Tortilla Española

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There’s rarely anything as simple and as satisfying as Tortilla Española or Tortilla de Patatas, the Spanish Omelette. This tapas classic has existed in Spain and parts of the Latin Americans since the 1600s, and it is still as popular today as the day it is invented. With only 4 ingredients, it’s savory and sweet, with a touch of smokiness, with an almost crispy crust on the surface, and a creamy, soft interior, like an aged cheese. Even though the traditional recipe doesn’t contain any onion, it was added to the recipe in the 1900s to provide some extra sweetness to the omelette. This recipe takes about 30 mins and serves about 4 people.

You’ll Need:

  • 3 medium-sized potatoes (about 1/2 kg or 1 lb, starchy potatoes)
  • 1 sweet onion (or any other type of white onion)
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 cups olive oil

How To Make This:

  1. Peel and thinly slice both the potatoes and onion, you can slice them with a knife, or save a lot of time and effort by using a mandoline.
  2. img_4316.jpgHeat up a deep pan over medium heat, pour in the oil and wait until the temperature rises to about 150C or 300F degrees.
  3. Add the onion first, fry for about 3 min, then add the sliced potatoes. Continue frying for about 12 min or until the potatoes are cooked through.
  4. Strain the fried potatoes and onion, gently mix them with the 6 eggs. Cover it with some aluminum foil and let it sit for about 5 min.
  5. Heat a well-oiled non-stick pan (with a 10-inch diameter) over high heat, add in the thickened egg mixture and cook for about 1 min, this will create the crust for the omelette. Then turn the heat down to medium and let the omelette cook for another 3 min. While the top of the omelette is still a bit runny, cover the top of the pan with a large plate, then flip the pan over, with the cooked part of the omelette facing up, and slide the omelette back into the pan. Cook for another 2 min over medium heat.
  6. Cut the omelette into wedges, you can serve them both hot and cold, enjoy!

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Tiramisu

It’s almost Valentine’s Day again, and for those who prefer having a cozy dinner with their loved one at home than experiencing the nightmare of dining out on Valentine’s Day, there’s nothing better to finish a lovely home cooked meal than a serving of the Italian classic, Tiramisu. It’s rich and creamy, but light and refreshing, the liquor might get you a little tipsy, but the espresso will pick you right up, that’s why tiramisù means  “cheer me up” or “lift me up”.

For a dessert this delicious, most are afraid the recipe would be too hard, and if you look around on the internet or a lot of the cookbooks, many recipes want you to make a double boiler to cook egg yolks or make the filling using the same technic as a mouse. Yes, using these technics does make the texture a little bit better, but it just seems too unnecessarily complicated. So, here is an easier and more traditional way to make this beloved desert! It takes about 15 min and makes about 2 servings, you can use a stemless wine glass or a rock glass which fits about 1 serving.

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(*Most recipe uses Marsala wine, which is kinda hard to find and makes the dish a little too sweet. This recipe uses limoncello, which is a southern Italian lemon liqueur, but you can use any liqueur you like, dark rum, Madeira, port, brandy, or Irish cream.)

You’ll Need:

  • 2 shots espresso
  • 30 ml or 2 tbsp limoncello
  • 10-15 dried ladyfinger cookies (cut in half if making cups)
  • 2 large fresh eggs
  • 3 tbsp white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean
  • 170 g or 6 oz mascarpone cheese
  • cocoa powder and shaved chocolate for garnish

How to make this:

  1. Take all the ingredients out of the fridge and place them on your kitchen counter so that they reach room temperature, this will make the whipping much easier.
  2. Once everything reaches room temperature, separate the egg white and yolk, then mix the yolk with the mascarpone cheese, limoncello, and half of the sugar in a large bowl until they turn into a smooth cream, you can also zest half of a lemon to add some extra lemon flavors (a citrus flavor breaks the fat and makes the cream much lighter)

    Whip until it forms a smooth peak

  3. In another large bowl, whip the egg white & the rest of the sugar until they form a stiff peak, if the egg white is at room temperature, this will only take about 3 min of whipping.
  4. Gently fold the half of the whipped meringue into the cheese mixture with a silicone spatula, after they are incorporated, fold in the other half. (DO NOT whisk because that will destroy all the lovely little air bubbles, thus making the Tiramisu too dense & heavy)
  5. Quickly soak the ladyfingers in the coffee, then place a layer on the bottom of the glass, then a layer of cream and another layer of soaked coffee ladyfingers. Repeat until the glass is filled, then let it sit in a fridge for at least 30 min
  6. Dust the top with cocoa powder, then sprinkle with some shaved chocolate and enjoy!

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Mushroom Risotto

Growing up in China, we eat rice for almost every meal, a warm bowl of congee for breakfast, a plate of savory & oily fried rice for lunch, and some light & fully steamed rice for dinner. Since rice was brought to Italy in the 1400s by spice merchants through the silk road, and most rice dishes around the world have a Chinese root, that’s why when I started cooking in an Italian restaurant, risotto was the first thing that I mastered, a creamy, tender rice dish that is perfect for almost any occasion. It’s perfect as the primo, a dish before the main course; however, it is also perfect with osso buco alla milanese, which is one of my favorite Italian dishes.

Since risotto is a dish that the city Milan is famous for, it requires some butter (most Italian dish uses only olive oil, but not this one), and the lovely mushrooms that can only be find in the northern Italian forests. Some of these mushroom might be hard to find, but I will provide a more common substitute in the recipe.

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You’ll Need:

  • 400 mL or 1 3/4 cup stock (chicken stock image3normally, you can use vegetable stock for vegetarian/vegan)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 5 tbsp or 75 g unsalted butter (replace wit margarine for vegan)
  • 1/2 sweet onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 thumb length celery
  • 30 g or 1 oz  dried mushrooms, soaked in hot water
    • dried porcini mushroom, bold nutty flavor (common)
    • dried shiitake mushroom, earthy & smokey flavors (common)
    • dried chanterelle mushroom, subtle peppery & apricot flavors with firm texture (common)
    • dried morels, strong beefy flavors (rare & expensive)
  • 200 g or 7 oz mushrooms
    • crimini mushroom, mild flavor (common)
    • shiitake mushroom, rich, buttery, and meaty flavors (common)
    • trumpet mushroom, similar to the texture & flavor of abalone when cooked (optional)
    • maitake mushroom, intense fruity, earthy and spicy flavors and absorb companion flavors when cooked (optional)
    • pioppini mushroom, peppery flavors with a firm texture (optional)
    • shimeji/clamshell mushroom, delicate shellfish-like flavor with firm texture (optional)
  • 5 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 200 g or 7 oz rice
    • arborio rice , short grain, starchy and firm (common)
    • carnaroli, maratelli and Vialone Nano, traditional but hard to find (rare & expensive)
  • 125 mL or 1 cup dry white wine
  • sea salt  & freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp freshly Parmesan cheese

How to make this:

  1. Place the dried mushrooms into a bowl and cover with boiling water, this will re-hydrate the mushroom.
  2. Heat up a deep pan over medium-low heat, add half of the butter with the olive oil. Peel and finely chop the celery, garlic and onion, add them into the pan with some salt & black pepper and cook them for about 10 min or until they turn soft.
  3. Add the rice into the pan, lightly fry while stirring it until it turns slightly translucent.
  4. Strain the dried mushrooms, save the liquid. Clean and roughly chop the mushrooms, add them into the pan with thyme springs, turn up the heat to medium then cook until most of the liquid are evaporated.
  5. Pour in the wine and cook until the liquid turns viscous, then add 1/2 cup of the mushroom liquid and the stock. Bring everything to a boil and reduce the heat back to medium-low, stir constantly, and cook for about 20 min, add more liquid if need.
  6. Once the rice hits al dente, pick out the thyme and add the rest of the butter with the Parmesan cheese, stir until it becomes amazingly creamy and oozy. Sever it with some extra Parmesan and herbs, and enjoy!

Choux à la crème

Choux à la crème, which is the fancy way to say puff pastry in french, is very much self-explanatory, “Choux” is a pastry made with only butter, flour, egg and water with no rising agent, it uses its high moisture content to create steam during cooking to puff the pastry, and we all know what “crème” is. This makes about 8 puffs or choux

You’ll Nedd:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs

How to make this:

  1. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, add butter, sugar, salt and 1 cup water and bring it to a boil while quickly and gently fold in the flour with a spoon or silicone spatula, mix for about 2-3 min
  2. Let the mixture chill in a separate bowl, then add the 4 eggs, one at a time while stirring the mixture to incorporate egg
  3. Add the mixture to a pastry bag and pipe 2-inch wide circles onto a silicone mat or parchment paper, smooth the pointed peaks with a wet finger. Then bake it in a 190C or 375F oven until puffs rise and are golden brown, which takes about 30 mins.
  4. Let the puff chill completely before piping, you can add pastry cream to a pastry bag and insert the tip into the bottom of the pastry, or cut it in half like I did and pipe on the cream

Apfelstrudel (Apple Strudel)

Among all the pastries out there, strudel is one of the hardest things to make, it’s not that you need a special machine or some crazy talent, but the patient to slowly stretch a high gluten soft dough into an ultra-thin, semi-translucent membrane, thus this dough requires a very specific type of flour and a lot of stretching practices, and this is why we are not doing it the traditional way. Instead, we are using puff pastry, which is much easier to make or find, the logic behind this is that when you are rolling the strudel on the thin membrane dough, you are brushing on layers of butter so that when you bake it, each layer stays separate and flaky, which is the exact same thing that the puff pastry does, layers and layers of heavenly flakiness! This recipe makes about 2 small strudels or 1 large strudel

You’ll need:

  • 2 sheets of puff pastry (about 8-inch*8inch or 20cm*20cm for a small one, 1/5 inch or 0.5 cm thick)
  • 2 Granny Smith apple (try to use this apple because most other tends to become mushy after baking while this stays tender)
  • 3.5oz or 100g sugar
  • 1oz or 30g chopped almonds
  • 1oz or 30g raisins
  • 1oz or 30g flour
  • 1tsp or 5ml rum
  • 1tsp or 5ml vanilla extract
  • zest of half of a lemon
  • 1 egg

How to make this:

  1. Peel and quarter the apple, then cut then into 1/10inch or 1/2cm slices, this allows them to cook quickly at the same time maintain it’s texture, mix in the sugar, raisins rum, vanilla extract, and the zest of half of a lemon, toss until everything is well mixed. Cover and let the mixture sit for about 15 min, then add in the flour to remove the excess moisture
  2. Then light roll the puff pastry until its area roughly doubles, then sprinkle on some chopped almond, place the filling mixture on top, sprinkle with another layer of almond. Fold in each end, then roll it into a roll, make sure the seam is on the bottom of the roll. You can also do different designs, like this one here:ezgif-1-ce57f4c530.gif
  3. Brush on a layer of beat egg, then place it in a pre-heated 400F or 200C degree oven for about 30 min, brush with a layer of egg every 10 min or so
  4. Dust with some powdered sugar, serve with a good scoop of whipped cream

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(The final product if you decided to spend some extra time & braid it)

Japanese-Style Pancake

Even though I always prefer waffles than pancakes, however, if there’s one type of pancake that I will always get whenever it is available, it’s the Japanese-Style pancake. It’s thick, fluffy, light, and jiggly, and super fun to eat & make. This recipe makes about 4 pancakes

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You’ll need:

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup pancake mix
  • 4 egg whites

How to make this:

  1. Mix together the egg yolks, milk, and pancake mix until it turns smooth
  2. In another bowl, beat the egg whites until it has a stiff peak, add the sugar while you are whisking
  3. Carefully fold the egg whites into the pancake batter
  4. Grease a 3.5-inch metal ring mold and set them in the middle of a pan over the low heat, fill the molds about 1/2 of the way full, then cover the pan and cook for about 10 minutes, then flip it over, Cover and cook for another 5 minutes
  5. Serve it with butter, syrup, and berries

Chocolate Macarons

When you see these little almond cookies and how overpriced they are, you would think that they must be hard to make, but to be honest, they are not! And here’s how:

You’ll need: 100 g powdered sugar; 50 g super fine almond flour; 25 g cocoa powder; 2 egg’s whites; 65 g granulated sugar

How to make this:

  1. Mix the powdered sugar, almond flour, and cocoa powder, then sift them at least twice, you want them to be as fine as possible
  2. Whip the egg white into a meringue, add 1/4 of sugar for every 1 min of whipping, let the egg to reach room temp for easier whippingmeringue.gif
  3. Fold the powder mix into the meringue, careful, try not to push out the airwhip.gif
  4. Add the mixture into a piping bag, then pipe them into small circles over parchment paper or silicon sheet, then bake them in a 175C or 350F for 12 minPhoto Feb 24, 11 46 57 PM.jpg
  5. Let the cookies cool, the decorate any way you want, I use a basic vanilla pastry cream.