Results tagged ginger from David Lebovitz

Crisp Baked Tofu

Baked Marinated Tofu Recipe-13

Someday, someone is going set up a camera in my place. At least I hope so. Because over the last three years, I can safely say that the craziest things have happened to me. I’ve often toyed with writing a book about it, but no one would believe me, and it would quickly get tossed into the fiction bin, dismissed as folly. Oddly, I’ve been finding comfort in the easy-listening music of James Taylor, who seems to understand what I am going through, as he gently reassures me that, indeed, all is okay – because I’ve got a friend.

Baked Marinated Tofu Recipe-4

In addition to JT, as I’ve taken to calling him, I also find security in Asian food. I’m not entirely comfortable with the term “comfort food,” but I have to admit that whenever something isn’t going the way I hope (or the way any sane person would hope), I am rejuvenated eating a bowl of bò bún (Vietnamese cold noodle bowls, as they’re called in France), or gai lan (Chinese broccoli). Perhaps because I come from San Francisco, where Asian food is seamlessly integrated into our culinary consciousness, a bowl of noodles or Asian greens makes me happy. (Although a well-timed pain au chocolat has a similar effect.)

Crisp  Baked Tofu

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Fresh Ginger Syrup

Fresh ginger syrup recipe 2

Many moons ago, I worked with Bruce Cost at the now-shuttered Monsoon restaurant in San Francisco. Bruce is an amazing Asian cook and I’ve rarely had better Chinese food than what came out of his wok. Early on, he prompted me to make a sharp, gingery syrup that we could serve at the bar, as an elixir, mixed with fresh lime juice and sparkling water. And although the customers loved it, the reason I later found out why I was going through so much ginger syrup every week was that the staff liked it even more.

In Australia, I remember seeing big bins of fresh ginger in the supermarket (I always try to go to a supermarket in a foreign country – it’s one of my favorite things to do.) And when I was telling some Australians how intriguing it was how they’ve adopted Asian ingredients, like fresh ginger, into their cuisine, a few looked at me kind of funny,and said that they considered fresh ginger just be to an ingredient they happened to use frequently – not necessarily Asian.

fresh ginger syrup recipe

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Simplest Beef Curry

beef curry recipe

I’d read a rather head-scratching review of a book that I was very fond of from the day it landed in my apartment. Burma: Rivers of Flavor is a cookbook that has been haunting me ever since I opened it up and leafed through the pages. It was written by Naomi Duguid, a seasoned cookbook author who traveled throughout the country before the change in political climate. She travelled by foot, bike, train, boat, and whatever, culling recipes from home cooks, market vendors, and restaurateurs.

Before I got the book, I didn’t know much – actually, I did’t know I knew anything – about Burmese food, aside from my meals at a so-so restaurant when I lived in San Francisco. But her book reveals much of what had been hidden from Westerners for so long. And before I even took a knife to a shallot, I combed the pages thoroughly, getting completely wrapped up in her journey and cultural observations as she coaxed out the recipes, presenting the nuances of a somewhat particular style of cooking.

shallots Thai Mortar and pestle

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Ginger Crunch

ground ginger

Origins of recipes are often funny and some of the stories are doozies. Many are found in more traditional places, like handed over from friends and relatives, some are found in cookbooks, and others are our own creations. Then there are those that come from who-knows-where, such as the one I found on a men’s room wall.

And then there’s this one, which got handed to me during a book event and meet-up that I had in Paris when a lovely woman from New Zealand gave me a tube of Vegemite, along with a photocopy of the recipe, saying it was amazing. (Interesting that she said the recipe was amazing, but when she gave me the Vegemite, she only followed that with a hearty chuckle.)

ginger slice recipe ingredients

At the time I thanked her and put it in my bag, then it was transferred to my kitchen counter where it rested amongst a pile of papers that is optimistically called “recipes to try.” It languished there for, oh, maybe eight months, until I picked it up and gathered all the ingredients to make it. Then I promptly put them in the pan and placed them in a corner, where they languished together for another few months. Until I finally decided it was time to try it.

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Pineapple-Ginger Sparkling Wine Cocktail

champagne cocktail

Whew! It’s been quite a year. There were some ups and a few downs. Looking back as the year draws to a close, I’m not sure they balanced out this time around. I had my share of moments when I just had to stop, take a deep breath, and do a little reassemble and reassess. One highlight might include the day at the mobile phone office when I purposely drew my head back then banged my head on the counter. (And no, repair of forehead dents isn’t covered by the French sécurité sociale, the national health insurance.) Another was when someone explained to me – and yes, with a straight face – that they don’t have USB ports in one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world.

There were a host of other things that were a little more serious, that I won’t inflict upon you. But I am pretty sure there are enough to stories from this year to fill a book. But I am also pretty sure that no one would believe me.

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Teriyaki Chicken

I always feel like a tourist when I got to a Japanese restaurant because if bento boxes are on the menu, I’ll scan the other choices, but will invariably choose the teriyaki chicken. I know, I know. It’s the “safe” choice – but I can’t help it. I love anything grilled, especially with a salty-sweet marinade punched up with fresh ginger, then charred over a blazing-hot grill to seal it into moist, juicy meat.

I may have an overload of adjectives in my food vocabulary (case in point: the last sentence of the previous paragraph) but I don’t have a grill, but shortly after I received a copy of Japanese Farm Food, I saw a grill pan on one of those ‘flash’ shopping sites in France and I snagged one. And after waiting six weeks, it finally arrived. Funny how they don’t seem to want to send it to you with the same urgency that they want you buy it.

grill pan for chicken teriyaki

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Kylie Kwong at Billy Kwong

lunch with Kylie Kwong

I crave Asian flavors, which became apparent on a couple of occasions this month. For one thing, it seems that I want to add chiles and fresh ginger to everything. Here is Sydney, Australia, where so much of the food feels Asian-influenced – clean flavors, fresh ingredients often cooked quickly over high heat (cooks using fiery woks always seem to be “attacking” the food, simultaneously pulling out and searing flavors), and served with immediacy – I mentioned to a dining companion that I loved everything I’ve eaten here. And what was particularly delightful was that my favorite flavors were used liberally in the food, including fresh ginger, which was so Asian. He looked at me, and said “Really? I think of fresh ginger as an Australian thing.” But when I said that I always saw fresh ginger piled high in Chinese markets, he said, “You know, it’s abundant in regular markets here in Australia as well.”

Being from California, Asian food is my “comfort” food and I never realized how much I depend on a bowl of spicy bibimbap for lunch in the winter or a light plate of cold buckwheat noodles with nori and ginger dressing in the summer. I like any and all Asian food, no matter what time of the year it is or where I am.

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Cole Slaw with Wasabi Dressing

cole slaw with wasabi dressing

One of the great things about France is that people spend a lot of time talking to each other. True, it’s not so great when you’re behind someone in line and they’re carrying on a conversation with the sales clerk at the bakery as if they have all the time on the planet, when you’re hopping up and down behind them (and there are people doing the same thing behind you) because you just want to get your baguette for dinner. But if you take the time, it’s nice the enjoy the jovial nature of the French and slow down for a bit. As someone who is normally hyperactive, it’s a lesson in patience that I’ve had to learn, which I practice on a daily basis.

cole slaw with wasabi dressing cabbage

Many visitors forget that and don’t always have great experiences because they’re in a hurry to do so much on their trip, or try to tick off the restaurants written up in the travel section of newspapers or magazines from back home. I always tell people to take a day off, and stroll a market or just sit in cafés for a while. Or find a restaurant off-the-beaten path for dinner, taking the métro into one of the outer neighborhoods.

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