Lonely Chicago π

Today’s date can be marked as March 14 or 3.14, which is the official day for the mathematical symbol π (pi).  In light of this mathematically significant day, I decided I would honor it by baking (what else of course?) a pie.  Waitress, my favourite movie, just so happens to have a plethora of pie ideas to choose from, and I have seen it too many times not to try to bake one of them.

Jenna, the main character in the movie is (surprise, surprise) a waitress at a pie diner, and she is also the person who bakes and creates the pies.  Throughout the movie she mentally bakes pies with unique combinations of ingredients and gives them names to reflect her mood.  The pie that I chose to make was ‘Lonely Chicago Pie’, made up of blackberries and chocolate.  There is a DVD set that comes with recipes for some of the pies she creates, but I sadly do not have that set.  Instead, I put my thinking cap on and created this recipe:

Lonely Chicago Pie (Inspired by the movie Waitress)

Makes 1 Pie

Ingredients:

  • 1 Deep Dish pie shell (Recipe I used here)
  • 5 Tbsp Dutch Processed Cocoa
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp Flour
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 50g Dark Chocolate
  • 300 mL (1 can) Condensed Milk
  • 4 Egg Yolks, beaten
  • 1/4 cup Butter
  • 340g Blackberries, washed and thoroughly dried
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Lightly mash berries in a small bowl with a pestle or the back of a spoon.  Mix thoroughly with 2 Tbsp flour and set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan, mix together cocoa, remaining flour, salt, and dark chocolate.  Add condensed milk, yolks, butter, and vanilla, then heat over medium low while stirring constantly.
  3. Once the butter has completely melted, pour chocolate mixture into pie shell followed by berri es.  With a spoon, carefully blend the berries and the chocolate together making sure not to scrape the raw pastry.
  4. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until the chocolate has centre has set.  The mixture will still be slightly wobbly.  Cool completely and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.

Before making ‘Lonely Chicago Pie’, I watched and studied what Jenna did and added to the her pie to try to emulate her as closely as possible.  Jenna may have been a pie genius, but her pie baking methodology would not hold up without the magic of movie making, unless there was something I missed.  In the movie, ‘Lonely Chicago Pie’ is made by sprinkling brown sugar into the base of an unbaked pastry shell and topped with melted chocolate and mashed blackberries.  I wasn’t about to make a pie that was filled with straight melted chocolate–it would just turn out to be one big chocolate puck!

Even though I don’t agree with some of Jenna’s methods, my mouth still waters every time I watch Waitress.  This pie was sweet and velvety with a juicy burst of berries in every few bites.  I never was a very good at it, but math sure can be delicious sometimes.

An Ugly But a Goodie

On Friday, it was almost midnight and I had a slight itch for something sweet.  I thought about baking something rich and chocolatey, but it would’ve been a while before I would be able sink my teeth into it.  The ‘5-Minute Chocolate Cake’ recipe which is ever so popular in the blogosphere was one I had yet to try.  I was very skeptical about a cake “baked” in a microwave, and that was the main reason I hadn’t tried it.  But this time I couldn’t be bothered to bake a whole batch of something, and after looking at some recipes I really needed a dessert. Bad.

Okay, so not exactly a looker.   In fact, it looks like a creature from the black lagoon walked through the snow and showed up for dessert, but let’s get past all the superficial details.  I would say that the flavour of the cake was better than most cake mixes, even though it was a bit sweet.  I feared that it would’ve turned out very gluey and wet, but the cake was neither wet nor dry.  What it was lacking was in the structure.  It had rather large pockets of air (as it is clearly shown in the photo above) and was rather dense in some areas where a traditionally baked cake would have a fine and light texture throughout.  The centre of this cake was dry and hard, due to overcooking, but this was something that is likely to be solved by adjusting the cooking time.

Whoever invented this recipe was either very smart or very desperate.  Overall, I think this is a great recipe for anyone who is in a predicament such as I was, but I wouldn’t serve it to The Queen or The Pope if they show up at my house for an impromptu dinner.  It was good enough to say that I would make it again with a few minor adjustments.  But, a glass of milk or a scoop of ice cream is an absolute necessity to serve alongside this recipe.

5-Minute Chocolate Cake

Makes 1 Cake

Ingredients

  • 4 Tbsp Flour
  • 4 Tbsp Sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Unsweetened Cocoa Powder (I used Dutch Processed Cocoa)
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 2 Tbsp Egg, Beaten
  • 3 Tbsp Milk
  • 3 Tbsp Oil (I used Butter)
  • 3 Tbsp Chocolate Chips
  • Splash of vanilla
  1. In a mug, combine dry ingredients followed by egg, milk, and oil/butter.
  2. Add chocolate chips, and vanilla and mix together.
  3. Microwave on high for two and a half to three minutes on high.
  4. Cool cake slightly before serving.

Long Way From Homemaker

Yesterday was International Women’s Day, an occasion which has been observed since the early 20th century.  On this day, rights and achievements won by courageous women are commended.  If women did not have the courage to fight the right to vote or become a part of the work force, the world would not be what it is today.

The night before, I watched a rerun of No Reservations, and in the episode Anthony Bourdain goes to Saudi Arabia, a country whose views on gender equality has been highly criticized.  Danya, Anthony’s guide in Saudi Arabia, has made a great achievement in her own right.  Even though she owns the first Saudi company allowed to be owned without a male business partner, she views women’s rights in Saudi Arabia as laws which help protect and emphasize the importance of women and families.

Although the episode only painted part of the picture, it seemed to me that the restrictions imposed upon women are generally accepted and aren’t as controversial as they would be in the western world today.  I am sure there are those in Saudi Arabia who oppose prohibitions such as women being able to drive or exposing more than her hands and face, but there may be more important rights to fight for such as independence and guardianship of their children.  In 2015, women in Saudi Arabian will be allowed to vote and run in their municipal elections, and that is something to celebrate.

I was looking at women’s magazines from the early 20th century, when the issues that women were concerned about were not entirely different from those of the modern world.  Women were concerned about how they looked, what their families ate, and how they should raise their children.  During that time however, the home and family were viewed as a woman’s priority.  Although the cliché of women in the role of the homemaker is still commonplace, our responsibilities have extended beyond the home and into the workplace.

We in the western world are not perfect, and it is not my intention to condemn the beliefs of other cultures or nations, but we have certainly come a long way in the last 100 years.  When I compare my the attitudes and rights women in Canada have today to those in the Middle East or from a century ago, I think I do take most things for granted, and I am grateful for being privileged enough to do so.

Salty Solution

Back in January, there were some eggs in the fridge that were about to expire.  Although I don’t often eat them, I do like salted eggs, which is why I took the opportunity to make them.  Making them was no more difficult than online shopping, and most recipes are fairly similar.  The recipe I followed said it would take a month for them to brine, but I found it took no more than two weeks.

Star Anise and Schezuan Peppercorns

The only thing I’ve made with them so far is a clay pot rice with chicken and mushrooms.  My favourite thing about clay pot rice is the crispy browned layer of rice that gets stuck to the bottom of the pot.  The egg tasted just like store bought, and since there’s always a fear about what chemicals are being put into imported foods, I would make them again.  The only problem is that I would have to plan really far in advance if I wanted to eat them and didn’t have any pre-made.

Groceries and Grub

On my mini excursion to Washington State, I made it to all the stops I had outlined for myself to buy groceries.  A small group of us went to Trader Joe’s, Costco, Fred Meyer, and a Walmart Supercentre.

We drove an extra half hour into Burlington to avoid the weekend Canadian stockpilers that hijack every grocery cart in Bellingham.  Which is why we were surprised to see so many Chinese shoppers at the Burlington Costco, until we realized that it was a shopping destination on a bus tour.  Most of the participants on the tour were part of the Geriatric Triad, and went armed with their own thermos’ of refreshments and purses filled with familiar foods.

We wanted to stop by Krispy Kreme and were hoping the ‘light’ would be on.  Not only was the light not on at Krispy Kreme, but the location had permanently closed altogether.  I remember how fanatic I was before they opened in Canada, making midnight runs to Burlington for donuts.  You’d have thought they put crack in the dough by the way people acted, myself included.  I hope the Krispy Kreme on our side of the border doesn’t go belly up too, but I might be a good idea for me to make a visit soon.

We didn’t finish shopping until 7:30 that night, and we decided to head back into Richmond for Dinner.  We wanted to go to Nan Chuu, but I couldn’t remember exactly where it was on the Alexandra Road.  I thought another restaurant had taken over Nan Chuu, but after reading up on Urbanspoon, that isn’t the case.  Instead we visited Take Sento, another izakaya restaurant.

Gizzards! :)

Everything we ate at Take Sento was fresh and was prepared with care, but there were a few things that detracted from the izakaya atmostphere.  The most apparent attribute were the Chinese staff who were speaking in Cantonese and Mandarin.  Another thing I noticed was the absence of the shouts that izakaya staff greet you with upon entering their establishments.  One final observation was the spacious seating, not that I’m complaining, but I’m used to knocking elbows with the stranger next to me– it’s kinda what it’s all about.  These characteristics listed may be more appealing to those who want to try izakaya food, but forgo the loud atmosphere and “cozy” seating.  If your primary language is Cantonese or Mandarin, Take Sento may also make you feel more at home.

I’m relieved to know that Nan Chuu hasn’t sold their business to someone who is trying to duplicate the izakaya experience, but Take Sento really hit the spot after a long day of shopping.  I would’ve also been happy to explore the restaurant scene in Bellingham, but now I only have reason to make another trip south.

Take Sento Japanese Restaurant 竹千戶和風料理 on Urbanspoon

Vancouver Cookbook Giveaway: East Meets West (Closed)

For me, the most enjoyable part of travelling is sampling local flavours and cuisine because I think it is the best way to immerse myself in the culture of wherever I’m going.  Before I return home, I search high and low for local cookbooks to bring home, instead of key chains or flattened pennies, so that I can eat myself back into the memories of my vacation.  There are also cookbooks in my possession from continents I have never set foot on, and that’s where I have to fill in the gaps with my imagination.

Although I love to globe-trot and taste new exotic foods, I have always come to the conclusion that there is no place like home.  Vancouver has been voted one of the most livable cities, and it’s no wonder with our picturesque scenery, fresh air, and mild weather.  But, let’s not forget what I think are the most attractive aspects of the city: the food and culture.

Local veteran foodie Stephanie Yuen, who has the titles of publisher, editor, blogger, food, wine & travel writer on her resume has written East Meets West, a cookbook that paints the culinary canvas of Vancouver. (Find out more about Stephanie Yuen and her new book on her blog here)

“The first book of its kind, East Meets West is a celebration of the city’s Asian food and a mouthwatering compilation of distinctive dishes from its most talented—but often unheralded—kitchens. Veteran food writer Stephanie Yuen brings together a collection of recipes showcasing both traditional Asian foods made with fresh ingredients from the Pacific Northwest Coast and modern classics inspired by Asian flavours and techniques.
With an introduction to the history of Asian food in Vancouver, and profiles of the city’s most exciting eateries — many of them hidden gems, elusive to the uninitiated — East Meets West is a delicious glimpse into one of the most complex and fascinating culinary landscapes in the world.”

I will be giving away a copy of East Meets West to one lucky reader. To enter for your chance to win, all you have to do is tell me about a dish you’ve eaten which you think represents a place you have travelled to or the place you live and where it is from in the comment box below.  Additional entries will be given if you ‘Like’ my Facebook page or tweet the following message:

I shared my foodie wisdom with @foodieonthe49th 2 win East Meets West Book by #beyondchopsticks @ http://wp.me/p1I6KW-mr U can enter 2 win 2!

The deadline for entry is March 31, 2012, and the official release date isn’t until April 20, 2012, but Stephanie Yuen has provided me with a copy of East Meets West so that the blessed winner will be able to giddily thumb through the pages of the book before any other foodie will.

A North Road Less Travelled

A few weeks ago, I woke up and made myself a pancake breakfast using a Japanese pancake mix that I purchased from a Korean grocery store a while back.  The recipe and instructions are written in Japanese, but there are some easy to decipher pictures.  Still, I wanted to be thorough and get the actual instructions instead of my guesstimations.  Before I received the instructions from my friend’s Japanese co-worker, who was gracious enough to translate them for me, I tried to google them.  What I did find was a rather amusing interpretation of the instructions on another blog that gave me a laugh.  Might I add, the pancakes were the fluffiest pancakes I’ve ever made.

Later that night I went out to dinner and browsed through the aisles of a couple in the Korean grocery stores on North Road.  At Hannam Mart there was an entire aisle dedicated to different types of seaweed.  Fresh sea cucumber, in water packs similar to what you’d imagine pet goldfish go home in, were also for sale– something I’ve never seen before.  When I asked the fish monger on duty how they were eaten, he briefly explained that they were eaten raw with a bit of seasoning.  I wouldn’t mind trying raw sea cucumber, but I didn’t want to taint my first experience being disgusted by improper preparation, and worse yet–getting sick as a result.  After picking up a few things, I went in search of a restaurant for dinner nearby.

An aisle devoted to seaweed

Fresh Sea Cucumber

It didn’t take very long at all to find a restaurant, because I immediately noticed a piggie logo on the same block which belonged to a downtown restaurant I had long been wanting to try.  The piggie logo was really the only reason that the restaurant stood out in my mind.  To be honest, I didn’t know what kind of food they served, but fortunately for one of my favourite foods was on the menu.

Some of you may already know about my minor obsession with hamburg steak and my previous posts here and here, and that was why I was so excited to accidentally stumble into Dae Ji.  Dae Ji’s signature item is actually their pork cutlet, so I was happy to find out I could order a combo meal that included both the cutlet and steak.  The combo was served with a coleslaw, corn, macaroni salad, rice, and miso soup(which I recommend upgrading to kimchi soup for an additional charge).  Everything was smothered with gravy, so there was plenty of flavour to lend to the steamed rice which I added a fried egg to.  The pork cutlet was crispy and tender enough to entice a rabbi to hang up his kippah.  The hamburg steak was thick, juicy, and flavourful, but after a few bites I realized that because they added so many flavourings to the meat, it more closely resembled meatloaf than it did hamburg steak.

(Clockwise from top left)Coleslaw, Macaroni Salad and Corn, Steamed rice with fried egg, Pineapple Hamburger Steak, Pork Cutlet.

The cuisine at Dae Ji is what I would consider yoshoku fare.  But if this type of food is common in Korea, perhaps they have their own name and variations on the dishes.  I had fun shopping in the grocery stores and Dae Ji was a delicious end to my evening of exploration and discovery.  While this was not the ideal hamburg steak, it was still pretty darned good.  Congratulations to Dae Ji on their second location, and I hope their success will result in third location closer to where I live.

*On a side note, fellow blogger, Photos by Foodie, claims that this is a good recipe for hamburg steak.  I haven’t tried it yet, but it looks delicious!

Dae Ji on Urbanspoon