During the summer months there are a few things I always make sure I have around the house.
1. A bottle of rosé or a few bottles of summer beers in the fridge. You never know when you want a nice cold boozy drink. The answer is probably always, so you gotta be prepare!
2. Tomatoes on the kitchen counter. Yes, on the counter and not in the fridge. Stop refrigerating your tomatoes! Especially, tomatoes during the summer months.
3. Infused olive oil and vinegar.
Infused with citrus, tropical fruits, herbs, or with other spices, flavored olive oils and vinegars are an easy way to dress up summer vegetables and fruits. Citrus olive oils like lemon, blood orange, and grapefruit are perfect drizzled on top of grilled asparagus, zucchini, and cauliflower. They are also great on seafood and fish, especially shrimp and salmon, and on grilled fruits like peaches and pears. While ones infused with garlic, hot peppers, and rosemary are perfect on starchy vegetables like potatoes and yams, and also on proteins like steak and chicken. When combined with infused vinegar, you have the main ingredients for making the perfect quick dressing.
You don’t need to have a kitchen cabinet filled with a large variety of infused olive oil and vinegars, but do try to have at least two each. My favorites, and the ones I use constantly are Meyer lemon olive oil and pomegranate vinegar. Meyer lemon olive oil is great when you want just a hint of lemon flavor and aroma. I love mixing it with chopped herbs and drizzling it on a grilled whole fish or pork chops. Pomegranate vinegar is perfect in dressings for salads with bold and spicy flavors. When combined with two of my favorite summer produce, strawberries and tomatoes, you have a quick, light, and refreshing salad.
Strawberry and Tomato Salad
INGREDIENTS Serves 2
4 medium tomatoes
½ pint strawberries
1 teaspoon pomegranate vinegar, or other fruit infused vinegar
2 teaspoon meyer lemon olive oil, or other citrus olive oil
4 mint sprigs, chiffonade
4 basil sprigs
2 to 3 pinches salt
De-seed the tomatoes and cut into bite size wedges. Slice strawberries in halves. Place everything in a bowl.
Add the chiffonade mint and hand tear the basil leaves into pieces.
Add the vinegar, olive oil, and a few pinches of salt. Mix gently and serve.
If you follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and/or Facebook, you know that I’ve been contributing to Serious Eats for a few months now. Serious Eats is a website that’s all about the celebration of food. From recipes, to restaurant guides, to knowing the best method to cook the perfect boiled egg, Serious Eats is the site to turn to for all that and more. It has been a lot of fun developing recipes for them, writing guides such as Chinese Egg Noodles 101, and working on perfecting popular Chinese dishes such as Pan-Fried Noodles with Seafood and Stir-Fried Chicken with Ginger and Scallion. I look forward on contributing more, so stay tune! Make sure to check out my profile on Serious Eats for a complete up-to-date list of my recipes. So far, here is a roundup of them.
Chinese Greens 101: Chinese Broccoli With Oyster Sauce and Fried Garlic
Chinese Noodles 101: The Chinese Egg Noodle Style Guide
Chinese Noodles 101: How to Make Wonton Noodle Soup With Chicken and Shiitakes
Chinese Noodles 101: How to Make Lo Mein With Beef and Broccoli
Chinese Greens 101: Stir-Fried Choy Sum With Minced Garlic
Chinese Noodles 101: Crispy Pan-Fried Noodle Cakes With Seafood.
Easy Stir-Fried Pork With String Beans
Sautéed Root Vegetables With Soy Sauce and Honey
Chinese-American Mashup: Silken Tofu With Spicy Sausage
Chinese Cooking 101: How to Marinate Meat for Stir Fries
Easy Spicy Stir-Fried Beef With Leeks and Onions
Easy Stir-Fried Beef With Mushrooms and Butter
Bok Choy and Kale Fried Rice With Fried Garlic
Bitter Greens Salad With Sesame Dressing
Spicy Stir-Fried Fennel, Celery, and Celery Root With Chinese Sausage
Easy Stir-Fried Chicken With Ginger and Scallions
Roasted Kabocha Squash With Soy Sauce, Butter, and Shichimi Togarashi
Chinese Noodles 101: How to Make Chow Mein With Four Vegetables
How to Make Pan-Fried Vegetable Dumplings
Shredded Chicken Salad With Gochujang Dressing
Growing up and even now – although less frequently – Sunday dinners are a pretty big deal in my family. This was the only day my mom was off from her job, and the only day in the week she had the time to cook a big meal. No matter if it was just my dad and I at the table, or a table with family and friends, there was always a lot of food. Sunday lunches were no different than dinner. There would be a big pot of congee, a plate of noodles that could probably feed the entire neighborhood, and a variety of savory Chinese pastries from bakeries in Chinatown. Once in while, Sunday lunch and dumpling day – a day when my mom makes an insane amount of dumplings – would merge. I like to call these days “Christmas”. I would wake up, go downstairs, and the kitchen was now suddenly transformed into a mini dumpling factory. There would be trays of dumplings perfectly wrapped; a few trays for family and friends and one for the house – which I always complained was never enough. My mom’s steamed dumplings were perfect. They were juicy, had a great balance of both lean pork and fatty pork, and just the right amount of napa cabbage and shiitake mushrooms.
Dumplings really are a crowd pleaser. Just like wontons, you are not limited to the type of ingredients that can go into the filling. I love my mom’s steamed pork dumplings, but every now and then I want something crispy with a leaner filling. This Chicken Gyoza recipe satisfies that craving. It’s filling has lean chicken breast, and both napa cabbage and shitake mushrooms for juiciness. You could steam these, but I prefer them pan-fried with a crispy golden brown bottom. Just like wontons, dumplings are one of the most convenient foods to have around. Make a big batch, freeze them, and enjoy them throughout the month.
INGREDIENTS Makes about 36 dumplings
1 pound chicken breast, cut into large cubes
½ pound napa cabbage, shredded
5 dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated
1 teaspoon garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon ginger, grated
1 ½ teaspoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon white pepper powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoon chopped scallions
1 pack Hong Kong style dumpling wrapper, or can also use Shanghai style or regular dumpling wrappers
1 bunch chives, chopped (optional)
For the dipping sauce:
4 teaspoon soy sauce
2 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Place shredded napa cabbage in a large bowl and add 1 tablespoon of table salt. Mix the salt and the cabbage together with your hand.
Mix for about 5 minutes until the cabbage starts to shrink and releases water. Squeeze the water out of the cabbage and place in a colander. Set aside.
Dice the rehydrated shiitake mushrooms.
Dried shiitakes can be rehydrated overnight in a bowl with water. You can also rehydrate them the day you need it. Bring 2 cups of water to boil, pour over dried shiitakes, and soak for 30 minutest to 1 hour. When the mushrooms are rehydrated, rinse them, squeeze out excess water, and pat dry. They are now ready to be dice.
Add chicken breast, minced garlic, and grated ginger in a food processor. Pulse 5 times, scrape the sides, and pulse another 5 times. Add in the napa cabbage and diced shiitakes. Pulse another 3 times.
Transfer the filling to a bowl. Add soy sauce, sugar, white pepper powder, salt, cornstarch, sesame oil, and chopped scallions. Mix well and chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or overnight.
When the filling is ready, it’s time to wrap some dumplings.
Things you’ll need:
1) A small bowl of water. The water helps seals the dumplings.
2) A spoon to scoop out the filling. You can also use chopsticks or a butter knife.
3) Dumpling wrappers.
4) A plate with a sheet of wax on top to hold finished dumplings. The wax paper prevents the dumplings from sticking.
To begin wrapping, place a little less than a tablespoon of the filling in the middle of the wrapper.
Dip one finger in the water and wet half of the outer edges of the dumpling. Fold the wrapper in half and pinch the center together. Starting from the center, start pleating each side.
Make 2 to 3 pleats on each side of the dumpling, pinching tightly shut. Place finished dumplings on the plate and make sure they are not touching each other.
To freeze the dumplings:
Place the dumplings on a sheet pan or a flat surface lined with wax paper and a sprinkle of flour. Make sure dumplings are not touching each other. Freeze in the freezer until hard for about 2 to 3 hours. Once they are frozen, you can store them in ziplock bags or in a container. There is no need to defrost dumplings before cooking. Just pan-fry as instructed.
To pan-fry the dumplings, heat 1 tablespoon of oil on medium high heat in a non-stick pan with a lid. When the oil is hot, add the dumplings. Don’t overcrowd the pan and make sure the dumplings are not touching each other. Pan-fry for about 2 minutes until the bottom of the dumplings are golden. If you are pan-frying frozen dumplings, it might take an additional 1 to 2 minutes for them to get golden brown. Just check the bottom of the dumplings every 2 minutes.
Holding the lid of the pan in one hand, pour ¼ cup of water into the pan. Cover the pan with the lid, steam for about 3 minutes, and then remove the lid. The skin of the dumplings should now be slightly translucent and the filling should be firm. Most of the water should have evaporated. If a little bit still remains, it’s ok. Continue pan-frying the dumplings until the bottoms are crispy again and any remaining water is gone. When the dumplings are done, transfer onto layers of paper towel to blot off excess oil.
Combine the ingredients for the dipping sauce – soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. Serve the dumplings hot, sprinkle with a little but of chop chives if desired, and accompanied by the dipping sauce.
A few days ago my mom made a soup that I was sort of skeptical to try. Mint? In soup? With eggs? I love pork and eggs, and of course I know how mint taste like. Yet, something about all three of these ingredients coming together in a soup just sounded a little strange. It didn’t take me long to realize what was really strange was me. I’ve tried turtle blood fried rice, chicken sashimi, and fresh blood pudding before; not once did I think twice before I gladly and willingly ate all of it. Sometimes it’s not one singular ingredient that makes us think twice, but a group of it coming together in an unfamiliar way.
Of course my judgement was wrong. Suspiciously simple and very satisfying, there is nothing tricky about making this quick soup. Pork with ginger is always a great combination, and the addition of mint adds a nice herbal freshness. It’s perfect when you want something that’s brothy and not too filling. Serve it along with a bowl of white rice and it’s a wonderful light lunch or dinner.
Pork with Mint, Ginger, and Egg Soup
Serves 2 to 4
1 small boneless pork chop, about 6 ounces
1 thick slice ginger, about 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long
4 slices of ginger, julienned
3 to 4 large sprigs of mint, about 1/2 ounce separated from the stem
3 cups water
For the pork marinade:
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper powder
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Slice the pork into 1/4 inch thick pieces and then into long strips. Place in a bowl and add the ingredients for the marinade (soy sauce, salt, white pepper powder, sesame oil, and cornstarch) to the pork. Mix well, place in the refrigerator and marinated for 10 minutes or overnight.
In a pot, add the thick slice of ginger plus 3 cups of water and it to a boil. When the pork is ready, add it to the pot. Cook until it comes back to a boil.
Lower the flame to a low simmer and crack two eggs one at a time into the pot. Don’t stir, let the egg set a little, and then break it apart into pieces with a spoon or knife.
Next add the mint leaves and stir. Add salt and taste. Put a lid on the pot. Turn the flame off and let the soup sit on the burner for 3 minutes. Place soup in bowls and sprinkle julienned ginger on top. Serve immediately.
The last three months have been a combination of the good, the bad, and the WTF-is-happening moments. It’s not even been half a year yet and I already have a love-hate – leaning more towards hate – relationship with 2014. January, February, March is over and April is coming to an end. The first four months were not great, but I’ve learned that that’s ok. Hindsight is important and reflection is necessary, but you can’t move forward if you keep looking back. With that said, I miss this blog. I miss sharing recipes here, writing about it, and posting about what I love. So, here I go….
This is Fast Food, a new column I’m starting that’s about cooking in the moment, trying new flavors, and sharing the results – good or bad. I’ll document the steps with my iPhone, share the recipe, and rate it. Lets start cooking…..and hope it comes out good.
With warm weather approaching a refreshing cold noodle dish is a good recipe to know. The flavors of a ripe tomato and spicy salty mentaiko (marinated cod roe) sounded like a winning combination.
1 7oz pack of fresh udon
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 ripe tomato, chop
1 large spicy mentaiko (marinated cod roe)
1 small clove garlic
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
Cook the udon, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Set aside.
In a bowl add the scallion and chop tomatoes.
Finely minced the garlic with a little bit of salt. Add to the bowl.
Cut the mentaiko sac in half and push the roe out into the bowl.
Add the sesame oil and rice vinegar. Mix and season with salt if needed.
Add the udon. Mix well and eat.
RESULTS: Refreshing and satisfying, I can see myself enjoying this during hot summer days when turning on the stove is insanity. The saltiness of the mentaiko went great with a juicy ripe tomato. Garlic and scallions also added a nice punch of flavor. Yet, something was missing. It needed a splash of citric acid. The rice vinegar was ok, but the dish lacked brightness that I think only lemon juice could of provided.
3 out of 4 kisses. Will try again but with modification.
However you call it, congee or rice porridge, don’t ever call it gruel! Just like tofu, I think there’s a bit of a misconception on what congee is here in America. A staple for breakfast and lunch in most Asian countries, congee is rice and water (or broth) cooked down into a thick porridge. This might not be the most exciting sounding dish if you never had it before, but the great thing about congee is it’s a base to add almost anything you want. You can make it vegetarian – Chopped Romain Lettuce Congee, Mix Mushroom Congee, Kale Congee. You can add meat – Chicken and Ginger Congee, Roast Turkey Congee (this is one of my favorite ways to use leftover Thanksgiving turkey), Offal Congee, Salted Pork with Salty Egg Congee. You can also add seafood – Abalone Congee, Fish Fillet Congee, Mixed Seafood Congee. There’s even congee hot pot! One of my favorite congee is Watercress Congee. It’s my go-to food when I want something light after one to many heavy overindulgent meals. This is a seafood version of it.
To cook a perfect pot of congee, it’s all about knowing the right water to rice ratio. Everyone does it slightly different. Jook, Cantonese congee, typically has a higher water to rice ratio than okayu, Japanese congee. Jook is also cooked with long grain rice while okayu consist of short grain rice. While jook is cooked mainly with water, congee in most Southeast Asian countries, like Vietnam, Cambodia, and the Philippines, use broth or a combination of broth and water. Cooking time also varies – jook takes at least an hour while okayu takes usually half an hour.
This Salmon and Watercress Congee is sort of a hybrid version of jook and okayu combine. Unlike jook, instead of long grain rice I’m using short grain rice, which is what okayu is cooked with. Short grain rice tends to be stickier than long grain rice because of its high level of amylopectin starch. If you want to learn more about the different types of rice starches, Linda Larsen’s Rice Science article is a good read. Unlike okayu, I’m using a higher water to rice ratio and the cooking time is longer, just like jook. One thing I love about okayu is how creamy and silky it is. Because of its high level of amylopectin, short grain rice takes on a velvety texture after it’s cooked for a long period of time. So after a few trials and errors, this is my go-to congee ratio – 12:1. 12 parts water, 1 part short grain rice.
Salmon and Watercress Congee
1/2 cup short grain rice, washed
6 cups water
10 oz salmon fillet, skinless
3 oz watercress, roughly chopped
10 slices of ginger, about 1 inch by 1 inch, julienne
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp shaoxing wine
Cut skinless salmon fillets evenly into one inch cubes about half inch thick. Place in a large bowl and add the olive oil, salt, white pepper, shaoxing wine, and a third of the julienne ginger. Mix well and set aside in the fridge.
In a large pot, add the water and the washed rice. Cover the pot with a lid and bring it to a boil. This should take about 10 minutes. When it starts boiling, turn it down to a simmer and cover the pot. 15 minutes later, stir the rice making sure it’s not sticking to the bottom. Cover the pot again and stir the rice one more time 15 minutes after the first stir. Cover the pot one last time and simmer for 30 minutes. When the congee is done, it should look creamy and silky.
Take the salmon out from the fridge, turn the flame to medium high and add it to the congee. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes until the salmon is done.
Add the watercress, stir, turn off the flame, and season the congee with salt to taste.
Serve the congee in bowls with the remaining julienne ginger on top and lightly drizzled with sesame oil.
Growing up in the east coast, winter does not feel like winter until there is snow on the ground and I can see my breath in the air. After a warm first week of December, it looked like my chances of bringing out the snow boots this season were pretty low. I didn’t want to relive the blizzard of ’96 — snow days are just not the same after a certain age when thoughts of snowball fights are replaced with how are you ever going to dig your car out — all I wanted was a dust of it. Just enough snow for my dog to pounce around in, but not enough to hold my car hostage in its spot for the rest of the week.
Well, you know the old saying “be careful what you wish for”? Mother nature must of heard my rants about spring in winter and gave me what I wanted — plus more. There were a few days of snow that quickly melted and then there was rain a few days before Christmas, but right on New Year’s Eve, polar vortex arrived. It brought along fun things like single and negative degree temperatures, the power to turn everything into popsicles, pipes bursting like fireworks, and snow-snow-snow plus ice-ice-ice. Hibernating at home on days like these are perfect for two things — do absolutely nothing or non-stop cooking. Since this post exist, of course I picked the latter.
Homemade wontons are one of the most convenient foods to keep around. They freeze well, quick to cook, and for me they are the perfect winter late night snacks. 2am and don’t know what to eat? Wonton soup to my rescue. The classic Cantonese Hong Kong style wontons are usually filled with shrimp, pork, and yellow chives. As for the broth or soup that it’s served in, the ingredients varies. Restaurants who are serious about their wonton soups have their own blend of ingredients for the broth. Usually it’s a mix of both chicken and pork bones, but other ingredients such as dried shrimp, dried cuttlefish, and/or dried flounder are also added to give the broth a hint of seafood flavor. Growing up my dad frequently made the classic wontons on his days off from work, but just like spring rolls and dumplings, one of the best things about wontons are you can fill them with almost anything you want. Shrimp with bamboo shoots are one of my favorite fillings and so is pork with napa cabbage.
These Shrimp and Kale Wontons are nothing like the classic. Instead of serving it in broth, they are tossed with sautéed cremini mushrooms and a Spicy Kale Pesto Sauce. Leftover pesto can be stored in the freezer for about 2 months. If you want to store the pesto longer, omit the cheese from the recipe and add it in when you are using the pesto. I like to freeze pesto in snack size zip lock bags. They defrost fast and perfect for a quick lunch or dinner. This pesto is also great toss with spaghetti and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice right before plating.
Not in the mood for pesto and prefer a hot bowl of broth instead with your wontons? Bring a pot of water to boil, cook the wontons, and set it aside in a bowl. Next, warm up your favorite chicken broth and add in scallions, chives, and/or napa cabbage. When the broth is hot, pour it on top of the wontons, and serve with a drizzle of sesame oil on top.
Shrimp and Kale Wontons with Spicy Kale Pesto Sauce
SHRIMP AND KALE WONTONS (makes about 40 wontons)
1 lb shrimp
2 oz kale, any variety
1/2 tsp table salt
1 tsp sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp shaoxing wine
1/4 tsp white pepper
2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
1 pack Hong Kong style wonton wrappers
Cut kale into thin strips and place in a bowl. Add the salt and using your hands mix and massage it with the kale. Mix for 2 minutes until the kale is wilted and there is a little kale juice in the bowl. Set aside.
Deshell and devein the shrimp. Rinse under cold water and pat dry. Make sure each shrimp is very dry before using it for the filling. Place the shrimp in a food processor.
Time to add the kale. With your hands, squeeze as much of the kale juice out of the kale. Place the squeezed kale into the food processor with the shrimp.
In the food processor, add sesame oil, minced garlic, shaoxing wine, white pepper, soy sauce, sugar, and cornstarch. Pulse 4 times. Open the lid and mix the mixture with a wooden spoon or chopstick. Close the lid and pulse another 4 times. Take the mixture out and place in a bowl. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
After the mixture is chilled, it’s time to wrap the wontons.
Things you’ll need:
1) A small bowl filled with water. The water is used to seal the wontons.
2) A butter knife to scoop the filling out. If you don’t have a butter knife, you can use a chopstick or the handle on a fork or spoon. You want something that is flat.
3) Hong Kong style wonton wrappers.
4) A large plate with a sheet of wax paper sprinkled with flour on top. This prevents the wontons from sticking to the plate.
Place about 2 teaspoon of the filling in the middle of the wrapper. Dip your finger and line two sides of the wrapper with water. Seal the wontons and lay them flat on the plate with wax paper.
To cook the wontons, bring a pot of water to boil. Add the wontons. Do not overcrowd the pot with too many of them. Stir the wontons making sure they are not sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Fresh wontons – Wontons that are wrapped the same day should take about 3 to 4 minutes to cook after you place them in the pot and the water comes back to a simmer.
Frozen wontons – Should take about 5 to 6 minutes to cook after you place them in the pot and the water comes back to a simmer. Frozen wontons do not need to be defrosted before cooking.
When the wontons are done, use a straining ladle to carefully strain the wontons and place in a bowl.
If you are using the wontons for wonton soup, sprinkle with chopped scallions, a drizzle of sesame oil, and pour the broth on top of the wontons. If you are serving it with the Spicy Kale Pesto Sauce, see below.
SPICY KALE PESTO SAUCE (makes 2 cups)
For the pesto:
8 oz kale, any variety, chopped
1 cup walnut, about 3 oz, toasted
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
4 cloves garlic
1 tblsp plus 1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp table salt
3/4 cup olive oil
For the sauce (serves 4 as an appetizer):
20 cooked wontons
2 tblsp kale pesto
8 cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/4 tsp to 1/2 tsp nam prik pao, Thai chili jam
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp rice vinegar
chives, chopped (optional)
la-yu, Japanese chili oil (optional)
In a food processor, add the kale, walnut, grated parmesan (omit the cheese if you are planning to freeze the pesto and add it in when you’re using the it), and garlic. Pulse until everything is finely chopped. Add in the lemon juice, salt, and olive oil. Pulse until everything is mixed. Taste for seasoning. If you need to add more olive oil, start with 1 tblsp.
Pesto storage tips:
Pesto will store in the fridge for 2 weeks. Make sure it is covered in olive oil and tightly sealed. To freeze pesto, divide it into individual servings. Remember to omit the grated parmesan when making the pesto and just add it in when you are defrosting it. Snack size zip lock bags and ice cube trays are good ways to store pesto in the freezer.
To make the spicy kale pesto sauce and to complete the dish, first divide 20 cooked wontons in 4 serving bowls. In a pan, sautéed sliced cremini mushrooms with a little bit of olive oil. When the mushrooms are golden brown, add add 2 tablespoons of the kale pesto, nam prik pao, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Mix until everything is combined.
Spoon the pesto sauce on to each bowl of wontons. Gently mix the wontons with the sauce. If desired, drizzle with la-yu and topped with chop chives. Served right away.
Serves 4 as an appetizer.
This is a long over due post and one I feel very bad about not being able to post earlier. Back in August, I took a day trip to Wyebrook Farm. If you frequently dine at Philadelphia restaurants that features locally source produce on their menu, the name Wyebrook Farm probably sounds familiar. Located in Chester County, about an hour drive from downtown Philadelphia, Wyebrook is a 355-acre sustainable farm. It raises heritage breed pigs, French Freedom Ranger chickens, and pastured cows that feed on a diet of grass and legumes. Since August was coming to an end soon and I was going to be away for over 3 weeks in September, I knew I needed to visit Wyebrook before summer was over.
Located in a late 18th century stone barn, Wyebrook’s Farm Market features an on-site butcher shop and locally grown produce.
One of my favorite Wyebrook purchase is their thick bone in pork chops.
Another must by are the farm fresh eggs.
The farm only opened to the public about a year and a half ago, but the land it sits on has more than two hundred years of history with farming. The farm’s market store is located inside a late 18th century stone barn and houses surrounding the property dates back to the same time period. At the lower back level of the stone barn is Wyebrook’s café. Open from April through the end of October on Fridays through Sundays, the café offers food featuring meats and vegetables from the farm and also from nearby businesses. Picnic tables are set up throughout the grassy courtyard, there is live music on Saturdays, you are welcome to bring your own beer and wine, and it is pet friendly. To sum it up, this is the perfect place to visit for a laid back weekend afternoon.
The back of the stone barn. Picnic tables are set up throughout the courtyard for the farm’s café patrons.
Food from the café. (Top left) Chester County Cheese Plate. Local artisanal cheeses with crackers, candied pecans, dried apricots and quince paste. (Top right) The Slider Basket. Beef burger topped with pickles, beef and bacon burger topped with a cherry bomb, and a pulled pork sandwich topped with pickled cabbage. All are served on mini brioche buns and with a side of fries. (Bottom right) Top Round Beef Skewers. Grilled top round beef with wild rice, mushrooms, grilled scallions, and roasted red bell pepper sauce.
Non-alcoholic beverages are sold in the café, but patrons are also free to bring their own wine and beer. Iced Cold Green Tea (left) and Lemonade (right).
Just a quick walk from the café you can see some of the farm’s heritage breed pigs. They are raised in woodlots and have access to natural spring mud holes to keep them cool during the summer months.
After lunch and a short walk around the farm, I headed back to the stone barn and made a few purchases. Their fresh farm eggs were a must, so were the thick cut beautifully marbled bone in pork chops, and I also picked up a few pounds of flat iron steak. As I headed back to my car parked out in front of the stone barn, I noticed what I was hoping to see but didn’t find when I was walking around the farm before. CHICKENS! CHICKENS WALKING AROUND BEING CHICKENS!
Protected by electric netting fencing, Wyebrook’s laying hens roam around the pastures in the daytime and retreats to their mobile hen house at night.
(Top) Two chickens gossiping about other chickens. At least that is what I thought when I spotted these two lovely birds near the wooded area of the farm.
(Bottom) Wyebrook’s mobile hen house.
It is still not too late in the year to visit Wyebrook Farm. The café just closed for the season last weekend, but Wyebrook’s popular weekly Friday Night Dinner goes on until December. Every Friday night from 4pm to 8pm, the farm host a 3 course meal for only $25 per person. Guests are welcome to bring their own wine and beer and the menu changes weekly. The farm’s market inside the stone barn is also still open every Friday through Saturday until the end of November. Check out their monthly events calendar for the hours and on it you can also see they have a few more other Sunday events. The weather might be cooler now, but that does not mean having that laid back weekend at Wyebrook Farm is over.
What is better than a kale shopping spree? Ok, I am pretty sure there are a lot of other things better than kale on sale, but last week I got a little crazy and wild and bought six bunches of kale during Whole Foods National Kale Day celebration. $1 a bunch for organic kale! I just could not resist. Then I got home, and like all shopping sprees, I stared at my purchases and realized I might have went overboard. So much kale. What to do?
I started to make a list. Stir fried kale with garlic and ginger with a splash of soy sauce and sake. Miso soup with kale and enoki. Beef and kale with oyster sauce. Potato, tomato, and kale curry. The list went on. One of the great things about kale is that it is a sturdy leafy vegetable. It is perfect in stir fry dishes and in soups and stews. Different varieties of kale will taste slightly different, but most varieties have a great earthy taste. Plus, and this might be the best part, they last at least a week in the fridge when stored properly. Just keep it loosely in a bag and unwashed until ready to use.
The choices with what to do with kale seem endless, so be prepare to see a few kale recipe posts in the upcoming weeks! First up is Kale, Seaweed, and Shiitake Fried Rice. The earthy taste of kale, combined with the slight saltiness and sea taste of seaweed, makes this dish a perfect side for seafood or meat entrees. Serve it along with poached chicken, kalbi (Korean BBQ ribs), or even with a sunny side up egg on top. Of course it is great on its own too!
Kale, Seaweed, and Shiitake Fried Rice
3 cups overnight cooked jasmine rice, 1½ cups uncooked jasmine rice makes 3 cups
2 cups chopped curly kale, about 3 big leaves
8 dried shiitake mushroom, rehydrated in water and sliced
2 tblsp fueru wakame, dried seaweed flakes
1 tblsp aonori ko, seaweed flakes
1 scallion, chop
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp soy sauce
FOR THE RICE. Overnight cooked rice is preferred for making fried rice. The grains are firmer, the moisture is less, and this makes the rice easier to stir fry. If you don’t have overnight cooked rice, you can use fresh cooked rice. Once the rice is cooked, spread the rice evenly on a flat surface (a large flat bowl or a cookie sheet) to cool. Let the rice cool for at least an hour. The longer it cools, the better and easier it is to stir fry.
FOR THE SHIITAKE MUSHROOM. The easiest way to rehydrate dried shiitake mushrooms is to soak them in water overnight. You can also rehydrate them the day you need it. In a saucepan bring 3 cups of water to boil. Turn the flame off and add the dried shiitake mushrooms. Cover the saucepan with a lid. The shiitakes will rehydrate in about an hour. After the mushrooms are rehydrated (overnight or the day of), rinse them, squeeze the excess water out, and pat dry. They are now ready to be slice.
In a small bowl, add 2 tblsp of fueru wakame (dried seaweed flakes) and fill the bowl halfway with cold water. To clean the seaweed, use your fingers and rub the dried seaweed flakes together for 10 seconds. Drain all the water out. The seaweed flakes do not need to be fully rehydrated, so do not worry if some of the flakes are still dried. Set the bowl of seaweed aside.
Heat 1 tsp of oil in a wok or large skillet. When the oil is hot, add the sliced mushrooms. Stir fry the mushrooms for 3 to 4 minutes until they start to brown a little. Turn the flame half way down and add 2 tsp of soy sauce and a pinch of table salt. Continue stir frying the mushrooms for one more minute and set aside.
In the same wok or large skillet, heat 1 tsp of oil. When the oil is hot, add the minced garlic and chopped kale. Add ¼ tsp of table salt and a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper. Stir fry the kale for about one to two minutes until it starts to wilt.
Add 2 tsp of oil and the cooked rice. Stir fry to combine the rice and kale. Add ¼ tsp of white pepper and ½ tsp of salt. Continue to stir fry the rice until the rice is warmed thoroughly. If your rice starts to stick to your wok or skillet, add ½ tsp of oil.
Add the cooked shiitake mushrooms, chopped scallion, and the bowl of seaweed (fueru wakame). Stir fry for one more minute until all the ingredients are combined.
Turn the flame off. Add in the aonori ko (seaweed flakes). Combine everything together. Serve immediately.
Serves 4 as a side dish or 2 as a main entree.
One of my favorite dish to order at my local Vietnamese restaurant is bun thit nuong (vermicelli with grilled pork). It seems that in most Vietnamese restaurants, at least half a side of a menu features the different variations of the dish. There is a vegetarian version, you can have it with grilled beef, shrimp, chicken, and even Vietnamese spring rolls. It is served along with nuoc cham, a fish sauce based dipping sauce that is sweet, sour, sometimes spicy, and highly addictive.
This popular vermicelli dish is refreshing, and as you can tell from the different variations, it is also versatile. For my version I wanted to include one of my favorite produce this time of the year – sweet, ripe, summer tomatoes. Charring both the tomatoes and the romaine lettuce adds a nice smokey flavor. The spicy garlicky fish sauce based dressing brightens and adds a kick to the dish. Shrimp was my protein, but you can add grilled chicken, pork, beef, and even portobello mushrooms instead.
One thing to keep in mind if you are planning to char your tomatoes and lettuce indoor is that it creates A LOT OF SMOKE. A LOT OF IT! So remember to turn on your exhaust fan to high and maybe even open a few windows. If you have an outdoor area and a portable burner, char it outside. That is what I did and I am happy I did. Of course you can also char on an outdoor grill as well.
Vermicelli Noodle Salad with Charred Tomatoes, Romaine Lettuce, and Shrimp
FISH SAUCE DRESSING (makes 2 cups)
1/2 cup hot water
1/2 cup cold water
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup fish sauce
3 tblsp lime juice, fresh squeezed, about 1.5 to 2 limes
1 head of garlic
3 bird’s eye chili pepper (Thai chili pepper)
Deseed the bird’s eye chili pepper or leave the seeds in if you want the dressing to be extra spicy. Finely mince the garlic and bird’s eye chili together. Set aside.
In a large glass bowl, add the sugar and hot water. Stir until the sugar is dissolve. Add the minced garlic and chili pepper, cold water, fish sauce, and lime juice. Mix well. Chill the dressing for at least 30 minutes. Dressing can be made overnight.
VERMICELLI NOODLE SALAD
1/2 lb medium shrimp (31/35 count size), 16 shrimps
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1 lb Vietnamese vermicelli noodle (bun giang tay)
6 plum tomatoes
4 whole romaine lettuce
1/4 whole red onion
1 bunch mint
1 bunch Thai basil
1 bunch perilla leaves
1 bunch cilantro
Deshell and devein the shrimps. Rinse under cold water and pat dry. Place shrimps in a glass bowl and add fish sauce, olive oil, sugar, and black pepper. Mix well and marinate for 30 minutes.
In a large pot of water, cook the vermicelli noodles. Strain the noodles in a colander and rinse well with cold water. Drain and set aside.
Hand tear or roughly chop the mint, Thai basil, perilla leaves, and cilantro. Set the herb mixture aside.
Thinly slice the red onion. Set aside.
Slice the plum tomatoes and whole romaine lettuce length wise. Drizzle the cut side with olive oil. Set aside.
Heat a large cast iron skillet or griddle until it is very hot and smokey. Place the tomatoes cut side down. Cook until cut side is charred. About 3 to 4 minutes. Set aside on a plate.
Wait until skillet is hot again. Place the romaine lettuce cut side down. Cook until cut side is slightly charred. About 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside on a plate.
Cook the shrimp on the same skillet. About 1 to 2 minutes on each side. Set aside.
Divide the noodles into 4 servings. Place noodles in large individual serving bowls.
Chop the charred lettuce into bite size pieces. One half whole lettuce per serving. Slice the charred tomatoes lengthwise. Chop into bite size pieces. Three half plum tomatoes per serving. Place lettuce and tomatoes on top of noodles.
Add the shrimp (four shrimps per serving), sliced onions, and herb mixture on top of the noodles as well.
Place fish sauce dressing in four small bowls. Half a cup of dressing in each bowl. Serve noodles and dressing side by side. Pour dressing on noodles before eating. Mix and enjoy.