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.