Caprese Salad with Balsamic Vinegar

Caprese Salad is a refreshing staple in many Italian restaurants and a breeze to make at home. No need to cook anything! I actually made this as the appetizer for LJ Bistro 11, with homemade basil gnocchi as the main entree. Unfortunately, the gnocchi didn’t turn out quite as expected (LJ Bistro fail!! =(), but you can see my attempts below. Mistake? Too much egg in the mixture, not enough flour to absorb all that liquid. As a result, the pieces of gnocchi were too sticky and hard to shape.

However, the caprese salad produced much better results. It takes talent to really screw this one up..if you’re not a fan of balsamic vinegar, feel free to just drizzle olive oil on top! I love both versions. Fresh mozzarella and basil work best.

Ingredients:

2 beefsteak tomatoes, thickly sliced
8 oz fresh mozzarella, thickly sliced
8 leaves fresh basil
2 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Black pepper

Instructions:

1) Arrange tomato slices on plate. Place mozzarella over tomatoes, and the basil over the cheese.

2) Mix the olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a small bowl. Drizzle the dressing on top. Pepper to taste.

3) Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate about 30 minutes before serving.

My failed basil gnocchi! While it tasted fine after being cooked, the rest of the dough was just too soft and sticky to work with (and I didn’t want to throw in too much more flour). Lesson – No egg necessary next time around.

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Seafood Linguine With White Wine Sauce

The weather had yet to turn warm, and my immediate thought was to make a heavy, hearty dish to counteract the lingering winter chills. French food came to mind. Perhaps some Red Wine Braised Short Ribs or Boeuf Bourguignon? I could already taste the succulent pieces of meat and potatoes drenched in rich, full-bodied, wine-based sauce. Dishes cooked with wine always sound so fancy too.

Ultimately, my fattie inner thoughts lost out in the battle, and I decided to go with a dish that was lighter in flavor to complement the already fattening bacon wrapped scallops appetizer. I stayed true to the fancy “cooking with wine” idea though in designing the Seafood Linguine dish. While pasta is no friend to the carb-conscious, the white wine sauce, shrimp, squid, and clams medley were healthy sources of protein and flavor. Make sure to retain the clam juices – it adds loads of flavor to the sauce!

This was also my first time zesting a lemon. I had to use a sharp knife to peel off the yellow rind since I didn’t have a lemon zester or peeler. Be careful not to peel off any of the white spongey flesh below the thin layer of yellow skin. The white part is bitter, while the actual lemon zest provides that lemon citrus aroma.

Ingredients:

1/2 lb linguine
6 shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/3 lb squid tubes, rinsed
10 oz minced clams, with juices
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flake
1 cup white wine
1/2 tsp lemon zest
Parsley
Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt
Black pepper

Instructions:

1) Cook linguine according to instructions on package, removing from pot and draining 1 minute before reaching al dente.

2) Heat olive oil in large griddle and cook garlic and crushed red pepper until fragrant.

3) Melt the butter in the same griddle and add the shrimp, squid, and minced clams. Pour the clam juices into the pan as well.

4) Add the white wine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for another 3-5 minutes until wine reduces.

5) Season the sauce with parsley, salt and pepper to taste.

6) Add the cooked linguini to the seafood sauce. Mix well and simmer for 1-2 minutes so the pasta absorbs some of the sauce. Add more salt and pepper if necessary.

There was actually a 3rd component to this meal. However, it seems like I’m not cut out to be a baker. =( The lemon meringue pie I made failed on the meringue. When they recommend you whip the egg whites well, they mean it…

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Miso Glazed Salmon

There’s more to Japanese food than sushi and ramen. Armed with my Quick & Easy Japanese Cuisine recipe book,  I was ready to explore the cooked side of this delicate cuisine. The book was filled with dozens of delicious, traditional Japanese recipes, making it very difficult to narrow down my choices. I finally settled on 4 dishes, making sure to line the page edges of future recipes.

Dashi stock forms the basis of many Japanese dishes. While instant mixes are available, I wanted to try my luck at making the soup stock from scratch. The version I made used only kombu (giant flat piece of kelp), but common dashi stock also uses dried bonito flakes or dried sardines. Leftover stock can be stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 days or may be frozen.

Miso mixture, ready to be spread on the salmon!

I halved the following recipe for two (had to leave some room in our bellies for the teriyaki chicken drumsticks and chicken gizzard yakitori!)

Ingredients:

4 salmon steaks or fillet (about 1 inch thick)
2 oz shiro miso
1 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp dashi stock
1 egg yolk

Dashi stock ingredients:

1 1/3 oz or 6 inch of kombu (kelp)
4 cups of water

Instructions:

1) Follow the instructions below to make the dashi stock. Mix the shiro miso, mirin, and dashi stock in a small bowl.

2) Add the egg yolk and mix thoroughly until the sauce is smooth and glossy.

3) Brush miso mixture over the salmon.

4) Broil for 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily (test with a fork). I like my fish tender and closer to medium rare, so 10 minutes was perfect for me.

How to make dashi stock:

1) Wipe kelp with a damp paper towel. Soak in 4 cups of water for an hour.

2) Bring the water and kelp to the boiling point, but remove the kelp before the water actually boils.

The miso mixture is very versatile and can also be used on other fish filets and scallops. Mmhmhmm miso glazed cod…

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Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies

Soft, warm shortbread cookies fresh from the oven are amazing. And they can only taste better with some ground Earl Grey tea leaves added to the mix. We were concerned that 2 tablespoons of tea leaves would overpower the cookie, but it turned out to be the perfect amount.

The ground leaves also added mini dark flecks and a slightly gritty texture, something which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp loose Earl Grey tea leaves
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature

Instructions:

1) Mix the flour, tea leaves, and salt in a large bowl.

2) Add the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract, and butter. Mix until a dough is formed.

3) Place dough on a sheet of plastic wrap, and roll into a log, about 2 1/2-inches in diameter. Tightly twist each end of wrap and shape the log into a long rectangular cube. Chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes.

4) Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Slice the log of dough into 1/3-inch thick disks. Place on lined baking sheet, 2 inches apart. Bake until the edges are just brown, about 12 minutes. Let cool on sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to plates and cool to room temperature.

While warm, try the shortbread cookies with some vanilla ice cream! Whoever popularized the combination of hot, freshly baked cookies and scoops of cold vanilla ice cream is genius. The cookies were also a hit with the coworkers, a perfect little snack for everyone around the Holiday season. English Breakfast cookies next?

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Creme Brulee

Hong Kong made me lazy and fat. My 10 days vacation was filled with unrestrained eating and picture-taking of the food I ate. There were days where I had 6-7 full meals, mostly consisting of multiple breakfasts and late night binging. While the food there isn’t mainland cheap (and definitely not the nightlife), the exchange rate still worked in our favor. Of course, I also got fitted for a spiffy new tailored suit…just waiting for the next opportunity to wear it for work.

It always takes a few days to adjust after such a long term indulgence, both diet-wise and work motivation. However, here’s to 2011, a new year, new happiness, new goals. =) HK food pictures to come soon!

To finish off the LJ Bistro #7 round, such a hearty meal of steak and creamed spinach couldn’t be complete without dessert. I slyly asked Andrew about his favorite desserts a few weeks earlier so he wouldn’t suspect a thing on the creme brulee front.

I even bought the cute mini ramekins with him at Pier One Imports! Since I didn’t want to spend money on a kitchen torch I would only use sparingly, I went the broiler route to brown the top. I accidentally made the sugar crust a bit too thick, but it was fun to break through with a spoon. 😀 And terribly fun to eat the sweet crunchiness. The recipe calls for 2-3 minutes in the broiler, but mine actually took about 5 minutes to brown. Just pay attention and don’t let it burn!

Ingredients:

2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup white sugar
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 egg yolks
4 tablespoons white sugar

Instructions:

1) Preheat oven to 300 degrees F and line the bottom of a large griddle with a damp kitchen cloth.

2.Bring a large pot of water to boil. While water is boiling, combine cream, 1/4 cup sugar and salt in saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally 4-5 minutes, until steam rises.

3) In a medium bowl, beat egg yolks and vanilla until smooth. Pour hot cream into yolks, a little at a time, stirring constantly, until all cream is incorporated. Pour mixture into four 6 oz. ramekins. (I halved everything in the instructions since I only made 2 creme brulees)

4) Place ramekins on towel in baking dish, and place dish on oven rack. Pour boiling water into dish to halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover whole pan loosely with foil.

5) Bake 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, until custard is just set. Chill ramekins in refrigerator 4 to 6 hours.

6) Before serving, sprinkle 1 tablespoon sugar over each custard. Use a kitchen torch or oven broiler to brown top, 2 to 3 minutes.

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Shrimp and Egg Scramble

Most of my favorite Chinese dishes are the simplest ones that don’t require 20 different ingredients and over-excessive garnishes. These are the dishes I have fond memories of my mom cooking in the kitchen, wearing her worn out red apron with her hair tied back, putting together a 3-4 course dinner every night after a long day of work. We always had dinner as a family every night (though that’s not to say we didn’t have the TV on in the background occasionally).

Our meals usually centered around a nice healthy serving of white rice with two or three savory stir fried dishes. We almost always ended our meals with a bowl of piping hot soup, which in itself was a main dish since Asian soups are rarely without large chunks of vegetables and meat literally falling off the bone from hours of simmering.

I consider this shrimp and egg scramble one of the fundamental Cantonese homecooked dishes and definitely a dish for New Year’s. It’s easy to whip up, and honestly you don’t even need the cornstarch or sesame oil if you don’t have any in the pantry. However, I do like the nutty aroma from a few drops of sesame oil on my food (and this is coming from a girl who doesn’t exactly go nuts for nuts).

Ingredients:

1/2 pound raw shrimp
4 eggs
1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp sesame oil
Salt
Black pepper
Olive oil

Instructions:

1) Wash, de-shell, and devein the shrimp. Pat dry.

2) Combine the shrimp, salt, pepper, cornstarch, and sesame oil. Mix well and marinate at room temperature for 10 minutes. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl.

3) Heat up the oil in a large pan and add the shrimp. Spread the shrimp out in the pan and let fry untouched for 1 minute.

4) Flip shrimp over and fry on the other side for another minute, or until cooked through.

5) Pour the eggs over the cooked shrimp. Push the egg towards the shrimp so some of the egg sticks to the shrimp. Season with some more salt. I like my eggs a little runny in the middle so I cooked for about 1 minute. Serve immediately.

If you like spicy, try this with some sriracha. 🙂

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Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits Recipe

In case the butter alone in biscuits wasn’t enough to tempt your natural human instinct for fat, try this recipe that also incorporates cheddar cheese into the warm fluffy buttermilk biscuits. Created to imitate the complimentary Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits, this homemade version tastes less buttery but just as delicious (and less butter = more heart healthy!)

served the biscuits alongside a nice thick slab of cheesy layered seafood lasagna. Recipe coming next!

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups Bisquick (I used Jiffy buttermilk) baking mix
3/4 cup cold whole milk
4 tbsp cold butter (1/2 stick)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Spreading sauce:
2 tbsp butter, melted
1/4 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp garlic powder
pinch salt

Instructions:

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine Bisquick with cold butter in a medium bowl using a large fork, leaving small chunks of butter after mixing.

2) Add cheddar cheese, milk, and 1/4 teaspoon garlic to the Bisquick and mix.

3) Shape the dough into approximately 1/4-cup portions and drop them onto an ungreased cookie sheet. I actually used a measuring cup to shape my biscuits. Be sure to leave enough space between the biscuits so they can expand!

4) Bake for 15-17 minutes or until the tops of the biscuits begin to turn light brown.

5) When you take the biscuits out of the oven, combine the ingredients for the “spreading sauce”. Brush this garlic butter over the tops of all the biscuits.

Makes one dozen biscuits.

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Steamed Chinese Long Lee Fish

“Good Canto” often meant “Hong Kong Canto” at NYU Stern, where my classes and social circles were dominated by fellow Asians, and I was informed by countless peers that my Cantonese sounded “funny”. Funny as my accent seemed (stemming from the parentals’ Wuzhou heritage), I never let it stop me from ordering dim sum in Chinatown or buying cheap fruits and veggies at the street stands. In fact, I always felt quite at home in Chinatown, where the fake goods hawkers still stand on street corners with their walkie talkies, yelling out brand name labels to entice passerbys to check out their warehouse goodies.

However, there was still one hurdle left to conquer. In all my years living in the city and countless hours in Chinatown, I had never done one thing: bought fish.

Now these are not your usual fish fillets, neatly scaled, deboned, and packaged at your local grocery store. These are freshly caught (or I’d like to think so) whole pieces of fish in all their glory, laying on beds of ice and waiting patiently for the chance to become someone’s next meal. I avoided buying fish in the past due to the dizzying variety and indecipherable Chinese characters, but I absolutely had to get fish for my first homecooked New Years feast.

I bombarded my dad with questions on which fish to buy before making the final decision – Long Lee please! Long Lee, known as Sole in English, was a flat, flaky fish my parents used to steam at home. When buying fish, always have the fishmonger scale and gut the fish. You have enough to worry about with all that bone left intact, and you don’t want the guts muddying up the flavor.

Steamy Kitchen had an excellent suggestion for serving the fish. Instead of traditionally serving the steamed fish with its cooking juices and cooked herbs, create a fresh herb sauce to drizzle on top. The modified recipe below is inspired by Jaden’s recipe.

You will need a dish to hold the fish and a large pot or wok for steaming. I bought one of those metal steamer legs on which to rest the dish, but you can also place an inverted bowl in the pot/wok to hold the plate of fish above the steaming water.

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Potato Leek Pizza

Hello world! Tried and true, no matter how busy life gets, I will never abandon Ling Li Eats. Wearing many different caps has kept me running around the last few months, but believe me when I say I would never give up the invaluable opportunity to do what I actually enjoy. Priceless 🙂

The potato leek pizza, a la Pioneer Woman, is a tribute to my favorite food group on the food pyramid (though to be fair, it’s pretty much neck-to-neck with the meats). Forget the Atkins diet, carbs make such excellent comfort food. Add some crumbled dairy on top, some thinly sliced meats aka bacon, a few strands of vegetables, and voila!

You have yourself a well balanced meal. I usually go for your standard marinara sauce pizza with mozzarella cheese and pepperoni/mushroom/sausage, so adding potatoes, leeks, and my goodness, goat cheese?? to my pizza was a fascinating new concept.

I cheated last time I made pizza from scratch, using Boboli pizza crust as a base. No shortcuts this time. I had serious concerns about the dough being too sticky, but setting the covered dough in a warm area fixed that right up. Watching the yeast work its magic on the dough was well, kinda magical!

Thin layers of sliced red potatoes.

Ingredients:

1/2 recipe for Pizza Crust (see below)
6 slices thick-cut bacon, 1-in pieces
3 Leeks, rinsed well to remove grit and thinly sliced
5 small red or Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced paper thin
1 lb fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced thin
4 oz goat cheese, crumbled
Grated Parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Instructions:

1) Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Spread pizza crust in baking pan and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt.

2) Fry the bacon over medium heat until cooked but not crisp. Set aside.

3) Leave some of the bacon fat in which to saute the leeks. Cook the leeks until soft, about 3 minutes. Set aside.

4) Use a sharp knife or mandoline to thinly slice the potatoes. Arrange the potatoes in a single layer over the crust, slightly overlapping the edges. Sprinkle lightly with salt.

5) Lay the mozzarella slices in a single layer on top of the potatoes. Place the leeks on top of the cheese, then arrange the fried bacon pieces over the leeks.

6) Sprinkle more crumbled goat cheese, grated Parmesan, and pepper on top.

7) Bake the pie for 8-11 minutes, until the edges of the crust are golden brown and the cheese is melted and bubbly. Slice and serve immediately.

How to make Pizza Crust:

Yield: 2 pizza crusts

Ingredients:

1 tsp or 1/2 packet active dry yeast
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, more for drizzling

Instructions:

1) In a mixing bowl, pour the yeast over 1 1/2 cups of warm water, stirring gently.

2) Combine the flour and salt in a separate bowl. Drizzle in the olive oil and mix well.

3) Add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture, mixing until the dough forms a ball. (I used my hands)

4) Drizzle a little olive oil into a clean bowl. Toss the dough into the bowl and turn to coat. Cover the bowl with a moist kitchen towel and set in a warm place for 1-2 hours. You can also cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge for up to 2 days.

5) Once the dough has risen, divide it in half and stretch the dough to the desired shape, pressing it into an oiled 13×9 griddle with your fingers. The thinner the better. The surface of the dough should be lumpy from finger marks so it receives and holds toppings better. The remaining dough be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerated up to 3 days before use, or frozen for up to 6 months.

Mmhmm…Delicious pizza, fresh out of the oven. With the pizza loaded with toppings, it was actually easier eating with forks and knives. Excellent flavors with the potato, leek, bacon, goat cheese combination.

Silly me overestimated the amount of dough necessary per square inch though, resulting in a thicker than desired pizza crust. If that happens to you, I recommend either sticking it back in the oven for a few more minutes or doing what I actually did. I placed a few pizza slices in a griddle and crisped the bottoms over the stovetop. Yum.

To continue the story of my Florida adventure, which unfortunately already feels like a faint memory of the past, we roadtripped to Orlando that Friday after 2 nights of warm sunny Miami beaches. Amidst the mandatory BCG mingling and organized events, we were still able to scrap together an entire day of doing whatever we wanted. First choice without even the slightest doubt in our minds: HARRY POTTER WORLD, HERE WE COME!

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Bacon Wrapped Scallops with Sriracha Mayo

I find the smell of bacon absolutely irresistible. I love watching the thin strips sizzle on the griddle, bathing in its own fat, the meat slowly curling up as it browns to a crispy perfectionShark Tank featured an entrepreneur with a prototype of a pig-shaped alarm clock that wakes you up in the morning with freshly cooked bacon.

I want. Now. (The idea, unfortunately, could not find an investor on the show. Potential fire hazard… plus I guess I would prefer to have the smell of bacon drifting in from the kitchen rather than from the adjacent nightstand).

Bacon is a great enhancement to any dish (bacon bits in salad? YUMM), and it was just one of those fatty, lazy weekends. 

Bacon wrapped around scallops is amazingly good, and make for great appetizers at parties. Of course, I was cooking for two, so the leftovers just made for a great snack the next morning. The spicy mayo dip provides a great kick to the dish, and you should definitely adjust the amount of Sriracha based on your spiciness tolerance.

Ingredients:

8 sea scallops
8 slices bacon
1/3 cup teriyaki sauce
Olive oil
8 toothpicks

Spicy Mayo Dip:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 tbsp Sriracha Hot Chili
1/2 lime, juiced
1 tbsp chopped cilantro

Instructions:

1) Marinate the scallops in the teriyaki sauce for 20 minutes.

2) Wrap each scallop in a piece of bacon and secure with a toothpick. Place the scallops on a lined baking sheet. Cook under the broiler for 10-15 minutes until bacon is thoroughly cooked.

3) Combine the ingredients for the Spicy Mayo dip. Stir well. Enjoy with the bacon wrapped scallop!

Inspired by Griddle Chef

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