Sunday, June 28, 2009

Wine and Dine

This week's challenge for Weekend Cook and Tell on Serious Eats is to build a meal around a budget bottle (under $12) of wine.

Sake cup

Since I can't drink, I asked Bug what he wanted to do. He blurted, "sake with sukiyaki." I initially balked at the idea as I was in the mood for something cool. A peek in the refrigerator revealed that we only had a gulp of sake left.

On Saturday, we drove over to World Market, arriving 15 minutes 'til closing, and shuffled around the store to pick up several gifts. Bug grabbed the Sho Chiku Bai at $9.99. Amongst their selection of sake, he did not care for the plum wine, nor the frou frou sake in pretty bottles, and the bottle of Gekkeikan cost more than $12.

Classic junmai sake

On to the sukiyaki...

I've made sukiyaki and posted the recipe before. This time, I decided to add measurements to the ingredient list, since I typically wing the dish, as well as incorporating what I wrote in the previously posted recipe (read: being lazy).

Beef for Sukiyaki
Raw slices of beef

1/2 c shoyu
1/4 c sake
1 c water
1 T brown sugar
1 T vegetable oil or tallow
1 lb beef eye of round, wafer thin slices
4-5 c napa cabbage, chopped, separate bone with leafy parts
4 dried shiitake, rehydrated with the stem trimmed
14 oz shirataki, rinsed and drained
8 oz tofu, cut in cubes
11 oz young bamboo shoots, rinsed (canned, sliced bamboo shoots are fine)
7 oz enoki, trimmed and rinsed
1 leek leaf

Since I do not have a tabletop stove, I cook the entire batch at once. If you can cook at the table, cook each ingredient in equal parts in small portions and refill ingredients as needed.

1. Mix the shoyu, water, and sake (1 : 2 : 1/2 ratio, respectively) with the brown sugar in bowl. Adjust to taste. It shouldn’t be extremely salty or very sweet. The amount depends on the size of your deep pan that you’ll be cooking and serving this dish in. I usually make enough that it stands under an inch when poured in the pan. Set aside.

2. Add oil to a large heated pan. If the beef came with tallow, use that instead.
3. Separate beef and cook. Drain grease once meat is cooked, leaving the meat in the pan.
4. Add sauce to meat.
5. Add shiitake.
6. Add the bony napa cabbage. Cook for a few minutes, making sure that the cabbage remains separate from the meat. Move the meat so all pieces have simmered in the sauce.
7. Add shirataki. Cook for a couple of minutes and mix it in the sauce so the noodles are coated with the base. Move the noodles alongside the cabbage. Each ingredient should still be in discrete sections and not stirred together.

Hijiki speckled shirataki

The shirataki that I prefer has seaweed combined, as shown. It is purely for aesthetic reasons. I haven't given it a second thought whether this variety over the white is healthier.

I contemplated making twisted blocks with konnyaku instead - maybe next time.

8. Add tofu cubes and turn occasionally so they are evenly coated with the stock. Meanwhile, continue rotating the meat, cabbage, and shirataki in its place.
9. Add bamboo shoots.

Bamboo shoots

10. Add enoki and move the shiitake to the center. This is purely aesthetic for me, it won't affect the flavor of the dish. :)
11. Add leafy napa cabbage and simmer until wilted.
12. Add the leek and continue simmering for a few minutes.

Sukiyaki without leek

This is ready to serve with a bowl of rice and raw egg.

The raw egg is cracked and beaten in a separate small bowl for personal consumption. Dip a small portion of the steaming medley into the cold egg and eat with rice.

You'll notice that there is a cluster of more than 4 shiitake in the picture. I was fussing with the bag of mushrooms that was jammed in a freezer bag. Alas, after fiddling with the bag for several minutes, I gave it a hard yank. The bag finally came free along with the mushrooms. The entire bag of shiitake sprayed into the sink, onto the counter and floor, so I ended up using 8-9 and throwing out 10.

Room temperature sake

With sukiyaki, the sake should have been warmed to 100°F, but Bug opted to drink it at around room temperature. He enjoyed the sake and gorged on the sukiyaki.

Another thing to note about this meal is the cost. Including the bottle of sake, the total spent was $20.60 for 6 servings. The bottle of sake will last about a year for us. Maybe longer.

- Cassaendra

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Last week raced by, it's already time for another Serious Eats Weekend Cook and Tell. This weekend, the focus was on creating a meal for 4 for under $10.

As always, one of my goals was to do something I've never done before. We also wanted to push the envelope and create a full course meal without looking like we spent $10.

Blueberries were being sold for a reasonable price and yogurt was a bit too expensive to remain within budget, so the menu took a detour when we went shopping. I italicized purchased ingredients or felt I should mark as purchased.

Blueberry Tea
We love tea. We love blueberries. We always have two pitchers of black tea in the refrigerator all year 'round. Yogurt was too expensive so I decided to utilize some of the berries in tea versus a yogurt drink.

The blueberry syrup for blueberry iced tea recipe is from Recipezaar. Here is the recipe more or less verbatim.

2 c blueberries
1 c water
1 c sugar (varies)
5 black tea bags

1. Place blueberries in a saucepan with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
2. Set sieve or colander lined with cheesecloth or paper towel over a bowl and pour in the blueberry mixture.
3. Gently press out the juice with a spoon or by twisting the cheesecloth. Discard pulp and measure the juice in the saucepan.

Blueberry kasu
Blueberry skin and seeds

4. Add 1/2 cup sugar for each cup of juice.
5. Cook over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved.
6. Bring to a boil, and cook 2 minutes.
7. Chill and pour into covered jar. Store in refrigerator.
8. Add 2 Tbsp to each glass of prepared iced tea. Stir well and garnish with a lemon slice.

Blueberry tea
Blueberry tea after a few sips

My brew yielded a little over 2 cups of juice. This will probably yield 10+ tasty servings of tea. We typically steep 5 family-sized tea bags in the fridge overnight.

I am quite pleased with how delicious, easy, and inexpensive this turned out. While we rarely add anything to our tea, we're definitely going to do this throughout the summer with other fruits, since we can.

Total cost: $1.49 (10+ servings)

Deviled Eggs
I could eat deviled eggs all day long. They are cheap to make but a source of frustration because I don't have the patience to carefully peel eggs.

Egg white
Messy egg halves

6 eggs, boiled, peeled, and cut length-wise
1/4 c mayonnaise
1/2 tsp mustard
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
S&B Japanese curry powder

1. Separate yolks and mix with a fork until yolk becomes fairly evenly granulated.
2. Add mayonnaise, mustard, and pepper. Mix thoroughly until smooth.
3. Fill egg halves with mixture.
4. Top with a dab of sriracha or a sprinkle of Japanese curry powder.

Deviled Eggs
All dressed up and ready to go

We don't bake cakes or cookies at all, so we didn't have any icing dies to fill the eggs decoratively, so I filled a plastic Ziploc bag with the egg mixture and cut the tip off one of the bottom corners. Bug did a great job of filling the eggs.

Deviled Eggs Trio
Plain, sriracha, and Japanese curry deviled eggs

This yields 4 servings. Three halves per serving? This was such a cheap dish to make since all of the spices and condiments are standard pantry items. The only cost I've projected is the eggs...which we always have in the refrigerator. I didn't want to seem too cheap!

The sriracha deviled eggs were good, but the curry turned out much better than expected. It was slightly sweet, a bit salty, with a distinct curry flavor. The trick with the curry is to not have a heavy hand, as it can easily overwhelm. Bug was also excited about the curry deviled eggs and lukewarm on the sriracha.

Total cost: $0.50 (4 servings)

Vegetable Soup
Bug was inspired to make this soup after seeing Joanne Weir's show on Create.

2 cans 14.5 oz chicken broth
1 c water
1 c carrots, chopped
1 c fresh green beans, sliced
ground pepper
oregano (dried)
bay leaf
1 c red bell peppers, diced
1 c yellow squash, chopped in half moon
1/2 c fresh basil, shredded
1 c tri-colored rotini, cooked

It's soup, so my directions are kind of vague.
1. Combine chicken broth, water, carrots, green beans in a pot. Add desired amount of pepper, oregano, and bay leaves. Cook for 10 minutes.
2. Add red bell peppers, yellow squash, and basil. Simmer for 30 minutes.
3. Add pasta to bowls and ladle soup over pasta.

Vegetable Soup
Vegetable soup

This recipe will serve 8 generous portions or ~10 regular portions.

I love soup, so it's a good day when we add yet another clean tasting soup to our roster.

Total cost: $5.28 (8 servings)

Chicken Salad Sandwich and Wrap
Once we decided to do soup, sandwiches were a natural complement.

1 chicken breast
1 tsp Zatarain's Creole seasoning
1/8 c basil, shredded
1/2 c peas
1/4 c red bell pepper, diced
1 tsp Zatarain's Creole seasoning
ground black pepper
6 whole basil leaves

1. Coat chicken with 1 tsp Zatarain's Creole seasoning and refrigerate overnight.
2. Grill chicken. Chop chicken to pieces.

Chicken without Salad
Bug's grilled chicken pieces

3. Mix desired amount of mayonnaise with chicken, basil, peas, and red bell peppers. Add 1 tsp Zatarain's Creole seasoning and pepper to taste.

Chicken salad
Chicken salad

4. Layer whole basil leaf on bread. Add chicken salad.

Chicken salad sandwich
Chicken salad sandwich

At first, the plan was to use iceberg lettuce, but when I unfurled the basil and saw that we had large, unmarred leaves, there was no choice but to use the large leaves to layer whole.

I couldn't quite do the sandwich justice once I cut it in half, as I alotted 1-1/2 sandwiches per serving. One sandwich was too chintzy.

We usually have tortillas in the refrigerator, since Bug makes breakfast burritos regularly. Not today.

Chicken Salad Wrap
Chicken salad wrap

We made a quick run to the store and bought some tortillas. They weren't really pliable, so I had a difficult time making presentable wraps, which was a bit disheartening.

Chicken salad wrap close
Closer look at the chicken salad wrap

I'm really not a fan of peas, but I wanted something different. The peas were sweet, the red bell peppers were crunchy, and the chicken retained its grilled and outstanding seasoned flavor. Each bite had just the right amount of basil flavor that didn't overpower the sandwich. Bug was quite ecstatic about this.

Total cost: $3.32 (5 servings)

Blueberry Peach Cobbler
We initially planned on grilling peaches topped with a fruit yogurt sauce for dessert. Because we had good amount of blueberries, I thought a cobbler would be nifty, except I didn't want to stress out too much.

The no dough cobbler recipe at was intriguing, so we tried it. There really is dough, but it's not manicured. Perfect! The recipe is as follows:

1/2 c butter
1 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 c milk
2 c fresh peaches, sliced
2 c fresh blueberries
1/2 c sugar

1. Melt butter in 2-1/2 quart baking dish. Set aside.
2. Combine flour, 3/4 cup sugar, and baking powder. Add milk, and stir until blended.
3. Pour batter over butter in dish. Do not stir.
4. Combine peaches, blueberries, 1/2 cup sugar. Spoon over batter. Do not stir.
5. Bake at 350┬║ for 45-55 minutes.

The recipe states this will yield 12 servings. With the baking dish we used, or perhaps with the serving sizes we're accustomed to, we felt this would serve 6.

Bubbling Blueberry Peach Cobbler
Blueberry peach cobbler just out of the oven

As Bug was putting this together, he was skeptical how this would turn out because it looked pretty ugly going in and a bit too simple.

We didn't expect it to come out of the oven bubbling and colorful. The fruity aroma was tantalizing that we were giddily waiting to try it. An hour later, the cobbler had already heaved its final sigh, having sunk to 2/3rds its height when it gloriously emerged from the oven.

Blueberry Peach Cobbler Plated
Blueberry peach cobbler

The fruits are at their peak, so the cobbler could use less sugar. With the amount of butter and sugar, I am thinking we can't indulge too often.

Bug was so exuberant, he is already planning the next cobbler -- mangoes and blueberries.

Total cost: $2.52 (6 servings)

Our total came out to $13.12. All in all, a pretty successful venture if you take pantry items and overages into account. Bug appreciated the challenge to keep costs low and the addition of new recipes.

Some music to cook by...I got nostalgic for music my mother played on the electone and guitar. She was a superb flamenco guitarist.
Summertime with Billie Holiday (Mica Paris does an awesome rendition of the song)
Malague├▒a with Jose Feliciano
Lonely Bull by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass
Cherry Pink and Apple Blossoms White with Perez Prado

Blueberries in tea
Blueberry Bacta tank

- Cassaendra

Sunday, June 14, 2009


This week's Serious Eats Weekend Cook and Tell focus was on sandwiches.

We had a hankering for Vietnamese cabbage salad, so I thought why not use it as a filling for a sandwich? Cole slaw is in corned beef sandwiches.

Cabbage Salad
Cabbage salad

This is made to taste. By my best estimate, these are the measurements:

1 Tbsp sriracha
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
5 Tbsp fresh lime juice
6 Tbsp nuoc mam (fish sauce)
2 Tbsp sugar
ground black pepper
1/2 head cabbage, shredded
1/2 c Thai basil, shredded (mint is preferred)
1 c carrots, shredded

Mix the liquid ingredients, sugar, and pepper. Adjust to taste for sweetness, tartness, and fishness. Set aside for 30 minutes.

Combine the dressing with the cabbage, basil (mint), and carrots. Mix well. Set aside in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes. If it needs to sit for longer, drain the dressing so the cabbage doesn't steep too much.

Mint is traditionally used, and I prefer it as it brightens the salad, but couldn't find any at the Asian market we frequent. Thai basil gives a rounded licorice flavor.

Daikon Carrots Cucumber
Marinated daikon and carrot sticks with cucumber

Since I had leftover dressing, I used the remainder to mix with carrot and daikon sticks. The cucumber sticks were tossed in later. The flavor was on the light side since they did not have time to sit for a couple weeks.

Grilled Chicken
Grilled Cajun (front) and Asian (back) chicken

Bug grilled the chicken with two different marinades.

The Cajun version had Cajun seasoning dry rubbed onto the chicken and set aside for an hour in the fridge.

The Asian version was marinated and set aside for an hour in the fridge as well. Again, I do not measure ingredients when I make the marinade, so the measurements below are an estimate.

1/2 c shoyu
2 Tbsp sriracha
1/4 c sake
2 tsp sesame oil

Cilantro Thai Basil
Cilantro and Thai basil

Fresh cilantro and Thai basil will be added to the sandwich. Since I am not fond of cilantro, that's all Bug's.

Hoisin Sriracha
Hoisin and sriracha sauces

Hoisin and sriracha are the condiments for the sandwich.

The sun went down so I had to take the remaining pictures indoors in my incandescent-lit home. :(

While we would have preferred a baguette, we ended up with Italian loaves instead since that was all that was available. Too much bread!

Cajun Chicken Sandwich
Cajun chicken sandwich

In retrospect, we should have gone for a more subtle, perhaps no, marinade.

The Cajun spices were potent and competed well with the pungent cabbage salad. The combination was still all right since the salad was crunchy, sweet, and tart over the peppery and spicy chicken.

Shoyu Chicken Sandwich
Shoyu chicken sandwich

The shoyu chicken matched the sandwich a little better. Perhaps it's because I liked the chicken more. I used the cucumber, daikon, and carrot sticks inside my sandwich, but not the cilantro, hoisin, nor the sriracha.

Bug was quite happy with the way both chickens turned out, enjoying both sandwiches equally. He liked the cabbage salad, basil, and cilantro combination, along with the hoisin and sriracha spread.

Before Bug and I ate the sandwiches, I cut the tops off the bread so they did not require an unhinged jaw to eat.

- Cassaendra

Hair Today

I am sending my mane to Locks of Love tomorrow. Hopefully someone will get some use out of it.

Hair bloom
Hair in full bloom

It was getting to be too hot and I was getting a lot of remarks about my hair daily; a sure sign that it needed to be hacked.

Hair snake

It was quite a relief when the pound (maybe more?) of hair was cut. My neck hurts now probably because it's not used to the weightlessness. I had forgotten how much I can't stand hair blowing in my face.

Hair can
Some perspective

We bought some World of Warcraft (WoW) special edition Mountain Dew. There are two types, Horde red, which is a "blast of citrus cherry flavor," and Alliance blue, a "punch of wild fruit flavor."

I like the Horde soda because it has a spicy flavor. The Alliance soda tastes like medicine. It has nothing to do with playing a total of 10 Horde characters. Oh no.

For the Horde!

- Cassaendra

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Here's my photo contribution of a spoiled dog looking cute for the day.

Akemi Stairs

I wonder what kind of mischief she was pondering.

Now playing:
Frozen Memories by Hotei Tomoyasu

- Cassaendra

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


From bygone days when cars were works of art, a 1928 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A SS is on display in a quiet corner at one of our newest buildings.

I was fortunate to speak with the person who performed the restoration.

IF Tipo 8A SS Driver Front

From a dusty shell in Florida, it took 1-1/2 years of dedication to restore this automobile -- one of only two that were created.

The door sounded solid when opened and closed. With each thud, I winced thinking of it as a fragile piece of art, but it is foremost a well-crafted vehicle.

While it presently has no gasoline for safety reasons, the car is street-operational with a mileage in the low 100s.

IF Tipo 8A SS info

At some point in its life the muffler had fallen off, so it had to be rebuilt, not just replaced. The nuts and bolts of the car were custom made, since the original manufacturers no longer made them.

IF Tipo 8A SS Front

I find its beauty lies in the contrast of intricacy and practicality, bold lines and graceful curves. The window appears as a square piece of glass; however, when it is rolled down, there is a sleek chrome top edge.

IF Tipo 8A SS Passenger

Time absconded with the original seat covers, so new ones were crafted to the owner's specifications. I am sure the original seats weren't this beautiful! The texture of the leather is exquisite.

IF Tipo 8A SS Driver Rear

Two 12-volt batteries would have been kept in the compartment shown here. The box on the passenger side would have held tools.

It is difficult to discern from this picture where the back seat flips open, revealing leather seats identical to the cabin.

Elegance captured.

- Cassaendra

Sunday, June 7, 2009


Today was another one of those aimless Sundays; too much time, so little to do. The seconds seem to tick a bit faster as the sun draws closer to the horizon, however.

Iris in the morning

I woke up and took the dog for a walk. Another bunch of irises and white flowers bloomed. I have no clue what these huge, white flowers 6" in diameter are, and I can't get near them without disturbing a swarm of bugs. They look like chrysanthemums, but aren't.

Some days I feel totally clueless to what is going on in my neighborhood. A few stores decided to drag their junk out onto the sidewalk. Later in the day, I noticed people with stuff from their homes scattered about their lawns who weren't being evicted.

We took care of shopping for Father's Day gifts yesterday, so we drove around looking for stuff to do hoping for inspiration.

100th Bomb Group
Driving by the 100th Bomb Group Restaurant

Nope, nothing in the immediate future. Going to the 100th Bomb Group Restaurant right next to the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport runway, near NASA Glenn Research, is something we've been meaning to do.

When the refrigerator is fairly empty and I feel peckish, I just throw stuff together without foresight.

It is uncomfortably warm so something cool would be nice for dinner, so I chopped 1/4th of a seedless cucumber, a pear, and washed some red grapes.

Two bags of dried lentils and barley were still sitting near the sink, left over from the 2 vats of soup Bug made on Friday. A bag of Trader Joe's Thai Lime and Chili cashews were sitting on the counter also.

TJ Thai Lime Chili Cashews

The cashews are pretty tasty, but only in moderation. They are a bit too bold and quickly becomes a flavor overload.

I had nothing better to do, so I cooked up some lentils and barley.

A hill of beans

While I cooked up the lentils and barley, I snacked a bit too much on the cucumbers. They probably wouldn't have gone well with the fruits anyway. Riiight.

Surprisingly, the crunchy and sweet pear went well with the buttery, tart, and spicy cashews. The lentils and barley really had no business being in this mess other than to add uhh texture to the dish, as well as fiber, protein, and a host of other nutrients.

Pear Grape Salad
Some kind of salad

I didn't think the Pietro sesame and miso dressing would work, but it was all right, especially with furikake sprinkled on top. My opinion is probably skewed (it is, after all, an opinion), as I would probably enjoy a platter of dirt served with this dressing.

Would I serve this to guests? While it is edible, probably not. From this little experiment, I found out that I have grown to appreciate lentils more. I can't stop snacking on those little pellets.

- Cassaendra

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