Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Merry Christmas! And happy New Year to you ... in jail!

So I'm in California for the holidays, and it turns out, I don't feel like blogging. I've been too busy doing last-minute shopping, wrapping presents with pictures of Madonna, completely missing major earthquakes, eating fishheads, and rocking out to the Grinch song.

So happy holidays until January 4!

Friday, December 19, 2003

Best of 2003: The Pot You Didn't Know You Needed
They say the devil is in the details. Well, if Satan likes to have an occasional cup o' hot chocolate (and I don't see why he wouldn't ... it's pretty chilly in that 9th level of Hell), he'd probably appreciate one of these. The pot only holds about 2 cups, but it has a slick non-stick surface, making cleaning a breeze, a handle that doesn't get hot, and better yet, handy spouts on both sides that allow an ease in pouring unrivalled in the pot world.

You may say to yourself, I don't need it, I can use the larger, more utilitarian pot, I don't mind wiping up spilled milk! I say to you, humbug! It doesn't take much room, is good for a whole range of hot drinks, melting butter, and making chocolate truffle ganaches, and cost $6 at Target. Throw caution to the wind.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Today, I am annoyed.

Is it because Foodgoat has been using the computer every night to work on his new Firmary website, just at the time of day when my blogging powers are at their peak? Is it because of a recent bout of insomnia and a rapidly accumulating sleep debt? Is it because the LotR has ended (and ended and ended again)?

No, it's because Blogger is pitching a fit every time I try to post. It only pretends to save any changes I make, the template spontaneously devolves to a previous version, and the post date is random and utterly incorrect. It's a toss-up whether this will see the light of day. Grrrrr (that's me knashing my teeth). I'm this close to defecting to Typepad.

Best of 2003: That was just a detour, a shortcut ... A shortcut to what? ... Mushrooms!
Who among us can whip up a gourmet dinner from scratch every night of the week? Not Foodgoat. And if it was me who had to cook every night we'd be eating a lot more microwave popcorn. So we stock up on the jarred sauce and dry pasta. But who can excited about the Plan B of worknight meals?

And then we discovered dried porcini mushrooms. Also known as cepes or boletes (and distinguished from other mushrooms by dense pores, instead of gills, on the underside of the caps), these kings of wild mushrooms take the lowly store-bought sauce to another plane of existence (with an extra dimension of flavor!). After growing in oak, chestnut and beech forests, they can usually be found in small packets in Italian shops ("porcini," by the way, means little piglets in Italian), or big plastic cylinders at Costco. A couple of them rehydrate in the time it takes to boil the water for pasta and all you have to do is toss them all into the warmed up pasta sauce with olive oil and a sprinkling of spices to create a quick yet complex, rich yet earthy, meaty yet vegetarian, Italian-peasant dish.

Of course they can be used in plenty of other ways and dishes, too, and the (strained) water used to rehydrate them can also be used in stock, soup, or grain dishes. They also keep forever, making them quite the useful pantry item.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

It being the end of the year, I've decided to do a "Best of 2003" series, featuring my favorite things acquired in the past 12 months. Let's start with the newest one ...

Best of 2003: This is Poke. You’ve seen it before, haven’t you ...!

Back when I had a job in Berkeley counting dead babies, my co-worker had what she called a fruit knife. It was a small knife with a wooden cover, and she used it to peel apples and do other lunch tasks. I coveted it tremendously.

So when I saw a similar one at Sur La Table yesterday, I had to have it. Armed with my Joyce Chen bento (which is a Japanese box lunch) knife with a cherry wood sheath (which shall henceforth be known as "Poke"), now I can dice and slice my lunch anytime, anywhere, with impunity!

In a pinch, of course, I imagine the knife could also be used to cut the ropes that bind me should I be held hostage by an anti-government militia group, or to cut my long, flowing hair should a screaming banshee grab it and try to drag me into the very depths of Hell. Which is why I carry around my bento knife in my bag. You never know when you might encounter a terrorist/demon/apple.

Monday, December 15, 2003

A Lot of Background For One Recipe
Down the middle of Cleveland runs the Cuyahoga River, and near its mouth is an area of lowlands called the Flats. Cleveland's earliest (white) settlers initially built their cabins here, but so many fell ill in the swampy environment that most soon migrated to the higher plateaus on the east and west sides, and then out onto the even higher continental shelf, which why the suburbs are invariably called something-"Heights", though there's a nary a hill to be seen for miles.

In the 19th century, the Ohio & Erie Canal and the growth of railroads turned the Flats, with its abundant room for docks and warehouses, into the industrial powerhouse of furnaces, mills, shipyards, oil refineries, and paint and chemical factories that built Cleveland's storied Millionaire's Row.

Alas, the boom times were not to last. Aircraft and roadways would replace water and railroad as the main modes of shipping. By the 1960's, the Flats had become a dumping ground for unwanted waste, leaving the Cuyahoga River so polluted that it literally, infamously, burned. The event lit the flames, so to speak, for environmental reform. But it also left the Flats a grim, post-industrial landscape of abandoned buildings and burned into the American consciousness an image of Cleveland as an urban nadir.

But in the mid-80's, from the ashes rose a new Flats for a new economy, fueled by entertainment and gentrification. Trendy riverbank restaurants by day and throbbing clubs by night. Weekend pleasure boats and high-end condos instead of shipping docks and warehouses. And for a long time things were good again.

Alas, this boom time seems not to have lasted either. It's now 2003, and the local hipsters are instead lunching downtown and partying in the warehouse district, and many a Flats fixture on the East Bank has had to pack it up.

The latest to go is the Watermark, which was located in a pre-Civil War chandlery shop. I myself have only been to the Flats two or three times, and the Watermark never. But we still have their soup recipe: a light, creamy pumpkin soup with the surprising yet delicious topping of cheddar. And it takes all of twenty minutes to make.

Southwestern Pumpkin Soup

3 cups chicken stock
1 cup cream (or evaporated milk)

1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
3 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup (packed) grated sharp cheddar cheese
Chopped fresh cilantro

Bring chicken stock and cream to boil in heavy medium pot. Whisk in canned pumpkin, brown sugar, cumin, chili powder, coriander and nutmeg. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until soup thickens slightly and flavors blend, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish each serving with cheddar cheese and cilantro and serve.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Adobo Don'ts

What with many a blogger extolling the joy and virtue that is adobo, I, belatedly, throw my two centavos in: whatever recipe you use, DO NOT use boneless, skinless chicken breast. Even if that's your chicken part of choice. Even if you or someone you know has a horror of fat and a fear of bones. Trust me. It doesn't work.

And while I'm at it, don't use cinnamon either. Or star anise. Or I suppose you can, but for god's sake, don't tell me. It's a little like garlic in Hungarian chicken paprikash for me. Use of such unorthodox spices will provoke a heated debate over the hermeneutics of Filipino food. I'm very protective of my comfort foods.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003


If you missed the limited time sourdough melts at Arby's .... don't you worry, you didn't miss much. It's a sad thing when good fast food goes grossly mediocre. While the Arby's Beef N'Cheddar is sometimes a thing of beauty (o, that onion roll! that melted cheese!), the Roast Beef Soughdough Melt, which is just the same thing except with sourdough bread, barely even deserves to wipe the cheesy drips off your chin.

Perhaps I'm being too harsh. After all, the beef was fine and the cheese was fine, it's really a failing of the bread. The problem is that it's not sourdough. I'm pretty sure it's just white bread spritzed with vinegar. And it's not even toasted fake sourdough bread. Don't let the brown top fool you, because just underneath it's spongy and soft like the purest of Wonder bread. Which leads me to suspect that the guy in the back holding the mister of vinegar also has a paintbrush of brown food coloring at his disposal.

Tuesday, December 9, 2003

It's Bean called that before, but not by you

A long time ago, I got a big bag of dried black-eyed peas.

A couple weeks ago, I got some smoked ham hocks.

I had no idea what to do with them.

So they sat around for a while, forgotten.

And then, one day, the waiting was over. It was time to make Hoppin' John.

Hoppin' John is a mix of beans (usually the black-eyed pea kind) and rice, flavored with meat (usually ham), and herbs. The name comes either from a) the custom of inviting guests to saying "hop in, John", b) an old New Year's Day ritual where kids hop once around the table before eating the dish, or c) the French-Creole word pois pigeon (pronounced pwah pee-zhohn), or pigeon peas, a native pea in the Caribbean that was also eaten mixed with rice. Take your pick.

In any case, black-eyed peas were brought to the United States by African slaves in the 1600s, and Hoppin' John has been a mainstay of African-American and Southern cuisines ever since, particularly as the traditional good-luck dish for New Year's Day.

But why wait? Have some now. It tastes good (and is good for you!) Use the crock pot while you're at it.

Hoppin' John

The night before, soak several handfuls of dried black-eyed peas in water.

Chop a couple of garlic cloves, a medium onion, a green pepper or two, and a celery rib (all optional, but good stuff). Put it in the crock pot with two ham hocks, a sprinkling of salt and pepper, a pinch of allspice and cayenne, and a couple of dashes of worcheshire sauce, and keep it in the fridge 'til morning.

Drain the peas in the morning, give a quick rinse, and fill up the crock pot, along with about 3 cups of water or stock, and turn it on.

When you come back after work, make rice (and is there any other way to make rice than in the rice cooker? I think not.) Serve the beans on top of warm rice. If you don't feel bound by tradition you can also add cheddar and sour cream, and let's face it, cheese and sour cream makes everything better.

Monday, December 8, 2003

Poor Man's Pesto

Pesto = pine nuts & basil = Italian tastiness! = $$$

Winter pesto = walnuts & parsley = fake Italian tastiness! = $

This is one easy peasy recipeezy, even for lil' ole, lazy-ass me. Not to mention that it's surprisingly good and a nice change of pace from the usual no-time-to-cook!-pasta-and-tomato-pasta-sauce-dinners. And I love dipping into the big, handy bag of walnuts in the freezer.

It also goes well with a last-minute side of tasty cherry pierogies from the Pierogie Palace.

Winter pesto pasta
[modified from Mark Bittman's "The Minimalist Entertains"]

Boil a pot of water with some salt.

In a small food processor, mix up a handful of parsley, a handful of walnuts, a garlic clove or two, and a bunch of olive oil into a creamy paste.

Meanwhile, back at the range ...

Add pasta to the boiling water. (And that's when you realize that you had just picked up pierogies that morning. It's not too late! So you add two cherry pierogies to about an inch of water in a skillet.

When the pierogies are warmed through, drain.)

Oh look! And the pasta's done now, too. Drain 'em.

(Fry the pierogies lightly in olive oil.).

Add the pasta back to the pot with some olive oil. Turn the heat to low, while you mix the paste into the pasta. Add more olive oil if it's too thick.

And voila!

Thursday, December 4, 2003

Lost in Translation: When Good Flavors Go Bad!
A fine candy, suitable to movie experiences of all types, ...

... does not necessarily a fine lip balm make.

Especially when the penetrating scent of cheap chocolate is followed by a funky taste.

A traditional favorite holiday sweet ...

... is only so-so in the seasonal Starbuck's Peppermint Mocha.

For some reason the java-peppermint flavors just didn't jive. Which was really disappointing, because that $3.50 could've gotten me an OxyContin pill from the street dealer outside the 7-11, if I was that kind of person, which I'm not, but still, it's the principle.

Maybe I'm just having bad mint luck. Maybe I don't even like mint as much as I thought. I'm so confused.

Wednesday, December 3, 2003

Fake Cheese, As Far As the Eye Could See
In case you were wondering, Chili Cheese-flavor Cheez-Its, sprinkled on top of Kraft Mac-N-Cheese, is not a bad way to eat lunch.

Tuesday, December 2, 2003

A Socialite, On Holiday

820 Park Avenue

Natalie dear,

Darling, just dropping a line to thank you profusely for having us over last week for Thanksgiving dinner. So sweet of you to invite us over, what with St. Moritz being cancelled and all. As always, you and William were splendid hosts!

We so enjoyed the delicious (and quite bountiful!) traditional Thanksgiving dinner ... the turkey was tasteful, the candied yams yummy, the mashed potatoes mouthwatering, the stuffed cabbage savory, the "canberry" comforting ... and the gravy (as the kids say!) groovy. The vast selection of desserts was delightful ... no, delectable. And of course, the constant flow of fine wine was quite sufficient to warm the very cockles of my bourgeois heart.

And to think you did all yourself! Quel Martha! How plucky of you to give the cook the night off. (But you must give me the name of your decorator, as the chateau was quite lovely.)

Of course, the best part of the evening was the wonderful company. Your friends & family are divine! Witty conversation is such a lost art, as Mumsy is so fond of lamenting. (With all that laughing I've had to move up my next appointment to be Botox'd.)

Well, dahling, must dash off. I do hope I see you before you winter in Europe? You're quite right to pass on Palm Beach this year: have you heard that (brace yourself) one of those dreadful rap artists have moved into the estate next to Muffy? The poor dear is positively stricken. Really, I don't know what the world is coming to.

Pretentiously yours,
(Miss) Ladygoat

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Happy Thanksgiving!
Most of what I know about Thanksgiving I learned from a TV cartoon with a singing Pilgrim mouse.

Still, truth is sometimes even stranger than holiday programming on network TV.

The first contact between Pilgrims and Native Americans took place when a one Abnaki, visiting from southeast Maine, just walked up to the Pilgrims' settlement (while they were having a military meeting to discuss what to do about the Native Americans spotted around the vicinity, no less) and welcomed them - in English: "Welcome Englishmen. I am Samoset. Do you have any beer?"

The Pilgrims, after recovering from their shock, remembered their manners and replied, "No, our beer is gone... would you like some brandy?"

The Pilgrims had drank all of their beer on the ride over and landed when they did largely so that they could build a brewhouse. They brought Samoset some brandy, a biscuit with butter and cheese, some pudding and a piece of roast duck.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Happy Birthday Dad!

I'll be toasting to your good health with a rice cake, if I can find one!

Monday, November 24, 2003

Food books

This past weekend, I went to Chicago, I spoke for a little bit, and I nearly started hyperventilating in the book exhibits (So many books! So many anthropology books!! With a conference discount of 25% to 50%!!!).

I returned to Cleveland weighted down with lots of exciting reads, including ...

I can already tell you that Golden Arches East is a fascinating and fun book, and a worthy anthropological contribution (despite the fact that both the motives and the funding source were questioned when the contributors presented their findings at the 1994 AAA conference). Their argument? McDonald's, so often castigated as the quintessential global corporate behemoth stamping out local food variety and in general eliminating ethnocultural specificity, is in fact, taken up and transformed by both the East Asian consumers and the corporation into local institutions that reflect the unique socio-political context. In other words, going to Mickey D's in Ohio just ain't the same as going to Mai Dang Lao in Taipei.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Orange you enjoying all my soup adventures?

All my soups, thus far, have been orange and had the consistency of baby food. You tell me what that says about my state of mind.

This recipe was as easy as it gets. Still, there were problems. First of all, even after you add the coconut milk, it's really thick, so it doesn't so much boil or simmer as violently erupt. I turned my back for one minute and suddenly there were all these orange splotches on the ceiling, on the wall, everywhere. So I'd recomment: thinning it out with more broth, covering it, or stirring constantly. Secondly, I didn't have pepper flakes, so I carelessly used a liberal amount of cayenne pepper. Note to self: there are many peppers in this world, and none of them should be used lightly.

Pumpkin-Coconut Bisque
[from epicurious]

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
1 cup chopped onion
3 garlic gloves, minced
~3 cups canned solid pack pumpkin (1 big can)
2 cups canned low-salt chicken broth (1 regular can)
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

~1 1 /2 cups canned unsweetened coconut milk
Ground nutmeg

Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Sauté until golden, about 10 minutes. Add pumpkin, broth, sugar, allspice and crushed red pepper. Bring to boil. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer until flavors blend, about 30 minutes. Puree soup with coconut milk in blender until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with nutmeg and serve.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Hang on Soupy! Soupy, hang on!

Last week, a miserable Foodgoat was knocked down and out by a vicious cold (he actually took a day off of work).

He needed: 1) lots of sleep (or at the very most, quality GameBoy time), 2) plenty of fluids (especially hot calamansi juice and 7-Up), and 3) a spicy, extra gingery soup full of antioxidants to clear the sinuses, boost the immune system, and warm the insides.

Gingered Carrot Soup
(modified from epicurious)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
1/4 cup minced peeled fresh ginger
~5 cups chicken stock
~1.5 pounds sliced peeled carrots

splash of orange juice
~1/2 cup coconut milk
dash of ground cinnamon

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and ginger and sauté until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add stock, carrots, and some salt. Cover and simmer until carrots are tender, about 30 minutes.

Puree mixture with orange juice, coconut milk, and cinnamon using a blender.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Souped up

Right now, I'm obsessed with soups. I'm also obsessed with A&E shows about serial killers and murders-for-hire. But indulging in soup doesn't make me start wondering if it really is just trash in all those plastic bags that the neighbors leave outside their door (My God, weren't there three roommates???).

With soups, measurements aren't so exact; more or less of one ingredient or another, or its absence altogether, can be accommodated. Timing is similarly forgiving: there's minimal possibility of burning or even overcooking. Soups use one pot and have few steps. They can be side dish or the main course. They make splendid leftovers and reheat like a dream. Soups use up vegetables that might otherwise grow wilted and sad in the refridgerator while the sour cream and bacon go marching by.

Cream of broccoli soup
From The Surreal Gourmet
~6-7 cups chicken stock
2 heads of broccoli
2 peeled carrots
4 stalks of celery
1 medium potato
4 tsp. dry oregano + 1 tsp dry thyme
~4 Tbsp butter (or olive oil)
1 cup of white wine
Salt & pepper

Chop up all the veggies into small pieces. In your biggest (and I hope it's big!) frying pan, melt the butter and saute the vegetables, herbs, and spices for about 15 minutes over medium high heat, adding more butter as needed.

Add wine, reduce to low, and simmer for about 5 minutes. Move them into a big pot, and add the stock. Cover, bring to a boil and let simmer for about 30 minutes.

Get out your handy and dandy immersion blender and puree to a thick, smooth consistency. If you use a regular blender, let it cool a bit first. Serve with a spoonful of heavy cream.

Monday, November 17, 2003

The Firmary Rocks!
On Saturday night (actually it was really early Sunday morning), the Firmary rocked the Phantasy Nite Club in its performance debut. They were the last to play, following some good bands and some bad bands, but they were great. Hard to believe they've only been practicing a month: they played like pros. With just a five-song set, they had something for everyone ... something for the ladies, something for the mid-tempo rock fans, something for the moisture farmers. The Firmary (especially the brooding bass player) can "take me away" anytime.

[click on the picture to see more photos!]
Fine words butter no parnsips

Parsnips make me think of withered old New England spinsters. I don't know why, since I've never had them. Maybe because they're the type of people who would use weird proverbs like that.

In medieval Europe, when sugar was rare, honey expensive, and the potato had not yet arrived, sweet, starchy parsnips were a staple. Parsnips were traditional during Lent, since the flavor and nourishment (they're healthier than potatoes) helped peasants make it through meatless fasting periods. Babies also sucked on parsnip roots as pacifiers.

So I got a pound of them (to eat, not to suck on). They look like giant white carrots.

I peeled and sliced them. They smelled like carrots.

I roasted them in a 425-degree oven with a little bit of brown sugar, butter, and olive oil for about half an hour. They tasted like carrots.

It's a good thing I like carrots.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Three days’ and nights’ pursuit, no food, no rest, and no sign of our curry but what bare rock can tell

We made chicken curry weeks ago, and fully intended to post it, pictures and everything, but well, the computer died and the post languished. But after much searching, and a FedEx delivery from Dell, we managed to find it again.

Thank goodness, because chicken curry is de-licious.

First, get the authentic recipe from Shyamasree. This recipe is the real deal.

Oh, and don't forget to thank her.

Thanks Shyamasree!!! :)
What you need:
Boneless, skinless chicken
1 big onion, chopped up
1 big diced tomato
1 diced bell pepper
Fat-free yogurt

You also need spices. Lots of spices.
Whole cumin (1 teaspoon), 2 bay leaves, whole green cardamon (4-6 pieces), a cinnamon stick, whole cloves (2-3 pieces), ginger root (peeled and mixed into a paste), salt, turmeric powder (1 teaspoon), whole green chilis (if you want it to be hot ... and who doesn't?)

Add enough oil to cover the bottom of a deep frying pan, and heat. Fry onion until golden brown on medium heat. In the meantime, add all the aforementioned spices.

(If the dish is dark brown here, taste it. If it tastes awful, it's burned and you need to chuck it and start over. Not that this has ever happened to us.)
When the onion is done, add the tomato and bell peppers. Mix thoroughly.
Add chicken pieces & mix. Cover, cook in high heat. Check it in 2-3 minutes and stir. Water will come out of the chicken pieces. In a bowl, mix 5-6 tablespoons of yogurt with 1-2 tablespoons of sugar and 1-2 tablespoons of water. Pour it onto the half-done chicken.
Depending on the concentraton of the curry, you can add some more water. Boil it until the chicken is tender, all the water has come out, and the curry is concentrated. You'll have to stir it occasionally to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Optional: add some butter during the last 2-3 minutes of boiling.

Enjoy your meal with rice or a tortilla (rice is better)!


Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Like, omiGoth!!!, or A Teenage Groupie Goes Goat-Hunting

Foodgoat, is, like, SOO talented! :) Not only can he cook :-9 , but didja know he plays the bass too? I'm so not kidding. Wanna see him make his stage debut? Come this Saturday night to hear The Firmary @ the Phantasy Nite Club ($7 for 21+, $10 for under 21). They go on stage around midnight, so don't be L8, cuz they're the best band EVER. They play trip hip hop (whatever that means!). The guy at guitar is none other than Bill, Foodgoat's BFF from elementary school! Awwww!

My mom'll say that's too late to be up, but whatever, I'm totally gonna sneak out, cuz they're seriously QT-pies ;-) , ya know! I *heart* the Firmary! It'll be so much fun! Maybe I'll get a rum and Coke (tee hee)! Oh, I know! Wouldn't it be cool if we, like, made Jell-O shots too before?!! And wouldn't it be awesome if I stopped using so many exclamation points!!! 'K, CU L8R!

Jell-O shots

2 cups Vodka
3 packages Jello with sugar
3 cups Water

Boil 3 cups of water then add jello. Mix jello and water until jello is completely disolved. Add the two cups of vodka and mix together. Pour mixture into Dixie cups and chill in a friend's dorm fridge until firm. Suck 'em down like candy and try to memorize all the information on your fake ID.

Rum and Coke

1 ounce Rum
5 ounces Coke

Mix ingredients in a highball glass two-thirds full of ice. Stir briskly and serve. Giggle profusely. Follow with a couple of juice-heavy drinks named for various forms of sexual activity. End either by throwing up in the venue bathroom with a girl you don't know holding back your hair, or by being downloaded on Kazaa, Paris Hilton-style.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Happy Birthday Jack!

What says "1 year old" better than your very own cupcake?
It says it so well, in fact, that Sean gets one too, since he's got this 1 year-old gig down pat: his birthday was way back in August.
Although, come to think of it, cupcakes say "3 years, 1 month, and 16 days" pretty well too.
Aren't they sweet? Couldn't you just eat them up?

Oh yeah, and the kids are pretty cute too.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Blue plate special
Do not adjust your set! There is nothing wrong with your monitor.
It's just that sometimes I like to have pancakes for dinner. If it's good in the morning, it's good at night, I say. But to make buttermilk pancakes seem more dinner-ly, Foodgoat adds an "extra something": in this case, a shot of Blue Curacao.

Once you go blue, you might as well go really blue, so we also added blue food coloring too.

Unfortunately, it cooked up a little green. And since we are not five-year-olds, artificially-colored foods suppress, rather than encourage, the appetite. They tasted good, they just didn't look good. Next time the pancakes needs a "extra something" we'll stick to the liquor and leave out the color.

Buttermilk pancakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons melted butter

In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, and melted butter. Add an extra something of your choice, if you prefer.

Mix wet into dry ingredients. Spoon batter onto a preheated, lightly greased heavy skillet. When many bubbles form on the top of the pancake, flip and cook 1-2 minutes longer.

Thursday, November 6, 2003

Know when to hold em', know when to fold 'em, know when to add the corn
(featuring all his greatest hits!)

Kenny Rogers, country crooner who's decorated many a life, and one of the original developers of KFC, started a chain in 1991, featuring wood-fired rotisserie chicken, called Kenny Rogers Roasters. But you know what happens when you fall in love with a dreamer: despite being featured in an episode of Seinfeld, the chain went bankrupt. Apparently there were not enough jilted men with four hungry children and a crop in the field eating chicken (too bad there aren't four hundred children, which would logically make it an orphanage, right?). You can't outrun the long arm of the law, so in 1999 it was sold to Nathan's, the hot dog people. They kept the name, even though Kenny Rogers reportedly wanted to drop all association with the restaurants. Just let it go, Kenny: it won’t mean you’re weak if you turn the other cheek (I hope you’re old enough to understand).

While I have yet to see Kenny Roasters anywhere in the States, it is well-established in Asia. Through the years, it's never let them down (it's turned their lives around!). So when my dad, my brother, and I went to the Philippines last December, guess what my uncle Arthur and cousin Armi treated us to? Some darn good chicken. Really! It's very tasty. Maybe even better than KFC. I remember it so well sometimes it still walks over fields of my mind (I loved it then and I love it now).

We can't reproduce the chicken here, but who knows maybe on some special night, if my recipe's right, I will find a way, find a way... to make the same corn muffins.

Kenny Rogers Roasters Corn Muffins
(from Top Secret Recipes)

1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup frozen yellow corn

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Cream together butter, sugar, honey, eggs and salt in a large bowl.
3. Add flour, cornmeal and baking powder and blend thoroughly. Add milk while mixing.
4. Add corn to mixture and combine until corn is worked in.
5. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan and fill each cup with batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until muffins begin to turn brown on top.

Wednesday, November 5, 2003

De-Liver us from evil

Picture it: Cleveland, Ohio, 1983. A little boy is 9 years old. His life is good and he is happy: he has an Atari 2600, Return of the Jedi had just opened, and Robotech is about to forever alter his life. And while he watches the A-Team on TV, he eats his favorite thing: gooseliver sandwiches. Sometimes he wonders why they are called that, but his mother, whom he trusts and knows would never lie to him, assures him that "They just call it that ... like hot dogs."

But one day he accompanies her to the West Side Market. In the midst of sides of pork, piles of beef organs, and goat heads, the awful truth suddenly dawns on him: gooseliver is actually the liver of a goose. The horror! The horror!

He never eats gooseliver again. And it's a pretty long time before he has a hot dog again, either.

Until this summer. That little boy, my friends, was Foodgoat. Foodgoat insisted he was over his organ-phobia. So we bought half a pound of gooseliver at what may be the exact same stand that where part of Foodgoat's innocence was so devestatingly lost.

I spread the ground up gooseliver (also known, I think, as a pate or liver paste) on bread and a sandwich. No wonder it was Foodgoat's favorite! It's delicious! In the French version, pate de foie gras, the even more buttery ground up liver comes from a maltreated, force-fed goose (and rings up at $63 for 1.5 lbs at Galucci's).

And Foodgoat? He did eat it. But it turns out he's not quite as over his childhood trauma as he thought.

Monday, November 3, 2003

Salt is born of the purest of parents: the sun and the sea
(quote by Pythagoras, a Hawaiian-in-spirit who probably would have gotten a lot less done if he could have gone surfing all the time, and wouldn't have been taken seriously anyway wearing a hula skirt like that)

Isn't it great when sacred ritual substances go on clearance at Target?

Otherwise, I might never have gotten myself a jar of alaea salt.

Also known as Hawaiian sea salt to us mainlanders, it is salt rich in oceanic minerals that is harvested from the tidal pools of the island of Kauai. It is then mixed with volcanic red clay (which is high in iron oxide), resulting in a distinctive pink color.

Considered to be a sacred item because it originates from both the sea and earth, alaea salt was originally used only in rituals, such as traditional ceremonies to heal, or cleanse and bless homes and belongings.

Now, however, it is used in Hawaii as table salt, while far from the islands, professional chefs, gourmet-types, beauty spa clients, and other snobby people will pay incredibly inflated prices for what is still essentially NaCl (whereas I paid $2.50 for 4 ounces). It's supposed to have a more mellow flavor than other types of salt, but it's quite subtle and not something I noticed particularly.

So what does one do with salt that looks like Bac'n Bits? We haven't figured it out yet. I guess it will just sit there until an appropriate dish comes along or something needs to be ritually cleansed.

Sunday, November 2, 2003

Liver Lover

When Foodgoat goes out of town, Ladygoat goes to town with organ meats!

A lack of squeamishness regarding animal innards happily frees her to enjoy tasty dishes that Foodgoat .... can't quite enjoy to the same extent.

Liver and Onions
(modified from Cooking.com)

Serves 2 (or 1, with leftovers)

~3 tablespoons olive oil
~1 tablespoon butter
2 onions, sliced thin
3/4 to 1 pound calf's liver, cut into thin strips (it's easiest to slice if the liver is frozen)

In a large nonstick frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil with 1/2 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and a bit of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are well browned, about 10 to 15 minutes longer. Take them out of the pan.

Sprinkle the liver with salt and pepper. In the same pan, heat the remaining tablespoon oil and 1/2 tablespoon butter over high heat. When the pan is very hot, throw in the liver and stir.

The happy liver place is somewhere between Rosemary's Baby and fried-to-a-crisp, so cook only until just cooked through, which is only about 1 or 2 minutes. Resist overcooking! Because otherwise it will be chewy, grainy, and maybe bitter, and then you might start thinking of it as a cow's poison filter, and then you might not want to eat it anymore.

Remove the liver from the heat, return the onions to the pan, and toss. Serve with rice.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Random Cheez-It facts

Random Cheez-It facts

-Ladygoat can eat a whole box of Cheez-Its in one sitting.
-She did not take Osama's Cheez-Its. But she might if she could.
-Is she a Cheez-It? No. Are you?
-You can see the old Sunshine Biscuit Company factory when you ride the BART. It was shut down when the company was acquired by Keebler in 1996, becoming part of the post-industrial wasteland that is West Oakland.
-Now apparantly random people go there to have barbeques.
-Ladygoat had the new Cheesy Sour Cream & Onion Cheez-Its for lunch today. But not the whole box. She also had a granola bar. But she liked the Cheez-Its a lot more. Gotta love those new flavors.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

It's cold in Cleveland. Time to bring out one of my cold weather dishes - Hungarian goulash!

Back in college, my roommates were blessed with this dish every Wednesday evening. And we never got sick of it. My version is slightly different from the traditional version. It's more stew-like than soup-like: more potatoes! more meat! more everything! (Except water, of course. That would just mean more soup.)

1. Dice one large onion & 1 Hungarian pepper & saute in olive oil with several pinches of caraway seeds. Cook in medium heat for about 10 minutes, until onions are translucent but not brown.

2. As in any traditional Hungarian dish, add paprika! As much or as sweet or as hot paprika as you wish.

3. Add some water & cook at medium high for 15 minutes.

4. Through a wire mesh strainer pour off onion mixture into a large pressure cooker.
5. You want to get all the juices out of the onion mixture, so add water through the mesh strainer onto the skillet and press the juices out with a wooden spoon, or your hands, several times. Add the juices to the pressure cooker too. The point is you're adding liquid volume and getting all the flavors out of the onion/peppers, because now you're going to discard onion/peppers.

6. Add about 1.5 to 2.5 pounds of beef. I like to use London broil & cut it into small cubes. Or you could buy the pre-cut stew meat.

7. Add salt & pepper to the pressure cooker. Turn on the heat, close the lid, and let the pressure do the work! I cook with pressure for about 45 minutes.

8. The next phase is cooked like a traditional soup. Remove the lid from the pressure cooker and add chopped celery, 4-6 peeled & diced potatoes, and a chopped tomato. Cook at a boil for 30 minutes.

9. And now for the least traditional ingredient (this is ladygoat's influence): add half an ounce of patis (Shhh! Don't tell Mom! Let alone Grandma!).

10. This is a good spot for a taste test: Do you need to add more salt? Pepper?

11. After the 30 minute boil is up, I make egg-drop noodles. One egg into a mug, add flour and mix until gooey. Using a hot spoon, scoop into boiling soup. Cook for 10 more minutes and serve!

I like this dish with bread and sour cream.

I made this dish for my old high school buddy/college roommate/video-game chum/hell-on-wheels friend Igor, who is presently recuperating from tonsillectomy. [Side note: each one of his tonsils was as big as a fist! :( ] Fortunately, he's recovering quite well.