Braised Fava Beans (Fava Stufate)

Recipe from: A Spasso per L’Italia (By Ai Yonezawa)

Braised fava beans with pancettaWhile fava beans got a bad rep as the choice of side dish for a snobbish cannibal ever since Dr. Lector so eloquently described to agent Starling how he dealt with a census taker who apparently had asked one too many questions, I have a much fonder (and socially acceptable) memory of eating these beans at family dinner table – Fumbling hot beans freshly cooked off the pot, managing to break a black seam and pop it out of the skin, then simply dipping in a bit of salt to eat it one by one… Yum.

But perhaps the joy of eating them is even more amplified by the fact that these beans with perfect green hue would also mark the arrival of warm seasons. Whenever I come across fresh pods of fava beans piled up in the produce section of a local grocery store, the scene evokes such a happy pleasant feeling that it leaves me excited and giggly as well as extremely prone to impulse purchase.

This year I was determined to make this fava bean dish my sister wouldn’t stop talking about for months without actually giving me the recipe. My persistence paid off, however – I finally got my hands on the secret formula to try out myself. And now I am completely hooked. Continue reading

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Za’atar Spiced Beet Dip with Goat Cheese and Hazelnuts

Recipe adjusted from: Food & Wine Magazine (Contributed by: Yotam Ottolenghi)

za'atar spiced beet dipI *adore* beets. It is my typical weekend routine to buy and roast a bunch so that I can enjoy them throughout the coming week. Whether with a quick lemon-balsamic vinaigrette and toasted nuts on the bed of greens or in creamy yogurt sauce with fresh herbs and spices, their intense sweetness always comes through even in simplest preparations and never ceases to amaze me. As if that is not enough, I also tend to order a beet appetizer when I eat out if the restaurant has one on the menu. I feel by now I have tried every possible combination of ingredients when it comes to eating beets.

So when I say this may be my favorite way of eating beets – You should know it’s not just good, it’s CRAZY good. Do consider yourself warned; Ever since I discovered this recipe, I have been making and eating it non-stop. I may have possibly exceeded my lifetime quota of beet consumption at this point. Continue reading

Rather Desperate Goma Dofu (Sesame Tofu)

Recipe adapted from: Collective wisdom of Japanese home cooks on http://www.cookpad.com

rather desperate goma dofu

Where exactly did March go?  It has been all blur with late nights and working weekends, and the next thing I knew was that I needed to do my tax. Except that I do recall acknowledging that I now reached the new low as I was swallowing a left-over bagel from company breakfast for lunch. At 4PM.

So when one of my co-workers asked me if I knew a good Japanese restaurant to take her out-of-town friends to, I realized I haven’t been to any of the places I was recommending for a while. However, the thought of fancy Japanese restaurants hit me with a sudden craving:

Goma dofu. Must. Eat. Goma dofu.

Rich, nutty and delicately sweet, goma dofu (sesame tofu) is actually not tofu in a sense that it is not “bean curd”. It is sesame crushed into a paste, mixed with water and thickened by kuzu starch, then molded to look like tofu. Intense sesame flavor and creamy texture always leave me wanting more, but I never attempted to make it myself since the authentic production method – still strictly followed at zen temples where it was originated – sounds incredibly labor intensive. And obviously, now is not a good time for serious culinary experiments.

But this is a kind of emergency, I thought. If it is basically made of sesame paste and starch that thickens it – Wouldn’t my pantry staples like tahini and corn starch do? Continue reading

Chinese Five-Spice Chicken Wings (Bonus: Super delicious homemade soup stock)

Recipe By Courtesy of: My Mom – It’s one of our family favorites!

chinese chicken wings

tomato egg drop soupAndrew and Justin are a 20-something programmer duo that I work with and they were not impressed when I passed on the URL for this blog. Upon reviewing the entries so far, Andrew declares: “I refuse to acknowledge any blog as “cooking blog” if they don’t have meat recipes.” But the chickpea stew is delicious – And people liked the tofu recipes I posted, too! “You need real food, woman. Tofu is disgusting,” says Justin. “Oh, and some of your photos are out of focus.”

Although the quality of the photos is my artistic choice (obviously), it’s true I have fewer recipes using meat as I eat it only once or twice a week these days. I’m not trying to make a statement – Rich, greasy food in general doesn’t get along with my stomach lately and I find plant-based meals easier to digest. But now that I think about it, this non-meat-eating habit seems to have come to me with other behavioral changes in recent years; I get up much earlier than I used to. I collect coupons before I go grocery shopping. And I spend significant amount of time watching Animal Planet where they advertise a medication to prevent osteoporosis between my favorite shows.

After all, maybe Andrew and Justin are onto something. Maybe I lost my edge. I mean – Since when have I become a Prius-driving, NPR-listening, vegetable-growing sensible professional adult? It’s time to reconnect with my fun, rebellious self. And nothing says I’m young and care-free and have high metabolism like chicken wings. Continue reading

Mushroom Stroganoff with Cardamom Basmati Rice

Recipe adapted from: Feast – Food to Celebrate Life (by Nigella Lawson)

mushroom stroganoff

I didn’t like mushrooms when I was growing up, and I was a fool.

I thought they were slimy and kind of gross, and they always seemed like a “filler” or even an afterthought in sautéed veggies or meaty pasta, which I felt was rather pointless and unnecessary. The idea of truffle being one of the world’s most precious and sought-after delicacies perplexed me more than fish roe and duck liver being the others. Of course I had never tasted truffle at that time, I only knew it was a type of mushroom. And people train pigs to find them in the forest. That sounded as bizarre as “Where the wild things are” to a 9-year old Japanese kid.

Fortunately, my taste bud had caught up to be able to appreciate the fantastic world of fungi by the time I was introduced to this version of mushroom stroganoff.  Still, I was absolutely shocked by how delicious this dish came out despite of the recipe’s simplicity when I made it for the first time. Since then I have made this for many, many occasions, but every time, I’m amazed and almost confused as to how only mushrooms and a couple of spices (paprika and nutmeg) can deliver such a deeply rich and complex flavor. And every time, it makes me regret about all those years when I diligently picked out any mushroom slices I could find from my plate to avoid eating them. Continue reading