Friday, April 29, 2005

panseared salmon

So, a funny thing happened while I was pan-searing today. Let's just say I'm happy there was no eyebrow singeing.

According to various magazines, it's no good to eat farmed salmon. The difference between farmed and wild is that wild salmon spend a lot of time exercising and eating sea things, and farmed salmon are fat lazy fish. Restaurants prefer the farmed salmon because they are fattier and are moister and much more forgiving than wild salmon. But, as the credo goes, more flavor, smaller portions, and more appreciation.

The Perricone diet suggest four servings a week. Well, eating salmon is no problem for me. Recently I've become a lot more fond of raw salmon, and have had many cravings for Mangia's Seared Tuna Nicoise Salad. Turns out that my Pan-seared Salmon is just as good and flavorful as Mangia's Nicoise. I just needed a flavorful fish.

So, with meaning to pan-sear, I marinated my wild sockeye salmon (very red!), apparently the more naturally red the fish is, the better it is for you. I feel like I'm repeating a T.V. program I've seen on this. Farmed salmon doesn't give same benefits as wild salmon. Wild salmon is extremely pricey, though.

Pan-seared Wild Salmon Marinated in Honey Soy Citrus sauce with Avocado Salad & Vinaigrette.

1 lb Wild Salmon
2 T Soy sauce (Japanese)
2 t Wildflower honey (a theme is emerging)
1/2 Lemon juice freshly squeezed
1 t Sesame oil

Put everything together in a container and left it in the refrigerator for several hours. Then I heated up the nonstick pan on high. I'm certain if you do this right, you won't get the same result. I melted about a tablespoon of butter, and when I put the fillet on, there was a pan fire. I'm pretty sure that pan-searing does not involve high bright orange flames. So, to be on the safer side if you're going to use butter, add a little olive oil as well, and stay back.

Searing takes only a few minutes (1-2), and with wild salmon it cooks extremely fast, depending on the thick or thinness of the fillet it’s only a minute or two since the inside will be raw still. Serve with mixed greens, ripe avocados slices, and your favorite balsamic vinaigrette. This should serve about two portions for dinner. Make sure you include some fresh fruit and maybe some nuts for dessert.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005


The cherry blossoms are open at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.

Apparently they've been on the verge of opening all week, but I've been a bit distracted. In Tokyo, this is a wonderful time where the Japanese become a lot happier. I wonder if it reminds them of falling in love.

Or getting really drunk with their friends and/or co-workers.

Hanamae means flower in Japanese. In Tokyo they have hanamae parties, where they sit under the cherry blossom trees and have picnics. I'm sure young lovers have the more romantic type, and others have the ones more focused on drinking. Many Japanese people have a very low tolerance for alcohol in my personal experience.

A very easy and common picnic food is Onigiri or Rice Balls, as they say in English.

Onigiri is simply the equivalent of a sandwich in America. Meaning, you can put pretty much whatever you want to taste as the flling. Or as my Japanese friend calls it, "your treasure."

Making these can be very easy with the aid of an Onigiri shaper, which can be bought at Sunrise Mart. However, it's equally easy shaped in some plastic wrap.

Optional is a piece of nori. One needs to cut up nori squares into elongated rectangular strips.

Joy's Tuna Salad Avocado Onigiri

1 cup of cooked Short-Medium Grain Nishikin rice (I use a rice cooker)
1/4th of a small onion finely minced
1 can of tuna
Mayonnaise to taste
Spicy mustard to taste
freshly ground pepper
lemon (optional)
1/2 ripe haas avocado large diced
3 sheets of nori cut into long rectangles

Onigiri shaper or plastic wrap

The architecture of the onigiri is like this: pad of rice, tablespoon of filling, second pad of rice. Squish. Most onigiri are formed in plump triangles, or flatten spheres. Also, please note that the filling needs to be flavorful enough so that the rice

For me, two or three of these babies will fill me up for lunch. They travel pretty well. Another thing to note is keeping the nori separate until you're going to eat the onigiri, otherwise it gets a little moist and less crunchy.

Other fillings I enjoy: spicy tuna salad (use the chinese chili condiment to mix with the tuna), bonito and american cheese. You can also season the rice with rice seasonings and mix it up and have no filling (no treasure!).

Suggestions for a Japanese Picnic:

Thermos of Ice Jasmine Green White Peach Tea
Fresh Melon slices

A few Japanese phrases:

Oishi - delicious
Onaka ippai - I'm full

and don't forget Itadakimasu! Which is a sort of thank you for the food meaning literally, "I will receive," but means roughly "Let's Eat!"

Monday, April 25, 2005

The Burger Bonanza

The Burger Bonanza

"Why eat it if it hasn't any cheese on it?"

The great thing about food is that it can be as exciting as something like, say, birdwatching. I'm serious, birdwatching can be a complete adrenaline rush. Not that I particularly birdwatch, but think about the thrill of finding that elusive special rarely seen bird.

Although I'm no diligent birdwatcher, I take much pleasure in finding the best eats in the city. I have a mental catalog which I finger through whenever a particular craving comes to mind.

One hunger features strongly when the weather turns warmer: the burger, and in my case, the cheeseburger. Why eat it if it hasn't any cheese on it?

I have to admit, I haven't been chasing the burger trail as much as one would expect a foodie to, looking for that great American hamburger, but it's difficult when you've found what you consider already the perfect burger.

The Burger Joint (housed in Le Parker Meredien) is my favorite place to go to for a delicious eat. Just one fills me right up, then add in the fries and chocolate milkshake and I'm up to about feeling "oof". Features include mustard with zing, satisfyingly fat pickles, and made on the spot milkshakes. I find it extremely reasonably priced for New York. The Burger Joint is cherished by many not only for the burgers, but for the slight irony of a local collegiate-like hangout in the swank all mirrors and marble Le Parker Meredien hotel. There is only burger or cheeseburger here, vegetarians can take their business elsewhere.

The Shake Shack which is actually vegetarian friendly, has a "special sauce." Run by well known Chef Danny Meyer, and voted Best Burger from the New York Metro, I did have to try it. This smallish, but very tasty burger does have that nice crispy edge to it; what I would like to call crunch meat bits. I'm definitely going back, but it did more damage than Burger Joint. Pluses include outdoor dining in Madison Square Park. I also heard a new art exhibition is opening up in Madison Square Garden soon.

The Corner Bistro I checked out this weekend with a chum. Weighing at 8 oz. of beef, this meat beast of a hamburger was too much for me to handle. I ate half, heaved a heavy sigh, and gave up the fight. Again, with the irony. Bistro sounds very snooty, but the place was quite the opposite. The scene was a little too rowdy for me on a Saturday night. Chum said that the bar was serving burgers well into the night, so that's worth noting if you'd like an extremely large burger.

Woefully, I might add, is In-n-Out burgers missing here in Manhattan. Why, when we have dozens of McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King's, but no In-n-Out? Any fellow Californian will vouch for me on this one, that In-n-Out has a very special place in our hearts. For those of you whom have never had the happiness of an In-n-Out burger, it's not only the burger, which is great, especially Animal style (with minced caramelized onions), but also the fact that so many others have felt the exact same happiness with their burgers, shake and fries, arranged in the exact same configuration, and a little too hot for their lap to handle, in the same white thin open cardboard box.

Another burger place to note in the city according to my friend is Puck Fair, which does a good burger and beer deal in the afternoon.

Chow happy!

Friday, April 22, 2005

All things Thai-ish

All things Thai-ish

Being half Thai, usually the first comment someone makes about this is, "Oh, I love Thai food." to which I chime in, "Me too!"

Unfortunately, I didn't grow up on Thai food, but rather my mom's version of Chinese food, which probably is rather Thai influenced, and a random assortment of the regular American foods. I was no stranger to Kraft's boxed macaroni.

I am completely and utterly in love with Thailand, and upon returning I immediately asked my mother why she even left. Thailand is so lush, replete with orchids, and as much tropical fruit you can eat ...

Thai's don't quite understand the American enchantment of ripe mangoes with sticky rice. That would be like a foreigner gushing to us, "Oh, I love Apple Pie!"

We would probably say, yes, apple pie is quite nice, but wouldn't you like to try molten-chocolate cake? Or dulche de leche ice cream with ginger toffee crisp and lemon foam? I just made that last one up, but I'm puzzled by all the foam that is going on these days on gourmet plates. Oyster foam, anyone?

Actually, Thai's are well known for their garnishing skills, apparently my mom had to take a class on how to make flowers of carrots and radishes and the like. Being schooled here in America, I took Home-Ec, which taught me nothing I remember.

My mom always had us eat fresh fruit after dinner, which is both a Chinese and Thai thing to be fair. I was fortunate to grow up with my mom's view on eating as much fruit as possible, and Californian produce. One of the loveliest things my mom gave me while I was living abroad both in Sweden and Japan, was that she lent me her fruit knife, which is about as old as me, which she bought on vacation in Japan. I've tried to find one like it, with its sharpness and beautiful but homey design, but to no end. She always would cut up fresh fruit for us on our cartrips, the fresh fruit making the long trips a little bit more bearable.

Last summer I finally got around to trying out and making (by special request) Khao Niew Ma-Muang or Mango with Sticky Rice. This recipe falls into tier 2, which means I don't make it very often since it takes quite a bit of planning and ripe mangoes lying about.

The Thai grocery store in Manhattan is in Chinatown on Moscow and something, you might have to traipse down Elizabeth to get there. First things first. Make certain you buy the sticky rice, and not another kind of rice.

Khao Niew Ma-Muang or Mango with Sticky Rice.

1 1/2 cups sticky rice
1 1/3 cups well-stirred canned unsweetened coconut milk
1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted lightly
1 large mango

Rinse the rice in cold water until the water is clear. This will take around 6 times? Then, soak rice in cold water to cover overnight, or at least 4-6 hours.

Drain rice well in a sieve. Place the sieve over a large deep saucepan of simmering water (sieve should not touch water) and steam rice, covered with a kitchen towel and a lid, 30 to 40 minutes, or until tender (check water level in pan occasionally, adding more water if necessary). If you have bought the

While rice is cooking, in a small saucepan bring 1 cup coconut milk to a boil with 1/3 cup sugar and salt, stirring until sugar is dissolved, and remove from heat. Keep mixture warm.

Put cooked rice to a bowl and stir in coconut-milk mixture. Then let the rice stand covered, for 30 minutes, or until coconut-milk mixture is absorbed. (This is quite cool to watch).

While rice is soaking up the coconut milk, in a small pan slowly boil remaining 1/3 cup coconut milk with remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, stirring occasionally, 1 minute. Transfer sauce to a small bowl and chill until cool and thickened slightly.

About 4-6 servings

I don't make Thai food in general very often, which is quite sad, but I think I'm a little intimidated by the many many ingredients in order to make their very lively and tasty pastes, which are the basis of a lot of wonderful Thai recipes.

I'm going to have to investigate the Khanom Jeen situation at the Thai grocery store, and I'm still looking for that perfect Khao Soi recipe.

As they say in Thai, Gin! Gin! (which means eat! eat! as my Thai Aunt would encourage.)

Thursday, April 21, 2005

wowza the steamer basket

Wowza, the steamer basket!

I woke up extremely late this morning since I was formatting and editing this website (ask me about my 3 in the morning coding epiphany if you're nerdy enough to rejoice with me on this one) until the wee hours of the morning. Instead of breakfast, I've got "healthy lunch".

I lived in Tokyo for about a year, and that has heavily influenced my kitchen habits: eating, and utensils etc, in addition to my Asian (Thai-Chinese) upbringing. So this morning, still under the Perricone credo, I scanned my memory for things appropriate to this diet.

I actually cheated yesterday eating Grammie's Macaroni & Cheese from The Chip Shop, and to be fair, I *tried* to eat the protein first. I nosed under the gooey buttery mac 'n cheese to the sausage bits and ate them *with ketchup* which qualifies for that weird thing where the more processed tomatoes are, the healthier it is in fighting cancer. Don't ask me why, I just read the articles.

I still feel like a beginner with cooking. I am known among my friends for being a good cook, but as usual, my method in life is picking the most complicated things to do first, and bumbling around a bit, instead of being a more traditional learner and start out with something simple. Like when I started with knitting lace, hmmm, yes, that was a wee bit confusing, or submitted poems to The New Yorker (rejected! And they only allow you to submit every 6 months).

In any event, this is why I was overawed by the steamer basket this morning!

I eat lightly salted edamame (in pod, in situ, the hairyness is so much more fun), as my veggie/protein supplement as often as I can remember to eat it.

First, I buy frozen edamame from the Japanese Grocery Store Sunrise Mart, you can usually buy them for $1 a bag, and then cook up half a bag (since I am only one small Joy), and depending on how hungry I am, eat most of it, and refrigerate the rest for quick snacks.

You'd be surprised, if you're not from Manhattan, how much Japanese restaurants will charge you for edamame, upwards to $8. Criminy.

I noticed my roommate had steamed her asparagus the other morning in the steamer basket. I had made aspargus-edamame risotto the other day and used the boiling method.

Asians are big on steaming. We steam rice in rice cookers, steam to finish off cooking dumplings, most of dim sum is steamed in bamboo baskets, tied up in banana leaves. My mom has me steam cook the tops of my eggs (as evidenced by yesterday's posting), you steam sticky rice to make fabulous mango sticky rice. I've heard you can steam veggies atop of rice in your rice cooker. I'm a little suspicious still, but haven't tried it yet.

The traditional way of making edamame is steamed in one of their pretty straw woven baskets which you can buy at my favorite Japanese outlet store, again Samurai on Grand St., cross street Mott.

However, I usually just boil water and then throw in the frozen edamame for 3 minutes, but that's only after the pot has come to boil.

How to Make Edamame - Steamed Fresh Soybeans

This morning I boiled one inch of water, which of course came to boil really quickly, plopped down the steamer basket, which always looks like a fun metal flower blossoming and closing alternately, and put in half a bag of edamame. Then I set the timer for 3 minutes. I also covered the pot for the full steaming effect.

I was completely astonished how quick the whole process was. At three minutes it was still a little too crunchy for my taste. My friend Lynn prefers them that way, but I prefer a little softer than that, so within 1 more minute voila! Edamame strewn with sea salt.

Other efforts at health included a mango lassi. However, mango is on the inflammatory list for Dr. Perricone (sorry!), but organic yogurt is on the plus list. However, there is a lot of sugar in mango lassis, admittedly, but that's why they taste so good. I had a spot of iced jasmine-green tea, and I zapped some shu mai I bought at Sunrise Mart, which have shrimp in them. Perricone highly suggests salmon or crab, shrimp is my mild attempt to get along with his recommendations. Remind me to put up my roasted garlic salmon and goat cheese dumplings with french mustard recipe up eventually.

One thing that bothered me to no end were Swedish ceramics when I lived in Stockholm. They had no little bowls for garnishes or sauces. Swedes generally have some gravy sort of sauce or flavored butter (Swedish butter is divine!). However, if you're going to eat shu mai or dumplings, you really need a dipping bowl to control over-salting or over-moistening your food.

Going along with the French Women Don't Get Fat edict, my breakfast set up is very prettily. Here are some things I bought from Samurai to help me Japanize my kitchen for very little money (most items cost around $1.29 - $5).

Used in my lunch today bought from Samurai:

2 straw baskets, one for edamame, one for edamame empty shells
1 pair of orange stripey chopsticks (no Jared, you can't have them)
1 pink plastic small bowl (so many uses)
1 green plastic child cup
1 wooden Japanese style mat

It might also help that everything they sell is quite small, which helps you eat less, I think.

Used in my lunch today bought from Sunrise Mart (The East Village location is less expensive than Soho)

Frozen Edamame
Itoen Jasmine-Green Tea
Frozen Shu Mai

Another thing that Perricone suggests is that all spicy things are very healthy for you. I had the chance to try unadulterated harissa on my omelet the other day, woo, too spicy! I decided this morning to add some hot chili sesame oil to my soy sauce and dab a little harissa on my shu mai.

In light of the no white flour rule, I think that they should start making brown flour wrappers since all dumplings are usually wrapped in white flour skins. Although the amount of skin is pretty minimal in shu mai, not dumplings/potstickers/gyoza/mandoo though.

For the warm weather I'm going to post a few of my favorite combating summer heat cool drink recipes.

Mango Lassi

Mango pulp (buy at Indian/Pakistani stores)
Whole Yogurt (the Indian yogurt was the best, but try to buy yogurt that doesn't have pectin)
Skim Milk

The ratio is 1:3 mango pulp to yogurt, then thin it out with milk, and add sugar to taste. I bought a great little plastic pitcher, again, from Samurai (I'm crazy about that store I tell you). Since the plastic is clear you can eyeball everything, then I just snapped close the lid and shook it until everything was mixed, and I used a chopstick too (heehee, so Asiany).

White Peach Iced Jasmine-Green Tea Frappe

Itoen Jasmine-Green Tea (it comes in 2 liter bottles at Sunrise Mart), use maybe a liter
Ripe white peach (skinned, peeled, I suppose you could freeze them too)
Tray of ice cubes
Peach nectar (Goza)
Mint leaf for garnish (optional)

The ratio of tea to juice is about half and half. Using a blender with a stellar ice crusher function, blend together. You can get about 3-4 glasses from this concoction. A glass of this sold at Afternoon Tea in Shinjuku for about $8. Another option which is more Chinese-y is to use Litchee Juice insteach of Peach, etc. al.

Mango Lime Fizzer

This is inspired of the sorbet sipper at Haagen Daaz

Mango nectar (again Goza)
Perrier (get lime flavored if possible)

Ratio is 1:1 for the fizzer, I never realized Perrier has such delicious little bubbles. Garnish with an orchid if you'd like.

Another variation is peach nectar with perrier, serve over ice and a few fresh raspberries on the top.

Strawberry-Cranberry Frappe

1 tray of ice
Cranberry juice
Half a bag of frozen strawberries

Just blitz it up, it's very yummy.

How to glam up your drinks

It's simple, buy straws. Serve these drinks over ice or not, but in a long slim glass with a straw and with a garnish that makes sense.

Those are my main summery cooling off drinks. To finish off my healthful lunch, I'm going to eat a quartered navel orange sprinkled with cinnamon and pecans. Itadakimasu!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

open face italian sandwiches

Since this is my first foodblog entry, I think it's only fitting to start out with breakfast and an introduction.

I've always loved food, and have always loved writing. Quite a bit ago, I considered foodwriting as a career, but then turned back to poetry for my main energies in writing. However, life has given me some oh-not-so-subtle hints that even though poetry remains my first interest, I will always be writing about food as well.

I think that a lot of creative writers are also very interested in food. I know that Maya Angelou has recently released a cookbook. My private theory on this matter is that I'm a complete sensualist, and food is one of the nicest ways to indulge the senses. I think that that's the charm of reading for me: I get surrounded by this whole world of someone else's imagining.

For now I'll be writing from Manhattan, but in a half a year, I'll be somewhere else, certainly. In the meantime, please enjoy all my recipes and tips on where to get food, or where to eat in the Manhattan/Brooklyn stomping grounds.

How I got started on cooking:

My 3rd year of college, I moved into a co-op, called the Zu, no, not like Tillsammans or Together as it's called in English, but it was about 20 people, and we cooked with a partner every two weeks a complete dinner for around 30 people, since people were always bringing guests. The main point of the co-op was to eat Vegetarian and heathily. It was quite the crash course in cooking. I spent a lot of time asking my mom for advice on how to make things over the phone to California.

My mom brought us up on a fantastically healthy diet of Asian foods. We always managed to eat vegetables and fruits with every dinner, and those habits have thankfully followed me into adulthood. However, my mom mostly only cooked Asian food for dinner, and after leaving for college my palate quickly became more international, and now I crave nearly every cuisine under the sun. This makes it difficult to have the correct pantry. Due to budget concerns, my pantry is Asian, and from there I can quickly make Chinese, Thai, Japanese, and Korean. I'm drawn to Burmese, Vietnamese, Indian, Sri Lankan, as well, but I'm not as familiar with cooking those cuisines. Recently I have gotten into cooking Middle Eastern food after visiting Bamiyan. In Stockholm, when I visited in February, I also ate at Pascha's Deli, and had a very delicious mezzo, which made me long to be able to make the same sort of food at home, and for less money.

Living in Sweden and Japan also caused me to cook a lot more. Here in New York, it's pretty simple to buy a meal for around $10 or less, but due to financial constraints and much more expensive dining in Europe and in Tokyo, I was forced to figure out how to make food for myself. Thanks to Mom I realized that for the largest part I wanted to cook healthy delicious food.

While living in Lund with Swedish University students, we often got together for dinners and cooking for each other. It was a really cozy habit, and one I'm sorry we don't do as often here in the U.S. The easiest, of course, was pasta, and even easier was making something with a cream sauce. I am not against cream in the least, but I do feel like sometimes it can be the easy way out to make a dish taste good.

Recently my older sister Jan told me that pasta is not even a main dish in Italy, but just an appetizer. This seems to make sense, in this fanatical Atkin's crazed time, that pasta is too carbohydrate heavy and should be eaten in smaller portions.

In terms of my tiers of recipes, the first tier is fast, delicious, and healthy. Maybe I'm the result of modern times and quick paces, and fast food culture, but quite often I'm already hungry (not a good start) and tired and just would like to eat something within about half an hour. The second tier is recipes that will take more preparation and time. The third tier is gourmet recipes, which are generally more richer with more expensive ingredients.

All in all, I find cooking to be a relaxing activity. It's a low stress way to be creative and at the end you have something Iovely and delicious to share with yourself and loved ones.

Lately, I have been reading The Perricone Prescription I stumbled upon his book through Oprah (such an influential lady) since he had a list of fruits and vegetables and how they beautified, protected, and nourished different aspects of your body. Things I remembered were like watermelon improved your natural SPF, and eating pumpkin gave your skin a rosy glow! I love those kinds of tangible details.

The short of it is to eat lots of fruits and vegetables that have noninflammatory properties (which cause your skin to act up), and to eat lots of salmon. The other "lesson" I culled from the book is to eat protein first to prevent raising my blood sugar levels too quickly. Heehee, well I used to eat cupcakes first before eating, but I guess I'll have to save those for later in the future.

After a visit to Samurai, a Japanese outlet store I regularly frequent, I went to DiPalo's, my absolute favorite Italian deli. Finding an Italian deli was a fruitless search when I lived in Orange County, but here in New York City, there are more than a few places. DiPalo's treats you with small town warmth, and that is very hard to find these days.

I bought spicy soppresata, prosciutto di parma, boccocini (bite sized mozzarella), a wedge of parmesan reggiano, and marinated artichokes.

This morning I put together this delicious breakfast, open faced Italian breakfast sandwiches, served with honeydew chunks (part of the Perricone recommended diet), and iced jasmine-green tea (green tea is full of antioxidants).

Open Face Italian Breakfast Sandwiches

Two slices of multigrain bread from Bread Alone
Two eggs from Sunrise Mart
Six small bite sized fresh mozzarella balls
Two thin slices of prosciutto di parma

Freshly grated parmesan
Wee bit of butter
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

As with the best of cooking timing is everything. Piece apart the mozzarella balls, and put them atop the the two slices of bread and put them into the toaster oven. Put a tiny bit of butter in the nonstick pan, fry the two eggs, before they set entirely sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper and parmesan. Turn on the toaster oven to medium high toast. Finish the tops of the eggs by adding a little water in the pan and cover to steam until water is evaporated entirely. Transfer the two slices of bread with melty mozz onto a plate, top each with one egg, with the yolk still tender, top with prosciutto slices.

I'm still trying to get used to eating a solid breakfast, but I think it's a good start. Bon appetit!