Saturday, April 30, 2011

Boujour, Le Creuset

Yesterday, I bought my first Le Creuset item!  I've been wanting one for a very long time, but paying full price was hard to stomach.  I looked at the other, cheaper, ones at Macy's but just couldn't buy one, my heart was set.  You can find Le Creuset online, but paying to ship something that heavy to Hawaii will cost you the other arm & leg!  For the past several holidays, I've been hinting to Bryce that any piece from the Le Creuset collection would be perfect.  He says "I'm not buying you a pot."  

Williams Sonoma knows me well and sends me daily emails about what's new and what's on sale.  Yesterday, the email said "Save $150 on Le Crueset Signature Round Wide Dutch Oven, 3.5 quart."    Originally $280, it was on sale for $130.  Sold.

I called the store before they were even open.  Thirty minutes later I tried again, with success.  I put a red one on hold.  All day long, at work, it's all I could think about!  Bryce and I went right to the mall immediatley after I was done at the office.  Even though I had a red one waiting for me, I spent at least 15 minutes looking at all the color options.  Some day, I will have a large and fabulous collection of Le Creuset cookware, and they're all going to match.  Picking the color is HUGE!  The options were cobalt blue (too boring), this wild orange (too trendy), a greyish white "linen" color (too drab), and red (just right).  I stuck with the red one, gladly paid the cashier, and left.  Bryce had to carry the new toy because it's that heavy!  

Now it's home and waiting for it's first adventure.  The problem is, I have no idea what to make in it!  Surely, I'll figure it out and blog all about it.  For now, I just look at it, smiling, and take photos to show you!

Here it is!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Rib-Eye Steaks with Blue Cheese Sauce

The last time I was home in Pittsburgh, I couldn't resist buying the Heinz Tomato Ketchup Cookbook.  Now you may know that I have a habit of purchasing cookbooks far too often and using them not nearly enough.  This book was purchased back in December (2010) and I used it for the first time today, April 26.  WOW, right?!  The recipes all include good ole Heinz Tomato Ketchup, of course.

I did a little bit of research and found a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article on the book.  Surprisingly, the book isn't from Pittsburgh, the home of Heinz Ketchup as far as I knew.  Henry John Heinz made his first batch of ketchup in the Burgh back in 1876, but Great Britain also claims Heinz as their own.  That's where this book was published and it contains many British-style recipes.  

Bryce and I chose the Rib-Eye Steaks with Stilton Sauce as our dinner recipe and headed to the store.  We got almost everything we needed.  Our store didn't carry Stilton Cheese, so we chose another (Danish) blue cheese, headed home, and got cooking.

I had to know what made Stilton Cheese so special.  According to wikipedia, Stilton Cheese is an English, crumbly, cow's cheese known for it's strong smell and taste.  There are only 3 counties that can produce cheese qualified as "Stilton", and Stilton is actually not one of them!

The moral of the story here is: don't assume anything.  The Heinz Tomato Ketchup Cookbook isn't from Pittsburgh and Stilton Cheese isn't from Stilton, go figure.

Rib-Eye Steaks with Blue Cheese Sauce
My comments are italicized.  

1 tablespoon butter
1/4 pound white mushrooms sliced
1/4 pound blue cheese
2 tablespoons Heinz Tomato Katchup
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives
2 rib-eye steaks
Freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil

Melt the butter in a frying pan over medium heat.  When it begins to froth, slide in the mushrooms and saute for 3 to 4 minutes, until soft.  Crumble the blue cheese into the blender, along with the katchup, honey, and pepper.  Remove mushrooms from the heat and tip them, along with their buttery juices, into the blender.

Blend until you have a smooth paste.  We have the cheapest, worst blender ever and this step took a ridiculously long time.  We're getting a new blender/food processor ASAP!  To finish the sauce, stir in two-thirds of the chives.

Coat a heavy frying pan with vegetable oil and heat until it begins to smoke.  Slap in the steaks (who says that?!) and cook for 4 to 5 minutes on each side.

Once the steaks are cooked, heat the broiler.  I'm always nervous to use the broiler and afraid things will burn!  Spread the rich, creamy mushroom and cheese sauce thickly over the steaks and pop under the broiler until the sauce just begins to bubble into brown specks - this won't take long.  

With sauce, before the broiler!  We got a little more generous with the sauce after this photo was taken.

After a few minutes in the broiler, with the additional chives, yum!

It is well worth resting the steaks for a couple of minutes before garnishing with the remaining chives and serving with homemade French fries.  The steaks rested while I took photos!  We did add the chives, but served with tater tots and fresh broccoli.

Our steaks were huge and we only ate a small portion of them, which is great news for my lunch tomorrow!  They were delicious.  The meat was tender and cooked perfectly.  The blue cheese and mushroom sauce was awesome!  Bryce said it overpowered the steak a bit and decided to scale back the sauce to steak ratio.  I, on the other hand, don't believe in too-much-cheese.  The chives added a fresh, clean flavor to the rich sauce.   To be honest, there were only 2 tablespoons of ketchup in the recipe and you couldn't taste it and it was probably better that way.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Food Network Mag: Baked Pasta

Once of my goals is to make at least one recipe per month from each of the cooking magazines I subscribe to:  Food Network Magazine and (Martha Stewart's) Everyday Food, rather than just drooling over the ridiculously beautiful food photos and assaulting the pages with post-it notes.

Here you'll see the March 2011 issue of the Food Network Magazine (FNM), the "Italian Issue".

The Mix & Match Baked Pasta instructional guide was intriguing for me because I had tons of cooked, leftover pasta on hand.  Long story short:  Hawaii was under a tsunami warning and I cooked everything in my house to ensure that, if nothing else, I wouldn't starve to death.

Step 1 - Pick a pasta.
Spaghetti.  Sorry, Food Network, it's not on your list of approved pastas, it's what I have.

Step 2 - Make the sauce.
EVOO, garlic, canned plum tomatoes, and basil.  Simmer until thickened to perfection or, until you can't wait any longer!  I'd never used canned plum tomatoes before and I love them.  The smell, texture, and flavor of them is amazing.  Don't take my word for it, please try them.

Step 3 - Choose your mix-ins.
We had (raw) veggies:  zucchini, white onion, red onion, and mushrooms.  The star of the show was (cooked) chicken & turkey Italian sausage.

Step 4 - Flavor the sauce.
I skipped this step and adding herbs to make herb sauce, ricotta to make creamy sauce, or pancetta to make meat sauce.

Here are all of the ingredients, getting to know each other on the stove.

Look at all the great colors in the baking dish!

Step 5 - Pick your cheese.
You don't have to tell me twice!  They recommend 3 cups of melting cheese & 1 cup of grating cheese.  If you haven't noticed yet, this recipe was a let's-use-what-we-have-at-home recipe!  I had a lot of parmesan and a little bit of mozzarella.

Step 6 - Bake the casserole.
Bake, uncovered, about 15 minutes or until cheese is slightly browned.  Like so:

Yes, please!  You can't go wrong with pasta, especially pasta that's been topped with cheese and baked.  It's really too bad people don't use the expression "that's the cheese on the baked ziti" instead of "that's the icing on the cake"!  It was really yummy and the ingredients went well together.  Of course, it was even better the next day.

The next time you have leftovers, turn to this guide and it will tell you exactly how to get rid of them properly.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Lenten Fish Fry

Fact:  As a small child, I thought there were only 2 types of Religions: Catholic - for people like me who went to Catholic School and Catholic Church, and Public - for those who went to the other, public school and I'd just assumed there was also a "Public Church" for them, too!  

Clearly, I was very wrong!  I've since learned otherwise.  Now I live in Hawaii, the only place in America with minority majority, and where us haoles (white people) are the minority!  There are more religious places of worship than I can identify or count.  

In Pittsburgh, you'll find many Catholics who practice the "we don't eat meat on Friday" rule.  

That's right, Aunt Tula, we don't eat NO MEAT!

Fridays in Lent in Pittsburgh revolve around getting a good fish sandwich.  Your Church always has a Fish Fry, your favorite restaurant has a "Friday Fish Special", which is probably a fried fish fillet with or without the bun, and if you can't find one you stay home and eat fish sticks from the freezer.  My good friend Deanna, you may remember her as Jalapeno Hannah, is also from Pittsburgh and grew up with Friday Fish Frys.  She demanded that we try to replicate the tradition, since they're non existent here in Hawaii.  Too much fresh fish being prepared in fancy ways for us yinzers!  Let's deep fry some square, frozen fish fillets!  That's not exactly what we did though, here's how to host a Fish Fry...

Step 1:  Invite your friends over and give them wine.  

Here's Deanna and Paul.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ka Lei - Fresh Island Eggs

Months ago someone brought it to my attention that the eggs sold in the grocery store are old.

The mama hen done hatched them a longgggg time ago!

Even more so here in Hawaii, on an Island, where most of the eggs take a nice, long trip from the mainland.  They asked me if I've ever had "Fresh Island Eggs", and the answer is no.

I decided I was going to stop by Ka Lei Marketplace for some fresh eggs and see what it was all about.  It's a tiny store front in a strip of stores and restaurants in a cute little neighborhood.  The problem is, they're only open during the week from 9 am - 5 pm, and on Saturdays until 12 noon.  I've tried 3 times to go there and this weekend, I FINALLY MADE IT IN!

There's not much to see inside, just lots of eggs and a few random items for sale (sauces, glass eggs, doormats made of recycled flip-flops, and other unique items).   People line up, most with their empty egg cartons in hand, and wait quietly for their turn.

Here's the egg selection board.  We went with the Medium Brown Grade A eggs for $5.90.  That's 2.5 dozen, or 30 eggs for less than six dollars!  That's insanely cheap for eggs in Hawaii.

There are so many eggs, and this was 30 minutes before they closed!  Notice the cooler is decorated with Easter egg window clings - funny!

Ka Lei's eggs are inexpensive and they taste so good.  My sources were right, fresh eggs make a major difference!  I can't describe how the taste is different, they're just better.  I spent the weekend eating eggs!  I made breakfast for lunch on Saturday as soon as we got home and got creative with my breakfast on Sunday and tried to make dippy (aka sunny side up in Yinzer) eggs inside of onions! 

Even if you don't live on an Island, I recommend you go get some fresh eggs!  Owning my own chickens is on my bucket list, but until then I'll be eating these.

Bitches Who Brunch

I have been wanting to go to Morimoto Waikiki for months now.  You know Chef Morimoto from Iron Chef America on the Food Network, right?  That's how I knew about him.  I've heard wonderful things about his hip, new restaurant in Waikiki and yesterday I finally went.

Let it be known that yesterday, April 10, 2011, was the first official meeting of the Bitches Who Brunch (BWB)!  I came up with the clever name while trying to help coordinate a reunion for the "work girls", both current and former office mates.  At 11 a.m., we graced Morimoto with our presence and began chatting and sipping Bloody Marys and Haupia (coconut) Coladas immediately.  I can't tell you what we talked about, because it's against girl rules.  In girl world, there are lots of rules: you can only wear jeans or track pants on Friday, you can only wear your hair in a ponytail once a week...  Let's get down to it, the food.

I had "Tuna Pizza" with olives, anchovy aioli, and jalapenos, yeah right!  The ahi tuna was fresh (yes, raw) and so delicious.  The sauce had quite a zing to it!  The cilantro was a nice, cool flavor in the mix.  Overall, it was a perfect amount of food for a lunch, not too much food that made me want to sleep for the rest of the day!

My "Tuna Pizza"

This delicious Lobster Melt with Miso Mayo and Swiss Cheese was ordered by half of our table!  My generous friends shared with me and it was fantastic.  Those are wasabi french fries and housemade pickles on the side.

Erica, who is known for her healthy food choices, got the Braised Black Cod Lunch Set, which included Miso Soup and Rice.  

Here we are, the Bitches Who Brunch :)  Well, that's 6 of us, there are many more bitches where we come from!

Overall I loved the restaurant!  We had most of the lanai (balcony) to ourselves and it was a perfect Sunday "brunch", although it was really lunch, with the girls.  I'd love to go back for dinner and dessert, since nobody wanted any at lunch!  I did, but didn't want to be the fatty who says "Give ME a dessert menu!"

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Restaurant Review: Honey Toast at Shokudo

Marketing is what it's all about in our house.  I graduated from Penn State with a bachelor's degree in marketing in May of 2008.  3 months later, I met Bryce, who was just getting ready to start his quest for a marketing degree at the University of Hawaii.  (Fact:  According to the "U.S. News and World Report", Penn State's Smeal College of Business is ranked #23 while the University of Hawaii's Shidler College of Business is ranked #135.  I lied, it's not just about marketing in our house, it's about competition, too!)  

One of the perks of majoring in marketing, that comes from being submerged in all the latest news and trends, is finding out about unique, cool products, and of course, prices, places, and promotions, too!  Bryce heard about a thing called "Honey Toast" at a restaurant called Shokudo.  Toast with honey on it, right?  To me, it sounded like something Winnie the Pooh would eat for breakfast!   

One Saturday, I dragged Bryce to the mall.  After a few hours he'd had enough shopping and demanded that we I stop shopping so we could eat.  We considered eating at the [over-crowded] food court or any of the [uninteresting] restaurant chains inside the mall but nothing was floating our boat.  That's when we remembered that Shokudo was right next to the mall!  Our boat promptly floated right through the restaurant's front doors in a matter of minutes.

The inside of the restaurant is so, so cool!  There's stadium style, graduated tables at the far end of the restaurant, gigantic and modern artsy-type decor hanging down from the ceiling in the main dining room, and the coolest little booths.  We had sushi and some type of saimin for lunch, which were both quite good, but that's not what I'm here to talk about...

We'd watched several surrounding tables order and enjoy Honey Toast and we were giddy to finally ask our server for the dessert menu so we could see what options we had to chose from.  We went for the Oreo Cookies and Cream.

Look how many options there are!     

So, what is honey toast?

My guess, honey on toast, is technically right.  It's so so so much better than that! says:  It's a thick slice buttered toast with honey and vanilla ice cream.  The crunchy crust is as delicious as the soft inside.  Honey butter toast is sometimes served as a dessert in Japanese restaurants or cafes.

It starts with two perfectly square slices of bread, more like loaves of bread.  The bread is toasted and the inside is cut into cubes, and graced with honey and butter.  Since we got Cookies and Cream, we also had sweetened condensed milk, or something like it, on ours, making it even more insanely decadent!  The top is piled high with ice cream, cookies, and chocolate syrup.

Honey Toast is massive! When it arrived, I said "there's no way we'll finish that"!  But... we did!

I've never really seen, or eaten, anything like it before.  The best combination is getting the cold, smooth ice cream with the warm, buttery, toasty bread together for a delightful hot/cold and sweet/salty bite!

Shokudo, we will be back for more Honey Toast!