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An Ode to Perilla: From Quesadillas to Crudites

In the summer of 2008, my mom and I went to the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago, where she produced the programming for the demo booth at the Korean Pavilion. Roy Choi and his Kogi truck team flew in from LA to headline the demo and we were working with them to prepare kimchi quesadillas to sample to attendees. At the time, I was intrigued by Roy’s choice to serve a quesadilla and was worried that it might be too pedestrian to serve to the attendees of a restaurant show. I wondered, how could sandwiching cheese and kimchi between a tortilla possibly be that good?

Let me tell you, it can be really damn good, just like the rest of his food I would eventually try. Turns out that Roy’s secret “sauce” that made it a winning dish was not a sauce at all, it was the Korean perilla. While the kimchi and cheese were the dominating flavors, what made the quesadilla really gel together was the unexpected contrast between the kimchi and cheese and the perilla leaves. Suspended between the oozing cheese and piquant kimchi were thin shreds of julienned perilla leaves, which added an unexpectedly bright and clean flavor in each bite. Since those kimchi quesadillas, we now grow perilla plants in abundance on our rooftop garden.

So, what are perilla leaves? A more robust cousin to Japanese shiso in the mint family, Korean perilla (sometimes called “sesame leaves”) is used regularly in Korean cuisine and is commonly eaten either fresh (as wrap for barbecued meat) or pickled.

Fast forward 6 years to a few weeks ago, my mom was producing a demo at the Korean Pavilion, this time at the Fancy Food Show in New York and we were brainstorming what we could serve. The recipe we ended up serving was a crudités cup of bell peppers, carrots and pear with a seaweed crisp, a gochujang dipping sauce, and of course, perilla.

Korean Crudite Cup

Korean Crudité Cups

1 Korean Shingo Pear
3 Carrots
3 Bell Peppers (red, yellow and green)
1 bag of Seaweed Crisps
1 bunch of Korean Perilla Leaves
1/2 cup of Gochujang Sauce

1. Slice the pear, carrots and bell peppers into matchsticks
2. Serve vegetables and pear in a small cup with a dollop of gochujang and a seaweed crisp

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Coconut, PB and Chocolate Rice Crispy Treats and Girls

Sorry, guys. It’s been almost half a year since I’ve posted on here, and that last post wasn’t even written by me (I know, shh!)  But after reading several posts by some of my blogger pals recounting a potluck shindig I threw on my rooftop last Friday, I’m feeling motivated to dust off the good ole WordPress account. While I’m at it, I thought I’d better jot down the recipe for the rice crispy treats I made for the potluck. I mean really, how did Spring already turn into Summer?

Before we get to the treats, let’s spend a moment to talk about girls. No, I’m not talking about the HBO series, which I admit I do watch. (To read the best commentary about that show, you really should be reading Eddie Huang’s recaps.) Rather, I want to spend a moment to recognize some awesome gals I know.

Last Friday I threw the aforementioned party on my rooftop in Long Island City, inviting some of the bloggers visiting from out of town whom I’ve gotten to know through Gojee.  What started off as informal plans to grab drinks evolved into a bigger potluck gathering with both visiting and local bloggers at my apartment.

It was so nice to catch up with friends and meet new ones whom I’ve only been in touch with online and was meeting for the first time in person. Without too much planning, everything came together pretty seamlessly, with the exception of the ominous overcast. Food was served, libations were shared and heartfelt conversations were had.  Though some of us had only met that day, by the end of the night it felt like we were all old friends.

One of the more openly honest and poignant topics of conversation that evening touched on the struggles of grappling with the increasingly aspirational culture of blogging and the fact that sometimes reality isn’t particularly aspirational.  Kasey more eloquently sums up the conversation here.  I suppose it also helped that I was liquoring everyone up with shots of beet sugar vodka throughout the night.


Party people: Kimberley, Kathryne, Laura, Barb, Diana, Kristin, Kasey, Yossy, Elizabeth, Sarah. Not pictured, since we took this photo later in the evening: NicoleCathySarah, and Chitra.

Ignoring the wind and drizzle, we persevered and made our way through the impressive spread. Unfortunately, I was only able to squeeze a few Instagrams on my phone in between playing hostess for the evening, so the following is by no means a complete representation of the offerings on the potluck table. Check it out –


Cathy’s Roasted Hakurei Turnips with Israeli Couscous


Sarah’s Chocolate Dipped Farmer’s Market Strawberries


Elizabeth’s Roasted Beet Salad


Yossy’s Strawberry Rhubarb Hand Pies


Acme Smoked Salmon with Creme Fraiche and Buckwheat Crepes made by yours truly (crepes adapted from Kate’s recipe; I used all buckwheat flour instead of a buckwheat + spelt flour combo)

A special thanks to Bruce Cost’s Fresh Ginger Ale and Industry City Distillery for providing drinks to keep us refreshingly hydrated and liquored up.

While I’m still on the topic of girls, I wanted to give two more shout outs to a couple more awesome girls that I know –

First, to my NYU homegirls Talisa Chang and Juliet Linderman, who along with Aldona Watts and Diana Diroy started Her Girl Friday and recently hosted a panel of veteran editors from the New York Times and New York Magazine titled How to Pitch Like a Girl. The premise of the panel was to provide encouragement and insights from established journalism veterans on how to effectively pitch stories in order to level the gender playing field in journalism and storytelling. And oh hey, they also just made it onto the cover page of the New York Observer!

Last but not least, a shout out goes to my co-organizers of the recently revived Girls in Tech NYC Chapter – Kara Rota of Cookstr, Jamie Eun Lee of Tipping Point Partners and Amanda Moritz of Brainscape.  After we hacked the mailing list for Girls in Tech to throw a mixer a couple months back, we were caught red-handed by the organizers of the official Girls in Tech organization. Don’t worry, we officially now have their blessings to proceed. Kara, Jamie, Amanda and I are aiming to achieve something similar to that of Her Girl Friday but in the equally male-dominated world of tech, starting with our Start-up Equity 101 Primer on June 13th. The primer is designed to educate more women about equity in start-up companies in order to negotiate for equity more effectively. Wish us luck!

Alright, now that I’ve laced this post with enough hyperlinks to explode WordPress, onwards to the treats.  Have a great weekend, everyone –

 

Coconut, PB and Chocolate Rice Crispy Treats

Adapted from Spoon Fork Bacon
Makes a 10 inch circumference pan-full of Rice Crispy Treats

Ingredients:
3 cups rice puffs (I used rice puffs from the Indian store, but regular Rice Krispies cereal works too)
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
6 ounces dark chocolate chips, melted
Generous handful of shredded coconut and black sesame seeds

Directions:
1. Stir together the peanut butter and melted chocolate in a double boiler (I used a metal mixing bowl over a pot of boiling water) until smooth.
3. Fold in the peanut butter and chocolate mixture with the crispies in a mixing bowl.
4. Pour the mixture into a parchment lined baking sheet and top with shredded coconut and sesame seeds.
5. Place in the refrigerator for at least 1 to 2 hours to allow the treats to set quicker. (I put it in the fridge overnight)
6. Once everything has set, carefully peel the treat from the sheet of parchment, cut and serve.

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A First Encounter with Garlic Scapes

It was my mom’s birthday this past weekend, so I took it upon myself to explore the farmer’s market that morning to find some culinary inspiration for dinner that night.  Strolling through the stalls in Jackson Heights, I found myself drawn to a plastic carton spilling with curly garlic scapes.  I had never cooked with scapes before, but before I could second guess myself, I impulsively purchased two big handfuls and was on my way home.

While garlic scapes closely resemble beans or scallions, they’re actually shoots of the garlic plant.  As for their taste, they have a milder, sweeter garlic flavor than garlic itself.  If you eat it raw, you may get a minor case of garlic breath that lasts until the next morning, but it’s a small price to pay for a unique taste that is only in season for a short time.

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The Social Kitchen

During last week’s “The Social Kitchen” panel at Food 2.0, Amanda Hesser of Food 52 said something that really stuck to me:

“Technology is knocking down the wall between the kitchen and the dining room”


Left to Right: Mike Lee (Studio Feast), Amanda Hesser (Food 52), Mike LaValle (Gojee), Sarah Maine (RecipeRelay), Will Turnage (Ratio Bread App & R/GA)

I never really thought about it before, but in some ways it’s true — while the act of eating together and breaking bread has always been an inherently social activity, cooking has conventionally been more of a solitary act confined to the kitchen. If you think about it, a traditional kitchen has almost always been walled off from the dining room, and in a way, that separation also dictates our interactions in both spaces.

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Black Cod Skin and Tails

The fish skin and tails are oftentimes the forgotten parts of the fish. Usually the first to get sliced off and tossed into the trash, they rarely make it past the chopping block and are scarcely ever seen on the dinner table.

I was excited to see that Chef Shirley Cheng, professor at the Culinary Institute of America, chose to use black cod skin and tails as her main ingredient for her winning recipe this past Saturday at the Japanese Ingredient Culinary Challenge at the Restaurant Show.


Shirley Cheng demoing her Black Cod Skin and Tails alongside emcees Ron Hsu and Jenna Zimmerman

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Guess what I’m making for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving ingredients

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Reconsider the Cauliflower: Curried Cauliflower and Carrot Soup

It’s about time to give cauliflower another chance, some well deserved respect.  Think of cauliflower and the adjectives bland and mushy first come to mind.  When I look back to the days when I used to regularly eat Kid Cuisine frozen meals, my first impression of cauliflower was not a fond one. I associated it with the “mixed vegetables” compartment of the multi-compartmental tray — the compartment that I’d leave to eat last, if at all.

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Phad Thai Noodles Without the Noodles

view on Flickr” href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/worldtotable/4175147593/”>Phad Thai
Phad Thai

David Dale of Sidney’s Sun Herald daily newspaper recently declared phad thai one of Australia’s favourite take out dinners. As an ambassador for Thai food, this popular noodle dish has taken on the world. It seems like every Thai restaurant in America has it on the menu and packages of instant phad thai are even selling in mainstream supermarkets.

In Thailand, however, phad thai vies with boat noodles and fried rice as the ultimate comfort food. Any food centre or outdoor market inevitably has a phad thai stall which usually sells turnip cake fried phad thai-style and battered oysters as well. The oysters are fried with bean sprouts in a deliciously light, crispy egg batter and served with a healthy dose of sweet, sour and hot Sriracha chilli sauce. But that’s another blog post altogether.

It is a well-known fact that, in economic crises, traditional comfort foods return to popular favour and, in that paradox that can only exist in hard times, commonly found staples like phad thai start to get the glam treatment.

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Thanksgiving Recap and a Recipe for Curried Butternut Squash and Apples

thanksgiving dinner

This past Thursday, the sweet and savory aromas of Thanksgiving filled my apartment building. Through my bathroom vent, I can usually smell what the neighbors are cooking. Since the kitchen and bathroom vents in the building are conjoined, it often draws in odd yet strangely alluring scents to the apartment by way of the bathroom. Sometimes it’s waffles, bacon and Pantene Pro-V on Sunday mornings. In the evening it can be a medley of pot roast and spicy Thai curry. But it was Thanksgiving day, and most kitchens in the building were already whirring with activity by early afternoon. The familiar smells of sage, pumpkin, cinnamon, and roast poultry were not only coming in from the bathroom, but had managed to slip into the hallway as well, enveloping me with delicious aromas when I opened the door and walked to and from the elevator.

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A Slow and Simple Tonnarelli Alla Marinara

Spaghetti alla Marinara
Typically when I make Spaghetti Alla Marinara, it usually involves roughly chopped tomatoes, garlic, random vegetables from the produce drawer, and a handful of Barilla pasta —all thrown together in two pots and ready to eat in 20 minutes.  When my friend Josh suggested that we make spaghetti for dinner, I had no idea I was in for an authentically lengthy Italian experience.

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