I've been thinking a lot about happiness lately. I'm basically an optimistic person and am thankful that the glass is typically half full for me. What's with that? I don't know, I like to think that it has to do with hard wiring and determination. It's my take that there are two kinds of people in this world: Half-Fulls and Half-Empties... and whichever side you gravitate to basically colors the world and your viewpoint of it.
I learned from someone just recently that Paul McCartney and John Lennon had a working symbiotic relationship. Two sides of the same coin thing going on. Paul was the optimistic one and John the negative one. Somehow, it worked. I wonder if this sort of thing ever works out in romantic relationships though. I figure it would work out if both folks recognized the other's worth and were willing to respect and work towards common ground ... and as long as they recognized their placement on the spectrum.
Not sure why I'm thinking out loud tonight. For heaven's sake ... this is supposed to be a food blog! :) But, alas tonight, it's just a slice of thinking out loud. Just posing this thought out into the vast universe... night now.
The milestone memories I have growing up seem to always relate to food. For example, the clearest memory I have of my paternal grandmother was the time she taught me how to wash rice. I think I was probably seven or eight years old. She told me to rinse the grains three times until the water was no longer milky and ran clear. Then, to raise the water above the grains half an inch (1/2 way up the length of the first bend on my index finger) prior to the cooking.
My grandmother was a proud, difficult woman, heavy handed in tone and words ... but it was these moments when she showed her tenderness by passing on this most basic and important lesson to her granddaughter. To this day, I still wash rice the same way.
I also remember the time she brought home a live squawking chicken from Chinatown and the next day, locked it in the kitchen with her. I don't recall much during that episode as I think the thought of her slaughtering the chicken was too much for me, so I probably locked myself in my bedroom not wanting to know (hear) anything. When the door opened and I finally peeked in - there was my grandmother plucking feathers from the chicken carcass. Oddly enough, I know we ate the chicken that evening ... but I don't recall the taste of it.
There was a lot of cooking that went on in our household. We were a home of four different generations of Asian women: great-grandmother, grandmother, mother, and my older sister and I. Typically my grandmother and mother did the cooking. Although they came from different villages, they both cooked Cantonese dishes. These type of dishes are typically steamed or stir-fried and very fresh. In fact, my mother made it a point to run to the Asian markets in Chinatown every day after work and purchase fresh greens and meats or seafood. I think this is why the food I remember eating growing up at home was so delicious and seasonal - the products were purchased daily and as fresh as possible. This made a difference.
I've often read about good cooks who gained an interest in cooking early on under their parents and/or elder family members tutelage. My story doesn't hail this way. I never learned to cook from my mother or grandmother. My grandmother passed away when I was still too young to be able to hold a cleaver correctly or was taught how to determine the freshness of a fish by the clarity of its eyes. As for my mother, she was/is a woman not known for her patience. The times that I did enter the kitchen to watch her, she shoo-ed me out informing me I was getting in her way.
I finally learned how to cook by necessity in my mid-20's and after marriage ... it was either cook at home or starve. (We also did go out to eat but this got too expensive) As I worked a full-time job, I typically didn't have a lot of time or energy to cook full-on meals for my husband (now ex) and I. So cooking was a rocky start for me and I didn't appreciate and/or enjoy the early times I did cook. I do recall I did a lot of stir frying, spaghetti, pastas, meatloaf - dishes that were simple and quick to cook.
I think it wasn't until after my divorce (in my early 30's) that I really started to enjoy cooking. Being a single mother, I didn't have much money and so learned to run to the Asian markets and purchase inexpensive meats/seafood and fresh produce and cook for my son and I. I cooked oxtail stew, steamed black bean garlic pork ribs, Chinese chicken soup, pork fried rice, steamed pork and duck egg omelets, etc. These were the dishes I remembered growing up and experimented with cooking my memories of them until I got them right.
Here is my recipe for Shrimp in Lobster Sauce. It is absolutely delicious and would compare (and in my opinion, surpass as it's home made) to any Chinese restaurant's version. Simple, tasty, quick, and elegant in flavor.
Shrimp in Lobster Sauce
1 lb shrimp
1 T minced garlic
1/2 - 1 lb ground pork
Dash of rice wine (about 1 T)
1 1/2 T - garlic and black bean sauce (I like Lee Kum Kee brand)
1/2 T sugar approx. (or add + or - to taste)
1/2 - 3/4 cup chicken broth
corn starch mixture (1 T to 1 2 T water)
2 eggs - cracked and stirred in a bowl
chopped green onions
Stir fry the garlic in hot oil. Add the shrimp and rice wine. Cook until just done and put in separate container.
With the same hot pan, add oil and stir fry the ground pork.
When cooked, add the black bean sauce and sugar. When combined, add the chicken broth and corn starch mixture. Simmer until combined and sauce has thickened. Add back the shrimp. Take the pan off the hot element and stir in the eggs and green onions.
Happy February to you all. I've been taking a hiatus from writing this month focusing on getting back into the health swing of things and work resource changes. Nah, I'm still working (I keep telling myself - we are lucky to have a job with this economy ... ) but the work volume has increased and our small team has been working overtime. Bunch of busy bees. Bzzzzzzz.
It also takes focus and drive to find time during the day to exercise and eat right which has been another focus of mine this month. However, I've missed this and sending out a part, however small, of me out into the universe...
I've been cooking a lot of salmon for the family lately. For one thing, it is easy, quick, healthy, and absolutely delicious. Salmon is one of the fish that you can eat a lot of and not be overly concerned about mercury intake. Think Jeremy Priven, now the poster child for the rumor mongering against eating too much sushi. I'm not sure if this is correct, but a Japanese friend told me that if fish is going to be the prevalent protein in your diet, then two to three times a week is fine - however the exception seems to be salmon.
I've been marinating my salmon steaks in this soy-ginger mixture and faintly remember locating the recipe on-line on Epicurious a few years ago. Since then, I make this dish frequently and my son raves about it. Since the dish is broiled, the top comes out crispy brown and the inside moist, sweet, and aromatic with ginger spice citrus flavors. I absolutely love this dish and you will too.
Broiled Soy-Ginger Salmon
Adapted from Epicurious.com
1/2 cup mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
2 T soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar (not seasoned)
1 T finely grated peeled fresh ginger
4 (6 oz) pieces salmon fillet
Marinate Salmon: Stir together mirin, soy sauce, vinegar, and ginger in a shallow dish. Add fish, skin sides up, and marinate, covered at room temperature 20 minutes.
Broil fish, skin sides down, on oiled rack of a broiler pan 5 to 7 inches from heat until fish is just cooked through, about 10 minutes.
Do you ever wonder why there are some people that come back into our lives, like seasonal hives or allergies? Anyways, I was using my favorite frying pan to make pancakes this week and it got me thinking about how it really would have come in handy at a certain point in my life and with a certain person...
My apologies, friends... tough transition (I just couldn't resist the frying pan metaphor and visual).
Ok, so lovelyPANCAKESare the featured topic for today. I made these pancakes that my daughter deemed worthy to make recently and so I've made them again and again over the weekend. Delicate looking, yet hearty. Crispy, lacy, honey toned on the outside and warm comfort hot cake inside. Is there anything that speaks more of a home style breakfast than a plate of pancakes?
I tend to forage other food blogs and scan hungrily at the food pics, but for some odd reason, don't often try out the recipes. Too many great recipes and too little time? I think it's a mood thing too and lately I've been on the Japanese cooking route. But for some reason, the idea of this pancake recipe tickled me pink - the two part recipe in which you blend the oats and buttermilk overnight sounded, well ... intriguing. I ran to the store and bought some buttermilk - and cooked the most amazing hot cakes the next morning.
2 cups rolled oats
2 cups buttermilk
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. table salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted but not hot
Vegetable oil or spray, for greasing the pan
Maple syrup, for serving
The night before:
Combine the oats and buttermilk in a medium bowl. Stir to mix. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
The morning of:
Take the bowl of buttermilk and oats out of the fridge. Set aside.
In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
Add the eggs and melted butter to the oat mixture, and stir well. Add the flour mixture, and stir to blend. The batter will be very thick.
Warm a large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium-high heat, and brush (or spray) with vegetable oil. To make sure it’s hot enough, wet your fingers under the tap and sprinkle a few droplets of water onto the pan. If they sizzle, it’s ready. Scoop the batter, about a scant ¼ cup at a time, onto the pan, taking care not to crowd them. When the underside is nicely browned and the top looks set around the edges, flip the pancakes. Cook until the second side has browned.
Re-grease the skillet, and repeat with more batter. If you find that the pancakes are browning too quickly, dial the heat back to medium.
I've been getting in the habit of letting my daughter sleep in my bed at night lately. I'm an insomniac and sometimes wake up in the middle of the night - 3, 4, or 5 a.m. It's these waking hours that I turn on the small bed lamp to look at my girl's sleeping face. She looks so serene and peaceful, long eyelashes gracing the tops of her small cheeks. It is these moments that I recognize and give thanks.
I do feel fortunate in so many ways. My son and I went clothes shopping last night at Kohl's. He's pretty easy-going and has always been that way. Jeans, t-shirts, hooded sweatshirts. That's my boy, so easy to shop for. Anyways, on the way back home, it was getting late on a school night, and I figured I'd just pick him up some take-out somewhere. When I asked him what he wanted, he said he wanted to eat at home.
It was a moment that struck me in mid-life that I may be doing something right. My kids prefer my cooking over restaurant and/or fast food, etc. All those times when I felt so tired after an 8 - 9 hour work day and didn't feel like cooking but pushed through those feelings and still cooked - it's times like these that have made it worth it.
I must be in a contemplative mood tonight (this morning)... it's 5:52 a.m. and ... I am feeling happy and thankful. This family and home life I've created should never be taken for granted. It is the quality of life that I want for myself and my children. All the efforts of being the best mother to my children develop and show themselves in these small moments. I am so glad I can stop and wonder at them.
I made simmered kabocha squash last night and the smell of it filled up my small kitchen. It smelled cozy, warm, and lovely. Like home, our home.
Kabocha No Nimono
This is a favorite Japanese vegetable dish which can also be made with butternut squash or pumpkin.
1 small acorn squash (about 1 to 1 1/2 lbs), unpeeled
1 1/2 cups water
1 tsp dashi-no-moto powder
1 T soy sauce
3 T sugar
1 T mirin
1 T sake
1 green onion, minced
Rinse and dry squash. Using a large sharp knife, cut squash in 1/2; remove seeds. Cut squash into 1 - inch pieces. Pour water into a medium saucepan. Stir in dashi powder, soy sauce, sugar, mirin and sake. Bring to a boil over a medium-high heat. Stir a few seconds to dissolve sugar. Add squash; reduce heat to low. Place a drap-lid or small saucepan lid on top of squash; simmer 25 to 30 minutes. Liquid will reduce and squash will become slightly glazed. Garnish with green onions.
I've been taking our lunch and dinner pics daily of late. It might be a while before I write about a dish but at least I'll know I have it in my arsenal of pics ready to use when it inspires me to write about it.
So, I've been on a Japanese bent lately with the cooking, but there was a time when I was very obsessed with finding the perfect roast chicken dish.
I think I found it.
I've baked this chicken dish frequently and my five year old requests it on occasion. She, in fact, has told me it is one of her favorites and is, "So good!" It's a keeper and an old stand-by. Thanks to Gwynneth Paltrow - actor, clothes horse, health obsessed, and a really good cook. I was surfing through her GOOP website a year ago and discovered her "Make" section, featuring some really health conscious, awesome recipes.
She calls her roast chicken, a quick home recipe. Wow, I've tried it and haven't looked back. It's my go-to recipe when I want a quick, tasty chicken recipe. To not try this, would be a shame. You'd really miss out. It's lemony, savory, and just plain good. Take it from my five year old.
Quick Roast Chicken and Fingerling Potatoes
Adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow's recipe on GOOP
TIME: 1 hour
1 3 to 4 pound chicken, washed and dried
1 lemon, cut in half
6 garlic cloves, peeled
a few sprigs each fresh rosemary, sage and thyme
freshly ground black pepper
about 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 dozen fingerling potatoes (or any small potato), peeled
Preheat the oven to 450ºF (on convection if possible).
Using a pair of sharp kitchen shears, remove and discard the backbone of the chicken (or save it for making stock). With a sharp pairing knife, remove the thigh bones — simply follow the bone and let your knife do the work for you. You can also ask your butcher to do this.
Lay the chicken, breast side up, in a roasting tray and press down with your hands so that it flattens. Squeeze over the lemon, getting the juice on and around the entire chicken, and throw the lemon halves into the tray. Toss in the garlic cloves, being sure to tuck a few underneath the bird along with the fresh herbs. Liberally salt and pepper the chicken and drizzle over enough olive oil to coat — about 3 tablespoons.
Meanwhile bring a saucepan of water to a boil and season with a few pinches of salt. Boil the potatoes for 8 minutes. Drain the potatoes, put them back in the pot with the lid on and shake vigorously to ‘fluff’ their exteriors. Put the potatoes in the tray with the chicken and drizzle with olive oil to coat (about another 3 tablespoons) and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Cover the tray with tinfoil, roast for 20 minutes, remove the tinfoil and baste with the juices that have collected on the bottom. Roast for an additional 20 minutes, uncovered, or until a thermometer inserted into the thigh registers at least 165ºF and the skin is browned.
Everyone knows Sesame Street growing up - one of my favorites on the show was Cookie Monster. I really got a kick of seeing him eat that plate of cookies ... you know, with the cookie crumbs flying all over the place and him growling, "AWWWWM-num-num-num-num .... " Those googly ping pong eye balls dangling and darting in opposite directions always got me giggling.
I've been baking these amazing cookies recently that got me turning cookie monster. Not just me, but both kids and a grown man. We're all craving and loudly munching these cookies and the plate barely lasts until the morning. The bitter sweet chocolate coupled with the sour cherry bites cause a wedding in your mouth. Wow, these cookies are turning me sappy tongued. Ok, bake these and you'll find your family demanding, "Me want cookie!"
Katie Lee Joel’s Dark Chocolate Chunk and Dried Cherry Cookies
Makes about 4 dozen cookies
* 2 1/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
* 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
* 2/3 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
* 2/3 cup granulated sugar
* 2 large eggs
* 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
* 8 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (be sure to use a high-quality chocolate with more than 60% cacao)
* 1 cup dried cherries (about 6 ounces), coarsely chopped
* 1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375º F.
Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together into a bowl.
In the bowl of an electric mixer (or in a bowl using a handmixer), beat the butter with the sugars until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated. Beat in the vanilla. On low speed, add the flour mixture. With a wooden spoon, fold in the chocolate, cherries and pecans (if you’re using them).
Scoop by heaping tablespoonful onto two nonstick or greased cookie sheets. Bake until golden and chewy, about 12 minutes, rotating the sheets after six minutes. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool and repeat the process with the remaining dough.
I ate my way through the holidays for the past two months and now it's time to get to work. Oddly enough, I've been loving the past two weeks on my way to flab countdown - so much I've been too tired to write at night. I've fallen in love, you see ... again, you ask? Home style Japanese food has caught my attention and I'm in a tizzy.
I've been cooking my way through a Japanese cook book (thank you King County library system):Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat: Secrets of My Mother's Tokyo Kitchen by Naomi Moriyama. I'm not Japanese, but I tell you, I must have been in another lifetime. Eating this food just feels like home. My weight is coming down, energy up, and I've taken my latest love interest to breakfast, lunch and dinner. So far, it hasn't been an expensive date, but turning out to be a consuming one...
I'm now getting up every morning at 6 a.m. to make Japanese "power" breakfasts (miso soup, rice, side dishes, etc.),bento box lunches, and home style dinner entrees for Tharan, my son, and I (with the exception of my five year old - she hasn't quite taken to onigiriand gobo, not yet). I'm like those Japanese mothers and now cooking fresh miso soup daily too. Oishii!
The thing about this food is not only are the flavors delicious and simple, but the dishes are beautiful. There is a grace and beauty about the simplicity and pleasing color palette of the dishes. I've been taking an additional hour in the evening prepping the boxes for the morning.
I've been boiling juice gelatins, washing cherry tomatoes, radishes, blueberries, and placing delicate wrapped Japanese cookies into the compartments. You wouldn't believe (I don't believe it) how consumed I've become with the details of our lunches daily. It seems a lot of work and sure looks like it... but I've got it down to 10 minutes in the mornings.
The bento lunch I made yesterday (pictured here) has bambo shoots and squid, carrots and gobo, sticky rice sprinkled with furikake, cranberry juice gelatin, hijikiand fried tofu, fresh fruit (blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries), and a paper wrapped rice cracker. The bento pictures look like a lot of food, but really isn't. Bento box portions are quite small compared to our American appetites and portions. When I first saw the bento boxes on display at Daiso's, I thought they would feed a child nicely - then saw that the recommended portion was for an adult female! The one featured here feeds an adult male and I bought it from Uwajimaya's.
At work at times, I sometimes take a peek into the red lacquered box just to look at the colors. You see, it's as I've always believed - food should not only feed the stomach but also the eyes... and it doesn't hurt that it's reducing my waist line too.
Try this delicious fiber rich goborecipe. I've been eating this dish hot and cold every day now for the past two weeks. The crunch of the carrots, gobo and rich nutty flavor of the ground sesame blend nicely. This dish has become a standard side dish on our breakfast and dinner table.
Gobo and Carrot
adapted from Naomi Moriyama, "Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat"
1 medium (8 ounce) burdock root
1 T canola oil
2 dried red peppers (Japanese, Thai chili, Santaka, or Szechuan)
1 C carrots, cut into matchstick slivers
1 T sake
1 T reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 t mirin
1 t granulated sugar
1 t toasted and ground sesame seeds
Scrub the exterior of the burdock root with a vegetable brush to remove excess dirt and the skin. Cut the burdock root into 2 1/2 to 3" long matchsticks, and rinse quickly under cold water. You will have approximately 2 cups of burdock root matchsticks.
Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the red peppers and saute for 30 seconds. Add the burdock root and saute until tender, about 3 minutes; it will appear translucent on the surface. Stir in the carrot and saute for 2 minutes.
Reduce the heat to low and add the sake, soy, mirin, and sugar. Stir the vegetables for 1 minute more to allow them to absorb the sauce. Remove and discard the red peppers and arrange the vegetables in a mound in the center of a serving bowl and garnish with the sesame seeds.
My BFFs know that my favorite restaurant in Seattle is Pomodoro on Eastlake. We've eaten at this cozy neighborhood Southern Italian corner bistro to celebrate my birthday for the past three years.
One of the great things is that you can always get a table. You think this means the restaurant is not good? Nuh-uh. It only means that this place hasn't been found yet. I'd like to keep it that way ... and yet ... I've always been the girl who shared at playtime and let other girls play with my dolls. On that note, you got it here first - GO to this restaurant before the word gets out any further.
Order the Insalata di Caesar as a starter along with any of the other fine appetizers (can't go wrong with the Pomodoro Speciale). Like clockwork, I always order the Linguine con Gambero e Anice: wild prawns, garlic, white wine and light cream anise sauce, tossed with linguine. I don't know how they cook this but it is the best pasta dish around. I've ordered seafood fettuccine at many, many restaurants here in the NW and after eating the typically white based cheesy sauce, felt slightly bloated by the time I got home.
The Pomodoro's pasta dish features plump, perfectly poached prawns ... but it is the light cream sauce the linguine is tossed in that is perfection. The sauce is almost clear and glosses the noodles beautifully. It is like eating a bite from the fresh sea tossed in with a hint of sweet cream. That sauce. Oooh boy.You know, I could go on and on about that dish ...
But what I'm here to really talk about today issalad. There have been many times in my life that I've been on a semi-liquid diet, carb-free diet, no- white-after-dark diet, and salads diets. Such is the trials and tribulations of trying to be skinny in this super-size everything culture.
There is one salad, however, that I always eat with pleasure .... and place it even in the decadent category. All hail the Caesar. Dieting never crosses my mind when I order a caesar salad. For real. This classic salad doesn't have to play second fiddle to any main entree when done right and accompanied by major other players. I mentioned Pomodoro's Insalata di Caesar above and they do one of the most savoriest that has crossed my palate. I like the kick of spiciness and the crunch of ice cold romaine in their version.
BUT at home I came across an excellent, delicious recipe recently that must be shared. I made it for the kids last week and my 14 year old had seconds of the salad ... and then thirds. If that is not the best review and from a tough crowd, I don't know what is! The dressing is AMAZING.
Adapted from Michael Chiarello's recipe
The only thing I do differently in this recipe is cook the eggs in boiling water for one minute and then put them in cold water to cool before adding the yolks to the dressing. Maybe it's psychological, as the egg yolks are still technically raw, but I like to "cook" them still in advance.
Put the whole romaine leaves in a work bowl. Add enough of the dressing to coat the leaves and toss well. Arrange the leaves in a serving bowl with their tips up, and intersperse the croutons, if desired. Sprinkle the Parmesan over all.
Place the egg yolk, mustard, anchovies, garlic, vinegar, lemon juice, and a dash of Worcestershire sauce into a salad bowl. Blend with whisk and then add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream until it is fully incorporated. If the dressing stops gets too thick, add the warm water and then continue until all the oil is added. Add the cheese and continue to blend.
Did you think I'd forget? As promised, this one's dedicated to RAMEN cravings and all you ramen obsessed fans out there. After hitting up Samurai with weekly fixes the past month or so and finding my pocket book quickly depleting, I had to attempt it at home. Knowing I needed Asian products to go with the ramen and living up north, I drove to my neighborhoodCentral Marketiin Mill Creek. They have a very good Asian foods section, particularly authentic Japanese products.
Here's the thing ... being a working single parent, my goal was to to come up with a good tasting bowl of ramen in less than an hour.
I decided to try and use the same ingredients as the ramen bowl at Samurai, minus the all day soup boiling process and needed a good base: noodles and soup. My friend Keith (another ramen fanatic) had recommended I get the Yamachan Japanese Style Fresh Ramen noodles as he heard that Samurai gets their noodles from Yamachan too. Good tip. Luckily, Central Market had these packets in their frozen section.
One thing I found odd was that these Yamachan noodles weren't located in the same place as the other Asian noodles (udon, other ramen brands, egg noodles, etc.). I had to walk down another aisle and locate them in the frozen section, plus they were pretty expensive - about $5 - 6 for a packet of two servings. I also picked up some pickled bamboo shoots also packaged by Yamachan and a slab of pretty pink and white kamaboko. Ready for the cooking.
I had baked my own barbecue pork the day before and cut up the strip into slices. Then, I poached a soft boiled egg, still runny in the center, just the way I like it and set that aside. I chopped up green onions into a small dish. Now to the base: noodles and soup. Rock and roll.
I like my ramen noodles firm and so boiled a pot of water and nestled the fresh noodles in gently, separating them into the boiling water for just under 1 - 2 minutes. I could tell they were done by the sheen on the noodles and their color of dark mustard. Then, I drained the noodles and ran some warm water over them to keep them from sticking and to stop the cooking process.
Now it was construction time: noodles into the bowl, egg, barbequed pork slices, bamboo shoots, kamaboko, and green onions on top. I boiled the soup as instructed on the package, but instead of putting the boiling water into the soup base in a bowl - I took the boiled water off the stove and stirred the soup base into the pot. Note: Be sure to add more water (I added about 1/2 - 3/4 cup more) when boiling as I found the base to be on the salty side.
Finally, I poured the hot soup over the constructed ramen bowl with all the fixings. Delicious, hot, and tasty. The noodles did come out al dente and the soup hearty.
What comes out the winner in this home made version though was the barbecued pork and it stood out through the multitude of flavors. I've made this pork on occasion and used it in other dishes throughout the week, like fried rice. My kids eat the slices as appetizers too, dipped in ketchup and sesame seeds. I think this recipe is very good, and even better than the stuff you can pick up in the International District (ID). I've never been too into the red glossy, syrupy marinade on the restaurant pork.
Something about the tenderness of home made pork and the sweet, saltiness of the light marinade makes you want to take the whole slab, caveman style, and chomp it down when hungry. Wow, I think I'm getting hungry.
Here's Keith's home made ramen version (same noodles and soup base, but with more vegetables):
Now, this isn't restaurant grade ramen but hits the spot on those cold, Seattle rainy days when you don't want to make the drive into town for noodles. Pretty good and gets my thumbs up.
3 - 4 lbs boneless pork tenderloin or shoulder pork, sliced into long strips with the grain about 2" x 2" wide and about 6" long
2 1/2 t salt
7 T sugar
1/4 tsp garlic powder or 1/2 t garlic salt
3 T soy sauce
1/4 tsp salt petre (optional to color the pork red, I usually omit this)
Marinate for at least 2 hours. Place pork strips in a pan about 1" apart and use all the marinade.
Bake 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes. Turn occasionally to brown evenly. Serves 4 - 6.
My favorite Food Network cooking show star has always been Ina Garten. I've watched her Barefoot Contessa show when I could catch it on tv over the years. Part of the show's charm is watching her cook in her immaculate naturally lighted kitchen (my dream kitchen) in the huge house on the Hamptons with her adoring husband, Jeffrey. It's like being a guest in her home. Genius.
I heard that Ina loves Paris and has a home there. Ahhhh, Paris. I visited the City of Lights for four days three years ago, and it left quite the impression on me. For one, the Parisian women appeared so put together, so effortless. They glided down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées to me, like so many exotic long necked busy ballerinas. It could have been my romanticism of the city and finally being there that took me to that exalted state for the four days. Whatever it was, it was magical. It rained the whole time, but I didn't care. I was in Paris.
The food. Don't even get me started. I ordered a Pain Au Chocolat from a bakery I ran into the first day, near the Champs Elysees. I still remember the flaky, buttery, dark chocolate first bite. Amazing. Picture a small middle aged Asian woman standing still, eyes closed, reveling in the paper bag grasped in her hand. I must have looked like a drunken tourist standing frozen on that busy street. That's where it all began ... me, Paris ... and that croissant.
Anyways, about Ina. I discovered one of her cookie recipes a few Christmas' ago. I passed out these cookies en mass, wrapped in clear cellophane with pretty ribbons to all my friends and family. They were so delicious, elegant and well ... Parisian. I can't tell you how many people asked me for the recipe. Light, not too sweet, flaky, and that hit of coconut just sneaks up behind the jam. Bake these and bake a lot of them... you may not have enough to pass around as they'll be eaten up before you get to bag them.
photo courtesy of Food Network.com
Jam Thumbprint Cookies
Adapted by Ina Garten - Barefoot Contessa Family Style
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
7 ounces sweetened flaked coconut
Raspberry and/or apricot jam
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until they are just combined and then add the vanilla. Separately, sift together the flour and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar. Mix until the dough starts to come together. Dump on a floured board and roll together into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.
Roll the dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. (If you have a scale they should each weigh 1 ounce.) Dip each ball into the egg wash and then roll it in coconut. Place the balls on an ungreased cookie sheet and press a light indentation into the top of each with your finger. Drop 1/4 teaspoon of jam into each indentation. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the coconut is a golden brown. Cool and serve.
I'm embarrassed to admit it - I am one of those people. I'm a ... FAN (in a big way). A geeky card-carrying-ask-for-your-autograph kind of fan. Have you heard of Orangette?
Tharan has been listening to me raving about this book, A Homemade Lifeby Molly Wizenberg for months now. She is the local author of Orangette and her writing, stories, and recipes are fabulous. I like her style. Even the photos on her blog, like the writing, have that same homespun, breezy, salt of the earth feel.
Well, if you are a fan too (admit it), you would know that Molly and Brandon just opened up a pizza joint in Ballard, called Delancey. Brandon is from the east coast and brought some of that east coast flav-ah to our fine city. I have been talking about eating there for some time now and maybe dropping off a Thank You card to Molly. Uh ... you know ... just to thank her for her blog and to let her know she's appreciated ... by a stranger. Tharan thinks I'm nuts and has let me know that if I plan on doing this, to wait until he has exited the building after our meal. But, he is a good sport and a good guy and agreed that we should head over at 5 p.m. when they open.
We're listening to some old school Marvin Gaye on the drive down south to lovely Ballard and it's nearing 6 p.m. .... feeling pretty darn good. Going to have some awesome pizza... and I figured we'd eat inauspiciously. We drove down 70th, and looked for the restaurant sign ... looked and looked . I finally saw a very small, lighted business - it was hopping ... still, no restaurant sign. I figured, that place must be it.
photo by Gabriel Boone
We parked and entered through the bistro door. (Note that the restaurant did have a subtle Delancey painted on the glass front. It was hard to see in the dark though.) The first thing that greeted me was the heat. I had heard about the pizza oven. It felt upward to 90 degrees in there. Very small, cozy, and warm - and PACKED with people. I let the young, pretty woman near the door know it would be two for dinner. She looked down on the wait list and said, "It'll be AN HOUR AND A HALF WAIT, is that ok?"
Huh. Are you kidding me? This felt like being at the back of the line at Disneyland .... when I was nine.
I figured we would be eating some authentic east coast pizza ... maybe bump into Molly and company ... get to talking about blogging and food?
It was not to be that night.
We drove back up north and had a drink at good old reliableStanfords in Northgate. Ordered spinach and artichoke dip. The dip wasn't bad, but it wasn't all that good either. Ya, I was a bit bummed out - nothing like having the pizza of your dreams snatched away in a moment of unexpected wait time.
Oh well, next time we're getting to Delancey's at 5 p.m. - opening time. And ... oh, I've got that thank you card stashed in my pocket still, just in case.
Some people have ice cream cravings, and some french fries. When I want something bad, it tends to be fried chicken. I'm not sure why. Something about the crunchy, salty, fatty fried skin and juicy bite of chicken leg sends me swooning.
Growing up, my dad dipped his fried chicken (and pretty much everything else) into ketchup. I do this now too, a learned habit, I suppose. I'm noticing both my kids now are adopting the same eccentric food habits. Like those food magazine interviews of celebrities asking what's in their fridge - mine (a girl can dream!) would be a bottle of Heinz's 57 Ketchup. Anyhoo....
For the past month, I've been having a new craving - Ramen Noodles. This obsession came after I ate at Samurai located in the same building as Uwajimaya in the ID district for the first time about a month ago. I had read many reviews on this place prior to going there. Folks just raved on and on about the ramen bar, claiming it was the BEST ramen in Seattle and comparing its authenticity to a good bowl of ramen in Japan. Of course, I had to try it...
I've gone in to Samurai four times over the past month and have now ordered the same bowl of ramen three of the four times. When I like something, I tend to not only be a repeat customer, but a repeat orderer. It's a sure thing and I like to know what I'm getting. Boring maybe, routine, ok ... I just like what I like - especially when it is GOOD! A bit of advice if you're trying to get there at lunch time - go before 11:15 a.m. Trust me - the line out the door typically begins around 11: 15 am. And the place is dime store small, so be prepared to knock knees with the other hungry patrons at the tables next to you. No need to be shy, the ramen is worth it.
The bowl I'm crazy about is called Tampopo. Based on theTampopo moviewith the same name, a ramen western about a woman in Tokyo who achieved to make the best bowl of ramen and recruited two guys to help her. A funny and weirdly charming movie.
There is absolutely nothingfunny about the movie's namesake ramen served at Samurai , it's serious business.Seriously tantalizing. Sliced melt-in-your-mouth, chunky pork slices, soy sauce marinated hard boiled egg, tender bamboo shoots, tasty naruto, papery thin roasted seaweed, and green onions are the condiments.
But the real heroes are the shoyou based soup and the noodles. Geez louise, where did they get those noodles?! Firm, robust, chewy, and just the perfect al dente-ness. Couple those perfect noodles with that briny, complex flavored soup and you have an authentic bowl of ramen.... at least in these parts. About that broth - tasting it made me think of grandma's home soup - the kind she used to boil for hours and hours.
Tasted like home. Ya.... I could bathe in it, Samurai's soup is that good. Enough said.
A preview hint of things to come... my ramen obsession must now be cultivated at home as I can't keep driving almost 40 minutes to get my ramen hit every week. Plus, the bowls of ramen aren't cheap. If this keeps up, I might need to ask for a job there. Except once they figure out my real intentions and see that I'm always hovering over the soup pot - they'll banish me to the dish washing.
Looks like I'll need to Tampopo it and try and make a decent imitation at home. Wish me luck, folks. I've thrown down the gauntlet to myself this week. Let's see what I come up with...
Cake, cake, lovely cake. I call this one my Bathrobe Cake. I've been known to sneak downstairs in the middle of the night in my bathrobe and take a forkful right out of the pan ... best eaten over the kitchen sink.
I could also name it my Kitchen Sink Cake, another possibility. However, it's original name is Apple Cake. Simple and wonderful, just the way it sounds. This is the recipe I really just can't do without. Like a comfortable pair of loafers you've had and broken in throughout the years. Hold it, is it the shoes that stretch over time or their occupants? I just had a big piece tonight and the only thing stretching right now is my belly. Not in a good way. Note to self - go to gym... soon... real soon.
This cake has seen me through heart aches, potlucks, last minute dinner parties, a divorce, and the most joyful times with my children. The kids love this cake, and it loves them back. I keep making it, and it (and we) keep coming back for more.
In the end, it is my happy cake and has been a good friend to me through the good and not so good times.
Try this one, for sure. My lovely, loyal standby..
P.S. I couldn't resist showing you the picture my five year old took of my piece of cake (wine and cake couple nicely, don't you think?). She saw mama taking pics and wanted to take one too for you all. So sweet!
Note: You know that five year olds don't like to stand still, much less do so with camera in hand, right? Be sure to put your 3D glasses on before viewing the pic. And for goodness sake, bake this cake! So good.
Mix in this order:
1 1/3 cups Wesson Oil (or any vegetable oil)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 t vanilla
1/2 t salt
2 cups flour
1 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
3 cups apples, chopped (3 med size)
1 cup nuts
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour in a 13" x 9" x 2" greased pan.
Hello again. I'd like to start this blog journey with you, "the universe," like we've already met ... like we're already friends. So, for the record - it's nice to see you again.
On this, our official first meet, I'd like to give you a gift. A secret - a secret recipe. It's only secret in that I've never shared it. Sending it over the airwaves is like sending it to a debutantes ball. White gloves and all.
Let me tell you the recipe's background. My grandfather had owned the legendary Hong Kong restaurant in the ID district (closed a long time ago) and I started working in the kitchen there when I could hold a chopping knife properly - say 12 or 13. Shhhh, all under the table, of course. Hey, we were working in Chinatown, go figure.
Well, the Hong Kong made the best won tons I've ever tasted, hands down. Thinking about them brings back my childhood. I've slurped my share of soup dumplings throughout the NW, Vancouver (BC of course), Hawaii, and even Paris - just kidding about Paris, although I have traveled there ... and I still think the Hong Kong's were the best.
What made them so tasty? A good soup dumpling needs to be savory, moist, juicy, and HOT (I mean temperature). The filling was used for other appetizers like shrimp rolls (bacon wrapped bites of pork and shrimp lightly fried to a golden yum) and the deep fried won ton to their soup twin. All insanely delicious. If there was a send-back dish to the kitchen (wrong order, yadda yadda) - I was all over that plate or bowl.
Yes, I was a kitchen "prepper" and folded those plump morsels on many weekends. I was never given the written recipe but watched the old woman in the kitchen throw ingredients together (no measuring cups or spoons). So this is my recipe revised some but inspired by my grandpa's restaurant. Let me know what you think?
Won Ton Soup
inspired by the Hong Kong restaurant's version
This recipe is for won tons, but I typically make them as Sui Gow (called Water Dogs in Chinese) - see the pic above. The Sui Gow skins are round vs. square for won tons and can take a bigger volume of filling than won ton skins. Since won ton skins are easier to find in the markets, I've converted my recipe to won tons for you. In any case, the pic below shows the won ton and sui gow brand I like, as well as how a folded sui gow looks like before boiling.
2/3 lb ground pork
1/2 lb chopped shrimp
3 chopped green scallions
1 t sesame oil (or more if you like, I like)
1T oyster sauce (Panda brand if you can find it)
2 t soy sauce
1/2 T rice wine (Michiu brand, ditto above)
1 1/2 t corn starch
Won Ton or Sui Gow/Siu Mei skins (I like Rose brand)
Home made chicken/pork broth
Sliced vegetables (bok choy, gai-lan, broccalini, whatever you like, etc)
BBQ pork slices, hard boiled egg slices, egg noodles (all optional) Mix the filling ingredients together in a good sized bowl. Crack and stir an egg in a small bowl for the egg wash. Place a heaping teaspoon of the filling in the won ton skin and wipe just the top inside won ton skin edge with the egg wash. Fold the won ton together.
Boil the won tons in plain water - be sure to put them in after the water has boiled. They are done when they float to the surface. Scoop out the cooked won tons into bowls.
Boil your broth and add Chinese vegetables and/or bbq meats to the soup. Pour over the won tons in bowls.
It would take a lot to bump off my all-time favorite dessert, Creme Brulee. I baked a cake two nights ago that has well, seriously distracted me ... Lemon Yogurt Cake.
This is a dessert that made it worth having my fingers grated along side the lemon rinds. Ya, that good. I think it was the double glaze of fresh squeezed lemon juice and sugar that hit it outside of the ball park. Tart, tangy and satisfying.
The real deal. So much that I perused my other cook books to compare recipes. A research assignment that went on all morning.
My Tharan watched me running around in this heightened state and said with a knowing smirk, "Ya know - you're a little weird." I wish he knew what it was like to be enthralled with food. Its not just the eating, cooking, reading, but to make the dish right ... and then perfect it. Does anyone hear me out there? Can I get a hell-yea?
Lemon Yogurt Cake from barefoot contessa at home - Ina Garten
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 t baking powder
1/2 t kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 extra-large eggs
2 t grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1/2 t pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
for the glaze
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/4 x 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into one bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, one cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it's all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.
Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.
When the cake is done, allow it to cook in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.
For the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar and lemon juice and pour over the cake.
Cast Iron Dreams
I am baking Maple Baked Beans right now as I type this. Being a parent helps in the area of multi-task-oriented-statedness... yea, just what I said. The glazed stew has been brewing in my friend Keith's borrowed Le Creuset dutch oven for four hours - two more hours to go.
Never made baked beans before, such a shame. Come on now, I grew up in a family of four generations of Asian women all living in the same household. No baked beans, no Wonder Bread, not a Ding Dong in sight. I grew up with salted fish & steamed pork, salted duck eggs (more on this in later postings, I promise) and every kind of greens stir fried.
Delicious and still ... here's to the lone ronin and breaking out of family molds. Organic maple syrup, thick-cut smoked bacon... it smells like Texas all up in here.
Speaking of Le Creuset, I want the dutch oven. I want it bad. Santa came and got me a Le Creuset frying pan this year and I am grateful. So grateful, don't get me wrong ... but it's been my dream to have the cobalt blue big dutch oven (at only $400 retail). I have hijacked my friend's for the past 2 -3 months (lost count) and must return it soon. Uh huh, soon..