Archive for April, 2011

Spring is here, and summer is near!

April 28, 2011

With the temperature rising, I am declaratively listing what I’m looking forward to:

-more produce at the farmer’s market – move aside potatoes and onions, the greens are coming, starting with ramps, lettuces, and asparagus

-flowers in bloom -walking the streets, every day gets prettier

-no socks – feet, finally liberated from the tyranny of boots

-Summer Fridays – I am counting the weeks until half day Fridays.  Fine dining for lunch, afternoon adventures, found time.

-longer days – it’s light out when I get up, and light out when I leave work

-barbecues – accepting invites

-strawberries, watermelon, peaches, and cherries – there is no other time to eat them

-stoop sales and the Brooklyn Flea outdoors again – I love the discoveries on my Saturday shuffles

With the upside, there inevitably comes a downside:

-crowds everywhere, especially the farmer’s market

-allergies

-the subjugation to other people’s feet and their ill-fitting shoes and band-aids

-working through Summer Fridays

-shorter nights and earlier, brighter mornings

-mosquitos

-unbearable heat and humidity that makes me long for the chill of winter

-it goes by all too quickly

Curry in a Slurry

April 26, 2011

    

From a 1999 issue of Gourmet that I printed out from Epicurious in 2003, this recipe for Vegetable Green Curry is one of my first forays into curry.  Given my annotations, I think I liked it, with a few alterations.  Looking to learn from my curry, I made it straight, verbatim, sort of, ignoring my notes in the margins, as if I never made curry before.  Vegetables are a colorful combination of onion, red pepper, sweet potatoes and snow peas, bound in a silky blanket of coconut milk.  The cheat, or, ahem, simplifier, is Thai green curry paste, saving the hassle of making one’s own.   I just can’t help but feel that I’m using the Thai version of Hamburger Helper.  All together it is a good starter curry that marries spicy and sweet in a pleasing visual palette.  Leftovers mixed with rice,make a nice stuffed pepper, cute and compact packages, baked at 350 for 25 minutes with a sprinkling of shredded coconut.

I have since made many more curries, including making my own curry paste out of cilantro, jalapeno, onion, ginger, etc.  A satisfying experience that is a good way of using all of the above in excess, it is fresh and bright beyond the jar.  Our cooking class in Bali revealed the true secret to curry – copious amounts of coconut oil.  Maybe some things are better left unknown.

Breakfast Crisis, pt. 3

April 21, 2011

   

The last recipe that I tried in Mark Bittman’s savory breakfast makeovers was Wild Rice and Quinoa Breakfast Stuffing.  Absolutely what I like to eat, but again, not for breakfast.  The chewy coarseness of wild rice combines well with fluffy quinoa, which makes me feel all too healthy.  Add to it sauteed onions, fennel, and sausage (maybe not so healthy), it becomes fragrant, bringing out the sweetness of the grains.  I love it.

I still don’t have a breakfast resolution.  I loved the three savory recipes that I tried; the fourth, Wheat Berries with Sesame, Soy Sauce and Scallions, is all too familiar having tried a version with brown rice.  For the most important meal of the day, every day, I want to eat what is nutritionally best for me, quick, and delicious.  Maybe it’s about my favorite breakfast for dinner, an egg over greens.  Or full circle back to yogurt and granola.  Breakfast needs to get me out of bed in the morning, and that’s no easy task.

WTF?

April 19, 2011

The other day in the New York Times National Briefing, there was a blurb about how half the meat and poultry found in grocery stores were tainted with Staphylococcus aureus.  WTF?  Shouldn’t this be front page news, not buried in a single paragraph next to menswear ads?  The study covers 80 brands of beef, pork, and poultry from 26 stores, presumably those plastic wrapped meats on beds of styrofoam, the appearance of never having been an animal, sanitized for our protection, now a hazard.  Granted the study sample was small – 136 samples – and only from five cities, but is disturbing nevertheless.  It still suggests a broad scope of contamination, spread through the industrialized food chain.  Half of the contaminated samples also had some form of antibiotic resistant bacteria, evidence of rampant overuse of antibiotics.  Welcome to The Jungle.

Eat, Pay, Shove, pt. 2 – Bali

April 14, 2011

Vacation in Bali was not for the food, but for the natural and cultural beauty that is quite singular.  Lush, verdant jungle meets manicured rice terrace meets adorned Hindu aesthetics, it is stunning.  The food is not.  I mostly found Balinese/Indonesian food to be muddy in flavors, and in Ubud, where we stayed, compromising to cater to foreign palettes.  A few places stood out:

-Ibu Oka – known for its suckling pig and rice, this locally reknown place is a swarm of Asian tourists.  An extra treat is a plate of crispy pig skin on the side.

-Naughty Nuri’s – another popular destination that has earned its place in the guide books, rightfully so.  Very good, although at times inconsistent ribs; mighty cocktails; and a fantastic nasi goreng (fried rice).

-Nasi Ayam Kedewatan – a very local chicken and rice place, no tourists to speak of, set in a large, high thatched pavillion.  Clean, bright flavors for only $2 a plate.

I also loved the black rice porridge with coconut cream that I had almost every day for breakfast, and sometimes dessert.  Balinese kopi made with roasted brown rice was also a special morning treat.

The fun of going away also lies in what to bring back, to savor and remember, to elongate the trip.  The best:

a jar of Killiney Kopitiam’s coconut jam.  If only I could recreate those eggs, my breakfast would be complete!  The worst:

durian caramels.  I don’t really like durian, but I love caramels, so maybe it would be the best of both worlds?  Instead, the hard caramel sits in my mouth to soften releasing its rot flavor, before I can chew it to release its milky sweetness.  Horrible, it’s like something died in my mouth.  This is how to punish small children and break them of their sweet tooth.  How can paradise be so cruel?

Eat, Pay, Shove – Singapore

April 12, 2011

Not quite a tale of self-discovery and love, only a small trip to Singapore and Bali.  specifically, we went to Singapore to eat, and Bali to, well, be in Bali.  The two places couldn’t be more dissimilar, down to the food.  Singapore’s food is vivid and varied, I felt like I only ate a tip of its enormous foodie iceberg, and it left me wanting more.  Bali was a different story…to be continued in another posting.  For today, here’s my all too brief hit parade in Singapore:

-Newton Circus – Being in Singapore for less than 36 hours, we went to the most well know hawker stand open late on Saturday night, Newton Circus.  We were not disappointed with our veritable pig out trying a variety of dishes at each specialized stand.  #72 had many of our favorites – the popiah, which is like a moo shu, but better, a freshly made thin-skinned roll of sauteed white radish, hard boiled egg, and some crunch bits, plied with a smear of spicy garlic sauce; expertly charred satay served with a vibrant peanut-chili sauce; and rotisserie wings that were stretched and burnished for smoky, juicy flavor.  #73 changed my mind about oyster omelet from a previous fear of slime to a study of crisp and tender delight.  #28 specialized in carrot cake, which is not carrot but white radish, not unlike the cakes on the dim sum cart, but more of a freestyle, yummy, sauteed mess.  An evening well spent after almost two days of airplane food.

-Killiney Kopitiam – A great way to start the day – kopi and kaya toast.  Kopi is coffee with condensed milk.  Kaya toast is what I consider a butter sandwich – toasted white bread is slathered with coconut jam, which is more like the egg-y custard in an egg tart than coconut, sandwiched together holding a pat of not quite melted butter.  A “plate” is served with soft boiled eggs, which are made in some special machine, topped with soy sauce and white pepper.  Delicious.

Chendol – How I found room to entertain dessert on my last night, I’ll attribute to sheer will.  A snowball of shaved ice hides red beans, corn, and grass jelly in coconut milk.  Dark palm sugar syrup tops the ice, as does the mysterious neon green silly string.  As multi-textured as what I’ve come to expect from Singapore.  And I have yet to have roti, rojak and chili crab.  Something to look forward to next time!