summer Tag

THE PETROVSKY POPSICLE

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DON’T WE NEED OUR RELATIONSHIPS
WITH A LITTLE BIT OF MILK

I DON’T know if this will completely sack my credentials (AGAIN) as an angry, opinionated love-cynic who just fell asleep when you mentioned the words “my ex-boyfriend’s facebook…”.  I’m not even sure if this is a well-adviced public statement for anyone who isn’t fabulously gay.  But this is probably as important to know about me as acknowledging the fact that I eat canned sardines in tomato sauce over oatmeals, that I also have a decade-long, still on-going, life-threatening addiction for… Sex And The City.

The key point in what I just said, is on-going.  Like, seriously.  You’d think that no one can be addicted to something that no longer exists.  It’d be like trying to smoke a cigarette butt, found underneath the bookshelf, that’s accidentally dropped in diesel.  You just can’t smoke that shit anymore.  Oh, but I can.  Since its last season ending in 2004, I had been waiting and watching every season that re-runs in turns on HBO on-demand every months, repeatedly, until 2008 when I left New York.  Then I had to purchase the complete-seasons DVD to continue watching every single episodes that I’ve continuously watched for however long…

Don’t even get me started on the movies.  I mean the second one gave me a bad trip but where the fuck is my third?

Think what you will about me… it’s probably all true…  And as if what I just said wasn’t lame and pathetic enough, allow me to kick it up a notch.  I’ve made myself…

the Petrovsky popsicle.

It’s an intensely black-tea-flavoured popsicle that’s sweetened with cherry preserve which also give it a slight tang. I was told, by a character from a TV-show that ended 10 years ago, that it’s how the Russians sweeten their teas, and I never doubted it for a second.  The idea stayed inside my head for all this time, until a week ago when I purchased my first set of popsicle molds, the Russians invaded.  If you’re into tea-flavoured everything, you’ll have the hots for these this summer.  I did Petrovsky justice by powdering the tea leaves to embolden the flavour and adding an entire jar of sour cherry preserve with large chunks of cherries.  These popsicles are cold, black and caffein-charged with hidden tang and sourness inside their hidden pockets like the character himself.  But of course, mellowed out with whole and sweetened condensed milk.

Because don’t we all “need our relationships with a little bit of milk”.  Even if it’s an icy one.

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Makes: 8 ~ 9 popsicles

The black tea leaves is powdered in spice-grinder to give the popsicle a very intense tea-flavour.  It’s a good trick for maximizing tea-flavour in any recipes (such as this cake).  If you don’t have a spice grinder, you can sort of “fake” one with this trick.  Or, you might have to use more tea leaves to brew a stronger base for this recipe.  I used 6 tbsp of sweetened condensed milk for this batch of popsicle and found the sweetness on the mild side, making this a more “refreshing” popsicle than a “creamy” one.  You can increase the sweetness and creaminess by adding more if you like.

You can definitely use other types of fruit jams/preserves that you like, or trying to use up for this recipe.


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Ingredients:

  • 4 tbsp (23 grams) of Assam black tea leaves
  • 2 1/2 cups (610 grams) of whole milk + another 1/2 cup (120 grams)
  • 3 tbsp of cornstarch
  • 1 cup (240 grams) of black cherry, or sour cherry preserves
  • 6 tbsp ~ 1/2 cup of sweetened condensed milk

Powder the Assam black tea leaves in a spice grinder until finely ground.  Mix the tea-powder into 2 1/2 cups of whole milk in a pot, and set over medium heat.  Once the milk has come to a very gentle simmer (careful not to scorch the milk), turn off the heat immediately and let steep for 1 min, then strain the milk-tea through a fine sieve into another pot (to eliminate any large tea leaves).  Whisk the cornstarch together with 1/2 cup of milk, then whisk it into the milk-tea until it’s slightly thickened.  Then whisk in black cherry (or sour cherry) preserves and 6 tbsp of sweetened condensed milk until even.  Add more sweetened condensed milk to adjust the sweetness if needed.

Divide the mixture into popsicle molds and freeze until hard.  Enjoy.

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DEVILS ON HORSEBACK ICE CREAM

“IF YOU GOT SOMETHING AGAINST SWIMSUITS… THIS IS A GOOD WAY TO TALK EVERYONE ELSE OUT OF IT”

WOW… I mean… just WOW…  I know it looks like I should be addressing my every bit of amazement to this fine specimen of frozen dessert right now, which really doesn’t need anybody’s introduction to be quite honest I mean look at it.  But I’m actually, with all my fingers involuntarily shaking, not focused on the ice cream just then.  Truth is, I’m still hung over, mentally taken hostage, emotionally robbed by the malfunction of this blog that has turned a rarely beautiful Beijing weekend into 48hrs of computer science-nightmare (if you came here during the weekend and found “the fridge” empty, I’m sorry).  It was a crisis so beyond the language that I speak it almost felt Sci-Fi, like an alien invasion, a fire-breathing Godzilla attack on the island of Java-script-what-eh?  I’m ashamed to admit that under the complete chaos and panic, I was so close… this close… like one-push-of-a-red-button away to just wiping everything I’ve done and everything you guys have ever said in the past 10 days, in the effort to restore control…

I almost nuked it…  I almost ground-zeroed my blog…

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WORLD’S EASIEST SEXY RACK

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” I’M BRINGING SEXY RACK “

The 6-4 carnival stretches on… There are bloody evidence of its squanders everywhere, the skin and bones that the beast chewed and spat out, all over my jabbed and crippled internet. My brain is still scrambled from yesterday’s epic, titanic emotional meltdown. My eyes staring into the blinding whiteness on my browser in a futile effort to locate all the premeditatedly murdered URL. There are broken signals of my poisoned VPN. Now I can’t even watch my favorite shows online… I’ll have to resort back to my cable TV. These cable tv statistics source here will show me what channels I can access with television, though it’s certainly not as varied as Netflix. They occasionally wink back at me… I need to get a new antivirus software to scan my PC, got knows what’s on it! If you’re looking for a safe PC, you could check out websafetyadvice.com for any extra info.

But this is not where I put my head down. Even if it means I have to sit right here, on this uncomfortably designed chair that stings my ass, that I have to upload each and every single one of these photos, every fucking, excruciating hour at a time, then so be it. I’m going to get this done. That’s right you nasty spitting beast,

I’m bring sexy rack.

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This isn’t just a recipe for a roasted rack of lamb. When I first discovered its method – witnessing how Thomas Keller gave life and colour to a humongous chunk of rib-roast, too large and uniformly shaped to submit to any traditional browning techniques – it was a revelation. It meant beyond what the specific recipe was designed for. It meant that from then on, the path to a piece of meat’s medium-rare doneness, as well as a gorgeously charred surface, can be walked separately.

How many times have I tried to imitate a steak-house rib-eye at home – the kind that shimmers over its deeply caramelised crust with a properly pink and bloody interior – but instead found myself scrubbing down a grease-raped kitchen with the smoke-detector still screaming from the imposed horror, and worse, all for a flap of unevenly and under-browned meat sobbing over its own greyish and overcooked body? Too. Many. Times. But it could, and has, all stopped here. The moment when I stopped pretending that my kitchen could conjure the same level of scorching heat as a professional kitchen. The moment I realised my vent-hood couldn’t even eliminate cigarette smoke let alone the volcano clouds erupting from my cast-iron pan. Th moment when I discovered, that this could all be done, with none of these silly ruckus.

The answer is a standard, dependable blow-torch.

N…no… what, what is that you’re waving at me? That impotent little girlish thingy that came with the impulsive creme brulee-set I picked you picked up on your way to get shower-curtains through Bed Bath and Beyond? N… no, I’m talking about an actual, standard, torch burner that goes on top of a butane canister. It’s the ultimate fixer-upper in the kitchen, the air-brusher to make up for other cookery’s shortcomings. In fact it’s the first thing I would recommend if you ask me what’s a must-have in my line of gadgets. Get, an actual blow-torch. What it’s able to do, among other things, is that it can apply beautiful, glorious, and most importantly, even browning and caramelising to any specimen of meat no matter how big or small, or how uniformly and awkwardly shaped.

Such as, oh how coincidentally~ a rack of lamb.

You can’t brown a rack of lamb evenly no matter if it’s on the stove… in the oven… over the grill… under the broiler… or by whatever means you can think of (unless you’re prepared to deep-fry it in a bucket, in that case, I solute you). You just can’t. Especially with it’s variably thin strip of meat which, by the time you’re done nuking it, could have been disastrously overcooked. I didn’t say it will. I said it could, and uncertainly isn’t something I’d like to season with my pricy cut of meat. Especially when “precision” comes with so little effort. The thing with a blow-torch is, you can easily apply intense heat that chars the surface beautiful without penetrating deeper into the part where it deserves a gentler treatment, a treatment say, a slow and tender roast inside a warm oven until every section of the meat is brought to the same, even level of pinkish and juicy doneness. Almost sous-vede! Then after a proper, beauty-resting, you can give this rack another spanking of heat to get it hot again, without affecting the interior doneness of course. You rub its cheeks with a kiss of Dijon mustards, and pad it with a thick cake of spice-crust made with ground cumin and fresh mints. A few more flakes of sea salts before introduction… curtains down… and it’s show time.

Hey, nobody would think that this sexiness came without dropping a sweat amidst the summer? I say, that’s at least one thing to be cheered for, if you were me.

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Serves: 2 ~ 3 people

I have done steaks before with the same method, but a rack of lamb has even more reasons to benefit from it (evenly more awkwardly shaped). This is a typical 7-ribs lamb rack that weighs between 900 grams ~ 1100 grams (31.7 oz ~ 38.8 oz). It doesn’t really matter how big the lamb-rack is, the cooking method is exactly the same. And you can be really flexible about the herb/spice rub that goes on top. If you are not a big fan of fresh mint and cumin, feel free to substitute with parsley or etc.

Please DO NOT use those mini-torches that come with a creme brulee-set or something. They are only as good as a cigarette lighter. This is the exact torch-burner that I use, which is comparatively economical and practical. It goes on top of any butane fuel canister that you can buy almost anywhere, and each canister will last a very long time.

A note to pay attention to during roasting is that, the internal temperature will continue to climb about 8~10ºF/5ºC, after the lamb’s removed from the oven. So you have to calculate that into the desired doneness. 130~140ºF/55~60ºC is a perfectly pink, medium-rare. Anything else, I do not endorse.


Equipment:

Ingredients:

  • 1 rack of lamb that weighs between 900 grams ~ 1100 grams
  • 1 ~ 2 tbsp of unsalted butter
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 ~ 3 tbsp of Dijon mustard
  • Herbs and spice rub:
    • 3 tbsp of finely chopped fresh mint
    • 2 tbsp of ground cumin
    • 1 tbsp of chill flakes
    • 1/2 tsp of freshly ground black pepper

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Start 1 hour before serving. Preheat the oven on 300F/145C.

Trim off some excess fat on the lamb rack if you need to. Place the lamb rack inside a baking sheet and set the baking sheet securely under the kitchen vent-hoods. Turn the vent on high. Evenly rub a few nubs of unsalted butter over the lamb, and with your torch-burner, start searing and caramelising the entire surface of the lamb rack. Keep basting the lamb with the melted butter and rendered fat, and make sure every inch of the surface on both sides (especially the fats) are deeply browned and caramelized. Some smokes and sparks will arise from the process, but don’t worry, it should be minor and dealt with by your kitchen vent.

Your lamb rack should now look as if it’s gorgeously roasted, but in fact, the interior is still completely uncooked. Now, season the lamb rack on all sides generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, then set it inside the same baking-sheet with the meat-side facing up. Insert the meat-thermometer into the centre of the meat, then place it on the middle rack inside the preheated oven. Keep the thermometer facing outward so you can read the temperature without opening the oven. Slow-roast the lamb until the internal temperature reads 132ºF/55ºC (remember, the temperature will continue to climb later). This will take approx 30 to 40 min (there won’t be much happening in the first 20 min).

Once the lamb reaches desired temperature, remove from the oven and cover loosely with a foil and let rest for at least 8 min. DO NOT remove the meat-thermometer at this point. You will risk juices escaping through the hole before the meat is properly rested. Meanwhile, mix the “herbs and spice rub” evenly together. After 8 min, the temperature should have stopped rising and reads around 140ºF/60ºC (perfectly pink and medium-rare). Remove the foil (I usually like to briefly torch the lamb at this point to get it “sizzling” again. it won’t further cook the meat), then brush a thin layer of Dijon mustard covering the meat-side. Apply the rub over the Dijon and pat gently to help it stick.

Cut the lamb-rack in between bones and season with more sea salt. Serve immediately.

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firey cold sichuan sesame noodle

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My blog is currently suffering under the wrath of my chronic ADD, which is begging me for tiny changes that the blog probably doesn’t need.  Actually, tiny would be for any able body who knows a thing or two about CSS coding, but for this rusty brain who still panics when her phone talks back, this, is gonna take awhile.  So, I’m going to quickly leave you with.. I don’t want to say this but… the best spicy cold sesame noodle recipe out there.  Why, because I looked.

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cherry tomato vinaigrette and gorgonzola bruschetta

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Dear shrink, I’m… wondering if I can now be qualified for that zoloft + xanax prescription we talked about last time, you know, and let’s throw in a couple of diazepam for good measure while we’re at it?  I assure you that I have no previous record of substance abuse, in fact, I hardly drink alcohol for God sake, oh why because I’m naturally fun.  But you see, it’s my kids… my kids who are competing in a race to my emotional hell by turning rotten-sick on me one after the other.  Oh HELL, it’s even making me babble uncontrollably about it on my food-blog, right, a FOOD-blog that’s supposed to be about escaping to gastronomic neverland,  not… Anderson Pooper on real world shit…  Damn it!  What the hell am I talking about, you see?  I need meds!

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summer and couscous in istanbul

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I’m never much of a person of faith and spirituality.  Evidently since Jason and I started slowly leaving our footprints around the world, we left an obvious trail seeking gastronomic truth instead of spiritual babble, pinning destinations on the map not for the yearning to hear the echoes bouncing off the cold marbles of St. Peter’s, but to sink our teeth into the godliness of a cool, fresh Roman burrata.  Not to hear the chanting of monks on ancient scriptures, but for the serene noise coming from the skin of a Balinese roasted pig cracking in between teeth.  The antiquated pagoda from a time bygone can wait, my Vietnamese bún chả in the now is getting cold.

We go with our guts.

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filthy rich miso caramel ice cream

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Have I mentioned how unapologetically cheap I am?  Right… to elaborate we must understand that “cheap” is a strictly relative term and I am saying that strictly relatively-speaking, I am incredibly cheap.  I negotiated a 30% raise in my daily allowance in the past decade which is to say that I am spending only 30% above the average of college-quality life.  I gloated over the booking of a 69 euro/night ” beach hotel” in the mediterranean to Jason who, to say the least, did not share the same sentiments and boy, you should see their pool.  I almost always buy non-organics only and after almost 5 years away from the states, I really really miss sinking my face in a pint of Ben’n Jerry’s that’s going $8/pint in this part of the world.  Yes, I am saying technically I could afford better than the above.  I’m in China for God’s sakes.

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peach mascarpone pot pie + ginger molasses cookie lid

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Had I anticipated enough courage to pick up the topic of peach and mascarpone again this summer, I probably wouldn’t have cashed that sob-story so early.  After that horrendous disaster of a pie, if that pile of slumpy menace could still be called that…, I was determined to quit peach forever, total rehab.  After all, they quit me first.  You see, that’s the other side of the story.  Years ago, peaches decided to join the alliance of fruits that were waging an allergy campaign against me by inducing itchy mouth every time I tried to reach out a friendly lick.  As I was addicted to rejection, every summer since was a struggling anniversary of our separation.  Even after more than a decade… that day when I picked them out of the mascarpone-puddle-of-death and ate them, the peaches still made damn well sure that I was reminded.  I saved them from the fate of the eternal dumpster and they repaid me with crawly esophagus… lil fuckers.

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