Monthly Archives: May 2004

High Energy

Cherry Scones (OK, from one of those Sticky Fingers mixes) are in the oven. Coffee is made (blend of Peet’s Aged Sumatran and an Ethiopian Yergachafe from Whole Paycheck) and being drunk. Tools are out, aligned and ready. Materials are all lined up and ready to go. Time to install gutters and the best part is that before I install I have to remove! So I get to go break things and it’s all OK.

I am only nervous about sealing the screws – the rest of the project is straightforward. A report on my progress will come later. If you never hear from me again I probably fell off the ladder.

Low Energy

It has been a rough week. I’m not really over the job loss and am already having to face up to the hard realities of living in the Bay Area with a mortgage and two kids and no income. I’ve gotten started on working on the house a bit. I tore down about a sixth of the gutters yesterday – mostly to get a look at the hanging system the weird previous owners had used which I clearly am just going to have to take and and which I can’t reuse. Plus, because of the way they installed the metal roof on top of a shake roof and didn’t leave any easy way to take parts of it off, I can’t use a strap hanger for the new gutters. That means I have to attach to the fascia, but it isn’t a real fascia – it is a stuccoed fascia and if water gets into it it could spread. So the plan is to predrill pilot holes, squeeze in a dollop of caulk, dip the screw in caulk and attach the hanger and then do my best to caulk the hanger around the edge – all of which means quadrupling the work. I’m planning on putting up vinyl gutters since I am doing it myself and don’t have the ability to manage a 29 foot piece of extruded seamless aluminum all on my own.

Anyway, besides losing the job, the kids are getting teased and even bullied at school. Jan may lose her part time job and it is CERTAIN that the homeless clinic will be closed so she’ll have to do something else anyway.

World Traveler

Job hunting is interesting though. I have found jobs that I could do (although they may be kind of low level) in places like Warsaw (did not require Polish oddly) and Baghdad and Ottawa and Vancouver and London and lots in Seattle and a few in Texas and one in DC. There was also a cool job in Madrid being in charge of Bloomberg’s Spanish Bureau and deputising for being in charge of the European Bureau. But you had to speak fluent Spanish.

I’m probably going to apply for the job in London just for kicks.

In the meantime, the weekend will be spent guttering and cleaning and doing some other odd jobs.

Food

Food? Is that what you said? What about the food? Not much actually. We are getting sublime, fantastic, delicious apricots in the organic box as well as in the stores. Asparagus seems to have petered out. Strawberries still coming both in the garden and box and stores. Cherry season is also here and we had about 5 pounds delivered picked that day in Brentwood by some friends and will probably head out there ourselves at some point to do the same thing. Cooking has been a low priority and about the only thing worth mentioning was a sort of Moroccan stew that I made. I put 5 pounds of chicken pieces in the crockpot with half a bottle of red wine and some mixed herbs and let it cook for five hours. Then I took it out, dumped it all in a pot on the stove, added two cans of crushed tomatoes with chilies and put it on to simmer on high. Then I added two jars of Trader Joe’s Moroccan Tagine sauce and four finely chopped cloves of garlic. Let it keep cooking for about another hour on low and chopped up dried apricots, sweet red peppers from a jar. Served the chicken on rice with the apricots, red peppers and some slivered toasted almonds in bowls to toss on top. It was surprisingly good.

Around The World In A Bowl Of Rice

The fourth round of Is My Blog Burning (IMBB) is upon us and as of this morning there were 46 amazing entries. You can find them all here in Pim’s witty and tres gourmand blog.

Asparagus Lemon Risotto

I got very excited about this next chapter in the unfolding journey through the foods of the world that is IMBB (Is My Blog Burning?) The subject was Around the World in a Bowl of Rice and I had thought about my favorite basmati pilau with cardamom, cumin, coriander seeds and onion, or a soft, rich creamy rice pudding with raisins, or…

Then I got laid off (made redundant) on Tuesday and KABOOM! went my sunny mood.

Fortunately, the guilt of making the promise and not fulfilling it; the lack of anything interesting to do with my life apart from hunt for work, desperately renovate the house in case we need to sell it and get in a few huge familial fights because of…well we won’t go into that. Where was I? Oh yeah – I got over it and decided to do my Asparagus Lemon Risotto which is particularly interesting because you can make it in a rice cooker. No – it isn’t THAT easy, but it doesn’t need constant stirring. Note: I got the basic idea for how to do this from The Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook, but I like this risotto better than the ones they listed and it works better for me than their recipes. Which is not to say that it is a bad cookbook – the EXACT opposite. If you have a rice cooker and want to do more with it than make plain steamed rice then get this cookbook ASAP!

You can make many other risottos using the same basic technique, but I really like the delicate spring taste of this one and plus where I am it is asparagus season.

Asparagus Lemon Risotto

You will need a bunch of asparagus (about 12 spears or 3/4 of a pound) and a fresh, clean lemon. Three cloves of garlic. Two cups of chicken stock and two cups of a nice crisp white wine (Pinot Grigio is good and put the rest in the fridge to have with your risotto). Four tablespoons of butter. One and a half cups of arborio rice (you can probably use one of the other short, fat risotto rices like carnaroli but I find arborio just fine). Parmesan or pecorino romano cheese to taste (up to 1/3 of a cup).

Cut off the tough woody ends of the asparagus and slice the rest up into one inch pieces. Carefully grate the zest of the lemon and put it aside. Squeeze out the juice of the lemon and put that aside too. Peel and finely chop the garlic.

Turn the rice cooker on and set it to start cooking – even though it is empty – and leave the lid off – this is important. Now add three tablespoons of the butter and as it starts to melt, add the garlic. About a minute later add the asparagus and stir thoroughly and let cook for another couple of minutes. Now add the rice and the lemon zest and stir thoroughly again to coat all the rice with butter and whatever juices have come off the garlic and asparagus. Keep cooking for another five minutes stirring occasionally. If the rice cooker turns itself off during this time just leave it off but wait out the five minutes and stir occasionally.

Now add the two cups of chicken broth and two cups of white wine and the lemon juice and stir once and at last put the lid on the rice cooker. Cook until it dings that it is done.

Carefully decant into a nice serving bowl and stir in the last tablespoon of butter and the cheese. Actually you can use other cheeses here rather than the classic parmesan or romano – but nothing overwhelming. A soft creamy goat cheese might be interesting to melt into the risotto.

Hope you all like it and don’t be put off by risotto in the rice cooker – it works!

How do they do it (local organic rotisserie chicken)

How do they do it? There is a local restaurant/grocery that a few months back started selling hot rotisserie chickens. They come off the roaster at 1PM and 5PM. You can order them by phone and they’ll reserve them for you. They cost $7.95 per chicken. Now I know that at places like Costco and the local supermarket you can probably get a whole rotisserie chicken for $5.95 or $4.95 or (food is just stupidly cheap in the US) even $3.95. But that’s a maximally processed, water and phosphate injected, factory farmed monstrosity and even fresh off the grill doesn’t really taste all that great. (Although I hear the Costco ones aren’t bad).

The chicken at this local place is a free-range, organic, healthy bird that has been hand rubbed with spices and is roasted with half a lemon and fresh rosemary and garlic cloves in the cavity. It is very close to as good as roasting one at home and even closer if you time things right for the 1PM and 5PM windows.

Now here is the thing. At the very cheapest, I can buy an organic free-range chicken for $1.99 a pound (that’s timing it for a sale). These chickens are a good 3.5 pounds. So they are making 95 cents less cooking, spice, labor, lemons and rosemary and packaging. How do they do it?

I know they can get the chicken for less than I can and so forth but it is still a ridiculous price.

Sometime we’ll get sick of it, but for now we have a pretty standard fallback if we don’t feel like cooking. Or for when we want to take a picnic to the outdoor Shakespeare festival. Or whenever. Even better, the grocery also sells very reasonable produce, breads, deli items and so on.

America’s Best Home Cook…

…isn’t me (what a shock!) and officially isn’t going to be me. Semi-finalists were supposed to be contacted by May 1st. The cook-offs themselves start this weekend. So my effort didn’t make the cut.

Oh well, I had fun. And now I can let you all know what I made and give you the pictures…

The rules were that we had to use four out of the following five ingredients: 1. boneless beef (any cut) 2. mushrooms (fresh or dried, any type), 3. red bell peppers, 4. shallots, 5. fresh rosemary.

I used chateaubriand (the nicest steak cut available at the store that night that fitted what I had planned), crimin muchrooms, shallots and fresh rosemary from the garden.

We also had to use three other ingredients of our choice and any ingredients at all from a ‘pantry’ list.

If you read the original entry you will see that I also handicapped myself by starting the night before the entries were due in.

This is the plated result.

Photo of Chateaubriand and cilantro sauce with rosemary garlic mushrooms copyright 2004 Owen Linderholm

I thought it not only looked good, but that the official recipe which follows was also good.

Chateaubriand and cilantro sauce with rosemary garlic mushrooms

Makes 4 generous servings

Ingredients

2lb Chateaubriand – about 1½ inches thick.

1 lemon

2 tsp coarse salt (kosher or sea salt)

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 bunch cilantro

8 medium to large cloves of garlic

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

5 tbsp olive oil

½ lb mushrooms (regular button or crimini)

½ stick (4 tbsp) butter

2 tbsp fresh rosemary

3 medium to large shallots

1.Take half a stick of butter out of the refrigerator to thaw.

2.Grate off the zest of the lemon.

3.Slice the chateaubriand in half through the thinnest part, like slicing an english muffin, turning it into two pieces of meat that are ¾ of an inch thick. Then cut each piece into half so you have four pieces of meat that are ¾ of an inch thick.

4.Sprinkle one teaspoon of coarse sea or kosher salt and the teaspoon of freshly ground pepper all over the meat. Then sprinkle the lemon zest evenly over the meat.

5.Place all the meat flat between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound each piece of meat through the plastic with a heavy object like tenderizing hammer or a rolling pin for about ten seconds per piece until it is about ½ an inch thick. Put the meat aside and let it rest.

6.Thoroughly wash the cilantro and trim just the roots off. You need the stalks as well as the leaves. Cut the bunch of cilantro in half or thirds and put it in the blender. Peel six of the cloves of garlic and add them to the blender. Add the juice of the lemon and 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. Add 3 tbsp of olive oil and the other 1 tsp of salt. Blend it all thoroughly together to a smooth green paste.

7.Carefully wipe the mushrooms clean with a paper towel and remove their stalks.

8.Finely chop the remaining two cloves of garlic and two tbsp of fresh rosemary.

9.Using a fork thoroughly mash the butter, garlic and rosemary together.

10.Put a small amount (1/6 of a tsp) of the rosemary garlic butter in each mushroom cap and then carefully spread the rest evenly over the meat.

11.Chop three shallots coarsely.

12.Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large cast iron skillet or non-stick frying pan. You may need two pans or to cook the meat in two batches. When it gets hot, swirl the oil in the pan, then place the shallots and mushrooms around the edge and the meat in the middle.

13.Cook for five minutes, stirring the shallots a little but try not to disturb the mushrooms or meat.

14.Turn the steaks over and cook for a further two minutes for medium. For rare, reduce the time on both sides by up to a minute, and for well done increase the time by up to a minute on both sides.

15.Serve with the browned shallots on top of the meat and a tablespoon of cilantro sauce on top of it all and the mushrooms on the side. Put more of the cilantro sauce in a bowl in case anyone wants more.

16.Accompany with a green salad or grilled tomatoes and pasta. The pasta can be made with a simple marinara sauce or just olive oil and parmesan. Alternatively, use the rest of the cilantro sauce as a sauce for the pasta and mix it in thoroughly.

And here are some pictures of stages along the way.

Cilantro sauce ingredients that go into the blender and end up like the sauce on the steak in the first picture.

Photo of cilantro sauce ingredients copyright 2004 Owen Linderholm

Rosemary garlic butter ready for spreading inside mushroom caps.

Photo of rosemary garlic butter copyright 2004 Owen Linderholm

Stuffed crimini mushrooms ready for cooking.

Photo of stuffed crimini mushrooms copyright 2004 Owen Linderholm

Steak and mushrooms and shallots cooking in the pan. I cooked it both ways shown – in a non-stick pan and in my trusty cast iron skillet. To my complete shock, the non-stick pan way came out better (although there wasn’t much difference really).

Photo of Chateaubriand with rosemary garlic mushrooms cooking copyright 2004 Owen Linderholm

The steak and mushrooms cooked. It’s a little smoky – I like to cook steak on high heat. Note the slightly caramelized shallots.

Photo of Chateaubriand with rosemary garlic mushrooms just finished cooking copyright 2004 Owen Linderholm

Baked fried chicken revisited

OK, I know I’ve written about this before, but I have improved a little on the method and have found a few spices that work even a little better and most importantly, I have a picture so you can SEE how good this is.

Photo of Baked Fried Chicken copyright 2004 Owen Linderholm

Baked Fried Paprika Spiced Chicken

First get about a quarter of a loaf of old dried out bread. Break it up into small chunks (I put it in a paper bag and smash it a few times with something very hard and heavy like my head) and blend it in the blender to make breadcrumbs. Then mix in about two tablespoons of herbs de provence, a tablespoon of garlic powder, a tablespoon of salt and a tablespoon of ground pepper. Remove the skin if you can from the chicken pieces (I don’t bother to do this on wings). Then cut deep slashes to the bone in each piece of chicken. Put the chicken pieces in a bowl and sprinkle two teaspoons of smoked paprika all over them and rub it in thoroughly. You’ll have to wash your hands afterward – wouldn’t want to get any of that spiced smoked paprika in your eye if you rubbed it inadvertently…I mean wouldn’t want to get any raw, salmonella laden chicken juices in your eye. Dump on one cup of buttermilk. Mix it in thoroughly so each piece is coated, even into the slashes. Let it sit in the fridge for an hour.

Turn the oven on to 400 degrees. Get out enough baking sheets to hold the chicken. Put a little oil on each of them to thinly coat the bottom. Put the breadcrumb mixture in a bowl. One at a time take each piece of chicken and roll it in the crumb mixture until coated thoroughly, then put them on the tray in a single layer. Drizzle or spray a small amount of oil on top of each piece. Bake for 15 minutes until the bottom is turning brown. Turn each piece over and bake for another 15 to twenty minutes. Check for doneness. If not done, turn again and bake for another ten minutes. Repeat until done.

Superb hot. Good cold.

Bush could have stopped the deaths in Iraq…

[Warning – politics ahead…]

Abu Musab Zarqawi is widely regarded as masterminding most of the bombings and terrorist-caused deaths in Iraq. He also claimed responsibility for the beheading of Nick Berg, the poor, decent civilian who was executed yesterday.

Bush and his National Security Council turned down the chance to capture this terrorist and destroy his main operations not once, not twice, but THREE times as long ago as two years ago. It was apparently more important to go forward with the invasion of Iraq than go after a known, proven high-up member of Al-Qaeda. That policy has come back to haunt them and it is typical of how the whole war on terror and now the war in Iraq have been mismanaged, mishandled and just plain bungled.

Details here.

IMBB 4th Edition: Rice!

The very interesting IMBB (Is My Blog Burning?) cooking project is upon us again. The last time was cake and this time it is ‘Around the world in a bowl of rice’.

I will, of course, take part and so you can expect to see more news about this on May 23rd.

Fava bean hummus

In common with other food bloggers, I have been getting fava beans lately in my box of organic veggies.

I actually have saved them up for a couple of weeks since I wanted to make a large batch of fava bean hummus for our party. This is what I mostly do with the beans when I am not just cooking them for dinner plain.

Photo of Fava Bean Hummus copyright 2004 Owen Linderholm

Fava Bean Hummus

Shell about three pounds of fava beans. This should leave you with a couple of cups of actual beans. Boil them for about twenty minutes in water and then rapidly cool with cold water. Peel all the larger ones (anything bigger than about 1/2 inch in the longest dimension) by squeezing one end hard and popping the bean out of the skin. Smaller ones can be left whole. Puree in a blender with a head of green garlic, half a cup of olive oil, half a cup of lemon juice and about half a cup of sesame tahini. Add salt to taste and serve with bread or crudites.