Monday, December 28, 2009

Caribbean Cruise Cuisine

Published by Commandrea (Andrea Afra) at 9:44 PM

We just got back from a week long cruise on the Voyager of the Seas (Royal Caribbean International) and while the food on the ship was decent and abundant, it was mass produced for 4,000+ people and lacked the layers of flavor that make a dish really stand out. Luckily we were able to try some local fare on a couple of our stops.

Dinner in the formal dining room was hit or miss. The Prime Rib was tender but very mildly seasoned to the point of blandness.

In Georgetown, Grand Cayman we opted for a sample plate of local food from a small stand near the port offering Turtle Stew, Conch Stew, Fish Escoviche, Fried Fish and more. They were out of everything but the escoviche and the conch so the lady made us a plate of everything to try. Left: Conch in coconut milk with dumplings- very simple yet tasty. Right: Fish with onions and bell peppers- nom nom. Upper right: Yes, it's cold Kraft Macaroni and Cheese- WTF are you doing here???
That's our ship in the background.

In Montego Bay, Jamaica I enjoyed a fresh papaya on the beach before going to a shore-side restaurant to beat two Red Stripes and a plate of grouper with rice and 'peas' (yes, they're really beans).

Also in Jamaica- the very popular 'patty' is similar to an empanada. Pretty good for $1.50, it is filled with either chicken, beef, or vegetables. They were out of chicken because it's the best so we tried the other two.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Hara Masala Pomfret (Fish in Green Curry) Recipe

Published by Commandrea (Andrea Afra) at 9:37 PM

hara masalaI first had the chicken hara masala, a cilantro based masala at Himalaya Restaurant (see post here) and subsequently when we went back and my husband ordered it with shrimp. Both were 'like whoa' delicious and I decided to try to pull off a fish version from my own kitchen.


masala ingredients Here are most of the ingredients you'll need, slightly modified to what I had available. (Imagine a few peeled, diced potatoes and a few green chilies.) The plate holds garlic, turmeric powder and coriander seeds. The fish is tilapia- I bought about 20 individually vacuum sealed fillets for $15. This is a great dish for this versatile white fish. The full recipe is at the bottom of the post. You will also need a side of rice. Either basmati or jasmine works well. See "How to Make Perfect Rice Every Time" here.


I didn't have any fresh green chilies but I did have this habanero.


blending turmeric and coriander seedsFirst, blend the coriander seeds and the turmeric in a blender (a food processor works even better). Blend until the seeds are reasonably pulverized.


You need about 2" of ginger. It's easy to peel by scraping with a spoon. Throw it in the blender along with the chilies and a TBSP of salt.


I used about 8 cloves of garlic. You can peel garlic quickly by holding the clove at each end and twisting in opposite directions. The papery jacket slides right off, if you're lucky. Next, coarsely chop a whole onion and throw it and the now nude garlic into the blender and blend away.


Now you are going to cram two bunches of fresh coriander/cilantro, stems and leaves, into the blender. Do a handful at a time. You might/will need to add a bit of water. Try a TBSP or so at a time until things get going. Once everything looks fairly smooth, turn off the blender.


In a pot, add a bit of cooking oil (2 TBSPs tops) turn heat up to medium. Pour your masala paste into the pot and bring to a low boil for about a minute. If you want to add any veggies, I suggest par-cooking them first. I used potatoes. Throw them in the pot until they are almost done.


Begin to add your fish. I used tilapia cut into 2" pieces. Just drop them in and make sure they are covered well with the sauce. Put the lid on and let cook for about 5 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through. Serve over a bowl of rice and watch in amazement the amazement of others that you actually made this and not only is it edible, it's really quite delicious.


Ingredients:

30 oz. tilapia (or other white fish) boneless/skinless fillets, thawed
2 bunches of fresh coriander/cilantro
5-10 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 medium onion
2-5 green chilies
2" fresh peeled ginger
2 TBSP coriander seeds
1.5 TBSP turmeric powder
Salt 1 TBSP to taste

Gear:
Blender/Food processor
Big pot and lid
Cooked rice (no fail rice recipe here)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

How to make perfect rice every time.

Published by Commandrea (Andrea Afra) at 8:35 AM

Rice. Some people can never get it right. Take me for an example, before I was taught this tried and true method from the best MIL on earth. (Mother in Law...) Without fail, each time I prepared rice, the result was an odd combination of mushy on the outside with a hard crunchy center. Countless curries and multitudes of moussakas were served over a mysterious white mash of starch. It was shameful. So without further ado...


No matter how much rice or the size of the pot, you can cook perfect rice every time. Simply pour your rice into a pot and shake it so it's evenly distributed. Touch the top of the rice with your index finger and leave it there until the water comes up to the first line on your finger.

This much. Be sure to fill slowly and to keep your finger in the same spot. You can add or take away water as needed. Then cover the pot with a tight fitting lid. This is essential. If you don't have a lid, use a glass plate. Just make sure the steam doesn't escape. Bring it to a boil then turn down to low heat for 15 minutes. Turn off and leave the lid on for another 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork et voilĂ ! Perfect rice. Easy enough, right? (If you are making brown rice, bring to a boil then simmer on low for 20 minutes, turn off and let sit covered for 10 minutes.)

Monday, December 7, 2009

No Domo Arigato, Kata Robata

Published by Commandrea (Andrea Afra) at 11:27 AM


Okay, horrible play on the name aside, Kata Robata is missing something elemental to a good meal, but what could it be?
Color changing bar lights: Check.
Interesting menus with obscure and intriguing dishes: Check.
Chef Manabu "Hori" Horiuchi of Kubo's at the helm: Check.
Informative servers to guide you through the obscure dishes...meh.

I am not one to complain about service as long as I get my food in a timely manner, but I expected our server to at least be able to fake their knowledge of the food they were serving. After all, Chef Hori wouldn't allow his cuisine to be presented by someone who didn't know what it was, right?

Me: How is the lobster bisque?
Server: Um. A little boy ordered it earlier and sent it back half full so...I don't know I haven't tried it yet.

Okay, an honest answer but being that I am a 20-something woman, I didn't see how a child's impression on the bisque would be helpful to me, so I tried it. However, he must have had good taste because it tasted like something from a can with too much Maggi and MSG and the few pieces of lobster lurking at the bottom of the bowl were a letdown.
Now, don't come at me with the whole "Why would you order bisque from a Japanese restaurant?" It was chosen to be put on the menu, so it should have been decent, right?
Plus I needed something rich in my stomach if I was going to be drinking later and it seemed to be the fattiest thing on the menu.

We ordered the miso-marinated black cod collar which was crisp on the outside and incredibly moist inside, but its only accompaniment was a mysterious little red berry, and for $12, I at least wanted to know what the damned fruit was. Yet upon asking the server who delivered the dish what the fruit was he shook his head and smiled apologetically that he didn't know. 'Okay, at least go ask, find out, aren't you curious?' I wanted to say. Nah. I'd just Google it later...

I stopped asking questions and tried to enjoy the rest of the meal which consisted of a tuna carpaccio drowned in a yuzu infused olive oil and a really crazy roll filled with Japanese 'ice fish'- little whole fish resembling translucent bean sprouts with tiny little black eyes. Salty, crunchy, fishy. All of the dishes were interesting, yet I just don't have the urge to return unless we were to sit at the sushi bar and have our inquisitive needs fulfilled. And after some research I found out that the little fruit is called "yamamomo."


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Poop Cookies

Published by Commandrea (Andrea Afra) at 8:19 PM

My oven recently stopped working and I was hit by a serious life threatening need for something chocolate the other night and I had all of the ingredients on hand to make 'poop' cookies. My friend Andrea Wiggins first made them for me and I took down her recipe which has come in handy quite a few times over the years.





They are a dense lump of peanutbuttery-chocolatey-oatmealy-fudge-like excellence that you can make in a pinch. I will not apologize for the name as it is funny and true: they look like little piles of poo, but they taste like little bites of nirvana. WARNING: If you are in need for an immediate sugar fix, note that these need to be refrigerated for about an hour before eating BUT the act of making them and a few licks of the spoon seem to be enough to tide you over until they are set. You can throw them in the freezer to speed things up.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup milk

2 cups sugar


1/2 cup butter or margarine


4 tablespoons cocoa


1/2 cup peanut butter (creamy or chunky)


3-3 1/2 cups dry quick-cooking oats


2 teaspoons vanilla


Wax paper & cookie sheet


1. In a saucepan over medium heat, bring milk, sugar, butter, cocoa to a low boil for about a minute.

2. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter, oats, and vanilla

3. Drop mixture by 2 TBSPs on waxed paper covered cookie sheet

4. Refrigerate until firm, about one hour. Quick chill in freezer until firm to touch.

These cookies are easy to make and clean up after and definitely quell the sugar jones.

Soon to come: I am working on perfecting the Microwave Mug Cake. Results so far- 'above meh'.