Kiwiberry (passion popper)

>>  Saturday, October 11, 2008

Has anyone every tried a kiwiberry? I saw them at Whole Foods the other day. Having never heard of it, I thought it would be fun to try a new fruit.

They are really good! Kiwiberries are like miniature kiwis with a smooth skin (so you can just pop the whole thing in your mouth). About the size of a grape, they are more flavorful than kiwis - they are sweeter and also more tart at the same time.

I thought they were really addictive. According to the website of the one farm that sells this particular variety of kiwiberries (called "Passion Poppers"), "[t]hey are unequaled in taste, blended flavors of super sweet kiwi and exotic melon."

The flavor is definitely unique - sweet, tart, and refreshing at the same time.

Here's another picture to give you a perspective on their size:

If you are interested in trying some, you probably should go to the market soon. They have a very short harvest season (like ~ 4 weeks during the fall between Sept 20 to ~ October 20).

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>>  Friday, October 10, 2008

This is an "award winning" crowd favorite that I often make for large groups of people (It won 2nd place for "best entree" at a church cook-off). I got this recipe from my brother-in-law, who is Korean-American. :)

1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon minced ginger
3 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 pear, mashed (preferably Asian pear, but any ripe pear will do)
2 medium sized onions, sliced
3 tablespoon sesame oil
12 oz thinly sliced bulgolgi beef

Mix together the soy sauce, sugar, ginger, garlic, pear, and onions.

Mix the marinade with the sliced beef, making sure all the beef is exposed to the sauce. Let marinade for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight (in the refrigerator, of course).

The next morning, add sesame oil to the mixture, stir, and let the mixture sit for a little longer - preferably at least 30 minutes. Finally, grill the marinated meat and serve. You can also cook on a stovetop grill or pan as well. Enjoy!

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Taqueria La Mexicana

>>  Thursday, October 09, 2008

One of our Texan friends raves about this place in Union Square, so we finally decided to go there for dinner on the way to Target last night.

On our way in, we noticed all these accolades: "Best of Boston 2000: Burrito; Best of Boston 2000 and 2005: Affordable Mexican."

Wow. We both thought the food was really good, and cheap too! Most of the appetizers and entrees were between $6-$9, with a few bigger platters costing $10-$12, and the most expensive mixed grill platter costing $16.

We ordered four dishes - three appetizers and one side (although it was a pretty big side).

Coctel a la Campechana ($8.95)
This cold ceviche-like dish came in a martini glass. It consisted of Maine shrimp, calamari, and crabmeat tossed with a citrus dressing over avocado crema. It was also tossed with fresh pieces of avocado. The dish was fresh, bright, and perfectly seasoned. Very refreshing.

Gorditas Mixtas ($7.95)
These were little cornbread "tarts" topped with avocado, marinated shrimp (and possibly other shellfish), and meat (pork, chicken, or beef). This was one of my favorite dishes. The tarts were fun to eat (I love anything corn, btw), and the mix of seafood, meat, avocado, and other flavors (tomato? lemon? I'm not even sure), was really good.

Chiles Rellenos ($3.75)
This is a poblano pepper stuffed with meat and covered with cheese and baked. For $3.75 it was an amazing bargain. Again, a happy burst of flavors - it was really good. You would think it might feel greasy, but it was not greasy at all. In fact, it felt pretty healthy, if you can believe that.

Guacamole ($5.95)
Their guacamole is different from what I usually see - the avocados are not mashed up. Instead, it resembles an avocado salad, with fresh cut pieces of avocados mixed with tomatoes, cilantro, and possibly lemon juice. It was a refreshing change from the ordinary, and of course, everything was fresh and delicious.

The ambiance is also quite pleasant. They recently opened up the new Cantina in July. This is an expanded dining area with a huge bar and plenty of seating. The waitstaff was very friendly, and the atmosphere was festive.

We're both really excited that we've found another cheap and tasty option not too far from our home. Seldom do I go to a restaurant, order 4 dishes, and genuinely *really* enjoy every single dish. We can't wait to go back and try more items on their menu.

Cantina la Mexicana on Urbanspoon

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Easy Homemade Hummus & Pita Chips

I made hummus at home for the first time last night. It was so easy and relatively expensive! This is what I did:

1 can garbanzo beans (chick peas)
1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste)
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil
3 cloves of garlic
salt to taste

1) Rinse the canned beans with some water and drain
2) Stir up the tahini (since it will most likely have separated into oil + sesame paste) before adding it to the food processor
3) peal and mash the garlic cloves

Throw everything into the food processor and mix for about 1-2 minutes. Check the consistency after about a minute. You can add water to thin it out, or add some plain yogurt to make it more creamy.

Taste the hummus and adjust the flavors accordingly. Add some salt to enhance the flavor. Some people like to add extra lemon juice to make it more tart, and some people like to add lots of extra garlic cloves to kick up the flavor. Another idea, if you don't like the spicy kick of raw garlic, is to roast the garlic in the oven beforehand and then adding the roasted garlic.

When you are happy with the consistency and taste, scoop it out and enjoy!

Once you have the basics down, you can be creative and add whatever flavors suit your fancy. Some examples I've seen: mint, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and black pepper.

Homemade Pita Chips
One has to have pita chips to eat with the hummus, right? This is also another really easy, fast, and healthy snack food that you can make.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cut up pita bread (plain works best, although whole wheat works OK too) into chip size pieces. Spread in one layer (preferably) onto a baking sheet. Spray both sides of the pita slices with olive oil. I use a hand-pumped oil spritzer so I can pick the type of oil I use, but you can probably use a commercial product like PAM. Sprinkle a small amount of salt over the chips, and then bake for 10 minutes.

Perfect, warm and crispy pita chips at a fraction of the cost of store bought chips.

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Wagyu Beef - the Kobe of America

>>  Monday, October 06, 2008

It was Bryan's birthday today (Monday). As part of a weekend birthday celebration, we bought Wagyu beef at a local market called Savenor's and opened up a nice bottle of wine (2003 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve) for dinner on Sunday evening.

Wagyu beef prices range from $40 a pound to hundreds of dollars a pound. The pieces we got were relatively reasonable, at $40 a pound. You can see that these steaks have less marbling than certain pictures I've seen online, which may account for the lower price.

Some interesting facts about Wagyu beef. Wagyu beef comes from a breed of cows that originated from Japan. Called Kobe beef in Japan, the breed was exported to the US in 1992 under a trade agreement between the US and Japan. All "Kobe" beef outside of Japan is called Wagyu beef.

Wagyu beef is heavily marbled with fat that is very evenly distributed throughout the meat. Although Wagyu cows are already genetically predisposed towards marbled muscle, Wagyu breeders promote additional marbling by feeding the cows a diet of grains, beer, and sake and regularly massaging the cows.

Surprisingly, Wagyu beef is actually relatively healthy because its fat has an unusually high amount of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid. In fact, Wagyu beef has a 2:1 ratio of monounsaturated fat to saturated fat. Indeed, even the saturated fat in Wagyu beef is better. 40% of the saturated fat in Wagyu beef is stearic acid, a fatty acid known to have little impact on blood cholesterol levels. Finally, Wagyu beef has higher amounts of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acid than normal beef.

The best way to enjoy a Wagyu steak is to simply grill the steak, preferably rare or medium rare. There is no need for marinades, steak sauces, etc. because the meat itself is so flavorful.

Ideally, the steak is at room temperature before cooking, although it can also be grilled straight from the refrigerator.

I typically rub olive oil on both sides of the steaks and season with freshly ground black pepper, white pepper, and a little bit of salt.

I heat my cast-iron pan until it is quite hot, and then I sear the steak for about 3-4 minutes on one side, and about 2-3 minutes on the other side. This particular piece of steak was about 1 inch thick and was starting at room temperature. Add a minute or so if you are cooking a steak straight out of the refrigerator. Additionally, if your steak is thinner, cut down the time significantly. Ideally, I would recommend trying to get a steak that is at least 1 inch thick.

After grilling, let the steak rest for a minute or so before serving.

The steak was absolutely delicious, although it created so much smoke in the house that we had to open the windows for about 5-6 hours to get the smell of steak out of our condo.

As discussed earlier, we enjoyed this with 2003 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. Since the wine is still a bit young, we found that decanting it for about 2 hours was perfect. I also steamed some snap peas in the microwave (3 minutes) and tossed it with some oyster sauce, soy sauce, and salt. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of the finished product.

All in all, an excellent meal.

Happy Birthday Bryan!

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