Monday, January 16, 2012
Chinese New Year tags the traditional holidays with fervor and I welcome the injection this time of year when there's more dark than daylight and more inside days than out due to cooler temperatures in the Lowcountry. Truth be told I started thinking about Year of the Dragon thanks to a tickle from the LA Times Daily Dish about an onigiri contest transpiring at the Japanese American National Museum. Rice Balls come in a wide range of options and some varieties should not be confused with onigiri~our friends over at Just Bento provide a easy to digest primer for beginners. I especially appreciated the tips for purchasing rice alternatives as there are times when our Lowcountry grocers fail to deliver on products outside the usual consumption. [Admittedly in the last few years several Asian grocers have made their way across the river (Savannah)]. Once again bringing the holiday closer to the hearts of youth, the process of shaping (and decorating) rice balls makes for an enjoyable afternoon in the kitchen. We're adding a twist to plating our onigiri....each individual rice ball streaming together to form a dragon along a platter, wondering just how the "dragon fire breathing new life" into the affair will play out, but that's to be appreciated...as with any astrological projection it is the assumption of what is to be that inspires the path to reality.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
There was a period in my past when cooking was nothing more than preparing artfully eye appealing hors d'oeuvre style meals. You know the kind, straight from the Cher character in the movie Mermaids. To the point that my neighbors when invited to dine at my place would always chuckle, knowing full well the food was the entertainment and that there'd never be a large plate anything set before them. What can I say I was in my 20's living very much like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's known more for having a stocked bar than a full room of furniture. Reminiscing in the kitchen about an era gone by this last week with some tasty dips. Three distinctly different, but very delicious varieties. The first an Orange Cheese Ball compliments of our local food columnist Ervena Faulkner at the Island Packet. Early in December she presented the local market with several recipes for cheese balls and this (Orange) along with the Ginger Cream Cheese Ball fall on the slightly sweet side and rank high on the crowd pleaser list. Next came the Hot Artichoke-Spinach Dip recipe that somehow made it to print across the work copier that was aimlessly aside next to the copier for several days before I finally chopped it up to destiny that it was my calling to take it home and try. Many more steps in this one on the prep side when using fresh ingredients, but oh so worth it in flavor factor...not to mention the ooey gooey goodness this comfort food (at least in my world) brings to any occasion. Last and certainly not least of the three was the serendipitous placement of a post holiday sweet potato offering from my newest infatuation, J.M Hirsch food editor over at The Associated Press. Spending time in his kitchen would seem like a great deal of fun, frolic, and deliciousness. For proof of this check out what he concocted with a simple jar of almond butter recently (genius). Back to the dip, Spicy Sweet Potato Dip. What one marvels at is the utter simplicity of this dish and then there's the not often served uniqueness of it. While you might think you've had your fill of sweet potatoes over Thanksgiving and Christmas, there's something decidedly different here that shares no resemblance to those familial celebrations. Go ahead dip if you want to, one should never underestimate that which is bite size, can be consumed without utensils and gives everyone a reason to gather around!