Recreating…

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I’ve been a little homesick lately. Now don’t get me wrong–I LOVE my new city. I first publicly declared it here. But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss my old home. Oakland was my residence for over 4 years. Perhaps not a long time for some, but for me, (the type of person who can’t sit still in one place for too long) Oakland was the closest thing I had to a permanent home in my adult years.

When I decided to move out of the Bay Area, I left behind a group of friends I like to call my second family. The faces I met at the various jobs I worked, the classmates I met in culinary school, and the friends I was lucky to reconnect with from high school. Those people are my family. I hold them so dearly to heart, I miss them every day.

Another big part of Oakland that I miss is the food. The Bay Area has a plethora of amazing restaurants. I was lucky enough to work in a few of them, as well as befriend some folks who did as well. One of the best restaurants in Oakland (in my humble opinion) is Ramen Shop. The restaurant hosts some of the best ramen I’ve had in the States. But one of the menu items I still can’t get out of my head is their dessert. Particularly, their Black Sesame Ice Cream Sandwich (with brown sugar cookies).

It’s a delicious pairing–like a vanilla-hued, silk-blend Stella McCartney pantsuit with nude strappy leather Céline heels. It’s a delicate match of toasted and creamy.

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I’ve made a few attempts at recreating this recipe, and the one I’m sharing with you tastes as close to the original that I could construct. If you ever find yourself in the East Bay, you’ve got to try out Ramen Shop. And for those of you (us) that aren’t, test out my recipe below to hold you over until then.

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Black Sesame Ice Cream Sandwiches
Yields 6 sandwiches

INGREDIENTS
Black Sesame Seed Ice Cream
Brown Butter Sugar Cookies

METHOD
Turn 12 cookies face up onto the countertop. Using an ice cream scoop, take 1/2 cup of ice cream and place each scoop onto 6 of the cookies. Using an offset spatula, spread evenly to the edges. Top the ice cream with a second cookie and press down to adhere. Freeze until solid, about an hour.

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6 Shades of Grey

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This recipe is so amazing on its own. But with the addition of the Brown Butter Sugar Cookies it packs a punch full of delicate, creamy, and nutty flavor.
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Black Sesame Seed Ice Cream
Recipe slightly adapted from My Second Breakfast

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE PASTE
1/2 cup black sesame seeds
2 tablespoons honey

FOR THE ICE CREAM BASE
black sesame paste
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

METHOD
In a small, dry, non-stick pan or cast-iron skillet, toast sesame seeds over medium heat until they start to pop and you start to smell a subtle nutty aroma.

Set aside to cool.

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Once cool, grind in a spice grinder until a paste begins to form. Add honey. Grind until the sesame seeds are in a paste-like consistency and hold together when the mixture is squeezed between your fingers.

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FOR THE ICE CREAM
In a small pot, heat up milk, sugar, sesame paste, and salt, stirring until sugar dissolves. In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks until they start to turn light in color. Slowly add the warmed milk mixture to the eggs, whisking all the time (need to add a bit at a time so that the eggs don’t curdle).

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Once the milk is fully incorporated into the eggs, return the mixture to the pot and heat over medium heat, stirring, until thickened. The mixture should coat the back of a spoon and hold a line. Pour mixture into cold cream and add vanilla. Mix until combined.

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Place into the refrigerator to cool down for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. If you want to speed up the process, you can place the bowl with the ice cream mixture into an ice bath and stir, but will still need to store in fridge till fully cooled down.

Churn the ice cream in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If you don’t have an ice cream maker (mine is still in California…insert sad face emoji here) you can line a loaf pan or other freezer-safe container with plastic wrap and place the ice cream base in it. You will need to mix it with a spoon after the first 2 hours, then return it back to the freezer. Mix it second time after 2 more hours, spreading the top surface evenly with a rubber spatula. Then, place another piece of plastic wrap onto the top, lightly touching the surface. This way, the ice cream won’t have ice crystals at the top once fully frozen.

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Must Be a Full Moon

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Let’s take a few minutes to watch this before we continue.

Got it? Good. ‘Cause I’d totally eat the moon if it was made of these chewy cookies. (And heck, I’d have seconds. And thirds.) Although they’re perfect on their own, I strongly suggest you make the Black Sesame Ice Cream to go with. They are so good together. Kinda like Will Ferrell and Jeff Goldblum in that SNL skit.

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Brown Butter Sugar Cookies
Recipe adapted from Food Network
Yields 12 cookies

INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
6 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

METHOD
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Line a sheet tray with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.

Melt the butter into a large skillet over medium heat. Cook until the butter is a deep golden brown. Remove from the heat and place the butter into a large bowl to cool.

Once the butter is cooled down, add the brown sugar and 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar and stir until smooth. Stir in the egg and vanilla extract, mixing until well combined.

In another medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ground ginger, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry mixture to the butter mixture and stir until well incorporated and smooth, about a minute.

Add the rest of the granulated sugar to a plate. Divide the dough into 12 equal-sized balls and roll them in the sugar. Arrange the dough on the parchment paper lined sheet tray at least 2 inches apart. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.

Cool the cookies on the sheet tray for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack for another 10 minutes.

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A Sweet and a Meat

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I last travelled to the Philippines over 15 years ago with my family. My aunt and her husband were renewing their vows on their 25th wedding anniversary in the Philippines where they met as teenagers. At least, that’s how I remember the story. Our entire family on my mom’s side went to the islands to celebrate this beautiful occasion.

My mom, born and raised in the Philippines, had not been back to the homeland since she was about 20 years old.  My mom was really excited to show me, my brother and father, where she grew up. We got to see the grade school she attended and the house she lived in as a child with her other nine siblings. It was a sweet and humbling experience.

Being half-Filipino, I was only exposed to, I guess you can say, half of the cuisine. While my other half was exposed to the Italian-Spanish-German American cuisines my dad was brought up with. When we stayed in the Philippines for the month we were there, my brother and I had the same breakfast every day: longanissa (Filipino sweet pork sausage) or beef tapa with garlic fried rice and a fried egg (a longasilog) with ube ice cream. (We indulged. We were on vacation!)

A recent trip to the local Asian food supermarket gave me flashbacks to my childhood and that family vacation, where I found longanissa and ube ice cream in the frozen food aisle! I was giddy with excitement. For this week, I posted a recipe on homemade English Muffins. Then I thought afterward, why don’t I make my own sausage breakfast sandwich with the muffins and longanissa? Why not add an egg and cheese, too? This dish is a sweet little mish-mash of my Filipino-American heritage. And I’m happy to share it with you!

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Filipino-Style Breakfast Sausage Sandwich
Yields 1 sandwich

INGREDIENTS
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 links longanissa sausage, casings removed
1 slice sharp cheddar cheese
1 egg
salt and pepper, to taste
1 ea. sandwich-size English Muffin
butter, for spreading

METHOD
Defrost the sausage (if frozen). Remove the sausage from the casing by using a knife to cut a small slit. Shape the meat into an equal-shaped patty. Heat a non-stick skillet or cast-iron to medium-high heat. Drizzle the pan with the oil and place the sausage patty onto the skillet, creating a nice sear on the side. Cook it for about 4 minutes. Flip the patty and cook for another 4 minutes. Check the center for doneness. Cook further if needed. Turn off the heat and place the cheese on top of the sausage patty. Use the skillet’s lid to cover the patty, allowing the residual heat to melt the cheese.

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In another skillet, heat the oil over medium heat, making sure the entire base of the pan is coated evenly. Crack the egg into the pan, allowing the egg to cook fully. Swirl the pan a bit to make sure the white is entirely cooked. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat.

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Cut the English muffin in half and place into the toaster to re-heat. Spread some butter on the inside of the bread and place the sausage with cheese onto the base. Top with the egg and cover with the other half of the muffin. Easy.

Nooks and Jammies

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As a child of the ’80s, I can recall watching some of the best commercials like it was just yesterday. Remember this one? Thomas’ English Muffins were a breakfast mainstay when I was a kid. The “nooks and crannies” are key–they’re like little pools collecting all the butter and jam or whatever you put on the bread.

I’m a breakfast person but I’m always on the go in the mornings, so it’s sometimes difficult to have a decent breakfast before I start my day. Making these homemade English muffins ahead of time is a great option when you’re on-the-go like me. And the best part is, you can top them with whatever butter, jam, or spread you like. Or you can make your very own breakfast sandwiches. Endless options, really.

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Homemade English Muffins
Recipe slightly adapted from The Woks of Life
Yields 14 muffins or 7 sandwich-size muffins

INGREDIENTS
3 2/3 cups flour, plus more for kneading
1 envelope active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup lukewarm water
2/3 cup plain yogurt
semolina flour, for sprinkling
canola oil, for frying

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METHOD

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, yeast and salt. Add water and yogurt, and mix into a soft dough. Knead the mixture for about 10 minutes, until smooth, adding more flour if it gets too sticky. Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes.

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Roll out the dough to a thickness of about ¾ inch. Cut out 14 circles with a 3-inch round cutter (I used a Mason jar lid). Sprinkle a sheet tray with semolina. Cover the portioned muffins with a damp towel and allow the dough to rise in a warm place for about 2 hours, or until almost doubled in size.

For sandwich-size muffins (like the ones pictured above)  pair up the muffins and stick them together my pinching the side creases with the tips of your fingers to create a seam for one large muffin. Repeat this process for as many larger-size muffins you want to make.
(Cook’s note: I do this step after the muffins have been proofed because the slight separation of the two muffin halves post-proofing makes it super easy to cut them in half at serving.) 

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

Heat a flat griddle pan to medium-high heat and brush with oil. Add the muffins and cook for 6 minutes, three minutes per side, till golden brown. Once both sides have been seared, transfer to a sheet tray and finish in the oven for about 3-6 minutes. Serve with butter, jam and coffee.

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Tom Tom Club

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Feels like I’m dreaming but I’m not sleeping.

My mom introduced me to Thai cuisine at a young age. She and I frequented a local family-owned Thai restaurant almost monthly. We’d always order the Tom Yum Soup and Pad See-Ew dishes. Those were our favorites. We’d crave them all the time, discussing the delightful sourness of the soup and the tender bites of Chinese broccoli in the noodle dish. We became such regulars that the owners of the restaurant had already placed our orders by the time we sat down and got our drinks (I always had Thai Iced Tea with my meal).

My first obsession was Tom Yum soup, then came my meeting with Tom Kha Gai. In Thai, the dish literally translates to Spicy Galangal Chicken Soup (Tom = Spicy Soup, Kha = Galangal, Gai = Chicken). Thai cuisine reminds me so much of my mom, so I crave this food when I’m missing my family most. I’ve tried Tom Kha Gai soup in almost every Thai restaurant I’ve visited, but this recipe (with my own personal tweaks) is the closest to the authentic Thai flavors I grew up tasting.

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Tom Kha Gai
Thai Coconut Chicken Soup
Recipe slightly adapted from Bon Appetit
Yields 6 servings

INGREDIENTS
1 each galangal, peeled and cut into 3 2-inch pieces*
3 stalks lemongrass, tough outer layers removed and sliced into 1-inch pieces
10 each kaffir lime leaves*
6 each Thai bird chiles
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1½ pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 13.5-oz. can coconut milk
8 ounces mushrooms, stemmed, cut into quarters
1 tablespoon fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 cup Thai basil leaves
Hot chile sauce (such as Sriracha), to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste

*Cook’s note: Galangal is a rhizome related to ginger, although it has a tougher skin that’s lighter in color. It also has a distinct peppery flavor much different than ginger’s.
 Kaffir limes are native to the Southeast Asian countries and have astringent qualities. Their leaves carry a lovely and distinct aroma. Galangal and kaffir leaves may be difficult to find, depending on where you live. Check out your nearest Asian markets for these speciality items.

METHOD
In a large saucepan, bring the lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, Thai bird chiles and broth to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until flavors are well pronounced, about 30-45 minutes. Strain the broth into clean saucepan; discard the galangal, but keep half the amount of chiles and half of the lemongrass.

Add the chicken and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the mushrooms, skimming occasionally until the chicken is cooked through and mushrooms are softened, about 20–25 minutes.
Mix in the coconut milk, fish sauce, sugar and fresh herbs. Season with salt, pepper and hot sauce.
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