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Saturday, January 31, 2004

Dip-di-dip-di-dip

This one's for Linkmeister, who says, "I'm going to a Super Bowl party Sunday, and as usual (the same group has been gathering for these things for 13 years) I'm supposed to bring chips and dip. Now, it's easy enough to get a bag of Doritos and a bag of Ruffles, a jar of salsa and a tub of clam dip, but I'm tired of that. I need a dip. Not just any dip pulled off the 'Net, but a dip you've made and you and your guests have enjoyed. One that isn't too complicated and doesn't require Fedex packages from France to get the ingredients... This dip needs to feed no more than ten people, nearly all male, and there are also going to be other forms of food." So my suggestion is:

Spinach Dip
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 8-ounce can water chestnuts, chopped
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
½ cup chopped scallions
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

Okay, first thing is, eff the fresh parsley crap, who has time. According to this page, "If you want to substitute dried herbs in a recipe that calls for fresh, the conversion is simple. Reduce tablespoons to teaspoons; two Tablespoons of fresh oregano equals two teaspoons dried. Ginger is an exception to this interchangeable rule. If a recipe calls for fresh ginger, you cannot substitute ground. The flavors are completely different." (Which by the way I consider kind of bullshit, as my fresh ginger just dried up so I have to use the ground stuff in my Chicken a la Elayne tonight so there, nyah and all that. But I digress.) So ½ cup, that's 8 tablespoons, which means 8 teaspoons of ground parsley, which means in practicality you'll probably want to use less, maybe 4-5, 'cause it's parsley, it's a friggin' boring pretentious herb in the first place. Okay, onward:

Drain spinach and squeeze dry (paper towels, colander, whatever). In a bowl, combine dip ingredients; season with salt and pepper; Chill 8 hours or overnight. Adjust seasoning before serving (again, whatever). That's it. All you're chopping are the garlic clove and scallions and water chestnuts. To me, the water chestnuts are really what gives this dip its special flavor. My suggestion, if you have lots of hungry folks, is to double all the 'gredients to make a good chunk o' dip. Except for the parsley. 'Cause, you know, it's friggin' parsley.
Attention: Call for Submissions

I'm making a plea for recipes. They must be vegetarian and low in protein. They must have a reasonable amount of fat and be good for gaining weight. They should be easy, quick, and okay to freeze.

You see, despite my love and appreciation of good food, I've lost a substantial and perhaps unhealthy amount of weight in the last few months (see: stress). The vegetarian part of the request is for my benefit, and the low in protein part is for my mom. Email them to me at "emilin" at aol.com--there's a link to my email address on the page linked above.

I'll post the favorite when I've tried them all.

Rules: You must send them to me. You must include "RECIPE" in the subject line of your message, or you might be confused with spam and deleted. They must be vegetarian and low in protein.

Friday, January 30, 2004

Playing Chicken

Mark Morford is one of my favorite columnists. The only thing I tend to find infuriating about him is his blatant fatphobia; he occasionally denies it in his e-mailed newsletter but it's there, the absolute loathing of fat people, in every column he writes about food. His latest downplays the fat-hatred a bit more than most, so I'm recommending it. It's called Tastes Like (Mutant) Chicken: The great McDonald's diet test, and why Ukrainians won't touch your buffalo wings.

When Morford wants to make the point that American agribusiness and other corporate shenanigans lacking any measure of government oversight are essentially poisoning our citizenry, he can do so quite effectively. I just wish he wouldn't keep spitting out "fat" and "obese" as though the very words were as tasteless to him as the frankenfood he's excoriating; after all, lots of thin folks put McCrap in their bodies as well. Morford's target should be unhealthy and even poisonous food, not fat people.

So anyway, I'm feeling a little guilty now about making Chicken a la Elayne tonight, but you know, six of one or a half dozen of the other... Here's how I do

Chicken a la Elayne
2 chicken breasts (or 4 half breasts) on the bone
Chopped or minced garlic
Chopped or minced ginger
BBQ Sauce
About 2 tsp soy sauce
Broiler pan, bowl and teaspoon

You'll notice I didn't give measurements for most of the 'gredients. That's on purpose. I just chop or mince the garlic and ginger until I get as much as I want to cover the breasts. Same with the barbecue sauce. Varies with taste, and all that. Basically you mince the spices and add the sauces and mix 'em all together in a small bowl. Then I peel the skin off the chicken breasts as I wash them, and place them on the broiler pan. (I like to put them breast-side-up first, but if you want to do it bone-side-up first that'd probably work just fine.) Then I whine, "Rooooobin! Could you please brush the mixture onto the chicken breasts?" 'Cause you know, he's an artist, he's good at that kind of stuff and it gets him used to cooking, which he never had to do for the 36 years that he lived with his folks. (He's already better than I am at mincing garlic; he credits judicious use of his scalpel for art tasks...) And together we've discovered that if you "brush" on the mixture with a spoon instead of a cooking brush it works much better. (As an aside, if you don't feel like getting fresh ginger use the powdered stuff, but it works better if you sprinkle it directly onto the chicken breasts instead of mixing it with the sauce and stuff; it seems to cling to the chicken nicely on its own, and the sauce mixture will stick better that way as well.)

So okay, then you put the pan into the broiler or, if you live in our apartment where you can't use the broiler on the bottom of the oven because the pan actually catches fire after a few minutes (alas, we learned the hard way), you put it in the toaster oven and set it to "broil." If using a for-really broiler that works correctly, you'll want about 15-20 minutes on each side; my suggestion is to give it 15 on the breast side, then flip the breasts to coat the underside with the sauce mixture, then do another 20 minutes on the underside because you're not going to eat the underside so it's okay if it's a little blackened. If you're using a toaster oven, particularly one where the door is a teeny bit off the hinge because a little piece broke off and you don't have the expertise to fix it or the money to buy a new one, you want to give it a half hour to 35 minutes on each side.

Yes folks, real-world cooking, I'm an expert at it. :) One more interesting aside - Robin tells me that in England there's no such thing as broiling. Imagine that.
A ham in the hand is worth…oh, never mind
The ham continues to loom in my consciouness. Ham and borscht. Borscht and ham. Ham and borscht. What vegetarian delight could possibly accompany that?

I have, therefore and in light of other recent developments regarding the visit, decided to order in. Or eat nothing but cheese and homemade bread. Unless the only cheese is salami cheese. This has been known to happen.

And, no. I will not just pick the salami out of the cheese. Yes, I know salami cheese was my favorite when I was five. Yes, I know that salami cheese is a family tradition dating back to my great-grandfather and the cheese factory.

Yes, that’s right: I’m still not eating it and I’m making that decision solely based on the fact that it will mess up the entire weekend for everyone involved.

Please pass the ham.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

I Stabbed a Squash in Reno Just to Watch It Die

As I was making dinner I found myself stabbing an uncooked spaghetti squash Manson Girl-style, over and over again. I was aiming for the fifty-cent piece-sized label on its fat yellow side, full bore concentration toward my target. I caught myself thinking, "...hmmm...I'd always thought stabbing someone was the easy way to kill them but now I see that a certain amount of accuracy is involved here. It's not like a fist where if you're looking at your target you'll hit it, because I'm doing that and I'm off by a couple of inches. Now assuming this label was someone's heart, what's the margin for error here with using a thin kitchen knife as a weapon..." Then I snapped out of it and thought, "What the hell am I doing?" and put the savaged squash into a 375 degree oven for about an hour.

Later, I returned to the scene of the crime to give the mushrooms what was coming to them, a whole pound of mushrooms and nobody escaped, they all got sliced to 1/3 inch slivers. Vegetables and fungi, feel my wrath!

I melted 2 tablespoons of butter in my cast iron skillet and threw the mushroom remains in there with some salt and pepper. When they got kind of browny I drowned them in 1/2 cup of wine, and let the mushrooms boil away for 5 minutes before adding 1/4 cup cream, 1/4 cup sour cream, 2 tablespoons of parsley, 1 mashed up garlic clove and the rest of the tarragon, (about 1 teaspoon).

I then split open the spaghetti squash, deseeded it and poured its guts out over two plates with more butter, salt, and pepper and topped it with the mushroom sauce.

It made a good lookin' corpse, let me tell you.

Did I mention that I named this blog?

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

I have a thing for leftovers. There’s something appealing about the convenience of the microwave safe dish full of something I’ve already eaten and enjoyed. My father is also a leftover fanatic, and having him visit is pure joy for Stresch—he cleans out the fridge. My favorite leftovers are the ones that ripen overnight, whether it’s a congealing issue or a marination process, some things are just better the next day.

Tofu. Tofu with any kind of sauce or marinade. There’s a Moosewood onion glaze recipe that works wonderfully with tofu. It has molasses, soy sauce, rosemary, and mustard, a wonderful combination that compliments the flavor of toasted sesame oil (next time you make rice noodles, add a dash of that after the rinse and toss it—flavorful and helps prevent clumping) as well as anything you’d eat beside steak sauce. Tofu fried in that glaze is wonderful cold, especially a day or two later.

Pasta. Perhaps this goes without saying, but the only bad thing about leftover pasta is that rubbery thing the microwave does to the ends if they’re not covered in enough cheese or sauce. Penne with pesto is especially good cold with some shaved parmesan over the top. Since it reheats so well, save that one for a summer day when hot food sounds terrible.

Beans. Stresch has a marvelous marinated bean thing that she does, and with any luck, she’ll share it.

Mmmm… leftovers.

The best leftovers to be eaten cold (besides hangover pizza):

Mustard greens fried in peanut oil with garlic and tamari, served over rice.

Wash, de-stem, and drain or spin-dry the greens. Slice a clove or two of garlic, depending how much you like garlic and how large your bunch is, and fry the slices in hot peanut oil until they’re gold brown, then get them out of the oil and set aside. Throw the greens into the pan and toss them until they’re cooked but not mushy. Toss the garlic with the greens and a few tablespoons of tamari and/or rice vinegar. Serve over rice. Brown rice.

Save enough for lunch the next day.
My fresh fruits and veggies come from here.

I get my tutorials in how to use blogger from Terri. If she doesn't tell me how to do everything I want to do, I blunder along. If my posts format poorly, tell her. She'll tell me how to fix them.

I am thinking of doing Leigh Ann's brocoli recipe tonight. Unless the sweet potatoes beg and plead nicely.

Interestingly enough, one of the clearest examples of "I am like my birth family" is the love of cooking. The first gift I gave my birth father was a cookbook of my favorite recipes. While my mother, like Terri's, did not teach me how to cook, and has the personality of a small terrier, she doesn't know how to cook herself. Neither does my maternal grandmother, with the exception of pineapple upside down cake. Cooking with my birthfather, otoh, has been fun.
I'm Emilin. I blog here.

If you leave me alone while I cook, I kick some serious ass. I enjoy eating a whole heck of a lot, and I have a thorough appreciation for cheap wine that tastes expensive. I like organic produce and fresh cheese and good bread.

I could live on olives--at least, I'd try if Stresch would let me.
For Ladybug, it is the acid. She can't eat *cooked* tomatoes, or very much citrus or tropical fruit. She'll eat the avocado and grapefruit salad recipe from Greens (though I usually make it with blood oranges) and she also ate a salad I made on Saturday with toasted hazelnuts, hazelnut oil, mandarins and blood oranges.

Sometimes I like to think of odd "theme" meals. Sometimes it is an alliterative meal (pear and parmesan pizza) or a color theme (white is very popular with Ladybug). Recent posts make me think of a "foods that stain" meal-- tumeric and beets, though perhaps in separate courses. I make a lovely salad with blueberries (goat cheese, candied pecans and mixed greens), and dessert could be something with expresso and chocolate. Red wine for those who wish.

As mentioned in the first paragraph, I now have hazelnut oil. Are there any uses you'd like to suggest?
Cooking with my mother
This weekend, I’m going to see my parents. I don’t visit them all that often—this will be my first trip to their house in a few years. My grandma’s traveling to their place to see me. Three generations of women who cook under one roof!

Now, you’d think this would be an excellent thing. But I’m really dreading it. My mother never taught me to cook. She’s the classic Type A—only moreso. The woman never, ever sits still. And never had the patience to teach me to do anything in the kitchen. Combine that with the fact that kitchen chores were often part of an overall punishment strategy and it may come as no surprise that I didn’t learn to make anything other than Kraft Macaroni and Cheese until I moved into my own apartment for the first time when I was 20 (dorms with meal plans before that).

I love to cook, now, and sort of long for it to be a source of bonding between my mother and me, and/or my grandmother and me. But they still think of me as the kid who can’t cook anything, despite the fact that I’ve cooked for them umpteen times.

So for the visit this weekend, I proposed a multi-soup evening—my mom could make a pot (with meat in it, most likely) and I could make a vegetarian soup. Old friends and more extended family were invited. I was psyched—maybe my mom and I would finally cook at the same time. Granted, it was more like parallel play than anything, but it was a start.

But she called this morning and told me that some random woman staying with them will be cooking soup and my mom’s decided to make a ham. And I can do whatever I want.

Are tomatoes actually citrus? Or do they just cross-react?

I got fresh turmeric root at the co-op. It's cool, but I have dyed my mortar and pestle an unearthly shade of yellow.
An even bigger challenge!
On the menu for Saturday night: borscht made by Ukranian woman who's staying with my parents and a ham. So, I need a soup recipe that might kind of go with those things.

Or I might just order a pizza...

Anyway, I'll post whatever recipes are sent or that I find, as well as an update on what I actually end up making.
Give me your tired, your poor, your soup recipes
I need of a good, easy, vegetarian soup for the weekend. Can't include any special ingredients, as I will be cooking said soup in central Wisconsin and cannot guarantee the availability of much of anything. Cannot include any citrus (including tomatos) due to allergies.

Email 'em to me at territheguestblogger@hotmail.com.

(Note to Elayne: Comments are comin'!)
Come Mr. Tallyman, Tally Me Banana

Ever since I heard the news that bananas will no longer exist in a decade or so, I've had a bit of a craving for them. And every now and then I actually remember to buy them. Trouble is, it's hard to find bunches of less than 8, and they sometimes go bad before I can finish them. Such is the case today; I have about 4-5 bananas about to go. So I think I'm going to try my hand at Banana Fritters tonight. It seems like an easy enough recipe.

Although I must say this one seems tempting as well...
Cinnamon Fried Banana
  • A large, slightly green banana (only one? and green? I dunno, I'd use 3-4 and multiply the rest of the ingredients accordingly)
  • 2 level tablespoons cinnamon and sugar, mixed (I mistakenly bought Cinnamon Sugar last week, it said "Cinnamon" in big letters and "sugar" in little tiny ones so I naturally thought I was buying cinnamon... this'd be a good time to use it, I'd imagine cinnamon sugar goes very well on bananas!)
  • Butter
  • Ice cream or cream, if desired (my husband being British, we're always stocked up on Devon Double Cream)
    Slice the banana into equal slices length-wise. Fry it in a pan on both sides of each slice until slightly brown. Smother butter thinly (how do you "smother thinly" anyway? isn't that rather an oxymoron?) on banana. Fry further for a few minutes. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on while being fried (I think they mean "on the bananas while they're being fried," rather than "toke a few and get real fried and then go crazy"). Serve when butter has been cooked in, with ice cream or cream.

    Should I have warned y'all that I editorialize sarcastically when I pass along recipes? :) Looking forward to KWF adding a comments section so y'all can be sarky right back at me!
  • Tuesday, January 27, 2004

    Mince Mince Mince, The Gals Are Cooking...

    Thanks to Terri and Leigh Anne for inviting me in here! I'm Elayne, and this is my "home" blog. To paraphrase, food is a feminist issue to me - not only in terms of preparation (the old "cooks are female, chefs are male" adage that happily seems to be slowly disappearing) but in terms of how differently women can relate to it. I sometimes think fat women are more keenly aware of food because of the way it's constantly brought to our attention as something we're supposed to despise, as if eating is the only thing that "makes" you fat. My skinny friend Jan (a wonderful cook, although a bit macrobiotic for my tastes at times) and I have extremely similar palates, and when we worked near each other we used to lunch a lot and order the same exact thing. And I'd often get the feeling that others thought it was okay for her to eat the stuff but not okay for me - I mean, obviously I must have been overeating (and her starving?) when these people couldn't see us together. Never mind that her metabolism is like a jackrabbit and she (like my brother) has trouble gaining weight, or that she tends to be much more physically active than me. I'm fat, she's skinny, we're eating the same thing, but I'm fat because I, um, eat. Yeah, never could figure that one out.

    I'm not a "cake"-y person. My mom is, she used to have tons of the cookies and mass-produced pie thingies around the house, often fresher than the store-bought fruits and veggies in the fridge that were purchased on the cheap just when they were going bad. Wasn't until I was on my own that I truly discovered the wonders of fresh fruits and veggies. They're so worth the extra bit of money! And yet, I'm my parents' daughter, I'll nickel and dime with the best of 'em, buy a pomegranate at 79¢ but not at $1.49. Difference is, I don't buy stuff that looks like it's going to turn, no matter how inexpensive. If I get six bunches of garlic for a buck, it's with the knowledge that I'll be throwing a couple of them away before I use 'em and it'll still cost me less than it would have at the fency-schmency veggie store up the hill. Won't buy raspberries at more than $3 per container, but will peer very carefully inside the container before purchase. That sort of thing. Mom didn't really buy raspberries or snow peas or romaine lettuce. I dunno, maybe she does now; I doubt it, living in Vegas in the winters and south Jersey in the summers she and Dad probably get half their food from casino buffets, and every time I visit the fresh veggie selection seems to be tomatoes, scallions and limp celery sticks. Oh well, at least their tomatoes taste like they're supposed to (I despise NY store-bought tomatoes, that's something worth going out of your way for if you have a farmer's market around!).

    So anyway, not being a "cake"-y person I don't bake and, given our current kitchen conditions (small, an oven that leans so it's hard to cook evenly atop the stove, small, shelves too high up, small, no real counter space, and small) and my erratic working hours, for the most part I'm not as into cooking as I'd like to be. I watch all the cooking shows I can, which aren't that many considering I don't get the Food Network, but at this point it's more a spectator sport than anything else. Still, as my husband's learned more and more about cooking (he lived with his parents for 36 years so he never had to learn how, and food in the UK is a lot different than it is here!) I've gotten back into it again, and look forward to sharing some of my favorite recipes like Minced Lamb with Ginger, Hoisin and Scallions (from the April '94 Bon Appétit) and the Soy-Cinnamon Chicken Breasts (don't know where I got that one from) that we ate tonight. Provided it's okay to talk about meat here - don't want to offend any vegetarians out there!
    Ooo goody!

    My biweekly box of produce arrives today. Alas, I do not get to cook dinner, as it is also the evening of swim class.

    Over the weekend, we hosted a party, which was an excellent excuse to cook. Primarily things from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone-- the spinach torta with potato crust was a big hit, and I really, really really liked the jam bars. I think I was actually in some sort of "bake it in a 9 by 13 pan and then cut it into squares" rut, as I also made a zucchini fritatta (using both the basil and pine nut variations), and I baked it.

    The other cookbook that I used was The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, which was a recent gift from several partygoers. (I may need remedial Blogger linking lessons). The cookbook is the first one I have gotten in ages that is both not vegetarian and not health-conscious. So there are lots of recipes with ingredients like air dried beef, or suggestions to use duck fat in lieu of, say, olive oil or butter. That was pretty weird. There were no vegetarian appetizers. But I did make pickled onions and a yummy hazelnut and citrus salad. But mostly I was disappointed to see so much meat, and to see meat that I didn't know how to cook around/substitute for.

    I *think* all of my co-bloggers are vegetarians or mostly so. I think maybe its been so long since I ate certain meats that I have no idea of what kind of taste influence it is supposed to have. And when you're talking about things like prosciutto, well, I don't know that I've ever eaten it, so other than saltiness, I have no idea of what it imparts to a dish. Anyone have any brilliant ideas?

    limpet
    Splendid Table
    If you don't know about Lynne Rosetto Kasper and her radio show The Splendid Table, you should really check it out. She's a wealth of information! In particular, I'm a big fan of her e-newsletter Weeknight Kitchen in which she shares a recipe every week that's suitable for a weeknight supper (that is, quick, easy and satisfying!).

    She's also quite a proponent of local produce and supporting your farmers--always a bonus IMO.

    Monday, January 26, 2004

    I'm in too!

    I currently have a blueberry lemon pudding cake in the oven. I'm a little afraid of overcooking it. The recipe called for 6 8oz ramekins, but do I have 6 8 oz ramekins? Of course not. I have 6 5.5oz ramekins and 4 slightly smaller ones, so I used all of them. We shall see how it turns out.

    I'm having friends over for tonight, so even if the cakes bomb, they'll probably get eaten.
    Okay, excellent! So far we have three people on board, and would like to add more. I'm Leigh Anne, also known as flea in the internet world, and I'll answer to both. My other blog is One Good Thing.

    Our requirements for the group blog are:

    1.) You must identify as a feminist, mostly so frog, Emilin, and I will be able to tolerate your ass.

    2.) You must identify as a "foodie", i.e., somebody who loves to cook, and eat. You do not have to love clean-up, however, to be considered for membership.

    3.) Your posts must be food-related in someway. Other than that, I personally am not keen on telling people what to write about.

    4.) E-mail us at fleamail@westerncom.net with any comments, questions, etc.
    Brilliant! I'm in!

    Sunday, January 25, 2004

    Greetings! This is a group blog for those of us who love spending time in the kitchen. We'll share recipes, cooking techniqes, do product reviews, and post interesting cooking-related links. Hope you enjoy it!

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