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Thanksgiving in June

In Uncategorized on June 30, 2011 at 5:47 pm

Definitely going to be a learning curve on this jam-making so first a quick record of what I did.
1. Pick, halve and pit 7 generous cups of plums.
2. Realize I didn’t buy sugar and just moved. Scrounge up about 4 generous cups of brown sugar and organic cane sugar crystals. dump into pot with plums, juice of two lemons, chopped up crystallized ginger and 2 cinnamon sticks.
3. Med Heat. Boil and stir boil and stir. Took a while, almost 35 minutes. started checking consistency with the frozen plate method around 25 minutes.
Results: great consistency for refrigerator jam, but the cinnamon and ginger….made it taste like something that will be delicious at thanksgiving, over a pork loin on a cold night, with goat cheese on crostini and hot toddies…in otherwords, like the holidays. I sort of knew going in that the cinnamon would do that, but i think 2 sticks was a wee bit overpowering. Into the freezer they go, to emerge and delight in November!

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Easy as (Kimchi) Pie

In Uncategorized on June 30, 2011 at 4:36 pm

One memory I want to hold onto and remember to remember from this summer is the day I walked into my local korean grocery and stumbled upon the chaos that is a sale on gigantic napa cabbage during prime kimchi making season. the madness, oh the madness, it was wonderful. of course I walked out with 23 pounds of cabbage and a lifetime supply of gochugorang (korean chili powder) and a few tubs of house-made kimchi as a backup. the house made kimchi has been quicl=kly dwindling due to many meals of laziness/delicious sodium like this. kimchi fried rice with tofu and a fried egg. all i can say is that at least the fried tofu isn’t the fried pork belly we usually use for this dish?

Kale, Leek and Potato Frittata

In Uncategorized on June 30, 2011 at 4:30 pm

I make frittatas all the time, but i usually hope that dumping a lot of gruyere in will makeup for my tenency to overcoook and muddle the flavors of the fillings. this time, i took the time to cook each filling seperately and pull out of the oven while still runny. it made a world of difference. so did pairing with collectively owned yuppy beer; mothership organic wit.

Blog not even a mother would read

In Uncategorized on June 23, 2011 at 3:14 am

Given that this blog mostly has an audience of one, just a quick note to self that I’m back to it. After a two year hiatus in the land of desperately little culinary joy, i’ll have more time for cooking and eating this summer and want to keep track of meals that work for future reference. Entries will hopefully be less florid, more terse and to the point. we’ll see how that goes. And last go round, even my mother didn’t follow the blog. We’ll see what happens this time.

Honolulu Eats Part 1: Breakfast

In Hawaii, Uncategorized on June 16, 2009 at 5:00 am
Oahu is calling...here's the view from our room at the 4star Hawaii Prince. At $70 a night on Priceline, why aren't you there already?

Oahu is calling...here's the view from our room at the 4star Hawaii Prince. At $70 a night on Priceline, why aren't you there already?

Many food-curious Californians eventually turn their minds to the great cuisines of Hawaii at one point or another, if only because it’s such an easily accessible paradise sometimes. We had been planning to spend a week in San Diego for our anniversary this year, but found that it would be much much cheaper to spend it in Hawaii, since the drop in tourism has forced airfares and hotel rates to record lows.  Not a hard decision for us, we go back to Hawaii just about every year. This time, we decided to forgo a car and stay completely focused on great eats in Honolulu, accessible on foot, or by one, drop-dead easy bus ride.  A few items we were especially  concentrating on were kahlua pork items (for me), French fries (for my husband) and happy hours (for both of us). There are too many amazing places to eat in Honolulu, let alone all of Oahu or Hawaii to hit in one trip, so I’ll post our highlights in sections in the next few days. To start, the most important meal of the day; BREAKFAST.

KCC Farmer’s Market: The Sat morning farmer’s market at the foot of Diamondhead has turned into an absolute zoo over the past few years, which is great for the farmers and small vendors, as well as eaters.  By 8am, it’s packed, good stuff like lychees and pineapple from Laiae began running out by 10a. Honestly, why pay for one of those $250/person restaurant sampling parties when the best of Hawaii is here every week? Hits: BBQ’d Abalone from the Big Island (best thing I ate the entire week, they are alive and kickin even on the grill), Kahlua Pork sliders on Taro bread from the KCC culinary students (I downed two), Organic Sorbet from Organica, Sea Asparagus Inari from Marine Agrifuture and Misoyaki Butterfish Bento from Ohana Seafoods. Also, lychee season is so short, so I did two laps  early on to find the best price and sweetest selection. Make sure when getting lychees, pineapple and other tourist-friendly fruits, that you are not getting hustled with something shipped in from other places.

This very nice man shucks the living abalones and throws them on the grill for you. As I watched kids tickle the live ones and giggle at their suprisingly quick movements, asked if I didn't think it was gross to see something moving and eat it minutes later. SIlly man.

This very nice man shucks the living abalones and throws them on the grill for you. As I watched kids tickle the live ones and giggle at their suprisingly quick movements, asked if I didn't think it was gross to see something moving and eat it minutes later. SIlly man.

The underside of a beautifully grilled abalone, moist, firm and chewy, the taste is something between a clam and a mussel. For $5 you get two, and add a little drop of soy sauce to bring out the flavors. Plated up in a nice restaurant in San Francisco or Tokyo, the same thing could cost you upwards of $40. Best deal at the market.

The underside of a beautifully grilled abalone, moist, firm and chewy, the taste is something between a clam and a mussel. For $5 you get two, and add a little drop of soy sauce to bring out the flavors. Plated up in a nice restaurant in San Francisco or Tokyo, the same thing could cost you upwards of $40. Best deal at the market.

Diamondhead Market & Grill: I went for a 3 mile run, then walked three miles in muggy heat to get to Diamondhead Grill for breakfast, and it was worth every single step. The Kahlua Pork hash patty had great crispy edges outside, moist shreds of pork, taro and potato inside. Well-seasoned, great gravy to rice to patty ratio. Was the best Hash patty I had for breakfast, although the kahlua pork hash patty I had for a late lunch at the Pineapple Room was even better.  Loco Moco was ok, fairly standard, but I thought the gravy on it was excellent. Piping Hot Peets coffee (kicked up with our mini-Baileys and Kahlua liquer rations) from the hot pot was a great way to finish the meal with a blueberry cream cheese scone.

Egg’s N’ Things: This venerable local institution has a great new location that has completely converted me from my previous opinion that Eggs N’ Things is for tourists and the cranky waiters who fleece them. Two beautiful open floors on Saratoga are now filled with a waitstaff that I would swear is exponentially more cheerful, and the specials are newly delicious. Sweet bread French toast is always a good hit here, we had them one day with sweet dark cherries, another time with pineapple and macadamia nuts. You can order Portugese sausage just about anywhere in Hawaii, but the brand they are using here is well-flavored and cooked just enough to get crispy edges without drying out. Corned Beef hash patty was respectable.

The Shorebird: We’ve always gone to the Shorebird for two reasons: the price and the view. The coupons everyone talks about are real, and will get you a decent breakfast buffet for less than $10/person. More importantly, sipping coffee and munching pineapple right on the water in early morning Waikiki is priceless, and as long as you get here before tour buses begin unloading around 830a, that’s exactly the seat you will have.  Steer clear of all the baked goods and French toasts. I usually load up on fresh papaya (other places charge about $5-8 for “local delight” which is a papaya cut in half).

Legend Seafood Restaurant: Believe the hype, Legend Seafood is, well, legendary. But, the numbering system helps people move in and out pretty reasonably, we arrived at 1p for brunch and waited about ten minutes for a table for 8 (just enough time to load up on manapua). Dim Sum is my family’s favorite Sunday brunch option, and Legend delivers. Like all good dim sum places, leave your meekness and inhibitions at the door, the best dishes go to those who advocate for themselves and wave down the carts. The jook was well-garnished with meat, green onions and great little crispies. Also good was a taro-pork dumpling that is covered in a crispy sort of web, wonderful marriage of flavors you will not find outside of Hawaii. Best pork siu mai I have ever had in Hawaii,  apparently we weren’t the only ones who felt that way, it was the hardest dish to procure.

As you can tell, at Legend Seafood I could not take the pictures fast enough. Within seconds of landing on the table, delights like these pictured (Haupia Egg Custard, Standard egg Custard, Baked Char Siu Bao, Jook, Pork Siu Mai, Shrimp dumplings) disappeared.

As you can tell, at Legend Seafood I could not take the pictures fast enough. Within seconds of landing on the table, delights like these pictured (Haupia Egg Custard, Standard egg Custard, Baked Char Siu Bao, Jook, Pork Siu Mai, Shrimp dumplings) disappeared.

Leonard’s: I don’t want to bag on Leonard’s, I have enjoyed a plain malassada here on occasion, though I believe Agnes’ in Kailua to be the best. However, this time I was talked into a malassada with filling  (I have always assumed these are for tourists, I’ve never met a local who recommended them….) and tried the haupia, coconut, mango and custard. Personally, I felt like I was imbibing spoonfuls of corn syrup. I felt so ill the rest of the day I had to skip lunch. Proceed with caution, stick with the oldies but goodies.

Sure, they look delicious and they smell like heaven. Here's hoping the malassada deities smile on me next time around.

Sure, they look delicious and they smell like heaven. Here's hoping the malassada deities smile on me next time around.

Stay tuned for the next installment….Honolulu Eats Part 2:  Best Happy Hours for A Really Good, Really Cheap Dinner

Flexi Fridays: Polenta Pizza

In Home Cookin', Uncategorized on February 27, 2009 at 11:34 pm

I’m Catholic and it’s Lent, so I’ve decided to use Fridays this year as an excuse to img_04451attempt to up my game on vegetarian dishes. A great dish I have been meaning to try is a breakfast polenta pizza, as described in the NYTimes dining section a couple of weeks ago. I’m a big fan of brunch-y food and this turned out really well this morning. Essentially, its a shallow bed of simple baked polenta, topped with whatever you like. Bittman’s original recipe calls for pancetta and spinach, which sounds great, but doesn’t work for my no-meat Fridays. Instead, I quickly sauteed crimini mushrooms for that meaty texture, spinach and some leftover caramelized onions from turkey burger night. I spread that spinach mixture on top of the baked polenta, dotted it with some canned diced tomatoes from TJ’s and a little shredded mozzarella. What was amazing was how filling and flavorful it was, with very few calories and lots of nutritional value. My husband, a devoted fan of meat and eggs for breakfast, swore up and down that there must be eggs somewhere in it, because it felt so substantial in his mouth. The polenta base is firm but moist and creamy and the mix of savory items on top invites infinite experimentation based on what you’ve got hanging around. This weekend, why not give the waffle iron a rest?

Be My Valentine: Discovery

In Uncategorized on February 15, 2009 at 8:28 pm

Often, when you’re in love, you make some sort of long term commitment to the

An eager taster ignores the instructions to smell and observe each piece before devouring.

An eager taster ignores the instructions to smell and observe each piece before devouring.

object of your affection. For some, that may be moving in together or getting married or getting a pet. For others, it may be simply making plans for a trip six weeks down the road. Either way, the longer you are together, the more you learn about each other. Whether you see these “new insights” as exciting discoveries or they make you feel like you’re getting something besides what you signed up for can often determine the outcome of the relationship. But what happens when your beloved is chocolate? The thrill of discovery can lead to new roads, and may force to you leave old, treasured friends.

We went to a History of Chocolate Presentation and Tasting today at the Riverside Heritage House, delivered by law professor David Skubik. Dr. Skubik’s talk was focused on the historic origins of chocolate and the choices consumers face today in the increasingly complex world of chocolate bars. Several news sources have written articles in the past few months on the possible recession resistance of luxury chocolate bars, so I was glad to hear Dr. Skubik’s instruct the audience in discerning one expensive bar’s origins from another. I’d never heard of “blood chocolate” before, but was surprised to learn that chocolate produced in the Ivory Coast is often produced on the backs of modern day slaves, in the midst of horrific civil conflict. According to Dr. Skubik, 85% of today’s chocolate is made from Forestero type beans, which are primarily grown in West Africa. I’ve been so busy looking for the percentages of cocoa and sugar content, but will now also make an effort to look into geographic sources.

Much like the coffee industry, there is a widespread gap between how much you pay for that nice, gold foil wrapped bar and the price growers and farmworkers get paid for the beans. Another option for conscious consumers besides point of origin is to look for cooperative-farm sourced chocolates as well.

I hated chocolate for most of my life, finding the treasured Nestle Crunch, M&Ms and Kisses of our youth too sugary and sweet. Discovering dark chocolate and mole as an adult slowly brought me into the chocolate fold. However, it was clear at the lecture that several self-proclaimed chocoholics who had lifelong love affairs with the aforementioned mainstream brands were repulsed by the idea that chocolates with a higher percentage of cocoa were gaining on the popularity of their beloved Hershey bar. My own husband actually turned to me during the presentation and revealed that he loves that ultimate imposter, white chocolate. All of this is to say that, as Dr. Skubik emphasized repeatedly, the best chocolate is the one that tastes best and is most affordable to you. But, he added, you should always be willing to expand your palette and experience the thrill of discovering new facets of your favorite flavors as well.

Here are a few books that Dr. Skubik recommended for those who want to learn more:

Sophie and Michael Coe, The True History of Chocolate, 2nd Edition

Chloe Doutre-Roussel, The Chocolate Connoisseur

Mort Rosenblum, Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light

And here are the sources for the chocolates we used in the tasting:

TCHO chocolates are made from beans grown in farmer cooperatives in Peru, ethically-run farms in Ghana and other responsible sources. Their factory is in San Francisco and my favorite chocolate in the tasting was their “Fruity.”

My close second was Intentional Chocolate from Hawaii. They claim their chocolates are infused with positive “intentions” or prayers in the Buddhist tradition. I’m not an expert, but I sure do feel good when I’m eating them.

Be My Valentine: Longing

In Uncategorized on February 15, 2009 at 7:27 pm

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In my book, longing is a deep-seeded yearning type of feeling. It’s not exactly those times when you are first dating someone and counting the hours until they come pick you up for your next date. It’s more like those weekday nights when you are cooking dinner, wishing they didn’t work so late, briefly worrying about traffic on their behalf, just hoping they come home safely. Longing is not flashy, like obsession or missing someone. No, I’d say its more quiet and more constant.

I have a similar relationship to summer fruits, except peaches. Around September, when the farmer’s markets shrink a bit, and apples and pears begin to emerge, I know the days of messy, juicy fruits are over for another year. I think about them in odd moments of the day during the fall and brief winter…”it would be so much easier to have a snack right now if there were just some fresh plums,” or “I wouldn’t wolf down so much espresso gelato if I had some fresh nectarines.” I don’t drive myself crazy seeking them out in the first blush of spring, but until I get my hands on some summery fruits every year, they are always there in the back of my mind with other mundane things.

To stave off the pangs of longing, I do the frozen fruit compromise. I put away some of my own from especially abundant days at the farmer’s market, but I’m ususally too busy gobbling the juicy delights up to have the discipline to save for later. In the world of convenently commercially frozen fruits, I’ve found whole foods usually has the best and priciest selection. My best middle ground has often been Trader Joe’s Mango, Raspberry & Blueberry melange. It’s versatile, useful sized chunks actually taste pretty good when thawed out. Thawed by themselves with some fresh whipped cream or just a splash of coconut milk and raw sugar sprinkled on top is one pleasant option for those days when the world outside is gray. On nights like tonight, when we eat heavy, winter meals like coq au vin or turkey meatloaf, it’s refreshing to whip up a little instant sorbet so that you don’t taste meat in the back of your mouth all evening. Mark Bittman has a great video on this and it literally takes about 30 seconds, and three ingredients you already have. Why not? The best antidote to patient, drawn-out longing, is often the rush that only comes from instant gratification.

Mark Bittman’s Super Simple Sorbet

Breakfast We Can Believe In

In Uncategorized on January 19, 2009 at 9:43 pm

img_0392Tomorrow, many of my close friends and millions of others will be in Washington to witness Barack Obama’s inauguration. It wasn’t in the cards for me to be able to go, but I’m having my own little celebration while I watch from home. I’ve started a one-woman campaign called “Scrambled Eggs for Obama” and since the inauguration is airing at 9a Pacific time, we’re holding a Breakfast We Can Believe In. What do you eat in front of the tv at such an important moment? Will I remember the texture of the toast I munch as he puts his hand on the bible? Since Obama’s campaign emphasized everyday people, should I stick with straight scrambled eggs or go with the presidential favorite and add arugula and chevre?

Food’s incredible capacity to forge memories and emotional ties to events in our lives is also explored in Amanda Hesser’s Eat, Memory: A Collection of Essays from the New York Times. Hesser asked writers from various genres to contribute columns during her time as the food editor of the New York Times Magazine, pushing them to move beyond odes to grandma’s cookies and reflect on food stories that go beyond the actual food. It’s a great read to dip into every once in a while, each column is short enough to sustain you while waiting for your husband to find the car keys or while standing over the oven monitoring mini quiche. George Saunders’ column “The Absolutely No-Anything Diet,” was an easy favorite. Perhaps an irreverent backlash against the increasingly convoluted state of food politics, Saunders advocates a diet of nothing at all, complete with a recipe advising the reader to buy basil and whipping cream, then “go back to the store exasperated, return basil and whipping cream and stomp out of the store.” Other stories include fights while fine-dining, gravy as a barometer of success as a mother and Dan Barber’s now-famous carrot deception. Hesser’s short book illustrates how food can be at once central and yet float around the edges of significant moments. With that in mind, I’m off to contemplate the role oatmeal can play in Obama’s inauguration tomorrow morning..

Cooperative Thanksgiving: Act III

In Uncategorized on December 2, 2008 at 8:05 pm

img_0267Success! The first cooperative Thanksgiving (for my family, at least) was great! I arrived at my mom’s at around 1p, and while the turkey was in the oven, one of the cooks wasn’t even out of bed yet. After he was roused and began shuffling around the kitchen, I took a moment to realize that I had really underestimated my siblings. Even half asleep, it was clear that Blake knew a thing or two about mashed potatoes.  The end result was creamy, garlicky and pretty divine. My youngest brother’s focus on the bird paid off. He served a beautifully browned, moist bird that any home-cook would be proud of. I threw my half-done dishes in the oven to finish at the last minute and got to work on the gravy. I love to make gravy, because I believe it requires a judicious hand with the wine. That level of precision requires me to hold (and occasionally drink from) a bottle of pinot grigio for about twenty minutes straight, which I am happy to do. In my mind, this year’s gravy was delicious, but probably illegal to buy or sell in several states on Sundays.

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Kendall's pride and Joy

My mom, whom we were trying to help relax by taking over the dinner itself, turned out an array of desserts instead. Her little pumpkin mousse cups sprinkled with brown sugar crystals were the most popular, but I thought her apple-pear pie was probably the best pie I have ever had. Seriously, most fruit pies are too sugary for me, but hers was a perfect blend of cinnamon and fruit and the firmness of the filling was just right.( I’m regretting not taking some home with me as I write. ) My grandmother and I also contributed pumpkin cream sandwich cookies, which were sort of like a whoopee pie based on pumkin bread. The best dessert of the weekend actually came Friday night. My mom’s signature dessert is cream puffs, and this weekend she topped them off with a bittersweet chocolate sauce and whipped cream that made my heart sing.

Blake learning to make deviled eggs

This year, I am thankful for my cookin’ family.

Blake learning to make deviled eggs