Thursday, September 22, 2011

Section Of A Cone

Without explanation, this might look like an ordinary ice cream cone. You may notice the cone is filled, however, and that's because this was deliberately engineered that way to maximize the cone as an ice cream reserve. I had made a textbook chocolate cone, and gave it to my wife and made her promise not to have a bite.

Now giving someone a cone like that and a promise of 'don't touch' is a cruel thing to do to someone who'd actually listen. Neither of us believed she wasn't going to work it over while I attended to something or other in the kitchen, but it didn't matter because I had a backup ice cream reservoir.

Cold Turkey Vindaloo

Quick snack: some fresh ciabatta, a single slice of turkey -- just enough to flavor a mouthful of bread -- and a smear of vindaloo paste over the mayonnaise. Or under it, I can't remember. But I do remember it was pretty tasty. I wonder, though... I'm too much of a snob to used jarred condiments, mostly. Are these crappy vindaloo but I lack the basis for comparison? It's made in India, anyway. Maybe grab a jar at an Indian market and tell me what you think.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


The chicken 'tender', that triangular one with the tendon hanging out the back, is pretty much a product of modern chicken processing. They didn't have them when I was growing up, and came on the market not much after the 'McNugget' turned the chicken processing world upside down.

I'm not crazy about them as a substitute for chicken fingers, because by the time you reduce the connective tissue in that tendon, you've totally overcooked the chicken. Or you get a chicken finger with a tendon in the middle.

Day one leftovers for the kids, a one pot microwave meal with pasta and corn. Day two is my obligation, and here's some leftover chicken fingers in a sandwich, chopped fine, avocado, mayonnaise, lettuce, sri racha, and a good squirt of lime, all on a fresh St. Joseph's roll from Virgilio's. And with a big damned spike through it, so it doesn't fall apart or lose its integrity. I hate that.

Brace of Virgilio's

There's a pretty thing, two semolina loaves from Virgilio's Italian bakery, right there on the end of mainstreet. Dish of previously mentioned garlic salt. Room temperature sweet butter. Maybe some gravy from the pot. I want a chunk of that right now, but it's Friday night so I have to wait for blessings.

I Laugh At Your Puny Garlic Salt

Durkee garlic salt is for weaklings. Dried garlic powder and table salt. Please.

If I want a salt and garlic kick, I take jarred Chinese fried garlic, and grind it in the ol' mortar and pestle with a good pinch of kosher salt. It's awesome just on bread and butter, or here sprinkled on seared vegetables, with a little olive oil.

My Small, Anorexic Greek Salad

Why Small and Anorexic? Well, first, because if you google 'my big fat greek salad', you'll find dozens of greek salads under that clever heading. Google a small, anorexic greek salad, baby, and it takes you right to me.

The other reason is that each of these is near fatally flawed for a Greek salad. They both have feta, but we barely make the cut on that point alone; this feta is probably rated higher by Consumer Reports as a caulking agent than by Cook's Illustrated as a cheese, but never mind. One of these salads has no kalamata olives, and one has no tomatoes. Now everyone knows, you make a greek salad by waving feta, kalamata olives, and a styrofoam tomato at a piece of lettuce, and serving with half a nearly stale pita and prepackaged dressing. That's how it's done. So how, you ask, can I claim these are Greek salads?

Well first, there's the feta. But there's also a handful of fresh thyme, oregano, chocolate mint, and a little sage, rinsed, minced fine, and topping both. Fresh made dressing, a pretty simple job of good olive oil, kosher salt, fresh pepper, a mild vinegar. I bet a real greek salad is whatever you have lying around, with fresh herbs from the garden or hillside, and never mind the kalamata olives.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Artichoke Hearts

They came jarred, preserved but unseasoned. About six hours before dinner, I rinsed them, drained the pickle from the jar, and replaced with olive oil, fresh, crushed oregano, thyme, and sage, kosher salt, pepper, and basalmic vinegar cut with unsweetened rice vinegar. Turn over occasionally, make them pretty on a plate, and move fast because if there are any left by the end of dinner, it's only because people are being polite...

Oh, Snap!

Don't overlook the homely gingersnap amid labels blaring 'triple stuffed!' and 'now with colored chips!' or 'glow-in-the-dark frosting!' Simple, inexpensive, plain wrapper, not too sweet, and excellent with a cup of tea. It even says so on my mug, so I remember what I'm drinking.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Caramelized Bananas: Pancake Koan

What is the taste of a banana pancake without the pancake?

It depends, Orthopteran, on how long you let them caramelize before you add the syrup... [orthopteran = grasshopper. ortho - straight, ptera - wing)

In a rare demonstration of any sort of forethought on my part, I returned the box of pancake mix to save the effort of cleaning dishes and spills. But I still had the bananas to use, and a hot frying pan, and it was a weekend morning, and this wouldn't require much actual attention. So:

So: Coarse chop perfect bananas, just starting to spot, and brown them in a dab of butter (or margarine if you must, I had to), just like you'd do with onions. The starches in the banana will caramelize exactly the same way. Stop when you run out of time or the bananas are soft enough for your taste.

Pour in a bowl steaming hot, add some real maple syrup and don't stir too much. I had mine with toast, but you could dip a tire in this and not even notice it was chewy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Thai Style Plums

Go do this now, you'll thank me later. First, get some fruit that is really good but not truly excellent -- for example, I'd not encourage you to do this with perfect local peaches, though on second thought...

Anyway, get a small bowl and put in a spoonful or so of salt. Add enough sugar to create a nice sweet and salt balance. Nu, I'm not telling you how much. Add some. Taste it. Add some more. Taste it again. You put in too much sugar, add a little more salt.

When you get that right, add cayenne, as hot as you're willing to bear with good humor. Mix well, and dip sliced fruit before you eat it. The fruit adds acid, and you get a textbook burst of sugar, salt, sour, and hot. You might want to adjust the flavor of your mix to compensate for the sweet and acid already in your fruit; for sweet oranges, for instance, I'd probably just use salt and cayenne. Here's mine; go make yours. I'll wait.

Liftoff! We Have Liftoff!

Looks like my kitchen is about to take off, or I'm using a small jet engine to crackle the surface of a pudding, perhaps. In fact, I've used a cable tie to stick a big f*cking fan to a cabinet handle for to cool sushi rice (stirring while cooling gives individual grains rather than a single mass).

Friday, September 9, 2011

Tuna Pizza? Mais Oui! or Pizza With A Schquirt

Smadar, a cherished Israeli visitor, wanted a tuna pizza, so I brought a can down to Terry, at LaRosa's Pizza, and he kindly made a half tuna, half plain pizza for us and the kids. We do it all the time now. Some of the folks looked at me kind of funny, but it's pretty easy to sell a tuna pizza as the same thing as a tuna melt (bread, tomato, tuna, cheese, heat...). I also point out that it is tres European. My first tuna pizza was somewhere in southern France... had olives with the pits, too, wasn't that a surprise.

So here's the tuna pizza with a little crudite (elevates a pizza meal with a few jars and a little shopping, MIFLARD), and my piece halved, and topped with pitted kalamata olives and a generous schquirt (it's like a schmear) of sri racha. Uber pizza, and thank you, Terry and Smadi.

Frying Pan of Steamer Pot

Yes, I'm all for nice cookware, but a little junkyard science can save you from laying out big bucks for pan you don't need every day.

There's nothing better than cast iron for heating evenly, so to melt some margarine for a double batch of rice crispy treats, I took a cheap-assed, paper thin steaming pan, and nestled it in some cast iron on low heat. Viola, as sweet, slow, and even a heat as you could want, with the added benefits of heating the sides and not costing a bundle. Simple kitchen physics.