Friday, June 30, 2006

Let's Party

We kicked off the Thowmbpsin wedding weekend with a low-key dinner party at our place. It was great to have the gang come out our way, and I tried my best to make a meal that would satisfy everyone while taking into account a few key factors: It had to be quick, since we were eventually due at a post-rehearsal-dinner soiree an hour away; it had to be kid friendly, since we had Homey's adorable almost-five-year-old gracing our company; and it had to be -- oy -- vegetarian, since, yes, we were welcoming a non-meat-eater into our home.

I mean, I'm capable of making a pasta dish without using pork products. I simply prefer not to.

I'd prepared for this dinner at the farmers' market the other day, when I grabbed a huge, gorgeous head of locally grown broccoli. I got the rest of the ingredients -- good olive oil, a nice loaf of bread, some Parmesan -- earlier today at the nearby Italian store. I'd just scooped up the Johnner at the airport, and it was fun to usher him right into the heart of Jersey. We picked up capicola and soppressata for lunch, and he got a nice helping of the local color as the owner and a customer discussed the Mets being disgracefully swept by Boston during the week. The owner, a Yankees man, told a tale of nearly kicking a blustery Sox fan out of his store last year when the red-hatted guy failed to recognize where he was and refused to show respect for our hometown squad(s).

Back at our place, I made my mom's old faithful dish of pasta with chickpeas and broccoli. (For Homey's little one: pasta with butter and cheese.) The guests fell into place, Margy came home, we pulled a bunch of eight-ounce Coke bottles out of the fridge, and we all broke bread as our pregame to a weekend of l-o-v-e.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Our First Cooking Class

For a while, Margy and I had been sitting on an awesome gift from our friends Macca and Looch, a gift certificate for a one-day class at the Institute of Culinary Education. Choosing the class from a giant list was agony. Agony. We stalled many times. Japanese? Indian? French? Knife skills? WINE??

In the end, we chose Classic Thai. My reason was that I wanted to make a curry paste from scratch. I really like some of the pastes that come in a jar, but that's too easy -- it's almost cheating. I wanted the real deal, and I wanted to better understand how the flavors work.

So Margy and I met up at the school and gathered with our class of sixteen in a kitchen classroom to discuss the list of recipes with the instructor, over a little not-very-Thai spread of cheese and crackers. "When do we get to drink wine?" one woman asked. I looked around and saw knives. I figured the wine wouldn't come out until the knives went away.

We were then split up into three groups, each group having a menu of dishes to divide up amongst the members. All three groups were to make a curry -- ours was a green curry with pork -- with the option of preparing the paste by hand or simply measuring it out from a jar. As Margy and I shook hands with our three comrades, I said, "I want to make the curry paste." They looked at me as if I was insane. Yet by my calculations we had most of two hours to finish four or five dishes. The others humored me. "Okaaaay," one guy said, shrugging and turning his palms up toward the ceiling.

One of the fun things about this class was that it offered exotic ingredients that I have trouble finding. My Asian market stocks lemongrass, but it has no galangal, or kaffir lime leaves. At ICE, they had it all -- plus plenty of fish sauce and shrimp paste, both of which are so very Thai, while also being funkier than James Brown. It was great to see the instructor pass around an open jar of shrimp paste and watch one person after another recoil suddenly. Smells bad, tastes great.

The problem was that the knives were so dull I nearly killed myself trying to slice galangal. It's a knobby root that looks a lot like ginger (the teacher called it "ginger's sexy Thai cousin," but after checking it out I'd say ginger is actually sexier, if less exotic), but the piece I had in front of me was hard as a rock. I had to kind of saw at it to make sure my blade had at least penetrated the skin and had a chance at working through the whole root before sending the galangal flying and getting my blood flowing. Fortunately, I didn't rush, and I got the job done.

Sure, I almost dumped all of my paste on the floor when I tried to remove the foreign blender from its base and the paste oozed quickly out the bottom, but I stopped it with my apron and eventually corralled it. Boy, did it smell good. Fresh chilies, galangal, lemongrass, lime zest, garlic, shallots, cilantro, spices, and, yes, shrimp paste (only a little) will do that. I had a rush of excitement over my homemade paste. Granted, I used a blender -- I didn't squat over a mortar and pestle and pound, pound, pound, as is the Thai tradition -- but this was still the closest I'd come to the geniune article.

Meanwhile, Margy was prepping the rest of the ingredients for the curry -- Japanese eggplant, yellow pepper, Thai basil, impossibly fragrant kaffir lime leaves -- and we then went to the stove and cooked the curry together. Our classmates buzzed around us, grilling satays, simmering soups, stir-frying pad thais, checking a bamboo steamer full of sticky rice. From time to time I heard that woman ask, "Wine?"

Sooner or later -- later for her, clearly -- the beer and wine came out. I looked around. Yup, the knives were gone. Two assistants pushed together our workstations and turned them into one large dinner table, set with bowls and plates and wine glasses. All of the teams put our finished dishes on another table, and the feasting began. The food was really good; I've had worse at actual Thai restaurants. See that ceramic dish in front, the one whose contents are sort of white, green, and red? That's our curry. Dee-lish.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Sprung a Leek

My Sunday farmers' market run found me basically making a clean sweep of the allium family -- in addition to garlic, garlic scapes, and summer onions, I picked up some leeks as well.

I figured it might be fun to grill the leeks, so I read up on it a little. Most sources suggest steaming them before grilling, so they'll be cooked all the way through; otherwise the outside would burn while the inside remained raw. Despite the hot weather, I broke out the steamer.

Was it worth it? I'm not sure. One of my leeks was way too big, and it remained sort of tough -- and only the outermost layer took on a good char. I gave Margy the smaller, better one, and she enjoyed it, so I think I'll try this again, taking care to choose modest-sized specimens.

Anyway, the leeks weren't exactly crucial to the success of the dinner, since we had pork chops, steamed spinach (you know I used that steamer basket twice, rare as it is that it makes an appearance), and smashed potatoes to keep us busy.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

More Keema

It would be foolish not to make enough of this stuff to have leftovers.

Monday, June 26, 2006

I Sing a Song of Sardines

Did you know sardines are good for you?

Omega-3s aside, I just love the little critters. Grilled, pan-fried, as sushi, out of a can, whatever, I'll take 'em. Margy and I like to keep a few cans on hand for when we need a quick and easy lunch. Today we enjoyed the bonus of having farmers' market arugula, which is the most delicious green going. It's crisp and peppery, and, mixed with some spinach and carrot, plus cukes and beets from the market, it went beautifully with the sardines. The dressing was olive oil and lime juice, with salt and pepper and a dash of sesame oil. I may have also tossed in a shot of Sriracha chili sauce for a racy little undercurrent.

This is the kind of salad that has you shooting out of your seat afterward, sated but lightened by the vegetables and sharpened by the many virtues of the humble yet power-packed sardine.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

It Begins

Our neighborhood farmers' market finally opened, and what a glorious morning it was. I celebrated by using our local bounty in a seafood risotto and accompanying salad.

I started the risotto with fresh summer onions and garlic scapes from the market. (Garlic scapes are the curly green tops of the garlic plant, and they have a delicious mellow flavor -- and a very short season, in mid-to-late June; luckily they keep for a long time in the fridge.) I opened a dozen littleneck clams over high heat in my risotto pot, removed the meat, tossed the shells, and saved the precious juice. I quickly sautéed some shrimp and squid (tentacles only -- my fish guy gave me a discount because I didn't want any bodies!) in butter and olive oil, with awesome young garlic from the market, and set it aside with the clams. Then I began the "loving" stirring of the risotto, ladling in more shrimp stock or clam juice each time the rice absorbed the previous addition.

I've said it before, and I'll surely say it again -- making risotto is not difficult. It just takes a commitment of time and, far more importantly, love. Love the transformative process, love the rice, love the idea of the amazing dinner you're about to have, and you'll be fine. Oh, and use a bit of heat; don't keep the flame too low, or I'm afraid all that love will go unrequited.

At the end, when the rice was almost done, I added the seafood to reheat. Then, off the stove, a splash of cream, and a garnish of parsley from our little garden and some thinly sliced onion tops.

Summer is here.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Practice Makes Perfect

I never get tired of turkey keema (though Margy occasionally does, when she's eaten one batch four times). And it seems to get better each time I make it. With beans, along with the hot peppers and spices, it's almost like Indian turkey chili.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Let's Thai One On

After working in a -- gasp -- office for the first time in months (only temporarily; phew), I needed a reward.

So I met up with Margy at quitting time and we took a long stroll over to Pam Real Thai. There was a short line for a table, and the owner practically pleaded with us to go to his new outpost a few blocks away ("Same food, same price, more tables"). But we were already at this place, and I could see Pam herself working the stove, pink cheeked and sure handed. We stayed, and a table was ready in no time.

We kind of went overboard on the ordering, but I wanted to try as many things as possible. We began with curry puffs (flaky, a little sweet, and delicious) and a salad called larb with ground chicken. The larb was pretty exotic and offered flavors that were new to us, possibly some unfamiliar spices and "roasted rice powder." Its dressing was bright with lime juice and mint.

Our entrees were squid with ginger sauce (background) and crispy duck with basil. Both were great; the duck was spicy and the squid cooling. We ate as much as we could (then I ate a little more), but that larb was a big-'un, so we couldn't get through the main dishes. That was good news -- we got to bring Pam Thai home.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Trusty Ragu

Ah, ragu. It went well with a spinach and pear salad. A little salty over here, a little sweet over there...

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

I'm Not Made of Stone

Tonight I had a quick rehearsal in NYC, to prepare a number for the Thowmbpsin wedding, and on my way over to Mr. Thowmbpsin's studio I realized I needed to address a nagging hunger.

I walked by a string of crappy-looking eateries on my way. Nope, nope, nope. I noticed a new Japanese fast food franchise, the kind where a home office sends its restaurants glossy mass-produced posters with an unrealistic close-up photograph of some horrible new dish, much like McDonald's does. No, I don't think I want chicken teriyaki that was originally prepared a thousand or more miles away, especially if it has a goofy, smacking-of-desperation name like "Samurai Chicken."

But then, with my options narrowing and time running out, I found the right kind of trashy fast food: the chili dog! Perfect.

Chili dog? What chili dog?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Elusive Sicilian in Midtown

I think this pizza surprised us. When Margy and I made a plan to meet up in midtown Manhattan for dinner, I know she was surprised when I suggested a pizzeria, because the place was a mere block away from where I worked for six years and I had never mentioned it before.

See, I usually mention nearby pizzerias, especially if they're even remotely decent.

The thing with this place, Lazzara's, was that I had never eaten there. I'd heard about really good thin-crust Sicilian pies from my friend K and others, but during my time in the hood Lazzara's closed at 4pm, and I never considered pizza to be a good choice for an office lunch, as my company didn't offer time off for an afternoon siesta. The one time I chewed on a floppy slice (from some other place) at a birthday party in the boardroom, all I could do when I got back to my desk was blink my eyes heavily and try in vain to work.

But I'm glad to say Lazzara's is now open for dinner, because its pie was damn good. The crust had some crunch and lots of flavor, plus it had those precious burnt bits that I dream about. The sauce was tasty and not applied too thickly. The cheese... well, we're just going to have to go back soon and pay more attention to the cheese, because we were too caught up in the fact that we had missed this place for years to form a truly thorough analysis. Plus before we knew it our pizza was gone.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Trout and Sprouts

This was one of my most straight-ahead fish dishes ever. I seasoned pieces of steelhead trout with salt and pepper, pan-fried them, and served them with a little lime juice and a few fried Thai basil leaves, with Brussels sprouts as a side dish.

The basil is from our garden. I was jumping-up-and-down excited to find a plant up in Vermont last month, which Margy then potted when we got home. It's growing nicely, and it's great to have easy access to such an exotic flavor. It tastes almost as if a bit of licorice got mixed in with regular basil. And adding to the fun, some of the leaves are strikingly lined with purple.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

A Sleepy Son on Father's Day

I really tried my best.

It's hard to be properly prepared to celebrate Father's Day when you've eaten pounds of meat and gotten very little sleep the night before. But you make it happen for Pops. Margy and I had a nice time over at my parents' place, even if I was about to fall asleep in my bowl of seafood stew. I definitely didn't have my regular hearty appetite, that's for sure, and I barely touched my mom's lovely fruit crisp. Not cool. Still, we enjoyed each other's company, and then it was off to bed.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Dragon (Okay, Chicken) Heart

Tonight was the bachelor party for my dear friend Mr. Thowmbpsin, and a meatier tribute to the fine man I could not possibly imagine.

To begin the evening, we gentlemen convened at Churrascaria Tribeca in Manhattan to get our steak on. I mean, steak was only the beginning. Or more to the point, steak was the early middle, as the meal began with a trip to a "salad" bar that under any other circumstance would have provided a full dinner and then some. I sampled shrimp cocktail, squid salad, asparagus risotto, a couple of kinds of greens (which I assume were there just for show), a bean salad, and sushi, of which there was a full spread of both nigiri and maki. I didn't get around to the mushrooms, the chicken salad, the whitefish stew, the catfish something-or-other, or the...

The reason I stopped short is that I had a little double-sided plastic coaster by my place setting that was on its red side now but would soon be flipped over to green. And you know what green means: Show me the meat.

For those unfamiliar with Brazilian barbecue of this nature, you pay a fixed price and then you eat as much as you possibly can. Once you flip the coaster over to green, here's what happens: Men carrying great spears of cooked flesh appear one by one at your table, each offering a different creature, or a different part of a similar creature. As this endless parade of carnivorous delight began, I realized why there was a pair of tongs at each seat, and it wasn't so us dudes could daintily select a cheese-filled roll from the bread basket. The tongs were there so we could grab a slice of meat as the server carved it off his speared shank, or steak, or leg of beast.

Things started innocently enough with spears of chicken and sausage. But beef was soon on its heels. Prime rib, rib-eye, I actually lost track of all the different beef cuts, because I heard from behind me the whisper of two of my favorite words: "Suckling pig?" Temporarily forgetting that there was no shortage of anything and that the carnival of meat would not cease, I scrambled to get me some pig. It was in a mushroom sauce, so it was on a platter and not a spear, but that was cool with me. There was some crispy skin, and the pork was beautiful. My mind was beginning to melt at this point into an alert yet dreamy state, a state where smoke and fat and salt were all that mattered. Okay, and booze too, as eating all that meat just seemed silly without washing it down with a fermented beverage.

I kept going.

"Sure, I'll have some bacon-wrapped turkey -- why not?"

"I'm getting full, but I can't skip the leg of lamb!"

Oh, and the side dishes: mashed potatoes, rice, fried plantains, fried polenta (mmm!) and... broccoli. Broccoli, who told you about this place?

And then I saw a guy walk by with a skewer containing tiny bullet-shaped pieces of meat, all neatly arranged in a row. "Chicken heart?" he said.

I watched my tablemates wave him on, but my pulse quickened. I don't like to eat "parts" -- not at all, really -- but I was so deep in the flesh-tearing zone that this was the one time I'd consider it. I beckoned the fella over, and he slid a piece onto my plate. Before I could lose my nerve, I took a bite. I didn't like it, but that didn't matter. It was chewy and dark and just too gamy for my taste, but at least I had tried it. I celebrated my boundless carnivorousness with a nice fatty piece of duck -- my favorite, the best for last -- which is what's pictured above.

When I say we staggered out of there, I do not exaggerate, for each of us had taken on so much extra baggage that walking upright without stumbling wasn't really an option. We'd have to have a couple-few digestifs before achieving a proper, less meat-weighted gait. I don't think any of us even remembered to flip our coasters back to red to signify our surrender. A guy with a roast beef on a skewer might still be standing by our table waiting for us to come back from the salad bar.

Mr. Thowmbpsin, salute!

Friday, June 16, 2006


I have a little reflex that I call I'm not cooking. It kicks in relatively rarely, but Margy has to deal with it when it does. Tonight, I wasn't cooking. It was hot out, I was tired, I don't know what -- I just wasn't ready to stand at the stove.

In these cases I will sometimes offer Margy a plan, or even call her while she's on her way home to tell her I'm not cooking and ask which of our few decent take-out options she'd prefer. Not this time. She got home, probably expecting something to be in the works (she's not demanding, it's just that something usually is in the works), and she found me waffling desperately over a short stack of menus. I didn't want to cook, but I needed to eat.

In the end we went with one of the local Japanese restaurants, under my condition that we'd steer clear of sushi. Sushi just isn't great to go, and it isn't great at this place, period. So we ordered shrimp shumai, a salmon salad, and a big container of chicken and tofu teriyaki.

Of course, the salmon salad, which I'd never had before, wasn't sushi -- it was sashimi. Who knew? I expected cooked salmon skin, but I got raw salmon with avocado slices in a miso dressing. No harm, no foul: It was divine. I might have to give sushi at this place another shot...

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Heinz vs. Hunt's, with Hamburgers

Tonight we used hamburgers as an excuse to hold our Hunt's-versus-Heinz ketchup test.

To recap, I am growing increasingly disenchanted with that fussy, nonfun, faux-ignorant-but-really-with-an-unmistakable-air-of-superiority Cook's Illustrated, which recently crowned Hunt's the clear winner after holding a ketchup panel that included many other brands as well.

So on one hand, I wanted to prefer Heinz. I admit that. But on the other hand, I am always ready to discover a better food product, so I was prepared to accept the Cook's findings, if in fact Hunt's really was that much better.

It wasn't.

I mean, look -- no one is right here. That's why they call it a "taste" test. But Margy and I agreed with our friend Stevesie's assessment that Hunt's is just too sweet. It might have proceeded more slowly than Heinz down Cook's little "viscosity meter" (which I think is the same device that in the late '70s was called a Sea Monkeys Racetrack), but I'm not sure more viscous versus less viscous is really something I'm monitoring in a ketchup. As long as I can dip a french fry in it and it sticks, I'm cool. We simply preferred the flavor of Heinz. Margy did point out that this could be due to familiarity -- after all, it was the only ketchup we'd ever had in our house until I brought home a bottle of Hunt's for the test. But I think Heinz won because it strikes a more appropriate balance between sweet and tangy -- and it really is a lovely color. The Hunt's red isn't nearly as vibrant.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Freezer Opens Once Again

I'm going to call this BLT soup: bacon, lentil, and tomato.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Margy's Old Faithful

It's a jam-packed week, so we're taking advantage of all the stuff we made a few Sundays ago, when it was still cool out. What did busy, hungry people do before the invention of the freezer?

Monday, June 12, 2006


The lousy Greek pizza isn't the important thing here. (It looks pretty good, but it wasn't.) This was the rare night that nothing was required of our food beyond it being mere fuel, for my dear friend Mr. Thowmbpsin and I were on our way to see Zappa Plays Zappa, and we were running late.

We did, though, have a nice beer and some sparkling conversation in addition to a thin but unforgivably floppy pie and a Caesar salad whose dressing had no detectable trace of anchovy. But what can you do -- we heard some of the most amazing music of our lives. Anyway, I'm still thinking about the rib-eyes.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Rib-Eye Bull's Eye

We decided it was time for a steak.

I was assuming porterhouse, but when I got to the store, the rib-eyes were the ones saying eat me.

They were incredibly gorgeous, fresh and red and marbled with fat that would soon melt itself into flavor. Meat like that ain't cheap, but I had entered the range of the tractor beam. I was powerless to resist. Take my money, just give me the good beef.

At my sister's suggestion, I toasted some peppercorns, all the kinds I had -- black, white, Szechwan -- then ground them up and pressed them into the steaks. I built a superzealous fire and browned those babies up nice. While they rested, I put some par-boiled broccoli and wonderful wheat Italian bread on the grill, all of it brushed with butter and olive oil. Our Mexican neighbors, charged up after their country's World Cup victory over Iran, walked by and nodded their approval. I wish I could have fed them too.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Feeling Squidish

I woke up this morning thinking about squid. It happens.

At my request, the fish guy at ShopRite went out of his way to find me some nice big stuffable bodies, and boy did it pay off. Usually I'm struggling to cram a little filling into a squid tube that's barely as big as my thumb, but this was smooth sailing.

The squid was stuffed with garlic, parsley, sage, thyme, bread crumbs, and more squid, and cooked in white wine, shrimp stock, and tomato. I saw a few cannellini in the fridge, so I tossed them into the pot near the end, and they made an excellent addition. Everything's better with beans!

I was really late getting dinner on the table, but I opened a nice bottle of wine (Villa Puccini '97), and Margy forgave me.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Hamburgers, with Ketchup

A burger at the gig is better than a steak at the Ritz.

We were playing at an Irish bar and recording the show, so we got there real early to set up. Showtime approached, and we were starving. As we ate our hamburgers, I was telling Stevesie about a ketchup taste test I'd read about in Cook's Illustrated, where Hunt's beat out Heinz rather soundly.

Stevesie, a true cheeseburger aficionado -- I've seen him eat one at every hour of the day, including 11am -- immediately said, "I don't like Hunt's. It's too sweet."

As we passed the fat little Heinz bottle, I was impressed, though not quite surprised, that Stevesie had a mental index of ketchup characteristics. I was also unsurprised to hear someone disagree with a Cook's taste test. I started out liking that magazine, but over time it seems to me that at least half its stories, and possibly all of its food test panels, have a screw loose. Margy and I will do a Hunt's-versus-Heinz test of our own and report back. I need to check this one out for myself.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

A Blank Canvas of Semolina

In a pinch, I can always make pasta. This time it was spaghetti with pancetta and peas, with plenty of garlic, pepper, and Parmesan.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Chinese Cook-Off?

I've mentioned that my mom teaches English as a second language a couple of mornings a week, and that she has two Chinese women in her tiny little class who can be a bit competitive at times.

Well, Mom took the ladies out for lunch a few days ago, and this morning her two Chinese students came to class bearing edible gifts to show their gratitude. It was more food than my folks could handle, so they shared the wealth with Margy and me. Which was great, since I had a rehearsal looming, along with zero dinner ideas.

One student made dumplings, the other noodles. (Me, I made broccoli.) Both contained chicken. I think. I mean, I know the noodles did, but I'm not certain about the dumplings -- the filling might've been pork. Dumplings are obviously best eaten fresh, but these were perfectly tasty even reheated. The noodles had just a bit of shredded carrot and sliced shitake, and were flavored mildly with sesame oil.

Both hit the spot. Anyway, I'd never take sides -- Margy and I want the food to keep on comin'.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Leftover Salmon

The salmon was good the second time around, served at room temperature with some brown rice and broccoli.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Our Favorite Chicken

I don't think there's anything more thrilling than barbecuing a bird.

It sits under the dome of the grill cover, on the side opposite the fire, and it slowly, patiently soaks up smoke and heat and takes on all of the most desirable qualities: crispy skin, juicy meat, deep and smoky flavor. As you walk by and try desperately to resist taking a peek, which will delay your eating time considerably, you're intoxicated by the dark, savory aroma.

Eventually, the bird is done, and you get to devour it!

For this little Amish chicken, I used a dry spice rub and no sauce. Paprika, mustard powder, cumin, coriander, chipotle, brown sugar salt... mmm...

I must give some props to Enzo the grillmaster, who coached me on the phone and convinced me not to cut any corners. See, my charcoal chimney had turned to rusty dust, and I was hedging my bets and hoping I could cook the chicken with one round of briquettes. After all, if I had to add more coals, how would I light them without a chimney? "Dude, if you're not gonna get a chimney, you might as well just throw the bird in the oven." He was right. Margy and I ran out and got what we needed.

An hour-plus after setting the chicken on the rack -- with the addition of a few hot coals and a few more water-smoked hickory chips around the hour mark -- Margy and I sat down to marvel at our dinner. ("Look," I said to her parrot, "we're eating your cousin!") We made quick work of the legs, drumsticks, and wings, and we saved the breasts for what I hope will be the smokiest, most delectable chicken salad ever. I'll often remove the skin when I make chicken salad, but this time there's not a chance.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Lemony Musings

Margy and I decided to try a new French-Mediterranean restaurant, Café Monet, that opened up a few towns away. It was terrific.

Red onion tart, grilled octopus salad, bouillabaisse with skate wing and bass, duck with cumin sauce -- everything rocked. But the lemon meringue tart really took the cake.

I was reminiscing about how as a kid I loved lemon, but I couldn't deal with meringue for some reason, and so my mom would forgo the topping and make me "lemon chiffon pie." It was my favorite thing in the world, and her graham cracker crust just rocketed it right over the top. But I still can't quite believe I didn't like that fluffy meringue. Oh, a kid's fickle palate...

Saturday, June 03, 2006

A More Sophisticated Salmon

I picked up lovely organic Scottish salmon at ShopRite this morning. Its pale orange flesh looked more natural than the Sunkist-bright farmed stuff, which has "some color added."

I bet it spoke with a really cool accent too.

I dusted the salmon with a Moroccan spice mixture that my sister gave Margy and me for Christmas. I was determined to crisp up the skin, so I set the pan on high and got the oil really hot before I added the fish. Then I cooked it mostly on the skin side, flipping it over for just the final 90 seconds or so. Indeed the skin had some beautiful crunch and reminded me of a salmon skin roll at the sushi bar.

We've had lots of good meals with domestic farmed salmon, but it was well worth it to go the extra mile to Scotland. Okay, the extra 3,000 miles...

Friday, June 02, 2006

Pad Thai Take-Out

I do get tired of cooking sometimes.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Indian Sloppy Joes

Just as I was about to light the charcoal in the grill to cook hamburgers, the sky suddenly darkened. Lightning flashed, and thunder clapped right nearby. I went back inside, and I took the charcoal with me. Moments later the sky opened up, and I was off to pick up an umbrella-less Margy from the train station. Hamburgers would wait for another day.


Inspiration struck in addition to the lightning.

I wanted a sandwich, I knew that. With my trusty grill ten feet away in the rain, I wasn't about to broil or fry the burgers. I reserve that kind of desperation only for a February snowstorm, and even then I would probably either light the grill or make something else. So... what could I do with this ground beef? Suddenly cumin and coriander and onion and garlic started floating around my head, and I had it: I would make beef keema, I'd throw it on a roll, and we'd have Indian sloppy joes!

With so many terrific cooks and so much great food everywhere, I really don't want to brag, but the sandwiches were even better than I imagined. The fat from the beef along with a shot of tomato paste helped to create a wonderful texture, and the spices and seasonings were bright and vivid. I put the rolls under the broiler so they got crisp/soft. But the perfect final stroke was topping each sandwich with sliced cucumber. Now this conjured some magic. The cukes offered a welcome bit of crunch, and they had a cooling effect that played off the keema's spice beautifully. It was like having a built-in raita, minus the yogurt of course.

The rain poured down, and Margy forgot about her burgers.