Orange Marmalade

Orange marmalade ready for canning

One of the wonderful things about growing up in Southern California was being able to grow citrus trees in the backyard.  Every winter, my mother, standing little more than 5 feet tall, would gather as many oranges and tangerines as she could.  Then she’d get out a ladder to pick the fruit a few feet outside of her reach.  When the remaining orange bulbs teased her, still outside her grasp, she’d drag me out to backyard and force me to climb the ladder until only the fruit at the top of the tree was left.  We had bags full of fresh fruit!  She gave these away to everyone she could.

Last year, I thought, “Why not do something more than put these in plastic bags?”  I found this website with excellent instructions on how to not only make your own marmalade but properly preserve it in cans to last throughout the year. My sister and I made four batches.  Each batch yielded about a dozen half-pint cans.  This year, she and I did it again, and our hope is that this is the start of a long tradition.

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Thai Roasted Turkey: A Twist on Thanksgiving

We named this turkey "Yupa" after the creator of the recipe. She's ready to be seasoned and stuffed.

Here is another wonderful recipe from Yupa Holzner, whose Thai cooking class my father took back in the 90s in the Long Beach area.  According to an LA Times article from 1989, this seems to be one of Yupa’s “cross-cultural ideas.”  My sister recently brought this recipe back to life for my Tita Arlene’s (tita means aunt in Tagalog) 50th birthday.  My father made this only once shortly after Yupa’s cooking class.  When I realized that I wouldn’t be able to go back to California for Thanksgiving, I asked my very good friend, Mark, if I could prepare this at his home in Washington, DC for the holiday.  More proof that this recipe was a Yupa creation rather than traditional Thai cuisine: Mark is Thai and had never heard of it.

Last year, Mark and his friends made a 20-pound-plus turkey for only six guests.  This time around, he was determined to avoid having too many turkey leftovers even though his guest list had doubled.  To make matters worse, he had had two turkey dinners the week leading up to Thanksgiving day.  We ended up getting an 11-pound turkey.  However, once he bit into the juicy pieces of “Yupa” and dipped her in the spicy sauce, Mark said, “If I had known it was going to be this good, I would have gotten the 20 pounder.”

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I have several posts currently in the works, but they are all on hold due to my law school finals.  I hope to have something for you within a week.  If not, I’m afraid I won’t be able to post something until I go back to California for the holidays in a week and a half.

Il Ragù alla Bolognese

Tagliatelle al Ragù at a restaurant in Bologna

While I was studying in Bologna this past summer, I stumbled upon an Italian cookbook called “Sfida al Mattarello:  I segreti della sfoglia bolognese.”  I’m no expert in the Italian language, but I believe that more or less translates to “Challenge by the Rolling Pin:  The secrets of Bolognese pasta.”  It was written by Margherita and Valeria Simili, better known as Sorelle Simili, twins born in Bologna famous for their expertise in traditional Bolognese cooking.  Even though it is written in Italian, my fluency in Spanish along with an online dictionary was enough to figure out what the recipe more or less said.

Their detailed recipe micromanages every step giving the impression that this is harder to make than it actually is.  This reinforces my anecdotal observation that for Italians, cooking is as much a ritual as it is a process.  However, if Sorelle Simili tells me that I absolutely have to pour the wine at the edge of the pan so that it is warm by the time it gets to the meat in the center because we do not want cold wine to touch the meat while it cooks, I listen even if it makes absolutely no sense to me.

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Kao Paht (Thai Fried Rice)

Ingredients to Kao Paht with tofu (Thai Fried Rice)

My dad, in many ways, was ahead of the times.  In the 80s, he was a stay-at-home father to his three children and a devoted husband to his career-oriented Filipina wife.  Perhaps, more importantly for this blog, though, he foresaw a wave of exotic food before many.  In the early 90s, he discovered Thai restaurants at a time when most people in Long Beach still thought Chinese and Japanese food was exotic.  Unfortunately–perhaps, fortunately?–it was too expensive for him to go to Thai restaurants as much as he would like particularly with children whose ravenous appetites already burned a hole in his pocket when they ate at home.

One day, he saw an ad for a Thai cooking class taught by a Yupa Holzner.  If I recall, she was originally from Thailand and had somehow immigrated to the U.S. where she married a German-American whose habitual love of German chocolate cake had consequently added more pounds to her waist than she liked to think about.  She taught a three- or four-day class that included, among other things, Tom Yum and Tom Kha soup, Paht Thai, Kao Paht, Sate, Yum Nam Tok Easan (spicy beef salad), spring rolls, and culminated with a Thai Roasted Turkey.  Yupa Holzner taught my father how to fish, so to speak.

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Technique: Peeling Tomatoes

Tomatoes on the vine

Peeling your own tomatoes is an excellent way to improve the freshness of a recipe, control your salt intake, and avoid consuming unwanted chemicals found in some cans.  If you live in a place like California, you can probably get excellent tomatoes year round.  Where I currently live in New York, as is the case in other places that reach below freezing, this may not be the best use of my time during the cold winter months.

Many recipes call for cans of diced or peeled tomatoes.  I usually substitute about the same amount in weight as compared to the size of the can.  When I first read about this technique in a Mexican cookbook years ago, I thought, “God, that sounds like a lot of work and time.”  It really isn’t.  Before you start cleaning and chopping your vegetables, put out a pot of water to boil, and before you know it, your tomatoes are ready to be thrown in.  It really doesn’t add much time to your overall preparation, and in my opinion, the benefits outweigh the time, especially when your tomatoes are fresh.

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Saluggi's front door

There is some debate as to where and when pizza originated.  Many of those debates will include New York City with varying levels of importance.  Regardless, it’s undeniable that New York City has some of the best pizzerias around.  If you ask some friends who have been to or know New York where to get a good slice of pizza, Artichoke or Grimaldi’s will probably be somewhere toward the top of their list.  There are so many great pizzerias in New York, it’s easy to go with what’s well known and famous. However, I’m going to ask that you try something off the beaten path that will leave you wondering how such deliciousness had been absent from your life.

The inside of Saluggi's decked out with Halloween decorations

Saluggi’s has an unassuming storefront in Tribeca.  When you walk in, you will probably find that they aren’t super full.  You may worry for a moment that this crazy west-coast-born blogger has no idea what he is talking about.  This place is not that packed–certainly not like those famous places all of your friends kept telling you to try–how could it be so good?  You just have to trust me.

Saluggi’s serves appetizers, sandwiches, salads, and pastas, but what they are most famous for is their brick-oven pizzas and calzones.  They make their own fresh mozzarella cheese that they use generously on every pizza.  After eating their fresh mozzarella you will probably wonder how to make fresh mozzarella to make up for the poor substitutes you find elsewhere.  They even make a vegan pizza with daiya vegan cheese, red sauce, and basil.  Their toppings have been nothing but fresh and each pie seems to be made with tender love and care.  The pizza crust is perfectly toasted and crunches ever so slightly with each bite.  To top it off, they are reasonably priced with large pizzas (8 filling slices) ranging from $19-25.  They also sell small pizzas and pizzas by the slice if your heart so desires, but I find it difficult to resist ordering the large every time I go. Continue reading