Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Test Kitchen - Tomato Potato Spelt Soup

When we chose spelt as the Test Kitchen ingredient, it was because I had given in to the ease of ordering from Amazon (as I always do) and bought several pounds of the stuff. I was on a health kick to find whole grains. My intent was only to purchase farro but the wretched "Customers Also Bought" scrolling bar made me curious about the spelt; a quick click and Amazon Prime produced a box of the stuff in two days' time. I gave a bag to my mother to try out too but she didn't read the instructions one day and ended up with hard-to-chew grains (she didn't soak it overnight). That experience delayed my exploration of this ancient grain but I finally decided it was time to try it out. In a soup, it expands and makes itself well known as an ingredient, lending a nutty flavor and texture to the dish. I quite liked this soup which turned out like a vegetarian beef stew. Try out the recipe yourself and enjoy.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Finding Farmers' Markets - Hollywood, CA

This post is part of a series Much Ado About Fooding is doing on farmers' markets - Duc and I plan to visit as many as we can, starting in southern California, to get a sense of what sets each apart, what drives communities to them, and what gems people should look out for. To keep track, bookmark the "Farmers' Market" category.

Founded on May 5, 1991, the Hollywood Farmers' Market is one of the oldest in California and by attrition, one of the most bountiful in farmers and producers. We ventured to the market in search of unique produce and mushrooms and came away with more than we thought we would purchase. This outdoor street market tends to every grocery need from fruits and vegetables to james and jellies to meat and fish to even prepared foods and nifty crafts. When it was first founded, it easily became a hit for being the perfect congregation spot for farmers in the area to those further north and south that needed a central location to share their wares - Los Angeles was perfect for that. We entered from one end but realized that it branched out into four directions with long-stretching arms, and it is no surprise that they claim to have more than 160 specialists who are farmers, producers, artisans, and so forth. The local community love the market as do chefs, and for most, it is their weekly food source instead of big box grocery retailers.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Recipe - Japanese Ramen Egg (Ajitsuke Tamago)

I only felt that this was the appropriate day to post this recipe since it is right before the famed egg holiday (also known as Easter) but the post is more than a yolk...I mean, joke. It is part of the glorious dish we all known and love as ramen. You see, this marinated soft boiled egg known as ajitsuke tamago has a droolworthy combination of several character traits - there is a salty, savory flavor on the outside, a perfectly cooked egg white, and a half runny, half salted yolk. I love having this egg with my ramen so I just had to make some for my friends for our Japanese themed dinner. To clarify, I also made the rest of the ramen dish too including chashu pork and the miso ramen broth itself. Since this was my first go at it, I consulted several recipes but spent quite a lot of time checking out this one here because it also took note of the science behind the dish. My thanks to the collective internet for its collective wisdom and guidance!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Meet Chef David Slay of Park Ave and il garage

Does the name Chef David Slay ring a bell for you? How about Park Ave? Constantly voted #1 restaurant in Orange County and in the top ten in OC through Zagat, the modestly located restaurant is a site for exquisite food, excellent environment, and dedicated commitment to quality ingredients. In fact, the chef and owner was recently named to the Orange County Hall of Fame for culinary arts through Orange Coast magazine, and it is well-deserved. We were intrigued, however, by what made the restaurant so special beyond just the food, and the answer resided in the simple back-to-basics method of sustaining one's self via a garden. The iconic restaurant celebrates its 10th anniversary this year (look out for a soirée involving food and wine), and its garden located on the five-acre property has been maintained for nine of those years. Getting more involved in gardening ourselves, this kitchen-providing masterpiece of a layout was of high interest so we just had to learn more.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Understanding Food Terms - What Does "Heirloom" Mean?

You look down at your menu and part of the description says that you will be having heirloom tomatoes tonight. That sounds delightful because heirloom vegetables are better for you; you know this because someone had told you this before. Your dining mate opted for a salad made with heirloom beans as well - how perfect that you both are getting your fill of healthful vegetables. However, do you really know what that term means? Is it just a buzzword to blindly follow and believe in these days? I confess that I have a love for heirloom tomatoes too but knowing how many hundreds, if not thousands, of tomato varieties exist, it has been perplexing why that detail on varietal is overlooked (is it a Merlot tomato? Black Plum?). Heirloom tells me nothing about flavor profile but rather just about how the vegetable was grown. We did our research to dig up the truth about heirloom and wanted to share our findings with you. Here is the answer for the question, "What does 'heirloom' mean anyway?"

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Finding Farmers' Markets - Orange Home Grown Farmers' Market in Orange, CA

This post is part of a series Much Ado About Fooding is doing on farmers' markets - Duc and I plan to visit as many as we can, starting in southern California, to get a sense of what sets each apart, what drives communities to them, and what gems people should look out for. To keep track, bookmark the "Farmers' Market" category.

Every week, I look forward to my e-newsletter ("The Juice") from the Orange Home Grown Farmers' Market which tells me who their upcoming Featured Farmer and Featured Artisan are that Saturday at the small but savvy farmers' market. An intense list of events and fundraisers is also sent over, a tribute to how robust the market aims to be and an example of how this community is spoiled by the passion in people. Situated near Chapman University in the corrugated metal Historic Villa Park Orchards Packinghouse (VPO) lot, the Orange Home Grown Farmers' Market takes place every Saturday from 9AM-1PM (rain or shine!) in a location that begs no fanfare but still invites passersby in with the buzzing activity and bright signage. The VPO lot itself with its historic ties to agriculture is quite the apt location for a "buying local" market and gives character to the buildings towering above the vendor booths. The distribution of vendors makes the market seem small but upon further inspection, you'll see that there are more than enough high-quality vendors to finish off your week's shopping list with a farmer-centric side and an artisan section. We really quite enjoyed browsing all of the booths and seeing just what specials were out that day.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Recipe - Chashu Pork for Ramen

There seem to be some different schools of thought when it comes to the delicious, glorious meat known as chashu pork. I know it for its rich tender addition to any tonkotsu ramen, giving protein and purpose to the soup. One could easily use it for other reasons but my purpose for making it involved ramen, and the schools of thought I mentioned are about the cuts of pork to use when making chashu - do you go with pork belly or pork shoulder? To test them out, I made both! The consensus of everyone who tasted both was that they preferred the shoulder (me too!) over the belly but that was just among my own friends. I suggest you try it both ways as well and have eager people helping you "judge"...though I really preferred the pork shoulder. In terms of the recipe, I got a lot of guidance from this site linked here but made some tweaks myself. Below are the two versions that I made, and no, it's not exactly the prettiest of recipes to look at while in process.