Leek and Tofu Potstickers

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Ever since I took the Wonders of Wonton class at San Francisco’s pop-up school The Civic Kitchen I’ve been on a bit of wonton bender. I had made two big batches of 2 types of wontons few weeks ago and I think I had them in the freezer but they seem to have disappeared, and they took some of the chili oil with them.

I had no option but to make more. Figured I would use leeks from my farm stand haul, with some tofu for bulk. I added some store bought lemongrass paste but it was quite intense, and a bit synthetic in flavor – the wontons tasted alright overall but not how I imagined they would. I guess I’ll need to try to a different brand or try to make my own – stay tuned! I’m not suggesting the paste in the recipe below but feel free to add 1-1 1/2 teaspoon of your favorite brand if you’d like to experiment (just adjust the salt and spice level accordingly)!

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Confessions of a Wonton Addict

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In an effort to formally learn some kitchen skills (and if we are being very honest, in an effort to feed myself delicious wontons any time I want), I recently took the amazing “Wonders of Wonton” class with Chef Lorraine Witte at San Francisco’s newly minted pop-up cooking school: “The Civic Kitchen“. It was my first time in a cooking school and boy was I in wonderland – state of the art equipment, cleavers so sharp you could cut yourself just looking at them, wonderful atmosphere and very helpful instructors!

I’ve been known to hightail to San Francisco’s many amazing dumpling places, and also down to Din Tai Fung in San Jose (whenever they’ll let us in, that is – typically that  happens once a year) to get my Xiao Long Bao/Scallion Pancake/General Dumpling fix from time to time. Life has its way of getting in the way of my love for dumplings. Also, traffic on highway 101. So I figured a lesson on wontons would help bring them closer, and also give me an opportunity to fill them with the things I want to eat (less pork, more shrimp, some chicken), alongside other things I want to eat with them (1/4 cup chili oil, anyone?).

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Breakfast Banana Bread

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Banana Bread, or Banana Nut Bread actually, is the one of the first few cakes I learned how to bake, way back in 2009. It was a simpler time when I had only a couple of baking pans, one tacky whisk, and I didn’t know the difference between cake flour and all purpose flour. And boy did I end up learning the difference! I followed some recipe from the Food Network Test Kitchen and over a period of several months and years, iterated over it to come up with my own variations. Almost always one-bowl, minimal prep work, no fancy ingredients, infinitely adaptable, forgiving, freezer-friendly, reheats like a dream…are just a few ways to describe a good loaf of Banana Nut Bread, and this recipe always hit the mark.

With requests from friends, I started making them eggless (swap each egg with one medium sized banana), with different nuts (pecans are wonderful too), with seeds, with or without chocolate (chips, chunks and cocoa powder versions), in pretty bundt pans instead of loaf, with or without chocolate ganache on top, and so on. The combinations are endless.

But the banana nut breads I was making were an indulgence. I mean they were worlds apart from the high-calorie, compressed sawdust you get in Starbucks but they weren’t something I could have all the time, because of all the sugar and butter and of course the banana itself is pretty high calorie and a sugar bomb when ultra ripe. So I fiddled with the recipe a bit to make it less indulgent, and it completely sucked. Much like the direction this blog post is taking.

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Chouriço Pão (Goan Chorizo Sausage Bread)

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The “Chorizo Scramble” has been dominating my breakfast/brunch order for years now, right from the first time I had it 7 years ago at a cafe on Catalina Island. Occasionally I’ll order poached eggs with hollandaise sauce if the restaurant is particularly spectacular, like The Table in Willow Glen, but most of the times its the Chorizo Scramble. And it doesn’t photograph too well, now that I think about it. And honestly, most of the time it tastes just about okay. If you order the version with all eggs (no egg whites), then it tastes rich enough, but 3 egg yolks in one go is dangerously close to my weekly egg yellow quota. If you order the version with egg whites…well, you may as well order saw dust. The egg whites are so overcooked that they are reduced to a pile of pea-size bits. Either way, you need some cheese to bring it all together and hide the inadequacy of egg whites, but cheese is something my body stopped processing gracefully 5 years ago, so that’s not an option. “Wow, you sure are demanding!” is what I get most of the times when I describe my scrambled egg problems to people, so I decided to just make it myself going forward.

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Time for penance (not really)

While I love to bake and cook elaborate meals on weekdays and some weeknights, on a day to day basis I like to keep it light yet fun. These smoothies and juices are so easy to make, especially if you have the Vitamix (seriously, that thing could pulverize, well…anything)!

In my opinion, the best thing about the Vitamix is the convenience of keeping the smoothie/juice ingredients portioned-out, frozen and ready-to-go. The “frozen” part of it lends a great body to the juice/smoothie. The same result can be achieved without the Vitamix, but crushed ice will have to be used with chilled ingredients.

A great way to reduce the number of calories and natural sugar in these drinks, is by replacing regular milk with dairy-free alternatives, such as Almond Milk (Califia is a great brand, usually stocked in Lucky or Whole Foods) or Coconut Milk (can’t go wrong with So Delicious plain Coconut Milk).

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