Allison Day
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Archive for June, 2011

tickled by pickles

My current sandwich obsession: honey-roasted turkey and pickles on toasted Hawaiian bread (with a little bit of mayonnaise and dijon mustard, of course).

However, I do have a confession to make… up until about a month ago, I was convinced I hated pickles. I’d pick them off of sandwiches and burgers (and transfer them to my mom’s plate if she was around – she loves pickles).

But then I split the most amazing burger with my dad at Betty Burgers in Santa Cruz, CA… and had such a long day (the family drove up from LA that morning, for my sister’s graduation, then went out for dinner with my sister and her girlfriend afterwards) that I was too darn tired to bother picking them off my half.

And wow. Pickles are actually good! (No, I’m not pregnant. Promise.) It seems I’m getting older, more mature… or at least, my tastes have gotten more mature, even if I’m not. ~_^


Bowl of blueberries

I only just realized that… I like blueberries.

I’ve never been much of a fruit person. I’m horribly opposed to anything that even hints at sour. (I’m getting better.) For years, the only fruits I would touch were bananas.

Of course, I always loved blueberry muffins. You know, the kind that came from a box mix, with little blue bits that seemed only vaguely related to the plump, juicy blueberries that you find at the farmer’s market. (I’ll admit it – I still prefer those types of blueberry muffins over all others. I can’t help it, I grew up with them… they’re comfort food.)

But real blueberries? Bleh. Ew. Ick. No thank you.

And then, the other day at the farmer’s market, a vendor offered me a taste of the blueberries she was selling. I tried to politely turn her down, but she insisted: “They’re very sweet…” Not wanting to be rude, I popped one in my mouth, expecting to have to suppress a scrunched-up sour expression.

Imagine my shock when I realized I actually liked it.


Needless to say, I bought a basket of blueberries immediately.

It seems my tastes have changed over the years. The biggest, sweetest blueberries that don’t have even the faintest hint of sour or tart? Those taste like crayons to me. (Not regular crayons, more like a specific scented crayon that I had when I was a child. The most obscure comparison ever, I know. …which is not to say I’ve ever eaten a crayon…)

But those blueberries that have just enough sour to make you sit up and notice… those are the best. The tang brings out the flavor of the blueberry, and makes you want more. It’s not sleepy-boring, but also not so sour as to make your face scrunch up into a pucker.

I’ve been putting them in my cereal, eating them plain… but I’m thinking it’s time to actually make something with them. A crumble or crisp is sounding really good right now… but I’m curious – if you had a basket full of blueberries, what would you make with them?

Memorial Day BBQ

I have a list – a very, very long list – of recipes that I’ve bookmarked to try someday. (Nearly all from food blogs, of course.) So any time I want to make something new – whether it be a baked good, or a side dish, or, as I did this past weekend, a menu for a barbecue, I turn to this list. (Actually, to be honest, I have two lists – one for sweets, one for savory foods – which makes searching for something to make a little easier.) Here’s what I came up with this time:

Forming Umami Burger patties

Umami Burger Sliders on Hawaiian Rolls, with Bacon Jam and New York Cheddar Cheese.

Burger condiments

Ooooh, mommy indeed. Trust me. You want to make this.

Hijacking my dad’s BBQ for burger grilling

I made Crunchy Coleslaw to go on top of the burgers… but it never made it there. Instead, it ended up a side. And that was perfectly fine. (I replaced the malt vinegar with rice vinegar to give it a more Asian flare. Next time I’d add in daikon – I couldn’t find any this time around.)

Burgers, burgers, burgers

Of course, I had to make the Baked Sweet Onion Dip that I’ve had a couple of times before, at dinner parties thrown by Todd and Diane, served with toasted bread sices. (I refuse to make this for just myself and Son… it’s so addictive, I know I’d eat it all. Believe me… any leftovers were gone in a flash. This stuff is dangerously good.)

Sweet Onion Dip

Another side I’ve had bookmarked for a while: this Spring Asparagus Pancetta Hash from Smitten Kitchen. I had nearly everything in my fridge already (save the pancetta), so it was an obvious choice. Loved it.

Spring Asparagus Pancetta Hash

And for dessert? I could have baked something, and would have, except… I had a huge hankering for root beer floats. It had been way too long since I had one. So I had my dad buy root beer and vanilla ice cream (since I bought most everything else)… the perfect ending to a fantastic meal.

Root beer float

Too much food? Well… you could say that. Personally, I’d say it’s exactly right… just enough to feed four people, with plenty of leftovers! (We love leftovers.)

Overall, it was a perfect meal. Or, in my case, the perfect fuel so I could get to work figuring out what (if anything) is mine in the disaster zone that my sister left in the room we shared growing up… (gah… send help, please!)

Trying too hard

I’ve realized lately that I’m trying too hard.

Breakfast at a diner in Berkeley
Bags of homemade peanut butter cookies for WCLA

Sometimes that’s okay.

Steamed clams for my birthday last year
Tons of homemade sushi for New Year’s 2011
Papaya salad at the 2011 Tet Festival

For example, for my family’s little Memorial Day BBQ (which you’ll get to see next post), I made quite a few dishes that I had never attempted before. That’s a lot more effort than what normally goes into our barbecues, but… that’s okay. Everybody enjoyed it, and the work was well worth the effort.

Sandwich from the Manila Machine food truck
Nem nuong (Vietnamese pork) sandwich

On the other hand, I definitely try too hard when it comes to blogging. I want every post to be perfect and have an amazing recipe and gorgeous photos. (Don’t we all?) But then that just results in me not blogging at all, because I don’t know what to say, or I don’t have a recipe, or maybe the photos were merely taken with my iPhone.

Saltine topped with sliced tomato and tuna salad
Clam chowder in Santa Barbara
Deep-fried red and white bean-filled mochi balls

But I do eat.

Apple pie on a stick

A lot.

A whole lotta bacon
Munchies at trivia night in Monterey with my family

(Every day, in fact!)

Fried rice topped with a fried egg
Toasted sandwich thin with Nutella

It’s not always fancy…

Fried egg, bacon, and kimchi sandwich
Bacon-fried rice (a New Year’s tradition)

But that’s okay, right?

Red bean-flled taiyaki (fish-shaped mochi cakes)
Food from the Flying Pig food truck

(I mean, just look at all these food photos you’d have never seen if I hadn’t decided to write this post!)

Shredded zucchini for zucchini bread
Japanese donut with adzuki bean filling

I have a lot of food stories that I could share with you… even if it’s of a day that consisted of other people’s recipes (like our Memorial Day BBQ), or a visit to a restaurant, or simply a sandwich I made that I thought was fantastic. But you guys never get to hear these stories, because they’re not… well… they’re not perfect.

Food from The Counter Burger at Fiesta Hermosa
Mother’s Day tradition: salmon from Otani’s
Tempeh and spicy daikon from the farmer’s market

Why the sudden change? I’ve been reading Shauna’s blog, as part of a job that’s requiring me to go through all the posts she’s ever written there. She’s an amazing blogger, a wonderful writer, with great photos and well-tested recipes.

Shauna’s daughter Lucy at IFBC 2010
This is how you know you’re eating with food bloggers
Not an unusual sight

But if you read from the beginning, you see that she doesn’t try to force herself to be perfect. Some days she didn’t have the words, and posted nothing more than a photo. Sometimes there was no recipe – she just needed to write… about celiac disease, about her wedding, about where she went that day. (And with all due respect – and I think she’d agree – her photos from the first year of her blog weren’t all too great.)

Tortilla soup from The Soup Bar
Slicing the turducken at Thanksgiving 2010
Layered cherry, coconut, and spinach gelatin

Now, this woman is a very, very well-known blogger, with multiple cookbooks (and another on the way), articles about her in all sorts of well-known publications, and (from what it sounds like) a TV show currently in production. (I’m so honored to be able to call her my friend as well.) So if someone like her is allowed to be imperfect, and just post whatever she wants, whatever moves her… then why on earth am I trying so damn hard? (After all, this blog is hardly anything… it can’t even hold a candle to my sushi blog, never mind to a blog like hers – and that’s okay. It’s not like I’m trying to get a cookbook deal or a TV show out of this… it’s just here for me to talk about my food, nothing more.)

Blueberries never try too hard.
Neither do tangerines.
California strawberries don’t have to try at all
Kale chips – amazing. Hardly any effort.

So I’m not trying so hard anymore. No more waiting for the perfect recipe with perfect photos and a perfect essay to accompany them before I allow myself to put up a post. That’s just silly. Nope… now you’re going to get to see what I’m eating, when I’m eating it (more or less)… no more silly perfectionism for me, thank you.

Pasta w/sauteed bacon+onion+garlic & a fried egg.
Taco time!
Flourless chocolate cake. Decadent.

celebrating 6 years

May 15, 2005.

That was my first date with Son. Our anniversary. That means I’ve been with this boy man for over six years now.

Holy cow.

It doesn’t seem like that long. But at the same time it feels like we’ve been together forever. You know?

Going out has never been much of a big deal for us. I mean, come on… he didn’t even take me to dinner on our first date (or for several dates after that first one, either.) We just talked for hours, and by the time we realized we still hadn’t eaten, it was time for him to get me home (so my parents wouldn’t meet us at the door with stern looks). (Yes, I was living at home at the time. Long story, but it was the end of my freshman year of college.)

Even now, we generally prefer to eat at home than at a restaurant – and when we do go out, it’s certainly nowhere fancy. Maybe Mottainai for ramen, or Panda’s Express (don’t judge, I know you have your guilty pleasures too).

But every now and then, it’s nice to get out and go somewhere a little fancier.

So, on Son’s recommendation (he had gone here once for work, he said), we headed to Fritto Misto.

It’s a quaint little Italian restaurant just blocks from the beach. Perfect.

Warm, delicious bread

Of course, we couldn’t decide what to order. (I never can.) So since it was a special day, we splurged and got all three of the pasta dishes that had caught our eye, knowing we’d get to enjoy it again for dinner that night. (Do you do that too? Order a bunch, even if you’re with a tiny group, because you want to try everything? I tell ya, leftovers are a wonderful thing.)

Pasta Pancetta

Italian bacon, sundried tomatoes, caramelized onions, and garlic cream, tossed with tomato fettuccini.

Definitely my favorite of the meal, although all three pasta dishes were delicious.

Sweet Potato Ravioli

Striped sweet potato ravioli with sage cream sauce and wild mushrooms.

I’m a sucker for ravioli. Anytime it’s on the menu I have to order it… and it’s almost always amazing. This was no exception.

Garlic Shrimp

Shrimp sautéed in herb butter, garlic, and brandy, then tossed with black and white pasta and garlic cream.

This one was Son’s choice. Delicious, especially if you love shrimp.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Rich, dark, and dense flourless chocolate cake topped with fresh whipped cream.

Delicious. It’s a good thing I made a point not to stuff myself (we knew we’d be bringing home leftovers no matter what), because the dessert was incredibly rich, as every flourless chocolate cake ought to be.

(The cake was on the house – when we asked to have our leftover pasta wrapped up to go, they brought this out for us. My guess is that they noticed the camera and were hoping to sway any review in their favor. We’d have given them a rave review anyways, but the chocolate cake was not unwelcome.)

A wonderful restaurant, with wonderful service, and fantastic food. (Even now, weeks later, I still dream about that Pasta Pancetta. Oh boy, we’re going to have to go back there sometime soon.)

Happy anniversary, Son.

Fritto Misto
316 Pier Ave
Hermosa Beach, CA 90254