Wednesday, October 7, 2009
All of John Thorne's books are good. I'm finally settling down with "Mouth Wide Open: A Cook and His Appetite" which actually came out last year but I gave away my copy as a present. New copy showed up today. Hard to stop reading and actually cook dinner!
Thorne writes about food in ways that bring little gasps and smiles of recognition to any true food lover. He truly loves things that taste good, whether highbrow or lowbrow. He has a gift of sharing the sensation he's enjoyed. Choosing a recipe by appetite, slicing an onion, frying an egg, even doctoring canned tamales with shredded cheese and pricey Austrian pumpkinseed oil: all grist for his mill. And the tiny essay "Five Month Old Croissant" made me laugh out loud.
Here is a sample of what I love about Thorne, comparing soup to a bright spring morning: "When Matt and I began to eat the minestrone, we kept wondering what the spinach, the zucchini, the parsley, the potato, etcetera, did for the dish; perhaps some of these components could be left out. But gradually we came to understand that each did do something, even if we couldn't easily put our finger on it...pause and pay attention and a quiet pleasure unfolds, one that has a depth to which you were previously oblivious, a harmony composed of many now identifiable parts...the main goal of the cook is to let all the parts shine through."
This minestrone recipe is about technique as much as ingredients, like nearly every dish Thorne dissects and analyzes. Days after reading the chapter, I went and made a pretty good minestrone out of the leftover vegs in the fridge. It wasn't quite his recipe, but now I've made it my own, which is the whole point of his cookery exercises.
And I can particularly relate to this passage, having once been a recipe hoarder:
"...you would have found a single file folder containing, say, twenty or thirty recipes for French onion soup. I didn't collect these because I thought that one day I'd hold a cook-off to discover which one was best. No, like a teenage boy who covers his bedroom wall with photographs of Christina Aguilera, I just couldn't have too many glimpses of the same desirable object."
He goes on and on about spaghetti with simple savory toppings, such as anchovies, olives and capers. Similar to a dish I used to make but forgot about. Now I've rediscovered it for weekend lunches. Spouse heartily approves, since I seem to have a blind spot about cooking weekend lunches.
The recipes are nice, but I also read Thorne for the same reasons I read Oliver Sacks or Stephen Jay Gould. I learn something and enjoy the intellectual exercise, but I enjoy the words for themselves too. Damn good writing.
Friday, September 25, 2009
Many stands offer Concord grapes and various other lambrusca varieties. I'm a wuss and I like seedless grapes best, and a few years ago I fell in love with Canadice grapes. They're only available for a few weeks starting in September, and only a few stands offer them. They are AWESOME. They taste like sweet juicy spicy mildly grape-flavored candies. The skins are a tiny bit tough but stuff enough in your mouth and you hardly notice. I ate a whole bunch on the bus going home. Spouse ate another bunch waiting for dinner. The bunches are small and very tightly packed, so this is not as indulgent as it sounds. And, y'know, grapes!
Shishito peppers are wholly new to me. I found them at a stand offering lots of other Asian veggie varieties. They look a bit like skinny, dark green pepperoncini. The helpful written sign said they should be seared in hot oil and eaten sprinkled with salt. Folks on line seem to agree. I will try these. I love roasted green peppers more than red peppers, especially in salad, so I'll probably like them. But I cooked gumbo tonight, so maybe tomorrow.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Monday, August 31, 2009
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Then I got fancy with the leftovers. The next night I added chopped Al Fresco All Natural chicken sausage and made a heartier soup that way. It was good.
The final installment, there being not much left, took another tack. I sauteed 1/2 lb pork sausage and added the remaining soup, minus the broth (it went down the sink...). I whirled 2 fist-sized pieces of fresh baguette and a couple ounces white cheddar in the food processor. I stuck 2 cleaned halves of an acorn squash and 2 hollowed-out red peppers in the oven to pre-cook at 400 degrees (oiled and salted) about 10 minutes. I combined the sausage/soup and the bread/cheese, mixed in an egg and some extra oregano and thyme, and pushed the mixture into the squash halves and peppers. Baked them 40 minutes at 375. Cooked some broccoli rabe in olive oil. All good...the squash, fresh from the greenmarket, was awesome meaty tasty wonderful, the stuffing bold and chewy. But we still have leftovers. Spouse will take them to work for lunch.
I had different plans for tonight's dinner: I had a couple bottles of beer chilling too. Because dinner was spicy black beans with sun-dried tomato chicken sausage, served with a polenta casserole.* Spicy black beans with Suavignon Blanc?!? Horrors! The wine could never withstand such an assault! Never!
Well, duh. Spouse was entirely right. The wine was delicious with the food. Better than even a lighter less tannic red wine would have been. Better than a Riesling or Gewurtztraminer? Dunno. Maybe. This is a rich, complex Suav Blanc: fruity, dry, flinty, but also spicy, nearly as aggressive as an unoaked Chardonnay. Sipping it alone it's just plain delicious. I'm impressed.
*Spicy black beans: saute chopped onion, chopped red pepper, chopped zucchini, sliced chicken sausage (Al Fresco All Natural brand, from the supermarket); add 1 can black beans, 1 chopped beefsteak tomato, 1 ear corn sliced off the cob; add spices salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, oregano, thyme, Penzey's Chili 9000 blend. Cook about 20 minutes total.
Polenta casserole (based on a 1997 Food & Wine Magazine recipe): chop & saute (in grapeseed oil) 1 small onion, 1 small red pepper, 1 yellow or green zucchini; cool slightly. Beat 2 eggs with 1-1/2 cup milk; add 3/4 cup cornmeal/polenta, 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, salt, 1 tsp dry thyme. Combine with cooled veg. Pour into casserole dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes. Makes 4-5 servings.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Orchid people buy hybrid seedlings rather than clones because it's exciting to be the first on your block to see the results from a good hybrid. Sometimes all we ever see from a hybrid cross is one clone, maybe two, that hits the mass market because the original grower decided to bloom out the seedlings and pick the best early bloomers for themselves. Sometimes only a few plants from a cross are any good, and they never get cloned at all; we see them in the award pages, and none others.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Chop about 1 cup yellow onion, 1/2 cup of sweet red pepper, mince a clove of garlic, saute in 2 tbsp olive oil with salt and pepper. Chop 1 or 2 zucchini into dice (depends how much you like zucchini), add to the pot. Chop about 3 fist-sized beefsteak tomatoes, coarsely, and add to the pot before the zucchini is quite cooked. Slice the kernels from 3-4 ears of corn (depending on size); bicolor or yellow corn is best, being more flavorful. Add to the pot. The mixture is likely a bit thick, even though the tomatoes are yielding their juice, so add water til it looks "soupy" to your liking. Add seasonings at this point: more salt and pepper, and whatever fresh summer herbs you like...basil, thyme, rosemary, parsley, diced scallions, dill...in whatever quantity suits your taste. Cover and cook over very low heat about 10 minutes.
Serve with crusty dunkable bread, and plenty of sharp white cheddar cheese. Hot sauce optional. Chilled rose, vinho verde, suavignon blanc or reisling go great with this.
Makes 4 servings
My lazy-ass version of boulliabaise. Make the above recipe but make several additions: finely chopped fresh fennel bulb to taste; fish and/or seafood; and instead of water use white wine, clam juice or mild fish stock.
The fish can be any firm white fish that won't fall apart into mushy bits: cod, scrod, halibut, hake, rockfish, tilapia, catfish, baja, snapper, grouper...see, anything! Oily fish like bluefish or salmon aren't to my taste, but you can try. Be my guest. Cut the fillets in bite-size pieces, keeping in mind that some pieces will flake apart, and add them to the pot so they get cooked no more than 10 minutes. Small shrimp, cut-up squid and whole live mussels are also very good additions. They need only about 5 minutes cooking.
Feel free to season this version liberally with pepper and herbs. Add a splash of dry white wine if you didn't use fish stock or clam juice. A splash of Pernod or other anise liqueur just before the tomatoes go in, will add to that mock-bouilliabaise sensation.
Serve with crusty bread. Hot sauces are optional, but we really like Outerbridge Sherry Peppers Sauce with this -- the real stuff from Bermuda. We might have to take another cruise there to stock up again. White or rose wine, or Belgian or German-style wit (white or wheat) beer are excellent accompaniment.
Indian Tomato-Corn-Lentil Chowder
Makes 4 servings
This takes the whole concept to a new level. It's slightly more complicated, but in the end just as flexible to adjust to your tastes.
After the onion, garlic and red pepper are sauteeing in a neutral oil (like grapeseed), add a tablespoon of yellow or black whole mustard seeds. Stir well. Add at least a teaspoon each of ground cumin, ground coriander, turmeric and (horrors!) commercial curry powder you like. Cayenne pepper or fresh hot peppers are optional. Add the zucchini and the tomatoes. Immediately add 1 cup of cleaned rinsed red split lentils, and at least 1 cup of water. The red lentils need at least 15 minutes to become soft. Add the corn as they're softening. Add chopped spinach, or purslane, if available. Also add a generous cup of chopped coriander/cilantro before turning off the heat.
Serve with crusty bread or naan, plenty of thick strained yogurt, and chilled lager or pilsener. Riesling or Gewurtztraminer are also good.
Purslane is easy to find in the Union Square Greenmarket in summer, especially on Saturdays. It's commonly used in Turkish and Indian cooking as a green vegetable, and a lovely person I know from Ravelry who owns a farm also adds it to salads. It adds quite a nutritional punch to this soup, making it a real one-bowl meal.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Thursday setup was overcast and [we] only began after 1pm, we left at about 7pm, stopped at Friendlys for dinner, and thanks to rain and slightly slowed traffic on the NJ Tpike didn't roll back into New York City til pretty late...reached my front door at 11:30pm. Hit Facebook, my email, uploaded pictures, and finally got to bed 1am. Up again at 5:15am, out the door by 5:35am for bagels at H&H on 2nd Ave, into a cab, and over to the west side to await my ride. I have never ever got across town in only 5 minutes before. 1 minute from 79th & 2nd to 79th and 5th!! The five of us arrived in timely fashion: parked at exactly 8:30am, as intended! The 2 folks clerking went off to work. The rest of us went shopping. O god did we go shopping. Eventually we made it to the show...left at a reasonable time mid-afternoon...I got home 7pm, ready for a sashimi delivery dinner.
Having taken well over 1000 digital pix and still going through them, I took a break today from culling and naming them and finally tucked my new babies into their new home. Only 12, not as bad as it could have been. Paphs and mini phals and a few choice species. Can't make sense of them yet...have too much to do after so many days burning out on orchids...will photograph them and list them eventually.
Monday, March 23, 2009
So I took after both parents, and ended up a graphic designer using Adobe PageMaker and InDesign and Photoshop. I was pretty good at math, in 10th and 11th grade, and by then I'd heard of Basic...so in college, in 1980, I took my first computer programming class even though I'd already declared an art major. PL-C. Piece of cake! Assembler was a bit less cakey...and I stumbled blindly through Fortran hating every minute of it. No more programming classes. Painting and printmaking, much better. I still liked computers though. I admired a college screenwriting teacher who admitted she wrote several novels so she could afford a computer and printer in order to write more novels. (Is that tech-ie? Maybe...)
So I learned to use word processors, and bought my first (Radio Shack) PC (no hard drive) in 1986. Bought my next one (30 mb hard drive) in 1987. Cruel irony had me doing both DBase IV programming and PageMaker classes for a job. And even crueller irony that in a corporate role as a graphic designer/business communications guru I now and then ended up using my old nemesis Fortran on the VAX system to gather data. Irony complete when I, a designer on PCs, married a man who programmed on Macs. I'm writing this blog entry on my 7th lifetime owned computer.
But all this is everyday stuff. I'm just a geeky, nerdy female human who is not scared of math or technology, and make use of computers my everyday life. I admire everyone of my generation, and older, who has done this, same as I admire everyone who incorporates art in their everyday lives (by playing music or drawing or writing or taking pictures or dancing, whatever moves them).
I'm dedicating this (uh, mostly autobiographical) Ada Lovelace Day blog post to ladies of my personal acquaintance: Dr Margaret McMahon (rocket scientist) and Lori Bechtold (aircraft engineer). Fellow alumni of Hunter College High School, class of 78/79. We bonded over a mutual love of science fiction. They do stuff I can barely wrap my brain around, and they do it well, and I am extremely glad we live in a world where they and other women like them were encouraged and able to make the most of their talents and interests. You rock.
And also honorable mention to Barbara Krasnoff, who writes so well about techie-computer matters and makes it accessable to many other people over the years. And who also entered my life through interest in science fiction. And, Happy Birthday, Barbara!
May all of us be so fortunate as to find their bliss and follow it.
Paphiopedilum (Stone Lovely x In-Charm White) is pretty awesome. I've seen few In Charm hybrids I haven't coveted. Love love love the perfect egg-shaped greeny pouch! Love those spotty petals! And it's got slightly mottled leaves, with multiple growths, so here's hoping it's a piece of cake to keep going.
The first time I cook a "new" type of fish I try to keep it as simple as possible, so we can really taste the fish itself and not just the seasoning. So I used butter/olive oil as the cooking fat, and used only salt and pepper on the fish. The fillet was about 3/4 inch thick, and cooked up in the usual amount of time, less than 10 minutes.
As warned, the skin was rubbery and not appealing to eat. The flesh itself was not flaky, cooked texture very similar to tuna, firm and meaty. And it tasted a bit like tuna too, like yellowfin steaks cooked well done. Interesting. But no compusion for a repeat.
Then we tried Alaskan black cod fillet, which also was abundant in the fish dept. I know I cooked it at least once or twice before but couldn't remember the results, which probably says much. This is the fish that Japanese restaurants (Nobu first, I think) marinate in miso before grilling. I did the minimal-seasoning thing again, in butter/oil again, but I added a dash of Penzey's Sunny Paris seasoning. The skin and flesh both browned nicely. The flesh was amazingly light on the tongue, like sole or turbot, and quite tasty. I'll use less oil next time...
Local wine store's March sales include Notro 2007 Torrontes, a lovely white wine from Argentina. The label boasts pairing with salads, light fish dishes, and spicy Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese cuisine. They're right! Excellent with all the white fishes we've been eating. And with sushi too. REALLY good with sushi.
Please note: Penzeys Spices ROCK. I miss Ariana's Caravan being the spice merchant of Grand Central's food market, but Penzey's is totally cool too. I have never in my life used pre-blended seasonings other than Herbs de Provence or curry powder, feeling they were somehow cheating. And yes, pre-mixed curry powder is not subtle and I really only use it on a few vegs like buttered corn, when I'm too lazy to make my own mix for a small quantity. But Sunny Paris is completely addictive, utterly delicious, and I never would've thought of it myself. Contains purple shallots, chives, green peppercorn, basil, tarragon, chervil, bay leaf and dill weed. Smells a bit sharp in the bottle, but once it hits the warmth of the pan it transforms and blossoms into come-hither yumminess perfect on fish, chicken, veggies, mashed potatoes and eggs. The price is pretty steep but a little goes a long way. Entirely worth it.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
A few of us went to Silva Orchids in January for their open house, and as usual found some nifty things. Paph (argus x niveum) has 2 big healthy growths. I'm such a sucker for paph primaries. Paph (Pinocchio x armeniacum) is a real honey, not the best shape in the world but great color and it lasts a long time. (see above) I also got Coelogyne mossiae even though I'll probably kill it even before summer begins. Guest vendor Cal-Orchid had brilliant offerings, and I picked up a fantastic Oeniella polystachys in spike, and a robust Leptotes bicolor in bud.
And then, the Deep Cut Orchid Show and all its vendors and splendors...I'm still wondering just where everything will end up, but I'm very pleased with the goodies I scored.
Saturday, January 31, 2009
For 4 people:
Saute 1 chopped large onion, 1 chopped small fennel bulb, in olive oil, until translucent.
Add a generous spoonful of minced garlic.
Add 2 regular cans petite diced tomatoes (organic plz - Muir Glen or Del Monte)
Add 2 small bottles clam juice (I'm lucky to get a no-preservatives brand), or 2 cups fish stock
Add generous spoonful each fresh or dried thyme and oregano. Grind a lot of pepper too.
(Salt optional, unless it's low-sodium tomatoes)
Add: 1 can white beans, or 1 cup frozen baby limas
Add: several handfuls of baby spinach
Simmer about 5 minutes to get flavors blended.
Add: 1 lb mixed white fish fillets & steaks, deboned & skinned, cut into bite-size pieces (I've used hake, baja, blackfish, halibut...whatever's cheap is fine, and frozen is ok).
I also like to add a few shrimp for flavor too, no shells, cut in bite-size bits. Squid are great, cut into bite-size bits. Clams or mussels too. As many as you like per person.
SIMMER until the fish are all cooked through, and tender, about 7 minutes.
Optional: chopped red pepper, chopped celery to taste. That becomes more gumbo-like.
Serve with firm crusty dunkable bread, and Outerbridge Bermudan Sherry Peppers Sauce.
Also a nice dry white wine, like a Suavignon Blanc, or La Vielle Ferme Cotes du Luberon Blanc, or Sancerre...or else a wheat beer like Hoegaarten.
I promise you it's really good.
David Byrne & Brian Eno "Everything that Happens will Happen Today": "Rei Momo" and "Uh-Oh" were terrific, but this might be Byrne's best solo album. Not coincidentally, it sounds the most like the last couple of Talking Heads albums. Catchy melodies, great arrangements, everything you'd hope for from a Byrne-Eno project.
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds "Dig Lazarus Dig": I'm not the only listener who thinks Cave has finally made a commercial-sounding album. And I really like it. I would worry if Cave ever created an easy-to-listen-to record, and this comes close on a few tracks, but his lyrics are as edgy and amusing as ever. So whew.
Derek Trucks Band "Already Free": My new favorite album! My god this is good stuff. Super-sophisticated Allmans-flavored rock, virtuoso guitar and soulful manly singing, great songs...the radio track, Dylan cover "Down in the Flood", is just a taste of what awaits. Their earlier album "Songlines" was more experimental with world-music flavors and I'd love to hear more of that from this band, but I'm quite satisfied as is.
Responding well to improved care -- lots more water, and a boost closer to the light source -- my supposed B. makoyanum has flowered again. As I remembered, it's yellow and daisy-shaped. But it's not B. makoyanum. The flowers are too short. They're not rolled. What I've in fact got is another Cirrhopetalum flabellovernis, a yellow-er form than my other plant.
Well, I'll keep both. They're cute. I like them. But I seriously, seriously have to repot both too. They have never been repotted. I hate repotting bulbophyllums. I am going to use very shallow pots and fill them with bark and sphagnum moss and hope for the best...tomorrow.