Category Archives: berries

Garden Fresh: Blackcurrant Chocolate Zucchini Cake


This luscious, spicy, fragrant cake with heavenly-decadent chocolate and winey-rich blackcurrant tones is anything but usual. Kids love it, adults rave about it and guests will be mooching you for the recipe every time you would make this cake for birthday party (speaking of, with its consistency, this cake is born to have some candles in it) or any other celebration… 
Let’s put it this way: with 2 ½ cup of fresh zucchini and 1 ½ cup of fresh blackcurrant berries (still retaining its antioxidants upon baking) inside you will forget frozen Sara Lee cakes or those hasty chocolate things made from the box for a while. Just a bit of an effort and the sweetly rich reward will be a highlight of your next celebration.
Although most of our currants have been eaten by the birds this year (not only humans are trying to benefit from the summer bounty – farmers know it big time), I still managed to salvage some and was excited to make something really good out of little glossy black spheres known for their alluring tart flavor and sublime aroma. I also managed to pick a few baby zucchinis at their prime before they would turn into some giant monsters after all this rain. Naturally, I got a nail in my head to use both in some amazing combination: chocolate cake idea came first and last.
The blackcurrant berries add delicious tang to the food of the Gods (aka chocolate) and neutral zucchini in the cake. When cooked in desserts (see the British Eccles cakes recipe, for example), syrups (think famous French crème de cassis and a delectable ‘Kir’ drink with champagne), jams or coulis (for savory dishes, including steaks and stews), the currants’ aggressive tartness becomes well muted releasing the berries unique aroma and their astringency creates an added woodsy and piquant flavor.
I’ve been baking chocolate zucchini cakes before, but, somehow, always wanted to have a better formula for the cake to be: more dense or moist; with more balanced spices or sugar; have a foolproof baking time, etc. Many recipes I’ve tried had ridiculously short baking time for the temperatures of 325F to 350F and the amount of zucchini in them: I found it quite annoying having had to check the readiness again and again. 
The last one I’ve tried from otherwise quite good recipe book, didn’t have any salt in it and had the amount of ground cloves enough to stop the toothache of four people. The smell of baking ground cloves made a long-lasting potpourri effect in the house though, which was OK with me.  Naturally, I dialed the cloves back in the subsequent recipe along with other adjustments, including:
– adding blackcurrants;
– squeezing dry shredded zucchini;
– replacing just white sugar with half and half  brown and white;
– adding 1/2 teaspoon sea salt;
– adding 1 teaspoon finely ground Blue Mountain coffee (to enhance the chocolate flavor);
– cutting the 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves to 1/4 teaspoon of cloves;
– adding 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
– adding 30 minutes of baking time 

Oh that HAPPY KAYKEY! Moist, slightly fudgy, dense with chocolate chips and currents still intact on top for an extra punch… I could taste a hint of the coffee which I found boosted the chocolate flavor in a right direction. As usually, buttermilk plays a big role to have the best results with any soda cake – make sure you have it among your ingredients when ready.
Voila, the simple visual steps:

SUBSTITUTES: If you can’t get currants, feel free to sub with gooseberries, sour cherries or cranberries (frozen are OK too) – each would add a different tone and character, but approximately same level of tang and freshness. Equally, you can swap zucchini for the same amount of shredded tart apples and tart berries for neutral blueberries to have a Chocolate Apple Berry Cake. Well, if you won’t, I will for sure in one of those next posts, this recipe is worth to play with.
Currants of all kinds are now available at all farmers markets – don’t miss this short season to try the wonderful, unique taste of these berries. I’m sure you won’t have problem to find a way to use some of those extra zucchini, but if you are short of ideas for the currants, here are some other interesting recipes from fellow bloggers, Food Network and New York Times in which you can use them successfully: 
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Black Current Jam, recipe from David Leibovitz

Black Current Sorbet, recipe from New York Times

Grape Black Current Granita, recipe from Food Network

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BLACKCURRANT CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI CAKE
Yields: 15 to 20 pieces

Ingredients:

Unsalted butter, for the pan
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon finely ground coffee (optional)
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon vegetable or canola oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ¼ cups grated zucchini, squeezed dry
1/2 cup fresh blackcurrants
10 inch diameter spring form for baking

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease the bottom and sides of a 10-inch round spring pan. Dust the pan with flour, tapping out the excess.

Toss 1/3 cup chocolate chips with 1 tablespoon flour in a small bowl. Whisk the remaining flour, the cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and coffee in a medium bowl; set aside.

Beat the butter, sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla in a large bowl with a mixer on medium speed until smooth and pale, about 3 minutes. Add the flour-cocoa mixture; beat on low speed until combined, about 2 minutes (the batter will be thick). Fold in zucchini and beat until combined, about 2 more minutes. Fold in the flour-coated chocolate chips with a wooden spoon.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Distribute blackcurrants and 1/4 cup chocolate chips on top of the cake carefully.  Place in the oven. After 10 minutes of baking, reduce the oven temperature to 325F. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, for about 1 hour and 15-20 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely.

Adapted from: The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook by Tracey Medeiros, The Countryman Press, 2013

Summertime Raspberry-Almond-Lime Tea Cake Recipe


Summertime Raspberry Almond Lime Tea Cake
Summertime… and the living would be as easy as in Heyward’s lyrics except Canadian summer is so short and demanding, it’s always a good idea to have a piece of a fragrant fresh berry cake next to you to stop running and start pondering.    
In the ideal life the summertime should be like this:
Summertime fun
In reality, it’s always full of surprises: good and bad. Our month of June has been full of projects, inspirations and disappointments, travels, and cooking experiments.  I’ll begin with the end to make it easier for me to catch up with the steady food-blogging pace, which is not always possible after a break. I needed something that was relatively easy, utterly beautiful and ultimately delicious to get myself inspired to translate the inspiration into a small bow of culinary art.
Raspberry Almond Lime Tea Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream
Our yesterday’s cheerful party and this cake baked on a whim gave me that kick. It has everything in it to celebrate summer: the freshness of berries (raspberries), the sugary crunch of nuts (almonds), the vigor of lime, the boldness of spiced honey (marked as optional)… and, naturally, the tender moist sponginess of the pound cake. Wait, shouldn’t I mention first that it’s one of the easiest, and the most luscious cakes we’ve ever made?
Raspberry Buttermilk Tea Cake
This cake is an example of a simple, no fuss dessert you would want to bake again and again. We had it with tea watching Paddington last night (to the dying sounds of the fireworks fury banging outside the window).  The raspberry cake felt as heartwarming and rewarding as the movie itself although there was no marmalade around (which actually would be a good idea to have along). I served it with humble vanilla ice cream, some fresh raspberries and/or fresh raspberry coulis: the honest and ever-delightful classics. 
For the high-end restaurant style serving, dare for a slice of a room-temperature brie or a goat cheese (i.e. Lavallois from Chevriere de Monnoir would be a good idea) and some drizzle of adobe chili – spiced honey (recipe to be posted soon).
We based the recipe on a winning formula (tested and approved previously) of the Raspberry Buttermilk Cake from Gourmet Magazine of June 2009 (recipe also follows at the very end of this post), tweaking it with the addition of:
NUTS – chopped slivered almonds were used, although pistachios (other nuts if you wish) would be my first choice if I had them in my pantry.
LIME – optional lemon zest was replaced with lime zest and lime juice to make the taste more present.
SPICED HONEY – a very small (and optional) amount of my most recently discovered fav ingredient to accent the fruit.
Adobe Chili Spiced Honey
EGGS – using extra ingredients called for one extra egg.
BAKING TIME – ten extra minutes were added to the baking time accordingly.
BERRIES – we increased the amount of raspberries to much more fruits following the summer feeling. I assume the recipe works with all kind of fresh berries (or frozen, for that matter) and intend to make the next one with gooseberries from our garden (HA!)
Raspberry Almond Lime Tea Cake
INVERTING OR NOT – the initial recipe is for the inverted cake, which I noticed from previous experiments not always works well, so this recipe doesn’t encourage the inverting step, although I would live it to you to experiment with. Please note the berries tend to sink to the bottom, which might make the bottom look messy if you decide to invert it.
Raspberry Buttermilk Tea Cake
We absolutely loved the result and encourage you to try it by all means. Please let us know how it went, if you liked it or not by writing your comments and suggestions.
Monarda ‘Garden View Scarlet’: wonderful addition to the garden which attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.

Happy summertime to ALL!
***
One year ago: French Toast Strawberry Rhubard Bake
Two years ago: Bread Crusted Salmon Broccoli Cheddar Quiche

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RASPBERRY ALMOND LIME BUTTERMILK TEA CAKE
Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest

1 juice of small lime
1/2 cup slivered almonds, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chili-spiced honey (optional)
1 1/2 cup fresh raspberries
1 tablespoon powder sugar for dusting
Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside. In a larger bowl, beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about two minutes, then beat in vanilla and lime zest. Add egg/s and beat well.

At low speed, mix in flour mixture in three batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined.  Add lime juice, almonds and honey (if using) and mix again. Spoon the batter into the pan. Smooth the top roughly with spatula. Scatter raspberries evenly over top and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar.

Bake until cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Dust with sugar powder. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Transfer carefully to a rack to cool completely. Transfer to the platter and slice. Serve with tea and optional additions of your favorite ice cream, raspberry coulis or brie.

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RASPBERRY BUTTERMILK TEA CAKE (original recipe from Gourmet Magazine)

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (optional)
1 large egg
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup fresh raspberries (about 5 oz)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside. In a larger bowl, beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about two minutes, then beat in vanilla and zest, if using. Add egg and beat well.

At low speed, mix in flour mixture in three batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined. Spoon batter into cake pan smoothing top. Scatter raspberries evenly over top and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar.

Bake until cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm, 10 to 15 minutes more. Invert onto a plate.

The latter recipe is adapted from:  Raspberry Buttermilk Cake, Gourmet Magazine, 06/2009.

Mother’s Day Best: Buttermilk Pancakes with Soft Cheese, Strawberries and Pistachios

What would I do without my mom? Where would I be? What would I become? How would I be? ‘Mothers are the vessels of life that build and grow societies all over the world. Moms are the thread that holds it all together and the tie that binds. They operate on passion and instinct and never let fear guide their way. Mothers are the strongest and most resilient people on this earth, and for that all reverence is justified…’ 

My mom left me some images and collages, took a break and asked me to take care about this post. She means the world to me and there can’t be any better time, no matter how busy I am. My grandma’s birthday falls on May 10th, so this day has double significance in my family being both, Mother’s day and my grandmother’s birthday.  Love is in the airon this day and celebration is big. A festive breakfast or brunch starring with these cakey and creamy pancakes which absorb maple syrup like a sponge makes a good start!  The strawberries add freshness and flavor, pistachios kick in a salty crunch and the delectable blanket of cheese completes the riff wondrously bringing the Glass Candy’s videoin my head to the Air France’s version. A very cool commercial indeed, if you haven’t seen it! 
The buttermilk pancakes family tradition takes years, although the recipe itself took many twists and turns to finally settle with this one, which we find to be our favorite.

The recipe is based on the formula from the master bread maker Peter Reinhart , who searched for the fool proof recipe himself for years to finally stumble upon Marion Cunningham’s buttermilk pancakes recipe, which he now calls the “best pancakes in the world.

Please follow these tips to achieve the best results:
a) This formula does not lend itself to multiplying, so the measures are given only as volume and not weight.
b) Most pancake batters are mixed ahead and then rested. This one is griddled immediately, so it must be handled tenderly to prevent the gluten from toughening.
c) The lumps disappear in the frying pan, so mix only till all the flour is wet and assimilated.
d) The larger the pancake the more unevenly it will cook, with the center being slow to finish. If you like your pancakes custardy, make the big ones, if you prefer them well-done, make two or three small ones in the same pan (or keep two pans going).
e) Unbleached flour is preferred but bleached flour will also do.
f) Feel free to alter the toppings with other fresh fruit or berry, nuts or soft cheese (i.e. My grandma loves it with cottage cheese, while my mom prefers fresh goat cheese and I always opt for whipped mascarpone with fruits like strawberries).
Enjoy!
Great for breakfast, lunch or a tea break:
P.s. Before I finish, there’s something else I wanted to share with you: the video about the video.  It’s about how much effort/cost it takes to make  45-seconds glam video ad.  You might find this comparison weird, but to me that is my mom and myself in a nutshell: an iceberg the tip of which is me. And so is my grandma to my mom. 
Happy Birthday dear granny Nelly! We love you!
Happy Mother’s Day to All the Great Moms!
Yours truly, T for Tat.
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BEST BUTTERMILK PANCAKES
Yields: 4 to 8 pancakes
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 tablespoon butter or oil for the pan
Instructions:
Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt together into a mixing bowl.
Crack-open the egg and pour it whole into the center of the flour mixture. Pour the buttermilk over the egg.
Stir the ingredients together with fork or a large whisk just till a lumpy batter forms and all the flour is absorbed. Pour in the melted batter just till the butter is dispersed.
Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add a teaspoon of butter or oil and swirl it around to coat the pan.
Ladle or pour the batter into the pan to the desired size and tilt the pan to spread the batter (it is thick so it will not spread very much).
When bubbles begin to appear on the top of the pancakes, flip them and continue cooking for about 1 minute. They should be brown on both sides but tender in the middle.
Keep the pancakes warm in a 200F oven or on a plate under a clean towel, while making the rest.
Serve with maple syrup and/or your favorite fruits, nuts and cheese.
Adapted from: ‘Crust and Crumb’ by Peter Reinhart, Ten Speed Press, 2006.

Asian Style Chicken Soup I Make Over & Over Again

Ginseng Chicken Soup Version
This is my super bowl for Super Bowl: the total winner and ultimate energy booster. Each time I make this soup I can’t get enough of it (one hundred percent serious). The exact name of it is: Ginseng Chicken Soup (Samgyetang in Korean). There is also a Chinese variety of this soup called ‘medicinal’or ‘healing’ soup for cough. If you have cold or the flu, a bowl of this soup may be your best medicine. I first made it few years ago curious about the idea of the rice stuffing, clear broth and all the new ingredients (to me) in it like ginseng and jujubes (Chinese dried dates). 
Tosokchon Restaurant in Seoul via Kampungboycitygal

Traditionally this soup is served in Korea in summer to engineer spontaneous sweating and counter-balance the heat.  For me, there’s no season for it. I like it rain or shine and find it specifically intensely nourishing during our 6 months-long Canadian winter-cold weather. It’s also not just a soup, but a bowl of a wonderful complete meal: with remarkably different nuances in taste, highly aromatic clear stock, mouth-watering chicken and delicate congee-like mix of rice that would absorb the flavors of broth and chicken and the sweetness of dates and goji berries. The ginseng adds a subtle bitter taste (barely noticeable), while garlic and chestnuts complete this insanely tasty composition with zero of in-your-face bold flavor. Shortly, it tastes like the king of the chicken soup for soul to me (if there’s such thing) evoking warm and fuzzy feeling (that lasts for a few hours after) almost instantly and creating the memory of almost luxurious meal.

In Korea this soup is a symbol of attainment. The recipe goes well into the depth of Korean history itself and, as usually for such case there are multiple varieties of this dish. A few known restaurants in Seoul are specialized in just serving this soup to celebrate and honor Korean food heritage (see above image). The strictly authentic version of this Koreans dish asks for exactly 49-days young old free range chicken and 4-years old Geumsan cultivated ginseng. Other players are:  glutinous rice, Jujubes (Chinese dates), chestnuts/pine nuts, wolf berries (goji), garlic and sometimes ginger, which might sound like a strange lineup of ingredients, but ultimately results in the better, more comforting chicken soup you ever tried.
Ginseng Chicken Soup Ingredients
The downside of this dish is that it requires a trip to the Asian supermarket, as you won’t find most of the ingredients in your local grocery. On the upside, any young free range chicken would be good for this recipe (I use Cornish hen most of the time). The Silkie black chicken however is considered to be the best for this dish in Korea (again, only available in Asian supermarkets).
Silky Chicken via Wikimedia Commons
Black Chicken Ginseng Soup
I kind of slightly cringe at the color of it and its other properties: black skin and bones, blue earlobes, five toes on each foot (all other chicken have just four), fluffy white plumage that feels like silk. No kidding, it reminds me of voodoo sacrifice I’ve seen in Havana or the Pompeii museum artifacts. I suggest you trip over the YUK thing in advance if you are ready to be a good chef: it’s sold with its feet and head still on.  I admit the color of the silkie chic is an acquired thing. But it tastes truly outstanding and decadent, like no other chicken I’ve tried.
Silky Black Chicken Ginseng Soup
For the best results, please apply the following tips:
Use free range chicken like Cornish hen or black Silkie. One chicken is plenty for two generous portions, although one super-hungry adult can eat it all by himself.
Thaw it in a fridge overnight if necessary, rinse and pat/dry well. Although it’s not necessary, I also scald the stuffed chicken with boiling water prior to covering it with boiled water to ensure the clean/clear stock.
I cooked this dish in pans and clay/ceramic pots, on the stove and in the oven. I find the tastiest version is coming for the oven cooked chicken in the clay/ceramic pot or Dutch oven.
Soak rice mixed with dried ingredients in cold water for 20 minutes; drain and mix with goji berries, few jujubes (I use them not  pitted, but you can remove pits if wish be) and garlic.
Don’t over-stuff the chicken cavity: rice will expand during the cooking process and might break the seal if it is overstuffed.
Stuffing Chicken with Rice, goji berries, jujubes and garlic for Ginseng Chicken Soup
Optionally, I add a few 2 inch pieces of dried kombu (Japanese kelp seaweed) in the stock for the boost of umami and extra layer of favor.
Dried Kombu Kelp Seaweed
Finally, I also add a small shallot (gives extra flavor and benefit) and a bunch of parsley at the end (for clear stock): discard both before serving.
Don’t overcook the chicken: it has to fall of the bone, but still keep the shape intact (the smaller is the hen the less it will take to cook).
When ready to serve, season chicken with minced scallions and a dash of Sriracha for some heat (optional).  Serve with quality salt on a side to dip the chicken. You can also add some fresh bok choy into the soup once is still out of the oven piping hot.  
Ginseng Chicken Soup Garden Style
This dish is very forgiving. One day I really craved it, but only had Cornish hen: no ginseng, jujubes, sweet rice or other exotic ingredients. I did have goji berries and chestnuts. I also had Arborio/jasmine rice and regular dried dates in my pantry; and some fresh parsley roots, green peas, scallions and chives from the garden, plus ginger. I decided to pull it off anyways with what I had at hand and it worked marvelously.  The soup still got a very special delicate aroma, tasted divine and was devoured in a snap even without added benefits of missing ginseng.
Ginseng Chicken Soup Steps
The fresh ginseng is the most expensive ingredient in the recipe. Not to be discouraged: for $6.00-$8.00 you get enough of it for at least three batches. It can last in the fridge (in a closed plastic container) for up to 6 months (that’s how potent it is!).
Fresh American Ginseng
Once I didn’t have the fresh ginseng and used a package of dried one mixed in with other herbs designed to flavor this soup from the Asian supermarket (price is between $3.00 -$4.00) called Ginseng Soup Mix (FDA approved, HA!). It had some extra herbs like dried lotus seeds, astragalus and angelica roots, etc. – all adding to the healing powers of the dish. It worked very well too.
Ginseng Soup Dried Mix from Kim Phat Asian Supermarket
A few final words about the benefits of Samgyetang (Korean Chicken Ginger Soup. Due to its powerful ingredients, this dish (I compiled the nutritional data from different legit sources):
Promotes a sense of well-being;
Helps prevent and fight colds and flu;
Has a powerful diuretic action supporting healthy kidney function;
Helps detox, alkalize the body;
Promotes efficient metabolism, tissue growth and repair (it is believed to strengthen stomach lining and digestive track);
Helps lower blood cholesterol, improve blood circulation and calm the nerves;
Helps strengthen and boost the immune system;
Helps maintain energy levels and increases potency (considered to be a sex booster in Korea, it’s often served to the newlyweds).
Did I just honor myself with a Gangham merit badge for this recipe? Yes, please.
Psy, Gangham Style, New Year’s Eve 2013
Although, I feel more like Ashley MacIsaac’s fiddle in the Last Girl on Earth when/upon eating this soup. I hope this article will inspire you for a little thrill of discovery and the new energy booster you will find with this dish. FYI, the Silkie black chicken often goes on special between Western and Chinese New Year – don’t miss the chance to try it. Turn it on, you won’t regret it!
Ginseng Chicken Korean Soup
CHICKEN GINSENG HEALING SOUP
Ingredients:
1 Cornish or Silky black hen (about 1.5 pounds)
1 fresh American ginseng root, washed
½ cup sweet (glutinous) rice
2 tbsp goji berries (dried wolf berries)
4 garlic cloves, peeled
4 chestnuts, shelled
8 jujubes (Chinese dried dates, pitted if necessary)
1 knob (1-2 inch) of ginger
3 scallions, white part OR 1 shallot
2 dried kombu (kelp seaweed) pieces (optional)
5-6 cups of boiling spring water
1 bunch of fresh parsley (optional)
Garnish & Serving:
2 green scallions, minced
2-3 baby bok choy or other Asian green
Sea salt and pepper served on a side for dipping
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 400F.*
Rub the chicken generously with sea salt inside out. Pat dry with paper towels and let air dry for 30 minutes. In the meantime, soak the rice in cold water for 20 minutes. Drain the rice and mix with 1 tablespoon of goji berries, two garlic cloves, 4 jujubes and 4 chestnuts. Stuff the chicken cavity with the rice mix. Use the toothpick to secure/stitch the cavity, OR, if not enough skin close the cavity with chicken feet. Optionally, place the chicken on the heat-proof plate in the clean sink and scald with boiling water (make sure to direct the water away from the cavity seal). Place it carefully into a clay/ceramic pot or Dutch oven. Place the ginseng root and remaining garlic, goji and jujubes around the chicken. Add ginger, scallions/shallot and kombu. Bring 5-6 cups of water to boil and pour over the chicken carefully. Cover with foil+lid and place in the oven for 20 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350F and cook for 1 ½ hour. Remove from the oven and add the parsley bouquet. Return to the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven. Let the soup sit for 10 minutes before serving. Discard the parsley and the toothpick. Cut the chicken in half with paring knife without removing it from the pot. Place the chicken halves in serving bowls, ladle the broth with rice over. Add bok choy.  Garnish with green scallions. Serve immediately with sea salt on a side to dip the chicken pieces.
*For the stove method, bring the soup to boil upon assembling, turn the heat to simmer and cook covered for 1hour and 45 minutes.

Fresh Start: Lobster Strawberry Waldorf Recipe

I chose this luscious salad to signify the fresh start for all the good reasons. We are way past New Year’s resolutions time, but my question remains: how do I feed myself better and healthier for the next twelve months without sliding to the four letter word (like diet or the opposite)? The answer for now: baby steps, right choices, practice…
This time I won’t attach any numbers. I will just make a short public pledge and we’ll see in 2016 if it was a good motivator. If successful, I might even add before and after images to demonstrate what worked best.
Here we go – I’m gonna make a change
Increasing Self-awareness:
I will steal more afternoons to experiment with food and meditate. 
I will eat more veggies/fruits and will lighten up on meat. 
I will continue living in a beautiful self-delusion that I’ve been almost a vegan for the last few years. Every time I notice my distending belly I will start dancing like no one is watching. 
I will still be at war with sugar, but I reserve the right to eat my desserts hopefully without breaking my creative xxx pounds. 
Most of the time, I will appear as a measured and reasonable eater keeping the occasional outbreaks of gluttony dark and confidential for my own secret therapy. I suspect this is what Chef David Chang is doing from time to time and agree and consider it all normal human experience (I’m sure, Deepak Chopra would agree on that).

Mastering Ramen
I will follow my passion for the gastronomic science and plunge into the poetic marvels of Asian, Latin American, and Middle Eastern cuisines for new discoveries and diversity.
Ingredient exceptions for this year: fugu, pig’s testicles, snake’s bile, armadillo and wildebeest eyeballs. 
I will re-visit good ol’ European and new American recipes with the new eyes for some psychedelic twists. 
I will not be threatened by the old or the new and I will keep doing what I like to do best: deconstructing, simplifying and demystifying haute cuisine whenever I feel inspired.
Ultimately, I intend to create and post interesting and healthier dishes more often.
I hope this will be a step forward towards something amazing. 
Home & Travel:
I will add my own personality to my residence’s decor.
I will forage my first morrel mushroom this year.
I will visit the lands I’ve dreamed of like the drifting Sable Island full of wild horses.
End of 2015 resolutions.

I start my 2015 inauguration with Waldorf salad, or, as any food network personality would call it: my twist on it. It might not be the new spicy thing all America wants these days, but it’s definitely light, festive and nutritious. It also allows to stretch one lobster tail to 4-6 portions without breaking the bank.

It WILL stop you feeling hungry for a while, temporary waiving the need for stretchy pants and lifting up your mood due to the auspicious combination of the lean proteins and low-carb dietetic ingredients and helping you to pass by the candy aisle at the supermarket faster than usual. In short, it’s a win-win dish for a weekly dinner or celebration. I guess Oscar Tschirky (maitre d’ of the famous Manhattan’s Waldorf Astoria hotel) had a special feeling about it when creating it back in 1893 for the hotel’s opening ball. 

Tschirky invented number of other New York’s originals, but this one stood out as his most popular one and is still served at the hotel today in its prime. Something tells me people at the Astoria ball back in 1893 would also very much appreciate strawberry-lobster addition to this creation.

In 1896 Cook book by ‘Oscar’ Tschirky wrote: ”Peel two raw apples and cut them into small pieces, say about an inch square, also cut some celery the same way, and mix it with the apple. Be careful and don’t let any seeds from the apple to be mixed with it. The salad must be dressed with good mayonnaise.”
Many wondrous renditions have been created with this base, mostly varied with the dressings and garnish. The basic ingredients always stayed the same, just nuts were added (against Tschirky’s will) eventually. Don’t miss Waldorf Astoria culinary and many other legend’s haunt when visiting NYC to try this now all-American classic in its traditional or contemporary twist.
Otherwise, just give this salad a shot in your own kitchen. The essential ingredients of this salad (with suggested mix & match for vegetarians and carnivores) are:
Bed of fresh lettuce, radicchio or endive leaves for the crisp base;
Celery (green stalks or root; OR jicama root);
Apples (green, red or both);
Grapes (or raisins, or craisins (dried cranberry));

Slightly toasted nuts (walnuts, pecans or hazelnut);
Juice of lemon or lime (to prevent apples from darkening and add some tang to the salad).  
Dressing: mayonnaise or aioli (mixed with sour cream, or yogurt or buttermilk, or just water). In my case I used truffled aioli just because I had it in my fridge mixed with a bit of buttermilk for a contemporary touch. If craving spicy, add a dash of Tabasco or a pinch of cayenne or hot smoked paprika. 
Optional fruit garnish like fresh strawberry, kiwi, orange, or other. 
Optional extra (protein) garnish like: lobster, crab, crab stick, smoked or cooked chicken, smoked salmon or trout, smoked or roasted duck, even grilled octopus.
Want to have it vegetarian? Omit the lobster and try the buttermilk dressing (without garlic) from this recipe for an added flavor.

Simple 15-minute steps anybody can master:

I hope you all had a great fresh start in 2015 be it a new suit, sparked new love/memoir, more veggies, great idea, or just a peace of mind. I also hope you will keep visiting and supporting my culinary endeavors in 2015.
Cheers! 
PS: The napkins are saying: ”I’m happy every hour” – something to think about…
Two years ago: Eggless Tiramisu
Three years ago: Walnut Sables

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WALDORF SALAD (WITH LOBSTER & STRAWBERRY GARNISH)

Yields 4-6 potions

Ingredients:
2 unpeeled Royal Gala apples, cored, cut in cubes or julienne strips
2 unpeeled Granny Smith apples, cored, cut in cubes or julienne strips
2 stalks celery, diced
1/3 cup raisins, OR craisins, OR ½ cup fresh grapes cut in half
1/3 cup mayonnaise, OR aioli
1/3 cup buttermilk, OR light sour cream
¼ cup plain yogurt
2 tbsp lemon juice, plus more for sprinkling apples
Salt and white pepper to taste
8 lettuce, OR endive, OR radicchio cups
½ cup roasted walnuts, OR pecans, toasted
Sliced strawberries for garnish
Chopped lobster tail for garnish
Instructions:
Sprinkle apples with lemon juice and mix with celery and raisins. Whisk together mayonnaise, buttermilk, yogurt and lemon juice. Pour over salad. Add salt and pepper. Place lettuce cups on the plates. Fill with salad. Sprinkle walnuts on top. Garnish with sliced strawberries and chopped lobster tail.

PS: This version is the closest to the one of Chef John Doherty (I added grapes/raisins), who was an executive chef of the Waldorf Astoria restaurant for more than 20 years.