The Asian Balsamic Vinaigrette recipe I created. After ten years since it's conception, I still love it, and lots of other people do too.
What's I like most about it, is it takes away the sharp spikey taste of cheaper Balsamic Vinegar, and unlike the supermarket brands it's not doused with sugar making it too sweet. It's also not expensive like the higher quality vinaigrette you get at specialty markets.
This is sweet and tart at the same time.
But beware, this isn't something you make on the day, it has to be put in the fridge for at least a week or two before the tastes are all absorbed into each other.
But for your own personal taste it's worth making it for the day and see if you like it.
I generally just put everything in without measuring it. A lot of times, when I am about to finish up a bottle of the sauce or oil I make a batch so I can open a new one. So just be aware you may want to put more or less of something in the future, to suit your taste.
Mostly.. I think it's about :
200ml or 8.5 ounces of Balsamic Vinegar,
Two table spoon each of soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil
1 table spoon of honey
Salt and Pepper to taste.
Leave in the fridge for at least a week, but improves with time. Can keep a long while.
This bottle was made Oct 28th. I will come back with more details. It's the first time I have measured how long it takes to marinate.
We just had the potato salad I already made yesterday, and then toasted the leftover frozen egg bread to go with it. We ate a bunch of carrots and cauliflower leftover from yesterday and with hummus. Finished the smoked salmon, the prosciutto, and corn.
It's good to remember to check your fridge and finish everything up.
At the farmers market, we bought avocado honey instead of the usual wild flowers just to try something new. Despite tasting fine at the market stall when we tried it on a little plastic soon, it was far too strong for day to day use for us.
So I wanted to use it for other things so it wasn't just sitting there. I had some nuts, so honey roasted nuts seemed perfect.
It all went well, it smelled great, it tasted amazing when I tried it. That was until the last moment. It burnt. Just like the recipe warned to look out for. Except by the time, you knew it was burnt, it's too late to save. The recipe probably should have taught us to look for the signs it was ready.
At around ten minutes, I felt they were ready to be taken out of the oven, but the recipe said it needed 20 minutes. So I left it in for longer. So it burnt.
I don't know why I followed the recipe. I didn't have to wait for the nuts to cook through, just the honey to dry and harden.
I was mad! I wanted to eat them, and that was the last of the nuts.
As I always say, pay attention to the food, and don't follow the cook time of recipe blindly.
And know plenty of mistakes were made, before beautiful food photographs are posted.
It's the simple grilled eggplant with cheese. Put the eggplant in the grill/broiler for about 20 minutes and turn it over for another 20.
Open it up with a knife and put grilled cheese on top. Put it in for another few minutes.
Once it's melted -you can eat it. Can have it with pita bread, bread, rice, pilaf... etc.
Although my son eats most things, eggplant is not one of them, so I gave him an Indian chicken pie we bought last night at the farmers market.
We had Fuji Apples tonight.
*Usually you do not want to burn things, except eggplant if you want it to be soft, juicy, smokey and edible. It has to be blackened and burnt on the outside. Remember if it's not cooked through.. put it back in!
This day and age, for Halloween, children want to be characters. They want to be walking advertising for some franchise from a multi-mega-million-dollar company.
I hate that, therefore my son and I always made his costumes together. Starting at three, he helped me, he picked the colors, placed bits of felt and glued things on. It was a nice tradition until last year when he announced he wanted to be a Star Wars Clone. I whined, I begged him, I tried to bribe him, but there wasn't much choice, as he had to be willing to wear it.
This year, he wanted to be the same, except a different clone. Since "clones" are meant to be all exactly the same, I don't understand the premise that he had a number of choices. We even went to Party City early.
But two days ago, his teacher reminded the class their costumes had to be easy to take off and to put on as they needed to go to the bathroom.
The Red Clone outfit is a one piece! It's really tight! He needed help with tying the back thus he needed another costume! One I can make! Lets make an animal! Lets make a bird! Toucans are fun!
I have to admit, I spent quite a few hours on it, sewing mostly, and trying different ways to make the hat which in the end, I used a bike helmet.
It's hard to justify that many hours into a project that was to be only worn for one day at school.
But I found sewing so fulfilling (who knew?), so I kept making it more elaborate because I enjoyed the process so much.
The octopus was amazing, the duck a solid good, the pavlova, most beautiful but the cream to meringue ratio was off so the last bites were dry. I liked looking at it a lot though. The NZ house white was good and round. My cousin loved his ribs. I wasn't too keen on the tuna on lettuce, but I am not keen on tuna.
It's genuinely a beautiful restaurant, very glamorous, and on a Friday night had a great atmosphere.
As a tourist walk in, it did cross my mind the host might have been reluctant to sit us as we weren't dressed as well as everyone but we did get a table in the end. She did say it was fully booked a week ago. So make reservations!
The waiter was efficient and laid back. Hard to find him sometimes as he had a lot of tables, but the service was good.
I really liked being in the restaurant. It had a great vibe, and considering the prices in Sydney, it was very reasonable for the what the place was.
I left my jumper and the waiter called me to let me know himself. That was really nice of him.
This is just a fun place to dress up and be in. The food is good too. If you don't know what to do on the weekend, or visiting and want some Sydney cool, pop in.
A bread machine is one of many unnecessary kitchen appliances that sits enticingly at Target. It also takes up space in many a kitchen, unused, with its owner feeling slightly guilty at the expensive purchase.
It's a machine that allows you to throw in a bunch of ingredients, then after a few hours, a loaf of bread in a metal bucket slides out. It takes about three hours longer than driving to the supermarket and buying some bread.
This I know.
So the machine isn't here to help anyone learn to cook or start cooking regularly. It's here because I bought one for US$10 at a consignment/donation store for retirees who are downsizing just as I started this blog.
But for today, I needed to use up my slowly darkening bananas, a container of sour cream (leftover from having burritos) and the slightly burnt nuts. Banana nut bread seemed the most intuitive, and I came across a recipe that needed sour cream as well. Perfecto.
I didn't have vegetable oil so decided avocado and canola mix was thin enough and tasteless to be a substitute. Probably could use a mild olive oil as well. I didn't end up putting the burnt nuts in, it wasn't worth ruining a whole loaf of bread because I was too cheap to use 1/3 cup of fresh pecans. I threw in a handful of granola, with a few raisins, that my son left in a bowl when he snacked.
The recipe suggested a ratio of 2/3 cup of sugar with 1 and a half cup of flour which was far too much, so the sugar was halved. It still turned out still a little on the sweet side. If I make it again, I will half that again.
But over all I had a moist, not dense, banana nut bread with none of the washing. No flour to wipe up, no pan to scrub, no bits of dough cemented on a mixing bowl and wooden spoon that I left too long before washing. I really was surprised how much easier it was to make banana bread in the machine opposed to just in a pan.
While simultaneously working on my son's Toucan costume for the school's Halloween parade, and supervising him painting a pumpkin turquoise blue for a school project. I noticed it was 6:30pm and I should have started making dinner.
It's Monday, we have to return to the daily routine.
I have been planing to make chicken burritos since Friday, and once again, had not made the guacamole.
The kitchen was a disaster from all the Fresh and Easy branded products I have bought, as they are closing, that I have not put away. No space and no time to chop up cilantro, onions and tomato. Please, let the avocados be viable tomorrow, they were bought to be used on Friday.
I then boiled some water, cut up some cauliflower, and put that and store bought pre-cut carrots into it.
I try to eat by colors; we had red and orange but no green.
So I slipped in a prepared foiled box of asparagus in the broiler. I love that dish, but guess what? That's part of the F&E line too, so no longer.
The only unfrozen meat I had was bacon, which we usually only get during school vacations, but since F&E was closing, we bought all our favorite products from their brand. (That is three references to F&E in three sentences.)
I cooked too many pieces, or at least, I cooked too many calories worth.
There is no question, that it was not very healthy and generally uninspired but the meal took only 15 minutes to make and tasted great. So much so, that my son willingly ate four pieces of asparagus.
Ironically, today, the World Health organization announced that processed meat is a cancer risk, but this article at least said, bacon once in a while wouldn't make a difference.
It's completely possible to make a very quick and simple dinner, at the last minute. It's even quicker than heating up fish fingers.
Tonight's fruit was fresh strawberries, and we snacked on dried bananas before bed.
For my son's lunch. We had more F&E pesto pasta (I have two more boxes I put in my freezer), strawberries, carrots and cauliflower with hummus.
Intricate and unique vintage tea cup and saucer my hairdresser found. It's Japanese and made with porcelain. Neither of us have ever seen an off centered setting for the cup before. Maybe it's a sea shell?
The rest of the accessories she also picked up in vintage stores.
We can drink tea and coffee with a mug but with a little bit of taste and heart, a serving can become something beautiful.
After picking up some gorgeous bags, bracelets and earrings from the truly one-of-a-kind person and designer Fahmina (I sometimes sell for her), I stopped at Take a Bao in Studio City to meet a friend for dinner.
"Bao," is the Chinese word for "steamed bun," and "Take a Bao," is a casual, counter order, Asian Fusion restaurant.
I went there specifically, to try the namesake baos they had. Menu.
I also tried the pork belly and chicken, that my friend ordered. Both were great.
All of them were familiar, but new at the same time. It's restaurants like these that help you be a better cook. It takes time to develop a palate, where you can start tasting how ingredients go together, and the unexpected will highlight the taste of something.
Experiencing how others create new tastes is so inspiring, it opens new possibilities in the kitchen. At some point, I may try and make these, or something that tastes similar, otherwise subconsciously I learnt different combination.
Be brave: put things that might go or might not go together -a try.
Who knew a rice cooker could be used as a pot? Just fill it with hot water, click the on button, and once it boils, it cooks lettuce, eggs, and Dolls instant noodles (separately by the way).
My girl, and designer Fahmina had suggested instead of buying lunch, I could bring something and use her small kitchen at her store in Topanga Canyon.
She texted, "Where r u from? Singapore or Hong Kong? I am obsessed in loove w that side of the planet food."
A small kitchen, something local, easy to cook.
Dolls instant noodles of course. A staple in Hong Kong for every occasion. Something to have late at night after going out or a long game of mahjong. Something to have when friends were over, and everyone want to stay in. Something to have when there was nothing left in the kitchen or someone had never learned to cook.
But for me, it was the one thing I had to have while catching a boat to Cheung Chau, an Island off Hong Kong, on it an old fishing village, with no cars, and a pirate cave.
It took an hour on the slow ferry, and my cousins and I would go over to the food counter, and ask for the noodles, and think we were so grown up, ordering food ourselves.
Those were Fook/Lucky Brand noodles, not Dolls, but just as good.
The sailor, with his blue uniform and white trim, doubled up as the tuck shop keeper, turned on the electric burner and placed a kettle on top (it was on a boat!), heated up the water, and poured it into a styrofoam bowl where the noodles had been placed.
He would then put a piece of ham or pre-cut spam on top, and if we asked, an already fried egg with the edges brown and crispy that he kept in a red plastic box.
When it was done, the white opaque plastic lid would be pressed on tightly, and we walked back at a speed that was specific to balancing noodles on a boat. We had to be quick so not to burn our hands, but not run because the boat was moving, and we didn't want to spill or drop our bowls. It was always a relief when we reached the tables. We sat, waiting for it too cool, and when it did, our treat complete.
In Fahmina's very small kitchen, we too had to improvise. There wasn't a pot, but there was a burner.
There was a rice cooker that she said we could cook in, despite being slightly skeptical, I tried.
We picked the beef flavored, and the sesame oil noodles.
Once the water in rice cooker heated up the water to boiling point, the lettuce cooked as fast as in a pot. The noodles softened, and the eggs which we poached, worked out fine as well.
In fact, the eggs came out at the optimum consistency so when the egg yolk was broken, it covered the noodles.
Then I discovered we had no bowls and no chopsticks.
We found two glass jars and two forks.
That would work.
I scooped up the noodles, waited for the eggs, and when they were ready, I placed the ham, pushed them into the soup, so they warmed up. We took the jars out to a small table, where the already boiled lettuce with a side of oyster sauce were. Unlike on the boat, we walked at a normal pace, then poured ourselves some San Pellegrino, with a twist of lime.
We had a picnic outside the store by a tree.
Had she not suggested it, we would have had another coffee, another sandwich.
But instead, we chose to cook with a little imagination.