Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Carrot, parsnip, and tahini soup

For Christmas, my parents gave me an immersion blender, which completes my regression to infancy by virtually guaranteeing that I will not be eating any more solid foods. The first thing I made since coming back to DC was a West African groundnut stew, which I'll blog about as soon as I remember to take a picture of it before inhaling the entire thing.

The carrot soup was actually part of our Christmas dinner. But I decided to make it again so I can have all 6 servings to myself instead of share it. Yeah, it's that good. I think I'm head over heels for blended soups with nut butters. Similar to what it does for hummus, the tahini adds body and a certain smoothness to the vegetables in a way that even cream can't compete with.

Friday, December 10, 2010

butternut squash risotto

I had some leftover butternut squash from Thanksgiving. With a desire to eat something other than soup and oatmeal, both of which have taken over my diet, I opted for some risotto instead of the default butternut squash soup. Plus, in this cold weather, stirring a delicious rice and cheese mixture while standing over a warm stove was pretty appealing.

Like most risotto dishes, this one is incredibly rich. The sweet butternut squash goes perfectly with savory and cheesy rice. Next time I make this, I think I would add a small squeeze of lemon and half a handful of fresh thyme to cut the richness just a little and give it an additional layer of flavor.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Founding Farmers Brunch

I had brunch with Sarah and Erin at Founding Farmers in downtown DC for veteran's day a few weeks ago, and it was a wonderful experience full of good food and even better company.

We started out with some doughnut holes served with a selection of dipping sauces (chocolate, caramel, and vanilla rum) and French pressed coffee for the table.

I got the red flannel hash, which is hash browns with beets and goat cheese with two poached eggs and Hollandaise sauce on top, making it almost like an eggs benedict but with hash browns. The Hollandaise sauce distracted from the more delicate beet flavors but the rest of the dish was really good. Their hashbrowns were crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside, and the eggs were poached to perfection. And the awesome beet-potato-cheese combination made me realize that I need to seriously start adding beets to non-salad dishes.

The dish was served with their home made English muffins and jam, and these were the best English muffins I've ever had, although my previous experience has really only been with the Thomas brand muffins. They were hearty, crispy, and sourdough-y. Topped with a layer of butter and jam, or the rum sauce the doughnuts came with, they were perfect.

The portions were so big that I had to pack home half my brunch, which I ate for dinner that day. Even reheated, everything was just as delicious.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Lobster truck

I've been trying to have a lobster rolls for weeks now, and last weekend, the Red Hook Lobster Truck just happened to be parked conveniently by Eastern Market, close to the Library of Congress where Keith and I were visiting as part of our adventures on the mall.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Whole wheat chocolate chip cookies

These are not your mom's chocolate chip cookies, but a completely different beast. Instead of tender and crumbly, these are much heartier. The white whole wheat made a cookie that wasn't distinctively wheaty but definitely more substantial. The thicker texture stands up to repeated dunking in milk without the danger of losing a precious chunk to the bottom of your glass.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Dinner with friends and apple cake

My rate of updating this blog has slowed to a crawl, mostly because my time spent in the kitchen has dwindled into making quick salads for lunch and sandwiches to eat on the go after work on my way to all my after school ahem, work, activities. The last time I spent serious time in the kitchen was two (two!) weeks ago when a few of us gathered in Reid's kitchen to make the first three-course meal I've had in months.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The laziest cook...

... just roasts a bunch of random things in the oven,

puts them over a salad, and calls it dinner.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Roasted garlic

Now that the weather is getting colder, there's nothing like the comforting aroma of garlic roasting in the oven. Unlike its raw counterpart, roasted garlic loses all its sharp bite after a trip to the oven and all that's left are soft and mildly sweet cloves that I like to spread on slices of lightly toasted baguette. This is a simple and flavorful appetizer that's easy to mass produce.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Pumpkin bread pudding

When I tell people that I made pumpkin bread pudding this past weekend, the first thing people ask is "wait, did you make pumpkin bread, pudding" or "pumpkin, bread pudding?" So before I say anything else, I should clarify and say that I made pumpkin, bread pudding.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Boozy brownies



And three sticks of butter.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


What do you do when a farm gives you tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and fresh thyme? Make ratatouille, of course! I have a special place in my heart for the dish after watching the movie and dressing up as the little chef for screw, so when faced with this combination of fresh-picked produce, there was only one thing to make.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Chard and eggplant lasagna

I wanted to make a veggie pie with Clagett Farm's chard, but since Helen C. is not a fan of eggs, I decided to made these instead. I had less eggplants and chard on hand than the recipe called for so my stuff to noodle ratio was a bit off, but this lasagna still turned out well. Without a heavy-handed portion of meat and cheese, it was light but filling.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mint tea

Saturday's bounty and the extended visit of our returning Watson fellow/chef/tea enthusiast were the inspirations I needed to get out of my cooking rut of Indian food and cereal. I'll certainly get to all the good stuff Helen and I have been cooking up, but since I only have ten minutes until my bedtime, this will just be a quick tea-related post. While enjoying a delicious dessert (teaser: it involves rum), we also used some of the mint I picked for tea. Steeping fresh mint produces a brew that's slightly sweet, citrus-y, and wonderfully refreshing. Sometimes one forgets that mint is much more than just menthol.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The vegetables of my labor

I could really use my kitchen back home right now.

I could use a spoonful of black rice vinegar, a dash of rice wine, and a big wok for some stir-fried eggplant. I'd like a cast iron skillet so I can make the creamiest scrambled eggs with a lot of chives. I need a large baking dish to make a pie with half a pound of chard. And I need a heavy-duty Wusthof chef's knife to cut up a butternut squash into 1/2 in dice so I can saute it with a lot of thyme. None of these things live in my tiny apartment kitchen.

Did I mention that my kitchen is overflowing with produce?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Feta and watermelon salad

I often tell people that one of the reasons I like to take pictures and write about food is because I remember things through food. When I visit a place, I often remember the food better than anything else. This summer was no different. I explored far off places with dear friends and ate better than I have in a long time. I soaked in the espresso-scented landscape of mountains and water in the Pacific Northwest, gobbled up peanut butter by the sporkfuls while hiking the toughest miles on the Appalachian Trail, and cooked up fantastic meals with friends in the loveliest of kitchens.

My past summer food memories seem to be dominated by fruits. Summers in Beijing would not be complete without seeing big blue trucks parked along dirt roads with a huge pile of watermelons as their only cargo. My family and I would buy as many as we could stick in the fridge and take them out again as soon as they were chilled. If we had company, we'd cut them into slices, but if it was just us, we would just cut them into halves and dig in with big spoons. They were the best way to cool down. In New Delhi, the only good thing about walking around in 120F weather is coming home and finding cold mangos in the fridge. There is nothing in the world like ripe Indian mangoes.

Living in India has ruined me for mangoes anywhere else. But luckily, I still very much enjoy watermelons, which brings me to this salad. Seriously, this salad is amazing. I'm really sad to have discovered it so late in the summer (if it's still summer at all). I've only had it twice and it's already one of my favorites. It's so incredibly refreshing that I almost wish the oppressively hot weather with its air quality warnings would come back so I can enjoy the cooling effects of this salad to its maximum potential.

It's just watermelon, feta, and your choice of greens (I like spinach because its mildness doesn't take away from the other two main ingredients). The feta, which goes surprisingly well with watermelon, does a really good job of making the salad a little more substantial and adding another dimension of flavor. On top of everything, I used a simple and light vinaigrette of red wine vinegar, olive oil, shallots and salt.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The New Vegetarian

I just added a new food blog to my google reader. Adding a new subscription always feel like a big commitment - more time wasted spent reading instead of doing work, another person to care about when they have something to say. But I think Yotam Ottolenghi's New Vegetarian is definitely worth it. The column has recipes that combine interesting ingredients in ways unfamiliar to me. And as someone who is constantly teetering on the edge of complete vegetarianism, I enjoy not having to think about how to substitute out the meat in a dish and worry about how that's going to affect its taste.

One of my favorite things about reading food blogs as opposed to a cookbook is that a good blog always reminds me of what's in season. Being constantly strapped for cash prevents me from buying too many fresh and fancy ingredients, so when I do, it better be good and worth the money. Here's an example of what's not worth the money: I once tried to buy a single heirloom tomato at the Dupont Circle farmers market and it was more than $6. Needless to say, I put it back on the shelf for some rich yuppy who won't flinch at the price. Anyway, good vegetarian food blogs tend to post recipes that use a lot of fresh ingredients, which tend to be the cheapest and the best-tasting when they're in season.

The New Vegetarian not only incorporates many seasonal ingredients, but also prepares them in interesting ways, often with plenty of herbs and spices. My go-to method of cooking most veggies is to roast them and/or stick them in salads, so I look forward to expanding my repertoire. Plus, his pictures are gorgeous!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Apartment cuisine: chana masala and stir-fried broccoli

This may look very similar to what I ate on one of my first nights at the apartment: something vaguely Indian and something green with rice.

But it's not! Instead of corn curry, it's chana masala, and instead of Trader Joe's Indian food, it's stir-fried broccoli.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What's the big deal with these small cakes?

I just don't understand this current fad. Can someone explain them to me?

The incredibly long line outside the mysteriously famous Georgetown Cupcake over the weekend

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Adventures in granola making, part 1 of many

When it comes to cereal and granola, I'm pretty picky: It needs to hold its crunch and not be too sweet. It can't have raisins or coconut, and it should have pumpkin seeds in it. Unfortunately, the types of cereal I like come almost exclusively in small boxes with high prices. Given my continued desire to eat lots of cereal and not go bankrupt, I decided to take the matter into my own hands.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A confession

I've had a rather uninteresting past couple of days food wise. Frankly, I'm having a hard time remembering what I've been cooking/eating. I'm pretty sure I ate a lot of cereal. Like, A LOT of cereal. This past Saturday I went to Whole Foods and came back with only large cartons of soymilk and a box of cereal. By Sunday evening, the cereal was gone. I think I ate other things too but they're not coming up too clearly (Actually, now that I actually think about it, Shaila came by and taught me how to make a delicious Indian dish, which I forgot to take pictures of so you'll have to wait until I recreate it to read about it).

Anyway, as a food blogger, I guess I should make this confession sooner rather than later. As much as I'd like you to believe that I come home every day ready to hop into the kitchen to cook the next edition of Apartment Cuisine, most days I just pour myself a bowl of cereal, plop down somewhere, and eat that until my blood sugar level is high enough for me to stand up again. There will be days when I eat pretty much nothing but cereal and be perfectly happy. So really, my diet is more like that of a bachelor than a food blogger.

Since I believe all blog posts are better with pictures, this is where I would have wanted to insert a picture of a bowl of my favorite cereal. But I can't even do that because I already finished the box that I bought on Saturday. But if you really want to know, my current favorite brand is Nature's Path Flax Plus. It's just a little sweet and doesn't get mushy easily, even with a slow eater like me.

Phew. Boy it felt good to get that off my chest. I hope you will still have enough faith in my culinary abilities after reading that. But if I don't post for a couple of days, you know what I'm eating.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Apartment Cuisine: Masaman curry

I've always loved Thai curries. In my mind, they're usually not as spicy or heavy as most North Indian curries and pack more flavor compared with Japanese curries. But I didn't know just how much I loved Thai curries until I actually went to Thailand in high school and ate at a hole in the wall shop in Ko Samui's main tourist drag. Before then, my parents and I would frequent at this place in Arlington that serves very creamy and mildly spicy curries with many pieces of chicken and very little of other ingredients. So when a huge bowl of potatoes, meat, and many vegetables swimming in a watery green curry arrived at our table in Thailand I was pretty surprised.

I can still remember my first reaction to that first spoonful of curry. It was SO flavorful and made me finally understand the phrase "party in my mouth." I paused, and just sat there, tasting all the different flavors. It was citrusy from the lemongrass, sweet and rich from the coconut milk, salty from the fish sauce, a little spicy, and so much more. Compared with really creamy curries, the lower fat content really allowed all the flavors (and trust me, there were many) to come through. The wateriness of the curry also made it a much lighter dish so you can eat more of it (another plus)!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Chocolate chip cookies + salt

Remember Sharples? The land of chicken croquettes, rubbery pasta, and free-flowing ice cream (especially if you accidentally grabbed a too-warm bowl)?

Actually, no. I think I've blocked it out of my head.

Except my stomach remembers some things all too well. Once in a while, I get a huge craving for chocolate chip cookies. I thought it was weird at first, then I remembered that on Mondays, when Sharples serves huge trays of cookies at lunch, half my day's caloric intake would be from those chocolate chip cookies. Now my cookie cravings don't seem so inexplicable.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Apartment cuisine: Boiled kale over rice

Not the most appetizing looking thing ever but it was exactly what I was looking for tonight: green, easy to make, and used up some leftover rice. I sauteed some onions and kale before adding some broth, let the whole thing simmer for a bit to soften the kale, put it over rice along with a fried egg. *edit* As per a reader's request (wait, I have readers??), I'm putting a rough recipe of this after the jump.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Apartment cuisine: corn curry

My eating habits have been changing almost as drastically as my living situation in the past few months. First, after coming home from college, I ate mostly fresh fruits and veggies which I felt so deprived of at Swarthmore. Then, on my trip to the Pacific Northwest, I ate almost constantly and the meals consisted of fewer green things. The backpacking trip after that involved more peanut butter and granola than I ate in months. And most recently, right after I started working and was doing that ridiculous 3 hour commute, I ate small breakfasts and lunches because I'd be in a rush and a large dinner (cooked by my parents, fortunately) because I was usually famished when I got home.

Now, having moved into a new apartment and reduced my commuting time by a factor of three, I have the time and energy to spend more time cooking when I get back from work. I can see myself making simple but filling meals for dinner when I get home each day and spending more time over the weekend making something big to bring for lunch over the week. For the past two dinners since I've moved in, I thought about what I wanted to eat during the day (and feasibly cook, of course!) and bought the ingredients at the conveniently located grocery store coming out of the metro stop.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Boy baiting

I was at a dinner party hosted by some NIH fellows this past weekend. Since I am absolutely clueless when it comes to choosing wines, I brought dessert instead. It's called a boy bait, named by a 15 year-old girl who submitted it as an entry to a Pillsbury bake off for its effect on boys, but a certain Australian thinks that it sounds like something a sex offender would make. I know I'd have a harder time protecting myself if those people baked like this.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Home Cooking

This past weekend was my last one at home. In a week, I will be buying furniture at Ikea and moving most of my possessions into a lovely apartment in Van Ness (northwest DC). Even though the word "home" doesn't really invoke feelings of permanence and emotional comfort in me because of my family's instability (geographical and otherwise), this place in Falls Church, VA is nevertheless the only place that I can claim as home for now. I mean, most of my stuff is here, although by that definition my home was for a while in a storage unit somewhere in Virginia or in my grandparents' attic.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Sometimes I think my blog really should be called pretty desserts and ugly soups, or something along the lines of that, because those are the two types of foods that I cook the most often (of course, I don't consider making a salad as cooking). So when it came time to make a big batch of something for lunch during the week I unhesitatingly whipped up a good hearty soup.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Peach buckle

Did I say that I was going to research brown bag lunch ideas? What I actually meant was, uh, dessert. More specifically, a buckle.

A buckle is a cake with a layer of fruit and streusel on top. I saw this recipe when I going through my google reader feed diligently doing important work-related research and immediately knew that I had to make it. I have buttermilk leftover from my recent cake adventure and stone fruits out the wazoo at the farmer's market (99 cents/pound for perfectly ripe and sweet peaches!). What more could I ask for?

Friday, July 30, 2010

A dry spell

 I only wish I can be as consistent about posting as Carey, but between starting work this week and a 3 hour a day commute, it's hard to make anything more than cereal, salad, and sandwiches. But I hope to do some serious recipe searching this weekend for easy but delicious and filling brown bag lunch ideas. So stay tuned!

In the mean time, I came across this incredible video of a compilation of the Iron Chef America Chairman unveiling the secret ingredient. If you watch the show, you'll definitely appreciate it. But it's entertaining even if you don't.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Baba ghanoush

I got some beautiful eggplants last weekend at the farmer's market. Unlike the big dark purple ones, these are a lighter shade of purple and much smaller. According to my mom, they're supposed to be more tender and flavorful than the bigger ones. But frankly I have no idea what variety I ended up getting. Also, I didn't know this, but China is by far the biggest eggplant producer in the world, growing more than twice what India, the second largest producer, grows.

Anyway, it didn't matter what the eggplants I got looked like, because they eventually ended up looking like this:

And then like this:

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Chocolate cake

Growing up in China, I thought birthday cakes were pretty magical stuff. Like, on par with the mooncakes that we ate during the mid-autumn festivals or the garlic pickled in vinegar that would turn blue just in time for Chinese new year. On my birthdays, my granddad would pick me up early from school (and make me feel sooooo special because no one else got to leave school early that day) and take me to the state-run bakery and pick up my birthday cake. Sometimes, those standoffish middle-aged baker ladies would make it on the spot in front of a glass window through which I could watch the entire cake making process, which I thought was the coolest thing ever. She would put this simple yellow cake on a turnstile and proceed to cover it with a thick layer of frosting and flowers. At such a young age, I just couldn't comprehend how a tube of frosting can turn into flowers and other shapes -- it must be magic. Which is why I think people who make their own wedding cakes or that guy on ace of cakes are pretty much the most talented people ever.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Markets and Pies

I live near an exceedingly lovely farmer's market. It's large, has beautiful produce (especially one cute farmer boy who sells really great salad mix, but that's a different story), and lots of free cheese samples. I was really excited to visit it for the first time in a long while a few weekends ago because I've had strawberry-rhubarb pies on my mind for a while and was really hankering for one. But after half an hour of walking around and trying to catch sight of some gorgeous ruby-colored stalks (and a very embarrassing incidence where in my eagerness I mistook some swiss chard for rhubarb...) I only found some sad, de-leafed and pale rhubarb sitting in a tub. I was out of luck.

Or so I thought! It turned out that my parents had bought a strawberry-rhubarb pie independently. Perfect.

It turned out to be the worst strawberry-rhubarb pie I've ever tasted.

Maybe I'm spoiled. Maybe I've only had them lovingly homemade by Helen Chmura and Emily Hager for sunday teas fresh out of the oven, but man, this "farmstand" pie didn't even taste like strawberry or rhubarb. It tasted like... chemicals. A closer look at the filling ingredients list proved my suspicions correct: potassium sorbate AND red #40. What on earth are those things doing in my pie?? The image of an Amish mother slowly pulling pies out of the oven was completely shattered (wait, can they even have ovens in the first place?) and replaced by an evil cackling machine dumping a whole vat of red #40 into each pie. The worst part was that I could feel the pie sitting in my stomach for the next three hours, which was a problem since I ate it at 11pm at night.

Okay, I'm exaggerating its bad qualities, but only a little.

The fact remains that this pie does not belong in a farmer's market. Sure, I may have an idealistic image of farmers markets. But I also understand that the farmers are not cottage industries making everything in small batches. They are not all like Polyface farm where everything produced there is beyond organic, has minimal carbon footprint, and absolutely delicious. Still, seeing ingredients that I would never put in my own food makes me feel cheated. Isn't the point of selling prepared foods from a market (aside from financial ones) to share a little bit of your home, of your unique recipes with other people? Maybe I'm still romanticizing here but I maintain that a huge part of the beauty of farmers markets is lost when I have to start scrutinizing ingredients lists for those long-winded ingredients that are found in my chem textbook. I do enough of that in grocery stores.

Friday, June 18, 2010


Ever since this past winter break, I've been obsessed with putting roasted beets in salad. It only helps that the ruby-red root gets touted as a super food like, all the time. While I'm absolutely fascinated by the wild possibilities of doing things other than roasting them, the simplicity of tossing them into foil, baking and leaving them until they're done and ready to be tossed into a salad can't be... beet. Plus, they make a salad look so good! What's not to love?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Seattle - Pike Place Market

I just got back from a fantastic trip to Seattle and Portland to visit Jimmy. The trip only confirmed my desire to leave the east coast and live in Pacific Northwest. I just loved the feel of the area with its abundance of amazing foods and coffee, the breathtaking scenery, and the laid back, friendly, and often quirky people. On the trip, most of our time was spent eating or in transit between places to eat, with visiting non-food related sites almost as an afterthought. Our excellent guide, Jimmy, herded us to so many restaurants, coffeeshops, and food karts that by the last meal of the trip I could only handle a small bowl of salad. Everywhere we went, whether it was a small Schnitzel kart run by a Czech couple or a crowded Lebanese restaurant that takes the effort to make fresh pita for every table, I got the sense that people were incredibly passionate about the food they prepared and/or served in a very deep way. As a result, the foods we ate were often quite simple, but because of the thought and care that went into them they turned out to be some of the most delicious things I've ever tasted.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Del Posto

After a phenomenally busy and eventful final semester at Swarthmore, I now finally have the time and the mental capacity to write a very overdue post about a fantastic restaurant I visited over winter break.

I first became intrigued at this place after a Serious Eats Post about it before break even started. Since I was going to NYC anyway, it only made perfect sense to splurge a little and have an excellent dining experience. And at 35 dollars for a three-course and then some prix fixe lunch, Del Posto was practically inviting us commoners to come and eat off their delicious menu.