Saturday, June 26, 2010

Bloody Mary

I never used to be a fan of this beverage. Then one day, as I was working at my studio, a girlfriend of mine came in & said, "come have a bloody mary with me". Now, if you know me, you know that it didn't take much to convince me.

It's almost like drinking cold, spicy soup. Plus, it's a beverage widely accepted as a breakfast cocktail, and you gotta love that.

I got a hankering for one recently and found a great recipe for a homemade mix which contains things you probably already have the condiment department of your fridge.

I have discovered this is a great addition to my cocktail department and when you have it on hand, you can whip one up in a blink.

3 cups tomato juice
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3/4 teaspoon hot sauce, I think it needs a bit more, but that's just me
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a blender combine the tomato juice, lemon juice, lime juice, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, and hot sauce and process until smooth. Transfer to a glass jar and add some salt and pepper. When ready to serve, fill a shaker with ice. Add 1 ounce of vodka, then pour in the bloody mary mix. Shake well. Pour into glass and garnish with something vegetable-y.

After you've made your beverage, refrigerate the jar of mix until next time.

Cheers to a spicy breakfast cocktail!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Just a potato, really

Ok, call me a lazy blogger. Or call me a blogger with only booze recipes up her sleeve. Or call me a girl who just needs a baked potato to make her happy. Ok, that's not ALL I need, but it certainly makes me happy.

I mean, in a perfect world, this one would have included bacon & maybe some cheddar cheese - you know, low fat. However, this is what I had on hand when I got home from my son's 5th grade graduation ceremony this morning - how am I old enough to have a middle school kid, I know?! But I digress.

Baked potatoes. A perfect thing, if you ask me. And that's all I really wanted to say. From fridge to mouth, this monster potato was ready in about 11 minutes. All I dirtied was a plate & a fork to make it. And when I scooped around the fluffy potato mixed with no small amount of butter, sour cream & a chive snipped from the garden, I'm tellin' you, it made me happy. That's all I wanted to say.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Infused Vodka

Alright, back to booze. Some friends of mine recently introduced me to Hendrick's Gin, which is infused with cucumber & rose petals. Fancy, I know. I'm not a big fan of Gin though, I think it tastes like pine needles, and that's just not my thing. However, my friends made a cocktail with this infused gin & a ginger beer or really good ginger ale , and let me tell you, it rocked! The thing is, it's a pretty spendy spirit, AND I'm still not a big gin lover.

SO, I decided to come up with a few of my own infused concoctions, using good ol' vodka instead. My kitchen looked like a mad science laboratory yesterday, but the result is a few fantastically strange looking jars of snazzy vodka for all my cocktail desires! And it's so easy, you've gotta do it.

The first one, pictured above, is my ode to Hendricks. I put in the cucumber & rose petals, then I went a little crazy & added a hunk of ginger, a few peach slices, lemon zest, some mint & lemon verbena. Muah ha ha haaa! The crazy cocktail scientist is a genius!
This one is a citrus vodka. A bunch of lemon peels (make sure you cut it so there's no white pith left on the slices) and a jar of vodka, how much easier could it be?? I'm going to leave these in the fridge for a few days - I'm sure that's all I can wait - and let them do their thing, and then it's fancy pants cocktail time!

Give these a try or let me know what whacky combinations you come up with! I look forward to adding to my collection of mystery alcohol!


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Grilled Heart of Palm Salad

I realized today that an alternate name for this blog could be "Carbs & Booze". It's got a ring to it! But really, I do feed my people vegetables! So I thought I better prove it to you by showing you this fabulous salad that will accompany our chicken tacos tonight.

I got this huge piece of fresh heart of palm last week at the farmer's market. I have never dealt with it in this state, every time I have had it, it's come out of a can. I grilled an ear of corn for this salad, so afterward I threw some slices of the fresh heart of palm onto the grill pan. (It's cut into tri-angles in the salad, if you're trying to identify it). I sliced the rest into long sticks, boiled it with some salt and then added a little sugar & vinegar, put it in a jar and sealed it for later.
But for now, here's some foliage that will accompany my carbs & booze for dinner!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


I've always been curious about making these big, soft pretzels, but it seemed a little scary for some reason. Today when I was home with a sick kid, I figured this was the time to let it rip. And, as usual, it wasn't as big of a deal as I thought it would be. I gotta admit, I didn't understand some of the science behind what I was doing, but they turned out as big, fluffy, soft, brown pretzels, so it worked! This recipe is from my cookbook called Home Baking.

1 cup milk, scalded & cooled to room temp
2 tsp. active dry yeast
1 Tbs wheat malt syrup (whatever... I used honey)
2 1/2 - 3 cups all purpose flour (I used bread flour)
2 Tbs butter, cut into pieces, room temp
1/4 cup baking soda
1 egg yolk, beaten with 2 tsp milk for egg wash (I used olive oil)

Cool milk to about 120 degrees, then add yeast & stir to dissolve. Add malt syrup (or honey) & 1 cup of flour & stir until you have a smooth batter. Sprinkle in the salt , add the butter & mix. Add 1 1/4 cups more flour & combine. Turn out onto floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. Place in a clean bowl, cover & let rise for 1 1/2 hours, until doubled. Place rack in the upper third of the oven & put in a baking stone or baking sheet. Preheat oven to 450.

Turn the dough out onto very lightly floured surface. Cut into 4 equal pieces & then cut each piece in half. Place a parchment lined baking sheet or a floured board next to your work surface. Work with 2 pieces of dough at a time, keeping remaining pieces covered. Roll each piece of dough in your hands into a long skinny rope, about 24 inches long. The dough is very elastic & springs back & shortens after you let it go, so switch back & forth between the 2 pieces. This gets easier as you go, & you'll figure out the technique. It's also a pretty decent arm workout, by the time you've finished 8 of them, so that's a bonus.

This is where the recipe got a little weird, so I just shaped each rope into the pretzel shape, and put them on the floured board to rise for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 1 cup of water in a medium saucepan until almost boiling. Add the baking soda and stir well to dissolve. Keep the water simmering. Lift one pretzel at a time into the water bath with a spatula leaving it on the spatula for 20 seconds. Let water drain and then place back on the board until all of them have taken a dip. This seemed weird, but I think there is something magical that happens with the steam, maybe? Anyway, after you take them out of the water, brush with egg wash or oil, then make a slash in the fattest part of the pretzel with a sharp knife (not sure why), and sprinkle with salt if you like.

Here they are after their bath, before baking...

Take the baking sheet out of hot oven and place 4 pretzels on it at a time & bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden & sexy. Place on a rack to cool.
Of course, you gotta have it with a bit of spicy mustard to dip into, although I did one for my sicky-daughter, with cinnamon & sugar. They made a great after school snack!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sake Tasting at SWAM

It's time I introduce you to my favorite little wine store, SWAM.
SWAM stands for Shiroma's Wine and More and is run by Jill Shiroma. I try to make it over to her shop on Thursdays for their weekly tasting. Each week there is a selection of wines, beers, spirits, sake, or a combination of a few to taste. You will always find a group of regulars and some lucky new comers standing around some snacks, trading great information and buzz about favorite beverages in a relaxed and casual environment.

I haven't been a huge fan of Sake all these years, so when I heard that last week was going to be a sake tasting, I figured this was my opportunity to give it another chance. The first time I tried Japanese sake many years ago, I felt like I was drinking Kerosene. Of course, that was before I had a pallet for such things, but still, it turned me off for years. Recently, a friend opened up a bottle of chilled Ume sake and poured me a dainty sip. It wasn’t so bad! I’m not a super sweet beverage lover, but at least it didn’t blast me out of the water.

Last Thursday, the gang at SWAM gave me quite a re-introduction to the world of sake, with a sampling of five different kinds of sake as well as three different Japanese beers. All of the selections were served chilled and varied from traditional style sake, such as Sho Chiku Bai Junmai, to the fancier Kamotsuru Gold Flake, to the sweet Choya plum sake called Choya Ume Blanc. A couple of them did make me feel like I could breathe fire, while others were very sweet and syrupy, and others were intense, but smooth.

I also discovered that the world of sake making is a pretty amazing process. Sake is often called “rice wine”, however “sake” is actually a generic Japanese term for alcohol. The correct term for refined rice wine is “seishu”, or “nihonshu”. I also learned that sake is it’s own breed – the brewing process somewhere between beer, spirits, and wine.

Like wine, there are regional varieties and good & bad years; and as there are good grapes for good wine, there is also good rice for good sake. And therein lies the secret. Like many things I have discovered in Japanese culture, sake is a delicate balance of quality, skill and patience. Sake production takes about 1 year, starting in winter and ending the following spring. The brew matures during the summer and is then bottled in autumn. The taste depends on a balance between sweetness & acidity and is maintained not by technology, but by skilled artisans who sense subtle changes in climate, rice & water.

Sake is another one of those magical things created by the alchemy of water, malt, yeast and in this case, steamed rice. The brewing method is called, Multiple Parallel Fermentation. This method combines converting grain starch into sugar, and then sugar into alcohol, by means of yeast to create a beverage with a higher alcohol content than any other fermented drink, with alcohol content generally around 14-17%.

All sake falls into one of two groups. The first, and highest quality is Junmai-Ginjo, literally translated as, “pure rice”. A traditional brewing method strictly prohibiting the use of additives, with 60% of the rice being refined, compared to 27% in normal sake making. The second group has additives, including added alcohol. Strangely, the more alcohol added, the cheaper the sake is considered.

The reason for sake’s reputation for being a spendy beverage is due to the finest sake-quality rice being grown only in limited areas of Japan, it’s difficult to cultivate, has a small yield & is sold at a premium. 50% of the product is polished away during the brewing process, doubling the cost. Unlike wine, an unopened bottle of sake is good for about 1 year.

After my short lesson in sake 101, I have a lot more respect for the process and the varied tastes in those dainty cups of alcohol, and I will definitely stay open to the warmth, the tradition and the care that goes into each bottle.

If you’re on Oahu, make sure to stop by SWAM in the Waimalu Shopping Plaza for either their Thursday Tastings or any other time to find a gem of a little wine shop:

98-1277 Kaahumanu Street,

Aiea, HI 96701
(808) 487-7926

This article was featured in Wine and Food Travel

Friday, June 11, 2010

Eau De Summer

It's here. And it's crazy how it happens. There seems to be one day a year, where everything is subtly & suddenly different. It's that day that makes someone say to you, "It feels like summer today". And then it's here.

Nowhere is this a more welcomed phrase than in a place that has just made it through a long, cold winter. Especially when spring has been teasing for months.

I grew up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Northern California. The winters were long & snowy, and although the first snow was usually welcomed with the excitement of a winter spent skiing, there's that stage at the end of winter where it's just kind of slushy & cold, the thrill has worn off and your just sick of being cold ALL the time.

I'm fortunate to live in Hawaii now, where although they are mellow and pleasant, we do have a winter. It gets dark a little earlier, huge waves come crashing onto the North Shore, it rains a lot & dare I say, it even gets chilly! Hey, don't hate, I made it through my share of the real ones! I like winters here, actually.

But then the days start to be a little longer, and you notice it gradually happening. The sun hangs around more during the day, you start to thaw out, if you've been in the real winter, and then... you smell it. Summer. I know for everyone it's different. But there's usually that smell that for you, means summer.

I have a small collection of such summer smells, but I think at the top of the list is watermelon.
My mom used to get those huge ones from the store, and the moment she cut into it, we were bathed in the smell of summer. There is nothing more summerish in my book, than having a huge slice of watermelon, juice dripping off your face, spitting tiny black seeds farther than your grandpa. But that's just me.

There's also that smell of fresh cut grass, which brings me straight back to elementary school and the realization that we finally get to have a decent recess! But most of my summer smells revolve around food. Big shock, I know.

It's not just me, right? You know what I'm talking about? Have you smelled yours yet? If not, what is that smell that you will be sniffing out as summer lifts it's lid? Whatever it is, I hope you take a moment when it finds you, close your eyes, inhale and let it take you back to the memory it carries of summer.

Monday, June 7, 2010

All's Well That Ends In Breadfruit

Breadfruit has, up until recently, been missing from my list of fantastic foods. Not because I didn't like it, but only because we had never crossed paths. My sister has been a raving fan for years, and I am holding her responsible for not being more adamant that I try them.

Breadfruit is a close relative of Jackfruit. The fruit grows on trees that can reach up to 85 feet, with the actual fruit varying from the size of a small Nerf ball, up to the size of a decent watermelon. I think the fact that these trees only give out their treasures at certain times of the year, preserving them being a bit tricky, and that they have a pretty short shelf life has contributed to me missing out on them all these years.

But alas, on my trip to the farmer's market this weekend, we met. I brought it home, it spent the night, and then today we fell madly in love. I really had no idea what to do with it, how to treat it, or how it would behave. All I knew was that it tastes like a cross between a potato & an artichoke heart. So between the lady who sold it to me & advice from my sister, I opted for roasting half of it, boiling the other half and then devising three different ways to get to know it.

The first was boiled and then tossed with butter, parsley & parmesan cheese. Simple enough, and that was when the infamous love at first bite happened. I predict it will definitely have you at "butter & parmesan", but here is another twist...

Breadfruit Gratin, if you will. (I made a small casserole, so you'll have to adjust if you're feeding more people). The recipe below sealed the deal for me, and skyrocketed breadfruit to the top of my list of fantastic foods. This was definitely my favorite version.

And lastly, I decided to give it a sweet treatment and came up with Roasted Breadfruit & Melon with Lime, Ginger & Coconut Sauce. The texture of the breadfruit in a dessert is unusual, given it's potato-like texture, but the flavors in the sauce work pretty well together.

Breadfruit seems to be just as versatile as the potato, which means that there are zillions of ways to enjoy them. Whichever you choose, when you see this beauty at the market, be sure to snatch some up and let me know about YOUR love affair with breadfruit!

Breadfruit Gratin

Peel, core & chop about 2 Cups of breadfruit, add to boiling, salted water & cook until tender. Meanwhile saute 1/4 C. red onions and a couple cloves of chopped garlic in butter or olive oil until softened. Next add 1/2 Cup of heavy cream and 1/2 Cup of milk stir until slightly thickened. Add 1/4 Cup of shredded cheese and stir until melted. Stir in cooked breadfruit, top with bread crumbs and a bit more cheese and then pop it under the broiler till browned.

Roasted Breadfruit & Melon with Lime Ginger, Coconut Sauce.

Cut bread fruit in half, drizzle with a little olive oil, wrap in foil and put into a 375 oven until tender. Chop roasted breadfruit into small pieces & scoop out melon with a melon baller. Combine 1 Cup coconut milk, the zest of 1 lime, 1 Tbs. honey, 1 Tbs. grated ginger & a pinch of ground ginger & cinnamon. Pour over melon & breadfruit, top with toasted coconut & serve.

This post was featured on Wine and Food Travel.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Whole Wheat Pasta Doesn't Suck After All

My mom gave me half a package of whole wheat pasta recently. Half a package, because she made some and couldn't convince my step dad to eat it again. I've seen this on the shelves before, of course. And I've contemplated it. I mean I'm no health nut, but I do like to eat healthy. But whole wheat pasta just seems so, un-Italian.

Well, during my recent stint home alone, I figured this would be the time to give it a try, when all my picky people and grown up people were gone.

I sauteed a little onion & garlic, then threw in some sun dried tomatoes & artichoke hearts and a little cream, Parmesan cheese & parsley.

I gotta say, I didn't hate it! In fact, I couldn't really tell the difference. Now let's see if I can camouflage it enough to get my people to eat it.

Apple, Brie & Fig Jam

Last week all of the people that I usually feed were gone. I found myself home alone & hungry at about 9 o'clock one night. I realized It's not as fun cooking for 1. After staring into the open fridge, I realized it would be a picky dinner. The funny thing was, picky dinners are pretty common in my house, even when my people are around - but as I poured a glass of wine and settled in, I realized that this is exactly what I would be doing even if it was a hot date picky dinner, but somehow, having it solo was just not the same.

However, I devised this combo and it seemed to make it all better. A slice of apple, some brie cheese and a bit of fig jam. Oh yeah... dinner for one is served!

Splurging at Roy's

Ok, I know Roy's Restaurant needs no press, but when I eat something that rocks my world, I just have to do a little show & tell. Now, for me, a trip to Roy's is reserved for special occasions. Well, when one of my best friends comes back to town, and it happens to be her birthday, and I've managed to figure out a way for just the two of us to sneak out to dinner, I believe that qualifies.

Roy's Restaurant at Ko'olina is located right on the golf course. We sat outside, ordered a cocktail, some sushi, a salad, and the amazing chocolate souffle for dessert.
And then we had one of those meals where you take a bite, look at your friend and give a stuffed-mouth-eye-roll-head-nodding, "Oh yeah, baby!"

These sushi rolls were so amazing. The first was unagi & butterfish, crispy on the outside, sprinkled with tobiko and those sexy little sprouts. Not to mention the bath of beautiful mystery sauces that it sat in. I will be fantasizing about this one for a long time.

The ahi roll was great too. I loved the crispy onion things on top, and more sexy sprouts.... sigh....

But of course, the best part was being able to sit across the table from my dear friend and dish about life, men, kids, hopes, sadnesses, and laughter. That is what put this meal over the top.

And then the chocolate souffle came... and that was, well, the cherry on the cake of an amazing meal.

To good friends and a reason to sit down to a great dinner!