Chicken and Tofu Pad Thai

Pad Thai is one of those dishes I like to make to hold me over another meal that takes more time to prepare. I thought about making this one while I was waiting for beef ribs to braise. I already had most of the ingredients in the pantry, being this an Asian kitchen and all; I just walked over to the nearest grocery store in Harlem to buy the red bell pepper, the tofu, and the bean sprouts.

The key here is not to overcook the noodles. Soaking them in cold water after cooking is important. The cold water shocks the noodles and stops them from cooking any further. They get heated up again when you assemble the entire dish together towards the end.

rice noodles
vegetable oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 red onion, sliced
ground chicken
1 red bell pepper, seeded, sliced
1 package extra firm tofu, diced
scallions, finely chopped
2 handfuls of bean sprouts
1/4 cup unsalted peanuts, toasted, crushed
cilantro, finely chopped
lime wedges

For the sauce:
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
lime juice
a few jiggers of fish sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1-2 Thai chiles, chopped

1. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add rice noodles; let stand 8 to 10 minutes or until noodles are soft but firm. Rinse under cold water; drain well. Set aside.
2. Make the sauce: combine all sauce ingredients and stir until sugar is diluted. Adjust to taste; it should be salty enough with a sour kick and not at all sweet. Add chiles for heat. Set aside.
3. Heat a little oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add egg; scramble until set. Remove from skillet. Set aside.
4. Add more oil to skillet. Sauté garlic until brown and then the onions until translucent. Add chicken; stir-fry until cooked through. Add the bell pepper, the tofu, scallions, and bean sprouts. Stir-fry until bell pepper is soft, about 5 minutes. Pour in half of the sauce and incorporate.
5. Drain the rice noodles and add to the skillet and keep stir-frying. Add remaining sauce to balance everything out. Remove from heat. Stir in scrambled egg and sprinkle with the peanuts. Serve with cilantro sprigs and lime wedges.

Beef Short Ribs Borscht-Style Stew

Aaahhh, it’s nice to be back updating this site again. It’s been a very long year, 2015, and real life kinda took over and it made me neglect this site. Something had to give, you know? Not that I wasn’t eating and cooking; I was, but I was updating Instagram more with the hashtag #ciaEatsNYC. (Plus a certain Rottweiler managed to steal my heart, so.) There’s still traffic to this site and invitations from PR firms still have not ebbed, so thank you for sticking with me.

It’s a new year and part of my list of resolutions is to do more stuff I like and I have to admit that I still like the Internet. Instagram is still my main social media channel because it’s instant, but I’ll make more effort to publish the recipes I test here. There may be less restaurant reviews, however, because lord knows how many of those are already out there. What I’ll be more vigilant about are my recommendations using Amazon Associates, a tool I’ve never really taken advantage of. Amazon even decided to close my old account because there hasn’t been any activity on it so a new one had to be created so I can start from scratch. I know you trust my recommendations so I promise that they will be legit. If they are only related products, I will make sure that I note the difference.

For my first recipe back, I wanted a soup that’s more like a stew because it finally started to feel like winter outside. I opted for this borscht recipe I found on several sites and made my adjustments and opted for, oops, canned beets to save time. In the end, I didn’t end up grating them so it’s more chunky which made me just call this “borscht-style stew”. Feel free to chop them more finely than I did here.

With this recipe, you’ll see why you need to learn how to properly braise meat. Browning the beef short ribs may seem a lot of work, but you’ll be so happy when all that meat starts to fall apart with just a gentle prod of your fork. There’s a lot of fat that would form, but nothing a hearty bread or a bowl of rice can’t solve.

canola oil
6 bone-in beef short ribs, cut into 3-inch pieces
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
2 cans of red beets, drained, chopped in smaller pieces, juice reserved
1 quart low-sodium beef stock
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and diced into small cubes (soak in cold water until ready to use to avoid discoloration)
a large handful of baby carrots, roughly chopped
salt, pepper

1. In a large Dutch oven, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat. Season the short ribs with salt and add to the pot, cooking until browned on all sides, about 15 minutes. Remove ribs from the heat and transfer to a large plate; set aside.
2. Discard all but a scant amount of the rendered fat from the pot, enough to sauté the onions in. Cook, stirring often, until tender. Add the reserved beet juice and the beef broth and let boil.
3. Add the browned short ribs back to the broth and cook at a high simmer, covered, until the short ribs are very tender, about 2 hours. Check a couple of times and make sure the broth has not dried up. The meat will fall off the bones.
5. When the short ribs are ready, remove them from the pot, but leave the loose bones for extra flavor, and return to the large plate. Add the beets, potatoes, and carrots to the pot and simmer until soft, about 20 minutes.
6. While the vegetables are cooking, pick the meat from the bones, discarding the connective tissue. The meat should shred easily. Add back to the pot and adjust the seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Feel free to add a little hot water to get the perfect chunky stew consistency.

One of my kitchen essentials is a large Dutch oven. I have this large one in a nice teal color. You can choose a less expensive brand, but the Le Creusets last a lifetime. This pair of tongs is so useful when you’re braising beef short ribs and they lock in place so you can control the grip.

Cinnamon Rolls

My god, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? It seems so cliché to say how fast time flies but it really is true when you look at the last time an update was posted on here: October 2014!

It’s been brutally cold here in New York City so there’s been a lot of cooking to save myself from running outside to pick up lunch during the week. For a while there, I was in no mood to cook. In fact, my new year’s resolution was to take more naps during the weekend. I’m not getting any younger and I’m trying to change the way I while away my free time. I don’t want to feel like I always have to accomplish something. It’s taking a lot for me to say to myself that it’s okay not to do anything. Instead of being unproductive, I now think of it as getting more me time.

Part of that is honing my baking skills. I’m not there yet but I’m trying. Lisa and I were talking about Louis CK’s Cinnabon shameless bit one day and it made me want to eat cinnamon rolls the next. I found a vegan recipe that I changed up because I only have the regular kind of butter in my fridge. This turned out not to be too sweet which I liked. It was excellent with hot tea.

1 packet instant yeast
1 cup almond milk
1/2 cup butter, divided
1/4 tsp salt
3 cups flour
canola oil
1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp sugar, divided

1. In a large sauce pan, heat the almond milk and 3 tbsp of the butter until warm and melted, but without boiling. Remove from heat and let it sit until it’s warm. It should not be too hot or it will kill the yeast.
2. Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl and sprinkle on yeast. Let activate for 10 minutes, then add 1 tbsp sugar and the salt and stir.
3. Add in flour 1/2 cup at a time, stirring as you go. The dough will be sticky. When it is too thick to stir, transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute or so until it forms a loose ball. Rinse your mixing bowl out, coat it with canola oil, and add your dough ball back in. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a thin rectangle. Brush with 3 tbsp melted butter and top with 1/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon.
5. Starting at one end, tightly roll up the dough seam side down. Cut the dough into 1.5 to 2-inch sections and place in a well-buttered round pan. You should have about 10 rolls. Brush with remaining 2 tbsp melted butter and cover with plastic wrap. Set on top of the oven to let rise again while you preheat oven to 350º.
6. Once the oven is hot, bake rolls for 25-30 minutes or until slightly golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes and then serve immediately.

Black Tagliatelle with Hot Sausage and Littleneck Clams

I wanted to take on making pasta again at home so I stopped by Buon Italia’s joint in Chelsea Market to buy cuttlefish ink to make black pasta. My heart broke when my dough refused to form so I ended up throwing everything including the 10 egg yolks required. It’s a very expensive hobby, pasta-making; I don’t know why I can’t seem to do it myself. I was fine while I was taking the class at Rustico Cooking; perhaps it’s time to retake the class just to get the feel of the dough again.

The good thing is that I bought black tagliatelle as well for backup. I didn’t want to spend more money buying Nduja sausages so I just picked up regular hot sausages. The clam shells were heavy but were a great addition to this dish. It was very pretty at the end and I highly recommend making this when you have a night to tuck it in with a nice glass of red wine.

olive oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 sweet onion, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
20 littleneck clams, rinsed and scrubbed
1/4 cup dry white wine
3 hot Italian sausages, removed from casing
1 tbsp tomato paste
black tagliatelle pasta
fresh lemon juice
2 tbsps butter
a handful of parsley, finely chopped
2 scallions, sliced thinly

1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Sauté the garlic until light golden brown. Add the onions and sweat until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the bay leaves, clams and half of the wine. Cover the pot and steam for 5 to 7 minutes, removing the clams as they open. Strain the cooking liquid and set aside in a bowl. Remove and reserve the meat from the clams and roughly chop; discard shells.
2. In a skillet, cook the sausage pieces and render the fat. Crush the sausages into smaller pieces with the back of your spatula while cooking. Deglaze the pan with the remaining wine and reduce by half by simmering in low fire. Add tomato paste and reserved clam juice and bring to a simmer.
3. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in another pot of boiling water until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving some of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the sausage. Add the reserved clams and butter and toss over medium-high heat until the pasta is well coated, about 2 minutes. Stir in the pasta water a little bit at a time so it has a nice consistency. To finish, toss with the lemon juice and parsley and garnish with the breadcrumbs and scallions.

Stewed Cranberry Beans with Bacon

Miriam and I drove up to the Catskills for her bachelorette party two weekends ago. Yep, a bachelorette party with just the two of us. I’ve known her for the last 12 years and even though we’re always miles away from each other, we just always pick up where we left off the next time we’re together. She was coming from Singapore and was jet-lagged so our Phoenecia weekend was pretty chill and quiet. Besides eating and drinking around town, we stopped by Migliorelli Farm to pick up some fresh produce. I ended up taking home their fresh cranberry beans which I shelled several days later and soaked before making this dish.

olive oil
4 slices bacon, chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped
salt, pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup shelled cranberry beans, soaked for 24 hours, drained
chicken broth
2 sprigs rosemary, roughly chopped
2 tsps lemon zest
2 tbsps lemon juice
a dash chile pepper flakes
1 tsp sambal oelek
a handful of spinach leaves

1. Cook and stir olive oil and bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until bacon is fully cooked and begins to crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in shallots and season with salt and pepper and cook and stir for 2 to 3 minutes over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.
2. Add the beans and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until the beans begin to swell, about 25 minutes.
3. Uncover and continue cooking bean and bacon mixture until the liquid reduces and beans are tender, 5 to 10 more minutes. Add rosemary, lemon zest, lemon juice, and chile pepper flakes. Stir in sambal oelek to incorporate and to adjust the taste. Remove from heat, stir in spinach until wilted.