My cousins and I love dinner parties. Growing up, food and family were at the center of holiday gatherings. As adults all living in NYC for a brief window of our lives, we’d meet to relax, cook up a tasty meal, and spend time together.
Apparently, I also like to clown around in the kitchen…..
….while producing serious food. When my cousin visited me in Miami last week, cooking a meal together felt like a welcome return to old times. After a few days of chowing down on (delicious!) starch- and protein-heavy Cuban food, we both felt like we needed some green veggies in our lives…but of course, it still had to be vacation-decadent! Thus, the dish was born.
Warm Spinach Salad with Scallops and Bacon
- 10 large scallops
- 4 slices of bacon
- 4 cups baby spinach
- 2 cups sliced mushrooms
- 1 shallot
- 1 tbsp butter
- Sherry vinegar (to taste)
- Mustard (to taste)
- Dry white wine (optional)
- Salt and pepper for seasoning.
- Prep work: pat the scallops dry on a paper towel. Peel and mince the shallot.
- Start cooking the bacon in frying pan over medium heat. Flip when it’s about a quarter of the way cooked. When it’s about half cooked, add the shallot and stir. As they start to brown, add the mushrooms and cook through.
- In a separate pan, melt the butter on medium high. Sear the scallops lightly on both sides, add salt and pepper to taste.
- Remove the fully-cooked bacon from the pan and dice it up.
- Turn off the heat on the pan with the shallots and mushrooms. Add a splash of vinegar and a dollop of mustard and stir through. Salt and pepper to taste. Then, mix the raw spinach through in the warm pan.
- Deglaze the scallop pan with a splash of white wine. Add to the spinach.
- Assemble salad on plates, add bacon and scallops. Dig in!
This recipe combines two of my very favorite Chinese foods: Peking duck and steamed buns. Wandering through Kroger, we lucked into a cheap piece of duck, and Joe immediately suggested we turn it into Peking duck. However, lacking the skills and drive to make a decent pancake, I decided to transform the dish into “Momofuku-style” steamed buns instead–i.e., assembled post-cooking, rather than with the ingredients cooked inside. I also gave the ingredients my own twist, and I think it turned out pretty tasty!
The recipe for the bun dough is not especially authentic due to the inclusion of butter, but the buns turn out beautifully every time. A Chinese exchange student and I discovered it in an old thrift store cookbook in 2007, and I’ve been making it ever since.
Peking Duck Buns
For the dough
- 2 tsp yeast
- 2 Tbsp regular butter, melted
- 4 cup(s) all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 cup(s) warm water
- 1 tsp table salt
- 2 tsp sugar
For the filling
- 1 duck breast
- 1/4 cucumber, thinly sliced (I used a vegetable peeler to slice mine thinly, and then marinated it in a little rice vinegar and sriracha.)
- 1 spring onion or 1 tbsp red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup Hoisin or plum sauce
For the buns
1. Add warm water, yeast and sugar to a mixing bowl. Proof 5 min.
2 Add butter, salt and flour and start mixing everything into a ball.
3. Knead for about 5 min, until smooth
4. Once the dough is smooth-ish, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise for one hour. Then punch down.
5. Working with a golf-ball sized amount of dough, press dough into a 6-inch round. Place the round on a piece of oiled wax paper and set into a bamboo steamer.** Let sit for 10-20 minutes.
6. Steam over rapidly boiling water for 10-12 minutes. Remove carefully, and beware of the steam built up inside the steamer.
**Depending on the size of your steamer, you’ll probably only be able to fit a few of these in the steamer. I only used 4 for my dish. The rest of the dough I left as unflattened balls and steamed into mantou. Steam these for 15 minutes and serve as a side dish.
For the filling:
- While your dough is rising, score and sear your duck breast. Start it in a cold pan, skin side down, over medium heat. The cold pan will give the fat time to render. When the skin is crisp, flip to lightly brown the other side. Cook to medium rare–this will only take about 5 minutes.
- Cut the duck into thin slices and assemble your cucumber, onion and Hoisin.
- Spread Hoisin sauce generously over a bun pancake. Fill with duck and vegetables as desired.
On Saturday, we like to break from the weekday breakfast routine and enjoy a more relaxed meal. Often, that can just mean eggs and bacon or homemade bagels–anything that feels just a bit more luxurious. And to me, few things feel as luxurious in the morning as a good cup of coffee. Today I’m sharing one of my favorite summer coffees, which is as pretty as it is tasty. Vietnamese(ish) style iced coffee:
I keep thinking this coffee would be such a fun way to jazz up a brunch party, with everyone’s cup brewed individually at the table. I love how dramatic it looks, and really it couldn’t be simpler to make. The only special tool you really need is a Vietnamese-style coffee filter–a pretty cheap investment. (There’s more to brewing a proper cup of Vietnamese-style coffee, but I’m not about that today.)
Vietnamese(ish) Marbled Iced Coffee
- 8oz milk, etc. (I used cashew milk)
- 1/4 cup French grind coffee
- sweetener, to taste
- 1 cup boiling water
- Pour your milk into a cup that leaves room for the coffee and ice
- Remove the damper from the coffee filter, add coffee grounds, replace damper
- Place filter over glass, fill filter to the brim with boiling water.
- Replace filter lid and wait for the coffee to drip through–about 10 minutes. This is when that pretty marbled pattern developes
- After all the water has filtered through, remove filter, add sweetener and ice, stir and enjoy!