Sharpening 101: Love and Care at “Ai and Om”

I have taken many cooking classes, however this is the first time I came across  a knife sharpening workshop being taught in Vancouver.

I am completely clueless on this subject matter; I usually hone them with a steel (learn through YouTube and not sure exactly what I was doing) and take them out for service when required.

Our kitchen knives are our best friends;  they are the most used tools in the kitchen, come to think of it, we spend a lot of time prepping our ingredients!

You may think these days we can practically learn almost anything on YouTube, so why a workshop?

It is a personal decision based on the way how I learn,  I also happen to enjoy exchanges and connections with people in general (at times flipping between being an introvert and extrovert).

On this particular subject matter,  I have tried to watch videos, I realize I need to see first hand in reality how it is done with instructions and thorough explanations.

So two weekends ago on a Sunday morning I overcame my fear (of the unknown) and spent two hours, together with three other students, learn about the basic principles of knife sharpening through Vancouver Chinatown’s Ai and Om Knives‘ ; the workshop was taught by local chef and shop owner Douglas Chang.

Ai and Om Knives carries a curated selection of Japanese knives and accessories; the first time I came across this specialty shop was actually through Instagram. When they opened last summer in August (official opening in October),  I paid a visit and purchased my treasured nakiri bocho , a Japanese knife specifically used for cutting vegetables.  My first experience at the store was very pleasant and positive so I subsequently subscribed to their newsletter.

I was truly elated when I saw their workshop schedule recently,  I signed up immediately through email without any second thoughts.

My Nakiri bocho, the perfect fit

On the day of we all brought their own knives for sharpening, fees were paid ($75.00 for the session) before the workshop started and  I also purchased the split whetstone (discount given to students who signed up) , I was a bit scared and I was all ready to go,  not knowing what to expect!  The workshop was taught at the back of the shop where our “sensei” (teacher) spent the first half explaining clearly the technical terms and principles; he later proceed with a demonstration and sufficient time was allocated for our own hands on practice.

I admit initially I was overwhelmed and didn’t know where to begin as there were just a lot of information to remember and understand; in the spur of the moment I decided not to overthink and calmly focus on what our “sensei” has explained earlier, breaking it down step by step (the precis writing skills acquired back in secondary school really helped to pick out the “Key” words and points) and slowly got into it.  Although the technicalities are very important, if we put all things aside, the process itself is actually very simple and rustic,  it just comes down to the knife, the stone, your own concentration and focus.

Personally at that moment the lesson transcended into something more enlightening, I was engaged in  a short “self-realization” journey, directing my own focus to be “in the moment” and learn how to appreciate the simplicities in life.  I found the process to be very calming and therapeutic, I enjoyed it tremendously, much to my own surprise.

I was enjoying the process and did not even think of the results until  it was time for the true test to see if I achieved what I was taught: to test and see if the knife will slice through paper effortlessly.  I was absolutely thrilled when my nakiri “swished” through the paper….. I was more excited about the fact that I overcame the fear of another “unknown” .

I am not going to get into the details of knife sharpening as I have only learnt the basics and currently digesting what I have learnt;  I assure you the session was informative and in the end you will be equipped with enough basic information to start sharpening your knives at home, and gained a better understanding of the art of knives and sharpening techniques. Hats off to local chef and owner Douglas Chang; he is very knowledgeable and articulate speaker who shows great patience and exerts a calming presence. Thank you very much for a very meaningful and eye-opening lesson.

My other thoughts on this experience: Never stop learning and practice definitely makes progress! Take good care of our kitchen tools will definitely help us to become more efficient with our meal preparations; improved efficiency will ease our minds, our focus will become clearer, and time will then be saved.

And time, perhaps is the most precious gift,  spending time together with family and friends is the true expression of love and care.

 

Note: Ai and Om Knives is located in the heart of Vancouver Chinatown, 129 East Pender Street.  Besides selling knives, they also carries a range of accessories , provide knife sharpening services and hosting workshops. Check their website for more details.

PS Note to my dear friend James; My knives will always be sharp from now on (OO).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 2017: Mangiamo bene in Settembre (We Eat Well in September)

 

Mangiamo Bene! Prosciutto di Parma, Mortadella and figs, homemade salmon pate and bagna cauda, just a few of the dishes we enjoyed on our “Italian Night”

Over the Labour Day long weekend, I spent a wonderful Sunday evening with my pal James, hosting a group of our friends together at my home to our famous “Italian Night”.

For the past three years I always look forward to March and September when my dear friend James returns from Italy to Canada for a short visit; we have a semi-annual standing ” Italian cooking date”, a tradition which has a very special place in my heart.

Sweet and Special Delivery with love from Sabina, Casperia, Italy

Cooking and sharing with family and friends is the most beautiful way to celebrate relationships and bring people together.

That night we talked, we laughed, we cooked, we learnt and we shared; the memories we created together are priceless…

To my friends who joined us this time (you know who you are),  it was great seeing you all and catch up, Grazie!  And to our dear friends who missed the gathering this time (you also know who you are), we missed you.

To my dear friend and teacher James, I look forward to our next “date” in March, hope to continue this wonderful tradition for many years to come and one day we will be able to cook together in Italy…Alla Prossima…xxxooo

Remember the most important ingredients you will need to create a beautiful meal….Patience + Love + Kindness + Gratitude

Bagna Cauda: an aromatic “hot bath” for fresh vegetables and bread 

Have you ever had Bagna Cauda?  It is a dish originally from Piedmont, Italy.

Fresh market vegetables, both cooked and raw, are dipped into a flavourful warm sauce,  made of anchovies, olive oil, garlic and butter, enjoyed with scrumptious chunks of bread; this makes a wonderful sharing and wine-pairing dish for any dinner gathering, particularly during Fall Harvest Season.

I’ve only had this dish in restaurants twice here in Vancouver, once a few years ago enjoyed a Japanese “miso” version at Rajio (Izakaya on West 10th Avenue in beautiful Vancouver), and most recently a beautiful rendition at Osteria Savio Volpe.

Bagna Cauda (right) at Osteria Savio Volpe : my inspiration

It sounds very good already right?   The even better part, it is not difficult to make.

The key to make a beautiful bagna cauda is having the freshest ingredients and you are already halfway there; the rest involves a lot of meticulous cleaning and chopping! Oh one more thing… a fondue pot will be handy to keep the sauce warm.  I actually didn’t have the pot, so I just heated up the sauce right before dinner starts so it was ready to go when we were ready to eat!

I have roughly based the sauce recipe on Epicurious;  for my version I have reduced the quantity of the butter and anchovies (trying to be more health conscious by reducing the fat and salt intake).  Once you type in “Bagna Cauda”, you will be able to find many different versions for this classic Italian recipe (see also Food52  detailed write-up on its background and recipe).

Ingredients for dipping sauce: 1/2 cup – 3/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature), 6 – 8 cloves of garlic (chopped), 8 – 10 anchovies fillets.

Preparation: Blend the anchovies, garlic and olive oil in the blender until smooth.

Pour mixture into a medium saucepan and over medium low heat, cook the sauce for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Cook until the garlic becomes fragrant, you must pay lots of attention garlic burns easily, you don’t want to brown it.  Before removing from the heat, stir in the butter until blended nicely.

Taste and season with pepper (if you like) and sea salt (if necessary, remember anchovies are quite salty).

Serve raw or cooked vegetables and bread; I prepared a tray of fresh vegetables (picture below) purchased from the farmer’s market: a selection of beans, tomatoes, cucumber, carrots, cauliflower and peppers.

My version of Bagna Cauda: All the goodness in a Huge bowl – Fresh in season vegetables purchased at the Farmers Market

Stringozzi with Peas, Pistachios and mint sauce 

We put all our friends hard at work this time making Stringozzi together!

Stringozzi is an Italian “peasant” pasta,  the shape of the noodles resemble shoelaces; all you need is water and some finest Italian “00” flour (we used “Caputo 00 flour” – see Saveur’s magazine article) 

The noodle making process involves everyone’s participation; our “pasta master” James mixed  the flour and water and we help a little to knead the dough.  The dough is then put in the refrigerator to rest (wrapped in plastic wrap tightly, rest for about 30 minutes to an hour).   We then take turns pulling the dough until it smooth (this is the most physically demanding part) and you can feel the “elasticity”.     When the dough is ready, we cut into small pieces and divided it amongst our group to “roll” out the pasta by hand.   We have to sprinkle a little flour on the noodles when we gather them together to keep them from sticking together.  The noodles are actually quite delicate and a bit chewy, my friends said they resemble a little like ‘handmade’ udon.

Prepare a large pot of salted boiling water to cook the pasta, the noodles actually cook quickly (just a few minutes) and you have to stir a little while cooking.  Do not “crowd” the pot by putting too much noodles all at once.

When the noodles are cooked 3/4s of the way through, transfer to the large pan already filled with the sauce of your choice, toss gently together and let the noodles to finish cooking through.  Please DO NOT toss out the pasta water, you will need to use it to adjust the thickness of the sauce.

Kneading, pulling, rolling and now ready to cook!

My friend James created a “pesto” sauce – a mixture of sweet gorgonzola, peas (we used frozen), basil and pistachios, all blended together smoothly in the food processor.  The sauce was transferred and cooked in a very large pan, use the pasta water to adjust the thickness of the sauce, when pasta was almost ready toss them into the pan and mix well, let the noodles cook through.

In the past we have created Stringozzi all’amatriciana (click to see recipe on Serious Eats – Tomatoes (preferred San Marzano), guanciale, red pepper flakes, wine and pecorino romano cheese ) which is one of my all time favourite.

Peas, mint, sweet gorgonzola and pistachio “Pesto” with Stringozzi – Ricotta cheese can also be used for this pasta sauce.

Notes:

Unfortunately I don’t have a specific quantity for this pasta recipe; I came across a general recipe which is very similar to what we have created on this blog:  Madonnadelpiatto 

If you are ever interested in learning how to make pasta, my dear Italian friend Peter (Pastaboy) is a wonderful teacher, click on his name for more details.

Some of my go-to shopping places for Italian foods/ingredients in Vancouver: Cioffi’s, Bianca Maria (2469 E. Hastings, Vancouver), Les Amis Du Fromage and Oyama Sausage Co. 

 

 

 

 

 

September 2017 Homecooking Snapshots: Tomato Potato and Bean salad, Baked pork chop “rice” and Shiso Lemon Drink

Here are some of the dishes which I have been cooking at home in September!   Autumn is definitely my favourite cooking season (OO)

This month I am featuring three recipes which you may have seen on my Instagram account @mygoldenapron

Follow me for more recent updates; remember always adjust the seasoning and ingredients according to you and your loved ones dietary needs, and the most important ingredient, COOK with LOTS of LOVE and PATIENCE (OO).

Italian style Tomato, Green beans and Potato Salad (Adapted from September 2016 edition of  Food and Wine)

I have adapted this simple and nutritious recipe from last September’s Food and Wine magazine; every six months when my dear friend James return from Italy to Canada for a visit, I always go through an Italian cooking phase!

Ingredients and preparation: You can change the produce according to seasonality; I find the balsamic vinaigrette works very well with savoy cabbage and brussels sprouts, so use your imagination and work with the flavours.

1/2 pound baby potatoes: In medium saucepan, covered with cold water and bring to a boil, add a pinch of sea salt and simmer over medium low heat until potatoes are tender. Drain and let cool, then slice in half.

1/2 pound green beans (or any other colourful beans you can find at your local market) – trim the ends; bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil.  Fill a large bowl with ice water.  Add the beans and a pinch of sea salt and blanch until the beans are crisp yet tender, under 2 minutes.  Drain and transfer beans to ice bath to cool.  Drain again and dry thoroughly.

1 whole shallot – thinly sliced, you can use red onions or add more shallots

1 -2 ears of fresh corn: remove the husk (you can freeze and save it for later use to make vegetable broth) and silk, bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil, add corn , cover the saucepan and return it to a boil.  Cook until corn is tender; drain and let cool. Place the corn on a clean cutting board, trim one end of the corn so it stands flat, use a knife to slice the kernels off the cob.

1 Tablespoon capers, drained and rinsed

1/4 cup chiffonade (thin strips) of fresh basil and 1/4 cup chiffonade (thin strips) of fresh parsley

1 pint mixed cherry tomatoes, halved

In a large mixing bowl, whisk 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 2 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar and a drizzle of honey (optional).  Add the potatoes, beans, tomatoes, corn, shallots and capers and toss gently.  Fold in the basil and parsley, season with salt and pepper.

*To increase our vegetable intake, I added some mixed greens to the dish.  When making a vinaigrette, use a good quality extra virgin olive oil.

A Healthier Baked Pork Chop “Rice” (with cauliflower, carrot, rice) with homemade tomato sauce with onions, red and green pepper:

Baked pork chop rice is one of my favorite childhood dish, I made a version of this Hong Kong style dish using boneless pork loin (from one of my favourite butcher shop Petes Meats crusted in toasted panko (panko precooked before breading the pork, method adapted from Ms. Namiko Chen’s Just One Cookbook method)

Prepare the Panko Crusted Pork:

Preheat the oven to 350 F (place oven rack on top).

I have chosen a good quality pork and pound it evenly, prepare the toasted panko (1 cup panko and 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil  (enough to coat two pork loins) – Combine the oil and panko in a frying pan, and toast the panko over medium heat, stir once in a while to ensure all panko bits are toasted until golden brown and evenly. Set aside and let cool down, keep 1 to 2 teaspoons aside and use as “sprinkle” when ready to bake the dish.

Let the toasted panko cool before you start coating the pork loins.  Coat the pork loin one at a time: dip pork loin into beaten egg mixture, make sure you get rid of the excess egg mixture.

Using your dry hand, coat the loins with toasted panko.  Lightly brush the flakes to cover the pork loin, then lightly press the panko flakes, make sure they adhere and the fillet is coated evenly.  Place the coated pork loins on the baking sheet.  Baked the pork loins until 3/4 ways cooked through (approximately 8 – 9 minutes). Remove from the oven.

Prepare the cauliflower, carrot and rice combination: I do not have specific measurements for this recipe, however for the two of us, I have prepared one cup of cooked rice (I used Japanese Haiga rice), 1 cup of finely chopped cauliflower, 1 small carrot (finely chopped) – First I cooked the rice in the rice cooker, when it is ready, remove from rice cooker and let it cool (you can use “overnight rice”).  In a frying pan, add 1/2 to 1 Tablespoon olive oil (or vegetable oil), sautéed the cauliflower (you will need to add a little water otherwise it will burn, you will need to cover pan for a short time to “steam” and soften the cauliflower), add carrot when cauliflower is half-cooked, add the cooked rice and a pinch of sea salt (season to taste), mix “cauliflower rice” and rice very well, when vegetables are cooked through, remove from heat and set aside.

Prepare the Tomato sauce: You can use canned tomato sauce and add onions,  red and green pepper.  For my sauce, I used 1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil to sautéed three medium size San Marzano tomatoes (I got from the Farmer’s Market, they are so flavorful: chopped and seeded), you can use more tomatoes if you want to make more sauce), 1/2 to 1 cup filtered water and a clove of finely chopped garlic. Using medium low heat,  cook the mixture until tomatoes are soft.  Turn off heat, working in small batches, spoon mixture into blender, remove the centre cap from the lid of the blender.  Cover the lid with a folded clean dishcloth and hold it down when you are blending.  Repeat until you are done.

Using the same sauce pan, add another 1/2 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil to sautéed one chopped (bite size) onion until slightly caramelized. Add one chopped red pepper (thin sliced) and one chopped green pepper (thin sliced), cook for 1 minute, return puree tomato sauce to pan, mix well and using low heat, simmer until sauce is thickened  (20 to 25 minutes), season with sea salt to taste.

Preheat the oven to 300 F. Using an oven proof casserole or baking dish, spoon the “rice” in the bottom, then add a layer of the tomato and pepper sauce, place the panko crusted pork loin, then spoon more sauce and cover the pork loin, make sure you have some onions on top, and sprinkle the remaining toasted panko.  Baked in the oven for 8 to 12 minutes, or longer if you want the sauce to brown nicely, remember the pork loin must cook through.

***You can use the “broil” feature to really brown the sauce, cheese can be added to achieve a “bubbling” effect.

***The Extra Virgin Olive oil which I use for sauteed or stir fry dishes is suitable for everyday cooking usage.

Shiso Lemon Water: Recipe from YouTube “Food Video”

Pretty in Pink: Shiso Lemon Water

Since last year I started watching the “Food Video” channel on YouTube; this channel is based in Shanghai, China and feature some professional and home chefs.This channel is so much fun to watch: the videos are short and stylish; the cooking demonstrations and instructions are simple to understand.

Do you like shiso (perilla leaves)?  It is commonly used in Taiwanese and Japanese cooking, particularly used to flavor and pickled plums, and often it will appear on your sashimi order. If you have read my other posting (August 2017: Cheesecake and Salad Rolls with Cooking Buddies), my friend Phung has shown us to add shiso leaves to homemade salad rolls; I have also used shiso in my duck breast dish (September 2014 posting).

Shiso has its medicinal benefits and two recipes are featured on this video: the one I have tried is a very refreshing drink, a great digestive aid and helps to reduce the “dampness” (Chinese medicine term) in your body.  The flavor is very subtle and drizzle of honey is used to sweeten the drink.  When the lemon juice is added to the purple shiso water, it changes into a very pretty pink colour.

I have made this drink a few times and I really enjoyed it!  You only need three ingredients: fresh purple shiso leaves, lemon juice and a little honey (I used a drizzle of manuka honey).

Below is a translation of the recipe: 

In a large sauce pan, add 80 grams of chopped purple shiso leaves to 1 litre of filtered cold water, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.

Set aside and let it cool.

Add 50 ml freshly squeezed lemon juice, the shiso water will start to turn “pink”.

Add a drizzle of honey as sweetener.

You can drink as is or add ice / ice water if you prefer the drink to be slightly diluted.  Enjoy (OO)

 

 

 

August 2017: “Berry” Merry Summer

Strawberries have a very special place in my heart: remembering when I  was a kid and enjoyed very delicious strawberry french crepes for the first time in Hong Kong

On August 30th I will be on Ms. Deborah Moore’s radio show on Fairchild 1470, 1030 am sharp.

For more recent updates; follow me on Instagram: @mygoldenapron

Crescents – shadows cast through the trees, a bit moon like, a bit bat like…Picture taken at Olympic Village after the peak time for eclipse viewing on August 21st

From Richmond to Langley:  Birak Berry Farm (4200 No. 6 Road, Richmond):

During the BC Day Long weekend, my friend “Kanekic”  brought me along on a short tour at Birak Berry Farm with the owner.

We didn’t go berry picking, however it was fascinating to learn about the berry farming business briefly over a 1 hour short tour.  She was very nice and patient and answered many of my questions related to berry varieties, seasonality, harvesting, equipment and processing; the entire operation is very extensive and more complex than I ever imagined!   We went home with really sweet strawberries and blueberries; thank you very much again for the wonderful time and delicious berries.

The farm is open to public for berry picking, for information please check the BC Strawberry growers Association website.

Visit to Birak Berry Farm in Richmond; Thanks Kanekic for bringing me along! This photo was selected by Tourism Richmond and included in their album on Facebook. Thanks Visit Richmond!

Strawberry and Waffles at Krause Berry Farm (6179 248 Street, Langley, BC)

Two weekends ago I finally made it to Krause Berry Farm! As it is already the tail end of berry picking season, we only went for a short time to enjoy their delicious strawberries (Sweet) and waffles (Picture below, reduced whipped cream (trying to be good)) at their outdoors dining patio. The line up was quite long but the friend worked so efficiently we didn’t really have to wait long!  The waffles were crispy, however I would definitely ask to have the toppings on the side next time.   We quickly walked through their wine tasting room and spent a little time in their shop which is filled with goodies from their farm and a nice selection of kitchen ware (Danger zone for me!).  The ambience is warm and friendly, I will definitely make it back much earlier next year. For their offerings and year-round schedule, visit their website for more information.

Strawberries and waffles…and I asked for less whipped cream…
Fruit Wines and Sparkling at their Tasting Room

Premium Rice Donburi and Affordable Omakase at Tetsu Sushi Bar ( 775 Denman Street, Vancouver, BC)

Unagi Donburi: Love their premium rice!

Tetsu sushi bar is a 14-seat Japanese sushi restaurant located on Denman Street (at Robson); I was first introduced to this small gem by my friends J and VG (A Big Thank you to both of you!).   The experienced owners used to work in a well-known Japanese restaurant in Richmond; opened since April, lately this little gem is slowly building up their reputation and gaining some attention from local food lovers.

This friendly little place offers an extensive menu of cooked foods and very good quality sushi at reasonable pricing; their lunch sets in particular I find are of great value and the food quantity is in line with their pricing.

I have been to Tetsu on a few occasions for lunch and dinner, I am honestly hooked on their premium rice, which is only offered when you order their donburi (my personal fave is the unagi don).  The aroma is enticing (I think I smelled konbu), the texture is not sticky, and you can pick up and taste each grain.  My other favourite item on their menu is the Yamaimo salad with plum dressing, which adds an interesting flavor to the salad (I love Japanese dried plums and use them quite often in my cooking) and tastes so refreshing.

They also offer omakase dinners (basic start at $45.00 per person) which includes 3 kinds of appetizer, 5 piece daily sushi, inaniwa udon (cold or hot) and ice cream. For additional costs you can upgrade to premium 5 piece or 7 piece daily sushi;  follow them on  @tetsusushibar_van.

We shared many dishes including an upgraded premium omakase which includes the bluefin tuna (a very guilty indulgence I admit); the fish were very fresh and clean tasting.

The space has a very humble and neighbourhood feel, as seating is limited, it is more suitable for small gathering (4 at most to sit comfortably) and it is better to call ahead to make reservations.

Cold Inaniwa udon – a separate order! We had the hot udon with the omakase.
Guilty – otoro, hirashi, houbou, aji and uni

Found on Instagram: Temaki Sushi on Arbutus:

I didn’t even know this restaurant existed until recently I saw postings popping up through Instagram.

I saw a very enticing sushi lunch picture on Instagram posted by a renowned Vancouver chef,  so I decided to have lunch at Temaki Sushi one Friday afternoon.

Their in-house chef known as @sushi_hil  has posted a lot of delicious sashimi pictures on Instagram, showcasing his skill and the offerings from the restaurant.

I was skeptical and nervous when I first walked in, the decor is nothing like a typical Japanese eatery.

It was a very busy lunch hour; I was greeted and seated promptly by a friendly staff.

I honestly didn’t know what to expect, I looked over the Specials Board and decided to go with what I have seen on Instagram (gut feeling), so I went with the nigiri sushi special, 8 pieces priced at $28.00. The fish was very fresh, there was offering of fresh wasabi (for a small additional cost) and the sauce for the aburi was light; this is definitely a personal preference as I am not keen on anything which is too heavy-handed.

When I finished my lunch and asked for the bill, I met another server (her name is Ellen) who was very friendly and started to chat with me, asking for feedback and tell me more about the background of the restaurant and its owners.

We often read a lot of reviews and ask for recommendations before we try out a new restaurant; often we would go in with a certain level of preconceived notion; if there is one lesson to be learnt – everyone deserves a chance.

Nigiri sushi lunch special – 8 pieces including aburi sushi

Cake Decorating Supplies in Langley: Scoop-n-Save 

Past weekend I spending time with my friends in Langley and they brought me to Scoop and Save , a cake decorating supplies store.

Although I am not a baker, I am very impressed with their selection of baking supplies, their staff were very friendly and helpful!

 

Thanks Rita for showcasing the cookie cutters

 

August 2017: Cheesecake and Salad rolls with Cooking Buddies

Cheers!

In the last July weekend,  I spent the entire Saturday cooking with my friends Jo, Phung and Rita (thank you very much for hosting).

I always learn something new from this trio and under their “supervision”, moi the novice baker completed the measuring and most of the mixing/whisking tasks, we successfully made a really fabulous Japanese cheesecake, based on Ms. Namiko Chen’s recipe from Just One Cookbook.

One important note: you must prepare and weigh all the ingredients, have everything organized and follow each step carefully.  I find the most difficult part is folding the egg whites into the cream cheese mixture.

We actually skipped the glaze and the cake is still very tasty.

I posted the picture on Instagram and got a very nice reply from Ms. Nami.  Thank you to my friends who supervised me through this process, and thank you Ms. Nami for sharing a wonderful recipe.

Try making it and you will love it !

For her recipe, please check Ms. Namiko Chen’s website:

http://www.justonecookbook.com

We did it!! Under “supervision”, moi the novice baker managed to complete most of the complicated tasks ….Beautiful group effort, fabulous result !

Below you can see the fixings we prepared for our Vietnamese salad roll DIY dinner: fresh shiso, basil, mint and lettuce, rice noodle, dry rice paper, shredded chicken (from Costco to save time) and prawns, and Fried Egg, which is not seen commonly when you order the salad rolls in store.  Our dear friend Phung made her own peanut dipping sauce (hoisin, peanut butter, water, vinegar); I haven’t had this much fun at a DIY dinner party for such a long time!    My hubby came by afterwards and it was equally fun to watch him prepare his own salad rolls, I told him now we know we can purchase and use a salad roll wrapper tray (it is made of plastic, place rice paper on top), it makes it so much easier to prepare this at home!   Another great tip from Phung: Dip the rice paper in hot water instead of cold to rehydrate the rice paper.

I found the rice roll wrapper tray at 88 Supermarket (in East Vancouver on Victoria Drive).

Rice Paper!
All the Fixings on the Table….and Sparkling is perfect for this light summer dinner
My first DIY salad roll loaded with vegetables and herbs (Shiso!)

AUGUST 2017: Homecooking Snapshots (Baked Halibut/Pork Yamaimo Patties and Fish Soup)

Roasted potatoes, sweet beans, asparagus and BC wild stripe prawn cold salad with ponzu vinaigrette, Baked Halibut filet with toasted panko, Homemade Tartar sauce

Here’s what I have been cooking at home in August!

Since I am not professionally trained, I always love to learn and draw inspiration from others (professional or home chefs).

This month I am featuring three of my creations which you may have seen the pictures on Instagram already.

For first hand updates follow me on Instagram: @mygoldenapron

And remember, always adjust the seasoning and ingredients according to you and your loved ones dietary needs, and the most important ingredient, COOK with LOTS of LOVE and PATIENCE (OO).

Baked Halibut Filets with Homemade Tartar sauce: (Picture shown above)

I have adapted Just One Cookbook  (love her cheesecake and other Japanese recipes) Ms. Namiko Chen’s toasted panko (for baked pork chop/chicken katsu) for my baked halibut filets; I actually skipped the flour and dipped the cleaned and skinned fillets in beaten egg and toasted panko only.   Once the panko cooled down, add grated lemon zest (1 lemon), 1 teaspoon of sea salt  and mix well, set aside.

Baked Halibut fillets: (ingredients: halibut fish fillet, panko, one lemon (for slices and lemon zest), salt and pepper)Pre-cook the panko before baking the fish fillets: For the 4 fillets, I have used 1 cup of panko and 1 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Combine the oil and panko in a frying pan, and toast the panko over medium heat, stir once in a while to ensure all panko bits are toasted until golden brown and evenly. Tremendous patience is required for this step.  Let the toasted panko cool before you start coating the halibut fillets.

Preheat oven to 400F.  Lined the baking sheet with parchment paper.  Pre cut some lemon slices (using the same lemon which you used to get the zest) and placed them on the baking sheet.

I bought 4 filets (there were 4 of us) and total weighed approximately 1.5 lbs.  Skinned the halibut filets (or you can ask your fish monger to take care of this), pat them dry.

Coat the halibut one at a time: gently dip each piece into the beaten egg mixture,  make sure you get rid of excess egg mixture.  Using your dry hand, coat the fillet with toasted panko.  Lightly brush the flakes to cover the fish, then lightly press the panko flakes, make sure they adhere and the fillet is coated evenly.  Place the coated fillet on top of lemon slices on the baking sheet.  Baked fish fillets until cooked through (test using a bamboo stick or tooth pick, once it goes through the fillet easily they are done), approximately 12 to 15 minutes.  Halfway through I turned the baking sheet around (for even cooking) quickly, and I checked the fillets quickly at the 10 minute mark for doneness.

Serve cooked fillets with homemade tartar sauce: I do not have any specific quantity for this recipe; I used the OJAI lemonaise (or any mayo) and Greek yogurt at 1-1.5 ratio, added some lemon zest, cooked corn niblets and takana (optional – dried radish leaves, rehydrated), sea salt and black pepper (a pinch) to taste.  If you want to thin out the sauce a little, you can add a squeeze of lemon juice.

As for my bean, asparagus and prawn salad with ponzu vinaigrette,  I used a store-bought ponzu and add good quality extra virgin olive oil, a little rice vinegar and ground pepper for the vinaigrette (2:1 ratio oil/soy, most vinaigrettes 3:1 ratio oil/acid, I prefer less oily).   I blanched the asparagus, sautéed the beans and boiled the small prawns (with lemon) quickly, then shocked them in ice and shelled them.   When you are ready to eat, toss the ingredients together and lightly dress the salad (do not drench!!).

Note: Be creative with your vegetable selection,  and remember always adjust your seasoning according to your dietary needs and taste !

Pork and Yamaimo (Mountain Potato) patties with apple ginger sauce, sautéed cauliflower, enoki mushroom and okra

I still cook a lot of Japanese food at home.

I adapted the patty and sauce recipe from the popular Japanese chef Masa (Masa’s ABC Cooking @masa.abc on Facebook) who resides in Taiwan. If you check his Facebook page, there are regular uploads of cooking videos with wonderful and clear instructions (for readers who can understand Chinese, it is in mandarin,  Chinese subtitles on-screen).  I love his idea of using yamaimo (mountain potato) with ground meats;  the addition keeps the patties very moist!  Chef Masa’s original is actually a chicken patty donburi recipe (with okra and eggplant), I created a dinner set and served with cauliflower, enoki mushroom and a dairy free chilled potato leek and watercress soup.

Pork Patties: organic /hormone free ground pork 250 g, 1/4 of yamaimo (mountain potato, grated),  grated ginger, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, 1 egg, 1 stalk green onion (chopped), grated ginger (1 teaspoons), 1 Tablespoon tamari****, 1 teaspoon maple syrup***, pinch of white pepper for season, 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil  ***tamari and maple syrup are my choices, I prefer also not to use too much oil.   The original recipe

Thank you Chef Masa for such a great recipe and inspiration!

Using your clean or spatula, mix ground pork and sea salt until you achieve a “smooth and sticky” texture.   Then add the egg, chopped green onion, grated ginger, maple syrup (or sugar), tamari and grated yamaimo to the meat, use the spatula in a “cutting” motion (easier to work with the mountain potato), fold and blend well.   Set aside.

Apple dipping sauce:  Add Tamari, mirin and sake (1-1-1), 1/4 apple, 1 clove of garlic, 1 teaspoon maple syrup and 1 small knob of ginger to blender, puree and blend.   Taste and adjust your seasoning (I tend to use less soy).  ***When using maple syrup you may need a little more to cut down the sharpness of the ginger.

As for the vegetables, basically anything goes.  I just sautéed and lightly season them with sea salt, cover up with aluminium (another great tip from Chef Masa) to keep them warm.

Using medium heat, heat frying pan and add the extra virgin olive oil, using a Tablespoon (or small scoop), spoon the meat mixture onto the frying pan, forming small “pancake” size patties (you can always adjust).  Do not crowd the pan with too many patties at once, medium size pan should fit 3 to 4 small size patties.  Let it cook for a few minutes before gently “lifting” the patty to check if it is set, once they turn golden brown, it is time to flip the patties and let them cook through.  When patties are almost cooked, spoon some sauce over the patties and let the flavor melt together.  (**With pork it is better to cook a little longer, the yamaimo actually keeps the patties moist).  I heated the remaining sauce and served it on the side.

For the original recipe and video, please check his site on Facebook or English website.

https://www.facebook.com/masa.abc/

https://masaabc.com/

Homemade Heirloom Tomato and Kabocha Fish Soup with Rice Noodles and vegetables

Recently I am on a “chinese food mode” and I decided to make my own “Fish soup rice noodle at home”.

I go through phases from time to time; recently I have been watching a lot of Chinese cooking shows.

I must admit as I am getting older, and having lived overseas for such a long time, I have a stronger desire to get back to my “roots”.

Soup Base: 2 small size yellow croaker fish (cleaned – or any white whole fish which is great for soup making, don’t splurge on anything too expensive), 1 medium size kabocha (Japanese pumpkin seeds removed and chopped into pieces), 2 big heirloom tomatoes and 3 medium tomatoes on the vine (seeds removed and loosely chopped), 9 cups of cold filtered water, 2 croaker fish (cleaned), knob of ginger, green onion, cilantro, 1 large yellow onion, 2 to 3 stalks of celery (optional), a small knob of ginger (sliced), sea salt and white pepper for seasoning.

**This is a pretty large pot of soup,  we had some for dinner the other night and used the rest for noodles.  This can feed a family of 4 to 6 easily.

I actually made the soup two days ahead of time; here is a good tip for preparing the kabocha:  I admit I am not strong enough to “chop” through the kabocha and honestly I don’t want to lose my hands along the way, my friend Sofei told me to put the kabocha into a pot of hot water and let it slowly simmer for a while  The skin will soften and make it much easier to cut through.  Once it is ready, peel the skin (I use a peeler), scoop out the seeds and chop into 1 inch pieces.  Seed the tomatoes, loosely chop cilantro, celery stalks,  onion and green onion (keep stalks in tact).  Set aside.

Clean the fish (remove the blood line), pat dry, lightly seasoned with sea salt and white pepper  Heat  the frying pan over medium heat, add a little extra virgin olive oil, add and stir fry th ginger slices.   Add fish to frying pan, and cooked both sides until slightly golden brown.  You can always add a splash of Chinese cooking wine (Shaoxing) to eliminate the “fishy” taste, I find by using ginger and definitely be mindful about removing the bloodline (at the neck between the head and body, you can see a little “clot”), the fish is not bitter or “fishy” at all.

Fill large clay pot with cold filtered water, add tomatoes, onions and celery.

Remove the fish from frying pan and together with the ginger slices, put inside the “fish soup bag” (can be purchased at most Asian supermarkets). Tie a tight knot. Add the fish bag to the soup pot.

Bring it to a boil, skim the “scum” and turn down to medium low heat, let is slowly simmer for 1.5 hours.  While the soup is simmering, check and skim the foam from time to time.

Using chopsticks or tongs, remove the celery stalks and the fish bag.  Using a spatula or ladle, “squeeze” the fish bag gently , you will find a lot of soup is actually “soaked” into the bag, you don’t want to waste the liquid gold!

Add half of the kabocha chunks into the soup, and let it simmer for another half hour to 45 minutes, let the flavors melt together (I like my kabocha “melted”.  Finally add the remaining kabocha chunks, cilantro and napa cabbage, simmer until vegetables are cooked through.  Season with sea salt and ready to serve as soup in a regular Chinese family dinner.

To turn this into a noodle soup base:

My homemade rice noodle in fish, tomato and pumpkin soup!

Noodle and Fixings (be creative):   rice noodle, mung bean noodle, shimeji mushroom, napa cabbage, bok choy, swiss chard, microgreens (for garnish), tofu fish cake, green onion, boiled egg.   I am not going to list the quantity because it really depends on how many people you are feeding.

Cook all vegetables and fixings separately (all boiled) and create a noodle bar, lay out all ingredients, and chopped up more cilantro and green onions for garnish.

Have fun and be creative with your dinners…now as my friend Peter (Pastaboypeter on Instagram) always say, “now go and eat with the ones you love”.

Sources for my ingredients in Vancouver: Seafood City (Granville Island), Vancouver Farmers Market, Choices Market, the August Market, Sakuraya Japanese food store, T & T Supermarket and H-Mart.

 

 

 

July 2017 : Oh My Time Flies

Beautiful evening at Iona Beach Park

Oh my it is almost the end of July and I have been on “hiatus” since late May!  I just cannot believe three months have gone by already since I left my full-time job; particularly the past two months it has been a trying period, adjusting to changes in routines, schedules and lifestyle.  While I am still contemplating and planning exactly what I will be doing next, I am very glad I took a leap of faith and go on this much needed break (OO).

How’s your summer so far? I have been enjoying my “staycation” here in Vancouver, summer time is the best season to stay here!   The past two months were filled with out-of-town friends visits, which is the perfect excuse (as if I need any) to go around town searching for new attractions and good eats!  I believe if you are at least 90% good most of the time with your regular diet, there is a little room for other enjoyment and occasional indulgences.

On Wednesday July 26th I will be back on Ms. Deborah Moore’s program on Fairchild Radio 1470 1030am sharp; thank you in advance for tuning in!  I also want to thank my audience who take their time to send me email (goldenapron@gmail.com) with questions or suggestions, I really love to hear from you!

 Brisk Walking activity at Iona Beach Regional Park  (Richmond) and Pacific Regional Park Trail (Vancouver – UBC) – (Easy Trails)

Brisk walking is our favourite outdoor activity during the summer months; one of our favourite places to visit is Iona Beach regional Park (picture above); the jetty unmarked trail stretches 4 km (one way) along the mouth of Fraser River and it is a very easy walk.  We love to go particularly in the evening to catch the beautiful sunset and evening breeze; during the day there are sightings of herons along the way.  The jetty trail is a open area so it may get a little windy at times, so you must go prepared with proper outdoor gear and lots of sun protection.

Sunset at Iona Beach: planes flying into Vancouver Airport for Landing

Recently we decided to re-discover the UBC area and on one hot Saturday afternoon, we went for an easy hike in the forest at the Pacific Spirit Regional Park, located at the UBC Endowment Lands (5495 Chancellor Road, Vancouver, BC).  The trail gate is located at West 16th next to Camosun Park, the network of trails contained in more than 750 hectares of forest.  Free parking is available along West 16th Avenue, the signs inside the forest are very easy to follow and it is a very popular trail amongst local residents.    It is advisable to check the map to predetermine your route and decide how far you would like to go, and mark the location of the park’s exits.  We lost track of our direction and “exited” so far off , we ended adding a lot more steps to our count, trekking along 16th Avenue (lol).

Cooling down in the forest – Pacific Spirit Regional Park

Asian Cuisines and Small Eateries in Vancouver:

Delicious Pad Thai and Friendly Service: Sen Pad Thai at Granville Island (1666 Johnston Street – inside Loft, across from Public Market)

Sen pad Thai is the newest addition to award-winning Chef Angus An’s roster (Maenam, Freebird, Longtail Kitchen, Fat Mao Noodles) in Greater Vancouver. Located inside the Net Loft across from Public Market, this wonderful fast food stall opened in May 2017, the menu offer different pad thai dishes, variety of Thai small bites and drinks.

The pad thai was meticulously prepared, filled with really fresh ingredients and “Wok Hei” (breath of the wok) – a term which refers to flavors and tastes imparted by a hot wok for stir fry dishes!  It was hot (fresh from the wok), tangy (from the tamarind), bright (juice from the generous slice of lime), crunchy (peanuts and fresh sprouts) and smooth ( noodles and eggs were cooked perfectly); for those who love to add more spiciness, the condiments are ready for your perusal on their counter.  The staff was friendly and helpful; if you are unsure what you would like to try, just ask them for recommendations (which I did for my second visit) and they will happily oblige.   Because the dishes are prepared “a la minute”, there is a little bit of a wait time and it is all worth while.  Tables are located near the stand, or you may just want to bring your tasty noodle box outdoors, enjoy an authentic Thai dish and the fine Vancouver weather at the same time.

http://www.senpadthai.com

Classic pad thai with tamarind: authentic and fresh tasting

A lot of small eateries have been popping up lately in Vancouver, scattered all around our beloved city in different districts; the latest addition at the edge of Gastown is a Korean eatery named Haru Korean Kitchen (324 Cambie Street, next to the ever popular Meat and Bread (Porchetta sandwiches!). 

Namul Vegetable Bibimbap and Their House special Cold noodle (with wasabi sauce) and a side order of pork belly; Special came with “ban chan” (egg, potato salad, kimchi)

Three weeks ago I paid a visit with my little friend JT who loves to eat Korean food; we shared a namul vegetable bibimbap with gochujang and their house special cold vegetarian soba set (bibim guksu) with lots of fresh vegetables in a wasabi sauce, came with a small plate of steamed pork belly  .  Our favourite was definitely the noodle which was so refreshing and the wasabi added a nice little “kick” to the citron soy sauce. Their menu is very home style and simple, marking very clearly the choices (vegetarian/vegetarian option/spicy) and sauce options (gochujang, gang doenjang (miso) and citron soy sauce) are available.  The service was adequate (small restaurant with less help and it’s fairly new), reservations available (which is very rare these days) and I would love to return sometime to try their bingsoo and other korean family classics (japchae).

http://www.harukoreankitchen.com

Lunch BBQ at Dolpan Korean BBQ Restaurant ( 3779 Sexsmith Road, Richmond)

http://www.dolpanbbq.com

With mostly homestyle Korean eateries popping up in the Greater Vancouver area, it is quite a change to see the opening of a small authentic Korean BBQ restaurant in Richmond.  Located inside the Continental Plaza shopping mall which is mostly filled with Chinese eateries, I wouldn’t have known about this little place if it is not because of Instagram; apparently Dolpan has been opened for a while!  If you wish to give this place a try, go for lunch as their lunch BBQ set is great value ($15 or $20 per person),  my favourite part is their servers actually help to cook the meat at your table!  I had the pork set (jowl/belly) with lettuce wrap and it came with very delicious side dishes (potato, kimchi radish).  Other hot plates (pre-cooked meats in kitchen) and Army Based hotpots (budae jjigae) seem to be very popular amongst the lunch diners; service was prompt and attentive, reservations are available.

Volcano egg and BBQ meat (pork set): My first visit for dinner with my friend JT

Sunday brunching at MaknMing (1629 Yew Street, Vancouver) 

http://www.maknming.com

Chefs Makoto Ono and Amanda Cheng’s MaknMing in Kitslano is now open for brunch on Sundays till September 03rd, 2017;  this “small team big heart” eatery which opened at the end of 2016 is quickly becoming my newest favourite brunch spot:  I have tried their special Lobster Hollandaise Eggs Benedict which I wanted to purchase a “bucket” of the flavorful and silky smooth hollandaise to take home; on a separate visit I had their “wickedly” clever indulgence, the Krispee Challah french toast (rice krispies in the batter, served with toasted coconut blueberry compote and honeycomb)….speechless and in awe with their creativity!  Their brunch menu is finely edited with a few items, I do recommend bringing a few friends and order different plates to share. The service is impeccable (Thanks Christina for your recommendations), parking could be a little bit of a challenge however it is so close to Kits beach, so park anywhere, enjoy the fabulous brunch and walk it off afterwards (OO).

Cheers! Special Ice Tea and I love how the “oversized” ice cube
Lobster Hollandaise with spot prawn Eggs Benedict….Special on their menu and I want a bucket of the sauce…
Krispee Challah French Toast with toasted coconut, honey comb and blueberry compote

Desserts Desserts Desserts: “Mochiffle” at Baker and Table (6414 Fraser Street) and “Little Plant” from Bubble Bear Cafe (8051 Granville Street, Vancouver)

If you have been following my blog and instagram, you will know I love savory foods and rarely eat desserts (I did bake a cheesecake with my friends over the weekend, my first!).  I recently found these two desserts which I quite enjoy: Mochiffle from Baker and Table (remember the little bakery cafe which I mentioned a couple months ago?) and “Little Plant” Egg Custard pudding from Bubble Bear Cafe (Bubble Tea place on Granville opened a few months ago); the mochi-waffle combination is addictive and it is gluten free, it has a very nice chewy bite and you must add the ice-cream and the red bean!  As for the egg custard pudding, I really like the texture of the soft silky pudding and oreo bits (looks like “dirt” hence the name “little plant”.  Baker and Table’s owner Hitomi-san and Bubble Bear Cafe’s owners Maureen and Danny are very nice and helpful people, pay them a visit for lunch or snack and ask them for recommendations!  Baker and Table also offers vegetarian curry and sandwiches  (together with her famous melon pans and yuzu cheesecakes) , and Bubble Bear Cafe offers a small selection of delicious savoury bites (spicy wontons, meat floss egg rolls) and a variety of bubble teas and slushes (great for summer!) at very reasonable prices.

http://www.bakerandtablecafe.com

Bubble Bear Cafe – FB page available for menu and photos

Mochiffle with red beans and icecream from Baker and Table

 

“Little Plant” – light custard with Oreo sprinkles from Bubble Bear Cafe

 

 

July 2017 : Home Cooking SnapShots: Okra, Fish, Miso, Tomatoes and Udon

Oven Roasted Okra: sliced each okra lengthwise into halves and toss in sea salt and extra virgin olive oil, preheat oven to 400 degrees and roast for 15 minutes – Thanks Jo!

Here’s a snapshot of what I have been cooking the past two months..For updates follow me on Instagram (@mygoldenapron) and you will know first hand what I have been cooking and where I have been dining!

Roasting OKRA: I never thought of roasting okra until my dear sweet friend Jo showed me, sometimes we are just caught in our usual habits and don’t think about the most obvious options!  Since then I have been adding okras to our salads or enjoyed with our cooked fish, like the kasu-shio marinated halibut in shiitake, edamame, daikon and mustard leaves dashi broth… As for garnish, I have prepared some roasted kale (in place of seaweed) and pancetta bits.

Experiment at home: Shio Kasu Halibut, shiitake dashi with edamame, mustard green leaves, roasted okra and green onion, finished with roasted kale and pancetta bits

Remember sake kasu?   It’s the remaining lees from sake making and they have been available for sale at Japanese grocery stores (Fujiya in Vancouver) or Artisan Sake (at Granville Island, this is the one I use all the time).  For this dish, I added some salt and a little water to approximately 2 Tablespoons of kasu (water for slight thinning of mixture),  pat dry (really dry) the halibut filets and submerge them in the marinade for at least a day.  Before cooking, wipe the fish clean with paper towel to ensure there’s no kasu left (otherwise it will burn).  I baked my fish at 400F and finished with broiling the final two minutes (the cooking time varies pending on thickness of fish fillet).

Dashi broth: prepared with bonito flakes and kelp as base (search my archives for recipe), I added the shiitake mushroom stems, a couple of celery leaves (I kept them frozen and add to broth/stock making), a spoonful of sake kasu and a small chunk of daikon and let it cook for half an hour.  I strain the broth then add shiitake mushrooms, mustard green leaves, edamame beans (parboiled already) and season with sodium reduced soy, mirin and a little maple syrup (sugar for most of you), adjust accordingly to your taste and dietary needs always!  I prepared the pancetta and kale bits while broth is cooking, okra also roasted before and add-on together with green onion as garnish.   The cooked fish is lightly finished with fleur de sel.

The broth can be prepared ahead of time, when fish is about ready, reheat the broth and to serve, plate vegetables and fish in a regular or soup bowl, pour the broth, add the okra and green onions, kale and pancetta garnish last.  Enjoy!

Sakuraya: Last month I mentioned there is a Japanese grocery located on East Broadway (close to Fraser), they carry the organic dried mustard leaves and daikon leaves from a small village in Japan.  I re-hydrated the leaves and add to my dashi broth and they added so much flavor!  It has some glucose so remember to adjust your seasoning.

http://www.seafoodcitygi.com

Soy Dijon Mustard glaze chinook salmon with potato salad, green bean snow peas micro greens sea asparagus in ponzu vinaigrette:

Prepare glaze : sodium reduced soy sauce (2 Tablespoons), Dijon mustard (1 Tablespoon), olive oil (1-2 Tablespoons) and a little maple syrup.  Clean and pat dry the salmon filet and let it marinade for at least 30 minutes.  Remove the fish from marinade, scrape lightly so not much marinade will cling to the fillets (unless you like real browning action), and bake salmon in oven preheated in 350 F until desired doneness.  When you see any white spot appearing on the seams of the salmon filet, that means it should be done and well on its way to being very cooked.  While salmon is cooking, use a sauce pan and sautéed chopped shallots, add the marinade and cook until sauce boils and slightly thicken.

I used a store-bought ponzu and add good quality extra virgin olive oil, a little rice vinegar and ground pepper for the vinaigrette (2:1 ratio oil/soy, most vinaigrettes 3:1 ratio oil/acid, I prefer less oily).

As for the salad, basically anything goes!  I added the most delicious microgreens (West End Blend from Grown here farms purchased at August Market on Main Street in Vancouver), sea asparagus (In season for a short time in Vancouver, soaked overnight to get rid of the salt then blanched and shocked in ice, green beans and snow peas (also blanched and shocked in ice) .  I choose to use mostly organic products, use your imagination and add your favourite in season salad greens and vegetables to load more nutritious greens into your dish.

My potato salad is made of red potatoes, green onions, homemade relish mixed with half mayo (Lemon Ojai mayonnaise) and half greek yogurt, if you want to make it very Japanese, add kewpie mayonnaise.

http://www.thefishcounter.com

http://www.visaltco.com

http://www.eatlocal.org

http://www.augustmarket.ca

Tomato and Egg Udon: simple eats and tomatoes are in season!

One of my favourite all time Chinese family dish is converted into a soup base for udon; apparently tomato and egg noodle soup is a very popular dish in parts of China.  Taiwanese Chef James, well-known for his interpretation of Japanese cuisine, is now featured in cooking show filmed in China, I found on YouTube accidentally.  I modified his recipe and method by changing a couple of ingredients: The ingredient are simple : heirloom tomatoes, shallots, grated ginger (lots), green onion, filtered water, white pepper and a little maple syrup (you can use sugar) I used Japanese udon, omit cornstarch and tomato paste (it was used for thickening, instead I let the soup cook down to thicken).  The beaten egg is added in the end; if you have time, follow Chef James and make the eggs two ways.   Usually the noodles are eaten as “late night snack”, I had it for dinner and I find it perfect as a summer light supper.

 

Tomato Miso Nduja Bolognese with Udon

Remember a few months ago I talked about Nduja, the Italian spreadable spicy sausage? I changed things up a little – I mixed a little nduja and red miso into my own pork/turkey Bolognese sauce and had it with udon, garnish with roasted kale (salted and crushed to mimic seaweed) and it was a winner at my recent dinner gathering with my cooking buddies Jo, Phung and Rita.   The dish is a perfect marriage of Japanese and Italian ingredients; remember nduja and miso are both a little salty, you do not need to use much for seasoning.  The miso makes the sauce very hearty and meaty; if you have a good tomato sauce base, you can add the miso and serve it as a vegetarian dish with grilled eggplant. The nduja sausage spread adds a little spiciness, it is completely optional.  Experiment with your favourite meat sauce recipe and add these flavor profiles to your repertoire.

For both tomato udon dishes, the really thin udon noodles will not work as well.  I found this perfectly wonderful hand-cut dry udon at our local Fujiya Japanese food store.

Love the texture and thickness is perfect! It has a very good “bite”

 

 

 

 

May 2017: Home cooking Snapshots

 

Miso and Sake Kasu Sable fish, mixed vegetables (lotus root, burdock, broccoli and turnip leave) rice

Here are the snapshots of what I have been cooking at home this past month!  Recipes coming very soon.

For the time being you can find my other updates and pictures with description posted on Instagram (@mygoldenapron).

I would also love to hear your feedback so feel free to send me an email (goldenapron@gmail.com) or drop me a line through Instagram (OO).

Picture above: Sake Kasu Miso Sable Fish with Mixed vegetable (burdock, turnip leaves, lotus root and broccoli) rice:  the dried burdock, turnip and lotus root are from Japan, I found them at a local Japanese store).

Nduja spaghetti Bolognese (with basil sausage from Oyama sausage and Co) : Remember Nduja, the spicy sausage spread ? I added to my Bolognese recipe to spice things up a bit !

When Japanese meets Italian: Roast shio koji organic chicken, cauliflower broccoli penne pasta in lemon parsley herb drizzle, garnish with crispy kale bits and lemon zest.  It is very easy to make the herb drizzle: chives, parsley, lemon juice, grated lemon zest, extra virgin olive oil, drizzle of honey and pinch of sea salt.

Pan fried spot prawn with Thai red curry (store-bought paste, added fish sauce, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves)  served with lentil quinoa turmeric rice: since spot prawn season is over, you can substitute with other prawns/shrimp available for this dish).

Faux Unagi Donburi (Rice bowl): Orange roughy turned into unagi;  baked and glazed with homemade unagi sauce, scrambled dashi egg with green onions, on a bed of turmeric (just a touch) fresh peas and carrot rice, garnish with crispy kale bits (my current favourite garnish in place of seaweed)

 

Disclaimer: All ingredients are non-sponsored purchased at some of my preferred vendors in Vancouver, BC.  Pictures are my own and dishes are my creations based on what I have learned through cooking classes, reading cookbooks and research.

http://www.seafoodcitygi.com

http://www.petes-meat.com

http://www.artisansakemaker.com

http://www.visaltco.com

http://www.vankoji.com

http://www.oyamasauage.ca

http://www.cioffisgroup.com

Sakuraya Japanese Market (517 East Broadway, Vancouver, BC)

Bianca Maria Italian Foods (Nduja! – 2469 East Hastings, Vancouver, BC)

 

 

 

 

 

May 2017: Come What May……

The month of May….

With no expectations and no set plans for the time being…

I took each day as is…reflect, cherish and enjoy..

Come What May…

Playing Tourist in our own town: Vancouver Foodie Tours’ Granville Island Market Tour, Stave Falls and Sewell Marina’s Sea Safari 

Have you ever walked around in your own city as if you were a tourist?  My hubby and I love doing this in Metro Vancouver especially during the spring and summer season!  As our beloved city is growing rapidly, very often we are very surprised by how quickly it changes, how much there is to see, and how little we actually know about our hometown.

For the past 3 years we are very fortunate to be participants in the Destination BC’s Tourism Challenge program ; every year over 20,000 tourism industry participants are invited to experience Vancouver and BC region to enrich their knowledge in order to share their experience with visitors from around the world.

Since the end of April,  we had such a blast going around town and took part in some activities/tours which I think even locals would enjoy…

Vancouver Foodie Tours’ Granville Island Market Tour:

A fun, informative and tasty Sunday morning spent with 14 others and our wonderful tour guide Tracy at Granville Island Market, making stops and sampling tasty bites at Edible Canada, JJ Bean, Terra Breads, Oyama Sausage and Co (charcuterie 7 types), Benton Brothers Cheese, #1 Orchard (Apple) , Granville Island Tea Co (their famous chai tea) and Lee’s Donuts (freshly made!).

First Stop at Edible Canada – Roasted vegetables
Charcuterie from Oyama Sausage and Co. : 7 types for tasting!
Ever had a fresh made donut?

We were introduced to these wonderful local vendors and see the best they have to offer, at the same time we were learning a bit about the history and establishment of the Public Market.  I often attend cooking classes and this is my second food walking tour (first one back in September 2016 in Halifax)! Thank you Tracy and Vancouver Foodie Tours for the wonderful experience!

http://www.foodietours.ca

Sewell Marina’s Sea Safari:  Beautiful Howe Sound – sights and sound of the sea

Christie’s Islet – Bird sanctuary

Sewell Marina’s Sea Safari is very enthralling guided tour: Boarding the 30 feet rigid and sturdy inflatable boat at beautiful Horseshoe Bay,  we  took the 1630 tour (last one of the day the Circle Tour) and spent 2 hours soaring through the stunning Howe Sound waters, taking in the beautiful scenery (Anvil Island, Gambier Island, Lions Bay, Mystery Falls, Christie’s Islet, Bowen Island just to name a few), admired the mighty coastal mountains and enjoyed the sightings of wildlife (bald eagle, seals), all from a safe distance !

Our tour guide Casey was very friendly and knowledgeable, we were also blessed with beautiful weather and the seas were calm…overall a truly exceptional experience!

BC is truly stunning and I am proud to call it my home.

Entrance to the dock

http://www.sewellsmarina.com

Driving on our own: BC Hydro Stave Falls, Kilby Museum (at Harrison Mills, BC) and Bridal Falls 

Did you know Canada’s first free cooking school of its kind held a five-day electric cooking demonstration at the Vancouver Hotel from May 03 to 7 in 1926?  This is one of the cooking “trivia” I just learned from our trip to BC Hydro Powerhouse at Stave Falls.  This 100-year-old power generating facility is also a National Historic Site of Canada, where visitors can tour the generator facilities and browse through the museum where you can see old versions of home appliances.  I was so excited to see the old cooking elements (the fancy models have a “dish warmer” above the stove) and learning about the history of cookery, certainly a bit geekish…

The facility is in pristine condition, the dam is majestic, and down by the lake there is a beautiful camping site, so you may want to spend a little more time to explore the area.

Stave Falls Dam and Power House

 

From Stave Falls we drove another 45 minutes to visit Kilby Historic Site (another stop for the challenge).  Located at the junction of Harrison and Fraser Rivers, it is a historic site of a once thriving community.  It felt as if we were travelling back in time to the early 1900’s, the highlight was going through the General Store Museum, learning about the history and listening to fascinating stories told by their knowledgeable volunteers.  Did you know back in those days people can order groceries by mail?  That was the “primitive” version of internet!  There is also very  simple gift shop / restaurant on site where they offer pies, soups and sandwiches; the egg salad sandwich was very good and I had it with a hearty vegetable soup, it all felt very rustic and homey.

BLT for him and Egg Salad for me…plus a Hearty Delicious Healthy Vegetable Soup

 

Ramp leading up to the Historic General Store Museum

 

“original” goods in the General store…I wonder…

We drove another 30 minutes from Kilby to Bridal Veil Falls, Chilliwack BC; we figured we were already out there so why not drive further?  This is the first time seeing Bridal Veil Falls up close, last time four years ago on the train travelling to Jasper, Alberta. We took the 15 minute hike (a little longer for me and that moment I decided I must get back into shape!) through the beautiful woods; it was almost at the end of the day so it was not crowded at all. The fresh air within the woods and the sounds of the waterfall

Bridal Veils Falls – first time seeing the Falls up close !

http://www.kilby.ca

http://www.bchydro.com

Returning to the Pear Tree (4120 East Hastings, Burnaby, BC)

http://www.peartreerestaurant.net

Classic Flamed Gin Tomato Soup with Chive Whipped Cream….the refreshing taste of the tomato really came through

There are so many dining options available in Vancouver and sometimes we forget the older established favorites…we just returned to Pear Tree with our friends for birthday celebrations.  Although it is a bit out-of-the-way, the food is very fresh and unpretentious,  and the service is truly attentive and exceptional. Once again I ordered their vegetarian menu (you can ask for the menu) and asked the same old question from two years ago: is it really vegetarian?  For sure it will not take me another two years to dine at this fine establishment again.

Butternut Squash Risotto : packed with flavor