Sunday, November 20, 2011

Restaurant Ramblings: Hapa Grill (Beaverton, Oregon)

Once in a while, I get the craving for island food (from Hawaii).  Most times I don't want to travel too far to get a taste of it.  Hapa Grill is located in a strip mall in the Murray Hill area of Beaverton, and luckily it's in the area I live in.  They have a nice mix of the flavors of Hawaii on their menu, from Japanese, Hawaiian, Korean, to Chinese. 

On this particular day, I was so undecided.  I wanted one of everything.  I finally settled on Korean food with bulgogi with brown rice.  I love how the lady made little musubi with the brown rice.  With you lunch, you get to choose 2 sides.  I went with the kim chi and yakisoba noodles.  The yakisoba noodles weren't that good.  Next time I'll pass.  I really enjoyed the rest of the lunch though.

Hapa Grill
14625 SW Teal Blvd
Beaverton, Oregon 97007
ph: (503) 590-7800

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Fall In Sicily Cooking Class

This week I took a Sicilian cooking class.  It was so much fun!  The class was called "Fall in Sicily".  It was a hands on cooking class, meaning that we did all the recipes on our own (or rather working in pairs and/or groups).  I was having so much fun getting my hands dirty that I forgot to snap pics.

Here's the menu:

- Roasted Tomato Bruschetta on Toasted Focaccia Bread
- Fennel and Orange Salad (mustard seeds, red onions, fresh oregano, frisee and radicchio)
- Pan Seared Swordfish (with a roasted tomato sauce, capers and lemon)
- Handmade Pappardelle (with a roasted red pepper, roasted eggplant, herb and olive sauce)
- Sicilian Potato Gratin (anchovies, fresh herbs, mozzarella and parmesan cheese)
- Handmade Cannoli (with assorted fillings)

We were served the Roasted Tomato Bruschetta on arrival with champagne.  It was a delicious snack before we got working.  We split up into groups and divided out the menu.  I was in a group that worked on making the handmade pappardelle (FUN!) and the roasted eggplant sauce for the pasta.  I also helped make the Sicilian Potato Gratin.  We were also encouraged to wander and see what the others were doing.  It was a fun and hugely successful evening.

At the end, we were seated and served dinner in courses with wine.  Delicious!  We started with the Fennel and Orange Salad.  I'll admit, I didn't think I was going to remotely enjoy this salad.  I don't like black licorice and have never had fennel because I've been told it tastes like licorice.  Not true at all!   The fennel was shaved very very thin (on a mandolin) and was delicious!  I'm shocked!  Of course, I picked out all the red onions but I really enjoyed this salad.  The toasted mustard seeds added a nice touch and the orange sherry vinaigrette tied all the ingredients together nicely.

Next came the Handmade Pappardelle Pasta with the roasted eggplant sauce.  The sauce was garlicky but delicious!  I loved the roasted eggplant and red peppers in the sauce.  I've never made handmade pasta before but have always wanted to try.  I think I've been too intimidated to give it a whirl.  Making the pasta with a group of people made it fun and enjoyable.  It was a lot of work but the texture of the noodles was worth it!  Delicious!!  I am sooo buying myself a pasta maker.

The next course was the Pan Seared Swordfish with a Roasted Tomato Sauce that was bedded on the Sicilian Potato Gratin that I helped make.  For me, this was one of my favorite courses.  The fish was cooked perfectly and the roasted tomato sauce was delicious!!  I wasn't sure I'd be that excited about the potato gratin.  It had anchovies in it.  But it was a creamy, salty wonder!  The anchovies added a nice saltiness without an overpowering fishiness.  It was a show stopper!  I was getting full so I didn't finish all of this course.  I was saving room for dessert!

Cannoli....delicious cannoli!  I watched a few people make the cannoli shells.  They handmade dough and rolled it out.  They cut it into circles and rolled them around cannoli tubes then deep fried them.  Fun!!  We were served 3 cannoli with a different filling in each (chocolate, orange and a honey spiced filling).  They were all spectacular but my favorite was the chocolate!!

After dinner I was stuffed!  I had a great time!  The class was wonderful and we had a fabulous group!  The exciting part was that we were given all the recipes to take home!!  I'll have to try to recreate these flavors soon!


Saturday, November 12, 2011

What's Cookin?: Creamy Hummus

My absolute favorite store-bought hummus is Trader Joe's Mediterranean Hummus.  It's extra creamy, tangy and has olive oil, pine nuts and dried parsley floated on top of the hummus.  If you haven't tried it, you should!!  I've turned a few friends onto this brand and they (and I) never buy anything else!  It really is that good!!

I've tried a few hummus recipes to recreate this taste at home but haven't been very successful.  Most recipes fall flat.  Although this recipe is pretty close (and pretty dang tasty!), it's just not quite there.  If you can figure out what it's missing, I'm all ears!  I like my hummus garlicky and tangy.  If you're unsure, try using only 2 cloves of garlic and the juice of 2 lemons to start.  You can always adjusts flavors later.  If you add more garlic (after throwing in all the other ingredients), you'll have to hand mince them finely before adding them to the blender.

Some tips I've picked up to make the hummus fluffy and creamy is to use a blender.  People have noted that they don't get quite the same results with a food processor.  The other thing is to mix your ingredients first, then add the garbanzo beans to make the dip creamy.

I've always used canned garbanzo beans for my hummus (just because I never plan ahead to make it).  I always have a craving for it at a moments notice.  A Lebanese friend of mine says her mom swears hummus (or any other garbanzo recipe) tastes a hundred times better if you start with dried beans.  Soak them overnight first.  Next time I'll try dried gabanzo beans!

I usually serve hummus with flatbread or pitas, pita chips, or with sliced vegetables.  I also love it as a spread in turkey sandwiches.  Be creative!

Creamy Hummus
Yield: 4 cups

3 cloves garlic
6 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp. tahini
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2-3 lemons juiced
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
2 cans (3 cups) garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
1/2 c. hot water
zest of 1 large lemon

1) Place the garlic cloves in a blender and pulse a few times to chop.  Add the extra virgin olive oil, tahini, salt, lemon juice and cumin to the blender and blend for 3-4 minutes or until it makes a smooth paste.

2) Add the garbanzo beans a little at a time (about 1/2 c. at a time).  Run blender and add some of the hot water as needed to thin out the mixture.  Continue to blend about 1/2 c. of garbanzo beans at a time until you are done.  I found the 1/2 c. hot water was perfect but you may need more.  You may also need to stop the blender to mix the hummus up.  **Note: The hummus may seem on the thin (runny) side.  It will stiffen up a lot in the refrigerator.**  

3) Taste your hummus and adjust seasonings as needed.  I found I needed a pinch more salt and the juice of about 2 1/2 large lemons.

4) Pour the hummus into a container and chill for a few hours or overnight to allow the flavors to mix.  Before serving, drizzle with your favorites.  Trader Joe's hummus is drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, dried parsley flakes, pine nuts and dehydrated red bell peppers.  Other options are crushed red pepper flakes, fresh parsley or a dusting of smoked paprika.  YUM!!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Frommer's Top Destinations for 2012

Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia from

Frommer's has come out with their Top Travel Destinations for 2012.  Those mentioned this year are:
- Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia
- Beirut, Lebanon
- Chongqing, China
- Curacao
- Fukuoka, Japan
- Ghana
- Girona, Spain
- Greenwich, London, England
- Kansas City, Missouri
- Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

This year, sites were also chosen for specific reasons:
- Top Adventure Destination: Moab, Utah
- Top Beach Destination: Hanalei Beach, Kauai, Hawaii
- Top City Break Destination: Chicago, Illinois
- Top Cruise Destination: Tromso, Norway
- Top Endangered Destination: Aysen Region, Chile
- Top Family Destination: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina & Tennessee
- Top Food & Drink Destination: Lima, Peru
- Top Destination to Get Lost: Whitsunday Islands, Australia
- Top Value Destination: Albanian Riviera, Albania
- Reader's Favorite: Turkey

I love reading Frommer's list each year.  It inspires me to add more cities and countries to my bucket list.  This year I was excited to see some of my own bucket list top destinations on their list.  Some of my "to-do's" are Turkey, China, Lebanon, Spain, Chile, Peru and Australia.  It was very nice to see some places that I've already been on the list also (Japan, London, Yucatan Peninsula).

I was also extra excited to see Kauai voted as the top beach destination.  Although I would have voted for another Kauai beach, it's just exciting to see our little island make the list!  Hooray!

My bucket list is really long but I'm chipping away at it, one vacation and one country at a time.  What about you?  What's on your bucket list for places to see and visit??