Toona sinensis aka Chinese Toon or 香椿 xiang chun

June 10, 2011 § 3 Comments

I’m excited to introduce Chinese Toon. Before this post, I only knew this vegetable/herb by its Chinese name. I have never seen it sold or grown in the U.S. as pictured; only in its dried form and even that is rare. In fact, I didn’t even know what this looked like until a family friend gave us a batch from her garden. It was an exciting day. 🙂

Imagine growing up eating and loving cilantro, but not knowing its name or what it looked like. That’s how I feel about xiang chun.  It has a strong distinct flavor with a similar strength as garlic. It can be a great complement to a dish or overwhelming if you don’t like the taste (similar to onion or chives). I can eat it with everything!

It is predominately used in Asian cuisine, mainly Chinese. I have had it with tofu, eggs, stir-fries, noodles, rice and savory Chinese pancakes. All delicious!

To Prepare:

Step 1: fold the leaves in half and tear them off the branch from the stem (this will leave the root behind)

Step 2: after washing, mince leaves

Step 3: transfer to container, sprinkle salt to bring out juices, mix and seal (the true flavor of xiang chun will not come out till this step)

You can then save this for future use in tofu, stir-fries, noodles, fried rice or pancakes.

Next time you come across Toona sinensis aka Chinese Toon or 香椿 xiang chun, you’ll know how to use it or at least have a new dish to try at your favorite Chinese restaurant. Be sure to ask for it in its Chinese name, xiang chun. Here’s the wiki page to learn more.

Enjoy!

xiang chun with dried tofu (not dry in taste, rather tofu with much less moisture)

18 Year Balsamic-Beyond the Olive & The Market

May 25, 2011 § Leave a comment


Walking into The Market

A few days ago I introduced The Market at Santa Monica Place. Everything sounded so good on the website; I was excited to see what those gourmet vendors had to offer.

The Market is located in a strange place. It’s on the food court level of Santa Monica Place (an outdoor mall). When you arrive on the third floor, you find restaurants, an indoor food court and another indoor area for The Market. (There are too many choices! It unnecessarily caters to everyone. Because of this, business was not good for anyone.)

Walking into The Market, on the right, you’ll find an area where they feature different local vendors on a rotating basis. This week they had jams and spreads, middle eastern desserts and olive oils and vinegars.

From the permanent vendors, I had a $3.00 cookie from The Cookie Guru. It was fresh out of the oven and delicious, but too expensive. THREE DOLLARS! I also tried N’ice Cream’s Mango Lemon and Chocolate flavors. If I were to go for artisan ice cream, I’d rather have Carmela’s.

What I did enjoy was the aged balsamic from Beyond the Olive. It has a thick syrupy consistency with a sweet finish. It works well with salads, breads and desserts.

18 year balsamic vinegar

I bought the 375ml bottle for $20 and you can bring the bottle back for refills at a discounted price.


18 year balsamic with toasted bread & arugula

Though I enjoyed visiting The Market, I’m not sure how often I would visit. I wish they had more variety and incorporated the farmer’s market in that space.




Creamy Corn Soup with Roasted Peppers

May 21, 2011 § 2 Comments

creamy corn soup with roasted peppers and spicy oil

About the Soup

Arugula, corn and roasted peppers make one of my favorite chopped salads. So why not make a soup?

I wanted to try Tal Ronnen’s Cashew Cream recipe from his book, the conscious cook. Supposedly, raw cashews can mimic the texture and replace cream without altering taste. In the past, I’ve used soy, coconut and almond milk as substitutes for milk. I’ve never used them in savory recipes and I wouldn’t want to. They tasted like what they’re supposed to-soy, coconut and almond.

Could cashews be the answer? I needed to try it.

Cashew Cream Recipe by Tal Ronnen

a page from Tal Ronnen’s The Conscious Cook

I followed the recipe as instructed. I have a Vita-Mix blender (pricey, but worth every penny) so it made things a lot easier.

Step 1: Soak raw cashews (I used a 16 oz. bag from Trader Joe’s.)

This is what they look like after being soaked for a few days. The recipe says overnight, but I didn’t get to them till 3 days later.

Step 2: Pour in Vita-Mix and blend until smooth

cashew cream (~5 cups)

The Soup

Serves: ~4-5

Ingredients:

  • 3 ears of sweet corn
  • 3 roasted peppers*
  • 1 loose cup of arugula (garnish)
  • 1 cup of cashew cream
  • 3 cups of water
  • 2-3 tbsp of olive oil (more for frying arugula)
  • spicy olive oil (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

* I used Trader Joe’s pre-made fire roasted peppers.

Step 1: Shave the kernels (I used a knife or you can buy a fancy gadget.)

Step 2: pour olive oil onto a medium heated pan and saute the kernels with some salt and pepper for 5-7 mins until color changes

Step 3: set 2/3 cup of sautéed kernels aside

Step 4: in your Vita-Mix, add sautéed kernels, roasted peppers, cashew cream, 2 cups of water and blend

Step 5: in a large pot, pour mixture and heat; add 2/3 cup of kernels back in (adjust salt and pepper) and stir; use the remaining cup of water to adjust desired creaminess

Step 6: keep soup on very low heat and prepare to make the garnish

Fried Arugula

Step 1: fill pot with oil 1/2 inch deep

Step 2: after patting dry arugula, drop a few pieces in and fry for 30 seconds each

Step 3: remove and drain on paper towel immediately

fried arugula

Conclusion

This soup was creamy and delicious! There was no after taste. It was a true replacement for cream. I couldn’t believe it! The flavor was amazing!

I encourage you to try this recipe. You will never look at cashews the same.

Enjoy!

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