Friday, December 23, 2011

Sautéed Su Su–No guarantees your kid will like it, but it’s good!

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The Chayote, or as my family refers to it in Vietnamese, su su is a very versatile vegetable. Well, technically it is a fruit, but as with tomatoes, it’s treated not so much as a fruit but more like a vegetable or squash.

This year, my family has a vine in the backyard, with a fair number of fruits. Due to a combination of perhaps bad luck and horrid squirrels, we haven’t been harvesting as much as some of our other friends have done, who have been abled to boast harvests of hundreds of the fruit this year.

Happily, one family was generous enough to grace us with a big box of them, freeing me up to pursue a slightly different take on su su than is typical for my family.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Japanese Christmas Cake! Week Zero of 52 Weeks of Cooking!

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First of all, hi to reddit and those taking part in the 52 weeks of cooking challenge. This is indeed my first entry for week zero, with this “week’s” theme being holiday food. After perusing the very helpful wiki link on Christmas dishes around the world posted by rach11, I settled on Japan, because Japan is awesome, and the Japanese Christmas Cake seemed very appealing. On that note, I send my holiday wishes to r/japanesefood and r/asianeats!

As an admittedly big time anime fan, I find great humor in the trope of the Christmas cake as a metaphor for women in their mid twenties fearing becoming one. No matter how delicious a Christmas cake is, no one wants it after the 25th. If you still don’t get it, the saying means that women won’t be able to marry if they haven’t married by the time they are 25. It is an utterly ludicrous and highly old fashioned sentiment, but still pretty funny in anime format. Ok, on to the Japanese Christmas Cake!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

How to Make Your Kids Eat Their Veggies: Roasted Broccoli!

In the common experience of many former vegetable avoiders, one trend seems particularly: A mother who does not know how to maximize the deliciousness of the ingredient she has been given. While I have never truly hated broccoli, for a long time it was simply a vegetable I was forced to eat, and nothing I really looked forward to.

This recipe makes broccoli something I could almost make an entire meal out of. And sometimes I do.

For the recipe, I used two cloves of garlic, a tablespoon or so of olive oil, pepper and salt, and a three pound bag of broccoli from Costco, though you can certainly just buy a head of broccoli and use the stems too.

First preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Then cut the broccoli into medium sized pieces if you’re using a head, and any oddly huge pieces from a bag if you find any. Place pieces on a baking sheet.

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Mince the garlic cloves and toss onto broccoli.

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Sprinkle a tablespoon of olive oil onto the broccoli. Add a bit more if it won’t be enough to coat the pieces.

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And finally sprinkle some salt and pepper on. You want each piece to have some flavor, but don’t go overboard. If you need a measurement, then a scant teaspoon for three pounds should be plenty. Then a good shake of pepper, a scant half teaspoon.

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Place the tray into the preheated oven and roast for at least twenty minutes, tossing at least once halfway through. Once the broccoli takes on some brown around the edges you are set.

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If you’re feeling particularly decadent, toss in some grated parmesan cheese! It’s still delicious without it though.

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Friday, December 2, 2011

Just a Sunday Dinner with Friends

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Friendship is a wonderful thing, and manifests in many forms. Chums, associates, buddies, pals, pirate crews, fellowships, bowling leagues, partners, lovers, acquaintances, barflies and comrades to name a few such relationships. To have friends is to have fellow human beings (and pets) with which to combat those hours of solitude together, hopefully pursuing constructive activities with one another. Though being lazy with friends is perfectly fine too.

One of my favorite ways to spend time with friends is preparing a group dinner. One of these past weekends I was able to visit some friends who are just a month into their marriage. It is really strange to think of it that way actually, I mean they’ve been together forever, but now they are actually married!

It almost makes me feel self conscious of my enduring bachelorhood. Almost.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Another Autumn Treat: Pumpkin Ice Cream!

Earlier in the month, some friends invited me over for a bit of a celebration, and banana pudding was highly demanded by many of my friends. And yeah, that could have been enough. But not for me. I needed to bring something else to really make an impact. That and I just love cooking.

I still had plenty of pumpkin puree left over from my experiments with pumpkin pie, and having had the good fortune to find actual heavy whipping cream at my local grocery (unlike the other local grocery which is lame and does not have it) I decided an excellent use of the pumpkin would be pumpkin ice cream, to keep with the season. Spoiler alert, it was very well received.

Please note you will need an ice cream makerfor this recipe. Also note this is hardly an instant satisfaction recipe, there’s a lot of chilling time involved. And you probably need to freeze your ice cream maker container if it is one of those models.

On to ingredients! Clockwise from upper left: Bourbon, nutmeg, cinnamon, ground ginger, heavy cream, brown sugar, vanilla extract, egg yolks, pumpkin puree (or canned). Specific measurements and recipes at the end of the post!

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Post Thanksgiving Post

Hi everyone, yesterday was a success. I had to feed 28 people and pulled it off quite well, handling a great deal of the preparations.

My own responsibilities were two turkeys, gravy, cranberry conserve (basically sauce), mashed sweet potatoes and the dessert, persimmon tarts.

The other prepared dishes were salad, which my mom took care of, and I guess what you would call a Pomegranate Fizz which my dad was in charge of (though I did most of the seeding there.)

There was also bread and corn, nothing fancy there. Now for the food porn!

First the big contenders:

My family’s Char Siu style marinated bird.

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Here’s a better angle if a worse picture, sorry about the blur. Fending off six children demanding turkey skin is challenging.

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And here’s my “Cajun” brined turkey. The original recipe triumphs over the traditional in flavor! Go me.

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What’s this? A roux, with celery and onions, which will go with the following:

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Turkey stock and pan drippings…

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To make a very striking dark gravy.

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To balance the intensity of the gravy, a cranberry conserve.

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Stuffing! Sorry for the not very attractive globs of turkey fat on it, I forgot to take a picture after putting this in to crisp it up a bit more and let the delicious turkey fat baste it.

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I had a brief moment to take a picture mid-meal.


And for dessert, some freshly baked persimmon tarts.

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Extremely well received by the family.

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Let me know if you want more clarity on anything here.

How did everyone else’s Thanksgiving dinners go?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Thanksgiving of 2011

No time for exciting pictures and recipes today. I need to handle a lot of the feast preparations today, and never fear, there will be much to post in coming days.

That said, it seems fitting to express what I am thankful for.

I'm glad to have a roof over my head and a family that supports me. I'm glad to live in the Bay Area and in reasonable driving distance to a great number of my dear friends from high school and college. I'm thankful to have a great kitchen that I can perform experiments in to share with you.

And in spite of things not being terribly great in terms of underemployment and where I am in life, I am thankful that I am in a place where have a good chance to find a better future, and the frame of mine to hope for those things to come soon.

I hope you're all in good spirits, and may the Holiday season bring good things to those who need it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

An Autumn Harvest Dessert–Persimmon Tarts with a Baking Stone.

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After the adventures of pumpkin pie comparison, I still had one pie dough chilling in the refrigerator, waiting for some exciting use. Not wanting to let it wait overlong, I turned to inspiration in the fruit basket on my counter, and selected the Fuyu persimmons picked from my friend’s backyard.

Some quick research was required before I jumped into this project, and seeing that the top result for a persimmon tart on Google was from the very talented Hong and Kim from the blog The Ravenous Couple, I needed to look no further!

The main difference in the recipe is that while they used convenient puff pastry, I was using homemade pie dough (see previous post here) made very conveniently with the KitchenAid Mixer and the insights of Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio.  I also used a handy baking stone because it was readily available. I’m pretty sure its use really helped the dish.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Can’t Be Crusted: First Attempt at Homemade Pie Dough.

You may remember the post on pumpkin pies. One of those posts required a prepared pie crust, so I made my own with the readily available ingredients of flour, butter, sugar, and water. I wanted to take on the question of whether things really were “easy as pie.”  If you have a KitchenAid Mixer, it definitely makes things easier!

I once again turned to Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio for the methodology to pie dough. It’s pretty simple really, as easy as 3-2-1. Three parts flour, two parts fat, and one part ice water.

Before we get started, this will result in two nine inch crusts, so adjust as necessary. The math’s pretty simple.

Two sticks of butter is 8 ounces, making the rest of the calculation easy; you will need to use 12 oz. of flour and about 4 ounces of ice water to complete things (Note: since butter has some water in it already, you want to be very careful with the addition of it at that step). A pinch of salt and some sugar evens out this pie dough for use with desserts.

But you don’t just need a ratio, you need some technique as well. The butter is better if it is cold. I cut up the butter into three lengths, then those into three, and then finally into little cubes before placing them together loosely and into the freezer while I prepared everything else.

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To twelve oz. of flour, two tablespoons of sugar are sifted in.

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Now the hard part. Mixing everything in together gently yet thoroughly, starting with the flour and chilled butter. A very gentle stirring through with the Kitchenaid paddle attachment is how I went about it.

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Once it started to come together, I gently added two ounces of the water, before adding a little bit more as necessary. This is about as far as you want to mix things in, and the appearance seemed about right to my eyes. I may have overworked it already. At any rate, proceed carefully.

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Gently work it together into two balls. I did this by making one ball and cutting it in half.

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Flatten into disks, wrap well and place in refrigerator until ready to use.

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When you’re ready, roll it out into a 9 inch crust, if that’s what you’re using it for!

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Let me know what you think, did I totally botch it, or does it look ok?

The next post will showcase another use of pie dough. Botched or not, a careful treatment of the dough and the use of a baking stone will result in a fantastic treat in the form of a fruit tart!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Something to Gobble Down! Turkey Three Ways.

First order of business, I want to give a thank you to my ultra modest friend Jeremy who made this NEW LOGO (see above) for me. I am really quite touched that he found my website worthy of his special attentions in digital designery. He can expect some special noms in the future. You may also notice the new layout, hopefully you all think it works.ah,

Now, it is time to talk turkey.

This past Veterans Day weekend was an ambitious one. Not only did I bake two pumpkin pies, I decided to tackle a turkey in a way I’ve been meaning to try out for a while now, at the insistence of two good friends yet scary good roller derby gals, Maully Millions of the Ithaca League of Women Rollers and Karlee! As they wanted to see several methods of preparing turkey, I took their idea of taking one turkey, and breaking it down so I could try a few different seasoning methods.

One caveat to note. I noticed after purchase that the turkey was frozen in some sort of brine already (8% solution according to packaging) so I adjusted the salt to less of a concentration to compensate. Results were good (clarified below) but I think the turkey probably could have withstood the full forced brine or marinade without a problem.

First, the turkey had to be defrosted. This was done over a few hours with changes of cold water every thirty minutes to ensure even defrosting.

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Sorry, there just isn’t much of a way to make a raw turkey look terribly appealing.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Real Estate Lady Pumpkin Pie: Part 2 of the Pumpkin Pie Matchup!

Here’s the second part of Pumpkin Pie Matchup, where the second contender to compete against the Alton Brown pumpkin pie appears! Both go in… to your stomachs!

I guess matchup isn’t really fair the right descriptor here. It’s not like I combed through thousands of recipes to decide which two I’d compare. But “ill informed comparison of pumpkin pies” doesn’t quite have the right ring to it, so there you go. Now the confessions are done, on to the main event.

But, why “Real Estate Lady” pumpkin pie? This recipe turned up on the doorstep quite literally, attached to a sugar pumpkin by one of our friendly neighborhood real estate agents informing us of what the values of our homes were. Such a bold marketing plan with foresight surely belonged to a person whose tongue was able to discern the best pumpkin pie recipe within my zip code!  Upon doing some further research on the web, it turns out that the recipe is really just a modified Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie recipe, substituting Libby’s canned pumpkin with freshly pureed pumpkin (handily supplied by the friendly local real estate agent, in case you forgot.)

Whatever the reason, the arbitrariness with which this recipe came to me warrants it a spot in this two part challenge.

First off, preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Not having pumpkin pie spice on hand, I fashioned my own according to this recipe. 

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The Alton Brown Pumpkin Pie: Part 1 of the Pumpkin Pie Matchup!

This is both a follow up to the Alton Brown recipe series and quite related to autumnal eats; the pumpkin pie, thanksgiving essential (up to debate). And this is the first of two posts comparing with another recipe to boot! More on that later.

Hopefully you’ll be using homemade pumpkin puree, but if not, I’m sure the canned stuff will work. Whatever the case, assembling the crust comes first.

For the AB Pumpkin Pie, the application takes a cue from graham cracker crusts but replaces the cookies with more assertive and distinctive gingersnap. Add some ground ginger, brown sugar and some melted butter and you’ll be set! More detailed instructions at the end.

First preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit while assembling the ingredients.

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Pureeing Pumpkins for Pie

Thanksgiving is just over the horizon, so if you have some time, it is the perfect time to prepare for pumpkin pies. Ideally, with actual pumpkin you prepare yourself!

First off, don’t use those huge Jack-o’-Lantern pumpkins. Small baking pumpkins are what we’re after. Then preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

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Split in half carefully with a cleaver. And perhaps on the floor to avoid damaging your nice countertops.

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After removing seeds, sprinkle the pumpkin halves with kosher salt.

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Lay the pieces cut side down on parchment paper and roast for thirty to forty-five minutes.

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They’re ready when you can stab them easily with a knife!

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They will also look like this.

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Scoop out the flesh with a spoon.

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And put into a food processor and puree it, which takes about three minutes or so.

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Interestingly one of the pairs of skin really kept its shape, while the other one, not so much.

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And voila, some lovely pulp to make pumpkin pie fillings. Refrigerate or freeze until you’re ready to you.

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Stay tuned for two upcoming recipes, a real head to head match up between very different recipes.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Cà Tím Nướng - Vietnamese Style Roasted Eggplant– Turning Vietnamese #6

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In its versatility in cooking methods and the ease with which it takes on the flavors of various seasoning, the eggplant is truly a great vegetable to have on hand, especially when they are featured proudly at the farmers market.

This treatment highlights a distinctly Vietnamese treatment of the long skinny purple ones that my family has enjoyed as a side dish quite often. Straight and narrow recipe posted at the bottom.

First preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

After washing and halving the eggplant, the next step is to sprinkle lightly and evenly with kosher salt, which adds flavor and removes some of the moisture.

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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Stuffed Summer Squash–Autumnal Eats

With the Halloween come and past, now is a good a time as any to focus upon some comfort dishes that folks associate with these generally cooling months, or really cold depending on your location (or maybe hotter if you’re on the other side of the equator.)

So it is either very appropriate or weird that the featured ingredient of the first post focusing on this theme is summer squash. By the way, the word summer in summer squash however is more of a reference towards the short shelf life compared to the more durable winter squash.

These are the lovely squash I picked up at the farmers market last week, and they’ve been waiting patiently in the crisper for me to get to them. Two green pattypans and five sunburst squashes to be precise.

Though a little bit small, I thought these would be great to make stuffed squash.

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

For Breakfast, Trying my Best! My First Try at Omuraisu AKA Japanese Rice Omelette & First Try with French Omelette Technique

After enjoying myself a week ago making miso soup for the first time I wanted to explore more Japanese dishes, which inspired this morning’s breakfast, a nice plate of Omuraisu (or omurice, omu rice.) For all things Japanese, I turn to the JustHungry blog for my recipe needs.

Now, for a brief lesson, Omuraisu is a yohshoku, or Japanese version of originally Western dish that has gone native.

It being the morning, I wasn’t altogether there in taking rigorous pictures, but I think you’ll get the idea. The ingredient list really reminds me of making fried rice the way I do at home, just replacing the Chinese sausage with ham, organizing the egg a bit differently, and adding ketchup. And replacing the fish sauce with salt.

In addition to a ten inch nonstick or cast iron skillet suitable for making omelets you will also need:

  • One cup of rice
  • Two eggs
  • Half a cup of cooked ham, diced (or chicken breast)
  • Half of a small onion, chopped
  • A few knobs of butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • Ketchup

First I prep my ingredients, scrambling the eggs with some salt and pepper, chopping the ham, and the onion. As this gets ready quickly, it’s handy to have everything ready to go. My rice cooker with leftover rice from last night is located right behind where I stand to use the range, so that was handy as well.

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Turning Vietnamese Episode 5: Banh Day, and a Bit of History to Boot.

Another Turning Vietnamese Post, in which I attempt to vainly maintain my grasp of my cultural identity through pursuing the cuisine of my ancestors. This post is something of a follow up to what should have been titled Turning Vietnamese Episode 0: Lunar New Year: Bánh Chưng.

This time we’ll be looking at the sky counterpart to the Banh Chung’s earthliness, Banh Day (roughly pronounced Zay in the northern dialect, yay in the southern). The story that I didn’t tell you last time is that these two dishes collectively are a key element of a story of who gets to rule Vietnam.

I’ll paraphrase this great backstory from Culture-4-Travel (check it out if you want a long read); The King of Vietnam issued a challenge to his many, many sons from his many, many women, that whoever brought him back the best dish would rule the kingdom afterwards. The winner was a humble fellow who stayed in Vietnam and was taught these dishes by a goddess, Banh Chung representing the earth with it's flatness and greenness, the Banh Day representing the heavens with its whiteness and roundness.  The king, overpowered by this amazing symbolism, pronounced humble home loving prince the winner, and everyone lived happily ever after.

I’ll try not to point out the many issues I have with this story, like how this story tells the tired tale of divine intervention leading to who rules the land. Neither will I reveal my skepticism of how no other dishes brought back would beat out Banh Chung and Banh Day in taste and how his brothers were either highly incompetent in food selection (I guess no one found a decent cake or sandwich) or the whole scheme was a sham and the king would have picked the winner regardless of what he brought him because it was predetermined from the beginning, as many government job placements tend to be, with the whole proceedings of a hiring process being a farce that’s held for legal reasons only.

Wow, that was really bitter. No, I don’t really hate Banh Day or anything, I just think it’s not the most amazing thing ever in Vietnamese cuisine. That said, I can’t deny it’s cultural significance to my culture, and really, it’s great road trip food.

I’m using an authentic recipe taught to me by my mother. I can prove it by showing you this, the handwritten ingredient list in my mother’s recipe book with no instruction on how to do it whatsoever. Thankfully, she showed me how, and now I can show you. So if you see other Banh Day in various states of preparation in the pictures, those are the superior mom versions compared to my clumsy son versions.

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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Boiled Peanuts, a Tasty Southern Snack.


Hey! Welcome to another installment of Cast Iron Therapy. Special greetings to all of the new followers through reddit who have started following the blog during my Seven Days of Alton Brown Series.

Now, let’s get back to the usual postings. Today’s post is focusing locally, on the Centerville Farmers Market, located in my hometown of Fremont, California.


I woke up feeling fairly motivated today, so I put on some comfortable jeans and walked the one and a half miles there. Here’s my loot from this morning’s trip, some lovely little squash and a pound and a half of fresh (also known as green, even though they don’t look green) peanuts.