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Archive for July, 2009|Monthly archive page

Peaches in Paradise

In Home Cookin' on July 20, 2009 at 12:55 am

Peaches in Paradise: see that lychee floating on top? that's your reward for making the effort to mix the drink in the first place.Pardon me if this post is a bit sloggy, I’m still enjoying the drink that I am about to share with you. You see, it’s really, really hot in the Inland Empire today, and we’re trying to be good soldiers and not turn on the air conditioner, especially not during primetime energy hours in the afternoon. I was going to grab a beer from the fridge, but that seemed boring. Then I spied the lonely gigantic bottle of Captain Morgan’s Coconut Rum in the fridge and immediately began hunting for companions. Fresh white peaches that are just slightly overripe then caught my eye from the bowl on the counter. I peeled one of those, threw it in the food processor with a little ice water and a dollop of raspberry jam (my go to sweetener in all emergencies) and combined the resulting puree with coconut rum and lots of ice. To top it off I cracked open my jar of lychees soaked in vodka (what, you don’t keep a bottle of those?) and poured in a dollop of the lychee flavored vodka for good measure. If you don’t have the lychees, it’s still all good. Just park yourself in front of the fan, and take slow sips until you start to hear the ukeleles in the background….

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Carb-tastic Junk Food

In Home Cookin' on July 14, 2009 at 6:17 am

Want a snack?I just wanted to share one of my favorite guilty pleasures. Basically it’s souped up inari, the sushi made with fried tofu pouches. What’s crazy is that it is even easier than straight inari, because these convenient little seasoning packets just get dumped into fresh rice, mixed around and put into pouches.

Sorry it's sideways, technical difficulties. But this is the magical stuff, I pick it up at my local Japanese grocery.

What you get is a seasoned rice that is stronger in taste than traditional sushi rice, with little slices of mushroom, lotus root and carrot in it, all wrapped up in a  handy tofu package. With a little soy sauce and nori on the side, it’s an awesome little nosh. I’m pretty sure the seasoning mix has MSG and this much white rice at one go is not great for the glycemic index, but hey, it’s better than polishing off a bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Right?This is the brand of abura age (tofu pouches) that I use. it's a good idea to follow the directions and pour hot water over thema nd blot right before stuffing. Gets rid of excess oil and makes them more pliable when you are opening the pouch itself.

Plum Irrational

In Home Cookin' on July 14, 2009 at 5:58 am

plum deliciousnessToday was a scorcher in the Inland Empire, exactly the kind of day when you dream of firing up the oven. Just kidding, that would be crazy, right? So imagine my surprise when I found myself standing at the counter, mixer in hand, whipping up a plum upside down cake. I am actually really opposed to using the oven when it’s hot out–just wasteful and really, that is why humans invented the grill. But the lure of fresh plums  caramelized in their own juices, dripping syrupy goodness into a lightly sweet cake, was too much for me to resist.

I modified a recipe in this month’s issue of Real Simple magazine, with positive results. The addition of yogurt created a cake base that was light, moist and fluffy beyond imagination. The dollop of raspberry preserve smoothed out the tart edges of a few plums that were a bit on the sour side. I served it with raspberry and vanilla ice cream, it’s also good with a little heavy cream poured over it (isn’t everything?). I’m not great at writing recipes out, but hopefully you’ll get the drift.

Plum Upside Down Cake – modified from Real Simple Magazine, August 2009

1. Preheat oven to 350, butter and line an 8″ pan.

2. Slice 4-5 plums, saute over m-h heat with a tablespoon of butter, 1/4 cup of sugar and a spoonfull of raspberry preserves. 4-5 min until juices are nice and syrupy. Arrange plum slices in an even layer in the bottom of cake pan.

3. Combine 1 c flour, 3/4 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp salt. In mixing bowl, cream 1/2 c butter and 2/3 c sugar with an electric mixer till good and fluffy (don’t skimp on this!). Mix in 2/3 cup thick plain yogurt (I used nonfat with great results), 1 egg, 1 tsp vanilla. Slowly add in the dry ingredient mix, just until everything is incorporated. Pour the batter over the plums and pop that sucker in the oven.

4. bake for 50-55 min, till it passes the clean toothpick test in the middle. cool in the pan 1 hour, then place a large plate on top and invert. enjoy your amazing cake!

makes me want to eat a third slice....

Savory Steals: Great Crunchy Garnishes

In Home Cookin', Savory Steals on July 3, 2009 at 5:14 am
Tonight's dinner of Green Papaya Salad with Grilled Shrimp got a big boost from a handful of Fried Garlic and Peanuts. Get out your breath mints.

Tonight's dinner of Green Papaya Salad with Grilled Shrimp got a big boost from a handful of Fried Garlic and Peanuts. Get out your breath mints.

Like just about everybody else, this summer we are tightening up our already snug household budget. One savory steal that I think gets underutilized sometimes is a great crunchy topping. When I’m using up the remnants of a bag of salad, some baby spinach leaves and that last, perhaps slightly dry carrot or random leftover tomato, homemade croutons from those last end pieces of a bread loaf transform a lackluster salad into a luscious one.  Cube it up, season with salt, pepper, parmesan and saute or toss in the toaster oven. Homemade croutons, toasted almonds tossed with spices…you see where I’m going here. That extra layer of texture can really boost the power of an otherwise ho-hum dish.

Another hero in this category, that requires only a tiny bit more prep, is the great, the grand, fried garlic and peanuts. Every once in a while, I pick up a $1.99 bag of blister peanuts at Trader Joe’s. Chop them up, as fine or coarse as you like, do the same with a head of garlic. I like to fry the garlic first on medium-low with canola or grapeseed oil, to make sure the oil itself gets a nice garlicky flavor. Then toss in the peanuts and DO NOT WALK AWAY. Stir and watch until you get that golden-brown delicious color and incredible crunch. I have made the mistake of thinking I could multi-task for 30 seconds, only to have a big pan of burned garlic.  The reward for your five minutes of patience is a tupperware full of crunchy, salty garlicky magic that you can keep in the fridge and toss on just about any dish. I like it on fresh, southeast-asian salads like the green papaya salad I made for dinner tonight, or vermicelli with grilled shrimp or pork. It also works well on thick soupy dishes like congee, arroz caldo, potato-leek soup, or vegetable purees. Any stir-fried dish, from just a handful of green beans to more elaborate rice-noodle dishes and everything in betwen, also get a great boost from the fried garlic & peanuts. For $1.99, how can you not make a batch of this little hero?