Seared Quail, Red and White Quinoa, Polenta, Roasted Zucchini with Montegrato Pedro Ximénez Reduction

When I do dinner parties, I don’t actually get to really enjoy my food that much because I’m busy cooking and plating and moving onto the next course. That’s not the case when I cook for myself! I had some leftover of the sherry vinegar reduction that I made from Thanksgiving and it has kept well in the fridge!!

Even though this recipe serves two, I finished it all by myself.

Merry Christmas!

Serves 2.


[100% organic]

For the Brine

  • ¼ cup salt
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 TBS whole black peppercorns
  • 4 quails

Bring everything (except for the quails) to a boil and cool down immediately. Submerge quails in this brine for at least 6 hours in the fridge.

For the Polenta

  • ½ cup cornmeal
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 TBS butter
  • Whole milk, as needed
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper

In a pot, bring 2 cups of water to a rolling boil. Pour in cornmeal in a steady stream and whisk vigorously. Keep on whisking until cornmeal begins to thicken. Turn heat to low and cook for 20 minutes, remember to whisk every few minutes to prevent sticking. Once polenta is almost done, mix in butter, season with salt and pepper. Add whole milk to desired consistency. Keep warm.

For the Zucchini

  • 2 zucchinis
  • Chive oil
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Toss chopped zucchinis in chive oil, salt, and black pepper. In a preheated 425°F oven, roast vegetables for 15 minutes. Keep warm.

For the Quinoa

  • ½ cup red quinoa
  • ½ cup white quinoa
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 thyme sprig
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • Salt

I cooked everything in my rice cooker. If you have one, use it.

If not, bring the chicken broth to a boil, add in quinoa, aromatics, and salt. Then return to a boil and turn on low, covered, for 20 minutes, or until add broth has been absorbed. Fluff with fork and keep warm.

For the Montegrato Pedro Ximénez Reduction.


Remove quail from brine and pat dry. Lightly season with salt and pepper on a wire rack. Sear quail skin-side down in either neutral cooking oil or butter. Sear for 2 minutes and then flip over for another minute. Allow quail to rest before cutting.


Remy’s Ratatouille

Ever since my mandolin arrived in the mail, I’ve been dying to use it and to make something spectacular. One of my really good friends came into town last week and he loves the movie Ratatouille.

Ok, since the movie is a “movie” and it’s Pixar, their ratatouille is PERFECT. See the bottom stack of sliced vegetables, that’s not possible!!!! How can sliced veggies sit on their sides??? Remy’s sauce is also prettier than mine because I don’t have the luxury of having fresh herbs like chervil and tarragon at my disposal. I’m one person at home. What am I supposed to do with the extra herbs??? But I’m still happy with what I came out with and my friend loved it!

about how to plate it as a perfect circle!!!!!******

[100% organic]

For the Sauce

  • One 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 large basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • Sprigs of thyme
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper
  • Olive oil, as needed
  • Water, as needed

In a pan, film a thin coating of olive oil on medium-low heat. Sweat the onions until translucent. There should be no coloration. Then add in the garlic and continue sweating for 30 seconds. Add in the crushed tomatoes and water to thin out the tomatoes. Don’t add too much water or else it will take forever to reduce. Add in the herbs and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes.

Season and taste at the end. Strain through a coarse sieve and put into a clean saucepan. Keep pan warm.

For the Veggies

  • 1 zucchini
  • 2 yellow squash
  • 1 Chinese/graffiti eggplant
  • 4 plum tomatoes
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • Thyme sprigs, as needed
  • Basil leaves
  • Chives, for garnish
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Using a mandolin, slice zucchini and yellow squash to 1.5mm-2mm in thickness. Slice eggplant a little thicker than the zucchini and yellow squash. Peel off the skin to the tomatoes and slice them 2mm-2.5mm in thickness. Set sliced vegetables aside.

To assemble: in a round baking dish, ladle sauce on the bottom and in alternating colors/vegetables, arrange sliced vegetables lying down, over-lapping each other. Sprinkle chopped bell peppers in the center and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Ladle more sauce over everything and place some herbs (thyme sprigs and basil leaves) on top and then bake in oven for 20-30 minutes.

To plate: using a 2-in ring mold, carefully place stacked veggies in the ring mold and top with some sauce, along with the bell peppers. Garnish with chive sprig.

Quick Ratatouille

One of the best things that I’ve learned how to make in culinary school is ratatouille. But making Niçoise-Style Ratatouille takes too long, there’s so much more technique, ingredients, and steps to do. This quick version takes less prep and cooking time because the knife cut is smaller.

This recipe makes three ring molds like the picture below.

[100% organic]

  • ½ onion, very finely diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 4 plum tomatoes
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into tiny squares
  • 1 eggplant, cut into tiny squares
  • 1 zucchini, cut into tiny squares
  • Bouquet garni
  • EVOO, as needed
  • 3 basil leaves
  • Canola oil
  • Salt

Boil the tomatoes for 15 seconds in boiling water to remove the skin. Place in cold water with ice to stop the cooking process. Remove the skin with a pairing knife, cut the tomato in half (length-wise), then remove the seeds. Reserve those for later, and then finely chop the flesh. Strain the seeds and save the juice.

Place the eggplant in a colander and sprinkle lightly with salt. Let it disgorge while continuing with the recipe.

In a hot pan, add 1 TBS EVOO and sauté the red peppers. Season with salt and drain in a strainer. Repeat for zucchini and eggplant. Before sautéing the eggplant, squeeze out as much moisture as you can.

As the three vegetables are straining, heat 2 TBS EVOO in a pan. Sweat the onions for 5 minutes, until translucent, on low heat. Add in the minced garlic, cook until aromatic. Turn up the heat to medium and add the finely chopped tomatoes, season. Cook for a few minutes and then add in the remaining vegetables, along with the bouquet garni and strained tomato juices.

Cover with parchment paper and simmer gently for 30 minutes until all the moisture has evaporated. Adjust for seasoning.

Fry the basil leaves in canola oil. Place on paper towels and garnish when finish plating in ring molds.

Serve with baguette slices.

*Adapted from the French Culinary Institute.

Niçoise-Style Ratatouille

This recipe is from my textbook so it’s strictly very, very French. It tastes great. When I made it the first time in class, my partner and I couldn’t stop eating it.

For a quicker recipe, click here for Quick Ratatouille.

[100% organic]

  • 4 plum tomatoes
  • 6 TBS blended oil (3 TBS canola oil + 3 TBS olive oil)
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 small green pepper, cut into small squares
  • 1 small red pepper, cut into small squares
  • 8 TBS tomato juice
  • 2 TBS tomato paste
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • Bouquet garni with basil leaves
  • 1 large eggplant, cut into small squares
  • 1 zucchini, cut into small squares
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp thyme leaves
  • 2 baguettes, sliced
  • Extra olive oil, for frying

Boil the tomatoes for 15 seconds in boiling water to remove the skin. Place in cold water with ice to stop the cooking process. Remove the skin with a pairing knife, cut the tomato in half (length-wise), then remove the seeds. Reserve those for later, and then roughly chop the flesh. Strain the seeds and save the juice.

Place the eggplant in a colander and sprinkle lightly with salt. Let it disgorge while continuing with the recipe.

Heat 3 TBS of the oil in a pot on medium heat, add the onion and sweat for 5 minutes. Add the diced green and red bell peppers and cook for another 5 minutes. Add in the tomato flesh, and continue cooking for 5 minutes. Season each vegetable lightly when they are added to the pot.

Pour in the 8 TBS of tomato juice along with the juices from the tomato seeds, tomato paste, and the smashed garlic and bouquet garni. Cover, and simmer gently for 30 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

Heat ⅓ of the remaining oil in a wide pan until very hot, and add the zucchini. Sauté until lightly golden and then transfer to a colander to drain. Season with salt and thyme.

For the disgorged eggplant, strain and slightly squeeze out some of the liquid within. Dry the eggplant well with paper towels. Heat the remainder of the oil in the same pan and sauté the eggplant until golden. Drain the eggplant.

Add the zucchini and eggplant to the cooking vegetables and continue to cook for another 15 minutes, so that all the vegetables are completely tender and their flavors have melded. Remove the bouquet garni and adjust the seasoning.

Serve with croutons from fried baguette slices in olive oil. Be careful, they fry quickly.

*Adapted from the French Culinary Institute.

Linguine with Fresh Shrimp & Zucchini Ribbons

I’ve been dying to eat Italian food and my mom doesn’t cook anything else except for Chinese food. I love what my mom cooks every night but I’m used to my American lifestyle – eating a variety of different cuisines every week. So… risotto last night was not enough. I made linguine today for lunch. Jenny and I went to the wet market together and omg, organic basil is SO much cheaper than the basil sold at supermarkets. SO CHEAP! Compare the wet market price of HK$1.50 with HK$19.00 at the supermarkets. What the fuck?! Seriously!! But then parsley is MORE EXPENSIVE!!! INSANE! I don’t get it.

[100% organic & wild]

  • Linguine
  • 1 lb large live shrimp
  • 2 cups chicken broth, unsalted
  • 2 slices of ginger
  • 2 stalks of scallions
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • 2 TBS butter
  • 2 TBS EVOO
  • 1 small red onion, finely sliced
  • 2 TBS dried red pepper flakes (add more or less to your liking)
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 1 yellow zucchini, peeled to form ribbons
  • 1 packet enoki mushrooms
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 4 TBS fresh basil leaves
  • 3 TBS fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • S&P to taste

Set a few shrimp aside with everything intact, just cut off the antennae and legs. Cut off the heads of the remaining shrimp, remove the intestinal tract, and then set aside. Put all the heads into a pot with the chicken broth and start heating the pot. Move all the shrimp into the fridge while you prepare everything else.

Once the chicken broth boils, add in the ginger and scallions and the red wine. When broth boils again, cook on low heat for 5 minutes then remove broth from heat and pour through a sieve.

Heat up a pan with the olive oil and butter. When melted, add the onions, garlic, and a pinch of parsley. Once aromatic, add in the zucchini ribbons and ¼ cup of the broth.

In a separate pot, boil salted water and add a few drops of oil to prevent sticking. Cook pasta to al dente. Once the ribbons are thoroughly cooked, add in the enoki mushrooms, 2 TBS basil, and some more broth, but be careful not to add too much broth – just so that the mixture doesn’t dry up. Once the mushrooms are wilted, add in the shrimp and the white wine, and ½ cup broth. Once it boils, remove from heat.

Plate with linguine on the bottom, scatter some parsley, scatter some more basil, and then pour shrimp mixture on top and place the intact shrimp on the very top.

Thanks Jenny for the photo again!

Smoked Salmon Parcels with Israeli Couscous

Since I had already decided to make the Stuffed Peppers with Israeli Couscous, I thought it would be a good idea and a good pairing for another dish to have the same kind of couscous. I found this recipe and I loved it immediately because I’m always trying to improve my presentation and I like making cute looking dishes. ^_^ (OK, that’s the closest fob thing that I’ll ever do).

Whole Foods was out of chives, basil, and other herbs. I just drizzled regular extra virgin olive oil over this. At least it still tasted great; they all liked it. I liked it too!

[100% organic, Norwegian salmon]

*OK, the presentation is kind of messy. The smoked salmon was not easy to wrap around the couscous clumps.

**I’m going to make this another time when there are chives for sale!!!

  • ½ lb smoked salmon, choose the center pieces
  • Stuffing from this recipe
  • 2 cups Israeli couscous with 4 cups of water
  • 1 cup chives, chopped
  • 1 cup EVOO
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

For the Chive oil

Place chopped chives and garlic into food processor and process till finely chopped. Stream in olive oil. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Strain mixture into a glass bowl, Give about 30 minutes to drain, Discard solids.

For the Couscous

Follow these instructions. After adding vegetables and cheese to couscous, stir in ¼ cup of chive oil into the couscous and stuffing mixture.

For the Salmon Parcels

Make clumps of the couscous and cover with the smoked salmon. Garnish with chives.

*Adapted from Single Guy Chef.

Stuffed Peppers with Israeli Couscous

I was going to host a pot-luck party in October but with everyone’s different schedules, the party kept on being pushed back and back until I got tired of changing the date so I canceled it. Then at the beginning of this month, two of my friends asked for me to cook because one of them never tried anything that I’ve made so I decided to have a little dinner party to celebrate them finishing their finals for this semester. It was going to be a vegetarian night because both of them are Hindu.

It was supposed to be on December 13 but it was rescheduled, AGAIN. It’s like the world is telling me not to cook. Then one of my friends got sick so I just abandoned everything! It’s good that I didn’t go buy most of the ingredients or else I would have had a vegetarian week and would have been very snappy at everyone.

This kind of couscous reminds me of sago. They taste almost the same. I love it! I think I’m eating pearls, if pearls were edible.

This is going on my favorites too! I should start making a tag for that.

[100% organic]

  • 4 TBS olive oil
  • 1 cup Israeli couscous
  • Large bell peppers, top cut off and diced, membrane removed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 yellow squash, diced
  • 1 green zucchini, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 small Idaho potatoes, diced
  • 5 shiitake mushrooms, diced
  • Fresh rosemary
  • Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a large pot, heat 2 TBS of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add couscous and stir until lightly toasted, about 3 minutes. Add 2 cups of water and cover. Once water boils, turn heat to low and cook until completely dissolved. Scoop couscous into a large bowl and set aside.

Rinse the same pot and add about 2 inches of water. Place whole peppers in pot, cover and steam for about 5 minutes.

In a large skillet, heat remaining olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic, and sauté for about 10 seconds. Add remaining vegetables and sauté until soft, use salt and pepper to taste. Add vegetables and cheese to couscous. Fill the drained peppers with the couscous mixture and bake in a preheated 350°F oven for about 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

*Adapted from Charlestown Culinary.

Note to self: Next time I will not steam the bell peppers. Steaming caused the color to fade and the skin of the peppers to wrinkle and crack.