Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays

Christmas is my favorite holiday of the year. even I do not celebrate it. I feel Christmas spirit as everyone is in holidays moods. I love to see Christmas window displays at stores.

When I was young, Christmas was the time to see Santa Claus at the mall, watched Christmas performance, sent out Christmas cards. It was funny, even most of my classmates didn't celebrate Christmas, but we sent Christmas cards to one another.

Back in Sydney, I celebrated Christmas by having dinner with friends in Chinatown. Most of the restaurants were closed at Christmas except in Chinatown. Sometimes we had BBQ or Steamboat Christmas party. Last year was my first Christmas in NY, I can't remember what I did on Christomas, I probably stayed at home editing photos from Miami trip.

This Christmas I decided to have dinner at home. I do not eat beef and lamb ( except Indonesia lamb satay) so I seldom cook them. There are 2 reasons why I seldom cook beef/ lamb. If I cook beef/lamb, I have to cook something else for myself. The second reason, supermarket near my house seldom sells good cut of beef/lamb. For special occasion, I normally go to Whole Foods Market in Manhattan to get best cut of meat. I love to shop there, it has the freshest vegetables and fruits, best cuts of meat, fresh seafood, wide range of fresh herbs, good quality of olives etc.

Simple Christmas dinner. Chicken for me, lamb for Jon and a side dish.

Roasted chicken leg with fresh thyme. The sauce is a mix of chicken stock, lime, tomato and green olives.

Lamb with mushroom gravy, forgot to take individual photo of the gravy.

We love the side dish, it has a lot of textures and flavors. It's roasted organic baby yam, french beans, garlic, walnut and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Wishing you every happiness at this festive holiday season and throughout the coming New Year.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Snowy Weekend

Snowstorm hit New York on Friday. It was predicted that NY could see up to 5 inches of snow after the storm. I was nervous, my shopping plan was in jeopardy.

I took all these picture during my lunch break. My office is located next to Koreatown, a block from Empire State Building and 2 blocks from Herald Square, which is a retail hub. Hence, there was nothing to take other than shops.

I love it when it snows, it's beautiful, feels like I am inside a snow globe. But I hate slushy roads and slick sidewalks after the snow.

Icy road.

One of the shop I often visit.

Macy's Herald Square claims to be world largest store with 198,500 m² of selling floor. It stretches the whole block, but inside is divided into 2 sections: 7th avenue side ( west) and Broadway side ( east). It's so hard to find the door which connect both sides. I always get lost there, I hate to go there.

The snow flakes hitting face was quite painful.

By the time I finished work, the snow had stopped, it was drizzling and resulted in slippery sidewalks. Everyone just walked like penguins. But I still decided to go shopping.

Slushy road in Manhattan, it looked like grey mud.

This is what I hate the most. the ramp on the sidewalk to the road will be so slippery. Sometimes it looks like a solid ice surface, step on in, the ice breaks and shoes get soaked in 5 cm of waterpool.

Shopping in winter is so tiring, have to take off 3 layers of clothes and put back on 3 layers of clothes. Carrying shopping bags in snow was not fun either. My paper shopping bags got wet because it was snowing and almost torn, I had to put in another plastic shopping bag.

Walking home was a disaster. I bought Mc Donald meal and put the food inside one of my shopping bags while holding the coke, it was to cold I had to throw it away. It was drizzling, I missed the bus and my hands were full that I couldn't open umbrella. My feet get soaked in snow and icy water. When I almost reached home, my paper bag was torn apart, I had to hug my shopping bags to prevent things from falling.

Outside the house this morning.

We walked to a Thai restaurant near our home. There is a backyard which is outdoor sitting in summer. In winter they put a big Christmas tree there, the backyard and tree were covered by the snow, it was beautiful.

Taken one day before snowstorm. Every house has put up Christmas lightning.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a national holiday in North America, it is celebrated on the fourth thursday in November. It is a national tradition where families and friends gather to feast on turkey at dinner. Traditionally, it is a time to give thanks for the harvest and express gratitude in general.

I cooked Thanksgiving meal for 2. I was the chef, prep cook, food stylists, photographers, waitress, dish washer (during cooking), it was tiring. Jon used to be the photographer but he always couldn't wait to eat and often took sloppy photos. Hence, I fired him as photographer and give him a new position as the dish washer.

Thanksgiving is not complete without eating Turkey. Since it was only two of us, I wouldn't cook whole Turkey. I picked up a pack of Turkey thigh at the supermarket, but on the way to checkout, I saw pre-cooked Turkey breast, I decided to buy the cooked Turkey to save some cooking time.

Turkey breast with mushroom gravy, cranberry sauce, yellow bell peppers sauce. The yellow and red square thingy are red and yellow bell peppers. I wished I had tomatillo so I could make green sauce instead of yellow sauce.

I bought good quality of lamb rack, Jon loves it. I marinated the lamb overnight with thyme, rosemarry, crushed garlic and olive oil. Then coat it with mixture of Dijon mustard, honey and Worcestershire sauce before roasting. Served with mash potato, roast garlic and glazed pearl onions.

Pan fried salmon with red and yellow bell peppers sauce.

Pumpkin soup, I cooked too much that I can probably serve 20 people.

I roasted the pumpkin seeds.

I only cook at dinner and most of food photos are taken in the afternoon. Now that it is winter, it is dark by 5pm. I have not been happy with my photos lately, I need Lowel EGO light asap. The photo below taken in the morning with natural light, see the difference?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Stir Fried Egg with ginger and tomato

One of the dish I normally cook when I am in hurry is stir fried egg with ginger and tomato. The idea comes from Chinese traditional fried egg and tomato. However, I like it to be wetter so I can pour the sauce over fluffy white rice. It's a simple and delicious meal that can be done just in 10 minutes (preparation and cooking).

2 eggs
1 small young ginger, julienne
1 small tomato cut in wedges, pulp removed or 6 cherry tomatoes, pulp removed.
1 tbsp of dried black bean
1 clove garlic
1/3 cups of water
2 tbsps of soy sauce
3 tbsps of olive oil

1. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a wok over medium heat, crack the eggs, let it cook for 1 minute then scramble. Remove.
2. Heat 2 tbsps of olive oil in a wook over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger and stir fry until fragnant.
3. Add eggs, water, black bean,tomatoes and soy sauce. Simmer for 1 minutes.
4. Garnish with spring onion.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Poached Fish with Brussel Sprout Revisited

I made broiled fish with brussel sprouts last week. I am so in love with brussel sprouts. This time I cooked a little different.

I trimmed the leaves off the core and instead of topping with bacon chips, I sauté the brussel sprouts with bacon and fresh corn. I added pine nuts when the dish was almost done. This version resulted in more flavorful brussel sprouts. I love chewing the brussel sprouts as I get the smokiness flavor from the bacon and sweetness from the corn. I can't get enough of brussel sprouts!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Boston Trip

I had always wanted to go Boston but have postponed the plan due to many reasons. Finally last couple weeks I had 2 days off on the weekeday, so Jon took days off too and we went to Boston. I made 6 pages personalised Boston guide which consists of map, where to go, addresses and what to eat. (It was nothing compared to 100 pages personalised Sydney & Gold Coast guide I made for my sisters).

We stayed at the Fairmont hotel, it is a beautiful old hotel located in Copley Square. Copley Square is well known for its architectural of old and new buildings. The hotel lobby is absolutely exquisite, and the staff were friendly and welcoming.

There is farmers' market every Tuesday and Friday in Copley Square. We were there on Tuesday and the market was just opposite the hotel. I almost couldn't resist buying those beautiful and fresh vegetables. I had to be crazy if I bought vegetables in Boston and put in hotel room! NY has farmers' market too but I never get to go because Jon is lazy.

Look at the colorful broccolis, different shapes of pumpkins, beautiful flowers.

Fresh apples, heirloom tomatoes, colorful bell peppers, green zebra tomatoes. I was so excited like a kid in a candy store.

Boston is a small, beautiful and clean city. It is not as diverse as in NY, I didn't see many African American and Hispanic. Boston is so easy to navigate, just walk The Freedom Trail, red brick path which leads to 16 significant historic sites.

We started walking at 11:30 am. We started from Trinity Church which is just opposite the hotel. Trinity Church is well known for its architechture: clay roof, huge arches, and tall tower.We then walked around Copley Square.

We continued to Boston Common, central public park in Boston. There were so many cute squirrels running around. Can you spot them?

King Fish Hall, one of the celebrity chef Todd English restaurants in Quincy Market, downtown Boston.

Notice the red brick path? The Freedom Trail leads to North End's Little Italy.

By the end of North End, Jon complained legs pain and wanted to go back hotel. I didn't let him because I still wanted to visit The Union Oyster House, which is the oldest restaurant in USA. We got there early at 5:30 pm for dinner.

The food there was nice. We ordered UNION GRILLED OYSTER, 1/2 doz for $13.50. It was one of the best oysters I had eaten in US, but still cannot beat my love to Oyster Kilpatrick. We had a bowl of BOSTON CLASSIC CLAM CHOWDER $6.95, it was the best clam chowder we ever had, it was hearty, creamy and delicious.

Jon had BROILED FRESH BOSTON SCROD — A NEW ENGLAND TRADITION which is a cut of fresh filet of scrod topped with seasoned crumbs and 1 baked potato $20.95. It was nice but it was pricey for just a fish fillet and potato. I had MUSHROOM RAVIOLI, served with sauteed wild mushrooms, herbs and a lite cream sauce $19.95. The ravioli was fresh and delicious, half way the meal, I was so full I struggled to finish it.

We took subway back to the hotel. The subway in Boston consists of only 2 cars, the subway is more like a bus on rail. I've never seen something like this before, the platform and the rail track are on the same level. To board the subway, commuters have to climb up a few step of stairs, just like boarding on a bus.

It was quite cold at night, we were lazy to go out, we stayed in the hotel room watching "Fringe". I craved for Clam Chowder the whole night.

The second day we went to The Prudential shopping mall. It was a nice but also an expensive shopping mall.

We had lunch at Legal Seafood in Prudential Centre. To my surprised, Jon said he wanted to order New England Clam Chowder. Lol, we both were craving for clam chowder. The clam chowder here is as nice as the clam chowder at Union Oyster House. Jon order fish menu on today's special which was broiled fish in soup with Callenilli beans and vegetables. The fish was so flavorful, the soup was mild so it didn't overpower the fish. I ordered THREE DOUBLE STUFFED BAKED SHRIMP $36.95. I didn't know it came with a small piece of steak, I couldn't finish my meal.

After lunch, we headed to Harvard University, it was raining heavily. Luckily the rained stopped when we arrived. We walked around Harvard University, we felt so weird walking among the students. We were embarrassed to take out our Nikon DSLR until we saw a group of tourist busy taking photos as well.

The visit to Harvard ended our Boston trip. You can view full collection of Boston photos here.

Poached Fish with Mushroom and Brussel Sprouts

I normally finish work early on Friday so I always end up in Soho (one of the shopping destinations in NY). Everytime I visit Soho, I never fail to visit Dean & Deluca, an upscale grocery store. I love to see gourmet food ingredients or rare/expensive fresh produce. Fresh rare produce there is crazily expensive. I had never seen passion fruit in US but last week I saw in Dean & Deluca which costs $4 for one passion fruit. With $4 I can buy 10kg of passion fruits in Indonesia.

I saw French Horn Mushroom for $25/lb, it is 1/2 the size of King Oyster Mushroom. King Oyster Mushroom is normally available in Asian Grocery store for $2/lb. Other names for the mushroom are Eringii Mushroom and King Trumpet Mushroom. That one piece of French Horn Mushroom costs $3.15 in Dean & Deluce.

I bought 5 pieces of brussel sporuts for 97 cents, only later I found a tub of brussel sprouts for $2 in a supermarket near my house.

This is what I cooked with the above ingredients. Pan fry fish with brussel sprouts and french horn mushroom, drizzled with balsamic reduction, basil oil, butter sauce and sprinkled with bacon chips. It was delicious. The result of pan fry fish, I had to clean up my stove.

I craved for more brussel sprouts the whole night. I still have some leftover brussel sprouts so I decided to cook the same dish again today. Because I don't want to clean up my stove again, I poached the fish instead. The poached version tastes much better.

Poach Fish

1 fish fillet, cut into serving size portions.
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
a handful of basil leaves
4 slices of lemon
salt and pepper
1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1. Preheat oven to 350 F
2. Season the fish with salt and pepper.
3. Arrange the fish in a small baking tray or oven safe dish.
4. Throw in garlic, basil leaves and lemon.
5. Pour the oil over fish.
6. Bake for 20 minutes.

It smelt so nice when I took it out from the oven. Both the fish and oil were so flavourful, the leftover oil can be used as dipping oil.

Stir Fry Brussel Sprouts

1/2 cups brussel sprouts, halved.
1 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp of olive oil
2 tsp of unsalted butter.
salt and pepper to taste

1. Saute brussel sprouts with olive oil over medium heat.
2. Add garlic.
3. Cook for 10 minutes until undersides are golden brown.
4. Turn off the heat and add unsalted butter.
5. Add salt and pepper.

*For Balsamic Reduction, simmer balsamic vinegar over medium heat until it reduces about 75%, it will be darker and thicker.
*For Basil Oil. Finely chopped a handful of basil leaves. Add 2 tbsp of olive oil.

Sprinkle it with bacon chips.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

CSI: NY filming

CSI:NY was filming a block away from my office. During my lunch break, I saw a large crowd gathered in front of Chase Bank. I thought it was news reporter reporting on some latest finance market crisis. However every passer-by was snapping photos, which normally do not happen with news reporting. I didn't know who or what the attention/attraction were but I took out my camera and started snapping too lol.

After my lunch, I walked past the area again, camera crews and the crowd were still there. I asked a guy who had been snapping non stop who did he snap? He said "CSI NY." Ahh , I then see familiar face, Gary Sinise of CSI NY.

Everyone was welcomed to watch the filming within a distance and taking photos, but crews reminded us not to use flash. They did a few retake of Gary and a lady crossing the road.
Updated: The filming was for Season 5 episode 8: My Name is Mac Taylor, which was aired Nov 19.