Category Archives: Great Finds

Chef Sheldon Simeon’s Hack For Homemade Chow Fun Noodles With A Microwave

A soul-satisfying plate of chow fun — with fresh, chewy noodles made in the microwave.

Maui’s Chef Sheldon Simeon is many things:

The owner of the lovable, guava-sized Tin Roof Hawaiian eatery. A devoted husband and dad. A “Top Chef” finalist and two-time “Fan Favorite.” And what I like to call, the MacGyver of chefs.

There was the time when I dined at one of his previous restaurants, when he talked about how he and a line cook came up with a way to cook perfect pork belly — in Hot Pockets sleeves, of all things.

Then, there was the time when a table of chefs fell silent and began madly typing notes into their phone, when Simeon let slip that he makes his own chow fun noodles and generously began sharing the recipe just like that.

So when I spied that chow fun recipe in his debut cookbook, “Cook Real Hawai’i” (Clarkson Potter), I knew I had to make it. The book was written with Garret Snyder, a former Los Angeles Times food writer.

Through 100 recipes, Simeon gives you a taste of today’s Hawaii, mixing tradition with fun spins that amplify the unique cross-cultural blend of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Filipino and native Hawaiian flavors that makes this cuisine so mouthwatering. Along the way, you get to know him, too, from how his grandpa left the Philippines at age 18 to work on a sugar plantation in Hawaii to how Simeon slyly fed the tired and hungry camera crew of “Top Chef” with his Spam musubi.

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SugarRoti — An Explosion of Flavor In Every Packet

A tuna sandwich to end all tuna sandwiches -- thanks to SugarRoti's Fish Nu Spice blend.
A tuna sandwich to end all tuna sandwiches — thanks to SugarRoti’s Fish Nu Spice blend.

I just ate one of the most delicious tuna sandwiches I’ve ever had — all thanks to Oakland’s SugarRoti.

This new, women-owned company that opened during the pandemic makes 15 different, single-use Indian spice blend packets of mostly organic ingredients.

The $8.99 packets are an especially convenient alternative to buying a host of separate spices that end up as half-filled jars gathering dust in your pantry.

The company was co-founded by Bina Motiram and Dana DuFrane, who met in the corporate world before deciding to join DuFrane’s passion for design with Motiram’s for cooking.

The spice blends, sold in compostable packets, are each designed to work with a specific ingredient, such as beef, chicken or eggs. But that doesn’t mean you can’t mix and match, according to your own whims. For guidance, each packet comes with a simple recipe on the back. More recipes can be found on the SugarRoti web site.

The spice blends come in one-use packets.
The spice blends come in one-use packets.

Just note that the spice blends need to be toasted or heated to fully bring out their flavors and aromas. They are not necessarily designed to be used as rubs on meats because many of the blends contain whole spices.

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What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 9

These non-alcoholic grape juices drink like fine wines -- without the buzz. Featured in the glass is the new Castello di Amorosa Gewurtztraminer Grape Juice.
These non-alcoholic grape juices drink like fine wines — without the buzz. Featured in the glass is the new Castello di Amorosa Gewurtztraminer Grape Juice.

Castello di Amorosa Non-Alcoholic Grape Juices

Maybe it’s because so many of us took to imbibing more during our cloistered time at home in the pandemic, but now in the aftermath, there’s been a definite uptick in the thirst for non-alcoholic alternatives.

Which makes Castello di Amorosa’s debut of three new non-alcoholic grape juices all the more timely and on trend now.

The winery may be better known for its wines, as well as its dramatic winery that’s modeled after a 13th century Tuscan castle. But these grape juices will surely add even more luster. That’s how good they are, as I found when I was sent samples recently to try.

Aside from their screw caps, these are nothing like the grape juices found on the shelves of your local supermarket. They come in three varieties: Muscat Canelli Grape Juice, Sparkling Grape Juice Red Blend, and Gewurztraminer Grape Juice. They are packaged in 750ml bottles and are made from the same fine varietals, meaning they each taste markedly different from one another and are not just saccharine-sweet, but boast the sophistication and complexity of actual premium wines. To be sure, these grape juices are definitely as sweet as soda or even dessert wines, so they’re made for sipping, not gulping.

The grape juices are made much like the wines, with the grapes hand-harvested, then pressed, with the resulting juice chilled to 32 degrees. The only difference is that no yeast is added to convert the grape sugars to alcohol.

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Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 27

Veal and oyster mushroom paella from PintxoPote, which I finished cooking at home in less than 20 minutes.
Veal and oyster mushroom paella from PintxoPote, which I finished cooking at home in less than 20 minutes.

PintxoPote, Los Gatos

Los Gatos’ PintxoPote is a sliver of a restaurant that has managed to survive this incredibly challenging year, despite not having the ability to provide either outdoor or indoor seating.

Instead, the Spanish-Basque restaurant has persevered, largely through the support of a loyal clientele that orders takeout, along with the fact that Chef-Owner Hector Figueroa and his wife Angie Lipsett have operated the restaurant all on their own without any staff, and without taking any salaries.

If you haven’t yet discovered this charming Spanish restaurant, it’s high time that you did.

Right now, the restaurant is open only on Fridays and Saturdays. The takeout menu for the week usually posts on Thursdays.

A saute of fava beans, asparagus and peas that comes with the paella.
A saute of fava beans, asparagus and peas that comes with the paella.

Figueroa, whose grandparents hailed from Spain, is a former tech engineer. When you pick up your order at the doorway, you can spot him in the kitchen, as Lipsett hands you your food.

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A New Favorite: Chicken with Caramelized Onions and Croutons

A "no-recipe'' recipe of crispy-skin chicken on a bed of caramelized onions and shallots, with arugula and home-made croutons.
A “no-recipe” recipe of crispy-skin chicken on a bed of caramelized onions and shallots, with arugula and home-made croutons.

If you were to spy a recipe that offered merely a list of ingredients — without any precise measurements for the most part — along with no specified number of servings, and only one paragraph of instructions, would you:

A. Be petrified.

B. Rejoice in its invitation to let loose and improvise.

C. Consider it a gimmick.

Now, imagine an entire cookbook like that, and you have “The New York Times Cooking No-Recipe Recipes” (Ten Speed Press). It’s by Sam Sifton, the founding editor of New York Times Cooking.

As a cookbook writer, myself, who’s always had it drilled into her to be as specific as possible when writing or editing recipes, this cookbook initially gave me pause. With its tack that less is actually more when it comes to recipe verbiage, I wondered: Would novice cooks would find this style off-putting and too intimidating? And would experienced cooks give the book a pass, assuming the recipes must be far too easy or mundane to accommodate such a truncated style?

It pays to approach this book with an open mind. Whether you’re just learning to cook or already a decent home-cook, you’re sure to find new, inspired ways — as streamlined as they might be — to get dinner on the table. What this book does is encourage you to trust your instincts more, to be less rigid in the way you cook, and to be more imaginative in scouring your pantry for substitute ingredients when need be. And in a pandemic year, which has seen grocery shelves decimated at times, that’s an invaluable skill to possess.

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