Recipe fantasy to food reality.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Dinner Alone

I have Thursday nights to myself, so I like to make things that my husband won't eat. He once got a terrible stomach flu when we were entering what we had planned on being a month exploring Chinese cuisine, and as a result he can't eat some pretty yummy things, like soy sauce.

I took advantage of my evening alone, and made a stir fry of onions, bok choy, sweet bell peppers and cashews with garlic, soy sauce and ginger. I put it over brown rice (which my husband also hates) and planned my Halloween costume. Delicious.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Saturday Night Dessert

Saturday Night Dinner

Broiled steelhead with serrano pepper and yogurt sauce

1/2 english cucumber, finely grated and drained
1 1/2 cups yogurt
2 serrano peppers, seeded and finely diced
1 teaspoon coarsely crushed cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
This sauce was created by my husband, and it's a really great accompaniment to fish like salmon, steelhead or trout. It's also substantial enough that the sauce itself makes a good snack, so we make plenty.

Roast yukon gold potatoes, shallots and sweet bell peppers, with rosemary and olive oil

Boiled artichoke with drawn butter.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Salty Chops

After having heard Alton Brown disparage the modern pork chop, I thought I would take his suggestion and brine a few of them before cooking and see what happened. I used the brine recipe he gave for his grilled stuffed pork chops, which I'm going to reproduce here, because I just don't think it's right:

2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon peppercorns
1 tablespoon mustard powder
1 pound ice

The directions have you warm the vinegar, and then stir in the salt and brown sugar until dissolved, and then add the seasoning, and then cool the whole mixture with the ice. Now that I'm sitting down to write about it, I realize I completely forgot to add the sugar, but I'm not sure how I could have - I used more like 3/4 cup of salt, and I could not get it to go into solution until I started adding water to increase the volume of liquid. Even then, when I added the ice, salt started crashing back out of solution. Not only did it bring back traumatic memories of chemistry labs, but it nearly became one of those kitchen tantrums that occur when you're making something new and it's already long past dinner time. Maturity did win out, and I brined the chops for about an hour and fifteen minutes before pan-frying them according to another food network recipe, pork chops with mustard bourbon sauce. (Note: listen when they tell you to remove the fat from the pan - igniting the bourbon can turn into a grease fire if you don't. I only had a little fat left in my pan, and it was still rather scary.)

The chops turned out okay, but a saltier than I would like. Maybe the sugar would have cut down on the saltiness, but I guess I'll have to find out next time. Not an incredibly successful dinner, but I've done worse.

How much worse? I was preparing salmon burgers, and thought the whole thing would go a lot faster if I threw the ingredients (eggs, salmon, onions, garlic, breadcrumbs etc.) into the food processor. This did cut down on the prep time, but what came out of the processor was more like a batter than a burger - I'm thinking too much liquid came out of the onions when they were processed so thoroughly. I did try to pour some of it onto a pan, and the result can best be described as a salmon pancake.

We went out for chinese food that night, and now have a little perspective on our cooking flubs. The pork chops might have been too salty, but at least they weren't salmon pancakes.

Monday, October 10, 2005

World's Second-Best Sandwich

When I saw commercials for the movie Spanglish, my two thoughts were these:

1) Not going to go see that movie.


2) Damn that sandwich looks good.

I later created what I had figured was the sandwich I saw, and it really was delicious. One of my favorite meals of all time is now this sandwich and a bowl of french onion soup. In fact, that was my dinner last night so I thought I might write something about it here. It turns out I do have a good eye for sandwiches, but I'm not the first to be impressed by it. In fact, the sandwich existed before the movie, and is widely known as "the world's best sandwich." This is not to mention that it is the creation of the famous chef Thomas Keller.

My formulation is slightly different than the original (healthier, too), so I'll provide it. Maybe it's the world's second-best (or most derivative) sandwich.

2 slices crusty bread, toasted
1 slice jarlsberg, swiss or other mild, nutty cheese
2 slices tomato
2 leaves lettuce
1 egg
whole-grain mustard
salt and freshly-ground black pepper

I'm always a little insulted when I see recipes for sandwiches or pizza in cookbooks, so I won't demean you with unnecessary instructions here. I will note that a good, fresh egg is essential, and that it be cooked soft, so the yolk can seep into the bread.

Also, I saw the movie and found it to be baffling but unimpressive. I guess I'm also a good judge of movie previews.


I didn't tell my mother until after I was married that my husband just doesn't like her salsa. Last weekend, my mother and I made a big batch out at her house. It's really different from what you generally expect of salsa: no spices or seasonings other than garlic, and rather than being salty, it's somewhat sweet. I grew up on it, and really like it for what it is. To me, it really emphasizes the character of the vegetables that go into it.

9 lbs tomatoes
8-12 green bell peppers
12 jalapenos
6 anaheim chiles
8 medium onions
10 cloves of garlic
24 oz tomato paste
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp salt
1 1/2 cup vinegar

Peel and chop tomatoes, and simmer in a large pot until soft. Chop remaining ingredients (I like the garlic to be chopped roughly, so you get big sweet chunks of it), and add to pot. Simmer for 25 more minutes until soft. Stir in tomato paste, sugar, salt and vinegar. Taste and adjust seasoning. Pack in hot jars, and seal with hot lids. Process 30 minutes for quarts and 25 minutes for pints. Yields 10 quarts or 21 pints.

Babies are People Too

I'm not going to comment at length on this, because I don't really know anything about raising kids (See my post about not having a sweet potato pie in the oven.). Still, I thought this article about feeding babies a variety of foods was a great thing to see. When I was a kid, I really had no control over what I ate. If I was going to be picky, I was going to be hungry. Some people I know, however, and a lot of children I know, are rampantly, phobically picky. I've always suspected that starting your kids out on bland food is a great way to kick-start pickiness. As for the obesity angle, I think it also follows that if you're not interested in eating something that's not starchy and white, or trans-fat laden and salty, one of two things are going to happen: you're not going to enjoy eating, and only do it as a chore, or if you like eating, you're going to have a hard time making healthy food choices. And that's hard enough when you're not picky.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

I've Got a Sweet Potato Pie In the Oven

I've been in a little bit of a no-cooking funk lately. Andy's done a good job of getting me through it, and has kept my palate entertained with thai food, fennel and caraway-encrusted lamb chops, and caramelized onion and ricotta pasta, amongst other dishes.

As delicious as this funk has been, I think I finally ejected myself from it last night by making Alton Brown's sweet potato pie. This was the first of his recipes I ever made, and I highly recommend it. I was skeptical until I saw that it's topped with pecans and a drizzle of maple syrup. I will eat anything underneath pecans and baked maple syrup.

Last Thanksgiving, my mother asked me to bring a pie. She hates both sweet potatoes and punpkin pie (this pie tastes a lot like pumpkin pie), so I told her I was bringing a surprise to Thanksgiving. No clues allowed.

At this point, I'd been married for about four months, so my mom was hoping that I was going to say I was pregnant. (Who knew the grandchild pressure started so soon?) Imagine her disappointment - no baby on the way and a pie she didn't like.