Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween Cookin

There *is* no cooking on Halloween. It's my favorite holiday and I wasn't spending this year worrying about what everyone was going to eat. Not that there was time....

Today I took a vacation day. Yes, for Halloween. Partly because I was still working on The Bug's costume. He was Gaara from the Japanese comic Naruto. We made a big sand gourd for him to carry on his back (guess who carried it 60% of the time). The gourd, for those who are trying to figure out how to do it, was made thusly:

**Two rubber playground balls, one 16" and one 12", wrapped in plastic bags, duct taped together with a styrofoam disc separating them.

**Then, we paper mached over them with three layers of newsprint and one of white paper.

**When that was dry, we spray painted with a quick-drying water-based spray paint and decorated as needed.

Paper Mache Recipe
Boil four cups water with four tablespoons salt, one tablespoon cinnamon. The salt prevents mold, the cinnamon makes the "glue" smell much better.

Mix one cup of cold water into one cup of flour till smooth. Add to simmering water. Boil until well thickened. Adjust thickness as necessary. Let cool completely before using.

Please, this is *not* a food recipe. Don't eat it!

Absolutely nothing to do with anything: I don't understand why parents DRIVE their kids around from house to house in a development for Halloween. If all this is about is snagging the most candy, save everyone the hassle and buy an $8 bag at the store and just dump it in a bucket for the kid.

The Bug and I walked for almost two hours, watching the sun disappear, the moon rise, the stars brighten. As the air cooled wonderful aromas filled the air. On leaving one house I commented that they had something good cooking inside, and The Bug said, "YEAH. Smells like spaghetti. Wish they'd given me a bowl of THAT for Halloween!" (yeah, he's my kid.)

And if we were driving in our golf carts or minivans-with-the-doors-open we would have never been "pulled over" be the neighborhood firemen in their nice truck, with lights and sirens, and given a big handful of candy by nice, sweet do-gooders.

Ahhh--it was the golf-carters loss.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

40-Minute Anniversary Dinner

We're saving money--and sinking a lot into rent--so dining out has fallen away these days. Even for our 11th wedding anniversary we stayed home. The Bug had dinner in front of a movie on the tv and I made a quick, fancy dinner. The present for Juiceboy? I cleaned up as I went along so he didn't have to do any. (He had cleaned to kitchen to sparkling for me in the afternoon. What a great present!)

Have I mentioned that one of the suggested names for my blog was "Hours Later"? So the fact that I put together a nice dinner in about 40 minutes is quite amazing. With a silver-set table and everything. What did I forget? Pictures!

Prosciutto-wrapped Tenderloin
Wanting something fancy, fast and inexpensive, I opted for a pre-marinated pork tenderloin. On sale for $5 at Safeway, this choice cut of meat was marinated in lemon and herbs, and cooks in just...you guessed it, 40 minutes.

About 37 minutes in, I covered the tenderloin with thin slices of provolone cheese and thinner slices of prosciutto. Watch the folks cutting your prosciutto. Most of them have no clue that it should be paper-thin, and they'll try to cut it thicker than a ham steak. At $12.99 a pound, that's not a good thing.

Pesto and Sun-Dried Tomato Polenta
This is a creamy polenta cooked to bubbling in the oven.

One "log" of prepared polenta, in the refrigerated pasta section of your grocery.
About 1/4 cup 1% milk
1/8 cup Dried sun-dried tomatoes (these are not in oil, but I find them in the veggie section, under the fresh tomatoes, and under the jars of sun-dried tomatoes in oil).
1/4 cup Shredded asagio cheese or other hard italian cheese like parmesan.
About 1/4-1/2 cup Pesto, preferrably homemade with less oil.
Salt, pepper

Put the polenta in a large, microwave safe bowl, break up with a potato masher, then add milk and mash some more. Microwave on high for 2 to 3 minutes, mix and mash. Polenta should mix easily but not be watery or soupy. Meanwhile, soak the sun-dried tomatoes in boiling water for about ten minutes until soft. When soft, chop coarsley. Add to warm polenta with the cheese, salt and pepper to taste.

Spray an 8x8" pan with cooking spray and press polenta into the pan. Then, spoon the pesto in lines across the polenta. Fold the polenta over from the edges to cover the pesto, creating a stripe of pesto in the center of the polenta. (If you just mix it into the polenta the result is a strange color, and the flavor isn't as vibrant.)

Heat for about 15 minutes in the 350 degree oven with the tenderloin.

Tri-Color Pasta Primavera
How lucky we are that we can get asparagus in late October! This dish takes advantage of many beautiful vegetables, and is super fast to make. I like spinach noodles that are meant to be al dente. I begin heating the water before I start anything and let it simmer until I'm ready for it. (This recipe makes enough for a whole meal for four. I used more veggies and less pasta since I had a starch with the polenta already.)

One shallot, diced.
Two cloves of garlic, minced fine.
One pepper each: red, yellow and orange, cored, seeded, and sliced into sticks (bigger than julliene, can't remember the right term).
A handful of asparagus, cleaned and sliced into 1" pieces. Find the smallest stalks you can.
Splash of white wine
Olive oil
Salt, pepper, red pepper flakes
Spinach fettucine, amount depends on your preference

Heat olive oil on medium low and cook shallots and garlic until fragrant. Add peppers and asparagus, cook about 5 minutes, until tender. Add wine and season with salt and pepper, adding red pepper flakes to your taste.

Serve immediately on top of fettucine. Top with a sprinkle of grated cheese and basil sprigs.

Friday, October 27, 2006

900 Grayson in Berkeley

I had a nearly impossible task. Find a restaurant in Oakland or Berkeley with good design aesthetic, low noise level, seating for a party of 7 or 8, reservations taken, good food...that serves breakfast. And, I had about 90 minutes to find it. Somehow, I did.

900 Grayson is a new spot in an old space in the industrial section of West Berkeley. They are open only for breakfast and lunch currently, which is probably all they can handle. But given time, they should turn out okay.

Design: Clean lines, lots of light. Lemon-yellow painted walls, comfortable chairs. Some wierd paintings (being at a table of men all distracted by the naked lady on the wall was awkward). The little dishes for ketchup and jam don't work for a party of seven--especially with the big soup spoon. Keep working on the details guys.

Food: Good. Most of us ordered the gouda omlette $7, which was called a "souffle" but there was nothing souffled about it. The omlette itself was greasy and I was glad to have bright strips of fuji apple (can you call julliened apple tossed with an herb a "salad"?) to cleanse my palate.

The home fries are made to order and crispy at the edges, thick and dense in the center. I'm a crispy girl myself and thought the denseness was soggy. Everything was just slightly bland, as though the chef had held back on the salt during cooking.

The best item on the plate? One perfect bursting-with-flavor strawberry. 900 Grayson strives towards all-organic ingrediants, and if that strawberry wasn't organic, I'd be surprised. My recommendation--cut the butter when cooking.

Service: Hit and miss. When I called yesterday at 1:45 I was told they were very busy and they rushed the reservation. They open at 8am, but I was told our table would be ready at 8:15am because they open at 8 and wouldn't be ready for us. Sure enough, at 8:03 the door was locked and the sign said "SHUT." Happily, one of the nice staff opened it right away.

Speaking of the nice staff. It's staffed and maybe owned by some regular-looking 30-something guys in jeans and t-shirts. I got this feeling that they were on the edge of being frantic. It seemed hard for them to smile, relax, or put us at ease. Maybe it was fear of a big group. I don't know. However, they were attentive, and while our group dribbled in our waiter popped back each time to get the coffee order.

The plates didn't come at the same time, with cold fruit arriving after hot eggs, and one order taking about 10 minutes more than the rest. The waiter was apologetic and the guest was gracious and nice, so it wasn't a big deal. But they need to know that that's a no-no. Even if it's a large order. At least bring the guy some toast or fruit or something while he waits.

The menu has relatively few dishes, mostly egg-based. They have funky names, like "Time Life Cookbook" aka Gouda Omlette and "Make Up Kit" which is all the extras you can order. I love that basil is free (no dinero). I'd like to try the Korean Soju Marty 7.0, a cumin-laced virgin mary. The cute names do make it harder to figure out what each dish is. For lunch, would you like a Miss Piggy & the General for $9.50? (that's a pork sandwich. Don't know what the General part is...).

Overall, I think 900 Grayson fills a good void in the area. But if they want to not become a void themselves, they should think about ensuring they have enough staff to turn over the tables quickly. And bring some of that sense of humor to the staff. If you're stressed, we shouldn't know it!


Saturday, October 21, 2006


I had a big to-do last night for work. Big for us--planned for about 300 people (though less than 200 showed. Sigh.).

The caterers were to bring food for 300. It was $10k worth of food. So what happens to the $3k worth that never came out of the kitchen? It was wheeled back into the van, whisked away. As did some of the wines and beer--which we provided. They took about a case of each with them, far as we can tell.

Not knowing what happens when there's so much left over, I insisted on a visual inventory, and then to be told on what would happen with it. It would be given to charity I was told.

My question is...does the charity thing ever REALLY happen?

I didn't try anything while I was working, but this morning The Bug and I tried some of a small box that I'd made up last night. There was a LOT of bread. Stuff on foccacia, stuff in little rolls, etc. All of the passed items--not there. And supposedly they tossed anything they thought was soggy, like dolmas. (which is the one thing I like.)

I've hired this group for another event in November. How do I tell them, cut all the bread!?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Throwdown: Pancakes

It's time to throw down the gauntlet. MSNBC has posted a "Nix the Mix" article on creating the perfect pancake. The woman who wrote it is perfectly lovely, a Tracie McMillan. Her tone is a mix of awe and 4th-grade teacher. "Wow, look. Someone is making perfect pancakes from scratch like my dad used to" and "Listen closely children. I'm only going to show you how to prep this griddle once."

She doesn't address over mixing. Or letting the batter sit. Or that the first two "throw-away" pancakes are often the ones that the kids fight over. Then there's silver dollar, flap-jack, Swedish, and syrups.

And I'd like to know whose "Best Plain Pancakes" recipe that is. We wouldn't accept an article without the author's name, a movie without the screenwriter, or a building without the architect. Why a recipe without the creator?

I think I have to start seriously writing and stop piddling around. Americans are getting half-assed food news.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Curried Lentil Soup

Mmmm. What's better than curry when you're crabby? I came home after 90 minutes of bumper-to-bumper traffic, and Juiceboy hadn't even warmed up leftovers. I was annoyed. I left the leftovers to the guys (The Bug totally groved on the Cincinnati Chili on the second night) and waited till I had a glass of wine and they ate dinner.

In a MUCH better mood, I made lentil soup, with The Bug helping out here and there.

Sorry for the non-recipe recipe:

Curried Lentil Soup

1/2 cup chopped yellow onions
1 minced clove garlic
about 1 T olive oil
about 2 teaspoons curry powder
about 1 teaspoon cumin
about 1 teaspoon cayenne
a dash of red pepper flakes
two cans beef broth (chicken or veggie would be fine, this is what I had)
about 1.5 to 2 cups red lentils
One large carrot, chopped
chopped cilantro
plain yogurt or parmesan cheese

Cook onions, garlic, and olive oil on med-low about 4 minutes. Add spices, cook another 2-3 minutes. Add broth and lentils. Bring to high heat until boiling, reduce to low, cover. In 10 minutes add carrot, stir. Check in about 20 minutes. The lentils should be soft and yummy. Test for flavorings.

Spoon into bowls and top with cilantro and yogurt or parmesan.

Picture to be posted tomorrow. Sleepy time now.

TV Recipe Trial: Cincinnati Chili

Unlike Bon Vivant, who lives the good life and seems to dine out nightly with a fabulous group of friends, I have to find interesting ways to feed my family in between finding jeans that fit The Bug, fixing the toilet, and getting some homework done.

On Saturday I made a pot of Cincinnati Chili using the recipe from America's Test Kitchen. I saw the show and thought it looked interesting. Chili and pasta? Okay!

I didn't know the origin of the recipe, but after the house was redolent with the scent of Greek-spiced meat, I thought I better check it out. Why did my chili smell like Pastisio?

Indeed, it's a Greek-based dish. From all the sites I've read it seems two Greek guys moved to (where else?) Cincinnati in the 1920s and had a go at a restaurant. Their Greek food didn't go over too well, so they adjusted their lamb stew to make it more palatable for the locals. Then they poured it over spaghetti, topped it with onions, grated cheese and at some point, throw in kidney beans.

As strange as it sounds, "Greek Spaghetti" is pretty good. The cinnimon, cocoa and allspice are rich and fragrant. I cooked the sauce down to be less soupy, which I understand is not as authentic as the water sauce. Oh well.

Serve with a nice big Greek salad and you're set!

Both Juiceboy and The Bug liked this dish and called it a keeper.

Cincinnati Chili history

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Why are We Eating This?

I picked up a box of Duncan Hines "Signature Desserts" Boston Cream Pie for after Sunday dinner. I've been running around a lot and working a ton and just wanted something quick, easy and decadent.

You make the cake and split it in half after it's cooled. Then, you mix the "creamy filling" mix, spread it on the cake, put the layers together, and drizzle the chocolate glaze on top. Pretty easy.

Note I didn't say "custard filling." If I said custard you would assume the ingrediants would include some form of eggs, milk, and sugar. Or that the giant box would have a tin of Bird's Custard inside.

Imagine my suprise when, after allowing the "creamy filling" to rest for the alloted five minutes (and three more), I returned to find it not creamy but almost like styrofoam. I'd mixed a cup of 1% milk with a white powder. At first it had the consistency of cake mix. So how could it have turned to a plasticene blob in just 8 minutes?

Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate and Disodium Phosphate. Listed after sugar, dextrose, and modified cornstarch.

So what the heck ARE Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate and Disodium Phosphate? Well, you find disodium phosphate in water softeners, enamelers and detergents. Oh, and instant pudding. When used in pudding it's a stabilizer. But don't overlook that disodium phosphate is also found in lots of household items, like...Head and Shoulders. And tetrasodium pyrophosphate is a buffer and thickening agent, but also used in toothpaste as a tartar control agent.

Yum. Okay. Now I wish I'd just had a pear.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Overlooked Cooking Shows

With the glitz and glam of the FoodNetwork (I've only had cable for a year and I'm new to Rachel Ray and Alton Brown), I've overlooked some good PBS-broadcast cooking shows. Here are two of my new favorites:

Mexico: One Plate at a Time. Rick Bayless, a linguist-turned restauranteur in Chicago, travels through Mexico discovering the culture through food. Then he returns to his home kitchen and recreates dishes for us. No tricks, no shouting, no glam. This is more than tacos and burritos--but the recipes are still fairly simple.

Rick tends to get too intimate with the camera, kind of snuggling up to it and cooing. He also has a habit of rolling words around in his mouth like an olive before actually getting them out that gets tiresome if you're watching a few shows back-to-back. He's pulled a Jacques Pepin and brought his daughter into a few of them, even listing her as "co-host" in the final credits. I could do without her perkiness, and I'm grateful whenever he sends her off to set the table.

The website needs some serious focus. I've directed you to the cooking portion: http://www.fronterakitchens.com/cooking/

Entertainment: 4 of 5
Informational: 5 of 5
Ease of Recipes: Easy
Would I Make these recipes at home: I have and I'll continue to.
Would I want this person at a party: Maybe. There's a little schmuck factor. He could be the guy that thinks he's God's gift to the world. Or a close talker. On the otherhand, he might be fascinating. But more likely the kind of guy to talk all about HIM.

America's Test Kitchen. There's the tall dorky guy with glasses. The thin blonde chick. The less-thin blonde chick (my favorite) and the dumpy dorky guy without glasses. And then the forgettable guy. Sounds like a team made for tv, right?

Actually, the show comes together pretty well. They make at least two recipes, showing the best way to do it, with what ingrediants, and why. They test out all sorts of approaches and versions, and let us know what works. Talk about lessons learned.

Then, they go to the testers corner, where they do a "consumer reports" taste-test, with the tall dorky guy playing along. Vinegar, white rice, mustard...he gets to try all sorts of yummies that I wouldn't bother with, just getting the cheapest.

Also, they go through kitchen tools, telling us what's the best for the price. I like that--because often the most expensive is just as good as something mid-range.

I'll try their Cincinatti Chili tonight maybe, depending on the price of ground beef. While I haven't tried one of their recipes yet, they look good.

Watch you don't put an "s" at the end of their website URL. You'll get a virus-loaded site. Here's the right one: http://www.americastestkitchen.com/

Entertainment: 3.5 of 5
Informational: 4 of 5
Ease of Recipes: Easy to moderate
Would I Make these recipes at home: Maybe, though I haven't yet
Would I want this person at a party: Maybe. They are all pretty normal. No egos involved. They might actually be a bit dull.

Mustard Seed

I've learned the disappointing way that grinding mustard seed doesn't produce dry mustard. Okay all you experienced chefs, you can stop laughing now. I ground some up with my mortar & pestle; it tasted awful. Was it low-quality seed? Or is mustard seed something else all-together?

Checking out Wikipedia it looks like I was on the right track. Gind the seed, mix with flour and water, get mustard. What about vinegar? There are lots of recipes on Epicurious that incorporate mustard seed. So now I'm thinking my mustard seeds are poor, old, and crappy.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Roast Duck and Squished Onions

Last night I was at a work-related dinner in Berkeley and had roast duck (a step up from the usual rubber chicken!). I'd never had duck that wasn't shredded or diced or otherwise rendered unrecognizable. So having actual large cuts of duck meat was very interesting. It seemed, to me, to be a little on the rare side, though quite good. Is duck usually served rare/medium/well?

With it came a spoonful of creamy potatoes and some tender beets, it was beautifully plated. And it was topped with a squished, breaded onion.

Oh, my writing skills are really working over-time, aren't they? I'm SWAMPED with work, eating on the fly, no time for blogging. As it is, I'm late and now my commute in will be doubled (ugh). Just wanted to get this down so I could revisit later. And sadly, no pictures. Didn't see how I could do that with all the mucky-mucks around.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Free Bay-Area Dinners for All!

Have I said yet how much I love SF Survey? It's a groovy collection of SF and Bay Area restaurant reviews--and JUST restaurant reviews. The critics are usually funny, smart, and know their dishes. I've found I trust it about 3000% more than Yelp or any of the Citysearches.

Restaurant staff and chefs are known for visiting their spot's SF Survey critiques, fixing problems, and then letting us know that they did. And even better: if you review, you get chances to win free dinners!

In just one year I've received three gift certificates for quite nice dinners. I'm cheap, so these aren't places I'd usually consider going. Since there was a 1,000 word limit on my review for HOME on Union I couldn't explain how it truly was the *best* experience Juiceboy and I have ever had. The staff and food was superb, comfortable, and just plain right. And it was a great way to celebrate our Tenth Wedding Anniversary. And I wouldn't have gone there if it weren't for SF Survey.

Off we go this week to try yet another place thanks to SF Survey: Viva in North Beach. I'm a bit nervous as it's had some pretty harsh marks on service. And if you read my reviews, you'll probably notice that's what it's about for me. They know I'm coming. They better be prepared to offer me that second glass of wine!

Looking for Lentil Soup

I know it's really Fall because now I'm craving lentil soup. From organic vegetarian to meat-based and hearty, I want to know YOUR favorite lentil soup recipe. Please send them my way! I'll try them all (much to my family's horror, I'm sure).


Sunday, October 08, 2006

Can Sugar Go Bad?

Someone wanted to know if sugar can go bad. According to the October issue of Real Simple sugar can keep up to two years (and sometimes more)--if kept in an airtight, moistureproof container. And brown sugar can be softened by microwaving for 15 seconds, but, because of the molasses in it, it should be used up within a year.

Flour is more of a problem. If you're like me, you use plenty of flour in cooking and baking. Again, use the airtight container in a cool, dry spot. I have my grandmother's tins for flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and the third tin used to hold cookies but now holds sticky rice (uncooked, of course). Are you using whole-wheat flour or other whole-grains? Keep those in a big freezer bag and in the freezer--inside a Tupperware container to keep the bag from getting punctured.

What about baking powder and baking soda? I hate to say when I was young I was known to user the baking soda out of the box in the fridge. Good lordy, learn from my mistakes! That box is there to absorb bad odors--and whatever you're baking will taste like bad smells. Ieew. Use one for the fridge and one in the cupboard. And what about odors in the cupboard? I put my box in a zip-lock baggie to keep it fresh. Real Simple says Baking Soda is good for two years unopened, one year if opened. And baking powder is easy--it has a use-by date printed on the can. Why didn't I ever know that?

They didn't address powdered sugar, which for me always tastes like gym socks and I have to get a new bag if ever I need it. So of course, I never make anything that requires it.

What are your tips for storing powdered sugar?

Cream of Cauliflower Soup II

Everyone starts yearning for creamy soup in the Autumn. Tonight I gave The Bug his choice of how to cook the cauliflower and he chose soup. I decided to try a new recipe--one that's similar to my previous homeade one. This is an adaptation from 1,001 Low-Fat Vegetarian Recipes.

Cream of Cauliflower Soup, II.
1 T olive oil
3/4 to one whole yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 whole cauliflower, chopped
3 C chicken or vegetable stock or broth, I like Swanson's
2 whole potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/4-1/3 C one-percent milk
freshly ground black pepper
3/4 C shredded cheddar or colby jack cheese

In a large soup pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and lower heat to medium low, cook about 6 minutes till soft. Add cauliflower, stock and potatoes. Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer about 10-15 minutes--until all is soft.

Blend about 90% of this in a blender. If you like more cauliflower use a slotted spoon to reserve more. Return the puree and cauliflower to your pot. Season with pepper. Add milk and cheese and stir until cheese is melted. Top with paprika and serve with crusty bread.

Alton's Butterflied Roast Chicken

I do love Alton Brown. He explains things so well. So why didn't I listen to some of his reasons on why to make his Butterflied Roast Chicken the way he said to? Last night we had dinner at 9:30pm, partly because Juiceboy was home late from a trek, and mostly because dinner took forever to make. I served the aforementioned chicken, curried couscous, and a quick creamed spinach.

Here are my lessons learned:

  1. The recipe calls for a 3 to 4 pound bird because anything bigger won't cook properly. I had my 5-pounder under the broiler for close to 40 minutes, and I still had to pop individual servings in the microwave just to get it done.
  2. Grinding peppercorns takes time. I enjoyed using my mortar & pestle, but this took 15 minutes more than I thought it would.
  3. Regular scissors and kitchen scissors: yes, there is a difference. I broke a perfectly good pair of scissors cutting out the back bone of my bad boy (or girl?).
  4. Red wine makes a muddy jus. I used a nice pinot noir which tasted good, but the jus was purple. Not appetizing.
  5. At 9:30 at night, the guys will eat anything. The Bug thought this was a great dinner. Who would have guessed?

I'll try this recipe again, next time baking if I have such a big bird.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Best Soup Ever

I had leftover meat from the pork roast and decided to make soup. I was just winging it, but will try to recreate it. It was delicious! Here's the basics:

I simmered about a pound of trimmings, bone and meat from my pork roast in about 3 cups of chicken broth. In it I through a handful of baby organic carrots, about a cup of celery with leaves, a whole chopped onion (1" cubes), and about 2 mashed cloves of garlic.

I simmered that for about an hour, then let it cool and chilled it overnight in the fridge. The next evening I skimmed the fat off it, brought it back up to a simmer, then removed all the meat and reserved that. Then, I strained the veggies, but mashed them with the back of a spoon as the carrots still had flavor, and I sat the strainer in the pot as it simmered for about 20 minutes.

I threw away the spent veggies, added a handful of little Mexican alphabet pastas (I find them in the "Mexican Foods" section at Safeway for 33 cents a bag. I also added a can of chopped "petite diced tomatoes". After the pasta was almost cooked (it really puffs up), I added about a tablespoon of chili powder, cumin, and fresh ground pepper. No salt was needed. Right before the end I added about a cup of fresh, chopped cilantro.

Add the meat back in (I'd gone through it and cut it into bite-sized bits). Ladle it out and top with lots of diced avocado.


Monday, October 02, 2006

Complete this Survey on Food? Okay!

Every now and then I receive an invitation from Harris Polls Online to complete a survey. I rarely do so unless I'm on hold with a computer company or other group that likes to ignore its customers.

But today they asked me to complete a short survey on...yup, FOOD.

1) In the next 12 months, how likely am I going to buy a...fiber supplement? That's not food. Neither is prune juice. Or any kind of juice. That's a beverage.
2) How often do you read nutrition lables? Well...yesterday I was reading them on the cat food trying to decide what was less disgusting and better for them. Did you know there's a "treat" available called Baa Bits? And it's made with 100% lamb lung?
3) Do you agree or disagree that maintaining a healthy diet is important? Well, shoot, of course I agree. Now ask me if I do.
4) Do you agree or disagree that your lifestyle makes it difficult to eat right? It's not my lifestyle that makes it hard, it's my willpower. I'm weak. WEAK!
5) Another juice question. Tomato, grapefruit, cranberry, other.
6) These are NOT food questions! It was a trap to make me answer some sort of healthy-living survey!! On how many separate occasions would you say you watched news programs on TV during the past 30 days?
On how many different occasions did you do vigorous physical exercise during the past 30 days?

And the rest were demographic. Lordy. If I were to make a food survey it would have questions like:

1) Sweet or savory?
2) What is the best ice cream flavor in the world?
3) Do nuts belong in baked goods?
4) Do you own any vanilla beans?
5) How much would you pay for safron?
6) Do you know how to prepare jicima?
7) In the past three months, how many kinds of fruit have you eaten?
8) How many kinds of peppers does your produce stand sell?
9) How far would you drive for fresh seafood?
10) What is the most you ever paid for a dinner for two, wine and tip included?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Mexican Pork Stew

It was our first cold day today, with overcast skies and temps in the mid-50s (remember, I'm in California--that's cool weather). I cooked some cool-weather food that satisfied my craving for spicy as well. There was enough pork left over that I'm making a nice stock right now.

Mexican Pork Stew (a Posole, minus the hominy)
One good-sized pork shoulder roast, trimmed of fat and cut into 1" cubes
Salt and fresh black pepper
Olive oil, about 2-3 tablespoons
One large yellow onion, diced
Four cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 C Chardonney wine
3-4 cups chicken broth
One 4 oz can minced green chiles
One 16-oz bag frozen corn
One cup salsa verde (I like the Safeway brand)
~1 T Chile Powder
~1 T Cumin
~1 T Mexican Oregano leaf
1t Cardamon
Three medium potatoes, scrubbed and cubed
Two to three large carrots, scrubbed and sliced into disks
One tomato, diced
About one cup parsley, minced
Four to six T light sour cream
Soft-taco sized flour tortillas, steamed, enough for one-to-two each

Mix flour, salt & pepper. Dredge the cubed pork and shake excess flour from it. I like to throw it into a plastic collander and give it a few good shakes.

Heat oil in large stew pot till fragrant. Add pork and brown on all sides. Remove from pan.

Turn pan to medium, medium low. Add onion and stir till soft. Add garlic, stirring until fragrant. Add wine and stir to scrape up the yumminess on bottom.

Return pork to pot. Add chicken broth, chiles, corn, potatoes, spices, salsa, and carrots. Heat on low simmer for about 60 minutes, stirring occasionally, until carrots and meat are tender. Taste for flavor. If you like more heat, add more salsa verde, or a roasted poblano pepper (or two or three).

This is a stew, so let it cool a bit and test for thickness, adjusting as necessary (I added some broth & flour to mine to thicken it. You could use masa if you have the time.).

Ladle into stew bowls, topping with tomatoes, sour cream & parsley. Fold the tortillas into quarters and serve on the side.