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Chocolate and Lemon Tarts

13 Sep

This summer was a tart filled summer. Tarts are surprisingly easy to make and turn out pretty fluted edges with no effort. You can make all types of tarts because there are so many types of crusts that be used. Flaky butter pie crusts for sweet or savory tarts and graham, shortbread or cookie crusts for sweet tarts. Plus, most of the time you only need to bake the crust and not the filling so it’s very easy. The pan I used in California was a scratched up 9″ aluminum pan I got for $2 at the thrift shop. I have a non-stick 10″ pan with a removable bottom at home in NY. I totally recommend the latter. It was a Christmas gift purchased from Crate and Barrel in my annual Cousins Secret Santa. Thanks Lisa!

Sour Cream Lemon Tart

I made a lemon tart following this recipe. It’s basically a pudding thickened with corn starch and egg yolk with lemon juice and sour cream stirred in. It’s really simple to make, especially if you use a store bought refrigerator pastry crust like I did. The result was tasty but didn’t look amazing. The zest is visible and it was difficult to smooth out the filling. It also didn’t set well at all. We drove this to the final destination and one hard stop caused the filling to shift out of the crust. Tasty but not very presentable.

after the car ride

I made the chocolate satin tart for a friend’s birthday party. I let him pick a dessert and he said anything with chocolate! It’s kind of funny because chocolate would have been the last thing I would have chosen but I have to accommodate the birthday boy! It took me a long time to decide what to make because it had to be a chocolate dessert that was portable and would survive a hot car ride to New Jersey. Chocolate cake/cupcakes would have been too fragile, cheesecake/mousse/puddings would have melted, and brownies weren’t special enough.

The recipe I used turned out to be perfect because the filling was very sturdy. That’s probably because it’s mainly chocolate! It’s almost like a firm chocolate ganache tart. The crust was made from shortbread cookies, butter and sugar. The recipe is very easy. The only thing I changed was to replace the rosemary/mint for a tablespoon of instant coffee granules. Coffee brings out the rich chocolate flavor.

The birthday boy loved the dessert. He also got a store bought cappuccino birthday cake but this 10″ tart was able to serve ~14 people. Since it’s so rich, a smaller slice is preferable. Milk is highly recommended!

What chocolate dessert would you have chosen to make?

Aloha Festival in SF

9 Sep

Here’s another old event that never got posted. Bear with me, still procrastinating uploading of new pictures because I don’t have my card reader. We went to the Aloha Festival in the beginning of August! I have always wanted to go to Hawaii when I was little and I still do. The opportunity to go hasn’t come yet so I settle for learning more about Hawaiian culture and Hawaiian FOOD. So many things to try! Plate lunch? Mochiko chicken? Real shaved ice? Desserts?! Someone take me to Hawaii!

How about some teriyaki chicken on a stick?

Or a bowl of loco moco? Loco moco is hamburger patty and fried egg over rice liberally doused with gravy. I’ve seen it described as heart attack in a bowl.

The Flavor Station for shaved ice looked fun but they were all “American” flavors.

I went for the more authentic flavors at a different stand.

I got a mix of guava and li hing mui (misspelled on the menu). The ice wasn’t shaved fine enough so the syrup pooled to the bottom and the top half of the ice wasn’t sweet enough. It was better once it melted down quite a bit. Not a great idea to have shaved ice on a chilly day in SF.

I tried some other Hawaiian food from an authentic Hawaiian grocery, Takahashi Market, that ships food fresh from Hawaii into San Mateo, CA. I got the Kalua Pork Quesadilla, which was tasty. The dish was basically kalua pork and LOTS of cheese grilled inside tortillas with chipotle sauce and scallions sprinkled on top. It could have been improved by adding some veggies (peppers and onions) or simply had more scallions as the cheese was slightly overwhelming.

This is not very traditional Hawaiian food so I’m looking forward to going back for their plate lunches next time I’m in California. I also tried some lilikoi iced tea and li hing mui sour applemelon candy. I didn’t think the lilikoi iced tea was anything special but that candy was addicting! Turns out I really like li hing mui flavored stuff. Li hing mui is a dried sour plum (see wiki link above) and they sell it in powder form! I wish I got some from this market because it’s great sprinkled on popcorn.

I took a lot of pictures of the Hawaiian dancers at the Aloha Festival but they’re on Brian’s camera. Sorry I can’t share! 😉

Do you know of any Hawaiian restaurants or groceries in NYC?

Le Croissant Cafe

4 Sep

I found some old pictures from California that I still want to share. It also helps that I left my card reader in California so I can’t transfer my new photos to my computer, therefore, these are the only photos I have at the moment.

One Saturday morning we didn’t have the energy to go sailing so we slept in and went out to have a lazy brunch. Brian took me to Le Croissant Cafe in Burlingame, CA.

It’s a cute little hole in the wall with a small menu but their breads were fresh and they have a case of pastries to choose from. We went for savory sandwiches rather than pastries but I saw a chocolate croissant that looked good. They also serve coffee drinks but we ordered an earl grey tea latte.

I got the egg salad on croissant. It was delicious! The egg salad was rich and creamy with excellent egg flavor. It complemented the tender, crispy croissant and the tomato and lettuce added the perfect lightness to the sandwich.

Brian got the chicken salad on baguette. The salad had a nice dill flavor but the chicken was shredded and seemed like it was from a pouch or can rather than freshly shredded. Overall, it was a good sandwich but I liked the egg salad better.

We also ordered an earl grey tea latte to drink. It was very light, which Brian liked but I would have preferred it with a stronger tea flavor and richer milk.

The service is great here. They served us everything even though it’s not a restaurant and we were sitting outside. The sun is on the wrong side of the street in the morning so it was a bit chilly sitting outside but I guess it was an unusually cold summer in the bay area anyway. The prices were a bit high but worth it for a nice slow brunch. Afterwards, we strolled around the shops nearby and enjoyed the weather.

Rum Cake

28 Aug

I’m back! I’m finally back home in NYC after living with my boyfriend in San Mateo for the summer. Then I went on a really enjoayble cruise to Bermuda. Now that I’m home with a stocked kitchen again, I can cook whenever I want to. Cruises love to sell you things and alcohol is cheap on board. I got a bottle of Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum for $11, perfect for rum cake. Bermuda has a rum cake factory and we got to taste many flavors of rum cake. The only issue was the price! $12.95 for 4 oz of cake was too much so we ended up buying cheaper non-Bermudan rum cake on the ship as souvenirs for people. Once I got home, I knew I had to make a rum cake for us to enjoy.

I followed this recipe using only half the glaze to reduce the fat and alcohol factor. I also left out the nuts and used Pillsbury vanilla cake mix with pudding already in it. I highly recommend the recipe because it’s easy and doesn’t taste like box cake at all! Make sure you spray your bundt pan so it doesn’t stick and poke holes into the cake with a skewer before glazing it. Half the recipe of glaze makes a nice outer coating of rum flavor but the inside is not saturated. For a more saturated cake, use the full recipe of glaze. The cake is moist and full of flavor.

Yume-ya Japanese Izakaya

2 Aug

I thought I knew Japanese food. I love Japanese food and eat at Japanese restaurants quite often. Turns out I’ve never eaten izakaya style food. Izakaya is like a Japanese bar that serves small plates of food (like tapas in Spain). Yume-ya in Sunnyvale, CA is a cross between an izakaya and a sushi joint. We went with a friend who regularly goes and can order in Japanese so I got to try several new dishes. Don’t be scared of this next picture.

First, we got raw squid that had been marinated (fermented?) in its own gut juice (ika no shiokara). The dish looked pretty disgusting. It was very salty with a hint of lemon and the texture was slippery and soft. I couldn’t chew what I assume was the skin layer. I probably won’t order this again.

Next we got garlic shoots with fatty pork belly. This dish was shining with oil but tasted good. The greens were crisp and had excellent onion flavor. The pork was melt in your mouth (because it was mainly fat). I only wish it could be made with less oil.

We also had beef tongue and takoyaki. The beef tongue was grilled nicely and was tender. The sweet vinegar dipping sauce paired nicely with the salty meat. The takoyaki was fresh and hot with the octopus inside not being overcooked. Nice presentation but could have had more bonito flakes, I didn’t taste them at all.

Two orders of uni nigiri and a giant seaweed onigiri came next. Uni is sea urchin and I love it. These tasted great and were creamy. Yum! The rice in the onigiri was cooked perfectly but I didn’t love the spicy filling.

We also got sweet shrimp nigiri, which is raw shrimp. This was my favorite new thing to try. I’ve never had raw shrimp before and it was so creamy and delicate. The wasabi in between the shrimp and rice was great burst of flavor combining with the shrimp and roe in your mouth. This is a must try.

Lastly, we shared a bowl of chazuke, which is rice and fish roe in hot tea. I would have preferred salmon to the roe because I don’t like cooked fish eggs, but it was a comforting finish to the meal.

There were two dishes that we tried but I didn’t get a picture of before they got eaten (I’ve linked to pictures I found on google). One was mackerel, or saba, sashimi. This fish had a nice salty and fatty flavor. The other was fried shrimp heads, which was creepy to me at first due to the large eyes staring at me. I was converted once I bit into the crunchiness. It was a tasty bite.