i'm thankful for...

11:36 AM sians 0 Comments

the first thanksgiving story started in 1621 at Plymouth, Massachusetts which was a joint celebration between the pilgrims and the native americans. traditionally, it is celebrated to give thanks  for bountiful harvest.

taken from http://sarahramsingh.com/wordpress/index.php/2010/11/big-birds-first-thanksgiving/

in the united states, thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth thursday of november since 1941. thanksgiving is also fondly known as turkey day...well because turkey is the main highlight of the day (those poor turkeys). i find it interesting though that apparently turkey was not even on the first thanksgiving dinner table (found out from the next iron chef finale). there are few stories on how the turkey became the thanksgiving bird, so if  you are interested, google search is your friend (too long a story to type out). in fact, you might find some other interesting stories about this fowl along the way.

taken from http://nubbytongue.blogspot.com/2010/11/happy-thanksgiving.html
this year, ryan headed back to louisiana to celebrate it with his family but i decided to spend my thanksgiving here in chicago on my own. i guess it didn't bother me much cos we don't celebrate thanksgiving in malaysia. but i was craving for turkey since two weeks before thanksgiving (i blame food network.. lol) so i was super excited when christina invited me to her place for turkey day dinner party! :)

chefs are hard at work. thanks for the dinner!

christina and her bf, lyle prepared the whole thanksgiving meal which included traditional dishes such as dressing/stuffing (whatever you wanna call it), salad, roasted vegetables, green beans, cranberry sauce, homemade pumpkin pie and of course the turkey with gravy. i think this was my first traditional thanksgiving dinner since in the past three years i've been celebrating thanksgiving, southern style.

enough talk,  i'm gonna let the pictures tell the story :)

deviled eggs | a lil different from how ryan's mom usually makes them. christina's version is more of the classics with the mayo, mustard and paprika mixed in the egg yolk.

salad | lyle came up with the idea for this salad and it was yummylicious. the combination of the peppery flavor of the arugula combined with the sweetness of the roasted beets, freshness of the honey crisp apples. creaminess of the goat cheese and the crunch of the candied pecans and all these topped with a balsamic honey vinaigrette. love love love! :) it was quite funny cos i actually found a recipe in the latest food network magazine with similar ingredients.  

stuffing / dressing | so there's always a debate on what this should be called - stuffing or dresing? basically, stuffing is when you put it in the turkey and cook it and if you bake it outside the turkey like this one it should be called dressing. this is my first time having stuffing/dressing. it's lyle's mom's recipe and i can tell there was some meat, mushrooms and other stuff on top of the bread. you can call it whatever you wanna call it, all that matter is that it's good :)

green beans | green beans blanched in salted water, tossed in butter, garlic, salt and pepper and finished off with some fried onions. very fresh, light and tasty - cooked just right.

turkey | star of the day! turkeyyyyyyyy!! with a side of roasted vegetables - combination of onions, parsnips, carrots and potatoes. lyle and christina spent a few days prepping this turkey for this glorious finished product. the turkey was injected with rosemary infused olive oil and the skin was crisped up wonderfully.

no one has actually carved a turkey before so it was quite fun to find out how to do it right.. i vaguely remember from a food network show where they said to remove the legs and the wings first and then move on to the turkey breast where you start from the breast bone and cut out the whole breast piece before slicing them. we looked it up online to be sure and somehow managed to get it done about right. i think it was a successful first attempt at turkey carving :)

i was the lucky girl who got the turkey leg! (patricia got the other..hehe) i am a dark meat kinda gal. :) my huge plate of yumminess - a lil bit (if that) of everything.

enjoying the night view of chicago from christina's apartment while we gobbled up our dinner.

although i was almost stuffed to the brim, i gotta save some room for dessert.

pumpkin pie | christina is quite the baker. usually, i don't like pumpkin anything but surprisingly i enjoyed this immensely. lyle and christina said this was probably the most effort intensive out of all dishes that they made for this dinner party. we had to guess what the secret ingredient was in the pumpkin pie just from tasting it and ronit managed to guess that it was candied yam (sweet potatoes). this pumpkin pie had 50/50 ratio of sweet potatoes and pumpkin..maybe that's why this was really good..

at the end of the meal, i was stuffed, happy and was experiencing a lil bit of food coma. haha.

thanks christina and lyle for such a wonderful thanksgiving dinner party! and i'm also thankful for such a great company of friends making my thanksgiving in chicago such an awesome one. :)

p.s. some photos are taken from patricia since her photos are so much better than mine! :) thanks patricia.

p.p.s.  watch out of next blog update about pasta making class!


black cod with miso

11:43 PM sians 2 Comments

so this is how the whole story began.

it started off with my cravings for malaysian food which evolved into a food trip to arlington heights for grocery shopping and malaysian take out. this food trip involved going to mitsuwa, a japanese supermarket in the suburbs an hour away from downtown chicago which meant i needed a car to get there. a shopping trip to mitsuwa meant buying fresh sashimi and getting all the japanese ingredients that one may not find at a regular grocery store.

my friend, christina was ever so nice to agree to drive us there. i asked her what she usually gets from mitsuwa and her answer was black cod among other things because her bf made her some really delicious black cod dinner once.

and i thought to myself, "this i gotta try for myself". i bought two black cod fillets and asked her bf for the recipe. he told me how i could get the same recipe online and gave me some pointers on how to cook it.

hence, off i went searching for it and stumbled upon the black cod miso recipes that use the same ingredients but are executed differently. some called for the ingredients to be mixed in a bowl and have the fish marinated for a few hours, some called for the marinade to be heated up in the sauce pan, cooled and then have the fish marinated for a few days.

black cod with miso is made famous by nobu matsuhisa, an outstanding japanese chef who has opened NOBU all around the world including here in the US. he has received several nominations for outstanding chef by the james beard foundation and was named as america's ten best new chefs by food & wine in 1989.

this recipe is quite simple to make it yourself at home. the few ingredients needed are white miso paste, sake, mirin and sugar. i decide to heat up the marinade because the miso and sugar can dissolve better in the warm mixture of sake and mirin to create a more consistent marinade for the fish. after patting the fillets dry with paper towels, the fish is coated in the marinade, sealed and then left in the refridgerator.

then the waiting game begins - two days that is.

two days gave me plenty of time to think of a side that would pair well with these ingredients. oven roasted asparagus seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper was the answer for a simple flavor that i think would stand on its own yet does not compete with the delicate flavors of the fish.

typically, it is recommended to sear the fish on a grill pan but since i didn't have one, i used a regular  skillet pan where i drizzled some vegetable oil and cranked up the heat to high.

as i placed the fish into the very hot pan, the oil  started splattering which made quite a mess in the kitchen but it was well worth it. that could only mean one thing - good searing! after searing the black cod for about two minutes on one side, i flipped them over on a baking sheet to finish cooking the fillets in a preheated 400F oven for about ten minutes.

the sweet aroma of miso and mirin wafted throughout my apartment and it made me hungry as i waited for it to be done.

oh boy... it was soo yummy.. i especially love the seared/blackened part because of the crispiness and the concentrated flavors of the marinade that paired so well with the sweetness of the fish. so, don't panic when you see the blackened part as you sear the cod - it's not burnt, it's the caramelizing of the sugar in the marinade.  

it has that savoriness and earthiness of the miso paste which is complemented by the sweetness of the mirin and sake which enhanced the natural sweetness of the fish. the fish flakes off when i cut into it...mmm so yummylicious. it had a punch of flavor from the marinade and yet the richness and silkiness of the fish shone through. sweet, savory, succulent and cripsy all in a single dish.

a definite favorite of mine. i know what i'll be adding to my must buy grocery list my next visit to mitsuwa :)

if you are interested in trying out the recipe, you can get the recipe from here:

nobu's black cod with miso
found on food&wine.com

  • 3 tablespoons mirin
  • 3 tablespoons sake
  • half cup white miso paste
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • six 6- to 7-ounce skinless black cod fillets, about 1 1/2 inches thick
  • vegetable oil, for grilling
  • in a small saucepan, bring the mirin and sake to a boil. whisk in the miso until dissolved. add the sugar and cook over moderate heat, whisking, just until dissolved.
  • transfer the marinade to a large baking dish and let cool. add the fish and turn to coat. cover and refrigerate for two days. 
  • preheat the oven to 400°.
  • heat a grill pan and oil it. scrape the marinade off the fish. add the fish and cook over high heat until browned, about two minutes.
  • flip the fish onto a heavy rimmed baking sheet and roast for ten minutes, until flaky.
  • transfer the fish to a dish and it's ready to serve.


spring restaurant

2:50 PM sians 0 Comments

this entry is quite long overdue since it has been almost a month when i had dinner at spring restaurant with ryan.  we managed to get a groupon for a three course prix-fixe meal at spring restaurant a few months ago ($30 instead of the usual $59) and the groupons were about to expire so we thought it was a good time to try it out since he was in town.

located in wicker park, we had some trouble finding a parking spot at 9 pm on a saturday night. as we entered the restaurant, i was a little confused with the bar/waiting area for a moment because i didn't quite know what to think of it. (p.s. the photos are a lil blurry since the lighting was mostly dim around the restaurant)

the receptionist offered to take our coats (which was nice) and we were seated at our table. the restaurant wasn't full but it was busy. the dining area was more of how i imagined spring restaurant to be. a lil more cozy than their waiting area but i thought the lighting was still too dim. their decor is leaning towards asian simplicity which is quite nice and i liked the atmosphere of the room.

the waiter came by our table and he presented us with their favorites menu (or rather the prix-fixe menu) after we handed our groupons to him.

since i've read about the reviews on yelp, i've pretty much decided on the dishes that i wanted before we even got here which is quite rare for me since i've always have a hard time deciding on what to eat. we placed our orders and ryan ordered a glass of red wine to go with his meal. he ordered a pinot noir since we were both getting seafood for our entree and he prefers red over white wine. he wasn't too thrilled with the first pinot noir he ordered (which was recommended by the waiter) because of the amount of tannins or the body of the wine (i don't really get the wine stuff). basically, it tasted more like a cabernet sauvingnon. so after the first glass, he got a different type of pinot noir from the menu and was much happier with his second selection.

they start us off with a small sip of soup: saffron infused potato soup with chives.

it tasted quite like cream of potato with chives. nothing too special nor did i taste the saffron. but it still had good flavor to it and was a good way to start our meal. 

they also served us some crackers with a white bean puree dip with sesame oil. 

i personally didn't really like the combination. blame it on the fact that i don't like beans but the flavor that came through was mostly saltiness. i actually preferred the crackers without the white bean dip but even that the crackers were just okay.

appetizer | farm-egg ravioli, with smoked potato, white truffle oil, and hazelnuts

what swayed me to order this dish was maybe because i once watched an iron chef america episode where mario batali made something similar and it looked so decadently delicious and tried my luck with this appetizer.

when i cut into the ravioli, the yolk oozes out coating the other ingredients with its richness. first bite was a tad disappointing. it didn't have the flavors it promised in the description. i thought the whole dish was underseasoned and i could not taste any truffle flavor from the oil. i did like the crunch of the hazelnuts and i could get a small taste of the smokiness of the potato but i wasn't quite happy with my appetizer.

appetizer | braised short-rib dumplings with pickled orange rind and a coriander reduction

ryan had better luck with his appetizer. the flavors of this dish were on point and i loved the pickled orange rind that gave it a lil surprise of light tartness and sweetness to the savoriness of the dish with each bite. good amount of filling and the dumpling skin were at the right thickness. but i had to admit  the braised short rib in one of the dumplings i tried (i had two since we exchanged appetizers) was overdone and a tad dry. i think ryan had one of those too.

entree | maine sea scallops, with roasted mushrooms, braised oxtail, and sweet soy

after my lackluster appetizer, i was hoping for an entree that would make up for the first dish. and i was glad this dish did. the scallops were really fresh and cooked beautifully - succulent with its natural sweetness which is echoed in the braised oxtail in sweet soy and roasted mushroom. all my favorite ingredients on a single plate. the braised oxtail is fork tender and everything pairs so well on this dish..

only thing that they could have done better is the sear of the scallops. while the sear looks good but i think only one had a really good crust on the scallop. another thing that i was missing was something that was texturally different. nonetheless, the overall dish was very tasty.

entree | australian barramundi, with potato gnocchi, cilantro pesto, and citrus

this entree was fantastic. the barramundi was seared, seasoned and cooked perfectly. it had a really good crust that was crispy and the fish itself was succulent. the yummy fish was on a bed of fluffy potato gnocchi tossed in cilantro pesto and string beans. the string beans were cooked all the way through while still retaining that crunch and the potato gnocchi were like little clouds of awesomeness.

i had to stop myself from finishing ryan's dish. it was light, fresh and very satisfying. wished there were more on his plate so there would be more for me! :p

dessert | white-chocolate dome, with strawberries, rhubarb, and rosewater

a very pretty plate with different textures and flavors. i expected something too sweet but it actually turned out not bad. the white chocolate dome had the texture of a marshmallow and an ice cream and it had a filling inside. it was creamy and pretty good. and the brittle was slightly salty which is to counter the sweetness of the other elements on the plate which i thought was clever.

the overall dessert was okay - i liked the pairing of the plum and the strawberries. one of the better white chocolate desserts i've had since a lot of white chocolate desserts tend to be oversweetened.

dessert | five spice panna cotta, brioche doughnut

i wasn't a fan of this dessert. five spice panna cotta? umm... no thanks. when i tried a bite, the first thing that came to my head was chinese roast duck that i would get from argyle.. i don't know if it is a good thing when it reminds me of a savory dish when i am eating dessert. ryan said that he grew to like the dessert as he had more spoonfuls of the panna cotta but he did particularly enjoy the doughnut which melted in his mouth with the chocolate/caramel sauce at the bottom.

our dinner eventually ended up being pretty expensive. with the groupon, we still spent over $100 (including the cost of groupon) for the whole dinner. both of us are usually willing to spend a little more for a good dinner but i think i was quite unhappy with the food in general (minus the entrees which were great) so i thought it wasn't quite worth it. i would rather much spend the same amount of money at maybe girl & the goat.

will i return to spring restaurant anytime soon? probably not.

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others

Spring on Urbanspoon


grilled cheese with a twist

5:07 PM sians 0 Comments

i was so inspired and tempted to make a grilled cheese sandwich since my visit to sprout two weekends ago. i was so excited about it that i even bought ingredients on the monday after and had it all planned out what i was going to do.

the first step was to get my caramelized onions going. it is simple to make but slightly time consuming and tedious since you need to constantly keep an eye on it. since i am on a semi-diet, instead of putting butter, i halved the butter and substituted with olive oil to make myself feel a lil better. sliced vidalia onions were added next which is seasoned with salt, pepper and sugar to taste and sauteed at a medium-low heat, constantly stirring until it turns golden brown.

while that was going, i trimmed some bread off the ciabatta - didn't want to have too much bread since the cheese was supposed to be the star here.  

at sprout, they added some honey crisp apple slices in their grilled cheese but instead of using honey crisp i decided to go for granny smith apple to give that tart flavor. my selection was also swayed by the fact that granny smith is usually the apple paired with cheese fondue.

next step was to assemble to sandwich. the cheese is a crucial ingredient and i didn't quite know what to get but i finally decided on a wisconsin white cheddar. it had a bitter undertone but wasn't as sharp as i wished for the sandwich. 

so the layering goes bread, cheese, tons of yummy, sweet caramelized onions, slices of granny smith apple, top with more cheese and finally complete it with the other slice of bread. (doesn't that sound yummy?)


it doesn't end there.  i slathered both slices of bread with butter and toast it on the pan for a several minutes to crisp the bread and to melt the cheese. c'mon, you need the butter to make a good grilled cheese sandwich... no exceptions! i prefer spreading the butter on the bread itself instead of melting it on the pan to ensure both sides get enough amount of butter to toast it right.

i paired the sandwich with a bowl of cream of tomato - the classic pairing (i made it from a can.. too lazy to make from scratch..) and to make it a lil special, i added a small dollop of creme fraiche since i had some in the fridge. i know it would be better with fresh basil leaf too but i didn't have any of that.

finally, a finished product of yummy grilled cheese sandwich that i've been dying to try.

my verdict?

the grilled cheese sandwich was pretty good. i've always liked adding caramelized onions in my sandwiches. i am not so sure about my choice of granny smith apple slices because it was slightly too tart but i did like the fact that it cuts through the richness of the cheese. the cheese, on the other hand, i would have liked a sharper type that could mellow the tartness of the apples and counter the other flavors that stood out slightly more. also i could have used a cheese that melts better. a combination of cheddar and gruyere/provolone may be the answer since gruyere and provolone has a light flavor but melts beautifully.

i was supposed to do the whole letting the cheese ooze out on the sides and crisp them up but i think i might have not added enough cheese for it to ooze. and another thing i would like try is adding a layer of cheese between the caramelized onions and the apple slices to bind them better together. i loved the added creme fraiche to the cream of tomato that added a smoothless and creaminess that is comforting. even with this room for improvements, i think it was still a pretty successful experiment and this sandwich was yummy in my tummy.

this grilled cheese sandwich with a twist is definitely a keeper and when i crave for something crispy and cheesy, i know what i would be making. :)