Wednesday, August 19, 2009

31st Month Anniversary and Counting

Earlier this month, the sig-o and I celebrated our 31st month anniversary. When I tell people about our monthly anniversaries, the usual reaction is, "You still celebrate monthly anniversaries?". Well, yes, sort of. We usually acknowledge, but not necessarily celebrate, to be exact. It all depends on our schedule for that particular week whether we celebrate or not.
For this month's anniversary, the stars aligned. We got off work at around the same time, we weren't completely swamped, and we had a gift certificate to dine from a list of restaurants! Can you ask for anything more?
To make it more convenient for me, the sig-o drove from Brea to me in LA and we decided to pick a restaurant in Glendale. We chose Damon's Steak House, which turned out to be the perfect choice. It was local, not too fancy where it is uncomfortable, and it was delicious!
Since I became a non-vegetarian, I have been reluctant to consuming beef. I have no trouble with any other animal, but beef just didn't appeal. Well, since we were at a steak house, I decided to give it a go. I opted on the prime rib, medium rare (brave, no? The medium rare was recommended by the sig-o). Ironically, the carnivore who loves the finest cuts of beef that I was sitting next to wanted to order fish! The grilled salmon filet, if I remember correctly. That sounded equally as yummy so we decided to go with our choices and split the plates.
I'm an appetizer kind of girl...hello potato skins. The meals came with soup and salad. For the salad, the waitress recommended the house french dressing, tossed at our table. Everything was delicious and filling, but unfortunately, we did not have room for dessert.
It was the perfect evening for an anniversary, filled with good conversation, good eats, and good company.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


One of my favorite pastimes is trying new restaurants. I love to try new cuisines and would love to travel all over the world one day and just eat my heart out. Until then, I will have to make due with what I have.

As you know, I started working at a new company last week. That weekend, I was invited to a party at one of the co-workers' home. It was an event for all of the co-workers and everyone was encouraged to bring a dish. I brought Pad Thai and Thai iced tea from the family restaurant. The host of the party was Russian and he had provided many Russian and Mediterranean dishes.
Another co-worker is Egyptian and he brought an Egyptian dish that his wife had made. I had never tried Egyptian food and I didn't even know what the staples to Egyptian dishes entailed. This dish, Koshary, as I would come to learn, changed everything. It was uniquely presented in a bowl with many meticulously placed layers and two of the many carbs that I would not be able to live without - pasta and rice (does it get any better than that?)!
Once I served myself a healthy helping, I was instructed to pour a grayish brown spicy liquid and mix. I thought the dish would be delicious enough without anything extra, but I had to listen to a native. So poured and mixed I did. I took the bite and was blown away! My tastebuds were delighted. It had a tomato sauce, none like I've ever tasted. It was not a marinara sauce that you put on pasta and it certainly wasn't a tomato sauce you serve on enchiladas. It was tangy and spicy, yet not overwhelming, you know what I mean? (maybe after this recipe you will). And the combination of pasta and rice was heavenly.
The Monday after, I was craving this dish. I asked my co-worker what it was called, "Koshary", he said and googling I went. I sorted through close to a dozen recipes before I chose a recipe that I felt was authentic and closest to what I had tried. I certainly found the winner. I didn't ask a native, but I thought it tasted pretty darn close to what I had had that weekend.
Koshary slightly modified and adapted from Hans at

Note: I catered this recipe to the one I had at the party. I omitted the vermicelli noodies, fried onions and chickpeas. Though there are two sauces available, I chose the one that I thought would taste most like the one I had.

Use the smallest "Penne" you can find for this recipe, the perfect pasta is called "Ditanlini", which is a short straight tube no longer than 1/4 inch. Boil the pasta, seive it and mix it with 1 table spoon of oil and 1/2 tsp salt.

Rice (1 1/2 cup) with Vermicelli noodles(1/4 cup)
In a pot, stir fry the Vermicelli in 1 spoon of oil until dark brown, add the washed rice, stir for two minutes. Add 2 cups of boiling water, salt and paper. put on very low heat and cover for 20 minutes.

Boiled lentils (1 cup) -can be prepared the day before and heated in the microwave before serving. Use Black or green whole lentils for this recipe. Boil the lentils in 4 cups of water, strain and season with salt and peper.

Tomato Sauce with Garlic - can be prepared the day before and heated before serving
Stir-fry 1 minced onion with two garlic cloves in a pot with one spoon of oil. When yellow, add two cans of whole tomatoes or 1 KG of fresh ripe tomatoes cut to small pieces. Add a cup of water and simmer for 15 minutes. Blend the sauce until smooth and put back on heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Salt + pepper

Fried onions - can be prepared the day before.
This is the most anoying part of making a Koshary, because of the smell that fills the house when frying the onions. You may find in a Chinese Deli ready fried onions that can serve well for this recipe. just mix 1 cup of it with 1 spoon oil, 3 spoons water and 1/2 tsp salt. microwave for 2 minutes and here you go.

If you want to be authentic (recommended) cut two large onions very small, season with 1/2 tsp of salt and mix well to separate the onion. Fry in the widest pan you have in 1/4 cup of hot oil , keep stiring until very dark brown. Almost black. Pick the now fluffy and crunchy fried onions to absorbent paper. Don't get rid of the remaining oil - see my tips

Chickpeas - the easiest part of the recipe -
buy a can of chickpeas, open it and rinse it under running water!!!!

Hot paprika Sauce - can be prepared the day before no heating needed.
heat 3 spoons of oil in a small pan, remove from heat, mix two spoons of hot Paprika , add 3 spoons of tomatoe sauce which you already prepared. serve in a small bowl on the side

Garlic Lemon Sauce - again ..prepare the day before...
Mix 3 minced garlic cloves with 1/8 cup white viniger, 1 big lemon juice, 1 tsp cumin powder and 1 tsp coriander powder.

From Bottom up

1 Pasta
2 Rice with Vermicelli noodles
3 Boild lentils
4 Tomato Sauce with GArlic
5 Fried onions
6 Chickpeas

Do not use Olive oil for this recipe, it will change the taste
Use the oil you used for frying the onions to mix with the Pasta.

Serving: Scoop onto a dish and drizzle one of the sauces over the dish. Combine and enjoy.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Beginnings and Blueberry Buckles

I haven't baked practically all summer. The reason is simple, really. When the oven is on, my entire house feels like Southeast Asia. Frankly, I just don't like to be in the kitchen while my clothes are clinging to me, my hair is sticking to my forehead, and sweat beads are stinging my eyes.
So, for probably an entire month, I have barely touched the stove, let alone the oven. Sure, I would get urges while at work in an air-conditioned laboratory, but once I leave work, and the sun's rays touch my skin, the urge ceases before I can say "preheat".
Thankfully, this week in Los Angeles, the heat seemed to be subsiding. It's only been around the upper 70s/lower 80s this week, which is delightful compared to the upwards of 90s we've been having in the recent weeks.
This week I also started a new position at a new company. Everyone here is so friendly and so welcoming. On Monday, my co-workers took me out to lunch, on Thursday, the V.P. (my boss) took me out to lunch, and I was also invited to join a softball league (poor things - they don't know my lack of athletic skills. I made it clear that I will be there to capture photographs from the bleachers) and I got invited to a bbq this weekend. How awesome is that - to come into a company where everyone is so benevolent!
Now...because of the ceasing heat, because everyone was so memorably kind, because I just got a new job, and because it was going to be Friday, I decided to bake! I had plenty of bulk berries that needed to be used up and this was my opportunity. I went through my recipe books, looking for something that would be nice for a Friday breakfast treat and found these - blueberry buckles. I had never heard of them before so I thought, why not? It turns out they are so named because they tend to buckle down (no pun intended) during the baking process due to the dense batter. The way to get around this is by making the batter stiff, which this recipe certainly does (then, of course it's not a buckle cake anymore, but still delicious nonetheless).

Blueberry Buckle adapted from "The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book"

Steusel Topping

1/2 cup (2 1/2 oz.) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed (3 1/2 oz.) light brown sugar
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened


1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 oz.) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
10 tbsp. (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup (4 2/3 oz.) granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. grated fresh lemon zest
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 cups (20 oz.) fresh blueberries

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan, then line the bottom with parchment paper.

2. For the streusel topping: Whisk the flour, sugars, cinnamon, and salt together in a large bowl. Beat in the butter with an electric mixer on low speed until the mixture resembles moist crumbs, 2 to 3 minutes.

3. For the cake: In a small bowl, whisk the flour and baking powder together. In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar, salt and lemon zest together with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 6 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until combined, about 30 seconds. Beat in the vanilla.

4. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly mix in the flour mixture until just incorporated, about 20 seconds (the batter will be extremely thick and heavy). Gently fold in the blueberries with a rubber spatula.

5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and gently tap the pan on the counter to settle the batter. Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the batter. Bake the buckle until deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, about 55 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.

6. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes (the cake will fall slightly as it cools). Run a small knife around the edge of the cake and flip it out onto a large plate (not the serving platter). Peel off the parchment, flip the cake right side up onto a serving platter, and let cool until just warm or to room temperature, at least 1 hour, before serving.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Summer Vacation and Food Adventures

I spent the last two weekends on mini vacations. The first weekend was in Las Vegas with a friend who turned 21 and the last weekend, I was in San Diego with my sister and sig-o. It was a long awaited vacation for my sister and a good time for us to spend some sister bonding time.

Las Vegas was great! I am proud to say that I was lucky this time around and came home with more in my pocket than I left with. I also came home with more in my stomach than I left with.

San Diego was awesome as well! I came home with a huge sunburn on my back and a mind full of memories...and again, a stomach full.

I made sure to have as many eatery adventures as possible while I was away and I would like to now share with you my adventure - picture book style.