Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Root beer

I'm not one of those people who call radio stations late at night claiming to have seen shadow people, but Big Soda brings out a little bit of a conspiracy theorist in me. So it was very exciting to learn that you can make your very own root beer at home.

Okay, so we took a couple shortcuts. We used root beer extract, which is nothing to be ashamed of, since who sells sassafras root? Not you, if you know what's good for you, since its sale has been banned by the FDA for years on account of causing cancer in rats. Actually, we used birch root beer extract, which uses birch tree roots instead, but it still tasted like root beer to me.

Then, the champagne yeast that was supposed to fizz up water vanished under mysterious circumstances (a squirrel may be involved). We could have used dry ice instead (my sister did this when she made root beer in her 5th grade class), but being lazy, we used already-carbonated club soda, following the A & W recipe from More Top Secret Recipes: More Fabulous Kitchen Clones of America's Favorite Brand-Name Foods. Very easy: dissolve 3/4 cup sugar in 3/4 cup hot water, let cool, and add to one liter of club soda along with 1/2 teaspoon + 1/8 teaspoon of root beer extract.

And voila! Root beer.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Free Cone Day!
... at Ben & Jerry's today! Woo hoo! When I once went the Ben & Jerry's on Haight in San Francisco for free cone day, and the line went all the way around the block.

This more than makes up for the fact that I won't be able to take advantage of the Baskin-Robbin's free scoop night tomorrow since the one near me closed.

Side-by-side taste test: Milk

I love side-by-side taste tests. So scientific.

In the most recent one, skim milk duked it out ... Giant Eagle vs. Hartzler Family Dairy. One was from our neighborhood grocery conglomerate; the other was from a family farm in Wayne County and sold to me by two Amish kids at the farmer's market at Shaker Square. One came in a plastic gallon jug; the other in a nifty, old-fashioned glass bottle. Both are pasteurized; only one is homogenized. One is probably loaded with various miracles of modern science; the other is chemical-, herbicide-, pesticide-, and hormone-free.

The verdict: By taste, the Hartzler squeaks by ... "nice aftertaste" ... "smooth." And did I mention the nifty, old-fashioned glass bottle? However, it's also $3.25 a quart (plus $1 deposit for the aforementioned bottle), compared to Giant Eagle's $1.78 a gallon. And Foodgoat drinks 2 gallons of milk a week.

Saturday, April 26, 2003

It's Draft Day!

There will be no cooking this weekend. Foodgoat is parked in front of the TV, in his Browns jersey, with a pen, mock drafts, prospect lists, a San Miguel beer, and a Sexyburger (aka Hormel Quick Meal Bacon Cheeseburger).

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Got lumpia?

In honor of my sister's birthday, I ate the last of my mom's lumpia, from the last time I went home, for lunch. Don't know what lumpia is? Let me tell you about it.

1. You pronounce it "LOOM-pya"
2. It's a Filipino thing.
3. It's a kind of egg roll, so basically it's a filling (chopped vegetables, meat or both) inside a thin wrapper (made of flour or cornstarch, water, and sometimes eggs), and fried. It also comes in a non-fried, fresh version which I don't like nearly as much.
4. Lumpia can be served as an appetizer, a side dish or with rice for the main dish. It's good for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and various snack times.
5. There are many, many recipes for lumpia, using various combinations of pork, beef, shrimp, chicken, turkey, cabbage, carrots, green beans, peas, sprouts, garlic, onions, potatoes, yams, water chesnuts, bell peppers ... you get the idea.
6. Lumpia is now also a movie.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Tangy candy of the day

Altoids, of the curiously strong mints, now makes curiously sour hard candy, in your choice of citrus (which is good) and tangerine (which is also good). Actually, I don't think they are all that sour, but then I've been craving salt & vinegar chips and can't find them.

Friday, April 18, 2003

The strangest recipe

... in The Art of Hungarian Cooking isn't the pig-neck soup, but the cold raspberry soup:

"Wash, clean, and crush [1 pound] fresh raspberries. Cover with [1/2 cup] sugar and let stand for several hours. Press through strainer. Chill. Stir before serving. Sprinkle Rice Krispies or popcorn over each serving to add contrast to soup."

I haven't tried this. It's that last step that throws me.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Foodgoat's new beer of choice

This is my new favorite beer. I happened upon this when an owner of a little pub recommended this tasty treat in lieu of my usual Guinness. It's heavy and rich like Guinness but smooth as hell, with no bitter aftertaste at all. And it actually has a slight taste of chocolate, which is an added bonus. I find this beer tastes exceptional with any bacon-filled meals, great with comfort food. So next time you're at a pub, I highly recommend you order Young's Double Chocolate Stout.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Experiments in pasta

(A modified epicurious recipe.)

The prep work: One bunch of asparagus, peeled and sliced diagonally. Half an onion, chopped. One lemon, zested. A third of a pound of smoked salmon, sliced.

The cooking: The asparagus was boiled for 3 minutes in a big pot of salted water, taken out with a slotted spoon, and plunged into cold water so it stopped cooking. Then, in the same pot of salted water that was used for the asparagus, half a pound of linguine was cooked. While that was going, the onion was sauteed over low heat in some butter and olive oil until soft (5 minutes). One cup of heavy cream and the zest was added to the onions and cooked until thickened, about 10 minutes. Two tablespoons of lemon juice, the asparagus, and the salmon was added, and heated through.

The tasting: It was missing something. Paprika, thyme, salt, pepper, more olive oil fixed this. Into all this went the pasta, and there it was.

The eating: Definitely different from the usual tomato-sauces. Pretty good, but next time I'm thinking more garlic.

Monday, April 14, 2003

The old stand-by

For the past 7 weeks, we've had pierogies for dinner on Mondays. The ultimate back-up meal, the dependable stand-in for the early-in-the-week days when you haven't made a menu yet and haven't been to the grocery store and don't have any more leftovers and don't feel like cooking much. Enter potato & cheddar "frozen fun-filled pasta pockets"!

The best part: they are highly amenable to multiple combinations of the following accompaniments: kielbasa, sour cream, cheddar cheese, grilled onions, bacon, green onions, paprika, cumin, mustard, hot sauce.

Friday, April 11, 2003

Next-to-useless kitchen gadget of the day
coverEven though they usually just add to drawer chaos, even though they get sometimes used maybe once or twice a year, I still have a thing for silly kitchen gadgets. The more obscure and limited the purpose, the better. Like this butter curler, the latest thing I've come across. You use it to turn chunks of butter into stylishly textured curls of butter, adding a decorative touch to the breakfast table, via a curved, serrated edge. And you can also use it with chocolate. Is this enough to justify an unnecessary purchase yet?

Wednesday, April 9, 2003

Brand names

It's official: I've been cured of any desire to try any commercially-made Rice Krispy Treat. It's always the same thing, too much marshmallow. The last one had a gooey coating on the bottom. Bleah.

On a happy note, have discovered that raspberry syrup (the kind for Italian sodas) + iced tea (Lipton) = reasonable facsimile of Raspberry Snapple.

Monday, April 7, 2003

Things we won't be trying anytime soon

In response to the recent city-wide ban on smoking in most indoor public places (hint, hint Cleveland), one New York City restaurant is offering a Tobacco Special menu. For the nicotine-challenged, Serafina Sandro offers such sumptuous dishes as gnocchi made with tobacco, filet mignon in a tobacco-wine sauce (garnished with dried tobacco), or a lobster and shrimp salad with tobacco. Finish off the meal with a tobacco panna cotta for dessert, with a glass of tobacco-infused grappa. [via]

There just may be a market for tomacco after all!

Sunday, April 6, 2003

Sushi etiquette

Turns out I've been eating sushi wrong. What I was taught to do was mix the wasabi and the pickled ginger to the soy sauce and then dip the sushi piece, rice-side, in.

How western! No, no: the authentic Japanese method calls for eating the pickled ginger between different varieties of sushi to cleanse the palate. The wasabi can be put in the soy sauce, but you dip in the fish part, not the rice part (otherwise it will fall apart), and you don't let it sit in the soy sauce.

Other things I learned about sushi etiquette:
1. Chopsticks are proper for sashimi, but it's quite appropriate to use your fingers to eat sushi. Yay! Chopsticks + sushi can be so precarious. Pick up the sushi, turn and dip the fish part, not the rice, into the soy sauce-wasabi mixture, and put the whole portion in your mouth, flipping the sushi so that the fish is on your tongue.
2. If you use your chopsticks to pick at a communal dish, use the back end of your chopsticks. And never pass food to someone using chopsticks, pass them the plate so that they can pick from it instead. If you taking food from a someone else's plate, use the reverse ends of your chopsticks too.
3. Never bite into a piece of food and then replace the other half on your plate. Once you have picked something up you should eat all of it. Though you can, if you have to, cut it into bite-size pieces before eating.

Thursday, April 3, 2003

Pond scum

It's been a slow week for kitchen adventures. For the most part, recent dinners have been either at old standby dishes (pierogies & kielbasa), old standby restuarants (Winking Lizard and Que Tal) or breakfast foods (pancakes, bagels, and toast). The other night, however, we had miso soup. This is another standby, but this time the spinach was chopped up with a food processor instead of put in as whole leaves. It tastes just fine, maybe even more spinachy. But as you can see, it looks like pond scum.