— Noted.


P1011501-copy_web_grande Phrasebook-3_web_grande 56126-55de2f11edf34045bf3663b039263597

From Herb Lester Associates, three little phrase books, sized to fit in the credit card slit in your wallet. Available at shop.herblester.com or on amazon.



The last time I was in Korea, my cousin took me to a restaurant that was popular for budae-jigae, which is a stew that came to be during the Korean war, because army soldiers would make it with all the bits that they had on hand. It’s pretty delicious, because it can have any of the amazing non-perishable foods such as ramen, spam and/or hot dogs, all alongside veggies, tofu, rice cake and kimchi in a spicy broth. So, we’re eating this delicious stew, and my cousin tells me that this restaurant’s secret to the amazing flavor is that they add in American cheese slices.


And this cousin, who spoke near perfect English but wanted to be clear, confirmed that it was The American Cheese, the kind that is wrapped in those individual plastic sleeves.

Fast-forward to this past weekend, and it’s blizzarding, and I rationalized that I deserved to try this ramen recipe by Roy Choi:

Recipe: Perfect Instant Ramen

I will tell you that ONE of those yellow plastic wrapped slices was PLENTY, and I did not add the pat of butter. I did fold in a dropped egg (which I normally do when making ramen at home), when it is still boiling and slightly more mixed in so it’s a bit more like egg-drop soup. I used the Korean Jin Ramen brand (which is nice and spicy), and also topped it with some Kimchi.

This is definitely not an everyday meal, but a very special treat.

Being that I am trying my best to stop eating processed foods [Roy Choi is to blame!], I did a little poking around to find the story behind American cheese. The FDA actually banned Kraft from calling it cheese, since it was less than 50% cheese. That’s why the package came to say “Kraft Singles.” The story of its invention is summed up in this article.

I bought my package from TJ’s, where the organic slices do seem slightly more legitimately made of cheese, even though it is still labeled as “Pasteurized Process Cheese Product.” As a (reluctant) sidenote, this is also lovely on toast with a drizzle of Mike’s Hot Honey. 

IMG_0336   IMG_0337


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Photo from mikeshothoney.com

I just discovered Mike’s Hot Honey, and it has been going on just about everything. Also, it’s made in Brooklyn!, and now available at TJs!



Photo by James Ransom.


This recipe is very tasty and would easily go on soba, roasted veg, or anything else your heart desires. Being from the south, I’m a sucker for a good pasta salad. This one tastes fresh and is not as heavy as the mayo based ones I yearn for in my childhood memories. As Food52 notes, it’s the perfect dish for a picnic since it won’t spoil as easily either.

Get the recipe here: Miso peanut pasta salad.


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Photo from www.robataya-ny.com

One of my favorite NYC dishes is the salmon kamameshi, at Robataya in the E. Village. It is a very subtle dish, with steamed rice infused with the salmon cooking on top, and topped with salmon roe just before serving. The menu gives you fair warning that it takes time. When it is ready, the server comes over and asks politely if you would like for him/her to stir and serve. The answer here is yes. I once brought my uncle who stirred his too forcefully. He even admitted it was a mistake.

I took my friend Ana to have the kamameshi when she was last visiting NYC, and it’s a bit of a dream and a curse, since it’s a dish that one might start to seriously crave. On a mission, she tried a few techniques and recipes and landed on the following. (On a sidenote, I tried a version of this in the rice cooker, and while it was not as good as Robataya’s, it did help ease my hankering.) I’m excited to give this one a go!

Recipe: Salmon Rice with Ikura Salmon Roe

Ana writes:

This is the winning recipe with a few tweaks: I just used all short-grained sushi rice instead of two rice types, I used mirin instead of sake, no shiso (didn’t have any), and I used the most gorgeous, fatty, King salmon fillet I could find. I lightly placed the salmon fillet (skin side down) on top of the boiling pot of ingredients before lowering the heat and covering it all up for 13 minutes. When I opened it up after cooking, the salmon just flaked away into the rice with a fork and was rare in the middle. Delish!


There has been some serious roasting of vegetables happening over here. I just made a sweet potato and parsnip soup, loosely based on this recipe. I’m rewriting the recipe here as I made it.

2 parsnips

1 very large japanese sweet potato

olive oil

3 tablespoons butter

1 med yellow onion, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

dash of tumeric

dash of cinnamon

dash of cayenne

4 cups chicken stock (or veg)


Peel and cut the parsnips and potato into medium (1-inch) cubes. Drizzle with olive oil and salt on a roasting pan. Roast for 40 minutes, stirring once or twice throughout.

In a stock pot, melt the butter. Sauté the onion and then the garlic. Add in the roasted veg and spices, and give a quick stir. Add in the stock and simmer on low for 30 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Blend until smooth – add water (or additional stock) if it’s too thick and you need more liquid, and salt and pepper to taste.


* * * * *

If you’re looking for a healthy way to eat roasted veggies, I highly recommend this Smitten Kitchen recipe, namely for the miso dressing. You can roast any of your favorite veg (I did it with broccoli, parsnip and japanese sweet potato) and it was delicious. I also did not have tahini, so I used almond butter, which worked just fine. I made it again with tahini, and it hardly made a difference.


Miso Sweet Potato and Broccoli Bowl by Smitten Kitchen


* * * * *

Lastly, brussels sprouts. You tease me at the holidays, and then I can’t stop thinking about you. Also from Smitten Kitchen this easy stove top recipe calls for pancetta, but I used bacon. A giant bowl of this and it gives me the strength to believe that I can make it through this winter.


Balsamic Braised Brussels with Pancetta by Smitten Kitchen



















Photo from leckerlee.com

Winter brings me down. Wanna know what can defeat the heavy cold and gray skies? Lebkuchen! My friend recently sent me a tin on a particularly unkind winter day and it was like receiving a big yellow ray of cozy sunshine. It comes in a perfect tin. I didn’t know what a lebkuchen was, but I took a bite and realized I have had this flavor before, somewhere in my childhood. It was a joyful moment.

I had to look up the company, Leckerlee, that makes these beautiful cookies, and I see they only ship in season, and lebkuchen season ends in about a week. Consider this your fair warning on how to survive the rest of winter.

From their site:
Nuremberg-style lebkuchen is widely regarded as the finest gingerbread in the world. This gustatory heirloom has been handed down by Bavarian medieval monks and fiercely protected for centuries by lebkuchen guilds, confining its designation to the city limits of the German gingerbread capital. Until one enchanting Bavarian winter day, a crazy lebkuchen convert decided its destiny was to travel far and wide…





















Photo from pantryhousegoods.com

I am addicted to this pepper jam. It is perfect with nice bread and goat cheese, but I also crave it in the morning with an english muffin and butter. I also have their cardamom pear butter, also quite delicious.

I bought them at the farmer’s market when I was in Santa Cruz, where my friend tried to convince me that food was a thousand times better than food in Brooklyn. I didn’t believe her until I made the visit, and my eyes were opened to the world of delicious farm fresh food and produce bursting with flavor. #californiawin


One of my favorite things in NYC is the pretzel croissant at City Bakery. City Bakery is nearly perfect in every way, from the graphic design that was done by Carin Goldberg, to the hot chocolate month of February, which features a different flavor every day of the month. (MJ’s pro tip: all you need is a shot.) It also sits on a nearly perfect block in Manhattan, across from the best children’s bookstore, down the street from the ultimate paper store and art supply shop.

When I’m feeling a little down, a little guilty, a little happy, or a little bit like I need to indulge in a secret, I will go for the peanut butter cookie. It’s deceptively little, and looks like it won’t be enough. But soon enough, you realize it was all you needed.

In a dangerous step of having too much of a good thing, I’m making these cookies right now as we speak. They are in the oven, and will travel with me tomorrow up to my aunt’s house for Christmas Eve. Tis the season. Hope you are spending yours with all your favorites.

Recipe here: Salty-Sweet Peanut Butter Sandies


Photo by Soo-Jeong Kang/The New York Times


Summer is officially over and I’m clinging to corn and tomatoes like it’s the end of the world.

I’m conveniently channeling this impending expiration of summer produce into 2 new obsessions. Galettes and roasted tomatoes.

First, galettes. How is it possible that I have not been eating galettes until very recently? If you have not been introduced to the galette, do it here and now. To avoid the nagging sensation of life regret, I’ve started making galettes at home, which turns out to be very easy. I have limited prior experience in baking a pie. The good thing is the galette celebrates imperfection and does not require a pie pan. The other good thing is store-bought frozen pastry dough is really up to par. I’m told that pie crust is not hard to make, but with a tiny Brooklyn kitchen and the lack of interest, my focus has instead been directed towards the question: puff pastry or pie crust?

I conducted a recent test using a Dufours Puff Pastry vs a Trader Joe’s pie crust. Both were extremely easy to defrost and already in a rolled-out state that easily transferred onto a baking sheet with no need of a floured surface or rolling pin. I gave both to my parents to eat for dinner and the unanimous results were that the puff pastry is a better galette crust. I should also note that I used the same exact savory recipe from Smitten Kitchen: Burst Tomato Galette with Corn and Zucchini (and Green Onion).


The recipe relies on scallions and parmesan. I would tell you they are essential:




Crust folded over into position. All ready for the oven:

What I am now curious about is whether that buttery pie crust would actually do better in a fruit galette. Stay tuned for that…

Second. Roasted tomatoes. After much research on different cooking sites, I landed on this advice from NPR that no matter which recipe you follow when it comes to oven temperature and how many hours to slow-cook, it really doesn’t matter and that they all work. That being the case, I went with David Lebovitz who split all extremes with an oven at 325° and a 2-hour cooking time. There is nothing as sweet as the taste of a perfectly ripened summer tomato, except maybe those that are slow-roasted and reduced to all that is necessary.

Recipe: David Lebovitz, Oven-Roasted Tomatoes