Spring is appearing in SF in sneaky little bursts this year – a few days of gorgeous sunshine (Yay! How we’ve missed being outside!) followed by days of chilly rain (Wait, staying home is not so bad either!). But as far as I’m concerned, spring is already here and winter is just being a little lazy and clingy and not willing to let it go until next year. And let’s face it, we’ve all felt lazy and clingy at one time or another, so let’s give Mr. Winter a little break, shall we?

Besides, we don’t need good weather to deduce the arrival of spring, right? I have hard evidence in the forms of snap peas and green garlic in our veggie box from Two Small Farms. To be honest, because our CSA stops deliveries in the winter, Nathan and I are out of practice with our vegetable management skills. The other day, I opened the fridge and vegetables were practically tumbling off the shelves, threatening to crush a curious Toro who was just stopping by to check out the kibbles status of the fridge (yup, still negative).

We needed some spring cleaning (ha!) and needed it fast before next week’s veggie box threatens to jump into the fray. Whenever a vegetable purge is called for, we roll up our sleeves, chop up as much vegetables as is humanely possible, and throw them all into either a Thai curry or a vegetable biryani. You’ve probably guessed by now which recipe won this time.

We ended up with a not-very-traditional biryani because who puts beets in biryanis?! Well, we do, when we’re desperate. But guess what? They actually stained the rice into a pretty red color! Now, if only we made this closer to Chinese New Year, it would be very auspicious indeed.

(more…)

Khoplama

Change is definitely in the air. A new year (happy 2009, everyone!), a new President (hurray!), and … in about a week, a new apartment for me and Nathan!

While moving grows into a bigger and bigger pain the older you get, I like to focus on the fact that it motivates me to purge my belongings – an early spring cleaning, if you will. Coincidentally, our move this time happens to coincide with Chinese New Year, so the purging will be doubly appropriate. Goodbye, novelty T-shirts from college! Goodbye, baggy sweaters! Goodbye, three out of six very-similar-looking pairs of khaki pants!

In the spirit of cleaning, I’m also trying to make sure we don’t have too many perishables in the fridge to move across town. And with the return of rainy weather, a stew seems to be the perfect solution.

After peeking around the fridge a bit, I spied two black radishes hiding out in a corner. (Aside: I stumbled upon that article and then realized it’s written by Andy from Mariquita, from whom I got these black radishes in the first place!) A bit of Internet searching dug up an Uzbek(!!) recipe called Khoplama and my mind was set. Because you know, I can never resist recipes from exotic places!

(more…)

On this sunny Sunday, Nathan and I joined some friends (as well as the entire city of San Francisco, it seemed) in Golden Gate Park for some free live music, courtesy of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. Really, how can we turn down a line-up of Bonnie Prince Billy, Iron & Wine, and Gogol Bordello? And of course, you must know by now that I would never even think of setting out for a day in the park without packing some rations. Due to lack of time, though, we decided to just walk through the Sunset and buy some Vietnamese sandwiches to snack on. Which then reminded me that I have delayed blogging about Banh Mi for far too long.

To tell you the truth, I didn’t discover the glories of Banh Mi until I started living on a grad student budget. Until I tasted my first Banh Mi, I would never have believed that a hearty, delicious lunch can be had for $3-$3.50 in the San Francisco Bay Area. Now that my eyes have been opened, I’m totally obsessed and can seriously eat one of these every day and be happy as a kitty.

You might wonder with Banh Mi already so cheap, why would you even want to make your own? Well, because this cruel, cruel world has decided not to put Vietnamese sandwich shops anywhere near my school! So until the school’s cafe wises up, I either have to trek downtown every afternoon or to take more drastic measures and make Banh Mi at home.

(more…)

With the sudden appearance of sweltering summer days in the city, I’m finding it really hard to motivate myself to turn on the stove. Add to that a huge pile of work plus the adventure of trying to sell my car (long story short: it’s sold. And I even managed to not sell it to this crew of ‘2 Fast 2 Furious’ kids who kept offering me $2100 when another guy already told me he’ll pay me $2200), and you’ve got one not-very-active blogger!

But now that the car’s sold and I’m sitting at home drinking echinacea tea while recovering from a cold (oh the irony!) and thus, not feeling too guilty about not doing actual school work, it’s time to share with you a recipe. This one doesn’t even require turning on the stove!

If you’ve been going to farmer’s markets lately, I’m sure you’ve been noticing the mountains of beautiful tomatoes everywhere. As we’re nearing the end of tomato season, Nathan and I have officially begun our annual quest to eat as many tomatoes as possible before they disappear from the markets. Orangette, in an article in Bon Appetit magazine, gave a recipe for oven-roasted tomatoes that I’ve been dying to try. But I’m going to wait until we get some proper San Francisco summer days again (read: foggy, windy, and chilly) before turning on the oven for multiple hours.

In the meantime, an icy cold gazpacho sounds like the perfect way to fulfill our tomato quota. When I did my gazpacho research, some recipes recommended using a food mill instead of a blender because you supposedly lose the bright red color if you use a blender. But if you know me, you know that I hate buying a piece of equipment just for a single purpose, so I decided to ignore all the warnings, pull out our trusty blender, and risk a not-so-red gazpacho. To help rescue the color a bit, I blended only half of the tomatoes and finely chopped the rest.

So what do you think? Is my food-mill-less gazpacho a red-enough gazpacho?

(more…)

I’ve been meaning to write this entry for a long time, but until now, I’ve avoided trying to figure out how to embed a video into a post. Apparently, it’s way easier than I thought, so now it seems silly I waited so long.

If you know me, you probably know that I absolutely love dumplings and have been known to spend hours wrapping them by myself without complaints. When I was growing up in Hong Kong, I was recruited to help wrap wontons every time we made them at home and I prided myself on being fast and efficient. Once I got good enough at wontons – which let’s face it, it’s not that hard because you just sort of bunch the wrapper all together around the meat – I wanted something a little more challenging. So I sat down and tried to figure out how to make pot stickers.

It took me a few tries but finally, I figured out how to shape pot stickers that looked like the kind you get at restaurants. I then started looking around for different fillings and of course, the possibilities there are endless. Some of my current favorites are a pork and super-gingery filling and a green curry chicken with thai basil filling. But finding a good all-vegetarian filling has always stumped me… until now.

Ming Tsai dubbed these the “Best Vegetarian Pot Stickers” and before you scoff like I did when I first read it, you really should give it a try. They definitely are the best vegetarian potstickers I’ve ever had.

(more…)

stew2.jpg

With winter fog plus the added gloominess of a recent oil spill hanging over my lovely city, there’s really no better time for a hearty stew involving an animal of the land! If you know me, you’ll know that me eating beef is a pretty rare event – I generally abide by the principle that I’ll eat beef, or most meats, only when my body really craves it. Me cooking red meat at home is an even rarer occurrence. So, listen up! This is probably one of the only beef recipes you’ll get out of me!

After convincing Nathan that I do indeed want to make a beef stew (not chicken, not lamb), off I went to Drewes’ butcher shop a few blocks away to buy me some happy, sustainably-raised moo-cow. When I asked the guy working at the counter about the difference between the stew meat ($6.49/lb) and a whole chuck roast ($6.99), he said something about how they’re exactly the same thing but one’s cut up and the ‘gland taken out’ for my convenience. Now I don’t know much about cuts of meat so call me ignorant, but what’s a gland doing in a shoulder cut?

In any case, even though his whole explanation didn’t make much sense to me, I still went with the pre-cut stew meat, figuring that it shouldn’t really matter for a stew. Looking back and after doing some research online, however, I think I should have bought the whole roast – the logic is that when you buy the roast, you know exactly the cut you’re getting and not just scraps from various parts of the animal. You can also cut up chunks which are all about the same size, so everything cooks at the same rate. Oh well.

Originally, I had this grand vision of making a boeuf bourguignon, full of delicious red wine. But then I remembered that one of my main reasons for making a beef stew was to use up a bunch of our CSA carrots; boeuf bourguignon, while delicious-sounding, traditionally involves only onions, mushrooms, beef, wine, and bacon. Darn.

In the end, I made a red wine beef stew with carrots and green beans (can I call it boeuf bourguignon-esque?) and served it with some smashed potatoes and a gremolata mixed with some coarse sea salt. The gremolata idea was taken from reading one of Jamie Oliver’s recipes and I got to give him props – it really brightens up the whole dish. Good job, Mr. Naked Chef!

(more…)