Sunday, November 16, 2008

Thanksgiving-Related Musings


Oh. Oh, no. Guys, you're never going to believe this. Sandra Lee, who is on TV as I type, has sunk to an all-time low, from the depths of crapitude to the Level Three Nuclear-Attack-Proof Sub-Basement of Crapitude. She is making "Thanksgiving leftover empanadas." Out of pre-rolled pie crust, leftover mashed potatoes and leftover green bean casserole, seasoned with packaged taco seasoning. TACO SEASONING!

Here's my T-day menu:

Turkey. (um... duh...)
Dressing. I'm a plain bread dressing kind of gal. I like cornbread dressing (and Carrie's chicken and dressing), but the dressing of my childhood is just white bread, celery, onions, poultry seasoning, and broth.
Mashed potatoes. Simple. No herbs, no roasted garlic, just mashed potatoes, milk, butter, and cream cheese, my secret ingredient.
Homemade egg noodles.
Gravy. Gallons of it.
Cranberry sherbet. My mom's family recipe. It's light, tart, sweet, crystalline, refreshing... basically everything that the rest of T-day dinner is not.
Pumpkin pie
Pecan pie

Did you know that there are people who don't like Thanksgiving leftovers? Those people are NUTS. What, I ask you, is not to like about having a fridge full of the best dang food of the whole dang year that you can re-invent into all sorts of delectable treats? Turkey pot pie! Potato cakes! Turkey noodle soup! White turkey chili! Not to mention the sheer joy of cold turkey sandwiches and hot fried dressing. COME ON.

Mmmm... I can't wait until next Thursday...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Food. Again. But Not Really Food Blogging, As Such. Just Read It, OK?

Here's my latest revelation about my eating habits. Do I have the right to cheap food? I was standing in front of the meat counter at Whole Foods the other day, mentally grousing about the prices, when that question popped into my head, followed quickly by, define cheap.

Does "cheap" simply mean the price per pound? Or does cheap mean that the animals were raised, pumped full of antibiotics and hormones, on a factory farm, at whatever cost to the environment and to the health of the livestock itself, then inhumanely slaughtered by poorly-trained and -supervised hourly workers in a massive plant?

It's been something for me to ponder -- as a Christian, how does my God-given responsibility to live with an eternal, Kingdom perspective even now effect how I think about the welfare of creation?

I read a fantastic article a while back, by a woman who buys her meat directly from the "growers" whenever possible, even visiting the operations herself. She wrote about coming to terms with being an omnivore -- recognizing that, every time I bite into a hamburger, I am putting into my body something that was once alive. Ultimately, she's OK with that, and so am I. But the least I can do, she says, is to "look my food in the eye," so to speak -- to know where it comes from, how it was raised and slaughtered, and not simply purchase it in "nuggets" at the drive-through. That really resonated with me.

Any other thoughts?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Food Blogging!!

My friend Kristen came over for dinner tonight, and I made this gorgeous recipe from "A Twist of the Wrist," courtesy of Food and Wine's new website, but discovered (by me) on the lovely Claudia's food blog: Nancy Silverton's lamb meatballs with chickpeas and piquillo peppers.

The original recipe called for lamb, obviously, but being unable to buy good lamb for less than the price of raising a child through college, I opted for ground beef. The verdict? Two very enthusiastic thumbs up. Seriously, it was so flavorful and complex and delicious, and the textures of the chickpeas and the meatballs together -- mmmmmmm... A very big thank you to Claudia for providing the inspiration.

I did make a few subs and additions (duh) since I can't leave well enough alone. I used dry thyme instead of fresh, and added a big heaping tablespoon of lemon zest to the ground meat. I think I also added enough garlic to repel an army of vampires. But it's ok. No handsome men were present at tonight's meal, so we're all good. Actually, no men. At all. I'm not bitter.

A main course this delicious called for a simple but equally delicious dessert. I've been looking for a good way to use up the currants I bought to make hot cross buns, and came across a few recipes for barm brack or tea brack -- fruit-studded Irish sweet breads -- and they were the inspiration for what I eventually came up with: Spiced currant cake. With freshly whipped cream. And a little nutmeg on top. Seriously, somebody stop me before I take over the world with my awesomeness. Did I mention I made up this dadgum recipe?? Because I did.

Oh, you'd like to know how I made it? I thought you'd never ask.

1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup raw (turbinado) sugar
3 eggs
1 T. lemon juice
3/4 c. milk
1 T. lemon zest

2 cups flour
4 t. baking powder
1 scant t. nutmeg
1/2 t. salt

1 c. dried currants

Cream together butter and sugar until very fluffy. Add eggs and beat until frothy, scraping down sides of bowl frequently. Add milk, lemon juice, and lemon zest.

Sift together flour and baking powder and stir in nutmeg and salt. Toss currants in flour mixture. Add to wet ingredients and mix just until moistened, about 30 seconds.

Pour into an 8 x 8 baking pan and bake for 45-55 minutes in a 350 oven, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean but not dry. Serve with freshly whipped cream and garnish with a sprinkling of nutmeg. Devour. Repeat.

Aren't you glad we don't have to graze like cattle? I sure am. Yay food!

Friday, October 17, 2008

And Now For Something Completely Different...

Michael Pollan's beautiful, sweeping, joyous, practical, intense, inspiring, provocative, stunningly magisterial open letter to the incoming president (whoever he may turn out to be) in the Sunday New York Times Magazine section, all about revolutionizing and returning to our agrarian roots.

It's nine pages long, wordy for a newspaper article, but is so thrillingly visionary that you'll be finished before you know it. Can't recommend it highly enough.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Omnivore's Hundred

Thanks to Jen at Last Night's Dinner (my absolute favorite food blog -- check it out and you'll see why) for this fun meme, which she got from Very Good Taste. Instructions follow:

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 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
(Sick. Blood and oats in a casing. Wrong.)
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
(Mmmm, my favorite thing in Hong Kong! Char siu bau!)
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
(Like every year since I was born… duh.)
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
(And it had exactly the same texture as the mushroom soup part of green bean casserole. I.e., not good.)
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper (That would just be stupid.)
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
(well… AN oyster, and it was not pleasant. It looks like a loogie floating in dishwater. The texture is the most appalling I’ve ever experienced. Really, there are no words to describe how disturbing it is.)
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 (would it taste like anything except sweet?)
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 (not a crossout, but whisky = yuck)
46. Fugu (Meh. Bourdain said it was boring, and if you can’t trust Bourdain, who can you trust?)
47. Chicken tikka masala

48. Eel

49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut

50. Sea urchin (*shudder* Texture!!)
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone (see 50. But I’m curious, because what’s-her-name in Island of the Blue Dolphins ate it all the time)
54. Paneer

55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
(Oh, the shame! But never, ever again.)
56. Spaetzle

57. Dirty gin martini
(Cocktail lovers, turn your heads. I hate gin. It tastes like something you’d remove paint with.)
58. Beer above 8% ABV
(Um, duh…)
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
(Unfortunately, and only because Guy Curlee was allergic to chocolate… and everything else.)
61. S’mores

62. Sweetbreads (Not a crossout, but somebody would have to convince me that they’re just divine, because those things are GLANDS. GLANDS, people!)
63. Kaolin (isn’t that a kind of clay?)
64. Currywurst
65. Durian (No, no, absolutely no. Never. Why would you eat a fruit that smells like feta cheese and ammonia?)
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake

68. Haggis (Maybe one bite, on a dare.)
69. Fried plantain

70. Chitterlings, or andouillette (“Chitterlings”? My, my, aren’t we fancy? I believe the correct term is “Chitlins,” y’all.)
71. Gazpacho

72. Caviar and blini (I’m not a huge fan of the caviar. Texture thing again, I think.)
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu (I have a weird feeling this wouldn’t be delicious
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. (Where do I sign up for this?)
85. Kobe beef (Whatever. Trendy foods don’t really do it for me)
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse (I seriously cried when Eight Belles broke her leg at the Derby and had to be put down on the track. I made my parents change the channel so I wouldn’t have to watch her owner, trainer, and jockey sobbing. Do YOU think I’d eat 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 (Lobster is just a meh for me. Maybe I just haven’t had the superlative lobster, but I dunno… seems like for something so expensive they oughta do the work for you.
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Wow! A lot more than I thought. Now you give it a go... Come on!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


At long last, triumph!

The Lord has recently been teaching me humility when it comes to my cooking. I've really taken pride in my culinary ability, but after a long period of failures and semi-failures in the kitchen, I've had three in a row that were total successes. Finally! I'm so excited.

First: White bean soup with Swiss Chard. An invention based on the fact that I wanted soup and had homemade chicken stock, canned cannellini beans (white Italian kidney beans), and a giant bunch of organic Swiss chard on hand. It turned out so luscious and satisfying, not to mention gorgeous.

Second: Russian black rye. I was honestly a bit worried about this one when it came out of the oven -- the crust hadn't set the way I hoped it would, and it felt very heavy! But I sliced into it while still warm, and it was so flavorful and delicious, with a perfect, even, dense texture. The recipe is one from an NPR story about a woman's relationship with her Russian husband's family and the delicious food she learned to make. I did make a couple of minor substitutions (cocoa powder instead of unsweetened chocolate) and omissions (shallot, cumin seed), but followed the recipe with some care otherwise -- a bit unusual for me.

Third: Whole wheat crackers. I'm obsessed with crunchy things (particularly crunchy, sour things... which reminds me that I have kosher dills in my fridge... be right back... mmmm). So I was surfing around for a good cracker recipe, and found these, a basic-but-tweakable cracker to which I added rosemary, garlic, black pepper, and hot Hungarian paprika, and used olive oil instead of vegetable oil. They turned out savory and snackable -- plus the fact that I chose every ingredient that went into them -- no scary hydrogenated oil, no weird, unpronounceable chemicals.

Whew! I was beginning to doubt myself there for a second!