fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
As usual, I have been too busy to find time to write. I need to get caught up soon, though, as I am going on vacation in a week and will only get further behind.

Oyamel: Oyamel is on a few lists of best Mexican restaurants in the U.S. and is owned by Jose Andres (who also owns Jaleo, one of my local favorites). So it was an obvious choice when I was given a list of options for meeting someone for dinner in Penn Quarter. This is a small plates / sharing type of place, so we split 4 dishes. Te ceviche tradicional was, indeed, traditional enough, but a bit salty for my tastes. The test of adventurousness came in the form of the chapulines tacos. Chapulines means grasshoppers. These were okay, but crunchy and salty and I have no desire to eat them again. The tamal verde (with chicken) was quite good, but the real highlight was the ensalada de chayote (squash salad). Overall, I still prefer going to Los Angeles for my Mexican food fixes, but I would definitely eat here again (and try other dishes).

Detroit Unleaded: We were time constrained for dinner because we were going to see a movie called Detroit Unleaded, which was part of Filmfest DC. The film was advertised as the first Arab-American romantic comedy and was in a mixture of English and Arabic (with English subtitles, of course). The story involved a young man who inherits half a gas station after his father is murdered and the young woman he meets when she delivers phone cards for her protective older brother. It was sweet and I thought it did a good job of capturing the conflicts that often face children in immigrant communities.

Salad Supper: My chavurah had a potluck spring salad supper. I made insalata caprese, which is easy but relies on shopping well. You need very good tomatoes, in particular. All you have to do is slice the tomatoes, top each slice with a slice of good mozzarella cheese, and top that with a basil leaf. Then, just before serving, drizzle on a nice fruity olive oil. I think it was successful, since I didn’t have any leftovers to take home. By the way, we also had a little mixer game that involved everyone getting a slip of paper with a salad ingredient. You had to guess other people’s ingredients by asking yes/no questions. I won this and got a container of silly putty as my prize.

Limmud Baltimore: Limmud is a Jewish learning event, which apparently originated in London. It’s an interesting concept, offering a wide range of learning discussions. I heard about the Baltimore event from a friend and thought it would make for an interesting day. It did and it deserves its own entry, which will follow in a few minutes.

Embassy of Netherlands: The MIT Club of Washington had a Partners and Patrons event at the Embassy of the Netherlands. The talk, which had to do with the Netherlands Forensics Institute, was very interesting. The food was not as good as some of the other embassies, but the socializing was just fine.

One Day Hike: I did the 50K version of the Sierra Club’s annual one-day hike of the C&O canal towpath. That deserves its own entry and will get one soon, including a few photos. For now, I will just say that I finished.

More Socializing: I managed to recover enough from the walk to go to a happy hour at a friend’s condo the next day. We talked travel and tea, ate from his groaning board, and watched planes from his balcony. It was good to see some folks I hadn’t seen in a while and I stayed longer than I’d expected to.

VASA Board Meeting: Finally, closing out April, I had a VASA board meeting, fortunately by telecon. It looks like we have some busy times ahead.
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I normally post entries early in the morning, but I have been in a "getting organized" mood (not that you'd know it from my lack of progress on the chaos that is my den). And I seem to be too tired to write on the nights when I am not too busy. So I am actually using a work break to catch up here, instead of my usual chit chatting.

Crafts: The crocheted coral reef exhibit is opening this weekend. I am hoping to get over to the Museum of Natural History on Sunday morning, before the meeting for volunteers at the upcoming Science Festival on the mall. But what I wanted to mention now was one of the other satellite reefs that I found interesting. It was made by inmates of a women's prison in Indiana.

Celebrity death watch: I should mention the opera singer, Joan Sutherland, but the most recent celebrity death was of Carla Cohen, co-founder of Politics and Prose, an excellent independent bookstore in northwest Washington, D.C. She had been in poor health for a while (and the shop is for sale partly because of that). Until reading her obituary, I had not realized that one of her brothers is Mark Furstenberg, owner of the well-regarded sandwich shop, Bread Line (as well as Marvelous Market, which I am less impressed with).

Amazing Race: Sunday night's episode came down to two things - luck with taxis and attention to detail. The Princeton boys did well (despite taking way too long to find Ghana on the map) because they actually read the clue for the construction materials challenge. And they were the only team who actually found the decoder key for what should have been the easier challenge.

I was annoyed at tattooed guy for his meanness to his girlfriend, though he did apologize when she had the asthma attack. I have also concluded that the doctors won't last much longer, given that they were the only team who had trouble finding the marked path to the pit stop.

Notes to myself: Does anybody have any idea what the possible significance of "303/357" might be and why I wrote it in my planner a couple of weeks ago? Or why I wrote "3200-11" a couple of days later? (Lest you think all of my notes to myself are cryptic and/or useless, I am reasonably sure that one string of letters and numbers was a temporary web password for a site I forgot my password to and had called to get reset. And I actually know that "Elstar" is a type of apple, about which more later.)

Yoga: There is a Baptist minister who has been getting skewered in the press for saying that yoga is un-Christian. I don't see the big deal. It isn't any secret that yoga has spiritual practices associated with it and it should not be surprising that those might be incompatible with other religious traditions. (By the way, I know of at least a couple of synagogues that have special yoga classes that have been designed to avoid some of the practices that are un-Jewish.)

Apples: The farmer's market has been full of apples for the past several weeks. The Elstar apples definitely had an unusual flavor, which is why I made a note about them. They were fine for a change of snacking pace, but I will stick to the Rome and (especially) Cortland apples for the most part. Were I ever going to bake a pie, they have a good supply of Northern Spy, which are the definitive pie apple as far as I am concerned.

Speaking of baking: I baked a chocolate cake for a colleague's 50th birthday. Basically, I used a recipe from Hershey's web site, substituting brown sugar for half the granulated sugar (because I ran out of granulated sugar) and tossing in a bag of chocolate chips for good measure. My ambitions are limited, however, and I used boughten frosting. It was a success and I will use that cake recipe again.

Words: Does anybody else use "boughten" to mean "store bought" or is that something I picked up somewhere obscure?

Endangered languages: I went to hear K. David Harrison's talk at National Geographic on Tuesday night. I picked up a copy of his book, The Last Speakers while I was there. He was an entertaining and informative lecturer and played clips of several speakers of endangered languages. The funniest part involved a love song from a tribe in Papua New Guinea. The lyrics were along the lines of "Your village is swampy and has death adders. I don't want to live there. Come and live in my village where there are no death adders."

I think that brings me up to date.
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I have continued glancing through old cookbooks, getting ready for putting them in the box to go out. So here are a couple of other dubious delights from The Blender Way to Better Cooking from 1965.

Company Chicken Soup is basically canned cream of chicken soup with almonds blended in. Add some parsley, chives, and tarragon and a bit more cream and voila! Such elegance. Were I to serve chicken soup to company, I'd probably start with a chicken, but what do I know?

The salad section is possibly the most bizarre, as evidenced by Sour Cream Lettuce. I'm not sure why one would use a blender to chop lettuce, but following that with frying the lettuce in butter is even more bizarre. This one gets a dressing of (hot) chicken broth with a bit of lemon juice, thickened with bread crumbs, and mixed with sour cream. It's all topped with buttered bread crumbs.

And then there are the molded salads, like the Golden Glow Salad, which is basically orange jello with pineapple, carrots, and cheddar cheese. The blender comes in as one cannot apparently dissolve jello in hot water effectively without one.

I'll note that you can also turn any dish into its Mexican equivalent merely by adding a teaspoon of chili powder. Hmmm, Mexican Golden Glow Salad anyone?

Not that our modern food world is exactly free of oddities either, given the existence of extra fiber pop tarts.
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Last night's story swap was very well attended - 21 people if I counted right. Not everybody told, of course, but listeners are highly valued. I just told a throw-away shaggy dog story, because I'm working on three things and not really focused enough on any of them. And, by the end of the evening, I realized what I should actually spend some time focused on.

The highlight of the evening was hearing Csenge, a young woman from Hungary who is performing at the Kids Euro Festival, tell a Hungarian folk tale. What was especially impressive is that she said she had never told that story in English before.

The swap was also an excuse for baking. I actually did what I'd intended with the idea of a recipe of the month, namely trying something from the (overflowing) clippings file. The chocolate pecan brownies turned out okay, but they were: a) a bit too sweet, b) not very strongly pecan-flavored and c) not as good as Marcia's brownies (for which I do have the recipe). But, in case someone else wants to try them, the recipe is:

1. Combine 3/4 c. sugar, 1/3 c. butter and 2 T. water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in 1 c. bittersweet chocolate morsels (about 1/2 a 12 ounce package) and 1 tsp. vanilla. Stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

2. Let cool. Beat in 2 eggs, 1 at a time. Stir in 1/4 c. flour and 1/4 tsp. baking soda.

3. Mix in remaining chocolate morsels and 1/2 c. chopped pecans. Pour into a greased 9 inch square baking pan.

4. Bake at 325 degrees until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
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My mother got a blender some time in the 1960's. If I recall correctly, she used it exactly once (to make batter for potato latkes) and decided that it didn't do a good job. But she had a blender cookbook, which she gave me when I was up at her place in early September.

It's not that she expected me to actually use The Blender Way to Better Cooking. She knows that I make the rounds of used book stores and donate what they don't take. But, me being me, it wasn't going into the box to get rid of without my looking through it first. Which makes me glad that we have progressed since 1965.

The "nutritious lemonade" recipe, which basically blends a raw egg into otherwise innocent lemonade, is bad enough. But the kicker is the recipe for "spiced iced coffee". The ingredients for that are:

1 c. cold water
1 6 ounce bottle cola
1/4 c. light cream
1 c. crushed ice
2 T. sugar
1 T. instant coffee
1/8 tsp. cinnamon

That's all blended together and allegedly serves 3 people. Presumably, that means three people who don't actually like coffee.

And that's only on p. 16 of the book!
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September's new recipe of the month was Lemon Mustard Chicken. The chicken was marinated in a mixture of lemon juice, lime juice, and Dijon mustard. Then it was rolled in bread crumbs, mixed with black pepper, oregano, and curry powder. Finally, it was baked until tender. Pretty easy and very tasty. I'm likely to make this again.
fauxklore: (Default)
This is particularly simple and reasonably quick.

Combine 1 T. honey, 3 T. soy sauce, 3 T. balsamic vinegar, 2 tsp grated ginger, 1 clove crushed garlic, and 1 T. olive oil in a shallow glass dish. Season two large mahi mahi filets with salt and pepper and place them in the dish. Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes to marinate.

Heat 1 T. vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Remove fish from the dish, reserving marinade, and fry for about 5 minutes on each side, turning once, until fish flakes easily with a fork. Remove fish to a platter and keep warm.

Pour reserved marinade into the skillet. Heat over medium heat until reduced to a thick glaze consistency. Pour over fish and serve immediately.

I accompanied this with steamed Asian vegetables (snow peas, carrots, and mushrooms).

I should note that the original recipe called for more honey and less ginger. It's not the sort of thing one needs to be precise about.
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I actually ended up trying two new recipes as part of tonight's dinner.

The Bahamian mahi mahi was marinated in a mixture of rum and lime juice with thinly sliced onion. The recipe called for marinating it 2-4 hours, but it ended up being almost 24 hours because I hadn't read that far when I started preparing this last night. After marinating, the fish was sprinkled with oregano and black pepper and dotted with butter. There was also a lemon slice on top. (Most of the marinade was drained off.) This was baked covered at 350 degrees. The recipe suggseted 20 minutes, but I checked after 15 and it was done. The rum flavor was too strong for the fish, possibly because of the marinating time. (Or possibly because I used Meyer's rum, instead of some flavorless junk.) It was okay, but I've preferred other things I've done with mahi mahi.

I also made gingered cole slaw. Marcia had posted a recipe on a mailing list recently for a ginger vinaigrette - olive oil, rice vinegar, sugar, grated ginger, salt and pepper. I omitted the salt and used a packet of splenda. Marcia had thought it was too pungent with 1 T. of ginger (for a half cup of dressing), but I found that not enough for my tastes and ended up doubling it. Of course, ginger varies in potency, so it is best to be cautious and add more if you need it. Anyway, this got mixed with shredded green cabbage, red cabbage, and carrots. It was simple and delicious - very light and fresh in flavor.

There was also corn on the cob. And an amazingly juicy shiro plum from the farmer's market for dessert.
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This month's new recipe came about because I had bought some merguez (north African lamb sausage) and, after a couple of merguez sandwiches, wanted something else to do with it. It worked well but, frankly, the soup would be just as good in a vegetarian version without the merguez.

For 4 servings:

1 c. dried chick peas
1 small head fennel, diced
1/2 c. diced onion (1 smallish onion or you can cheat as I do and buy pre-diced frozen onions)
5 cloves crushed garlic (again, you can use the jarred pre-crushed sort to save time)
2 T. olive oil
4 c. chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
1 T. lemon zest
1 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice (I probably used more, since I didn't measure)
salt and black pepper to taste
1 tsp Spanish paprika
2- 3 oz links merguez

1. Soak chickpeas in water overnight and drain well

2. Heat olive oil in a 4 qt. saucepan over medium eat. Add fennel, onion and garlic and, stirring frequently, cook them until they sweat but do not brown (about 2-3 minutes) Add the drained chickpeas and stir well, cooking for another 2 minutes. Add the stock.

3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until chick peas are soft (about an hour) adding more stock (or water) if needed.

4. Meanwhile, cook the merguez links. You can sautee them in olive oil, bake them in a 350 degree overn for about 7 minutes or microwave on high for 2-3 minutes. Let cool a few minutes and dice..

5. When the chickpeas are well cooked, add lemon zest, lemon juice and spices. The actual recipe called for pureeing the mixture but I didn't bother and was happy with the result. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with the diced merguez
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I actually made two new recipes tonight, though one was really a minor variant on something I've made before.

The first was, of all things, macaroni and cheese. I'm sure I must have made mac and cheese at some point before in my life but I'm reasonably sure it hasn't been within the past 25 years and may not have been since junior high school home economics. I had an odd craving for it a few weeks back and dug up a recipe that included cottage cheese and sour cream (as well as cheddar and parmesan cheeses and, of course, macaroni). I also liked that it was topped with panko (Japanese bread crumbs). This proved to be amazingly good - possibly the best mac and cheese I've ever had. I suspect the awesomeness is due to the sour cream, which is an ingredient I have way too much love for. And the panko provided a nice bit of crunch.

I had steamed asparagus on the side. But I had actually started with a new salad recipe. I have made grapefruit and fennel salad before, but this recipe tossed the sliced fennel and grapefruit segments with arugula and balsamic vinaigrette. It also called for black olives, but I didn't have any on hand. A little freshly ground pepper on top and this was a simple and delicious summer salad. You could make the vinaigrette yourself but if it's late and you're being lazy, Newman's own light balsamic will do. (In the past, I have made a fennel and grapefruit salad without arugula and with raspberry vinaigrette, which is also good. Of course, the whole concept is dependent on one's liking for strong, complex flavors.)

Note that both the asparagus and the fennel were from the Crystal City farmer's market. So was the bok choy I stir fried with surimi for supper last night. I could have had the last goldrush apple from the market for dessert, but I was decadent and had some blood orange sorbet (boughten Ciao Bella brand, not home made) instead. All in all, this was the best meal I've had at home in months.
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I was away so much in May that I never tried a recipe of the month. This is my remedial attempt, i.e. it will count as the May recipe, rather than the June one.

The idea is pretty simple - just a couple of nectarines (peeled and diced), plain yogurt (I like the Greek style), and a half a teaspoon of almond extract. The almond extract is what makes this count as an actual recipe. I suppose you could use milk or soy milk instead of the yogurt for a thinner result and you could add sweetener, but the nectarines were plenty sweet themselves.

My verdict is that this was just okay, not really worth the hassle of peeling and dicing nectarines. I think I'll stick to smoothies made with berries or with frozen fruit, which are less of a pain in the neck. The almond extract didn't really contribute enough to elevate this to the "must keep" repertoire.
fauxklore: (Default)
Note the plural. The first new thing I tried making was sriracha mayonnaise, to imitate what I'd had at a restaurant. It was good, but mixing sriracha sauce into mayonnaise is really too trivial to count as a recipe. I will definitely do this again as a dip for french fries.

Tonight, I made tofu in peanut sauce. The sauce was basically peanut butter, soy sauce, stir fried scallions, and finely chopped ginger mixed together. Stir fry tofu in a mixture of olive oil and sesame oil, add the sauce ingredients. Take off the heat and sprinkle with dried coconut and sesame seeds. Pretty basic and tasty, but I didn't use quite enough ginger (despite having doubled what the recipe called for.) I suspect that both lemon grass and garlic would also help.
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I'm looking for a relatively healthy granola bar recipe. That means that it doesn't contain tons of butter and sweeteners. It should contain rolled oats and probably some sort of nuts and maybe peanut butter. Ideally, it would be sweetened with maple syrup. I'd also like it not to have coconut. I don't care for raisins, but those I can easily leave out (or substitute acceptable ingredients for). I'm not sure why, but I don't think it should contain eggs. I don't care whether the resulting bars are chewy or crunchy.

I did some googling but haven't found anything that meets those criteria. Mostly, I'm looking for a cheaper alternative to boughten stuff to keep in the office for a mid-afternoon snack. Anything that costs under $5 for a week's supply qualifies.
fauxklore: (Default)
I had farfalle. Spring means asparagus. A bit of web searching turned up a recipe for farfalle with asparagus and smoked salmon. It's actually a pasta salad, intended to be eaten at room temperature. The farfalle and sliced asparagus tips are cooked separately and mixed with lox, lemon juice, olive oil, basil, black pepper and a little bit of chopped pistachio.

I liked this, though next time I would leave the lox in bigger pieces. I will, however, note that looking for recipes on-line defeats the purpose of trying a new recipe each month, since it does nothing to get me to go through umpty-ump years worth of clippings.
fauxklore: (Default)
This month's new recipe was pan-fried farfalle with butternut squash, fried sage, and pine nuts. The squash was roasted with onion, garlic and olive oil, taking one pan. The pasta was cooked al dente, taking another pan. Pine nuts were toasted, taking another pan. The sage was fried in yet another pan and, after it was removed and crumbled, everything went back into that frying pan to be cooked until the pasta was just starting to get crispy. Final step was tossing with some parmesan cheese.

Verdict is that it was good, with the sage nicely setting off the sweetness of the squash. But it took too many pans, so I don't think I'll make it again.
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In my attempt to try a new recipe every month, I made an Asian cucumber salad yesterday. Basically, peel, half (or quarter), and remove seeds from a large cucumber and slice it. Sprinkle with kosher salt and let sit for a half hour or so for the bitter juices to drain out. Wash and dry. Combine with a half an onion (coarsely chopped), a jalapeno (minced), 2 T. rice vinegar, 2 T. sesame oil and 1 T. soy sauce. Refrigerate for about 3-4 hours for flavors to blend.

It was a good enough way to use up a cucumber, but not exciting enough to make again and not as spicy as I was hoping for. I ate it with some tuna sashimi and was surprised that it seemed to clash with the pickled ginger.
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I am, very slowly, cleaning out things in my den. One thing I definitely do not need is the large number of recipe brochures from various companies which I seem to have collected over the years. I'm in the middle of looking through some from various Long Island liquor stores. If you're unfamiliar with the genre, they inevitably have a calendar in the back, a lot of ads for various alcoholic beverages, and a few sections of recipes. I have these primarily because it is a mistake ever to hint to my mother that you have any interest in collecting something. (This also accounts for large numbers of dolls and dimes and postcards, by the way.)

Dave's Wines & Liquors of Oceanside, New York offered up a true gem in its 1985 party book. Grapefruit Soup Cerise calls for canned cherry pie filling, grapefruit juice, cherry-flavored liqueur, and grapefruit sections, along with sweet spices (cinnamon, cardamom and mace). This is supposed to be a starter course, despite the dessert-like ingredients. It sounds even worse than the junior high home ec "hedgehog salad" that involved covering half a pear with whipped cream cheese and sticking halved grapes and blanched almonds on it. (My recollection is that actually tasted just fine, but I can still make fun of it. I really can't imagine what the cherry pie filling and grapefruit soup would taste like.)

I'd just go for serving a half grapefruit per person. Except that nobody serves grapefruit anymore since everybody and his cousin is on statins, but that's another subject.
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Since I woke up about 45 minutes before the alarm this morning (not unusual) and actually got out of bed (somewhat unusual), I baked muffins this morning. In the end, I tried not thawing the frozen berries and it worked perfectly fine. So I thought I'd pass along the recipe.

1 egg
1/2 c. milk
1/4 c. oil (I used peanut oil, but you could use any bland oil you have)
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. sugar
1 T. baking powder
1 c. frozen berries (I used Trader Joe's Very Berry Medley, which has strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. Having that in the freezer was the motivation for the muffins in the first place. I didn't thaw the berries first, but did slice the strawberries into about 4 pieces each.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Beat egg. Stir in milk and oil.

Combine dry ingredients. Stir into liquid mixture until flour is just moistened.

Fold in berries. Mixture will be lumpy.

You're probably supposed to grease the muffin tin, but I have a nonstick one so didn't bother. Fill the muffin cups about 2/3 full.

Bake 20-25 minutes.


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