Lemon Zested Bacon Wrapped Asparagus + Finals Week Triumph

Well well well… here we are. It’s happened. I’m in finals week. I made it. My first term of culinary school has just been knocked out and doesn’t know what hit it.

 Lemon zested bacon wrapped aparagus bite

It was a tough winter. I battled with the loneliness of moving to a new place, the challenge(s) of returning to school, a heavy workload, MATH, financial struggles, transportation issues and so on. Our good friend life.

My math grade is teetering on an A- and after my final, may be a B, but in every other one of my required courses (psychology, writing, computer skills and college skills) my grade is an A or A+. I worked my arse off this term and earned the shit out of those A’s.

 Lemon zested bacon wrapped asparagus

I feel like a force to be reckoned with… Like a building wind on the plane that finally grew into a tornado. This tornado tore through town and left rubble. I can do whatever I want and no one can stop me. And that’s that.

So, now that I’ve gone on my narcissistic rant, here is a simple, yet brilliant, recipe.

 green asparagus

Now that we are in full swing of Spring, my good friend Asparagus officinalis has been making some exciting appearances. Slim, dressed in green and always showing off a stunning and full head of hair, asparagus has the world mesmerized by its delicate flavour and crisp (when young) texture.

Asparagus doesn’t need much preparation: roasted, baked, pan-fried, seared or steamed, asparagus releases flavour for every technique.

  bacon wrapped asparagus

Asparagus charms the pants off all seafood and meats. Asparagus compliments everything. Shrimp blushes when asparagus walks by, ribeye cannot stop giggling and bacon… well, bacon can’t stop wrapping asparagus in its arms. In this particular recipe, asparagus and bacon recklessly eloped, leaving their families to start a better life anew. Their romance was full of dangerous passion and lust, which in the end destroyed them (in my mouth).

This recipe is so easy, yet it is very fancy. These little bundles of soft, meaty-green goodness are perfect as an hor d’oeuvres or as a side. Or, as always, just by itself.

Lemon zested bacon wrapped asparagus plate

Lemon Zested Bacon Wrapped Asparagus

 

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces (1-2 bunches) thin, green asparagus
  • 1 12-ounce pack of bacon
  • ½ a lemon’s zest
  • pinch of salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 400ºF/200ºC/Gas mark 6.

Rinse asparagus and shake until mostly dry. Cut off the last inch of the bottom of them stems to avoid the stringy bits. Section them into groups – about quarter-sized circumferences.

Tightly wrap each section with a slice of bacon starting at the bottom, or thickest point and going towards the top, or thinnest point.

Lay your meaty, green bundles in a casserole pan side-by-side. Alternate their direction to fit more in the pan and to make sure the tops get enough grease.

Sprinkle zest and salt over the whole pan.

Bake for 20-25 minutes then broil on high for 3-4 minutes. Doing this will prevent the need for turning them over.

Mustard Fail

 

homemade mustard in a jar.jpg

As a fearless experimenter of food, I pride myself on my ability to adapt a recipe to make it my own, as well as combine unassuming flavours and be undeterred by the results whether they prove to be edible or not. More often than not, I am able to pull something interesting together. Other times prove disastrous.

mustard seeds .jpg

Being a sensory oriented person, I am often inspired by what lies before me. I like to surround myself with lots of ingredients and imagine, or feel, how well they will go together (science has actually found ways to pair foods by their molecular structure… one day, I will have to look into that). Having honed this ability over a lifetime of playing around in kitchens, I often have a pretty good sense of what I am working with will taste like. Kim chi and eggs? Hell yeah. Mango chutney on lentil loaf? Why not? Lamb stew with a touch of maple syrup? You’re damn right. Chicken and milk? If Jamie Oliver can do it, I can, too.

homemade mustard ingredients 2.jpg I found a this recipe for mustard on David Lebovitz’s website. I enjoy making my own condiments, so I thought I’d give it a try with a few of my own “improvements”. The first time I doubled the recipe in my eagerness to have large quantities of homemade mustard in the house. It was awful. I was overenthusiastic in my use of horseradish. It tasted like bleach had a threesome with cat piss and Satan and was unable to detect who fathered the love child. It was all thrown out.

homemade mustard 2.jpg

After a few months buffer to my taste buds, I tried again. I omitted the horseradish, so it was a bit more tolerable, but I still did not find the results pleasing…or even acceptable, really. The recipe I used called for white wine vinegar, which is difficult to find in Korea. But, for whatever reason, I had no problem finding red wine vinegar. I know there are some distinctions between red and white, but could it really have changed it that much?  I managed a few sandwiches, but it was too hard to choke down. Two batches of mustard… rubbished.

homemade mustard ingredients.jpg

How could a bit of mustard seed, red wine vinegar, and a few other things fail so hard? Did I accidentally leave out a crucial ingredient? Had a misread the instructions? Did I take my improvisation too far? Well, I can’t say for sure until I’ve tried several different recipes multiple more times.

 

But… ironically, I think it was the turmeric.

homemade mustard 1.jpg 

Do you know any tips and tricks regarding making mustard? Please leave a comment! 

Candied Ginger Week: Ginger Syrup and Candied Ginger

candied ginger and ginger syrup.jpg

Most children have difficulty eating very sharp and hot flavours. There are some foods and flavours that I remember despising when I was very young and later grew to enjoy, such as cilantro, arugula and mustard. I never had that problem with ginger. Though I could only handle it in small doses when I was child, ginger has always had a special place in my heart.

ginger syrup prep 6.jpg Ginger root belongs to the Zingiberaceae family and is closely related to turmeric, cardamom and galangal. It was first cultivated in parts of Southern China and is now used in cuisines around the world. It is quintessential to Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Southeast Asian cuisine and also shows up in many Caribbean dishes. From kimchi and curry to ginger beer, tea and cookies, ginger makes all kind of appearances in your cup, bowl and plate.

ginger syrup prep.jpg

Ginger is also a boss in the medicinal foods category. It can be used to suppress nausea, has been proven to have hepatoprotective qualities and has even been promoted by the American Cancer Society as treatment to keep tumors from developing.

Ginger syrup prep 3.jpg Hot and spicy in flavour and aroma, ginger can overwhelm a gentile or unfamiliar user, but it is certainly worth pushing through the burn for flavour like that. Ginger adds so much to any meal.

cocoa covered candied ginger, ginger syrup and candied ginger pieces.jpg

Since ginger knows how to bring the goods to the table so hard, it is Candied Ginger Week here at Turmeric and Twine. I’ll be featuring sweet uses of the spicy rhizome. Every week should be ginger week.

 

Ginger syrup and candied ginger can, luckily, be made at the same time. It is extremely easy and satisfying to make.

 

Ginger Syrup and Candied Ginger

 

Ingredients

  • 14 ounces (375g) fresh ginger
  • 16 ounces (450g) light brown sugar
  • 4 cups water
  • pinch of salt

 

Directions

 

Ginger root can be found in varying degrees of dirtiness. In Korea, sellers make no attempt to clean the dirt off their roots, so mine was really filthy. Scrub the outside very well or you will find your syrup has an unwanted earthy flavour. Peel only if absolutely necessary.

dirty ginger.jpg

Cut ginger about 1/8 inch slices. Then roughly chop in small pieces. The smaller the pieces are, the more flavour will be extracted.

 

Place ginger, sugar, salt and water into a non-reactive skillet (non-stick or stainless steel work best) and heat to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about an hour or until the liquid is thick and syrupy.

Making ginger syrup.jpg

Pour the syrup and ginger pieces into a jar, cover and refrigerate for 3-4 days. This simultaneously infuses the syrup with more flavour and candies the ginger pieces.

 

To separate the syrup from the candied pieces, simply strain in a stainless steel strainer. Candied ginger can be refrigerated for up to a month and frozen for several months. Use them to get fancy with baked goods or nibble on their own (like I enjoy).

Separating ginger syrup from candied ginger .jpg

Strain the syrup further with a fine mesh strainer so there is no fibrous material left. Drizzle on ice cream, use as a cocktail mixer or make spritzers. Ginger syrup keeps very well and can be refrigerated for 3-4 months.

 

Makes a great gift if you divide in small jars.

Smoked Duck Szechuan Pepper Stuffed Pumpkin + Rendered Duck Fat

 smoked duck stuffed pumpkin 2

I first started getting the craving to stuff a gourd when the fall harvest hit the markets here in Seoul. The orange pumpkins are a bit different from the ones I’m used to in Canada. They are also harder to find, expensive and too massive for my little kitchen. I settled for a delightful kabocha squash (dan hobak) that can be found everywhere at this time of year. They can be found in a variety of sizes, too, from tiny to medium large. This excites me to no end. I’d love to have a dinner party and serve a tiny pumpkin to each guest (heehee!).

 smoked duck stuffed pumpkin bite

Smoked duck is readily available here in Korea, so as one of my favourite meats, I chose to stuff my gourd with it. It adds an excellent smoky quality and flavour to the mixture, as well. I removed most of the skin and fat before adding the meat to the mixture in order to render it. Duck fat has a gorgeous flavour that is highly complimentary to many food items. I’ve tried to substitute it with pork fat when cooking shiitake mushrooms, for example, and found myself disappointed with the results. Rendering is incredibly easy. Simply collect the fat, cook in a pot on low heat until the fat is clear and strain into a jar for refrigeration. Once cooled, it should be pure and white. The fat should keep for 2-3 months. Use in place of oil or to add flavour.

 smoked duck stuffed pumpkin 1

The Szechuan pepper is a curious spice. Despite its name, it is not closely related to, nor has much of the hot spicy quality found in the Piperaceae family (such as black pepper). In fact, its genus belongs in the citrus family. It has a sharp, bright flavour, which is known to enliven food. It is also known for its numbing feature. Moments after putting one of these husks in my mouth, I was hit with an odd numbness I’ve never quite experienced before. These peppers are perfect for this dish because of how well they bring out all the flavours.

smoked duck stuffed pumpkin bite 2

Smoked Duck Szechuan Pepper Stuffed Pumpkin  

Ingredients

  • 1 medium or 2 small pumpkins (or your favourite round gourds)
  • 150 grams of chopped oyster mushrooms
  • 100 grams of smoked duck cut into bite size pieces (remove fat if rendering)
  • 1 diced bell pepper (any colour)
  • ½ cup cottage cheese
  • ¼ cup milk (any kind)
  • 45 grams or 1/3 cup of cashew pieces
  • 165 grams or 1 cup of uncooked rice (I used brown jasmine, but basmati would substitute well)
  • 5-6 cloves of chopped garlic
  • 1-3 chopped chilies (depending on your spice tolerance)
  • 1 teaspoon capers
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon Szechuan peppers

Directions

Rinse rice two or three times by splashing around in water and draining. Finally, add two cups of water and place over high heat in a pot or rice cooker. Once it starts to boil over, turn heat very low for 20-30 minutes. My little test to check if the rice is done without stirring is to tip the pot slightly. If the rice slides or moves in any way, it needs to cook longer. If the rice doesn’t move, it’s done.

While rice is cooking, fill a large pot with enough water to submerge your pumpkin(s) and bring to a boil. Cut the top off the gourd(s) and remove the seeds and gunk.

Once water is boiling, carefully lower into the water, including the top. Allow it to boil for 15 minutes. It should be soft, but firm enough to hold its shape. Drain water and carefully scoop out the gourd. Place in the refrigerator to cool.

Heat a dash of cooking oil in a frying pan and brown the garlic and chilies. Add the mushrooms and fry until the mushrooms have released their water and have reached a modest golden colour.

Preheat oven to 350ºF/180ºC/ gas mark 4.

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients except pumpkin, butter and milk. Mix.

Pour excess water that might have pooled in the pumpkin and begin stuffing with the mixture. Once filled, pour in the milk to fight possible drying out. Top with butter and replace the pumpkin top.

Bake for 25-30 minutes. While it is baking, clean your messy kitchen and think about how hard you will eat your stuffed pumpkin.

Because you boiled the pumpkin, you can eat all of it, including the skin. Do this very thing.

Enjoy your mouth-gasms.

smoked duck stuffed pumpkin

Quince Tarte Tatin + In and Out of the City

 Howdy!

 praying mantis on pot

As a Seoul dweller, I experience virtually no wildlife and rarely get to see animals other than street cats and tiny white dogs. So, when I met this little fella on a recent trip to the countryside in Chungju for an amazing day of learning about and eating fermented foods, I had to snap a photo. Praying mantises have always seemed like tiny (frightening) sages to me. The way they turn their wee heads all the way like they do makes me feel like my soul is being read, judged and thusly, condemned. Alarming. Maybe I need to reel in my imagination a bit.

 kimchi pots

The day trip, hosted by Kinfolk, was the dream baby of my fabulous friend Jacqui. A group of about 20 were swept away to a beautiful meditation retreat center that is also dedicated to traditional Korean fermentation recipes and techniques. We tasted soy sauce, garlic, vinegars, eggplant wine, various leafy plants and kimchi all brewing in large pots in the sun. Participants were able to help prepare some dishes, such as stuffed rice balls and tofu skin wraps for the feast at the end of the day. After sampling all the fermented goods, it was pretty astonishing that were able to consume more. But, oh, we were able and, oh, we did.

 vinegars

It was a glorious day and even thinking about it helps remind me that I need to get out more often. Living in the city is… challenging. Since starting my newest job four months ago, my commute has gone from a five-minute walk to forty-five minutes of walking, riding the subway and walking again. It is no surprise, yet still shocking how much a longer commute saps ones energy. Further, my commute is on one of the most packed lines on the Seoul Metro. One day last week, it was so mind-numbingly packed and people were being tossed around so hard that some ladies were wincing and yelping as they were trying to get off (imagine a disturbing mix of sex noises and dog cries). I practically ran off the subway car at my stop, very dramatically, tears in my eyes, feeling depleted, defeated and stressed. I wondered if I would be able to survive this commute to the end of my contract.

 

Luckily, most days are, at least, bearable. I force myself into a numbed state most every time I get on, determined not to let the daily violations of my personal space get the best of me. I’ve seen people who have. It ain’t pretty.

 quince tarte ingredientsquince sentinels

Quince is a curious fruit I’ve never really had the time for. When there are other trusty fall fruits like pomegranate, tangerines and persimmon about, who has time to be excited about an unassuming green rock of a fruit such as quince? I have since mended the error of my ways and become mildly fascinated with the most awkward member of the Rosaceae family.

 quince prep

Before I learned that quince isn’t exactly edible/digestible when it is uncooked, I, of course, ate lots of it raw. I even brought it as a snack to work, gaining the attention of the older and hungry elementary students. After some initial trepidation and reactions to the astringency, they were begging for more. I was too, after they devoured the lot. Buggers.

 poached quince

I’ve never particularly noticed quince on sale here in Seoul, but I now live close to several traditional markets that provide produce that is seasonally sensitive, so they’ve made appearances everywhere. I bought a few and tried Food52’s version of quince tarte tatin. I usually dislike pies with quince’s sweeter cousins apple and pear, (I know, I know… I’m just really picky), but quince really hit the spot. The fruit not only kept its deliriously tart goodness, but it sweetened just enough to be transformed into a unique dessert. Another interesting feature is that the white flesh of quince also turns red once cooked. It has tempted me to experiment with it more.

quince tarte tatin 1

Quince Tarte Tatin

 

Ingredients

For Poached Quince

  • 4-5 quince, peeled and deseeded
  • 6 cups of water
  • 1 lemon, cut in a half and juiced
  • 2 cups of brown sugar
  • 3 vanilla beans
  • a pinch of sea salt

For Quince Tarte Tatin

  • 1 pound puff pastry
  • 3-4 poached quince (depending on the size of your baking pan)
  • 1 ¼ cup quince poaching liquid

Directions

In a large pot, add the sugar and water and bring to a low boil. Once the sugar dissolves, add the lemon, lemon juice and vanilla beans.

Peel and deseed the quince then cut into quarters (or sixths, depending on the size of your fruit. Gently drop the quince into the liquid and cook until tender, which can take about 45 minutes to an hour. Remove from heat and scoop the quince pieces from the liquid with a slotted spoon.

poaching quince

Preheat oven to 375ºF/190ºC/Gas mark 5.

Pour about 2 ½ cups of the poaching liquid into a non-reactive skillet -most Teflon or heavy bottomed stainless steel brands will do. On medium high heat, reduce the liquid until it develops a syrupy viscosity. Be careful not to burn it, or you will have a terrible mess to deal with.

Arrange the quince pieces in a baking pan, cutting them further if needed. You may need to place several layers of the fruit so they fill the pan adequately. Drizzle the reduced liquid on top of the quince.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to a third inch thickness and lay the sheet on top of the awaiting quince. Cut away excess pastry.

Bake the tart for about 35-40 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and fully cooked. Let it cool for at least 10-15 minutes. When ready to serve, place a plate that completely covers the pan over top of the tarte. In a quick, fluid motion, carefully flip the tarte onto the plate so it is completely removed from the pan.

quince tarte tatin

Serve warm, with vanilla ice cream if desired.

Serves 6-8.

quince tarte tatin bite

Lemon Ricotta Deep Dish Pancake with Cranberries and Chocolate For Your Sunday Brunch

Lemon Ricotta Deep Dish Pancake with Cranberries and Chocolate slice

Now beginning the recovery from my recent job/life debacle, I am finally starting to step away from a constant state of panic. I am happily settling into a new routine with my new job and generally feeling normal again. Fresh start. My new apartment is the biggest I’ve ever had in Korea and I love it. I’m looking forward to getting my kitchen set up and getting back to cooking.

 Korean kitchen

For now, I’m enjoying making comforting, cozy foods. There is nothing better to get you back on track with your life than cooking the recipes you know and love.

 Lemon Ricotta Deep Dish Pancake with Cranberries and Chocolate

Brunch is my favourite meal. It combines sweet, savory, bitter and greasy with flawless ease. It’s perfect for sleeping in or meeting a friend when recovering from the night before.  Since you’re combining two meals, you can allow yourself to overeat (in some moderation) without guilt, or at least that’s what I tell myself.

 Lemon Ricotta Deep Dish Pancake with Cranberries and Chocolate 2

I’m not usually attracted sweet foods in the morning, but since brunch is a gateway meal, I can make exceptions. This deep dish pancake is a perfect way to tie your sweet brunch to your savory brunch. It’s eggy texture and sour fruitiness invites the eater to have one bite with syrup, the next with a bit of bacon and the next mixed with quiche provençale. Or solo, of course. Wash it down with a sip of espresso macchiato. Viola! Brunch.

Lemon Ricotta Deep Dish Pancake with Cranberries and Chocolate 1

This recipe is very easy and the ingredients are easily found (even in Korea… Bless you, Costco). Invite a friend or two over for brunch, lounge around chatting and then work it off with a nice walk around town. Happy Sunday.

Lemon Ricotta Deep Dish Pancake with Cranberries and Chocolate slice 2

Lemon Ricotta Deep Dish Pancake with Cranberries and Chocolate

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 5 eggs
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 ½ cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 tbsp softened butter
  • ½ cup lemon juice (2 lemons)
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen cranberries
  • ½ cup chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 425ºF/220ºC/Gas Mark 7.

Spread butter around a 7 inch circular baking pan.

In a bowl, whisk eggs until frothy.

Leaving out the chocolate and cranberries, whisk in remaining ingredients in with the eggs until smooth.

Pour the mixture into the greased pan.

Sprinkle berries and chocolate on top of the pancake and gently press in.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Cut a piece for yourself and drizzle with maple syrup mixed with a touch of ricotta cheese.

Garnish with walnuts and cranberries.

Eat immediately and voraciously.