Size Does Matter …

In a sandwich, that is.

Kevin took me to Pasadena Sandwich Company, one of his favorite hoagie shops, for lunch today. After taking a bite into the humongous Veggie Supreme sandwich packed with lettuce, tomato, onion, avocado, and cheese (I chose Provolone) between two pieces of whole wheat bread, I too became a fan instantly.

He had Chicago (corned beef, pastrami, Swiss cheese, cole slaw, and Russian dressing on rye breads), and even though I no longer eat meat, it looked so delicious that I almost asked for a bite. The cole slaw was just a-okay but the fries (so Ore-Ida Golden Crinkles) definitely hit the spot for us.

We both usually have no problem polishing off even the biggest of sandwiches but not this time. We needed to pack half of the sandwiches each, as we couldn’t finish them in one sitting.

It was a very productive day — we got a lot done. Hooray to a great Saturday!

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Rolling

Breakfast (10:15 a.m.): Smoked salmon sandwich on ciabatta bread, with coffee, for breakfast. I meant to buy a sourdough baguette but picked up ciabatta by accident. The bread was good, but I prefer my usual baguette. I’ve been hooked on mayonnaise lately … eeek.

Lunch (3:00 p.m.): I couldn’t eat lunch at a decent hour so I was starved by the time I was able to take a break from work. I was going to roll myself a California roll but didn’t have the energy for it, so I had a California roll bowl, with imitation crab, avocado, cucumber, seaweed, on the bed of sushi rice.

Dinner (7:30 p.m.): I decided to finally roll up my sleeves and roll California rolls for dinner (that was a lot of rolls) … but maybe I should have stuck with the deconstructed version, as my sushi-rolling skills are pretty embarrassing.redfaceI really debated whether I should post the picture of the rolls, as I might have to turn over my Japanese card after this.

My boss at work gave the entire team egglings for the holiday, to celebrate our future growth. It’s like Chia pet but million times cooler. This has to be one of the best gifts e.v.e.r. I’m still thinking what to call this frog.  He seemed to already found a friend in Mr. Dragon.

Fear Factor

I’ve been pretty obsessed with photographing my daily food intake lately. My sister (a personal trainer who is training me for my upcoming wedding) is making me complete a daily food journal, and I thought it would be a fun idea to document everything that I put in my month, to accompany it.

This is like the modern version of “enikki,” a picture diary that we had to keep in elementary school in Japan.

Breakfast: I had breakfast at 10:45 this morning – a very late start. I started checking work emails and lost a track of time. I had a bowl of rice, miso soup using the leftover broth from last night’s mizutaki, and natto.

Natto is a Japanese delicacy made out of fermented soybeans and is usually enjoyed poured on top of steamed white rice. We Japanese eat this for breakfast, while our American cousins eat eggs and bacon in the morning.

I was a bit hesitant to post a fairly large photo of this dish because the visual of stringy rotten beans can be Fear Factor-ish and understandably unappetizing for some. eek Thank goodness there is no “scratch and sniff” feature here … as natto can be pretty stinky.  But it’s actually very delicious once you overcome the initial fear, and its health benefits are second to none.

Lunch (2:30 p.m.): I made a harusame soup thing, using the leftover miso soup from the morning. I boiled  ¼ head of cabbage and added some harusame to the broth, and enjoyed it with some gomadare, ponzu, and Sriraccha.  I wish I had some green onions to sprinkle on top for some crunch and color.

Snack (3:45 p.m.): A cup of Costa Rica coffee brewed using the French Press, with a splash of almond milk and homemade caramel for the at-home version of designer Caramel Maccchiato. I’m convinced that the French Press brews the best coffee.  I also ate one stick of the Korean chocolate bar.

This is the homemade caramel sauce I received as a Christmas gift from my soon-to-be sister-in-law. She is a wonderful cook and an amazing woman. And as for the gift … this is the best caramel sauce I’ve ever tasted. I have to be careful not to polish the entire jar in one sitting.

Dinner (9:00 p.m.): I had my favorite smoked salmon sandwich (with mayo, onion, and avocado) after I returned home from playing tennis with Shannon (and burned what we think or hope was about 450 calories). It was such a fun workout session and even funnier because I don’t know how to play tennis  … at all.

I Heart Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Forget haute couture — after I watched The Devil Wears Prada the other day (I love this movie so much), all I can think about was the grilled cheese sandwich Nate made for Andy!  The version I made for lunch the other day may not have $8 worth of Jarlsberg cheese in there like Nate’s designer version, but it was still pretty amazing, with generous portion of Fontina cheese hanging out between two thick slices of sourdough bread.

And yes, I’m proud of my ghetto, homemade Panini press!  It’s no designer press but it still does the job!

Tartine at Home: Egg Salad and Shrimp Sandwiches

My corner market carries a wonderful selection of artisan bread from Il Fornaio. My favorite is the sourdough boule that I can get for a little over a buck. As much as I enjoy baking my own bread at home, you can’t beat this wonderful deal. I love frying a few slices in shallow olive oil until both sides are golden brown, and pile some of my favorite toppings to make a lovely tartine, or open sandwich, Cuisine-de-Bar style!

Here are two of my favorites. 🙂

Egg Salad Sandwich
(Makes 1 serving, 2 slices)

I got the idea to pile egg salad onto the toast after having something very similar at a bakery called Euro Pan Bakery in Pasadena that’s known for perfectly-cooked egg salad. I also added smoked salmon, thinly-sliced onion, and avocado, to make it a satisfying lunch! I hope you give this a try for a weekend brunch or just because you want to treat yourself to a wonderful breakfast or lunch.

2 slices of thick bread
2 eggs
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
½ avocado
¼ onion, thinly sliced
1 piece Smoked salmon
1 tablespoon Olive OIl
Salt and pepper

Making the Egg Salad: Heat water in medium pot and bring it up to boil. Drop the eggs gently in the pot and cook for exactly six minutes. Yes, six minutes – no more, no less. I got this secret from Dorie Greenspan, who preaches the Six Minute rule in her amazing cookbook, Around My French Table, and it works every time like magic (by the way, this cookbook is one of the best in the market). When cooked, peel the shell and toss the eggs in a small bowl. Use the fork and break the eggs gently. The yolk should be slightly runny. Add chopped parsley and mix. Add salt and pepper to taste. This requires absolutely no mayo because the yolk provides that lovely velvety texture!

Frying the Bread: Pour a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and put on low heat. Put the bread slices in the pan and fry, until the surface is golden brown, for about 5 minutes. Because you’re using low heat, it takes a while for the surface to brown but be patient. The wait will be so worth it. When done, turn over to the other side and repeat. Again, be patient and don’t burn the bread.

Assembling: It’s time to start piling the tatines. Lay the onion slices at the bottom and pour the egg salad equally over each piece of bread. Top the sandwich with smoked salmon and avocado. Enjoy with drops of hot sauce if you like some heat.

Shrimp Cocktail Tartine
(Makes 1 serving, 2 slices)

I first made this tartine when I had a particular craving for shrimps. I always keep a bag of frozen shrimp in the freezer just in case of such attack. The combination of spicy horseradish and mayo is impeccable. This is one of my favorite summertime lunch.

2 slices of bread, thickly sliced
6 shrimp, cooked and cut in quarter
¼ onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon horseradish (more or less, depending on your taste for wasabi-like spiciness)
1-1/2 tablespoon mayonnaise
½ tablespoon ketchup
1 garlic, grated
½ tablespoon white wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons capers
Salt and Pepper

Follow the same instruction shown on the previous recipe, under “Frying the Bread.” Mix the shrimp, onion, parsley, horseradish, mayonnaise, ketchup, garlic, capers, vinegar (or lemon juice) and salt and pepper in a bowl and mix well. Pile the shrimp salad on two bread slices equally. Enjoy with hot sauce!

One Whole Chicken, Endless Possibilities!

Before I put myself on this Dine at Home for a Month challenge, I used to go grocery shopping to buy enough ingredients for one night’s supper, only to return the following day to do the same. While the idea of picking up only what you need for that day is appealing, the amount of money I spent on food a month accumulated to an astronomical amount (plus gas money). I’m learning every day now that the key to keeping your food cost down is to plan ahead and be creative with the ingredients that you already have on hand.

For only the second time this month, I went to a grocery store to pick up some fresh produces. I still had enough food to sustain me for good 10 days but I was in the need of my staple vegetables like napa cabbage and green onions. The grand total for the shopping trip was about $20 but I ended up paying nothing for it. No, I didn’t do the crazy extreme couponing or anything. I gathered all the loose coins I had around (in my jacket pocket, in my purses, behind the couch, etc.) and used the handy dandy Coinstar machine at a supermarket to turn them into a voucher that I can redeem for bills (just remember that they do charge a 10% fee per transaction). The amount came to $25 so I actually got $5 back at the register. It felt really wonderful that I walked away richer than I started. 🙂

One of the good finds of the trip was a whole 4 lbs. chicken that was on sale for $3.50. A chicken wasn’t really on my shopping list but I couldn’t resist it with that price!  I used to be really intimidated by the thought of cooking a whole chicken, but I got used to it after tackling a 10-plus pound bird on Thanksgiving dinner every year. Buying a whole chicken usually comes out cheaper than buying packaged thighs and breasts, and you can always use the bones and carcasses to make homemade chicken broth that you can use later.  My fiance made me the Asian version of the broth by cooking the chicken bones with garlic, ginger, and green onion.  I put it in plastic containers and popped them in the freezer for later use.

So, here are some chicken dishes that I’ve enjoyed so far this week.

Chicken Focaccia Sandwich: Inspired by the chicken tartine I ate at Cuisine De Bar in Paris, I made a chicken sandwich using Foccacia that I baked last week. I sandwiched shredded chicken, sliced onion, mayonnaise, capers, and salt and pepper between the homemade Italian bread. It was a perfect light lunch. The bread was in the freezer but it defrosted perfectly and it was still amazingly flavorful!

Chicken Nabe: My fiancé made me a chicken pot hot flavored with miso, ginger, garlic and other delicious ingredients. He tossed in tofu, napa cabbage, onion, and harusame, with lots of green onions on top. I had a leftover the next day, by pouring the soup on top of white rice.  It was SO good!

Hiyashi Chuka: I had a Japanese cold noodle for dinner one night, piled with shredded chicken, sliced cucumbers, eggs, and wakame (seaweed), with yuzu-flavored sauce.

Bravo, whole chicken.  Bravo.