Sophie’s Steamed Pork Buns

Sophie’s Steamed Pork BunsChopped: Family Style
If we let her, my daughter would be totally happy to spend her days watching the Harry Potter movies for the eight hundredth time or binge-watching whatever is on Food Network. She has a number of Food Network favorites which is why last Saturday my family found us split into teams standing in front of a basket of “random” ingredients for our shelter-in-place version of Chopped.

It was a blast. I was in charge of coming up with the ingredient basket as well judging the final product. The ingredient list was difficult. I really struggled with it and it took me days to decide. What made it so hard were the different levels of culinary skill involved which ranged from “I’m awesome at pouring cereal” to “I make French Macarons just ‘cause”. I had to make sure that my husband and sons had a fighting chance. After wracking my brain and one sorta sleepless night, I came up with the following ingredient list: Ground pork, baby spinach, balsamic vinegar, wonton wrappers, and a condiment called Chile Crunch.

After a week of trash talk and posturing, the contestants were given 90 minutes to come up with their recipe and then make it happen. Dishes would be judged on a scale of one to ten for Execution, Creativity, Flavor, and Presentation. I got nervous watching my husband and son struggle to decide what to make with what they were given as my daughter literally pulled every bottle and spice she could out of my pantry and got to work. Eventually, everybody got to work and it was fascinating and at times frightening to watch.

My son, the cereal king, was paired with my husband. I was surprised and happy to see that said son took the lead and was more willing to take a chance on certain combinations. On the other side of the island, my daughter was channeling Gordon Ramsey (with fewer F-bombs) while telling (ordering loudly) her brother to chop the veggies. (NO! The carrots have to be julienned! You know, like little sticks!) She’ll either end up as Chef de Cuisine at some Michelin starred restaurant or as head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It could go either way. Somewhere along the line, my husband liberated the wine which may account for a large part of the creative cooking techniques that were used.

When time was up I was presented with two dishes that were actually fantastic. The first plate held some spinach and ricotta ravioli with a spicy pork Bolognese and sourdough garlic breadsticks. So good! The second had a steamed pork bun on a bed of stir-fried vegetables with crispy won tons. Yum!

Not going to lie, judging was difficult. Both had great flavor. Both were impressive in execution. Ultimately, Mini Gordon and sous chef were the winners with their pork bun based mainly on creativity and presentation. Both teams put in great effort. The best thing to come out of this though besides a great dinner? The kids have asked if they each can make dinner one night a week…glory hallelujah! My work here is done…

Sophie’s Steamed Pork Buns Recipe
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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
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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…