Category Archives: Fusion

Flavors from Afar & FM 1410


If you’ve been keeping up with my artizone  posts, the site will launch next month!  Which means, you have only about two more weeks until you’ll be able to have the best artisan products in the city delivered to your front door.  This week I am featuring Flavors from Afar and FM 1410 — two well known names in Dallas.

At Flavors from Afar, the adventuresome duo Nancy and Gary  carries the best  artisan products imported from Italy.  You are able to taste a little part of Italy through the culinary gems that Flavors from Afar has to offer — like the fragrant olive oils of Tuscany or the bold and fruity balsamic vinegars from Modena. Flavors From Afar offers products that makes entertaining elegant and simple — as the Italians would say: Buon Appetito!!

The top chefs of Dallas know Tom well for his fresh herbs and produce.  With a beautiful garden tucked away in the middle of downtown, the treasures from Tom’s garden will redefine anyone’s definition of “fresh”. At FM 1410 it truly is a farm to table experience — full of flavor, life and most importantly, love. 

With the combination of these artisan powers I created these wonderful mini pizzettes — Bacon & Caramelized Onion with Arugula, Basil and Almond Pesto with Red Pepper and Thyme Lobster Mushroom drizzled with Balsamic.  These pizzettes would make a great appetizer or a wonderful afternoon snack.  Not to mention they are also quite healthy (except for the bacon..O_o) and dairy-free!

Ingredients for Mini Pizzettes: (serves 8-10)

  • 12 ounces pizza dough (You can find my pizza dough recipe here or buy storebought dough)

Preheat the oven to 475 F.  Roll out the pizza dough into a 1/4-inch-thick round.  Using a 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 inch diameter cookie cutter, cut out 30 dough circles.  Arrange the circles on 2 large heavy baking sheets (make sure you put semolina on the bottom of the pan to keep the dough from sticking).

Basil Pesto

  • 3 cups Basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup toasted almonds
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup high quality Olive Oil (I used Ariston from Flavors from Afar)
  • 1/2 tsp of salt

Process the garlic, basil and almonds in a food processor.  Pulse until all ingredients are thoroughly chopped, scrapping down the sides as neccessary.  While running the processor, slowly pour in the 1/2 cup olive oil until it reaches the right consistency, you can add more olive oil as needed.  Set aside.

 

Thyme Lobster Mushroom

  • 8 oz Lobster Mushroom, thinly sliced (you can find these at FM 1410)
  • 1 Tb butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 oz Madeira or a sweet cooking wine
  • 2 oz fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 oz high quality Balsamic vinegar (you can find these at Flavors from Afar)
  • salt pepper to taste

Heat a large saucepan on medium high heat and melt the butter til it’s bubbling.  Add in the garlic, shallot and sliced mushrooms and sautee until softened, about 3-4 minutes.  Add in the wine and thyme and cook until liquid is soaked up, taste with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Carmelized Onion & Bacon

  • 6 oz bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 white onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup fresh arugula
  • salt pepper to taste

Heat a large pan on medium high heat add the bacon and cook for 1 minute.  Add the sliced onions and reduce heat to medium.  Caramelize the onions with the bacon, about 8 minutes.   Add the honey and apple cider vinegar and cook until liquid is reduced, add salt pepper to taste.  Set aside

To assemble pizzas

Using the three toppings you’ve made, place them on the pizza dough rounds (about 1 tsp for each).  Bake until the pizzettes are golden brown, about 10 minutes.  Drizzle the pizzettes with olive oil.  For the Bacon Onion and Arugula, simply add some fresh arugula on top and serve.  For the Thyme Lobster Mushroom, drizzle some balsamic vinegar on top and serve.  For the Basil Almond Pesto, add the sliced red pepper and fresh basil leaves for garnish and serve. 

Creme Brulee with Citrus, Cardamom and Star Anise


I apologize for the lack of entries lately — I’ve been completely invested in spending most of my time with my mom, because she’s my favorite.  It’s hard to believe that her visit is soon coming to an end, a week to be exact.  The entire situation still seems surreal to me.  I’m hoping that the day of, I don’t have a complete mental meltdown and cling to my mother’s leg screaming “NO DON’T LEAVE DONT DO IT!” as she’s trying to get out of the car to catch her plane, but I’m not making any promises.  ^_^

It’s been a blast though — we’ve been sharing recipes, she’ll cook her Chinese dishes and I’ll cook her some French American dishes — one of her favorites discoveries has been the creme brulee.  She kept Ooooing and AAAaaahing over this recipe so I figure I’d share it with yall, it’s pretty epic not gonna lie.  Aside from that she’s been feeding me traditional Chinese medicines that make my stomach churn but I take it anyways because apparently it’s good for me (or so she claims). It’s just unfortunate that most of the concoctions she makes taste like feet…   just kidding mom, you’re the best! But seriously, I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out her secret of staying forever young.  I’ll share pictures soon, you’ll see what I mean…

One of the first desserts I learned working in at a French restaurant was the Creme Brulee and Souffle.  Souffle is definitely the more temperamental dessert and the failure rate is much higher than creme brulee — so we’ll warm up to that recipe later.  I love this creme brulee recipe because of its soft delicate texture and of course everyone’s favorite part: the crunchy burnt sugar on top, hence it’s latter name — burnt cream.   Plus it always adds a dash of sophistication and excitement to any dinner party when you bust out the torch!  I mean seriously guys, who doesn’t like a little fire show?

Ingredients for Citrus Cardamom Creme Brulee:

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lime zest
  • 4 tablespoons raw sugar

Preheat oven to 260 degrees F (150 degrees C) and line the bottom of a large baking pan with water.  Bring a large pot of water to boil. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine cream, cardamom, citrus zest and 1/4 cup sugar and salt stirring occasionally 4 to 5 minutes, until steam rises. In a medium bowl, beat egg yolks and vanilla until smooth. Pour hot cream into yolks, a little at a time, stirring constantly, until all cream is incorporated. Pour mixture into four 6 oz. ramekins.

Place ramekins in the baking dish with water and cover the whole pan loosely with foil.  , and place dish on oven rack. Pour boiling water into dish to halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover whole pan loosely with foil. Bake 60 to 75 minutes in the preheated oven, until custard is just set. Chill ramekins in refrigerator 4 to 6 hours.  Before serving, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of raw sugar over each custard. Use a kitchen torch or oven broiler to brown top, 2 to 3 minutes.

Braised Short Ribs in a Red Wine Reduction


I haven’t posted a “fancy schmancy” meal in a while and on a whim I decided to make some braised short ribs.  Not just any short ribs though, but short ribs from Von Geertsem’s Butcher Shoppe. That’s right folks, I get my meats from a personal butcher.  Greg does not charge extra for his artistic meat cutting skills nor do his prices make your wallet hurt.  They’ve actually been the same for the past 3 years.

There’s something special about this place you see, it makes you feel important.  After meeting Greg only one time, the next time I came in he greeted me with a huge smile and a “Hey Joy how are you doing?” How did he remember my name?? But that’s the cool thing about Greg, he remembers everyone’s name — “I have the best customers in the whole world.” he’d tell me and since I am now one of them, I say I’d have to agree! 🙂

Okay with jokes aside, I’ve found that butcher shoppes in America are quickly dwindling down to extinction.  With large chain stores mass producing our meats at a cheaper cost, quality is always the first thing that goes out the window.  Aside from the unsanitary conditions the animals are raised in, many meat producers now pump CO2 gas and Nitrogen to keep their meats nice and pink  for up to 6 weeks.  Ever buy a pack of those steaks that looks nice and rosy on the outside but once you cut into it, it’s a dull and lifeless brown?  That’s why.  You’re buying rotten meat.

That probably makes your stomach churn, because let’s be honest we’ve all seen it and I’m sure most of us probably have eaten it whether you know it or not.  Save yourself.  Find your local butcher.  Strive to find quality products when you cook.  Yes it makes all the difference in the world.  Turning a blind eye to the unsanitary and unethical practicies of mass meat production facilities does not fix the problem — go ahead, explore! If your city does not have a local butcher, buy your meats direct from a livestock farmer.


For this recipe, I originally wanted to make a polenta cake to go along with it — unfortunately I recently transferred a bunch of flours into large UNLABELED containers and instead of using coarse corn meal I believe I used chickpea flour.  Poop. HOWEVER, the ribs were tender and rich and paired perfectly with the lemon thyme corn and vegetable ragout.  A good sign that you’ve made an amazing meal?  All plates are returned polished clean :). I adapted this short rib recipe from Epicurious, it was apparently Daniel Boulud’s recipe which explains the excellent results.  Bon Apetit folks and have a great weekend!

Ingredients for Braised Short Ribs: (serves 4)

  • 3 bottles dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 8 short ribs, trimmed of excess fat
  • Salt and crushed black peppercorns
  • Flour, for dredging
  • 8 large shallots, peeled, trimmed, split, rinsed and dried
  • 2 medium-sized carrots, peeled, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 2 ribs of celery, peeled, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 1 medium-sized leek (white and light-green parts), coarsely chopped, washed and dried
  • 10 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 6 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 bay leaves and 2 thyme sprigs
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 quarts unsalted beef broth
  • Freshly ground white pepper
  • Pour the wine into a large saucepan set over medium heat. When the wine is hot, carefully set it aflame. Let the flames die out, then increase the heat so that the wine boils; allow it to boil until it cooks down by half. Remove from the heat.

    Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350°F.

    Warm the oil in a large, heavy, ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Season the ribs all over with salt and the crushed pepper. Dust half of the ribs with about 1 tablespoon flour. Then, when the oil is hot, slip the ribs into the pot and sear 4 to 5 minutes on each side, until well-browned. Transfer the ribs to a plate. Repeat with remaining ribs. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pot, lower the heat under the pot to medium and toss in the vegetables and herbs. Brown the vegetables lightly, 5 to 7 minutes, then stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute.

    Add the wine, ribs and broth to the pot. Bring to a boil, cover tightly and place in the oven to braise for 2 1/2 hours or until the ribs are very tender. Every 30 minutes, skim and discard fat from the surface. (It’s best to make the recipe to this point, cool and chill the ribs and broth in the pan overnight; scrape off the fat the next day. Rewarm before continuing.)

    Carefully transfer the meat to a platter; keep warm. Boil the pan liquid until it has reduced to 1 quart. Season with salt and white pepper and pass through a fine strainer; discard the solids. (The ribs and sauce can be combined and kept covered in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. Reheat gently, basting frequently, on top of the stove or in a 350°F oven.)

    ** For the red wine reduction I tasted the meat juices and felt it needed a little bit of sugar.  I added 1/4 cup of brown sugar and allowed the liquids to reduce into a syrupy consistency, about 15 minutes on high heat.  To serve, plate the sides of your choice (I’ve chosen corn and vegetable ragout), place the meat on top and drizzle with the reduction.

    

    Poached Eggs with Smoked Provolone and Pistou


    As I’ve mentioned before, my mother will be moving back to Shanghai this year — September 14th to be exact.  I’m picking her up from Houston this weekend where she will come to stay with me and Collin in Dallas before she goes home.

    A bittersweet feeling for sure, the child in me screams “DON’T LEAVE! WHAT WILL I DO WITHOUT YOU?” but I know it’s for the best.  For years my mother has sacrificed her own personal happiness for mine, I could tell she always missed China.  Her food always evoked her longing — I remember as a child I’d always complain “AW MAN MA, CHINESE AGAIN??” But now I realize it was one of the few connections she had to home.

    Week after week it was always something different — braised pork belly, sauteed peat shoots, tea smoked duck, herbal chicken soup — I lived like a king when it came to food, I knew I had it good.  Now that she’s leaving, I wanted to keep my mother behind with me, through her recipes.

    I really look forward to learning traditional Chinese cuisine and at the same time exposing my mother to the different types of cuisines I make at home.  A month’s worth of cooking adventures with my mother in my new kitchen, can life be any better?  I can’t wait for everyone to meet her, she is truly the sweetest, cutest and the most talented lady I know.  You’ll see 🙂

    I made this healthy breakfast over the weekend — I love poaching eggs because it’s a great alternative to frying and you still get the same delicate texture and of course the best part, the runny yolk.  I got my recipe from Epicurious and made a few minor changes — I used less oil and used Smoked Provolone.  I really enjoyed the addition of the Pistou, very bold in flavors but light in textures — a great breakfast for the summer.

    Ingredients for Poached Eggs with Pistou: (serves 2)

    • 1/3 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
    • 1/2 small garlic clove
    • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 4 large eggs
    • 2 1/2-inch-thick slices french bread, toasted
    • Smoked Provolone cheese shavings

    Puree basil, garlic, and oil in mini processor until very smooth. Season pistou to taste with salt and pepper.

    Add enough water to medium skillet to measure 1 1/4 inches. Sprinkle salt generously into water. Bring water to simmer over medium heat. Crack eggs 1 at a time and gently slip into water. Cook until egg whites are just set and egg yolks are still runny, about 3 minutes.

    Place hot toasts on plates. Top each with Parmesan. Using slotted spoon, transfer 2 eggs, well drained, to each piece of brioche. Sprinkle eggs with salt and pepper. Drizzle with some of pistou and serve.

    Dover Sole with a Raw Summer Coucous


    There are many things in life that are unpredictable — but there’s one thing I’ve always believed every person is able to control and that is his/her health.  Sure we are inclined to certain genetic factors, however by maintaining a healthy diet, exercise regimen and an overall spiritual well-being we can insure ourselves a better life.  Too often I will see friends and family eating foods that clearly are not beneficial to them, whether it be processed foods like microwavable meals, mystery meats or foods high in sugars and sodium found in candies and snacks to high saturated fats in meats, cheeses and fried foods.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m no saint myself. There will be times where there are no other options but the bad, but what can you do? Socially ostracize yourself and only eat at home?  Subjecting yourself to a life of healthy eating but suffer the consequences of lonely solitude?  No not necessarily.  But being conscious of what we put into our bodies is better than living in ignorance, which in this case will not bring you bliss but a myriad of health problems — high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes just to name a few.

    Maybe next time when you go out to eat with friends, opt out for the vegetarian option or maybe a salad (with no dressing). With most lessons in life, prevention is key, the whole “better safe than sorry” shpeal makes a lot more sense now that I’m older.  How can you even imagine enjoying your retirement when you can barely climb up a flight of stairs?  Or not be able to travel on a plane or even a train because of your heart condition?  How can your mind possibly be in a good mood when everything inside your body constantly hurts?  These are all important things we need to think about at an early age, and for those that are older, it is never too late to change.

    I received this e-mail this week from Mommy Wells about causes of cancer along with cancer prevention techniques and really wanted to share it with you guys.  The following information was obtained from John Hopkins Research —

    • Every person has cancer cells in the body. These cancer
      cells do not show up in the standard tests until they have
      multiplied to a few billion. When doctors tell cancer patients
      that there are no more cancer cells in their bodies after
      treatment, it just means the tests are unable to detect the
      cancer cells because they have not reached the detectable
      size.
    • Cancer cells occur between 6 to more than 10 times in a
      person’s lifetime.
    • When the person’s immune system is strong the cancer
      cells will be destroyed and prevented from multiplying and
      forming tumors.
    • When a person has cancer it indicates the person has
      nutritional deficiencies. These could be due to genetic,
      but also to environmental, food and lifestyle factors.
    • To overcome the multiple nutritional deficiencies, changing
      diet
      to eat more adequately and healthy, 4-5 times/day and by including supplements will strengthen the immune system.
    • An effective way to battle cancer is to starve the cancer
      cells by not feeding it with the foods it needs to multiply.

    Cancer Cells Feed On:

    • Sugar substitutes like NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful, etc are made with Aspartame and it is harmful. A better natural substitute would be Manuka honey or molasses, but only in very small amounts. Table salt has a chemical added to make it white in color Better alternative is Bragg’s aminos or sea salt.
    • Milk causes the body to produce mucus, especially in the gastro-intestinal tract. Cancer feeds on mucus. By cutting off milk and substituting with unsweetened soy milk cancer cells are being starved.
    • Cancer cells thrive in an acid environment. A meat-based diet is acidic and it is best to eat fish, and a little other meat, like chicken. Meat also contains livestock antibiotics growth hormones and parasites, which are all harmful, especially to people with cancer.
    • A diet made of 80% fresh vegetables and juice, whole grains, seeds, nuts and a little fruits help put the body into an alkaline environment. About 20% can be from cooked food including beans. Fresh vegetable juices provide live enzymes that are easily absorbed and reach down to cellular levels within 15 minutes to nourish and enhance growth of healthy cells. To obtain live enzymes for building healthy cells try and drink fresh vegetable juice (most vegetables including bean sprouts) and eat some raw vegetables 2 or 3 times a day. Enzymes are destroyed at temperatures of 104 degrees F (40 degrees C)
    • Avoid coffee, tea, and chocolate, which have high caffeine Green tea is a better alternative and has cancer fighting properties. Water-best to drink purified water, or filtered, to avoid known toxins and heavy metals in tap water. Distilled water is acidic, avoid it.
    • Meat protein is difficult to digest and requires a lot of digestive enzymes. Undigested meat remaining in the intestines becomes putrefied and leads to more toxic buildup.
    • Cancer cell walls have a tough protein covering. By refraining from or eating less meat it frees more enzymes to attack the protein walls of cancer cells and allows the body’s killer cells to destroy the cancer cells.

    Cancer is a disease of the mind, body, and spirit. A proactive and positive spirit will help the cancer warrior be a survivor. Anger, un-forgiveness and bitterness put the body into a stressful and acidic environment. Learn to
    have a loving and forgiving spirit. Learn to relax and enjoy life.

    Cancer cells cannot thrive in an oxygenated environment. Exercising daily, and deep breathing help to get more oxygen down to the cellular level. Oxygen therapy is another means employed to destroy cancer
    cells.

    1. No plastic in microwaves.

    2. No water bottles in freezer.

    3. No plastic wrap in microwave.

    Dioxin chemicals cause cancer, especially breast cancer. Dioxins are highly poisonous to the cells of our bodies. Don’t freeze your plastic bottles with water in them as this releases dioxins from the plastic. Recently, Dr Edward Fujimoto, Wellness Program Manager at Castle Hospital , was on a TV program to explain this health hazard. He talked about dioxins and how bad they are for us. He said that we should not be heating our food in the microwave using plastic containers. This especially applies to foods that contain fat. He said that the combination of fat, high heat, and plastics releases dioxin into the food and ultimately into the cells of the body. Instead, he recommends using glass, such as Corning Ware, Pyrex or ceramic containers for heating food. You get the same results, only without the dioxin. So such things as TV dinners, instant ramen and soups, etc., should be removed from the container and heated in something else. Paper isn’t bad but you don’t know what is in the paper. It’s just safer to use tempered glass, Corning Ware, etc. He reminded us that a while ago some of the fast food restaurants moved away from the foam containers to paper The dioxin problem is one of the reasons. Also, he pointed out that plastic wrap, such as Saran, is just as dangerous when placed over foods to be cooked in the microwave. As the food is nuked, the high heat causes poisonous toxins to actually melt out of the plastic wrap and drip into the food. Cover food with a paper towel instead.

    What better way to share healthy information than to pair it with a healthy (yummy) recipe? 🙂 I discovered Dover Sole while working at a French restaurant, since then it has become one of my favorite fish.  The meat is very delicate and moist, but because it is very thin it cooks very quickly.  Therefore, when cooking your dover be sure not to over cook the fish or it will taste dry.

    I paired the dover with a raw summer couscous that I found in Raw, a cookbook written by Charlie Trotter and Roxanne Klein.  I found it interesting that they put red grapes with the cauliflower.  I was quite hesitant about it at first but it really put the finishing touches on the couscous itself, providing a very nice sweetness and playfulness to this dish both in flavors and textures.

    Ingredients for Raw Summer Couscous:

    • 1 cup cauliflower, finely chopped
    • 1/8 cup red bell pepper, small diced
    • 1/8 cup yellow bell pepper, small diced
    • 1/8 cup parsley, minced
    • 1 cup grapes, washed and halved
    • 1/2 cup radish, small diced
    • 1/8 cup raw honey
    • 1/2 lemon squeezed
    • salt pepper to taste

    In a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice and honey together.  Place the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix with honey lemon mixture.  Taste with salt and pepper.  Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes and serve with dover sole.

    Ingredients for Dover Sole: (serves 2)

    • 2 x 6oz dover sole fillets
    • 1 tbsp butter
    • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
    • 1 teaspoon shallot, minced
    • salt pepper to taste

    In a large sauce pan melt the butter over medium heat (about 4-6) and once it is bubbling add the minced garlic and saute for about a minute.  Season the fillets lightly with salt and pepper and fry 3 minutes on each side (depending on the thickness of the fillets it may take longer, but remember that the fish will also continue to cook once it is taken off the pan so plan accordingly!). You can check the “doneness” of the fish by using the tip of the knife or fork — if it pierces through the flesh easily, it is done, if it still feels rubbery it needs more cooking time. Serve immediately with couscous.

    To Plate:

    I topped my plate off with some orange segments — I always love a little citrus with my fish.  Feel free to leave it off.  Using a hollowed out can or cookie ring cutter (I used a 4″ ring), fill the mold with the couscous mixture.  Immediately plated the fish once it has finished cooking and garnish with orange segments.  This dish would go well with a glass of Pinot Grigio or a Sauvignon Blanc.

    I think dishes like these are perfect for the summer.  The contrast in textures, the whimsical bright colors and flavors — all it takes is a little creativity to make eating healthy…fun! Bon appetit and hope everyone is having a fabulous summer :).