News From the Fancy Food Show & Tahini Noodles Recipe

Tahini Noodles with Green Beans and CarrotsPlant Food
In what has become an annual tradition, I spent my Martin Luther King holiday walking the aisles at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco looking for and tasting the latest and greatest that the culinary world has to offer. As per usual there was plenty of gorgeous chocolate and cheese from around the world—including a guacamole cheese that was divine despite being a dark green not usually associated with cheese in a positive way.

There were teas, there were coffees and there was an extraordinary number of waffles, both of the regular and of the Stroop variety. I like waffles as much as the next gal. But, do we really need that many? And there was bottled pickle juice…because, of course, there would be bottled pickle juice. (I brought one home for my kids to try. My pickle loving son tried it and said it was too intense yet he keeps going back for another sip. Kind of like a bad accident. You can’t help but look.)

There was no missing the one big take away from this show: The future of food is plant-based.

From beverages to snacks, to frozen foods, each and every grocery category had multiple vendors showing their plant-based products. There were plant-based frozen desserts being offered down every aisle either by the pint or as bars. Plant-based meat alternatives have grown way beyond the Impossible Burger. The snack category was huge including puffs made out of avocado that were a big hit at my home, as were the butternut squash pretzels. While I expected to see more plant-based noodles than I did, they were still well represented as were the Asian cuisines they support.

Staunch carnivores should not fret too much, though, as there were still plenty of offerings for them. Duck Sausage anyone? Small family-owned ranches held their own amongst the plant-based surge by offering natural, humanely-raised alternatives to beef like venison, bison, elk, and even wild boar. And while the jerky revolution has died down some, there were still plenty of meat and salami sticks to be sampled.

While plant-based foods comprised a large percentage of the products being shown this year, it was very obvious that we’re just scratching the surface when it comes to plant-based innovation. This is not a food trend that will just fizzle out. The possibilities are endless and the masterminds are just getting started…

Tahini Noodles with Green Beans and Carrots 
Adapted from Food 52
Yields 4 to 6 servings Read more…

Roasted Gochujang Chicken with Potatoes

Roasted Gochujang ChickenSpicy New Year
After the holiday season, things tend to get spicy. At least they do for me. When trying to decide what I will have for dinner, I tend to shy away from foods that are similar to the kinds of cuisine I just ate for the last three weeks of the previous year. More often than not, this means I tend to pick food options of an Asian nature that have some serious spice. Gone are the demi-glace and hollandaise. Bring on the Sriracha, curry, and vindaloo…

Truth be told, the foods of the holidays are awesome but they are firmly based in the traditional in that there are usually nicely roasted meats with savory sauces. Don’t get me wrong. I am a big fan of savory sauces and nicely roasted meats! But, by the time January rolls around my taste buds require something with a little kick to jolt them awake. This year’s weapon of choice is Gochujang.

In case you haven’t noticed, Korea’s gift to the culinary world has taken over menus everywhere and I am totally okay with that. I have become addicted to this stuff and what it does to the humble chicken.

True, roasting a chicken does actually fall into the “nicely roasted meats” category but you can never go wrong with roasting a chicken no matter what time of the year. I made the recipe below the weekend after Christmas ’cause I just needed something different. The printout is now in my drawer full of “keeper” recipes as requested by my husband. (This is the gold standard of recipes I have made over the years…) I did end up doubling this recipe and roasting two 3-pound chickens. The leftover meat was used to make Korean fusion tacos topped with Asian slaw for New Year’s Day feasting….

Roasted Gochujang Chicken with Potatoes
Adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine
Read more…

Apple Pickle

Apple PickleIn An Apple Pickle
You may remember a few weeks ago I talked about going apple picking at my brother-in-law’s house. Well, fast forward till now and I am still trying to make my way through all of those apples. We’ve made a pretty big dent in our harvest but we still have a ways to go.

The problem is, we’re kinda getting tired of consuming apples in the usual forms. Eating them straight, as part of a pie, as applesauce, or using the applesauce to make muffins is getting boring. Apples and pork are a no-brainer dinner combination. But, you can’t eat that every night. And, let’s not forget that, recent rainy days aside, it’s still pretty warm out. So, a slow-roasted meal is not the first that comes to mind in 90-degree heat.

I came across this recipe in the New York Times cooking section and I was beyond intrigued. After doing a little research, I was surprised how common apple pickle is. Considering how often I eat and or prepare Indian meals, you would think that these pickles would have crossed my path before now. But, apple pickle is a first for me.

The biggest hurdle to making these was the asafoetida. While we do try to stock as much variety as we can here at the store there will always be things that we just don’t carry. In this case, it’s asafoetida powder. So, I made a trip to my favorite spice shop and picked some up. I love spice shopping so “having” to go is actually a treat.

I made some changes to the original recipe based on research I did with a number of the Indian cookbooks I have in my collection. It’s pretty exciting to make these if only to get a break from the sweet side of apples…

Apple Pickle
Adapted from NY Times Cooking Read more…

Sichuan Wontons in Chili Oil

Sichuan Wontons in Chili OilMy Little Dumpling
Most people when they are learning to cook start off simple. Scrambled eggs. Roast chicken. Pancakes. The first things my daughter taught herself to make were pork dumplings.

To be fair, dim sum and all other Chinese dumplings are basically her favorite food. So, it makes sense that this is what she would want to know how to make. And, this is pretty much her M.O. She finds something that she is interested in, become obsessive about it, and then sets off to master it. And, once she has, she moves on to the next thing. Her current obsession? French Macarons. And there is now almond flour on every surface of my home…

As luck would have it, our cookbook club was cooking through a Chinese cookbook at the time she wanted to learn about dumpling—and there happened to be a wonton recipe that we decided to try. So I figured it would be a fun day of bonding with my daughter and teaching her a new skill. Little did I know I was about to be schooled…

Making the filling for the dumplings is fairly uncomplicated. All you are doing is just mixing the ingredients together. The difficult part of making dumplings is in the folding of the wrapper. They can be tricky and it takes some practice to get it right. The first few that I produced were misshapen and scary and the filling kept squishing out. My (at that time) ten-year-old daughter’s? Perfect. So perfect, in fact, she had to show me and my many years of cooking experience where I was going wrong. I have no idea where she learned to do it, but apparently, my daughter is a dumpling prodigy. And I, a mere mortal, bow to her greatness.

We did end up having a great time working together and the dumplings were so good. The best part was sitting down after it was all done to devour them with spicy chili sauce…

Sichuan Wontons in Chili Oil 
Adapted from Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking
by Fuchsia Dunlop
Yields 4 servings, about 15 to 20 wontons

Read more…

Gung Bo Chicken

Gung Bo ChickenChinese Legend
I like my Chinese food spicy, which is a good thing because most of the different regions of China come with their own brand of mouth-numbing heat. If I had to pick my favorite I’d probably go Sichuan over, say, Hunan or Cantonese. But, that’s mainly because it is what I have been exposed to the most. Plus you can never go wrong with a Sichuan Hot Pot.

I have written before about my personal challenges with Chinese cooking. It’s like I have a mental block when it comes to cooking with a wok. This is why, when I am craving Chinese food, I will generally leave it in the hands of the experts and order take-out. There have been a number of favorite establishments over the years that have helped me sooth my spicy cravings. And, there are a couple I frequent currently—but there is only one that remains head and shoulders above the rest.

Back in the dark ages, WAY before my husband and I started dating, our group of friends frequently dined at Emeryville’s Public Market. It was the perfect place for a large group to meet and eat because you could satisfy everyone’s appetite. You could get anything you wanted. Ginormous burritos? Yep. Afghani cuisine? Check. Noodle Bowls? Check. Hofbrau? Of course. Nine times out of ten, though, I found myself in the long line at The Crispy Fry for their Gung Bo Chicken, extra spicy. It was the perfect dish of spicy and saucy served over a huge mound of steamed rice. It was the ideal ending to a hard day of work or the best answer to a hard night of partying. And if the craving struck mid-week for lunch? You knew you had to get there early ‘cause the line started forming the minute the doors opened to the market.

When they remodeled the Public Market and the Crispy Fry ultimately closed, I was distraught. I have been searching for a replacement that is just as good ever since but have not had much luck. So, I have been forced to face my demons and try to do it myself. It’s been a process though I have had some success. This recipe for Gung Bo Chicken comes close but I am quickly coming to the conclusion that nothing could ever take the place of The Fry.

Gung Bo Chicken
Adapted from Food 52
Yields 3 to 4 servings
Read more…