Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Asian Lettuce Cups

Prawn filled lettuce cups

Lettuce cups are a fun dish because it requires you to interact and assemble the filling into the lettuce, and eating with your hands make food taste better!

ingredients for filling:
1/3 pound ground turkey
1/2 pound prawns, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
2 spring onions ( chopped finely)
3 garlic gloves ( chopped finely)
a bunch of chives
Lima beans 3 tablespoon
2 stalks of chopped celery
half of a red pepper, chopped
Hoisin sauce, 2 tablespoons
chili sauce, 1 tablespoon
sesame oil


In a skillet, heat up sesame oil and cook garlic and spring onions. Add ground turkey, stirring and breaking down the ground turkey to make sure it's not sticking together in lumps. Add in celery, red peppers, and Lima beans. Stir fry 5 minutes for 5 minutes. Then add prawns and chives, frying for only 2 - 3 minutes, and then stir in the Hoisin sauce and chili sauce. Turn off heat and remove the skillet from the stove.

Wash lettuce leaves and break carefully, and dry well.

Scoop filling into lettuce cup and serve!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Risotto San Martino, perfecto!

Amazing, amazing risotto...

We had this Risotto San Martino as a first course, prior to the Rioja Osso Bucco.

Our dear Chef Panico was inspired by Mario Batali's Risotto San Martino. I have always preferred vegetable risottos or seafood risottos over pork/sausage based ones. I originally was worried that a sausage in a risotto would make risotto stock too greasy, and the actual sausage would become dry, but boy, was I mistaken! The combination of mushrooms and sausage is perfect, and when the mushrooms were cooking, the whole kitchen smelled so fragrant and earthy. The risotto was amazingly creamy and rich. The sausage was in smaller bite-sized pieces so they fit perfectly within every bite with the juicy, tender mushrooms. We barely added any salt, and because we took the sausage out of the casings, the herbs dissolved into the stock and made it so savory, bold and rich.

Servings: for 4 people

Olive oil
2 tablespoons of butter
half of a chopped onion
1 chopped garlic
chicken stock
white wine ( in this case we had leftover red wine so we used red, and the risotto color was much darker)
sliced portabella mushrooms
2 italian sausages
4 cups of Arborio rice
2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Saffron, a sprinkle

Open the casing of the sausage, and smash the sausage into small nibblly pieces.

In a large pot slowly simmer together onion and garlic in the butter, when the onion starts to turn a gold color, add portabella mushrooms and mix well. Cook until the mushrooms shrink, and add the pieces of sausage. Stir the sausage until cooked, and then start to "toast" the rice, as Batali says. ( It is called toasting the rice because the broth has not been added).

After a minute or so, pour in a ladle of wine, at one a time, in order to allow the rice to absorb it. To make risotto creamy you have to mix it a lot adding the broth, as needed. After we added two ladles of wine, we transferred to adding chicken broth, after the rice absorbed the juices. The total cooking time took us more than one hour, cooking the rice alone was about 45 minutes, by repeating the steps of stirring the rice, and when the juices are almost dry continue to adding wine/ juice...and repeating again.

When risotto is almost done, stir in Parmigiano, and add the saffron and stir until well mixed. Risotto should be soft. Sprinkle some more Parmigiano on top, and serve immediately.

It's really, really delicious. I could live on this my whole life.

Bone with a hole...Rioja Ossobuco for two

Feeling for something earthy and heavy on a chilly weekend? How about a simplified Ossobuco?

Our Rioja Osso Buco, was inspired by Tyler Florence's Amarone Osso Buco Pot roast. We used a Spanish red: Rioga wine instead of Amarone. The Rioga was $10, a much better deal for cooking instead of a $60 Amarone =) Our version is much simplier and easier than Tyler Florence's version, but suited better for two. Michele is a big fan of Tyler Florence's recipes. He says that his recipes are not so complicated and are always very tasty.

We used the remaining half bottle of wine for risotto, our Risotto San Martino. We also didn't use the dutch oven, and used a cooking pot and transferred to a baking dish later on.


1 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pieces veal shank for osso bucco
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion, diced
1 1/2 celery stalk, diced
1 carrots, diced
3 chopped garlic
one bunch of parsley
1/2 bottle Rioga wine ( we paired dinner with the other half)
1 can of diced tomatoes


Put flour in a large shallow platter and season it with a fair amount of salt and pepper. Taste the flour to make sure the seasoning is just right. Once it coats the veal it is harder to adjust the seasoning. Dredge the veal shank in the seasoned flour and then tap off the excess (extra flour will burn and make the dish off-tasting).

Heat a large pot over medium heat, with the olive oil and also butter. Slightly whirl the butter around for it to melt. Sear the veal shanks, turning carefully with tongs, until all sides are a rich brown caramel color. Remove the browned veal shanks to a side plate, but leave the leftover sauce at the bottom of the pot.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Using the same pot, saute the onion, celery, carrots and parsley over medium heat. Cook the vegetables down until they turn to brighter colors and develop a deep, rich aroma.

Season with salt and pepper; add a little oil if needed. Nestle the veal shanks back in the pot. Pour in the wine and let it simmer down for 20 minutes, until the wine has reduced by half, because that's how it gives it flavor, by the wine reduction.

Add the can of tomatoes and stir everything together, and simmer for another 10 - 15 minutes. Transfer the entire ingredients in the pot into a baking dish. Braise for 1 hour, with turning the meat every 30 minutes.

The sauce should be thick and the veal tender and nearly falling off the bone.

The meat was simply superb...we devoured the entire shank and sucked the marrow gone!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

2 herb pesto spaghetti ( Spaghetti al pesto con due erbe)

Spaghetti al pesto con due erbe
After undergoing dental surgery, I have been the luckiest gal in the world because Michele has been pampering me. First night he brought home three Jamba juices just for me, coz I couldn't really chew...

Tonight he made 2 herb pesto spaghetti, something soft for me to eat. Here is his recipe:

fresh parsley
fresh basil
pine nuts
1 garlic
olive oil
really good quality Parmigiano-Reggiano
salt & pepper


roast pine nuts in pan, set aside

combine the following ingredients into food processor: chopped basil, chopped parsley, chopped garlic, olive oil, pine nuts, Parmigiano-Reggiano and salt & pepper. Blend until it becomes a smooth paste.

In a pot of boiling water, add salt and cook the spaghetti al dente

Pour the pesto sauce in a saute pan and warm it up. Drain the spaghetti, and toss the pasta into the pesto sauce, stir well, not allowing the pasta to overcook too long.

Garnish with parsley leaf.

Thank you, chef Panico!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Leek & Tomato Cod with fresh herbs

Leek and Tomato Cod with fresh herbs...
....served with wild rice and baby romaine greens

We saw these beautiful cod fillets at Whole Foods the other day and thought it would be a perfect, light weekday dinner dish.

2 tsp olive oil
1/2 pound leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and sliced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
mushrooms, sliced
2 small tomatoes
1 pound of cod fillet, cut into two pieces
white wine, 1 1/2 cup
fresh rosemary, chopped
half lemon juice
salt and pepper

In a large skillet sauté leeks, garlic and mushrooms in olive oil until softened.

sprinkle salt and pepper on the cod for seasoning, on both sides.

Add tomatoes and simmer for 7 minutes. Place cod fillets in skillet on top of vegetables, Pour in white wine and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Flip the cod to the other side, and cook for another 5- 8 minutes. Add salt and pepper for taste. Squeeze lemon juice and sprinkle fresh rosemary. Turn off heat but let the pot sit, the sauce should become thick.

Serve over wild rice and a bed of baby romaine greens.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Catalina coffee

We have found a new love, here in Houston: Catalina Coffee

It's so far the best espresso we've had in Houston. The staff are laid back and friendly, and the baristas are true artisans. The place is simple, clean, not pretentious, so the attention is all put in that one cup of great espresso-based drink....

The true test is ordering an iced latte, and it's one of the best I've had. I really don't like it when iced coffees are watered down, but Catalina's iced lattes are still rich and strong. My dad used to make fun of me saying that those who take iced coffees are not really coffee drinkers...but hey, it's getting pretty warm here in Houston, and with my wisdom tooth pain....a good cup of iced-latte from Catalina really makes my day.

The Italiano's adventure in Taiwanese dining

My idea of a relaxing Friday night was to somehow address my nostalgia in seeking for some Taiwanese comfort food. After searching online, a funny-named restaurant called"Taiwan potato" came up, and we debated for a while whether or not to give it a shot, since the information we found about the restuarant on the Internet was scarce. Avevo Molta fame ( I was very hungry), and you know how girls can get cranky with empty stomachs, so I decided that we just go check it out.

Even though it would not be the most romantic spot for a Friday night, I figured the authenticity of the food could bring us some satisfaction, and it could be an interesting expererience for the Italiano. (And I was right. Michele was shocked so much by the foods that he wanted to call my mom immediately after dinner).

Upon arrival, I happily learned that the real name was , 芋仔番薯Taro & Sweet potato, which is a local way of calling Taiwanese people, and at that moment I knew this was gonna be some real Taiwanese food.

I thought it would be fun for Michele to try street food-like small dishes, rather than ordering entress, just so he could have a feel for what local Taiwanese people eat. We ordered stinky tofu 臭豆腐, oyster omelette 蚵仔煎, seafood coffin bread 棺材板, 台南碗粿Tainan Rice Cake in Bowl, bitter melon with salty egg苦瓜鹹蛋, and per his request we ordered combination fried noodles.

He was brave enough to have one bite of Stinky Tofu, and I don't blame him for not being fond of it. He asked me to move the plate to the furthest corner of our table, actually... he also said that if we brought his parents here they'd probably never want to visit Asia. Ha!
My favorite is bitter melon stir fried with satly egg, but it was a no-go for the Italian.

Oyster omelette: too gooey for the Italiano

By the time we tried the steamed Rice Cake in bowl, he asked why everything was so starchy.

Seafood coffin was just "cosi cosi"

And look at the cemetry of chopsticks he created...( 4 chopsticks were used to eat this meal!)

The only thing that was finished were the noodles!

And for desert....shaved ice was well-received. This is banana strawberry chocolate ice cream on shaed ice. Finally! Something he liked!

Hopefully the next Taiwanese food will be a more enjoyable experience for him =)

spuntino: ham and cheese

Our favorite spuntino ( little snack in Italian) which is not really "little" at all...
Good ciabatta bread ( we got this one at whole foods)
Slow cooked ham
French brie ( brie de paris)
Death valley chipotle Kettle chips

Slice a piece of the ciabatta, and split it through the middle. Scoop out some of the white soft bread inside. Use mainly the crust outside to hold the sandwich together.

Assemble sandwich and put in oven for 8 minutes in 350 degrees. Serve with Death valley chipotle chips - they are so spicy and intense, goes great with a simple sandwich!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sesame Chicken Loaf ( Matsukaze- Yaki)

Here's a light dinner treat, home style Japanese sesame chicken loaf. This is so easy, simple and light. A perfect summer meal. (it is 27 degrees out in Houston today!)
The leeks and ginger really bring moisture and sweetness to the chicken loaf.

( serves 4 )


1 lb minced or ground chicken
1 small leek, finely chopped
3/4 in fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sake ( for substitute, you can also use rice wine or white wine)
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon oil ( sesame oil)
2 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

If you only have regular un-toasted sesame seeds, then toast the sesame seeds in frying pan until the color changes from white to slight gold, and the aroma starts coming out. Remove and set aside.

Combine chicken, leek, ginger, soy sauce, sake and the beaten egg in a mixing bowl until well combined.
Heat oil in a 8 in frying pan, and spread chicken mixture evenly over the base. Cook over medium heat for4 - 5 minutes, until underside is brown.

Cut loaf into quarters, then turn the wedges over to cook the other side for a further 5 minutes. Cook until the moisture is completely gone, and both sides are golden brown.
Transfer to chopping board and slice into smaller pieces for serving, if desired.

Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve with a green salad.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tofu and Zucchini Napolean

Getting our veggies on, fusion style

Stacked tofu and zucchini becomes a cute Napoleon...and cute- looking food really makes a dish taste much better!

Tofu ( medium firm)
Hon Dashi
salt & pepper
olive oil
red pepper flakes

Slice the tofu into long rectangles, and also slice the zucchini into the same length-shape.

In a frying pan, heat up oil and cook chopped garlic. Add zucchini and cook them on both sides, avoid turning them often to keep their shapes. When zucchini is cooked, put them in a plate aside, and also scoop up the garlic.

In the frying pan, cook the tofu. Sprinkle hon dashi and red pepper flakes, until the tofu has changed color, use chopsticks to flip to other side. Sprinkle again hon dashi and red pepper flakes. Cook until golden brown, and remove from pan.
In a baking dish, drizzle some olive oil on the bottom, and then place one tofu, stack with zucchini and garlic, and repeat. Put in oven and bake for 5 - 10 minutes

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pineapple lemon chicken with roasted brussels sprouts

Tuesday night dinner comes along and we just so happened to have some pineapple in the fridge, so I thought, hey why not some pineapple chicken? Just like every other housewife, I am totally into using creative ways to clean up whatever we have in the fridge. To add a side dish, crunchy salty brussels sprouts are like a healthier version of french fries. ( we just love veggies from the cabbage family..so yum!)
The sweetness and citrus from the pineapple really compliments well with the bitter and nuttiness from the brussels sprouts. So here it goes:

Pineapple lemon chicken:

Sliced pineapple
teriyaki sauce
Dijon mustard
half lemon, thinly sliced
chicken thighs (boneless, skinless)

Trim the fat off the chicken thighs.

In a bowl, combine pineapple juice with teriyaki sauce, mustard and rosemary and slightly stir.
Arrange chicken in a casserole dish, sprinkle some salt, and pour sauce over chicken. Broil in oven for 30 minutes. Arrange pineapple and lemon on top of chicken, and bake 5 - 10 minutes longer.

Roasted brussels sprouts:


1/2 pound brussel sprouts
1 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut off the ends of the brussels sprouts, and mix in a bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper.
Pour the brussels sprouts and the olive oil mix into a baking sheet/ pan.
Roast for 35 - 40 minutes, until crisp outside and tender inside. ( I like them crunchy but Michele likes them tender and soft inside)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Easy Oden

Lotus root
daikon radish
nappa cabbage
soy sauce, 1 tablespoon
rice wine
all boiled in a light soy flavored dashi sauce...

I take this as a light dinner / snack before my Italian class..and take another small bowl after I get home at night. What a treat!

Mussels Linguine

Chef Panico's mussels linguine

Bacon makes everything taste better, the tricky part is to have the savory bacon taste but not overpower the seafood...Adding one chili provides you a spicy kick in the mouth but not too much, so you can actually savour the aftertaste of fresh mussels in every bite!


1 pound of fresh mussels
2 couple slices of bacon
2 roma tomatoes
chopped garlic
white wine 1 cup
linguine pasta
1 Serrano chili
salt and pepper
olive oil

Use olive oil and cook the chopped garlic. With the same low to medium heat, add bacon and cook for a couple of minutes. Add in the mussels, and pour in white wine. (The white wine will brighten up the seafood taste ) When the mussels open up add in chili.
Add salt and pepper to taste, and toss in the cooked linguine, stir fry a bit for the pasta to take up some of the sauce.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Pizza making vending machine

I heart vending machines...
Who would ever know that Italy, of all places, legendary for homemade meals, also lead Europe in vending machines?
It's not a vending machine that just heats up mini frozen pizzas, its a machine that actually makes the dough and assembles the sauce and cooks the thing!

from the NewYorkTimes

Published: March 13, 2009

...."The machine is outfitted with little windows so the customer can watch the pizza being made"..."wheels turn and gears grind. The customer presses a button to choose one of four varieties — margherita (plain cheese and tomato sauce), bacon, ham or fresh greens. A plastic container dumps flour into a drum resembling a tiny washing machine; a squirt of water follows, and the drum goes into a spin cycle, forming a blob of dough that is then pressed flat to form a 12-inch disk.
Tomato paste is squirted onto the dough and cheese is added before it is lifted into a small infrared oven. The baked pizza then slips onto a cardboard tray and out into the customer’s waiting hands. Mr. Torghele says the pizza will cost as little $4.50, depending on the variety."

Check out this video of kids buying a pizza at a pizza vending machine
Yes, and using skinny Italian models for a pizza machine demo is very appealing...

European vending machine industry, which has grown significantly and now has annual sales of about 26 billion euros, or $33 billion, hopes the trend will catch on...especially with this economy, Europeans are seeking for more economical ways to fill their bellys.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Tilapia in mushroom, caper, white wine sauce

This is a healthy, yummy, light and easy dish to make at home...Fish is actually easy to make, especially in the US when you can get fillets clean and deboned at the grocery store. It's hassle-free and also a great alternative when we get tired of red meats and pastas...
Capers and lemon juice adds a tartness to this dish, and white wine really helps add depth to the taste. Together, the mushroom and capers are really flavorful and go great with fish and rice...


Tilapia fillets
sliced mushrooms
white wine
fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper
butter ( or for a healthier option, use olive oil)

First, season the Tilapia with salt and pepper

With low heat, put butter in pan and heat up until you see tiny bubbles. Remember to use low heat to avoid burning the butter. Add in sliced mushrooms, add the thyme, and stir-fry until the mushrooms are cooked thoroughly.

Lay the fish fillets in the pan, and top it with white wine, and then add in the capers.

Flip the fish fillet when one side is seared with a nice light brown crust. Continue to pan-fry the fillet until the fish is completely cooked through. When the fish is almost cooked, and you'd like a crust on the outside, you may turn the heat up in the last couple of minutes. Add salt and pepper for taste. ( With fish, you really want to avoid flipping often to keep the fillet in shape).

When the fish is cooked, turn off the heat and squeeze lemon juice on top
Hope you get to try this recipe!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Kimchi cabbage and pork stir fry udon

Kimchi + Udon

This combination of Korean and Japanese flavors make a simple and delicious meal.
You can do so much with a bag of nappa Kimchi, from stir-frying to eating it with rice, or making a stew...

Pork ( strips, marinated in soy sauce, rice wine, white pepper)
Kimchi cabbage
Udon noodles
Spring onion, chopped for garnish
Stir-fry the marinated pork, set aside.
In a pan, heat up the kimchi cabbage. Boil the udon noodles until cooked, and stir fry with the kimchi. When the sauce is fully absorbed into the udon noodles and the juices start to dry up, turn off heat and stir in the pork. Sprinkle the spring onions to add color... Spicy and yummy!!!

I could eat this in small portions, all day...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Penne all' arrabbiata (The Angry Penne) 惱怒尖管麵

The Angry Penne

Arrabbiata = angry, but aren't spicy foods exciting and awakening?
All'arrabbiata means "angry style", and it's named as such due to the heat of the peppers.
This is a spicy cherry tomato pasta dish. Fresh tomatoes develop a light savory sauce, and when biting into the halved cherry tomatoes, it cuts the spiciness a bit. But it is heat from the chilies make this one of our favorite dishes.

Cooking time: 30 minutes
Serving size: 4

penne pasta: 320 grams
cherry tomatoes: 300 grams
chopped garlic: couple of cloves
red chillis: 2 / small serrano chiles: 3
olive oil
salt and pepper
fresh basil

Add pasta to boiling salted water and cook until al dente.
Heat oil in a large sauté pan. Add the garlic and chopped fresh pepper, and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the halved cherry tomatoes, stirring to combine with the garlic and pepper flakes. Simmer for about 10 minutes or until the mixture becomes a nice sauce.

Drain pasta and add into sauce, slightly toss for 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, and fresh basil on top.

our lips burning from the chiles...