Saturday, October 29, 2011

Beef teriyaki, round #1

If at first you don't succeed: In Hawaii, as you may know, teriyaki is a big deal. Nearly every menu has something grilled and brushed with this sweet-and-salty glaze. (Even McDonald's has a McTeri Sandwich!) Yet strangely, we almost never eat teriyaki when we're there. This may be because it's most commonly paired with chicken or beef, and generally we just eat fish when we're in Hawaii.

When we returned from Maui, I felt like I had failed to consume sufficient teriyaki. A homemade effort was in order. I happen to have a number of Hawaiian cookbooks and plucked a recipe from Sam Choy's Island Flavors. Sam had steered me right in the macadamia nut chicken, so why not beef teri?

The recipe calls for marinating thinly sliced beef in an enchanting mix of soy sauce, ginger, and sugar (among other ingredients) for 4-6 hours before grilling it quickly, then topping it with a teriyaki glaze. Doesn't it look fantastic?

Unfortunately, both the marinade and the glaze (two separate concoctions) were horribly salty. I didn't even end up serving the teriyaki glaze because it was beyond edible. What a debacle!

In the end, good old mac salad saved the day. I LOVE Hawaiian mac salad. The husband and I can really put it away, too. So we ate a little beef teri and a lot of rice and mac.

In one way, I'd like to fiddle with the recipe and tweak it to make it just right. In another way, I'd like for someone to just give me a better recipe that I don't have to fix. I think that way wins. Anyone have a good one to share? I'm ready for beef teri, round #2.


A new acquisition: I recently came to acquire this painting*, done by my father at an unknown date, but most likely before I was born. It made its way to me through my cousin, who was clearing out his late parents' house to prepare it for sale. My dad was a fairly prolific painter, ceramicist, and jeweler, and periodically things of his will sort of reappear in my life.

Although I am fortunate to have several of his other works, this painting has quickly become one of my favorites. I'm not sure why, exactly. The reason why we prefer certain pieces of art over others has always been a mystery to me, but one which I enjoy contemplating. This is a quality passed on to me by my dad, who died nearly 16 years ago.

At the time, because I was on the young side, losing a parent at 22 seemed like a great injustice. Now, with some years on me, it's clear to me that there are far, far worse things to have happen to you in your life, chief among them getting stuck with a crummy parent to begin with. I am fortunate that I lucked out and got two good parents, one of who I am grateful to still have with me.

My dad instilled in me several things which shaped my life:

1) Family is the most important thing, and to have a sibling to whom you are close is a great gift.

2) Food is a source of joy.

3) Art is important.

Some of my best memories of my dad are strolling through museums with him--in San Francisco, Washington DC, Mexico City--and talking to him about art. We started doing this when I was very young. He was never didactic, though when I asked him, he would gladly tell me what he knew about the artist, the period in history, and the significance of the piece. These memories are still very vivid for me. Just recently, I had the opportunity to see an excellent exhibit of Picasso's work, on loan from the Picasso Museum in Paris. As I moved through the galleries, I thought a great deal about my dad, and of how much of the way I see the world--what is beautiful or interesting-- is because of him.

In a few weeks, my dad would have turned 77.  Right after his death, I remember people saying, in some form or another, "He'll always be with you." Hearing this was baffling to me and sometimes made me angry, even though people meant it to be comforting. In the moment, it seemed like the most ludicrous thing to say. With me was the absolute thing he was not.

I understand it a little better now, even though I still miss him. I think once you are over the really sad part of losing someone, you can think back more easily on the good things. And if you're lucky, like me, that person left you with something--an imprint of their perspective, an alternate framework for understanding the world--that you can carry with you the rest of your life.

*Please excuse the poor quality of the photograph...turns out taking good pictures of paintings is rather difficult.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Penne with shrimp and herbed cream sauce

Add this to your repertoire: I've been making this for awhile, but for some reason have neglected to post about it. It's very simple and comes together fast, especially if you get shrimp that is already peeled and deveined. When I do the peeling and deveining myself, I like to leave the tails on, because I prefer the way they look. However, this means you often have to twist off the tail by hand mid-meal, much to the husband's chagrin. He doesn't like to get his fingers shrimpy whilst eating a bowl of pasta. Doesn't bother me. Who am I, Emily Post? I suppose a more civilized household might employ what are known as "knives" to trim off the tail; not so here.

The one addition I have made to this recipe, which was at the husband's suggestion, was adding asparagus. This is reminiscent of a dish I am wildly fond of at Pasta Pomodoro (egads! a chain!), which is pasta shells in a spicy, creamy tomato sauce studded with shrimp and asparagus. I've been known to eat this dish at 10:30am while everyone else is ordering brunchy fare, like poached eggs and French toast.

Giada's sauce is not as delightfully spicy as Pasta P's; I'll have to bump up the red pepper flakes in the future. But in most other ways, it is similar. Here's the link to her recipe. As for the asparagus, I trimmed it, cut in into one-inch lengths, blanched it in the pasta water, then added it to the sauce along with the shrimp at the end.

I'm pretty sure whoever you make this for will fall in love with you (unless they have a shellfish allergy, which would make it a tragic lovestory), so be strategic. Don't say I didn't warn you when you're fighting off someone's unwanted amorous, shrimpy paws.

Gimme your money, then beat it: The other day, the husband and I had a spectacular afternoon: lunch at Out the Door (daikon rice cakes with spicy soy sauce and shitake mushrooms/vermicelli bowls with five spice chicken and imperial rolls/a carafe of wine--perfection!) followed by some leisurely book perusing. We weren't near my favorite bookstore, Green Apple, but fortunately, San Francisco does not hurt for bookstores, and we were a stone's throw from Browser Books. 

We each picked out three books. I brought the stack to the counter where the store owner? employee? grunted at me, flipped over the books, scanned them, then barked out the total. Once I'd paid, he shoved them in a plastic bag and literally swung them on the counter at me. When the bag slapped the counter, it sent a little puff of air into my face.

Why are people who work at bookstores so often surly, second only to record store employees? I don't need a standing ovation, but is it so old-fashioned to want a, "Hi, how are you? Did you find everything you were looking for?" or, upon leaving, "Thank you!" I mean, let's be honest: it's easier for me to order through Amazon. I choose to go to bookstores because I feel, in my heart, that they make a community warmer, richer, and better. This guy was not supporting this theory.

Anyway, I'm excited about the books. Here is what we got. Can you guess which three I chose and which three the husband picked out?


Crazy Town: Two odd things happened today. Not to me, but near me. The first was this morning, around 8am. I was just sitting down to work when I heard a commotion out front.

I peered through the slats of my shades and saw six people pour out of a cruddy looking car, right into my driveway (lucky me!). They were all yelling and taking swings at the other ones. Men and women both. It was like a big free for all! The car was stopped halfway in the street so traffic was having to go around them.

I was about to call the police when I saw one of the men winding up to smack one of the women, when all of a sudden, they abruptly shut up, piled back into the car, and drove away. The only trace they left behind was, disturbingly, a pair of bright pink underwear. Stranger still, when I looked out a few minutes later, the underwear was gone.

Then, this afternoon, while depositing some checks at the bank, all of a sudden I heard a man loudly cursing at some of the bank employees, hollering about having to wait. Like any longtime city dweller, within seconds I expertly assessed how close this lunatic was to me without actually appearing to look at him. (The last thing you want is eye contact.) Then, I surreptitiously identified the nearest exit.

To my surprise, this foul-mouthed character was not what I expected. He looked like a hipster, younger than me, conceivably someone I could be connected to on Facebook. He had a nifty little driving cap on and super stylie sneakers. The bank manager tried to placate him, which wasn't working out too well. The man was on a roll, a furious, expletive-chocked roll.

"That guy was in here earlier," the teller said to me softly as she finished my transaction. She looked at me with wide eyes. "I tried to help him and he yelled at me too. I'm not sure what's wrong with him. Wouldn't you be embarrassed to be yelling like that? If I were him I'd be so mortified."

"I'm pretty sure he's not embarrassed," I said to the teller, who looked about 12. She had her nails painted black and orange for Halloween. "I do, however, think he's a grade-A asshole."

I guess that's what you get from living in a city for a long time. You don't always feel sorry for people the way maybe you should, or consider the reasons that might cause them to act strangely or dangerously. You just want them to get the hell away from you.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Maui Zowee

Returning from vacation is full of lies. You tell yourself that you're happy to be in your own bed, with all your stuff around you. You say you're tired of eating out all the time. Maybe you claim to miss your friends. The most outrageous lie is that you're fully refreshed and ready to go back to work. Honestly, these things are only, at best, half true. I can put up with a mediocre bed if each morning I'm getting up and within an hour I'm swimming in the ocean. I can tolerate eating at restaurants three meals a day if it's a steady rotation of the freshest Ahi, mahi mahi, and opakapaka I've ever had--grilled, in tacos, as sushi, or straight-up sashimi. And, I love my friends, but I don't miss them when I'm on vacation. (I'm not even addressing the work lie.)

Thank goodness for Sophie, otherwise we wouldn't have returned. I mean, why would I want to leave this?

We spent nearly the entire trip in the water or on the sand. Of course, there was eating. Hawaii may not be known for its food, and that's certainly not the reason we go there, but that doesn't mean there isn't good food to be found. Like Star Noodle in LaHaina, where they pull their own noodles. I got the Hapa Ramen, since I'm a Hapa and all.

It was delicious. I especially liked how they brought out a tiny set of sauces to doctor it up.

Miniature seemed to be a theme, based on the teeny glass the husband got for his beer ("Bikini Blonde" by the Maui Brewing Company).

The husband was very pleased with the beer, the noodles, and his new Star Noodle hat.

OMG, he's cute!

We also had a stand-out lunch at Mama's Fish House. Ok, let's just get it out of the way: this place is expensive. My sandwich was $38. But it was beyond worth it. The menu changes every day and includes the name of the person that caught the fish you are about to eat. That's how local it is.

The food was fantastic and the view from our table was:

We had a gorgeous trio of sashimi to start.

For an entree, I had a panko-battered mahi mahi sandwich on a homemade onion roll with creamy, tangy tartar sauce, accompanied by coleslaw with pineapple and edamame and light-as-air taro chips. I forget what the husband had, fish of course, I think with ratatouille. I don't have any good pictures of these, so you'll have to use your imagination.

We were too full for dessert but they brought us some haupia which I enjoyed in spite of my anti-coconut stance. When in Rome Maui...

Tragically, vacation can't last forever. Leaving felt like a kick in the stomach. But, we'll be back. In a year if not sooner.

Aloha and Mahalo, Maui!


As you might expect, engagements, weddings, and honeymoons are big in Hawaii. We saw a few weddings just by chance, including this intimate one which occurred one evening at sunset right in front of us.

Also, while on a boat trip out to Molokini, we met a lovely couple who were to be married a few days later in Wailea. What a beautiful place to get married! we said and wished them well. 

They asked us if we were on our honeymoon, which I thought was cute, since we're six years into marriage and 11 years plus together. That actually happened a few times on the trip, which probably isn't unusual--like I said, people (including us) go there on their honeymoon. But I'm glad to know we could still be mistaken for newlyweds. We really do have fun together, I have to say, both on vacation and at home. Every day I thank my lucky stars we bumbled across each other on this big old planet.


In case you're interested, the title of this post is a pun on one my favorite albums--Wowee Zowee--by one of my favorite bands, Pavement.  

Recently I've been wondering what the hell happened to my interest in music. I mean, I like music. But I never seem to discover new stuff, unless the husband turns me on to something. The last time this happened was with Broken Bells. That was probably about a year ago.

Other people are always discovering music. It comes up all the time. People asking if I've heard this or bought that. I'm always like, uh, no. I'm still listening to music from the mid-90's, when I graduated from college. It's like my music growth got stunted when I entered adulthood. Even the husband is discovering bands --when, I'm not sure. I guess people secretly search for music while I'm watching TV, spacing out, or eating--my primary at-home hobbies.

I'm going to rectify this situation.  I can't be 65 years old and still talking about bands I loved in college. I at least need to add to the list of favorites. Seriously.