Giusto odio dignissimos Olimpedit quo minus

January 27, 2009

Morimoto NYC

Happy Birthday to ME!

I requested Morimoto as the restaurant for my birthday dinner. At first, I was hesitant about going.... would the bill really burn a hole in his wallet (which would affect me, as well!)? would i be daring enough to try the omakase menu? You know... stupid things to stress about. But, hey, its my birthday and i'm not paying! DH told me that I could go anywhere I wanted.... and so we did!

I was hoping that Masaharu Morimoto, the Japanese Iron Chef, would be there -- i was so happy that he was! We had an early reservation (5:30pm) to avoid the crowds -- i heard that some patron sat at tables where they were right next to their neighbors. Luckily, because of the time of our reservation, we had our own lil table, seperated from the row of tables where you could feel your neighbor breathing on you.

Omakase (お任せ) is a Japanese phrase that means "It's up to you" (from 任す, entrust). The expression is used at sushi restaurants to leave the selection to the chef. It differs from ordering à la carte. The chef will generally present a series of plates, beginning with the lightest fare and proceeding to heaviest, richest dishes. The phrase is not exclusive to service of raw fish with rice, and can incorporate grilling and simmering as well. Customers ordering omakase style expect the chef to be innovative and surprising in the selection of dishes, and the meal can be likened to an artistic performance by the chef. []

Please excuse the poor photography. I used my point & shoot without the flash.
My omakase consisted of:

Toro tartare with rice crackers & assorted dipping sauces

I liked this dish a lot, especially the rice crackers (bottom row, right) and the lil fruit that was on the (left) side. I forgot the name of the fruit. This was fun to eat too -- they give you this lil metal spatula to eat with (pictured in the bowl of ice, on the far right, camouflaged by my cup of tea).

Kampachi sashimi

With the ginger, scallion & soy dressing, i thought i was eating steamed fish w/ginger & scallions... didnt even notice that the fish was raw.

Sashimi & salad

Forgot the name of the fish, but it was very fresh and slightly seared. The salad had a very nice & light vinigrette.

Smoked salmon raviloli

There were actually 2 raviolis in there.

Sushi of the day

From the left, the first one was fluke, second was fatty tuna. I forgot what the third & fourth were. The fifth was seared eel.

Honeydew matcha shot (with coconut foam on top)

This is actually considered a course, to cleanse your palate and prepare for the main course. I was full by this time, and I wasnt done yet. My main course was next!

Cajun grilled lobster w/crème fraîche dipping sauce

Steak with sweet potatoes

Of course, there was dessert, too!

Chestnut ice cream (left) and steamed pumpkin pudding cake

I should have only ate the cake. I think eating the ice cream was definitely TOO much!

My other half had:

I forgot what the top layer was, but under there, were 5 gyozas on top of a tomato bacon sauce. This would have been fine with soy sauce instead of the tomato sauce.

And his main course was:
16 oz. wagyu ny strip

The omakase menu consists of A LOT of food. You would think that the small dishes wouldnt be filling, but they were. I was impressed. I enjoyed it a lot. The food was great! The service was great. We're definitely going to go back soon, but I'll order something else on the menu.... there's so much more to try!

88 10th Avenue
(btwn 15-16th Streets)
New York, NY 10011

Photo by Alex di Suvero for The New York Times
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January 25, 2009

Green Tea Cupcakes w/Whipped Matcha

Matcha (抹茶) is a variety of fine, powdered green tea used particularly in the Japanese tea ceremony, as well as to flavour and dye foods such as mochi and soba noodles, green tea ice cream and a variety of wagashi (Japanese confectionery). The most famous matcha-producing regions are Uji in Kyoto, Nishio in Aichi, Shizuoka, and northern Kyushu.

I grabbed a bag from Ten Ren Tea Shop in Chinatown for $10.

I added the matcha powder to a classic vanilla cake recipe.
350 degree oven
Makes about 12 cupcakes

1/2 cup of butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1.5 cups flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup milk
1.5 teaspoons matcha powder

Beat the butter on high until soft and a touch lighter. Add the sugar and beat on medium high until light and fluffy. Add the egg, beating well to incorporate. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the batter and mix until well combined. Whisk the matcha powder with the milk and add slowly to the batter until well combined and mixed through. Spoon the batter into the cupcake papers until 3/4 full. Bake for about 12 to 20 minutes depending on cupcake size. Remove from tray to cool, then frost.

Whipped Matcha Cream
1.5 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon matcha powder
1 teaspoon vanilla

Whip cream until almost stiff. Add sugar, matcha powder and vanilla; beat until cream holds peaks.

THE VERDICT: The cupcakes came out nice & moist. They were a bit too sweet and the green tea flavor wasn't as strong as I hoped it would be. I will definitely make this recipe again but next time I will decrease the sugar to 3/4 cup and increase the green tea powder to one tablespoon. I lovvvvvvvveeeeeeeeeee the whipped matcha cream. Here, the green tea flavor was strong and it wasnt as sweet as I thought, which was a great combination with the little-bit-too sweet cupcake. The whipped cream is a keeper. I had some leftover and spooned it over some vanilla ice cream!!

Unfrosted & a frosted in the background

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January 22, 2009

100 Chinese Foods to Try

Here's an interesting food list i found on a very interesting blog! There are a lot of great recipes here, too.

How many of these have you tried? I emphasized the ones i have.
  1. Almond milk
  2. Ants Climbing a Tree
  3. Asian pear
  4. Baby bok choy
  5. Baijiu
  6. Beef brisket
  7. Beggar's Chicken
  8. Bingtang hulu
  9. Bitter melon
  10. Bubble tea - i admit it -- i've never had this
  11. Buddha's Delight
  12. Cantonese roast duck
  13. Century egg, or thousand-year egg
  14. Char siu (Cantonese roast pork)
  15. Char kway teow
  16. Chicken feet
  17. Chinese sausage
  18. Chow mein
  19. Chrysanthemum tea
  20. Claypot rice
  21. Congee
  22. Conpoy (dried scallops)
  23. Crab rangoon
  24. Dan Dan noodles
  25. Dragonfruit
  26. Dragon's Beard candy
  27. Dried cuttlefish
  28. Drunken chicken
  29. Dry-fried green beans
  30. Egg drop soup
  31. Egg rolls
  32. Egg tart, Cantonese or Macanese
  33. Fresh bamboo shoots
  34. Fortune cookies
  35. Fried milk
  36. Fried rice
  37. Gai lan (Chinese broccoli)
  38. General Tso's Chicken
  39. Gobi Manchurian
  40. Goji berries (Chinese wolfberries)
  41. Grass jelly
  42. Hainan chicken rice
  43. Hand-pulled noodles
  44. Har gau (steamed shrimp dumplings in translucent wrappers)
  45. Haw flakes
  46. Hibiscus tea
  47. Hong Kong-style Milk Tea
  48. Hot and sour soup
  49. Hot Coca-Cola with Ginger
  50. Hot Pot
  51. Iron Goddess tea (Tieguanyin)
  52. Jellyfish
  53. Kosher Chinese food
  54. Kung Pao Chicken
  55. Lamb skewers (yangrou chua'r)
  56. Lion's Head meatballs
  57. Lomo Saltado
  58. Longan fruit
  59. Lychee
  60. Macaroni in soup with Spam
  61. Malatang
  62. Mantou, especially if fried and dipped in sweetened condensed milk
  63. Mapo Tofu
  64. Mock meat
  65. Mooncake (bonus points for the snow-skin variety)
  66. Nor mai gai (chicken and sticky rice in lotus leaf)
  67. Pan-fried jiaozi
  68. Peking duck
  69. Pineapple bun
  70. Prawn crackers
  71. Pu'er tea
  72. Rambutan
  73. Red bean in dessert form
  74. Red bayberry
  75. Red cooked pork
  76. Roast pigeon
  77. Rose tea
  78. Roujiamo
  79. Scallion pancake
  80. Shaved ice dessert
  81. Sesame chicken
  82. Sichuan pepper in any dish
  83. Sichuan preserved vegetable (zhacai)
  84. Silken tofu
  85. Soy milk, freshly made
  86. Steamed egg custard
  87. Stinky tofu
  88. Sugar cane juice
  89. Sweet and sour pork, chicken, or shrimp
  90. Taro
  91. Tea eggs
  92. Tea-smoked duck
  93. Turnip cake (law bok gau)
  94. Twice-cooked pork
  95. Water chestnut cake (mati gau)
  96. Wonton noodle soup
  97. Wood ear
  98. Xiaolongbao (soup dumplings)
  99. Yuanyang (half coffee, half tea, Hong Kong style)
  100. Yunnan goat cheese

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    January 12, 2009

    The Ultimate Cheesecake

    Last weekend I was invited to a pot-luck dinner at the last minute (the day before). While on the phone with my girlfriend, I rummaged through the fridge to see what ingredients I had and found tons of cream cheese (reserved for cream cheese frosting for my cupcakes). Instead of making 2-3 dozen cupcakes for the pot-luck, I decided to make a cheesecake. I've made quite a number of cheesecakes, using various recipes and this is one of my favorites.

    Recipe courtesy of Tyler Florence

    I love Tyler & I think all his "ultimate" recipes are really good. This is a super easy cheesecake that's not too heavy with the cream cheese like typical most NY Style Cheesecakes are. I've made this many times and modified it (added pecans to the crust, omitted the lemon zest (because I didnt have any) & increased cooking time & temp.) For the potluck I used a 10" springform pan. Below, I used four 4.75" springform pans for four mini cheesecakes. After my mom saw the big cheesecake, she wanted her own.

    2 cups finely ground graham crackers
    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon sugar
    1 stick unsalted butter, melted
    1/4 cup crushed pecans (optional)

    1 pound cream cheese, 2 (8-ounce) blocks, softened
    3 eggs
    1 cup sugar
    1 pint sour cream
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

    In a mixing bowl, combine the crust ingredients with a fork until evenly moistened. Lightly coat the bottom and sides of an 8-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Pour the crumbs into the pan and, using the bottom of a measuring cup or the smooth bottom of a glass, press the crumbs down into the base and 1-inch up the sides. Freeze for 5 minutes.

    For the Filling:
    In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese on low speed for 1 minute until smooth and free of any lumps. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and continue to beat slowly until combined. Gradually add sugar and beat until creamy, for 1 to 2 minutes. Add sour cream and vanilla. Periodically scrape down the sides of the bowl and the beaters. The batter should be well mixed but not over-beaten. Pour the filling into the crust-lined pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

    Set the cheesecake pan on a large piece of aluminum foil and fold up the sides around it (I used two layers of heavy duty foil). Place the cake pan in a large roasting pan. Pour boiling water into the roasting pan until the water is about halfway up the sides of the cheesecake pan; the foil will keep the water from seeping into the cheesecake. Bake for 60 minutes. The cheesecake should still jiggle (it will firm up after chilling), so be careful not to overcook. Turn off your oven and pop open the door a little bit (use a wooden spoon). Let the cake cool in the oven for 30-45 minutes. This is what it looks like right out of the oven, nice & puffy.

    Then remove and cool for another 30 minutes before popping it into the refrigerator, loosely covered, for at least 4 hours. This is what it looks like as it starts to deflate.

    Loosen the cheesecake from the sides of the pan by running a thin metal spatula around the inside rim. Unmold and transfer to a cake plate.

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    January 11, 2009

    Pistachio Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream

    Have you ever had a pistachio cupcake from Sugar Sweet Sunshine? No? Go get one NOW! It's really that good. The cake is light and fluffy and the frosting, aka "the moose," is yummy. Of course, after tasting their Pistachio cupcake I would think that that recipe is really hard to come by. And it is! There are no recipes for a pistachio cupcake online or in any book. After some intense researching I found a recipe for "St. Patrick's Day Cupcakes" (aka Pistachio Cupcakes). And here's the recipe:

    1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
    1 (3 1/2 ounce) package instant pistachio pudding mix
    2/3 cup sugar
    2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    2 eggs, beaten
    1 1/2 cups milk
    1/2 cup vegetable oil
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    In a mixing bowl, add the first 5 ingredients; stir to combine.
    In another bowl, add the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla; stir to combine.
    Pour the liquid mixture into the dry mixture; stir until well mixed.
    Fill paper-lined muffin cups 2/3 full. Set oven at 350 degrees; bake for 18-20 minutes or until pick comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to finish cooling.

    I tinted my vanilla buttercream green just to make it feel more "pistachio-ness."

    THE VERDICT: Instead of using pistachio pudding, I'm going to use vanilla pudding because this recipe makes a really nice VANILLA cupcake. The pistachio pudding gave a hint of pistachio flavoring and the green coloring. This was nothing like Sugar Sweet Sunshine. I don't think i'll ever find that recipe. Might as well just head to the bakery for a geniune Pistachio Cupcake.
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    January 09, 2009

    Self Rising Flour vs. All Purpose Flour

    Here's a tip: You dont need to purchase self-rising flour when you only need a cup or two. To turn all-purpose flour into one cup of self-rising flour, add 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt to one cup of all-purpose flour.
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    January 05, 2009

    Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream

    Am i overdoing the chocolate buttercream? Not exactly. I really like this frosting & I made enough frosting for probably 3-4 dozen cupcakes. I actually made two dozen cupcakes on Sunday. One was the devil's food cupcake and the other was my next cupcake.... my Vanilla "Happy Birthday" Cupcake. The texture of this cake was similar to the white cupcake. I was hoping for a lighter cake but this was still tasty, especially when piled with CHOCOLATE.

    I LOVEEEEEEEEE January babies! To help them celebrate their birthdays, I will bake them cupcakes. Why January, do you ask? TAKE A GUESS! (And no, it's not because Chinese New Year falls in January this year.)

    The Cupcake: (makes 12 / 350 degree oven)
    2/3 cup whole milk
    1 cup flour
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    4 eggs
    1 cup sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Heat the milk in a saucepan over low heat until it is hot. Remove from heat, set aside.

    Sift the flour, baking powder & salt, set aside.
    In your mixer, beat the eggs & sugar on medium speed for about 3 minutes. Mix in the vanilla extract. On low speed, add in the flour mixture and beat for about 1-2 minutes. Slowly add in the hot milk, mixing for 30 seconds. Your batter should be smooth & very thin,

    Fill cupcake lined pans with about 1/2 cup of batter and bake for about 15-17 minutes. Cool then frost.

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    January 04, 2009

    Devil's Food Chocolate Cupcakes

    In additon to my red velvet hunt, I have now decided to do one for chocolate.

    To take a break from eating red velvet cupcakes every weekened, I decided to make chocolate cupcakes instead. Here was my first. Nice but now I want something dense and rich. So the seach began -- for chocolate fudge cake, devils food cakes, etc.

    And here's what I found: a simple, ONE BOWL recipe for Devil's Food Chocolate Cupcakes:

    makes 12 cupcakes / 350 degree oven

    1 cup flour
    1 cup sugar
    1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    3/4 teaspoons baking soda
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    3/4 cups milk
    1/4 cup butter (room temp.)
    1 teaspoons vanilla
    1 egg (room temp.)

    Put everything except the egg directly into your mixer bowl. Mix on low speed just until incorporated, about 2 minutes. Add in the egg, then beat on high speed for 2 minutes. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter into your pan (lined with paper). Bake for about 18 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool slightly in the pan then transfer to a rack to cool completely before frosting.

    THE VERDICT: The taste and texture were exactly the same as my first. I should have made this first cause it was super simple. Took me 15 minutes to prepare, 20 minutes to bake -- i had one dozen cupcakes in less than one hour. I'll make this recipe when I want a LIGHT cupcake.

    Frosted with the devine Chocolate Buttercream
    (scroll to the bottom of the linked post for the recipe)

    To be continued...
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    January 03, 2009

    Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

    As I sit here and blog about my creations, I also wonder if anyone else is baking what I bake. It's good to know that there are some people out there who do!

    A friend of mine turned my cupcakes into a cake! (She doubled the recipe, of course.)

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    January 01, 2009

    Spicy String Beans with Minced Pork

    HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! How about a non-dessert recipe to kick off 2009? I guess this would be filed in my "more" category.

    Here's something you might not know about me: I dont really cook.
    I dont like to. Don't ever ask me to host a dinner party at home, where I have to do all the cooking because I wont. Ask me to come to your place for dinner and i will make a side dish or dessert. I do cook when I have to... i mean, we have to eat at home now and then, esp. with the baby running around. We can't eat out ALL the time. So I have to come up with quick & easy meals. With all that said, here's an easy and very tasty dinner for two (plus some extra for a leftover lunch & the lil one).

    By the way, all the measurements don't have to be exact.... please feel free to use more or less, according to your tastes.

    1 lb minced or thinly sliced pork (i used minced cause it's easy to find at the supermarket)
    1 lb string beans
    1 tbsp. minced garlic
    1 tsp. grated ginger

    3 tbsp. white wine
    2 tbsp. soy sauce
    1/2 tbsp. sesame oil
    freshly ground pepper
    Marinate the pork in wine, soy sauce, sesame oil & freshly ground pepper. I do this the night before... its even better. I'm sure marinating 2 hours before would taste good, too.

    sauce when cooking:
    1 tbsp. chili garlic sauce

    1 tbsp. ground bean sauce

    1 tbsp. black bean with garlic sauce

    1 tbsp. sugar
    1 tbsp. oyster sauce
    Combine all this in a bowl when you're ready to cook and set aside.

    In a small bowl, make a slurry with 1 tbsp. corn starch and 1/4 cup soup stock or water.

    - roasted sesame seeds
    - scallions

    Putting it altogether:
    In a pan, heat oil and saute the string beans, garlic and a pinch of salt until they're tender, about 10 minutes. Take the beans out of the pan and set aside.

    Add a touch of oil to the pan and brown the meat and ginger for about 7-10 minutes. Add in the spicy sauce mixture & saute for about 5 minutes.

    Toss in some scallions.

    Add in the slurry and cook for another 5 minutes.
    Throw the string beans back into the pan with the meat & sauce and stir.
    Sprinkle in some sesame seeds and simmer for 2 minutes.

    Serve over white rice.
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