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Monthly Archives: February 2013

I’ll spare you my generally jaded feelings about St. Valentine’s Day.. It could be because I am in love – engaged – or simply because my fiancé & I have extremely busy schedules in which there will be days where we don’t see each other for more than half an hour (if at all) – despite the fact that we co-habitate!! Therefore, we were especially looking forward to having a nice date night! We don’t do the silly commercialised elaborate gift-giving; it’s often been exchanges of the following: a sweet valentine love note to a single-stemmed rose & in years past, accompanied by Theo Chocolate confections or a bottle of port. Our tradition would be to have an amazing dinner at our favourite French café in Seattle called Le Pichet. As this was our first Valentine’s Day in SoCal; I decided to bring a bit o’ Seattle to us: I ordered the Casanova caramel collection & the FareStart mirepoix caramel collection from Theo Chocolate. I was particularly excited about the mirepoix caramels, they are in the following savoury+sweet flavours: celery herb, caramelized onion, carrot coriander & bay fennel. Needless to say, the fiancé was pleasantly surprised to see these treats.

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Pictured are some of the Casanova caramels: (clockwise from top right) honey saffron, lavender jalapeño, pink salted vanilla & last but not least, ginger rose. Exquisitely delicious.

Since I was in the spirit of elegant treats, I made macarons to share with my co-workers, friends & family. I made two varieties: honey rose & toasted coconut + burnt sugar. They were promptly devoured & next time, I really ought to make more.. (but can there ever be enough macarons to satiate everyone? Doubtful!) Stay tuned for a future macaron recipe post (:

ImageWhat could invoke romance more than honey & rosewater? These turned out beautifully – I made sure to go gently with the rosewater – no one likes to bite into rose potpourri (blech!) I would like to note that the awesome pale pink hue of the macarons is from India Tree’s natural food colouring/decorating set that I procured from Sur la Table (both are Seattle companies; what a coincidence (: ) The red colouring is actually from beet juice !! Pretty awesome as I am never keen on red dye 40.. India Tree’s Nature’s Colours decorating set is a bit pricey but I think it’s worth the investment, as a few drops go a long way – you should be able to use this amount for most of a year (unless you use food colouring a LOT..)

ImageSomewhat romantic. However, definitely delightful. These were made out of whimsy to accompany the honey rose macarons. I had a lot of fun making the toasted coconut macaron shells & assembling them with toasted coconut & burnt sugar Italian buttercream & burnt sugar caramel centres. The macaron shells are not tinted by any sort of food coloring – but rather, blessed by the oven! As nerdy as it may sound, this is one of the many reasons why I love baking & pastry. Practically magical.

Whether you had a nice Valentine’s Day.. Or if it was just another Thursday.. I hope & encourage you to treat yourself. Either way, that was two weeks ago. I’m having a hard time believing how February, in all its brevity, is really over!

Hello March..

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The Chinese lunar new year fell on February 10th this month – & for most Chinese people (born outside of China or no), this is a major holiday, in a sense, to spend time with their loved ones & partake in family traditions to welcome a new year. For those that may not know, this is now the year of the snake (one of the 12 animals of the zodiac). This would be my first new year away from Seattle. Luckily I have family in Northern California! After some deliberation, we decided to drive up to see my grandfather, mother (she flew in!) & the cohort of relatives – lots of cousins, aunts & uncles to visit with. Despite the all the time travelling (it was about an eight hour drive each way); it was a fantastic visit. A lot of traditions & new year’s feasting ensued.

ImageA couple traditions that I like to partake in is cleaning the house before the new year (a very literal Chinese spring-cleaning, if you will) & hanging up new year decorations – in my case, it’s hanging a good fortune character (福 fú) on our front door. Its function is to usher in some good chi our way as well as give our apartment a festive touch!

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Before trekking back to Southern California, one of my aunts gave me this treat!  Zhong (spelling & dialect variations are jung, zongzi), a bamboo-leaf wrapped steamed glutinous rice cake filled with a savoury mung bean paste & usually salted pork belly – the origin of this particular variety is Vietnamese. As you can imagine, there are a plethora of regional variations of zhong. Out of the many festive food items, this would be one that I strongly associate with Chinese new year.  One could eat it sliced & cold. Or heated up. But my favourite way to eat it is pan-seared & drizzled with honey! The contrasting textures of the crispy outside & the bamboo-leaf fragrant sticky glutinous rice.. in addition to the sweetness from the honey & the saltiness from the mung bean paste & pork. To me, it is reminiscent of maple syrup-drenched pancakes & bacon. Such a nostalgic treat.

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The Chinese lunar new year festivities are generally celebrated for fifteen days – ending with the Lantern Festival. Judging from a lot of my friends’ facebook photos overseas – they are having a blast! & eating delicious sweet rice dumplings. (I am extremely jealous). Whether you celebrate the lunar new year, I wish your coming year to be full of good health, fortune & prosperity. 新年快樂 (xīnniánkuàilè), 萬事如意 (wànshìrúyì) !

As much as I love the Pacific Northwest, I must concede of an attribute that is so uniquely Californian: local citrus. As if fresh citrus isn’t amazing enough.. Toss Meyer lemons into the mix & it is sheer bliss! Wintertime here equates to cheap Meyer lemons aplenty. So what would one do upon acquiring such precious fruits? Make Meyer lemon curd of course!

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Making lemon curd is a simple yet magical process. The ingredients are simple enough: sugar, eggs, lemon juice, zest & butter. Within minutes over a double boiler, the loose mixture whisked will thicken & come to life into a beautiful & bright viscosity.

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I really enjoy lemon curd that is more on the tart side. My favourite way to eat lemon curd is straight up, off the spoon. Or if I happen to have berries to accompany them, it makes for a fantastic treat. I’m a firm believer that lemon curd elevates anything that’s non-savoury. Lately, I’ve been putting lemon curd in with my goat milk yogurt & top it off with granola & berries. A fantastic way to start the day. Especially since I typically start my work days at 3am.

This recipe is adapted from the austere David Lebovitz; though I make use of the Meyer lemon zest! Without it, in my opinion, the lemon curd tastes like ordinary (though delicious) lemon curd. The Meyer lemon zest makes the difference & adds a subtle herbaceous, almost lavender undertone to the bright tartness. & since my stovetop is finicky electric; I cook the curd over a double-boiler. Or if you like to live dangerously, cook it directly in a saucepan while stirring with vigor.

MEYER LEMON CURD *
yields approximately 2 cups

65 grams of granulated sugar
2 yolks
2 whole eggs
¾ cup of Meyer lemon juice (approximately 3 medium to large sized Meyer lemons)
zest of one of the Meyer lemons that you juiced!
6 tablespoons of unsalted butter – cut into 4 or so slabs
a pinch of salt

* This recipe requires a whisk, rubber spatula, a double-boiler & a strainer.

ImageWhisk all ingredients save for the butter in a metal or glass bowl fitted over your boiling pot. Continue to whisk until the mixture thickens. One way to be certain that it’s at the proper thickness is to tilt the whisk to see if the lemon curd droplets slowly drip. I like to jiggle the bowl; if the mixture wobbles like pudding; I deem it ready! Remove from heat – be careful not to give yourself a steam burn. Quickly whisk in the butter slabs. Once the butter is fully incorporated, strain the curd (for any bits of small cooked egg pieces & zest) into a heat-resistant vessel (I use glass almost always). Refrigerate. The curd keeps for well over two weeks, though mine scarcely lasts more than 5 days (we are AVID lemon curd eaters here).

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