Winter Heat in Bali

flower in Bali with bee 

 Winter always seems to be a run-around-like-a-chicken-with-your-head-cut-off sort of season- Christmas shopping, vacations, New Years plans, work parties, house parties and numerous deadlines. We all find our ways to survive the cold and for me, cooking is one of the best paths to warmth.

 flower in Bali

Another great way to get warm is to go on vacation! To Bali! On the beach! Bali warmed (burnt) me for five whole days of perfect perfection. It was a trip of several firsts that I won’t soon forget.

 spotlight flower

I like to think I’m a fairly experienced traveler who strives to experience new things and meet new people. I’ve Couchsurfed in stranger’s homes and made lasting friendships with people all around the planet and I always try the traditional dishes and cuisine, strange or not, but this was my first time traveling by myself. Yup. Nearly thirty countries, three continents and this was my first time going it alone. I’ve used friends/lovers as comfort crutches when traveling in the past but this time I didn’t feel uncomfortable when I realized that no one could go with me. I surprised myself when I found the ability to navigate a map, keep my head when I got lost and start up conversations with others. For some people, these skills come easily. For me, they had to be learned and experienced.

 coconut, snorkel and rum

I snorkeled with sea turtles just off the Gili Islands. I’ll never forget this. I surfaced to clear the fog from my snorkels and a man a few meters was yelling at me. He had a thick accent so I didn’t understand what he said, but then he asked if I wanted to see it. I figured if a stranger is yelling at me to come look at something in the ocean, I should go. I approached the scene and screamed underwater when I saw a MASSIVE turtle swimming around and munching on grass. I was close enough to touch it at one point, but didn’t. I was so content being close to it. The experience brought me to tears.

This one's for dad.
This one’s for dad.

Gili sunset 

I dined constantly on fresh tropical fruit. This was not a first, but a noteworthy part of my trip. Pineapple,  coconut, papaya, snakeskin fruit, passion fruit, some weird little red thing, mango, you name it, I ate it (except bananas). I couldn’t stop. It seemed like a fabulous idea at the time, but it returned to kick me in the ass at the end. Let’s just say, I’m really glad I had an aisle seat on my flight home, as my regular trips to the bathroom would have been a lot to ask of someone else to roll out of their comfy airplane seat.

gorgeous tropical fruitfruit stand in Bali 

Needless to say, my next few postings will be highly influenced by Bali, Balinese cuisine and/or culture and will most likely include a few photos of my experience there. I wish I had something more poetic to say at this point, but for now, I’d rather just let the photos do the talking. Do enjoy. Let me know what you think.

volcano in Balimonkey statue in UbudSacred monkey forest wall Ubudflower offerings in Bali

Simple Chocolate Mousse with Pink Peppercorn Sea Salt and Cocoa Nibs + Cherry Blossoms in Seoul

chocolate mousse with pink peppercorns and cocoa nibs 

Spring in Seoul has brought along a reemergence of cherry blossoms and (for me) chocolate (not that my relationship with chocolate ever actually went into hibernation… but … whatever).

Here’s what it looks like right now.

 cherry blossoms 1cherry blossoms 2cherry blossoms 3magnolia blossoms

yellow blossomspink cherry blossoms

 

One of my elementary classes recently read a book called “The Story of Chocolate” by Usborne books, which is a fun little thing full of interesting facts. Most of the books I am forced to read with my students cause uncontrollable eye rolling and confusion on my part. They often include bizarre Korean publications of classics like Pinocchio where our protagonist has a nose made from a sausage and is born from a talking log (a few slight liberties where taken from the original). You can imagine my excitement when I began reading The Story of Chocolate with my students and found I was actually interested and (gasp) learning something.

 

Apparently, the first chocolate eaters were monkeys. The clever little guys ate the luscious white pulp from the cocoa pods and spat out the bitter beans found within. Mayan farmers saw the monkeys doing this and copied them. They continued to discard the beans until they discovered the pleasant aroma coming from the beans that were left to roast in the hot sun. They tried the beans and realized they weren’t so bad after all. The beans were ground into a paste and turned into a drink. Cocoa beans became the drug of choice and were soon worth more than gold. It was even used as a currency. The Mayans eventually shared their secret with Aztec traders, who were conquered by some Spanish guy who stole a bunch of beans and brought them back to Europe and so on. We’ll call this the abridged version.

whipped cream peaks 

So anyone who hasn’t been living in cave all their life has tried chocolate at some point and probably loved it. Humans have had a major love affair with chocolate and we will do just about anything to get our grubby little paws on some. Understandably so. It turns out that chocolate is an aphrodisiac and has the ability to make us happy in more ways than one. Heyyy!

 bittersweet chocolate chips

Pink peppercorns (baie rose) pair rather well chocolate and are also an aphrodisiac. Heyyy! Thought to be part of the piper family tree, pink peppercorns aren’t actually related to pepper. In fact, they are the dried berries of the shrub Schinus molle, commonly known as the Peruvian peppertree and have been confused due to their similarities in size, shape and pungent flavour.

 

Where pepper has an intense, sharp and biting taste, pink peppercorn has a softer and more delicate flavour that adds sophistication to any dish. And just look at the stuff. They are elegance incarnate.

chocolate mousse with pink peppercorns and cocoa nibs bite

Simple Chocolate Mousse with Pink Peppercorn Sea Salt and Cocoa Nibs

Ingredients

    • 1 quart of heavy cream
    • 12 oz of bittersweet chocolate
    • 2 tsp of vanilla extract
    • ½ tsp sea salt
    • 1 ½ tbsp of coarsely crushed cocoa nibs
    • 1 tsp of crushed pink peppercorns

Directions

Whip heavy cream until it forms stiff peaks. TIP: Perform stiffness test by dipping whisk into the cream and lifting up. If the peaks keep their form, it’s done.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. When melted, add salt and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, take 1/3  of the whipped cream and gently fold in the chocolate. Once fully incorporated, add another third and continue to fold. Repeat with the rest of the cream and fold until the mousse is uniform in colour. Then, fold in the cocoa nibs.

Sprinkle pink peppercorn bits on top when serving.

Heyyy!

Magpie!
Magpie!

Flavour Pairing: Cauliflower Cashew Soup with Curry Yogurt Sauce + Leaving the Road Less Travelled

Cauliflower cashew soup with curry yogurt sauce

I always struggle to answer when asked where I’m from. Do I answer the place I was born? The place I’ve been most recently? Where I grew up? The place I’ve spent most of my life? The place my family lives? Where I’m most comfortable? Any of these could be the actual question behind the posed inquiry and my head swims with possible responses. For me, each would get a different reply.

Shiny
Shiny

The past decade or so of my life has been spent in a relatively nomadic state. I’ve lived and worked overseas, studied abroad and traveled like a maniac. The idea of ‘home’ has been stretched and expanded to mean more than I’ve ever thought possible. Home is where the heart is, yes, but home is so much more, too. I felt at home when I finally stepped on Icelandic soil after having dreams about the place for many years. Montreal is the home of my mum’s side of the family, as well as many of my closest friends, and though I only lived there for my university years, it feels like home. I lived in Seoul (and have now just returned) for 3 ½ years, and it too has a place in my heart and feels like home. I can’t tell my life story to every person who asks me where I’m from, so I usually come up with one short answer or another.

 Cauliflower cashew soup with curry yogurt sauce 2

After a few rushed weeks of fevered packing, random fits of tears and goodbye kisses, I left my home by my mother’s side at The Abode of the Message in New Lebanon, New York to return to Korea. The Abode is the place I was born, rebelled against and returned to. It is the place I lost my father and found a new meaning to the importance of family. It is the place I found love, lost it, and found it again. Eight peaceful months were spent cooking, eating, writing, photographing, running, loving, breathing, blissing out on nature, watching out for bears, catching up with old loved ones and meeting new loved ones. 

 Cauliflower cashew soup with curry yogurt sauce mixed 2

As I was staying with my mother for the first time in 10 years, there were a few challenges to overcome. Mainly involving myself not acting like an entitled 12 year old. This is a tough challenge for anyone reorganizing their lives to be closer to their mum. I took it as an opportunity to better my relationship with her. I didn’t always succeed… with the whole not being a grumpy, misunderstood teenager thing, but I tried.

 

When it came down to saying goodbye, even though I’ve done it countless times before (both to The Abode and to my mum), I found I was only able to remember the good things, the best things. Our connection fills me so much that my eyes start to leak. Home.

 

So, let the reign of debauchery and hilarity in Korea begin.

misspelled English sign in KoreaWelcome to SamcheongdongThe new Seoul City Hall building 

By the way, this cauliflower cashew soup with curry yogurt sauce is perfectly balanced and really pretty. Also, preparing a sauce for a soup makes you feel like you’re on top of things and you know what you’re doing.

 

Besides, it’s so easy.

Cauliflower cashew soup with curry yogurt sauce mixed

Cauliflower Cashew Soup with Curry Yogurt Sauce

Ingredients

For the soup:

  • 1 large head of cauliflower (about 7-10 cups chopped roughly)
  • 2 ½ cups cashew pieces
  • 1 cup chopped potato
  • 1 leek, washed and chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fenugreek
  • ¼ tsp clove powder
  • 1 ½ tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • a pinch of paprika
  • cooking oil
  • water

For the sauce:

  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 ½ tsp Indian curry powder
  • ¼ tsp salt

Directions

Add some cooking oil, the onions and garlic to a large pot on medium high heat. Let brown for 4-5 minutes. Stir intermittently.

Add cauliflower, leek and potato. Cook for 10 minutes.

Pour water in until all vegetables are just covered. Do not put in too much or the soup will be watery. Add cashews and spices.

Let the soup boil for 20-25 minutes.

Take the soup off the heat. Using an emersion blender, blend the soup until smooth.

In a separate bowl, mix yogurt, salt and curry powder until well incorporated.

Place a dollop of yogurt on top of the soup when ready to serve.

Serves 4-6

Transformations: Dill Scallion Butter Chicken Sausage with Beet Puree and Artichoke Fennel Salad with Cucumber and Wasabi + Your Appetite

chicken sausage with beet cream and fennel artichoke salad 2

Remember that beet salad I posted a little while ago? The tangy, creamy and colourful one? Well, I made a lot of it and started to get really sick of eating it. I love beets and I love salad and have a high tolerance for both, but there’s only so much I can take of any one thing on repeat. It was imperative to exercise my leftover transforming skills in a big way.  

chicken sausage with beet cream and fennel artichoke salad

A beautiful plate and/or presentation of a dish, including bright colours and pleasant forms, can change your hunger level and alter how attracted you are towards any food or dish presented to you (excepting anything with bananas… they will always be evil).  Dishes that are beautifully arranged actually whet your appetite and make you hungrier.  

 

 

Mmm... appetizing
Mmm… appetizing

Colour plays a crucial role in our attraction to food. Studies have shown that blue is the least appetizing colour to eat. Our foraging ancestors learned to avoid toxic and spoiled foods, which were often blue, purple, grey and black (berries, eggplant, etc, excluded). That behaviour has been imprinted on us. So when food is dyed blue, our appetites turn cold. In fact, dieters are advised to use blue place mats, lights, plates, etc… when eating to aid in appetite suppression.  

 

 

Umm... not so appetizing.
Umm… not so appetizing.

Foods that are red, orange, green and yellow (depending on culture) are apparently the most appetizing and exciting to us. Red is the colour of passion, intimacy and enthusiasm and all that registers when we look at our food. Cool.  

chicken sauasge with beet cream and fennel artichoke salad bite

So, in honor of red, I give you beets. Yes, more of them.  

This dish was actually inspired by food items that had to be used from my kitchen. They were either in great abundance or approaching their expiration dates.   I had made some dill scallion butter in the summer when the garden was overflowing with dill. I made a large batch and since butter freezes well, most of it went into the freezer. It’s very easy to make (put dill, scallions and softened butter into your food processor and blend) and really tasty on everything. I use it on popcorn, toast and sometimes to fry eggs. It works gorgeously when frying up an Applegate Chicken and Apple sausage, too.  

The recipe for the beet salad can be found here. Place a cup of it in a blender (adding a bit more dressing for texture) and blend until smooth.  

 

chicken sausage with beet cream and fennel artichoke salad last biteAnd, of course, we have the artichoke heart fennel salad with cucumber and wasabi. Everything about this dish was heaven to eat. And to look at.

Artichoke Heart Fennel Salad with Cucumber and Wasabi

Ingredients

  • 2 steamed artichoke hearts, remove spiky leaves and quarter (you could heat up frozen or canned artichokes, which is a lot easier, but not nearly as good. Avoid the marinated kind)
  • 1 cup fennel bulb, sliced (about ¼ of a whole bulb)
  • 1 cup small seed cucumber, sliced
  • 1 tsp tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • ¼ tsp wasabi paste (or powder mixed with water 1:1)

Directions

Mix ingredients.

Plate the salad with a dill scallion butter chicken sausage and beet puree in an artful way that fills you with passion and feelings of intimacy and piques your enthusiasm.

Look at. Admire. Devour.

Roasted Curry Carrots with Garlic Cilantro Raita + Redwoods of Sonoma

It’s winter and I’m out in the country with little excitement. I was struck with the winter blues about 2 weeks ago, and I haven’t successfully shaken them off yet. The Abode has been extremely quiet and the cocoon of winter makes me feel very internal. Having friends scattered literally all over the world and desiring varying sorts of comfort from each of them, I long for a teleportation device to aid me in quick visits. Anyone have one I could borrow?

 

Roasted carrot campfire
Roasted carrot campfire

 

I’ve been spending my days in alternating periods of busy-ness and sloth, but trying to be as productive as possible. I’ve taken to babying my knees, which have sadly become inflamed (winter!), preventing me from my daily runs. Boooo. I predict knee replacements in the future, hopefully many years from now. Poor little guys.

While visiting my sister in CA, we spent one cold, rainy day in Sonoma County. There, my sister, mum and I went to check out a redwood forest near Guerneville. It was very cold that day, and I was underdressed (having come from the east coast, I was foolishly optimistic about Northern California weather when packing my bag) so we didn’t spend as much time there as we’d have liked. But, we warmed ourselves up afterwards at Korbel vineyard tasting wines and champagnes.

redwood sentialsredwoods and us

 

redwood and meredwood detailCA moss and redwoods

I’ve never really been a fan of baked or roasted carrots. Perhaps I’ve held on to some bad childhood experiences, but until this summer I can’t really say that I’ve ever craved baked carrots.

roasted carrots

The Abode farm yielded an excellent crop this year and there was a tonne of every sort of produce you could desire. Cooks were forced into finding creative ways to use large quantities of produce before the food went off. This is extra challenging due to eaters who are understandably bored of eating the same thing over and over. When faced with a huge sack of beautiful carrots that need to be used right away, roasting seemed like the best way to get people to eat a lot. Luckily, I was right.

roasted carrots 2

The (not-so) secret to carrots is knowing how well they respond to sweet and savory combinations. Carrots are already loaded with natural sugars, and don’t need much more sugar to bring out the flavours. Just a pinch of added sugar will make your curried carrots pop.

Raita is a yogurt sauce originally from India. It is used to cool the palate when eating spicy food. Ingredients for raita can vary from region to region, but often contains cumin, cucumber, mint/cilantro and garlic. Even though the fries aren’t spicy, they pair beautifully with the raita.

roasted carrots 3

Roasted Curry Carrots with Garlic Cilantro Raita

Ingredients

For the carrots

  • A dozen large carrots
  • 1½-2 tbsp Indian curry powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp clove powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ¼ cup cooking oil

For the raita

  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • ¼ cup grated cucumber
  • ¼ cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 finely chopped cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp roasted cumin seeds (roasting instructions below)
  • ½ tsp salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat oven at 400ºF/200ºC/Gas mark 4

Peel carrots if they are especially dirty, otherwise, just wash them well and remove the ugly bits. Cut off both ends. Quarter the carrots lengthwise into strips and then cut the strips into shorter pieces. Don’t worry about making the pieces perfectly uniform, and forget about it if using garden carrots. It’s just not possible.

In a large bowl, mix (with your hands) the carrots with the curry powder, cinnamon, clove powder, salt, sugar and oil. Mix until each carrot is well seasoned and lubricated. Add more oil, if needed.

Lay the carrot pieces on (a) baking sheet(s). Allow plenty of space for each piece. Do not crowd them, otherwise, they won’t cook properly. Place in the oven and cook for 35 to 45 minutes. Check every 10 minutes to stir the carrots.

While the carrots are cooking, roast the cumin seeds. Start by placing a frying pan over high heat to get hot. Once the pan is hot, add seeds and keep them in constant motion for 2 to 3 minutes. When the seeds are brown and you can smell a warm roasted smell, remove them from heat.

Mix the seeds with the rest of the raita ingredients in a bowl. Try to not eat all of the raita before the carrots are ready (it’ll be difficult).

Dip, slather, smother, scoop, drip, drizzle cool raita on hot carrots. Warning: You may want to avoid kissing anyone on days eating the raita. Raw garlic is not romantic.

Flavour Pairing: Tangy Dill Walnut Beet Salad + Colourful Things in California

beet salad bite

In the past month, in the midst of my job search, I went on a few mini trips for the purpose of pleasure and to visit friends and family (previously mentioned here). It had been many years since I’d seen my sister and even longer since I’d been on the State side of the Pacific, what with the whole living in Asia thing. In fact, the last time I’d been to the west coast was for my sissy’s wedding to her fabulous wife 5 years ago. It was a lovely trip full of fish tacos, kitties and pretty nature.

The Ladies of Hanukah: Bee, sissy, mum and me. Thanks to Erika for the photo!

While wandering, I took a few (hundred) photos of those pretty natural things. Here are some of my favorites:

Green and yellow treesCA treeCA tree detailCA thornsCA mossNorthern CA landscape

4 trees in profile

ColourfulCA moss 2.

Beets are also colourful. And flavourful.

beet salad 

This recipe has converted a few beet haters I know. Beets pair astonishingly well with dill, which has been a traditional gastronomic practice in many European cuisines in various forms. Borscht in Eastern Europe and salads in Italy. With the aid of lemon and Dijon, this salad is an exemplary archetype of freshness. The walnuts add texture and creaminess. Do make. Do eat. Do enjoy.

beet salad 2

Tangy Dill Walnut Beet Salad

Ingredients

  • 3 large beets, peeled and cut into bite sized cubes
  • 3 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 cup ( ½ a bunch) of chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tbsp of diced red onion
  • 2 tbsp of dijon mustard
  • 1 ½ -2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 2 tbsp tamari
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp walnuts, crushed (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Place the peeled cubes of beets in a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Continue boiling for 25-30 minutes. To check if they’re fully cooked, poke a large piece with a fork. Like a potato, it should be soft when done. Do not overcook, or you’ll have beet mash.

Drain and rinse the beets in a colander and place in a large bowl when fully drained.

Add all other ingredients and mix well.

Variation

Replace mayonnaise with goat’s cheese for a saltier, less emulsified creaminess.

Cumin Rosemary and Garlic Sweet Potato Fries + Mohican Ruins?

sweet potato fries

Mum and I went for a walk in the woods last week in the fresh snow. A friend had cleared a new path this past summer that borders the unfriendly edges of our property and we wanted to explore the old ruins found there. When I say unfriendly, I’m alluding to the gun toting, 4 wheeling neighbors who once threatened my mum when she approached their home to get directions. How charming.

 mohican ruins 1mohican ruins 2mohican ruins 4

I can see that my New Year’s resolution of being less sarcastic will be a challenge. (Happy 2013, by the way!)

mohican ruins 5

mohican ruins 6mohican ruins 7
 

Some expert of some relevant subject came to see these ruins and speculated that they might have been built and used by the Mohicans as a trading post long ago. The ruins consisted of a large stone marker and 3-walled structure of some sort, where people would meet and/or leave goods for each other. It’s pretty cool to find this sort of thing in ones own (extended) backyard. It can be easy to forget the possibilities of the past in just about any place (except for maybe Surtsey Island), and especially in an area as quiet (quiet for me, anyway) as the Berkshires. It is unknown whether or not these are actually Mohican ruins, but it is nice to think of that possibility. I like feeling the rich history of a place, whether it’s geological or human. Time has spread its wings over everything.

mohican ruins 3

 

One of the most satisfying winter comfort foods are sweet potatoes. Warm, earthy, orange and versatile. They add flavour and heart to any meal.

 roasted sweet potato bite

Though many cooks like to take the natural sweetness found in sweet potatoes to an even sweeter level (sweet potato pie, candied yams, sweet potato pancakes, etc) I prefer to balance the sweetness by adding salty and savory ingredients. A quick look at my brand new Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg lists a few great ideas, like: garlic, duck, dill, cilantro, cumin, prosciutto, sage, Dijon, chives and more. Mmm.

 roasted sweet potato bite 2

If you’re not that comfortable working and experimenting with new sweet potato recipes, try these fries as a way to practice. You are guaranteed delicious results.

Cumin Rosemary and Garlic Sweet Potato Fries

Ingredients

  • 3 medium-large sweet potatoes
  • 3 crushed and minced cloves of garlic
  • 1 ½-2 tbsp of cumin powder
  • 2 tsp of fresh or dried rosemary leaves
  • 1 tsp salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp sesame oil (optional)
  • Cooking oil

Directions

Preheat oven to 400ºF/200ºC/Gas mark 6.

Peel your sweet potatoes (or leave the skin on and just cut off the ugly bits like I do- when they are roasted the skin becomes soft and yummy. It is matter of taste. Just make sure you wash them well). Using a large knife, cut the sweet spuds into ½ inch slices. Then cut them into long fries.

Place them into a large bowl with all the other ingredients and mix until the oil and spices are evenly coating the fries.

Place the fries onto (a) baking sheet(s). Be sure to give them plenty of space. If they are too crowded, they won’t roast as well and will take much longer. Also, be sure to add any oil and spices at the bottom of the mixing bowl for extra flavour.

Place in oven and roast for about 45 minutes. Check them every 10-15 minutes to stir and turn them. This will prevent burning on one side and ensure even cooking.

Remove from heat when nicely browned and your kitchen is filled a warm, hearty smell.

Eat when hot.

Serves 4-6