Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Be Careful What You Ask For

Hello Food Friends. It's been awhile! Again. 
I've missed you and this spot that exists to talk about food and the way it connects us together. Although I haven't been active here, I have been spinning many other plates - literally and figuratively. 

If I were to choose a word for the last couple of years it would, without a doubt be: Reinvention. 
At first I didn't truly realize this was an option for me, I didn't even have a relationship with the word. But now we're close. 
Reinvention comes, much like invention, from necessity, but also from a place of freshness and possibility.

I like what Miriam-Webster has to say on the subject:
re.in.vent
1: to make as if for the first time something already invented
2: to remake or redo completely
3: to bring into use again

And so, the story is about this girl, who grew up around gatherings of family and friends and food, with parents who had a restaurant, and food constantly on her brain.
She was a weird kid who, while most kids were making an after school snack of instant ramen, she was making lamb chops and sauteed mushrooms.   

She eventually tapped into her creativity in the form of photography and the written word. While photographing children and families paid the bills, photographing and writing about food became an exciting outlet. 

She became good at cooking because she was really just very good at eating. 
She always laughed off the comments of friends that she "really should open a restaurant" because she grew up in one and knew how much work it really is.

And then reinvention started to gain momentum. 
When her life changed around her and she began questioning the kind of work that really made her happy, A New Years Eve conversation happened where she said to a chef friend, "maybe I should just get a job in a kitchen". To which he said, "Well the money is actually in waiting tables, if you want to get into the restaurant business." 
But no, she said, that isn't it. "I want to cook. I want to chop stuff in the kitchen".

Fast forward two years to a conversation with a friend who had a little cafe in a residential condo building. She was hired to design his new restaurant and during the process he offered her his Cafe. He would remain involved, but gives it to her to change the menu, the decor, the name, she is free to reinvent it and herself in the process. Just like that. It wasn't something she could say no to.  
At first this seemed like it was out of left field and materialized out of nowhere. I mean, who has this kind of stuff happen to them? She does. Then she remembered her New Year's conversation, her childhood, and her new found appreciation of reinvention, and it all made sense. 

It's like she's making for the first time a restaurant girl that already existed. Although she is being remade and redone completely, she's really just bringing into use again all those skills form before. It is reinvention, for sure. But is also a coming home. 

And so here I am. 
A girl with a cafe. 
People actually pay to eat my food. 
And they like it!
And they keep coming back!!
And most importantly, I'm really having fun. 


 My Menu is basically the kind of food I cook at home. 
Healthy, Hearty, Homemade, Real Food. 
I serve pizzas, sandwiches, salads, coffee, smoothies and weekly specials.

My children are my wonderful staff and my customers are awesome. 

And now, I will have lots more food stuff to share with you!

Who says you can't have it all! 1/2 bbq chicken with tomatoes and carmelized onions, 1/2 Brie and grape with green pea pesto

Monster Brownies

Chicken Enchilada Special

Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

Whose afraid of a green smoothie? Mango, pineapple, papaya,  banana, kale, fresh grated ginger and a squeeze of lime

Yellow Chicken Curry Special

Rib Eye Steak Sandwich Special 

Lilikoi Cheesecake

Stuffed Baked Potato Special

Chicken Tacos Special with Tomato, Cucumber, Quinoa Salad

Chicken Parmesan Sandwich Special

For all the Cookie Monsters out there...
 So now, during my break when I'm eating food, reading a book about food, while a cooking show plays on TV and food cooks in the oven it's not so strange. Right?

 Cheers to reinvention

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Bacon JAM!


I need to talk to you. It's important. See that little jar of brown stuff up there? It is a revelation.

Bacon Jam. 
I know, when I saw it on a menu recently, I too thought, "What the hell???".
And so I ordered the bruschetta as well as the slider that it accompanied just to get to the bottom of this "bacon jam" mystery. 

And I think I figured it out. 

It's diabolically simple. 
A perfect blend of caramelized onion and bacon. 

Forget my last post about eating healthy. That carrot cake could have benefitted from a little 
bacon jam, I'm sure. 
But a better plan is to toast up some baguette, slather some of this on and maybe top with some chopped tomato. 
Or better yet, make yourself a mini slider and you will realize that bacon jam is much friendlier than having to wrestle with those two slices of bacon that normally sit upon your burger. There will be no trying to ration a little bit of bacon for each bite of burger because, I tell you, bacon jam is a revelation.  

It's as easy as this:

Onions. Maui Sweet onions if you're lucky, as I was to have my Chef friend gift me with two bags of. Slice them, chop some bacon, toss 'em together with some salt & pepper and let them do their thing slowly and relaxedly until they are brown and lovely. And make a lot. Like the whole pack of bacon and a ton of onions, because it's that good. Then right at the end, perhaps you should throw in a dash of brown sugar just for fun. 

Let them cool a bit and then chop them up all together. It almost becomes tapenade-ish.

And then you really should build yourself (as my chef friend says with his Moroccan accent): 
Tiny AM-bergers. 

Oh. Yeah. Baby.





   

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Bribery Carrot Cake


I know I just posted that I am trying to be healthy and all, but really, I made this for my landlord!
I called it Bribery Carrot Cake because I'm trying to remind him how much he loves me living next door to him, don't sell the house, lower my rent, etc... Also it was his birthday and he's trying to be healthier too.

The recipe came from iwannatalkaboutbrooke.blogspot.com. I used olive oil instead of whatever the  recipe called for just to make it a bit healthier too (and that's all I had).


How bad can a cake be that comes from carrots be anyway?!

Also, I baked it in a ginormous tin can because I liked the shape it would make. It came out cool, but took about ten years to bake. 



So, although I didn't even eat the finished product, I thought I'd share it with you anyway. 
Enjoy!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Homemade Granola


Strange things have been happening with me. 
The strangest perhaps is called "aging."
I used to be one of those people that others described with disdain like this, "You can eat whatever you want and not gain weight"!
Which, of course was not true. However, I could eat whatever I wanted without major consequences.
But I just had my 39th birthday and with it came the sad realization that my days of butter and cream and never exercising really have to end. 

That's when the next strange thing happened. 
I have started to eat healthier, drink water and even..... exercise. 
Gasp.

Truth be told, I've always cooked somewhat healthily, but that nub of butter, handful of chips, drizzle of bacon fat has all started to make itself visible.

So in the spirit of true stereotypical healthy stigma, I'm posting about homemade granola. 

Granola used to be associated with being a hippy thing. In fact it was an actual adjective when I was a kid to describe someone with hippy-like tendencies.
As in, "oh my god, your Birkenstocks are so granola!" 

Eventually the truth was revealed that granola could actually be not so good for you because of the oils and fat hidden inside. BUT, when I was recently doing some research on healthy foods, it was confirmed that whole grains, fruit, nuts and even olive oil are what we're supposed to be eating. 
The beautiful thing is that when you make your own food, you can control exactly what's in it. 

Alas, homemade granola.


I used this recipe from Ina Garten. But in true Swigs and Grinds form, I used what I had and changed it up a bit. Mine consisted of oats, coconut, sliced almonds, walnuts and dried cranberries. I also substituted olive oil and used a bit of honey to sweeten it. It has been my morning go-to now for a couple of weeks and it really rocks. 


  My favorite is with Greek yogurt, flax seed, some other mystery seed my sister gave me, sliced strawberries and a drizzle of honey. 
Healthy CAN be decadent!





Monday, February 27, 2012

Picky Lunch


I've talked about my love of "picky dinners" right? Not to be confused with a dinner for picky people, no a picky dinner in my house is one that you casually pick at. There are no silverware involved. Everyone shares from the same platter of little piles of food. 

I suppose if I were in Spain this would be close to tapas. But, alas, I am at the Country House and so it is  called a picky dinner. Or in today's case "picky lunch".

The thing I have noticed about my picky lunches is that they are usually when I am by myself. I have gotten slightly better at cooking a meal for one, but the problem is, when I am working at home I usually get so wrapped up in whatever creative project that is at hand and the limited time that I have to work on it, that lunch usually happens as an after-thought and I'm so hungry by the time I actually get around to it that I really don't want to wait for something to actually be cooked. 

And therein lies the beauty of a picky lunch. In the time it takes to cut a few pieces of cheese, grab a handful of crackers, toss some tomatoes in olive oil & balsamic, and throw on a few chunks of last night's bbq chicken, lunch is served. 


As I make my way back down to my studio, and resume my spot at the computer, I can simply PICK. A tomato here, a cracker there. 


Ahhh... delighting in simple things. It's one of my favorite things....


What are your favorite items for picky food? Do tell..... 





Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lucky Peach


Two Christmases ago a very thoughtful boy gave me a Kitchen-aid mixer. How could he possibly top that this past Christmas, outside of a trip to Italy, of course? Well, he came pretty darn close with a subscription to Lucky Peach. A very cool food magazine that I knew nothing about. 

This is not your mother's (no offense mother) food magazine. 
This magazine is brand new, as in just birthed. In fact the first issue that I received was only the second one published. I must say I feel like I am in on something very cool and sort of underground. Rebellious almost.

Lucky Peach is "a quarterly journal of food and writing". It is published in June, September, December and March. When I opened the cover of my first issue I read this from Editor in Chief, Peter Meehan: "After we wrapped up the first issue and I had a minute to stand back and look at the thing, I felt like it was the magazine equivalent of throwing an M-80 into a bowl of ramen and taking a crime-scene photo of the results. That was a good thing, at least for me".

Well, Mr. Meehan, it was a very good thing for me too. With such articles titled: "More Things Were Eaten", "Miso Horny", "Eat, Drink, F*@k, Die", and "Nobody doesn't Love A Cake With A Runny Center", what, I say WHAT is not to love. 

Yeah, I said it. I am head over heels in love with the brash, raw writings about things beyond appetizers and cocktails, not that I don't love a cocktail and an appetizer. I mean all you have to do is behold the covers of this magazine to know that you will be in for a ride. Who thinks of tattooing a pigs hind quarter with the body map of a human, for god's sake?! I love it. 

And a small disclaimer, if you are easily offended by the F-word, it's written about seven times in the first seven pages, but that too, I must confess - I love. I mean we're talking about FOOD. But not just the romantic, touchey-feeley aspect of food, but the boiling hot kitchens, the long hours, the hard work. And it's not just some foodie blogger such as myself ranting about such things (although, in my defense I did grow up in my parents restaurant and am currently dabbling in my friend's cafe, I do however know my place on the food chain) the writings in Lucky Peach are coming from the big dogs of our food culture. The likes of David Chang of Momofuku, Daniel Patterson of Coi Restaurant, Mario Batali, etc. etc... In fact, in both issues so far, my (*)boyfriend Anthony Bourdain has written a story woven around a random movie of all things.   

SO, with all of that said, I urge you to get your subscription to Lucky Peach. Heck, now that I think about it, it may even have been the catalyst for my recent return to Swigs and Grinds. For that I thank you Lucky Peach folks, because I have missed my little spot here in the blogoshpere. Till next time.....


(*) Ok, maybe I don't want him to be my boyfriend as much as I actually want to BE him. But that's another story....  

Quote of the Day :
 "A human being is primarily a bag for putting food into".
~George Orwell
(as quoted in issue 3 of Lucky Peach)



Friday, February 24, 2012

Imperial Stout, a new love

Alright, alright...  I've been missing in action. Again. I HAVE been busy with the art of survival, not to mention the art of photography, painting, raising children, making food, eating, drinking, being merry etc, etc... My 11 year old daughter has been disturbed by my absence here and has several times told me that some concoction that I've whipped up needs to be photographed & shared, stating, "Mom, you have followers that are waiting for you!"

I'm not so sure if the breath of my followers is bated or not, but here I am none the less...

There have been some things recently that have been inspiring me in the Swigs & Grinds department and so, at long last, I have finally decided that today is the day when I shall share them.

The first is a new swig in the form of beer that I have discovered.

I am learning that my taste in food AND beverage is similar: big, bold and brazen. Sheesh, sounds like much of my life - but that's another story. This beer is Sam Adams Imperial Stout. If you like dark beer this is a serious treat. It's almost not just beer. It's like a hybrid of coffee, chocolate and malty booze. It's thick and creamy and you only need one because it's over 9% alcohol.

Look for it at specialty stores and do pick some up!






Monday, August 1, 2011

A Renewed Love Of Cabbage

Kalua Pig and Cabbage, Rice and Mac Salad
I don't know what's happened lately, but I have a huge lust for cooked cabbage. Perhaps the most loved dish in Hawaii is Kalua Pork and Cabbage. Talk about a dish that is filled with love. I would dare to say that anytime you dig a pit in the ground (an Imu), put in a whole pig, hot coals, tea leaves, burlap, bury it with earth and let it cook for a whole day, you are talking some serious food of love.

Fortunately, there is a short cut to that process. You can walk into any L&L Drive Inn in Hawaii and for about seven bucks, get a heaping portion of Kalua Pork, cooked with cabbage and served with the mandatory couple scoops of white rice and mac salad. 

This has become a bit of an addiction, and an especially handy one after being at the beach and not feeling like cooking dinner (it happens). However, it's probably not the healthiest of dishes, unless you're trying to bulk up for a winter of hibernation. Which, of course, sometimes I am. 

But for those other times, and in case you don't have an Imu dug in the back yard or an L&L nearby, it's possible to make a cabbaggey bacony concoction that will satisfy your craving. And let me just say this: In case this craving comes around when there is a storm that knocks down a bunch of power lines in your neighborhood and keeps the power out for waaay to long, all you need to do is fire up the gas grill, pull out a cast iron pan and work it still! I'm just saying ....
   
Bacon and red onions 
Chop up some bacon and onions and saute until bacon is crispy. Then add chopped cabbage and cook until tender.  



Bacon, Onion and Cabbage


Ok, I have a big craving and I must go cook cabbage. Enjoy!

"A recipe has no soul. You, as the cook, must bring soul to the recipe.
~Thomas Keller



Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunday Morning Muse




Sunday morning. A blue sky outside, the soft hush of tradewinds, the dog at the foot of my bed, the house quiet and empty except for us. I could be doing anything. Do you realize how rare these moments are for me? I live with people. Lots of them. Most of them children - far outnumbering the grown-ups, life continually swirls around us; work, school, rides, needs to meet, places to go, people to be fed, deadlines to be met, bills to pay, laundry to do, kitchen to clean, it never ends

But this morning is one of those very, very rare times when I am alone. A questionable breakfast beverage in hand (no comment), my newest food mags next to me, and my computer screen feeding me inspiration.    

Sometimes this is all I need to get my mojo back. My muse deserts me sometimes, but I'm getting to know her/him/it a little better and I have noticed that it likes it when I am happy. When my mind is clear. When my heart is at peace. When I am overflowing with love. This muse of mine is a party animal, I'm learning. All the stress, drama, emotional bullshit - she(he/it) can do without all of that and, in fact, runs like the wind when that stuff is overpowering the mood. Heck, I don't blame her (him/it)! But when I am in this space, it shows up and inevitably leads me to beautiful images, words, thought, and then takes me by the hand and leads me into the kitchen, pours us both a cocktail and watches me do my thing.

SO that's where I'm headed now. Send my muse some love, because she(?) seems to be back, and I am oh so thankful.

Cheers,
H



Saturday, July 30, 2011

Homemade Flour Tortillas!

Spicy, slow cooked beef quesadillas on homemade tortillas.



So my girl from way back has moved to Hawaii and is staying with me until she gets settled, have I mentioned this? And let me tell you, girlfriend can cook, and needless to say, we are a force to be reckoned with in the kitchen! My soul sister in so many ways, yesterday she woke up with homemade tortillas on the brain. Ah, a girl after my own heart....
As she stood in the doorway to my room, we talked of a sacred, taboo, subject: lard. Yeah I said it. LARD. Uh huh, that's what we needed to fulfill this fantasy of homemade tortillas. Because we would be venturing into the annals of my home-girl's childhood memories of her Mexican & Puerto Rican aunties, making tortillas from scratch because, well, that's what you do.

So in-between school supply shopping, haircuts and dealing with a freaking out cell phone, we did it. A tub of lard now lives in our pantry.




Even in Hawaii, we managed to come across an authentic tub O' lard.  
Alright, now before you start listening to any guilt ridden, holy-crap-this-will-go-straight-to-my-butt kind of nonsense, let me just say that there are some things that you just don't screw around with. And this is one of them. It's been done this way for a million years (yes that's historically accurate) so just put aside your issues with the word, the concept, the image, and for the love of all things TORTILLA, just GO with it. And I swear, the foodgasm you experience will blur your vision, curl your toes and leave you shivering for more. Trust me on this one.

If you can make a biscuit, a pancake or the like you can make this. Flour, salt, baking powder, water and the L word. That's it!

Roll the dough into ping pong ball size and then roll out.


Roll out the tortilla pretty thin, it will puff up a bit when cooking. 

Beef and Cheese Quesadilla
The finished product garnished with avocado, sour cream, lettuce & cabbage, and a corn salsa with a  dried corriander & oregano dressing.



We packed these up and took them to the beach for a sunset dinner. And now I am forever ruined on store bought tortillas. Great. Just like my new homemade pasta addiction. How do you ever go back after this? Well, I don't believe you need to. It's a little more work, yes. But if you have your best friend over, crack open some beers and just enjoy the experience of the whole process it makes everything taste better!

Oh, and as for filling, we cooked some beef in the crock pot for a few hours with some onions, garlic, canned chipotle chilis, some wine or beer (or both), cumin, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Then when it was done, here's the big secret: Take a few corn tortillas, rip them up and then throw them & the remaining sauce from the meat into the blender. This will make the most rockin sauce - you will want to slather yourself in it! This whole tortillas in the blender concept is new to me, but holy cow, it works!

Flour Tortillas

Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 cups All-purpose Flour
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 cup Lard Or Vegetable Shortening
  • 2 Tablespoons (additional) Lard Or Vegetable Shortening
  • 1 cup Hot Water
Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a large wooden bowl. Stir together.
Add spoonfuls of lard or shortening (use 1/2 cup PLUS 2 tablespoons), then use a pastry cutter to combine the ingredients. Cut mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.
Slowly pour in hot water, stirring to bring mixture together. Lightly knead dough 30 to 40 times, or until it becomes a cohesive ball of dough and is less sticky. Cover with a tea towel and allow dough to rest for at least an hour.
Roll into ping pong size balls, place on a tray, cover with a tea towel, and allow to rest for another 20 to 30 minutes.
Heat a cast iron griddle to medium/medium-high heat. One by one, roll out balls of dough until very, very thin. Throw tortillas (one by one) onto the griddle. Cook on each side for 20 to 30 seconds, removing while tortillas are still soft but slightly brown in spots. Remove and stack tortillas, and cover with a towel to keep warm. Serve immediately or allow to cool before storing tortillas in a container. 
Helpful tips:
* Make sure the water you pour in is very warm.
* Allow the dough to rest, both after kneading and after forming into balls.
* Roll out very thin.
* Get the heat right on your stove: Too hot, and the tortilla will burn in spots. Not hot enough, and the tortilla will begin to crisp before you can get it to brown. I get my stove between medium and medium high heat; that seems to do the trick.
* Use a dark griddle or cast iron skillet to brown the tortillas.
* Cook just long enough to lightly brown the tortilla in spots; don't cook too long or tortillas will crisp. You want them to be soft and pliable when you serve them.

Corn Salsa
Cut the kernals off of a few ears of corn
add chopped tomatoes, onions and garlic
Combine a few Tbs. citrus juice, a Tbs or so of sugar, a splash of balsamic vinegar, 1Tbs ground corriander, 1Tbs dried oregano, 1 Tbs fresh oregano, 1 chopped chive stalk, plus a few Tbs of Olive oil, some salt & pepper and toss with veggies. 
Serve on top of quesadillas