“Life is as peachy as I make it to be”—A Peachy Dish

While reading some quotes about food today, I came across an interesting proverb: “An apple is an excellent thing—until you have tried a peach” (George du Maurier, 1834-1896). True? Maybe it is time to try another dish with peach.

Ingredients:

- One fresh peach - About 1/3 pound of tuna fillet - One cob of corn - About 1 ounce of beech mushroom - About 1 to 2 ounces of yellow chive - About 1 to 2 ounces of sweet pea leaves - 1 to 2 cups of plain yogurt - cooking wine - salt

– One fresh peach
– About 1/3 pound of tuna fillet
– One cob of corn
– About 1 ounce of beech mushroom
– About 1 to 2 ounces of yellow chive
– About 1 to 2 ounces of sweet pea leaves
– 1 to 2 cups of plain yogurt
– cooking wine
– salt

Procedure:

Meanwhile:

image-plating1

The succulent taste and the sweet smell of the peach go wonderfully well with the sautéed tuna. After all, it is fun to try a new ingredient as juicy and tender a peach. As another adage says, “Life is as peachy as I make it to be.”

“Life is as peachy as I make it to be.”

       “Life is as peachy as I make it to be.”

Diversity at School Lunch—Is It Necessary and Realistic?

I came across an interesting article in today’s The Washington Times: some schools in Des Moines, Iowa are working to make their lunches more ethnically diverse — adding meals like enchiladas with pinto beans and chicken rice with sweet and sour sauce. They are doing so to accommodate an increasingly diverse student population. To read this news article, click here.

Delving deeper into the article, I see that one of the triggers for this new initiative is that some immigrant students went home for lunch and never returned to their afternoon classes. To keep the students on campus and to show hospitality, the schools came up with this diversity lunch idea.

This is a wonderful initiative. I applaud the kindness and generosity of the schools!

But is it necessary? Or, is it realistic for most schools to serve tacos, fried rice, chicken nuggets, etc., all at the same time?

Logistically, serving lunch items from different food cultures requires a lot of resources, including time, human efforts, purchasing channels, and funding. While some school districts are able to afford such resources, the surging budget cuts in many public school districts across the country lead to increasingly insufficient resources for school lunch programs. This means for most public schools, it may not be realistic to concurrently prepare and provide ethnic food items from different cultures on the same day. Even if they are able to provide food from certain cultures, it is impossible for them to cover the ethnic group of each and every one of their students. If an Asian immigrant student gets to eat fried rice and a Hispanic immigrant student gets to have taco, wouldn’t a middle-eastern classmate feel left out?

More importantly, if a student is fed with the same type of ethnic food everywhere, at home and at school, he or she may never get used to food in the mainstream culture, never get to know the countless amazing food items outside his or her own ethnic group — his/her world will not be open as it could. When they enter the society in the future, they may face serious challenges because not everywhere will be able to accommodate them. Such a result is actually contrary to the essence and goals of school education, and counterproductive to the intentions of the diversity lunch initiative.     

In my high school, we have students from a diverse range of cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Our school district will for sure not be able to provide lunch items tailoring to everyone’s cultural background on a same day. But neither do we need that. Living in a multicultural society, we love chicken nuggets just like we embrace enchiladas and sweet and sour pork. Diversity can certainly make its way into the school lunch program in a more realistic and effective way. For example, the school can provide a different cultural theme for lunch on different days. Providing the same types of food on the same day is much easier and cost-effective than providing different types of food on the same day. By having a taste of different cultures on different days, we’ll get a chance to broaden our perspectives. We look forward to such a change.   

Have a wonderful new school year!

Homemade Beef Wellington

Beef Wellington is a classic dish made with fillets wrapped with mushroom duxelles, ham, and puff pastry. Originally from England, the dish has become well-known through the infamous Wellingtons on Gordon Ramsey’s Hells Kitchen and is now a popular holiday dish.

Today I decided to test my hand at making this mouthwatering yet complex classic!

Ingredients:

– Beef fillet with fat trimmed

– Parma ham (or choice of ham, e.g. serrano)

– Shitake mushrooms (or any dry mushroom)

– Garlic

– Mustard (German, Dijon, your choice)

– Rosemary or choice of herb

– Puff pastry

– Egg yolk

– Olive oil, salt, pepper, etc.

 

Procedure:

Quickly sear the fillet on all sides (1 minute total) and season with salt and herbs.

Quickly sear the fillet on all sides (1 minute total) and season with salt and herbs.

Rub the seared meat with mustard.

Rub the seared meat with mustard.

Pulse seasoned mushrooms in food processor until they are in a rough paste. To make the duxelle, dry the mushrooms in a pan for 10 minutes. Do not add water or oil to the pan.

Pulse seasoned mushrooms in a food processor until they are in a rough paste. To make the duxelle, dry the mushrooms in a pan for about 10 minutes. Do not add water or oil to the pan.

Once the beef and mushrooms are done, begin to construct the wellington. Layer the ham on plastic wrap and spread out the mushrooms on top. Make sure it is sturdy, as this will seal the wellington.

Once the beef and mushrooms are done, begin to construct the wellington. Layer the ham on plastic wrap and spread out the mushrooms on top. Make sure it is sturdy, as this will seal the wellington.

Then, place the beef on top of the ham and mushrooms and wrap together. Place the entire wrap in the fridge for 10 minutes to set.

Then, place the beef on top of the ham and mushrooms and wrap together. Place the entire wrap in the fridge for 10 minutes to set.

While the wrapped beef is setting, roll out the puff pastry for other outer layer of the wellington.

While the wrapped beef is setting, roll out the puff pastry for other outer layer of the wellington.

Then, take the beef wrapped in ham and roll the puff pastry around the wrap. Make sure the puff pastry is cold and not sticky.

Finally, the wellington is ready for the oven! Bake the wellington at approximately 375 degrees (preheat the oven beforehand) for around 35 minutes, depending on the size of meat and desired doneness of the meat. Personally, I prefer medium-rare. Bake for 10-15 more minutes if a medium to medium-well doneness is desired!

The final product after resting the meat. Pastry did sort of fall of, unfortunately. :(

The final product after resting the meat. Pastry did sort of fall of, unfortunately.😦

Overall, the wellington was quite a success, although the pastry did fall off in some places. If I were to make this recipe again, I would roll out the pastry better and make sure it was cold, not sticky, to create a perfect layer around the beef. Happy cooking/eating!

Beef Fillet Hors d’oeuvre with German Mustard

Beef Fillet Hors d'oeuvre German Mustard

While making a beef wellington today, I came up with the idea of making an additional hors d’oeuvre using the extra beef fillet I had. With the following simple steps, a plate of colorful appetizers came quickly:

Ingredients:

– Beef fillet with fat trimmed

German Mustard

– Crostini pieces

– One fresh tomato

– Two ounces of fresh spinach leaves

– ¼ ounce of fresh rosemary

– Two table spoons of plain yogurt

– Two teaspoons of sugar

– Olive oil

Procedure:

Cut beef fillet into small pieces. Add sage leaves in olive oil over medium heat; when heated, add beef fillet pieces. Cook for about 15 minutes.

Cut beef fillet into small pieces. Add sage leaves in olive oil over medium heat. When heated, add beef fillet pieces. Cook for about 15 minutes.

Mix three ounces of German Mustard with two table spoons of plain yogurt and two tea spoons of sugar.

Mix three ounces of German Mustard with two table spoons of plain yogurt and two tea spoons of sugar.

Wash the tomato and spinach leaves. Cut the tomato into small pieces.

Wash the tomato and spinach leaves. Cut the tomato into small pieces.

Crostini can be made by baking slices of oiled baguette in the oven for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

Spread the mustard-yogurt mixture on top of the bread pieces; then, add a beef fillet, spinach leaf, and tomato piece on each piece.

Spread the mustard-yogurt mixture on top of the crostini pieces; then, add a beef fillet, spinach leaf, and tomato piece on each piece.

Enjoy this quick and easy hors d'oeuvre!

Enjoy this quick and easy hors d’oeuvre!

Snapshots of Napa Valley

Located in Northern California about 1.5 hours from San Francisco, Napa Valley attracts tourists from far and near for its famed wineries and fascinating food. With hundreds of splendid wineries and dozens of top-rated restaurants, Napa Valley is popular among those who seek the ultimate wine and dine experience.

During a recent trip to Napa Valley, I got a chance to take picture of a few famous restaurants and wineries.

The French Laundry by Chef Thomas Keller. The world-famous restaurant is located at an ordinary-looking farm house in Yountville, Napa Valley.

The French Laundry by Chef Thomas Keller. The world-famous restaurant is located at an ordinary-looking farm house in Yountville, Napa Valley.

The French Laundry has its own chef’s garden. The fertile soil in Napa Valley cultivates some of the freshest produces for fine dining.

The French Laundry has its own chef’s garden. The fertile soil in Napa Valley cultivates some of the freshest produce for fine dining. The freshness of the garden vegetables enhances the restaurant dining experience.

The French Laundry’s garden is open to the public.

The French Laundry’s garden is open to the public.

The Bouchon Restaurant, another famous restaurant by Thomas Keller in Yountville, Napa Valley.

The Bouchon Restaurant, another famous restaurant by Thomas Keller in Yountville, Napa Valley.

Castello di Amorosa Winery in Calistoga, Napa Valley. In addition to wine tasting, a tour is offered inside the Tuscan castle. “Castello di Amorosa” translates to “castle of love” in Italian.

Castello di Amorosa Winery in Calistoga, Napa Valley. In addition to wine tasting, a tour is offered inside the Tuscan castle. “Castello di Amorosa” translates to “castle of love” in Italian.

Why do people love to wine and dine in Napa Valley? Perhaps, the answer is in the lush greenery of the vineyards.

Why do people love to wine and dine in Napa Valley? Perhaps, the answer is in the lush greenery of the vineyards.

 

A Visit to The Culinary Institute of America

The Culinary Institute of America is well regarded as the best culinary school in the United States. I was always curious on how the school cultivated many of the world’s most successful chefs.

During a visit to The Culinary Institute of America’s California campus, I was able to find some clues.

The Culinary Institute of America has four campuses in New York, California, Texas, and Singapore. The California campus nestles at the heart of the Napa Valley wine country, overlooking fields of grape yards and dozens of bustling wineries.

The Culinary Institute of America, St. Helena, California

When I visited yesterday, the school was closed for the summer break, but luckily, there is a one-hour weekly cooking demonstration to food enthusiasts from around the world. The demonstration simulates an actual cooking class at the school by a regular instructor in a real classroom.

The instructor we had was Chef Ken, a soft-spoken man with a gentle smile. The demonstration was how to make the Italian version of Rissole. At the end of the demonstration, the food savvy audience gave an appreciative round of applause for his lively explanation of the ingredients and procedure. What impressed me most, though, was how he introduced food culture and history as well as cooking tips and tricks—all during the course of demonstrating a single recipe.

Culinary-Demonstration.IntroduceCulture

When making the dough for the Rissole, Chef Ken talked about the concept of Mediterranean “wheat” as well as Chinese “mian” (“flour”), how people in various parts of the world prepare dough, and how the particular Italian style dough he was making was different. In a casual and natural way, I quickly learned about an important piece of food culture and history.

 

 

Culinary-Demonstration.BatterThe audience is free to ask questions anytime during the cooking demonstration, just like students in regular classes. When the lady sitting behind me asked about pancakes while Chef Ken was making dough, he gave a detailed suggestion on how to make batter for different purposes.

Culinary-Demonstration.tricks

 

When another audience asked what kind of salt he was using, he gave a thorough explanation on different kinds of salt and their features (though he noted that all basic salts were the same in taste).

 

Sitting in the classroom, I learned tricks for battering and tips for choosing salt.

Imagine how much one can learn from enriching and inspiring classes like this every day! Suddenly, it occurred to me that perhaps this is why The Culinary Institute of American is the cradle of so many top culinary professionals in America.

As the school’s website says, The Culinary Institute of America not only trains students in cooking, but also instills in students values of “excellence, leadership, professionalism, ethics, and respect for diversity”  through the cooking curriculum.

I had a wonderful trip today!

Photos of the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, California:

 

Overlooking the wine country.

Overlooking the wine country

The Culinary Institute of America, St. Helena, California

The Culinary Institute of America, St. Helena, California

2016 International Youth Food Culture Contest

On a cool summer evening two years ago, a boy I befriended at his father’s fruit stand in the farmer’s market showed me his drawing pad. Having just immigrated to the U.S. not long ago, he did not speak much English. But from the green papayas and golden rice fields he painted, I saw the world he came from.

At around the same time, a seemingly ordinary image on Food Network caught my attention: A young girl in a remote, poverty-stricken village in Southeast Asia was clinging to a picture she drew — a picture of local produce. Her face was beaming with the happiest smile. On the side of her drawing, a few words were neatly written which translated to: I love to cook. Instantly, my heart lightened up. I might not know which language this girl spoke or where her village was, but I could feel her joy, pride, and hope—the language of food is universal.

These episodes marked the beginning of the concept of International Youth Food Culture Contest, a food-focused writing and art contest for middle and high school students around the world. In both the 2014 and 2015 contests, we received entries from students in four continents of the world. The wonderful entries expressed thoughts, shared experiences, voiced passions, and showcased talents—all about food. I am glad and grateful that the contest, sparked from a small TV image, has connected so many people through food.

Submission for the 2016 Contest is now open. Submission guidelines are available here. There is no fee to enter.

If you or a friend is interested in the contest, we would love to hear from you! The submission deadline is July 31, 2016.

Enjoy your summer!