Day in Lincoln Park Tuesday, Aug 30 2011 

I spent the day off walking around Downtown Lincoln Park. I love the ambiance and atmosphere there… vintage buildings, unique stores, amazing architecture, delicious restaurants, and people who genuinely are happy being where they are at the present moment. I took the time to photograph my all time new favorite store, Rugby, which houses Ralph Lauren’s upscale, preppy collection of plush cashmere sweaters and striking blazers that are devastating to the wallet.There’s a bunch of outrageously priced “thrift store”, “resale shop” “consignment shops” around that area, but they lack true soul simply because they are bare in merchandise. In my opinion, the best thrift stores and vintage finds are in the suburbs, randomly encountered, or down Belmont and Sheffield in Chicago.

Our next stop was a place called Barker & Meowsky: A Paw Firm (for all of you pet lovers out there!). Chumchum ended up getting a bag of treats and a sweet toy made out of wood and linen for only $3.00. I love that an old, brown dog greets you at the door and the staff is so welcoming. They even gave me some samples of a cat treat (shredded salmon, ooh la la) since Chum is so picky.

We ended up eating at a restaurant called Shine, and I took photos of Shrimp Rolls;  Hot Pot Stir Fry, which is Japanese eggplant, bamboo shoots, bell peppers, lemongrass, peas and tomato in an aromatic panang curry; Shine Maki, which is crispy shrimp and cucumber wrapped in baby tuna, topped with ginger dressing; and Toro Maki, with fatty tuna, avocado, cilantro, scallion, shitake, and tempura crunch with spicy sauce.

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Old Family Photojournal Tuesday, Aug 23 2011 

My mother recently received a CD in the mail from my aunt, who had traveled to Pakistan for lesiure. There, she had encountered a bag full of photo negatives given to her by a distant relative. The negatives: forgotten, discarded, and triggered by her mere presence more than 40 years later.

My mother’s family is from Delhi, India. They moved to Quetta, Pakistan after turmoil between India and Pakistan. My mother is one of 12 siblings. She is the fourth youngest, the latter five of them being very close in age, referred to as the “Panja”, or “Palm.”  Born after a span of many years, my mother’s older siblings look as if they are her parents. I was shocked to see how beautiful and youthful my grandmother was, despite bearing 12 children. Moreso, I was startled by the resemblance between my mother and I… how similar in gestures and features we are. I saw glimpses of my younger sister in her, as well. It’s odd to think of your own parents as a child. Their memories, their experiences, their stories… how they actually were existing beings before we came along.

These photos made me realize how precious time can be, and how years fly without us even realizing it. The beauty of childhood and youth are captured in these photos. Old photos are treasures. I am one of those people who cling onto anything with memories or a story behind it. The viewing of old photos is bittersweet, and leaves you feeling a combination of loss, sorrow, joy, and realization. It really is a surreal experience.

I do not know who took these photos. My mother doesn’t remember these photos, and she spent the evening reminiscing quietly and withdrawn in her thoughts, something that is not in her normal range of behavior. I am planning on printing these and binding them to a beautiful album.


Seared Ahi Tuna Monday, Aug 22 2011 

This is my favoritest dish to make. It takes about four minutes, is healthy, and literally the most delicious thing ever. You need:

-2 plump tuna steaks

-1/2 teaspoon sea salt

-1/2 teaspoon soy sauce

-1 tablespoon sesame oil

-Juice of 1 lemon

-1/4 teaspoon black pepper

-1/2 teaspoon ginger/garlic paste

-1 tablespoon sesame seeds

*Marinate the tuna steaks with ginger/garlic paste, sea salt, black pepper, soy sauce, and lemon juice. Let marinate for about an hour in the fridge. Heat an iron skillet with the sesame oil. Coat the steaks with the sesame seeds, and sear each side for about 50 seconds. Serve with a cool, fresh cucumber salad.

 

 

 

Salted Caramel Cupcakes Monday, Aug 22 2011 

I dedicated my Sunday morning to bake these wonderful, googly looking cupcakes. I found the recipe on sprinklebakes.com

My caramel turned out pretty good, except I had to try repeatedly as it kept forming into “hard candy.” My frosting was a little lumpy, I realized that the trick it to melt the butter, wait a few minutes, add sugar, and start whisking with an electric mixer. Adding the whipping cream and buttermilk at the end is also important, as it can make the frosting “runny” if you add it too soon.

I cut out little circular scoops on the top of each cupcake and filled it with caramel, plugged the top back on, and finished icing them using a ziplock baggie.

Here is the recipe for the caramel (I tweaked it a bit):

Salted Caramel Filling:
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons salted butter
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoons heavy cream, at room temperature
3 tablesspoons condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Melt the sugar over medium  high heat in a large pot.  Whisk the sugar as it melts and cook until it becomes a deep amber color. Add the butter and stir it in until melted. Pour in the heavy cream (mixture will foam) and whisk until you get a smooth sauce. Pour in the condensed milk. Keep stirring to have a smooth, gooey consistency.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
Cut a small round piece out of the tops of each cooled cupcake and pour in 1 teaspoon of caramel.  Replace the cake piece and set cupcakes aside.
Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting:
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 stick salted butter
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup buttermilk
Beat butter and salt together until lightened and fluffy. Make sure the butter is soft and pliable, or else you will get chunks in your frosting.  Reduce speed to low and add powdered sugar.  Mix until thoroughly combined.

Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the caramel.  Beat on medium high speed until light and airy, and completely mixed (about 2 minutes). Add the heavy cream, vanilla, and buttermilk, and whisk on light. If your frosting is too runny, add a little bit more sugar and unsalted butter. Stick it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes so it can cool and firm.

Japanese Tapas Sunday, Aug 21 2011 

I had the pleasure of being treated out to an early dinner at a Japanese tapas place called Tokio Pub. It’s a new concept restaurant, with a small, chic, and simplistic menu that is presented in a modern, hip, LA style decor. The food was tasty, but I would say that it definitely needed some fine tuning on the overall development of flavor and choices that are presented in the menu. My favorite? Crispy fish tacos with a spicy cream sauce and shredded cabbage. The pulled chicken tacos were great, as well, but they tasted more Spanish than Japanese to me. The chicken meatballs were very delish, but were more Indian based with their spices and sauce. I was searching for subtle, soft, Japanese flavors, which was present only in the Maki sushi roll (Spicy tuna with cilantro… YUM!)

My overall reception of the place was lukewarm. While the food was tasty, it was nowhere near as mind-blasting as I thought it would be. It’s a new restaurant, so I am sure they will perfect their productions as time and customers prevail. I loved the presentation of the food, and absolutely adore the tapas theme. My one quirk: never go to a tapas restaurant if you are starving. You end up eating much less, over ordering, and feeling overwhelmed. My eyes are bigger than my stomach, so that may explain =)