Lemon Cheese Squares

Summer is almost here! Temperature’s rising, people start grilling and lemonades are again in demand. I have a dessert that is perfect for summer. Main ingredient: Lemon! Lemon is always connected to summer, because the tangy, citrus flavor makes the food so refreshing. So try it and you won’t regret making this. Very tasty and yet so easy to make, you will surely impress your guests when you serve this in one of your bbq parties! Enjoy!

Lemon Cheese Squares

adapted from Taste of Home

  • 1/3 cup stick margarine or butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

FILLING:

  • 1 cup (8 ounces) 4% cottage cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp grated lemon peel
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a bowl, cream margarine and brown sugar. Combine the flour, salt and nutmeg; gradually add to creamed mixture. Press into a greased 8-in. square baking dish. Bake at 350° for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown.
  3. For filling, place the cottage cheese, egg, egg white and lemon juice in a blender or food processor. Cover and process until smooth. Add the sugar, flour, lemon peel and baking powder; cover and process until blended. Pour over crust.
  4. Bake at 350° for 30-34 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour. Refrigerate until chilled. Cut into squares.

 Yield: 9 servings.

Eggplant Gratin

I love Ina Garten! Almost everyday during lunch time, my coworker (and friend) and I eat our lunches in front of the tv while watching her show Barefoot Contessa. Most of the dishes that she makes are so delectable, with lots of flavors. One particular dish that she made in that show is Eggplant gratin. I love eggplant, and I’m obsessed with cheese so I thought, this is one perfect dish that I should try! One thing that I really like about this dish is it has very few ingredients, yet the product tastes like you put a lot of effort in making it. At least that was what my partner thought when I served this as an appetizer on our Valentine’s day dinner.  He was completely blown away by the richness of the dish. He was actually surprised that he was eating an eggplant!

Eggplant Gratin

adapted from Barefoot Contessa

  • Good olive oil, for frying
  • 3/4 pound eggplant, unpeeled, sliced 1/2-inch thick [I used 2 big eggplants]
  • 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 extra-large egg
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup good bottled marinara sauce
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Heat about 1/8-inch of olive oil in a very large frying pan over medium heat. When the oil is almost smoking, add several slices of eggplant and cook, turning once, until they are evenly browned on both sides and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Be careful, it splatters! It is very important that the oil is very hot so it can evenly fry the eggplant. Otherwise, if you add the eggplant when the oil is not yet hot, the eggplant will just soak up all the oil.
  3. Transfer the cooked eggplant slices to paper towels to drain. Add more oil, heat, and add more eggplant until all the slices are cooked.
  4. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the ricotta, egg, half-and-half, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.
  5. In each of 2 individual gratin dishes, place a layer of eggplant slices, then sprinkle with Parmesan, salt and pepper and spoon 1/2 of the marinara sauce. Next, add a second layer of eggplant, more salt and pepper, half the ricotta mixture, and finally 1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan on top.
  6. Place the gratins on a baking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the custard sets and the top is browned. Serve warm.

You may also use one big gratin dish instead of the individual ones.

San Diego trip.. lots of good food!

Last November I went to San Diego, CA for a week to attend the Society for Neuroscience conference. I was so excited to be in a place where the temperature ranges from 55-60 degrees, instead of a miserable 30’s in St. Louis. I attended the seminar of course, but I must admit that in between, my coworker and I would do some short trips at La Jolla to see the beach and to enjoy the sun. Since my family lives there, they took us to different restaurants and hot spots in the area. Among the ten or so restaurants that I tried,  these places are my top two choices…

 

Royal Thai Cuisine

Located at the Gaslamp area, this Thai restaurant has a variety of choices. We ordered these dishes and they cooked and seasoned them perfectly.

Drunken Noodles… a combination of chicken, pork, shrimp and squid with vegetables and chili. Caution: this is not for people who cannot handle spicy food.

 

 

 

Crying tiger…that prime-cut, charcoal broiled ultra spicy beef just melts in your mouth…

 

 

 

 

 

Extraordinary Desserts

Located in Downtown San Diego area, this cute little coffee/dessert shop has all kinds of cakes, desserts and a variety of coffee flavors to choose from. The desserts are delicious and they are so pretty and elegantly prepared too. I guarantee that you will not regret visiting this place. You have to be there early though, because it is so popular that when we got there at 8:30pm on a Friday night, the line was so long and we had to wait for about 20 minutes or so… But it is still worth it, and I will surely come back!

Seared Tuna with Mango Salsa

Lately, cooking has become my stress reliever. Since this has been a very tiring week for me and my guy, I decided to give us a little treat. This dish is very tasty, yet is also healthy.  The bonus part: it is really easy to make, and all ingredients can be found effortlessly in your local supermarket. To make the perfect seared tuna, ensure that the saute pan is really hot, and sear each side for just a minute and a half to two minutes. Also, using 1 teaspoon of jalapeno pepper already brought that spicy kick without being too overpowering. However, feel free to add more if you can handle the spice.

Seared Tuna with Mango Salsa

recipe obtained from Barefoot Contessa

  • 2 tbps good olive oil, plus extra for searing
  • 1 1/2 cups diced yellow onion (2 onions)
  • 2 tsp peeled, minced fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 ripe mangoes, peeled, seeded, and small diced
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tsp light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 to 2 tsp minced fresh jalapeno pepper, to taste (1 pepper)
  • 2 tsp minced fresh mint leaves
  • 2 tuna steaks
  1. Saute the olive oil, onions, and ginger in a large saute pan over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
  2. Add the mangoes, reduce the heat to low and cook for 10 more minutes.
  3. Add the orange juice, brown sugar, salt, black pepper, and jalapeno; cook for 10 more minutes, until orange juice is reduced, stirring occasionally.
  4. Remove from the heat and add the mint. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.

For searing the tuna:

  1. Heat a saute pan over high heat for 5 minutes until very hot.
  2. Season the tuna liberally with salt and pepper.
  3. When the pan is very hot, add a drizzle of olive oil and then the tuna steaks. [I coated the tuna with olive oil then seasoned it with salt and pepper, instead of putting the oil in the pan]
  4. Sear for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until the outside is browned, but the inside is very rare.

Serve the tuna on top of the mango salsa.

Hello World!

Hello World!

After contemplating for the nth time whether to start a blog or not, I finally gave in.. I want to think of this as a new thing to my otherwise very routinary life. Or maybe this is my way of testing my writing and storytelling ability. For the past ten years all I have been writing are scientific reports, proposals and articles. Don’t get me wrong, nothing is boring about that (do I hear snickers?). In fact, it is really challenging to write one, and you feel a sense of accomplishment after. But now I want more, I want to write just for fun.

And one thing that always excites me is food! So I have decided, I will limit my blog topics to food. Anything from the dishes that I make, to my experiences with different restaurants that I think are worth recommending.

Just like what Luciano Pavarotti and William Wright said.. “One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.”  [Pavarotti, My Own Story]

Enjoy!