Monday, December 7, 2009

Recipe: Simple Cauliflower or Root Vegetable Preparation

Most people are familiar with common root vegetables like potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots and the like, but aren't as knowledgeable about turnips, rutabagas, and parsnips abundant in your local market. 

Now is the peak season for root vegetables, which generally like the cooler months of the year (January to March and October to December). Root vegetables are a great source of nutrients and are so versatile you can make practically any course of the meal with them. 

An easy way to use whatever root vegetables look fresh at the market or just rolling around your crisper drawer is to peel & chop into 2-inch chunks, toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, onion & fresh rosemary, sage or thyme. 

Roast in oven at 450 degrees for about 45 minutes or until tender, stir occasionally & serve. 

My local market here in Union Square has the most gorgeous colored cauliflower. Cook it the same way you do with the root vegetables; simply cut off the florets and roast. It also makes a great side dish for your holiday dinners.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Saffron Baby!

Announcing our very own Saffron Baby!
One of our client loves Saffron 59 so much they named their baby Saffron.
Congrats to the newest member of the family.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Signature Dishes: Asian Tapas

With the weather turning chilly and the leaves changing to beautiful fall colors, we at Saffron 59 were inspired to create cozy, delicious tasting dishes featuring Asian Tapas for our friends and clients. Because of their small size, tapas are a great way to provide your guests with a multitude of different flavors & textures - all in one sitting! You can adjust the ingredients to suit everyone’s taste or preferences.

Let the fall foliage inspire your table setting using any small plates (even dessert plates) you may have or mix and match for a more eclectic vibe. It’s also a great time to break out those antiques or flea market finds you never use & show them off.

Complement your dishes by pairing them with a selection of hearty wines like a full-bodied Cote Du Rhone or a spicy Shiraz for a perfect ending to your night.

Here are some examples of our signature dishes. Enjoy!

Seared Prawns

Asian Tapas Dishes
Soup Dumpling with crabmeat and minced meat with Asian Chives
(served individually with ceramic spoons)

Macanese Chicken with winter melon and black mushroom

(with Portuguese and Chinese flavor influences)

Seared Kobe Steak with Orange Peel and
braised mustard greens in lettuce wrap

Roast Berkshire Pork with Star Anise with Hoisin glaze

(bedded with Roasted Leeks and Korean Potato Noodle)

Seared Black Cod Marinated with Sake and Mirin with Soba and Dashi

Braised Halibut with Scallion Ginger with Asian Broccoli Rabe

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Travel: Paris Recommendations & Day Trips

Being in Paris, you can’t miss the exciting colorful neighborhood of The Marais; reminded me of the East Village, New York City, with talented artists and one of a kind shops. In the vicinity, you must stop for lunch at my all-time favorite classic place, Mariages Frères, which offers more than 400 different teas, ranging from Cameron Highland, Malaysia to Darjeerling Mountains of India. 

                                                                                                            Mariage Frères at Marais
In between the visits to incredible museums, a few afternoon delights that one should not missed. The well-known  pastry shop le Nôtre where you can find succulent kouglof. Or stop by your local fromagerie and have a picnic with a slice of Poilâne, a famous bread  manufacturer who bake his bread like an old tradition. During my visits, I enjoyed the lively restaurant Chez Omar; if you like Moroccan food, they make succulent lamb shanks, great tagine and couscous. 

If you have a sweet tooth, Berthillon at L'ile St Louis is one of the must-vist Parisian spots for great gelato and a stroll around the charming island.

If you want to travel beyond Paris, there are many excursions within a day’s trip. Some of my favorites: 
  • Versailles's glass palace and his beautiful gardens, where Marie Antoinette resided.

                                                                                                           Marie-antoinette at Versailles
  • La Normandie - walk on the beaches of Deauville and lunch at restaurant Les Vapeurs in Trouville.
  • Other well known places such as the house of Jean Monet in Giverny.You can visit the garden which inspired him for his famous paintings.
  • If you like wine, do visit the beautiful wine road with region like Val de Loire and the castle of Tourraine, only at 1 hour from Paris by train, with its enormous chateaux.
  • One can also take a break in Bourgogne to taste Macon wine. One of the most famous roads is Champagne, near Reims, which is only 45 min by train.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Travel: September in Paris: Favorite Pastry Shops

This blog is not for those who are watching their waist lines!

Since I have been to Paris several times, I skipped all the major tourist sites except the Louvre, of course. This time my fascination is to visit and taste different boulangeries and new patisseries since I was here four years ago.  I can feel my heart beats faster as I walked into these beatifully arranged  shops.

I was overwhelmed by La Grande Epicerie de Paris, a part of Le Bon Marché department store, an entire floor with shelves stocked with black sea salt from North Africa, to pink fresh shrimp from Deauville, France. There I picked up a few bags of my favorite galette de beurre and  lavender soaps from Marseille, then headed out for lunch at Ladurée, known for its legendary macarons and others pastries. One afternoon, I was invited for lunch at Madame Depuis in the 16th arrondissement and I wanted to buy these delicious macarons as gift.

A friend of mine suggests to go to “La Carette” at Trocadero  (, an old classic. But then my film maker friend Joanne disagreed  that I  must go to the new hip “Pierre Herme“ (, the eponymous shop from the former pastry chef at Fauchon. One of his famous pastries is Le Deux Mille Feuilles and for his tiny macarons. 

At last I opt for Eric Kayser patisserie (, since my hotel is near this rustic, artisan shop. I picked up a few rows of delicious caramel and hazelnut chocolate macarons, while indulging in a few madeleines on site. It`s one of oldest bakeries in Paris, recognized for its seasonal  flavorful fruit tarts, which recently opened a chain of shops in high traffic neighborhoods.
A week in Paris is just not enough!

Patisseries La Carette
 La Carette, Trocadero, Paris    
Macarons Pierre Hermé
Pierre Herme, Saint-Germain, Paris

Friday, August 28, 2009

Canning & Preserves: Abundance with Summer Peaches

While at my godmother Sonja's beach house for a few days this past week, one afternoon we stayed in preserving summer peaches from the farmer's market. "We will appreciate these peaches during the winter," said my 86 year old godmother.

A very good friend of mine, Eugenia Bone, a brilliant writer, wrote a book on preserving. "Gina" is a food aficionado like most of us. We share the same gym; whenever we are in the locker room, we will be chatting about anything from  wild mushrooms in Pennsylvania to the best gadgets for making spätzle.

From a recent New York times article comes her simple recipes for preserving pears. A light simmering in syrup does little to prepare the fruit for a long hibernation in the pantry; to make them safe, you need to process them—place the closed jars in a pot, cover with water and boil for 20 minutes.

Gina has her way of using fruit and alcohol. 

“With water-bath canning, you’re really just poaching,” she said. 

“So I thought, the canning can be the cooking.”

She used firm Bartlett pears, which she said are best for canning because
they maintain their shape, and warmed them through in a thyme
syrup. (Heating the pears before canning pulls some air out of the fruit.)

After transferring the pears to jars, she covered
them with the syrup, adding bay leaves, peppercorns
and lemon zest.

Eugenia Bone, author of Well Preserved 
You will need two pint-size wide-mouth Ball or Kerr jars with bands and new lids. 

Monday, August 3, 2009

Weekend Trip: Hudson Valley, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Rhinebeck, Culinary Institute of America

We started our trip late one Friday morning after rush hour, from the New York City's west side, heading to Blue Hill at Stone Barns. It's a good 50 minutes pleasant drive on the Taconic Parkway. We stopped and had lunch at Blue Hill, which is a working farm for the restaurant as well as for those who wants to volunteer. On Saturday, the market is open to the public from 2-4 pm. They serve organic meals such as duck panini, roasted beet salad, and the fluffiest egg salad you've ever tasted.

We continued onto Route 9 toward the town of Hudson and decided to stay in 
Rhinebeck, NY (another 1.5 hours further away).

Some choices for staying include:

Olana at Hudson, NY
  • Madalin Hotel in Tivoli, NY. A perfect stay in a gorgeous restored historic landmark, located in the heart of Tivoli, NY.
  • Rhine Cliff Hotel in Hudson Valley is also a nice and serene. It's a boutique country hotel that's tucked away near the Rhinecliff Amtrak Station -- 5 minutes into the heart of Rhinebeck by taxi for shops and restaurants.
  • Belvedere Mansion in Staatsburg, NY is where we stayed. Although, the rooms are very small, it has an outdoor pool and great tennis courts, useful for us since we're both avid tennis players.
  • Maple Stone Inn is another hotel located in New Paltz that has a cozy, intimate feel and provides an excellent breakfast.
  • Journey Inn is a contemporary style, with a good location near tourist sites such as the Culinary Institute of America.
Many talented chefs have opened restaurants over the years here in the Hudson Valley. Some of places that we've visited recently:
  • Terrapin Restaurant in Rhineback, NY. Josh Kroner is the chef and owner. He uses local vegetables from farms and provides excellent service every time we go. I particularly enjoyed their small dish menu.
  • Arielle is a new restaurant in Rhineback, NY that is run by the Belvedere Mansion's owner. It had very good French and Mediterranean cuisine and a beautiful outdoor space.
  • Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, NY. See great chefs on site while classes are in sessions. An amazing selection of desserts and small dishes to sample at their cafe' or if you feel like white table cloth service, you have choices from French to Fusion-inspired restaurants...It's the world's premier culinary college!
Things to do and places to see:
white peaches at meads farm.

  • Wings Castle in Millbrook is also a delightful place to visit and view the famous tourist site of castles and such.
  • Fisher Museum is another place to take a look at for performing arts and incredible picnic ground located in Annadale at Bard College.
  • Storm King Art Center
  • Dia Art Foundation is another museum that is "internationally renowned for initiating, supporting, presenting, and preserving art projects, mostly collections from the 1960's."
  • Dutchess Tourism provides many options of tourist sites that you may visit during your stay.
  • Opus 40 is "about one hundred miles from New York City, tucked into a pocket of the Catskills near Saugerties, lies one of the most extraordinary pieces of sculpture ever created by a single man."
  • Meads farm is also a perfect farm for family outing to pick succulent white peaches, cherries and berries this time of the year.
  • Olana Estate Historic Site is my favorite where I took a great nap after 45 minute tour of the mansion over looking incredible view of the Hudson Valley and prestine Catskill. It's 250 acre, historic estate of Federick Church who made his fortune with Hudson Valley paintings and built the mansion based on his travels in the late 1800's, also 20 minutes from our hotel. There are many great trails for hiking with incredible views; so pack some water and great walking shoes, you are ready to explore New York in the country side.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Recipe: Stonington: Too Many Chefs in the Kitchen, Part 1

I rented a summer home this July with my family in Stonington, CT. We have my cousin Ron, my sister inlaw Yin and my parents' housekeeper from Shanghai; all happen to be great cooks.

Since we have 14 to 22 of us every day for dinner, one evening we brined a whole pork tenderloin that yielded about 8 lbs. We marinated it with apple cider, honey, crushed light peppercorn, rosemary, thyme, lots of garlic and sea salt. Of course, we immerse the ingredients in  water overnight in the refrigerator. Occasionally turning the porkloin overtime. Since our hosts have 11 acres of garden, fresh flowers and herbs, I use a mixture of rosemary and silver thyme processed with six cloves of garlic, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper (for basting).

To grill:
Prepare to raise the heat very high
Remove the meat out from the refrigerator half an hour before grilling.
When the temperature of the grill reaches its peak, place the pork loin on the rack until it chars on both sides. Then turn down the temperature to low.
Afterward, put the cover down for about 30-45 minutes. Occasionally turn the meat and brush with the olive oil mixture mentioned previously.
It is perfectly fine for the meat to be a touch pink. Let it cool and then slice. It's deliciously moist and juicy.
Serve with grilled summer peaches and swiss chard on the side to add to a perfect meal.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Recipe: Stonington, Connecticut: Too Many Chefs in the Kitchen, Part 1

I rented a summer home this July with my family in Stonington, CT. We have my cousin Ron, my sister-in-law Yin and my parents' housekeeper from Shanghai; all happen to be great cooks.

A purveyor from New York City had given me half of a goat which had inspired me to make something with a nice blend of spice rub. Since this half goat totals about 18 lbs of meat we decided to create a variety of meals from it using different cuts.
Cooking plans:
For the meatier part: kabob with the outdoor grill - dried spice rub with Hungarian paprika, garam masala, coriander seeds and cumin; Malaysian curry.
For the shin part of the leg: slow cook with lots of slivers of ginger, garlic, sweet onion, white wine and the Karma spice I acquired during my recent trip to Penang. We let it slow cook and made it into a stew, keeping it a few days in the fridge for easy warm up at dinner upon returning from a day's outing.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Weekend Trip: Philadelphia

For years my friend Patty has been inviting me to visit her home in Philadelphia.

This past weekend a bunch of friends and I hopped on Eastern Bus on the Lower East Side of New York City.  

A 7pm bus got us there in time for our 9 o'clock dinner reservation.

We sampled 20 or so tapas style dishes for a delicious meal at Chifa, one of four
restaurants owned by Garces Brothers.

The next morning after a brisk walk by the Delaware River all of us started cooking
and then sat down to a three hour brunch including scrambled eggs with truffles and gruyere, mimosas, fresh-picked strawberries from a local farm and a few side dishes.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Farmers Market: What to do with Asparagus

There's an abundance of fresh, crisp asparagus in the market now, since it's in season.

A quick and easy preparation is as follows:

  1. Simply shave the bottom of the stalks. 
  2. Fill a half cup cold water or just touching the bottom of pan and let the asparagus blanch for 7 minutes with healthy sprinkle of salt. 
  3. Serve at room temp with French vinaigrette. 
  4. Using a small bottle, add 3 tbsps of Dijon mustard, 2 diced shallots, 2 cloves crushed minced garlic, 1/8 cup champagne vinegar, salt, fresh crushed pepper and 1/4 cup of good olive oil. 
  5. Close lid tight. Shake well. 
For a light dinner, I serve with lamb meat balls with yogurt, cumin sauce, and a baguette.

When my friend James Oseland from Saveur Magazine comes into my studio for lunch, he does something even easier, just squeezing half a lemon and crushed pepper with olive oil over the cooked asparagus.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

May Says Flowers

May is the month where enormous quantities of flowers pour into the market. Peonies come in beautiful powdery light pink or Paper Whites with a hint of red in the middle. For Chinese wedding couples, it is the velvety red color that is bursting and cheerful.

A bunch of beautiful peonies as the centerpiece brightens your dinner tables. 

Get up early one morning and head to the flower market or have your caterer/florist to do some nice simple elegant floral arrangements. There are plenty of spring blossoms. It can be quince or cherry blossoms. You can make a nice statement in the entranceway to greet your guests with tall
magnolia branches.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Events: Do Your Own Decorating

Martha Stewart, Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel: are they too much alike? You can do your own decor for your party depending on your heart's desires...there are a lots of fabrics, color schemes and curios in your home or your neighborhood.

Recently we did an opening for Cirque du Soleil with 1500-2000 guests for dinner; their theme was Thai, Turkish and Indian. It was staged at a nightclub four stories high. We focused on each station with the colors we like to decorate with, using the flowers behind these countries. In our neighborhood hardware store, and fabric store, there were inexpensive lamps, platters and textiles that perfectly fit the theme without ending up with a Martha Stewart cookie-cutter look.

Think about your next fun party...make it festive, colorful and full of zest...stage your own creation...

Friday, March 20, 2009

Testimonial: Marla's Wedding

After planning with the bride and groom for a year, last week we catered the winter wedding of their dreams. It's very rewarding to receive nice note such as this upon returning to the office in the morning.

Dear Leili and the crew:
Thank you so much for your work at the wedding this weekend. Your food was exquisite and tasted fantastic. I had so many positive comments about the food from guests. I am so sorry I wasn't able to get a moment to thank you in person-- its my one regret of the
evening. Please let me know if there are any specific wedding websites or magazines for which I can write a (very positive) review or testimonial for Saffron 59, this went well beyond my expectations and I would love to help spread the word.

I am fairly certain Dante, our photographer has photos of the appetizers and main course if you would be interested in these.
Many many thanks,