Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Would I be Chopped?

I watch a lot of Food Network in my spare time and when I was growing up. Family time when I was growing up always consisted of eating, cooking or watching cooking shows. This was the start of my predilection for food, cooking and eating—I love to read about food, I love to cook and I love to eat.

Whenever I watch the Food Network "Chopped", I have to wonder to myself, "Would I be chopped?" I wonder. I always like to think about what I would do with the ingredients and whether or not it would work together. For this episode, the first set of ingredients were Macadamia nuts, oysters and apricots. Granted its kind of like cheating, but I always thinks of a different dish after seeing what they do. However, I think I would have been able to put together a fried oyster with Macadamia nut coating and an apricot chutney. Sounds good yeah? I would take the nuts and ground them up and add it to some batter of flour, add some pepper and little bit of milk. the chutney would be made with the apricots, some caramelized onions, brown sugar and a some orange juice. I think that would work out. The presentation would be simple: fried oysters placed in trio, or a triangle, with the chutney pooled under it or drizzled over it. Mmmmm? Perhaps.

The second round for the entree was buttermilk, pork loin, and jackfruit. Crazy right? We eat jackfruit, but usually in a Halo Halo, a Filipino version of the snowcone–so that was a hard one to think of... Or to be completely honest, I'm not sure if I've thought of one yet.

For the dessert, the three ingredients were chocolate, sugar cookie dough, figs and yellow miso paste. That's right, miso paste, otherwise known as soybean paste for soup. Hmmmm. I got nothing on that. But the contestants came up with pretty good ideas. One contestant made a chocolate pudding (though it didn't set up right because there wasn't enough time), with caramelized figs and miso sugar cookies or wafers. I think the other contestant tried to make a sort of Napoleon, a French dessert with layers of puff pastry and cream filling, out of the cookie dough, miso filling, figs and chocolate. I don't think I could have come up with a dessert with those specific components. I think I've only had figs fresh, and that was only once, a long, long time ago.

At least I know I could have come up with a rad appetizer—at least I think it would have been rad. Who knows? I'll just have to make it one of these days.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Pho Night

So like I said in mt last post, I picked up some ingredients for the making of Pho, a Vietnamese soup usually made with a broth, rice noodles and your choice of toppings. However, I cheated a little and bought a jar of beef broth paste. You add a few spoonfuls to some boiling water and Viola! You have 'instant' Pho. But I think the best part of Pho is the variety of toppings or add-ins.

The toppings or add-ins will change with every palate just as the toppings and mix-ins for ice cream will change for every person. For Pho, you can add sprouts, fresh basil, fresh cilantro, jalapenos, lime juice, fish sauce, Sriracha, garlic, sugar, etc. Its going to be different for everyone. My brother adds sugar, my sister likes to add oyster sauce, and I like mine bowl of Pho salty with a lot of sprouts.

I made sure to add some thinly sliced beef to the broth as it cooked so as to take away from the possible 'instant' taste or appearance if I hadn't put any meat in it (you can't get beef broth without the beef unless it was an instant recipe, right?). So I let that simmer a while, and let the flavors meld. After a few quick tastes, I added some green onions to the pot and some fish sauce for some extra saltiness. Once that was done, I pulled the noodles out of the pack and placed them in hot water. I wanted to soften them just enough before marrying the broth and the noodles so that they didn't overcook—I failed.

The noodles ended up being too hard and need to be boiled in the broth just a bit longer. We all ended up having to wait an extra 10 or 15 minutes before it could be eaten. But in the end, it was well worthwhile. The broth was almost on spot, I'm sure if I had the time and the meat to cook down in a broth for a few hours it would have been awesome. The noodles also set me back a bit since I have to cook them in the broth. Next time I will boil them in a separate pot and then take them out before they're overdone and then just spoon the broth over the noodles.

It turned out pretty well for a jar version versus the traditional hours over the stove boiling meat, bones and spices to achieve the right taste. I had a few other options other than the jar, they had little packets and boxes of what I would assume were similar to beef bouillon squares. I went for the jar since there were oils and seasonings in there that I thought would have tasted better than the dehydrated version. I want to try and make some Pad Thai next time. I think that would be great.

When I was living on Martha's Vineyard, I had such a strong craving for it that I think I ate it three times in one week once. The last time I had it there was a street fair in Oak Bluffs on Circuit Avenue, and this Thai restaurant had a set up outside. The chef just through in some chicken in a wok, some coconut milk, and let that cook, added sprouts, peanuts, and noodles. I love sprouts, chicken and coconut milk. It looked so easy. I know there is more to it but I think I can finagle a recipe or at least grab one off the Internet. I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Treasures in Talin

Today I went to Talin to do some exploring. I picked up a 25-pound bag of Jasmine rice for the house, some tea, Pho noodles, and other related ingredients, some baked goods, and snacks–but probably spent about a good hour there just walking around. I was like a bookworm in a library or a fat kid at buffet–I just wanted to everything.

When we were younger, Talin was located just across the parking lot in a smaller, split-level building that reeked of Durian fruits, fish and other fragrances emitted from the foreign produce. I remember playing with the live blue crabs, picking them up with the tongs and trying to get them to fight one another, or following my parents around the aisles looking for something exciting. Back then it was always the baked goods or the colorful gum and candies. Now its the different foods–the variety of noodles, canned foods, jarred vegetables and fruits, and house ware–that catch my attention.

I think I spent a good half hour or so alone in the tea section located at the front of the store. Originally an Oriental store or Asian market (whichever you prefer to call it), Talin has a large selection of Eastern teas: Jasmine, Green, Pu-reh, Oolong to name a few. They have the loose variety, and the individually bagged versions. They also sell other mixes of teas from Earl Grey to Darjeeling to Scottish Breakfast Tea.

Having just moved back to Rio Rancho this past November, it had been a good while since my last visit to Talin. I would say a few years. What I don't remember is the Tea Bar. When I stepped out past the tea section, to my surprise you I found a group of people chatting away at a bar where a young lady was preparing some tea. I was thrilled. Had I not had a drink (a locally brewed Kombucha drink from Santa Fe–more on that later) in the car, I would have took the time to enjoy a nice warm beverage.

I finally settled on a can of some loose Oolong Tea and a box of some Pu-erh Tea. Oolong being a fairly traditional or popular flavor of tea, and Pu-erh being something that I just recently stumbled upon. After researching some local tea, I found the NM Tea Company. They had some Pu-erh on the website and I was interested in trying it. Pu-erh is almost the opposite of the loose leaf-style tea. As far as my understanding of Pu-erh, it's a small piece of packed tea leaves. The version that I bought claims to have digestive properties and may even breakdown certain fats and cholesterol. The pieces are about the size of a marble and break into many pieces when steeped. I need to invest in a new teacup that will allow me to steep and drink out of the same vessel. I'll do that on my next visit to Talin.

After my departure from the tea section, I lallygagged through the aisles examining packages as if I were going to learn what it was through osmosis. Each aisle represents just a small portion of foods from appropriate region of the world: Saigon, Tokyo, Manila, etc. I picked up a jar of 'instant beef Pho flavor' and a some Pho noodles. Tomorrow I'm going to give it a try. I know Julie isn't as excited about it as I am, since she's had the real thing from scratch, but I told her I wanted to test it out. I don't know how to make it all from scratch, so a little help from a jar can't hurt, right? I picked up some sweet basil, some sprouts and had my fingers crossed that pa had some beef that I could cut up in the freezer. I'm excited. I think it will turn out okay. I'll let you know. On that note. I am going to hit the sack and dream about tomorrow evening's meal.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Hamachi Kama

Fish collar, its what was for dinner today at work. I was excited. As I mentioned a few posts back, fish collar is said to be quite a treat in the Eastern countries. Naturally, when I heard the question, "We're having tuna collar for dinner, you want some?" I answered, "Hell yeah!" All I could imagine was the big C-shaped piece of fish sizzling away on the grill. 

Well, I was close—the chefs cooked the collars in pans with a little bit of oil and seasoned with black pepper and salt. When finished, they served it with teriyaki sauce. I was a little disappointed with the teriyaki sauce but it was still delicious. The meat was very tender and had a lot of flavor. Despite the occasional scales and picking apart the flaky meat from the bones, it was good. Accompanied with some spicy kimchi, the sweetness of the sauce evened out and was much more enjoyable. 

I was surprised to see just how much meat was still left on the collar. Like I started saying in the other post, most American cooks or eaters, are only accustomed to preparing or eating fish fillets that they purchase from the store. So the amount of meat left behind from the collar can make a meal all on its own. I didn't even finish my own piece, but I did box it up for myself to eat later. I even threw some kimchi in the box too. My taste buds have fallen for kimchi, I want to make it at home and eat it with everything. 

But I digress, so we had Yellowtail collar pan-seared with salt and pepper. I'm interested in trying some at a Japanese restaurant, where (as far as I know) the tradition originated. I was talking to the head sushi chef, a Korean man not much taller than I am (brother of the infamous Suzy) named Jin, and he said that fish collar is an expensive meal at some Japanese restaurants. I think also that it's possible to purchase fish collars at markets where fresh fish are sold. I know Albuquerque doesn't sound like the best place for that, but I think its possible if its researched well. Talin sells live crabs and other uncommon foods, so they may sell fish collar there. I'm sure that the collars would make a great component in soup too. 

I think I'll have to take a trip to Talin and see what they have to offer. I haven't been there in a while–maybe a few years at that. They'll probably have a bunch of things that I can't read or even imagine what they are, but I know that I can find some awesome loose teas and ramens too. I'll let you know what I find. I think I'll go this weekend. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I'm Going to Boston

Here I come Beantown! Scary idea huh?  Yup. It sure was a spur of the moment idea. Well, let me explain. It's not a vacation or anything like that. I like to think of it as an educational adventure. While I'm there, I am going to be attending a food writing workshop hosted by Naomi Kooker of Boston Common. How exciting, yeah? I think so.
However, I am really nervous. I don't take my writing as seriously as I should and I know that I will be among people who do. Also, I'm hoping to make some contacts and maybe even find a grown up job there. Perhaps, America's Test Kitchen will have an opening for a writer or an intern, or Edible Boston. I'll be sure to spruce up my resume and my portfolio too. 

Just think—Boston is one of the biggest cities for food, music and sports and my main interest being food it's a perfect setting for the seminar. That and I have a few friends that I can crash with while I visit. That'll make things easier on the wallet. I think if I can set aside at least $40 a week until my trip I should be set to eat like a princess and see enjoy myself. Don't worry, I will definitely keep up with the posts and everything. I'm excited! 

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

I Heart Ramen Noodles Too!

Some time last week, the NY Times published an article about the ramen craze in Japan. The article tells of numerous noodleries in Japan that offer up simple to spectacular bowls of goodness. It got me thinking about ramen noodles and how satisfying a bowl can be. I often have a craving for a bowl of the original beef flavor. I also enjoy the different varieties of flavors that there are—especially in the oriental stores. Talin, Albuquerque's own International Marketplace, has a plethora of different flavors from spicy seafood to flavors that I can't even translate. 

My dad makes a style of ramen called 'mome', pronounced 'mommy'. He just uses the noodles from a pack of ready to prepare ramen noodles and makes his own broth and toppings. Usually, a chicken based broth, maybe with some garlic and spices, and toppings like charred or fried chopped garlic, scallions, shredded chicken and a boiled egg. Delicious. I really enjoy how the yoke makes the broth creamy, and the bite of the garlic provides a complimentary background to it and some texture. 

I find it fun to create my own flavor of ramen too. Throw some ingredients in the pot and see what comes out. It's really all in what you like; throw an egg in the broth, some water chestnuts, some chinese sausage—whatevers clever. It really hard to go wrong.

With the accessibility to the Internet, you can look up different recipes or mix and match some ideas. Try websites like Ramenlicious.com, Ramenate.com or RamenAdventures.com for recipes or personal experiences of noodleries in Japan and other countries. According to the NY Times article, ramen in the East is larger than the combination love for pizza, hamburgers and hotdogs in New York and some Southern barbeque–and that's only a portion of the craze in Japan. That's quite a craze. The writer, Matt Gross (of the Frugal Traveler blog), also writes that people will wait in line for hours for a bowl of ramen. I have yet to wait in line for something that spectacular, but I hope to be wearing comfortable shoes when I do. It just might be worth a trip to Tokyo to experience that. I'll be sure to let you know when I do, until then eat, slurp and heart ramen.