Sunday, August 21, 2011

Roasted Pork Jowl and Feet Porridge

You're probably tired of hearing me complain about the weather, hell, I'm tired of complaining about it...So instead of continuing to voice my frustration for the lack of a summer, I've decided to make the best of it.  

I introduce to you Chinese roasted pork jowl and feet porridge with dried bok choy and dried oysters.  

I'm completely aware that not everyone readily has access to these ingredients and to many this may not seem like a combination sent from the porridge gods, but the wonderful thing about porridge is that you can put practically anything in it.  For example, David Lebovitz offers a recipe that has Chinese sausage in it, but if you can't find it or don't have a taste for it, then he suggests slab bacon as a suitable substitute.  Which I too will offer here as a substitute for the pork jowl and feet.  Although, it is much better with the roast pork parts.  

I'm a firm believer that the head of a roast pig has some of the best tasting morsels of meat on the entire animal.  Rich, tender, succulent meat that just falls off the bone.  Perfect for eating as is, or in this case, as the star of a porridge.  And as for the feet, the caramelized, crispy skin and roasted bones add so much depth of flavor to the porridge that it's difficult to duplicate. 

So, if you know of a Chinese BBQ joint near you hurry on over and pick up some feet and jowl.  

Did I mention that it's dirt cheap and really good?  Take that you peacoat and boots non-summer! 

Serves 4-6 

1 1/2 cups long grain rice
28 cups water
Half a suckling pig's head
2 pigs feet
1 cup dried bok choy, reconstituted (fresh bok choy is fine)
10 dried oysters (you can leave this out if you choose)
vegetable oil

Sesame oil
Shredded lettuce
White pepper
Chopped cilantro
Chopped scallions
Shredded ginger
Diced thousand year old egg

Soak the dried bok choy in water and set aside
Bring the 28 cups water to a boil
In the mean time, rinse the rice and toss with about a teaspoon of oil and a pinch of salt
When the water comes to a boil add the rice

In another pot, bring water to a boil
Add the jowl and feet to the second pot and when it comes up to a boil drain the feet and jowl.  This process helps to get rid of the extra fat

Stir the rice occasionally making sure that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot
When the rice begins to bloom and it starts to become the consistency of porridge, add the blanched jowl, feet, and dried oysters and let simmer for 30 minutes to an hour, again, stirring occasionally.
Add the reconstituted bok choy and let simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes.

And it's ready to eat!

I like to pour the porridge over a bed of shredded lettuce then garnish with cilantro, scallions, ginger, a drizzle of sesame oil, a pinch of ground white pepper, and some diced thousand year old egg.


Thursday, August 18, 2011


With all this fog sometimes it's hard to remember why I love San Francisco so much.  But yesterday's little escape to Washington Square Park, where a little break in the clouds invited the sun in, with two of my girlfriends reminded me of that.

I'm not a huge fan of sandwiches.  I never quite know how to attack them and I'm a bit of a prick--I have to wipe my hands between bites.  I must admit though, this sammie from La Boulange was spectacular.  The bread was buttery and light, the flank was medium rare and tender, tomatoes were sweet, and of course I was sold by the peppery arugula.

It was a great day of catching up, a sandwich that changed my mind about sandwiches, and a reminder of why I love this city so much.

I foresee many more days like this in the near future.  And by that, I mean next week!

PS: I've really taken a liking to Adele's songs recently, so I wanted to leave you with one that I've found very touching "Someone Like You".

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Blueberry & Lemon Zest Scones

As we speak, I'm breaking into a warm scone fresh out of the oven accompanied by a tall glass of whole milk.  If you haven't noticed, I've gradually become very fond of baking.  It can be a little stressful (like today's wet soppy scone dough. More on that later)  but overall it's really relaxing.  I think I've grown to love baking because despite all the uncertainties (and all the dirty dishes) when you mix bland flour, sugar, eggs, and some other fanciful ingredients together, put it in a hot box for ten minutes, out come delectable confections--nothing as they had looked before.

I had my reservations about these scones; having made scones before that came out hard as rocks.  Molly from Orangette  reassured me that these would be good and I trust Molly.  I used her Scottish scone recipe and although she warned of the murky territory I would enter if I used berries (especially ones that weren't frozen and even more murky if they weren't dried) I did it anyways.  Fresh blueberries--not frozen, not dried.  Straight out of the ugly plastic container, right out of the fridge.  

"I should have listened to Molly", was the thought  that ran through my mind as I kneaded my soppy scone dough which now had half of the blueberries turning into a smushed mess.  "This is NOT going to work."

But as you can see from the picture above, it did work!  Despite my disobeying the recipe and despite the sad, sticky dough that it once was, it rose to become a fluffy, blueberry filled scone.  And this is exactly why I am now a huge fan of baking.

Blueberry and Lemon Zest Scottish Scones
Adapted from Orangette

1/2 cup whole milk
1 large egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking power
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp sugar
1/2 stick (2 ounces) butter (cold, and cut into cubes)
3/4 cups blueberries (preferably frozen, I would buy a packet of blueberries and freeze them myself rather than buying pre-frozen ones)
the zest of 1 lemon
(optional: turbinado sugar or sugar crystals)

Preheat oven to 425F degrees

In a bowl, beat together the egg and milk and then set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt
Add the butter and rub into the flour mixture with a fork until you have pea sized lumps.
Add the sugar, the lemon zest, and the frozen blueberries and toss to mix.
Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and reserve just a little bit of the egg and milk mixture to brush on top.
Bring the dough together together gently with wooden spoon or spatula.

Turn the dough out onto your lightly floured counter (add more if your dough is too sticky to work with).  Knead it no more than 12 times (according to Molly, 12 is the magic number).  lightly pat the dough into a round approximately 1/2 inch thick, and cut into 8 or 12 wedges.

Place on an ungreased baking sheet.
Take the reserved egg and milk mixture and brush on the top of the scones.
Optional: Sprinkle the tops with sugar crystals.

Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
Place on a cooling rack.

Out come fluffy warm scones just in time for tea. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Chocolate Puddle Cookies

These are hard to mess up. Don't you wish every recipe began with those words and meant them?  I found this cookie recipe on, where else, 101 Cookbooks.  I stumbled upon it by accident when I was looking for a cobbler recipe a few weeks ago.  At the time, I was really only looking for baking recipes that included fruit so I just made a mental note, stashed the recipe aside, and moved on.  

Usually my mental notes get lost among the thousands of other post-its in my mind, but for some reason this one stuck.  It may be the crackly, shiny top of these ooey, gooey, chocolate cookies from the picture that Heidi posted or maybe it was that o-so simple recipe that I remember glancing over that made me want to go back.  Whatever it was, I'm glad I remembered seeing this recipe because after making chocolate puddle cookies yesterday, these are officially going to be the base of every single kind of chocolate cookie I make.  

I love these cookies not only because it reminds me of a cross between a meringue and a fudgy brownie, but because there is no flour or butter making the clean-up easy. 

Here we go.

So when I say that these are hard to mess up, I mean it.  Unless you count making the cookies too large a mess-up.  The recipe says it make 18 cookies but I made 12 extra large ones.  This was mostly because I was eyeballing two tablespoons of batter per cookie (guess my eyeballing is a little off).  But now I can feel less guilty about eating them since I'll just be having one cookie per serving instead of two or three.

Here's my take on Heidi's recipe:


3 cups mix of pistachios and walnut halves, toasted & cooled and coarsely chopped
4 cups confectioner's (powdered) sugar
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
scant 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1 tablespoon real, good-quality vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 320F degrees and position the racks in the top and the bottom third of the oven.  Line two (preferably rimmed) baking pans with parchment paper. 

Toast your walnuts and pistachios in a pan until they are golden brown and fragrant.  

In the mean time, in a large bowl sift together salt, confectioner's sugar, and cocoa powder. 

Once the nuts have toasted and cooled, chop coarsely and stir into your sifted dry ingredients.

Add egg whites and vanilla.  Stir well to combine. The mixture should feel and look like melted chocolate marshmallows.

Spoon the batter onto your prepared baking sheets in mounds of about two tablespoons each.  Make sure that you leave plenty of room between cookies and between the edges of the pan as they will expand outwards like puddles.  Usually no more than six cookies per pan.  

Bake for about 12-15 minutes.  The cookies should puff up and the tops should become glossy and crack a bit.

Slide the warm cookies on to a cooling rack and then them cool completely.

And voila.  The easiest, most delicious, flour-less cookies. 
I think I'm starting to get the hang of this baking thing that people love so much. 
Happy Wednesday!

Monday, August 8, 2011


I love discovering new restaurants.  Granted, I'm usually also nervous about venturing out because sometimes adventures can be fruitful while other times they can be rather disappointing.  

Zut on Fourth was anything but disappointing, though.  

I have a confession to make,  I have developed a fondness towards specialty pizzas more because I love cracker thin crusts and unique cheeses and toppings though, rather than for the price.  I'm well aware that you can get a more than perfectly delicious pizza at Bobby G's in Berkeley, but sometimes I just can't help myself. 

I didn't used to like brussel sprouts.  But then again, I didn't always eat them cooked in bacon and topped with cheese.  Well, regardless, I'm a huge fan of them now, even when they're not coated in rendered pork fat. 

These fried brussel sprouts were spectacular. Mind blowing.  Phenominal.  Need I say more? The outter leaves were light and crispy while the center of the brussel halves were still very green and tender.  The thing that I love most about brussel sprouts are not only their intense cabbage flavor, but they're like these little bombs of goodness.  When cut on a bias and cooked in whatever oils and seasonings you please, the flavors get trapped between the little layers and a burst of flavors and aromas come out with every bite.  How can you not be a fan? 

I know that vegetables cooked in bacon and topped with cheese sounds really rich and seems to defeat the purpose of eating greens, but a little fresh squeezed lemon juice spritzed over the top easily makes you forget that these are vegetables in disguise.  A really good disguise at that!

Here's the pizza I was talking about, cracker thin crust with Pt. Reyes blue cheese, fig jam, carmelized onions, balsamic, and fresh arugula.  I didn't really taste or see any fig jam on the pizza which was a little bit of a disappointment at first, but by the time I was halfway into my first slice I had completely forgotten about it.  The combination of the cracker crust, the sweetness from the carmelized onions and balsamic vinegar, and the zip from the blue cheese complemented each other so well, and I completely devoured my first slice in 10 seconds flat.  Maybe I'm exaggerating. 
I'm usually turned off by blue cheese, after a horrible experience when I was younger eating a poached pair and blue cheese salad.  But, I don't know, I think it's growing on me (at a very, very slow pace though). 

I couldn't help myself but to order fries as well. You know me, I'm a French fry (for lack of a better term)whore.  Yes, I'll take 'em in almost any form--garlic, curly, seasoned, McDonalds...Just as long as they're not soggy or waffle cut.  Still not really sure what I have against waffle fries, they're just not...fries.

Wheat pot de creme.  Pot de creme always sounds good after a meal, doesn't it? 

Moscato d'Asti.  One of my favorite summer sipping wines.  I've obviously been very heavily influenced by A.G. Ferrari Foods. And I don't know that that's a bad thing...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Peach and Blackberry Crisp

It feels less and less like summer everyday here in San Francisco.  In fact, I think summer came and left within a week.  My girlfriends and I always make sunbathing dates but they constantly get cancelled, due to the weather, of course.  So my way of coping with the lack of summer in the foggy city is to make summer inspired foods like this peach and blackberry crisp.

I've been seeing peaches and nectarines everywhere--at the farmers market, at the grocery store, and even at work!  It wasn't until recently when one of my coworkers came in with a huge box of peaches and french plums from the central coast and someone said they were going to make jam that it dawned on me--I should make peach (something).

In all honesty, I haven't been trying as hard as I said I would to cook and explore recipes.  And coincidentally, I have been looking at a lot of cobbler, crisp and crumble recipes (someone please explain to me the differences) involving peaches, plums, and a variety of berries.  So it is with these coinciding events that I decided, "Well, I'll just go ahead and get to baking."

Before I settled on a recipe I did some research.  Some of the delicious recipes that I found included some really unique ingredients like lavender blossoms and orange blossom water (like in the recipe that inspired my version of the crisp).  Being a rookie, I thought it might be a good idea to go for something a little simpler, something that didn't intimidate me--a recipe that in my hands, wouldn't be bound for doom.

101 Cookbooks is probably my recipes blog bible.  For someone like me, who is not an avid baker nor a fan of messy cooking aftermaths, Heidi has several recipes that have yet to fail me in either department.  If you remember a few years back, I made some holiday cookies from recipes that I found on 101 Cookbooks which turned out, in my opinion, spectacular!

In any case, when I cook, and especially when I bake, I try to modify the recipe so that I buy as few ingredients as possible.  There's nothing wrong with Heidi's recipe or any recipe that I follow, it's just more convenient to work with what I have.  It's also great when whatever I'm making turns out delicious because then it becomes my own recipe.

Inspired by 101 Cookbooks:
You will need an 8x8 baking dish or something of an equivalent size
Generously serves 6

1 pound ripe yellow peaches
2  6 oz containers of blackberries 
1/4 cup of wildflower honey (or your favorite kind)
1Tbs + 1 tsp cornstarch (or arrowroot if you prefer)
1 Tbs lemon juice
the zest of one lemon

3/4 cups rolled oats
3/4 cups rye flour (or all-purpose/ whole wheat flour if that's what you have on hand)
1/4 cup of wildflower honey (or your favorite kind)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
generous pinch of salt
1/3 cup sweet cream butter (or unsalted), melted
1/3 cup fage (or any plain yogurt) 

Optional: top with homemade vanilla bean ice cream

Preheat the oven to 400F degrees

Cut the peaches into 1 inch bite size pieces (Heidi says she cuts them into relatively chubby slices and then cut them again into quarters or thirds, that sounded good to me so I did the same) Place the chopped fruit in a medium-sized bowl.

Pour the cornstarch,honey, lemon juice, and lemon zest over the fruit and toss gently until all the fruit is coated.

Transfer the fruit to an 8 inch square baking dish (or a dish of an equivalent size--preferably something deep sided or a solid bottomed tart pan)

Now for the topping.  Combine the oats, flour, and cinnamon.  Add the honey, the yogurt, and the warm melted butter and mix well until it becomes a dough-like texture (It's going to be soft and sticky, it might look a little strange, but it's very tasty)

Sprinkle the crumble evenly over the fruit mixture.

Place the baking dish on the middle rack of  your oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until the topping is golden brown.

Enjoy warm or at room temperature. 

Is it bad that I can't have pie, cobbler, crisp, or crumble without ice cream?  Whenever I do, I'm reminded of the scene from When Harry Met Sally, when Meg Ryan goes to the diner to ask for warm apple pie with ice cream on the side, not on top.  I'm similar, but I don't care if the ice cream is on the top or on the side just as long as it's there.

Sally Albright: But I'd like the pie heated and I don't want the ice cream on top, I want it on the side, and I'd like strawberry instead of vanilla if you have it, if not then no ice cream just whipped cream but only if it's real; if it's out of the can then nothing. 
Waitress: Not even the pie? 
Sally Albright: No, I want the pie, but then not heated. 

Warm peach and blackberry crisp (straight out of the oven) with vanilla bean ice cream.  I think this is going in my slim collection of recipes.  It has definitely restored my faith in cooking after the whole honey panna cotta mess.  

Chew Chow Ho Fun

I was going through my old photos and came across a few of these.  Bowls of savory, hot noodle soups from Vien Huong in Oakland's Chinatown.  I can't tell you how many times I've eaten here and taken a picture.  Every time we go and  I either pull out my phone or camera, Matt always says, "How many pictures of VH do you have?" A lot. The answer is A lot.  But who cares!  I'm not ashamed.  This place is great and it's definitely worth documenting.  

This is definitely the perfect breakfast after a long night out.  

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Fest & The Flea

Feeling a little defeated lately.  Filling this blog with all my musings and sometimes mindless banter helps set my mind straight.  (Thanks for the therapy sessions!) Sometimes it feels like my mind goes at a million miles an hour and my body just can't keep up.  Things have been changing recently and I hate when I feel like I'm not in control...I also probably bit off more than I can chew...It's frustrating, really.  If there is one thing you should know about me it's this: I'm an optimistic neurotic obsessive control freak.   So it's time to take all the bullshit by the reigns and set it all straight.

Thank God for Owl City and Sky Sailing though, it's helped me trudge through this crazy weekend.

Anyways, what I lined up for this past weekend were the Gilroy Garlic Festival and The Treasure Island Flea Market; two events that I've been anxiously waiting for all month long, in fact I've been itching to go to the Gilroy Garlic Festival since I was 11.  We also got to break open the bag of Pasta di Gragnano I got from work which we tossed with one of the sauces that we bought from VJB the weekend Matt and I went to Sonoma. 

I guess you can call this a photo log of my weekend with the Matt. 

Here we go.

I'm a huge fan of garlic.  Huge.  I used to watch Emeril Lagasse religiously all throughout high school because "bam"-ing the gahhh-lic just never got old.  I remember when I managed to convince my entire family to eat at Tchoup Chop one year when we went to Orlando.  That was probably one of the best memories in my entire life.

I digress.

Yes, I love garlic.

Matt mentioned to me this morning that I should have taken a picture of the traffic getting to Gilroy.  It seemed like everyone was headed for the garlic festival.  A normally one hour drive took us about two and a half hours.  When we finally reached the parking lot, a long hike down a steep rocky hill awaited us in the scorching heat.  They really should have warned us there was a mile walk, some people were wearing flip flops and there were lots of families with grandmas and grandpas.  Before we even reached the event we were exhausted by both the walk and the drive.

To make matters worse, there were massive lines at every booth and barely any shade or seating anywhere.  Everyone huddled under one tent like sweaty pigs scavanging for shade and seats.  It was insane.

Beer battered fries with crab and garlic aioli and calamari

The polish dog that we were too full to finish.

Roast corn with garlic butter
It was the best part of the festival.

I was so sad that we didn't get the one thing that I came here for, Garlic ice cream.  We stood here, a whole crowd away, at the end of the line for about a minute in the sweltering sun and thought to ourselves..."nevermind". 

We probably won't be going  back to the Gilroy Garlic Festival.  It was a good experience, but as Matt put it "It's like the OC Fair but without the rides."  Nothing was as garlicy as I had expected it to be and it was just way too hot to really enjoy ourselves. 

We went home that night and pulled out the bag of Pasta di Gragnano and the VJB sugo of olives, capers, and anchovies and got to cooking instead.

On Sunday, we went to the Treasure Island Flea Market.  I've heard mixed reviews about this, but I found some really nice pieces here.  Some people have called it more of a crafts fair instead of a flea market, which I do agree with, but regardless, some of the things the vendors were selling were great finds. 

This was my first time on Treasure Island.  How amazing is the view? 

I came away from the flea market empty handed, the only thing I was really looking for were some nice bowls and plates but I didn't find any that I liked (and cowboy boots but I couldn't find any in my size).  On the other hand, grumpus Matt, who hates all things vintage, found himself a really nice cast iron pan! On the way out of the fair, a guy (I'm guessing who was also dragged to the flea market by his girlfriend) said, "Hey! That guy got a cast iron pan!"  That made Matt pretty proud of his find.   In fact, the guy saw Matt pointing him out to me as he was telling me who envied his pan.  The guy then approached us to ask which vendor we bought it from.  I guess the secret to getting boyfriends to go to flea markets is to tell them, "There will be TONS of cast iron pans!" It's like dogs to bacon.  So I guess it worked out. 

I wonder what the first thing he's going to make with his cast iron pan is.  What ever it is, I'm sure it will be blog worthy!