Weekly Salad 20: Fresh Peas with Lettuce

 

 

The summer season is finally here and I’ve been trying to fit as many u-pick dates as I can for the various fruits and vegetables that are available in our area. Our first picking took place at Rowe’s Produce Farm in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Like good ol’ city folk, we got up at sunrise and headed out to the fields to pick their strawberries as well as their peas. Picking peas is not so bad because they’re usually clustered together. Shelling them wasn’t bad either (better than shelling favas, that’s for sure).

Fresh peas are a real treat if you can get them. They have a firm flesh that is not as starchy as canned or frozen ones tend to be. They’re nice any way you prepare them – steamed, sautéed or boiled. For this salad, gently steam the peas until they’re just cooked and toss them with lettuce and top with a poached egg for an easy and delicious salad.

 

 

With the green shells, I made a quick soup by cooking them with some chicken broth, one small peeled potato (to add body to the soup), one garlic clove, some onion, and S&P until soft. I blended the whole thing and strained it through a sieve. You can add a little milk or cream to the mix before serving. Nothing to waste – rien ne se jete.

 

PEA SHELL SOUP

 


ADIEU EVERYDAY COOK

 

 

On Saturday, June 21, Pierre and I ate our last lunch at Everyday Cook in Kerrytown – downtown Ann Arbor – it was the restaurant’s final day before closing. It was a bittersweet time for us as we appreciate what they were doing there, providing fresh, inventive food from a daily changing menu featuring local ingredients. I ordered Chef Brendan’s Chicken & Chorizo Paella with Peas & Roasted Red Peppers and Pierre ordered the Pork Tenderloin with Quince Aioli & Orange Asparagus Salad. Both were great. I wish I knew how the quince aioli was made – it tasted divine. We also shared a St. James tart with none other than KitchenChick – who, incidentally, sat at the same table as us. We wish the chefs and the owners much luck and hope that they find another food venture that can excite people the way Everyday Cook did.

Check out these blog posts:

Picking strawberries and peas from Four Obsessions

Fresh peas two ways from KitchenChick

 

Bon appétit!

 

Andalucía Calling

 

flamco1

 

Several weeks ago, we joined our friends Gina and Raphael, along with Gina’s parents, Ricardo and Anna Maria, for an evening at Ann Arbor’s Performance Network. That night, Valeria “La Chispa” Montes and Company performed the music and dance of flamenco. La Chispa and Company are a local flamenco group based in Detroit and were in Ann Arbor for a one-night special performance. We felt really lucky to catch this group as flamenco is something both Pierre and I love. Sometimes, I walk around the house with my arms in the air while stomping my feet, saying “Eso!!!” Actually, we both do.

La Chispa truly rocks because she embodies all the things I love about artists and dancers — the fire within, the physical strength and balletic grace. She and her company of guitar players and guest dancers will be performing this summer in Detroit’s Concert of Colors on July 19 at 2pm. You won’t regret seeing them at this great event and, who knows, you might even spot in the audience a very small Asian chick struttin’ around with castanets.

Below are photos of La Chispa and Company taken by Pierre.

 

flamco2

 

While watching their performance, I really felt transported to Spain, even if it were only a short while. Although I’ve never traveled to Andalucía or any part of Spain, I somehow felt a bit homesick for this part of the world I’ve only known through its food, music and dance. I was this close from booking the next flight to any city on the Iberian peninsula. Luckily, my good friend Carmen had gifted me some dried Chufa nuts (aka tigernuts) that she brought back from her last trip to her home country. I used them to make one of my favorite drinks – horchata.

 

horchata1

 

In Spain, chufas are used to make a lovely and refreshing drink – Horchata de Chufas, a Valencian specialty. This nutty, milky drink is just what I needed. With this hot, humid spell we had, it was an even better treat. Horchata is also made all over Latin America with various ingredients like rice, almonds, sesame seeds, to name a few. Horchata made from chufas has this unmistakable earthy scent and nutty flavor that is very different than horchata made from other ingredients. If you travel to Spain, you can purchase them at candy shops that sell frutos secos. Here, in the States, one place I’ve found selling chufa nuts is La Tienda, where you can order them online. The recipe below is from their site.

 

horchata2

 

HORCHATA DE CHUFAS – SPANISH TIGERNUT MILK

recipe from La Tienda

INGREDIENTS (approx. 1 liter)

  • 250 grams chufa nuts (about 7 ounces)
  • 1 quart (liter) of water
  • one cinnamon stick (optional)
  • 1 tsp grated lemon peel (optional)
  • about 1 cup of sugar (try the recipe with less the first time – you can always add more!)

STEPS:
For one liter of Horchata, soak 250 grams of chufa nuts in water for 24 hours. In a blender, grind the nuts, water, cinnamon, sugar and lemon until you have an even, smooth mixture. Let it sit in water for a half an hour. Press and strain the paste to obtain horchata. Refrigerate for at least an hour – then finish it in the freezer for 20 minutes until slightly slushy (optional).

 

tortilla1

 

Another Spanish item that I’ve enjoyed at my friend Carmen’s home was Tortilla. Not the flat, round disks made from flour or corn but a thick potato and egg omelet. It really is amazing how a dish of three simple ingredients of potatoes, eggs and onions can be so good. Served with a plain green salad tossed with salt, olive oil and vinegar, it’s the perfect dinner. Cut into small wedges or squares, tortilla is great for parties or picnics too. The recipe I used is from Gourmet Traveller. You can get the recipe I used and watch a video on how to make Tortilla here.

 

tortilla2jpg

 

TORTILLA

recipe from GourmetTraveller

INGREDIENTS: (6 servings)

  • 1/3 cup (80ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced into thin rings
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 lb (½ kg) boiled potatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 6 Piquillo peppers, drained

STEPS:

To make tortilla, heat 1/4 cup (60ml) olive oil in a 10-inch (25cm) non-stick frying pan over medium heat, add onion and sauté for 3-5 minutes or until softened. Using a slotted spoon transfer to a small bowl, leaving any residual oil in the frying pan.

Meanwhile, lightly beat the eggs in a large bowl and season generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add potatoes, onions and paprika and combine well. Let mixture marinate for a couple of hours in the refrigerator, preferably overnight. Remove tortilla mixture from refrigerator 30 minutes before planning to cook it.

To make tortilla, heat the frying pan again, adding remaining 1 tbsp olive oil, over medium heat. When oil begins to smoke slightly, add tortilla mixture to pan, shaking pan vigorously so that egg mixture amalgamates in bottom of pan. Reduce heat and cook for 4-5 minutes or until mixture all but sets. Place a plate over the frying pan and carefully invert the frying pan so that tortilla is on plate uncooked side down. Return frying pan to heat, carefully slide tortilla back in and cook for a further 4-5 minutes until tortilla is firm to the touch.

Transfer to a serving plate and allow to cool before serving. Cut into wedges and serve with Piquillo peppers and alioli if desired.

¡Buen Provecho!

 

Candied Citrus Peel – Tangelo and Pomelo

 

CandiedCitrus

 

I hit the tail end of the citrus season with a slightly frenzied and frenetic pace this year. It seemed like I was never going to have enough time to make use of all the pomelos, minneola tangelos, meyer lemons and blood oranges that I would gleefully find in the produce aisle. Their beautiful yet brief appearance at grocery stores here in Michigan was one of the few things that kept me from jumping off a bridge in mid-February. Have you noticed how folks who live in or near the tropics are so damn happy all the time? Hello – they have teh sun! I think the way the cold drags on can be downright miserable for some of us (tele-skiers being exempt, of course.)

Oh, it’s not all doom and gloom, friends. Thanks to Jen, I had the inspiration and know-how to make candied citrus peels. Instant sunshine and a little happiness — that is what they bring. What I find most appealing about making this is that it is the ultimate Recycling Addict’s recipe: the fruit is eaten, the peel is candied and the citrus-y syrup left over from the candying process can be used to sweeten lemonades, coffee, tea; for brushing the tops of sweet breads and loaves, for making meringue with citrus flavor, etc.; nothing to waste, or rien ne se jete, as Warda wrote on her post for making candied orange zest.

Tangleos make excellent candidates for candying because their peel comes off rather easy, much like tangerines. Their strong fragrance and striking, almost crimson color add a gourmet touch to any candy tray. Pomelos are a favorite fruit of mine and I was curious about how they would turn out. Luckily, they turned out just as delicious as the candied tangelos.

 

Candied citrus

Candied Tangelos

Sugared

 

I adapted Jen’s recipe to suit my tendency towards eating “less sweet” desserts. Of course, that seems a bit silly since we’re talking about candying fruit. Nevertheless, I prefer to scrape away as much of the pith after blanching the peels (before candying them) because I want to think that less pith means less matter for the sugar to adhere and attach itself to. I sliced the peels only after the blanching process was complete because I found the delicate tangelo peels fared better that way (less breakage). As a result, they were slightly more delicate and a bit more tender than regular orangettes. I think some fruit need to be blanched more than others. I blanched the tangelos three times and the pomelos five times before I felt enough of the bitterness was removed. Also, I did not dip them in chocolate as Jen did but, maybe next time. Lord knows I like to gild the lily. Besides, there’s always another fabulous winter to look forward to…

 

CANDIED TANGELOS and POMELOS

adapted from Use Real Butter

5-6 tangelo minneolas or 2 pomelos
2 3 cups (600g) sugar
2 cups (480mL) water

1 cup (200g) sugar for rolling
or
8 oz (~230g) chocolate for dipping

Harvest the peel by scoring the tangelo vertically along the center (think Earth’s Meridian). Carefully pull the peel back so that you end up with two hollow halves of tangelo peel. Repeat with the rest of the fruit. For the pomelos, score the fruit into 5 or 6 sections and peel back and separate the skin from the fruit. Because pomelos have so much pith, I used a sharp paring knife to cut some of the pith – in a similar manner as I would to fillet fish. (I don’t know if this decreased the number of times I would need to blanch the peels, but I thought it didn’t hurt.)

Place peel halves/segments in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Heat on high until water comes to a boil. Pour off the water. Repeat three times more (or however many times you think is enough to remove bitterness). Once the blanching is complete, use a sharp spoon to [carefully] scrape off some of the pith (as much as desired.) Cut peel into 1/4 (or 1/2) inch [~.5 or 1.5cm] strips.

Combine sugar and water in the saucepan and bring to boil over high heat until temperature reaches 230F (110C). Add peel and reduce heat to simmer. Simmer until peels are translucent (30 minutes or longer). Remove peels from syrup and roll in sugar if desired, and set on rack to dry for several hours. Once the peel is dry, you can dip in tempered dark chocolate – shake off excess, and place on foil, wax paper, or baking sheet to dry. Store in a tupperware, or if not chocolate dipped, store in sugar.

Bon appétit!

 

REDBUD TREES AND THE HURON RIVER AT GALLUP PARK, ANN ARBOR

 

Redbuds and The Huron River

 

 

Poppies, Wildflowers and a Sweet Show

 

pop

 

In my opinion, part of the fun in reading blogs is getting to peak inside (or outside) the world of people you might not normally encounter or get to know. Reading food blogs is especially interesting because it opens you up to culinary ideas and concepts that you might not have considered or perhaps even shunned — like grilling food in the snow (!) or making mayonnaise without killing someone.

I also like seeing food bloggers’ world outside of their kitchen. After drooling over WhiteOnRiceCouple‘s photos, especially those from their recent trip to Antelope Valley and Jen‘s National Geographic-esque portfolio , I’ve found a bit of inspiration to photograph some purty flowers too. Below are photos of poppies off the 15 Frwy in Orange County, California and wildflowers at Joshua Tree National Park.

 

California Poppies in Orange County

2008 Wildflowers Joshua Tree

 

In other news, Pierre and I were honored to be included in the 2008 Festifools Photography Show, organized by über cool photographer Myra Klarman. A reception was held last weekend to celebrate the opening of the show. The photographs will be on display at Sweetwaters (Washington Street location) through May.

 

Sweetwaters Festifool

 

DESERT GOLD AT SUNSET, JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK

JOSHUA TREE AT SUNSET

 

Weekly Salad 13: Gỏi Dưa Leo – Vietnamese Cucumber Salad with Shrimp and Pork…and Some Foolishness

 

Vietnamese Cucumber Salad

 

I mentioned a few times before how special Gỏi is and how different it is than salad here and here. This particular dish has a rather special place in my heart because I once lost some seriously chubby, Asian poundage eating it every week for about 6 months [insert legal disclaimer] as part of a healthy, balanced diet that included plenty of exercise.

Many people, particularly women, gain the notorious Freshman 15 in college. For me, it was more like Freshman 30+. When you’re not even 5 feet tall, that ain’t right, man. Of course, it didn’t help that Asian people (like my parents and their friends) are blunt, careless jerks who will not hesitate to say, “Wow – you so fat and ugly! What da hell happen?”

After many failed attempts at low-carbing, de-toxing, Atkins, etc., I realized that white people’s diets were not going to work for me. I looked at my mom and my cousins and saw that they kept their trim figures by eating healthy, Vietnamese food and by getting out and moving about everyday. They didn’t deprive themselves of food they liked but they understood and practiced portion control and moderation. Another thing they didn’t have was a guilt complex with food. If they had a high calorie or fatty snack/meal, they would enjoy it and balance it with other healthy food and exercise.

I started to eat Vietnamese food again, particularly Vietnamese salad (Gỏi ) – on a regular basis. This proved to be a wise choice as Gỏi can be so varied and interesting; thus I did and have not become bored with eating the same ol’ nappy salad for lunch/dinner — I didn’t *fall off the wagon*. Coupled with regular exercise, I lost almost 30 of those crazy pounds (okay, that number’s fudged a bit since last Thanksgiving, but hey…)

 

GỞI DƯA LEO – VIETNAMESE CUCUMBER SALAD WITH SHRIMP AND PORK –

AKA THE SALAD THAT SHAVED SERIOUS POUNDAGE OFF MY BUM

INGREDIENTS (2-4 servings):

  • 2 large English cucumbers (approx. 2.2 lbs/1 kg), cut into very thin *half moons*
  • 1 Tbl. salt
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 lb. (225g) pork shoulder, poached and then cut into thin strips (the size of matchsticks)
  • 1/2 lb. (225g) shrimp (I use the 31/40 size), poached with their shells on and then peeled once cooked
  • 1 large carrot, finely grated
  • large handful of peanuts, roasted and crushed
  • 1 Tbl. freshly toasted white sesame seeds
  • large handful of Vietnamese coriander (rau răm), stems removed

SAUCE/DRESSING FOR SALAD:

  • 2 red chilies (Thai bird)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • juice of 1 large lime
  • 2 Tbl. sugar (+ more to taste)
  • 2 Tbl. fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup water

STEPS:

Make your dressing by smashing the chilies and garlic in a mortar and pestle. Add the sugar, lime, fish sauce and water. Mix thoroughly to dissolve all the sugar. Taste and add more sugar/fish sauce/lime according to your preference. Set aside.

Using a sharp knife, cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise or and if you have a Japanese Mandoline, use that to then slice it into thin half moons. Add them to a large bowl and toss with the salt and sugar. Allow to sit for at least 1/2 an hour. The salt will cause the cucumbers to weep their water.

Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the ingredients – the pork, shrimp, carrot and garnishes (peanuts, sesame seeds and herbs). Drain the cucumbers and rinse well with water. Next, take a handful of the cucumbers and squeeze and ring out as much liquid as you can. (A potato ricer will also do a nice job of this step.) Mix all the drained and squeezed cucumbers with carrot, pork, shrimp and herbs. Right before serving, toss with the dressing and garnish with the sesame seeds and peanuts. (Preparing the cucumbers this way wilts them but I find them a nice textural contrast to the crisp carrots and tender pork and shrimp and crunchy peanuts.)

Bon appétit!

 

I want to leave you with a few photos I took on Sunday in downtown Ann Arbor where the 2008 Festifools took place. FestiFools brings students and community volunteers together to create unique public art (mostly large, papier mâché ) that is free and accessible to everyone. It was a glorious day with blue skies and warm weather. You can also view some fabulous photos from the festival’s official photographer, Myra Klarman, here.

 

Fesifools 2

 

Happy New Year! ¡Feliz Año!

 

island_park_winter1.jpg

 

I woke up on New Year’s day after a most vivid dream where I was a spicy, Colombian singer named Shakira. I quickly slid my fingers down the sides of my body, actually hoping that I’d find some curvalicious hips and a quarter-bouncing booty. Nope, still Asian over here. After a few minutes of sulking and cursing my ancestors for having dull and shapeless figures, I looked out the window and saw that snow had fallen and collected to form a powdery, white carpet covering our entire neighborhood. We decided to take a drive downtown and stopped by Island Park on the way. Here are a few photos from our cold and snowy walk through the park.

 

is_park_collage.jpg

 

It was a great way to relax after a fabulous night of partying. For New Year’s Eve, we joined our neighbor, Alfonso and his family and friends for a wonderful fiesta de fin de año. We feasted on delicious Colombian, Peruvian and Puerto Rican food while listening to some awesome cumbia music. Our new friends looked on with curiosity as this SAC (Small Asian Chick) continued to heap onto her plate an ungodly amount of food that included roasted chicken with a garlicky, piquant salsa verde, jamón with mashed pineapple, rice with onion and green beans, pork tenderloin in a dill crust, steamed potatoes, coconut besitos and a few more items that I forget the names of.

And what is a fiesta without dancing? Before we knew it, the vino had gotten to us and Pierre and I were right in the middle of the floor, happily breaking out all our salsa and bachata moves; oh yes, all THREE of them. Not to be outdone by us youngins’, Alfonso also took to the floor and showed us how Colombians do it – with gusto, baby!

During the few times I paused from the revelry, I’d scan the room and see Alfonso’s young nephews kicking around a soccer ball, his friends enjoying wine, chatting and laughing, and everyone else, from his 4 year-old niece to his elder siblings, getting down to the music. I cannot fully describe the joy that emanates from Alfonso and his family. The beautiful food, wine, and dancing – it’s simply in their blood. And this, I believe, is why Latin Americans have an incredible edge on all things party-related.

To Alfonso and his family, muchas gracias for an unforgettable evening.

Now, back to the food. I brought some pasteles de guayaba – guava and cream cheese pastries using store-bought puff pastry. Growing up, we had guava trees in our backyard. Two had fruit that were white-fleshed with very few seeds, ổi xá lị, we called them, and one had fruit with a rose-colored flesh with lots of seeds. I loved picking and eating them right off the tree though I wasn’t allowed to eat it as much as I wanted as mother claimed it can be nóng (literally: hot), disruptive to the chemical balance in your body and cause bodily rashes or worse, pimples. She says the same thing of mango, rambutan, lychee, jackfruit and basically any other amazingly delicious fruit I like.

You can imagine the smirk on my face as I stuffed a couple (okay, three) of these guava pastries in my mouth. Hot my arse. As a bonus, these pastries are just as good as the ones you’d find at Cuban cafes on Calle Ocho. ¡Rico y sabroso!

 

PASTELES DE GUAYABA – GUAVA PASTRIES

pasteles_guava.jpg

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • puff pastry sheet, cut into approx. 2.5 inch squares
  • guava paste (pasta de guayaba), cut into 1/2 inch-thick strips, approx. 1/2 inch wide and 2 inches long [I often find these at Latino markets, in round tins next to the membrillo]
  • cream cheese, cut into strips, slightly bigger than the guava strips
  • egg wash (one egg yolk whisked with 1 tsp. water or milk)

STEPS:

  • Preheat the oven to 400F.
  • Place the cream cheese and guava a little off-center on the the pastry square. You may need to push the guava down a bit, into the cheese.
  • Next, fold the sides of the square over the filling and carefully seal the edges.
  • Place the pastry, seam side down onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and brush the top with the egg wash. Repeat with the remainder of the pastry squares.
  • Bake for approx. 18-20 minutes. The tops should be a light golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.
¡Buen provecho!

 

Think Local First

 

CELEBRATE BUY LOCAL WEEK – DECEMBER 1ST THROUGH 8TH

THINK LOCAL

 

Join me in helping Ann Arbor, Michigan’s Think Local First in their mission to support and cultivate locally-owned, independent businesses that are committed to making our community a healthier and more vibrant place to live.

You can pledge to spend 100%, 80%, or as much as you can at locally owned independent businesses this season. As a thank you to those taking the pledge, 10 people will be randomly selected to win gift certificates from a variety of great places like Cafe Luwak, Corner Brewery, Morgan & York, and Kerrytown Market & Shops.

Click HERE to take the BUY LOCAL CHALLENGE, or if you are in Ypsilanti, click HERE to take the YPSI BUY LOCAL CHALLENGE.

Below are a few of the events going on around town:

December 7th, All Evening

Moonlight Madness (Kerrytown, Main St., and State Street, Ann Arbor). Stores open late (most until midnight) with bargains galore. Shop with Santa. Many businesses offer specials during Moonlight Madness only. Some include:

  • 16 Hands Gallery: 20% off storewide 10am until 11pm
  • The Peaceable Kingdom: select items on sale
  • Suwanee Springs: 15% – 50% off storewide all day
  • Collected Works: specials throughout the store
  • Downtown Home and Garden: While Downtown Home & Garden ALWAYS matches boxstore and internet prices on All-Clad and LeCreuset cookware items, they’ll be offering 20% off during Midnight Madness.

December 7th, 6 – 8 pm

Slow Food Huron Valley Holiday Gathering: Finger-food potluck and Michigan holiday wine tasting –Location: 310 S. Ashley (Hathaway’s Hideaway). Bring an hors d’oeuvre/finger food to share (with the recipe and your tableware) We’ll exchange ideas for local (food) gifts, ways to celebrate and support our local economy and food system and give gifts with lower environmental impact. Cost: $5 ($10 non-member) for food and good cheer; + $10 for wine tasting. RSVP or questions to Kim at kimbayer@gmail.com.

December 8th, 10am – 2pm

Downtown Home and Garden: Party for the Real Santa – Santa will be accepting wish lists and talking to children. Children get a Christmas orange. Adults get eggnog and roasted chestnuts.

You can also find more information about these and other local events/happenings HERE.

Where we spend our money can have a significant effect on the sustainability of our surroundings. Supporting local businesses will ensure that the people and places that make our cities and towns unique can survive and continue to operate. So wherever you live, I encourage you to increase your connection with your community and neighbors. This can be as simple as buying your fruit from a vendor who sells local produce, getting your haircut at an independently-owned barber, or re-filling your prescription at your neighborhood pharmacy. It’s an investment in a healthy, happy future.