October 2017: Learn, Nosh and Nourish

Golden Leaves….

 

Fall has always been my favourite season ; I simply love the colours, the weather and the beautiful and delicious local harvests! I was overly excited and overextended myself a little with Thanksgiving family dinner and cooking classes (which I love!), I ended up catching a cold. Yikes!   Changing seasons is a very tricky time period, we should all be extra mindful in taking care of our bodies in order to prepare for the long winter season ahead.

And finally my blog post is up…..

Learn and Nosh at True Nosh

 

Snow Skin Mooncakes! I finished “third” place in the “mooncake beauty pageant”

A couple of months ago I came across True Nosh through Instagram, what I found intriguing about True Nosh is their focus on “no added sugar” cooking!  Coming from a family with history of diabetes (on my maternal side of family), I thought I could learn something new to even further reduce the usage of sugar in foods prepared for my family.

I browsed through their website and signed up for the Chinese Green scallion cake (one of my favourite Chinese snacks) class;  I think most of you by now know “working with dough” and cooking Chinese food is not my strong suit (Ha ha).

The class focused mainly on demonstration by owner and certified dietitian Ms. Renee Chan; only a small part requires hands on participation.

What is no added sugar cooking?   Ms. Chan finds a creative way to use the natural sweetness from fruits and vegetables to replace refined sugars in traditional cooking.  A lot of restraint is exercised by limiting the quantities so sugar content is lower and the dishes are lightly sweetened.

The menu for the evening also includes braised beef shank (which goes very well with the green scallion cakes) and mango mochi (without added sugar) as dessert. The dough was proof ahead of time by Ms. Chan and her team;  the six class participants helped to roll out the dough and shaped the actual pancakes while Renee would cook and teach us Chinese (simple Chinese words in Cantonese and Mandarin) at the same time, she certainly made it fun and relaxing for everyone.

What did she use to replace the refined sugar?  A small quantity of chopped red dates and apricots were used to create to a paste and added into the braised beef shank (picture not shown) as  sweetener. (The usage of this ingredient was featured at another vegetarian/vegan class which I attended later – see below). After a most enjoyable evening, I decided to sign up for her “moon-cake making” class.

The second class was held at her newest location (West 7th avenue and Ontario Street, very close to Main),  Renee and her team prepared all the ingredients and dough ahead of time, and participants only assemble and created the moon cakes with the beautiful tools provided. For the filling she has selected lotus (paste made from seeds) and red date (paired), mung bean and apricot (paired), red bean and purple yam to create the fillings, green tea powder and saffron were used as natural food colouring to change the “skin” colour.    The textures and flavors are definitely different from store-bought “snow-skin” moon cakes,  it is more rustic and not as sweet.

Renee and her team are helpful and friendly, I had the best time chatting with her about cooking and travel!  Her family was also present that afternoon and I was delighted to have met her mother, the atmosphere was very warm and personal.   All recipes were sent to participants via email with nutritional information.

Her company also offers a range of sauces and condiments with funky names and interesting flavor profile for Chinese cooking.  Check out her website for more information.  Thank you Renee and team for the connecting, see you at one of your classes another time!

I like her overall concept and support for a good cause (ending diabetes);  and I am already thinking how I can introduce this “no refined sugar” method to my family and friends.  I do think this a better option however it is still important to exercise personal judgement and stay well-informed on what suits your own dietary needs….As I always say, always cook with lots of care and love.

Learn and Nourish at Workshop Vegetarian Cafe (296 Pemberton Road, North Vancouver, BC)

My favourite dish : Kabocha and Corn Soup with crispy grains…created by Pokeman Vancouver !

In the past couple years more vegetarian and vegan restaurants have opened up in Greater Vancouver, even regular restaurants now offer more vegetarian and vegan options. Most of their flavor profile tend to be either Mediterranean or Middle eastern inspired, there are only just a handful of authentic Asian-flavored ( Chau Veggie Express) centric vegetarian friendly eateries operating in Vancouver.

The Workshop Vegetarian Cafe opened in 2016 and they well-known for their creative veggie bowls and signature ramen creations.  Owner Tak and his wonderful team have created a Japanese menu featuring fresh seasonal and local ingredients.   This delightful gem is very welcoming and cosy; it  offers a complete vegetarian menu, with gluten-free and vegan options available; inside they operate a “corner shop which sells produce,  frozen noodles (their in-house made udon/ramen), vegan and gluten-free condiments.   I first visited this cafe in September 2016 with my friend “Kanekic” and really enjoyed their avocado toast and ramen.

I came across their workshop information through Instagram, apparently they have started to offer special workshops almost on a monthly basis with different themes.

On a beautiful Sunday morning I attended their sake kasu workshop,  the focus is on the explanation and demonstration of key ingredient “sake lees” used in four recipes (which was given to us also), and a special five course lunch was included afterwards.

The demonstration was hosted by one of the chefs Oku-san, who is from Artisan Sake Maker at Granville Island, Canada’s first local sake maker (opened since 2007).   You may ask what is sake kasu?  It is the lees left over from sake production; it is a versatile ingredient which can be use as a marinade or pickling agent, adds lots of flavor to soups and sauces.  If you taste the kasu on its own, the flavor itself is actually quite strong, so very little is needed in all applications.

In the demo class he taught us how to create of amazake (Japanese New Years drink), Vegan Chocolate Banana Smoothie, Miso Marinade and Vegan Mayonnaise; we all get to sample them afterwards and we were all given a small tub of sake kasu to take home for our cooking experiments.

Sake Kasu Vegan Mayo – tasty!

The biggest surprise came when lunch was served; Oku-san and his friends, three other experienced chefs who work at different establishments in BC, they collaborated and created an exquisite five course lunch which exceeded my expectations.  The meal was perhaps could easily ranked as the best vegetarian I’ve had in Vancouver, it is so wonderful to see we have  high calibre chefs collaborating together and showcased not only their individual talent, but their superb team work; as a home cook, I left with not only a full stomach but also a very inspired mind.

I will be returning in November to attend a dashi-making workshop, I simply look forward to see what they have to offer next time.   Meanwhile if you are unable to make it to Vancouver, check out their postings on Instagram; their feed is very positive and inspirational.  Thank you very much Tak and team for the inspiration!

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.