Fresh Corn and Cilantro Salsa

Where has the summer gone? As the last of the warm-weather produce disappears from the market, I’m finding myself getting mentally prepared for broccoli rabe and butternut squash. But hey, I honestly can’t complain about those prospects.

With summer wrapping up, I thought I’d share a recipe for corn salsa. (Hopefully some of you are lucky enough to get your hands on some fresh late-season corn!) The recipe is inspired by the corn salsa at Chipotle, which I adore. I love how the sweet corn and spicy jalapeno is accented by the fresh lime juice. It’s a nice respite from the old canned tomato salsa routine. And to top it off, it’s incredibly easy to make.

Fresh corn is always the best, but you can substitute with frozen in a pinch. Use this salsa atop everything from chips and quesadillas to chicken and fish. It adds a nice crunch to any dish and a healthy kick of spiciness.

My adoration of Chipotle food doesn’t stop with the corn salsa. I’ve tried to actually replicate the entire Chipotle burrito bowl at home with very good results. To make the rice, I mix caramelized onions, cilantro, and fresh lime juice into cooked jasmine rice. Then I pile on the chicken, lettuce, guacamole, and black beans. Finally, I top it all off with this salsa. Amazing.

Even though Chipotle is a giant company with franchises around the world, I respect their efforts to disrupt the broken fast food system. Last year, the company launched an unbelievable ad campaign to champion their commitment to sustainable food. Some called it phony; others thought it was brilliant. The commercial almost brought me to tears, so that should give you some indication of where I stand on the issue.

In case you missed it, here you go!

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The Best of Oahu (A Food Lover’s Perspective)

Hawaii is like a second home to me. I have family there, and spent most of my childhood summers on Oahu. The island holds a special place in my heart with its vibrant culture, amazing food, and some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. After I graduated from college and vacation time became scarce, I stopped joining my family on our annual trips.

This past summer was the first time in five years that I’ve been able to make it back to Oahu. It’s funny how returning to the places you knew as a child can evoke such strong feelings and memories. For me, the familiar flavors of malasadas and shaved ice bring back vivid memories of time spent with my family and good friends.

I thought I’d share a few of my favorite places with you–both old and new. These are not the type of establishments you’ll find gracing the glossy pages of a travel magazine. (In fact, don’t be alarmed if you look around and realize that you’re the only non local within 25 feet.) These are hole-in-the-wall, off-the-beaten-path, no-frills kind of establishments where good food is the only guiding principle. No hype, and completely casual. Just as it should be in Hawaii.

1. Leonard’s Bakery

Leonard’s is an Oahu institution, with its freshly-baked malasadas (Portuguese donuts) and pao doce (Portuguese sweet bread). The malasadas are filled with everything from custard and chocolate to jams and haupia (coconut pudding). The haupia malasada will always hold a special place in this girl’s heart!

2. Nu’uanu Okazya

This tiny hole-in-the-wall establishment features a dizzying array of Japanese and Hawaiian food. Grilled saba, chicken long rice, veggie tempura, nishime, onigiri, furikake musubi…the list goes on and changes on a daily basis. I can only describe it as a “choose your own adventure” bento establishment. You walk up to the counter, point at the food you want, and basically create your own personalized bento. My recommendation is to get your bento and head to the beach to get your eat on.

3. Ice Garden

Shaved ice is really big in Hawaii. I mean, seriously big. While Matsumoto on the North Shore is definitely the most popular shaved ice establishment, I think Ice Garden wins for the most unique flavor combinations. My favorite is the mochi, flan, and evaporated milk shaved ice. Don’t knock it ’til you try it! Service here is extremely slow, but rest assured that the finished product will be delicious.

4. Fresh Coconut at the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet

I know coconut products are all the rage these days, but I’ve been geting my coconut on at the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet since the nineties, folks. It’s all about the fresh coconut. I highly recommend the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet in general if you’re looking for cheap souvenirs to bring home. While you’re there, look for the tiny older man selling fresh coconuts out of the back of his pickup truck. You’ll identify him by his giant machette and notable lack of English. You’re just going to have to trust me on this. Once you drink all the coconut water, bring back the shell and he’ll cut it in half so you can dig into the meat.

5. Kim Chee

This is the quintessential Korean BBQ food that is so popular in Hawaii. Kim Chee is fast, delicious, and easy on the budget. There are a few locations throughout the island, but this location happens to be my favorite.

6. Weekend Buffet at Hakkei

If you’re looking for a very traditional Japanese buffet, this is it. This is nothing like an American-style buffet with endless choices and mass-produced quality. The food choices are slim, but the quality is outstanding. The brunch is offered on weekends and costs $15. I highly recommend making reservations in advance.

7. Aiea Bowl

When my uncle told me that he wanted to take us to a bowling alley for dinner, I thought he was crazy. Little did I know that this bowling alley serves up some of the best local food around. Their fried chicken is outstanding, as is their furikake crusted ahi. Aiea Bowl is also known for their baked goods, including the famous lemon crunch cake. Make no mistake though, this is still a bowling alley and there is nothing glamourous about that. But if you’re looking to check out the local scene and try some good food, head to Aiea Bowl.

8. Macky’s Sweet Shrimp Truck

The North Shore is known for its delicious shrimp trucks, and Macky’s happens to be my favorite. The best dish is the garlic butter shrimp–hands down.

Cold-Brewed Vietnamese Iced Coffee

When it comes to iced coffee, I’m convinced that cold brewing is the winning method. Pouring piping  hot coffee over ice generally results in a flavorless, diluted mess. That has been my experience anyway. Cold brewing doesn’t require any heat at all–just a little time and patience. 24 hours of patience, in this case.

I will spare you from my full blown cold-brewing spiel. (If you’re interested, you can just mosey on over to this post that I wrote last summer from Montana) But I will say that this method works especially well for Vietnamese-style iced coffee, which requires very concentrated coffee to stand up to the sweet condensed milk.

Traditional Vietnamese iced coffee is of course brewed using a small metal drip filter, or a cà phê phin. I know I badmouth kitchen unitaskers all the time, but I do own a cà phê phinActually, I own four–not gonna lie. I love them! They make the best Vietnamese iced coffee on the planet. They also take for eternity to extract mere drops of glorious coffee goodness from the grinds. It’s basically like watching water boil.

Sometimes you just want a little instant gratification, which is why I like to keep a jar of concentrated cold-brewed coffee in the fridge. When you want a Vietnamese-style iced coffee, just bust this stuff out, and mix with sweetened condensed milk, normal milk, and ice. Easy peasy.

If you’re entertaining, this is also a great way to prepare multiple iced coffees quickly. On a side note, Trader Joe’s now sells sweetened condensed milk in a squeeze bottle. GENIUS.

This recipe is originally from Food & Wine magazine. It calls for 2 ounces (about 4 tablespoons) of sweetened condensed milk, which was a little too sweet for my tastes. I recommend starting out with about 3 tablespoons and adding more to taste. You can always add more sweetness, but you can’t take it away once it’s in there! I think the ratios that Food & Wine magazine used are pretty spot on. But feel free to play around with the measurements until you make your perfect Vietnamese iced coffee.

Cold-Brewed Vietnamese Iced Coffee
Adapted from Food & Wine
Yield: About four drinks

For the coffee concentrate:

  • 4 1/2 cups cold water
  • 1/2 pound coarsely ground dark-roast coffee

For each drink:

  • 3/4 cup coffee concentrate
  • 3-4 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk (add more to taste)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Ice
  1. Brew the coffee concentrate: In a bowl, stir the cold water into the coffee. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 24 hours. Strain twice through a coffee filter, a fine-mesh sieve, or a sieve lined with cheesecloth. (Don’t forget to compost the spent grinds!) The concentrate can be refrigerated for up to 1 week in an airtight container.
  2. Make the drink: Pour condensed milk into a tall glass. Add the coffee concentrate and milk. Stir well. Top with ice.

Kickstarter Projects I Love

Happy Monday, everyone! By now, many of you have probably heard of the website Kickstarter which helps entrepreneurs raise funds for their creative projects. I love this concept because it disrupts the old school funding model–a space that used to be reserved for venture capitalist firms and rich private investors. Now normal folk like me can contribute funds to everything from documentaries to macron bakeries.

You can pledge any amount of money to the projects you back. In return, you receive some type of gift related to the entrepreneur’s project. What’s not to love! Here are a few of my favorite current Kickstarter projects that I either support or have personally contributed to.

Jacobsen Salt Co.  {High-quality finishing salt harvested on the Oregon coast}

Forage Kitchen {A hub for the Bay Area food community, and a home for artisan food makers}

Kinkajou {An easy to use bottle cutter that can turn used glass bottles into works of art}

KONE Coffee Filter + Brewing System  {Photo etched stainless steel filter and ceramic brewer set}

Nomiku  {An affordable and easy way to cook food sous vide}

Coffee Roasting Cart {Coffee roasting cart + cold press espresso)

A Trip to Japan

Hello, again! I’m finally back from my trip to Japan. Jet lagged and completely loopy, but back nonetheless. (Is this real life???) I’ve had a lot of great travel experiences in my day, but this was definitely a trip to remember.

It all started when my grandma turned 80 a couple months ago and wanted to visit some old friends in the Japanese countryside. As a gift, my family bought her a ticket to Japan. Unfortunately my grandma is not currently in the best health–despite her feelings on the topic. So my sister and I traveled to Japan with her and spent some time in a town called Fujioka in the Gunma prefecture, about three hours outside of Tokyo. My sister and I then traveled to Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, and Osaka before rejoining with our grandma in the countryside. It was a pretty last minute trip, but one that I’ll never forget. We had the most hospitable friends in both Fujioka and Tokyo, which made the trip extra special.

Here are a few snapshots from our trip, most of which are of food. Would you expect anything else from me?

Our first home cooked breakfast in the countryside. Saba shio, miso, tamago, hijiki, gohan, nori….and some clam thing that I can’t pronounce, but tasted mighty delicious!

Our friends took us to this tiny sashimi shop on the side of the road in Fujioka. They chose the fish they wanted and the shop owner cut and beautifully organized the sashimi on a platter to take home.

Our friends also took us to an amazing all you can eat shabu shabu restaurant in Fujioka. Side note: the beer was all you can drink as well.

We stayed in Shinjuku while in Tokyo–which I highly recommend!

We took sushi lessons near the famous Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. I made the plate above full of rolls and nigiri. If you go to Tokyo and love to cook, I highly recommend walking around the Tsukiji outer market and taking a cooking class.

Obento on the Shinkansen on the way to Kyoto.

If you love to cook, you have to swing by Aritsugu in Kyoto. The store itself is tiny, but Arisugu is very well-respected for their handmade knives, pots, scissors, and other utensils. The best part is that you can get anything engraved on the spot. Not by a machine, but by an actual artisan–it’s seriously amazing. We bought a knife for my dad and had our last name engraved in Japanese on it.

Tasting green teas at Ippodo, one of the oldest tea shops in Kyoto.

Love the Shinkansen!

Quail egg and yam sushi at a conveyer belt sushi place in Kyoto Station. I don’t know the name of this place, but it’s across the way from McDonalds in Kyoto Station, if that helps. Every plate (yes, every single one) is 137 yen, about $1.80 US. We nommed here on multiple occasions, I can’t lie.

Shinto shrine in Kyoto.

Takoyaki in Osaka! “Tako” means octopus in Japanese and takoyaki are basically octopus dumplings topped with everything from mayo and teriyaki sauce to poached eggs and green onions.

Brussels Sprout, Bacon, and Roasted Onion Pizza

It was unseasonably warm last week in the Bay Area. I can’t lie–the minute it hit 70, I broke out my bikini top and sunhat and got my tan on. After eight years in Seattle, my mind has become programed to savor every last bit of a sunny day. And wear ridiculous summer wear when the temperatures climb above 60.

After being afflicted with a monster cold virus that put me out of commission for a week, I am finally back on my feet and cooking non-liquid food again. With the prospect of spring right around the corner, I’m trying to cook all my favorite winter veggies while they’re still around. This includes the controversial brussels sprout.

Nobody is indifferent to brussels sprouts–you either love the things or hate them. And I totally get it, these cruciferous little vegetables are strongly flavored and can be very abrasive if they aren’t prepared correctly. My mom is a great cook, but when I was little she had an affinity for boiled, unseasoned brussels sprouts. I hated them for years. It wasn’t until well into my adult life that I discovered how delicious they could be when roasted, sauteed, even fried. Anything but boiled.

This pizza was inspired by a delicious warm brussels sprouts salad I recently had at a restaurant. Brussels sprouts and bacon (or pancetta) seem to complement each other effortlessly. The saltiness of the bacon seems to offset the bitterness of the brussels sprouts and gives the pizza a nice smokey flavor.

In this recipe, I render the fat from the bacon and use the grease to coat the shredded brussels sprouts. I know it sounds really unhealthy, but it’s really just two pieces of bacon for the entire pizza–nothing too crazy. I just have a hard time throwing away bacon grease because it adds so much flavor to dishes. It’s like throwing money away. You just don’t do it.

I shredded my brussels sprouts into about 1/4 inch slices. This is just personal preference really. They cook much quicker in the oven this way, but you are welcome to quarter the sprouts if you want them to be a little chunkier on the pizza.

In terms of cheese, I ended up going with a Fontina because it’s mild and melts well. Trader Joes also carries a very affordable and delicious Fontina–the one with the red rind. If you don’t have access to Fontina, you can definitely play around with other white melting cheese such as classic mozzarella.

Finally, I love using this Alice Waters technique for stress-free roasted onions. Just coat one small chopped onion with olive oil and a pinch of salt in a small oven-safe saute pan. Pop it in the oven on 375°F for about 30 minutes, and done. I love using these roasted onions on pizzas because they cook while you tackle the dough and other toppings. They also make the house smell amazing.The other day I actually went to Chez Panisse to celebrate my sister’s 18th birthday. I ordered the mushroom pizza, and it definitely had these onions on it! They add a very distinctive flavor to pizzas and other dishes.

The hardboiled egg might seem a little random, but it really complements the flavors in the pizza. I usually use about two chopped eggs per pizza, and let people add it to their own slices so they can control the amount. It tastes great and adds some additional protein.

Hope you enjoy!

Brussel Sprout, Bacon, and Roasted Onion Pizza
Yield: One 12 to 14-inch pizza

  • 1 pizza dough, store bought or homemade
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 slices of bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • About 2 cups shredded brussels sprouts, cleaned and shredded into 1/4-1/2 inch strips
  • 2 cups Fontina cheese, grated
  • 1 lemon
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • Hardboiled eggs, diced (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Place diced onions in a small oven-proof saute pan and add enough olive oil to coat, along with a generous pinch of salt. Stir well and place pan in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent onions from burning. The onions are ready when they are tender and golden.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the brussels sprouts: trim the ends of the brussels sprouts and discard any discolored or damaged leaves. Cut each sprout in half then into 1/4 to 1/2 inch strips. Clean the shredded sprouts with water and pat dry. Set aside.
  3. Cut bacon into 1/2 inch slices and add in a saute pan over med-low heat. Slowly render out the fat until the bacon is cooked and crispy. Using a slotted spoon, remove the cooked bacon and set aside on a paper towel. Turn the heat off. Add the shredded brussels sprouts to the pan, and toss with the remaining bacon grease until evenly coated. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Once the onions are cooked and removed from the oven, turn the oven up to 450°F. Roll out the pizza dough and start assembling. Distribute the grated Fontina cheese onto the pizza and top with the brussels sprouts. Top with the bacon and roasted onions. Brush a light layer of olive oil on the crust so it will brown nicely.
  5. Cook the pizza on a preheated pizza stone (if using) until the crust is crispy and the cheese is melted, about 10-15 minutes. Serve each slice with a few drops of fresh lemon juice. If desired, garnish with the chopped hardboiled eggs.

My Favorite Food Books

Happy Monday, everyone! Right now, all of my books are stashed away in storage somewhere in rural Washington until we find an apartment. I’ve been missing them a lot lately, so I thought I would share a few of my favorites with you.

Tell me your favorite food books so I can add to my collection!

1. The Everyday Cookbook

The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters. If I had to choose one book that most closely aligns to my cooking style, this would be it. This no-frills book covers the basics of a well-stocked kitchen, everyday techniques and tips, and simple recipes that rarely include exact measurements. I love that it encourages people to think holistically about cooking, rather than mindlessly following a recipe. Alice Waters at her finest, in my opinion!

2. The Memoir

A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg. There are a lot of crappy memoirs out there about food. This is not one of them. A Homemade Life is a thoughtful, beautifully-written memoir that follows the life of Molly Wizenberg, a food blogger and now restaurant owner. Every food lover will be able to relate to her love of cooking and honest, heartfelt writing. If you are ever in Seattle, you absolutely must try Delancey, the subject of her next book.

3. The Reference

On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee. I got this book for Christmas, and I’m slowly but surely plowing my way through. This book provides fascinating context to the most basic cooking questions (e.g. why does an egg solidify when exposed to heat?) It explains the history and science behind almost every element of food and cooking. On Food and Cooking was originally published the year I was born, and is more relevant than ever in 2012. I am amazed at how much I’ve learned from this book, and I imagine that it’s required reading for every culinary school in America.

4. The Special Occasion Cookbook

Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller. I’m usually not a fan of recipes that have a zillion steps, but I make a special exception for Thomas Keller. Ad Hoc at Home is a very special cookbook, full of intricate recipes, helpful tips, and absolutely beautiful photos. This is the cookbook you bust out when you have people to impress and a whole day to prepare.

5. The Picture Book

Food Rules by Michael Pollan, illustrated by Maira Kalman. If you follow my blog, you probably already know that I’m in love with Maira Kalman’s artwork. Her beautiful work melds so well with Pollan’s short tips and rules about eating sustainably. This short but sweet book makes a great gift or small coffee table book.