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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle. Please leave any comments there.


A tribute to one of my favorite meals when in California, a calorie-laden multi-cultural mishmash that could exist nowhere else: a Rubio’s shrimp burrito and a Lollicup Thai milk tea boba. I highly recommend trying both if you are ever in the Southern California area! (Yes, we were b...

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle. Please leave any comments there.


Last week, I posted a Spanish rice recipe — these burritos happen to be the main dish I use it for. Back in Cali, one of my favorite “fast food” places was Rubio’s, a West coast chain that specializes in fish tacos and the like. Their langostino and shrimp burritos were ...

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I like rice. I like seafood. This recipe is two good things that taste good together, what else do you need to know? Definitely my own version of comfort food, and fairly easy to make if you don’t mind putting in the elbow grease. Back home in Cali, I’d use fresh shellfish and go...

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

Wow, look what I found lurking in my old to-post folder! The last batch of photos from my London work trip back in spring of 2011. Yeah, the one where it became my mission in life to order steamed dumplings from every place within delivery range that made them. Seriously, I've got the pictures to prove it. It was an obsession. Just thinking about the woeful lack of delivery dumplings here makes me sad. It's almost criminal. Why do you hate me so, Finland?

Stopped by a nice little Thai restaurant after work my first night and… guess what I ordered.
Dumplings in soup AND steamed dumplings.
Shumai from another place on another evening.

Shrimp hargao from the same place as the shumai.
Bonus shrimp crispies! I think this place was my favorite. I have their menu still somewhere.
And one night, I gave in and just got fried seafood noodles. Because they used actual large prawns and not tiny baby shrimps like in Finland.

This is what I get for not making notes — the closest sushi place to where my hostesses lived was also pretty good. I miss ikura :-(
The Warrington, when it was still owned by Gordon Ramsay. Who sold it later that year. Hey, we were curious. It was pretty inside.
The food was… okay. Not memorable, but better than the questionable meat pie from lunch. Which I actually remember better. I guess that says something.

The girls took me to this adorable little fusion dimsum place one evening. I think these are sweet buns?
Fruity drinks. The one on the right even has basil seeds. I can barely find lemonade in restaurants out here.
These might be the duck ones.

Classic charsui bun with barbecue pork.
The squid ink dumplings! So cool. They stopped making these, it seems :-(
Random squid, I think?

Fancy shumai. There were twists on all these dumplings, I wish I remembered :-I
Pretty little desserts. Mine is the mango pudding, of course.
Ping Pong Dimsum! That was the name. That’s why I took a picture of the menu :-)

Thought I’d try some fast food sushi as well, since I’ve never done the conveyor belt thing before. There was a Yo!Sushi at the mall, so I went.
This stuff was actually a half step better than Sushi Boy, the fast food sushi place we went to in Cali. Well, maybe the plates helped.
That, and they did hand rolls on demand. I miss having a sushi place.

Sweet shrimp :-D One of my all-time faves and hard to come by in non-shrimp producing places.
The conveyor belt! All the plates had time stamps on the lids, which probably helped with the freshness thing a lot.

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

This post is dedicated to Keva, who hates eggs. She made a fuss about my previous post regarding fake (seaweed-based) caviar a while back, so I thought it was only fair that I share with her the real stuff :-) It showed up in my local grocer’s fish refrigerator last month and I had to get a jar. This isn’t my first run-in with salmon roe this side of the Atlantic, but they were probably the largest ones I’ve seen so far. Still not as generously sized as the ones I got back in Cali but I’ve come to accept that most things in Europe are on a different scale. Mussels, oysters, salmon, lobsters — maybe it’s the colder water or maybe there’s just more for sea creatures to eat in the Pacific, I don’t know. It’s totally noticeable, though.

So anyways, here you go, Keva:

  
I’m so used to freshly-made ikura in the Japanese grocer’s deli that it took a while to get used to stuff that’d been sitting in a jar for a few weeks. Still, not bad and an improvement over the pinhead-sized eggs that were being sold in the deli of our market. I tried making sushi with those my first couple of months here and spent a couple days just trying to plump them up through repeated brining/debrining sessions. It helped a little, but I think those were probably eggs gathered immaturely from farmed fish heading for the dinner table, rather than ones specifically harvested for the purpose from breeder fish.

So yes, I fully plan to have a shellfish and roe buffet night when I’m back in Cali next summer, to get as much of things that I can’t get here as possible before flying home. It’s a small thing to miss, but that’s usually how it goes.


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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

Anybody who has been around me for the past several months has probably heard me bemoan at some point or another the scarcity of shellfish in our vicinity. There’s nothing fresh and alive, most certainly — which has made it difficult to continue with my “Food That Moves” column for the foreseeable future. However, more frozen options have been appearing over the past few years, so we’re not entirely high and dry. The frozen mussels are pretty decent, frozen squid is readily available for calamari-makers, and lately there have been beautiful raw frozen tiger shrimp showing up that have made me very happy. And in fall of last year, I even started seeing these guys popping up:

Wee frozen cooked lobsters from Canada! Given, they are what I call “buffet sized” — meaning they’re the sort that you typically find at seafood buffets that advertise lobster. You know, the ones where they give you a ticket and everybody’s only allowed to claim one lobster dish, which is comprised of a teeny tiny tail and loads of sauce? Still, it’s an improvement over no lobster! At 8€ ($11.64, currently) a pop for 10.6oz. of lobster, it’s not something that we’ll probably get on a regular basis. Remember the live 7-pounder I got at the Asian store for about $30? Oh, Cali. For a special treat, however, it’s perfectly adequate.

Popping the bug out of the bag to defrost in the sink. It looks so sad, all bricked up in ice like something found on an archaeological dig.

Mr. Lobster, defrosted and rinsed. I’ve had jumbo prawns bigger than this little baby, back at home. I didn’t even need any heavy tools to open him up. Just bare hands, a fork, and a pair of kitchen scissors.

Wee bits of meat —  tail and two claws only, since the legs were too tiny to get in. Heated them up with a bit of butter, then chopped up the pieces and put them into a sushi roll with some avocado. There was just enough meat to make one fat roll, sliced thinly to serve two. Pictures next time, when my rolls don’t look quite as messy :-) The meat actually held up very well! It tasted sweet and lobstery, didn’t really suffer from the trip over at all. Good freezing technology on fishing boats these days!

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

In mid-September, Rauma really takes on the port city role and has a weekend seafood festival called the Baltic Herring Market. There are other tents selling local crafts and freshly canned produce, of course, but the main attractions are the several large fish booths set up smack in the middle of the event. We went to take a look around last year…

One of the stalls, selling dozens of varieties of pickled fish, mostly herring. Pickling being one of the favored ways of preserving seafood in these parts.

Smoking fish is the other vastly popular way to preserve it. Several different varieties of smoked fish at this booth. We bought a couple of these for dinner.

A booth that was plank smoking their salmon fillets right there and then.

Another view of the big smoking fire. This is the only time I’ve seen this being done — I believe smoking is usually done in a more confined setting, but there’s something so awesomely rustic about just having a giant fire there.

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

Back in early November, I decided to take a stab at weekly menu planning in an effort to organize my grocery shopping lists, encourage the trying out of all those recipes I had stashed in my notebook and more efficiently make use of the ingredients I already had on hand. It worked surprisingly well for a few weeks, up until the holiday season hit and I was eaten alive by gingerbread. Just started up the process again a couple of weeks ago and although it’s been hard to get back into the groove (amazing how lazy you get after a few weeks of not having to cook for yourself), I do appreciate the order it has brought to my kitchen. Looking through old receipts, I used to make random visits to the supermarket up to five times a week for a handful of things each time. After the menu regimen started, the total dropped to one large receipt and an occasional small one for when we got last minute cravings. That’s not only a lot of time saved, but quite a bit of money from not purchasing repeats, impulse junk or items that wouldn’t get used after the first time.

So what does all that have to do with fried rice? Simple — fried rice is pretty much the ultimate refrigerator clean-out dish. Just about anything you need to get rid (within reason) can go into fried rice. I know this because I’ve seen my mom put in some pretty interesting things over the course of my lifetime. So when I sat down to make my very first week’s menu, the thing that I immediately jotted for the first day was in bold: FRIED RICE. Rhymes with clean slate to my ears, it does.

I used 3 Hungry Tummies’ Fried Rice recipe as a starting point and then just tossed in whatever happened to be convenient. The beauty of fried rice is that it’s hard to go wrong with it, as long as you do a little prep work. Such as? Right behind the cut…

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That Trevor Corson, he’s pretty fly for a white guy. Continuing on with my food history kick, I just finished reading his book The Story of Sushi. This book definitely had a fast foody, summer movie slant to it, but in an enjoyable and somewhat edifying way — sort of like the feeling you get from eating baked potato chips, or watching Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. Or eating California rolls at your typical American sushi place, come to think of it. I’m pretty certain this is intentional. I tore through the book in a few sittings — the language was down-to-earth (if a little simplistic at times), the narrative was mostly entertaining, and the huge lineup of fascinating informational tidbits was presented in a pared down, accessible manner. He does a pretty good job of coming at the topic from an angle that’s both respectful of Asian culture and understanding of Western confusion over it. I rarely got annoyed with wordings or descriptions (***with one notable exception, which I will come back to later) at all, and y’all know I can get really ranty when it comes to these things.

The Good: I especially liked how Corson took the time to explain and reiterate the importance of rice in Asian culture, and how even wasting one grain is seriously uncool. This comes from a long history of rationing, as well as the idea that there are seven gods in each grain of rice. He also talks in depth about the time and effort involved in rice preparation and maintenance, something that a lot of Westerners don’t think about when they pop their Uncle Ben’s in the microwave. Now, I was never told any stories about rice gods growing up, but my mom had me washing pots of rice as a kid until my hands were wrinkly, and would frown upon our leaving any of it uneaten on the plate because she knew how valuable it was. I winced at the description of the excess rice being tossed out of the restaurant at the end of the day. This also reminded me that I really need to ask my mother for her recipe for sushi rice — I’m curious as to what ratios she uses — apparently, Kyoto leans towards sweeter rice while Tokyo prefers a more tart mixture. I think hers fell in the middle — it’s definitely not as sweet as some of the stuff I’ve had in restaurants.

The Bad: I really wonder what Corson’s intention was in picking the protagonist he did — an underachieving, squeamish, utterly clueless white girl who seems to half-ass her way through most of the classes. Probably an attempt to connect with the people that will make up the bulk of his audience — white Americans who dump wasabi into their soy sauce and eat large clumps of ginger as an appetizer before ordering multiple fatty rolls filled with spicy sauce and mayonnaise. I suppose, if seen as a parallel to the American diner, it’s somewhat heartening — the character does end up learning enough by the end of her class to not shame her teachers, and I’m sure that those who read the book will learn a lot more about their food as well. This does not stop me from wanting to slap the character silly every time she whines, wibbles, or flakes. Which is a LOT. Why we couldn’t have focused on a wider variety of students — more capable ones — is beyond me. I just found myself skipping over paragraphs dealing with her inner angst, which seemed like filler material in between the more interesting historical and cultural paragraphs. I also wasn’t overly impressed with the need to focus on a hormone-driven high schooler from Colorado whose only goal for learning to make sushi was to meet and pick up pretty girls. Between these characters and the occasional lewd jokes, it feels like he’s trying too hard to play to the lowest common denominator. Ugh.

The Ugly: This is probably the point where I most strongly realized that I was NOT the demographic meant to be reading this book. The main character lists these three things as her “top most disgusting moments” in class — peeling a live shrimp, hacking at a giant fish, and octopus. They probably would have had to physically restrain me to keep me AWAY from any of those. I think I’ve noted in this blog my very frequent use of live crustaceans — I admit that sometimes the still-twitching live spot prawns I’ve peeled ended up becoming spur-of-the-moment snacks instead of making it to dinner. Mmmmm, amaebi. Alright, so I might have been desensitized at an early age — I remember my mother taking me to the local Asian market when I was… oh, 7 or 8 years old? She’d pick out a live fish or two from the tanks, then we’d watch as the butchers would slam the fish to the ground and start beating their heads with clubs to kill them. Then we’d take them home and I’d watch my mother gut and clean them, letting me poke at the twitching fins and entrails while she worked. Eels, carp, mackerel, catfish, clams, countless crustaceans — talk of fishmongers and gutting makes me smile nostalgically. Lord, what I wouldn’t give to find a good local fish market here. Yes, the several paragraphs on squeamish students not wanting to poke a slimy eel or stick their hand up a squid were just completely lost on me. Grow some frickin’ balls, my tiny former elementary school self would tell them. Where the hell did they think their food came from?

To wrap up, this book has a bit for everybody, whether you’re a complete sushi noob or have been in contact with the stuff for most of your life. I scoffed a bit at the classroom portions of the chapters, but there were just as many paragraphs devoted to awesome explanations of how miso and soy sauce are made, how restaurants and food carts in old Japan operated, and the chemical compounds which trigger umami. Having a resource like this available can only help lead to a more knowledgeable consumer base, which will in turn encourage a higher quality of product from restaurants who have historically felt the need to “dumb down” their food for Western customers. Plus, y’know, it’s a pretty fun read.

***There was one throwaway line during the section discussing soy fermentation, which was called the cheese-making equivalent of Japan. It basically said that there was a lack of dairy products in Japan ”because the cow never caught on”.  Which just completely glossed over the whole problem with the island being a, y’know, ISLAND and not having the space or resources to farm cattle in any way that would produce a large red meat eating population. Or that historically Asia as a whole has not had a thing for cows and the vast majority of the population have the lactose intolerance to prove it. And, oh yes, there’s also the large vegetarian Buddhist contingent. Given these issues, why the hell would they really have cared if the cow caught on, for most of history up until modern times when McDonalds started building their cholesterol-laden stores of doom? Sigh.

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

I mentioned in my last post how I’ve been craving non-fish seafood lately. Since the fresh stuff isn’t so common, I’ve lately been resorting to frozen and the occasional canned product. I’ve only bought cans of stuff that I’ve trusted in the past, however, like mussels and crab. Last week, I thought I’d be a bit more adventurous and expand my tinned seafood horizons. Unfortunately, I decided to begin with this:

Can’t tell what it is? That’s okay, I read the label, saw the picture, ate all of it, and STILL can’t quite figure out what it was supposed to be. It looks suspiciously like something we’d normally feed to the cats, to be honest, but both of the felines were smart enough to stay far away when I cracked this thing open. Want to find out what it was supposed to be? Step behind the cut with me…

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Still being somewhat on the sickly side, I’ve spent more time reading about food than making or eating it lately. Which is okay, since I’ve had a bunch of these titles archived on my Kindle for ages and am just now getting to crack them open.

I seem to be on a bit of a food history kick right now. Just finished reading Mark Kurlansky’s very entertaining The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell. This one is definitely written much more in the vein of a magazine’s historical interest piece than a strict academic text — full of lots of anecdotes, historical recipes, and interesting digressions into the lives of colorful individuals. It’s a dual history, tracking both the Eastern oyster and the city of New York from early European colonization to the 21st century. As a result, it sometimes spends more time dabbling in the side stories of one subject than the other, but in the end manages to twine them both together again. Very readable for those that love seafood, and also gives an interesting slant on things for those familiar with New York. Being a West Coaster myself, I’m sure a lot of the local references were lost on me. However, I’ve been to the city enough to know the general layout and it’s fascinating to think of that most urban of urban places as the idyllic estuary overflowing with natural bounty that the book describes.

Given how I LOVE oysters in just about every form possible, and am constantly bemoaning the lack of fresh local shellfish, this book has gone a little ways towards helping that craving. Or possibly made it worse, I’m not entirely sure. I mean, just check out this quote: ”New York Harbor contained fully half of the world’s oysters. Anyone in the area need not have traveled far to reach into shallow waters and pluck oysters like ripe fruit.” Mrr. And the long section on all-you-can-eat oyster bars for a few cents? Wistful sigh.

Did I mention the cool historical recipes? From Roman (though I think the problem with that one is mostly having to make my own garum) to Renaissance (“Shelle oystyrs into a pott and the sewe therwith. Put therto fayre watyr; perboyle hem.”) to Gilded Age French recipes involving complicated sauces and the liberal use of egg yolks. I might just try some of these on a more adventurous day, though I’m sure there would need to be a fair amount of improvisation and creative interpretation with most of them.

Interesting tidbits! There used to be a Hudson River caviar industry from local sturgeon — bars would offer caviar free, like peanuts, because it was salty and made people buy more drinks. We call cookies “cookies” instead of biscuits because of the Dutch word “koeckjes”. Americans used to eat the majority of their oysters cooked — the raw on the half-shell thing was mostly European until pretty close into modern times. There used to be huge sharks living in New York Harbor, right where people liked to swim.

Sigh. I wonder what sort of bribes it would take to get the local supermarket’s fish counter to special order shellfish for me…?

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

Back in the late 90′s, I was fortunate enough to visit New Orleans a couple of times (I don’t really count the times my family visited back when we lived in Houston because I was far too young to have a vote in what we did there) for lavish masquerade balls. If there are two things they know how to do down there, it’s dress well and eat well. My friends and I made sure to explore both avenues as much as possible during our brief visits.

It’s been more than a decade since I’ve been there, but the memories of fancy gowns, copious alcohol and excellent food are not the least bit dulled. With any luck, I will be able to visit there with the boy in the near future. Having grown up in SoCal, which was always poised on the edge of one natural (or manmade) disaster or another, you learn that sometimes imminent doom makes the will to create and shine all the stronger. Time and circumstances might have changed the New Orleans I experienced back then, but I know that the spirit and beauty still remain, and I very much want to see that again.

In the meantime, here’s a classic recipe from thereabouts that I like to break out whenever I can get my hands on a decent batch of crawfish. August just happens to be crawfish season in Scandinavia, so it’s much easier to get tubs of tail meat now than at any other time of year.

Crawfish étouffée, using the AR Cajun Crawfish and Shrimp Etouffe recipe.

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

This particular post is dedicated to Cim, who made a shocking revelation one day while we were out at lunch — she has had close to no contact with tuna in any form. This is even more surprising considering the very notable presence of two cats in their living space. Then again, I recognize that tuna is an overused staple in so many American households (casseroles and salads in countless housekeeping magazines spring to mind) and can sympathize with how some people might choose to avoid it entirely when given the choice.

I, however, did not grow up in one of those households. I had my first tuna salad sandwich in college, and it was nothing short of a revelation. There’s fish in a can! And you can put mayonnaise in it! I knew of the existence of these things, in an academic sort of way, of course. I’d observed other kids eating stuff of the sort. But do remember that I lived under the iron spatula of a mother that would rarely tolerate such strange Western notions. Sandwiches were a necessary evil to be put in lunchboxes only when lack of school refrigeration prevented her from sending more perishable food items. Let’s not even get into her ideas on what could go into a sandwich — I still remember one horrific 5th grade day when I opened up my bread to find butter, strawberry jam, bologna, processed cheese, and a limp leaf of iceberg lettuce all cohabiting in one uncomfortable-looking jumble. Yeah, my brothers and I begged to start purchasing school lunches not long after that.

In short, my mother would never make this sandwich.

Cheesy toasty tuna melt! I’ve made this one a number of times over the past couple of years, but wouldn’t have dreamed of posting about mere sandwiches this time last year. Either my standards have fallen or I’m getting more comfortable with sharing the simpler side of things. I like to think it’s the former — this isn’t a blog about how to present fancy restaurant stuff to sumptuous dinner parties, it’s just a journal of a girl who plays with her food. Good times.

Not too altered from the original, which was found in Allrecipes under “Best Tuna Melt, New Jersey Diner Style“. I’ve never visited New Jersey, but I shall remember to stop at a diner to test this claim if I’m ever in the area.

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

It’s been a while since I did a WoW-related recipe post, hasn’t it? My last one was pretty easy, since it translated directly to what could be found in the supermarket. This one is along the same lines — Poached Sunscale Salmon! Like last time, I’ve taken some license in what sort of species would be considered “Sunscale” salmon hereabouts. I’m going to work with the idea that despite there being many varieties of salmon, they all basically cook up the same and even a fictional species probably would look pretty much like what we have here. That being said, I have a sneaking suspicion that Sunscale would probably be a Pacific species while Whitescale would probably be Atlantic. Either way, you’re going to need a cooking skill level of 250 and some raw salmon. If you were a digital character, you’d have to go and learn this recipe from a band of opportunistic desert goblins. Luckily, we have internets instead, which are more far convenient and don’t smell as strongly of gunpowder and kodo dung.

Poached salmon with broccoli and a side of jasmine rice. Adapted and tweaked from AR’s Poached Salmon II Recipe. Fast and easy to make, as befits something that might be cooked on a portable skillet over a campfire just prior to engaging in a raid encounter with deranged orc warchiefs. Nobody should mêlée on an empty stomach!

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

So, we have a new local sushi joint. “Local” being a relative term, since it’s around an hour’s drive into the nearest large-ish city. But we go there on a fairly frequent basis to visit friends anyway, so it’s just a happy opportunity that we also get a decent sushi fix on the same trip. In fact, the first time I visited this restaurant was with those friends, on what was probably my second trip to Finland. They were telling me about this place that was pretty good, except for the strange sweet mayonnaise that they put in some rolls… to which I responded that Japanese mayonnaise is on the strangely sweet side to begin with, so that was in all likelihood what they were tastiing. We decided to visit and settle the matter in person and I ended up having an excellent mixed sushi plate that would have been right at home in Cali. I then spent the next two years trying to drag the boy to this place, but it didn’t really happen until last month. He ordered their largest plate, declared it very edible, and a consensus was reached that we would have to make this a regular thing.

Kado Sushi is located in the picturesque old Turku kaupahalli (market hall), across the aisle from an excellent fishmonger and wedged into a space — narrow and long — reminiscent of a train car. Simple bamboo decor keeps the room from seeming cluttered and large wall windows let you watch the market shoppers bustle by while you sip soothing green tea (or something stronger from their well-stocked imported alcohol section). The guys in the kitchen are all Finnish, which gave me pause when I first came here since there’s an unspoken rule in Cali that you only go to sushi bars with immigrant Japanese chefs if you want the good stuff. However, these guys were definitely trained well by somebody with a formal Japanese culinary education, because everything that came out of that kitchen was fresh and perfect. This wasn’t some ghetto Todai buffet microwave sushi, these guys are serious. They also get extra points for successfully using local fish, which can be somewhat difficult because the majority of Finnish fish come from brackish water rather than the staple fatty ocean fish.

The “big plate”. The piece of salmon nigiri on the far left got cut out because the boy couldn’t pull the camera back far enough :-P This area is known for divine Atlantic salmon, so I needn’t go on about how generous the piece was nor how perfectly buttery it tasted. Moving along. There was also arctic char, tuna, shrimp, squid, burnt salmon, octopus, pike perch, whitefish, surf clam, eel and sweet egg. And the obligatory California roll across the top, of course. Really, the only thing that could make me happier is if they had uni and raw sweet shrimp. However, I have a feeling that sea urchin and amaebi might be a bit too delicate for any but the most expensive restaurants to ship and serve. Sigh.

More pictures of the interior and menu behind the cut…

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

Nothing too in-depth today, just wanted to share a couple of photos.

Yesterday was a pretty good day. We had the boy’s family over for dinner and I made my favorite cioppino with whatever seafood I could scrounge from the supermarket. Which ended up being a pound of frozen mussels (smaller than the kiwis I’m used to but still tasty), a pound of frozen shrimp (the wee kind, sadly, which shrunk even further in the stew), and a pound of fresh northern pike. It’s a great fish for stews of this kind, with mild white meat, though it is a bit on the bony side. It was also going for less than half the price of all the other fish, since it’s so common, so I wasn’t going to argue — it was going to be chopped into chunks and tossed into a stew, not fried on a plate. I also used bottled lobster stock instead of clam juice (which I just couldn’t find) and discovered it to be not nearly as lobstery as it made itself out to be. Sadly, I cannot easily get my hands on enough raw shellfish to make stock of my own, so it looks to be my only option for the foreseeable future.

Finnish pike cioppino! The soup that bites back. (Actually, the pike was pretty good — it had a nice texture that held up very well to the extended cooking time. Almost reminded me of a softer, milder swordfish.)

So after dinner, we went for a walk around the lake next to our apartment complex. I’d seen a woman bike past earlier with a handful of lily-of-the-valleys, so I knew they were in bloom and wanted to pick a bunch before they were gone. Their bloom window is so short but they’re just the ultimate bouquet flower. There weren’t that many along our hike path, but we’d stumbled upon a huge patch of them in the glade next door two weeks ago so I made a beeline for those. I’d remarked back then that I would have to come back when they bloomed, so it was just lucky that I spotted the girl with the flowers this morning.

These go for a ridiculously huge sum at the florist back in Cali, owing to their short-lived flowers and complete incompatibility with warmer climates. So naturally, they spread like crazy here and cover the ground in entire swathes :-P Did I mention they’re the Finnish national flower? These are sitting on the shelf above my computer right now and smell so pretty. <3

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Mirrored from Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden.

If you say the word lobster, almost everybody automatically thinks of the brown bugs with big claws that come out of Maine. And I wouldn’t blame them, because those are mighty tasty crustaceans. However, here on the left coast, from October until March of each year, we have our own crop of fresh lobster that shouldn’t be ignored.

California spiny lobsters are only distantly related to the more well-known homard lobsters, but they taste every bit as lobster-y. In fact, many restaurants now use spiny tails for their recipes and diners would be hard put to tell the difference. This is especially good for west coasters — I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have a lobster that was caught that morning than one that was imported from Maine earlier in the week. They’ll be plumper and healthier, which always translates into a better meal.

That being said, you might get a shock when you see your first spiny lobster. I know the boy certainly had second thoughts when I introduced him to his dinner. They’re, well, slightly different-looking:

Yep. No claws, huge tail, and a face only a mother lobster could love. But gosh, are they lovely when steamed and dipped in butter. I’m not going to do a long how-to for these guys because there’s really no point. Just follow the steaming directions from my previous lobster cooking post, remembering that the weight is calculated off of the heaviest critter, not off of both of them combined. Steam with the standard additions (salt, bay leaves, whatever aromatics suit you) to the water and you’ll end up with…

Cooked bugs! Spinys actually pack more meat per similarly sized lobster than Maines, so think on that. The majority is in their tail, so twist that off, snip down the middle with a pair of kitchen shears and pop it open. Don’t forget to dig in the tail for the meat in the flippers. There are also chunks at the base of each antennae worth working for. We just ate these guys steamed, plain with a little dipping sauce. Bag the shells for stock.

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

The boy and I went out to sushi fairly frequently back in OC because we had a stellar local restaurant with an excellent selection of everything we could possible ask for. When I was growing up, though, going out wasn’t as common and my mother would often make her own interpretations of sushi, both with nori and with sweet fried tofu pouches called inari. Inari is great because it’s super fast to prep and doesn’t require as much effort as properly rolled nori does. Plus, if made with durable toppings like shredded dried fish, you can just stuff a few into a ziploc bag and snack on them whenever. Mmm, pocket sushi.

So, being in a snackish mood one day and spurred on by my mother giving me a can of the above-mentioned tofu pouches, we stopped by the local Marukai and got some fixings for homemade sushi night. Salmon, scallop and ikura inarizushi, below the cut.

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pierydys: (Default)

Mirrored from Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden.

The boy and I went out to sushi fairly frequently back in OC because we had a stellar local restaurant with an excellent selection of everything we could possible ask for. When I was growing up, though, going out wasn’t as common and my mother would often make her own interpretations of sushi, both with nori and with sweet fried tofu pouches called inari. Inari is great because it’s super fast to prep and doesn’t require as much effort as properly rolled nori does. Plus, if made with durable toppings like shredded dried fish, you can just stuff a few into a ziploc bag and snack on them whenever. Mmm, pocket sushi.

So, being in a snackish mood one day and spurred on by my mother giving me a can of the above-mentioned tofu pouches, we stopped by the local Marukai and got some fixings for homemade sushi night. Salmon, scallop and ikura inarizushi, below the cut.

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

We have a few different options for crabs in Southern California. The most well known is the dungeness, which is actually brought down from the northern part of the state most of the time because they’re more abundant there. Local fisherman are more likely to find rock crabs, red crabs, yellow crabs and the occasional spider crab. When we were in Orange County, I usually preferred to shop from our local fisherman and family at Pearson’s Port. Besides being super friendly and always having the freshest stuff around, they’d always have a few tanks of whatever crabs were in season.

One particular weekend, though, I happened to be driving back home from LA and stopped by the Redondo Beach Pier to visit Quality Seafood, a pretty well known fixture along the boardwalk for many a SoCal native. I remembered going there as a kid with my parents, sitting on splintery wooden benches in the bright summer sun, pounding open crabs on the table and making a huge mess while seagulls circled closeby. Well, the boardwalk has been seriously renovated and fancified since I was last there, but it’s good to know that the same shabby benches and bubbling tanks are still there. They didn’t have any live sea urchins left that day, so I went home with three very feisty large red rock crabs for dinner. Here’s one of them right here:

And here’s what they looked like when they finally got to the dinner table:

Fresh crab is really amazing, no matter what species. Nothing else even comes close to that oceany-sweet taste. See how I went about preparing them, along with a side of crab butter flavored rice, below the cut.

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