Thursday, February 26, 2004

If it's Fillet O'Fish, it must be a Holy Day
Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, so I got through the fasting period by wondering whether Jesus every mooned anyone. I bet he did. All the time. Wearing that dress and all.

I had picked up two tilapia fillets at the West Side Market, which I've never had before, but have always wanted to try because it's one of the few seafoods that is in fact ecologically-friendly. Why? Most tilapia (which are native to the Nile) in the U.S. are farmed in inland recirculating systems that have little impact on the environment and thrive on inexpensive vegetable-based foods (instead of fish feed), making them a good source of eco-friendly protein.

Foodgoat, whose Iron-Chef-like abilities to invent recipes on the spot have been quite impressive lately, whipped up a fancy version of Fillet O'Fish: tilapia fillet fried with a crust of fresh whole wheat bread crumbs and parsley with roasted red onions and a sauce (made of mayo, olive oil, green onions, mustard, hot sauce, lemon, and garlic) on onion rolls. With a side of wasabi shrimp chips.

The crust was wonderful (it was Foodgoat's first time using fresh bread crumbs), but it was the tilapia that was perfect: mild-tasting and flaky and delicious. Foodgoat has had fried fish before, but this was one good fried fish. We may be having a lot of tilapia this Lent.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

The Life Stages of One Ohio Deer

1. Happy-woodland-animal stage. Main activities include foraging, frolicking, and stopping like fools in the middle of the road and knocking the rearview mirrors off Honda Accords.

2. Population-control stage. In the epic struggle between man and beast, in the wild fields of Ohio, Foodgoat's brother emerges, once again, triumphant and victorious.

And after he slew the creature, he, alone, unsheathed his mighty blade and ... well, we're not exactly sure how he did it (Foodgoat in particular would rather not think about the gory details), but what he turned it all into nicely butchered meat wrapped in clean white freezer paper.

If your parents ever abandon you in the forest, Foodgoat's brother would be a handy person to have nearby.

3. Juicy-slab-of-meat stage. This is the stage in which we here at Foodgoat first encounter the deer (let's just call it venison now, okay?). Is this not a fine-looking piece of meat? Red like tuna and hardly any fat at all. We were so impressed we admired it for several minutes and took a picture.

4. Venison-goulash stage. Foodgoat used this first bit of venison for goulash stew. Actually, you can't really see the venison in the picture, just the dumplings, but trust me, there's meat in it. Foodgoat has had venison before, but it was the first time for me. It was delicious, and surprisingly tender. The taste is definitely different from beef, and I'm not exactly sure how it's different, but I liked it. Enough to go hunting myself? Hmm, I don't know about that. However, I have always wanted a crossbow. Then again, I never did manage to get very far into Nintendo Duck Hunt.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Hot Chocolate for a Lazy Day
Yesterday was a lazy Sunday: I wore my pajamas all day long, helped myself to ice cream several times, and waited for the agonizing convulsions of pain that everyone assured me would eventually come after my wisdom teeth were pulled (they never came ... so my advice is to go with the local anasthesia). So it was right kind of day to watch the tres-cute "Chocolat", which celebrates the seductive powers of chocolate and the Johnny Depp pirate look.

Inspired, we started watching "Pirates of the Caribbean", but first we decided to fortify ourselves with steaming cups of hot chocolate. What better time to try out the packet of Aztec Hot Chocolate mix from the Soho chocolatier, Mariebelle, that I picked it up at a gourmet shop in Berkeley?

The hot chocolate mix is made from Belgian chocolate and sugar, and, weirdly, contains no cocoa powder (which is the residue from the cocoa bean, instead of the bean itself) but does contain such spices as chili peppers.

Ah, but it turned out very cozy. Not too sweet, comfortingly chocolatey, and the spiciness was just barely noticeable. I don't think I'll be giving up chocolate this Lent.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

For medicinal use ... no, really!

After Friday, I was hurtin'. I had some Advil, some Vicodin, and ice cream. But I had a hankering for something else, something natural ... something medicinal.

So these guys I know, they have the best shiznit, I mean, quality stuff, youknowwhatI'msayin'? Like they even know the growers, man. I can't use that cheap stuff anymore, you know, that stuff you can get like anywhere. I only use the good stuff.

So, we're there, and we get, like, half a pound of the Guatamalan. This stuff's organic, dude. Shade-grown and shiznit. But that's not all they got. Nah, they got everything there, and I mean, like everything. The rare stuff. The expensive stuff. Stuff even I haven't had before. But you only live once, so I ask him, not too loud, 'cuz there are people all over, "You got any white tea?"

White tea, often from China, comes from the same plant as green and black teas, but the tiny buds (still covered in downy white hair) are withered and dried in natural sunlight without rolling or fermenting, thus preserving all them healing antioxidants and blood-clot-promoting tannins. Being rarer, it's also more expensive.

"White tea?" He's rummaging in his stash behind the counter. "Uhh, well, all we have today is a white tea with a melon flavor. The other kind, we don't have any in right now. Maybe in a couple weeks."

"What's the melon one like?" A scoop of tea leaves is pushed under my nose. I try not to snort them in. Defiinitely cantaloupe-y. "Some people say you can't really taste it once it's brewed. Some people like it."

I would be one of those people. White tea is pale, light and subtle. Almost sweet. Like it doesn't even need sugar or honey.

"I'll take an ounce." They put a small handful of the dried tea leaves in a plastic baggie. Man, if he didn't write "White Melon" on it with a Sharpie, and we got pulled over, they might think this was something else.

Duuude, I'd be freaking out.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

I see you have elected the way of ... PAIN !!

Thirteen and a half hours until an oral surgeon shoots me up with lidocaine, and proceeds to extract all four (4!) of my wisdom teeth. As if the fear and apprehension weren't bad enough, I can't even eat or drink anything until then. For dinner I loaded up on quesadillas and nachos (my stomach greatly expands when my next meal is uncertain) but it's small comfort considering I don't anticipate being able to each much of anything after the procedure either.

Therefore, I've decided that after bravely enduring the dreaded multi-extraction, my reward will be a Special Diet. The Ice Cream Diet. All ice cream, all the time, until such time (if any) that I can chew solid foods or pass out from hyperglycemia. The fact that Breyer's ice cream is on sale now (buy one get one free) is obviously a sign from God himself that this plan is Good.

Tomorrow morning, I will stock my freezer with the following flavors:

Coffee: 50% of the time, my favorite flavor

Mint & chip: My favorite flavor the other 50% of the time. Yeah, I know it has chips that I probably won't be able to chew. I'll figure something out somehow.

Dulce de leche: I haven't tried it yet, but I'm thinking it has the potential to be my favorite too.

Chocolate: Who doesn't like chocolate?

Vanilla: I'll need something to clear my palate between courses, you know.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Yet Another Creamy Soup
Cauliflower seems to be everywhere these days. I've had it twice in three weeks. And now it seems it's the vegetable du jour, the new black, the ingredient everyone's using in all the fancy restaurants. Frankly, I'm a bit surprised: cauliflower just seems like a paler, blander version of broccoli. Now the green or bright purple cauliflower varieties, that would be something special. But I haven't seen that anywhere yet.

I'll settle for the ordinary white kind, though. Easy to cook, inoffensive to the taste, and full of helpful nutrients like vitamin C for people, shadows of their former selves, wasting away with bronchitis.

[from epicurious]

1 small onion, chopped fine
1 small garlic clove, minced
1-2 teaspoons curry powder (mine is a mix of cardamon, cumin, cinnamon, fennel seed, and turmeric)
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil
1 large Granny Smith apple
1 small head cauliflower
5-6 cups chicken stock (or mix of stock and water)
1/4 cup heavy cream

In a 3 1/2- to 4-quart saucepan cook onion, garlic, and salt and pepper and curry powder in butter over moderately low heat, stirring, until onion is softened.

Peel and core apple. Chop apple coarse and add to curry mixture. Add cauliflower and stock and simmer, covered, until cauliflower is very tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Purée soup until very smooth. Stir in cream to taste.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Care package!

How did my dear family know that we're a little around here, what with Foodgoat laid up with bronchitis and me at T minus 2 days until all four of my wisdom teeth are ripped out of my head?

As you can see, I got a lot of unexpected goodies: lots of dried mangos, instant oatmeal (I can eat breakfast again!), Primo toast, Chinese sausage, cookies, the Maribella hot chocolate from Berkeley. Foodgoat got an assortment of liqueur-filled chocolates shaped like liquor bottles for his birthday.

But the best of the bunch was the otap. They're flat, flaky, crunchy puff pastry biscuits with sugar on top and an oval shape made from many layers. Using my amazing powers of deductive reasoning, I suspect that they're the Filipino version of palmier or palm leaves cookies (I've started watching "I, Detective"). Whatever you know them as, I've been craving them for ages. Now there is a little pile of crumbs around the computer desk. And on the dining room table. Oh, and in my coat pocket. Good thing Foodgoat got a new toy.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Rock On

For all those in the Cleveland area, come see me Rock at the Phantasy Nightclub for Night Gallery III. (Located at Detroit and W 117 St.) We, the Firmary, will be hitting the stage at 10:00PM, so it isn't too late and after show I will be quite chatty. Go tonight and see me in a skirt ;)

Wednesday, February 11, 2004


Right now, my favorite thing in the spice cabinet is the white cheddar popcorn seasoning. It's a finely ground cheesy salt that's been well-used lately, and not just for sprinkling liberally on the microwave popcorn for watching reruns of "Murder She Wrote." It's also surprisingly good on steamed broccoli too, maybe even better than fresh cheese. Works with cauliflower too. And if you're making macaroni and cheese, what the heck, put a little sumpin sumpin in that too. I'm just aching for corn on the cob season to begin. Is there any cheese incarnation that isn't good?

Monday, February 9, 2004

Best. Corn Muffins. Ever.
It makes me queasy putting an entire stick of butter into anything, not to mention the bacon and cheese, but these corn muffins really are yummy and quite filling. They're good for breakfast, with soup for lunch, and with various dinner meals.

Bacon-Scallion Corn Muffins with Cheddar Cheese
[from Cook's Illustrated]

1. Heat oven to 400. Spray muffin tin with cooking spray.
2. Grate 8 oz. cheddar cheese (2 cups) & set aside. Fry 3 slices bacon cut into pieces in a small skillet until crisp and brown, about 5 minutes. Add 10 to 12 scallions, sliced thin, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper; cook to heat through, about 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a plate to cool.
3. Whisk 2 cups of flour, 1 cup cornmeal, 1.5 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda to combine.
4. In another bowl, whisk 2 eggs until well combined and light colored. Add 1/2 sugar, whisk until thick and homogenous. Add 1 stick of melted butter in 3 additions. Add 3/4 cup sour cream and 1/2 cup milk and whisk until combined. Add 1.5 cups of cheese and bacon/scallion mixture. Add to dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
5. Drop in mounds into muffin tin and sprinkle with rest of cheese. Bake until light golden brown and skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18 minutes.

Sunday, February 8, 2004

Mutant Fruit!

I sliced open an orange yesterday, only to find another, smaller orange, peel and all, growing inside. Freaky! That's weirder than the uncut Cheez-Its or Oreos with the cookie facing the wrong way.

Friday, February 6, 2004

Beet It
Foodgoat doesn't like beets. That didn't stop me from buying some last weekend.

I can't really say that I like beets though. I've only had them once or twice, and they were canned. They didn't particularly impress me. Kinda wet and sloopy.

Still, I find them oddly fascinating. They're bright. They are a major source of sugar. They can turn your pee red (only if you happen to have that double recessive gene, phooey).

With the faint memory of canned beets, I decided to roast 'em whole, with a bit of olive oil and wrapped in foil. I like roasting things, even if it does take a really long time. I'm kicking myself for not remembering to microwave it first, as you can do for potatoes, but there's always a next time. An hour or so later, I pulled them out, and discovered hot beets are not as easy to peel as they make it out to be.

Sliced and sauteed in a little butter (which may have been an entirely extraneous step), I served them on a bed of sauteed kale (see yesterday). And they were pretty good, firm, not mushy. Now, Foodgoat say he likes beets. Ahh, the wonder of fresh vegetables.

Thursday, February 5, 2004

I swear to you, I will not let the cream of spinach fall, nor our greens kale
I haven't much felt like blogging lately. Instead, I've been eating Oreos, doing downward-facing dogs, pointing and laughing when American Idolers forget the lyrics, and seeing if I recognize any of the registered sex offenders in my neighborhood. But fear not, we've been having food adventures too. For example ...

Kale sounds like the name of a out-of-wedlock love child of glassy-eyed, poseur celebrities, doesn't it?

And maybe, indeed, there is a little Kale somewhere out there, still with a clean record, and if he/she is lucky, the third time in detox will be the charm, and he/she will finish out life raising alpaca for high-end vests. But there's also kale, the leafy green vegetable that looks like a cross between cabbage and lettuce. I picked it up at the farmer's market, determined to expand our greens repertoire beyond romaine lettuce (which, let's face it, isn't all that exciting, though it's admittedly better than iceberg) and spinach (which is exciting and a Foodgoat favorite).

Apparently, kale was especially popular in Northern Europe, seeing as it grows happiest in colder climes and contains all kinds of happy vitamins. Seeing as how Foodgoat is of mostly Southern European ancestry, and there isn't any part of me that is happiest in colder climes, kale was new to both of us.

Kale is huge. Big. The leaves, flat and cabbage-like around the stem but ruffled and curly on the edges, barely fit inside the sink. I suspect it's sort of a primeval, prehistoric cabbage, something gigantic dragonflies nibbled on when they were on a diet or couldn't find gigantic ... uh ... whatever gigantic thing it is that gigantic dragonflies liked to eat. There is also a tough, thick center stem that you have to cut out, which is pretty easy since the leaves fold in rather nicely.

Supposedly you can use kale just like spinach, so Foodgoat used it to make cream of spinach, or rather, cream of kale. We had our doubts though. Kale looks and smells a lot more like cabbage. But you know, cooked-up, it was indeed quite close to spinach-tasting. You could sort of tell the difference, and Foodgoat still preferred spinach, but not too much. And like cream of spinach, cream of kale was excellent when topped with feta cheese. (To be fair, everything is excellent when topped with feta cheese). So kale got a thumbs up.

Two weeks later, I still had a big bag of kale left over. It was a little wilted, a little yellow around the edges, so I thought I'd chop it, saute it in olive oil, and no one would be the wiser. Well, no. After a couple of days, the delicate kale flavor becomes very strong. Darn. Wish I'd read that earlier. Because that sauteed kale was bitter and tough and most emphatically not good.

Monday, February 2, 2004

You Keep Your Nasty Chips
Of all the things I've introduced Foodgoat to, he likes shrimp chips the best. Who wouldn't? It's right up there with Cheez-Its as the salty snack of choice. Shrimp-flavored chips may not sound like the most appealing thing, but it's gooood & crunchy stuff.

And now they make a wasabi flavor! Here's what to expect: you put it in your mouth, then Whoa! Spicy! Spicy wasabi!!! But then, huh, it's not so bad. And then, hmm, that's pretty good. Followed by ... gimme another one. They are so addicting. Fortunately, bizarrely, you can now buy them on Amazon.