Archive for August, 2008

Pickled Herring Ume Cucumber Rolls

I bought a jar of pickled herring out of curiosity. I imagined it would taste like fish in pickle brine and I was not disappointed. The hubby didn’t think the jarred gray matter looked very appetizing, but thought it tasted pretty good. The texture was chewy and not ‘cooked’. It had some onions (with a little crunch) in there with specks of dill. The only thing I didn’t care for was the amount of sugar, it was a bit on the sweet side and I never liked sweet pickles. I was just snacking on it randomly till I had half the jar left and then thought of sushi. The addition of pickled plums helped cut the sweetness (I buy the type with no sugar added). The cucumber adds texture but I think it could’ve been better if I had cut it into thinner strips. I left the rice unseasoned because the pickled herring and onions did the job. The scallion added a nice layer to the flavors, you can always use more if you love scallions. The rice and cucumber nicely balances the salty, sweet, and tart. You won’t need any soy sauce either.

Pickled Herring Ume Cucumber Rolls

  • 1 1/2 cup uncooked sushi rice (or 2 cups measured with rice cooker cups)
  • 4 sheets of nori
  • 5 or 6 umeboshi (pickled plums) or 5-6 tsp of ume paste
  • 1 stalk of scallion, chopped finely
  • ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cucumber, seeded and sliced vertically
  • 12oz jar pickled herring with onion

  1. Cook the sushi rice according to directions.
  2. Divide warm cooked rice into 4 parts. Spread one part onto nori sheet covering about 3/4 or 4/5 of it.
  3. Lay cucumber slices over exposed part of nori.
  4. Peel flesh off pickled plums, removing pit, break up into small bits and lay (or smear) across the rice next to the cucumber. Or if using plum paste, spread onto rice in a thin line.
  5. Sprinkle on 1/4 of the scallions and a little black pepper on top of the plum.
  6. Remove herring and onions from jar and drain off excess liquids. Place a single layer of herring with a few onions on top of plums/scallions. If the pieces are large or not uniformed, cut up accordingly. (You might not use up the whole jar for 4 rolls.)
  7. Start rolling up the nori from cucumber side. Roll and press with bamboo mat (covered in plastic wrap).
  8. Slice up each roll into 8 pieces. Eat while warm.



August 29, 2008 at 10:53 am 2 comments

Tomato salad from the garden

This year I decided to grow tomatoes (to save money, organic tomatoes are like luxury items), but I didn’t get around to it till late June. After some research on the web, I got an early variety; ‘First Lady’ that only takes 66 days to yield fruit. I bought 4 plants, and place 2 in the ‘Tomato Success Kit’ and the other 2 in a window box type planter. The ones in the Tomato Success Kit grew huge. I didn’t expect much from the other planter but it grew pretty large (but less than half the size of the other ones) with many tomatoes.

Some finally ripened early last week when the temps came down from the 90s. My first batch was about a pound and a half. I sliced them up with some basil from the garden, olive oil, black pepper and fleur de sel. It’s my favorite thing to do with these tomatoes. I made salsa a few days later with new tomatoes, which was very tasty but it can’t beat the basil-olive oil-pepper-fleur de sel experience.

Next year I’m going to grow red bell peppers. At $6.99/lb for organic at Whole Foods, I haven’t had any red bell peppers in over a year.


August 23, 2008 at 6:32 am 6 comments

littlejohn’s toffees

It’s been almost a year since I went to L.A. for a cousin’s wedding. We had a few hours to kill before heading to the airport, so we went to the famed Farmer’s Market at The Grove that we had heard about so much. I loved the place as there were all these food stands with vendors selling fresh fruits, meats, etc. I also had some of the best Korean BBQ ever there.

One of the places I saw as I was randomly walking around was this candy shop called Littlejohn’s Candies ( and it had chocolate covered toffees in its window. So, I bought 8 pieces of their toffee sticks. I honestly came back home and wished I had bought more. They were fantastic. The toffee had that perfect crunch. Not too hard and not too soft. Just right. It melted in my mouth and it was absolutely delicious.

I told one of my good friends about the place and for Xmas last year, she had ordered a box and had it delivered to me. Now, this year, for my big 30th birthday on Friday, she ordered me another box. This time, she got 3 lbs. of toffees for me. One pound for every decade. Ha. Thanks Jan! No worries. I won’t eat all that by myself. As much as I wish I could, this chubby girl doesn’t need to be eating 3 lbs. of toffees.

Seriously, I could have picked any chocolate shop in the world, but I love these chocolate/nut covered toffees. So if you’re in the L.A. area and you’ve never been to the Farmer’s Market, you really should. You just might discover a few new things. And, rather than an hour or two there, try setting aside most of your day for it. The whole “Grove” area looked like it had tons of stuff and I was sad I didn’t get to see it all.


August 13, 2008 at 2:39 am 8 comments

amy’s ice creams

On the corner of Shepherd and 59 lies Amy’s Ice Creams ( You’ll see the cow sitting atop the shop with neon red lights. This lovely ice cream shop has been there for years and I can say I’ve only been a handful of times because, until recently, I lived too far. Based in Austin, the location off of Shepherd is the only location in Houston. Thanks to Miss Emmarose’s mention of it in a comment, I craved it and managed to convince a friend to come with and buy me some this Saturday night. Thanks Joseph ^__^ I am now a happy camper.

There’s a variety of flavors to choose from and the menu will often change as all ice creams are home made. Now, while you can pick and choose your ice cream flavors and toppings, they have some ice cream concoctions that are already pre-set. One such example would be the Cookie Monster. Your choice of ice cream with 3 different types of cookies mixed in.

Amy’s carries non-fat non-sugar yogurts, smoothies, fruit ices, etc. I have yet to venture from the ice cream, but I’ve been told the fruit ices are pretty delicious. Well, I’m sure the guy making the Cookie Monster was wondering why in the world I was taking photos of him smushing cookies into ice cream, and if he ever reads this he’ll stop and say, “Ahhh…that’s why…”. Tonight, I decided on sweet cream ice cream, with bananas and topped with hot fudge. Why not get a banana split you say? Because Amy’s says I don’t have to be like everyone else and get a banana split. I can get it mushed. And Marie had the rose ice cream. It actually tasted quite rosy.

Amy’s is fun and the decor is bright and even has a brick wall where people have left there mark at Amy’s with their permanent markers. It makes me wonder why so many people walk around with markers in their possession. Go. Get some ice cream. Go to Amy’s. They’re open late on weekends. =D


August 10, 2008 at 4:59 am 2 comments

sandwich cubano + maduros

I cobbled together this recipe when I moved from Austin to Houston and needed a substitute for the Sandwich Cubano at La Habana, one of my favorite Austin restaurants. I got the marinade recipe from BBQ USA by Steven Raichlen, my favorite chef and one the greatest grill masters around. Maduros are fried slices of plantain bananas. Plantains can be tedious to ripen and frying can be an inconvenience or hazard. I still have a scare on my arm from when I was frying buffalo chicken hearts back in June. But if you want to go all-out there is a great recipe for grilled maduros in the aforementioned book. My cheaters version for the popular Caribbean and South American side dish follows.

For the sandwiches

1 5 lb pork loin
12 slices of deli ham (any brand will do)
3 loaves French bread
1 jar pickle slices
6 slices of Swiss cheese
Mustard to taste

For the marinade

1 head of garlic
1 tbp coarse salt (I use sea)
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 cup orange juice
1 1/2  cups lime juice
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tbp olive oil

You will also need

-A charcoal grill set up for indirect grilling. This means coals on two sides with the meat on the grate in between them. You should also fashion a drip pan to catch the fan and other juices that fall from the pork as it cooks. You won’t reuse it but it helps for a cleaner grill.
-A Foreman grill or a panini press.
-A carving knife
-A mixing bowl
-A Pyrex or similar marinating dish large enough to accommodate the pork loin.
-Cutting board
-Saran wrap or similar product
-A large pan

Advance Prep
Four hours for marinating, three hours for cooking the pork. FYI, you should start the coals 30 minutes before you put the pork on so they’re good n’ glowing.

Prepare the marinade. Break off and shuck all the cloves and finely chop, then place in a mixing bowl. Using a mortar and pestle (a mixing bowl and the back of a spoon is a good substitute) grind the garlic and the sea salt into a paste. Add the pepper, orange and lime juice, cumin, oregano and olive oil and stir together. It should look like salad dressing.

Prepare the pork loin. Most people get their pork loin in a package from a grocer. If it smells kind of funky when you open the package, don’t worry about it. This is normal and has no effect on the taste. I promise! Rinse the pork off and pat it dry with paper towels. Place the pork in the marinating dish, fat side up. (Most pork loins come with a thin layer of fat on them) Make several half-inch deep incisions with a knife into the fatty side of the loin. Pour the marinade over the pork, massaging the marinade into the slits with your hands. It helps to get a spoon and spoon some of the marinade directly into the cuts. Cover with the wrap (to keep the garlic fumes in) and put in the fridge. Turn it over every hour to be sure it marinates evenly. A note on the marinating: The original recipe is for lechon asado, a stand-alone pork dish that is a staple of Cuban cuisine around Christmas time. You can use this marinade on pork shoulder of even an uncured ham (the ham could feed over 10 ppl and takes longer to cook, obviously). Raichlen calls for 12-24 hours of marinading, and if you would like to serve the pork loin stand-alone and not in sandwich form I would recommend that time frame. However since we’re making sandwiches, four to six hours should be fine.

After about 3 hours and 30 minutes of marinading let the pork finish outside of the fridge for the last half-hour. This gives the meat a chance to relax. You never want to put meat straight from the fridge onto the grill. After marinating is finally done, pour off and discard the marinade. Salt and pepper the loin. Once you have the grill ready (see above for setup directions, and don’t forget to clean the grate) place the pork in the center of the grate and cover.

After about an hour you will need to add more coals. Be very careful. Gently remove the pork from the grate and place it on a roasting pan. Using a metal prong or similar instrument (not your hands) remove the grate and add about 10 coals per side. Replace the grate, put the pork back where it was, and recover.

After the meat has been cooking for about 2 hrs 30 min it’s a good idea to get your sandwich fixings ready. Go ahead and slice the loaves in half, so you are left with six half-loaves. Apply mustard and set aside. Slice them down the middle horizontally. In the large pan, heat the ham slices. You don’t want to burn them, just brown them a little to enhance their flavor. Set aside once you’re done.

After 3 hrs remove the meat from the grill and place on the cutting board. Let it set for about 5 minutes so the juices have time to settle. Use this time to plug in the Foreman grill. Cut the pork into inch-thick slices. Each half-loaf should hold 1 1/2 – 2 slices of pork. Put the ham on top, then a slice of Swiss. Layer the pickles on top and sprinkle with pepper. Put the other half of bread on top to complete the sandwich. Place on the Foreman grill and press until the bread is crispy and the cheese is melted. Slice in half and serve with maduros.

Suburban Maduros

1 lb of sweetened banana chips
1 1/2 tbp olive oil
1 tbp salt

A note on the ingredients. Real maduros are made from slices plantains, but I found a good substitute. Whole Foods has a section in the store where you can make your own trail mix. One of the ingredients you can buy for less 2 bucks a pound is sweetened, dried banana chips. If you go on a lot of roadtrips for work like I do they make a great, healthy car snack. Anyway, toss the chips in a large mixing bowl with the oil and salt. Just use your hands and don’t be a wuss. Spread the chips on a large roasting pan. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. When it’s ready put the chips in and cook for about 20 minutes. The chips should be nice, brown and crispy.

Drink either a mojito, a cuba libre, or an Ironbeer and enjoy! Serves 6.

–by contributing chef Alex

August 9, 2008 at 2:48 am 3 comments


Japanese curry is another recent trend around town. I don’t have any strong feelings for or against Japanese curry. I’ve only really tried it once or twice at Jas-mart (haven’t tried Go Go Curry) but I’m reading the manga ‘Addicted to Curry’ (they have recipes too). Guess I just like Indian curries more.

One reason I wanted to try Curry-ya (214 East 10th St. New York, NY 10003) is because it was opened by one of the co-owners of Soba-ya (my favorite restaurant).

I knew it was going to be tiny place with only a counter and the kitchen right behind it, but it was really a squeeze. Be careful, you don’t want to sit right in front of the burners, you’ll be cooking too (maybe in winter it might not be an issue).

The menu has 9 curries, 6 salads, and 3 extra toppings (I just noticed the play on 3s).  The lunch special is a great deal. But after 4pm we went with curry ‘nice set’ that gives you the same things for $6 more; the ‘chef’s daily assortment’ three small dishes plus choice of dessert or (non alcoholic) drink. The desserts are the better value, we chose the lychee lassi (really good) which was listed as a dessert but is also a drink (of yogurt, sugar, lemon, lychee and ice from what I saw). The grapefruit jelly also looked good but we were surprisingly too stuffed for dessert.

Grilled seafood curry

To rewind; we started off with the 3 small dishes of squash, cabbage slaw, and seaweed salad (very tasty, I just inhaled it and forgot about photos). I got the grilled seafood curry, and the hubby had the seasonal vegetable curry. Though I don’t think my seafood qualifies as ‘grilled’, it was perfectly cooked despite my fears about how long it was cooking. It was partially cooked in the oven then simmered in mini pot of curry sauce. I didn’t specify hot or mild, but it had a nice small kick to it. It came with toppings of dehydrated onions flakes, pickled turnip, pickled shallots, and raisins. I put the onions on mine and ate the pickles but I wasn’t really interested in the raisins. The hubby wasn’t impressed with the vegetable curry, but did express interest in getting it plain with two orders of natto.

The pots of curry didn’t look that large and the mounds of rice didn’t seem overwhelming (but I knew it to be equivalent to two bowls). Afterwards we were really really full, maybe the lassi also pushed us a bit over our limit. I think we’d eat there again eventually, when we are in the area and really hungry.

Seasonal vegetable curry

We saw all the Japanese customers there eating curry with spoons only, while the non-Japanese customers used forks. For meat eaters, the New York Times recommends the Berkshire pork cutlet curry.


August 6, 2008 at 6:00 am 5 comments

choco hazelnut puff pancakes

I’ve had an ebelskiver pan from Williams-Sonoma for a while now, but haven’t used it at all. Shame on me, because this was a brilliant idea for an after dinner treat.  Angela dropped by and we decided on the chocolate hazelnut puff pancakes (aka use some nutella).

You can also find the recipe on the Williams-Sonoma site, but I altered mine due to the fact that I didn’t have some ingredients handy at home.


  • 1 3/4th c. all purpose flour
  • 3/4th tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 eggs separated
  • 1 3/4 c. milk (original recipe calls for buttermilk, but it worked just fine with milk)
  • 4 tbsp. butter melted

First, in one bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar and salt. Mix around with a fork until ingredients are incorporated with each other. In another bowl, lightly beat the 3 egg yolks and the milk. Slowly pour the eggs & milk into the bowl with the dry ingredients. Combine and mix the ingredients until lumpy.

In another bowl, using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on high speed until stiff but not dry peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the whites into the batter in two additions.

Put 1/2 tsp. butter in each well of a filled-pancake pan. Place over medium heat and heat until the butter begins to bubble. Pour 1 tbsp. batter into each well and cook until the bottoms are golden brown and crispy, 3 to 5 minutes. Put 1 tsp. of nutella in the center of each pancake and top with 1 tbsp. batter. Using 2 wooden skewers (or chopsticks…hehe), flip the pancakes over and cook until golden and crispy, about 3 minutes more.

I thought they would be hard to flip over, but the chopsticks worked real well. heh. Once finished, remove from pan and plate, adding a mini dollop of nutella and dusting with confectioner’s sugar. You can basically put anything in the middle of the puff pancake, which makes it very versatile. I think I’ll be making this alot more in the future. It didn’t take long at all. Great for breakfast!


August 4, 2008 at 4:46 am 8 comments

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