Saturday & Sunday: Meals Between Meals

On weekends, Don and I never have just breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Instead, we have pre-breakfast snacks, a sort of breakfast followed by a proper lunch and then many, many afternoon treats and drinks, dinner in the later evening, and then another smaller meal, and maybe a third or fourth dessert afterwards.

Most of our meals/snacks are eaten out, but the ones I enjoy the most are the ones we create ourselves. Don takes care of the savoury side, and I do the sweet, so it works out quite nicely.

Highlights from this weekend:

We made our weekly visit to the Greenmarket on Saturday morning for basic staples: eggs, Ronnybrook milk, and anything else that catches our eyes.

The ever trendy ramps are in season, (and just as quickly, are about to go out of season), so he got a few of those cause, can you believe it – up until this weekend, I’ve never had ramps before!

I was in the mood for pasta, so we went straight for the fresh beet pasta from Hudson Valley Farmhouse…

…and made little meatballs from the sun-dried tomato and chardonnay sausage at Flying Pigs Farm. With a generous hand of browned butter and plenty of talent, Don whipped up a most ideal spring dish in less than an hour.

The beet pasta turns a gorgeous pale pink after cooking, the colour accentuated with sautéed ramps, butter, and sweet little rounds of sausages. Complete, no? “Wait!” he said, when I nearly took the first bite. I paused, and because sometimes, more is more, Don grated slivers of fresh parmesan, turned the black pepper a few rounds and then finished with just a sprinkle of Maldon salt. Perfect!

While he was working on the pasta, I got to start on brioche dough. We took turns babysitting the dough over the afternoon, with plans to turn it into a Sunday morning snack. Vanessa brought over brioche tins, and Don shaped the dough into classic brioche à tête.

Now wouldn’t it be lovely to wake up to this every morning? A dozen warm golden brioche, just minutes from the oven and a jar of Greenmarket raspberry preserves from Philip’s Farm. Extra pats of butter always welcomed.

Don noted that it was on the yeasty side – perhaps I let the sponge sit for a tad too long before mixing it in with the dough, good to keep in mind for next time. I was happy with the texture, though wish it browned more evenly. I’ll have to play around with the oven temperatures and rack setting. Post brioche, we went out for lunch at Taim, and then came back to…

…bake mini madelines using this recipe Kathryn recommended. Notice this is the first time we’ve made mini ones? Don just got a darling pan from Broadway Panhandler but a few hours before, and I simply could not wait to put it to use. Don’t worry, we did not eat it alllll alone – they were shared with friends at dinner an hour later :)

Will Be Back Soon…

…even tomorrow, maybe?

But for now, busy, baking madelines…lime zest, fresh vanilla…a warm oven on a cool day, oh my, oh my. Perhaps honey & lavender on another occassion, dark chocolate & hazelnut on another? The possibilities are endless.

Thank you, Don, for the abundance of vanilla beans, citrus fruits, and letting me invade your kitchen :)

Not Paying Attention to the Madelines

For breakfast: blueberry madelines with dark chocolate chips.

What I learned from baking this morning:

1. Do not bake when you are daydreaming

2. Do not bake in a rush

Madelines are the one baked good I could do with my eyes closed. I have one madeline recipe I know by heart and all the madelines I’ve made are variations of this recipe adjusted for mood and tastebuds. Madelines were the one baked good I never messed up until today.

The batter was too wet. The cookies did not brown evenly. They tasted disappointingly heavy. Needless to say, my mind was elsewhere while I stood there measuring, mixing…I don’t daydream too often when baking…today must have been an ‘off’ day.

Past Madelines:

Lemon Madelines

Cherry Madelines

Chocolate Chip Madelines

Dinner at Grandma’s…and a photo of my dog!

It’s been stated by many people many times before, but it is true: one of the best meal to be had is at your grandma’s house. Or in this case, my grandma’s house. For the past 21 years, my family has spent every Saturday and Sunday dinner at grandmas. Dinner is always cooked by grandma and grandma alone. She never let anyone help, whether it was with the prep, actual cooking, or even cleaning up. We were to do nothing but eat and enjoy. And enjoy I have! When I went to college I found that the food I missed most was not spam musubi or coco puffs, in fact it was not even a specific food. What I missed most was everything and anything my grandma cooked.

Bei: a mix of shredded pork (both boiled and barbecued), and shredded pig ears tossed in roasted rice powder

She heard my pleas, and sometime in the middle of a cool Manhattan October, my freshman year at NYU, I found an enormous package of food my grandma packed in dry ice and overnighted to my dorm. Inside I found Vietnamese pork chops, shoyu eggs and stewed pork, bei (above photo) divided into single serving bags, and even a jar of nuoc nam! I can’t remember how she had it packed and how it managed to get here in mint condition. All I could remember was how incredible grateful and I was, and that I should give my parents a call and ask them to pay her back for the exorbitant shipping cost from Hawaii!

Apple Tarts

I don’t appreciate these weekend dinners near enough, and even if I did, I would have no clue how to express my feelings. I just visit every weekend, sometimes with dessert in hand, my grandma likes my apple tarts…

Chocolate Chip Madelines

…and madelines, but somehow, all these gestures, whatever I do, could in no way truly express my gratitude. But I think she knows, to a certain extent at least, how these routine dinners have kept our family together and in good company all these years.

Tonight we had eggplant. This might look sloppy, a even a bit yucky, but this is what my parents grew up on in Vietnam during the 1960s. Grandma starts out with six pounds of eggplant, boils them for about half an hour. Remove from water, let cool, and peel off the skin. Make sure to drain off excess water/eggplant juice. Heat up a big wok, add a mix of vegetable and sesame oil, and brown a lot of minced garlic. Add in the eggplant and start frying. We season this dish with nuoc nam, chopped chili peppers from the garden, a few pinches of salt, and couple pieces of rock sugar. Right before it’s all pau, crack in three eggs and scramble with the eggplant quickly, then remove from heat.

The dish is divided into four bowls, laid out across the long dining table. We start our dinner with a steaming bowl of rice, and pile on the eggplant. I like to mix the rice and eggplant together, but my dad thinks mixing it is not very aesthetically appealing, so he eats it separate. It’s a truly wonderful, homey dish. I’m not quite sure how to describe it, creamy: yes, spicy: yes, chock full of nuoc nam flavor: yes, nidbits of scrambled eggs thicken and tie it all together, make for one might find dish, as ugly as it might look.

Prior to steaming…

Next we have a steamed dish. Lots of thick cut funn (just purchased in Chinatown this morning) is laid out at the bottom of a pan, topped with my grandma’s own fishcake, and shrimp. She ladles a shoyu/nuoc nam/sugar based sauce generously over the entire dish, topped with minced garlic, and steams it for exactly 10 minutes.


It’s a pretty refreshing dish, and much lighter than other funn dishes I’m used to. I love funn of any kind, but unfortunately enough for me, the kind I love most is fried and topped with a heavy black bean sauce and plenty of beef (and some broccoli), hehe.

Mix and eat!

After steaming, the funn simply soaks up all the sauce, giving it plenty of flavor…my general understanding is that nuoc nam + starch of any type = good.

No meal at Grandma’s is complete without soup, and tonight we had something new she wanted to try on us. She had gone out to a friend’s birthday party last week and was particularly fond of a type of soup she never encountered before. She noted down the ingredients and flavors in her head and tried to replicate it tonight. It was pretty awesome! It’s a kabocha based soup, but it’s not thick like other sorts pumpkin based or chowder soup. Chopped kabocha, barley, lotus seeds, chestnuts, and longan is all boiled together and then strained out for a light, savory soup. I imagine it could be easily converted to a sweet dessert soup.

She serves the broth in the middle of the table and places a bowl with all the boiled ingredients on the side, instructing us to spoon the soup into the bowls add in the other ingredients if we wished. The boiled ingredients, as you may imagine, are not left with much flavor, but I enjoy it quite a bit on its own with a splash of shoyu on top.

Hayden mangos all around for dessert! Unfortunately my grandma’s house was not blessed with a mango tree (although there are tons of chili peppers growing out front!), so we buy mangoes from a friend in Chinatown. Tonight’s mangos were especially delicious, and as icing on the cake, they were very well chilled. I like my mangos near frozen, and these were pretty darn close. My grandma does all the slicing, one mango a person and we devour them at the dinner table, in silence, paying our respects to the crisp sweet goodness of these island fruits.

Our Mr. Buddy here also enjoys visiting Grandma’s…he’s always given plenty of treats slipped under the table! So that was dinner tonight, hope you enjoyed it :)