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Archive for March, 2010

Ike’s Place is notorious for its fabulous sandwiches as much for its lengthy lines.  (“My advice to you is to call in 2-3 hours ahead of time,” one of the employees told a first-timer.  “Otherwise, it’s one helluva long wait.”)  It’s gotten so problematic that the owner decided to shut down the joint early to appease the disgruntled neighbors.  Thus, I decided to come early.  Really early.  10:40 AM early just in case the line was mad long, and I need to hold my friend’s and my place in line.  (She was running an errand, so she was arriving later.)  However, it was anything but that.  In fact, the street was quiet with Ike’s employees taking turns for a cigarette break.

When my friend arrived, we deliberated and settled on the popular choices.  My friend picked “Name of the Girl I am Dating” (Halal Chicken Breast, Honey Mustard, Avocado, Pepper Jack) while I picked “Eli Manning” (Halal Chicken Breast, Zesty Garlic and Herb Sauce, Mushrooms, Avocado, Cheddar).  Haha, such masculine names, but they’re amusing!  It seems like the thing to do for a quirky anti-establishment kind of business :)

With no place to sit at the shop, we ventured off to find an appropriate place to eat…
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The problem with trying new recipes is that they often call for irregular amounts of food.  That’s fine for pantry items and common ingredients, but what about recipes that call for 2 1/2 cups of not-so-common perishables?   What kind of items sell only 2 1/2 cup containers?!

Then, the whole stopping-by-the-ingredient situation at the supermarket gets hairier.  You know, the kind you’re already in when you have to ponder which brand to pick from. Do I buy more than what the recipe calls for?  No, that might ruin the ratio of ingredients.  Okay, then what do I do with the excess? Haha, as comfortable I am with doing mental math, it does get annoying.  Too many questions, no exact answers…

That was the situation last week.  My friend protested against buying excess ricotta since she didn’t know what to do with it.  She argued that she wasn’t be cooking or baking anytime soon, so buying an excess amount seemed like a waste.  I told her to go ahead and buy the extra ricotta because I can make lemon ricotta muffins for her.  Haha, she immediately perked up since lemon and ricotta is one of her favorite flavor pairings.

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Epilogue: Dare to Dream

I accidentally typed “Day to Dream.”  I assure you it’s a total Freudian slip, but I can’t help to think it’s true.  Maybe the series of baking and cooking projects really should be renamed “Day to Dream.”  The funny thing is that I remember doing each individual project, so that part seemed real.  However, now that I stop to think about it, how did I make so many different things?   It all seems like a dream that whirled by.  I am not sure if that’s a good thing since that means my spring break past me by…

In any case, I am glad I had this opportunity to try different things even though some things were definitely more successful than others.  Most of that is attributed to the fact I lack culinary experience.  Therefore, I do not have the intuition or feel of just throwing ingredients into a pan and watching their flavors meld together in the pan.  Yes, I sometimes have the impression that cooking looks like a less exaggerated version of Emeril Lagasse going “Bam!” on his live cooking show…

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I think I have been seduced by Bi-Rite Creamery’s honey lavender ice cream.  Although it has been almost a year since I had it, I still remember how soothing it was on that hot summer day.  Their ice cream was creamy, and the lavender element adds a bit of aromatherapy (if you will), as it is known for its soothing qualities.  (It’s commonly used to aid sleep and remedy anxiety.)  Now that it is warm out again, I am tempted to swing on down there and buy myself a pint.

In any case, I know culinary lavender is one of those things that you either love it or don’t.  Some people feel that the lavender component is overpowering and reminds them of being in Crabtree and Evelyn, but I like that bit of Victorian romanticism it provides.  It gives food a little something special because it’s not everyday that you have lavender in food.

As you can imagine, I spent quite a bit of time bookmarking recipes involving lavender.  That’s right–everything from lavender spice cake to honey lavender biscotti.  Over time, I forgot about my fascination with culinary lavender, as I moved on to different projects since I didn’t feel like I had an audience for making such food.  Still, they remained bookmarked, reminding me every once in a while that I want to try playing around with this floral and sweet ingredient.

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One of my childhood friends loves to eat gnocchi.  If that dish is on the menu, she is almost certain to order it regardless of the sauce base.  Over time though, she has observed that not all gnocchi dishes are of the pillow-like wonderfulness that people rave about.  In fact, some taste downright rubbery and awful.  I suppose that’s a gamble one makes when ordering unless the restaurant is known for their gnocchi…

In any case, making gnocchi from scratch is hard and laborious, which is why most people prefer to order it at the restaurant.  However, dumpling-making whether it be Italian or Chinese seems to be most rewarding and satisfying when made at home.  I  remember my mother having me help her make savory tang yuan around the Winter Solstice by making the little balls for her soup.  While that was a time-consuming activity to make enough balls to feed the entire family, I thought it was fun.  Of course, my mother hasn’t made it since childhood since it is so time-consuming.

Intrigued by the gnocchi-making process and inspired by childhood nostalgia, I decided that this week would be a good time to try making dumplings.  Thus, I invited my friend over for a gnocchi-making session…

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When I first started baking, I avoided recipes that involved my hands getting dirty.  I know that might be weird since cooking and baking are pretty hands-on activities, but I didn’t like the feeling of getting grit stuck in my fingernails or flour clinging to my shirt.  It sort of makes sense if you consider that I have a history of despising the feeling of getting dirty.  I was a bit of girly-girl.  Always have been.  My mom claimed I was the world’s unhappiest kindergarten finger-painter because of that reason of hating to be dirty.  I am probably an anomaly in the culinary/ baking world…

Nowadays, I think of getting my hands dirty as being emotionally connected to the activity I am doing whether that be the sweaty palms in yoga practice or dirtying my hands up to knead dough.  It helps me stay grounded, which is important since I have a flighty and anxious personality.

In a way, it’s funny that I chose to making homemade green onion pancakes, which is a pretty messy cooking project if you think about it.  I mean, I am kneading the dough to facilitate the gluten formation.  Then, I am getting my hands all oiled up from the dough that’s drizzled in oil to keep the pancake interior moist.  Oh, and you can’t forget that smell.  Man, all those aromatics in the sesame oil and green onion just stayed with me for the rest of the day no matter how much I scrubbed.

However, I chose to make them anyway because they are one of my favorite snacks to nibble on…

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According to the Wall Street Journal, macarons may be the new cupcake.  To be honest, I wouldn’t mind supporting that trend since I do not really find cupcakes to be all that.  Sure, they have got the adorably piped buttercream frosting piled on high and its little ruffled liner, but I am not a frosting kind of girl and I prefer a cake with a more tender crumb than the typical cupcake base. Besides, macarons are fun to eat with all of their flavor combination and filling varieties!

As much as I adore macarons, I do not believe that macarons going mainstream would be much of a success since macarons are extremely temperamental cookies.  They just taste funky if all of the macaron components are not there!  Yes, macaron making is down to a science because they are that fussy!  Thus, there are many food blogs spouting off advice about how to avoid macaron pitfalls.  However, that still didn’t make this project any easier.   Of all of the things I planned on making this week, this was by far the hardest thing I have had to make.  Actually, this is the hardest thing I have had to make.  Period.  I thought my general meticulous nature would make my macaron experience slightly less painful, but I was wrong

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