kimchi quesadilla

I love Korean BBQ places but often the kimchi is disappointing. I dunno why they focus on all the other banchans (side dishes) and meat while neglecting quality kimchi. What ups the flavor quality and experience for me is grilling it to get that nice caramelized taste.

I made some kimchi quesadillas this week as my roommate brought her mom’s homemade kimchi to share. Made with organic, locally grown napa cabbage, it’s really good and even better when grilled and combined w/cheese. Check out my easy recipe for making kimchi quesadillas below. Love me some kimchi and 3-ingredient dishes!

1 collage kimchi quesadilla

kimchi quesadilla (serves 2)

1/2 cup of kimchi (napa cabbage, ripened), chopped

2 tortillas (I used whole wheat tortillas)

1 cup of shredded cheese

pico de gallo to serve (optional)

Place a frying pan on medium heat and add 1 tsp of vegetable oil and kimchi. Pan fry until browned (in my picture, it looks burned but it’s not) and set aside.

Adjust stove heat to medium low and place a tortilla and sprinkle a handful of cheese evenly on half the tortilla. Scatter half the kimchi on top of the cheese. Place another handful of cheese over the kimchi layer and fold over. Brown both sides of the tortilla or until the cheese is all melted. Place quesadilla on a cutting board; should rest for a few minutes. Slice into 4 pieces and repeat the same process for the 2nd quesadilla. Enjoy w/some pico de gallo.

Try this and tell me what you think! Check out my other Asian fusion recipes like the kimchi mac and cheese, korean tacos, or bulgogi pizza. I also love this blog that features more Asian fusion recipes.

cachi coffee in la palma (OC)

The fun thing about following friends on Instagram is discovering cool new places. As a foodie, LA and OC are full of small, independent business owners who bring their unique perspective. One of my childhood friends had on his IG feed,  this cute, mom-and-pop cafe, Cachi Coffee, located in a business park complex in La Palma. I’ve been there about a couple times as my parents’ home is just a few miles away.

They serve Stumptown Coffee! Although I’m not a coffee connoisseur/snob (really, I love McD’s coffee), I love the the toffee undertones and it’s smooth flavor. I recommend their cafe mocha or a latte. As a tip, if you check-in on Yelp, they’ll discount 10% off your bill.

If you go during lunch, their salads and paninis are also popular (but I haven’t tried it yet). Because they mainly serve the corporate offices nearby, they’re only open Monday-Friday and from 6:30am-3:30pm. If you’re in the area, I recommend you stop by for a drink!

cafe mocha

cachi interiors

cachi cafe interiors

iced latte

salted brown butter rice crispy treats

I was inspired to make these when my friend MC was raving about how easy and addicting these are. I hit up my local Fresh & Easy market to grab the two missing ingredients (this recipe has a whopping total of 3, sans salt, everyone should have salt at home, common now). The clerk there was so sweet as he was telling me all the variations of rice crispy treats that his wife makes for him. Chocolate drizzle, melted chocolate, mixed nuts, Rice Chex... all the endless varieties. What struck me about this brief interaction (with a total stranger) is I sensed how much he loved and appreciated his wife. Something as simple as a 3-ingredient sweet treat will do that, make you feel someone’s love.

Enough of the sappy talk, haha. Back to business. I love how this recipe doesn’t require you to turn on the oven. All you need is the stove top, medium pot, wooden spoon, and baking pan.

rice krispy treat

salted brown butter rice crispy treat (adapted from smittenkitchen blog)

1 stick of unsalted butter (equivalent to 1/2 cup) + 1 TB for the baking pan

10 oz. marshmallows (big or small ones are both good)

1/4 tsp of coarse sea salt (I like Morton’s)

6 1/2 cups of Rice Krispies cereal (I may have added another handful–eyeball it)

Butter a baking pan or sheet as the finished treat will cool on here. I recommend using parchment paper to avoid a sticky mess in cleaning up.

In a medium pot, melt butter on medium-low heat until it starting foaming and starts looking golden. Stir so it doesn’t burn. The trick is to get to the amber color but doesn’t burn; should have a nutty aroma. Adjust to the lowest possible heat.

Add 10 oz of marshmallows into the pot and stir with the melted butter. Should dissolve and the browned bits should be evident on the white puffs of sugar. Once everything is melted, add your rice crispy cereal (I measure this all out beforehand so it’s quick) and salt. Stir/mix until everything is incorporated and pour out into your buttered baking pan.

Let it cool before you cut it into squares and enjoy. I tried these 2 days after I made them and they were still crispy and not stale. Hey, not bad, huh? I know because my coworkers didn’t devour them the first day.

cookin’ thyme with chef jen

Last month, Chef Jen Story of Cookin’ Thyme personal chef and catering hosted a cooking class for the women from my church where we made we three brunch dishes in our commercial kitchen.

Here’s what we made:

brunchmenu

Chef Jen had all the ingredients and kitchen tools laid out and she took time to explain/demo the process before we split up into groups. Yes, there were lots of eggs and butter. On a sidenote, I took a nap after this class. The delectable meal was food coma inducing.

mise_en place

brulee sauceShe put us to work! The ladies were making a brown sugar/butter reduction for the creme brulee French toast (bakes in the oven). OMG, aroma of warm gooey goodness.

sausageHomemade pork sausage making action.

Check out the finished dishes; vegetable and cheese frittata (12 eggs each tray), French toast, and pork sausage (not pictured).

frittata

done!

Praying for our meal before the chow down. Man, we were starving! Big thanks and shout out to Cathy who made these crafty center pieces. Showcasing just some of the talents of our lovely ladies.
IMG_0120

Chef Jen did an awesome job walking us through the dishes and helping us manage the short time (about 3 hours). She also explained cooking techniques that she picked up in culinary school and her experience in commercial kitchens. Hands down, the creme brulee French toast was my favorite dish I look forward to making. It was soft, sweet, and the bananas Foster w/Grand Marnier elevated the dish (more chef-y). Really melted in my mouth and the frittata resembled a custard texture, so lovely. Perfect complement to the sweetness of the first dish.

I actually was referred to Chef Jen from a friend, Christine of feedmysole who hired her for another event. Chef Jen has her own cooking facility in Lawndale where she hosts events like multi-course meals and cooking classes. Check out her website and facebook page for more details. I loved the experience and highly recommend her! FYI: She was a contestant on the Food Network’s Chopped and the episode airs on April 7th (curious if she took home the 10K prize). Go Chef Jen!

eat this cafe in hollywood

My friends and I went for brunch earlier this month on a rainy Saturday. It’s hard to imagine rain when we’ve been getting 90+ degree weather just this past weekend. The weather has been so bipolar lately! Despite the weather, some friends and I checked out a brunch place in Hollywood, Eat This Cafe and enjoyed our experience.

inside

Here’s what we ordered (and shared):

Open-faced egg sandwich w/cranberry walnut bread ($11)

Open-faced egg sandwich w/cranberry walnut bread ($11)

french toast

Grand Marnier French Toast ($12)

Truffle cheese and egg panini ($12.50)

Truffle cheese and egg panini ($12.50)

I think we all agreed that the French toast and truffle cheese and egg panini were the best dishes (corned beef hash not pictured). They also have a popular crab eggs benedict but we didn’t try it this time. LA has plenty of weekend brunch spots but this is one of the memorable ones. Others underwhelmed or seemed overpriced. This one hit the spot and they had decent coffee. I also like that they have a self-serve flavored water.

Since it’s a small place, I would suggest coming w/a party no bigger than 4. I think we waited about 30 minutes but we came around 11:30am. Street parking on adjacent streets.

japchae (Korean noodles w/beef and veggies)

It’s so funny that when I tell people I have a food blog, they assume that:

a) I make elaborate weeknight dinners (and host multi-course dinner parties),

b) I seek out strange and obscure dishes at restaurants,

c) I’m often cook new and interesting dishes.

The reality is often less glamorous as I have my usual rotation of weeknight meals. It changes here and there but my foolproof, go-to meals are fried rice, stir-fry, simple pastas, and vegetable soups. Sounds simple, right? It is, because like most of you, I don’t have the mental energy or want to eat dinner at 9pm on weeknights. Confession: when it’s super busy at work, I rely on the frozen foods section of Trader Joe’s for my dinners (I love their mushroom risotto and margherita pizza).

Japchae can be an easy weeknight dinner with some careful planning/prep the night before. I recently took some over for a dinner party and my friends really enjoyed it. I haven’t made it in awhile and surprised me how simple it was once I chopped and cooked the veggies the night before. FYI–the pictures you see are from the second time I made it (sans beef and ‘shrooms) but these ingredients really make the dish so don’t skimp :)

Hope you make it for the loved ones in your life! It’s worth the effort and chopping. Btw, the sauce measurements are estimates. Just like your umma, I eyeball it and season to taste for that balance of soy sauce and sweetness from the sugar.

Japchae (Korean noodles w/beef and veggies) adapted from Korean Bapsang blog

6 oz. Korean sweet potato starch noodles (dangmyeon)

4 oz. shiitake mushrooms (I used crimini), 1/4″ slices

6 oz. bulgogi (Korean marinated ribeye)

1 small carrot, chopped into thin matchsticks (julienned)

1 small yellow onion, 1/4″ slices

2 green onions, sliced on diagonal, 1″ pieces

2 eggs, beaten

Sauce:

4 TB soy sauce

3 TB sugar

2 1/2 sesame oil

2 tsp minced garlic (about 2 cloves)

1 TB toasted sesame seeds

1. Boil noodles in a large pot for about 6-7 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water and cut so they’re not too long (and hard to serve).

2. If you’re adding egg, on a lightly oiled frying pan, cook the egg like an omelette on medium low heat. Set aside to cool for about 10 minutes and slice into strips. Saute all the veggies separately. Start w/cooking the onions with 1 tsp of veggie oil and salt + pepper until lightly cooked (like a stir-fry) and still crunchy. Add the green onions toward the end (since they cook quickly). Repeat this process w/carrots, spinach (I used sesame oil), mushrooms, and bulgogi at the end. When the bulgogi is cooled, slice into thin strips. Set aside. Tip: This step can be done the night before.

japchae 1

3. In a small bowl, mix all your ingredients for the sauce until the sugar dissolves.

4. In the large pot, add back the drained noodles and on low heat, mix 3 TB of sauce into the noodles until warmed through. Turn off the heat, add the remaining sauce and beef/veggies. Check for flavor. Does it have the right amount of sweet and saltiness? Add more sugar, soy sauce, or sesame oil depending on the missing flavor(s). When it tastes just right, sprinkle sesame seeds and black pepper.

japchae 2

Great at room temp or the next day for lunch. Mmmm.. your coworkers will be jealous :)

japchae 3

eat drink americano in the arts district

I hesitate to write about this place because I want to keep it ALL to myself (my true, possessive self shines through). This place feels intimate and the food is locally sourced, globally inspired. Gastropub w/a sophisticated, creative twist which I love. This is a great place to bring your sweetie or catch up w/a few friends. My friend and I were there on a Thursday night and it had a good number of people but not crowded. Btw, they have a special Vday menu if you’re still looking for a place. Reservations accepted on their website.

IMG_0055

IMG_0051

Please excuse this beam (beam, take a hike! you’re ruining my shot)

IMG_0050

I came during happy hour before my friend got off work to take advantage of the soft lighting on an overcast day. I tried the Pilgrim (appetizer), which is slow cooked turkey atop stuffing with corn foam and dots of cranberry sauce ($5) and a golden ale ($5). The corn form was something between a foam and puree. Whatever it was, it was light w/a touch of natural sweetness.

IMG_0059

My friend and I shared the oxtail sliders w/red cabbage slaw ($15) and popeye and olive oil flatbread ($9). The flatbread had a flavorful onion and spinach pesto that really popped on a chewy crust. The oxtail sliders look deceivingly small and cute but they’re packed w/meaty goodness. Mmm… getting hungry just thinking about it.

IMG_0068

IMG_0067