Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Italian Chocolate-Chestnut torte

DSC_2286I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We had a nice one too. Just that it’s too short considering that preparing the feast takes all day. Thinking about a year when my daughter and her family were here. My grandson was only 4 months old and fit snuggly in his car seat, without doubt he was the most handsome boy in the world. And he still is beautiful with brilliant blue eyes, blonde hair plus killer dimples. Equally beautiful with our free spirited granddaughter we had a great time. This year was just the three of us. I suggested that we should go to a fancy restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner but I got thumbs down from my guys. They want relaxed, football games, left-overs and 3rd helping of pumpkin pie at home.

For this year, we had the usual pumpkin pie and this chocolate chestnut torte. I never made it before. The recipe came from November 2000 Sunset magazine - no surprise, it was Thanksgiving theme, this is actually pastry chef/owner of Pasticceria Rulli in Larkspur, California’s recipe. This relatively simple to make torte needs special ingredients like a jar of chestnuts in syrup so you have to do some planning ahead. I happened to have one in the refrigerator that I had bought for my up-coming cake (Mont Blanc) which I didn't have time to make yet and I almost forgotten it’s existence. Ok sometimes my disorganization brings me some luck. I changed only a tiny part on this recipe. This dessert screams for Autumn and taste like a cousin one-removed from Mont Blanc.DSC_2244Chestnuts in syrup, roasted chestnuts and chestnut puree (just for show… See my last blog)

For crust-use a 9 inch cake pan with removable rim

  • 50 vanilla wafer cookies
  • 3  Tablespoon butter melted
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon of rum - I used rum flavoring but I think this is optional. Substitute milk or water.
  1. Put vanilla wafer cookies in a food processor or blender and whirl until finely ground.
  2. Add butter, honey, rum, vanilla and ground cinnamon.
  3. Combine using pulse button.
  4. Press evenly over bottom and 1 inch up the side of pan. Set it aside.DSC_2252

For cake

  • 2 ounce bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 cup whole-milk or part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 4 Tablespoons and 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar. 
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 1 Tablespoon rum (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chestnut flour or all-purpose flour*
  • 1/3 cup roughly chopped chestnuts in syrup, drained, or marrons glaces  More whole chestnuts for decoration if desired.
  1. In a large microwave-safe bowl, heat chocolate in a microwave oven on full power. until soft. stirring every 30 second about 2 minutes.
  2. Add mascarpone, ricotta, 4 tablespoons sugar, egg yolks, rum, flour and chopped chestnuts. Stir until well blended. DSC_2258DSC_2263
  3. Heat oven to 350 F.
  4. In an electric stand mixer, beat egg whites until foamy. Gradually add  2 tablespoons sugar and continue to beat whites until they hold stiff peaks.
  5. Gently fold whites into chocolate/cheese mixture then pour into prepared cookie crust and spread level.
  6. Bake until filling is firm when pan is gently shaken and springs back when lightly touched in the center about 30 minutes (20 minutes in a convection oven).DSC_2277
  7. Cool on a rack about 20 minutes. Run a knife between cake and pan rim: Remove rim. Let torte cool to room temperature.
  8. Decorate with whole chestnuts and powdered sugar. Serve with cream or ice cream.DSC_2309

* A bag of roasted chestnuts sell for 99 cent to $1.29 at the Asian market (See photo). You can chopped them up to use in the cake instead of jar of chestnuts in syrup. Grind them in coffee bean grinder to make light and fluffy, use this as chestnut flour. 

My son is working part time at Best Buy now. He left home a little after 11 PM on Thanksgiving day to do his 12 hour shift on Black Friday starting at midnight. People had already lined up since Wednesday for this spectacular madness I mean, deals to brave cold and rain. I wish I was still young and foolish like that too (not really) - our washer died. TV needs repair, dish washer is on its last leg and my Santa list of a new camera and so on ,,, but we will deal with that later with his employee discount. Hey, I feel lucky and blessed already. This bitter year for my son is nearing an end and he is on the mend.  We’re truly grateful for that and many other blessings.



Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Going nuts

Chestnut rice/栗ごはんDSC_2188

Peeling chestnuts skin is quite a task. I tried many methods but each is still time consuming and I am not at all amazed. Julia Child must echo my feeling about peeling of chestnuts. She wrote in her book ‘ Mastering the art of French Cooking’ Pg.518 (my only cook book that has no pictures):   DSC_2153    

“Chestnuts have an outside shell and bitter inside skin, both of which must be removed before the chestnuts can be used. Peeling off the inside skin is a chore whatever method you adopt”.

I am proud to say I have adopted her method (once). Her proper English threw me off once or twice but I was saved by my dictionary. It was complicated but ‘Satisfactory

,,,,,Set aside until later any recalcitrant chestnuts.

What is recalcitrant?  Where is my living dictionary (my husband)?

As newly weds, we moved to our first apartment in Oregon from Utah. My husband spotted some huge chestnut trees by the entrance. It seemed that no one cared for these treasures, well, people were careful not to step on the prickly thorns. We were too excited to fuss peeling them. We just boiled them whole, cut them in half  and scooped the insides out with a spoon to eat it. It was a good and lovely time.

Now deep in Autumn, I once again prepared chestnuts for the chestnut rice my husband and I love. Using a simpler method to remove skin which many Japanese are familiar with - I soaked chestnuts in warm water for 1 hour to soften the tough outer skin then using a sharp knife, I started peeling away the thin, clingy skin from each one by one. It took time and almost gave me carpel tunnel syndrome but to us chestnut rice is a symbol of fall and making it once a year is almost our family tradition.


Special equipment - rice cooker

  • Chestnuts 400g or about 20 chestnuts Sold in Asian markets or well stocked supermarkets by the pound. I found them in Winco supermarket for better price. 
  • Sugar 2-3 Tablespoon
  • Sweet rice (もち米)1 rice cooker measurement cup 
  • White rice 1 rice cooker measurement cup
  • Rice wine (酒) 1 Tablespoon
  • Mirin 1 Tablespoon-Seasoned cooking sake wine
  • Light soy sauce 1 Tablespoon
  • Salt 1 teaspoon
  • Kelp  Optional 1x3 sheet
  1. Soak chestnuts in warm water for 1 hour. Remove outer skin. Remove inner skin using sharp knife. Wash and pat dry with paper towel.DSC_2171DSC_2173
  2. Put all chestnuts in a Zip-Lock bag then add sugar and seal.  Rub the chestnuts with sugar, coating well. Store in freezer for 3 hours.This steps make chestnuts bright yellow.
  3. Wash both sweet and white rice. Drain the water and put rice in sieve for 1 hour to rest.DSC_2174
  4. Take chestnuts out form freezer and rinse to remove sugar.DSC_2180
  5. Put rice in a rice cooker. Add rice wine, mirin, light soy sauce and salt. Pour cold water to line 2 of inner tub.
  6. Add chestnuts on top of rice. Lay the kelp on top if you like.
  7. Cook rice on regular rice setting.
  8. When rice is done, remove kelp then incorporate rice and chestnuts gently.DSC_2194DSC_2240The rice probably needs salt. This natural sea salt was a gift from my son’s friend in Ishigaki, Okinawa. (Oops! cloth is back ward)

After all the chestnuts fiasco, what should I do for the main dish? I search for freezer and found shishamo (smelt) my daughter’s favorite fish. Baked in toaster oven. With steamed broccolini and miso soup. The dinner scene was so so looking. You never know I spent the better part of an afternoon in the kitchen to peel 20 chestnuts. Julia Child’s Puree De Marrons (Chestnuts Puree) requires 8 cups of peeled chestnuts. Holy macaroons!       Luckily, I know the the secret shortcut - Whole Foods! They have chestnut puree in a can!

My next blog I will be making chestnut-chocolate tart using store bought chestnuts. Yummy!

I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving!   DSC_2165Dear friends brought this Thanksgiving gift. I ate a few and my son took care of the rest.

DSC_2214The last rose is still standing.

DSC_2222Empty nester?

DSC_2229Natural leaf carpeting my front yard

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Glass is Half Full

Strawberry short cake in a glass


DSC_2058What’s up with the parsley?

Opened in 2006, the pastry shop, Cacahouete- Paris is located in my fav city Meguro district in Tokyo, Japan. The owner and  pastry Chef Jerome Quesnel is from France. He studied under the renowned chef Christophe Michalak at the first class Plaza Atene Hotel restaurant in Paris as a su chef and he has numerous awards and achievements. Impressive isn’t it?  He being only 32 years old, makes it even more remarkable. I love his innovative ideas and beautiful cake designs. The shop was hiring staff not too long ago but I‘m sure I’m not qualified for the job. At my age, I’m not eager to do dishes and besides, the commute is impossibly long.

I thought his truffle style dessert is simple and obtainable. I had to stopped by three markets in my search for strawberries though. I understood that strawberry season was over and my husband has high standard for strawberry as well as peaches so he will frown for sure if I make it using bland flavored strawberries. Oh whatever, I ‘m doing it for my blog not for you, I mean AND for you, my sweetheart, うふっ(ha,ha).DSC_2068

Ingredients for strawberry puree

  • Strawberries- About 40g for each glass cup You need more strawberries for assembly.
  1. Put washed, stemmed  and quartered strawberries in blender or small food processer.
  2. Puree until juice-like stage. DSC_1849
  3. Add sugar or honey if the taste is not sweet enough. Perhaps 1 or 2 teaspoon .
  4. Add a couple drops of red food coloring if you like- I did.
  5. Pour in glasses (I used 4 inch high and 4 inch diameter glasses) and freeze for about 40 minutes – shouldn’t be frozen solid.

Ingredients for cake - makes 1 sheet cake/ enough for 6 glasses.

  • 4 egg white
  • Sugar 125g
  • 4 egg yolk - scramble in small bowl
  • Cake flour 120g-sifted
  1. Heat oven to 360 F. 15x11 rimmed sheet pan line with parchment paper.
  2. Put all egg whites in a electric mixing bowl, mix for 30 second on medium speed.
  3. Start adding sugar in three parts. Each time make sure that sugar is dissolved. Adjust speed to high and back down to medium to make stiff meringue.
  4. Remove bowl from electric mixer stand. Add egg yolk.
  5. Using spatula, scrape up from bottom and with a cutting motion blend white and egg yolk.DSC_1853
  6. Sprinkle flour on the egg mixture. Fold in carefully so as not to disturb meringue too much
  7. Pour batter in  the prepared rimmed cooking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely.

Chantilly cream

  • Heavy cream 400g
  • Granulated sugar 30g
  1. Whip heavy cream  and sugar to very soft peaks.


Need sliced strawberries ( 2 for each glass), 4-5 Quartered strawberries mixed with honey(optional).2 different color straws.

  1. Take the cups with the puree out of the freezer. Cut out circles from the sheet cake the same size as the glasses and make small hole in the middle – donut shape. DSC_2045Put on top of partially frozen puree. DSC_2049
  2. Stick the strawberry upright in the side of glass. DSC_2052
  3. Insert straws through hole and pipe or spoon in the Chantilly cream.
  4. Decorate top with more strawberry and honey mix.DSC_2072

Drink juice thru straw first then use a spoon to eat the rest.

Off season strawberries go bad quickly. I used the rest of strawberries for strawberry croissant french toast. Mascarpone cheese mixed up with little bit of honey as spread, sliced strawberries then whole thing soaked in French toast egg mixture. Melt butter in heated skillet and toast it. It was great yet loaded with fat. I made a salad too so as to not feel terribly awful. DSC_2109DSC_2116DSC_2125

My husband brought in a hanging tomato plant from outside to try to protect it from the cold elements. It is still alive thanks to the heat lamp.He did same thing last year but it didn’t last long. Our granddaughter (then 4) ate the one turning color. Her voice echoed in the high ceiling garage. “It’s red! It’s red!”,,,,I see,,, you know color. Sigh.DSC_2031DSC_2033

This one is a Japanese tomato variety called ‘Odoriko’ direct translation is dancing girl. Small but intense red and flavorful.

Although Autumn is gorgeous around here, it makes me a little melancholic.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

San Francisco Treat

Finding gems in a lovely cityDSC_2026

Me and other 300 food bloggers are probably posting recapture of the FoodBuzz convention last weekend. It was way fun for me too and I have lots to talk about. I forgot that learning is exciting and interacting with other food lovers is delightful plus having good food is always a key ingredient to having a joyful experience. I called my husband 2nd day to announce that I love San Francisco and I would love to live here. He said without skipping a beat “Let’s move, go find a job for me”. Yeah right, I wish life is that easy.DSC_1878DSC_1880DSC_1886DSC_1892DSC_1922DSC_1981DSC_1983DSC_1962

I notice that there are not too many bloggers over 50. I could be a mother to any of them. Wait, my real daughter was with me. She guided me through a sea of food bloggers and whispered in my ear their names or blog names. I am so impressed with her incredible memory. I was very excited to see Marc of norecipe.com. I don’t want to brag but he left a kind comment on my very first blog post 11 months ago. And Ben of youfedababychilli? He is ‘Is this guy for real?” kind of super nice, gentle and very tall fellow. Angie of rice & wheat is so sweet and I liked her the instant I met her. Marla of Family fresh cooking.com has a hilarious personality, I laughed so hard just listening to her talk. Julie of Willow Bird Baking sat with us at the first dinner table and at the farewell breakfast, she was so fun and cute. Sabrina from the tomato tart had a great class, I just love her wit. A young lady from Houston, Ann Liu of Running with chopstix is lovely. I wish she was my 2nd daughter. Then there is Jen from Tiny urban kitchen at Boston- the 2010 project food blog winner. She is really charming and generous, she donated her winning sum of 10,000 dollars to a homeless shelter!

Note; Photos are not very good so I made them small.
My daughter-The Little Foodie

Sabrina, Julie and me

My daughter, her friend from college who lives in San Francisco, Ben, Stella Parks of bravetart.com and I went to an ice cream crawl. We had tasty ice cream at three creameries and my favorite is black sesame ice cream. Stella speaks fluent Japanese and her blog is gorgeous. I’m so glad to get to know her
. DSC_1974DSC_1975
Stella and Ben


With Ben and Angie’s recommendation, my daughter and I dined at Cotogna and Zuni Cafe. Both are excellent. I think because I was wearing black and white outfit, a French gentleman mistook for me a waitress at Zuni. He apologized in French and the only word that I could come up was merci, どこが? DSC_1992
Rabbit dish at Zuni cafe DSC_2009
Gateau Victoire  with whipped cream (Translation; flourless chocolate cake)DSC_2010
Zeppole napoletane with Meyer lemon and lime curd (Translation; donuts )

While walking market street we discovered Minamoto Kitchoan ( 源吉兆庵)the authentic Japanese pastry shop. We were still full of Tasting Pavilion yet we bought a few pretty sweets. DSC_2018

I met so many other nice bloggers. Some of the bloggers are lawyers, doctors, scientists, etc. It reminded me of a book I read in Japan called ’Smart women cook well’. I would nod in agreement. although there are always some exception.

Thank you FoodBuzz staff for your hard work. I’m grateful for the incredible opportunity.
Thank you Beth. You’re awesome!