Monday, November 24, 2008

Winter Tea Ceremony

Last weekend, we had a formal Japanese tea ceremony gathering. Here are a few photos to share! Above, is the gorgeous alcove in my Sensei's tea room.The seasonal flower arrangement.The charcoal basket. The ceramic incense container on the right is something I picked up at the Grand Market in Istanbul as a gift for my tea teacher. Our lunch was beautiful and delicious!Homemade sesame tofu.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Chinese Hot and Sour Soup

When I asked Otousan (my father-in-law) what his favorite food was in the whole world... without hesitation he answered "Chinese hot and sour soup." I was surprised that he would choose such a simple dish out of all the wonderful things he must have eaten in his life time since Otousan is quite the gourmet.
Hot and sour soup is up there on my list of food I love, but the #1 spot? really? Well, ever since Otousan told me that, I promised that I would cook him some hot and sour soup. It's been quite a while since I made that promise so I decided to perfect the soup before I see him again at our next family gathering.
For my first attempt, I think the soup turned out pretty awesome (if I may say so myself). Something about hot and sour soup is so addicting that I just keep going back for seconds and thirds.

CHINESE HOT AND SOUR SOUP RECIPE

Ingredients:
4 cups chicken stock or broth
4 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup thinly sliced pork
1 /2 cup water chestnuts
1/2 cup mushrooms (shitake, shimeji) sliced
1 tablespoon Chinese chili sauce (tobanjan)
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup canned bamboo shoots, julienned
3 oz block of tofu, julienned
2 tablespoons cornstarch and 2 tablespoons cold water
2 eggs, beaten
2 green onion stalks, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sesame seed oil

Directions:
1. In a big soup pot, saute the pork in hot sesame oil.
2. Add chicken broth and simmer.
3. Add soy sauce, mushrooms and tobanjan chili paste.
4. Simmer for five minutes.
5. Add white pepper, white vinegar, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, tofu and simmer.
6. Combine two tablespoons of cornstarch with two tablespoons of cold water in a cup. Stir until mixture is smooth. Add cornstarch mixture to soup and stir well.
7. Simmer for five minutes until soup is thickened.
8. Beat egg in a cup until yolk and white are combined. Pour beaten egg slowly, in a fine stream into soup. Stir soup several times.
10. Add green onions to soup. Stir well. Remove from heat.
11. Serve hot.
The secret ingredient is this, tobanjan. Tobanjan is a fermented soy bean paste that is REALLY spicy but very good. It is available at most Asian grocery stores. It's used in most spicy Chinese food to add kick to the flavor. Love it.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

OC Fires!

That is not a picture of the sunset. I took this photo yesterday at 2pm from my front yard. That is all of the smoke and fire dying the sky with it's fury. The OC fires are blazing, the ash and smoke billowing over our house is so unbearable I can barely breathe. We can see the fires burning nearby neighborhoods from our backyard and we just thank God that our house is safe. My heart goes out to those affected by these fires.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Build-A-Sushi

My family really looks forward to our homemade sushi dinners that we have every few months. We got some really good fresh fish from our recent trip to our top secret fish club. Sometimes we have chirashi sushi, sometimes we have nigiri sushi, but on this particular day we decided to have a small temaki-sushi party!Temaki-sushi is basically a hand roll. You pick and choose whatever you please and roll it up in a square sheet of seaweed and vinegar rice. I love temaki sushi because it's so easy and you don't have to worry about how perfect it looks like when you're doing nigiri sushi. All you have to do is prepare the ingredients (neta) and let your guests roll their own sushi!We had a huge feast with various neta including shrimp, octopus, halibut, uni (sea urchin), natto (fermented soy beans), cucumber, fatty tuna, and lean tuna. It's a fun dinner party and a lot easier than trying to "make" sushi for a bunch of guests. We like to have temaki-sushi parties when we have special guests come over. And of course we had Japanese sake to go with our feast.Our doggies (see Nana in the corner?) were eagerly waiting for fallen pieces of sushi under the table with no such luck! Our plates and fingers were licked clean!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Wine Country: Temecula, California

With the long veteran's day weekend, I have 4 days off of work! Since hubby and I don't get to spend too much quality time together these days, we decided to do a one night getaway to Temecula. It's about an hour away from LA, OC, and San Diego but it still has that country feeling. The weather was perfect and we had such a refreshing and relaxing time driving through the wine country. There are 14 local wineries in Temecula, and although Temecula wines are not as popular as Napa Valley wines they are quite tasty and underrated.One of our stops included the Ponte Family Estate Winery. We had lunch on the patio at the The Smokehouse Restaurant in the winery, overlooking the beautiful grape vines and mountains in the distance.The restaurant itself was gorgeous but the menu didn't offer a big variety. The best part about eating lunch here is the view and the $12 wine tasting menu.For $12 you get 3 full glasses of whichever wine you choose from the Ponte wine list. Hubby and I had 6 of these glasses and got to taste most of the great wines here. Out of the wines we tasted, the Ponte Family Estate Dolcetto was amongst our favorite. I've never tried "Dolcetto" before, but I learned that it is a northern Italian varietal and is a lighter bodied red. It was surprisingly fruity for a red wine and means 'little sweet one' in Italian. Hubby ordered the Gnocchi (potato dumplings) with sliced mushroom, arugula, red pepper-walnut pesto and Humboldt fog goat cheeseI opted for the Pulled Pork sandwich, which was pork with spicy roasted garlic BBQ sauce and pickled red onions on toasted brioche. (Basically, a fancy sloppy joe) haha.On the way home we drove the 73 highway past Lake Elsinore, it was a wonderful scenic view... if I didn't fall asleep half way from all the wine I drank.

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