Friday, May 29, 2015

Alvin's Penthouse Kitchen logo gets a facelift!

Following its just-a-little-over-one year benchmark, Alvin's Penthouse Kitchen is proud to unveil its brand new logo, complete with a revamped cover collage, featuring some of my favorite recipes and foodshots! Special thanks to dear friend and graphic designer Verges who offered his two cents in the logo facelift, now modernized with a clean, refreshing touch while preserving the classic style and vibe embodying Alvin's Penthouse Kitchen blog.

Hope you all love the new change as much as I do, and don't hesitate to share your comments with me underneath here!

All the best, and happy cooking everyone,

[Follow me on Instagram @alvinckl and check out my Facebook Fan Page!] 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Roasted White Asparagus with Yoghurt Parsley Dressing

Every spring, white asparagus makes a brief appearance on the market, so transient they come and go with the blink of an eye. Between April and June, the spargel - the "vegetable that never sees light" - comes in great quantities across northwestern continental Europe, prominently stealing the limelight at market shop fronts and inspiring seasonal menus that showcase this treasured spring produce.

Less is certainly more here
In the U.S. and elsewhere where availability is far more limited, fresh white asparagus naturally makes for a luxurious spring delicacy. Just this month I was lucky enough to be in Switzerland and had the chance to graze through the markets at the peak of the German spargel season. The asparagus were all cultivated and imported from southern Germany just across the border; I realize I was about as close to the source as one could get. Enamored with the purity and beauty of the fat bundles of white spears on display, I inched in to hand pick the fairest of them all, pausing for a moment in hesitation at the hefty price tag that comes with.

Soon enough, I reckon that life is too short to deprive myself of such simple indulgence. My best friend in its baddest sense Angela, a foodie and passionate cook herself, is visiting once I return to Hong Kong - who else is best to savor this seasonal delicacy with, especially when they are at their peak and appear only briefly once a year?

Roast, grill, or steam? Roasting is certainly our way to go; watch as the natural sugars in the white asparagus caramelize!
And so, the fat bundle of immaculate white asparagus made its journey to my kitchen and culminated as a collaborative project between Alvin's Penthouse Kitchen and Angela's Foodicles (it's like we were having a field day, really). Milder in flavor and more tender than its green counterpart, white asparagus is best kept to its purest form in order to highlight its delicate sweetness. Deviating from the classic pairing of heavy hollandaise and cured hams, we instead took advantage of my rooftop garden and created a guilt-free, oh-so-simple herbaceous dressing that not only added an uplifting oomph but also allowed the star of the dish to shine through. Less is more here, for sure.

To prepare...
Get the spears naked by peeling & trimming
A dozen spears white asparagus
Olive oil to coat

For the dressing*...
1/4 tablespoon plain yoghurt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 generous bunch fresh parsley

*Want to get even simpler? Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice and zest, some salt and pepper for the dressing!

1. Preheat oven to 220C/420F. Trim a half inch off the base of the stalk.  Gently holding each spear, peel the stalk using a vegetable peeler starting from just below the head to remove the fibrous and sometimes bitter peel.

2. On a baking sheet pan, coat asparagus with olive oil and season with fresh ground pepper and sea salt. Place in oven and roast for approximately 17-20 minutes depending on the thickness of the spears, turning once midway for even browning. Before time is up check that the spears are slightly translucent and adjust roasting time for desired softness.

Asparagus will brown and shrink a little after roasting
3. Meanwhile, prepare the yoghurt parsley dressing by blending the yoghurt, olive oil, lemon juice, and parsley in a blender. Season with salt.

4. Transfer asparagus carefully for plating, then drizzle the dressing across or serve on the side as a dip. Enjoy!

Alvin & Angela

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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Southwestern Black Bean Quinoa Corn Salad

Me being a happy camper in Puebla, back in 2009!
Feliz Cinco de Mayo! Today, cities across the United States with sizeable Mexican-American populations are celebrating the Fifth of May, commemorating the Mexican military victory over France at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. A relatively minor holiday in Mexico, in the U.S. Cinco de Mayo has over time evolved into a grand celebration of Mexican culture and heritage, sometimes even mistakenly confused with Mexico's Independence Day.

In honor of this tradition, I decided to create something simple and healthy yet nothing short on the colors, flavors, and bang that Mexico is known for (it makes even more sense that this Black Bean Quinoa Corn Salad is probably more distinctly Southwestern U.S.-style).

This salad is inexpensive, packed with nutrition, and so easy to make! Also try it with grilled corn!

As temperatures rise, this cool and mildly fiery salad is also a great way to kick start your Spring. Chilled, this salad stays fresh for days and makes for a light and very nutritious lunch and a fantastic snack on the go. Make a big batch for entertaining and pair it up with blue corn chips and guacamole. Add in other vegetables and fruits such as bell peppers, jalapeños, and even mangoes as you wish!

To prepare...
1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup fresh or canned whole kernel corn*
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
A handful of cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
1 medium lime, zested and juiced
1 ripe avocado
A generous splash of Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce^

1. Rinse and place quinoa in a saucepan with 1 cup of water. Bring water to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer and let cook for 15 minutes, covered. Meanwhile, prep the other ingredients. Take pot off heat, leave covered for 5 additional minutes. Uncover pot and fluff the quinoa with a fork. Set aside to cool.

2. Mix black beans, corn, onions, tomatoes, quinoa, and cilantro together in a large bowl. Add in lime juice and zest, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Add a generous splash of Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce for some smokey heat. ^Note: Alternatively, whisk together 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, and some salt and pepper and drizzle over the salad.

4. Finally, top salad with sliced avocado. ¡Buen provecho!

Now that I got a new cast iron grill at home, I will probably try this recipe again with grilled fresh corn - the flavors will deliver even more bang with charred corn kernels! Hope to come back with an update. 

[Write to me under comments! Check out my Facebook Fan Page and follow me on Instagram @alvinckl]

Monday, May 4, 2015

Eating, Exploring on Wheels | Amsterdam

Stumbling upon De Riekermolen by accident on bike
Strolling through Albert Cuypmarkt, Amsterdam's century-old street market back in late March, one cannot help but feel a sense of renewal as winter gently gives way to spring. Seasonal produce of all colors of the spectrum abound, competing with stall after stall of budding tulips and vibrant blossoms. At roughly 4pm on a Thursday afternoon, under the glowing early-spring sun, chic, modishly dressed locals are already crowding the scores of bars and bistros lining the streets, creating a vibe that is both convivial and remarkably lively. After combing through every fishmonger, Dutch cheese and spice trader, I appeased my fervent craving for broodje haring then picked up some fresh produce for my kitchen back home.

(Clockwise from top right) The historical, lively Albert Cuymarkt street market bustling with locals and hungry visitors, chefs and homecooks; the famous I AMSTERDAM logo on Museumplein; pretty faces of the flower capital of the world!
A city best explored on bike or on foot, Amsterdam is undoubtedly one of my favorite cities in the world. My favorite thing to do? Hopping on a bike, ride along the locals, and head towards the concentric circle that is the city center, exploring one fascinating layer after another just like peeling an onion. Whether day or night, the numerous canals running through the city exude magic - especially when dusk falls, and when the lights light up the rolling banks and charming bridges. When in need for an escape, I'd head south or west, leisurely riding through peaceful parks and along rivers, occasionally stopping to take in views of olden windmills and fields of tulips and daffodils so iconic of Netherlands.

Not only does Amsterdam host some of the most genteel and friendliest locals, it also boasts amazing eats that foodies will go head over heels for. Among the many food finds I have compiled a short list of must haves on my every visit to Amsterdam.

(From left) Broodje haring - freshly deboned raw herring with onions and pickle in a sandwich; Dutch pancake - nuf' said; Dutch apple pie - flaky crust piled high with thinly sliced apples and topped with streusel!

Oh, did I not mention there is that Amsterdam Heineken Experience?

My favorite dessert spots...

De Laatste Kruimel, Langebrugsteeg 4: a cute and welcoming pastry and coffee shop, serving up all kinds of homemade pies and quiches, overlooking a canal
Pannenkoekenhuis "Upstairs", Grimburgwal 2: a quirky, cozy, dainty little pancake house upstairs of possibly the world's steepest steps, serving up traditional pancakes

My favorite street markets...

Noordermarkt, Joordan
Albert Cuymarkt, De Pijp

[Write to me under comments! Check out my Facebook Fan Page and follow me on Instagram @alvinckl]