The Little Book of Fika

Great news! My latest book The Little Book of Fika is now available. No time is better than now for a little comfort and simplicity, and the Swedes have your back on this matter with their tradition of Fika.

Swedish Fika - The Little Book of Fika

“Fika” is the Swedish tradition of taking a break in the day, at least once, with a cup of coffee and a sweet treat. Sounds simple, right? Well, that’s the point. Fika is a moment to stop and take a breath, connect with friends and co-workers, or simply be with yourself in the moment – accompanied by a steaming cup of coffee, and a little bite of something sweet or even savory. Splendidly egalitarian and understated (as Swedes do so well), everyone can do it. The key is, well, doing it, and this little book will help you do just that. Filled with inspirational tips, a little history, and 20 sweet and savory recipes to accompany a refreshing beverage, this book is designed to bring a little happiness into your day, Swedish-style.  So go ahead and fika – you deserve it.

Danish Hygge and Meatballs

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Scandinavian Meatball Lettuce Wraps

It’s Winter, a New Year, and uncertain times, and with that convergence, we all need some hygge right now. You might have heard or seen this Danish word: Hygge is making a splash beyond its Nordic borders – a catchy, albeit linguistically challenging word, pronounced “WHO-geh.” Its meaning transcends borders, articulating an intrinsic notion of comfort, warmth and coziness. It’s not so much an object as it is a state of being. Hygge (or its adjective hyggelig) can refer to a gathering, a meal, a conversation, or simply a collective moment, enhanced by good will and simple yet pleasurable things such as flickering candles, fleecy blankets, a cup of tea, an uplifting conversation, or delicious food. Hygge is nondenominational, nonjudgemental, undemanding, and egalitarian. No wonder it’s the It-Girl of words these days. We all need a dose of it.

Which brings me to meatballs.

If there is any food group that evokes inter-generational and international comfort, it’s meatballs. Not only do they simply taste great, meatballs are in nearly every cuisine and enjoyed by children and adults alike. Your mother likely made meatballs and so did her mother. As with many rustic cuisines, meatballs are an economical means to stretch inexpensive cuts of meat (and beans, legumes, and grains for that matter), by jumbling the ingredients together with herbs and spices, and braising them in rich and robust sauces and stews, ladling them over noodles, swiping them in dipping sauces, and piling them into double-fisted sandwiches. There is a recipe for everyone and every preference, and bets are that you’ve been nibbling on meatballs since you were old enough to wrap your fingers around them. So, while I cannot light you a fire and or knit you mittens, I can at least share a few meatball recipes with you, and wish you a hyggelig meal.

Lamb Meatballs tastefood

Braised Lamb and Feta Meatballs

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Moroccan Merguez Patties with Couscous Salad

meatball marinara tastefood

Smothered Meatballs Marinara

turkey meatballs

Asian Turkey Meatballs with Sweet and Sour Sauce

Chicken Banh Mi Sandwich Recipe and Video #NationalSandwichDay

November 3rd is National Sandwich Day, and why not? The humble and satisfying sandwich, originally constructed as a vehicle for leftovers and efficient hands-on eating, has roots in nearly every culture. From classic American PB&J (peanut butter and jelly, for those of you who may ask), to hoagies and burgers, wraps and clubs, pockets and panini, and tartines and smørrebrød (which are fancier ways to say “open-face”), there is a version of a sandwich for every cuisine and appetite.

So, in honor of #NationalSandwichDay (and as a welcome diversion from the increasingly discordant politics and punditry in the last week of the Presidential campaign) I submit to you a delectable recipe and video for Chicken Banh Mi, guaranteed to whisk you away from the news cycle, at least for lunch. Banh Mi is the Vietnamese rendition of a sandwich with French sensibilities: French baguette, paté, and mayonnaise meet Asian spiced meats, chiles, pickles, and cilantro – a creation influenced by the lengthy colonization of Vietnam by France. (Even the origin of this sandwich can’t escape politics.) The key to a good banh mi is the perfect flavor balance of spicy, salty, sweet, and piquant, matched by a satisfying blend of textures – crusty tender baguette, bright herbs, crunchy pickles, and a creamy sweet-spicy mayo sauce.

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Chicken Banh Mi Sandwich

The meat fillings in banh mi can vary from pork to chicken, duck, tofu, paté, or sausage. For a quick and light preparation, I often use chicken. Makes 4 sandwiches.

Marinade:
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon Sriracha
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons brown sugar

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, each about 6 ounces, pounded to an even thickness, about 1/2-inch thick.

Pickled Vegetables:
1 medium carrot, peeled, cut into matchsticks
1 (4-inch) daikon, peeled, cut into matchsticks
1 (4-inch) English cucumber, seeded, cut into matchsticks
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar

Spicy Mayo:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Sriracha

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 small hero rolls or 1 large soft baguette, cut into four (4-inch) sections, split
4 Boston lettuce leaves
1 to 2 jalapeños, sliced
1 bunch fresh mint
1 bunch fresh cilantro

1. Whisk the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Place the chicken in a small baking dish, pour the marinade over and turn to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes (or refrigerate for up to 24 hours).
2. Combine the pickled vegetable ingredients in a bowl. Using your fingers, rub the vegetables until the sugar and salt dissolve, and the vegetables release their juices and begin to soften. Pour in the vinegar and let stand for at least 30 minutes (or refrigerate for up to 24 hours). Drain before using.
3. Whisk the spicy mayo ingredients in a small bowl and refrigerate until use.
4. Preheat a large skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat. Add the vegetable oil to the skillet. Remove the chicken from the marinade, place in the skillet and cook until browned on both sides and thoroughly cooked through, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest while you toast the bread, then thinly slice.
4. In the same skillet (do not wipe it out), toast the rolls, cut-side down until lightly marked and crusty, about 2 minutes, without turning, adding a little oil if necessary.
5. To assemble, spread about 1 tablespoon mayo on each cut side of each roll. Lay a lettuce leaf on the bottom half, then top with chicken, the pickled vegetables, jalapeños, mint leaves, and cilantro leaves. Serve immediately.

Video produced by Food Guru Channel and TasteFood

Red Cooked Pork Belly Recipe plus a Cookbook and Stir Fry Pan Giveaway!

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Leave a comment below through October 9, 2016 to be entered into the GIVEAWAY for a free copy of  the award winning cookbook “Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees: Essential Techniques of Authentic Chinese Cooking” AND a free Anolon Nouvelle Copper/Stainless Steel Covered Stir-Fry pan.

Mid-Autumn Festival is the second most important celebration after Chinese New Year in the Chinese holiday calendar. Family members gather for a feast and enjoy the harvest moon. This year the holiday falls on September 15, and in partnership with publisher Clarkson Potter and Anolon Cookware, I am giving away a copy of Chef Kian Lam Kho’s award winning cookbook “Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees: Essential Techniques of Authentic Chinese Cooking.” It’s a perfect book for you to learn how to properly cook authentic Chinese food.

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I had the pleasure of tasting Chef Kian’s wonderful cooking at a private event sponsored by Cook’nScribble earlier this year. Not only is Kian a food writer, cooking teacher and food consultant in Chinese cuisine, he is the creator of the the Chinese home cooking blog Red Cook. His first cookbook, Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees, was the recipient of the Julia Child First Book Award from IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals). Among the dishes Kian prepared at the event I attended was Red Cooked Chicken, a traditional method of slow cooking chicken in a concoction of soy sauce, sugar, garlic, and aromatics. For this giveaway I decided to make his family recipe for Red Cooked Pork, which I discovered has the unique (and very appealing) additional step of caramelizing the sugar first, then browning unctuous chunks of pork belly in the caramel before braising. Say no more.

Anolon Nouvelle Copper Stainless Steel 12-Inch Covered Stir Fry with Helper Handle

In addition to winning a copy of Kian’s book, the lucky winner will ALSO receive a new Anolon Copper and Stainless 12.5-inch Covered Stir Fry pan, which is the perfect vessel for preparing the recipe below for Red Cooked Pork. Its deep shape is ideal for stir frying, with a sturdy handle for moving between cooktops and oven, and its copper, aluminum and magnetized stainless steel base delivers optimum heat control and performance on all cooktops, including induction.

Let the celebrations begin!

UPDATE: Congratulations to Jennifer Anne Keefer, who is the winner of the drawing and giveaway!

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Red-Cooked Pork – Home Style

Reprinted with permission from “Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees: Essential Techniques of Authentic Chinese Cooking” by author Kian Lam Kho and Photographer Jody Horton; Published by Clarkson Potter, Sept 2015.

Serves 4 as an appetizer, 2 as a main course

1 1/2 pounds pork belly
2 tablespoons sugar
3 garlic cloves
2 scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 whole star anise
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 cup Shoaxing cooking wine
1 1/2 cups pork stock, the liquid from parboiling, or water, plus more as needed.

Put the entire pork belly in a stockpot and add enough water to cover the meat completely. Bring the water to a boil, then turn down the heat to medium. Parboil the pork belly, uncovered, for 20 minutes, continuously skimming off the scum that forms on the surface. Drain, and let the pork belly cool. Then cut it into pieces about 1 1/2 inches square.

Combine the sugar with 3 tablespoons water in a wok over medium heat. Continue heating until the sugar syrup just begins to turn yellow. Add the cubed pork belly to the wok and brown it with the caramelized sugar, stirring the meat regularly to prevent burning. If you like, cover the wok with a splatter guard to prevent the fat from splattering.

Add the garlic, scallions, star anise, both soy sauces, wine, and stock to the wok. Bring the liquid to a boil, then transfer the contents to a clay pot or Dutch oven. (Alternatively, this dish can be cooked in a slow cooker.) Simmer, covered, over low heat, stirring the meat every 15 minutes to prevent scorching the pork on the bottom, for 1 hour or until the meat is tender when pierced with a knife.

Remove the meat and put it in a bowl. Reduce the sauce over medium-high heat until it reaches the desired consistency. Return the meat to the pot and reheat before serving.

To be entered into the giveaway for a free copy of “Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees: Essential Techniques of Authentic Chinese Cooking” AND a free Analon Nouvelle Copper/Stainless Steel Covered Stir-Fry pan, please leave a comment below with a valid email link through October 9, 2016 (your email address will not be visible on the website). One lucky winner will be chosen via random drawing and contacted via email drawing on October 10, 2016 to receive both prizes. So sorry, but only readers with U.S. addresses are eligible for the giveaway.

Disclosure: The cookbooks for the giveaway are sponsored by Clarkson Potter. The stir fry pan used in the post and provided for the giveaway is sponsored by Anolon.

Video – How to Roast Garlic and 4 easy recipes with Roasted Garlic #NationalGarlicDay

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There’s no doubt that April 19th has been circled in your calendar for weeks now, but, just in case, here’s a reminder that the date is … National Garlic Day! Yep, that knobby papery bulb we all know so well – the culinary workhorse which has played a fragrant role in our cuisines for millennia, called out as a superfood-wonder-drug thanks to its medicinal properties, has been awarded its own national day of observance! And why not?

If you follow this blog, you know I am a big fan of garlic (and you must be too, if you make my recipes). A little clove adds just the right amount of kick to sauces, dressings, marinades (you get the picture), while a generous press will knock your socks off in robust and spicy meals (best shared with those you plan on spending close time with – after all, garlic isn’t called the ‘stinking rose’ for nothing!)

In fact, garlic’s raw pungency can be tough to take for some (and their partners), so a great method to cook garlic is to roast it. Roasting transforms its cloves into sticky-soft and slightly caramelized versions of themselves, mellowing their sharpness with creamy, buttery and other-worldly results. There are endless ways to use roasted garlic, so I’ll roast several heads at once and store the puree in the refrigerator, dipping into my stash throughout the week to whisk into dressings, sauces, marinades, risottos – the list goes on –  or use as a spread on pizza and crostini.

So are you ready to learn how to roast garlic?  It’s very simple, and in this post I’ve teamed up with my talented videographer friends at Food Guru to make a fun short video that shows you how to do it, along with 4 easy recipes where you can use it. The written recipes follow below – enjoy!

Roasted Garlic Recipe
One large garlic head yields about 1/4 cup roasted garlic. The garlic can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. 
 
1 large garlic head (or more)
Extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch of sea salt

Slice 1/4 inch off the top of the garlic bulb. Place the bulb on a piece of foil. Drizzle oil over the top of the garlic. Enclose the garlic in the foil. Place in a small baking dish and roast until soft, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove, unwrap and cool to the touch. Squeeze out the garlic into a bowl and mash with a fork.

Continue reading “Video – How to Roast Garlic and 4 easy recipes with Roasted Garlic #NationalGarlicDay”

Feast with Friends #CooknScribble #Foodstories

What happens when a community of food writers gathers together under one roof? Well, they cook, they write, and they eat. Last week, under the literary and culinary auspices of CooknScribble, a virtual tribe of writers, storytellers, documentarians, and artists, united by their passion for food, gathered in Venice Beach to do what they do best: cook, share, teach, and, of course, eat. Very well.

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This was easily achieved. Chef Kian Lam Kho, Chinese chef extraordinaire,  cooked up an Asian feast, with delectable recipes from his IACP award winning cookbook Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees: Essential Techniques of Authentic Cooking, along with a little inspiration from Shannon Kinsella, chef, writer and Culinary Development Manager of Gourmet Garden. We were in for a treat.

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While Kian displayed his cooking techniques and knife skills (as he masterfully prepared a meal for 20), content soothsayers Libbie Summers, Irvin Lin, Amy Halloran, and Leah Komaiko were on hand to give realtime video, photo, styling, interviewing, and branding tips. Meanwhile, the kitchen sizzled and grew steamy and fragrant.

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cook devourPatience was a necessity. As the massive wok heated up, the intoxicating aromas of ginger, lemongrass, chile, and garlic, transmuted into a swirling dervish of scent and steam, ramping up hunger and dissolving self restraint. To pass the time and deter the urge to scarf down Kian’s mise en place, we got busy practicing our styling and photo skills with products supplied by Gourmet Garden, Elevate Superfoods, and Kerrygold.

Continue reading “Feast with Friends #CooknScribble #Foodstories”

Hearty Chili with Bison, Black Beans, and Barley

bison chili tastefood

This is a chili template. You can follow it and substitute your favorite meat or even make a vegetarian version by skipping the meat step. In this chili I went all in, combining bison, black beans, and barley. If you haven’t tried bison I encourage you to try it. Bison is leaner, lower in cholesterol, and more rich in protein and Omega 3’s than beef. Other proteins such as beef chuck, pork, chicken or turkey can be substituted. If you prefer a vegetarian option, you can double up on the beans instead. Then there is the barley – I had a bag of gorgeous purple heritage barley from the farmers market I couldn’t resist adding to the stew. It adds heft and extra nutrients to this already hearty stew. You can omit the grains and add more beans. You get the idea!

Bison, Black Bean and Barley Chili
Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds bison meat, cut into 3/4-inch chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 large poblano pepper, diced
1 large red bell pepper, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 to 3 chiles in adobo, chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes with juice
8 ounces stout beer, such as Guinness
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1  cup pre-cooked black beans (or 1 [15-ounce] can black beans, drained and rinsed)
1 cup pre-cooked barley (I used purple heritage)

Garnishes:
Sliced jalapeño pepper, cilantro leaves, crumbled cotija cheese, chopped red onion

1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season the meat with salt and pepper. Add to the pot in batches and brown on all sides. Transfer to a plate.
2. Add 1 tablespoon oil to the same pot. Add the onion and saute over medium heat until softened without coloring, about 3 minutes. Add the peppers and saute until brightened in color, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chiles in adobo, the chili powder, cumin, and paprika and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
3. Return the beef to the pot and add the tomatoes, stout, tomato paste, bay leaves, brown sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Partially cover the pot and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning and add more sugar or salt if desired. Stir in the black beans and barley and continue to simmer for 10 more minutes.
4. Ladle the chili into serving bowls. Serve with the garnishes for sprinkling.