# Friday, May 21, 2004

Asparagus has to be one of the stranger things we eat.  I guess they basically look edible.  Either way, they are one of my favorites, and I'm pretty psyched that it's finally their season.  Sure, I know you can get fine Chilean asparagus in the depths of winter now, but frankly that's just plain wrong.  Not only is it ecologically unsound (think of how many resources were expended to get them here) but I think there are some things that should remain seasonal.  Now-a-days the only things that are really seasonal any more are things that don't travel well (cherries being a fabulous example).  I think that's unfortunate.  It's nice to be able to look forward to a specific time of year when you can eat certain things.  Again, cherries are a great example.  I anxiously look forward to cherry season every spring (not too much longer) then eat all the cherries I can find for the three or four weeks they are around.  I hit all the farmers markets in my town hoping to find some fresh cherries.  I especially like the yellow ones like Queen Anne or Ranier, which have an even shorter season than the usual Bings.  But when they are here, it's something to get fired up about.  Nothin like a big bowl of muesli with fresh cherries for breakfast, with a little vanilla soy milk.  The hint of vanilla sets of the cherries (or strawberries for that matter) just perfectly. 

Sorry, I realized I started this talking about asparagus.  Got a little carried away with the whole cherry thing. 

In the last few years, I've switched from steaming asparagus to grilling or broiling them most of the time.  I like the way the texture comes out better, and it's harder to turn them to mush that way.  I just toss the whole spears with some good olive oil, salt and pepper, maybe a little garlic, then either throw them on the grill or bake them on a cookie sheet.  Either way, then they start to wrinkle a bit and get browned and tender, yank 'em out and have at it.  Super easy and less time-sensitive than steaming them. 

What got me thinking about it was the entree in our cafeteria here at work today.  Ancho-grilled pork chops with asparagus and some couscous.  It was a great combination.  The couscous was done just right, light and fluffy with just enough green onions and tomato to make it interesting but not soggy.  Very nice. 

Friday, May 21, 2004 9:41:16 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, May 20, 2004

Sorry, pretty much nothing new to report.  Once again, I've gotten totally swamped with life in general, and real food has gone pretty much by the wayside.  Sigh. 

The secret ingredient for the Cast Iron Chef competition has been chosen (obviously I'm not going to divulge what it is) and I think it should generate some pretty interesting entries this year.  We've gotten some pretty amzing things out of people the last two years, so hopefully we'll get as good a turnout this time.

Scott's back from Africa, and I have some more of his pictures to post (sometime).  Also, he had some interesting insights into eating in South Africa that I'll post some time. 

Thursday, May 20, 2004 8:48:40 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, May 10, 2004
For anyone who reads this and happens to be in the SCA in Antir, this year's Cast Iron Chef competition will be held at the Kriegstreiber Memorial Multi-Weapon Tourney Saturday June 12th.  See here for more details. 
Monday, May 10, 2004 5:54:18 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]

Got down to some pretty decent cooking this weekend.  I made spaghetti on Saturday night, with tomato sauce dominated by ground lamb and kalamata olives.  Conservative, but quite tasty.  Mother's Day breakfast-in-bed for my wife consisted of crepes filled with yogurt, strawberries, blackberries and peaches.

Last night I did a pork roast in chile sauce that we used for tacos.  It came out really well.  It was a little boneless shoulder roast that I put in the oven in a sauce of ground anaheim chile, garlic, Mexican oregano, cumin, salt and pepper, and a bottle of beer.  The roast was fork tender and the sauce came out well.  Mmmmm.  I'll have to do that again some time.  I tend not to think far enough ahead for roasts, but I should try a little harder.  They're cheap, and easy to prepare.

Monday, May 10, 2004 5:46:53 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, April 30, 2004

It's 76° and lovely here in Hillsboro and I'm already salivating for the burgers I'm going to make for dinner.  This is totally the weather for BBQ.  I got lucky with the burger, in that we have some friends who have a few cows, and a couple years in a row we went in on half a cow.  Not just any cow, but half a grass fed outdoor living no antibiotics cow.  Makes for some really great burgers. 

Since it looks like the weather might stick around for a while I think I'm going to have to experiment with some of the different burgers in the (fabulous) works of Stephen Raichlen.  He's written some of the best BBQ books around, from how to, to a world tour of BBQ styles.  Well worth reading just for the travel info, let alone the great recipes.

Friday, April 30, 2004 12:35:37 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Looking out the window at the fabulous weather (~60°, bright blue sky) I'm totally craving a nice Waldorf salad.  Here's how I'm fixin to put it together:

  • Apples, diced.  I'm thinking some organic Pink Lady and Braeburn I have on hand.
  • Walnuts.  organic, of course
  • Celery, diced, also organic
  • Raisins, organic Flame
  • Soy mayonaise (I use Nasoya brand.  It's a bit sweeter than regular mayonaise, but not greasy and way fewer calories)
  • a dash of lemon juice, applied to the apples to keep from browning, also nice flavor enhancer
  • maybe just a hint of Penzey's real cinnamon

The problem now is that I can't figure out what to serve it with. :-)  BBQ chicken maybe?  It's certainly a nice day for BBQ.  Burgers?  Hmmmm.  

Wednesday, April 28, 2004 10:13:20 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, April 27, 2004
A while back I posted on the idea of mindfulness as applied to eating.  There's an interesting article on Yoga Journal that takes that idea to the next level. 
Tuesday, April 27, 2004 11:24:03 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, April 26, 2004

A while back I posted some quick thoughts on what to consider when trying to recreate the cuisine of the past (Viking in particular).  I've since had some additional revalations, and thought I'd jot them down while I'm thinking about it.  They all center around resource availability.

When we try to recreate the food of the past, one thing we tend not to think of right off hand is the effect of resource availability on cooking.  We're so used to being able to hop right down to the local grocery store and buy pretty much whatever we want to eat, regardless of what time of year it is, the agricultural potential of where we live, etc.

However, when recreating historic cooking, take it into account.  In the Viking case, for example, resource availability varied pretty widely depending on where in the Viking world you lived.  Denmark has much more arable and grazing land than does Norway.  For many people, the first thing that comes to mind if you say "Viking food" is some huge roast beast.  However, for the average farmer in the Trondheim in Norway, that's simply not a possibility.  There's not enough grazing land to support many cows on the fjords, and the ones that could be supported are much more useful for diary products than for meat.  Plus, beef is comparatively hard to preserve (pork is much easier, but pigs like warmer weather).  Taking that into account, we have to think more in terms of meat as a condiment, rather than as a central part of a meal.  Things like corned beef, salt beef, salt pork, bacon, smoked fish, all lend themselves well to being used in other dished like soup, porridge (oat, barley, or peas), or vegetable dishes.  On the other hand, when living on the fjord fish is probably pretty available for much of the year. 

Preservation techniques make a big difference in terms of resource availability.  In the south of Europe, salt is readily available, so things like salami, bacon, hard cheese etc. are pretty common, as are salted herring, salmon, and other oily fish.  However, in Northern Europe, salt is much harder to come by and expensive, so many foods were more likely to be preserved with lactic acid fermentation (saurkraut, pickled herring, sour milk products) are much more practical.

So, to sum up, when recreating historic cooking in the absense of "recipes" it's important to consider the availability of foods, seasonally or in preserved form, rather than just considering whether of not X ingredient was ever eaten.

Monday, April 26, 2004 9:44:10 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]

The Culinary Ithra went really well this weekend, and was a lot of fun.  I taught three classes in a row, and was pretty hoarse by the end of the day, but I really enjoyed it and people were really engaged, which always makes it easier. 

Best of all, I just happened to score the leftovers from one of the classes of the lovely and amazingly talented Baroness Anne-Marie d'Ailleurs for lunch.  I left home in a hurry and hadn't had time to put anything together for lunch, so Anne-Marie's mushroom pie, stuffed eggs, smoked halibut, et. al. was a lovely surprise.  Mmmmmm.  French Medieval goodness.

Between the lovely lunch and prepping for my classes I got all fired up to try some more historic recreation cooking.  If I get to it I'll post about the results. 

My handout for the Viking Food class ended up pretty lame (poor preparation on my part) but I'll post what I have soon.

Monday, April 26, 2004 6:35:15 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, April 23, 2004

I'll be teaching three classes at tomorrow Culinary Ithra

  • Viking food: a reconstruction from available sources (which I'll post soon)
  • Cooking for cultures with no extant recipes (here)
  • The evolution of food processing techniques (here)

Should be a lot of fun.  There are still spots available if anyone who happens to read this today is interested. :-)

On a completely separate note, I've recently aquired some pretty good new (to me at least) historical cookbooks, which I'll post reviews on soon (maybe this weekend).

Friday, April 23, 2004 9:08:45 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]