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Pulled Over

“No sir, you can’t just throw barbeque sauce onto some grey pork floss and call it pulled pork.”

We all have something to fight for, something grounded jn the depths of our memory that we treat in a do-or-die sort of way. That is, if you’re going to do it, you better do it right, or don’t even.

Most often our brain’s preference of these subjects is based on our upbringing, in my case, that would be my mother. A treat to imagine though, that my timid, loving, born-and-raised in Taiwan mother is actually a barbeque pulled pork enthusiast.

Thus, by default, I fall somewhat in that category too. Genetics, man.

But I think that gene is secretly inherent in any human being. Seriously, that moment when the pork fibers fell apart at the tip of my fork, the steam burst forth, and the dark amber fat cap unraveled to reveal the rusty pink hued, scallop textured flesh beneath…something instinctive resonated within me.

Epic.

Four ingredients is all you need,

so thank me for blowing your mind up, you’re welcome.

Finishing is better than starting.

Patience is better than pride.

Ecclesiastes 7:8

 

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You don’t need a smoker or anything fancy for this. All you need is time, and not even that much of it compared to some other methods you’ll find. One could certainly power through the entire recipe and have it on the table in 7 hours, otherwise you can chill it after shredding for up to 5 days, then finish with the last 2 hours of baking before serving, which thickens the sauce into a sticky, molasses-like glaze. The choice of fruit juice is arbitrary, but I like mango because it reduces into the richest glaze.

Ingredients for the pulled pork, serves 16:

8 lbs local pork shoulder, choose one that’s well marbled

3 tbsp kosher salt

1 bottle (400-425 ml) barbeque sauce ,use your favourite, but if don’t have one, get a darker one that’s more smoky than sweet

1 bottle (400-425 ml) mango juice (I’ve also succeeded with pomegranate, peach, and apple)

To make the pulled pork, remove any string from the pork if it’s in the form of a tied roast. Make a deep cut to butterfly the pork so it is about 3-4 inches thick throughout. Do not trim any of the fat.

Rub the pork all over with salt and place, fat side facing up, in a roasting pan. Squeeze the barbeque sauce over the pork without smearing – you want the sauce to form a cap and sit on top of the meat. Fill the barbeque sauce bottle with the juice and shake it to dissolve the bit of sauce remaining. Pour the mixture around the pork.

Seal the pan tightly with aluminum foil, overlapping a couple of sheets.

Bake at 295 degrees F for 5-5 1/2 hours, until the fat is rendered and meat shreds effortlessly. Shred the pork with two forks while it’s still hot in a separate large bowl and return it back to the pan of pork jus. Discard any visible lumps of fat.

Bake at 300 degrees F, loosely covered for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, or until the sauce reduces into a thick glaze and the color intensifies.

For the coleslaw I did not want anything heavy or mayonnaise-y at all since the pork itself is rich enough. In fact, this method of making coleslaw is inspired by the Taiwanese pickling technique of first making a vinegar simple syrup, then pouring the hot syrup over the vegetables and letting it sit for three days. The result is something incredibly flavourful with a gutsy balance of acidity to cut through the pork’s fattiness just barely mellowed by a touch of mayonnaise.

Ingredients for the lime slaw:

100 ml rice vinegar

100 ml sugar

1 kg coleslaw blend (shredded green cabbage, purple cabbage, and carrots)

1 lime, zest and juice

3 tbsp good quality mayonnaise

To make the lime slaw, dissolve the sugar with the vinegar in a small sauce pan. Pour over the coleslaw blend and mix thoroughly with the remaining ingredients. Cover and chill at least overnight, though it will be best three days later.

To assemble the sandwiches, just pile the warmed pork and cold slaw onto your favourite buns, I recommend a stronger-bodied bread, but really, anything goes. You can’t go wrong with pulled pork.

Enjoy! (And don’t forget the napkins!)

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A Scrappy Panegyric

The typical home cook may not have a sous-vide, smoke gun, nor all those chemo-gastro tricks and bits in their cupboard. But in my experience, refrigerator purgation is a fun enough sport of its own.

I have no doubt that by this age, any conscientious cook would be well aware of the amazing efficiency of North Americans in wasting food. And I’m equally certain that many of you secretly do a victory hand gesture when you come up with something perfectly delicious out of seemingly nothing.

Story of these banana scones.

1. Bananas: leftover and on the verge of becoming the breeding ground of fruit flies.

2. Cream cheese: leftover and mistaken for butter due to its dehydrated state of being.

3. Sour cream: leftover from (now on vaycay) cousins frozen pierogi endeavours.

4. Butter: the last stick – hey, that’s barely enough for anything.

Perhaps you can now begin to understand my excitement when I used all of them up and popped these golden babes out the oven!

So tell me, what’s the most outrageously delicious thing you’ve done to redeem ingredients that’ve passed the point of no return?

He feels pity

for the weak and the needy,

and he will rescue them.

He will redeem them

from oppression and violence,

for their lives are precious to him.

Psalm 72:13-14

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Ingredients for the Roasted Banana on top:

1 large banana, sliced into 12 1/4-inch thick rounds

2 tbsp sugar, to coat

To make the roasted banana garnish, dip one side of each banana slice in the sugar to coat generously.

Ingredients for the Banana, Cinnamon, Cream Cheese Scones:

makes 12

3 c AP flour, you can substitute up to half with whole wheat

2 tbsp sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 c cold butter, cubed

2 tbsp cold cream cheese, cubed

1 large, overripe banana

1/2 c sour cream

scant 1/3 c heavy cream

1 large egg

2 tsp vanilla

To make the scones, preheat the oven to 365 degrees F, with the racks spaced evenly in the oven.

Put the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a food processor and blend until even. Pulse in the cold butter and cream cheese until a coarse mixture forms and there are still some small, visible bits of butter remaining. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and chill in the fridge until needed.

Puree the banana, sour cream, heavy cream, egg, and vanilla until very smooth in a tall container using an immersion blender.

Take the flour mixture from the fridge and make a large hole in the middle. Pour in the banana mixture and stir gently with a fork just to combine – it should hardly even come together. Divide the mixture in half and knead each portion at most twice to bring it together. Gather each into a mound and press it into an inch-thick disc. Cut each disc into 6 wedges and transfer to 2 baking sheets, leaving 1-inch space in between.

Brush with a little extra cream and garnish with the sugar coated banana slices. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until pale golden and risen.

Serve warm or at room temperature…

…with a cup of black, obviously.

 

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the Original Drive-Thru

It’s always in the simplest, purest of ingredients that you notice the biggest difference. This time, I’m shining the light on a local farm that treats their hens right. And of course, happy hens => happy eggs => happy eating.

What’s even better? I don’t even have to stand in line at the farmer’s market to get them. They have a drive-through right at the farm, and literally all you need to do is “honk for service”. Yup, an egg drive-through. Where do I even come from, right?

Maple Ridge, British Columbia. And the adorable farm is called “Never Say Die” Nursery. See? Adorable.

But back to the eggs, gorgeous doesn’t describe them. And the term #yolkporn disgusts me. Seriously, don’t adulterate something so natural and nourishing. Whenever I come across a good egg it always makes me momentarily breathless. It must be the combination of the yolk’s bright tangerine color (#f28500 hex color code, look it up), the way the yolk stands so proudly in a visibly distinct sac of albumen when you crack it open that inspires me to treat it well.

This time, it’s poaching. There’s something about the tenderness of spring asparagus, the whimsy of sweet peas, and the viridity of a jiggly poached egg that makes them, together, instinctively irresistible.

As for those limp, watery eggs that have a sad, deflated, pale yellow yolk swimming inside of them, hide them in a box-mix cake or something. Do not attempt to serve them in their form. Also, never buy them again, for those eggs are from caged, drugged hens (in the name of mass economical production! oh joy!) and should not even be produced.

Hopefully you’ve seen the light as far as the topic of eggs, now go and convince your taste buds!

Take no part in

the unfruitful

works of darkness,

but instead

expose them.

Ephesians 5:11

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Believe it or not, this is my very first time poaching an egg. So as you can see, it really is nothing to be scared of. To be honest, I was pretty terrified right up to the point I lowered in the egg, but immediately I realized that you are physically incapable of messing this up so long as you follow along this little tutorial. Also, as if I have not drilled it into your kitchen backsplash, a good free range egg is not negotiable – you and your family deserve at least that.

So here goes:

How to poach an egg

Step 1: If your egg has been sitting in the fridge, bring your egg to room temperature by submerging them in a bowl of warm tap water for 5 minutes. Pat your egg dry and crack it into a small bowl. If your egg’s already at room temperature, just crack it into a small bowl. Take care not to break the yolk. (This should not be difficult as fresh free range eggs have very robust yolks!)

Step 2: Add 2 tbsp white vinegar to a large pot of water and let it come up to a rolling boil.

Step 3: Turn off the heat and use a spoon to stir the water quickly in a clock-wise direction to make a whirlpool in the pot’s center.

Step 4: While the current is still strong, gently tip the egg into the middle of the whirlpool.

Step 5: Cover and let it poach for 150 seconds (2 1/2 minutes), then carefully lift it out with a slotted spoon.

At this point you can either serve it immediately, or place it in a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process.

Now let’s get on with the recipe!

Ingredients for the Penne with Pan-Roasted Asparagus, Sweet Peas, Pesto, and Caramelized Lemon

serves 4

340 g organic corn penne, or your preferred chunky pasta (I like penne because it’s the same shape as the asparagus)

1 large lemon, scrubbed clean and halved

3 tbsp olive oil

600 g asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch sticks on the diagonal

1/2 c basil pesto (recipe follows)

2/3 c white wine (whatever you have on hand, I used chablis)

1 1/4 c frozen sweet peas

lots of fine sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and extra virgin olive oil to season

To make the asparagus penne, cook the pasta as directed on the package.

Meanwhile, heat your cast iron on the stove until very hot. Place the lemon halves, cut sides down in the hot pan and hold them down firmly for 30~60 seconds, or until the surface is well-browned and caramelized. This will completely change the flavour profile of the lemon and give it a sweeter, deeper dimension. Slice off and reserve the caramelized parts only. (Use the rest for lemon water or something.)

Keep the pan on medium heat, add 1 tbsp of the oil just to coat the bottom and add the asparagus. Season generously and let it sit undisturbed for 20 seconds or so to get some browned, crispy bits. Stir a couple times, just until all the pieces are bright green.

Transfer the asparagus into a large salad/mixing bowl. Stir in the frozen peas to stop the cooking process. By now the pasta should be cooked. Drain and toss it with the vegetables.

Keep the element on and add the remaining oil to the pan and stir in the pesto to wake up its flavour. Deglaze with the white wine and stir until the alcohol burns off. Pour the sauce over the pasta mixture and stir through. Check and adjust the seasoning.

Divide between four plates. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, top with an optional (but definitely recommended) poached egg, and serve with a slice of caramelized lemon.

Enjoy!

To make a vegan pesto, throw 50 g sweet basil, 2 garlic cloves, 3 tbsp toasted pine nuts, 3/4 tsp sea salt, and 1/2 cup olive oil in a small food processor and whiz to a textured puree. Store in a glass jar, pour a thin film of olive oil over top to seal and cover with the lid. This will keep in the fridge for about 2 weeks.

 

 

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Take a minute

I just realized that I’ve never actually posted a blueberry recipe here before. How do I even call myself a British Columbian right? I do have a handful of blueberry recipes rolled up my sleeve, but it can be tough sometimes to actually go and feature something when you are figuratively swamped by it.

Yeah, yeah, I know this sounds super bratty and ridiculous (like those people who say “sorry, I only have fifties”), but I’m not complaining at all. It’s just that I don’t even bother to do anything remotely (subjectively) worth mentioning or creative with those blues. Most of the time I just eat them like popcorn (I imagine this would be an appropriate comparison though I don’t even eat popcorn), straight out of the bowl.

Thankfully, this post will fix that. And for those of you folks halfway around the world gawking at pictures of fresh blueberries (because you only have mangoes and papayas, you poor souls) you can use frozen blueberries. It doesn’t even matter if they’re small and tart, it actually means you’ll have more fresh blueberry flavour once the cake’s done.

Coffee, anyone? And this is best eaten warm and crisp from the oven, so share!

Whoever has two tunics

is to share with him who has none,

and whoever has food

is to do likewise.

Luke 3:11

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Ingredients for the Blueberry Almond Double-Crumble Coffee Cake, 9-inch:

for the batter:

3 c oat flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

1/2 c almond milk or other milk of choice

1/4 c coconut oil

1 large ripe banana

1/2 c packed brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 large lemon, zest and juice

generous 1 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (do not thaw)

for the crumble topping:

1/2 c packed brown sugar

1/2 c oats

1/2 c oat flour

1/3 c pure almond butter

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

To make the blueberry crumble cake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, with the rack placed in the center of the oven. Line the bottom of a 9-inch cake pan with parchment.

Make the crumble topping; mix together thoroughly all ingredients for the crumble in a small mixing bowl. Set Aside.

Prepare the batter; whisk together all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Puree the almond milk, coconut oil, banana, brown sugar, lemon, and vanilla in a blender until smooth. Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and stir just to combine. Fold in the blueberries.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out the top. Squeeze a handful of the crumble mixture to let it clump up, then break it coarsely over the  batter. Repeat with the remaining crumble mixture.

Bake for 35-40 minutes if you used fresh blueberries. If you used frozen blueberries, bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the top is browned and toothpick inserted comes out with moist crumbs.

Let it rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing. Don’t fuss over getting clean, beautiful slices (there’s double crumble, so just forget it).

Enjoy with your favourite coffee!

 

 

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Mien Attitude

Noodles, beyond any other food group has the richest history and diversity. One can tell plenty of dish’s origin by simply reading its name as long as it involves a noodle of some sort.

I am, by no means, an expert on noodles – especially so when it comes to western pastas. BUT, to be honest, if your food memories have been pickled since childhood in Taiwanese gastro-culture, you probably know a thing or two about an iconic bowl of #saucyasiannoodles.

Now, as I’ve mentioned, noodles are very revealing. Just as how table manners of a kid will show you the discipline of the parent, a humble bowl of noodles will tell you the style of its cook, and maybe get even more personal.

This recipe here, please don’t smash it to bits, because it got me through freshman year. It’s unpretentious, but it insists on keeping the details. It’s cheap, but not so it should apologize. And it’s so damn delicious it will fix all of your problems.

That’s just me though, so I have no idea what this bowl of noodles will say to you.

Guess you’ll have to find out for yourself ! But in case you missed it, I’ll start you off and tell you that this is a “dan” good bowl of noodles! (No, do not excuse that pun!)

But solid food is for the mature,

for those who have their powers of discernment

trained by constant practice

to distinguish good from evil.

Hebrews 5:14

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Ingredients for the Szechuan dan dan soba with kale and chili oil, serves 2:

2 tbsp Chinese sesame paste (not tahini or the pastry filling)

4 tbsp natural smooth peanut butter (unsweetened)

2 tsp brown sugar

1/3 c soy sauce

1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil

1 tbsp Szechuan fried chili in oil and more to taste

1 bunch kale, trimmed and torn

3 bunches buckwheat soba noodles

3 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced

To make the dan dan soba, bring a large pot of water to the boil. Meanwhile, combine the sesame paste, peanut butter, sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and Szechuan chili in a bowl and stir well.

Once the water is boiling, blanch the kale until wilted and lift them out to drain, then squeeze out any excess moisture. Separate the kale leaves and put them in a large bowl. Add the sauce on top.

Keep the pot boiling, and add the soba noodles to the pot to cook until tender, not al dente (this is one of the biggest differences between Asian noodles and Italian pasta.) Lift the noodles out and transfer them straight into the bowl of kale. Make sure you are combining piping hot noodles with the sauce as the heat is what makes the sauce aromatic. Mix and toss thoroughly, adding a couple ladles of hot noodle water to reach your desired consistency. (Again, don’t just add plain water, as that will break the sauce.)

Divide among two big bowls, and garnish with the scallions and more Szechuan chili oil. (I usually add an additional teaspoon to my bowl, but I’ve been told as having a pretty h-core heat tolerance. However, I strongly recommend starting with a whole tablespoon in the sauce as a starting point.)

Enjoy with a cup of hot green tea!

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giv’em the karats, but save me the carrots

Is it wedding season or what!? This summer alone five couples I personally know (as in not my great-aunt’s friend’s son-in-law’s nephew) are getting married! It really is stunning here in Vancouver at this moment though. The days are long, and tender foliage shimmers under the late afternoon sun, casting my studio in its bosky glow.

And of course, with this buzzing symphony of summer weddings, you can’t help but get a little bit bubbly about all the new beginnings. I mean, if you live in Canada it’s hard to consider spring as the season of new life and energy, but summer is a whole different story (even here in the laid-back West). For me, summer’s when I’m most inspired, and when I have the luxury to dream. I do find myself doing more things outside the box (euphemism for my narrow comfort zone), so maybe that’s pushing me to find out more about myself, and the God who I trust – what He has given me, what He wants me to give.

I’m clear on this fact: God has given me full-on freedom to explore, grow, and lead in Him. As for the rest of life’s worries, He says, He will shoulder. All I have to give is, ironically, my all. But hey, I think that’s a pretty good investment if it’s the Creator rooting for me.

So for now, I’ll take the carrot – to cultivate, to nourish, and to share. Because I can’t yet see the beauty in a karat.

In the meantime, congratulations to all the gorgeous brides out there! You are not just beautiful, but strong and courageous. All the best and be very blessed.

I want you to be free

from anxieties.

The unmarried man is anxious

about the things of the Lord,

how to please the Lord.

1 Corinthians 7:32

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Ingredients for the Tropical Carrot Cake, makes two 9-inch layers:

3 c oat flour (grind oats in your coffee/spice grinder)

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

2 c brown sugar

1 large orange, zest only

1 tbsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla paste (use pure vanilla extract if you don’t have this)

1 1/2 c extra virgin olive oil

1 medium, ripe banana

2 c coarsely grated carrot

1 c finely chopped fresh pineapple

1 c sultana raisins

1 c chopped walnuts, toasted

To make the carrot cake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, with the rack placed in the center of the oven. Line the bottom of two 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper.

Whisk together the oat flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

Whiz the brown sugar, orange zest, cinnamon, vanilla, olive oil, and banana in a blender or food processor until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture becomes a thick caramel consistency.

Pour the brown sugar mixture into the flour mixture and stir just to combine. Fold in the carrot, pineapple, raisins, and walnuts until well combined.

Scrape the batter evenly into the prepared pans and smooth out the top. Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes. The cakes should have crisp and very golden brown tops, and the sides should be pulling slightly away from the pan. Cool completely, cover, and chill overnight.

Ingredients for the Coconut Vanilla Bean Mousse, makes enough for 2 layers:

400 g traditional or silken firm tofu

1 can coconut cream, chilled, solid fat only

1 generous tsp vanilla paste

2-3 tbsp agave nectar, to taste

To prepare the tofu, tip out any liquid in the container. Rinse the tofu under cold running water, and put it back in the container. Fill the container to the top with filtered water, and place it in the fridge for at least 4 hours. Repeat this step.

Drain the tofu and pat dry with some kitchen towel. Fold a new sheet of kitchen towel in half and place it on a clean working surface. Cut the tofu into 2-cm thick slices and arrange them, cut side down, on the kitchen towel. Cover with another folded sheet of kitchen towel. Put a heavy wooden cutting board on top to give it some pressure. Let sit for 10 minutes. Change the kitchen towel, then let it sit for another 10 minutes to fully extract the moisture.

Puree the tofu in a blender or food processor and puree until extremely smooth. Add the coconut cream, vanilla, and agave and blend until creamy. Cover and chill completely.

For the cake assembly you’ll need:

1/2 c pineapple compote (home made of course, or yuzu preserves, even sauteed apples will work)

1/2 c unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted

To assemble the cake, run a knife along the sides of the pans to loosen the cakes. Invert one cake layer onto your cake stand and peel off the parchment. Cover the top with the pineapple compote, and invert the remaining cake layer onto the cake. Cover the entire cake (top and sides) with the mousse frosting and smooth it out.

Garnish with the toasted coconut and edible flowers (not necessary, but it’s pretty!)

Store in the refrigerator and, as always, enjoy (with a nice cup of earl grey or black coffee)!

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Layers

It’s amazing how an actual attempt in putting your mind to something can make you realize how terrible you are at focusing. I am, by no means, one who is timid in enforcing self control. But at times (blame spring and the fever that comes with it) I just find progress depressingly close to being stagnant while my mind rummages through even the least significant details dating back to over half a decade.

And then I’m thinking, if I am carrying so much junk with me, how am I supposed to pick up anything new and valuable? How I wish I could just empty my mind like dumping all those second-rate photos into the recycling bin then emptying that with just a couple of clicks. I wish my mind could absorb new knowledge like downloading a (legitimate) program.

But then what kind of life would that be? Isn’t life supposed to be valued by the little things that take our breath away – the smell of fresh rain on the sun-baked sidewalk, the coolness of plunging my arms elbow-deep into a sac filled with rice, the shadows of branches swaying to the breeze?

Oh, please make everything new again.

Create in me a clean heart,

O God,

and renew a right spirit within me.

Psalms 51:10

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Ingredients for the Tofu Carpaccio – serves 2:

400 g organic silken firm tofu

2 tbsp thick soy sauce

1 tbsp brown sugar, or agave, or maple syrup (whatever you have)

1 tbsp Chinese black vinegar

1/4 tsp toasted sesame oil

1 tsp Szechuan chili oil

2 scallions, thinly sliced

crumbled nori and toasted white sesame seeds/ chopped peanuts, to garnish

To clean the tofu, tip out all the liquid in the tofu container. Gently rinse the tofu under cold water. Put it in a lidded container  that fits and pour cold filtered water over it until it is completely submerged. Cover and refrigerate overnight. This will give your tofu a very clean, delicate flavour without an overpowering soy taste.

The next day you will notice that the water has taken on a yellowish tinge, that’s perfect. Tip out that liquid again, take out the tofu, and rinse under cold water again. Pat it dry with some kitchen towel, then wrap it with a cheese cloth on your cutting board. Leave a weighted plate on it for 15 minutes or so to help extract the moisture. This will help you get those super-thin slices as well as prevent your finished carpaccio from drowning in its own liquid.

Unwrap the tofu, and using your sharpest knife, carefully slice the tofu as thin as possible. As soon as you make a slice, lay it on the plate overlapping to conform to the shape of your plate (it is nearly impossible to try and transfer each slice after accumulating them on the cutting board.) Once you’re done slicing and plating, chill it in the fridge.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, and sesame oil to combine. Take out the tofu (if moisture has formed, dab it gently with more kitchen towel. Drizzle on the sauce and chili oil. Garnish with the scallions and nori, sesame/peanuts, if using.

Serve with steamed rice…you’ll need lots, but enjoy!