Tuesday, January 8, 2013

日本 Japan!!! 

It's been a while. I'v travelled to many places in the last year but by far the most amazing trip was, JAPAN! I was here on business in August 2012. I need to sit and collect my thoughts on what I ate and loved. 

I had traditional izakaya bbq. 

I ate delicious fish guts, cow parts and had lots of amazing sake and beer. 

I had "burned" ramen that rocked my world.
My silly boss and I. 

 I ate at the kill bill restaurant. 

Stay tuned! I am heading back to Japan on the 18th and will be sure to post all kinds of cool stuff, including an adventure to Kyoto!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Crabby Crab Season

I love all things water. If I could choose what I would reincarnate to, I would be a great white. I am a Cancer sign...with Leo tendencies. One of my strongest Cancer traits is my love of home/hosting/cooking. When I get the chance to cook for a group I am happiest.

This past weekend, my older sister came into town for a seasonal crab feed. I did not join them due to my diet commitment (this is one serious crab feed) but was presented with a zip lock bag full of gorgeous crab meat. Huge succulent chunks. I don't know how they smuggled it out but for that I am SO thankful!!

I knew I had to do something with the crab as quickly as possible. Crab salad, crab cakes, crab ceviche, none inspired me. That is, until I remembered my all time guilty indulgence; Crab spaghetti from one my favorite restaurants in Saratoga, CA. The Basin! Simple, delicious and filling.

My recipe didn't quite turn out as expected but I am sure I can try again and get it right. The Basin uses what seems like a vodka sauce. Their spaghetti is a little on the sweet/creamy side. I made mine more on the spicy spectrum. My girlfriend came to dinner last night and tried my creation. She devoured a big bowl and said it was delicious. I guess it's post worthy if she liked it!

Here goes my shot at Spicy Crab Spaghetti

Ingredients list:
1-1.5 lb of Lump Crab
1 package of Barilla thin spaghetti
1 jar of Giada deLaurentis Roasted garlic Spaghetti Sauce or you can try Vodka Sauce
2 Garlic cloves minced
1 medium onion diced
1/2 cup Frozen peas
1 Tbsp chili flakes
1tsp each salt & fresh pepper 
1 tsp Oregano
2-3 tsp of EVOO

Parmesan Cheese
1 loaf of Sour Dough bread (I purchased a fresh Panera loaf)

Start with boiling a pot of water for your pasta. For this dish, you will need to cook everything in sequence. You don't want to over cook your crab so work quickly and use a timer.

Heat oil in a large pan or skillet. Using Medium heat, gently sweat your onions, garlic and chili flakes, about 3-4 minutes. Add crab meat and saute gently for about 3 minutes, letting the chili, garlic infusion flavor the meat. Add the Jar of spaghetti sauce and stir. After 2 minutes or so, give it a taste. Add pepper, salt and Oregano flakes to your liking.

I did not have a full onion to work with, you should use more than pictured.

Once you add the spaghetti sauce into the pan, immediately add the pasta to the boiling water and cook as directed. 6-7 minutes for perfect al dente. Reduce the heat on the spaghetti sauce to med/low and add the peas. Stir and cover while the pasta cooks. Toast your bread at this time. I pre-heat my oven when I start to cook so it's ready to toast bread before serving.

Add frozen ingredients at the end.
Once the pasta is cooked, uncover the spaghetti sauce and add the pasta right into the pan. I allow some of the pasta water to mix with the sauce. Stir and mix well. When the pasta is completely coated, give it a taste. It may have slightly changed flavor because of the pasta water. I usually reserve a tad bit of the pasta sauce and add it at the end. I also re-season with salt, pepper and chili flakes.

Serve with toasted buttery sour dough and plenty of Parmesan cheese and chili flakes.

I paired this dish with a glass of Chardonnay but Mexican beer (Modelo Especial) also works nicely.

Buen Provecho!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Love being Local- San Jose's Japan Town

Shiitake Mushroom, Chicken and Veggie Stir Fry
 I have always been a proud bay area resident. I love living in California and could not see my self living anywhere else besides New York, my only exception. I have everything I need at arms length and just feel very lucky to be a product of the Silicon Valley. I recently moved back to the San Jose area and live in the heart of Japan town. I am really excited about all the changes that have happened over the years. New home developments, restaurants, a Japanese market and a cool new vibe.

I was feeling inspired by the cherry blossoms in the trees and decided to make it a themed dinner night with my girlfriends. We have quite a few Hawaiian inspired restaurants and stores popping up so I was able to pull up my famous Poke recipe from memory and take a quick 2 minute walk to Nijiya, the local Japanese market in JT's main drag. I found a beautiful piece of Tuna, about the size of an ice cream bar for about $11.00. This piece can easily feed 3-4 people as an appetizer. 

Sushi Grade Tuna
 My themed menu consisted of Hawaiian/Japanese inspired dishes. I also made a pitcher of Mango Soju cocktails that paired perfectly with our meal. I don't have a picture but will share my recipe. I usually start with the Poke appetizer first and prep all the veggies on one cutting board. As I complete the chopping, slicing, dicing I dump all the ingredients in to two separate bowls. One for the stir fry, one for poke. 20 minutes before getting started, soak your shiitake mushrooms in wam water and set aside. Also, get your Jasmine rice started in the cooker or pot. 

Poke Sushi Appetizer

Hawaiian Ahi Tune Poke - Serves 3-4

Ingredients list:
Fresh, Sushi grade Ahi Tuna
1 small garlic clove- minced
3-4 sliced green onions
1/2 tsp Sesame seeds for garnish
1 tsp Furikake rice seasoning (optional)
1 Tbsp Sesame Oil
2 Tbsp Shoyu Soy Sauce or regular
1 tsp of Japanese chili powder or chili oil if available
1 tsp of Hawaiian sea salt or regular 
12 pieces of salted, Nori found at many asian markets and now in most grocery stores.

Start by cutting the tuna into thin slices across the grain. You will end up with sashimi like pieces. Cut the pieces into smaller bite sized cubes on the grain, very carefully with a sharp knife. I use a Wusthof Santoku. Once you are done slicing the tuna, add to a bowl with the rest of the ingredients and gently toss together. Give it a little taste and add more shoyu/soy or chili to your taste. Garnish with a sesame seeds and serve over crisp Nori or tortilla chips.

Shiitake Mushroom, Chicken and Veggie Stir Fry - Serves 3-4

Ingredients list:
2-3 Boneless, skinless Chicken Thighs or 2 small breasts
1 Bell Pepper, color of your choice
1/2 Package of Dried Shiitake mushrooms (about 12-16 mushrooms)
1/2 Sliced Yellow Onion
2 Small Zucchini Cut into bite sized rounds 
3-4 sliced green onions + part of the green ends for flavor
1 minced garlic clove
1 tsp Hawaiian or regular Sea Salt
2 tablespoons of Shoyu soy or regular soy sauce
2 tablespoons of Canola or EVOO

*optional side: Siracha sauce for a spicy flavor kick

Serve with Jasmine Rice - Start ahead of time!

While I prep and chop, I just throw everything into one big bowl. Once your mushrooms have taken their full shape, drain and squeeze out excess water. Slice into thin pieces and add to ingredients bowl. Repeat with the rest of the ingredients and toss into the bowl as you go. DO not add the Shoyu/Soy sauce just yet! 

Stir Fry in the Pan!
Heat Wok or in this case, I used my All-Clad multi purpose Fry pan (it's pretty big) instead of a wok. Heat oil until its VERY hot and toss your ingredients in. Give it a stir and let it cook for 3-4 minutes and repeat. Add some salt for flavor. Once everything is frying up nicely, add your soy sauce. You don't really need to add much salt because the soy sauce already has plenty. The flavors from the Shiitake mushrooms really over take this dish and give it a wonderful aroma. Once everything is nicely browned/caramelized and your chicken is cooked though prepare to serve. Give it a taste and add more salt OR Shoyu/Soy for flavor. 

Serve over jasmine rice and garnish with green onions. Serves 4.

Last but not least, the Mango Soju Cocktail!!

Ingredients list:
1 Glass Pitcher
1 Bottle of Korean Soju found at most Asian markets (Nijiya)
1 Bottle of Mango Calpico found at most Asian Markets (Nijiya)
3/4 Can of 7-Up

Mix all ingredients together in the pitcher and serve over ice. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mi Amor al Ceviche - Que Rico!

In honor of Valentines Day, I will post something special for my Daddy. One of my all time favorite memories is of my father shucking oysters in our backyard. He had this crazy passion for seafood and making his famous "Caldazos" (soups) on Sundays. I remember I would reluctantly go with him to the Asian super market and order Cat fish filets, Shrimp, Clams, Mussels, and Octopus. On most occasions, when available, we would bring home a large bag of oysters.

He would sit in the back yard with his pocket knife shucking away. Sometimes, he would turn on the bbq to open up the oysters but we NEVER made Rockefeller or cooked the oyster. He would call me over, hand me one and chuckle at the sight of his 8 year old daughter slurping away at the alien in the shell. There is something about a raw, slimy oyster that makes my taste buds yearn for more! I love the rocky, salty flavor of the ocean. We would garnish with lemon juice and salt. Maybe some Tapatio.

Today, I remembered my fathers famous Shrimp Coctel. It is more like a gazpacho/ceviche than a traditional American shrimp cocktail. At most California Mexican restaurants, you can order a large goblet filled with shrimp, clams, cucumber and other veggies in a tomato based cold broth. I usually tend to like my home made version because I hate using ketchup in my cooking as a substitute to real tomato flavoring. You eat Coctel with crackers and a spoon. I always loved it when my dad and cousins rolled up their sleeves and prepped our Seafood Sundays. Lots going on in the kitchen!

I want to share the recipe and a picture of an inspirational Ceviche I had for lunch in Redwood City, CA. Ceviche Bar and Grill has the most amazing, fresh, lobster Ceviche. I was lucky to come during crab season and had both in my ceviche. 

As for my fathers, it is definitely easy to make and a must for those hot days when you don't want to cook a hot meal. I make a huge bowl and pack it on ice, grab a 6 pack of Coronas and head to the beach. 

Seafood Sunday Coctel de Camaron

1.5 lbs of Med. Shrimp Deveined
.5 lb of small cooked shrimp
1 can of cooked clams (optional)
.5 lb of Octopus (optional)
5 Lemons
2 Large Cucumbers
3 Large Roma tomatoes
1-2 bunches of Green onions
1 bottle of clam juice
1 16 oz. bottle of Clamato juice
2-3 Chile Serranos (depending on how spicy you like it!)
2 Large Avocados cut into squares to add when served
1 Bunch of Cilantro roughly chopped to add when served
Tapatio Sauce, Salt & Pepper to taste

Add De-veined shrimp, clams, and any other seafood into a bowl and add juice from two lemons. Toss the seafood and let marinate while you prep the rest of the ingredients. 

Cut Avocado, Cucumbers and Tomatoes into small bite sized cubes, slice green onions, mince Serrano peppers, Roughly chop cilantro and juice about 3 lemons (set aside)

Return to your lemon marinated seafood and drain. You can give the contents a rinse under warm water for about 30 seconds. In a clean large bowl, add the seafood, chopped veggies and pour in the entire bottle of clam juice. Add about half of the lemon juice and fill the rest of the bowl (not to the rim) but nicely filled with Clamato. Add about 1-2 tablespoons of salt and pepper to taste. Mix it well and give the liquid a taste. Chill for about 1 hour.

Lastly, before serving add a good handful of Cilantro to the bowl and stir in gently. You want to add this last as it becomes bruised and wilted during the chill process. Give the liquid a taste. If it needs more lemon or salt, add more to your liking. 

To serve, chill some bowls or large margarita goblets in the freezer overnight or 2 hours ahead. Add more cilantro as a garnish and add a heap of Avocado squares to top! I like to mix it all up and add some splashes of Tapatio sauce to give it a little more kick.

Serve with Saltine Crackers or Tortilla chips and lemon slices on the side.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The most delicious and the guiltiest food of all: Foie Gras

As I got ready for bed tonight, I suddenly had a late night craving. I have never been one of those "I ate a tub full of ice cream" binge snackers. It's rare that I crave sweet desserts or candies. I didn't get what "guilty pleasures" were when it came to food. Until now, that is. 

Enter the world of adulthood and fine dining. This little monster sure has grown up! I can now say that my last meal on earth, my craving, my guilty pleasure is fattened goose liver on a platter. I won't get into the humane debate or share a hypocritical view on "where" this food comes from. I just simply want to admit that I am a Foie Gras lover. I want to praise the food and creativity it takes to make this delicious dish.

I fell in LOVE with Lahaina Grill on Maui this year. I dined there twice on my vacation and had the Foie Gras over Ahi Tuna, each time. Once as a shared appetizer and the other as my MAIN entree! 

It's amazing what fruit does to the complexity of the flavors. Lahaina Grill makes a Fig sauce that ties the fish & liver flavors so well! It is served on a bed of spinach and sweet whole figs. I often find myself skimming menus to see if there is anywhere in the Bay Area serving a similar creation. I have yet to find this combo!

I've experimented making Foie Gras at home last year. I used sweet apples that I caramelized with butter and brown sugar. I didn't get restaurant quality flavor but I am going to try again and post recipe and pics! Until then, sweet dreams and savory slumber!!

Foie Gras over Ahi Tuna w/ Figs @ Lahaina Grill, Maui

Sunday, March 20, 2011

White Bean Green Chicken Chili

Rainy Sundays with the 'ol Crock Pot

It's been pretty chilly in California lately. The weather has taken a drastic turn and we are dealing with strong winds, tornadoes and lot's of rain. What to do when you're stuck indoors?

Break out that dusty old Crock Pot!

With just a few inexpensive ingredients, I made one of my favorite dishes to have when it's cold and dreary outside.
The smell of your house and kitchen will be delightful!

White Bean Green Chicken Chili
(serves 6)

1 package of Foster farms bone-in chicken thighs (about 6 thighs)
2 Cans White Cannelloni beans
1 small can of diced chilies
1 can of Low sodium chicken broth
1 Medium onion
2 Garlic cloves
1 Jalapeno Serrano
1 Zucchini (if you like) 
2 tbsp EVOO
Salt & Pepper

Garnish: Cilantro, Monterrey Jack Cheese & Sour Cream


Dice your onion, mince your garlic and de-vein and de-seed your jalapeno. Dice everything up and sweat these ingredients over medium heat (5 mins) with some EVOO, add salt & pepper. (sweat = sautee) Put into the crock pot. 

Wipe, do not wash your skillet. 

Chicken thighs. This was a bit weird for me to do since I mainly work with skin less breasts. What I did was, I tried to cut out as much meat off the thigh bone as possible. I also ripped the skin off before cutting meat into bite sized pieces. You are probably thinking, why not just use skinless boneless thighs? I will get to that bit in a moment. Once you are done with this step, add to oiled skillet over med/high heat and lightly brown the chicken for about 5-6 minutes with a little bit of EVOO. 

**newbie cook tip: Don't try to stir meat right away.  Leave it be for about 3-4 mins, THEN try to flip/stir. You want to get a nice browning on the meat to lock in juices/flavor. Stirring the meat will only break it and cause you to have a nasty icky skillet to clean afterward.

What to do with the meaty left over bones? (they will  have lots of meat that you would hate to throw away) What I did, was I browned the bones with the rest of the chicken. Add EVERYTHING to your crock pot. The bones will produce delicious broth. You should have bare naked bones by the time your chili is ready- the meat should just fall off the bone during cooking. Remember to take them out before serving.

Once you are done with your chicken browning and its sitting pretty in the crock, add the beans (drain and rinse in cold water), can of diced chilies and the can of broth. I had a medium zucchini so I diced that up and added it on top.

Cook in the Crock for about 6-6.5 hours on LOW heat. I started my chili at about noon and served it at 6:30pm.

Buen Provecho!