Friday, March 21, 2008

Goodnight and sweet corn.

I clutched the bubble-like bag of Golden Sweet Corn snacks in my hand and just stared.

I know it's still Lent. I just don't care.

The bag broke open with an easy pop and I proceeded to pour them into my mouth in a steady stream of salty-sweet snacky goodness. I grinned as my cheeks puffed up like a chipmunk's. I ate the whole damn bag, and they were heavenly.

And then I woke up.

Wow. I can't believe I actually dreamt about eating snacks. I don't think Lent's ever done that to me before. When I decided to give up snacks, soda and non-homemade confections, I thought it'd be easy. But apparently it's had a profound effect on my subconscious. Okay, I'm probably being very melodramatic, but really, I can't recall the lack of fried food, red meat, or bread ever haunting my dreams before!

These corn snacks by Regent (they come from the Philippines!) are one of my favorites. What I find so special about them is: not only are they made from corn, they mimic the flavor. Other snacks will trick you, and show a cartoon of a giraffe eating some corn, or a potato-person roasting a cob of corn, or even the corncob itself dancing and speaking Korean. But these snacks won't taste anything like corn. These cartoons apparently just illustrate that the snack is made from corn. I know, it's all very disappointing.

These, however, do not disappoint:

By the way, after I took this photo, I had a very difficult time putting them back into the bag. Man oh man.

But I did allow myself to lick the corn-flavored crumbs that were graciously left on my fingers. Hopefully it will hold me over for the next two days.

Golden Sweet Corn is available at many Asian grocers. Your best bet is probably 99 Ranch Market.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Next stop: Indonesia (or Southeast Asia) for coco-pandan birthday cake.

One of my birthday presents to myself each year is the joy of making my own cake. Unfortunately, I was so bogged down with other obligations this year that I couldn't start my cake until the very last minute.

But I think I still worked it out:

This coco-pandan cake was actually still a blank canvas as party guests were arriving, and I finished decorating it with the help of my pastry chef cousin Irene while people were eating birthday brunch.

I was going to do some fancy piped shiz on it, but I was too lazy. Luckily, Nature gave me some lovely decorating tools: I took leftover kiwis originally intended for healthy snacking, sliced them ever-so-thinly (as I only had 3 left), strategically stuck them on my cake and patted myself on the back.

Of course, Irene showed me up by piping adorable chocolate embellishments all over it. As her former "bakery assistant" (I use the term loosely), I loved watching her work.

In fact, she gave me this recipe for coco-pandan cake. The cake is a simple chiffon with pandan flavoring, with fresh (actually, canned, but y'know, NOT dried/flaked) young coconut between the layers.

Coconut-Pandan Cake, courtesy pastry chef cousin Irene
8 oz cake flour
9 oz superfine sugar, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup oil
1/2 cup water
Pure vanilla extract, to taste
20 egg yolks
10 egg whites
1 tablespoon pandan extract (recommended: Kupu-kupu brand)
Green food coloring, if needed

Sift together the flour, 8 oz of the sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Combine oil, water, egg yolks and vanilla in a mixer fixed with the whip attachment. Mix on low speed until everything is incorporated. Add the flour mixture and whip on high speed until doubled in volume. Add the pandan extract. Add green food coloring for extra color, if needed.

While the flour mixture is mixing, add the remaining 1 oz sugar to the egg whites. Whip the whites until soft peaks form. Fold the whites into the flour mixture in 3 additions.

Divide the batter among two 10-inch round cake pans lined with parchment paper on the bottom. Bake at 350 degrees until tops are firm and golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20-ish minutes (unfortunately, I didn't time it).

"Fresh" Coconut Filling:
3 cans young coconut meat (recommended: Aroy-D brand)
Mochiko (sweet Japanese rice flour) to thicken
Sugar, as needed

Drain the coconut meat, reserving some of the juice. Chop the coconut meat into 1/2-inch pieces and place in a bowl. Add the Mochiko to the coconut, a tablespoon at a time, until the filling is a creamy, but not pasty consistency. Thin it out with the juice as needed, and add sugar if you want to sweeten it even more.

Right here I actually heated equal parts of Mochiko and coconut juice in a saucepan over low heat in order to dissolve the flour and make it less gritty before I added it to the coconut, but it's not entirely necessary.

Simple Icing:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup superfine sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat the whip cream and sugar in a large bowl on high speed until stiff peaks form. Beat in the vanilla toward the end.

I had originally planned to make coco-pandan cupcakes, but I couldn't figure out a way to translate the fresh coconut element to cupcake-form in time for my birthday. I'm still thinking about it.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Hey dontcha know that we're off to see the world.

Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome...

.. once again to my blog.

This month I will take on an "international theme." A majority of recent posts have been all about American comfort food, but it's true I love all types of cuisines. So this month, I will commit to blogging about non-American food. I realize this is quite an ambition for someone who blogs so sporadically. But! I will do my best.

To kick off this theme, I'd like to share a meal that was inspired by a film about excitement, intrigue, kick-ass songs, killer dance moves, and worldly adventures. A film that stands the test of time.

That's right, I'm talking about The Chipmunk Adventure.

Don't hate. You know this movie's awesome. And no, this isn't that blasphemous update starring Jason Lee.

Anyway, at one pivotal moment of the film, Theodore is husked away by the rest of the gang to have a crazy rock n' roll jumping dancing showdown thing with the Chipmunks' female counterparts and rivals, the Chipettes. Poor little Theodore, who hasn't been able to get some hearty eats the entire adventure and now has lost his delicious Mediterranean meal, desperately cries out,


And that was the inspiration for this dinner.

Lamb and Feta Burgers with Cumin Yogurt Dressing
, Bob Sloan, Great Burgers

Couscous Salad with Peas and Mint, Emily Haft Bloom, Burgers Every Way

A few alterations: I couldn't find ground lamb easily (although I imagine it would have been tasty), so I used ground beef, which was still excellent. And I used yellow peppers instead of red peppers for the couscous. Because I felt like it.

That night, we ate our couscous and watched fondly as Theodore scaled the steps of the Acropolis three at a time and enthusiastically gyrated his hips with his brothers.