Tuesday, November 6, 2012

// Cucina 24 //

off-menu pasta made with fancy mushrooms, cheese, greens + onions

raw beets w/fresh butter + sea salt

sausage + apple pizza (?)

spiced bourbon drink w/thinly sliced pears

Just went to my second Moogfest in Asheville, NC. One of the best music fests in my opinion, since it's soooo cheap and the lineup is always unique/good. The hotels are gonna be the most you'll spend money on, but the food, drinks, entertainment are really cheap compared to other festivals. Also, the venues are all within walking distance and the crowds never get too crazy. I mean, it IS a hippie-town. Although, the GZA show kinda got outta hand because they booked him in a venue that was too small. Other than that, I got to enjoy seeing one of my favorite DJ's - "Disclosure" (all the way from the UK and they're only 17 & 20 yrs old!), who put on a REALLY good show. They had everyone dancing! Even my bf, who normally doesn't dance. ;]

Other highlights: Santigold (fun/cute dancers), Divine Fits (one of the guy's from Spoon), Nas (full band, who was fun to watch), Miike Snow & Primus.

Anyway, it was hard to schedule dinner at a normal time, since the bands started playing around 7pm each night. We kinda had to go in between some shows later on in the evening. After doing hours of research on where to eat beforehand, Cucina 24 was my must-eat choice for the trip. The rest of the weekend only allowed us to kinda just grab quick things to eat on the way to shows. The place was simple, chic and very delicious! Everything on the menu had meat/seafood in it, so I asked if they could do a vegetarian pasta and the waiter happily said the could. I told him I trusted the chef and they could just throw anything they want in it (except olives). It came out perfect and it was exactly what I was craving. If you're ever in Asheville, definitely check it out. Also, shout out to Rosetta's Kitchen for all the vegans/vegetarians. Everything we got there was really good (except the mac 'n cheese. I did NOT like the vegan cheese at all!). And now I present: "Nellie in Nature"...

                                 ...and on the streets of downtown Asheville.


You can view the rest of the set here.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

// butternut-walnut stuffed shells //

In October, my Ba Noi (grandma on my dad's side) passed away. She was a hardcore Buddhist who lived until the age of 95. She came to us from Vietnam when I was in middle school and I remember that we didn't get along at first. It was a lot of cultural differences and language barriers (she had a different dialect "nguoi bac" than my typical conversational Vietnamese skills). I was able to learn the Vietnamese kyoto/zither because she brought the instrument over for me. I used to be embarrassed of her black-coated teeth (think it was an enamel for protection), butt hen she ended up Americanizing them after awhile. She's lived w/us ever since she moved over here and it's going to be sad when I come home to visit and she's not there blaring the t.v. watching any kind of music video that came on (Bollywood, K-pop, B.E.T., etc.) or praying at like 6 am w/her loud gong and wooden knocking thing. I am grateful that we got to have her live with us and help take care of my bros. and I as we were growing up. The house was never empty. She also went to the temple almost everyday. In Buddhist tradition, if someone passes from your family, you cannot eat meat/seafood for 49 days (7 weeks). I'm on my 3rd week now and have been trying different recipes that are vegetarian. This one was a really satisfying one and even my non-vegetarian friends and bf enjoyed it.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

// magic watermelon pickle //

Found this in the eastern European section at the Buford Highway Farmer's Market. Wonder why it's magic?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

// cold noodles + pork //

chopped ginger + garlic

mint + cilantro (Viet staples)

pho noodles (any wide rice noodle will do - "that's what she said!")

cook in boiling water for about 4-6 minutes

ground peanuts

sliced cucumbers, peanuts, mint + cilantro

mix everything w/the sauce + the cooked ground pork

Being the typical Asian - even in the hot summer days, I still crave noodles. This cold noodle recipe happened to show up in my inbox from the lovely Tasting Table site.  They tend to have really enticing (and easy) recipes shared by chefs and sous chefs coming from all different types of restaurants/regions. I practically made this the same week that I saw it since the ingredients were so simple and cheap...AND it's been uncomfortably hot out.  I'll definitely keep this on my regular rotation for summer dishes. It's very easy to assemble and the only thing I substituted was mushroom soy sauce for the dark soy sauce. I also didn't have any star anise or Chinese five spice powder, so I omitted that. Still came out really good.

Monday, July 23, 2012

// chinese sausage omelette //

 guest blogger, cousin tawn

Nellex and I grew up in a large, large, LARGE Vietnamese family. Feeding the troupes wasn't always an easy chore for our mothers. But, a chore that they excelled at and reveled at. Our mothers are sisters, the youngest two of six (they also had four brothers).

The sisters (our moms are smallest ones in the front row), looking goofy,
from their younger days in Vietnam
. Why my mom had curly hair here,
is beyond me! Lol :)

The sisters are to put it mildly, competitive when it comes to their food. They take pride in their cuisine. Each has a special ingredient or tweak that they add to a standard dish to make it their own. Rarely do they divulge their family recipes. If and when they do, after you beg, and beg and grovel, you are sworn up and down to secrecy. So, please don't tell my mom on me ;)

Below, is my (and my mother's version) of a Chinese (lap cheong) sausage omelette. A popular dish in our immigrant household. It was cheap to make, served many, and used simple ingredients that were standard in our Vietnamese home. My mother used to serve it as one of the dishes that were part of our family-style dinner. I sometimes make it for lunch and eat it with jasmine rice.

 INGREDIENTS ( for two 10" omelettes): :

6 eggs
1 small sweet or yellow onion, sliced
2 lap cheong sausages, sliced
2 springs green onions, sliced, whites separated from greens
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
1/4 cup of cream
freshly ground pepper
vegetable oil

1. Prep ingredients
2. Mix eggs, cream, greens of green onions, fish sauce and pepper together in a small bowl.
3. Heat oil in a 10" pan (non-stick is better if you have it) over medium heat. 4. Add onions, whites of green onions and sausage. Sautee until onion is softened.
5. Add egg mixture. As egg starts cooking, gently lift the omelette
from side to side and redistribute raw egg to cook.

6. Maintaining medium heat so that omelette cooks low and slow (to prevent a tough omelette), lid if necessary until desired doneness is achieved.

Serve topped with freshly cracked pepper, as part of your family dinner...

or with a side of rice as a complete meal.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

// grapefruit, fennel & arugula salad //

Whew! It's hot out. A record for Hotlanta at least. Today it was a high of  104 degrees. Insane. Tomorrow it's supposed to be 106 degrees. I moved away from ORL because of humid weather like this! Global warming, I guess. Ended up making this lovely salad to try and soothe the heat.  The original recipe uses avocado, too but the grocery store I went to didn't have any ripe ones. Had to do without them for this round. Still came out really refreshing and delicious...stay cool everyone!

Monday, June 25, 2012

// steak & brussels sprouts //

There are so many ways to make brussel sprouts nowadays. I tried this really simple recipe while being crunched on time since broiling my steak only takes less than 10 minutes. The only thing I left out were the almonds. For the marinade on the steak, you can let it sit for 15-30 minutes if you're in a hurry. Of course, if you can leave it for a few hours it'll be even better, but I've honestly marinated for less than 10 minutes before and it still came out really good. I always keep the staple ingredients around my apt. Try it with salmon, too!

  • olive oil - about 2-3 tablespoons
  • honey - just drizzle zig-zag style on the steak
  • herbs de provence (or Italian seasoning) - sprinkle on each side
  • soy sauce or Tamari sauce - about 2-3 tablespoons
  • ground pepper to your liking
  • ribeye steak

  1. pre-heat oven to broil
  2. put marinated steaks onto broiling pan (save the marinade)
  3. cook on one side for about 6-8 minutes (depending on size of your steak)
  4. flip over, pour leftover marinade on top of steaks and cook for another 4-5 minutes (depending on how you like it cooked, I do medium-rare). 

Monday, May 21, 2012

// heirloom tomato = baby watermelon //

heirloom tomatoes from Trader Joe's

So cute. Thought I'd post pics. Ok, as you were...

// cucumber & tomato salad //

I needed a side for my honey-mustard chicken wings. Tweaked some online recipes that I've found to use what I had at home already. Simple and perfect for the hot weather outside. Bring it to a cook-out, dinner party, etc. It's pretty quick and cheap to make.


  • cucumber, sliced and seeded (I used 4 smaller Persian cucumbers. they're just crispier and better)
  • 1/2 onion, yellow sweet, sliced thin
  • 3/4 carton of grape tomatoes (halved) 
  • tablespoons cilantro, fresh chopped
  • tablespoons rice wine vinegar 
  • tablespoons water
  • tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Chill for 30 minutes in the fridge if you have time. 

  • Monday, April 2, 2012

    // pineapple juice //

    Found this at Trader Joe's the other week. I learned a trick at the bar I used to waitress at back in the day when taking a tequila shot. You can just shoot a little bit of pineapple juice immediately right after the shot and it cancels out the tequila taste. I like it a lot better than the whole salt and lime combo. Try it next time, just ask for a "pineapple back" with your shot.

    Sunday, March 4, 2012

    // ham loaf //

    Isn't the pig shape, cute?
    made baked mac & cheese w/roasted veggies
    Yup. That's right. You heard me. HAM. LOAF! If you love meatloaf (or ham), then you might just have a new favorite meat-in-the-form-of-a-loaf dish. Had some friends over for dinner and it was their first time having it. A few stated that it was their favorite meal I've made so far. Others, who were too full still went for 2nds and 3rds. Curious? You can find the recipe here.

    Tuesday, February 21, 2012

    // Biscoff spread //

    Game changer, folks. If you thought the cookie was enough to make you fly Delta, then you've gotta try Biscoff in spread form. Best. Spread. EVAR!!!!!  I just put it on top of a toasted english muffin. You can find it at your local Publix. Next to the peanut butter. Smears!

    Saturday, January 21, 2012

    // banh xeo //

    My mom was visiting from Orlando for a few days, so I already had my food requests in before she even arrived. "Banh Xeo" is one of those dishes that are tricky to make (it's all about the batter, pan and technique). We usually just get the pre-packaged batter mix and then leave out the coconut milk that it says to add. Everyone tweaks it their own way, some add beer for crispiness and the filling also varies. My aunt used a lot more seafood - baby octopus/squid, shrimp, etc. I like mine pretty simple with just a little bit of pork, shrimp and a lot of bean sprouts. Unfortunately, I don't have a go-to recipe since I've tried it twice before without my mom's help and failed. Your best bet is to learn while watching a professional Vietnamese mom make it. It's also one of those dishes that one person is cooking while everyone else eats as it comes out. So, it's kind of chaotic in the kitchen and you will smell like banh xeo/oil for the rest of the night. Just a fair warning. Totally worth it, though. ;]

    Tuesday, January 10, 2012

    // cuuuute chopsticks //

    You can never have enough good-looking chopsticks in an Asian household. Got these at Super H-Mart off Pleasant Hill Rd. in Duluth today.

    Wednesday, January 4, 2012

    // roasted rosemary/thyme chicken thighs //

    If you want something fancy but don't have a lot of time to prep, this is one easy recipe. Just make sure you have 45 minutes to an hour to roast the chicken thighs. I basically winged this one because we had a lot of leftover fresh rosemary and thyme (not like the "Scarborough Fair" song). The key is to roast it at least for 45 minutes, but if you can leave it in a little longer...I like mine extra crispy!

    • chicken thighs (I used 6)
    • fresh rosemary(about 2 long sprigs) - take off stem and chop up
    • fresh thyme - I just left on the stem and placed one stem on top of each thigh
    • Kosher salt
    • ground pepper
    • olive oil (about 1-2 tbs)
    • one garlic clove for each thigh
    1.  Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees
    2. Rinse and dry thighs. Place in baking pan
    3. Drizzle olive oil over chicken thighs
    4. Salt & pepper evenly
    5. Sprinkle rosemary evenly
    6. peel garlic clove and stuff into chicken (or place underneath)
    7. bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour