West Toast

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It’s so crazy to think about how much of your life can change in one year. 1 year. Last Thanksgiving I spent the entire night working as a cocktail waitress at a thankless job. It was by far the WORST job I have ever had. Luckily, I only stuck around for a month.

At last week’s Thanksgiving, I spent it with some truly awesome friends. We had a delicious meal and plenty of libations. Being away from your family during the holidays is oftentimes hard, but when you have amazing friends, it’s not that bad at all.

My contribution to our Friendsgiving/Thanksgiving meal are these mini Guava and Cream Cheese Tartlets (Pop Tart knockoffs), but they’re soooo good. The filling was inspired by this AMAZING Cuban bakery in LA that I used to frequent, called Porto’s. Their Pastelitos de Guayaba (Guava Pastries) are a reason in itself to visit if you’re ever in LA.

The guava filling can be made at home, but I was a bit lazy this time around, and just visited my local Latin American food market and purchased this GOYA Guava Paste package. For $3 it’s a steal. And it’s so good, guys.

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Guava Cream Cheese Tarlets 
(Pastelitos de Guayaba)
Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour

INGREDIENTS
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pats
1 large egg (plus 1 egg for egg wash)
2 tablespoons milk

METHOD
Using a food processor, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt, working the butter in till the mixture holds together when you press it with your fingers. The mixture will be just a tad bit lumpy, with specks of butter still visible. Transfer the dough to a large bowl and add the egg and milk, mixing till everything is cohesive.

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Split the dough in half. Shape each half into a rough 3″ x 5″ rectangle, smoothing the edges. If making the dough ahead of time, you can refrigerate for up to 2 days; allowing the dough to rest for 15 minutes at room temperature before rolling out.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Place the first half of the dough on a lightly floured work surface, and roll it into a rectangle about 1/8″ thick, large enough that you can trim it to an even 9″ x 12″.

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Trim off the edges; save the scraps and set them aside, along with the 9″ x 12″ rectangle of dough.

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Proceed by rolling out the other half of the dough, and cut it as you did with the first half.

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Place a rectangle slice of the guava paste and cream cheese onto the center of each marked rectangle.

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Lightly beat the last egg, and brush the outer corners of the surface of each pastry dough. Place the second sheet of dough atop the first, using the tines of a fork to press firmly around each pocket, sealing the dough on all sides.

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If you have dough scraps, press them together into a ball, then re-roll them out. Repeat the rolling and cutting of the dough according to the size of the dough and fill them if you’re able to.

Gently transfer the tarts to a lightly greased or parchment-lined sheet tray. Lightly brush the tops of each tarlet, and then place into your oven.

Bake the tartlets for 15 to 23 minutes, or till they’re a light golden brown.

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Sir Mix-Mix A-Lot

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My first memory of devouring halo-halo (pronounced hollow-hollow, and Tagalog for “mix-mix”) was at an early age at Magic Wok, a Filipino restaurant in L.A. close to where I grew up. (The restaurant is luckily still around, but it’s now called Crispy House, I highly recommend checking it out if you’re ever in L.A.) The food was soooo good; the best Filipino food I’ve ever had–crispy pata (fried pork belly), Shanghai lumpiang (Chinese-style deep-fried egg rolls), chicken adobo (braised chicken in herbs, vinegar and soy sauce), pancit bihon (stir-fried rice noodles), and of course, the house special halo-halo, a shaved ice/ice cream dessert with milk, Spanish flan, and various beans. Yes, beans. As in, frijoles.

the inspo: Halo-halo at Magic Wok circa 2012

the inspo: Halo-halo at Magic Wok circa 2012

Anthony Bourdain tried it for the first time on his show, Parts Unknown, and described it as, “It makes no goddam sense at all; I like it,”  and “it’s oddly beautiful.”

The standout part of halo-halo is the bright purple scoop of ice cream gracing the top of the ice-cold glass, called ube, a naturally-hued purple yam. Yes, yam. Yes, it’s purple. And it’s delicious.

Alone the beans, milk, ice cream, flan, shaved ice, and chunks of jackfruit and various jellies, are odd, but once mix-mixed, the blend of savory, sweet, creamy, caramel and sometimes tangy work perfectly well together. It actually works.

The key to enjoying halo-halo to its fullest is doing exactly what its name asks: mix! And mix! Use a long spoon to mix all the layers of ingredients together.

I haven’t had legit halo-halo in a few years, but during a recent trip to the local Asian market, I stumbled upon a quart of Magnolia’s Ube ice cream. I quickly added it to my basket and enjoyed it at home. I wanted to recreate the halo-halo that reminds me of the ones I had at Magic Wok with my family. Here’s my take on Filipino halo-halo, with homemade ube ice cream and Spanish-style flan!

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FOR THE ICE CREAM

Ube Ice Cream
Yields about 2 quarts
Recipe slightly adapted from Rot In Rice

INGREDIENTS
16 ounces (1 package) ube, grated purple yam*
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 Tablespoons Kosher salt
(*Cook’s Note: Ube/grated purple yam can be found at your local Asian market.)

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METHOD
If your ube is uncooked (as most are in the package) steam it in a double boiler for about 20-30 minutes.

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Carefully remove the cooked ube and mash it with a fork.

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In a large sauce pot, heat the sugar and milks over medium-low heat till just-summering. Add in the mashed ube and mix till completely incorporated.

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Place the mixture into a blender or stick blender and purée till smooth. Mix in the heavy cream and salt.

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Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve to remove the grainy bits. Discard those bits. Place the ice cream base into the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.

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Place the ice cream base into your ice cream maker bowl, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

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Enjoy!

FOR ASSEMBLING THE HALO-HALO

Halo-Halo
Serves 4

INGREDIENTS
Spanish flan (recipe HERE)
Ube ice cream (recipe above)
1 can evaporated milk
4 cups crushed or shaved ice
1 jar Halo-Halo mix*
(Cook’s Note: Halo-Halo mix can be found at your local Asian market.)

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METHOD
Gather 4 sundae or chalice glasses (I used a tulip-style one). Add a scoop of the ice in each, then add a layer of the halo-halo mix.

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Layer on another scoop of ice and halo-halo mix after that till you reach about 1/3 to the rim.

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Cut the flan into quarters and place a wedge on the top of each glass with 1-2 scoops of ube ice cream. Top with enough evaporated milk to cover a 1/4 to the rim.

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General Custard

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This Spanish-style flan recipe is super easy to make. I love using this recipe to accompany this Filipino Halo-Halo dessert recipe.

Spanish Flan
Serves 4
Recipe slightly adapted from AllRecipes.com

INGREDIENTS
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1, 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup whole milk
kettle of boiling water

METHOD
Preheat your own to 350 degrees F. Place your ramekins (or whatever vessel you’ll be cooking your flans in) into the oven on a sheet tray to warm up.

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Heat a medium-sized sauce pan to medium-low, then add the sugar until it’s caramelized and brown.

While your sugar heats up, mix together the eggs and milks in a large bowl until well combined. Set aside.

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When the sugar becomes syrupy, turn off the heat and immediately pour into your warming ramekins.

(Cook’s Note: Heating the ramekins beforehand helps the caramel maintain its heat and not harden immediately.)

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Carefully pour the custard mixture into the filled ramekins. Then place the ramekins into a large, shallow ovenproof pan. Fill the pan with the boiling water about 1-inch from the base of the ramekin. Cover with foil and place into the oven for 40 minutes.

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Check for doneness, then allow to cool completely. When serving, completely trace the outside of the flan with a knife and then invert the ramekin onto a serving plate.

Un Dolce Finale

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To complete a rather heavy (yet balanced!) Italian feast, inspired by the glorious meal shown in the classic film, Big Night, I wanted to incorporate a light and fruit-forward dessert. When planning the final course for this special meal, I consulted with my good friend, Brett, who is the pastry chef assistant at a superb Italian restaurant in Oakland that I used to work with him at. He immediately suggested a strawberry sorbet topped with some Cava or Prosecco. It was pure genius. This recipe of my Strawberry Sorbet from a few years’ back is my go-to. Just make the sorbet a day-ahead and pour a bit of Prosecco tableside and just see how delighted your guests will be!

Sorbetto alla Fragola con Prosecco (Strawberry Sorbet with Prosecco)
Serves 4

INGREDIENTS
1 quart strawberry sorbet (recipe HERE)
1 bottle Italian Prosecco

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METHOD
Make the sorbet at least 1 day before serving.

When ready to serve, leave the sorbet out in room temperature for about 20 minutes to soften a bit. Using an ice cream scoop, scoop 2-3 scoops of sorbet into each bowl. Pour enough Prosecco over sorbet to just cover. Repeat for all bowls. Serve!

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Return to the full story HERE

(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots are property of Rysher Entertainment and Timpano Productions.)

The Cookie Strikes Back

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One of my favorite ice cream sandwich memories were in the early-2000s, in the countless times I waited in a line that curved around the corner of a bakery in Westwood (close to the UCLA campus) called Diddy Riese for a sweet treat. Their ice cream sandwiches were a big deal to Angelenos and UCLA students alike. It was a #treatyoself moment every time my friends and I would drive over and grab a sandwich. Back then the cookies sold for .25 each and $1 for a scoop of ice cream to make the sandwich, and you could mix-match whatever cookie and ice cream flavor you wanted. I’d always take an extra bag of cookies back home for sharing and snacking.

I haven’t been to Diddy Riese in years, but I always enjoy a good ice cream sandwich when I can get one, or better yet, make one. The following cookie and ice cream sandwich combo was with some ingredients I already had in my refrigerator and pantry. Tart blueberries and rich white chocolate chips just go so greatly together, and I love the idea of a rum-coconut ice cream with a nice salty macadamia nut note.

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Brown Butter Blueberry White Chocolate Cookies

Adapted from Keep It Sweet Desserts
Makes about 12 large cookies

INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large whole egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2  teaspoon Kosher sea salt
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup fresh blueberries, washed and dried 

METHOD
Brown the butter by heating in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. When the butter turns a medium brown color, remove from the heat and pour into a small bowl. Allow to cool.

Once the butter has cooled completely, place into a large bowl of an electric mixer with the sugars; beat on medium-high speed till well combined. Add in the egg and vanilla extract, mix on medium speed until thoroughly combined.

In a separate medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt; slowly add into the wet ingredients with the mixer on low speed till just combined.

Turn off the mixer and with a spatula, slowly stir in the white chocolate chips and then gently fold in the blueberries. Wrap the dough into a container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, overnight if possible.

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When ready to bake, preheat oven to 325 degrees. With an ice cream scoop, scoop the dough (about 4 tablespoons) onto a parchment- or Silpat-lined sheet tray. Bake the cookies till medium golden brown, about 17-20 minutes. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

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Macadamia Nut-Rum-Coconut Ice Cream
Yields 1 pint

INGREDIENTS
3 cups coconut milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup honey
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup dark rum
1/2 cup macadamia nuts, roasted and roughly chopped
1 1/2 Tablespoons coarse sea salt

METHOD
Heat the coconut milk in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, stirring the bottom every few minutes to avoid scorching.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks till slightly thickened. Set aside.

When the coconut is heated and it begins to haze, take a ladle or 1/2 cup measuring cup and slowly add in the heated milk into the egg yolks. Whisk quickly to incorporate and to avoid curdling. Slowly add in more milk until 1/2 of the milk is incorporated, then add in all of the egg-milk mixture back into pot and turn the heat down to medium. Whisk the mixture to avoid curdling.

While the mixture heats up, set up an ice bath in a large bowl.  Wait for the custard to thicken enough to coat the back of a spoon. When the custard is thickened, remove from heat and place into a shallow pan or bowl. Stir in the rest of the ingredients.

Place the bowl over the ice bath and whisk the custard to cool down. Allow ice cream base to fully cool down in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Place ice cream base into your ice cream maker and operate using the machine’s instructions.

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Cookie Sandwich Assembly
Pair the cookies according to likeness in size. Scoop the ice cream onto the bottom side of one cookie and top with the other. Place into the freezer for about an hour to finally set. Enjoy!

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Bidi Bidi Bánh Bánh

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I first discovered Bánh mì sandwiches in Little Saigon–an area in the city of Westminster, California, where a large population of Vietnamese Americans live. The Asian Garden Mall, “Phước Lộc Thọ”, had several Vietnamese-owned restaurants, clothing, jewelry, electronic, and beauty shops. My family would go there often when I was a kid because my mom enjoyed shopping there, and the mall was only a 30-minute drive from where we lived.

Bánh mì translates to “bread.” The French-style baguette was introduced to the cuisine during the French colonization in Indochina in the late-1850s early-1860s. The sandwich is traditionally made with pork liver pâté (also from the French), cold cuts, pickled carrot and daikon, cilantro, and mayonnaise.

For this recipe, I decided to go with a throwback recipe from Bon Appetit from 5 years ago. I loved the recipe then and I love it even more now. With a few tweaks and the addition of crispy shallots and a homemade French baguette recipe, this is definitely one of my favorite sandwiches. This sandwich is so good it makes my heart beat like Bidi Bidi Bánh Bánh.

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Pork Meatball Bánh Mì Sandwich
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit
Yields 4 sandwiches

INGREDIENTS
For the spicy mayonnaise
2/3 cup mayonnaise
2 1/2 tablespoons hot chili sauce (I used Sriracha)

For the Pickled Carrot
2 cups coarsely grated carrots
1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil

For the Pork Meatballs
1 large shallot, minced and sautéed in oil till translucent
1 pound ground pork
1/8 cup basil, picked and finely chopped
1/8 cup cilantro, picked and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fish sauce (such as Nam Pla or Nuoc Nam)
2 tablespoons hot chili sauce (I used Sriracha)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
oil for frying

For the Sandwiches
4 each French baguettes (recipe here)
1 each jalapeño chile, sliced thinly
1/2 cup cilantro, picked
1 large shallot, peeled and thinly sliced into rounds
oil for frying

METHOD
To make the Spicy Mayo, stir all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Season with salt. This can be made a day ahead. (Cover and chill.)

To make the Pickled Carrots, mix together the first 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Let stand at room temperature for about an hour, mixing occasionally.

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To make the Pork Meatballs, stir all of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Form the mixture into scant tablespoonful balls, rolling the mixture into 1 1/2-inch meatballs. You should have 12 meatballs. Arrange them onto a baking sheet. This can also be made a day ahead. (Cover and chill.)

Preheat your oven to 300°F. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add in half of the meatballs. Sauté until browned and cooked through, turning the meatballs to evenly sear all sides lowering heat if they begin to brown too quickly, about 15 minutes. Transfer the meatballs to another rimmed sheet tray. Place into the oven. Repeat searing and baking with the remaining meatballs.

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In a small sauce pot, add 1/4 cup of oil. Place the sliced shallot rings into the pan. Turn on the heat to medium and wait for the oil to heat. (Allowing the shallot rings to fry in cold oil makes it easier to control the heat and to avoid burning them.) Once the oil begins to heat up, toss the shallot rings until a light golden brown. Transfer rings to a paper towel-lined plate.

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Cut each baguette horizontally in half. Spread spicy mayo over each bread halve.

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Place 3 each meatballs onto the bottom halve side per sandwich.

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Arrange the jalapeños one one side, then adding the (drained) and pickled carrot, crispy shallots, and cilantro. Gently place the top on baguette tops. Repeat with all sandwiches.

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Seoul For Real

Who remembers this song?

I do! I do!

Soul for Real was a very talented R&B singing group that I listened to as a kid. And I admit to having mix tapes with “Candy Rain” that I still listen to today. Great record.

Anyway, my first introduction to Korean cuisine was less than great. My family and I were headed to the Philippines for vacation. (Keep in mind I was 13 years old at the time and my palette wasn’t as sophisticated as it is today.) We flew via Korean Air and had an 8-hour layover in Seoul. (Despite how long the layover was, the shopping at the airport, however, was very exciting!)

Our mid-flight meal consisted of a menu I honestly cannot remember in great detail. But the food that me, my brother and cousins ordered was what was labeled as, “Pancakes and Sausage.” Of course, to kids we were overwhelmed with excitement. “Pancakes?! YESSSSSSS!” <hands in the air> Little did we know, the airline’s interpretation was not what we had imagined. I remember the pancakes being super thin and pale, and the sausage being white in color. “White sausage?!!” Us kids complained. We didn’t know any better, of course. Remember, we were just kids. So we refused to eat it. Looking back now, I really do wish that I did at least try it.

So now that I’m older and wiser (haha) I’m lucky to have been exposed to several different cuisines and foods that I would have never tried before. Culinary school and my genuine curiosity is to thank. But my favorite current Korean-style meal right now is Beef Bulgogi (Korean bbq) and Hobak Jeon (savory zucchini pancakes). Check out the following links for these very delicious and worthwhile recipes!

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