Happy 2008! To welcome the year, I watched the fireworks at the Embarcadero in SF. We took BART from Berkeley and the anticipation built up like the dense steam covering the train windows as we approached the city. We arrived 3 minutes shy, and then countdown began, giving way to a magical 18 minute fireworks show right over the Ferry Building. So Happy New Year and may it be filled with many joys & successes, and good luck in all you do. And wise and welcoming words from our favorite headmaster: “To our newcomers – welcome! To our old hands – welcome back! There is a time for speech-making, and this is not it. Tuck in!” With that said, I have special cocktail recipes from our carousing last night, as well as a homemade meal with close friends – Coconut Crusted Chicken Fillets with Balsalmic Reduction, Sesame-Soy-Soba, and Warm Fudge Brownies a la mode, although for these we cheated and made them from a box. There is honestly nothing better than cooking with friends for friends. Menu planning, grocery shopping, loads of dishes, burning food, mess everywhere – but with fabulous products (which is what matters) = good time and good food. Kari, Aman and I drove to the Albany Ranch 99 Market – where Aman, by the way, stood out only like how an Indian in an Asian supermarket can. And it did not help that the market was packed with other last minute shoppers preparing for their own New Year’s parties. We battled little tiny Asian aunts, and old spectacled grandpas with pepper grey hair – a very fun experience. Back home, we started on the soba noodle dish and chicken, while Aman (who is useless in the kitchen) worked on the drinks for the night. My two friends from highschool arrived at around 7pm and we worked on Bruschetta while the chicken finished up. Plenty of food, conversation, good flow of drinks after dinner when we started Kings Cup – at which point everyone ganged up on me, and I ended with the death cup. Yes, they don’t call me Stop Sign for nothing. Some one get me some Pepcid AC! And yes, for those fellow sufferers of Asian Glow, take it half an hour before you drink and it will minimize the glow. And in this state, we went to SF to be attacked by hordes of drunk (gross!) men and suffocated from the second-hand. But the fireworks – no matter how old you are – are still magical and captivating. And it was a splendid nice time, sharing the traditional midnight kiss with Amanda & Nahal (I’m not complaining, but another personiknow would have been better), then cavorting down the pier in sub-40F weather. We got back to Berkeley in one piece, albeit a little cold but a lot more sober than we started. The rest of the night/morning on the futon was fun catching-up time, more food, and conversations that still make me blush now that I think about it. But I’m up now, preparing to go home for a family and puppies filled day.
4-6 chicken breast or thigh fillets (actually works better with white fish like tilapia or halibut)
1 package (or about 5 oz.) unsweetened coconut flakes
1 package Japanese Panko (bread crumbs)
2 tsp (or to taste) sugar
2 tsp (or to taste) salt
1-2 cups milk
1/3 cup flour
salt & pepper to taste
1-2 cups balsamic vinegar
1-2 cups brown sugar
After cleaning & allowing the fillets to dry, season both sides with salt and pepper. In a large saucer, combine the coconut flakes and Panko. Add the salt and sugar, and set aside. The crust should be more on the salty/savory side, as the sauce will be tangy sweet. The contrast in flavors will be better that way. In a large bowl, dissolve the flour and milk. For a thicker crust, add more flour or even cornstarch for more crunch. Preheat a large & shallow frying pan and drizzle enough oil to lightly coat the bottom. Take each fillet and dip in the milk/flour mixture. This is the glue that will hold the crust on. Push each side of each fillet into the breadcrumb mix. Repeat if you want an even thicker crust. Place in hot pan and fry. Repeat. DO NOT FLIP OVER until the bottom is brown or else the crust will break on you. Using a metal spatula, flip over and wait for the second side to brown. You should be able to smell the browned coconut (amazing!). Do not overcook the chicken as it will be rubbery. Fish is more forgiving, so a little more heat should be ok. Just keep an eye on it, and don’t pull a Kari who burnt the crust on one side. It’s a good thing she likes her food burnt. Remove fillets and place on a paper-toweled plate to absorb the excess oil (gross, but essential). Once you have finished all the fillets. Turn down to medium heat and pour in balsamic vinegar, dissolve in brown sugar over hot pan. Scrape the drippings in the pan (full of flavor), and allow the liquids to reduce down, sweeten and thicken up. Taste test as you go! It’s the best part! Most of the sour should be gone, leaving a pleasantly tangy sauce that will compliment the savory chicken crust. Serve the sauce in a separate gravy dish so others can control how much sauce they want. A lot of people can’t handle a lot of it, whereas others drown their chicken in it. A personal thing I guess.
Sesame Soy Soba Noodles
Kari was inspired by Smitten Kitchen and made this once for me during midterms. I have been in love ever since.
Serves 4 very hungry girls, with leftovers for late night munchies
8 oz. soba noodles
a few cloves of garlic, minced
3-4 zucchinis, diced
1 cup soy beans (edamame, we bought frozen beans)
1 cup diced tofu*
3 stalks of green onion/scallion
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 tbs brown sugar
1 tbs chili paste
a little vegetable oil
scant 1 tsp sesame oil
several spoonfuls of toasted sesame seeds
*we used refrigerated hard tofu, which has a very distinct texture. Soft tofu may break when being tossed around in the pan
In a large pot of boiling water, cook soba noodles until noddles are just tender. Skip entirely or go easy on the salt as the sauce for these noodles have plenty of flavoring. Once ready, drain and run under cold water to prevent sticking. Allow to dry in a colander.
In a large hot pan, drizzle a tiny bit of oil and sauté minced garlic until fragrant. Throw in soy beans and cook until almost soft. Alternately, these soy beans could be boiled separately first then thrown in the pan, depending on if you want firmer or softer beans. Throw in zucchini and tofu and heat through until all vegetables are tender. Stir constantly to avoid burning. Add most of the scallion, but leave some for garnish.
In a separate bowl, combine the sauce ingredients, soy sauce, water, brown sugar, chili paste, and sesame oil. Add to hot pan and allow to simmer. Turn off heat and toss in soba noodles while still on stove top. Transfer to serving dish and sprinkle toasted sesame seeds and scallions on top. Yuum!
1 loaf baguette (a rustic loaf from La Farine!)
1 can diced tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp parsley salt
1 tbs basil flakes
cheese to top (your preference)
Slice the baguette into thin 1/2″ diagonals.
In a sauce pan, drizzle enough olive oil to coat the bottom and sauté until fragrant. Drain about half the juice from the canned tomatoes but pour the rest into the saucepan and allow to heat through. Stir constantly and using a fork, mash the larger pieces of tomato. Once the tomato starts to bubble, add parsley salt and basil flakes. Taste test to determine flavor. Adjust as needed. Allow to simmer and let most of the liquid evaporate before removing from the heat and spooning onto baguette slices. Toast in the oven until the baguette is crisp (or however you like them), and in the last 3 mins. or so, sprinkle on a bit of cheese and place back into oven until cheese melts. Serve hot.
I am waiting for Aman to send in the drink recipes, but I’ll post this for now and add it later. On the menu tonight is a fat hunk of glazed ham with my mom’s baked sweet potatoes and a Parisian salad with piquant vinaigrette. But until soon, I need a nap!