one man's ceiling
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
  steak, on spinach, (with garlic) on noodles
can't take claim for this one, wouldn't think of it. not my creation. this comes from a recent discovery in the food blog world called coconut & lime. you can click here for the recipe and a photo of what this yummy goodness looks like in the end.

a couple notes about what i did and did not do with the recipe at hand:
i've also been tagged recently by lyco, and i intend to answer, but not just yet.

anyone got any food/recipe blogs out there to recommend?

Labels: , , , , , ,

Monday, January 29, 2007
  best. soup. ever. (according to the fam)

a week or so ago e. requested i make potato leek soup. had i ever made it before? i couldn't remember. it took a while and then i found a recipe and made it. they liked it, but they didn't love it.

"i thought it was something else, something you made before that i liked."


after some discussion i came to realize that what was requested was a chicken-leek-tarragon soup that i had made before. it was a soup i had winged, not from a recipe. i wasn't exactly sure of the measurements and such so i winged it again, keeping tabs of what i was using in the off chance it was the much loved and requested soup.

decision: best. soup. ever. here's the recipe:

chicken tarragon and leek soup (oh, and garlic, too) heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat
toss in the leeks and cover to sweat them, a couple of minutes until just soft
add the chicken and stir
season a bit with salt and pepper, not too much; add the tarragon and continue cooking for about 7 minutes (seven? why not 8, or 6?)
add the broth and carrots and increase heat to bring to a boil; if using fresh green beans add them now, otherwise wait... wait...
put the garlic into the soup and stir
once soup is boil turn down to simmer for about 10 minutes; drop the frozen green beans in a couple minutes before serving

that's it.
this served 4 people with NO LEFTOVERS, it's apparently that good.
even for kids

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, January 28, 2007
  shopping etiquette: use some common sense, kids

because i am the primary cook in the house i am also the primary food shopper. it just makes sense. I like to look at the foods i'm getting and if i need to make adjustments in recipes better at the store than after someone else has done the shopping.

i like going to market and i don't like it. i like watching the produce come and go as the seasons change, picking the ripest and freshest items and spotting when to avoid items that have seen better days and freshness. i like knowing the store's aisle and being able to move about in an orderly fashion, having my little places where i can leave my cart safely for five minutes at a time while i trek in and out of alcoves and crannies for the smaller items, avoiding shopping cart jams.

what i don't like is the time it takes. it doesn't matter how crowded the store (unless i'm in a hurry) i'd always rather be done before i get there. i like cooking the food, not the ordeal of hunting and gathering. if these were neanderthal times i'd be the one who made sure things tasted good to get a dispensation from going on the hunt. picking fresh herbs is about the extent of what i like.

what i really don't like is idiots who can't be bothered to learn how to shop. and i'm talking primarily about college kids who haven't got a clue.

today there was a foursome of college kids. they didn't have a shopping list, they couldn't agree on what they wanted, and they were drifting through the store in the opposite direction of the rest of the traffic flow. i encountered them about half way through my shopping mulling near the meat counter wondering what to buy.

"should we get some lamb?" "uh, okay, sure." "do you know a recipe?" "how hard can it be?" "how much do we need?" "do we want a leg?" "what do you eat with lamb?" "i wonder how long it takes to cook."

and so on. all four of them talking, none of them really listening to one another, all in a clump blocking the walkway and not really giving a damn about other people trying to maneuver around them.

okay, so not everyone goes to the store with a list like i do. fine. i used to wing it a couple times a week and was fine. or so i thought. i sat down and figured out how much i was spending when i winged it and then made the effort to shop once a week with a list and a planned menu.

my spending almost cut to half. suddenly i wasn't prey to building menus around enticing (and expensive) items and was focused on what i could really use, suddenly i had staples, and spices began to get more frequent use. shopping made sense once i had a list, and i didn't mind having the extra jack in my bank account.

still, i understand the freedom of letting what looks good be a determining factor, and i'm fine with that. what i'm not fine with is taking an entire party of people shopping. call it the too many chef's syndrome, but when you don't have a list and everyone's got an idea or opinion you're exponentially increasing your shopping time, your costs, and probably the final result of you meal.

to wit, i got in line and loaded up the belt with my meals for the next four days. quite a haul, feeding four people, but it was easily 2/3 produce and the only processed foods were bagels and buns for sloppy joes. right behind me, the college foursome, unloading a hand basket of items for their meal with individual items each of them had impulsively picked up along the way -- a container of dried fruit, a bottled tea, and so on. i dropped nearly $150. i watched as their total came nearly to $95. i couldn't see that they were going to enjoy that meal very much, but maybe they had some staples at home to bolster their purchases.

maybe i'm being a schmuck about this, but let's lay down some ground rules for shopping. all based on experiences i've had this past month or so:
on that note i'm sure there are other pet peeves people have. feel free to add to the list in the comments. or call me out of you think i'm dead wrong.

and to those college kids, whose dinner probably took several hours longer than it should have, i say better luck next time.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, January 20, 2007
  the spinach mushroom lasagna thing (and a zuska secret)

i already mentioned the mushroom-spinach lasagna thing in the previous post which prompted the call to make it again. the recipe below is what i just finished making; it's never the same recipe twice, and its adaptability is what makes it good.

first, it has no noodles in it. my substitution is eggplant, but it can be made simply by layering ingredients like a lasagna. then i guess you can call it a casserole. if you'd prefer a layer of zucchini it would work just as fine, as would the elimination of that layer altogether.

also, this time it was made with sweet pork sausage. i recognize this eating of meat thing may offend some but the carnivores of the house would just as easily eat my flesh if i forced vegetarianism on them so i just roll with it. the dish originally is totally meatless and i've included adjustments if you're eating meat free.

it isn't vegan because it requires cheese. yes, requires. cheese. what donuts are to homer simpson, cheese is to various occupants here at chez frommage.

also, this takes a bit of prep time. almost two hours before i tossed it into the oven, then another 30 to bake. good if you've got the rest of the fam doing something else (and this would be the previously hinted at secret) like playing video games. yes, while i was sauteing and slicing and whatnot my lovely zuska was sitting on the floor in front of the tv playing with my prehistoric playstation. you'll notice there's no number following the word playstation because the original unit had no number. yes, we're in the 20th century gaming stone age here, and it's a marvel that we've kept the game locked up and away from the girls for this long.

so zuska slipped easily into her gaming childhood playing spyro while i was in the kitchen making...

eggplant-spinach-mushroom lasagna to prepare the mushroom mixture:
place olive oil in large skillet and heat to medium
add sausage meat and cook, flattening and crumbing until mostly done, about 7 to 10 minutes (obviously you skip this if you aren't using meat)
add chopped onion and mix until soft, another 3 to 5 minutes
add the mushrooms and mix again
add basil and oregano and salt, mix, and lower heat to medium low and let sit

to prepare the spinach mixture:
heat butter to a large saucepan on medium until melted
add garlic and saute until fragrant, not too long
toss in the spinach and mix. if the spinach is still a bit frozen (or even all the way) don't worry, it'll still work.
mix occasionally and let the water cook out

to prepare the eggplant:
fill a large bowl with cold, salty water
slice the peeled eggplant extra thin using a mandoline
put the slices into the water to leech out any bitterness, about 10 minutes or so
remove from the mater and pat dry

to assemble the lasagna/casserole:
preheat the oven to 375 degrees
drop a half cup of marinara into the bottom of a 9x12 pan.
note: if you have a real lasagna pan that at least 3 inches deep, great, otherwise get out a 9x9 square pan and make a second, smaller dish as you go (this usually ends up in the freezer and eaten the following weekend as a lunch or an emergency meal)
separate the eggplant slices into thirds and line the bottom of the pan(s) with a layer of eggplant
take one third of the tofu and crumble onto the eggplant (this replaces the usual ricotta, with few people ever knowing the difference, which cuts the dairy fat and adds some healthy protein)
sprinkle one fourth of the mozzarella cheese atop the tofu
next layer is one third of the mushroom (and sausage) mixture followed by
one third of the spinach mixture
top with another half cup of marinara and do it again
after the third layer top with marinara, then mozzarella, the the parm

into the oven for 30 minutes, let sit for a couple after it's out, serve to loved ones

Labels: , , , , , ,

Monday, January 15, 2007
  10 questions
my zuska tagged me on this. anyone who feels moved to propel this forward please let me know so i can see. i wouldn't mind a link back as well and would do likewise.

1. If you were stuck on an island and could only eat one cuisine (e.g., French, Italian, etc.) for the rest of your life, what would it be? Why?

i'm presuming, of course, that there's a full kitchen, endless supplies and perhaps a nice kitchen staff stuck there with me. and it would be... italian. sure, i'd miss burgers and fries but in the end i think there's a whole world of pasta and sauces and gellato and all kinds of meats and cheeses that wins me.

i flitted with the idea of german cuisine but only for the beer and bochwurst. that would get tired after a while. and there are plenty of chinese dishes that also gave some pull, but no, it's italian. ask me tomorrow and i might say mexican.

2. What is the most unusual food you've eaten?
i've eaten bugs. deliberately. and not in a foreign country. the first time i was going through some boy scout wilderness training and was offered crickets, sauteed in butter and included in pancakes. not exactly roughing it, but i did eat them. crunchy, like sweet nuts. but don't eat the heads. they're very bitter.

the second time was in college. i was living in a student co-op in berkeley and we had an entomologist phd living in the house. one night he prepared a snack feast that included all sorts of insect goodies, all lab-raised and clean. applesauce surprise cake (the surprise was earthworms), chocolate chip chirpie cookies (crickets again), royal mash on biscuits (bee honey and larvae), and a couple other things i've since forgotten.

3. What is the most unusual food you've eaten and liked?
ah, liked. that's the tricky part. for most people nopales (cactus) might sound unusual, but growing up in california you get used to seeing those flat green succulents in the produce section.
sounds kinda wimpy to say, after the bugs and all, but i do like a good bison burger when i can find it. last time was up in portland, maine, where zuska and i stumbled onto allagash.

4. What foods will you avoid eating (either because of a dietary choice or allergies or just plain don't like)?
liver. brussels sprouts (though i did prepare them recently and they weren't bad, but i really don't like them). okra. rubbery ocean foods like calamari and squid and octopus. it's gonna be a long time before i try paella again. sangria always sits wrong with me.

5. Do you cook (and by that, I mean prepare a meal that you'd serve to friends)?
i cook on average five nights a week. i serve that food to my family. i'd serve it to friends but i'd be anxious about it because i always want for people to have good culinary experiences. i hate the thought that people will walk away from my table thinking something was lacking or that they just choked down what i prepared to be nice.

i have made complete thanksgiving dinners from scratch -- both traditional and vegan, side by side -- to feed my staff when i was a theatre manager.

6. If yes, what is your favorite dish to prepare to impress someone?
i have a basic tomato-based pasta sauce that i think rocks, and another that incorporates chicken and butternut squash. zuska reminds me that i once impressed her on valentine's day with fillet mignon with a cherry sauce. i've got a pasta-free spinach-mushroom lasagna i'm fond of.

7. When you go to a restaurant, what's your ordering strategy/preference?
first, i like to sit facing the door, away from the kitchen, where i can peoplewatch. i try not to look at the prices of main courses until i've narrowed down what interests me, and then rule out anything that looks overpriced -- it usually means it's all about presentation.

for specific items i like to look at things i know i would never try at home, or things i am familiar with if i think the restaurant can show me something amazing. i like traditional fare that's made simply but upscale, or just simply done. i have discovered that a local pub that serves food is more likely to both surprise and delight me than a fancier place because i hate the pretentiousness of most upscale dining experiences. boston is full of people and places that highly prize their upscale eateries but wouldn't last a new york minute in most other metro areas around the world.

8. Have you ever returned a dish or wine to the kitchen at a restaurant? Why?
only when the order was wrong, and even then i've not always returned the plate. returning a wine that hasn't actually spoiled, molded or corked is plain asinine.

9. How many cookbooks do you own?
between a half dozen and a dozen. some aren't practical (i should feature some of the appetizers from a 1950's bar guide) and some are a little dated (the 1930's louisianna rotary woman's cookbook uses odd ingredients and terms) and it really comes down to the bh&g, the whole foods cookbook, occasionally the joy of cooking for reference and a bunch of loose recipes culled from the food network and various web sites like slashfood.

10. What is one food that you wouldn't want to live without?
chocolate. or garlic. i suppose i could live without chocolate, but to have to cook without the option of garlic is unfathomable. could i live without pasta? perhaps, but it'd be a slow death.

Labels: , ,

  potatoes would go great with that!

that's what it says on our refrigerator.

back in the late 1990's there was a campaign by some potato advisory board trying to boost their image. their attempt was to place this slogan on those advertising placards on grocery shopping carts so that no matter where your cart was parked this slogan -- with an arrow pointing to the right -- would force you to pair up potatoes with whatever you were standing next to. so there you are with a sign pointing to cake mixes, toilet paper, pet food, fruit juice... basically any number of things that potatoes would most definitely not no great with.

there may be a reason this slogan never took off the same way as, say, "got milk" did.

so a couple nights ago i made that stuffed chicken thang and served these potatoes along with. it's a martha recipe, tweaked a bit because i can't really just follow a recipe straight.

potatoes-would-go-great-with-that vinaigrette
unless you have really tiny potatoes cut the potatoes into 1 inch pieces, quartered will usually do it. you know, potato salad size.
cover potatoes with cold, salted water and cook until just tender, say 12 to 15 minutes
drain the potatoes and set aside to cool slightly.
in a medium bowl combine parsley, vinegar and mustards; season with salt and pepper to taste.
toss potatoes into the mixture.
if you'd prefer a cold potato salad, send the spuds into the fridge for at least 2 hours; then just before serving add celery and oil, toss and serve.
if you prefer a warm or room temperature salad (and i like it best this way) add oil and celery, toss and serve it that way.

serves 4 to 6
kid tested and approved
leftovers (ha!) will keep for a couple of days

c'mon, there's gotta be something asking to be served with potatoes this week!

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, January 10, 2007
  chicken, stuffed
there's not pix for this because (a) i made it up and (b) we ate it before i even thought about getting out the camera.

you know how in the butcher cases they have the cuts of meat and then they have the doctored up older bits of meat? you know why they do that? no, it's not because there's a vast army of people out there who do not or cannot figure out how to prep meats on their own, it's a last-ditch effort to salvage older cuts before throwing them out for a loss.

or as one old security guard named john once told me "the more they put in it, the more they don't want you to know about it." hence the origin of hot links and other spicy sausages. but i digress.

so i'm looking in the case and there's a stuffed chicken breast. it's got mushroom stuffing, all ready to pop in the oven. interesting, but my boat's not a-float. then over there they have some flank steak wrapped up in a chopped vegetable and blue cheese concoction. interesting, but not quite right...


chicken stuffed with feta and asparagus!
in a lidded frying pan or large pot boil an inch of salted water.
toss in the asparagus, remove from heat and let sit for 4 minutes.
drain the asparagus and rinse with cold water, you only want them slightly blanched.
lay the fillets open smooth side down. you'll need to fold them in half so if they're a little too thick or uneven in width cover them with plastic wrap and smash them flat with the bottom of a cast iron skillet. (our neighbors must love it when i cook).
mash the cheeses together in a small bowl.
use two-thirds of the cheese and divide among the inside of the fillets, nestled down the center.
nestle three to five stalks of asparagus in the cheese mix.
fold the fillet in half and place in a baking dish.
brush the olive oil on the fillets, sprinkle with salt, pepper and tarragon.
bake at 375 degrees for about 30 to 40 minutes.
before they're done cooking, sprinkle the rest of the cheese mix atop the fillets and broil for about five minutes.
hot cheese burns! let it sit about five minutes out of the oven before serving.

serves four, so double up if you want seconds or leftovers for lunch the next day.
kid tested and approved!
goes great with potatoes. doesn't everything?

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, January 07, 2007
  200 calories

well, this is a bit of fun. has this helpful page with photos of food items weighing in at 200 calories a piece. scanning from the top down you can see where you'd get more bang for your buck.

imagine a world where processed food items were packaged in 200 calorie amounts, not oversized packages with a "suggested serving" size in small type on the side. i was reminded of this looking at some fancy vitamin water (the closest thing to lemonade i could find the other day) which i handily downed with my lunch; it suggested the bottle contained 2.5 servings but the only way to get the 100% vitamin c it contained was to drink the entire thing. confusing, deliberately deceptive, and frustrating.

but what if we had snack foods in 200 calorie sizes and the choice to eat was based on that knowledge? people standing at the vending machine looking inside going hmm, i could have 16 gummi bears or 8 hershey's kisses or half a snickers bar.

of course, we're americans. we're not going to let some fascist vending machines tell us we can't eat a bag of chips, a soda, and a candy bar with our lunch! 2000 calories, that's per meal, right?
Thursday, January 04, 2007
  bologna boats!
"dinner in 45 minutes? it's possible! the family will think you're a wonder -- and you are, with the help of skip-a-step mixes and canned foods, preparation pared to bare essentials, no-cook ingredients. still delicious? of course! try our wonderful recipes; invent your own --"

so beckons "meals in minutes" one of many books in the better homes and gardens "creative cooking library" titles from 1963. the post-war conversion from city living to urban sprawl was complete, the interstate highways nearly connected, and the idea of cooking wholesome, nutritious meals from scratch had been replaced by libraries full of shortcuts utilizing only the best that the agribiz had to offer. gone were the worries of picking the best cuts of meat or worrying over the ripeness and availability of produce. poof! canned meats with names that don't indicate contents, processed cheeses that require no refrigeration and fallout shelter-ready vegetables made these any-time meals in any part of the country.

i know my mom used recipes like this, if not some of these exact recipes. the following horror taken at random leaves a bad taste in my mouth just reading it.

burgers in bologna boats shape beef into 4 patties about the same size as bologna slices
grill lightly on greased griddle, turning once
sprinkle with salt and pepper
slip each patty onto bologna slice
grill till bologna is lightly browned and edges cup around patty
top with lattice of cheese strips
spread bottom half of toasted buns with mustard
top with patties, prop bun tops on edge to show off pretty lattice
offer catsup, pickle relish, and burger relish
serves 4

show off pretty lattice, that really cracks me up. like presentation is somehow going to compensate for the fact that you've cupped a burger in fried bologna and served it for dinner. and unlike other recipes in this fine volume which are served with side dishes (often prepared at the same time) or are shown in garish photos with suggested sides, this is it, kiddo. a burger. that's your dinner. eat up.

then again, after that there were probably few requests for seconds.

i'd love to go back in time with a rachel ray cookbook or one of martha's everyday cooking magazines and show it to the lovely housewives of the civil rights era and see how they'd react. would it have shocked them to see simple, balanced meals with fresh produce taking less than 30 minutes? as these boomers were entering their adult years, would modern recipes assault their process food-deadened tastebuds?

this isn't the most heinous recipe, just the first one i spotted with a title that made me pick the book up off the street and bring it home. yes, my zuska hates it when i go out on trash day because i'm fond of rescuing "projects" in need of some attention that never seems to happen. double-plus bad: it's a book. i'm not supposed to bring any more books into the house.

"can i keep it if i promise not to make any of the recipes?"
Monday, January 01, 2007

it's cheese, it's a ball, it's a ball of cheese. what more do you want?

this is something i've made traditionally for the last couple years as a new year's buffet item. i don't recall making it any other time of the year, though zuska may contradict my memory. there isn't really any reason not to make this for any kind of a party. a little prep the night before, a little the next day, a plate and some crackers and you're set.

have the dairy ingredients at room temperature, then mix them in a small bowl until completely blended.
add the liquids and mix again. it may look a little too wet, but that's okay. trust me.
cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate. 4 hours is the minimum, overnight is best.
take the now solidified cheese out and shape into a ball.
set the chopped nuts out in a thin layer on a prep area and roll the ball over them until the ball is coated with nuts.
take any remaining nuts and set them onto a small serving plate, rest the ball on the nuts.
serve with any crackers you like. zuska prefers carr's water crackers because they are sturdy, bland and allow you to taste the cheese. i am partial to wheat thins (baked, not fried, and that goes for the crackers as well) but a buttery ritz-type cracker is also a good choice.

and happy new year to you working off the roman calendar.
recipes and musings on food -- and anything else for that matter -- from a guy with a sticky brain who likes food. perhaps he likes food too much.

My Photo
Location: right coast via left coast
  • slashfood
  • 101 cookbooks
  • food network
  • the food section

  • deserts
  • library thing
  • mod*mom
  • librarians' internet index
  • barnacle press
  • cinematical

  • dirty dishes
  • i'm out
  • 2 B or not 2 B
  • das Fünftel von Mai
  • days five and six
  • veggie week, day 3
  • day 2, something new (and mint pesto)
  • the experiment and the menu
  • beer & cheese & a bag of chips
  • what constitutes a national tragedy?
  • top-o-yer-corn

  • leftovers
    September 2006 / October 2006 / November 2006 / December 2006 / January 2007 / February 2007 / March 2007 / April 2007 / May 2007 / June 2007 /

    Powered by Blogger