Sunday, May 1, 2011

Secrets of making very green Pesto Sauce 意大利香蒜醬烹調方法

I started the idea of taking cooking class in different countries rather than taking a professional course at home.  My goal is to learn the most authentic way of making a local recipe.  It has so far been an amazing journey.  Besides from the Pizza and Pasta recipe that I shared, the most eye opening recipe that chef gave me was the Pesto recipe.  I have made pesto so many times, and watched chef making them, but not once I got tips like this.  Here is the recipe and I really hope you go out today and make yourself some delicious beautiful Pesto.


Fresh Basil (leaves only) 150g
Ligurian extra virgin olive oil 2 cups(light flavor)
Garlic 2 cloves
Pine nuts 25g
Grated Parmesan Cheese 25g
Grated Pecorino Cheese 10g

Preparation Method:
Put the bowl of the blender into the freezer at least 30 mins before blending
Combine pine nuts, oil, garlic, Parmesan and Pecorino and blend until smooth
Add basil and ONLY blend for few second until combine. 
Put mixture in container and pour olive oil on top to prevent from browning and refrigerate until use.

Ligurian Olive oil is one of a kind, very light in taste but leaves a peppery taste at the back of your mouth.  I have yet to see it in hk, but if you do, grab some.  Only a few garlic is used, less that what I expected.  He said they don't want the garlic to over power the basil flavor.  Pecorino is a goat's milk hard cheese, similar to Parmesan cheese but it brings citrus and sweetness to the equation.  Finally, the most important thing, a chilled blender.  When you blend, it generates heat that cook the basil and therefore will make it turn brown and loose the lush green look.  The cold blender prevents this process and also by only blending for few seconds, the pesto remains extra green.  Using olive oil to cover on top further prevents the oxidation and guarantees your pesto is both delicious and beautiful.  Chef also mentioned, pesto should never be cooked on direct heat.  It should only be added onto hot pasta.  Once you heat the basil, the flavor is not the same.  For storage, you can leave out the cheese from the recipe and put the mixture into a ice cube tray.  When you are ready to use the basil, defrost and add back the cheese into it and mix with your ingredients.

Besides from eating it on toast, chef made this dish with adding pesto to hot pasta, boiled green beans and boiled potatoes.  He called it a vegetable dish but I joke that it is just an excuse for another pasta dish.  I also like pesto in pizza, sandwiches or use it as a salad dressing. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Milan Cooking Class Part II: Pizza Dough 比薩製作方法

How could you take an Italian cooking class without learning how to make pizza!  The first five days in Milan, I was so in love with their breads especially their bread sticks and crackers.  When chef showed me how to make pizza, I was so amazed how easy it is and we all can make it at home as long as you have a very hot and good oven.  Goodbye pizza delivery, you can have home made thin crisp pizza in two hours.  After return from Italy, I had a create your own pizza party at home and we turned out some amazing pizza right at home.  Here is the recipe and I hope you use it to impress your kids and friends.


All Purpose Flour 500g
Honey or malt 1 teaspoon
Lukewarm Water 280g
Yeast(dry or fresh) 12g
Extra Virgin Olive Oil 10g
Table salt 10g


Preheat your oven to the hightest heat 260 C or 500F Degrees.  Melt yeast, honey, olive oil in water.  Spread flour on table and create a large well in the middle. Add yeast  mixture in the well and slowly mix in flour from the inside.  When combined, add salt. mix until a dough is form and dough is smooth.  Place in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap and place in room temperature. Let rise for an hour or double in size.  Divide dough into your desire size.  To make personal small pizza, I divided it into 8 portions.  Cover with a moist dish cloth and let rest for another 15 mins.  Dust table with flour, shape dough into a round disk and using the palm of your hand flatten it to form a think disk. Grease baking sheet with a little olive oil and place disk on top.  Then you are ready to dress your pizza. Place pizza in the oven and bake for about 7-10 minutes until crust and filling is golden brown or crisp.  Enjoy.

Theory: Make disk as thin as possible, it is ok to have a hole, don't worry, just pinch and fix it on the sheet pan.  HOT HOT oven is key!  You can make the dough a head of time and refrigerate up to two days until use, just take it out from the fridge 30mins before use.  If you find your dough too dry, add a teaspoon of water at a time and keep working.  If the dough is too wet or too sticky, add more flour on the table and keep working.  The dough should not be sticky nor flaky, it should just form a smooth dough that you can work without sticking to your hands.  Working with flour and yeast all depends on your atmosphere.  If it is the summer time, make sure your dough temperature stay within 30-50C or your yeast will die.  You can add or decrease water content depends on the humidity of the day.  Try it a couple of times and you will get your perfectly crisp pizza.

Try these combo:
Tomato sauce, fresh tomato, fresh mozzarella(Drained) and fresh basil.
4 Cheese of any kind with anchovy.
Parmesan cheese, Mozzarella, Parma Ham and top with chopped Rocket lettuce after pizza is out of the oven.
Pepperoni and mozzarella with tomato sauce and pineapple for the kids.
Nutella, marshmallow, banana slices and strawberries for a dessert pizza.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Pasta Dough Recipe from Milan 意大利麵條的製作方法

Day 3 in Milan, I was so in love with all the pasta dishes.  Determined to make the most authentic Italian dishes at home, I booked ahead a two day Italian cooking class at La Cucina Italiana.  It is the most prestige private cooking school in town.  80% of their students are Italians and they too want to make Italian food the right way.

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After a 15 minutes walk from the hotel, I arrived at the school right next to the office of La Cucina Italiana Magazine.  Walking into a professional kitchen with a marble island in the middle, I was greeted by Chef Davide Negri, who will be my guide to a two day intensive crash course on authentic Italian staples, pastas and breads.  Born, raised and trained in Milan, Chef Negri call himself the panda of Milan, "Nobody is from Milan anymore!"  How can you get more authentic than that!

One great thing about making fresh pasta, it is basically the same recipe but you can make many different kinds of pasta.  It all starts from a very basic dough.  One special ingredient that will make this recipe authentic is the Durum flour, some people call it pasta flour, a bit yellow in color and a very strong flour. This is what make the pasta al dante! If you cannot find this, chef said to substitute with strong flour, or bread flour.
Durum Flour

Basic Fresh Pasta Dough Recipe:

200g All purpose flour
50g Durum flour (Strong flour)
2 Eggs
2 Egg yolks
1 tsp Extra Virgin olive oil (light flavored ones)
pinch of salt

Mix both flour together and create a big well in the middle.
Add remaining ingredients into the well.
Start from the middle, slowly mix liquid into flour until a dough is form.  Knead about 8-10mins.  Dough should be moist, soft but not too sticky.  If it is too dry, spray in a little water.
Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for one hour.  Cut dough into smaller size to fit into pasta machine
Starting with the widest setting of the pasta machine insert dough.  Sprinkle flour on dough before you insert into machine if it is sticky.  Insert dough through machine and decrease setting each time for about 4-5 times.  If the dough is too thin, fold in half and insert again into the machine
Stop at about 1/16 inch or second to the thinest setting and it should be thin enough for most pasta.

I made this recipe at home and find it a bit dry. So if your eggs are too small or maybe it is a dry day, add a little more left over egg white to the dough until dough is smooth.  I find a spray bottle with water also handy, give it s spritz and slowly work on it.  Towards the end the dough might seem hard to knead, it is perfect, you want it to be hard so it will be el dante.  The dough should also be just dry enough and not stick to you hands.  If you want to make color pasta, just substitute the volume of one egg with either cooked chopped spinich, tomato paste or squid ink.  You can even make chocolate pasta by adding some coco powder.  You might need a little extra moisture with that dough. 

Let pasta sheet dry for about 10 mins to prevent from sticking, roll it up loosely and cut into 1/4 inch strips.  Pasta can be kept in fridge covered with plastic wrap for up to about three days.

Cut into squares or your desired shapes.  Boiled in salt water for about 3 mins and run through cold water.  Then add sauces and ingredients to make 5 layers and put into oven until sauce is hot.  No need to cook for a long time since noodles are already cooked

Using a long pasta sheet, fold into half and make a line in the middle.
Brush a small amount of water onto the small half of the sheet, just enough for it to stick.
Pipe your fillings about one inch apart onto the smaller half sheet.
Fold the larger half of the sheet over, covering the fillings.
Press in between fillings to remove air and seal in the fillings within the pasta sheets.
Cut sheets with knife or pasta cutter and raviolis are ready to be cooked
Cook in a large pot of salted water for about 2-3 minutes, mix with your favorite sauce and serve!

Try this at home and let me know how it turns out!
Spinach Ricotta Raviolis with Sage Butter sauce

Sunday, April 3, 2011

My Cookie Bouquet took off!

Since the debut of My Cookie Bouquet at the Good Hope Singers Concert in  February, we have been busy turning out these sweet treats to different customers.  Using quality and all natural ingredients are a must for all Y.Lo products.  Each cookie is hand painted and decorated with candied jewels from Europe.  The cookies are carefully wrapped with ribbons, display into bouquets, center pieces or decorative gift bags to meet our client's needs.  Most people say they are too cute to eat, but I insist that you must taste it too.  They are just sweet enough, flavorful and melts in your mouth.  Taste is the most important part of all our goodies.  Here is a few sample of our recent work!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Top 15 favorite unforgettable moments in Nice and Cannes, France

  1. Being a human bumper sensor, sitting in a 9 passenger vehicle trying to get around in small streets of Aix.
  2. Got make fun of speaking limited Spanish in France
  3. Finding all these sugar flower peddles in small spice shop in Cannes
  4. Eating truffle risotto with Foie Gras
  5. Getting stuffed everyday with Dozens of Fine De Claire N 2 Oysters @ 13 Euros and Belon N00 @ 56 Euros per dozen
  6. Running in Nice at 530am, got lost, GPS got me back to my hotel just before it ran out of battery and just in time for breakfast at 8am, I haven't seen my roaming data charge yet!
  7. Foie Gras and Macaroons in the same sentence
  8. Jonathan's speechless speech for the students at the University of Wine in Aix on the windiest day of the year in a 13 century castle.
  9. Cayenne threw up in Heathrow airport, fever the next day and endless demands for candy for the rest of the trip
  10. Cayenne got super sugar high after a visit to the Haribo gummy factory
  11. Waking up every morning with crisp yet chewy french baguette, croissants, ham and cheese
  12. Arriving at the perfume store in Eze with a bad cold, cannot smell a thing and have Jonathan describe the scents to me so that I can shop
  13. A family trip with 6 adults and a child without a major fist fight.  Cayenne's meltdown does not count!
  14. Wish that I was a little dog in France where I can shit everywhere and go to all the fancy restaurants and high end boutique with my chic owner.
  15. James Bond serving us seafood paella
  16. Avoid French lamb and Steak dishes if you like US or Australian meats.  Stick with seafood and pastas.
This is my first visit to France, not having been to Paris yet, I feel that the South coast, like most countries is relax and simple.  Driving along the coast was majestic yet romantic and I encourage everyone to do it ones in their lifetime.  My GPS(British Jane) was amazing at finding all the streets that we need to go even those in hidden small village over the hill side of some remote town.  Just be mindful of very tight streets and country drivers.  With Wine, Cheese, chocolate and Perfume making be their major industries, that really gives me the idea that French are true indulgent human being.  After all, how can you have stress when you are in a romantic city filled with good smelling well dressed people, dining on fine pastries, sweets and cheese, drinking fine wines.
6am in Nice


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Baking kind of Day

After a hard day at work, I finally finished a birthday cake for Miss Abby for her party at school.  Her favorite is strawberries, so I created this cake with Fresh strawberry fillings, fresh whipped cream, and Strawberry flavored pink cake just for her.  For cake topper, I made these butter cookie stars with her name on it and decorated it golden sprinkles.  I hope she likes it! 

Today is also Kiana's birthday, Cayenne was invited to her birthday party so I prepared a "My Bouquet" for her.  "My Bouquet" is my new product line that combines floral arrangements with handmade decorative butter cookies and chocolate dipped berries.  For this bouquet, I used a cute little pot along with some fresh cut flowers.  I topped it off with some flower and leaf shaped cookies decorated in whimsical colors and sparkles and hand dipped chocolate covered strawberries.  I also added a small toy for her as a gift within the bouquet.  It is so much fun for me to practice my cookie decorating skills!  The bouquet was well received.  The host shared the strawberries with other guests and saved the cookies for later.  The cookies are quite shelf stable so if you don't want to eat it, you can keep it as a memory for a very long time!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Central Space

Today I went to Holly Brown Coffee on Stanley Street in Central to meet a friend.  I have been there at night to get some Gelato for Cayenne after dinner at Luk Yu, but never actually set down for a cup of Joe.  It is a really big place with almost about 1500sf ground level and another similar size upstairs lounging seating area.  It was around 245pm and it was quite busy with people coming in and out for coffee, ice-cream and a light lunch.  My friend and I set down upstairs for a about 1.5hrs, I had a sandwich and Latte, and he had a latte and muffin.  I cannot help but wonder, can a place like this survive in Central with such high rent? Each person that goes in and out of there will have an average ticket about $50 to be generous. With a little rule of thumb calculation, they will need to serve about 150-200 customer a day to make ends meet.  I really enjoyed the spacious and comfortable environment, quality food, good efficient service and freshly roasted Tall Skim Latte for $38.  I actually think that they have everything that you can think of for breakfast, Lunch, simple dinner Dessert and even some coffee beans to take home.  I think it is a nice break away from crowded Central, will they survive the cruel rent of Central,  I hope they do, cause I like it!

After some errands and meeting Jonathan for a wine tasting event, I decided to go find some dinner while waiting for Jonathan to finish up.  Walking along Wellington Street, thinking what I should eat and what I want to eat, I stumble into Wang Fu 王府 traditional Beijing dumplings and dishes.  Small hole in the wall about say 700sf dining space, seats about 40ppl max.  I ordered their special of the day Fennel and Pork Dumpling, a cold potato salad and pickled cucumber.   It was delicious and the whole dinner cost me about $90.  The older gentleman manning the cash register, looks like he is from Beijing, also speaks good English.  He was helping the French table next to me navigate the menu.  I think his English is almost better than the French.  They have been in this location for quite some time.  With an average check for about $90 per person.  Again with some simple rule of thumb math, they need to serve 40-50 people a day to make it.  I have seen their place at lunch, it is always packed with people dining and people waiting outside for take-out.  I think they are doing quite ok, I hope they do cause I like it!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Maple Soy Rosemary Rack of Lamb 迷迭香羊排

Rack of Lamb is always impressive to serve at dinner.  A little bit more special than steak and actually very easy to master.  I made this recipe so many times and everyone always enjoyed it.  It gives the lamb added flavor and punch. 

Maple Soy Rosemary Rack of Lamb

1 Half Rack of Lamb, about 6-8 bone per rack
½ Cup Soy sauce
½ bulb of garlic, smashed
3 tbs of Maple syrup
2 stem of fresh rosemary, smashed stems and leaves
½ tbs of whole black pepper
1 gallon Zip Block Bag
1 tbs of water

Put all the marinade ingredient in the Zip Block Bag, clean and dry the rack of lamb and place it into the marinade. Remove excess air, zip and place in refrigerator for about 12-24 hours. Best to do it the night before you go to bed and cook for dinner the next day. Put a pan underneath the bag to make sure it does not leak all over your fridge.

Grilled Method:
Prepare your charcoal to about medium high heat. Remove lamb from bag and discard juice. Put lamb on the grill around the flame, NOT DIRECTLY on the flame or it will burn. Turn on each side every 5 -7 minutes. Using a meat thermometer, lamb is ready when it reaches 140-160F. 140 for medium, 160 for medium well!

Pan Seared Method:
Pre heat oven at 375F. Use heavy duty oven prove pan, the heavier the pan, the more heat it produce and the temperature remains constant. Cast Iron is idea for a crisp meat crust. Pre heat the greased pan until you see smoke. Place lamb rack on the pan and you should hear the sizzle. Turn on each side every 5 minutes until meat is nicely brown. Place Pan directly into the oven or place meat onto oven safe pan and finish it in the oven until desired temperature 10-20 mins. You can sear the meat first and wait when you are ready to eat and finish it off in the oven 140F(medium)-160F(Medium Well).

Cut Rack into chops and enjoy! NOT cutting it from the start seals in the juice, also because it has been brined (wet marinated), it is extra juicy so no sauce is needed. Serve with Oven roasted potatoes with garlic, truffle oil and fresh rosemary, some butter pan-fried asparagus, and a little mint jelly, I think your honey will love you forever!

TIPS. By smashing the garlic and herbs, you release their scent and flavor. You don’t have to chop them nicely since you will not eat it at the end, so release some stress and smack them good! This Marinade is also good with duck or pork. Use a serrated knife to carve meats for less tearing of the muscle. You can marinade more meat at the same time and remove the brine and place meat in the freezer for later use. You can also serve this at room temperature, for a finger food appetizer.