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Snow Scene

snowscene

It’s a cozy snow day here at Yin Hoo. Nearly 10 am and the snow is falling fast in big, thick flakes.  I’m thinking of one of my favorite poems. I hope you enjoy it, and stay safe and warm.


Shoveling Snow with Buddha 

by Billy Collins


In the usual iconography of the temple or the local Wok
you would never see him doing such a thing,
tossing the dry snow over a mountain
of his bare, round shoulder,
his hair tied in a knot,
a model of concentration.

Sitting is more his speed, if that is the word
for what he does, or does not do.

Even the season is wrong for him.
In all his manifestations, is it not warm or slightly humid?
Is this not implied by his serene expression,
that smile so wide it wraps itself around the waist of the universe?

But here we are, working our way down the driveway,
one shovelful at a time.
We toss the light powder into the clear air.
We feel the cold mist on our faces.
And with every heave we disappear
and become lost to each other
in these sudden clouds of our own making,
these fountain-bursts of snow.

This is so much better than a sermon in church,
I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling.
This is the true religion, the religion of snow,
and sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky,
I say, but he is too busy to hear me.

He has thrown himself into shoveling snow
as if it were the purpose of existence,
as if the sign of a perfect life were a clear driveway
you could back the car down easily
and drive off into the vanities of the world
with a broken heater fan and a song on the radio.

All morning long we work side by side,
me with my commentary
and he inside his generous pocket of silence,
until the hour is nearly noon
and the snow is piled high all around us;
then, I hear him speak.

After this, he asks,
can we go inside and play cards?

Certainly, I reply, and I will heat some milk
and bring cups of hot chocolate to the table
while you shuffle the deck.
and our boots stand dripping by the door.

Aaah, says the Buddha, lifting his eyes
and leaning for a moment on his shovel
before he drives the thin blade again
deep into the glittering white snow.

Savory Mushroom Bread Pudding (a recipe in photos)

When the weather takes a turn for cool and crisp, I long for savory, belly-filling dishes that fill the house with hearty aromas. A savory bread pudding is a great way to cook from the pantry and use up little bits of ingredients you have in the fridge. I looked at several recipes for bread pudding featuring mushrooms, then composed my own dish from ingredients I had on hand. Bread pudding is an economical dish, allowing home cooks to make use of stale or old bread, so recipes that call for a loaf of fresh bread are missing the point.
breadpudding-04

I keep a freezer bag for bread that has passed its prime. Dried out or stale ends of bread and leftover whole wheat hot dog buns are given new life in a bread pudding. When the bag is full, it’s time to make bread pudding!  I put slices into the toaster to thaw, rub them with a clove of garlic, then toast for an additional 10-15 minutes in a 350 oven. About a dozen slices is enough for six servings.

While the bread is toasting, saute (separately) sliced mushrooms and chopped onion. Add everything back into the same pan, and toss in a handful or more of chopped bitter greens like kale or Swiss chard. Remove from heat to cool

While the bread is toasting, saute (separately) sliced mushrooms and chopped onion. Add everything back into the same pan, and toss in a handful or more of chopped bitter greens like kale or Swiss chard. Remove from heat to cool.

When the bread has cooled, cut it into cubes.

Remove bread from oven and cut it into cubes.

Whisk together four eggs and two cups of liquid. I checked my refrigerator and found some skim milk, and some half and half. That didn't quite equal two cups, so I added some of the mushroom stock that was simmering on the stove. Add a few tablespoons of chopped fresh herbs, a teaspoon of dried herbs, a teaspoon salt and some freshly-cracked pepper.

Whisk together four eggs and two cups of liquid. I checked my refrigerator and found skim milk and some half and half. That didn’t quite equal two cups, so I added some of the mushroom stock that was simmering on the stove. Add a few tablespoons of chopped fresh herbs, a teaspoon of dried herbs, a teaspoon salt and some freshly-cracked pepper.

Allow toasted bread cubes to soften in the milk/egg mixture for ten minutes before adding the sautéed vegetables.

Allow toasted bread cubes to soften in the milk/egg mixture for ten minutes before adding the sautéed vegetables.

Check your refrigerator for cheese and grate about 3/4 cup. Here is a mixture of parmesan, goat gouda and jack cheeses.

Check your refrigerator for cheese and grate about 3/4 cup. Here is a mixture of parmesan, goat gouda and jack cheeses.

Stir in about 2/3 of the cheese, then spoon the mixture into lightly-buttered baking dishes. Top with remaining cheese. Bread pudding can be wrapped and stored in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight before baking. If I do this, I like to allow the pans to sit on the counter for 30 minutes before baking in a 350 oven. I'm going to serve the larger dish for dinner tonight. The smaller dish will be baked until just cooked through, then cooled, wrapped in foil, and stored in the freezer for a quick week-night meal.

Stir in about 2/3 of the cheese, then spoon the mixture into lightly-buttered baking dishes. Top with remaining cheese. Bread pudding can be wrapped and stored in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight before baking. If I do this, I allow the dish to sit on the counter for 30 minutes before baking in a 350 oven. Sometimes I bake bread pudding in two smaller dishes rather than one large. I’m going to serve the portion on the left for dinner tonight. The dish on the right will be baked until just cooked through, then cooled, wrapped in foil, and stored in the freezer for a quick week-night meal. If the pudding seems like it has absorbed all of the liquid, add some stock or milk before baking.

Delicious and fragrant bread pudding right from the oven. Bake at 350 until the top is golden brown and the pudding bubbles in the center.

Delicious and fragrant bread pudding right from the oven. Bake at 350 until the top is golden brown and the pudding bubbles in the center.

Recipes: Nashville-inspired Tasting Menu for 40

tastingA note about the recipes:

These recipes were developed for a four-course wine tasting menu at Sarah Street Grille in Stroudsburg, PA, where Samuel and I were guest chefs on July 14, 2015.  We wanted to re-create some of the tastes from our visit to Nashville last summer. Recipes were sourced from various web and text sources. All recipes have been heavily modified for the tasting menu.  In some cases, ingredients and quantities were changed during preparation.


Course 1: watermelon gazpacho w/ steamed lime shrimp

STEAMED LIME SHRIMP

  • 45 medium shrimp
  • 5 limes

GAZPACHO

  • 2 large watermelon
  • 8 seedless cucumbers
  • 8 ripe tomatoes
  • 8 shallots
  • 10 jalapeno peppers, seeds and veins removed
  • 10 limes
  • raspberry vinegar
  • salt
  • fresh mint
  • mint sprigs for garnish

PREPARE

  1. Lightly steam shrimp until JUST cooked; chill in juice of five limes.
  2. Mince shallot and place in bowl with juice of 10 limes. Set aside.
  3. Cut HALF of first three ingredients into even dice. Keep VERY COLD.
  4. Roughly chop the remainder of watermelon, cucumber and tomato.
  5. Finely mince jalapeno. Add to evenly diced ingredients, TASTE for heat.
  6. BLEND roughly chopped watermelon, cucumber and tomato with lime/shallot, mint, salt, and splash vinegar.

SERVE

Pour a small amount of blended mixture into serving dish. Add ½ cup diced mixture. Garnish with shrimp and mint sprig.


Course 2: summer salad w/ sweet potato gratinettes & caramelized onion dressing

CARMELIZED ONION DRESSING

  • 6 large sweet onions, thinly sliced
  • ¼ c. brown sugar
  • ¼ c. Dijon mustard
  • ¼ c. honey
  • ½ c. malt vinegar
  • 2 ½ c. extra virgin olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • dried dill

GRATINETTES

  • 12 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1 lb. Gruyere cheese, shredded
  • 1 lb. bacon, diced, and fried
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • salt
  • pepper

SUMMER SALAD

  • mixed greens (romaine, Bibb, baby greens, arugula, etc.)
  • grape tomatoes (red and yellow)
  • baby zucchini
  • candied pecans

PREPARE DRESSING

  1. Caramelize onions.
  2. Blend onions with other ingredients in a blender. Add salt, pepper, and dill to taste.

PREPARE GRATINETTES

  1. Preheat oven 400.
  2. Peel and slice sweet potato into 1/8” thick rounds. Toss with salt and pepper.
  3. Coat muffin tins with a THIN application of non-stick spray, butter, or bacon fat.
  4. LAYER sweet potato, cheese, and bacon X3.
  5. Spoon 1 tbsp. heavy cream into each muffin cup.
  6. Bake at 400. Covered for 20 minutes. Uncovered for 20-25 additional minutes.

SERVE

Toss salad greens with vegetables and a small amount of dressing. Plate salad. Place one gratinette on each plate. Garnish with dressing and candied pecans.


Course 3: pulled pork tacos w/ Southern slaw & fixins

PORK SHOULDER

  • 24 lbs. bone-in, skin-on pork shoulder (2 – 12 lb. cuts will work well)
  • 2/3 c. fennel seeds
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • ½ c. kosher salt
  • 1 c. olive oil
  • 1 c. grade B REAL maple syrup
  • ¼ c. malt vinegar
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 2 c. fruity ale

PREPARE PORK SHOULDER

  1. Bring meat to room temperature.
  2. Preheat oven 450.
  3. Score skin with ½” grid.
  4. Toast fennel seeds and crush in mortar and pestle. Add garlic cloves and salt. Grind to a paste. Transfer to a bowl. Slowly add olive oil. Season with pepper.
  5. Spread 1/3 paste onto skinLESS side of pork shoulder.
  6. Place meat SKIN SIDE DOWN in roasting pan in bottom 1/3 oven. Roast at high heat for 30 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, add maple syrup and malt vinegar to remaining 2/3 of fennel paste.
  8. Remove meat from oven and carefully flip over (skin side up). Use a spatula to apply maple syrup mixture, pushing into scored skin.
  9. Return to 225 oven for 18 hours.
  10. Baste the meat with 1/3 of ale and drippings at three intervals.
  11. Return heat to 450 for last 20 minutes to crisp exterior, if desired

SLAW

  • 2 heads green cabbage, sliced thin
  • 2 heads red cabbage, sliced thin
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 5 jalapeno peppers, halved, seeds and veins removed, thinly sliced

DRESSING

  • 1 c. mayonnaise
  • 1 c. buttermilk
  • 1 tbsp. vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • ½ tsp. salt

PREPARE SLAW

  1. Toss slaw ingredients in a large bowl with a bit of salt.
  2. Whisk together dressing ingredients.
  3. Pour dressing over slaw. Toss to coat.

GARNISH

  • 4 large red onions, halved and VERY thinly sliced
  • juice of 3 limes
  • 2 c. cilantro leaves, picked from stems
  • lime wedges
  • crumbled feta cheese

100 4” corn tortillas

SERVE

Layer slaw, pulled pork, onions, and feta into a warmed corn tortilla. Serve 2 per person. Garnish with cilantro and lime wedges.


Course 4: biscuits w/ peaches, bourbon whipped cream, and caramel bourbon sauce

CARAMEL BOURBON SAUCE

  • 1 ¼ c. butter
  • 2 ¼ c. brown sugar
  • 1 ¼ c. heavy cream
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ c. bourbon

PREPARE

  1. Bring first four ingredients GENTLTY to a boil.
  2. Boil on LOW heat for 5 minutes.
  3. Remove pan from heat and CAREFULLY stir in bourbon. Adding alcohol will cause sauce to bubble furiously.

BOURBON WHIPPED CREAM

  • 2 quarts heavy whipping cream
  • powdered sugar
  • vanilla
  • bourbon

BISCUITS

  • 3 1/3 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 c. finely ground cornmeal
  • 6 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. (2 sticks) butter, frozen & grated
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 c. half &half
  • egg white, beaten
  • raw sugar

PREPARE

  1. Preheat oven 425.
  2. Sift dry ingredients together.
  3. Cut in butter.
  4. Stir in wet ingredients.
  5. Quick knead on floured surface.
  6. Press into ¾” thick slab.
  7. Cut with biscuit cutter.
  8. Brush with egg white and sprinkle with raw sugar.
  9. Bake 12-15 minutes.
  10. Store in airtight container.

GARNISH w/ caramel bourbon sauce & basil leaves.

Snow Day Ginger Soup

yellowpeaTaking ideas from several intrepid cooks, I played ‘the pantry game’ and used what was on hand in my kitchen to make this rich and tasty soup. Two handy finds were a partially-used jar of roasted red pepper strips, a small container of frozen kale pesto, and some Greek yogurt for a creamy garnish. What appears to be split pea soup is actually pungent with curry, ginger, and pesto.


  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 tsp. sweet curry powder
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 c. roasted red pepper, diced
  • 3 inch knob of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 c. yellow lentils, soaked for one hour
  • 3 c. chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 15 oz. can coconut milk
  • 1/3 c. pesto
  • 1 head of cauliflower florets, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces

 

Preheat oven 350º

Heat 1 tblsp. butter or oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Sauté carrot and onion until translucent. Push vegetables to one side of the pot, add salt and spices. Stir gently while toasting — about two minutes.  Add pepper, ginger and garlic. Stir to combine all ingredients and cook for two minutes more.  Transfer to a bowl. Set aside.

Simmer lentils in stock until tender, about 25 minutes.

In the meantime, spread sliced cauliflower on a foil-lined sheet pan. Sprinkle with salt and roast in oven for 25 minutes, turning occasionally with a spatula. Cauliflower should be crisp and crunchy, but not burned.

Stir coconut milk, pesto, and onion mixture into lentils. Bring to a simmer.

Serve soup over roasted cauliflower.  Garnish with freshly-squeezed lemon and a dollop of Greek yogurt.

Pumpkin Gnocchi

gnocchi7Memories of Thanksgiving dinner are revived with these tasty pumpkin gnocchi. I like to make a glaze of butter and leftover gravy to sauté the gnocchi–which gives them a glistening appearance. Serve as a appetizer, or as a main course.

 

 

 

 


 

Pumpkin Gnocchi

gnocchi6makes 4 appetizer portions

  • 1/3 c pumpkin purée
  • 1 1/3 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 oz soft cheese (chèvre, gorgonzola, etc.)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • grated nutmeg
  • freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1 tblsp butter
  • 1/4 c rich turkey or chicken gravy
  • dried sage or parsley

gnocchi5

Combine first seven ingredients thoroughly and knead into a smooth dough. Keep dusting the dough with flour, if necessary, to avoid sticking.

Flatten dough into a square and cut four equal pieces. Refrigeration at this point can help dough relax–important if the dough is sticky.  I made two batches, and the one that rested overnight in the refrigerator was much more tender and light.

gnocchi2

 

Roll each piece of dough into a “rope” of about 1/2″ diameter.  Cut 3/4″ pieces with a small knife. If desired, press each gnocchi onto the backside of a fork to create distinctive ridges, and set aside on a floured surface.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add about 20 gnocchi at a time, stir to prevent sticking, and allow gnocchi to cook for 3-4 minutes. Pasta is done when it floats on the surface.

gnocchi3

 

Using a small strainer or slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to a small sauté pan, in which you have combined butter and gravy. Sauté until golden brown and serve with a garnish of crushed sage or parsley leaves.

Who Needs Cookies?

seedsI found myself craving a very crisp cracker that is healthy but doesn’t make me feel like I’m eating health food. These crackers are gluten-free, loaded with nutritious seeds, can stand up to a spread or dip, but are fabulous on their own. They’re crunchy, salty, seedy and with a hint of sweetness too. I recommend making a double batch. They make an excellent snack and would be excellent for holiday gifting. Don’t rush the oven time and store in an airtight container.


Who Needs Cookies?

Oven 300°

  • 1 tblsp amaranth seeds popped in oil over high heat
  • 1 tblsp chia seeds
  • 1 tblsp hemp seeds
  • 1 tblsp poppy seeds
  • 1 tblsp sesame seeds
  • 1/2 c amaranth flour
  • 1/2 c quinoa flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tblsp olive or coconut oil
  • grated rind of 1/2 orange
  • juice of 1/2 orange, plus water to equal 1 1/4 c
  • 1/3 c flax seeds
  • 1/2 c pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 c sunflower seeds
  • maple syrup or honey
  • coarsely ground sea salt

Mix first five ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, salt, oil, orange rind, orange juice and water. Stir in flax, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, plus two tablespoon of the five-seed mixture. Allow to rest at room temperature for ten minutes.

Pour batter (it will look alarmingly thin) onto two parchment-lined baking sheets and spread evenly. Sprinkle the remainder of the five-seed mixture on top.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the crackers have a bit of a crust. Brush the surface with maple syrup and immediately sprinkle sea salt over the top.

Return pans to oven and bake for another 30 minutes.

Reduce oven to low / warm. Crackers will continue to crisp over the next hour or two. Break each large sheet of crackers into squares or shards and store in an air-tight container for up to two weeks.