20140831-174751-64071659.jpgAfter hitting Savor Filipino, the (obviously) Filipino foodie event I’d guess of the year, wifey, A&B and I traipsed around the Ferry Building, taking in the ambience of a sunny day by the bay, breezes, long lines for the women’s restroom, and for me– a brief flirtation with a smoking gun at Sur La Table.
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20140829-195549-71749333.jpgI left work a bit early yesterday, mildly concerned that I was overreacting and that six days straight working had gotten to me, and that the cold I felt coming on (congestion, fatigue, sore throat) was simply NOT real and was a handy rationalization.

That night’s piss poor sleep convinced me, as I woke up only partially rested, thinking that my long weekend off would get trampled on by both a bad cold and a bit of required monthly inventory which I had to go into on Sunday.

Late morning found me at a nearby coffee shop, lethargically surfing the web, sipping a cortado and some passable scones, and considering my day. If I hadn’t felt so crappy I’d have been more productive, but well…I did, so rest was the order of the day. Tomorrow, Saturday, would find us with friends at the Savor Filipino food event in San Francisco but today…as soon as an erg of energy appeared, I started thinking about dinner.

I had been looking for a book about cooking a certain ubiquitous Asian snack food on and off now and when I saw Dumplings All Day Wong by Lee Anne Wong, I knew what was for dindin that night.

I had a few duck confit legs in the freezer and pulled one out for the planned meal, nuked it to sorta-room temperature, and fried it up in the skillet. I let the meat rest and get down to a comfortable temperature and then shredded it, then added the rest of the dumpling filling which included some fresh ricotta, ginger, shallot, diced dried apricot, and some other typical Asian ingredients.

The pairing of the stone fruit with the sweet marinade worked nicely with the duck confit dumplings, all dressed out on a platter of arugula and served with rice. The ‘sweet soy sauce’ wasn’t really necessary, or could have been made less sweet. I thought to replace it with arrope as a dressing the next time.

Maybe it was my cold slowing my brain down, but I didn’t get another shot of the final plate and presentation. Wifey rather enjoyed it with some minor reservations (too sweet and mouth flavor confusion) and I’ll certainly make this again, but for me, the key was to successfully make dumplings–which made the entire afternoon a success for me.

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I’m beginning to understand the versatility of these little bite-size morsels–they can be fried, steamed, cooked in broths and soup, and they easily freeze either cooked or not for almost immediate use. In my freezer I’ve got a pound of dumpling filling waiting for the right visitors to just drop by.

But they will have to help me wrap, though. That’s the deal.

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After a nearly grueling split shift at work today, up at 6am and off to work from 8-1, returning from 5-8pm, I was startlingly still ready to make dinner for my wife and I, the latter of which is quite content to simply hardboil an egg for dinner if I’m unable to cook.
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20140826-200810-72490043.jpgI had just picked up the latest September, 2014 issue of Bon Appetit, a magazine trying its level best to be cooler than you’ll ever aspire to be, does present a food pile of useful recipes. This month it’s all about the best new restaurants of 2014 and #7 on the list is Hot Joy, an Asian mashup of cuisines, and I gotta admit that the dishes look awfully good in the magazine.

And the chef is a white boy named Quealy…doing Asian/Mexican fusion…something dishes. Well! I decided on the Kale and Celery Tiger Salad (sans chili infusion in the dressing so I’ll be crying for a different reason) which at least looks startling tasty. My wife had been after me to put more greens on the table and given that kale is good for us (particularly moi when not cooked–more on that some other day) this dish sung to me.

And I want a Pisco Sour tonight!” She said on the phone. Yah, it had been that kind of day– for both of us.

Omigod. Awful awful, awful. Total salt bomb and it was my fault, trusting in the chef of the 7th best restaurant in America of 2014…and not tasting the dressing. JEEZIS aitch KEErist, the dressing was a total salt attack and even too acidic.

Taste, taste, TASTE. So this dish gets a walk, and I realize that ‘fish sauce’ varies from country to country. I had used patis, the standard fish sauce of the Philippines, but maybe the Thai stuff would have been milder? Will have to try.

We had to throw it out. Wifey felt the dish could have been saved if there had been more greens in the mix to stretch out the saltiness, but frankly, holding onto wet salad has never been much fun for me. Terrible results.

The Pisco sours, however, were awesome.

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This dish could be saved, by cutting back measurably on the fish sauce. Future wisdom.

I ended up defrosting some pita bread and slapped some Nicasio Valley San Geronimo cheese in the pockets to cleanse our palates. Yuck. Yuck. I may try again, as it was a very pretty thing to see.

Valuable lesson learned, and I need to say it before the Pisco Sour removes it from memory–taste, taste, taste. And finally… Where was the %^$&ing tiger in the dish?

20140825-215058-78658813.jpgThere is little more exasperating to me than seeing a recipe that grabs me…and then, after having put together a list of ingredients, to not remember where I saw the recipe.

Was it the latest issue of Saveur or Bon Appetit? Was it the digital edition…or was it one of my cookbooks? A pic taken somewhere out of a magazine or cookbook? #%$&!

Couldn’t find it. So while on my lunch break I hit the Internet and found it…sorta. Originally it called for karaishi mentaiko, a sort of Japanese fish roe (is that redundant?) that is marinated in some sort of chili. Yeah, I know– doesn’t sound very Japanese, but there you are.
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After a couple of somewhat heavy meals, it was time for a simple, lighter fare and this Italian style Chicken Meatballs and Vegetable Soup.

As this broth is lightly seasoned, the chicken meatballs are what pull the flavor together with its mix of chicken meat, Parmesan, chives, and garlic with breadcrumbs. I had half a Cornish game hen left over from an earlier dinner and I had shredded it for, apparently, this (little did I know).
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A fine day at work and I texted my wife to come walk to Caffe Trieste to meet me for merienda after work. She…agreed (and that ellipsis tells an entirely extra story).
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20140823-190528-68728055.jpgNot sure why people think that only natives can do justice to a particular cuisine. Is it national or cultural pride? Stubbornness? I admit to a preference to seeing Japanese natives in a Japanese restaurant and feel like shying away from such if populated and run by, say, Chinese, but this is crazy in this hodge podge, ethnically homogenized world we live in.
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Where do I begin with the challenges that this dear dessert posed me in terms of new challenges? OK,let’s start with a description of what this is. A French dessert composed of, at its simplest, puff pastry, pastry cream, a spreadable jam, and icing. Interesting in that there are four cooking or preparatory tasks to complete before assembly.

Bake store bought puff pastry:

Simple enough, just make sure that the puff pastry is thoroughly thawed and bake on a cookie sheet for about 10-12 minutes. But here’s the thing about puff pastry– it puffs. From a flat rectangle about an 1/8″ thick…to this.

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20140821-230024-82824396.jpgPhoto by Astrid Barros
When Angela called me to say that she would be getting a ride home with our friends, A & B, the first thing I asked of course, would be if they would stay for dinner. She queried and yah, a free dinner was fine with them.
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