Category: Bread

Hickory Smoked Grape Focaccia with Rosemary

Hickory Smoked Grape Focaccia with Rosemary

Do you ever feel like you’re just waiting? Waiting for that ‘perfect’ something, or someone (in some cases)? I find myself saying, “I can’t wait until…” or “I’ll be happy when…” a lot. Often times, the larger of these statements are boggled by some kind of grandiose expectation that meeting a specific event, experience, or even person could be the cure-all to my problems, the pivotal moment in which life magically gets better.
Hickory Smoked Grape Focaccia with RosemaryFor the longest time, judge me not, my statement of choice was, “I can’t wait until/I’ll be happy when I’m 30.” Actually, to be quite honest, it still is. 30, to me, has always seemed like the perfect number or age for life to fall into its rightful place. That is, the age at which I’ve presumed I’d have a stable and satisfying career, marriage (perhaps), savings account, and so on, and so forth. Essentially, the age at which I’d have it all together…or, so I’d like to think.

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Strawberry-Chipotle Turkey Sandwich with Spinach

I hate to break it to you, guys, but I get rather idle come summer time. Granted, the weather has been much less than perfect lately, but nevertheless, it is still summer and I live in Hawaii (yup, there I go again, rubbing it in). And it’s sunny out (for the most part), it’s too hot inside without AC, and I sure as hell don’t feel like turning on the stove. Seriously. Unless, it’s to toast up these babies. Because these babies are, simply-put, amazing.
I truly kid you not. These glorified simple sandwiches are the perfect balance between sweet and savory, light and decadent. It’s the easiest (but more importantly, tastiest) on-the-go sandwich to avoid being cooped up in a hot kitchen on a sunny summer day.
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Summer Fruit Bruschetta & Homemade Ricotta

Most of the time, I enjoy baking and cooking alone. This can typically be attributed to two things. The first being that, well, I’m Haein and I am the clumsiest girl I know. In other words, I like sparing myself the shame, so please continue to keep me on that culinary pedestal as I continue to make a mess masterpiece in my kitchen. The second being that having the kitchen all to my lonesome gives me a deep sense of serenity and control – and who doesn’t want complete and total control?! Oh, right, and peace.
But, every once in a while, I have the unexpected pleasure of friends willing to help or learn or just eat in my kitchen (as opposed to my dining room, I guess). My most recent catering event was one such instance of true camaraderie.

One of my best friends was here this past week from California and she’s just left, leaving me feeling bereft. She spent one of her first weekends home helping me prepare for the biggest baking extravaganza of my still-developing life. Not just her, but also several more of the most kindhearted and compassionate friends I have. They volunteered their time and energy to help create a success beyond my imagination. Success for me, of course, being all-inclusive of my ability to occasionally stuff their mouths with so-called mistakes or “extras” (though there really weren’t any) in addition to shoving extra jars of homemade strawberry jam or fresh ricotta cheese into their arms.

But enough about that.
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Biggest Project Yet: “Strawberry Spree”

Guys, I did it. It’s finally over. Mother’s Day 2012 at Shokudo Japanese Restaurant & Bar was a huge (and not to mention, all-consuming, body-exhausting, & mind-blowing) success! A widespread brunch/lunch buffet of Japanese fare was followed by “Strawberry Spree” Sweets buffet (by yours truly), where 460-something voracious, yet surprisingly pleasant, guests devoured 1800-something servings of 12 different types of strawberry-themed desserts within a span of 5 hours and 3 full-seating turnovers. Let’s not forget that this was, believe it or not, after these bottomless bellies were stuffed with mountains upon mountains of sushi, tempura, udon, salad, chicken, king crab, and God knows what else. All I really want to know is, who are these thoroughly inhuman people with such exigent appetites and where on earth did they come from? Because I have this ever-growing hunch that I must be related to them. After all, there is a most uncanny resemblance between my belly and theirs.Stomach resemblance aside, there may have been little else alike between these wonderful guests and I. Though the picture doesn’t show it (thank God), I slept for a very true-to-saying, painstakingly short-and-sweet 45 minutes. The grueling fun-filled hours leading up to that nap and the even more agonizing joyous hours that followed were wholeheartedly dedicated to baking and assembling a mass amount of the greatest (and most practical) homemade desserts I could muster up and create from scratch. Exhausted as I may have been, and trust me when I say exhausted is a euphemism for the physical state I was in at the time, this project was my absolute pride and joy from unshaped, prenatal beginning to expectant, postnatal forthcoming. It was Mother’s Day, for crying out loud, and this project was my beautifully overweight newborn. Continue reading

Homemade Pizza

Remember the last time you were on a deadline and desperately pressed for time or just way too exhausted from work or life to even remotely consider mustering up the energy to look through the fridge (except to retrieve that last ice-cold beer you saved for yourself behind the carton of milk – oops! sorrry, honey!), let alone make dinner? Remember the last time you picked up your phone just to call your friendly neighborhood pizza place to rescue you rather than calling your significant other to let them know that dinner is ready to be served? I do. In fact, it seems as though it’s all I ever do lately.
I grew up loving pizza. I don’t know anyone who didn’t. It was, in my opinion, a luxurious reward for good behavior. In other words, it was a parent’s laziness or lack of time resulting in a most marvelous treat of a meal for us as kids, and even as adolescents. In most cases, it was the meal succeeding a busy day of fun to which everyone would gather around for a slice or two.

However, instead of having to call for an instant pizza, I can now proudly say that I can make my own – albeit, not quite as conveniently. Pizza is a most wonderful thing. Endlessly versatile, it’s hard for anyone not to love some variation of it. Now, pair that gourmet handmade pizza of yours with a bold glass of wine or better yet, a homemade sangria and this, my friends, is what being a mature adult is all about.
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Chicken Makhani & Garlic Naan

Life is a lot like running. In high school, I used to be my cross country team’s captain. At my school, the high school cross country team was open to middle school students and I remember running my very first 5km race in the cool Autumn breeze of the 8th grade. At the time, I was oblivious to the necessary training and immense mental strength primarily involved in finishing a race. I figured I was young, agile, and fit enough to instantly become one of the faster runners. Plus, I had my lucky pair of running shoes on. Sadly, I was terribly mistaken. I recall sprinting at the starting line to get a head start and consequently shifting between brisk walks, quick spurts, and sluggish jogs. When I finally reached the finish line, there weren’t many people there. I thought it was because I was one of the first to finish. In my exhausted state, I had been completely unaware of the people that had zoomed and zipped passed right in front of me. Finish time: 46 minutes. Wow, I thought, I must be fast. For all I knew, running was a cinch.
I was so wrong. To my later embarrassment and horror, I found out that I had been one of the stragglers – the slowpokes. But instead of getting discouraged and quitting, I continued going to practice 4 times a week and races every Saturday – even if it was only to get my face so red that it looked like a gleaming ripe tomato. Or, to get that adrenaline rush that made my legs numb at the sight of the awaiting crowd and finish line. Slowly, but surely, I improved. I became faster. I started running without needing to stop or take walking breaks. Over the next few years and after countless practices and very many races, I trimmed my 5km time down to a solid 23 minutes 34 seconds. I realized that running, like life, came down to persevering, putting mind over matter, and finding the right pace.Each year is like a race. Last year, I thought valiantly to myself, 2011 is going to be a great year. It’s going to be my year, my race. With a strong finish to the Fall semester of 2010 and an out-of-state, or off-island, vacation awaiting me at the finish line, I rushed into 2011 at a sprint. Needless to say, it wasn’t everything I’d predicted not to mention, everything I’d hoped for. My hasty beginning left me winded. It led me to struggle yet again between brisk walks, quick spurts, and sluggish jogs.  But it was, without a doubt in my mind, monumental. 2011 was a year of many; 2011 was when my blog started getting more recognition from those around me, I got promoted to a job that highlights my strengths and strengthens my weaknesses, I went through a heartwrenching break up that eventually unfolded into a rare, once-in-a-lifetime kind of friendship, I moved into a new apartment with 23… I mean, 4 fun-loving & amazing roommates, I ditched school religiously, I had my share of “drama,” I found love (which I’m admittedly still learning to accept) in what literally was a hopeless place, I quit my 3-year hostessing job at the same restaurant, I worked full-time in high-end, luxury retail, I moved again, I graduated with honors (miraculously), and then – for the first time in 4 years – I returned to Korea and was briefly reunited with my family. It was the race in which I stopped and stalled, time and time again. I even took a number of short-cuts and detours that only resulted in my delayed arrival at the finish line. I persevered, but crawled like a beginner, gasping and panting, to the end of 2011. Continue reading

Crème Brûlée French Toast

As August and summer inevitably draw to a sweltering hot end and my last semester in college resumes lethargically, I can’t help but wonder, ‘what’s for breakfast?’
It’s the timeless and unwaning question that immediately enters my mind upon waking and sits there until happily answered Monday through Friday (or whichever days I am – *eh hem* – required to be present and awake behind a desk in a less-than-comfortable classroom). In the past,  this question would sometimes be answered by melodious noises and heavenly aromas elicited by my mom in the kitchen. Other times, this question would be answered as early as the night before consequent to my excited and persistent chirping to have something to dream about and look forward to come morning. Breakfast is one meal I can have at any given hour of the day and if you couldn’t tell, it happens to be my favorite kind of fare. From veggie-stuffed omelets to pastries and bacon to Crème Brûlée French Toast, hey, what’s not to love?!
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Roasted Tomato Bruschetta

There’s something I find intoxicating about tomatoes in the summer. They’re supple, juicy, tender, vibrant, crisp, and everything a tomato should be. I’ve loved tomatoes for as long as I can remember. I adore them in sliced form, sweetly sandwiched between deli meats and cheeses, all bundled together within two layers of fresh bread. I rejoice in finding them within salads, nestled between the smooth and subtle ridges of iceberg lettuce. You’ll never see me resist from having a really hearty tomato soup or sauce. And you can bet that on a cool, but sunny summer day, a wonderfully roasted tomato bruschetta (with all its warm yet refreshing flavors) is something I pine for.
Especially when this summer day involves a whole lot of moving around! My previous roommate and I have decided once again that we belong under the same roof. In fact, we’ve also come to the conclusion that another coworker/friend was destined to live with us, too. So, amidst all the apartment-hunting, box-packing, and furniture-shopping, having a piece of crusty french bread topped with a savory tomato, basil, garlic, and parmesan bruschetta is the perfect breath of fresh air. Not to mention, so is the view from our gorgeous apartment. Pictures coming soon!
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Salt

I’m not a bad daughter. In fact, I fancy myself as quite the opposite. Despite the distance and years between us, my parents and family in Korea are constantly in my thoughts and everyday actions. I am, for lack of better way to put this, my father’s daughter. As a child, I cringed and pouted when people would tell me I either was or looked exactly like my dad. “I want to be like umma, not appa,” I’d repeatedly whine. With this, my younger sister followed in my footsteps and we’d compete to claim inheritance of mom’s svelte and gorgeous physical features. As we’ve grown older, however, we’ve come to realize that while my sister may look more like my dad than I do, she acts more like my mom. Me? I am exactly like my dad.
From our stubby toes and absent-mindedness to our love for foreign languages and moments of silence, we are one and alike. My dad similarly bestowed upon me an appreciation for food in all forms. At the young age of 4 or 5, I had my first taste of gourmet cheese. I will never forget my dad in the kitchen, gingerly cutting the wrapped lump of German Butter cheese (Butterkäse) into generous slivers and placing each over slices of apple with his stumpy, callused hands. The first bite is one I will always remember, soft and buttery flawlessly paired with crisp and subtly-sweet. This flavor was only to be sharply, beautifully contrasted with the various salumi, or cured meats, he then allowed me to try. In addition to the more simplistic joys I grew up eating (instant mac & cheese, spaghetti with meat sauce, or spam, eggs, kimchi, and rice), the more complex and matured flavors of cheese and meats also have the ability to take me back to my not-so-distant, treasured childhood. And though it is always an honor and pleasure cooking for you, appa, if you were here for this upcoming Father’s Day, I wouldn’t think twice about taking you to Salt Kitchen & Tasting Bar. For memories sake. Continue reading

A Timeless Mother’s Day

Each year as Mother’s Day dawns upon us, I find myself reverting back to a time when making toast and scrambled eggs for my mom was my life’s greatest accomplishment. This is, of course, not to say that I’ve had too many more, but I think we can both agree that I’ve cultivated my culinary skills a wee bit. Although my mom has always been impressed during her few opportunities to try my slightly more elaborate dishes, I think  we both know that it’s the simplest of dishes (like this one) that bring us the utmost joy and pleasure.
Especially since we haven’t been able to celebrate a Mother’s Day together in years, our fondest memories of Mother’s Day are those that involve an even mini-er me stealthily waking up and cooking some exceptionally magnificent version of toast and eggs, unnoticed. Then, of course, “surprising” mom with the whole self-aggrandizing breakfast-in-bed spiel. Thank goodness for modern technology so that she may enjoy this from Korea vicariously through my blog, as I am sure she is while preparing an even more sumptuous and extravagant meal for the rest of the family. She is quite the extraordinary cook, you know. And despite her modest ways, we all know there’s no competition when it comes to cooking between a daughter and her mom.
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