Potato and Leek Soup: Simple Perfection

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I've posted about this soup before, but that was back in December 2009, so here it goes again, this time with more, and better photos. Searching for this soup on my blog sent me down memory lane. I couldn't quiet recall what December 2009 was all about. Luckily, this handy blog keeps a nice record, and I quickly relived some very important moments from that time:

1) My first time making tamales with our crazy (I say this with love) friend. Let me mention I have not made tamales since, completely traumatized by the experience.
2) The start of the Christmas Eve Eve dinner with friends. One of our favorite new traditions.
3) My first and only time butchering a rabbit!
4) Our first trip to Point Reyes. Pies at Tony's Seafood, oysters, the cows.

Now back to 2012. We've had a very mild winter here in Southern Cali. My soup making has been fairly minimal. But, when it got just a tad chillier than 70 degrees, I decided the time had come to make this soup. 

With only a handful ingredients, this soup is incredibly easy and comforting. It just might be, the most comforting soup ever. Even when I think of it now, a slow smile spreads on my tired face. Pair it with a glass of Savignon Blanc and spend a lovely evening at home, with a bowl of soup in your hands. 
Julia Child's Potato Leek Soup
3 tbsp of butter
3 tbsp of flour
3-4 cups of diced peeled potatoes (1 lb.)
3 cups thinly sliced leeks, including the tender greens
2 quarts hot water
1 tbsp salt, pepper to taste
6 tbsp heavy cream 
3 tbsp minced chives or parsley

1) Melt butter, stir in leeks, cook for 5 minutes. Add flour and stir for 2 minutes, cooking it without browning it. 
2) Gradually beat in one cup of water, then add the remaining water, salt and pepper, and potatoes. 
3) Bring to a boil and simmer for 40 minutes or so, partially covered. 
4) Mash vegetables, add cream, simmer for a couple more minutes, adjust seasoning, and sprinkle pasley or chives.


Nothing Says Love Like Tempura and Gin

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Sixteen long years ago, on Valentine's Day, the husband gave me a red rose in a blue bottle. The rose died quickly and was thrown away, but the bottle still sits on my nightstand to this day. I recently saw the same bottle at Home Goods. It had fancy water in it, and cost $1.49. I have no clue how the husband ever acquired the bottle, since I can't ever see him paying that much for water.

That was freshmen year in high school, and by that time, he had already been following me around from class to class, without making a move. Then came Christmas, and he presented me with the strangest gift, The Stranger, by Albert Camus. I realized before opening it, this was a book that my fourteen-year-old self could not possibly grasp. At that point, I had been on a steady diet of Sweet Valley High, still developing my English vocabulary. And here I was handed Camus, and not only that, but I was quizzed about it after Christmas break. As you might have concluded by now, this was to be one intense relationship.

It would take almost another whole month after the rose incident, before anything happened. Apparently, Valentine's Day was not romantic enough of a holiday for this guy. More following around, more books, until on St. Patrick's Day, there was a four-leaf clover and rendezvous at the library. And that's why we celebrate St. Patty's Day as our special day. Nothing says romance like an Irish leprechaun.

This year, we decided to keep the already simple Valentine's Day, even simpler. The plan was to make udon, with prepackaged noodles, have some wine, watch Netflix. Yet, as I was working away at my desk that day, the idea of opening up a pack of udon noodles, boiling them for five minutes, and calling it dinner, made me sad. I decided to be a little more ambitious and make tempura as well as fancy gin drinks. I am not a fan of frying at home, and I've never made tempura before, but I told myself I would do it, for love.

I quickly realized my ambition had limits. I didn't want to go shopping. I used the veggies I had on hand -- a Korean sweet potato, asparagus, and broccoli. I also had jumbo shrimp in the freezer which  threw into the mix. The batter was easy enough, and before I knew it, I had a large pile of tempura. The seafood flavored udon took even less time. And we kept ourselves busy with the fancy gin and tonics, using grapefruit juice (frozen in our case) and St. Germain.

The tempura was a hit. Although 10 shrimp, plus all those vegetables were a bit much for just the two of us. However, our determination and love got us through, and we polished off almost everything. Our verdict on the gin drinks was not as solid. The cocktails were a bit too sweet for our taste. But once we waited for the ice to melt, they mellowed out, and eventually won us over. I believe a new Valentine's Day tradition was initiated.

Our evening was simple for sure. We ate, drank and didn't do any reminiscing. But when getting ready for bed, I couldn't help but smile at the blue bottle next to my bed and think of all that tempura in my belly.
Postcards from our friend in Texas awaited us at home.
Advanced Tempura Batter
(not sure what made this "advanced")

cold beer 1 cup 
flour 1 cup (200cc / 100g)
Baking Powder 2 teaspoon
starch 1/4 cup (50cc / 25g)
Salt 1/2 teaspoon
1 egg


Grilled Turkey and Cheese Kimchi Sandwich

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It doesn't happen often, but a few weeks ago, the husband and I shared the same thought -- grilled kimchi sandwiches. I'm pretty certain I thought of it first, but I just went along and said we both thought of it, at the same time. You really have to pick your battles, and this idea was so good, I decided to share the credit. I know, I know, how very generous of me.

It turned out, "our" idea was a success. Not only did this sandwich take almost no time at all to cook up, but it was packed with flavor. We used oven roasted turkey (I image pork would go well here too), Munster cheese, and the husband's homemade napa kimchi. And despite the fact that my bread was really holey, this tasty combination was a winner.


Mixed Korean Plate: Starring Spicy Pork Stir Fry

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This plate contains a little bit of everything. There's tofu, seaweed, pickled radish, kimchi, kimchi pancake, and spicy pork. Pretty, right? And pretty colorful.

The pre-marinated spicy pork is really good. All I had to do is pull it out of the fridge, stir fry a few vegetables, and add my pork in the last 5 minutes. Since its thinly sliced, it cooks quickly. It sure is nice having that Korean market nearby. Today, I stopped in for some vegetables, and they had me sign a petition for an alcohol permit. Pretty soon we'll be sipping soju with our meals.


Seafood Linguine, Easy as 1-2-3

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Although I wouldn't make a habit of it, sometimes it's perfectly fine to purchase a frozen seafood mix from Trader Joe's for a super quick, and super easy weeknight meal.

On this particular evening, I was tired, craving a big bowl of pasta, and not willing to cook. So, this mix was handy. Once defrosted, the seafood cooks in minutes. I sauteed garlic in olive oil, added pepper flakes, clam juice and white wine. Then went in the cooked linguine. The dish was looking sort of white, so I decided to add peas. The husband expressed his concern, and gave me a bit of a stink eye. He really can't be trusted in putting flavors together. I knew the peas would be delicious in here, but I didn't want to argue my case, instead, I said nothing, deciding to let the peas speak for themselves.

The final touch was a bit of fresh parsley from the garden, and within minutes, we were slurping up our bowls of pasta, enjoying a bottle of chardonnay and thinking the same thing, "she's always right about the peas!"


Cornish Game Hens with Lemon and Herbs and Roasted Fries

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This was an exciting day. I finally got to use the fancy salts we received as a Christmas gift. The set includes all kinds of interesting flavors -- Cyprus black lava, vintage Merlot and ghost pepper. But for this meal, I played it safe and used roasted garlic salt on the hens and Spanish rosemary on the potatoes.

The potatoes, which I'm calling roasted fries (because they really were really fry-like), were cut like thick fries and tossed with olive oil, rosemary salt and lots of black pepper. Baked in the oven for about 50 minutes at 350 degrees, with some rotation half-way through, they were hassle-free and delicious, with that special hint of rosemary.

The hens also required minimal effort. I chopped up fresh sage and parsley from the garden, combined my herbs with olive oil, roasted garlic salt, pepper and lemon juice. I rubbed the hens with my herb mixture, stuffed half of a lemon in each cavity and baked them for 20 minutes at 500 degrees and the next 35 or so minutes at 350 degrees. Once my little chickens were at about 170 degrees (it took close to an hour), I patiently let them sit for a few minutes, took a couple of photos, then got impatient and hungry, and we dug right in. My made up recipe was pretty tasty. The birds were moist and flavorful. I was planning to save half of my hen for lunch the following day, but it was just too delicious for saving, and I polished it off. I'm sold on these fancy salts, and can't wait to use more.

Palm Springs Weekend

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There's nothing really going on in Palm Springs. At least not last weekend, and I'm assuming most weekends. And that's exactly why I wanted to go. I wanted to celebrate our sixth, second-wedding anniversary in a quiet, relaxing way. Also, we hadn't been to Palm Springs in over 8 years, so we were due for a return visit.

Even though we had only spent two nights there the first time, and didn't remember much, at first glance, everything looked the same. Lots of palm trees, lots of seniors, nice modern furniture stores. But, upon a closer look, things were different. The hipsters had invaded the desert. They had their own hotels, restaurants and were hanging out on the side of the road, taking photos with their vintage cameras. There was even a food truck convention there.

Besides the hipsters, little else had changed. We spent our time drinking, eating and watching cable TV. And the husband was kind enough to arrange a spa day for me, so I also enjoyed soaking in mineral springs and getting massaged by Constantine.

If you haven't been to the desert recently, it's a quick, easy getaway. But, be prepared to spend money for this good, lounging time. It's probably due to the dry environment, but drinks are more expensive in the desert. And there's little else to do but sit back, have a cold drink and repeat.
The husband hiking to the moon. Actually, this was the sad part of our trip. Hiking in Palm Springs either costs money (and there's no way I'm spending money to hike), or is free and horrible.
Brunch at Norma's Diner at The Parker Hotel. If you look closely above, Tori Spelling's little ones are playing in the background.
The tram ride. Pretty expensive, but pretty amazing.
Nature, once you get off the tram, there's some hiking and stuff. Make sure you don't listen to your husband who insists you can hike in flip flops, in the snow. 
Trend watch 2012, bedazzled vehicles.
Palm Springs is like one long brunch!