Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Continuing the Asia Trip at Home: Seared Tuna Salad with Ginger Vinaigrette

     I will admit that I did not eat a salad such as this one while in Asia. However, one takeaway from our two week adventure was how light the food is in both Korea and Japan.  One of the aspects of travel that I love is that I can learn about different food cultures and when I am back at home, try to replicate a few foods or ideas.  It sounds crazy but I have started having rice and miso soup for breakfast!  When we returned home, my radishes were ready so I took the whole crop and quickly pickled them.  They go very well with my morning rice.  And...I continue to use chopsticks!!     

     Now that we are back and Summer is in full swing, we are trying to cook less and have more salads, fruits and vegetables.  Last night, I made this salad...super easy and is really flavorful.  To round out the meal, I took some local snap peas and sautéed them briefly in olive oil.  I placed them in a bowl in the middle of the table along with some seasonal fruit.  It was light and delicious.

Seared Tuna Salad with Ginger Vinaigrette
Inspired by Eric Ripert


Several small tuna filets
Salt and Pepper
1 T canola oil
Salad greens
4 leaves basil, chiffonade
4 leaves mint, chiffonade
6 leaves cilantro, chiffonade
1T finely diced ginger
2T finely diced shallots
2T sherry vinegar
4T canola oil
1T soy sauce
1/2 t fresh lime juice

1.  Make the salad dressing:  Combine the ginger, shallots in a bowl and whisk in the vinegar, oil, soy sauce and lime juice.  Set aside.
2.  Make the salad:  Combine the lettuce greens with the herbs.  Place a small mound of the greens on each plate. I also used edible flowers which added another flavor component.
3.  Make the tuna:  Heat 1T canola oil in a pan over high heat.  Season both sides of the tuna with salt and pepper.  Saute the tuna for approximately 45 seconds on each side.  Slice the tuna into thin slices and place on top of the salad.
4.  Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad.


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Adventures in Seoul

Sorry, I am writing this from an IPAD...will fix formatting and label pictures whe I get a computer.

     We have been itching for an adventure and this past week in Seoul has been incredible. Completely out of our comfort zone, it has been an amazing experience. The city is incredibly safe, extremely chaotic with 10+ million people and it just gets under your skin. Dear Daughter and I found the locals very helpful and nice, proud of their heritage and culture and usually eager to practice English. We became adept at pointing to menu item pictures..."We will have one of those.."

     I am happy to say that I did not over schedule us. It is very warm and muggy and after a couple of hours outside each day, we needed the coolness of our apartment. Out building was situated over the subway station which made it so convenient. Each day, we would head to the basement and within a minute or so, we were on the subway. We went all over the city and it was unbelievably easy. More than one time, a local would offer to change seats with me if I wasn't seated just next to DD.  So each day, we had at least one adventure. Here are some of the highlights!

Saturday: Food tour with Dan Gray of Delectable Travels. Dan introduced us to Korean BBQ, Korean Fried Chicken and Beer, Korean mung bean pancakes and a local market. He has an interesting story. He was born here in the 70's, a time when South Korea was not prosperous. His parents could not care for him so they gave him up for adoption. He grew up in the United States but after college, wanted to return. He has been here for the past eleven years and is incredibly knowledgeable.

Sunday:  Seoul City Tour by bus. This is a bit touristy but a great way to get the lay of the land. While Dear Husband worked in the morning, we headed to the Lotte Department Store and their incredible gourmet food hall. We came home with pork and kimchi dumplings and sushi. It made for a great Sunday lunch.

Monday: DD and I have a great time visiting Gyeonbokgung Palace. Completely destroyed by fire in the 1500's, it sat destroyed for over 200 years. It has been wonderfully rebuilt and is a fantastic heritage landmark. DD was in awe most of the time and the changing of the guards was really cool.

Tuesday:  We were back with Dan for a tour of the Mapo Fish Market. This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Dan picks out a selection of fish and we head upstairs to the restaurant above the market. Our abolone is baked and the giant crab is steamed. While this is occurring, we are dining on fermented fish eggs, sea squirt, fresh baby squid which is evidently in season and octopus...still squirming!  Dan tells us to chew the octopus well, lest the suckers will latch onto our windpipe!  Yikes!  We wrap the crabmeat in lettuce leaves and the cooks make an incredible rice dish with the inside of the crab. Definitely a memory maker.

Wednesday:  This is another memory maker...a tour of the DMZ. We are able to visit the Joint Security Area, step into North Korea, see over the border into their Propaganda Village, which are hollow buildings added to look like a working village. On the South side, Freedom Village is a working farm village, where the inhabitants live within the demilitarised zone and work the fields. For their courage, they are exempt from military service and taxes. While women can marry into the village, men must be direct descendants of current villagers. We all walked through one of the four tunnels discovered in the late 1970's coming from the North into the South. The whole day was a very sobering experience. DH was able to join us after his conference and we visited another one of Seoul's palaces and dined on delicious Vietnamese Pho for dinner.

Thursday:  DD and I toured the Gangnam section of Seoul, known for its expensive stores. Firsthand, we realized we were over our league and were giddy when we found an H & M. For lunch, we dined at Jungsik, the 23rd Best Restaurant in Asia and we laughed as we walked in with our H & M bag. Nobody treated us any differently and it was a wonderful meal. I have found numerous times that the best way to experience an expensive restaurant is to dine at lunch. The menu was quite reasonable and the food was amazing. Later that evening, we ventured as a family to a Korean BBQ joint and had a fantastic time. Culture dictates that the youngest has to cook...and that is exactly what DD did.

Friday:  This was a special treat. DD and a friend from Belgium who lives here now, spent the afternoon shopping in the Myeongdong area. First, we had a wonderful and free walking tour of the historic Bukchon Village, a collection of old style homes directly in the downtown section between two of the ancient palaces. Years ago, these homes housed the elite. Today, they have been magnificently restored and serve as an artist community and neighborhood. In the Myeongdong, the teenagers visited Dr. Fish, where they had fish nibble at their toes, drank peach tea at the Dog Cafe
while petting actual dogs and shopped for wacky of the things to buy while in Seoul.  That evening, we headed to the conference hotel for a reception with DH. Following the reception, we  stopped in the hotel bar located on the 37th floor, where we took in spectacular views of Seoul.

Saturday: Our closing day and we kept it simple. We found a very old restaurant in Myeongdong and had an early lunch of Kalguksu Noodles and fabulous dumplings. A bit more sock shopping and the purchase of sesame oil and ramen, recommended to bring home and we spent the rest of the afternoon packing for the next adventure.  Tonigh, we will see if we can have one last bbq dinner and then early to bed.

Travel is a part of us and I think to some completes us. We can get so caught up in our own little worlds...become so wrapped around things that are not important. While we were in Berlin last summer for a week, this is the first major overseas trip since we have returned to the States. I wondered if DD would be bored...missing her friends. She relished the experiences-- texting her friends..."You should see this...." She is a great travel partner and while she likes her "downtime", she is also ready to see and experience something new.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Mineo's vs. Aiello's: Which pizza is better?

     We recently spent the weekend vacationing in our hometown.  That seems a bit odd as we head into the city several weekends a month but we always have to turn around and drive back home.  So, when we had an event to attend that would take up most of a Saturday, we decided to take the opportunity to spend the entire weekend in the city.  We rented an apartment in Shadyside and decided that we would ease into the weekend.

     I love pizza.  Chances are that if there is ever any leftover pizza in our house, I will have it for this day.  Pittsburgh has some great pizza places and I decided that our Friday evening dinner needed to be our own pizza contest.  Learning that there were two iconic joints in nearby Squirrel Hill, we decided to have a family pizza tasting between Mineo's and Aiello's.

     Before we dove into our tasting test, I had to do a bit of research.  Mineo's has been around since 1958.  The reviews on TripAdvisor were very complimentary.  One guy wrote that he was a kid when it first opened and it was the very first place that he had ever had pizza.  He continues to go back to this day.  Now that was quite impressive.

    Evidently, Mineo had an employee named Guiseppe Aiello.  Aiello left in 1978 to open his own pizza joint just a few doors down!  Now,that is competition.  Regardless to say, there would be a long term rivalry between the two of them.  Even followers began to take sides.  So what side would we take?

     For Mineo's, we selected a large sausage and onion pizza with extra cheese.  For Aiello's, we went with one of their specialty pies, the Greek pizza (without the olives).  Aiello's was ready when we arrived but we had to wait several minutes for Mineo's.  Back in our apartment and with glasses of red wine, we sampled slices of Mineo's first.  

     Wow!  Perhaps I should not have asked for extra cheese.  This pizza was bathing in hot, gooey cheese.  The rest of the toppings were a bit lost in all of the cheese.  But, it was good.  The cheese had a tangy flavor and we all agreed that it wasn't just mozzarella.  What blew us away; however, was the crust.  I cannot begin to describe how good it was.

     It was hard not to have a second slice of the Mineo's; however, we had to continue the test.  Aiello's Greek pizza had a good ratio of toppings to cheese.  Underneath the mozzarella was a layer of feta cheese which added a lot of depth.  The fresh tomatoes and gyro meat complimented the also  tangy cheese.  It was very, very good.

However, we all agreed that the Mineo's pizza was the better of the two.

     However, that is not where our taste test ended.  With loads of leftovers, we tried the test again a few days later.  Leftover pizza is never as good as hot-out of the oven- pizza but which pizza would be better when reheated?

     Reheated, we all thought the Aiello's slice was better than Mineo's.  Perhaps because the Mineo's pizza had so much cheese, it was harder to reheat.

     Regardless of the outcome, we really enjoyed both pizzas. It's a shame that we do not live closer to both establishments.  I know that we would be having difficulty picking which place to go to!  I did, though, love my leftover pizza breakfasts for several days to follow!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

     The CSA season has officially started.  Last Friday, I picked up my first bag of goodies and I had a bit of Christmas in June.  Somehow; however, we have to finish off the bag by Wednesday evening as we are leaving for Asia on Thursday.  Yes, Asia!  Dear Husband has a conference in Seoul and we decided that we all needed to go.  We need the adventure and have been planning this for months.  

     We have a busy seventeen days.  In Seoul, we have rented an apartment near DH's conference hotel.  Unfortunately, he will not have much time to spend with us there but we do have a family food tour scheduled for Saturday afternoon.  The rest of the week, DD and I will tour the city, visit the DMZ, and participate in a few more foodie events.

     After ten days in Korea, our family vacation will start and we have arranged a trip to Japan.  This is going to be a completely food centered trip.  We start in Kyoto for several days, then head into the interior where we will spend two nights at a traditional spa.  Then a quick two nights in Tokyo.  Most of the time we will have private culinary tours and DD is totally psyched to have sushi direct from the fish market.

     Back to the CSA...last night, we used the arugula as our salad bed which accompanied our Pork Spiedini.  This is one of our new favorite recipes and I am bound to post more about it over the summer.  The kale will be consumed tonight in a super easy dinner of Farfalle with Italian Sausage and White Beans.   Asparagus Fries will be a great accompaniment for steaks on Tuesday.  We will finish out with our final dinner on Thursday with Zucchini Fritters.

     With the rhubarb that we received, we all agreed that a jam was in order.  This jam is super, super easy.  It goes so fast that I never go through the proper canning procedure.  If you think you can consume in in a few weeks, don't worry about canning.  If you need it to last longer, then Google how to properly can.

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam


2 cups diced rhubarb
3 cups white sugar
2 1/2 cups strawberries, halved
1/8 cup fresh lemon juice

1.  Combine the rhubarb and the sugar in a heavy pan and let it sit for 90 minutes to two hours.  
2.  Add the strawberries and lemon juice and stir to combine.
3.  Bring to a boil and cook at a steady simmer for 20-25 minutes.  The fruit will break down and the natural pectin in the berries should thicken the jam.  If you want a thicker version, then you can add pectin according to the package directions.
4.  Take off the heat and cool slightly.  Using an immersion blender, quickly puree the jam.  I like chunks of fruit in my jam so I tried to leave it relatively chunky.