Corn Chowder

If you have ever tried to photograph soup, you will know that it is hard to make it look appealing. It usually looks like a bowl of mush, or a bowl of a solid color. No glamour, that’s for sure.

But just because a food may not look great in a photograph doesn’t mean it’s not delicious. 

Here’s a recipe for Corn Chowder, which doesn’t involve cream but instead skim milk. I froze it, stupidly, and the leftovers were not good. So if you try this soup out, plan on either eating it in one sitting, or refrigerating for a few days.

Corn Chowder

2 tbs butter

1 large onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 celery stalks, chopped

1 large carrot, chopped

1 red pepper, seeds removed, diced

3 tbs minced poblano pepper

2 Yukon Gold potatoes

2 cups vegetable broth

2 cups frozen or canned sweet corn

1/3 C All-Purpose flour

3 1/2 C skim milk

1/2 tsp dried thyme

salt and pepper

In a large pot, heat butter at medium heat. Add onion and garlic, cook for 2-3 minutes. Add celery, carrot, peppers, and potatoes. Add vegetable broth and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. In a medium bowl, whisk flour and milk. Pour into soup pot and stir. Add corn, thyme, salt and pepper. Let soup simmer for 20-30 minutes on stove.


Green Things, Roasted

The best thing about being back at school, other than my brilliant Creative Writing Workshop, is that I finally have an oven. I am (most certainly) making my way in life: first going from an oven-less kitchen with a less-than-desirable electric stove top, then to an kitchen with an oven and a more desirable electric stove top. Next stop: commercial-grade eight burner gas stove. I kid, but I do dream.

During one of my sweeps of the internet for recipes and food photos, I decided to google: recipes for one person. I was surprised to find that there are very few sites with somewhat appealing recipes for one person. Of course, there is the recipe for a dozen cookies that could easily be mistaken for one serving.

Disappointed and with few ingredients available, I opted for a green, filling, and perfectly-sized meal: couscous and roasted broccoli. Why had I never thought to roast broccoli before? It is by far one of the best ways I have ever eaten broccoli.

Roasted Broccoli

2 florets of broccoli

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp olive olive

Juice from 1/2 lemon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, toss broccoli with garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil. Place broccoli on baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the broccoli starts to brown and is tender when pierced. Drizzle with lemon juice and serve.

At last, Black Beans (and a Quinoa Salad)

As you may know from previous posts, there seems to be a black bean shortage in Australia. Boy, are those Aussies missing out on my favorite protein-packed legume. Now that I’m home, you can imagine my excitement as I swiped cans of black beans into my cart at the supermarket. It probably looked like I was preparing for a winter storm, or a fiesta for one thousand hungry guests. Instead, I planned on making a Black Bean Quinoa Salad.

It is nice to see some color from onions, pepper, cilantro and corn (even if it is canned) at this time of year. I added more salt than the recipe calls for, seeing as I didn’t believe a quarter teaspoon would be enough for the massive amount of salad the recipe makes. By massive, I mean I had to use the biggest bowl in my kitchen which barely fits in the refrigerator. Nonetheless, the salad tastes great as leftovers, as the dressing keeps the salad moist and delicious. And an added benefit is that this salad is supremely healthy, filled with beans and veggies, as well as the super-food quinoa.

Black Bean Quinoa Salad

Adapted from Eat, Live, Run

2 15 oz. cans black beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 red onion, chopped

1 large red bell pepper, diced

1 can corn

1 cup uncooked quinoa

1 large avocado, diced

1 small bunch cilantro, chopped

Juice of 3 limes

2 tsp cumin

3 tbs extra virgin olive oil

sea salt, to taste


Cook quinoa according to package (typically 1 cup uncooked quinoa to 2 cups water, bring water and quinoa to a boil then simmer for 15 minutes). Let cool.

Mix black beans, onion, cilantro, pepper, avocado and corn in a really large bowl. Toss.

In small bowl, whisk together lime juice, cumin, extra virgin olive oil, and salt.

Add quinoa to salad. Pour dressing over and toss.

Din Tai Fung, Sydney

Traveling with my parents means double the amount of food photos. My mom was never a big photographer, always being the one to ask, “which button do I press?” just to take a photo. However, give my dad and I cameras, and we’ll be snap-happy. Give my dad and I cameras and some good food, and, well, I feel bad for my mom having to deal with two fools taking close-up shots of food in a busy restaurant.

When my parents were in town, we stopped at  Din Tai Fung, which is a chain restaurant with origins in China. We first spotted the dumplings at the Pitt Street Mall food court, but we ventured to World Square so that we could sit down at a place that was not a food court. The restaurant at World Square is not in a food court per se, but the rush and chatter of the place is enough for you to believe you are in one. The place was packed. While you wait for your table, or in some cases, spot at a shared table, you fill out an order form.Although I do eat fish, most dishes included pork or some other meat, which limited the menu tremendously for me. However, I was able to order vegetarian dumplings while my parents ordered pork and shrimp dumplings.We also bought some Dan Dan noodles. We soon realized that the noodles were not meant to be shared. The family next to us gave us some severe glances when we tried to divide and scoop the noodles into our dishes. First we tried using our chopsticks, followed by the small soup spoon. We ended up passing around the bowl of noodles as if we were playing Hot Potato, looking like silly Americans. Despite our antics, the Dan Dan noodles were delicious. I even tried to slurp up the sauce at the end, only to add to our clear misunderstanding of Chinese dining etiquette.

My final word on Din Tai Fung? Definitely a good spot to eat some scrumptious dumplings and to experience a dining culture. The fast-paced restaurant is not a cozy, romantic spot, nor is it particularly in favor of vegetarians, but nonetheless, the food served here is noteworthy.

Easy Shrimp Scampi and a Food Court

The food court at the Pitt Street Mall in Sydney is perhaps the wildest food court I’ve ever visited. I mean that in the best way possible. The walls are a shiny black granite-like material, making you feel like you’ve landed somewhere glamorous. It also makes it seem like the food court is endless, which in some respects it is. Check out the ice cream sundaes and smoothie station below:

Concerning the shrimp, I trekked down to the major supermarket about a mile away just to buy frozen shrimp. Call me crazy, but it was the best decision. Not only did I get shrimp, but I also purchased some yummy quinoa flakes.

As a student who occasionally (i.e. most of the time) wants a fast meal and one that requires little cleaning, I loved this lightened shrimp scampi dish. The best part about this recipe? It’s made using just a microwave. I served it with brown rice because I didn’t have pasta around. I also added more baby spinach than the recipe called for. The shrimp I purchased were smaller than I imagined, but at least they were cooked, peeled and deveined. On a different note, all shrimp in Australia are called prawns, despite the distinction between the two fish.

Microwave Shrimp Scampi

Serves 1

12 small-medium frozen shrimp, cooked, peeled and deveined

1/2 cup spinach leaves, chopped

1 tsp olive oil

1/2 tsp butter

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 tsp dried basil

1/2 lemon, juice

salt and pepper, to taste

Mix all the ingredients in a large microwaveable bowl. Toss to coat shrimp. Microwave for 1 minute. Remove and mix again. Microwave for another 1 minute 15 seconds. Serve over pasta or, as I did, rice.

The picture does not do this dish justice, but believe me, it’s delicious, quick, easy, and oven-less.

De Medici, Bruges

Here’s another post about the glorious subject of food poisoning.

Last summer, I traveled to London with my parents where we Indian-restaurant-hopped. This would be my family’s version of bar hopping. We ate not one, not two, but three Indian meals in a row. I love Indian food, with all of its comforting deep-fried pakoras and hearty baingan bhartha. However, three meals really knocked my body out. Not in a sitting-on-the-toilet sense, but rather a nasty-food-poisoning sense. I spent the next twenty-four hours in bed trying to keep down some British biscuits. Soon after this troubling Indian food experience, we managed to take a train from London to Bruges, Belgium. I couldn’t stomach much, but we were served a most impressive meal aboard the train. Airlines could learn a lot from this:

When we arrived in Bruges, the weather was dreary so we stopped in a quaint restaurant, De Medici. This tea room and “sorbetiere” was small, cozy, and inviting. Oh, and it’s not Indian food. I ordered an herbal tea:

They served our party a dish of cured ham and olives, compliments of the house. While I don’t eat meat and my mother and I both don’t like olives, my father enjoyed this tremendously, and just the thought of a little amuse-bouche was a nice touch.

I ordered a simple mozzarella and tomato sandwich, something which my stomach could handle. Drizzled with balsamic vinegar and served with a side salad with a hard-boiled egg, the plate exceeded my expectations. De Medici is the perfect cure for an Indian food-eating marathon.

Couscous Therapy

I remember vaguely the first time I ate couscous. I was about nine years old, at an African restaurant in Paris. It involved a lot of eating with your hands. Aside from that, the only part I remember is that my mother got food poisoning.

Subconsciously, I believe this left a negative association on me towards couscous for many years. But don’t be too concerned, I have been rehabilitated to savor the taste of the delicious grain.

The most common types of couscous are Moroccan and Israeli, Moroccan being the smaller of the two grains. Israeli couscous can take longer to cook, but it holds sauces better and makes great leftovers that are not soggy. Seeing as leftovers are the basis of my sustenance at school, I figured I’d try out an Israeli Couscous and Chickpea Salad.

I always am shocked when I make something edible. I make enough mistakes in the kitchen, whether it be that time in 3rd grade when I forgot vanilla extract in my cookies, or when I set up a milkshake stand on the side of the road, selling watered down ice cream slush. Once I made homemade pudding with cinnamon and spices that tasted like lawnmower clippings. And so I am amazed every time when a dish is, well, good.

This dish is simple, easy, and once again, oven-free. I’m looking forward to the leftovers tremendously, particularly after the flavors of feta, tomatoes, basil and citrus saturate overnight.

Israeli Couscous and Chickpea Salad

Makes a lot

3 cups couscous

1/2 a basket of cherry tomatoes, quartered

1 medium cucumber, peeled, quartered

1 can cooked chickpeas

1 lemon, cut in half

1 lime, cut in half

extra-virgin olive oil

salt, to taste

ground pepper, to taste

1/3 cup basil, chopped

1/3 cup feta


Cook couscous according to package directions. Toss with tomatoes, cucumbers, and chickpeas in a bowl. Squeeze the lemon and lime into the bowl. Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. (I added more salt at the end, too.) Mix in chopped basil and feta.

Simplicity, thanks to my grandmother

I remember when I was little and my grandmother was cooking kielbasa in my kitchen. I ran outside as if the house were on fire, screaming that the smell was disgusting. (Further proof that I never ate much meat prior to my meatless days.) But aside from this moment of intense aroma, my grandmother has some culinary habits that have been passed down to me.

My grandmother likes to compartmentalize her food. She doesn’t eat rice mixed with her protein and veggies, but rather she likes to enjoy the different tastes of the meal by having her protein, veggies, carbohydrates separated. I suppose this isn’t such a strange concept, but I have realized that I enjoy my food in the same way. Don’t hand me a bowl of rice covered in satay sauce and veggies. I’d rather enjoy everything on its own, savor the tastes in the amounts that I would like.

Despite that she doesn’t eat very spicy foods or onions (whereas I will eat raw onions on command, particularly if there is ketchup around), she makes simple and delicious food. My mom’s greek salad is my grandmother’s recipe, with just a lemon and oil dressing over lettuce, tomatoes, feta, cucumbers and green onions.

My grandmother told me that when she was growing up in Egypt, she would just slice a cucumber, drizzle some lemon juice and add a pinch of salt and pepper. And to this day, this is my favorite snack or side salad. There is something to be said about the simplicity of food.