Grilled Asparagus with Torn Bocconcini and Persimmon

Grilled asparagus with persimmon and mozzarella (12 of 14)

CHARRED ASPARAGUS | A rich juxtaposition of vibrant colours to brighten up your dinner parties

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of asparagus? Well, for me, it is ‘versatility’. That’s right, asparagus is amazing versatile: steam, simmer, roast, batter, grill, pan-fry, or wok-fry – these are all the ways in which you can cook this delectably crisp and sweet vegetable. Heck, you can even slice it thinly and incorporate it into a salad in raw form.

The cooked spears can sport a variety of guises. Simple salt and pepper seasoning with butter or olive oil will often do the trick. For something fancier, try drizzling it with a beurre blanc sauce.  Or for an even bolder treatment, try a mixture of anchovies, garlic, olives and chiles.

How to shop for asparagus? First, at the market, look for spears that are brightly colored and have compact, tightly closed tips. Spears that are ridged or look dry have lost their flavor. Check the root ends to see how dried out they are; if they are truly brown, reach for a different bundle.

How to best cook asparagus? For stovetop cooking, a stainless steel or enamel-coated cast-iron pot is best. If you’re stir-frying, you’ll need a wok or a deep-sided cast iron skillet. For roasting, use a baking sheet or a small roasting pan.

For now, I am going to show you how to grill asparagus on a cast-iron pan and finish it off with a topping that comprises of torn bocconcini and diced persimmon.

Grilled asparagus with persimmon and mozzarella (7 of 14)

Grilled Asparagus with Torn Bocconcini and Persimmon

COOK TIME: 3-5 mins | PREP TIME: 10 min | TOTAL TIME: 15 min | SERVES: 4 (side)

Ingredients:

  • One pack of asparagus (NB: thicker ones are better for grilling)
  • 100g of bocconcini or buffalo mozzarella
  • One persimmon
  • Sea salt and black pepper,  to season
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon
  • Drizzle of Pukara’s caramelised balsamic vinegar (optional)Grilled asparagus with persimmon and mozzarella (2 of 14)

Method:

  1. Clean asparagus and cut off about 0.5cm at the root end.Grilled asparagus with persimmon and mozzarella (1 of 14)
  2. Heat grill pan on medium-high, brush with oil. Grill asparagus until charred on both sides, roughly 3-5 minutes or so depending on thickness of the stems. During the grilling process, season with some salt and crack the good old black pepper.Grilled asparagus with persimmon and mozzarella (3 of 14)
  3. Chop persimmon into 1cm cubes. Break bocconcini or mozzarella into bite size pieces.Grilled asparagus with persimmon and mozzarella (6 of 14)Grilled asparagus with persimmon and mozzarella (4 of 14)
  4. Once asparagus is charred evenly on both sides, layer on serving plate.Grilled asparagus with persimmon and mozzarella (5 of 14)
  5. Topple the green stems with the torn bocconcini and diced persimmon to get the rich juxtaposition of bright colours. Grate some lemon zest and drizzle with some balsamic glaze to finish (optional).     Grilled asparagus with persimmon and mozzarella (8 of 14) Grilled asparagus with persimmon and mozzarella (13 of 14)Grilled asparagus with persimmon and mozzarella (14 of 14)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grilled vanilla peaches on truffled ricotta rye

Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (23 of 26)

VANILLA DREAM | Vanilla and maple glazed peaches layered on a  ‘truffled-up’ ricotta rye toast.

If the thought alone of grilled peaches is enough to excite your taste buds, try adding a smidgen of vanilla bean and a dash of maple before subjecting them to grill pan. Trust me, you won’t regret. It adds that extra oomph of sophistication to coat the soft, warm fruit.

These grilled peaches are as versatile as you want them to be. Serve them as a dessert, with vanilla bean ice-cream and drizzle of warm balsamic if you may. For me though, since the occasion was to host  a birthday lunch for my dear friend, I decided to deploy them as a convincing starter.

With the aid of creamy ricotta – which I magnificently combined with a drizzling of Pukura’s much loved truffle flavoured extra virgin olive oil (yes, going gourmet I am) – you can transform this simple fruit into an attractive starter even for the most discerning palate. Simply grill some sourdough or rye bread and spread a generous layer of the truffled-up ricotta cheese, then top with two slices of these grilled peaches. Finish with a drizzle of reduced balsamic glaze and chopped mint for garnish. Voila…a crowd pleaser.

Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (18 of 26)

A simple to make crowd pleaser sure to impress even the most discerning palate.

Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (26 of 26)

Crostini anyone?

Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (20 of 26)

Grilled Vanilla Peaches on Truffled Ricotta Rye

Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (12 of 26)

INGREDIENTS (makes 5-6):

  • 250g tub of ricotta
  • 6 slices of rye bread, cut 1 cm thick and about a palm size each.
  • 2 peaches, cut into wedges  (1/8th each).
  • 1 vanilla bean (substitute for powder of essence if desired)
  • 1 tablespoon of maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon of Pukara’s truffle extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of truffle salt (optional)
  • Balsamic glaze (or reduce one cup of balsamic vinegar)
  • Handful of shredded mint (for garnish)

Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (19 of 26)

METHOD:

  1. Wash peaches, pat dry. Slice open and take out seed. Cut into 8 wedges.Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (7 of 26).jpg
  2. Mix cut peaches with vanilla bean (I have a vanilla bean grinder) and tablespoon of maple syrup.Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (8 of 26)
  3. Turn heat on grill pan on high. After pan heats up, layer wedges on the pan and grill until beautiful char marks form on both sides (roughly 2-3 minutes each side). Be careful not to overdo it.Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (10 of 26)
  4. In the meantime, mix the ricotta with the truffle oil using a tablespoon. Add a pinch of truffle salt (or regular salt) and combine thoroughly.Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (2 of 26)Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (4 of 26)
  5. Toast the rye or sourdough bread on a grill pan or oven. Generously spread the done up ricotta over each toast. Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (11 of 26)
  6. Layer 2 grilled peaches on top of each crostini. Drizzle with balsamic glaze. Finish off with a sprinkle of the shredded mint for garnish. Serve while warm. Enjoy!Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (18 of 26)

 

Buffalo Mozzarella with Orange, Coriander Seeds and Lavender Oil

Burrata with Oranges, Coriander Seeds, and Lavender Oil (11 of 25)MOZZARELLA WITH A CITRUS SPARK | In lieu of tomatoes, mozzarella also pairs well with citrus fruits and a hint of lavender oil.

Debuted my new NOPI cookbook by making a quick adaptation of one of the restaurant’s signature dishes: the burrata with blood orange, coriander, and lavender seeds. Burrata with Oranges, Coriander Seeds, and Lavender Oil (2 of 2)According to Yotam Ottolenghi, customers come to NOPI for this dish alone and they sell about 1,000 each month!

However, much to my frustration, I struggled to find good quality burrata today at Citysuper (a high-end supermarket in Hong Kong). Nor was I able to source for blood oranges. Consequently, in lieu of burrata, a good quality buffalo mozzarella had to suffice. And in lieu of blood oranges, a regular orange had to do.

So what exactly is burrata? First, let’s be clear and stress what burrata is not. It is not mozzarella. While made from buffalo milk, burrata is not buffalo mozzarella. You will know the difference between the two when you taste it (warning though – you may not turn back to buffalo mozzarella after tasting the rich inner creaminess of a high quality burrata).

The outer shell is pure mozzarella, moulded like a a pouch, while the softer inside oozes a delicate mixture of mozzarella and cream when the ball is pulled apart.

In greater detail, mozzarella is what’s called a pulled curd or pasta filata cheese, which means that it’s formed from the elastic curd of fresh milk, still warm and straight from the vat. Burrata is made of that same stringy cheese, but is formed not into a solid ball, but into a little hollow pouch, which is then filled with fresh cream and soft stringy bits of curd, the ritagli, or rags, remaining after mozzarella making. It’s all tied off at the top, and then wrapped in the fronds of an Italian plant called asphodel (a relative of the leek).

Perhaps much of the confusion between the two stems from tradition, whereby the cheesemaking process for burrata stemmed from mozzarella – i.e., burrata was made in order to rescue the little scraps of mozzarella di bufala that were leftover in the cheesemaking vat.

Nonetheless, originating from the Puglia region of Italy, Burrata is in its own class entirely – you will know the second you taste it.Burrata with Oranges, Coriander Seeds, and Lavender Oil (18 of 25)Burrata is second to none and worth seeking out but a buffalo milk mozzarella can be used as an alternative.

Buffalo Mozzarella with orange, coriander seeds and lavender oil.

Time: 20 minutes | Serves: 2-3 as a side

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 large mozzarella/burrata ball (150g)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon clear runny honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried lavender
  • 1/4 small clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tablespoon coriander seeds, toasted
  • 1 blood orange or 1 large sized orange
  • 5g basil leaves (shredded or hand torn) or micro-basil leaves
  • Coarse sea salt and extra virgin olive oil to drizzleBurrata with Oranges, Coriander Seeds, and Lavender Oil (1 of 25)

METHOD:

  1. Place oil in a small saucepan with the honey, lavender, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a simmer on medium-low heat and remove at once. Set aside to cool.Burrata with Oranges, Coriander Seeds, and Lavender Oil (2 of 25)
  2. Use a small paring knife to trim the tops and tails off the orange. Cut down the sides of the orange, and follow the natural curve to remove the skin and white pith. Depending on the size of your orange, slice into 6-8 rounds, ~0.8cm each, and remove the pips.Burrata with Oranges, Coriander Seeds, and Lavender Oil (3 of 25)
  3. Divide the orange slices on a clean white plate, slightly overlapping. Place burrata/mozzarella ball alongside. Spoon the coriander seeds and lavender oil over the cheese and orange, top with the shredded basil leaves or the micro-basil left whole. Lightly drizzle with some additional extra high quality extra virgin olive oil and serve. Burrata with Oranges, Coriander Seeds, and Lavender Oil (21 of 25) Burrata with Oranges, Coriander Seeds, and Lavender Oil (17 of 25)

Baked Scallops with White Wine and Pancetta

Baked Scallops with Pancetta and White Wine (1 of 1)

SCALLOP-MANIA | Large sea scallops are kept in their shell and dosed with a mixture of garlic, pancetta and white wine before being baked to perfection.

Hankering for a quick and easy dinner but also concerned about sustainability? Scallops make a smart seafood choice. Not only are they convenient and cook in less than 5 minutes, they pair beautifully with other dinner staples such as pasta, quinoa, or couscous.

Besides pan-frying scallops, another quick and succulent way to cook scallops are to drizzle them with a mixture of white wine, olive oil, diced garlic, and strips of pancetta, and then let them bake in the oven. This has got to be the easiest “hands-free” way to cook scallops. Delicious.

Oven-roasted Scallops with Pancetta and Garlic (3 of 6)

Baked Scallops with White Wine and Pancetta

PREP TIME: 5 minutes | BAKE TIME: 10 minutes | TOTAL TIME: 15 minutes | SERVES: 6

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 strips of pancetta, diced
  • 3 tablespoons of a dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons of freshly minced garlic
  • Chopped freshly coriander, to garnish

METHOD:

  1. Keeping the shells intact, gently wash the scallops and pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Lay scallops on a roasting tray lined with parchment paper. Spoon half a tablespoon of olive oil onto each scallop, and top with ~1/2 slice of diced pancetta. Top with another 1/2 tablespoon of dry white wine and cover with 1/2 tablespoon of minced garlic.Proscuitto Baked Scallops with Garlic and White Wine (2 of 10)
    Oven-roasted Scallops with Pancetta and Garlic (1 of 6)
  3. Repeat process for the other scallops. Once done, stick the roasting tray into a preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes. Serve by garnishing each scallop with some chopped coriander.
    Proscuitto Baked Scallops with Garlic and White Wine (9 of 10)

 

 

Grilled Squid With Lemon, Garlic, and Cumin

Grilled squid with cumin, garlic, and lemon (9 of 10)

Squid Attack! Last week after catching up over brunch with some friends at Cupping Room in Wan Chai (one of the more casual and decent brunch places in HK with coffee on par with Sydney standards) I walked pass the wet markets and saw some fresh squid eyeing me back. Picked two of these up and subjected them to the grill.

These slimy creatures are capable of providing the body with 90% of copper, a trace mineral which plays a role in the absorption, storage and metabolism of iron and the formation of red blood cells (nb: copper deficiency may show in the form of anemia). What’s more, squid is good for those of us who are stressed out as it is rich in magnesium, which is able to relax nerves and muscles. Squid is also a good source of protein, helping us maintain healthy hair, skin, muscles, and nails.

Squid is a sustainable seafood that is easy to cook in seconds. Here is a simple recipe that I adapted.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 squids, cleaned
  • 1 lemon, zest only
  • Pinch of cumin
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1 garlic clove, diced finely
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 diced chilli (optional)

METHOD:

1) Instead of slicing the squid into rings, aim for a concertina effect with the squid sliced, but still holding together. To achieve this with ease, simply push a large knife inside the ‘tube’ of the squid and and leave it inside flat on its side. With a sharp knife, slice the squid as if you were going to chop it into rings. The knife that is lying inside the body of the squid will prevent you from slicing right through.

Grilled squid with cumin, garlic, and lemon (1 of 8)

2) Mix the olive oil, garlic, lemon zest, cumin and sea salt in a bowl and rub it all over the squid. Throw in a diced chilli if you like some heat. Marinade for 1-2 hours.

Grilled squid with cumin, garlic, and lemon (3 of 8)

3) Heat a griddled grill pan till it gets smoking hot. Remove squid from marinade and lay them flat on the grill. Flip after 2 minutes each side to get those lovely charred marks.

Grilled squid with cumin, garlic, and lemon (2 of 10)

4) Serve squid on a warmed plate with a sprinkling of sea salt and a wedge of lemon.

Grilled squid with cumin, garlic, and lemon (8 of 10)

Light and Easy Cucumber Ribbon Salad

Cucumber Ribbon Salad (7 of 8)

If you are looking for an asian inspired light and simple side ‘salad’ dish to balance out your heavier mains, then look no further than the dependable cucumber.

Eating cucumbers raw is a good and natural way to keep your skin looking youthful. Cucumbers are extremely hydrating so will keep your skin looking plump. What’s more, the silica in cucumbers will help your joints, bones, and connective tissues, all key components as you age (NB: It’s actually the skin of the cucumber where most of the nutrition comes from). Did you know that a half-cup of sliced cucumbers has 8 calories and more than 10% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K?

Since I’m all about the spirit of “sharing is caring”, I’m now going to share with you an easy cucumber salad that requires nothing more than a cucumber, a vegetable peeler, some rice vinegar, sesame oil and sprinkle of sugar (optional).

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 large cucumber
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sugar (optional)

METHOD:

1) If you plan to use sugar, bring the vinegar and sugar to a simmer in a pot, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Then cool at room temperature. If you don’t plan to use sugar, you can simply skip this step and toss the vinegar with the sesame oil along with the cucumber ribbons in step 3.

2) Wash cucumber and grab your vegetable peeler to peel the cucumber lengthwise to form ribbons.

Cucumber Ribbon Salad (4 of 8)3) Add the sesame oil and the cooled vinegar solution and toss everything together. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

(NB: Do not let the dressed cucumber salad stand for more than 20 minutes before serving or else it will go soggy.)

Cucumber Ribbon Salad (5 of 8)

Cucumber Ribbon Salad (8 of 8)

Prosciutto Wrapped Baby Asparagus Rolls

Proscuitto wrapped baby asparagus rolls (2 of 3) Once again, was itching to make something “new” tonight. Purchased some baby asparagus late last week and bought some prosciutto this morning. So I thought to myself, why not make some wrapped prosciutto baby asparagus bundles? A fancy and delicious appetizer of tender-crisp asparagus wrapped in salty prosciutto that comes together in only ten minutes and requires only two ingredients. Sophistication made easy.

Before I begin, let me highlight some interesting health benefits of asparagus. Did you know that this herbaceous plant—along with avocado, kale and Brussels sprouts—is a particularly rich source of glutathione, a detoxifying compound that helps break down carcinogens and other harmful compounds like free radicals. This is why eating asparagus may help protect against and fight certain forms of cancer, such as bone, breast, colon, larynx and lung cancers.

Asparagus is also packed with antioxidants, ranking among the top fruits and vegetables for its ability to neutralize cell-damaging free radicals. This, according to preliminary research, may help slow the aging process.

One more benefit of asparagus: It contains high levels of the amino acid asparagine, which serves as a natural diuretic, and increased urination not only releases fluid but helps rid the body of excess salts. This is especially beneficial for people who suffer from edema (an accumulation of fluids in the body’s tissues; sadly, something I am prone to with my swollen legs) and those who have high blood pressure or other heart-related diseases. So let’s proceed with the steps behind creating this appetizer to deceptively impress your guests (“deceptive” because in actual fact, this simple appetizer barely takes no longer than ten minutes to prepare).

INGREDIENTS:

  • Pack of baby asparagus
  • Pack of Prosciutto

Proscuitto wrapped baby asparagus rolls (1 of 17) METHOD:

1) Wash asparagus and pat dry, cut woody ends off. Gather 5 baby asparagus together to form neat bundles. Begin at the top of the asparagus spears and wrap prosciutto in a downward spiral until ~1.5-2 inches away from the bottom stem. Proscuitto wrapped baby asparagus rolls (2 of 17) 2) Continue wrapping all the separate bundles. Proscuitto wrapped baby asparagus rolls (4 of 17) 2) Place a skillet on medium-high heat and add some classic olive oil. Swirl the pan.

3) Working in batches so as not to crowd the pan, place the wrapped asparagus spears in the hot pan and cook until prosciutto is crisp and browned and asparagus is tender-crisp, about 2-3 minutes per side. Proscuitto wrapped baby asparagus rolls (5 of 17) Proscuitto wrapped baby asparagus rolls (9 of 17) 4) Remove asparagus to a plate lined with a paper towel to drain while you cook the remaining spears. Serve promptly while hot.
Proscuitto wrapped baby asparagus rolls (Close up) (2 of 3) Proscuitto wrapped baby asparagus rolls (Close up) (1 of 1)