dessert

Balsamic Roasted Strawberries with Creme Fraiche Ice Cream

Since being back from our Europe trip I've realized the solace of one's home is often forsaken.  We seldom take the time to appreciate the commonplace of our lives, the comfort, security  the simplicity that comes along.  Instead I often find myself dreaming of traveling to a far away land and touching foot in every corner of this world.  I dream of colors, sounds, smells; I imagine the people, their faces, their clothes, their language.  Yet at the end of the day, I realize all my heart truly wants is some sense of peace.

I find in my (late) twenties I've fallen into a period of confusion.  A seemingly backwards evolution from my cheeky and egotistical adolescent years.  What had happened??  How is it that the older I become, the more I begin to realize how little I actually know?  The more answers I get the more follow up questions I have.  Everything is suddenly backwards where I actually beg my parents to lecture me, because YES I am finally ready after all these years to receive their wisdom. It's hard to find and maintain the perfect balance between love, work and self preservation.

Recent influx of work has taken time away from the kitchen.  It's been fun, exciting and exhilarating, yet at the end of the day I felt like something was missing.    It wasn't until I got back from our vacation that I realized how deeply rooted I am with food.  As much as I enjoy a nice dinner at a restaurant, I can't help but be that control freak when preparing my meals. Since being back I've done nothing but cook in the kitchen -- getting back to the rhythm, feeling my food, enjoying the beauty of self preservation. I relish in working directly with the ingredients I cook with -- feeling them, smelling them, tasting them -- it's become this deep connection between my heart and the earth and the result?  A beautiful recipe.

I bought these organic strawberries last Friday and then left town for the weekend, completely forgot about them and come around Tuesday they were not at their best.  What to do with these slightly wilted beauties?  They only have a few wrinkles after all.  I could've easily tossed them in the trash but I managed to salvage the little life they had left and transformed it into something blissful.  The best way to salvage old fruit?  Roast them.

Roast them with a little cinnamon and sugar or I tossed mine in some Balsamic Vinegar from Modena Italy (available through Artizone) and brown sugar.  The sugar, vinegar and juices from the berries caramelize into a luxurious fruity and tangy reduction -- perfect over some rich and creamy creme fraiche ice cream.

Balsamic Roasted Strawberries with Creme Fraiche Ice Cream
Recipe Type: Dessert
Author: Joy Zhang
Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 10 mins
Total time: 15 mins
Serves: 4
Balsamic Roasted Strawberries with Creme Fraiche Ice Cream adapted from Epicurious
Ingredients
  • 2 pint baskets strawberries, stems removed
  • 3 tablespoons raw sugar
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cups Creme Fraiche Ice Cream
Instructions
  1. Rinse the strawberries in cool water, place in a strainer or colander, and shake off most of the water. Slice the strawberries about 1/8 inch thick, place them in a large bowl, and sprinkle them with the sugar.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Toss the strawberries with the balsamic vinegar, and put the strawberries and all of their juices into a large saute pan or a large ovenproof dish. Roast for 8 to 10 minutes, until the juices are bubbling and the strawberries are hot but not mushy. Divide among individual dishes and serve with a scoop of Creme Fraiche Ice Cream (1/2 cup per serving). Serve immediately.

Candied Ginger Cookies with Dark Chocolate Ganache

A few months an excerpt from the Wallstreet Journal caught my eye: “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior” which was written about Amy Chua, a Chinese-American mother/lawyer/author about her controversial parenting guide titled “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”.

While the general population took great offense to what her book had to say, in many ways I completely related to her experiences and even further, the excerpts lead me to a moment of clarity about the constant conflicting relationship with my father.    I was that girl who practiced piano an hour a day, attended summer school every year since I was 4 and when homework was done, there was more assigned work -- ranging from advanced math problems to memorizing new vocabulary words.

While my mom was mostly in charge of teaching me manners, how to maintain a household and how to cook, my dad was in charge of school work, piano and art.  I’d remember he’d be so intense about grades – “Straight As or nothing!”  Any time I knew I had a possible B coming up on a report card I’d cry on the way home, my stomach would be wrangled with anxiety. I remember one time I even tried to smudge my B with an eraser – “Joy what does this say?  Why can’t I see this letter??” I never got away with anything.

And that’s what it’d always felt like -- I was a constant disappointment and everything I ever did always felt like it was never good enough.  It was always “You know, Nancy’s son Michael, he’s going to Duke and making $70,000 a year from stock, how come you don’t do this?” or “You hear about Jenny?  She won 4 piano contests.  FOUR how come you do not win?” For the longest time I held that grudge against my father, I couldn’t wrap my mind around why he couldn’t be a positive parent like all my non-Chinese friends’ parents were.  It seemed as if my friends could do no wrong, if they made a B they never got grounded or yelled at – some even got money for Bs.  At school recitals the parents would always congratulate them on what a good job they did while my dad would point out “I heard that mistake towards the middle.”  They even didn’t have to practice, like ever – while I had to be stuck at home on weekends playing endless hours of scales, chords, and Bach.

But then that moment of clarity hit me like a ton of bricks: it was never about him being disappointed in me, it was his hope that his daughter could exceed what he felt were her own limitations.  He pushed me because he wanted me to reach my personal best and I was just too afraid.  Afraid of failure, afraid of disappointment, whatever it was, I often regret for not trying harder.  My parents came to the states at the end of the Cultural Revolution with one goal in mind: to succeed in this new country and provide a promising future for their child.  There was no time for fancy family vacations, birthday parties at Chuck E Cheese, or new outfits every season; instead the money was saved for my piano lessons, summer school and all the books I could possibly want.

Sure there were problems with some of my parents’ parenting styles, but what parent is perfect? They try with their best intentions with all the hope that their children will have a good future.  When Collin and I settle down to have kids, I hope to combine the best of our two cultures, The Eastern and the Western, into something beautiful.

I wished for my parents to adopt Western parenting so much as a child and I realized it was mostly for the constant open affection: the I Love Yous, the hugs, the kisses.  Whereas Eastern parenting mostly lacks such affection – for my dad to utter I love you would be like pulling teeth.  I remembered my mom being almost embarrassed when I’d give her hugs and kisses but after years of my constant coaxing she now hugs me so hard sometimes it hurts (she has ungodly strong arms).

With Eastern parenting it’s the constant push and discipline with just the right amount of negativity, enough to drive the child’s need to be the best and dedicate themselves fully to any tasks they commit themselves to.  I wanted to quit piano so many times as a child but my parents never let me until I left the house, I didn’t understand why until now.  My god do I thank them for it.  Dad might’ve been tough on me but now I understand why he’d accept nothing less, because his daughter has half his brain and anything with half his genes has to be damn smart because he is by far the most intense and studious man EVER (he really is).  But what I learned from him is to never settle for mediocrity and to commit every ounce of yourself to a task you’ve committed your heart to and excel at it.

This cookie recipe made me think of dad: a soft, crumbly ginger spiced cookie with a bold dark chocolate ganache.   Though during my childhood (especially during adolescence) we often butted heads, what started off bitter ended up sweet.  The heart mends itself when you allow it to feel compassion towards others and being able to relate to other perspectives besides your own.

Ingredients for Ginger Shortbread Cookies with Dark Chocolate Ganache (about 18 sandwich cookies)

Prep time: 15 minutes; Total cooking time: 1 hour

  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped crystallized ginger, plus ¼ cup for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon raw sugar

Combine flour, sugar, spices and salt in medium bowl. Combine crystallized ginger and 1 tablespoon sugar on work surface; chop finely.

Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until light. Add orange zest and vanilla. Beat in crystallized ginger mixture. Beat dry ingredients into butter mixture in 4 additions. Transfer dough to floured work surface and divide it in half into two 6-inch logs. Shape each log into 2x1x6-inch-long rectangular log. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for an hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly butter 2 large baking sheets and cut 1/3-inch-thick pieces from each dough log.  Transfer the cookies to prepared baking sheets, spacing 1 inch apart (cookies will spread slightly during baking). Mix raw sugar and reserved ¼ cup of chopped crystallized ginger in small bowl, set aside. Place cookies in oven and after 10 minutes sprinkle sugared ginger mixture on top of cookies and bake until golden brown on edges, about 8-10 minutes longer. Cool cookies on baking sheets, about 3 minutes. Using a spatula, transfer cookies to racks. Cool completely and sandwich with Dark Chocolate Ganache.

Chocolate Ganache

  • 8 ounces of high quality dark chocolate, cut into small pieces
  • ¾ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Place the chopped chocolate in a medium sized bowl and set aside.  Heat the cream and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until almost boiling, about 3-4 minutes.  Immediately pour hot cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for 5 minutes.  Stir until smooth and allow to cool for 10 minutes before spreading.

Minneola Tangelo Scones

As many of you know, Collin and I will be embarking on a 3 week adventure through Europe at the end of April.  Instead of having a large extravagant wedding, we opted to spend most of our wedding budget on a trip for ourselves.  Yeah what can I say, we’re SELFISH.  But ever since I was a wee tot, traveling to Europe has been a dream of mine – the beautiful castles atop rolling hills in Germany, the open markets tucked away in the streets of Italy, the glorious architecture and the magnificent art museums scattered throughout – oh be still my heart, the time is almost near!

Traveling is one of my favorite ways to learn about a country’s culture – through the food, the people and the arts I never leave a new place the same person as I came.  This constant need for discovery and my adventurous spirit is continuously fueled by the mesmerizing places in the World I’d eventually like to discover with an ultimate goal of setting foot on all 7 continents, yes even Antarctica (solidarity is beautiful). 

As a child my family didn’t have much but with the little we had my dad always utilized to get our family somewhere new.  To him, moving to the United States was a chance for new beginnings and he wanted to discover every nook and cranny of this magnificent country.  I’d remember packing the car wee hours in the morning – most of our luggage being coolers filled with food and he’d always pack plenty of camera equipment.  Sometimes our trips would take only a few hours while others have lasted for days.  Over the years we’ve driven through the forests in Yosemite, trekked the trails of Yellow Stone, visited the Lincoln memorial, marveled at the grandness of Mount Rushmore, picnicked at Central Park, pretended to be royalty at the Biltmore Estate, stood at the foot of Niagra Falls and of course stopped at Disney World to say hi to Mickey. 

My father most of the time is reserved and generally quiet, his expression naturally forms into an indifferent scowl that sometimes you’d swear he was angry about something.  But anytime it was time for a trip, his eyes would sparkle with enthusiasm as he would hurriedly rush us out the door “Come on! Let’s get this show on the road!” Upon arriving at our final destination he’d run out of the car with a camera in one hand while dragging me along with the other.  Throughout the years, the compilation of photos of me standing in front of famous landmarks and attractions grew and as a result my traveling spirit was born.  

During many of what seemed to be endless car rides, I would always get car sick, it was inevitable.  If the car ride was longer than 4-5 hours it was either anxiety of small closed spaces that caused me to throw up or the fact that it’d be 95 degrees outside and my parents refused to turn on the A/C (Aiya Joy, why use A/C when you can roll down window?)  The one thing that always seemed to help was citrus fruit.  Weird I know but somehow it took away the puke factor. 

They’d throw me in the back with a bag of oranges, a pillow, some math books and I’d sneak in a book of my choice.  I’d mostly ignore the math books, build a nice “bed” and disappear into my book while endlessly shoving oranges in my face.  It was glorious.  Kind of like these scones.  I adapted the recipe from Martha Stewart by adding a lot more zest, replacing buttermilk with yogurt and made a nice brandied honey to drizzle on top.   I loved the intense burst of citrus flavor and is the perfect breakfast item for a lazy weekend. 

Ingredients for Minneola Tangelo Scones: (about 20 scones)

Prep time: 15 minutes; Total Cooking Time: 45 minutes

  • 4 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 8 1/2 ounces (2 sticks plus 1 tablespoon) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1 1/4 cups yogurt
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Minneola tangelo zest
  • 6 medium Minneola tangelos, peeled, segmented, seeded, and chopped

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  • 1 oz brandy
  • ¼ cup honey

(inspired from Martha Stewart’s Recipe)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 3 rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and granulated sugar in a bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add yogurt, zest, and chopped tangelos, stirring just until dough comes together (some butter should be visible).

Turn dough out onto a floured surface, and knead a few times to bring together. Gently pat it into 9 inch wide circle, 1 inch thick. Using a 3 ½ inch circle cutter cut as many scones as you can.  Take dough scraps, reform and repeat.   Flip each circle over onto a baking sheet, spacing each 2 inches apart. Cover, and refrigerate until cold and firm, at least 2 hours (or overnight).  Bake scones until tops are golden brown, 22 to 25 minutes. (If bottoms are browning too quickly, place another baking sheet underneath the first.) Transfer scones to a wire rack to let cool or eat immediately with a generous drizzle of brandied honey. 

POM Wonderful 5-Course Dinner

The almighty pomegranate is native from Iran to the Himalayas and  has been cultivated throughout the Mediterranean region of Asia, Africa and Europe.  This mystical fruit with its healing properties and majestic apperance has been featured in Egyptian mythology and art, praised in the Old Testament of the Bible and referenced in the Babylonian Talmud*.   It has even gained distinction as a royal fruit in the literatures of Chaucer, Shakespeare and Homer*.   Pomegranate fruits contain maximum health benefits best known for its concentrated levels of antioxidants and its ability to combat LDL cholesterol and lowering blood pressure. 

This month, the lovely folks at POM Wonderful selected a group of 100 bloggers from across the US to host a POM party and I was fortunately one of them!  I especially wanted to participate in this challenge because before this event I have never cooked with pomegranate before.  It was fun planning the menu and discovering all the versatile uses for this delightful fruit.
First thing's first.  I'll start with how to open a pomegranate -- easy schmeezy, nothing too tricky.
1.  Cut. With a sharp paring knife cut off the top about a 1/2 inch below the crown.
2. Score. Once the top is off, you'll see four to six sections.  With your knife point, score the skin at each section.
3. Open. Separate the pomegranate at each score, so that you have individual sections.
4. Loosen. Over a bowl of water, use your fingers to loosen the "arils" (the flesh-covered seeds) and drop them into the bowl.  The arils will sink to the bottom.
5.  Scoop.  Use a spoon to scoop out the pieces of white membrane that have floated to the top.
6. Strain. Pour the reamining liquid through a strainer.  Place the arils in your favorite dish and enjoy!
 
Since we're nearing the holidays, I wanted to throw a 5-course dinner for my lovely friends -- it's my way of saying 'Hey, I love you guys!".   Now when planning a 5-course menu for a dinner party, there are several things you should keep in mind:
  • Budget: How much are you planning to spend?  Usually when I throw a party I like to keep it at 8-10 people and keep my budget around $100.  Keep everything simple and ask your guests to bring the drinks!
  • Balance: Think about the different flavors, colors and textures that will go into your menu.  For a five course menu, there's a gradual progression of flavors -- start off light and build your way up to the main course and always end with something sweet :)
  • Be Organized: This is probably one of the most important things.  The more organized you are the better things will flow the day of your party.  Make shopping lists, make a prep list for your dishes, set your table settings the night before, write out what needs to be done, etc.
  • Timing and Execution: I always like to do a run through of how everything will be served the day of the party the night before.  Plan out your cooking times for your menu items so when it comes time to serve everything flows and you can still sit down and eat with your guests. 
  • Table Settings: I like to keep my settings simple, earthy and seasonal.  Plan out what kind of tone you'd like to set for your party and what color and contrast you'd like to use. 

 

For the first course I wanted something to get the party started, what better way then with a fancy jello-shot!  It's nice, light and playful -- not to mention it packs a surprising punch. 

Ingredients for Pomegranate Jello Shot: serves 8-10; prep time: 10 minutes total cooking time: 1 hour 20 minutes

  • 2 packets of gelatin (1 tablespoon)
  • 2 1/2 cups POM
  • 1/2 cup good-quality Vodka ( I used Luksusowa)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • raw sugar for garnish
  • pomegranate seeds for garnish

In a large bowl mix 1 cup of POM with 1 packet of gelatin, allow to sit for at least 5 minutes or until gelatin is dissolved. Meanwhile in a small saucepan dissolve the sugar and remaining POM and bring to a boil. Once it is boiling turn off the heat and mix with the gelatin mixture. Once thoroughly mixed, add the vodka.

Distribute the mix in shot glasses and place in fridge and allow to set for at least an hour. When ready to serve, garnish the shot glasses with raw sugar and top with pomegranate seeds. Serve immediately and enjoy frequently ** it is easier to use a glass pan when making jello so that it pops out easier when it is done setting.

For the second course I wanted to do a salad.  Salads are easy to prepare and I love this recipe for the warm panko crusted goat cheese and the contrast with the pomegranate seeds and vinaigrette.  Also the spiced candied pecans add a nice twist! 

Ingredients for Panko Crusted Goat Cheese with Arils Salad: serves 8-10; prep time: 30 minutes total cooking time: 45 minutes

  • 16 ounces goat cheese
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 4 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 lb organic field greens
  • 1 cup arils

Divide the goat cheese log into 16 - 1 ounce portions and roll into balls, if you're serving 10 divide it a little under -- plan for each salad will receive two goat cheese rounds. Place panko crumbs in a shallow dish.   Take each ball of goat cheese and flatten into a 1/4"-thick disk and roll in the bread crumbs, making sure all sides are evenly covered.  Heat oil in a large frying pan or skillet on medium high heat, when the oil is smoking add the goat cheese discs.  Fry each side until golden brown, about 1 minute and set aside on a plate lined with paper towels to soak any excess oil.  When ready to serve, simply reheat in the oven or toaster oven for 3-4 minutes at 350F. 

   

For the pecans:

  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Fill a medium pot with water and boil on high.  Once the water is boiling add the pecans and cook for an additional minute.  In a large bowl place the spices and powdered sugar, mix well.  Strain the pecans and mix in the sugar mixture, make sure nuts are coated evenly.  Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the outside becomes crunchy -- you can test this by taking a pecan out and letting it cool, if it's still soft give it an additional 5 minutes if it is crunchy take it out and set aside.  Once pecans are cool give them a rough chop and place in a container until ready to serve.

For the dressing:

  • 1/4 cup pomegranate reduction (see recipe below for tenderloin)
  • juice from 1 lemon, seeds removed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon water

Place reduction on a small saucepan at medium low heat.  Whisk in lemon juice olive oil and water, if the mixture is still a little thick add a little water -- it should have a syrupy consistency.  Set aside until ready to serve.

 When serving:

Warm up your goat cheese discs in the oven or toaster oven.  Meanwhile,toss salad greens with pomegranate vinaigrette and plate.  Top with spiced pecans, arils and warm goat cheese.  Serve immediately. 

For the third course I went with a nice hearty soup -- this was actually a spin-off of the Chiles en Nogada recipe POM provided us with from Chef Cindy Pawlcyn.  I loved the textures of the crunchy pancetta and the smokiness of the poblano in this soup.  This was Collin's favorite dish.

Ingredients for Chiles Nogada Corn Chowder: (serves 8-10) prep time: 30 minutes total cooking time: 1 1/2 hours

  • 4 tablespoons canola oil or butter
  • 1 x 16 oz bag frozen organic corn kernels
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalk, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 2 poblano chiles, roasted and deseeded*
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 8 oz pancetta
  • 1 cup walnut, toasted
  • 1/2 cup micro arugula
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 cup arils
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups water
  • salt pepper to taste

 

In a large pot add your butter or oil and melt on medium high heat.  Once butter is bubbling or oil is slight smoking, add the corn, spices,chopped vegetables and garlic and saute until softened, about 8-10 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium and add stock and water to mixture and cook for 30 minutes.  Using a hand blender, blend ingredients thoroughly -- if you do not have a hand blender a regular blender will do.  Strain soup through sieve if you prefer a very smooth texture or leave it like it is for a more rustic texture. Add in the chopped roasted poblanos and allow to simmer on medium low heat for an additional 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the pancetta.  In a large pan heat 1 tablespoon oil on medium high heat.  Once oil is smoking add pancetta and fry until crispy, about 4-5 minutes.  Drain on paper towel and once cooled, chop into tiny pieces and set aside.  When ready to serve -- heat the soup on medium heat and ladel into soup bowls.  Top with micro arugula, cilantro, crispy pancetta and arils -- serve immediately.
 
For the fourth course I chose this robust 5 spice roasted pork tenderloin -- the spices paired perfectly with the tanginess of the pomegranate reduction.  The smooth creamy cauliflower puree gave a nice contrast in textures with the arils and pork.
Ingredients for 5 Spice Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Garlic Smashed Cauliflower: serves 8-10; prep time: 30 minutes cooking time: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • 1 pork tenderloin, about 3 1/2 pounds
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese five spice powder
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon  

In a large bowl mix the spices salt pepper and sugar together.  Using a sharp knife, make shallow criss crossed incisions along the top of the tenderloin - this allows the dry rub to soak in better.  Take the spice mixture and generously rub all over the tenderloin, especially the top where the incisions were made.  Allow the pork to marinate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large pan or skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil on medium high heat.  Once oil is smoking sear each side of the tenderloin until a crisp golden brown, about 5 minutes on each side.  Remove from heat and cover with foil -- if the pan is not oven proof transfer the tenderloin to a baking sheet and cover with foil.  Allow tenderloin to roast for 45 minutes to an hour - use a meat thermometer to track the cooking time.  The internal temperatures should reach 145 degrees for the perfect medium tenderloin, 160 degrees for well done.  Also keep in mind, the meat will continue to cook once removed from the oven so gauge appropriately.  Once the meat reaches desired temperature set aside until ready to serve, make sure it's covered in foil to keep the meat warm.

For Cauliflower

  • 2 head cauliflower
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • salt pepper to taste

Cut the bottoms off the cauliflowers, making sure to remove the tough stems and leaving mostly the florets.  In a large pot fill with water and immerse the entire head of cauliflower in there.  Cook each head for 15-20 minutes on medium high heat until cauliflower is completelysoftened.  Place the softened cauliflower in a large bowl and set aside.  In a medium saucepan saute the garlic with a little olive oil on medium high heat until browned add the cream and nutmeg and cook for an additional minute.  Remove from heat and pour into large bowl containing cauliflower.  Using a masher or a pestle, smash the garlic and cauliflower until it reaches a paste like consistency -- similar to that of mashed potatoes but grainier.  Taste with salt and pepper.  You can also use a blender if you do not own a masher or a pestle. 

For Pomegranate Reduction:

  • 16 oz POM pomegranate juice
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 lemon, juice only
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • In a medium sauce on medium high heat, heat the pom juice and sugar until reduced to a syrupy consistency,  about 15-20 minutes add lemon juice.  If it becomes to thick simply add the 2 tablespoons of water to thin it down. 

    When ready to serve, place a generous spoonful of cauliflower and thinly slice the pork tenderloin.  Arrange the tenderloin around the cauliflower puree and drizzle with pomegranate reduction.  Top with arils and micro arugula.  Serve immediately. 

    What better way to end a 5-course than with something light and sweet?  I made a silky pomegranate sorbet and folded boozy grand marnier sour cherries to give it a little pizazz. 

    Ingredients for Pomegranate Sorbet with Grand Marnier Sour Cherries: serves 8-10 makes 1 quart; prep time: 10 minutes cooking time: 1 1/2  hours

    • 3 cups of POM pomegranate juice
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1 cup water
    • 1 cup Grand Marnier
    • 1 cup Sour Cherries, frozen 
    • 1 cup arils

    Place sugar water and pomegranate juice in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until well chilled, about an hour. Meanwhile, place sour cherries in Grand Marnier and allow to soak for an hour.  When sorbet mixture is ready, process in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions and add cherries in once mixture is almost frozen. Serve garnished with arils and mint leaf.

     

       

     

    I'd like to share my prep list just to give you guys an idea as to how to plan a stress-free holiday meal for friends.  As long as you stay organized and think ahead, everything will go smoothly :).  If you notice, I kept my menu simple and incorporated colorful textures and colors to keep my guests intrigued and entertained throughout dinner.
    Two Days Before:
    • Make candied spiced pecans for salad
    • Toast walnuts for soup
    • Prepare reduction for the pork
    • Prepare dressing for the salad
    • Fry the pancetta
    • Make the sorbet

    The Day Before:

    • Make the jello shots
    • Make the soup
    • Roll the goat cheese balls for the salad
    • Marinate the pork
    • Make the cauliflower puree

    Day Of:

    • Garnish jello shots with arils and sugar
    • Bread the goat cheese and fry, reheat in toaster oven when ready to serve
    • Reheat soup on medium heat, keep at a simmer on back burner til ready to serve.
    • Reheat cauliflower puree in a waterbath, keep warm on back burner til ready to serve.
    • Begin roasting the pork loin right before serving the jello shot, this allows you time to sit and enjoy the courses and converse with guests.

    As you see, I've planned the menu items to where the day of I am just throwing on the last minute garnishes and toppings to the dish.  Most of the items just need to be reheated and kept warm until ready to serve. 

    Always remember to keep it simple.  Don't stress out if things don't work out the way they're suppose to, simply move on.  The most important thing is to have fun -- your friends and family are already thankful that you are cooking for them!  If you need help clearing the table and loading the dishwasher, see if one of your friends will lend a helping hand. 

    I hope these tips will help you plan your next dinner this would be the perfect guide for the holidays.  Bon Appetit and thanks again to the folks of POM Wonderful for the wonderful pomegranates and goody bags for my guests!

    Creme Brulee with Citrus, Cardamom and Star Anise

    I apologize for the lack of entries lately -- I've been completely invested in spending most of my time with my mom, because she's my favorite.  It's hard to believe that her visit is soon coming to an end, a week to be exact.  The entire situation still seems surreal to me.  I'm hoping that the day of, I don't have a complete mental meltdown and cling to my mother's leg screaming "NO DON'T LEAVE DONT DO IT!" as she's trying to get out of the car to catch her plane, but I'm not making any promises.  ^_^

    It's been a blast though -- we've been sharing recipes, she'll cook her Chinese dishes and I'll cook her some French American dishes -- one of her favorites discoveries has been the creme brulee.  She kept Ooooing and AAAaaahing over this recipe so I figure I'd share it with yall, it's pretty epic not gonna lie.  Aside from that she's been feeding me traditional Chinese medicines that make my stomach churn but I take it anyways because apparently it's good for me (or so she claims). It's just unfortunate that most of the concoctions she makes taste like feet...   just kidding mom, you're the best! But seriously, I've spent a lot of time figuring out her secret of staying forever young.  I'll share pictures soon, you'll see what I mean...

    One of the first desserts I learned working in at a French restaurant was the Creme Brulee and Souffle.  Souffle is definitely the more temperamental dessert and the failure rate is much higher than creme brulee -- so we'll warm up to that recipe later.  I love this creme brulee recipe because of its soft delicate texture and of course everyone's favorite part: the crunchy burnt sugar on top, hence it's latter name -- burnt cream.   Plus it always adds a dash of sophistication and excitement to any dinner party when you bust out the torch!  I mean seriously guys, who doesn't like a little fire show?

    Ingredients for Citrus Cardamom Creme Brulee:

    • 2 cups heavy cream
    • 1/4 cup white sugar
    • 1 pinch salt
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 3 egg yolks
    • 2 cardamom pods
    • 1 cinnamon stick
    • 4 star anise
    • 1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
    • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
    • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lime zest
    • 4 tablespoons raw sugar

    Preheat oven to 260 degrees F (150 degrees C) and line the bottom of a large baking pan with water.  Bring a large pot of water to boil. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine cream, cardamom, citrus zest and 1/4 cup sugar and salt stirring occasionally 4 to 5 minutes, until steam rises. 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.

    Place ramekins in the baking dish with water and cover the whole pan loosely with foil.  , 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. Bake 60 to 75 minutes in the preheated oven, until custard is just set. Chill ramekins in refrigerator 4 to 6 hours.  Before serving, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of raw sugar over each custard. Use a kitchen torch or oven broiler to brown top, 2 to 3 minutes.