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Mexican-ish dinner ;)

Pancetta and cabbage and Mexican chicken roll with puff pastry 

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Jacket potato 

It’s Friday and it’s jacket potato day! 😉 Chef Nico’s creation of jacket potato loaded with sausage, mushroom, string beans, yogurt and cheddar cheese

I’ve been pretty busy at work and Chef Nico whipped up a nice salmon dinner on a normal Wed. Amazing!

Pan fried salmon, steamed asparagus and stir fried cabbage. 

Steak  dinner at home!

Chef Nico made steak with cream leek and spicied carrot purée 


And I made a chocolate cake! 😉

I’m not sure if it’s just me or it’s also just human nature to be nervous about and resist changes in life.  I’m not changing job, not changing where I live, and not having any life-changing events anytime soon either.  I’m just trying to bring some changes into my heart and mind, my perspectives and attitude.  To create changes when the environment isn’t changing turns out to be an uphill battle.  It’s a battle against myself – the lazy me in the comfort zone vs. the nervous and new “me”.  The outcome of the battle is not yet clear but I can tell you that it’s quite a bloodbath sometimes and there are many rounds in this battle.

In order to encourage myself, I got a new haircut ;).  Hopefully the change in appearance would help incentivize some changes within.  Oh and, pain and heart breaks are good teachers too.

People always say that life is not a sprint, but a marathon.  Training for the marathon myself, I now understand what it means more than ever.  Yes you need to train really hard, and yes adrenaline helps, but in those last several exruciating miles, you are not sure if you can finish it and you are even less sure how you can keep going until the end.  So you take one step, put one foot ahead of the other, breathe, put the other foot forward.  And you repeat.  You don’t need to know how to get to the finish line.  You only need to have enough courage and strength to take the next step, and then the next.  It takes a lot of effort and the faith that something good will happen if you just keep trying…

Today I’d like to share the recipe of one of my favorite and simple comfort food – Lox-style salmon pasta.  It takes 20 minutes to cook and it makes everything just a bit more bearable and even delicious…

Lox-Style Salmon Pasta

Time: 20-25m; Cost: $20-30; Level: Easy

Link: http://www.notakeout.com/lox-style-salmon-pasta/

Ingredient:

  • 2 long (English) cucumbers
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 1 bunch chives
  • 6 oz. crème fraîche or sour cream
  • 1 lb. fusilli
  • 6-8 oz. smoked salmon

Directions:

  • When you walk in the door
    • Refrigerate the salmon
    • Get out Pantry Items
    • Get out Tools
    • Fill the pasta pot 2/3 with water, add 2 tbsps. salt and put over high heat
    • Assemble the ingredients
    • Open the wine and refrigerate
  • Prep
    • Peel the cucumbers and slice them as thinly as you can.
    • Sprinkle them with a bit of salt, toss, and put them in a colander in the sink.
    • Peel and slice the onion as thinly as you can.  Put it in a large bowl.
    • Slice the salmon into bite size pieces and add it to the onion in the bowl.
  • Start Cooking
    • When the water boils, stir in the fusilli and cook until it is al dente, 7-9 minutes.
    • While the pasta is cooking, add the crème fraîche and 1 tsp. mustard to the salmon and onions and stir, separating the onion and salmon slices as you stir. Grind some pepper over all, and stir.
    • Put the cucumber in a serving bowl. Drizzle with 1 tbsp. vinegar and toss.
    • Mince the chives, and add them to the cucumbers.  Toss, toss, toss.
    • When the pasta is cooked, drain it, saving 1/4 cup cooking water.  Add the pasta to the salmon and the onions and toss.  Add half the reserved cooking water, and toss.  Taste for seasoning.  If the pasta is dry, add the remaining pasta cooking water and toss.
    • When all is perfectly seasoned, take everything to the table.
    • Dinner is served.  Don’t forget the wine.

It’s been a self-awakening week for me.

I went to an Sales and Relationship Management training where a 360-degree personality evaluation and a personality profile were provided, had a good time with my dear friend who came to visit me in New York, got into my own emotional bubble (not a good one) and felt really blue for a couple of days, and had a really heartfelt conversation with a close friend that knows me really well and is willing to share with me her personal journey and her honest feedback. It’s everything together, but it’s also none of them. I’ve been piecing together the picture for a long time, and this week, with some help from friends, I finally finished the puzzle.

It’s always incredible difficult to be honest with oneself. It’s hard enough to secretly admit it, and to admit it openly is to peel off all the masks that are carefully designed and put on and to show vulnerability. But here I am.

I’m gonna skip the hard and painful process of realization and jump straight to what I’ve learned, about myself…

So despite all the assertiveness and positive energy that I was told that I radiate, deep down in my heart, I have a lot of fear and somehow have lost the ability to love and believe in myself unconditionally.

I attribute most of my achievements and success to luck when things go well, and when they don’t, I blame myself for everything. I got into this self-loathing spiral when I forgot a friend’s birthday, was not available for a dinner, said something insensitive while not realizing it, made a mistake at work… Sometime ago, I felt terribly guilty and mad at myself for a whole week for being a terrible friend when I missed a friend’s text message for 30 minutes, but when the same thing happened to me, I could always find excuses for other people. And I even told myself that if I felt that I would be upset for not getting a response, I should not even send that message. I convinced myself that it’s all about managing my expectations for others but I held myself responsible for meeting the highest expectations.

A friend asked me why I couldn’t let it go and trust that my real friends would forgive me and understand me the way that I forgive and understand them. I realized what the reason is. It’s because I could not even bear the thought of losing them, and I think my world would collapse without them. It’s not only because I love them for who they are and how much they support and love me, but also because only through their friendship and love could I be convinced that I am worthy and lovable. I want my friends to love me for who I am, but somewhere along the way, I lost the ability to do the same for myself.

And it does not make me a better friend, but quite the opposite. Most of my friends didn’t sign up to avoid someone else’s world from falling apart. They signed up for having a good time together, for caring for each other, for mutual support and understanding. In the end of the day, my emotional neediness is a form of high-maintenance that is probably more stressful to deal with than someone who needs branded purses and complains about mediocre food.

It’s so ironic that I’m writing about self confidence in 2011, more than 10 years after I published my first essay in 作文通讯 in elementary school, a monthly publication of student essays, about being confident and not following other kids who always seemed to be “cooler” than me. Sometimes life is like a spiral – you think you’ve traveled a long way, but when looking down, you realize that from certain angle, you end up where you were years ago.

It’s not a sudden realization, but things finally came together this week. And now the journey to piecing together the broken “me” has just started. It’s gonna be a long and hard journey but I am ready for it. And being blessed with some greatest friends in the world, an interesting job and living in the best city, I know that I can do it.

To celebrate my awakening week, I’m sharing not one, but two of my favorite recipes! I’ve tried both of them and loved them both very much! 🙂

Mussel Cioppino

http://www.notakeout.com/mussel-cioppino/
Cook time: 35 minutes

Ingredient:

  • 2 yellow onions
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 1 bunch thyme
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
  • 2 cups fish stock
  • One 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 lbs. mussels
  • Bay leaves
  • Black pepper, freshly ground
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Hot paprika or cayenne
  • Sea salt or kosher salt
  • Unsalted butter

Directions:

  • Put the mussels in a strainer, rinse them well, and refrigerater
  • Peel and dice the onions.
  • Remove the strings from the celery, and dice.
  • Rinse and pat dry the parsley. Pluck 1 cup leaves.
  • Put 2 tbsps. oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions, the celery, and the 2 diced garlic cloves, stir, and cook until the onions are translucent, about 8 minutes.
  • Coarsely chop the parsley and add it to the onions.
  • Pour in 2 cups fish stock and the can of tomatoes. Add 20 sprigs thyme and 2 bay leaves, a big pinch salt, a small pinch cayenne (if you want a little kick!) and several grinds of pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat so the liquid is boiling gently, partially cover and let it cook.
  • De-beard the mussels if necessary ( pull any strings from them that you see). Rinse and shake excess water from them, then add them to the soup. Bring the soup to a boil and cook until the mussels open, shaking the pan from time to time, 5-6 minutes.
  • When all the mussels are open, turn off the heat. If the soup needs more liquid, add additional fish stock. Taste for seasoning. Remove the thyme sprigs and the bay leaves.

Eel Cha Soba Hand Roll (It’s in Chinese so I’m only providing the link here.  Please let me know if you need help translating it. ;))

Hi everyone, with great honor and joy, I’d like to present to you my first guest writer – Andy! 🙂

Andy has been the one that inspired me to cook. Having been to many dinner parties that Andy threw, I can be the first one to testify his amazing cooking ability. You may call me bluffing because I have not tried Andy’s signature ribs, stuffed duck or honey ham, but trust me, if anyone can make everyday vegetables taste that good, I have absolutely no doubt in their ability to make a duck dance like a black swan… and taste amazing too!

OK, without further due, please give it up for Andy and his gf (a.k.a. goosefriend):

*********************************************************************
Have you ever found a goose in New York City before? I have.

My story, as with all, begins with the telling of rather routine affairs. Once every two months or so, it is a customary habit of mine to invite companions and acquaintances among our various societies to share bread and indulge each others spirits. In one particular of such gatherings, I was to serve duck, a dish which warrants the utmost dedication and care. Preparation is paramount, and procurement not to be taken lightly – which is why I went to Keyfoods.

The trip to the grocer was a fateful one. That night in the Keyfoods frozen meat section, I saw something wondrously new. I gandered upon a goose. She startled me, for I had never seen a goose before. But my what a gorgeous creature she was, with meaty breasts and generous thighs. She whispered out my name, beckoning me to cook her. Yet, I could not. For my word had been given to friends that duck was for dinner and so I was duty-bound to my duck. But I swore to the goose that would not be the case upon our next meeting. I promised her that I would return within three fortnights to consummate our passion.

As the weeks went by, all I could think about was her lying upon a soft bed of freezer frost. But doubt also crept into the mind. I have never had a goose before. What was it going to be like? What will my friends think? Will she be too gamey? What… what if I finally behold her and my performance disappoints? All of this was maddening! So for days I read and studied, learned about the ways to incite delicious pleasure within her flesh. In my mind, I knew she was not going to be just any goose. I was going to make her my one and only Christmas goose.

And at last, I was ready for my goose! With recipe in hand and confidence in heart, I returned to Keyfoods, ready to call all 10.6 lbs of her my own. I strode through the duck section, head high, paying no heed to those hussies. When I finally arrived upon the glass freezer door, I was at first confused. Instead of seeing my beloved goose, there was only a bitsy fowl. Why was there a cornish hen in the chambers of my dear goose? This tiny tart barely had enough meat to cover her own rump, let alone feed 8 people! Panicking, I ran up and down the aisle like a lost gosling. Finally, there came an employee. Only with the greatest effort was I able to hold back the bitterness in my voice, the bitterness of a man conceded to accept an unacceptable reality. I asked him, "Excuse me, do you have any frozen geese?" To which he callously replied, "No Sir, we don’t".

Nevermore.

Should you ever chance upon the frozen meats section on a lonesome night, you may hear the foot steps of a man walking up to where the cornish hen now lay. And if you hear the sounds of a solemn sigh, you may be certain that it is I.