I’ve always had this image of summer – picnics with a lovely dainty basket (tied with a bow), a bright blanket, a bottle of wine, sandwiches, potato salad, pie, sun, intimacy, a light breeze with no humidity, and flowers. Can’t have a picnic without a bright bouquet of flowers, wildly picked or brought. In reality, the picnics (a rare happening in Boston humid summers) usually consist of a cloth shopping bag, wrapped up sandwiches, and our rambunctious canine companion Annie. When Alanna and Sarah came up with the idea of a picnic-themed collaboration, I jumped on it. Unashamedly. We each made a different hand pie. I made miso corn and bacon hand pies. This can’t be surprising- you all know my love affair with corn, my predilection for miso, and my obsession with hand pies. Head over to Sarah’s blog for rosemary peach hand pies with white chocolate marscapone, and Alanna for eggplant parmesan hand pies . Continue reading
Yesterday I finally spent some time to decorate the apartment – the apartment I moved into about a year and a half ago. Where did this time go? We moved in the essentials – bed, some shelving, a dining table that is our pride and joy, all of my random kitchen necessities, two aeron chairs and a desk that holds our working desktop, and a clothing rack. We moved our stuff in and organized haphazardly, enough so that our working space and dining space were clean and functional. Boxes, remnants of a not-so-distant past, stacked up in our closet. I’ll get to it, I thought to myself. Walls remained white, unadorned except for a large, framed Breakfast at Tiffany’s poster I picked up from my previous rental in St Louis. We ordered prints from our wedding. I added more books to my already toppling library. I bought more props. We acquired more gear. Our guest book, consisting of hand written notes on individual instax photos, stayed hidden in a zip lock bag, good wishes and congratulations waiting to burst out to bless our home. Stacks of moleskins collected dust, reminding me of a past that pops up here and there. I flip through them and am instantly rammed with memories: sketching the bund and stopping midway because locals, with no sense of personal space, kept pressing close to me and staring over my shoulder, bestowing remarks that I understood and did not appreciate; going on my tiptoes to peek at the David, the legend we all know about; gulping down gelato on a hot day by the duomo, wondering why we didn’t have grapefruit flavored cold treats at home;, and more recently, annoying my girlfriends as I attempted to resurrect my sketching skills at the Temple of Athena Nike, and then actually infuriating them when I tried to do the same with the Parthenon – how could I not?! Yesterday I pinned them up on my blank, white wall, which brought up another batch of memories, with mixed feelings – pinning up my projects, stabbing my thumbs with sharp thumbtacks, paranoia over smudging, and of course, the never-ending critique that is the nature of architectural reviews.I’m hosting some college friends this weekend, because another friend is getting married in Boston: reunion, celebration, love. There is nothing like hosting to spur one to clean up furiously and actually step back to take a look at my space with a new perspective. It’s about time, really, and I’m glad I did it. I reorganized some of my props, swept and swifted the floors and set out fresh sheets and blankets for my guests. What are your plans for the weekend?
I’m back in Boston and currently melting in my apartment. I feel a bit hypocritical posting a pie recipe, because nothing can make me turn on the oven at this moment. Nothing. However, cherry season is quickly slipping through my fingers and nothing says summer like cherry pie, so here it is. A sweet cherry pie accented with ginger and bourbon. On a skillet, which makes everything so much better. I served this over July 4th (yup, just now getting to post this, sorry!) and it made the prettiest presentation. I get restless in this humid weather. I grew up in comfortable California, with dry heat and no humidity. My only brushes with humidity was in China, so when I’m faced with this heat and blanket of moist, I’m instantly transported back to China. I can just taste the ever-present scent of tobacco, brace for the rush of traffic and horns, and listen to the steady, almost musical flow and ebb of Shanghainese. I texted my sister to wish her happy birthday, and we started chatting about updates, etc, and eventually became a festival of complaints about the weather (she’s in CT). We both agreed we were just restless. Just last weekend I brought Annie over to a friend’s place, and she has two beautiful dogs as well. We had lovely dinner (I made my mom’s pork belly), but the AC was malfunctioning so we all had a fine sheen of sweat and were hovering near madness. The dogs felt it and in the snap of a finger began to growl and snap at each other. Humidity can do this: plant a seed of restlessness that will sprout and have you snapping at the most minuscule things. It is over 90 degrees out with humidity that tells me, clearly as any weather forecaster, a storm is coming. I welcome the storm with open arms. Come chase this humidity away and I’ll be a happy camper again. Continue reading
When it comes to cake, I’m a bit boring – I prefer cakes that aren’t too sweet, too fancy, or too frilly. I love looking at a beautiful, intricately decorated cake, marveling at the baker’s talent, but when it comes to baking my own cake, I always find myself veering towards the simple. Part of it is, I admit, my own disastrous experiences with making fancy cakes, but that’s neither here nor there! I’m so happy to share this matcha swiss roll with you – it’s kind of a hybrid between a sponge cake and the classic swiss roll. A whipped meringue is gently incorporated into the batter, giving it its signature light and fluffy texture. This is an incredibly versatile recipe. I’ve done variations both in flavors and form: you can switch out the matcha and add in… ground black sesame seeds, for example, to make a black sesame roll cake. As for form, my favorite is to surprise people with a vertical roll cake. It’s made in the exact same method, except that when the cake is assembled, the cake is cut into three long strips and then rolled one after the other. You can see an example here. I call it the vertical cake roll.
This cake is inspired by my Japanese language class in high school. That’s right – I’ve been using this recipe as my go-to not-too-sweet cake for over five years. It started when I was first interested in baking. My teacher had a cute Japanese baking magazine filled with pretty images of pretty cakes. I immediately honed in on a fluffy-looking cake roll and decided to make it a project: to translate it and make it! As a non-experienced baker, I was flummoxed by the different measurements, the requirement for a scale, and the unfamiliar ingredients. Eventually, with the help of my teacher, I came up with a workable recipe and tried my hand with it. It was good, but not what I’d expected. So, I tabled it. Several years past, and I’d learned more about baking cakes, whipping up meringues, and other tidbits of information that helped me understand what I did wrong and how the recipe needed to be changed. To make a long story short, a couple of years after my initial translated recipe, I was able to struggle my way through many iterations and finally came up with a light, fluffy cake recipe, which is up on Food52’s Small Batch column!
I’m typing up this post from California and it is so good to be back! I’m so excited about this post because there are three things I’d like to share with you:
- A second stop animation video!! I’m addicted and I’m not going to stop. You can see my first video on taro coconut milk rolls here. Today I’m sharing a short, sweet video on how to coax coconut milk from a mature, brown coconut.
- Dragonfruit coconut popsicles, because it’s POPSICLE WEEK! Thank you so much Wit and Vinegar for organizing this delicious madness. So excited to be a part of this popsicle-looza this year!
- Meg and I are hosting another food photography and styling workshop! You can see details here. I wasn’t even sure I’d like teaching but after our last day workshop sold out within a couple of hours with more requests, we decided to put together an amazing autumn New England retreat. We’ll be learning about sourdough bread, picking wild mushrooms and learning about which ones are edible, and of course, we’ll be teaching comprehensive, hands-on lessons on photography and food styling. While we will spend a thorough lesson going over technique and how to manipulate the internal camera settings, we’ll also be focusing a lot of styling. The light, the props, the background, the food – this is what will bring your vision to life. This is how you develop a personal style. We’ll also be going over post processing and providing delicious harvest meals for our attendees. Spots limited! Thanks to those who already signed up!
Somehow, it’s July. Half of 2015 has gone by, speeding around the corner and disappearing out of sight. Somehow, half the summer has vanished, tucked away in the form of wedding photos and hand-written notes. To put it tritely, the past several weeks were a whirlwind. Consecutive weddings, engagement sessions, rehearsal dinners, client consults – everything that excites me yet simultaneously drains me. Finally, this past weekend, we were photo-free: on the weekend of July 4th, possibly one of the most festive, crowd-drawing holidays of the year. However, at the risk of sounding boring , we decided to turn down friends’ invitations to celebrate. It was actually our only free weekend until end of August. Sometimes I just have to take sit back and take a breather. Go to a place where all I can do is sit down, cuddle with my pup, and close my eyes. Most amusingly, though, we found a few friends who were also staying in the city and somehow obtained 3 racks of ribs and made asian-style oven-baked ribs. We threw napkins on the table and just used our hands to dive in. No stress, informal dinner. Perfect for this weekend. I had a lot of fun slow roasting ribs for over 6 hours and doing three versions: a five-spice rub alone, a spicy gochujang sauce, and soy garlic sauce. The sauces were inspired by Bonchon’s chicken flavors :) and worked so well with the tender ribs. Would you be interested in a recipe for that?I fall into this cycle over and over again. I start collecting stress like I’m foraging wildflowers – inhaling its essence, inspecting each one carefully, keeping them close and hoarding them like a special collection. Except I end up with my mind jumbled. Every incoming to-do or worry or event just hovers around me like a dark cloud. I need to remind myself to step back. To assess. To compartmentalize. To learn to prioritize and make more lists. To relax. I used to wake up early to do yoga, or go for a leisurely run with my dog (despite the fact that she is lazy and ends up slowing me down) and then brew some matcha or drip coffee for myself: a quite morning to cherish. I’m going to start trying to do this again. Mornings recharge me: a moment of peace and silent reflection to organize the rest of the day. They say breakfast is the most important meal, and I believe it is, for me. Not only for energy but also for a mental recharge.
I want to thank each and every one of you. When I initially started blogging, it was just to document my experiments in the kitchen. Somehow, this became… more. When you comment or send me an email to say hello, it truly makes my day. I’m really bad at responding, but please know that I read each word you write. And I smile, because what keeps me blogging is you!!!!!
The best laid plans always seem to go awry, doesn’t it? I try to stick to a blogging schedule… but when that fumbles and I’m up to my arms in the best ice cream I’ve ever made that I just know would be perfect for this holiday weekend, I have to wipe my hands of this pre-made schedule and just hit publish. I love this holiday, not only because it celebrates America, but also how communal it is. BBQ parties, seafood boils, watching the fireworks explode across the sky, giggling as you see who actually coordinates their outfit to be red/white/blue… but of course, what interests me more is seeing the beautiful red/white/blue treats that permeate the blogging community, like this, this, this, and this. What I’m sharing now is not a specifically July 4th dessert, per say. Instead think of it as an ice cream that screams summer. That happens to include red hues. That’s just delicious, and really, isn’t that the only reason you need to make this?
This ice cream is entirely inspired by Skye. She keeps posting photos of red wine marinated plums, red wine poached pears, and red wine roasted figs and stuff. I had opened a bottle of cabernet sauvignon for our one year anniversary and had some left over, so I immediately knew what to do with the rest. I let the cherries marinade in wine for about an hour, then tossed it with some olive oil and threw it in the oven to roast. I highly recommend you make double what you need, because you’ll want to just eat these wine-roasted cherries straight out of the oven. Continue reading