Weeknight Dinner

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Potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, and rosemary, ready to go into the oven and roast for forty-five minutes.

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Some pork sundried tomato sausage I made earlier this month and froze. Boiled it for a few minutes in beer before putting it on top of the half-cooked vegetables to finish in the oven.

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Prepared a healthy salad of red leaf lettuce, carrots, and tomatoes with some feta cheese, dried cranberries, and pecans. Served with a Japanese style sesame dressing.

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The roasted vegetables and sausages come out of the oven, ready to eat!

 

Finger Food at Tawn’s Label Debut

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Saturday evening, Tawn officially launched his Tawn C label of women’s clothing.  About two dozen friends and former fashion school classmates came to our house to view and try on his collection, see the website, and click “like” on his label’s facebook page.

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All that was asked of me was to prepare the food and drink for the guests.  Tawn wanted only easy-to-eat finger food and appetizers, so I scoured my recipes and cookbooks and spent the day making several dishes.  There are two or three more I would have made had time not run out.  Here’s a closer look at them:

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Pastry puff strips baked two ways: with Italian cheeses or za’atar, the Middle Eastern spice made with sesame seeds and various herbs.

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Toasted baguette rounds with smoked ham, whole grain mustard, Spanish olives, and cherry tomatoes.

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Toasted baguette rounds topped with a roasted beet and green apple salsa, improvised from a Martha Stewart recipe.

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Toasted baguette rounds (I toasted a lot of those!) topped with wasabi cream cheese spread, smoked Norwegian salmon, avocado, and capers.  I had purchased shiso leaves that I was going to include on this but forgot them!

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Repeat of my watermelon, cherry tomato, feta cheese, and mint salad from a few weeks ago, except this time I used a yellow watermelon which made it so much more colorful.

 

Mega Papaya

A year ago I wrote about the mysterious pineapples that appear on our doorstep from time to time, a gift we eventually traced to a neighbor who lives across the courtyard from us.  Yesterday, when returning home, we found a large object wrapped in newspaper sitting on our doorstep, too large to be a pineapple.

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What was it?  The largest papaya I’ve ever seen.  Hopefully, we’re going to have a hoard of fruit eaters descending on us soon because I don’t know how we’ll ever finish so much papaya just by ourselves.

Oddly, left with the payapa was the handle of a shovel.  Just the metal handle, not the woden shaft or the blade of the shovel.  Strange, huh?

 

Sunday Brunch

Sunday morning we hosted brunch for a group of friends, all of whom work (or used to work) in the aviation industry.  Needless to say, the topic of conversation frequently turned back to shared work experiences.  Despite this, we still had time to enjoy a relaxed meal of salad, sandwiches, and dessert.

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A ripe, juicy watermelon from a roadside stall in Korat province provided the inspiration for a cool, refreshing summer salad.  Trying to scoop melon balls while avoiding seeds was a challenge, though!

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Based loosely on a recipe by the New York Times’ Mark Bittman, this salad features just four ingredients: watermelon, cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, and fresh mint.  I didn’t dress the salad with a red wine vinaigrette as Mr. Bittman suggests, because when I tasted the combination I found the flavors already beautifully balanced.

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To make the main course, I first baked a batch of focaccia bread, the light, airy, rosemary infused Italian style bread.  This batch was based on a recipe in the Los Angeles Times by La Brea Bakery owner Nancy Silverton.  The problem is, the recipe is missing the last step: how long to cook the bread and at what temperature!  Critical information, methinks.  Referencing another recipe, 450 F for 15-20 minutes was sufficient.

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Despite the absence of time and temperature information, the loaf turned out nicely and when paired with some herb smoked ham from Soulfood Mahanakorn, provolone cheese, and a roasted red bell pepper and onion relish I made, we had some beautiful paninis.

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For dessert, I made one of Tawn’s favorites: banoffee pie.  This British import features a layer of rich toffee on a cookie crumb crust, covered with freshly sliced bananas, whipped cream, a drizzle of coffee flavored syrup, and chocolate shavings.  Instead of making a cheat version of the toffee, I made it the old fashioned way: boiling tins of sweetened condensed milk in a water bath for three hours until the contents caramelize.  Care must be taken to keep the tins fully submerged, otherwise they will explode and spray your kitchen with boiling hot caramel.

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The end result – my first ever attempt at this dish – had its ups and downs.  The crust hadn’t been made with enough butter so it didn’t hold up well, collapsing under the weight of the filling.  The toffee, which was insanely tasty, was too much – one can would have been plenty.  I didn’t whip the cream quite enough so it didn’t hold its shape and instead spilled through the collapsing crust.

But, despite all that, it was really tasty.  I’ll try again one of these days and refine the recipe.

 

Tomatoes

I found a few pictures of one of my Chianti tomatoes.  Went ahead and added it to the previous entry about the balcony garden but didn’t want to time-stamp it.

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This tomato was pretty small, although really nice and ripe.  Shown here with some Italian basil and Italian parsley I’m also growing.

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Turning the tomato over, though, you can see the result of the blossom rot.  Thankfully, this was only superficial damage.  I sliced this section off and the rest of the fruit was good to eat.

 

How Does My Garden Grow – Pt. 5

While the autumn harvest back in November was meagre – two cherry tomatoes and two radishes – my balcony garden has done somewhat better in the intervening months.  Recently, a handful of larger tomatoes have appeared, my container eggplant plant has been doing well, and I’ve even discovered a batch of small earthworms living in one of the pots.

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Pretty pale violet blossoms on my container eggplant plant.  Its broad leaves look slightly prehistoric but the tiny bees love the flowers and it has turned out to be the most productive plant in my garden.

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The plant produces these small purple fruit that grow to about the size of a golf ball.  We had some unseasonable rain for several days in January, which didn’t seem to harm the plants, but slowed the ripening of the fruits by a few days.

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The first harvest of eggplant.  I think a few of them (the yellowish ones) got a little sunburned but they tasted fine.  I used these to make some baba ganoush.  Frankly, miniature eggplants aren’t the most convenient for grilling then scraping out the flesh because there isn’t much flesh left after the grilling is complete! 

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My second watermelon radish grew to a healthy size, much larger than a golf ball though not nearly so large as a tennis ball.  Interestingly, instead of pushing down into the dirt it pushed itself up, keeping a long trailing root.  Proof that my soil has too much clay in it and needs more work.

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Cutting this radish, I got a good look at the unique coloring.  Whereas my first radish (yeah, I only grew two – root vegetables take up too much space) had a pale pink exterior, this one looked more like the picture on the cover of the seed package.  By letting the radish grow so large, it developed a pretty sharp taste, but I actually like that.

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While my first tomato plant never produced more than two cherry tomatoes, the two remaining plants, both of the Chianti variety, were a bit more productive.  They required some creative support since the gardening shops have been out of proper tomato cages ever since the floods a few months ago.  Despite the ad hoc support system, there are five or six fruits that finally set.  We never really had enough of the cooler nighttime temperatures that help the polinated blossoms to set.

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The fruit size is relatively small – just a bit smaller than a tennis ball – and there is some blossom rot on the bottom caused by my watering habits.  I’ve learned that it is better to give tomatoes a really good soaking every second or third day rather than giving them a moderate watering every day.  The first of the tomatoes already ripened and the edible parts were really sweet, dark red, and juicy.  These two plants will be finished after these fruits are ripe but I have another plant about eight inches tall and hopefully I can have some better luck with it over the next few months.

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I also harvested two of the half-dozen carrots I’ve been crowing.  These were a petite French variety and you can again see the effect of too much clay in the soil: very misshapen carrots.  I cleaned them up and put them on a salad, though, and they tasted nice.  Again, root veggies just don’t make a lot of sense in a balcony garden.  Vertical plants are much more efficient.

The last bit of good news from my garden: after pulling out the original cherry tomato plant, I was ammending the soil and discovered dozens of small (inch-long) earthworms.  Don’t know where they came from but I hope they continue to breed.  I transferred many of them to two spare sacks of soil and compost, added some vegetable scraps from my kitchen, and hope they will work over the next several months to help give me better quality soil.

Who knew finding worms could be so exciting?

Big Bite Breakfast

The morning after attending Big Bite Bangkok, I decided to make myself breakfast using some of the ingredients I had purchased.

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Bagel sandwich with scrambled eggs, Provelone cheese, a slice of ham from Soulfood Mahanakorn that had been cured in a dry rub for four days then smoked of Thai herb cuttings, and some salsa made from Adams Organic tomatoes.  Add to that a latte and it was a pleasant start to the day.

Speaking of Adams Organic, I was invited to visit their farm in Korat so yesterday made the drive up there with Chow and Ken.  Lots of footage to share so I need to take several days to digest the information, write the entry, and fact-check.  Stay tuned!

 

Big Bite Bangkok

Last Sunday I attended a small fundraiser-slash-food market called Big Bite Bangkok.  Originally scheduled for World Food Day last October, it was twice postponed due to the flooding.  While the scale was small – ten vendors and perhaps 150 attendees – it was a good turnout for the first occurrence of this event and many members of the Bangkok foodie scene from chefs to bloggers were present.

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Bit Bite Bangkok was organized by In Search of Sanuk, a small organization that is trying to help those in and around Bangkok who fall through the cracks of other, larger NGO and charity organizations, especially at-risk families. 

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Set up in the parking lot of the stylish Ma Du Zi boutique hotel on Asoke Road, Big Bite Bangkok included vendors such as Adams Organic.  I’ll be visiting their farm in Korat on Monday, so stay tuned for the behind-the-scenes story about how this American couple and their Thai relatives are pushing the gospel of organic produce.

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Other vendors included Roast Coffee & Eatery, serving their own roast of coffee, and BKK Bagel Bakery – the only source of authentic New York-style bagels in the Big Mango.

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One of the vendors was a Sri Lankan family, selling homemade treats from their kitchen.  The balls on the left (the ones the woman is scooping into a banana leaf tray) are a fish and potato croquette.  The ones on the right are desserts.  Sadly, I did not capture the name.

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Birds in a Row, the catering arm of the tiny Seven Spoons restaurant (which I’ve twice visited but have yet to write about) featured some tasty Mediterranean inspired foods such as these lentil-stuffed bell peppers, left, and an eggplant casserole.

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I spent most of my morning (and early afternoon) hanging out by Chow’s table, where she was selling homemade Sai Oua, a Northern Thai style pork sausage.  Since I had helped stuff all the sausage (my, that sausage stuffer attachment for the KitchenAid mixer has sure paid off!), I felt some responsibility to provide moral support to its seller.

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Look at that lovely sausage!

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Served almost Vietnamese style in a French roll with homemade roasted tomato ketchup, coriander sauce, pickled carrots and daikon radish, and some fresh coriander.  Tasty!

This event was a lot of work to prepare so I’m not sure if it will happen very often, perhaps quarterly.  Next time, though, I’ll bake something to sell and do more to contribute to the cause.