Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pavlova with Lemon Curd and Blueberries

My friend Caroline is allergic to gluten. For a baker/ pastry chef, this can seem like an obstacle but actually there are plenty of desserts that do not contain gluten: flourless chocolate cakes, macarons, ice cream, just to name a few.

At first I attempted to make a gluten-free cake using Betty Crocker Gluten-Free cake mix. It turned out absolutely disgusting. The cake did not rise properly and had the most terrible texture: similar to a wet sponge. It reminded me of this Vietnamese rice cake we would eat at Chinese New Year but not as tasty. I could not imaging frosting it with chocolate frosting as pictured on the box.

Since the gluten-free cake mix was a total FAIL, I had to make another dessert. Because it was summer, I felt like making something fresh and with fruit. A pavlova was perfect: gluten-free, I had all the ingredients and Caroline loves Australia. The pavlova is the national dessert of Australia.

I found this recipe on Epicurious. It is a great recipe because the entire egg is used in the recipe: the whites for the meringues and the yolks for the curd. Also you don't need to buy superfine sugar. You can just pulse white granulated sugar in the food processor a few times.

To read more about being gluten-free, check out this article in the NY Times: The Expense of Eating With Celiac Disease (Did you know that in England, patients with Celiac disease are actually prescribed gluten-free products? And in Italy, they receive a stipend to purchase gluten-free products? Yet in America where we supposedly have the best health care system in the world...)

Pavlova with Lemon Curd and Blueberries

For meringue:

1 cup superfine granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 large egg whites at room temperature 30 minutes
3 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar

For filling:

2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 stick unsalted butter
3 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 cup heavy cream
4 cups mixed berries


Make meringue:
Preheat oven to 300°F with rack in middle. Trace an approximately 7-inch circle on a sheet of parchment paper. Turn parchment over and put on a baking sheet.

Whisk together superfine sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl.

Beat whites with a pinch of salt using an electric mixer at medium speed until they hold soft peaks. Add water (whites will loosen) and beat until whites again hold soft peaks.

Increase speed to medium-high and beat in sugar mixture 1 tablespoon at a time. After all sugar has been added, beat 1 minute more.

Add vinegar and beat at high speed until meringue is glossy and holds stiff peaks, about 5 minutes (longer if using hand-held mixer).

Gently spread meringue inside circle on parchment, making edge of meringue slightly higher than center (the "crater" is for curd and fruit). Bake until meringue is pale golden and has a crust, about 45 minutes (inside will still be marshmallow-like).

Turn oven off and prop door open slightly with a wooden spoon. Cool meringue in oven 1 hour.

Make Lemon curd while meringue bakes:
Stir together sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a 2-quart heavy saucepan, then add lemon juice and butter. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, whisking, then continue to simmer, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Lightly beat yolks in a small bowl and whisk in 1/4 cup lemon mixture, then whisk into remaining lemon mixture in saucepan. Reduce heat to low and cook, whisking constantly, until curd is thickened, about 2 minutes (do not let boil). Transfer to a bowl and stir in zest. Chill, surface covered with parchment, until cool, about 1 1/2 hours.

Assemble Pavlova:
Beat heavy cream until it just holds stiff peaks, then fold 1/4 cup beaten cream into curd to lighten. Spoon lemon curd into meringue and mound berries on top. Serve remaining whipped cream on the side.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Farmer's Market Salad

I picked up some beautiful organic and pesticide free green beans and red bell peppers from the Irvine Farmer's Market this past Saturday. Usually I just saute the green beans with some garlic and butter but on KCRW's Good Food's Farmer's Market segment, Daisy Tamai of Tamai Farms shared her recipe for green bean salad. It is a very simple salad: green beans, bell peppers and red onion marinated with a kicked up Italian dressing. I didn't have bottled Italian dressing on hand so I just made a simple vinaigrette. It's just as easy as buying a bottle but cheaper.

You can listen to Daisy Tamai on KCRW's Good Food here

TBC Green Bean Salad inspired by Daisy Tomai

1 lb of green beans, ends trimmed
1 red bell pepper
1 red onion

For the dressing:

1 TBSP white wine vinegar
1 TBSP balsamic vinegar
1 TBSP Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
4 TBSP olive oil
fresh herbs: basil, chives, parsley


Blanch the green beans in boiling water for just a few seconds. Remove and put in ice water. Thinly slice the red bell pepper and red onion. Combine the vegetables into a bowl.

Combine the vinegars, mustard, sugar, and herbs. Whisk in the olive oil. Season to taste. If your vinegars are too acidic, add a little more sugar. The dressing should be a good balance between sweet and tart. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Irvine Farmer's Market

I went to the Irvine Farmer's Market by my alma mater, UC Irvine, for the first time on Saturday. I was super stoked to find such a great farmer's market. The Irvine farmer's market is a good sized market with many different vendors. It is much bigger than the Costa Mesa Farmer's Market at the OC Fairgrounds on Thursday. I live in Costa Mesa, so I occasionally buy my produce from the Costa Mesa Farmer's Market but I am usually disappointed by the limited selection. The Irvine market is at least three times the size with many different vendors offering a huge range of products such as organic and pesticide-free produce, flowers, plants, soap, hand made crafts, freshly baked goods, cage-free eggs, grass fed beef and fresh seafood. And to add to the excitement, there is also a kettle corn and roasted corn booth. Unfortunately, I didn't bring much cash and being on a budget and all,I had to conjure up my will power (which is very weak against kettle corn and roasted corn) and restrain myself from splurging on the delicious corny snacks. I focused instead on the free samples.

One thing I noticed while I was sampling left and right, was the abundance of plums! There were so many varieties to choose from: dinosaur, gold, pink, just to name a few. I tried the sweetest plums but unfortunately I can't remember the name of the farm (what a joke!)but they were so juicy and sweet. In fact, I have three plums waiting for me in the ice box as I type right now.

The Irvine Farmer's Market is on Saturdays 8 A.M - noon at the In N Out shopping center at Campus and Bridge.

For more information about the Costa Mesa Farmer's Market and other Orange County Farmer's Markets, check out the Orange County Farm Bureau.

Don't forget to vote for Hank and George in the Cutest Dog Competition. We could win a million dollars!

Organic and Pesticide-free

Zuchinnis are still in season

Yummy bags of oranges

Fresh asparagus

mmmm....berry shortcake?

They sell fresh pasta!

I think "Super Bitter" would be more appropriate.

Look at all the different grapes

No words are needed

A Japanese pumpkin. The vendor told me it makes a delicious salad

This a Japanese variety of eggplant

More varieties of eggplants

Look at all these potatoes!

Purple beans!

Fresh Figs

Fresh Dates

Friday, August 21, 2009

Kogi BBQ visits Costa Mesa

For those of you living under a rock and not connected to the Internet, Kogi BBQ is the taco truck that elevated the simple roach coach, the convenient lunch choice for time-starved workers, into a gourmet food phenomenon, pretty much revolutionizing the food truck industry.

Kogi BBQ mainly operates in Los Angeles, rarely venturing behind the Orange Curtain due to OC's strict health and food code. However sometimes for special occasions, Kogi is able to swing a permit or borrow a truck with an existing permit, like they did last Saturday (8/15) when they came to the Costa Mesa Holiday Inn on Bristol St.

I had to check it out. I've been dying to try Kogi ever since I heard about it on KCRW's Good Food. I've also been obsessed with taco trucks since 2005 when I worked at Volcom and dreamt about owning my own upscale taco truck. I would talk about it everyday with my co-workers, discussed it with Jamie, the driver of the taco truck that visited Volcom, and developed a menu. My truck was going to be a panini truck offering hot sandwiches, soups and salads. But I lost my job and the taco truck idea went dormant. Then when I heard about Kogi, I was totally kicking myself in the butt. Morale of the story: if you have an idea you are passionate about, run with it. Don't be a wuss like me and never follow through.

So back to the Kogi BBQ. Matt and I arrived at the Holiday Inn at 10:23 after spending the day at Three Arch. The line was about 30 people deep. Despite the long line, I was determined to try it, at least to see what the hype was all about. I had heard about the Kogi line being a scene complete with DJs and turntables. This Saturday night at the Holiday Inn, it was no exception. There was a makeshift dining area set up while the Departed was projected along the side of the hotel.

the line at midnight, still crowded

It took FOREVER! We waited over an hour and half to order. By the time we got to the window, they had run out of almost everything. No burritos, no specials, no chicken, no pork. They only had short rib tacos, tofu tacos, sliders, and the hot dogs. I was super disappointed. I ordered two short rib tacos, sliders and the Kogi dog. "This better be worth the hype," I grumbled as I moved to the next line.

While we waited in line for our food, the workers had already dismantled the dining area, so we would have to take our Kogi to go. That meant the crunchy kimchi would wilt and become soggy during the car ride home. I was even more disheartened. I did not wait this long for soggy, lukewarm food. It was 12:23 AM when we finally we received our items and got back in the car. Two hours of my Saturday night had gone by.

We raced home, hoping our haste would deter the sogginess. Unfortunately the tacos and the hot dog were cold and had to be microwaved, further wilting the kimchi. The sliders were spared the microwave treatment as I was so hungry and grumpy that I didn't care if it was cold.

Short Rib Sliders

And boy were my taste buds in for a flavor explosion. All of a sudden, the two hours I had waited for this glorious mini-burger were a moot point. It was all in service of this delicious slider. I immediately wish I had ordered at least two because I could have easily eaten the single order of two sliders by myself. The sweet short ribs on the soft Hawaiian roll with the crunchy, spicy kimchi and that cream sauce just made my taste buds sing!

Short Rib Taco

The short ribs tacos were good as I was now a fan of the Kogi short rib. But I prefer the Hawaiian roll as the vehicle for delivery of short ribs to my mouth. The hot dog was pretty tasty. I loved how the spicy kimchi cut through the saltiness of the hot dog while the cream sauce cooled and soothed the heat.

Kogi Dog

Almost 1 AM and finally satiated, it was time to call it a night. I was happy to finally try Kogi BBQ. Even though it is definately worth all the hype, I'm not sure if I would wait two hours again. Maybe if they at least had the whole menu available. But then again, I probably still wouldn't wait two hours.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Broke as a Joke Risotto

This Saturday will mark seven months since I was laid off as a line cook. It has been a rather tumultuous journey since January. I graduated from culinary school (yay!), mentally prepared myself to leave all my friends and family to move to Baltimore only to find out Matt was laid off from his job one month before I was to move, my roommate asked me to leave earlier than anticipated (thanks for the two week notice, very thoughtful of you), scrambled around Costa Mesa to find a place that accepts two dogs and two unemployed people (next to IMPOSSIBLE), and then on top of it all, there was an incident involving Hank and Matt's dad's cat. Let's just say Hank emerged victorious and the cat, well, it ended up in a box. The cat incident has estranged us from his parents and any help they would offer us.

The money is running out and because I made diddly squat at as a line cook, I barely make anything from unemployment, just enough to pay my phone bill, car payment and insurance. And you want to know the most disheartening thing is? Matt makes more money from unemployment than I do working 60 hours a week as a line cook.

So it has been an interesting past two months, complete with breakdowns and serious contemplation periods of what to do with my life (graduate school? buckle down and get a corporate job? suck it up and get paid $10/hr to work as an overworked/underpaid line cook at a chain restaurant and never see my friends or family?). All that fun stuff plus beach time, bicycling, trips to the library, quality time with Hank and George and LOTS of cooking.

As you can tell, I don't have a very big grocery budget, so many of the dishes I cook now rely on pantry staples. Risotto is a good budget dinner because you can pretty much throw anything in there: from frozen vegetables to last night's take out dinner, risotto is very versatile. I always have frozen peas and some chicken broth in my pantry so pea risotto was the obvious dinner choice. I also had some goat cheese and some cherry tomatoes leftover from the Beach Blanket Blackout Bingo Birthday Bash so I just threw that in as well. The result was a delicious, healthy dinner for less than $6 for the total meal!

TBC Broke as a Joke Risotto
serves 3

1/2 medium onion, chopped, about 1/3 cup
1 TBSP olive oil or butter
3/4 cup Arborio rice
32 oz. carton of low sodium chicken broth
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 cup frozen peas
3 oz. goat cheese
handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
Parmesan cheese

  1. Place the chicken broth and crushed garlic clove in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Set aside. Meanwhile, add butter or oil to saute pan over medium heat. Wait until it starts to foam and then add the onion. Saute the onion until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the Arborio rice and saute the rice until translucent, about 2 minutes. Ladle some of the warmed chicken broth into the rice, stirring until liquid has evaporated. Continue adding liquid in stages, constantly stirring. Wait until the liquid has absorbed before adding more. When the rice is creamy and you have used all of the chicken broth, check the seasonings. Add some salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Add the frozen peas and the goat cheese and stir to melt the goat cheese and to heat the peas. Add the halved cherry tomatoes and top with Parmesan cheese.

Please don't forget to vote for Hank and George in the Cutest Dog Contest. We could win a million dollars!

Please vote for Hank and George

I entered Hank and George in the Cutest Dog Competition. If we are chosen, we could win a grand prize of a million dollars! Besides the fact that Matt and I are totally unemployed with no hope, Hank needs surgery on his teeth. Unfortunately his teeth are falling out due to his rotting gums and unless we do something, he is going to lose all his teeth. The estimate is $1000 for the oral surgery but because we have no money and no prospects of it in the future, Hank's mouth will continue to rot and harbor germs and infections until the infection spreads to the rest of his body, eventually killing him. Please vote for Hank and George by clicking on their pictures below! Your vote counts everyday so please vote daily!
Vote for my DogSponsored by All American Pet Brands makers of premium dog food.
Vote for my DogSponsored by All American Pet Brands makers of premium dog food.
Vote for my DogSponsored by All American Pet Brands makers of premium dog food.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Movies I want to see

All these great movies are out right now! I usually don't go to the movies because it is so expensive ($11 for a ticket and then $9 for a popcorn? $4 for a soda? WTF?) but there are just too many good movies that I found myself going to the movies three times in August which is about how many times I went in 2008. But I just had to see Harry Potter (I'm a HUGE fan of the books), UP (totally recommend!) and the Hangover.

And there are still a bunch more movies I want to check out. Here they are in no particular order:

"It Might Get Loud" is a rock documentary following Jack White, The Edge (guitarist from U2) and Jimmy Page. I saw a quick preview of this on Showtime and was instantly intrigued. I think Jack White is one of the best musicians of our generation. BOLD statement, I know, but he is just so talented and prolific and his artistic energy seems so genuine.

"Ponyo" is Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle) next movie. I couldn't find a trailer to embed so you will have to click on the link to watch the trailer here. "Ponyo" is the Japanese version of the Little Mermaid. A little girl fish runs away from her ocean home and falls in love with a boy. When she steals her father's magic to transform herself into a human, things begin to go wrong. Like all of Miyazaki's other animated features, "Ponyo" is sure to amaze.

"Paper Heart" is a documentary/film that weaves together a documentary about a skeptic's quest to learn more about love and a fictionalized story of the budding romance between narrator Charlene Yi and Michael Cera. Along the way Charlene interviews all sorts of different people who each offer her their own view of love and romance. "Paper Heart" is playing in only a few theatres for a short while but it you are a Comcast subscriber you can watch it On Demand.

This movie looks so cute, it makes me want to barf!

"500 Days of Summer" is a getting a lot of great reviews and I totally want to see it! I absolutely love Zooey Deschanel (what self-respecting hipster doesn't?). I have a feeling this movie is going to be similar to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (one of my ALL-TIME favs!) in that the true love is definitely worth the suffering. Like "Paper Heart," it has a limited distribution so see it before it's out of the theatre!

"Inglorious Basterds" is Quentin Tarantino's newest piece since Kill Bill in 2003. Led by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), the Basterds are a group of Jewish-American soldiers in Nazi occupied France, "who are in the Nazi-killing business." With their mission to spread fear throughout the Third Reich, they hatch a mission to take out all the leaders of the Nazi Party including Hitler himself. "Inglorious Basterds" received a lukewarm reception at Cannes but I'm a huge Tarantino fan and I'm sure his cinematic skills and soundtrack are enough to engage me.

Spike Jonze's interpretation on Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are" is not coming out until November but I am so excited to see it! Perhaps it is the pairing of Arcade Fire's Wake Up for the trailer but this movie looks freakin' AWESOME! Spike Jonze worked closely with Maurice Sendak to make sure the true elements of the story came out in Jonze's version so they didn't butcher it like Hollywood usually does with most of our beloved childhood books (Mike Myers as the Cat in the Hat definitely made Dr. Seuss roll is his grave)

You can save money by buying your movie tickets ahead of time at Costco or AAA. They are only $7.50 each. And if you go on Mondays, it's $1 candy night and Tuesdays are $1 popcorn night. Or you can just bring your own snacks like I do. I like frozen peanut M&M's.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Birthdays and FREE stuff

So yesterday was my birthday (the big 2-9, my last year of blissful twenties...Yikes!). It was a rather mellow birthday. I didn't want a big fuss or party and it was also my boyfriend's and my sixth year anniversary (Double Yikes!) I wanted to go to Disneyland but since both of us are unemployed, it was a little out of the budget, even with the free birthday admission. (Don't feel bad, my uncle works at D-land so we can go a different time). We had a rather lovely day; McDonald's for breakfast (a rare, gluttonous, and delicious treat!) dog beach with Hank and George (Hank surprised us all when his separation anxiety finally caused him to overcome his fear of water), a very successful trip to the Newport Beach Main Library (I found the Flavor Bible!), some plant shopping at Armstrong's, dinner at Crow Bar in Corona Del Mar and then the Hangover (yes, I realize we are probably the last two people to see it). Matt also got me a super awesome mutant birthday present!

Even though I didn't get to go to Disneyland it got me thinking, "There must be other freebies for your birthday!" A quick Google search and I found this awesome blog, Hey Its Free! The author compiled a comprehensive list of restaurants and entertainment establishments that will hook it up for free on your birthday! The best ones are:
I'm a little bummed that I didn't know about these freebies earlier because you need to sign up in advanced for most of these give-a-ways. However I did signed up for the Benihana one because it is good for your birthday month. I also registered Matt, so in April when it is his birthday, he will have all the freebies!

And my birthday wish is that Hank is crowned Cutest Dog so please vote for him!

And George too! He's just as cute!!

UPDATE: My friend Wei-Bing told me you also get free admission to Glen Ivy Hot Springs and Spa in Corona!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Dogs and their Owners; a Family Resemblance?

The NY Times has a funny slide show about dogs and their owners and whether they look alike. I don't think I resemble Hank as far as physical looks but I definitely think our character traits are similar. We are both loyal, stubborn, relentless, take what we want, crave attention, are hyperactive with a huge lazy streak and we both don't like strangers, children, cats or squirrels. Sounds like a typical Leo, actually. Anyways here are some of my favorite images from the slide show but you should check out the whole thing for yourself at the online edition of the NY Times.

Also don't forget to vote for Hank in the Cutest Dog Competition.

And while you're at it, vote for George too! He could use some love.

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