Ally

By now, all of you in Blogland know how much my better half, Mr.S., loves Thai yellow curry. So as a surprise I decided to try and attempt some at home; however, type in those three words and there are pages upon pages of recipes on Google. Luckily, I was at my friend Susan's one day and she mentioned this great Thai yellow curry with vegetables recipe that she uses by Giada De Laurentiis. Susan was not only kind enough to email me the recipe link but she also sent me home with curry paste, several prik kee noo chiles and some kaffir leaves so I could get started right away. The recipe came out great and Mr. S. was elated; in fact, he admitted that this is now his 2nd favorite Thai yellow curry dish (first place belongs to Thai Chef's House's thai yellow curry).

Note: I did make two small alterations to Giada's recipe, I omitted the red bell pepper and chose to add a bit more chile (Mr. S. likes it SPICY). The original recipe can be found here and is much milder: Giada De Laurentiis' Veggies in Yellow Curry.

Ingredients

* 2 (13.5-ounce) cans coconut milk
* 1/2 cup (4 ounces) yellow curry paste (recommended: Mae Ploy brand)
* 1 small (about 8 ounces) russet potato, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
* 2 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
* 1 small onion, chopped
* 1 (15-ounce) can baby corn, rinsed and drained
* 1.5 Thai chiles, such as prik kee noo
* 5 sprigs Thai basil, with stems, plus 1/4 cup chopped
* 3 kaffir lime leaves
* 1 tablespoon fish sauce


Directions

* In a large saucepan, bring the coconut milk and curry paste to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until smooth, about 1 minute.
* Add the potato, carrots, onion, baby corn, chiles, basil sprigs, lime leaves, and fish sauce.
* Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
* Remove the lid and continue to simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.
* Discard the lime leaves and the basil sprigs.
* Transfer to a serving dish, garnish with chopped basil and serve over steamed white rice.
Ally

"Large, naked, raw carrots are acceptable as food only to those who live in hutches eagerly awaiting Easter."  ~Fran Lebowitz

On a whim a few months back, Mr. S. and I decided to play hookey. We opted to start our day with a patio lunch at Tuli Bistro. Lunch was good; the gyro pita was bit mundane but the shrimp po' boy had a nice kick from the chipotle remoulade. The best dish we shared though was a savory carrot-ginger soup. It was so good that it prompted me to look up carrot-ginger soup recipes when I got home. I perused the internet trying to find a recipe that sounded similar and didn't have much luck; but then the kitchen gods delivered me my May issue of Bon Appetit and a recipe for Carrot-Ginger Soup with Chile Butter and Roasted Peanuts. When I finally got around to making it, I realized that it wasn't exactly like the soup I had at Tuli's...it was BETTER!

* Note: Do not skip the chile butter and peanuts, they truly alter the flavor of the soup.

Ingredients (from Bon Appetit)

chile butter

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped green onions (white and green parts only)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

soup

  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
  • 1 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  • 1 1/4 cups chopped onion
  • 1 5-ounce white-skinned potato, peeled, chopped
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 5 cups (or more) vegetable broth or chicken broth
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted roasted peanuts, finely chopped

Preparation

chile butter

  • Mix all ingredients in small bowl. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before using.

soup

  • Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large pot over medium-high heat. Add carrots, onion, potato, and ginger; sprinkle with salt and sauté until vegetables are slightly softened but not brown, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Add 5 cups broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly, then puree in batches in blender until smooth. Return soup to same pot; if desired, add more broth by 1/4 cupfuls to thin soup. Bring to simmer. Season with salt and black pepper.
  •  Ladle soup into bowls. Top with small spoonful of chile butter; sprinkle with nuts.
Ally

I was perusing through the farmers' market recently and had to do a double take. At the table where I usually buy my Chinese Long Beans (aka Yardlong Beans) there was something amiss. I inched closer to get a good look and next to the green Chinese Long Beans were a few bundles of  beans…similar in length and texture but a vivid purple in color. Curious, I asked the young girl behind the table, “Are these beans supposed to be purple? Is there a difference in flavor?” She confessed that she had never eaten them before and was just helping out at the table for the day.  So I figured for $1 a bundle, I’d give these Barney looking beans a shot.

For those of you unfamiliar with Chinese Long Beans, they are much longer (on average 12"-30" in length), wrinklier and a bit chewier then your run-of-the-mill green beans. As for the purple beans, you can prepare them the same way you would the green Chinese Long Beans. My favorite method is to stir fry them.

Just in case you were curious as to how the beans look in comparison I found a pic online with the two varieties of beans side by side.


Stir-fried Chinese Long Beans

1 lb. Chinese long beans, trimmed and cut on the diagonal into 3 inch lengths
1 T oyster sauce
2 t minced fresh garlic
1 t soy sauce
¼ cup water or low sodium vegetable broth

- Heat 1 T of canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add minced garlic. Cook, stirring until garlic starts to change color (about 1 minute)
- Add the long beans. Saute for about 30-45 seconds until they soften.
- Add water or broth, soy sauce and oyster sauce.
- Cover and cook until beans are tender (but not mushy).
- Remove the lid. Cook, allowing excess liquid to evaporate.
- Add salt if so desired.



Ally
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1724 Broadway Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95818. (1916) 492-2250

It was a sunny weekend morning when I ventured out to meet up with a few friends at Hokkaido Noodle House. Being a bit sleep deprived, I was looking forward to a nice piping hot bowl of ramen to kickstart my day. Ramen for me is one of those dishes that soothes the soul, like pho or chicken noodle soup.  However, Hokkaido Noodle House’s ramen did nothing to soothe my soul, the only thing it did do was turn my stomach…violently.

Hokkaido Noodle is located on Broadway in the building that housed the now extinct Mana and prior to that New Edokko. The interior décor is pretty stark, relying strongly on the bamboo fountain and “natural” wood furnishings to lend the regulatory Asian vibe. The staff is polite but a bit unpolished. Both waitresses we had attempted to make some small talk each time they came to the table but it came across as a bit awkward, like they were trying too hard. Also, maybe it was because I was so tired but I found it grating that we had two servers and both of them kept asking us the same questions. Being asked twice if I was ready to order, twice if I liked everything and twice if I want dessert wore on my patience. Instead of having two servers addressing me in a tag team fashion with redundant questions, I would have rather just had one solid server from start to finish.

Our lunch service began with a teeny portion of complimentary sunomono. When I say teeny, I do mean teeny. The paltry serving consisted of probably 5 slivers of cucumber to be shared amongst the four of us. It was such a meager portion, that they probably would have been better off to just omit it. For my order, I opted to go with the House Ramen (Regular size $7.55, Large $8.95). The broth was described as “house special soup” with no indication as to whether it was shio, shoyu or miso. I’m still not sure what the house soup base was but it had a milky consistency similar to miso broth but was completely devoid of any taste. The ramen was garnished with greens, roasted corn, bean sprouts, ½ a boiled egg, some overly fatty char-siu and a mini squid (the chicken was MIA). I like squid but the piece floating in my bowl was a complete turn off. It looked rubbery and a bit like an amputated penis…completely unappetizing. I immediately pulled it out of my bowl and set it aside. Also, the ramen was accompanied by a large wooden ladle for sipping soup…the ladle was aesthetically pleasing but awkward to use. The only two redeeming features I found with my ramen were that the noodles were not overcooked and the broth was hot; but overall, I found my lunch to be a huge disappointment. I ate about half of my ramen and gave up. Some shichimi might have helped alleviate the blandness of the ramen but the only two condiments on the table were minced garlic and some sort of spicy chili oil paste. Although the restaurant’s focus is ramen, the menu also offers various yakitori, donburi and simple appetizers. There’s no beer or wine available for now and dessert is limited to mochi ice cream balls ($1.25).

So in the end, I didn’t get the kickstart I had originally hoped for but upon returning home and downing half a bottle of Pepto, I can truly say that Hokkaido Noodle House made a lasting impression on me.
Ally
If you're a foodie to any degree then you MUST check out Posh Nosh. It's a BBC program that pokes fun at chefs and is pee your pants funny. I started watching the episodes last Christmas while on vacation in Kansas City (thanks Dad!) and have been hooked ever since. In a mere 8 minute episode, Simon and Minty attempt to bring "extraordinary food" to "ordinary people". If you like hilarity, snarky comments and of course-- food, you seriously need to take a gander at Posh Nosh!

Ally

(meatball sub, mafia-style on dutch crunch bread w/ cheddar & sour cream chips)

"Too few people understand a really good sandwich." - James Beard


3340 C St, Sacramento, CA 95816, (916) 443-540.


If a deli could have a voice, I’d picture Roxie Deli to be sporting a Tony Danza-Who’s The Boss-esque, “Ay-oh! Oh-ay!”  Roxie’s is squirreled away on the corner of 33rd and C in East Sac in a building that looks much like your typical bare bones, urban quickie mart. However, don’t let their inconspicuous residential location fool you, those boys know how to handle their meat and make a mean sandwich.

The guys behind the counter exude a Soprano’s like tough guy demeanor but really they’re sweet as pie. I mean what gal doesn’t like to be called “pretty lady” when placing a lunch order? In fact, my 65 year old father gets called, “boss” and “young man,” when he pops in there and I think he likes it!

Back to the food. Roxie’s holds true to a firm BBQ schedule:

Monday: Tri-tip
Tuesday: Pulled Pork
Wednesday: Ribs
Thursday:  Brisket

They do their own BBQing on the smoker right outside the store and Jesus-tap dancing-Christ, it’s delicious! They also have an array of traditional deli sandwiches piled high with yummy condiments. My favorite is the meatball on dutch crunch bread (this bread is like manna from heaven, it’s simultaneously soft and crunchy). Sometimes if I’m feeling sassy, I’ll have it made “mafia-style” (meatballs, provolone, light mayo/sour cream mix and topped with parmesan cheese).  It comes in three sizes: junior, regular and supreme. I get the regular and usually can get lunch and dinner out of it, especially if I pair it with some Dirty Potato Chips.

On the flip side, Roxie’s also offers a few items in their deli-case that make me scratch my head: raviolis, tamales, piroshkies and the occasional deviled egg—but hey, they might be good for all that I know? Too bad I’ll never have any room left in my stomach to give them a whirl. Also take note, Roxie’s does stay true to their neighborhood roots by carrying various domestic 40’s and a few pints of imported brews in their cold case.

So next time you’re in East Sac, belly up to the counter…I’m sure the Roxie boys will make you an offer you can’t refuse.
Ally

“Of all the items on the menu, soup is that which exacts the most delicate perfection and the strictest attention.” -Escoffier


I found one of my favorite recipes a few years ago by fluke. I was invited to a soup swap party to celebrate National Soup Swap Day. It was fun and there were only two rules for the Soup Swap:  Rule #1 You do not talk about SOUP SWAP,   Rule #2 You DO NOT talk about Soup Swap. No, just kiddding. The two rules were: Rule #1 Bring six 1 quart containers of your soup choice to swap, Rule #2  The soup must be vegetarian, no dairy and no potatoes (the latter two do not freeze too well). I scoured the internet for a soup that would work and settled on Chocolate & Zucchini's Butternut Squash Vanilla Soup (Soupe de Courge à la Vanille). The soup turned out to be easy to make...even easier if you buy the pre-cubed butternut squash at Trader Joe's...and a hit! Several of the swap participants contacted me afterwards to inquire about the recipe. Since that time, I've made that soup on several occasions and always to a favorable response (I only had it turn out less than stellar once and that was because I let someone else season it and she totally oversalted it. Ah well, you live and you learn). One friend even dubbed it "crack soup" because it was so addicting. Anyhow, I found the soup to pair well with Indian food of all things but it's just as tasty solo. Give it a try!

Soupe de Courge à la Vanille

Ingredients:

- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 onions, peeled and sliced
- 4 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeds scooped out and cut in chunks
- Salt, freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract/paste (preferably natural), or one pod dry vanilla, split open (I prefer the pod)

Serves 6.

Instructions:

- Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot.
- Add in the onion and cook over medium-high heat for five minutes or until softened, stirring regularly.
- Add in the squash, season with salt and pepper, and cook for ten minutes, stirring from time to time.
- Pour in hot water or stock to cover the vegetables and bring to a simmer.
- Lower the heat to medium, cover and cook for 20 minutes.
- Add in the vanilla extract, or scrape in the seeds from the vanilla pod and add in the pod itself as well.
- Cook for ten more minutes, or until the squash is tender.
- Fish out the vanilla pod if that's what you used (otherwise don't), and purée the soup in a food processor/blender/ or use an immersion blender.
- Adjust the seasoning and serve hot.
Ally
Fresh spices are great but sometimes you're in a pinch and have to use the bottled stuff lurking in the back of your cupboard. If you're like me,  you've probably wondered- does this stuff ever go bad? What's the shelf life of a bottle of cumin or when does a cinnamon stick turn? Well, after digging around a bit I discovered that dried herbs and spices don't spoil...BUT (yes, you knew that "but" was coming...) they do lose their strength over time. The key to preserving their potency is to store them in an airtight container in a cool dark place (don't keep them by your stove, the heat & steam will degrade them).

According to spice kingpin, McCormick, the general guideline for spice shelf life is:





To help you out even further, many spice manufacturers have "freshness checkers" that decode the numbers and letters that replace actual dates on some containers. Just click on the link and follow the site's instructions.

McCormick (along with the date, you get some humorous quips)
Spice Islands
Durkee

* Note Schilling spices are no longer made and are at least 7 years old.
Ally

Just click on the event name for more information:

Sac Wine and Dine  July 2-11

Bastille Day Celebration at The Crescent Club  July 10

Bastille Week Prix Fixe Menu at Bidwell Street Bistro  July 12-17

Bastille Day: Midtown Waiter's Race  July 14

Marysville Peach Fest  July 16-17

Sierra Brewfest  July 24

Gilroy Garlic Festival   July 23-25

Courtland Pear Festival  July 25

Festa Italiana  Aug 7-8

Wine Cheese & Bread Faire  Aug 7-8

Midtown Cocktail Week  August 9-15

Sacramento Greek Festival  Sept 3-5

California Brewers Festival  Sept 11

Tracy Bean Festival  Sept 12-13

Lodi Grape Festival   Sept 16-19

No Reservations: An Evening With Anthony Bourdain   Sept 17

Fair Oaks Chicken Festival  Sept 18

Lambtown USA  Oct 2

Savor Sacramento   Oct 9

Mandarin Festival   Nov 19-21
Labels: 5 comments | | edit post
Ally


2851 Fulton Ave, Sacramento, CA 95821, (916) 481-9500

The man in my life has a mistress and I have no one to blame but myself. After all, I introduced the two of them. Oh, I know all about her and their little dalliances. They make no attempt to hide their affair. She’s exotic, spicy and always makes him smile. All she had to do was touch his lips once and he was addicted. He longs for her everyday, no matter where he is…and that ladies and gentleman, is how I lost my boyfriend to the seductions of Thai food.

In all innocence, I had no idea that he had never indulged in Thai food before meeting me. (I mean, isn’t eating Thai food in California as American as eating apple pie?) Anyhow on a whim one night, I suggested that we grab some takeout at Taste of Thai on Broadway…and that’s when I lost him. He took to Thai food like a junkie does to crack rock. The curry, the rice, the peanuty goodness they enveloped him with their heavenly scents...it was literally love at first bite. From there, dining out became a quest to find the holy grail of thai food restaurants. After sampling a multitude of Thai joints from one end of town to the other, we were satisfied but not wowed. I thought a pilgrimage to Thailand was going to be next on his agenda. But then one evening, some friends recommended Thai Chef's House. It was out in the ‘burbs but we decided to give it a shot; after all, nothing ventured, nothing gained—right?

So, the place resembles a Waffle Hut from the exterior. Yes, we were apprehensive too. However, if you take a chance and cross the threshold you’ll find friendly faces and some delicious dishes at an affordable price. The interior is clean and adorned with various intricate wood carvings…nothing too fancy. I also appreciate that the tables are spaced out enough that you don’t feel like you’re piled upon one another like sardines nor do you have to yell to be heard. We’ve returned to TCH several times and have yet to be disappointed. The artichoke soup is sweet, tangy and creamy all rolled into one...it'll knock your socks off. Their yellow curry with chicken is simultaneously mild and smooth. Along with the meat of your choice, it’s loaded with hearty chunks of potatoes, carrots slices and onion slivers. We usually go a bit mainstream and pair this dish with their delicious thai fried rice and steamed “shumai-esque” dumplings. During one visit we were craving some fish but we were disheartened to find that all of the fish dishes offered were battered and fried. We mentioned our disappointment to the gentleman who waited on us and he promptly offered to prepare us a steamed white fish topped with a delicate black bean and ginger sauce (even though it wasn’t technically on the menu). The impromptu fish dish was a hit and we left satiated. The only miss we’ve ever had was an ill-executed eggplant entrée. The dish was a bit bland and the cooking of the clunky eggplant bites was inconsistent—some pieces were mushy and other pieces were undercooked; neither of us cared much for it. One of these days we do hope to save enough room to sample a dessert; but in the meantime, the carefully packaged boxes of leftovers will have to suffice.

So for now, as long as he keeps me in on the action, I’m okay with my man having a dish on the side. Now if I could just get him to quit propositioning our waitress to give him one of their “I Love Thai Chef’s House” tees (I kid you not!), I’ll be happy.
Ally

A few weeks ago, Mr. S. and I attended a lovely wedding held by Susan and Dan. The happy couple opted for a Mediterranean food theme and it was delicious. The dinner consisted of a greek salad, falafel, hummus, pita bread, chicken souvlaki, tabblouleh and dolma. Everything was wonderful but we both found ourselves repeatedly reaching for the dolma. So when my friend Elif, who’s Turkish, generously offered to show me how to make vegetarian dolma, I jumped at the chance. On a quiet Saturday morning over Turkish coffee, I learned how to prepare several Turkish dishes from scratch: dolma, kisir, sumac-onion salad and a walnut-garlic-red pepper spread. Elif's dolma recipe blows the store-bought variety out of the water, no contest.


Elif’s Dolma Recipe

Ingredients:

2 jars of grape leaves*
1 large diced or grated white onion
2 cups uncooked white rice
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup pinenuts
½ cup currants or raisins
1 ½ t ground cinnamon
¼ t ground cloves
2 lemons, juiced and sliced
1 t salt (to taste)

* If you live in Sacramento, try the Mediterranean market on Fulton

Filling Instructions:

- 1. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan or medium pot. Sweat the onions until they become soft, about 10 minutes.
- 2. Stir in the pinenuts. Allow the onions to carmelize and the pinenuts to brown.
- 3. Add in the currants, cinnamon, ground cloves and salt (don't forget the salt!). Mix well.
- 4. Add in the uncooked rice and 2 cups of water. Simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is half cooked.
- 5. Remove from heat and set aside.

Rolling Instructions:

- 1. Drain the grape leaves in a colander and then place them in a large bowl. Fill the bowl full of hot water and let the leaves sit for 10-15 minutes. Drain and rinse the leaves under cold water.
- 2. Lay one leaf, vein side up/ glossy side down with the stem end pointing towards you. Carefully remove the stem where it hits the leaf.
- 3. Place a spoonful of filling towards the middle by the stem and then using your fingers, elongate the filling into a “cigarette” shape.
- 4. Fold both sides towards the middle, then fold the stem end up and gently roll towards the top. You want to be firm but not roll too tight; otherwise, the leaf will rip when the rice expands. Repeat.
- 5. Arrange the rolls side by side, seam side down in an oven-safe pan (Pyrex or casserole dishes work well for this). It’s okay to stack them.
- 6. Fill the pan ¾ full of water and cover it tightly with aluminum foil.
- 7. Cook at 375 degrees for about 30-40 minutes, until rice is fully cooked
- 8. Allow dolmas to cool.
- 9. Once cooled, sprinkle with fresh lemon juice and garnish with lemon slices.
Ally
(photo courtesy of Inkwell Bookstore)

This week was my lovely friend Lacy's birthday and she hosted a lobster boil to celebrate the occasion. I'm not sure about you but I've eaten lobster a ton of times but have never cooked it at home. The task always seemed too daunting to me (ever see the lobster scene in Annie Hall?), but it turns out cooking a lobster is as simple as boiling an egg. The Maine lobsters we devoured (some of which are seen below) were cooked in a propane lobster cooker, but you can cook lobsters just as easily in a stockpot or large kettle.


How to Cook a Lobster

Ingredients:

Live lobsters (keep them refrigerated until just before you boil them)
Salt
Water
(You can add seasoning to the water if you wish)
Butter
Lemon

Instructions:

1. Fill a large stockpot about 3/4 full with water (enough to cover the lobsters).

2. Add about 2 tablespoons of salt per quart of water. You can add some seasoning at this time or squeeze some lemon juice in, if you want.

3. Bring the water to a rapid boil.

4. Remove claw bands. Use long tongs to place the lobsters in one at a time, head first and completely submerge them.

5. Allow the water to come to a boil again.

6. Lower the heat to medium, cover the pot and allow the lobsters to cook.

Lobster Cooking Times

Lobster Weight                         Cooking Time

1-1.25 lb.                                  12-15 minutes
1.25 -2 lb.                                 15-20 minutes
2-3 lb.                                       20-25 minutes
3-6 lb.                                       25-28 minutes
6-7 lb.                                       28-30 minutes
8 + lb.                                       4 minutes per lb.

* Note: These times are for hard shell lobsters; if cooking new (soft) shell lobsters, reduce boiling or steaming time by three minutes.

7. General rule of thumb: you can tell that the lobster is done when the shell is entirely red, the tail curls and the antennae can be removed easily. The meat inside should be firm, white and opaque.

8. Remove lobsters from water with tongs and place on a paper towel to drain.

9. Serve with a side of melted butter and lemon wedges. The shells can be saved to make stock.