Tag Archives: Food

Small batch kumquat marmalade

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One of the beautiful things about Winter is the explosion of citrus—a burst of sunshine amidst all that dreary cold weather. Mother Nature takes care of us, doesn’t she?

My mother has a couple of citrus trees that are exploding with fruit right now. Jack and I have been checking them every week waiting for them to ripen. Finally, the kumquats have gotten big, fat and super sweet. I think I ate as many as I picked off the tree. Mmmmrrmm, good.

But there’s no way I can eat that many kumquats so I went looking for ways to preserve them. Opposite of a traditional orange the peel of a kumquat is sweet while the inside is bitter, therefore, it’s important to do something that uses the rind.

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As it happens, orange marmalade is my favorite spread so kumquat marmalade seemed a logical direction. I’ve never made it before, but most of the recipes that I checked online complain about the labor intensity. Ugh. Long drawn out recipes are so not for me. I don’t have that kind of time. So, I tried a few different things and found a tip that gets you marmalade in a snap.

Here are the ups and downs. See if it works for you.

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Two tips for foodies in Saigon

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Tip No. 1:

There’s this hole in the wall (I mean this literally) in downtown Saigon called Pho Ha, where the kitchen is actually a tiny hallway and all of the seating is street side at these teeny tables surrounded by what could be considered plastic kiddie chairs.

Do not be afraid.

Just sit down and prepare for a happy tummy.

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They have two specialties: a boiled chicken dish …

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… and burnt rice. They’re really known for the burnt rice. Now, what the heck is burnt rice? It doesn’t sound at all appetizing, does it?

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Well, it’s not really burnt. It’s more like twice cooked. We kept debating exactly HOW this rice is made because we each want to make it a home, it’s so good. The best we can come up with is that a thin layer of cooked rice is fried in a hot wok until the bottom is crispy, but the top stays soft and becomes almost chewy. Then it is sprinkled lightly with a dried, savory shredded pork. Holy cow, it is so simple and yet incredibly addictive!!!

Here’s what it looks like … like a flat pancake of rice. Sorry my pictures are so blurry, but it was dark and I refuse to use flash. Plus, I was really busy eating.

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Tip No. 2:

Pho Ha is conveniently located across the street from Nhu Lan, known to be the best sandwich deli (banh mi) in town. Seriously, it’s famous. Everyone know it. If you ask locals where to go for the best banh mi they’ll point you here.

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Before we even finished eating our burnt rice Joe was already talking about running over to Nhu Lan to pick up some sandwiches to take home for a midnight snack.

I’m telling you, this food obsession is genetic.

Anyway, that’s what we did.

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Here’s the typical BBQ pork carved off a rotisserie … holy yum!

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Minh, Joe and I also came back the next day and picked up some banh mi for a mid-morning snack before we hit the town for some marathon DVD shopping.

According to our triumverate consensus, I’m sorry to report that they were NOT the best banh mi that we’ve ever had. We were so disappointed. In fact, there’s a little kiosk near our house where a little old lady dishes up better sandwiches. However, we did try several kinds of banh mi and determined that the best banh mi are the ones that have a little pâté in them. So, there’s our advice … don’t assume this joint’s got the best banh mi in town, but do go for the ones that include pâté, you won’t be sorry. They are still quite delicious!

But don’t forget Tip No. 1, go to Pho Ha!! It’s a little hidden secret.

Oh, the food!

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Since I arrived in Vietnam I feel like I’ve done nothing but eat.

It’s not my fault! The food here is so, so good! Everything is so fresh and tasty.

And I’ve come to realize that this fixation on food is a family thing, it’s not just me. We spend a lot of time talking about all the different places that we want to go eat. While we’re eating lunch we’re planning dinner. When we’re out and about town we encourage each other to try every street food snack we come across. We’re just a bunch of enablers.

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Joe and I cannot stop eating these ginger candies that we picked up at the monastery. It’s one of the many goodies that we took away from our visit there. Geez! They’re so flavorful and delicious.

Plus they were made by a bunch of nuns … so they can’t be bad for you, right? If anything we’re being blessed.

Right?

Hello. Is this thing on?

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Jack’s magic marinara

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Got nothing to do this weekend? Let’s make some marinara!

Jack had been waiting all summer for the tomatoes to finally come in so that he could brew a big batch of sausage marinara. He started with one case of tomatoes (approximately 23 pounds) and it yielded 17 pints of sauce.

And oh boy, is it good! 17 pints may not be enough to last us an entire year.

Sorry it’s taken me so long to get this posted, but it took some work to pull the recipe out of Jack. He put this recipe together like Italian grandmothers—not from a recipe, but from his heart. He walked around our local produce stand and said hmmmm, what feels good? What’s calling to me?

I think there may have been a spiritual experience.

So, here’s the thing … this is a great base recipe, one that you can modify and make your own. It doesn’t have to be precise down to the letter. As long as it’s 75% tomato based, you’re golden.

Now that we’ve got all the disclaimers aside, here we go …

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Summer canning, freezing, vacuum-packing

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It’s been a cool summer so we’re a little late in the season, but goodies are really rolling in now. We’ve got gold, folks! Lots and lotsa, gold!

All kinds of fresh beans, nectarines, peaches, bell peppers, plums, melons (they’re practically giving them away), figs, pears … oh, man … the sweet white corn! Whoo. It all looks so good!

And let us not forget all the friends who have fruit trees. We seem to be accumulating fruity loot on a daily basis.

After I finished my exams today my brain was complete mush. It was worse than mush, it was goo. I took the rest of the day and finally took care of some much needed canning, freezing and vacuum packing before all this produce went to waste.

And … I’m almost  done writing up Jack’s recipe for magic marinara so I’ll post that up soon. Stay tuned.

Up next: magic marinara

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While I attempted (**cough**, emphasis on attempted) to study chemistry Jack spent the weekend making, then canning, a delicious marinara.

Our region of California used to be the largest tomato producer in the state so we have a huge tomato season every August. It has spoiled us. There’s nothing better than candy ripe, locally grown tomatoes. Yum-ee.

It’s been a cool summer so the tomatoes are about a month late coming into season. Every week we’ve checked Larry’s, our local produce stand, for the big bumper crop of tomatoes that we know will start pouring in like an avalanche. FINALLY, we spotted the huge crates of roma tomatoes. Yay! The season has finally begun! $10 for a 22-25lb box. Not great. But not bad either. It’s the beginning of the season. When we hit the season full swing, you can pick up a crate of gorgeous heirlooms for $6. Oooh, man. I can’t wait! I’m starting to feel tingly all over.

But for now …

Jack grabbed a crate of plump, dark red romas and hurried home to make enough marinara to keep us in sauce for a year. Or two.

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Party time

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I’m back! I’m back from Alaska, have recouped a bit of sleep and am ready to go again.

During my absence I had set a number of posts to publish daily so that there would be something new and fresh for y’all to read. Unfortunately, my setup konked out part way through. Sorry about that.

But now I’m back. Sans husband I might add. I’ve got a whole ten days without husband (he is working in some remote location in Northern Alaska). Boo.

On the other hand, it also means that it’s time to play. Picture Tom Cruise sliding into the room in his socks in that famous scene from Risky Business. Oh, yeah. It’s time to party my friends.
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From the archives: Nduja—what is it?

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We’re up in Alaska this week … so today I’m running something from the archives (April 2009). I’ll be back shortly with photos and chronicles from the great North.

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Recently I went into San Francisco to attend a Pisco-tasting at La Mar, which is at Pier 1.5, the next building over from the Ferry Building on Embarcadero. Whenever I’m down there I run over to the Ferry Building for two reasons: 1) to get my parking validated (it’s only $5—yay!) and 2) to pick up salami at Boccalone, which also has some phenomenal charcuterie sandwiches.

When I was there Boccalone was promoting a new arrival: Nduja. I wasn’t familiar with it so, of course, I bought some. Whoo, what a treat!

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Snack foods

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Oh, man. One of the things that I love about Vietnam is the street food and snacks that are available everywhere. You can’t walk ten meters down the street without running into a street vendor offering up small bites of yumminess.

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Let’s start with the normal stuff: ice cream cups. Popsicles and soft serve cones are also extremely popular. Here we’ve got an assortment of flavors that we definitely do not get at home: mung bean, durian, taro, aloe vera yogurt and casava chocolate.

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Rice crispy ball sweetened with sugar syrup.

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Corn puffs sweetened with molasses and a little ginger.

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Fresh roasted sweet potatoes and casabas. It really hits the spot when it’s cold and chilly outside.

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Sliced green mangoes sprinkled with a mixture of white pepper, salt and chili pepper. (This dish in particular reminds me of my childhood growing up in South America. I absolutely love it!)

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Fresh roasted water chestnuts.

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Fresh roasted corn sprinkled with sea salt.

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Steamed sweet black bean cake filled with coconut and mung beans. This is kind of like a steamed sweet dumpling wrapped in banana leaves. It’s a specialty of the city of Nam Dinh.

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Rice cakes topped with a gingered peanut brittle.

There is so much more available but I was too busy snacking to remember to take more photos. Ha! Oh, boy. It’s a wonder I’m not waddling home. All the street food snacks are so delicious and fun to eat.