Easy Like Sunday Morning

Rise and shine!

Sunday morning breakfast has become something of a ritual ever since Dr. J and I got together. I usually whip up something easy, like pancakes and bacon or eggs, bacon and hash browns, and he makes the coffee, sets the table and grabs the morning paper. (Yes, we still get a physical newspaper, and no, we’re not 80-year-olds.) I also like to put on some music, perhaps a little Django Reinhardt (okay, fine, maybe we are kind of like 80-year-olds).

Over the years, I’ve tinkered with several pancake recipes, like banana caramel, lemon ricotta and chocolate chip, and sometimes mixed it up with Belgian waffles, challah French toast and Danish ebelskiver.

But I’ve finally settled on a recipe that I know will be my go-to in the kitchen, mainly because it doesn’t require running out and getting extra ingredients–you should have everything on hand already. Besides, grocery shopping in your PJs? Not cute.

Lazy Sunday Pancakes
(adapted from Allrecipes.com)

3/4 c. milk
2 tbsp. white vinegar
1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
2 tbsp. melted butter
1 c. fresh blueberries or other fresh fruit (optional)
1 tbsp. canola oil for pan
Silicone pastry brush

  1. Combine the milk and vinegar in a small bowl and let it sit and curdle for five minutes.
  2. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Whisk egg and butter into soured milk.
  4. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and whisk until smooth.
  5. Gently fold in blueberries or other fruit if you like.
  6. Heat a large skillet over low-medium heat, and brush lightly with oil.
  7. Pour 1/4 cupfuls of batter onto the skillet, and cook until bubbles appear on the surface. Using a spatula, flip and brown on the other side. Makes enough for two very hungry people or four semi-hungry folks.
A couple of tips: I like to keep the pancakes warm in the oven on a cookie sheet while I go through the whole cooking process. Also, if you have any left over (unlikely), just stash them in the fridge and pop them in the toaster tomorrow morning.

Here’s a little Django to go along with breakfast and ease you into the day. Happy Sunday!

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Let’s Go Shopping: Jewelry Good Enough to Eat

Gettin' all tarted up. Via Fab.com

 

Do you shop those flash sales from Gilt.com, Groupon and the like? I’m more of a casual “flasher” if you will, meaning I usually browse whatever is out there on sale but only buy occasionally. Most times, I come across things that I either a) would absolutely buy if I had cash to burn, which, let’s face it, is mostly everything or b) would probably never buy but think is cool/funny/innovative anyway.

Today, I checked out Fab.com’s daily sale and saw a few cool items from Amy Jewelry, a San Francisco-based indie jewelry maker who repurposes everything from dollhouse accessories to spices. The fruit tart necklace above is just one example of Amy’s quirky designs.

A couple of other fun things that caught my eye:

Shi-shi sushi necklace (via Fab.com)

With this ring, I thee eat (via Fab.com)

Test tube earrings filled with salt and peppercorns. Talk about spicing up your jewelry wardrobe! (via Fab.com)

 

So yeah. When I say this jewelry is good enough to eat, I wasn’t joking in some cases. The test tube S&P earrings would certainly be functional if you want to surreptitiously season food served at a dinner party, or if you’re up Bland Creek without a paddle while eating lunch at work. The others, however, are just plain fun.

What do you think? Would you ever wear food-inspired jewelry?

 

 

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Kitchen Conundrum: Storing Cilantro

Herb your enthusiasm

I confess: I’m not very good at food planning. Whenever I go to the grocery store, I often break the cardinal rules–that is, shopping without a list and with an empty stomach. My rumbly tummy and brain often have conversations with each other that go a little something like this:

Brain: “Hm, let’s see. We have lots of ingredients at home for lasagna, so let’s grab the necessary extra ingredients to round out what we need. A batch should last us for at least a few days, so we save money, stay well fed, and don’t risk having extra food going to waste in the fridge.”

Tummy: “Lasagnaaaaaa! Oh, that sounds good. You know what else sounds good? Mexican food! And that Japanese soba and shrimp recipe from Cooking Light that we love so much. How about that giant roasted pork shoulder and salsa verde recipe we made last year? We could do that, too! And look, all these herbs are on sale, maybe we could just grab a bunch and come up with some crazy fun meals “Top Chef”-style and blog about it! Can we also get some Ben & Jerry’s? Oh hey! Oreos are half-off! Don’t we have a coupon for that somewhere in our purse?  Let’s wander each and every aisle to make sure we’re not missing out on any amazing deals!”

Brain: (pauses and sighs) “Ok, whatever you want.”

Tummy: “Yaaaay!”

My wallet, on the other hand, takes a beating as I leave the store with a giant cart of food I didn’t really intend to buy.

Anyway. I digress. Somehow, magically, most of the food I bring home gets eaten, but any fresh herbs I’ve bought invariably go to waste. You know how it goes–one minute, you have a nice, green bunch of cilantro, the next, it’s turning into smelly black mush held together by a twisty tie.

Eventually, after my stomach gets filled with food upon returning home from the store, my brain starts working again. Recently, I brought home some cilantro, and, fearing I wouldn’t get to use it much before it started to turn, I untied it, chopped off the ends, and stuck the entire bunch into a Mason jar (as shown in the picture above).

I tented the veggie bag over the cilantro, like so:

Take cover!

..then stuck the whole thing in the fridge. I took these pictures about a week and a half ago, and the cilantro is still going strong after a water change or two. I’ve also used this technique with Italian parsley, and I’m sure it would also work with basil and other herby things.

Granted, this isn’t a groundbreaking stuff–I’m sure if you Googled “storing cilantro” you’d find the exact same advice. I guess I’m just here to tell you that yeah, it works. So…there ya go.

The end.

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Around the World In 80 Bites: Peru

Sometimes, the travel bug sneaks up on you and bites you when you least expect it. The other day, while watching an old episode of No Reservations, I thought about, as I always do, what a lucky bastard Anthony Bourdain is. Not only does he get to travel the world, he also gets to eat foods that most, if not all, normal people will never get to taste in their lifetime. Usually, I’m ok with that. He’s a celebrity chef, and I’m not. I get it. But a little part of me still makes me sad that I’ll probably never get to see even a quarter of the countries he’s been to, even though I’ve traveled quite a bit myself.

I know, wah, wah, join the freakin’ club. Most of us will never make it to China, Ghana, Liberia, Iceland, Laos, Romania, Turkey, Brazil, Cuba or any of the ‘Stans. But then again, the U.S. is such a melting pot of cultures teeming with ethnic restaurants and food-tiques that your palate could probably do the traveling for you.

Today, let’s go to Peru, shall we?

Peru: the land of llamas and damn good roast chicken

My office in Falls Church, Virginia, is dangerously close to a little eatery called Super Chicken. Blink and you’ll miss it if you’re driving–and if you do find it, you might be put off by its postage-size parking lot its no-frills decor and, let’s face it, its superlative title. After all, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

Not so in Super Chicken’s case.

But first things first: What is it about Peruvian chicken that makes it so special? After all, it looks like your everyday, run-of-the-mill rotisserie chicken. I didn’t even realize chicken was a mainstay of Peruvian cuisine until I moved to the DC area.

First, the chickens are seasoned with an amazing combination of unidentifiable spices.  I do detect traces of lemon, cumin and paprika, though, as well as salt and pepper, natch. Even though I’ve been to Super Chicken countless times, I’ve never mustered up the courage to ask for the recipe that makes this pollo so super, but my research reveals that some key ingredients that may not be readily available in your local Safeway are achiote, a peppery and nutty red spice, and huacatay (pronounced wa-kah-tee), a type of Peruvian black mint.

Second, the chickens are slow-cooked on spits over a blazing charcoal inferno, like so:

You leave Super Chicken smelling like this rotisserie grill, but damn, it's worth it.

Third, the chickens end up being incredibly moist and delicious, and when you add the special green dipping sauce (supposedly, this “aji” sauce is made with aji chiles, a Peruvian hot pepper, but Super Chicken’s is most likely made with good ol’ jalapeno peppers), you’re halfway there to a decent South American feast. Add a side of fried yuca (aka cassava root, a starchy tuber) with a tangy mayonnaise-y dipping sauce and a simple green salad with ranch-buttermilk dressing, and you’re all set.

If you really want to go all-out, wash it all down with Inca Kola, a  Peruvian soft drink that looks like diluted anti-freeze but tastes like cream soda. ¡Buen apetito!

Liquid gold

Super Chicken
422 S Washington St
Falls Church, VA 22046
(703) 538-5550

http://www.yelp.com/biz/super-chicken-falls-church

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For My Lady Readers: Hollywood Beefcakes

Meat market madness (via Slate.com)

I don’t (usually) make it a point to openly ogle male celebrities, but I saw something funny on Slate.com that definitely needed a mention. Being a fan of meat cut charts in general, I just had to click on it. As you can see, this very informative article, complete with an interactive meat chart, rates certain hot male celebrities as if they were cuts of beef. Degrading to men? Maybe. Entertaining? Supremely so. I admit that I’m a little out of the loop, as I’m not quite sure who Chris Hemsworth is or why he’s famous, but I was mostly amused by the writers’ use of meat cuts and grades as metaphors for hunky Hollywood actors. Very clever, if not sexist.

I like my men like I like my steaks: Rare and well-seasoned. Needless to say, my husband would be a hanger steak, which is my favorite cut because, in my humble opinion, it’s the best-tasting of the bunch. Aww.

The word “beefcake,” however, brings to mind another kind of dude who’s just as entertaining to watch. Although he’d be graded “unfit for consumption:”

BEEFCAAAKE!

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In the News: Can Ice Cream Be Racist?

Ben & Jerry's newest flavor got a pretty frosty reception.

Ben & Jerry’s is at it again, stirring sh*t up and getting reamed about a controversial flavor. (Remember the hullabaloo over Schweddy Balls? Yeeaah.)

Last Friday, the iconoclastic ice cream company announced it would release a new flavor in honor of Jeremy Lin, the New York Knicks‘ star point guard and the NBA’s first Taiwanese-American player who everyone and their mother is talking about right now, at the Ben & Jerry’s Harvard Square location. Seems appropriate, right? Especially since Lin went to Harvard and pretty much put its basketball team on the map.

Well, apparently, the move had consumers crying foul because of the flavor’s ingredients: vanilla frozen yogurt, lychee honey and (gasp!) fortune cookie pieces. The backlash was so swift that you’d think Ben & Jerry’s printed a caricature of a kung-fu fighter wearing thick round glasses and a Fu Manchu moustache on the carton. People started complaining that the use of fortune cookies was inherently racist (and soggy). The use of lychee, which is a Southeast Asian fruit, also ruffled some feathers. Ben & Jerry’s ended up replacing the fortune cookie pieces with waffle cone ones, but kept the lychee honey element.

Ben & Jerry’s issued an apology via (several) Twitter posts following the bad press, saying:

“On behalf of Ben & Jerry’s Boston Scoop Shops, we offer a heartfelt apology if anyone was offended by our handmade Linsanity flavor that we offered at our Harvard Square location. We are proud and honored to have Jeremy Lin hail from one of our fine, local universities, and we are huge sports fans. We were swept up in the nationwide Linsanity momentum. Our intention was to create a flavor to honor Jeremy Lin’s accomplishments and his meteoric rise in the NBA, and recognize that he was a local Harvard graduate. We try to demonstrate our commitment as a Boston-based, valued-led business and  if we failed in this instance, we offer our sincere apologies.”

The inspiration behind Ben & Jerry's latest flavor. And no, I will not combine "Lin" with "inspiration."

So, as a food lover and an Asian American, I have a few thoughts on this kerfluffle. First and foremost, I’m not entirely sure how delicious the combination of lychee honey, fortune cookies and vanilla yogurt would taste. Not exactly the strongest flavor, I’d imagine.

Second, I’d like to point out that if there is anything that is truly Asian American in this combination, it’s the fortune cookie. According to food historians, fortune cookies originated in Japan and Chinese immigrants were responsible for making them popular in the United States, in particular in the San Francisco Bay area. In fact, many Asian-American restaurateurs were all clamoring for recognition as the first to invent the cookie.

Chinese-American author Amy Tan also pointed out the American-ness of the fortune cookie in her bestselling book, “The Joy Luck Club,” when two immigrant Chinese women start working in a fortune cookie factory and find the baked good to be rather humorous and, well, foreign.

And journalist Jennifer 8. Lee explored the history of the cookie in her book, “The Fortune Cookie Chronicles” in a bid to show “how Chinese food is more all-American than apple pie.”

If anything, they should have nixed the lychee honey altogether  and maybe added something more fun, like Harvard crimson sprinkles or M&Ms in Knicks colors or something. Although I would probably steer clear of Twinkies and bananas. Now THOSE would be offensive.

Better yet, they should have asked Lin himself what he would like in his namesake ice cream.

Do you think “Taste the Lin-sanity” was racist, or do you think people should calm the heck down already? What would you have put in a Lin-inspired ice cream flavor?

(Also, for all you basketball fans out there, here’s an interesting post on Dr. J’s blog about Lin by a fellow Californian and Asian American who, like me, hasn’t bought into “Linsanity” fad quite yet for various reasons.)

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Oscars 2012: Let Them Eat Gold

Wolfgang serves up a golden opportunity.

Watching the Oscars is kind of like watching the Superbowl for me–I usually don’t keep track of the major players throughout the year, so I’m not really that invested in who wins and who doesn’t. But I might tune in if I’m with friends and there’s food and alcohol involved. Especially if there’s alcohol. (I also enjoy praising/jeering actresses’ red-carpet sartorial choices, but that doesn’t really fit into the whole Superbowl metaphor.)

This year’s Oscars was all right, I guess, but it got to be more fun with each glass of cava I downed with my friend AJ. But what I REALLY would have liked to see was what Wolfgang Puck was going to serve at the Governors Ball.

“You can almost call it Wolfgang’s greatest hits over 30 years,” Puck said in a recent Reuters report.  “This is the perfect menu because there’s something for everybody.”

Indeed. Among the more interesting menu selections:

Pork belly dumplings with soy and ginger

Lobster taco with tomato and pickled shallots

Chicken pot pie with shaved black truffles and roasted vegetables

Shanghai lobster with coconut curry, jasmine rice and pickled ginger

Chinois lamb with cilantro-mint vinaigrette

Earl Grey tea truffles

Chocolate-dipped Pop Rock cakes

And, of course, the traditional 24-karat chocolate Oscars and the smoked salmon on Oscar-shaped flatbread with caviar and crème fraîche. Yum!

Here’s the shopping list for the entire menu, which comprised more than 50 small plates, main courses and desserts:

  • 1,300 farmed oysters
  • 5 kilos of American farm-raised caviar
  • 1,450 pounds Maine lobster
  • 7,500 U.S. shrimp
  • 30 gallons cocktail sauce
  • 1,250 stone crab claws
  • 10 pounds of black winter truffles
  • 20,000 pieces of California-grown micro greens
  • 6,000 pieces of mini brioche buns
  • 5,000 cage-free eggs
  • 200 quarts heavy cream and 200 quarts milk
  • 800 pounds L’Etoile du Nord bittersweet chocolate
  • 25 pounds edible gold dust

What really caught my eye, though, was the 25 pounds of gold dust, which brought to mind Billy Crystal’s one-liner early in the broadcast: “Nothing takes the sting out of a recession like watching millionaires present each other with gold statues.”

In the course of my research on what Chef Puck served after the Oscars, I came across some coverage highlighting some criticism from Joel Berg, a food poverty campaigner with the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, regarding the use of real gold in dishes served after the Golden Globes. He pointed out the irony of giving rich Hollywood types expensive, extravagant food for free while people stricken by the severe recession were struggling to get a decent meal, which, okay, yeah, I get. It’s a Marie Antoinette-like situation, and someone’s head might have to metaphorically roll for it.

Of course, that didn’t stop Puck, ever the pro, to deliver a sumptuous meal while also tempering the extravagance with social consciousness. Apparently, all the ingredients, with the exception of a few items, such as the lobster, were locally sourced, and all the leftovers were  donated to a local homeless shelter.

Still. What do you think? Is real gold a little much, especially at more than $135 per gram? Is it necessary to dust it on desserts served to celebrities after awards shows, especially during a recession?

I don’t have any answers. All I know is that, contrary to what the tabloids tell us, celebrities are NOT like us. After all, no one I know poops pure gold.

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