Vegatables

POPCORN POLENTA W/ MUSHROOM JUS

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Yellow bowl from Dishes Only.

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WE ARE GONNA TURN POPCORN INTO GRITS

One sleepless night in Hong kong, I sat in darkness as my face was dimly illuminated with fascinations and lights extruding from an iPad, where David Chang and Daniel Patterson were performing the magic of turning popcorns into polenta.  Popcorns.  This lowly snack that nobody deems worthy as anything but an afterthought on movie nights, or an amusement as we watch them being tumbled in disgusting, clownish rainbow food-dyes, in their hands, became this creamy and velvety substance.  That moment, I suddenly became interested in the word polenta again.

I tried cooking real polenta before… once.

It was somewhere back in the early 2000’s when I was still a collagen-filled college student, merely trying to feed myself at the end of the month by counting coins left from a careless visit to the Urban Outfitters.  Had I, a barely seasoned juvenile cook, any business making this hopelessly romantic Italian staple with slogans like “stir till death do us apart”?  No, absolutely no.  But clearly, no one had the heart to tell me.  I remember standing by the stove for what must’ve felt like an eternity, blood sweat and tears, tending a pot of lava-like substance that constantly spat out skin-meltingly hot sputters onto every surfaces that hurt, and yet somehow, still tasted like a flavorless goo with crunchy, uncooked bits.

It’s been like… I don’t know, 15 years?  I’ve never tried again since.  Actually, I forgot about polenta all together.  Bad word.  Very bad word.

Well, until PBS arrived.

Or more accurately, the show The Mind of a Chef arrived on PBS which was featured on Netflix which had just recently become available in Hong Kong.

I can’t quite remember the specific episode, but it was Season One somewhere, featuring David Chang with guest chef, Daniel Patterson.  And the second they proclaimed, “We are gonna turn popcorns into grits” (not the exact quote)(and call it grits if you want but I’m calling mine polenta because it’s very yellow), I knew it was going to be very cool.  Of course, being a respectably fancy chef, Daniel had to demonstrate achieving this goal through extra laboring steps just to prove his self-worth (like… God-knows-how-many small batches of popcorns, separately, being poached then pushed through a ricer and then strained again…).  And leaving me, this lowly reputable home-cook with very little self-respect, to wonder why on earth couldn’t I cheat in like 4 steps?

Turned out, it can be.

Have your popcorns.  Blend them with liquid.  Strain.  Heat and season.

Without any stirring or sputters, I had creamy polenta with an extra nutty flavor from the popcorns in under 15 min.  Given that the texture may be less “pearly” compared to if I did it in 20 steps, but as a shortcut that served no other noble purposes but to make myself happy, I could gladly forgo the esthetic imperfections.  Especially, did I mention, that it was armed with melted cheddar cheese, and topped with deeply caramelized mushrooms with a dark pan-sauce made from garlics, fresh thymes, wine, chicken stock and a good dousing of tabasco sauce…  This gooey, buttery, savory, slightly spicy and tangy bed of comfort made an October Tuesday night really happy.

Who says that popcorns can’t be dinner?

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SPICY SALMON BIBIMBAP/KOREAN RICE BOWL

 

Hey guys.  I know I’ve been a bit absent lately.  So many changes and curve balls have been flying around in all directions I feel like I’m all twisted up like a hot pretzel!  I can’ wait to share all these updates with you (EEEWGE news, guys!  And, uh no, I’m not pregnant… nor is it a book thing, not yet), but for now, please let me quickly share this bibimbap recipe (or more accurately, hoedeopbap as a reader pointed out) with you.  This is one of my absolute favourite things to eat lately.  It’s deceivingly easy to make, unbelievably delicious, not to mention, coincidentally healthy because it’s borderline a veggie-bowl.  I think you’d be very surprised by how good it is, like I was, considering how little “cooking” was involved.  I make a big batch of the toppings and keep them in the fridge, which would more than adequately sustain the following couple days of crazy balling (which, again, I will soon update you on ;).  So… yup, eat up.  Eeewge, guys… eeewge.

 
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CHARRED CAULIFLOWER W/ GARLICS, TABASCO VINEGAR

During the CNY holidays, Chinese people go home.

And I mean, everybody, goes home.

Good people, bad people, people including the government who, day in and day out, guard its Chinese great firewall that Censors all freedom of communication to the outside world.  Yeah, those fuckers.  They go home, too.  Hey, even bad people need vacation.  Now, logic may have you think that it’s a good thing.  Censors gone, Facebook in.  Right?  Fuck no.  To understand it further, just imagine this:  The relationship between the Chinese government and its internet as sort of like… a psychopathically suspicious husband (the government) and his virgin wife (internet).  A wife who, on a typical day, is neatly brainwashed and filled with husband-worshipping propagandist fantasies.  The husband loves his stupid wife and likes to do kinky stuff to her behind closed doors, but at the same time, he also knows that she is unstably horny at any given hours, and wants to screw the free-thinking hot neighbours at every chances she gets.  So what happens when a jealous husband needs to leave home for awhile?  Letting his pure propagandist internet get raped by the terrors of free wills and information?  Of course not.

So what does he do?  Two words, chastity belt.

THE SINGLE LIGHT AND JOY IN MY DAILY SUFFERING FROM THE PAST 10 DAYS OF CYBER SOLITARY CONFINEMENT

For the past 10 days, all means to access blocked websites (guess what? that includes wordpress, too!) on my computer was completely taken down by the government.  And today, for the first time in an internet-eternity, I am finally getting a flickering signal and am able to log on to my blog.  I don’t know how long this “window” is going to be, so let me talk fast.

I want to share with you, a recipe from one of the most beautiful cookbooks out there, the single joy and light of my daily suffering for the past however-many days of cyber solitary confinement. The charred cauliflower with garlic and vinegar, from Gjenlina.

This dish is said to be one of the most highly requested dish from this celebrated restaurant in California. I have no doubt that in many customers’ hearts, the recipe is a shot of perfection as it is, but I still made quite a few changes. Not to “better” it, but to personalise it in a way that mirrors closer to my own style. Instead of using pre-made garlic confits, I quick-brined some garlics in fish sauce which softened and flavoured the cloves, then I fried them in olive oil until golden browned, sweet and tender. I then use the garlic-frying oil and reserved fish sauce to roast the cauliflower. Gjelina’s recipe instructed to brown the florets in skillet first then finish cooking in the oven, but I don’t have a skillet large enough to brown the florets properly, so instead, I just charred them 2″ below the broiler and it did the job pretty well. Then finally, instead of red wine vinegar, I used a mixture of tabasco sauce and white wine vinegar to get that sharp chili flavour and extra kicks. It was a healthy feast of robust and lively flavours, spicy and salty, acidic and sweet all at one crunchy and caramelised bite.

There’s not that many vegetable dishes that make me say unholy things like “I didn’t miss the meat at all“, but I think this recipe pulled the unthinkable.

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*Believe it or not, after I found out that the recipe was missing, it took me 20+ tries to get it back online….. fuck.

CHARRED CAULIFLOWER W/ GARLICS, TABASCO VINEGAR

Serving Size: 2

Inspired/adapted generously from GJELINA cookbook

Ingredients

  • 5 cloves garlics
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 4~6 small dried chili
  • 1/3 cup (68 grams) olive oil
  • 1 large head cauliflower
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1 1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tbsp tabasco sauce
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • sea salt and chili flakes to season

Instructions

  1. Lightly smash the garlics to peel the skin, then brine in fish sauce for 20 min. Meanwhile, clean and cut the cauliflowers into small florets, trimming the tough fibres/skins off of the stems, then scatter evenly on a sheet-pan. Preheat the broil on high.
  2. Remove the garlics from the fish sauce (reserve the fish sauce), then transfer into a small pot with dried chili and olive oil. Cook over low heat for 7~9 min, until the garlics are golden browned and soft. Remove the garlics and chili, set aside. Pour the garlic-oil over the caulifowers, along with reserved fish sauce, black pepper and white pepper, then toss to evenly coat every florets. Place the baking-sheet about 2" under the broiler, and char until the first sides are deeply caramelised. Turn the cauliflowers over, then broil until the other sides are charred as well, and that the cauliflowers are soft. Re-season with sea salt if needed.
  3. Transfer the cauliflowers, along with all the oil and juices into a large skillet. Add the reserved fried garlic, chili, white wine vinegar, tabasco sauce and chopped parsley. Cook over meidum-high heat, tossing to combine, until everything is heated through. Sprinkle with chili flakes and serve.
http://ladyandpups.com/2016/02/17/charred-cauliflower-w-garlics-tabasco-vinegar/

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AMAZING BROCCOLI STEAKS W/ RED CHILI SAMBAL ROMESCO

I CAN’T DECIDE WHETHER I WANT THIS, OR A BEEF BURGER FOR DINNER.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TO ME?!

I think as far as being an honest and balanced recipe-curator goes, since the day I publicly checked a carrot gingerbread cake w/ cardamon frosting and fried gingers and mashed potato butter-aioli into the category of “vegetables” without changing a shade, my failure in this aspect has been pretty self-explanatory.  It’s not that I deliberately faked the book, because after all, technically, there were credible amounts of vegetables in all those recipes.  Two whole carrots in that cake, no kidding!  But it doesn’t help covering the obvious that truth is, I don’t… believe in vegetables.  I mean I know they’re real, like real corns in my Doritos and whatnots, but the last time I actually felt it was when a tub of poutine from Montreal was eyeing me from the bar, and even that turned out to be a little disappointment.

But don’t you dare think that I haven’t sacrificed anything as a vegetable-doubter in my whole existence so far.  Besides a pouch of cottage cheese-like substance I carry around my waist and thighs at all times, it is also with tremendous sadness that I say, I could never have a mini pet-pig named Chicharron (my hypothetical pet-pig name).  You know what happens when you name a pig – well bye bye, pork.  Nor can I have a sheep named Ricotta, or a cow named Gelato…  My fantastic farm-dream, gone, all because spinach can’t agree with me.  So all these years, I suffered, I really did.  But just like that, as if someone heard my misery, in an unexpected morning just like any other, this reluctant doubter crashed into her veggie-calling like being hit by a double-decker bus when I saw this dish on the Deb’s Instagram.  Thing is, you see, this would the second time that I was going to make something inspired by her IG, which was starting to feel a bit stalker-like, so naturally, I resisted, I really did.  I mean, treating broccoli with the kind of substantial respect it isn’t normally granted, kind of like the cauliflower steaks, I guess, can be good, but let’s not appear to be too desperate yet.  So I dug my head into making my first blog-video ever, or perfecting that recipe that didn’t seem to want to stop getting better, all but just avoiding the inevitable that on Saturday, a head of broccoli miraculously appearing in my fridge out of the blue.  I’ve got no clue who put it there but I guess I had to cook it.

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THAI SPICY TOM-YUM-GOONG TOMATO GAZPACHO

I FELT LIKE MY MOUTH HAS TAKEN A BEACH VACATION DOWN IN  THE SOUTHEAST, THAT I COULD HEAR THE SOUND OF TURQUOISE WATER MASSAGING MY TASTE-BUDS

Something is happening here, and if you had any loved ones residing in Beijing, you may have felt this.  Perhaps from the shaken jitters that come through their voices, perhaps even traceable within their text messages… the emotions, raw and rampant, running uncontainably even from the choices of their emojis on Instagram.  Because over here, since about 3 days ago, something big is happening.  The most freakishunfathomable… borderline-scary natural phenomenon is rioting through the very air we breath, and the very reality we see, and frankly, it’s freaking everybody out here.  Emerging from the darkness, the elderly are moving cautiously and slowly out of the shadows of their dwellings, looking up, teary in disbelief.  The children, curious and enthusiastic, holding their hands out into the rare glistens and ask, Mommy, what is this?

What it is, is that for the past 3 consecutive days, the historically soupy and oppressively smoggy sky of Beijing, has been, impossibly blue.

I’m not talking about the-government-patting-themselves-on-the-back or the this-should-be-harmless-enough-to-leave-my-house-without-my-gas-mask kind of greyish relative blue.  I’m talking about… the Swissland-kind of blue, the 3D clouds-kind of blue, the mystical, unicorn-kind of blue that the Chinese has only seen or heard in movies or from the tales of strange, faraway travellers.  And maybe, it’s no big deal to you, but in Beijing, it’s nothing short of a miracle, like Moses parting the Red Sea and finding a 20 dollar-bill on the sea-floor while crossing.  Which is, literally, impossible.  As pathetic and outrageously sad this may sound, in a day like this, we almost owe it to ourselves to go outside and do something as mundanely rare as… having a fucking picnic.

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CLOUD-9 CHIPS-LIKE POTATO HASH, AND THANK YOU

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CLOUD 9, LIKE HOW YOU MADE MY DAY, AND YOU’LL NEVER WANT TO EAT POTATOES ANY OTHER WAYS AGAIN

Today, I woke up, and as I spent the next 1:30 hours removing microscopic dead leaves off of my succulent-babies with an eyebrow tweezer, I was utterly oblivious of the surprise that was waiting, patiently, in my email-box.  A tweet from Molly telling me of the enormous gift, from you, for name Lady and Pups as the winner for Best Photography for Saveur’s Food Blog Award.

I am speechless.  Looking at the other candidates whose photography make me want to lower my head into a bucket of sour cream, I am, absolutely, without words.  At times like these, to show gratitude, I guess people make grand gestures.  But grand-ness doesn’t reflect how I feel.  How I feel, as I’m typing, is humility.  For the past 3 years, including times when I didn’t exactly deserve it, humbled by your support, tolerance, for giving me the benefit of the doubt, and above all… humbled by the kind of friendship you offer me, more real than many other forms I’ve ever known.

I’m not particularly good at moments like these.  I think I am less incompetent at being sarcastic… making bad jokes out of serious matters.  But now, I’m out of words.  So instead, I wanted to make you something simple, something earnest in its candor, something stripped off of theatrics, like how you made me feel today.  Something with the purest intent to bring you incandescent joy when you take the first shattering bite, the airiest potato ribbon-hash that is both lofty and fluffy inside, sandwiched in between two impossibly crispy layers of chips-like crusts.  Cloud-9, like how you’ve made my day, and you’ll never want to eat potatoes any other ways again.  Because when conversing fails me, this is all I have left, for the lack of my better ability to say, thank you.

So really.  Thank you.

  
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TANGY BEAMMUS WITH SPICY EGGPLANT AND MUSHROOM

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BY ANY RELATIVE COMPARISON, IT WASN’T REALLY A BAD DAY IN MY PROGRESS TO MATURITY.

  

OK, last night, was a rough night.

It was at the inconvenient juncture of 3 am, when this garlic-tolerant vampire usually pop herself a good reliable melatonin-jelly bean and wait for it to propel into a semi-decent night of sleep, that she found, Marnie.  Of course, to Marnie’s fluffy highness, it was no big deal with her mighty presence of 1.4 M followers (M, guys, not K anymore.  K apparently is for losers), but for me, for me it was devastating to say the least.  A living hybrid of Forest Gump and Ewok, two most endearing mystical creatures in the world.  Not only she sent me into an unstoppable scrolling with the constant mindless chuckles, but she had led me into the internet-dominating world of sausage-tongue dogs with no returns.  Boom, here was another.  Boom, omg that one’s adorable, too.  Then one after the other, like an avalanche of deadly cuteness, burying me under a blanket of midnight-delights that, despite my best effort, I barely crawled out of in one piece at the wee-morning of 5 am.

Today, I woke up looking just as well as one of them.

But, professionally speaking, I still have to get my shit together to talk my other discovery last night, which happened to be one of those nights when I found myself scraping the bottom of my keyboard looking for potato chips-crumbs to sustain this bunker-style life.  To my surprise as well, foraging through my dark forest laden with seductive canned meat trying to lure me into the dark side, it was also the night where I found my long-lost, inner vegetarian-self.  Did you know, that if you puree a couple cans of buttery white beans with thick Greek yogurt, a dab of tahini and whatnots, then cover it with a company of bits-y browned vegetables in a spicy and garlicky oil, an highlights of fresh herbs and squirts of some good olive oil, then you would have a meal so satisfying that it would almost make you forget that something is missing from this diet?  Tangy, creamy, oily and savoury with just the right amount of pain to keep you going back for more, and needless to say, a completely legitimate weeknight emergency-dinner.  I mean, it wouldn’t be the worst thing, nor even difficult, to do this once in a week is what I’m saying.  Wait, you mean, everybody knows that?  OK, great, I guess just like Marnie, I’m also just late to this game after the few million others…

But at least, I was comforted by the fact that while one side of my sense of responsibility faltered, and the other side had prevailed.  By any relative comparison, really wasn’t a bad day in my progress to maturity.  Speaking of which, it’s approaching 2 pm as we speak.  And I think, somewhere civilized, what they call… a siesta is it?, is considered a very responsible, if not a must practice of fine living.

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THE BLUSHING BOULE (PURPLE YAM COUNTRY BREAD)

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HOW DARE I BARGING IN WITH MY “ORIENTAL” VEGETABLE, LIKE A BRUTE IMBECILE WAVING A BOX OF STUPID CRAYONS, JUST SO I CAN PAINT AN ALREADY-PERFECT LOAF OF ART, PURPLE?

So lately, if you have been paying attention, you’d notice that I’ve been somewhat, disturbingly obsessed with this color here.  Hey, I swear, I didn’t know I had it in me either.  I mean, com’n, pastel purple?  What am I, Hanna Montana?  But seriously, starting exactly 7 days ago, I swear it came at me like a never-ending nightmare too dazing and beautiful to wake up from, I kept and kept baking things – FOUR loafs of bread as we speak to be exact – obsessively colored in this gigglish hue which I was never that into even when I was 4.  What’s happened to me?

To trace back steps, I must say that it started out innocently enough, as it happens to all of us, by an epidemical mental illness called PGSD – Piggish Grocery Shopping Disorder.  I have been haunted by this persistent disease, which I have no doubt that I’ve gotten from my mother, for much longer than this ever-expanding body of mine can endure.  On my weekly shopping routine, online as I should also point out, any promotion too friendly or a banner too distracting, can trigger a behavioural mechanism that causes me to literally… rob their entire inventory of “Buying In Bulk”.  Ask my house keeper – who comes carefree to clean our apartment, but often leaves burdened with forced souvenirs of over-ripen bananas – and she’d tell you that I need help.

However, it’s one thing to let my disorder roam free as long as it’s within the premise of A) Preservative-laiden, edible mummies that last forever like 6 stacks of Pringles, or B) Guilt-tripped purchases on healthy fruits and vegetables like a dozen avocados or 4 Hawaiian pineapples (did I mention there are only TWO of us).  But it’s something else entirely when it spills over into the category of perishable, filling, and ass-expanding starchy root-vegetables like… 5 whole pounds of Vietnamese purple yams.

But you guessed it.  That was exactly what happened.  My PGSD had led me into an unending supply of baked purple yams that, before long, I knew I had to put those purple yams somewhere else faster than they could start sprouting and turn my apartment into Molly’s backyard.

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