Sunday, August 31, 2008

Jalapeño Cupcake: My Very First Cupcake

[js]Never in a million years did I think I would bake a cupcake.

First, I honestly don't even know what a cupcake is. I mean, I knew it was some sort of baked good and usually came in one of those liner things, but I always thought they were just muffins.

Muffins and cupcakes: to this ignorant non-baker, they have the same shape, so what's the difference?

I saw Alton Brown in the cupcake episode of Good Eats saying that cupcakes were actually cakes baked in a smaller form, in cups, but that didn't help me any. Cakes, muffins: again, what's the difference?

Anyways, I decided all this questing to alleviate my ignorance is futile and beside the point. Best to dive into making a cupcake, because Maybelle's mom, who shall henceforth be known as my blog-whisperer, told me to.

I wanted to do some sort of guava-jalapeño cupcake, based on our salad, because, as mentioned, my blog-whisperer told me to. A guava-jalapeno cupcake would actually be doable, because fortuitously we still had some of these hard-to-find guavas in the house.

Un-fortuitously though, I was the one who had to do the guava-jalapeño cupcakes, and given my absolute ignorance, I don't think I could have played around with the basic recipe too much. At least, more than I already had.

I used America's Test Kitchen recipe for yellow cupcakes, halved it, and used our expired yogurt (strawberry-in-the-bottom) in place of the buttermilk.

I grated one jalapeño into the batter (and the cupcakes could have used more). The resulting cupcakes had the merest whisper of strawberry, which was great, and a hint of a very fragrant green-ness from the jalapeño.

To add more jalapeño goodness to the cupcakes, I grated some more and rubbed it over the top (for that green tinge). I also added some of it to the inside as I was eating.

These cupcakes are evil, because they were so good! It was actually very surprising. It exceeded my expectations and made me exceed my daily recommended intake of fat and calories.

I don't think I'll be a cupcake hero here, since these cupcakes are very basic, no-frills, like a discount cupcake. But they were yummy enough that they got devoured during the first day.

(I had originally planned to add our ginger-guava jam as a topping to the cupcakes. But, after eating a cupcake adorned only with grated jalapeño, I decided it was perfectly fine the way it was.)

We're submitting this to Cupcake Hero.
Though, of course, I'm no hero. I think my cupcake is, at most, a Cupcake Sidekick.

This edition's hosts are Rachel of Confessions of a Tangerine Tart and Teri of The 90/10 Rule.

Info on Cupcake Hero here.

Jalapeño Cupcake
adapted from an America's Test Kitchen recipe
Makes 12

dry ingredients
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda

2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-2/3 cups sugar
6 tbsp butter, melted
3/4 cup yogurt
1-2 jalapeños, grated

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line muffin pan with cupcake liners.

Sift together dry ingredients. In a large bowl, whisk eggs, vanilla extract and sugar until combined. Then add the melted butter, yogurt and grated jalapeño. Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet until combined.

Fill each cupcake liner until 3/4 of the way full. Bake until toothpick comes out clean, rotating halfway through, approximately 20 to 25 minutes. (Check at 15 minutes.)

Cool pan on rack. If desired, cupcake can be decorated with more grated jalapeño.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Lime-Marinated Pork Skewers with Ginger-Guava Jam and Five-Grain Rice

This is our entry to The Royal Food Joust (hosted by the Leftover Queen).

This month's Joust ingredients juxtaposed ingredients that are familiar to us (citrus and ginger) with the slightly unfamiliar (whole grains).

As in most kitchens, citrus is a vital ingredient in ours, and the usual suspects are lemons and limes. I am still hoping for a calamansi source, but then I am an eternal optimist.

We love ginger in this house. My mother uses it in all of her dishes. In all of the non-pork dishes, that is.

Pork and ginger together?
After quite an extended discussion, we decided to break with tradition and use ginger with pork. It's not like we don't eat pork that has been gingerly touched or lasciviously lathered by the rhizome in some way. To wit, our father regularly orders a ginger pork dish in Japanese restaurants.

Given the components of the dish, we thought pork would be the ideal meat to play against the flavours. The meat has a sweet, full richness that is also surprisingly, pleasantly light. Little piggy will not overpower the other elements of the dish.

Playing choose-the-best-protein, of course, we also could have used the gravitas of beef or the gaminess of duck to the advantage of this dish. Not chicken though, because I believe chicken would have just disappeared here and would not have held its own. Not lamb either, because it just might be too gamey in this application.

My point being that we did consider other proteins and we did give some thought to breaking the ordinance against a pork-ginger pairing. We don't disobey just for the sake of disobeying. ;)

Whole grains
The whole grains component is the trickiest one, because we do not really use a lot of whole grains in the house. Whole wheat flour, but the rules forbid flour unless we mill it ourselves. We used to cook some brown rice in addition to white, but I got lazy and just had to content myself with the white rice everybody ate.

We couldn't really decide on a grain. We could have used corn but corn would have overpowered everything else in the dish.

On a side note, our original idea for this Joust was some kind of caramelized popcorn, with orange and ginger somewhere in there. Lo and behold, Maybelle's mom of feeding maybelle also had the same idea! This just proves that great minds do think alike. ;)

You can check out the pictures of her gloriously delicious popcorn balls. I can just imagine the first bite of caramel popcorn goodness!

We chanced upon this bag and it had -- not one, not two, not three, but FIVE -- different grains! And even better, four of the five (I'm not sure about the black glutinous rice) are whole grains.

Unpolished rice, oats, black glutinous rice, millet and pearl barley.

And they're from the Good Boy's Farm, you know. Just to confirm that these whole grains are good for you.

The dish came together pretty quickly. To cook the rice, our good ol' rice cooker did all the work. Look, it turned pink!

The item that took longest to do was the ginger-guava jam, but that's unattended time. It contained guava, chile peppers, ginger, lime juice, garlic and sugar, all cooked down until, well, jammy!

Recipe here

Now, to the pork! We bought pork shoulder butt already sliced very thinly. (They were pre-sliced for hotpot.) I squeezed some lime juice onto them and added a small splash of fish sauce. They were so thin that all they needed was about 10 minutes in the marinade. I doubled the slices up, rolled and skewered them.

A quick pan-fry and they were done.

This was very good, and the pork butt was a well-chosen cut. You could do this with something leaner, like a pork tenderloin or the pork loin, but it just would not have the same inside-the-mouth-flavour-explosiveness as a fattier cut.

The guava-ginger jam complemented the pork and rounded out all of the flavours. The heat coming from the ginger and the peppers balanced out the fattiness of the meat. The five-grain rice worked out well too, because its earthiness gave each spoonful (rice-pork-jam) some heft.

Admittedly, we wanted to grill the pork skewers too but it's been raining like crazy here in Vancouver for the past week (it feels like November right now), so I didn't want to go outside to fire up the grill. If grilling, we would have not gotten pork butt sliced so thinly. A little thicker, and skewered like we would do with a Philippine-style barbecue, stitching the skewer across the meat. It would have made for a nicer presentation, methinks.

Lime-Marinated Pork Skewers with Ginger-Guava Jam and Five-Grain Rice
One serving

2 Tablespoons ginger-guava jam

1/4 cup five-grain rice
1/2 cup water, approximate

1/3 pound pork shoulder butt, sliced thinly
1 lime, juiced
2 teaspoons fish sauce

Make ginger-guava jam according to recipe. Spoon about 2 tablespoons for condiment use.

Cook five-grain rice in rice cooker, with water quantity according to manufacturer's instructions.

Marinate pork slices in lime juice and fish sauce for 10 minutes. Roll up slices and skewer. If the pork slices are very thin, you may need to double up the slices before rolling. You may also need 2 sticks to keep the pork rolls stable and not too floppy. Heat oil in a saute pan. When hot, pan-fry skewers until done, about 1-2 minutes per side.

Serve pork skewers with ginger-guava jam and five-grain rice. You may add some diced cucumbers if you wish. You can also include a handful of lettuce leaves and wrap the pork-rice-jam combination and eat it that way.

But wait!
There's more...


This complete meal:
Ginger-Guava Jam
Lime-Marinated Pork Skewers with Ginger-Guava Jam and Five-Grain Rice
Soy Pudding Parfait with Orange-Ginger Syrup and "Streusel Brittle"

This is our entry to the Royal Food Joust (created by The Leftover Queen).

[eatingclub] vancouver Royal Food Joust posts:
Dimsum Seafood Trio: Black Pearl Toast, Scallop in Nest, Jewelled Rice Cup
Cream of Fennel Soup with Parsey Oil
Ginger-Guava Jam
Lime-Marinated Pork Skewers with Ginger-Guava Jam and Five-Grain Rice
Soy Pudding Parfait with Orange-Ginger Syrup and "Streusel" Brittle
Squash Churros with Orange-Sage Hot Chocolate
Coffee Pancakes with Honey Ricotta and Black Pepper & Coffee-Crusted Bacon
Caribbean "Fish & (Banana) Chips"
Steelhead Trout and Enoki Mushrooms with Wasabi Cream Sauce

We're submitting this to Culinarty's Original Recipes.

More information here.
The Round-ups here.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Ginger-Guava Jam

It all started with Bittman.

I saw his recipe for ginger jam on Bitten. He paired it with grilled pork, and so this dish became our jumping-off point for our September entry to The Royal Food Joust (hosted by the Leftover Queen).

Ever since I got 12 of these mason jars, I've been wanting to put STUFF in them. Ergo, the desire to do the ginger jam. That it can be worked into our Joust entry is a bonus.

I started peeling and chopping about a cup's worth of ginger. Per Bittman's recipe, I added 5 cloves of garlic to the ginger, which I would not do the second time around. I already dispensed with the tomatoes in his recipe.

Added some water and sugar (white and brown), and then sliced up about 12 small guavas (which I reckon would come to about 2 pounds of guavas) and put that into the mix.

For heat, I added 4 birds' eye chili and 2 jalapeños. The jalapeños add a pleasant green-ness to the jam. Salt and a fairly generous amount of black pepper, then lime zest and juice.

The hardest part is waiting for it to cook down to a jammy consistency. All throughout the cooking process, I kept stirring it, and smelling it, and really starting to panic because I kept smelling the garlic. I feared the jam was going to be smelling like raw garlic!

Thankfully, after an hour or so, the garlic did mellow down and the guava and the ginger came through. We had to use the hand-blender to smooth out the texture a tad and you can definitely puree it a bit more if you like it smoother.

Also, a major issue for CSC were the seeds from the guava so definitely straining to get rid of the seeds can be another step towards a "better" product.

But, hey, you know me, lacking industry here, so it's good enough for me, seeds and all.

I can't wait for other applications of this guava-ginger jam. It would be good in a sandwich (BLT perhaps?) and also very good with cheese. We even thought to glaze some SPAM with it. I bet that would be fantastic! =D

But, its first task of the day is to grace the plate of our Joust dish, coming right up.

Ginger-Guava Jam
adapted from Mark Bittman's
Ginger Jam on Bitten
Yield: 2 cups (500 mL)

1 cup peeled and chopped ginger
5 cloves garlic, chopped

4 fresh birds eye chili
2 jalapeño peppers
3/4 cup white sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar
8-12 small ripe guavas, roughly diced
1 tsp salt

3 tsp pepper
1 lime, zested & juiced

1-1/2 (1.5) cups water

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring occasionally, until very thick, 45 minutes or so. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary; remove peppers if you like. You can also process in a blender up to the level of chunkiness/smoothness that you prefer.


This complete meal:
Ginger-Guava Jam
Lime-Marinated Pork Skewers with Ginger-Guava Jam and Five-Grain Rice
Soy Pudding Parfait with Orange-Ginger Syrup and "Streusel Brittle"

[eatingclub] vancouver Royal Food Joust posts:
Dimsum Seafood Trio: Black Pearl Toast, Scallop in Nest, Jewelled Rice Cup
Cream of Fennel Soup with Parsey Oil
Ginger-Guava Jam
Lime-Marinated Pork Skewers with Ginger-Guava Jam and Five-Grain Rice
Soy Pudding Parfait with Orange-Ginger Syrup and "Streusel" Brittle
Squash Churros with Orange-Sage Hot Chocolate
Coffee Pancakes with Honey Ricotta and Black Pepper & Coffee-Crusted Bacon
Caribbean "Fish & (Banana) Chips"
Steelhead Trout and Enoki Mushrooms with Wasabi Cream Sauce

Eggplant "Clafouti"

Yes, eggplant "clafouti". Savory, though, not sweet. And yes, I know I'm misusing the term, but I just love using quotation marks.

I looked up a clafouti recipe from Joy of Cooking, then simply omitted the sugar. I added some savory touches like garlic and balsamic vinegar.

So, I placed cut baby eggplants (that I've salted, let sit and rinsed) in a pan and tore some basil over them. Then the egg mixture got poured over. That's eggs, milk, salt, garlic, balsamic vinegar and flour. Into the oven.

When the "clafouti" came out of the oven, I drizzled the top with some olive oil and sprinkled toasted breadcrumbs and grated Parmiggiano-Reggiano. Looks pretty good!

But, after that's all said and done, this eggplant "clafouti" was A. Weird. Failure.

I've only made clafouti once before, so "tinkering" with it could be taken as Mistake #1.

Mistake #2: Eggplants take way too long to cook. I should've roasted them first in the oven and added the egg mixture when they were already roasted. In my case, the egg mixture was already over-cooking but the eggplants still raw!

Mistake #3: The egg mixture was weird and smoothly rubbery. I think that, since I wasn't whisking the eggs with sugar, I should've just beaten them in a "normal fashion." Originally, the recipe called for beating the sugar and egg together, which, in my limited baking experience, usually calls for whisking the mixture vigourously until pale and ribbony. I did the same but without the sugar. So, in my ignorance regarding the physics of baking, I'm guessing that this is what caused the smooth, rubbery texture.

So, girls and boys, even though the flavors worked nicely together (eggplant, garlic, basil, balsamic, Parmiggiano), and even though in my head, I had imagined the purple bulbs showing through the egg mixture to approximate cherries or plums and being similarly pretty, I guess I should've just let go of this "clafouti" idea, however irresistible the use of quotation marks may be, and I should've just made a quiche instead!

Perhaps it's my lack of eggplant-love that made me subconsciously sabotage this dish. You think?

P.S. The pictures turned out nice enough. =)

[updated 09-22-2008:
Laurie of Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska made a successful eggplant clafouti. Check it out!]

eatingclub vancouver Weekend Wokking posts:
Ravioli "Caprese": Tomato, Basil, Bocconcini
Eggplant "Clafouti"
Pumpkin Congee w/ Pumpkin "Beignets" & Sesame-Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Chicken, Broccoli and Cheese w/ Pipián Verde
Adobo Mushroom Tart
Duck and Orange Crêpes with Orange-White Wine Sauce
Almond Eggplant "Bisteeya" (Bastilla)
"Mashed Potato Beef Burger" (Red-skinned Potato Salad in Taiwanese Sacha Cheeseburger)
Korean Soybean Sprouts Pancake (Kongnamul Jeon)
Lemon Chamomile Tiramisu
Cilantro Horchata
Strawberry Cilantro Salsa, on Grilled Flank Steak
Duck Enchiladas with Chipotle Peanut Salsa
Clear Oxtail Soup with Corn, Cabbage and Potatoes
Beijing Pickled Cabbage
Salsa Romesco ("Queen of the Catalan Sauces!")
Aguadito de Pollo (Peruvian Chicken Soup)
Bangus Belly à la Bistek (Milkfish Belly with Onions, Calamansi and Soy Sauce)
White Pork with Garlic Sauce, Two Ways (蒜泥白肉)
Mr. Zheng's Soupy Tomatoes and Eggs with Tofu (蕃茄雞蛋跟豆腐)
Steamed Fish and Tofu with Chinese Black Beans
Spinach and Cheese with Puff Pastry, Three Ways

We're submitting this recipe to Weekend Wokking, a world-wide food blogging event created by Wandering Chopsticks celebrating the multiple ways we can cook one ingredient.

The host this month is Marija of Palachinka

If you would like to participate or to see the secret ingredient, check
who's hosting next month.

Check out
all Weekend Wokking Roundups.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Duck Breast with Pomegranate-Chipotle Glaze and Guava-Jalapeño Salad

Prior to this dish, we've never prepared duck at home. Or at least, I don't recall working with duck at all.

For this blog -- oh, the things we do for this blog! -- we wanted to explore the world of duck and come up with interesting and hopefully delicious duck applications to enjoy.

Seared duck breast is one of the first things that came to mind. I've seen many shows on TV how they sear duck breasts and it seemed like it was very, very doable.

And so, onward march, to hunt ducks.

We want some great-looking, meaty duck breasts, like those seen on TV.

The problem was, when I see these duck breasts, they can run up to $9.99, $15.99, $19.99, or even $24.99 per pound. Eh, twenty-something bucks for a couple of duck breasts? Seems a little bit too much to be spending on merely the breasts. A whole duck perhaps for that amount and I will consider.

I know sometimes our super-duper-convenient Chinese supermarket sells these so-called frozen "utility" ducks for very, very cheap.

In fact, these ducks were so cheap that some time ago (probably six months ago) a Chinese woman was even surprised.

I was standing in front of the meat counter, thinking of what meat I should get when I heard this woman mutter to herself.

"1.09 per pound for this duck? How come so cheap?"

She started inspecting the duck, although of course she couldn't see anything of the duck because it was enclosed in an opaque plastic film. I suppose she was feeling the duck up, checking to see if all the parts were there.

I read the sign that explained the classification "utility" for the consumer. The sign assures us that these ducks have passed all inspection by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and are marked as "utility" because they have some part of them missing, like the wingette or the leg or some other part beside.

The woman finally chose a duck she liked and proceeded to talk to the clerk behind the meat counter.

"Hi. Could you cut this duck up into parts?"

The meat clerk looked at her and said, "No."

"Please, I want this duck, but I just need it cut up. You can just divide it into quarters."

"No, I can't. We don't cut frozen items."

"Please, okay? Just cut it in half. I'm going to buy it already."

"No, I can't cut it up for you. We don't do that. Once we cut it, we can't sell that duck anymore."

"Oh no. I really want it and I'm getting it for sure. Just cut it in half for me."

"No, I can't do it."

"I guarantee you that I will get the duck."

"No, sorry, I already told you I can't do that."

At this point, I had already chosen and left the section. I never knew if the woman's persistence paid off and she did get her duck cut up into sections.

Lesson learned: the frozen utility ducks are cheap but you can't ever get the meat department to cut it into parts for you.

No matter, I thought. We wanted a whole duck to experiment with, so I got one for a measly $4.83. For a whole duck! It sold for $1.09 a pound.

We were excited at the possibilities and we had all sorts of things planned for the duck. We can sear its breasts and confit its legs.

A whole new world of duck goodness awaits and for so little a price!

A funny thing about this utility duck: it was not bred to be busty! Good thing for MACRO photography, like the photo above! ;D

Yes, this utility duck had no breasts. They wouldn't even fill an A cup. Looky here: they were only about 4x as thick as the dull end of the knife blade.

These ducks are probably the breed that make Chinese roasted barbecued ducks, so they're not overly busty. These specific utility ducks are probably ducks that did not make the cut, perhaps not gaining the requisite weight to be serving ducks.

For those interested in eating locally, ducks are bred in the Lower Mainland and most of them are consumed locally as well.

Our dish was dead simple. First, a pomegranate-chipotle glaze. That simply called for reducing pomegranate juice with chopped chipotles, then seasoning the glaze to taste.

I had planned to render the fat off the breasts on the stovetop and finishing the cooking in the oven. I had planned to keep the breast medium-rare. However, since they were so small, I just did all the cooking on the stovetop. I also had to keep the duck cooking past medium-rare to render off as much fat as possible.

How I cooked them: I scored the fat on the duck breasts, then, starting with a cold pan, placed the breasts skin-side down. I turned the heat to low and waited for the fat to trickle out. When I rendered off as much fat as I could, I turned the breast over and started glazing the skin side.

Let me show you again how small these breasts were. That there is one duck breast beside a half a lime. A regular-sized lime.

Whereas one duck breast would be a good size for an entree, this was definitely appetizer-sized. I sliced the breast and served with the Guava-Jalapeño Salad and more pomegranate-chipotle glaze. Ta da!

The breasts were about medium-well, but still succulent. This whole dish was delish! (It rhymes!)

Not bad for a $5 bird!

We have so much more in store for this little ducky.

$5 Utility Duck Series
All the following made from one duck!
Duck Breast with Pomegranate-Chipotle Glaze and Guava-Jalapeño Salad
Duck (Interim)
Roast Duck Legs with Cabbage-Portobello Pappardelle
Duck Fat Potatoes
Duck Tortellini in Brodo

Other [eatingclub] vancouver Duck dishes:
Duck Shepherd's Pie, or "Duck Coop Pie"
Duck and Orange Crêpes with Orange-White Wine Sauce
Duck Stock Risotto with Portobello & Chard, with Hazelnut Gremolata
Shredded Duck and Rice Noodle Soup
Duck Enchiladas with Chipotle Peanut Salsa

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Wow, awards!
These come as a surprise. Thank you, thank you, thank you! =D

Our very first award!
Thanks to fellow Vancouverite Christine of Kits Chow.

Thanks, Wiffy (Noobcook)!
Love the awards ceremony format... and the guest-of-honor. ;)

For this Brillante Weblog award, many thanks to:
Jescel of Spice of Life,
Ning of Heart and Hearth, and
Beachlover's Kitchen.

We're bad at following rules (hence, the non-baking). So, I'm afraid there'll be no choosing of favorite dishes. We have been tagged with memes, so the random facts can come there. As for passing the awards on, there'll be no formal passing on of awards. However, we do want to show our appreciation for some of our favorite blogs.

So, people below, you/your blogs are yummy-arte-y-pico-brilliant!
Please feel free to choose an award or three, if you wish to do so.

in no particular order
Apple Pie, Patis, and Pâté
Burnt Lumpia
Laylita's recipes
We Are Never Full
feeding maybelle
Culinary Concoctions by Peabody
A Good Appetite
Under the Tamarind Trees

So many great blogs, so little time...

Guava! Guava! Guava! And a Guava-Jalapeño Salad

On one of our weekly grocery runs to the supermarket where we bought Mr. Ling Cod Head, among the produce, we were suddenly assailed by a most fragrant smell, so heady and intoxicating. We couldn't quite figure out it was so we walked up and down, around and back, the different bins, sniffing our way through the produce department.

Then, there they were, in a small, unmarked box, the objects of our affection: small, yellow guavas with a gloriously big smell.

We grabbed several of the guavas and proceeded home to enjoy them.

Admittedly, these are not the prettiest guavas on the block. Some of them are beginning to show blotches, but believe you me, they were so delicious. They had a sweet, creamy, custardy flesh with notes of vanilla and passionfruit.

This guava-love is new to me.

I don't recall eating a lot of guavas growing up. We did have a guava tree in the backyard, but those guavas yielded green fruit with a pinker flesh inside. I remember that I did not like those at all. They were larger and stinkier, the smell as aggravating as when one is stuck in a crowded bus on a hot summer day. Perhaps it was one more unpleasant association: when we suffered from high fever, one of the home remedies prescribed was bathing in warm water with these green guavas.

But these, these small yellow ones are nothing like their stinkier cousins! And oh, what a new, exciting love they have blossomed in me! I couldn't get enough of them.

When we say "several," it means a bagful. We bought about twenty of them the first time. (They were small, okay?)

TS and I must have devoured half of them by that end of day. We were so excited by the possibilities of the guava and started dreaming of guava applications.

We wanted to do a dish with guava and started conceptualizing the dish in between the day's work and errands.

Our eureka moment was followed immediately by panic. I was afraid that the guavas at home were not safe. I was afraid that they were all going to be eaten before we even had a chance to make our dish.

I called home immediately. CSC answered.

Me: Oh hi, CSC. You know, the guavas. Don't eat all of them.

All I heard was a laugh at the end of the other line.
CSC was laughing!
I was even more scared now.

CSC (in between laughs): Oh, there's only 2 left.

Me: Only 2?

CSC laughing again!

Me: Okay, don't eat those 2, okay, until I tell you it's okay to eat.

So, if we were to continue with the dish we had planned, we had to get more of these guavas.

We returned to the supermarket where we got it originally.

We walked and walked and walked all around the store and couldn't find them! I had to ask one of the clerks for them and they couldn't understand what I was talking about.

Okay, I can take a setback here.

We left the supermarket and went to the other supermarket beside this one. We walked and walked and walked and couldn't find any guavas either!

I asked a cashier this time, thinking they must know better than the stocking clerks. The cashier couldn't understand what I was talking about, since I couldn't give them the Chinese name for guava.

After a couple of futile back-and-forth questions, the cashier finally told me, "If it isn't on the floor, we don't have it."


Things were beginning to look bleak. We were trying to figure out where else we could get the guavas.

I didn't want to scour all of Vancouver for the guavas. It's not like blogging is our full-time job, you know. ;)

We figure to give it one last try, visiting a produce shop near our office. This store had some interesting produce available, given that they cater to different ethnicities within the immediate area.

They had the guavas and we bought another bagful. This time, I'm not risking another scare.

The guavas we bought this time were still unripe. But, they were still not safe from eating mouths: we're quite used to eating unripe fruits with coarse salt, guava being one of those fruits. So we made sure to make this Guava-Jalapeño Salad the same day!

The salad was easy as can be. I sliced both ripe and unripe guavas into thin wedges. I added thinly-sliced jalapeños and red onions. Some limes were squeezed for juice and coarse salt was sprinkled.

We initially conceptualized this dish as having only unripe guavas, so I was afraid of what the ripe guavas would do. I had imagined the unripe guavas to act as a more flavorful jicama, as a crunchy agent. So, when I saw the ripe guavas' custardy insides oozing all over the place, I was scared!

I needn't have worried. The custardy insides were a boon to this dish.

They acted to bind the salad with their creamy selves. The ripe guavas made their own creamy dressing, essentially. The contrast between the soft, slightly sweet guavas and the firmer, crisper guavas was more than we had imagined. The limes gave this salad needed acidity and the red onions, piquancy/pungency. We added a tad too much japaleños; this was HOT!

Hot, but oh-so-good!

We have the perfect protein to go with this. So exciting.

We served this to accompany Duck Breast with Pomegranate-Chipotle Glaze.

We're submitting this post to Weekend Herb Blogging, a world-wide food blogging event created by Kalyn's Kitchen with the goal of helping each other learn about cooking with herbs and unusual plant ingredients.

If you'd like to participate, see
who's hosting next week. WHB is hosted this week by Katie of Thyme for Cooking.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Stuffed Squid

Among perhaps a multitude of tasks we consider a form of "martyrization" is stuffing itsy-bitsy teeny weeny items. Stuffing squid definitely falls under this category.

JS has been harassing me to stuff squid for the longest time. Finally, I relented! (She'll just keep repeating and repeating her request.)

Making the stuffing was easy enough: it had ricotta, Parmiggiano-Reggiano, parsley, anchovies, garlic and hazelnuts.

Now to act the martyr.

I tried stuffing one with a teaspoon -- I heard someone say that he found it easier than using a piping bag -- but that was a joke. Piping bag it must be! Or, in my case, a Ziploc bag with an end cut off.

It was definitely easier than using a teaspoon, but still not a picnic. The opening of the squid body is tapered! So I finally decided to cut a bit off the opening to widen the hole.

The mess, MYGOD, the mess!

Finally, they were all stuffed and toothpicked. JS made the most heavenly-smelling tomato sauce. We lined them up in the sauce and baked. They were in the oven for about 30 minutes or so.

They were good. I was a little distracted by the hazelnuts. I thought the texture contrast between the ricotta filling and squid were nice enough on their own; of course, it may be because the hazelnuts were a tad "over-roasted" that I didn't like them.

However, I still thought the highlight was the tomato sauce. JS, do you even remember what version of tomato sauce you made? It was anchovy-y, wasn't it?

Stuffed recipes:
Mediterranean Stuffed Leg of Lamb
Stuffed Peppers (Lamb and Rice)
Stuffed Squid (braised in tomato sauce)
Faux=stuffed Basa Fillets with Olives, Tomatoes, Lemons and Oranges
Stuffed Giant Squid, Two Ways
Stuffed Savoy Cabbage with Pork

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