Monday, September 27, 2010

Project Food Blog Round 2: Vote Early and Vote Often!

The voting for Round 2 of Project Food Blog is underway! You can vote between now and Thursday, September 30 at 9pm (EDT).

Just make sure you vote for my entry, Extras Credit: Lomi Lomi Pupu. Unfortunately, Foodbuzz is in San Francisco - not Chicago - so you’re really only allowed to vote once.

Extras Credit: Lomi Lomi Pupu
 Thanks for all of the support!

Scott @ Inexpensive Eating

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Extras Credit: Lomi Lomi Pupu

My friend, Jennifer, is a great big thespian. That’s right, she’s a stage actress – educated and professionally trained. Jennifer is also married to Phillip, a naval officer, so they have hop scotched around the globe, landing at various naval bases. Because of that, she hasn’t had the opportunity to run to New York or LA and be ‘discovered’. Instead, she’s landed in Jacksonville, Dallas, and now Hawaii (and I don’t see the Navy building major installations in either LA or New York anytime soon).

Hawaii is the first place she’s landed that hasn’t had a large theater community, so Jennifer has branched out – she’s auditioned for the circus and for some television shows that film in Hawaii, including Lost, which is one of my all-time favorites – except for the finale (oh, don’t get me started).

Now there’s a second television show filming in Hawaii, the CBS remake of Hawaii 5-0. And guess what – Jennifer was cast in a major role! OK, maybe ‘major’ is overstating it a little. But the part has lines and everything!

Since Hawaii 5-0 is a crime drama, it has to set-up the murder to be investigated – that’s Jennifer’s part. She plays a mom with a pre-teen son who discovers the body of the murder victim. Alright, it’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it part, but it happens on a submarine!

Jennifer’s mother is one of my best friends, so I knew I had to organize a viewing party to watch her big Hawaii 5-0 debut, but I don’t know anything about Hawaiian food (because I don’t think ordering ham and pineapple on my pizza counts). I’ve never been to Hawaii, so I hit the interwebs to do a little research. Of course, I focused in on some classic luau dishes, and found one that really spoke to me: lomi lomi salmon. (Lomi means massage in Hawaiian, so it’s twice-massaged salmon.)

It’s a salt-cured salmon dish that is served with tomatoes and onions. Think gravlax meets ceviche meets salsa. I’m a sucker for all three, so I thought that this would be perfect. Then, when I found out the Hawaiian word for appetizer, the adolescent in me decided that I had to put my own spin on it and turn this into an hors d’oeuvres, just so I could call it Lomi Lomi Pupu.

Turns out that it’s an incredibly easy dish to make, Curing the salmon takes about 5 minutes to set up, but it has to set for 6 or 8 hours, so you need to plan ahead. Most of the recipes I looked at also called for peeling the tomatoes, which is no big deal if you first dunk them in boiling water for 30 seconds. I also thought the dish was in desperate need of some color, so I swapped out the sweet onions for scallions and used a yellow tomato as well as a red one. Some recipes called for some heat, while some others didn’t – I chose to add a little jalapeƱo to give it some background flavor.

One other tip – do not fall victim to the desire to season the vegetation before you add the salmon. Even after washing off the excess, the salmon is quite salty. Once you add the tomatoes et al, it balances out – but it certainly does not need any more salt.

To make it finger food, chopping it into smaller chunks turned out to be the best thing (the small-chop made it easier to get the filling in). I hollowed out some cherry tomatoes, used a melon baller to create some cucumber cups, and perched some of the salmon mixture on top of thick-cut pineapple. The pineapple turned out to be the favorite in the test run – the salty Lomi Lomi needs that sweet counterpoint for the best balance. In fact, the next time I make this, I think I’ll add a little pineapple to the mixture.

Jennifer and her "son" hanging out in her on-set trailer
So Jennifer is scheduled to kick off Episode 4 of Hawaii 5-0, which means that her episode should appear October 11 (Hawaii 5-0 airs Mondays at 9pm EST on CBS). Make sure you watch the beginning – look for the woman who is trying to make a cell phone call on a submarine while she ignores her son (yeah, I really don’t understand this set-up either). Then, all it will take is for the producers to see what potential her character has – they could bring her back. Oh! I know! She could have a torrid affair with Daniel Dae Kim’s character. OK, maybe that’s just a little projection on my part – but it could happen! Hey, at the very least, Jennifer ought to finally get a page on IMDB out of it – they always credit the extras.

Recipe: Lomi Lomi Pupu

Monday, September 20, 2010

Game On!

Project Food Blog
This is it, folks – voting for Project Food Blog has begun! Between now and 9pm (EST) on Thursday, September 23, your vote can send me to the next round of the competition. So what are you waiting for?!

Check out my entry for Project #1: Ready, Set, Blog, entitled Pilgrim Food.

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Banana Bread

If you don’t, then I won’t win the $10,000 grand prize, and I’ll be hitting you up for a loan. So isn’t voting for me really the easier choice to make? (Oh, don’t worry - I know who you are…)

Thanks a Million (which is way more than ten thousand),
-Scott @ Inexpensive Eating

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Pilgrim Food: Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Banana Bread

We all have that inner voice that drives us. Whether you are led by your faith in a higher being, your political and philosophical ideals, or the almighty dollar, we are all pulled somewhere. Sometimes that pull leads you on a physical journey to find more understanding about the thing that compels you. I have been on such a physical journey to find enlightenment – to Graceland. Of course, it wasn’t my journey. I was eleven, and I was forced to go on a family vacation.

Yes, I can admit it now – my family was one of the original blue-suede-shoes-set that traveled to the hallowed city of Memphis for the first anniversary of the death of its most famous son, Elvis Presley. I understand that now you can tour the inside of the mansion – see the Jungle Room, the pool, everything. Not then. We waited for over three hours in the hot August sun just to walk around gravestones of the Presley family and then walk back down the driveway.

People were fainting left and right (I’m not sure if it was the heat or they were overcome with grief – I always hoped it was the heat). At eleven years old, I can remember thinking that if this many people were falling over, then why were we still standing in line? But stood in line, we did. I think this was probably my mother’s favorite family vacation of all time.

While we were there, you would think that we could have tried some of the great cuisine of the city, but, no. It was nothing but fast food, although we did get some barbeque – from a chain restaurant. That’s the family I grew up with – not a culinary adventurer in the bunch. Except me.

I’m not sure where I got it, but I have become quite the foodie. I even started a gourmet cooking club a few years ago. I don’t have any formal training, but that hasn’t stopped me from exploring the food that excites me. Of course, all of that is easier when you have a disposable income.

We’ve been hit pretty hard by the economic downturn. It has meant giving up our favorite foodie haunts: cutting edge restaurants, the gourmet food store. Shoot, even a trip to the regular market gets a little hairy from time to time. But I try to live by the old adage: When life hand you lemons, make limoncello. (You can make lemonade if you want - but if things are that bad, I’d rather be liquored up.) That’s where Inexpensive Eating was born.

I really began my blog as a way to fill the hours while my kitchen and bath design business was in the dumps (there are only so many revisions you can make to the same bathroom drawing before you start to go insane). Having no money for exotic (or even non-seasonal) ingredients means that getting creative is the only way I have to cook. Turns out, that it’s a blast! My creativity (and my foodie soul) is re-energized by coming up with original recipes. The fact that other people seem to like them too is just icing on the cake.

In honor of this new pilgrimage that I have begun, I thought I should come up with something that connects the memories of my youth with the path I’m on now. As ashamed as I am to admit it, one of the things I adored from my childhood (and still eat occasionally) is a peanut butter and banana sandwich. And can there be another food that more embodies the Elvis Presley experience? Personally, I can’t think of peanut butter without thinking of chocolate. And chocolate goes great with bananas too!

So as a means of making this flavor combination more appealing to a wider set (at least those who live outside of the rural south), I decided to roll them all together into a dessert. It hits every comfort food button that is installed in my body. It really has become one of my new favorites. I hope it is yours as well.

I also hope that you find the thing that sets you on the path to begin your pilgrimage – even if it does lead you to Graceland (or Dollywood, or the Liberace museum…)

This isn't our pilgrimage, but it sure looks familiar. Thanks to Mona over at Itawamba Connections - it's her traveling grandmother, Beck, standing at the gates of Graceland in the late 70's..  
Recipe: Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Banana Bread

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Curse of the Black Thumb: Rosemary Focaccia Bread

Sigh. I look through all of these wonderful food blogs with pictures of people in their immaculate vegetable gardens. These people look so happy as they grow their heirloom tomatoes, beautiful squash, and complain about what to do with the bushels of basil they produce. I hate them.

Why? Because I can’t even grow dirt. I’m serious. Our yard looks post-apocalyptic: nothing but bare sand and weeds. The citrus trees have withered away, and the Live Oak is becoming ironic. When I go to the plant store, I look like a cartoon villain – the plants all wither and die as I walk by. It’s just sad.

I've always told Don that his OGT (obviously gay trait) was supposed to be gardening. Mine is cooking (OK, and I’m an interior designer too). But instead of HGTV, he got hooked on Project Runway and picked up a sewing machine – just no cooperation at all. In the meantime, our yard suffers and I’m reduced to buying dried herbs because neither of us can grow fresh ones.

I’ve come to grudgingly accept dried herbs. Given the choice, I will always prefer fresh, but I was spending $10-$15 per week on fresh herbs at the grocery store. It was either cut out fresh herbs or cut out half of the weekly wine budget. When you put it that way, there’s really no contest.

The one exception I make is parsley. It’s relatively cheap - I can spend a buck, make it last for 2 weeks, and add a lot of life to dishes with just one fresh herb at the end. Unfortunately, everything else was jettisoned.

I’ve tried the dried versions of most herbs. Some are OK (like thyme and bay leaves), while there is no point in even using others (like basil or mint). One of the herbs that I think works well dried is rosemary. Of course, I love rosemary anyway. I mean, what’s not to love? Earthy, piney, lemony, bold – it’s wonderful.

The one thing rosemary doesn’t do is play second fiddle. Because it’s so strong, it ends up being the dominant flavor most of the time (at least the way I use it). So I figured, why not let it stand out in front?

I was throwing together a pretty easy weekend dinner, so I thought I should spend some time and make some bread. Because we were having pasta, I thought a focaccia would go nicely. Like I said before, rosemary is always high on my list – besides, I figured it would work well with the chicken and tomato sauce on the pasta. I was right.

The thing I love about focaccia is the crispy, crunchy outer layer. It’s baked with so much oil, that it almost deep fries. Can there be anything better than deep fried bread? OK, maybe deep fried dessert – but we’re talking dinner here, not sweets. I’ve never tried it, but a friend told me that she just picks up refrigerated pizza dough and makes focaccia out of it. Personally, I don’t like the pizza dough you buy in a whomp tube (you know, you peel the label and whomp it on the edge of the counter), but if you do, try it. It will save you a little time.

So until they come up with a cure for Black Thumb, I guess I’m resigned to using dried herbs a little while longer. Maybe the CDC should look into this. Or maybe I should take a trip to the witch doctor and see if she can lift the curse.

Recipe: Rosemary Focaccia Bread