cilantro bruschetta on prosciutto

I had the pleasure of dining at a fantastic Tapas restaurant in East Village this Friday with my boyfriend at a place named The Barrel, where among many delicacies they served some excellent bruschetta.  Inspired by the way their tomato topping seemed to burst with freshness on my tongue, I decided to give it a go in my own kitchen, despite my lack of basil.  It turns out cilantro works just as well!

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Cilantro Bruschetta on Prosciutto

Ingredients: (serves 4)

1 large tomato, diced into 1/4″ cubes
1/2 large yellow onion, diced
shredded mozzarella cheese
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 clove garlic, minced
1 baguette, or equivalent bread
prosciutto, thinly sliced
3-4 leaves cilantro (original recipe uses basil), chopped
parsley flakes

Using a sharp knife, dice the tomato as small as you can.  Aim for 1/4″ cubes, and be sure your knife is sharp – dull knives tend to mash the tomato, releasing the juices onto the cutting board, which we don’t want.  We want the juices to explode in our mouths with each bite!

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Next, chop up the raw onion and add it to the mix.  An alternative to using raw onion is to saute it lightly before using on the grill – this gives it a less crunchy, but sweeter flavor.

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Add the minced garlic, chopped cilantro, parsley flakes, salt, and pepper to the mix and drizzle with lemon juice.  Blend, and set the topping aside.

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In a medium skillet, brush both sides of each baguette slice (or French bread, or sourdough in my case) with olive oil and heat until both sides are lightly crispy.  On a plate, top each slice with a generous spoonful of bruschetta topping and mozzarella cheese, and serve with prosciutto garnished with cilantro.  Enjoy!

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homemade chipotle chicken burrito bowl

Greetings from New York!

Since June 3rd, I’ve been spending this summer in lower Manhattan, where I’m interning from June through August at Betterment, an tech startup in the financial services industry.  Although I’ve always appreciated Boston’s cozy feel, I’ve fallen head over heels in love with the city and all of its beautiful chaos.

classic Times Square at night

Times Square at night. Obligatory first picture of New York.

The company is located at the intersection of Little Italy and Chinatown, just a few blocks northeast of Lafayette, where I’m living this summer in an NYU apartment-style dorm.  Food and souvenir vendors populate the alleyways, and I’ve taken a particular liking to this one Asian lady at the corner of Lafayette and Canal who sells strawberries for $1.50 a carton.  $1.50 a carton! 

The beautiful view from Central Park

Although I’ve yet to explore even the most basic of attractions of New York (I keep putting off going to the Met and MoMA…) I spend much of my weekends exploring Manhattan’s many restaurants, skyscrapers, shopping districts, and parks.

Liege waffles with strawberries, belgian chocolate and whipped cream from the wafles and dinges truck outside Central Park. HEAVEN.

Liege waffles with strawberries, belgian chocolate and whipped cream from the wafles and dinges truck outside Central Park. HEAVEN.

Sunset on the Brooklyn Bridge.  Such a beautiful view on my daily runs!

Sunset on the Brooklyn Bridge. Such a beautiful view on my daily runs!

On top of the world at the Empire State Building!

On top of the world at the Empire State Building! Let’s be real: I totally blasted “Empire State of Mind” in the car the afternoon I first moved in.

But anyways, to get to the real motivation behind this post: food!  Living in my own apartment-style dorm suite also means I also have access to my own kitchen, which is pretty sick.

[picture of my awesome fridge of delicious food coming soon]

Although I’ve been pretty good with cooking my own meals and eating healthy so far, the other night I ran flat out of ideas for what to make for dinner.  I had half a tomato, a quarter of an onion, a bag of rice, some leftover sliced cheese, frozen chicken breast and an avocado lying around.

For awhile, I considered ordering from Chipotle, and then it hit me: why order from Chipotle when I could just make my own?

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Homemade Chipotle Chicken Burrito Bowl

Ingredients: (serves 1+)

2 tablespoons guacamole – raw ingredients below
1 cup basmati rice
1 chicken breast
1 clove garlic, minced
mozzarella cheese
1/4 onion, diced
1/2 tomato, diced
2 tsp fresh cilantro, chopped
lemon/lime juice
salt and pepper
optional: tabasco sauce

Cilantro Lime Rice:  Sautee one cup of basmati long-grain rice in a saucepan in one tablespoon of oil until almost translucent.  Add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil, then simmer on low heat for 15-20 minutes until all is cooked through.  Turn off the heat and let it “steam” covered for 15-20 more minutes, then transfer to a bowl and toss with salt, cilantro and lemon/lime juice as you please.

Grilled Chicken:  Marinate one boneless chicken breast in lemon juice and rub generously with salt, pepper, and cajun spice.  Heat up a tablespoon of oil in a saucepan, and add the minced garlic.  Transfer the chicken to the pan when the garlic is barely yellow (wait too long, and it’ll come out charred and bitter!) and flip frequently.  Remove from heat when cooked through but still tender.  Cut into thin, mouth-watering strips.

Guacamole:  Mash one medium to large avocado in a bowl with 1/2 clove garlic.  Add lemon juice and salt, and stir in half a diced tomato, a quarter diced onion and cilantro to taste.  Vegetable proportions may vary, but be careful not to let any one vegetable dominate the taste of the guacamole!  One time I added too much onion to my guac, and I ended up with onion breath for the rest of the night.  Gross. (and TMI, sorry)

mandarin orange salad

If there’s anything Annenberg desperately needs, it’s a reliable supply of mandarin oranges.  On the wonderful days that the salad/deli bar is stocked, I’ll add them to my meal as a side or in a tasty salad.  This recipe is only a small deviation from my tuna pasta salad, as the simple olive oil-white vinegar vinaigrette also happens to work amazingly well with mandarin oranges.  Who knew?

mandarin orange salad 2

mandarin orange salad 3

A variation of the above salad (different spinach leaves and added red onion slivers)

Mandarin Orange Salad

Ingredients: (serves 1)

2 cups spinach leaves
1/2 cup mandarin oranges, drained
2 tablespoons feta cheese (can be substituted with bleu cheese)
olive oil
a dash of white vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
red onion slivers

Combine spinach leaves with mandarin oranges, red onion and cheese in a deep dish platter.  Drizzle olive oil generously over the salad and toss thoroughly.  Add a dash of white vinegar and season with salt and/or pepper to taste. Enjoy!

homemade pizza margherita

So I came to the realization that winter is probably not coming to Virginia this year.

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Or Massachusetts, for that matter.  Although there are still two weeks before I’m back on Harvard’s campus, it seems pretty safe to say that it can only get warmer from here on.

On the other hand, that gave me the perfect excuse to wake up early (i.e. 10:30 AM) this sunny, spring-like Saturday morning to prepare lunch for my family.

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When I was younger, we would often play Mahjong, Texas Hold’Em poker or Scrabble together late into the night, squabbling over pieces and laughing over hilarious betting strategies.  We seldom pull out the board games now that the four of us are so busy, especially with me living away from home, my brother in high school and my parents constantly busy and/or traveling with their work.

But if there’s anything that came close to those memories as a family bonding experience, it was making our own pizzas together this afternoon.  Across the four of us, I swear you can tell Hu’s pizza is Hu’s (ha. get it?) just by gazing upon the toppings.  It’s as if each were a culinary representation of our own diverse personalities, right down to the colors and quantities of what we chose to adorn them with.

My brother, who prides himself on being able to down a whole bottle of Tabasco sauce in one go, decided to top his pizza with an entire minced jalapeño pepper.

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It ended up tasting delicious, proving that more is always merrier, especially when it comes to spicy food.

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My dad never developed a taste for cheese, but his adaptive nature and resourcefulness always made me wonder why restaurants never served more Asian-American fusion dishes.  (You’ve got to love a dad who can cook!)  Although he originally declared himself “not hungry,” he ended up loading as many toppings onto his pizza as could possibly fit, including jalapeño pepper, Chinese linked sausage, and walnuts!

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His pizza was also by far the most photogenic of ours.

My mom has been feeling sick recently, so for us I made classic pizza margherita, a rich blend of olive oil, fresh basil, mozzarella cheese and juicy tomato slices. (sound familiar? I’ve recently become obsessed with the caprese combination!)

While I generally consider myself an adventurous and ambitious person, sometimes you just need to indulge in comfort food in all of its familiarity.

And when it comes down to familiarity, there is nothing more comforting than knowing that although the world has a plan for each of us this next year, for the moment, we are united at home.

At least, for now.

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Homemade Pizza Margherita

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Pizza Dough

Ingredients: (makes 4 medium-sized pizzas)

3.5 to 4 cups flour, plus more for rolling
1 teaspoon sugar
1 envelope instant dry yeast
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1.5 cups water, 110 degrees F
2 tablespoons olive oil

Pizza Margherita

Ingredients: (serves 3)

9-inch thin pizza crust
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 tablespoons tomato sauce
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3-4 large basil leaves, cut into strips
2 small tomatoes, sliced thinly
4 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
other custom toppings (I used Chinese linked sausages and jalapeño peppers)

Pizza Dough:

Combine the bread flour, sugar, yeast and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and combine. While the mixer is running, add the water and 2 tablespoons of the oil and beat until the dough forms into a ball. If the dough is sticky, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together in a solid ball. If the dough is too dry, add additional water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead into a smooth, firm ball.

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Grease a large bowl with the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil, add the dough, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in a warm area to let it double in size, about 1 hour. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Cover each with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let them rest for 10 minutes.

Pizza Margherita:

Preheat the oven to 450 F.  Grease up a cookie sheet and roll the pizza dough out to about 1/4 inch thickness. Use a brush to spread olive oil around it, making sure to get the crust!  Disperse the finely chopped garlic evenly, and then spread tomato sauce and layer evenly with mozzarella cheese.

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Place the thinly sliced tomatoes and basil leaves across the entire pizza, seasoning to taste.  (Optionally, add some minced jalapeño).

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Bake the pizza in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until sufficiently crispy and melted to your liking. Add a little Parmesan cheese and enjoy!

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guacamole fried egg on toast

I’ve been waiting forever for my avocados to ripen.  For the past few days, they’ve been sitting on my countertop in a brown paper bag, just chillin’.  I learned this lesson the hard way — the first time I tried to make myself this dish, the avocado was beyond rock hard and underripe.  Even microwaving and stabbing it repeatedly with a fork made no difference, and I was forced to scrap the entire fruit!  My heart broke a little inside that day.

But this morning, I made myself guacamole (recipe of which is soon to follow) and incorporated it into a light and healthy breakfast.  The best thing about this dish is that it’s not only filling, but also only 450 calories!

Guacamole Fried Egg on Toast

Guacamole Egg Benedict on Toast

Ingredients: (serves 1)

1 slice sourdough bread
1 egg
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons guacamole
1 teaspoon parmesan cheese

Spread olive oil on both sides of sourdough bread slice and heat in small pan, seasoning it accordingly with salt and pepper.  After about a minute, crack one egg beside it in the pan, season it, and continue cooking.  Once the egg is halfway done, scoop it on top of the bread with a spatula and flip the whole thing over for about 10 seconds.  Set aside on plate, top with guacamole and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

braised balsamic chicken with bacon rotini pasta

Today I surprised my family by making a full-course dinner consisting of two dishes: braised balsamic chicken  and a variation of this penne pasta with spinach and bacon.  Having still not finished the blueberry yogurt cookies and apple pie from two days ago, I thought it would be a good idea to transition into cooking “real” food (a.k.a. attempt to cook meat without hideously charring it to bits).

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As it turns out, dinner was a success!  The chicken came out perfectly juicy and the pasta light and crunchy with bacon bits.  As I was clearing away the dishes, my mom jokingly suggested that after tonight’s dinner, she might never have to cook again.  Ha!  Good one.

Braised Balsamic Chicken with Bacon Rotini Pasta

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Braised Balsamic Chicken:

Ingredients: (serves 4)
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into pieces
ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tomatoes, vine or roma, diced
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Season chicken breasts with ground black pepper and garlic salt.  Heat olive oil in a medium skillet, and brown the onion and seasoned chicken breasts.  Pour tomatoes and balsamic vinegar over chicken, and season with basil and thyme. Simmer until chicken is no longer pink and the juices run clear, about 15 minutes.

Rotini Pasta with Bacon:

Ingredients: (serves 4)
1 (12-oz.) package of rotini pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 slices bacon, chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tomato, vine or roma, diced

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.  Add the rotini and cook until tender, 8 to 10 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water (so the noodles don’t stick) and set aside.  Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook bacon until browned and crisp, and then add garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes, and cook until heated through.  Transfer pasta to a large serving bowl, and toss with the remaining olive oil, and the bacon and tomato mixture.

roasted tomato caprese grilled cheese with balsamic vinegar glaze

caprese: [kuh-prey-zey, ‐zee]
adjective, prepared with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil leaves and drizzled with olive oil: a caprese salad; caprese sandwiches; pizza caprese.

a.k.a. SAVORY DELICIOUS GOODNESS. I’m talking Panera-Bread-worthy. Oh my god.  A few weeks ago I tried a similar version of this recipe with avocado as a substitute since basil wasn’t lying around, but after a huge shopping spree at Costco today, I had all the ingredients I needed for this godly creation.

…and boy am I pissed I only made two.

Roasted Tomato Caprese Grilled Cheese with Balsamic Vinegar Glaze

grilled cheese tomato caprese 2

Ingredients: (serves 2)

4 slices sourdough bread
2 tomatos (vine or roma), cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
3-4 ounces fresh mozzarella
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
12-15 basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Place tomatoes on a nonstick baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast the tomatoes for 45-50 minutes.  Meanwhile, add balsamic vinegar to a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes until liquid begins to resemble syrup.  Pour vinegar into a bowl and set aside to sit.

Once tomatoes are finished, brush both sides of each slice of bread with olive oil and place into a large griddle over medium heat.  Add mozzarella cheese to one side, followed by tomatoes, followed by basil leaves, followed by cheese and bread.  Grill until cheese is melted and each side is golden and crispy.

Once the sandwiches are finished, serve immediately and drizzle with balsalmic glaze. Enjoy!

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grilled cheese with roasted tomato and avocado

The holiday spirit is well in season this December, bringing with it a host of  delicious home-cooked meals and sugary temptations.  For myself, coming home from Harvard this winter break was initially both a relief and a shock — gone was Annenberg, but so were its endless options and well-stocked salad bar.  You forget how much you eat in college when you are not limited by the size of your refrigerator or tray.

grilled cheese with tomato and avocado 1

Luckily, there are plenty of healthy options for every meal which are available year-round.  Earlier tonight, I introduced my family to an inspired creation, grilled cheese on seeded country bread with roasted tomato and diced avocado. While the original recipe calls for basil leaves, I made the best of my pantry and replaced it with a creamy guacamole-esque spread instead. Mmmm!

Grilled Cheese with Roasted Tomato and Avocado

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Ingredients: (serves 2)

4 slices whole wheat seeded bread
1 tomato (vine or roma), cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
1 hass avocado
3-4 ounces fresh mozzarella
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Place tomatoes on a nonstick baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast the tomatoes for 45-50 minutes.  Meanwhile, pit and peel avocado.  Dice into as small pieces as possible, and place in a bowl.  Add lemon juice and salt, and mash to your desired consistency.

For the optional balsamic vinegar glaze, add vinegar to a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes until liquid begins to resemble syrup.  Pour vinegar into a bowl and set aside to sit.

Once tomatoes are finished, brush both sides of each slice of bread with olive oil and place into a large griddle over medium heat.  Add mozzarella cheese to one side, followed by tomatoes, followed by avocado, followed by cheese again.  Grill until cheese is melted and each side is golden and crispy.

Once the sandwiches are finished, serve immediately and drizzle with balsalmic glaze. Enjoy.

Much love and many thanks to my friends and family this winter.  Happy Holidays!

spicy hummus dip

Recipe by Remi Y. ’16

Why settle for plain salad-bar hummus when you can make your own? Paired with homemade toasted pita chips, this delicious dip adds a dash of flavor to any meal.

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spicy hummus dip

garnished with a spinach leaf because there wasn’t any parsley. win.

Spicy Hummus Dip

Ingredients: (serves 1)

4 tablespoons hummus (from the salad bar)
A generous amount of olive oil
A dash of ground black pepper
A pinch of spicy red pepper seeds
pita bread

Drizzle olive oil over hummus and add ground black pepper and spicy red pepper seeds.  Pop a few pita bread halves on the toaster (the one with the conveyor rack) and bam, instant pita chips.  Dip, taste and enjoy!

tuna pasta salad

I’ve been enjoying this salad on a daily basis now, so I thought I’d introduce to you the recipe behind one of my favorite healthy creations from Annenberg.  The great thing about this salad is that it is wonderfully filling (thanks to the pasta) and the dash of white vinegar adds just the right touch of acidity to this lightly salted mix, which when combined with blue or feta cheese will make your mouth water.  Mmm.

tuna pasta salad

Tuna Pasta Salad

Ingredients: (serves 1)

1 cup cooked rotini pasta, drained (can be substituted with ziti)
2 cups spinach leaves
3 tablespoons flaked tuna
3 tablespoons feta cheese (can be substituted with bleu cheese)
olive oil
a dash of white vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Combine spinach leaves with pasta, cheese and flaked tuna in a deep dish platter.  Drizzle olive oil generously over the salad and toss thoroughly.  Add a dash of white vinegar and season with salt and/or pepper to taste.  Enjoy!