Archive | February, 2012
28 Feb


It has been a whirlwind 4 days. United lost Mark’s luggage and Mr. Angry was a little worried (as I would be if they had lost mine). My husband followed the day after we arrived and we wandered aimlessly around La Rambla the first 2 nights, eating at random tapas bars.

Night 1, Mark and I found this darling courtyard tapas bar that was in the middle of this square that surrounded by what looked either like an enormous church or some sort of church-prison. We weren’t sure and we didn’t ask, except for una cerveza y una copa de vino tinto. Our first truly tasty treat was bresaola wrapped around rocket, thin slices of parmesan, and golden raisins, and topped with a light lemon-olive oil vinaigrette. We also had the standard olive plate and patatas bravas (essentially french fries/tater tots served with aoli and a thin sauce akin to cayenne ketchup). Here is the view from our table:

On day 1 with Carnet, we went rambling and found a great Xarcuteria (Charcuterie shop). We bought some rations, which were much needed at 2 a.m. on day 2. We purchased some Jamon Iberico (Spain’s famous ham, which was unbelievably delicious) and 2 different types of salami. Here’s the Xarcut guy who was slicing, and the outside of the shop.

On a tip, last night Mark and I wandered to a restaurant in the ritzy part of town only to learn that it was a French restaurant. So, we promptly turned around and made our way to a down-home Catalan restaurant which served THE BEST bottle of Tempranillo for under 10 Euros.

Love this place (Spain, in general). The vino tint0 is excellent, on average, and super cheap, compared to the red wine served in the U.S. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a rioja or tempranillo, the house wines are generally really good. I think it’s because the Spaniards demand no less. I’m going to need to temper my enthusiasm for the wine, I can already tell.

On our way to finding our cute Catalan restaurant that served a gigante bundle of asparagus (first course, and they had me at “hello” with this one), we passed an Antonin Gaudi building. It was lit up in purple lights (see feature picture at top). Darling. I’m a big fan of Gaudi. When Carnet is done with Mobile World Congress on Thursday, I’m going to make us run through Barcelona to see all of my favorite sights, including the Miro Foundation which currently has an exhibit running of Miro posters from the late 19th-early 20th century.

Tonight, I had my most favorite tapas at a darling 20 seat restaurant down an alley. I need some sleep, so my post tomorrow will start with this.

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Valentine’s Day Thai-ish food!

15 Feb


Yes, it has been a slow year of blogging, so far. But, I’m off to Spain very soon and then my culinary adventure updates will be more regular (I’d like to say everyday, but my goal is a minimum of 5 days a week).

So, what did I cook for Carnet for Valentine’s?  Thai-ish, of course. I forgot to take a picture of course #1. Since we were both way too hungry, we dove right in and I thought it might be gross to post at an empty bowl with fragments of prawn tails, lemongrass, chilies, herbs, garlic and ginger at the bottom. It was delicious, so here’s the recipe:

Shrimp and noodle salad: Makes 2 bowls

Ingredients: 1) Fresh peas, snowpeas, or peapods (anything that looks good), 2) your favorite noodle of choice e.g. rice vermicelli noodles or any thin rice noodle that doesn’t need to be cooked. I used a kelp noodle that is essentially seaweed and water. 3) 2 garlic cloves, minced, 4) 1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced, 5) 2 Thai chilies, seeded and thinly sliced into rounds, 6) 1/2 pound large or jumbo prawns or shrimp, 7) 2 scallions, thinly sliced on a bias, 8) 1 lemongrass stalk, minced superfine, 9) 1 carrot, cut into julienne, 10) 1/2 red bell peper, julienne, 11) fresh mint, Thai basil and cilantro – all roughly chopped, 12) black sesame seeds for garnish (or, you can use white).

For the Dressing: 1) 1 Tbl. fish sauce, 2) 1 teaspoon tamari, light soy sauce, or regular soy, 3) 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil, 4) 2 Tbl. rice vinegar, 5) squeeze of lime.

Directions: 1) If you are using rice noodles, soak them in a bowl of hot water for 5 minutes, drain (if you’re using kelp noodles, just heat in microwave or on the stove with a little of the kelp water in a bowl for 1-2 minutes), 2) Steam the peas for about 2-3 minutes, until crunchy yet tender, then refresh in ice water to stop cooking, 3) While you’re steaming the peas, make the dressing from the above recipe, shake in a glass jar and set aside for the moment, 4) Stir fry all ingredients in roughly this order: a) Heat 2 Tbl. peanut, regular olive oil, or canola oil in a wok or large frying pan, b) Add garlic, ginger and chilies and cook 1 minute, c) Add jumbo shrimp and let sit 1 minute on one side, then flip to other side, d) after you flip the shrimp, add in the julienned carrots and red bell pepper, the scallions and the peas. Cook for another 1-2 minutes until shrimp is pink but not rubbery, 5) Put 1/2 the noodles on 1/2 side of each bowl, stacked in a little pile, 6) Add half of the stir fry mix on the other side of each bowl, 7) pour 1-2 tsp. of the dressing over both the noodles and the stir fry mix, 8) Garnish the top of the noodles with the fresh herb trio and garnish the stir fry mix with the sesame seeds.

Carnet said he thought the sesame seeds looked nice, but he would have preferred some rough chopped cashews or peanuts for more of a crunch. Noted.

Here are the kelp noodles I used:


I love this product, especially if you’re trying to cut out grains, are gluten or rice intolerant, or you just want to change things up. There is not a strong sea-weedy taste and the texture is crunchy, so it goes well as a base for just about any food you would want to accompany with glass noodles.

Onto the main course: whole striped bass marinated in coconut milk, dry white wine and chilies; stuffed with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, Thai basil and ginger; and garnished with the trio of fresh herbs – Thai basil, cilantro and mint – and Meyer lemons (feature picture above).

This was a really simple dish. Directions: I used 1 can of coconut, 1/4 bottle of dry white wine I had left over from oyster tasting in Tomales Bay with Bob, Steph and Carnet on Saturday, 1 inch piece of fresh ginger sliced into rings, 1 stalk of lemongrass I beat up a bit with the back end of my 10″ knife, 4 lime leaves, 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce, and a few Thai chilies.  I mixed the coconut milk, wine, soy sauce and Thai chilies in a bowl. I stuffed the cavity of the fish with the ginger, lemongrass and lime leaves, then poured the coconut milk mixture over the fish. I let that marinate in the fridge for about 3 hours, basting the fish once during that time to cover it again with the coconut marinade.

Then, I took it out of the marinade, wrapped it in a tent of aluminum foil (ran out of parchment paper) and added back about 1/2 cup of the marinade, so that it would steam in the oven.  I baked it at 375 degrees F for approximately 40 minutes (it was a 4 – 4 1/2 lb. fish prior to cleaning).  While the fish was baking, I strained the rest of the coconut milk marinade, put it in a small saucepan and simmered it/reduced it for the entire time.  I added in a couple of extra lime leaves and a whole Thai chili to bump up the flavors, as well as a couple of tablespoons of the coconut sugar.  Without the sugar, it was pretty acidic from the wine.   To me, the end result tasted something like a coconut beurre blanc.

Here’s the fish before it went into the oven:

If you notice the sauce, it’s not milky white. That’s due to the light soy sauce and coconut sugar. The coconut sugar I’m using these days is this one, and it almost looks and tastes like an off-brown sugar (it’s not coconut-y at all):

And, here’s the manufacturer’s story on it, on the back:

Again, I’m not sponsored by any of these products. Carnet and I just do a fair amount of research into healthier alternatives for things and based upon the way we like to cook and eat. So, these are just some products we’ve found along the way that we really like.

Happy Eating!

Stuffed salmon for dinner, a different “dinner” for breakfast, and some nutritional healing

3 Feb

After a full day of packing, I went up to S & F’s for dinner. MMMMMM! We had stuffed salmon, grilled eggplant Thai-style, roasted vegies and a cauliflower “risotto” (riceless). Fred stuffed the salmon with sundried tomatoes, basil, feta, onions, and roasted red peppers. Then, he sauteed the stuffed salmon in butter, brown sugar and lemon until it was brown and crispy on each side.  Wow, what a killer salmon and so easy.  Nice and moist and just barely cooked in the middle. Perfect!

Shannon has been experimenting to try to recreate the eggplant from Spices restaurant in Honolulu.  Her eggplant was pretty darn close and simple to prepare!  If you like eggplant with a little sweet-heat/herby topping, this is the recipe for you.   She thinly sliced small Japanese eggplants and then grilled them with a little oil on them.  Then, when they were almost done, she mixed the sweet chili sauce with 1/2 c. fresh mint and 1/2 c. Thai basil, both minced, along with some sauteed onions as well as fresh white onions, both minced. The use of both raw and cooked onions makes for a great contrast in textures, as well as provides a bit of fresh onion flavor from the raw onions.

Here are picture of the plates, first without the eggplant (we forgot it, but I like this pic as it shows the full cross-section slice of the salmon), and then with the eggplant in front:

Delicious dinner!

So, I went on a run this gorgeous Hawaii morning and then came back feeling like I needed some salt. Before I went to culinary school, I would have a problem every once in a while where I would feel faint because I have low blood pressure (except when I’m driving in Hawaii – people, the accelerator is the pedal on the far right!), and then I would need to eat some salt. Thank goodness FCI cured me of this issue, since there was never a point at which I could get away with using little salt 😉

So, to get my salt fix in, I decided to have “dinner”, or a savory meal, for breakfast. I don’t like eating rules, much, so this fits in line with my eating philosophy. I made a Greek-inspired salad that was incredibly satisfying (and I threw in some braised tofu for good measure). I topped it with just a splash of peppery EVOO and sherry vinegar. Lots of salt in the feta. Perfect! Then, I followed it up with a sweet apple banana and a cup of Kona. Sounds weird, but it was perfect after my run.

Here’s a pic of the salad in my favorite bowl (thanks for making the Hampig bowl Jeff and Ca!):

The reason I love Greek salads is because I think they are a “cleaner” form of a chopped salad, without lettuce, at least the way I prepare them. I definitely love lettuce, but there’s something about just vegetable chunks without the abundance of lettuce in my usual salads that sometimes overshadow the other vegies. That said, I’m a fan of all kinds of salads. I try to eat at least one salad a day, and many times 2. I think it’s a really simple way to get in an array of fresh vegies (the possibilities for vegie and fruit salad combos are endless), which is what most nutritionists say is important for health (don’t just eat one type of vegie, but mix it up during the week and use lots of variety, including dark leafy greens).

One thing I read the other day in a nutritional healing book is that romaine lettuce has some great nutrient qualities to it. If you’re in a rut with dark, leafy greens or are getting bored of eating mixed green salads, try going back to a salad with a base of romaine. Romaine is an excellent source of Vitamins A and K, and a very good source of Vitamins C and Folic Acid (an important B vitamin for heart health). If you eat 2 cups, you’ll get 167% of the U.S. recommended daily intake (“RDA”) of Vitamin A, 120% of the RDA of Vitamin K, 37% of Vitamin C and 32% of folic acid, according to a few sites. See http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=61. Plus, I love that I can feel really full after eating a bunch of romaine, as it has a high water content. And, who drinks enough plain old, good water these days? I’m pretty sure I don’t.

One final word on nutritional healing for the day. I think I have ulcers and I’m going to blame that on being a stressed lawyer for a few years, although devouring extra spicy and acidic foods ever since I was little probably has something to do with it. No matter, I was on the hunt for some herbs or food that would help aid in repair of the problem. I don’t like people telling me what I can’t do, so any “diet” that says I can’t eat x, y and z, just isn’t going to work for me at this point in my life. And, I don’t like defaulting to western medical pills as the first resort. I have been accused of being a hippy at times, and sometimes I do believe I was born in the wrong era (yes, I romanticize the upheaval of the 60s and 70s in the U.S. and the change that was spurred by those years), but I think automatically defaulting to prescription drugs is not the way to go – hippy or not. Try healthier food, try alternative medical remedies, and go exercise for god’s sake! These are not hippy thoughts; these are common sense. Okay, enough proselytizing.

So, I did a bunch of research and came upon something that I think works for me. It’s called Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice Root extract, or “DGL” as it is often labeled. It’s essentially a concentrated form of licorice root. I have been eating a tablet 20 minutes before each big meal and I think it’s helping. The theory is that that the licorice coats the stomach, by increasing mucous and decreasing acid in it, and helps to prevent new ulcers from forming. So far, I have less stomach pain.

A word of caution and a disclaimer: I am not pushing this supplement, nor am I giving advice on the subject. My writing on the topic is really a chronicle for me as I journey into some aspects of herbal remedies and nutritional healing. Do your own homework and ask your doctor before you embark on any supplements, especially if you have any medical conditions and/or you are taking medications.

Read more about the benefits, drawbacks, potentially scary med interactions, and potential side effects. One site I went to see about these is co-sponsored by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/881.html. Another is a University of Maryland Medical Center page at http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/licorice-000262.htm.

Back to packing! Then, off to Michele’s with Mom2, Sabrina and Jim tonight. Fine dining on the water….doesn’t get much better! I just looked at the menu and I think I’ll try something for dessert that looks very scary to me: “Strawberries Foie Gras Forever”. Description: Ripe Strawberries Flambéed With Brown Sugar and Balsamic Vinegar, Foie Gras & Cognac over Vanilla Gelato. Check back tomorrow for an update on this one.