Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Thai Soup

One TBS. miso paste
One TBS. chicken boullion
Quart of water
One TBS. garlic
One can coconut milk
One half a dried Thai pepper
One tsp. dried ginger powder
salt, MSG
Grated peel of one lime.
Juice of half a lemon, and half the lime, added right before serving.
Garnished with cilantro and julienned scallions.

Success! Delicious. Think I'll have another bowl.

This is a fine base for adding other things. I'm thinking shrimp. Or, for another taste, peanut butter. Which I have here now.

(With all the citrus, when I put a dab of peanut butter in the leftovers next day, it unbalanced the flavors. I would suggest saving the peanut butter for another recipe.)

Update: 2-21-10 I recreated the soup and this time added some shrimp which I first boiled, in a spicy bath comprising Old Bay seasoning, a little lime juice, and a few grams of Dave's Insanity Sauce in salted water, for two-and-a-half minutes. Then I put them in a salted ice water bath. Then I drained them and peeled them later. When the soup was ready I put them in just long enough to get hot. Served this time too with scallions and cilantro and lemon and lime juice added right before serving.

Update: 4-27-10 Again I made this same basic recipe. I omitted some of the citrus juice but this time added some roast chicken meat I had pulled off the bone, and a couple of tablespoons of adobo sauce, which comes packaged with sesame oil. Delicioso! (not pictured here; the photo is of the shrimp version, my second selection.)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mediterranean Wintertime Fish

Hearing some descriptions of a dish from my sister, I promptly forgot the recipe except for a few themes, and created this.

(To warn you right away, this is the story of a failure.)

two chopped small onions and stalk of celery, two pinches of whole mustard seeds, 1/4 jalapeño in a skillet I had just fried two pieces of bacon in, reserving some of the bacon fat for later endeavors.
Then, once that began to brown, I added a couple of spoonfuls of water, a tin of anchovies and broke that up in the center of the sauté pan, and 1 TBS. each of minced garlic and capers. This simmered about 8 minutes and the anchovies pretty much dissolved. I added a tin of sardines (3 in the tin) and a handful of chopped arugula, the cooked crumbled bacon, and a can of clams, drained. I decided to add some thyme and black pepper. I put the lid on and simmered this for maybe 3 minutes, wanting the clams piping hot but not cooked any longer. I added a cup of heavy cream, put the lid on, turned off the stove, and cooked my pasta, some farfalle, also known as "bow ties."Could have used some more cream. In fact, it would have benefited by leaving out the capers, replacing the sardines with some other fish. Parsley would have worked better than arugula. Come to think of it, tomatoes would have been better than cream. And the sardines were the wrong kind. Mustard sauce. I rinsed them but really, I should have left them out today.

This recipe needs work. A lot of work. Verdict: minor failure. It was good food, but the flavors were not balanced.

Friday, December 11, 2009

More Malt

Today being a cold one, I loaded up the stove with wood and cooked myself a big pot of oatmeal, and when it was done I poured malt syrup all over it and dug in. Delicious!

I started out when young putting brown sugar on my oatmeal. That trick, which more people ought to know, lifts oatmeal into the realm of excellence. Later, when I learned that brown sugar is just a premixed blend of granulated sugar and molasses, I just began buying molasses. And putting that on my oatmeal. I also make my oatmeal with milk instead of water.

I have also tried maple syrup on the oatmeal, and that's pretty good. But today the malt syrup went on there. I pronounce it a success. It rivals my favorite, the molasses. Call it a tie.

This is part of a slowly evolving series I'm doing about cooking with malt. You can use the handy-dandy search box to find all my articles about "malt."

The Ride

The usual way was to pile a bunch of boys in a car and get to the camping ground that way. But on this day, for whatever reason, the boy and his father rode unaccompanied by others in the family car.

It was a sunny day, and it wasn't winter. They headed north into Wisconsin. He realized he wasn't often alone with his father on these Boy Scout affairs. Usually they would split up; the boy would would spend these camp-outs erecting tents, going on the hikes, doing the rest in a cluster of friends; getting signed off on various Boy Scout instructional lessons which impart some actual useful skills and are designed to keep the boys on the right path. His father would meanwhile be doing father things with the other men - moving logs, fueling lamps, unpacking chests of food. Each of them enjoyed the company of those who were not seen every day.

He was always slightly afraid of his father. A gentle man who probably feared his own anger, mild as it was, more than he feared any other man, he had really only spanked the boy, or his brother, once or twice, years ago, and perhaps whacked his backside once long ago with a belt - enough so that in later years he only had to frown and touch his belt buckle, and he and his brother would quickly realize they were on the wrong side of a line.

A transplanted Southerner, one day over the supper table he had announced a new deal. He had detected some disrespect, he said. The children became serious. He went on. From that point on, the children were to say "Yes sir" and "No sir" and "Yes ma'am" and "No, ma'am." Over the next several months, he even trained the boys in the rudiments of military formation. And the boys, like dogs, loved it.

But mostly it was a vague feeling of not wanting to disappoint. The boy let the moment dissolve in the sun and the road. It was good, too, to have his father all to himself. The quiet between them became comfortable. After a while the boy spoke:

"Why don't you tell me a story about when you were in the Army?"

"Once in Alaska, I had night time guard duty, and I had to walk around the outside of the fence. Yes, it was very cold. We wore parkas over our uniforms. I turned the corner and came face to face with an Arctic timber wolf. I think it surprised both of us. They aren't like a dog; they're big, maybe 80 pounds."

"I was very scared, because he didn't run away; he just sat there looking at me. So I drew back the bolt on my rifle. I didn't even see him go. One second he was there and then he was gone. He just disappeared. They're smart. He knew that sound, what my gun was; they know about man."

"I'll tell you about a fellow I knew up there. He was an older man. I was a little older than most of the other men but he was a lot older. He didn't get along with the younger men very well. In his forties I guess. He was a writer. Books, detective stories. Yes, I read some of them after the war. They were all right, I guess."

The boy's interest faded a bit; he looked out the window for a few seconds. For some reason the man raised his voice a bit, and lightly slapped the steering wheel. "Listen! This is important!"

"I was his only friend. But he was always complaining about the Army's ways of doing things; about how there were better ways or how stupid they were. I finally told him, 'Hammett, it just doesn't do any good to complain; you may as well try to look on the bright side of things.'

"He looked at me like he had never thought of it that way. Yes, I think he was a little better after that.

"What happened to him? Well he got out of the Army when the war was over, just like all of us! A few years later he died and your mother and I were invited for me to speak at his funeral service. His wife sent a letter. No, we didn't go. He was a communist. At that time, if I had gone, they would have thought I was a communist too."

Just then, the man and the boy saw part of the convoy of Boy Scouts had stopped a couple of cars at the side of the road at the turn off, signaling to the car that this was the turn onto the dirt road that led to the camp ground. The story was over.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Flo, the Progressive Insurance Chick

Flo, whose name I had missed until today, knowing her only as the Progressive Insurance chick, is in reality Stephanie Courtney. I, too, am fascinated by her allure.

However, it is this scene pictured here which I believe has inspired a whole trend of wacky body language. This stance of hers is very odd, to the point that it amuses me, no matter the context. It says, "hands off, come and get me!" Nicely paradoxical, and very feminine. (Here come the thrown shoes. Oh hell.)

However, my prediction - the reason for this post - is that exaggerated body language as a conscious element, inserted into the current zeitgeist, is already here. We will see much more of it soon, and the first imitators and bandwagon-jumpers are coming into focus on the scene right now.

Flo has lots of commercials they don't play in your area.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Name the Artist

Here's an image by a well-known artist. The game is simply be the first to identify the artist.

My thinking was that since there is, as far as I can tell, no easy way to Google the answer, it's not susceptible to cheating. Same with Wikipedia.

UPDATE: The game is a good one but this one was just way too obscure! No one but a specialist would have ever guessed that this artist painted this work. I think the next one should be easier.

Friday, December 4, 2009


Every so often I hear some smug holier-than-thou type telling me it's unnatural to drink milk. I drink milk, and they don't: ergo, they are superior beings.

Without fail I notice these people eat cheese. Which, I must point out, is one step further removed from "natural." Not only are they harvesting hetero-species-ical milk, they are curdling and aging it and allowing bacteria and mold grow in it. So how natural is that, Mr. and Ms. Natural?

Granted, I'm not happy with the growth hormones and such in modern milk. And I even sympathize with vegans. Still, that's not what these kooks are talking about.

Plus, they act like they are somehow "grown up" which is why they eschew milk. You and I both know these people wouldn't drink milk even when they were kids, causing their mothers' to worry about their diets and give them Bosco and Ovaltine and stuff normal kids never had to learn about. Which worries were justified, because now that they are all grown up they live on diets mostly of coffee, booze, chocolate, cigarettes, soda pop and pizza. Grown up food. You know, the natural way of doing things.

I hope their hips don't shatter. Must be tough eating that required half-pound of collard greens per day to get the calcium. What with their preferred diet. Oh, wait, that's right: they eat the cheese. Lots and lots of cheese.

Here is a being acting naturally. I'm not so sure about this or this, but live and let live: that's my motto.

Paneer Breakfast

Deciding on an attempt to eat a healthy breakfast, I knew veggies were paramount. I know this puts me at odds, in general, with most of the U.S., for whom breakfast vegetables are usually limited to potatoes, onions, and, rarely, to what is included in a Spanish omelet - tomatoes and peppers and such. And of course, a bean breakfast burrito. Or the mushrooms, or spinach in other kinds of omelet. All of which is starting to sound not too awful, actually. All right, I surrender: there are more healthy options to American breakfast than I realized.

Anyway, I had some paneer left over. I made it using this recipe from The Paupered Chef. Using the sour milk (yogurt, actually) to curdle the fresh milk was a clever trick which, although thousands of years old, had eluded me. When I made it, I used it in an eggplant and potato dish, but didn't document any of it.

But for today I planned this breakfast dish last night and early this morning, and fine tuned it as I made it. Here's what we have:
One last poblano from the garden, a small green one the size of a big jalapeño; and a small onion, chopped and begun browning in butter. Meanwhile, I began heating a 6" iron skillet to toast some spices in. But first I measured out a half teaspoon each of mustard seed and cumin seed, and tossed that in with the cooking onions. Then I measured out the following:
1/2 a dried Thai red pepper, chopped
1 tsp commercial garam masala powder (this has some cinnamon in it.)
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
6-7 black pepper corns
2 cloves
5-6 cardamoms
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
and toasted it in my little skillet. I kept it moving and tossing; the turmeric and garam masala powder needed the toasting most but was most likely to burn first, so I watched it. Then I emptied my little skillet full of toasted spices into a coffee cup, and as soon as it cooled I ground everything into a spice mix in my coffee mill / spice grinder.

Before it cooled, I had diced up the leftover paneer - a chunk about as big as a tennis ball- and begun browning it. And then added the generous handful of frozen green peas. Stirred in those spices. And finally, some diced leftover sweet potato which had been made the previous evening with a sprinkle of sugar and drizzle of molasses (which equals "brown sugar;" I usually make my own when I need it.)

I stirred for a few minutes, wanting everything to brown just lightly, and when it had I added a splash of water, a little salt, and it was done in another minute.

If you want some Indian recipes, check out Tigers & Strawberries, one of my favorite food sites.

There are some paneer options I've just begun to ponder, such as adding heavy cream for a richer paneer. I could have made my own yogurt, too. Sometimes I'll buy some and start a batch with one spoonful of the store-bought mixed in a quart of milk.

Milk used to be more heavily subsidized in this country. Dried milk used to be substantially cheaper than whole milk. Still, money can be saved if it's bought in the big sizes and I'll champion homemade yogurt made from dried milk as being good as any other.