Sunday, July 28, 2013

Roasted Figs with Caramel, Honey Ice Cream and Aged Balsamic for a Farmer's Market #SundaySupper

Roasted Figs with Caramel, Honey Ice Cream and Aged Balsamic

While I was attending San Jose State University several years ago, one professor in his class one day noted a certain irony which went something like, Silicon Valley has some of the most fertile soil in all of California, so what do we do with it? Build track homes and office parks on top of it. Silicon Valley encompasses the southern part of the San Francisco Bay Area which roughly includes Santa Clara County and the southern parts of Alameda and San Mateo counties. I have lived here for pretty much my whole life and I dislike the fact that the rest of the Bay Area gets clumped in with San Francisco because the two very different on several levels. For example, if you drive 30 minutes east of San Francisco in July, it's common the temperature will be 30 degrees warmer. Also, San Francisco is very urban while the rest is largely suburban.

Hidden away among the suburban development is an oasis in the form of J. E. Perry Farms on the west end of Fremont. They have a roadside stand on their property where they sell produce they grow on site. I went there in search of ingredients for this week's #SundaySupper theme of local food and/or farmer's market finds. One of the items that caught my eye was fresh figs, primarily because I had yet to work with this fruit in it's fresh form. I also brought my copy of The Flavor Bible with me. The list of complementary ingredients implied that it was a common ingredient in salads and desserts. One flavor affinity that is noted in it is figs, caramel, vanilla and balsamic vinegar, but it also strongly suggested honey separately.

The Challenge


I can't find it anymore but I remember reading an article a couple of months ago that listed several common desserts that should be taken off restaurant menus, mostly because many versions aren't executed properly. (If I remember correctly, items such as New York cheesecake, cupcakes and chocolate lava cake made the list.) One point that the author made in the article was that desserts are often an afterthought for those establishments that do not employ a pastry chef, so I thought I'd attempt to fill the void.

The Sources

I pieced together the components of this dessert from a number of different sources. I adapted the fig roasting instructions from Fine Cooking Magazine; the caramel after consulting my friend, Chef Robert Dasalla of Little Chef Counter; and the ice cream custard from epicurious but I still don't have an ice cream machine, so I had to use David Lebovitz's hand-churning method I also used with my gelato dessert about a year ago.


2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups half-and-half, divided
2/3 cup clover honey
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
12 black Mission figs, rinsed, dried, stems removed and cut in half
1 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup balsamic vinegar


1. Make the ice cream. Combine the cream, 1 cup half-and-half and honey in a medium saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, remove from heat, cover and let it cool for approximately 30 minutes. In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs and salt. Slowly pour in 1 cup of the cream mixture into the eggs while continuing to whisk.

Then pour the eggs and cream back into the cream mixture and cook over medium-low heat, stirring continually with a wooden spoon, until the mixture is thick enough to cover the back of a spoon and the temperature reaches 170°-175° Fahrenheit. Remove from heat, strain the mixture through a sieve into a nonreactive bowl, cover and chill. At this point in time, use your ice cream machine or follow the instructions in the David Lebovitz link above. This can be done a day or two in advance.

2. Make the sauces. For the caramel, add the sugar to a large saucepan evenly and place over medium-high heat. As the sugar starts to melt, shake the pan to redistribute. (Keep a close eye on it because the sugar can go from just right to burnt in a matter of seconds.) Once the sugar turns to amber, remove from heat and drop in the butter and the remaining half-and-half. The sugar will bubble violently, but whisk the added ingredients to combine, then cover and cool. Separately, add the vinegar to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Continue to reduce by 3/4 (or to 4 tablespoons) or until the vinegar is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

3. Roast the figs: Preheat the oven to 450° Fahrenheit. Place the figs, cut side up, on a foil lined sheet pan and roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the figs begin to brown. To plate the dish, spoon some caramel in the center of a plate, place an ice cream scoop on top of the caramel, arrange three fig halves around the ice cream and drizzle with the balsamic reduction.


The flavors of this dish did complement each other well with the balsamic balancing out the sweetness of the strong flavors of the caramel. It was sweet, but not overly sweet. I ran into some execution issues with the ice cream because it never fully solidified but was still very good.

By the way, I had the chance to consult Chef Dasalla because he and I competed in this year's Ribfest in the Park. You might remember I won the contest last year, but not this time. Since Chef was competing my goal this year was simply to get more votes for best overall rib than him. To my surprise, we both I didn't get a single vote this year, however it was good natured fun and I was able to catch up with some friends. Anyway, he suggested I add dairy to my caramel because straight sugar can easily crystalize and seize if it's not paid close attention. He also offered plating suggestions for this dish, so I must thank him yet again.

Other Sunday Supper Participants

And finally, please check out this week's other Sunday Supper contributors:

We'll all be sharing stories and recipes from our own local food markets and celebrating local produce, so join us Sunday evening at 7 pm for a Farmer's Market twitter chat!

Appetizers & Salads

Garlic Scape Dip from The Girl In the Little Red Kitchen
Onion Bacon Jam with Bread n' Kale from Gotta Get Baked
Kale & Pepita Pesto from girlichef
Garden Quinoa Salad from The Urban Mrs
Grilled Cherry Tomato and Goat Cheese Salad from Pescetarian Journal
Watermelon-Feta Salad with Pomegranate Drizzle from The Weekend Gourmet

Soups & Sides

Watermelon Gazpacho from Jane's Adventures in Dinner
Classic Gazpacho from Curious Cuisiniere
Pea Soup from Small Wallet, Big Appetite
Pickled Garlic Scapes from kimchi MOM
Cheesy Zucchini Hodge Podge from Cupcakes & Kale Chips
Succotash from Magnolia Days
3 Easy Japanese Spinach Recipes from
Michigan-Made Meal with Seasoned Potato Chips from Foxes Love Lemons


Summer Veggie Pizza from Country Girl In The Village
Tomato Pie from The Hand That Rocks The Ladle
Kitchen Sink Vegetable Curry from What Smells So Good?
Margherita Pizza from Growing Up Gabel
Cheesy Zucchini Fritters from Cindy's Recipes and Writings
Three Sauces with Summer Herbs to Transform a Simple Grilled Dinner from Cook the Story
Vegetable Quesadillas from Cookin' Mimi
Mushroom Scallion Risotto from Vintage Kitchen Notes
Summer Linguine with Grilled Vegetables from Neighborfood
Pasta alla Norma Nuda from Juanita's Cocina
Arugula Pizza from Family Foodie


Peach Cobbler from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
Coconut Cherry Bars from Killer Bunnies, Inc
Lightened Up Peach and Blueberry Cobbler from Peanut Butter and Peppers
Cherry and Peach Mini Pies from My Cute Bride
Cranachan from Happy Baking Days
Cherry Brandy Cobbler from The Wimpy Vegetarian
Peach Maple Ice Cream from Pies and Plots
Cherry Clafoutis from Food Lust People Love
Roasted Figs with Caramel, Honey Ice Cream and Aged Balsamic from Crazy Foodie Stunts
Peach Ice Cream Paletas from Basic N Delicious
Gluten Free Sour Cherry Cake from No One Likes Crumbley Cookies

Join the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter today! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm EST. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. Check out our #SundaySupper Pinterest board for more fabulous recipes and food photos.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Spaghetti with Mushroom Ragù

Spaghetti with Mushroom Ragù

I prepared this dish out of curiosity, more than anything. This is a Lidia Bastianich recipe but Anne Burrell has a version in her cookbook too, which leads me to believe that this is a common dish in Italy.

The Challenge

Explore a common Italian dish

The Source

Adapted from pages 106-107 of Lidia's Favorite Recipes by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali.


1/2-ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/2 pounds mixed mushrooms (I used a mixture of oyster and cremini mushrooms)
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary, approximately 4-inches long
1 large sprig fresh sage with 4 or more leaves
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons or 1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 large shallots, finely chopped
1/3 cup tomato paste
1 cup dry Marsala wine
4 cups homemade chicken stock, warmed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4-pound dried spaghetti
Freshly grated parmigiano and chopped fresh Italian parsley (for garnish)


1. Finish your mise en place: Soak the dried porcini in the warm water for thirty minutes. Once reconstituted, remove porcinis with a slotted spoon and squeeze out excess water back into the warmed water and reserve. Slice the porcinis into thin pieces no more than 1/4-inch wide. Clean and slice the mixed mushrooms into the same 1/4-inch wide pieces. Tie the thyme, rosemary and sage together with a piece of kitchen twine to form an herb bundle. Fire your salted pasta water(6-8 quarts) over high heat.

2. Prepare the mirepoix: Melt the butter in the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once melted add the shallots and onion, then season with salt. Sweat until softened, approximately 6 minutes. Add all mushrooms (mixed and porcini) evenly to the pan. Season again with salt and add the herb bundle. Cover the pan and raise the heat to medium-high, shaking the pan frequently so the mushrooms release their juices, approximately 3 minutes. Uncover and raise the heat to high, stirring continually until the mushrooms shrink and the juices evaporate, approximately 5 minutes. Once the pan is dry, create a well in the middle and drop in the tomato paste. Stir the paste and toast for a minute then stir it into mushrooms.

3. Simmer the ragù and boil the pasta: Deglaze the pan with the Marsala. Stir until the wine thickens and evaporates. Pour in the mushroom water and half of the chicken stock and bring to a boil, stirring to release any remaining fond. Reduce the heat to simmer and cover for approximately 20 minutes, adding stock when necessary to keep the mushrooms submerged. Uncover and continue to simmer for an additional 20 minutes, continuing to add stock when needed. Drop the spaghetti into the pasta water and boil for 1 to 2 minutes less than the box instructs. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.Once the mushrooms are tender and the sauce thickens, remove from heat and discard the herb bundle. Drain the pasta once completed and add to the ragù, stirring to blend the flavors. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve in warmed bowls garnished with parmesan and parsley.


When she tried this dish, Mrs. Stuntman said she missed her meats but had great flavor. I actually only used half of the ragù, partially because I did not boil that much pasta that particular evening, but more importantly, Chef Bastianich noted that it could be stirred into a risotto or polenta.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Slow Cooker Carolina-Style Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Slow Cooker Carolina-Style Pulled Pork Sandwiches

I debated on several levels whether or not to publish this dish. It's not very complicated from a preparation standpoint. I also considered the source which is exponentially bad-a Deen family dish that appeared on Rachel Ray's daytime talk show. It's also extremely convenient and it's barbecue without needing a grill or smoker.

The Challenge

Summer barbecue without a grill.

The Source

As I stated before, this is from a Bobby Deen appearance on the Rachel Ray Show that originally aired this past February.


2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 2 to 3-pound boneless pork shoulder, patted dry
2 cups of apple cider vinegar
2/3 cup of ketchup
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons dry mustard
1 tablespoon chili powder
4 hamburger buns


1.Prepare the pork: Season the pork shoulder with the salt, black pepper and garlic powder. Rub the seasonings into the pork on all sides. Enclose the pork in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

2. Prepare the sauce: Add the vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and chili powder to a small saucepan and simmer over low heat to blend the flavors, approximately 5 minutes.

3. Cook the pork: Place the pork in a slow cooker and add two-thirds of the sauce. Turn the shoulder to coat, but ensure the fat side is up. Cover the slow cooker and set the power to low for 7 to 8 hours or high for 4 to 5 hours, or until tender and falling apart tender. Remove the pork and place on a cutting board to rest until cool enough to handle.

4. Finish the dish: While the pork rests, warm the remaining sauce. Shred the pork using two forks and cut into bite-size pieces, discarding any large chunks of fat. Place the pork in a large bowl, add the remaining sauce to taste and stir to combine. Serve on hamburger buns.


Carolina-style barbecue is vinegar based, and this dish had a very strong vinegar flavor. The flavor was even too strong for Mrs. Stuntman and she generally enjoys these flavors. If I were to prepare these sandwiches again, I'd attempt to balance it by topping the pork with a sweet slaw.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Light Stunt: Bulgogi-Korean Marinated Beef


After the frenzy last week from being featured on Chef Fabio Viviani's blog, I hope I have been able to retain some new readers. That picture you see to the right? Yeah, it's old. I got a haircut in January but didn't update my avatar until recently. I'm one of millions of guys who is losing his hair on the top of his head and, rather than fight the inevitable, I decided to accept fate and move on. I have updated the picture in my About Me page.

From either of those pictures, one might be able to determine that I'm Asian. I will further specify that I am of Korean descent. I was adopted by American parents when I was an infant and my mother used to prepare a version of the dish when I was younger so I might have a connection to my heritage. I remember one day she remarked that her version was a lot of work to prepare so I found one that was much simpler and makes for a perfect weeknight meal since it's just broiled for a few minutes.

The Challenge

Replicate a dish from my childhood.

The Source

Amy of Kimchi Mom was kind enough to allow me to publish her recipe. I did make a few ingredient substitutions.


1 to 1 1/2 pounds chuck steak, sliced thin
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons clover honey
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 to 2 scallions, sliced thin, plus more for garnish
4 to 5 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, plus more for garnish


1. Marinate the beef: Place the beef in a resealable bag. Combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl then pour the marinade over the beef in the bag, then toss the beef in the marinade to ensure all slices of beef are well-coated. Refrigerate for 1 hour or more.

2. Cook the beef: Place a rack in the oven about 6 inches from the heat source and preheat the broiler. Remove the beef from the marinade and place on a foil-lined broiler pan, then discard the marinade. Broil the beef for approximately 5 minutes and then toss until the sugars are lightly caramelized. Garnish with additional sesame seeds and scallions then serve immediately with white rice.


I ran into an execution issue with this dish because the flavors of the marinade, while there, were muted. I'm not sure what caused this because there were some variables to consider.

1) Ingredient substitutions: Amy's recipe uses maple syrup but I didn't have any so I used white sugar and honey. She also used ribeye but I used chuck steak, which is a tougher cut of beef.

2) Preparation time: Either way, I only marinated the beef for about 90 minutes so I recommend marinating it overnight.

Regardless, it was still delicious. It also was reminiscent of the dish my mother used to serve when I was still a child. If you're unfamiliar with Amy, she can be found on facebook, twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, G+ and bloglovin'. She also has a graphic and web design business so please consider her if you're in the market for those services.

I didn't address Next Food Network Star last week, but I wasn't surprised by Chris's departure. Some information surfaced recently which leads me to believe that Nikki didn't win and I was astonished to learn Chad went home, especially when compared to Russell. From the way the episode was edited, the judges have picked a favorite in Stacey, but I'm not as enthusiastic about her culinary point of view. What's your analysis of the series? Comment below.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Guest Post at Fabio's Kitchen Academy: Watermelon Gazpacho Shooters

Watermelon Gazpacho Shooter

And now for the craziest foodie stunt to date...

During my exchange with Chef Viviani when I met him a couple of months ago, he expressed a desire to work with me in the future. As a result, I am pleased to announce that I am being featured on his magazine, Fabio's Kitchen Academy, an online publication released weekly. If you are not on the distribution list to receive it, please sign up to get future issues.

Since tomorrow is National Piña Colada Day, I was asked to profile a dish that could be eaten poolside and/or at the beach. I thought this dish would be perfect. Gazpacho has been on my foodie bucket list for a while now. It originates out of the Andalusian region of Spain and is traditionally a cold tomato soup served at the end of the meal, which makes it a popular dish during the warm summer months. I decided to take it into a sweeter direction to balance out the flavors of the dish. To develop my recipe, I compared more than a dozen versions and compiled common ingredients. The exact recipe I used can be found on Fabio's blog.

You might also notice a significant and sudden increase in the quality of photography. That's because I didn't take pictures of this dish. I know that my photography needs improvement so I'd like to thank Christian and Ivan of Sartorial Graphic Photography for performing the task. They specialize in portraits and weddings and are available for hire in the San Francisco Bay Area. Some other photographs taken that afternoon:

Lastly, I'd like to thank Chef Viviani for this opportunity to work with him and his team. It was a pleasure to do so.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Presenting: Braised Lamb Shanks

Braised Lamb Shanks

Last week on a supermarket trip, I picked up some lamb shanks because they were on sale not really considering the weather later in the week. Fast forward to Thursday evening when I remove said shanks from the freezer to defrost overnight in the refrigerator, again not really thinking about the weather. On Friday, the official high here in my city was 88° Fahrenheit but it felt like 100°. Did I really want to heat up my kitchen?

I miss my grill.

I actually prepared this dish for my last website almost two years ago but was disappointed with the picture I published so I wanted to reshoot. It's actually a straight-forward braise: sear the protein, brown the mirepoix, add in your braising fluid and simmer, but heating my oven to 400° for three hours in hot weather is not my idea of fun.

The Challenge

Improve my photography and presentation skills.

The Source

Taken from page 174 to 176 of Cook Like A Rock Star by Anne Burrell with Suzanne Lenzer.


4 lamb shanks
kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, chopped coarsely
1 carrot, chopped coarsely
1 rib celery, chopped coarsely
1 cup tomato paste
2 cups red wine
2 rosemary sprigs
1 handful thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons fresh mint or flat leaf parsley, chopped (for garnish)


1. Finish your mise en place: Preheat the oven to 400° Fahrenheit. Combine the carrot, onion and celery in a food processor and pulse until it pureéd. Tie the rosemary and thyme together with some kitchen twine to form a herb bundle, then season the lamb shanks with salt and pepper.

2. Sear the lamb: Coat the bottom of a large Dutch oven with olive oil (approximately 1 tablespoon) and place over medium-high heat. Once the oil starts to smoke, add the lamb shanks and brown well on all sides, in batches if necessary. Once browned, remove from the Dutch oven and set aside.

3. Brown the mirepoix: If the Dutch oven is dry, add additional oil. Once hot, place the onion-celery-carrot paste into the Dutch oven and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently until brown, approximately 8 to 10 minutes, scraping any fond from the bottom of the oven along the way. Stir in the tomato paste, stirring continually until it starts to brown, about a minute or two.

4. Deglaze and add braising fluids: Add the wine to the Dutch oven, and bring to a boil, reducing by half and scraping any remaining fond, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Return the lamb shanks to the Dutch oven and add enough water so that three quarters of the shanks are submerged in braising fluid. Taste the fluid and season, if necessary. (Conversely, if all the lamb shanks don't fit evenly in the Dutch oven, put them in a roasting pan, pour the deglazed mirepoix over the shanks, then add additional water.) Toss in the herb bundle and bay leaves, cover (with aluminum foil if using a roasting pan) and place in the oven for two-and-a-half to three hours. Turn the shanks every hour, and if the braising fluid has reduced significantly, add more water.

5. Finish the dish: Uncover during the last 30 minutes so the shanks can brown and the braising fluid can reduce and thicken. Serve over mashed potatoes or polenta and garnish with mint or parsley.


Doesn't the lamb shank look like something Fred Flinstone would eat? After looking at some other presentations, I decided not to plate the sauce like I had the last time. (See below.) Mrs. Stuntman devoured her dinner; my 5-year-old daughter surprised me by declaring her meat Yummy! and even Mrs. Stuntman's colleagues thought the dish was prepared well as leftovers the next day.

So here we are at episode 5 of Next Food Network Star. My three groups remain largely unchanged with Nikki, Chad and Stacey in the lead; Chris and Damaris in the middle plus Rodney and Russell being my prediction for the next two to leave the competition. In the Star Salvation contest, I'm not surprised that Lovely has impressed (She did train under Gordon Ramsay, after all), but what's missing from this segment are challenges focusing on camera presence. Chefs that can execute a great dish are a dime a dozen, but not all of them have the communication skills and the charisma to be a public figure.

Lastly, I wanted to give you a hint regarding an upcoming project. You might see a familiar face if you sign up to receive Chef Fabio Viviani's newsletter.