Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tipu's Chai

It's been brought to my attention that I have been a delinquent blogger. So sorry about that. I haven't been whipping up much magic in the kitchen lately. I was in a bit of a, uh, "incident". An incident involving a mountain bike, a big root/stump thing, a trip over the handle bars, which therefore led to the emergency room, and eventually to my couch, where I have mused over the resulting slight concussion, lacerated liver and bruised rib. Quite an adventure in the last week. 

And I must say, the irony is not lost that I am supposed to be knee deep in wine sampling heaven, but noooo... Dr.'s orders are no alcohol for this injured liver for two weeks! One down, one to go....

SO, I figured this was the perfect segway to talk about that sample of chai that I was sent to sample and review. In case you missed my chai mania: my dear reader shared with me her mother-in-law's authentic recipe for chai masala (see the August post), which then led to the makers of Tipu's Chai contacting me to see if I would review their product. 

I have to say, that usually when it comes to products, if I have the ingredients to make something from scratch as opposed to buying something pre-packaged I would rather make it myself. Plus I like to tweak recipes to make them the way I like them. However, with my latest "incident" - not being able to remember my own address or my loved ones names & howling in pain whenever I sneeze, having something instant on hand has been divine intervention.

Like most authentic Indian chai recipes, Tipu's Chai recipe has been handed down from grandmother, to mother to son, traveling from India, across three continents and made it's way into an Indian restaurant in Montana in 1997. The popularity of their tea resulted in the birth of these commercial products. I think I mentioned before how I love how serious Indian people are about their tea, and I love how generous they are in sharing a good thing.

I was happy to see that the chai that the cool folks at Tipu's makes is purely tea and spices. They add no milk powder, sweetener or chemicals. Tipu's Chai is available in an Original or Decaffeinated Concentrate, a Slow Brew Original or Decaffeinated, as well as the package that I got: Instant Black Chai. These are all USDA Certified Organic, kosher certified and made with fair trade tea. 

The Instant Black Tea, aka: my new couch buddy - is a snap to make. Add 1 teaspoon of chai to 1/2 cup of boiling water and 1/2 cup hot milk and sweeten to taste. (I like to add a little more of the tea to make it a little stronger.) It really is a great blend of spices and tea, smells like Christmas in a cup and makes me feel like I am drinking something that is actually good for me.

BUT for when my time on the wagon is over, I happened to stumble on a recipe on their website for a Chai-Tini. Hello! Chai and booze? Now that sounds like the Swigs and Grinds we all know and love, right? So in case you need something a little livelier to do with your chai, here's the recipe:

Tipu's Chai-Tini
2 oz Myers’s rum
2 oz chai concentrate
½ oz simple syrup
Scoop Vanilla Ice Cream
Swirl in blender and serve in a martini glass with a cinnamon/sugar rim and mint twig.

Alternately: use 1 1/2 ounces half and half and shake with ice.  Strain and serve. 

Anyway, I'm sure I'll be back in the kitchen (and the wine rack) soon.... until then, check out Tipu's Chai website, www.tipuschai.com and pick up a sample for yourself!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Wine Arrives On My Doorstep!

Do you see that?! A beautiful thing has begun to happen. Wine has started to arrive on my doorstep. Literally.
Let me back up a bit. I started writing for Wine and Food Travel back in June. A few months ago, my editor was in town & we met up over a glass of wine. One of the things we talked about was the perks of writing about wine, food & travel. She encouraged me to review wines, hotels, bed & breakfasts and restaurants, and in doing so, to contact them and ask if they would like to "sponsor" my stay or send a "sample" to review. My wheels began to turn.... Really? Am I really a real writer, and people will give me hook ups so that I will write about their product? Is this really how this works?

I didn't do much about it and then posted my next article on Chai Masala. Immediately after the article was up, I was contacted by a company who makes instant chai. They wanted to send me a sample to review. Sweet! Of course I will, said I.

And then I decided to go for it. As you probably know, I have become enraptured with Australian wines. It seems that every wine that knocks my socks off turns out to be Australian. However, now that I have a couple of favorites, I haven't branched out much, AND there is a lot about the history and the wine making regions of Australia that I know very little about. So one night I put together an email and sent it out to wineries from seven of the major wine producing regions letting them know that I am planning an exhaustive review on Australian wines to be posted on Wine & Food Travel as well as Swigs and Grinds. I also mentioned that if they would like to send a "sample" for tasting & review that I would be happy to include them in my story. And guess what? That beautiful image of the box above was my first shipment, sent from the wonderful people at Tyrrell's Wines, the winner of the 2010 James Halliday Winery of the Year. And since they were the first to get their wines to me, they are the first to be reviewed.  

I was not familiar with their wines at all, so I was very grateful for their offer to send their Rufus Stone Heathcote 2008 Shiraz as well as two bottles of their white wines. I don't normally drink whites, so I was actually excited to include them in my review because I feel very objective about them. Their Vat 1 Hunter Semillon is actually listed in "1001 Wines You Must Drink Before You Die", I received the 2003 vintage. Ben, my connection at Tyrrell's also decided to send the Vat 47 Hunter Chardonnay, since it's his favorite and it is consistently one of Australia's top 5 chardonnays. The white wines happen to be from the Hunter Valley region, and the Shiraz is from the Victoria region of Australia.  

So as you know, I'm not into all those fancy wine words. I like red wines that are big, bold, thick and almost chewable. A lot of the wines I like are described as "jammy". The Heathcote Shiraz was the first to be sampled and it was great. Since I must use wine words here, I would attach bold, spicy - almost peppery, floral and smooth to this wine. All very good attributes in my book. This wine retails for around $17. 

The two whites I decided to compare head to head so that I would have some base of comparison since I'm not a huge white fan. The Hunter Chardonnay surprised me with it's smoothness and the length that the flavors stay on the tongue. It really was a lovely, clean, fruity wine. The 2007 Hunter Chardonnay sells for around $40. 

The Hunter Sémillon was something that I had never heard of. Sémillon is a golden-skinned grape used to make dry and sweet white wines, popular in France and Australia. Hunter Valley Semillon is never matured in oak, but is vat or bottle aged. This may be what contributes to it being a crisp, dry wine with some green apple frutiness. I actually really liked it. This 2003 Semillon is also about $40. 

During our tasting of the two whites we came up with this metaphor: The Chardonnay is more watercolor, while the Sémillon is more line drawing. Meaning, the flavors of the Chardonnay are more blended, while the Sémillon was very straight and defined.  

I definitely recommend Tyrrell's Wines. Please check out their website and order a bottle of their wines or find a local distributor that carries their products. 

Also, to read the introduction to my Australian Wine Fairy Tale, check out the story at 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Midnight Bread, that's normal... right?

I noticed it yesterday. The sudden need to cook all of the things that are flashing through my head. My sudden allergy to noise. And of course, my heightened sensitivity. I don't even have to look at the calendar. All of those sensations flashed through me while standing in the kitchen, and I knew... The feeding frenzy is on.

Tonight I'm writing this as bread dough is rising on my kitchen counter. At 11 o'clock, that's PM. I was already thinking about tomorrow's breakfast while I was making today's lunch. I am a freak. And I get even freakier during the next week.

While I was in the midst of this realization yesterday, I had this thought: Perhaps I should write a Field Guide & Survival Manual for those that have to deal with me during this time each month. It would be filled with such groundbreaking tips like:

No Unnecessary Noise Allowed
No Taking Too Long To Say Something
No Sitting Too Close To Me
No Staying Too Far Away From Me
Say Sweet Things To Me
Feed Me
Eat What I Feed You
Do Something Romantic
Make Me Go To Yoga
No Being Mean
No Licking Yourself (to the dog, but actually I suppose it applies to everyone..)
Tell Me You Love Me
Make Sure We're Not Out Of Booze
You're Not Allowed To Be In A Bad Mood At The Same Time I Am
Make Me Laugh

So I realize that this list is more than a little self indulgent, but that's just the way this week works. And ya know, I bet if the guys (and kids) out there knew for sure what is going on in our heads (and obeyed the rules), things would be much smoother. And of course, if that doesn't work, a slice of fresh baked Pecan Raisin Walnut Bread slathered in butter and a nice glass of Australian Shiraz should do the trick. Until I come out the other side, Cheers!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Roasted Beet Salad

"The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity.
Beets are deadly serious".
 ~Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

You're right, Mr. Robbins!! I read Jitterbug Perfume when I was 18 & living with my sister in Maui. It was my first taste of Tom Robbins. Unfortunately, after my sister read the book she went on a beet cooking binge, which led to many, many tastes of beets. But in a weird way. She made beet everything. She made a beet omelet, which turned into a pink, eggy creation that scared me away from beets for years.

My mom & grandma made pickled beets when I was a kid, and even though they are fabulous, they were just too weird for me to like when I was little.

But of course, once I finally grew up - food wise anyway - I have fallen in love with the earthy, deep, rich, and you know I'm gonna say it: sexiness of beets.

On one of my recent, skipping-gleefully-through-the-isles-of-Whole Foods excursions, I saw this roasted beet salad in the deli case & had to re-enact it at home. As usual, I couldn't remember exactly what was in the one I had so I used what I had in the fridge. Here's the gist of it:

Peel a bunch of beets and 1/4 them. Slice some red onion, yellow or red bell pepper & toss them together with the beets, some olive oil & salt & pepper and roast in a 325 degree oven for about 15 minutes.
While they're doing their thing in the oven, throw together 1Tbs. olive oil, 1 Tbs. vinegar, a pinch of sugar and a bit of cayenne pepper. Toss the beets, peppers & onions in the vinaigrette, then throw in some feta cheese, chopped parsley & maybe some pine nuts if you have them.

And there you have it. Roasted "intense, deadly serious" beet salad with feta.     

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon & Onion

Here's a take on brussels sprouts that will convert even the staunchest hater of these darling little cabbages. I stole this idea from Michael Symon, chef at Lola restaurant. Not that I've been there, sadly. But I did see someone raving about these fried brussels sprouts on "The Best Thing I Ever Ate". You can find his recipe on the Food Network Website . I didn't think to look it up first so I made up my own, and let me tell you, after I made a sample batch, I had to put down my empty plate, call my sister, and give her a blow by blow of how much these things rocked. It was like a food porn 900 number. Her ear was all steamed up after I was finished. Just please, trust me on this. You HAVE to make these. Do it. I mean it. Really.

Here's what I did:
Quarter the brussels sprouts, and set aside. 

They really are cute, aren't they? 

Next, slice some red onions & chop up a few slices of raw bacon, throw them together in a pan & saute until browned & making your dog pace around the kitchen, salivating.

I am finally the proud owner of a morter & pestle, so I've been looking for reasons to use it as often as possible - and this vinaigrette is the perfect reason. Toss in a clove of garlic, the zest & juice of 1 lemon, some fresh parsley, a Tbs. of capers, a few slices of red onion & some olive oil, then smoosh around until it's kind of like a paste. Of course, if you don't have a morter & pestle (I've been scouring yard sales for years, until finally...) You can just chop everything up, throw it in a bowl, then add the lemon juice & oil.    

Heat about 2 inches of oil in a sturdy pot until it's really hot. 
An aside here.... not that YOU would do this, but in case you think it's a good idea to heat up this oil & then step out onto the front porch with a glass of wine & chat with neighbors until you see smoke pouring out of your house, only to run inside and see said sturdy pot in flames on your stove... let me tell you, it's a bad idea. However, if you ever should find yourself in such a situation, baking soda is the magic ingredient to put out the fire - remember that. Ehem, Not that I know from experience or anything, I'm just saying... 

SO, once the oil is hot, gently put in the brussels sprouts (they like to splatter a bit) and cook for just a couple of minutes until browned. Then remove them from the oil onto a paper towel to drain for a minute, then toss into a large bowl with the bacon & onion mixture & the vinaigrette and toss together. Now get ready... I hope you made a lot, because you won't want to stop eating them. Go ahead, see if you can convert the haters you know with this recipe & let me know how much you loved them!    


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dragon Fruit & Rambutan - An Exotic Duo

I was walking through the open Market on Fort Street, in downtown Honolulu yesterday, happy to live in Hawaii on such a beautiful September day and was suddenly awestruck, the way only a girl who thinks about food non-stop can be. I was surrounded by the most exotic, beautiful, strange & even scary looking fruits and vegetables.

Many things I recognized, some I knew well, and many... well I had been meaning to set up a date with many of them, and I realized today was going to be that day.

So I mustered up my confidence, sauntered over to a plump, pink, intriguing fellow & asked, "What's your name"? Turns out his name was Dragon Fruit. Sexy, right? If this fruit had a job it would be a tattoo artist, that's how cool it is. Even though he's in the cactus family, he's smooth and sweet, almost like a kiwi got tangled up with a radish. Very interesting. Then he introduced me to a bunch of his friends, the  Rambutan's. Turns out I know their cousins, the Lychee's, so I knew we would be great friends. I coughed up $5.99 each for them (they're expensive dates), and the three of us walked off arm & arm, so to speak.

Mr. Dragon Fruit


We got to my place, I photographed them and then we got down to business. Seemed like an exotic fruit salad was in order.
I put these guys into a bowl with green grapes, orange segments, blueberries, raspberries, a little grated ginger, some fresh mint & a tiny bit of feta cheese, that's right, feta cheese. You should have seen them dance. It was a great party. You should have them over sometime....

This post was featured on Wine & Food Travel

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Happy Swigs-&-Grinds-A-Versary!

One year ago today, something came over me & like a sleepwalker, I stumbled over to the Blogger website & attempted to figure out what this whole blogging thing was all about anyway. 

About a year before that, my dear friend Christine said something like, "You really should write a blog, with all the craziness going on in your life." To that I responded, "What's a blog"? I'd never even read one. And besides, who would read it? After a divorce & all the drama that accompanied that stage of my life, I was pretty sure everyone was sick of hearing about my whacked out adventures in the marriage failure department as well as the struggle to survive department. I know I was.

But then, a thought hit me: I guess I could write a food blog!? I mean, my motto for years had been: Will Work For Food". What the heck. The more that thought rumbled around in my head, the more it solidified my belief that life happens around food. And drink, of course. That amidst all of the drama & madness, ups & downs, successes & failures, loves & break-ups of life, the thing that ties us all together is the pursuit to eat, drink & be merry. That these things nourish our bodies & our souls. That by taking a minute to appreciate the simplicity of a bowl of cherries, our favorite plates, a friend's recipe, 
we are connected. 

As with most anniversaries, when I realized a year had passed, there was that equal mixture of: "How could it be a year already" combined with: "It seems like it's been forever". Over the last year I have found a muse. A place to dump a little bit of creativity. A page to empty out the words & ramblings that  sputter around in my head. And I think most amazingly, I have found YOU here. Whether you are an old friend from the past, the boy I had a crush on forever in high school, my family, friends, clients, loves, or other foodies & bloggers from all over the world that I've never even met, we have become drinking buddies & eating buddies, & somehow Swigs & Grinds has connected us. 

I've also gained a reputation for having a drinking problem, (see the comment section on the Ginger Grape Cocktail post), finally learned how to make pasta for one, strangely my children now sometimes want to photograph their food before they eat it, I've interviewed people about food, I've received emails with family recipes from readers (I love that!), I've received products to test & review, I've gotten blisters from splattering oil, gained confidence in bread-making, gotten creative with cocktails & documented a little bit of my life.

So, I blew out the candle in that wedge of brie & made this wish for the next year: The continued ability to share in a meal & a toast with you, perhaps some paid writing gigs,
  and more comments from you all!

With much love, gratitude & a growling stomach, I send you all a big cheers!
Thanks for reading....       

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Caramelized Tomato & Onion Tart

Last month's issue of Bon Appetit had a fascinating looking recipe for a Tomato Tart Tatin.   
I was really wanting to try it, but I had to make it a little more savory, so I added caramelized onions, and then topped it with some feta & basil after it was cooked. It was a great appetizer & also the two slices that were left made a great breakfast the next day!

Check out the link above for the recipe. 
I've never done the whole x-ing & boiling of tomatoes before. It worked great.

Here's mine layered with sweet onions. I only added about 2 Tbs of sugar instead of 2/3 cup or whatever the recipe called for because I wasn't making it as a dessert. 

Puff pastry is applied & it's ready for the oven.

Out of the oven & ready to be flipped out onto a plate. 

Sample piece for the cook! 
Try this one. There's about a billion different things you can do with it. The puff pastry comes with two sheets in a pack. I might see what else I can come up with today....

Friday, September 3, 2010

Ginger Grape Cocktail

It's Aloha Friday! It's a three day weekend! In the words of Sigourney Weaver in Avatar, "Will somebody get me my god damn cigarettes!!??". Ok, I don't smoke, but WILL SOMEBODY GET ME MY GOD DAMN COCKTAIL!?

And while you're at it, you might as well make it a Ginger Grape Cocktail, invented by yours truly. Have you seen that commercial where the bartender muddles red grapes and whips them into a fizzy cocktail of some sort? Well, that was the inspiration here. It's refreshing, delicious and to top it all off, it's a beverage you can chew!

Just take some grapes & some orange zest and muddle them (smoosh then around with your handy dandy wooden muddling tool) in a cocktail shaker. Add 1.5 oz  citrus vodka & ice, put the lid on and shake it senorita! Then add a good splash of ginger ale, pour back & forth into a large glass to combine, then pour into serving glass, garnish with some frozen grapes & enjoy!

Happy Aloha Friday everyone! I send you a big cheers & wish you a spectacular weekend!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Berry Custard Cups

On my recent perusals of the Costco shelves, I saw something strange & fascinating. Raw flour tortillas. A big ol' Costco size portion of them. The label boasted a whole arsenal of things you can do with these things; crepes, wraps, chips, pie crust. Wait, pie crust? hmmmm.... 

So I used them to make a Indian style wrap of sorts for lunch for my mom & I. Which was really good. But my mastication was peppered with thoughts of dessert. With berries. And custard. And, could it be?... a tortilla-ish crust? Yep.

I scoured around the internet for an easy custard recipe, found one from Gale Gand, whipped it up & voila! These beauties were a big hit with the kids, my guy, my mom & even for my dwindling sweet tooth! Give these guys a try, it was a snap.

Cut each tortilla in half and arrange into a muffin pan, brush with some butter and bake @350 till browned. Remove & let cool before filling with custard.  

2 cups whole, 2 percent fat, or 1 percent fat milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (you know I didn't have vanilla bean, of course! A tsp of vanilla worked fine. If you have it, be my guest)
6 egg yolks
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon sugar

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk and vanilla bean (yeah, yeah... see above) to a boil over medium heat. Immediately turn off the heat and set aside to infuse for 10 minutes. Or not, if you're using vanilla extract. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the cornstarch and whisk like crazy until no lumps remain. Whisk in 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture until incorporated. Whisk in the remaining hot milk mixture - let the empty saucepan hang out for a minute, you're gonna need it again.

Pour the mixture through a strainer back into the saucepan (i told ya). Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and slowly boiling. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Pour into custard cups and chill for a bit. The recipe said to chill at least 2 hours but I don't think I did it for that long. (The custard can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Cover with plastic wrap if you are keeping it longer than that.) Right before serving, top with mixed berries.


Friday, August 27, 2010

Honolulu's Greek Festival

This weekend marks the 30th annual Greek Festival here in Honolulu, at Ala Moana Beach Park. When you walk through the hallway of McCoy Pavillion and enter out into the courtyard, a cheerful wave of culture, music, dance, food and art washes over you. Old, young, Greek, Hawaiian and everything in between welcome you into the revelry. I went last year and was so happy to have one of those moments where I feel like I am far, far away & I'm hoping to get down there again this weekend for the festivities 
Get ready to dance, because inevitably someone will reach out their hand and pull you onto the dance floor, and even if you resist, the smiling faces and clapping hands in the crowd will have you ready to get your Greek on because this is one of those cultures that draws you in, feeds you, raises a glass of ouzo in a toast and makes you wish you were Greek.
And speaking of… you won’t be able to resist the array of Greek specialties offered up under the many food tents. Pull up a spot under the big tree and take your pick of Spanokopita, Gyro, Moussaka, Souvlaki, Baklava, and don’t forget to wash it all down with that shot of Ouzo, while raising your glass with an enthusiastic salute of, OPA!!!!!!
To see this years performance schedule and to find out additional information, check out the official website. And if you’re in the neighborhood, do not miss this chance to travel to Greece right on the edge of the pacific ocean!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dishes, plates, cups, platters, oh my...

... these are a few of my favorite things. For real. I have quite a fetish when it comes to all things dishes. Of course, I'm not such a fan of the new, off the shelf, out of the box types. I like, ok love, the old stuff. depression glass, old china, chipped, worn enamel, stuff that comes to me with a story already. Stuff that has to be hunted for. Stuff that you come across when you're not looking for it, when you don't even really need it, but have to have it. It's a sickness, I suppose. 

But there is something about the times when I feel like my life is unravelling, as it frequently has in the last few years, and I find myself in the kitchen. Cooking, creating, nourishing myself & those around me. And I reach for the pink depression glass plates that I bought from an antique store for like $60 when I was in high school, or the set of white & gold edged plates that I found for my first Thanksgiving dinner after my divorce, where 20 or so of my friends & family who had carried me through that time gathered around my table,  or the stack of pretty blue plates that a sweet little old lady had parted with at a yard sale. 

And there, with plate in my hand, I have company. The memories that have been served on these plates that I have dragged around through the years, the romantic dinners, the pancake breakfasts my kids served me in bed, the tea parties, the quick lunch scarfed over the kitchen sink, all of it. It's all there in those plates.  

There are some that are on my shelf, just because they are pretty. But even they have their stories. The blue flowered plate that is the last survivor of a set of four that I found in a Half Moon Bay thrift store on a cold, foggy day, a whole lifetime ago...

Some aren't so sentimental, but I just love them. Like these cool ramekins that I use all the time...

...and my chipped but fabulous casserole dishes.

Let's not forget about my favorite wine glasses - no stems because I am a chronic breaker of glasses. And the small juice glass that doubles as a wine glass & makes me feel like I am in an Italian Grandma's kitchen, a long time fantasy of mine that will someday come to fruition. 


Or these old, thick glasses that used to be on my mother's shelves. I don't use them much, but I love to see them there..

These milk glass cups & creamer usually accompany my mom & I in an afternoon coffee. I shudder to think of the sentimental value these will have one day...

And a simple tea cup that serves tea to my daughters when they are sick, or that becomes a votive holder when candlelight is required...

All of these things feed my soul and carry with them the things that are precious to me. The memories, the moments, the future.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Chai Masala

One of the best things about writing about eating, drinking & being merry are the meals, beverages, recipes & experiences that people share with me. Recently one of you, my dear readers, shared with me not only a shipment of Indian spices, but also some family recipes to go with them. One such recipe was for her mother-in-law's tea.

After I looked through the recipe and noted the mixture of spices, I emailed her to ask if this would be considered "chai tea", or if that was something completely different. Turns out, "chai" is simply the word commonly used for tea not only in India, but also in Iran & many other countries around the world. Who knew?!
In fact, "chai" usually describes a spiced, milky tea. Some terms that might ring a bell are Chai Masala (Tea Spice), or a Chai Latte (tea with steamed milk)

Historically, chai is viewed as an herbal medicine, rather than a beverage sipped for fun. Some recipes still used come from Ayurvedic (traditional Indian medicine) texts. And speaking of "recipes", for being such a traditional beverage, there really is no fixed recipe or preparation method. Indian markets all over the world sell their version & brands of spice blends, although many households blend their own, & methods vary from house to house.

There are however, four basic components:

Tea: A strong, black tea, such as Assam is the base for chai.

Sweetener: Anything from white, brown, palm or coconut sugars, as well as honey can be used as a sweetener.

Milk: Whole milk is traditionally used for richness & is mixed about 1/4-1/2 parts milk with water. You may come across a chai that has condensed milk working to combine the milk & the sweetness.

Spices: The "masala" usually consists of cardamom as the dominant spice along with cinnamon, fresh ginger, black pepper & cloves. In Westeren India, you might see almonds, saffron, salt, nutmeg, rose flavoring (from steeping the petals) & licourice root as potential ingredients.

The method is to simmer the tea, sweetener, milk & spices together and then strain the spices & loose tea out before serving as opposed to steeping them in already boiled water. This method does vary based on taste & local custom.

The recipe below comes from M's mother-in-law's kitchen & makes two mugs of tea.
1 1/2 coffee mugs of water
3 tsp. loose black tea
3 tsp. sugar (or more to taste)
1 Tbs. grated ginger (or more to taste)
Boil these ingredients together for a minute or two, then add: 1 mug of milk and bring just to a boil then turn off heat. And then in her mother-in-law's words, if you want to get "fancy":
Add: 1/8 tsp cardamom
1/8 tsp cinnamon
a pinch each of ground cloves & black pepper

I made this and ended up going heavier on all of the spices and then pouring it over ice for a refreshing beverage for the soul. Although I wouldn't mind ambling up to a street vendor (chai wallah) in South Asia & watching this ancient beverage being brewed and handed to me in a steaming cup, having a recipe on hand for something simple & a little exotic will tide me over for now! Thank you for sharing!!

A version of this post was featured on Wine & Food Travel

Sunday, August 1, 2010

My Man Sam, the Cooking Guy

Alright, I've been a slacker. A neglectful blogger. A crazy person. But you knew that. However, I wanted to introduce you to my man, Sam. If you don't know of him already, he's me, or who I would like to be, foodwise - in a male, Jewish body. He has a cooking show on the Discovery Health Channel. The thing I love about this guy is that he's not a chef, he just cooks. He's not fussy, he cooks simple, great food & he believes in improv cooking. Yee Haw!!

I love his show, but as I was hunger-ly loitering in the cookbook section of the bookstore the other day, I stumbled upon his book, pictured above. And now I love him even more. He starts off by saying, "This is not a completely normal cookbook", and he goes on from there to to offer up such food quotes as, "I want you to add some big ass flavor...", and uses technical terms like, "ketchup-y & Asian-y". I don't remember ever reading a cook book that made me laugh out loud in the middle of a book store, or anywhere else for that matter. But alas, Sam the Cooking Guy has done it again. I was broke, so I didn't buy the book, but it is waaaay up on my list of books to get.

But YOU can buy his book, and when I am slacking in my blog responsibilities, you can flip through his pages and not only find some GREAT recipes, but you will surely be entertained as well!  

Also check out his website, which I also just discovered & of course, love.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Oahu's KCC Farmer's Market

Today I'm going to take you on a photo safari through the Farmer's Market at Kapiolani Community College. This tale starts on a Saturday morning, when I awoke in a strangely pissy mood, given my usual sunny disposition. I don't know what my problem was. But I knew that I had already planned to make the trek to town to FINALLY check out the farmer's market. I was going to go alone, saunter around, sniffing & chatting & touching & photographing & tasting. What was there possibly to be pissy about? Those are among my favorite activities.

But still. The clog in the parking lot once I got there didn't help. I finally found a spot about 700 miles away, gathered my stuff and started heading toward... I wasn't sure where I was going. But there was a steady stream of people coming from the opposite direction, so I swam upstream. Men passed with kids on their shoulders, dirtying their dads with sticky fingers, tourists passed by with bonzai trees and flower arrangements, a gorgeous girl with a huge bunch of sunflowers, and a guy with a very sexy, um... loaf of bread. Seriously, it was a great looking french bread!

And I realized as each person passed me, my mood was steadily improving. I was heading toward a food wonderland! It was a beautiful day in Hawaii & I had hours to putter about. sigh..... With a renewed attitude & a growl in my stomach, I made my way to the rows upon rows of tents and people & food, oh my!

There was a crap load of people, which started to arose a bit of grump in me, but I jumped in & watched them & soon became one of them.

There is something so much better about shopping for food while talking to the guy who grew it. Baskets overflow with pineapple, mangoes, onions & turnips...

I stopped to smell the flowers, and all was right with the world. The white ginger below is sold in bunches and used in making ginger leis. My favorite!

The buckets of tropical flowers reminded me of how truly lucky I am to live here.
Then I met Paul, the honey guy. I experienced my first honey tasting as spoon upon tiny spoon was thrust my way with an enthusiastic description of the process & the flowers that were the go-to's for the bees to make each one. I was amazed at the difference in taste from one to another. I left with a jar of Ohia Lehua (a hawaiian flower) honey and I have been using it in sparing, special circumstances, like it's liquid gold.

I really wanted to try these BBQ'd abalone from the Big Island, but the line was crazy. I plan to check out their farm the next time I am on The Big Isle though, especially since I just saw an episode of Dirty Jobs where they went to an abalone farm. Fascinating stuff....
And my search for the sexy bread came to an end here. Loaves & loaves & loaves of manna from heaven. I too would be the owner of a sexy loaf!
Soon enough my bag was filled with a strange array of things, and the growl in my stomach was screeching at me. Thankfully KCC's Culinary Program had a tent selling some killer kalua pork sliders with coleslaw on a taro bun. Oh. Yeah. Baby. I pulled up a patch of grass and wolfed mine down while watching crowds of people, bags overflowing with their own goodies, hunched over mountains of shave ice, slices of pizza, fried green tomatoes and god knows what else. It was a beautiful thing.
And with my day's plunder of jalepenos, limes, tomatoes, mesculin, melon, honey, heart of palm, breadfruit, and yes - my sexy loaf of bread, I rode the wave all week making many a concoction to feed my people & my soul.

So the moral of the story is: When Life Makes You Pissy, Surround Yourself With Food. Worked for me anyway.
When you're in the neighborhood, be sure to hit the KCC Farmer's Market on Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. Parking Lot C (Off of Diamond Head Road)
Kapiolani Community College
4303 Diamond Head Road
Honolulu, HI 96816