Sunday, May 20, 2007

"Refined" Game Day Snacks

It was a great ride.

The NBA Playoffs are prematurely over for me now, but I am not disappointed. I am beaming with pride at how hard the Phoenix Suns and the Golden State Warriors played this season. I am heartened by their staggering efforts, the sincere collegiality they share with their teammates and with the entire NBA, and their abiding spirit of competitiveness.

I was on the edge of my seat in anticipation for every adrenaline-filled minute of every game.

The Golden State Warriors exceeded everyone’s expectations. And the Phoenix Suns always friggin’ incredible. They came together in the face of adversity and put up a great fight, even when the odds were clearly stacked against them.

Okay, enough @$$-kissing on my end. In celebration of the efforts of these NBA players, and for those of you who will continue to watch the Playoffs, I want to share with you a delectable game day recipe that will be sure to get your trash-talkin’ vocal cords all geared up.

Pita Wedges Topped with Warm Goat Cheese and Roasted Squash
2 medium rounds of pita bread
1/2 bulbous squash (or 3 slender squashes, such as zucchini), sliced thinly
1/2 onion bulb, sliced thinly, and separated into rings (red onion adds more color)
5 tbsp of pesto (or 4 tbsp of freshly grated parmesan cheese and 1 tbsp of fresh thyme)
1/2 of an 11-oz pkg of chevre (goat cheese)

First, preheat an oven to 400 degrees. With a paper towel lightly dampened with vegetable oil, wipe down the surface of a cookie sheet. Lay the two rounds of pita bread on the cookie sheet. Next, layer the pita rounds evenly with the thin slices of squash and rings of onion. You do not want to overwhelm the pita bread by adding so many ingredients so that the ultimate pita pie will be soggy, so only lay one layer of squash on top of the bread. Add the chevre and pesto next. Rather than directly smearing pesto onto the pita bread, add it onto the squash slices in clumps. Adding the pesto visibly on top of the squash slices (as opposed to burying the pesto underneath of the other toppings) adds an appealing dimension of color to the pita pie. I usually freeze leftover pesto, so when I want to make these pita wedges, I just break the frozen pesto apart into rough chunks and scatter the pieces over the pita bread. When the pita wedges are finished cooking, I spread the warmed pesto over the surface of the pie and the exposed slices of squash.

Next, firmly clutch a spoon in between your fingers and shovel out moist clumps of goat cheese from the package onto the pita bread. Twist your wrist as you spoon out the cheese from the plastic package. "Twisting" your wrist helps to separate the goat cheese into relatively uniform morsels and prevents the chevre from sticking to the spoon.

When the toppings are evenly distributed, put the pita pies on the top rack in the oven, and let the pies heat for about 10 to 15 minutes. Make sure that the bottom of the pita bread does not burn. When you remove the pita pie from the oven, test the pita bread quickly with your finger to make sure it is crispy, otherwise, you might have to put it in the oven for a few more minutes. You can also leave the pita pie in the oven longer so that the squash and onions obtain a nice "roasted" look during the cooking process.

If you have leftover slices of squash, you can store them in a Ziploc bag for use later or cut them into triangles and serve them with 1) marinated artichokes or 2) spongy mozzarella balls that have been marinated in extra virgin olive oil and an aromatic blend of Italian spices. These tiny squash snacks perfectly compliment the roasted pita wedges.

I hope these pita snacks give you a burst of energy to cheer for your favorite team! Go fill-in-the-blank-team!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Hiatus in Life

Dear Food Blogging Friend,

I owe you an explanation.

I need the patch, except not the patch for nicotine, but for something infinitely more addictive: television.

I can't stop watching the NBA playoffs or the after-show or the sports segment in the 11:00 o'clock news. I can't stop reading sports columns. I can't stop listening to sports radio. There isn't a minute that goes by that I am not thinking, breathing, dreaming about the Phoenix Suns, and it has gotten even worse since the
latest fiasco.

But it isn't you. Seriously, it's me. Just look at the innards of my fridge and you'll see for yourself. See what I've been eating? Condiments and drinks. I have also been eating cans of cold ravioli and cereal. . . Without milk.

The purpose of this post is to promise you that I will back to my food blogging self in a few weeks, which means I'll be leaving extensive comments and posting again! Okay, back to tonight's Spurs vs. Suns game! See you friends soon.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Grill You Know It's True, Oo, Oo, Oo, I Love You

Sorry I have been so quiet lately. . . I have been a little too addicted to the NBA Playoffs this month. But it is almost over!

However, my lack of recent posts mean that there is a huge backlog of photos and half-written posts, languishing in Blogger, and not yet ready to be finalized and published.

You can imagine my delight when a fellow food blogging friend,
Eat, Drink, and Be Merry posted about a place I've been meaning to post about for over seven months: Shik Do Rak. (I've heard that Shik Do Rak means something like "the hungry esophagus" in Korean. (But don't blindly trust my translation, because I heard it from a Caucasian guy!)

Now that
Eat, Drink, and Be Merry posted about this Korean Barbecue restaurant in Los Angeles' Koreatown, I thought I'd piggy-back on his post, by posting a few pictures and encouraging you to try this tasty Los Angeles-area eatery where you can chargrill your own red meat, onions, and halved button mushrooms on a circular Korean-style grill.

If you've never been to have Korean barbecue before, it entails a lot of cooking on your end. Your server will bring you out a tray of various marinated or non-marinated red meats, and you may grill them on your sizzling table grill to your liking. Remember, when manning the grill, be sure to move the cooked pieces of meat to a specified, cooler area of the grill (and away from the uncooked meat) to prevent cross-contamination.

Just as
Eat, Drink, and Be Merry suggests in his post, Shik Do Rak offers thin, flat sheets of rice paper noodle that you use to wrap the grilled meat and leafy greens before chowing down.

Also, use the flavored oils and hot chili sauce to taste.

As you eat your rice paper wraps, don't forget to eat your fill of their selection of pickled, salted, and fermented vegetables, called panchan. For those of you who are unfamiliar with panchan, it generally consists of such items as pickled bean sprouts, cucumbers, seaweed, and fermented napa cabbage (kimchee). Panchan has an acerbic crunch and a pleasant vinegary bitterness. I call them "chopstick foods"--as opposed to "finger foods"--because the elements are easily pinched between the tapered ends of a pair of lengthened and slender chopsticks.

And, Shik Do Rak also offers a satisfying spicy tofu soup to close your barbecued meal. The soup is made with clams and red Korean chili pepper powder, and is called soondubu.

I hope this brief post gave you a nice orientation on Korean barbecue (if you were previously unacquainted with it)! Korean barbecue is very fun: it is as elaborate as a Broadway production because it comes replete with 1) sizzling, spitting, and glowing grill grates and 2) smoke which continuously emanates from the grill. Best of all, Korean barbecue restaurants are great places to take a large group of friends, especially friends who are collaborative, ambitious people who take charge at social events--or if those friends merely like to barbecue meat!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Wholly Holey: Lotus Root

I'd like to introduce you to a friend of mine, the lotus root. He is a little bashful (many people think he looks bizarre), but once you get to know him, I think you'll be making regular dinner plans with him! (In my "personification" of the lotus root, I will refer to it as "him" because I like assigning vegetables the male gender and fruits the female gender!)

The lotus root has an interestingly crisp and fibrous texture. When lotus root is cooked, it is not mushy or soft as it might appear. If you've never tried lotus root, the best textural analogy I can conjure up for you is that it feels like you are eating partially-cooked daikon, slices of raw jicama, or a coarse and flavorless Asian pear. Except, lotus root feels as if it has developed stringy fibers that are interwoven throughout the trunk of the root. Even when cooked, lotus root still has a raw celery-type crispness to it.

The flavor of lotus root is equally unique. But, for lack of a better analogy, I would say that lotus root shares the same subdued nuttiness that one finds in daikon. Others have compared the flavors of lotus root to water chestnuts.

The wonderful thing about lotus root, is that it has absorptive qualities that make it the tofu of the vegetable world. Lotus root takes on the characteristics of the sauces in which the it is cooked. The symmetrical holes in the root are the perfect repositories for storing little beads of sauce that are held together by surface tension.

I hope one look at this vegetable equivalent of Swiss cheese will pique your interest in learning how to cook it. You can eat it raw, in soups, and in stir-fries. Just peel off its skin and remove the knobby ends. Then slice the lotus root into thin wheels and cook it in anyway you please. For easier cooking, you can also purchase it canned!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Enjoying Your Humble Pie, Mr. Cuban?

Mark Cuban image courtesy of the San Francisco Chronicle. Pie image courtesy of another site.

Give me a chalupa* because Golden State Warriors just won against the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks, 111-86!!

111-86. The most beautiful sounding numbers on the planet this moment.

Tonight's game shouldn't be called the "greatest upset in NBA history," because there isn't anyone in the Bay Area who is upset right now! Rather, it should be called the "most long-awaited and deserved victory!"

*Golden State Warriors used to give everyone in the stadium free chalupas if the Warriors scored over 100 in a given game. With Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson, the Golden State Warriors are going to be giving out a whole lotta of chalupas!
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