Perfect Summer Pesto: A Lazy Al Fresco Lunch

IMG_2913People may wax lyrical about spring and its blossoms and fall or its ripe beauty, but for me, summer is always ma saison préférée.

This may come as no surprise to anyone who knows I grew up on a little tropical island, but my favorite meals always go something like this: Outdoors, at a little table surrounded by dear friends, gorgeous water on the horizon, azure sky above, the promise of a fresh simple feast before us.

So when my trusty Let’s Lunch bunch decided to do al fresco dining for our monthly lunch date this month, I was all over it.

Now, I’m fortunate that New York City and its nearby beaches offer me these ingredients on a plate. And recently, I found myself in the Hamptons enjoying one such meal with one of my dearest friends, chef Simpson Wong.

What was to come? A little summer pesto …

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Dark Sauce Pork Noodles: A Touch of “Singapore Noir”

Dark Sauce Pork Noodles

In the twenty years that I’ve lived in the U.S., whenever I mention I’m from Singapore, all too often I’ll hear one of the following words: Caning. Fines. Chewing gum.

It’s always frustrated me that Americans tend to think of my native country as this sterile, boring place with strict rules where no adventures happen. Anyone who’s ever been so Singapore, of course, knows that this isn’t true — we have a seamy, dark side just like any other country!

So I was especially thrilled to have the opportunity to put together “Singapore Noir,” an anthology of dark fiction set in this little city-state perched on an island near the equator.

The book, which launched in the U.S. this month, has run me ragged so far, taking me from New York to Washington, D.C., to far-flung Los Angeles and San Francisco. (Chicago, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Miami and New York are still up — swing by a book signing if you’re in one of those cities!)

So when the intrepid Let’s Lunch crew settled on a Noir-themed lunch this month to toast the book, a certain Singaporean comfort food immediately came to mind: Dark sauce pork noodles

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Solyanka: Russian Beef Soup for the Olympic Soul

Tropical girl that I am, the Winter Olympics have never held much fascination for me.

Yes, there’s figure skating — which I adore — but the rest of it usually goes by in a bewildering blur for me once the games start. (Of course, all of this could change should I ever decide to get off my tush and actually go skiing for the first time.)

Olympics-inspired food, however — now that fascinated me. So when our Let’s Lunch crew decided on an Olympic spirit-themed lunch to toast the opening of the Sochi games, I was in.

What to make? A certain Russian sweet and sour beef soup seemed just the thing for snowy conditions …

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German Pancakes: Comforting Kummerspeck, or "Grief Bacon"

A few months ago, I came across a term that intrigued me: Kummerspeck.

The German word means “grief bacon” (and we all know how much I love bacon). Despite its bacon reference though, the word has a rather negative connotation — it refers to weight put on due to emotional overeating.

Nonetheless, the word fascinated me — and the Let’s Lunch crew, as it turned out. So off we went, dreaming up ideas for the perfect kummerspeck …

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Japanese Crisp Choco Bites: Guilty Pleasure Morsels

My mother discouraged snacking when I was a child. (A policy I’m hugely thankful for now that I know just how little willpower I have.)

However, among the few tidbits allowed during my Singaporean girlhood — as just an occasional treat — were Japanese cookies and chocolate snacks.

These bite-sized morsels were adorable — panda-shaped cookies filled with oozy strawberry filling, thimble-sized chocolate “hamburgers,” tasty biscuit sticks I’d pretend were cigarettes as I held them between two fingers, slowly nibbling them down to nubs. But my favorite was something very basic: Crisp Choco, a milk-chocolate pizza-like pie made with compacted chocolate cornflakes.

In the grand scheme of things, this snack doesn’t seem terribly sinful — it’s not a rich molten chocolate cake or mound of bacon, after all. But it was a treat that we looked forward to — one I count as a guilty pleasure I now allow myself just a few times a year.

So when my Let’s Lunch bunch decided on sharing a guilty pleasure for our virtual lunch date this month, Crisp Choco it was …

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