Friday, July 24, 2009

Exboyfriend's Pasta Sauce

I don't know too many people who got married to the first person they dated. So, that means most of us have exes. Having "ex-files is inevitable. Mine is not insanely long; probably around a few pages depending on the font size, or if it is single or double spaced, . Actually, there might be a few people who I can use as "references" if there is a such thing called "dating resume". But when it comes to opening the ex-files, have to handle with care. Otherwise, one seven letters word; "A-W-K-W-A-R-D!"

One time I was making pasta sauce from scratch. R is a big fan of Trader Joe's. To him, pasta sauce is always from a jar. He asked me where did I learn how to make it. The romantic answer would be , "oh I learned from my grandmother." But my grandmother is Chinese. This answer is highly unbelievable. I guess the uncomfortable ex-file moment has arrived. "I actually learned that from an ex-boyfriend." I said.

Usually, at the end of a relationship, we always try to console ourselves that we learned something from this experience. You get to know yourselves better, especially when it comes to what you hate. For me, some examples would be when I and some guy went to a cafe to hang out, and all of a sudden he just pulled out the newspaper like I was not even there, or canceling on dinner with me because of a basketball game or a poker game, and even had the balls to ask me to buy him beer and chips...There is always the time you just have to remember the magic word with 4 letters, not "fu_k", or "sh_t". It is "NEXT"! Then you take all this knowledge to the next relationship. Some might call it baggage. Baggage is not always bad. At least this time I ran away with a $475 dress by Diane Von Furstenberg, and a delicious, authentic Italian tomato sauce with me. I'm going to share with you without you finding it out from the hard way.


Tomato Sauce with Onions, Olives and Oregano


1 can of whole tomato (prefer San Marzano)
1/2 medium onion,chopped
10 - 15 olives pitted, such as Kalamata
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup red wine
1 glove garlic, peeled
1 tsp Oregano
2 pinches salt

Heat olive oil in medium heat in a sauce pan. When oil is hot, put the whole garlic in the pan or 1-2 mins. Discard garlic. Put onion in sauce pan, add 2 pinches of salt and Oregano. Cook onion until caramelized and becomes transparent. Pour in red wine, juice from the can tomato and olives. Reduce heat to simmer,until sauce is reduced and thicken, for about 10 minutes. Put the tomatoes in the sauce pan. Use a spatula to smash them. Simmer for another 15 - 20 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Chinese Roast Chicken with 5 Spice Which My Dad Disapproved

My friend told me after she and her boyfriend broke up, she went back and cried on her dad's shoulder. I was shocked. You can do that?! It is like a colour that I cannot even imagine. My dad made a surprise visit to San Francisco a couple months ago. Partly it is because of the Chinese culture, the fathers tend to be very serious and distanced, and they believe in tough love. I remember when I was a kid, I asked my dad, "Dad, how come you never compliment us on anything?" He said, "Whenever I'm not saying anything, that's a compliment."

I guess that is part of the reason why I'm so distanced from him. Because that gives me the illusion that he is not saying anything, and it is a compliment. When he arrived at my apartment building, he insisted on carrying his luggage. I grabbed the luggage from his hands and started walking up the stairs. After we reached the top floor where my apartment is located, I realized he was breathing heavily. I think as daughters, we always forget our parents have aged. And they forget we are grown ups. His eye brows are growing so long and curling up. He is quite proud of them actually. He was also proud of my car's powerful rumble. He didn't say anything about it, but he took out his new digital camera, and asked me to stand beside my car.

During his stay, I made Chinese roast chicken with 5 spice for him. While I was busy in the kitchen, he was reading Chinese newspaper, word by word, silently. When we had dinner, he was commenting on everything. Why didn't you put more salt on the chicken? Roast chickens in China tastes so much better than this. Why didn't you put some bouillon powder in the vegetable stir fry... When I was doing the dishes, I thought of how stupid I was to cook him a Chinese meal and give him one more chance to criticize me. I even spent $14 to buy a top quality free range organic chicken from Berkeley Bowl and then stood in line to pay for that damn misery.

While I was driving him around the city, there were tons of posters for the movie I worked on, in the bus stations, and on billboards everywhere. I was one of the tailors for this movie, which I am proud of. I got to see some of my work on a big screen. But I didn't bother to point that out to him. I guess all our lives, we try so hard to get our parents' approval, ranging from roasting a chicken to having a career. I can cook a fantastic 9 course French dinner and I work in a reputable computer animation company, but it might not mean anything to him after all.

After I drove him to the airport, I came home and felt such a relief that my life was back to normal. When I walked into my bedroom, on the drawer chest, there was a picture of me standing beside my car with an awkward facial expression. I don't know when my dad got that printed out. Next to the picture there were a little webcam, a package of bootleg Chinese typesetting software, and a writing tablet. Unfortunately, none of them are compatible with my laptop, which I think he didn't quite understand. It is the thought that counts. Well, I don't know Chinese typesetting, and he doesn't read in English. But there is always a beginning on everything. Perhaps he didn't hate my Chinese roast chicken with 5 spice that much after all.


Chinese Roast Chicken with 5 spice


1 chicken (about 2-3 pounds)
salt and pepper
3 tbsp 5 spice (it is available in most Chinese supermarket)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
a few slices of ginger and some green onion

Preheat oven 450 degree
rub chicken with vegetable, 5 spice, and sprinkle salt and pepper. I like to rain a thin layer of salt evenly over the skin. It will give you a result of a crispy salty skin. Sprinkle some in the cavity, too. Put the ginger slices and green onion in the cavity. Tie legs with strings.

Put chicken in a roasting pan, breast side up. Stick a meat thermometer at the thigh of the chicken. Bake chicken for 20 minutes. Then turn the heat to 375 degree, and make for another 30 mins to 40 mins, depending on the size of the chicken, or until the internal temperature reaches 180 degree. Discard ginger and green onion in the cavity. Let chicken rest for 15 minutes before you serve.

Monday, July 6, 2009

People Are Like Food

People are just like food. They all come with different tastes. It sounds kind of bizzare...I know. But let's just start with people we all know. For example, Jack Black, to me, he is like pop candies. You know, the kind of candies are red, so small that it's almost powder like. You can feel the exploding sensation. It is fun! Another example, George Cloony, he is like a bottle of fine wine, perhaps a bottle of Chateau neuf du Pape, dark and deep, very tasty, if you keep on drinking, it gets you drunk.

When I look at people around me, my mom is like a cup of tea, the taste is understated and elegant. It gives you comfort and calms you down. My dad is like... fermented black beans with melted chocolate chips and grated ginger. When you taste it, you wonder, what the hell is that?! He is kind of difficult to understand. My older sister J is like hot and sweet peppers. Younger sister J is like oysters. It takes a little while to open up, but one cannot deny the wonderful taste of oysters. The taste of it has depth and the sweet aftertaste lingers. My baby sister Y, she is like marinated strawberries with whipped cream. There are a few of my friends are like pop candies, made me laugh non-stop. There are some like hard liquor. You can have couple shots of them, it's fun, but you'll be done quickly. Some of them are like tofu. They are good for you, but the taste is a bit too subtle, in another word, a bit too blend. Some of them are like green veggies. Healthy food that I can eat everyday.

How about R? He might be thinking, "what's up with that? Fantasizing George Clooney?" But the truth is, I love fine wine, but I cannot drink it every night. My doctor said that I'm a light weight. To me, R is like an egg. Egg is extremely versatile. It tastes good on its own, either poached, soft boiled, or scrambled. You can use it to make cake, pasta, ice-cream, quiche, lemon curd, is endless. It can be paired with a lot of different food, just like a pair of shoes which can go with all of your outfits, either jeans or dresses, can be casual or elegant.

For me, I don't know. Of course I wish I am a piece of filet mignon or rib eye steak. Juicy and sinfully delicious.


Raw Oysters On Half Shell (such as Kumamoto or Malpeque)

Scrub Oysters with a stiff brush to remove dirt. Find a durable thick cloth and fold it over several times to create a square; This will steady the oysters as you shuck them and also protect your hand. Using the towel as a mitt, place the oyster, cup-side down in the palm of your towel-covered hand with the hinge facing you.Insert the tip of an oyster knife or dull butter knife as far into the hinge as it will go. Gently twist the knife back and forth to pry the shell open. Using the knife, cut the muscle away from the top shell, bend the shell back, and discard it. Run the knife underneath the oyster to detach it completely, but leave it in its shell. Serves with fresh lemon or lime juice, tabasco and horseradish.

Scrambled eggs

Heat 2 tbsp of butter in a non-stick omelette pan in medium heat. Crack 2 eggs into pan. Use a spatula to keep stirring the egg mixture. Turn heat to simmer. Remove pan from the heat if eggs get cooked too quickly, and keep stirring. It should still be a little bit runny when it is done. Salt and Pepper to taste. It is very important to add salt at the end of the cooking process, otherwise eggs can be watery. Stir in cream fraiche or heavy cream if desire. Garnish with fresh chives.

Hot and Sweet Pepper Pizza (serves 2)

1 12 inch thin crust pizza dough
1 red pepper, roasted, sliced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds discarded, sliced
4 ounce goat cheese
a small handful of fresh basil leaves
olive oil

At least 30 mins before cooking, preheat oven 500 (the highest setting) with pizza stone inside on the lowest rack.

Slice jalapeno pepper in half lengthwise, discard seeds (be careful not to rub your eyes. If you wear contacts, wear gloves). Thinly julienne jalapeno pepper.

In a mixing bowl, add red pepper and jalapeno pepper, add olive oil to coat and toss.

Dust rimless baking sheet with flour and carefully transfer dough to it. Jerk baking sheet once or twice. If dough is sticky, lift dough and sprinkle flour underneath it, reshaping dough if necessary. Working quickly.

Brush top dough with olive oil, leave about 1/2 inch border, arrange roasted red pepper, jalapeno pepper and goat cheese on pizza dough. Line up far edge of baking sheet with far edge of stone and tilt baking sheet, jerking it gently to start pizza moving. Once edge of pizza touches stone or tiles, carefully pull back peel or baking sheet, completely transferring pizza to stone or tiles (do not move pizza). Bake pizza 8 to 9 minutes, or until dough is crisp and browned, and transfer with a metal spatula to a cutting board. Garnish with whole basil leaves and serves

Marinated Strawberries with Whipped Cream (serves 2 - 4)


1 small pint of strawberries, sliced in half or quarters
juice of 1 lemon
zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp brown sugar (depends on the sweetness of the strawberries, adjust accordingly)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
4 tbsp cognac
1/2 cup heavy cream
fresh mint for garnish

Combine strawberries, lemon juice, lemon zest, brown sugar, cinnamon, cognac in a mixing bowl, toss and covered. Put it in a fridge for 4 hours or over night.

To serve, divide strawberries into cups, whip heavy cream, add cream into each up, and garnish with mint leaves.