Posts from January 2012

Beginners Guide to Building a Green Roof Garden via Scandinavian Green Roof Association

Green roof gardens on top of buildings serve multiple purposes from insulation to improving air quality plus a chance to grow some of your own food.

Having a quiet place to go to right above your head is a plus.

Of course a project of this type needs a building that can structurally support it.

The Scandinavian Green Roof Association shares a wealth of information on Urban Green Roof Gardens including a Beginners Guide to Building a Green Roof.

Some of the information offered is gathered from a course in 2004 at Malmo University called Green Roofs and the Urban Environment so it will need updating.


Training sessions and seminars are offered in the U.S and Canada by Green Roofs for Healthy Cities as well as practical information like the green roof elements graphic above.

Up on the roof for Green Day # 211

Previously: Clear Kitchen Counter and Office Desk Clutter with Ekobo Bamboo Organizers

(* Green Roof Elements graphic from Green Roofs for Healthy Cities site)

Flowers and Ice Cream, Flower Ice Bowl, Sweet Visual Treat for Valentine's Day

Kerstin Rodgers aka Ms Marmite Lover is something of a local celebrity in the London food scene in part thanks to her Underground Restaurant, what others call Supper Club or Speakeasy Restaurant.

In March 2011, her first book titled Supper Club combining a guide to Supper Clubs the world over with a number of cocktails and recipes was published by Harper Collins in the UK.

Here's a recipe from Supper Club that will be a visual treat for Valentine's Day.

Flower Ice Bowl

This is a beautiful way to present ice cream. You will need 2 glass bowls (don’t use ceramic, I ruined two good mixing bowls when they split in the freezer), one of which fits into the other, leaving a gap of about 2-3cm (1-1 ¼ in) all round. Collect some flowers; I use pink and white geraniums and roses, and some herb sprigs with distinctive leaves, like rosemary. I put the roses at the bottom of the larger glass bowl, with some ice cubes to separate the flowers from each other and also to create a large enough gap at the bottom so that the resulting ice bowl will be strong. I then arrange the rest of the flowers and herbs artfully up the sides of the larger glass bowl. To keep the flowers in position, I brush some egg white onto the flower before sticking it down.


Ice-bowl005 (2)


I then place the second, slightly smaller bowl into the larger one with the flowers, weighing it down if necessary. I fill the space left between the two bowls three-quarters full with boiled and cooled mineral water. (This process is to remove calcium from the water for a clear, glasslike look.)
Place the bowls carefully in the freezer. In fact, I’d pour in the water next to the freezer so that you don’t have far to go and risk spilling it. After a few hours, top up the water around the rim, adding more flowers if necessary. Continue to freeze.

Remove the bowls from the freezer and turn them, both together, upside down in the sink. Run
some hot water over the base, and they will come apart easily, releasing the ice flower bowl from
the space between them. Don’t let the hot water run for too long, just enough to loosen, or your
whole ice bowl will melt!

To use ice bowls at the table, you will need a large shallow bowl sat underneath to catch the water
as it melts. The bowls last at least a couple of hours, depending on the temperature of the room.

(* Recipe from Supper Club by Kerstin Rodgers published in March 2011 by Harper Collins UK, photo by Jason Lowe)

Cure for Baking Anxiety, King Arthur Winter 2012 Baking Demos, Baton Rouge to Burlington

This winter 2012, King Arthur Flour, brings its FREE baking demos to ten cities in Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Vermont -

Their experts will offer recipes and tips on Perfect Pies & Savory Scones, and Baking with Yeast & Whole Grains. 

Some just in time for Valentine's Day if you plan on baking your love.


Program in a nutshell:

"King Arthur Flour demos are a unique blend of baking science, tried and true tips, and culinary theater; traveling baking instructors explain and entertain, inform and inspire. Attendees walk away with just enough baking science to understand how ingredients function in a recipe and why certain techniques are important to successful baking, while sharing the joy and tradition of baking at home."

If you suffer from "baking anxiety" this could be the right medicine

For full schedule, cities and other details visit Traveling Demos page.

Demo times for Weekdays
Noon to 2 pm: Perfect Pies & Savory Scones
7 pm to 9 pm: Baking with Yeast & Whole Grains
Demo times for Saturday & Sunday
11 am to 1 pm: Perfect Pies & Savory Scones
3 pm to 5 pm: Baking with Yeast & Whole Grains

The winter 2012 baking demos tour opened in Baton Rouge on January 26th and concludes March 25th in Burlington.

Today's stop is Kenner, Louisiana.

Get baking

(* Image of Heart Shaped Creme Brulee from pages of King Arthur Flour site)

Palatial Guardian of Sichuan, Kung Po Chicken Recipe by Ching-He-Huang for Lunar New Year

To mark the Lunar New Year here's a third helping from Ching's Everyday Easy Chinese (William Morrow) by Ching-He Huang, the host of Chinese Food Made Easy on Cooking Channel.

Kung Po chicken

This is a classic dish from Sichuan. It is named after Ding Baochen (1820–86), a governor of Sichuan; “Gong Bao” or “Kung Po” means “palatial guardian,” in reference to his official title. I love this spicy-sweet dish, but can’t stand versions of it made with oyster sauce or cabbage. In my view, it should be numbingly spicy, sweet, and tangy.
There are many variations of the dish and this is my home-style Western version. The tang comes from the Chinkiang black rice vinegar.

Prep time: 10 minutes l Cook in: 10 minutes l Serves: 2–4 to share

2 skinless chicken breasts or 4 thighs, cut into ½-inch slices
Salt and ground white pepper
1 tbsp of potato flour or cornstarch
1 tbsp of peanut oil
2 tbsps of Sichuan peppercorns
4 dried red chilies
1 tbsp of Shaohsing rice wine or dry sherry
1 red pepper, seeded and cut into chunks
2 scallions, chopped into 1-inch lengths
Handful of dry-roasted cashews

For the Sauce
7 tbsps of cold vegetable stock
1 tbsp of light soy sauce
1 tbsp of tomato ketchup
1 tbsp of Chinkiang black rice vinegar or balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp of hoisin sauce
1 tsp of chili sauce
1 tbsp of cornstarch


Kung Po Chicken (2)


1. Place the chicken in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add the potato flour or cornstarch and mix well to coat the chicken pieces. Add all the ingredients for the sauce to another bowl and stir to combine.

2. Heat a wok over high heat until it starts to smoke and then add the peanut oil. Add the Sichuan
peppercorns and dried chilies and fry for a few seconds, then add the chicken pieces and stir-fry for 2 minutes. As the chicken begins to turn opaque, add the rice wine or dry sherry. Cook for an additional 2 minutes, then pour in the sauce.

3. Bring to a boil, add the red pepper, and cook in the sauce with the chicken for another 2 minutes, or until the meat is cooked through and the sauce has thickened and become slightly sticky in consistency. Add the scallions and cook for 1 minute. Toss in the cashews, then transfer to a serving plate and serve immediately.

CHING’S TIP: For a darker sauce, you could add a small drop of dark soy sauce.

(* Recipe from Ching's Everyday Easy Chinese (William Morrow, October 4, 2011) by Ching-He Huang, Photography by Jamie Cho, reproduced by permission of the publisher)

Should We Point Finger at California and Australian 'Ports' on Port Day?

January 27, 2012 is the first official Port Day...

As Center for Wine Origins who is behind this initiative reminds us this unique wine, Port, "comes exclusively from Portugal’s Douro Valley".

Nevertheless some wineries in California, Australia and other places still call their port style fortified wines 'port wines'.

An example is Revolution Wines in Sacramento (California) with their 'St Rey Single Quinta Ruby Port'.

Should they call it Port style instead?


American producers of these type wines have an umbrella organization called Sweet and Fortified Wine Association whose site shares a few historical facts on Port and details on port styles (reproduced below):

"What is Port?

Port is a fortified wine originating from the Douro Valley in Portugal. The wine takes its name from the Atlantic coast city of Oporto at the mouth of the 560-mile long “River of Gold”.

The Romans introduced wine to the Iberian Peninsula in the first century B.C. But it wasn’t until the 17th-century that the British added brandy to the harsh red wines of the Douro to stabilize them for shipment to England. The ongoing wars in Europe affected the ability of the British to obtain their favored “clariet” wines from France so they looked to Portugal as a reliable source of drinkable red wine.

The first English port house was established in Oporto in 1670. In 1703 the British and Portuguese signed the Methuen Treaty that paved the way for the port trade that exists to this day.

While there are port-style wines made around the world from Australia to South Africa to California, strict use of the term Port is reserved for fortified wines produced in Portugal.

Port Wines

Over 500 grape varieties are grown in Portugal but only 30 different varieties are found in the Port wine region of the Douro. Of these, only five are considered to have the exceptional quality for Port wine. These varieties are Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Tinta Barroca, Tinto Cao, and Touriga Francesa.

Much of the grape harvesting along the steep slopes of the Douro Valley is still done buy hand. Grapes were traditional trodden barefoot in open granite lagers but today most of the crush is done mechanically. The must is placed in concrete or stainless steel tanks for fermentation. When about have the grape sugar has been turned to alcohol, the juice is run off into barrels containing about brandy which stops to fermentation. The usual mix is one part brandy to four parts juice.

In the spring following harvest, the wines are moved down the Douro Valley to Vila Nova de Gaia where blending, aging, and bottling takes place. There are many different styles of Port but two broad categories – bottle aged or cask aged. Bottle aged Ports are aged for a short time in oak then bottled unfiltered to age to maturity. These Ports retain the color and fruitness into maturity. Cask aged Ports are aged in wood then filtered and bottled. While cask aged Ports become tawny in color, they are ready to drink on release."

To (i am sure) the chagrin of Center for Wine Origins, they follow this nice introduction with chapter on 'American Port'.

While looking for details on Port, i found the Port Wine 'Times Reference' page which includes a Port Navigator and an archive of articles on topic in NY Times.

I suggest you pay that page a visit. You will emerge rich with knowledge.

Happy Port Day!

Dai Banana Leaf Fish, Feeding the Dragon Recipe for Chinese-Lunar New Year

Working my way through the Fall 2011 titles I have not yet covered, there was Feeding the Dragon 'a culinary travelogue through China with recipes' (Andrews McMeel Publishing) by siblings Mary Kate and Nathan Tate.

The start of the Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year) celebrations give me a perfect opportunity to share a couple of the book's recipes.

Today we head to Yunnan province.

Dai Banana Leaf Fish

Peeking out from below the rickshaw canopy, I see a blur of reds and yellows and shades of green—
hibiscus and orchids, palm trees and flowers I’ve never seen before. The road is lined with tall banana
trees heavy with their fruit, and below, the Mekong River rushes by on its way to the South China Sea.
Yunnan banana trees, the tallest variety in the world, are plentiful in Xishuangbanna, and Dai cooks make use of their large leaves by wrapping them around everything from fish fillets to mushrooms to pig brains.

They stuff the packets full of fresh herbs like mint or cilantro and then grill them over hot coals. The
leaves seal in the juices and insulate the contents from the heat of the grill. If banana leaves are available in your area (they can usually be found frozen at Asian or Latin grocery stores), wrap each of these fish fillets in a leaf and bake in the oven to create a succulent, tasty fish. Served right in the leaves, the fillets look undeniably cool. Otherwise, wrap the fish in aluminum foil for similar results.

This goes great with Pineapple Rice.

Serves 4

3 fresh small red chiles, seeded and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup white wine
4 (6-ounce) fillets white fish, such as tilapia or halibut
4 banana leaves or 12-inch pieces heavy-duty aluminum foil


Bananaleafsish (2)


Preheat the oven to 450°F. Use a mortar and pestle to mash the chiles, garlic, ginger, salt, cilantro, and basil into a chunky paste. Whisk in the oil and wine until blended well.
Place a fish fillet to the right of center on a banana leaf or a piece of foil. Place one-quarter of the cilantro paste on the fish and smear it around so the fish is covered. Fold the left side of the banana leaf or foil in half over the fish. Fold each of the three open sides inward several times to make a packet with a tight seal. If you’re using a banana leaf, use toothpicks to secure the folded edges.
Place the packets seam side up on a baking pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the fish is white and cooked through.
Serve right in the banana leaf (or on a fresh one),or remove the fish from the foil and place on a plate with all the juices.

(*From Feeding the Dragon: A Culinary Travelogue Through China with Recipes by Nate and Mary
Kate Tate/Andrews McMeel Publishing, Fall 2011, all rights reserved)

February is Shochu Month in New York, Low Calorie, Healthy Spirit in Japan, Really?

Still in the mood for change that each new year brings and searching for a low calorie, healthier spirit (does such a thing exist?), in Japan Shochu is considered the drink of choice and over the past decade as grown to a position where it outsells Sake.

Lucky us in the NY tri-state area, to drum up interest in Shochu, the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) and The Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association (JSS) will host ‘Experience Shochu, the National Spirit of Japan,’ a cross section of events in February 2012.  


On the program:

Along with restaurant promotions and a party showcasing Shochu during Fashion Week, a special day of tastings and a trade seminar featuring Junior Merino of the Liquid Chef will take place at the Astor Center, a veritable wine and spirits institution in its own right.

JETRO and JSS will partner with restaurants for a variety of tasting promotions on Sunday, February 12th as part of NY Shochu Night Out. Participating restaurants are Inakaya (231 W 40th Street), Robataya (231 E 9th Street) and Sakagura (211 E 43rd Street B1F). On this evening, a free Shochu tasting will be offered for dinning guests.

On Monday, February 13th, JETRO will host a day of Shochu tasting at the Astor Center featuring 16 Shochu producers. The walk around tastings (with a trade/press audience in the afternoon and a consumer event in the evening) will highlight leading artisan Japanese Shochu producers. Attendees will have the opportunity to taste a variety of Shochus from each producer and talk to the spirit makers. During the afternoon tasting, trade and media are invited to an hour long seminar by Toshiro TAKAHASHI, Director of JSS, and noted mixologist Junior Merino. He will discuss Shochu history, production and versatility as a neat spirit and cocktail component.

16 producers and their labels that will be featured at the Astor Center tastings are as follows:

Company Name Labels
KITAYA • Gokoo 
• Jinkoo 
• Gyokuro 
• Yosaku
SHINOZAKI • Sennen-no-nemuri 
• Amaou-Umeshu Amaou-Hajimemashita
• Kintaro Mugi Shochu - Roasted Barley 
• Tsukushi Mugishocyu - Black Label 
• Tsukushi Mugi Shocyu - White Label
GENKAI SHUZO • Barley Shochu IKI
YAMANOMORI • Yama No Mori Shochu
• Kawabe 
• Koisisou
TAKAHASHI SHUZO • Hakutake Shiro
SANWA SHURUI • Iichiko Special 
• Iichiko Frasco 
• Iichiko Kurobin 
• Iichiko Silhouette 
• Iichiko Seirin
KOMASA JYOZO • Kozuru Kuro 
• Kura No Shikon 
• Window's Mugiichi 
• Window's Migaki
SATSUMA SHUZO • Satsuma Shiranami 
• Kuro Shirnami 
• Satsuma Otome 
• Kuradashi Genshu 
• Kannoko 
• Kohaku No Yume 
• Mugiwara Boushi
• Fukiage Mugi
YAMAMOTO SHUZO • Satsuma Godai 
• Satsuma Kurogodai 
• Satsuma Godai Umeshu
KYOYA DISTILLER & BREWER • Kappa no Sasoi-mizu 
• Heihachiro 
• Hebess Cool
KUMEJIMA'S KUMESEN • Kumejima's Kumesen 
• Aragoshi Kumi's Umeshu
TARAGAWA • Ryukyu Ohcho

Wondering how to order, drink, serve Shochu, check the How to Shochu article bt New York Mutual Trading.

If you are in New York area and want to experience Shochu first hand, Sign Up Online for FREE consumer tasting taking place at Astor Center on February 13, 2012 from 6 pm to 8:30 pm.

Healthy toasting for Tokyo Thursdays # 220

Previously: Ame, Kumori, Yuki, Waku Waku Japanese Video Lessons, Courtesy of Japan Society

(* Illustration is wheat shochu "horsetail black" by Nishi Yoshida from pages of Rakuten site)

Chill your White Bordeaux Gently, Decant Younger Sauternes

Making my way through the numerous offerings at Bordeaux Grands Crus Vintage 2009 tasting in New York was a challenge.

In addition to the shear number of wines, tannins on the reds have not had time yet to loose their rough edges.

Towards the end of the event, Laurence Brun of Chateau Dassault suggested that this challenge for the palate could be best managed by taking breaks between sections of the tasting. Dilemna one is faced with is you have 4 hours maximum to get a good feel for 100 plus wines showcased.

Professional tasters with more discerning noses and palates will have I am sure seen more shapes of things to come (in 4 to 5 years) when this wines are ready to drink.

Whites from Graves and Pessac Leognan (at the beginning) and Sauternes (at the end) were not as much of a challenge.


The 'chill me gently' plea from Chateau Carbonnieux was a nice way to ask to make justice the wine by not serving it ice cold.

Sauternes selection at the end included Chateau La Tour Blanche, the only one to decant its wine.

Their representative told me that in his opinion, any Sauternes less than 10 years old should be decanted to give wine breathing room and reveal aromas.

Fresh impressions from Bordeaux Vintage 2009 tasting.

Sauternes by Chateau Bastor-Lamontagne is Part of Bordeaux Grands Crus Tasting on January 25

Tastings offer more wines than one has the time and palate to sample in 3 to 4 hours.

With that in mind, i started doing my homework before Grands Crus de Bordeaux 2009 Vintage Tasting in New York on January 25th (2012).

At letter B, I found Chateau Bastor-Lamontagne, a Sauternes producer I am not familiar with.


Call of Margaux will lead me to Chateau Kirwan table.

The hardest part will be to decide who to skip.