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Category Archives: dinner for two

Back to Life

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This has been the longest I have ever gone between blog posts, and I’m somewhat embarrassed. It’s a vicious cycle, really. You think, “well I’ve gone this long without posting, who will notice anymore?” Or, “I’m going to take 100 photos for my future blog post about this” and then realize you don’t have enough storage on your phone. I promised I would never let myself go this long without connecting with my dear readers, but then life happens and your hobby blog suddenly falls lower and lower on the list of priorities. But I’m back, and I’m going to be better than ever!

Let me give you a brief culinary recap of my life since my last post:

  • I went to Seattle for the first time in my life and realized how much I miss living in a real city (but I still love you, Napa). I was there for a business trip, but stayed a little longer to indulge in all the culinary delights that the city has to offer.

One morning in Seattle (clockwise from top left): salmon pierogi, Hom Bow, lots of fish at Pike Place Market, Rose and Puget Sound oysters from Taylor Shellfish, and the Starbucks Roastery. Damn.


Fresh summer fruits from a market on Vashon Island, WA


Cider tasting at Dragon’s Head on Vashon Island, WA


Best brunch ever at Revel (clockwise from top left): ramen, savory monkey bread, spicy kimchi bloody mary, BBQ pork waffle, SPAM rice bowl… I could eat this stuff every Sunday.


Blanquette de Lapin at Bistro Jeanty: Pancetta wrapped rabbit loin and braised leg with pappardelle pasta morels and truffle oil


Ratatouille at Bistro Jeanty


Okonomiyaki at Two Birds One Stone


Roasted whole chicken at Ad Hoc

  • I ate a lot of delicious meats. Let’s just say, I know someone at Fatted Calf.

Said Fatted Calf employee (aka my boyfriend @PeterPorker13) raging on shoulder chops at “Butcher’s Happy Hour” – first Thursday of every month in Napa; every Wednesday in SF.


Fig and sausage stuffed quail from Fatted Calf


Wagyu prime rib… and Yorkshire pudding… and roasted potatoes… and Christmas.

  • I made Gravlax for the first time (which warrants a separate post), for a super fancy New Years Eve dinner party that was hosted in my newly purchased townhouse! It has been taking up all of my energy and time, but it’s completely worth it.

Before and after of my living room/dining room/kitchen (missing cabinet doors). It’s amazing what floors, lights and paint will do to an old space!


Table setting for our first dinner party, on New Years Eve of course! I learned how to fold cool napkins just for this occasion.

I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of things, especially now that I finally have a massive open kitchen with plenty of counter space (as well as a dishwasher!!!).

I’ve also set some culinary goals for 2017, including, but not limited to:

  • learn to make sushi; more specifically, sushi rice
  • make homemade pasta, including ravioli
  • master the art of breaking down a chicken
  • eat more caviar

My first go at sushi… looks pretty but I really need to work on the rice.


Caviar is served best on homemade chips with Crème fraîche.

All The Dumplings

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I love dumplings. Like, a lot. And since moving to Napa, my dumpling intake has severely suffered. Last month Canuck and I drove an hour in the rain to Dublin to get dim sum from Koi Palace, and that tied me over for a bit. But then something amazing happened last week: Canuck taught me how to make my own dumplings! And they were much easier to than I realized, so I will definitely be repeating the process. Granted, he spent half a day collecting all the ingredients from various Asian markets in a 30 mile radius (because, of course, there aren’t any in Napa), which is more time than it takes to drive to Dublin, stuff your face with dim sum, and drive back. But it just somehow tastes a little better when you make them with your own hands.

Reid's collection of dumpling wrappers

Canuck’s collection of dumpling wrappers

We made three different kinds: Gyoza (Japanese pork and shrimp pot stickers), Siu Mai (open-faced pork and mushroom dumplings) and shrimp and chive dumplings. Canuck selected the recipes for Gyoza and Siu Mai from the Asian Dumplings cookbook and the shrimp and chive dumplings from Lucky Peach presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes. I recommend purchasing at least one of these books if you’re into Asian cooking, but I’ve outlined the recipes below for your convenience.

Gyoza (makes 32 dumplings)

  • 2 cups lightly packed, finely chopped napa cabbage, cut from whole leaves
  • ½ tsp plus ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced and crushed into a paste
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 2 TB chopped scallions
  • 6 oz ground pork, fattier kind preferred, coarsely chopped to loosen
  • ⅓ lb medium shrimp, shelled, deveined and chopped
  • scant ¼ tsp sugar
  • generous ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 ½ TB Japanese soy sauce or light soy sauce
  • 1 TB sake
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 32 round pot sticker wrappers

To make the filling, in a large bowl, toss the cabbage with ½ teaspoon salt. Set aside for about 15 minutes to draw excess moisture from the cabbage. Drain in a fine-mesh strainer, then rinse with water and drain again. To remove more moisture, squeeze the cabbage in your hands over the sink, or put into a cotton (not terry cloth) kitchen towel and wrung out the moisture over the sink. You should have about ½ cup firmly packed cabbage. Transfer the cabbage to a bowl and add the garlic, ginger, scallions, pork and shrimp. In a separate small bowl combine the sugar, pepper, soy sauce, sake and sesame oil, then add to the pork and shrimp mixture. Stir and lightly mash the ingredients so that they start coming together. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 30 minutes.

Gyoza filling

Gyoza filling

Siu Mai (makes 30 dumplings)

  • ⅔ lb ground pork, fattier kind preferred, coarsely chopped to loosen
  • 4 large dried shiitake mushrooms, reconstituted, stemmed and chopped making ½ cup (we actually used porcini)
  • generous ¼ cup finely diced water chestnuts (fresh preferred)
  • 3 TB finely chopped scallions
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp white pepper
  • 1 TB cornstarch
  • 1 TB light soy sauce
  • 1 TB rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 ½ tsp sesame oil
  • 1 large egg white, beaten
  • 30 square dumpling wrappers
  • 30 peas, for garnish

To make the filling, combine the pork, mushrooms, water chestnuts and scallions in a mixing bowl. Use a fork or spatula to stir and lightly mash the ingredients together so they begin to blend. Put the salt, sugar, white pepper, cornstarch, soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil and egg white into a small bowl and stir to combine well. Pour over the meat mixture and stir, fold and mash everything together until thoroughly combined. Cover the filling with plastic wrap and set aside for 30 minutes.

Shrimp and Chive Dumplings (makes 40 dumplings)

  • 1 lb shelled, deveined shrimp, minced
  • 1 cup very finely chopped chives
  • 1 TB fresh minced ginger
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 TB soy sauce
  • 1 TB rice wine
  • ½ tsp sesame oil
  • ½ tsp white pepper
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 40 round dumpling wrappers

To make the filling, combine shrimp, chives, ginger, egg, soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, white pepper and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 30 minutes.

Traditional Dipping Sauce (makes 1/2 cup)

  • 3 TB soy sauce
  • 1 TB rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 TB water
  • couple drops of sesame oil
  • 1 tsp gochujang (optional if you want it spicy)

Whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside until ready to eat the dumplings.

Now that all the fillings are made, you are ready to wrap the dumplings! It certainly helps to have two sets of hands during this part, so invite someone you really like over to help. Start with whichever filling you made first; in our case, the Gyoza. Set out out two large cutting boards, two small dishes of water, two tablespoons, the filling, pot sticker wrappers and a wax paper lined baking tray. Lay a wrapper on the cutting board and line a wetted finger around the edge. Put a small spoonful of the filling into the center of the wrapper, then fold the wrapper in half to make a moon shape. Make sure to seal the edges together so that there is no air coming through. (If you can’t close it properly, there is probably too much filling and you should throw out the wrapper and start over.) Lay the dumpling on the baking tray and repeat the process until all the filling is gone. Pull the amount of dumplings you want to eat (3-4 per person) and freeze the rest for about an hour. Once they are frozen, you can transfer them to freezer bags and they won’t stick together. The shrimp and chive filling can be wrapped the same way, but use dumpling wrappers which are slightly thicker.



As for the Siu Mai, practice makes perfect! These dumplings are open faced and require a bit more finessing. It took me a few – okay, ten – rounds to get it right, but the “wrong” ones weren’t so terrible. In any case, place a square wrapper in palm of your hand and add a spoonful of the filling into the center. Lightly wet each corner with a dab of water and pinch it into itself, pushing the filling into the center and creating a sort of bundle. Then wrap each pinched corner over the side of the wrapper, overlapping onto each other, until you form a box. Top with a pea and set onto the wax paper lined baking tray. Pull out however many you want to eat, and freeze the rest for about an hour before placing into freezer bags.


The “wrong” way

The "right" way

The “right” way

Now, you can finally cook the dumplings! For the Siu Mai, place a fitted steaming basket over a pot of boiling water. Line the bottom of the steaming basket with large leaves of napa cabbage, then place 6 dumplings on top of the cabbage (this is so they don’t stick to the bottom; you can discard the cabbage when you’re done). Cover and steam for 10 minutes. Use tongs to remove and serve immediately with dipping sauce.


The other two types of dumplings can be cooked in the same method (but separately): heat two tablespoons of canola oil in a large frying pan. Once hot, carefully place dumplings in the pan flat side down and fry one side. Once it’s browned, add 1/4 cup of water to the pan and cover immediately, steaming for about 2 minutes or until the water evaporates. Serve immediately with dipping sauce.


All in all, the prep took about 3 hours and we didn’t eat until 10pm but it was so worth it. The dumplings turned out deliciously (with the Siu Mai being both of our favorites) and were actually pretty fun to make. I paired the dumplings with Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc + Viognier, a crisp wine with citrus and melon notes that pairs perfectly with Asian flavors.

The best part of the whole experience is that I came away with several bags of frozen dumplings to savor at a later date! And now that I have mastered the art of dumpling wrapping, maybe I’m even ready to make Har Gow – with Canuck’s guidance, of course.

Salade Lyonnaise

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The other night I had some girlfriends over for dinner to celebrate Space Cadet’s birthday. Initially, Space Cadet just wanted to pick up some Taco Bell (has anyone tried the new quesalupa??), but my friend – who shall be known as Georgia from this point forth – and I were able to convince her to elevate the menu a little. I realized that I had all the necessary ingredients for a Salade Lyonnaise, which is basically a fancy breakfast salad. It’s pretty hard to screw up, as long as you nail the poached egg. Luckily for me, I assigned the egg poaching to Space Cadet and since she is a perfectionist they turned out wonderfully.


Salade Lyonnaise (serves 4)

  • 1 lb of small fingerling potatoes (try the “Teeny Tiny Potatoes” from Trader Joe’s), halved
  • 3 TB olive oil, divided
  • 2 TB dry sherry
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1 TB whole grain mustard
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 bag of Trader Joe’s Crunciferous Crunch Collection
  • 1 lb bacon, roughly chopped
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 tsp white vinegar, divided
  • 1 TB chopped preserved lemon peel (optional)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Toss the potatoes in 1 TB olive oil, salt and pepper. Place them flat side down on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, flipping them half way through.

Meanwhile, prepare the dressing. In a medium jar or bowl, combine 2 TB olive oil, sherry, shallot and mustard. Season with salt and pepper then whisk to combine. Set aside to let flavors meld.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet over a medium flame. Add bacon and cook, tossing often, for about 10-15 minutes or until your desired doneness. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to drain some of the fat.


Divide the dressing equally into four shallow bowls. Add a cup of the Crunciferous Crunch Collection to each bowl, then top with equal portions of potatoes and bacon.

With about 10 minutes left to the potatoes, bring two medium pots of three inches of water to a low boil. Add a teaspoon of white vinegar (rice vinegar also works) to each pot. Crack each egg into a small dish or ramekin (do not break the yolk). Poaching two eggs at a time (one in each pot), use a rubber spatula to make a whirlpool in the pot, then carefully slide the egg into the center of the swirl. Use the spatula to keep the whites close to the yolk, and cook each egg for about 4 minutes. Remove the egg with a slotted spoon and add to the top of the salad. Repeat with the other two eggs.

Top each egg with a touch of cracked pepper and a bit of preserved lemon. Serve and tell you’re guests to slice the egg and mix all the ingredients together, including the dressing on the bottom.


We all went nuts over this salad. It had enough protein for a dinner, but still leaves you feeling light and healthy. If you want to lighten it up more, use fresh frisee instead of the Trader Joe’s blend (though, I swear by Crunciferous Crunch Collection). I have to give big thanks to Space Cadet for mastering the poached eggs, as the whole salad would have been ruined if the eggs were runny or overcooked – no pressure.


I also have to give some credit to Canuck for telling me to preserve my own lemons three months ago, because I finally found an opportunity to use one! Just a bit of preserved lemon peel in this dish adds some salty bitterness that compliments the dressing well. In fact, you could probably just add it directly into the dressing. Note: if you’re going to preserve your own lemons, I recommend using Meyer lemons and incorporating 3 parts salt and 1 part sugar, plus cinnamon stick, peppercorn, whole clove and fennel seed. Once ready to use, rinse, remove the flesh, and rinse again. 

We enjoyed this salad with a Twomey Sauvignon Blanc and a Ram’s Gate Syrah – both incredibly different wines but each of them paired deliciously with the salad. In fact, I think this salad would pretty much go with anything, especially your closest silly girlfriends.


Give Me Umami

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About two years ago I came across a recipe for Spicy Kimchi Tofu Stew in my beloved Bon Appetit. KDD and I had planned to make this detoxifying stew to cure any upcoming hangover Sunday, but some time between then and when I moved to Napa we must have become responsible adults because we were never hungover enough to make this stew. Or maybe we just kept forgetting – also a sign of getting older. In any case, I finally found an opportunity to make this savory stew last week. And although it wasn’t to cure any particular hangover, it did feel extremely detoxifying after a week of too much wine and rich food.

There are two key ingredients in this stew that give it umami: gochujang and kimchi. I had purchased a little jar of gochujang when I was doing the BA Food Lovers Cleanse last month, and I had just enough leftover for this recipe. As for the kimchi, my pickling guru – who shall be known as Canuck from this point forth – had given me half a quart of some kimchi that he made at home. I’m not exactly sure how he made it, but I know it involved fish sauce and cabbage. If you don’t have the time or equipment to make kimchi at home (or you don’t have a pickling guru to “lend” you some), you can find it at Whole Foods or any Asian market, along with the gochujang.

Reid's homemade kimchi

Canuck’s homemade kimchi

Spicy Kimchi Tofu Stew (serves 4)

    • Kosher salt
    • 1 16-oz. package silken tofu, cut into 1” cubes
    • 1 TB vegetable oil
    • 2 cups kimchi, including liquid
    • 1 ½ TB gochujang 
    • 6 scallions, cut into 1” pieces
    • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
    • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    • 4 large egg yolks

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Reduce heat, then carefully add tofu and simmer gently until slightly puffed and firmed up – about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer tofu to a medium bowl and set aside.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the kimchi and gochujang and cook, stirring often, for 7 minutes. Add kimchi liquid and 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until kimchi is softened and translucent – about 40 minutes.

Add scallions, soy sauce, and tofu; simmer gently until tofu has absorbed flavors, about 20 minutes. Add sesame oil and season with pepper (the stew will already be salty so there is no need to add more). Ladle stew into bowls and top each with an egg yolk.


I served this spicy soup to my pescatarian friend and her fiancé (who eats meat, and was actually able to recognize the fish sauce in the kimchi) and they both loved it. While very spicy, it’s not a burn-your-tongue spice but more of an addicting umami spice. The egg yolk does lighten it up a bit and add a touch of creaminess. Having Canuck’s homemade kimchi in my possession certainly gave me a reason to finally make this soup, but it also elevated the dish and added depth of flavor. So much so, that I am considering making my own batch of kimchi at some point! Let’s just hope I don’t push it off for two years like I did with this stew.

FLC16: Highlights from Week 1

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It’s Day 7 of my Wine and Cheese Detox and I’m going strong! I feel light and refreshed, I’m sleeping better, and I have hardly thought about cheating. I even attended a work-related wine tasting on Tuesday afternoon and spit all of the wines. But I have to admit, the feel of Napa Bordeaux blends on my lips was luscious. In continuation with my Food Lover’s Cleanse, I’ve made several delicious and healthy meals the past week:

The Chia Pudding with Pineapple and Apricot and Banana Almond Smoothie made for great breakfasts – very filling, slightly sweet, and easy to get together during a morning of multitasking. I was a little put off by the thought of it at first, but I really enjoyed the texture of the chia pudding.  I will definitely incorporate both of these into my breakfast routine.

Tofu Stir Fry

Brussel Sprout and Tofu Stir Fry

The Brussel Sprouts and Tofu Stir Fry was spicy and and hearty. I love a good stir fry, and this was recipe was pretty dynamic for so few elements. I enjoyed the crunch of the water chestnuts and the tangy spice of the gochujang – a Korean chile paste that I have been dying to use in cooking since I read about it about a year ago. I didn’t prepare the suggested rice side as directed, but I did use some black rice that I cooked with bits of ginger and topped with shredded coconut. I forgot to add furikake to the stir fry, but I remembered to include it on my leftovers the next day and it added a nice umami flavor. I would recommend this dish for a hearty vegetarian stir fry, but double up on the gochujang or add some Sriracha because it’s lacking in heat.


Last night I made Salmon with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce and Carrot Salad with Garlicky Bok Choy. My favorite component was the carrot salad, which I didn’t make nearly enough of. I didn’t bother toasting cumin seeds and used ground cumin and turmeric instead, so it only took about 10 minutes to prepare; an easy salad to get together before heading out the door in the morning. I enjoyed the yogurt-cucumber sauce on top of the salmon, and added a bit of mint to brighten it up. Overall, this meal was flavorful, light but filling, and the flavors integrated well with each other. I used the leftover salmon filet in a lunch salad with arugula, mixed greens, cilantro, mint, cucumber, carrot, almonds and miso-tumeric dressing – yum!


By far, the Spicy Orange Hazelnut Bark was the best thing I made all week. Since I haven’t been drinking alcohol, I find myself craving something sweet in its place. I’m not a dessert person by any means, but I can’t resist a piece of dark chocolate. Rather than munching on some hipster chocolate bars I got over the holidays, I decided to get out the double boiler and make my own bark. I’m not a huge fan of hazelnuts so I used some bittersweet chocolate with almonds from Trader Joe’s and added some pistachio pieces to the mix, which was delicious. But it was the orange zest and cayenne pepper that really pulled the bark together. I will definitely be making this on the regular, whether or not it’s a replacement for wine! Here’s to another 7 days…

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