Poached Monk Fish with Whisky Apple Curry Sauce

Poached Monk Fish with Whisky Apple Curry Sauce

Can a man be both macho and metro-sexual at the same time? Rugged, yet delicate? Serious, yet playful? Quiet, yet expressive? Unapproachable, yet relaxed? Every time I sip a single malt Scotch whisky on the rocks, I imagine a tough man in a dark suit transforming into a stylish man full of vibrant personality. When my husband, a single malt Scotch whisky lover, first handed me a glass of his favorite whisky with ice for a taste, I thought he was torturing me with an alcohol more potent than cough medicine. My immediate reaction was “YUCK”. My facial expression resembled a kid who just chewed a worm and wanted to spit it out. I didn’t understand why some people would pay hundreds of dollars to drink something that seemed so aggressive, obnoxious and unfriendly. Then, a few minutes later, the ice melted and magically opened up the aromas and flavors of the whisky. This seemingly “hard-to-understand” alcohol all of sudden turned into something very elegant, smooth and approachable. On the nose, it had delicious aromas of chocolate covered raisins, hazelnuts and caramel toffee. On the palate, the mixed flavors of walnuts and hazelnuts, butterscotch and spiced orange tasted absolutely intoxicating. Treated by peat smoke and normally aged in oak casks for eight or more years, many single malt Scotch whiskies have distinctive smoky and warm spice flavors. Not only do they make such a great drink with some water or ice but also a wonderful ingredient to cook with. Just like the special Moldovan sausage I was able to prepare with a whisky in 2011 (check out my Moldovan sausage post), this week I am making a poached monk fish with whisky apple curry sauce for the upcoming holiday.

To start, peel one green apple and finely dice it. Then, soak the apple in a single malt Scotch whisky. Separately, boil about 12 cups of water in a cast iron pot and add 1 cup dry white wine, 1 onion (peeled and chopped), 1 celery rib (chopped), 1 carrot (chopped), 1 bay leaf, 1 sprig fresh thyme, 10 fresh parsley stems & leaves, 1 lemon (sliced), a handful sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper to the pot. Simmer all ingredients for 30 minutes and then strain the vegetables. Next, boil the broth , blanch a 1/4 cauliflower (~6 cauliflower florets) for 2 minutes in that broth and set it aside. Separately, add about 2 lbs of monk fish with the bones to the same broth and cook until the fish is just done at 160-180F cooking temperature. Remove the monk fish meat from the bone and cut it small. Separately, in a food processor, mix the whisky-infused apple and the blanched cauliflower and season with 1 Tablespoon 7th taste curry olive oil and some sea salt to taste. Next, in a large bowl, mix 1 cup of chopped monk fish and 1 cup of the cauliflower and whisky-infused apple mixture. Divide them into 4 portions and push them down into 4 small cups. Take them out of the cups upside down on a plate and garnish with some cucumber. Serve with a curry vinaigrette made with 2 Tablespoons light mayonnaise, 2 Tablespoons plain low fat yogurt, 1 Tablespoon 7th taste curry olive oil and some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. This recipe serves 4 servings.

This dish is as complex as a macho, metro-sexual man’s different faces. A flavorful, aromatic vegetable stock used for poaching the monk fish and blanching the cauliflower adds wonderful base flavors and moisture to the dish. The sourness of the green apple is also perfectly harmonized by sweet woodsy whisky flavors and warm, spicy, buttery curry olive oil. The coarse texture of cauliflower, dense monk fish and crunchy cucumber also give wonderful texture variations in every bite. When you pour the curry vinaigrette over this dish, tangyness, butteriness and savoriness of the dish will get further accentuated and make you salivate for more bites. Yum. What an appetizer! Try this recipe for your family and guests aged 21+ this weekend. I wish you and your family a very happy Spring and wonderful holidays! Happy cooking.

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Pork Belly Marinated with Green Tea, Wine & Ancho Chili Olive Oil

Roasted Pork Belly Marinated with wine, green tea & ancho chili olive oil

Known for its fresh, bittersweet, earthy flavors, green tea seems to be getting increasingly popular as a flavoring ingredient for many desserts ranging from ice cream to cake to chocolate. Growing up drinking lots of green tea while appreciating its antioxidant and anticarcinogenic health benefits, one of my favorite things to do now is to drink an icy cold glass of green tea after an hour and a half of hot bikram yoga. The notable grassy note of the green tea is just so incredibly refreshing. I also love cooking with the alluring flavors of the green tea. I find green tea’s tannin, vegetal, woodsy taste, lingering “honeydew-like” sweetness and mild nutty undertones make it a wonderful companion for rich meat cuts. With that thought, I am grilling flavor-packed pork belly marinated in green tea, white wine and ancho chili olive oil in my California kitchen today.

To start, mix 1/4 cup 7th taste ancho chili olive oil, 1/2 cup dry white wine, 1 Tablespoon green tea powder (i.e. matcha), 1 teaspoon sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper in a bowl and marinate 2 lbs thinly sliced pork belly in this sauce for a couple of hours (or preferably overnight if you have time). Next, grill both sides of the pork belly until they turn light brown. Then, make a mustard dipping sauce by mixing 3 Tablespoons light soy sauce, 2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons spicy mustard and 1 small crushed garlic clove. Serve the grilled pork belly with some grilled onion, fresh sliced radish and the mustard dipping sauce. This recipe serves about 4 servings.

The marriage of fatty, flavor-packed pork belly and buttery, fruity green tea marinade makes the meat not only tastier but also seductively complex. The blend of green tea, wine and ancho chili olive oil gives the pork belly a tender texture with notes of pine nuts, vanilla, cocoa, melon and green bell peppers. The astringency of the green tea also balances out the fattiness of the pork belly so well that the meat doesn’t taste heavy at all. Further, the spicy mustard dipping sauce makes the meat taste lighter, savory and intense. I am amazed at how inexpensive cuts of meat, like the pork belly, can taste so elegant and delicate when dressed up in the green tea marinade and the mustard dipping sauce. Just like we say “clothes are wings for women” in Korea, this special marinade and sauce are wings for the pork belly. Try this recipe at home and let me know what you think. If you do come up with other green tea flavored, delicious recipes, I’d love to try yours at my California kitchen. Happy cooking.

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Oyster Pilaf

Oyster Pilau Sauce for Oyster Pilau Radish with radish greens

Romantic dinner for two? How about some oysters on Valentine’s Day? Being known for increasing sex hormones and testosterone, oysters are widely believed to be an aphrodisiac. Personally, oysters don’t quite work like “Viagra” for me, but I absolutely adore them. Tasty and elegant, they are great for special occasions like Valentine’s Day. Just like fine cheese and wine, not only do oysters taste distinctly different from region to region, but each specie has its own unique taste profile. Salty, sweet, earthy and fruity, oysters’ texture is soft yet firm and slippery yet crisp. At first, its salty “seaweed-like” unique flavors say “hello” to the palate. Then, as it gets chewed on, it starts tasting sweet. On a finish note, the subtle flavors of a refreshing cucumber and sweet melon nicely coat the mouth. Oysters’ intricate flavors and textures not only make it fantastic eaten raw but also magnificent cooked with sweet, peppery and earthy vegetables. To celebrate this upcoming Valentine’s Day, I’ve decided to create an oyster pilaf by pairing that supposed “aphrodisiac”, deliciously multi-layered seafood with crisp radish, spicy radish greens and earthy, buttery mushroom olive oil in my California kitchen.

First, wash 1 cup of rice and let it soak in one cup of water. Next, chop 1 cup radish in an inch length and finely chop 1 cup radish greens. Also, open and clean a dozen fresh oysters in shells. Next, preheat some 7th taste mushroom olive oil in a cast iron pot and saute 1 large garlic clove (crushed), the radish and radish greens and season with some sea salt to taste. Next, pour the water-soaked rice and its residual water to the pot, stir in with the radish mixture and bring it to boil. Next, lower the heat to simmer for 10 minutes with the cover. Finally, add the dozen oysters on top of the rice and cook for another 5-10 minutes. For the sauce, mix 1/3 cup light soy sauce, 1 garlic clove (crushed), 1 green onion stalk (chopped), 1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon Mirin (sweet sake), 1 teaspoon honey, 1 green chili pepper (chopped), 1 Tablespoon roasted sesame seeds, 1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil and some freshly ground black pepper in a bowl. Serve the sauce separately from a bowl of the oyster pilaf. This recipe serves about 2-3 servings.

A spoonful of this oyster pilaf is as complex as fresh raw oysters in their shells. Soft and crunchy at the same time, the sweetness, pepperiness, butteriness and earthiness are perfectly harmonized in every bite. I especially love how the “softened” cooked radish greens, which usually taste a bit too sharp and pungent when raw, nicely accentuate every bite of this warm, earthy rice dish. A drop of the delicious sauce also gives this oyster pilaf another flavor dimension. The saltiness, sweetness and pepperiness of the dish gets more intensified by the sauce, like kissing the sea with a peppermint in the mouth at sunset. I hope you enjoy this oyster pilaf recipe and wish you a very happy Valentine’s Day!

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Roasted Chicken Stuffed with Saffron Rice & Mushroom

chichen head saffron rice with portobello mushroom roasted chicken stuffed with saffron rice and portobello mushroom

While walking through the Muir Woods wearing my leggings and a black top, I met a friendly hiker on the trail who invited me to a fancy dinner. At the end of the walk, I started going through my bag to find something dressy to wear for the dinner. I was ecstatic to find a vibrant burgundy-colored silk scarf deep inside my bag, which I could just wrap around my shoulder like an elegant gown. In my California kitchen, saffron often plays the role of my striking “silk scarf” which helps turn my meals into something distinctive and luminous. Saffron, the world’s most expensive spice, is made from the stamens of the crocus, a lily-like purple flower. To yield just one pound of saffron, 50,000-75,000 crocus flowers are hand-harvested. Considered to originate from Greece around 3000 B.C., Saffron is presently used in a wide variety of cuisines from Italy to Spain to France to India to Iran to Turkey.

Today I went to Chinatown to buy a fresh whole chicken. While unwrapping my bag to clean it, I noticed that a butcher had tucked in the chicken head and feet to charge me for more weight. In total shock, I screamed at the freaking chicken eyes staring back at me from my kitchen counter. Aghast at the sight, I knew I needed the magic of my “silk scarf” to turn this grotesque chicken into something striking and elegant. With that thought, I am making a roasted chicken stuffed with saffron rice and portobello mushroom in my California kitchen.

To start, dissolve 1 cup of sea salt into a gallon of water and add a 3 lbs chicken to brine for 2-3 hours in the refrigerator. Separately, wash a cup of rice in cold water 4-5 times (until the water runs clear to remove the starch). Next, preheat 1 Tablespoon of 7th taste mushroom olive oil in a cast iron pot and saute the washed rice with 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and 1/4 teaspoon Spanish saffron for a couple of minutes. Subsequently, pour 1 1/4 cup water to the pot, bring it to boil and then simmer covered for 20 minutes. While the saffron rice is getting cooked, preheat some 7th taste mushroom olive oil on a fry pan and saute 1 garlic (crushed), 1 green chili (chopped) and 1/2 lb portobello mushrooms (chopped) and season with 1/4 cup Pinot Noir, pinch of rosemary, marjoram, oregano and basil and some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Next, mix the saffron rice with sauted mushrooms in a bowl. Separately, drain the salt water out of the chicken and dry it with paper towels. Next, generously rub the chicken with 7th taste mushroom olive oil both inside and outside. Finally, stuff the chicken with the saffron rice and mushroom mixture, sew up and bake it at 350F for about 60-90 minute until the skin turns golden brown.  This recipe serves about 4 servings.

Saffron, with its bitter sweet flavor with grassy notes, goes so well with chicken, mushrooms and Pinot Noir. It brings a rich, distinctive aromas, a warm, earthy taste and a radiant, mouth-watery color to this delicious stuffed chicken. The mushroom olive oil-soaked chicken skin is as crispy and flavorful as Peking Duck’s, and the tender chicken meats are packed with complex flavors. All the components of this stuffed chicken are delicately harmonized, leaving a lingering taste in my mouth. Yum. A dish like this one will turn everyday into a sparkling, festive occasion. I hope you enjoy my recipe. Happy cooking.

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Bouillabaisse

7th taste bouillabaisse bouillabaisse3 Marseille

On New Year’s Eve, we received a pleasantly surprising invitation from our neighbor, Lori, to come over and share a pot of her delicious Bouillabaisse. A Southern French specialty fish stew, Bouillabaisse originated in Marseille. ‘Bouillabaisse’ in French literally describes its cooking method – Boil the broth (bouillir) and lower the heat to simmer the various types of fish (abaisser). I think this “melting pot” stew depicts Marseille’s “fusion” atmosphere really well. A variety of different seafoods mix well together in the Bouillabaisse, making a meal that is intricately flavored. Just like that, in Marseille, the various cultural influences, which include the classic Neo-Byzantine Catholic Basilica, the century-old Fish Market and new Muslim North African shops, seem to mix well together, making Marseille interesting and complex. While looking back upon my mixed year of 2012, I’ve decided to replicate Lori’s bouillabaisse recipe in my California kitchen.

First, clean 1 lb monk fish, 1 lb Chilean Sea bass, 1 lb squid, 1 lb large shrimps, 1 lb clams, 1 lb scallops, 1/2 lb mussels, 1/2 lb salmon and 1/2 dozen fresh oysters. Remove the fish bones (if you have any) and peel off the fish skin and cut the fish fillets into 2-inch lengths. Next, boil the shrimp peels, 1 orange peel, the fish bones and skin in two pints of water for about 30 minutes to an hour. While the fish stock is cooking, heat 1/2 cup of 7th taste Ancho Chili Olive Oil in a thick cast iron pot and saute 2 onions (chopped), 4 cloves of garlic (crushed), 1 bay leaf and 2 lbs of tomatoes (pureed) for 5 minutes. Season with some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, 1 teaspoon fresh basil (chopped), 1 teaspoon fresh parsley (chopped) and 1/4 teaspoon Spanish saffron. Subsequently, add monk fish, Chilean sea bass, clams and mussels to the pot. Next, strain the fish stock and pour it over to the pot and boil for 5 minutes. Next, add remaining seafood and boil for another 5 minutes. Then, lower the heat and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Finally, sprinkle some chopped parsley and grated frozen lemon peel (optional) and serve with sliced sourdough baguette.  This recipe serves about 12 servings.

This delicious French seafood medley is medium-bodied and incredibly smooth. Monk fish lends delicate elegance with a lobster-like texture. At the same time, Chilean sea bass and salmon bring a butteryness, while making it a fuller broth. Saffron, herbs, my ancho chili olive oil and citrusy undertone also nicely accentuate the rich broth. This lovely bouillabaisse is simply melt-in-your-mouth. Try this recipe and stay warm on a chilly Winter evening. I want to thank Lori for sharing her recipe with us and wish your 2013 is as delicious as this Bouillabaisse. Happy cooking!

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Curried Chicken Lentil Pilaf

In a wonder of nature, I was stunned by the sight of hundreds of elephant seal pups filling the sandy beach between the surf and brown cliffs with their gray, cylindrical bodies and cute round faces at the Año Nuevo State Park. Despite being abruptly weaned by their mothers only a few weeks after their births, the pups help each other to learn to survive and grow. Their strength somewhat resembles our celebratory evergreen Christmas wreaths. Like evergreens which have leaves throughout the four seasons, elephant seal pups overcome harsh environments and walk their life cycle from birth to death with a great resilience.

I often think of lentils when I see the round faces of elephant seals and their bitter sweet life. The coin-like shape of the lentils are known for symbolizing the circle of life in the Jewish mourning tradition, while eating lentils during the Italian New Year’s Eve signifies the wish for a prosperous new year. I was first introduced to lentils by my Iranian dorm-mate in Denmark who once made a delicious lentil stew over rice. Packed with protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, lentils are one of the healthiest foods in the world. During this holiday season, if you have any guests, who want to reduce red meat consumption, try making my tasty “Curried Chicken Lentil Pilaf”. It’s a delicious healthy dish that won’t break your wallet this holiday.

First, in a thick cast iron pot, preheat 3 Tablespoons 7th taste Curry Olive oil and roast 1 Tablespoon mustard seeds until they start popping. Then, saute 1 onion (chopped), 2 carrots (chopped), 1 anaheim pepper (chopped) and 2-3 Serrano chili (chopped) for 10 minutes. Subsequently, stir in 1 tomato (chopped) and 2 bay leaves and season with 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Next, sprinkle some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper on 1.5 lbs skinless drumsticks/thighs and add them to the pot to brown them. Subsequently, add 1 1/2 cups lentils and 1 1/2 cups brown rice to the pot and stir-fry them for a couple of minutes. Next, pour 4 cups of boiling water into the pot and bring the pot to boil. Then, turn heat to low and simmer until the brown rice turns tender. Right before serving, garnish with 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro. (This recipe serves about 8 servings).

This nutty, mildly spicy pilaf has great flavors, an interesting texture, and a warm, sweet undertone. Like a sponge, the lentils absorb the tastes of the rich chicken, the sweet carrots, the spicy chili and the nutty brown rice. A hint of cinnamon and butteryness from my curry olive oil also round off the sharp spiciness, while adding an additional flavor dimension. This dish will not only warm you up during the cold holiday evenings, but will also give you a great feeling of “fullness”, thanks to the protein-packed, healthy ingredients of the dish. Enjoy this recipe and happy cooking. I wish everyone a very happy, warm holiday season!

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Ancho Pumpkin Yogurt Cake with Dark Chocolate Chips

When you want to reduce the calories and saturated fat in your home-made cakes, what kind of healthy alternatives to butter do you usually consider?  While I’ve heard of people substituting butter with healthy oils, avocado puree or apple sauce, I learned that low-fat yogurt can also do a great magic to home-baked goods.  Last Summer, a talented winemaker, Raphael Brisbois, and his lovely wife, Silvie from Bordeaux, brought their low-fat yogurt cake to Gary’s dinner party. Initially, I thought she may have sacrificed some flavor to lower the calories and add yogurt’s protein and calcium. But, one bite of her sumptuous cake completely changed my perception . Not only did the tangy yogurt make the texture of her cake creamy and soft, but it also added a great depth of flavor to it. Ever since that introduction, I couldn’t wait to try baking with low-fat yogurt and make my baked goods somewhat “healthy” so that I can feel less guilty indulging it. Today, using a Halloween pumpkin I brought in from my porch to my kitchen, I am making a delicious ancho-pumpkin-yogurt cake topped with dark chocolate chips.

To start, preheat the oven to 375F. Grease a 9 inch round, 2 inch deep baking pan with some 7th taste ancho chili olive oil. Separately, shred 2/3 cup pumpkin in a food processor. Next, in a bowl, mix 1/2 cup plain low fat yogurt, 1/3 cup melted butter, 1/4 cup 7th taste ancho chili olive oil, 1/2 cup honey, 1/2 cup molasses and two eggs and whisk it until all ingredients are well emulsified. Next, add 2/3 cup shredded pumpkin to the mixture. In a separate bowl, sift 2 cups flour and mix with 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and pinch of salt. Next, add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and stir in everything in the bowl. Subsequently, pour the batter into the greased pan and sprinkle the top with 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips. Bake for about 45-50 minutes until a toothpick poked in the center comes out dry. Let it cool for 5 minutes and serve a warm slice with creamy vanilla ice cream (This recipe serves about 12).

This dark yogurt chocolate cake with subtle undertone of pumpkin and ancho chili flavors came out so moist and fluffy that it was melting in my mouth like whipped cream melting in the sun. Pairing it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream further intensifies the creaminess of the cake and melting chocolate chips, while giving a sensation of fire and ice in the mouth. It made the cake taste even more velvety with a new dimension of rich flavors. It sounds simple and delectable, right? Instead of throwing away your Halloween pumpkin this year, try this recipe this Fall. You will love it! Enjoy my recipe. Happy cooking!

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Mumbain Chickpea Battered Fried Potato Balls (Batata Vada)

The older I get, the more I see that life is about journeys and not destinations. While walking our paths up and down through many seasonal changes, we say “good bye” to a lot of the people who we love. Luckily, we often see them again at a new one of life’s cross-roads. Last week I had the surprising pleasure to reconnect with some of my childhood friends from 30 years ago. Getting back in touch with them felt like opening a gift box filled with favorite childhood collections that I had forgotten about. Several pictures of our elementary school days brought me flashbacks of times shared: innocent laughter; funny jokes; tasty street foods; fun-filled picnic; etc.. It made me wonder, “Had I stayed in Korea, what kind of adult would I have become? Rebel? Singer? Mrs. So-and-so?” I probably would have become a typical Korean tiger mom who devotes most of her life to her kids’ education. It would have been a very different path from the one I’ve walked all over the world in the last three decades.

Coming to the US completely changed my life. In Korea, I was miserably failing at school. Rote-memorization driven education and multiple-choice test score based student ranking simply bored my mind. Upon coming to the US, I was fortunate to meet two very inspiring teachers: Mrs. Karen Ransom and Mr. Don Woodsmall. They facilitated my independent thinking and engaged my inquisitive mind. Through them, I learned that learning could be fun and started cultivating my dreams. They eventually helped me become a straight ‘A’ student, which, in turn, got me into good schools and provided many amazing opportunities to pursue my dreams. The best part of this journey was that since my 18th birthday, I have been able to do most everything I wanted to do without relying on financial support from my parents. In Korea, I saw several kids who couldn’t go to the universities that they had been accepted to, simply because their parents couldn’t afford to pay the tuition. Luckily in the US of that time, working class kids, even a homeless person, could go to a world-class school like Harvard with financial aid if they were academically qualified. To me, America is a true land of opportunity where all social, economic classes can climb up the ladder by working hard. And, I am very thankful to have lived here and have grown into an adult who never stops dreaming no matter what obstacles come up in the journey of life.

The recent talk with my childhood friends also got me to think about the “timeless” Korean snacks I used to eat with them. As a kid, I loved sitting on bench next to street carts and eat popular street foods. Although my “hygiene-conscious” mom never approved of street foods, I still have a soft spot for trying different street foods from all over the world. For me, the most notable place for delicious street foods is Mumbai, India. In Mumbai, despite their rigid cast system, people from all economic classes eat street foods on the roadside. Today, to celebrate America’s “land of opportunity” for all, I’ve decided to make a “class-less” Mumbain street food, chickpea battered fried potato balls (Batata Vada), in my California kitchen.

To start, boil 1 lb russet potato (washed and unpeeled) in salted water until soft. Drain water and mash them. Then, mix with 1/2 inch ginger (peeled & chopped), 2 green onions (chopped), 2 Indian green chilies (chopped), 2 garlic cloves (crushed), juice from one lime, a 1/4 cup cilantro leaves (chopped) and some sea salt and sugar to taste. Separately, preheat 1 Tablespoon 7th Taste Curry Olive oil and roast 1 teaspoon mustard seeds until they start popping. Remove them from the heat and add to the potato mixture. Then, make small potato balls by rolling them between two palms. Separately, in a bowl, make the batter by mixing 4 cups gram flour (i.e. chickpea flour), 2 teaspoons 7th taste curry olive oil, 2 teaspoons chili powder, 2 teaspoons cumin seeds, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1 1/2 cup water and salt to taste. Preheat grapeseed or canola oil in a pot. Then dip each ball in the batter and deep fry until golden brown. Before serving, drain oil with paper towels and garnish with fresh cilantro leaves (This recipe serves about 8-12).

These Mumbain fried potato balls are really yummy! A bite of crunchy chickpea battered skin and soft mashed potato filling covers your taste buds with multi-dimensional flavors and citrusy, earthy, nutty tones. You can serve them as a delicious appetizer with your favorite chutneys or make vegetarian potato sliders with hamburger buns. It’s a tasty finger food your family and guests will enjoy very much! Enjoy the recipe and happy cooking!

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Sherry Chicken Chickpea Stew

At my sister’s glamorous wedding many years ago at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, I felt my head spinning. Surrounded by a picture perfect wedding, I watched my sister and her husband going around hundreds of tables and thanking each guest with perfect smile on their faces. At the end of her wedding, I just couldn’t imagine how tired she must have been, standing, smiling and talking to so many unfamiliar faces that she hardly knows. Ever since her wedding, I’ve never been a fan of big weddings. I dreamed that I would get married someday, standing on my bare feet on a calm beach in front of my family and my close friends. When Mike proposed to me this year, I told him about my “stess-free” dream wedding and suggested a simple wedding at the City Hall by water. He wanted a bit more flairs than the bare-bone ceremony, so, we decided to get married on October 7th at the Barkissimo yacht in the Emeryville Marina with just 50 guests.

In my early wedding planning stage I thought to myself, “how could my wedding possibly turn stressful when we only have 50 guests, and we know them all”. Two weeks before my wedding, however, I was waking up every morning with my head pounding. Things were beginning to get very stressful. My guest list kept on growing and shrinking. Plans kept changing, and finding ways to make both our families happy was easier said than done. Luckily, at the end, everything went well on our big day. Our wedding was as beautiful and as intimate as we wanted, and all our guests were having a great time. All my pre-wedding stress was simply melted away by the bliss and blessings from the people we care about.

To post-celebrate my “stress-free” perfect wedding day, today I am making a simple and delicious “Sherry Chicken Chickpea Stew” using a Ninja Cooking 3-In-1 System product sample I received last month. The Ninja cooker conveniently allows stir-frying, baking/steaming, and slow cooking in all in one unit. I couldn’t wait to try out this product sample ever since seeing it in Portland this Summer.

To start, first soak 2 cups dry chickpeas in hot water. Separately, turn on the Ninja cooking system switch to Stove Top High and preheat 1 Tablespoon 7th taste Ancho Chili Olive Oil. Then, saute 1 onion (chopped), 2 garlic cloves (crushed), 2 carrots (sliced in 1 inch), 2 stalks celery (cut in 1 inch) and 1 jalapeno chili (sliced) for 15-20 minutes. Then, add 1 cup tomato (chopped), 1 cup dry Oloroso Sherry and juice from 1 lemon and season with 1 Tablespoon chili powder, 1 Tablespoon cumin seeds, a dash of cinnamon and some sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste. Separately, drain water from chickpeas and add them to the pot. Then, stir in 2 lbs of skinless chicken thighs/drumsticks and pour enough water to cover all ingredients in the pot. Then, bring it to boil and switch over to the slow-cook option and let it sit/simmer for 4 hours on low. Before serving, drizzle a bit of 7th taste Ancho Chili Olive Oil in each bowl (This recipe serves 8).

The Ninja cooking 3-in-1 cooking system is very simple to use. Because I can do both roasting and slow cooking in one pot, it has less to clean-up. Chicken came out fork tender and was falling off the bones in the lip-smacking, delicious broth that was filled with layers of complex flavors. Yum! The only downside of the Ninja cooker is that it takes a long time to heat up the pot and it rarely gets hot enough to roast hard vegetables fast. Nevertheless, the Ninja helps make a delicious meal with an easy clean-up. While my sherry chicken chickpea stew was slow cooking on the timer, I went out to do bikram yoga and errands. And, after dinner, I simply cleaned up the pot and lid with hot water and a quick wipe with paper towel. I would buy this product for “stressed-out” college kids, who don’t have time to cook foods for hours, travelers, who don’t have an access to the stove top or oven to cook something or dinner party hosts, who want to keep foods warm for guests for a long time. If you find benefits of the Ninja cooker unimportant, just use your all time favorite thick cast iron pot (i.e. Le Creuset) to try my delicious recipe. You and your family will love it on a chilly Fall evening. Happy cooking!

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FLOSS Pacific NW Cuisine: Pan-Fried Wild-Caught Salmon

Last month I went to the Pacific Northwest and practiced my FLOSSing. It didn’t involve my teeth or a dentist. “Fresh Local Organic Sustainable Seasonal”-ing is a natural way of living in the rugged, luscious, green Pacific North West. The philosophy behind their regional cuisine evokes such simple, clean, natural flavors. In many ways, cooking with high quality Pacific Northwestern ingredients feels like dressing up a naturally beautiful tree-hugging lady. Just like too much make-up would mask her beautiful face, simplicity seems to work best to highlight the exceptional qualities and flavors of Pacific Northwest foods.

One of the key staples in Pacific Northwest is buttery, rich salmon. Salmon are born in fresh water and migrate to the ocean where they grow into adults. Then, they go back to their birthplaces to reproduce. The salmon’s circle of life – “creating a new life before death” – mirrors the Pacific Northwest’s sustainable way of living. Admiring their FLOSS philosophy, I’ve picked up some wild-caught salmon from the Pacific Northwest to marinate with my ancho chili olive oil, balsamic vinegar, tomato and green onions and then pan-fry them in my California kitchen. It came out so flavorful and juicy that my partner commented, “it’s better than what the King Estate Winery served at WBC 12 in Portland”. While those of you that were at the WBC dinner can actually compare it to the following recipe, everyone can try the following simply delicious North Western Style Salmon.

First, in a bowl, mix a ¼ cup of 7th taste ancho chili olive oil, 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 1 teaspoon brown sugar and ½ teaspoon sea salt. Then, peel 1 very ripe roma tomato and crush into fresh tomato juice in the bowl. Next, finely chop 2 stalks of green onion and add to the bowl. Whisk all ingredients of the marinade for a minute and let 1 lb salmon fillets soak in the marinade for 30 minutes. (you may flip them over once or twice to get the flavors infused to both sides of the salmon fillets) Next, preheat some 7th taste ancho chili olive oil on the grill pan and pan roast the salmon fillets until both sides turn crusty with nice grill marks. Before serving, sprinkle some chopped green onions & toasted sesame seeds and drizzle a bit of my ancho chili olive oil to keep it moist (serving 2-4).

The first bite of this salmon makes my mouth salivate for more. The marriage of the ancho chili olive oils‘ earthy sweetness, smokiness and butteriness with the balsamic vinegar’s thick syrupy sweetness and soft tanginess creates such a balanced structure for the marinade. Sweet, tart and smoky, the salmon is deliciously caramelized with complex layers of flavors. Every bite is so moist and rich, and the touch of toasted sesame seeds and green onions adds another great flavor dimensions to this mouth-watery salmon dish. Yum. FLOSS-driven foods aren’t just good for our ecosystems, but their naturally delicious flavors make it easy to create a fantastic dish with very little effort. Remember to FLOSS next time you go grocery shopping. Enjoy my recipe and happy cooking!

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