Roasted Cheese-Stuffed Figs with Bacon

By Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

Growing up in Hilo, we had a fig tree. It was one of many fruit trees in our backyard.

The mango, mountain apple, tangerine, litchi and guava trees thrived in our lush, Hawaiian climate. The fig tree did not.

It was puny and didn’t yield much fruit. And the fruit it did produce tended to be undersized. Ants, attracted to the sweetness, burrowed into the figs so you had to split them open to check for the little critters before taking a bite. Still, I loved that fig tree and to this day, I can’t wait for fig season.

The season runs from late summer through early fall, so July is a little early to be buying figs, but I couldn’t resist purchasing some I found last week, even if they weren’t so perfect and I knew they wouldn’t be so sweet. I figured these out-of-season figs were a good candidate for roasting, which would intensify their sweetness, and wrapping in bacon, which would remedy all sins. Continue Reading »

Monster cupcakesBy Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

We had a family birthday party for my grandchild, who just turned one. There were just seven of us, including the birthday baby.

Given it was a busy time, I was looking for a way to acknowledge this milestone in a festive way that would give our grandson his due, but not be an exhausting production. So, as a family, we decided on a weekend brunch.

If you have a birthday celebration for a child coming up, some of these ideas may be helpful to you, too.

The first thing I always plan for is the cake. This sets up the party theme. I’ve baked many a birthday cake when my kids were young, improvising to create Bert and Ernie, making a jailhouse cake when the party was on Alcatraz, and so forth. Last year, I made Elmo cupcakes for my granddaughter. Continue Reading »

A Cool Noodle Bowl

Cold Noodle Bowl

By Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

Are you wilting in summer heat? Here in San Francisco, our temperature is rising from the low 60s to the high 60s, which is probably our seasonal norm.

So, lucky us, it’s not so hot that we are battling sluggish appetites and cooking lethargy. But if you are, here’s my favorite solution: cold Japanese noodles.

Somen, thin Japanese wheat noodles, cooks in just two minutes–one minute in boiling water and one minute in simmering water. Soba, thin buckwheat noodles, takes a little more time—about five to eight minutes. Either is delicious served cold with a dipping sauce. Continue Reading »

Strawberry Bavarian Cream

By Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

When we were kids, my sister and I loved the annual Hawaii County Fair. Thrilling carnival rides, hot dogs and cotton candy, the smell of sawdust, strings of night lights, booths offering free stuff…it was quite the highlight of our year, growing up in small town Hilo.

Other kids may have been bored with the exhibits of foodstuffs and crafts by local homemakers. But we couldn’t wait to check them out because each year, mom would submit entries for competition and we were proud of her talents. Continue Reading »

Grilled Corn and Tomato SaladBy Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

If you’re cooking for the Fourth of July, a midweek holiday is not your friend. Who has time to prep on the workday before?

Still, I’m glad that, unlike Memorial Day and Presidents Day, the holiday falls on its true date—and hasn’t been switched irreverently to the closest Monday for the convenience of a three-day weekend.

I’m trying to streamline our Fourth of July menu with simple-to-prepare dishes to accommodate a Tuesday family get-together. Recipes from our Special Fork archives and recipe database will ensure a do-able celebratory lunch. You might like to try some of these recipes, too. Continue Reading »

Salade Niçoise

By Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

I didn’t find the ultimate Salade Niçoise in Nice. Actually, despite ordering it four or five times, I didn’t find it anywhere in the South of France, where we vacationed a few weeks ago.

My fault.

I ordered my favorite salad in casual outdoor cafés, where expediency probably gets in the way of authenticity. I love this salad so much that I didn’t mind that their ingredients didn’t match my expectations.

The fact is, there are many opinions regarding what should be in a Salade Niçoise. A robust main dish salad perfect for summer, I’ve always thought it contained potato salad in a vinaigrette, green beans, anchovies, olives, canned tuna, tomatoes and hard-cooked eggs—Julia Child style. Continue Reading »

French spicesBy Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

For a food lover, whether you’re doing a road trip to another part of your state or flying to another continent, tasting regional specialties and visiting local markets are highlights of travel.

Steve and I just returned from three weeks in the South of France and Turin, Italy. And in addition to some exceptional dining experiences on the road, including at two restaurants ranked in the top 50 of the World’s Best—we manage to extend the pleasure of our trip by bringing great food home.

When my kids were little and we went to France and the Netherlands for their first European vacation, I brought back a few little jars of jam and hot cocoa packets from our hotel’s continental breakfast and supplemented this stash with local-baked croissants and a baguette, so we could play at being in France. I also bought some “Delft” egg cups to serve soft-boiled eggs, along with cold meats and cheeses, to pretend we were still travelers in Holland. Continue Reading »

Strawberry Cream Puffs

By Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

Our local farmers’ markets are burgeoning with beautiful, red-ripe and scrumptious strawberries right now. So, I was inspired to bake me a strawberry dessert.

Strawberry Cream Puffs are light clouds of eggy dough, crisp on the outside, with a creamy filling inside, and juicy sliced strawberries sandwiched in between.

While the component parts are not difficult, it’s rather a long recipe for Special Fork, so I’ve divided the dessert into two: you can make each recipe as a stand-alone, or do both recipes, as you see fit. Continue Reading »

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