Sunday, August 28, 2011

Lake House Lunches - 8/23/2011 & 8/24/2011

After scaling the Grouse Grind - a 1.8 mile ascent 2800 ft up one Vancouver's surrounding mountains - we reached my aunt and uncle's lake house completely ravenous. True to form, my aunt Mary had prepared a lunch that we descended upon like vultures. After many restaurant Chinese meals, fresh simple produce provided a welcome fuel for the hungry hikers. We had vegetables - squash, asparagus, and peppers - grilled to perfection on the outdoor barbeque, warm, rich mashed potatoes, and a salad with greens from a farmer's market in Kitsilano, which was finished with halved grapes, crunchy cucumbers, and my mom's signature mustard vinaigrette, saved from a previous feast. Mary also prepared three different types of ribs - one rack was seasoned with salt and pepper, another with oregano and other herbs, and the last with a Hawaiian inspired barbeque sauce. Unfortunately, I did not capture the ribs - the bones at the plate's rear are the only testament to their deliciousness.
The next day, a lunch of surpassing grandiosity transpired at the lake house. To again take full advantage of both the outdoor grill and leftover fresh produce from the Kitsilano farmer's market, the theme of the meal was burgers and salads, and fresh fruit and vegetables. 
A burger isn't a true burger without the toppings, which my cousin Jazzy painstakingly cut and hence created an aesthetically pleasing arrangement - we had the usual crisp lettuce and tomato accompanied by mini sweet pickles, caramelized onions, and cooked mushrooms, which, in typical fashion, absorbed the juice and seasonings with which they were cooked. Moreover, Jazzy prepared a beautiful Greek salad with cucumbers, red peppers, tomatoes, and red onion, all unrivaled in crunchy freshness. She also included whole green and black olives and crumbly feta, and seasoned the salad to taste with dried herbs, salt, pepper, and dressing. So colorful!
To complement the Greek salad, we had the same green salad as the previous day but with spicy, red radishes serving as a welcome addition to the leafy greens and grape halves. Sweet corn on the cob and juicy bright cherries offered the satisfying simplicity I always associate with outdoor summer meals. One of my favorite aspects of eating a burger is constructing it, and I had fun with this one - each bite was chalk full of tender meat and carefully cut and arranged toppings. My summer meal in Vancouver left nothing to be desired.

Concluding Chinese Meal - 8/23/2011

For our last Chinese meal in Vancouver, we went to Red Star Seafood Restaurant. My cousin informed me that various food blogs - food obsession certainly runs in the family - have deemed this restaurant as serving some of the best Chinese food in the city, which is saying something. Our meal did not disappoint. Per usual, my uncle's ordering centered around meat dishes - he's always rightfully concerned about taking advantage of the variety and expertise restaurants offer in this department. Although Red Star is a seafood restaurant, all the meat dishes are phenomenal - my family salivates over the roasted suckling pig and barbecued duck. I stick to the more traditional meat dishes, and the beef cooked in brown sauce with onions, red peppers, and spices is one of my favorite. The meat's tenderness is remarkable - its succulent quality not only makes every bite a delight, but also enables absorption of the sauce and vegetable juices, which further enhances the hearty beef flavor. 
A few other specialty dishes arrived concurrently with the beef - prawns served over gai lan and scallops amidst finely chopped celery and carrots. What makes this restaurant stand out is the quality and preparation of its meat and seafood, and the prawn and scallop dishes are exemplary of Red Star's expertise. A generous portion of prawns stir fried to perfection atop simply prepared vegetables make the fresh flavor of the ingredients the defining factor of the dish. Similarly, the scallops were buttery and true to texture, melted in your mouth, while the celery and carrots were cooked only partially and thus provided the appropriate crunch. 
Toward the conclusion of the meal, a little more unusual seafood dish arrived - sea bass pieces wrapped around Chinese mushrooms and crunchy cured meat, all of which was held together with bamboo pith. Again, the various textures made this dish distinctive - the firm yet succulent sea bass coupled with the tougher meat and mushrooms on the interior provided an excellent combination for the pith to wrap together, literally and figuratively - the pith has the texture and appearance of tripe, and thus added a binding chewiness. As well, the flavors complemented each other nicely - all were distinguishable yet none were overpowering. 
Some Chinese restaurants give a complimentary dessert at the end of the meal. To me, this dessert is more of a palette cleanser - a red bean mixture that is cooked down to form a sweet soup. It's very starchy and flavorful, and in this case included other root vegetables such as taro. As far as desserts go, red bean soup is very "clean" even though it's not particularly light and airy - the soup is thick and chunky. I don't like any desserts that sacrifice flavor for sweetness, and thus red bean soup satisfies my desire for something special at the end of a Chinese dinner without ruining the preceding meal.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Chinese Food Feast - 8/22/2011

We made the most out of the one rainy day we encountered in Vancouver by going to the Congee House for lunch. Congee is a rice porridge that is especially appealing on a cold, wet day - although bland by itself, different toppings and ingredients are added to flavor the neutral base. We ordered one with delicate sea bass chunks, cilantro, and salty, roast peanuts. We also ordered wonton soup - the simple broth coupled with pork filled dumplings similarly serves as comfort food. I really enjoy the vegetables in Chinese cuisine, and we selected gai lan - Chinese broccoli - for the meal's requisite green. It's especially delicious coupled with thick, salty oyster sauce.
Fried smelt can be eaten on its own or as a congee topping. The little fish are fried in their entirety, creating a crispy, salty "french fry" for the adventurous eater - a seasoning of chili flakes and green onions add the finishing touch. 
In typical fashion, our dinner plans had already materialized well before the conclusion of lunch. Top Shanghai is one of our "mandatory" meals while in Canada, and this particular restaurant is always packed and big groups can only eat early or late. Hence, the family filed in and our 9 o'clock feast began. Cold noodles with strips of chicken and peanut sesame oil sauce arrived as the much anticipated appetizer. The chilled noodles are very refreshing and I especially enjoy the various textures within the dish - there are crunchy peanut chunks and crisp green onions amidst the slippery noodles and succulent chicken. 
What this restaurant is famous for - in our family and beyond - is its siu lung bao. Before my dad had ever been to this restaurant, my mom went into an extremely detailed and rather erotic explanation - I can't do it justice - of how the dumplings are so juicy that the pork soup just sprays out of the soft skin and across the room upon the first bite, and the delicate nature of the internal pork meat. She's right. 
Much to my uncle's chagrin, many of the dishes we ordered were brown sauce based. I certainly think we could have used some variety, but I enjoy the strong, salty flavor of soy sauce. Other constants in our menu are cashew chicken, cooked with vegetables in a brown sauce and served over rice, and a deep fried tofu dish notable for its texture - the contrast of crispy on the outside and smooth custard on the inside makes every bite interesting. Dau miu is another favorite Chinese green - the pea shoots are tender and cooked in a light garlic sauce, thus enhancing the meal both aesthetically and flavorfully. 
More brown - we ordered hot and sour soup, another specialty of Szechuan cuisine. A meat base gives the broth a notable thickness, while the chili and vinegar combination provides the dish's namesake. The soup is jam packed with flavors and textures - shrimp, egg, cooked pork, Chinese mushrooms and fungus, and tofu skin. Between the broth's literal and figurative heat, I'm always sweating after speedily ingesting a bowl. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Wedding Feast - 8/20/2011

This is only one installment of the eating extravaganza that took place on my cousin Adrienne's wedding day. While I failed to capture the actual wedding reception buffet, I think the tea ceremony dinner offers an example of the delightful gluttony that took place. The dinner was only for close family, and it was held at the Fish House in Stanley Park. True to the restaurant's name, I choose all seafood dishes. But first things first - we were greeted by an open bar. My dad ordered a heavily garnished, spicy Bloody Mary, and I order a Ginger Apricot martini that was an interesting combination of flavors but too sweet for my liking.
For the first course, I ordered salmon carpaccio. I'd never had the exact dish before, yet I relish both lox and salmon sashimi and I am always eager to try new foods. I really enjoyed the combination of flavors - salmon's rich, fishy taste coupled with the distinctive flavors of parmesan and sharp capers, finished with lemon juice - yet the fish was room temperature and thus slightly oily; my dad and I agreed that both the texture and refreshing nature of the dish would be greatly enhanced if it had been served chilled.
I ordered the seafood bowl for my entree, and I was instantly happy with my decision upon its arrival. The generous portion and variety of seafood cooked in a light tomato and white wine sauce was a light complement to the heaviness of the carpaccio, and the dish truly showcased the restaurant's expertise. Included in the seafood medley was prawns, pieces of fresh fish, mussels, and clams - the fish pieces were especially succulent, and I loved scooping the sauce with the mussel and clam shells. Seaweed and garlic mayonnaise garnished the plate and served as nice addition of flavor and texture to any lucky bite.
Coconut cream pie concluded the meal. Undoubtedly, coconut is one of my favorite flavors - I distinctly remember trying it for the first time in Venice, and for the rest of the trip I would buy a little baggie of young coconut from every street vendor we passed - and thus I was looking forward to dessert the whole meal. While I expected a slice of pie, each person go an individual unit that was absolutely enormous. Throughout the various layers - light whipped cream on top and a denser custard on the bottom - there was distinctive coconut shavings, perfect for finger picking after you're "done" (yep, I did that). The crust was tasty yet very thick, and a raspberry and passionfruit sauce garnished the little cake.
Although I swore I wouldn't finish the whole thing, I'm embarrassed to admit there was very little left by the time I was done "whittling" away and evening out the edges of the portion I intended to leave behind. Well worth it!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Dim Sum - 8/19/2011

First thing in the morning, my dad and I beeline for Bean Around the World, the little coffee shop right across the street from my grandparents' house. They live in a cute older neighborhood and there are tons of bakeries and cafes along "Main" Street. I love starting the day with a cappuccino - light cloudy foam on top with rich, denser foam beneath, topped with a cocoa cinnamon mixture. A "Quickstart" was the pick of the day - pineapple, carrot, raisins and nuts amidst a crumbly, buttery muffin body. The ultimate breakfast, to be eaten while people watching inside the cafe's funky interior..
After (minimal) digestion time, it was already time to go for "tea." Dim sum is is the cornerstone of our Vancouver food traditions, so naturally we had to go the first morning. First up was har gow - shrimp dumplings, the signature of dim sum - and another dumpling filled with pork, peanuts, and greens. The dumpling skin is both chewy and delicate, and eating morsels family style is one of the best ways to connect with those sharing the meal with you. Chicken rice wrapped in banana leaves is another dim sum specialty - it's made with a sticky rice, and is stewed with cured pork, chicken, and mushrooms, and to this the dish owes its unique texture and flavor. 
My mom's absolute favorite delicacy is siu lung bao - dumplings filled with meat and a meat soup. They are rightly called "juicy buns," and upon biting into the tender skin your mouth encounters not only flavorful meat but also a rich, scalding hot juice. Best when dipped in vinegar with pickled ginger slivers. We also ordered another variation of chicken rice with chicken feet perched on top - the shape and texture offers far too much awareness of what you're ingesting, so I can't say I have ever tried them. Simple yet tasty are the shrimp wrapped in rice noodles - the accompanying soy sauce dressing prevents blandness. 
Siumai is another traditional Chinese dumpling often served alongside har gow. The interior is similarly comprised of ground pork, ground shrimp, and the addition of black mushroom, yet the dumpling is "open faced" and yellow skinned, made with a lye flour. The top is garnished with an orange tidbit, either roe or carrot. The final har gow variant we ordered had snow peas and carrot pieces inside, and a knotted wrapped green held the dumpling skin in place - the dumpling aptly looks like a little bag of treasure!

Friday, August 19, 2011

First Vancouver Meal - 8/18/2011

After a long day of travel, we arrived in Vancouver and walked to our favorite sushi place just around the corner from my grandparents' house. Unfortunately, the wait was over 45 minutes long - even at 9 o'clock (you usually have to line up at 5 to get a spot)! Urgency and the desire to visit with family trumped the benefits of waiting, so we wandered up Main Street to another Japanese restaurant which, upon first glance, promised some unconventional sushi rolls (and the option of brown rice, yet we couldnt stray from the traditional in that respect). The first thing we ordered was the Orga roll - one of the vegetarian specialties, this roll consisted purely of organic vegetables and came with a thick Meyer lemon dipping sauce. 
Of course, the 22 oz. Kirin split between my dad and I preceded the initial sushi roll - much better than the Asahi we ordered partway through the meal, in my opinion. Yams, sweet potatoes, winter squash, and pumpkin are al high on my list of favorite foods, so of course I was excited to see a roll titled "I am Yam" - Yam tempura with fresh asparagus, topped with avocado and garnished with a black sesame dipping sauce. We also ordered the B.C. roll - all three of us love the crunch and smoky flavor of salmon skin, yet the texture of this particular skin left something to be desired. 
We ordered something I had never eaten before, a delicacy my mom said she hadn't had since she was in Japan in her 20s - octopus balls. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but they were delicious. Besides octopus, the balls consist of a binding rice flour, and they come hot (fried, I believe), crunchy on the outside and soft and slightly chewy on the inside. A delicious reduction and mayonnaise provide topping and dipping sauce, respectively.
Next, we ordered a dish that none of us had ever heard of before - "pressed" sushi. It's rectangular rather than circular, and is nigiri-like in that it consists of sashimi and rice. Initially, it appeared that there was too much rice for the amount of mackerel on top, but the other strong flavors - ginger, green onion, kelp (supposedly - I didn't find any in my pieces) required the neutral background. 
We ordered some other items - hamachi kama, which wasn't too good - and then ventured back to the rolls. We concluded dinner with the "black cactus" roll and the simple kampyo roll. True to the name, the former was coated in black sesame seeds, which added a unique flavor and texture. As well, cooked rather than raw tuna provided a variation on our standard orders. Kampyo is dried shavings of sweetened gourd, and I was attracted to this roll because I hadn't tried it before and I thought it might somehow be similar to a squash. 
It tasted pickled, and wasn't particularly flavorful - for simple vegetarian rolls, I prefer ume shiso (pickled plum and plum leaves). Overall, we found the sushi didn't have any distinctive flavors. It's hard to compete with Ken and Hana sushi. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Dinner in the Square - 8/17/2011

My last full day at home, and it's truly another day in paradise. The rolling hills around Valley Ford just a short drive (or bike ride) from our house present an idyllic landscape for gazing and grazing alike.
However, I had to spend much of the day indoors - working the long shift at work prevents me form being outside, and most unfortunately, leaves me only half an hour for dinner. I still make an effort to eat well though - crunchy cut carrots from Laguna Farm, sweet and juicy white nectarines from the Sebastopol Farmer's market (how fitting it was I was eating my dinner in the square, as well - the scattered groups of town residents and me alone on a sunny bench a far cry from the hustle and bustle of the locale on a busy Sunday), and mom's tuna salad with light rosemary crackers. Roasted pumpkin seeds in the tuna fish were a new and notable addition!

Last Summer Dinner - 8/16/2011

"It occurred to me that the making of this meal, by acquainting me with these particular people, landscapes, and species, had succeeded in attaching me to Northern California, its nature and its culture both, as nothing I'd done before or since. Eating's not a bad way to get to know a place." So writes Michael Pollan in the The Omnivore's Dilemma, and the final creation of my summer at home certainly connected me to community of which I am a part. Tuesday is pick up day at Laguna Farm, and so I swung by in the early afternoon, eager to see the contents of this week's box because they would determine the composition of our dinner. CSA box subscriptions force - for the better - their recipients to be flexible and cook in season.  
Andrew with Andrew the rabbit at Laguna Farm on his Spring Break visit

The box this week included salad mix, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, zucchini, and kale. As usual, the salad plate would include fresh greens (adorned with tomatoes) and mom's potato salad, but the kale presented an interesting dimension. Kale, a hearty green, is reminiscent of winter and fall, yet Laguna Farm often includes it in their boxes. I was determined to make a salad with it, so I began searching the web for an appetizing recipe...

I found a recipe that calls for uncooked kale, which seemed the best option because the leaves were of utmost freshness. While the original recipes called for pomegranate seeds, I substituted pink lady apples - so tart and colorful - from the trees on our property, and raisins for sweetness. Roasted pumpkin seeds and sliced almonds add crunch and flavor. After cutting the kale so that it retained its leafiness, we added a dressing of rice vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil - the acidity of the vinegars "cooks" the kale a bit so that it is not so bitter. A delicious addition! 

S.F. Picnic - 8/13/2011

Last Saturday we ventured into the city for a much needed reunion with Guy, Leanne, and Tessa Corrie, our friends from Berkeley. Our adventure consisted of a picnic in the presidio and a walk around Andy Goldsworthy's nature inspired installations. As usual, we ate and and drank far too much, and the spread left nothing to be desired..
We divided the food contributions between our two families, and the components of our feast were both far reaching and complementary. Mom made her delicious tuna salad - again, she uses a mustard vinaigrette base rather than mayonnaise - and adds celery, capers, and red onions for crunch and flavor. The result is light and particularly flavorful - we use tuna fished packed in oil rather than water for a more distinctive taste. We also brought cool, sweet cantaloupe, which went perfectly with the Italian cold cuts that Guy selected. Guy also brought fresh fruit - peaches, figs, cherries - and a Caprese salad, multicolored tomatoes layered with thick slices of fresh mozzarella, chunky basil, and a balsamic vinaigrette with minced fresh garlic. Guy also brought two types of cured olives - one bathed in Meyer lemon juice and the other in chili oil - and the mix included flavor infused garlic cloves. 
We've been feasting with Guy, Leanne, and Tessa for as long as I can remember, and Guy's most notable contribution is always cheese and bread. Guy loves going to the Cheeseboard in Berkeley and purchasing some old time favorites - rich cheese bread coated in browned asiago, olive oil garlic chili flake clouds that melt in your mouth, and chewy baguette that must be torn from the long, skinny loaf rather than cut because the ragged edges taste the best - and whatever cheeses the devoted employees and eager customers at Cheeseboard recommend that day. On this particular morning, he had picked up a sheep's milk and a cow's milk cheese, both dry and grassy, strong but not overpowering. The standout was a soft cheese from a Vermont co-op - such organizations are allowing people to use their facilities to manufacture cheese in the hopes that innovation will occur. This cheese proves the vast potential of the system - it was overwhelmingly creamy and also quite grassy. Vermont as a cheese hub is probably the reason my parents are even considering coming to visit me in the fall!
Oh, and I must mention - my mom made an apricot blackberry crisp with a buttery almond lemon zest crust. We gave the leftovers (not that there were many) to the Corries, and the remaining morsels were gone before they arrived home in Berkeley. Our kind of friends!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bean Salad - 8/10/2011

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." I'm reading Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food right now, and his decries against processed food and the reductionist science behind "nutritionism" have really resonated with me this summer - hence, all the composed salad plates. Although some components are redundant, I like to incorporate new elements into the fray.
In the background is mom's potato salad, and fresh blackberries from our property and sunbursts adorn the Laguna Farm salad mix and yellow string bean duo. The bean salad on the left is our newest side dish - it's called the "sprouted bean trio" and contains a mix of lentils, adzuki, and mung beans. Even when cooked down, it's very hearty, and we add celery and red onion into the mix. By itself, the bean salad is pretty bland - we season it with cumin powder, lemon juice, lemon zest, parsley, salt, and pepper. Mixing in olive oil also gives the beans a smoother texture. 

And of course, the farm egg. I am certainly going to miss these. It's hard to eat other eggs now!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Small Pleasures - 8/9/2011

Any kind of tea bread with coffee actually makes my day. My two favorites are pumpkin and banana, and seeing overripe bananas in our fruit bowl prompted me to bake a loaf of the latter. We use a recipe from the Cafe Beaujolais - a little French bistro in the Northern California coast town Mendocino - cookbook. My only requirements for tea bread are that it's moist, and tastes strongly of the principal ingredient. This recipe fits the criteria. The batter makes a loaf and a couple of cupcakes, which were demolished immediately after the tray came out of the oven. I (unsurprisingly) burnt my mouth. 

My favorite thing to drink with tea bread is a cappuccino. I like to dip the bread in the foam and milky espresso until it is saturated - pure happiness. Coffee makes my life.

Chicken Salad - 8/6/2011

Whenever I create salads (and take pictures of them) I think of my co-worker Marina because we both love ginormous salads and talking about what ingredients go well together, what we added on any particular day, etc. My salad on a certain Thursday before work went like this, and it reminds me of the salads Marina brings to work (and I eye enviously). 
I used my standard mustard vinaigrette, but I chose butter lettuce rather than the usual Laguna Farm mix. It's nice to get some variation, and using butter lettuce creates an entirely different salad because the flavor is richer - I associate butter lettuce with French bistros. I added tomatoes from Laguna Farm, and of course avocado! The previous night, my dad had roasted chicken with rosemary, potatoes, and whole cloves of garlic. The white meat as incredibly tender - in addition to our Laguna Farm produce CSA subscription, we also have a meat subscription with Terra Firma Farm - and the quality of the meat paired with my dad's accomplished chicken cooking skills yielded a flavorful, delicate result. Thus, I cut up some of the white meat, roasted potatoes, and garlic cloves, and tossed them all in the salad. For a little crunch and sweetness, I added raisins and roasted pumpkin seeds. The salad was not only huge, but hearty too - I was full for the whole day at work!
However, that didn't stop the strawberries we had to prep at work from enticing me all day long.. The Highway 12 guy is the best, as is Screamin' Mimi's for using such good ingredients!

Andrew's Last Day - 7/31/2011

Long run and the Farmer's Market experience... the cornerstone of the industrial food chain - fast food (although I must say, I hold In n Out in much higher regard than any other fast food chain). I feel like Michael Pollan.
There's certainly a time and place for everything. Tonight it's a double double cheeseburger animal style, a hamburger animal style, a vanilla milkshake (with root beer added at the appropriate time), and fries. As my cousin jasmine would say, preferably and accidentally in the ear of a poor unsuspecting waiter, Oh yeah... Baby.

Cedar Plank Salmon - 7/24/2011

Yet another composed salad plate, with a few key differences. 
This green salad contains beets, which I think truly represent summer. My dad grows them in our garden and we also get hearty amounts from Laguna Farm. Steaming and slicing them into salads adds beautiful, vibrant color and a rich, earthy flavor that serves as a nice complement to the light, fresh taste of salad greens. As well, cucumber adds nice crunch material. You can see the fork slicing into my newest favorite grill material - nectarines. I love grilled fruit - just like the pears, these nectarines caramelize nicely and melt in your mouth. Behind the nectarine is my mom's potato salad - she uses our favorite mustard vinaigrette dressing as a base rather than mayonnaise, so the potatoes provide a starchy thickness, but other than that it's very light. Celery and apple provide appropriate crunch and parsley is an essential. My dad's cedar plank salmon is to die for - he cuts a fresh cedar plank each time, and after dressing the bright pink fish with olive oil, pepper, and speciality salt, he sets the entire plank in the grill and lets the cedar flavor infuse into the tender meat. My dad and I both like the meat very raw, so we take it off the fire pretty quickly. Finally, white wine completes the meal. It's made with grapes from Argentina - "Torrontes" - and has a distinct green apple taste (it's pretty sweet too) that holds up nicely to all the other ingredients in the meal.

Post Run Recovery - 7/17/2011

After a couple weeks back training, Born to Run inspired me to try a rambling Tarahumara run through Annadel. I thoroughly enjoyed myself in the crisp morning summer air, and of course I couldn't wait to eat directly after a slow 13 miles. My parents were out of town, and so I swung by the Farmer's Market to pick up some salad mix from the Laguna Farm stand. My composed salad plate ensued...
Laguna Farm salad mix is my absolute favorite salad mix because its freshness, variety, and crunch stands out even in Northern California. I made my favorite dressing - a mustard vinaigrette with shallots that pickle tenderly in the champagne wine vinegar (and of course, I added Meyer lemon juice). I added Laguna farm radishes - so spicy and crunchy! - as well as roasted pumpkin seeds to the green salad. The salad component I especially relish is avocado - the dressing coats the slices to form a creamy, tangy bite that melts in your mouth. I parboiled the beans - picked freshly from my dad's garden - "sweet" and "crunchy" don't do them or Laguna Farm's carrots justice. Once again, the French fry factor.. I could, and do, eat these two seasonal favorites every day. Finally, I soft boiled two eggs from our chickens. I like to put the eggs in cold water on the stove, and bring the water to a boil. Once the water reaches a rolling boil, I turn off the heat and let the eggs sit for two minutes. They are so fresh you have to scoop the innards out of the shell, you can't even peel the shell directly off the whites. The yolks taste so good, and are incredibly healthy - I like to break the eggs over the salad and let the yolks drip onto the greens.

Pizza & More Fruit Dessert - 7/15/2011

Multiple thin crust pizzas with innovative toppings present a creative outlet and an exciting staggered meal. On this particular day, we made 4 different pizzas (we take Trader Joe's standard pizza dough and split each package in half for a lighter crust). The first was the classic Margherita - fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil from Dad's garden, and an aromatic garlic and olive oil mixture - so fun to apply with a "paint brush"! Next, we made two pizzas with Dad's rich tomato base - tomato paste, olive oil, garlic, and anchovies. One had caramelized onions (also from Dad's garden), herbs, and capers, while the other had additional anchovies. 
The final pizza was truly a "finale" - we took out all the stops. The crust was painted lightly with the olive oil garlic mixture, and we put chard from our CSA, Laguna Farm, on top before placing the unfinished pizza in the oven. After 5 minutes or so of initial cooking, we removed the pizza from the oven and put the two delicacies on top - we cracked farm fresh eggs directly on the surface, and sprinkled trout my dad had caught earlier in the summer on a fishing trip in Vancouver, BC and smoked across the whole crust. Back in the oven for a few minutes, and then, voila! The consistency of the eggs was still pretty runny, and after the yolks broke we used the crust to mop up the excess. Delicious! 
This time, mom made a crisp, which I actually prefer to pie - the crust is a little lighter, and I love the crumbly, buttery texture. Using fresh strawberries from our favorite vendor on Highway 12 and rhubarb from dad's garden, mom constructed another work of art - the sliced almonds in the crust (originally for an apple pie, interestingly) brown nicely and add a unique texture and flavor. The secret and essential ingredient, however, is lemon zest - the Meyer lemons from our tree are so sweet and flavorful that we use their zest to enhance every dish at this time of year. 

Sebastopol Farmer's Market - 7/10/2011 & 8/14/2011

I have an extremely warm place in my heart for the Sebastopol Farmer's Market. I love the local, organic farms selling their fresh produce to the familiar town residents, the musicians playing, hippies and their children dancing, running around, playing in the fountain, and just reveling in the beautiful weather and each others' company. Sonoma County's rural composition is conducive outstanding fruits and vegetables, but good Asian food is hard to come by when one strays from an urban center. Thus, I look forward to eating Lata's Indian Cuisine for the entire week leading up to the market. She always has a couple of different choices on the menu - chicken tikka, sag paneer, vegetable curry, chana masala - and you can get one or two of the curry options atop a heaping pile of rice, the plate then garnished with fresh lettuce and Indian style dressing. Lata's cuisine is homestyle, and every dish tastes as if it came from an individually prepared pot, and you can taste the Indian spices distinctly. She gives a generous portion of meat and vegetables, and the hearty flavors make for a most satisfying meal. She also alters the recipes slightly form week to week - here are two different versions of her chicken tikka!

Dim Sum with Grandma and Grandpa Shum - 3/31/2011

My favorite thing to do with my family in Vancouver is going to dim sum, which is Chinese teatime/brunch. I believe my strong love for and appreciation of (devotion to? adoration of? all of the above?) food comes from my mom's side of the family - whenever we are in Vancouver, the days events revolve around the meals - there is always a list of restaurants we have to go to at all costs. A quote from my Aunt Helen sums our trips up nicely: "I remember the meals, but I don't remember what we did in between." As well, each meal time discussion hinges on what we will be eating next. However, we always enjoy the current meal as well - the Shum family really makes an effort to come together whenever we are in town, and each meal is always well attended. Dim sum is the best - dumplings filled with shrimp "har gow", pork, vegetables, peanuts, chives, scallops, greens are the staple. I love the steamed buns filled with barbecued meat or sweet egg custard. My grandma loves chicken feet, but the gristle and knowledge of what you're consuming is a little too much for me! And the dessert - sweet egg custard in a mini buttery pie shell, called "dan tat." Here's my grandpa Toby reaching for the har gow! 
Can't wait to see them in a few short days!