Friday, February 27, 2009

Ch-ch-ch-changes

No, this weird mushroom growing out of a bag of fertilizer in my backyard has nothing to do with today's post. I just thought it was cool. Anyone know what it is? Looks kinda like an oyster mushroom.

A minor face lift today. You'll note a few things:

I mucked with the template. When I was setting up the blog I just picked the first thing that looked appealing. One of the things I didn't really like was if you maximize the screen it didn't let you see more content, the dead space borders just expanded. So this template stretches. We'll see how that works out for me.

Yes, I've joined the foodbuzz following. I'm still exploring the community, but what it looks like is a foodies version of facebook/myspace. A few of the bloggers from the Uchi event had joined foodbuzz as a featured publisher. Basically this forms a partnership (yes that means ads) where we, as foodies and bloggers, help a community with content continued posts etc. and in return they give us more exposure and actually sponsor events around the nation. I'll post more as I learn more. All that *and* I have my little badge as a featured publisher.

Ads: I know, i've fought against putting ads on my site for quite sometime now. Reallistically, I'm not generating (nor do I expect that I will any time soon) enough traffic for ad revenue to really help me in any financial way. That said, a lot of the foodbuzzers had a lot of positive things to say about folks they've met from the community, and how foodbuzz helps foster that. Foodies unite! I know i'm no professional writer or even photographer, but I am still proud of my little hobby site and would love more folks to come visit.

Thanks for everyone's continued support. Still searching for a good bento for next week. Ideas are most welcome!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Rawberry Bento

Ok Rawberry isn't the best description, I designed this gluten free menu around fruit. So that means fruit plays into each of the components. I ran across this great "raw" cherry tart, hence the Raw in the title. The seed was the entree and the dessert, so I had to fill out of the box with items that still fell in the fruit category. Surprisingly, this was somewhat difficult to accomplish without straying into the gluten side of the world. Ultimately, I remembered that the strict definition of fruit included all "vegetables" that have seeds :).

The main entree was mango tomato chicken over quinoa. This was interesting in that the quinoa preparation this time around was a little different than I've done previously. It included soaking and cleaning the quinoa until the bitter saponins. It's a natural covering that disuades birds from feasting on the crop. This made a pretty big difference in the outcome. 1) more tender quinoa 2) a less bitter dish. I do like the texture of the "less soaked" version, but the clean tasting quinoa no longer took away from the main attraction which was the chicken and fruit. Also, the quinoa was a lot more fluffly and light in texture. I think both versions have their place but the new cooking method is cleaner.

Next a quick fruit salad consisting of blood and navel oranges, strawberries with a pomegranate vinaigrette. The colors of the blood oranges really gave this a vibrant attractive color to contrast the lighter colors of the other dishes. It's too bad fresh pomegranates weren't in season, I think a bit of the pomegranate seeds would have been a welcome addition.


For a soup, I leaned on the definition of fruit and produced a Cream of Squash soup. This was absolutely delicious. I was really surprised that the recipe called for whole slices of lemon. I figured the bitterness of the pith would actually detract from the dish. I decided to trust the folks that created the recipe and went with it. To my surprise, yes the bitterness existed, but it was a very nice offset from the richness of the cream. Surprisingly it didn't require much in the seasoning just some salt pepper, and a quick grind of nutmeg. I cut the fat with cream instead of heavy cream (I know a minor savings but we must cut where we can).

Finally dessert: Raw cherry tart. Cherries aren't quite in season, so I didn't adhere to the "raw" in that I used can cherries, but we didn't set out on this blog to be raw. The crust comprised of hazelnuts, dates and other mixed fruits ground together. The filling is made of well soaked cashews infused with pomegranate juice. The description from various books on raw food on similar desserts is a creamy custard, maybe I didn't have enough liquid, perhaps I didn't blend it long enough. I'm not sure how they got their consistency, it was more like a blended tofu. I topped the whole thing with some canned bing cherries. Although, the texture was "different" everyone still loved the dessert.

This turned out to garner high accolades with my eaters. I enjoyed my foray into raw cooking I might have to experiment some more.

Box Contents
  • Mango Tomato Chicken over Quinoa
  • Orange-Strawberry Salad with Pomegranate vinniagrette
  • Cream of Squash Soup
  • Raw Cherry Tart

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Food Blogger event: Uchi

It's with a bit of mixed feelings that I submit this particular blog entry. I've worked pretty hard to keep any personal information off my posts. I've even gone out of my way to not really reference where in the world I am. With this post, I will officially place myself in Austin, TX. I can't really say why I didn't want to put any personal information out, paranoia? somehow mixing personal and business by providing linking data? In anycase, this blogger event pushed me over. The food experience was out of this world, and the chance to meet up with local bloggers was just a lot of fun. My friends and I love food, I'm the only one of us truly obsessed and geek out about food and so I felt amongst comrades at the gathering. Warning long post ahead!

So, some background. I get an email inviting me to a food bloggers event. I almost trashed the invite because 1) it looked like spam 2) who knows that I'm in austin? I've kept that info out. Fortuneatly I *did* take a closer look and it was an invitation to a tasting at my most favorite restaurant in Austin, and anywhere I've been thus far. As it turns out Addie Broyles (she's on the left) from the Austin American Statesmen, has been collecting local blogs and that's how they found me. Side note, Addie has been really wonderful in the local community connecting Austin bloggers and you'll be seeing a lot more local blogs in my following section.

Uchi? What is it? What's the food like? Who's the chef? Well all I can say is that there was a certain sushi restaurant in town that was my #1 spot in Austin. Executive Tyson Cole (pictured above) one of the owners of Uchi, studied under the master sushi chef of the former #1 and has managed to supplant said previous #1 as the new #1. Chef Cole has won numerous awards and accolades, heck he's even participated in Ironchef (interesting fact: he learned japanese by watching the old shows on VHS). The restaurant focuses on small bites of a wonderfulness and unique blend of old world sushi ingrediants with flavors from an amazing array of exotic and common ingrediants. Traditional fare is there and unbelievably good and the new flavors are amazing. Our invitation was to taste his favorites! For so many achievements and talent Chef Cole was amazingly humble and down to earth, sharing his stories of being on Ironchef and talking to us all one at a time and getting to know us.

I'll apologize for the photos, flash washes out a lot, I managed to get a few without flash (a little fuzzy but they look better so keep with the small view ).Ok, ok, the food you want to see and know about the food. Here we go. Be warned, I'm no sophisticated food critic, I'll try to do the dishes justice.

To start we have a yellow beet terrine with charred orange and tarrigon. The delicate flavors of citrus with a small bit of bitterness from the actual charred orange brings a great aroma to your palate and the yellow beet grants a nice texture. Personally the tarragon didn't come out as a flavor for me. The presentation was meticulous, amazing considering there was plate up on plate of 20 squares each!




Big eye tuna with compressed watermelon skewers. The tuna of course was amazingly fresh. the flavors on this dish were truely complex. You have the *slight* sweetness, the fish roe on top gave a saltiness and the bits of green onion added a savory (or as the japanese call it Umami) taste. It's kind of a weird combination that sounds contradictory, but the interplay was neat. The watermelon hits the palate first and as the rest comes together it's like appreciating wine where there were didn't "phases" of the taste. *and* that doesn't even cover the color. I mean look at that photo, beautiful shades of red offset by green. Again the labor involved must have been impossible. The small thing that I always look for in proper sushi chef. look at the surface of the tuna see anything on the flesh itself? *exactly* the perfect single stroke with consistent thickness, no mark that there was a second slice of the knife, that's skill and technique.

Ok next up: Nantucket bay scallop crudo with mint and almond. I had to do lookups on some of the terms crudo: is a raw fish dish dressed with olive oil, sea salt, and citrus juice such as lemon juice and sometimes vinegar. The scallop was perfect, I didn't taste the "citrus" which I imagine chemically cooks the raw fish. Now there were grapes, dunno if that's enough vitamin C, but food science aside, YUM. The mint was only a small hint which was only a highlight for the nice light textures in the dish. I didn't detect any almonds, but looking at the picture it was clearly there. Edit: ok after reviewing my pictures there appears to be "sea bean" in the mix, that would explain the very slight saltiness I tasted.

This dish is probably my favorite: Braised pork belly with fennel and apple. Braised pork belly! SO good. the presentation was of course pretty. It looked like a rack of ribs. Again sweet and salty, crusty taste from the braised pork ribs. Almost like an interpretation of bbq pork with colslaw because I swear there was some cabbage mixed in with that.






Madai nigiri with spanish Olive oil and meyer lemon. Again amazing knife skills. I can't tell you that I could tell the difference between italian olive oil and spanish, but the shisho leaf brings some of the hand roll/mint flavor. The fish was wonderfully light and delicate. The second bar of a good sushi chef for me is how well sushi rice is prepared. Everyone has their ratio of vinegar, sugar, mirin (optional) but having none of those over powe , along with the right consistency of rice (not mushy, not too undercooked) A+ well done. I'm no expert, but i've had a good share of sushi rice and these guys have it down.



This is grilled satsumaimo with ginger and sake. Satsumaimo is commonly referred to as a Japanese sweet potato. The only difference I could tell is that Satsumaimo seemed to be less sweet, maybe milder. The texture of the dish was more crisp (as in cooked but leaning towards raw-ish) rather than mealy or overly starchy soft mushy like standard potatoes, this is probably a cooking technique rather than potato, but I liked it not over cooked. Very good, the ginger and sake flavors gave it a great umph in flavor that wasn't over powering. I really expected a heavy ginger flavor when I read the description, but like the rest of the dishes the flavors played well and were subtle without one standing out too much. I'm betting the slight sweetness really help supress the spice of the ginger because it's pretty clear how much ginger was on the potatoes.

The Chef surprised us with a surprise addition to our tasting menu: their "shag roll" - tempura fried salmon with a squid ink sumiso sauce. I had to look this one up, sumiso is a vinegar miso sauce. I didn't think that the squid ink necessarily changed the taste of the sumiso, but the black was a stark beautiful difference on the plate compared to the roll. The whole thing was delicious, (I had two bites :) ) I'm a sucker for dynamite sauce (the pale orange sauce) but the whole thing was delicious I'm coming back for more of this.




To finish our tasting Chef Cole brought us white corn and brown butter sorbet with maldon tuile. I'm not a sweets or dessert guy I didn't think this would be anything for me, however as with everything, the finishing dish was amazing. It wasn't so much as a sweet as it was just a perfect semi-savory-semi-sweet-and-rich finish. I can't explain it. You simply have to go and taste for yourself.

We (the bloggers) joked that we were like the paparazzi of food. The moment a new set of bites came out flashes went off in all directions. I'm sure the actual patrons of the restaurant hated us. It was great, no one took themselves too seriously at some point we joked as we took pictures of Chef Cole "Tyson over here, Tyson over here". I'm pleased to have had a chance to attend this event. It was great to attend a food event that wasn't too pretentious with a bunch of fellows just as excited as I was to savor every little bite. And the experience to meet and chit-chat with an amazing Chef well, does this little blogger an undeserved great honor. Thank you for the invitation and my compliments to the Chef! I leave you with some misc pictures of the event

Monday, February 16, 2009

Martha Stewart invades!

Martha Stewart invades my kitchen this week; news at 11, ok not for real. My wife saw one of those suggested meal cards in one of the Martha Stewart living magazine and thought it looked very "yummy". Being that it was gluten free, I was happy to give it a whirl. I got started on this bento kinda late last night but I was happily surprised the whole thing from prep to finish really took me about one and a half hours to churn out all six portions. Not too shabby I'd say. I had a few regrets on this one but from a general level it was the budget. I blew my budget by 2x, fish is expensive period.

On the positive I just want to say all of the dishes (excluding the fish) were brilliant in that they tasted wonderful and were just a breeze to put together excellent for any home cook that has to come home from a long day of work. Maybe I need to subscribe.

The leading entree in this series was a Fish En Papillote. I made a few mistakes which i'll detail out. I went with halibut since it's all the grocery store had yesterday, the mistake was it was previously frozen and thawed rapidly. Generally speaking the fish quality was pretty poor (mistake #1). The dish itself I'm sure was really wonderful on paper, the colors of the red onion, contrasting with the baby bok choi and the fish made this visually very appealing. I should have punched up the seasoning with some different spices, I was depending on the fact that all the the stuff would some how come magically together during the baking. I had tasted the onion mixture felt like it was missing something but I carried on anyway(mistake #2). The cooking time was 10-12, my gut said 8-10, I should have listened to my gut. It may have been the fish quality, but it just didn't live up to my standard of producing food. (mistake #3). I have to give myself a C on this one I think I could have done much better. Live and learn.

First side is the Jasmin Rice with Shitakes and scallions. I had a huge advantage in that I have a rice cooker and I swear, next to my Chinese cleaver, it is the most versatile thing in my kitchen. The topping was a simple saute of mushrooms and scallions. Put together it was kind of plain, the flavors didn't come together, it was rice with mushrooms on top. This one (unlike the fish) I could fix, I dumped the whole thing back into the skillet (no oil) and quickly did a pan fry. Something about heat and rice just changes the taste. I finished with a *little* bit of sesame oil to bring some additional fragrance. So, much better.

Nothing to write home about with the edamame, very simple very good for you. The chile salt sugar mixture came across pretty good. Not too spicy and something a little new to what you normally get at the restaurant.




This is a Vanilla Ginger asian pears, or asian pears with a vanilla ginger sauce. (just depends on how you want to serve it) This was amazing, so simple and different. Asian pears have a wonderful crunch to them, had this been a poached pears it would have destroyed the normal texture of the pear. Instead what they did was have you soak the pears in a Vanilla, ginger sugar water bath. The pears retain their crunch but suddenly instead of just pear, you have this wonderful subtle vanilla/ginger undertone. I put the syrup in with the pears because it was very light and it would give the pears that extra 4 more hours to soak. Big winner on this one and a keeper for future light desserts.

Overall, the I give the bento and preparation a B (for my failures with the fish) however the day is Martha's as I think for the simplicity had I not made mistakes on the entree, would have been as Martha does, perfect. Thanks for reading see you next time.

Box Contents
  • Fish en papillote
  • Jasmine Rice with Shitake and Scallion
  • Edamame with Chile Salt
  • Vanilla Ginger Asian Pears

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Comfort food mmm mmm good

Sorry about the late post. I'll further apologies for the bad photos. First, my camera takes a head first dive into the bowl of tomato basil soup thus splashing my entire light box setup so that's why everything looks like it's shot in the dark. It's not all bad I come to update the site and I've hit the big 10k vistor milestone! Yay!

On with the show, the big thing with going gluten free is you miss some of the old staples that you got use to. We were out one night with some friends and one of their kids was hungrily chomping on a grilled cheese sandwich. It was a bit of a trial for my wife, ok it was torture and it didn't help that the little girl kept exclaiming how good it was. So, I set upon my mission to find a good gluten free bread recipe. I have to hand it to this blog, it has been an invaluable resource for ideas and building blocks for me to put bentos together. I'll do a separate post on the bread itself, but I took the idea of grilled cheese and extended it towards building a comfort food gluten free bento.

This is actually a Monte Cristo sandwich containing a multi-mustard mayo blend, cheddar, swiss, ham and turkey battered and pan fried to get that yummy melty goodness. Monte Cristos are a strange beast, some serve them batter deep fried, some serve them with fruit preserves, others with Thousand Island dressing so this is just my version. I have to say the normally gluten free breads tend to be meally, dense, or off in some other weird (bad) aspect and although my bread this isn't exactly like normal bread, it's still pretty darn good compared to the stuff from the store.

What goes better with a cheese sandwich than good ol tomato soup. Course I can't leave well enough alone, so this a nice tomato basil soup. I added a little richness to it but all in all it still pretty healthy side. Yes this is the bowl of soup that is causing me to still get rid of flecks tomato from my camera.



Confession: the next two items came from a box. Mac and cheese quintessential comfort food heck mac and cheese from a box is comfort food at it's finest. I remember as a kid, this was a staple we'd buy in volume. Not always considered healthy, but I cut a few corners so it wasn't megabad . As always, I have to remind myself the goals of this bento project was to try to put together lunch for my wife and coworkers that's healthy, fast, and budget conscious, so box foods are ok and modifications on those boxed foods are a must.

Last but not least tapioca pudding. Dunno if it qualifies as comfort food for everyone else, but as a kid it was my favorite dessert. If I did this bento over again, I would use real tapioca instead of the minute kind because the texture was just not there.




Anyhow that's lunch and as always thanks for tuning in.

Box Contents
  • Monte Cristo Sandwich
  • Tomato Basil Soup
  • Mac and Cheese
  • Tapioca pudding