Monthly Archives: December 2003

Rain and Holidays

Mean one thing. Too much water and problems with drains. It never seems to fail.

Quick menu update. Christmas dinner was only fair. I made a roast capon with lemon, rosemary and garlic. On the side we had a dressing made of sourdough bread, italian sausage, persimmon, apple, celery, onion, sage, rosemary and pepper, plus stock for keeping it moist. We also had roasted winter vegetables – butternut squash, carrots, red onions and sweet potatoes all coated in smoked paprika, olive oil and sea salt before roasting. I used the beet tops and some chard and spinach for sauteed greens with garlic and balsamic vinegar. Mashewd potatoes and gravy from the capon finished it all off. Dessert was chocolate dipped orange peels and something Grace made – blackberries toppped with ginger ice cream and a cream and chocolate sauce. We had Michael and Jennifer to visit since they are moving right now and had nowhere to have their own Christmas. Hopefully they are now mostly in their new place.

Somehow I have been simultaneously trying to manage working on vents in the house, fixing the drains, getting more of the fencing done and getting everyone ready to head to the mountains for a couple of days. Whew!

A spate of cooking

We’ve been very busy. It is hard to remember everything that has happened and even everything I cooked…

I guess I should start with the very first of the ramen noodle recipes. Grace and I made this together for four people but I am going to write it as if for one since that is probably the best way.

Poached Egg Miso Noodle Soup

First, set about three cups of water to boil. Dice up the white parts of three spring onions and toss them in. Add about a tablespoon of whatever kind of vinegar you like (or even lemon juice). Stir in two tablespoons of whatever kind of miso paste you want (I like red). If you don’t have miso paste or don’t want to use it, instead add in half a stock cube or even just a couple of tablespoons of soy sauce. Once the water boils, turn it down to medium and add the package of ramen noodles. Do NOT add the stupid flavor packet in the ramen noodles – they taste horrible and are full of really bad stuff.

Now comes the hard part. Wait about a minute to get the noodles started cooking and then carefully break an egg into the pot in the place the noodles are thinnest. Let it cook for a minute more to start the egg firming up and then carefully spoon the egg out into a soup bowl and then pile the noodles on top. Add as much of the broth as you want. It is OK if the egg breaks – then you get instant egg drop soup. The kids really like this for breakfast.

So that’s one recipe.

Another very different one is candied orange peel dipped in chocolate. It’ll take a little more to dredge this out of my memory. By the way – this stuff is fantastic and tastes like condensed essence of orange dipped in chocolate. As a nice by-product you also get a decent amount of orange syrup.

Candied Orange and Lemon Peel and Chocolate

Use organic oranges and lemons if you can so you don’t get wax and pesticides on your peels. First, peel the rind carefully off two lemons and four oranges in strips, each about the size you want the final candied peel to be. Put them all in a small pot, squeeze in the orange and lemon juice and add just enough water to barely cover them. Put on stove on medium and let them boil for ten minutes. Then turn off the heat and stir in two cups of sugar and carefully heat back to boiling. Reduce to the lowest simmer possible (to prevent boilovers) and let simmer for at least an hour and maybe two hours, checking every ten minutes or so. When the liquid is reduced to less than a cup and is getting pretty thick, but before it starts to really caramelize, turn it off and let it cool. Once cool, carefully strain off as much syrup as possible and store it in the fridge. Get a flat dish out and put a couple of cups of sugar in it. Carefully roll each piece of peel in the sugar until it feels dry to touch and you can pick it up without it sticking. Set each piece aside on a tray to dry and continue similarly with the rest of the peel strips.

Now, put them somewhere safe overnight (and away from ants) to let them dry a bit.

Next, carefully melt the kind of chocolate you want to use in a double boiler or on an EXTREMELY low stove. If using a stove, turn it off once melted and reheat as needed to keep it molten, but do NOT leave it on the heat – it will burn. Carefully dip about two thirds of each piece of peel into the chocolate and lay the pieces on wax or greaseproof or parchment paper so that they are not touching. When they are all done, put them somewhere cold to harden. That’s it!

Soft Polenta and winter vegetables

Just right for this weather. I got some old roast root veggies that were languishing in the fridge and about to reach their disposal date. First I stir fried broccoli stalks in olive oil (don’t throw out broccoli stalks – they’re great) and then some red cabbage and then some onions. Then I mixed in the root vegetables. I added a little pomegranate molasses, some balsamic vinegar and some red wine and let it reduce down a bit. Then poured on the polenta I had been cooking at the same time. Yummy!

A test with something real

Just testing out linking out to neat stuff on I have done it before but thought I’d try it again. So to the right is a link to the best movie the past two years. It won the Oscar for best animated film deservedly and is a real change from anything you’ve seen before. It is, of course, Spirited Away.

Roast Butternut Squash

This is simplicity itself and looks and tastes great. Golden browned cubes of pure sweet vegetable pleasure. Healthy even!

Roast Butternut Squash

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Get a butternut squash and peel it very very carefully with a heavy, sharp knife. This works much better than trying to cut it out from the tough skin or cooking it in the skin. Then cut it in half and cut out the seeds and strings from the inside. Cut the remaining squash flesh into cubes and toss with olive oil and sea salt and roast in a pan for about 30 to 45 minutes. Toss halfway through cooking.

Has anyone made anything?

If anyone tries any of these ‘recipes’ (“they’re more like guidelines, actually” [Captain Barbosa]) would you please put in a comment to let me know how they turned out, if you liked them and anything else you might think of. I know at least one person (Kate) has tried at least one thing, so please don’t be shy – comments can be made anonymously…

Fences and Christmas Trees

Spent the morning working at the Christmas Tree lot that gives some of the proceeds to the kids’ swim team in return for the parents’ volunteer labor. Lots of lifting, cutting and getting covered in sap. At least it smelled nice and it was a nice day.

At the same time the fence crew got started on the metal fence. It looks fantastic and we have now finished the fence along the side next to the empty house. The other side neighbours are getting more relaxed about it all. The pool cover is in. We have a new kitchen stove and we are about out of remodelling money. Oh well.

I am planning to make roast butternut squash, greens and chicken breasts with garlic, mushrooms and cilantro sauce in puff pastry for dinner. We are going over to a friends house but bringing the food…

If you want recipes you’ll have to ask…let’s see if that gets anyone to make comments…

Ants everywhere

Home again and ants are everywhere since the rainy season has started. There isn’t really anything for them to eat although they sense the sugar and hover around the container nervously hoping that it will seep through by osmosis.

Greens with sausage

My brother is visiting and I made some pasta with cilantro pesto and some really nice greens with smoked turkey and cranberry sausages I picked up at Trader Joe’s. I used yellow chard and baby spinach. Just chop up the sausage roughly, fry it in a little olive oil (this is a low fat sausage) until a bit hot and ad the chard stems all diced up. When they start to soften, add the chard leaves and then the spinach, waiting each time until the greens wilt. Then at the end add a little salt. It was really good. The cranberry somehow worked really well in the combination. But you can use any sausage type meat just as well.

Ich bin Californian

As you may or may not know, Kennedy should NOT have told the world that he was a jelly donut, which is what ‘ich bin ein Berliner’ means. What he should have said was ‘ich bin Berliner,’ as I learned on my recent trip to Berlin. The trip explains the lapse in my writing and I am taking a hurried moment to catch up while in London before I head home.

Berlin was very interesting from a historical standpoint and I enjoyed the trip, but oh the grimness, oh the lack of humor, oh the bad food, even sadly, oh the mediocre beer.

The highpoint of the trip food wise was some turkish street food in the form of a halfway decent chicken doner kebab and also some quite nice spicy mushrooms and onions with bread. The low point was also street food in the form of the ubiquitous and deadly and aptly named ‘curry wurst’ which doubled as the wurst food in Berlin and the wurst use of the word curry ever devised. A curry wurst is a sausage served with curry flavored ketchup. Unfortunately the next wurst food was at the fancy restaurant I ate at and the only slightly less wurst was the extremely cheap but terribly authentic local bar/restaurant. To be fair, that one was at least value for money…

The only laugh I heard from a Berliner was from my cab driver after he drove off with the trunk of the cab unclosed and the hotel doorman still holding my bags. He laughed again when he reversed back around the corner and picked them up along with a huge lecture from the doorman and he laughed again after we got to the airport and openend the trunk and did a double take pretending the bags weren’t there after all.

Food in London has been better with two decent curries – one Goan chicken with okra and one standard saag ghosht.

Got to see a cracker of a Fulham-Bolton game with plenty of drama, good buildup, terrible defending and mostly poor finishing, but two cracking Fulham goals within a minute of each other.