Wednesday, June 09, 2004
One of the strangest things (to me) about the way we eat is why we (Westerners in general, American's in particular) have such hang ups about breakfast food. In most other parts of the world, what is for breakfast is pretty much what's for lunch and dinner. There's no concept of sacrosanct "breakfast food". Many Americans get whigged out at the idea of eating something for breakfast that isn't eggs/bacon/toast/cereal.
I'm not one of those people.
One of my favorite things for breakfast ever since childhood is hotdogs. Preferably wrapped in a tortilla with some cheese and hot sauce. Mmmmmm good. Of course, my wife and kids think I'm a total freak, but I can live with that. Which isn't to say that I never eat breakfast food. I'm pretty big on cereal too, but I often go through long periods during which I just don't want to eat cereal for breakfast. Then it's back to hot dogs, burritos, ramen noodles (although I've given that up as too high-glycemic) or whatever else strikes my fancy. When I lived in Japan I reveled in the "Japanese breakfast" of rice, fish, seaweed and miso soup. That's the way to start your day.
Of course, there are times when I want cereal for dinner. Last night, in fact, I couldn't decide what to eat and ended up settling for some imported Swedish muesli with some nice vanilla soy-milk. My kids thought I was completely off my rocker, but as people who often start their days with frozen bean burritos, I don't think they really have a leg to stand on.
Just a few more days until this year's Cast Iron Chef competition. The secret ingredient has been finalized (still not telling) and we're hoping to get a good turnout. It looks like the weather might even be nice .
In years past I've been really impressed at how creative people can be. The first year we did onions as the ingredient, and we got some truly amazing food, including onion desserts. One team even went so far as to dye their table clothes with the onion skins prior to judging. Last year it was prunes, and again, we got some amazing entries. Everything from game hens stuffed with prunes, to some North African food, to a pie decorated yellow and white checky with a lion's head rendered in prunes (the An Tir device). I'm looking forward to seeing what people come up with this year. I'll post some of the examples next week.
Thursday, June 03, 2004
I think I'd have to say that Lebanese food is some of my very favorite, especially when the weather turns warm. Last night I decided it was Lebanese food weather (it's in the mid 70's, which is pretty nice for Portland this time of year).
So, I cooked up some
- Fried eggplant with pomegranate sauce: fry up some slices of eggplant in a fair amount of oil until tender, then drain on paper towels. The sauce is pomegranate molasses mixed with some chopped garlic, good olive oil, salt and pepper, drizzled over the eggplant slices. Puts eggplant in a whole new light. I've served it to people who swore they didn't like eggplant (my sister in law :) ) and had them come back for seconds.
- Cucumbers in yogurt: just chopped cucumbers in yogurt (use laban if you have a Middle Eastern grocery around, or drain the yogurt for best results) with garlic, dill, salt and pepper. I mixed in some Italian parsely and just a touch of Spanish smoked paprika with fine results.
- Lamb patties: I was lazy at this point, and just mixed up some ground lamb with some of Penzey's "Turkish Seasoning" and chopped garlic, then pan-fried them. Would be good as kabobs too.
- Whole wheat pita. I got some "Bible Bread" from Garden of Eatin'.
Wednesday, June 02, 2004
The other book I mentioned yesterday is The Neapolitan Recipe Collection : Cuoco Napoletano. Looks pretty good so far, although I haven't had much chance to look it over yet.
I spent some time reading the Mesopotamian cooking book, and it's pretty interesting. Starts off with a brief history of Mesopotamia, then talks about the available sources. It's a little thick, but I think that's largely because it's translated from French. Good information, and an interesting look at a very old culture.
It reminds me a bit of one of my favorite cookbooks, Medieval Arab Cookery, edited by Maxime Rodinson. A great look at medieval Persian cooking, including several original texts. Well worth checking out, if you're into that kind of thing. It's a bit spendy unfortunately. And don't expect any actual Fanny Farmer style "recipes". The original texts provide guidelines and descriptions, but there hasn't been any redaction into modern-style recipes.
Tuesday, June 01, 2004
I picked up a couple of new books this weekend that look pretty interesting. One is on ancient Mesopotamian cooking, called The Oldest Cuisine in the World: Cooking in Mesopotamia. I've only read the first few pages so far, but it looks pretty interesting. It talks about the primary source material that was used, and breaks it up into digestible chunks like cooking without fire, cooking with fire, beverages, etc. Very cool.
The other was a translated collection of medieval Italian recipes whose name escapes my just now. I'll try and post info on it later. I haven't had much chance to look at it yet.
Tuesday, May 25, 2004
Bliz is at TechEd (Microsoft developer's conference) and he's been taking a break from posting on technical stuff to talk about the food. I think it's a great idea. I've been two a bunch of conferences, and the food can make a big difference in how enjoyable it is. The food at TechEd last year (in Dallas) was not so good. But the first time I went to a TechEd in Dallas ('99 maybe) the food was pretty good.
Anyway, you can find Jim's pictures of the food at TechEd here.
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.
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.
Monday, May 10, 2004
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.
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