Paneer tikka masala

Being in between jobs has been interesting. It’s sort of feels like a summer break as if I were still a student, but at the same time I know I have this huge life step looming ahead of me. So in the meantime, I’ve been trying to immerse myself in things that I didn’t have time to do before — catching up with old friends, kicking back and actually watching something on TV, yoga, outdoorsy activities, traveling the west coast, and of course, cooking.

It’s crazy how much you can get done in a day when you’re unemployed. I’ve been feeling productive, yet sort of non-productive (since I’m currently not working), at the same time. But I guess it’s a nice break before I’m off to Germany.

I had a pretty open-schedule, slow day this past Thursday. So I decided to tackle a more heavy-duty culinary challenge, because usually I’ll only have 1-2 hours to allot to food experiments a week.

I don’t venture off into different cuisines often, so that’s something I’ve been trying to work on. And because I’m moving soon, I want to take a stab at foods I know will be a little harder to find on the other side of the Atlantic. If you know me, you know I love Indian food – well, I love chicken tikka masala and naan, especially. I didn’t feel like eating chicken though, so I made paneer tikka masala. Which I’ve now concluded I like more than the chicken-version.

Made some roti to go with it too, which is pretty simple to whip up. You can find the recipe here.

28 oz can whole tomatoes
10 oz (about 300g) paneer
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 cup plain yogurt, whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
1/4 cup tomato paste
6 garlic cloves, minced
4 tbsp ginger, minced
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp butter
4 tsp turmeric
2 tsp cumin, ground
2 tsp coriander, ground
2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

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Roti flatbread

I made this on a whim to go with the paneer tikka masala creation we whipped up this past Thursday.

I intend to revisit this recipe in the future, see if I can make any improvements. I would’ve liked it definitely more flaky, and much thinner. But this served as a good vehicle to get tikka-masala-to-mouth, nonetheless.

Recipe adapted from

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp salt
1 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil

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Chopped thai chicken salad

I spent this past weekend in Las Vegas, for my best friend’s birthday bash. It was out-of-this-world hot (averaging temperatures between 105-115°F), and I ate way too much at the buffet. The endless crab legs at Bacchanal get me every time. Mmm, actually thinking about it makes me want more.

Vegas takes a lot out of you, as always, so it’s been nice being at home taking time to relax and recover. It’s hot here, too. This has definitely been one of the warmer summers.

I told myself I wanted to go vegetarian for a while after coming back from Vegas, both for health reasons and just to see how long I could hold out (knowing me, probably not long). So a light, refreshing salad sounded like a good idea today.

I decided to make a thai-style salad. And then I thought – man, chicken would make this salad an infinite times more tasty. Hence the chicken. My vegetarian challenge shall wait until another day. I’m a sucker.

This salad hit the spot. Perfect for a hot summer day when you want the flavor, sans the heaviness.

1 chicken breast
1 head of white or green cabbage
1 large carrot, washed and peeled
1 green papaya, peeled and seeds removed
1/2 cup bean sprouts
1/2 cup green onion
1/2 cup cilantro
1/2 cup peanuts, roasted and salted
1 lime
Small sprig of basil (about 7-8 leaves)

2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp red pepper chili flakes
1/2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tbsp honey
1/2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup water
1/2 tbsp coconut milk (optional)

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Peach-basil crumble bar

It’s peach season! This past Saturday marked the first day of summer.

Summer is the best. Grocery stores now have to rearrange everything to make room for the influx of seasonal fruits and produce. And for once, they actually might have everything you’re looking for in stock. No more gross, frozen alternatives!

So, I’m going to take advantage of these happy times as much as possible. I think I’ll tackle apricots next (but probably after a few more experiments with the good ol’ peach). See my other peach recipe on Invitation/Annual, here: roasted white peach and ginger iced tea.

I originally wanted to make a peach pastry tart, but the puff pastry was nowhere to be found (grocery stores… you win some, you lose some). So I made this instead, adapted from Deb Perelman’s peach shortbread. Not too shabby – it’s like a pop tart, but for grown-ups.

2 peaches, pitted
2 basil leaves
1 egg
1 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup + 2 tbsp white sugar
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon, ground
1/8 tsp nutmeg, ground
1/4 tsp salt

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spiced chai banana fritters

I don’t know what it is about bananas, but I always forget that I have them around. And inevitably, they start over-ripening and take on the splotchy brown coat we’ve all experienced too many times before.

But it also sucks to just throw away the bananas. So what can you do with overripe bananas? Banana bread is tried and true, but old news in my book. And then it occurred to me – a while ago during one of my few free spare moments, I watched Gordon Ramsay (celebrity chef crush) make banana coconut fritters on his show Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Home Cooking.

I didn’t have coconut at home though, and as I always do, I wanted to put my own spin on it. Digging through my pantry, I found a bunch of spices that I’ve hoarded throughout the years but just don’t get enough love. Ground cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, all-spice. Sounds like spiced chai. Spiced chai banana fritters!

Perfect combination of flavors. Think fried banana meets cinnamon sugar donut, with a kick.

Spiced chai coating
1/2 tsp cloves, ground
1/2 tsp cardamom, ground
1/2 tsp nutmeg, ground
1/2 tsp all-spice, ground
3/4 tsp ginger, ground
1 tsp cinnamon, ground
3/4 cup white granulated sugar

Banana fritter
3 1/2 ripe bananas
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup white granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
Vegetable oil

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stout beer bread with honey butter

Good news guys, there are other ways to have your favorite alcoholic drinks besides drinking it. A while back, I experimented with some leftover Baileys I had at home and ended up with a Baileys Irish Cream Tiramisu. So good.

Today’s potion of choice was beer, because I’ve heard so many great things about the effect of carbonated drinks in baked goods. I’ve been more into darker beers as of late (e.g. stouts and porters), so I gave Guinness – an Irish dry stout – a try. I guess the hype is real, it came out beautifully! A buttery, crunchy crust while dense, fluffy, and slightly moist on the inside. The flavor is really fragrant, with just a hint of wheaty-ness from the beer, and complements perfectly with the honey butter.

A must for beer lovers!

10-oz stout beer
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup wheat flour, fine
3 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature, divided

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cover photo

asparagusheads shavedasparagus
peaches roastedpeaches

Apart from the magazine features, I’ve also been working on two recipes for Invitation/Annual’s website, a curated collection of creative work ranging anywhere from photography to articles to well, recipes.

These two recipes were designed to feature seasonal ingredients – asparagus and peach. Seasonal ingredients are always the best ingredients to cook with. Buy from farmers markets if you can – support local agriculture!

I’m stoked to say that the recipes are now published and available to view on here!