Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Late-Night Dessert Option

San Francisco is filled with Asian dessert shops, many of which are open late into the evening. A few Mondays ago, before the beau and I were ready to call it a night, the beau impetuously whisked me off to
Creations Dessert House, one of the more popular Asian dessert shops in the City.

The beau and I love black sesame desserts--the nutty and husky sesame flavor is powerful and lingers on one's tongue after each lasting taste. (The provocative and full-bodied flavor of black sesame seeds is almost as potent as coffee.) Therefore, imagine our surprise when we saw black sesame ice cream on the menu!

e decided to share a serving of black sesame ice cream topped chunks of mango, slices of kiwi, cubes of canned lychee, and melon balls. Unfortunately, Creations' black sesame ice cream didn't live up to our lofty sesame seed expectations. The black sesame ice cream didn't taste like ice cream, for it wasn't creamy at all. Rather, the frozen concoction was chalky and gritty from the large sesame particles and ice crystals. Furthermore, though the fruit was fresh and unblemished, the mangoes were a little too sour when compared to the sugary sesame ice.

Nevertheless, I would probably go back to Creations again, to test out their other "creations." If you are thinking about burning the midnight oil and are looking for a place open late (but don't want 24-hr fast food), check out Asian dessert shops, which are located throughout the City!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Happy Mardi Gras and This Week's Food Deals

Happy Mardi Gras everyone! If you haven't heard, Zatarains is sponsoring (and helping to get the word out about) a petition to make Mardi Gras into a national holiday. Mardi Gras (or Carnival) is huge in Central and South American and European countries as well as in the South and in New Orleans. It is a rich and colorful holiday full of music, dancing, eating, drinking, and celebration. Just as it took dedicated crusaders to make Thanksgiving into a national holiday, I hope you will consider signing the petition to make an integral holiday in New Orleans a national holiday in our country.

Also, I wanted to share with you some huge food deals! I think you need to act fast on these though.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Ladies Lunch in Fillmore and Japantown

A few weeks ago, I met with a friend of mine for a leisurely lunch. We deliberately left our schedule open, for we planned on doing nothing except enjoying each other's company. We wanted to spend our day aimlessly browsing the designer shops, contentedly window shopping, and delightfully gazing at the idyllic scenery in hazy San Francisco.

My friend and I met at one of my favorite San Francisco restaurants, La Mediterranee. There, I ordered the lunch special, which came with a creamy, silken yogurt soup to start. The decadent and lemony soup invigorated my palate, and whetted my appetite for more. The taste and consistency of the soup reminded me of a homey cream of broccoli soup. For my main dish, I enjoyed a protein trio consisting of (1) chicken pomegranate, a fall-of-the-bone dark meat drumstick marinated, basted, and slowly baked in a sweet and slightly acidic pomegranate sauce with wild herbs, (2) a crisp filo levantine meat tart filled with lean ground beef and toasted pine nuts, and (3) chicken cilicia seasoned with cinnamon-spiced chicken and served over golden rice pilaf tossed with crispy almond slivers, chickpeas, and raisins. The chicken cilicia also came in a golden-brown filo wrapper, and exhibited a perfect balance of complimentary sweet, sour, and savory flavors with the hot chickeny interior and sweet dusting of powdered sugar. I also enjoyed the pillowy wedges of warm pita, which I dipped in a small mound of tahini-rich hummus.

After our filling and satisfying meal, we stopped by Dosa, a trendy and new Indian restaurant, to appreciate the luxuriously designed restaurant space, which oddly was once occupied by Goodwill. The vividly colored hanging chandeliers glittered and sparkled with their feathery and beaded outgrowths. We decided to order some refreshments, and I went with the sweet mango lassi, which had a hint of mint and a rich, smooth, custardy consistency.

As we wandered from shop to shop, we made our last stop in Japantown. First, we visited the Hotel Kabuki, to visit their beautiful tea garden and watch the peaceful koi fish eagerly encircle the whispering waterfall. Next, we stopped by San Francisco's Benkyodo Co., where we snacked on their "manju of the month," a sticky rice flour mochi cake filled with supple marshmallow and chocolate filling. As we dusted the sweet manju flour from our lips, we took a last stroll around Japantown, and a few hours later, concluded our restful and enjoyable mini-tour of San Francisco.

I hope my day gave you some ideas of where to visit if you ever come to San Francisco. All of these places are within walking distance of one another!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Annatto / Achiote Seeds

Have you ever heard of annatto seeds from the achiote plant? If not, I would love to make an introduction. These seeds are one of nature's most vivid forms of food coloring and are commonly used to color cheddar cheeses, butters, and margarines. Therefore, if you have ever eaten cheese, butter, or margarine, you should not be afraid of cooking with these seeds.

I know you are thinking, "What in the hay-hole are these seeds, and how do they taste?" The seeds themselves are mild in flavor. If you pop a crunchy one in your mouth, it will taste similar to a bland peppercorn, leeched of any spiciness, with an almost indiscernable aftertaste of saffron or clay. (How do I know what clay tastes like? Okay, I did try clay when I was a kid, but I thought it was chocolate pudding!) However, these seeds are not used for flavor, but more for the stunning rust-colored hue. Grown and harvested in South and Central America, you simply heat these seeds in oil to release the dark and potent jasper coloring. These seeds lend their vibrantly rich, Sedona red color to the Vietnamese soups of bun bo hue and bun rieu. Latin American cuisines also often employ achiote paste (a flavorful paste made of a panapoly of spices and annatto coloring) in their cuisine to deepen the color of mole sauces and even enrich the visual colors in tamales.

Check out your local Asian or Latin American market for packs of these seeds, and start experimenting!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pseudo-Cobb Salad

I love hearty salads. Taco salad, salade niçoise, Caesar salad, chef's salad, Greek salad, the list goes on and on. A good salad could literally bring me to my weakened knees.

However, I'm pretty diva-licious about my salads. I have to have at least two things on my salad: (1) a honkin' portion of protein, in any form, and (2) salad dressing galore. However, my two salad prerequisites often mean that I'm defeating the purpose of eating salad--the health reason. Therefore, I decided to take one of my favorite unhealthy salads, the Cobb salad, and give it a "healthy" flair. This meant that I needed to omit the blue cheese, bacon, and perhaps chicken meat.

After whipping together the other Cobb salad ingredients, adding a sprinkling dried chives, and drizzling red wine vinegar over the greens, I felt that my ultimate version of the Cobb salad looked like the epitome of healthiness. I was satisfied. (However, after consulting my health-oriented macrobiotic cookbook, I discovered to my chagrin that avocados and tomatoes are not macrobiotic-savvy foods. Oh well, I can't do the macrobiotic diet anyway.)

Pretty pleased with myself on making a nutritious salad, I decided to taste my healthy twist on the traditional Cobb salad. One taste, and... It tasted like I was eating raw forest foliage. Perhaps it was because I ate a big bite of watercress with no dressing.

With vigor, I threw down my salad fork and angrily stomped my way to the cabinets and fridge for some bacon bits, garlic butter croutons, and blue cheese dressing. Salad should not taste like a compost pile of weed trimmings! It should taste like a deconstructed smothered chipped beef sandwich!

But before I made it to the pantry, the calming voice of reason sounded in my head. Based on the hypnotic voice in my head, I picked up the "low-fat" blue cheese dressing instead. When I arrived back at my place setting, I just added a bit of dressing to the salad, and could definitely say that this spruced up my meal significantly.

If you are interested in the way that I made this Cobb salad, check out the recipe below.

Pseudo-Cobb Salad, The Healthier Version
1 head of red leaf lettuce, washed and cut or ripped into bite-sized pieces
1/4 bundle of watercress, washed and cut or ripped into bite-sized pieces
1 large avocado (or 2 small avocados), peeled and diced
2 whole chicken eggs, boiled and diced
2 large tomatoes, cored and diced
1 pinch of dried chives, optional
1 tbsp of red wine vinegar, optional
several tbsps of low-fat or non-fat blue cheese dressing, to taste

In a medium to small bowl, whisk together the dressing, vinegar, and dried chives. In a large bowl, combine all the remaining ingredients, drizzling the whisked liquid ingredients over the greens. Toss well. Alternatively, you could arrange all of the salad ingredients on a plate into sections (e.g. egg section, avocado section, tomato section, greens section) and allow your guests to drizzle on the dressing to their own liking. Serve and enjoy.

For the best Cobb salad recipe, check out this link, for the inventor of Cobb salad's recipe! Do you have any healthy salad recipes? Feel free to share your link in the comments section!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Internet Food Deals of the Week

I am just updating yesterday's "Internet Food Deals of the Week," but I found three more food coupons/deals that might strike your fancy! Immediately below, are the new deals. (I've erased the ones that have expired.)
Below is from February 17, 2008:

Since the economy is pinching our pockets and behinds, I've decided to start a new series about great food deals that you can take advantage of on the internet. When I find a great deal, I will post about it on Passionate Eater! These are time-sensitive deals, so if you want to take advantage of them, you need to act fast! If you know of a great deal, please leave a comment in the comments section and share with the other readers. Thanks!
  • If you are a California resident who has dined at Subway in the past, then you are entitled to a $2.00 gift card from Subway as a part of a class action settlement. (Shoot, I am definitely entitled to one of these since I used to eat at Subway all the time when I worked in downtown SF.) "Click here" for your free $2.00 Subway gift card. (You have to fill out address stuff on the main Subway page.) The offer is limited to the first 142,000 responses.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Working Eater Series: Sun-Dried Tomato Couscous

Do you remember the Ronco infomercials for the Showtime Rotisserie Machine, where Ron Popeil casually indicated you simply needed to, "Set it, and forget it?"

I am not lauding the merits of any Ronco product in this post, but rather, explaining that you can actually "set, and forget" an excellent couscous. For a mouthwatering side dish worthy enough for an elegant, yet simple evening meal, try this nourishing sun-dried tomato couscous, where you can literally set it on the stove, and forget it until dinnertime!

Sun-Dried Tomato Couscous
1 cup of fine Moroccan durum wheat couscous
1 cup of chicken broth (or vegetable broth or stock)
2 heaping tbsp of sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, chopped and with oil
2 tbsp of dried raisins, optional
basil or Italian parsley, chopped, for garnish
green olives, for serving

Bring the chicken broth to a rolling boil in a lidded pot. Add the couscous, sun-dried tomatoes, and raisins to the pot, and immediately take the pot off the heat and cover the pot tightly, with the lid. After 10 minutes, fluff the couscous with a fork. Serve the couscous with parsley or basil as a garnish. This flavorful couscous is best served with chicken breast, salmon, and other moist and succulent fish fillets that have been baked or grilled. If you are a vegetarian, then try this with grilled zucchini and eggplant.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Longans / Dragon Eyes

Don't let the frightening name intimidate you from sampling longans, an exotic and succulent fruit, which translates as "dragon eyes" in Chinese and other various Asian languages. These juicy orbs are widely available in Asian markets during the harvest season, and almost always available canned (similar to peaches, pineapple, fruit cocktail, and mandarin oranges), but be forewarned, these "dragon eyes" are mighty expensive.

Dragon eyes, are so named because of their unique appearance, for they look as though they are large optical organs taken from a fire-breathing reptile that existed in the Medieval times. A longan is rotund with milky flesh and a shiny black stone pit within. The fruit flesh is thus analogous to the whites of a dragon's eye and fruit pit is a parallel to the dark irises centered on the eye. Additionally, in Vietnam, the dust-colored rind is compared to the skin of a toad.

Odd appearance aside, just as lychee fruits, the texture of the longan mirrors that of a firm peeled grape. However, dissimilar from lychee fruits, longans possess less of a coconut aroma. Instead, it has more of a deep, nutty flavor with undertones of an aged cognac or the peppery fragrance of nutmeg. Furthermore, lychees are far more white and fleshy and not as translucent and delicate as longans.

I hope that this interesting fruit has piqued has your interest for a taste! For more posts on exotic or interesting fruit, check out the following posts:

Friday, February 13, 2009

Rollin', Rollin', Rollin' Down the River

After reading Pioneer Woman's three-part series on sushi, my husband and I were inspired to make some homemade rolls ourselves. That, and we also had a huge produce bag of avocados leftover from the Super Bowl, which were perfect for some California roll lovin'.

I freely admit that I don't know jack-diddly or bo-diddly about how to roll sushi well or even elegantly, for that matter. Furthermore, I didn't fully comprehend the extent of my "sushi ignorance" until I married my beau, who was raised on weekly trips to sushi restaurants. I, myself, was raised on homemade sushi made from canned ingredients and scrambled eggs. But, I have learned a few lessons as a sushi rolling novice, the hard way, that I think would be prudent to share openly.

#1. "Great taste, less filling"
Go against your natural instincts to stuff sushi until it is bursting at the seams. Avoid the "overstuffed burrito" look. Sushi rolls are hard to roll, and they are even harder to roll if the slippery ingredients spill out and can't be contained by the delicate seaweed wrapper. Don't worry, even with a little bit of the ingredients, the sushi roll will taste wonderful. Be especially judicious with the sushi rice. You honestly just need coat the nori (seaweed paper) with a thin layer a few rice niblets in depth.

#2. When in doubt, use the full sheet of nori (seaweed)
You don't need to impress others on your first try. (And I have tried to impress the beau many times with my faux sushi rolling skills, with disastrous results.) Despite what the recipes and food blogs say, try rolling with a full sheet, as opposed to a half sheet. Even if you are rolling an inside-out roll! When you have sufficiently mastered the (difficult) art of rolling with a full sheet, then try rolling with a half sheet.

#3. Sushi as a group effort
There are going to be a lot leftovers. On your first several attempts to roll sushi, do it with friends and family so that you can eat the "rolling mishaps" together. If you are like me, you will be stuffed to the brim by the time you are starting to get the hang of sushi rolling because there will be a lot of "mistake rolls."

#4. Raw doesn't have to be the rage
When I was living in New Orleans, one of my co-workers (who was in his 50s) had never had sushi before. Therefore, the thought of eating raw fish was beyond reprehensible to him. Because I had lived in California (where sushi is everywhere), his fears were incomprehensible to me. But I thought about his adversity to sushi and remembered my childhood of growing up in Arizona, and my own animosity towards raw meats and seafood. I too was a late sashimi bloomer.

Even though the ethereal and delicate taste of supple and tender sashimi (raw fish) is unrivaled, if you too scared to try it, that's okay. Just know that "sushi" is not synonymous with "raw fish." If you are a sushi virgin who is recalcitrant towards raw fish, don't fret, you can experience good sushi made with vegetables (
like vegetarian sushi with pickled carrots) and wholly cooked protein ingredients, like scrambled eggs. Don't let fears inhibit you from ever trying sushi at all!

#5. "Meat" in the middle
When you roll sushi, you always want the filling to be in the middle of the roll. Therefore, when using a full sheet of nori, line the sushi filling close to the edge nearest you. When using a half sheet of nori, line the sushi filling smack dab in the middle of the sheet.

#6. Sticky hands
When you roll sushi, you are going to start feeling like a cat that gets its paws stuck on a piece of masking tape, you'll be "stuck in a bind." Basically, you will get little bits of sticky rice all over your hands. Use a clean rice paddle or serving spoon reserved specifically for scraping off the sticky rice niblets from your sushi making paws. If you use fish roe for your sushi (and if you are like me), you will also get these little orange fish eggs everywhere too. A metal spoon comes in handy for scraping these little buggers away.

#7. Sharpen your mind, and your sushi knife
Many sushi teachers will tell you to moisten your knife with water before cutting into the sushi. The moistness helps the knife to break through the nori. During my sushi making sessions, I keep a damp paper towel on hand for moistening my knife. The wet paper towel also helps me to wipe off the sticky residue left on the knife by the rice. However, a dull knife won't help you at all when cutting through your sushi rolls. You need a nicely sharpened knife, otherwise, you'll get nowhere fast (or smushed sushi filling everywhere).

#8. "Mr. Cellophane, shoulda been my name,"
If you are making inside-out rolls, plastic cellophane, a sushi mat, and sesame seeds will make a world of difference. Simply put, you won't get rice everywhere if you use cellophane. First, wrap your sushi mat in cellophane and then spread sushi rice on one side of the nori. Then, sprinkle sesame seeds on the rice layer, before flipping the rice-side down onto the cellophane-wrapped sushi mat. Then, add the filling, and roll it up!

#9. Enough! Rice?
I always run out of sushi rice, and have way too much sushi filling leftover. Make sure you make enough rice (in my experience, 1 1/2 cups of dry and uncooked rice per person) for your sushi rolling session.

#10. Squeeze, squeeze!
Finally, although you don't need a sushi mat, you do need to have squeezing power in your fists to make sure all of the rice niblets and seaweed wrapper adhere together. Use force when rolling your sushi. And more power to you!

I hope you put these sushi making tips to good use. Feel free to comment and leave your own! Good luck in your sushi making endeavors!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Belegte Brötli / Lachsbrötli Sandwiches

One of the most eye-catching product in all of the Swiss bakeries are the belegte brötli and lachsbrötli, or aspic-coated, open-faced sandwiches. (And in response to my last post, the brötli sandwiches were my favorite purchase from Zurich's farmers market.)

After scouring the web, I discovered that "brotli" translates into "an open-faced sandwich," and therefore, is much like a French tartine. However, different from most open-faced sandwiches, brötli sandwiches are encased with a thin blanket of gelatin made from rich meat consummé.

Brötli sandwiches are very attractive--a definite visual feast for the eyes. They are decoratively topped with thin layers of smoked salmon or ham, blanched ivory-hued asparagus spears, dill pickles, slices of boiled chicken eggs, wedges of tomatoes, pimento stuffed olives, a twirl of soft butter or mayonnaise from a star-shaped piping tip, and raw yellow onion rings or pearl onions.

For my aspic-enrobed sandwich, I ordered tuna, or "thunfisch." The tuna tasted like it was from a can, but it still tasted delicious. It was mashed into a substantial and creamy spread, and thickly mounded on a square slice of white bread. My brötli came with a briny dill pickle slice, a lone tomato wedge, and a raw onion ring. The cooling aspic layer lent a light and refreshing dimension, and yet, oddly hearty and substantial flavor to my regular tuna sandwich.

If you are interested in traveling to Switzerland, do try out a brötli sandwich. Also, feel free to check out some of my other Zurich-related posts, here:
And here are some posts on other foods that I tried in Zurich, that you might consider giving a taste or two:

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Swiss Pretzel Sandwich

As you may remember, I previously posted on Zurich's Farmers Market, in the Hauptbahnhof (the central train station). Despite the relatively "empty" content of my post, I actually did not leave the farmers market empty-handed. I would love to share with you a memorable purchase from the market, the Swiss pretzel.

In America, we eat pretzels alone, unadorned, and unadulterated. Therefore, in Switzerland, I decided to go "out on a limb," and thus I ordered a pretzel sandwich with butter and prosciutto.

In the United States, we know pretzels as either the (1) hard and bite-sized "snack" kind, found in manufactured plastic bags, like Rold Gold's, or (2) the large and soft kind, like those you buy in the mall from Auntie Anne's. Oddly, the warm pretzel (or "bretzel," in German) from Switzerland possessed the best of both "hard/soft" worlds, for (1) it was dried and crunchy at the tapered and twisted ends, and (2) soft, dense, and chewy like a doughy bagel in the thicker regions. The pretzel's shiny surface was encrusted with with opaque salt crystals, which were perched like coarse jewels on the braided pretzel crown. The subtle flavors and harmonious textures of the pretzel were outstanding: I had never had a pretzel with both soft and hard elements, both present at once.

And onto the "sandwich" element of the pretzel. There was substantial layer of cold, sweet, coagulated butter spread thick across the interior surface of the sliced pretzel. The unsalted and freshly churned butter tasted like a decadent coating of luxurious cream cheese on a toasted New York bagel. The paper-thin slice of cured Italian meat had a pleasingly salty finish and firm, gristle-like "tug" in each bite. Quite delicious, if I might say so myself.

Although the pretzel was great, it was not my favorite item from the farmers market, that day. More to come, on my
favorite farmers market purchase!

If you cannot wait until my next post, check out some of my other Zurich-related posts, here:
And here are some posts on other foods that I sampled in Zurich:

Insane in the Membrane, Insane in the Domain!

It is 3:00 a.m. in the morning, but something truly awesome has just occurred. If I wait until later today to blog about it, my head would explode into a million pieces of melancholy.

Truly. Awesome. Occurrence. Just. Now.

The beau just bought and set up and! Instead of tediously typing in, forget about the "blogspot!"

Friday, February 06, 2009

Farmers Market in Zurich's Central Train Station

Every Wednesday from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Zurich's Central Train Station, the Hauptbahnhof, transforms into a vibrant circus, not of exotic animals, but rather, a circus-like farmers market of seasonal fruits, colorful vegetables, freshly baked goods, brined olives, and egg pastas and cured meats imported from Italy.

Take a peek at Zurich's impressive green vegetable selection of potatoes, lush savoy cabbage, tuber-licious turnips, and pockmarked celeriac.

Admire the stupendous baked array of Swiss goods and skewered fresh fruit snacks, including braided bread rolls, open-faced sandwiches enveloped in aspic, salt-encrusted pretzels, and apples dipped in luscious and melted caramel.

And look on at the links of cured sausages and meats.

Also, at Zurich's farmers market, you can peruse aged barrels filled to the brim with a wide array of brined olives and red peppers.

Finally, enjoy this vision of thick wheels of cheeses and trays of stuffed pastas, all imported from Italy.

On Wednesdays, you could go on quite an adventure, without ever leaving the confines of the train station!

For more posts on my time in Zurich, Switzerland, check out my older posts:

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

H. Schwarzenbach Kolonialwaren & Kaffeerösterei

A must-visit place in Zurich, Switzerland for a foodie, is H. Schwarzenbach Kolonialwaren & Kaffeerösterei, a family-owned historic colonial era trading outpost, dating back over a generation.

The beautiful store facade and stunning window displays of specialty food items immediately illustrates why
H. Schwarzenbach is a Zurich icon.

H. Scharzenbach
offers an abundance of exotic goods, including rich loose leaf teas, intensely flavored coffee beans (which may be roasted in house), aromatic spices, jarred sauces, rare chutneys, flavored vinegars and oils, chocolates, and dried tropical fruits, nuts, and pastas.

For instance, you can purchase these crunchy roasted candy-coated almonds at
H. Schwarzenbach, as well as on the chilly winter streets of Zurich.

After visiting
H. Scharzenbach, be sure to stop by one of Zurich's refreshing public water fountains, which are dispersed throughout Zurich.

Although Zurich's fountains look like decorative garden fountains that recycle algae-infested and used water, you can actually drink clean water from the Alps at these "drinking holes." Despite the perpetually flowing (but not recirculating) water, there is no real waste because the excess water drains into the Limmat River.

Decorated with ornate sculptures and often with an elaborate labyrinth of intertwined pipes, the fountains gurgle and spray into deep reflecting pools. Dip your cupped hands into the pool for a wash or hold your glass up to the pouring fountain stream for a delicious drink.

The water in Zurich has a crisp mineral-flavored bite with a dull aftertaste/finish, and tastes precisely like Evian.

If you enjoyed this post, check out a few of my other posts regarding my visit to Zurich, Switzerland:

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Recreating Europe #3: Pleasingly Palatable Paella

Just to continue my previous post, my hispanophile friend told me that the Spanish dinner that I whipped up indeed tasted authentic! Therefore, without further adieu, allow me to post the main recipe of that evening, which is again based on my Spanish cookbook--a recipe for paella. Just a quick note though, paella is typically made with mussels and not just clams. However, the seafood section in my local Safeway was out of mussels, so I simply used clams instead. You could use both mussels and clams, for extra seafood "oomph."

Seafood-Heavy Paella
1 lb of littleneck clams, scrubbed and presoaked in tepid water, to rid the clams of any grime or sand (you may also use scrubbed mussels, with beards removed)
1/2 cup of white wine
1 large Spanish onion, finely chopped
5 cloves of garlic, finely minced
2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
5 oz of chorizo
1/2 lb of calamari, cleaned and cut into bite-sized rings and tentacles
2 yellow, red, or orange bell peppers, cut into thin lengthwise strips
1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes
2 cups of chicken broth
2 generous pinches of good quality saffron
1 cup of short grain rice, preferably paella rice, if available
1 lb of medium-sized shell-on shrimp
1 1/2 cups of frozen peas, defrosted to room temperature

Place the white wine and clams into a small pot, and bring the clams to a rolling boil. When the clams have opened, immediately take the pot off the heat and set the clams aside, reserving the liquid separately.

In a large paella pan (or a large non-stick pan, if you do not have a paella pan), heat the olive oil on high heat, and saute the onions and garlic, until the onions are just translucent. Add the chorizo, and fry the meat for a few minutes, breaking up the large chorizo pieces with a wooden spoon.

Next, add the calamari and bell pepper strips to the cooking pan, and continue to cook the paella ingredients down for a few additional minutes. Then add the clam/wine broth, the tomatoes, the chicken broth, and the saffron; cover the pan with a lid; and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the rice, cover the paella again, and bring the rice to a simmer on medium heat. After 15 to 20 minutes, when the rice has absorbed more than half of the liquid, add the shrimp, and combine the paella ingredients thoroughly.

Continue to cook the paella on medium heat, stirring only occasionally, until all the liquid has been absorbed, the rice is no longer
al dente, and the shrimp is cooked through (and not overcooked). You want the rice at the bottom of the pan to have formed crisp crust patches. Add the peas, and stir the entire paella mixture, ensuring that the ingredients and flavors are evenly distributed. Finally, take the pan off the heat, and nestle the open clams into the surface of the paella rice. Cover the rice with the lid, and allow the steam to heat the clams before serving the rice with wedges of lemon.

If you liked this post about my attempt to recreate the memorable meals my beau and I had in Europe, stay tuned for more, and check out the other posts in this series, including:
Also, feel free to browse some of my other Spanish food posts, which are based out of my experiences in San Francisco:

Monday, February 02, 2009

Recreating Europe #2: Spanish Tapas

In continuation of my "Recreating Europe" series, I decided to make a non-elaborate Spanish-themed meal. Therefore, I invited an old college roommate of mine (who studied abroad in Barcelona, Spain) over for dinner two days ago. Not only did I want to see her, but I also wanted her honest critique of my attempt at making Spanish cuisine, including classic Spanish paella and palate gratifying tapas. Since I was going to be making labor-intensive paella, I wanted to keep my foray into making tapas relatively simple. Conveniently enough, my two favorite tapas include (1) the Spanish tortilla, made with Spanish onion, waxy potatoes, and eggs, and (2) croquettes made with creamy and decadent bechamel sauce. Thankfully, those two no-frills tapas are relatively easy to make in the kitchen.

Using a Spanish cookbook as my guide, I started with the Spanish tortilla. When we Americans think of the "tortilla," we think of the Mexican tortilla, a thin flatbread made of lard and flour, and not a potato and onion omelet, as a "tortilla" is known in Spain. I love making omelets (even the Taiwanese omelet), so I thought this undertaking would be quite easy. After following the recipe (but cutting the proportions in half), I found my resulting Spanish tortilla to be a little too greasy, with not enough potato. I think I accidentally halfed all of the ingredients, except for the oil, and my luggage scale did not work well to accurately measure 1/2 lb of potatoes.

Nevertheless, the flavor of the tortilla was exactly on point and I was excited to try making this dish again, as it only consisted of three ingredients (1) potatoes, (2) eggs, and (3) onions.

My second undertaking, the croquettes, however, were quite "killer-deluxe," if I might say so myself. The crackly, golden-brown croquettes were crisp and hearty, and just like excellent fritters, they had deliciously creamy insides. Here is an adapted recipe, so that you can try these chicken croquettes at home.

Chicken Croquettes, Spanish Tapas-Style
1 tbsp of olive oil
1 chicken breast, deboned and cubed in ~1/3 inch squares, with fat and skin discarded
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 tbsp of butter
1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
2/3 cup of milk
1 whole chicken egg, beaten
2 slices of frozen wheat bread, processed in the food processor to make fine bread crumbs
salt and pepper, to taste
hot oil, for deep-frying

First, heat the olive oil on high heat in a non-stick pan, and fry the garlic and the chicken breast until just cooked through and fragrant. Next, in another small pot, melt the butter on medium heat, and using a whisk, quickly stir in the flour and the milk, making sure there are no lumps. Add the salt and pepper to this "bechamel" sauce and cook until smooth and thick. Add the cooked chicken to the bechamel sauce, and combine thoroughly. Next, process the chicken and bechamel sauce in a food processor, until the mixture looks like tuna or chicken salad. Put the mixture into the freezer, to let it cool, so that it is easier to work with.

Roll the cooled (but sticky) chicken salad mixture into small cigars (a little shorter than the length of a breakfast sausage link, with the same thickness as a breakfast sausage link), dip the cigars into the egg, and then coat them with the breadcrumbs.

Heat vegetable oil in a small pot until a bamboo chopstick (or really thick skewer) bubbles (with carbonated soda pop-sized bubbles) when dipped in the oil. Fry the croquettes in batches, until golden brown.

Serve with lemon wedges, chopped Italian parsley, flowing sangria, and enjoy while hot! Oh, and what did my Spanish loving friend say about the meal? Stay tuned, and I will tell you when I post about the paella!

If you liked this post, check out my other post in the Recreating Europe series, and my other omelet posts:
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