Monday, November 20, 2006

I Like it Tart

Here in the USA it's Thanksgiving week, and so it's time to begin prepping for the feast on Thursday. We're going over to a friend's house for an "orphan's Thanksgiving" - a mishmash of everyone who isn't traveling to visit family and who doesn't have family in town (ie: everyone I know).

I always make homemade cranberry sauce in these cases, because occasionally you get to a feast like this and NOBODY HAS BROUGHT CRANBERRY SAUCE! Which, as you can tell from the caps, is a massive transgression. Truth be told, the stuffing and all that other stuff is actually a vehicle for good cranberry sauce. I feel the same way about chutneys and plum sauces, mint jelly... they are the real reason to eat! Mmmm.

So, I went with a classic this year. First, the fresh cranberries.

I put about 5 cups of them in a big bowl of water to wash them, which reminds me of how cranberries are actually harvested. They grow on bushes in a low-lying, sandy-soil field (a cranberry marsh), and then when it's time to harvest, the farmer floods the field and the cranberries float to the surface! Then, they scoot around in boats gathering up all the berries. The fields are drained, and the same bushes grow the cranberries perenially. Cool, eh?

I also cut up some oranges - best to get organic, since we'll be using the whole orange.

Then, put the cranberries, oranges and about 2 cups of sugar in a bowl and go to town with a stick mixer. Or you could put it all through a food processor, or, do like my mom and use your old-fashioned meat grinder!

I prefer a little less sugar and I leave it pretty chunky.

If you want to, you can get clever and add some fresh ginger (very nice) or pomegranate seeds or walnuts or whatever you like. I don't find it necesary to can it properly so long as you eat it within a couple months. The chemical make-up of those crans won't let anything grow in there, even with the sugar. But don't quote me on that. Disclaimer disclaimer disclaimer.

Make this a few days ahead at least. It's WAY better once all the flavors have had a chance to mingle and mellow.

Tomorrow I'll make some Jalapeño Corn Bread and head over for a delicious meal.

Happy Tofurkey Day, everybody!

Monday, October 23, 2006

If Mrs. C. Was a Fruit

These are dried Marionberries. I found them at the organic co-op in a bulk bin. (Not to be confused with the Congressman from Arkansas. Or the Former mayor of Washington, DC. It would be real weird to find the Congressman or the Mayor in a bulk bin, and quite dehydrated, at that.)

At first I thought they were blackberries (they are similar) but then this dude next to me buying nutritional yeast (not to be confused with... oh... never mind) told me to buy some, that they're spetacular.

So, of course I slyly looked left, right, and checked for security cameras, then snagged a Marionberry and gave it a taste. Hmmm! Delicious! Chewy and very very berry-tasting. No big seeds like blackberries have. I bought a big bag and brought them home. They were tasty on top of my cereal the next day and turned my tongue bright purple. Bonus!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

In Honor of Grandma Sue

Yesterday I made a cake. I made it in honor of my cousin's grandma, Sue, who passed away recently. I never had the good fortune of meeting her, but she was loved by many and left quite a legacy. She used to make a special cake that everyone loved, called Sue's 1-2-3-4 Marble Cake.

Here are some of the magical ingredients:

Can't go wrong, right? Here's the recipe, as it was passed on to me:

It was very easy to make, and I used some whole-wheat flour (I figured Sue wouldn't mind me fiddling with the recipe a little since she famously fiddled with it herself!

It was delicious! Thank you, Grandma Sue!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

...And a Side of Gag Reflex, Please.

Wanna ruin your appetite? If so, check out this photoshop contest of unappetizing food. Some of it is truly revolting. It's funny how we can have such a visceral reaction to the wrong combination of sweet and savoury. The photo above is titled "Herring in Aspic". Not the best flavor for a cocolate-covered ice-cream. Gulp. With pickles, no less.

But then, why are chocolate covered pretzels so good? Mmmm.

Make sure to scroll down each page for full enjoyment.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Cocoa Beans - Who Knew?

I love chocolate. Hardcore. And look, I know a lot of people love chocolate. It's not that original or anything, so I'm just stating a fact. And I discovered something so great this week:

Whole cocoa beans! They were in a bulk bin at the local organic food co-op. Which means they are organic whole cocoa beans. Bonus. They are about the size of almonds.

I picked one out of the bin and thought, "I wonder what the heck you're supposed to do with these?" And I did what every curious foodie does, I bit into it. Eureka! So that's where those popular "cocoa nibs" come from!

I bought some and brought them home, where I crushed them a little and removed the outer skins. Now I have a pile of pure, organic cocoa nibs.

Chocolate at its purest. It's not sweet at this point, of course, but is slightly bitter and very cocoa-y. I have a friend who uses the nibs in his chocolate mousse - a great counterbalance to the sweetness and richness of the mousse. I happen to like just eating them as they are, but I might try using them in baking or roasting them.

Who needs a 86% cocoa chocolate bar when you can have a mouthfull of 100% coco bean?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Them Balls

Last time I ate dim sum in NYC I neglected to take a photo of the best part. But this time I did not forget! Here they are, hot fried glutinous rice balls (about the size of small apples) covered in sesame seeds and filled with sweet bean paste. These are the apex of deliciousness. The dim sum lady with the dessert cart snipped them in half with some scissors. (ouch!)

The photo really doesn't do them justice. If you've never tried these, make for your nearest dim sum resto and grab some balls!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Pasta Sauce Ikasumi Special

I love to try new things from the Japanese grocery in my neighborhood. This week, I picked up some packets of "spaghetti sauce" - my usual favorites being ume (pickled plum) and spicy tobiko (flying fish roe with some chili sauce). I tell you, they are delicious!

This time, I saw a packet called Pasta Sauce Ikasumi on the SPECIALS shelf.

Ok, I thought, I love ika (squid/cuttlefish) so this will probably be good. Lemme read the ingredients:

Corn syrup, tomato, olive oil, cuttlefish, onion, salt, garlic, anchovy, MSG. Sounds good to me! And the photo here looks good - some friendly ingredients... and obviously a little squid ink for color...

I planned to put some tasty tsukemono on top. Pickled garlic with shiso...

Delicious yamagobo (pickled burdock)...

Well, I cooked up some spaghetti and as soon as I squished the sauce packet on there, I got, um... let's say a little apprehensive. Jesus. What is that, tar?

So I mixed it around thinking, ok, it's just a little more squid ink than I was expecting. Ha ha heh! Hmmm.

Ok cool. No biggie. Squid ink's a delicacy, right? And I'm sure it'll taste awesome.

Well, it friggin' did not taste awesome, it tasted like the bottom of a crowded fishbowl that has never been cleaned. Plus salt. And an anchovy aftertaste. And what's worse, they don't call it INK for nothing. That crap dyed my tongue black. I don't even want to know what it did to my insides. If I pee or poo black, I'm gonna have a conniption.

Never mind my Vader guts, look what it did to my pretty Japanese noodle bowl (and ruined a pair of bamboo chopstix)! And this is AFTER WASHING WITH DISH SOAP!

Okay. So. What lessons have I learned for today?

1) When something is on the SALE shelf, in ANY store, no matter how much you like the store, there is probably a reason.

2) Learn how to read Japanese. Because I am quite sure that package says, "Joke Sauce Funnytime! Feed to Gaijin Friends and Make Celebrate Laughter Forever!"

3) If something looks really black and forboding, don't eat it. It's ok to throw it away. It doesn't make you a wuss (yes it does).

Anybody want the other packet? It came with two...

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

NYC: Candy Fun

My sweet tooth was acting up (nothing new) so we headed into Dylan's Candy Bar.

They've got quite a nice selection of bulk candies and a good selection of retro, foreign and hard-to-find treats. For example, if you love Violet Crumble from Australia or any Cadbury's from the UK or Sugar Babies, you can find them all at Dylan's.

It's slightly overpriced, in my opinion, but that serves as a good deterrant to completely rotting out one's teeth.

So, over at the main bulk candy area, I met these two little girls. They had some cool Dylan's treasure boxes and were filling them up. You get an empty box for a certain fixed price (I think it was like $16 or something?) and then you can fill it up completely with whatever candies you like.

I would have LOVED this as a kid. Organizing and categorizing candy. Type-A bliss.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

NYC: A Walk in Chinatown

Went to Chinatown for dim sum. On the way, we checked out the awesome seafood selections. Beautiful shrimp, giant prawns, softshell crab (there at the bottom of the photo in the boxes), fish and other...

Wish I had gotten some close-ups because this was some delicious-looking fare...

We walked on. At one Chinatown storefront, I saw a man looking in a trashcan and thought, "It's sad that people have to look for leftovers in the trash." But then more people came up and started looking in. Seemed strange, so I took a look...

AAARRRGGGHHH! And they were alive and squiggling. Gulp. I daresay frog soup is on the menu in quite a few households tonight.

Then we stopped and had dim sum. I did not take photos but the flat shrimp noodles were especially tasty. And for dessert... I ate a delicious sesame ball. It's a fried ball of rice gluten covered all over with sesame seeds with sweet bean paste in the middle. The perfect finish to dim sum.

But had I not just eaten that ball of love, I might have been tempted to buy this:

A GIANT jar of Nutella. Found it on the top shelf of an Italian grocery right at the edge (or now within?) of Chinatown. It's hard to tell from the photo just how giant it was. The smaller Nutella jars you see there are the extra-large size that you can find in some Costco-type places. So that mega one is really huge. Imagine the toast you could slather with that!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

MD: Crabshack Love

Hey everybody! Long time no post. Sorry 'bout that, and thanks to all of you who emailed to check up on me. Let's cut right to the chase and get to the food!

Mother's Day made for the perfect excuse to go to Harris Crab House near Annapolis, MD and chow down on some delicious crustaceans cooked in the way that only Chesapeake Bay Area residents know how to do: boiled up in spicy Old Bay seasoning and dumped on a brown paper-covered table for the enjoyment of all.

If you know what I'm talkin' about, then enjoy the show. If you think this sounds crazy, read on and immediately take a trip to that part of the country to partake!

Here's a little shot of a dock on the bay just to set the scene.

And now we go inside!

The pretty waitress has just come to the the table, and never has our hungry demonstrator been so happy to get crabs!

The crabs are encrusted with Harris' special salty crusty stuff. If you take anything away from this exposé, it should be that YOU CANNOT EAT CRABS WITHOUT COPIOUS BEVERAGES. They are salty and spicy and YOU WILL DIE if you don't hydrate constantly.

The number one best thing to have is a pitcher of beer all to yourself. But other drinks work well, too, such as pink lemonade mixed with water. (Water on it's own won't do it. You need something sweet to cut the heat. Carbonated sodas are ok but the carbonation can kinda hurt if you get a really spicy crab.)

Ok all set. Now, here's how you eat a crab. You can do the legs before or after, our demonstrator has chosen to go for the lump-meat innards first. Lift up the little tail flap...

Then insert your thumbs and pull the top apart from the bottom...

Mmm! Now see those feathery thigies on the top part of the photo? Those are the gills, and not edible so pull them off. Then crack that same part in half and you will get a delicious gift of lucious lumpmeat. It takes some pickin', but that's the whole point!

Now, for the legs and claws, you'll need some tools.

People use different techniques, but basically you want to hammer with a good, quick wrist-action (as opposed to lifting your arm up over your head to smash - this is how we spot n00bs). Give it a good snap to crack the shell.

Then you can eat the meat!

In the end, you're left with a massive pile of exoskeleton. The bigger the pile, the cooler you are. Your lips may be swolen up like Lisa Rinna on a bad day from all the salt, but you will be admired by all who witness the carnage.

Some sides that go along nicely with crab are slaw (cools the mouth)...

And fries...

These people had the right idea. If there's no springtime rain, eating crabs outside is very best!