Welcome to the adventures of a Culinary explorer...

Welcome to the adventures of a Culinary explorer...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Finished Julie and Julia

Like I had promised on Xmas day, I would tell about the food books I finish reading from the truck load of a stash I received under the tree.

The night of 18th January, 2010, I finished reading Julie and Julia by Julie Powell.
The reason I was even interested in picking up the book was because of the movie. I know, I know. Bash me down, book lovers. Movies don't portray the story like a book can, Harry Potter a major example, yada yada yada. But that is exactly why I picked up the book; I wanted to know more, the tiny details the director doesn't feel are worthy enough for the big screen, the personal voice of Julie.
After finishing the book, I was shocked to find that the movie is barely inspired by the book. Julie and Julia the movie may seem like a Cinderella Disney movie with fluff and fantasy and France. Julie and Julia the book is hardcore reality baby. Julie Powell's voice is nothing like what Amy Adams is made to act out. Wild cussing, major (and I mean major) melt-downs, totally out of text anecdotes, Texans, I guess weren't permitted in a 2 hour PG-13 movie.
I remember watching the movie with my brother in the theatre and walking out dazed and warm, giddy with "joy" (yeah Julie, you're not the only one using this word). Julia Child's image was now an enlarged Meryl Streep rather than an enlarged not-an-Oscar-winner old lady. I went home and lay in bed wanting more, wanting to cook and visiting France (well that's been my dream since forever).

With the book, well I had a love and hate relationship with the book. I'd find myself mumbling to Julie Powell to get over her whiney self and snap back into the kitchen. I'd find myself grossed out by her imagery of maggots, cat hair, "goo", and sweat. The anecdotes about her psychotic friends' love lives drove me on the brink of insanity. And I guess that's the trait of a good writer after all, to make the reader feel... well, pretty insane.
I have two different relationships with the book and movie, since they were oh so different. I enjoyed Julia Child's side of the story in the movie which was barely depicted in the book. Julia meeting with her sister, her sister's marriage, Paul's issue with the government, and most importantly, the making of the book by Julia and her two friends, is only shown in the movie. Similarities in the two: You always feel pity for Eric in both, and the essence of it all in the end. The book and the movie made me feel the same way in the last scene, as well as the last page. I dragged the last four pages of the book for a week by reading awfully slow. I didn't want the story to "end". And as Julie Powell would agree, there wasn't an end. The story is living on in my head. I still imagine Julie Powell cooking madly while impersonating Julia Child, cussing her head off, and even finally having a baby girl (I've always imagined them with a baby girl).
I love the movie and book both. I highly recommend them to you. I don't know if Julie is ever going to fall upon this blog (yeah right...), but if you're reading Julie, all I want to say is... Eric is my favorite! Treat him right! Haha and also (watch, I bet you've heard this a baaaaajillion times), you made me believe in my food line all the more. Thank you. =]
For Julie Powell's real blog, visit http://blogs.salon.com/0001399/

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Ginger Man

Took a picture of a ginger root before adding some to tea. It's a ginger man! Check it out!

Pretty unusual, huh?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Guessing game #2

Ok, today I received a phone call during school (sshhh...), let's guess who it was. Your hints:
1. Related to food (duh)
2. Seafood, to be precise
3. A professional chef!

Nay, it is not Rachael Ray, Alton Brown, Paula Deen or Bobby Flay. The phone call was from Christopher's Seafood (a restaurant I ate at over the winter break, I know I know, I'm sorry I haven't mentioned it yet. I have good reason)! They finally responded to my requests for an interview with the chef for a restaurant review, and a staff member called to inform the chef would love to speak with me.

I am scheduled to meet Chef Kahn Vongdara coming Monday (11th Jan, 2010), at 4 pm (which is RIGHT after school and I'm going to have to speeeeed! Ssshhh...), and can I say, I AM PSYCHED!
I knew I was going to get a hold of the chef, and that is why I waited to write about the restaurant. I will be writing my review with the interview details.
Oh this is so exciting, think I'll get bribe food offerings?

Eat healthy, eat chocolate!

Chocolate. Just the ringing of the word sounds luxuriously sinful. However, indulging in what our nutritionists and fitness coaches call “the devilish sugar bar” doesn’t really cause our jeans sizes to jump numbers. The perfect-diet lectures always seem to forget to mention that eating chocolate can actually be good for us.

Dark chocolate is proven to provide antioxidants that help reduce ab fat, stress, depression, and anxiety.

But for all those excited chocoholics about to chomp down a bar of dark chocolate, halt! The magic word at play here is moderation. Just two squares of dark chocolate eaten daily can result in slimmer abs in approximately a month.

Also note, the darker the chocolate, the better. Cacao, the main ingredient, releases endorphins which help reduce pain and stress. Seventy percent cacao in the chocolate is ideal.

Phenylethylamine, a compound also referred to as the “love drug,” is given off by dark chocolate. It changes levels of blood pressure, sugar, and quickens the heart beat, which people associate with falling in love, making this the perfect Valentine’s Day gift.

Chocolate was considered “the food of the Gods” in historic times, and still holds high importance in gift-giving in France. Ever wondered why French women don’t get fat? Single bite-sized pieces of dark chocolate are sold in decorative tiny boxes in chocolateries (French chocolate shops) for that perfect gift and healthy pamper.

Be cautious, though. Dairy products slow down the breakup of dark chocolate compounds. So don’t wash down your chocolate with milk.

A Skillet Tip: Nervous before a test? Nibble on a dark chocolate square. This will reduce your anxiety level, and, believe it or not, make you happier about taking the test.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Breakfast Bonanza

I can tolerate eating boiled eggs ever since we made stuffed eggs for a party. This morning (3rd January, 2010) we boiled some eggs and planned to stuff them with tuna salad, I was the one in charge of putting them together.
After the eggs were boiled, I peeled them, cut them down the center (not long ways), got rid of the yolks, and set the empty halves facing up on a plate. I always picture empty egg halves as little baby chicks, open mouthed, waiting patiently to be filled. Ironic I think of them as baby chicks... OK, not going there.
Anyway, I got out some onion and anchovy crème cheese (Philedelphia Crème Cheese), and put a drop sized dollop of it in the base of every egg half. Then I scooped some tuna salad and stuffed rest of the remaining halves. Now for the clever part, I got slices of honey baked ham (the lunch meat stuff), and wrapped them around every half, and tacked them in place with toothpicks. Result: an easy, breezy, delummy masterpiece. The tuna and ham have distinct flavors when you eat them together. They complement each other in a very good way. The surprise of the cheese hiding in the bottom adds creamy flavor to the egg. Have a look!

Crab Cake Beauty

On 2nd January, 2010 (still weird typing 2010...), I stayed home sick all day. I woke up with horrible ear pain, coughing like a dog, and all I wanted to do was stay in bed and sleep. That's basically what I did until evening, when my mother (who has finally given in to joining my blog) brought home four raw crab cakes from Seafood Galley. And some Zyrtec.
All we had to do with the cakes (which were gorgeously placed in the original crab shell, see picture) was brush it with melted butter and bake/fry/microwave. I generally would fry it, but my half dead body wanted food fast. No, I didn't microwave the crab because microwaving means one: you're incredibly lazy, two: the food is going to look and taste like baby food, three: the oven is a better friend.
I brushed the crab with heavenly butter (which I melted in microwave. See now that is ok), and tossed it in my nifty toaster oven set to 350 degrees, for 20 minutes.

While I waited, mom and I had lovely ginger tea with Nonnii's Almond Tusconi, and I was beginning to feel a little better. When the crab was done, I was hesitant to try it at first. I noticed I didn't need a knife, the cake fell apart beautifully just with a fork. And I had my first bite.
The golden brown buttered crust encased something very similar to... mashed potatoes. Crab flavored mashed potatoes. There were crunchy vegetable bits here and there. The overall feeling of the crab cake was warming on the inside. I would've liked some more herbs or spices in the mix though (Indian tongue, what can I say).
But this first timer wasn't a devastating experience (I say this because after I had my first shrimp, I threw up. I still haven't collected the guts to try it again). Crab legs are what I am looking into.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A Buttery New Year

January 01, 2010 (wow, it's still kind of weird typing 2010... Ah it's like getting used to writing with your left hand), I ventured out to make a tangy hot pasta in butter sauce.

Let me tell you, Julie Powell is right-- one can never have too much butter. Today I learnt, butter tossed in a hot skillet will drag every member of the house sniffing straight to the kitchen. I guarantee it.
This was the first time I cooked in butter, and I will be doing it again. I wanted to combine tangy flavors with the resources I had (I didn't go grocery shopping with a perfect little list and measurements, I simply had an urge and bam... miracle).
First I warmed an empty skillet, tossed in the butter, and here I realized the butter quickly liquefies into a bubbling brown, great smelling, soup. I panicked, I thought the butter would take longer to melt because it was frozen. But we learn. So I slowed down the burner to low, and added three chopped tobasco yellow peppers and some of their bottled juice. This caused the hot butter to erupt into its own showcase of rapid fireworks, almost spitting the tangy juice out in tiny painful pricks on my stirring arm. I was boss, and it was time the butter accepted that.
After the butter cooled down a bit, I added salt, (a little too much) black pepper, dash of red chili flakes, lemon seasoning, a bit of lemon juice, and stirred.
Next, I sliced an onion, added that in. I covered a tomato in olive oil, wrapped it in foil, and set it to bake in my nifty little toaster oven (which I got on Black Friday with my friend Rebecca for an unbelievable steal of $8!) for about 15 minutes.
Here's another thing I learnt today, baked tomato smells entirely different from a fresh one. It also looks uglier... But smells very... toasty, for say. After the tomato was done, I peeled the plastic-y skin and chopped the mushy pulp for the sauce.
And now for my second favorite ingredient- Sweet potato! I baked one full sweet potato, peeled it, cut it in little cubes, and added them in too.
Fact of life: Butter+Sweet potato= DIVINE!
This whole time, I also cooked the pasta in very salty water (this I learnt while watching Food Network. Always cook your pasta in water as salty as ocean water. The result: a crispy flavor to the plain pasta by itself. I'm a person who nibbles on a few pasta pieces after they are drained, and always tell myself that one day I will make pasta only to eat it plain. It's scrumptious!), and after it was done, I added the pasta to the slowly simmering butter sauce.
My mom, brother, and I had a plate each, and didn't talk to each other unless it was a quick compliment spewed out in the time it took for the fork to gather the buttery goodness on the plate to the already full mouth. They loved it, and I was very content.

It wasn't perfect, definitely need a few alterations, but what I am sticking to is the butter.
One food phobia conquered this New Year Day, and I make a resolution to conquer one food phobia at a time, as Jeffrey Steingarten would say, in order to become a better omnivore.