5 November, 2012 § Leave a Comment
The last 5 months have been terribly busy for me. Between moving house, my responsibilities at work tripling and studying for the GMAT, I barely had a free moment to eat, let alone cook anything. I just kept my head down, nose in the books/computer and my mind focused on the November 3rd 12:45 test date. So, November 3rd at 12:00am, I decide, in my typical anal retentive way, that I am going to make sure I have everything lined up and ready, including making sure my name is exactly the same on my ID as it is on my test registration. To my horror I realized I had registered for the test in my married name, I didn’t have my drivers license (lost) and my passport was still in my maiden name. After much scrambling, I realized I was going to have to get a new drivers license the next morning. Of course I panicked at this thought because it was so late and I was not going to be able to do the full GMAT ritual I had planned for myself. So, I had to think fast. I ended up sleeping 6 hours, waking up early to be first in line at the DMV, rushing home, sleeping another 2 hours, eating something and then heading to the GMAT with a carafe of iced coffee for in-between sections. The test felt really hard throughout and I was sure I bombed, so, imagine my surprise when I not only managed to not get the 580 I kept dreading I would get while taking the test, but beat my highest practice test score of 660 with a 690. My hands were shaking so badly when I got done that the proctor had to sit me down for a few seconds before my hand would stay still enough to get the palm print.
While I am contemplating taking the GMAT again to get a better balance between quat and verbal, I was told to take the weekend off, and I decided to do just that. So, after I stopped shaking, I came home and Tom took me out to tapas, then dinner, followed by a movie at home. Today, however, I didn’t quite know what to do with myself. As is often the case when this happens I decided we needed to run all the errands I had been putting off for the last few months and I was going to finally make that bean and kale stew I have been wanting to make that I just hadn’t had the time for. This stew is what came of it and I must say, it is a glorious stew for rainy days, which, I guess, makes it a perfect Seattle stew.
One quick note – Do NOT add salt until after the beans are cooked. If you do, it will make the skin on the beans tough. I know most people think this is an old wives tale, it’s not, trust me. I did an experiment with this back when I was in college, Myth Busters style. I made one bag of beans in two separate pots with the same amount of water and heat. I added salt to one and not the other. The beans with salt had a much tougher skin.
2 bunches of Dino Kale
1 lb Cannellini beans
1 bunch scallions (or 1 small yellow onion)
6 oz chorizo (1 cup chopped)
4 cloves garlic (or 8 small)
1/4 cup white wine
8 cups chicken stock
1 liter boiling water
Step 1: Place a dutch oven over medium low heat.
Step 2: Dice the chorizo into centimeter dice, slice the onions into roughly centimeter size pieces and smash the garlic.
Step 3: Add the chorizo to the pan and allow to render until a fair amount of the fat has abandoned the meat.
Step 4: Add the onions and sauté for 8-10 minutes or until soft and stained red with the chorizo drippings.
Step 5: Add the garlic and sauté for 3-5 minutes or until you can smell it but not until it’s too brown.
Step 6: Add the 1/4 cup of white wine and let reduce until the wine is all but evaporated.
Step 9: Simmer for 1.5 hours or until liquid reduces by half.
Step 10: Add the 8 cups of chicken stock
Step 11: Boil for another 1.5 hours or until the beans are soft
Step 12: Chop the Kale, leaves and stems, into centimeter wide slivers and mix into stew. Add more water if the stock has become too thick.
Step 13: Add a tsp of salt (or to taste).
Step 14: Boil for another 20-30 minutes or until the kale is soft and and delicious.
Step 15: Apply to face
Coming up next, I will try and finish up the posts from the Florida and European vacation.
2 July, 2012 § Leave a Comment
For my birthday dinner we all went to Havana Harry’s, a Cuban restaurant near our home in South Miami. I miss Cuban food terribly while in Seattle as there are no Cuban restaurants, so whenever I come home I try and make up for lost time. Now, there are many great Cuban restaurants in Miami, ranging from cheap as chips to sell a kidney expensive and I am proud to say that I have tried a great many of them. My favorite, hands down, is Havana Harry’s. It is a moderatly priced restaurant in what used to be the old Tony Romas building, in a non glamorous part of South Miami; but for me, it is a portal to Cuban heaven!
Mariquitas con mojo. My dad used to get these everytime we went to dinner at a restaurant called Lila’s as children so they have a nostalgic factor for me and had to be ordered. Sadly, Lila’s is gone but thankfully, Havana Harry’s makes mariquitas that are just as awesome! For the Cuban food rookie this dish consists of thinly sliced plantains, deep fried and served with a mojo, or lime and garlic sauce. Absolutely divine!!
Vaca Frita Sampler. This is my favorite dish in the restaurant. It is three different kinds of Vaca Frita; beef, chicken and pork. Tom also loves this and usually eats half of my plate regardless of whether or not we are sharing it. This time, when I ordered it, Tom asked “What does Vaca Frita mean?” I replied with “Fried cow.” Which got the most hilarious look from him followed by the most obvious question, ”Why do they call it fried cow of chicken if it doesn’t have cow?” The truth is that Vaca Frita, while meaning fried cow, is more of a proper noun than a descriptive name. This one is my favorite in Miami at the moment, if you don’t count my mom’s! The onions are fried till they are soft and slightly sweet but not caramalized and the lime and garlic is not too over powering. The flavors are perfectly balanced and the shredded meat is crispy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside.
Morros con Cristianos y platanos maduros. Literal translation – Moores and Christians and ripe plantains. The Moors and Christians refers to the black beans and the white rice that are fried, together with pork fat to make one amazing dish!! The plantains were your average plantains but the Morros con Christians were the real stand out. This dish can often be too dry or too wet, getting it right is really hard and they get it right here! Only complaint I have is that I wish there were more pork in it.
Bistec Empanizado. A very thin beef steak pounded wafer thin, breaded and pan fried. I usually hate this dish at restaurants and only eat it at home, mainly because the breading is improperly applied and separates from the steak leaving the whole mess a dry leathery steak with greasy breadcrumbs. Here, however, it is a tender, well seasoned, skillfully coated and fried piece of meat. The coating sticks beautifully to the steak and the whole thing is tender and moist, even eaten out of the fridge the next morning.
Chicken with mushrooms and cheese. This was my least favorite dish. It was good, but there was entirely too much cheese, making it too heavy for my taste. However, if you are the kind of person who is into mushroom bacon cheeseburgers you will love this dish!
Churrasco Salad. This salad was completely unexpected. The blue cheese was a not so traditional addition but it worked and the churrasco was very well seasoned and well cooked. In a city of super models it’s important to have a great salad and they nailed it with this one!
Guava Cheesecake. I will start by saying that this was delicious. Guava and cheesecake go together very well. I will also add that this picture shows HALF of the serving they brought us. It is almost double what you would get at the cheesecake factory. Portions here are huge overall but this was just a bit rediculous! Order this one for a family of 4 and you might, maybe, be able to finish it.
The world famous Quatro Leches cake. Ok, maybe not world famous, but at least famous in our family. By the time I managed to get the camera out and fight the spoons away so I could take a picture the vultures had eaten almost all of it, but you get the idea.Quatro leches is a sponge cake that is soaked with a mixture of Sweetned condensed, evaporated and whole milk and allowed to soak for 24-48 hours. Then, it is topped with dulce de leche or milk caramel. Hence, 4 milks. This one is bested only by my mothers and mine.
Flan. This was everyones favorite. It was dense yet creamy and sweet yet slightly bitter and salty. All the things you want in a perfect flan. It was shocking really because we had never ordered this dessert, always going with the Quatro Leches instead. Big mistake! As amazing as the Quatro Leches was, we were all fighting over the last few pieces of the Flan and I barely managed to get the picture taken. The most perfect end to a highly anticipated meal!
1 July, 2012 § Leave a Comment
In an ideal world, every Sunday would begin with a Dim Sum brunch, and being an idealist I strive to live up to this ideal. So, when my sister mentioned we should do brunch for my birthday and I realized that my birthday, July 1st, fell on a Sunday, the choice was clear. What wasn’t clear however, was whether or not Miami could provide a Dim Sum restaurant worth going to… As it turns out, my aunt knew a place in Miami that she recommended highly and Yelp corroborated her enthusiastic review. So, we decided to try Tropical Chinese.
Tropical Chinese is named for Tropical Park, which is directly in front of it, not because there are girls in Hula skirts serving Mai Tais and egg rolls (as I had feared). The dim is great for Miami and decent from an international perspective. Scroll down to see the highlights of my ideal Sunday brunch.
They called these juice buns. They absolutely were not juice buns as in there was no soup to be seen. They were however tasty in their own right. If you eat them expecting a pork dumpling you will be happy.
Chicken and Mushroom steamed bun. This was a decent bun. The filling had good flavor but was VERY compact and tiny in proportion to the bun. The bun was perfectly steamed and the dough itself light and airy in texture, as I expected.
Shrimp Rice Noodle. These were excellent. The noodles were soft and the shrimp was tender and not overcooked. I can’t speak for the sauce that usually comes with these as we asked for it without the sauce. I don’t really like sweet sauce on my shrimp noodles.
Fried shrimp dumplings. These were ok, nothing special or exciting. Just a won ton wrapper stuffed with shrimp and fried.
Chicken and thousand year old egg congee. This was a super surprising dish. It was delicious!! The texture was spot on and the thousand year old egg gave the porridge the perfect hum without over powering it. One of their best dishes. I would come back just for a bowl of this.
Custard buns. These were a favorite of the whole table, not because they were stellar buns but because, well, I mean it’s a custard bun who doesn’t like custard?! That said, these had an interesting coating that was as if someone had mixed powdered sugar and egg whites and coated the top with it. It was very pleasant. The custard however was a bit on the over done/scrambled eggs side. Still, decent flavor on these.
Bean Curd wrapped around pork. These were excellent. The flavors were bang on with what I was expecting and was very similar to what I get in San Francisco or Seattle.
Pan Fried Shrimp Dumplings. These were also excellent. We had the steamed dumplings as well, but they all lacked flavor and the texture was off. These on the other hand were AMAZING!! The flavor and the texture were spot on. My favorite dish of the meal. I wish they had them in my neighborhood Chinese place in Seattle!
Overall, this was a great Dim Sum experience in Miami and I would return. I am however curious about Kon Chau, another Chinese restaurant that is right across the street from this one. Might have to try that one next and compare!
PS Please forgive my less than stellar photo skills, I am still learning how to use the iPhone camera in a restaurant situation.
1 July, 2012 § Leave a Comment
I am currently on holiday; visiting my family in Miami, then we are headed to Captiva and then to Paris and London. Given how much good food I will be sampling I thought it would be great fun to share my gastronomic adventures with all of you here. So I will be posting my pictures and restaurant reviews for you to enjoy and how knows, if you are ever in this part of the world you will have a few personal recommendations from yours truly! As a special treat I will also be blogging a couple of my mom’s meals with recipes and all!
12 June, 2012 § Leave a Comment
There is nothing more Cuban than black beans and rice. Period. Not even sugar or cigars. Therefore, whenever I came home from college a little too white washed my dad would say I needed an infusion of black beans and rice. Whenever we had our non-Cuban friends over for dinner and my mom served this dish, they were always offered an honorary Cuban certificate after completing a bowl of arroz con frijoles.* These beans, served with white rice and lechon, are the quintessential Cuban party meal. This recipe is one that I have pieced together from watching different members of my family prepare this dish and eating it at many a Cuban restaurant in Miami.
3 cans Black Beans (Goya is preferable)
3-4 cans of Water (use the same cans the beans came in)
1 Yellow Onion – Sliced
3 Cloves Garlic – Minced
1 Tbs White Vinegar
1 Tsp Sugar
1/2 Tsp Oregano
1 Tsp Salt (or to taste)
Olive Oil to coat bottom of pot – preferably Spanish Extra Virgin
Place large pot over high flame, add olive oil, onions and salt.
Sweat onions for a minute or two then add the garlic and saute until they are integrated, about 30 seconds.
Add the beans, water, vinegar, sugar and oregano.
Allow to come to a boil and then reduce heat to low or whatever temperature is required to sustain a simmer.
Once the beans have reduced to 2/3 taste and adjust seasoning. Continue to cook until they have reached the desired consistency. Serve with white long grain rice and apply to face.
*A picture of you eating this will get you a digital Honorary Cuban Certificate from yours truly!
12 June, 2012 § 1 Comment
In Cuban cuisine, Lechon refers to a whole pig marinated in mojo and cooked either over a fire or, as is more common now in Miami, in La Caja China. Now a days, however, the name is used as a sort of blanket term for any pork roast cooked in mojo. It is the main dish at almost every Cuban party and it is what my family and I ate at almost all our family gatherings. The smell of this roasting in the oven transports me back to my childhood and the happy times when my grandparents and father were still alive and I didn’t have a mortgage and a job. This particual roast I made for a dinner party I had at my house last weekend with some dear friends of mine Rachel and Omeed. They had taken me to a “Cuban/Puerto Rican” restaurant in Seattle and after tasting the food there I told them I had to make them proper Cuban food so they’d know what they were missing. The recipe I present to you below is what I made for them. I learned this recipe from my mother and grandmother and I have adapted it to make up for the unfortunate lack of sour orange in the Pacific Northwest. If you are somewhere were you can get Sour Orange replace 4 limes for two sour oranges.
5-6 Lbs Pork Shoulder Roast with Bone and Skin still on
1 Head of Garlic Minced (2 tablespoons)
1 Onion Sliced
2 Tbsp Cumin
1 Tbsp Kosher Salt
1 tsp Cracked Black Pepper
Slice the skin on the pork so that you slice through the skin and expose the fat. It’s best to not cut all the way to the meat but don’t worry too much if you do. Pierce the flesh with a knife 8-12 times.
Rub the roast well with salt, pepper, cumin and garlic. Rub it in well, making sure that you get it all the cuts and piercings you have made in the roast. Once it’s had a good massage, place it in a large baking dish with a sliced onion, squeeze the limes over the roast, cover it with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge.
Remove from fridge 2-4 hours before cooking, uncover and allow the skin to dry and the roast to come to room temperature.
Preheat oven to 500 and cook for 30 minutes. Turn oven down to 275/300 degrees and cook for 30 minutes a pound. If the skin starts to get too brown cover with aluminum foil and continue to cook until the internal temperature reaches an internal temperature of 155 degrees. If the skin has yet to turn brown and crispy turn the oven to broil. Watch it very carefully as it goes from brown to burnt in minutes.
Once the roast is done allow to rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with and avocado and tomato salad, rice and beans** and apply to face.
*I am not being paid to link to La Caja China’s site and I have no relationship with this product or it’s owner/inventor.
26 April, 2012 § Leave a Comment
About 6-8 months ago I discovered a spicy tilapia dish in my local Sichuan restaurant that has completely changed my view of fish. It is called fish filet boiled in chili sauce and it will blow your mind, not to mention melt your taste buds straight out of your face. It has quickly become one of my absolute favorite dishes in the world and I crave it at least once a week. What’s really odd about this is that I used to hate seafood. I ate it only when I was trying to be virtuous, but on the whole, I really didn’t like it. However, after a few months eating this, I now find myself craving seafood of all description. My favorite fish is undeniably tilapia. Sadly most people find tilapia boring, which is a downright shame because tilapia is a fabulous fish. It has a lovely delicate flavor that surprisingly enough stands up to strong flavors and a wonderful, almost sensual flaky texture. Just as importantly it is also sustainably farmed, affordable and really, really good for you as well as the earth.
This dish was the result of one of the above mentioned seafood cravings and the joyous return of spring weather to the usually damp and grey Pacific Northwest. After all the stews and roasts of winter/fall, when the weather turns, we begin craving something lighter and fresher; these Mediterranean flavors were just the ticket. I used scallops in this because I had some in the freezer that were nearing the end of their use by date but you can easily go without them. This feeds 2-3 people depending on how gluttonous you are feeling.
4 Tilapia filets
6 Diver Scallops
5 Campari tomatoes, halved
1 Serrano chili
1 Habanero chili
4 Piquillo Pepper or 2 roasted red peppers, from a jar.
10-12 Kalamata Olives
1 Small jar of Marinated Artichoke Hearts
1 tbs Capers
1 tsp Garlic – crushed (about 4 cloves)
5 tb Italian Parsley – finely chopped
1 1/2 Lemons, zested and quartered
Salt to taste
Preheat oven to 450F.
Blitz a bunch of parsley in a food processor. You will be using a lot of it in this recipe so just do it once for both dishes. Remove the chopped up parsley from the food processor and without washing it out add the chilis, garlic and peppers.
Remove from the food processor and put in a small bowl.
Add in the zest of the lemon, 5 tbs of parsley and mix to combine.
Oil a sheet pan or roasting tray.
Next, spread the fish out in one even layer and tuck the lemons around them.
Place in the oven and roast for 8-12 minutes or just until the fish is cooked through and flakes apart.
1 tablespoon of Olive oil
1 tsp Garlic
1 Lemon – zest and juice
2 tbs Finely diced Parley
1 tbs Capers
More Parsley for garnishing
Place a pan over medium heat. Add the oil and the lemon zest. Let cook for 15-20 seconds or just until you can smell the zest. Next add the garlic and cook for another 10-15 seconds.
Remove from heat and parsley.
Next and the lemon juice and capers and stir to combine.
Serve along with the fish, whose lovely juices compliment and entwine beautifully with the pasta. Apply to face.