Category Archives: Soup

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar’s Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup RecipeMyanmar may not be a country that comes to mind when you think “international cuisine destination,” but thanks to the recent democratization of the government and lifting of most sanctions, it’s quickly becoming an Asian hub of excitement and energy. Myanmar’s main city of Yangon, formerly called Rangoon, is a dynamic destination with both the tranquility of an off-the-beaten-path Buddhist sanctuary and the subtle buzz of locals and foreigners seeing the country in a new light.

Two of the entrepreneurs that wanted to capitalize on the growing thirst for international flavors in Myanmar are Ringo and Michelle, a Singaporean couple who started their restaurant Merlion Cuisine in Yangon this year.

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe

Having had the passion for the food and beverage industry simmering on the back burner for years, they decided to jump on the opportunity to start the only restaurant serving authentic Singaporean cuisine they knew growing up with international standards. Meticulous care and no expense was spared in doing the kitchen. Owner Ringo called on his friend (owner of Q’Son) in Singapore to supply top-of-the-line stainless steel appliances. Two water filters are used because of Yangon’s history of bad water. Multiple exhaust hoods handle proper ventilation. And, a renowned food safety consultant from Singapore was brought in for a pre-opening intensive two week training in food preparation, handling, storage.

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe
Food Asia Culinary Challenge Gold Award – Chef Darren Lim

Joining them is the Singaporean Chef Darren Lim, who started cooking at 19 years old and worked his way up from cleaning live fish in Malaysia to head Asian chef at the Ritz-Carlton in Singapore. Chef Lim is no stranger to taking risks – moving by himself to Australia with the hopes to find a job in a kitchen in order to learn about Western food is no small feat – so he feels the enterprising environment in Myanmar suits his style. Sitting down with him for the interview, he’ll never tell you he’s a multiple gold medal winner in the Food Asia Culinary Challenge or for which Presidents or Heads of States he’s cooked for; instead, he beams with excitement over which new cookbook he has and which new recipe he wants to try.

Unfortunately, Myanmar doesn’t have the supplies he’s used to, so he hand-picks ingredients from Hong Kong and Singapore to bring into the restaurant for the highest standard food. As we continued the interview, I became more and more impressed with the devotion to the art of cuisine he showed. By putting his soul into his food and refusing to compromise on quality, he represents the idea that “the right way is not always the popular or easy way.” Once Ringo became a regular customer of the Ritz-Carlton and got to know Chef Lim very well, it seemed natural for them to join forces and take the next step into Myanmar.

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
Since I was 19 years old.

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe
Cold Bean Curd Pudding with Longan

What is your favorite food to cook?
Lobster, since there are many different ways to prepare it in both the Asian and Western styles. My favorite way is with a spicy black pepper sauce.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Fresh herbs are important, rosemary is a staple.

What do you cook at home?
Since I eat at work usually, when I’m at home I like something light and easy to prepare. Usually a double boiled soup that isn’t too heavy.

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe
Steamed tofu with Soya Sauce

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
Actually, I like the challenge of a customer that comes in with a judgement already made up in their minds. Maybe they think tofu is bland because they only tofu prepared in a certain way. To me, I want to be able to take that on and change their minds. As a chef, I believe every customer is a VIP.

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe
Deep fried banana with ice cream

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Unfortunately some – and it really is very few – customers are trying to make problems with the food and have a certain closemindedness about it. As a chef, I have no power over this.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Corningware.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
I drink whiskey only, just a little bit. Now I’m working on my collection of Jack Daniels.

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe
Deep Fried Tofu with Soya Sauce

Your favorite cookbook author?
Tony Khoo, who wrote “To Be A Chef” and is the head chef for the Mandarin Group as well as a committee member of the Singapore Chef Association. He inspires me because he also has a passion for mixing Western and Asian cuisines. Aesthetically, his attention to detail is meticulous, and his plating on dishes like his (Asian) tapas is perfection.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
American chef knife.

Your favorite ingredient?
Infused oils, like olive oil infused with garlic and onion.

Your least favorite ingredient?
This is difficult for me to say. As a chef, I have to try to have a positive mindset towards all ingredients, because maybe a customer really likes it and I have to work with it.

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe
sambal kang kong

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Opening oysters. When I was training, my master chef said I opened oysters too slowly to work in the kitchen. As part of my training he gave me 20,000 oysters to open up and I couldn’t leave until I finished. It was intense, after just the first one I wanted to cry and give up because I looked back and saw the mountain of oysters to go, but I kept going and past the half way point I knew I could make it. But I still have that traumatic memory.

Also making omelets reminds me of a similar memory. In my training on how to make the perfect omelet when I was working in a hotel, the rule was: If the omelet isn’t in the exact correct shape, you had to eat it. I went through a lot of omelets. Even now, I can’t lose the extra weight I gained from all those eggs I ate. As you can imagine, I don’t eat omelets or oysters anymore.

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe
Chendol

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Anything that is fusion cuisine. Every month I buy 2 cook books, since every chef has their little secrets and techniques, I like to mix and test different fusion dishes with this knowledge.

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu?
Pork

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe
seasonal fresh fruit, Myanmar

Favorite vegetable?
White asparagus. It tastes a little unique, but it has a short harvest season. It’s fairly common in Singapore, but for a quick dish to whip up I like to use a Western-style preparation: Combine bay leaf, milk, lemon, butter in a pan with the white asparagus and poach it for 4-6 minutes depending on the size, then top with either hollandaise (for Western style) or poached egg yolk (for Asian style).

Chef you most admire?
Chef Edmund Toh. He’s the President of the Singapore Chefs Association and made his own way through the ranks to the top. He never had anything handed to him and he’s a great mentor for us younger Singaporean chefs.

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe
Bean Curd with Seafood Sauce

Food you like the most to eat?
Soups, because they can be difficult to get the balance of flavor correctly. Whenever I go to a restaurant I make sure to try a soup because I want to see if they have a skilled chef there, and I test this by the soup. If they are skilled, then I always try to find my way into the kitchen so I can learn from them. Also, noodle dishes (especially pulled noodles) because it is a traditional technique — like an art form — and seafood because it’s the most fresh-tasting food.

Food you dislike the most?
Even though I can handle them in any other form, raw beets are not my favorite.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
No tattoos.

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe
Tofu with salted fish & chicken in clay pot

Childhood memory with food?
My fondest memory with food is also the reason why I got interested in cooking. My grandmother used to make a traditional pork belly with soya sauce dish for my family, but after she passed away no one seemed to be able to replicate it the same way. It really pushed me to try experimenting in the kitchen; it was like a puzzle I had to solve. I tried every technique my parents knew how to do, but nothing seemed to work and everyone gave up hope of tasting the same dish. Then one day I decided to try preparing it in an old-fashioned way, without using any of the popular shortcuts or modern tools, and finally I was able to succeed in recreating it in the exact same taste.

Recipe: Traditional Confinement Soup

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe
Confinement Soup

In many traditional Asian homes, recovering from surgery, illness, or childbirth includes a “confinement” period for about a month, where the recovering person stays inside and away from potential hazards in the environment — germs, pollution, or bad energy. While trying to naturally restore their strength, their mother stays inside with them and makes the food. They will make many gently-boiled soups that extract the most nutrients and vitamins slowly for optimum recovery, and are easy on the sensitive stomach. Below is one of the staple soups made for recovery along with the benefit: most of the ingredients can be found in Asian markets.

Prep time: 35 min
Cooking time: 3-4 hours

Ingredients:

2 chickens (1 kg in size)
enriches the blood
high protein
supplements qi energy

20 gm ginseng
helps recovery from illness, immune system
helps hepatitis C
improves mental & physical wellbeing and stamina

5-8 dried scallops
lowers blood pressure
strengthens stomach & kidneys
low in fat

20 gm wolf berries (also called goji berries)
improves eyesight
strengthens immune system
antioxidants help aging process

3 litres water

10 red dates
improves qi energy
improves circulation
helps mental wellness

5-8 dried longan
improves circulation
detoxifying super fruit

50 gm dang shen (can substitute ginseng http://www.davidbocktcm.com/articles/Dangshen.html)
brightens & evens complexion

50 gm solomon rhizome (also called yu zhu, traditional chinese herb in Asian markets)
relieves dry throat
strengthens stomach

Directions:
Clean the chicken and cut into pieces.
Wash and drain the wolf berries, red dates, longan, dang shen, solomon rhizome.
Place all ingredients into a large pot.

For Hong Kong style, bring the soup to a boil covered for 3 hours.
For Singaporean style, double boil soup for 4 hours.

 
– The End. Go Eat. – 

 

 

i8tonite with Manhattan Beach’s Doma Kitchen Chef Kristina Miksyte & Recipe for Borscht

i8tonite with Manhattan Beach’s Doma Kitchen Chef Kristina Miksyte & Recipe for BorschtA cursory internet search on Lithuanian chefs yields one or two male names located in Europe. Narrowing the searching to California leads us to San Francisco’s East Bay and the Los Angeles’ Annual Lithuanian Festival, which recently celebrated its annual event in the city’s Silver Lake neighborhood.  Digging a little deeper brings us to Doma (which means “home” in Lithuanian) Kitchen in Los Angeles County’s coastal community of Manhattan Beach. It’s a delicious neighborhood bistro with a heavy focus on Eastern European foods using seasonal California ingredients. In other words, going to Doma Kitchen is an enlightening travel experience without having to leave the county.

i8tonite with Manhattan Beach’s Doma Kitchen Chef Kristina Miksyte & Recipe for Borscht

Owned by three people, Chef Kristina Miksyte and entrepreneurial couple Angelika Corrente and Stanislav Mayzalis, Doma Kitchen brings together a taste of Lithuania to the Southern California food scene. The latter was already a working chef in her homeland before winning the green card lottery and becoming an American citizen.

i8tonite with Manhattan Beach’s Doma Kitchen Chef Kristina Miksyte & Recipe for Borscht

Having attended a culinary school in her hometown of Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, like so many immigrants, Miksyte’s dream was to live and cook in the United States. She says, “I love my country but it didn’t give me the opportunities to work. In Los Angeles, I have a restaurant, I am married, and I cook what I want.”

Lithuanian food is characterized by the cooking of potatoes, beets, pork, barley, berries, and mushrooms. The use of indigenous herbs such as dill, caraway, and juniper mimic their Eastern European neighbors (Uzbekistan, southern Russia, Latvia, Poland, and Belarus). And Doma Kitchen’s menu reflects this rich, fragrant cuisine with plov (braised rice or rice pilaf), kasha (braised barley or buckwheat-like risotto), and vareniki (similar to pierogies).

i8tonite with Manhattan Beach’s Doma Kitchen Chef Kristina Miksyte & Recipe for Borscht

However the food isn’t all relegated to the “stans” of the world; Chef Miksyte makes liberal use of other Mediterranean ingredients, such as burrata, basil, tomato, and walnuts to showcase her global tastes. “I wanted to come to the States to become a better cook and learn more of what the world offers,” says Doma Kitchen’s stove director.

Los Angeles is all the better for it.

i8tonite with Manhattan Beach’s Doma Kitchen Chef Kristina Miksyte & Recipe for Borscht

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
I’ve been cooking for almost twenty years.

What is your favorite food to cook?
I love to bake and also enjoy cooking good meat

i8tonite with Manhattan Beach’s Doma Kitchen Chef Kristina Miksyte & Recipe for BorschtWhat do you always have in your fridge at home?
Fresh veggies and fruits, fresh meat or fish, few cheeses and salami. Almost nothing in the freezer. Basically I’m stocked with produce for all meals, something for breakfast, snacks and for a nice dinner.

What do you cook at home?
I’m constantly experimenting and messing around with new recipes. Often go back to authentic recipes either from Russia, Lithuania, or Persian. Weekends are BBQ.

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
I love to make my customers happy through eating my food. When I see the excitement after first look at the food followed up with “Wow,” “OMG,” “This looks so good and tastes even better.” The love is mutual between us – I love to cook and they like to eat.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
I hate when the customer changes the ingredients in my dishes. It’s basically changing the whole dish completely, and creating a new dish.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine

i8tonite with Manhattan Beach’s Doma Kitchen Chef Kristina Miksyte & Recipe for Borscht

Your favorite cookbook author?
My Grandma

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Knives

Your favorite ingredient?
Fresh herbs and dill, of course!

Your least favorite ingredient?
Don’t have one

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Wipe down and polishing the dishes

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Central Asian, Middle eastern, and whatever that’s on my mind

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Beef

i8tonite with Manhattan Beach’s Doma Kitchen Chef Kristina Miksyte & Recipe for BorschtFavorite vegetable?
Fresh cucumbers from my mother’s garden

Chef you most admire?
Egidijus Lapinskas in Lithuania

Food you like the most to eat?
Good piece of meat, sushi, or fish

Food you dislike the most?
Overly spicy food that you can’t taste anything else.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
I have two tattoos. No food tattoos to date.

Recipe: Doma Kitchen’s Borscht

i8tonite with Manhattan Beach’s Doma Kitchen Chef Kristina Miksyte & Recipe for Borscht

Doma Kitchen Borscht recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Lamb, stew meat, or whatever kind of beef you like, bone-in or boneless
  • 1 Tbsp salt + more to taste
  • 2 large or 3 medium beets, washed, peeled and grated
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 2 large or 3 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced into bite-sized pieces
  • ½ head of small cabbage, sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, peeled and diced (**see note)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley and dill
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • Garnish: Sour cream and fresh sprigs of parsley or dill.

Instructions

  1. Wash meat in cold water, cut into 1″ pieces and place in a large soup pot with 14 cups cold water and 1 Tbsp salt. Bring it to a boil and remove the foam crud as soon as it boils (if you wait, it will be hard to get rid of the crud as it integrates into the broth and you’d have to strain it later). Reduce heat, partially cover and simmer 45 minutes – 1 hr, periodically skimming off any crud that rises to the top.
  2. Grate beets on the large grater holes (a food processor works amazingly well). Place them in a large heavy-bottom skillet with 4 Tbsp olive oil and 1 Tbsp vinegar and sauté for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to med/low and add 1 Tbsp sugar. Mix thoroughly and sauté until starting to soften, stirring occasionally (about 10 min). Remove from pan and set aside. In the same skillet (no need to wash it), Sauté onion in 1 Tbsp butter for 2 min. Add grated carrot and sauté another 5 min or until softened, adding more oil if it seems too dry.
  3. Once the meat has been cooking at least 45 min, place sliced potatoes into the soup pot and cook 10 min, then add cabbage, sautéed beets, onion & carrot, and chopped tomatoes. Cook another 10 minutes or until potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork.
  4. Add 2 bay leaves, ¼ tsp pepper, and more salt to taste (I added another ½ tsp salt).
  5. Chop parsley and pressed garlic then stir them into the soup pot, immediately cover and remove from heat. Let the pot rest covered for 20 minutes for the flavors to meld.

The End. Go Eat. 

i8tonite with St. John’s, Newfoundland Chef Mark McCrowe & Seafood Chowder Recipe

Chef Mark McCrowe, Food Day Canada 2015
Chef Mark McCrowe at Food Day Canada 2015

I first met Chef Mark McCrowe at RANL‘s Food Day Canada event in St. John’s, Newfoundland, on my very first day in town. Held in a large ballroom, the event showcased several dozen chefs from around Canada – and some extraordinary local dishes. Newfoundland is in the middle of a culinary renaissance – so much good food, so many excellent and creative chefs, and an eat local ethic that is impressive, given the northern Atlantic locale on an island called The Rock.

I was impressed with his presentation and flavor of his dish – a salt beef and potato crusted cod with mustard pickle puree, collard greens, and a whelk beurre blanc sauce. It was the perfect introduction to Newfoundland.

 

i8tonite with St. John's, Newfoundland Chef Mark McCrowe & Seafood Chowder Recipe

Mark was born and raised in St. John’s, NL. Growing up around simple Newfoundland dishes, using fresh seafood and wild game, inspired an appreciation of the local style of food and where it comes from. After studying culinary and baking and pastry arts in British Columbia and working in some of Van city’s best kitchens, he returned home to further his own individual style as a chef. Mark opened his first restaurant, Aqua, at the age of 26 and his second more casual gastropub, The Club, at the age of 29. Mark is living his dream: cooking the food he loves to cook and doing it in the place and for the people that mean so much to him…………Happy cooking!!

i8tonite with St. John's, Newfoundland Chef Mark McCrowe & Seafood Chowder Recipe

Find him in St. John’s, Newfoundland, at EVOO in the Courtyard.

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
Since I was about 13. I would record all the Wok With Yan episodes on VHS and recreate them for my family. Still my favourite show!

What is your favorite food to cook?
I’m obsessed with the wide variety of flavours and ingredients in Asian food, but I like to work my way around the globe though ingredients without ever spending the money to travel :p

i8tonite with St. John's, Newfoundland Chef Mark McCrowe & Seafood Chowder Recipe

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
I use way too much sambal olek and sriracha.

What do you cook at home?
I’m a one pot wonder kinda guy. I like simple flavourful food and dislike doing the dishes.

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
I like when customers are having fun and are just plain into what they are eating. Life is too short to be a stuffy loser.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
You never know what kind of day someone has had or what they may be going through in their personal life, but there is never an excuse for treating a server like garbage.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
I’m all about the ziplock, baby.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
All of the above, please.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Jacques Pepin is and always will be.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
My hands

Your favorite ingredient?
Pork and pork related products

Your least favorite ingredient?
Kiwi (I’m allergic)

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Inventory

i8tonite with St. John's, Newfoundland Chef Mark McCrowe & Seafood Chowder Recipe
Catching Capelin

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
I adore so many types of food. What really interests me is the simple recipes using local Newfoundland ingredients that my grandparents would use. I always like applying them to modern day cooking.

 

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu?
Pork with tofu, if I could

Favorite vegetable?
Onion

Chef you most admire?
Shaun Hussey of Chinched bistro in St.John’s, Newfoundland. He’s a good friend and the type of chef that is always pushing himself. The real deal.

Food you like the most to eat?
I like anything you have to get into and eat with your hands…like a platter of Newfoundland seafood with lobster and crab.

Food you dislike the most?
I hate food that looks to pretty to eat and is too smart for its own good. Sometimes a tomato is nicer than a tomato gel.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?i8tonite with St. John's, Newfoundland Chef Mark McCrowe & Seafood Chowder Recipe
I do have “Jiggs dinner” tattooed on my forearm. It is the quintessential Newfoundland one pot meal that involves salt beef and root vegetables. It’s my death row last meal and by far the most popular dish from Newfoundland, but my Nan makes it the best, so everyone else is out of luck!

 

Recipe: Newfoundland Seafood Chowder with Roasted Fennel, Dill, and Evaporated Milk

i8tonite with St. John's, Newfoundland Chef Mark McCrowe & Seafood Chowder Recipe
Newfoundland Seafood Chowder

This chowder is a canvas to show off some of the Rock’s best seafood. You can use whatever you have available here. The flavors of roasted fennel, dill, and lemon really make it special – and by using evaporated milk, you really get that authentic chowder flavour.
Serves: 10-12 portions

FOR THE CHOWDER
½ cup unsalted butter
½ cup all purpose-flour
1 onion (diced)
2 stalks celery (diced)
2 heads fennel (diced)
2 potatoes (diced)
¼ cup Pernod
1 cup dry white wine
1 litre fish stock
½ litre heavy cream
2 cans evaporated milk
½ cup chopped dill
5 tbsp lemon juice
3 dashes Tabasco
3 dashes Worcestershire
Salt
Cracked black pepper
1 cup cold water shrimp (peeled)
1 lb fresh cod
½ lb mussels
½ lb clams
1 lb cooked lobster meat
½ lb cooked snow crab meat

In a large roasting tray, mix the diced fennel with 4 tbsp of olive oil, salt, pepper and roast in a 400 degree oven until lightly caramelized. In a large heavy bottomed pot, melt the butter and flour together, forming a roux, and cook for 2 minutes.

Add all of the vegetables and cook them for roughly 5 minutes or until translucent. Add the roasted fennel and deglaze the pot with the pernod and white wine while stirring constantly.

Add the remaining liquids, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer to cook slowly for roughly 30 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and the soup has slightly thickened. Season with salt, pepper and add all the seafood to cook for just a couple of minutes. In a separate pan, cook the mussels and clams with 2 cups of the chowder base until the shells open, then add back into the main pot. At the last minute before serving, add the fresh dill and adjust the seasoning.

Recipe: Lemon Pepper Smoked Cod and Crispy Britches with Mint, Lemon, and Green Pea Risotto

Lemon Pepper Smoked Cod and Crispy Britches with Mint, Lemon, and Green Pea Risotto. i8tonite with St. John's, Newfoundland Chef Mark McCrowe & Seafood Chowder Recipe
Lemon Pepper Smoked Cod and Crispy Britches with Mint, Lemon, and Green Pea Risotto

Cod britches are the roe sac of a female cod and are named for their resemblance to a pair of baggy trousers. In this dish, we smoke cod loin with lemon zest and cracked pepper, fry the cod britches till crispy, and serve it on top of a creamy mint and pea risotto. So good!
Serves: 4

FOR THE LEMON PEPPER SMOKED COD
1-8 oz cod loin
1 lemon (zested)
Sea salt
Cracked black pepper
1 cup wood chips (soaked in water)

To smoke the cod loins, put the woodchips in the bottom of a frying pan or wok and put it over a burner on medium heat. Once it starts to smoke take the cod loin and sprinkle it with the lemon zest and cracked pepper. Place on a rack that can fit in the frying pan. By this time there should be quite a bit of smoke, so you want to cover it tightly with tinfoil to capture all that smoke. Let them go for about 10-12 minutes, then take them off the heat. The cod should be flakey and cooked through.

FOR THE CRISPY BRITCHES
2 cod britches (cut into small pieces)
Sea salt
Cracked black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
Canola oil for frying

Season the cod britches and dust them in the flour, shaking off any excess. Fry them in a household deep fryer set at 375 degrees until golden brown. Drain on paper towel and season again with sea salt.

FOR THE MINT, LEMON, AND GREEN PEA RISOTTO
5 to 6 cups fish stock
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 onion (finely diced)
Sea salt
2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups frozen peas
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp finely grated lemon zest
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Heat the fish stock in a saucepan over medium-high heat until very hot and then reduce the heat to keep the broth hot.

In another heavy saucepan, melt 2 Tbsp of the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and a generous pinch of salt and sautée, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the onion softens and starts to turn lightly golden, 3 to 5 min. Add the rice and stir until the grains are well coated with butter and the edges become translucent, 1 to 2 min. Pour in the wine and stir until it’s absorbed, about 1 min.

Add another generous pinch of salt and ladle enough of the hot broth into the pan to barely cover the rice, about 1 cup. Bring to a boil and then adjust the heat to maintain a lively simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the stock has been mostly absorbed, 2 to 3 min. Continue adding broth in 1/2-cup increments, stirring and simmering, until it has been absorbed each time, at intervals of about 2 to 3 min. After about 16 to 18 minutes, the rice should be creamy but still fairly firm.

At this point, add the peas and another 1/2 cup broth. Continue to simmer and stir until the peas are just cooked and the rice is just tender to the tooth, another 3 to 4 min. Stir in another splash of broth if the risotto is too thick. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the mint, lemon juice, lemon zest, the remaining 2 Tbsp butter, and the Parmigiano. Season with salt to taste.

Serve the risotto immediately with a sprinkling of chopped mint and grated lemon zest. Top with some crispy britches, flakes of the smoked cod loin and Bob’s your uncle.

 

-The End. Go Eat.-

Los Angeles Surprises & Garden Fresh Gazpacho

Subway image

Los Angeles is not known for trains or gardens. Normally, the Land of Pretty People is thought of as a place of vast asphalt and traffic jams. Where a minor fender-bender can result in a manslaughter charge. Tonight though,  Lulu, Don and I were going to high-tail it on three trains to get to Highland Park, a small off-shoot community populated with Hispanic families and which is fast becoming one of the new hipster areas that will soon be teeming with tattooed skinny boys, multi-colored haired women and piercing aficionados who know nothing about BDSM.

Ingredients for Gazpacho<

First, it was an early dinner of Gazpacho and Pasta at Lulu’s. When I arrived at Lu’s house, Don was in the backyard picking tomatoes but Lu was already setting up the image of the washed arugula and other freshly harvested vegetables to be shot for this blog.  After the requisite but lovely air-kisses, I was given the task of squeezing the meat from the large and beautiful heirloom tomatoes. (You don’t have to ask me twice!). It was a very Nigella Lawson moment as the joke abounded “about squeezing the meat”. Essentially, I was extracting the juice and pulp from the tomato so that it would be easier to puree into the soup leaving the…ahem…seeds from the meat. (Sorry, I said that it was very Nigella Lawson-like.)

Anyhow, into the blender went the squeezed tomato pulp, cucumber, onion, garlic and a little green pepper. and out came a sweet, refreshing chilled soup.

Lulu's Garden Gazpacho

After this delicious dinner, served with Shrimp and Arugula Pesto and a Smokey Roasted Tomato Pasta, we began our adventure of riding the Los Angeles train system. Getting on at Exposition and La Cienega, which we needed to take a car (only in LA), we bought our TAP cards and away we went. This particular line traveled by Leimert Park, Staples Center, Civic Center, University of Southern California and was almost completely above ground. It’s really a good way to see Los Angeles without the stop and go traffic. We swtiched to the Red Line for a bit of time and then, transferred to the Gold Line which took us up into the streets again. We slipped past Chinatown and South Pasadena and arriving at Highland Park, which is neon lights, tree-lined avenues and Latino thumping music.

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It was an art gallery opening that we are in the area to see but the subway or elevated or whatever transportation system Angelenos start calling our “train”. It’s a great way to avoid traffic, not worry about parking and see The City of Angels without wings.

Garden Fresh Gazpacho
You Will Need:
2 to 3 lbs Heirloom Tomatoes
1 large, peeled, seeded cucumber
2 cloves garlic (peeled)
1 half onion/ shallot chopped.
1 chopped bell pepper (red or yellow are preferable)

Let’s Finish This Puppy
1. Using a fine mesh strainer, squeeze out the meat and push through gently. Leaving behind the skins and seeds.
2. Place everything into a blender or food processor including the tomato pulp or liquid.
3. Hit that button marked “puree”. Voila, gazpacho.

Ideas: Taking this basic premise, you can add vegetable stock to make it thinner. Add some sour cream or creme fraiche to finish it. Maybe a little cilantro to make it feel special.

…at Shelley’s: Bean and Swiss Chard Soup

Shelley is, without a doubt, one of my best friends. She’s always there for me. Recently, she took care of Holly, my beautiful pitbull. “Big Girl”, as I call her lovingly, is best friends with Carlos, Shelley’s 85 pound Golden Retriever (aka “Big Boy). While I drove my mother back to the Inland Empire after her birthday and Mother’s Day extravaganzas here in Los Angeles, Shelley watched Holly. The two canines romp and growl, growl and romp in her backyard, while she works and watches their rough-housing. Shelley also loves to cook. What more can you ask of a friend? A dog-sitting service and a food goddess in one person. Wow!

Shelley loves to make beans but not just any beans, she sources the for freshest suppliers and looks for inventive ways to prepare the lovely legumes. We’ve had many conversations about our favorite and it really is Rancho Gordo by Steve Sando. Tastier than just buying regular beans at the market. Rancho Gordo brand is the best and you can truly taste the difference between chain store and his.

Shelley was kind enough to say to me after dropping off, Holly, “Do you want to stay for dinner when you pick her up? I made a pot of beans.” I’m like alright. Two hours to my mother’s place and then the drive back. Who wants to cook after all that driving? IHOP starts looking good by then. She took care of Holly, I can stay and eat too.

Bean & Swiss Chard Soup with Orzo
Bean & Swiss Chard Soup with Orzo

And she made a delicious bean soup. On this night, I was the sous chef to Shelly’s cooking. I peeled and smashed the garlic. Turned the rosemary and anchovies into a paste. Washed dishes. Shelley sauteed up the chard, browned the garlic and stirred in the paste. The dogs played happily and were under our feet.

Lulu, one of my other besties, came over in a chic new bob and joined us impromptu. She’s starting an urban gardening class in her backyard which is a pretty stellar idea. Lu is a pretty amazing gardner. In her Los Angeles urban backyard, she grows corn, melons, a variety of squash and lettuces. She picks raspberries, blackberries and blueberries for her morning breakfast. We’ve had fresh teardrop heirloom tomatoes and used the homegrown herbs to add addtional flavor to our dishes. Lemons, limes and grapefruit also start brightening up her trees around this time. When I lived with her, we had regular baby artichokes for grilling. A little homemade infused garlic oil for dipping….yum and directly from the farmer….Lulu.

There we sat, two dogs, two great women and me eating a flavorful soup of beans, vegetables and orzo. Talking and laughing. This is when life is great.

*Note: This is just one recipe…Shelley’s and its from my memory. There are a lot of recipes out there on this soup that includes bacon, pancetta, different beans. Whatever. Be adventurous.

YOU WILL NEED:
1 lb dried white beans such as Great Northern, cannellini, or navy (2 cups), picked over and rinsed (Make the beans or use canned if it’s the weekday. Hey, we lead busy lives.)
2 anchovy fillets or anchovy paste
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped
1 onion, chopped
4 cups chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth if you want to keep it vegetarian)(Homemade stock is best, but let’s not quibble, not everyone is going to want to make their own or have the time. If you don’t make your own, buy organic stock and skip anything that requires a can-opener)
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
1/2 lb Swiss chard (or Red or Rainbow, Kale and Spinach would do well too), stems discarded and leaves halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced crosswise

MAKE THIS EASY:
1. De-stem the chard and cut up the leaves.
2. Saute up the Chard (or spinach or kale or dark green leafy vegetable) until limp.
3. Set aside.
4. Take your pot, something to hold the liquid and place olive oil. Heat up the oil.
5. Peel, smash and place garlic in olive oil until brown. We are infusing the olive oil with the garlic. Remove the cloves.
5. Make a paste with chopped rosemary leaves and anchovy fillets. Add to infused garlic olive oil.
6. Stir until dissolved.
7. Add beans, chard and stock.
8. Get it to boiling and add orzo or small pasta.
9. Simmer until pasta is cooked.

LET’S FINISH THIS PUPPY:
Ladle into bowls and top with grated Parmesan cheese. Serve with a crusty bread. Voila!

Chicken Soup

Homemade Chicken Soup with Store Bought Dumplings, Savoy Cabbage, Carrots and Swiss Chard
Homemade Chicken Soup with Store Bought Dumplings, Savoy Cabbage, Carrots and Swiss Chard

Whatever I’m doing, I’m in that moment and I’m doing it. The rest of the world’s lost. If I’m cooking some food or making soup, I want it to be lovely. If not, what’s the point of doing it? – Sade Adu

When I’m sick, as I have been for the past several days with the flu. I turn the world off. My head is pounding. My body is aching with chills and fever. And the only thing that I want to eat…nothing else….is Chicken Soup. It makes me feel better instantly as I can smell it wafting through the house with rosemary, onions, thyme, garlic, celery and chicken.

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I can't do the canned stuff. Not anymore. It makes me puffy from the salt as a preservative not as a brightener/ enhancer.

I prefer making my own. Even with a fever of 100. I was shaking violently as I cover the chicken with water. Cutting up the vegetables. Slowly. After, throwing everything into the pot to simmer, I go back to bed. There is something nourishing and lovely with aromas perfuming the house so that I when I wake up I feel better instantly. I can't wait to have it coat my sore throat and warm me up.

Plus, I have leftover stock for later for when I'm not sick.