April 28, 2011

a holiday week and other exciting things

It seems like alfresco eating/drinking weather has finally arrived in this part of Japan. We have had some 20C/70F degrees days this week, and though it got a little windy and thunderstormy for some time, we have been enjoying the sunny spells and the mountain scenery that starts glowing with bright spring colors.

As it happens, we are heading into a big holiday week known as Golden Week here in Japan. As I have no big plan but do have some work to be done during this period, it doesn't feel like a real holiday time for me. That said, I'm expecting some work-free time ahead of me, so I will hopefully (or not so hopefully) be getting some much needed clearing-up done.

But what I am really looking forward to is to take some time to sit down with my new cookbooks - and get myself in the kitchen to cook from them.
I got a few titles a little while ago but have not had a chance to spend time on them so far; I've only flipped through them and they all looked exciting, so I can't wait to take more time with them.

And I have started doing so with a title that I had been most anticipating to get for over the past year: that's Super Natural Every Day (Ten Speed Press, 2011) written by the incredibly talented blogger and author Heidi Swanson who is behind the beautiful and inspiring cooking blog 101 Cookbooks.

I love Heidi's blog like millions of others must do, and immensely enjoyed her last book Super Natural Cooking like millions of others must have done. So I was naturally highly expectant of her new book that was to be released in early April.
As Heidi gave us a few sneak peeks and previews in countdown to the release, we got a chance to see some photos and recipes that would be included in the book. And I knew which recipes I'd try first - and one of them was yogurt biscuits.

(The other one, by the way, was Tutti-Frutti Crumble which was featured in the Six Recipe Sampler Heidi had; it can also be found on Amazon. I decided to wait for a little while before I'd make this until I get fresh cherries at their peak.)

While I was sticking my head in the fridge for something to go with the biscuits, I found some strawberries lying around...
...Out of the oven about an hour later came a sheet of roasted strawberries, deeply fragrant in a deep-red hue of ruby. On principle I'm not all for cooked strawberries, but I find myself enjoying them occasionally, particularly together with balsamic vinegar and/or olive oil. So the idea of roasting strawberries with maple syrup and olive oil, with a finishing touch with a dash of balsamic vinegar and port wine, sounded like my kind of thing.

And the fact that Heidi suggested using them as an accompaniment to the biscuits in the book was one final push - and of course, she had been quite right. The subtly complex flavor of the roasted strawberries paired beautifully with the simple and bold biscuits.
And as for the biscuits, these were light, not-too-sweet biscuits that have a hint of tang from the yogurt. I used plain whole-milk yogurt that had been thickened by straining overnight in place of Greek-style yogurt that's called for in the recipe, as I can't find it where I live. The recipe uses spelt flour or whole-wheat pastry flour in addition to all-purpose, and I went for whole-wheat this time, which might have made the biscuits a touch denser than spelt would have done, but not too much.

My only regret here was that I seemed to have overworked the dough a bit - they are meant to be flakier, but still tasted good. Oh well, next time.

Now while a little break with these biscuits with roasted berries came in perfectly on a warm spring day, the sunshine and heat on these past few days actually made me crave for something cool to drink - so I turned pages of the book and made this:
Ice-cold sparkling panakam, which is Heidi's take on a traditional Indian summertime drink called panakam. Made using spices such as ginger and cardamom, it's a bit like ginger ale, especially when it is prepared with sparkling water as Heidi does here. She uses juice of lime, but I used juice of lemon because that was what I had at hand - and for a good measure, a dash of juice of season's last yuzu.

If you happen to like all things ginger and all things fizzy like I do, you'd love this one, too - and you can even find the recipe here.
Also, Heidi shares her recipe for roasted strawberries here on Design*Sponge, while Hannah has done a beautiful post sharing her shot at the biscuits with us.

So far, I've been drooling over everyone's blog entries featuring recipes from Super Natural Every Day, and I'm fully intending to cook intensively from it myself, like I did with her last book a few years back. Very much on the must-make list are baked oatmeal, mostly not potato salad, orzo salad, wild rice casserole, black sesame otsu, macaroon tart, ginger cookies, honey and rose water tapioca.... oh I think I need a nice long cooking holiday week!


On another note, allow me to make a quick mention of the Saveur Best Food Blog Awards 2011, in which this humble blog of mine somehow landed a nomination for the Best Baking and Desserts Blog category. This came as a complete surprise for me, not least because of the question of whether or not my blog is really a baking and dessert blog. Nevertheless, it is a great honor and I have been humbled to find my little blog listed together with some of the finest food blogs out there.

So if you haven't already done so, head over to the Awards pages at and poke around; chances are that you'll find some of your favorite food blogs, or else discover exciting blogs that are new to you on the shortlists for various categories.
Thanks to good people at Saveur for including she who eats among the finalists. To everyone who has nominated and/or voted for my blog, thanks SO much for showing your support. And good luck to the fellow nominees for the Awards - I'm excited to find out the results!

*Voting is open from April 26 – May 12; winners will be announced on May 17. You need to be logged in as a registered member at, to access the voting pages and cast your votes. Their system currently allows US/Canada registrations only, and while they are fixing the system, Saveur suggests that non-US/Canada voters should select USA or Canada as their country.

Otherwise have a lovely weekend everyone! -cx


Winnie Lee said...

So pretty. Everything looks so amazing!

greenbeenfood said...

just gorgeous...looks like you had fun! i love seeing your pictures...happy weekend. dayle

Recipe Contests said...

That sparkling panakam looks wonderful! What is yuzu? I'm not familiar with it. Do you make it to taste or is there a recipe somewhere that I could try? It doesn't look too far out of my abilities.

Monika - Twoja Asystentka said...

lovely pictures! spring is so beautiful everywhere, and your strawberries really have ruby colours! Spring hugs to you!

Roberta Galea said...

Just came across your blog, found it through Saveur... gorgeous photography :) will definitely be following :)

Best Regards
La Roquette

Claudia said...

Dear Chika,

Breathless post, as usual. Just wanted to let you know that I have already voted for She Who Eats on Saveurs vote... Good luck!

By the way, yes you qualify for best dessert blog, definitely.... The best one!



Soya Sauce said...

gorgeous photography!!!

Shannon Marie said...

I love seeing your photographs and this post is no exception. Those strawberries look divine!

Monica said...

I just discovered this blog a few days ago. What beautiful pictures! I look forward to checking in often. I remember visiting Japan a little more than ten years ago. Hearing you refer to your home country and seeing the photos bring back great memories.

chika said...

thanks all for your kind words.. hope you are all enjoying the spring weather!

Claudia - aww. you're too sweet. thanks!