These Are a Few of My (New) Favorite Things
The heat has finally subsided here in sunny Southern California and I am quickly coming to see why people so enjoy living here. With such beautiful weather awaiting us outside, and so many new people to meet and interesting places to explore, it has been hard for Dustin and I to spend too much time experimenting and developing new recipes for you all. Excitement awaits around every corner, and when adventure beckons, we heed its call.
While I have no tasty recipe to share with you today, I have some new favorite discoveries that I want to tell you about.
First, from the tech world, this app, called List Bliss, has helped me keep my sanity, making it easy to keep my grocery list up to date and ensuring I wont forget it at home when I go to the market. List Bliss even enables you to keep a running inventory of your pantry so when inspiration strikes at the farmers market, you know what ingredients you have on hand at home and can begin to craft a recipe that incorporates your fresh market find with staples from your pantry.
I have fallen head over heels for the simple elegance of Harumi Kurihara’s recipes. After checking “Everyday Harumi” out from the library I knew I had to add this to my home collection. Harumi’s recipes are built from a simple pantry of basic Japanese ingredients bringing new light and fresh flavors to some of our favorite vegetables such as green beans or pumpkin. Most of the recipes are quick to prepare and Harumi offers the home cook some ideas on how to experiment with the dressings and sauces to put their own personal stamp on the dish. Be on the lookout for our takes on some of her classic dishes in the upcoming weeks.
Speaking of cookbooks, have you taken a look at what your public library has to offer lately? I have been sincerely impressed by the wealth of cookbooks available to check out at the libraries in the Pasadena area. The selection varies greatly from library to library so be sure to visit a few to determine which branches have the best offerings. The library has so much to offer beyond cookbooks. From books on organic gardening to scientific journals, new CDs and even classic films on DVD you might be surprised at what you can find. Though some libraries function independently, most libraries belong to a regional organization and will allow you to place a hold on books from any branch in the system. They can even have the books, CDs, or DVDs brought into your local branch from a branch far away.
Here in San Gabriel we are surrounded by an almost overwhelming number of Asian restaurants and supermarkets. As I have explored some of the local markets I have been re-discovering some ingredients that had not been as easily accessible in Tennessee. Two ingredients that I am really enjoying experimenting with in our kitchen right now are Seaweed and Lotus Root. If you are lucky enough to live near an asian grocer you will likely be able to find salt packed seaweed in the refrigerated section of the store. For tips on selecting and cooking with seaweed see this fantastic post from David Tanis that was featured on the Splendid Table. The photograph above is of Tanis’s take on a classic seaweed salad and is from that same article, you can find a link to the recipe here.
I came across a lotus root salad at the local farmers market and it brought back memories of the many lotus dishes I enjoyed while living in China. The lotus root is a commonly used ingredient in Chinese cooking and it is thought to have beneficial health properties, specifically for the lungs. In Chinese medicine it is believed that the fall is a time to focus on strengthening the respiratory system, which is particularly susceptible to infection and illness as the changing seasons usher in colder weather. Lotus can be prepared in a variety of ways including stewing, and stir frying but I particularly like it in a salad where its beautiful shape and crunchy texture really shines. When shopping for fresh lotus look for roots that are relatively evenly colored and free of soft spots, also peek down the tubes to check for signs of mold. Once at home simply peel the roots and slice them before incorporating them into a stir fry. When making a salad, I first place the slices in a bowl, cover the roots with boiling water and let them sit for a few minutes before draining the water and repeating the process. If your roots are harboring a lot of dirt you may need to repeat this several times until the water is no longer murky after soaking.
And while we are on the subject, I may as well continue with the theme of inspiration from The East to tell you about one of my new favorite spots to find cool cooking gadgets and ceramics. Daiso Japan recently opened a new store in Temple City, minutes from our house. The store is quite similar to the many american 5&10 or dollar store chains with the major difference being that all of the products come from Japan. Unlike the american dollar stores which are full of goods made overseas for consumption by the American consumer market, the products at Daiso are mostly created for use by the asian market. Because of this, you can find some really unique knick-knacks which range from patterned ceramic plates to jeweled hair accessories, colorful office stationary, and even some super cute plastic gloves to don while doing dishes. While I cannot guarantee that all the products are made with the highest quality materials, the price is right at $1.50 per item and likely worth the gamble on quality. To find out if Daiso has a store near you, you can check out their list of US locations on their website.
Finally, for those of you who have recently moved to an new area or are simply looking to try out new activities check out meetup.com. On the site you will find numerous local groups organized around common interests or activities. Ever wanted to try sky-diving? There is probably a meet up for that. Looking to try out new trails? There is likely a group of hikers in your area that organize weekly/monthly hiking events. From book clubs to walking groups there are so many things to try and explore. So check it out for yourself, and if you happen upon some new favorite things of your own, be sure to let me know in the comments below!
*Lotus Root Image Courtesy of thekitchn.com