Monday, December 29, 2008

The Toys Of Christmas

This is the completely retrofabulous citrus juicer I got for Christmas. (Find it at Amazon: the Typhoon Retro Revolution Juicer. What a name!) You just yank down the handle and the cone compresses your fruit into the cup.
I was getting repetitive stress injuries each summer and/or margarita night when using my crappy aluminum citrus juicer balanced over a bowl. That's a vintage piece I'll be glad to lose.
We made ceviche and lemon-garlic sauce over redfish and shrimp.

However, here's the ceviche recipe (the picture is stolen, by that time enough homebrewed double IPA had been enjoyed that I forgot I even owned a camera).

Simple Tilapia and Shrimp Ceviche
2 filets of tilapia, diced into bite-size chunks
1.5 cups peeled and deveined (uncooked!) shrimp, split in halfsies
half a red onion, sliced into thin strips about 1 inch long
1 diced tomato (and don't loose the juice, it is the healthiest and most flavorful part of the tomato!)
dash garlic salt
1 cup lime juice
half a jalapeno, seeded and diced or sliced into half moons (less if you're a wuss)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 avocado

Reserve the and cilantro to dice over the dish when served, but everything else into a bowl and refrigerated for atleast a 1/2 hour. The citric acid cooks everything, and can be drained before serving. This can be overcooked, so if you're paranoid about bacteria, get over it and eat it while it's fresh. Everybody will hate you if you serve rubbery shrimp.

This is a base ceviche that can be changed for the seafood type, the jalapeno switched out for a different flavor (I won an award for a chipotle version). Scallops, tuna, octopus...any seafood works but even cheap tilapia tastes delicious like this.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Oh My God How Yummy

Here's the fantastically successful strawberries-in-a-basket. It's an almond lace cookie shell, recipe from The Barefoot Kitchen Witch blog (thanks!):

After baking you have to shape the shells while hot into the preferred shape--for me, a bowl.

Next I coated the bottom of the "bowl" with dark chocolate, then added whip cream, then the strawberries. It's so simple and sooo yummy.
Yippee for great endings to great meals.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Plans

I want to state, for the record, that I am opposed to trying weird new interpretations of classic Thanksgiving recipes.

It doesn't matter what you want to try, the classic works the best. Why fry a turkey when the baking makes the skin crispy? Why change green bean casserole when that's all you ever dream about for that day anyway? Why skip naming the bird if the guilt will still appear next time you see a live turkey?

Perhaps the last one isn't a universal truth, but we always named our bird. We also also always had a duck at Thanksgiving, which maybe isn't your tradition but it was ours and I don't care if you judge me.

However, after my rant, this pic is what I'm going to try this year, and I'll post how it turns out:
Wild Rice, Walnut, and Goat Cheese Stuffing
It's basically your typical stuffing plus some wild rice & goat cheese. But I'm using red rice. And roasted walnuts. Also I may throw in a little bit of dried fruit like cranberries, maybe even some sweet potatoes, primarily because this is Bobby Flay's recipe and he's a douchebag. I can do better.

seriously, though: from the Urban Dictionary
The OED defines 'Bobby Flay' as 'The unfortunate consequence of the union between television, ego, and blinding mediocrity.'

Boules: A Game and a Food

1) a ball-shaped bread, often used for bread bowls

2) a game using metal balls tossed about a yard in pursuit of a smaller white ball, played with one hand following the rule that an alcoholic beverage must be in the other hand.

I have nearly won at boules the game. I have absolutely won at boules the bread, see above left.

White Bread Plus (from Joy of Cooking, quote "plus for flavor, keeping quality and nutrition." Guess they didn't have Dr. Atkins when this book was wrote)
in 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water, dissolve 2 1/4 tsp yeast from jar (same amount as a packet) and 1 tsp sugar.

Beat in:
1 beaten egg
1/4 cup melted lard or shortening (lard not being a staple on my shelf, i melted Crisco butter-flavor shortening and it worked great)
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar

Sift and mix in 4 cups all-purpose flour

Using my mixer, I let this knead till smooth and elastic, then let rise in an oiled bowl for an hour on top of the dryer while washing clothes (warm dark place) *with a damp towel over bowl.*
After that first rise, separate into three balls of dough, wrapping the dough to a base (so the top is smooth) and putting that (folded edge base down) on the pan you'll bake them on. I used a pizza stone sprinkled with cornmeal. Turn the oven to 400 degrees. Put the bread into the cold oven and, after 15 minutes, reduce heat to 375 for 25 more minutes. It will make its second rise in the oven.

Two tricks I used to get a crisp outer crust: I brushed the outside of the dough with water, and I put a bowl of water at the bottom of the oven.

Another trick I learned ONLY from Joy of Cooking despite much research: you must let your bread cool completely before putting into any storage container. That moisture that escapes would, otherwise, allow mold to grow. Considering no other fancy cookbooks taught that, I'd like to acknowledge that I do plan to succeed off the backs of the overworked housewives (ere the age of bread machines) that came before me.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cheating Isn't Cheating If You Eat the Evidence (Part I)

Life's been a bit busy lately and I haven't had the drive to be much a gourmet after 9-hour days at the office. That doesn't mean I haven't been creative, though, and I thought I'd share some of my favorite short-cut dishes that taste complicated.

Pics here, following the theme, are a mystery--did I take the photo or did I cheat and steal it somewhere?

Chicken Pot Pie with Okra
1.5 cups frozen okra
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup cup frozen french-cut green beans
(you might also want carrots or corn kernels, etc...all frozen is fine but I do recommend a little defrosting first to get out some excess water)
leftover chicken, chopped or shredded
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup of milk
2 frozen pie shells

Mix together all ingredients (except the pie shells) while you pre-bake one of the shells for 8 minutes at 350 degrees. This makes the crust crustier and it won't be as soggy for the final devouring.

Next, pour all ingredients in to the pre-baked crust and bake for 30 minutes while the other pie shell defrosts enough to pop it out of its aluminum pan. Ideally this amount should pile up to be a little taller than the crust, but thick enough to not pour out.

At the 30-minute mark, pull the pie out and put the next crust on top, using a knife to put steam-escape-valve slits in the crust.

Bake for another 20 minutes or until the top crust turns pretty and golden. Serve and tell everyone you hand-made the crust and gravy, grew the veggies yourself, and hell you even raised the chicken. Well done you.

Update: here's the real photo:

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pumpkin University
This site makes me very, very happy. I failed on my first pumpkin carving early in October, but I've got big ideas for this week.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Hatch Chile Time

Been pretty busy lately, work and Oregonians visiting, barbecues and swim contests, and frankly not a lot of great cooking on my part. But I'm refocused, motivated primarily by a shocking number of credit card charges for dinners out. Time to get back in the kitchen.

It's not fall yet, but it is hatch pepper time. Hatch chiles can be mild or hot, but are only meant to be eaten after their skin is roasted off. I learned a lot of new recipes from Taste Tester's family involving hatches, and we invented a few of our own as well, but this simple pesto is my absolute favorite. Tomorrow I plan to buy a huge pile of peppers and make enough of this to last us through fall.

Hatch Chile Pesto

5-10 Hatch Chiles, roasted, skinned, and seeded
handful pine nuts
olive oil to taste
parmesan (optional handful--skip for the lighter version)

The first 3 ingredients go in the blender; then olive oil is poured in slowly until it reaches a hummus-type consistency. I don't think you need the parmesan but it's pretty yummy when not dieting. This is the family version, but Central Market made a milder, oilier version I didn't enjoy as much.

It's not for the weak-hearted, but if you like spice, it tasted good smeared on everything from roasted corn to barbecue, and I even used a dallop in soup today.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Seafood Risotto Perfecto

All the delicious seafood in Oregon spoiled us for a while and we've been eating out a lot. But I got my focus back and pulled off a seafood, garlic, and parmesan risotto last night with bay scallops, black mussels, and Gulf Coast shrimp. Thanks both to our friends for the shrimp, and the fantastic Quality Seafood of Austin for mussels and scallops. When I picked out one bag of frozen scallops, the manager checking me out refused to sell them to me because he felt they were slightly freezer-burned!

This risotto definitely took an hour since I stirred through the whole process, but was well worth it. Stirring throughout the cooking process of risotto releases the starch on the rice and creates the creamy texture. It's also a good arm workout.

2 cups Arborio rice
4-5 cups seafood stock (i used half stock, half sauvignon blanc) at a simmer
10 large shrimp, peeled and deveined*
1 lb mussels
1 cup bay scallops
3/4 cup grated parmesan
1.5 tsp salt
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
3 cloves garlic crushed
1 shallot diced
1/4 cup butter

Saute the garlic and onions (add the salt too) in all the butter, then at a low temp pour in the rice and saute the rice as well for a few minutes. I don't know why we do this but we do.
A 1/2 cup at a time, add the stock/wine and stir until the rice absorbs it. Keep the rice at a simmer or lower. Once you've reached the point of the last cup of stock, add your scallops and shrimp with the stock and this will allow them to cook. Meanwhile, use the remaining stock to dump the mussels in, cover and steam 10-15 minutes.
If you taste the rice after the 4th cup, it may still have a little bite. You can still use the remaining stock (with mussel juice-YUM!) to cook it a little longer. When you bite into it and it tastes like soft rice with a tiny bit of chewiness, it's done. Fold in the cheese and the vinegar, stir and serve.

I recommend a small plate, and I arranged the steamed mussels around the edge of the plate.

This was a very simple, yummy risotto. In retrospect I would also perhaps use lemon juice in place of vinegar, and fresh parsley chopped and stirred in at the end.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Pumpkin Lasagna Enters the Race

Cuisinart Online is holding a recipe contest. I've entered the pumpkin lasagna...cross your fingers.
Here's the selection of prizes if I win:
IceCream and Yogurt Maker
Countertop Water Filtration System
Cuisinart Blender

If you're a member or don't mind becoming one, go to this site and vote big stars for my recipe!
Here's the link:

Friday, June 13, 2008

Nevermind. Failure Popsicles Instead of Pizza.

Once again, my job interfered with my real obsession (cooking...and some beer), though it's hard to tell sometimes by which I'm more obsessed. Lots of future recipients got helped tonight, and we'll make the pizza later.

However since I will probably be up till 7am, I thought I'd post a semi-failed attempt at frozen yogurt. I used this recipe from, but strictly followed Grandma Ruby's rule of never strictly following the recipe.

6 cups of whole milk plain flavored yogurt to yield 3 cups strained (see below) or 3 cups Greek-style yogurt
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes
Ice cream maker (remember to freeze your insert if you have one)

I used honey instead of sugar; I used a lot of toasted coconut in the mix (hers was just sprinked on top), and I think I bought Greek-style yogurt but hellidunno--if it's from a Greek market surely I get points for effort. It just wouldn't freeze in my ancient icecream maker. Might be the machine; more likely culprit: operator error.

But after failure, I rummaged up mom's slightly less ancient popsicle molds and poured it in. They froze great and make for a nice, semi-healthy snack. Plus it's freakin' 100 degrees outside, so they are refreshing. I think I'll call them Symbols of Failure Popsicles.

Salvation Pizza (34th off Guadalupe)

We've now eaten at Salvation Pizza (34th and Guadalupe in Central Austin) twice and are looking forward both to going back and to achieving their extremely thin crust at home.

I've never enjoyed pizza as much as I like this pizza. Something about the thin (hardly a 1/4 inch) crust eases out my guilt and not my belt after wolfing down 3 slices. Their menu is bold but not overreaching, with all the simple favorites you know are a safe bet plus a few daring mixes that are hard to resist. For instance, we couldn't not try the #11, with white cheese, bacon, red onions, lemon, and clams. The bacon overpowered the clam taste but it was a great concept that I'd attempt on my own with bigger clams and smaller doses of bacon.

Their salads were simple, but the sundried tomato vinaigrette was full of flavor, thick enough to schmear and ended up also being great for dipping the pizza.

My challenge tonight is to recreate their thin thin crust on my (new!) pizza stone, with probably very little tomato sauce and plenty of healthy toppings. I'll try to snap a pic and get a new post up soon. I also want to put in a plug for Lightsey Farms, the true farmer's market on Burnet in the old Farmer's Market (but they're the only remaining farmer). Everything is reasonable, fantastic tasting, and grown in our area. Cheers to 8 salmonella-free tomatoes for $2!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

One of the Best Culinary Inventions of the 20th Century

So from what I can gather, important culinary inventions of the 20th century include:
  • Microwave Ovens
  • Paper Towels
  • Saran Wrap
  • Food Processors
  • Tupperware
  • Disposable aluminum roasting pans
However, none I could find thru a very thorough 8-minute Wikipedia research sabbatical from my workday can compete with my pressure cooker. If you aren't familiar with pressure cookers, they are a pot with a pressure-sealing lid that creates a high-pressure environment for cooking foods, and the higher pressure forces water into the food in addition to raising the boiling temperature for water, thus cooking foods at half to a fraction of their normal cooking time.

Since getting mine for Christmas, I've cooked beans (30 minutes, and the best evAH according to Taste Tester and his friend), potatoes (making about 15 pounds of potato salad in 30 minutes); asparagus, broccoli, corn husks for tamales, chicken for shredding and filling the tamales, and I'm looking forward to trying brown rice in it, which I can never completely finish cooking in my rice cooker. We practically never get to put it in the cabinet because it's always being used and cleaned for use again.

I really must insist that everyone try one. They come in several sizes; my 4 quart is perfect for me but smaller versions are on the market. Most are less than $30; at Target right now this 4qt is $19.99. Go rush to the store this instant.

And thanks Mom.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Great Food On Lake Travis: Cafe Bleu

While boating on Lake Travis this Sunday, we decided to try out Cafe Bleu near Volente. Its entire restaurant is an open-air deck with teakwood tables and chairs, overlooking Travis in a spot for a perfect sunset dinner. At 6:30pm it was still brutally hot, but a later appointment would be lovely weather. The tanorexic Austin lake socialites didn't get seated in full sun as we were.

The meal was pricey by my standards--$12 shrimp and crab ceviche (but only enough to fill a martini glass and served with 10 chips. Really? 10 chips? I wonder what that works out to for cost per chip) and $10 calamari, but they were both excellent starters. In fact, my brother's gf had the sense to follow those apps with a simple side salad; Taste Tester and I went for a $25 entree of crab-stuffed shrimp with brown rice and creamed spinach. I wouldn't have paired creamed spinach with shrimp, but it was pretty delicious and rich, and we waddled out happy.

Our lazy/dirty boating clothes made it pretty obvious that we didn't qualify for the yachting club discount cocktail hour, which may partly account for the lousy service. But I have to say, those two appetizers made it worth the cost. The calamari batter was seasoned with red pepper flakes and plenty ground black pepper, spicy enough to make you keep diving back for more.

Overall I'd recommend Cafe Bleu highly--for a special occasion. Meanwhile I'll be trying to rip off their seasonings and ceviche sauce for my own evil purposes.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Forgotten But Delicious Clams Lingine (but oops it's angel hair)

I forgot to post this lovely little meal that I made of steamed clams, a white wine cream sauce, and some veggies. I had run outta linguine so angelhair/vermicelli had to do. Here's the run down of my recipe, I may have forgotten some of the ingredients but this feeds one...

1 lb steamed clams
dry white wine
chopped mushrooms
diced tomatoes
tons o' garlic
a little parmesan
chopped parsley

It's as much pasta as you need, and about 1 lb/person of clams. I recommend a big bowl or family-style platter. The wine sauce was about 1 cup of wine, reduced, then thickened with the cream.

The bread was the loaf I posted before, sliced and made into garlic bread. Taste tester loved this one.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Gettin The Hang of This Bread Stuff

So it's been a while since I conquered the world and made bread, and after an awesome meal at Blue Dahlia Bistro, I decided breadmaking was in order. This time I have a proper (if extremely cheap) scale and used this very basic lean dough recipe:

1.5 lbs warm water
1 packet yeast
2.5 lbs flour (I used 1.5 of white and 1 of whole wheat)
1 tsp salt
(mix water and yeast till dissolved, then add flour and mix/knead till smooth and elastic, divide and allow to rise till doubled or more in size, then either pop onto a parchment-lined pan and bake at 375 for 30 min, or split into smaller loaves and do the same. Score the tops of loaves to allow air to escape)

For lack of anything better, I threw in a 1/2 cup of flaxseed. On reflection, this made two big round loaves and might have made 3-4 smaller loaves. I gave one as a gift to Taste Tester's father, who is stuck at home with a broken leg. Hopefully he has less discerning taste buds or loves spreads and toppings, because this is very plain bread. If I hadn't been rushing it, I'd have incorporated more herbs into one loaf for a focaccia version, then some molasses and fruits and nuts into another for a breakfast loaf. However, it's a great and easy starter bread that can make baguettes, ciabatta, focaccia...ricotta...frittata...sorry I got a little distracted there.

Next episode: mussels and linguine! and bland-bread-garlic-toast!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Oyster Gluttony All Night (And Still Not Complete)

So it turns out that 100 oysters for 4 people is, actually, too many. We managed to knock out about 65 oysters, but the remainders are on ice for an Oysters Rockefeller Monday Night. And cracking those suckers open is harder than it looks!

As for the calamari, it turned out great and was devoured before I caught it on camera (actually it's got a tiny cameo in upper right corner of the first photo). In addition to the recipe I used, I soaked the sliced tubes of squid in the buttermilk for 2-3 hours prior to final fry. I learned that if you don't have the oil as hot as it needs to be, all the breading falls off into the oil and floats on the surface before burning and settling to the bottom to create a blackened mud that will land on the next batch you fry. So my first batch was best and the next 3 weren't tops; however now I have the system down.

I also learned your breading should be HIGHLY seasoned or else you should throw sea salt onto the fried calamari. My dipping sauce was 1/2 cup yogurt, 1/2 cup mayo, 2 tbsp stone ground mustard, and 1 tsp dried ground mustard. It was pretty good.

To go along with the spread we had crab dip, all the oyster fixins, and homebrewed beer. Fintastic.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Oyster Gorge

For a belated birthday gift, friends brought me and Taste Tester 100 (yeah that's right) oysters from the fintastic Quality Seafood . See what I did there? Fin? I'm here all week, folks.

So to complement it, I took on my a challenge I've been pussyfooting(hehe) around for years: calamari fritti . I realize it's not hard to fry stuff, but calamari is so easy to get wrong. I've had it all over, often terribly chewey, and I still think the best is at North by Northwest restaurant and brewery here in town. It's so lightly fried it looks undercooked, a beautiful pale shade of tan. Their dipping sauce is untraditional, a type of stone-ground mustard aoili, and I plan to rip off their whole show tonight.

Here's the recipe I think sounds best:
  • 2 cups vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 pound squid, cleaned and cut into 1/2 inch rings
However, instead of oregano I'll add lots of other seasonings...maybe fresh chopped parsley, Old Bay seasoning, and something spicy...

Will update when I know whether it was a success or total failure...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Scallops and Asparagus (My Presentation Skills Suck)

I think I really need to go back to presentation school. I put this together at 1030 last night after we stayed out a wee late went grocery shopping late last night, and then plopped it on the plate without much ado.
It tasted fantastic (the scallops were seared with a little paprika and garlic and salt, the asparagus seared with salt and lemon juice, and the wild rice had its own flavor from the packet). However, it just looks blah, and I need to work on that.
Today, though, the only garnish on my mind is a lime in a beer bottle or an orange slice on a margarita.

Birthday Suits Are The New Black

I'll just leave it to the photos to explain the fun of my family under the perfect new arbor, the raunchiness that occurs when six dogs get along really well, the hilarity of three tipsy ladies trying to negotiate rules to an official game of Football Keep-Away, and their ultimate decision to just counsel about it and drink more beer.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Arbor Days

Taste Tester's mad skills at building have bestowed upon our back yard a lovely arbor from which to hang lights and grow vines and swing chimes and suspend plants and possibly, maybe even nail up tacky decor from Big Lots. He claims I can do whatever I want, but when the tacky decor comes out I think there may be some debate about that.

He built it in about a total of 3 hours, and finished it before the party, which is getting underway...

Friday, March 21, 2008

Getting All Tarted Up

For my birthday, my coworkers got me this beautiful fruit tart. Delicious and less sugary than cake! I think!
Tomorrow, on the actual new arbor and party with Taste Tester's Famous Ribs, cole slaw, deviled eggs, my fire-roasted salsa, chips and guacamole!
Also some tasty carbonated beverages, ifyouknowwhatimean andithinkyoudo.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Successful Boating Adventure

Well, the first outing was a success, and we'll try to repeat the process tomorrow with guests. The day was beautiful, the water was freezing, and the lake was uncrowded. I was reminded of why I need to eat better and embrace sit-ups, but overall it was a great time.

I didn't photograph it, but for lunch at Ski Shores we had burgers with grilled onions and jalapenos, guacamole, and mayo. It was delish and terrifically greasy, and we had fried okra on the side to top off the 4,400 calorie count. Having not had a burger in over a year, it made for an uncomfortable evening later, but it tasted amazing at the time.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Boudreaux's Big Day Out

This photo is just to show how beautifully spring has sprung early here, sadly without any freezes to slaughter the many pests that wait in their lairs plotting revenge against Advantix and flea dip, but still lovely.
In fact it's so nice we're taking my boat, Boudreaux, out for her first excursion of the year. I'll try to memorialize some non-drunken photos of Lake Austin and Ski shores restaurant, the restaurant you can only reach by water. Well that's not completely true, in fact it's completely false, but who really cares if I lie about that?
In any case, bikinis and white bodies will see their first 90-degree days and hopefully the engine won't play any tricks on us, because Taste Tester knows zilch about boating. He boasts of knowing plenty enough to pull the 24 feet of pure luxury yacht-like pontoon boat to the water, but once on the water Cap'n Rubyjune will be in command. So check in soon for photos of our being towed out of the water after disaster, of course, befalls us.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Valentine's Day Is For Suckers

But to help you out a day late, here's how to make your own chocolate-dipped tuxedo strawberries:

dry off your strawberries, and the bigger you can get them the better.

Have on hand any brand of dipping chocolate (I like the kind that comes in its own tub), in both regular/dark chocolate and white chocolate. **Useless Trivia Moment: white chocolate is not really chocolate, it's cocoa butter and milk and sugar.**

Holding the top of the strawberry, dip it in the white chocolate up to your fingers, coating the whole berry. Set aside to cool and harden while you do as many more as you want.

Once cooled and the chocolate is hard, dip them in the dark/milk chocolate carefully at an angle so that chocolate creates a diagonal edge across the flattest front of the berry. Now do the otherside, creating a V shape.

With a toothpick, draw a bow tie at the top of the white chocolate triangle remaining, then 2-3 buttons below it. Voila Mr. Tuxedo Strawberry. Now go impress your mom or seduce someone.

p.s. too much refrigeration causes the chocolate to fall off the berry.

Bonus Useless Trivia Moment: A strawberry is the only fruit with its seed on the outside.

Wee Little Behbeh

One wee tiny herb is manning up to start the herb collection off right. Can't tell if he's mint or tarragon but I think he needs more light. I'm also attempting to grow basil, cilantro, and lavender.

Always better to pick it out of your own yard than pay Central Market for a handful.

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Secret Life of Mayonnaise

I’ve been noticing lately how often mayonnaise, the dressing of the American masses, has so often cameo’d in fine dining without our knowledge. This simple emulsion of oil, eggs and vinegar (and sometimes lemon juice) was invented, according to one source , by a Duke’s chef “in 1756 by the French chef of the Duc de Richelieu. After the Duc beat the British at Port Mahon, his chef created a victory feast that was to include a sauce made of cream and eggs. Realizing that there was no cream in the kitchen, the chef substituted olive oil for the cream and a new culinary creation was born. The chef named the new sauce "Mahonnaise" in honor of the Duc's victory.”

I don’t know if I believe that, but I think we can all agree it’s been around for a while and it ain’t goin’ anywhere. I personally use it in sandwiches, meat salads, potato salads, and as a base for homemade dressing like ranch.

However mayo leads a secret, exciting life in the kitchens of many fine establishments, moonlighting as a variety of FAINCIER toppings you might not recognize. For instance:

aioli-- pronounced “yolli”, this is essentially a garlic-flavored mayo, but has been broadened to include mayo with pesto, mayo with horseradish, mayo with tarragon…but it’s still just mayo! Remember that when the waiter tells you he’ll have to charge extra if you want another side of the aioli.

spicy sushi sauce--I don’t know where you eat sushi but my favorite places serve a orange-colored, tangy, spicy, and creamy sauce that has sesame oil flavor. I tried for two years to create it at home with heavy cream before I was at a low-rent sushi place that put on their menu “mayo sauce”. It sounded disgusting but turned out to be the secret ingredient. I now make it often with srirachi, mayo, a little rice wine vinegar, and sesame oil.

creamy horseradish—your favorite steakhouse may make this from scratch, but it ain’t nothin’ more than mayo + horseradish. Bam.

And finally last night I had a delicious grilled salmon with a “creamy wasabi sauce.” It was delicious, creamy, tangy and wasabi-y, but I could have bought it in the Hellman’s aisle.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Word On Dining Out

I have always loved eating dinners out; in fact, trying new restaurants is probably one of my favorite hobbies. The stranger the cuisine, the more foreign it is to my palate, the more I'm likely to try it.

However, I'm placing an embargo on eating out for several weeks after experiencing, for the first time, true food poisoning. It was the most miserable, painful, wretched sickness I've ever weathered. Taste Tester and I were both struck after eating out at a place I had never tried, and splitting the entire meal. 48 hours later we were still barely able to leave the house. I'm pretty sure it was Staph. aureus poisoning, a bug we all carry on our skin but one that can produce toxins quickly when food is left our or improperly refrigerated.

It is now 5 days past my initial illness, and my stomach is still extremely sensitive, not to mention shrunken to half its former size (an unexpected reward for the hell I went through: pants are fitting better).

I hope no one else at the same restaurant went through what we did, and I hope it inspires me to start cooking more and posting again.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Wasabi Crusted Salmon wih Pilaf and Roasted Roots

(photo explanation:out-of-focus dinner and a photo of Zinkovy Castle in Czech Republic, which Taste Tester helped renovate)
Last night we had a very special guest who said this was pretty good, so I thought I should post. It was meant to be horseradish crusted salmon, but I forgot to look for powdered horseradish so I went for the wasabi. The sides were black and brown rice pilaf and roasted root veggies.

It was preceded by my favorite, steamed mussels, but no photos taken. The fishy was wild Coho(?) Alaskan salmon, which is radically better than farm raised salmon because the color is real. Atleast as far as I can tell, that's the only difference. I'm not as discerning a salmon eater as I wish, but I listen to those guys at Central Market and just repeat whatever they say.

For the veggies, which took the longest, I chopped a rutabaga, 3 turnips, and some carrots and drizzled with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then roasted at 400 for about an hour while I was cooking all the rest. And drinking lots of red wine. Specifically a primitivo and a Texas brand called Red Truck.*

The topping for the fish was 1 to 1.5 cups panko, salt and pepper, wasabi, olive oil, half a lemon, a pinch of flour, and then enough water to make it a little spongy. We grilled it but next time we'll bake it because the grill didn't brown the topping well enough.

The pilaf was wild/black rice (1/4 cup) sauteed in the pan with shallots, garlic, 1 bay leaf and 1 cup white wine, then I added 1.5 cups brown Texmati and let that get hot. I added 2 cups water, plus the rest of the lemon and some salt, a simmered it for ~30 min.
That tasted like bland crap, but then a teaspon of thyme and some more lemon made it more flavorful.

*I think the key to this recipe is frequent breaks for more red wine.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

I've Conquered The World

Well not really but it feels like it. I made bread. I've really never succeeded at bread-making, it's always resulted in a lump of crumbly disgusting unleavened blah, which I forced myself to toast, spread with butter, and think pleasant thoughts as I tried (often in vain) to swallow.

However last night this excellent ciabatta resulted from what I was sure was another in a long history of total abortions. The reason I thought so was that my new cookbook, a fantastic tome called The Professional Chef, has only measurements in lbs, oz, and kg, and I didn't have a scale. I did some frighteningly bad math which resulted in pancake batter in my kitchenaid rather than anything resembling bread dough. So I added flour...and added flour...until the flour bag was almost empty...then I let it rise...and it didn't.

At that point I gave up but left the oiled mound of failure on the stove, and 3 or 4 hours later before bed I discovered it had, in fact, doubled in volume. I popped it in the oven and 30 minutes later: ciabatta. I woke up my taste-tester and forced him to try it immediately. His flattering comment was, "Seriously? I'm sleeping." As my recipe was a complete luck-out, I'll provide the original one:

3 lbs water
10 grams compressed yeast
5 lbs flour
5 grams salt

Combine water and yeast in mixer until dissolved. Add flour and salt on low until just combined, then knead on medium speed for 10-12 minutes until dough clears the bowl and clings to hook. Now that I have a mixer, I'm too good to tell you how to do this without one. Figure it out for yerself.
In a lightly oiled bowl, coat the dough with oil and cover to let rise for 75 minutes (or in my case, until you go to bed), until doubled in volume. Turn onto a floured surface and stretch into a rectangular shape without punching out the gases. Chop into loaves and bake at 450 for 30 minutes, until golden brown. Brushing the loaves with water will make their tops more crisp.

Santa Loves Me

Admitting I don't yet have a kitchenaid mixer feels kinda of shameful but I'm extremely excited about using it for anything from bread to salad dressings. I'm pretty sure it could mix concrete.
Taste Tester got it for me but says it's really just to benefit himself with what I'll make.