit. It's fantastic as is, but adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream is the height of decadence. (And I should stop doing that... soon!)

Ku Cake