Category Archives: From the Garden

chinese cucumber salad

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tomato and caramelized onion tart

given my blog’s name, you’d have thought i’d have a plethora of tomato recipes on the site!  well, i finally got around to writing up a tomato tart recipe.  it was also a good opportunity, too,  to use up all the cherry tomatoes that i had been amassing in my fridge.  of course, it turned out that i was a few tomatoes shy ,but i think i had just enough to fill up the tart shell in a decent enough manner.

did i ever mention that tarts, savory and sweet, are like the perfect thing to make when entertaining?  you can make all the individual parts in advance, store them in your fridge, and just assemble and bake the day of.   Or, if you’ve got plenty of fridge space, you can just make the whole thing a day or so in advance, and re-heat.  i baked mine in the morning, and got away with serving it at room temperature later in the evening.

or, if you’re, hubs you can gobble up the leftovers for breakfast straight from the fridge.  .  .  i suppose it’s a bit like eating cold pizza for breakfast?

Tomato & Caramelized Onion Tart
(makes 1 nine-inch round tart)

Pate Brisee About half recipe here
Onions 3 medium sized onions
Butter 2 tbsp
Dijon Mustard 1 tbsp
Assorted Cherry Tomatoes 2-3 cups, washed and dried.  Remove stems and leaves, if any
Salt & Pepper 1-2 tsp each
Olive Oil 1 tbsp +1 tbsp, separately
  1. Roll-out the dough on a well-floured surface until it is about 13 inches wide and about 1/16th inch thick.
  2. Fit the dough into a 10 inch tart ring.
  3. Place the raw tart shell in the freezer and pre-heat oven to 350ºF.  When the oven reaches 350ºF, bake the tart shell for 15 minutes. Then brush on some egg white and bake for 10 more minutes. Remove from oven to cool.
  4. Slice onion into thin rounds.
  5. Heat butter and 1 tbsp of olive oil in a flat skillet.
  6. Add in onions and cook on low heat until the onions have caramelized.  Yes, you can do this quickly over high heat, but onions won’t release their sugars unless you do this low and slow.  It will take 25 minutes or so.  Patience is a virtue…
  7. Remove caramelized onions from skillet and mix with mustard.
  8. Spread the onions on the bottom of the tart in an even layer.
  9. Toss tomatoes with salt, pepper and olive oil in a bowl.
  10. Arrange the tomatoes on top of the onions.
  11. Bake for another 40 to 45 minutes, or until the tomatoes are puckered and slightly charred.

sts (aka. sweet tangy spicy) pickled radishes

perfect pickled radishes is a matter of personal taste.  i like mine slightly sweet, slightly tangy, slightly spicy, and oh yeah, they need to have a crunch.  i started mucking about the kitchen the other day, and quickly threw together a pickling brine with the sichuan peppercorns i had hauled back from my trip to chengdu. i poured the brine over some radishes, and lo and behold, a few days later, hubs and i found ourselves crunching on some seriously delicious radishes.

i then spent the next two weekends making sure that i could reproduce the recipe.  i think i’ve got it down to a science now, or at least an easy to repeat routine. in my latest batch, i tossed in some sliced carrots as well to add some color.

i’m finding that the radishes are awesomely convenient and infinitely versatile .  i’ll toss them into salads, place them on top of sandwiches, or use them as a condiment to go along with some cold sesame noodles.  .  .

STS Pickled Radishes
(enough to fill a 1.5L Fido Jar)

Radishes 2 ¼ lbs (~1 kilo); I use daikon radishes because they are easiest to slice.  Red radishes can be used as well – a neat thing happens with red radishes. After a few days of pickling, the red skin color transfers from the radish to the brine, i.e. the brine becomes reddish and the radish is left white).NB: if you want some color, sliced carrots can be tossed in as well, but i’d keep the proportion sub 20%.
Fresh Garlic 3-4 cloves, peeled and smashed
Fresh Ginger About 1 inch cube, peeled and sliced
Sichuanese Red Peppercorns ¼ cup
Dried Red Chili Peppers ½ cup
Sugar ½ cup
Rice Vinegar 1 ½ cups
White Vinegar ½ cup
Mirin ½ cup
Sake ½ cup
  1. Wash, peel and slice radishes about 1/8″ thick.  It’s easiest to use a japanese benriner or mandolin.
  2. Toss sliced radishes in a large prep bowl with garlic, ginger, sugar, peppercorns and chilis.
  3. Transfer to Fido jar and pour vinegars, mirin and sake over.
  4. Clamp jar close and store in refrigerator.
  5. Radishes will be ready to eat in 2-3 days.

best fusilli ever!

the other day, hubs and i wandered up to eataly, mario batali’s mammoth italian food hall concept in the flatiron district. we went at 10 am when it opened, and zigzagged around the place pin-balling all around the place to get the lay of the land.  we saw some gorgeously arranged vegetables, waited online for  sliced prosciutto, checked out the unicredit ATM kiosk, and listened to the mozzarella man explain the freshness of his mozzarella.  we bought a sample, popped it into our mouths, and yes, he was right, his mozzarella was indeed very fresh and creamy and elastic.  it smelled nice too.

most of the food counters serving prepared food did not open until 11am.  we tried to get a coffee at the lavazza espresso counter while we waited for things to open, but the line was daunting.  instead, we sat outside in grammercy square park for a bit and then ducked inside.  i quickly grabbed a gelato with two flavors:  fig and pear-ginger.  the fig gelato tasted like pink flesh of italian figs; however, i realised that i didn’t much like the taste of that particular type of fig configured into gelato.  (i’m not quite sure what type of fig il laboratorio del gelato uses; their fig gelato is divine).  i quite enjoyed the pear-ginger flavor.

our friend J showed up (we planned to meet him there for lunch) and after quickly walking around in a circle, decided to eat lunch at La Pasta, the pasta and neapolitian pizza restaurant.  apparently, lines can get up to 90 minutes long at peak times; although there was no wait when we showed up at 11:05am.  we ordered a mixed appetizers plate, a pizza and a pasta.  the mixed plate contained about 6-7 tiny servings of roasted vegetables, cured meats and mozzarella.  best shared between two people with smallish appetites. the pizza, a margherita, arrived rather burnt on the edges with a soggy center — we really weren’t very impressed.  however, the fusilli was omg! the best fusilli i’ve ever had.  La Pasta served the fusilli with a hearty ragu (J identified it as duck, but i thought it tasted more like an aged beef). i probably could have consumed a plate of the stuff without any sauce.

i ended up purchasing a package of the fusilli to take home with me ($7.50/each).  it’s a bit pricey for dried pasta, but a pack has got 5-6 servings, so not too bad.  a few days later, i boiled about half a pack of the pasta, reaching al dente perfection in about 11 minutes.  i served it with my own version of a hearty ragu made from ground turkey, san marzano tomatoes, and a few tomatoes thrown in from my garden.

200 Fifth Ave (@ 23rd Street)
New York, NY 10010
Market 10a-11p
Lavazza Espresso Bar 9a-10p
Restaurants 11a-10p

mid-fall tomato update

i know it’s october, but my tomato plants, particularly the pineapple variety, are still going strong (no doubt because they reside in my living room). there are a few more on my bush that are stubbornly, still green. . .

i plucked a large yellow and red pineapple tomato this morning about 4 inches in diameter and weighing in at 252g (just over 1/2 a pound).  they look rather like the heirloom tomatoes selling for $7.99/lb at my local greenmarket, if i do say so myself!

more about tomato growing under the green shoots tab above (or you can click here)

crack, snap and thud: the tomato accident

for the past few months or so, i’ve been documenting the growth of my tomatoes under the green shoots page of my blog.  things had been going splendidly with my tomatoes growing by leaps and bounds.  that is, until last night. . .

hubby heard a crack late in the evening emanating from the tomato plants.  i took a look at the plants and they seemed allright, so i thought nothing of it.  the next morning, i woke up to find that one of my larger tomato plants had snapped in three places  due to the weight of its fruits and crashed into its neighbor, causing its smaller neighbor to crack in one place as well. and, one of the larger (3 inches in diameter / 186g) , still green tomatoes fell to the ground with a thud. aiyeeeee!

i hurriedly got out my first aid kit and started to bandage up my tomato plants in the places they had cracked  (see red circle above) and re-attached them with waterproof first aid tape to the tomato stakes.  if all goes well, the cracked stalks will heal and form a scar.  fingers crossed until then!

the transformative power of shredding: sauteed brussel sprouts


my husband and i finally landed a spot at momofuku ko’s kitchen side table with help from my cousin E who has access to those nifty ethernet connections used for high velocity trading.  out of our nine course meal, i was really impressed with 3 things:

  1. grated cage free foie gras served over lychees in a riesling gelee
  2. the shredded brussel sprouts accompanying a venison dish
  3. the zen-like calm of the perfectly choreographed 3-man kitchen team

for as much as i’ve heard people say that david chang is over-rated, i really admired his creativity in re-imagining a classic ingredient like foie gras.  rather than being overwhelmingly rich, the grated foie came out light and airy with the requisite richness just melting as soon as it touched my tongue.

i am a neophyte when it comes to the preparation of brussel sprouts, and i think i was so enamoured of the shredded sprouts that evening because i had never imagined them being prepared in that manner.  having watched the chefs prepare the dish all evening, i realised that part of the reason seeing shredded brussel sprouts is so rare (aside from the fact that my sojurns to the south are rather limited), is no doubt related to the highly labour intensive process of shredding.  each sprout is run quickly up and down a hand held mandolin, and only about half the sprout is used until discarded. but, shredding transforms the brussel sprouts, becoming more flavorful with each bite and a lot less starchy. i think it’s worth the extra effort.

Shredded Sauteed Brussel Sprouts with Lemon Zest

Fresh Brussel Sprouts ~1.5 lbs, shredded.  The professionals use a mandolin or a Japanese benriner.  I’ve found at home that slicing it very finely with a sharp knife is actually quite a bit faster.
Garlic 3 cloves, minced
Butter 1 tbsp
Olive oil 2 tbsp
Salt & Pepper For taste
Lemon zest Zest of 1 lemon
  1. Heat the butter, olive oil and garlic in a sautee pan.
  2. When the garlic is lightly brown, add in the brussel sprouts and stir vigorously until the sprouts are evenly coated.
  3. When the brussel sprouts have soften over medium high heat (about 10 minutes), add salt & pepper for taste.
  4. Remove the sprouts from the pan, and sprinkle with lemon zest on top.

ripe figs at last


i woke up this morning to find that 2 of my figs finally have started to ripen.  happy fall harvest to all!

a cauliflower panna cotta, per se


walking through whole foods the other day, i spied the most glorious and gigantic head of cabbage — creamy white florets surrounded by dewy green leaves.  it must have weighed 10 lbs by itself because after picking it up, i realised that i’d have a hard time lugging home another at the 2 for $5 price. we’ve been eating cauliflower for the past 3 days. i’ve had the chance to roast it, stir fry it and yes…to finally conduct an at home cauliflower panna cotta trial.

my lucky stomach has been to thomas keller’s per se twice thus far. and each time, aside from the fact that i feel as if i’m bursting at the seams with food, i walk away thinking that the degustatory evening was a rather zen-ish, cocoon-like experience — a bit, i suppose, like holly golightly falling in love with tiffany’s because nothing ever goes wrong at per se.

reading the cauliflower panna cotta recipe, i gained a deeper sense of chef keller’s genius.  the panna cotta itself is quite straight forward. but what i didn’t notice while eating it was the transparent oyster gelee he used to coat the top of the panna cotta.  that thin gelee layer leant both a glossy finish to the dish as well as adding a briny complexity which cut through the richness of the panna cotta. glancing through the other recipes, i realised that none of keller’s dishes are quite as simple as they might have looked at the restaurant.

for my home version (picture above), i made just the cauliflower panna cotta, leaving out the oyster gelee and the caviar.  i also took a shortcut and spooned the panna cotta into one serving dish — a definite mistake; it should have been separated into 12 servings. the resulting panna cotta is so dense and rich, that it really should be eaten in small quantities.  any serving size beyond the size of a 3 inch ramekin is really too much.

Cauliflower Panna Cotta
(adapted from the French Laundry cookbook)

Cauliflower 8 oz. Cut into ½ inch florets
Butter 2 tbsp
Water 1.5 cups
Heavy cream 1 cup
Gelatin sheets 1 sheet (note: these are kind of hard to find in the US grocery store.  I usually pick them up in London.  You can however order them online.  Additionally, gelatin sheets come in 2 sizes.  The ones I buy in London are about half the size of the gelatin sheets used in the professional kitchens.  By 1 sheet, I believe Chef Keller means those that are 8-9 inches in length (the width will vary).  Additionally, 3-4 sheets are roughly equivalent to 1 envelope of Knox gelatin)
  1. Spread cauliflower evening in a saucepan
  2. Add butter and water.
  3. Simmer for ~30 minutes, until the water is mostly evaporated.
  4. Add the cream and simmer for another 10 minutes. The cauliflower should be completely cooked at this point.
  5. Transfer the mixture in the saucepan into a food processor and blend until completely smooth.
  6. Strain it.  Chef Keller advises using a chinois.  Lacking one, I used the strainer I had on hand.
  7. Add salt for taste.
  8. Soak the gelatin in cold water for 2 to 3 minutes.  When the gelatin leaf has softened, squeeze out the excess liquid and add it to the warm cauliflower mixture.  If for some reason, you’ve allowed your cauliflower mixture to cool and the gelatin won’t melt, you can put it over a water bath.  That said, don’t overcook the gelatin — it will smell like fish bones if you do.
  9. Spoon 2 tbsp of the panna cotta into 12 serving bowls and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to set.
  10. When set, top the panna cotta with 1 tsp of oyster gelee and garnish with a quenelle of caviar (beluga, of course)

Oyster Gelee

Oyster juice ¼ cup (Chef Keller gives instructions in his book on how to make oyster juice from fresh oysters)
Gelatin sheet 1/3 sheet
Water 2 tsp
Freshly ground pepper 3 turns of the pepper mill
  1. Place water and gelatin sheet in a small bowl and set over a water bath.  Stir constantly to dissolve the gelatin.
  2. Remove the bowl from the water bath and add in the oyster juice.
  3. Stir until everything is well combined.
  4. Add in the pepper.
  5. Chill in refrigerator until it has thickened to the consistency of oil and the pepper bits are suspended in the jelly.

baked fried green tomatoes


every so often, i need to clip, prune and wrestle my tomato vines into a semblance of order. i did so again this weekend and several green tomatoes fell off their vines in the process. they seemed too cute to throw away and not knowing what else to do with them, i went with my husband’s suggestion to make them into baked fried green tomatoes (i guess it’s one of those food names akin to chicken fried steak, is it chicken or is it steak?).

i don’t eat tomatoes unless they are sun-dried or pulverized into ketchup or a stew.   my husband says that they are tasty, so i suppose at least they have one customer.  i’ll have to find a true southerner, though, to see if they pass muster. they are, however, a lot less morbid than those from the whistle stop cafe.

Baked Fried Green Tomatoes
(a very inexact recipe)

Green Tomatoes                                 Whatever you’ve got on hand
Salt & Pepper                                       A sprinkle of each
Egg                                                         Figure about 1 egg per a lb of tomatoes
Panko Bread Crumbs                         Enough for coating
Olive Oil                                                Apply a light drizzle

  1. Cut tomatoes on their sides
  2. Toss the tomatoes in Salt & Pepper
  3. Dip the tomatoes in the beaten egg mixture and dredge through the panko bread crumbs
  4. Drizzle the bottom of a baking sheet with a light coat of olive oil. (I lined my pan with foil for easy clean-up)
  5. Place each coated tomato on the baking sheet
  6. Drizzle with the top of the tomatoes a light coat of olive oil
  7. Sprinkle some additional salt & pepper for flavour
  8. Bake at 350ºF for 25 minutes or until golden brown