Thursday, March 27, 2014

Striped Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

During Valentine's I saw chocolate dipped strawberries everywhere and wanted to make some. All the boxed V day chocolate strawberries are always long stemmed. I have no idea why chocolate dipped long stemmed strawberries cost $3 a piece when you can't even eat the long stem. 

B always says I'm "such a guy" and super unromantic, but I digress. I was planning on using normal strawberries for dipping, but while in Chinatown, these gorgeous long stemmed strawberries were on sale. They were the biggest strawberries I had ever seen my whole life. And for only $2 for a 1 lb box! I saw a lady buy at least eight boxes, but I controlled myself and bought only two.
I tried to look up long vs normal strawberrires up but didn't find much information. Apparently, long stemmed and ordinary strawberries are exactly the same fruit. The difference is how they're cut with the runners attached (which takes longer) and must be packed in a single layer to avoid bruising and bouncing around in the box (sources here and here). 
The key to dipping strawberries is making sure the strawberry is completely dry - otherwise the water will cause the chocolate to seize and fall off the fruit. Also make sure there's plenty of cleared out space in the fridge so you can stick these babies right in afterwards.

You can dip them in pure chocolate, although I would have liked to thin it out a little with heavy cream if I had some. White chocolate is trickier to melt, and I had trouble piping it out since it was kind of thick and I was using a ziploc bag, but I'll just pretend the zig zag lines are intentional.

Striped Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

2 lbs strawberries (long stemmed or normal)
10 oz dark chocolate, chips or bars
6 oz white chocolate, chips or bars
2 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil (optional)

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Wash strawberries and dry well using paper towels (water will cause the chocolate to not stick or seize)

Over a double boiler or microwaving in 30 second intervals, heat half the chopped chocolate, stirring. One just melted, add the rest of the chopped chocolate to temper. If the chocolate is too thick, add a little butter or vegetable to make it smooth and shiny

Once melted, dip strawberries into the chocolate and shake off excess. Place on parchment paper and let cool.

Over a double boiler or microwaving in 30 second intervals, melt white chocolate until just melted and stir. Add butter or vegetable oil to smooth if desired.

Scoop white chocolate in a ziploc bag and cut off the tip of the bag. Squeeze to stripe the white chocolate over the chocolate dipped strawberries. Chill the strawberries in a refrigerator for 20 min to let the chocolate set and enjoy!
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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Pepper Crusted Ahi Tuna Steak // Tuna Sushi Roll

For our anniversary, I wanted to try the fanciest sushi place in town since all my friends had been raving about its happy hour. I figured an anniversary was an adequate reason to splurge (and it was B's turn to pick up the tab since I paid for V day hehe)
pepper crusted ahi tuna steak sushi roll
I tried to make a reservation, but it was totally booked for weeks. When we got there at 5:15 pm right at opening, the host told us the wait would be more than 1 hr and 20 min. Right then, a waitress said something to him, and he said, "Actually, you can get seated right now." What luck - a wait from 1 hr and 20 min to 20 seconds isn't too shabby! The couple eating next to us told us they had waited in a line outside before the restaurant opened.

When we ordered, each dish was about 3 bites. Literally, the amount of food each plate fit in the palm of my (small) hand. Now the $6 palm sized happy hour plates were fine, but the $18 main dish we ordered gave us 1 1/2 bites each (that happened to be B's favorite dish of course).

Don't get me wrong, the sashimi was fantastic. I was very satisfied (not stuffed, a nice change) post meal, but Mr. 6 ft 2 in was still hungry.
tuna roll salmon sashimi avocado cucumber
So after eating these incredibly gourmet dishes (with the finest fish flown in from all over the world the same day and artfully displayed), B drives up to Whataburger and orders a combo meal with their classic burger, soda, fries and inhales it all before I can blink.
ahi tuna steak sashimi roll
Anyways, I'm just not sophisticated enough to differentiate ordinary Costco tuna vs $$$$ tuna flown from another country. B has a sushi chef friend who made pepper crusted ahi once, which I was dying to recreate, so I requested B makes his famous sashimi during his visit as well.

I didn't like the ahi tuna recipes I found, so I made my own version, which matched B's friend's dish spot on. We also made rolls from the tuna sashimi as well. They weren't pretty... but they give a lot more sashimi and sushi for a lot less money, and that's good enough for the two of us.

Pepper Crusted Ahi

2 (5 ounce) ahi tuna steaks
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons sesame oil
coarsly ground peppercorns

Season the tuna steaks with salt, paprika, lemon juice, and sesame oil. Coat entire with peppercorns.

Heat sesame oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Gently place the seasoned tuna in the skillet and cook about 15 seconds per side for rare.

Tuna Sushi Roll 

1 lb Tuna steak
rice vinegar

1 cup sushi rice
1/2 an avocado
1 package nori seaweed (optional: toasted)
1 cucumber, sliced thinly

Prepare tuna sashimi and sushi rice as in the sashimi recipe here.

With a sharp knife, cut tuna into thin slices lengthwise. Cut the cucumber into narrow strips about 4 inches long. 

Lay a sheet of the nori, shiny side down, on a bamboo rolling mat with a plastic wrap in between to prevent sticking. Add water in a mixing bowl, and moisten your hands to prevent the rice from sticking to your hands. Spread the sushi rice on the 3/4 of the nori closest to you, spreading it to the edges. Add a small amount of wasabi across the center of the rice. Lay cucumber strips and tuna slices evenly.

To roll, hold the line of ingredients in place with fingertips, and use thumbs to push up and turn the end of the bamboo mat so that the edge of the nori is lifted up and meets the far edge of the sheet. Correct the shape by gently but firmly pressing the bamboo mat around the roll for about 30 seconds to shape it.

Use a wet knife to cut each roll into 1-inch rounds in one clean slice (don't saw). 
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Thursday, March 13, 2014

La Madeleine Fruit Tart // Almond Tart Crust

For my upcoming birthday, B asked what I wanted. Past conversations:

Chef Uy: Can I have socks? Or pens? I kinda need some.
B: If I give you socks and pens for your birthday, that's not socially acceptable gift for a girlfriend, and my manhood will be judged forever.

Chef Uy: How about a pumice stone? I keep getting blisters while running.
B: You want me to give you a rock to rub your feet on as a birthday gift? 

Chef Uy: I don't know, I'll google, "what are good gifts for my girlfriend" for some ideas.
B: You suck at picking gifts. What's wrong with you?!
fruit mixed berry almond tart
This year, I decided to take the plunge and ask for a domain name for my birthday. I am SO excited! Yup, OCD is now legit! No more ending with a --> OCD is now!
french tart blackberry raspberry
How serendipitous that this La Madeleine Fruit Tart recipe is the first post under my new domain name since it's so nostalgic. I posted this originally in Sept 2010, and it's been one of my most popular recipes, so I decided to update it. Once a upon a time, OCD was just a random collection of recipes, and nothing more - no journaling, no pictures, nada. But especially within the last year, it's grown a lot. Not only is it a fun hobby, I've learned a ton about cooking, food photography, web design coding, and social media networking.

And I procrastinate even more than ever. But one can study medicine productively for only so many hours.
la madeleine fruit pastry
La Madeleine is a french cafe chain which has THE MOST AMAZING fruit tart. In an attempt to replicate their mixed berry tart, I've adapted this copycat recipe. I'd say it tastes pretty darn close to the original (dare I say, I think it's is even better.) The almond shortbread crust is absolutely key.

Oh for the record, this is proof ANYONE can learn to improve their food photography *shudder* From 2010 to now.
fruit tart food photography improvement

La Madeleine Fruit Tart

Almond Tart Dough:
3/4 stick unsalted butter, soft
1/3 cup confectioners sugar
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup finely crushed sliced almonds (or almond flour)

1/8 cup granulated sugar
2 cups milk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2-3 tbsp cornstarch
4 egg yolks
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon amaretto (optional)

Fruit (strawberries, blackberries, raspberries blueberries)

Crust: Combine butter, sugar, egg, salt and vanilla. If not using almond flour, use a food processor or blender to finely crush your sliced almonds.  Mix flour with your almond flour in another bowl, and add to the butter/egg mixture. Do not over-mix; stop when dough is well combined. The dough will be wet; wrap in plastic wrap and chill overnight, or at least 2 hours before use (once chilled, the dough will be workable).

Place the dough on a well greased tart pan, prick the bottom of the shell. Bake in preheated 350 degree F oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Filling: Mix 1/8 cup sugar to the milk in a sauce pan, bring to boil stirring occasionally. In separate mixing bowl, combine remaining sugar (1/4 cup) with cornstarch and egg yolks, mix well with a whisk. Once the milk is boiling pour some of the milk into egg mixture to temper, stirring constantly. Pour the egg mixture into the rest of the milk and return to the heat, stirring until the cream thickens and comes to a complete boil.

Remove from the heat, add the butter and vanilla. Pour the cream into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and cool to room temperature.

Spread the cream into tart shell and decorate with fruit. Enjoy your La Madeleine fruit tart!
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Friday, March 7, 2014

Lemon Squares

When life gives you lemons...

The original source for this quote seems unclear, perhaps came from a Christian anarchist writer in 1915, or perhaps an ancient proverb, but it became popular through Dale Carnagie in his book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living

Alas, we had a few lemons this week. But instead of making lemonade, a better pick me up is lemon bars in my humble opinion.
Unfortunately, my uncle just diagnosed with leukemia. It's a bit of a shock for the whole family since he's not that old and lived healthily (I mean, he drank bitter melon juice!) and there's no family history. Please keep him and his family in your prayers. My aunt and cousins are taking it rather hard, understandably :(
Secondly, a family friend/godmother had been in remission for brain cancer. However, it came back and it's very very bad prognosis (glioblastoma multiforme for the med people out there). It's already incredible she lived this long or even had a remission since the life expectancy is 9 months, but please keep her and the family also in your prayers.
This lemon bar recipe adapted from Allrecipes is a good "for a crowd" dessert since it makes a lot. I kept the crust but added 50% more filling for the lemon bars. I would make it more sour next time, but that's my personal preference. Also, do not make the same mistake as I did and over bake it - like cheesecake it will continue to bake after you take it out.

Update 8/2015: It's been almost 1 1/2 years since I've written this post - thank you for all your thoughts/well wishes. Alas, our family friend/godmother has since passed away. My uncle has unfortunately failed his first bone marrow transplant, and has just undergone his second transplant, so we're keeping our fingers crossed.

Lemon Squares

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
lemon zest (optional)

6 eggs
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3-4 lemons, juiced and zested (to desired tartness)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

In a medium bowl, blend together softened butter, 2 cups flour and 1/2 cup sugar. Press into the bottom of an ungreased 9x13 inch pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until firm and golden.

In another bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar and 1/4 cup flour. Whisk in the eggs and lemon juice. Pour over the baked crust.

Bake for an additional 20-25 minutes in the preheated oven. Do not overbake; the bars will firm up as they cool. After both pans have cooled, cut into uniform 2 inch squares and serve.
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Monday, March 3, 2014

Salmon Sashimi from Costco

B swears you can make sashimi out of Costco salmon. I was mildly (ok, very) skeptical, but I told him if he prepared it, I would eat it. Love is trust, right?

I was sure if he ran a restaurant, he'd be cited for health violations by not using sushi grade fish for sashimi, but after a Google search, it seems that no one - not the FDA, not local health inspectors, not any governing body - knows what sushi grade means! Yep, there's no regulations, as long the fish has been frozen for a period of time to kill parasites. I suppose it's comforting that even when self-regulated, at least seafood vendors care about whether we get tapeworms.

Basically, "sashimi" is just a sexy marketing term to mean any fish that can be eaten raw. Of course, the fresher the fish, the better the taste and texture, so these fish should be killed and iced ASAP. Here's more info from SushifaqCooking Stack Exchange, and Beyond Salmon.
sushi Salmon Sashimi Costco
After more Googling (yeah yeah, so I trust online strangers' opinions more than my own boyfriend's) using Costco fish for sashimi is not uncommon. From personal experience, their salmon quality is actually quite decent. B is very picky about the package date being the same day to ensure absolute freshness, so he only trusts Costco (Ok, I know this is the second post in two weeks waxing eloquently about Costco, but my boy is in love with that place), and does not recommend getting the salmon from any random Chinatown market.

Update to some FAQs in the comments: The salmon is fresh (not frozen), and the day you buy the salmon should be the day you make this recipe - don't let it sit in your fridge for days!

The verdict? Let's just say I was pretty darn impressed. The salmon is so buttery and had the perfect texture.

N: I want you to make this salmon sashimi for my family when you visit us!
B: Oh you know how to make sashimi now, so you can do it for them.
N: Well, I'm afraid I'll poison them, so I'll let you make it!
B: Great, so if anything goes wrong, I'm the fall guy, eh?
Salmon Sashimi fish Costco sushi
B has made this recipe many times for family and friends and to date, no one has ever gotten sick. However, please use your own discretion when making this recipe as you are still eating raw fish (ie please don't try this if you're immunosuppressed or pregnant!). Otherwise, enjoy some amazing sashimi!

The Gentleman's Sashimi

fresh salmon filet (check the packing date - the day you buy = packing date = day making the recipe)
salt, to rub
rice vinegar, diluted in water (optional)
1 sushi cup rice, recipe below

Rinse and rub a generous amount of salt onto your salmon (both sides). Let sit in fridge for 2 hours. Afterwards, take out salmon from fridge and rinse with water.

Submerge your salmon in diluted vinegar (preferably rice vinegar but white works as well). You use pure vinegar or dilute the vinegar up to 1:10 (ie 1/2 cup vinegar and 4 1/2 cups water) if you want a less vinegar taste.Let sit in fridge for 1 hour. Remove from fridge and rinse thoroughly.

Pat it dry. Wrap salmon in saran wrap and put it in the freezer over night

The day you want to eat it, remove it from the freezer and let it thaw in the fridge. This should take 6-8 hours; do not try speed it up by leaving it outside. Cut the sashimi with a sharp knife in a slicing motion. Mold rice with your hands, dab with wasabi, and cover with your sashimi.


The Gentleman's Sushi Rice
This serving size here is for 1 person. The lady and I do not like too much rice in our nigiri.

1/2 cup sushi rice
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
3/4 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon mirin

Rinse the rice only 3-5 times (water does NOT have to run clear) and drain in a strainer. While rice is draining, combine vinegar, sugar, salt and mirin together in a bowl and mix well.

Add rice to the pot. Bring quickly to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.

Cover the pot and DON'T touch it until the end, NO PEEKING. Put something heavy on the lid like another pot. The more pressure the rice is cooked under, the better it tastes.

Cook for 15 minutes before removing the pot from the heat but keep the lid CLOSED. Let rice rest for 10 min and then remove the cover.

Place in a glass dish to cool and lightly fan the rice while adding the vinegar mixture. Mix rice gently, being careful not to break it. Enjoy!

Doc Uy's notes: As a caveat, Costco does not claim to sell sushi grade fish, but if you freeze it per FDA guidelines (pg 69), you should be ok from parasites. As a doctor in training, I must also recommend taking FDA precautions if you're pregnant, old, sick, etc! Please be diligent in making sure your fish is good quality, don't eat fish that has never been frozen, and treat the fish with salt and vinegar for safety.
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