Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ohayo Gozaimasu - Bacon and Egg Yakisoba

Bacon and Egg Yakisoba

So what do you do with leftover yakisoba noodles? Add a cracked egg and bacon and call it breakfast.

Bacon and Egg with a little help from Celery,
Cabbage and Broccoli Carrot Slaw


Come to think of it, the addition of bacon and egg to anything automatically turns whatever it's added to into breakfast really. We often have bacon and egg pasta with leftover spaghetti noodles kind of like a creamless carbonara, and I make breakfast maki sushi once in a while with... you guessed it, bacon and egg and then there are breakfast burritos with bacon and egg (or chorizo or potatoes and salsa or jamon or sausage or frijoles or whatever you have in the fridge). There are bacon and egg sandwiches on toast or bacon and egg soft tacos, and bacon and egg fried rice (one of my favorites). Bacon and eggs. The applications are almost limitless. Bacon and egg ice cream? Hmmmmmm..... I'll have to give that one some thought.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Fresh and Easy Way - The British are Coming!

Fresh and Easy Brand

T1 and I have been anticipating the arrival of Fresh and Easy Neighborhood Market. The concept market, operated under the UK parent company and gigantic supermarket chain Tesco, is designed with the intent to bring fresh, quality, affordable food to urban areas that at present lack a similar resource.

The last time I visited England, I made it a point (as any good foody would) to check out the markets. I noted how the display shelves all seemed to be accessible and within easy reach, the packaging was clearly marked and everything was well lit. The shelves were in order and though not over flowing with inventory, conveyed a sense of confidence that product is fresh and will be replenished if depleted and will always be available. In contrast, I've been to supermarkets here at home that are organized chaos, perhaps by design. An overabundance of choice, brands competing for position and sale tags everywhere creates a sense of urgency to buy now, buy a lot and get the deal before the next guy beats you to it.

In the stores I visited in the UK, there seemed to be more of a choice when it comes to prepared food and heat-and-eat meals. In a Safeway market I visited, toward the rear of the store next to the butchers counter where you would usually find the deli here in the States, there was a takeaway meal counter where you could pick up an Indian dinner for four, already packaged up, hot and ready to serve. They also had Chinese meals as well as kabob, ribs, roasted chickens and other hot items. Every item seemed to be priced within the range of a fast food meal, but the quality and variety was superior to anything you can get at a drive-thru chain. Perhaps because in England they cleverly limit the allowable number of golden arches per square mile they tend to eat more at home. Just a thought. Of course, then again I'm seeing things through the eyes of someone who lives in Los Angeles, birthplace of the drive-thru. Another difference I noticed was the produce in the UK markets was generally sourced from the eastern hemisphere; green beans from Kenya, Avocados from Israel. Produce here is usually from the western hemisphere; Mexico or South America. I wonder where Fresh and Easy sources their produce from.

On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we happened to be in the area of a recently opened Fresh and Easy so we decided to stop in for a look. The location we visited was in Manhattan Beach, not exactly a disenfranchised inner city part of town. On the contrary, Manhattan Beach is about as upscale as you can get for Los Angeles with million dollar beach front homes, a thriving retail environment and lots of well paying jobs close at hand. Can Fresh and Easy survive in a market with a swanky new Whole Foods and a Bristol Farms less than a half mile away on the same avenue? From the outside, this location had all the appeal of a big box store; non-descript architecture and limited signage. But hey, if it keeps prices down, I'm all for the no frills approach to shopping. We parked right in front of the entrance and ventured in.

A Few Bits

Once inside, we were pleasantly surprised. The displays reminded me of the stores in England. Nice lighting, organized, easy to see and reach refrigerated cases and open wire shelving in lieu of the crowded, closed-in bookcase style shelving you usually see in the supermarket. I commented to T1 that it almost felt like an IKEA for food because of the way it was organized and the way things were labeled.

One thing that stood out was the nice display of a variety of heat-and-eat meals. If you have a busy schedule and still need to put hot food on the table for your family, Fresh and Easy has the answer. Because it was the day before Thanksgiving, they even had fresh turkeys, turkey halves and breasts in their refrigerated cases, all pre-seasoned and ready to pop in the oven. All the fresh prepared items were designed with convenience in mind. They even offer suggestions on cards scattered among the display cases like, "add chicken breast to stir fry veggie mix and add sauce for a quick dinner" making it even easier to come up with a wholesome home cooked meal.

The highlight of Fresh and Easy in my opinion are the prices. In part, they are able to keep costs down by offering Fresh and Easy brand items alongside familiar name brands as well as keeping overhead low by offering self checkout counters and charging a few cents for bags (isn't it about time we shop with reusable bags anyway?). Their savings are then passed along to the consumer. Make the consumer happy and he/she then turns into a repeat customer - good business model at work.

Cool Graphics

Oak Smoked Cheddar from The Isle of Man

Because we had already stocked up for the holiday weekend, we really didn't need to do much shopping but I picked up a few things just to try them out, plus I liked the graphics of their store brand. And as for where Fresh and Easy sources their products, most of their fresh stuff is local, some is imported and their store brand items are probably packaged or labeled here in the States at the same processors the major brand names get their products from. If we had a Fresh and Easy in our neighborhood, I'd be sure to shop there more often. Check them out when you get a chance. Fresh and Easy Neighborhood Market.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Japanese Shrimp Curry - Ebi Kari Raisu

Japanese Shrimp Curry - Ebi Kari Raisu

Before you say, "Where's the shrimp!" well, I ate them all before this shot was taken. I swear there were more in there last night. By the time I fished through the pot, all I could find were the two little ones you see here, but you get the idea.

Okay, on with the post.

When most people I know think of Japanese food, curry might not be the first thing to come to mind, but curry (or kari raisu as the dish is known in Japan) is as Japanese as teriyaki or sushi. Generally speaking, the word "curry", is a broad term used by us non-Indians to refer to any type of Indian food. It's a little more complicated than that.

The practice of tea drinking and Buddhism (and I'm guessing many other things) migrated their way through China to Japan over the centuries from the Nepalese region, so one might assume curry followed a similar path. My guess was that curry traveled a direct path from Nepal, throughout India, into China and across the sea of Japan where it caught on and became a part of Japan's food culture.

After a little internet research, I found it was in fact the British who introduced curry into Japanese cuisine. After the signing of the 1902 Anglo-Japanese alliance, cooperation between the two military's led to the British navy sharing their curry recipe with the Japanese as a cure for the condition beriberi which is caused by the lack of vitamin B1 in the diet. I never imagined a cure for an ailment could taste so good. Of course the Japanese happily adopted the recipe and adapted it to their taste and the ingredients they had available. That's it in a nutshell. For more in depth reading on the subject, check out this informative article, Japanese Curry and the Navy by Fumihito Yamamoto.

Shrimp don't look so shrimpy with the Macro setting :)

There are many instant curry mixes available at Japanese markets. We usually pick up whatever brand happens to be on sale but our favorites are S&B, Java or House brand Vermont Curry. (Don't ask me what Vermont has to do with Japanese curry). They come in big chocolate-like bars with segment scores on the top to make it easy to break apart. All are easy to prepare. Brown onions and meat of choice, add vegetables and water to cover, bring to a boil and stir in cubes of curry until dissolved and simmer. Serve over rice with Japanese pickles on the side. Very little cooking skill required, tasty, filling and you won't get beriberi.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Miko Scottish Bangers- Breakfast of Champions

Miko Scottish Brand Bangers

Here's another type of sausage I ate growing up on Oahu. I remember getting up early on Sunday mornings and jumping in the car with my Dad to meet my Grandparents for breakfast at Zippy's on Nimitz highway near the harbor. My Grandfather, who spent his weeks working on the Big Island would come home to Honolulu on the weekends. For breakfast, he would sometimes order bangers and eggs. That's when I was first introduced to them.

Zippy's on Nimitz Highway

The Scottish banger is representative of many things that find their way to Hawaii's shores. The origins of how and why they made the long trek to such a distant remote island in the first place may be lost to history, but despite that, they become absorbed and adopted into Hawaii's culture and become as much a part of the islands as the people who initially brought them there and ended up staying.

Scottish bangers in Hawaii aren't very common. The only local company I know of that still makes them (or to my knowledge, ever made them) commercially is Miko Meat Corporation, a sausage and meat product manufacturer headquartered in Hilo-which may explain my Grandfather's affinity for them. The only place I know of where you used to be able to order them off the menu was at Zippy's. Unfortunately, I just checked out their website and they're no longer available there so I guess that means if I have a craving for them, I have to cook them up myself.

Fresh out of the Package, Wrinkles and All

If you can find them in the market, they come eight per package, tied off in pairs. Right on the package, it says, "How to prepare: Brown lightly in skillet or on rack in baking pan at 450 degree oven". When I would order them at Zippy's, they would come out really dark with an almost crispy casing. I think they must have deep fried them. I've found the way I like to cook them best is to cut them apart, put them in a hot pan with a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil and put the lid on. I let them brown up on one side, give the pan a shake like a jiffy pop popcorn pan and let them brown up on the other side. I don't know why they do it, but shaking the pan that way usually causes all the sausages to roll over onto their unbrowned side at the same time. Then I reduce the heat so they won't split open and let them cook through for a few more minutes.


As Fat Bastard would say, "Get in my belly!"

In addition to all the other things that make their way into sausages these bangers contain 7.43% breadcrumbs or rusk...Wow, that's an exact figure!!! Not only do the breadcrumbs give the bangers their unique flavor and texture, they also aid in browning up a nice golden color.

That Looks Like 7.43% Breadcrumbs To Me

Breakfast of Champions

I always eat them with rice and a fried egg with a little shoyu drizzled on it, Hawaiian style.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Soba Noodle Salad

Soba Noodle Salad

For a quick lunch, I put together this soba salad. It's just soba buckwheat noodles over lettuce, topped with all kinds of goodies (read whatever's in the fridge) cucumber slices, imitation crab sticks, egg omelette and Nam Fong char siu courtesy of Mom and Dad.

Man, that Nam Fong char siu is the best stuff not counting Dad's home made char siu. Unfortunately for me, Nam Fong is in Chinatown in Honolulu so for the time being I have to ration my frozen, vacuum sealed supply.


I foraged around and came up with a dressing made from Japanese ponzu and Mae Ploy sweet chili sauce. It worked perfectly. Sweet, sour, with a chili kick to it. The inspiration came from a somen noodle salad my Mom makes with a soy sauce, sugar and vinegar dressing so that explains why I was kind of steering the taste in that direction.

Conchiglie with Pesto and Grilled Shrimp

Conchiglie with Pesto and Grilled Shrimp

On a recent visit to the Culver City farmers market I picked up a bunch of fresh basil. As you probably know, fresh basil usually only lasts for a couple of days in the fridge before it gets all wilty and starts to turn brown, so I always try to use it as soon as I can. Usually we'll have it fresh with a tomato salad of some sort on the first day. On the second or third day we'll throw it in a pasta dish at the last minute. After that, it gets turned into pesto. On more than one occasion I wasn't quick enough to use it and it got dumped-and I hate wasting food.

Ridges in the conchiglie help the pesto stick

I used to only eat pesto in restaurants or once in a while I'd buy the store bought variety, that is, until I found out how easy it is to make and how superior homemade stuff is in freshness and flavor. Just basil, pine nuts, garlic, parmesan cheese, and olive oil, that's it. Load it all into a blender or food processor, a couple of pulses and you're done or go old school and use a mortar and pestle (pesto's namesake method by the way). If you don't plan on using it right away, float some olive oil on the surface before storing in the fridge to prevent oxidation and to retain the vibrant green color.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Pork Adobo with Chayote Shoot Salad

Pork Adobo with Chayote Shoot Salad

Adobo is the Spanish word for marinate. I didn't know that when I first moved to Los Angeles so when I saw it on restaurant menus here I assumed it referred to the Filipino dish I like, pork and chicken adobo. Little did I know at the time that most Spanish influenced cultures have their own version of adobo dishes. Basically, anything that can be marinated (which is almost everything really) is essentially an adobo dish.

I happened to be craving Filipino pork adobo. It happened to be good timing because I also recently bought a jar of bay leaves which are a necessary part of this recipe. For this version of adobo, I used pork country ribs, cubed them up into manageable pieces and marinated them in the fridge overnight with cider vinegar, a splash of soy sauce, a little cane sugar, a teaspoon or so of whole pepper corns, a few bay leaves and a ton of minced garlic (thanks for reminding me DMSC). The next day I browned up the pork in a hot pan then added the reserved marinade. The heat was turned down and everything was allowed to simmer until most of the marinade had evaporated, intensifying the flavors in the process. The pork turned out fork tender and the marinade (or what was left of it) was spooned over to serve.

Chayote Shoot, Tomato and Red Onion Salad

To accompany the adobo, I prepared a salad of chayote or pipinella shoots, tomatoes and red onion dressed with fish sauce and a little olive oil.



I must still have Denmark on the mind leftover from Solvang. I was looking up the correct spelling of medisterpolse for the medisterpolse post when frikadeller caught my eye. I had no idea what a frikadeller was but it sure was fun to say. Frikadeller! Frickadeller! Frickadeller! Sounds like a swear word. Okay, that's a bit juvenile.

After reading up on these things, I learned they are simply, Danish meatballs. Now, having been to IKEA I've consumed my share of Swedish meatballs. No assembly required. (If they're from IKEA they must be authentic right?) but Danish meatballs? This was new to me. I was intrigued and had to try them out.

What is it about the universal appeal of meatballs and gravy? It seems to be one of those meals that every culture has a version of. Take ground meat, roll it up, cook it, add gravy of choice. Easy. Actually come to think of it, in the old days, dishes like this were probably created as an economical way to utilize all the left over scraps of meat after all the good cuts were used up. If these balls of mystery meat contained offal or other strong flavors, they could be masked with spices and a ladle of gravy. Moreover, if you had a few extra mouths to feed, no worries, just throw in more breadcrumbs, rice or *insert filler here* and you now have enough to go around. Good kitchen economics at work here.

Frikadeller Close-up

Nowadays, we have the luxury of using the choice stuff even when it comes to the lowly meatball. For my version of frikadeller I used ground beef, breadcrumbs, an egg, some diced onion and seasoned the mixture with ground nutmeg, salt and pepper. We ate them with the traditional sides of braised red cabbage with bacon and parseleyed potatoes. A simple gravy was made with the deglazed frikadeller pan scrapings and poured all over everything.

Whether you call them schnitzla, koenigsberger klops, albondigas, or polpette, (all as much fun to say as frikadeller by the way) meatballs are a hearty, flavorful and economical meal.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Chicken Masala

Chicken Masala

Well the folks have gone home and after a week of fantastic gustatory adventure, it's back to the grind. We needed something quick and easy so I reached in the cupboard for a jar of masala simmer sauce. Usually if I can, I try to make most meals from scratch, but Indian food is something you can't really rush. Besides, there's too much to know in order to pull it off authentically (for me anyway). I really wouldn't know where to start.

Pops once told me that unless you were born into and grew up watching cricket that you could never really completely understand and fully appreciate it. I have to agree. I still can't get my head around the game not to mention those strange (to an American) cricket terms like googly, sticky wickets and yorkers. I assume the same can be said for Indian cuisine. There are so many spices and ingredients and preparations that unless you grew up in an Indian household, it would be a challenge acquiring all the knowledge that constitutes Indian cuisine. Thankfully, there are a lot of pre made simmer sauces, curry pastes and masala spice mixes available in the market place to make things easier for us naan Indians. (yes...pun intended however bad it may be) So it is what it is. Chicken, peppers, onion and peas in a masala simmer sauce a la Trader Joe's)

It's tasty that's for sure. Easy to make? check! Indian tasting? check! Good enough for seconds? double check! Worth repeating? Until I learn my way around the Indian kitchen, absolutely.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers Market

Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers Market

I took my folks out to the Wednesday Santa Monica farmers market while they were out visiting and as always, it was a feast for the senses. We threaded our way through the crowd and took it all in. It seemed like there was a lot to see during this visit. The colors were vibrant as if all the produce decided to celebrate one last hurrah with a showy display before transitioning and slowing down the growing season for the Autumn and Winter months when cabbages, dark green leafy things, pumpkins and roots begin to make their appearance.

Fall has finally arrived with the presence of persimmons and pomegranates. We picked up one of each. The fuyu persimmon was eaten later that day and was really sweet and had a good texture to it. As for the pomegranate, I still haven't decided how I'll put it use. There's a Persian dish I like called fesenjan which is a tart chicken stew with walnuts and pomegranate mollasses. I want to try and make it but it calls for pomegranate mollasses or syrup and not necessarily fresh pomegranate seeds so this one will probably end up peeled apart in a salad of some sort. A friend of mine said that when he was growing up in Iran, he would take a pomegranate and roll it around on the table until it got all squishy inside. Then he'd tear a small hole in it, insert a straw and suck out the juice like a juice box.

Really crisp looking apples and juicy pears seemed to be everywhere. When I think apples, I think apple pie and when I think apple pie, I think pumpkin pie. When I think pumpkin pie, I think Thanksgiving. When I think Thanksgiving, I think... Wow! it's next week already. Better get off my butt and figure out what we're having.

Everything else we picked up was great. We ate the orange and yellow carrots and the radishes for dinner that night with a bagna calda of olive oil, anchovy and garlic. We also had the purple globe artichoke steamed with mayo on the side for scooping. All excellent. The limas were quickly boiled and eaten as a side. They tasted firm and green like fresh edamame rather than the stodgy canned variety. Oh, and we wrapped the asparagus in irish bacon and grilled them. We didn't get a chance to use the little heirlooms tomatoes or the zucchini flowers that night but we'll find a use for them I'm sure.

Little Heirlooms

Zucchini Flowers

I could go on forever writing about how good everything was but I think you get the idea of how impressed I was with all this stuff. I'll let the pictures do the rest of the talking.

Fresh Shelled Lima Beans

Yellow Carrots and Zucchini Flowers

Young Asparagus

Carrots and Radishes

Purple Globe Artichoke

Rose Fingerling Potatoes

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Hi Ho Silva

Silva Sausage Breakfast Link Size Linguica

I found these breakfast size Portuguese sausage links at Nielsen's market while in Solvang so I thought I'd give them a try. I've tried Silva's regular Linguica before so I figured the only difference would be in the shape. I found the regular linguica at our local supermarket and having run out of Hawaiian style Portuguese sausage one day, figured it could be a similar enough stand-in.

Growing up in Hawaii we ate a lot of Portuguese sausage, mainly as a breakfast meat along with Spam and bacon or as the key ingredient in Portuguese bean soup, a Hawaiian favorite. Hawaiian style Portuguese sausage, of which there are many different brands today, are all similarly identifiable in flavor; porky, spicy, smoky, salty and very, very garlicky. The main differences between the various brands seems to be hot or mild and the coarseness of the grind. Silva's linguica tastes similar but has a pronounced "paprikaness" to it reminiscent of chorizo. Only slightly spicy hot, the breakfast size links seemed a bit leaner too, perhaps a little lighter in fat content. The hand tied, natural sheep casings give the sausage a good bite resulting in a sausage more a kin to an Algerian merguez in texture.

The Line Up
"Number three, turn to your left"

All things considered, a great tasting sausage. Not exactly like Hawaiian style Portuguese sausage but tasty nonetheless in it's own unique way. If memory serves me correctly, the Portuguese that initially came to Hawaii were from the Azores, so maybe Hawaiian style Portuguese sausage is actually more specifically Azoreian style Portuguese sausage if there is such a thing. In any case, Portuguese sausage, no matter what it's regionality remains one of my favorites.

Good To Go

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Coastal Vacation

I took a short break from posting over the last couple of weeks because my Folks came to town for a visit. Part of their stay with us included a road trip up the coast with overnight stops in Solvang and Pismo Beach. Needless to say, we ate our way all the way up the coast and back leaving many a cleaned plate along the way. We also hit every farmers market we came across to check out what the locals were growing and eating.

San Luis Obispo Farmers Market

Rainbow Peppers at the SLO Farmers Market

Future Jack-o-lanterns?

Mom and Dad are both doing fine. In addition to everything else I have to thank them for, I have to thank them for passing on to me my foodie interests, love of cooking, and an appreciation for all things edible. My family has always known how to enjoy good food but more importantly, recognized the way food brings and keeps us all together. Their (and by association, my) tastes range from five star white tablecloth to roadside cheap to good old home cooked. One thing is for certain, food, no matter what it's pedigree (or lack thereof) never gets taken for granted and is always enjoyed. Our days typically went something like this: Wake up and rustle up breakfast. During breakfast, discuss where to have lunch. At lunch, start planning dinner. Go to sleep, wake up and repeat. Nothin' wrong with that except the fact that we ran out of days!