Stock

“But why are you making stock?”

It was a fair question — Kevin had asked what I planned to do today, on New Year’s Eve, and I said, ‘make stock,’ and that was confusing because while we cook with stock all the time, we generally just buy it ready-made.

But it made sense to me — I was recovering from a winter sickness, craving soup, and supposedly making stock the old-fashioned way, with all the bones in, actually was good for your immune system, or so I’d read somewhere, at some point.  And more than that, it felt right for New Year’s Eve, to head into the next year using up the bones of the old, making something good and fresh and strong for going on with.

It was going to be a slightly unusual stock, because our grocery delivery had failed to materialize, so no celery, and no wings I’d ordered to supplement the chicken breast I had on hand in the freezer.  But it turned out that a friend had stored a turkey neck in our freezer (long story), so once she gave us her blessing, that joined the chicken breasts in the pot.  I never liked celery anyway, so even though it’s classic for stock, I was pretty sure I could get along without it.

I cleaned the kitchen too, with Kevin lending me a hand when I got tired, because in my family, it’s traditional to start the New Year with a clean house.  I didn’t quite manage the clean house (sorry, Amma), but a clean kitchen is the most important part, I think.  Heart of the home.

And now the stock is simmering, and Kevin and I have poured out glasses of the 25-year-old vintage port that he got us for our 25th anniversary — which was several months ago, but we were having a party then, and it was a little busy, so we’ve only gotten around to opening it now.   It is tasty.

He’s putting the children to bed, and then we will curl up in bed ourselves and watch The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel with our port and chocolate cupcakes.  In an hour and a half or so, the stock will be simmered sufficiently; I’ll chill it overnight in the fridge, and then skim off the fat and scum from the top in the morning, so it’ll be all ready for soup experiments, or whatever else the new year brings us.

Wishing you a good skimmer for ridding yourself of last year’s scum.

More importantly, wishing you plenty of rich, hearty soup — or whatever else you find nutritious and sustaining and delicious — to carry you through the new year.

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Kevin Cooks Rasam

That feeling when you have an upset stomach and nothing sounds good except maybe something tangy, and you remember that your mother used to make and drink rasam, a spicy-sour tamarind soup, that was actually supposed to be good for an upset (sour) stomach, and as a kid you didn’t like it, but your tastes have evolved and now it sounds really good.

So you somewhat pathetically ask your husband if he can make you some, and he looks startled because he’s never heard of or tasted this before, but dubiously says okay, if you give him the recipe, so you message him a recipe you found online, and then there’s some back and forth because the recipe isn’t actually that clear, but you get to what you think it is eventually, and he heads back down to start it simmering

And a friend sends her kid across the alley with tamarind because you’re inexplicably out (although it turns out that there was some, hiding behind the lentils), and then the husband brings it to you, along with the rice (because some people like to sip it straight up and some people like it with rice and you aren’t sure which kind of people you are), and it is delicious and you finish it all.

I am not sure whether it will actually make my tummy feel better, but it is very nice to be cosseted once in a while.

(And extra thanks to Anand for putting off his promised Terraria game so that Daddy could make Mommy soup.)

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Experiments in Browning

I have a friend whose daughter is allergic to eggs, which led me to wonder about the classic egg wash, used to add lovely color to breads.  I did a little research, and learned that you can do a wash with egg whites only, with heavy cream, even just with milk (done when funds are tight).

In this first photo, the curry buns on the left were baked with no wash at all; the ones on the right with a traditional egg wash.  Interestingly, the bottom left one did brown a little, but certainly you got a more consistent, richer result from the egg wash.

Then I tried using just whites, and just heavy cream.  The whites browned almost as well as the traditional egg wash; the heavy cream gave a little color, but I’m not sure it’s enough that I’d bother with it, honestly.

No real conclusions here — but it was fun experimenting!

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Adjusting for Taste

My in-laws have been visiting for a few days, so we’ve been cooking for a larger array of palates than usual.  Holiday cooking for a large group is a little like being on a game show — can you feed all of these people in a way that makes everyone happy?  Can you do it for three meals in a row?  How about for three days in a row?  (They did go out for brunch yesterday, which helped!)

It’s already somewhat challenging cooking for just me, Kevin, and the kids — Kev and I both love spicy food, but he doesn’t eat mushrooms (sad) or fish (tragic).  The kids mostly don’t eat spicy food, though we’re working on that, and their appreciation for vegetables is still fairly limited (but improving).  With the addition of the relatives came more restrictions — my mother-in-law doesn’t like beets or cilantro (but my father-in-law does), my sister-in-law doesn’t do spicy, and her daughters aren’t big fans of spicy either.  Etc. and so on.

All of which means that we could just stick to mac-and-cheese to feed everyone, but after three days of that, I just can’t take it anymore.  I like pasta as much as the next person, but before too long, I start to crave South Asian food.  So last night, we did our best to cook South Asian food that everyone would eat.

Having several dishes meant that we could expect people to skip one or two and still have plenty to eat.  I left out the chili powder on the ginger-garlic chicken, and that went well; I left out the mustard and cumin seeds on the vegetables, because I wasn’t sure the kids wouldn’t find them suspicious, and I used onion powder instead of onions, because various people don’t like pieces onion.  We just put one jalapeño in the cabbage, instead of three Thai green chilies,  and we reduced the chilies in the beets similarly.  And I made a cucumber raita, just in case it was still too spicy!

I wouldn’t say it was a complete success — despite my children’s urgings that the chicken was really good, their cousins refused to try it!  But I think the adults were mostly fine, at least, and everyone was fed sufficiently, and I got a little of the food I love and need — the flavors were milder than normal, but still in the right continent, at least.  Good enough!

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Hawaii: Crack Seed

I had never heard of crack seed, but when Jed saw the sign for the Crack Seed Store, he guided me inside, to a wonderland of Chinese snacks.

“Crack seed is a category of snacks that originated in China. It is highly popular in many regions, such as Hawaii. Crack seed are basically preserved fruits that have been cracked or split with the seed or kernel partially exposed as a flavor enhancement. This type of snack is commonly referred to in Chinese language as see mui (西梅; [siː muːi]); it arrived in Hawaii during the 19th century, when Cantonese immigrants were brought to work on the plantations.

 

The flavors are varied, ranging from extremely sweet and salty to sour flavors. Flavors can include rock salt plum, honey mango, licorice peach, or any kind of combination of fruits, flavors and type of preservatives used. What originally was a preserved fruit has become a favorite snack in Hawaii and a sample of a cultural food.

 

Crack seed stores also sell candies such as gummi bears, and Sour Patch Kids, coated with Li Hing Mui powder.

Some types of crack seed found in Hawaii and Asia are dry and chewy types of li hing mui, dried persimmons, preserved mandarin peels, and salted Chinese and Thai olives, also known as nam liap in Thai.” – Wikipedia

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Hawaii: Local neighborhood + malasadas @ Pipeline

After brunch at Koko Head Cafe yesterday, we did a little Christmas shopping in that neighborhood, which has a bunch of small mom-and-pop stores. We hit up two separate comic book stores, where I found a Goku action figure for Anand, and a compendium of Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld comics for Kavya, score! I hope she likes it; Amethyst was my introduction to comic books, found flipping through bins at my local library. It’s a shame that it’s only been reprinted in black and white, though — a lot of what was appealing about it to ten-year-old me was all the PINK, which showed up shockingly well amidst all the dark-toned Batman, etc. comics.

We also found several small holiday gifts (like Hawaii-themed hair ties) at Sugarcane (https://www.facebook.com/sugarcanehawaii/), an adorable little gift shop with a mix of local-made, vintage, and other items.

When we had a little more room in our tummies, we walked over to Pipeline (all of these were within a few blocks) where we had PERFECT malasadas, light and airy and made fresh to your order. Jed went for the classic sugar-coated one; I reveled in the li hing sugar-coated one, which had a slightly tangy-salty flavor, which contrasted beautifully with the haupia (coconut) vegan ice cream, made with straight up coconut milk, and you could totally tell; nothing like any coconut ice cream I’ve had on the mainland. So good.

  

Then we drove over to South Shore Market to finish our holiday shopping; several nice stores selling fairly standard gift-y things, but many made by smaller local businesses.

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Hawaii: Koko Head Redux

Second meal at Koko Head Cafe as good as the first! I had the delectably creamy poke omelette: fried local poke, masago aioli (SO GOOD), salad, with rice, along with a KHC Sunrise – tequila, bell pepper, orange-pineapple, chili. (I couldn’t really taste the chili, but it was still good.) Jed got a special, the vegetarian luau, I think it was called, a terrific combination of ‘ulu (breadfruit), taro, yam, with a yummy green sauce, a fried egg, and rice, topped with pickles and fried onion. So good.

 

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Hawaii: Farmer’s Market Bread and Fruit

Last night we ended up swinging by the farmer’s market set up in the mall across the street and making our dinner out of what was on offer — basically sweet breads and fruit. Works for me. The apple bananas continue delicious, but the big find was a Spanish sweet bread by way of the Philippines, ensaimada, which I am now madly in love with.
 
It reminds me of SOMETHING else that I really like, but I can’t place it. Is there some Sri Lankan baked good like this? I don’t think so, so what am I forgetting? Well, regardless, delicious. Butter + sugar = can’t go wrong, really.
Here’s a little article about it:

“The ensemada has absolutely no nutritional value, unless you consider happiness to be good for the health.

Light, buttery and full of sugar, it is the ultimate empty carb. But you only live once, right?
For those unfamiliar with this fabulous pastry, an ensemada — sometimes spelled ensamada or ensaimada — has Spanish origins, but is best known in Hawaii in its Filipino version, a large, coiled bun spread with a butter and sugar topping.”
   
 
 
  
 
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Hawaii: Loco & Apple

I valiantly tried the classic loco moco (white rice, burger patty, eggs, brown gravy), and while I can see that it could easily be comfort food for many, it is not for me. I think I’m just not so much of a brown gravy person. The apple bananas, on the other hand, are addictive, and I would gladly eat many more of them. They are small and cute and apple-y.
 
 
I didn’t try the sandwiches on taro bread, but I had to take a picture because they were so delightfully purple. I did like the warm banana-taro bread pudding with a warm haupia (coconut milk-based) sauce.  Yum.
 
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Hawaii: Koko Head Fish and Eggs

Big thanks to Kavita for the recommendation for Koko Head Cafe — we *loved* it. Had brunch there yesterday, got a scone and muffin to take away for later, and are going back for brunch today because there were just too many delectable-looking things on the menu, and it was too hard to pick.

I got the ‘fish and eggs,’ which is an unassuming name for one of the best dishes I’ve ever had. Sweet miso marinated local fresh fish, soft scrambled eggs, ong choy (water spinach), ocean rice, house made pickles. So, so good. (Also very filling, only finished half of it, but am saving the rest for another meal.)

 

Jed got the volcano eggs (baked eggs, spicy tomato based sauce, cheddar cheese, choice of daily north shore vegetables or diced Portugese sausage), also yummy, in a more comfort food kind of way.

 

Kimchi bacon cheddar scone (v. intense flavors, delicious and spicy-salty, but does need juice or tea to cut it, IMHO) & black sesame yuzu muffin (good, complex flavors).

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