Saturday, May 30, 2009

Eat Fresh

Pasta and salmon

This week's focus on Weekend Cook and Tell at Serious Eats is seasonal pasta.

My plan was to make a dish that is simple, light, and to learn something new.

Since we shopped working off memory and a number of items were unavailable, I had to reassess our meal once we got home from grocery shopping.

We didn't find any fresh artichokes at the markets we visited. I would have loved to have learned to cook artichokes to make a salad with artichokes, cucumbers, tomatoes, bocconcini, and pine nuts.

We forgot to get pine nuts.

Bocconcini must have been a popular item for the weekend, since we didn't find any, so we opted for the next best thing, mozzarella.

Portobello mushrooms were sold out.

Corn was pitiful. The batches we went through had kernels that did not form.

No fresh beans.

Bug was not in the mood for kalamata olives nor radishes.

Tomato Mozzarella Salad
We have bought numerous bottles of infused oils and given them as gifts through the years, but we have never infused our own oil. Infusing basil with olive oil felt like an appropriate combination to attempt.

1/2 c fresh basil
1/4 c olive oil
1 tsp white wine vinegar
chili pepper flakes
black pepper
1 tomato, sliced
8 oz bocconcini or mozzarella, sliced

Infused basil olive oil:
1. Puree basil with olive oil.
2. Simmer basil and oil for 1 minute.
3. Strain, then set aside to cool for 1-2 hours.

Sediment from the basil infused olive oil

Basil oil

Basil vinaigrette:
1. Mix oil, vinegar, pinch of black pepper and chili pepper flakes until well blended.
2. Refrigerate.

Basil vinaigrette

1. Alternate tomato and mozzarella slices on a platter.
2. Drizzle vinaigrette over the slices.

Sliced tomatoes, mozzarella, with basil vinaigrette

Steamed Salmon Filet and Pasta
We are in the midst of Copper River salmon season. As a result of its distinct flavor, color, and texture from its farm-raised cousins, I decided to steam the salmon without any added seasoning.

Raw salmon filet

I deliberated over with what to top the pasta. Should we do a pesto, tomato sauce, or no sauce? Oops, no pine nuts.

1/2 lb Copper River salmon filet

1/2 red pepper, chopped
1/2 c sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
2 c mushrooms, sliced
1/4 c capers
2/3 c olives, sliced
1 tsp garlic, minced
1/2 c basil, chopped
1 c baby spinach
olive oil
ground black pepper
sea salt

1. Prepare rotini and steam salmon.
2. In a skillet with olive oil, fry garlic, red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, olives, and capers for 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.
3. Turn off heat, add basil and spinach. Mix until basil and spinach are wilted.

Vegetables after turning off the heat and adding basil and spinach

Kiwi with sorbet
I can't take credit for dessert other than purchasing everything, slicing the kiwi, and scooping two Archer Farms sorbet pints into cups.

Kiwi and sorbet

This was arranged with a slice of kiwi at the bottom, a scoop of pomegranate blood orange sorbet, then a scoop of blueberry lavender sorbet, a slice of kiwi, and so forth. Despite most of these fruits not being in season, it was a pleasant end to a meal.

The entire meal prepared above would serve 3 people well, or 4 people adequately.

The experience was interesting...

The infused oil was easy to make. The vinaigrette was crisp and spring-like. Not wanting to compromise flavor, I didn't make more oil fearing we would run out of basil for the pasta. We had more than enough vinaigrette. I'll definitely make this again.

I must come clean and confess that I saved the pureed basil that was strained to make the infused oil, and cooked it with the vegetables.

Having used sun dried tomatoes as is in the past, I had never minced them. I learned that I could not mince them in a food processor. They just ended up getting the crap kicked out of 'em with nothing to show for it but abrasions. Being a little oily and meaty didn't help matters, so I ended up chopping them instead of mincing.

Chopped sun dried tomatoes

I wanted to use orecchiette, because they reminded me of cute little Ferengi ears but Bug preferred the way rotini chews. [I refuse to use that word that begins with mouth and ends in feel.] As it turned out, we needed a fairly hefty pasta. The poor little orecchiette would have drowned...or more appropriately, would have been muffled.

The big oops - I miscalculated the timing, so I neglected the salmon, which resulted in a rubbery and dry fish, by first overcooking it and then letting it sit for 20 minutes while I finished preparing everything else. Hey, but I made sure the rotini was al dente.

Sad salmon

Bug enjoyed the meal, even the rubbery salmon. He loved the vegetables. His suggestion for the next time was to cook thin slices of beef with the vegetables as the meal lacked a hearty meatiness.

- Cassaendra

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


...o rly?

With the humidity over 85% and temperatures hovering in the low 80s, we were in a daze strolling with Akemi before dinner.

Dinner tonight had to be cool and crisp.

While I was busy skimming through web pages online, the chopping of cucumbers in the kitchen perked my ears. As I got up from my computer, Bug whizzed by with his delicious smelling bowl of salad -- chopped iceberg lettuce and cucumbers with miso dressing from my aunt, Mae. I ninja'ed a cucumber slice just before he sat at his computer.

Inspired, I chopped, sliced, and mixed some items from the fridge. Since we didn't have peppers, tomatoes, eggs, or carrots, I came up with this concoction.

Refreshing salad on a hot, humid afternoon

I rummaged out of the fridge:
- takuan -- yellow pickled daikon
- fukujinzuke -- red pickled daikon and other vegetables
- pickled gobo -- orange burdock root
- cucumbers
- iceberg lettuce

After arranging the salad, I had a hankering for something creamy.

I was supposed to make kimbap last weekend, but didn't out of laziness, so we had a large packet of imitation crab meat sitting in the fridge. Ooh!

I picked apart 2 sticks of surimi so they were in loose strands and cut them in thirds; threw in slender sticks of cucumber; squeezed some Kewpie mayonnaise; and mixed the ingredients in a bowl. Surimi and cucumber salad in under 2 minutes.

+ surimi and cucumber salad

When I put the rest of the surimi back into the fridge, I spotted a container of little fishies that I bought at a Korean grocery store 2 weekends ago.

Korean fish

A pinch would add a firm yet chewy texture, along with a sweet and spicy kick of the sesame laden smokey fish.

++ Korean fishies

Finally, the dressing.

Pietro sesame and miso dressing

Angelo Pietro's sesame and miso dressing is my hands down absolute favorite dressing. As with some dressings like Italian, this is versatile as a marinade for all types of meat, land and sea, and tofu, stir fry base, and a salad dressing, balancing sesame, miso, rice vinegar, and soy sauce, neither overpowering the other.

+++ Pietro dressing

The salad turned out better than I had expected, with the crunchy and salty tsukemono (takuan and fukujinzuke), earthy, tangy, and crunchy pickled gobo, soothing creamy surimi salad, spicy and sweet fish, crisp cucumbers and lettuce, and a dressing that rounded everything out. And it took under 10 minutes to prepare.

I will definitely make this again! Perhaps for dinner tomorrow night?

- Cassaendra

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It's What's for Dinner

We stopped at Target on the way home for crackers so Bug could enjoy the pot of chili he made for dinner, since Fritos would further scald his already salt-singed tongue from chips the night before.

We walked by the freezer section and spied a container of blueberry lavender sorbet and pomegranate blood orange sorbet.

Which to choose...which to choose.

Pomegranate blood orange and blueberry lavender sorbet,
not a surgery disaster

I grabbed both.

Both sorbets are sweet, so skip these two flavors if you don't care for syrupy sweet sorbets. Orange is the dominant flavor in the pomegranate blood orange sorbet with a faint bitterness. It is less sweeter of the two. As one would expect, blueberry is the dominant flavor in the blueberry lavender sorbet. Lavender presents itself as a faint, almost neutral aftertaste. Both flavors would have been better if the sweetness could have been cut in half.

When I first met Bug, I mentioned adding corn to chili. I had tried it at a restaurant somewhere and liked it. Chili with corn chips, same thing right? He almost spat.

Years later...

Muahaha, Bug's chili with rice

3-1/2 lb ground sirloin
2 cans Bush's chili beans
1 can Bush's Bold & Spicy or Country Style baked beans
3 packets chili seasoning (Carroll Shelby's Original Texas Chili)
1 can (32 oz) diced tomatoes
3-4 cups corn
2-3 cups celery, chopped

1. Cook ground sirloin.
2. Drain fat.
3. Add tomatoes, celery, cooked ground beef, beans, and corn to pot.
4. Add chili seasoning packets (follow package directions).
5. Simmer for 2 to 2-1/2 hours.

Yield: Lots (20 servings)

3-1/2 lb of beef sounds like a lot of beef. It is.

Masa flour is wonderful for its smooth corn flavor, as opposed to the sweetness corn in kernel form imparts, as well as its thickening properties. Carroll Shelby's mix includes a small packet of masa flour.

Other items we may add to the pot are hot kielbasa and sliced jalapenos. If we use unflavored beans, I'll add 1-2 tsp brown sugar. The sugar doesn't make it all that sweet, but adds a really nice layer, as does 1 tsp of shoyu.

Condiments we may add are sriracha, Tabasco, or Cholula per serving bowl. I may add a small dollop of Kewpie mayonnaise on the side. Why? It's sates my craving for potato or macaroni salad when I haven't made either. You can remove a girl from the Makai Market Food Court (Hawaii), but you can't remove the plate lunch and kamaboko slippers from the girl.

Of course, if you don't like chili on the sweeter side, use regular beans, don't add corn or brown sugar.

This chili also works if you like chili spaghetti. Just add 1/2 tsp of ketchup to a serving and serve over noodles.

- Cassaendra

Monday, May 25, 2009

Doin' the Cha Cha

Each week, a challenge is issued on Serious Eats' Weekend Cook and Tell. This week, the subject was Sriracha.

Bug and I knew we weren't going to be eating in much this weekend with all the Memorial Day weekend snacking events going on. Our plan was to make kimbap and gyoza to snack on between, uhh, snacks; however, we recently bought some salmon, chuck roast, asparagus, and cauliflower that HAD to be used.

I mentioned the Weekend Cook and Tell to Bug and he whipped this up for dinner last night as we watched Terminator.

Sriracha no aji

I promise, the food actually tasted better than it looks in this picture. I had time for two shots before the hungry lion wanted to eat my camera.

Bug grilled three batches of sliced beef chuck roast with different seasoning:
- peanut butter, shoyu, sesame oil, and sriracha marinade
- shoyu and sriracha marinade
- S&B Japanese curry powder

Each of the cuts sat in their respective marinades and dry rub for ~30 minutes while the sides were being prepped.

The peanut butter marinated beef reminded me of a dish my mother used to make when I was a child with beef spare ribs. In addition to the peanut butter, shoyu, and sesame, she also used grated ginger, miso, and brown sugar.

The sides were:
- steamed white rice with hijiki and slivered carrots sprinkled on top -- the seaweed and carrots were simmered in shoyu and mirin
- steamed asparagus
- steamed cauliflower

At the center of the platter is a dollop of Kewpie mayonnaise to dip the asparagus and cauliflower. Sriracha is scribbled along the side of the dish as a dip, mainly for the cauliflower in conjunction with the mayo, but I dipped the beef in it too.

I enjoy what a little sriracha injects into dishes, teasing our taste buds to have fun and dance a little.

Bug also grilled salmon dry-seasoned with lemongrass, curry, and Hawaiian sea salt. By the time I remembered we had salmon, it was already half eaten.

Salmon skin

In a little bowl off to the side, a leaf of crispy salmon skin sat neglected waiting for me. It's my favorite part of salmon, whether it's soft and chewy or charred and crispy, with its punctuated fishy goodness.


We capped the meal with a few slices of cold, refreshing seedless watermelon.

Many thanks to Bug for humoring me with this delicious meal!

Having revisited Terminator for the first time in over 20 years, I have come to further appreciate the great job McG did with Terminator Salvation. I was also reminded how 80's some of the music sounded, not so much the industrial sounding music that's lasted throughout the series, but the bleep-bleep-bleep Casiotone synthesizers. LOL

It's put me in the mood to watch Runaway with Tom Selleck and Gene Simmons!

- Cassaendra

Sunday, May 24, 2009


Each year during the Memorial Day holiday weekend, the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation in Tremont holds their annual Greek Festival.

It's a rather eclectic mix of booths amongst the seething masses eating, wandering, and shopping. It's like a bazaar held inside a church. The booths range from textiles, books, bags, and trinkets, to second hand items. Of course, there's the food...

Our favorite item to eat at this festival is a fresh order of loukoumathes.

Loukoumathes getting sprinkled with nuts

These are fresh fried doughnuts served with a dusting of powdered sugar, cinnamon, a sprinkle of chopped nuts, and a small ladle of honey. It sounds too sweet, but it isn't.


The doughnuts are cooked to perfection. It's not heavy or dry, just soft, airy, springy, goodness.

Last year, we stood in the very long and winding line for a smorgasbord of entrees and side dishes. We deferred the opportunity this year.

With the loss of the best Greek restaurant in Cleveland, Niko's on Detroit, a few years ago, you'd think we'd be all about home cooked Greek food. I am not saying the food at the festival is horrible; it is quite good. Niko was very meticulous, always in the kitchen each time we went, that we've been spoiled with exquisitely prepared food.


Gyros were $5. As a result of the increasing number of people who attend this festival the past few years, the gyros are made and wrapped in advance. I miss the freshness of all gyros made to order years ago, but I realize this is more efficient.


The music is always too harsh with its piercing high tones and crackling speakers, so I typically make my exit when I see the dancers forming. It's a shame, as the dancers are always so cute, with most trying earnestly to get their steps right.

- Cassaendra

Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation
2187 W 14th St
Cleveland, OH 44113

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Day in the Life

Today started out like any other weekend day. The air was cooler than I had expected which was a pleasant surprise. I took Akemi out for a walk at 07:30 and noticed a budding flower in the yard. I wish I knew what kind of flower this is.

Flower in the yard at 07:30

The diseased looking furball was excited to be going out on a walk. As any dog, she loves the sights, sounds, smells, and most of all, trotting by fenced in dogs teasing them to bark at her, which they always do.

Akemi's hindquarter

The "disease" is just a shiba blowing her winter coat; evidenced by this tuft, one of 100s since she started a few weeks ago. If I saved them all, I am positive I could have made a nifty looking sweater.

Tuft of fur

We sniffed some beautiful purple flowers that looked like blooming fireworks at Akemi's park, a triangular tract of grass between three streets that she adores.

On the way back, I noticed that an art gallery closed. It was open just a few days ago!

Closed art gallery on Professor

After putting Akemi back into her cage, I noticed that my keyboard wasn't working. The num lock-caps lock-scroll lock buttons were serially flashing like Christmas tree lights on crack. Ugh! How I detest shopping for stuff like this. This keyboard has served me loyally for nearly 5 years.

Old keyboard - click on the picture at your own risk!

Bug hated my old keyboard since he's a manly stares-at-the-keyboard-and-gets-killed (in game) hunt-n-stab typist who needs all of the letters to be visible on the keyboard. I can't believe how dusty and furry the keyboard is! Yuck! That's typing in the dark for you...having a shedding cat and dog, and eating chips at the desk doesn't help matters either.

I let the hound loose at 08:30. The she-beast ran onto the bed, peeled off on Bug's head, and raced back into her cage awaiting the wrath of the sleeping giant. The giant roared and was now awake, ready to start off the day. I love Akemi. :)

We drove across town to MicroCenter to find a replacement keyboard. I really wanted the better Microsoft Natural keyboard because I like the ergonomic split and raised keyboards more, but opted for a lesser MS keyboard that cost half as much ($14.95). While it would have been nice to have the raised and split keyboard, I didn't need all of the other bells and whistles that came with it.

Ooo, new keyboard. !@#@$ with a strand of dog fur on it already!

Next, we headed for the 18th Annual Great American Rib Cook-Off & Music Festival aka the Ribfest. Free admission was advertised from 12:00 - 15:00. I wouldn't have gone if we had to pay to get in.

As we drove down the hill into the Tower City parking lot, we saw the sign - $10 Special Event. Bleah. It was more than we expected. I was tempted to tell Bug to turn around, but decided against it. It could be our last chance to go to the Ribfest in Cleveland.

Tower City mall level

Since we were early, we decided to share something small to eat. We knew the Ribfest was going to be a $$fest. We meandered over to the food court within Tower City. It's Greek to You was closed. Ugh! So we went to Cajun Grill, which is a Chinese food stall. Duh!

I fell in love with their bourbon chicken almost 15 years ago (time flies!). Something about that sweet shoyu-based sauce and grilled chicken is heavenly! Really, what is not to like about juicy, grilled meat? I don't know if bourbon is actually used. The bourbon chicken platter with white rice and noodles cost $5.00.

Lovely bourbon chicken

With more time to kill after we finished our platter, we checked out the Tower City Cinema listing -- $6.50/person plus free parking for 4 hours! Wee! A win-win situation all around. Our stay at the Ribfest was planned around our targeted showtime.

We were planning on going to see Terminator Salvation in Westlake some time this weekend. The prospect of paying $8.50 for a matinee showing wasn't very attractive, but it was a lot better than paying $10.00/person for showings after 18:00.

Since we didn't want to seem too eager to take advantage of the free admission like the 200 others who were crowded around the Time Warner amphitheater entrance below us as we walked down the stairwell, we got there at 12:10 and walked right in without a wait.

We were immediately approached by the energetic Viva folks giving out free napkins in boxes. These napkins were really plush and rib-cook off mess absorbent.

Ribfest montage - clickie on the pic to see a larger image

One of the radio stations was giving away free "ice cold" cherry Dr. Pepper, so Bug scurried into their tent, nodded at the guy, quickly grabbed two cans, and scooted off. Someone shouted, "It's warm, not ice cold!"

Stall to stall, it was a tough choice deciding which menu item to try. We sure as hell were not going to try each one. On average, a half slab of ribs cost around 11-16 tickets and a full slab was around 22 tickets. Each ticket cost $1.25 each.

I was excited to try the fried mushrooms from the Jack [Daniels] group. A half order cost 5 tickets. Bug wanted to try their ribs and the Carolina ones. Because it was rather warm, the Waffleman truck was also rather enticing.


For the person who is not a ribs fan but was dragged to this event by a significant other, there were other options as well.

Not a ribs stand! Tower City megastructure in the background.

While we were walking back to the ticket booth, we opined on the steep prices. So we continued walking past the ticket booth, past the radio station with the free "warm" (amended by announcer) cherry Dr. Pepper being given away in 3 oz plastic cups, past the family of six sharing their cup of Dr. Pepper, past the Viva towel guys, past the turnstyle, past the parking lot, back into air-conditioned Tower City.

Terminator Salvation was an engaging movie that was paced well. The opening scene was action-packed. Sam Worthington (played Marcus Wright) somewhat overshadowed Christian Bale (John Connor). I do not understand all the negative reviews. The movie was fairly well written and had great nods to the previous movies. I would love to get it on BluRay if it is decently priced, has a commentary by someone cool, and packed with extras...and by extras, I do not mean 10 versions of theatrical trailers.

Those Viva napkins came in handy because we forgot to grab napkins at the concession stand to wipe our grubby fingers of the butteriest popcorn I've ever had. 5 fingers up on doing a great job.

When we got into the car, the clock read 15:40. We had been at Tower City for 4 hours and 10 minutes. Oh-oh. Fortunately, we were let through without having to pay for the extra 10 minutes. Yay!

On the drive home, the stack caught my eye. I love red brick and industrial buildings.

WB & Co stack in the Flats

The bridges look a lot cooler in person. Some of the bridges lift up horizontally to let seafaring ships through, while other bridges pivot at one end, and others draw up from the middle on both ends.

Bridges down in the Flats

We made a pit stop to feed the rugrats and then headed out to a bookstore. Bug has been meaning to get Neil Zurcher's One Tank Trips, while I've been meaning to get the updated copy of Cleveland Ethnic Eats by Laura Taxel. We spent 45 minutes in the bookstore leafing through stuff and then headed home.

Akemi was itching for a walk. What's new?

Akemi awaits

Down the street, someone was stripping the paint off their house, piquing her interest. The loud scraping and crunching intrigued her for several minutes. Holding her interest for more than a minute is pretty much unheard of. She wasn't dying to run across the street to check this out, but she wasn't running away either.

Staring at the neighbors making strange loud noises

As usual, we ran into people who thought she was a chihuahua. It's as if she understands what they are insinuating because she ignores people who accuse her of being something she is not. She is a people lover attention queen extraordinaire - I am certain she gets a bad vibe from them.

Waiting on the porch for the door to get unlocked

The budding flower bloomed.

Flower at 16:30

[Bug woke up and informed me this flower is an iris.]

- Cassaendra

Cajun & Grill
Tower City Food Court
Cleveland, OH 44113


Mung bean sprouts

The other day, I made a side dish inspired by the complimentary dish that Shinano gives prior to a meal. A similar dish can also be found in Korean restaurants offered as banchan.

There are no measurements because I do not use any measuring apparatus when making this dish. It's all to taste...a great excuse to munch along the way.

1 lb mung bean sprouts
sesame oil
chili pepper oil
chili pepper flakes

1. Blanch sprouts.
2. Run blanched sprouts over cold water, then drain.
3. Mix shoyu, sesame oil, chili pepper flakes, and chili pepper oil to taste.
4. Thoroughly coat sprouts with liquid mixture.
5. Let sit in the refrigerator for ~30 minutes. Serve cool or cold.


I was a bit lazy this time around and didn't toast any sesame seeds.

- Cassaendra

Monday, May 18, 2009

To Boldly Go Where Star Wars has Gone Before

Despite the sarcasm and before someone sticks a Ceti eel in my mouth to have its way with my brain stem, I liked JJ Abrams' Star Trek.

A comparison between Star Wars and Star Trek has already been made in video format and is much more succinct than I could describe, especially in 35 seconds, as this guy does. The video is funnier if you've already seen the movie.

My Favorite Movie (Star Trek vs. Star Wars)

I'm sure the link will stop working long after this blog disappears, but I'll describe the similarities briefly in the event you're like me, at work with blocked access to YouTube.

1. Movie begins with small ship being attacked by large ship
2. Rebellious farm boy lives with step parent (I rolled my eyes while sitting in the theater as young Kirk was introduced living in Iowa) who dreams of going to outer space
3. Bar scene with aliens
4. Old wise man who knew true father well
5. Help save someone he doesn't get along with and becomes best of friends
6. Destroy evil ship that destroys planets
7. Ends with medals given out at a large awards ceremony

It is entertaining to watch legendary characters a few chapters before they become immortalized. I look forward to the next installment, but something about the movie occurring during an alternate timeline bothers me.

- Cassaendra

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Pick Pocky

While we were shopping at Cleveland Asia Market (CAM) for ingredients to make several dinners for the upcoming week, we meandered across the snack aisle looking for kakidane. Since we didn't find any that were reasonably priced, we turned the corner to head toward the cashier when I saw an endcap display that caught the corner of my eye.

My eyes glazed over the tower of numerous Pocky flavors like mandarin orange, berry, kiwi, several other cool swirly mixes that we would have LOVED to try. Priced at $2.99 each, I was hesitant to pick one up but succumbed to my curiosity.

Kiwi Pocky

While carefully sliding my finger under the perforation, I was wondering what the inside would look like. Would it be brown cardboard? Glossy white? Green?

Pretty Pocky

A smile spread across my face. I was pleased to discover a stark orange interior. The Pocky appeared lovingly packaged in frosted pouches with adorable, glossy green kiwis.


I was a bit skeptical that this would taste at all like kiwi. Kiwi from a box?

When I opened the packet, a refreshing puff of green tickled my nose. I quickly grabbed a stick and took a bite. Ha! It tasted like kiwi gummi -- sweet and tart, followed by a slightly bitter after-sensation.

Memories of the absolutely amazing Japanese kiwi pudding my mother used to make from a kinda instant concentrated liquid mix with crushed kiwis flooded my senses. It was heavenly. Imagine a refreshing milky, cold dessert with the consistency of chawanmushi (soft, loose custard texture) and sweet kiwi chunks.

Kiwi Pocky was not exactly like eating a fresh kiwi, but the highlights were there. It's how I wish kiwi would taste if I could put it on a cracker with white chocolate.

Ah! That reminds me - I haven't had kiwi jam in over 20 years. It's AMAZING! I'll need to make some, err Bug will need to make some, some time.

- Cassaendra


I brought my camera to work a week ago.

Vertical flow chamber

Taken from inside one of our elevators, I didn't realize this picture would have the appearance of wobbly foreground lines when the page is scrolled up and down. I realize why, but didn't really think about it until I saw it for myself.


This is one of the many waiting areas on the first floor. At the right time, this is a bubble of serenity...early morning, when the minimalist track of a shakuhachi and koto duo reverberates amidst the high ceiling and straight walls; the air, cool and dry, coalesces with the frosted glass; the comforting smell of leather from the lounge chairs; and the sparkling water silently bubbling from the top of the roughly hewn black granite fountain...alone.

Panoramic view of Cleveland

On a clear day as this day was, you can view the lake, the Cleveland skyline, Euclid Avenue, and the treetop canopies scattered about in one blink. You can see the ventilation stacks and generators clearly all the time. C'est la vie.

- Cassaendra

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Seoul Caliber

What can you get for dinner for two for under $30 in Cleveland?

Ojinguh bokkeum, gop dol bibimbap, and banchan

A lot.

For dinner last night at Seoul Garden, our favorite Korean restaurant in the city, I ordered ojinguh bokkeum ($13.95), squid stir fried with onions, green onions, red and green bell peppers in gochujang, a spicy miso paste.

Bug ordered gop dol bibimbap ($12.95), which is a super heated stone pot that comes to your table sizzling with rice on the bottom that turns into a thin crunchy wafer of smoky rice, topped with lettuce, fern shoots, slivered daikon and carrots, pieces of beef bulgogi, and egg. Gochujang is served on the side and added at the table.


We were given 14 dishes as banchan, 13 of which are pictured above.

I don't know the names of all of these, so I've pieced together the names of some by Googling. The ones I don't know, I've described to the best of my ability, which is rather crude. :P

The banchan rotates quite a bit from visit to visit. Half of the banchan pictured were different from our previous visit.

From the bottom left to top, the banchan selection yesterday consisted of:
- sweet, marinated (in soy sauce?) sliced lotus roots -- I love the firm texture and mildly salty sweetness
- ggakdugi, daikon kim chee with slivered ginger
- slivered daikon and carrots kim chee
- slivered potato carrot creamy salad -- very addictive!
- baechu kim chee, napa cabbage kim chee
- wakame with daikon and carrots in rice vinegar -- slight sweetness reminds me of a Japanese side dish I ate when I was a kid
- mustard cabbage kim chee, vinegary -- all for Bug since I am not too fond of the crunchy mustard cabbage because it is so permeating
- sukju namul, bean sprouts with chopped green onions in sesame oil
- cucumber kim chee with long, thin slivers of green onions
- a subtly bitter tasty tiny leaf kim chee -- I could eat a pound of this. I need to figure out what these leaves are!
- squishy, juicy, slippery, salty, fishy and translucent, shaped like short noodles -- really interesting flavor and texture
- jap chae, noodles w/ veggies fried in sesame oil -- one of my favorites. I love the rubbery noodles and mild sesame flavor.
- bubbling steamed eggs in broth -- awesome!

Steamed egg banchan close up

Bug used to dislike the steamed egg dish, but I think seeing how much I love this has prompted him to like it, so now I have share. :( I adore the smooth, thick, but frothy texture. It tastes like it's simmered in a broth that I have yet to pinpoint, delicate and slightly salty -- perhaps it's chicken and seaweed?


Tteokbokki is such a different dish for someone who was raised on Japanese food. I have had round mochi plain, and round or rectangular sweetened mochi. I've even tried mochi fried and grilled in soy sauce, which I neither hate nor love. Japanese mochi can range from being hard, chewy, crispy, to super soft - like giggly soft - depending on how it's served.

This dish is really different. The mochi is long, cylindrical, and soft, but stands firmly on its own, despite being flavorless by itself, amongst the full-bodied thick and slightly sweetened gochujang fried along with onions, leeks, and bell peppers.

Miso soup

Korean style miso soup is more robust than the Japanese miso soup I've had. I can't describe it other than having a deep flavor that I'd expect from a red miso, without the slight tang. Or maybe I've just had funky red miso soup. I typically prefer white miso, but this soup is quite good despite it's saltiness. Wait, what miso soup isn't salty?

Ojinguh bokkeum

I love their ojinguh bokkeum, kim chee jjigae, dwengjang jjigae, soonduboo, and several other dishes, as well as the unagi. The unagi kabayaki has a slightly sweeter sauce than I am accustomed. It is tender, moist, has a slight chew, and is incredibly cheaper compared to any Japanese restaurant in the region, closely rivaling the price at the grocery store for a frozen serving.

The squid bokkeum has a lighter tasting sauce than the tteokbokki and is quite addictive over rice, which I REALLY shouldn't be eating. I do behave myself and only eat most, not all, of the rice served to me in my silver bowl. I don't ask for seconds anymore. The peppers really make this a well-rounded dish adding a different kind of sweetness and textural crunch.

The person who cooks here makes a killer looking batch of shrimp tempura. Someone at the table behind us ordered some. I can't help but think it's goofy to order Japanese food at a Korean restaurant, but I'm tempted to try the yakisoba since the unagi is done so well.

Gop dol bibimbap

Bug loves his hot stone pot bibimbap. He has ordered the dish the last handful of times we've been here. I'd have to say he much prefers this over the room temperature bibimbap.

I like gop dol bibimbap, but I'm not too fond of the crispy rice. The first time I ordered it, Bug asked why I bothered getting the hot pot version instead of the room temperature version since I leave behind the thin crispy, surprisingly not chewy if eaten at the right time, coating of rice on the bottom.

He has a point.

BUT, it is a fun dish to be served, with its crackling, sizzling, and intoxicating sesame aroma, and then mixing the numerous contents in the molten cauldron with the sweet gochujang. It's such a great dish to eat with the numerous banchan.

We love Seoul Garden not only for the delicious and bountiful food, but also for the warm, welcoming vibe. There is no snobbery (at least not openly :). The proprietress makes us feel like we're eating at her home, always smiling and bringing out dishes...making you tempted to say, "Thanks, Aunty!" The interior space is comfortable, clean, and in good taste.

Oh, she also makes a killer kimbap with meat, veggies, and egg!

- Cassaendra

Seoul Garden
5270 Pearl Rd
Brooklyn Heights, OH 44129
(216) 661-5990

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