July 31, 2005

a memory of beach resort vacation in a glass: IMBB #17

It was yet another sunny hot day on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. I was on "vacation" with my friend N who had visited me on the Big Island and now was stopping at Honolulu on her way back to Tokyo. We were seated at a table in a posh Neiman Marcus restaurant in Ala Moana center, called Mariposa, a bit disappointed having just learned that they didn't do afternoon tea on that day. We had still decided to eat there, and had ordered some drinks and food, looking over Ala Moana beach just outside.

It has been two years now, and I still remember our lunch. It was a beautiful day, the food was good, and we enjoyed the atmosphere a lot. I liked the portabello burger I had and their signature popover - but these are not what I am going to talk about today. It is their tea that my friend ordered (I didn't) that came into my mind in my planning for the July edition of IMBB, featuring tea as a theme.

The tea is called Plantation Tea, and if my memory serves me right, it consists of pineapple and guava juices, and passion berry tea or something like it. I actually have the "official" recipe of it in Neiman Marcus Cookbook by Kevin Garvin and John Harrisson (Clarkson Potter, 2003), but the book isn't at my hand right this moment, so I might not be right. Anyways, they serve the tea in a tri-layer presentation at Mariposa, making it pretty for the eyes, refreshing to the taste bud, and soothing in the throat.

For the IMBB this time around, I first had something else on my mind. But somehow, this pretty tea drink came across my mind, for reasons I don't know myself. I first thought of trying to duplicate the tea, but then another idea occurred - making it into gelatin dessert, maybe because I had just done a post about jasmine tea gelatin on this blog. It has been hot, so gelatin dessert is a perfect treat now, and frankly speaking, making three layers in a glass is a lot easier with gelled stuff than with plain liquid.

For this project, I went around town and looked for suitable tea, and settled down with a tea called Passion Island from L'Epicier, a Japanese tea shop that happens to have an outlet in Honolulu's Ala Moana center. The tea is said to be flavored mainly with passion fruit and mango, along with some brossoms. It smells lovely, and is good for real iced tea.

For my "Jellied" Plantation Tea, what I did was this: I made strong unsweetened tea and had 100% pineapple juice, and sweetened guava juice (which was best I could get here); added prepared unflavored gelatin powder to each (amounts depend on how much you want to make - consult the back of the box of gelatin powder); chilled the three gelatin mixtures in the fridge overnight; crushed them into small pieces, and; spooned them into a tall glass in three layers.

This, in fact, was extremely easy to make, as you can imagine. There was nothing complicated involved in making it, and the only thing I took care of was to make sure the juices were ready for gellatinizing; tropical fruits, including pineapple and probably guava as well, have an enzyme that prevents the juice from being gelled. I have heard that juice from concentration is okay to use as it has been heat-treated in its production process. For this reason, I briefly heated the guava juice, for which I was not sure whether it was from concentration.

And my juices got gelled alright, although pineapple one was a bit runny - it might have been because of the enzyme, or I might just have used too little gelatin powder for the amount of juice I had.

Still, my glass of gelled tropical tea turned out outrageously good - the mixture of tropical tea and fruits was very much reminiscent of Hawaii, even to my sister who has been to Hawaii but not to Mariposa itself. I was going to serve it with syrup, but the juice sweetened it up just right. My creation did not look as sophisticated as the real Plantation Tea they serve at the restaurant, but it was just as delicious, refreshing, and memorable.

Thanks Clement for hosting this event with the great theme - you have stirred a good memory of mine.

Drink it or eat it - everyone enjoy your tea!

July 29, 2005

ice-cold teas for dessert

We had a few relatively cool days to start off the week, then a big typhoon hit the islands, which subsequently brought the heat back. It's been hot, hot, hot over here - can't think, can't cook, can't work (I did end up doing all of these though).

I drink tea a lot every day, hot ones even on lousy steamy-hot days, because my body just never seems to be ready for ice-cold drinks. So instead of making iced tea, I fixed some iced tea-like cold dessert the other day - although here I have to admit it was more than a couple of months ago -, namely jasmine tea gelatin.

Just like coffee gelatin, tea gelatin desserts do not seem to be popular at all in the US, but they're pretty common in Japan, both in the stores and at home. Most of them seem to be made with black tea though - I don't see jasmine tea one very often, if none. I like jasmine tea's refreshing scent a lot, which I adore in the form of gelatin dessert, too.

This time I used lemon-ginger jasmine tea that I had bought from MUJI (they sell a huge line of food products in Japan). The tea had dried lemon peel and ginger pieces and looked pretty, but it actually didn't taste so much of either lemon or ginger. So I made lemon-ginger syrup to boost lemonness and gingerness in the tea, which worked so well I wished I had made more.

To make jasmine tea gelatin, I just dissolved prepared unflavored gelatin in plain, unsweetened jasmine tea and chilled it in a container. In the meantime I heated some sugar, juice of lemon and a squeeze of grated fresh ginger together to make lemon-ginger syrup. Then I scraped out the gelatin and served it in small, tall glasses with a spoonful of syrup. Done.

It was a simple but refreshing, soothing glass of tea on a hot early summer day. It was good just with the syrup, but I had one of my glasses (they were tiny!) with some milk. It might sound strange to put milk in jasmine tea because we usually don't do it (at least I don't), but it somehow works. I would have used sweetened condensed milk rather than regular milk if I had not had the syrup, which can also be yummy.

Speaking of jasmine tea with milk, I made another jasmine tea dessert on another occasion. This time it was jasmine tea bavarois, which inevitably consists of milk.

Bavarois is a kind of dessert like mousse, but made typically with custard in addition to cream, therefore turns out thick and rich. It has been one of my favorite desserts to make since I was a small kid, partly because I didn't have to use an oven, and more obviously because it tastes good.

And this time I used this fruit-of-the-time, called biwa in Japanese and "loquat" in English, according to my dictionary. They taste a bit like persimmons, or maybe apricots - I wonder if they are available in the States. I don't think I have ever seen them sold in Hawaii while I lived there, although I did see them during my recent stay in Italy.

Anyways, in Japan they are only available in a relatively short period of time in the early summer and they are most often eaten straight and rarely made into a processed food (a notable exception is biwa gelatin, which is a whole loquat covered with sweet gelatin - like this). So I wanted to see how it would turn out when paired with something else, and jasmine tea seemed to me to fit in.

The bavarois turned out good. The addition of cream and custard turned the refreshing jasmine tea into a very mild and mellow, melt-in-your-mouth sort of light treat. Biwa went well with the bavarois, too, even though I would not claim this the "best" combination - I still thought there should be something better to go with biwa. They aren't around anymore, so I will have to wait till next year to come up with something.

By the way, it is three in the morning, already getting hot, and I have to say it is extremely painful to do a post about food that is long gone; I should stop writing about the nonexistent desserts and get myself to the kitchen and make some gelatin for later... this is going to be another hot day.

July 24, 2005

sun-day morning

Gotten up late, still half-sleeping, I took a grapefruit out of the fridge, cut it in halves, sprinkled with cassonade (a kind of brown sugar), and slipped it under broiler, watching the sugar melting and bubbling for a few minutes.

It was a nice and cool, slightly hazy sunday morning that I woke up to. I didn't get to see the sun, but I had one on my table.

When I first saw a thing called broiled grapefruit in a Japanese cookbook on American sweets a long time ago, I thought it nonsense to cook a fruit that is perfect eaten fresh. Many years later, I have come to have a bit different views to things, and now I actually think it not so bad to give it a little change.

The only disappointment I had this morning was that the surface of my grapefruit halves wasn't caramelized like it was supposed to; I figured it out after having finished my portion that I had been supposed to put sugar and butter on top to make pretty caramel. I know I should be double-checking these things before starting making something, but hey, I was only half-awake. And my grapefruit tasted good, anyways.

You have a good weekend, and a wonderful week to come, too.

July 20, 2005

summer is here. so am I.

It's been a while since I got back from my trip to Europe, so has it since I did my last post. I wish I could say I had been on another long vacation or two, but sigh, life is not that sweet.

For this past several weeks while this blog was dormant, I was stuck in front of computer for work, or otherwise in bed for being sick, and in the meantime the rainy season came and went, which basically means summer is officially with us. And my seven-days-a-week working schedule is still with me, thank goodness.

All the same, I haven't forgotten my own words that I would tell you about my recent trip. I am not sure if any one of you is still interested in it, but I still will anyways; I have managed to do most of photo editing because I have done posts about my trips in my Japanese blog. So expect that, hopefully soon (I do hope so).

For today, I just wanted to let people know that I am (basically) alive and (generally) well, just in case you were wondering. I also thought I could show that I manage to cook and shoot food sometimes - like this one that I whipped up on one of these hot and humid, typical Tokyo summer days.

Have ricotta cheese, yogurt, and maple syrup in a bowl, stir together to blend, put it in the freezer, and you have this maple-ricotta-yogurt gelato. I got the original recipe from a Japanese cookbook written by Emi Inoue, who says she got the recipe while she was at a California professional chefs' school (can't remember which one). It was dead easy to make, but not so much so to take pictures of; it was melting so fast even in a decently air-conditioned room. Ah well, summer is definitely here.