kruizing with kikukat

Monday, September 29, 2014

Black Bean Crab

I am in Honolulu today!  I haven't been back here since March!  I will be back here next week for LA's wedding, but today's trip came as a small surprise.  Last week I was asked by several school administrators to replace a fellow teacher on a school team.  They said she (my comrade) had suggested me as a replacement for her, as she currently has her hands full with personal issues.  Once I agreed, I was told to plan to be in Honolulu this week.  Yikes!!!

And leave it to the state to be so inept.  They "designated" a hotel to stay at, trying to ply educators with discounted room rates.  What a crock of shit!  First of all, the hotel is in a seedy area, which is ridiculous if you are a woman staying alone.  Related to the seedy area is the "entertainment" choices surrounding the hotel.  NO!  There are hardly any food establishments (not watering holes) within safe walking distance.  The hotel reeks of the days when smoking in hotel rooms was prevalent.  DISGUSTING.  And the worst can get a hotel room for the same $ or even less in a better part of town.  The discounted rate isn't really much of a discount at all.  And let's be clear...whether you stay at this dive or at a better place, the per diem offered as compensation is still the's not like it will cost them more if you chose to stay at the Hyatt.

I plan to devote my attention during the workday to whatever the workshop is about.  When I agreed to be on the school team, I realized that it came with a certain expectation.  It is only fair.  But when the workshop is done for the day, I'm going to have some fun and enjoy myself.  I can't wait to jump on the opportunity to enjoy 2 dinners in Honolulu.  Hmmmmm...where to go and what to eat?  The options are endless.  Hope I get to see some old friends too.

There are so many great restaurants in Honolulu.  I think that's what I miss most.  It's the one thing that, even after moving to Hilo and living here for the past 20 years, I haven't quite managed to overcome.  Let's face it.  The dining out choices in Hilo are nothing compared to what you can find in Honolulu.

When I lived in Honolulu, me and my bff EDZ would dine out all the time.  We usually lunched together at Orson's on Sundays, although at any time during the week, we might hook up for a dinner.  Because EDZ was working with the inside-out aloha shirt crowd, he'd lunch during the week at all these places and we'd get to re-visit some of these places at night...Han Yang, Mama's, Kabuki...just to name a few.

Of course, if it was up to me, I'd invariably pick Chinese (this lapse in better judgment would eventually come around to haunt me in the future, and that itself would be enough fodder to begin a new blog).  Back then, THE dish I wanted to eat was black bean crab.  I must've ordered it at nearly every restaurant I visited.  Some places would just have some starchy black bean sauce poured over the cracked crab and vegetables.  At other places, the black bean sauce would be studded with ground pork.  It was a treat to eat the dregs (after all the crab pieces were gone) over a bowl of rice.

Now that I'm older and wiser, I've become rather adept at making this favorite dish at home.  I make it  the way I like it...crab and a hearty ground pork vegetables.  The Ds (well actually just D2 since D1 is now allergic) would prefer an unadulterated crab...just heated and served with a pot of melted butter.  But The Help and I love it this way.  I've trained The Help to disjoint, clean and crack the crab.  Perhaps he might be able to find employment at a Chinese restaurant, should his helping gig not work out.

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     1 dungeness crab, cooked
     3 tbsp salted black beans, rinsed & chopped/mashed
     2 eggs
     1 tbsp sugar
     2 tbsp oyster sauce
     2 tbsp shoyu
     3 tbsp cornstarch
     1/3 c water
     2 tbsp oil
     2 cloves garlic, minced
     1" piece ginger, minced
     1/2 lb ground pork
     green onion, chopped

Clean and chop crab into serving pieces.  Combine black beans, eggs, sugar, oyster sauce, shoyu, and cornstarch.  Set aside.  Combine cornstarch and water, set aside.  Heat oil in a wok.  Saute garlic, ginger, and ground pork until pork is cooked.  Add crab pieces.  Stir until heated.  Add egg mixture.  Stir until cooked.  Push crab pieces to the side and add cornstarch.  Cook until thick, gradually stirring pork mixture into cornstarch mixture.  Remove to a serving platter and garnish with green onions.
What an up-and-down weekend!  My beloved Huskies lost a heartbreaker to Stanford.  They came so close to the upset but self-destructed in the 4th quarter.  I don't get it.  We were at home too.  Did we really hire the right guy for the job?  One must wonder.  I know I'm wondering.  Coach P, show us what you got.  Prove to me you deserve the job.  I'm still thinking MarquesT would've had my vote.  Not only did he get the bowl victory, but he is a hometown boy and a Husky. 

A bright spot of the weekend came late Saturday afternoon.  Leave it to high school football to rescue me from the dumps.  We scored a definitive victory over the Cougars to spoil their homecoming.  Actually, it was bittersweet.  Winning is always the goal, however when it's so lopsided, you can't help but feel for the other team.  Hopefully we can win our homecoming game next week.

Saturday evening turned out to be unexpectedly edgy.  What began as a calm night turned into turmoil just after midnight.  I felt something crawling on my tummy.  I flicked it off and was startled by the sound it made when it landed on some paper on the floor.  It was a blue centipede!  It took about 10 minutes of throwing things about to find it again.  It had crawled under some other papers and under the highboy before it crawled back out again.  The Help was able to snatch it up with a pair of tongs and douse it under the 190-degree tap.  Ughhhhh.  We haven't seen one of those in a while, but I suppose the hunt for water drove it indoors.

And just after the centipede incident, when I was already sinus-y from all the dust kicking up during the centipede safari, Mother Nature decided to have herself heard.  Flashes of lightning and loud bangs of thunder put the dogs on edge.  Between the thunder and the barking, I could not get back to sleep.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Feels Like Fall 2: Mini Dutch Apple Tarts

It was great to feel "back to normal" by mid week.  I was still a little queasy and weak when I went to work on Monday, but by Friday, I was BACK!  Both Ds spent a day out of school this week with miscellaneous ailments, but both of them seem BACK as well.  Unfortunately, by last night I felt under the weather again...sinus-y, scratchy throat, cold sore...yet totally different symptoms than the previous week.  I was hoping to begin the fall season with good health, but perhaps 2 out of 3 of us being healthy isn't too bad.

In a few weeks, the first quarter of the school year will be ending.  Most of my students are passing, and I have been pleasantly surprised at how they have been willing to rise to the challenge of SpringBoard.  This commitment to working steadily at something difficult will serve them well in the future.

Speaking of working steadily, The Help was extremely busy this week.  He took on the daunting project of cleaning the fishpond filter.  In spite of having a UV sterilizer, the fishpond had been looking rather dirty recently.  He also ordered new gaskets for one of the pool controls, cut back the bambusa chungii clump in the back yard, took my car for a safety check, and was finally able to pick up his car from the dealer in Kona.  He made a second trip to Kona on Saturday to take me to Costco and shoot the high school football game.  Whew!

Since he was already on the other side of the island on Wednesday, The Help made a quick stop at Costco to pick up provisions.  I told him to buy a tray of apples, and he came back with SweeTango apples for us to try.  I never heard of SweeTango apples before, and after eating them, I can honestly say I didn't care much for them.  I prefer a sweeter, crisper apple like Fuji or Envy.  SweeTango is known as an extremely juicy apple, but I guess juiciness is not a characteristic I value in an apple.  So not wanting to have to force myself to eat a dozen "not my cup o' tea" apples out of hand, I decided to make some type of dessert with the apples, after all, my fresh apple cake has become my most popular blog post.

TBH, I am really not much of a pie person.  I hate to make the crust.  I am not good at rolling out the dough in to a flat, even disk.  My rolled-out crust dough often is scraggly and has pukas (holes) everywhere.  While I don't like to get my hands dirty, pressing a crust into a pan is preferable to the whole rolling out process.

Perhaps that's why I've taken so well to mini tarts.  A few weeks ago, I posted a recipe for Chinese egg custard tarts.  I actually enjoy making those tarts because they seem like they are a lot of work when they really aren't so difficult.

These mini Dutch apple tarts really aren't the hell work they seem to be either.  The crust comes together so quickly.  The filling is also easy to prepare.  While the posted recipe doesn't make a lot, my suggestion would be to at least double the recipe if you plan on serving this to more than 4 people. 

click on recipe title for printable recipe
Mini Dutch Apple Tarts

Crust:  1 1/2 c flour
            1 tbsp sugar
            1/2 c cold butter
            2 tbsp cold Crisco shortening
            1 egg

Filling:  2 apples, chopped (best to use at least 2 different types)
             1/4 c sugar
             1/2 tsp cinnamon
             1 tbsp minute tapioca

Topping:  2 tbsp sugar
                3 tbsp flour
                1 1/2 tbsp cold butter

For crust, combine flour, sugar, butter and Crisco in the bowl of a food processor.  Process until fine crumbs form.  Add egg.  Process just until dough holds together.  Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface.  Knead 15 seconds.  Divide into 18 pieces.  Press each piece into a 2 1/2" mini tart pan.  Place on a flat baking pan and chill while preparing topping and filling.  In same food processor bowl, make topping by combining all ingredients.  Place in a small bowl and keep chilled.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Make filling by combining apples, sugar, cinnamon and tapioca.  Divide evenly among tart shells.  Spoon topping over filling.  Place on foil/parchment/silpat lined baking sheet.  Bake for 25 minutes.  Let cool on rack (in tart pans) for 10 minutes.  Carefully remove from tart pans and leave on rack to cool completely.

Makes 18.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Almost Zuni Cafe: Oxtails for Dinner

This week started off fine, but by the time the work week was over, I had been through hell.

I woke up Thursday morning with severe stomach cramps.  The cramps were so bad that I succumbed to The Help's suggestion of the ER.  Luckily, when we got there, they weren't too busy and could take me immediately.  They hooked me up to all kinds of IV fluids and gave me a narcotic painkiller which I think screwed me up for most of the day.

Before I got to the ER, I wasn't suffering from nausea, but by the time I left (to make space for others who needed a room more than me), I was so nauseated that the nausea became my greatest enemy (not the cramping).

I was able to go to the doctor on Friday, and he suspected it was some kind of virus which caused all the discomfort.  He also took me off of the antibiotics from the ER.  By Friday evening, I was ravenous!

Luckily, earlier in the week, I had made braised oxtails for dinner.  We hadn't revisited the leftovers all week because we kept going out for dinner (we went twice this week to Restaurant Kenichi!) but having the leftover oxtails came in handy.  In spite of my stomach discomfort, I wolfed down a bowl of food.  Even leftover oxtails are delicious.

Did I mention how much I love oxtails?  I really do.  I remember eating it (oxtail stew) as a little kid.

Kikukat Mom recently made Chinese-style oxtail soup with peanuts.  It was delicious.  We had it for lunch at ABetty's house in Mountain View.  My favorite part, after the oxtails, was the peanuts.  Yum.

I occasionally see oxtails in the market here, but I usually buy the double pack from Costco.  The double-pack contains about 4 lbs of oxtails.  It's the perfect amount to make a quasi-Zuni Cafe version of braised oxtails.

Admittedly, I have never been to the Zuni Cafe, but back in the 90s, I received a fundraiser cookbook which had some kind of Zuni Cafe scone recipe in it.  A few years later, I purchased the Zuni Cafe cookbook from Borders (before they went out of business in Hilo).  I spent days poring through the book, mentally separating which recipes were feasible for home construction and discounting anything which contained the Devil's condiment (the short ribs sounded yummy until I saw IT in there).

However even after all these years, the only recipe I've made from the cookbook is the braised oxtails.  I've been wanting to make the scones and try their version of roast chicken, but like many of their recipes, including the braised oxtails, the directions are extremely exacting/fussy.  Having made the braised oxtails multiple times, I decided to exercise some amateur cook judgment and cut some corners.  The original recipe suggested using the shank of a pigs leg to add more flavor.  I've never done that.  The recipe also included directions for browning the oxtails, instructing one to start over if things began burning.  Too fussy.

And after exploring the Zuni Cafe website for this post, I think I'm going to spend some time revisiting the Zuni Cafe cookbook.  Maybe, after all these years, I'll finally make the scones and roast chicken!
click on recipe title for printable recipe

     3-4 lbs oxtails
     4 c beef broth
     1-2 tbsp olive oil
     1 3/4 c red wine
     splash of brandy
     2 bay leaves
     1 branch parsley
     1 branch thyme
     few cloves garlic
     1 large carrot, cut into 2" lengths
     few stalks celery, cut into 2" lengths
     1 medium onion, cut into wedges
     1 can (about 15 oz)  canned tomatoes (whole peeled), coarsely chopped
     2 large russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 8-10 2" pieces

Simmer beef broth until reduced to 2 cups.  Salt oxtails and brown in olive oil in a 6 qt Dutch oven.  Deglaze pan with red wine and brandy.  Heat until wine is reduced to half.  Add reduced beef broth.  Return oxtails to pot, "eyes" facing up.  Add bay leaves, parsley, thyme, and garlic.  Fit carrots, celery, onions & tomatoes in spaces between oxtails.  Cover and bake in a 300 degree oven for 2 1/2 hours.  Remove cover and bake an additional 30 minutes.  At this point, oxtails can be refrigerated overnight and hardened fat removed before proceeding, or ladle liquid into a fat separator to remove as much fat as possible.  Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Place potato pieces under oxtails.  Bake (covered) for 45 minutes or 60 minutes (if chilled overnight), uncovering for last 30 minutes.

Since I was feeling almost normal by Saturday afternoon, The Help and I accepted Brucie's generous offer to come out to his place to view the smoke from the burning trees caused by the advancing lava flow in Pahoa.  
We got there in the late afternoon and stayed for a few hours (until it got dark).   The weather was beautiful, save for the brief, light shower just before dark.

The Help was able to get some neat pics like this (to the left).  The picture shows the glow from the lava as it makes its way towards Pahoa town.  It was surreal to see the long-exposure picture, which allowed both the lava glow and stars to be visible.  The Help also managed to get some "silky water" pictures from the top of the cliff.  While he was busy doing his thing, I got to chitchat with Brucie and play with my niece Nicole.  She is absolutely darling.

We'll be heading out there again on a cloudless night to get some pictures of the Milky Way.  I've said this before, and I'll say it again...Brucie is whom I wanna be when I grow up!

Monday, September 8, 2014

I Heart Tarts: Egg Custard Tarts

Today is the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month, which means it is Moon Festival (a.k.a. Mid-Autumn Festival), the second biggest Chinese holiday. 

Unfortunately, Moon Festival in Hilo is not commemorated by a holiday.  When I was growing up, the United Community Church would host a Moon Festival dinner.  The Moon Festival banner would be displayed for weeks leading up to the dinner.  My parents would invariably have tickets, and we'd go to pick up food.  I remember there was tough and chewy kau yuk (steamed pork or pot roast pork) and sweet-sour spareribs on the plate, but neither were as good as homemade or the kind from Leung's.  I don't remember anything else on the plate, but I'm sure there was a round scoop of sticky white rice.  Mr. Dependable, whose family did the same (get tickets and pick up food), tells me the food was indeed less than memorable.

I suppose if we lived in Honolulu, we would've taken part in a more proper celebration...go out to eat, buy mooncakes, etc.  I know which restaurants would be on my list too.  Legend Seafood Restaurant or Hee Hing would be at the top of my list.  And I would go to Chinatown to Sing Cheong Yuan (formerly Shung Chong Yuein) to buy mooncakes and pastries.

street view of Harbor City Restaurant

Actually, I don't like mooncakes so much.  The kind we have in Hilo is either stale or preserved with more chemicals than the specimens in biology class.  I don't have a mooncake mold, so I really can't make my own.  So instead of mooncakes, I will be making another Chinese dessert. . .egg custard tarts.

I think it's a Chinese thing, but both Ds love gai dan tat (egg custard tarts).  Whenever we get to go to a dim sum restaurant, they will always get a plate of these tarts for dessert.  Unfortunately, the Ds weren't with me when I went to Harbor City Restaurant (Seattle).  The egg tarts there were the best I've ever had.  The custard filling was good, but it was the crust which made the Harbor City tarts outstanding.  It was the same pastry dough used for a barbecue pork pastry.  Crisp, flaky, light, and, I'm sure, filled with lard!

Because there is no handy-dandy dim sum restaurant where I live, I had to learn to make these tarts at home.  Of course, I don't have lard at home, and I think the idea of even buying lard grosses me out.  If I'm gonna clog my arteries, I will do it with butter.  I will be the first to admit that my tarts are nowhere close to the Harbor City tarts (the crust).  But its rather inconvenient, not to mention costly, to fly to Seattle just to enjoy a Moon Festival meal at Harbor City...or is it???

click on recipe title for printable reipe
(adapted from Judy Lew's Dim Sum Appetizers and Light Meals)

Crust (makes 18 2 1/2" tarts)

     1 1/2 c flour
     1 tbsp sugar
     1/4 tsp salt
     1/2 c butter
     2 tbsp Crisco shortening
     1 egg

Combine flour, sugar and salt.  Cut butter and shortening into flour mixture until mixture resembles coarse sand.  Add egg.  Mix well.  Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth.  Divide into 18 pieces.  Press each piece into a 2 1/2" tart pan.

Egg Custard Filling

     3/4 c milk
     6 tbsp sugar
     3 tbsp warm water 
     3 eggs, beaten
     1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Combine sugar and warm water.  Stir until dissolved.  Add milk, eggs, and vanilla and stir well.  Pour through a sieve to remove any solids.  Divide among lined tart pans, filling almost to the top.  Place filled tart pans in flat pan.  Bake for 25 minutes.  Cool for 15-20 minutes before carefully removing tarts from pans.

I had my first run-in with a teacher last week.  D2's teacher called, telling me she'd be receiving an F on her mid-quarter progress report for not doing an assignment.  I was puzzled because I had seen her working on it.  Furthermore, this teacher was named by D2 as "my favorite teacher", so the sting was even greater.  I was absolutely livid.  The teacher continued on, saying that she would be docking 5 points off for every day it was late.  By the time she called over 2 days had passed since the due date.  When I confronted D2, she produced the paper from her bag, complete with markings by the teacher.  WTF?!?  The teacher had forgotten that D2 had attempted to turn it in early!  I paid a visit to the teacher who, needless to say, was less than thrilled to see me.  She greeted me by saying that she was prepping for her class and had no time to speak to me.  But I apologized for my outburst on the phone and noticed that she had D2's paper on her desk.  By the time I left, 5 minutes later, we shook hands and hugged (Hawaiian style).  The teacher changed her mid-quarter grade to an A and added a smiley-face.  D2 said now her teacher knows her mom is crazy. 

Ending the week on the plus side, both HHS squads scored victories over the Kamehameha-Hawaii Warriors.
JV QB Tiogangco makes a run for it
In spite of never leading until the very end, the varsity won a thriller which went into overtime.  The game was filled with penalties, not all legit, called against HHS.  The most blatant happened in front of my very eyes.  The ball touched the ground before it was in possession, yet the visually-impaired ref called it complete.  #dumbass #goseeanoptometrist It was my first experience with 20-20 scoring. 
taking down the QB
#4, my favorite varsity running back

Monday, September 1, 2014

Long Rice Salad

Happy Labor Day!

Today is a much-deserved holiday.  Looking forward to the 4-day work week.  I've been awake since 4:45 am.  Yes, I know it's a holiday, but I had to take D1 to the airport for some kind of 1-day Key Club convention on Oahu.  I hope she brings back some yummy snack for me.  Not sure why, but I've been ono for Beard Papa (cream puffs).

A whole bunch of my friends went to Honolulu this weekend.  There was an HSTA meeting as well as a food and wine festival.  I wish I could've gone to the food and wine festival.  My new favorite Hilo restaurant, Full Moon Cafe, was there.  I missed my smoky sashimi fix this weekend.  For all you Hilo expats living away, the next time you come home, Full Moon Cafe is a must-try.  Their menu is small and changes daily, ensuring that food is only made with fresh ingredients.  I cannot get enough of the smoky sashimi.  Actually, it's a smoky shoyu with chili pepper oil.  It is kick-ass!

As I was saying, this is a much-deserved holiday for me.  I feel like I've been working like a dog.  Things at work have been hectic, and last week, one of my new coworkers announced his departure.  That leaves a big hole because we really could've used his expertise this year.  Alas, Rhode Island pays better than Hawaii, and a former Hawaii administrator has been recruiting heavily on the East side of the Big Island...she already got another administrator to move.  I wonder who else will follow the pied piper.

I also wonder what else will be placed upon my plate (as well as the other teachers) due to our coworkers departure.  Come to think of it, I wonder what his advisorship was.  And on a very personal level, I wonder who will buy his car.  He has a cute Mini Cooper.  If it had Union Jack mirrors, it would already be in my garage!

As if things weren't hectic enough, last week Wednesday my new elliptical arrived.  I was expecting it sometime this week so I was surprised to come home from work to find The Help assembling it.  The box was huge.  I'm not even sure how he managed to get it into the house without my help.  I have been trying to adjust from the treadmill (now in my neighbors living room) to the elliptical, and it hasn't been easy.  I usually walked over 2 miles each morning on the treadmill, but I've come to realize there is no such thing as "walking" on an elliptical".  It is fricking hell.  I cannot last more than 5 minutes on the dang thing, and my thighs burn at minute 3.  At minute 4, I think I went into cardiac arrest from the dang elliptical.  After 5 minutes, I gave up.  It was no better on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday either...thigh burn, cardiac arrest, give up...every single time.

And sometime between the last post and this one, Kikukat Blog surpassed one million page views.  Wow.  I really didn't expect that!  I began this blog in May 2010, just as I was closing the second darkest year (hope it won't be third darkest!) in my career.  I was looking for a way to keep in touch with faraway family and friends...people who were near and dear to me and helped keep me sane.  So for those of you who read my blog, thank you for giving me this venue to bitch, celebrate, and hang with you.  I hope to see you at the 2-million mark!
click on recipe title for printable recipe

     1 large pkg. long rice*
     1 Japanese cucumber
     1 kamaboko
     1 pkg bean sprouts
     1/2  c sugar
     1/2 c rice vinegar
     2 tbsp shoyu
     2 tsp sesame oil
     1 tsp ginger juice

Cook long rice for 5 minutes in boiling water.  If using Nice brand long rice, cook 10 minutes.  Rinse in cold water, drain and cool.  Spread in an even layer on a serving platter.  Cook bean sprouts in boiling water for 3 minutes.  Rinse, drain and cool.  Spread over long rice.  Sprinkle cucumber over bean sprouts, followed by kamaboko.  Cover and chill until ready to serve.  Combine remaining ingredients in a jar.  Shake well.  Chill until ready to serve.  Shake dressing prior to serving.

*Hawaii might be the only place where we refer to bean thread noodles as "long rice".  In other parts of the world, I think it goes by "cellophane noodles" and "glass noodles".  There are several brands to choose from, and the brand I try to buy is Nice.  The Nice noodles come in a flat pack, rather than bunched in a compact bundle like other brands.  You will need 3-4 ounces (dry weight) for this recipe.
Mike and Matsu, you guys missed a great football Saturday!

The JV played Pahoa's 8-man squad and the varsity played HPA.  The JV game was interesting, as I had never seen an 8-man game before.  Pahoa had some big boys, but the scrappy Viks managed to dominate.  Mercy rule kicked into play.  I got to see my favorite JV running back do some damage to the Dagger defense.
#11 rocks

By the time the varsity game began, it was already dark.  The Help told me my assignment was to shoot "emotion".  I think I did well.  The picture above shows elation.  It's apparent the players and coaches are happy.  I was able to capture the player getting air!

The picture to the right shows reverence and respect.  The boys listen politely as one of the coaches speaks with wisdom. 

The varsity game saw a repeat of the mercy rule, and I was most glad to see that no player was seriously injured.  As a parent, being down on the field is a little disturbing.  I do not like the sound helmets make when they slam against each other, nor do I enjoy hearing the wind knocked out of a player.  It really is spooky when someone takes a little longer to get to their feet.

But what I hate even more than the raw side of football brutality is asshole poser photographers who use flash on the field!  Apparently, the dickhead wearing the red HPA t-shirt had no regard for safety, judging from his flash bursts blinding the players (HPA player included).  Show some respect for the players, asshole! 
it doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out why the Kamakani receiver missed this pass
Oh, and I almost forgot...emotion in the last picture is despair.