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Recipes

Deliciousness from Vera's Cookbook


Friday, August 26, 2016

Garlic Scape and Cherry Tomato Spaghetti




GARLIC SCAPE & CHERRY TOMATO SPAGHETTI
(YIELD: TWO servings / COOKING TIME: 15-20 min.)

INGREDIENTS


+ 160g spaghetti (dried)
+ 3-4 stems of garlic scapes
+ 10-12 cherry tomatoes
+ 2 cloves garlic
+ 2 tsp capers (drained)
+ 25g bacon (cut into small strips)
+ 1 Tbsp parsley
+ 2 Tbsp olive oil
+ salt and pepper




PROCEDURES


1. Boil a pot of water enough to cook 160g of spaghetti.

2. While waiting for the water to boil, prepare each ingredient:
- Halve the cherry tomatoes.


- Peel the garlic cloves and roughly chop. Make small diagonal dice with garlic scapes, and chop parsley leaves.



3. When the water boils, add salt to season the spaghetti, then cook spaghetti.



4. Over medium heat, cook bacon strips. Make sure the heat is not too high - if so, the bacon will just burn without rendering the fat.


5. When the bacon renders enough fat and also slightly browned, add chopped garlic and drained capers. If the pan is too dry, add some olive oil. Make sure the capers are crisped up, but the garlic is not burnt. Add garlic scapes and cook about a minute, then add halved cherry tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes are softened.


6. By now, the spaghetti should be cooked to al dente. If not, turn off the heat of the pan (#5) then wait till the pasta is cooked. When the spaghetti is ready, turn on the heat of the pan and add the pasta. Toss it around to mix with vegetables and bacon. Make sure the brown bits on the bottom of the pan are scrapped and coated to the spaghetti - it works almost like a sauce. When the spaghetti and other ingredients are mixed well, turn off the heat and add black pepper, chopped parsley leaves and rest of olive oil (if any left). Toss the pasta again to mix.


7. Plate the pasta into two bowls.



Please enjoy! :)



Saturday, July 30, 2016

Moist Lemon Cake



The summer in Seoul is hot and humid. When it is close to 90°F day after day, even eating food is challenging. Sadly, I just lose my appetite. So, I baked a super-duper moist lemon cake to revive my appetite. The following recipe is based on French Lemon Yogurt Cake recipe that I found in Epicurious. I adjusted the sugar and salt amount to my taste. It is very simple to make, but has a tone of citrusy sweet and tangy flavor. Hope you like the lemon cake as much as I do!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐)




One of my favorite Chinese food is Mapo Tofu.

It is packed with spiciness of Sichuan (a province in southwest China), which is famous for its spicy, hot and very fragrant cuisine. If you haven't tried Sichuan cuisine, you should try Dan-dan noodle, Kung Po Chicken (authentic version!), and Mapo tofu. (If you really enjoy spicy food, you should also try those crazy spicy hot pots.)

The following Mapo tofu recipe is a result of many recipe readings from books and websites as well as memory from my favorite authentic Chinese restaurant, and I have to say this recipe is one of my favorite. It is spicy enough but not overwhelming. It is full of flavors from pork, sauce and spices. And it took only ten minutes from start to finish. Hope you enjoy the Mapo tofu as much as I do.


MAPO TOFU (麻婆豆腐)
Spicy Silken Tofu from Sichuan, China


YIELD: ONE plate to share / COOKING TIME: 10 mins.


INGREDIENTS



+ 250g silken tofu
+ 120g ground pork loin
+ 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
+ 1 Tbsp minced garlic
+ 1 Tbsp minced scallion (+α for garnish)
+ 1/2 Tbsp minced ginger
+ 1 Tbsp red pepper powder
+ 1 Tbsp doubanjiang(豆瓣酱)*
+ 1/2 cup chicken stock (or water)
+ 1 tsp ground sichuan peppercorn**
+ salt & pepper


* Doubanjiang(豆瓣酱) is spicy bean paste sauce from Sichuan, China. You can find it easily in Asian grocery stores.

** I think the most interesting ingredient in Sichuan cuisine is the Sichuan peppercorn. Sichuan peppercorn, which looks like coriander seed with brownish red color, is not hot at all, but just creates tingly numbness in the mouth. This numbness works perfectly with spicy hot Sichuan chili pepper. Also, the gentle lemony fragrant from the peppercorn is very pleasant.



PROCEDURES



1. In a large wide pan - ideally, a wok - add vegetable oil, minced garlic, scallion, ginger and red pepper powder. Over medium-high heat, cook the aromatic ingredients until you can smell them together. Please be careful not to burn them.



2. Add ground pork loin and sauté. Season with a bit of black pepper while sautéing.



3. Add doubanjiang, and continue to sauté until all the ingredients are mixed well.



4. Pour chicken stock (or water) into the pan, and bring to a boil. Reduce the liquid little bit.



5. Slide in the diced silken tofu carefully. Season with a pinch of salt, then stir gently the tofu to coat with the sauce without breaking it.



6. Plate the Mapo tofu and sprinkle ground Sichuan peppercorn and some scallion.



Enjoy!




Friday, March 25, 2016

Chocolate Bread Pudding




I love big hearty bread. I always buy too much of them at a bakery.
And, this leads to a serious problem - STALE BREAD.

Here is what I do with the stale bread.
I first freeze it. When I have enough of them, I bake bread pudding.

Bread pudding is a simple dessert that is very easy to make. Yet, because it is too simple, it can be a safe and boring dessert as well. To give it a little more character, I tried to add some flavor to it. You can add flavor to the bread pudding itself, or you can make beautiful sauce or ice cream to go with the bread pudding.

Today, I baked chocolate bread pudding. Dark chocolate and cocoa powder give a slightly bitter and not too sweet true chocolate flavor to this moist bread pudding.
The best bread for this recipe will be hard crusted baguette or rustic bread. Since the bread pudding is very moist, if you are using soft bread, the result will be a very soft 'pudding'. If that is what you are looking for, please go ahead and use challah bread or even soft sandwich bread. Just please keep in mind that whichever bread you use for this recipe, the bread needs to be dried out.

This bread pudding goes perfectly with banana ice cream... about which I am going to post soon. :)


CHOCOLATE BREAD PUDDING
YIELD: 8-10 servings / COOKING TIME: 1.5 hrs. (HANDS-ON COOKING TIME: 15 mins.)


INGREDIENTS



+ 6 cups bread cubes, dried on the counter overnight
+ 150g 75% dark chocolate, chopped
+ 2 cups heavy cream
+ 1 cup sugar
+ 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa (or Dutch-Process Cocoa)
+ 4 large eggs
+ 2 egg yolks
+ 1 cup whole milk
+ 1/4 teaspoon salt


PROCEDURES



1. Combine the cream, sugar, unsweetened cocoa, and 100g chopped dark chocolate in a saucepan set over low heat. Stir well until the chocolate and sugar are melted. Turn off the heat.


2. Whisk four large eggs and two egg yolks, then add chocolate mixture from #1, milk, and salt. Whisk together to combine. This is the chocolate custard base.


3. Place the dried bread cubes in a baking dish, and sprinkle 50g chopped dark chocolate. Pour the chocolate custard base over it and push down the bread cubes to soak the chocolate custard base.


4. Let the bread mixture set at room temperature for 30 minutes so the custard base can be absorbed by the bread. While waiting, preheat your oven at 325°F (160°C).


5. Bake the bread pudding for 30 minutes, covered with a lid or cooking foil. Then bake again for about 10 minutes without cover.


Enjoy while it is still warm~




Friday, March 18, 2016

Caprese Salad




Like many other Southern Italian dishes, Insalata Caprese (meaning salad of Capri) is all about the fresh flavorful ingredients. You just need to slice tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and add some basil leaves with minimal seasoning (just olive oil, salt and pepper).

I'd like to tweak the classic Insalata Caprese recipe to add a little more refined look. It is still very easy to make - you only need 10 minutes, or you can make ahead of time and keep it in a fridge while you prepare the main dishes. Hopefully, the prettier look of my Caprese salad brings more fun to your table.


CAPRESE SALAD
My Version of Cute Tomato & Fresh Mozzarella Salad


YIELD: TWO plates / COOKING TIME: 10 min.


INGREDIENTS


+ ~10 heirloom cherry tomatoes with various colors
+ two slices of fresh mozzarella (1/2cm or 1/5" thick)
+ 2 heaping tsp basil pesto*
+ several baby basil leaves
+ high quality extra virgin olive oil
+ salt & pepper

* Please refer to FRESH BASIL PESTO post for the recipe.


PROCEDURES



1. Slice heirloom cherry tomatoes into 3mm (about 1/8") thick. Arrange the tomato slices by color.



2. Slice fresh mozzarella into 0.5cm (about 1/5") thick, and about 6-7cm (2.5-3") diameter. Place the fresh mozzarella on a plate.



3. Over the mozzarella cheese, spread 1 heaping tsp of fresh basil pesto.



4. Now, it is the fun part! Place the tomato slices over the cheese arranging by the colors as in the picture below.



5. Sprinkle several baby basil leaves, drizzle extra virgin olive oil on top, and season lightly with salt and pepper.




Hope you enjoy this recipe!





Saturday, March 12, 2016

Fresh Basil Pesto




Finally, the spring is coming! Spring reminds me of color green. Trees start having small buds, and hills turn green once again. Fresh vegetables are fresher in the market, and even the air smells refreshing and green. I bought a bunch of basil yesterday to celebrate the spring with basil pesto. :) It is so simple to make, but once you have it you can use it in so many recipes including pasta, ravioli, salad, sandwich, pizza.... you name it.

The following recipe will make one pint of basil pesto. If you are not using it all right away, please transfer your pesto into a small air tight jar and keep it in a refrigerator. Some pesto recipes call for lemon juice, but I didn't add any lemon juice because I think lemon juice loses its flavor quickly. You can add lemon juice when you are actually cooking the pesto. To make fresh basil pesto, you can simply put everything in a food processor and blend them together. Or, you can take a few more steps to make more flavorful and vibrant green pesto. Hope you try my recipe.


FRESH BASIL PESTO
YIELD: ONE pint / COOKING TIME: 10 min.


INGREDIENTS



+ 5 cups fresh basil leaves
+ 1/2 cup pine nuts
+ two garlic cloves
+ 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (or Grana Padano) cheese (about 40-50g)
+ 1 cup high quality extra virgin olive oil
+ salt


PROCEDURES


1. I prefer toasting pine nuts and a garlic clove just little bit... which will release oil from the ingredients and give the pesto a slight toasty & sweeter notes versus raw flavors. In a small pan, add two cloves of garlic and a half cup of pine nuts over low-medium heat without any addition of oil. Toss them together until pine nuts start to show light golden brown spots (about 2 minutes). Turn off the heat and cool off the pine nuts and garlic.



2. Grate Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for one cup. It weighs about 40-50g - from the internet, I found out that 50g Parmigiano-Reggiano yields only 1/2cup... well, I am not sure why my measurement was different from what I found on the internet. Please adjust the amount of cheese as you wish after tasting the final product. I think 50g should be enough though.



Now, set up the cooled down pine nuts & garlic, fresh basil leaves, grated cheese, extra virgin olive oil, and salt. A small rubber spatula will be handy to scrap down the pesto to the center of blender while you are adding ingredients, as well as to transfer the finished pesto to another container.



3. Pour the cooled down pine nuts and garlic to the mini food processor. Blend it until you don't see any big chunk of garlic. (You can use regular food processor, or even hand blender.)



4. Add fresh basil leaves (cleaned with water and pat dried) to the food processor in batches - you might be able to blend them at once if you are using regular size food processor. Blend them with a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil until the paste is smooth.



5. Add freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (or Grana Padano) cheese and blend together.



6. Finally, drizzle extra virgin olive oil while blending the mixture to make smooth pesto.



7. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt if needed. Transfer the pesto into a little jar and keep in the refrigerator until use. If you don't plan to use the pesto in the next two days, you can freeze it in an ice cube tray.



Hope you enjoy the pesto. Thank you!












Greeting

Hello to all food lovers


Dear all food lovers,

I am one of you... A food lover.

I loved to watch my mom cooking when I was a kid, I loved to help her cooking when I was a bit grown up to handle a pairing knife, I love to eat out with friends, I love to cook at home for me and my amazing husband.

This blog is about cooking... more than food itself.

I have had a thought about a cooking blog for a while since I started studying at French Culinary Institute. Oh well... however, working as a full time during the day at an office, and cooking three nights a week until 11pm didn't left me a lot of energy to start a blog.

After I graduated from French Culinary Institute a few weeks ago, I couldn't find any reasons to delay the launching of my cooking blog.

All food lovers! I hope you enjoy my recipes. And, please give me your tips to improve my recipes! Thank you!



Sincerely,
Vera, a food lover...

April, 2010








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