September 10, 2012 § 10 Comments
Did you have to take timed tests in elementary school? (To this day I’m still not entirely sure whether they were called timed tests or times tests, after all, they were used for learning the times tables.) A couple minutes to complete as many problems as you can multiplying by 7. A couple minutes to complete as many problems as you can dividing by nine. Awful. Awful awful awful. There’s a pit in my stomach now, just remembering.
I’ve never done well with time pressure. I freeze up when I’m in a hurry, making stupid mistakes, leaving a trail of minor disasters. But, I also hate being late. So, I won’t just take the extra time I sometimes need. Basically, time, deadlines, and I all keep slightly different schedules. And I occasionally lose my sanity trying to force them into alignment.
September 8, 2011 § 23 Comments
I feel a bit as though bell peppers are raining down on my head. Tumble, plump, bumble, plop, boing… And then scattering across the floor. Thankfully they aren’t actually, though I imagine it wouldn’t be entirely unpleasant. But, it would make a lot of peppers to clean up – and they’d require extra scrubbing after being on the floor and all.
Anyhow, we do have bell peppers in abundance. More than can be reasonably used, even through a well strategized line up of stir fries with peppers, pasta with peppers, salad with peppers, and sauteed melanges of who knows what but it definitely includes peppers…with peppers.
I thought about pickling them and packing them by the peck (into pints, of course), and it may yet come to that. But, in the meantime, the clever, immediate, and entirely delectable solution was soup. Roasted pepper soup.
August 28, 2011 § 12 Comments
Hoo-wee, we are having some weather out there. The wind and rain are battering my windows like ill-intentioned thugs trying to get in. The potted plants and deck furniture have the look of a bunch of cast-aways where they’re clustered, near the entryway, but I think they’re giving me looks of thankfulness – ‘thank you for not leaving us out there!’ And, for perhaps the first time ever, I’m feeling rather glad we don’t have any large trees growing right next to our apartment building.
I’m so thankful that the hurricane had calmed somewhat, into a tropical storm, by the time it came to visit us this far north. We still have power and water (knock on wood), so I cannot complain one bit. It’s still nothing to mess with though. Hunkering is the only word to describe what the city is doing.
July 29, 2011 § 6 Comments
We were just talking about drinking, so I figured it was time to move on to smoking, right? (And then we can talk about the really interesting vices…joke.) There’s only one type of smoking I can get behind, and that is the smoking of meats. Fish in particular. I don’t know how to do it myself, and therefore I choose to picture it as an esoteric mystical practice, kind of like a druidic rite, in which slippery pieces of fresh fish are enveloped in wafting clouds of smoke, amidst some hand waving and muttered incantation, and then they come out rich and flakey and salty and as delicious as candy (if candy were rich and flakey and salty, which, perhaps, more of it ought to be).
I have met a man who owns a shop that sells smoked meat and fish, I’ll call him ‘Eric the smoker’, and he makes the most unbelievable smoked salmon and whitefish. It’s pretty hard to believe anything that good could be legal. (His pate is in a class of its own as well. Mine is not bad, though.) At his shop they also sell posters with heavy woodblock prints and funny slogans. My favorite is “Fish: The healthy smoke.” (My other favorite is “Cheese: the adult form of milk.” I own both.)
Admittedly, some nutritionists may argue that smoked food is not good for you. Smoking meat can produce some carcinogens that you then ingest. But, allow me to go on a little scientific
rampage tangent, and just point out that these carcinogens have only been shown to be carcinogenic in lab animals. Now, if a chemical that you apply to skin or something of that sort is carcinogenic in lab animals, we should take it seriously. And, we should take it seriously for food too, but with a caveat. You see, these carcinogens are produced by the cooking process, and humans are the only animals that naturally eat their food cooked. Growing evidence points to the possibility that we’ve been doing so for a loooooooong time. In fact, it may be what allowed us to evolve into humans!
December 4, 2010 § 7 Comments
I had the sudden realization during a conversation the other day that I have a tendency to go through, shall we say, unique obsessive phases. I was telling someone that I was really obsessed with igneous rocks – well, actually just obsidian and pumice – for about a year in middle school, and they gave me a look that clearly said, “I think that either you are from some planet that is separated from Earth by at least one asteroid belt, or else you probably grew up under one of those igneous rocks that you were obsessed with.” It had never really occurred to me before that this kind of obsession may not be entirely normal, and then I started thinking about some of my other obsessions. Scarab beetles, for a while. I was also fixated on Aquaporins (that would be the protein channels that allow water to travel through cell walls) and prions (the misfolded proteins that cause mad cow disease) at various points in time. And the concept of zero. And bloodroot flowers. And the “cerulean” Crayola crayon. And, well, you get the idea.
I also go through obsessive food phases (surprising no one). Like ricotta, or lemon zest, or chorizo, or mini turnovers. The phase I am currently in is Ottolenghi. That would be Yotam Ottolenghi and his eponymous cafes in London. One of my younger brothers is currently in London for grad school, which means that in theory he could get take out from Ottolenghi any time he wished. Ah, how unfair the world is. My obsession with Ottolenghi is by no means unique, however. He’s a bit of a buzzword in the food world, particularly because he has a new cookbook of vegetarian recipes out this year, and ever growing swaths of people are being extolling how fresh, curious, vibrant, and downright stunning his recipes are. He is the cure for food doldrums.
September 14, 2010 § 7 Comments
The September 2010 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by John of Eat4Fun. John chose to challenge The Daring Cooks to learn about food preservation, mainly in the form of canning and freezing. He challenged everyone to make a recipe and preserve it. John’s source for food preservation information was from The National Center for Home Food Preservation.
And well we might have food preservation creeping into the back corners of our minds. This time of year is astounding, sort of overwhelming, from a culinary standpoint. Everything is overflowing with produce, the market stands, the refrigerator, the garden (er, well actually my garden is kind of overflowing with weeds more than anything else, but I swear that’s only because we’ve been traveling so much this summer). But, the days are distinctly shorter. I find myself looking up at the sky on my bike ride home and thinking, “What do you think you’re doing? Why are you so dark? I swear you used to be light at this time!” And so we’re reminded that the tangled profusion of fruits and vegetables we’re trying to make our way through right now will, in not too long, give way to cold and frost, decomposing. But also renewing the earth.
But a fat lot of good the renewal of the earth does a person if they don’t have any food to survive the winter. Not that that is actually a problem for most of us these days, but I think that preserving food is a skill that should not be lost. It feeds a primal urge to prepare and save for harder days. It allows you to bottle up a little bit of summer sunshine – in the form of peaches, or tomatoes, or corn – to open up in mid-January when you most need to be licked by those rays. It’s also a wonderfully fun way to spend time with friends, if you do a group canning afternoon, and keep your hands busy so your mind can frolic. Between all of this and the growing acknowledgement of the importance of supporting local food systems, food preservation is resurging by leaps and bounds.