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Tasty Side to Life Tours Website

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Summer Essentials

I have five recent obsessions for Spring/ Summer.

1) Tea infused with saffron

Krocus Kozanis Products Tea from Greece

Surprisingly Greek saffron is considered to be some of the best quality saffron in the world. Ok, this might be according to the greeks and I think they might have a battle to fight with Kashmir as I know that Saffron from Kashmir is exquisite as well. Yet, the Greeks have enough things on their plates so I'll give this one to them.

Over 20 species of saffron are native to Greek flora. Saffron has significant antioxidant properties which protect against free radicals and contribute to good health and well being. It is supposed to help with digestion and improve brain function and memory. My Indian friend just told me her new thing is to add a few strands of saffron to her tea. The same week I found a tea that already had a few strands in it. Voila! This tea, Krocus Kozanis, is in Paris health food stores and can be found at my favorite Pousse Pousse in the 9eme, Paris or off Rue de Buci at the health food store there. It's 6.50€ for a box of about 12. The one i like is orange, honey, and  saffron. http://www.biodiet.eu/prod-Infusion-Safran-Bio-Miel-KROCUS-KOZANIS-refKROMIE.html

2) Beet Ricotta Ravioli's

I tried these for the first time at Le Bon Marche- the very upscale super market in Paris. I loved them. The ricotta is creamy and rich yet not overly heavy and the beet adds a touch of sweetness and a beautiful summer color. I have yet to re-create them at home but I can't wait to experiment. I just discovered a great blog http://lisaiscooking.blogspot.fr and she has a fabulous recipe for Beet Ravioli's as well as one for Lemon and Goat Cheese Ravioli's which sound delicious as well.

Le Bon Marche
24 Rue De Sevres, Paris 76006
01 44 39 80 00

3) Fruit Flavored Water

What is better than being in a spa, outside by the pool, feet up on the lounge chair relaxing with your eyes closed waiting to be tapped on the shoulder by your masseuse and sipping slowly on water with few slices of cucumber in it? It's my favorite. It's refreshing, different and fresh. I remember the first time I served cucumber slices in water at a dinner party and the shocked look I got when I placed the glass in front of some of my Intl friends. This summer, per the advice of my favorite blog (A Cup of Joe) why not add a few slices of watermelon, strawberries, pineapple or clementine to your water to make it even more delicious and refreshing. Sounds delicious on a hot summer day or at a BBQ no?

4) Wild Flower Ice Cubes

If you read my blog then you know I am pretty much in love with edible flowers. Edible flowers and white truffle oil. I guess you could say I use a bit toooo much of both of these in my cooking but they both are amazing in my book. Reading about wild flower ice cubes on A Cup of Joe via Martha Stewarts tips got me thinking and I can't wait to try them. I also can't wait to send this tip to my sister as she told me last week while we were having dinner on her terrace that she needs to take cooking classes to perfect her transformation into Martha. She has a slight obsession to say the least :) I have a heart shaped ice tray that would work perfectly with this idea. Here is the "how to" from Martha Stewart http://www.marthastewart.com/348299/floral-ice-cubes

5) Rose water

Rosewater is my new thing for sure. A friend of mine from Chennai spoke very highly of it and after a trip to Morocco I decided to bring back a few bottles as it was certainly going to be cheaper there than in Paris. Rose water is quite fragrant and gives a floral, bright and luxurious flavoring to Indian and Middle Eastern Cuisines. I adore Iranian cuisine and they use it quite frequently. My new obsession is making ricotta beet ravioli's and adding rosewater to the butter sage sauce. Yummm.. Rose water is also a great product to use for ski cleansing as well and it has been thought since the middle centuries to have various health benefits as well. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Grilled Ahi-Julienned Sugar Snap Pea Slaw- Fennel- Almonds-Summer Squash- Ginger- Lemon zest

GRILLED AHI julienned sugar snap pea slaw- fennel- almonds-summer squash- ginger- lemon zest.

A healthy, bright and quick dinner. Julienning the veggies transforms them, changing their texture. The peas and blanched almonds create a nice crunch- complemented by the sweetness of the fennel and the acidity of the lemon. This recipe was inspired by one of my favorite vegetarian restaurants in Paris- Pousse, Pousse in the 9eme which is owned by Lawrence Aboucaya. Her food was featured on Alain Ducasse's Plaza Athénée Summer Menu.
Makes 6 Servings
  • 1 pound  of Ahi Tuna (Sushi grade if you can find it)
  • Pinch of Sea Salt
  • 1 small package of Sugar Snap Peas
  • 1 head of Fennel
  • 2 handfuls of blanched and peeled almonds- sliced thin or bought sliced
  • 2 small yellow summer squash
  • 1 small piece of fresh ginger- 1/4 cup minced for coating the fish
  • 1 clove of garlic finely diced (remove the green inner sprout of the garlic)
  • 2-3 lemons (1 zested)
  • 1 tbls cracked black pepper- for coating the ahi
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • Ginger-Soy-Lime Vinaigrette for marinating the Tuna
  • 2 shallots
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated ginger
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  1. In a small bowl combine the finely diced shallot, ginger, pepper, soy sauce and lime juice. Use a hand immersion blender to mix (this is a nice restaurant trick that most restaurants use to get a perfect sauce). Whisking constantly slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Use half of this marinade for the Tuna and the other half reserve for later to season the cooked ahi or even season the vegetables. Set aside until ready to use and whisk dressing before serving. 
  2. Next make a lemon oil oil. Squeeze 1.5 lemons and slowly whisk in 1/2 cup of olive oil and a pinch of salt to make your own lemon olive oil. Add zest of 1/2 lemon.
  3. Season the tuna with salt, pepper and let marinate in the sauce for a 10-15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile with a sharp large knife get to work with your veggies. Remember just to cook the veggies for a total of 5-10 minutes. You want them crunchy! You could even eat them all raw if you wish. Cut the sharp ends off the snap peas and then julienne them into strips that resemble small match sticks. Repeat this process with the fennel, almonds and summer squash. Heat a sauce pan over medium heat and toast the almonds for a 2 minutes in a few tbls of olive oil until they release a gorgeous fragrant smell. Add the minced garlic and ginger and cook for a 2-3 minutes. Next add the fennel and cook for  4 minutes or so. Add a dash of the lemon olive oil and a tbls of lemon zest. Now add the squash and snap peas to the pan, and cook for a few minutes (not too long as you want the veggies to stay crunchy). Immediately remove from the heat to stop the cooking process. Add salt and a few nice squeezes of a lemon (if needed). Reserve.
  5. Heat the same saute pan over high heat. Add the oil and when its is very hot sear the tuna on all sides, 30 secs per side to 1 minute per side. You want a raw center and browned outer edges. Add some lime juice to the pan to deglaze and quickly shake the pan and stir around the pan deposits. Quickly remove from the pan. 
  6. Make sure the veggie slaw is well seasoned. If needed add a nice few tbls of the lemon olive oil and a bit more salt to veggies. Slice the tuna into 1-2 inch long pieces and drizzle the reserved marinade over the tuna (there should be 1/2 left from the earlier marinade you made. If not make more). Serve the tuna on top of the slaw. Voila!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Tokyo Yudofu Lunch- Tofu turned into Haute Cuisine

The entrance of Ume no Hana

Oh Tokyo.. how I love thee. Flower blossoms in spring, temples, giant buddhas in the middle of the mountains, the most confusing metro system with kanji I don't understand and the most incredible food in the world. I love being in Japan and having an American-esque experience of being able to literally eat a different type of cuisine each night. The variety is just amazing. I'm not talking about being able to eat cuisine from different areas around the world (even though this is indeed possible) but I am talking about the possibility to eat a different type of Japanese cuisine itself, each evening.

In Japan, quite honestly the most incredible culinary aspect of the country is that you can choose among over 20 different micro cuisines of the larger grouping of Japanese. The cuisine varies from sushi, shabu shabby, Kaiseki, Raisu (Curry), Soba (handmade), Udon, Ramen, Yakisoba, Sukiyaki, Yakitori, Yudofu, to Tempura and various others.

The two that I was dying to experiment with before heading back to my home away from home Paris was Yodufo and Sukiyaki. Two foreign terms to most Westerns and the more foreign the better in my book :) Essentially I was choosing between meat slowly simmered at the table alongside vegetables and before eaten, dipped in raw egg OR a tofu lunch. Quite a difference, I know, but I had never had either and was ridiculously excited to try both. Yudufo I decided for lunch and Sukiyaki for dinner.

I was lucky enough to have a Japanese friend in Tokyo who knew the perfect Yudofu place which all of her friends had raved about but she had never been to. Ume no Hana was the restaurant and it literally means plum flower. It was a perfect name and perfect restaurant for the season we were experiencing during my April trip to Japan (cherry blossom season).

Ume no Hana is an old school establishment and focused on tofu. It's prepared in more ways than you can even begin to imagine-boiled, served in custard, steam, wrapped in layers around fish, etc. The beauty is that you certainly do not need to be a passionate tofu lover per se to enjoy this experience. The chefs glorious creations are subtle transformations of tofu leaving it recognizable but oh so tasty, flavorful and rich. Their sublime creations I think could turn even a tofu hater into a quick believer. Tofu is typically regarded as the perfect high-protein dish yet Ume no Hana brings the dish to a level of haute cuisine. The decor is minimalist and you quickly are led into your own small room to enjoy your lunch. The server presses a botton and there opens your bamboo sliding doors to your little private space for the afternoon, a tranquil little room where you will enjoy a nice relaxing lunch. You have the option to pick various menus and we chose a 42 euro or 42,000 Yen option for lunch which came with about 9 or so courses.

The full menu 

To the left: Okara A japanese mountain vegetable grated and cooked with the tofu. This is a dish which usually is made with leftovers from the night before and tofu. The blue covered dish was a soft boiled tofu or yuba skin in broth  and the dish on the right is small fish and a green bitter japanese vegetable called a gomae salad. We also started with a pomegranate and vinegar sparkling juice which was supposed to be very good for your health
Chawanmushi or an egg custard which is not sweet but is usually made with chicken and carrots. Here it is made with pumpkin and seasonal ingredients which is big in Japan. The Japanese try and cook with seasonal ingredients whenever possible. The dish is topped with a cherry blossom flower and a small leaf. This dish was delicious, creamy and light and the cherry blossom added a nice hint of acidity 
This is the Yudofu which we ordered separately form the menu. It is pieces of tofu which are boiled in a clear mild soup and dipped into a soya based sauce before you eat it. It is pretty mild and not too flavorful but really nice and bright and healthy.

Yudofu served into our dishes
Various veggies- snap peas and squash cooked in a vegetable broth
The various mountain vegetables (Nemagaridake (bamboo shoots), fuki-no-to-(flower shoots of butter bur), etc are shown in the basket and the fried veggie tofu. 

Shu Mai with a nice spicy mustard sauce
A nice bright salad of seasonal greens and a vinegar and peanut based sauce
Strawberry ice cream and a azuki jelly based dessert with raspberries

Our beautiful little private room. The guest always sits furthest from the door

Location: Several in Tokyo but we went to the one in Aoyama/ Gaienmae located in Aoyama M's Tower

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