matcha + asparagus soup

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It is believed that tea originated around 2737 BC. Its history is long and complex but we know one thing to be true: the concept of tea has traversed nearly every culture over thousands of years, bearing witness to war, trade, colonization, and everything in between.

So… why do we limit ourselves to only drinking it?

Tea works the same way herbs do: they infuse flavor into foods through water. Using various types of tea can easily intensify the flavor profile of a soup, dressing, even rice or grains with almost no effort.

I decided to incorporate matcha, a powdered and specially processed form of green tea into this creamy asparagus soup that I always love making come spring. If you can’t find matcha, you can certainly use pouches of regular green tea instead. The tea adds an herbacious, almost umami-like flavor, complementing the fullness of the asparagus with its subtle grassiness that’s nearly impossible to find elsewhere—not to mention countless health benefits.

Let this be an inspiration to explore beyond green tea—perhaps next time you make rice or quinoa, throw in a bag of mint or herbal tea. Try adding a powdered black tea into pancake batter or scones for a floral and robust compliment to your sweets. Keep in mind that different teas steep at different temperatures, and it is important not to burn the tea, otherwise the tea will develop a very bitter flavor and probably ruin your dish. If you are working around the temperature of boiling water, for example, you’ll want to stay away from white, yellow, and certain types of green tea, or at least let your dish cool sufficiently. A better reference to optimal tea-steeping temperatures can be found here.

Happy steeping!

~FK

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RECIPE:

  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ red onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 pounds asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into ~1 inch segments
  • 6 cups stock of your choosing
  • 2 pouches or 1 tablespoon loose matcha (yes, you can and should eat the leaves!)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • salt and pepper
  • chili powder (garnish)
  • lemon (garnish)
  1. Heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan; add the onion and garlic and sauté until soft (~5 minutes)
  2. Add asparagus; season and sauté for ~5 more minutes
  3. Add stock; bring to a boil and reduce to simmer for 35 minutes–asparagus at this point should be fork tender
  4. Take off heat; after ~5 minutes, add the matcha (it is important to lower the temperature slightly)
  5. Blend (and strain if you want it completely smooth); return to pot and add sour cream
  6. Taste, serve, and garnish!

 

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celebrating the crepe

DSC_0082.JPGOn any given day, you could probably find crepe batter in my fridge.

Crepes are one of the simplest ways to satisfy a sweet tooth (in moderation, of course) without the fuss and mess of traditional baked desserts, and are incredibly versatile–something I want to emphasize in this post. With this batter, you can pair them with either sweet or savory accompaniments, or even eat them plain.

Aside from making a few crepes here and there, smothering them with Nutella after a long day, a more avant-garde way to enjoy the crepes is to layer them with filling to create a trendier version of a cake, something I first came across in a bakery in Queens and haven’t been able to get out of my mind ever since.

The crepe cake itself is by no means a novel idea, but I just wanted to put my own spin on this increasingly popular and show-stopping dessert. Deceptively easy, crepe cakes have a unique mouthfeel, due to all the layers, that makes them just as satisfying as traditional cakes. This particular crepe cake is layered with orange chocolate filling, and topped with dark chocolate ganache. Some other flavor pairings I have tried out are Boston crème filling and ganache, orange marmalade and whipped cream, and matcha with black sesame. Feel free to create pairings of your own, and be creative!

~FK

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MULTI-PURPOSE CREPE BATTER (makes ~25 small crepes):

  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups wheat flour
  • 6 tbsp melted butter
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 ½ cups unsweetened almond milk
  1. Blend all the crepe ingredients until the liquid mixture is homogenous; consistency should be thinner than that of pancake batter (Note: if substituting with gluten-free flours, you may need to add 1.5x the volume to achieve the proper consistency)
  2. Allow mixture to sit for AT LEAST 20 minutes so that the bubbles subside (this is important because it prevents the crepes from ripping when you cook them)
  3. Heat a small or medium pan on medium heat (depending on how large you want your cake to be); spray with vegetable oil or a thin coat of butter
  4. With the pan OFF HEAT, pour enough batter into the pan to cover 2/3 of the area and swirl the batter around the pan to create a thin crepe
  5. Return the pan to heat; flip crepe once the edges start to separate from the pan
  6. Cook on second side until a light golden color is achieved

ORANGE CHOCOLATE FILLING:

  • 8 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • zest from 2 oranges
  • juice from one orange
  • 2 tbsp almond milk (to prevent chocolate from seizing)
  1. Heat the chocolate chips over a double-boiler
  2. Once melted, add the flavoring ingredients and the almond milk (this evens out the fat-water ratio so that the chocolate doesn’t seize from adding orange juice)
  3. Whisk until smooth and shiny; allow to cool before spreading the mixture on crepes

GANACHE:

  • 4 oz dark chocolate chips
  • 2 tbsp almond milk (can also use heavy cream)
  1. Heat the milk/creme in the microwave until scalding
  2. Pour over the chocolate; allow to sit
  3. Whisk until the mixture is smooth

Assembling the crepe cake-

  1. Allow all components to cool
  2. Cut out a cardboard circle (or use a paper plate) to match the circumference of the crepes–this will serve as the base
  3. Spread 1-2 tablespoons of filling onto a crepe, and transfer to the base
  4. Repeat this with each individual crepe, and stack them on the previous crepe (this is easier and cleaner than spreading the filling onto the entire cake each time) until there are about 20 layers
  5. Cover with ganache; cool to set (at least an hour)

 

 

parsnip + three bean chili (v)

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Winter, soul-crippling as it may be, doesn’t mean that you have to go flavorless! The best way to combat banal winter eats is by taking advantage of late season crops and flash-frozen vegetables (vegetables that are frozen in a relatively nutrient-rich state). So, I created this flavor combination to highlight one of the most underrated root vegetables: parsnips.

In the same family of carrots, parsnips are the root of the parsley plant. Their flavor has more zest, spice, and is much sweeter than that of carrots. In fact, parsnips were used as a sugar source in Europe even before beets or sugarcane. The best part? They grow all winter long!

This dish is perfect for cold nights, filled with vibrant and healthful ingredients. One of my best kept secrets for building such complex flavor quickly is the (soy) chorizo–it’s life-changing! Adding it to the base of the chili adds a robustness to the flavor profile that would normally take hours to achieve. Happy eating!

~FK

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RECIPE

  • 1 package soy chorizo (I get mine from Trader Joe’s)
  • ½ medium onion, diced
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup parsnips, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1 8oz can chickpeas
  • 1 8oz can red kidney beans
  • 1 8oz can black beans
  • ½ cup frozen corn
  • 1 qt (4 cups) vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (variable)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • blue corn tortilla chips (garnish)
  1. heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot; add onions to sauté
  2. once onions are transparent, add tomato paste, parsnips and carrots; cook for ~5 minutes
  3. add chorizo, breaking up clumps with wooden spoon; cook for an additional 5 minutes
  4. add all beans and frozen corn to pot, along with vegetable broth and red pepper flakes
  5. bring to boil and simmer on medium-low heat for ~40 minutes
  6. season with salt and pepper, to taste
  7. serve with blue corn tortilla chips if desired (some other non-vegan topping options include sharp cheddar, a poached egg, or Greek yogurt)

 

 

around the world in eggs and toast

DSC_0296.JPGA tried-and-true combination, eggs and toast have taken hold as a staple breakfast food over the last several generations. Together, egg and toast is a canvas for a multitude of flavors that tie into its heartiness, especially flavors inspired from cuisines found around the world.

So, let’s take a trip (recipes below)!

DSC_0284We start our journey in California, with the exceedingly popular avocado toast. I keep mine simple: smeared avocado on some whole-grain toast, topped with lots of black pepper and red pepper flakes, finished off with a sunny-side-up egg.

Next stop… Mexico!

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Huevos rancheros, which literally translates to “rancher’s eggs,” consists of eggs cooked in a tomato-chili sauce served atop a soft corn tortilla. I decided to throw in some corn to tie everything together, and add some feta cheese for a tangy counterpoint.

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Going trans-Atlantic, this much healthier and open-faced interpretation of a croque madame consists of veggie-bacon (you could use the real thing if you’d like–I was looking for something crispy and salty without the fat!), an egg, and luscious bubbling gruyere cheese (you could use Swiss as a lower-budget option).

We now move into Spain for a new twist on an old classic.

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In my rendition of pan con tomate (con huevo in this case), a deceptively simple Catalan breakfast dish consisting of crusty toast scrubbed with fresh garlic, topped with tomato and olive oil, I’ve added a smear of ricotta for some extra creaminess. The garlic-scrubbing step is absolutely essential! The permeating flavor of raw, robust garlic is something that this dish simply can’t do without.

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Continuing  eastward, this pesto toast is probably my favorite. Taking a healthier spin off the Italian classic, I make mine with spinach! That way, this toast is (almost) a salad in disguise. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t include some type of cheese here, so I went with a classic: goat cheese.

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Just kidding. This one’s my favorite.

Hailing from Tunisia, this portable shakshuka toast really sweeps across the entire flavor spectrum. Shakshuka has received a lot of recent praise: it’s essentially eggs poached in a hearty spiced tomato and chili sauce. Though one of the most popular dishes in Israel, it is often served across the Middle East and Spain with some type of meat or sausage. To find a common ground, I spiced my tomato sauce using soy-chorizo (which has most of the spices in shakshuka anyways!), and topped the dish with a healthy sprinkle of goat cheese to brighten it up.

At last, we arrive in South Asia with this methi toast.

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Methi, also known as an esoteric-sounding plant called “fenugreek”, comprised a large part of my childhood diet. Daal methi, the dish shown above, consists of lentils stewed with the fenugreek leaves. Somewhere between the flavor beans and lentils, this nutty dish, rich with umami, pairs perfectly with eggs and bread–after all, that’s how I’ve always eaten it!

My hope is that you’re inspired to explore flavors and concepts from around the world in a way that makes sense to you.

Bon voyage!

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AVOCADO TOAST

  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1 slice of toast
  • 1 egg

The preparation is pretty self explanatory–smear the avocado onto the toast, season with whatever you like, and add the egg on top.

HUEVOS RANCHEROS (~4 servings)

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 15-oz can of whole tomatoes (crush them yourself)
  • 3 tomatillos
  • 1-2 red chilis
  • Corn (frozen is fine)
  • Red pepper flakes
  • 8 Eggs
  • corn tortillas
  • feta or cotija cheese, crumbled
  • Lime (garnish)
  1. heat oven to at least 400 degrees , place red chilis, tomatillos, and the bell pepper on a pan and roast until slight charring is visible
  2. heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet; sauté onions
  3. chop the bell pepper, chili (seeds removed), and tomatillo, and add to onions
  4. pour canned tomatoes into a medium bowl, crush with hands, and then slowly add to onion and pepper mixture
  5. add in desired amount of frozen corn
  6. season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes as desired
  7. turn heat to low, and crack 8 eggs into the skillet, covering the skillet until the eggs are cooked
  8. sprinkle with cheese; serve family style with warmed corn tortillas and sliced limes to garnish

OPEN FACED CROQUE MADAME

  • 2 slices of bacon
  • 1 egg
  • cheese

Again, this is a very simple preparation. Assemble the bacon and sunny side up egg on top of the toast, cover in grated gruyere or swiss cheese, and broil until the cheese is bubbly.

SPINACH PESTO

  • 2 cups packed fresh spinach leaves
  • ¼ cup packed fresh basil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup freshly grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper
  1. combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor, and pulse until a loose paste is formed
  2. smear on toast and top with egg if desired

SHAKSHUKA SAUCE

  • 28 oz. can of whole San Marzano tomatoes
  • ½ package of soy chorizo–already has all the spices in it!
  • Red pepper flakes
  • ½ of a medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  1. heat up 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat
  2. sauté onions, then add chopped garlic
  3. add in the chorizo, breaking up clumps with a wooden spoon, cook for about 10 minutes
  4. empty can of whole tomatoes into a bowl and crush with hands, then slowly add into saucepan
  5. cook for an additional 3-5 minutes
  6. season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste
  7. smear on toast and top with egg and goat cheese if desired

DAAL METHI

  • 2 cups methi leaves
  • 1 cup red lentils (masoor)
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • salt and pepper
  • red pepper flakes
  1. cook the lentils in the turmeric and 2 cups of water over medium heat until tender, ~25 minutes
  2. heat up a pan with olive oil, and toast the cumin seeds until they become fragrant
  3. add chopped garlic and the methi leaves, cooking until wilted
  4. add in the cooked lentils, salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste
  5. spread on toast and top with egg if desired

photography: Jyotsna Soundararajan