Good Fortune

Pork Dumpings
I’ve never been a fan of Chinese food. When I was younger, my family would order carry out from a local restaurant at least once a week and I’d dread it.

I didn’t like the salt-laden sauces with sour flavors that made my tongue curl. I despised the tiny vegetables that seemed fake. The rice was bland and flavorless, and it got stale overnight in the fridge.

Most of all, I hated crab rangoon. The shells were pocked with little oil-filled bubbles and the insides were stuffed with too-sweet cream cheese. Sometimes I could eat the shells alone if I scooped out the cheese, but together, it was too much to bear.

Then some time went by and I started to encounter different types of Chinese food, far from the sweet and sour chicken and crab rangoon that I grew up avoiding. I went to Washington, D.C. last summer and ate at Tiger Fork, which serves contemporary takes on Hong Kong fare. Trying those dishes and enjoying them made me realize that I was being closed minded. Surely there was some Chinese food that I’d enjoy. It was up to me to find it.

A few months ago I heard that a new Chinese-American restaurant was opening in Botanical Heights. The restaurant was going to be across from some of my favorite eateries in the city including Olio and Union Loafers. I decided to stop by with my boyfriend a couple weeks ago for dinner.

Good Fortune InteriorsWe ordered a bunch of dishes to share. I took a chance on the “rangoons,” or the restaurant’s take on crab rangoon. The child in me protested because, once bitten twice shy. I didn’t want my crab rangoon trauma to rise to the surface.

Luckily, that didn’t happen. In fact, Good Fortune’s rangoons are one of my favorite dishes on the menu. They look more like egg rolls than rangoons, and they’re filled with salted cod cream. They come with a sweet and sour dipping sauce that’s the perfect amount of spicy. I ordered two but I could have eaten six by myself.

RangoonsWe ordered a large dish, the crispy pork with five spice, ramps, and charred scallion (pictured below). It’s not on the current menu so you might not find it if/when you stop by.

PorkI’d recommend the smaller plates at Good Fortune, though. My instinct was to order a bunch of them the first time and I wasn’t wrong. Two of my favorites are the pork dumplings (pictured at the top of this post) and the cashew spring roots.

I ordered the cashew spring roots when I stopped by for lunch yesterday because my boyfriend didn’t want to get them the first time we ate at the restaurant. The waitress told me how good the sauce was and she wasn’t lying.

The cashew sauce is nutty and slightly sweet, and it’s served over perfectly tender white rice. The root vegetables are colorful and have just enough bite. It’s the perfect dish to pair with one of the heartier items on the menu such as pork ribs or fried chicken.

Cashew VeggiesI’m happy that Good Fortune opened in the neighborhood. It surprised me by becoming one of my favorite new restaurants in the city. A few years ago, I never thought it would be possible. Now I wake up craving rangoons.

I left Good Fortune yesterday and cracked open my fortune cookie as I walked to my car. The advice stopped me in my tracks. It’s important to remember that good things will find us eventually. We just have to trust the process.Good Fortune

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Spring Pea Ricotta Tart

Spring Pea Ricotta Tart
In this chapter of, “Puff Pastry Makes Everything Better,” I bring you this spring pea ricotta tart.

I love puff pastry. I forget how much I love it until I use it again. It’s a little pricey but it’s so worth it. You buy a pack, let it defrost in the fridge overnight, brush it with some egg wash, and bake it in the oven. Then you have a beautiful, buttery, flaky, delicious base for whatever you want to put on top.

It’s also good to use when you want to make something that looks more impressive than it actually is. I’m thinking dinner parties or impromptu get togethers, but maybe you have other occasions where you want to use it. Maybe it’s just about impressing yourself. Whatever you need, puff pastry will deliver.

This tart could not be easier to make. You make the puff pastry, then you spread a ricotta/cream mixture on top, sprinkle on some cooked peas, and carefully place a few egg yolks on top.

The egg yolk part is my favorite. Yeah, it’s a little challenging, especially if you’ve never worked with eggs. But once you master it, it’s fun and relaxing. You crack an egg into the palm of your hand. Keep your fingers slightly open so the egg white can drop through like quicksand. Then you use the palm of your hand to gently place the yolk onto the tart.

I topped my tart with microgreens, salt, and pepper, but you could get creative. Scallions, ramps, or even some chopped nuts would work well. I wanted to keep mine simple because the real star of this show is the puff pastry.

A word about the peas: I used frozen peas and warmed them up in a pot of boiling water. Then I rinsed them under cold water so they’d retain their bright green color. You could use fresh peas if you have them or find them at the store. But honestly, there’s nothing wrong with using frozen peas. Maybe I’ll regret saying this one day, but for now I think it’s true.

Here’s a song to get you started on your spring pea ricotta tart journey. It’s also good for days when you’re stuck in traffic and you need a sing-a-long to get you through.

Spring Pea Ricotta Tart

Ingredients

1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed
5 eggs
1/2 cup fresh ricotta cheese
2 Tbsp heavy cream
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup green peas, cooked and cooled
freshly ground pepper and salt to taste
1/4 cup microgreens
salt and pepper for topping

Directions

Defrost the puff pastry by placing the whole box (with the dough still wrapped) in the refrigerator overnight. The next day when you’re ready to use it, take it out of the fridge and let it sit for a few minutes. Don’t let it sit out at room temperature for too long, though. You want slightly chilled dough.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Whisk one of the eggs with a pinch of salt in a small bowl until frothy. Place the puff pastry on the parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Fold down the edges a 1/2 inch to make a border. Prick the middle of the dough with a fork, making rows of tines. Brush the dough with the egg, making sure to coat the crust and middle.

Bake the crust for about 22 minutes or until it’s golden brown. Remove from the oven and once it’s cooled slightly, gently press down the middle (don’t worry if it’s very puffy at first).

Mix the ricotta and cream. Spread it onto the middle of the crust. Top with the cooked peas. Make four small wells in the cheese/pea mixture for your egg yolks.

Crack an egg into your palm and let the white drop through your slightly-opened fingers into a bowl. Gently place the yolk into one of the holes. Repeat this process three times until you have four egg yolks on your tart.

Place the tart back in the oven on the bottom rack and bake for 15 minutes, or until the yolks are barely set. Remove from the oven and serve. Enjoy!

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Buckwheat Waffles with Blackberries

Buckwheat Waffles
I’ve been cooking with buckwheat a lot lately, partly because I have a big bag of it that I need to use up, and partly because it’s really good.

Buckwheat isn’t like traditional flour. It’s made from grain-like seeds, which accounts for its slightly nutty and complex flavor. It’s tangy, rich, and hearty, making it the perfect addition to most breakfast dishes.

Sunday morning, I decided to use buckwheat flour instead of regular flour to make waffles. I’m not a big fan of waffles because I think they’re kind of superficial. They look great but there’s not a lot going on beneath the surface. Still, I like to make them once in a while when I have some spare time. They’re a good foundation for toppings.

I used almond milk instead of regular milk or buttermilk to make these waffles. I was a little nervous about subbing in almond milk because it tends to mess with the consistency of baked goods.

Luckily, that wasn’t the case here. The waffles turned out light and fluffy, even though they had an intense flavor from the buckwheat. I sent a picture to my boyfriend and he thought they were chocolate waffles. I didn’t add any cocoa powder but I might do that next time. I think a chocolate/raspberry combo would be delicious.

I topped the waffles with blackberries and banana slices but feel free to get creative. I bet a strawberry/mint combo would also be good.

Also, it kind of goes without saying but these waffles (like most waffles) benefit from a healthy pour of maple syrup. I’d also recommend spreading a little salted butter on top when they’re still warm. It will get melty and mix with the syrup and slightly coat the fruit. It’s a win-win situation.

If you want to keep your waffles warm while you make a batch, preheat your oven to 200 degrees F ahead of time and place a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper inside. You can transfer waffles to this sheet as you finish them and it will keep them crispy and warm. Just don’t stack them because then they’ll get soggy. I can think of few things worse than soggy waffles (even the name sounds gross).

So yeah. Make these waffles on a weekend morning when you have a little extra time. If you make a big batch, you can freeze some and have breakfast for the rest of the week. I didn’t do that but I wish I did. I guess there’s always next time.

Here’s a song to get you started on your waffle-making journey. I just heard it this morning and thought it was beautiful. That string section though…

Buckwheat Waffles with Blackberries

Ingredients

1 cup buckwheat flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1 ¼ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1 ¼ cups almond milk
¼ cup (4 Tbsp) melted butter
1 large egg
blackberries, banana slices, maple syrup, and butter for serving

Directions

Preheat your waffle iron. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F and place a parchment paper-lined baking sheet inside.

Whisk together the buckwheat flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a medium-sized bowl. In a separate bowl or a large liquid measuring cup, mix the milk, melted butter, and egg. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients all at once and whisk to combine. Whisk the batter until it’s smooth with very few to no lumps.

Pour batter onto the waffle iron to fill the squares. Close the waffle iron and cook according to your machine’s directions. I usually let mine sit for 30 seconds to a minute after the machine says it’s done. Remove the waffle and place it on the baking sheet in the oven.

Once your waffles are done, top them with blackberries, banana slices, maple syrup, and butter. You can also set some aside to freeze so you have breakfast for the rest of the week. Enjoy!

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Dimanche (That Means Sunday)

Screen Shot 2018-05-20 at 10.24.43 AM
Welcome to this edition of Dimanche (That Means Sunday), a roundup of things that caught my eye this past week.

This week was one of those weeks that feels like a lot happened, but then you realize that not a lot did. I caught up with some old friends, spent time with my boyfriend, and started a couple writing projects. But overall, it was pretty low key.

It also rained a lot so it put a damper on some of the things I wanted to do. I was going to go strawberry picking at Eckert’s in Illinois today because I’ve been dying to make strawberry shortcake and jam. But then I saw on their website yesterday that they had to close the patches due to inclement weather and crowds. The next batch of strawberries should be ready this week so I’ll wait until next weekend to go.

I’ve also had to slow down lately due to my injury, but luckily I’m on the mend. I went on a couple short walks this week including to the park in DeMun, one of my favorite places in St. Louis (see the above picture). It’s particularly beautiful at sunset when not a lot of people are still there and the light shines through the tree branches. I snapped this picture as I was sitting on a bench eating a snow cone with my boyfriend.

I’m anxious to get back to some of my normal spring and summer activities such as hiking and biking, but I’ll get there soon. In the meantime I’m trying to enjoy a slower pace and find more beauty in everyday life. It’s easy to think that it doesn’t exist, or that the only way to find it is by driving an hour or two to the country. I’m convinced that the more you look in your day-to-day environment, the more you’ll find it.

Without further ado, here is Dimanche:

A group in California is testing out a program that provides healthy daily meals to chronically ill, low-income people to improve their health. The Ceres Community Project gives meals to people on the state’s version of Medicaid so they don’t have to worry about cooking for themselves or finding food. Other studies of similar programs have shown that this correlates with lower medical expenses and better health outcomes. I think that this is a program the entire country should get behind. Read more about it in this story in The New York Times.

I loved this story in Chicago Magazine about a French author taking a road trip through Illinois. Novelist Camille Bordas went from Chicago to the southern tip of Illinois, jotting down her impressions of small towns and inns along the way. It made me want to visit some of those places more, especially towns that are close to St. Louis. You can read more about her trip here.

I’m generally pretty satisfied with the St. Louis dining scene but occasionally, I long for D.C. pizza or Chicago’s Greek food. I know every city has its strengths and weaknesses in food but it’s good to occasionally evaluate and see what could be improved. My editor at St. Louis Magazine asked me and some other writers to weigh in with a “wish list” of what we’d like to see in the St. Louis food scene. Check out our recommendations.

Speaking of the St. Louis dining scene… My friend Josh Charles just took over the kitchen at Winslow’s Home, a popular eatery and farm market in University City, Missouri. I stopped by for brunch yesterday with my aunt and everything was delicious. I got the potato, leek, mozzarella quiche pictured below, and a mixed berry crostata that brought tears to my eyes.

Screen Shot 2018-05-20 at 10.24.16 AM

I’ve been on a snow cone kick lately. Last week I went to How Sweet Is This, a tiny candy shop in DeMun, with my sister and my boyfriend and then just with my boyfriend. I’d highly recommend the Tiger’s Blood, which sounds disgusting but it’s actually really good. It’s a mix of berries and coconut. It’s also sugar free but it doesn’t taste like it.

Screen Shot 2018-05-20 at 10.23.44 AM

Even though I didn’t get to go strawberry picking, I’m still excited about Eckert’s strawberry promotion. The farm teamed up with a bunch of St. Louis restaurants to offer strawberry-themed dishes. You can read more about who is participating in this article in Feast Magazine.

Last but certainly not least, I snuck out of work a few minutes early on Friday to see “RBG.” The documentary chronicles the life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of our country’s most influential judges. I’m a big fan of RBG (yes, I own a Notorious RBG shirt) and this documentary did not disappoint. I’d highly recommend it. Check out the trailer here.

Enjoy your week! Here’s a song to get you started.

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Tropical Moose

Tropical Mooise
I started typing the title for this blog post and it came out as “Topical Moose,” which sounds like a really disgusting skin cream or a weird study section.

ANYWAY. Tropical Moose is neither of those things. It’s a tiny trailer in Kirkwood, Missouri, a cute little town close to St. Louis, that serves snow cones during the spring and summer months. I’ve been going since I was little.

Tropical Moose is the kind of place that you could easily miss if you’re a first time visitor to St. Louis or you just moved here and you don’t know a lot of people in town. It’s a St. Louis institution celebrated by locals and it’s survived, I think, through reputation and word of mouth. It’s tucked away in a corner of the Kirkwood Farmers’ Market, one of my favorite places to go when it gets warm.

Whenever I came home during the summer when I lived in other cities, I’d always go to Tro Mo with my sisters and brother. Last summer after I moved back to St. Louis, I stopped by Kirkwood on the way back from a hiking trip to get a snow cone. Tro Mo is a cash only joint and I realized when I got to the window that I didn’t have any cash, so I walked a mile down the street in 100 degree heat to get money from Walgreens. That’s how good it is.

Why would you expend that much energy on a snow cone? you may be wondering. It’s difficult to answer that question. I think it’s a blend of nostalgia, deliciousness, and magic. When I go to Tro Mo, I’m temporarily transported to simpler times when my most pressing decision was which flavors to get on my cone. I ask for a sprinkle of nerds on top, because that makes the snow cone. They crunch and explode in my mouth as the ice and sweet syrup melts on my tongue.

Saturday, my sister was visiting from Boston and we decided to stop by the Kirkwood Farmers’ Market. Naturally this also involved a trip to Tro Mo. We all got snow cones and sat on a bench and people watched. I got red raspberry and peach with a sprinkle of nerds.

Sitting with my mom and sisters on a park bench, I remembered the times I came to get cones when I was little. I watched children get excited as Tro Mo employees passed a sparkling, colorful cone through the window. A baby clung to an extra large snow cone as his mother balanced him and the cone in her arms. He stared at it like it was a precious treasure, which honestly, it is.

It may be a slight exaggeration to call Tro Mo one of the best food destinations in St. Louis, but I don’t think it is. Sometimes I get caught up in the city’s burgeoning restaurant scene and I forgot about the places that are consistently good. In food, as in life, it’s all about the simple pleasures. I’m reminded of this every time I get a cone at Tro Mo.

 

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Buckwheat Banana Bread

Buckwheat Banana Bread
I’ve been craving banana bread for a couple weeks but I keep making cookies and cake. Then I saw three overripe bananas in my fruit bowl yesterday. “It’s fate,” I thought.

I’m constantly on the hunt for the best banana bread recipe. I’ve tried a bunch and some are really good, but they still leave something to be desired. The best banana bread is three things: Moist (why is that word so awful?), dense, and sweet from chocolate chips. There’s nothing worse than cakey banana bread, the kind that feels like you could pour a glass of tea over it and it would still be slightly dry.

Last night, I made up a recipe that I hoped would solve the dry banana bread problem. I subbed in almond flour and buckwheat flour for most of the all-purpose flour and I added gluten-free oats.

The buckwheat and oats make the bread. Buckwheat gives the bread a dense crumb and a caramel color. The oats keep the bread moist. Together they make a loaf that tastes like it just came out of the oven, even if you leave it on the counter overnight.

I added chocolate chips to the batter because I love the combination of chocolate and banana. If you’re not a chocolate fan, you could add some walnuts. I bet those would also be delicious.

The other thing to note about this recipe is the sugar. The bread calls for maple syrup, regular sugar, and brown sugar. I used dark brown sugar instead of light brown sugar because I thought it would give the bread more flavor. I was right. I also added two tablespoons of maple syrup instead of three because I didn’t want the bread to be too sweet. If you want to increase the sweetness factor, you should add another tablespoon of syrup.

I was going to wait to have a slice until this morning but I couldn’t stop myself last night. I sliced off a piece from the end and ate it warm while the chocolate chips were still melted. It was heavenly. Then I had a slice this morning with a green smoothie. I pretended the smoothie was medicine and used the banana bread as my reward for ingesting greens.

ANYWAY. Make this bread as soon as possible. It will probably impress your office, too. I brought some in and a coworker stopped by my office and said it was one of the best things I’ve ever made. It was a high compliment.

Here’s a song to get you started on your banana bread-making journey. When I lived in France a while ago, a friend of mine gave me an introduction to Serge Gainsbourg. I’ll never forget this song.

Buckwheat Banana Bread

Ingredients

3 medium ripe bananas
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 egg
3 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup cane sugar
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 Tbsp maple syrup
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp flaky sea salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 1/4 cup almond flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup (112 g) gluten-free oats
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9×5 loaf dish with parchment paper and set aside.

Mash the bananas in a large bowl and whisk in the vanilla extract, egg, coconut oil, cane sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, baking powder, sea salt, cinnamon, and almond milk. Then add the almond flour, buckwheat flour, all-purpose flour, and oats, and stir to thoroughly combine. You want a uniform batter that it’s lumpy. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and smooth out the top with a spatula or the back of a spoon. Bake for about an hour and ten minutes, or until the top is golden brown and cracked and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for a while in the pan before removing* and cooling the rest of the way on a rack.

The loaf will keep at room temperature for a couple days, tightly wrapped. Enjoy!

*If you leave some parchment paper hanging over the edges when you line the pan, it will make it easier to remove the loaf once it’s cool.

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Clementine’s Naughty & Nice Creamery

Strawberry Balsamic Honey Lavender
I told you about Clementine’s Naughty & Nice Creamery about a year ago in my roundup of St. Louis ice cream. But then I went there earlier this week with my boyfriend and I remembered how much I love it. Clementine’s deserves its own blog post.

When I moved back to St. Louis a year and a half ago (I can’t believe it’s been that long), I made it my mission to rediscover the city. I’d been away for five years and a lot had changed.

Growing up, I usually got frozen custard during the summer or a scoop of ice cream from a national chain like Baskin Robbins. There wasn’t a place to get more inventive flavors but at the time, I didn’t care. All I wanted was mint chocolate chip or cookie dough with rainbow sprinkles on top.

Then I moved away and discovered a whole new world of ice cream. In D.C., some of my favorite places served flavors such as biscuits and peach jam and Thai iced tea. I never realized that ice cream could be a blank canvas for flavor experimentation, but it makes sense. Without flavors, ice cream wouldn’t be much. The cream and sugar are the perfect backdrop for daring combinations.

Which brings me to Clementine’s. I’d read about the shop in local food magazines before I moved back to St. Louis so I was dying to try it. When I got back in town, it was almost winter so I wasn’t craving ice cream as much. I waited until this time last year to try Clementine’s.

Clementine’s is truly a groundbreaking shop in St. Louis. They use all-natural ingredients to make their ice cream and they take risks with flavors. One of the first times I went, I got a scoop of golden milk with turmeric and a scoop of black cherry ash with activated charcoal, an ingredient du jour. The scoops looked good together on a cone, the colors popped in a picture, AND the ice cream tasted good. No, not good: incredible. I’m not exaggerating.

Screen Shot 2017-08-31 at 8.21.56 AMYou can taste the difference when you eat Clementine’s. The ice cream is light on the palette but full of flavor. You don’t feel heavy or bogged down after eating it because it doesn’t have preservatives or fillers. Clementine’s sources many of its ingredients locally, so you’re also tasting ice cream that makes the most of the region’s produce.

One of my favorite parts about Clementine’s is their “boozy” flavors, i.e., ones that are full of alcohol. I’m not saying this because I’m stuck at age 21 and I’m excited about the prospect of infusing booze into everything I eat. I’m saying it because the booze actually enhances the ice cream. Maple bourbon with salted candied pecans is one of my favorite flavors. It’s sweet, rich, salty, and mellow at the same time.

I’m generally not into vegan ice cream because I have no reason to be, but the vegan ice cream at Clementine’s is worth trying. Last summer on a very hot day, I drove to Clementine’s new location in DeMun to get a couple scoops. I ended up getting the “better than bacon” flavor, which is chocolate and peanut butter swirl, and the vegan salted caramel. Both were delicious and light and held up well on a waffle cone. The vegan salted caramel is especially good because it pairs well with most other flavors in the case.

ANYWAY. I know I sound like an extended sales pitch for Clementine’s but it’s only because the ice cream is so good. If you’re in St. Louis this summer, you should definitely check it out. The shop has a location in Lafayette Square, a historic neighborhood near downtown St. Louis, and a location in DeMun, which is right next to Forest Park.

I can’t wait to stop by the shop again soon. Knowing me, it won’t be long.

 

 

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