Monday, June 29, 2009

linky links: food edition wk26

This week's fun food things, all in one place, and now with 57.2% more of my own personal ramblings!

An Edible History of Humanity-- I love food and I love Anthropology, and this one covers both bases! I love the idea of a book all about the persuit of food and how it shapes history. I haven't managed to get it yet, what with being so friggen poor, but I hope there's a sizable discussion of paleogastronomy. I want to be a food historian / nutritional anthrolologist.

A discussion of crops fro flavoring Gin. Personally, I dispise gin, can't stand it, but the discussion talks about flavoring vodka to taste like gin (bleh) and from there, goes into neat-sounding herbal vodkas that I now want to try out. After I make appertifs and digestifs. After I have the money to buy vast quanitites of cheap vodka.

Home Made Irish Cream: Now this, I do like. Alot. And it's so expensive to buy. I wonder if I could fake it with soymilk or almond or cashew milk?

Raspberry tart-things that sound awesome: They include pumpkinseed-marscapone mousse.

Did you know you can eat cherry pits? Neither did I, but apparently they're like tiny, very intense almonds, and here's a recipe using them in icecream. I really really really need an icecream maker.

Pates de fruits: Some of the first candy! And they look way better and more intense than gummies ever were. Plus, they appeal to the same parts of my brain that like making jam (which I haven't done this year at all yet), and even though they're time-consuming, they look pretty easy. Think of it: solid fruit ones (strawberry, raspberry, apple, grape, apricot), mixed fruit ones (strawberry-rhubarb, cranberry-cherry, plum-apricot), herb-scented ones (strawberry-rose, plum-thyme, starwberry-basil, apple-rose, peach-ginger)...

This lovely lady makes sweet white ceramic icecream cones. Which is both awesome and a little sad-making, but probably better for making cupcake-cones in than real ones.

yay linkies!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

What To Do With Leftover Punch

We like our easy punch: rum, sprite and sherbet, the cheaper the better. This time it was raspberry. But after the party (Memorial Day), there was still most of the second bowl left. What's a group of eaters to do? A, brilliantly, poured the whole thing into a freezer box, and kept it for several weeks, until we were over for Game Night and decided we wanted something boozy to drink, but there was nothing in the house with which to make our usual Lolly Holloways (like a banana daquiry, but cooler). So we pulled out the frozen old punch, blended it with fresh ice, and had probably the best mixed icy drink ever. It tasted like pink lemonade and still had enough punch that the one cup each of us got was more than enough.

Yay summer and frozen drinks!

Birthday Dinner: Portuguese

Since I was sixteen, on the day of my birthday-- or as close to it as we can manage, since my b-day tends to fall very close to Memorial Day and that sometimes gets in the way-- I go out with everyone I can get together, and we find a new ethnic food that I've never had before. last year it was more traditiona Japanese than just sushi at a place called Kokoro (there was ggoey rice!), the year before that was a new Indian place where I had tandoori goat, and this year it was Portuguese. A place called Taste of Portugal in Palm Coast.

The meal started with this lovely lentil soup: carrots, celery and onion in what I think was a beef broth with bacon or salt pork or something to flavor it. It tasted like bean with bacon soup like I grew up with, only better, and obviously home-made.

A and D ordered red snapper, L ordered this pork and mussel dish that seemed really interesting and had an amazing gravy, Auds ordered a red almost-curry with rice and C ordered paella that came with literally half a lobster as well as whole shrimp and clams and mussels. I ordered bacalao, because big white fish are in season, and I usually order chicken or salmon and I wanted something new. The fish was preserved, which I think is standard for the dish, so it had a different, firmer texture than usual fish, and it still had bones in, which the waitress was worried would bother me, and showed me how to get the meat out around them. It was sitting in garlic olive-oil with the mildest onions I've ever had, and amazing little roasted new potatoes and green peppers. It was pretty good-- the flavors were simpler and milder than Spanish cooking tends to be (at least that I've had over here), and I think it was meant for a higher-quality olive-oil, but overall it was very good and remarkably filling.

And it finished up with flan, because my Cuban genes do not allow me to not eat flan when it's available, as those flan-selling Hogar Boys know. As you can see, there wasn't even time to take a picture before I ate it all. It was amazing. Much thicker and denser than any flan I've ever had (and I've had LOTS of flans), but still somehow as creamy and amazing as it should be, and none of that grainyness that happens when parts of it cook faster than others, with both the cooked-on-the-bottom burnt sugar crust and this separate sauce that she spooned over it that I could live off of like a hummingbird with nectar-- it was the single best sugar-sauce I've ever had. I'd go back to this place just for that flan.

Japanese-Syle Fish Stew

Sonetimes, I get really tired of the same thing all the time, so I change things up. Sometimes, I come out with something different then I thought I'd have. This was supposed to be braised veggies, but I put too much liquid in, and it wound up being stew. Oh well.

The basic recipe comes from Maki over on Just Hungry:

Potatoes stewed with fried tofu and green beans

I did it this way:
Sautee an onion in a mix of olive oil and a teeny bit, less than a teaspoon of sesame oil, then trow in the potatoes, and sautee them a bit. The recipe calls for fresh greenbeans, which I didn't have, so I used leftover roasted asparagus that was in the freezer and some stirfry-intended brocoli. I should have added them in closer to the end, though; as you can see, the asparagus kind of melted. Tasted fine, but left it sort of... unpretty.

Then top with the water, which I topped too high, and throw in two tablespoons of sake (we always seem to have sake, even though none of us drink it), 3tbsp soy sauce (I added extra, because I like it), 2 tbsp maple syrup and some pepper. Boil it until the potatoes are starting to get edible.

Then I added the fish, which was already fillet-ed and frozen (you can get it packaged like that, and that's awesome), dropping it in whole and cooking is about half way, and mixed in some red miso for extra measure. Continue cooking until the fish is done, leaving the lid off so it'll evaporate some and thicken up, and then nom nom!

It tasted pretty authentic to what I remember Japanese cooking tasting, and I didn't change the recipe too much from Maki's, so I'm assuming it's pretty close. And it was delish. The leftovers were good cold for about two days (after that, the potatoes melted and the fishiness got overwhelming). Definitely a keeper.

Late Spring / Early Summer Pasta

This really should have been posted weeks ago, but there you are. This is C-Food! Which is always quick and honest and lovely. Cooked pasta mixed with garlic-sauteed broccoli, asparagus, onions and olives, shredded up smoked salmon, and tons of grated parmesan. No sauce but what the veggies and the fish make for themselves, and most of the flavoring is already there because of that. A little pepper, and there you go! Quick, easy, and really flavorful. And pretty healthy, too!

Summer Food

The best thing about summer is the absolute abundance of fresh, wonderful foods. It's just amazing. The worst part about summer, at least here in the South that's further south than the Deep South, is that there's just so damned much heat. So I tend to use the one to deal with the other.

I've switched to my Summer Diet, which in days before my metabolism slowed, would help me drop 15 lbs every summer; we'll see if it works this year. See, teh heat makes me not want to eat. It doesn't just kill my appetite, it kills my desire even to have an appetite, adn if I'm not careful, I tend to forget to eat at all, which isn't healthy. So to get myself through the day, I eat a raw veggie diet, then at night, a few hours after dark (ie: somewhere around nine-thirty), I'll eat something full of protein and the day's starches. Salads, yes, of course, but when I say 'salad', what I really mean is this:

Not the pile of anemic lettuce that people try to tell me is a salad these days. No way. I much prefer a pile of veggies, and if they're really good veggies, I don't even need the dressing. If there's lettuce at all, It'll probably be a single wedge of something interesting, eaten with my fingers the same way.

And for breakfast, I switch to Sami Snadard Breakfast #1: fresh fruit and yogurt. Mmmm, yogurt. And I've missed peaches, plums and necatarines to an obscene degree since I started this Year Of Depriving Myself Of Out-Of-Season Foods.

Barring that, there's always Alternative #1: fruit and cream. I use Nestle Table Cream (comes in a little half-size can and costs less than half a dollar in the same section as the other canned milk-products) mixed with a quarter cup of powdered sugar, which is just enough that it testes like something other than thickened milk. And it's processed enough that I don't get all lactose-intollerant-y over it, which is awesome, and allows me to continue to get a little protein and calcium during the day.

And the rest of my diet consists of shaved ice and beach sand and more water than would take to water our lawn.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

experiment: perfect puff pan

For my birthday, A got me a Perfect Puff Pan, which I've been wanting for AGES, and I set about to make it work, because as I've mentioned before, Everything Is Better In Bun Form.

Experiment 1 was made with Manichevitz Brownie Mix, because it was on sale for 50c at the Scratch And Dent. Lemme just say, this is the most amazing brownie mix ever. It's rich and uber-fudgy and even when it's cooked into charcoal briquettes, it's amazingly chocolatey. I should have just eaten it with a spoon, because, as you can see, the mix did not like the Puff Pan, no matter what the poorly-worded flier says about being able to use any mix. They burned before they were cooked enough to flip, the little flip-stick didn't work, and I had to flip them with a spoon, which scratched the pan and managed to knock half the batter out of each puff. but they were still tasty.
Experiment 2 went much better. I decided brownies were too ambitious, and I scaled it back to the pancakes that were in the title-- just a normal bisquick pancake mix. I turned down the heat one notch, oiled it with butter instead of spray, and I didn't fill the little wells as high, and voila! Almost-Perfect Pancake Puffs!

I want to try it with eggs, and with little pellets of potatoes stuffed with cheese, and maybe with cookie dough, and I have a muffin mix I want to try, too. I'll keep you posted.

The main problem, once I figured out how not to make charcoal, is that they don't cook very fast; there's only seven at a time, and by the time numbers 8 through 14 are done, numbers 1 through 7 are either nibbled away or stone cold. So I wouldn't recommend this for anything requiring a hot meal, but pancakes are reheatable, and other baked goods are just as tasty at room temp, and I think it'll be okay.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

School Lunches in Other Countries

Okay, any of us who have had school lunches here in American schools know that the food is crap. Half my elementary school years were in Scotland, and while the UK has notoriously bad food in their schools (at least until Jamie Oliver fixed it in the last few years), I can tell you from experience that the American schools I went to right after had much worse food. Squishy flat pizzas that taste like plastic and ketchup? Cardboardy hamburgers? Slimy salads that do nothing at all to convince kids to eat veggies? No thanks!

And then, there are articles like the one listed above that talk about food in other countries, and it just pisses me off. I'm glad I don't have kids, because I don't have the time to devote to making them have better food and organizing a school garden, and if I did have kids eating school lunches, that's exactly what I would have to do, because I just can't allow my kids to have heart attacks at age ten because of school making them fat.

Did you know that in Italy, France and Japan, lunch is part of the curriculum, teaching kids about good manners, nutrition, local produce, local foodways, food history, food production, organic growing, civil responsibility, and any of a number of other things Americans could use some schooling on? I didn't. And now I'm really upset.