Saturday, June 30, 2007

Lemon Nutmeg Cookies

Cream together:
1 stick butter (softened)
1/2 cup sugar

Beat in:
3 egg yolks
Zest of one lemon
A little salt
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste

Add slowly:
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 t baking powder

Roll between two sheets of wax paper, chill, cut out. Bake at 300F for 10 minutes.

I iced them, too. And here's a nice indication of the kind of operation I run in my kitchen: (My internal monologue) Damn, I don't have any food coloring. I don't want white icing! Well, that's okay, I'll just grind up a little saffron using the smaller mortar. Yeah, that's how I roll.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Hasty Quiche

one crust for a 9" pie

1 Trader Joe's package of baby spinach
1/2 of one large sweet onion
6 eggs
1/2 c half and half
lots of grated sharp English cheddar
black pepper
fresh rosemary

Chop the spinach small. Slice the onion. Chop the rosemary as finely as you can. Blend filling, pour into shell. Bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Monday, June 25, 2007


On a whim I bought a tiny bit of some goat milk cheddar at New Seasons.

It was incredible, remarkable, delicious, hyperbolic.


I will never have this treat again :-(

Saturday, June 16, 2007

A very tasty dinner

A very tasty dinner
Originally uploaded by laurelfactorial
Here we go, the first in what will no doubt become a popular feature: easy and delicious meals using ingredients from Trader Joe's.

You will need:
-Tomatoes (I went with the high lycopene on the vine little ones)
-Sour cream
-Beef (I went with a small amount of sirloin)
-Jasmine rice (1 cup uncooked)
-Chicken broth (1.5 - 2 cups)
-Olive oil
-Saffron (to taste)
-Garlic (proportional to the amount of meat you have)
-Onions (proportional to the amount of meat you have)
-Cumin (to taste)
-Pepper (to taste)
-Salt (to taste -- you don't need much at all!)
-Sumac (very little, it has quite a punch) (okay okay so you can't get this one at Trader Joe's)
-Some kind of bread -- you can make pita, or I bought this lavosh stuff.

Chop the tomatoes roughly and set aside. Chop your onions and garlic very finely. I used a little food processor. Slice the beef into fairly thin strips, and mix together the raw beef, onions and garlic, pepper, salt, cumin, and sumac. While this is getting acquainted, make your rice. In a very small saucepan, bring the rice and broth to a boil. (The more broth you use the softer the rice will be. This is a matter of personal taste, but be warned that it is very easy to end up with mushy and gross rice.) Turn down the heat to low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand. Cook the beef in the olive oil on moderately high heat. This will work out better in a large pan where you can get the beef fully spread out (you want to sear it, not stew it). To serve, put a little pile of rice on your bread, and spread the beef and tomatoes over this. Top with sour cream. Roll up like a super trendy oh my Gods I can't believe I'm writing these words wrap, and stuff your face.

For maximum effect, serve with mint tea in a room decorated with Orientalism prints whilst wearing a Ghawazee coat and playing a bellydancing CD.

(If you live in Portland, you might recognize this for what it is: an attempt to recreate or at least echo my favorite dish at a certain very good Lebanese restaurant. You should also know that it's not as good as their version.)

Not to sound all Food Network, but this makes a really great weeknight dinner (definitely less than an hour start to finish), and the leftovers are easy to take to work for lunch. It's also pretty enough that I think you could serve it to company (certain company) -- try making a nice cucumber salad to go with, and maybe some hummus; buy some baklava for dessert.

Health has a flavor

I made myself a smoothie just now with frozen wild blueberries, low fat yogurt, pomegranate/blueberry juice, honey matcha powder, and golden flax meal.

It's a little weird, kind of a scary not-all-the-way purple color, with a very plant-y taste (from the matcha) and a little bit of texture from the flax meal.

I kept trying to think where I had seen this color and tasted this flavor before, and suddenly it hit me: this stuff looks and tastes exactly like sweetened acai pulp. Well, okay, not exactly: it's less oily. But when you consider that the health benefits are very similar (loads of antioxidants plus some omega fatty acids), it becomes even more eerie. Perhaps I've just blown the lid off of this conspiracy: there is no such thing as acai, there is is only a factory in Brazil where they mix blueberries and matcha and flax and flax oil and pomegranate juice. They gave it an exotic name to con the unsuspecting American public into buying products they already knew about, but hadn't thought of combining!

The other and perhaps weirder possibility is that this particular combination of nutrition has a distinct taste.

Or maybe it's just that I've heard a fair number of people compare the taste of acai to blueberries, and the first time I tasted I remarked how much it tasted like "eating tea". But who likes boring answers like that?

I really like acai, actually. It's fairly nasty in unsweetened pulp form, but once you add just a little sugar it's really good. If you ever manage to find this product, I HIGHLY recommend it. It's crazy delicious. I like it because it's non-dairy, and full of health, but still super fatty (NOM NOM NOM) and sweet and tasty. It's like... like sorbet you would eat for breakfast. It's extremely filling, and in a good way, not in an "I just ate lots of ice cream and am now sick" way.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Great and Powerful RR

I will admit it, here, on the internet, for all the world to see: I hate Rachael Ray. That's right, I'm just like every other asshole with a Kitchen Aid mixer and a Le Creuset. I can't stand that woman. Her alarming smile. All those horrible things she says (you know what I mean). Her recipes aren't really that impressive or creative. She comes across as pretty dumb. She'll promote a recipe as healthy, when it's obviously not (my favorite example of this is when she made a pasta dish and said it was "low carb" because she didn't use as much pasta as usual -- seriously what the hell). She's just... annoying. If I had known her in high school I would have hated her.

HOWEVER I can also admit something else, something the other assholes can't: mostly I hate her because I'm jealous. I wish I could have her job. I want a show on the Food Network! I want to sell eighty bazillion cookbooks!

And you know, I'll even take this one step further: I admire what she's done. She's been able to make people less afraid of cooking. Cooking doesn't have to be hard or scary or even glamorous. Her dumbness (like when she "eyeballs" an amount and gets it fantastically wrong) makes her accessable. Just because I don't like perky people doesn't mean I don't know that everybody else does. Her recipes don't appeal to me, and that's okay -- because they are the kind of food that a lot of people want to eat. Hell, if she can get people back in the kitchen, I'm all in favor. I'm not opposed to easy and tasty food. I cook a lot of food like she cooks, in fact.

But back to the hating!

Recently I was in a grocery store, and I wanted to buy some crackers. Little did I realize that this activity is now fraught with peril. Choose carefully, mortal, else Rachael Ray's goddamn smiling face end up in your goddamn cupboard! Cripes. That's what I hate about her, she's so... oversaturated. Good on her for building an empire and a fortune, but Jesus H Christ, do I really need knives with her name on them? I'm opposed to the whole celebrity chef promotion thing generally. Sure, I understand, it's like basketball players and shoes. You gotta make a living. But it's symptomatic of everything that I dislike about that whole Food Network culture in general -- it's all about celebrity, not about talent, or the quality of what you produce.

Okay, I'm stopping myself right there. Now I'm just flinging poo at the unstoppable machine. What are celebrity chefs for if not being celebrities?

I miss the Two Fat Ladies. They were my idea of what a cooking show should be.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Why I failed at veganism

As I mentioned previously, I've been quite taken up with the book Gastronaut by Stefan Gates. There is a description in this book of ortolans. Ortolans are songbirds that are kept in the dark, which causes them to overeat. When they are ready for consumption, they are drowned in brandy. The are, apparently, illegal in France. If you have not already done so, you can read about them on Wikipedia.

Now, here is the thing: when I hear about any food that I am not allowed to have because of some goddamn government regulation (even if it's not my own government doing the regulating), I get worked up. I once got so worked up at my job about unpasteurized cider that my coworkers started to back away slowly. So I'm already suckered in on this one. Add to that the fact that this is a food that is outlandish, fanciful, evocative, and suggests not only a foreign place but time as well, and, well, I have to admit that I got a little pang inside of me. I have this weird competitive, show-offisish nature when it comes to food. I know in my little heart that someday I'm going to enter a cooking contest with a cockentrice -- "Oh, this?" I'll say, "Just a little something I whipped up!" Even though I'm scared of scary foods, I want to eat them.

I started to wonder: could I buy those on the internet? I... I'm almost afraid to look. I suspect anyway that the answer is "no" and "they wouldn't taste that good, fool". So then I started to wonder, is there some kind of similar songbird species that lives here that I could do the same thing with in the convenience of my own apartment?

At that point I realized that there's something deeply wrong with me. Not only is the idea of eating a bird whole pretty goddamn gross (although I suspect I know at least one person who as attempted it, but I cannot confirm this and so I won't elaborate), but, as I'm sure anyone with any kind of sentimentality at all has already noted, that's a pretty creepy thing to do to an animal.

I will never attempt those medieval recipes that call for roasting a goose alive. They make me cry to think about them. However, I don't have the same reaction to force-feeding. I had veal the other day, and it was great. I've never had foie gras (I'm kind of opposed to liver just biologically), but I don't find myself getting all worked up over it. I've eaten face bacon (MMMMMMM FACE BACON).

I was a vegan for like 9 months once. I totally failed at it. Not only because I thought about cheese every. single. day. but also because I never had that sharp, visceral reaction that some people have about animal cruelty. I don't like factory farming, and I try (but usually fail) to buy the most non-offensive animal products that I can. But the thing is, at the end of the day, I've never reacted to it the same way other people have. There are some animals that I won't eat (cephalopods because they are magnificent, rabbit because of a childhood incident, duck because I had pet duck, etc.) so I understand that sentimental/emotional reaction, I just don't have it in the way that I feel like I'm "supposed" to.

So... who wants to come over to my place for some force-fed starlings? Eh? Eh? (God, that would be disgusting.)