saltandpepper2013

Eat Your Words

Politics for the Hungry February 2, 2013

Filed under: Assignments — marissachinn @ 2:57 am

It is hard to know what to believe with so much contradicting information out there.

“Everything is good in moderation” says my dad.

“People say a little bit isn’t bad for you, but it really is” says my friend.

Who are you supposed to believe? There will always be someone out there who has the opposite view as you. I try to eat organic as much as possible, but it adds up. I also believe in supporting local farms by shopping at farmers markets, but I don’t always have the time to drive the extra 20 minutes. It takes initiative and commitment to live by your values.

I have many close people in my life who are strict vegans, vegetarians, and even one friend who doesn’t eat fat, oil, dairy, or meat. It seems obsessive to me, and unnecessary. I understand the current corruption of the meat industry, but I personally don’t believe that going cold turkey, no pun intended, is the answer. In addition, my philosophy is that life is short, so why deprive myself of something delicious. However, because of the issues with the meat industry I have cut back on the amount of meat that I consume, but to give it all up seems like more of a punishment for me than the harm it would do to the meat companies.

Bottom line is that I believe you should do what you value. Just because your best friend is an activist promoting a vegan lifestyle, doesn’t mean you have to follow, trust me.

 

Interview with Mom January 30, 2013

Filed under: Assignments — marissachinn @ 6:52 pm

Mom's pics 278One of the many things I love about my mom is that she shares her kitchen. My youngest brother and I have always been curious about cooking and concocting our own crazy and not always tasty foods. Ever since we were little we had free range in the kitchen. Most moms would have hovered over telling you it’s time to reduce the heat, or explain that is not the right way to cook an omelet, but not my mom. She was always there in case I needed to seek out guidance but for the most part she treated our kitchen like an art studio. Because my mom was trusting, it allowed my cooking creativity to blossom, and for that I am grateful.

Me: What did I hate eating when I was younger?

Mom: Pasta with red sauce

Me: What did I love eating?

Mom: Ice cream

Me: What type of ice cream?

Mom: We usually only had vanilla.

Me: Did you cook different things before you were married than after?

Mom: Yes, I started cooking softer foods and not as much tougher meat because if it didn’t go down quickly and you had to chew a lot you wouldn’t eat.
Me:  How did you start cooking? What made you want to start?

Mom: I started cooking when I was 8 because my mother and father worked all the time and I had to cook dinner.
Me: What were my table manners like as a kid?

Mom: As a real little kid ate with your hands, you didn’t like using utensils.
Me: How were your parents cooking?

Mom: They were cooks in a hurry.

Me: What did your parents cook?

Mom: Hamburger Helper.
Me: What are your favorite food memories of me growing up?

Mom: Thanksgiving, because that was probably our biggest meal through the whole year, there was a lot of food and we all went in and cooked it.
Me: Is there a special food that reminds you of me?

Mom: Cheese quesadillas, Ho Yo with noodles and broccoli.
Me: Did you have any kitchen disasters?

Mom: I made quiche once and it didn’t cook. Also, 16 bean soup when I almost burnt down the house.

Me: Uh, care to elaborate on the 16 bean soup incident? I asked in hesitation.

Mom: I was quick soaking some 16 bean soup. I had it on and I remembered it was time for me to go volunteer at the library at school, for the book fair. I was showing someone the price of the cook books when I remembered that I had 16 bean soup cooking on the stove. So I ran home and found the house full of smoke and the fire alarm is blaring so I jerked out the batteries of all the alarms because I was confused and I couldn’t see anything. I grabbed where the most smoke was using pot holders, put it outside, opened up all the windows and doors, grabbed the guinea pigs in their cages and put them outside, and tried to get the smoke out of the house. Ended up having to call the fire department to get the smoke out of the house, with huge fans. The whole house smelled like smoke for 2 months, I treated all the upholstery and fabric.

Me: At least the guinea pigs were okay.

Mom: Yeah.

Me: Are there any recipes you would want to pass on through the family?

Mom: Steamed persimmon pudding, eggnog, and persimmon bread.

Me: Those sound great, I would love to get the recipes for them.

Mom: Two are written down somewhere and one is in my head.
Me: If you could have any meal, the ultimate meal, what would it be?

Mom: I would have eggnog, sourdough bread homemade and lots of butter on the bread. I mean lots of butter.
Me: Do you enjoy cooking, or do you do it because you have to?

Mom: I do it because I have to.

My mom and I are more similar than we think. Just as my mom did growing up I also know the ups and downs of having both parents work full time jobs. You learn that some nights you have to make you and your siblings’ dinner, something that is easy, hearty, and fast, like putting frozen chicken strips in the oven. And although my mom doesn’t share the same love for cooking that I do, I think she has done a wonderful job at feeding her family. Although there have been some bumps in the road, such as her Hamburger Helper phase, I can tell she has truly evolved as a cook. It is no easy task to cook for a family of 6 with a vegan, two carnivores, and a very picky eater (myself), but somehow she does it all. Thanks mom!

 

Finding Soul in Berkeley January 26, 2013

Filed under: Assignments — marissachinn @ 12:54 am

If I could rename the Gourmet Ghetto, I would call it Artisan Soul. To me, soul food isn’t necessarily Jamaican food but something that reminds me of home. This is true especially during winter, when I’m longing for Christmas break to go home and eat a home cooked meal.

But in the meantime, while still living in the East Bay, there is Soop to fulfill this home-sick dilemma.  Soop can be enjoyed during any season. For example, during the summer the order-at-the-counter restaurant serves a watermelon pureed soup with salt and cucumbers. But during the cold, rainy, winter, the vegan Thai red lentil soup is the food students find comfort in. Red lentils and circular, chopped, lemon grass is where hearty meets citrus. The presence of the opaque, cultured, and sweet with memories, coconut milk takes me away to Asia. The flavors impart a fine balance between worldliness and home. The textured, simmered, sensitive, lentils easily give up their structure with every small bite.

The restaurant Poulet can be best described as mom’s healthy cooking phase. Dishing out butternut squash that is orange turned yellow when roasted and densely sweet. It is mixed with the light summer flavors of avocado and cilantro. Walnuts, onions, and Dijon mustard dressing bring the two best seasons, winter and summer, together into a soulful dish. Lastly, a side of quinoa salad with ancient Peruvian grains decorated with hints of chopped, red tomato combines southern, comfort, aromas with simple ingredients.

Home is where the heart is, and the food.

 

I Do To Steak and Potatoes January 25, 2013

Filed under: Assignments — marissachinn @ 2:05 am

Men know how to eat with no shame. Men don’t complain about how their meal is going straight to their hips, they don’t count calories, they’re not picky eaters, bottom line-they enjoy their food. That is why I like to cook for men. Men are committed to their steak and potatoes like a harmonious marriage. But what happens when you turn a normally simple, manly, dish into a delicacy with dill and truffle oil? That was my Chopped challenge.

However there were some setbacks with the ingredients.

Not only is white truffle oil expensive but it smells like a hybrid of gasoline and nail polish remover. It gives off a smell that worries my brain cells.

Dill is not my favorite herb. Although it is soft like a feather, appears and smells like freshly cut grass, and brings up memories of an evergreen Christmas, it is bitter, bland, and chewy.

The thick, ripe tomato-colored, rib eye contains white streaks of fat like a marbled counter top. It hisses like a threatened snake as it hits the pan. As I flip the meat it shows its crispy brown crust where it touched the pan and fades into a subtler light brown down the edges.

A pale, spring, green, sauce of garlic, dill, milk, and lemon blended together moistens the newly mashed potatoes. A sprinkle of toxic white truffle oil tops off the potatoes. The potatoes give a controlled crunch. This is because I prefer my mashed potatoes lumpy and not the smoothed out version eaten when you get your wisdom teeth pulled; it’s all about texture.

The verdict: Men will eat whatever you put in front of them even if it’s a feminist version of their claim to steak and potatoes.

 

Japan town January 18, 2013

Filed under: Assignments — marissachinn @ 11:17 pm

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To me Japan town can be best described as four blocks of exotic, ‘what the heck is that?’, tasty, Japanese cuisine. Our first stop was at New People where we were served onigilly. Hijiki onigilly sounds like an animated character from Pokémon, but it’s not. The seaweed that bear hugs the organic brown rice looks and feels crunchy, but once you take a bite it melts and sticks to the roof of your mouth like a Listerine breath strip. The triangle of rice is a placeholder for the tangy shredded carrots and seaweed. This combination was fishy and salty like Ho Yo sauce (a Chinese oyster sauce) but there was no fish. The organic brown rice, from Sacramento I must point out, was chewy like the first few bites into a piece of bubble gum, and moist. It misleadingly appeared delicate but was very filling.

Nowhere else will you find a sweet potato latte but at Yakinig Café. A tenderly roasted sweet potato that was then pureed and steamed with milk, no coffee added. Still you could taste some leftover, frail, strings of the potato. The warm milk was soothing made like on a sleepless night and the whole drink was easy to sip. The sweet potato added a spice to the steamed milk, not water-grabbing spicy but that cultured aftertaste like chai tea. A fellow student pointed out that it tasted like mashed up baby food. I couldn’t agree more since the texture was thick but easy to swallow with the core vegetable aroma. It brought me back to my home, the days when my younger brothers were babies and on our kitchen counter was a rotating, three-tiered, baby food holder. I remember it held every possible combination of mashed up vegetables in a stout container that I believed couldn’t possibly make anyone full.

 

The Friendship Cookie

Filed under: Assignments — marissachinn @ 5:43 am

Would you let your gym teacher act as your dentist and pull out your tooth? Would you willingly allow your mom to chaperone the school dance? No, and neither should I have left my ill-equipped friend with a cook book.

You know you have a good friendship when it survives a kitchen disaster. As an aspiring chef and a seasoned perfectionist, I took on the challenge of cooking a flavorful dinner for a table of seven. I knew my friend had little experience in the kitchen but she wanted to help and I obliged. She was assigned one task and only one task: dessert. Although dessert is my favorite part of the meal I reassured myself that anyone could follow a simple chocolate chip cookie recipe, I mean it even had pictures in the cook book!

As my mind went to preparing the pineapple salsa that was more acidic than eating a raw lemon, I left her alone which was my mistake. My broiled Cajun chicken with pineapple salsa was done, consumed, and cleaned up so it was time to take out the cookies from the oven. Correction: cookie. The one cookie covered the entire pan that was flatter than the pan itself. The cookies melted like a snowman in the sun, all that was left was a homogenized cookie soup. Frantically I went over the recipe with my friend,

“Was the oven preheated to 400 degrees Fahrenheit?”
“Did you beat the 1 ¾ sticks of softened, unsalted butter and the ¾ cup refined sugar in a bowl?”
“Did you separate the yolk from one large egg and add it and 1 tsp of vanilla extract to the bowl, then mix?”
“Next, did you add in the ¼ tsp of kosher salt and 2 cups of self-rising flour?”
“Were the 5 ounces of chocolate (milk, dark, or white) chopped and folded into the dough?”
“Was the baking sheet lined with parchment paper and the dough rolled into walnut sized balls separated 1 inch from one another?”
“Did you bake for 10-12 minutes?”

After each step in the recipe she replied, “Yes”.
“Wait, which one is the flour again?” she asked as if a quick reflex.
I showed her the bag of loose, white, powder.
“No, I definitely didn’t use that stuff” she confessed with no concern.

The cookie hardened like a brick before I tasted it. The fine grains of sugar had not dissolved and tasted like rock candy. I later concluded that instead of adding the necessary flour, she added twice the amount of sugar, because she couldn’t tell the difference. Although we are still good friends today, she is no longer allowed in my kitchen.

Recipe taken from: What to cook and how to cook it By Jane Hornby. Published phaidon press limited, New York, New York, 2010.

 

Mission District Mission District 049 January 13, 2013

Filed under: Assignments — marissachinn @ 7:32 pm

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The Mission District in SanFrancisco is the place to find great, under the radar food. On our food tour we went to 7 outstanding restaurants serving food from mini cupcakes to bratwurst with sauerkraut and everything in between. I highly recommend any of these unique restaurants: Wise Sons, Mission Minis, Roxy’s, Local Mission Eatery, El Farolito, Humphrey Slocombe, and Pig and Pie. My favorite restaurant of all, one that I will absolutely become a regular at, is Roxy’s. Located right across from the 24th street BART station, this restaurant serves fresh all in-house made food. The owner, chef, dishwasher, and food shopper, Manny Tores, comes from a background of fine dining. This is a one man restaurant. He explained that his food wasn’t accessible for every income but he wanted to share his passion with everyone, so he brought his talent to Mission District. Manny also owns another restaurant a couple doors down from Roxy’s called El Pollo serving a similar style of freshly prepared food. Every morning, 6 days a week, Manny travels to the farmer’s market to purchase all the ingredients he will be using that night. Roxy’s serves a 10 course tasting option for $75 and a 4 course for $25 on any given night.

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Upon our visit to Roxy’s, Manny served a spoonful of yucca gnocchi with home-made Bolognese sauce topped with freshly grated parmesan and chopped basil. The gnocchi was moist, like biting into Jell-O it required little work of the mandible. I could taste the sweet wine used in the delicate Bolognese sauce. The ground beef was not overpowering but used sparingly to compliment the tomato based sauce. Chopped, tender tomatoes were also found garnished on the gnocchi. The presentation was artistic, piled high on the spoon, the bite size gnocchi left me craving for more. The hint of basil and freshly grated parmesan provided the right balance of mint and chewy texture.

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In my opinion, the second best dish on the Mission District food tour was from the Local Mission Eatery. Walking into the restaurant I felt as if I was transported into a contemporary southern home with a chandelier hanging from the ceiling and beautiful woodwork throughout. There were jars of home-made sauces and pickled vegetables above a selection of books that could be borrowed by anyone. The open kitchen lacking in walls allowed customers to watch as their food was prepared, it couldn’t have been a more welcoming and personal setting. Placed before me was a grilled cheese sandwich like I’ve never had before. It looked buttery and thick with just the right amount of browning on the bread to provide that crunch. Before biting into it I could smell that the bread was sour dough, my favorite. I could also smell the sweet caramelized onions inside. After my first bite I was joyfully confused. I did not expect to taste apple in my grilled cheese and I didn’t see chucks of apple inside. I was then told that I was tasting apple butter that was generously spread on the sour dough. The most important ingredient to a grilled cheese sandwich is of course the cheese, which I must admit I was also perplexed by. It was not like any other cheese I have used in quesadillas, grilled cheeses or cheeseburgers because it was not stringy. I didn’t have to struggle to keep the cheese from elongating between the sandwich and my mouth. I had to ask a cook at the restaurant just what type of cheese it was. It was wagon wheel and it was mild but creamy. This rich sandwich is the definition of good old fashioned comfort food. My only suggestion would be to balance out the feminine, soft, and sweet flavors with some crunchy, manly bacon. But I suppose I think everything tastes better with bacon.

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