27 September 2011

Fire: Pretty

September 11, 2011
Henry Cowell Redwoods SP, CA


Work's done with and we need to unwind. Comatose (link) and I head out to camp. And you know what camp means?

I am master of fire, bringer of death!
Awwww yeah.

S'mores are first, obviously.

Then dinner and booze!

Tony Roma's is there for you, man. He is.
Ribs, burned french rolls, Chinese hot and sour soup, summer sausage and Weidmer Hefeweizen in front of a 10 dollar grill bought at Walmart. We watch some Doctor Who under the stars and surrounded by the sound of wind and an oncoming rain. Honestly, camping is the highlight of my trip up north. Even though I burned the crap out of my toes by stubbing them on these ninja bastards:

Just because they protect you from mosquitoes doesn't mean they're your friend.
Ahh, then morning. Know what I love about mornings? making breakfast for a pretty girl.

Master of fire is bringer of breakfast
And do you know what breakfast has?

Oh sweet Jesus...

It's ok to drool. And it's gluten free!

Yeah. Camping's the shit.



It's Meat!

September 12, 2011
Alhambra, CA


Making the drive to LA after working at Opera San Jose (man, those were some weird times). Sun sends a sharp ray into my eye, courtesy of the over chromed trunk on the back of the SUV in front of me. No restaurant around for at least a dozen miles yet one quick flashback and I "smell" something familiar, thick, weighty.

Courtesy of Morocco's
Oh yes, it's Moroccan food time.

When I did have beef kebabs, they fought against each of my bites with tenderness. They didn't cave and melt like pot roast nor did they demand the masticating attention of a New York steak. It was more like each and every bit of the beef wanted you to take it slow so you could taste the light sting of the salt peppered on top; the generous oil, cumin and paprika laced into the very fabric of the beef; the light streaks of charred goodness on every bit.

But I'm not going to pay 19 bucks for a kebab and some rice--no, sir. And neither will you.

I lifted the following recipes from Food.com (link) and twisted Epicurious's (link) presenting a bit. It serves 5 small Asian people or 4 Asian people with healthy appetites.

Lighting is a bitch at my house

"Moroccan" Beef Kebabs
3/4 cup olive oil
6 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro (coriander)
4 teaspoons salt
1 grated lime peel
juice from 1 limes
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground paprika
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon sugar
2 pounds well-trimmed filet mignon steaks*, cut into 2 or 3-inch cubes
2 pounds chicken breast or thighs, cut into 2 or 3 inch cubes
8 12-inch-long metal skewers
1/2 an onion cut into 2x2 squares
1 green pepper cut into 2x2 squares
1 red pepper cut into 2x2 squares

*Filet mignon is actually very cheap. For us Monterey Park natives, there's a Chinese market, 168 Market (link). Price per pound goes about 5.99, provided you buy the entire damn tenderloin.

First, you'll want to pour the oil, garlic, cilantro, salt, peel, juice, pepper, paprika, turmeric, cumin and cinnamon and sugar into a big Ziploc freezer bag. Be sure to cut out the pulp from the lime and throw it in as well. Mix that stuff in the bag until the granules are nigh invisible.

Second, remove the silver skin off your steak; slice the steak into cubes; and toss all of them into the bag.

Third, rinse your chicken, remove the fat and what have you, cube em, toss em into the bag.

Now... you wait.


While they're marinating (and you're going to need a straight hour and a half to do this proper), it's best to prepare the fixin's. For the rice, I chose to make it a fried-rice instead of the proper boiling (again, you can go to Food.com for an excellent recipe). Making the stuff by boiling it is definitely the smarter way to go but, if you're like me and can't have enough fat in your diet, follow my instructions below.

"Moroccan" Fried Rice
4 or 5 strands of saffron
1/2 cup beef stock
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup sweet yellow corn
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch chili powder or ground flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground black peppercorn
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups already-made Basmati rice*
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

4 pinch salt

*Got this tip from Cook's Illustrated: you'll want day old, refrigerated rice. It dries out in the fridge and is more receptive to your efforts. If your rice isn't old, it turns out mushy during frying.

Tip: Frying rice happens quickly so prepare everything in advance (I've forgotten the French term for it, someone feel free to tell me). You'll want to put the rice in a big bowl, all the spices, salt and pepper in a pinch bowl, onions and corn in separate containers.

First, pour the beef stock into a large wok (or enormous sauce pan) and get it up to simmer. Turn off heat and toss in the saffron and let it do the magical thing saffron does for about 3 minutes. Then pour the saffron-broth mix over the rice.

Second, heat up the wok at high, drip the oil down the sides to lubricate the steel of your passion. and just as it's beginning to smoke: onions! FSHHHH! toss them around until they become a little translucent and then throw in the corn. Toss everything around a bit more.

Third, turn down the heat, Pacino, you'll need it at medium-high. Throw in the garlic and stir until you can smell the garlic cooking (10 seconds). Now toss in your spices and salt and stir like the Tasmanian devil til you can really smell the oil and spices mix. It's not very subtle.

Fourth, toss in your rice soaked in saffron and broth. Make sure all of it gets int the wok. Stir the rice with a wooden spoon and spatula to break it apart. The technique's a bit weird--you'll want to hold each tool in one hand and constantly upturn the rice inside the wok to soak up all the spices and flavorings. You'll see clumps so feel free to break them apart with your spoon. It don't hurt their feelings none. You may need a tablespoon or 2 more of oil to loosen up the rice--it will be excessive to use any more.

Fifth, once you get an even coloring, throw in 3 tablespoons of the cilantro. Stir fry for a bit more until you can smell the cilantro hiding in the spices.

Sixth, put the rice on the plates in little neat mounds, garnish with a pinch of chopped cilantro and sprinkle a dash of salt over it. Do not skip the salt sprinkle--I promise you your experience will not be the same without.


Back to the Kebabs!

Fourth, preheat your grill to ultra-hot. Should be 450 if you can get it there.

Fifth, pull out the meats from the bag and arrange them onto your skewers. You can see the above for the general idea on the order. It doesn't matter too much other than making absolute sure that you're packing that kebab TIGHT. And when I say tight, I mean it in CAPS. This has to be a sword of meaty justice, glimmering with fatty hope in the halcyon rays of days forever good and true.

Sixth, place the kebabs on the grill. Close the lid, turn down the heat to medium high and wait for 7 minutes. Turn over and wait another 7. Then a quarter, wait for 4. then another quarter, wait for 4. You'll want to watch out for the chicken, it cooks a little fast so you may want to skip on the quarter turns for them.

Seventh, place them on your plate, next to your rice and on top of a green of some kind. I chose a bed of spinach. Sprinkle with a dash of salt. I'm not fooling around with this part--DO IT.

Gotta tell ya: some of the nicest leftovers in history.

Bil hana wa ash-shifa.



04 July 2011

A Very American AX

July 2, 2011
Los Angeles, CA, US


I work in south LA long before the sun dares show its face to the world. There's a harsh and crisp darkness every morning--the scent of the homeless and the hardened.

It never softens up--it only dials up in volume and color. That darkness does't give way to day--it merely mixes with the over white sunlight.

Then this happens:

I love Anime Expo.

There has been a better IRL Celty but this one gets points for dedication. never talks, barely moves, always txting.

Axis Powers: Hetalia gives people the ability dress Nazi-ish without any of that political career ending business.

The saving grace here is the elaborate costuming.


If you haven't watched Afro Samurai, I urge you to take a heavy shot of JD and contemplate what you're doing with your life. Then go ahead and watch the ultra-violent, blaxploitation Gonzo anachronismfest that is Afro Samurai. Just remember that Samuel L. Jackson is very disappointed in you.

It was great seeing such an accurate Haru Hara but, seriously, that dude on the left. I love anime nerds. They are my people.

And, on occasion, they prove to be some serious BAMFs

You know... Nice try, at least.

Next, 6 hours of parkour, two family barbeques and beer pong. I love America!



Pigs in a Danish Quilt

June 29th, 2011
Los Angeles, CA


Nothing special--just obsessed with pigs in a blanket lately. And thanks to Cooking with My Kid, I totally achieved this (link)! She calls em Snake Dogs, though. Something about a snake constricting around my food is attractive to me. You see, I'm eating a snake which is eating a pig which is actually made of cow.


Basically, take whatever pastry/croissant dough is available and wrap it all up on that sausage. There's an immature joke to be had there. I'm just too cool to do it here.

In this instance, it was Hygge Bakery croissant dough wrapped around a Hebrew National. I less than 3 life right now.


30 June 2011

Breakfast Sandwich (Come at Me, Denny's!)

June 2011
Alhambra, CA, US


A request from Alina Frowne (Link):

Admittedly, that video has almost nothing to do with what I'm going to assault you with today. I've been cooking this woman stacks of hotcakes and pounds of sausages for years now. She'll forgive me. Maybe.

Instead, we're changing the game with an egg, ham and provolone sandwich.

An admittedly "CURRENT LEVEL" Sandwich
"But, Paul," you might be muttering to yourself, "that sounds so much like Denny's 'Moon over My Hammy' business. You're unoriginal."

Well, you're right about that first part, Denny's does provide that service (Link). The problem is, however, the dang thing is unseemly as hell and salted to the nines. When one makes contact with the sandwich, grease spews forth--a confusing tsunami smothering the Daiichi reactor cooling generators on your tastebuds.

"Am I on a 19th century merchant schooner?," you ask yourself as the salted hard tack bread reminds you of maritime sea rations. "No... these yellow sponges are definitely egg-like and this 'cheese' seems like it is intended to mold over a 4 month sail to Indoostan." Then again, the nutritional contents seem like something to combat Marine starvation.

Credit: Coheso Personal Health Management Tools (Link)
Worry not: let us achieve this sandwich under the 6 dollar sticker price and the other unwanted baggage.


Ovaries over My Thighs (working title)

1 Hygge Bakery Italian dough sandwich bread                      $1.00
2 eggs                                                                                  $0.75
1/4lb ham (the good stuff)                                                     $1.25
4 slices Provolone cheese (the "okay" stuff)                           $0.50
2tbsp salted butter                                                                $0.10
salt and pepper                                                                     really?
TOTAL:                                                                              $3.60

To be honest, I've got no clue about the nutritional content. I do, however, highly doubt that these add up to 180% DV cholesterol and over 100% DV sodium.

Cut the bread:

Mix the eggs:

Fry the magic:


Mission: accomplished.



26 June 2011

Shrimp Tempura Reckoning

June 26, 2011
Alhambra, CA, US


It was only a matter of time. This day had been years in the making. So sweet was the sun setting--an appropriate metaphor for what was about to happen.

Today: I made shrimp tempura.

Yes, that is a shredder used as a drying rack. What? I'm poor! Back off, pal!

This begins with a trip to Woori Market (Link) out in Little Tokyo. Excuse me, sir. Is that jumbo Thai shrimp for 5 bucks a pound? Yessir, I'll take all I can afford! A whopping 2.3 pounds! Getting ritzy up in here!

I planned out the recipe. America's Test Kitchen does a wonderful vodka batter tempura (Link) but seeing how I'm out of vodka and a subscription to the website, Tyler Florence will have to do (Link).

First we wash the shrimp of its sins. It's a baptism, baby!

(Click image for .gif)

OFF WITH THEIR HEADS! (A-Trak goes a blaring)

Seltzer, egg and ice. It's a cure for a hangover somewhere in the world, I'm sure. Why did I not show you it with the flour? And for that matter, why did I not record the battering process? These are very good questions. Very good questions, indeed.

Here's something deep frying to distract you:

Ain't it pretty. A few turns and batches later, we have the whole thing done. Until we fry it again! Muahaha!

Then, since I am an unrepentant sloth, I switched out a very delicate and sharp dipping sauce for instant curry.

College has done terrible things to my sense of self worth.

Of course, this was done all on a lark. Next time, I plan to actually get on that vodka recipe. And probably drink the rest of the fifth which remains.


25 June 2011

The Hot Dog Bun Holy Grail

June 24, 2011
Los Angeles, CA, US

After a lifetime of enjoying what can only be described as man's no-homo gift to man, I've discovered how to make a hot dog bun.

This is an unqualified Good. Your life is meaningless without it.

Using Hygge Bakery soft dough and Evergood Louisiana Hot Link Sausages, I've taken something from my Chinese childhood and forged it into something nigh unspeakable.

I'm not satisfied, though... let's pick up this fight next week.



Zombie Crawls: A Silver Springs Encounter

October 2011
Silver Springs, MD, US


There were rumours--unsettling rumours. The dead would walk amongst the living in hundreds, if not thousands. And they were converging a mere 10 miles away from my apartment to harvest an intoxicating annual crop.

"Yeah. Everyone turns into a zombie for a few hours and then goes to bars." Paige (my partner intern at "All Things Considered")  spoke about the event as if it were completely normal.

I stared back at her with an existential dismay. What does it mean to be human? What science, evil or wizardry bring the dead back? Can one truly be friends with a zombie? I decided that I had to see for myself.

"Stop staring at me," said Paige. Either Paige was an emotional rock or she was a zombie sympathizer. I kept her in the corner of my eye for the rest of the day--just in case.


Panic cloaked in awe: zombies were real and they were massing at a tiny bar in Southern Maryland.

I quickly tacked on to a small squad of survivors which quartered itself in an alley nearby. In between zombie attacks and supply raids, they had spilt their dreams and histories to me.

"How long can we keep killing [zombies]? We keep losing survivors--there has to be a better way," Paula explains on why she won't use lethal weaponry on zombies in any circumstance. Instead, she has created a weaponized experimental cure for zombieism which she hopes will at least partially return zombies to humanity. Field tests have shown effective but only for a few minutes after injection.

Paula's philosophy seems well founded. Around the corner are non-aggressive zombie-activists, politely grunting and steadfastly holding signs advocating zombie rights.

"I don't know about that. We came down here to kill zombies. And that's what we'll do."

These three survivors had jumped on the nearest train to come to Silver Springs. It was a slow Friday night and when they heard word of the zombie uprising, they raided the nearest ammo depot in preperation for the fight. In the above image, "Bait" attempts to repair a snapped rifle. But he would have no time. There was movement in the zombie bar.

Piercing shrieks signaled the beginning of the rampage towards downtown. And in it, I could see unfortunate souls taken from mundane but otherwise normal and safe lives.

Whilst at their homecoming dance, the above group was hit with an airborne version of what they surmised to be a virulent zombie virus. Once they felt an uncanny taste for flesh, they tore up their formal wear and consumed their entire freshman class; fully embracing their new un-lives

A refreshing raison d'etre embraced by these nice folks.

And these

And these as well

Freed from their humanity, the undead--by the very definition of their new status--are born into a radical equality. In un-death, all are equal and beyond cliques and prejudices.

Others maintained much more of their humanity. Below is a wonderful pair of vegetarian zombies. Legitimate vegetarians at that; none of the Twilight "I eat animals but still call myself a vegetarian because Stephanie Meyer doesn't understand her latin root words" vegetarianism.

Truly, a sweet couple. They both survived the horde's breakthrough into downtown. A spearhead which was looking pret-ty good.

Paramilitary humanist groups were able to hold Main St. for a few minutes--just barely enough time to call for a few scattered reinforcements. Just enough time to evacuate civilians.

Once reinforcements arrived, the resistance met with crucial logistical mistakes. Easily flanked and unable to reload quickly enough, the survivors were torn apart and the battle ended predictably.

Very predictably.

In little over a half hour, there were no more survivors.

The horde, now dozens stronger, pushed  faster through downtown until it reached its target: the AFI's midnight screening of Dawn of the Dead. Amidst the last screams of human victims, the horde finally ended its unstoppable charge.

Filled to bursting with the customary dinner before a movie, the zombies did what zombies do best. They shuffled towards the box office and, ever so patiently, they waited.

Date night never looked so savage.