kruizing with kikukat

Monday, May 28, 2012

Black Bean Spareribs

Its Memorial Day!  Thank you to all who have sacrificed so the rest of us can enjoy the good life in the land of the free!

And speaking of free, we are free. . .free (almost) for the summer!  Yay!!!  I guess my new job (chaffeur) begins soon.  We head back to work on July 16, a date which, to most people in the Northern Hemisphere, is still considered Summer.  Unfortunately, some people where I live must have missed the "seasons" lesson while they were in school, so the rest of us will be back at work for Fall term in the middle of July.  Shit!

And for those of us working in certain geographic areas, the school day will actually be even longer, with days ending at 4:00 pm for teachers.  More time to leave more kids behind.  Double shit!!

I guess I'm feeling especially salty now because I need to go in to work this week and next week, and one of those days entails driving 1 1/2 hours to Naalehu for an all-day meeting.  I'm debating whether or not to place an order for macadamia nut cream pie from Hana Hou Restaurant.  The pie is close to $30, and I will likely be sick of it after eating it for a week, but the first 3 pieces will be thoroughly enjoyed.  And no, buying a slice is NOT enough.

So in between the inconveniences called work, I hope to make it to Oahu for a few days to enjoy the perks of city life.  I miss living in Honolulu and being able to go down to Chinatown and have dim sum at a moments notice.  Hilo has no dim sum restaurants (my freezer has the second largest assortment on dim sum in Hilo, second only to Kilauea Market), and I'm not even sure if many people here have ever experienced dim sum.  That's a shame because dim sum is one of the "musts" whenever I go to Honolulu (or Seattle or San Francisco or Woodbridge).

While there are dishes which I enjoy, black bean spareribs is one of those things that I invariably order every time.  It a challenge to nibble out the bits of meat from the bone and gristle.  Each morsel is succulent and filled with flavor.  Knowing I can make it at home doesn't stop me from ordering it in restaurants.  And since the plates tend to be really small, each taste is especially cherished. 

I've had black bean spareribs at parties (someone else made), and one thing I notice is that I seem to be partial to the versions that are steamed (the way the dim sum places do it).  Somehow, cooking it in a pot does not give the meat that same velvety texture.  Yummy!

Tomorrow I'll find out where D1's summer internship will be.  Tomorrow is also the 1st day of cheerleading tryouts, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed for D1.  D2 gets a break until next week Monday when her sewing classes begin.  She chose to go to sewing lessons.

click on recipe title for printable recipe
Black Bean Spareribs

     1 1/2 lbs spareribs, cut into 1" pieces
     2 tbsp salted black beans, rinsed and chopped
     1 clove garlic, minced
     1 tsp minced ginger
     2 tsp shoyu
     1/4 tsp salt
     1 tsp sugar
     1 chili pepper, chopped (discard seeds before chopping)
     2 tbsp cornstarch
     green onions for garnish

Poach spareribs for 30 minutes.  Drain and pat dry.  Combine spareribs with remaining ingredients (except for green onions) and place in a heat-proof bowl.  Steam for 30 minutes.  Garnish with green onions.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Cucumber and Chicken Namasu

I'm not sure I'm quite in sync with Hawaii time yet, and I've been back for over a week.  Oddly enough, The Rents, who returned from Japan on Friday, seem to be weathering the time change a lot better than me.  They even went to a party the night they returned!

The Rents went to Hokkaido and Tokyo with UMiles, AKathy & Dus on a tour organized by Marukai, the large Asian store on Oahu (and California).  The last time The Rents were in Japan was fall 2009 when they went with the Marukai group to the Tohoku/Ura Nihon region.  They both said the food this time was far better than the food they had on the Tohoku trip.

I don't know if this is a sign, but I got an email last week from Hawaiian Airlines saying they are offering Honolulu-Fukuoka flights for under $800 rt.  It seems there are a lot of little messages popping up all over for me to take a trip to Japan.  Hmmmmm. . .

The last person in the Kikukat house to take a trip to Japan was D1.  She went on a friendship visit to Sumoto in September 2011 with some members of the HHS Key Club and the East Hawaii Kiwanis Club.  As part of the "debrief", the Key Club and Kiwanis members who went on the trip got together for a luncheon a few weeks after returning.  While most of the food was catered, there were a few dishes brought in by attendees (This is Hawaii, and I'm definitely someone who feels odd to attend functions without bringing something to share).  One of these dishes was cucumber and chicken namasu.  I took a serving, and it was absolutely delicious.  The cucumbers were crunchy, and the sauce was the perfect balance of sweet and pucker.

When I was growing up, I remember namasu being at practically every family gathering, and I made it a point to NEVER touch it.  Namasu is an Asian-style marinated vegetable dish.  It is always served cold and is supposed to be a balance of sweet and sour, hence sugar and vinegar being the main ingredients in the marinade.  I wasn't a big veggie fan, and the idea of vinegar and sugar together just didn't belong. . .back then, I didn't even touch sushi.  And when you are at a function where fried chicken and baked ham grace the table, namasu wasn't even something I even considered taking!  I was definitely an adult when I tasted namasu, and I only tried it because I could hear UJohn crunching on something, and it sounded good.  That something was thinly sliced lotus root, which was sitting in a light sauce with some carrots and shredded dried shrimp.  The lotus root namasu was made by, who else, Aunty Betty (of corned beef hash patty fame).

Since that time, I've been more game at trying different namasu, although I'm still rather selective about the ingredients I see in it.  I don't usually care for namasu with seaweed in it. . .don't ask me why, but I think anything with wet seaweed in it is likely to be slimy.  I also look at the cucumbers to check out the seed factor; too many seeds floating around makes me stay away too (this is why I prefer Japanese or English cucumbers).

As was the case with cucumber and chicken namasu, as soon as I got home, I looked in a dozen cookbooks for the recipe, knowing I had seen it in several of my books.  I took a chance on one of the recipes and adjusted the ingredients so it tasted like the one brought to the luncheon.  Don't worry about having to finish eating the dish in one sitting.  The cucumbers will stay crunchy for several days.

 click on recipe title for printable recipe
Cucumber and Chicken Namasu

     2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
     4 japanese cucumbers
     1/2 c sugar
     1/2 c shoyu
     1/2 c vinegar
     1 1/2 tsp hondashi
     2 tbsp sesame seeds
     3 tbsp sesame oil
     1/4 tsp hot chili oil

Boil chicken in salted water for 30 minutes.  Shred.  Cut cucumber into pieces and soak in ice water for 30 minutes.  Drain well.  Combine cucumbers and shredded chicken with all other ingredients.  Chill until ready to serve.

Cutting the cucumbers:  The recipes I came across all said to cut the cucumber in thin slices.  In the dish brought to the luncheon, the cucumbers were cut in the most interesting way.  Each piece of cucumber actually had 3 thin slices (the middle 2 cuts are not cut all the way through).  I tried to duplicate the cucumbers in the luncheon dish because I found the larger chunks of cucumber to be easier to manage.  In the picture to the right, in the lower right quadrant, you can clearly see a cucumber with this type of cut.  The cuts allow the sauce to penetrate, but the thicker (overall) cucumber pieces match better with the shreds of the chicken.

And if you're still with me, please enjoy the slideshow I made for The Rents.  It goes well with the whole Japanese-y theme of this week's post.  Be sure your speakers are on.
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Monday, May 14, 2012

Phoenix Chili

In light of my recent trip to San Antonio, this week's featured recipe celebrates the flavors of the southwest.  San Antonio is known as the birthplace of chili, so this is truly a fitting post.

Phoenix Chili is based on a recipe given to me by a friend.  The original recipe used beef instead of chicken, and when I made it, it was unreal salty.  I liked the saucy quality of the chili, something I've been trying to make for years.  After a few changes, I came up with what I consider the perfect chili.

This chili is great eaten over rice with a small scoop of mayonnaise on the side (Hawaii style, which I'm sure some people would find gross) or atop a red hotdog (another Hawaii thing).  I'm sure it would also make a great contribution to mound of tortilla chips.  I like my chili topped with shredded cheese and served with a chunk of sweet cornbread.

If you are pressed for time (or lazy) and cannot possibly throw this recipe together, Don's Grill makes the best chili in Hilo.  Don's chili tastes very similar to this recipe, except they use ground beef.  Their chili is available for sale by the quart (good idea to pre-order if you need gallons), and you can get it hot or cold (if you are serving it later and want the convenience of heating it up when you are ready).  You can always order a bowl of it off the menu too. . .and, yes, they will gladly give you a scoop of mayonnaise on the side (Best Foods, of course).

 click on recipe title for printable recipe
Phoenix Chili

     2 lbs ground chicken
     1 small onion, chopped
     vegetable oil
     1 small can tomato paste
     2 cans (15 oz each) tomato sauce
     1 (15 oz) can tomatoes
     2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
     2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
     2 tsp sugar
     2 packets chili mix (Schilling or Lawry)
     2 (15 oz each) kidney beans

Brown ground chicken and onions is a small amount of vegetable oil.  Drain.  Add all ingredients except beans. If using whole canned tomatoes, break up with kitchen shears or smash with a spoon.  Simmer for 1 hour.  Add beans and simmer an additional hour.

Note:  Blue corn chips in the pictures are the Archer Farms brand, available at Target stores.  In a foodie magazine taste test, Archer Farms organic tortilla chips garnered "best buy" honors, second only in flavor to some multi-grain Doritos costing over $2 more per bag.  I found the chips to be light and crunchy and not overly salted.  Although I've made several references to saltiness in this post, I need you to know that I am not sodium-phobic, but some things are just too dang salty.

About my trip. . .I spent 6 nights in San Antonio, staying at the Marriot RiverCenter Hotel.  Overall, I enjoyed Texas.  The food was delicious, and I was able to see my friend Badman Jose.

I took my Nex on the trip, expecting to come home with kick-ass pics.  Unfortunately, something bad happened the day I arrived, which I didn't find out about until I got home when I uploaded the pics to my computer.  Many of my pics had a strange haze in one area.  I was worried it might be the sensor, but The Help noticed grease smudges (likely carried out of the Salt Lick) on the uv lens filter.  The Help cleaned the filter and the hazy spot magically disappeared.  Sheeeeiiittttt!!! 

Anyway, I made a short slideshow of my trip (yes, with the greasy lens pics), so please be sure your speakers are turned on.  I love the song!

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Pussyfooting: Shen Yun 2012

I was disappointed my trip would mean I'd miss Shen Yun 2012 in Honolulu, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover another touring Shen Yun troupe was performing at the Lila Cockrell Theater.

The only tickets left were in the 1st balcony section, which is likely better than i would've bought in Honolulu.

It was worth every $! The show was fantastic. The costumes were magnificent. The dancing, especially the males, was spectacular. They update the show yearly, so if I'm lucky enough to see them next year, I will seize the opportunity!

No pics were allowed in the theater, and there was someone checking purses in the ticket line (not kidding).  Luckily, I didnt have my camera.  I only wish they had a cd for sale!

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Pussyfooting: Saltgrass Steakhouse

Two nights ago, i sneaked a bite of ribeye from here. It was so good that i had to come back again for my own plate.

My meal began with a salad. There was enough ranch dressing on it to sink the Titanic, but it was good.  Then came the 12 oz. ribeye topped with lump crabmeat in lemon butter. I chose garlic mashed potatoes as my side. It was awesome.

Every meal comes with a round loaf of beer bread. I thought it was only okay, although my co-diner thought it was wonderful (she ate half the loaf).  Neither of us could manage dessert, and it didnt help that i knew how large the desserts are.

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Monday, May 7, 2012

Pussyfooting: Republic of Texas Restaurant on the Riverwalk

Tonight was another fairly disappointing dinner at the Republic of Texas Restaurant on the Riverwalk. I had an Awaushi burger, which is supposedly from a hoity-toity japanese cow. The burger was actually lean and tasty, but i really wanted a steak. Prior to settling on this restaurant, Sensei & I went to check out the menu at Little Rhein Steak House, but $50 for a steak seemed steep for the Golden Corral set. Bummer because my meal was only okay.

I was hoping to post a pic of dessert, but i didnt order dessert. About the time we thought about going out for dessert, there was a full-blown thunder/lightning storm raging. It was spooky. Even the Riverwalk shut down. I will try to get my rib eye tomorrow night!

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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Pussyfooting: Golden Corral & Saltgrass Steak House

We had quite an adventure today!  We had dinner at the feed-your-face Golden Corral. Not my idea, but i went along in the spirit of being a good team player. While i got full, the food was nothing special.  I joined up with another group and had a huge slice of strawberry cheesecake at Saltgrass Steak House on the Riverwalk. KW gave me some of his rib eye.  I hope i can get a nice rib eye for myself tomorrow.

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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Pussyfooting: Casa Rio

Happy Cinco de Mayo!  Casa Rio on the Riverwalk was the perfect setting for dinner.  Unfortunately, the food wasn't as photogenic as it was tasty.  I had a cheese enchilada and a crispy beef taco.  I forgot to take a picture of the colorful umbrellas with my phone cam, but I got a few of pics of them on my regular camera.

And happy Boys Day to y'all too!

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