Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Greens Blues

Kale mushrooms
Chicken, brussels sprouts, and kale with mushrooms

We bought kale to make Portuguese kale soup a few weeks ago, but Bug was injured that weekend so we didn't pick up chorizo and scrapped the idea. In a Serious Eats post, a kale side dish was suggested that included mushrooms, onions, and garlic.

Bug used:
olive oil
1 bunch kale, chopped ($2.00)
garlic, minced
onion powder
crushed chili peppers
8 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced ($1.50)

In olive oil, the kale was sauteed on medium heat with the garlic and dried seasonings. It took longer than expected for the spines to soften, ~10 minutes. Mushrooms were added at the end to cook for a few minutes.

Bug loved it, gobbling 3/4 of it in 2 meals. The flavor took some amount of control for me not to heave after my fifth bite. Kailan (Chinese kale), which I like, tastes as much like kale as pomegranates taste like apples. This was a great disappointment because I love Au Bon Pain's Portuguese kale soup and acknowledge that it is a nutritional powerhouse. Maybe I need to cook it down longer or add a wee bit of bacon. Would that count against all that is good, like eating a double Whopper with a large diet Coke, a salad with a gallon of ranch dressing?

The chicken was pan fried in olive oil, seasoned with sea salt, black pepper, brown sugar, lime, and garlic and the brussels sprouts were roasted with olive oil, black pepper, and salt. (15 chicken tenderloins $3.00; carton of brussels sprouts $0.99)

I was originally going to title this post, "Kale the Poor," but felt that it was only marginally amusing to someone who has listened to the Dead Kennedys. Okay, maybe not even marginally.

- Cassaendra

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


May she rest in peace

The last of our six ferrets was put down today. Mochi was a sprite with a penchant for Yoru's food. Meow Mix and her Marshall's diet was all she would eat. She would snort at everything else, our only ferret who wasn't a snack thief.

Mochi would play on the bed for hours without using the bathroom on it or wandering off, at least for a few years until she figured out the world under the bed. Her chirping and dancing always gave her location away.

We'll miss the little rascal.

- Cassaendra

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Under the Sea

Choc Salted Caramel
A Cookie and a Cupcake goodness

Tonight's treat for the humans while taking Princess Akemi and her sometimes not-so-loyal subject, Juubei, for their evening rounds was a stopover at A Cookie and a Cupcake. Their special this evening was chocolate salted caramel cupcakes.

On the way home, I had to shoo away the hoovering hooligans (hoovergans?) when the scent wafted just the right direction to tickle their nostrils.

The salty sweetness is a welcome change. The moist, chocolate cupcake had a salted caramel filling and was fortunately not cloying, becoming a delectable chocolate slate for the salted caramel and butter cream frosting sprinkled with black lava salt and a pinch of sea salt.

- Cassaendra

A Cookie and a Cupcake
2173 Professor Ave
Cleveland, OH 44113
Tel: (216) 344-9433

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Game is Afoot

I grew up reading Sherlock Holmes stories and, later, watching the late Jeremy Brett play the part impeccably in the well-made Granada TV series (1984-1994), where I was able to bond with him over 41 of the 60 adventures Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote.

When I saw a preview of the resurrection of Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey, Jr., I was a bit skeptical, but not enough to dismiss him. For years, I have been impressed with his ability to sink into a character's skin. I think Bug would agree that he and Johnny Depp are the stars of our generation.

On Friday, I spoke with my coworker, DN, about possibly seeing the movie this weekend. Downey's ability to portray Holmes was still scratching at my mind, but DN gave the example of Daniel Craig as James Bond. We've spoken in the past of how well Craig has done in reviving that enterprise.

I could sense Bug's frustration during the first half of the movie; whereas, I was enthralled by the costumes and the feel of the world. There are several aesthetic aspects I enjoyed about the film -- the hue, texture, music, and steampunk theme.

It's a mystery so I don't want to say too much, but I can say that it has a tidy ending.

Deerstalkers off to Guy Ritchie for successfully resurrecting 221B Baker Street.

Jeremy Brett is Sherlock Holmes in my dreams, but Robert Downey, Jr. is an impressive Sherlock Holmes in a parallel universe. I look forward to more adventures.

- Cassaendra

Thursday, January 14, 2010


While we were at Miles Market Saturday morning shopping for our weekly supply of vegetables, I indulged in a couple of snack items.

A pint of Jeni's ice cream ($10.00) from Columbus and a packet of Ines Rosales tortas ($5.00), olive oil crackers from Spain. I felt guilty while we were standing in line. As I anticipated, these two items accounted for half of our grocery receipt.

Ice cream Torta
Ice cream and torta on ice

Checking out Jeni's ice cream has been on my mind since I first heard about it on Serious Eats and our trip to Columbus to meet up with Michael at Short North in July. We only had a few hours together, so I didn't want to spend our time together waiting in a ridiculously long line.

I was reluctant to purchase their ice cream at Miles Market in the past because of the price and offering. When they first began carrying Jeni's this summer, the flavors were lackluster. I didn't feel any urgency to shell out $10 for vanilla.

On this trip, there were ~10 flavors in their freezer, from blackstrap praline, chili pepper, to sorbet. The MacKenzie Creamery goat cheese and cognac fig ice cream stood out.

The skeptic in me boggled at goat cheese in ice cream when I saw it sitting on the shelf. It doesn't really deserve that extent of disbelief as I've tried durian and avocado shakes, not your typical soda fountain fare.

Ice cream on Torta
Ice cream and torta

My first bite was met with a subtle sweetness and slight sourness, similar to cheesecake. It swallows like custard egg nog, thick and creamy. The cognac fig reminded me of raisins lightly draped with alcohol with a granular crunch.

I enjoyed the ice cream, but did I $10 enjoy it?

Short answer: no

Long answer: Fig ice cream is available nearby at Flying Fig, but where else am I going to get goat cheese ice cream? I would be more apt to buy it again if it were $7. If I run across another unsual pairing, I may purchase a pint.

The olive oil crackers were an impulse buy. I'm a sucker for enticing packaging and unusual snacks.

Orange Torta sealed

The torta are wrapped in translucent wax paper, tucked like fragile ornaments, and look like delightful gifts. I wanted to try them out to see if they were worth giving -- quality control and all that.

I couldn't decide which olive oil crackers to get - savory or sweet. There was a selection of plain, sesame, Seville orange, two other flavors I do not recall. The Seville orange seemed the most palatable.

Similar to a well made palmier, there is a flaky crunch and a thick bite. Following the textural and auditory trek, a bittersweet orange essence makes its entrance, followed by a nutty, bordering on sesame, flavor.

Orange Torta open

This felt indulgent, not merely due to the cost, but for its lack of utility. I can't see myself incorporating these in many dishes to justify buying them with any regularity. Where saffron, while fairly expensive, one is able to use it in numerous dishes. Maybe spices are an unfair example. Table water crackers can be used in soup, as appetizers, and breading.

Five days later and I still feel guilty.

- Cassaendra

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Shiso in Shoyu

Shiso (perilla) leaves and Indian mango pickles

A couple of weeks ago, we stopped at an Asian grocery store Downtown and found a display of clear plastic bags filled with various leaves sitting in cardboard boxes. At the head of each box were signs scrawled in Chinese characters, so I wasn't able to identify what each leaf was other than by their shape and scent. I don't know my plants so I would probably eat poison ivy, left to my own devices.

Bug pointed to the bag of purple and green leaves, and exclaimed, "We need to get these!" He continued, "I think these are the leaves Seoul Garden uses for that leaf banchan," referring to the banchan of thin, uniformly stacked, firm, and roughly-textured marinated leaves with sesame. I smelled the bag. Yup, this smelled like it.

I threw the leaves in the vegetable bin in our refrigerator and there it sat, forgotten, until a Serious Eats Weekend Cook and Tell challenge was posted to "bring home a vegetable (or fruit) that you aren't familiar with."

Well, before we arrived at shiso as our vegetable, we bought kale to make chorizo kale soup. Later that morning, Bug fell down some snow-covered stairs and shattered his elbow taking Juubei out to pee. This put an end to our soup idea, since we planned on going to Mi Pueblo to shop for chorizo. Instead, we spent the whole day in the ER.

While digging around in the fridge that evening, I came across the shiso and squealed, "This would go well with the ahi we purchased earlier."

Sesame (perilla, shiso) Leaves in Soy Sauce
from Hannaone's Korean Recipes

4 bunches sesame leaves
1/4 c soy sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled
1 tsp fine ground red chile pepper

white sesame seeds
fine ground chili pepper

Rinse the sesame leaves well in cold water, then drain.
Crush or chop the garlic.

Put the soy sauce, sugar, garlic, and chili pepper in a small pot and heat over medium heat until liquid just begins to boil.
Reduce heat, add sesame leaves and simmer for three to five minutes, turning often.
Remove from heat.
Use a small strainer and remove leaves from the liquid. Set strainer over the pot so that liquid drains back into the pot, and let cool.

Final Mix
Gently separate the leaves into small bunches (5 to 10 leaves).
Layer the small bunches in a sealable container, lightly sprinkling sesame seed and chili pepper over each layer. Each layer should face a different direction.
Pour the liquid over the leaves and seal the container.
Let stand at room temperature for six hours, then refrigerate.
Serve in small bunches as a side dish with Korean meals.

When we sat down to eat, I was disappointed with the leaves. They were ugly - shriveled and not firm at all. While the flavor was similar, the shoyu flavor dominated more than I preferred.

Next time I make this side dish, I am going to bind the stems together in stacks of 10 after rinsing, and blanche the leaves in the mixture, instead of cooking for several minutes. This might solve the problem of the scrunched and wimpy leaves.

Adding a water to the shoyu to thin the sauce a little will suit my tastes better. Also, allowing the leaves to sit 1-2 hours should be fine, as opposed to 6 hours, hopefully retaining the beautiful purple color and texture.

Kale would have been more of an adventure since it isn't a vegetable I was exposed to growing up, fiddling with this dish was satisfying. Also, shiso wasn't something I was exposed to much other than the dehydrated plum and leaf bits in my packet of ochazuke nori sprinkled over my rice with tea.

As for that big bush of kale, it is still sitting in the refrigerator. I'll probably take the advice given and use it as a side with mushrooms.

- Cassaendra

Thursday, January 7, 2010


After some car problems mixed with procrastination, the main dish for our Japanese New Year's Eve meal was ready on New Year's Day.

Nishime is one of ~10 dishes my mother made each year to celebrate the New Year.


Each vegetable is cooked separately, then put together in a pot and simmered shortly before it is served. This is pretty much all I recall from my mother's preparation. The recipe here is a vague recollection, since I was never present for the entire preparation of this dish and all of her recipes ceased to exist when she passed.

For my nishime this year, I used:
7 dasheen (taro), boiled then peeled, whole
1 gobo, julienne (burdock root)
1 sheet dried kombu, rehydrated (kelp)
1 daikon, chopped in large chunks
2 c carrots, chopped
2 bamboo shoots, halved
1 konnyaku block with seaweed
pork tenderloin, sliced bite-size (~4 oz) -- this can be left out for a pescatarian meal
5 shiitake, rehydrated (save the water)
1 c lotus root (precooked and sliced, since I couldn't find fresh)

This is the only time of year that I buy and cook dasheen, since I haven't explored any other use for these potatoes.

Drained, cooked dasheen

While the dasheen is being boiled in water, wash the uncooked white rice in water and set the starchy water aside.

After the gobo has been scrubbed and cut into matchsticks, place them into the starchy rice water to soak for ~10 minutes to further cleanse. The cloudy white water will turn brown. Rinse and drain before boiling in 2 c water with ~1/2 c shoyu and ~1/4 c mirin.

The kombu should be pliable after being soaked for ~10 min and washed. You would typically just brush off the kombu instead of wasting the water, but the packet I bought had a really thick coat of white powder.

If they are in wide strips, cut the kelp lengthwise into 2" wide strips. Since the seaweed is slippery, long strips make it easier to grip. Tie a row of tight simple knots leaving enough room, approximately 2", between each knot. Cut between each knot. Trim off excess kombu. Boil in water until a chopstick can poke through the knot with some ease.

Simmer the large chunks of daikon in water, shoyu, and mirin until cooked (somewhat translucent and yellowish from the broth). The broth is similar in proportion as above (2:1/2:1/4). Liquid should cover the daikon.

Steam carrots and bamboo shoots separately until cooked.

Bamboo shoots
Bamboo shoots

When preparing the konnyaku, I should have taken pictures of each step, since this will be hard to explain. You don't have to serve it in the manner I am about to describe. Plain slices are fine, as well as shirataki.

Wash the konnyaku cake. Lay the cake flat and cut along the short edge in 1/2" slices. The slices should be ~3" in length.

Lay each slice flat on the cutting board and cut a slit down lengthwise in the center, starting 1/4" from the top and stopping 1/4" from the bottom.

Take the top (short) edge, slide it in the slit, and pull up gently from the other side. Set aside.

Konnyaku twists

Base (approximate measurements):
shiitake steeped water
4-5 c water
1/2 c kombu, leftover from trimming
1 c katsuobushi (shaved, dried tuna that comes in clear packets and look like wood curls)
1 c shoyu
1/4 c mirin

For the base, drain the rehydrated shiitake water in a pot, kombu, and water, and heat until it boils. Turn off heat and add katsuobushi. Steep for ~10 minutes. Strain the broth and throw out what remains in the strainer.

Turn heat up to simmer the broth and add shoyu and mirin. Adjust to taste. Line the shiitake along the bottom of the pot, then the potatoes, daikon, and konnyaku. Then add the remaining ingredients. Simmer for ~10 minutes. Mix the ingredients, simmer for 5 more minutes, then serve.

There is nothing wrong with the broth, but my mother did not serve the dish with the broth.

The flavor isn't overly fishy as one would imagine. The broth takes on the flavor of kombu and daikon with a bit of shoyu. Bug isn't too keen on this dish, but he humored me by eating a bowl. He couldn't describe why, it just wasn't his thing. It reminds me of my mother.

- Cassaendra

Friday, January 1, 2010


3D Glasses Avatar
3D glasses

It's amazing how many people are out watching movies on Christmas Day! Several of the movies were sold out at the 16-plex we went to. We paid $11 each for a matinee showing of Avatar, which is a bit steep, but 3D movie locations are limited and there is the cost of the glasses.

This movie was directed by James Cameron, costing approximately $500 million to make and advertise. It has made over $760 million globally in 3 weeks!

Avatar needs to be viewed in 3D; otherwise, I don't feel it is worth going to. The plot was predictable, but not awful. The computer rendered Na'vi were not distracting and the treehugger-peacenik message wasn't out of line as early reviewers mentioned. The 3D effects and music were beautiful and not overdone. My favorite 3D effect was the flying embers.

This feeling of awe was reminiscent of my viewing of Captain EO, a Michael Jackson 3D movie that played at Disneyland, over 15 years ago. Like the others in the auditorium, we extended our arms to reach out and grab the flying objects.

The 3D glasses were unlike the old blue-red tinted film lenses with card stock rims. The new glasses are durable and looked like sunglasses with tinted lenses and thick plastic black rims. Wearing the glasses on top of regular glasses was a bit distracting. Every 15 minutes, I had to push the 3D glasses down since they would float up.

While the movie was hyped up and mostly gimmick, I'm glad I saw it. I look forward to my next 3D experience. I wonder what the next Avatar movie will be about without the same storyline being rehashed. How long will it take for 3D to become the default, and when will our movie experience be 360°, like you're in a snowglobe?

- Cassaendra

Happy New Year!

Yoru Tiger
Year of the Tiger

Breakfast was Frosted Flakes.

I was still cooking the traditional Japanese New Year's Eve meal until this afternoon. I'll have to work on not procrastinating so much!

Maybe we'll watch Men Who Tread on Tiger's Tail tonight, a film directed by Kurosawa Akira about Minamoto Yoshitsune's escape north from his brother, Yoritomo, with his vassals.

We also greeted the New Year with a puppy yet to be named.

New Pup
Wiggle worm

He is an Australian cattle dog. I had forgotten how annoying puppies can be. Oy.

- Cassaendra

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