This is a little project that Bowl #2 and I decided to try out over the weekend, and maybe continue in the future. B2 was on the fence about posting it because it was really supposed to be a practice run, and it”s a little rough around the edges. But I love it and convinced him to share it anyways! I’m always a little surprised that I’m the one with a blog, because B2 is really the creative one between the two of us — I’m so excited that we have a chance to work on something together, and hopefully share a little bit of his creativity with you. We’ll see if we continue to do videos, but for now, I hope you like this snippet of our weekend. Just a little something extra for the Monday blues. Wishing you all a lovely week ahead!
It’s Monday! (I was going to say “Happy Monday,” but, you know, Monday.) In the off chance that ice cream will make it better, here’s one of my favorites. Even in my days as a red bean-hating kid, I loved red bean ice cream. Something about red bean in a cold confection gets me every time. My family was the same way — we had red bean popsicles in the fridge for midnight snacks, red bean ice cream on family outings. My parents aren’t normally huge fans of sweets, so dinners out usually didn’t end with dessert, but if this was on the menu we almost always got it. One dish of rapidly disappearing red bean ice cream and four spoons.
It took me a few attempts to find a homemade version I loved, but thanks to Jeni Britton Bauer and some old-fashioned pondering, I arrived at this recipe, now up on Food52. I just recently made another Jeni’s ice cream on this blog in this memorable creation, but using her ice cream base for this flavor a few months ago was actually my first introduction to her genius — and I feel like I’ll never switch back to a traditional custard. Instead of a multitude of egg yolks, she uses a combination of cornstarch, corn syrup and cream cheese to give the ice cream structure. The result is a dreamily scoopable, softer and fluffier ice cream that seems to accentuate any flavor it’s given, without making you stand sentinel over a slowly thickening custard or leaving you a half-cup of egg whites in the fridge afterwards. I love it. I can’t wait to try her other flavors (Bangkok peanut, guys! Sweet potato with torched marshmallow!) but for now, you can check out my teensy red bean piggyback here. Also, if you’re interested in making more of Jeni’s ice cream too, you can buy her cookbook here.
I kind of think any day that begins with homemade pancakes is bound to be a good one. Our Fourth of July began with these. There was no work for either of us (a real rarity for Bowl #2), no grand cookout plans or things that needed doing, just a quiet, rainy day with these pancakes, video games, and the glorious return of the fireworks to the East River on the horizon. (By the way, I also think any day that begins with the boot-up jingle of a video game console is guaranteed to be a winner. Regardless of how old you are.)
The idea for these began in the leftover cream and milk from the ricotta I made a few weeks ago, but it didn’t become a plan until I was digging around in the recesses of our crisper drawers and found (in a fit of excitement) a hefty bag of Meyer lemons that our friends left us when they moved out. (If you have friends moving out of their apartments, especially super cool and food-savvy friends with penchants for fancy brands of mustard, move in. They will leave you three types of jam you’ve never heard of and Thai drinking vinegar and hardy fresh oregano that refuses to die under your black thumb. And three weeks later you will find inexplicably fresh Meyer lemons.)
Lemon ricotta pancakes are as fluffy as their buttermilk counterparts, but the ricotta lends them a creamier, denser texture and flavor, while an extra egg adds a hint of custard to the mix. The “Meyer”-ness of the lemons is at its height when zested, and the extra zest on top is lively, yet sweet. But what truly stole my heart was the chamomile whip – the light floral notes from the tea add an irresistible buoyancy to heavy cream, even without any extra sugar. Whipped cream at breakfast (waffles!) always seems to add a touch of celebration to the whole meal, but this delicate chamomile confection takes it to a new level. The perfect start to a long weekend.
According to my mother, ours is a wonton household. I grew up watching my parents deftly fold armies of plump little wonton soldiers at the kitchen table, watching my mother boil plate after plate of them, slurping copious bowls of soup, and, if I was lucky, crunching into a panful of fried wontons on a special occasion. But when it came to dumplings, our consumption was mainly of the frozen variety — bought in bulk and boiled or pan-fried by my dad on weekend lunch duty. (The other two members of the rotation were ramen and Papa John’s. In other words, weekend lunches were the best.)
So, when I set out to make dumplings from scratch last year, I didn’t have a whole lot of experience behind me. But it turns out they’re delightful. The dough is simplicity at its best, and I find the pleating miles easier than the flip-and-twist-and-seal dance that wontons call for. I think they’d be perfect for an afternoon when you have a little extra time on your hands, or a DIY dinner party (which, I guess, is why dumpling parties are a thing). You can find my take on potstickers, plus recipes for three different fillings, over at Verily Magazine this morning. Hope you’re all having lovely weeks!
Last Saturday, something magical happened — the one and only Molly Yeh graced my little Brooklyn abode with her sunshiny self, and we baked and ate and shot a joint post together. Really! It was the most fun I’ve ever had shooting a post; I might even go out on a limb and say it’s my favorite post so far. There was highly hygienic ice cream churning involved, the consumption of lard bread and gummy pigs to keep our strength up, the tomato-tomahto of Canon and Nikon, what lens are you using and what ISO are you at. Molly is every bit as lovely and ebullient as she seems on her blog, even when someone, not naming any names, splatters a good quantity of butter on her and potentially ruins her clothing. (I am the worst.)
As my clumsiness might suggest, I’ve never collaborated with anyone before, so sharing the creative process with someone else for the first time was really something special. Molly’s eye for detail, aesthetic sense, and all-around joyful spirit were a breath of fresh air for this blog. From the surreal feeling of watching a quintessential Yeh shot emerge from my own dining nook (like wait, that was there all along?)to the novelty of photographing someone else (and action shots without tripods!) to the seamless back-and-forth of what if we sub this for that or how would it look if we added this, this truly captured the essence of what I imagined a collaboration to be.
I have about a million photos for you — and for me, otherwise I might not believe that Molly Yeh really cooked bacon in my kitchen and artfully placed probably-dying succulents on my dining table — so I’ll end this here. For Molly’s half of our joint shindig, hop on over to my name is yeh. Thank you lady for the tremendous honor of working with you, and for such a fun afternoon. Your box of Sahadi’s sprinkles are like a little wave from North Dakota every time I open my spice cabinet. ;) (P.S. I owe you a new jean skirt!)
Summer has arrived! After the obstinate winter and temperamental spring we’ve had this year, I was convinced that New York was going to throw down the humid-est of humid New York summers on us, just to be the cruelest mistress it could possibly be. But instead, the universe has reminded me Cynthia, be a smidge more optimistic — and this summer has been nothing short of spectacular (so far). With the exception of a few rainy days earlier this month, June has been just an abundance of breezy, cool mornings, warm summer nights, and gentle sunshine.
On the table, there’s been tart raspberries and ripe figs, icy-cold affogatos and our first homemade corn on the cob. Off the table, we’ve had lazy afternoon strolls, evenings with cool air wafting in through open windows. A balmy, sun-soaked picnic in Prospect Park, where I met the most incredibly lovely people, gave my shoulders a good toasting, and my heart to this little guy. The days are gloriously long, the kind where you get home after a long productive trek and find that it’s only 3 PM, the sunlight is streaming through the windows, and you still have practically an entire day laid out before you — one of my favorite feelings.
Once upon a time, a miniature version of me hated cheese.
Right? I know. I don’t know. Somehow I went through an addled childhood as an outspoken enemy of cheese, picking shreds of it out of salads, scraping it off lasagna, and generally living a deprived existence. (And then one day I ate a Kraft single at a friend’s house, and the next thing I knew, half a pack of highly processed cheese was gone and a lifelong obsession with all things melt-able was born. Also, indigestion. Also, I was clearly an excellent house guest.)
Back in my inexplicable cheese-hating days, ricotta was Public Enemy No. 1. My only exposure to it was in school cafeteria lasagna, more or less, and the watery, gritty, faintly sour form it came in back then was anathema. Even after I grew into my cheese, ricotta was one that I could pretty much take or leave, haunted by that substance lurking between formless, soggy sheets of pasta on my lunch tray. It wasn’t until one day a few summers ago, mid-bite into a crostini at Frankie’s 457, that I changed my mind. Spread thick on a crusty, toasted baguette with a drizzle of honey, good ricotta is creamy, richly decadent but not overpowering, not in the least soggy or gritty or bland. And has me, a dozen-odd years later, eating it with a spoon straight out of the cheesecloth.
My mom makes a killer pan-seared salmon. I don’t know whether I’ve devoted any time yet here to my mother and her cooking, which is honestly a travesty, since she’s one of the best cooks I know. In that je-ne-sais-quoi Asian mother way, with no recipes or measuring cups in sight, just an unflappable fearlessness and an apparent instinct in the kitchen. (Also, an apron with fluffy sleeves.)
Anyway, her salmon is only one of the many killer foods she has at her disposal, but it has to be one of the best. It has all the most fundamental elements you’d expect from home-cooked Chinese food — healthy slices of ginger, smashed garlic, and green onions, the deafening hiss-roar when cold food meets a smoking-hot wok (when it’s me at the stove, usually also popping oil and yelps of pain), a splash of shaoxing rice wine, a sweet soy sauce glaze. Done right, the fish is melt-in-your-mouth tender, with a crisp and flavorful caramelized skin.
Unfortunately, there are about seventy-four million ways it can be done wrong, all of which I handily did when I asked how to make it a few years ago — cooking it on too high heat and burning it black before the center cooks through, cooking it on too low heat and ending up with a flavorless pink slab, adding too much soy sauce and feeling like you took a wrong turn and ended up in a hibachi joint by accident. And though you can get the hang of it through practice (or through whatever culinary gifts are mysteriously bestowed upon Chinese mothers), sometimes you just don’t feel like sweating over a sizzling wok, right?
Which is why I’ve recently taken to steaming the salmon en papillote. With the one caveat that you don’t get that crisp, buttery salmon skin (arguably the best part, for some people), steaming in parchment is amazing. It’s easy as pie (easier, actually, since pie is kind of hard) and it’s so predictably delicious, every single time. It’s kind of my favorite way ever to make fish, and I’m sharing it over at Verily Magazine this week. You can check it out here, along with a few super easy recipes for broccoli stem salad and steamed broccoli. Hope you’re all having a wonderful week!
A couple of weeks ago, Bowl #2 and I made a little move to a new place just across the street, scooting into our friends’ apartment after they moved uptown for grad school. Adjusting to this apartment so far has been, for lack of a better simile, like taming a giddy, unrestrained crush. So much light! So many shelves! So clean! So new! CLOSETS! POT AND PAN RACK! For the most part, the last week has consisted largely of Bowl #2 and I looking at each other, firmly ensconced in our old squishy couch on our old chevron rug in our new living room, saying over and over, “I love this apartment. Don’t you love this apartment?”
Of course, being a New York apartment, it’s not without its faults. So far, mainly just a minor (and fixable) one – a stubborn oven that releases gas but refuses to light. (And has since caused the gas company shut off the gas to our apartment altogether. Me: “But … are you sure I can’t just use the stove? You know? Just the stove?” Them: “Yes, unless you want to risk gas building up in the oven and blasting the whole thing apart.” Me: “So … no?”) But, like with most giddy crushes, we’ve readily rationalized its shortcomings – no working stove or oven means an excuse for delivery pizza, right? And green smoothies for lunch, and contemplating crazy shenanigans involving hot water kettles and instant ramen.
Honestly, I’m a little embarrassed this year, because our recent life whirlwind bit me in the butt and I didn’t have anything particularly special planned for him – unlike last year’s Hawaiifood-stravaganza. It’s particularly tragic because my man has been so downright amazing lately — powering through my brother’s visit, an estrogen-packed few days in Vegas, and an apartment move (hyper-organized and virtually stress-free, all thanks to him). On top of that, he’s been absolutely slammed with work. To say he’s been a trooper and the best fiance a girl could ask for is a gross understatement.
Luckily (or, even luckier) for me and my lack of birthday planning, Bowl #2 is low-maintenance, especially when it comes to food. In a sharp and somewhat baffling contrast to me (indiscriminate gluttony personified) he really only has six edibles and potables that he’s wild about: