Thursday, May 15, 2008

More Random Stuff

San Francisco is in the middle of a heat wave. It is oppressively hot and I hate it. However, when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade! Or, in this case, elderflower soda! An old math professor of mine swears by a gin & tonic with a splash of elderflower syrup and ever since he mentioned this, I've been looking for an excuse/reason to buy some elderflower syrup. Anyhow, elderflower syrup is a pretty common thing in Germany/Austria and one of the most common uses is as an ingredient in homemade soda. Just take soda water (or regular) and mix it with some syrup. My syrup recommends a 5:1 ratio of water:syrup. So what's it taste like? Hard to describe...honeyed peaches, apricots, something floral, maybe a little chamomile. All in all, it tastes VERY familiar even though I've never had it before. I've got a big old bottle in my refrigerator and a couple more ideas. Chocolate truffles, anyone?

The above rectangles are Chinese radish cakes. When I say cake, they're savory, not sweet. They're a pretty common item in dum sum joints and, to me, they're total comfort food. You buy them in thick blocks, cut them into individual serving sizes and cook them. I prefer to cut them thick so you get a nice crust which serves as a pleasing contrast to the creamy interior. Flavored with dried shrimp and, if you're lucky, a bit of Chinese sausage, I love these things.

To help beat the heat, I decided that dinner should be something cool, something which required minimal cooking. I decided on lettuce wraps but instead of doing them in my usual Vietnamese style, I was inspired by a lamb sausage. The local store has some lamb sausages flavored with Middle Eastern spices so that's where I started. I ended up with bulgur pilaf with minced jalapeno, red onion, cilantro, olives and a few capers. I made a dressing from fresh squeezed lemon and lime juice, olive oil, honey, cinnamon and ground coriander seed. Grilled lamb sausage on top. Just grab some lettuce, spoon in some pilaf and a piece of lamb. It turned out sensationally well...sweet and sour from the vinaigrette, spicy from the jalapeno, salty from the olives and capers...some nice char on the lamb sausage, I really couldn't ask for anything more.

edit: some sort of moisture-laden condiment would've been nice...maybe something yogurt based? something to consider for next time...

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