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Monday, February 23, 2004

Every now and again, I go on vacation and think of the Iron Chef. Ladybug and I have different ideas of what the best way to spend free time is, but we usually take at least one long weekend a year and rent a cabin in a remote and lovely part of northern California. We bring plenty of books, groceries, cookbooks, more books, and, if she's lucky, our dog. Sometimes the "remote" area becomes more remote than we'd anticpated-- for example, a mudslide along Hwy. 1 can make a trip an hour longer, and place the cabin an hour futher from a grocery store. Bad weather can also make driving down the muddy mountain road less appealling than usually, thereby making us essentially cabin-bound. We do well with enjoying each other's company, making jigsaw puzzles, and having lots of sex. The cooking, however, can be a challenge.

As you (hopefully) know, Iron Chef is a Japanese cooking competition that involves the use of a mystery ingredient, often used in every course of a dinner. Sometimes, our vacations are like that. We discover that if, for example, I have brought the ingredients to make buttermilk biscuits, and decide that I really want to make cookies instead, compromises must be made. Or that if the "fully stocked kitchen" turns out to mean a small microwave and a toaster oven, meals must be re-planned.

For our honeymoon, we really lucked out, and not only had beautiful kitchen with ocean views, but we also happened to wander into the town of Mendocino the afternoon of the farmer's market. The two of us managed to happily eat five pounds of ripe peaches in three days. (If you're wondering, that would include a blueberry peach cobbler, a salad with baby spinach, goat cheese, peaches and toasted pecans, and a pizza that included peaches and fresh basil (no tomato sauce, just a little balsamic glaze).

The worst Iron Chef vacation included making a "baked apple" inspired dessert in a coffee pot using an apple and some small packets of jam. We really, really wanted dessert. It sucked, but the laughter was uproarious.

The most recent Iron Chef vacation is (flour) tortillas. I'm sure you know that you can make quesadillas. You may even know the importance of sticky, melty cheese on both sides of the other ingredients, so that the quesadilla won't flop open and spill its ingredients. Non-Mexican themed ones are fine-- fresh dill, havarti and smoked salmon, for instance. Breakfast burritos can be made with scrambled eggs, cheese and potatoes (green onion and/or salsa added for me). But now I am totally into the tortilla as dessert mechanism. They can be spread with butter on one side and jam on the other. Butter and turbinado sugar. Butter and vanilla sugar. Butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. Butter and butter. Butter and white sugar and baking spice. The Iron Chef vacation has made it to our house, and I've had tortilla based desserts more nights than not. I've also learned that wearing pajamas or using a plate is essential. Melted butter is just too messy (esp. if the tortilla is rolled, thereby directing butter directly onto my lower abdomen) and stains are not fun.

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