Southern Comfort with Isabel Estes, RN

IMG_4282.jpg

Meet Isabel, my new-ish neighbor and old-ish best friend.

We met as wee little freshman at NYU, where we had the misfortune of being placed in what was largely considered to be the shittiest dorm on campus. Truly. Despite the fact that the carpets were dusty, the walls were peeling and (according to myth) the elevator shaft was haunted…we did have the good fortune of being randomly assigned as roommates. The rest, as they say, is history.

Even though we’ve been friends all these years, we actually haven’t lived in the same vicinity since we were twenty. After a year or two of light pestering, I finally convinced her to move into the neighborhood when she was in the market for an new place a few months ago. The other week, she invited Ryan and I over to celebrate her new kitchen by helping her (well, Ryan helped…I just took photos :D) prepare a full, proper southern supper.

Isabel is half Chinese, her mom hailing from Hong Kong. Her father, on the other hand, is a southern boy with deep roots in small-town Georgia, where she spent idyllic summers as a kid feeding hummingbirds in her grandparent’s backyard and learning how to cook with her grandma. To celebrate her southern heritage, she made us deviled eggs, crispy fried chicken, smokey collard greens (my favorite) and a southern-styled mac n cheese that you slice into like cake. It was truly a feast. We chatted about how her magical childhood summers in the south, growing up biracial and how her grandma inspires her today.  

More after the break!

IMG_4227.jpg

Continue reading “Southern Comfort with Isabel Estes, RN”

Taiwanese “Empanadas” with Caryn Hsu of Hemsmith

IMG_3372.jpg

Caryn and I have been friends for a few years now. We met through mutual friends and bonded over our love of drunk eating (and cooking), amongst other things. She’s a fellow cat lady who has one of the smartest kitties I’ve ever seen! (Chicken knows how to walk on a leash! On the street! In New York! What!?) Recently, she’s added onto her family by adopting an adorable, deaf pup from Egypt named Moose. Sounds like the most charming sitcom ever, no? I mean, I would totally watch it.

In addition to having the cutest pet posse ever, Caryn is also the founder and creative director of NY based brand Hemsmith, creating dope minimal essentials for your forever wardrobe. All the pieces are handmade right here in beautiful NYC. Do yourself a favor and go check them out here.

Recently, Caryn and her little family moved into their new apartment in Long Island City, just a few blocks away from her factory. About a month ago, she invited a few of us over for an informal, impromptu housewarming…and to make us her favorite childhood food:韭菜盒子, which directly translates to “Chive Boxes” in English. She first described them to me as a Taiwanese Empanada…in which I emphatically responded “when and where?”

Over a tasty dinner of these gigantic, hand-held dumplings and homemade buffalo fried chicken, we chatted about her thoughts on growing up in Taiwan versus the US, environmentalism, her foray into composting as a hobby and why these Chive Boxes are so special to her. Special shoutout to our friend Cassie Lam, founder of Akin, for joining in the conversation. More after the break!

Continue reading “Taiwanese “Empanadas” with Caryn Hsu of Hemsmith”

Zereshk Polo, Iranian Chicken and Rice by way of Armenia with Larra Haftevani

IMG_3982

Larra and I met through work. We became fast friends, bonding over our shared interest of hip hop and cats. Mostly cats, but also a lot of hip hop.

This girl is one of the biggest hustlers I know – not only does she work full time, she also recently landed a new job in marketing while getting her MBA at the same damn time. She also has a bumping social life and can cook like a fiend. How???

The other weekend, Larra graciously invited me over to her home in Williamsburg to cook me her mother’s Zereshk Polo. This dish is magical. Native to Iran, basmati rice and chicken are simmered together with saffron and studded with raisins and dried barberries (think of them as really small, really tart cranberries).

The key to this dish, she taught me, was to infuse saffron in hot water, creating a mind-blowingly beautiful deep-golden-orange hued “tea”. She used this tea to season different components of the dish separately, which gave the rice a delicious floral aroma and deep yellow tint. After she was done cooking, she melted butter (!!!) into the tea and drizzled it on top of the rice. Unbelievable.

Over copious amounts of red wine and plates full of Zereshk Polo, she told me about her family’s journey to LA from Iran by way of Armenia, and why this dish means so much to her. More after the break!

Continue reading “Zereshk Polo, Iranian Chicken and Rice by way of Armenia with Larra Haftevani”

Roasted Honey Glazed Carrots with Feta, Cranberries and Hazelnuts

IMG_4340.jpg

I’ve been making one variation or another of this roasted carrot salad for the better part of this year. What started as a fridge-cleaning experiment has become my go-to dish whenever I have people over for dinner. It’s super quick to throw together, and pretty easy on the eyes too.

Continue reading “Roasted Honey Glazed Carrots with Feta, Cranberries and Hazelnuts”

Sunday Supper: Roast Chicken with Red Wine Braised Mushrooms

IMG_3669

Whenever the weather gets gray and blustery like this, I start craving warm, home-cooked meals that stick to my bones. Time to work on that winter bod and get start getting ready for hibernation – see you guys in April!

I’m only half joking.

Last weekend, I couldn’t get the thought of having a proper Sunday roast chicken out of my brain. As you guys know, I haven’t really been cooking or eating much meat at home lately and generally feeling great about it. I’ve been trying to make an more of an effort to be more attuned with my body, listening more closely to what it needs and how the foods that I choose to eat make me feel. On most days it’s usually lighter dishes and veggies, but last weekend I could feel that my body was craving some protein. What the body wants, the body gets.

Continue reading “Sunday Supper: Roast Chicken with Red Wine Braised Mushrooms”

Coconut Curry Kabocha Squash Soup

IMG_3570Here’s a deliciously warming soup, easy enough to make on a weeknight after a long day at work. Super nutritious kabocha squash is simmered in coconut milk and spiced with garam masala along with some other good stuff. The result is a creamy and surprisingly filling soup, perfect for this sweater weather we’ve been having in Brooklyn.

Continue reading “Coconut Curry Kabocha Squash Soup”

Brown Rice Jook with Shiitake Mushrooms

IMG_2968

I was really struggling last week. After finally succumbing to the relentless cold that has been plaguing the office (and all of New York City, it seems) for weeks, I took two days off. Sometimes, when you’re body is running on fumes, you just have to listen to it and slow down.

Growing up, whenever I felt under the weather my mom, grandmother and aunts were always armed and ready with an arsenal of random traditional Chinese remedies. There was always a specific cure for whatever ailed me at the time. Their repertoire included pungent antidotes like Tiger Balm (an old-school, Chinese Vick’s vapor rub on steroids) for when I was congested,  and “Dit Da Jao”, a soy sauce-colored herbal wine used to rub on my many bruises (I was a clumsy kid).

Continue reading “Brown Rice Jook with Shiitake Mushrooms”

The Ritual of Dumpling Making with Tanya Chen of Buzzfeed

IMG_2540

The other weekend, Ryan and I took the trip to Astoria to visit our friends Tanya and Billy. The agenda? Dumplings.

I’ve known Tanya (@tanyenorth) since we were freshmen in college. She’s currently the Deputy Social Editor at Buzzfeed and is and when she’s not on the hunt for the latest breaking news sourced via the internet, she’s usually rock climbing or debating current events with our friends over far too many bottles of red wine (Cotes du Rhone, SVP).

For a self proclaimed “non-cook”, Tanya makes some pretty damn good dumplings. Here, we try to make them like her mom did growing up. That proved to be no small feat, as asian moms never seem to use exact, if any measurements (“just a little bit of that, a pinch of that, you’ll know when it’s right”).

More after the break on our day making dumplings together, and why the ritual of making them is so special to Tanya.

Continue reading “The Ritual of Dumpling Making with Tanya Chen of Buzzfeed”

Pomegranate “Jeweled” Brown Rice Pilaf

IMG_2725

Growing up, I was raised by a rotating crew of relatives while my parents worked. When it came to dinner, each family member had their own specialty. When I think about my mama (my grandmother on my dad’s side), I can remember her soy sauce braise chicken and shiitake mushrooms simmering on the stove top. My aunt favored lighter dishes, and often times made us steamed fish with scallion and ginger. I can vividly remember a period in my life when I ate pan fried pork chops at least three times a week when my gongong (grandpa on my mom’s side) lived with us.

Continue reading “Pomegranate “Jeweled” Brown Rice Pilaf”