the list of NO: Banh Xeo.

Tragic. I discover something uniquely, spicily toothsome (sadistically positioned inside a cuisine known for it's unconscious healthfulness) and (naturally) it's bad for my cholesterol (the shrimp, obviously, but I didn't realize it had coconut milk as well).

Preserving this for my future, cholesterol-deficient days, may I present: Banh Xeo.

And to thoroughly demolish any credibility this journal may have accrued thus far, I'll reveal that I just spent 15 minutes playing with this. Yes, I looked at all the Barbie combinations.


red wine.

Finally breaking down and having some. Just got to get to the store to get it. Dinner was:


smoked mackerel and arugula salad.

2 smoked mackerel filets
3 tbsp e.v. olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
3 tbsp scallions
2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted (which I'm probably not supposed to be eating)
1/2 cup arugula
2 tbsp of fresh dill
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp lemon juice
dash tabasco


You can imagine how this all goes together. A tomato or red pepper would've completed this, but I had nothing red except beets, which I had for breakfast.

OK: the goal is two glasses of red wine and no snacking. Maybe a walnut or 7. Let's see how it goes. I'm either watching The Wild Bunch or Oldboy, don't know yet.


san fran flashback: ferry building + duck overload.

I postponed my SFO post because, well, immediately after returning, this whole cholesterol reduction scheme went in to full deployment mode and, frankly, the memories of what went down in the Golden Gate city were a little too fatty and overpriced to think about.

Ha. I'm mostly kidding about the "too fatty", since I'm the one who ordered the charcuterie of duck at Rubicon (which included duck prosciutto, foie gras, and duck paté, along with aged balsamico and toasted hazelnuts). And what am I doing eating at Rubicon anyway, if I'm so concerned about price? Freak.

All I mean is: comparatively, to consume this kind of food and wine in America, versus, say...Italy, the prices are dumbfounding. And yes, before anyone launches anything huge and nasty at me...there are things that creative, trained, (expensive, salaried) chefs (American or otherwise) can do that go well beyond the inherent but lower-priced gourmandism of your average Italian trattoria. And the SF farmers' markets are spectacular. And I love the artesian cheesemakers, etc. Inarguably, it's all part of what makes SF America's most appetizing city to live in. But is that why SF is such an expensive city? You pay for the privilege? Not just the food and wine, but especially the food and wine. No can do. Especially not if my tax dollahs would be funding the Poop Ship Destroyer (I'm referring of course to eh, uh, em, hm, ah, uh, Bush, and not Ween).

Maybe this is just sour grapes. Maybe it's because I know (hope) my expense account days are behind me, along with $14 glasses of wine, and the thought that kept needling me in the ear was, "Man, I don't agree with these prices and what they indicate, but nonetheless it sure would be nice to be able to feel good about dropping 200 bucks for dinner again."

OK, see why I postponed writing about this? I don't have it in me to continue to justify this rant, so I'll hit the mostly inexpensive highlights.

Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market. Saturday morning, Mara and I went for breakfast/lunch. An interesting slice of semi-urban upper-middle class SF weekend life.

We arrived far too hungry and irrational. I almost bought some fried asparagus, for example. Instead, Mara opted for a sausage bomb from Aidell's, while I went to Cocina Primavera and stood in a very long line for Oaxacan Red Mole Tamales.

Excellent stuff. These pictures of Mara in action are our vain attempts to recapture even a fraction of the glory that is "The Jimmy Picture".

I'll elaborate in a bit.

to snicker or not to (snicker).

Sometime soon I hope to address the question: what happens when you fall off the no-cholesterol wagon? What's the best way to fail? Not that I have. Weekend food intake has revolved around salmon + mackerel, supplemented by All-Bran, bulgur and dried fruit. And a Snickers. Thus...

The failing I'm talking about is the choice between a falafel and a Snickers, or a piece of pizza vs. a chicken wing. Late-night, convenience-oriented eating. Oh, I know the real answer is to NOT. Or, to snag an apple. But I'm being realistic here. This is a science-oriented post, so it's going to take a few days to finish (not that I'm doing days worth of research. I just know I'm going to have to sneak in an hour here and there, but I'm going to post this anyway so I'll remember to do it).

Note: Turns out I never finished this because the answer is...(drumroll): don't eat at night. Especially, don't eat anything with high-fructose corn syrup in it like a Snickers, you dumb motherfucker. Eat an apple with peanut butter. Absolute Worst Case: falafel.


phoenix flashback: $13 dollar sandwich.

The restaurant's description: "applewood-smoked duck breast on marble rye with arugula, bacon, double cream brie and caramelized chipotle-granny smith apples, served with Robert's roasted root vegetable salad."

Me, cholesterol problems? Anyway, it was...really pleasant, sure, definitely. Smoky bacon, sour apples, sweet brie, bitter arugula, and ducky duck...something for everyone. And I wasn't paying, my lovely and glamorous mother was. But I always forget about stuff like this when I'm back in Amsterdam complaining about how expensive "food-that-should-be-cheap" is (Chinese, Mexican, Vietnamese...)

This wasn't even American-sized like my gargantuan and lovely "cup" of pozole I had a couple of days earlier at Mucho Gusto. It was just...rye bread-sized. A normal sandwich. I'd bet actual money you couldn't even find a 13 euro sandwich in Amsterdam. Tasted great, tho'....thanks, mom!


black bean autopilot.

I ended up talking about neither beans nor raw veg yesterday because Blogger went AWOL. Couldn't do nothin'. Ah, software.

Today I shall blithely mention that I made just about the best black beans I've ever made last night, and I've made literally thousands of black beans (not so impressive really if we're talking about individual beans). No but seriously folks, I loves them frijoles negros and like to consider myself someone who knows how to cook 'em. Well, last night, after members of a visiting band were massively delayed due to Lyonnaise traffic, I (their host for a couple days) realized that by the time they finally got here (12:20am), they'd be screwed for good food, Amsterdam being no Berlin in that department. So, having just returned from a month in America and having no obviously useful grub in sight, I turned to the murky black depths of the pantry. Black because we have no pantry light, so I'm always surprised by what's still thrashing around in there.

So I found some black beans and, you know, since I've done this a lot, didn't really pay much attention to the specifics of what I was doing, but zam, they rocked. Thus I present an especially inarticulate recipe for these little guys. I should mention that these are not The Purist's Black Beans. These are somewhere between traditional non-ham hock-y Cuban or Mexican black beans and, well...baked beans, I guess. But smokier. It matters not, trust me. Dey good. The approximate components:


barbecued black beans.

2 cups dried black beans
enough water to cover them by 2 inches
12 cloves good fresh garlic, chopped roughly
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, minced
1 heaping tbsp epazote
1 heaping tbsp dried oregano, toasted
1 tbsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tbsp walnut oil
1/8 cup unrefined sugar, or more, to taste (remember, I wasn't making these for me, so...)
1-2 tbsp catsup (again, wouldn't do it if they were for me. well maybe.)
1-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (balance this against your catsup usage)
salt, to taste (in this case, it was quite a bit, I hesitate to estimate how much)
1 tbsp adobo sauce drained out of a can of chipotle chiles, or more, to taste

optional breath-destroying additions at the end:
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup red onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp mango pickle (this will take things in a seriously Indian direction, but it's very very good this way)

I soaked them for about 2 hours. Rinsed them, put them and the prescribed amount of water in the pot, along with the garlic, cilantro, epazote, cumin, oregano, and thyme. After about an hour of cooking with the lid on they were done (not hard to the tooth, but not mushy) and ready for the rest. I added the adobo, sugar and salt first, then the catsup and vinegar, and finally the walnut oil. And then I cooked them with the lid off for about 30 minutes? 45 minutes? Maybe even an hour. Who knows. I was just waiting for these guys to show up. Anyway, when they cooked down, they were inky black, quite thick and just glisteny enough, and frankly just about perfect in every way. They still are. I'm going to have a bite right now.

About the optional additions...the beans as they are come out nicely spicy and sweet, but if you're in the mood for breathing fire, I recommend at least the garlic, and some of the onion. And the mango pickle addition turns it into something else entirely...I may try to put the mango-ed version together with a salmon/mustard oil thing I've been contemplating...



dreams dismembered: huitlacoche

You know how there are some exotic foodstuffs that you read about and become a bit infatuated with and hope for a day when you'll stumble across it in some tiny ethnic deli or ghastly-lit mom-and-pop restaurant and the real experience will surpass the dream? Maybe you don't.

But I've kinda been this way with huitlacoche, I think because it's been described as "truffle-like", and I do love me some truffle and I am a lover of tutto di cibo Mexicano. And I used to be a fanboy of the Elton John of New Southwestern Cuisine, Mark Miller (I don't even really know what I meant by that), and that rugged, bearded, troll-child used to talk about it all the time. However, I believe that The Sneeze has brutally killed the dream forever with his Huitlacoche Exposé. Luckily, none of the other "Steve, Don't Eat It!" contestants were on my "list"...potted meat, fermented soybeans (natto), etc. (I've already had a few fermented soybean experiments that have destroyed the dream all by their little selves...godDAMN what nasty shit. I'm not talking about miso or anything that tastes remotely edible. But don't just take my word for it).

OK, but I didn't come here to talk to you about infected corn kernels or mushy, bitter, white soybean paste today. Today I'm here to talk about real beans. Or raw vegetables, haven't decided. Back after this food intake check, nothing but snacking today:

Bowl of all-bran with soy milk (200cal)
1 cup of kidney beans with tomatillos and red Thai chile (200cal)
1 half mango
1 granny smith apple
75g brown rice crackers (300cal)
3 rolmops (400cal)

Tot morgen.

wholly mackerel.

Does All-Bran really need high fructose corn syrup in it? Jesus. I'm just trying to sort out how quickly I need to find a new bran dealer. 31 grams of All-Bran has 10 grams of fiber, but there's a ton of other typical Kellogg's pusherman bullshit in there too.

OK, today's entry was supposed to be about the lowly (or, alternatively, humble) mackerel. I chose "lowly" b/c before this whole Omega-3 hullabaloo, our man was always referred to by food writers euphemistically as "strong", or "oily", or sometimes even "pungent". Please, people. Just come right on out and say it: my man can be downright "fishy" in that way you don't want. Maybe dass why he so humble I guess.

In lieu of (or in light of as some Georgians and Floridians like to say, wrongly) actual, useful, detailed information about the mackerel, let me just offer that they're at the top of many people's Healthy Fat List. In my quest for mackerel info, I found this interesting page about mucus accumulation, of which I am currently a victim, sorry. It's driving me MAD, I tell you. And one of the things you're not supposed to eat? Wheat, which is where, yes, of course bran comes from.
Just have to drink death-defying amounts of water I guess.

I think that's it. Not much snacking going on. Or snaking, which I typed first. My mom said studies have shown that eating 14 walnut halves per day increases HDL and lowers LDL. I should get on that.

Here's a typically complicated David Bouley recipe, simplified by me.

mackerel with field greens.
6 ounces (about 2) skinless mackerel filets, cut how you like
1 very small garlic clove, crushed
Fine sea salt
3 tablespoons crème fraîche
1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1/4 teaspoon Champagne vinegar
Pinch of ground toasted caraway seeds
1/4 cup finely diced cucumber
1/4 cup finely diced cooked beet
1/4 cup finely diced apple
Freshly ground black pepper

1 head Bibb lettuce
3/4 cup seeded, diced cucumber
1/2 cup packed parsley leaves
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 1/2 ounces (about 3 1/2 cups) mixed baby greens (mesclun)

Apparently the secret to getting this to not turn totally pink is to not mix it too much. And, the vinaigrette is complicated: In a food processor, juice the lettuce, cucumber, and parsley. You should have 3/4 cup juice...if not add a little water. Whisk in the lemon juice, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Whisking constantly, drizzle in the oils and whisk until combined. Then just serve the barely mixed salad on the dressed mesclun. And dress the salad a little too.

Serves 4-6.


Finally, here's a recipe I can't wait to try with my Singing Fish canned mackerel, or whatever it's called. Hard to make an appetizing-sounding mackerel recipe title in English, though. How bout Espanol?:


tacos de carite.
1 mackerel, cut into 2- by 4- by 1-inch strips, or 1 small whole mackerel
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for oiling grill
2 tablespoons chipotle rub

2 tablespoons diced radish
2 tablespoons very thinly sliced scallion, white and green parts
charred tomato mint salsa

8 small tortillas, heated

Light the grill. In a medium-sized, nonreactive bowl, toss the fish with lime juice, 1/4 cup olive oil, and Chipotle Rub. Cover, refrigerate, and let marinate about 1 hour. Oil grill and cook fish over a hot fire until lightly charred and medium-rare (it should still be pink in the middle), about 3 minutes.

In a warm bowl (so fish does not cool too much), shred fish. Taste for seasoning and sprinkle with a little more Chipotle Rub and lime juice, if needed. Top with radish and scallion and serve warm with salsa and tortillas.

Serves 4.



adventures in bran / herring drilldown.

30 grams of fiber a day is a lot. But I've got my All-Bran and soy milk thing going on, so i should be having a colon blow moment any minute now (while searching for that transcript I found out that there's actually a product called Colon Blow now, and their site features some graphic testimonials [IOW, pictures of amazing, unrealistic poop]).

In other news, I just discovered the Ouwehand website, which means that I can finally read about my herring/haring products in something approximating English, which is excellent because there are a host of variations and I've never really been able to detect what they are. I picked up some rolmops (pickled herring wrapped around onions and pickles) and braadharing (supposedly baked but I think they might actually fried, based on my first taste) in yesterday's shopping spree.

There's a ton of herring info on this website, and the Dutch version is even more comprehensive. Nonetheless, I would have to recommend against reading the entire "Information about herring" section as it provides a couple of "spoilers" that may significantly reduce your desire to ever eat herring again. I can't even refer to them or give you an idea of what they are because I personally would like to eat herring again. I'll try to extract some of the non-gross yet still interesting herring facts for you here:

1) "'Hollandse Nieuwe' is the first herring that is caught in the new season, this is mostly in May. As soon as the herring contains 16% fat it is allowed to be marketed as 'Hollandse Nieuwe'. Before herring is allowed to be called 'Hollandse Nieuwe' it also has to be gutted, matured, salted and filleted according to the traditional Dutch method. Until September it is allowed to be referred to as a 'Hollandse Nieuwe'. After this period it is only allowed to be called matjes herring."

2) "Amsterdammers prefer a larger, well-matured herring which is cut into pieces and served with marinated pickles. In the north of the Netherlands they prefer a medium size herring which is lightly salted. In Rotterdam they have a preference for a small herring which is lightly salted."

Pretty dry text, yes, but it's way better if you imagine it with a Dutch accent (larcher, well-machure herrink, etc).

Fascinating, you say. I say whatever Leonard Carlo would say. No: here's a recipe I wish I could make with my herring, but it calls for a pile of sour cream, which sadly...I cain't be doin'.


layered pickled herring salad with tart apples and red onion.

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup water
1/6 cup sugar
1 teaspoons pickling spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 large hothouse cucumber, cut into 1/8-inch-thick rounds

1/2 pound Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup sliced trimmed radishes
1 6-ounce jar zuur haring (sour herring), drained, each piece halved
Fresh dill sprigs

For cucumbers: Mix vinegar, water, sugar, pickling spice and salt in heavy medium saucepan; bring to boil, stirring until sugar and salt dissolve. Cool to room temperature. Place cucumbers in large glass bowl. Pour marinade over cucumbers. Cover; refrigerate overnight.

For salad: Mix apples, red onion, sour cream and chopped dill in large bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Using slotted spoon, remove cucumbers from marinade. Arrange half of cucumbers in bottom of 8 x 8 x 2-inch glass dish. Arrange half of radishes atop cucumbers. Spoon half of apple mixture over radishes. Arrange herring evenly atop apple mixture. Spoon remaining apple mixture over herring. Cover with remaining cucumbers, then radishes. Cover and chill salad 3 hours.

Serves 4.


matjes herring with red onion and dill.

10 pickled matjes herring fillets (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 medium red onions, chopped fine
1 cup finely chopped fresh dill sprigs
1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup light olive oil

Rinse herring under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Cut fillets crosswise into 3/4-inch pieces. In a 1-quart glass or ceramic crock or bowl arrange some herring in one layer. Top herring with a layer of some onions and sprinkle with some dill. Layer remaining herring, onions, and dill in same manner.

In a small bowl whisk together vinegar, pepper, and salt to taste and add oil in a stream, whisking until emulsified. Pour dressing over herring mixture. Chill herring mixture, covered, stirring occasionally, at least 8 hours and up to 2 days.

Makes 10 to 12 Servings.



day 1: shopping.

Considering that these are the goals:

decrease total dietary fat, especially saturated/verzadigd fat. only use products with good oils: sunflower, safflower, corn, soybean, cottonseed, sesame oils; or monounsaturated fats like canola, olive, peanut oils. Monounsaturated fats are preferred. Here's why:

SATURATED FATS are found primarily in beef and dairy products in the US diet. Diets high in saturated fat tend to raise both total cholesterol and LDL* (the bad) cholesterol levels, which is associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Saturated fat should be limited to less than 10% of daily calories.
TRANS FATS are found in processed foods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Like saturated fats, trans fats raise the LDL cholesterol level that increases the risk of heart disease.

POLYUNSATURATED FATS are usually a good source of essential fat, like linoleic and linolenic acids, that are needed by cells, but cannot be made by the body. Polyunsaturated fats in the diet have been shown to lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, but also lower HDL* (the good) cholesterol. Polyunsaturated fats are found in nuts and vegetable oils, and should make up 10% or less of daily calories.

MONOUNSATURATED FATS, the predominant fat found in pistachios, other nuts and olive oil, have been shown to lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels while maintaining the beneficial HDL cholesterol level associated with lowering the risk of heart disease. Up to 20% of daily calories can come from monounsaturated fat.

decrease dietary cholesterol.
limit sodium intake.
increase consumption of deep-sea fish (in order of goodness: mackerel, salmon, herring, albacore tuna, lake trout) b/c they contain the much-ballyhooed Omega-3 fatty acids, which help to lower blood cholesterol.
increase intake of fiber and complex carbohydrates. Eat 20 to 30 grams of dietary fiber every day. Foods such as legumes, oats, barley, brown rice, apples, strawberries, and carrots are good to eat because they contain soluble fiber, which lowers blood cholesterol.
increase. consumption. of. walnuts.
decrease calories if needed to reach a healthy body weight. uh, yes.
for liver rejuvenation: raw vegetable juices and other cruciferous veggies; avoid: dairy, processed, fried, margarine. look into milk thistle and Schizandra chinensis.
20-30 minutes cardio 4-5 times a week.
no smoking of anything.
drinking red wine in white-knuckled moderation. maybe even white. i need variety!

I did pretty well, 'cept smoked eel is apparently not a good thing to eat, which i didn't know until after i bought it. Also on the list of "avoid" foods: cashews, macadamia, brazilnuts, coconut. Frown.

I spent 40 euro, but that included two bottles of chilean merlot, 2 jars of herring, and 2 frozen thingies of salmon.

Next on my list of things to figure out: finding a good margarine substitute; finding out if rehydrated wheat protein is any good for you; find out exactly what scharrelkippenei-eiwit is (sounds like free-range chicken egg protein, in which case i probably shouldn't be eating it. but it's in my veggie burgers! It totally doesn't sound like a vegetable product, does it? Update: it's not. It's egg protein. What the fuck is it doing in my veggie burger?); Finding a Euro shopper mayo substitute; including garlic and ginger in the list of things to eat a lot of.




This is a journal of my attempt to undo 13 extra years of treating my body like a college student's instead of growing up and being responsive and responsible to my aging corpus and acting considerate of the people who love me by taking care of myself. The function of this journal is to document what works and give me a daily reminder of what I'm supposed to be doing. Along the way, I'll entertain myself by finding new ways to eat the North Sea piscine population and trying to come up with substitutes for the zillion awesome Dutch dairy products (well, it's really about the Euro Shopper mayonnaise).