Monday, August 30, 2010


Japchae's a side dish you'll probably find in a Korean house on a birthday or a holiday alongside a variety of others, but can be made into a simple meal of its own when served over a bed of rice. I've had this noodle dish a countless number of times since I was little but didn't know to make it until just recently when my mom gave me a mini cooking lesson at home. I stood there beside my mom in her tiny kitchen listening, and mindfully taking mental notes of her tips and tricks on how to make these noodles her way. Together we chopped, sliced, sautéed, stirred, and mixed until the noodles were made to perfection.

When the work was all done and the japchae was ready to eat, I strangely felt a little more Korean at heart knowing that now I can make it like my mom can. I have much more to learn if I want to be able to replicate the flavors of foods I grew up on and hopefully this mini cooking lesson with my mom is just one of many to come.

½ pound chuck steak, sliced into 1 inch strips
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups rehydrated dried shitake mushrooms, sliced
½ bunch fresh spinach
12 ounces Korean vermicelli (Korean sweet potato starch noodles)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 medium sized carrots, cut into 3 inch julienne
about ½ cup soy sauce
2 to 3 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons sugar
salt and pepper
toasted sesame seeds (optional)
  1. In a medium bowl combine steak, garlic, and 2 tablespoons soy sauce. Let it sit.
  2. In a boiling pot of salted water, cook spinach for 2 minutes. Remove and put in a bowl of cold water. Squeeze excess water and let it drain.
  3. Cook noodles in boiling water for about 6 to 7 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.

  4. Using kitchen scissors cut cooked noodles into 6 inch pieces (they don't have to be perfect). Then in a pan over medium heat sauté the noodles with a little oil. Transfer to a large bowl.
  5. Add a little of the reserved soy sauce, sesame oil, and sugar to the noodles. Mix. The noodles should have a golden hue to them. Taste to make sure there's enough soy sauce and add more if necessary (Remember that you can always add more but can't take away so pour little by little).
  6. In a pan over medium heat sauté onions. Season with a little salt and pepper. Transfer to the same bowl.
  7. Repeat with carrots. Transfer to the bowl.
  8. Cook the steak in the pan. When halfway done, add the shitake.

  9. Transfer the steak, mushrooms to the bowl, along with the spinach (Cut the spinach into smaller pieces if necessary). Make sure everything is combined well.
  10. If the noodles are a bit dry, drizzle more sesame oil and mix.
  11. Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on top before serving.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Fusilli with Avocado Pesto and Roasted Chickpeas

I made this pasta dish on a whim because of a sudden urge to cook one afternoon (it happens) after coming home from the Little Italy Farmers Market with fresh Hass and Reed Avocados, a beautiful eggplant, and a small block of Firehouse Smoked Cheddar.  I started looking through my kitchen for ingredients that might go well with what I bought from the farmers market and found some pasta and canned chickpeas in my pantry.  So then with these ingredients I created this creamy, wholesome pasta dish with avocado pesto and roasted chickpeas. 

I took the chickpeas and roasted them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and dried oregano until they turned a little crusty and golden all over (These are good enough to just snack on!).  Then I took a nice round Reed Avocado and made a bright green pesto, not really knowing what it would exactly taste like.  I ended up with a super creamy sauce that tastes like a cross between pesto and guacamole (yum!).  I gave the cooked pasta an even coating of the pesto and added chopped red onion for a little texture, then topped it off with the roasted chickpeas and finely grated Firehouse Smoked Cheddar.  The sharpness and spicy flavor from the cheddar definitely adds an extra something so don’t skimp out on the cheese!   

Roasted Chickpeas
1 can chickpeas, drained
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Dried oregano

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F.  Spread the chickpeas on a baking sheet.
2. Drizzle olive oil, then sprinkle oregano, salt, and pepper over chickpeas.
3. Make sure each chickpea is evenly coated and place baking sheet in oven.
4. When chickpeas turn a golden color, use a spatula to turn them. 
5. Remove when chickpeas are golden all over.

Avocado Pesto
1 large avocado, chopped
A handful of spinach, chopped
½ cup parsley, chopped
A handful of walnuts, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lemon, juiced
¼ cup shredded parmesan
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

1. Add avocado, spinach, parsley, walnuts, garlic, lemon juice, and parm into a blender.
2. Pour in some olive oil (about ½ cup) and blend.
3.  Add more olive oil if necessary and blend.  Season with salt and pepper.

Fusilli with Avocado Pesto and Roasted Chickpeas
1 lb. fusilli (substitute with any short pasta), cooked
Roasted chickpeas (see above)
Avocado pesto (see above)
¼ red onion, chopped
Firehouse smoked cheddar (or any spicy cheese), grated

1. In a large bowl mix cooked pasta with desired amount of pesto.
2. Mix in chopped red onion.
3. Top each bowl with chickpeas and cheese before serving.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


My perfect guacamole has a creamy consistency and is slightly chunky so that you get little pieces of avocado in each bite.  There should also be hints of red onion and garlic, as well as a citrus element from lime or lemon juice.  The lime/lemon juice not only adds a nice little sour note to the guac but also keeps the avocado from oxidizing and turning brown.  For some variation, add in a spoonful of mayo into the mix for extra creaminess or even finely chopped jalapeño for an extra kick.  Get some tortilla chips to eat with this guac and I promise you’ll have trouble stopping yourself from eating the entire bowl.     

3 large ripe avocados
¼ red onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
The juice of 1 lime or small lemon
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

1. Cut avocados in half and remove pits.  Use a small knife and cut to make a cross hatch pattern for easier removal.  Scoop out the flesh using a spoon.
2. In a medium bowl add avocado pieces and lime or lemon juice.  Use a fork to mash the avocado pieces until you achieve desired consistency.
3.  Mix in onion and garlic.  Drizzle in about a tablespoon of olive oil.
4. Season with salt and pepper.  

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Kalbi Jjim Tacos (Korean Braised Short Rib Tacos)

Taco trucks selling Korean-Mexican fusion tacos seem to be one of the latest food trends in the country.  They were made popular in Southern California by trucks like Kogi and now are widely available for Korean BBQ and taco lovers to feast on.  Hearing about this craze, I was curious to try them since Korean and Mexican foods are right up my alley.  So just a few weeks ago my boyfriend and I went down the street from my apartment to where the Kalbiq truck was posted for the afternoon.  I ordered a few of their short rib and bulgogi tacos and the boyfriend got a bulgogi burrito.  The tacos were pretty tasty but wished I had gotten the burrito instead (it was like a California burrito with a Korean twist, yum!). 

I wanted to try making my own version of Korean tacos thereafter and knew that falling-off-the-bone-as-tender-as-can-be braised short ribs (kalbi jjim) would be the meat of choice for my tacos.  I’ve always loved kalbi jjim as a kid, and is definitely a comfort food of mine.  Seriously, all you need to go with the ribs is a bowl of perfectly cooked sticky white rice and you’re set.  Getting a little side tracked now but my point is, that these braised short ribs are absolutely heavenly and why shouldn’t they be just as good in tacos?

Making these tacos is a bit time consuming but honestly, completely worth putting in the effort.  The short ribs are simmered for half an hour in water, then an hour in a sweet and savory sauce until the meat soaks in the flavors and starts falling off the bones.  When they’re done the bones are removed and the meat cut into small pieces.  The meat is then wrapped up in a warm corn tortilla with fresh guac, my pico de gallo with a Korean twist (includes diced radish kimchi), cilantro-lime seasoned rice, and crunchy shredded cabbage.  The flavor and texture combinations are perfectly balanced, and you will not regret making these tacos!

Serves 2-3
Kalbi Jjim
2 ½ lbs Korean style short ribs, cut ½ inch thick across bones
1 cup soy sauce
½ cup sake
1 cup sugar
½ cup sesame oil
1 ½ cups water
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 Asian pear, sliced
1 teaspoon ground black pepper       

1. Cover the ribs in a pot of cold water for about 30 minutes to remove blood. 
2. Drain and add clean water to pot.  Simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes to 45 minutes.  This will help remove excess fat from the ribs.
3. Drain and wash ribs with clean water.
4.  In a clean pot over medium heat, mix soy sauce, sake, sesame oil, water, garlic, pear slices, and pepper. 
5. Add in short ribs to the simmering sauce.  Let simmer for about an hour.
6. Take ribs out of pot and remove bones from meat.  Cut meat into small pieces.

Short rib meat (see above)
Corn tortillas
Cilantro-lime rice (To make cilantro-lime rice mix in chopped cilantro and lime juice with cooked white rice.  I used short grain white rice.)
Shredded cabbage

1. Assemble ingredients on corn tortillas as desired.

Monday, August 16, 2010


Tomatoes and eggs are a couple of my favorite ingredients to use in my cooking so you can only imagine how excited I was to stumble upon a recipe for shakshuka on Smitten Kitchen.  Shakshuka (also spelled shakshouka, shaqshuqa, or chakcouka) consists of peppers, onions, and spices cooked in a tomato sauce with eggs poached in it.  The dish is usually served with white bread and is popular in Tunisia, Algeria, Somalia, Morocco, Yemen, and Israel.  It’s pretty simple in that everything can be made in one pot and doesn’t require too many ingredients. 

My version of shakshuka is almost identical to the one from Smitten Kitchen with a few exceptions. I add mushrooms into the mix with chopped red onion and jalapeño peppers, cooked with paprika and cumin, then with canned crushed tomatoes.  Eggs are then poached right in the sauce and served with feta and parsley over a bed of brown basmati rice.   Few dishes to clean, not too many ingredients, minimal cooking time and prep work, and incredible flavor.  You really can’t ask for more. 

Serves 4
½ red onion, diced
2 large jalapeños, seeded and diced
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
4 eggs
Feta cheese
Chopped parsely to garnish
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

1. In a medium pot over medium heat, add in onion and jalapeños.  Season with salt and pepper.
2. When onions become translucent add in mushrooms and mix in garlic, paprika, and cumin when mushrooms cook down.  Stir well.
3. Pour in canned tomatoes and stir. 
4. When tomato sauce thickens crack eggs into pot and cover for 5 minutes.
5. Serve over brown basmati rice topped with feta and parsley.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mushroom and Spinach Rice Casserole

This recipe is a slightly altered version of the Spinach Rice Gratin from 101 Cookbooks.  It’s one of my go-to recipes when I want a healthy and wholesome meal and can easily be served as a side dish.  And since I always seem to have trouble saying no to more cheese, I sprinkle more on top after the casserole’s ready out of the oven.  If you find the dish a little bland the saltiness of some grated Pecorino would be good too. 


3 cups cooked brown rice
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 ½ cups chopped spinach
½ onion, diced
4 ounces of firm tofu, crumbled
½ cup ricotta cheese
½ cup shredded mozzarella
3 eggs
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
2. In a pan over medium heat add cook mushrooms until slightly tender.  Season with salt and pepper.
3. Add in onions and cook until translucent.
4. Then add in chopped spinach and stir until wilted.  Taste and season if necessary, then remove from heat.
5. In a bowl mix tofu, ricotta, and mozzarella cheese.
6. Beat eggs and add to the tofu mixture.
7. Add mushrooms mixture to the tofu mixture and season one last time.
8. Transfer everything to a lightly greased 9 x 13 baking dish and place in oven for about 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Ginger Cream Tart

This was the first time I ever made a tart, including the crust from scratch, and although it was a bit time consuming it was completely worth it. It's not the healthiest of desserts but I figure I can treat myself once in a while to something as decadent as this tart. The filling almost tastes like cheesecake but isn't as dense and has a slight hint of ginger. The ginger cream filling sits on top of a crust that tastes like a crumbly shortbread cookie, made using flour, sugar, and butter. Then to top it off, fresh raspberries and itty bitty champagne grapes are placed on top, but blueberries or strawberries would work just as well. The recipe for the ginger cream filling is from but I opted to use a different one for the crust.

I thought it'd be helpful to post some tips for making the crust because it would have been useful knowing what to be cautious of when I had prepared the crust myself.
1. Be sure to wait for the crust to cool completely before attempting to remove the bottom piece of the pan. I tried doing this when the crust was still warm and made huge cracks in it.
2. The tart crust is crumbly, as I had mentioned earlier, so be extra gentle when handling it. I learned the hard way and broke a crust right in half (the cracks in it didn't help).
3. Also, I lined the removable bottom of the tart pan with wax paper (parchment paper works too). It's difficult to remove the bottom piece without the wax paper so I recommend taking this additional step if you're planning on bringing the tart to a get together with friends or something of that sort.

Tart Crust
1 ½ sticks of butter, at room temperature
½ cup sugar
1 ½ cups flour
special equipment: a 10 by 1 inch round tart pan with a removable bottom

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
2. In a bowl cream the butter and sugar together using a fork.
3. In increments of ½ cups, add in the flour and mix. Use your hands if necessary.
4. Transfer dough to a lightly greased tart pan with a removable bottom (lined with wax paper) and distribute evenly.
5. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until a very light golden color.
Ginger Cream Filling
1 ½ teaspoons unflavored gelatin
2 tablespoons milk
½ cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
¼ cup sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
2 cups heavy cream
¾ cup sour cream

1. Sprinkle gelatin over milk in a small bowl and let it sit for 1 minute.
2. Mix the milk, ginger, sugar, salt, and 1 cup of the cream into a saucepan over medium heat. When the sugar melts remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
3. Whisk the sour cream until there are no lumps.
4. Beat the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form, then fold in the sour cream.
5. Fold in the ginger milk mixture to the whipped cream and combine well.
6. Pour mixture into the crust. Place berries/fruit on top and chill for 8 hours.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Penne with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

This Penne with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto is one of my favorite pasta dishes and takes minimal time to prepare it which makes it even better.  Goat cheese that will just melt in your mouth is sprinkled over the pasta coated in the sun-dried tomato pesto.  It’s a savory combination of a few ingredients as the creaminess of the cheese complements the acidity and slight sweetness of the sun-dried tomatoes.  You can add chicken breast meat into the dish as I have before but is not necessary by any means and is perfectly fine without any.  Also if you don’t like the strong flavor of garlic, stick to just one clove when preparing the pesto. 

Serves about 4
1 lb. package of penne, cooked
1 8 ounce jar of sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
A handful of walnuts, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Olive oil
Crumbled goat cheese

1. In a food processor or blender, add the sun-dried tomatoes including its oil, walnuts, and garlic.
2. Pour in some olive oil and blend.  Add more if the mixture is too dry.
3. In a large bowl mix the pesto with the cooked pasta using a wooden spoon.
4. Sprinkle goat cheese over pasta before serving.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Open Faced Bagel Sandwich

This is a recipe for a simple breakfast sandwich made with scrambled eggs and a bagel.  I put it together on a whim one morning using what I had left over in my fridge, and it really is that easy to assemble as long as you have eggs and some kind of bread.  The mushrooms can be substituted with red bell peppers, or a meat element like bacon or breakfast sausages can easily be added for a delicious breakfast.  The recipe below serves two but if you’re really hungry, you know what to do.

Open Faced Bagel Sandwich
1 bagel, cut in half and toasted
3 eggs
1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt
1 cup of mushrooms, chopped
¼ an onion, chopped
Spring baby greens
Parmesan cheese
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

1. In a pan over medium heat, pour a tablespoon of olive oil.  Add mushrooms to the pan. 
2. When mushrooms start releasing liquid add onions.  Season using salt and pepper.
3. Meanwhile whisk eggs and yogurt in a separate bowl.
4. Once the mushrooms and onions start browning pour in the egg mixture.
5. Cook the eggs and scramble, until light and fluffy.
6. Divide the scrambled eggs on top of each bagel half and finish by sprinkling some parmesan cheese.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Tomato Garlic Linguine with a Poached Egg

So I woke up this morning not feeling a hundred percent from the festivities last night at a friend’s house warming party, and for some reason I was badly craving something with a poached egg, or even two.  Now if you know me, you know that I absolutely adore eating eggs! I like them fried, scrambled, hard-boiled, medium-boiled, poached, and well, I guess pretty much every way except raw.  I believe eggs shouldn’t be reserved only for breakfast which leads to today’s post. 

I was inspired by a recipe I drooled over the other day for a pesto pasta with a poached egg on top and threw together what I call Tomato Garlic Linguine with a Poached Egg (my apologies for the long name, but it’s worth it!).  The creaminess of the runny yolk over the garlicky noodles tossed with wilted grape tomatoes and olive oil seriously hit the spot and cured my “sickness”.  This was also the first time I ever tried poaching eggs myself and I am happy to say that it was fairly simple to do, so you can probably expect more egg poaching featured on my blog in the days to come!

Tomato Garlic Linguine with a Poached Egg (serves 2-3)

1 pound linguine
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
2 to 3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 to 2 tablespoons vinegar
Olive oil
Red pepper flakes
Dried oregano
Salt and pepper
Pecorino Romano or Parmesan

1. Over medium heat, pour about 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a pan.  Cook the halved tomatoes until slightly wrinkly.
2. Add in the garlic and desired amounts of red pepper flakes and dried oregano.  Season with salt and pepper. 
3. When the pasta is done cooking, transfer from water to the pan.  Mix well with the tomatoes and garlic.
4. Add additional olive oil if the pasta looks dry.  Lower the heat while poaching the eggs.

5. Boil water to a boil, then down to a simmer in a medium pot over medium heat.  Add in vinegar.
6. Crack one egg into a small bowl and gently drop into the water.  Use a slotted wooden spoon to push the whites together to maintain the shape.
7. For runny eggs, remove after about 2 ½ minutes.  Place each egg on a paper towel to remove excess water.
8. Plate the pasta and top each bowl with a poached egg.
9.  Sprinkle some grated cheese over the dish.  

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Ricotta Cheese

I never knew how simple making ricotta cheese at home until I stumbled upon this recipe from 101 Cookbooks.  Ricotta cheese is so delicious when fresh and really makes a difference in the taste of homemade lasagna.  Also, mixing some into scrambled eggs gives a nice creamy texture.  Heidi from 101 Cookbooks probably does a better job explaining how to make it but here’s my interpretation of her recipe.  It’s seriously easy to make and definitely worth trying!

Ricotta cheese
1 gallon of whole milk
1 quart of buttermilk
(makes 4 cups)

1. In a medium sized pot over medium heat, pour in the whole milk and buttermilk.
2. As the milk mixture heats up, use a spatula to stir it around to avoid it from scorching.
3. While the milk is heating, fold the cheesecloth a few times until there are six layers.  Line a colander using the cheesecloth and have it ready in the sink.
4. The milk will start to thicken once it gets hot.  Use the spatula to scrape the bottom of the pot occasionally for any stuck curds.
5. The curds and whey will separate after about 15 minutes.  Once you see the curds clumped together in a large white mass remove the pot from the heat. 
6. Using a ladle transfer the curds from the pot to the colander into the cheesecloth. 
7. Gather the corners of the cheesecloth and tie them up.  The cheese needs to drain for about 15 minutes (A good place to tie the cheesecloth to drain is the kitchen faucet).

8. Once it’s done draining, use right away or transfer to an airtight container.

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