Thursday, October 29, 2015

Baba Ganoush - Wife Approved Recipe

Get out the low sodium, glutten-free, baked, organic, mulit-grain crackers for this Wife Approved video recipe of delicious dip: Baba Ganoush.

My wife likes nothing better than watching her fav HBO and Showtime dramatic series with a small package of chips or crackers and a creamy dip nearby.

Eggplant, like a whoopie cushion, deflates into a soft mass after it's baked in the oven for half an hour. While the skin is bitter until cooked, the roasted mushy flesh becomes sweet. Baba Ganoush is finished with a quick spin in a blender or food processor. Serve it as a side -- or, cut pita bread into triangles and serve it as a dip at your next get-together.

An Eggplant just looks funny: a black/purple, oddly shaped, inflated veggie balloon (and, it's as light as one, too.) But, boy does it taste good when prepared my way. The other ingredients are cheap enough: sesame seeds, olive oil, chopped garlic, lemon juice, and a couple of optional ingredients: ground paprika and parsley.

Baba Ganoush, like hummas, is made with Tahini: peanut butter-like, oily, ground sesame seeds. In my video that's what I used. But, I also show you how to make a taste-similar version of Tahini -- easily made by adding a couple of tablespoons of sesame seeds to your coffee grinder (or spice grinder) and blending until it's a powder (it doesn't grind every last seed, but does well enough.) It's the same thing, really, just in a slightly damp powder form. It's the molecular gastronomic version a Top Chef would sprinkle over some deconstructed dish.

If your local market doesn't stock Tahini, and you're not interested in grinding sesame seeds, then you can  substitute with a teaspoon of peanut butter (just don't tell your Middle Eastern dining guests!) Peanut butter has a similar taste, but it's much stronger than Tahini, so you want to use half the amount.  Or, for the easiest option of all, just use sesame oil.  The taste is milder, but it will suffice.

So pull up a chair and check out the 99 Cent Chef's latest Wife Approved recipe video, for Baba Ganoush. It's a fun, stop-motion animated delight of time-lapse deflating eggplants -- full of icky, gooey, veggie innards pulsed into a smooth delectable dip.

  Baba Ganoush - Video
Play it here. Video runs 3 minutes, 3 seconds.

To view or embed from YouTube, click here.

Ingredients (2-3 servings)
  • 4 Japanese eggplants - or, 2 regular eggplants. (I got about 1 1/2 cups cooked flesh.)
  • 2 tablespoons Tahini - You can make your own by adding 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds to a coffee grinder, and pulverize. Or, just blend in a 2 tablespoons of sesame oil, instead of olive oil. You could even substitute Tahini with a teaspoon of peanut butter.
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped garlic - fresh, or from jar.
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon or lime juice - fresh or from a bottle. In the video I used lime.
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil - 2 for blending, and 1 more for drizzling on Baba Ganoush before serving.
  • Handful of parsley - or tablespoon of dried. Save a chopped sprig for presentation. Optional.
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika - optional.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Slice into one side of the eggplant, or poke it all over with a fork -- you need to do this, or the eggplant may explode into a mess in your oven.

Cover eggplant in a casserole dish, or place in a large pan (or cookie sheet) and cover with foil. I used Japanese eggplant so this was easy to do; however if you are using a more typical large eggplant, poke it, then just wrap it in foil. Bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees.

When eggplant is done, unwrap it and allow to cool for 10 minutes. It will continue to seam and soften in its skin. After it is cool enough to handle, split it open and spoon out the soft flesh into a bowl or plate. Toward the tapering stem, the meat may be stringy, but still usable -- it will mash and blend fine. 

Finally, mix all the ingredients into a blender or food processor, and season with a dash of salt and pepper. Pulse and blend until it is a smooth mass, similar to hummus or cooked grits. You could also just mash it all together with a fork, until the texture is like oatmeal. The flavors deepen and intensify if you let the Baba Ganoush sit covered in the refrigerator for a couple of hours; then set it out until it reaches room temperature.

To serve, just spoon it into a serving bowl and sprinkle on some chopped parsley (optional) and finish with a light drizzle of olive oil. I like to cut up a pita into triangles, for easy scooping. For the carb-wary, substitute with some sliced veggie sticks like carrots, celery, broccoli, or any favorite crunchy veggie. It's fine to just plop some on the plate and use it like a sweet gravy.

As mentioned earlier, peanut butter is a convenient substitution -- just be sure to use half the amount asked for with Tahini. The next time I make it, I will try a version without the powdered paprika, or use even less.

Usually when I get Baba Ganoush at a Persian or Israeli restaurant, they drizzle on olive oil, but you don't have to do this -- to keep things low calorie.

 I got a cup and a half of cooked flesh from the eggplant. Your amount may vary, but don't worry if you have less or more, just roll with it. Baba Ganoush is versatile enough to play around with adding and subtracting the ingredients -- that's what this chintzy chef does all the time, play in the kitchen!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Teriyaki Spam Musubi - Video Recipe

I have an overhead hovering drone recipe and am guiding a missile of savoriness to wallop your taste buds. So get ready for a flavor bomb!  My Teriyaki Spam Musubi will infiltrate your kitchen and hold your palate hostage.

Spam has been pushed to the bottom of the food chain since it was introduced by the military to feed G.I.'s in the battlefield during WWII. Well I'm leading it's charge into the 21st Century with my own cheap$kate Hawaiian Pearl Harbor recipe that uses a hand grenade-sized can of Spam. Just watch my mouthwatering video recipe below, that's done in my unique stop motion animated style.

Spam Musubi was originally created by Hawaiian locals who immigrated from Japan. Teriyaki Spam Musubi is simply a Twinkie-size disc of sticky rice tucked underneath a thick slice of sauteed spam in teriyaki sauce, that's wrapped in a thin sheet of dried seaweed. It is a potent portable package that fits in your hand and is usually eaten on the run and anywhere.

I know that not many of you out there will try this, but you could easily substitute it with a small filet of chicken, a slab of firm tofu, or fish like salmon, sauteed in teriyaki sauce.

You know what Spam tastes like, don't you? It's mainly made of chopped ham and pork shoulder, so there is a luncheon meat flavor and texture. I noticed on the can's ingredient list, chicken is added, too. There are not a lot of ingredients. Spam tends to be way too salty, but they now make a low-sodium version, although I don't know how they can cut down saline from ham.

This recipe is based on what I had on a trip to Oahu, Hawaii (click here to see what I'm talking about.) They sell Spam Musubi in grocery store delis, fast food joints, and even under heat lamps in 7-Eleven stores.

12-ounce cans of Spam come on sale for less than $3 per can and you can get 6-8 slices or 6-8 Spam Musubi per can, now that's a good deal. I even find small 7-ounce cans of luncheon loaf (which is similar to Spam) and single Spam packets at my local 99c only Store. And rice is cheap anywhere you buy it.

 Click in any photo to see larger.

Most grocery stores now carry bottles of Teriyaki sauce, but just in case, I have an easy homemade recipe that consists of white wine (mirin or saki,) soy sauce, and sugar that's cooked down to a simple syrup.

I also include a recipe for Sushi Rice for you. But if you have a rice cooker then just use that and follow the steaming directions to make plain sticky rice.

The trickiest part is finding dried sheets of seaweed. But now select grocery stores have begun to carry packages in the International aisle. We have a Little Tokyo here in downtown Los Angeles, so I can get a package of 10 sheets of seaweed for around $2, not bad.

Hey, I'll admit that getting Spam on your plate is an uphill battle, but my Teriyaki Spam Musubi may warm your Cold War heart just enough to wave a white dinner napkin and call a truce!

Teriyaki Spam Musubi  - VIDEO

Play it here, video runs 6 minutes, 32 seconds.

My YouTube video link for viewing or embedding, just click here.

Ingredients (6-8 pieces)
  • 1 can of Spam - 12 ounce can. Use any canned luncheon meat. You can substitute chicken filets, firm fish, firm tofu, or even a ham steak, instead of Spam. Just prepare it the same way I describe below.
  • 1 to 2 sheets of dried seaweed - slice into strips, anywhere from 2-4 inches wide. Up to you how much seaweed you like.
  • 2 cups of cooked Sushi or Sticky rice - more or less, depending on how large the Musubi pieces become. Each Spam Musubi uses about 1/2 cup of cooked rice.

Teriyaki Marinade for Spam (optional, I've had it without marinade, too.)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sugar - or any favorite sweetener
  • 2 tablespoons white wine, sake, or mirin (Japanese wine.)
*It's okay to use a store-bought Teriyaki Sauce instead of making my Homemade Teriyaki Marinade.

Sticky Sushi Rice
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar - or apple cider vinegar.
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt - or, to taste.
  • Water to rinse rice -- about 6 cups.
*Leave out vinegar and sugar for plain Sticky Rice.

Directions for Sushi Rice
If you have a rice cooker, then make the rice according to directions. If not, then follow my directions below for regular stovetop cooking.

The following recipe is for Sticky Sushi Rice, so I add sugar and vinegar to cooked rice. You can leave it out and just work with water and a little salt for plain Sticky Rice.

Put 1 cup of rice in a bowl that will hold at least 2 cups of water. Fill the bowl and stir the rice until the water is cloudy. Dump water (not rice) and refill. Repeat 3 or 4 times until the water is almost clear.

Add rice to a pot with a cover and add 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cover the pot. Simmer water with rice for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, give the rice a quick stir (to release any stuck to the pot bottom,) and let sit covered for 15 more minutes.

After the rice has set for 15 minutes add it to a glass or ceramic bowl. Make sure not to add any dried-out rice that is stuck to the bottom of the pot. This will be a problem later - when you form the rice ovals, they may easily break apart.

Just drizzle rice vinegar over the cooked rice. Sprinkle in salt and sugar. Stir rice gently to coat it all. (Turn rice slowly to keep grains from getting mushy.)

Cover with a kitchen cloth or a plate and let it rest for another 15 minutes. Sushi Rice is used at room temperature -- not hot or cold. Keep rice covered with a cloth (or lid) so it doesn't dry out, until ready to use.

Directions for Cooking Spam
Remove the Spam loaf from the can and slice it into about 6-8 slices. Up to you how thick you like Spam "steaks."

Add a tablespoon of oil to a medium/hot pan. Add spam slices to the pan. Brown at least one side, about 3-5 minutes. After one side of the Spam is brown, flip it over.

While Spam browns you can make the Teriyaki Marinade Sauce.

In a small bowl add soy sauce, white wine (mirin or sake), and sugar. Mix to dissolve sugar or your favorite sweetener.

Pour in Marinade sauce or store-bought Teriyaki sauce. In Hawai'i, they sell plain fried Spam Musubi, so if you don't like sweet Teriyaki sauce then leave it out.

Heat Spam with Marinade until it thickens, about 3 minutes. Turn Spam slices to coat each side with Marinade.

When the Marinade is thick like syrup, turn off the heat. If you use store-bought Teriyaki sauce then it is already like syrup, so all you need to do is heat it for about a minute or two.

Now time to assemble Teriyaki Spam Musubi.

Slice a sheet of dried seaweed. You want strips that are about 2 inches wide and long enough to wrap around molded rice and cooked Spam. I've seen some Musubi with wider slices of seaweed, too.

 There are several ways to make a Sticky Rice layer. The main thing is you have to press the rice and form it to about the size of a slice of spam, and an inch or two thick block of rice. Watch my video just above the Ingredients lists to see how I do it - in motion.

You can form the rice with your hands. Dampen hands and grab a spam-size ball of rice, about half a cup. Gently roll it around in your palm to form a ball. Squeeze your fist and roll the rice to form an oval.

Click on any photo to see larger.

Press harder when the shape is about right. You can use the moistened fingers of your other hand to help press and shape the rice oval.

The end result is an oval of rice that is about 2 inches by 4 inches. It doesn't have to be perfect -- a little larger or smaller is okay. The main thing is to squeeze the rice together hard enough so it holds together when Spam is added.

You can also use the Spam can as a cookie cutter. On a clean surface, or a sheet of plastic wrap, make a mound of rice about the size of a Spam slice and 4 times as thick.

Flatten the rice until about 2 inches thick. Press the rice all over so it is compressed and the rice grains are stuck together. Place spam can over rice and cut out Spam shape.

Lift off Spam can to reveal cut and molded rice. Take the extra rice and set aside for more rice molding.

Maybe the best way to form the rice is to wrap it in plastic. 

Get a mound of Sticky Rice about the size of a Spam slice, and 4 times as thick (about 1/2 a cup of rice.) Place the rice on a sheet of plastic wrap. Add a slice of cooked Spam on the rice.

Now bring up the 4 corners of plastic wrap and twist the ends together until the rice is bundled under the Spam. Press down on the Spam and Sticky Rice to compress. Twist, press, and form the rice to fit Spam. When Sticky Rice and Spam hold together, then unwrap the plastic.

*You can also order a Spam Musubi mold online, an Amazon link is here.

Now you are ready to finish wrapping Spam and rice with dried seaweed.

Place a strip of dried seaweed on a dry surface and top with the rice and Spam. Most directions say that seaweed is shiny side down - dull side is up, that is, when you wrap the Spam and rice, the shiny side shows when done. I don't worry about this. Shiny or dull side, it tastes the same - and the seaweed will seal, whichever side is wet.

Dampen your fingers and rub on the seaweed end to seal it.

Just repeat the assembly steps until all the Spam and rice are used.

The main problem I find is that the Sticky Rice may not be sticky enough - for whatever reason. The easiest fix is to just eat Spam Musubi upside down, that is, use the spam as a small plate.

The other solution is to have a wide enough piece of dried seaweed that wraps the Spam and Sticky Rice completely, like a sandwich. Some Musubi are normally made this way. While it may seem like a lot of seaweed, it isn't really, since seaweed is very thin. 

It's important that cooked Sticky Rice is kept at room temperature and not refrigerated. It will start to dry out and not be sticky enough to hold together. You want to make it the same day you eat it. Spam Musubi from Musubi Cafe (blog post here) was room temperature, and from a 7-Eleven it's kept warm wrapped in plastic and under a heating lamp. Of course, you can use the rice for something else; or serve fried Spam Teriyaki with sticky rice on the side.

Even the best Sticky Rice may crumble apart some. So it's okay to eat Musubi upside down, that way if rice breaks apart the Spam serves as a plate platform to hold rice. And for crumbly rice, it is easiest to use a wide sheet of seaweed and wrap the Spam and rice like a sandwich.

Okay to leave out vinegar and sugar in Sticky Rice, it's just extra flavor.

You can use as much cooked rice per Musubi. My wife likes less rice, while I like a lot.

I had Spam Musubi in Hawai'i and they make it plain and with a sweet sauce. Make it with my Marinade Sauce or not - it's up to you. It's okay to use a store-bought Teriyaki sauce or any favorite marinade.

If you are put off by Spam, then it is easy to substitute a filet of chicken, firm fish like salmon, firm tofu, or a ham steak sauteed in teriyaki sauce - it will be delish.

To see other Hawaii Travelogue blog posts with video, photos, text & GIFs, just click on any link below:
Visit to O'ahu, Hawai'i - intro 
Windward Shore & Keneke Grill

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Waikiki & The Musubi Cafe - Hawai'i Travelogue Video

The reviews are in! In my last Hawai'i Travelogue it's a 2fer, not only does the cheapest restaurant reviewer put his 2 cents worth in, but the wife gives a review as well. You don't want to scroll past this video.

And along with cheap$kate eatery reviewing, I assemble a bunch of scenic shots of Waikiki Beach to close out our Hawai'i travels. It's a feast for the eyes and taste buds.

Click on any photo to see larger.

If you have been following us on this trip then you were exposed to Spam Musubi in an earlier video (a click away here.) Well, I kick it up a notch with a couple of Breakfast Musubi.

The addition of Spam to Japanese musubi is unique to Hawai'i. It came about during WWII when meat was scarce and canned Spam was abundant. Locals adapted and created recipes for this military tinned processed meat.

Spam Musubi is just Japanese-style sticky rice with a slab of fried marinated spam on top, wrapped with a band of dried seaweed; and about the size of a Twinkie. I know, not appetizing sounding. But don't knock it until you've tried it. This is what the locals get when they are on the run looking for a quick bite. Spam Musubi is carried in grocery stores with a heated deli case, liquor stores, and 7-Elevens.

I know Japanese musubi has many more toppings than just Spam (I've visited Little Tokyo many times, here in Los Angeles.) Well, about 4 short blocks away from our Waikiki hotel was one of the most well-known eateries serving musubi on the island, called Musubi Cafe Iyasume.

It's a bright and well laid out petit restaurant. While they serve all types of toppings for musubi, they also have prepared bento box lunches to go for the locals, like Curry Bowls, Pork Katsu, and Shrimp Doria for $5.  

And the variety of musubi is almost endless: avocado, cucumber, plum, herb, pickled radish, teriyaki, cheese, bacon, and an egg omelet. You will get an eyeful of musubi in the video at the end of this blog post. And be sure to watch Amy and I do a Cheap$kate Dining Review of a Breakfast Musubi together! It's in the video at about the 3-minute mark, at the end of this blog post.

You never know what you'll run across on an oceanside stroll. One eventful late afternoon we (along with our friend Sandra) ran into a music and dance performance of classic Hawaiian songs and Hula dancing. Just a lei toss away from the crashing surf, we found a grassy spot and fell under the sway, rhythm, and melody of this beautiful island.

It gets crowded along the main drag of Kalakaua Avenue which follows the coastline. It's best to make reservations to eat on a night out, as we found out one evening. Being bumped from one eatery to the next, we finally lucked out and landed in Duke's Restaurant.

While it's a popular tourist-type place, with tiki-designed trappings, it turned out to be a great find. Duke's is named after the surfing legend Duke Kahanamoku. You can read some highlights of his storied life by clicking here.

While it's a chain restaurant, it manages to hit a sweet spot with a large tropical drink selection and Hawaiian-influenced cuisine. We were ushered to a small table with a sliver-view of the beach. We ordered drinks and settled on Fried Calamari and Ahi Poke appetizers for a light meal.

The Poke was bright dice-sized cubes of marinated raw fish, while the Fried Calamari was tender and crunchy at the same time. It was a good seafood combination. I had a drink called Hawaiian Time made with Absolut Mandarin, Kai Lemongrass, Ginger Shochu, basil strawberry, lemonade, and club soda - whew, that was a refreshing mouthful.

Amy was on a ginger kick and ordered the Maui Mule, made with Pau Vodka, simple syrup, lime, and ginger beer. 

As we sipped libations, right next to us a troubadour took a stool at the microphone and began strumming tunes. He had a high sweet voice and was a genial host, taking requests during his set. Amy fell under his spell when he played Van Morrison's song, Moondance, one of her favorites. Of course, he also plucked out a few Hawaiian melodies. I can never get enough of this style of music (I always try to find a local radio station that plays traditional Hawaiian music.) It creates the right mood for long drives between scenic stops.

We couldn't have asked for a better date night out: music, tasty treats and being in the company of someone you love. We had one last moonlight stroll before heading back to our hotel.

So thanks for hanging out these last two months on the island of O'ahu with Amy and me. I feel lucky to have such a fun and lively companion to share vacation time with. So do check out my last Hawai'i Travelogue Video below -- aloha and bon appetit to all.

Waikiki & The Musubi Cafe  - VIDEO
Play it here, video runs 5 minutes, 36 seconds.

My YouTube video link for viewing or embedding, just click here.

99 thanks to:
Musubi Cafe Iyasume (There are several locations, this is the one I went to.)
2427 Kuhio Avenue,
Pacific Monarch Hotel Ground Floor
Honolulu, HI 96815

A great Hawaiian radio station that I dived into to select a few tropical tunes for my Travelogue videos called "Territorial Airwaves - Your Source for the History of Hawaiian Music."
Online at:

And, last but not least, 99 Thanks to my lovely travel companion Amy -- we make great memories together ;-p

To see other Hawaii Travelogue blog posts with video, photos, text & GIFs, just click on any link below:
Visit to O'ahu, Hawai'i - intro 
Windward Shore & Keneke Grill
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