chezpei.com

Trying to eat something delicious, each and every day.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Liang Fen

We had a few cold dishes today that were a little noteworthy. All these recipes are still being tweaked, but I'll give the gist below:


Liang fen is a Szechuan creation of mung bean (and green bean) starch. The starch, when cooked with water and then chilled, makes a noodle that is very much like Jell-O in consistency, minus the sugar. Traditionally, it is served with chili oil, Szechuan peppercorns, chopped green onions and cilanttro, soy sauce, and (optional) a healthy dose of Chinese black vinegar. Our approximation was pretty good today, but some tweaking is in order before I will post a recipe. 



Simple stir fry of spring asparagus. California asparagus is at its peak this month, and we've been enjoying it a lot as a simple stir fry: flaming hot pan + thinly sliced asparagus + a bare pinch of salt = really good eats!


Lastly, our signature surf clam salad. For most of my life, I had a deep-seated aversion towards surf clams. I viewed them as an extraneous, rubbery, waste of money that always appeared on assorted sashimi plates. But tossed in the proper sauce, the humble surf clam really come to life! We like it with a spoonful of masago, chopped green onions and/or cilantro, a spoonful of soy sauce, and a spoonful of lao gan ma hot sauce.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Brussel Sprouts

Brussel sprouts on a stick! I remember the firs time I saw these, I was completely weirded out. Growing up in an Asian family, I never even ate brussel sprouts much less saw them on their stalks!

Now, it's easy to fine brussel sprouts in any market, and in season they can be found on their stalks in farmers markets and slightly more specialized markets like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. They last a little longer on the stalk, and it's fun to carry them home on a stick! But beware, one stalk is a lot more sprouts than you'd think.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Cinderella Bakery and Cafe

Okay, not the best photo I've ever taken of a sign, but I wasn't about to stand in the middle of the street while waiting for the bus. Just pretend I caught the "Cinderalla" on the right side of this incredibly long sign.

So, let's start from the beginning. This is the outdoor seating at Cinderella Bakery & Cafe on Balboa and 5th. The cafe portion of the establishment is being renovated, but diners who are willing to eat outside can have table service at the bakery. We found the service incredibly friendly and efficient, and prices seemed to have been lowered to compensate diners for the lack of indoor dining.

The most unique thing we tried today was definitely this mug of kvas, aka. Russian bread liquor. I don't know why I expected this drink to be either like beer or very sour, but it was neither. It was lightly fizzy, quite sweet, and had a complex malt flavor that reminded me of some kind of medicine or candy or both. I know, that description makes no sense. It has very little alcohol, and I would describe it to others as being more like a weird Russian soda than a serious alcoholic beverage.

We also had two piroshkis (this is just one--they're huge!) One was beef and cheddar, the other was beef and gorgonzola. I would have liked these a little hotter, but they were quite good. The filling is encased in a fluffy, slightly chewy bread that's deep fried. Kind of like a savory doughnut.

We also had beef pelmeni, which are really just Russian dumplings or wontons in a fairly rustic skin. This is definitely the Russian dish that probably anyone in the world would enjoy. It has simple flavors and is homey and filling.

And last but not least, head cheese. I usually think of head cheese as having more meat; enough to be sliced like ham. This was more like an aspic, and it was a huge portion. Cinderella's version is very garlicky and peppery, and quite tasty with their light rye bread.

We got two piroshkis, what seemed like a pint of head cheese, a plate of pelmeni, a small cup of borscht, a mug of kvass, a big poppyseed roll to go, and a slice of chocolate cake to go for $27 after tax. Not bad for our very first sit-down Russian meal!

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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Watermelon Wheat Beer

I think beer is a great summer drink, and only a fool would not admit that watermelon is a great summer fruit, but I never thought I'd see the two together in the same can:

21st Amendment is a San Francisco restaurant and brewery, and they have made some tasty brews over the year (available in bottles, cans, and on draft throughout the Bay Area). Imagine my surprise when on a recent visit to a different restaurant, I saw watermelon wheat on the menu! I had to try it, and I think I've decided I like it! It has the light, refreshing zing of a wheat beer, with an aftertaste akin to that of a watermelon Jolly Rancher. It's not a classic, but it's a nice change of pace. Good job, beer guys!

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Saturday, November 07, 2009

Salt N' Pepper Chips

I took homemade to a new level today: potato chips! I admit homemade potato chips is a little overboard, but I had a lot of potatoes and wanted to play with my Zyliss vegetable slicer.

I fried up three small Russet potatoes and we had them as a mid-afternoon snack today. They were really tasty; not as good as Kettle Chips but much more thin and crispy than most of the brands labeled "rustic" or "organic." I hate thick, crunchy chips!

The trick with potato chips is to soak the sliced potatoes in cold or iced water for an hour, then drain and dry them on paper towels. Heat up a wok of oil to over 350 degrees. Frying potato chips is easier than frying other foods because chips are paper thin; you don't have to worry about charring the outside before the center is cooked. The oil will sizzle when you put the potatoes in, then stop sizzling as the potatoes darken and lose moisture. When it's time to pull the potatoes out, you might be tricked into thinking the oil is cold because it won't sizzle at all. Don't be fooled; it's still very hot and you need to carefully transfer the chips to a baking sheet lined with paper towels or a flattened paper bag. Salt and pepper the chips before they cool, then eat when they are safe to touch!

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Sunday, November 01, 2009

Lambs Quarters

Today I present another nutritional powerhouse: lambs quarters! The guy at the farmers market referred to it as wild spinach, and it wasn't until I looked it up that I realized this was the wild green I'd so often read about but always forgot to look for at the market. Lambs quarters are basically a weed that goes for $1 a bundle at normal farmers' markets. Hit up a fancy shopping arena like the Ferry Building, however, and I'm sure you're paying anywhere from $3-6 for the same handful of greens.

Weed status notwithstanding, lambs quarters are one of nature's super foods. They are more nutrient dense than regular spinach, and rank up there with nettles and purslane as being ridiculously chock full of vitamins, antioxidants, and so on--wild vegetables are just better for you, there's no two ways about it. Excited by our new find, we sauteed a huge bunch of these in sage and garlic brown butter and ate it with rice and some sauteed mushrooms. See? I told you we are practically vegan these days.

*photo courtesy of modernbeet.com

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Pig Parts

X-rated pig parts for dinner tonight.

Following a recipe from our beloved Szechuan restaurant, Spices I, I tossed the cooked, chilled pig parts in Szechuan peppercorn oil, hot chili oil, salt, sugar, and a dash of soy sauce. A handful of cilantro and a clove of grated garlic and we had a great side dish with dinner.

Apologies for being AWOL. Our big project is really heating up! More to come...

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Monday, August 31, 2009

Vegetable Curry

The sudden change in weather was a call for comfort food.

Easy vegetable curry. I diced up seven different vegetables and sauteed them in a scant tablespoon of olive oil. Then I added enough water to cover all the vegetables, brought the water up to a boil, then turned it down to a simmer until the vegetables were almost cooked through. Then I stirred in two cubes of Golden Curry to create a chunky curry with plenty of sauce. You can get as creative as you want with the vegetables you use, but this time I used: acorn squash, purple bell peppers, carrots, onions, red potatoes, yellow potatoes, and celery.

This time, I added a vegetable that is brand new to me: moringa. It seems to have originated in the Tamil region of India, and is popular throughout South and Southeast Asia as well as Africa. The leaves are small, tender, and almost flavorless. I would say it's most similar to spinach, but really has no taste except perhaps an extremely mild cucumber flavor. It's very high in a variety of nutrients, contains a lot of protein for a tree, and often credited with helping impoverished regions stave off starvation. I think, unless it's seasonal, this is going to be a cheap and versatile leafy addition to our diet.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Soft-Shell Turtle Soup

Well, it finally happened. J found a soft-shell turtle at a Chinese seafood market and we cooked it.


Heebie jeebies aside, soft-shell turtle really does have the texture of chicken, but with a lot more sharp little bones and a sweeter flavor. I'm not sure it's different enough to compell me to pay $11/lb for it on a regular basis, but it was a tasty soup.

J didn't remember exactly what his friend's grandfather put in his recipe, so we stopped by a Chinese herb shop and asked the saleswoman what people usually cook with soft-shell turtle. She made us a great herb packet for under $5, and it included two of my favorites: dried mountain yam and foxnuts. I don't know too much about the other herbs, their names, or their supposed healing qualities. But I do really like Chinese medicinal soups. I'm going to have to remember to cook them more regularly: with chicken or short ribs!

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