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Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Fairly passable stir-fry for one
I’m practicing my culinary skills for one, of late, and I’m already over the make-mac-and-cheese-and-eat-it-all-week thing. Here’s what I made last night—originally, my plan was to make a tofu dog with some leftover tofu that I had on hand and eat it with a root-beer float (I know, I know: poor nutritional choice, frog!). But the tofu had seen better, less smelly days, so I pitched it and decided to make a corn dog with fries, but I’ve already eaten that a few times in as many days and I’d already bought mushrooms and I have these incredibly gorgeous chopsticks that a friend brought back for me from Viet Nam and I don’t really know how to eat with chopsticks and haven’t practiced because I’m stupidly shy about that kind of thing and, hey, I was home alone with no one to mock me (not that anyone would, I’m just sayin’) for how very long it might take me to figure out how to pick up broccoli with chopsticks, much less eat the rice, so this is what I made:

frog’s last-minute stir-fry for one (nods to Deborah Madison)
Rice and things with which to make it (that would be water and maybe salt)
Broccoli, one stalk
Carrots, two
Mushrooms
Garlic, chopped
Red pepper flakes
Celery seed
¾ cup water
¼ soy sauce
2 tbsp corn starch
Peanut oil

Make the rice.

Heat about 2 tbsp peanut oil in a wok or, if you’re me, that old battered pan you bought at Target in college. Swirl the oil around and, when it’s hot, add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and celery seed (ginger and other aromatics would be good, too, this is just what I had on hand that sounded good). Add the carrots and broccoli and stir fry for a minute or two. Combine the water and soy sauce (or tamari or shoyu or stir-fry stock). Add about ¼ cup of it to the vegis. When the carrots and broccoli are nearly tender, remove them to a platter, add a little oil to the pan and cook the mushrooms briefly. Move them to the platter, too.

Mix the corn starch into what’s left of your water/soy sauce combo, and add it to the hot pan. Stir until thick, then pour it over the platter of vegis. Drizzle with peanut oil. Serve over rice and eat it with those fancy new chopsticks, which you’ll begin to learn to use while watching UConn humiliate Penn State, feeling sad for Mazzante that she played such a poor first half, but feeling pleased and content, nonetheless, no small part of which was the chopsticks and the meal.

Monday, March 29, 2004

I got a KitchenAid food processor on Saturday. From my mom, for my birthday, late because I haven't seen her.

It is a glorious appliance. And it's so quiet! I could listen to the radio and use it. I shall be using it a lot. It was totally worth rearranging the appliances in the kitchen for it.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Update
Martha's mac and cheese is amazing. I take back everything bad I said. It's wonderfully, horribly bad for me (500-odd calories and 30 fat grams per serving), and it's WONDERFUL.

Which is good, since the pan I made is huge and I am going to be eating it for at least a week. Does anyone know if mac and cheese freezes?

Friday, March 26, 2004

Hello everyone! Thank you for allowing me to be part of this blog after Elayne's pestering *wink and grin*. At the back of my mind, I've always wanted to be part of a group food-and-recipe blog and now my wish has come true!

I'm glad that some of you liked my mushroom-rocket-and-lemon pasta recipe and I hope that it turned out okay for you. I cook by feel and instinct so my recipes are nearly always rule-of-thumb stuff rather than functioning as precise pieces of culinary instructions--to my mind, food is all about individual taste and creativity. Everyone has their own version of something and it's nearly always different but equally good.

Since Frog posted her mac-and-cheese-from-scratch recipe, I've decided to begin my blogging adventures on this blog with one of my to-die-for pasta bakes which is basically a variation of mac-and-cheese:

Pasta bake with Roasted Butternut Squash, Roasted Garlic, Roasted Leek and Leftover Roast Chicken

Ingredients

Pasta mix:
1 small butternut squash
1 whole bulb garlic
1 large leek
1 large chicken leg, cooked
6 to 7 handfuls of short pasta (Use any shape--I used shells) or more depending on how many people you are feeding
Dried mixed herbs
Salt
Pepper
Olive oil

Cheese bechamel sauce:
100-120gm coarsely grated mature/sharp cheddar cheese
20 fl oz cold skimmed milk
2 and 1/2 oz plain flour, sifted (this is very important as it will prevent lumps in the sauce)
20-25gm cold-ish butter
2 bay leaves
Pinch of grated nutmeg
Salt
Pepper

How I Did It:

Start by pre-heating the oven to 180C, then begin preparing the vegetables.

Cut the butternut squash in half, get rid of the seeds, then slice into even-sized wedges.

Chop off the root and head of the leek, slice down the middle, wash out all the dirt, slice each side into 1cm-ish thick diagonal pieces.

Get rid of the papery outer skin of the garlic bulb, separate it into cloves.

Put the butternut squash and the leek into a roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle on the herbs, salt and pepper. Shove it into the oven for about 30-35 mins. Remove the pan from the oven, remove the leeks which should've roasted into soft fragrance by now, then take the loose garlic cloves, put them in the middle of a large-enough piece of foil, drizzle olive oil over them, scrunch up into a foil packet, chuck into the roasting pan, and return the pan (with the butternut squash and foil-packed garlic in it) to the oven for a further 15-20 mins. Turn the heat up to 190C. Take out and let it cool once that's done.

In the meantime, put the kettle to boil plenty of water. While this is going on, peel the meat off the chicken leg into small strips. Set aside.

Then, put the pasta to cook for 6 minutes (it will be soft but not quite done). Drain and set aside.

By this time, the roasted vegetables should be cool enough to handle. Remove the skins from the butternut wedges and slice the intensely sweet and more-ish flesh into small-ish cubes. Squeeze the garlic out of their papery skins--by now they are sweet and not at all potent.*

Thoroughly mix the pasta and veggies and chicken meat together in an appropriate-sized baking dish and set aside.

To make the cheese sauce:

Put everything except the cheese and salt and pepper into a appropriate-sized saucepan and cook on the highest heat on the hob. Keep stirring with a whisk to break up any stray lumps and to ensure that nothing burns on the bottom.

When the sauce gets hot enough for some steam to rise--but not to the boiling point--turn the heat down to the lower end of middle heat. Continue stirring and the sauce will shortly thicken. (At this point, turn on the oven again to pre-heat to 180C) When the sauce has thickened sufficiently, turn the heat to the lowest setting and chuck in the cheese. Stir until all has melted. Add pepper and salt.

Pour the cheese sauce on top of the pasta, taking care to cover ALL the pasta. Shove it in the oven and it will be ready to eat in about 40 mins. Remember to let the pasta settle before tucking into it!

*If you are worried about this, roast it for 25 mins to ensure that it has gone all sweet and pasty. If you are STILL worried about this, use 1/2 a bulb of garlic instead of one whole one

Enjoy!
For Grace
frog’s macaroni and cheese, a la Betty Crocker
Half a box of fun, larger pasta (I like shells or big elbow or rigatoni)
Water
Salt
8 oz. or so of your favorite cheese(s), cubed
1 cup milk
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. flour
Bread crumbs
Paprika, if you want to get really fancy

Preheat oven to 350 or 375 or so. Boil salted water and cook the pasta. Drain but don’t rinse. Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the flour and whisk it until it’s bubbly and smooth. Add the milk. Stir things around every so often while they’re heating. When it hits a slow boil, set the timer for one minute and stir throughout that 60 seconds (or whisk—whatever floats your boat). Turn off the burner and add the cubed cheese—stir until it’s as melted as you want it to be (I like to leave some lumps, but that’s just me). Add the pasta and stir until coated. Dump it into an unbuttered glass dish in which you’ve determined it will fit. Cover with bread crumbs. Bake for 45 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are appropriately toasty.

If you plan to serve your macaroni and cheese by candlelight, make this one instead.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

I'm pretty sure Martha Stewart is trying to ruin my life.

Perhaps I should begin at the beginning. I have had a craving for rea macaroni and cheese for many days now. By "real" of course I mean homemade, with crispy breadcrumbs on the top, baked in the oven, all that good stuff. I have made "real" macaroni and cheese exactly once in my life. It was about a year ago, and it was for a party (in the context of the party's theme it made sense, I swear--I don't just go around bringing comfort food to parties willy-nilly). It was a huge hit, and it was really, really good.

So tonight, at about 8:30, I decided I would make real macaroni and cheese again. Rather than going to the Hyde Park Bar & Grill and ordering up some of their scrumptous homemade mac. Rather than opening the blue box. I would make my own. I'm strong, I'm independant, I don't need Mark to cook for me! (Sidenote: Mark, despite being a great cook, refuses to make any of my favorite comfort foods--he'll make the occaisonal batch of mashed potatoes, but that's it--he'd never lower himself to mac and cheese. He's a pain in the ass.)

So I figured first I needed a recipe. I vaguely remembered that when I made it before, I used a recipe from this cookbook, as I was living with Erica at the time and she owns it. So I figured I'd head over to the Food Network and find a Martha Stewart mac and cheese recipe in their online recipes. I found this one with little to no trouble. So far, so good. I checked ingredients and decided we had everything it called for, or a reasonable facimile thereof (she calls for sharp white cheddar, I have medium orange cheddar, she calls for Romano, I have Parmesan, but whatever, it will work, right?). I also noted that the recipe estimated 10 minutes of prep time and 55 minutes of cooking time. That would mean I could feast in a bit over an hour--certainly before 9:45. Eat at 9:45, bed at 11, that sounded reasonable. Not healthy maybe, but reaonable. So I started in on it.

Perhaps in Martha's world, where there are minions to grate your pound and a half of cheese, make your beschamel, butter your pans, do your dishes, those were reasonable estimates. In my world, they're not. The water for the pasta took 45 minutes to boil. The beshamel took 30 (of straight whisking) to do whatever it is beshamel does. It is now 10:30, and it's still in the fucking oven. And the very last thing in the entire world I want to do right now is eat macaroni and cheese. Macaroni and cheese sounds really gross. The house is hot, the dishes need to be done (I think I used every pan we own), and all I want is a glass of water and my bed.

Fuck Martha. Next time I'm opening the blue box.

Endnote: To be fair, it looks like it will be really good. If and when I ever eat some, I'll let you know.
Trader Joe’s
We have one, now—the soft opening was last week, and the grand opening is sometime soon (maybe it’s tomorrow, I don’t know). I’ve been hearing people rave about this place for years, and the excitement around here’s been building.

I stopped by on Monday and, eh, I was underwhelmed. The produce was a little iffy. The selection was minimal. I couldn’t find the coffee grinder (don’t know if there is a coffee grinder there…). The prepared foods didn’t look all that interesting. The two-buck Chuck was $3.

Convince me that I’m wrong about this.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Yet Another Newbie

Well, since Grace and G. have introduced themselves, I guess I'd better as well, and give a hearty thanks to those who decided I would be a good addition to this blog. I'm w1ldc47 and I'm so excited to be posting here!

My first post is a very simple recipe which I haven't made in ages, so all things, especially oven temperature, will be approximate. I thought it would be appropriate though, in picking up the recently dropped mushroom theme. It doesn't have a name. I call it Toi, Moi, et Fumé mushrooms on toast, because the restaurant Toi, Moi, et Café (known to the non-smokers here as Toi, Moi, et Fumé) is where I first had it.

Ingredients:

rye bread, sliced
large quantities of button mushrooms
butter
dried basil
brie, sliced lengthwise along the wedge

Okay, you start with toast. No using pre-sliced kleenex-bread here, go buy yourself a good loaf of rye, something with some weight to it. Slice it reasonably thin, certainly no thicker than a centimetre, less if you can, and put the slices in the toaster. Toast.

Preheat the oven. I'm not sure of the temperature, but you want it to be in the broiler, which in an electric oven means just the top shelf (I will never, ever, get used to this property of electric ovens).

While the bread is toasting, slice a whole whack of button mushrooms, thin but not paper-thin. How much mushrooms you use depends on how much toast you're using, obviously, but remember that these babies reduce like nobody's business, so start out with several times the volume you want to end up with. There's really no such thing as too much. Sauté the mushrooms in butter (margarine will do, oil will not) with a generous sprinkle of dry basil and no other herbs or spices. Simplicity is good in this recipe. Once the mushrooms are brown and limp and juicy pile them on the toast. It's okay if the toast has gotten cold at this point, you're going to be warming it up again. Lay two long slices of brie over each mushroom pile, in an x-shape. Put the pieces of toast, now with mushrooms and brie on top, on an ungreased cookie sheet, and put it in the oven until the brie is all melty and gooey, shouldn't be more than about 5 minutes. Maybe less. Keep an eye on it until you're used to it. Serve immediately.

This recipe is at once one of the easiest, and one of the yummiest, things I've ever made. Enjoy.
Hi! This is Grace. I am currently in bad spirits and hive-infested, so this is going to be short, but since G. introduced himself, I thought I'd better step up to the plate as well. I'm estatic to be here.

I'm too scattered for a recipe today, but I am in a chocolate-loving phase right now, so I'll give you some snack faves:

1. Organic Braeburn apples+Nutella (or better yet, Nocello, although I can't find a picture)=best. snack. ever
2. I am not a fan of brownies made with a mix. That being said, brownies made with Ghiradelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix are DAMN good. Quick and easy, too. I made a batch during a commercial break in The Shield last night


Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Mrs. Doshi; or, How I stopped worrying and learned to love the chhuta mung surti.

Greetings, G. from Daddyzine here. This marks my first entry in the annals of Knife-Wielding Feminists. I was asked to join this fine blog because ... because....

Well, OK. I'm not certain why I was asked.

But I’m happy to be here and maybe I should make the best of my first entry just in case the charter KWF’s realize my presence here is the consequence of some of zany misunderstanding. ("Wha?! You wanted me to find a Manjo for the site? I thought you asked for a Man, yo!”)

So should I be suddenly yanked, I want to leave you with my bedrock piece of culinary advice:

Buy a cookbook by Mrs. Doshi.

I tended a fitful flame for Malvi Doshi's daughter (MDD) for a couple of years during college. The daughter was amiable but wisely resistant to my blandishments. Looking back on it, I can't imagine how I thought I could make things work between us since she did all this weird stuff like study and complete her papers; I, on the other hand, was making the most of my education, undertaking activities that have since served me well, viz.: working in the dining halls (where cleaning up after sloppy eaters prepared me for my current position as a stay-home dad), getting waaay too into my work-study job at the library, and racking up consecutive quarters of championship beer bills at the co-op where I lived off and on during school.

And anyway, I was some punk Midwestern kid, while MDD was an urban sophisticate from San Francisco whose parents ran the vegetarian Indian restaurant The Ganges out on Frederick Street. And thus for a couple of years a strange cloud of romantic inaccessibility hung about the cuisine I associated with her.

I went to the restaurant only a few times, most often with a pack of our mutual college friends. The elder Doshis would haul boatloads of food to our table and toward the end of the meal a struggle would erupt, with the Doshis making tut-tutting noises over the idea of presenting us with a bill and with us slipping our wadded fives and tens under the dishes until we deemed accounts sufficiently squared to stagger out into the foggy night, gulab jaman syrup glistening on our faces.

In April of 1992 (I’m going by the presentation inscription from Mrs. Doshi), MDD passed along to me a copy of her mother’s cookbook, A Surti Touch: Adventures in Indian Cooking (1980). It's long out of print and I've seen secondhand booksellers asking $40-$50 for a copy of this $8 paperback.

It’s a great cookbook, an unassuming little orange thing that holds the new cook’s hand through the basics of stocking the kitchen and working with unfamiliar ingredients. The recipes do make the occasional elliptical or ambiguous statement, or credit you with too great a facility with languages. Many time I have been, say, elbow deep in my split pigeon peas when suddenly Mrs. Doshi mentions that I need to bring the khichadi to a boil and I will be all like: huhhzat?

But soon you realize that it’s more about process than a particular result and you learn to work with what’s at hand and perhaps drink a beer while preparing dinner in order to cultivate detachment, and anyway after about 12 years I have ended up with a small stable of workhorse recipes that are fairly easy to prepare and which we trot out weekly.

Last I had heard, MDD had settled down to a medical practice and a no doubt industrious husband somewhere out West. Mrs. Doshi has reworked her cookbook into Cooking Along the Ganges: The Vegetarian Heritage of India (2002), which retails for about $28. And I’m raising the next generation of young Midwestern punks, though I am happy to say that the rising generation goes nuts over masoor-ni dal.

Here’s a couple of basics to get started with:

CORIANDER AND CUMIN SEED POWDER

1 lb. coriander seeds
1/4 lb. cumin seeds

1. Pick over and sift the seeds.
2. Roast the seeds together on low heat (a heavy cast-iron skillet works well for this). Stir frequently until you get a nice aroma in the next room and the seeds have changed color. About 20 minutes.
3. After the seeds have cooled, grind them in a blender or coffee grinder.
4. Sieve mixture, then grind the coarse portion again.
5. Store in a tightly covered jar.
6. Throw out your commercially prepared curry powder.


MASOOR-NI DAL (ORANGE LENTILS)

Two parts to this recipe, the lentils and the spiced onions (called the vaghar) that go into them.

Ingredients (lentils):

1 cup red lentils (small split orange lentils, generally available at specialty groceries like Whole Foods or bulk groceries)

4-5 cups water
1 tsp. salt
6 to 10 sprigs cilantro, finely cut, using stems

1. Pick over and wash the lentils.
2. Bring water to a boil and add dal.
3. Cover and simmer until soft, approx. 20-30 minutes.

Ingredients (vaghar):

3 tsp. oil
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1 onion, white or yellow, medium size, finely sliced
1 hot green chili, cut into five or six pieces
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder

1. Heat oil in a pan and add cumin seeds.
2. When slightly pink, add onions.
3. When onions are very brown (20 minutes or so), add chili and turmeric.
4. Fry for 10-20 seconds, taking care not to scorch. Add the mixture to the lentils.
5. Add the cilantro, simmer for five minutes.
6. Serve hot with rice.


Today is Fannie Farmer’s birthday. Those of us who prefer using actual measurements (as opposed to a little of this, a handful of that), owe her a debt of gratitude.

In her honor, I will be enjoying Mini Mint Milanos later today. Actually, these have nothing to do with Fannie Farmer. I bought them because I had a friend visit the other day. A friend who was not hungry. Can you imagine? And now I’m forced (forced, I tell you) to eat these tiny, totally adorable, incredible tasty cookies myself. I make it a policy not to eat anything that’s cute, but for these, I’ve made an exception.

Friday, March 19, 2004

What’s the deal with mangoes?

This is a mango, not to be confused with a manjo. You know how things arrive in your life in clusters? Mangoes (and manjoes) seem to be doing that now. First there was Pearl Cleage’s novel, I Wish I Had a Red Dress, and its talk of mango margaritas. Then it was a reshowing of Bend It Like Beckham with its classic line comparing breasts to mangoes. I later picked up a mango at the co-op and carried it home on the bus. It was expensive and beautiful. Then I found out that Stresch had saved some mango from the last batch we bought and frozen it! Oooh, mango whenever we want!

But that fresh mango is my whole point in writing this (besides using the word manjo as many times as possible) is to talk about breakfast this morning and the best way to eat a mango. Make sure the mango is soft but a little resilient, about as soft as a banana is through the peel about a day before the brown spots arrive. This will allow you to cut around the mango. You can go just through the peel or go all the way to the hard, irregularly shaped pit. Slice lengthwise around it so that all of your cuts descend from the stem. Three times around will usually be adequate. Then gently pull up one corner of the peel and pull it off slowly. It will be about 1mm thick, and you can see the coarse grain of this soft fruit.

When you're done and all the peels are in the compost bin, you'll be left with a slippery orange blob. This is when it gets fun. If you're sharing the mango with someone, tell her/him to go into the other room and put some music on or something. Cut it however you can, put make sure not to be too committed to any one knife path. The irregularly shaped pit will soon break you of that. As you slice, put any of the tiny, slippery mango fragments in your mouth (feel free to cut some so that you don't drool on someone else's mango slice), and put the big ones on a plate. I like to slice mine nice and thin so that they're just fat enough to pick them up with a fork. When you've cut down to the point that the prickly pit is coming through, put down the knife and stand over the sink with both hands on the pit. Scrape the last of it off with your teeth, and rinse your hands. Your mango is ready to serve.
Once in a while, MSN doesn't totally suck
Here's a cheese list. Talk about it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Another Shroomy Post

I'm swiping this one wholesale from Glovefox's blog, because it's now password-protected so I don't know if a lot of folks can get on there:
I think that I can never get fed-up of eating mushrooms, especially since I've adopted a semi-vegetarian way of life (i.e. eating 80% vegetarian with the remaining 20% split three-ways between eggs, dairy products and meat products). There's just so many varieties to choose from ranging from dried ones (e.g. Black Chinese mushrooms that need rehydrating but plumps up into dense, meaty bites of goodness) to tinned Chinese ones (including straw mushrooms and Golden Thread mushrooms) to fresh cultivated and wild varieties. I must say that my favourite fresh ones are chestnut mushrooms, big portobellos and lovely delicate oyster mushrooms.

As part of a balanced vegetarian diet, the humble mushroom is one of the few vegetables--aside from aubergines (eggplant), pulses and squashes--to supply a truly 'meaty' bite to the meal. I toss it into my stir-fries, pasta sauces, casseroles, salads, stews etc to add some wonderfully flavourful bulk to my main meal. Indeed, one of the great things about mushrooms is that they are so versatile, tasty and nutritious.

As a ethnic Chinese child, I was taught to appreciate not just mushrooms, but a whole gamut of edible fungus including Wood Ears and white Wood Ears. We usually incorporated them into various traditional dishes alongside other Chinese vegetarian staples including kum jum koo (Golden Needle flowers), fermented yam, tofu, taro, gingko nuts, all kinds of root vegetables ranging from white radishes to lotus roots, and of course, Chinese greens of all sorts. As a Chinese dish frequently showcases not just a balance of flavours but also a balance of textures, the types of mushrooms we used added a smooth touch to counterpoint the crunch of fresh vegetables, the richness of taro (what we call 'yams'), the blandness of tofu and the slight bitterness characteristic of most Chinese greens.

Now that I live a cosmopolitan life with a cooking repertoire to match it, I find that mushrooms are one of the easiest vegetables to include in any type of ethnic cooking I fancy and are beloved by all cultures. Lately, when I want something completely vegan but heartily satisfying, it's mushrooms I turn to and this is what I've been happily eating quite regularly for the last 3 weeks or so:

Wholewheat Spaghetti with Mushrooms, Rocket, Spring Onions and Garlic

Ingredients

A few handfuls of button/white/chestnut/portobello mushrooms, sliced fairly thinly
A handful or two of rocket leaves (arugula)
3 or 4 Spring Onions (green/salad/scallions), shredded diagonally and very thinly
4 pips of garlic, sliced thinly or crushed
1/2 a large lemon or 1 small lemon
A good glug of olive oil
A good shake of mixed dried herbs
Salt and pepper to taste
Enough cooked wholewheat spaghetti to feed yourself (you can use other types of pasta), timed to finish cooking when you're almost done with the sauteeing and drained properly.

This is how I did it

Heat the oil in a wok or deep-sided frying pan, then toss in the garlic. Saute until the wonderful garlic smell is released. Add in the spring onions, saute until wilted. Squeeze in some of the lemon juice to generate some steam. Add in the mushrooms and squeeze in the rest of the lemon juice. Saute until just about cooked, then add in the mixed dried herbs and the rocket leaves. Saute until the rocket leaves are wilted, then season with salt and pepper. Chuck in the drained pasta, toss to combine well and serve for a great vegan dinner for one.

I also love eating it on freshly baked 100% wholewheat bread spread with a little butter or on brown rice.

Anyone care to share their favourite mushroom recipes?
Glovefox is way cool; I think she's even written a cookbook or two.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Carrots Are Everywhere.
or, Please, Frog, Don't Kill Me for Writing This.


I have this ridiculous morbid obsession with true crime stories, fueled by the prolific ghostwriters of John Douglas, the former head of the Behavioral Science department at the FBI. He's written about 8 of these "hunt the hunters" books, and why not? It's not like he'll ever run out of material.

In one of my favorite Douglas stories, he talks about a pair of police officers doing a random drive through of a local Lovers Lane. They drive past one presumably empty sedan before coming upon another car with tell-tale steamed-up windows. They pull up next to the parked vehicle and walk up to the car, shining their flashlights into the interior. As suspected, the occupants of the car, a man and a woman, were happily screwing away. The officers tap on the glass and put a halt to the festivities, telling them to put their clothes on and go home. The man in the parked car grows indignant, saying, "I can't believe you're making us leave! The guy in that other car is having sex with a chicken!"

"Whaaaa??" say the officers. The couple insist that it's true. So over to the other car go the cops. They sneak up to the car and peek in the window, and sure enough, the more traditionally-minded man was right. Douglas was made aware of this incident, because not only was the man having sex with a chicken, he also was videotaping it. Evidently, this videotape has been making the rounds of police precincts for years. Douglas has seen it. And of course, he goes on to make his larger point, that the man, who was having sex with a chicken but was talking in abusive language to it like it was a human female, was someone police needed to keep close tabs on, and not just in order to warn poultry farmers.

Like Douglas, our very own Frog has also worked with sex offenders. I'm not sure how we got on the topic of discussing her former line of work, but I suspect, knowing my morbid curiosity, I probably wheedled the conversation around to it. Picking up the conversation where it became interesting, she told me that the creepiest thing about her job was the normalcy of most of the residents. "They were just...nice guys," she said. "They could have been anybody's husband or boyfriend or brother. They were polite, soft-spoken. They'd walk me to my car at night..."

"Wait a minute," I interrupted. "They'd walk you to your car?"

"Yeah," she said. "It wasn't a great neighborhood where the place was, so it was nice to have that."

"So it's better to have a man you *know* is a rapist walk you somewhere than it is to walk alone past someone that you don't know whether he's a rapist or not?"

"Oh, no, they weren't rapists," she corrected me. "They were voyeurs, peeping toms, guys who had sex with vegetables in public places, flashers..."

"Vegetables?? Sex with vegetables?"

"Yeah."

"Okay, that's what I don't get about men. How can they get busted sticking a carrot up their ass, and everybody knows it, yet they can still walk around with their head up? I don't get that."

"That's exactly what it was! A carrot! In fact, we couldn't even serve carrots at the residence because it was too much of a trigger for him!"

"What do you mean, a trigger?"

"Carrots were too sexualized for him. And you know," she continued, quite seriously, "that's a big problem that he really needed to overcome because carrots are everywhere. It's not like kohlrabi where you kind of have to seek it out."

By this time I'm laughing hysterically.

"So what you're saying is, this man had an uncontrollable sexual attraction to carrots?!?"

"Yeah."

Honest to God, that's just taking the whole "comfort food" idea to a whole new level. How does that even happen? So I spent all day at work trying to find an online movie that showed two carrots having sex so I could e-mail it to Frog, but alas, I failed. So this will have to do instead:

Lemon Chicken Cutlets with Honey Bourbon Carrots

1/3 cup unseasoned dry breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried
1 1/2 teaspoons minced lemon peel
2 skinless boneless chicken breast halves

2 tablespoons olive oil
Lemon wedges

Mix first 3 ingredients on large plate. Using rolling pin, pound chicken between sheets of waxed paper to scant 1/2-inch thickness. Rinse chicken with cold water so that coating will adhere. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Press both sides of chicken into crumb mixture to cover.

Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Carefully add chicken to skillet. Sauté until chicken is cooked through and golden brown, turning with tongs, about 4 minutes per side. Serve chicken with lemon wedges.


Honey Bourbon Carrots

1 pound hot throbbing carrots, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
3 T butter
3 T bourbon
3 T honey
3 T water

Throw everything into a skillet and saute it until carrots are tender. And for the love of all that is holy, please don't fuck it.

Friday, March 12, 2004

A primer that will make you weep
Shallot (on the right). Green onion. A leek is a lot bigger than a green onion, and, to my taste, milder. Chives are the skinny little grassy ones. And just to complicate your life and make your head sweat, there are also garlic chives that look like the other chives but taste, uh, garlicky. But you knew that.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Mmmmm... Bisque


Hi. My name is Emilin, and I am recovering from an eating disorder.

I’m a feminist, and I love food. I love eating out. I enjoy a wide variety of foods. Even though I often find recipes tedious, I enjoy cooking. I have a knack for combining foods and herbs and oils in perfectly original yet tasty ways. I really like cheese.

And I have been a restrictive eater since I was twelve years old. At times, I would be healthy, eat well, and keep a normal weight. Other times, I would find myself refusing food, craving the hunger pangs, and watching the scale. I have been known to rejoice privately over the extent to which my hip bones stick out in front of my navel. Diet pills have been a secret addiction from time to time. I was first caught with them when I was thirteen.

Whatever it is that caused me to function this way, it’s something that has disrupted my life. All in all, I have a good relationship with food, and my attempts at counting calories and fat grams were short-lived. The tracking of my consumption was a matter of self-discipline. Whether it started so I could be Thin and therefore Beautiful is debatable. It has become a way to control something in my life when there’s something going wrong.

I know now when I’m starting to slip into the old patterns of restriction. It’s almost always caused by stress, and once the stress lifts, I gain a little weight. At one point, I lost twenty percent of my body weight over the course of a year. Even though I know that there’s a problem and I seek to correct it, it comes in waves and my weight yo-yos. Research indicates that yo-yo dieting can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and gallbladder disease. Those are things I don’t currently have and will never need.

My mother died last month. The last two months of her life, I commuted several days a week, one hundred miles each way, so that I could work and take care of her and my father. The last four months of her life, it became patently clear that she was very, very sick. I knitted furiously. I drank wine. I didn’t have the time or the energy or the enthusiasm for eating. But I fed her as much as I could. Her favorite was the mushroom bisque. Right now, I weigh about what I did when I was fourteen, and I’ve grown three inches since then. I need to eat more mushroom bisque. So do you.

Mushroom Bisque


8T butter
1# mushrooms, minced
2 shallots, minced
4C broth or stock
6T all-purpose flour
4C half and half
2T sherry
1 bunch parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Melt 2T butter in a skillet. Add the mushrooms and shallots. Sauté 5 minutes. Add broth/stock and set aside on low heat. Melt 6T butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour. In another saucepan, bring 3C half and half (milk may be substituted) to a boil. Add the hot half and half all at once to the butter-flour mixture, stirring vigorously with a whisk until smooth. Add 1C half and half (don’t substitute this part unless it’s with cream), mushroom mixture, and sherry. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with chopped parsley. The bisque will keep in the refrigerator up to 1 week.
A totally subjective test
Dean & Deluca chocolate mints kick the butts of Andes.

That is all.

Monday, March 08, 2004

My First Time

When I first moved to California, there were a number of foods that I ate for the first time (sushi, fresh mangoes, pad thai, saag paneer) and foods that I prepared for the first time (papayas, dulce de leche ice cream, fresh asparagus). It had been a long time since any of those "first times". Until Friday, when I decided that, no matter what, I had to cook the two rutabagas hiding in the fridge. They were frightening me, but dammit, I'm bigger and I've got a sharp knife (not to mention a spiffy OXO peeler!)

I don't know why I was so intimidated by a rutabaga, but I was. I had never eaten one, never mind cooked one. I could tell that it was a root, but I really didn't know much beyond that. Is is like a potato? Like jicama? Should I roast it? Bake it? What?

Eventually, I decided to combine my friend Liz's advice with Deborah Madison. It would be hard to go wrong with those two as my muses. And it actually worked!

I was stunned to discover that this white and purple item was yellow inside. How did that happen?

I peeled and diced the rutabaga. I peeled and diced a potato, but into larger pieces. I put them both into simmering buttermilk-and-water, along with several cloves of garlic. I cooked them until soft. I drained off most of the watered-down buttermilk, and stuck them in the food processor, along with some stilton (note: much too stinky of a blue cheese. Try something milder and perhaps fresher than English stilton tends to be in California). Deborah Madison suggested leeks. Liz suggested chard. I used baby spinach, and enough heat to wilt them. Served in a pretty blue bowl with a pat of butter and a bit of pepper. Yummy enough, and a reasonable comfort food to start the weekend with. But I'm mostly impressed with the fact that I overcame my fear of the unknown and mysterious rutabaga.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Birthday cakes!
Recipes from two of our readers. Seriously yummy stuff.

Carla's Carrot Cake
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 cup crystalized ginger (might have been 1/4 cup, but I think I used a half cup)
4 eggs
4 tblsp. butter
4 cups grated carrots (I LOVE my food processor's grating disk . . .)
1 cup pumpkin
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup chopped pecans
some raisins (i used less than a half cup)

350 degrees, 2 9-inch cake pans (can probably also use a 10" tube pan and cut the cake into three layers rather than two) line the bottom of the cake pans w/ parchment paper, and grease pans and paper.

Cream butter & brown sugar in mixer. Put white sugar & crystalized ginger in a food processor (I have a little mini-prep that's perfect) and whirl away. when it's done, throw in w/ butter & brown sugar. then the eggs, one at a time, the pumpkin, the buttermilk. measure flour, soda, powder, cinnamon and salt into a separate bowl & mix, then throw in w/ wet ingredients. (there are probably other ways to mix this stuff, but this seemed to work okay.) throw in w/ wet ingredients. Add carrots, pecans, raisins. (I probably did the last part with a spatula rather than the mixer.) Bake for about 40 minutes, until toothpick is dry.

For the icing, I used 1/3 less fat cream cheese (can't go any lower or the icing is really runny), 4 tblsp. butter, confectioner's sugar, and maple syrup.

**********

fruzzle’s ginger-booze cake
Take one packet of ginger snaps, a carton of whipping cream, and some strong drink.

Whip the cream. Dip the two cookies into the booze. Sandwich them together with cream. Take the next cookie, dip, cream, and adjoin. Continue until the whole packet is adjoined in a log-shaped row. Cover the whole affair with the remaining cream. Grate some chocolate on top if you like. Leave in the refrigerator overnight.

Slice and serve. It’s very pretty if you slice on the diagonal.


Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Some Things We're Better Off Not Knowing.

I read Fast Food Nation 2 years ago, and that book was enough to put me off meat forever. Well, technically, the fact that the cattle industry tried to sue the author but couldn't find anything in the book that was untrue was what made me seek out greener, cattle-free pastures. I coerced my husband into reading it, and that pretty much put him off meat forever, too. Since then he's been trying on and off to get his parents to quit eating meat, but no dice. They consider his protelyzing to be irritating, and have resorted to flat out telling him to shut up.

"I don't want to know," said his mother, biting into a slice of pizza covered in ground hamburger (the worst! The worst of the worst!)

Privately, he and I tsked over their willful ignorance. Why would you deliberately refuse to learn about an activity that you're engaging in that is harmful? Not to mention disgusting! I just don't understand that.

That is, I didn't until yesterday, when I picked up the latest issue of Cook's Illustrated and read about black olives. They were rating the best of black olives. Nicoise olives ranked the highest. My favorite olives, good old California black olives, didn't even make the list. I couldn't understand it. Sure, they were more humble than the fancified French Nicoise, but they were reliable, mellow, dependable. I have fond memories of being a kid and having black olive and mushroom pizza every Sunday night and watching "All Creatures Great and Small" on PBS. It's still my favorite kind of pizza. And besides, my kids love them. And then I found a mention of them in a sidebar. California black olives, or "California" black olives, as the magazine referred to them, were not rated because they're actually green olives dyed with chemicals to make them black.

I wailed my discovery to frog, who was callously unconcerned about this horrific news. Evidently, this was taught to frog in kindergarden, right about the time she learned her left hand from her right. "You can make the letter 'L' on your left hand with your thumb and pointer finger, and black olives are merely chemically-dyed green ones. 'Repeat after me, class, "L" is for "left", and black olives suck.'" I must have been absent that day.

Now I know why my in-laws preferred to keep their innocence, even if it meant chowing down on shit-infested meat.




All the diet food of the low-fat craze always seemed marketed to women. Then the Atkins thing became popular, and I always associated that with men. But now it seems that it's all being marketed as low-carb, and, again, aimed at women. Why is it that women always need to do *without* something? It irritates me.

Also, Mike, of hard lemonade fame, now sells limeade. It tastes like summer, although not quite as much as Oberon.
The free birthday loot report
-- Six Zingerman’s bagels: check.
-- Haircut*: check.
-- Video rental: check.
-- Scoop of ice cream: no check! New employee, didn’t know the rule.
-- Church coffee mug filled with snacks: check.

*I didn’t expect this—I scheduled the haircut for a day when I had time, and my hairdresser refused to charge me. She rocks.

Mostly, I had a splendid time driving around town collecting my take. In other food-related birthday news, toad bought me a carrot cake (one of my faves) as a birthday cake, as well as take-out from our favorite Thai place (tofu masaman and salad kaak). And my parents sent me some new kitchen implements (in part to replace some of what I’m losing in the household split).

Monday, March 01, 2004

Happy Birthday to Stresch!
Email us your favorite cake recipe in her honor and we'll post the ones that make us drool. Or something.
Loot
Tomorrow's my birthday, and I've discovered recently that there's all manner of food-related wonderfulness that I can get, for free, simply because it's my birthday. Should I choose to do so (because I only do things I feel compelled to do when it's my birthday), I will report my take right here. On this blog. No other blog. You will NOT want to miss this.

Really.

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