Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Shopping with the experts

This Tuesday Sayaka, Akemi and I took a shopping trip down to Seoul Oriental Foods in Oak Grove by Gate 6 of Fort Campbell. We spent over an hour poring through freezer cases of seafood, shelves of sauces and seasonings and cardboard boxes of produce before emerging, each with a basket full of goodies, and fancy ideas for dinner. It's not a huge store by any means. Maybe 1/10 of the size of Kroger. So you might be wonderng, as my husband was, "What took you so long?"

Ahh... but that's the way grocery shopping should be. It's sort of the "meandering through the fresh market approach" that makes many other countries so much more romantic than the U.S. See what kind of new treasure is on sale... test the Japanese radish and dig to the bottom of a gritty box to find a firm one. Pause to have a conversation about its uses... boiled in soup? Simmered with broth? Shredded for a light salad? And, as seen in the photo above, we needed time to whip out those electronic translators because we were definitely beyond ESL class territory!:-) Food words are complicated, but so much fun. I enjoyed this trip to the korean market immensely. And I brought home a few things to show for it.

Square rice paper wraps, a bag of fresh persimmons, miso in a recloseable tub, one diakon raddish, two kinds of fish cake, rice noodles, dried lemongrass (can't ever find fresh) and some non-gmo tofu.

Improvised meal

Just when you thought you'd heard it all about fusion food... comes a new experimental snack by me. :-) This is going to sound very gross, but it didn't taste that bad. And if you've sworn off wheat for a month, then it tastes really good. Introducing Italian fresh springrolls: The outside of the wrap is a vietnamese rice paper , soaked for 30 seconds in warm water. The inside is chopped chicken breast, broccoli and slices of fresh garden tomato tossed in parmesan and olive oil with a little pepper. Happily, the Asian-ness of the rice paper disappears and is overpowered by the bolder, saltier Italian flavors. I'm wondering if I could make manicotti with these things? Or lasagna? This might be the month of spring roll experimentation as I just bought some more wrappers.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Marathon food

Joe ran a half marathon in Columbus, Ohio, this weekend--which could be considered a marathon in itself for all the things we packed into it. Something I like about marathons (though I never intend to run one) is all the goodies at the end. Columbus knows what to put out... bananas, oranges, panera bagels...starbucks pumpkin lattes (OK, maybe that's not the best things to put in your system after running 13 or 26 miles, but they had 'em).
And after they emerged from the chain linked snack corral, there were plenty of tents with more freebee snacks. I discovered the gluten free, dairy free, soy free, gmo free, non processed, raw, added sugar free, kosher and vegan LARABAR... just nuts and spice held together by date paste. Like Baklava without the bad for you part.
This one had pistachio and cashew. Another, already eaten, had the flavor of cinnamon roll exactly.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Summer in fall

Still got lots of tomatoes on the plants... Must pick them before it's too late.

Spring in fall

Words later...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Nama harumaki

Every Tuesday, my Japanese friends Saya and Akemi and I like to get together to cook and practice English. On today's menu: Fresh spring rolls (Nama harumaki in Japanese). We filled square rice paper wrappers with shredded lettuce, cooked shrimp, bay scallops, cucumber sticks, sliced avocado and rice noodles. Sayaka also made Japanese-style Jell-O, with orange juice and tangerine slices. She said she didn't add sugar, but I thought the natural sweetness was enough. I liked it better than American gelatin.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Italian wedding soup

Sorry this is not a very pretty picture, but it is a very tasty soup that's easy to make. Here's my version of the recipe

Italian Wedding Soup
1 lb lean gound beef
1/2 lb ground chicken
1/4 cup italian bread crumbs
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 tsp dried oregano
Mix ingredients well then shape into tiny meatballs. (It will make A LOT of meatballs)
Meanwhile, bring 3 cans chicken broth and 2 quarts water to a boil. Drop meatballs into the boiling broth in batches of about 12-15 at a time. When they float to the top, remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

After cooking all the meatballs, add one block of frozen spinach and 1/4 cup finely chopped onion to the soup. When the spinach is thawed, add 1/2 cup orzo pasta and cook 6 minutes or until tender. Then beat one egg with 1 teaspoon parmesan cheese. Drip the mixture into the boiling soup while stiring. Turn off heat and add the meatballs.

Serve hot with crusty bread.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Rescued from the birds

I know we're into autumn already, but my tomato plants have been late bloomers. These are actually my first 3 successful tomatoes. Ever. In the entire history of me gardening. Sad, isn't it?

I had to pick the green one because yesterday I noticed that my prettiest tomato (not pictured) had a beak hole in the top of it and a smattering of wild grass seeds near the puncture, which oozed juice down the side of my precious fruit.

There's close to 20 green tomatoes out there... small and hard, not much bigger than cherry tomatoes. Any gardeners out there? Should I pluck them or let them grow? Will the frost or critters get them first? I do like fried green tomatoes...

In other news, things are going to get a little bit more moody around here because (A) I'm going on a temporary wheat-free diet to help with my chronic sinus problems. I did this for several months when we lived in Taiwan. Oddly, it really helped with my sinuses. I don't have any trouble digesting wheat, in fact, it's one of the easiest things on my stomach. So you might be seeing some wheat-free pancake and quickbread recipes in the near future.
(B) Starting a week from Monday, I'm no longer going to be a copy editor/designer. I accepted a job as features editor... which may mean I'll be insanely busy, but I think the job will fuel some new ideas about food as I get out in the community more.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


I've been making hummus for a while... The stuff they sell in the grocery store is really not as good as what you can make in your blender. Here's a food column about my fav dip.

Chickpea dip a simple way to whip up Middle East flavors

Wednesday, October 10, 2007 12:21 PM CDT


Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting and faithful reflection, is coming to an end this week. At a time when many Americans are preparing for the biggest holiday meal of the year, and looking forward to filling Christmas cookie tins, Muslims in America and all over the world are abstaining from food and drink from dawn til dusk.

I admire both their sacrifice and their homey, food-filled celebrations after the sun sets.

When I was a graduate student in Champaign, Ill., a friend invited me to her home to break the fast with other Muslim women. I was curious to see how a segment of Americans — often seen as a mystery — live during Ramadan. And more importantly, I was eager to eat a Middle Eastern feast.

My hostess said she actually gains weight during the month of fasting because of the decadent nightly potlucks. The women in the house had been cooking for some time —preparing not one, but two identical meals because the men in their religious community meet in a separate house.

After kneeling with noses to the carpet in prayer, the women crowded into the dining room to fill their plates. I followed the line to the table, hoping for chickpea appetizers like hummus and falafel. I hoped there would be a parsely-rich fatoosh salad or savory marinated kebabs.

I was a little shocked to discover a roasted turkey, stuffing and mashed sweet potatoes spread upon the buffet table. The theme for that night’s meal, my hostess informed me, was an American Thanksgiving meal.

Fortunately, many Middle Eastern dishes are simple to prepare at home. To get my fix of the zesty flavors of the region, I like to make my own hummus — a dip traditionally made from chickpeas and sesame paste, seasoned with lemon juice and garlic.

The addictive flavors complement fresh vegetables and can be used in pita sandwiches. In addition to being tasty and versatile, hummus’ fiber-packed bean base is very healthful.

Easy At-home Hummus

1 15-ounce can chickpeas
1 large lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 large cloves chopped garlic, or to taste
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Drain chickpeas, reserving liquid. Add chickpeas, sesame seeds, garlic and oil to a blender or food processor and squeeze lemon juice over it all. Blend ingredients until smooth, adding a little of the reserved liquid at a time to make the mixture blend more smoothly.

Pour hummus onto a serving plate and drizzle with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and ground cumin, if desired.

Enjoy hummus as a dip for toasted pita wedges, carrot sticks and cucumber slices or spread it on a crunchy falafel sandwich in place of mayo.

Pan-fried Falafel Patties

1 15-ounce can chickpeas
3 tablespoons finely chopped onion
2 teaspoons cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
oil for frying

Drain chickpeas then mash them with a fork until the mixture binds together but is still chunky. Add cumin, salt and onion and continue mashing until blended. Shape mixture into 2-inch patties. Coat a non-stick frying pan in canola or olive oil and turn on medium heat. Fry falafel patties until golden brown on each side. Serve in a pita with hummus, lettuce, tomato and cucumber or serve as a finger food with plain yogurt as a dip.

Emily Parrino is a New Era copy editor. She can be reached at 887-3298 or

Monday, October 08, 2007

Phyllo phun

This all started out with me hoping to replicate the curry puffs that Joe likes so much at the Thai Smile restaurant in Frankfort. It ended a dozen flaky triangular snacks later with me not really replicating anything, but using up lots of leftover things from the refrigerator and freezer. Like spinach. And goat cheese.

My version of the curry puff:
1/6 package of phyllo sheets (cut stack long-ways into three strips)
1 medium sweet potato, cooked til tender
1/4 cup very finely chopped cooked chicken breast (it was marinated and seasoned)
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 Tbs brown sugar
1 tsp canola oil
a little water

Mash everything together in a bowl. Coat three sheets of phyllo with oil, then stack them. Put a spoonful of potato mixture at one corner, then fold into a triangular shape. (I'm sorry, but I'm too tired to try to explain how this is done. But I think you understand.)

Brush with a bit more oil, repeat until sweet potato mixture is gone, then place on a baking sheet and bake at 400 til golden brown.

Spinach filling:
1 cup frozen spinach (squeeze out excess water)
3 Tbs toasted sliced almonds
2 Tbs goat cheese (I'm guessing feta would have been better)
3 spring onions, sliced and sauteed briefly.
salt and pepper to taste. (Lemon juice or vinegar would have been good)

Bringing outside in

These were the last of the gangly blooms from my zinnias. Tiny sprouts that are the second generation are beginning to bud.

My corriander is also coming back... not sure if I'll ever get to eat any. I hope winter doesn't arrive too abruptly.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Koula's chicken gyros

Joe found this recipe at when were were living in Taiwan. It's a recipe that we actually follow nearly exactly.

Koula's Gyros
3 chicken breast halves, cut into 1/2-inch strips
2 Tbs ketchup
2 Tbs olive oil
1 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp mustard powder
1 1/2 tsps curry powder
4 pitas, halved and toasted
salad greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, plain yogurt if you like

Place chicken strips in a single layer in a glass baking dish. Mix together the ketchup, oil, vinegar, and spices. Slather it onto your chicken... you might want to double or even triple the sauce recipe depending on the size of your chicken breasts. The more sauce the better, in my opinion. Let stand while you preheat your broiler. Broil for 10-15 minutes.

Stuff pita pockets with greens, chicken and veggies. Top with plain yogurt (or don't if you're like us)

Our pet Cushaw

We bought this very large squash over the weekend. It was the only one at the store and we couldn't resist its weirdness.

Now I just need to figure out how to use it. Any ideas? It's about 10 lbs.

Frankfort food

Ginza III
Tuesday night, Joe and I drove to Frankfort, Ky. Joe had an assignment the next morning and I was taking comp time. It's nice to see a different part of the state-- though I have to say it seems a few things are the same throughout the commonwealth. Lots of movie rental places, lots of liquor stores, popular Mexican restaurants are all owned by one family and share the same menu... Seemed a lot like Hoptown. BUT there was a Japanese restaurant nestled in a strip mall.
It was a welcome sight for us at 8:30 to see that Ginza III was open until 10:00 and that several Asian faces filled the tepanyaki tables. We opted for a quieter curtained booth and ordered soothing soups. I also had the eel sushi. It wasn't the best I've ever had, nor was it the prettiest. But it was edible. And hey, it's a Japanese restaurant (run by Chinese) in Kentucky. And that means something.

Thai Smile

This restaurant was a true gem. Lunch entrees were $6.95, and the portions were bigger than I could eat in one sitting. The dinner menu seemed to have 3 times as many items offered, but the lunch offerings amply filled 2 panels of a paper menu with tiny print. I had a hard time choosing between several dishes before choosing Pad Kee Mow-- Spicy fat rice noodles stir-fried with chicken, basil, tomatoes, broccoli, carrot and bamboo cut in matchsticks.
Joe was quite taken with the Curry Puff appetizers-- fried wonton skins filled with spiced sweet potato and chicken. They were sweet enough that he ordered two more for dessert. Will have to try to replicate this one in my own kitchen.