Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Blogiversary -- Peko Peko Giveaway!

Post Number 99.

Hard to believe I have been at this little adventure for a full year. Amazing. I don't advertise, no vendors or advertisements, no endorsements and still so many visits from close friends and readers around the world. How on earth did you find me? If I look at the Flag Counter, 69 countries have clicked in to make sure they have been represented. WoW.  New friendships found and treasured memories set to page. You all in your own way encourage my creative efforts, challenge and stretch me, not only in the kitchen, but also in my photography, and prose.

Peko Peko Charity CookbookSo, what better way to celebrate than a giveaway to reward my readers, help in a cause I believe in and award the winner with something I truly love. This cookbook, Peko Peko, a Charity Cookbook for Japan is a family friendly collection and 100% of the proceeds go to the Global Fund for Japan Tsunami Relief. I've read, cooked and delighted in many of the recipes and I am so happy to offer a copy to you, my culinary friends as my thanks to your visits and encouragement.

And even if you don't participate in the giveaway, you can support Japan's recovery by posting a Message of Hope on the American Express Japan Facebook site. They will match each message with a $1 donation to relief efforts.

Here's the scoop: Giveaway will be open until September 15, 2011 and I will pick the winner from a random drawing on September 16, 2011 and announce the winner. Up to 3 chances to win!  Open to International Entries (yes I will pay postage!)  You must provide an email address either in your Google profile or in your comments. No email, no prize.

To enter you must do the following:
1. Post a comment to this post below and say where you are from. (Entry 1)
2. Follow my blog and post another comment on this post. (Entry 2)
3. Post a Message of Hope at American Express, Friends of Japan Facebook site  and make a comment on this post that you've done so. (Entry 3)

Good luck!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Blogiversary Potato Salad

It is only right that this story comes full circle, one year later, with me thinking about my Dad. August is his birth month and somehow all month long he is so near in my thoughts and dreams I can see and hear him. After nearly 100 posts that have taken me near and far I am back again, in the kitchen making Hugh's Potato Salad. This family classic comes from a man who hated;  a) mayonnaise, b) mustard, and c) cold starchy anything and yet he produced the most delicious rendition of potato salad which he categorically refused to eat.

When he was a young teen, growing up in Capitola, California during the depression, he had many part time jobs. One was a short order cook at Coleman's Restaurant on the Espalande, just feet away from Soquel Creek and the beach fronting Monterey Bay.  Here he learned the basics from "Mom and Pop" Coleman -- not to discount what he learned from his own darling mother Delores, but an intense culinary education none the less.

It astounds me that he never, ever, not even once wanted to taste this fabulous blend of flavors and yet prepared it wonderfully each time we requested it, year after year. The recipe might not be earth shaking, modern or that different from your Mom or Dad's, but as with all family classics -- it is what I grew up with. Easter, family picnics, and barbecues would not be complete without this side. Lucky me, I watched him closely enough and tasted it often enough that the flavors are engraved on my brain and taste buds. I can whip up this baby without thinking and now my husband and children's eyes flutter when they see it on the table.

As I come full circle on my first anniversary blog, it is so fitting that again I pay tribute to him, whom I miss with all my heart and owe so much. A little piece of Dad, passed on with love.

Hugh's Potato Salad with added chopped olives
Hugh’s Potato Salad
Serves 8
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes

8 large russet potatoes (similar in size)
3 celery stocks, diced
¾ cup red onion, diced (about 1 medium)
½ cup diced sweet pickles
2 tablespoons sweet pickle juice
1 large jar dice pimentos
6 hard boiled eggs
1 ¼ cup Best Foods Mayonnaise
¼ cup French’s Yellow Mustard
Ground black pepper

  • Select 8 large potatoes that are similar in size, scrub skins clean and place in large pot of cold water. 
  • Bring to a boil, add about 2 teaspoons salt and cook until potatoes are fork tender (tines slide easily into flesh, but does not break potato apart) about 15 minutes. Cook too long and potatoes will be mushy.) 
  • Remove and cool in cold water until your are able to handle. Peel off skin and cut potatoes into cubes.
  • Dice celery, onion and pickles.
  • Fine chop two hard boiled eggs, slice remaining four to use a topping.
Place potato cubes on large bowl. Sprinkle generously with salt, pepper and pickle juice while potatoes are still warm (and able to absorb flavors quickly.) Fold in diced celery, onion, egg and diced pimentos, stir with spatula to evenly distribute ingredients. Combine mayonnaise, mustard, 1 teaspoons of salt and pinch of ground black pepper in small bowl. Mix thoroughly and color should be a sunny medium yellow - not pale butter yellow. Add to potato mixture and stir to coat evenly, check color again, still should be a happy light sunny color. Add a bit more mustard if necessary. Give it a taste and add more salt to suit yourself.  Top with sliced eggs in a pretty pattern, add a stem or two of fresh parsley and sprinkle lightly with paprika.  Best made the night before or like Dad, early in the morning so flavors can do their magic before dinner time.

Cook’s Tips
Sometimes I add chopped olives or use dill pickles and juice. Dad would never have done that.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Kitchen Escape - Soup and Galettes

Last week was hard on me, a bit under the weather Friday, dull headed Saturday. Just too many things on my mind. Time for a little kitchen escape. Befitting my condition and mood our California skies were grey and temperatures positively dreary. Time to revisit my roasted broccoli soup for a bit of creamy comfort. This version I added about two cups of roasted potatoes to the mix and a creamy puree of roasted red pepper, bacon, yogurt and a hint of cayenne. Can I prepare the same recipe twice without modifying it?.... only rarely. How about you?

roasted broccoli potato soup
Roasted Broccoli Soup topped with pepper bacon cream
When the sun finally emerged on Sunday I was so excited to see a bounty beautiful yellow pear tomatoes ready to be harvested.

yellow pear tomatoes
Freshly harvested yellow pear tomatoes
Looking for a bit of fresh air, I popped out for a quick walk. Imagine finding these treasures hidden in the hillside grass and foliage. What lovely wee little wild strawberries and hardly bigger than a minute. It seems like nature wanted to cheer me up. I was positively giddy.

wild strawberry 3
Tiny wild strawberries
I felt so much better I rolled out some pie dough and made not one but two galettes! A bit of jam on the bottom, nice arrangement of apple and black plum slices and a sprinkle of raw sugar to give some sparkle. "Honey, do we have vanilla ice cream?"

golden delicious galatte
Golden Delicious Apple Galette

black plum tart
Black Plum Tart
Around the dinner table, cheery conversation and pie anticipation. Sunday ends on a high note. Thank you kitchen escape.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Peko Peko -- Kinpira Gobo

On a whim I bought some burdock root the last time I was at World Foods. Somewhere I read that it brought special sweet, mild yet savory, woody flavors to soups. Little did I know that I was going to use it up quite nicely when recreating the Kinpira Gobo recipe from my new Peko Peko cookbook. A traditional Japanese appetizer sauteed in sesame oil, sake, and soy sauce. I even used a freshly harvested ripe red serrano chile from my garden! The recipe is quick and easy, though I am not much of a gobo "whittler" as the directions required, the outcome was pretty terrific.  I was better off slicing thin matchsticks and soaking the burdock (gobo) for 10 minutes. I also added some of my black sesame seeds, just because they are pretty.

Tonight's dinner combined some savory and sweet grilled Yakitori, pickled cucumbers in rice wine vinegar and the new delights of Kinpira Gobo, burdock root, carrot and red chile. On the side, grilled bok choy. For dessert we enjoyed some lovely sweet apricots in a honey lemon drizzle with roasted almonds.

Family friendly, yes. Peko Peko: A Charity Cookbook for Japan is just wonderful, and it supports Japan's recovery from the earthquake and tsunami.

Kinpira Gobo
Kinpira Gobo - Burdock Root and Carrots with Sesame Seeds

peko peko condiments
Sweet cucumbers in rice vinegar, apricots with honey, lemon and almonds.

grilled bok choy
Drizzled with olive oil and sea salt, grilled bok choy
yakitori crispy
Grilled and charred chicken Yakitori
Peko Peko - A Family Friendly Cookbook

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Artichoke Heart and Green Olive Crostini - The Large Batch

I recently attended a work picnic celebrating the end of a hard, but fruitful year. Budget cuts, staff losses and all certainly have taken it's toll on higher education in California, so you might think we didn't have much to celebrate. But those that have remained deserve a bit of community, recognition and breathing room outside the institution. This event is generously funded from the personal pockets of our executive management and we convened at a beautiful park potluck style with grilled burgers, sausages, lots of summer salads and a huge table of desserts. I revisited my artichoke heart and green olive crostini recipe -- because it is National Olive Month after all. Boy, was it a crowd pleaser! Nice to share something a little bit different, personal and tasty.

Unlike rowdy celebrations of the past, this was a quiet, demurred event with softly spoken conversations between colleagues who don't always get a chance to visit, reminisce, and reacquaint themselves as human beings. That is how you regain your sense of community when it really matters.

Artichoke Heart and Olive Crostini

Artichoke Heart and Green Olive Crostini - The Large Batch
Large Batch (makes ~48)

2 Baguettes, diagonally sliced about ½” thick
1 6 oz can Lindsey pitted green olives
1 14.75 oz jar Cara Mia Marinated Artichoke Hearts, drained
⅓ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs combined (flat leaf parsley, oregano, basil, sweet marjoram)
⅓ cup Parmesan Cheese, shredded, plus 3 oz for toppings)
⅛ teaspoon ground pepper
⅛ teaspoon ground fennel seed
⅛ teaspoon ground coriander
2 oz California Sun Dry, Smoked  Sun Dried Tomatoes, julienned (about half 3 oz pkg)

Preheat oven to 350, place baguette slices in single layer on cookie sheet, lightly brush tops with olive oil. Bake 5 minutes, flip over and bake another 5 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.

In a food process, combine artichoke hearts and olives, pulse until rough chopped. Add olive oil, lemon juice, chopped fresh herbs,spices and Parmesan cheese and pulse about 3 times to incorporate but not too long (don’t want to make mushy, just nice and chunky, with all ingredients well combined.)  

Assemble by spreading about a teaspoon on baguette slice, top with a nice piece or two of Parmesan cheese and julienned smoked sun dried tomato.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Peko Peko -- I'm Hungry!

There are many ways to lend support to our friends suffering in disaster stricken Japan. One way is with a delicious result by investing in Peko Peko, Family - Friendly Japanese Recipes, a cookbook to support Japan's Recovery. Created by a small volunteer army of bloggers, foodie extraordinaires  and curated by Stacie Billis, Rachael Hutchings and Marc Matsumoto, the proceeds go to the GlobalGiving Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund. This wonderful cookbook gives a fabulous introduction to Japanese cuisine basics.

My copy arrived just as I got back from Seattle and I have been perusing, reading, and ogling the recipes ever since. Two preparations thus far under my belt, a partial effort on the Misoyaki Roast Chicken (sans Onion Sauce) using a combination of mirin, aka miso to flavor roasted chicken (oh my goodness so good!) and an experiment with Kale Chips. I love slow braising kale and looked forward to another way to prepare this rich, leafy green. According to wikipedia,  "Kale is considered by nutritionists including Dr Joel Furhman to be the most nutritious vegetable in the world with extremely powerful antioxidant properties."

Kale chips with Gomashio (contributed by Sarah Kate Gillingham-Ryan) is just rinsed and dried kale pieces rubbed with sesame oil and Gomashio (sesame seeds and salt) and roasted in the oven until crispy, usually served as an appetizer. I didn't have a chance to drive over the hill to purchase commercially produced Gomashio, so I guessed about the ratio of sesame seeds and salt (10/1.)  The resulting chip is earthy, salty and warmed with the wonderful hint of sesame. Since I had a whole bunch of kale I spilt the the batch between flavoring according to the Peko Peko recipe and something leftover from 660 Curries -- crazy me. Using left over Maharashtrian Garam Masla (peanut, sesame, coriander, cumin, thai chile, nutmeg, mace, and unsweetened coconut.) I chose to flavor the second batch with this Indian spice combination with a little sesame and olive oils. While I had hoped to love these kale chips, I could not eat either preparation on their own as a snack, choosing rather to crumble and sprinkle as a flavor enhancer. Their huge flavor really sparkles.

There are many more recipes to try, and I love just reading all 59 entries. More on the results later. If you are interested in purchasing the cookbook the link is below.

Kale Chips
Kale Chips

To purchase the cookbook see
Amended 8/9/11 Found a gomashio recipe at

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Palak Pulao - Buttery Basmati Rice with Spinach and Onions

Found in the depths of 660 Curries, in the section called Curry Cohorts, on page 713,  is the most sublime subtly layered and buttery rice you'll ever taste. The recipe was created by Chef Iyer's friend Jeff Mandel and results in "fluffy long grain rice, drenched with spinach and onions that have been slow roasted in clarified bugger and cumin seeds." Nutty, fragrant, savory all at once, this is my new favorite rice side dish which pairs beautifully with my curry and the leftovers played very nicely with roasted salmon.

To better understand and taste the authenticity of this cuisine I restrained myself from any diversions or additions and followed the directions to the letter. (No small feat for me.) Soaking the rice for 30 minutes, rinsing again and again until the water runs clear and draining before adding to the buttery cumin, onion and spinach. Chef Iyer's narrative is so descriptive and precise, you can just see how each step evolves without requiring step by step photos, "Add the cumin seeds and cook until they sizzle, turn reddish brown, and smell aromatic, 5 to 10 seconds." You can hear it, see it, smell it and know exactly how long it should take in one brilliant sentence.  I cannot improve on this recipe in any way. No wonder Chef was named IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) Teacher of the Year.

Can you tell I am loving this adventure?

Buttery Basmati Rice with spinach and onions
Palak Pulao

Just look how pretty the onions and spinach are! The aromatics are amazing.

Buttery Basmati Rice prep
Onions and spinach in butter and cumin seeds.

Buttery Basmati Rice with Spinach and Onion | Palak Pulao
From 660 Curries* by Raghavan Iyer

1 cup Indian or Pakistani white basmati rice
2 tablespoons Ghee (there is a recipe how to make in the cookbook) or substitute butter
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 medium sized red onion, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
3 cups firmly packed fresh spinach leaves, well rinsed, patted dry, and coarsely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups cold water

1. Place the rice in a medium-sized bowl. Fill the bowl halfway with water, to cover the rice. Gently rub the slender grains through your fingers, without breaking them, to wash off any dust or light foreign objects (like loose husks), which will float to the surface. The water will become cloudy. Drain the water. Repeat three or four times, until the water remains relatively clear; now drain. Now fill the bowl halfway with cold water and let it sit at room temperature until the grains soften, 20 20 30 minutes, drain.

2. Heat the ghee in a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the cumin seeds and cook until they sizzle, turn reddish brown, and smell aromatic, 5 to 10 seconds. Then stir in the onion and add a handful of spinach. Lower the heat to medium and stir until the greens wilt, about 1 minute. Repeat until all the spinach has been added. Then cook the onion-spinach mixture until all the liquid has evaporated and the onion has turned soft and honey-brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

3. Add the drained rice and toss it gently with the onion-spinach mixture. Pour in 1 1/2 cups cold water, and add the salt. Stir the rice once to incorporate the ingredients. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook until the water has evaporated from the surface and craters are starting to appear in the rice, 5 to 8 minutes. Now (and only now) stir once to bring the partially cooked layer from the bottom of the pan to the surface. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes (8 for electric burner, 10 for a gas burner). Then turn off the heat and let the pan stand on that burner undisturbed, for 10 minutes.

4. Remove the lid, fluff the rice with a fork, and serve.

Information about Chef Raghavan Iyer at

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Marinated Pork with Garlic, Lime and Beer

This is a quickie weeknight post about getting inspired and just taking action. I'm talking about reading my blog buddy Reena's post at Coconut Riata about Coriander (Cilantro) Pesto and envisioning what would I pair with this fabulous flavor combination? My solution is a quick beer, garlic, and lime marinade for an "on sale" pork loin, grilled over charcoal and hardwood, then topped with her fabulous concoction! Thanks Reena! (the only change to your recipe is to substitute lime juice for lemon.)

Lime, Garlic, Beer Marinated Pork
Marinated and grilled pork loin with Cilantro Pesto

Marinade is seriously simple: 1 12 ounce can beer (your choice, I used Stella Atrois because that was in the fridge), 3 cloves garlic minced, zest of 1 lime, juice of 2 limes, 2 tablespoons olive oil. Whisk together and pour over pork in large ziplock bag. Marinate at least one hour or longer. Grill to about 160 degrees, rest, slice and top with Reena's Pesto. Yum!

Link to Coconut Riata's Coriander Pesto