Wednesday, March 24, 2004
The New York Times (reg. req.) has a great article about halvah, the sweetened sesame seed confection common to healthfood stores and Middle Eastern markets. It talks about the nostalgic effect halvah has on lots of people, and I'm one of them.
In my hippie vegetarian youth, my sister and I weren't allowed "regular" candy like chocolate, etc. I don't think I had a snickers until I was in High School. What we had instead were things like carob bars, honey/sesame candy, and halvah. Halvah was always one of my favorites. It's made from ground seseme seeds (tahini) sweetened with sugar or honey and pressed into bars. Great stuff. The texture is fantastic. It's grainy, sticky, melting... Boy, now I'm jonesing.
Monday, March 22, 2004
On Jason's recommendation, my wife and I finally checked out Monteaux's last night. I'd have to say I was overall pretty impressed. It's a nice place, good ambience, and the food was excellent. Some of the best clam chowder I've had in a while, and the Flat Iron Steak was excellent. The veggies were done to perfection, as was the steak and everything was very flavorful. Well worth checking out if you're in the area.
Friday, March 19, 2004
I thought I was being lazy last night when I decided to make some Salad Nicoise for dinner. It's a French "composed salad" which basically means you throw a bunch of stuff on a plate without stiring it up first. Easy, and anyone who's picky can just leave off the bits they don't like.
I started with some butter lettuce (last summer I got some red butter lettuce at the farmers market. Can't wait for veggie season) and then set out:
- sliced, hard-boiled eggs
- tuna (I was hoping for fresh, but there wasn't any, so I went with canned Tongul tuna)
- anchovies (pretty dang good actually)
- nicoise olives (my favorite grocery actually had pitted nicoise!)
- grape tomatoes
- sliced radishes (a mixed bunch with red, purple and white radishes)
- some blue cheese
Everyone got to choose what they wanted, which worked out great. The whole family raved. My son actually thanked me this morning for the salad last night. That's something you don't get every day. I'll have to remember this one for future quick dinners. I'd like to try it with freshly poached Ahi, and maybe try some different anchovies. I used the basic Napoleon brand, but they also had Spanish or Italian ones. For the fish phobic or weak at heart I might try some nice salt-cured capers instead of the anchovies. Kalamata olives would probably do in a pinch, but the pitted nicoise were perfect. They're a bit less salty than Kalamatas, and just slightly bitter, which was nice.
To go with the salad we had some oven-roasted asparagus with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and some nice garlic aioli. It must be getting closer to Spring, as the price of organic asparagus is approaching reasonable.
It was set off pretty well by a nice glass of Abby Ale from Brewery Ommegang, which was slightly sweet, although not too, which worked well against the salty salad.
Wednesday, March 10, 2004
I can't say I'm surprised, but the CDC officially declares
that we as a society are eating ourselves to death. Diet related health problems are causing almost as many deaths as smoking. That should serve as a wakeup call. Remember those "Stop violating your mind with television!" bumper stickers from the 80's? Went along with Bob Dobbs
? We need new ones that say "Stop violating your body with crappy food!".
Tuesday, March 09, 2004
OK, "riblet" is a pretty bizarre word, but the meatless ones from Gardenburger are really good. I've seen them around for a while, and finally took the plunge last night. Not only were they really tasty, but very easy to work with. They come in little bags, which you can microwave or boil (I boiled). There were also cooking instructions for grilling them, but I'd be concerned about them drying out.
Anyway, they're great. Very nice texture, reasonably like ribs (only there's no mad soy disease) and the BBQ sauce they come packed in was very flavorful.
Even my (extremely) picky, sauce-phobic 5 year old daughter loved them, which is saying quite a bit. We threw them in sandwiches with some cheese, lettuce and pickles.
Way less work then actual ribs, and by far superior to things like McRibs.
I couldn't help myself. I know it's still pretty early in the year, but my local grocery store finally got in some organic asparagus, the first I've seen this year. They were pretty thick, and priced somewhere around gold bullion, but it was totally worth it.
I was time contrained, so I ended up stir-frying the asparagus with a little chicken, some ginger, a dash of dark soy sauce and some hoisin sauce. Very tasty. Just what I wanted. Chicken and asparagus was something my Mom used to make a lot when I was a kid, and it always reminds me of big Chinese food dinner parties. And it's amazingly easy. Added to that I whipped up some stir-fried cucumber with chili-bean sauce (cucumber is really good cooked) and some bean sprouts. Total cooking time was probably on the order of half an hour, and I dawdled.
Sometimes I forget how quickly you can make real food. But I'm always glad when I do.
Tuesday, March 02, 2004
I've been under some pretty crazy time pressure lately, and as a result I've been eating out way too frequently. Most of the time I try to be pretty selective, and stay away from junk food.
Last night I had all of about 10 minutes to get dinner for the whole family in between hectic activities, and I cracked. I went to McDonald's. The ignominy! The shame! The carbs! The worst part, of course, was that it tasted really good. Just like the cheap gastronomic crack that it is. I shudder to think what it's doing to me even now. I heaped on some extra flax seed oil on my cereal this morning to compensate.
Therein lies the problem with food like that. It tastes good. It's full of things that are rare in nature, and that our bodies therefore crave and have lots of taste receptors for. And the occasional indulgence probably isn't too bad. Or maybe I'm just rationalizing. People who eat that kind of food all the time are hurting themselves. Stay away! It's not good for you.
On the other hand (and I didn't know the rant would go this way, but there you have it) it's certainly not McDonald's fault that people are hurting themselves by eating their food. The idea that people are suing fast food companies over being unhealthy is completely ludacris and inappropriate IMHO. The fast food companies are catering to the market. They don't make you eat there every day. That's your choice. It's up to consumers to understand that the food's not good for them, and that's hardly a secret. Taking responsibility for your own health and nutrition is essential, and no one is going to do it for you. Don't wait for your doctor to tell you to go on Lipitor, just eat better (and excercise, but that's a whole 'nother story).
OK, I'll stop now. I'll go back to basking in the glow of my musli and soy yogurt with apples and bananas. Ahhhhhh.
Thursday, February 26, 2004
Sorry I haven't posted anything in a while. It's been a heck of a week or so, and I've been pretty much treading water. Not much time for exciting contributions to world cuisine
This has been a week of sausages and from the can minestrone (although I threw in some farro I had lying around which made a great textural addition).
I'm hoping to break loose long enough to do some cooking this weekend. I've been craving a nice pork roast in chile sauce, or some such. Made chile verde? Only time will tell. At the same time, I'm desparately craving Korean food, but I may cop out and just go out for some. Portland has some pretty decent Korean restaraunts.
I just re-picked up Mark Kurlansky's Choice Cuts which is a collection of essays and excerpts from various culinary writers. Mr. Kurlansky's books are pretty much universally great, so I'm expecting to be entranced. Cod is pretty much one of the best food books I've ever read (if you haven't, you should).
Tuesday, February 17, 2004
A three day weekend is always a good excuse for lots of cooking, so I did some.
On Saturday night I tried a pork chop recipe from the new Cook's Illustrated. Very nice. Sauced with brandy, prunes and shallots. Very tasty. And their recommendation to start the chops in a cold pan worked out beautifully.
Sunday morning saw some Parsi egg curry (scrambled eggs with onions, and a little coriander, tumeric, ginger) and some fruit salad (with a little Vietnamese cinnamon from Penzey's, makes all the difference)
I have absolutely no recollection of what I made Sunday night, but I recall it being good. Hmmmm.
Last night was salmon fillets baked in parchment with some salt and pepper, a little tarragon, spinach and watercress, and a few nameko mushrooms. That worked out fabulously, and was even popular with the picky 5 year old. To go along with it I made some rice and lentil pilaf (just rice, lentils, chicken broth and a little curry powder) which also went over well with the troops.
Thursday, February 12, 2004
I've been trying to encourage my son (who's 8) to take a bit more responsibility for getting his own food. So far we're pretty much only up to breakfast, but that's a start. What really impressed me was that when he got into making his breakfast the other day (a peanut butter and jelly sandwich) when his sister showed up (she's 5). He gave up his hard won PB & J to her, and started in making another one.
Does my heart good.
I started cooking pretty seriously around his age (fried eggs being my specialty) and I remember even then the sense that food you make yourself tastes that much better. I noticed that he devoured that sandwich with relish. Never too early to start.
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