Thursday, December 16, 2004

Safari, so good

The best cookbooks not only have tasty recipes but also lush pictures, vivid descriptions, and a charming story. At least that's my conclusion after upon The African Kitchen in the usually dry, scholarly university library. Written by Josie Stow, an Englishwoman and chef at an African safari reserve, and Jan Baldwin, the book makes Africa (and its food) look quite scrumptious - a decided contrast to the usual famine-war-epidemic images that tend to come out of the evening news. Between this and the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books, anyone want to go on safari in Botswana?

Having struggled mightily to get my digital camera to make my food look halfway decent, I'm most appreciative of Baldwin's gorgeous photos. Nothing looks to stagey or touched up, dishes are caught mid-recipe, along with the people preparing them, the natural surroundings, the tools. Brace yourself: the food has context.

I confess I haven't tried the recipes yet, and I have my doubts about some. A chocolate chip cookie recipe in an African cookbook? I don't get that either. But many of the rest sounds good, and there's a nice mix of recipes that sound easily accessible and others that have unusual ingredients and spices (that I'm anxious to try!) and methods.

Here's my personal favorite. Though it's unlikely that I'll be able to try it anytime soon.

"How to build a pizza oven out of a termite mound in under 2 hours" (p. 78)

You need:
vacated termite mound
brandy and Coke
Panga or large and threatening saw/hoe-type thing
Two hands
Edouardo Jalapeno

time plan
1/2 hour to build oven
1 hour to get fire started
2 minutes to cook pizza
3 seconds to eat it

1. Locate in your neighborhood a vacated (very important) termite mound of the correct size and shape, ensuring it has not been blemished in any way by an aardvark.
2. Check the surrounding area for any dangerous animals - specifically predators, but also anything with a trunk or tusks.
3. Hand the brandy and Coke, panga and shovel to Edouardo Jalapeno and take a seat while he proceeds to knock a hole in exactly the right spot on the termite mound, as if he and his ancestors had been doing for centuries.
4. Use the water to turn the soil from the mound into mud, then use this mixture to level out and seal the base of the oven.
5. Leave to dry - at midday in Botswana, this takes seconds.
6. Fine the firewood and build the fire in the now-dry oven.
7. Light it, then step back to admire - this fire is ready when teh coats are white and make your hand burn in under 10 seconds.
8. Remove the brandy and Coke from Edouardo and get him to push the coals to the side of the over: you are now ready to begin cooking.

Mutual Admiration Society, Food Blog committee

Once upon a time, Ladygoat count the number of food blogs on her fingers. She checked them regularly, read them faithfully. As their numbers grew, she ran out of fingers (and toes) and she got an RSS reader. But the food blogs kept breeding - a wine blog here, a group blog there, yet another Asian girl everywhere - and if she skipped a few days, the unread posts could mushroom into the hundreds. So Ladygoat gave up trying to keep track of them all and stuck to a few favorites.

And now the food blogs have come of age, as the Accidental Hedonist has started the long-overdue Food Blog Awards, which includes a plethora of yummy categories. Nominate your favorites and discover some new ones! (Very special thanks to Megwoo, who has her own fine food blog I Heart Bacon, who nominated our own humble Foodgoat for Best Overall Food Blog.) The quality and sheer number of fab food blogging is just staggering. Just don't read them when you're really hungry ... it makes the longing that much more painful.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

impious food

To amuse ourselves during a long care ride, Foodgoat and I speculated on what we do if we bought the church-turned-daycare (where I bought a light fixture) which is for sale.

We decided on a diner.

Potential name: Hail Mary, Full of Grease

Slogan: Welcome to the garden of eatin'!

Area where you wait to get seated: Would have a sign that says "Purgatory"

The special: Jesus-Burgers with a side of Cruci-Fries

Menu: Listed inside, what else, a Bible.
Other dishes: Jalepeno "Pope"-ers? Our Taco Who Art a Tortilla? Blessed Are the Po'Boys? Christian Duck-trine?

All You Can Eat Friday: Featuring endless loaves and fishes! Buy one supper, get the Last Supper free!

For the kids: Paper Pope hats.

Live Lobsters: The Moses "Let my lobster go!" special. Where the lobster arrives to your table nailed to a cross on your plate.

Dessert: A whole cake shaped like the head of John the Baptist? Maybe. A dessert for each of the Seven Deadly Sins? Definitely. Like a giant ice cream sundae for Gluttony. (Envy could also be a giant ice cream sundae, but you have take from someone else's table.) And before ordering from the dessert menu you have to eat an apple first.

What do you think?

And via the bitter shack of resentment comes the s'more Nativity set. Why yes, baby Jesus does look tasty.

Thursday, December 9, 2004

Turnip over a new leaf

Hallo guv'ner, and 'ow are you this fine evenin'? Care fer a bite o' somethin'? 'Fraid all I 'ave is this 'ere bowl of turnips.

Ahem. Excuse me while I get this Cockney bit out my system. Ooooow! The rine in spine sties minely in the pline! Come on, Dover, move yer bloomin' arse!

There now, I'm Eliza Doolittle'd out. Back to the turnips, which, being most identified with British and Northern European (rather than Filipino) cuisines, are new to me. I turned to this recipe:

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
3 lb turnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch-thick wedges
1 can, or 2 1/2 cups broth
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 scallions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
I melted a pat of butter (1/2 stick is too much for anything, really) and some olive oil in a heavy pot, then stirred in the turnips. The turnips peeled surprisingly easily, revealing a white crisp flesh that looked a lot like a potato.

Broth, sugar, and salt went in next; once it boiled, I reduced heat to simmer, covered, until turnips are just tender, 25 to 30 minutes. (Will you be proud of me if I told you that, finding that I didn't have a pot lid big enough for my skillet, I improvised by using a pizza pan? Well, I'm proud of me.) I boiled the turnips, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the liquid was reduced enough to just glaze turnips, about 15 minutes, then topped with with scallions and parsley.

The result was perhaps a tad overcooked, since it ended up being somewhat more mushy than I anticipated. What was more surprising was how like potatoes it was like. It had a slightly different taste, but the texture was quite similar. The whole dish was actually good. I'm still a bit unbelieving. After all, "turnip" just doesn't have that "yummy in my tummy" sound to it. But what's in a name?

Wednesday, December 8, 2004

2 gift ideas

How cute are these sushi pillows?

I can't actually find this camping ice cream maker on the rei site, but I couldn't resist posting about it anyway. You add ice and rock salt to one end and ingredients to the other, roll the ball around for 20 minutes and out comes ... ice cream! Sweet.

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

I'll drink to that!

Sunday was the anniversay of the repeal of Prohibition!

Will someone let 24 of the states know that? Ohio only allows direct shipment of limited quantities of beer and wine if they are not available at all in the state. But Ohio's antiquated liquor policies don't stop there: though they recently chucked a 70-year ban on Sunday sale of liquor, many local communities still disallow them. And what's with only being able to buy hard liquor at state-owned and operated liquor stores? Not to mention that a state-mandated 135% markup on each bottle makes Ohio the most expensive place to buy wine.

I say let the liquor flow! L'Chaim!

Monday, December 6, 2004

Not just food

My new doormat is made of coconut fibers. My new washcloth is made of agave cactus(from whence comes tequila) fibers. And the flax seeds that I've eating on all of my vegetables comes from the same plant used to make linen and paint thinner.

This has put me in the mind of finding alternative uses for Licorice Altoids. I don't know why I bought it ... I don't particularly care for Altoids, and I don't like licorice. And wouldn't ya know it, I don't like the licorice Altoids. Weird. Not good. If you must try them, for God's sake don't bite down on them right away.

Maybe the Altoids could go into the medicine cabinet for clearing up stuffed sinuses? Maybe they can be a cleaning product, like Coke is supposed to clean toilets. As for tins, there's no shortage of ideas out there: speakers, shrines, and more.

Saturday, December 4, 2004

Fancy soup

Foodgoat has been eyeing the sea bass, which we've only tried once before, at the fish market for weeks, and finally could resist no more. I found this recipe, a seafood soup from the Caribbean coast of Guatamala, in the September 1988 issue of Cook's (the previous, and frankly, better incarnation of Cook's Illustrated) to use it in.


1 can coconut milk
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
2 lb fish fillets (red snapper, sea bass), cut into 2-inch pieces
1 lb shrimp
1 tablesppon oil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp annatto
salt & pepper
1 medium banana, peeled and sliced
1 medium tomato, diced
3 Tbsp minced cilantro
After heating the oil in a large skillet, we added the onion and red pepper to saute until softened. Except we didn't see any red peppers at the market, so we used a green pepper. And a Hungarian hot pepper, because Foodgoat can't resist spicing things up. Opt for the red pepper only, and the soup would be more sweet than spicy.

Then the coconut milk, oregano (except we were out of oregano, so we used thyme instead), salt (and guess what? we used pink Hawaiian alaea salt that I almost forgot about), pepper, Hungarian paprika (so what if it's not in the recipe, do you think Foodgoat would cook without it??) and annato went in. Annatto, also knowns as achiote, is sometimes called poor man's saffron. It's a red seed that's used in Filipino (and Indian and Hispanic) food for its slightly bitter, earthy flavor and bright red color. It's used in the U.S. to color butter, margarine, and cheese. I had a packet, but had never used it before, and dumped a spoonful. Only later did I realize I should have ground it up.

The soup was brought to a boil and simmered on low heat until slightly thickened, but it was a little too thick so we added some water. Then the fish and shrimp were added. We used rock shrimp, which were small and easy to work with, since they came already shelled.

After simmering about 10 minutes, the banana and the tomato were added, and simmered 'til cooked, 5 minutes or so, when you then stir in the cilantro. And yes, that was a banana. Adding a banana to soup is such a novelty we took a picture of the event.

The result was quite the success. It was, as Foodgoat said, the kind of soup you might only have in an expensive restaurant: unusual ingredients, spicy (because of the Hungarian pepper), complex in flavor, and rather pretty. The rock shrimp tasted like regular shrimp, but with more flavor: shrimpy plus, you might say. The banana was the great surprise: its sweetness took well to the spiciness, and we wished we had added more than one banana.

Friday, December 3, 2004

Tomato, tomahto

Hey! It's true! Wrapping unripe tomatoes in newspaper does ripen them faster!

Out tomato crop this year was sad and pathetic, and not just because deer treated it as their personal buffet table: the summer never warmed up enough to fully ripen the few fruits we had on the vine.

It wasn't just us. It seems Florida hurricanes and California rains led to a tomato shortage, which led to doubled, tripled prices. At Wendy's, tomatoes are available by request only, while McTaco has rolling salsa blackouts. Hoard your tomatoes! Well, at least until the end of the month, when the next crop comes in.

Finally, in the medical marijuana arguments, SCOTUS justice Stephen Breyer evokes a terrifying tomato future:
"You know, he grows heroin, cocaine, tomatoes that are going to have genomes in them that could, at some point, lead to tomato children that will eventually affect Boston."
I can see the film now: "Godzilla vs. Children of the Tomato: Boston Destroyahs!." Bahhston children become freaky religious and bizzah onna-conna eatin' poppy-tomayto genetic mutants and battle foreignah Godzilla, who goes on a rampage in chahmin Hahvihd Yahd, overturning pahked cahs.

Wednesday, December 1, 2004

random bo-link-link

-Someone has to say it: The Real Gilligan's Island reality show rocks. It's hilarious. But that's one touched-up picture of Donna on the website.

-If you go on a world food tour, don't gross out the world.

-You could start by not posting photo records like this: eating an In-N-Out 20x20. That's 20 patties, 20 slices of cheese, folks.

-Remember the grilled cheese Virgin? Now there's a fish stick Jesus. If I can just get a St. Joseph pickle and some 3 wise men fries, I've got this year's Nativity set and lunch.

-Even Romans needed rest stops. They didn't have Taco Bell, but Roman families on their way to GladiatorLand did stop for
"... a lot of meat - chicken and pork - as well as bread, rice, lentils and fruit. There were desserts of sweet cakes, cooked with sesame seeds and almonds."
-Not that we don't have enough to be paranoid about, but the EPA found rocket fuel in nationwide samples of milk and lettuce.

-Hershey's Kisses now come in 7, count 'em, 7 varieties, including dulce de leche and rich dark. Is dulce de leche the new black? 'Cuz I'm okay with that.