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Archive for May, 2010

My co-worker Thuan and I talked about having an international food dinner a while ago. The requirement was that the food had to be authentic and home made. Shortly after our talk, I received an invite for the dinner. His friend Beth loved the idea as well, and sent the invite. I was very excited that it was actually happening (thanks Beth for organizing it!).

After consulting with my mom and sister, I decided to make Salată de Vinete, Gustare, and Negresa.

Salată de Vinete is an eggplant spread, which my mom has been making for years and I really like. The dish is very simple to make. It only requires roasted eggplant, roasted green pepper, onion, oil, and salt and pepper. My mom always decorates it with tomatoes and parsley leaves, so it was only fitting to do the same this time.

Salată de Vinete

Salată de Vinete

Another typical Romanian dish is Gustare, which means appetizer. The dish includes sliced tomatoes and cucumbers sprinkled with some salt and pepper, some feta cheese, and usually some kind of meat, such as pork.

Gustare

Preparing the ingredients for the Gustare.

Growing up, this dish was included on the menu of every party that we attended. Also, during our trip to Romania a few years ago, every house that we visited served it to us, which really surprised Joel. :) I did explain the popularity of it to him many times, but I guess it still surprised him.

After my failed attempt at making the Negresa a few weeks ago, I decided to make it again, but follow the recipe this time. So I included the required 2 sticks of butter and voilà… the cake was perfect. :)

The dinner was a success! All the dishes were delicious! I was surprised about how many different countries were represented. We had dishes from Romania (of course), Vietnam, Turkey, Korea, Italy, Portugal, Thailand, Poland, and US.

Kofte (beef patties seasoned with Turkish herbs. We have a similar dish in Romania, except that it is made with pork.)

The dishes included:

~ Thai Beef Salad
~ Kofte
~ Borek (a Turkish take on Spanakopita)
~ Pierogis and Kielbasa
~ Chicken Parmesan
~ Korean BBQ Pork
~ Vietnamese Egg Rolls
~ Portuguese Malasadas
~ Vietnamese Fried Rice
~ Kugel

Portuguese Malasadas

Portuguese Malasadas

The dinner was so much fun! It was great meeting some of Thuan’s friends. Delicious food and nice company… what more can you ask for?

Vietnamese Egg Rolls

Vietnamese Egg Rolls

I think that we should definitely have another dinner soon. I am sure that Thuan agrees with me. :)

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The Art of Drafting

As I was riding with Joel and Bruce the other day, I glanced at my computer. It said 31 mph. “No way!!” I thought to myself. I was not even working very hard at all. It is so nice to ride with other people and practice the art of drafting. :) It even works with only one other rider, but it is much better with 2 or more riders.

Drafting is when you ride very closely to the rider in front of you, which allows you to stay in that rider’s slipstream. A particular spot exists where you can actually feel the wind pulling you. It’s a very strange but cool feeling! This effect allows you to keep a fast pace without working very hard. It works extremely well when you ride on a flat and/or slight downhill section. That is when you can reach the 31 mph speeds. It’s very exhilarating!

Drafting also helps you to rest during a ride. As I was riding with my cycling group last week, my friend Brian was nice enough to move in front of me. I immediately felt the effect. I was still keeping my speed but I did not have to work as hard anymore. I was so relieved, since I was getting very tired and could not keep up the pace any longer.

Although drafting is great, it can also be dangerous, especially for beginners. You have to be very careful because if the rider in front of you slows down just slightly and you do not pay close attention, you can run into that rider’s back wheel and crash. These types of crashes occur all the time in the Tour de France and even on a few of the rides that I have done. You should only draft riders who are stable, constant, and experienced. I was lucky to have Joel when I first started riding. He always encouraged me to draft behind him. Practicing it with him gave me more confidence to draft others. These days, I am lucky to have a bunch of friends who I trust. I have ridden with them for years, so I know how they ride. But even the most experienced rider can have a bad day, so it is your responsibility to be cautious.

Drafting is an art, and it feels so great when you master it. :)

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I am sure that everyone in the world is going to write a post about their Mother’s Day brunch/dinner, but I am very excited about the brunch menu that I assembled for my mom and had to share it.

At first I had no idea what to prepare. I wanted to make something simple. I searched around for some ideas and I found two dishes: Ratatouille Tart and Skinny Omelette. The recipes seemed very simple and required minimal ingredients. For dessert I decided to make my mom’s chocolate cake called Negresa. I have not made it in a very long time and I really wanted to make something that reminded me of my mom.

Ratatouille Tart

Both the Ratatouille Tart and the Skinny Omelette were delicious! The tart was very simple to make. The hardest part was slicing the veggies, which was not that hard. The pepper gave me the most trouble since it is hollow on the inside. I had a hard time slicing it thinly. I used stored bought puff pastry dough instead of home made dough, and it was still good. For the sauce I used my new favorite tomato sauce called Pellicano’s. I really don’t care for tomato sauce, but this sauce seems less acidic and I don’t mind it. Also, it is made in Buffalo, which is somewhat local and makes me happy.

Ratatouille Tart

This was my first time making crêpes out of eggs. I must say that I really liked them. They were almost easier to make than regular crêpes. :) You simply beat the eggs, add some salt and pepper, and then swirl the mixture in a nonstick pan. For the filling, I used sun-dried tomato pesto, goat cheese, and mixed greens (per the recipe).  The ingredients worked really nicely together. The possibilities are endless for this recipe! As I was eating it, I was thinking that some prosciutto would go nicely in it. :)

Skinny Omelette

My chocolate cake did not turn out as planned. The funny part is that my mom baked the cake too and brought it over. Great minds think alike. :) The cake tasted the same, but it was much denser than my mom’s version.

Negresa Cake

My mom's version of the cake.

That was entirely my fault because I cut down on the sugar and the butter. Serves me right for not following the recipe! :) Also, it was not as chocolaty as my mom’s, which was not my fault. I found out that my mom puts more cocoa than what the recipe calls for. Well, actually, she uses her trusted spoon instead of a regular Tablespoon for measuring, which yields more than a normal Tablespoon. Those pesky spoons!! After consulting my mom about my mishap, it was decided that the required amount of butter has to stay. I guess it is worth a Lactaid pill.

Negresa Cake

My version of the cake.

Happy Mother’s Day!

My mom and dad

My mom and dad.

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