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Monthly Archives: October 2012

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Yesterday was a leisurely autumnal Sunday. Surprisingly the last couple of days have been heavy cloud-cover, nightly rains & misty mornings. To wind down for the evening with my fiancé, I suggested that we should have some mulled cider. It’s serious now.

Autumn really is upon us.

I’ve always loved mulled cider; the coldest winters I knew were in the Pacific Northwest – though it is autumn now (in SoCal no less), we’ll go easy into warming up our bones from occasional chilly nights. I remember when I used to buy spiced apple cider from whatever grocery store that sold it (usually Trader Joe’s), but as convenient as that may be; I really enjoy spicing it myself at home. There are other great uses for the remaining semi-spent spices strained as well – that’s another post! (; What I love about mulled cider is that you can use any combination of spices to create a fragrant & flavour profile to your liking.

If you don’t have whole spices; the ground stuff will suffice – though I recommend stocking your cupboard with whole spices, at least to last through the holiday season. The bulk spice section at your grocery store or co-op is glorious for this! Therefore you can just buy the amount you need (& usually, it rings up as obscenely cheap for instance, I spent 41¢ on 2 Tbsp of organic allspice berries yesterday), instead of committing myself to a whole 2 oz. canister that might start collecting dust in my cupboard for 2 years; depending on how often I might use them (;

To be honest, the amount of spices used are used intuitively by eye & vary by what’s available. In the past, I’ve used star anise, the scraped shell of a vanilla bean pod, etc. Variation makes for a unique experience every time. Here is a base mulled cider recipe that you can experiment with.

MULLED CIDER

4 servings

4 cups of organic apple juice or pressed cider; the cloudier the better in my opinion
4 (about half a Tbsp) cardamom pods, crushed
a few cracked black peppercorns, depending on if you like the sharp peppery taste
4 allspice berries
4 cloves
cinnamon bark piece, however much of the flavour you’d like
citrus peel or slice

Place everything save for the cider last into saucepan. Turn the burner to the medium setting & allow the cider to come to a simmer. This way, the spice infusion is maximized. Upon simmering, turn the burner setting off & allow the infusion to continue for at least 3 minutes. Remove sauce pan & strain the spice bits through a mesh strainer into mugs before serving. Enjoy!

* grate dashes of nutmeg into cups or mugs before pouring in the cider.

* garnish with a cross-section slice of an apple, or an orange slice.

* optional boozy variations: a shot of bourbon, brandy, whisky or dark rum in your mug; top off with mulled cider to taste.

What variations of apple cider are you enjoying this season?

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The last year & ¾ of my time in Seattle – I was in production baking – specifically artisan bread & breakfast pastries for a great local, sustainable organic brunch café. As you can imagine, I often came home with baked goods, whether they were extras, fun experiments, day-olds, imperfect, whatever. There was no shortage of bread in my household.

Now that I’m no longer baking bread on a daily basis, it pains me to buy a loaf of bread. Initially the notion made me turn my nose up in disdain, wondering when the bread was baked, how fresh was it really, scouring the ingredient list & getting nostalgic about the bread I used to make by the dozens. I don’t mean to be such a bread snob, but it’s hard to go back once you’ve been there every step of the process, from mising (it’s definitely not proper, but by “mising“, I do mean to make the mise in mise en place, a progressive verb (; ) out the ingredients, initial mixing of the dough, autolysing, mixing it again, folding the dough after a rise, then bouling, resting & finally forming the dough into bâtardes. Without getting too overdramatic, in short, I tend to sort of quickly meditate throughout each step & one of the extremely satisfactory feelings I have, is when I turn the loaves: the opening of the oven door, the whoosh of heat, steam & scent of baked bread emanating out. The crusts that fissure the bread, splitting at the scores left by the lame. It’s a beautiful thing, culminated by taking the hot loaves out of the oven, dusting off the encrusted excess flour & setting them out on the cooling racks. Happiness.

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Anyway, as you can imagine. The call to start baking bread at home.. for the home; was strong. But what sort to make? An extremely versatile bread staple in our household is sourdough bread. After browsing starter recipes, I found this one. I’m on day 4 of building my starter & I am really excited. Whenever I feed or stir the starter while my fiancé is around, he wrinkles his nose at it (mostly out of jest; he’s been in the industry cooking for nearly a decade & he’s never had the interest or patience to bake), whereas I excitedly crow over the yeast/bacterial activity. I mean, what a beaut!

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This is how my budding starter looked this morning before changing the hydration levels. I truly love the process! It’s as simple as 13g (½ oz.) of flour & 27g (1 oz.) of water, stirring, keeping it covered & storing it somewhere warm to encourage activity. I’ve been storing the starter (I haven’t named her yet, any recommendations?) above the fridge (it’s been cool lately, I’m gunning for optimal warm spots in the kitchen). I’ll keep you guys updated on the progress of my starter; she’s bubbling along quite nicely. I look forward to using her in bread (:

Happy Mid-Autumn Moon Festival ! Or as I’d rather say, 中秋節快樂 ! (zhōngqiū jié kuàilè !)

This post is about a month late but considering how I started this blog yesterday – there was no way that I would not include a post in regards to the harvest moon!

Aside from the Chinese lunar new year, this is my absolute favourite Chinese holiday that I celebrate & this one is the third consecutive one celebrated with my love (who is not of Chinese descent). For those that may not have background knowledge of this holiday, my default resource link would direct you to here.

For me, it’s an occasion to spend time with loved ones, drink some delicious tea & eat mooncakes while looking at the gorgeous harvest moon hanging in the sky – Earth’s satellite, an orbiting black miniature planet that is illuminated for us on Earth to see by the radiation of the Sun.


Leading up to this, my fiancé & I were scoping out optimal moon-viewing spots. We opted for the top floor of the parking structure of our apartment complex. The sixth story. We then packed an assortment of mooncakes, cut into fourths & brought along a thermos of some oolong (or rather, gaoshan) tea that I procured from an exquisite teahouse in Taiwan a couple years ago (since the tea is oxidised, it keeps really well, or at least I tell myself that, sometimes I tend to reserve tea that I treasure because I want it to last as long as possible..until the next visit, whenever that is – can you relate?). My fiancé drove our truck to the top of the structure, bedded down the back of our truck with an old blanket & we sat in the back of the truck with our moon-viewing snacks. It was romantic of course, but in general, a lovely time! We look forward to the years we’ll spend together & with our future children, celebrating the harvest moon.

We had spent a bit of time to plan out the evening. About a week prior, I Googled where the nearest Asian grocery store would be to buy mooncakes – luckily there was a Ranch 99 nearby. There were two rows of mooncake giftboxes of varying assortments there, I was ecstatic. The most traditional sort would contain lotus bean paste & duck egg yolk, which is delicious in a savoury way however I had another variety in mind – tea flavoured ones by Sheng Kee BakeryThis company originates from Taiwan & they have production facilities in the Bay Area as well as retail bakery locations (I will have to keep this in mind whenever I am in the Bay). I highly advise that you check out this Sheng Kee link, even if you don’t speak or read Chinese.. the site has this amazing & epic video short that gives you some insight on how they make mooncakes – it’s heartwarming & impressive, if not a great comical view.

The cakes themselves are so delicious, it’ll be hard for me to deviate from purchasing these again. The giftbox that we bought contained a dozen cakes & the flavours were the following: green tea (綠茶 lǜchá), oolong (烏龍 wūlóng), citron (柚子 yòuzi)), jasmine (茉莉花 mòlìhuā), dried longan (桂圆 guìyuán), which to us, tasted reminiscent of date, & matcha chestnut (抹茶栗子 mǒchá lìzi). The jasmine was a delicate floral, not too strong. The fiancé tends to dislike floral flavours, yet he actually liked this one. All-in-all, we loved them & continued making tea & having mooncake tastings each night after dinner until they were all gone. I jokingly told my fiancé that we should stock up on clearance-priced mooncakes & have mooncakes all the time; he pointed out that we might get sick of them otherwise.. As much as I do love mooncakes, I conceded – I love that we eat them only during this time of year. It makes for that fantastic briskness, ushering in autumn & days of leaves changing warm hues. Cozy sweaters & wraps, perhaps a scarf to accommodate. Not to mention the welcome hot cups of tea  to push the day forward, or to wind down. & eventually replaced  by mulled cider or wine.

Until next year, when the moon is especially huge & brightly tinted saffron in the sky.

I happen to follow SAVEUR on twitter & earlier this month, as a celebration of their 150th issue, they presented 150 classic recipes. While browsing these recipes (I’m sure you can imagine & relate, that this is a favourite pastime), I was especially intrigued by their recipe for salmorejo, which is an Andalusian Spanish chilled tomato soup akin to gazpacho. Despite it being at the cusp of autumn here in La Jolla/ San Diego, my fiancé & I were still adjusting to the sunshine & heat (come on, we just moved down here from Seattle! (;). We live on an upper floor & our apartment faces the sun during the heat of the day..needless to say, we felt stifled. So the idea of eating chilled soup was appealing, not to mention the sheer simplicity of the ingredients called to me, as these were ingredients that we often had in our kitchen.

When my fiancé tried it, he declared it his new favourite dish of mine. He was incredulous that it did not contain dairy (we’re both a bit dairy-sensitive), that it yielded a creamy & velvety soup, thanks to the bread. It’s a very portable, not-as-temperature-sensitive soup to send to work with my fiancé via a thermos & tasty even if it’s barely cooler than room temperature. We’ve noticed that the soup does the next day as well, the flavours just macerate & strengthen due to the emulsification. Delicioso.

My adaptation uses less olive oil & has a substitution of sourdough bread-ends & slices instead of using baguette. Use whichever you prefer. We happen to adore the tanginess of sourdough. In my home, we try to limit our red meat consumption so my version is served without any; though I’m certain jamón serrano or prosciutto would further elevate this into a lovely dish worthy of an elegant summertime dinner party.

SALMOREJO *

Adapted from SAVEUR
4 servings

4 plum or roma tomatoes (cored, halved & seeded)
1 clove garlic (crushed)
5 oz. of sourdough bread-ends/slices or a baguette, if you have that on hand instead (cut into large pieces)
½ small yellow onion
14 cup extra-virgin olive oil & more for drizzling
1 Tbsp. sherry vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Sea salt, to taste (I recommend at least a teaspoon)
Pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika) or just paprika, to taste
Red pepper flakes, to taste
4 soft-boiled eggs, (halved or chopped, I use 1 egg per serving bowl)

* This recipe requires a blender or an immersion blender!

Place tomatoes, garlic, onion & bread slices in a non-metallic bowl, cover with boiling water & allow to rest uncovered for an hour. Remove vegetables & squeeze the water out of the bread slices; place them in blender. Reserve 1 cup of the soaking liquid (preferably the cloudiest portion of the soaking liquid) & add to the blender along with the oil & sherry vinegar. Purée until smooth; season with salt, pepper & spices to taste. Chill. When ready to serve; top with soft-boiled eggs, chopped cilantro if you’d like, drizzle oil, crushed black pepper & a sprinkle of crusty sea salt. Enjoy!

First official post!

Haven’t outright blogged in quite some time.. It’s lovely to be here (:

The decision to begin this blog coincides with my transition from having lived & worked in Seattle to now existing as a transplant in La Jolla/San Diego (my fiancé & I relocated so that he could attend graduate school here). I wouldn’t say that the two places are the most extreme polar opposites in regards to the the West Coast; but so they would appear! Instead of being so close to our northern foreign neighbour; we are now close to our southern one.

This space is for me to share snaps, snippets of interesting food adventures, posts of interesting food design, recipes tinkered with & glimpses into the food industry/culture/trends – whether it be encountered whilst travelling or haphazardly stumbled upon.

Enjoy! & thank you for stopping by.

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