Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Dude.  Seriously.  It's been over a month since my last post. What happened?  Let's see...

-The University of San Francisco backhandedly sold and shut down KUSF 90.3 FM, the beloved community radio station where I had volunteered many hours and DJed at for four years.  That's been pretty disruptive.
-I misplaced my camera
-My camera's batteries were dead (x4) 
-I botched the polenta for a meal that was going to be The Next Blog Post
-Health insurance limbo

Oh yeah, something pretty awesome happened too.  Wayne and I shared our second anniversary together.  That's almost 9% of my lifetime.  


To celebrate, we made an epic lasagna.  Together.  As in, I let him do more than just mince garlic and cut onion.

I also started a new music project, or "band" if you will, and have been working pretty seriously to get it off the ground.  I've found my creative energy levels depleted lately with little room for writing about food I eat and make.  Actually, I haven't been making as much food in general and I've made friends with more burritos and pizza slices lately than I'm used to.  One recent practice night, I found myself at probably the most terrifying pizza place I've ever been in.  The actual pizza though, was pretty alright.

Back to the 'gna: I ended up choosing and adapting a Paula Deen lasagna recipe because it was actually one of the most frills-less non-low-carbfatvegetarian versions I could find.  I subbed fresh herbs for dried ones, fresh whole milk ricotta for cottage cheese, and nixed half a pound of meat.  Surprisingly, there is no butter in this recipe.  But in true Paula Deen fashion, according to her it apparently yields four servings.  Even after cutting back the meat, we got 12.

Lots-o-Meat Just Enough Meat Lasagna
Adapted from Paula Deen
serves 12,  I swear.
10 lasagna noodles, cooked or oven ready.

Meat Sauce:
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground Italian sausage
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes, diced, or whole peeled tomatoes chopped
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1/4 cup red wine (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste

Cheese Mixture:
1 1/2 cups ricotta, or 1lb
1-2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup grated parmesan
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large saucepan, combine ground beef, sausage, onion, and garlic. Cook over medium heat until meat is browned and crumbled, about 8-10 minutes or until no longer pink; drain excess liquid, or keep a little if you enjoy dangling on the edge of the precipice.  

Add two tablespoons of basil, oregano, salt, pepper.

If using, add the wine and raise heat to a boil, then down to a simmer and cook until reduced by half. (We did not do this and it was still delicious, though I think it would result in a richer sauce)

Stir in tomatoes and tomato paste and let simmer uncovered for 30 to 45 minutes.


Add salt and pepper to taste.

While the meat sauce is simmering, in a medium bowl, combine ricotta, eggs, Parmesan, remaining two tablespoons of basil, parsley, salt and pepper.

After some (tasty) miscalculating, we diverged from Paula's layering technique and ended up with something like this:

Layers, from bottom to top:
1/4 of sauce
1/3 of  pasta
1/2 of ricotta mixture
1/4 of mozzarella

1/4 of sauce
1/3 of pasta
remaining 1/2 of ricotta mixture
1/4 of mozzarella

remaining 1/3 of pasta
remaining half of sauce

Oven ready noodles from Lucca, ready for baked justice

Still fairly naked, yet humble

Bake uncovered for 45 minutes.  Top with remaining 1/2 of mozzarella cheese and bake for 15 more minutes, or until cheese is golden brown.  Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Mt. Queso erupts

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bread Grave

I was going to publish all my passionate thoughts on feelings about shave ice, but it's been a month since I was in Hawaii, and it just feels way to cold and Christmas-y to evoke such thoughts of granular ice crystals doused in liquid sugar.  So I will hold off until it gets a bit warmer.

Instead, I bring you the answer to all your winter problems -- not one, but two recipes that make awesome use of bread past its prime and will keep you super warm and stuffed.

Picking up a fresh baguette (usually of the Semifreddi's or Acme variety) on the way home is instinctual for me.  Sometimes I don't even know why I do it because I usually have a loaf already waiting at home from the previous day.  But one must survive, and to do so, follow instinct.

I eat tons of bread.  But a lot of times, working your way through a baguette free of preservatives before it goes stale is not possible.  You can make croutons.  You can make breadcrumbs.  Or you can make a meal out of it. 

All rise and hail:
Pappa al Pomodoro and the Chard, Onion, and Gruyere Panade

I love and make pappa al pomodoro pretty regularly because a) it's always pretty cold in SF, b) it's cheap, easy, filling, and tasty, c) it's a respectable place for old bread to die.

Pappa al Pomodoro (aka Tomato Bread Soup)
from my sister Laura
serves 4
1/4 cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 - 1 whole stale baguette, or 10 oz stale artisan bread cut into rough 1 inch cubes
32 oz chicken broth (about four cups)
32 oz can whole peeled tomatoes*
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup chopped basil
salt and pepper to taste

If your bread isn't totally dried out, toast it in the oven at 400 degrees for about ten minutes or just when edges begin to turn golden brown.  This will ensure it is able to soak up the soup and turn into dumpling-esque bready things.

Saute garlic in olive oil over medium heat until soft but not brown, about 2 minutes.

Add broth and tomatoes, turn heat up to high and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, turn heat to low, add bay leaf, basil, and let simmer for 15 minutes.  Mash the tomatoes if they are not broken down enough.  *You can also use diced tomatoes, but I prefer whole peeled because they have been processed less.

Stir in the bread cubes and simmer for 30 more minutes.

Salt and pepper to taste, garnish with more chopped basil.


I've never been to Zuni (please, someone take me there), but if this panade recreated at home is any indication that the restaurant is worthy of its reputation, then please, take me there.  It is everything good all at once: French onion soup, stuffing/dressing, a casserole, cheesy, and therefore bubbly.

This was much more of a feat than the aforementioned tomatoey standby above (great for weeknights!).  Knowing this, I did what I could the day before -- cubing the bread, sauteing the chard, and grating the cheese.

Most of my slight adaptations stem from the fact that I was absolutely determined to use as few dishes as possible, mostly just my dutch oven.  You can also cook everything in different pots and pans and then assemble the panade into a deep 2 quart+ souffle dish if you do not have a dutch oven. 

Chard, Onion, and Gruyere Cheese Panade
adapted from Orangette who adapted it from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook
serves 4 - 5 as a main dish
1 ½ lbs yellow onions (about 2 1/2 medium onions), thinly sliced
1/2 a stick of butter
4 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb Swiss or rainbow chard, thick ribs removed, cut into 1-inch-wide ribbons
1 whole stale baguette, or 10 oz stale artisan bread cut into rough 1 inch cubes
2 cups chicken broth
About 2 loosely packed cups grated white cheese, preferably Gruyere (I used a blend of Pecorino Romano, Fontina, and Comte because it was cheaper and what I had on hand)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Component 1: Onions

In a large saucepan or dutch oven if you have one, melt the butter over medium high heat.  Cook onions until bottom layer is golden brown, stir, and repeat for top layer, about three minutes.  Reduce heat to low, stir in garlic and a pinch of salt.  Cover and cook onions until they are a pale amber color, tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes. Set aside.

Component 2: Chard

Using the same saucepan or dutch oven, saute chard in 2 tablespoons olive oil and a tablespoon or two of water over medium heat until the leaves are just wilted, about 2-4 minutes.  Set aside. 

Component 3: Bread

Toss the cubed bread with the 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/4 cup of the broth, and a few pinches of salt.
 Layer the bottom of the dutch oven or souffle dish with a good amount of onions, loosely top with bread cubes, more onions, chard, 1/3 of the cheese and repeat (should be able to about one or two more times), topping with bread.

Bring the remaining 1 3/4 cups of broth and 2 cups of water to a simmer in a separate pot.  Slowly pour liquid a little at a time over the assembled panade.  Top with remaining cheese.

I diverted from the recipe and topped it with bread and cheese not only because I'd run out of onions and chard, but because I'd hoped for the bread and cheese to crisp up nicely together, which they did.

Set the dish over low heat on the stove top, bringing its liquid to a simmer until it bubbles around the edges. 

Loosely cover the panade with foil and bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  If your dish is filled closer to the top than mine, you may want to place it on a baking sheet to catch any drippings that bubble over.

Uncover panade, raise oven temperature to 400 degrees and bake for another 10-15 minutes until the cheese is golden brown.

Remove from oven and let sit for five minutes before serving.

Served with a side of roasted cauliflower

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ono Kine Grinez

Waimea Beach on a particularly cloudy day

My tan from my Oahu trip a couple weeks back is already fading, but it's okay because by the end of it I barely fit into my swimsuit anyway.

Next First stop:

Multiple locations.

I couldn't find any videos of the "Next stop: ZIPPY'S" ad campaign, but this 1992 commercial precisely illustrates what it feels like to eat at Zippy's. 

Worth the trip indeed.

I first wrote about Zippy's in reference to their mac salad.  Their familiarity and consistency naturally begged for Zippy's to be the first thing I ate off the plane. 

Spam not pictured

I opted for the comprehensive Surf Pac.

I wanted to sit down since I had just gotten off the plane, thus the slightly overboard price of $10.25, but if you want to dine in the to-go area, the Surf Pac will run a couple bucks cheaper.

Pa'ala'a Kai Bakery
66-945 Kaukonahua Rd
Waialua, HI 96791
(808) 637-9795

I grew up down the street from this place so I will stand by it no matter what.  The custard honeymoons were always my favorite as a kid in stark contrast to my sister's favorite chocolate honeymoons.  As adults we can now find middle ground with the chocolate and custard honeymoon.

Honeymoon, donut holes, butter roll, smokies, aka breakfast.

Sweet donuts aside, Pa'ala'a Kai is most famous for their smokies wrapped in an insanely buttery dough.

Young's Fish Market
1286 Kalani Street
Kalihi/Honolulu, HI 96817
(808) 841-4885

Young's offers authentic Hawaiian food rather than your standard "plate lunch," which is local to Hawaii but not necessarily Hawaiian.

After three hours of raiding the yet-to-be-picked-over Savers in Kalihi (much unlike Bay Area thrift shopping), I was unusually ravenous for poi, which is taro root pounded so much that it reaches a goopy consistency.

My half of the butterfish laulau combo plate

I split the hefty butterfish laulau combo plate which includes butterfish laulau (available only on Fridays), lomi salmon, pipikaula, poi, steamed Okinawan sweet potato, and extra rice.

Butterfish laulau basking

Laulau is pretty much the best present you could give someone because you can eat the wrapping paper too.

Chun Wah Kam Noodle Factory
98-040 Kamehameha Hwy
Aiea, HI 96701
(808) 485-1107

You cannot get chow mein like this on the mainland.  Serious.

Char siu, honey garlic chicken, and kalua pig manapua
Chun Wah Kam is my favorite place on the island to get manapua, or "steamed bun" in layman's terms (though an afterhours manapua from 7-11 is like the best thing ever when you realize how much whiskey you've drank).  Chun Wah Kam offers a ton different types of manapua and even a pizza manapua that happens to rule.  Of the three I had, the classic char siu pork reigned supreme.

Giovanni's Shrimp Truck
66-460 Kamehameha Hwy
Haleiwa, HI 96712
+ several other North Shore locations

Garlic butter shrimp plate

This is a picture of Cristy's garlic butter shrimp plate ($13).  I don't like shrimp, but you probably do so I thought I'd include a picture from this famous truck.  If it were the case that I simply hadn't ever had good shrimp, Giovanni's would have changed my mind.  But it didn't because I just don't like shrimp.  Unfortunately, I feel a lot of important food doors will remain unopened until I do.

Opal Thai Truck
66-460 Kamehameha Hwy
Haleiwa, HI 96712
(808) 381-8091

Pineapple fried rice.
Since I was in the shrimp truck gulch and realized I still didn't like shrimp, I opted for a shrimpless entree at the Opal Thai truck.

Kozo Sushi
Multiple locations

Ahi tartare roll

It's a little embarrassing but I am only now at this point in my life easing my way into eating raw fish/sushi.  I can't speak for how awesome this local sushi chain may or may not be except that I loved the ahi tartare roll ($6.99), and that is all I've ever tried there.  After finishing my roll I came to the realization that SF is really lacking in affordable sushi take out like that all over Oahu.  Without submitting to supermarket sushi, I can't think of anywhere in SF where you can order a freshly made roll to go for under $10.  In a way, sushi is like the burrito of Hawaii, and places like Kozo akin to taquerias but you won't leave with a case of burrito-butt.

As massive as this list is and all the food was, I still missed several spots I'd meant to hit up.  There is never enough time nor appetite, even at a rate of four meals a day.  Did I mention I also had a full traditional Thanksgiving meal and plowed through the leftovers also? 

A mochiko chicken musubi from Diamond Head Grill that I stole a bite from

My missed connection food list goes as follows:
-ramen at Yotekko-Ya
-anything at the KCC Farmer's Market
-musubi or manapua late night at 7-11 just because I'm an adult and I can
-malasadas at Leonard's Bakery
-Garlic ahi fried rice from Irifune

Lengthy essay on SHAVE ICE coming soon.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Kalua Pig

Thanksgiving and fall recipes seem to be the only things going around these days, so here's some pig for reprieve -- not to mention in one its most easy, economical, and satisfying forms.

Our new(ish) apartment needed to be warmed.  So we decided we needed 6 lbs of pork butt to do it. And some spam too!

Spam musubi, realized in bite size form

The traditional Hawaiian method of cooking kalua pig (also known as kalua "pork" on the mainland) is in an imu, or an oven dug in the ground.  At my high school, some classes had fundraisers selling kalua pig instead of say, chocolate or cookies.  Someone's dad would go shoot a pig in the mountains, haul it back, and cook it in an imu that had been dug next to the football field.  If I remember correctly, they were pretty successful fundraisers.

Straight from the Aloha Stadium swap meet

Whenever I explain kalua pig to people not from Hawaii, there tends to be confusion with the "kalua" part.  "Is there Kahlua in it?" 

Kahlua - a Mexican coffee-flavored liqueur.  The name is derived from the Veracruzan Nahuatl language spoken before Spanish conquest.

Kalua - "to cook in the ground" in the Hawaiian language.

I suppose you could try braising some pork in Kahlua to make Kahlua pig.  I think liquid smoke works better though.

Questionable yet effective

While I do have a 3'x10' area at the bottom of my apartment building, it is not suitable for imu digging as it is unfortunately covered with concrete and trash cans and smells way too much like pee than it should (it's enclosed...who pees in back of their apartment??!).  But thanks to today's available artificial flavors and the technological feat that is the oven, I was able to make this at home without picking cement or getting so much as a whiff of urine.

I've seen kalua pig recipes that call for pork shoulder and am going to recommend against it.  I tried to do a mix of butt and shoulder to keep it from being overly fatty -- MISTAKE.  Unless you have several more hours to roast the shoulder longer at a lower temperature, stick with the butt in all its tender glory.  And for those who are like "ewww, BUTT!" (have you eaten a hot dog lately?) pork butt, also known as Boston butt is not actually of the butt, but rather a part of the shoulder.  So really, I was just unknowingly mixing a superior cut of the shoulder with an inferior cut of the shoulder.  Luckily though, the butt fat covered up the dryness of the shoulder.

More information about butts and shoulders can be found here.  Do not fear the butt!

Done cooking, but not shredding

Oven Roasted Kalua Pig
adapted from so so many sources
Serves about 16 people

5-6 lbs pork butt, a.k.a. Boston butt*
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 tablespoon + 1 tablespoon sea salt (I used orange Ala'ea salt from Hawaii)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Trim excess fat.  This is important.  I love fat as much as the next maiden of fat but I did not trim enough and, once cooked, was left with big fat globs I had to dig out.

Lay out foil in roasting pan and place pork on top.  The entire piece will be enclosed in this piece foil before cooking, so make sure it is big enough to do so.

Score pork with shallow slits, about 1/2 inch deep, all around.

Rub 2 tablespoons of liquid smoke and 1 tablespoon salt into meat (I recommend trying to maneuver this with a spoon because the liquid smoke gets into your skin and makes your hands stink even after multiple washes).

Wrap foil so that meat is completely enclosed.

Roast for about 4.5 hours, or 45 minutes a pound at 325 degrees.

Once cooled to room temperature, shred with two forks.

Dissolve remaining 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon of liquid smoke in about 1/2 cup of water.  Pour over shredded pork and let stand til absorbed, about 10 minutes.

If you want to add cabbage (highly recommended), throw about 1/4 cup of the pork drippings in a pan, saute chopped cabbage until wilted, and mix in with pork.  I used about a half a head of cabbage in the end.