Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Great Site for Cooking and Recipe Videos

If you haven't yet been, go check out ImCooked.com. There's a great video of Christopher Walken roasting a chicken with pears, as well as Alton Brown's appearance on David Letterman. There, he frosts a cake using an old record player and shows Dave how to make homemade yogurt, amongst other things.

Well worth a visit.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Car Buying

A bit off-topic, but John and I are looking at buying a new vehicle for him and have narrowed the list down to two: Subaru Forester and Jeep Patriot.

We've looked at loads of others, but none come close to our list of needs and still has "reasonable" mileage at a price we can afford.

So, please leave a comment if you have direct experience with either of these because we're having a tough time choosing between the two.


Sunday, July 22, 2007

Ratatouille Review

John and I finally saw Ratatouille yesterday. I hate to say it, but given the insane amount of hype surrounding its release (especially in the blogosphere), the film didn't live up to the hype.

Which is not to say that I didn't appreciate the high level of detail in the animation and the cooking/food. Technically, the film deserves an A+. However, the story was sadly lacking. While I do enjoy most Disney movies -- because I know exactly what I'm going to get from a Disney movie -- this one was a bit too Disney for me.

I'm not going to spoil the ending for anyone, but I just have to say that the rat-in-the-kitchen bit made me lose my appetite completely. John weighed in saying that the short film shown before Ratatouille was better than the full-length feature.

It's no Finding Nemo, that's for sure. B-

Monday, July 16, 2007

Yuca, Not Yucca

I recently saw an episode of Daisy Cooks, where she makes meat-filled fried dumplings with yuca. Yes, that's yuca, not yucca.

Having never cooked with yuca before, I paid attention to the directions Daisy gave as she cooked. First, use a peeler to take the bark-like skin off the vegetable. It peels like a carrot, but it cooks like a potato. When it's fried, though, it reminds me of rice-battered dim sum. Much lighter tasting than a potato.

Next, it's important to boil it first before doing anything else with it because yuca contains cyanide. Don't worry, though. Once you cook it, it's not a problem.

After it boils for a bit, the yuca breaks down, and you can see the fibers that hold it together. Take note of the fibers because you'll need to pull them out later.

After I drained the boiled yuca, I mashed it up like a potato. I added a variety of spices, especially salt.

Really does look like mashed potatoes, doesn't it?

Because I don't cook meat, I decided to stuff my yuca fritters with either montasio or mozzarella cheese and some fresh basil. There's a technique to doing this.

First, plop some of the mashed yuca in the palm of your hand and use the back of your spoon to make an indentation for your stuffing.

Then, place the stuffing in the middle of the indentation and pull the yucca around it to cover it completely.

The stuffed yuca should look like this:

Next, deep fry the yuca dumplings in hot vegetable oil. I tend to use grapeseed oil most often.

When they're golden brown, take them out of the oil and let them drain and cool slightly on paper towels. Then, enjoy!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Tasty Crab Cakes and Mayo with a Zing

As a Williams-Sonoma shopper, I receive their lovely catalogs. For a while, I waited to try a recipe printed in one of their most recent mailings -- Crab Cake Salad. I wasn't so interested in the salad as I was the crab cakes. I had a couple of cans of crab in my cabinet for a while, so it was time to put them to good use.

Typically, I make some sort of change to a recipe, and this one was no exception. Instead of breadcrumbs, I used the crumbs left from a bag of corn chips (Santitas, if you must know) mixed with some salt and pepper matzo I'd crushed with a rolling pin.

Additionally, the recipe calls for 1 lb of fresh crab meat, but I just had 2 6-oz. cans, so I ended up with 14 small patties, rather than 8 large patties. The frying is supposed to take place with butter and olive oil, but I used butter and grapeseed oil instead. The recipe also says to use only the white part of 4 green onions, but I found this to be incredibly wasteful, so I used 2 entire green onions instead.

They tasted delicious. I froze a few for a visit from Mom and Dave this coming Sunday. They'll make a good appetizer for a large luncheon I have planned.

The dressing isn't so much a dressing as it is a nice dipping sauce, or rather, a pretty spicy mayo. It works really well with the crab cakes. They are best served as part of a larger salad. I placed mine on some fresh baby organic spinach, and that was just lovely.

Here's the recipe along with some photos to show you how I made it.

Crab Cakes and Zingy Mayo (adapted from Williams-Sonoma's summer catalog)


Crab Cakes

2 cans (6 oz. each) of crab meat drained well
1 egg lightly beaten
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1/4 cup crushed corn chips
1/4 cup crushed salt and pepper matzo (regular will do, but you'll need to season more later)
2 green onions thinly sliced
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more if you like things very zippy, but the mayo's zippy, so keep that in mind)

Zippy Mayo
1 cup mayonnaise
the juice of half a large lemon
1 teaspoon mustard powder (I used this in place of the 2 teaspoons of dijon mustard)
salt, pepper and cayenne to taste (I used about 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne)


1. Mix together the crab meat, egg and mayonnaise until well combined.

2. Add the crumbs, green onions and seasoning until well combined.

3. Form 2-in patties and place on a dish or in a container that can be closely covered. Refrigerate the patties for at least 2 hours.

4. Make the mayo by whisking the mayo, lemon juice, mustard and seasoning together until smooth and well blended. Refrigerate until ready to use.

5. Heat butter and oil in a skillet until the butter browns slightly. Add the patties and cook approximately 4 minutes per side, until they are golden brown and crispy.

6. Drain on paper towels before serving on a bed of your favorite fresh greens. Serve with a small dish of the zippy mayo on the side.


Saturday, July 07, 2007

Local Farmer's Market a Big Disappointment

Wish I could say otherwise, but it just wouldn't be true.

At 9 am (the reported opening time of the market), I arrived at what amounted to a tiny farm stand in the parking lot of a dying strip mall. I'd planned on taking photos to post here, but there just wasn't much at all to snap.

The variety was small, and the produce was pretty pricey. The enormous man working the table (OK, there were 4 tables in total, three of them his) seemed more concerned with selling his pies than the grown goods. Nothing had prices displayed, and some of the groceries had been tagged with store-coding tags -- a big turn-off for me because I expected them to be straight from the farm like the other produce there.

I left with some green beans, 2 squashes (zucchini and yellow), and some hugely overpriced basil. To the basil's defense, it was delicious in a sandwich I just made with fresh mozzarella cheese and roma tomatoes with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

After leaving the parking lot, I went to our local "Farmer's Market" store, which had far more variety and better quality produce. I'm just sad about having to do that since I wanted to support local growers. Oh well. I'll try again when I visit Mom's local market in Morristown.

Speaking of supporting local folks, I also stopped at one of my local health food stores, the George Street Coop in New Brunswick. I'm not a member, but I've been shopping there for at least 7 years. They have a local Lebanese baker who makes the BEST whole wheat pitas and spinach pies. The prices on these are super-cheapie, so don't miss 'em if you venture to the Coop.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

A Big Day for A Great Kid

On Friday, I had the honor of treating my older nephew to a day in New York City to celebrate his 12th birthday. Young Tyler's been a guest on this blog before, but it's been a while.

We had a bit of a foodie adventure between sightseeing. Our first stop was Rockefeller Center to see if we could secure tickets to an NBC studios tour. No dice, the next available tour was two hours away, and we weren't having it.

So, we had our first bit of food in the city.

We shared this sandwich at Bunchberries. We walked from Rockefeller center to 53rd Street, then east to 2nd Avenue for this sandwich. Well, not really. We intended to go somewhere else, but the menu was so uninteresting that we ended up a few doors down, at Bunchberries. The sandwich is made from multigrain bread spread with roasted garlic and stuffed with spinach, plum tomatoes, black olives, grilled portobello mushrooms and goat cheese.

The big news there was that Tyler had never tried goat cheese before and really enjoyed it. One of my favorite things about Tyler is that he's so open to trying new things, like goat cheese. I believe I was in my 30s before I tried goat cheese.

From there, we hiked to a subway that would take us all the way down to the Staten Island Ferry.

The thing about the ferry is that it's FREE. OK, that and it gets pretty darn close to the Statue of Liberty.

As we walked from the Staten Island Ferry terminal up South Street on our way to Chinatown for our next foodie stop, we saw the biggest police presence I've ever experienced. I later found out that it was due to car bombs in London that fortunately had been diffused.

These mounted police were kind enough to pose for the photo. Right afterward, the two in the middle gave me the thumbs-up sign and winked. Oh those wacky mounties!

From the seaport, we hoofed it another 2/3 of a mile up to Chinatown to dine at the Vegetarian Dim Sum House. Unlike typical dim sum spots, where the waitstaff brings you the little plates on a cart to your table, this one had us fill out a card with our choices, and they brought our selections to us afterward. This first dish was a "Mashed Taro Treasure Box." Inside a lightly fried shell was mashed taro and sweet bean paste. It was delightful.

Our other picks were "Mini Vegetarian Spring Rolls," "Vegetarian Mock Shrimp Dumplings," and "Bar-B-Q Pork." Reluctant as he was, Tyler did eat half the broccoli with me. Otherwise, we really enjoyed the spring rolls and the dumplings. The mock pork wasn't that great.

Here are the innards of the spring rolls and the mock shrimp, respectively:

Filled with dim sum, we headed back downtown to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. It was filled with tourists and their cameras. The walk over to Brooklyn and back is about 2 miles. Tyler was a trooper because we'd already hoofed it around town for a few miles prior to approaching the bridge.

If you've never done the walk, you should during your next trip to New York. On the bridge, you have fantastic views up the Hudson River and out to the Statue of Liberty. Plus, it's a pretty historic site.

Once we'd rested a bit, we headed over to Babycakes bakery for some agave nectar goodies to actually have cake for Tyler's birthday. He ordered the blueberry coffeecake, while I requested a raspberry lemon cupcake. We saved them for later, so John could visit with Tyler a bit after we'd arrived home.

Our final foodie destination was probably our favorite. I'd first heard of Han Bat Korean restaurant from Robyn.

Although I'll probably never get as good a photo as Robyn's, I gave it my best shot.

On her recommendation, I ordered the Pajun (above). It's a rice flour, shellfish and green onion pancake fried to perfection. We nearly ate the whole thing (about the size of a large plate).

A close-up reveals the shellfishiness of the thing. It was one of the tastiest dishes I've had in a long time. Tyler loved it and became an instant convert to Korean food.

On our train ride home to New Jersey, we looked at our Babycakes goodies and remembered what a big, fun day we had together. I'm truly fortunate to have such a wonderful nephew. Furthermore, it is a huge blessing that we had the time to spend together because you just never know...