Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Kinda Salt-Free Kalua Pork

Kalua Pork is a Hawaiian Luau dish that you can make easily and cheaply. It is one of my comfort foods. How comforting? I froze 4 to 5 meals worth of it last week.

Traditionally, Kalua Pork is a whole pig that's wrapped in taro leaves and then cooked slowly in an underground pit. That's what kalua means. Not to worry, you can make your own version of this delish pork that falls off the fork and melts in your mouth without bothering to dig a hole in your backyard.  You also don't need to buy a whole pig. A pork butt (with or without the bone) is just fine. And, if you don't have taro leaves, that's okay too. In my recipe I substitute chard.

Making Kalua Pork does requires slooow cooking. Some people use a crockpot. I use the oven. Just like almost any other dish, there is no standard way to make Kalua Pork. My recipe is heavy on the herbs to compensate for not using salt due to the husband's diet.  Here 'tis.

5 pound boneless pork butt
1 bulb of garlic, minced roughly
8 tablespoons of fresh chives, diced
2 tablespoons of nori flakes
1 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
1/4 cup of salt-free liquid smoke
1 bundle of chard

  1. Combine herbs and spice in a large bowl.
  2. Rinse meat, pat dry. Poke holes in the meat so that the rub can seep into it, and then roll meat into herb mixture.
  3. Pour liquid smoke over the meat. Cover meat and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
  4. Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. Wash the chard.
  5. Line your roasting pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil.  Lay half of the chard in the pan. Place meat on chard, and cover it with the rest of the chard. Finally, cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. (I like to lay parchment paper on top before adding the foil because I don't like the foil touching the food. I'm just that way.)
  6. Roast for 5 hours.  When it's done, simply pull the meat apart with a fork, and serve.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Superstitions of the Mama

I now sweep the kitchen floor after dinner while the husband washes the dishes. I used to do it in the morning. That is when I remembered. Most mornings, I didn't.

Until recently I rarely swept the kitchen floor in the evening because I was taught to not do that unless something bad happened such as a glass broke on the floor.  So, what changed? I read an article about 10 good cleaning habits to have, of which one was sweeping the kitchen floor after dinner. Made sense. No stepping on crumbs or unpopped popcorn first thing in the morning.

The other evening the mama caught me sweeping the kitchen floor. Just as I thought she would, she said, "It's bad luck to sweep at night."

"Why?" I asked. She didn't respond. She just left the kitchen. I doubt she has an answer for that or any of her  superstitions.  I think grownups taught her superstitions when she was a kid as a way of getting her to obey. I also think that she made up her own to control my actions many years ago. For instance:  Don't stand on the table or your children will do that. Don't play with your food, God will get mad. Don't sing at the table, it's bad luck. Don't whistle, you'll grow a mustache.

Tonight while sweeping the kitchen floor, I asked the dishwashing husband why he thought it was bad luck to sweep at night. His theory is this: Something bad probably happened to someone who was sweeping the  floor after dinner. After that others told others not to sweep the floor because it was bad luck.  Makes sense.

As I threw away the swept dirt in the garbage can, the husband said to me, "I cut my fingernails today. And it's Tuesday."

"I so wanted to cut mine today, too," I said. I didn't because it's bad luck to cut your fingernails on a Tuesday, according to the mama.

The husband then said, "Years ago, I read in the Farmer's Almanac that if you cut your fingernails on Tuesday, you'll get rich. So whose right?"

"The authority you wish to believe," I responded. First thing tomorrow, I'm cutting my fingernails.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

To a Bright Blooming Day!

I woke up to the sounds of doves cooing outside and the husband snoring next to me. Signs of a blooming bright day?

Sure. Why not?

Happy Valentine's Day, Dear Gentle Readers!

Friday, February 12, 2010

What I'm Not Reading Now

Today, I moved all but one book from my nightstand because the dust collecting on them was bothering me. I mean a lot of books...and a lot of dust! Some books have been waiting patiently for years for me to crack them open. Bookmarks peek out of other books to show that I abandoned them after only several pages or a few chapters for various reasons. I have very good intention to return to each of these books. Some day.

The Octopus: A California Story by Frank Norris. I aim to re-read this book. It's a novel about the ruthlessness of big agribusiness in California at the turn of the 19th century. Much of the story is set in a fictional place based on San Benito County where I was born, raised, and now live again.

Execution Dock by Anne Perry. Another novel I want to re-read. It's part of a series about a detective, whose regaining his memory, and his wife who solve crime in the mid-19th century. Perry is one amazing writer. She's able to bring the sights, smells, and noises of those times alive.

Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes. I waited a long time to see the movie on which this story is based because I thought it would be schmaltzy-yucky. Ha! on me. I liked it so much I want to read the book.

Top-Secret Personal Beeswax: A Journal by Junie B (and me!) by Barbara Park (and me, of course). This book came out when the character, Junie B, was in first grade. The Junie B series is one of my favorite kid series. The kid is hilarious.

Nutrition Almanac by Lavon J. Dunne. I don't know how many times I've looked for that book in my cookbook, health, and how-to piles. It's an easy-to-read, easy-to-understand book.

Teach Yourself Visually: Knitting by Sharon Turner. Still can only do one basic stitch. But I think I can do advanced stuff with the help of this book. It's just finding the yearning again to knit.

 Beatrix Potter: The Complete Tales (The original and authorized edition published by Frederick Warne) The husband bought me this and the DVD movie about Miss Potter for my birthday a couple years ago. First time I ever read Potter's works. Her drawings are full of wonder. The stories are kind of strange, which I like.

Over the Edge of the World by Laurence Bergreen. A book about Magellan's trip around the world. I hope it's as good as the title makes me feel like reading it.

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain. His writing voice is consistent with what you see on his TV program.

The New Food Lover's Tiptionary by Sharon Tyler Herbst. Cooking tips. Really should go down into the kitchen bookcase.

Angels & Demons by Dan Brown. He wrote this before The DaVinci Code. I find this book hard to read. Even started reading it backwards to no avail.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I read the abridged version in high school. Seeing the movie version with Toby Stephens (sigh) last year enticed me to get a copy of the book.

My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud'homme. Watching "Julia & Julia" got me interested in learning more about Julia Child, the person. I'm halfway through the book.

The Happy Hollisters by Jerry West. It was 50 cents at the local thrift shop. That was enough incentive for me to read it.

Behold the Many by Lois-Ann Yamanaka. She is one of my favorite novelists. Her stories are about locals living in Hawaii.

 Candy Cane Murder by Joanne Fluke, Laura Levine, and Leslie Meier. Three novellas by three different mystery authors. I've read Fluke's so far. The three amateur detectives are also cooks. What sold me on this book is the fact that recipes are included.

Next by Michael Crichton. A couple of Christmases ago, the husband and I decided that instead of buying a present, we each would choose one of the books from his or her shelves that he or she had read and liked and give that to the other to read. He hasn't read the one I gave him either.

Pswhew. Are you as tired reading my list as I am writing about it? Here are the other books in my nightstand pile:
So, what book have I left on the nightstand? Going Rogue: An American Life by Sarah Palin. I'm finding it hard to read, which is ironic since the author has presented her story and ideas simplistically. I've told myself that I can't read anything else for fun until I'm done with it. And, there's a new mystery by Anne Perry that's coming out soon.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Shrimp Toast

The other week, I wrote about my day of frenzied cooking with a promise (mostly to myself) that I would post some, if not all, of the dishes I made. As usual, I had good intentions. Here's the but: I can't find my notes. Oh well. I do have a positive but though: Here's a photo of the shrimp toast I made that day for lunch. I recall the husband and the mama were smackingly happy about the repast.

Many of you dear readers have probably ate shrimp toast as part of a dim sum treat. They really are simple and easy to make at home. You can combine as many, or as few, ingredients that you want with the shrimp. You can add fresh and/or dried spices and herbs. You can mince the shrimp, or dice it not so finely, as my photo shows. My recipe was very simple. Here's what I did:

The Mixture. I combined diced shrimp with garlic powder, black pepper, minced chives (fresh), and a couple of teaspoons of rice flour. To make everything stick, I mixed in a teaspoon or so of mayonnaise. (Many recipes use egg whites.) I chilled the mix for a few hours, thinking that it would help the mixture stick to the bread as it went down in the pan. (That was the frightening part for me.) It did help.

The Preparation. I spread the shrimp mix onto slices of bread, and cut them into thirds. Next, I heated up a mixture of olive oil and butter in a pan. I had put the slices into the pan, shrimp side down and fried them for about a minute, more or less. I turned the slices over and fried for about another minute. I fried three pieces at a time to make it easier for me to manage.

You can find a number of different shrimp recipes on the Internet. Here are just a few:

Emile Legasse's Shrimp Toast Recipe at Food Network
Martin Yan's Shrimp Toast Recipe:
Shrimp Toast recipe at Chinese Food DIY:
Easy Shrimp Toast Recipe at

P.S. Did you notice the fingers in the photo? Those belong to the husband who patiently waited for me to take the photo. Thank you, The Husband.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


In DMV language, this sign means: "There's a stop sign coming up, so get ready to stop, drivers. We mean it!"

But, if you're a passenger in a car, or someone walking down the street, it means, "Hey, You! Stop and Look! Spring is starting to show itself."

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Connecting With Ones You Don't Know

This afternoon, the husband and I went downtown to do a couple of errands. It was a beautiful afternoon, so we ambled between places. The best part of the walk was peering into store fronts. A woman was knitting inside a beauty shop, a little girl was doodling on paper in a restaurant, and a barber was sitting in his chair reading the paper. All three looked up as we passed by. Each one smiled and waved back at us.

Smiling and waving at people who you don't know just makes the day more delightful.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Husband, the Momentary Cook

I'm the cook in my household. The husband is the dishwasher.

Ever since we've been together, which is going on 15 years, I've been the cook. I was also the dishwasher, until the husband left his nine-to-five job. The husband becoming the dishwasher rates right up there with him not going down the path towards a heart attack, which he was bound if he hadn't left.

I'm glad the husband doesn't mind washing dishes. He likes to say that he is a professional dishwasher. For one summer in his youth (a thousand years ago), he likes to remind me, he worked as a dishwasher at the Oregon Caves lodge.

The husband says he can cook, but I'm still waiting for that yummy omelet he says he can make. This morning, I did get him to help me prepare tonight's dinner. My hands were all chickeny from cutting up a big ole chicken. Not wanting to wash my hands, I asked the husband to pull out a Pyrex container so I could soak some chicken parts in yogurt to make oven-friend chicken. Once he did that, I realized I would still need to wash my hands. In short, with my hands all chickeny, I leaned against the counter and guided him into creating a marinade for me. Here it is:

The Husband's Oven Fried Chicken Yogurt Marinade
(As usual, the measurements are approximate)

6 tablespoons of yogurt
1 level teaspoon of paprika
1 heaping teaspoon of garlic
1 (less than level) teaspoon of turmeric
3 shakes of liquid smoke
1/2 a capful of balsamic vinegar

The taste results: We both agreed—very subtle, then pow! what a kick.

Some kind of sweetness was needed to balance the taste. So, I added the residue from a bottle of honey. Probably 1 tablespoon's worth. "The honey brings out the spices," said the husband.

Tonight, I'll dredge the chicken in a combination of crumbled crackers, seaweed flakes, and black pepper before putting it in the oven for about 40 minutes. I can hardly wait to eat it.