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.


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. 






RECIPE: Korean Japchae (Vegetarian Version)


Cooking requires tremendous focus and patience; some dishes require more patience than others to prepare and japchae is definitely one of them. The most time-consuming part is the food preparation and final assembly.

Preparing this dish certainly presents a perfect opportunity to work on your own knife skills; all ingredients must be cut finely, cook and seasoned separately, and in the end mix together by hand.

Yes you heard it right, it is by hand and this is exactly what I’ve learnt at the Korean cooking school in Seoul back in 2007. The final assembly requires the cook to mix, taste and adjust seasoning at the same time. The dish is not supposed to be oily, too sweet or heavily “doused” with sesame oil.

Most of the traditional recipes consist of shiitake mushrooms, onions, carrots (cut into matchstick strips), cucumber peel (skin only finely sliced), egg, scallions and sometimes beef, garnish with sesame seeds and slivers of chilli. Seasonal vegetables are added and the colours are chosen very carefully to make the dish pleasing to the eye.

My vegetarian version uses less noodles, three different kinds of mushrooms, red pepper, green pepper (Thanks Sofei for your own organic produce), yellow onion and green scallions.

So what is your combination then?  (OO)

Ingredients: (Serves 2 to 4)

4 ounces of korean sweet potato noodle (dangmyeon), 1 large Portobello mushroom (gills removed, thinly sliced), 1 package of white shimeji mushrooms (ends cut off, separate each stem), 10 dried shiitake mushrooms (rehydrated, thinly sliced), 2 garlic cloves (finely minced), 1/2 red bell pepper (cut into thin strips), 1/2 green bell pepper (cut into thin strips), 1 small yellow onion (thinly sliced), 1 egg (egg yolk only), 1 to 2 green onions (cut crosswise into 1 inch long pieces), grapeseed oil, roasted white sesame seeds, organic Japanese (or Korean) soy sauce, sesame oil, salt, maple syrup, fresh ground black pepper for season to taste.

**Note: quantity of oil used is provided below, keep in mind it’s not supposed to be greasy!  As for the sweetener,  as I do not use refined sugar at home, maple syrup is my preference.  As it has a different flavour, please use sparingly or you can substitute with brown sugar.  You can always adjust the quantity of vegetables used according to your own preference.


– In large bowl filled with hot boiling water, completely submerge sweet potato noodles, cover and soak until they soften; stir a little to keep them from sticking together, drain thoroughly. This process takes less than 10 minutes, do not over soaked the noodles as they must remain firm and chewy. The noodles are quite long; using scissors cut them a few times, set aside.

– In small frying pan, add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil, swirl it around and wipe off the excess with paper towel (not over the stove!) so you can see a very thin layer of oil on the pan.  Return pan to heat, add beaten egg yolk mixture into the pan.  Tilt it around so it spreads thinly, let it cook using residual heat in the pan for 1 minutes, then flip it over and cook for another minute.  Let it cook and slice into thin strips.

– Using a skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of grapeseed oil over medium high heat, add onions and scallions and pinch of kosher salt. Saute until onions become translucent, it takes approximately 2 to 3 minutes.  Remove from skillet and set aside.

– Using the same skillet, heat another teaspoon of grapeseed oil, add red pepper strips and saute for 30 seconds, then add green pepper strips, mix well and saute for another minute, remove from skillet and set aside.  The pepper strips should remain crunchy.

– Using medium high heat, heat the same skillet with another 1 to 2 teaspoons (mushrooms absorb oil) grapeseed oil, add Portobello, shiitake and shimeji mushroom mixture, add minced garlic, saute for a few minutes until the mushrooms are softened and lightly browned (You will also hear a squeaky sound when cooking the mushroom). Remove from skillet and set aside.

– In a big mixing bowl, prepare the seasoning mix: add 1 to 2 Tablespoon soy sauce, 1 Tablespoon maple syrup, 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, and fresh ground pepper (a couple of grinds). Add all the ingredients to bowl and mix together by hand (please wear disposable gloves). Taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly.

– Add the egg strips and toasted sesame seeds, mix all ingredients thoroughly; garnish with more scallions if desired.  Transfer to plate and serve.



RECIPE: Triple C Chowder: Cauliflower, Chicken and Corn Chowder

IMG_2893 - Version 2

Late in October I was really thrilled when JJ and TT (many thanks again!) brought me some Hungarian paprika as souvenir from their European trip; I admit this is not the spice I use very often in my cooking, I had to give it some serious thought…

Rewind back to early October when I went for my haircut at Fab’s; my hair colouring session is the time when I catch up on my magazine reading; we are mostly digitized (twitter, Facebook, instagram) these days, so I rarely buy hard copies of any magazines unless it’s some special edition which I would like to keep. I was flipping through the October issue of Canadian Living magazine and came across their wonderful cauliflower corn chowder recipe; I love the idea of using cauliflower or potato in soups to add the texture without the need for whipping cream.  As usual, I took a snapshot and “tuck” it away in my cookery files…

So here you go; here’s my own version – the end result? It’s a lighter and healthier chowder, and certainly makes a hearty weeknight meal.  Please feel free to change things up anyway you like to suit your own taste and dietary needs.

There’s still paprika left in the pantry, so what’s next? Perhaps a Hungarian goulash for my dear friends? (OO)

Ingredients: (Serves 4-6, parts of the recipe adapted from Canadian Living’s Cauliflower Corn Chowder)

2 Tablespoon olive oil, 1 large yellow onion (diced), 4 cloves of garlic finely minced, 2 Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, 1 1/2 Tablespoon smoked sweet paprika, 4 corn cobs (husked, kernels removed, save the cobs), 1 small head cauliflower (cut into bite size), 2 boneless chicken breast (skinned and cut into bite size), 3 cups low sodium chicken broth*, 1 to 1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk*, 1 large sweet pepper (seeded and cut to bite size), 2 Tablespoons lemon juice, sea salt for seasoning to taste and sliced green scallions (or chives) for garnish (optional).

*almond milk and using mostly organic produce is my own preference; I’ve used homemade chicken stock as the soup base.  To add some heat – add 1 chili pepper to soup mixture or just use hot sauce in the end when ready to serve.


– In small bowl, prepare marinade for chicken; whisk together 1 Tablespoon olive oil, 1 Tablespoon lemon juice, 1/2 Tablespoon paprika and pinch of sea salt.  Add chicken breast cubes to mixture and marinate for at least 20 minutes.


 In a small pot using medium low heat, add the cobs to the chicken stock, let mixture simmer for approximately 15 to 20 minutes.  Turn off heat and set aside.

– In Dutch oven or large heavy pot, using medium high heat, saute the chicken breast until the meat is slightly browned and half-cooked, about 2 to 3  minutes.  Remove chicken meat from pot.

– Using the same pot, heat remaining olive oil, add onion, garlic, chopped fresh thyme and remaining paprika; saute until onion is softened, this takes approximately 3 minutes.  Stir in 1/2 the corn kernels, cauliflower, pre-heated chicken stock, sea salt and 1/2 cup water, bring mixture to boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer until cauliflower is tender, approximately 10 minutes.

– Using an upright blender, working in small batches, process and puree the soup until smooth (be mindful to fill blender jar less than half way). To prevent the hot liquid from splattering: remember to allow heat to escape by removing the blender’s lid centre insert (cap), hold a kitchen towel over the top when blending.

– Return puree soup to pot, add remaining corn kernels, red pepper and half-cooked chicken breast cubes, bring soup to boil.  Reduce to low heat, stir in almond milk, let it simmer and stir occasionally until red pepper is tender and chicken cubes are cooked through.  Season with sea salt to taste. Turn off heat, stir in lemon juice.

– When ready to serve, ladle soup into bowls, add hot sauce (optional) and garnish with chopped green scallions or chives (optional).



RECIPE: KIMCHI JJIGAE (Kimchi Soup with pork)


Korean Food Wave Revisited: Two weeks ago on the Thanksgiving long weekend, I went “work-clothes shopping” with my friend “Mui Mui”, a fairly level-headed “youngster” who recently got a new job and need a little assistance with wardrobe selections.

She can only have soup or congee (braces!!); we popped into H-Mart food court (on Robson Street) for a casual dinner (shopping is just about the only time I’m willing to forgo a proper “sit down” meal, taste is important still); it was great to revisit Wang Ga Ma food stand, where I had one of my all time favourite Korean dish, Kimchi jjigae. It was absolutely delicious, just “hit the spot”, perfect dinner on a rainy Friday night.

I like Jjigae for its simplicity and heartiness, it is what it is. Unlike SoonDuBu (Tofu soup), this dish is not readily available anywhere. Whenever I have a sudden craving, I must make my own at home. It’s my “go-to” dish during the gloomy Vancouver winter months.

The taste brought back many fond memories, the years (since 2005) of my absolute fascination with my third “adopted” culture (behind Japanese/French)…Korean language classes (at SFU Continuing Education)…My three trips to Seoul, especially travelling with my language class schoolmates (who remained in touch as good friends until this day)…dinner outings to different establishments with our wonderful teacher Anne…Korean cooking classes…

Upon returning home, I “dug out” an old cookbook – “Korean cooking” by Han Chung Hae; In 2005 and 2007, I was very fortunate to have had the opportunities (yes twice!) to attend her cooking school while I travelled to Seoul for leisure! I’ve learnt some interesting basic dishes – kimchi jjigae (by special request), Japchae, Bulgoogi (secret marinade), seafood pancake, just to name a few!  The cookbook and a few copies of recipes written in Korean (yay have not forgotten everything entirely!) are prized souvenirs, I treasured most the experiences and friendships, they will always remain very dear to my heart.


Last night on the way home we made a quick stop at T & T (Asian supermarket) to pick up the pork and konnyaku (kimchi is always in our fridge!)…Here you go!

잘 먹겠습니다

!!! (OO)


2 cups (packed) kimchi (readily available at most supermarkets, chopped in bite size), 150 grams organic pork shoulder (thinly sliced or bite size, trim excess fat), 1 small onion (thinly sliced), 3 teaspoons grated ginger, 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic (can always add a little more),  1/2 cup kimchi juice (squeezed from kimchi), 2 to 2 1/2 cups of anchovy stock (*similar to Japanese dashi made of dried kelp and dry anchovies boiled in water), 2-3 teaspoons of gochujang (Korean chili paste), 150 grams konnyaku, 2 scallions (thinly sliced for garnish), 2 teaspoon grapeseed oil, 1-2 teaspoon of soy sauce (preferably Korean, Japanese soy will work also) for marinade and season to taste; 2 teaspoon Japanese sake (rice wine).

*You can use water if you do not have any stock handy, the anchovy stock adds more depth and flavour to the soup.  I always have Japanese dashi stock (kelp/bonito) ready at home and it works just as well.

It’s my personal preference to use mostly organic products, the pork shoulder (it’s less fatty) and konnyaku (a Japanese zero calorie product made of plant from taro family) instead of the usual tofu (OO).  For other versions, skip the meat and add other vegetables for vegetarian, or use canned tuna for chamchi jjigae.


– Slice onions, grate ginger, mince garlic and chop scallions, set aside.

– Trim excess fat off pork shoulder, slice thinly or bite size; marinade with 1 teaspoon of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon rice wine, 1 teaspoon of Korean chilli paste (gochujang), 1 teaspoon grated ginger and a smidgen of garlic at least for 30 minutes.

– Prepare the kimchi juice: Remove 2 cups (fully packed) kimchi from jar, squeezed hard into a bowl to obtain “juice” (approximately 1/2 cup), set aside.

– Bring a small pot of water to boil, add the whole block of konnyaku to parboil for approximately 10 minutes.  This will get rid of the “smell”,  slice konnyaku into 1/2 inch thick.

– Using medium high heat, heat a hot-pot (nabe – remember to follow instructions if you using one) or 5 quart heavy bottom stock pot, heat 1 teaspoon of grapeseed oil, when hot add the pork slices.  Saute for approximately 2 to 3 minutes (do not cook pork entirely) and allow the fat to render.  Remove pork from pot.

– Using the same pot (add a little more oil only if necessary) over medium high heat, add the onions, saute for 2 to 3 minutes until translucent, add remaining ginger and garlic and 1 teaspoon of gochujang, saute until the mixture is very fragrant.  Add the kimchi juice and a splash of Japanese sake to “deglaze” (you will hear it sizzling) and scrape off the little brown bits (don’t burn) from the bottom.

– Add kimchi, konnyaku and soup stock (or water) to the pot, stirring everything together to combine.

– Bring to a boil and taste for spiciness, adjust with gochujang (Korean chilli paste) if you want to increase the spiciness, season to taste with soy only if necessary.

– Turn the heat down to a low simmer and let the soup cook for at least 15 minutes. Let the flavours develop further.

– Return the half-cooked pork slices to the mixture, cook until meat is tender.

– Add the scallions and quickly stir to incorporate.  Turn off and remove from heat, serve immediately straight out of the pot with rice.  Enjoy!



Cauliflower Fried Rice


More than two weeks ago, my friend “PPQ” was over at our place for mid-Autumn Festival Dinner and she made her simple version of cauliflower fried “rice” which paired surprisingly well with our semi traditional (Chinese steamed fish, roast pork belly, sautéed pea sprouts, sake steamed clams, duck breast lettuce wrap) dinner. She actually has modified the recipe based on the original posted on the award-winning site Nom Nom Paleo!  

We added garlic stems (I’ve seen them at our local Farmer’s market during early Fall season and readily available at most Asian Supermarkets); it adds a very delicate flavour and a nice crunch to the fried “rice”.

I made this again the other day and added shallots to the recipe. “PPQ”, thank you very much for your garlic stem idea! I’ve served the “rice” with Thai Green Curry, we didn’t miss the jasmine rice at all!  Basically anything goes with this excellent low carb option, same as any other recipes, feel free to modify and make it your own, Enjoy (OO)!


1 small head of organic cauliflower, 1-2 Tablespoons olive oil, 1 small yellow onion (finely diced), 2 small shallots (finely diced), bunch of garlic stems – 1/2 to 1 cup (finely chopped), kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.


– Clean the cauliflower, core and trim the florets off the stems, cut off any blemishes (sometimes you see little brown spots). Place florets in the food processor and process until they resemble the texture and size of rice grains.

– Prepare garlic stems: wash thoroughly in cold water, pat dry, cut off end of stems and chop them finely

– In a large skillet, heat 1/2 Tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat, add onions and cook until they become soft and translucent, add shallots and garlic stems; mix ingredients well and cook for another 3-4 minutes to bring out the flavours and aroma. Remove mixture from skillet and set aside.

– Adjust to medium low heat, using the same pan heat remaining olive oil, add cauliflower, season lightly with salt and pepper, stirring gently for approximately 5 to 10 minutes until the oil is evenly distributed and each “grain” is coated.

– Put the lid on the skillet, adjust to low heat (to avoid burning) and cook the cauliflower “covered” for another 5 minutes (to 10 minutes) until they become tender.

– Remove the lid, readjust to medium high heat, return onion/garlic stem/shallot mixture to skillet, using a spatula, gently stir fry all ingredients until mixture is slightly browned.


– Taste and season with salt and pepper as required.