Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Winterreigen - A Winter Collection Piano Concert

Welcome welcome welcome to my second online piano concert! The truth is that I actually recorded this set in February, but found out that there was something wrong with my microphone and nothing recorded!! Unfortunately that was the day before my piano was moved to another location leaving me pianoless (which is like losing a limb to a pianist!!!) Due to some crazy relocation circumstances, I have been without a piano for quite some time until now!! So I'm back and ready to get this under way!!! This was suppose to be a winter-themed concert with selections from the Winterreigen suite by Ernst von Dohnányi, but now it's May and it doesn't feel like winter here! But I figure if anything, the elves and polar bears up in the North Pole still think it's winter!! These pieces are short and simple so it's not a crazy concert by any means. But the most important thing I wanted to do with this concert is play pieces that are hardly played or even known! I did a search on youtube just to make sure there were no recordings already! I hope everyone enjoys!!! Btw... the next concert WILL be out of this world knock your face off crazy so stay tuned!!!

I. Widmung
Widmung is the first in the set of ten and serves as a quick introduction. The left hand is quick with shadowed arppegiated chords overlayed by a slow and quaint melody coming from the right hand. The interesting thing with Dohnányi is how he uses minor chord changes to build up a tonal progression. I think this is very similar to a lot of Rachmaninoff's piano pieces sans the difficulty and craziness!!

II. Marsch der Lustigen Brüder
The second piece of the set is a definite march! With a steady beat and the constant 8th-16th note pattern, it feels like you are watching a militant parade marching down the streets of a small German town. True to the composing style of a march, there is a quiet and melodic section in the middle, much like a trio. I took the liberty of adding a lot of color to this part since it was a "break" from the marching. A lot of heavy yet colorful chords, especially toward the end, and definitely a lot of fun to play!

IX. Morgengrauen
The second to the last piece in the set is an immediate switch to a somber and reflective tone. Throughout the piece is a constant pattern of octaves with the same rhythm. It makes me think of waking up on a rainy day to the sounds of an old church bell in the distance. I feel like this piece of the set symbolized the ending of something... maybe someone as they become close to death, or possibly the ending of a cold and dreary winter. Either way, the piece has a small yet reflective climax, followed by the repeating the somber octaves, but then ends on a major chord. If Ernst ended the set with this, it would leave you with the sense of a lack of closure. I think that's why the last piece starts on the same chord. I wanted to separate these two videos for youtube, but in a live concert, I think they belong together with no pause. Feel free to listen to the last piece directly after this to see if you can hear the connection!

X. Postludium
I LOVE this piece for so many reasons! I remember playing this as a kid and thinking how much I liked it, but wished it was longer. Little did I know that later on I would find the entire set of pieces that belong with Postludium. The piece previous to Postludium ends on a G major chord. Postludium begins on a G suspended 4 chord which doesn't resolve until eight measures into the song. This Ernst guy is pretty rad for that! Even though this is a short piece around two minutes, it feels like this constant build up to the climax which is a grand reprise of the first theme. It ends with three chords and in the score Ernst wrote A-d-e (one letter per chord) meaning farewell in German. What a perfect way to end this awesome set of ten pieces - Ernst is seriously the man!!!

**If you are viewing this blog as a Note on Facebook and can't see the videos, go to the following link:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

As Ludacris put it.... "ROLL OUT!"

I can’t believe that I’ve had this blog and haven’t yet posted my recipe for eggrolls!! I seriously make it so much that I have I can make it in my sleep! So when I say eggroll, I must specify that these are Vietnamese eggrolls. No offense to other countries out there, but Vietnamese ones are by far one of the best! Most people who frequent Chinese restaurants are accustom to eggrolls with thick crunchy wraps filled with questionable shredded cabbage, but the Vietnamese kind is a different and o-so-yummy blend of ground meat, shrimp, green onions, fungus and carrots! I remember the first time I brought it into work for food day. The reason why I did it was because my manager at the time came back from lunch and gave me an eggroll saying

“I know your people eat this, so I brought it back for you.”

Funny thing is that she is the nicest person and didn’t mean it like it sounded. Anyway, it was enough inspiration for me to make some homemade ones and show people what yummy eggrolls are all about! I didn’t expect people to go so crazy for them and they were gone 30 minutes after I brought them in. This started the tradition of bring eggrolls into work. Whenever we had food days, people would discuss what they would bring but when it came to me, I was commanded to bring my eggrolls. Over years I’ve made some modifications so it won’t be like my mom’s original recipe, but for you spicy lovers, you’ll definitely like my version!!

A couple of years ago, I decided to branch out and try dessert eggrolls. The first batch was for a family Thanksgiving party and unfortunately they didn’t go over so well… especially since we came late and everyone had already had dessert. It was basically filled with pumpkin pie filling and if you’d ask my partner in crime and I, we would testify that it was damn good. I next experimented with a pumpkin vanilla dessert roll that I brought to work. I was afraid it wouldn’t be received too well so I didn’t make too many. It was a hit and people kept telling me that I should have brought more! In addition, I received the greatest suggestion from someone who said I should try putting chocolate chips in next time! Mmmmmm….

So for this blog entry, I decided to try a new dessert roll AND put chocolate in it. Since I LOVE Xôi (Vietnamese sweet sticky rice) I decided to make something similar and put it in the dessert roll. The day before I made the rolls, I was at Trader Joe’s and they had a large amount of blackberries for $1.99 and I couldn’t resist. With my abundance of blackberries I decided to make a Blackberry White Chocolate Dessert Roll with Xôi. So you know when you make cake and you can’t help but lick the spoon and get it all over you face and sometimes body? Well after I mixed the ingredients for the dessert roll together I had stick rice allllll around my mouth because I couldn’t stop eating the yummy sugar and carb infested roll filling!

So without further ado… here is the recipe for Vietnamese Eggrolls and BWC Dessert Roll:

Vietnamese Eggrolls (25 rolls)
   - egg roll wraps*
   - ½ lbs of ground pork or turkey
   - ¼ lbs of ground shrimp
   - 4-5 good sized carrots
   - ½ cup of chopped green onions
   - 2 oz. dry black fungus*
   - 2 oz. bean curd thread or bean vermicelli*
   - 2 tbsp minced garlic
   - 4 tbsp fish sauce
   - Sriracha sauce (you can make it as spicy as you’d like!)
   - 1 tbsp ground black pepper
   - 1 tbsp garlic powder
   - 1 tbsp onion powder
   - 2 egg (1 egg is for rolling the wraps)

*easiest and best to buy at an Asian store

  1. If egg roll wraps are frozen, defrost them
  2. In a large bowl, shred all of the carrots (this will make your arm sore)
  3. Add in the chopped green onions and minced garlic
  4. Boil the bean curd thread in hot water until it is soft (like spaghetti but more than al dente)
  5. Place the dry black fungus in a bowl and drain the hot water from the bean curd thread into the bowl (this will soften the fungus)
  6. In a colander with small itty-bitty holes, pour cold water over the bean curd thread until it is cool
  7. Chop the cooled bean curd thread into half inch pieces
  8. Once the fungus is soft, drain the water and chop into fine pieces (discard any hard pieces)
  9. Add ground turkey/pork and ground shrimp
  10. Add in everything else (Sriracha sauce, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and one egg)
  11. Mix mix mix!!!!!!! It’s not very easy to mix this evenly without using your hands so go on and get a little dirty!
  12. Now comes the potentially tricky part… rolling the eggrolls… I’m not exactly sure how to explain it so I recommend youtube-ing it or following the directions on the back. Also, some Vietnamese people will use rice paper instead of eggroll wrap so you can use whatever you’d like!
  13. Once everything is rolled, fry the eggrolls in pre-heated 375°F peanut oil for 8 minutes (should be a perfect golden brown color when done)

Once it’s done, it’s customary to take large lettuce leaves and wrap it around the eggroll while dipping it in Nước Mắm. Unless you have a Vietnamese friend who made you some Nước Mắm, you probably won’t be able to get any. The most common replacement would be something like Thai Sweet Chili sauce. So I mentioned that this is my twist on my mom’s recipe, and really the only difference is I use Sriracha sauce to really give it a kick… normally you won’t find spicy eggrolls in Vietnam since the Nước Mắm is spicy enough!!

Blackberry White Chocolate Dessert Roll (10-15 rolls)
   - 1 cup dry sweet rice*
   - 1 can of coconut milk
   - 1 cup of fresh blackberries
   - 1 bar of white chocolate (I used a Lindt white chocolate blueberry bar)
   - ¼ cup white sugar
   - 2 tbsp honey
   - 1 tbsp lemon juice
   - 1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Cook the dry rice and blackberries in one can of coconut milk (I just use a rice cooker for this but a pot will do as long as you don’t over cook it)
  2. Once the rice is cooked, add the sugar, honey, lemon juice and vanilla extract
  3. Stir stir stir until the rice until you have a yummy Barney color purpl
  4. Go ahead and taste it and add more of anything if needed
  5. Chop the entire bar of chocolate into 1 cm chunks
  6. Pour the chocolate into the mixture and only stir it a couple of times! The chocolate will melt so if you stir too much you won’t have any choco-chunks!!
  7. Just like you did with the eggrolls, wrap those puppies up!!
  8. Make sure you fry these ones first or else you will have fishy BWC dessert rolls!
I didn’t do this for the potluck, but if you have some extra coconut milk, you can easily make a creamy dipping sauce by mixing sugar and pudding mix with the coconut milk. Also, I had some left over filling, so I just put it in a bowl, garnished it with shaved almonds, and stuck it in the fridge for some BWC sticky rice!!

So FINALLY the eggroll recipe is out for everyone to try! I expect to hear back from people to see how it went!!! And you didn't think I would finish this blog entry without a Vietnamese song!!! I'm posting a song I heard A LOT when I was in Saigon, which is natual because the song is about Saigon! It's called Sai Gon Dep Lam Sai Gon oi! (Which translates to Saigon is pretty, Oh Saigon!!) Haha the title makes me laugh, but you'll get a kick once you hear it since Vietnamese aren't known for their singing voices.... ENJOY!