Wednesday, May 27, 2009

That was no heart attack

Wow. It has been a long time since I've posted. I've kept up with everyone but I've been very lax about doing any actual work beyond a comment or two. Guess I should get to stepping.

First, I highly recommend to everyone within earshot that you try Maggie's Perfect Pumpkin Soup. She commented on my last post about adding a can of coconut milk at the end, which, oddly enough, I had already done. :-) I did it, however, out of necessity as I got a bit heavy-handed with the chilli powder and was looking for a way to smooth out the heat. It worked--slightly--but I must admit to liking the soup better before the coconut, even with the heat. It's a very filling, tasty blend and I actually ate it for breakfast several mornings running because I was still feeling punk and it most definitely cleared up whatever was lurking in my system. So go forth, visit Maggie, and make the soup. And also check out her beautiful picture of polenta. Well worth the trip.

Memorial Day was last weekend so I busted out Clemenza and got to grilling. I found some amazing all-natural charcoal by Stubb's, made from hardwood and vegetable binders, and I am a complete convert. Kingsford, you are dead to me. This stuff burns clean, smells clean, and leaves a taste like nobody's business. We had burgers and dogs (of course), nachos, and I had a very successful first attempt at grilling fish--a very nice piece of Arctic char. It's a cross of taste between salmon and trout and I was rather pleased with it. I loaded it on a hamburger bun today and slathered it with Dijon mustard. Yes, this removes some of the fishiness but, as I am very averse to salmon unless it is slathered with something, I felt this was the way to go.

We finished up with s'mores. Full of yum.

Have I mentioned my garden recently? Crusading One, tell your boyfried it is possible to grow stuff from the ground up. Really push that rock & roll aspect, too. :-) My garden is officially exploding now. Take a look:

A bucket of peppermint hanging from the apple tree.

This is the big garden, which includes the tomatoes, basil, peppers, fennel, dill, radishes, and some mesclun. You can see Clemenza in the back there.

This is right off the patio door and includes scallions, lavender, radishes, and a ton of mesclun. I'm not sure what is in the small pot in the front middle as I've forgotten what seeds I've sown. I think peppers but I did it on a whim so we shall see.

Early tomatoes. I'm really excited about these.

I've had a lot of luck with the mesclun as it seems to sprout like mad; what the final result will be is anybody's guess but I'm hoping to have a steady crop throughout the season. The fennel is also growing well on its own--I sowed the seeds directly into the soil instead of using peatlets--but my pepper plants have not thrived as they have in past years. My biggest problem is the slight running amok of fruit flies, which I think were already setting up shop in the bag of soil I picked up as it's only a problem with several pots and I remember those coming from a specific bag. Ants, too, have taken over. I really hate ants. I hate fruit flies, and flying ants, and pretty much anything that crawls from the earth and has more legs than I want to count. But I accept that I have to share with them. I don't like it, but I accept it. :-)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Modern English


I've been sick for a week. And last week the boys wonder were sick. Little gits are taking this whole sharing thing way too seriously. :-)

However, I did make myself useful in the kitchen. I haven't been able to taste much of anything since last Saturday (save for the occasional jolt of a peppercorn lodged between my teeth), which has caused me great consternation but I'm fumbling along, hoping that everything is--at the very least--edible.

The less said about last week's soup, the better. I'm going to try Maggie's PerfectPumpkinSoup this week with the exception of using sweet potatoes instead of pumpkin. I really like the spice combination she used and I think it will be something very, very tasty. And I'll make Rachel's BrownSconesWithSeeds because they will be amazing alongside, especially with a nice chunk of Kerrygold I've got stashed away. An added bonus is that they keep very well for a couple of days so I can pack one in Jandar's lunch bag and enjoy one myself for breakfast until, sadly, they are gone.

I also made Rachel's (oh shut up!) vanilla melting moments with the boys, which was an awesome amount of fun. They love lemon cookies and had been asking for them so I pulled out the recipe and added a good amount of lemon zest and the juice from said lemon and let them have at it. As it's an egg-free dough, they were also quite pleased that I let them eat some ahead of time. Let's see, we made these on Wednesday and they're still in very good shape so the freshness factor is high. I simply stored them on a plate covered with Glad Press 'n' Seal (which I highly, highly recommend for food storage). Excellent with a cup of hot tea with honey.

For the J-man I made the Caked Crusader's PecanFudgeBrownies and, let me tell you, these things are good. Really, really good. Now, I've made thousands of brownies from dozens of recipes but this one is one of the best I've ever used. I've never used four whole eggs before and I must admit I was a little shocked by such a large amount but it was worth it. A squidgy, chocolatey brownie, with that nice crackle on the top. I used walnuts (a rather copious amount as I like them throughout, not just here and there) but I'm going to try them next weekend with raspberries and white chocolate for dinner with Jerry's mom (we share a love of raspberries, especially when combined with chocolate--bliss!).

I also got another shipment from KingArthur; this time, I ordered some real chocolate jimmies, real white chocolate jimmies, and--fun of fun--gelatin sheets. I don't really have any use for them right now but I come across recipes now and again that call for them so I may pull one out so I can play. And yes, 25 lovely pounds of flour. It's rather frightening, really, as my counter jar holds only ten pounds and I have to keep the rest tucked way in the back of my baking cupboard because the boys like to play in it (we won't discuss what happened to the canister of cocoa) but I feel like something's missing from my kitchen if it's not there. It's very reassuring to be able to drop everything and make bread or scones or cake or even paste at a moment's notice.

I have a lovely grass-fed, organic strip steak and two pounds of gorgeous USA Gulf shrimp tempting me from my fridge and my mind is wobbling with thoughts of Thai beef salad, New Orleans barbeque shrimp, shrimp cakes, steak sandwich with arugula and garlic aioli...yum.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Devil Eats Pringles

I fell asleep the other night after reading my new issue of Food & Wine. Note to self: Make the mango sticky rice, make the mango sticky rice.

I had a dream. In this dream, I worked in a very large food emporium. I was training to do whatever one does when one works in a food emporium. Which I don't think I've really been in one recently, not since I went to Harrod's in London many moons ago. But I digress. Wait! The old Food Hall in Strawbridge's. Small, but rather emporium-ish. And there's always the French Market in New Orleans and Reading Terminal in Philly. Okay, yeah, I've emporiumed.

Moving on. I was sent to fetch cheese but wasn't sure what to get. Stanley Tucci appeared from out of nowhere and shoved a piece of blue cheese at me, barking "Eat this!" Yeah, okay, I'm eating. So I ate it. He then told me I was "ripe for the learning of cheese" and led me to a huge display of Wensleydale with cranberries. Now, I've always loved looking at this, never tried it, but when Stanley Tucci--in a dream--shoves a piece into your mouth shrieking "Yes! Yes! It is the cheese! You must love the cheese!" you kinda sorta feel obligated to seek some out. Which I will next time I'm near a ravishing cheese counter. He then grabbed my hand and just dragged me up and down the various aisles of cheese, blathering, which, in a dream, leads one to tune out and end up in a loft apartment making Chinese dumplings and oysters on the half shell with Anne Hathaway who had hair like the daughter in the first season of 24--all wavy and weird and way too blonde. We then served this odd combination to a group of modern-day hippies (a la Adrian Grenier, ugh). I was actually a bit relieved when the alarm went off.

So yeah. Cheese. I've got a Cambozola in the fridge that seemed like a good idea at the time but I now find myself intimidated by it. I don't know why but it's just looking rather unappealing to me right now. It's wrapped in its original packaging but I'm not quite sure when I'll bust it out. Michael Chiarello has mad Napa love for it so maybe I should just consult one of his many tomes and see if he can show me the way.

What have I been up to this week? Made Rachel's Broccoli Soup, her White Soda Bread, and Chicken Kiev last weekend and am very, very pleased with the results. The soup has lasted well this week and I can honestly say that it didn't suffer for lack of cream. The soda bread didn't last as long as the other bread recipes, probably because it had neither butter nor egg in it, which lend additional moisture and keep the scones fresh for several days. The Kiev was easy and not nearly as labor-intensive as I had feared; leftovers, however, I didn't enjoy nearly as much. I'm a big fan of cold fried chicken but the butter/herb combo just didn't taste right as leftovers. But it was smashing first time around with a massive side of fries. With a mess of homemade ketchup for dipping.

I think I'll read Macbeth tonight to see how that tickles the subsconscious. :-)