Monday, April 24, 2006
I had some time to kill Sunday morning, so decided to try something new for breakfast. I tried my hand at dhokla, a steamed bread-product native to Gujarat (I think). You make a thick batter of besan (garbanzo bean flour) and spices, then steam it in a cake pan. It comes out (at least texture wise) like a really big idli. I really liked the flavor and texture of it, and it went very nicely with the pepper rasam I made to go with it. Rasams are, I think, my favorite Indian soups, very brothy and usually pretty sour. Very pleasing.
It took me a while to find something big enough to steam the dhokla in, but I finally settled on my (very big) pressure cooker, and just left the weight off the steam vent. Worked pretty well. Unfortunately, I forgot to take any documentary pictures. Maybe next time…
I finally made it over to Penzeys
in Portland this weekend. It was well worth the trip. I went to their store in Minneapolis many years ago, and have ordered from their web site a number of times, but it’s a much different experience being able to see (and more importantly smell) everything first hand. It’s a very nice little store in a strip mall over on 82nd, which is why I’d never been there. From the hinterlands here in Hillsboro, the other side of Portland is a good 45 minutes to an hour away, so it’s not a casual trip. I stocked up an some of their fantastic pepper (so good that after grocery store pepper you’ll find yourself thinking “wow, pepper tastes like that
?”) and some Ceylon cloves that are quite a bit bigger than the usual ones you see in the store. Powdered ginger, galangal, Mexican oregano, and ground Moroccan coriander were among my other purchases. The hardest part is resisting the urge to try one of everything. I was sorely tempted by the Russian sausage seasoning, which smelled really good. On the way back (since I was all the way out there an everything) I stopped by Bob’s Red Mill for some excellent grain products. When we moved a couple of months ago, I dumped large portions of my pantry, so I’m rebuilding all those staple ingredients I’m used to having on hand.
Friday, April 21, 2006
In an effort to sport more pictures, I documented the Spring vegetable salad I made for dinner this evening. I was at New Seasons, poking through the veggie aisle when I spotted these gorgeous “French Breakfast Radishes” and I had to have them. Of course, then I had to have some other stuff to go with them. I started out with some sliced red onion, which I let “pickle” for a while in some fresh lime juice, sel gris, and a little crystalline fructose (a good low-glycemic sweetener).
To that I added the lovely radishes
followed by a very nice Pinkerton avocado
and a nice hothouse tomato.
Oh how I look forward to the heirloom tomatoes of Summer… The farmer’s market starts up in Hillsboro next month, but it’ll be a while before we see any local tomatoes.
The salad got finished off with a little more sel gris, and some pepper.
I see that I need to work on my food-photographing techniques. At least they’re marginally in focus.
One last pic. I served the salad with some asparagus sauteed in ghee, and then sprinkled with lemon juice, sel gris, and a mixture of tarragon and “grains of paradise” which I just happened to have lying around. I got inspired by the asparagus with long pepper over at Tigers & Strawberries, but I had “grains” not long pepper.
To round things out, we had bread and cheese, and for dessert, a “strawberry papaya” filled with vanilla ice cream. Sadly, the camera battery was dead at that point, so I didn’t get a shot of th every amazingly orange papaya. I have another one for tomorrow, and the battery's charging, so hope for the best.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
I’ve been inspired to cook a lot lately, and it’s largely due to the increase in the number of food blogs I’ve been reading. I’m really impressed with the quality and diversity of the food blogging out there. And I’ve learned that apparently if you want a really sexy food blog, you have to take pictures. To that end, I’ll try to post more images of stuff that I cook, although I have to admit that looks is not what I optimize for.
I updated the blogroll on this site to reflect the foodie blogs I’ve been reading. Check them out. I’m particularly interested right now in the profusion of food blogs written by Indian women. I love cooking (and eating) Indian food, and I’m also really passionately interested in the food that people really eat at home rather than restaurant of Americanized cookbook food, and these blogs totally fascinate me. Take a look at a few, and I think you’ll be as hooked as I am.
Blogging is a great medium for this kind of study, since people mostly post about the food they really eat everyday. At least I know I do.
I've attached the OPML for these blogs as an Rss enclosure for those who aren't looking at the HTML.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Sigh. I don’t get why our culture encourages peole to think that somehow cooking (unlike every other learned skill) is just something you are born with. Our chimpanzee ancestors didn’t (and hopefully still don’t) make flan, people. It’s not instinctive. So “I can’t cook” usually means “I can’t be bothered to practice”. I don’t see how a tool like the one below is going to solve anything. But then again, maybe that’s why everything tastes like chicken.
No amount of hours spent in front of Iron Chef and Good Eats will a good chef make, friends, but perhaps one might consider the employment of one MIT Media Lab experiment by Connie Cheng and Leonardo Bonanni: the Intelligent Spoon. This, um, intelligent spoon has zinc, gold, zener diode, and aluminum sensors to detect the temperature, acidity, salinity, and viscosity levels of the human-feed it's currently stirring, which it then sends back to a host computer for processing and direction. We're not sure this would help us to add a certain subtlety or trans-cultural flavor adaptation to the sweetbreads we were planning on whipping up tonight, but it might just do the trick in keeping you from over-salting that pancake mix on a Saturday morning. [via Engadget]
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Vikki’s birthday was last week, so over the weekend we invited some friends out to my Dad’s place at Black Butte Ranch for a weekend-long birthday party and lying about fest. Since my favorite thing to do while lying about is cook (and eat) I had tons of fun making way too much food.
Saturday’s breakfast was every kind of toast in the world (we must have had at least 5 varieties) and Parsi Egg Curry, which I learned to make from my Dad, who learned it while living in Singapore back in the day.
Parsi Egg Curry
- start sauteeing some onions, ginger, and diced hot pepper, I usually use serrano or jalapeno. You can leave out the chilies if you like
- while those are softening up, beat as many eggs as needed with a goodly amount of ground coriander, a bit of tumeric, salt and pepper. I’ve occasionally used ground ginger too, in lew of fresh, but it’s not as good
- after the eggs are all beaten, stir in some chopped fresh cilantro
- when the onions et al are soft, add the eggs, and cook however you best like your scrambled eggs
- serve with something sweet. Works great with coffee cake, raisin bread, toast and jam, etc. The sweet makes a great contrast with the spicy eggs. My Dad always served with a cream-cheese and fruit filled, yeast risen “Russina coffee cake” and corned beef hash. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Dinner on Saturday was dim sum. I made the fillings, and everybody pitched in to help wrap up char shiu bao, pot stickers, shui mai, and spring rolls. Dim sum makes a great dinner party theme, since everyone can be involved in preparation and cooking, and it’s too much work for one person.
Saturday night, I put some steel cut oats in the slow cooker, and by Sunday morning we had some very nice oatmeal, which we topped with freshly made apple crisp and dried blueberries.
Sunday lunch was pretty much whatever was left over, since we had to clear out the fridge.
Monday, April 03, 2006
This weekend Vikki and I got a chance to go to a Scotch tasting event put on by the Scotch Malt Whiskey Society of America. It was held in the very lovely Ranier Club in Seattle. We had fun getting dressed up and hobnobbing over dinner, lots of Scotch, and cigars (although under WA state law, you couldn’t actually smoke the cigars ). While not an inexpensive event, it was an oppurtunity to try some Scotches I otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. I’ve been known to buy the (very) occasional ~$100 bottle of Scotch, but $250 – $300 is pretty much out of my price range. Some of the real standouts were the Balvennie and Highland Park 30yr., the Balvennie 25yr., and a Talisker special addition 175th anniversay bottling. The kind of stuff that would run you $25–$30 a shot in a bar, if you could find it. The Macallan 17yr “Fine Oak” was also very nice, as was the Glenrothes “Special Reserve”.
Anyway, much fun, good food, good friends, and some truly amazing Scotch to boot. What’s not to like. If you get a chance, and you’re into such things, check out their calendar of events on the website for a venue near you.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
The AeroGarden is a little self-contained hydroponic growing system designed to sit on your kitchen counter along with other appliances. It’s a pretty interesting idea. They have seed packs for things like salad greens, chili peppers, herbs, and cherry tomatoes along with flowers, etc. For $150 it’s not the kind of thing I’d jump into right away. Rainy Day Magazine has a blow by blow on actually growing with one, so I’ll check back to see how it works for them.
It’s a pretty neat idea to be able to grow food indoors. Since I don’t have a yard anymore, it’d be fun to grow stuff inside.
Over the weekend we were entertaining some out-of-town family, so I decided to whip up some chicken fried steak (or chicken fried chicken for our one non-beef eater) for breakfast to mark to occasion. I’ve been experimenting with CFS for a while, and it’s been getting progressively (IMHO) better. Having never seen a CFS until I went to college, I have some catching up to do. I got some pretty decent quality cube steak, and coated them with flour-then-egg-then-flour, where the flour had some salt, pepper, and (my favorite) a little poultry seasoning added. Fried up in very hot canola oil and kept warm in a low oven, they were ready and waiting for the sausage gravy. I tried some Jimmy Dean “bold” sausage for the gravy, which was pretty darn good. In a perfect world, I prefer the fantasic bulk sausage from New Seasons, but you make do with what you have (in Sisters, OR). I used whole milk for the gravy (might as well go all out) and again added a touch of poultry seasoning. Plain rubbed sage works great too. The whole thing worked out pretty well. And since we’d polished off quite a helping of biscuits and gravy and poached eggs the morning before, I was pretty sure it would be a crowd pleaser.
I was in the mood for quick and simple last night, so I took stock of what I had on hand and picked up a few extras, and the result, BLT’s with the addition of guacamole, and some tomato soup. Just plain good.
I used my new favorite sandwich bread, the “Rockin’ Rye” from Dave’s Killer Bread, toasted. One side got a little tofu mayonaise, the other a coating of some pretty good Costco-issue guacamole. Inside was the usual bacon (again, Costco issue. Not the worlds best, but pretty good) some organic iceberg lettuce, and some flavorful is a bit still organic tomatoes. I long for summer heirloom tomato season…
Accompanied by some “Creamy Tomato Soup” from Pacific Foods, it made a darn fine, quick dinner.
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