Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Recipe: Coconut Fish Curry

Tonight I made a dish called Coconut Fish Curry from http://www.hookedonheat.com/2007/02/19/one-pot-wonders/. Justyn was having a rough day at work so I decided to cook a nice comforting dinner for him.

It was featured on one of my favorite food porn sites called tastespotting.com. This site may cause major droolage and jaw tingling. You have been warned.

Since the curry dish looked so appetizing, I wanted to try out the recipe. It seemed simple enough anyway.

The recipe calls for curry leaves, curry powder & fenugreek leaves which I have never even heard of. We had to make a special trip to a local Indian grocery store to get these things. I had a hard time trying to find the fenugreek leaves so I asked the clerk to point them out. The box read something totally different and had I not asked, it would've probably taken me hours to find it. We also bought a couple samosas which were resting under a heat lamp, frozen okra with potatoes and a couple packets of premade basmati rice (lemon & curry flavored). Since the store didn't carry any fresh fish we had to go to Albertson's to get tomatoes and cod.

I started out by getting all my ingrediants prepped.

Then I sauteed the onion and bay leaf. I kind of had an oopsie here. I totally forgot to get curry leaves at the Indian grocery store so I used a couple bay leaves to substitute. Next time I'll use the real thing.

After the onions were tender, I added the garlic, coriander, curry powder, tumeric, pepper, and chili powder. I let that saute until the tumeric turned everything a deep golden color. Then I added the coconut milk.

I let that mixture come up to a quick simmer and added the fish, tomatoes and fenugreek leaves.

Plated Yummayness

The recipe turned out very well and I liked the simplicity of the recipe. Nothing was overly complicated and anyone could make this. Unfortunately, I didn't taste the sauce before I added the fish so I had to adjust seasonings at the end. It was extremely bland at first so I added some salt. I stirred it around and tasted again and it still didn't taste right so I added more. Too much! Blech... it was waay to salty so I compensated by adding some water and heavy whipping cream I had leftover from Part II of Valentine's Day dinner. Sucky... it still was a little too salty but Justyn said he didn't notice until I had said something. Oh well.. next time!!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Authentic Cous Cous

Saturday around 4:00PM we left to go to Angel's house for dinner, drinks & chit chat. I was excited because she was gonna show Justyn and I how to make cous cous the way her mom did it. The numerous amount of steps were a bit overwhelming, but in the end it was worth it. The cous cous was almost sweet in flavor from the butter and the meat was tender falling apart. The vegetables were boiled with the meat and added a lot of flavor to the sauce. It was on the underseasoned side for me, but Angel explained that she likes for her guests to season their own food since she likes things on the extra salty side. Justyn helped her fry up some jalapenos and she used some of the cooking liquid from the beef & veggies to make a sauce out of habaneros (eek!). It was a really authentic and tasty meal and soon after we ate, I passed out from food coma and drinks. The night was super relaxed and chill and I enjoyed myself.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Review: Blue Mango

Monday night was President's Day and in an effort to not waste the entire weekend doing nothing, we went out for dinner and Valley Faire to buy some stuff from Williams Sonoma. Justyn wanted to try out an Indonesian restaurant after watching No Reservations, but he also had heard some good things from jatbar.com about Blue Mango which is a Thai restaurant. Since it was near the mall, we decided to try there.

Upon arriving at the restaurant there was a bright neon sign that you can't really miss.

We got to the restaurant somewhat late, around 7:00pm. I expected the restaurant to be a bit more packed than it was. Other than the two of us, there were two other couples already seated. This made me a little wary, but we sat down anyway. I noticed they received an award from San Jose Mercury & some other magazine for best Thai food for three years. I thought, "what the hell.. it can't be that bad."

The waitress came by to take our drink orders and I ordered the Spiked Thai Iced Tea which I've never seen or tasted before. I asked the waitress what the ingrediants were and she said "hon". What the hell is that, I wondered. Oh well... as long as it had some kind of libation in it hee hee.

It tasted just like Thai Iced Tea except without the overpowering sweetness. In fact it was slightly bitter which I enjoyed. By the time the drink arrived, which took some time, we were ready to order. We went with the one of the Bangkok Platter which includes appetizer (egg roll, fried shrimp toast, fried wontons and chicken satay), two entrees (Masamun beef curry and pad thai), rice & dessert (Mango Samosa).

Here's what irritated me a bit. Despite the lack of customers, it took almost 20 minutes for us to get just the appetizers. Well... let's just say the appetizers weren't all they should've been. The chicken satay skewers were really dry. Granted, they're made out of chicken breast, but still. The fried wontons were... well... plain. Nothing really spectacular.. nor did I expect anything either. Next were the veggie rolls. Myeh... I dunno. It was OK. Then came the toast. I liked it. It was a first timer for me and I enjoyed it. It was a bit on the greasy side, but compared to all of the other appetizers, it wasn't bad.

Another ten minutes went by and our entrees arrived. The curry was really packed with good flavor and the meat was tender. Justyn and I both liked this. On the other hand, the pad thai was too strongly flavored. I couldn't tell if they used real tamarind or not, but perhaps they used too much. Justyn is used to strong flavors so he said it was really good. I've had better at places like Thai Basil.

We finished up our entrees and dessert came shortly (shockingly the only thing that came out fairly quickly). Wow, dessert was good. If you've been a loyal reader, you'll know that I don't like sweet stuff. I don't go out of my way to get ice cream cuz I simply enjoy savory snacks better. BUT this dessert was a winner. It came with four mango samosas and a healthy scoop of coconut icecream drizzled with chocolate syrup. The samosas were well balanced with sweet and savory. Maybe that's why I enjoyed them so much. The ice cream wasn't overly sweet which helped too. Mmm... I'm craving some of that dessert as I type this.

So... what do I give this place? 7.5 out of 10. I gave the place an extra half point because the dessert was so yummy. Otherwise, they could improve in service a lot. Anyway, I'd go again... I just have to make sure I have a lot more time. By the time we got to the mall, it was almost 8:45pm.

Blue Mango
4996 Stevens Creek Blvd.
San Jose, CA
(408) 248-7191

Incidentally, I had a Williams Sonoma gift card which a friend had gotten me for my birthday last month. I also had a rebate card from Cingular for $30 so I basically had $80 to spend there. After walking around the store and not actually looking for anything, I decided to get four ramekins and a new set of metal measuring spoons (which I hope to use toward gaining more baking experience).

Review: Cafe Baklava

On Valentine's Day, we went to Downtown Mountain View for lunch. More specifically, we went to Cafe Baklava. We had walked by the place a couple times after eating at other restaurants near by and noticed how cute it looked. The restaurant itself was quite small with about ten tables total. About five or six tables were located in the back area which is where we were seated. Interestingly enough, the kitchen was located near the front of the restaurant in plain view. The chef happily acknowledged us as we were one of the first customers in for the lunch hour.

Our waiter came by to ask what we wanted to drink. I dared to drink on a work day during lunch, so I got a glass of Chianti. Justyn settled for a glass of water since he had to drive. A bit later we got the house "bread and butter" which consisted of a sun dried tomato mixture and flat bread. The photo below just doesn't this any justice. It was delicious... more than good. The quality of ingrediants really showed in this dish and we devoured it all. I later asked the chef what was in it. It's basically just sun dried tomato, basil, garlic, and olive oil blended together. That's it! I thought it had a touch of anchovy or sardine in it, since it had a slight fishy flavor.

The waiter came by with my glass of wine and asked if we were ready to order. I had a bit of a hard time trying to decide between dishes, but I settled on the lunch special which the waiter described as "ground lamb on a couple pieces of bread topped with tartar sauce and served with fries or salad". Justyn got the kabobs with grilled veggies and rice. My dish sounds elegant and weird right? Not so. It actually turned out to be a lamb burger with tartar sauce and fries. BUT, it was good. really good. The burger was perfectly seasoned with exception of the tartar sauce. The pickles or something in the sauce was really salty. Justyn's entree was really good. The ground lamb kabobs had a lot of powerful flavors in it... one of which I picked out to be fennel seed. The grilled veggies which sounded plain to me, were extremely and suprisingly flavorful. I wished I had gotten a kabob plate instead. Oh well, I enjoyed my burger just as well.

Since lunch went so well, we were half debating on getting dessert, but we were crunched for time. Once we paid the bill and walked by the kitchen, I decided to make small talk with the chef since I wanted to watch him cook. He was making risotto from scratch which I was impressed by. I stupidly told him that risotto takes a lot of time and he just shook his head.

I would definitely make a second and third trip back to Cafe Baklava without blinking an eye. I love the open kitchen and being able to talk to the down to earth chef. I enjoyed the food and service a lot. I give this place a 9 of 10 which would make it the highest rated restaurant so far that I've done a review on.. I think!

Cafe Baklava
341 Castro St.
Mountain View, CA
(650) 969-3835

Monday, February 19, 2007

Valentine's Day Part II

So I failed to mention that Jusytn and I have been doing a competition to see who can cook a better Valentine's Day dinner. In an earlier post, you'll see that he made risotto & homemade meatballs. He also got me flowers & a balloon which was a suprise since he got them after I went to bed on Tuesday night. I woke up on Wednesday (14th) to a beautiful bouquet in the bathroom & the balloon when I went to go get a glass of water.

I had a week to prepare my dinner for him, so I decided to go over the top. I started planning the menu based on ideas I had seen on Food Network. Rachel Ray did an episode on romantic foods. I ended up deciding on lamb chops with a balsamic reduction and sweet pea risotto. Get it? Sweet Pea & Lamb Chop.. common pet names for significant others. Cheesy right? It gets even worse. Since this was going to be over the top, I went with my sister to Bed Bath & Beyond to get a bucket for ice & two champagne flutes. I also got a couple candle holders & candles at Michaels.

The final menu came down to this:

Amuse Bouche - Smoked Salmon on Poppy Seed Cracker Garnished with Chives
Soup - Cream of Asparagus
Salad - Spring Mix Greek Salad
Main - Sweet Pea Risotto & Lamb Chops with Balsamic Reduction
Dessert - Bread Pudding

Originally, I figured that this menu wouldn't be too difficult to pull off since I had made the bread pudding before. The salad & the amuse bouche were just assemble & serve. So to start, I chopped up the herbs (rosemary, basil & thyme) and spread the mixture over the lamb chops. They went in the fridge while I put the ingrediants together for the bread pudding. I put the cubed bread & custard mixture in the fridge as well.

I then started chopping and prepping all the veggies for the soup & risotto. Those went into individual foil packets for easy disposal. When I cut into one of the onions I got from Albertson's, I found out that it was rotten. Dammit! Luckily, there were three onions that we had gotten from Trader Joe's. I cut into each of those but they were rotten too! Crap. I had to have Justyn run out and get me a couple of replacement onions. While he was gone, I prepped the rest of the ingrediants. I trimmed the asparagus, peeled the potato, chopped the shallot. By the time I was done with all that, Justyn was back with my onions and I chopped those up as well.

Here's where I ran into some more trouble. I started out with the risotto and after it was half way done, I decided that I had time to start the soup. I added the veggies into the soup pot and sauteed them until they were tender just like the recipe said. Trying to juggle two different dishes on a cramped stove is not an easy feat. While the risotto was absorbing the stock, I used that time to stir the veggies for the soup. Our wireless connection isn't working so I was unable to have my laptop near by to check the recipes. While the two dishes were working, I had to run back and forth to see what the next steps were. After the veggies in the soup pot were tender, I added flour and stirred it until the rawness cooked out. Then I added water, chicken stock & bouillon powder. I had some time while the soup came to a boil, I finished up the risotto and moved pots around. I added peas & sage to the risotto and left it on warm until I was ready to plate. The soup came to a boil, and I needed to blend it before adding cream and the rest of the ingrediants. Unfortunately, the lid to my blender was no where to be found. I ended up having to use a sheet of plastic wrap instead. Do NOT attempt to re-create this. I knew that if I filled up the blender with too much soup, that it would spill over. That much I knew... BUT I added too much soup anyway as I was impatient at this point. As I pulsed the blender, soup splashed everywhere. The plastic wrap didn't do it's job very well. I started cursing and Justyn came out of the office to see what was going on. Soup was spattered all over the counter like a veggie murder had just taken place. Oh well, I decided to scrap the soup. I was sad about that though cuz it made me feel like I couldn't handle the challenge of this menu.

I took the bread pudding out of the fridge and added chocolate chips & pecan bits on top. That went into the oven for 45 minutes.

I moved the soup pot to another burner and started on the lamb chops. This part was easy. You just sear the meat in some olive oil on both sides (3 minutes each side) and move them to a plate. I added the shallots and let them brown up a bit before I deglazed the pan with some good balsamic vinegar that I bought from Trader Joe's and let it reduce by half. Then I added a splash of chicken stock and let that reduce as well. I was supposed to add a pat of butter to add some shine to the sauce, but I ran out of that.

I was finally ready to plate. I assembled the amuse bouche and salad which I then plated. I tasted the half assed soup and didn't think it tasted especially bad. It was still edible, so I put them into a couple bowls and drizzled some olive oil on top. I put the risotto onto the large plate and draped two lamb chops on top and added the glaze. I garnished with a couple chives and we were ready to eat.

Justyn popped open the champagne that I got. Normally he hates champagne, but the one we had at our wedding reception, he liked. We lit the candles and dove into our meal. I didn't think I did a very good job especially with the planning part. The flavors in the risotto were strong. I had added a lot of sage which was overpowering. Justyn liked it though. The lambchops were really good. Perfectly cooked to medium rare. Both of us barely touched the soup. I had a couple spoonfuls and was done. Justyn said it needed the cream and pepper, but since I scrapped the idea of soup, I just decided not to add them.

Overall, I think it was a success despite all the snags I hit. Next time, I'll be sure to plan better and make sure I know the recipes before I make them. Oh and needless to say, I won.

Here are some pictures for your enjoyment.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Review: Bangkok Spoon

Originally Posted on 02/12/07

A while back, Justyn and I went to lunch in Downtown Mountain View. This area is one of our favorite lunch spots to hit because of the variety of cuisines. From Italian to Vietnamese to Thai to Greek. It pretty much has whatever you're craving. On this particular day (I can't remember the date), I was hungry for Thai. There are two other Thai restaurants located on Castro Street which are decent and because we tried those two before, we decided to try a different one. Enter Bangkok Spoon. This place is located off the main street and I'll post the address.

Since we were super hungry, we ordered the fish cake appetizer which came with a sweet and perfectly spicy sauce. The fish cakes were seasoned expertly and we enjoyed this dish a lot. The crunch of the cucumbers in the sauce offered a nice contrast in textures with the cakes.

Along with our lunch entrees we were given a vegetable soup which I have had before at other Thai restaurants. I really enjoyed this particular soup because it had a nice background flavor that I can't put my finger on. This looks easy enough to make, so maybe I'll try to make it sometime.

When we were finished with our appetizer and soup, our entrees quickly followed. Justyn ordered the beef curry (I think) and I had the duck fried rice. Both our lunches came with an egg roll which was really short compared to what I'm used to (no pun intended) and they weren't very good. When I dove into the rice, I forgot all about the egg roll. It was sooooo good. A bit on the oily side, but what do you expect when you order duck right? I almost finished all of it, but I got really full 3/4 of the way in. Justyn helped me finish it. He enjoyed his dish as well, but I suspect it wasn't spicy enough for him. I rarely see Thai dishes prepared "extra hot" the way he wants it. I think the chefs are afraid that "real Thai spicy" would be too much for him to handle. Anyway.. here are the entrees.

I give this place a 8.5 of 10. Definitely give it a try if you're in the area. By no means have I tried real Thai cuisine, but this is really good.

Bangkok Spoon
702 Villa St.
Mountain View, CA 94041

Valentine's Day Part I

Originally Posted on 02/11/07
Today I told Justyn that I was going to my sister's house to bake cookies. He asked me to bring some home, and I said no. I was actually going to my sister's to bake Valentine's Day cookies just for him. My mom came over to help us out since I'm not a very good baker. The last time I made cookies (Snickerdoodles), I ended up burning the bottom of them and they came out really soft and crumbly. My mom, sister and I ended up prepping, baking and decorating the cookies from 2:00-7:00PM. 5 hours worth of baking!! Crazy you say? Definitely. I didn't read the recipes enough to see that the doughs needed to rest in the fridge for 2 hours. We made Valentine's Day & lemon sugar cookies. It was really fun to hang out with my family and do something that I know Justyn likes. My feet are currently killing me from standing up so much. All in all, it was worth the pain. Justyn loves the cookies and that's what matters most. He's making V-Day dinner for me right now. The title of this post says "Part I" because I'll be making him dinner on the 14th. We're competing to see whose dinner is the best. I got a couple tricks up my sleeve to ensure my win. You'll have to stay tuned to see what they are!
Pictures of prep work:

Me and my mom

My sister, me & mom

Lemon Sugar cookies straight out of the oven


Cutting out & attempting to lift shapes

Time fo dekorashunz

2nd batch in the oven

I made a cookie for my parents

My sister's cookies


Packaged Lemon Sugar Cookies

V-Day Cookies

Close Up

Justyn made homemade meatballs & risotto with a cherry tomato, mozzarella basil salad. It was really tasty! In fact we had leftovers which we polished off today for lunch (02/12/07).