July 5, 2011 § 20 Comments
I have a new favorite summertime treat. And – almost unbelievably – it’s not ice cream! It’s a sandwich. It’s an amazing sandwich.
But before I get to that, will you bear with me while I ramble more generally about cherries for a little bit? Oh good.
I have a list of things that make summer summer. It’s a list that’s pretty much just inside my head. Its length is indeterminate and its contents ever shifting. But, it only shifts around the edges. There are some core elements that stay the same.
April 4, 2011 § 8 Comments
What a nutty weekend! This is how it went: We went out on Friday night to see a dramatic version of the “The Grand Inquisitor”, a story from within The Brother’s Karamazov in which Christ comes back to Earth during the height of the Spanish Inquisition. It was fabulous and fascinating…and my brain has been hurting ever since, puzzling over issues of freedom and peace and mystery and authority. Then I had to work all day Saturday collecting more dietary data from scores of immigrant women and children, which is fun because they are all wonderful and inspiring, but it is also exhausting. I came home at the end of the day to discover that a friend was going to surprise us with a visit for dinner. So I scrounged together dinner, and we all stayed up too late talking about this and that.
Sunday was beautiful and sunny, perfect for relaxing. Joel has decided he is going to learn to skateboard (I’m sure he would like me to let you know that he actually has learned by this point, after a couple of weeks of practicing), so we decided it might be a fun afternoon activity to go for a quick little excursion, him on his skateboard and me running alongside, er, actually I was more behind than alongside, but whatever. In the spirit of exploration, we took a couple of turns we had never taken before, and the next thing we knew we were a teensy tinsy bit lost. We stopped in a cafe to ask for directions and learned from the woman behind the counter that to get back to our car would be approximately an 8-mile jaunt. Oops. So, what had been intended to be a 4-mile run turned into a 12ish mile run, and by the end of it we were both thoroughly worn out. And very hungry. « Read the rest of this entry »
November 17, 2010 § 2 Comments
Sooner or later, all of us have to grapple with the great question of “what shall I do with this pound of ground beef and pound of ground pork I have left from my last month’s meat CSA delivery.” Right? What? You’ve never asked yourself that? Well, shoot. And here I thought that that was one of those universal things that connected us all across national and ethnic boundaries. Well anyway, I at least found myself asking that very question on Monday night. That’s a lot of meat to deal with, and something had possessed me and prompted me to defrost it all! I had formed a plan to make Norwegian meatballs, but when faced with the actual prospect of cooking dinner after a looong day, suddenly even something as simple as shaping little spheres of meat with my hands seemed like more detail work than I could handle. That’s how I wound up making meatloaf.
Overall, I’m really suspicious of most anything that’s a loaf if it isn’t bread. Something about it just seems wrong, somehow. (And it completely defies my imagination to think about why the rock artist Meat Loaf ever chose that as his stage name. I mean, seriously??) But, at the end of that particular day, mixing the meats up with some spices and just shoving them into a bread pan was about all the dedication to the culinary arts I could muster. So, meatloaf it was. Let’s just say I was being retro-chic. And, besides, something doesn’t become a classic piece of Americana for absolutely no reason. When it comes down to it, meatloaf is incredibly easy, and there is no law on the books saying it has to be a bland, heavy lump of meat. You can go ahead and make it as flavorful as you please! And I discovered that if you start with good quality meat it really doesn’t take much to make a scrumptious and satisfying supper. I took the spices I would have used if I had made the meatballs and blended them into the meatloaf instead. I added in some ketchup and mustard – if they’re good on a burger, they should be good in a meatloaf, right? And then I threw some bay leaves on top to perfume the loaf as it baked. « Read the rest of this entry »
November 10, 2010 § 4 Comments
I’m tired right now. My butt is tired from biking all over the city to collect interview data. My voice is tired from chewing out drivers who are being inattentive (er, well, that’s not actually true because I never quite get up the gumption to let loose with the internal vitriolic that I have worked up, but um, my inner voice is tired). My brain is tired from trying to think about hypotheses. And my self is tired because wow, we went and lost another hour of daylight there and pardon me but it’s really pretty friggin’ dark these days. It’s funny because I’m a winter person, or at least I totally love winter, but I think I may also get a titch of seasonal affective disorder. So anyway, with all this tiredness built up, I have realized that it is time. It is time for comfort food. Food that cooks slowly in the oven until it’s tender and falling apart. Food that is only about as complex as a three word sentence. Subject, verb, object: Emily eats hotdish (that’s Minnesotan for casserole, in case you were confused). Or perhaps: Emily eats shortribs. It is time for lasagne, mashed potatoes, pot roasts, braised ribs, stews, gravies.
I was getting suspicious from my general mood that maybe it was time. Then my mother sent me a goulash recipe accompanied by the admonition that I really needed to get cooking some slow roasted meat dishes – the kind that sit in your slow cooker all day, generally minding their own but also taking care to gussy themselves up just so and to treat you to dinner. So then I knew for sure it was time. Moms are never wrong about these kinds of things. A minor problem though. I don’t have a slow cooker, so anything that needs a couple of hours to cook, I have to be there for. And I don’t want to eat dinner at 9 pm, so the days that can support dishes that fall into the same genre as pot roasts and stews have to be carefully selected. But, sometimes there are days when you can get home a little early and stick something in the oven. Those, my friends, are very good days. « Read the rest of this entry »
November 7, 2010 § 3 Comments
One of my most vivid food memories from when I was little was eating baked acorn squash filled with apples, sugar, and butter. It’s the sort of thing that sticks with you when your age is in the single digits – being allowed to eat something that tasted basically like apple pie, mushed into an edible golden bowl. It was one of the things I really looked forward to when fall rolled around, and was something that gave our family dinners, which I have already completely idealized in my hazy memory as these wonderfully cozy affairs a la Norman Rockwell (but which in reality I believe also involved quite a few lectures on why we should eat our vegetables, how unkind it is to mommy to say “yuck” when she has taken the time to cook you dinner, and how we really needed to polish our manners – proper use of the knife and fork, elbows off the table, do not burp…you need to know this because what would you do if you were invited to dinner with the king of Norway?!), an extra specially snug feeling. I swear, something about eating stuffed acorn squash tinges the evening with a friendly golden glow.
June 14, 2010 § 9 Comments
Our hostesses this month, Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz, and Valerie of a The Chocolate Bunny, chose delicious pate with freshly baked bread as their June Daring Cook’s challenge! They’ve provided us with 4 different pate recipes to choose from and are allowing us to go wild with our homemade bread choice.
That’s right, pate. And now we’re all thinking, who the heck makes their own pate?! Apparently I do! Oh, also the hundreds or thousands or however many other people there are participating in the Daring Cooks challenges. Maybe not quite so crazy and intrepid after all. Something that is at least a little, tiny bit crazy, though, is that I just had all of the ingredients to make a pork liver pate already there, in my freezer and pantry. Ground pork? Check. Bacon? Check. Pork liver? Check. Pork fat? Check? What the heck is this? A butcher shop?!!…It’s just that sometimes Kim, the completely awesome local farmer from whom I get all my meat products sometimes throws some extra odds and ends into my meat share because I once told her that I was adventurous (and liver is really quite good for you – it’s a good source of many many vitamins, including the increasingly popular vitamin D, which is hard to find in food sources – you get most from the sun). So there you have it. Friends were coming for dinner and I was going to make pork liver pate and bread as an appetizer.
The minor hitch, it turned out, was the lack of a food processor (or sausage maker, sadly – I do long for a sausage maker) in my kitchen. What I have, and it usually works well, is either one me chopping things finely or one of those handheld stick chopper doodads. I opted to use the latter for processing together all the pig products. Now, I’m not that squeamish, but a word of caution to all of you: a handheld blender stick is not the best implement for making a liver pate. I tried to be a vegetarian in college for a while (ecological reasons), until I discovered that beans and whole grains make me sick (literally!). So, I took some time, did a lot of reading, research, meeting my meat, and such to figure out how I could feel good about my meat consumption. Trying to blend pork liver, ground pork, and pork fat together in a big bowl with a whirring stick that splattered things all over my hair and face (I won’t go into more detail) brought me as close as I ever have been to wanting to be a vegetarian again. BUT then I wrapped the stuff in bacon and stuck it in the oven, and whoa! all hesitation about it vanished with one deep inhalation of the amazing, crackling, bacony smells that began to emanate from the kitchen. It smelled like Christmas on steroids. « Read the rest of this entry »
June 4, 2010 § 2 Comments
I wish the Earl of Sandwich were alive today, so I could write him a very thoughtful, personalized thank you note. What a stroke of brilliance, the sandwich! Deciding to stick your meal between two pieces of sliced bread is like, I don’t know, the best thing since slicing the bread in the first place. I’m hard pressed to think of foods that aren’t good, or even improved by, being added to bread. And, I think it’s entirely possible I would be quite happy eating only sandwiches for meals for the rest of my life. Would it be good for me? Probably not (though you could do worse, especially if you’re using all sorts of interesting whole/sprouted grain breads). But it would be oh so crusty, and tender, and juicy, and succulent, and crunchy, and spicy, and salty, and all the other wonderful things sandwiches can be. (When I was in France, everyone who was complaining abut weight gain was blaming the fact that they had started eating sandwiches for lunch, instead of nice sit down 3-course meals. Having access to those baguettes, and that Camembert and pate, I could easily see how 3-courses may accidentally be replaced by 3 sandwiches before your stomach had time to override your tastebuds!).
On a standard day, I eat an open faced sandwich for breakfast, and another open faced sandwich at lunch (just classic smørrebrød, for those who are familiar). Then on a happy day, I might also get to have a messy, finger-licking, stacked sandwich just packed with goodies for supper.
On special occasions (also known as: random days when we decide to get together and grab a bite to eat) my friend Megan and I sometimes like to go to a teensy-tinesy little restaurant in downtown Boston that we call “The Fancy Sandwich Place” (it’s real name is Mike & Patty’s). Now, I’m more apt with sandwiches than with any other food to look down at it and say, “oh my gosh, this is the best thing I have ever eaten!”, and at “The Fancy Sandwich Place”, I think I’ve done this to every sandwich I’ve gotten there. They make them with uber-fresh, high quality ingredients, and assemble them with care and a chef’s flair. You absolutely can’t go wrong with any of the sandwiches there, but one of my favorites is the torta, which is kind of like a burrito put onto a sandwich: beans, cheese, vegetables, meat, guacamole. The best, is the one made with carnitas – slow-cooked, juicy pork, that’s falling to pieces it’s so tender. It’s topped with a slaw made of jicama root, which adds a wonderful sweet crunch. « Read the rest of this entry »
March 24, 2010 § 1 Comment
I’m afraid to admit that one of my resolutions for the new year was to try my hand at some Thai cooking – in fact, I think I resolved to “get really into” it. This was a resolution because Thai is one of the favorite cuisines around this little household. I’m afraid to admit it because January, and February, and very nearly all of March passed by without me so much as making an attempt.
We certainly ate a lot of Thai food in that time! We have a friend (who we refer to as Cephas though that is not his name, but I will not attempt to explain) who grew up in Thailand, and he has been kind enough to start taking us to Thai restaurants and guiding us boldly through their menus. Jiminy Crickets! do you ever get a different experience at a Thai restaurant when someone who speaks the language is with you! Cultural solidarity comes out strongly, as does a sense of being invited to the inside, a special (non-physical) reserved dining room of sorts. You get offered an entirely different menu (which the rest of us can’t even come close to making out!). You are told in no uncertain terms by the proprietors which ones are the special dishes that you have to try, no excuses taken. I think if you can prove a certain level of familiarity with Thai culture, the wait staff and chef take it on faith that you will accept a certain number of more esoteric ingredients as totally normal, even gourmet, rather than weird. This is how we wound up eating such things as “horse piss eggs” (we definitely didn’t ask) and stinky beans. They were quite good! I mean, all thing considered, I come from a culture that invented lutefisk and an inedible substance know literally as “old cheese”, I should be open to virtually anything. « Read the rest of this entry »