Category Archives: Uncategorized

Easy French Lentil Soup

I’ve had a few readers indicate that while my recipes look great, they personally don’t have time to execute many of the dishes I write about. Believe me, I know how that goes! During the weeknights, I make quick and healthy dinners that take less than 30 minutes to prepare, but I usually don’t convert them into actual recipes. When I am cooking, I add handful of this and a handful of that, a pinch of this and a pinch of that, and never really measure. So for those friends, I took careful notes during one of my weeknight recipes, and this week I’m sharing a simple and healthy meal that’s perfect for Meatless Monday: Easy French Lentil Soup.

This lentil soup is made with precooked, French green lentils that I purchased from Trader Joe’s. The lentils are steamed then vacuum-packed, retaining all their vitamins and nutrients. I prefer French green lentils over regular green lentils because they retain their shape in soup without getting mushy. Typically when I make lentil soup, I add roasted tomatoes, but doing so adds more cooking time. So in this recipe, I used tomato paste to add a rich, slow-cooked taste. The addition of the mushrooms and Parmigiano-reggiano give the dish an umami finish. The soup is even popular with the kids. Enjoy!

Easy Lentil Soup

Serving Size: 4

1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 cloves of garlic (minced)
1 bay leaf
1 carrot, small diced (about 1/2 cup)
4 ounces of cremini or button mushrooms, chopped into 1/4″ pieces (about 2/3 cups)
1/2 teaspoon of finely chopped fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
Sea salt
Freshly grated black pepper
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
2 1/2 cups of Trader Joe’s Steamed French Lentils* or cooked French lentils
3 cups of vegetable stock or low-sodium chicken stock
Freshly grated Parmigiano-reggiano, for serving
Chopped Italian parsley, for serving
1. Heat a 2-quart pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, chopped onions, garlic, and bay leaf. Sauté for about 3 minutes until the onions have softened.

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2. Add the carrots, mushrooms, thyme, red pepper flakes, pinch of salt, and a couple turns on the pepper mill. Sauté for 2 minutes or until the water has been drawn out of the mushrooms.

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3. Add the tomato paste and stir for about 1 1/2 minute to caramelize the tomato paste.

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4. Add the lentils and stir to combine. Add the chicken stock and cover the pot with a lid. Bring to a boil.

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5. Once boiling, reduce the heat to simmer. Simmer with the lid on for 15-20 minutes.

6. The soup will be ready once the carrots are soft and broth has thickened. Add more salt and pepper to taste.

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7. Remove the bay leaf. Ladle the soup in to 4 bowls. Grate some Parmigiano-reggiano and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve with a sliced and toasted sourdough bread.

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*Here is the package of the pre-cooked lentils.

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Black Mission Fig Jam

Fresh figs are in season and they are delicious in salads, roasted pork, and desserts. Personally, I love to eat them right out of the basket at the farmers market. They are incredibly sweet, soft, slightly chewy with tiny seeds that pop in your mouth with every bite. They are also high in fiber, magnesium, and potassium.

When I was I kid, there was a fig tree in my backyard. When the figs would ripen, the birds would eat most of them, yielding very few for my mom, but I would never eat them because I thought they were contaminated by the birds. Years later, when I bought them at the market, I realized how truly wonderful fresh figs were and how I missed out as a kid.

Today, I share an easy fig jam recipe. This jam recipe is perfect for tarts, cheese plates, homemade Fig Newtons and in sandwiches. In addition to the jam recipe, I include pictures of a simple sandwich made with fig jam, goat cheese, bacon, and spinach, with the spinach dressed in balsamic vinegar, olive oil and salt and pepper. The result is a sandwich that is sweet, salty, tart, crunchy, and creamy all at once! You can even omit the bacon and make it vegetarian. Either way, the fig jam is the star. Enjoy!

Black Mission Fig Jam

Yield: One 12-ounce jar

1 lb. of Black Mission figs or other purple figs
2/3 cup of sugar
1/8 cup of fresh lemon juice
2 strips of lemon peel – 2″ strips (no pith)
1/2 cup of water
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1. In a 12-inch stainless steel sauté pan, toss the fig pieces with the sugar and stir. Let them sit until sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally (about 20 minutes)
2. Add the lemon juice, lemon peel and water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer.

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3. Cook the figs, stirring occasionally, until they get soft and the jam thickens (about 15-20 minutes). Sprinkle with sea salt and give it final stir.
4. Carefully spoon the cooked jam into a 12-ounce Mason jar. Cool in jar at room temperature for 2 hours. Cover with lid. Store the jam in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

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A simple sandwich with fig jam, goat cheese, bacon and spinach.

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Ricotta Ravioli with Roasted Tomato Sauce

When my husband and I traveled to France and Italy for our honeymoon, we created a wine and food roadmap. It was an incredible trip with sublime food and wine in both countries, but I left longing for Italy. The warm and friendly people, the perfect cup of espresso on every corner, the breathtaking villas, and the amazing food all made me fall in love with country. The food in Italy was simple but so delicious, and every pasta dish we ordered was perfectly executed with local ingredients. After I got back from Italy, I spent countless hours trying to perfect fresh pasta. After testing quite a few recipes and techniques, I developed an easy handmade pasta recipe perfect for pappardelle, fettuccine, and filled pasta.

This pasta dough recipe is light and eggy and has great structure due to the addition of semolina flour. The dough is quick to make and easy to work with, and won’t dry up easily. In this ravioli recipe, I use a simple cheese filling. Most cheese-filled ravioli recipes use the whole egg, causing the filing to solidify when cooked. My recipe uses only the yolk, resulting in a creamy and oozy filling. Also, I add lemon zest and Italian parsley for a little zing. If possible, make the filling in advanced. Also, make sure you drain out the excess liquid from the fresh ricotta with cheesecloth-lined sieve or fine-mesh sieve in advanced. This will ensure a creamy filling without excess water. If you’ve never made homemade ravioli before, this is an easy one to tackle. Enjoy!
Ricotta Ravioli with Roasted Tomato Sauce

Serving Size: about 32 ravioli (2-inch squares)

8 ounces of fresh whole milk ricotta, drained
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup of grated Parmigiano-reggiano plus extra for serving
1 teaspoon of finely chopped Italian parsley
Sea salt and freshly grated black pepper to taste
12 ounces of homemade pasta dough (see recipe below)
Roasted tomato sauce or homemade walnut pesto
2 dozen small basil leaves for garnish

Special equipment: pasta roller or pasta attachment for the KitchenAid

1. In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, egg yolk, Parmigiano-reggiano, parsley, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and few turns of pepper. Place in the refrigerator while you roll out the pasta dough.

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2. Take out the pasta dough and cut it into four equal pieces. Cover three of the pieces with plastic while working with one piece on the pasta roller.

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3. Using a rolling pin, roll out the pasta dough until it is thin enough to fit into the pasta roller. Start on the thickest setting and work your way to the second to the last setting (5 on manual and 6 on the KitchenAid attachment). Cover the pasta sheet with plastic and repeat the process three more times.

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4. Bring a large pot of water and hand full of Kosher salt to boil.

5. Remove the ricotta filling from the refrigerator. Unwrap one of the pasta sheets and place a heaping teaspoon of filling roughly 1 inch apart throughout the pasta sheet. You should have 16 ravioli.

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6. Take another pasta sheet and, starting from one end, carefully place it over the pasta sheet with the filling and press down well around the filling to create a strong seal. Make sure you don’t create air bubbles.

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7. Using a fluted pasta cutter, cut the pasta into 2″ ravioli pieces. Place on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Repeat the process with the other two sheets.

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8. Heat up the roasted tomato sauce in a large sauté pan. Keep on low.

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9. Reduce the heat of the boiling water to a simmer. Add about half of the ravioli. Once it rises to the surface, simmer for 2 more minutes.

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10. With a slotted spoon, transfer the ravioli to the roasted tomato sauce. Cook the remaining ravioli and transfer to the sauce.

11. Divide the ravioli into 4 bowls. Grate some Parmigiano-reggiano and garnish with a few basil leaves. Serve with a nice glass of red wine.

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Pasta Dough Recipe

Yield: about 12 ounces

1 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup of semolina flour*
7 egg yolks
1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of milk or water

1. Whisk the all-purpose flour and semolina flour together. Transfer to a workstation. Create a well and add the egg yolks, olive oil, and milk.

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2. Using a fork, whisk in the center and slowly bring in the flour. You want to take your time in the beginning so you don’t form flour clumps.

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3. Once the mixture thickens and it becomes difficult to stir with a fork, start kneading the dough with your hands. Clean off the excess flour with a bench scraper and make sure the workstation is clean.

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4. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes until the dough is nice and smooth.

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5. Double wrap with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least one hour and up to one day until ready to use. You can also freeze the dough for up to one month.

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*You can find semolina flour at most Italian market.

Hatch Chile Corn Pudding

New Mexico is one of the most beautiful and unique places I’ve visited in the US. When I visited back in the 90s, I fell in love with the adobe houses, turquoise jewelry, art, and Southwestern cuisine. One of the reasons I enjoyed the food in New Mexico is the presence of lots of roasted Hatch green chile peppers in their dishes. Hatch green chiles are grown in the Hatch Valley of Northwest New Mexico along the Rio Grande river. Unlike other Anaheim or pasilla peppers, Hatch green chiles have a more intense flavor when roasted. The roasted peppers are delicious in so many dishes: stewed pork, quesadillas, green chili, salsa, etc. Since it’s Hatch chili season and corn is readily available at the farmers market, I bring you this corn pudding recipe.

Corn pudding is easy to assemble and bake. Most of the time is taken up by roasting, peeling and chopping the peppers. You can roast the peppers a day in advance. Unlike most recipes, I purée half of the corn to make corn milk to add to the pudding. It helps naturally thicken the pudding and adds more corn flavor. The Hatch green chiles add a little heat and lovely roasted flavor. This corn pudding recipe is a great side dish to roasted pork or chicken. Make it before the Hatch green chile season is over. Enjoy!

Hatch Chile Corn Pudding

Serving Size – 6 as a side dish

4 cups of fresh or frozen corn kernels* (about 5-6 ears, preferably non-GMO or organic)
1/8 cup of water
2/3 cup of roasted Hatch chile with sautéed onions (recipe below)
1/2 cup of heavy cream
2 large eggs, beaten well
3/4 teaspoon of Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon of unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup of grated mild white cheddar
Chopped Italian parsley for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 325°.

2. Take 2 cups of the corn kernels and 1/8 cup of water and purée in a blender until smooth.

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3. Pour the puréed corn into a chinois or a fine mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Using a rubber spatula or wooden paddle, push down on the solids to push out as much of the liquid as possible. You should have about 2/3 cup of corn milk.

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4. Place the corn milk, the remaining 2 cups of corn, roasted Hatch chiles, heavy cream, beaten eggs, salt, pepper. Stir well with a rubber spatula.

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5. Sift in the flour and gently stir to prevent it from clumping.

6. Using a baking spray or softened butter, grease the bottom and the sides of a 1 quart earthenware baking dish. Pour the corn pudding mixture into the dish.

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7. Sprinkle the grated cheddar evenly over the top.

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8. Place in the oven and bake 35 to 40 minutes, until golden brown on top.

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9. Sprinkle chopped parsley on top and for 10 minutes. Serve with your favorite roasted pork or chicken recipe.

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*If using frozen corn kernels, thaw them in advanced.

Roasted Hatch Chile Peppers

8 Hatch green chiles peppers, mild or medium
Olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped small diced
3 cloves of garlic minced
Kosher salt
Freshly grated black pepper

1. Place Hatch chilies on a aluminum-lined baking sheet.

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2. Broil on the top rack for about 3 to 4 minutes or until the skin begins to blacken. Using tongs, turn over the peppers and broil the other side for an additional 3 minutes or until the skins begins to blacken.

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3. Transfer the roasted peppers to a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 15 minutes.

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4. Meanwhile, heat a large sauté pan on medium. Add a tablespoon of olive oil. At the onion, the garlic and pinch of salt. Sauté until soft and translucent (about 10 minutes). Turn off the heat.

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5. Uncover the plastic wrap off of the bowl of peppers. Using disposable gloves, remove the skins of peppers. They should slip right off.

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6. Using a knife slit open each of the peppers on the cutting board. Using the back of the knife, slide the seeds off.

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7. Chopped the roasted peppers into 1/2 inch pieces.

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8. Add the peppers into the pan with the cooked onions and garlic. Sauté on medium heat for two minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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9. The roasted peppers are ready to add in corn pudding, scrambled eggs, quesadillas, grilled cheese, cornbread, burgers, etc. The roasted Hatch chiles can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Chocolate Chip Muffins

My oldest son loves chocolate chips in cookies, pancakes, scones…pretty much anything and everything. So whenever I make any baked goods, he asks if I can swap I out the fruit for chocolate. Since most of my baked goods usually have less sugar, this is one indulgence I don’t feel too bad about. After testing a few muffin recipes, I came up I with one that is super-moist but still crunchy on the top, just the way he likes it. This is my son’s favorite muffin and he asked me to post the recipe. I hope you enjoy them as much as he does. Enjoy!

Chocolate Chip Chocolate Muffins

2 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
3/4 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of sour cream
1/2 cup of whole milk
1/2 cup of unsalted butter, cut into 16 cubes
2/3 cup of granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
1 cup of good quality chocolate chips (dark or semi-sweet)
Crystallized sugar for topping

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees

2. Line muffin pan with 12 cupcake liners.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

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4. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream and milk.

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5. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, add the butter and beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. Add the sugar and beat for 2 more minutes. Scrape the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

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6. Add one egg and beat well. Scrape the bottom with a rubber spatula. Add the other egg and beat well. Scrape the bottom with a rubber spatula. Add the vanilla extract and beat for 15 seconds.

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7. Adjust the speed to low, then add the sour cream and milk mixture. Beat for 15 seconds.

8. Add the chocolate chips to the flour mixture. Give it a quick whisk and slowly add the dry ingredients to the mixer on its lowest setting until they just combine. Remove the bowl and using a rubber spatula, scrape the bottom and give it a couple of stirs.

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9. With a large ice cream scoop, add the batter to each of the cupcake liners.

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10. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of crystallized sugar on top of each muffin.

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11. Bake in the oven for 18 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

12. Set the oven on broil. Broil the muffins for 1-2 minutes until you get a nice golden muffin top.

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Cheddar and Bacon Grits

Many years ago, I worked at Square One Dining, a wonderful breakfast and lunch restaurant in Los Angeles. While I was working there, the restaurant was voted the Best Breakfast in LA by Los Angeles Magazine. One of the keys to the restaurant’s success was that the owner sourced and selected the best breakfast ingredients: Nueske bacon, Anson Mill grits, local produce, farm fresh eggs, etc. One of the most popular items on the menu was the stone grits. They excuted the grits (polenta) perfectly, and occasionally customers ordered it with cheddar and bacon. Lately, I have been craving these grits.

As luck would have it, last week I was in Milwaukie, OR and visited Bob’s Red Mill, where I purchased a bag of organic grits. This was the perfect opportunity to recreate the cheese and bacon grits from Square One! This recipe does not include milk, but you will still get the creaminess from the cheese and butter. A couple of tips: first, when making grits, it is important to not to overstir or they will become gummy. Stir just enough to keep the grits from sticking to the pot. Second, once the grits are done, it is important to serve right away, again so it doesn’t harden or get lumpy. You want the grits to ooze in your bowl. Finally, adding a poached egg makes this recipe a complete breakfast dish in one bowl. Enjoy!

Cheese and Bacon Grits

Yield: 4 Servings

3 cups of water
1/4 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1/2 cup of organic grits (Bob’s Red Mill or Anson Mills)
3 thick cut bacon slices, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1/2 cup of shredded good quality cheddar
1 tablespoon of grated Parmigiano-reggiano, plus extra for topping
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, at room temperature
Sea salt to taste
4 poached or sunny-side up eggs
Freshly ground pepper

1. Bring water and Kosher salt to a boil in a 2 quart pot.

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2. Once the water comes to a boil, add the grits all at once and stir. Reduce the heat to a low simmer.

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3. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking.

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4. Meanwhile, cook the bacon pieces in a sauté pan over medium heat until crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and place them on a paper towel-lined plate.

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5. Poach or fry 4 eggs. Make sure the yolk is still runny inside. Set aside.

6. Once the grits are done cooking, add the butter, cheddar, Parmesan, and a pinch of sea salt. Stir until combined.

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7. With a large serving spoon, divide the grits among 4 serving bowls. Top each bowl of grits with bacon pieces and one cooked egg. Top with black pepper and grated Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

 

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Peach Cobbler

Summer is my favorite time to visit the farmers market because of all the stone fruits that are in season. Nectarines, peaches, plums, pluots – all of them are plentiful everywhere you turn. They are ripe, sweet, juicy and tart; in other words, they’re perfect for making warm cobblers!

Cobblers are baked fruit desserts that have a shortcrust, crumble or biscuit topping. I have tried many different versions of cobbler and my favorite combination is peach cobbler with a biscuit-like topping. In this recipe, I sprinkle crystallized sugar on the biscuit topping, which makes the crust crispy on the top but still moist above the cooked fruit. Since this recipe uses less sugar than most other cobbler recipes, it is important use ripe and sweet peaches. Serve the cobbler with some good vanilla bean ice cream and you’ll have a wonderful summer treat! Enjoy!

Peach Cobbler

Serves 9-12

6 cups sliced ripe, yellow peaches (1/2 inch thick slices)
1/3 cup of sugar + 1/4 cup of  sugar
1 tablespoon of organic cornstarch
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon (divided in half)
3/4 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 scant teaspoon of Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
4 tablespoons of unsalted butter, cold and cut into 12 cubes
1/2 cup of buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 tablespoon of heavy cream
Crystallized or turbinado sugar, for topping
Vanilla bean ice cream, for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. In a large bowl, add the sliced peaches, 1/3 cup sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Stir to combine. Set aside.

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3. In a food processor, add the flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Pulse 3 to 4 times.

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4. Add the cubes of butter. Pulse 5-6 more times or until the mixture is pea-sized chunks. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl.

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5. Add the buttermilk and the vanilla extract to the dry mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold in carefully until just combined. Set aside.

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6. Grease a 9 x 9 square baking pan with a non-stick spray. Give the peach mixture a quick stir. Pour filling into the pan.

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7. Spoon the crust mixture in evenly-spaced dollops on top of the peaches.

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8. Brush the crust with heavy cream. Generously sprinkle the crystallized sugar on top.

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9. Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown. (Check the cobbler at the 20 minute mark. If the cobbler browns too quickly, you can cover it with aluminum foil.) Cool for at least 20 minutes.

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10. Spoon into a bowl and serve with a large scoop of your favorite vanilla bean ice cream.

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Bacon Kimchi Fried Rice

Kimchi fried rice is one of my favorite Korean comfort foods. Growing up, whenever the kimchi in our refrigerator got too sour, my mom used it to make kimchi jjigae (kimchi stew), kimchi bokkeum (sautéed kimchi), and kimchi bokkeum bap (kimchi fried rice). My mom’s kimchi fried rice was simple and delicious. She served it with dongchimi, a refreshing radish water kimchi without any pepper flakes, which tempered the spiciness of the kimchi fried rice. For this recipe, I took my mom’s kimchi fried rice and added bacon, soy sauce, and spicy bean paste for more umami flavor. Sometimes, I even add shiitake mushrooms and soybean sprouts for additional layers of texture, but I didn’t here.

When preparing to make kimchi fried rice, be sure to use sour kimchi, as using freshly-made kimchi will not produce the same deep, umami-packed flavor. To achieve this sourness, buy kimchi at you local Korean grocery store, open it up to break the seal, then close the cap and let it sit in your refrigerator until the kimchi starts to get a little soft, which should be in about 1 to 2 weeks. Essentially you are allowing the kimchi to become a little overfermented.

This recipe isn’t too spicy, but you can increase the heat with Korean pepper flakes or sliced red jalapeños if you like. If you’re a fan of kimchi, you’ll love this dish. Enjoy!

Bacon Kimchi Fried Rice

3 slices of thick bacon (preferably nitrate-free), cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup of chopped onion
1 tablespoon of sunflower oil or other neutral oil
1 tablespoon of roasted sesame oil
1 cup of sour kimchi, roughly chopped
1/3 cup of kimchi juice
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
4 cups of short-grain rice, cooked but firm
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
1 tablespoon of spicy Korean bean paste, optional
Fresh ground black pepper
2 green onions, thinly sliced crosswise
1 tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds
4 eggs, cooked sunny side up (optional)

1. Cook the bacon on medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes in a wok or cast iron pan. You want the bacon to be brown but not crispy. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set-aside.

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2. Add the chopped onions to the wok. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until translucent (about 3 minutes).

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3. Add 1 tablespoon of sunflower oil and 1 tablespoon of sesame oil to the onions.

4. Add all the chopped kimchi and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring constantly.

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Add the reserved kimchi juice, sugar, rice, soy sauce, and spicy bean paste. Cook for 2 more minutes.

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5. Fold the rice in to the kimchi mixture and mix well. Cook for about 2 minutes. Add the cooked bacon. Taste for seasoning. Add a few turns of black pepper.

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6. Add the sliced green onion and toasted sesame seeds.

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7. Divide the rice among 4 bowls. Top with sunny side up egg and serve.

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Mini Berry Tarts

Fruit tarts are delightful summertime treats, with the combination of rich pastry cream, crispy tart shell, and seasonal berries, creating a wonderful taste and texture sensation in your mouth. The crust is crispy with hint of salt, the pastry cream is sweet, smooth and creamy, and the berries add a lovely tart flavor. Because making fruit tarts is such a production, I reserve making them for special occasions. With blue and red berries in season, what better time than the 4th of July to make these lovely treats!

A typical fruit tart shell is made with pâte sablée, a rich French crust that resembles a shortbread cookie in flavor and consistency. For my tarts, I use a graham cracker crust recipe, which is more crispy and golden in color. It holds up well to the pastry cream without getting soggy. It also has just enough salt to balance out the sweetness. The pastry cream recipe has Grand Mariner and orange zest to add a hint of orange flavor. Make the pastry cream and the tart shells a day in advance so you can just assemble the fruit tarts the day of serving. This recipe makes 12 mini fruit tarts, perfect for a family gathering. Enjoy!

Mini Berry Tarts

Yield: 12 mini tarts

1/3 cup of heavy cream
1 tablespoon of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups Grand Marnier pastry cream (recipe follows)
12 mini graham cracker tart shells (recipe follows)
1 cup of fresh raspberries
1 cup of fresh blueberries
Superfine sugar for sprinkling, optional

1) in a medium bowl, add the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract. Whisk vigorously until your mixture gets to medium peaks.

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2) Fold 2/3 of the mixture into the pastry cream. Fold carefully so as not to deflate the whipped cream. Reserve the remaining portion in the refrigerator for decoration.

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3) Using a small ice cream scoop (just shy of 1/8 cup), portion out the pastry cream to each of the tart shells.

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4) Arrange the berries on top of the pastry cream. Sprinkle a little sugar, if using.

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5) Take the remaining whipped cream out of the refrigerator. Place a star tip on a pastry bag and add the whipped cream, decorating the fruit tarts with stars. Serve immediately or place in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

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Graham Cracker Tart Shells
(Adapted from Claudia Fleming’s Recipe)

Yield: 12 mini tart shells

1 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup of whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 cup of unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/8 cup of brown sugar
1/8 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons of honey

1) In a medium bowl, add both types of flour, salt and cinnamon.

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2) In a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, add the butter, both types of sugar, and the honey. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Scrape the bottom with a rubber spatula.

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3) Set the mixer on low speed. Slowly add the flour mixture. Beat well until there is no visible flour.

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4) Scrape the dough and transfer onto a large sheet of plastic wrap. Flatten into a disk and double wrap. Place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

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5) Once the dough has chilled, remove from the refrigerator.

6) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

7) Dust a workstation lightly with flour. Roll the dough into 1/8″ thickness. Using a round 3 1/2 inch cookie cutter, cut out 12 circles. Carefully transfer each circle to the parchment-lined baking sheet. Place the entire baking sheet into the refrigerator for 10 minutes.

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8) While the dough circles are being chilled, grease 12 mini tart pans* with cooking spray. Heat the oven to 325°.

9) After 10 minutes, take out the cut dough from the refrigerator. Quickly press each of the circles into the tart shells. Using a fork, make several pricks in the dough, even on the sides.

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10) Transfer the tart pans onto a baking sheet. Place the entire baking sheet into the freezer for 5 minutes.

11) Remove the tart shells from the freezer. Place them directly into the oven and bake for about 18 minutes or until golden brown.

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12) Cool in the tart pans for 10 minutes. Tap the bottom of each tart pan to remove the tart shells. Cool completely on a wired rack. The tart shells can be made a day in advance and placed in an airtight container.

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*Use mini tart pans with a 2″ base and the rim 3″. If you don’t have mini tart pans, you can use muffin tins. Just make sure you line the muffin tins with 2″ parchment paper circles.

 

Grand Marnier Pastry Cream

Yield: about 1 1/2 cups

3 large egg yolks
1/3 cups of sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons of organic cornstarch
1 cup of whole milk
1/4 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
2 teaspoons of Grand Marnier
1/2 teaspoon of orange zest, optional
1 tablespoon of unsalted butter

1) In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks and sugar on medium speed for about five minutes. The consistency will be thick and the color will be light yellow.

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2) Meanwhile, in a medium sauce pan, add the milk and the vanilla bean with seeds. Bring to a boil. Turn off the heat.

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3) After five minutes, reduce the mixer speed to low and add the cornstarch. Beat until the cornstarch is no longer visible.

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4) Keeping the mixer on low, add the boiled milk mixture in a slow stream. Make sure you don’t pour too quickly or the mixture will curdle.

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5) Transfer the entire mixture back to the medium sauce pan. Cook on low heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir.

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6) Add the Grand Marnier and orange zest and swap out the rubber spatula for a whisk. Cook for an additional 3 minutes, whisking constantly. Once the mixture boils in the center, cook for 1 more minute. The mixture should be thick like pudding.

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7) Pour the mixture into a fine mesh sieve and place over a medium glass bowl. Using a rubber spatula, press down the pastry cream mixture. You should get a smooth and shiny pastry cream in the bowl. Whisk in the butter.

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8) Place a plastic wrap directly on the pastry cream to avoid a skin from forming. Place in the refrigerator for 3 hours to cool. This mixture could be made a day in advance.

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Kongguksu (Chilled Soy Milk Noodle)

Koreans love cold noodle soups during the summer. One of the most popular Korean cold noodle dishes is naeng myun, which is made with beef broth and buckwheat noodles. Kongguksu, a distant cousin of naeng myun, is made with chilled soy milk and somen noodles. Every summer, when my mom made kongguksu, it always put a smile on my face. I’ve had many versions of kongguksu and have yet to try one better than my mom’s. Most restaurants blend the cooked soybeans but don’t strain it, resulting in a thick, clumpy soup, but my mom adds an extra step and strains the puréed beans in a cheesecloth, yielding a smooth and silky broth. After learning how to prepare kongguksu from my mom, I wrote down the recipe and added it to my repertoire. Note that the recipe requires the soybeans to soak overnight, so please add a day to your prep time.

For those who are only interested in the homemade soy milk portion of the recipe, you will end up with with two quarts. You can easily cut this recipe in half to make 1 quart. To make a sweet soy milk for use in cereal or coffee, add a little superfine sugar and vanilla extract. To make Taiwanese salty soy milk, heat the prepare soy milk, add pork song, Chinese donuts, preserved vegetables, fried shallots, and scallions. Enjoy!

Kongguksu (Chilled Soy Milk Noodle)

Yield: 2 quarts of soy milk for 4 bowls of noodles.

1 pound of dried organic soy beans*
Superfine sea salt, to taste
1 package of organic somen noodles, 9.5 ounces*
1 large Japanese cucumber
2 teaspoons of toasted sesame seeds*
12 small ice cubes
Kimchee for serving
1. Soak the soybeans in water overnight in 10 cups of water.

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2. The next morning, strain the soybeans and rinse well.

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3. Put the soy beans in a large pot and place enough cold water to cover 1 1/2 inches above the beans.

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4. Bring to a boil and skim the impurities during the boiling process.

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5. Reduce to a simmer. Cook the beans uncovered for about 25 minutes.

6. Turn off the heat and leave the pot sitting on the stove top for 10 more minutes.

7. Strain the beans and give them a quick rinse.

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8. Rub the beans together and try to remove as many skins as possible.

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9. Place 2 cups of beans and 3 cups of water in a blender and purée on high until smooth. (This will be about 1/3 of the cooked beans.) Transfer the puréed beans to a large bowl and repeat this process 2 more times.

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10. Pour the puréed soybean liquid into a chinois or cheese cloth over a large bowl. Strain, using a large paddle or spoon to push down the solids to push out as much of the liquid as possible. Discard the solids.

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11. You should have about 2 quarts of soy milk. Add sea salt to taste.

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12. Cover and store the soy milk in the refrigerator until it gets cold. You can store the salted say milk in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

13. Cut the cucumber into 2-inch strips using a mandolin, and discard the center with the seeds. Set aside.

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14. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the somen noodles and boil for 2 minutes. Rinse noodles in cold water.

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15. To assemble the kongguksu, divide the noodles equally in 4 large bowls. Ladle some soy milk over the noodles. Place 3 ice cubes and some sliced cucumbers into the bowl and sprinkle in 1/2 teaspoon of sesame seeds. Serve with kimchee.

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*You can find these ingredients at most Korean or Japanese markets.