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February was fast and furious. I can’t even believe it’s already over. I actually kind of love how fast this year is flying by, which is new for me since I’m usually in a panic when I feel like time is passing too quickly. But there are things I’m looking forward to later this year. So let’s keep this train a-rollin’.
Deviled eggs, anyone?
My sister is the go-to for deviled eggs in our family. But they’ve totally been my thing this year. People are thrilled when you show up to a party with a platter of deviled eggs – I know this to be a fact. Deviled eggs are the perfect party food. They go well with champagne (and since they’re packed with protein, you can drink even more champagne and not get crunk). And they’re easy to pop in your mouth as you pass the snack table, which is a plus in my book.
I first made these deviled eggs for this year’s New Year’s Eve soiree. A friend asked if I could show him how to make them sometime. At the time, I couldn’t actually give a recipe because there was no recipe – when I’m not baking, I have a tendency to just throw these things together without measuring. But when I made these for a baby shower last weekend, I made sure to actually measure ingredients and take notes. So, my dear Ryan, this is for you.
What’s most important about these particular deviled eggs is that they’re topped with bacon. If you’re not into bacon, you can leave it out, the eggs will still be a hit. But there’s a reason why bacon and eggs are a breakfast staple – it’s because they’re a team. And because bacon just makes everything better. Let’s not pretend otherwise.
deviled eggs with bacon
12 extra large eggs (do not use farm fresh eggs; buy eggs at least 5 days before preparing for best results – it makes them easier to peel)
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
5 slices of crispy bacon, finely chopped
Place eggs in a single layer in a large pot. Cover with an inch of cold water. Place over medium heat and bring to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and cover. Let stand for 13 minutes. Remove the eggs and place them in a bowl of cold water to cool. When the eggs are cool, carefully crack and peel and place on a towel-lined plate. Pat dry.
Slice eggs in half lengthwise. Remove the yolks and place them in the bowl of a food processor. Add mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, zest, and pepper to the egg yolk. Process the egg yolks until the mixture becomes smooth. Add more mustard, lemon juice, and pepper to taste. Transfer the mixture to the pastry bag fitted with a large tip. You can also use a freezer bag; snip off one corner.
Arrange the egg white halves on a platter. Pipe the yolk mixture into the cavity of each egg white. Top each egg with chopped bacon and chives. Sprinkle with paprika. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.
If January was the month of fun and indulgence, then February has definitely been a time for taking care of business. Self reflection. Home improvement. Getting shit done. It feels like the right time.
But first I had to recover from my annual bout with bronchitis. I had been fighting off a cold for a few weeks, but it finally caught up with me and everything went downhill from there. I wasn’t much in the mood to cook, but I wanted a bowl of soup in a bad way. Since I couldn’t deal with a whole lot of prep or slaving over a hot stove, I busted out my crock pot (which I had only used once in my life and involved turning canned condensed milk into dulce de leche).
I also came across some red lentils that I had bought a few months ago and forgotten about, and decided that it was a lentil soup kind of day. Then I remembered a lemony lentil soup that Sara and I had talked about a few weeks earlier. And then I started thinking about the jar of preserved lemons in my fridge. I started googling.
That night I had lentil soup with preserved lemon for dinner. It didn’t take long to find exactly what I was looking for – a recipe that requires very little prep and is packed with flavor. One cup of lentils, one carton of veggie broth, half an onion, and a few cloves of garlic transform into something hearty and satisfying while you spend the day in bed. The crockpot does all of the work for you. I could totally get used to this.
lentil soup with preserved lemon
adapted from Mosaic Kitchen
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup lentils, rinsed and picked over
½ medium onion, diced
½ cup thinly sliced carrots
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon ground coriander seed
4 cups coarsely chopped fresh spinach
¼ cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon preserved lemon rind, diced or fresh lemon zest, plus more for garnish (recipe here)
Salt and pepper to taste
fresh grated parmesan for garnish (optional)
Add the vegetable broth, lentils, onion, carrots, garlic and ground coriander seed to a slow cooker pot. Stir together, cover, and set on low for 8-10 hours. The lentils should be very soft.
Stir in the spinach, lemon juice, and preserved lemon. Cover and continue to cook for 20 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish individual bowls with chopped preserved lemon and/or parmesan. Serve hot.
You can also make this on the stovetop:
Soften the onion and carrots in 2 teaspoons of olive oil in the bottom of a 3 quart soup pot. Stir in the lentils, vegetable broth, garlic, and coriander seed. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes, or until the lentils and vegetables are very soft. Stir in the spinach, lemon juice, and preserved lemon or lemon zest, cover and continue to simmer for 10 minutes longer. Salt and pepper to taste.
As promised, onion jam to go with that fig tart.
I fell in love with onion jam at a sausage party. And seeing that in writing just now made me laugh out loud a little bit. Let me explain. When my best childhood friend turned thirty last year, there was a party in his honor and homemade sausage was the main attraction. It was a literal sausage party. Although, now that I think about it… I’m totally being a 14-year-old dude right now. My apologies!
Anyway, as I was saying, there was a very innocent looking jar of onion jam at this party, alongside the platters of grilled sausages. I had a feeling about that jam, and it did not disappoint. Onion jam is a sausage’s best friend.
Making onion jam requires little more than onions and patience. Onions, caramelized to max, are the perfect condiment – sweet and savory and super flavorful. You’ll want to put it on just about everything.
from Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours by Kim Boyce
makes 1 cup **recipe can easily be doubled
2 pounds yellow onions, about 7-1/2 cups sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Cut the stems off the onions. Slice each onion in half through the root end. Lay each onion half cut-side down and slice it, toward the root, into slices about 1/4-inch thick.
Heat a 5-to 7-quart heavy bottomed pot over a medium-high flame. Add the olive oil and heat until it’s shimmering. Add the onions, salt, and pepper and stir to coat the onions with the oil. Saute the onions for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions have lost their gloss, the bottom of the pan is getting dark in areas, and the edges on the onions are beginning to brown. Turn the flame to low, cover the pot, and cook for 20 minutes.
Uncover the pan, stir the onions, scrape any dark flavorful bits from the bottom of the pan, and continue to cook, uncovered, for 1 hour more. Stir the onions occasionally, especially toward the end of cooking time, to prevent burning. The onions are ready when the liquid has evaporated and the onions are dark, translucent, and jammy. Stir in the vinegar and allow to cool. The onion jam will keep int he refrigerator for 2 weeks, or in the freezer for 1 month.
Isn’t it crazy that the holidays are just around the corner? I feel like in the blink of an eye, Thanksgiving will be here and I’ll be knees deep in pies and sides. I know it sounds slightly insane that this is what I’m obsessing about at the moment since it’s not even Halloween yet (Halloween??!! OMG, I need a costume!), but this is how my brain sometimes operates – freaking out about the future instead of dealing with the present.
In the spirit of staying in the present, I’m giving you a fig tart. I know we’re on the very edge of fig season, which is why I hesitated sharing this with you. I considered waiting until next year, for the peak of fig the season. But then I realized that if I wait a whole year, I might forget entirely about this tart. And that would be a shame.
If you can still find figs at the market (I’ve been buying mine at Whole Foods), you’ve gotta make this tart. It is heavily inspired by the amazing fig tart I ate on my birthday. Figs are my favorite, so whenever I see them on a menu, I go for it. This particular tart is a sweet and savory number, which is always a plus in my book. There are lots of little elements that make this fantastic. Gorgeous figs. Sweet-savory onion jam. Salty prosciutto. Sharp watercress. Pungent blue cheese. Toasted hazelnut for a little bit of crunch. Together they become this little masterpiece. It’s the kind of thing that works beautifully as a first course, or a light lunch. Or if you’re feeling real ambitious, you could make them into bite size hors d’oeuvres. Whatever your little heart desires…
savory fig tart
inspired by Wood Tavern
1 sheet puff pastry
1 cup onion jam (store bought or make your own… I’ll post a recipe soon!)
1 pound black mission figs (about 3-4 figs per tart), quartered
3 ounces prosciutto
1 bunch watercress or upland cress, stems trimmed
1 ounce blue cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Thaw the puff pastry according to the manufacturer’s instructions. On a lightly floured surface, unfold the pastry and carefully smooth out any seams or tears in the dough. Prick the surface of the dough all over with a fork. Cut the sheet into quarters, then place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place a sheet of parchment on top of the pastry, then place another baking sheet or pan on top of the parchment. This will prevent the pastry from puffing, leaving you with a flat pastry base. Place in the oven and bake until golden, about 15-25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.
When the pastry is cool, spread 1/4 cup of onion jam on each quarter of the pastry. Arrange figs on top of onion jam. Take slices of prosciutto and arrange on top of figs.
Pour the vinegar in a small bowl and season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Slowly add the olive oil and whisk until the mixture is emulsified. Add the blue cheese and mix gently until combined. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
Just before serving, toss the watercress lightly with the vinaigrette. Arrange a mound of dressed watercress on top of each tart. Top with chopped hazelnut and extra blue cheese from the vinaigrette. Serve immediately.
Is it me, or does time just move faster and faster as you grow older? This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. How the days turn into months and the months turn into years, and before you know it, babies are walking and talking, and almost two years go by before you finally realize that you haven’t seen one of your best friends in forever. It’s a bizarre feeling. I’m not sure that I like it.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about friendships and how they deepen and evolve over the years. I am approaching the ten year mark with a handful of friends and it kind of trips me out. How did so many years pass so quickly? How am I so lucky? I love the idea of friendships that span decades, the idea of making memories with the same people for years and years, the idea that there are people in your life that know you way better than you realize; I feel extremely fortunate to have these. I also very much appreciate friendships that stand the test of time and distance and life, the friendships that pick up right where they left off, no matter what happens or how much time passes.
I met Dave in 2003, when we were both young and wild. We were inseparable for almost two years, and when he left San Francisco after college I cried my eyes out. We’ve somehow managed to maintain a very awesome, funny phone relationship, which might explain why it never really felt like two years had passed since we last saw each other. Clearly, a visit was long overdue, so I made my way down to LA last weekend. We spent three days drinking margaritas and ice coffees and shopping and hanging out with the pup. While we were having margaritas at Marix, we called Dave’s grandma, whom I’ve never met, but love to pieces. She recited a verse about the importance of old friends, and though I can’t remember her exact words, it totally resonated with me. As the weekend passed, it became pretty clear how much we’ve both grown up over the years, but in some ways we are very much the same. I find a lot of comfort in that.
This baba ganoush doesn’t really have anything to do with friendship or LA. But it’s what I’ve been eating and I’ve been meaning to share it with you. Baba ganoush is the new hummus in my world. Like hummus, it’s seasoned with tahini and garlic and lemon juice. But the smoky roasted eggplant is what really makes me swoon. It’s great with fresh pita or pita chips or a little crudite. But you might want to eat it by the spoonful like I do. And you should. I won’t judge you if you do.
adapted from David Lebovitz
makes 6-8 servings
2 medium-sized eggplants
1/4 cup tahini (roasted sesame paste)
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
3 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon olive oil
a half bunch picked flat-leaf parsley
Preheat the oven to 400°F (190°C).
Prick each eggplant a few times, then char the outside of the eggplants by placing them directly on the flame of a gas burner. As the skin chars, turn them until the eggplants are uniformly-charred on the outside. (If you don’t have a gas stove, you can char them under the broiler. If not, skip to the next step.)
Place the eggplants on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until they’re completely soft; you should be able to easily poke a paring knife into them and meet no resistance.
Remove from oven and let cool.
Split the eggplant and scrape out the pulp. Puree the pulp in a blender or food processor with the other ingredients until smooth.
Taste, and season with additional salt and lemon juice, if necessary. Chill for a few hours before serving. Drizzle with olive oil. Baba ganoush can be made and refrigerated for up to five days prior to serving.
It’s about that time again. I have a bad case of summer brain. It’s serious. I can’t focus. I find myself daydreaming about beaches and coastal drives and a house in the woods. Midday cocktails. Ice cream for dinner. Fireworks.
Nothing is getting done around here. Except for this salad. This salad is happening.
Earlier this year, I woke up one morning and decided I must have preserved lemons in my life. I proceeded to salt-pack a couple pounds of Meyer lemons; I had a feeling they would come in handy in the months ahead. I’ve waited very patiently for the magic to happen, the transformation from their natural, fresh-off-the-tree state to that salty, tender, essence of lemon entity. After four months, they’re finally ready.
This salad has been on my to-do list for over a year. I knew I would get to it as soon as those lemons were ready. I think of it as a reconstructed potato salad. It involves fingerling potatoes, a smear of mayonnaise, and chopped preserved lemon. It’s finished off with a drizzle of olive oil, flaky sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and chives. The preserved lemon really takes it to another level – I love that salty-lemony element; I want to put it on everything. I’m so happy I had the foresight to take care of that lemon situation back in March.
Because of the simplicity of this dish, the ingredients are key. Naturally, you can buy preserved lemons and mayo, but as the ladies at the Canal House say, why buy it when you can make it? I am a firm believer of this philosophy. Plus, as you know, starting with the best ingredients is really important when preparing something so minimal. In this dish, it makes all the difference.
reconstructed potato salad with preserved lemon
from Canal House Cooking Volume No. 1: Summer by Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer
2-3 pounds small potatoes
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup good quality extra-virgin olive oil
fresh ground pepper
rind from 1 preserved lemon, rinsed and chopped
chopped fresh chives or parsley
Put the potatoes in a large pot of cold water generously seasoned with salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until they are tender. Drain.
When they are cool enough to handle, slice the potatoes in half lengthwise and arrange them on a serving platter, spreading mayonnaise on one side of each potato as you work. Drizzle the potatoes with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and garnish with the preserved lemon and chives.
lemons, preferably organic and unsprayed, washed
sterilized wide mouth container with an airtight lid
Cut the lemons (almost all the way through) into quarters, keeping them attached at the stem end. Working over a bowl, tamp the inside of each lemon with salt. Tightly pack the salt-filled lemons into the sterilized container. Pour more salt over the lemons as you fill the container. Cover the salt-packed lemons with freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Store in the refrigerator. Turn the container occasionally for the first few weeks to moisten all the lemons with the salty brine. The lemons should eventually become submerged in the brine. If the brine doesn’t completely cover them after one month, use a metal kitchen spoon to gently press the lemons under the surface. The longer the lemons cure, the saltier they will become; taste them first before using. Preserved lemons will last up to one year in the fridge.
Now that I’m back from vacation and back to reality, I am putting myself back on a healthy eating regimen. It must be done – I ate those malasadas with reckless abandon while I was in Hawaii. I’m ready to return to my breakfast smoothies and greens.
I try to make sure to eat at least one serving of leafy greens a day. Lately I’ve been really into raw kale salads. And spinach. I’ve been buying Bloomsdale spinach from the farmers’ market every week and I can’t get enough of it. It’s a little more substantial than regular spinach, and has a bit of a nutty flavor that I really like.
This dish has been in heavy rotation in my kitchen for a couple of months now; I find myself making it at least once a week. This is what Heidi calls spinach chop. It’s wilted spinach, seasoned with garlic and harissa, and topped with hard boiled eggs and crunchy toasted almonds. It’s a great way to have your veggies and is packed with protein. It has become my favorite thing to munch on, especially when I’m eating low-carb. I also really like it for an on-the-go breakfast or lunch. This is what I ate during the flight to Oahu. It was a million times more satisfying than anything I could have ordered on the plane. Pat on the back for planning ahead.
from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson
1 pound spinach, tough stems removed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon harissa
4 large hard-cooked eggs, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
scant 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
grated zest of 1/2 lemon (optional)
Add 1/2-inch water to a pot and bring to a boil. Add the spinach and stir constantly until the spinach collapses entirely, about a minute. Drain spinach and run cold water over it until it’s cooled. Spin the spinach in a salad spinner to get rid of as much water as possible. Or press it in a clean kitchen towel. Finely chop the spinach.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the garlic and cook for about a minute; do not let it brown. Remove from the heat and stir in the harissa and spinach. Add eggs, almonds, salt, and lemon zest and stir again gently until well-combined. Serve warm or at room temperature.
I know. It’s been a while. I wish I had something ultra fabulous to share with you. Instead I’m calling this segment “Keeping it Real With Sandy”. And in the spirit of keeping it real, I’ve gotta warn you – things might be a bit boring around here in the weeks to come.
The sweets and I are taking a break. It had to be done. It’s been eighteen days now. I definitely have more energy. But I would be lying if I didn’t admit that all I want to do right now is bake a tray of brownies. And make this cake. I am totally obsessing. I don’t exactly love dieting. I love carbs. I miss baking. So I’ve been making other things to distract me.
Like hummus. I love hummus. So much so that I will eat it by the spoonful. I often buy hummus at the store, but it tends to be on the saltier side. Which is why homemade is really the way to go. There’s nothing like homemade hummus – it’s the easiest thing to throw together and you can adjust the flavors to your liking. I like my hummus mostly smooth with a just a bit of texture, a discernible lemon flavor, and a pronounced (but not too pronounced) garlickiness. Throw in some toasted pita, a few slices of cucumber, red bell pepper, maybe some sprouts. Sounds like lunch…
adapted slighty from Falling Cloudberries: A World of Family Recipes by Tessa Kiros
makes 1-1/2 cups
1-1/4 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight or 1 16-ounce can chickpeas, drained, liquid reserved
2 large cloves of garlic
4 tablespoons tahini
juice of 2-3 lemons
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
Drain the soaked chickpeas, cover generously with fresh water, and bring to a boil. Cook over medium-high heat until softened, about 1-1/2 hours. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid. Shake the chickpeas in a sieve to remove their skins. Leave skins on for a more coarse texture.
Crush the garlic with a little salt until it forms a paste. Put the chickpeas, tahini, and garlic in a food processor, puree a little, and then season with salt. Add most of the lemon juice and continue to puree until smooth. Scrape out into a bowl and thoroughly mix in the olive oil. If it’s too dry, add some of the reserved chickpea liquid. Check that there is enough salt and lemon juice. Sprinkle with paprika and drizzle with more oil. Hummus will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
The more I think about it, the more I feel that Leap Day should be an observed holiday. It only happens once every four years anyway. It’s a bonus day. People should barbeque. Retailers should have sales. (Pardon me if I’m sounding a little cray-cray, I’m nursing a cold and have had a bit of brain fog the past few days.) How about some tortillas? I’ve always wanted to make tortillas. But it’s one of those ideas that got put on the back burner, overshadowed by some cake or cookie or pie.
I can’t actually remember what it was that provoked such an urgency to make tortillas, but a few weeks ago I was on a mission. So I picked up some masa harina. Then I got home and realized that I didn’t really want to roll out the dough by hand and decided that I absolutely had to have a tortilla press. Because one can never have too many gadgets in one’s kitchen.
But then I got distracted by polenta and wild mushrooms and cupcakes and estate sales. And a few weeks passed. And then finally last weekend I made sure to get that tortilla press. And then I busted out a batch of tortillas. In less than thirty minutes.
Once you make your own tortillas, you almost can’t go back to the ones you buy at the grocery store. And really, there isn’t much of a reason to. They’re super easy to make. And they have so much more flavor than store bought version. They’re good on their own, and fantastic with a little avocado, a squirt of lime, and a sprig of cilantro. But I think they’ll be exceptional in a tray of enchiladas. Or chilaquiles. Oooooh…
from D.I.Y. Delicious by Vanessa Barrington
makes 10-12 tortillas
1-1/2 cups masa harina
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 – 1-1/2 cups warm water
In a medium bowl, whisk together the masa harina and salt. Add 1 cup of warm water and mix with your hands. The dough should be moist and smooth and should stick together easily when pressed, but not be too wet. Add more water as needed, 1 tablespoon at a time.
Form the dough into 12 equal balls, about 1 ounce each. Lay them on a plate and cover with a damp towel.
Get your tortilla press ready by laying a sheet of plastic on the base (use a produce bag or resealable bag cut into one large sheet). Your plastic should be wide enough so that it can be folded over to cover the top of your tortilla.
Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Pick up one ball of dough and press it between your palms to flatten it slightly. Place it in the tortilla press between the plastic. Press the tortilla firmly, but not as far as the press will go (you will need to experiment with the press for the proper thickness. The tortilla should be about 6 inches in diameter.
Gently peel the tortilla off the plastic and lay in carefully in the hot pan. Cook it for 45 second to 1 minute, then flip it over with a spatula. It should have small brown spots and look dry, but not cracked. Cook the second side for 30-45 seconds. Flip again and lightly tap the surface of the tortilla 4 or 5 times with your fingertips. Cook for 15 seconds more. Turn again and tap the other side, cooking for another 15 seconds. The tortilla should smell like toasty corn and have a dull surface.
Nestle each tortilla in a clean towel lined basket to keep warm. Use immediately or let them cool, wrap well, and refrigerate for up to 1 week, or freeze for 2 months.
While I was running errands the other day, I couldn’t figure out why I felt like I was hungover. I hadn’t had a drop of alcohol since New Year’s Eve. But when I got home and threw myself on the couch, I realized it was because I had picked up the bug my sister had during the holidays. Ugh. Isn’t it funny how you forget what being sick feels like when you haven’t been sick in a while? Why is my head pounding? Why does my entirebodyache? Why does my throat feel sooo scratchy? Hmmm…
When I’m under the weather, there isn’t much I really want to eat due to my taste buds going whacky. But for whatever reason, I couldn’t stop thinking about greens. I took that as a sign that my body needed veggies. So I headed to the farmers’ market. But in my haze of sickness I found myself driving towards New Chinatown instead and ended up at one of the markets there. I knew exactly what I wanted.
I headed straight for the produce aisle and picked out a bag of pea shoots. I love pretty much all Chinese greens, but pea shoots (dou miao) are most definitely my fave. When sautéed they are something like spinach, but with a little more body, a bit more texture and crunch.
This is the kind of thing you want to eat at the start of the new year – simple, healthy, fresh, green. Pea shoots are a great alternative to your usual sautéed greens. They are very nice over a bowl of steamed rice or alongside fish or shrimp or chicken. I’ll be eating lots of them this season.
garlic pea shoots
1 pound pea shoots, washed
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil (any mild flavor oil is fine)
3-4 cloves garlic, smashed then chopped
1/2-inch nub of ginger, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
ground white pepper
In a large saute pan or wok, heat oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot and shiny looking, add the garlic and shake the pan constantly to cook until softened and barely golden.
Add the ginger and cook for another minute, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the pea shoots to the pan and toss in the oil and garlic to coat thoroughly. Cook for about 1 minute, stirring frequently so that the greens wilt evenly. Add soy sauce and white pepper to taste and serve immediately.