Monday, May 2, 2011

Takuwan; My Favorite Pickle

You're at your favorite local sushi joint and there's this salty limp yellow disc on your plate or maybe there's a long skinny piece of it in your roll...that's takuwan.

There are other recipes on-line that are more
involved or, perhaps, more traditional but they make a product similar to those salty limp discs and I don't like commercial takuwan; I like Grand
ma's takuwan (are you noticing a trend in my food preferences?). What makes Grandma's different? Well, they're crunchy, they're ready to eat the next day and this recipe is at least four generations old.

The Recipe:
1 c sugar
1/4 c salt (Hawaiian or sea)
1 c Japanese vinegar (aka rice wine)
3 lbs Korean daikon (this is what makes the takuwan crunchy)
Yellow food coloring

Peel and slice the daikon into 1/4" half moon pieces and put them in a large heat safe container (I use a big glass jar). Boil the sugar, salt and vinegar until everything is disso
lved then add a few drops of the food coloring. Pour over the sliced daikon and push the slices down until they are mostly submerged, they will shrink down from the heat. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Grandma and I like to pack up the finished takuwan in clean peanut butter jars; that way you aren't giving away your nice mason jars when you share your takuwan with friends. This is a fresh pickle so please store it in the refrigerator and eat them quickly. I have eaten some that were six plus months old but they had started to discolor, they turn brown.

Do you have a favorite pickle?

Happy Cooking!


Monday, April 4, 2011

Wisdom from Grandma: The last bit in the bottle

My maternal grandmother is one of the most influential people in my life. She lived with us for the first 14 years of my life and continues to live next door to my parents in the house that will one day be mine. Grandma was my babysitter when mom was at work. Grandma taught me how to cook, sew, crochet and balance a checkbook to the penny.

Grandma makes energy bars. She is famous for them, friends of the family purchase ingredients so she will make energy bars for them. It isn't a care package from mom unless energy bars are being used to fill up extra space in the flat rate box. Energy bars are grown up rice krispy treats with oatmeal, raisins, peanuts, peanut butter and sesame seeds. Grandma uses a lot of peanut butter and peanut butter is not a cheap ingredient so she has a method for getting the very last dregs from each bottle...toss in some marshmallows and use them to srcape the sides of the bottle.

The same can be done with potato/macaroni salad and mayonnaise.

Do you have any tricks for getting the last drops from a bottle?

Happy Cooking!
- KP

Friday, April 1, 2011

News from the Penguinery

Spring is here, I know because I just bought sweet potato leaves at the Asian market (more on that later). The great processed food purge continues at KP HQ. There is one last bag of brownie mix and most of the pancake mix is gone, the last of the dry mixes. (Isn't that what I said in the last update?) Shaking my dependence upon canned goods has proven more difficult. What can I say? I LOVE SPAM! Bread baking is...not my forte.

I am happy to announce that DBF has not, to the best of my knowledge, purchased breakfast from the deli in his office building once this year. I've kept him well stocked with waffles, banana bread and the occasional container of hash. In fact, he complains when I don't have something that he can take for breakfast. There are a lot of homemade waffles in my freezer, I just hope he doesn't get tired of them before we eat them all.

We are, for the most part, eating better...or at least not eating out as often. My grand declaration of not eating out more than once a week hasn't panned out but it hasn't been for want of planned meals...I admit that I'm lazy. We're getting backed up on leftovers and I'm starting to rebuild the homemade microwave meal collection.

I am about ready to give up on using the stand mixer to knead dough because my eyes don't know when things are ready. My hands, however, know how to make a passable pizza dough and plain loaf of bread. Yes, I can start the dough in the mixer and finish it by hand...but it doesn't work that way for me. Or, at least, it doesn't work that way for me right now. I do own a bread machine, minus a part, thanks to a dear friend not having space when she moved. Using a bread machine feels like cheating so it sits in the garage while I contemplate if I want to toss it or buy the missing part.

After ten years of dreaming I finally have a bicycle. While my body didn't forget how to ride a bicycle after a 20 year break, it also didn't forget that I'm a sedentary office worker. The first goal is to ride around my neighborhood for 15 minutes without being sore and tired. The reward is buying a pretty basket for the bike if I make it to the farmers' market for opening day in May. Well, the reward is being healthier but the tangible reward is a nice basket.

What have you been doing?

Best Wishes,

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Who's got two thumbs and...

...another prescription for antibiotics? This girl!

Sick=mindless cooking=no blog content=lame update...

I did make two batches of Good Eats Waffles that were promptly bagged, tagged and thrown into the freezer for quick breakfast food.

I've been checking out the recipes at Eating Well to get some meal inspirations. DBF can be difficult to cook for, what with the aversion to most green vegetables, so I've been perusing the "Kid's Recipes" and found an alternative for the homemade hamburger helper (ground beef, macaroni, onion, mushrooms & brown gravy mix). Hamburger Buddy will be gracing the Blackbird Tavern dining table this week.

DBF also reminded me that I agreed to make a Reuben pizza so that will need to happen before I abandon him, yet again, for my island paradise. Speaking of my island paradise, I'll be on Oahu for a long Presidents' Day weekend. I'll be attending a class, Valentine in Paradise, with my mother and grandmother. The class is about cardiovascular disease and prevention so, hopefully, I'll have something to share when I get back.

What's on deck: Port wine (kit) and Rock Hopper Penguin Stout (my recipe).

Warm Wishes,

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Party Like It's 4708!

Well, not until February 3rd but I need to start planning my Chinese New Year foods. Why? Procuring ingredients might require a trip to DC Chinatown or getting a care package from my parents. Do we have any requests for a recipe pictorial?

I want to make gao so I can pan fry slices of it in butter after it becomes hard (I also like fried mochi tossed in kinako and sugar). I think it would be difficult to get DBF to eat jai. Honestly, I don't like jai but my mother made me eat a little bowl every New Year when I was growing up so part of me feels obligated to have jai...same thing with ozoni. Pot stickers? I like pot stickers and it would be useful to have some in the freezer. Jin deui? Maybe if I had help consuming them because they're terrible cold/reheated.

Do you celebrate the lunar new year? Do you have a menu planned? Maybe I should just order take out from the local Chinese joint. Nah...what's the fun in that?

Warm Wishes,

Monday, January 10, 2011

What do you do with a burdock root?

I was teasing this all Saturday on Twitter and here's the answer...konbu maki. It's my father's favorite New Year's food and one of my contributions to the cooks guild meeting that I attended on Sunday. I was unable to find kanpyo at the local Asian market so I had to secure these little flavor bombs with toothpicks.

But what's konbu maki? Seaweed wrapped pork rolls.

Konbu Maki
8 oz. nishime
1 lb pork butt
1 package kanpyo
1/3 c shoyu (soy sauce)
1/4 c sugar
2 T mirin
Gobo (burdock root)

Soak the dried konbu in warm water until it becomes pliable. Cut into 5-6" long strips. Soak the kanpyo in a separate dish.

Scrape the skin off the burdock root and slice into sections the width of the konbu. (I tend to quarter the thicker pieces and half the thinner ones). Par boil the gobo and pork butt (in separate pots) until the pork is cooked through (this is my timer). Slice up the pork so you have enough pieces for the konbu (the goal is to have one piece of gobo and 1 piece of pork in each maki).


This is where you would tie the roll with the kanpyo (or use a toothpick if you don't have any kanpyo).

Put konbu maki in a sauce pan, add enough water to cover (use hot water to speed up the process), and cook until tender (2-3 hours).

Drain out water. Add shoyu, sugar and mirin mixture and simmer for another 30 minutes (or until reduced to a syrup).

Some notes:
  • My grandmother (and other people I know in Hawaii) swear that Okinawan konbu makes the best konbu maki. All the people surveyed are Okinawan so we might be biased. The package of konbu I used was purchased in Okinawa.
  • The original recipe does not call for soaking the konbu, I soak it to reduce the cooking time.
  • The original recipe does not call for par boiling the gobo and pork butt, I do this to reduce the cooking time.
  • Tie the kanpyo around the roll and secure with a knot (I use a square knot) then cut off the ends. I have seen recipes that call for pre-slicing the konbu but I think cutting as you go results in less wastage and a nicer presentation.
  • My father suggested using tofu instead of pork...experiment at will.

Babs: "Honey, that smells so good...pork allergy be damned. Nom nom nom..."

Warm Wishes,

Friday, January 7, 2011

Why start a project if you don't follow through? (Project Update)

Penguin date 7th of January 2011...the not eating out part of the project is not going well. This is mostly due to poor health and general laziness at Blackbird Tavern. But I want to focus on the accomplishments:
  • Boxed mac-n-cheese has been eradicated from the pantry.
  • Same for muffin/bread mixes (1 pouch of brownie mix and 2 pouches of taro pancake mixes remain).
  • We are generating less trash because our food comes in less packaging.
  • The holiday baking supplies have been put away.
  • All the baked good bomb boxes have been mailed and delivered.
  • The New Year's Eve food was well received and we're almost done eating the leftovers.
  • I have the fixings to make a big batch of Japanese style curry this weekend.
  • Thanks to The Kitchn I have a much better method for storing said curry.
  • The green onions that I'm growing from the bunch I purchased at the store are almost ready to plant.
How's your January going? I'm going to make a pilgrimage out to McCutcheon's tomorrow so I can restock my parents' pantry with orange marmalade and strawberry jam.

Best Wishes!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

SiO2 or Al?

I was cooking up the last box of mac-n-cheese on Monday night and I started to think about how I'm going to need to make more things from scratch. Then I started to think about my freezer and batch cooking. I posed this question on Twitter but I thought I'd repeat it here with some detail:

What do you think is more environmentally friendly: using glass (Pyrex) containers or disposable (recyclable) aluminum containers for freezer to oven cooking?

Glass Pros:
  • Reusable.
  • Easy to clean (dishwasher safe).
  • Microwave safe.
Glass Cons:
  • Potential for thermal shock.
  • Expensive.
  • I will eventually have to move and/or sell/donate these containers when I return to Hawaii.
  • Requires storage space.
Aluminum Pros:
  • Inexpensive.
  • Recyclable.
  • Take up little storage space.
Aluminum Cons:
  • Generally a one use item.
  • Not microwave safe.
  • Not sturdy.
Does anybody know how to calculate the amount of energy used to create a glass pan vs an aluminum pan? I did a cursory search and couldn't find anything useful. I imagine that the actual manufacturing energy is less for the aluminum but what about production of the raw materials? Yes, I can buy my glass pans used...but it's hard to find tight sealing lids for the older pieces and I will want lids for freezer storage.

What do you think? Do you have any additional pros and cons? Suggestions?

Warm Wishes,