Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Danish Layer Cake: Freedom to exercise

my attempt at baking something masterful....please don't laugh....esp. Medena over at Café Chocolada, pastry aficionado!

I am reading M.F.K. Fisher again.

She has been a delight to read because she breaks tradition.

Her voice is dauntless at times that I wonder how she ever survived the early years with her sense of clairvoyance and attitude toward the sedated just mix a highball crowd back then.

Last few nights I have been reading and re-reading through The Gastronomical Me and realized something about her.

Absolute pure genius she was.....

She was purely a different breed; so exact as a matter of fact and I imagine was perceptive as hell. If you sat clear across the room from her, she would be able to sop your soul through like dense bread over meat drippings.

Then on a flip coin I read vintage The Cooking of Provincial France.

I actually grew up reading this book not realizing M.F.K. Fisher was a woman.

I cherish this book with dear life.

If a tornado were to run through this house.....I'd grab my kids, my purse, this book and my eyelash curler ;-)

With the 'munchkins' we decorated this cake with a make-shift pastry bag from parchment paper.....frosting is made of cream, white sugar, vanilla, a touch of gelatin, drained chopped fresh pineapples, hand shaved semi-sweet chocolate....

I made this Danish cake referring back to my taste memory when I worked as a designer in Los Angeles some years back. I also found an old recipe from another out of print book that re-played similarities of ingredients from the Danish cakes I used to love so much.

There was a Danish bakery nearby where our breaks were taken.....in between hunkering over the drafting board, cigarettes....I recall the treat of layer cake and for later a sweet roll with slivers of Havarti cheese with thick wedges of cucumbers.

I love Danish cakes and also some French pastry because it is not cloyingly sweet like some American cakes aka Betty Crocker inspired.

This cake was a killer to make ~ supposed to be a three layer cake but I couldn't fathom how that was done as explained in the recipe, so instead of creating a pile of crumbles I relented to the simplicity of two layers.

Too many increments, too precisely oriented and already naturally uptight because of Asian descent (ha!).....Korean to be exact.....I'd rather let loose on a savory dish......marinate + roast a bone marrow for pete's sake......spend an afternoon with a mallet and a side of beef would be nice, or perhaps cram a bag carrots through a juicer to get my aggression out.

Bake a cake?

I do things for love ~ esp. for the love my family and friends.....

Okay so far MFK Fisher, Danish layer cakes, vintage cookbooks, family and friends which leads to my official thank you to Medena at Café Chocolada for recently presenting me the E Award!

I am enamored to receive this especially from the pastry priestess herself for my blogging.......Thank you! Whenever visiting her site I feel inspired by her passion for the art of baking.

Thank you so much Medena for thinking of me and I look forward to reading more about your pastry sensibilities.....

Sharing a slice of cake among friends: at the end of it all.....it did taste good. It had a light sponge cake appeal and I mixed in fine shaving of the rind and juice of half a lemon.

In tradition to this cyberspace exchange.....I pass on the E Award to the following bloggers:

Nina's Kitchen ~ Do check out her masterful creations. I am constantly waiting at her door stoop like a puppy to admire her culinary creations. Visually stunning yet also salivary gland inducing.....She may have already be granted an E award with all she has done, but here goes....

Sweet Home and Garden Chicago ~ Carolyn is a garden blogger but has enticing food insight and recipes. Another twist is her take on traditional Korean recipes that have been lovingly passed down to her from family. I love her take on Soul food and Seoul food! A master gardener as well ~ she inspires me to go beyond growing herbs when she writes about her bountiful gardening....

Mochachocolata Rita ~ I love mocha girl's savory, fun + often times outlandish approach to cooking and blogging. Melting pot cooking with Asian inspirations that is delight to look at as well as ponder......'Hey - I would have never thought - but looks enticing enough to try!' I like how she takes my thoughts out of safeguard as she introduces Indonesian + Chinese + more with her personal touch.

Food Mayhem ~ Okay she cooks, she dines, wines, dices and promotes food happenings. Amidst invitations to food centric events and her own dining escapades. I often times wander over to her side of the cyber globe and feel like Carrie Bradshaw of the food world with stilettos on trying to keep myself from tipping over each tantalizing post! Talk about the queen of food posts.....over here in the slow balmy South ~ I am trying to keep up with each day's douse! She's about a dozen posts ahead of me and going strong!

Passionate Eater Like moi, a California transplant in the South. Read + See her dining adventures from San Francisco and now in New Orleans and then some. Beautiful photos, glorious rousting of well executed dining finds and always a fun read. I love everything she orders and imagine I am dining there right alongside every bite from oysters in chardonnay sabayon or an earthy bowl of gumbo to a serving of ooey gooey nachos @ Lakers game......!

Bloggers awarded: please feel free to pass on + cut & paste this E Award as needed + would be lovely to link it back to me @ TasteMemory!

Next up another gracious award! Thank you kindly to Nicole at Art and Aioli for the Blogging with a Purpose Award

More words to follow about BWAP Award......

Adieu, till next time!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Beauty and the Beet: The Brilliant Impression Part II

blow off the cover of preconceptions: sangria is that you?

Part II of Beauty and the Beet: The Brilliant Impression continues here. See previous post below or go here to begin Part I.

Dinner with the family at the original historic Cafe Du Nord continues:

The next course arrives, which turns out to be the most delightful sweetbreads served over a crisp pastry puff.

No time to argue about preferences in offal between the delicate bites that melted in my mouth and lingered of sweet cream with the slight tang of capers that met in the middle of freshly chopped parsley which finally gave way to any preconceived notions.

I discovered something new......it was fun to eat and each bite left me to smile.

For the adults, chilled wine was served inside varied labeless odd shaped wine bottles that were mismatched in color. The bottles came in hues of blues, greens and reds. But no matter the bottle, it was always a pink rosé that trickled forth like drinking water into the stemless bistro style wine glasses.

Next up, beef fillet in a mushroom based sauce served with white beans that were simmered soft until crème-like yet holding its composure.

By this time I was brimming over. The sauce was a reflection of the 'mother sauces' and a beaute to bite. Sweet and savory enough to keep me in the glow.

Sometimes they would bring another salad platter of chilled green beans in a light cream sauce with chopped hard boiled eggs and onions. My walls of resistance came down and I think I was only eight years old.

The final breath of the meal was dessert. Always the same; similar to a custard flan and coffee.

I realize after sharing this that someone from the neighborhood might write to me and blow my buzz about Cafe Du Nord.

berries are so divinely created.....

I went back there during my college years with a bunch of friends for New Year's Eve dinner. I left disappointed as it didn't taste the same or as good to me. The bald gentleman wasn't there but everything else was the same, including the glow and the paintings I spoke of. I remember biting into the beet salad and it tasted like cans and the outer edges of the yolks from the chopped hard boiled eggs had that green tinge. Which meant they were overcooked and didn't bother giving the eggs an ice water bath to avoid the discoloration.

But who am I to say, I went back when I was twenty something with a bunch of riotous friends on New Year's Eve so my vision and palate might have been slightly blurred....(LO!)

In closing, dad encouraged me to take risks because he did that every day of his waking life. It's only today I can only imagine the courageous risks he took.

That's what my mom said: when you have children you'll understand.....

He moved us from Seoul Korea to Saigon Vietnam in the midst of the Vietnam War. He was the food and beverage manager at the the U.S. Army barracks stationed in Vietnam.

We lived in Saigon, then to the coastal town of Vung Tau until we eventually settled in the south central region of Can Tho, before we fled during a mass upheaval in the Can Tho area.

at the beach with dad ~ I recall I was slightly bummed in this pict because I wanted to go swimming.....we're at the beach right? the days when cigarettes were like text messaging.....

My father was able to acquire immediate Visas to the U.S., we hopped an Army issued helicopter in Can Tho to Saigon. Boarded Pan Am with a layover in Honolulu before we settled in San Francisco.

We were very fortunate.

My parents received a letter from a friend that was still in Vietnam. He sent us a photo of our town home in Can Tho.

It was a photo of a pile of rubble and concrete blown to pieces.

When I cook with beets it reminds me of my father.

Courage, passionate, gratitude, depth and a bleeding heart embracing all things that we might normally think as crazy but by far deem as courageous efforts.

Beets do remind me of hearts. I recently read somewhere that drinking two glasses of beet juice a day significantly lowers blood pressure and helps maintain a healthy cardiovascular system. Beet juice might be tasty with pomegranate and/or strawberry, raspberry and fresh ginger juice too. I'll have to try that.....maybe with a splash of cointreau?

to see life as always full don't~cha think would be so freeing perhaps......the remnants of cooking beets: beet juice really!

Beets are bold to me in sight, taste and when raw, their resonance lingers a slight burning sensation more in my lungs than my mouth.

Beets remind me often to take risks perhaps for what you love or what you think you might love......when I think about my dad he was all about taking risks.

If we never went to Vietnam because of my dad he wouldn't have been there to support the American troops.

A recollection of Vietnam was my first dance as a toddler at the American Officer's club located at the roof top restaurant that overlooked the city of Can Tho. On those nights they played Al Martino and Patti Page and served lobster thermidor with T-Bone steaks to the service men and their guests.

My mom said we drank Coca Cola while dad imbibed in a beer and we watched the U.S. Army issued fireworks go off in the night sky.

It was a crazy time.....

my dad loved this thing....that's why he even took a picture of it. what was it called? I remember the rolls of tape were as thin as gift wrap ribbons and were made by 3M.....real flimsy and all I wanted to do was get a hold of one, pull out the tape and run through the house until the whole thing was dragged out of its sprocket......hah ~ fun!

If my dad didn't bring us to California we would have never made it out of Vietnam.

My father embraced the European culture fondly. He was never into being atypical, thus he never cared for stereotypes of anything.

I think what drove his intensity was for the love all things of beauty and for life.

The Beauty and the Beet has been written to remember my father....

Sean Ku Lee

In this life......He left a brilliant impression.

beauty + the beet salad with raspberries & fresh greens
© 2008 recipe & memoir Ingar Brunnett, Taste Memory

2 fresh red beets, skin peeled
1 pint of fresh raspberries
1 tbsp. white sugar
1 bunch of fresh arugula (torn to bite size if needed)
1/4 cup white onion, minced
2 hard boiled eggs, coarsely chopped
sprigs of fresh parsley and chives, chopped

1 tbsp. honey
1 teasp. sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp. of good olive oil
juice of half a lemon

Slice beets 1/3” thick rounds, then slice in half. In a large saucepan cover beets just enough with water and a pinch of sea salt. Bring water to boil, cover with lid and turn off heat. Allow the beets to stand covered for 5 to 10 minutes until al dente tender to your preference. Avoid over cooking the beets (who wants the mushy canned texture of beets that have incessantly haunted our taste memory?). Drain water from beets.

Add raspberries and sugar to the beets. Gently fold together, then allow to cool.

Cover and chill. Increased chill time in the refrigerator will help restore the intensity of the ruby red color of the cooked beets. They can be chilled for 30 minutes, a few hours or overnight.

In a small bowl whisk the honey, salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon juice until creamy.

Toss the arugula with ¾ of the salad dressing and arrange on serving platter. Drain excess water from beets and berries, then arrange on top of arugula. Pour remaining dressing over the beets. Top with chopped onions, eggs and herbs.

Delicious when served with slices of a crusty bread or baguette

Monday, April 14, 2008

Beauty and the Beet: The Brilliant Impression

Bejewelled: beets, berries, chopped eggs, white onions, minced parsley + chives......light drizzling of honey dressing crosses the threshold.....

This is a smattering of a post.....so I decided to condense this to Part One of Two à la Beauty and the Beet.

Part Two will be posted shortly this week.

My love affair with root vegetables began with the beet.

Perhaps not in the dark earthen crevices below where the dirt is so gravenly wet underground it seeps through your nail beds, but rather off the beaten trek years back when my father took us to dinner at the original historic Cafe Du Nord near San Francisco's Castro District.

Back when it was an inviting supper house complete with its Basque inspired dinner menu served family style. A repast with a set menu that created the tone nightly with six courses and amply served alongside with some obscure chilled rosé strewn in labeless oddly shaped and colored wine bottles.

The tinge of pink through my mother's rosé glass, the beet salad with chopped hard boiled eggs and the red stain from the beet juice soaking through the last shred of my baguette has simmered in my taste memory for so many years.....

i *heart* beets: entranced by a living breathing bleeding geode....

The concept of food + memory has been a frequent haunt of mine and it's only as of recent that I decided to let go of myself, get of out of my freakin' way and excavate through that back logged mind mine beginning with my family stories.

Which in turn has led to finding this space and place to shed light on someone that left with me a brilliant impression.

My father.

My father passed away 6 years ago and his final days came rather abruptly. I will just touch on this briefly about his passing because I don't want this to be an angst post but rather a living tribute to someone that had a profound effect on the development of my person. What I have written is a recollection of just a glimpse his journey that I met along the way of my own.

When I was a little girl my parent's owned and operated a delicatessen in the Mission District in San Francisco during the height of the Bay Area's food revolution. This was an incredible time for me. My curious palate was introduced to the diverse range of cultural cuisines from the neighborhood. There were immigrants from all over the world settling in San Francisco and my parent's deli thrived in the midst of foods from Mexico, El Salvador, Puerto Rico, Russia, Italy....even Japanese home style cooking and of course regional Chinese cooking.

The food at the deli was a reflection of the melting pot of San Francisco as well as traditional delicatessen style fare of sandwiches made with the freshest of San Francisco style French bread and produce.

The sandwiches were made in crusty bread that fought back with slight resistance into a dense yet pillow-like threshold of savory meats, lined with fresh crunchy slivers of lettuce, pickles, tomatoes and whatever else desired. The options of meats included salamis, fresh oven roasted roast beef, pastrami, corned beef, head cheese, Louisiana style hot links (just to name a few). Also on the menu were the new wave of organic and farm fresh inspired sandwiches that payed homage to whole grain sprouted breads, alfalfa sprouts, avocados and for the faint of heart.......bacon.

sourdough for noshing....not from my beloved city ~ but it will do.....at least for now

After a long day at the deli, my father would often take us out to 'dine' for dinner as a family. A restaurant we frequented was Cafe Du Nord located in the Upper Market-Castro district leaning toward the slightly seedy, prior the 'emerging' neighborhood it later became. Now this is the original Cafe Du Nord which was a sort of a quasi-French Basque bistro at the time. Today, Cafe Du Nord is a trendy nightclub, restaurant and live music venue.

After my dad parked the family car, which was either the Chrysler wood paneled station wagon or the obnoxious yacht of a vehicle.....the highly coveted Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham with its own 8-track tape player that was factory installed(this was all top of the line stuff btw even the station wagon which eventually met its demise after one of the wood panels finally faded and fell off); we would take a flight of steep stairs downward into the basement of a storefront which was the perfect cave like setting for the literal 'underground' Cafe Du Nord.

The historic cafe was built in 1907 and at one time was a notorious speakeasy during prohibition. It was pretty much what you would imagine it to look like; dimly lit with odd sized and handsome antique dining tables throughout the main dining room with an evocative yet bucolic ambiance. Many locals frequented this eatery which had enough of slight upscale vibe with a familiar ease to call it their favorite neighborhood bistro.

speakeasy to me......is that you beaujolais?

On the walls were series of oil paintings that thematically reminded me of the revolutionary romantic period of Theodore Géricault, Ingres and even the idyllic American painter Turner......oh my art history days, which should be a completely other blog.....sorry. Anyways, these were not the canny paintings you've seen at your gas station corner and those blow out events at your nearest convention center in need of rental fees in between major events, but rather the restaurateur's quite exquisite and most likely personal collection of paintings. The collections were complete with fruit & wine still life, formal portraits, battle scenes, courtship and even tall ships in turbulent waters. Each painting was also lovingly installed with its own spotlight to feature its beauty. I know the subject matter may sound canny but I do recall these paintings to be quite impressive.

The owner was a short bald gentleman with an extremely thick mustache that twisted ever so slightly upward at each end (yes, seriously!). He was the exact reflection of what the proprietor might look like in such an establishment.

There was a painting in the main dining room of a man in a old fashioned military uniform; perhaps he was a general as he wore many decorated medals upon his uniform and he was painted with great distinction. He had the same facial features and the mustache as the proprietor, which led my parents to joke with a sense of seriousness that it must be a relative of his.

Upon arrival, we would often find him sitting at the hand carved mahogany bar near the baby grand piano reading a paper. He always gave a familiar nod to my father. I’m not surprised he recognized us as we frequented there often and I am positive we were the only Asian family and definitely Koreans that dined there.

As I am rummaging through my thoughts, I cannot seem to recover some of the conversations my family had over dinner at Cafe Du Nord. It actually saddens me that I am drawing a blank on specific words that were exchanged with my dad, my mom and my little brother during these special times out. It seems as if it were another lifetime ago and the words have been erased from my memory.

What I do recall are certain 'moments' as we sat around the bistro table. The dining room always had a tranquility that I was instantly drawn to upon arrival. The lighting was warm and dim.....a glow emanated throughout. My dad's stress level would ease as soon as we arrived, and it's only today that I realize how much stress effected his life.

Since we arrived after closing the deli, it must have been around 7:30 in the evening before we settled in for dinner.

They offered only a prix fixe menu was set each night with about seven courses that was served family style.

Upon arrival, I was always.....famished.

An evening meal remembered began with the first course of a salad of bibb lettuce, celery, white onions with a aïoli based dressing with a hint of mustard and fresh tarragon that seeped through each bite.

herb pot in early spring: this is what survived the harsh winters :) of the south.....gathered a handful of parsley and chives to topple over the chopped eggs for the beet salad. the cactus type plant on the far right corner reminds me of SoCal. Don't know what it's called....I know it's a succulant, no wait...succotash? or isn't that lima beans + corn? maybe succulant....

I was little girl back then, yet so hungry and intrigued by the setting that I didn't have time to complain about white onions, aïoli based dressing, mustard or the fresh sprigs of licorice intent tarragon.

The salad was refreshing and I enjoyed the tang and retreat of the mustard and tarragon that played upon my developing palate.

Baskets of chewy baked french bread was served alongside and refilled without asking.

Soon after, the second course arrived. Soup of the day ladled into white bowls that reminded me of wading pools just deep enough were filled with a hearty yet translucent tomato based potage of bite size morsels of tender vegetables and beef. Upon finishing the bowl of soup, I always sensed it whispered to me.......welcome my lady.

The third course was a salad of chilled marinated red beets with chopped hard boiled eggs and onions. A recourse to cleanse the palate.

Again, I didn't have the urgency to say anything about my opinion on beets.

I do remember my father encouraging us to try different foods. His ways encouraged me to step into unfamiliar territory......actually constantly! Many times, I saw perhaps how he saw the beauty of the unacquainted.

In so many of his words, if you don't try......how would you ever know?

So with distinct recollection, I do remember the sweet floral taste of the beets combined with the earth tones of the chopped eggs and onions as an amusing play on my senses. Crusty french bread combines perfectly with cooked beets and by this time I recall my mother telling me not to eat too much bread since more was to come.

berries & beets making merry....

I used my last shred of baguette to bring up the ruby red juice with crumblings of eggs and sweet onions before taking my pause.

Next......the most delightful sweetbreads served over a crisp pastry puff......but I'll save that for next time.

Part Two of Beauty and the Beet will be posted this week.......

Thank you for reading ;-)

Monday, April 7, 2008

taste memory: retrospective of food & memory

comfort me with lemons......

remembering juicy lemons drenched in fairy dust sugar and running across the grass with the sprinklers on......

Does the thought make you pucker?

I remember sour, sweet, sugar granules and endless sun filled afternoons growing up in California.

It's been one year since I've been blogging Taste Memory and it's been a fantastic one at that.

In the past few months, you may have noticed I've re-directed my posts to focus primarily on my own cooking as well as 'taste memory' food thoughts.

I initially began with restaurant & other foodie type reviews and have decided to do less of that for the time being......unless I am traveling and if for some reason I have an outlandish dining experience locally that runs the gamut of a must post. For the most part, (unfortunately) - I have found dining in northeast Florida completely challenging and many times disappointing.

I have had my share of horrifying, gut wrenching (stomach doubled-over literally)food as well as scary sushi experiences that I have declined to comment upon........other cringes include lackluster food preparation, service, sanitary conditions and the overall 'experience of dining' as a foreign concept at many of these establishments.

The other has been the disappointing turn around(going out of business) and change over in ownership(effecting quality) at these restaurants.

Now please keep in mind, there are several tried and true establishments that are definitely worth writing about.....but.....long story short - the restaurant reviews will be on the sidelines for now.

To keep things tantilizing ~ I will be doing a new series INTERVIEWS WITH THE CHEF....very soon ;-)

At the end of it all; I am plain sick of lackluster food + food service around here. Enough said and don't want to rant about dinings thereafters having to seek detoxifying herbs or more to cleanse my system after the experience.....

Not to be a snob ~ yet at an early age I was raised by extreme foodies in the midst of the San Francisco bay area's food revolution.....so I naturally gauge my palate against the foundational 'palate training years' of my former haunts on the west coast.....or maybe I'm just an obnoxious food snob?

I do like In n' Out Burger!

Also to mention my latter years of dining haunts that have left me awestruck and mesmerized by talented individuals and restaurants who's dedication and passion toward food + service leave no room for funny business.....

With that said, Taste Memory the blog has evolved into my favorite theme of the connection of food and memories; touching on both past and present glimpses.

The new visuals of the fresh sliced lemons are reminiscent of my childhood during a time when I thought everything was as endless as the warmth of the sun, orangesicles, swimming in kiddie pools, sharpening wooden Popsicle sticks on the sidewalk, climbing cherry trees and anticipating freshly baked french bread delivered at my parent's San Francisco deli every morning.....except Wednesday because the bakery closed every Wednesday.

Taste Memory is about where I come from, where I am right now and where I long to go to challenge myself.....I look forward to sharing more about this in upcoming posts.

I also look forward to hearing about your food + memory stories as well ~ thanks for stopping by btw.....

Also ~ KatyK @ Raw Vegan Lifestyle tagged me (btw KatyK ~ so sorry you will be taking a break - I love your voice) about five things about me you prob didn't know abou me:

1. I love the ocean waters as I grew up sailing on days after school.....

2. English is my second language and I can barely speak Korean now....though I would love to!

3. I have this affinity for anything French and especially for the southwestern coast of France.....quite odd I know - never been + don't know why!

4. I love being around fog

5. I miss my father intensely since he passed away about 6 years ago.....but the funny thing is ~ I sense that I understand him more than I did when he was alive.

at least everyone left with a smile on their face thinking about sunshine.....

What are your taste memories?........past, present + future thoughts that linger in your heart to palate?