Category Archives: Pantry recipe

Al fresco dinner for two.


We are on a crazy month-long trip back to the States. Our itinerary is: HKG–>NYC (National Stationery Show)–>BOS (Sis-in-law No. 1 gets married)–>SFO (Minted. Mom graduates. Baby shower.)–>NYC (Minted.) –>BOS (Sis-in-law No. 2 gets married) –>HKG.

What do I miss when traveling like crazy? Feeling not tired. Clean laundry. My bed. And cooking dinner for just the two of us.

So I made a point to make a nice dinner for us right before we took off… the crazy thing is you’re so busy seeing family, friends and working on trips back that we see very little of one another. I made a yummy fennel, feta and pomegranate salad from Ottolenghi and halibut poached for 1.5 hours in olive oil, with capers and lemons. Poaching halibut is an interesting technique, but it works really well. I would just make sure to try to find as thick of filets as possible so it’s not too oily. I’m still dreaming about both of these dishes and of our special little night at home!

I took a potted orchid out to the porch and gussied things up with a few candles and fresh napkins and even though it was just any other Tuesday, it felt really special.

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Monique’s birthday: Salads and lemon cake.

My friend Mo was nice enough to spend her birthday with our Stitch n’B*tch group so I put together a little vegetarian salad spread for her. Our friend Lauren, who recently moved back to the States, was also in town so it was a double celebration.

Yes, you really can feed 12 hungry ladies with just salads. And I venture to think with these filling and delicious salads even macho men would be happy with this menu.

My friend Mo also loves the color purple (her husband even got here a purple sapphire for an engagement ring–it is STUNNING) so I tried to incorporate purple into the tabletop and into some of the dishes…

The first salad was Fingerling Potato, Fig, and Tarragon Salad, which I found on Garden of Eden, and which Darcy found in In the Hands of a Chef: Cooking with Jody Adams by Jody Adams and Ken Rivard. I actually saw fresh figs in a Hong Kong supermarket so I snapped them up instead of opting for dried. The purple in this one was the figs and some of the fingerlings.

One the left: Chickpea Salad with Lemon, Parmesan and Fresh Herbs discovered on Garden of Eden and originally from Molly Wizenberger, the author of the fabulous cooking blog Orangette and the enjoyable book A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from my Kitchen Table. This salad has become a staple lunch for when it’s just me working at home… it’s so easy, you have everything you need for it in your pantry, and it’s so delicious!

On the right: Barley and Corn Salad with Arugula and Haricot Vert discovered on Smitten Kitchen, but originally from Bon Appetit, July 1998. This is so good with fresh sweet corn and crispy green beans!

On the left (and this may have been the crowd favorite): Ottolenghi’s roasted aubergine with saffron yoghurt. I have the Ottolenghi cookbook (thanks to my friend Kirsten’s recc) and I LOVE it. Ottolenghi is a restaurant / deli in London ran by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, who infuse their cooking with references to their childhoods growing up in Jereusalem. All the recipes are pretty simple and insanely fresh! You can find the eggplant recipe here, too though if you don’t own the cookbook. This is a really different take on eggplant… it pairs so well with the saffron yogurt and the sweet/tartness of the pomegranates, which also really checked the purple box.

On the right: Kale Salad with Pears, found by me on Garden of Eden, but  adapted by Darcy from this recipe on Food52. It is so healthy to eat kale raw and by letting the kale marinate with fresh lemon juice, you let it really soften up.

And of course no birthday is complete without a cake! Keeping with the light theme, I made my go-to Ina Garten Lemon Yogurt Cake

My friend Tori passed on this recipe years back and I’ve never looked back. It is so easy (no need to even use a mixer) and so moist and fresh. My only change (and it’s a good one) is to use olive oil instead of vegetable oil and I get away with 1/3 of a cup, not 1/2 a cup.

Happy Birthday Mo! xxxxx

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Irish carbomb cupcakes.

Sometimes a cupcake just deserves it’s own post.

I’ve blogged about this recipe before, but seriously it is the best in my arsenal: Smitten Kitchen’s Irish Carbomb Cupcakes.

Several people even told me it was the BEST cupcake they’d ever had! To create the nice swirl, I just used a large round tip in an outward-to-inward circle.

It really is a complete carbomb: There is Guinness beer in the chocolate cupcake. There is Irish whiskey in the ganache fille. And there is Bailey’s in the frosting.

I decided to make little cookie toppers on sticks for decoration… instead of using vanilla in the meringue powder frosting I used fresh lime juice. Best idea ever!!

I thought they really completed the look and they were honestly so fun to do. All you do is bake a regular cut-out cookie–but before putting it in the oven pop in a 4″ Wilton stick. If need be, put a little dough to cover up a stick poking through.

I really have fallen completely head over heels in love with decorating. I credit Glorious Treats for that.

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Lavender syrup: A lovely $4 hostess gift.

You only need three simple ingredients and 8 minutes to make lavender syrup:

  • 1 cup fine granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup dried lavender

Bring 1/2 cup water to a boil and add all ingredients. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Let cool and strain through a sieve. Syrup will keep in the refrigerator, tightly covered in a glass jar, about 2 weeks.

Invited over to a friend’s for a BBQ, I wanted to bring a little something over–as one should always do when someone has gone out of their way to host you. She is pregnant so I brought this homemade lavender syrup. Simply add to bubbly water and you have a nice mocktail. Of course, it’s also delicious added to champagne or vodka and soda water. I did a splash of lime to balance out the sweetness…. very refreshing on a hot, summer day!

I put the lavender syrup into a used mustard jar… Maille has a very solid glass jar with a plastic lid that seals. I love fancy packaging when you can re-use it. Otherwise it’s just too indulgent and very not-green.

Luckily I had some nice custom labels from Felix DooLittle that I was able to cut with biscuit cutters to cover up the Maille logo. I also had some lavender grown by the Mr.’s grandmother Habou, hand-carried from Massachusetts to Hong Kong, so I tucked that into the bow… along with a mini-spoon from my pinch, dash, smidgen measuring spoons (personally I always guess with these litte ones so I didn’t really need it anyways!) The spoons are $7.99 / 3 on amazon = $2.60. The lavender and sugar cost me about $1.40 combined. =$4 hostess gift.

I have to credit my dear friend Cynthia for the inspiration on this one. She had us girls over when I was last in S.F. and had made some which she mixed into champers and it was so delicious.

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My cake room.

Remember back in July when I promised to post photos of what I did with our maid’s room? Well it’s taken me long enough, but here you go!

Domestic helpers are super common in Hong Kong. They make up approximately 3% of the population of Hong Kong–there are 284,901 foreign domestic helpers of them. Half of them are from the Philippines and half of them are from Indonesia. They are insanely affordable here because most of them live with their employers in these rooms, but because we don’t have one I was really excited about the possibilities of this bonus room.

I had grand plans to make our helper’s room into a craft room, but in the end it became my baking room and pantry. (The little bathroom just off of it is where I stash my major messes–it’s so small I can’t even get an angle to photograph it–the shower head is above the toilet.)

I bought these cake prints from Paul Ferney (the husband of uber-chic Jordan Ferney of Oh Happy Day). I had them framed for pennies here in Hong Kong (the best thing about living here is cheap framing, tailoring and baby clothes!)

I love having all my cookbooks together in their own little corner!

I know everyone is super obsessed with this pantry picture including me, but the truth is I’m not going to take peanuts out of the glass jar they come in and put them into another jar just so they look pretty. I do however love stockpiling food!

So this is as good as it gets for me! The shelf on the right, second from the bottom, has a baking tray with everything I need to make cookies (baking powder, salt, vanilla, pie weights, sifters…) so that is quite helpful.

I feel quite spoiled and very thankful that some people live in this room (or even share this room) and I get to have it just be my happy baking space.

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