Sunday, August 31, 2008

Two Product Alerts

First, an Awesome Product Alert:

Trader Joe's Hatch Chili Bread. Chewy crust, good crumb, a little spice. Perfect for topping with, well, anything.

Second, a Not-So-Awesome Product Alert:

The San Diego Soap Company Honey and Blackberry Hand Soap. It's a good soap with a good fragrance, but given the name, I was expecting something locally produced. Upon further inspection, I see it's distributed by Universal Products in Clinton Township MI, and made in China. Local fail.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

English Muffins

I made my own English muffins! They don't have the holes of a package of Thomas', and if you bought these in the store, they'd probably be labeled "slightly irregular". But they're delicious!

The dough is really sticky, so be prepared for a fight. Also, mine turned out huge(!), so I'd probably make 12 next time instead of 8. And because they were so big, they took a little longer than 6 minutes per side.

Overall, not bad for a first try. Thanks to Gretchen Noelle at Canela & Camino for the recipe!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Short Ribs with Coffee and Chiles

Tonight's dinner was Short Ribs with Coffee and Chiles, shredded and turned into small burritos. Since the short ribs came from my freezer, it's perfect as an entry to Mele Cotte's Deep Freeze Summer Challenge 2.

I followed the NY Times recipe, using one mulato chile and one pasilla oaxaca chile, and baking at 300 degrees for 2.5 hours. The meat and the sauce were separated and refrigerated overnight. Today I removed massive amounts of fat from the sauce, shredded the meat, then mixed meat with sauce and reheated.

I also quick-pickled some sliced red onion in red wine vinegar, quartered a few baby limes, and chopped some cilantro.

Mini-burrito assembly: Heat a tortilla over a gas flame, spread some meat in the center, top with red onions and cilantro, sprinkle with lime juice, and roll. Served with lemon & chile powder cucumber salad.

If you are thinking of making this, be forewarned - it's not health food. Even after removing the fat from the sauce, there's still plenty left, because short ribs aren't exactly lean. But the pickled onion and lime juice help cut through the richness somewhat, so you don't feel gross after eating.

I'm not sure how much of the coffee or red wine flavor came through in the meat - everything kind of blended together to make a rich, earthy, slightly bitter sauce.

Hubby said it was too bitter, even though he has previously claimed he loves bitter (hmm...maybe that's why he married me). MIL loved it, couldn't stop telling me how good it was. I'm somewhere in the middle - I'll make something like this again, but probably without the coffee to reduce the bitterness, and maybe with a pot roast-type cut for a less fatty final product. I guess that would make it a completely different dish, but for me, it's all about the chiles (and cleaning out the freezer!).

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Vespa vs. Laundry

So we were all set to fix the Vespa, so I could get 50 mpg instead of 20. Isn't she pretty?

She doesn't need much - new battery, oil change, new tires.

But guess what? See the empty space in my garage?

Yeah, there should be a clothes washer there. Stupid thing decided it liked being full of water and refused to spin or drain.

So tomorrow I get a new (used) washer. And the poor Vespa has to sit unused for a while longer.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Braised Greens and Lentils

Susan over at The Well-Seasoned Cook is hosting a second helping of My Legume Love Affair. Since I most definitely love legumes, especially lentils, I had to join in. It's still really warm here (87 today), so I was originally thinking salad. But when I saw the beautiful kale and mustard greens at the market, I couldn't help but change my mind, and go with a braised greens and lentils dish.

I got the idea from Michel Richard's Collard Greens and Lentils, posted by Luisa at The Wednesday Chef. I figured since the oven was set only at 250, it wouldn't heat up the kitchen too much.

I replaced the collard greens in the original recipe with 1 bunch each of kale and mustard greens. I also added a minced garlic clove, and drastically reduced the balsamic vinegar down to only 1 teaspoon. And added a ton of black pepper.

You could easily make this vegetarian/vegan by using veggie broth and omitting the bacon. In fact, I'm not sure the bacon added anything essential, so I may just do that next time. Or, you could do a 180, and make it less vegetarian by adding chopped boiled smoked hamhock.

This turned out amazing - chewy lentils, slightly bitter greens, some acidity from the vinegar - in a word, spectacular (although not terribly photogenic!).

Friday, August 22, 2008

Electro-shock Therapy?

I'm used to electric shocks. Mild ones, anyway. Every time I flip on my garbage disposal, I have to make sure my hands are dry, otherwise I get a small zap. I've been zapped at work because of a faulty extension cord. No big deal, just a little annoying. But...

The shock I got today was an order of magnitude higher than anything else I had previously experienced. I had finished testing some PC boards, and was putting the test fixture away. I grabbed the metal frame with my right hand, and...BZZZZTTTT!!!!

Holy crap! (Not the words I used, but hey, this is a PG blog.) It hurt so bad and scared me so much I was almost in tears.

The test technician in the room ran over and asked what happened. I told him I got shocked. He touched the frame...nothing...I touched it again...nothing...

My hand still buzzing, I went to the geek-in-charge (a mousy little PhD in physics with a short-man complex, but that's a whole other story), and told him what happened. We went back to the lab, took the fixture and an ohmmeter, and started investigating. Turns out, the metal frame wasn't grounded because of a loose standoff on a power supply. A simple 3/4 turn of the standoff, and all was well.

Except for my hand. Still buzzing, 30 minutes later. And I have a little burn on my pinky. Maybe I should get a pair of electrical protective gloves.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


I bought some wheatberries today.

Now what the hell do I do with them?

Dinner from the freezer

I really want to participate in Mele Cotte's Deep Freeze Summer Challenge - make a dish created from the depth of your freezer. Summer cleaning, if you will.

Last night's dinner qualifies, but I'm not going to submit it, because there wasn't any actual cooking involved (cooking being defined as combining ingredients, usually with some sort of heating mechanism, to produce dinner). Plus, once again, I don't have any pictures. And I think any pics I would have taken wouldn't have produced a Pavlovian response in anyone.

In my freezer, I had a box of steamer clams in garlic butter sauce from Trader Joe's, along with a loaf of garlic bread from Food4Less. I baked the bread, and heated the clams. Bingo, bam, whatever, done. Tasty.

I was initially skeptical about the frozen clams...I was sure they'd be gritty and taste frozen. But they were better than some "fresh" clams I've had. Chewy, tender, no grit, decent sauce. So if you're near a TJ's, picking up their frozen boxed steamers isn't a terrible idea.

And tonight's dinner kind of qualifies too, because MIL made lasagna with ground beef from the freezer. But I'm not about to publish her secret recipe because she'd probably kill me.

I've still got almost a whole month to come up with a suitable dish for Mele Cotte's challenge - I've got my eye on some short ribs currently lounging on my freezer's second shelf...maybe braised with chiles and coffee...we'll see.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream

David Lebovitz is my new favorite person. This coffee ice cream from The Perfect Scoop was super-simple and absolutely delicious.

Brew coffee with 1/2 cup of grounds and 1 1/2 cups of water. This should yield about a cup. Whisk the coffee together with a can (~400g) of sweetened condensed milk, and 1/3 cup of whole milk. I used skim milk mixed with half & half, because that's what I had. Chill thoroughly in the freezer, then chuck it in your ice cream maker. While it's churning, add a large pinch of coffee grounds. When done, scoop into containers and freeze. It won't freeze as hard as regular ice cream, and it melts really fast. I think it's because of the sweetened condensed milk, but I'm a chemist, not a food scientist, so what do I know?

Make this. You'll love it. Unless you don't like coffee, in which case, I can't help you.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Food Allergies

It appears I have oral allergy syndrome. Now, I'm not a hypochondriac, quite the opposite. I steadfastly refuse to believe there's anything wrong with me unless I have unassailable truth. However, over the last 5 years or so, my reactions to certain foods have increased and escalated. I can't ignore them - it's difficult to ignore incessant itching and swelling in your mouth and throat.

I underwent allergy testing as a teenager, little injections of known allergens under your skin. If they swell, you're allergic. I think I was diagnosed with cat and pollen allergies. Allergy immunotherapy was the treatment. I'm pretty sure it didn't work, because I'm still allergic to my cat, as well as most green growing things, especially ones with flowers. Thank God my cat doesn't flower.

Then in my late 20s, I started having food allergies. Avocado, cantaloupe, walnuts, pineapple, watermelon. Who in the hell is allergic to watermelon? It's mostly water, for God's sake! But, yeah, lucky me.

Damn conformational epitopes.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Too Many Figs! Help!

As predicted, I have too many figs. Don't believe me? Think it's not possible?

Anybody want some? (I've got a smaller tree with purple ones, too.) If you're in San Diego, let me know!

Zucchini Patties

No pictures of last night's dinner, Zucchini Patties, courtesy of Peter at Kalofagas, for a number of reasons/excuses, in no particular order:
  1. I was hungry
  2. I'm lazy
  3. It was getting dark
  4. Peter's picture is better than mine
No pictures of the tzatziki I made either (I don't photograph white things so well).

So, forgive me, then go to Peter's blog and bookmark the recipe.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


Aren't they pretty? We picked them up at Nijiya Market on Convoy St. in San Diego (along with a ton of other stuff).

I was going to ask for suggestions on what to do with them, but I ate one - loved its apple-pear-banana-something-else flavor...but...I'm allergic. So Hubby will get to eat them straight out of their skins, and not have to worry about me messing with them.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Omnivore's 100

I found this through Jerry, who got it from Krista, who got it from Last Night's Dinner, who got it from Very Good Taste.

Here's the deal . . .

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at linking to your results.

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare

5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart

16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float

36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat

42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk

45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky

84. Tasting menu at a three- Michelin -star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano

96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee

100. Snake

I'm a bit confused by #63 Kaolin...from what I can find, it's a type of clay...and some people (mostly in Georgia, according to the interwebs) eat it...WTF?

Also, I've had rabbit (yum), but not hare, but I still think that's good enough to bold #86.

And, I've just spent about 30 minutes trying to get the HTML tags to print out to show how to cross out items (like I did for #75 Roadkill), but Blogger won't let me. So, I'm going to be daring and slightly rude, and modify VGT's instructions - if you wouldn't ever try something, make it red, or type a big NOOOO!!!!! after it. :-)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Parmesan and Smoked Paprika Biscuits

I had these parmesan and smoked paprika biscotti bookmarked from Il Cavoletto di Bruxelles for a while, and last night finally decided it had cooled down enough to turn on the oven to 400 degrees.

All you do is mix butter with parmesan, then flour, smoked paprika, salt, and an egg yolk. Roll up, refrigerate overnight, slice, and bake.

They taste just like a Cheez-It! I think next time I make them I'll slice them thinner, and maybe add a little more paprika, or some black pepper.

If you like cheesy crackery biscuity things, make these!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Twice Baked Potatoes with Gruyere and Escarole

This is my favorite twice-baked potato recipe by far. The original came from Great Greens by Georgeanne Brennan. The book has some great photography (by Frankie Frankeny), good enough to make you want to eat your vegetables. The first part of the book is a comprehensive guide to everything green, giving information on nutrition, preparation, gardening and storing.

Then come the recipes. Chard and Lentil Soup with Duck Confit. Yes, please. Gratin of Belgian Endive with Pancetta. Don't mind if I do. Don't worry, there are plenty of vegetarian recipes too, like this one.

Coat your potatoes in olive oil, then bake for about an hour at 400, depending on size. The skins will get shiny and crinkly, which helps them hold up to stuffing and more baking. Let cool so you don't burn your fingers, then cut in half, and scoop out the insides to form a shell for stuffing.

While the potatoes are baking, wilt chopped escarole (tough stems and darkest outer leaves removed) in butter, covered. Add a little chicken broth, cover, and braise for a bit. Remove the cover and raise the heat a little until most of the liquid is evaporated.

Mix the scooped-out potato with cubed Gruyere, the braised escarole (drained), ground pepper and a little salt. Careful on the salt, 'cause there's cheese. Top with a little grated Gruyere, and bake for about 30 minutes.

These make a great side dish, but I usually have a couple halves by themselves for dinner (doused in hot sauce, of course).

Monday, August 11, 2008

Fried Chicken and Collard Greens

MIL made fried chicken wings and collard greens yesterday. I think I'm still full over 24 hours later. (I ate lunch today out of habit, not out of hunger.)

She marinated the wings in 4 different types of mustard (yes, I have 4 types of mustard in my fridge, probably 5 or 6), garlic powder, garlic salt, onion powder, black pepper and Accent. Then she coated them in a mix of Dixie Fry and Luzianne with a little flour, and some seasoning. Then fried in canola oil until crispy and happy. Served with homemade red chili sauce.

The collards started with a pot of water and a hamhock, boiled forever with onion and garlic. She hacked up the hock, returned it to the pot with the chopped greens, some white vinegar, and some seasonings, and simmered until done. I was a little disappointed with the hamhock - it was mostly fat, barely any meat. But the greens were still incredible tasty.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Fig Chutney

I've got too many figs!

I got so excited when I saw this recipe on half baked for fig chutney - yay! a new way to use figs! - that I jumped out of my chair and immediately picked a couple pounds of figs from the tree. Then I ran to the store and bought an apple. And got home and found out we were out of onions (!). Then re-read the recipe and realized I was supposed to use 2 1/2 cups of red wine vinegar. I had about 3/4 of a cup, so I replaced the missing part with 1/4 cup of orange champagne vinegar, 1/2 cup of rice vinegar, and a cup of white wine vinegar. And I added a minced jalapeno from my garden.

So here's my spicy onionless multi-vinegar fresh fig chutney. (Did you hear that, Chris Kimball? I modified a recipe!)

Served on a cracker with brie. Mmm...

Saturday, August 9, 2008

My First Clafoutis

After seeing tons of clafoutis all over the blogworld, I finally decided I had to make one. Or, in this case, four. I had picked up a set of four cast iron ramekins for only $10 about a year ago, and I've only used them once, for a baked spinach and egg dish. While they do look nice stacked on my counter, they were begging to be used.

When I came across Eric Ripert's recipe for raspberry clafoutis, I decided that was the recipe to go with, not because I trusted it (what do I know about clafoutis?), but because his ramekin looks like mine!

Unfortunately, however, his clafoutis most definitely does not look like mine. I think mine were confused, and thought they were supposed to be souffles. Or because I left them in the oven a little too long, they decided to try to escape.

Speaking of confused clafoutis, I'm unsure of the correct spelling. "Clafoutis" gives 909,000 Google results, but "clafouti" only gives 187,000. But Ripert spells it "clafouti". And Wikipedia says "clafouti, sometimes spelled clafoutis". I think I'll just make sure to keep it plural, that way I won't have to worry about it.

In the end, it didn't really matter how much I screwed up, because my wanna-be clafoutisouffles sure tasted good.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Leek and Onion Tart

This recipe is courtesy of Chuck at Sunday Nite Dinner, who is also the creator of Food Gawker, the best (imho) Tastespotting replacement out there. His picture is much better than mine, go look! (Sorry, I can't be bothered to figure out anything on my camera other than the Macro button. Maybe one of these days...)

You start by making a bread dough and caramelizing onions and leeks. A whole boatload of onions and leeks. So much of a boatload that my biggest skillet wasn't big enough, and my onions were steaming instead of caramelizing. So I removed the parchment paper and cranked up the heat a little, and all was well.

When the dough has risen and the onions are brown and sweet and happy, you stretch out the dough, spread it with mustard, spread the onions on top, and top with grated parmesan. Then bake for a while (25 minutes was enough for mine).

You end up with the best leek and onion tart you've ever tasted.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Green Chile Salsa

MIL showed me how to make her delicious green chile salsa today.

Roast, peel and stem a large skilletful of yellow chiles. You know the ones, shaped kind of like fat jalapenos, but yellow. Chop them up, seeds included, until the pieces are very small and there's a lot of liquid.

To the chiles, add 3 minced cloves of garlic, half a minced white or yellow onion, a couple chopped green onions, and a handful of chopped cilantro.

Season to taste with garlic salt, onion salt, and table salt. Yeah, that's a lot of salt products, but salsa needs salt.

Serve with anything, from meat, to eggs, to fish, or as a dip for chips.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Children took over my kitchen

Youngest and her friend decided to bake cookies for a friend's birthday. Dough, food coloring and frosting were all purchased independent of any adult intervention. Deciding to let them run with it, I advised against getting food coloring anywhere other than in the frosting, and reminded them that the oven is hot. Then I retreated to the porch, where I could hear what was going on, but wouldn't have to look at it.

Ah, the innocence of children. Well, maybe not, because I distinctly heard "nasty frosting spooge", and, while they were trying to force frosting from a syringe (?!) - "Push, Vanessa, push!", followed by "I feel like I just gave birth."

The fruits of their labor?

a mudkip (apparently a Pokemon thing):

a BIG cookie, aka "Cookie of Epic Proportions":

Put them together, and you get:

Umm...aren't kids great?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Fried Rice (Again!)

It was a clean-out-the-fridge kind of day. Therefore, fried rice.

Cook bacon. Crumble. Drain grease.
Heat skillet on high. Add vegetable oil. Saute red onion, garlic, ginger, carrot, and a few chiles de arbol.
Add cold leftover rice. Mix, stir, let sit, etc. Add soy sauce, and my secret ingredients, a little Chinese black vinegar and some oyster sauce. Mix, stir, let sit, repeat.
Add frozen peas, green garbanzos and cooked bacon. Mix some more. It's ready when you get some crusty rice bits, or when you're too hungry and it's too hot and you can't stand to be over the stove any longer.
Serve with additional soy sauce and Sriracha.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Awesome Product Alert - Sahale Snacks

I picked up a bag of Sahale Snacks Sing Buri cashews today. Flavored with pineapple, lemongrass, soy sauce, sesame seeds and Chinese chili, these cashews (interspersed with peanuts) are mighty tasty. Whenever I try to make spiced nuts, they always lose a lot of their crunch - not so with these! They're salty, spicy, nutty (duh), a little sweet, and a little bit of heat. My kind of snack.

I can't wait to try some of their other flavors - the Ksar pistachios with pepitas, figs, honey and harissa sound delightful, as do the Soledad almonds with flax seeds, dates, balsamic vinegar and cayenne.

At $4.59 for a 5-oz bag - worth it!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Big A$$ Steak

Look what was waiting for me when I walked in the door:

Can you believe the size of that thing? I started by cutting off the larger half, and saving it for lunch tomorrow (steak and eggs with slow roasted tomatoes, anyone?). I ate the remaining part, and the dogs got to nibble the bits from the bone. Happy me. Happy dogs. But now I feel a steak-coma coming on, and need a nap.