October 30, 2004

don't you wish YOU had a lime tree?

Yet more gorgeous limes from tallasiandude's mom's tree in LA.

Posted by foodnerd at 10:25 PM | Comments (0)

October 29, 2004

green tomatoes

So when it gets damn cold all of a sudden, and your tomatoes not only no longer ripen on the vine but seem to be practically frozen, you gotta figure out what to do with a big-ass pile of green tomatoes.

I set the nicest ones aside to slice & fry in breadcrumbs (yum), and used the gnarliest ones to make green tomato relish. I got the recipe from (again) the old edition of The Joy of Cooking, but I recently noticed it bears a strong resemblance to the chowchow recipe in the fabulous The Gift of Southern Cooking. It's a sweet-sour tangy relish that goes well on ham sandwiches, with roasts, and with cheese & crackers.

I had a big colander very full of tomatoes, and they made two batches once sliced. For each batch, I used:

potfull of thinly sliced green tomatoes
1/2 lb brown sugar
1/2 quart cider vinegar
1 onion
1/2 red pepper
1/2 green pepper
roughly 5 cloves garlic
1 tsp whole cloves
1 stick cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp celery seed
3 tsp ground dry mustard
kosher salt

Take the thinly sliced tomatoes and sprinkle with a bunch of kosher salt and let sit in the fridge overnight. My first batch I skipped this step, being lazy, and it came out much too watery and I had to boil it to death to reduce it. It tastes better if you salt them first, so suck it up and do it. Drain them and rinse and drain again.

Put tomatoes in a pot with onion & peppers, both finely diced, and garlic, minced. Add the vinegar, sugar, cinnamon stick & mustard, and stir till all combined. Put the cloves, ginger, & celery seed into a cheesecloth bag (or a tea ball, if you have no cloth -- i haven't been able to find cheesecloth in ANY market lately) and add to pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer on low heat until tomatoes are soft & translucent and liquid is reduced - probably 2-3 hours. Stir occasionally, especially as it gets closer to done, as it will be more likely to stick & burn. Your house will smell like vinegar pretty strongly, so be warned. Remove spices, duh.

You can bottle it that way, or you can have at it with the stick blender to even out the texture a little as I did. I like it still a bit chunky, but not with big honking pieces of tomato. Then give a bunch away, because it makes a hell of a lot.

Posted by foodnerd at 07:39 PM | Comments (0)

October 28, 2004

holy crap

The Red Sox just won the World Series. I'm shaking I'm so happy. GO SOX!!

Posted by foodnerd at 02:31 AM | Comments (0)

October 27, 2004

i hate microsoft

WOW, my site looks like ass in Internet Explorer! My profoundest apologies to everyone who reads me with IE. I have been using Mozilla/Firefox since I finally got too fed up with IE, and never bothered to surf my more-or-less standard MovableType styling with another browser. No wonder so many bloggers use a narrow column of body text -- IE can't seem to fit my tables in the window. Gah! When I get a free moment I'll try and tweak things to improve readability for those of you stuck with the Evil Empire's browser. Bear with me till then...

Posted by foodnerd at 05:30 PM | Comments (5)

October 26, 2004

no wonder our country's so messed up

"The researchers found that Americans worry more about food and derive less pleasure from eating than people in any other nation they surveyed."

from NYT article "Our National Eating Disorder" (thanks to KIPlog)

Posted by foodnerd at 02:49 PM | Comments (0)

October 24, 2004

IMBB9: Stuffed Bread

For IMBB9 I really wanted to make the Basque fish terrine recipe from epicurious, because we have such lovely hake here lately, and it sounded so delicious. But I've been traveling lately, and work has been really busy for a change, and it got to be Friday and I realized I hadn't even begun to deal, and I was so tired I knew I never would. So I went to Plan B.

When I was a kid, my mom would sometimes make something that I think of as "stuffed bread." She made it up out of her head, and it is just exactly the sort of cross between white-bread-yankee and white-trash that we so often concocted in our kitchen. I loved it because it was fun to make, and messy to eat, and mushed a lot of flavors up together. I haven't had it in probably 10 years or more, and the terrine theme brought it to mind. It's not really a terrine, but it's terrine shaped, and it's as uniquely personal as foods get. Here's what my mom said when I emailed her for the recipe:

"I made up the recipe. Crust can be removed or not. I used "salad" type fillings such as ham, tuna, egg , chicken, or whatever. I have seen recipes where they make a turkey or chicken one and put cranberry sauce in one of the layers. I always put in a speadable cheese layer -- sometimes made myself or sometimes used the little glasses of cheese spread. Often I used an olive or pickle layer. If they are not mixed with anything, such as cheese or mayo or mustard, then spread the top and bottom layers with something, so the bread does not soak up too much juice. I usually patted them dry first before putting them in the bread. I usually didn't mix the kinds of salad.--ie. not ham and tuna togther, etc. Ideas for colorful layers would be good.

I mixed something with the cream cheese to spread it. I think it was milk. One time I colored it. Always thought a sweet one would be good. Maybe like a dessert. Ground up date and nut filling, strawberries in cream cheese, maybe a canned frosting (coconut?) etc. etc. I might put a bit of confectioners sugar in the frosting for this one? Maybe use cinnamon or raisin bread? Or one of Grandpa's favorites -- cardamom bread.

Sorry no recipe. Hope this helps. Probaly never made it the same way twice. Can be made the day ahead or on the day. But cover well with saran so cream cheese won't dry out. Keep in refrig. It garnishes nicely, but would put that on at last minute. To serve, cut fairly thick, but not jumbo."

Here's what I did this time. First of all, you must locate a loaf of the unsliced soft squishy white bread that they sell as "stuffing" bread (the idea being that you rip up irregular chunks to make poultry stuffing rather than having regular slices). Apparently it's not yet close enough to Thanksgiving for supermarkets to stock it, because I couldn't find an unsliced loaf ANYWHERE. I was reduced to buying a loaf of artisanal white at the farmers' market, which is delicious but much too dense for the recipe. It doesn't blend enough with the fillings, is too chewy, and it's a bitch to slice properly when it's filled with squishy moist filling layers and covered in cream cheese.

My fillings were based on what was lurking around my kitchen gathering dust or threatening to go bad, which is I believe how this recipe came to be in the first place. It seems to be vaguely mediterranean, as conceived by mainstream American markets. I made egg salad with lots of mustard & minced onion & black pepper. I took a can of flavored black olives I've had since my parents gave it to me last christmas and attacked them with the stick blender, then added a can of tuna for extra protein. And I got a jelly glass of olive & pimento cheese food, because I adore that stuff. I used the cheese to coat both sides of that layer so I could put sliced tomatoes (salted, drained & blotted) in between.

To assemble, cut the loaf of bread into four slices horizontally (or however many slices you like that will still be stable). Put one filling on each layer, as thickly as you can without endangering structural integrity, and spread evenly all the way to the very edges. Put the top of the loaf back on and press *gently*. Take two 8oz packs of cream cheese at room temperature, and mix them with a few tablespoons of cream or milk until it's a spreadable texture. Spread the entire outside of the loaf thickly with cream cheese to keep it from drying out. It's a bit tricky not to get the fillings smeared into the frosting, but if you glob it on first and smooth it out later, it should go okay. Garnish at will.

Mine came out a little lopsided, because the thicker bread had a more irregular shape than is optimal, but it tastes just fine, kind of like a dagwood sandwich with more cream cheese than is truly healthy. But since I am the kind of girl who finds those single-serving pots of cream cheese about enough for three bites of bagel, I have no problem with that at all. *grin*


Posted by foodnerd at 12:15 AM | Comments (2)

October 22, 2004

something from nothing

Apropos of nothing, Jackie over at The Daily Bread was saying that though the idea of creating something yummy from a picked-over chicken carcass is appealing, one of the reasons she finds actual stock-making irksome is because she spends too much money on ingredients for something she can buy quickly and easily for much less. I have the same problem, so what I do is use the peelings from my onion & carrot, stems of my parsley, and trimmings from my celery, in the broth and then use the "good" parts of the veg later in the soup, or in something else. That way the entire broth is made from what would otherwise be garbage. You cook it to death and strain it all out anyway, so why not? I freaked the tallasiandude out the first time I did this, but since he is Soup Man in a major way, he's gotten totally on board. And honestly, Jackie's right that canned broth is perfectly fine; I only do the broth making when I have the carcass around and intend to make a broth-based soup, where the broth is the star.

Posted by foodnerd at 10:07 PM | Comments (1)

so right, yet so very wrong

So after dropping tallasiandude at the airport for his weekend of vegas madness, I stopped at the supermarket on the way home to lay in supplies for tomorrow's quasi-terrine... and was intensely attracted to the frozen pizzas. I lingered, trying to decide which would be the most pleasing, but ultimately I made the mistake of reading the boxes. I thought I was down with the trashy guilty-pleasure foods, but I guess it's only particular ones, because I just couldn't bring myself to buy a pizza, or chicken nuggets, or even a frozen dinner. The idea was too icky. I feel shamed.

Then on the way out I saw the bag of Zesty Tomato Terra Chips: "tomato, worcestershire, & celery." Three of the best flavor-crystal tastes in the world, together on one Bloody Mary of a chip! I bought them. And ate them in the car on the way home. And AMEN flavor-crystals: they are awesome. But my god, how did I forget how utterly vile is the texture of Terra Chips? Ugh! Yuck! They're hard and thick and hurt your jaw when you valiantly manage to crunch through a few. Just plain *wrong* for a chip. The suffering is just too high a price to pay for the tasty powder. (and note to Terra: the sweeter vegetable chips don't go with Bloody Mary flavored crystals. Bleh.)

postscript: I finally started licking the crystals off the chips and throwing them away, until my parents arrived for a visit and I was able to palm the chips off on them. Never again, never.

Posted by foodnerd at 08:42 PM | Comments (1)

mixed nut mooncake

I am finding that wedges of mixed-nut mooncake make excellent, highly-sustaining midafternoon snacks while working. Thanks, Renee!

Posted by foodnerd at 04:07 PM | Comments (0)

October 21, 2004

blogrific DIY quickie mexican

Well, I'm an idjit and forgot that the foodsluts are in New Zealand for three weeks (except a few days in Fiji, which apparently have resulted in appalling meals, awkward sleep, and potential tapeworm -- they're *very* happy to be heading to the land of good tea and honey-yogurt breakfasts), so i had to eat the tamales by myself. Tallasiandude and I ate 6 for dinner the other night, accompanied by a quick salsa and a batch of this recipe for spicy chocolate black beans from 101 Cookbooks, adapted somewhat by me. It was awesome. The tamales were fabulous, I wish we had a better source for them here; I will have to scout around.

But what was somehow more satisfying, probably because of its total serendipitousness, was the lunch I had the next day. In the midst of a total crisis at work, no less, so it had to be fast and filling and joy-inducing, no small challenge given the state of my fridge. Two small corn tortillas, spread with the last of the beans, topped with slices of cheese (regular old sandwich cheddar slices) and microwaved for a minute, then topped with the salsa & some sour cream. Holy god it was yummy.

Salsa = 2-3 fresh diced ripe tomatoes, minced onion, minced serrano, juice of 3 limes, cilantro for those that like it. Very limey and tangy, nice against the sweet thick beans.

Beans = 1/2 onion & 1/2 red bell pepper, diced & sauteed in a tiny bit of olive oil with a couple cloves thin sliced garlic added once things soften. Salt, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, allspice to taste, and fry a bit more till dry. Then add about a third of a bottle of beer - i used IPA because it was all I had, and it lent a bitter note I didn't totally appreciate, so I'd probably recommend something else, like, I dunno, Negro Modelo. *wink* Add water to thin down the beer, add a drained can of black beans, and smash the beans roughly with your spoon as they cook. Adjust spices as it cooks down. When it looks & tastes like nice spicy chunky refried beans, add 1/2 a disk of Ibarra Mexican chocolate and let it melt in and blend. You could probably use any decent dark chocolate and to be extra diligent you could add a bit extra sugar & cinnamon to get the same effect. It ends up earthy, sweet, and spicy, kind of mole-like in flavor, awesome against corn tortillas & lime-y salsa.

Posted by foodnerd at 11:00 PM | Comments (0)

October 19, 2004

turn about is fair play

So foodnerd has returned from Chicago (to a kitchen full of formerly-green tomatoes now about to expire of ripe redness, yikes), and turns out tallasiandude has been all resourceful about feeding himself in my absence and turned to the foodbloggers for inspiration. Cheers to dave at weber_cam for pasta with raw tomato sauce... and we may do it again tonight, lest the bounty be wasted. Thanks, dave!

Posted by foodnerd at 11:39 AM | Comments (0)

October 18, 2004

maxwell street market

New Maxwell Street Market. Canal St between Taylor & 15th St, Sundays 7-3. Why, oh why can we not have mexican food like this at home? My favorite new discovery is birria - a hot soup of goat, broth, tomato, chilis, clove, cinnamon, cilantro... etc. Served with a pile of thin warm tortillas. Delicious, very spicy, filling, totally soul-satisfying - kind of like chinese spicy beef noodle soup only without the noodles and with tomatoes and cilantro. (here is a vaguely approximate recipe, based on my taste memories)

When you see a jostling crowd of mexican people jammed into a food stall, it's a decent guess the food is worthwhile... so we snagged a first course of tacos from the far 15th st side of the market -- carne asada with great texture and flavor, chorizo also good, and fabulous green tomatillo hotsauce. Starving so these were just utterly wonderful.

H talked me into a mexican coke -- not as sweet, and really good, but my bottle claimed to have high fructose corn syrup -- weird since the whole point is that in mexico they still use cane sugar. H's said sugar, so who knows.

Dessert course started with a hot chocolatey drink - champurrado. Chocolate, cinnamon, corn - creamy soft chewy mouthfeel. Terrific on a blustery fall day. Then we found the truck with the lady selling fresh fried churros - we got ours with gooey vanilla filling. How can you not love a dessert that is crunchy and fried? Good contrast of textures and flavors, with the crunchy sugary outside, the soft warm doughy inside, and the gooey filling, but i suspect I might agree with J and prefer it without the filling. However, filling your churro offers the opportunity to see the *hilarious* machine used to fill them -- a skinny nozzle like used to steam & froth milk for cappucino, but with a little lever that causes it to extrude flavored pudding when stuck into the tiny hole in the churro.

I was saving my known quantity for last, and so I was stuffed already by the time we got to the cocktel mixto -- but of course that didn't stop me. It's still awesome. Not quite as transcendent as I remembered, which is sad, but nevertheless satisfyingly tangy, cool & spicy. Ate the leftovers for breakfast in the airport after having a meltdown dealing with boneheaded United Airlines staff who couldn't figure out how to check a bag after going through security. (Note to self: don't buy letter openers on vacation, or if you do, check the damned thing. Duh.) I kind of wonder whether it would be doable at home -- the shrimp isn't too hard, it's the octopus that'd be the trick to get right. The texture is so good, soft and meaty without being too chewy. The rest is just water (from poaching the seafood, it looks like), ketchup, lime juice, hot sauce, onion & cilantro. And saltines. Mmmmmmmm.

H had some canela - hot cinnamon tea which smelled great, though I didn't try any b/c I was utterly stuffed to the eyeballs. Speaking of eyeballs, we all passed on the eyeball tacos available at one stand. (I have a strong stomach and an adventurous palate, but *shudder*.) J had a huarache - flat corn oval filled with black bean, topped with meat and cotija and onion and cilantro, which I remember from last time as being delish. We were all too full for grilled corn with cheese & chili powder, or potato chips drenched in hot sauce, or milk caramel lollipops, or atole. Our horchata was good but way too watery -- that's what we get for buying it at 3pm after all the ice melted in it. And H bought 3 pounds of gorgeous glossy orange habaneros, with which she intends to make the winter's batch of hotsauce -- the girl likes the spicy. I've never seen such pretty peppers; it would've made a great photo, if only I'd had the camera.

Update on the green & red tamales to follow once the foodsluts and I get to eat a few.

I really have got to work on my basic conversational and culinary spanish -- i was totally at sea. Thank god for J being all cool & bilingual and stuff.

Posted by foodnerd at 01:10 AM | Comments (0)

October 17, 2004

miscellaneous chicago treats

I've been eating a lot of late-night crap meals because I'm out late dancing, but a few things have crossed my path:

  • Garrett's popcorn, cheese flavor & caramel flavor. Wow.
  • All pickle relish is apparently neon green here.
  • Bosnian food is what happens when Turkish & Slavic food interbreed: I had a sandwich of spiced ground meat kabob & barbecued chicken liver on grilled turkish-style bread.
  • There are plenty of restaurants open all night here. That's my kinda town.
  • Beef chow foon is a reliable sketchy-chinese-restaurant standby for all occasions. And I have learned the characters for pan fried, for bean, and for fish. Yay me!
Posted by foodnerd at 06:17 AM | Comments (0)

chicago italian beef

*drool* H&J took me to Johnny's Italian Beef out in some distant western suburb (Lake Forest? Forest Park? Lakewood? take two nature words, stick 'em together, and you've got a Chicago neighborhood -- i can't keep 'em straight) for lunch today. Italian beef turns out to be roast beef au jus on steroids: thin slices of beef, on a french sub roll, with giardiniera (pickled peppers -- either sweet or hot) and thin gravy. It's the gravy that's the key; it's kind of like beef broth with lots of salt & basil & oregano. You can get them dry, so they keep their sandwichy form, or you can get them wet, or extra wet, in which case they submerge the sandwich in lots of the yummy gravy so that what you're actually eating is a smushy, gooey mess of pickly beefy goodness. Readers of this blog know how I am about sauce, so you know i got my sammie extra wet. French fries serve as a condiment, and homemade lemon italian ice cuts the grease. Bliss.

Posted by foodnerd at 06:11 AM | Comments (1)

October 15, 2004

foodnerd's in chicago

I just love Chicago. In particular I love the architecture (and the real estate prices, oy), and the fact that it's just like NYC but with lots of nice midwestern people in it. And the midcentury modern stuff everywhere, it's like I've died and gone to heaven. But none of this has distracted me from my first love. Last night we had Turkish takeout from down the street, one of two in the immediate neighborhood (*swoon*)... bean salads and kebabs and fabulous tomato sauces. And for lunch today we went to the Swedish deli, but on the way we ran into a White Castle, and because I was heretofore a slider virgin, we had a little burger amuse-bouche. Harold & Kumar were on to something good, damn. At the deli we got herring in mustard-dill sauce, and pickled herring, and sweet pickled cucumbers, and potato lefse, which is an astonishingly tasty, very potatoey flat soft bread. I also got some fishy products in squeezable tubes as presents for the other foodsluts (cod roe spread with dill, etc. -- i love the scandinavians). My friend lives in Andersonville, where the last vestiges of the Swedish community linger on. She also reviews restaurants, so for dinner we got a truckload of free sushi, most of it good, some of it kind of blah... but we have learned that white tuna is a creamy melt in your mouth tasty treat.

Stay tuned for further adventures... I intend to get down to the Maxwell St. Market for some more seafood cocktail and other mexitreats, and we are planning an outing for something called Italian beef. The place with the duck fat french fries is still closed (there was a fire some months ago, apparently) so I am just going to have to come back for that some other time. Sigh.

Posted by foodnerd at 01:21 AM | Comments (0)

October 12, 2004

mushroom & pasta update

Got a big batch of hen of the woods 'shrooms from the farmer's market this weekend. Sauteed them with garlic, lots of olive oil & plenty of salt, and a good shot of sherry. Put them over a very small amount of pasta, and at last a decent mushroomy flavor. Whew.

Posted by foodnerd at 01:23 AM | Comments (0)

October 09, 2004

grandma's chili sauce

A good thing to do with the last of the red garden tomatoes that are about to rot, and a diced green pepper someone brought over for a salad and no one ate (of course not, because green peppers are gross). It's an old-skool yankee new england thing -- my mom and grandma would make this when I was a kid, and I thought it was the most revolting thing this side of raw green peppers, but somehow in my 30s I figured out that it's delicious: tangy, sweet, savory. Great with roast meats, on sandwiches, with cheese & crackers. And also great mixed into sweet boston-style baked beans.

6 ripe tomatoes (2.5 lbs, or 2 pint cans)
2 peppers (1 will do)
1 onion
1/2 cup cider vinegar (you may want to use 2/3 cup)
scant 1/2 tbsp salt
1/2 cup sugar (you may want to use 2/3 cup)

Peel the tomatoes if you are industrious, or do what I do and put them in the saucepan in really big chunks and when they've cooked a little, fish the chunks out and pull off the skins. Chop the peppers and onion into a fairly fine dice, or to your liking for a condiment. Add them to tomatoes, along with the vinegar, salt & sugar. Let it cook down over a slow heat. Break up the tomatoes as they soften. If you think it needs more vinegar or sugar after it's cooked down enough to blend flavors, add a bit more so you're using the 2/3 cup quantity. Keep boiling it down, stirring as needed to prevent burning, until it's as thick a sauce as you want. Mine cooked slowly for most of the afternoon, and is still a bit loose. If you really get it thick, it'll be quite sweet, like a tangy jam, or you can leave it looser and it'll be more vegetal and saucy. I give mine a couple of zaps with the immersion blender to even out the texture a bit, though it's still chunky. Pour it into a clean jar and keep in the fridge. This recipe makes about 1.5 pints. If you like canning, you can do a batch of 5 pints (7.5 lbs tomato, 1.5 lb peppers, .75 lb onion, 2.5 c vinegar, 1 tbsp salt, 2 c sugar) and put them up the proper way... but as previously stated on this blog, I am lazy, so I skip the canning part and rely on the fridge.

Posted by foodnerd at 12:40 AM | Comments (0)

October 08, 2004

grape ape! grape ape!

My mom gave me a bunch of concord grapes this weekend, a few red ones from the backyard and a bigger pile of black ones from somewhere in the woods. You can't eat 'em, because they're pretty tart and have a very weird texture, kind of like a juicy eyeball inside a tough leather shell. But you can most definitely make jelly out of 'em. We did it last year (with moderate success) and were all fired up to do it this year.

One thing I have learned is that the black concords are WAY better than the red. The reds are good, but the black have that intense ur-grape flavor we know from Welch's fine products, and they also have the most gorgeous purple color when cooked, while the red ones get kind of drab, as you can see in the picture below. (Watch out -- the gorgeous purple stains in a flash, so don't get any on the counter or porous surfaces.)

I use the jelly recipe in the old (1975) edition of The Joy of Cooking. Annoyingly, the new edition has jettisoned the jam & jelly section entirely, which i find extra-bizarre given the popularity of Martha-type activities these days. Anyway, you crush or slice the fruit and cook it down with a tiny bit of water till it releases juice and gets all soft. The house will be permeated with the most intoxicatingly wonderful grape smell, like walking past a ripe grapevine in the woods, only ten times better. Then you strain it through a cheesecloth, just letting it sit there and drip, resisting the intense urge to squeeze the cloth to get the last precious bits of juice, because if you do, the jelly will be (*gasp* the horror!) cloudy.

Of course this makes me insane, because A) i am impatient, and B) i am greedy, and I hate the idea of wasting that lovely fruit pulp. I had the additional excuse of having only a wisp of cheesecloth left in the house the night I cooked up the fruit, so I decided to try making grape JAM instead of jelly. I scraped the pulp through a fine sieve, getting all the juice & pulp out and leaving just a pasty mess of skin & seeds. Kind of looked like I'd been mistreating a poor defenseless pomegranate.

Then back to the jelly-making procedure: I cooked the goo with a cup of sugar (uh, not enough, but also the only sugar left in the house -- i plan ahead good, eh?) until it got thickish, like jam would be if you melted it over heat. This is an improvement over last year, where I couldn't get that concept through my head and I kept waiting for it to get thicker, and in the end had jelly that was completely solid, like stiff grape jello. (I had to cut it into chunks and mix it into plain yogurt, which was actually really delicious.)

It came out pretty nice, the texture of a thick apple butter. It's got a bit of a bitterish undertaste, which I suppose is because of all the solids I forced into it. Sigh. Those old timers knew what they were doing, as usual. But it still tastes *good*, with that musky concord grapey goodness, and is certainly less sweet than most preserves, which is quite to my liking. And I'm going to make granita out of that little pool of red grape juice tomorrow.

Posted by foodnerd at 01:45 AM | Comments (0)

casa romero

mmmmm... Nuggets took us to this place for 'bar's birthday dinner: good job, Nuggie! I only got there to eat scraps off everyone's plate and have a drink before dessert, but damn, those were some good scraps. A steak like buttah with a plate-lickable chipotle tomato sauce, good guacamole & chips, and a ceviche that is the closest thing I've had to the veracruz seafood cocktail from the Maxwell St. mexican market in Chicago (which, btw, is a total mouthgasm and worth airfare to chicago). YUM! Tucked away in a basement in an alley off Gloucester Street in Back Bay, in a tiny warren of rooms packed with tiles and dark wood. Fabulous front door. It's what the old Casa Mexico in Harvard Square always wanted to be, but couldn't because the decor was lame and the food was lamer.

Posted by foodnerd at 12:36 AM | Comments (2)

October 07, 2004

the mystery of restaurant baked potato

Have you ever wondered how they get baked potatoes in restaurants to be so deliciously simple, and to have that magically sturdy crust that you can scrape every last starchy morsel out of? I have. And now I know.

I was baking some russets (good ones from the farmer's market, bonus) and I forgot to really time them, so I was paranoid about raw innards, so I left them in there for like 80 minutes at 400F. I went to poke one & test it, and the skewer was rebuffed -- for a second I thought it was raw. But no, just sturdy: when cut open, they were just as fluffy and gorgeous as the ones in a steakhouse. And crust, my god, there is crust. Which is perfect for what I was going to use them for: Baltic Stuffed Potatoes, from what has to be the Funnest Cookbook Ever.

Bake big potatoes as above, cut open in such a way as to leave nice potato cups, scrape out insides. Saute finely diced onion and wild mushroom (dried, fresh, whatever) in butter. Smash a can of smoked sprats (usually available in Russian or Slavic markets, and sometimes regular supermarkets) to smithereens with a fork. Mix all of this together with some chopped dill (or whatever herb, i had no dill so used parsley & thyme), ground pepper, salt, a couple tablespoons fresh lemon juice, and enough sour cream to get the party started right.

You're supposed to stuff that back into the potato shells and put a little parmesan and bake at 375F till nice & golden, but I couldn't handle it and just macked it down out of a bowl. I'll put a picture up later on, though it's not very photogenic. Yum! Seriously -- even if you don't really like canned fish, you'll like this: sprats have a nicer flavor than sardines, and that flavor goes *really* well with mushrooms and butter and sour cream and potato. Not kidding. Try it.

Posted by foodnerd at 01:49 PM | Comments (1)

October 02, 2004

how to know when you have a problem

When your best friend is over, and you pull some cottage cheese out of the fridge for her to have with some fruit, and when she goes to put it back away, she just stands in front of the open door, blinking, gaping into your fridge and trying to find even the smallest cottage-cheese-sized chink in the monolithic wall of leftovers, ingredients, condiments and beverages that you have carefully and creatively wedged into the only pattern in which it all fits. (It was way in the back, behind the pot of soup and on top of the yogurt & browned butter.)

Posted by foodnerd at 01:29 AM | Comments (0)

October 01, 2004

spicy dry-fried long beans

We grew long beans in the garden this year, because tallasiandude likes them (i do too, but duh). The first few batches I cooked in nonstandard ways, like with chopped walnuts and walnut oil -- which were yummy, but not scratching tallasiandude's itch. So I started cooking them chinese-style, but the first couple of attempts failed: they weren't the flavors he was looking for. We saw a plateful in a restaurant that looked right, so I used that as the basis, and I've finally come up with a recipe that we both like a lot. I don't know what I'm going to do when I don't have fresh long beans in my backyard anymore. Oy.

It's a pretty adaptable recipe, as it turns out, and can handle substitutions & variable quantities pretty well:

Take some chinese long beans, cut into bite size pieces (or you can use regular green beans) and fry them over fairly high heat in a very little bit of oil. When they've started to blister and soften, add some ground pork and break it up as it fries. You can also substitute finely diced ham, like I did tonight because I didn't have any more pork in the freezer. The proportions don't matter -- be guided strictly by your preference or what you happen to have. Sprinkle with black pepper. Once the pork is cooked, sprinkle with about a teaspoon of sugar. Take about half a 3.5 oz packet of pickled turnip/salted spicy radish, or however much you like, cut it into small bits, and add it. (Not sure how to specifically describe this stuff, except that it is the stuff you get in pork & pickled turnip noodle soup. Use whatever salty pickly chinese turnip stuff you like.) Add about a tablespoonful of spicy bean paste, and stir to blend. (There's a whole other post to be written about spicy bean paste, which I'm sure we'll get to eventually.) Add about a teaspoon of chinese black vinegar, and stir it around to distribute it before it evaporates. When it's dry and looking ready, serve it. Add salt if it needs salt (probably will if you used pork, and won't if you used ham), and chili oil if it needs more spiciness. You definitely want white rice with this, as it's pretty savory stuff.

This has become my favorite companion dish for Pei Mei's beef & broccoli, which is very rewarding to cook because it makes tallasiandude so happy. *grin*

Posted by foodnerd at 09:39 PM | Comments (0)

BLT glamour shot

Posting really late, but who can resist a picture like this? The last of the magic bacon, on wheat toast with lettuce, mayo, and a late-summer garden tomato. It was brunch on Saturday morning before going rock-climbing. I love early fall. Please note that we were halfway through the sandwiches before we remembered to photograph their lusciousness for posterity. A BLT waits for no man.

And since I am too lazy right now to tweak my MovableType code to handle floated images better when the text is smaller than the image, I am just going to write some more stuff and hope you don't notice.

Really, you should be distracted by the picture anyway.

Posted by foodnerd at 12:48 AM | Comments (0)

ah, but eet ees waffer-theen

Needed some plain tuile-like cookies to go with the cantaloupe sorbet the other day, and found these at Whole Foods: Jules DeStrooper Crisp Butter Wafers. Turns out they are fabulously delicious: caramelly-sweet, buttery and crunchy. And only 50 calories per cookie, bonus! Everyone who's had any has raved.

Posted by foodnerd at 12:27 AM | Comments (3)