NYT Things You Should Make, Not Buy

Katharine Hepburn’s Brownies. Yum. source

As the title of my blog says, there are four things I keep up with on a daily basis: food, booze, Internet, and Japan. I love the Internet as much as I love food and booze. Oh. And Japan too. But I really love the Internet — it’s an addiction. So much so I forced myself to detox.

Fast forward about seven months, I’m back online. The time I waste trolling the Internet isn’t as bad as it used to be but, I am still constantly on Twitter and Instagram. Since I follow a lot of food related accounts, I sometimes post Internet finds here, tagged under ‘Internet Finds‘.

The greatest find this week, was a NYT’s article: “20 Things You Should Make, Not Buy”. The Times only linked their recommended recipes but there are a few recipes I am 100% sure are (sorry not sorry) better than the ones in that article. (Sidenote: I cook a range of foods, not just Japanese.)

Here are a few:

Marinara Sauce — NYT shares a recipe from Julia Moskin. I am sure her recipe is delicious but this marinara recipe is easily in my top three of all time.

In 2010, I lived in LA when Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo, “the Frankies,” did a kitchen takeover at Animal Restaurant. With the dinner, each guest received a signed copy of: The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual and it is now one of my go-to cookbooks. Their marinara sauce takes four hours, requires good olive oil and pricy canned tomatoes but definitely worth it. I found their recipe online here.

I also shared some tips to roasting vegetables from The Frankie’s cookbook way back in 2010 here.

Mustard-Shallot Vinaigrette — NYTimes’ recipe is again by Julia Moskin but I am convinced Ina Garten’s Vinaigrette is king! Her recipe calls for champagne vinegar that may sound all fru-fru. But for lazy people like me, the light, tangy and subtly acidic champagne vinegar is far suited than red/white wine vinegar to drizzle over roughly chopped vegetables or, on a presentable salad to serve guests. I shared the recipe here.

EMP’s Granola source

Eleven Madison Park’s Granola — funny timing. I just posted about trail mix and was contemplating if I should do a granola round-up but this particular one is sooooo delicious by the time I get around to actually collecting my favorite recipes from around the internet, sitting down and writing out a blog post, you still won’t be sick of this one.

EMP is the famed Eleven Madison Park and their granola, like the restaurant, is a bit uppity but extremely addictive. I prefer the Serious Eats’ rendition with cherries, pistachios, and coconut flakes. The recipe is here

Hummus — hummus is astonishingly simple to make and Mark Bittman’s recipe is my favorite. This is his recipe on epicurious, taken from his book The Best Recipes in the World. Since it’s so short, I’m pasting it into the body.

  • 2 cups drained well-cooked or canned chickpeas, liquid reserved
  • 1/2 cup tahini (sesame paste), optional, with some of its oil
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus oil for drizzling
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled, or to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin or paprika, or to taste, plus a sprinkling for garnish
  • Juice of 1 lemon, plus more as needed
  • Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish

1. Put everything except the parsley in a food processor and begin to process; add the chickpea liquid or water as needed to allow the machine to produce a smooth puree.

2. Taste and adjust the seasoning (I often find I like to add much more lemon juice). Serve, drizzled with the olive oil and sprinkled with a bit more cumin or paprika and some parsley.

I am a cumin fiend so paprika makes zero appearances in my hummus! Also, if you’re more of a baba ghanouj person, I have my version with tips of roasting eggplant here.

And of course, from the top photo: Katharine Hepburn’s Brownies via epicurious from Laurie Colwin. There are hundreds of Katharine Hepburn brownies floating around online. But this one, edited by Ruth Reichl and taken from A Harried Cook’s Guide to Some Fast Food by Colwin is the authority. Mainly from bias — Colwin and Reichl are two of my favorite writers.

No one can compete with Colwin’s closing paragraph to the recipe:

You can cut these brownies into squares, once they have cooled, and eat them out of the pan, but it is so much nicer to pile them on a fancy plate, from which people are going to eat them with their hands anyway. If you want to smarten up your act you can put a square of brownie on a plate with a little blob of créme fraîche and a scattering of shaved chocolate.

The full brownie recipe is here.
See the NYT’s piece and the rest of the recipes here.


Trail Mix


This post has nothing to do with Japan, Japanese food or booze but I had to bookmark somewhere so why not on my blog. Granola and trail mixes are slowly becoming popular in Japan. They are still bucketed under the ‘unfamiliar Western foods’ category though, and sold in gourmet groceries and specialty stores.

The other day, I was in Mitsukoshi (equivalent to Harrod’s or Neiman Marcus). I visit the food floor once every two weeks. In Japan, food items are constantly refreshed to reflect what is in season and or its popularity. The food industry here is hardcore and I am in awe by makers who are constantly and consistently coming out with new products. In Mitsukoshi, I saw a table I had never seen before with younger ladies crowded around. I looked over and was thrilled to discover granola and trail mix! I looked at the price and laughed out loud. $15 USD for a puny not even 8oz pouch of granola or trail mix? NOPE.

Nuts and dried fruits are a bit pricey but accessible in Tokyo. I’d rather make my own. I Googled around and found a bunch of neat tips, tricks and recipes that I’m going to leave here.

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Smoked Cheese – Brilliant

photo source

Saveur has a fantastic column called “What we learned this week” and there was a bit from this weeks I couldn’t help but share. It’s from Chef Amanda Cohen of NYC’s Dirt Candy, a popular vegetarian restaurant. Chef Cohen shares how she smokes cheese:

By using a stovetop smoker lined with tin foil and whatever type of wood chips you like, you can have smoked feta in 20 minutes. Cohen blends her feta with cream to make a smooth spread, but you can also crumble it on salads, eggs, or crusty bread. Try it with feta, goat cheese, or any other firm cheese.

Sounds so delicious. I’ve been hooked on smoked foods for a while — especially smoked edamame and smoked tofu. It’s so easy to do at home and an absolute crowd pleaser.

Here are some tips I found around the Internet on smoking:

  • How to use smoke woods by Serious Eats
  • For those who don’t have an outdoor grill (like me), How to make a stove top smoker on Saveur — with a video. LA Times Food has some tips as well here.
  • For those who rely on multiple sources (like me, more tips on Fire Craft
  • And two stores online that focus on smoking woods to get familiarized with brands (sorry, US only) here and here

One of the neighborhood places I frequent, places wood chips in a small, steep cast iron pot with handles. Hard to tell from the photo, but the pots are mini:



They cover the bottom with woodchips, place a mini wire rack inside of the pot, place edamame on top, place the lid on and throw it into their brick oven where they bake their pizzas and pastas.

Smoked foods are so delightful, beyond Chef Cohen’s smoked cheese, the possibilities are endless.

So happy to learn smoking cheeses are simple.

Beer Can Bacon Burgers

I really need to take a trip back home to the U.S. I reckon. Or, I need to quit talking about food so much – my friends are sending burger videos.

This particular one… I’ve never seen anything like it before. And I’m not talking about the beer can burgers — I see beer can chicken all over the place so beer can burgers didn’t surprise me as much — I’m talking about the guys making these videos: BBQ Pit Boys

I watched the video so you don’t have to but you should watch it anyway because it is stupid amazing:

  1. this video is shot in the snow. They are BBQing in. the. snow.
  2. the chefs are a bunch of super scary looking biker type guys who — I’m not going to lie — if I saw them walking towards me on the same side of the street, I would inconspicuously cross the street. Or duck into a store. Or sit on a bus stop bench. Stop, drop and roll even..? Well you get the picture, I would be a bit scared.
  3. the recipe calls for using ‘your favorite beer can’. I was expecting him to pull out a can of Budweiser or Bud Light. The man used a can of Yuengling Lager. I didn’t even know Yuengling was sold in cans!
  4. at around 3:50 in the video, he pulls out his preferred bacon, pork belly bacon, then goes on to say: Some of our European friends are going to say ‘What the heck is that?’ This is American style pork belly bacon. Amazing.
  5. Around 5:40 in the video, he pulls out a machete to chop a block of cheese. A MACHETE. What!

Then as the video is closing, he cuts the cooked burger, wrapped in bacon with all the fillings and says in a cool, even tone: “Take that, vegematics and food police!” I couldn’t help but smile.

I love these guys so much — just do you, Pit Masters!
Visit their website here and YouTube channel here.

The recipe seems pretty simple but the burgers take about an hour to cook.
Here it is:
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Ode to My Hometown

Lucky Peach recently published a piece on the ramen of my hometown: San Mateo, CA and of course, I have to share. 

I’m copying and pasting part of the comment I wrote on my friend’s post he shared via Facebook:

San Mateo’s Japanese food game has actually been on point for years tho! I’m so fortunate to have lived (eaten?) through its rise. Nice to see a shout-out to my hometown.

I know I am guilty of repeating this, but I am so appreciative I grew up in an era before what I affectionately call the Asian Invasion and fortunate to see many chefs starting out in other restaurants go to open their own.

What a town and era I was raised in!
Read the Lucky Peach piece here (ramen-centric, though).

Expensive Doesn’t Necessary Equate to Delicious

This may be a bit rude buuuuuuttt… is it me? Or does this look unappetizing?

via undisclosed Instagram photo — publicly lambasting is unbecoming

This dish is from a Michelin, World’s 50 Best Restaurant. It’s smoked trout with a potato mouselline and caviar. Potato mouselline is basically whipped mashed potatoes — at least that’s my understanding. This one looks a bit… runny. The caviar swimming around in the liquid just doesn’t look good. I don’t know about you, but I would hesitate before eating that. The textures would probably freak me out a little too.

Oh well. Goes to show, just because a restaurant is rated highly by critics, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right for you. 

File under: different strokes for different folks.

Julia, Jacques and Martha

What a find! In 1999, Julia Child and Jacques Pépin made Bérnaise Sauce on Martha Stewart’s Living. And today, I stumbled onto it! Stumbled is a lie. I was watching Snoop Dogg bake brownies with Martha and saw this video on the side. Snoop and Martha together by the way are so. funny. 


Bérnaise, is like Hollandaise but uses herbs instead of lemon juice. Bérnaise is most commonly served with steak, fish, even chicken. I prefer it with vegetables. (Serving suggestions on the bottom.)

Julia Child’s Béarnaise

1/4 cup wine vinegar
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tbsp minced shallots
1 tbsp dried tarragon
fresh ground pepper
3 egg yolks
2 sticks unsalted or clarified butter at room temperature
2 tbsp fresh minced tarragon

1 bowl of water and ice.


      1. In a small saucepan combine vinegar, wine, shallots, dried tarragon, some butter and simmer over medium heat. Reduce to about 1 tbsp and cool off by putting the saucepan into the bowl of ice water.
      2. In another saucepan, whisk 3 egg yolks with 2 tbsp of water over high to medium heat. Keep whisking until the yolk becomes thick and sticks to the whisk, gradually adding the vinegar mixture. Then add butter 1 tbsp at a time.
      3. Season sauce with tarragon, salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm by setting the saucepan into a bowl of lukewarm water.

— butter can be melted in another saucepan beforehand. Make sure the melted butter is at room temperature or below to prevent from cooking the egg yolk mixture into scrambled eggs
— around 1:55 in the video, Jacques Pépin shares his technique of whisking the egg yolk. He whisks over a fire that is relatively hot, whisk, move saucepan away from heat, whisk, move saucepan away from heat, etc.
— at 2:22 of the video, Jacques shows his whisking technique of using his palm to navigate the whisk to evenly mix the yolk

Serving suggestions:
— steamed artichoke, pulling leaves off, dipping into the sauce and eating the meat; great appetizer
— roasted artichoke. Fantastic recipe here.
— pancetta, asparagus with poached egg
— french fries (frites)
— fried green tomatoes

…I’ve even used it with a lightly steamed broccoli, cauliflower and dare I admit, store bought salmon / crab cakes. The uses are pretty endless.


Hardcore Instagrammers

So I stumbled onto this guy’s Instagram account and he has the loveliest photos. Scrolling through his feed, I came across this photo:


I can not believe he carries a ladder with him to take his food photos 0_0 That is hardcore! I don’t know, I’m all about pretty photos but jeez. This is next level Instagramming. Compared to a lot of the high level Instagram photographers, my photos suck. I used to be embarrassed but quickly got over it. Cold food is the worst.

By the way, this is the photo that was taken from that above ladder shot. I can tell by table, drinks, flatware, etc.



I guess it beats standing on restaurant furniture for the perfect photo. Frankly, I don’t understand how owners and managers are okay with people standing on chairs. It’s really rude. And bad manners. So to the ladder guy: rock on with your ladder climbing self!

noma Pastry Chef’s Redcurrant and Almond Tart Recipe 

Louise Bannon is noma’s Pastry Sous chef. It’s so neat how so many noma chefs / employees are super active on Instagram. They share a lot of their lives, inner workings of noma, new dishes, what they are working on, experiments, etc. with the Internet.

Chef Louise posted a photo of a tart she made at home (not for the restaurant) and generously shared the recipe as well. It’s beautiful and sounds delicious.

Louise Bannon’s Redcurrant and Almond Tart

225g flour
75g sugar
115g butter
1 egg
Rub in the fat into the flour and sugar. Add the egg and mix until everything comes together. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and place in a baking tin. Bake blind* at 170 degrees celsius for 8 mins.

Almond Sponge
165g almond flour
165g sugar
165g butter
50g flour
3 eggs
Whisk the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Add the eggs one by one. Mix in the flours. Place the mixture into the pastry shell. Place the redcurrants on top.
Bake 170 degrees celsius for 30-40mins until cooked.

*Baking blind is a term used when pie or tart pastries (crusts) are baked without the filling.

The recipe is found on this photo. Apparently, Louise will be staging in San Francisco – first at Tartine and then, who knows! If any of you are in SF definitely pop by Tartine while she’s there. She’s an incredible baker.

Instagram and the Internet are the best!

Unagi Cola

This is just wrong all around. Kimura Beverages from the Shizuoka Prefecture announced they will start selling an unagi (eel) flavored cola on the 21st. The press release states the cola tastes like kabayaki. Kabayaki is when fish are butterflied, cut into squares and grilled with a soy sauce — usually a sweet, smokey finish. So I presume the drink will taste like a sweet smokey fizz with a hint of unagi from the unagi essence dropped into the formula. Kimura Beverages said it took three years to perfect the drink.

Ummmm no thanks. I think I’ll pass.
via Asahi 
Visit Kimura’s website here (Japanese only).