Archive for the ‘baking’ Category

Life of grasshopper

May 16th, 2014
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In the morning, I heard a bloodcurdling little-girl scream from the bedroom followed by, "MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY!!!!!!!"

I calmly walked over to see what the panic was about. I was sure it was nothing traumatic (unless you consider the bug's feelings) and I was right. There was the tiniest two inch grasshopper sitting on the floor, with Olivia dancing around it and pointing.

"It's a grasshopper, Hon. You have seen that before," I chuckled.

Olivia followed my cue and converted her energy to interest. "Can I keep it as a pet? Please?" she begged.

"Just for the day," I relented. "But then you have to let it go tonight."

"Whyyyyy? I just want a pet!" whined my daughter, as if having a 70 pound dog, cat, six bowls of fish, and a tank of shrimp isn't enough.

"Just today," I said firmly, and left.

Later that morning the conversation resurrected between Olivia and my dad. "What is it going to eat?" my dad pointed out. "I don't know what grasshoppers eat, and you need to feed it."

Nobody in the house knew what grasshoppers eat, and most importantly, I do not care what they eat because I will not be feeding it. I reminded her she had to release it back to nature tonight. She complained back at me.

I happened to be baking cookies. "If you love it, set it free, because it needs to live outside, Sweetie. Besides, I will trade you the life of one grasshopper for a coconut macaroon," I offered.

That took all of three seconds. She raced out the door and reappeared in five minutes. She showed it to the neighbor kids first then came home. "I let it go, Mommy!" she confirmed.

"Great, Honey! That's so wonderful of you. That was so nice to that bug," I complimented.

"I want to cash in on my cookie now," she reminded.

So I see. The lesson is less about the value of life and love, and more about motivation by bribery.

Meet the new executive chef at Park restaurant

February 17th, 2014
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Park Restaurant, which my friends and I tried for the first time last fall, has a new executive chef, Yoichi Saito, who brings with him a new style of delicious, inventive cuisine.

Photo by Tony Grillo

Photo by Tony Grillo

I'd heard lots of good things about the restaurant after it opened last August. Located in The Lotus Honolulu, overlooking historic Kapiolani Park and majestic Diamond Head, it originally offered a Mediterranean menu.  However, with Chef Saito now at the helm in the kitchen, Park will feature his “New American Urban Cuisine with an Asian Influence.”

“Great food has no nationality,” says Chef Saito.  “New American is really a mix of the traditional with the influences of the various cultures around us mixed in.”

Coming from an eclectic culinary background has given Chef Saito the mindset that ignoring cultural boundaries in food preparation is the only way to produce truly inspirational and outstanding cuisine.

Chef Saito’s regular menu includes items such as freshly-baked flat breads, Jim Beam-Truffle Mac & Cheese, Japanese-Memphis Ribs, Hanger Steak Satay, Sous Vide Pork Belly, Red Wine Braised Lamb Shank, Chicken Two Ways, Soy Glazed Grilled Ahi, Misoyaki Salmon, excellent side dishes – Saito’s Brussel Sprouts with dried tart cherries, kalua bacon and lemon have been a huge hit! – and scrumptious desserts.  The menu is also evolving, and there will be seasonal and special tasting menus offered throughout the year.

Chef Saito has decades of experience in both Japan and the U.S. He started cooking at the age of 16, focusing on Osechi-ryori, traditional Japanese foods to celebrate the New Year.  After that he was hooked, and entered the Tsuji Cooking Academy in Osaka, one of the most prestigious culinary institutions in Japan.  There, he studied French, Italian, Chinese and Japanese cuisines, as well as confectionaries.  Chef Saito is a very adept pastry chef, and creates beautiful and tasty Japanese confections, as well.

From 1989 through 2000, Chef Saito worked at the Hilton Osaka Hotel (banquets, French cuisine), Kappou Kasagi in Osaka (sushi and traditional Japanese cuisine), Hananoren in Tokyo (French-Asian fusion), La Rochelle (Iron Chef Hiroyuki Sakai’s French restaurant in Tokyo), and Angelo, also in Tokyo (French-Italian fusion), where he was executive chef.

In 2000, Chef Saito moved to the U.S. and was the executive chef at Wasabina, a Japanese-Italian fusion restaurant, in New York.  During his time there, Wasabina received outstanding reviews from The New York Times and other local publications for their delicious, distinctive cuisine.

In 2002, Chef Saito was recruited by actor Joe Pantaliano to work as head chef at his Asian fusion restaurant (French-Thai-Vietnamese), Bamboo Café Bar, in Norwalk, Connecticut.  After two years and positive reviews, Chef Saito moved to Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s V Steakhouse in NY .

From 2004-2008, Chef Saito was the chef de cuisine, and then the executive sous chef, at Roy’s at Pebble Beach, CA.  Chosen by Chef Roy Yamaguchi as the representative chef from Roy’s, Chef Saito was invited to participate in the 1st Annual Pebble Beach Food & Wine culinary event in 2008, where his cuisine was praised for its flavor and inventiveness.

In 2009, Chef Saito returned to the East Coast to open his own restaurant, Saito, in Greenwich, CT, where he enjoyed excellent reviews, success, and a very loyal following for five years.  One of his programs was a tasting menu offered to only ten patrons, which proved so popular the seats were sold out well in advance.  Chef Saito hopes to start a similar program at Park this year.

"We’re honored and excited about having Chef Saito on board as our executive chef,” said John Henry Felix, Managing Partner. “After starting during a busy holiday season and a sold-out New Year’s Eve, Chef Saito has really created a stir in culinary circles, making Park the hot new place for exceptional food.  All of us at Park look forward to introducing Chef Saito’s cuisine to many new patrons this year!”

Half sheet brownies

May 31st, 2013
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One of the hotels I work at had a fundraiser for Charity Walk. I offered to donate something. The night before, I baked a half sheet pan (18 x 13") of brownies.

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In the morning, I was talking to my friend Paul as I drove in. In answer to the common question What are you doing today? I responded, "We're having a bake sale, so I made a half sheet of brownies and I'm bringing it in now."

Which opened more than one question, apparently. Keep in mind he was at a field trip at the zoo, chaperoning three kindergartners, so he was distracted and couldn't hear me that well.

"A what?" he said.

"Bake sale," I answered.

Pause. "Are you guys doing that badly?" he asked.

Brownies and baggies! Dude! 4/20!

Brownies and baggies! Dude! 4/20!

"Ha ha ha. No, it's for Charity Walk," I clarified.

"What did you say you made?" he continued.

"Brownies."

"What kind of brownies?"

"Half sheet."

"What?"

"H a l f   s h e e t," I enunciated over the background din of of small children.

"Oh! I thought you said hashish," he laughed.

"No! HALF SHEET," I emphasized.

Hashish brownies. Sheesh. That is an entirely different kind of bake sale.

Salvation of the car-nanas

February 13th, 2013
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I wouldn't be a real American if I didn't contract everything into its most monosyllabic possible combination. Case in point: Bennifer, JLo, etc.

Naturally, the logical shortening of the words "car bananas" is "car-nanas," our family's wonderfully efficient way of making fun of my latest ditziness, as detailed in the Car Bananas blog.

Carnanas: it refers to when I bought bananas and lost them in my little compact car for a week, and then couldn't figure out what the banana smell was every time I entered the car.

I know. How does this woman have a graduate degree?

Anyway, who's got the last laugh now? When life hands you overripe bananas, you make banana bread!

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Here's the great recipe I used from Chef Joanne Chang's recipe book, Flour:

1 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 t. baking soda

1/4 t. ground cinnamon

1/2 t. kosher salt

1 c. + 2 T. sugar

2 eggs

1/2 c. canola oil

3 1/2 very ripe, medium bananas, peeled and mashed (1 1/2 c.= about 340 grams)

2 T. creme fraiche or sour cream

1 t. vanilla extract

3/4 c. walnut halves, toasted and chopped

Makes one 9" loaf.

Directions:

Put rack in center of oven, heat to 325 degrees F. Butter a 9x5" loaf pan (*though as you see in my photo, I used muffin tins and freelanced on the time!). In bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt. Set aside.

Using stand mixer with whip attachment, beat together sugar, eggs on medium speed, 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. On low speed, slowly drizzle in oil. Should take about a minute.

Add bananas, creme fraiche, vanilla. Continue to mix on low speed until combined.

Using rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture and nuts until combined. Pour into pan.

Bake 1 to 1 1/4 hours or until golden brown on top and center springs back when you press it. Cool in pan on wire rack for 30 minutes, then pop it out of the pan to finish cooling.

*I'm not a pro baker but I got lucky. I watched the muffins and used the finger test, so mine were ready after 22 minutes. I also substituted 1/2 c. bittersweet baking chips 60% cacao, because I live with chocoholics. It all turned out really well!

Enjoy... thank Chef Chang when you make this... and just know that you don't have to ripen your bananas in your car for a week. You could probably just let them sit on the kitchen counter! LOL

Cake pops

October 5th, 2012
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It is a natural fit for a cake decorator wanna-be to eventually discover cake pops. My friend Joy, who went with me to cake classes, gave me a recipe book by Bakerella on how to make this trendy treat.

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Naturally, Olivia was all over this. I was, too. The book made the cake lollipops look so good, I was interested in trying my hand at it.

Basically, you take a cake, crumble it up, roll it with frosting, and dip it in chocolate. It's not too hard to do. You could make all these fancy shapes, but I admit, I lose patience for the detail work.

Olivia was very excited to help me- er, correction. Olivia let me help her make the cake. I was just there to read directions and pick up heavy stuff, like the Kitchen Aid mixer.

Mixing in frosting to crumbled cake

Mixing in frosting to crumbled cake

After it was baked and cooled, she really enjoyed the crumbling process. "I'm good at destroying things. I'll do that," she said. Right she is.

She smashed the cake up into little bits and then took great pleasure in mooshing the buttercream frosting around with her little fingers. If you do this with your child, expect to be reminded every three minutes that they want to lick the beater/bowl/spoon/spatula.

By the time it came to rolling the balls, she lost interest and told me to finish up. So I rolled a sheet of balls and put it in the freezer for 15 minutes to firm up. You can put sticks to make it like a lollipop, or you can leave it alone and serve it as a ball. We did the latter.

Finally, I had some semi-sweet chocolate chips lying around and some extremely hot chili-chocolate that came from a speciality store in Portland. I cannot eat it. Nobody I know can eat it, even people who said they were accustomed to "very hot" spice. (I don't know true chili-heads.) I decided to use it up by mixing tiny amounts in with regular chocolate, so the chocolate in my cake balls was ultimately a tiny bit hot, but perfect for all the adults who tried it.

I let Olivia dip the balls into the melted chocolate, which was great fun for her. While the chocolate hardened in the refrigerator, Olivia enjoyed licking the spoon and bowl. She complained initially of the chili heat, but said she could tolerate it enough to finish cleaning the bowl of chocolate residue. When it was all clean, she downed two glasses of cold water in quick succession. That is what I call a trooper.

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It was decent fun to make and tasty to eat, but I'm not sure I'm going to make this too often. It's a great way to use up cake scraps from actual cake projects, but I personally am not interested in baking a cake just for this, only to rip it all apart.

Do you make cake pops?