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)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Refreshing Watermelon and Mint Salad

Watermelon Mint Salad (8 of 8)REFRESHING SUMMER SALAD | Rehydrate with a cooling watermelon salad tossed with lime and mint leaves. 

Yearning for something cooling in the hot summer months? Then look on further than the watermelon. Juicy, sweet and available in seedless varieties, watermelon is not just comprised of water and sugar, but is in fact a nutrient dense food, providing consumers a high amount of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants for a low amount of calories.

So for those craving something refreshing and light, without the associated guilt-trip, try tossing together watermelon cubes, a dash of lime, chopped mint leaves and for those who fancy the extra, some feta and finely sliced red onions. It won’t take you longer than 20 minutes all in all – I promise!

Watermelon Mint Salad (4 of 8).jpgMade up of 92% water and full of important electrolytes, watermelon is a great snack to have on hand during the hot summer months to prevent dehydration.

Watermelon, Mint and Feta Salad

TIME: 20 minutes | SERVES: 4 as a side 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6-7 pound seedless watermelon, cubed
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • Dash of balsamic vinegar
  • Bunch of fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • Small handful of feta (or crumbled feta)
  • 1/4 finely sliced red onion (optional)

METHOD:

  1. Cut a refrigerated watermelon into 2cm cubes and throw into a large salad bowl.Watermelon Mint Salad (1 of 8)
  2. Juice the lime and remove pips. Pour juice into bowl with watermelon cubes.untitled (1 of 1).jpg
  3. Drizzle a dash of balsamic, add the crumbed or cubed feta and the chopped mint. Toss together to ensure watermelon cubes get coated with the lime juice. Garnish with few mint sprigs and sliced red onion. Serve whilst cold. Watermelon Mint Salad (7 of 8).jpg

Jerk Chicken Quinoa Citrus Salad

Jerk Chicken Citrus Quinoa Salad (1 of 21)

PROTEIN PACKED SALAD | A hearty and healthy chicken salad with creamy avocado, nutty quinoa, fresh parsley and lots of bright citrus flavours.

Fancy a touch of the Carribean? Well, look no further than Jerk Chicken. First, let’s clarify: “Jerk” doesn’t mean what you think it means. It means Jamaican BBQ. This well rounded flavour of sweet, hot, herbal and spicy chicken can be served with rice, beans or pasta. In this particular instance, I chose quinoa as I fancied a light dinner after the repetitive days of gluttony over the recent Lunar New Year.

I love quinoa not only due to its health benefits, but because it is so versatile and easy to prepare. Did you know that quinoa is one of the most protein-rich foods we can eat? It is a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids. Furthermore, it is chock full of fibre (good for relieving constipation) and is high in iron and magnesium. For more information about the health benefits of quinoa, click here.

The prime burst of flavor in this salad comes from the jerk chicken. Jerk seasoning boasts elements of sweetness, hotness, herbal-ness and spicy-ness – what a terrific combination to titillate your taste buds. Now, many of you may be wondering whether you can make your own jerk seasoning? Short answer, yes. Can I be bothered tonight? No. Problem with Hong Kong is that jerk seasoning is not easy to find. Thanks to my dear friend Noah though, he managed to grab me some on one of his (many) business trips to the British Virgin Islands.

Jerk Chicken Citrus Quinoa Salad (17 of 21)

Jerk Seasoning…not for “jerks”. Jerk seasoning typically comprises of a mixture of onion, vinegar, cayenne pepper, all spice, cinnamon, black pepper and oil.

As for how I chose to cook the chicken, I opted for the sous vide (my latest cooking gadget addiction) which inevitably takes longer (but results in chicken that is more moist and juicy). Feel free to pan-fry your chicken tenderloins/breast instead if you only have 10-15 minutes to spare (after you marinade it).

Now, for a little light dressing, simply whisk together lime juice, orange juice, olive oil, and a dash of honey. This citrus dressing is so refreshing and light that it won’t overpower the intense flavours from the jerk chicken.

Jerk Chicken Citrus Quinoa Salad (3 of 21)

Jerk Chicken Quinoa Citrus Salad

INACTIVE TIME: 1.5 hours | ACTIVE TIME: 4 minutes | SERVES: 1

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 small chicken tenderloin fillets (or 0.5 pound chicken breast fillet if you prefer)
  • 1 tablespoon jerk seasoning
  • 1 bunch of Italian parsley
  • 1 limes
  • 1 orange
  • 1/2 tablespoon of liquid honey
  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoaJerk Chicken Citrus Quinoa Salad (13 of 21)

METHOD:

  1. Preheat pot of water with the sous vide to the desired temperature. In this case, I set it to 140°F/60°C for cooking the chicken tenderloins. Jerk Chicken Citrus Quinoa Salad (11 of 21)
  2. Marinade chicken tenderloins with the jerk seasoning and place in zip-lock bag. Jerk Chicken Citrus Quinoa Salad (19 of 21)Jerk Chicken Citrus Quinoa Salad (18 of 21)
  3. Once desired temperature is reached, immerse zip lock bag into the pot of water, removing all air via the water immersion method. Leave in the water for 1-1.5 hours.
  4. While chicken is cooking via the sous vide method, prepare the quinoa. Simply place half a cup of uncooked quinoa into a pot set on medium-high and pour in 1 cup of water. Leave to boil, stirring occasionally for 10-15 minutes until cooked. Set aside and leave to cool.Jerk Chicken Citrus Quinoa Salad (12 of 21)Jerk Chicken Citrus Quinoa Salad (9 of 21)
  5. Prepare the salad dressing. Juice one lime and half an orange. In a small bowl, combine these juices together and whisk in half a tablespoon of honey. Set aside.Jerk Chicken Citrus Quinoa Salad (8 of 21)Jerk Chicken Citrus Quinoa Salad (7 of 21)
  6. Chop up the coriander and the remaining half of the orange into small chunks. Dice the avocado into small bite sized chunks. Combine everything with the cooled down quinoa, mixing in the salad dressing.
  7. Once chicken is done in the sous vide, remove from the zip lock bag and pat dry. Heat a heavy cast iron skillet or pan on medium-high heat and coat with a light drizzle of oil. Once oil shimmers throw the chicken tenderloins in and pan-fry until golden brown (~2 minutes each side).  Jerk Chicken Citrus Quinoa Salad (6 of 21)
  8. Remove chicken from pan and slice into smaller bite-sized pieces.Jerk Chicken Citrus Quinoa Salad (14 of 21)
  9. Transfer quinoa salad base into a bowl for serving. Top with the freshly cooked chicken slices and serve while warm.Jerk Chicken Citrus Quinoa Salad (4 of 21)

Persimmon Caprese Salad

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PERSIMMON CAPRESE  | A new twist to one of Italy’s most simple and delicious salads.

Sick of the typical heirloom tomato mozzarella salad combo (aka Insalata Caprese)? Fear not, I’ve come up with a new twist to one of my classical summer salad favourites. Why not substitute the tomatoes for the persimmon fruit? Like the bright redness of tomatoes, the luscious orange glow from persimmons will also provide a sharp contrast in color when juxtaposed against the creamy whiteness of mozzarella cheese.

Persimmons are one of those fruits that, when you catch the right moment of ripeness – which is limited to only one or two days – truly offer a culinary experience of perfection.

Honey sweet and so soft that the skin care barely hold their juicy flesh, they make a perfect complement to Mozzarella di Bufala.

untitled (4 of 15).jpgAs for origins, this delicate fruit is native to China. From China, it spread to Korean peninsula and Japan very long time ago, and later was introduced to California during the middle of the 19th century.

In terms of nutrition, persimmon provides a powerful dosage of vitamin A, offering 55% of the daily value. Vitamin C runs a close second with 21%, plus excellent amounts of manganese, a co-factor for the enzyme superoxide dismutase, for healthy mucous membranes and skin, as well as a known protectant against lung and mouth cancers.

For those who aren’t so regular, persimmons are also an excellent source of fiber. B-complex vitamins are present to stabilise the metabolic system, along with copper and phosphorus.

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Persimmon Caprese Salad

Time: 15 minutes | Serves: 3-4 as a side

Ingredients:

  • 1 mozzarella ball
  • 1 persimmon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon of maple syrup
  • Bunch of fresh basil
  • A handful of walnuts
  • Sprinkle of cumin and cinnamon

Method:

  1. Rip mozzarella ball into bite-size chunks. Slice persimmon into wedges and then into bite-sized chunks. Tear off the leaves of the fresh basil.
  2. Mix walnuts with the cumin and cinnamon spices in a small bowl. On medium-low heat, slowly pan fry the walnuts until golden brown. Remove from slow and let cool.untitled (14 of 15)
  3. Combine olive oil, balsamic and maple syrup in a small bowl.untitled (15 of 15)
  4. Layer the persimmon chunks, mozzarella and basil leaves on a plate in a rustic fashion. Sprinkle the spiced walnuts on top. Drizzle the olive oil balsamic mix on top. If desired, squeeze some aged balsamic vinegar on top in a zig zag fashion for an extra dose of balsamic sweetness.untitled (7 of 15) untitled (3 of 15)untitled (9 of 15).jpg

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)

Cherry Tomato and Roasted Lemon Salad

Roasted Candied Lemon With Mixed Tomato Salad (3 of 32)

I am a sucker for colours. Precisely because of that, I was immediately captivated by the vivid kaleidoscope of colours that deck out the pages in Plenty More, Ottolenghi’s vegetarian cookbookOne usually does not equate healthy produce with good taste but trust me, he somehow manages to make vegetables taste phenomenal as if they have undergone some sort of transformative renaissance.

Flipping through the pages, the tomato and roasted lemon salad caught my eye. Who would have thought one could incorporate lemon rind into a salad? So I’ve made an adaptation to Ottolenghi’s “Tomato, Onion, and Roasted Lemon Salad” since (a) I am not a fan of raw red onions, and (b) nor was I able to lay my hands on pomegranate molasses in Hong Kong (okay, I confess, was too ‘lazy’ to make my own). I simply substituted maple syrup for the molasses.

As the man advises, seek out the sweetest tomatoes you can find to balance out the bitterness of the lemon. I personally don’t find that the local tomatoes in Hong Kong deliver enough taste or sweetness so I bought some juicy cherry tomatoes imported from Holland.

Roasted Candied Lemon With Mixed Tomato Salad (8 of 32)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 medium lemons, halved lengthwise, pips removed and cut withways into 2mm eslices (260g)
  • 3 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon caster sugar
  • 8 sages leaves, finely shredded
  • 400g baby tomatoes, yelllow or red or a mixture of both, halved
  • 1/3 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 10g parsley leaves
  • 15g mint leaves
  • Seeds of 1 small pomegranate (120g)
  • 11/2 tablespoon pomegranate molasses (NB: I used maple syrup instead)
  • 1/2  small red onion, finely sliced (50g)
  • Salt and black pepperRoasted Candied Lemon With Mixed Tomato Salad (28 of 32)

METHOD:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees celsius.
  2. Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil, add the lemon slices and blanch for 2 minutes. Drain well and then place the lemon in a bowl and pour over 1 tablespoon of the oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, the sugar and sage. Gently mix and then spread out exerting on a parchment lined baking tray.  Place in the oven and cook for 20 minutes, until the lemons have died out a little. Remove and set aside and cool.Roasted Candied Lemon With Mixed Tomato Salad (22 of 32)Roasted Candied Lemon With Mixed Tomato Salad (21 of 32)Roasted Candied Lemon With Mixed Tomato Salad (16 of 32)
  3. Place the rest of the ingredients in a bowl along with the remaining oil, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and some black pepper. Add the lemon slices, store gently and serve. 
    Roasted Candied Lemon With Mixed Tomato Salad (14 of 32)

Roasted Candied Lemon With Mixed Tomato Salad (6 of 32)

Simple Caprese Salad

Caprese Salad (2 of 4)

Did you know the Caprese salad was originally made to resemble the colors of the Italian flag: red, white, and green? 

Insalata caprese (literally, the salad from Capri) is the perfect summertime dish for cooks in a hurry. In fact, slicing the delicate mozzarella is the hardest part.

I love the simplicity and refreshing taste of this simple salad. Serve it as an appetiser, as a side, or as a mid-afternoon snack.

For this who want the added richness (and sweetness) of a balsamic glaze, feel free to to make a balsamic reduction to drizzle on top as a final garnish. Now, you’ll notice that on the moist/wet mozzarella, the balsamic reduction starts to seep and run (a watercolor effect )– but on the basil leaves and platter, it remains more of a semi-solid glaze. So if you’re artistic, you can create designs on the sides of your platter to really up the presentation factor.

INGREDIENTS:

  • A pack of maxi mozzarella (250g) or two packs of mozzarella (125g each)
  • A bunch of fresh basil
  • Two round tomatoes
  • Extra virgin oil, to drizzle
  • Balsamic reduction (optional), to drizzle
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste

METHOD:

  1. Slice mozzarella into 1/4 inch slices. Repeat for the tomatoes. Separate basil leaves from their stems.Caprese Salad (4 of 4)
  2. Layer alternating slices of tomatoes and mozzarella, adding a basil leaf between each, on a large, shallow platter. Grind fresh salt and black pepper all over and drizzle with a high quality extra virgin olive oil. For those who like balsamic vinegar, feel free to garnish with a balsamic glaze. Caprese Salad (1 of 4)