Friday, December 27, 2013

Bananas about hazelnut pancakes, for New Year's breakfast

I hope everyone is having a wonderful final week of December!

I'm excited to have a new recipe up on the Anthology blog--this time, baked bananas and hazelnut pancakes for New Year's breakfast! Trust me, these aren't your average banana pancakes. Click on over for a full description and the recipe.

(Also, please be forewarned. While making these pancakes, I got this and this stuck in my head on endless loop.)

This year, I had an extremely quiet Christmas, but I did pack this recipe with a bunch of holiday cheer. For example, the cacao nibs on top of the pancakes are from these delicious cracked cacao beans that my friend (and sometimes-contributor to this blog) Andréa brought for me from a new Portland bean-to-bar chocolatier, Woodblock. (She also brought me some chocolate salt from the Meadow, which is kind of wild, and will probably show up sometime soon on the blog. :)) Oh, and you see that beautiful wooden bowl below with the hazelnuts in it? That's a hand-turned bowl from Scotland that my friend Lauren brought me when she visited in early December. (Apparently, she stalked my blog to see if I owned a wooden bowl yet--the unseen perks of having a food blog!) It's so beautiful and smooth that I sort of want to use it as a pillow.

This is my last week in LA, and then I'm finally headed home to the Bay Area. A quick trip to Minneapolis, Minnesota is on the books for early January. brrrrr (seriously, this California girl does not own cold weather gear). If you have any recommendations of awesome foodie places to see in the Twin Cities, please leave me comment below!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Read on for recipe...

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Urban fruit foraging, Los Angeles

Since defending my dissertation a month ago (!!), I've been living in Los Angeles temporarily (and bouncing back and forth to San Francisco every few weeks), working on a collaborative research project that started back in April, before my next position (! more on that in future posts) starts in January. It's been a bit tedious being away from home for so long. For one, I desperately miss my kitchen. In fact, I miss cooking and baking altogether, since I'm living in a sublet with um... a microwave. Yeah.... (Thank god for Trader Joe's.)

At the same time, though, there are days like today, when it was mild and 80 degrees F outside--in the middle of December, no less!--, and the air smelled of sweet honeysuckle. And, I get to work with and hang out with some awesome colleagues here, so really, I will gladly forgo (temporarily) my kitchen privileges for this opportunity.

One of my favorite parts of academia (you know, besides the part where I get to spend my days in the pursuit of knowledge) is the people. I find that, given the nature of the field, academia tends to attract curious minds, which in turns leads to a host of people with eclectic and fascinating hobbies. Like my collaborator--Kie--here in LA, who eats things off of trees. Or, to put it fancily, Kie is an urban fruit forager. (She's pictured below, escaping from the frame of a photo of a strawberry guava tree.)

[top: strawberry guava tree; bottom: Natal plum blossom]

When I first met Kie a few years ago, this behavior of eating the random fruits of plants we happened to stroll by alarmed me greatly. (Actually, I find that many academics seem to harbor a secret death wish, like the professor at my home university who likes to speed around on his motorized bicycle without a helmet and tauntingly race 20-something-year-olds on road bikes....) But it turns out that she knows what she's doing, so I asked her to take me on a tour of West LA's urban offerings during my visit this time around.

[above: pygmy date palm fruit]

The tour was so eye-opening because it's amazing how many plants have edible fruits that you wouldn't even think of! I've walked by so many of these trees and bushes every day, writing them off as background scenery on my way to get somewhere else, and yet, here they are, laden with interesting treats to experience. Instead of stopping to smell the roses, it's like stopping to munch on the roses... or, the rose hips, as it were (pictured below), which are sweet and crunchy--like apples, but more floral and less tart.

[top: rosehips, bottom: kumquats]

Of course, there were familiar offerings, like hanging rosemary, or the kumquat tree, which was just coming into season and barely ripe. (We even saw a banana tree!) But most of the fruits and plants that Kie introducted me to were more unfamiliar. On campus, there was this African berry plant (below), which I conveniently forgot to write down the name of. The berries reminded me of such a familiar flavor, almost like a grape juicebox. It's a funny association because Kie pointed out that "monkeys and kids" snack on these berries in Africa. There were also natal plums, which have these amazingly fragrant white blossoms (though I don't think the blossoms are edible). The plums themselves are soft and candy-sweet and bright red. And the California pepper tree--not actually related to real pepper--produces these pink peppercorn-like pods that Kie mentioned were really good in salads.

[top: African berry plant; bottom: California pepper tree]

My favorite find of the day, however, were the Lilli Pillis (below). When Kie first handed me one to eat, I got so excited, because as it turns out, these tiny little fruits are related to Malay rose apples, which were a favorite childhood fruit of mine when I spent summers visiting family in Asia. Even though many tropical fruits are now available in the States (e.g., passionfruit, lychee, guavas, etc), Malay apples have for whatever reason never made it onto the import lists, and I've never been able to find them here. So imagine my surprise and delight to learn that there were miniature versions of these fruits growing in plentiful clumps that I walk by all the time! Eureka!

[above: lilli pillis]

So I'll be able to enjoy these fruits for a couple weeks longer before it's time for me to head back home to the Bay. In the meantime, I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas! I will be celebrating it a bit late, once my kitchen and I are at long last reunited. :)

[above: a collection of arbutus fruit, lilli pillis, strawberry guava, natal plums, 
California pepper, and flowering rosemary]

(PSA: Please if you do go foraging, do so with someone who knows what they're doing as your guide. Not everything red is delicious and benign!)