Tag Archives: recipe

Strawberries with Melted Chocolate / Salinas Valley Farmland Pix

Quick, what if you don’t know what to make for dessert and you are feeling ultra-lazy? Melt some dark chocolate in a metal bowl floating in simmering water, wash and hull some strawberries and call it a day! That’s the recipe. I served this to some friends – spooning the chocolate over strawberries. Pretty effortless.

Strawberries with Melted Chocolate

And where do strawberries grow? you may be wondering. Why, many grow in the Salinas Valley. Coastal California dominates domestic and international strawberry production with Watsonville/Salinas crops representing nearly half of California’s total strawberry acreage.

Conventional strawberry production is associated with the potential use of methyl iodide. Monterey County, which includes the Salinas Valley, is primarily agricultural and very poor. I was surprised to learn that it is supporting a potential ban on methyl iodide since strawberries enjoy the status of being a billion dollar crop.

This chemical is the subject of enormous controversy  complete with its own government scandal at the moment. The conflict may very well subside: the Strawberry Commission and the state are studying how to grow strawberries more safely without methyl iodide. This could be good news since strawberries have the potential to be cancer-preventing on one hand but would be causing cancer on the other hand if methyl iodide is used to grow them.

Anyways, here are some pix from my recent visit to America’s Salad Bowl. Is it fair that it is so darn fertile as well as stunningly gorgeous?!!? Being there is like stepping into a Georgia O’Keeffe painting.

Organic Strawberry Plant Closeup

Rows of Organic Strawberry Plants

Ye Olde Barn

Salinas Valley Farmland, against Hills with Clouds

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Chocolate Bark with Almonds (makes you look like a genius)

Bitterweet Chocolate Almond Bark

I made something like last winter to give away for the holidays but thought I’d tweak it into something less sweet, and more ingredient-centric. Some people really really LOVE it. But it’s not going to be your cup of tea if you like stuff really sweet. Because it’s not. Rather, it’s just sweet. (you can use “regular” chocolate if you want it sweeter).  And that is what drives the people crazy. Here goes! (oh and a Warning – many of the recipes on this blog are designed with an eye towards frugality – but this is not one of them).

Ingredients:

1 lb dark chocolate; (I used the 72% from Trader Joe’s, it’s $5.00 for 17 oz);
3/4 lb toasted unsalted almonds; ($3.00 of a $4.00 bag from Trader Joe’s);
1/2 cup of dried sweetened cranberries; (about 1/2 of a $$4.00 bag from Trader Joe’s);
1 cup of chopped dried unsweetened apricots; (about 1/2 bag from Trader Joe’s)*

Tools:

sauce pot;
very clean stainless steel bowl;
fork;
parchment paper;
water.

Fill a broad sauce pot (10″ radius or greater) until the water level is a few inches from the top. Simmer. Do NOT boil. Place the stainless steel bowl in the pot and make sure that the water makes good contact with the bowl. The bowl should float.  Break the chocolate into chunks, then drop them into the stainless steel bowl.

Tear off enough parchment paper to cover a cookie sheet.  Let the chocolate melt. Mix the almonds and dried fruits. Pour everything onto the paper. Allow to cool for a few hours and eventually, cover it with parchment paper. Move chocolate bark from the cookie sheet to a cutting board. Cut. ENJOY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

ALTERNATE ENDING: for those of you who enjoy white chocolate, use that! Might want to use salted almonds to balance out the sweetness usually associated with white chocolate.

*I have also purchased the Mariani dried apricots from Costco, for about $3.50 for 2 lbs…they are VERY sweet and wonderful for this bark too!

Miso Butter Asparagus Tart Experiment (why does David Chang have to be an evil genius?)

Miso. Butter. Uh…those are the ingredients for…miso butter. This is why David Chang is an evil genius. Way back when he was just a non-famous kid*, learning all about ramen in Japan, he happened upon the Sapporo stylings of miso ramen: finished off with a “knob” of butter and some corn. David notices the flavor combo is  crazy good.  He and his friends abbreviate the flavor insanity to miso + butter. Well,  I have both butter and miso in the fridge, so why not? Doesn’t cost me anything.

What does miso butter taste like? It tastes so good it’s just WRONG!!! The umami in the butter melds with that of the miso to create this uber-umami whirlwind of deliciousness.

He has a fancy recipe for poached eggs with miso butter on asparagus, in his Momofuku book – I decided to try something more basic, elemental: why not just go for the miso butter as the major taste?

Miso Butter Asparagus Tart

Ingredients: (these are very very approximate measurements, due to this being an experiment)

  • 1 yellow onion;
  • two or three handfuls of asparagus pieces**;
  • 1 sheet of puff pastry;
  • 1 tablespoon of dark miso; and
  • 2 tablespoons of butter.

Slice a whole yellow onion and saute until translucent. Allow to cool completely.  Wash and slice the asparagus spears. If they are thicker than 1/3″, you may want to halve them.

Take the puff pastry out of the freezer and allow to thaw for the required time. Cut the puff pastry into modest rectangles (like 3″x2″) – I was using Pepperidge Farms puff pastry, which yields about 12 pieces. Transfer the pieces to a cookie sheet.

Melt the butter in the microwave – try it like 15 seconds at a time – and mix in the miso. Mix. Mix. Mix. Baste the miso butter onto the puff pastry with a brush. Put a thin layer of carmelized onion onto the pastry. Then top with the asparagus pieces. Baste the asparagus with yet more miso butter.

Set your oven to 425 Fahrenheit. (I fiddled with the temperature, all the way down to 350 at one point). Bake. Remove once the puff pastry has puffed (about 15 ~ 20 minutes, depending on how heavy the asparagus and onions are).

Remove, and wait for praise and adoration!!!

Notes – I cooked this in an oven with a see-thru door to help keep a vigilant eye over the tarts so that they did not burn too much. The miso burns mercilessly fast.

Taster Feedback:

One taster (who weighs no greater than 110 lbs, I believe) ate portions intended for three adults in one sitting! One taster complained that the tart should be more attractive, perhaps with carrot or something pretty. One taster liked the flakiness of the pastry and the nice taste of the asparagus and how it was all bound together with the miso. All tasters eagerly ate MULTIPLE servings!

* His dad ran golf businesses and David played competitive golf as a kid…I guess he had to get out because he could read the writing on the wall when Tiger Woods‘ face would be on the brochures…for the tournaments he was competing in!

** The asparagus in the picture consists only of the tips because I had used the stems for another dish. I was lucky enough to find it on sale for under $2.00 per pound during a weekly special. You could probably swap in summer squash or even scallions for a more frugal take.

P.S. Here’s a link to the Kitchen Window story from yesterday that has some background info on miso (and hastened my decision to post about my miso butter experiment)!

Low-Carb Experiment #1: Tofu Bok Choy Hot Salad

Is there anything good about carbs? Results from a recent study suggest that a low-carb diet may be better for your heart than a low-fat diet. I guess you need them at times for quick energy…but last time I checked, my work tends to be about sitting at a desk, and less about running after animals or other more athletic pursuits. So, I’m eating fewer carbs.

One of my favorite preparations of tofu, yudofu,  is nearly zero preparation at all: slice a tofu cake into large-ish pieces; simmer in some water* to soften; serve with rice and garnishes of katsuobushi, sliced green onions, and soy sauce. That’s it! I love the simple, beany flavor of the tofu that is inexplicably sturdy enough to stand up to these aggressive garnishes. Hint: make sure you really like the tofu you are using, because you definitely be tasting it. This is not a matter of hiding or camouflaging it!

That spirit of simplicity made me think of eating tofu with gingery bok choy. Mainly because I bought a ton of baby bok choy and tofu in the fridge. I’m going to call this a hot salad.

Hot Tofu and Bok Choy Salad**


Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb of baby bok choy, sliced into halves; (about $.85, since it was $1.69/ lb at ye olde Ranch 99 Market);
  • 1/2 cake of tofu, torn into large pieces; (about $.45 at $.89 for 1 cake);
  • 1/2 cubic inch of ginger sliced into matchsticks (pennies, $1.59/lb);
  • soy sauce (pennies); and
  • vegetable oil.

(total cost per serving: .45 + .85 + miscellaneous pennies for soy sauce and ginger = 1.30 + X = under $1.50 per serving.)

The baby bok choy cook very quickly. Wash them. Halve them. Heat up a skillet. Slice the ginger into small, matchstick-like pieces. Once the skillet is medium hot, throw 1 teaspoon of veggie oil in the middle of the skillet. Spread the oil by lifting and angling the pan (or just smearing the oil with a bit of paper towel). Throw the sliced ginger into it. (I always love the smell of frying ginger!) Let the ginger cook for about 2 minutes, flipping it with a spatula a few times. This will infuse the oil with the fabulousness of the ginger. Throw the baby bok choy into the skillet. It will wilt immediately. Cover the skillet with a lid, and turn off the heat. You are basically steaming the veggies.

Next, open a package of medium-firm tofu. Tear the tofu with your hands, into large-ish pieces. I just like the way the torn tofu looks for this dish…you can of course cut it into cubes. Put the tofu on a plate and…microwave it! Yes, I said, microwave it – it’s already cooked, so it’s now just a matter of heating it up. This prep is the ultimate in laziness! Depending on the strength of your microwave, this might be for 1 minute to 90 seconds. Ladle the bok choy, with whatever gingery-liquids that developed in the skillet, onto the tofu. Drizzle generous amounts of soy sauce. Done.

When I ate this, I felt strangely satisfied. It’s very plain, but for me, tofu is a comfort food. Can’t get much simpler than this!

* I guess some use dashi – but I’m accustomed simmering it in plain old water.

** If there is such a thing as a roast beef salad, I think I can name this a salad too. The word “salad” is rooted in the use of salt to flavor veggies.

Tropical Influenced Fruit Salad (major hit with no added sugar!)

Maybe I shouldn’t even tell you about this. When I served this, I saw my friends taking seconds and THIRDS. No lie!

The major work of this consists of the chopping, chopping, chopping. And removing the pith and peel from the oranges takes quite a while. Or maybe I’m just slow with the motor skills. And no, I don’t think a food processor is going to help you here.

Tropical Influenced Fruit Salad – I did it MY WAY!

  • 1 can of chopped pineapple, with juice;
  • 3 Gala or other sweetish apple (I’m sure Delicious varieties would work well too);
  • 6 Navel oranges;
  • 3 firmish bananas;
  • 1/4 cup of coconut milk; and
  • dashes of cinnamon.

Mix everything. And then chill. I think I garnished this with five or six latitudinal slices of the navel oranges.

I was actually planning on making my Grandma’s Cranberry Salad, but there were no fresh cranberries in the supermarket the day I went shopping. There are a few caveats with this salad. First, the more orange juice/pineapple juice you put in, the less time the salad will last.* I am guessing that something about the acids versus the coconut milk causes a breakdown in “vinaigrette” over time. So, this’ll probably last about 36 hours after making. Oh, also, my can of coconut milk had the floaty bits caked on one side. This meant that it wasn’t so much milk as a nearly-solid cream. This turned out to be a boon because it ultimately helped me control the moisture content. The clear coconut juice doesn’t add a lot (in my humble opinion) of flavor, so, I would not add it in.

Makes 20 servings – by this I mean, my seven or eight friends eating this kept getting more and more and more…enjoy!

Photo Credit: one of my happy diners!

*2009 Update: you could reserve the apples and the juices until just a few hours before serving, to save on time.

Clam Rice

The content for this post (photos and recipe below) arrives courtesy of a guest blogger: my father. He calls this dish “Clam Rice.” And I agree that it is. But what about a name that includes the green peas? See, mame gohan refers to green peas and rice. And gomoku takikomi gohan refer to putting a whole bunch of stuff in rice. But what if you only have two things you are adding to the rice? Oh the calamity!

Clam Rice

Clams:

  • Pour 1 cup of water in a large pot.
  • Place the pot on a stove and set it to HI heat.
  • Put the clams in the pot.
  • Shake the pot to bring the opened clams to the top and the unopened ones to
    the bottom.
  • Once all the clams open, they are done.
  • Remove the clam meat from the shells.
  • Use a teaspoon to detach the adductor muscles.
  • Using paper towel as a filter, pour the clam juice into a container.

Rice:

  • Prepare to cook rice at a rice-to-water ratio between 1:1.2 and 1:1.5,
    according to your preference.
  • Discard 1 cup of water from above.
  • Pour 1 cup of clam juice.
  • Place the clam meat on top of the rice.
  • Cook the rice.
  • When the rice is done, place a handful of fresh or frozen peas on top of the
    rice.
  • To cook the peas, cover the rice pot for an additional 5 minutes.
  • Distribute the clams and peas evenly with the rice before serving.

Taking corn soup beyond the package


It’s easy to prettify a 32 oz package of soup. The Pacific Natural Foods Buttery Sweet Corn soup was only $1.00 at some food outlet.

Minced two stalks of celery. Had some sauteed onions in the fridge, so threw in 1/2 cup of that. Found a stray sweet potato. Wrapped it in some cling film and nuked it for about 6 minutes. Chopped up that sweet potato – kept the skin on because it adds a nice color. Served the soup piping hot, and encouraged diners to drop a little square of Tillamook Cheddar in the soup. Many happy eaters! The additions here help dilute the serious sweetness of the soup.