Tag Archives: food

Ryokan Repast

As I type, I am sitting in my tatami mat room at a stunning Hokkaido ryokan, or traditional Japanese inn. Recently reconstructed, this Noboribetsu ryokan is a creative blend of East and West built with comfort in mind. Beautiful baths, cozy couches, gorgeous green scenery, what’s not to love? But a ryokan stay would not be complete without an intricate kaiseki dinner. Last night’s food was rich, delicate, and oh so plentiful! It was so good that I forgot to document nearly half the meal. With that in mind, I thought I’d take this opportunity to showcase a May meal from a ryokan in Nagano.

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The dauntingly long, yet promisingly delicious menu.

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Our appetizers.

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Next up, sashimi!

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And… one of my favorite spring dishes: mountain vegetable tempura.

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Your basic nimono, or simmered dish.

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Polished off with pickles and rice.

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Of course, it wouldn’t be a true ryokan meal without a, shall we say unusual, fruity desert.

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The Very Best Baked Potatoes

Pippi, my family’s little yellow lab, had to go the vet last week, meaning a 45 minute trek to Tokyo’s suburbs. In the corner of the gravel parking lot across the street from the clinic stood a small vegetable stand. We bought some fresh cukes and a bag of baby taters before taking the dog for a turn around the neighborhood. On our walk, we passed a fairly large vegetable patch. Perhaps the origin of our produce? Gotta love fresh food.

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Anyways, the next morning, while hemming and hawing over breakfast possibilities, we remembered our baby potatoes. Why not? We thought.

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After thinly slicing the tots, we tossed them with a bit of olive oil, sea salt, and pepper, and stuck ’em in the oven. Crispy and warm, these potatoes made for a delicious, if unconventional day-starter.

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Recipe

Adapted from Donna Hay’s Salads and Vegetables

You’ll need…

  • some of the freshest potatoes you can find
  • olive oil
  • sea salt
  • pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC.

2. Thinly slice the potatoes as far down as possible without cutting all the way through.

3. Toss with a small quantity  of oil (gauge by the number of potatoes) and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.

4. Bake for roughly 40 min, or until cooked through.

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Three Cookies

 

I find making cookies to be immensely satisfying. Not only is dough doable in 20 minutes, but the the ingredients they call for rarely requires a trip to the supermarket and they’re ready to go after a mere 10 min in the oven! Over the past couple weeks, I’ve taken a few recipes for test drives. Here are my results:

No. 1: Ghirardelli Milk-Chocolate-Chip Cookies

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I rarely cook with any chocolate other than bittersweet. But with a couple bags of milk chocolate chips in the freezer, I thought, why not?

Although the cookies on their own were nothing special, they turned out to be exceptional ice cream vehicles. A chocolate chip cookie eaten on its own must to be jam-packed with chocolate in to be delicious in my book. However, add a little vanilla (or better yet, hokey pokey!) ice cream to mix, and they become otherworldly. These cookies are chewy, but at the same time just stiff enough to hold their own against a sandwiched scoop of melty ice cream.

You can find the recipe here. My only advice: add extra vanilla, chocolate, and pecans, while decreasing the white sugar by at least a quarter cup.

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No. 2: Donna Hay’s (Relatively Healthy) Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Let me be frank. Never, ever, use a chocolate chip cookie recipe that calls for oil instead of butter. In theory, these cookies sound great. No butter, a limited quantity of sugar, some of the flour replaced with oats. In reality, if you’re going to bake cookies, make the real thing, not some sort of facsimile.

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The dough looked great, but even at that stage it seemed like something was off. The taste wasn’t quite right. When the cookies came out, they were cute-looking and bite sized, but lacked that essential cookie chewiness, not to mention that gooey chocolatey, buttery, flavor. I should probably hedge this by conceding that I did not use high quality chocolate for this batch, as it was another attempt to deplete my freezer full of chocolate. Nonetheless, even the dough itself was unsatisfactory. When it comes down to good old chocolate chip cookies, the Joy of Cooking recipe is the way to go.

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No. 3: Peanut Butter Blossoms

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A couple days ago, I was twiddling my thumbs looking for something to bake, when I ran across a bag of mini hershey’s kisses stashed away at the bottom of a drawer. Turning the package over, I found the directions for peanut butter blossoms, one of my all time favorite cookies. Tweaking the recipe to suit my taste (and the contents of my fridge), I baked my third batch of cookies in two weeks. These cookies were sensational. Nutty, sweet, chewy, and of course chocolatey, they were perfect. Here is my take on peanut butter blossoms. Enjoy!

Recipe: Peanut Butter Blossoms

Adapted from Hershey’s

You’ll need…

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup crunchy natural peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup white sugar (plus extra for rolling)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp nonfat milk
  • 1-1/2 cups flour (sifted)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • at least a tbsp of vanilla extract
  • Hershey’s kisses–full sized or mini

1. Preheat the oven to 190ºC (375ºF).

2. Beat together the butter and peanut butter. Add the sugars, followed by the egg, milk, and vanilla. Slowly add in the flour, salt, and baking soda.

3. Roll the dough into 1-in sized balls. (They will expand quite a bit so keeping the size small is key.) Roll each dough ball in white sugar to coat it. Place them on a cookie sheet, leaving plenty of space.

4. Press kisses into the tops of each cookie–one if they’re normal sized, three if they’re mini.

5. Bake for 9-10 min. Allow to cool on the cookie sheet for at least 5 min before transferring.

(Note: the photograph above does not display a full batch of cookies. You can expect to make roughly 45 from this recipe.)

 

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Tokyo’s Little Slice of France: A Tale of Two Dinner Dates

Foodies are fun. There’s no doubt about it. Thus, when I discovered that a fellow debater was equally into eats, we had to hang out. Following a few–mostly successful–cooking sessions, we decided to go out to eat.

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Tucked into a quiet second story nook, Le Soufflé is one of Tokyo best-kept secrets. Although they have more to offer than simply soufflés, you can’t dine there without ordering at least one–or six in our case. (My sister came too, trust me, we were as reasonable as possible.)

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At each place setting, preserved under a glass table top is a series of diagrams illustrating the proper way in which to consume one of these creations. We followed these guidelines… more or less.

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The soufflés at Le Soufflé puff up out of their ramekins unlike any soufflé I’d seen before. Aerated and light, yet packed with flavor, they are sinfully good.

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For the savory portion of the meal, the three of us narrowed our choices down to three: mushroom, carrot, and salmon. These were promptly passed around until their disappearance. The salmon was unusual, but a little overwhelming, flavor-wise. The mushroom was tasty, but, taking us by surprise, the carrot stole the show. Slightly sweet, and thus perfect when eaten with a touch of the accompanying cream, it was dainty and delectable.

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After the success of our savory strategy, the three of us didn’t think twice before ordering three soufflés to split, once again: lemon, cassis, and praline. This time, not only was the soufflé itself flavored, but the accompanying sauce as well. Lemon and praline outshone cassis in my book, but it was a tough call, and one that we three debaters simply had to discuss at length.

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On to dinner number two. The cuisine? Once again French. This time, the crêpe place my French foodie friend goes to for a taste of home: Le Bretagne.

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We sat down at our little outdoor table, enjoying the cool June-night air that’ll disappear the second that rainy season, or tsuyu, hits. Boy, do we think alike. One savory galette and sweet crêpes it was. Not buts about it. The tomato-zucchini-cheese number disappeared rapidly, leaving us lying excitedly in wait for the main events: Valrhona chocolate with caramelized banana and “caramel complete,” salted butter caramel sauce and ice cream.

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You really can’t go wrong with caramel at crêperie. It’s always so perfectly sweet and salty. Just irresistible.

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Although we’ll be on separate continents come August, at the end of the evening, it wasn’t really goodbye–I see more foodie-fests in our future.

 

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Molten Chocolate Cake

Remember Araxi and that insane molten chocolate cake? Well, it was too good to live without.

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With a cakey around the edge and a gooey, chocolatey mess, in the middle it is not to missed and is even better when consumed with a generous dollop of ice cream!

(The recipe is available as part of the google books preview of Araxi’s sensational cookbook.)

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Sluts and Man-Whores

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What, you didn’t think I was talking about people, did you?

One typical Friday night, a couple friends and I decided to do a little baking. But this wasn’t just any cooking affair. We went all out with Slutty Brownies and Man-Whore Bars–sinful smorgasbords of chocolate confection.

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As evidenced by the above assembly, our only concern was loading up on sugar.

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Slutty brownies first: a chocolate chip cookie layer, topped with oreos, finished off with fudgey brownie.

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Next up, man-whore bars: chocolate chip cookie, followed by chocolate ganache, rice crispy treat, reese’s pieces, oreos, more rice crispy treat, more chocolate ganache, and extra chocolate chip cookie crumbs.

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We bought LOTS of marshmallows for an optimal marshmallow to rice crispy ratio.

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The finished products were delicious, yet a little overwhelming. But, then again, that was the point, wasn’t it?

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The slutty brownies were based on a recipe from one of my all time lifestyle blogs: the Londoner.

You’ll need one batch of chocolate chip cookie dough, one batch of brownie batter (chewy, not cakey, if you please), 16 oreos, and an 8×8 baking pan. I used the classic Joy of Cooking recipes–always a safe bet.

The procedure is simple. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Spread the cookie dough along the base of a greased 8×8 pan. Lay out the oreos in a neat grid, and pour the brownie batter over them evenly. Stick ’em in the oven for half an hour, or a little longer if the brownies still seem raw when tested with a toothpick.

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Man-whore bars are just as straightforward, with a few more bits and pieces.

The recipe is based on this gorgeous blog post.

The procedure is simple.

1. Bake a batch of cookies–the Joy of Cooking formula is the best in my opinion. (However, I recommend decreasing the butter just a touch–it’ll make for a less gooey cookie crust, something to your advantage, in this particular case). Spread a thin layer–about 1/4 in thick along the base of an 8×8 baking tin. Bake the rest of the dough on a cookie sheet–you’ll need it for the top layer of the bars. Bake them until golden, or according to whatever recipe you choose to use.

2. Next up: chocolate ganache. Melt 8 oz dark chocolate, 2 tbsp butter, and 3/4 cups cream in a double boiler. Let it simmer a bit and stir the mixture over the heat until it becomes shiny. Let it cool. After a few minutes, you can stick the bowl in the fridge to speed the process. At this point, spread half of the mixture evenly over your chocolate chip cookie base.

3. For the rice crispy treats, melt 3 tbsp butter in a large saucepan. Then add in 10 oz marshmallows. When those are all liquefied, mix in 4.5 cups of rice crispies.

4. Rice crispy treats solidify quickly so this stage is critical. Spread half of them over the chocolate ganache layer, then hurriedly sprinkle on the reece’s pieces or peanut butter cups. Lay out a grid of oreos on top of that and then cover that with the remaining rice crispy treat mix.

5. The the finishing touch, spread out the remaining chocolate ganache and press the cookie crumbs on top.

Et c’est tout! Bon appétit!

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Breakfast of Champions

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This week, I had the immense pleasure of spending a couple days at my future alma mater: Yale College. As far as I know, universities are not famed for their cuisine. Yale, however, did have one standout breakfast option: fresh waffles, soaked with school spirit in addition to maple syrup.

 

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Soho Sunday

The globetrotter that I am this spring, I now find myself in New York!

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On this sunny spring Sunday, Dad and I headed down to Soho for brunch.

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While exploring, we encountered this endearing little bulldog. Considering the purpose of my visit, this was definitely a good omen. Boola boola!

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The architecture was charming, but after a bit of wandering around, it was time to put food in.

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Dad had made a reservation for Sunday brunch at a happening little spot called Hundred Acres. People watching in New York is fabulous. We were sandwiched between a pair of very hungry New Yorkers – the quantity of food they managed to consume was utterly incredible – and and a trio of men sporting babies on their chests.

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For the food itself, Dad and I started by splitting something ricotta fritters with apple cider syrup. A very unusual and creative combination of sweet and savory flavors, they were to die for.

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For the main event, I had soft scrambled eggs with gruyere and mushrooms, accompanied by homemade cornbread and crunchy fresh greens. The melding of flavors and textures made for a very satisfying eating experience.

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Having tanked up on brunch, Dad and headed back outside to enjoy the sun, shop, and eventually hike our jet-lagged selves back uptown.

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Along the west side of the island, stretching from the Meatpacking District up to 30th Street, runs a swath of park called the High Line. The old elevated train tracks down here have been revamped and are now a NYC destination.

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The wooden deck chairs that line the High Line are elegant and relatively comfortable, in my opinion. On a sunny Sunday afternoon, they seem like the place to be.

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If you know where to look, there’s a great view of the iconic empire state building.

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It always feels like spring when the flowers come out. Daffodils are everywhere! (And they just happen to be my favorites!)

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Butternut Squash Soup

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You may recall that a couple weeks ago I was in Canada, eating an exquisite meal at Araxi, pouring over the cookbook longingly. Days later, that dinner was still fresh in my mind – that dark molten chocolate cake interior, those pickled beets, the texture of that incredible butternut squash soup. By Saturday, I could wait no longer.

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Recipe:

Adapted from Araxi: Seasonal Recipes from the Celebrated Whistler Restaurant

You’ll need…

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 sliced shallots
  • 5 lb butternut squash
  • 7 cups vegetable stock
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup whipped cream
  • 2 tbsp toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tbsp chopped chives
  • salt and white pepper

1. Heat the butter in a large saucepan (you’ll have to add in all of the squash later on) and sauté the shallots until they’ve become slightly browned.

2. Add in the squash and some salt and white pepper for seasoning, cover the pot, and cook for 20 minutes over low heat, or until the squash is soft.

3. Pour the stock in and let the mixture simmer for 5 minutes or so.

4. Stir in 1/2 cup of parmesan and then remove the soup from the heat after a couple minutes.

5. Pureé the soup thoroughly and pour it through a mesh sieve.

6. Stir in the whipped cream and add more seasoning as necessary.

7. Serve out portions, topping each portion with a bit of parmesan, a few pumpkin seeds, and a pinch of chopped chives.

Bon Appetit!

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Wasted on Chocolate

I know I haven’t posted in a little while… But now I’m back! And trust me, this cake well and truly makes up for my online absence.

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Dubbed Chocolate Wasted Cake, this sugary tour de force is deliciously decadent.

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I found this recipe while trolling around on what is perhaps one of my favorite buzzfeed lists ever: 71 Reasons Candy Hearts are Stupid, a string of 71 images of mouthwatering chocolate creations cleverly set to Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it On.”

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Chocolate Wasted Cake is constructed as follows. Two layers of chocolate cake, each soaked with a bit of liqueur, are glued together and coated with chocolate icing. Next, the sides of the cake are tiled with chocolate chips, the top with candy pieces. The final touch is a drizzle of chocolate ganache. Are you drooling yet?

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As I made minimal changes to the original recipe, I’ll leave you to refer directly to those directions.

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You’ll need LOTS of these.

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For the top of your masterpiece, the candy selection is up to you. The original recipe suggest kit kats, twix bars, and kisses. But butterfingers, snickers, and malted milk balls also make for a pretty heavenly combo.

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Hazelnuts and chocolate must be one of the best duos of all time. Frangelico is a liqueur that literally tastes like nutella. Why soak your cake with anything else?

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One slice of this baby and you’ll be wasted on chocolate goodness in no time.

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