jury duty and grand central market


20150115_124617 copyI got pretty lucky yesterday. Sure, I didn’t get selected to serve Jury Duty after being called in to court, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I got to visit the Grand Central Market during my lunch break!

They gave us a generous 1.5 hour lunch break, plenty of time to explore Grand Central Market, savor a sentimental meal, and enjoy the sun at Grand Park.

I used to visit Grand Central Market as a kid with my grandma. Back when bus transfers were free, we’d stop by on our way to/from Chinatown and buy produce. Dragging a rolly cart along would help us to take advantage of major sales like taking home half my weight in tomatoes. At 8 lbs for $1, I’m not far off from the truth!

It’s sure changed a lot since then. As with the rest of downtown, it’s re-invented itself as a go-to spot for lunch and other foodstuffs. Stands like Olio Wood Fired Pizza, Press Brothers Juicery, or The Oyster Gourmet draw new, younger life in this historic building. The line for Eggslut wrapped around the stand. I was tempted to join in because who doesn’t love egg–centric food? 😉 Still, I felt nostalgic for old comforts instead.

Sarita’s Pupuseria has been around since before the eggsluts and fancy juices got there. I’ve had their pupusas many times before. Of course they’re handmade to order – I can’t think of a time I’ve ever had a pupusa that wasn’t handmade. But I can’t give a recent review of their pupusas because I ordered platanos fritos con frijoles y crema.

20150115_122620 copyThis dish isn’t anything particularly special, nor is it specific to El Salvador. However, I can say that it is traditional (perhaps mostly for breakfast) and when done right, hits the spot like nothing else. At Sarita’s, the platanos were certainly ripe enough and the natural sugars had crystallized into the perfect crispy-yet-chewy, sweet crunch on the edges. Plantain ripe-ness can be a big problem when ordering, which is why I usually like to see them before ordering. A darker color and seemingly limp texture are signs of delicious and sweet platanos that compliment the savory rich beans and sour cream. Underripe plantains will lead to a dry and tough meal, missing the sweet compliment to the beans/cream.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I didn’t try anything new. I stopped by the Booch Bar by Better Booch to try the Kombucha. I was looking for a healthful drink that might have a bit of caffeine in it to keep me from falling asleep in the juror’s waiting room. I sampled every flavor they had on tap. That’s right, they have tea on tap.

Daily Revival was my first sample and it was a clean and refreshing flavor. Simple and appropriate for a drink if you weren’t afraid to shell out about $6/16 oz. drink on a daily basis. I’m a huge fan of ginger in general and particularly love ginger teas. The Ginger Boost here, however, was much too sweet for me. Same with the Morning Glory, although a fellow sampler filled a growler with it, claiming it had a taste of coconut (I didn’t taste any coconut).

Snow Day - Better BoochI ended up with Snow Day. Living in Los Angeles, this is a dream the kombucha somehow achieved. Light, not too sweet, the chilled drink managed to warm and refresh me. I’m a sucker for ciders and almost anything remotely related to holiday treats. The ingredients listed only: rooibos tea, honeybush, evaporated cane juice, kombucha and other probiotics—all organic. I could have sworn it had notes of cinnamon and cloves, but maybe Better Booch’s specialty is to make you taste what you desire. It was served in a bottle and the guy serving it warned me it wouldn’t quite be as fizzy as what was on tap. True, but it didn’t take away at all from the delicious and refreshing drink.

persimmons: fall fruit

persimmon


An appropriately colored fruit for the season. It’s that time of year again, when the persimmon harvest results in grocery bags full of these gorgeous fruits passed from my great aunt’s tree to my grandma’s home, then to my own kitchen.

I thought there were just two types of persimmons, the type my great aunt grows (shown in the photo above, and also known as ‘Fuyu’) and the kind that looks a like an overly large and edgy Roma tomato (also known as ‘Hachiya’). A quick google search proved me wrong! Turns out with all the cultivation there are thousands of varieties. Impressive, but less surprising seeing as they’ve been growing them for thousands of years in China, then Japan, and elsewhere in the world.

Growing up I knew how much my grandmother loved these fruits, so I pretended I never wanted to eat one so she could enjoy them all to herself. My curiosity only grew of course, with the high praise of my grandmother, and her frequent comparison that ripe persimmons are like honey/sugar. It’s true though, it really is like eating sugar!

Persimmons have always held such a sophistication in my mind. The colors ranging from a strange yellow-orange to a deep, almost red, color. Their texture ranges too, from firm and sliceable, to jelly-like, only scoopable with a spoon or slurped lips. They’re also not really anything I’d seen outside my grandmother’s home for quite a while.

The Hachiya variety is best eaten when it’s so absurdly ripe it’s almost like juice inside the protective fruit peel. Messy? Why yes. But every sticky drop is a treat. Even so, I think I prefer the flatter Fuyu, if only for the more varied possibilities it presents with the range in textures and levels of sweetness observed by waiting (or not waiting!) to eat them.

Once I tried to make a persimmon pie for my grandma. She was not impressed. Neither was I, to be quite honest. Since then I haven’t really tried to cook with persimmons. Not because I was afraid of it tasting bad (what can taste bad with a persimmon in it???), more so because it seems like a shame to waste the delicious and delicate flavor of the fresh fruit.

It’s not just a beautiful looking and tasting fruit. It’s got loads of health benefits too! My grandmother is nearing 90 years old and I can’t remember a single season she hasn’t gotten at least one batch from the harvests of her sister, cousin, and/or neighbor. Here are just a few reasons why you should try a persimmon now:

  • High Vitamin A and C content, as indicated by the beautiful orange coloring
    • Now you don’t have to stick to carrots to keep that vision 20/20
    • Antioxidants can help you fight free-radicals. Younger-looking skin and cancer-free cells, one persimmon at a time.
    • Vitamin C is a cold-buster. Fight the flu with fruit this season!
  • It’s a fiber-rich food
    • Fiber is good for digestion. Regulate and keep that colon clean. Know what I’m saying?
    • Keep hunger at bay
  • Copper – metal in fruit?
    • Yes. Apparently, copper is essential in forming red blood cells.
  • It’s delicious, duh.

wax apple

wax appleThe Asian network of grandmothers, old friends, and neighbors’ fruitful backyards is strong. A ripe tree bearing many fruit can becomes gifts to old friends, neighbors, and/or relatives who will likely parse it out to their own friends, neighbors, and/or relatives; a great way to diversify your harvest and taste some of the freshest and sweetest organic produce!

A friend of my grandma’s visited her a few days ago and brought her six wax apples. They came from the backyard of another friend, who grew a tree from a seed brought over from Taiwan. My grandma had never encountered this exotic treat before. Neither had I, and lucky for me she gave me a few to enjoy when I went over yesterday.

The wax apple has many fun and descriptive names (some of which include: jambu apple, love apple, water apple, and bellfruit). It’s related to the guava, funky family members that bear resemblance through their bellybutton-ish undersides, remnants of where the tree’s flower once was. It surely doesn’t share the texture of a guava – while a guava is gooey and can have many, many seeds, the wax apples I tried were quite firm and had no seeds (or just one, tiny tiny seed in one instance).

The wax apple’s high water content give it a crisp and refreshing bite. Sweet and juicy, its texture is a bit like a cross between watermelon and an apple. No need to peel it either – a good thing since it seems pretty delicate.

I read online that they doesn’t keep all too well, staying freshest for only about 3 or 4 days (and not in the fridge, where it breaks down much more quickly). My grandma put one in the fridge and the fruit started to split in a few tiny areas but on the very very bright upside the juices were cooler and all the more refreshing when we cut it to share.

Word on the web is that there are places in LA to get these, including the Pasadena farmer’s market. If there’s a time to check it out, it would be while it’s in season now!

 

guidelines for chimichurri

Aren’t all recipes like guidelines anyways? Why should you add ingredients you don’t like into something you will eat, or restrict your additions of things you like? You shouldn’t!

This is a quick set of guidelines for a sauce so versatile, you’ll make more just to see what else you can use it on. This may not be the most traditional version out there, but it certainly will become yours. You’ll need:

  • Garlic
  • Large bunch of parsley
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Olive Oil
  • Oregano
  • Salt, & Pepper

How to make Chimichurri:

  1. Get condiment container. I like to use a glass jar that used to hold peanut butter. It’ll be useful to store the chimichurri on the table so you can put it on everything you eat
  2. Add pressed/minced garlic to this container
  3. Chop parsley finely and add to the jar
  4. Pour olive oil in so it covers the mixture
  5. Crush dried oregano to release all the goodness and flavor and add to the jar
  6. Add a few big dashes of balsamic vinegar
  7. Add salt and pepper
  8. Mix well. Taste. Adjust as necessary.

How much of each? You tell me. These are guidelines! Remember? I’ll walk you through my thought process, but it’s fun to use your own nose and tastebuds to make this recipe unique to you. The lovely thing about chimichurri is that it keeps and gets better with age as the flavors have time to mix and develop. If you don’t plan on using it up within 2-3 days, store it in the fridge to help keep it from going bad.

  • Garlic. I am a firm believer that you can never have too much garlic. If you really, really, really need a number because you don’t want to scare your upcoming date by saying “hello,” I’d say use about 6 big cloves. Or more, depending on your affinity for this delicious bulb. Fresh pressed garlic gets integrated into the sauce really well and may be ideal, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t use minced garlic if you have that handy and feel lazy (as I often do). Garlic presses are a pain to clean, they have so many little holes that the garlic bits can settle into. And my garlic press seems play hide and seek with me. My kitchen is so small I don’t know how it wins! Anyhow I’ve made this with both these types of garlic and have loved them all. You can always add more later. You do keep spare garlic right? (I keep it in the freezer to keep it from sprouting, this helps me make sure I never run out)
  • LARGE bunch of parsley. Because once you taste this you’ll want a lot of this, trust me. I like flat leaf parsley, but any will do. No need to throw out the stems, just cut off the very very ends and use the rest. If you have a food processor chopping this takes about 10 seconds. Doing it by hand can make it fun because you get to enjoy the herbal aroma a bit more and you get to be close up and personal with your food while you make it.
  • Olive Oil. Lots of this. You need at LEAST enough to cover all the contents of the jar and then some. A high quality olive oil adds lots of delicious flavor, and using enough will keep it from growing rancid (if any of the parsley is piled up higher than the oil, it may start to grow some mold).
  • Oregano. This is a key ingredient. Crush it to release the flavors right before adding it. Otherwise you might be adding orego for a while with minimal flavor impact. You’ll smell it’s essence being released right away as you crush it. I rub my forefingers and thumb together, crushing the oregano as I sprinkle it in. I imagine you could use a mortar/pestle if you have one (I don’t). If I’m feeling impatient I’ll crush a bunch in my palm with my other thumb (trying to get it to a powder) and pour it in the jar. I’d say at least 1.5 tablespoons. Start with that, you can always add more if needed.
  • Balsamic Vinegar. Another key ingredient. Ok, so it’s often red wine vinegar, but since I only store Balsamic in my cupboards this is what I use. It’s for a sweet acidity to perk up the sauce so you feel a kick. I recommend a few big dashes, but go easy on it to start and see how it changes the flavor of your sauce.
  • Salt (& Pepper). This is a very personal amount. My mom can’t handle any pepper in anything whatsoever. Seriously, freshly ground pepper is a bit too spicy for her. I love pepper! I don’t know that this sauce particularly needs it. But salt is a definite must. It enhances the flavor and what may taste kinda bland at first can suddenly be complete with a dash more salt! Just remember you can’t take it away once you’ve added it in.

One of these days I’ll try measuring out the ingredients I use. But I really do enjoy tasting and adjusting each time I make this. Also, since when are bunches of parsley all the same size?

 What to do with Chimichurri sauce

This Argentinian sauce is often used to compliment a great steak and/or sausages (in choripan). These are the obvious and delicious options, but the world is your canvas – get creative! You can use this sauce to:

  • Season classic chicken breasts: Add as a bold sauce after they’ve already cooked or as a marinade to infuse flavor. Or both!
  • Make pita chips: Simply cut pita into wedges (or whatever shape you like) and  brush on a generous layer of chimichurri. Bake for ~7 min at 400°
  • Top your eggs: Works on all kinds of eggs – scrambled, omelette-style, frittata, over-easy, sunny-side up…
  • Dip bread: Serve chimichurri with warm crusty bread for an easy appetizer
  • Make a sandwich fancy: Spread on the bread and add your favorite sandwich ingredients. Try adding your favorite cheese(s) and grill!
  • Top pasta: A ready-to-go pasta sauce – think of it like pesto, only with a pesto kick. Works with spaghetti squash too! (depending on how thick your sauce is, you may want to add olive oil to help coat your pasta easily)
  • Spice up a salad: Chimichurri’s got oil, vinegar, plus a whole lot more flavor

Possibilities don’t end here – how do you like to use chimichurri sauce?

a peanut for my thoughts really would make me ecstatic

Origins of this blog name: My grandfather used to shell me peanuts as a snack when I was young. We’d get the roasted peanuts from Chinatown, the kind that come in their shell and would sometimes have up to seven peanuts inside (if you were extremely lucky!). I could eat a whole bag by myself if left unattended. I’ve loved peanuts ever since.Farmer's Brand Dried Peanuts

I’ve since learned peanuts are not nuts, but in fact, legumes. I’ve also since learned legumes are on the “do not eat” list of health craze diets like paleo or whole30. This is a depressing way to start a blog isn’t it? I don’t know if I can go on about why legumes (peanuts!) have been vilified as detrimental to one’s health.

Instead I’ll go into some of the many ways I like to enjoy them:

#1: peanut butter

This may be a passion we have in common. In fact I certainly hope it is because I’d love to discuss all the wonderful things you can do with peanut butter!

#2: simply roasted

I’ll only say that I MUCH prefer the peanuts they sell roasted at Asian grocery stores over anything you’ll find at a baseball stadium.

#3: in Chinese tamales

This is a slightly complicated recipe that will have to come another day. But when you unwrap the bamboo leaves and look inside you will (ideally) see peanuts peppered through the tamale. And you’ll look forward to biting into a starchy, slightly crunchy peanut to balance out the sweet and gooey glutenous rice or preserved egg yolk and salted pork.