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Wednesday, June 30, 2004

I want these 

Right now. That is all.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Dip your vegis in this 

I made this for a little reunion that I attended this evening--initially, I thought it hadn't really turned out, but that hour in the refrigerator made all the difference. Everyone raved about it. I served it with red pepper strips, zucchini strips, lightly steamed pea pods, and baby carrots (the carrots and the peas were from the CSA share).

It rocked--naturally, it's from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

Curry Mayonnaise with Mango Chutney

½ c. mango chutney, pref. Major Grey’s
1 c. mayonnaise
4 scallions, including some of the greens, finely chopped
1 tbsp. curry powder
Juice of 2-3 limes
Cayenne
¼ c. yogurt or sour cream, optional

Stir the chutney into the mayonnaise (if it’s chunky, chop it some…) along with the scallions, curry, and enough lime juice to make a tart but harmonious balance. Stir in a pinch or two of cayenne, and the yogurt. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. Taste before serving to make sure the balance is right and add a bit more lime juice if it seems too sweet. If you use bottled mayo (as I did), add the yogurt or sour cream to even out the taste.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Fusion. 

Today's restaurant review: The Sunrise Cafe, corner of Foster and Ravenswood, Chicago.

Before Steve and I leapt from the frying pan of the city into the fire of Suburban Hell, I used to drive past this lesbian-owned crunchy hippie restaurant with stars painted all over the twilight-colored brick exterior. "Homemade vegetable soup!" the signs on the windows cheerfully proclaimed. "Fresh scones! Sandwiches! Salads! Birthday cakes!"

"You really should go," my friends would say. "They have great scones."

I put it on my to-do list, along with reading Ulysses and taking French lessons, and five years went by and Ulysses is still sitting on my bookshelf with an unbroken spine and it's still a big non as far as relearning the French I'd forgotten from high school. The Sunrise Cafe, however, was another story all together. This was something I could actually accomplish.

So before the boys and I went to the park, I spontaneously aimed the Ski Car to the side of the road when we approached the little restaurant, and I dragged them out of the car, happily anticipating a veggie sandwich for me and some Tofu Pups for the boys.

The Sunrise Cafe only had three tables, and a bar with stools running along the front window. A deli area was set up in an L-shape that ended with an old fashioned brass-colored cash register. The only other people in the restaurant were two men sitting at one of the tables. We went up to the register, and I peered back into the kitchen in an attempt to catch someone's attention. One of the men, a very young Japanese man in his early 20's, got up, greeted us and motioned us to a table. I led the kids to the table and put my purse down onto the edge of the table top, which caused the top to flip over.

The boys were overjoyed by this, but frankly I didn't think it bode very well for the rest of the meal. We sat down, and Christopher amused himself by playing with the pepper, pausing occasionally to sneeze, while Alex and I looked around the place.

"What's that music called?" he asked.

"Japanese music."

"What kind of Japanese music?"

"You know, I'm not really familiar with Japanese music, so that's about as much as I know. It sounds like Japanese new age to me."

Behind the deli case window were rows and rows of sushi. Japanese pop bottles were lined along the wall on small shelves. It seemed I had come to the restaurant about 5 years too late, and I probably wouldn't be getting any of those scones.

The young owner came out again with a menu for me. It seemed to be an old menu from the previous owners, promising all sorts of hippie goodness. I looked at him hopefully.

"Sushi?" he returned my look of hope with one of his own. "I make sushi! Good sushi!"

Alex is a trooper in many ways, but there's no way he's diving into raw fish topped with wasabi. And Christopher we won't even discuss.

On the second page of the menu, an item read: Peanut butter and strawberry jelly, $4.99.

After kicking myself for not making the peanut butter and jelly at home and eating it at the park, I pointed to it.

"Oh, yes, yes," he said, nodding agreeably.

"Okay, just one, and they'll split it, and a chicken and vegetable salad for me."

He nodded again, and backed into the kitchen. He returned seconds later with ice water in small plastic glasses. Thin circles of lemon hovered just under the ice. He placed the water down on the table, and returned to the table with a small bowl of edamame just in time to see Christopher dump a sizeable portion of the water down the front of his shirt.

"Ahhhh, baby wet!" he said, and came back again with napkins.

Alex and I enjoyed the edamame quite a bit, mostly because he likes to shell things, and I like it when he takes a liking to new food.

"You wanna ham?" asked the owner.

"Ham?"

"On salad? I put ham..."

"No, no ham, please."

"Cheese?"

"Okay."

He then asked a series of unintelligable questions that I knew would just result in a complete communication breakdown, so I cut to the chase and waved him away, saying, "Okay, okay."

Lunch came quickly. My salad was romaine lettuce with glass noodles, tomato, cabbage, mushrooms, Kraft singles and chicken pot stickers, with orange french dressing on the side. He seemed very much like he wanted me to know that he made the pot stickers himself, so I feel like I should pass that along, along with the fact that they were pretty decent, and would have been better had they been warm and served with a soy dipping sauce.

The promised peanut butter and jelly sandwich arrived as well. He set it down in front of Christopher. Usually what I do is take their food right away, divvy it up and cut Christopher's into manageable, bite-sized chunks. This time, though, I was completely paralyzed by what was sitting quietly in front of my child.

My God, this sandwich.

My God.

I sat staring at it, unable to process what I was seeing, unable to hide the look of dumb horror on my face. The owner, seeing my strangled facial expression, grew anxious. His face clouded in concern, and he began wringing his hands.

"Yes?" he queried nervously. "Yes?"

But I was forced into silence, as the only words that had formed in my brain were words that I could not say to this sweet man standing in front of me, this man who, it was now excruciatingly clear, had no clue about American food combining.

This is what sat on the wobbly table top in front of me, this food abomination contrasting sharply with the simple goodness of the edamame, the thoughtfully served lemon-water, the cheery yellow-checked paper table cloth:

A club-style triple decker sandwich, on unwieldy puffy french bread. Layered between the slices of bread were, in this order, peanut butter avocado, lettuce, tomato, onion, cucumber, Kraft American singles, and strawberry jelly. I was momentarily sure I was being punked, that Ashton Kutcher was going to show up and point and laugh. And I totally would have deserved it, because
I literally could not speak. And, for awhile, neither could the owner. Clearly, he had done something very wrong. But what? He did not have the vocabulary yet to ask me what the matter was, nor to understand my answer. But he tried. He pointed to a spot under the top layer of bread.

"Is very good peanut butter," he said.

A small hand darted out and grabbed one of the sandwich halves. Alex crammed a point of the sandwich into his mouth.

"What do you think?" I asked him, appalled but trying to hide it.

"Mmmmm. Tomato," he said appreciatively.

I looked up at the owner, who hovered over Christopher, his brow furrowed. "I guess it's okay, then."

And that was one of the tougher decisions I've made, to say nothing. But really, the owner made it, the customer for whom it was made saw no problem with it, so I let it go. None of my business, really.

Unfortunately, the owner had become upset. He pointed at Christopher. "He not eating!" he said.

To be fair, it might not the the devil's own sandwich sitting in front of him that's doing it. Christopher is a pickier eater than his brother, and lately just prefers to occasionally graze rather than eat a meal. But again, I couldn't explain this to the owner, who wasn't waiting for an explaination anyway. He shot off to the back and returned with a huge chocolate chip cookie, which he presented as an olive branch for his mysterious offense.

I don't care if one child hasn't eaten in four days and has crawled through a river of raw sewage to reach the table, and the other has ridden up on a fancy pony, you just can't give one child a cookie without giving one to the other, too, so I quickly broke the cookie in half and distributed the pieces.

The owner settled down into the remaining chair at our table, and began talking in some sort of Japaglish, of which I understood about every fifth word. The only thing I understood, I think, was that he was not married, but that someday he would be, and that he would like to have two boys and one girl, the girl coming last. "She be a princess baby," he said.

"I want to be a princess!" announced Alex. "Princess Fiona knows karate! Princess Elizabeth wears a paper bag! Why are you Japanese?"

The language barrier, a mixed blessing.

Then the owner began talking to Alex, which worked out very well. If you remember from your high school Spanish or French beginner classes, most of the conversations in the beginning of the book went like this:

Marie-Claire: Bonjour, Pierre!

Pierre: Bonjour! Comment allez-vous?

Marie-Claire: Tres bien, merci! Et vous?

Pierre: Tres bien! Alors, Marie-Claire, Quelle age etes-vous?

Marie-Claire: J'ai 17 ans. Et vous?

Pierre: J'ai 18 ans.

Marie-Claire: Qu'est qu'il y a a mange pour le dejuner?

Pierre: J'ai mange un peanut butter and jelly sandwich with lettuce, tomato, onion, and that shitty cheese food those stupid Americans eat. Etes vous?

Marie-Claire: Ah! Moi aussi! Les Americans sont tres stupide, n'est pas?

Pierre: Bien sur!

Both: Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!


This is perfect small talk for a four year old, so they chatted in that vein until Christopher decided he had had enough and climbed out of his chair and began marching toward the open front door. I ran to scoop him up, and he evaded my evil clutches and darted behind the deli counter. The owner pitched in and got up, coming around the other side of the counter and blocking his path. Christopher fled in anxiety back to me.

"Maybe I just have the girl," said the owner, thoughtfully.

Time to go.

So I paid the check ($10), scooped up the kids, and took them to the park. On the way out, the owner told Alex that if he came back on his (Alex's) birthday, the owner would make him a birthday cake. I'd be all for this, except I suspect we might be presented with an eel covered in pink sugar roses.

Despite all this, the Sunrise Cafe is now my new favorite restaurant, and everyone should go to wish him well.

Just don't order the peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Sweet cream biscuits 

Embarrassingly easy--and requested by Krup.

SWEET CREAM BISCUITS

2 c. Bisquick mix
2/3 c. whipping cream
2 tbsp. sugar

Mix ingredients, form soft dough. Turn onto board and knead 10 times. Roll 1/2 inch thick. Cut with biscuit cutter. Bake on greased pan 10 to 12 minutes at 450 degrees.


Monday, June 14, 2004

Look for many hotdog-based casserole recipes coming soon. 

I'm back from a quick trip to my parents' house in Downstate Illinois. While lolling about the kitchen down there I took a moment to browse through my mom's collection of local church charity cookbooks and my attention was arrested by an entry on the inserted errata slip for the St. Luke's cookbook:

SNICKERS AND APPLE SALAD: Substitute regular-sized Snickers for fun-sized Snickers.


I paged frantically ahead to see the complete recipe and noted with mingled horror and glee that my mother had dutifully lined through "fun-sized" and made the necessary emendation.

She denies that she has ever made the salad.

In any event, the dish is elegant in its simplicity and notable as an extreme example of the Midwestern church supper salad. Perhaps also suitable for Cub Scout pack meeting potlucks. I reproduce it here from memory:

SNICKERS AND APPLE SALAD

Three granny smith apples.
Three regular sized Snicker's bars.
8 oz. sour cream.
8 oz. Cool Whip (thawed).

Core apples (leave skin on) and cut into chunks.
Cut Snickers bars into bite-sized pieces.
Combine in serving dish.
Add remaining ingredients, mix well.
Chill.
Sneakily place on table at potluck, skulk away from the table.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Fake Spanish 

I ate lunch today in a Mexican restaurant, the menu of which included the "Leetle Peeple Plate" for the kids. Seriously. Could I make that up?

On the upside, they had deep-fried bean-and-cheese tacos, which are a thing of beauty. Almost as wonderful as potato flautas. Almost.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Feeling like a kid again 

Chocolate milk tastes best out of a glass bottle, especially when it’s from Jersey cows. I'm glad that one does not need to be in (New) Jersey to reap the benefits of this lovely cow.

Good chocolate milk is another reason to choose locally produced foods. The specific breeds of cow used to produce milk are generally selected for the quantity they produce rather than the quality. Jersey cows aren't so common, but they're easier to find when you look for them at small family farms.

Empanadas 

I served empanadas and a kick-ass salad from the produce sub on Sunday evening. The salad was romaine and green-leaf lettuces, spinach, sunflower sprouts, and split red grapes, with lime wedges as dressing (there was traditional salad dressing available, too).

I fed seven adults and four kids, two of the kids ate something else (quesadillas), the other two split one empanada. I doubled the recipe and shouldn't have--more empanadas left over than one person needs (so I pawned some off on friends!).

Here's the empanada recipe--I only need half the filling before I run out of dough, but I'm probably doing something terribly wrong, so here's the as-is recipe. Note that I think that cilantro is a tool of the devil and I never use it. YMMV.

Black Bean Empanadas, from Ginny Callan's Beyond the Moon Cookbook

2 c. black beans

Dough
2 1/2 c. unbleached white flour
1 1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, melted
2/3 c. (single-serving container) plain yogurt
6 tbsp. cold water

Filling
Reserved mashed, cooked black beans (or a rinsed can of them, which I don't mash...)
2 tbsp. canola oil
3/4 c. chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 tsp. dried basil
1 c. chopped green pepper
1 minced jalapeno pepper
1 1/2 c. chopped zucchini
2 tbsp. minced fresh cilantro
1 c. fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. grated cheddar
1 1/2 c. grated jalapeno Jack

1 1/2 c. canola oil for frying (or more)

Sour cream, salsa, and chopped cilantro on the side.

Rinse and sort the beans, soak them in 6 c. water for 6 to 8 hours or overnight. Drain the beans and put them in a pot with 6 c. fresh water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, partially covered, until tender, about 90 minutes. Drain the beans and return them to the pot off the heat. Mash lightly and set aside.

While the beans are cooking, prepare the dough. Combine the flours, salt, butter, yogurt, and water in a mixing bowl or food processor. Stir or pulse until well mixed. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Cover and refrigerate.

For the filling, heat 2 tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion, garlic, basil, peppers, and zucchini until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the cilantro, corn, cumin, salt, and cheeses. Add vegis to the beans and stir well. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, knead it lightly, and divide it into twelve balls. Roll each ball into an 8-inch circle (mine never get there, but whatever--f) and place a heaping 1/2 c. of filling in its center. spread the filling, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge. Fold the dough over the filling to form a half circle, and use the tines of a fork to seal it. Repeat until all 12 empanadas are filled.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Heat the 1 1/2 c. oil in a deep saucepan (or stockpot--f) over medium-high heat. The oil's hot enough when a bit of dough tossed in immediately sizzles and rises to the surface.

Fry the empanadas one at a time until golden brown (the recipe claims that this takes 3 minutes on each side, but it takes mine only 15 seconds or so, total--f). Drain on paper towels. Place cooked empanadas on a baking sheet in the oven to keep warm until ready to serve.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Nigella does not bite! 

I found a copy of Nigella Lawson's "How to be a Domestic Goddess," as well as a copy of her other one, "How to Eat" at the Goodwill on Sunday. $2.99 each. Score.

Let the games begin! 

G. and his family and I are splitting a farm share again this summer. On Thursday night, Farmer Rob called to let us know that the share would start on Saturday—on Friday morning, G. and I chatted on the phone to firm up plans, and we talked about how excited we were to start the season, how great all of that produce is, how much we enjoy doing this. We talked some about the price of chest freezers, and we laughed about how we were going to need to remember this feeling of anticipation and glee come late July, when we had way more food than we could possibly cram into the refrigerator, much less eat.

Seems late July showed up at the lilypad a little earlier than usual, this year. Holy Bob, do I have a lot of lettuce. And spinach! Oh, the spinach!

Here’s what’s in the box this week (G., if I missed anything, feel free to edit...):
Romaine, green-leaf and red-leaf lettuce
Spinach
Sunflower sprouts
Fennel
Oregano
Garlic chives
Lemon balm

The lettuce is just as I remember it—so good that I don’t want to put any dressing on it at all. Last evening, I hosted dinner for 11, including myself, four of whom were small girls. I served black bean empanadas and salad, with sorbet (supplied by a guest) for dessert. We made only the tiniest dent in the salad (romaine and green-leaf lettuce, spinach and sunflower sprouts) and the garlic chives (served as a garnish).

I don’t know what I was thinking when I decided that I could handle half a share by myself. Those of you who know me IRL should expect that I’ll be bringing salad as my contribution to any and all meals this summer.

And you should also expect to find the occasional Napa cabbage on your porch.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Boggy Creek Farm

Can't tell you how exciting I find this prospect.
The produce subscription starts this weekend!!

Of course, we won't get it until next Weds, but Frog and G should have the goods in just a few days.

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