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Nika's Culinaria - Eat With Your Eyes: June 2006

Nika's Culinaria - Eat With Your Eyes

Culinary Photography

Canned Haggis – very special

I just thought I would share something I found in my evening cruising.

Canned Scottish Haggis w/ Highland Beef (from Caledonian Kitchen. They have quite a lot of other interesting things for sale as well).

canned-haggis (NOT MINE)

Regarding the canned haggis the site states:
"We are delighted to offer you the latest version of our haggis! We have found a grower whose herd has won the Grand Champion Awards for both bulls and cows in the Highland Cattle Division at the National Stock show in Denver, Colorado. Not only is our Highland Beef Haggis unique, but it's also the finest that can be obtained anywhere. With the rumblings of problems with the commercial beef supply, we are pleased to offer this privately grown USDA Inspected Highland Beef version of our haggis. We hope you enjoy our offering from the best of the "rare auld breed.

Ingredients: 100% USDA Highland Beef and Beef Liver, Re-hydrated Oats, Refined Beef Suet, Water, Onions and Spices."

To order (for $154.99/24 cans plus shipping) visit this site.

For serving suggestions visit this page at their site.
"Haggis, neeps, and tatties were NOT the food of nobility. They were prepared and eaten in humble crofts in Scotland. They are the food of the common man, but they also represent the crown jewels of the culinary Folk Art of Scotland. Among the finishing touches to this extraordinary meal would be an oat bread or any other whole grain brown bread. Add a good pint of brown ale such as McEwan's and you'll have a meal our Scottish ancestors would have relished. A bit of tea and homemade Shortbread in front of a fire would be the perfect finish, as well as the prelude to a round of good single malt."

You can buy Vegetarian canned haggis.

One can get a proper uncanned haggis (Presentation Haggis it would seem its called) as well from Caledonian Kitchens.

I think I will stick with corned beef hash.. wonder if its similar at all to this.

Channeling my inner chef – where HAS she been to?!

kaiseki-gohan (NOT MINE)

(Image Source: Shironoyu)

Thanks to many years of working LONG hours many miles from home, 4 hours of daily commuting and simple exhaustion at the end of the day, my husband and I evolved a home routine of his doing the lion's share of cooking.

It's a curious thing because certain artifacts arise from this sort of arrangement.

For one, we eat a certain kind of homecooking that is very different from the one I grew up with. In the home I grew up in; imagine a mix of Midwestern farm-ish homecooking and Colombian cuisine – worked for us. One day creamy saltine-encrusted pig brains sautéed in butter and then sancocho, rice, patacones, and arepas the next.

But on top of this is something that lies dormant, my latent inner chef. When I do cook (and lately its been hard due to the morning sickness and now with my crazy big tummy not letting me get close enough to the darn counter!) what I desire to cook is not American or Colombian or even in this hemisphere.

I seem to be channeling a beginner Japanese housewife.

When I cook, I whip out the miso paste, soy sauce, tamari, gomaiso, nori shreds, tofu, green onions, ginger, sesame oil, Japanese rice, mochi, and miso vegetable stocks.

July 5th Lunch: Miso Soup

6-6 lunch close

mochi yummmmm


Today's lunch: 8-2


I don't make bentos for the kids because we homeschool now and I am not sure that I could go there really, I am a real stickler about not eating or serving food that has stayed out of the fridge much past the time that they have lost their chill.

But I do HAVE bento boxes and I like to serve supper in them on occasion. To me, a fresh homemade miso soup with daikon, green onions, steaming sticky rice, toasty mochi, and a sesame oil infusion is more attractive than a pot roast, prime rib, or roast chicken.

On some days a roast chicken (with Paul Prudhomme's poultry seasoning inside and out) can be a strong contender tho. (As an off topic aside, I would also recommend, for your Cajun cooking needs, Magic Seasoning Salt, we used this on EVERYTHING back in the 80's)

What I cook when channeling this Japanese housewife seems to be sourced from cookbooks I have and have seen, recipes that I find online, Japanese food photos I devour online (Flickr Japanese photos), and from Japanese restaurant experiences (tho these are never what I hope them to be).

I have a long way to go and there are certain things I wont be making (like spaghetti with ketchup or anything drowned in mayonnaise) but I am always drawn back to certain basic ingredients.

I also have a love affair with Japanese tea sweets, called Wagashi, and have posted about them in the past, including a Flickr Slideshow of wagashi images found on Flickr.

In efforts to expand my understanding of Japanese homecooking and also traditional cuisines (such as kaseki, something I want to become proficient at because it is delicious and such a lovely ideal) I either have the following books are will be getting them when the budget allows. Let me know if you have other favorites!

When the Hand of Man becomes Even More Insignificant

So yesterday I finally figured out what was eating at my tomato leaves - tortoise beetles. There are no IPM (Integrated Pest Management) methods for dealing with this bug that usually attacks sweet potatoes but the stuff I found online said to not worry too much. I planned on picking them off and killing them and seeing how far that got me (I have so few plants).

Well, last night my point of view changed. Not only do the beetles not matter any more, I am not sure I even have tomato plants that will make it the next few days.

Here in MA on June 20 (yesterday) we got at least 1 inch hail for a good 20 minutes (as far as I could tell). Now my tomatoes and radishes and other plants look like someone stomped on them, literally!

Last night a fog arose from the subliminating hail all over the forest. We still had hail on the ground this morning. I wonder how many tons of ice fell from the sky yesterday.

I also wonder how the farmers in this region were affected by this storm, can't be pretty! Jeez, especially the apple orchards in our area.

Right after the storm, still raining

1 inch hail killed my garden

By the pool we just got yesterday

Heavy hail from hell!

Decimated tomato plant, notice leaves on deck, broken branches.


Beetle holes on the right, hail damage all over.


Hail doesn't just fall, they come down REALLY hard like little missles.


My poor radishes


The offending precipitation, we have bags and bags of it. Might come in handy for homeschool experiments! Is this acid hail? Etc.


Before I woke up this morning my husband saw a deer in our backyard (they are rare in our yard for some reason) and took some shots.


Tropical crepes and cocktail – so refreshing! (Well Fed Network Article included)

So the other day, while shopping, I bought a load of fruits to shoot with my new macro lens. The outcome was just so delicious, I thought I would share with you a breakfast idea I had and a new tropical cocktail concoction.

The drink, Tart Summertime Kiwi-Lime-Ginger Cocktail, is also featured as a Well Fed Network article!

Let me know if you like these!

Strawberry-Kiwi-Ginger Crepe Suzette

Strawberry-Kiwi-Ginger Crepe Suzette



Either homemade (wiki, franco-centric crepe site) or storebought (mine were storebought).

1/2 c white sugar
4 tbls unsalted butter
2 tbls apricot preserves
Dash of sea salt
Zest from 1/4 of an orange, minced
Juice of 2 medium sized navel oranges, fresh squeezed
1/8 tsp minced ginger
1 tbl minced kiwi

Sliced oranges
Sliced kiwi fruits
Sliced strawberries

Strawberry Whipped Crème filling
Strawberry crème, either home made or store
Out (mine is store bought – tastes like a sweet strawberry yogurt)


In a small sauce pan add sugar, butter, preserves, kiwi, salt, zest, and ginger, bring to a simmer. Once well dissolved, add juice and turn down to low or even off.

Make the strawberry crème as directed on package. To make some homemade, try this recipe:

1/4 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons powdered sugar
4 large ripe strawberries, mashed

Whip cream with sugar to soft peaks. Add berries and continue whipping until stiff peaks. Can be used immediately.

If you wish you can warm up your crepes in butter but mine got really hard after that so I used them straight from the package.

Lay out crepe on serving dish, add strawberry cream, layer in sliced strawberries and kiwi, add more cream to taste, fold edges of crepe over and then drizzle sauce overtop. The sauce will soak into the crepe and make it even more delicious.

Serve and enjoy!

Strawberry-Kiwi-Ginger Crepe Suzette

The kiwi seems to go really well with the strawberry whipped cream.

This is an original recipe so please do not cut and paste without permission and attribution.

And now for this very refreshing cocktail.

Well Fed Network Article - Tart Summertime Kiwi-Lime-Ginger Cocktail

Kiwi Lime Ginger Cocktail

Father's Day seems to have become this sort of grunge-fest of heavy foods and beer. It would not do to celebrate it in other ways but some of us need a break from the hunks-o-meat and savory beers. To me, these things are better suited to cooler weather, like October, but what can you do!

Nevertheless, it would be great to offer your guests a tropical alternative to the beer and I propose the following cocktail as one that could just as easily be served with or without alcohol. It is a tart drink that can be sweetened to taste, experiment with it!

Tart Summertime Kiwi-Lime-Ginger Cocktail


Juice of 1/2 a lime, freshly squeezed
1 kiwi fruit, diced with some larger chunks for garnish
1\4 tsp finely minced ginger
Dash of salt (if desired)
slightly crushed small piece of ginger
3 Tablespoons simple sugar syrup (1:1)
8 oz. Ginger Ale
Kiwi and lime rind for garnish


Rub lip of chilled tumbler with ginger, drop into cup. Add ice. In a separate mixing container, add sugar syrup, dash of salt, minced ginger, diced kiwi, and lime juice; mix well. Pour ginger ale into chilled tumbler, and pour juice mix over soda, making sure to swirl minced ginger and kiwi back into suspension first. Garnish with kiwi and/or lime rind. Enjoy!

Kiwi Lime Ginger Cocktail closer

Let me know if you try this drink as I have concocted this one on my own. Also, let me know if you can think of a snappy name, if it's kewl I will showcase it on this blog (let me know if you want or do not want me to use your name or URL).

These are original recipes so please do not cut and paste without permission and attribution.

Copyright 2006 Nika

If you try these out, let me know how it goes for you!

Lychee nuts - Up close and personal


Lychee nut fruits are irresistably odd for me, I had to buy some and shoot them as I went down through the layers.

To learn more about these odd fruits visit the Purdue University horticulture site on Litchi chinensis.

"The glossy, succulent, thick, translucent-white to grayish or pinkish fleshy aril which usually separates readily from the seed, suggests a large, luscious grape. The flavor of the flesh is subacid and distinctive."
"The lychee is native to low elevations of the provinces of Kwangtung and Fukien in southern China, where it flourishes especially along rivers and near the seacoast. It has a long and illustrious history having been praised and pictured in Chinese literature from the earliest known record in 1059 A.D. Cultivation spread over the years through neighboring areas of southeastern Asia and offshore islands."



Local Foods – Why am I not eating veggies anymore?

(Image Source: Whole Foods)

So, I have to admit to this disturbing dynamic in my eating habits – my mouth doesn’t water over vegetables. I know from childhood and our acre garden in Iowa what fresh lettuce and spinach tastes like as you pick it right off the plant. Same for strawberries. Yet, when I walk in the vegetable section of the grocery store, and I FORCE myself to walk the isles, I am so completely unappetized and uninspired. I WANT to grow my own food because I know intuitively that it is more likely I would eat it. When I browse the seed packets at the store though, I find a similar uninspired feeling.

What is that all about it?

I find my answer after putting a little thought into the experience I have with vegetables, in the grocery store.

Yes, sure, I walk the isles, look at veggies, try to imagine delicious preparations that might titillate me. Just doesn’t happen. What happens is that I look at a vegetable and the scientist and mom in me looks at the rind or skin and wonders just how much pesticide lurks there. I look at the potatoes and wonder the same. I become exhausted by this experience and do not buy anything beyond a few tomatoes that I figure wont kill us off RIGHT away.

Thus, its not a wholesome, joyous, sustainable experience.

(Image Source: Whole Foods)

You might think it would be wholesome, joyous, sustainable at Whole Foods but its not! For one, I live like more than 50 miles from the closest one so when I buy anything there I have to plan as if I am dragging the haul to north of the Arctic Circle. I do find myself admiring the beautiful greens and fruits, even the conventional ones but then my frugal side kicks in and I just cant spend that much money and it makes me mad that we cant eat it 24/7. Honestly, it would not kill us to eat it 24/7 in terms of absolute budget on the food alone but the gas to get there and back would make it simply obscene.

So, all of this gets in my way, all this is what is floating in my mind as I stand in Whole Foods by the flowers near the front door, sniffing them and staring at the vegetables and fruits across the way.


(Image Source: Whole Foods)

My veggie world has closed down, perhaps you could say it never opened up, because I fear the chemicals (and with good reason). I do not know what the answer really is. I would like to become dependent on vegetables. I want them to sustain me because they can be so strengthening and invigorating where meat pulls me down into a stupor.

So it’s a clash between an easy stupor-fix and the harder to obtain vitality of pure vegetables.

Now if I could just convince my tastebuds.

kiwano dissected

(Image Source: My flickr stream)

Local Foods – My Very Own Lettuce

(Image Source: Wish-Bone)

In a previous post I shared some shots of my deck garden. I felt that I didn’t have enough space to plant much lettuce and was rather bummed. I stood outside for a bit the other day and realized that some of the junk in my yard would make for a lovely large lettuce bed.

I am going to share how I made the planter here and then how it progresses over time. Will be planting in succession so I get several crops of super fresh greens!

I planted several types of lettuce from High Mowing Organic Seeds:

Mesclun Mix

Mustard Greens

Buttercrunch Bibb (cant find a link for this on their site)

Here is how I constructed the planter.

I wanted to put the planter on a table because, being pregnant, bending over is hard and its only going to get harder!

I found an unused sand box cover that would be a good size to fit on a table we keep outside.

I drilled holes in the tray, was super easy with my drill.

lettuce plot 3

Here you can see the table has been put into a sunny spot (more sun than my deck) and I put some spacer wood sticks down to elevate the tray to enable draining.

lettuce plot 1

The drilled tray was put on top of the table over the spacers.

lettuce plot 2

Peat moss is put down and watered.

lettuce plot 4

Organic composted cow manure is layered down and watered.

lettuce plot 5

Organic garden soil is layered down over the manure layer.

Blood meal is layered over the organic garden soil and then mixed in well (I know it’s a rich mix).

lettuce plot 6

I mixed peat moss and organic garden soil together (approx. 1:1) and layered that over the top. This is the seeding/germinating layer.

Furrows were made in the seeding layer and seeds were put into the furrows. I also planted some corn to transplant into a spot in back of our house. Marigolds were planted around the edge (along with bibb lettuce) in an attempt to cut down on predators.

lettuce plot 7

lettuce plot 8

Seeds were covered over and then the whole thing was well watered.

lettuce plot 9

Cant wait and am crossing fingers for happy lettuce!

Illusion of community? Food for thought.


(Image Source - The Whole Brain Atlas - Harvard University)

Without a doubt, almost every single person I have met through food blogging has been kind, thoughtful, and so open to trying new things. These are things I really admire and are what I envision is the best in people. Its not an impossibly high standard and its not unique to the food blog community but I am very glad it is how we are.

When faced with the enormity of the blogosphere, it is human nature to project and fill in cracks; to assume that each blogger is kind, thoughtful, and open to trying new things.

Even with my jaded eye, this week I had an online experience that taught me that the food blogosphere is NOT a homogenous place; all singing kumbaya.

This experience also taught me something about myself and my assumptions.

What the heck am I talking about?

(I do not bring this up to trash a particular blogger so I will speak in non-specifics in terms of the blogger’s identity)

I visited a blog of a food blogger of some fame this week. It told of an experience this blogger just had regarding her being mugged. I have had a similar experience and can tell you it is infuriating and frustrating and can make you feel VERY vulnerable and emotional and falliable.

This blogger wrote about the details. She went further than a simple description of the event and made some race-based statements that were 1) not necessary for the reader to grasp her experience, 2) served to make me feel deeply marginalized (it was my race she was objectifying), 3) made me wonder why I should care what she writes and why that writing should bother me, 4) what obligation she has to any reader that reads her openly public blog, 5) what obligation she might have to the wider food community to moderate her character in the written word, and 6) whether this whole concept of the Food Blog Community is not just an extended illusion many of us care to share.

Lots of meta-issues. Lots to think about.

In my experience with racism, all my life, there is little one can do one-on-one with the racist because they are fully identified with that process; seeing the world in terms of race.

I don’t ask what that person can do to apologize for their world view. I do ask how I find myself vulnerable to it, again and again.

Local foods - Organic deck garden 2006

new-garden - Our deck garden

This is super local! Its our deck. We have planted with only organic materials this year. The soil bag said to not use it to start seeds but we did and they are sprouting fine. These are the same 96 cent planters I modified last year for upside down tomatoes but this year they will be used more conventionally. (see images at end for last years garden)

As these pots had big holes in the bottom I lined the bottoms with plastic grocery bags and poked a few holes in the plastic. I then added a layer of peat moss, a layer of soil, a layer of blood meal, and then a layer of soil.

Things planted or soon to be planted include:
Thumbelina carrots
A few pole beans
Various lettuces
Bell peppers

new-garden - Peppermint - best viewed large

new-garden - Oregano

new-garden - thumbelina carrots

new-garden tomato

new-garden tomato close

new-garden radishes

new-garden pole beans

new-garden eggplants

new-garden - Jalapenos

Its been cold and raining endlessly here in MA but so far things are ok (planters are able to drain well). With this system we cut way back on weeds and predatory insects and we can visit the plants without getting all mucky – that translates into better management.

Shots from last year


Cherry Tomato from our deck-garden

upsidedown maters


Three stages of Life

bumble bee


lettuce close


First crop - lettuce


Second crop same pots - all planted at the same time


© 2005-2007 Nika's Culinaria - Eat With Your Eyes

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