Saturday, August 30, 2008

Buffalo burgers with smoked gouda

Yeesh, it took me a week to post this dinner I made last weekend! I woulda done it earlier, I swear, but these photos are pretty bad. I was too busy enjoying a perfect day to bother with things like Sensitivity and Exposure. Bah, who needs good photos anyways? My words paint the picture for you.

Last weekend, we had a blast on Sauvie Island. It was an idyllic Perfect Saturday. After getting scratched up and sticky picking fat blackberries (and stuffing ourselves with them, still sun-warm), we headed down to the boat launch to cool our toes in the Mighty Columbia. Sadly, we had a cooler of beer, but no bottle opener! But necessity being the mother of invention, I was able to hoist the caps off using the rim on the bottom of a can of mosquito repellent. Because I'm a good German girl.

After we'd had some nice ones, we mosied over to Kruger Farm Market for some perfect apples, peaches, mini avocados, good dill Havarti, and some baby okra (which is pickling with some green tomatoes in a nice curry brine as we speak). We hurried home with our booty, but stopped on the way to pick up a cheap ($15) tabletop gas grill and some ground buffalo.

I mixed the mince with salt and pepper, a few squirts of Worcestershire, and some garlic powder (which is about twice as many ingredients as I usually add to ground meat). I mixed it and formed four small patties - since we only had soft wheat dinner rolls, I decided to make sliders instead of buying buns. I made a small foil pouch for some hickory chips, and another to hold some tender green beans, minced red chiles and baby pattypans from the garden (butter and chopped herbs, a squirt of lemon and seal the pouch).

After tossing the (perforated) bag of wood chips onto the burner and letting it get good and smoky, we tossed on the veg and burgers and got some corn going on the stove. That chipotle butter that you keep seeing in Gourmet is good shit - just a little adobo from a can of chipotles and melted butter does the trick. Also, I have now converted from a "Coal Only, the Fuck You Using Gas to Grill" girl to "Bitch, If You Make Some Smoke You Can't Tell the Difference So Get Off Your High Horse, Already" type of person.

I was shaking with anticipation and, coupled with terrible lighting in our TV room, mustered only this poorly-focused and dimly-lit photo of the most delicious burger.

Pulled the burgers at medium-rare, and top with slices of smoked gouda. Toast the rolls on the top of the grill lid. I topped my burger with a light shmear of spicy brown mustard, a little Jufran banana ketchup and some mayo, slices of avocado, minced onion, sliced tomato and baby arugula. Scott skipped the avocado and onion. A perfect accompaniment to a bourbon and Coke and a movie. Although Gone Baby Gone was only aight, in my opinion. I think he shoulda let Morgan Freeman keep the kid.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Chicken croquette salad with lemon-yogurt dressing

Last night my Very Special Friend Jason came over for what will (hopefully) be a weekly Project Runway dinner date. The darling brought a jug of decadent 2% milk (for drinking, I'm a skim girl) and two dozen homemade chocolate chip cookies for us to enjoy during the runway show. Happy sigh! I made lemony roast chicken, mashed potatoes with mushroom and giblet gravy, and peas & carrots. It was like being a kid again, but with better cooking and more homosexuals.

After the gym tonight (I know, I actually went!), I wanted to use up my leftovers, but I was fucking starving! No time for my usual roast chicken leftovers (pot pie with drop-biscuit topping). Plus I had the mashed potatoes to eat. So I shredded the chicken, added a beaten egg and the leftover mashed potatoes, grated up half an onion and mixed it all up with a pinch of S&P. I formed patties and dipped them in panko seasoned with dried oregano and S&P, fried them in a little oil to brown, then finished them in the oven while I got the salad ready.

I chopped up some redleaf lettuce and added some tomatoes, Anaheim chiles and fresh oregano from the garden (and some cuke from the store). I whipped up some dressing from Greek yogurt, lemon zest/juice, minced garlic, a driz of olive oil and some S&P.

It was so good, I forgot to put out the little olive ciabatta rolls I picked up from the bakery! Guess I'll have them with leftover croquettes as little sammiches tomorrow. Yay!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Omnivore's 100

I bet Andrew at Very Good Taste wishes he had ads on his blog now, because his Omnivore's 100 has gone completely viral.

Here are the instructions:
1. Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2. Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3. Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4. Optional extra: Post a comment here linking to your results.

The Very Good Taste Omnivore’s Hundred:
1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile (I'm also counting alligator, since I think North American crocs are mostly endangered?)
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp (at a Thai restaurant in Brooklyn)
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes (uh, doy)
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese (I love head cheese on a banh mi!)
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper (best part of good jerk)
27. Dulce de leche (straight from the can cures PMS!)
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar (I've never had cognac straight)
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo (in New Orleans, no less!)
40. Oxtail (to be fair, this goes into phở broth, but I've also braised them a few times)
41. Curried goat (on my honeymoon in Fiji)
42. Whole insects (not intentionally, although I do count crawfish and lobster in the same vein)
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more (the wedding gift I gave Scott)
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear (in a margarita in Cave Junction, Oregon)
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle (ja, gut)
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV (12% ABV Belgians ftw! I passed out drunk in the daytime from it.)
59. Poutine (I reckon this alone is worth a trip to Quebec.)
60. Carob chips (from the hippie days)
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin (Kaopectate! My mom gave it to me when I was a kid.)
64. Currywurst
65. Durian (not really that great, to be honest)
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake (beignets also in New Orleans, at Cafe Du Monde, the other two at fairs in town. Never had a funnel cake, though.)
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe (we have some absinthe that was a gift a couple years ago, but haven't opened it yet)
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill (I hit a pheasant with my windshield once and tried to claim it, but it got sucked into a culvert. Sad.)
76. Baijiu (I'm counting this with Korean soju and Japanese shochu, of which I have consumed many a bottle)
77. Hostess Fruit Pie (I still crave the cherry ones sometimes)
78. Snail (Scott and I shared a plate of escargots the night he proposed)
79. Lapsang souchong (I used to have a major tea fetish)
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum (I make and love both tom yum gai and tom yum goong - favorite under-the-weather food!)
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky (one of my Asian favorite snacks, along with cracker peanuts and Hello Panda)
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant
85. Kobe beef (the real shit, in Tokyo!)
86. Hare (although I know there's a Scotch hare that's way different, I'm counting this with rabbit - since I also eat the liver and kidneys, I think I earned it)
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse (almost tried horse sashimi in Japan, but wanted octopus more)
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox (doy vey)
97. Lobster Thermidor (I wish! This, oysters Rockefeller and clams casino are the rich old fart shellfish trifecta)
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

78% - not bad! I'm still young, I can easily knock the rest off these of the list, and then some. I would also like to see tongue or tripe (or other not-sweetbreads offal) on this list.

You can kind of tell Andrew is from the UK, because so many of the "exotic" items on his list are Indian or are regional to the US (and would therefore seem exotic to non-Americans?). I never say "never" but I think if dog or cat were on the menu, I'd have to pause. I feel incredibly closed-minded admitting that.

I've eaten raw chicken, mentaiko (marinated cod roe), and food that I dumpster-dove. We all have moments where we were a little nervous, but went for it anyway. We were rewarded with the exhilaration of having built upon our own Curriculum Vitae, whether intentionally (acting on adventurous feelings at a taco cart) or circumstantially (not being able to read Katakana while on your Japanese vacation). At least once, I'd like you to order "whatever is your favorite thing to eat here" (ask your server for this) in a foreign restaurant. You can thank me later.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Ham and eggs with corn pudding and fried tomato

What to do with leftover corn and roasted poblano pudding: slice into thick slabs and brown in a pan with some good country ham and the garden's first brandywine tomatoes. This was brunch on Saturday, but I wanted to share before it slipped my mind.

A lot of things slip my mind these days. It could be the booze (my consumption has reached Scandinavian proportions), or the lack of sleep I've been granting myself (why are Current TV and BBC America so damn fascinating after 11:00pm on Sunday nights? Don't they know I have to work in the morning!?), but I cannot keep my shit straight these days. I come home, try to cook and write a little, and it takes me two hours to post ramen because I got lost down some rabbithole, reading some catty fag wax sarcastic about Brooke Hogan's exquisite lucite heels. Then, all of a sudden, it's like 10:30 and I haven't just connected with my husband, relaxed or stopped thinking in the 5 hours since I got home. (Yeah, yeah, you parents out there are rolling your eyes right now, but I don't feel like playing Who Has It Worse.)

So, sorry. You get my leftovers tonight. I'm also "cooking" leftovers: onigiri from the genmai (Japanese brown rice) and shiro maguro misoyaki (miso-glazed albacore) that I made to go with the midori-no sukaizuke last night. But at least I have a couple photos to share!

Gratuitous food porn runny yolk money shot. Skaboosh!

My first tomato of the season! It definitely looks like an heirloom tomato. That's gonna be my new thing: if something is totally fug and looks broke-ass, it's "heirloom". These fuckers are ugly as sin, but when you taste one, you'll see why they're $5/pound. And worth the trouble of growing.

Now to try to get some shots of my onigiri before the sun goes down. Sigh, no rest for the wicked.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Green melon pickle (midori-no suikazuke)

I made this up. I don't even know if it's a thing. But I harvested a green watermelon, only in its infancy, and peeled, seeded, sliced and pickled it. And it was fucking good.

Let me back up. I was in the garden, and the mystery cucurbit vine that I never planted was getting big, flowering yellow flowers. I'd seen it growing there for awhile, assuming that I'd either lost some seed while sowing, or that some rogue seed from the compost had germinated and gone gangbusters. I looked closely at the tendrils and twines and saw my vine was bearing fruit. The one I picked was much bigger than the one in this photo, like the size of a softball. I really had no clue what it was - I hadn't planted anything there, but the cucumbers I had planted never came up. Had the seed fallen out of my pocket and gotten some dirt kicked on it? This sure was strange-looking. I picked it, brought it in the house, and sliced it open.

Inside, I saw the familiar cucurbit seeds, surrounded by a white, pithy, endocarp and outside of that by a crisp, pale green mesocarp. (Forgive the technical terminology, but when I'm stumped I always have to break things down scientifically. It's how I do.) I smelled the flesh: green, watery, slightly fruity. More like cucumber perfume than cucumber, but even then, not that cucumbery at all.

I nibbled. Crisp, clean, grassy.

What the hell was this? Anymore, it didn't matter what it was, because it was delicious. I peeled it, seeded it, and sliced it thin. I dressed it with rice vinegar, salt and sugar, and sprinkled some black sesame seeds on top.

As I thought about it while the tsukemono did its thing, I remembered the pig roast back in June. I served succulent slices of glistening watermelon that day. I never buy seedless watermelon, don't believe in it. Now I figure someone stood around the roasting pit, juice dripping down their chin, as they slurped up on that watermelon, lazily letting the seeds slip out of their lips, the way God intended a watermelon to be eaten. Those seeds found a little warm earth to set down roots, and pretty soon I had watermelon vines that I never planted.

I named this pickle midori-no suikazuke, because I thought this would be delicious as a Japanese pickle (tsukemono). Midori-no refers to its being green. Suika is the word for watermelon, and -zuke is a suffix used for many types of pickle. I don't know if this is proper etymology of a pickle, but it sure tastes like one.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Marc at No Recipes has graciously informed me that the word for 'green' isn't synonymous with 'unripe' in Japanese (as it is in English), and that this would more accurately be named aoi suikazuke. Thanks, Marc!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Corn and roasted poblano pudding with calabacitas and mole chicken

This is just a quick post to get in my five for the week. I spent the afternoon at the river at Sauvie Island with Scott, picking blackberries, drinking a beer with our toes in the river, and then picking up some nice produce at Kruger's Farm Market. I'll tell you all about it later, but right now I'm full of delicious burgers and want to watch a DVD and have a cocktail, and not blog. I do wanna tell you about what I did with all those lovely chiles I showed you the other day, though, real quick.

So, it turns out that making chile rellenos from peppers the size of walnuts is a fool's errand. Instead, after I roasted the poblanos,* I decided to use them in the corn pudding. And hot damn! Am I ever glad I did. The corn pudding was so simple - just sautéed onion, garlic and corn with diced, roasted poblanos mixed with a couple beaten eggs, a splash of cream, a little blue cornmeal and a couple handfuls of grated cheese (jack and sharp cheddar). Bake in a buttered souffle until golden and set. So good scooped onto a plate with some summer squash confetti. Or sliced and browned in a pan with a thick slab of ham and some fried tomato for breakfast (I'll tell about that later, too).

*anchos are the dried form of poblanos, I forgot that on Thursday's post.

For the calabacitas (Mexican summer squash vegetable dish), I sautéed diced pattypan and yellow crookneck squash with some of my Royal Burgundy beans (they got a bit big and needed a chop), diced red bell pepper, chopped green olives and chopped dried cherries. Add some cumin and cinnamon, salt and pepper and it's a thing. Kind of like a vegetarian/healthy empanada filling. Oh snap, I am totally going to make this into an low-cal empanada, Ben!

The salty olives and sweet cherries really brighten up. It looks kinda like circus barf, but it was really good.

I had some chicken thighs that I simmered in a poaching liquid spiked with achiote, Mexican oregano, garlic, dried shallot and bay leaf. Then I shredded it and soaked it with mole I pulled from the freezer (from the venison tenderloin that I cooked for Norm). This busy plate looks a tranny mess, but good lord it was tasty. Add a basket of warm, soft, flour tortillas and a basic Argentinian Malbec (we had Don Miguel Gascón 2007 - the chocolate covered cherry is a no-brainer with the mole, but not too serious for the bright veg medley) .

Thursday, August 21, 2008

When it rains, it pours

A couple days of rain, and my garden looks like it got ass-up drunk and got in a knife fight with some Clackamas County bitch. Today it dried up enough for me to examine the damage and pick over the ruins. My tomatoes are still a week or two off, fuck! I have two pink toms that just need a little more sunshine and sugar, but they're looking pretty good. Even though I staggered the plantings, I'm gonna end up with ten bushels all at once (my Portland peeps should let me know if they want some, I'm gonna dry and sauce the bulk). But my peppers looks goood, and I'm keeping them all for myself.

The Anaheims (long, light green) are mild and fresh-tasting, and the anchos (darker, glossy green) are a bit spicier. They'll be so good fire-roasted.

Summer squash are a daily offering. My zucchini went directly to fetus-sized squash hanging heavy on the vine, and will have to go straight into zucchini bread. Two days of rain takes these little pattypan squash from blossom to fist-sized fruits, ready for the picking. Sliced on the mandoline and marinated in a warm, garlicky anchovy vinaigrette, they go soft like noodles.

And these lil' baby pattypans? Hell, I'm just picking them with the blossoms still on, gonna batter and fry 'em right up. The big ones will get diced up and added to a spicy saute or a nice succotash.

I think tomorrow I'll make chile rellenos with blue corn pudding and calabasitas. Maybe I'll throw in some shredded, poached chicken. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Strozzapreti with ham and radicchio di Treviso

I decided I wanted to not go to the store for anything, and just eat from the pantry. "Walk my talk" and all that. I had a head of radicchio di Treviso (truly, the handsomest of all endive relatives) that was getting a bit wilty, a huge hunk of Applegate nitrite-free ham, half a red bell pepper (going soft in spots) and an egg.

We also had a nice box of strozzapreti ("priest chokers") from an Italian company that's been making organic, artisanal pasta since the 1300s. When we bought it last week, Scott's mom balked at spending nearly $4 on a box of pasta until I pointed out that it came out to 50 cents a serving. Admittedly, this pasta screams for cheese sauce, but it's still a decent way to use some bitter Treviso and leftover smoky-sweet ham.

I sliced the Treviso into bite-sized hunks and sauteed it with some chopped garlic in a glug or two of olive oil. Added the sliced pepper and ham (shaved on the mandoline), a few good cracks of pepper and a pinch of chili flake. Toss this with the cooked pasta (with a few tablespoons of the cooking water), and the raw egg, beaten. Stir to combine, and top with a metric tonne of parm. Enjoy with a good, cheap Spanish table wine such as Carril de Cotos 2006. The brambles and cherries stroke the bitterness of the treviso, whilst the twang of tanned leather karate-chops the salty, fatty ham and eggs.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I'm having email problems.

Chat InformationPlease wait for a Yahoo! agent to respond.

Chat InformationYou are now chatting with Robert

Heather: Hi Robert

Robert: Hi! Welcome to our Yahoo! Mail Live Chat service. I'm glad you've joined us.

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Robert: As you have mentioned, your mails was not appearing on your Inbox, is this correct?

Heather: Is Robert code for Robot, or is this a real person?

Heather: yes, this is correct

Heather: I emailed a form addressing this problem a few hours ago

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Robert: Is "(deleted)" the Yahoo! ID you are having problems with?

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Robert: What is the answer to your secret question "Where did you meet your spouse?"

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Robert: Yes, it was.

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Heather: oh, the last message I had access to was from "jen@a2eatwrite" from 11 this morning

Robert: Thanks for the details, since you are not currently logged in, I will now access it and fix it.

Heather: there should be several more that came in later

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Heather: Well to be fair, the wording was less scientific this time.

Robert: Yes, I can see that the last message sent to you was from Jen of A2eatwrite.

Heather: According to my blog, there have been several other comments posted. Each of these should have triggered a notification email.

Heather: That's how I know something is amiss.

Robert: Let me check on this further.

Robert: Heather, it seems that there were delays in delivering your messages, right?

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Heather: oops, bad typing, sorry

Robert: Domains are like or

Heather: should I use an alternate email address to be contacted regarding my problem?

Robert: Yes, so since your account was having delays.

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Robert: Here's your IP address: (deleted)

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Heather: The red asterisk implies it's mandatory.

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Robert: Just put there delays in receiving messages, Heather.

Heather: okay, it's been submitted.

Robert: Great.

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Heather: Now what?

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Heather: What do you get if I do?

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Heather: Oh, I see how it is.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Espresso ice cream

And introducing my favorite apron. I've had this little beaute since I was in college, and I used to love wearing it to work during my four+ years as a barista.

Oh, man, I was a good barista. I hate to admit it now, but I used to love to look down my nose at people who ordered abominations of the brew. A hazelnut mocha, or worse, a fucking sugar-free vanilla, decaf breve with whipped cream(?) was met with contempt thicker than treacle. I brought that same pride and "if you can't do it awesome, then why the fuck do it at all" work ethic to the machine every day. I adjusted my grind for changes in barometric pressure and humidity. Anything less than a quarter-inch of crema went down the drain (or into a mocha, which is a 13-year-old coffee drinker's teething ring and not what Real Coffee Drinkers drink). One time I even had an Italian man come in (a real-life Italian!), order a doppio, and he did that kissing his fingertips thing and said "bellisima!" upon tasting the delicate perfection of my shots. Swoon!

I still drink my espresso straight, with just a hit of sugar and maybe a little splash of cream. For cooking, though, I use instant espresso. Oh, if I had the Cadillac of espresso machines - a La Pavoni - well sure, I'd pour a couple shots. But this is just ice cream, folks. Just be sure and use a good instant espresso (I like Medaglia D'Oro) for the best flavor.

I tweaked a basic ice cream recipe (I call it a "blank", because you can use this recipe for probably any ice cream and it's rich and delicious) as follows: 2.5 cups heavy whipping cream, 0.5 cups water, 6 egg yolks, 0.5-0.75 cups sugar. Heat the cream, sugar and water until just to a boil, add 3 or 4 (or 6) tablespoons of powdered espresso, a pinch of salt and a splash of vanilla.

Pull the cream off the heat and temper the eggs (this means slowly and deliberately incorporate the egg yolks and cream, while avoiding the terrible mistake of turning your dessert into an omelette). I'd advise you watch a video of this being done a few times, and maybe practice on a crème brûlée once or twice if you're nervous. Return the cream/yolk mixture to the heat and gently (I mean GENTLY!) heat the custard until it's thick and coats the back of a spoon. Seriously, you've come this far, why would you go and fuck it up by aggressively heating this up? It's your newborn baby. You wouldn't boil your newborn baby, would you?

If you're very fussy like me, you'll pass this newborn custard through a fine-mesh sieve or some cheesecloth before you chill it. Follow your ice cream maker's instructions to get it from custard to ice cream (usually some type of "chill for at least three hours in the fridge, run it through the machine until it's like soft-serve, then harden off in the freezer for a few hours or until you cannot possibly stand it any more"). Your patience will be rewarded.

Gilding the (Voodoo)lily is spooning warm dulce de leche over the top. Now that's a toe-curl, darlings. I bet this would also make a pretty righteous brown cow with some Manhattan Special, if you can get it, or just in a float with some cream soda.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Happy as a Clam v. 2.0

When clams are fresh, as are these littlenecks that we picked up on our way from the beach yesterday, all they need is a quick steam over a bath of white wine, shallot and garlic...

...and a loaf of crusty baguette with good Danish butter.

Some lemon zest and chopped parsley to finish, and you're laughin'. Serve with copious amounts of Sauvignon Blanc (we had Brander 2006 Early Release - acidic, lemon juice on a paper cut, with a hug and kiss-it-make-it-better of sweetpea florals and quince).

...and still no pussy jokes. Sorry, Syd.

So I made my five posts this week. Yay for me! I made coffee ice cream today, and I might save it for next week or I might go ahead and post it this weekend. Dunno.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Happy as a Clam

I am, but not because we ate here.

Let me back up. We went to the beach today, as is our wont on 100+-degree days. Today, by some twist of full moon Twilight Zone disturbia, it took us about three hours to make the 80 mile drive to Seaside, or the "Coney Island of the Oregon Coast", as I like to call it. When we crested the bluffs that overlook the mouth of the mighty Columbia and crossed Youngs Bay to make our way south from Astoria, we were met with cold, gray fog. Uncharacteristically optimistic, I mused that it was suddenly perfect weather for clam chowder. And clam chowder we sought.

But not before I got my sweet tooth on.

Decisions, decisions. I settled for some flavor called Moose..something. Moosefoot?

Ooh, it was so good and drippy and fudgy! Not the least bit moosy.

This store also boasts the largest selection of specialty sodas in the Universe, for better or worse. I love root beer ever so much, but many of these ones were too sweet and lacked the crisp sassafras bite. Did you know that while the root of Sassafras spp. is used for flavoring the beverage (hence, "root" beer), the ground, dried leaves are used to make filé, which is used as an alternative to roux for thickening gumbo.

Candy apples and chocolate-covered twinkies. Is there any better anti-depressant? This kid was so cute, pink cheeked and eager to please. He gave me a free sample of rocky road fudge (my favorite) after I asked if I could photograph him for my blog. If I were 15 years younger I would have such a huge crush on him. Teenagers having summer jobs in candy stores is a good vibe.

The friendly beach town is also the source of many nightmares. Creepy/unintentionally hilarious window displays are pretty much par for the course. The richly-embroidered hats were for sale in the Freedom Sportswear store. This store also had giant, fluorescent yellow sweatshirts that said the oddly specific "Seaside, OR Summer 2008", or just had a silk-screened image of the holy crucifix. Flo yellow is not Jesus' color. He's more of an autumn, really.

Anyways, so we did end up getting some chowder and crab cakes at the Happy Clam.

After tasting samples of the clam and seafood chowders, I opted for the tangier seafood chowder, which included bay shrimp, chopped scallops and cod, in addition to clams (not sure if they were razor or littleneck). The waitress insisted there was no cheese in the soup, but there was definitely something about this chowder. Beer? Mustard powder? It tasted like a good cheddar and beer soup with seafood. The clam chowder was passable - nothing wrong with it, but not stellar.

This photo is a testament to the power of a well-composed shot. Not that I'm bragging. But this this is a handsome-looking plate of food, right? You're drooling a little, I can see it from here. Unfortunately, looks are all it has going for it. The "crab cakes" were a complete travesty, a bastardization of a perfect food, and a disrespect to my Cancer brethren. The insult was that crab had been overworked and diluted with far too much breading. The injury was that the cakes were left for dead in a deep fryer until they turned to leaden pucks of MDF.

The food was really the least of the Happy Clam's worries, though. When you come in, you first notice that the only people here are the two staff and one very young woman (probably the daughter of the waitress?) with her infant in a stroller. The walls are mostly bare, except for some sad-looking paint-by-numbers of broken boats and moorage, a neon Pabst sign and some fake houseplants. There are flies smacking into each other and the window. You just get the sense that this place is poor.

It did, however, provide us with a seat, a view, a beer and some chowder, without having to wait for a table. If you're interested, their menu's (sic) are available at their unsurprisingly design-challenged website, which actually does a much better job of summarizing the Happy Clam experience than any snarky blog post from an uppity city bitch .

The Happy Clam
21 N. Columbia
Seaside, OR

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I Got More Spice Than the Frugal Gourmet

This time, without pedophilia scandal! I know, I'm no fun.

I participate (with tepid enthusiasm these days, sorry) on a gaming forum called in which I started Voodoolily's Snacktastic Cooking Thread awhile back. Yesterday I saw the following post by a member:

I get food bank access once a month and I'm trying to make it last as long as possible. Any suggestions about what to do with the following items would be helpful:

3x cans of green beans
1 head of cabbage
1 can of corn
1 can of chili (no meat)
2 bags of lentils
1 can of tuna
1 can of salmon
1 can of albacore
1 small onion

I looked at it for a bit, thought about how my culinary point of view was formed by being poor when I was a kid, and again, later, when I was a struggling college student living on a 15-hours-a-week coffee shop job.

Me, 50 feet up a bigleaf maple in 1995

Back then I was a vegetarian, so I could get a bag of groceries for about $10. Beans, rice, a loaf of wheat bread and fresh peanut butter from the grinder were staples. A sack of curry powder, oregano (not that kind), garlic, salt and pepper were the only seasonings I had, unless I pillaged the neighbor's herb garden a few blocks away. Luckily, everyone in SE Portland seems to grow rosemary and sage in their front yard, and besides, I only took a sprig or two at a time, and only from the part of the bush nearest the sidewalk.

I felt that I could help this poster eat a few good meals on a dime, or that I should at least try. Assuming my food-banking friend has access to basic staples, I would start with making a salad of 1/2 cup of the lentils (cooked al dente should yield about 3/4-1 cup), 1/2 can of the tuna, and half can of the green beans. Dressing can be made simply from olive oil, white wine (or other mild) vinegar, a spoonful of brown mustard (or mustard powder), and some salt and pepper. If the tuna came packed in oil, you could use that for the dressing. A diced, hardboiled egg could be sprinkled on top for extra richness. Gilding the (Voodoo)lily would be to include grilled garlic scapes and a drizzle of truffle oil.

Cabbage goes nice and sweet when it's roasted, so I would slice half the cabbage and half the onion into thin slices, salt and pepper it, drizzle with oil and roast until slightly browned and sweet. This would be nice to eat Cantonese-style with a simple sauce of vinegar, soy sauce, corn starch, ginger, garlic, salt and sugar. A little sesame oil would be nice if it was just lying around the pantry. This could be eaten with some steamed or poached egg and a bowl of rice. Gilding the (Voodoo)lily would be to include stir-fried dou miao (pea shoots) and plump, wild-caught prawns or diver scallops.

I really don't know what to do with canned green beans. I grew up eating them, the fuck boiled clean out of them in salted water with a splash of white vinegar and some bacon. This, in my opinion, is really the only way canned green beans are edible. Or as a casserole. Gilding the (Voodoo)lily would be to make a savory green bean galette with some egg custard and chopped pine nuts.

Anyways, this is a start. Gah, I can hardly remember what it's like to not have a real pantry to cook from, since I've been stockpiling good ingredients for years. Now, I could probably eat for two months off my stores. I should make more effort to utilize what I have and show a little solidarity with those affected by rising food costs. So should we all, I guess.

Curry ramen with mun-cha'i ya

...or, Phoning it In

Yes, that's packaged ramen. For dinner. See? I can totally phone it in sometimes. And since I joined the Foodbuzz Challenge (as I'm calling it), my posts are going to continue to erode into the hastily-scrawled chicken scratch of a mad woman for the next four weeks.

What is the Foodbuzz Challenge, you might ask? Most of you Foodbuzzed probably got the email and ran the other way, like smart people. I have agreed to post five times a week from August 11 to September 10 so those nice folks at Foodbuzz can see if there's a correlation between posting frequency and traffic to Foodbuzz. "Quality of Post" is apparently not one of the variables they are examining at this time.

This, friends, is why Japan rules. First, they took ramen, the perfect food, and gave it curry! Also, everything they make is so cute you want to gouge your eyes out with a grapefruit spoon. Look at that little dude! He's hurrying his little ass off to bring you steaming hot noodles in a glass case. Whilst wearing geta sandals!

Mun-cha'i ya (mock duck) is 100% vegetarian wheat gluten from Taiwan. Don't back away slowly, it actually tastes pretty good. I already liked seitan, and that's all this is, but with hilarious bumpy skin texture on it. And it comes with its own gravy! Mmm...gravy. Next time I'm going to try the mock abalone.

So yeah, I made some packaged curry ramen, boiled some potatoes and carrots, and added some canned gluten to it. I dumped a little extra curry gravy mix and togarashi just for shits and gigs. The curry didn't thicken up like usual until I was almost done eating it, but whatevs.


Hey, man, don't look at me like that. They're testing frequency, not quality!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Clinton Corner Cafe

Portland is a brunch town. God help you if you want to eat some eggs on a Saturday morning. On weekends, even regular blue-collar lunch counters become "brunch places" packed with hipsters willing to wait an hour for some eggs and hash browns. Some places are worth the wait, sure, but if you're more interested in food than in standing around with other hipsters, drinking Stumptown coffee, being seen, then head over to Clinton Corner Cafe.

I shouldn't even be telling you about this place. One time we were starving on a Saturday (late) morning, and the audacity of Broder to expect us to wait for a table, just to eat adorable Ikea food, was fucking unbearable. The cruelty! I may have even been PMSing a little, because I think I yelled and almost cried. We went down Clinton a little further, around the corner from New Seasons, and like a beacon from the heavens, shone the Clinton Corner Cafe. We found it easily enough, on a blinking stoplight corner down the street from one hipster brunch clusterfuck, 26th and SE Clinton.
We had our choice of indoor and outdoor tables. It was pleasant out, so we sat outdoors. Anything to drink? Sure, why not a cup of coffee and a mimosa. The breakfast menu is the perfect size and has standard fare, including my eating-out-brekkie standby: the breakfast burrito. If I recall correctly, Scott had some French toast and bacon. I know this is going to sound back-handed, but they did such a good job of not fucking up, or further pissing me off when I was on the rag, that we went back a couple weeks later. And now we go damn-near every weekend. I consider it a good investment to become regulars at a neighborhood joint.

Yesterday we stopped by for late afternoon lunch. I had the Clinton Club, a double-decker of turkey, bacon, Swiss, lettuce and tomato on (I think) sourdough. I added avocado and stole the sliced red onion from Scott's burger and fries. Linda, my lovely mother-in-law, is a perfect lady and ordered a half a BLT and a glass of the house white. My sammich was delicious, with good palate-scraping toasted bread and perfectly crispy-soggy fries (that's my favorite way of a fry). Was Scott's burger good, too? "Yeah," he said.

We like the Clinton Corner Cafe for its lack of pretense and comfy neighborhood vibe. We love the Clinton Corner Cafe because it lets us cut the bullshit, and just sit right down to the business of eating honest, good food.
Clinton Corner Cafe
2633 SE 21st Ave
Portland, OR 97202
(503) 230-8035

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