Boston Luxury Chocolate Salon Tasting

>>  Friday, July 30, 2010

Trying to avoid refined sugars? Ha! Forget it!

I had the pleasure of being one of the judges for the 1st Annual Boston Luxury Chocolate Salon. Judges were sent a huge package filled with various artisanal chocolates from chocolatiers all around the US. We then judged on various aspects such as best flavor, most luxurious, most delicious ingredient combinations, and so on.

I was amazed at the level of artistry that went into some of these chocolates, such as the beautiful gems you see pictured above by William Dean Chocolate.

I know you can't lick the screen, but I can at least give you a visual tour, and maybe a few descriptions of what we thought of these chocolates. :)

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Smith & Wollensky $50 Giveaway Winners

>>  Wednesday, July 28, 2010


View from the top of Smith & Wollensky

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Smith & Wollensky giveaway!

The first winner is Abbe who said, "my favorite steak place in Boston might be Grill 23. I'm all about the sides!"

Second winner is Cavitybuster who said, "my favorite steak place is Wolfgangs on Lexington Ave in NYC. The porterhouse for 2 is delicious! Very similar to Peter Lugar's in Brooklyn, but this restaurant is right in anhattan and easy to get to."

Please e-mail me your address at jen[a]tinyurbankitchen[dot]com. If I don't hear from you by this Friday, I will pick a new winner.
Lobster pizza
Have fun in Boston's castle and enjoy the summer grill menu!

For anyone who's interested in the tour: just make a note of it in your reservation and they will gladly take you on the same tour that I got.

Have fun!
Crenellations at the top of Smith & Wollensky

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Tuna Tartare

Fatty Tuna Tartare
One of my favorite sauces is spicy mayo. You know which sauce I'm talking about - the one they use for spicy tuna rolls or spicy salmon rolls. It has an addictive flavor of its own and works really well with all sorts of raw fish.

Granted, please don't waste the sauce on really fresh fish that can stand on its own. But for your ordinary everyday roll?  Why not?

Tartare typically costs less because it's made with inferior or uglier materials. The most beautiful pieces of fish are cut into sashimi or nigiri slices. The remaining bits, which still often have great flavor but possibly compromised texture, must be chopped up and served some other way.

The ones that don't have as good flavor can easily be enhanced with the addition of this magical spicy mayo. It's a great and simple way to dress up less expensive fish into something fancy and delicious.

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Homemade Chirashi (New Deal Fish Market)

>>  Monday, July 26, 2010

Homemade Chirashi (salmon, yellowtail)
Have you ever purchased fish and eaten it raw at home?

I tried it once - ages ago. I bought a little pack of "sushi-grade" fish from a Japanese supermarket and tried to roll my own maki and shape my own nigiri.

It was such a pain! It took forever to shape each individual nigiri, and my rolls were so ugly. I had trouble making them as tight and beautiful as professional ones. Worst yet, the final product did not taste nearly as good, still cost quite a bit, and took way too much time.

So I didn't touch raw fish at home for ages.

More recently, one of my Japanese friends told me about New Deal Fish Market. Apparently, it's the best place to get fresh seafood, and all her Japanese friends got their fish there. In fact, the fishmongers are so accustomed to the Japanese customers that they'll use the Japanese terms for the fish.  Maguro anyone? Or maybe some hamachi or toro?

So, the other day, when a friend of mine suggested the idea of chirashi (so much less work than rolling individual makis or shaping little nigiris), I was sold. I made a beeline for New Deal with visions of fresh chirashi dancing in my head.

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Smith and Wollensky + Giveaway!

>>  Friday, July 23, 2010

It's not everyday you get to dine inside of a castle.

It's even more rare to be able to dine inside of an armory, especially when that armory still maintains and preserves much of the history of the original armory.

And how often do you get to climb to the top of the armory and look down towards Boston?

And then finish off with some fantastic dry-aged prime steaks, fresh lobster, and truffled mac & cheese?

Guess what? This has got to be one of the best kept secrets for tourists in Boston. Come to Smith & Wollensky, enjoy a fascinating tour of the armory, and then sit down to a great meal in the beautiful dining room.

Let me take you on a sneak peek of this experience!

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The Blue Room

>>  Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Blue Room
I get bored really easily. I hate doing the same thing over and over again and I've been known to say that "change alone is good for change's sake." As a kid I loved rearranging the furniture in my room so that I could wake up to a new environment. In general, I love diversity and I'm always looking to see, taste, and experience new things.

How does this translate to food? Well, for one, I love family-style dining because it allows you to try many more dishes at one meal. In fact, I really dislike the traditional Western way of dining which typically involves 1) a big chunk of meat 2) a  side of vegetables, and 3) a side of carbs. I get so bored working my way through that hunk of meat.

This is exactly why I love the concept of buffets. At a buffet, not only can you choose from a huge variety of dishes, you also have absolute control over the portion sizes of each different dish.

Of course there are drawbacks. The food at a buffet usually cannot be nearly as refined. Furthermore, buffet food needs to taste good long after it's been cooked, since it sits under those heat lamps or warming stations for an indefinite amount of time.
In spite of all that, there are a few buffets around Boston that have nailed this challenge and are able to serve very good food in the buffet format. Join me as I take you down the fantastic Sunday Brunch buffet line at the Blue Room in One Kendall Square, Cambridge.

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Radish Crostini with Herb Butter

>>  Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I have never been a radish person. In fact, when I was younger, they sort of made me gag almost. I'm not sure if it was the spiciness of it, or something else inherent in the flavor of the root. For whatever reason, I would pick them out of my salads and basically avoid them.

Oh the irony! I sign up for a CSA boxshare that seems to give me radishes week after week after week. First it was the French breakfast radishes, then these hot pink radishes. We even got purple radishes!

Finally, it was time for me to try and appreciate this vegetable that I had been avoiding for so long.

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Herb Butter (Compound butter)

Herbs herbs herbs.

I love herbs, and yet, if you are a city-dweller and don't have a garden (or even a small deck), herbs are a pain in the butt. They are pretty expensive, come packaged in not-so-small portions, and go bad quickly.  I am always scrambling to find uses for them.

Having a CSA boxshare compounds the problem even more. All of a sudden you have no control over which herbs you get week to week (maybe a ton, maybe none!) and then you still have the same problem of having to use them up (or preserve them somehow) reasonably quickly.

This is why the Twitter community is so great. I tweeted my problem, and within minutes I had all sorts of suggestions. This one is from Jennie, who suggested that I make a compound butter, which I could then freeze!


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>>  Sunday, July 18, 2010

Please welcome my good friend Peter, who has generous offered to write this guest post about Bergamot here on Tiny Urban Kitchen. Some of you may remember Peter's very thorough review of Melisse (Santa Monica, California) about 6 months ago. I must give Peter 100% credit for finding and telling us about this place. I'll let him give you the gory details, but I just want to say that I highly highly recommend this place! Bryan and I have each been here twice, and we think the food is fantastic and the prices are quite reasonable. Please read on to learn much much more! - Jen

What follows is a tale of abandonment, redemption and enlightenment. This is an extensive review of four visits so please grab a cocktail before you indulge.


My wife abandoned me.

No, no, we are happily married, but when friends offered her an option to go on a weekend food binge in New York City, she jumped at the chance leaving me behind. Why didn't I go? Well, I was tired from a week long conference in Orlando. More importantly, these diners had budgetary limitations which significantly narrowed their dining choices. Because Jen and Bryan had raved so highly about Daniel, it had become a mandatory destination for my next trip to the Big Apple. No Daniel, no Peter.

Late that Friday night, I was home alone with nothing to eat and my stomach growling. So I decided to explore. What's open late in Boston that's new, exciting, and untried? As I looked on the OpenTable "Fit for Foodies" list, I saw a new entry, Bergamot. They have a slot for 10pm, they are located close to my home, and I consider myself a foodie. Bingo, booked!

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Tiny Urban Tidbits #12

>>  Friday, July 16, 2010

Tiny Urban Tidbits is where I share with you some insights, "tidbits", or just random encounters from the week. I carry my camera with me everywhere I go, and I love capturing photos of interesting things that I discover. These may include new dishes from a restaurant that I've already reviewed, updates on what's going on locally, or encounters I've had in the kitchen. It could even include a beautiful sunset, a funny sign, or just stuff I find amusing. Think of it as snapshots (literally!) of my weekly experiences with food - intertwined with stories, of course.
It's been a sad sad week for two of our local food businesses. The intense flash flood last Saturday caused a ton of damage for newly opened Think Tank in Kendall Square and Taza Chocolate in Somerville.

Think Tank
Think Tank had just opened less than a month ago. A collaboration between Jay Leno, Vincent Conte, and Mitchell Muroff, this bar and restaurant with Asian-inspired food was planning on hosting other interesting activities, such as live comedy, dancing, and arcade games.

They are located in the lower level of One Kendall Square. Sadly, the flash flood brought 12 inches of water inside the restaurant causing lots and lots of damage. They are estimating that repairs might cost up to $200,000. They are currently closed and anticipate they need about 2 months before opening up again.

We visited last week and I had been planning to write a review about the place. I will wait until they reopen, for it makes no sense to write a review now when you can't visit.

Taza Chocolate
Taza Chocolate
Taza Chocolate's woes are just as sad, if not even more sad. They had just upgraded their chocolate production facility with new equipment a few weeks ago. In fact, just last week they had churned out the first batch of chocolate on the new machines. Saturday's flood caused tons of damage and they had to shut down production. The facility will be closed for at least a week, if not longer.

Taza Chocolate is asking their fans for support during this difficult time. You can support Taza by buying their chocolates or other things on their online store. Thankfully, their stockpiles of chocolate were stored on the second floor and thus not damaged. (phew!)

Check out their blog post here, which gives details about the damage to the factory.

Below are pictures from a tour of the chocolate factory I took last December. I am guessing that a lot of these machines had already been replaced, but it's still cool to see what the inside of the chocolate factory used to look like!
I'm a big fan of their chocolate. I wrote my first post about them last summer when I tasted their chocolate at The Garden at the Cellar and also at the Farmers Market.
That's all for today. Look out next week for yet another exciting Giveaway plus some reviews of some really cool new restaurants!

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Organic Cotton Produce Bags WINNER

Reusable Produce Bag
Thanks everyone for participating in this Giveaway. It was really interesting to read about all the various ways in which you thought you could do to help the environment.

The winner is lucky number 13!

Congratulations to Kristen!

Kristen said, "I should definitely be more aware of my water use, especially since we just moved to SoCal!"

Kristin, please e-mail me at jen[at]tinyurbankitchen[dot]com to claim your prize!

Thanks for playing all, and keep thinking of ways that you can reduce, reuse, and recycle!

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>>  Thursday, July 15, 2010

Red quinoa with Parsley
Native to South America, where it was one of the Incas' staples, quinoa has been around forever (some records go back eight to nine thousand years!). Sadly, when Spanish conquerers invaded South America, they killed the Incan emperor, destroyed all quinoa fields, and illegalized the farming of quinoa. Some natives would still secretly cultivate quinoa, but overall quinoa production fell to a minimum.

Interestingly, Quinoa finally made its way to the US in the early 1980's when Steve Gorad, now president of the Quinoa Corporation, discovered quinoa while on a trip to Bolivia in 1976. He totally fell in love with it and decided to cultivate and market the grain in the US.

Quinoa is actually a seed, not a grain. It's known as a pseudo-cereal because it's not a member of the grass family, but a member of the chenopod family (which also includes some of my other favorite vegetables, spinach and beets!).

The outer part of the "grain" contains bitter compounds called saponins, which are ideally removed by either washing or briefly soaking the grains. Don't soak for too long, otherwise the bitter compounds will enter the grains!

Nutritionally, what's so unique about quinoa?

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The Red House

>>  Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Red House Eggplant
eggplant contadina 8.50
thick sliced roasted eggplant topped with parmesan, tomato, fresh mozzarella & basil oil

There's this super cute little red house situated in Harvard Square a little above the street. From the inside, the house seems to be so small that the beauiful outdoor patio appears to overpower the actual dining/bar area. Truth this, several hidden and private dining rooms actually make this place much bigger than it seems.

Originally built in 1802, this house was once a private residence before beginning its second life as a restaurant (with a short stint in between as a Harvard University office building). Do you wonder why it's built slightly higher up with a retaining wall on the outside? To protect against the waters of the free-flowing Charles River!

Things are really different today, more than 200 years later, but the little red house still looks pretty much the same. It's become a quaint Italian restaurant now, with a delightful outdoor patio that's worth trying to get if it's a beautiful summer day outside.

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Reusable Produce Bags + Giveaway!

>>  Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Paper or Plastic?

Plastic bags have gotten a bad rap lately, with Whole Foods giving it up completely and San Francisco banning it outright. It's true, plastic bags take tons of petroleum per year to manufacture, plus they take a loooooong time to degrade and cause damage to marine life.

Yet an average paper grocery bag takes four times as much energy to produce (~2500 BTU vs. ~600 BTU per bag), and think of all those trees that are being cut down.

In the end, unfortunately, neither are really ideal. Many have argued that reusable bags are the way to go. They are . . . if you actually are diligent about reusing them. I've struggled with this issue a lot myself. I see a lot of these cheap, "reusable" bags that they sell in supermarkets these days, and I wonder whether they were ecologically made. I also wonder how often they are used versus how often they are thrown out, either due to their cheap quality or just because they are not being used. The solution doesn't seem nearly as simple as it might look.

And that's just the grocery bags. What about all those little plastic bags that you use to carry your vegetables, fruits, and nuts in the produce aisle?

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Fava Fennel Mint Salad

>>  Monday, July 12, 2010

This salad scream Spring! to me like no other, even though it's so perfect for those hot hot hot summer days when you don't feel like eating anything warm or heavy (for us Bostonians, that's like the last two weeks!). I love this salad because it has such a diverse yet rich mix of flavors. Fragrant fennel root slices, fresh mint, zingy scallions, and nutty fava beans come together beautifully when tossed with a bit of Parmesan, salt, and pepper.

This was my first time preparing fava beans, though, and it's surprisingly more tedious than you might think! I didn't have this luxury, but if you can get a bunch of friends to come over and help shell these beans (twice!), it'll make the experience a lot more fun.

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Tiny Urban Tidbits #11 - Sweets, Sweets, and More Sweets!

>>  Friday, July 09, 2010

It's been a sweet, sweet week! I feel like it wasn't that long ago when my post started with the phrase "lot's of chocolates for me to eat . . ." referring to the crazy boatloads of Swiss chocolates that Bryan had brought back from Switzerland for me.

We're not even close to making a dent in those . . .

And then he went to New York. To Momofuku Ko, to be exact. Sorry, they don't let you take pictures, so he has none to share from that experience, except to say that the food was amazing and one of his favorite dishes (which he kept talking about) was this lychee jelly + frozen fois gras shaving combination that worked really really well.

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Avocado Ice Cream

>>  Wednesday, July 07, 2010

I have recently rediscovered my love for avocados. This jewel of a fruit (yes, it's a fruit!) is loaded with vitamins, cancer-fighting compounds, and cholesterol-lowering fat. Most importantly, it tastes soooo goood and it's super versatile. Of course, it's all over South American cuisine, since it did originate from Mexico. But you can also enjoy it in sushi, with soy sauce, or even in a milkshake!

Did you know that an avocado has more potassium than a medium-sized banana? Or that in controlled experiments, people with high triglyceride or cholesterol levels put on an avocado-enriched diet saw a 22% reduction in their LDL-cholesterol (bad cholesterol), a 22% reduction in their triglyceride levels, and an 11% increase in their HDL-cholesterol (good cholesterol)?

Furthermore, studies seem to indicate that avocado extract, when put in the presence of prostate cancer cells, caused cell-cycle arrest in the cancer cells, essentially reducing their ability to proliferate.

Finally, avocados even help your body absorb other fat-soluble nutrients better. In fact, a study at the Ohio State University demonstrated that adding avocados to your salad greatly increased your absorption of caretenoids (linked to lower instances of cancer) from other vegetables in the salad.

If the fat in avocados are so good for you, why not replace bad fat in recipes with avocado fat?

That's exactly what this (relatively) healthy yet delectably rich ice cream recipe does.

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Trattoria Pulcinella

Trattoria Pulcinella
A small, neighborhood trattoria tucked away in north Cambridge just far enough away from any T stop to deter most people without cars, Trattoria Pulcinella lured us to their location with a 1000 point reservation on Opentable and the promise of fresh, homemade pasta in the tradition of Naples.

Intrigued yet slightly wary at the same time (we had seen slightly mixed yet mostly positively reviews), we thought it was worth trying. After all, this place was pretty close to our place. Furthermore, wouldn't it be great to have another "hidden" Italian trattoria that we could visit on a Friday night without a wait? It's always bittersweet when the rest of the world discovers our hidden finds, which inevitably happens far too often.

Hoping to find the next hidden gem, we drove out to North Cambridge to check out this little family-owned trattoria.

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>>  Monday, July 05, 2010

Canteen Turkey avocado sandwich
Green Goddess: $10.50 Basil Walnut Pesto, fresh baby spinach & asparagus, zucchini & broccoli, avocado & fresh chopped herbs tossed in a creamy cilantro lime vinaigrette! Warmed on ciabatta.

Could it be? Finally, a reversal in the depressing trend of every other restaurant and store closing in the building across the street from me? First it was Roka, then it was Il Panino. A furniture store here and there, and then The Friendly Eating Place. This would not have been so bad had it not been for the fact that none of them were replaced.  In the past ten years!

So slowly, the building across from me has become a sad, office-ghost town of sorts. It's one of several empty-ish buildings on this side of Mass Ave. The few lone remainders, Golden Touch Cleaners, University Wine Shop, and my beloved Garden At the Cellar, are among the few businesses left in that building. The trend is so sad, an entire blog has been dedicated to it.

So the other day, when I noticed that a new place had actually opened up in the old Friendly Eating Place location, I had to go check it out.

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Leisure Station (Boba Tea) Sushi Naming Contest Winner!

>>  Saturday, July 03, 2010

Tuna Maki Easy Way Boston Leisure Station

Guess what? The folks at Leisure Station were kind enough to offer TWO sets of gift certificates to TWO winners!

The first winner, chosen at random, was William, comment number 13!

William said, "I absolutely adore BBQ Eel Maki rolls"

Congratulations William!
Mochi Sushi
mochi sushi from Tiny Urban Kitchen

I also asked the folks at Leisure Station to pick their favorite roll. Helen Chang, the store manager, wrote back and said,

"After careful review I thought joyosity's idea of a sweet fusion roll with unique sweet sticky rice and fresh fruit is something I'm eager to experiment with."

Congratulations joyosity! You have also won a $15 gift certificate to Leisure Station. Furthermore, maybe your roll will be featured at the store one of these days!

William and Joyosity, please e-mail me at jen[at]tinyurbankitchen[dot]com to claim your prizes.

Congratulations everyone, and thanks for all your amazing suggestions. I really thought several of them were very creative and seemed quite tasty.

Stay tuned - I have more Giveaways lined up!

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8 Ways to Use Up Your Farm Share Vegetables (Tidbits #10)

>>  Friday, July 02, 2010


I'm stuck in a rut.

A cooking rut, that is. These farm share vegetables that keep coming back -  I find that I am preparing them the same way, over and over again. I think this happens when I run out of time, and don't have time to be creative.

And maybe some of you are in the same boat too. So I thought I would share with you what I usually do with my farm share vegetables. Maybe it will inspire some of you to try something different. Likewise, I love reading food blogs because they give me ideas for different ways of cooking familiar ingredients.

1. Stir Fry Leafy Greens with Garlic 
My default thing to do with leafy greens from my farmshare is to stir-fry them. You can stir-fry almost anything with garlic and it will taste good - beet greens, radish greens, Swiss chard, kale - you name it.  Oh, I did learn the hard way the collard greens take forever to cook, and a simple stir fry will NOT be sufficient.

Stir Fried Baby Bok Choy
I've been getting a lot of baby bok choy through my farm share lately. Baby bok choy is one of the Chinese vegetables that I almost invariably pick up whenever I go to Chinatown. I love how quickly it cooks, how great it tastes in a simple Chinese stir-fry, and how versatile it is. Not only does it work in Chinese cuisine, it's a simple, great side vegetable for a piece of steak or fish.

2. Make Chips!
If you get a reasonably starchy root vegetable, chances are you can make chips out of them. I've made all sorts of oven-baked chips: taro root, sunchokes, sweet potato, even kale "chips".
Oven-Roasted Kale "Chips"
Oven Roasted Kale "Chips"
I love using up kale this way. First of all, the roasting gives the kale an excellent, deep caramelized roasted flavor that I love. Secondly, it reduces a whole bunch of kale into a rather manageable amount. Finally, it tastes really good, more like a snack than something that's actually healthy and chock full of vitamins!

3. Blend It Up Into a Soup
Root vegetables are great for blended soups. You can mix and match them, making all sorts of interesting combinations. Here are two classics:
Yellow and Red Carrots
Carrot Ginger Soup
I have been getting quite a few lovely rainbow colored carrots lately. Although I have usually just been snacking on them raw, here's a lovely healthy and flavorful soup that you can make with any kind of carrot.

Celeriac Apple Soup
This recipe will probably become much more useful when fall rolls around. The great thing about fall root vegetables is that you can blend any combination of them together to make a lovely soup. The general rules are pretty simple: aromatic + root vegetables + broth + blender. Play around and see what you create!

Roasted Veggies

4. Oven Roast Your Root Vegetables
My default way of preparing farm share root vegetables when I don't have much time to think is to roast them all together with some olive oil, salt, and pepper. It never fails, and you can refrigerate them for use later.

I have been getting fennel bulbs in my farm share lately, and yet I have not done anything with them yet. Roasted fennel bulb is beautifully sweet, mild, and does not really taste like licorice. It pairs nicely with other root vegetables, such as carrots and parsnips (which have also been appearing in my farm share!).

Oven Roasted Beets
Oven Roasted Beets and Sauteed Beet Greens
The moment I get beets from the farm share, I toss it together with some olive oil and salt, wrap it up in some foil, and roast it. It's so versatile afterwards. You can toss it with your favorite dressing (balsamic works great) and a strong cheese, such as feta, goat's cheese, or blue cheese. You can also reheat it and eat it as a side dish with meat. If you're hungry in the middle of the night, you can even just munch on it cold straight from the refrigerator!!

5. Make Spring Rolls!

Vietnamese Spring Rolls
Have an over-abundance of basil? Or mint? Or heck, even other herbs? Make Vietnamese spring rolls! This light, refreshing, cool appetizer is healthy and delicious. Works great as a light meal and is a crowd pleaser at potlucks and picnics.

6. Make a Chopped Salad
Tomato, Basil, Mozarella, and Corn Salad
Here's my twist on the traditional caprese salad. I love fresh corn and I really think it adds to most salads. By quickly making the corn in the microwave using this super easy method, you can whip this refreshing salad together in minutes. Again, a great way to use up that excess basil!

7. Make a Cold Marinated Salad (or make pickles!)

Spicy Asian Cucumber Salad
I love this dish in the summertime. It's so refreshing, cool, and healthy. It works great as a starter or also as a side dish to some grilled meat. I will often serve it with several other Chinese dishes to be eaten with rice.

8. Try Sauteing your Root Vegetables!
Sauteed Beets and Radishes
Last week, when I really was short of time, I decided to thinly slice my radishes and beets. I sauteed them in a small amount of butter with some herbs, and they tasted fantastic. They really hit the spot, and it only took a few minutes to prepare. That's my kind of recipe.

So there you have it. Just a few of the ways in which I have been using up my farm share vegetables. I'm curious to try pickling something, or even making ice cream out of something, like beets! Stay tuned!

What are some ways that you have been using up your CSA Boxshare vegetables?

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Japanese Food Art

>>  Thursday, July 01, 2010

I've been a bit busy this week, and thus haven't had as much time to write up extensive blog posts. I did want to share something with you today to make you smile.
I love Doraemon, the Japanese cat-robot. I once even made him into a Japanese rice ball. These are Doraemon cakes from 7-11 that my mom brought all the way back from Taiwan. Aren't they cute?
Domo Eating Rice
I also love Domokun, the little Japanese brown monster that's NHK's mascot. I even made him into hamburgers awhile back. I thought it was cute that he was eating a bowl of rice with chopsticks. Fitting for a food blog, right? According to the NHK official website, Domo's favorite food is actually a Japanese beef potato stew. I love this dish too, although I've only seen it and had it in Boston at one particular Japanese restaurant.
Domo bags
At one point, I was so obsessed with Domokun that I sewed a bunch of Domo-themed bags for myself!

If you go to NHK's official Domokun site, you can play these games and then download some really cute wallpapers and clocks.

Have a wonderful day!

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you can contact me at: jen[at]tinyurbankitchen[dot]com
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