Tuesday, December 21, 2004
One of the new foodie books I got the other day is “In the Devil’s Garden: a sinful history of forbidden food” by Stewart Lee Allen. What an interesting book. It’s all about the history of food taboos, and how we relate to the food we eat. I’m just about done with it, and it’s been a very fun read.
The book is organized into the Seven Deadly Sins, and each chapter contains info about food restrictions/taboos that relate to that sin. So under “Lust” he talks at length about foods that were off limits to various peoples because they might induce impure thoughts (think chocolate, among others).
I read a few of the reader comments about this book on Amazon, and several people expressed concern with some of the authors research, and the fact that he tends to speculate. I think they are missing the point. This book is not meant to be a scholarly research work. It’s meant to make us think about what we eat, what we don’t eat, and how we relate to our food and the foods of others. In that context, speculation isn’t really a problem, since it encourages critical thinking. I appreciate the fact that during these bouts of reflection, the author never tries to convince us that he knows “the facts”. It’s a very conversational work. When pursuing this kind of book, I don’t think it matters if the author puts down unverified tidbits of information, or things based on annectdotal evidence. The fact that they are annectdotes (which came from a person) is interesting in and of itself.
This topic is a favorite of mine, since I’m continually fascinated by the topic of why people do or don’t eat things, and this book has provided a lot of food for thought (pun intended). And it’s a very fun read. Mr. Allen has a fine sense of humor, and doesn’t take himself too seriously.
Monday, December 20, 2004
Last night Vikki and I actually managed to sneak away for a date night, and at her suggestion we headed for New Seoul Garden in Beaverton. Very tasty. We hadn't been there in a while, and I'd almost forgotten how good their food is. We opted for a BBQ table, meaning a table with a gas powered iron grill set into the middle. We got some marinated ribs and sliced beef which come to the table raw for us to grill ourselves. To go with the meat, you get a bowl of raw sliced garlic, some chili-bean paste, and a bunch of romaine lettuce leaves. The trick is to wrap up pieces of grilled meat in the lettuce with garlic and bean paste, then eat like a little burrito-from-on-high. Fantastic. You can get about 10 different cuts of meat to grill, including pork, chicken, beef, goat or lamb.
I also ordered a bowl of what is one of my favorite soups, called kimchee jige (or chige or cheege depending on how it's transliterated). It's a soups of cabbage kimchee with tofu and sliced pork. Very spicy, and just the thing for a cold winter evening. The also serve a version with big chunks of black cod, which is also very tasty.
The crowning glory of the restaurant, however, is the kimchee bar. Kimchee is one of those things (like saurkraut) that you either love or hate, and luckily Vikki and I are both lovers. New Seoul Garden used to bring you a platter with different kinds of kimchee on it, but at some point in the last few years they switched over to a help-yourself, all the kimchee you can handle bar. Depending on when you go, you'll get your choice of 10-12 different kinds of kimchee, some spicy some not. Last night our very favorite was some pea shoots (baby pea plants) with sesame oil dressing. Crunchy, bright green and very flavorful. There were also some really good, very spicy pickles that seemed like baby bok choy, only very tiny. There was also some traditional spicy cabbage and radish kimchees, and some mildly flavored radishes and black beans.
Best of all, there was enough of the soup left over for breakfast this morning.
Friday, December 17, 2004
In honor of Hanukkah I decided to make some latkes a few days ago. Being a low-glycemic kind of guy, I fear white potatoes, so I went with sweet potatoes instead. My kids went completely nuts for these. They ate them way faster than I could cook them. (I thought they were pretty good too.)
- 2 sweet potatoes (I got "yams" which are darker in color. "Red garnet" maybe?), grated (I used the food processor).
- 1/2 an onion, grated
- 1/2 cup or so cottage cheese
- 3 eggs, beaten
- salt, pepper, and a little allspice
- 2 tbl. or so barley flour
Mix it all together and fry into pancakes. I used unrefined peanut oil, which went well with the sweet potatoes.
One of my other interests (besides food) is disaster preparedness. I'm a member of my local CERT team and have spent a fair amount of time thinking about how to protect myself and my family (and neighbors) in the event of a major emergency.
One of the big concerns in time of emergency is food, so I thought I'd share some info and observations on survival food.
One of the things people most often think of as "emergency food" is canned goods. Things like tuna, SPAM, beans, etc. are all things that will keep well are easy to store. They are also a pretty good food source, having plenty of protein to keep you going. The downside to cans is that they are both bulky and quite heavy. Many kinds of canned food are also less appealing cold, although tuna, SPAM, fruit and veggies can be eaten cold and aren't too bad. Cold chili or baked beans from a can will keep you alive, but not so tasty. On the other hand, cans stand up to some pretty wild methods of heating, potentially including open fire, or the ever handy engine block. I keep some canned food at home for cases where we might have no power/running water but don't have to evacuate. In the case that you have to leave your home for an emergency, you don't want to drag canned food with you.
There are lots of places now where the public can get hold of military MREs (Meals, Ready to Eat). They will keep for several years, and provide plenty of nutritional value. I've never actually eaten one, so I can't comment on their appeal. They are generally intended to be heated, and you can get water activated chemical MRE heaters that will bring them up to a reasonable temperature (in theory). One thing to keep in mind, though, is that they do have their full water content, so they are heavy. Not as heavy as cans, probably, but not light. A good thing to keep in your house for power outages, but again limited use for evacuations, unless you keep some in your car.
Several companies, including Mountain House and AlpineAire make freeze-dried meals for backpackers. They also cater to long term food storage buffs like survivalists and the LDS. Both companies sell products ranging from single service pouches (which will keep for 5 years or so) to #10 cans that will keep for 30+ years under the right storage conditions. I've had several of these meals while camping, and have nothing but good things to say about them. They are light, easy to transport, and really tasty. You can get vegetable or meat dishes, pastas, and even eggs and sausage for breakfast and some pretty good desserts. One thing to keep in mind is that you MUST have a way of boiling water. If you use these with cold water, you'd stay alive, but they would be VILE! If you have are setup for an emergency supply of water and a way to boil it, these meals make a great solution. The big cans make a perfect buy-and-forget solution. with 3-4 cans you can provide food for 4-5 people for 3-4 days, and it will keep for 30 years. Very handy. You can also buy them in pre-arranged packs for a week, month, year, etc. and get a pre-picked set of breakfast/lunch/dinner items that are designed for long term storage. So far, Mountain House's sweet and sour pork, and their eggs and bacon are my favorites. My son also really liked them. The blueberry cheese cake is an interesting experience also.
In just about any grocery store these days you can find a huge selection of energy bars. These are great for things like your "ready bag" or "disaster kit", since they provide a great source of calories, and most are vitamin-fortified. They are light, easy to carry, and many of them taste great (although there are also some pretty bad ones). If you are buying them for emergency food, don't get lo-carb ones. In the event of an emergency, you'll want those carbs to stay warm. Plus a higher percentage of the lo-carb ones taste gross. One thing to keep in mind is that these bars have a limited shelf life. If you keep some in your ready bag, remember to change them out every so often, or they'll go bad. However, there are a few companies, such as Mainstay, that make special energy bars for emergencies. They have a long shelf life (usually 5 years) and are packed to provide all your food for a three day period (for one person). I have a couple of these that I keep in my ready bag and my car just in case. I haven't cracked them open yet, so I can't comment on the taste. They are also Kosher, Halal, and vegetarian, so just about anyone can eat them if you have to share. One of the big benefits of the energy bars is that they are pretty light, and don't require any water or heat.
You'll also need a supply of emergency water in case your home water supply is compromised, but that'll have to wait for another post...
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Monday, December 06, 2004
I’ve picked up several new food history/culinary literature books in the last few weeks that look really good, on topics ranging from the history of coffee and bread to spices and daring eating. I’ll post more info on them as I start reading. I found a great one this weekend at the Cannon Beach Bookstore, and I’m almost half way through it already. “Are You Really Going to Eat That?
” by Robb Walsh. It’s subtitled “Reflections of a culinary thrill seeker”, and that’s a pretty accurate summation. So far I’ve read about Mr. Walsh’s trip to Jamaica for a cup of coffee, Santiago Chile for conger eel stew, Thailand for the infamous durian, etc. It’s a great read if you are into eating crazy stuff, of if you wish you were. Mr. Walsh approaches tracking down these famous food items with a single mindedness that makes me wish I had a lot more time and money to do the same.
I spent this weekend in Cannon Beach with my extended family, and we had some pretty good eats
Friday night we ate at the Warren House pub, which is just across from Tolovana Beach (a bit south of central Cannon Beach). It’s run by the same people as one of our favorite Cannon Beach hangouts, Bill’s Tavern. The food was very good. I had some really nice pork ribs, which were well cooked and very tasty. The biggest hit was the salads that came with our dinners, which were possibly the best side salads I’ve ever had in a restaurant. An amazing assortment of greens, onions, tomato, kalamata olives, and sunflower seeds. Yumm. Their beer is also really good (brewed at Bill’s). Their holiday beer, “Auld Nutcracker” was really nice this year. I’m also a big fan of their “Ragsdale Porter” which is a smoked porter after the fashion of the one from Alaskan Brewing.
Lunch on Saturday saw us at Bill’s, where my son’s very favorite meal in all the world lives. He always gets a bowl of their most excellent clam chowder (some of the best I’ve had) followed by a shrimp sandwich, which is a toasted sandwich piled high with bay shrimp and melted Tillamook cheese. I usually go for the fish and chips there, but this time I decided to try the tuna sandwich. It was very nice, with a hint (but no too much) of curry powder in the tuna, which worked nicely. Chased with their Golden Rye beer. Mmmmmm.
Dinner was at Clark’s, which is a new-ish place at the north end of Cannon Beach. Pretty log building that features a really nice bar, some pool tables, and a big stone fireplace, which was unfortunately not lit. We got an order of onion rings, and Vikki declared them to be “possibly the best she ever had” which is high praise as she’s quite the afficianado. I had an impressively large chicken fried steak (I have a terrible weakness) and it was great. Mine is better, but not by much. Perfectly crunchy on the outside, quite tender inside, plenty of nicely salty gravy. Heaven from the frier. And it came with some really nice steamed zucchini, which was done perfectly. Not the least bit squishy.
For breakfast yesterday morning we hit Pig-n-Pancake, which is pretty much an Oregon staple, right up there with Elmer’s. Not amazing, but good solid diner food. The buckwheat pancakes where pretty good.
All in all, some pretty great food. And the weather was pretty decent to boot.
Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Another Thanksgiving has come and gone, and best of all I wasn’t responsible for this one. (Thanks Ted.) My wife and I hosted T-Day for our extended family for years and years, starting in college. Starting way back then, I instituted a policy of multi-culturalizing our holiday feasts by picking a different culture every year for Thanksgiving and for Christmas dinner. This resulted in (I thought) some pretty spectacular feasts. I did Russian food one year, Scandinavian, a great Mexican Christmas dinner complete with stuffed chiles with walnut sauce
And somewhere along the line various outlying members of the family started to rebel. People would show up at my house for Thanksgiving dinners with turkey breasts and “request” that I cook them, since they “had to have” turkey at Thanksgiving. I complied, but it pissed me off to no end, so at some point I just gave up and went back to traditional “Thanksgiving food”. Which isn’t to say they haven’t been good. A year or two back we compromised and I barbecued a couple of ducks instead of the turkey. There are plenty of interesting things that you can do with “traditional” recipes, but sometimes I miss the variety. The other advantage to non-traditional options is that it saved us from the traditional argument over whose grandmother’s stuffing we were going to make. At least we don’t have to go through that anymore. Naming our children was easier than choosing the stuffing.
I’m considering doing something wacky for Christmas dinner this year. We’ll see. Medieval French? Hmmmm.
Friday, November 12, 2004
One of my very favorite soups has got to be caldo gallego, a Spanish soup (from Galicia, hence the name) which consists of sausage, potatoes, kale or other hearty greens, onions and white beans. A similar soup appears in Portugal, where is is called (I believe) caldo verde. I made some last night, and since my buddy Greg asked for the recipe at lunch today, I thought I'd go ahead and post it.
start with broth. I use Pacific Food's "Natural" beef broth. It has a great flavor, and no added junk.
- onions (chopped)
- kale or other greens: I like "lacinto" or "dinosaur" kale, which has thin very dark leaves. I've also used oak leaf kale, regular curly kale, or collard greens to good effect. I've seen some recipes that call for turnip greens, but I find them too bitter.
- sausage: the best bet is if you can get real Spanish chorizo (the hard kind, not the squishy Mexican kind you often see in markets here). Since I don't have a regular source for those (although occasionally if I'm in Seattle I stop by the Spanish market at the top of the Pike St. hill climb) I use a hard smoked andouille that my New Seasons carries. I've also used Polish or Keilbasa, but it's not as good.
- Potatoes: I actually have started substituting tofu instead, being opposed to simple carbs, but I've used white potatoes or yellow fingerlings (the absolute best if you eat taters).
- white beans: navy beans are nice, or great northern. I think I used great notherns from Westbrae Natural last night.
Bring to a boil and cook until the kale is softened up enough to eat. Goes excellently with some extra tabasco dashed in at the table (if you like that kind of thing).
Monday, November 08, 2004
Last night I tried out a pork roast after a style that my friend Lori showed me. I used a medium sized, boneless pork shoulder roast, browned it in a cast iron dutch oven, then poured in some beer (Ommegang Belgian Abbey-style from Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, NY) salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme, just a little cinnamon. Popped it in the oven at 400°.
After an hour I threw in an onion, and a Mutsu apple. About an hour and a half after that I threw in a bunch of chantrelle mushrooms, and put it back in for another 45 min - 1 hour. Total cooking time was about 4 hours. It came out really well. Served along with a lentil and rice pilaf, and some green salad. Worked out very nicely.
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