Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sicilian Cauliflower

- a recipe posted by Chef Michael Symon on 02/20/2010

Sicilian Cauliflower shallots
Cauliflower with shallots

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1/2 c golden raisins plumped in marsala
1/2 c toasted pine nuts
2 Tbsp capers rinsed
1 tsp white anchovy, minced
2 Tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 lemon - juice and zest
1 orange - juice and zest
1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp honey
1 tsp chili flakes
1 tsp toasted cumin seeds
1 clove garlic, minced
4 shallots, minced

1. Heat oven to 400°F.
2. Toss cauliflower in a little oil and salt, and roast on cookie sheet for 3-5 minutes or until golden brown.
3. Mix cauliflower with raisins, pine nuts, parsley, capers and set aside.
4. Place garlic, shallot, chile flakes, and cumin in a mixing bowl and season with a pinch of kosher salt.
5. Top shallot mixture with lemon and orange juice and zest, and add honey.
6. Whisk in olive oil and toss with cauliflower mixture and serve.

Depature from recipe:
1. Bug didn't know what to do with the anchovies, so this was not added.
2. I do not eat raw shallots; therefore, they were added and mixed on Bug's plate separately.
3. We couldn't find flat leaf parsley, so that was also axed.
4. I do not drink alcohol, so no marsala was used.

The cauliflower remained white after 5 minutes in the oven, so they were left in the oven for an additional 20 minutes.

Sicilian Cauliflower
Cauliflower w/o shallots

We were skeptical of this dish at first; however, Bug enjoyed the dish so immensely that he ate 2/3 of it in less than 24 hours. A rather mundane plate of cauliflower was transformed into a colorful bowl of ambrosia; juicy, crunchy, chewy, and grainy bites with a bursting myriad of flavors spanning from sweet, bitter, salty, nutty, tart, to smoky. The shallots, according to Bug, added more zip and crunch.

As this side is a scene stealer, it would go well with something bold like steak.

Using this preparation, I would imagine it working well as an entree with shrimp or chicken paired with wild rice and asparagus.

Unfortunately, Bug developed "pine nut mouth" 2 days later. He has had a persistent bitter, metallic, and soapy taste in the back of his mouth for the past 4 days. Apparently, this is a result of consuming pine nuts processed in a particular manner, typically sourced from China, as the ones we purchased at a Cleveland Giant Eagle were.

No more 190 lb squirrel stealing pine nuts. Bug has become gun-shy from this ordeal, so I'm not sure when we will next purchase pine nuts.

- Cassaendra

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Few of My Favorite Things

Feeling peckish, lazy, and frugal, I wanted something quick to eat and to use up leftovers in the refrigerator.

A packet of Sapporo Ichiban yakisoba sitting amongst 4-5 varieties of instant noodles, all in a basket where I keep noodles and various snacks and soup bases from Japan, looked pretty attractive.

I wanted more than just noodles, and let out a sigh when I discovered that we did not have any Spam or eggs left.

I would have surrendered at this point normally, and cooked up just the noodles, but a plastic container of rotisserie chicken sitting in the refrigerator hogged (chickened?) up half the middle shelf squawked. Upon inspection, it looked as if a pack of dogs ravaged it. Alas, it was Bug and me who tore through the carcass, not our little Akemi and Juubei.

When I opened the vegetable drawer, half a head of cabbage with blackened edges sat amongst a patchwork of other recently acquired vegetables.

I chopped up some chicken (1 c) and cabbage (2 c), and threw it in a searing hot pan of vegetable oil.

They looked and smelled a little drab.

There are a handful of spices I reach out to give dishes a little depth. When making Japanese noodles dish, I frequently reach for a bottle of rayu (chili pepper sesame oil), S&B Japanese curry powder can, and shichimi togarashi.

Curry Ichimi
S&B curry powder and House ichimi tougarashi

The direct translation for shichimi togarashi is 7 (shichi) flavor (mi) tougarashi (chili pepper). The 7 ingredients are course ground red chili pepper, orange peel, white and black sesame seeds, sansho (a bitter Japanese pepper), ginger, and nori (seaweed).

Since I didn't have the shichimi variation, I grabbed the next best thing, ichimi tougarashi (ground red chili pepper).

A bit of curry powder, a few dashes of ichimi togarashi, black pepper, sesame seeds, and a drizzle of rayu made the combination more festive.

To be a bit more exact:
1 tsp S&B Japanese curry powder
1/2 tsp ichimi togarashi
1/2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 tsp rayu

The chicken and cabbage concoction was set aside.

The yakisoba package directions were followed to prepare the noodles. A few minutes before the noodles were fully cooked, almost all the water was drained. The pan was returned to the burner and the yakisoba flavor packet was sprinkled over the hissing noodles.

Yakisoba Kewpie Sriracha

Yakisoba powder included in the Sapporo Ichiban packet has the best flavor, as far as instant sauces goes. I am not as fond of the bottled yakisoba sauce. I've found them either too sweet or the worcestershire flavor a bit too dominant.

The chicken-cabbage mixture was added to the noodles and incorporated. Crushed chile peppers were added for heat.

Additional toppings after serving the noodles on a plate were sake (salmon) furikake, laver (seaweed) that came with the packet, and Kewpie mayonnaise.

The yakisoba was faintly sweet and smoky with a nudge of curry. The addition of Kewpie mayonnaise spikes the flavor and adds a creamy texture. This is one of several dishes -- okay, maybe more like one of 20 dishes -- that makes me happy to be alive.

- Cassaendra

Saturday, February 20, 2010


I recently saw Helvetica, a movie about the Helvetica typeface.

Aa Bb Cc Dd Ee Ff Gg

Directed by Gary Hustwit, the documentary tells the history of the typeface, created by Max Miedinger with Eduard Hoffmann in Switzerland in the late 1950s. Originally named Die Neue Haas Grotesk, it was spawned from a desire for a neutral, cleaner typeface.

Hh Ii Jj Kk Ll Mm Nn

With a running time of 80 minutes, you are taken through typesetting, design, and the explosion of fonts through the heavy use of word processing programs like Microsoft Word via narration, interviews with graphic designers, and snapshots of its widespread usage.

Oo Pp Qq Rr Ss Tt Uu

It is amazing to see just how much of our world is intertwined with Helvetica. Examples of a few of the many industry giants who use the typeface are 3M, Microsoft, Toyota, and Apple to municipal transit systems like NYC's Metropolitan Transit Authority and Chicago Transit Authority's L.

Vv Ww Xx Yy Zz

My father instilled an interest in typesetting, as well as electronics, computers, and photography, when I was a young child so this was an interesting film. As such, it is not for everyone, but encouraged as an eye-opener, revealing the thought and effort in an inarguably ubiquitous, yet widely imperceptible, creation.

- Cassaendra

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Spot On

"For two, please."
"The wait is 45 minutes to 1 hour."

The woman quickly scribbled my name and the time in her book, and then directed us to wait at the bar or at the mall hallway where they would be calling out names.

B Spot's location is incorporated into a mall, so wait time isn't very painful. Barnes & Noble is the lucky neighbor.

BSpot Mall Interior
Waiting in the mall hallway

After we spent 20 minutes roaming around, we sat outside of B Spot for 15 minutes when my name was called out.

It was interesting staring at people eating. I initially wanted to sit along the mall hallway because of the lighting, never really considering how uncomfortable I might have made those diners feel by staring at and commenting about their dishes. At least I didn't take close-up shots of their food and strike up a conversation.

BSpot Bar and Kitchen
View from our table

We were seated at the front of the house. Behind me was the B Spot beer can mural. To the left was a glass roll-up garage door that I presume will be open once warmer weather hits.

The antler chandelier was a reminder that I was here to consume meat. (There are non-meat options like the Why??, a veggie burger with bleu cheese, pickled onions, and arugula, and Shroomage, portobello mushroom, bleu cheese, caramelized onions, with Lola steak sauce.)

The mood was lively and the music festive. It had a Saturday night vibe. Well, I suppose being a Saturday evening may have contributed to this. We were seated on high chairs, so I was able to see beyond the tables and out to the mall hallway. The entire time we were there, the mingling crowd did not thin out.

BSpot Beer Can Mural
View from our table

Order taking was efficient and cordial. Our waiter came by with a small hand held device, stylus in hand, and took our order.

Since I glossed over the menu online, there was one thing I HAD to try: the vanilla apple pie bacon shake ($5.00). Would it have been enough for me to walk out if it was not available? Tough call.

BSpot Vanilla Apple Pie Bacon
Amazing vanilla apple pie bacon shake

The thick, spiced vanilla shake arrived in a silver container, with an empty glass and a bubble tea straw. The pulverized smoky specks reminded me of Bac-Os because of its super crunchy texture. For an additional $3, bourbon can be added.

For $3 and $5, the Lola fries and onion rings were a natural addition to the meal.

BSpot Lola Fries
Lola fries

The crisp shoestring fries were sprinkled with rosemary. I prefer thin fries over steak fries, so I was pleased. Of course, they tasted best the moment they arrived at the table.

Yes, I actually ate onion rings! The batter was well seasoned and the thick-cut onions were fresh, not stringy. I could be wrong, but it tasted like beer batter was used. I was told by our waiter that lard was used. Something I don't hear very often.

BSpot Onion Rings
Really good onion rings

At each table, there is a basket with 6 bottles of sauces:
- balsamic steak sauce
- Lola ketchup
- shasha sauce
- coffee BBQ
- ketchup
- stadium mustard

BSpot Sauces
Sauces at each table

Coffee BBQ had a sweet, smoky, and slightly bitter flavor. The balsamic steak sauce was reminiscent of tonkatsu sauce, but not as sweet. Lola ketchup tasted like pureed canned tomatoes with light seasoning. According to Bug, the shasha sauce tasted like it had horseradish. We both liked the coffee BBQ the most for dipping.

BSpot SymonSays
Symon says...

My Symon Says burger ($8.00) included bologna, cole slaw, American cheese, and whip sauce with a hefty burger cooked to a prefect medium, as requested. The bun was exceptional. Firm, but not dry. It easily held together and soaked up the juices without becoming soggy. I reluctantly surrendered one bite to Bug.

Bug ordered the Smasher's Special ($9.00), which is akin to ordering an omakase special at a Japanese restaurant. He didn't even ask for a description of the burger.

The special was the pizza burger, which included pepperoni, banana peppers, mozzarella, and marinara. Bug enjoyed the pepperoni in his burger.

BSpot Smashers Special Pizza
Smasher's Special this week

We inquired with our waiter what the previous mystery burgers had been. He responded that the Smasher's Special as a menu selection is only in its 3rd week. Last week, the special included chorizo. I don't recall what was served the first week, but I remember that it was served with tzatziki.

Bug hopped over to the pickle bar. He looked like a kid in a candy store.

BSpot Pickle Bar
Lots of pickled stuff at the pickle bar

There were several pickled cucumbers, pickled onions, jalapeno peppers, and pickled green tomatoes in buckets. The onions were sweet and tart, jalapanos were hot, and the green tomatoes were crunchy, tart and had an onion essence.

BSpot Pickles
Pickled onions, kosher dill pickles, and pickled green tomatoes

BSpot Smashers Pizza
Munched pizza burger

Just for fun, Bug also ordered a New School bologna sandwich ($6.00), which consisted of an egg fried over-easy, pickled onions, sweet hot pickles, and a very thick slice of fried bologna with Russian dressing.

BSpot New School Bologna
New School bologna sandwich

Bug came away inspired from this sandwich, professing that he will be purchasing more bologna and frying it, as well as adding fried eggs to his sandwiches. I'll take that as a thumbs up on the New School.

BSpot New School Bologna half
New School cut open

Paying for the meal was painless. The same device used to take orders also swipes credit cards so our card never left our sight.

BSpot Wrapper

We're not fan boys or girls of Michael Symon, but his name did lure us into giving the place a try. We were not disappointed. The service was always cordial and prompt; something that is lost at some restaurants that are half or a quarter as busy.

We look forward to paying B Spot another visit as we're in this area a few times per month to shop at Trader Joe's, Sur La Table, Anthropologie, and Penzey's. It's a comfortable restaurant. Perhaps I'll try the Breuben, a burger with corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Russian dressing.

- Cassaendra

B Spot
28699 Chagrin Blvd
Woodmere, OH 44122
Tel: (216) 292-5567

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bangkok Thai Cuisine

As our favorite Thai restaurant in Cleveland, we've returned several times to Bangkok Thai Cuisine in Lyndhurst since our initial visit in 2008 which was spurred on by a recommendation from a coworker from Thailand.

The lighting was subdued so taking photographs here was a bit tricky. My apologies for the funky looking food that do not do the dishes justice.

Bangkok Thai Cuisine Interior

Bug has been battling a bug so he wanted to start off with an order of soup. Their tom yum goong has a wonderful piquancy, perfect for how he was feeling; however, he wanted to try something new.

A bowl of zap beef arrived 10 minutes later. Slivers of tender beef were lurking at the bottom. The soup tasted like tom yum. Not being a fan of cilantro and onions, this wasn't exactly to my liking. Bug liked it.

Bangkok Thai Cuisine Zap Beef Soup
Zap beef

We decided to veer from our regular dishes, aside from our customary pad thai. This did not go unnoticed when our platters of pad thai, ginger beef, and Mango Paradise with chicken arrived and one of the women asked, "No beef basil and mango curry?" We all cackled.

Bug and I took a serving each of pad thai before I remembered to take a picture. I prefer a little bite to my noodles. The noodles tonight were softer than I prefer. Having worked with rice noodles and making westernized pad thai, I realize how difficult it is to keep firm. I enjoy the pad thai here because it is not sharply sweet but has a nice, deep and rounded flavor. I could eat this every day.

Bangkok Thai Cuisine Pad Thai
Pad thai

Several months ago, we ordered our pad thai "Thai spicy." What a mistake! It wouldn't have been much of a problem if we hadn't ordered everything else the same way. Each bite of each dish with hot rice was hot, hot, hot.

The ginger beef is one of the best representations of ginger. As the headliner, the ginger was in the forefront, but without the harshness that accompanies sliced ginger. I can't wait to return to order this dish again! There is one, or several, really, problem.

Bangkok Thai Cuisine Ginger Beef
Ginger beef

I adore their mango curry, choo chee, and masaman. While I really enjoy these dishes with duck, I order them with chicken because Bug isn't very fond of the oily dark meat and being served meat bone-in.

When I scanned the menu looking for an entree to order, I skimmed over the description of Mango Paradise. All I read was "mango," and didn't pay attention to what it wasn't and ordered it.

Bangkok Thai Cuisine Chicken Mango Paradise
Mango Paradise with chicken

When the platter arrived, I was disappointed when a dark sauce arrived instead of a light curry. My mind had wrapped itself around indulging in milky coconut curry only to be met with a tamarind sauce. The flavor grew on me and part way through the meal, I began enjoying this dish. I like tamarind, but the sweet and sharp flavors were not what I expected to eat that evening.

It's so easy to get into a rut, albeit an enjoyable one, ordering the same dishes each time when there is so much to try. If their ginger beef and mango curry didn't taste so good, it wouldn't be so difficult to be a little adventurous.

- Cassaendra

Bangkok Thai Cuisine
5359 Mayfield Rd
Cleveland, OH 44124-2456
Tel: (440) 684-1982

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Pink Supernova

Pink Hearts
Entrance to Malley's

On Friday night, we headed to Malley's factory and store on Brookpark Road to see if the place would be a mad house. The morning news mentioned their chocolate covered Twinkies, so we were curious.

The store was open later than normal and the parking lot was jammed. Malley's had the good sense to put up 4-5 well-utilized drive-thru kiosks so people wouldn't have to get out of their cars and trudge through slushy snow like we did.

Malleys Entrance
At the entrance

Business was brisk in the store with at least 20 customers dancing around between tables with displays of assorted chocolates.

Of course, they were sold out of the Twinkies by the time we arrived. The masochist that I am, I asked a woman behind one of the glass cases when they were sold out. She replied with a chuckle, "by 10:00 a.m."

I thought, "Duh!" and let out a sigh of relief. At least it wasn't 10 minutes ago.

One of the cases
One of several cases of chocolates

After taking numerous pictures, I felt guilty walking out with nothing, so I picked up a $1.25 packet of raspberry gummi. I still felt guilty.

Another case
Another case of chocolates

Bug and I went back and forth on what to get. He didn't want to feel suckered into buying anything expensive. Too late! That would be akin to walking into a florist and looking to not get ripped off buying roses.

Chocolate Strawberries Box
Chocolate covered strawberries in suspended animation

The chocolate covered strawberries and grapes were going for $16.75 per box, 2 for $25. A message on the box warns:
Please enjoy within 2 days and keep refrigerated.

Chocolate Grapes Box
Box of chocolate covered grapes

We walked out with a box each of chocolate covered strawberries and grapes, a handful of individually wrapped milk chocolate hearts ($1.00 each) filled with peanut butter, raspberry, and caramel, and my raspberry gummi.

A special trip home was made to throw the boxes of chocolates in the refrigerator since we still had more shopping to do, even though the ambient temperature outside was 27°F.

After our return, we opened the boxes, curious to see if they were really worth it.

Chocolate Strawberries
Unwrapped in plastic

My first thought when I saw the strawberries was Laura Palmer wrapped in plastic. A little morbid, yes. Ah, I wish Twin Peaks could have lasted longer. I miss the banter between Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) and Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn).

More Chocolate Grapes
The Grapes Un-wrapped

I'm sure Mr. Steinbeck just rolled over in his grave. This reminds me that I ought to read "The Grapes of Wrath" some time in the near future. I'm not sure why I did not read the book in high school.

Choc Strawberry Grapes
Chocolate covered strawberry and grapes

The strawberries were large, fresh, flavorful and luscious. The grapes...the grapes were a surprise. I have never had chocolate covered grapes. I imagined myself being a dinosaur reaching out and grabbing a human, legs wriggling, chomping on the head (nevermind that they didn't coexist, this is MY imagination!) and growling, "Mmm, crunchy and juicy! Let me have another!"

The milk chocolate and the skin of the grapes crunched. Once the grape skin yielded to my teeth, squish, out came the sweet grape juice and soft bits of flesh. Mixed with the sweet and smooth chocolate flavor, juicy sweetness of the grape, and slight tartness from the grape skin, this was a pleasant mix of texture and flavor.

The chocolates were enjoyable. Was it $16.75 worth it? Not being a chocolate lover and on my paycheck, no.

Choc Strawberry Bite

Yes, the store really is THAT pink.

- Cassaendra

Malley's Chocolates
13400 Brookpark Rd (factory & store location)
Cleveland, OH 44135

Spaghetti Eastern

Spaghetti Napolitan
Spaghetti Napolitan

I'll get this out of the way now -- the key ingredients to the unique flavor of Japanese style spaghetti are ketchup and butter.

Sneer all you want, but I love this! If I had a guilty conscience about consuming certain dishes, this would be one of them mainly due to ketchup being frowned upon by many who cook authentic Italian tomato sauces. It may be looked down upon worse than Spaghetti-Os.

Napolitan is often enjoyed by children, served in a colorful platter in the shape of a plane, ship, train, or similar, with a paper Italian flag on a toothpick stuck in the center, one of several okosama lunch ("okosama" is an honorific term for child) typically served. Okosama lunch is similar in concept to a McDonald's Happy Meal, except conjured ~80 years ago and using real platters and silverware.

My recollection of the flavor comes from a lunch I had with my mother at a snack shop in Okinawa along a side street. We were strolling along on the way from her mother's place to Ishikawa City to go shopping with hundreds of dollars worth of otoshidama (New Years celebration gift money) I received, when we came upon a cute, white, faux rustic 2-story house with wooden window frames, the kind you would imagine running in to in Peter Rabbit or see little hobbits running about.

The spaghetti was served to me in an adult plate because I was a bit over the age of 7...10 years over to be exact. It wooed my Japanese taste buds.

As much as I like to reminisce and eat this dish, I don't make this in large quantities. I may eat this 3-4 times a year and only when we cook a big pot of spaghetti (tomato based) sauce with linguine, with 1 cup of sauce and 2-3 servings of linguine set aside.

This time around we had zucchini, ground beef, celery, carrots, and tomatoes in our sauce.

To Napolitan-ize it:
- add around 1 tablespoon of butter to a hot pan on medium
- add 2-3 servings of linguine to the pan of butter and mix noodles until noodles are well coated
- add 1 cup of spaghetti sauce and ~2 tsp of ketchup. Mix thoroughly.

The end product should be on the dry side, taste a little buttery, and slightly sweeter, but should not be cloying. Since I prefer my spaghetti a little spicy, I usually add crushed chili peppers on my plate.

- Cassaendra

Saturday, February 6, 2010


If you are one of 5 people on Earth who has not yet seen Avatar and plan on seeing the movie, you may not wish to read any further as there are spoilers ahead.

Not since the original Star Wars movie, A New Hope, has there been a film that has changed cinema to this degree.

Avatar has made a bajillion dollars with the successful implementation of the modern 3D movie format. As a result, Hollywood sees so much money to be made in this enterprise they are turning films that were not filmed in 3D to 3D, starting with the Clash of the Titans remake due to be released in April, followed by a ton of other movies in the pipeline.

Let's consider the premise. A stranger gets off a ship and mingles with the native population who do not trust him initially. He meets a beautiful native princess, spends time with her, meanwhile teaching him to appreciate nature. He falls in love, becomes sympathetic to their cause, decides to fight for her, and finally becomes accepted as one of their own.

Did that sum up Avatar or Pocahontas? Yes!

James Cameron has stated that this film took over 10 years to complete. I think he should have spent more time on the story. "Been there, done that" doesn't even begin to sum up my feelings about the script. With the exception of the warships and the avatar bodies, there isn't much difference between the two stories. Each turn in the plot was predictable.

Don't get me wrong, I do not hate James Cameron. I LOVE Aliens and Terminator, ranking those two films very high on my list of all-time favorites. I guess that is why I expected more from him.

With the Golden Globes awarded and the Oscar nominees announced recently, I ask why has Avatar been nominated for anything outside of CGI or sound? Why "Best Picture"? Why "Best Director"? Is this the trend we are trying to set, Hollywood? *sigh*

The one thing I can praise about Avatar is that it is not another remake. Wait, it is a remake of Pocahontas!

It's a whole new world...of cinema.

- Bug


While at the grocery store this afternoon, we discovered a stack of 50+ boxes of fresh-baked lemon, poppy seed, prune, custard, raspberry, blueberry, and apple-filled paczki packed 6 to a box in a variety of 2 - 4 fillings. We don't celebrate Fat Tuesday or Fat Thursday, but I look forward to this treat when it comes around because it reminds me of malasadas, one of a scant few deep-fried treats from my childhood.

We spent 10 minutes rummaging through the stack for our perfect combination. I really wanted prune and custard. Bug wanted blueberry. Poppy seed, apple, and raspberry would have been okay. I did not want lemon.

The combinations consisted of prune-custard-apple, blueberry-prune, prune-raspberry-blueberry-poppy seed, and other configurations, but not prune-custard-blueberry so we settled for blueberry-prune.

When we arrived home, I ran into the kitchen with the goods, tore open the box before taking my shoes off, before feeding the rugrats who were glaring at me hungrily, before taking them out to take care of business, before the pack mule finished hauling in the groceries, and greedily bit into my beloved paczek.

Lemon Paczek
Bachi filled paczek

My lemon-filled paczek.

I'm sure Bug was laughing under his breath.

- Cassaendra

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