Friday, February 26, 2010

Cioppino (seafood stew)... kind of

So I had been craving lots of seafood for the past... well, long time. I love seafood. Especially shrimp. And clams. And crabs. And scallops. And, oh yeah, shrimp. Shrimp is tasty. Okay, yes, I think you get the fact that I love seafood. Anyhow, because I love seafood and because seafood is so much more (relatively) expensive compared to other things (read: chicken salad or giant burrito), I've laid off the seafood thing for a while. I kept on coming up with excuses like it's too expensive, I don't really know how to pick out fresh seafood from a market, I don't trust most frozen seafood, especially shellfish, it's really expensive, I don't know how to handle/cook it properly, I've never really had that dish before so I wouldn't know how to make it... oh yeah, "I'm too tired to cook anything fancy" was a commonly-used one as well ...but then I ran across a cooking blog where the writer said that that Trader Joe's frozen shrimp collection wasn't half bad. So, after weeks of procrastinating and excuse-making, I finally decided last weekend that I was going to make a cioppino-esque dish.

Oh! Random, but I love the colors of bright green fresh parsley against the deep red of fresh tomatoes.

Cioppino is a dish that originated from the Italian fishermen in San Francisco that would make a tomato-based stew with all the left-over seafood from the day's catch usually featuring crabs, clams, squid, mussels, shrimps, scallops, and fish in a tomato-wine sauce. While visiting Monterey Bay about two years ago, we stopped by an amazing seafood restaurant (I must remember which restaurant that is some day...), and as great as my dish was, I couldn't stop looking over to the table next to ours... some guy had this amazing-looking seafood stew with pasta. Apparently it was cioppino. So I've been obsessed with cioppino ever since.

I made a very lazy-person's and poor(ish)-man's cioppino. I used frozen seafood and canned clams. It wasn't bad, but maybe when I make it for company, I can use some fresh seafood. :) It was a very tasty soup. Unfortunately, as I predicted, it was a bit salty due to the ingredients that I had in my cupboard. Anyhow, like many soups and stews, these measurements are all approximate and have a lot of give and take, depending on how heavily tomato-based you want your soup, how hearty you want your stew, and what types of seafood you want in your stew. Click below for a recipe. :)

NED Awareness Week: Eating Disorders and "Culture"

**WARNING: This post contains images that may be considered not safe for work, or considered to be triggers suffering from or recovering from an eating disorder**

As the warning above suggests, I'm going to dive a little deeper into the cultural social issues regarding eating disorders. I am saying now that I do not condone supporting eating disorders nor do I believe that those with eating disorders should be judged and shunned. I write this entry with all seriousness (and with a little bit of apprehension). Some of you may be familiar with what I am going to write about, and some of you may recoil and react in a shocked, or even negative way. I'd say that I would love discussion, but it seemed that y'all are shy or scared of commenting anyway. Again, I speak only from personal experience and research, and not from a stance of professional authority. Here it goes.

What has been of interest to me (both analytically and personally) is the culture that has evolved around eating disorders. For those of you that don't know, there is a whole sub-culture (not sure if that's the right word...) of "Pro-Ana" ("Pro-Anorexia") individuals. Especially with the emergence of the internet, what began as a more or less underground webring of webpages and sites dedicated to the support of those living with eating disorders, has exploded with the creation of blogging and online communities such as and And no, I don't blame the internet and consider it a bad thing. It's a tool that people use, and like people, the way that it is used is two-faced as well. At the same time, websites and these online communities have also created a haven and a safe place for people to be more open about their own personal experiences and help others recovering from eating disorders.

Oh yes, and I apologize if this entry is a little clunky and not the most elegant read. Because of my own experiences and exposure to those suffering from eating disorders, this is a little hard to write about at times.

I remember back in the early part of the 2000s, there had been some discussion about Pro-Ana websites. One ridiculously hot and lazy afternoon after class, instead of studying for my AP US History class in high school, I decided to sprawl on the sofa in front of the TV and channel surf. If memory serves me correctly, there really isn't much on in the early afternoon except children's cartoons, soap operas, and TV talk shows like Dr. Phil and Oprah. So, while channel surfing, I stumbled across Oprah (yes, Oprah! Don't judge me. I swear it's the only Oprah episode I ever watched. And I hate the Oprah Book club, grrrr. I am ashamed of carrying around a book with a giant "O" sticker on it, augh. Actually, come to think of it, I'm not sure if it was Oprah. Or Dr. Phil. Or somebody else... but we'll just stick with Opera for now) talking to a young girl and how she had developed an eating disorder which had begun when her mother had started to diet. This then delved into a spiel about Pro-Ana websites.

Not only do these websites support fellow strangers suffering from eating disorders through encouraging words and phrases such as "Nothing tastes as good as hunger," and "I envy your hipbones," but through specific song lyrics, tips for starving yourself and hiding your eating disorder, and what seems to be a favorite, "Thinspiration." Thinspiration, or "Thinspo," are images that people post and share online of individuals who they deem to be "beautiful" or "perfect." What many people discuss is this desire to reach "perfection," or this ideal image that they have in their heads. Some, of not many, of those suffering from eating disorders are plagued with this desire to be the perfect person. More often than not, it's not about the food or even to be considered the "hottest person in the room," (though it's the latter as well at times) but it's about being that perfect person, in control of him/herself in all aspects of life. Anyhow, that's a digression.

I have put the rest of the entry behind a cut because there are images that people might be sensitive to.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

National Eating Disorders Week (Feb 21-27)

This coming week, February 21-27, is the National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. I figure this is probably a good place to talk about this. Eating disorders are a very touchy subject in a society that revolves around image. What has been interesting to me is to see what the sociological trend that has emerged and evolved surrounding eating disorders in the past ten years or so.

There has been so much focus around weight and image, ranging from Milan banning models with a BMI (Body Mass Index) lower than 18.5 to the obesity epidemic which has led to Japan's recent move to legally limit the waist size of their population. And here, in America, food is a large part of our culture, as it is with many, or even most, other cultures as well. At the same time, discussion of eating disorders tends to be so taboo (and in some cultures more than others), which is understandable because it is such a sensitive subject. Though, maybe if it were less taboo it's be less sensitive? ...Let's not digress into a philosophical sociological discussion about the chicken or the egg here.

I apologize in advance if this becomes a very technical post. I'm honestly not sure where I'm going with this. I will say now that I have had my own encounters with eating disorders, as I'm sure most of you have--whether its yourself, a friend, or a relative/sibling to some degree or another. I will say right now, though, that all of my information is through my own research and my own experiences/exposure to eating disorders. No two stories are ever exactly the same, of course. But let's just start with the technical... (Click jump for more information.)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Chocolate Truffles

So the other half of February 14th is, of course, Valentine's Day. For those of you who don't really know me, I'm kind of weird. So, on Valentine's Day, when the world is full of pink and everyone is covered head to toe with red and pink, I don my all-black attire and studded and spiked bracelets and chokers. I even top it off with (sometimes heavy) black eyeliner (and black lipstick if I'm feeling daring that year).

(Valentine's Day 3 years ago)

Something like that. Oh yeah. Still, this year, since Chinese New Years fell on the same day, I had to wear a little bit of red (you can see the necklace in the first picture in my previous post!) and I opted out on the heavy eye makeup. Anyhow, I'm sure you care about all the random trivia about me and my habits. So, of course, Valentine's Day means chocolate and sharing love. So, I decided to share my love via chocolate truffles... 4 different types of chocolate truffles!

Chocolate truffles aren't that hard to make ingredient and technique-wise... it just takes a little bit of time and messiness. They're so worth it, though. It's the same technique to make a chocolate ganache (or whipped ganache) for frosting a cake. :)

Of course, since it's mostly chocolate, the type of chocolate that you use is very important. If you use a dark, smooth chocolate, you will end up with a very smooth truffle. If you use some mediocre chocolate, you will end up with mediocre truffles. So I splurged a little for the people around me to make some darn good chocolate. Click below for recipe and ideas for truffle flavors!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Lunar New Year and Valentine's Day!

Xing nian kuai le! Gong xi fa cai. (i.e. Have a prosperous new year.) Oh yeah, and Valentine's Day. And President's Day! ...And happy Mardi Gras today. Goodness gracious it's a bunch of things to celebrate about recently!

Of course, that means there has been lots of baking/cooking and handing out of delicious goodies. There have been various dark chocolate truffles, Chinese almond cookies, and red bean nian gao (sticky rice cake)!

So February 14th was not only Valentine's Day, but it was also Chinese/Lunar New Years! It's now the year of the Tiger... it's my year! This meant only one thing: hot pot!

Photograph courtesy of Avi

What is 火鍋 (i.e. hot pot), you ask? Clearly, as you can see from the photograph, it is loads of fun. (And no, I wasn't the only girl there!) Click below to see more of what hot pot is and for Chinese Almond Cookies and Red Bean Nian Gao (stick rice cake)! :)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Garlic and Herb Focaccia (and an Egret)

Hey all. I can't believe it's already February. If you didn't know, this coming weekend is Chinese New Years, Valentine's Day, and President's Day! And then Tuesday is Mardi Gras. Craziness, ain't it? I can't believe it's February already.

Anyhow, this past week I also decided to come face-to-face with something I've been avoiding... breads that take overnight to proof (to do that whole... developing the flavors thing!). The only other one I've done was that ridiculously amazing but labor-intensive brioche loaf. Of course, there are less time and labor intensive focaccia recipes out there, but oh, how can I deny Peter Reinhart? His recipes and formulas and instructions have yet to fail me. Anyhow, this involved lots of waiting, over-night refrigeration, and making my own garlic and herb olive oil! But it was worth it... doesn't it look tasty?

Oh. Minor digression. While I walked to Trader Joe's to buy fresh basil (I forgot fresh basil! How could I forget the fresh basil?!?), I saw a gorgeous white egret that decides to show itself on our little bay every so often. All I had was my phone camera, so I took a picture with my phone for the time being (it's my new phone wallpaper!), annoyed that I didn't have my camera with me. On the way back from TJs, I saw it was still there! Awesomeness. Still, it was starting to get really cold, windy, and cloudy, so I decided to hide back in my apartment. However, discussing this with my friend, I decided that I might as well go outside and track this bird outside.

Click below to see more photos and to read about Peter Reinhart's focaccia!