spoonful of sugar

Sep 11, 2009

making oatmeal more fun with banana, strawberry, and brûlée

I know they say oatmeal is good for you, but if you’re like me, you’re adding a little something to make that colorless mush just a wee bit more appetizing. A drizzle of honey and some dried fruit like cherries or blueberries goes a long way, but why stop there when you can take it a step beyond? I like to elevate my oatmeal to dessert status. All it takes is a few slices of banana, and in this case some sliced strawberries as well, a spoonful of white sugar (I use organic sugar made from evaporated cane juice, don’t use brown sugar here as it will burn into black clumps) sprinkled over the fruit, and a propane torch for some heat.

One thing I’ve learned is to pass up the expensive mini torches you find in gourmet specialty shops and head to your local home center to pick up an industrial torch. An adjustable nozzle with a built-in lighter and a can of propane should only set you back 10-15 dollars, compared to the 30-40 you’ll shell out for the gourmet ones. The bigger flame you get with the Home Depot special will also allow you to evenly caramelize the sugar much faster, and more economically.

Pass the flame of the torch slowly over the sugared fruit, keeping the tip of the burner about 3-4 inches away. You will start to see the sugar bubble and then turn a golden brown. Keep the flame moving evenly to get a nice brûlée crust. Voilà, dessert — I mean breakfast is ready!

strawberry banana oatmeal brûlée

This works great with just bananas, though strawberries add a nice burst of color and flavor.

  • 1 portion of steel cut oats, prepared according to package directions
  • 3-4 fresh strawberries, sliced
  • 1/2 banana, sliced
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of sugar

Add oatmeal to a heat proof bowl. Add sliced banana and strawberries cut side up, to expose flat surfaces. Sprinkle evenly with sugar. Light torch and heat sugar till golden brown, making sure to pass torch slowly back and forth over fruit (be careful not to overheat the edges of the bowl or bowl may crack, and watch out, bowl will be hot afterwards!)

korean bánh mì q

Sep 7, 2009

summer picnics, flicks, and Korean BBQ meets Viet sandwiches

Summer. In my opinion, nothing defines the hottest and most leisurely season of the year better than a celebration of good food and friends outdoors in the warm, hazy glow of the late summer sun. In the past few years, concerts at the Hollywood Bowl were by far the favorite place to be. Picnicking in your seats with an elaborate spread, a few bottles of wine, and great live music as a backdrop. It didn’t get better than this.

When my friend Scott suggested we attend Cinespia, it was a no brainer. An outdoor screening of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, picnicking al fresco under the stars with few thousand other similar-minded fun seekers? Sign me up! For those that don’t know (me included, until just a few months ago), Cinespia is a series of summer movie screenings at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Sounds morbid and disrespectful, I know, but it actually takes place on an open (and unoccupied, if you know what I mean) lawn. You get to bring your blankets and chairs, grub on food and drink till the summer sky concedes to night, at which time a selected cult classic is projected for the next couple of hours. It’s not as creepy as it sounds, trust me.

red leaf lettuce; beef; baguette; sesame and chili mayo

red leaf lettuce and scallions; galbi sahl; baguettes; sesame and chili mayo

So in planning of what food to bring, my mind appropriately turned to BBQ. Not BBQ in the traditional southern sense, mind you, but something more befitting of the cultural melting pot we live in. How could we enjoy another one of summer’s favorite past times, but in a way more suitable and convenient for picnicking? Then it dawned on me. How about Korean BBQ, served in a baguette not unlike the Vietnamese Bánh Mì sandwich? Hmm, I thought. So with the help of my resident Korean food expert (and sweetheart), we headed off to Garden Grove (the mecca for Korean and Vietnamese food & foodstuffs in Orange County) to do a little shopping. The trip to the Korean market yielded dwehji sahmgyupsahl boolgogi (marinated spicy pork belly) and galbi sahl (unmarinated boneless short rib) from the meat department, mooh ssahm (vinegared, wasabi-flavored daikon wrappers), kong namul (bean sprouts), red leaf lettuce, and of course, kimchi (spicy pickled cabbage). A popular Vietnamese bakery provided warm-from-the-oven, freshly-baked baguettes.

spicy pork, bean sprouts, pickled daikon

dwehji sahmgyupsahl boolgogi, bean sprouts, pickled daikon, kimchi

Bora did all the heavy lifting, quickly prepping all the necessary ingredients (and also whipping up a tasty sesame mayo and chili mayo), while I fired up the barbie to grill the pork and beef. I toasted the baguettes in a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes (the baguettes are commonly underbaked to be crisped up at home) and presliced them for easy assembly later. Everything was then packed for a fun-filled evening.

Cinespia turned out to be a blast. There’s definitely something to be said about picnicking en masse; the shared feeling of joy, relaxation, and being carefree — savoring the last few days of summer. The movie perfectly mirrored that sentiment. It was agreed that this may become an annual affair, a new summer tradition? It was in ways more comfortable than the confined seats at the Bowl, with more room to spread out. Though the view of the screen can be a crap shoot, depending on who ends up sitting in front of you (and how tall they are). A different experience nonetheless. And yes, the Korean BBQ Bánh Mì sandwiches turned out awesome. The grilled meats were deliciously Korean, further supported by the familiar tastes of the kimchi, pickled daikon, red leaf lettuce, and bean sprouts. The mayos were a nice touch, a nod to the Vietnamese Bánh Mì but tailored to the Korean ingredients. The chili spiked mayo matched the grilled meats well, but my favorite was the nutty, toasted sesame version. The crisp, buttery baguette, the pride of the Vietnamese, perfectly enveloped all the fillings, and served as the ideal delivery vehicle.

In the end, it was a very enjoyable summer evening, filled with great friends, good food and a classic film that kept everyone cheering and laughing. I think Cinespia and Korean BBQ Bánh Mì have become a new summer favorite. Can’t wait till next year!