Usually a week without a post is not the best of signs around here, but...but but but. Sometimes it's completely innocent inadvertence (actually a word). Really!
This week's silence is certainly not for a lack of potential content: we've enjoyed an unusually relentless succession of dinner guests over the past week, kicked off by the Korean session documented below on Wednesday with Andy, Emma, and Doug; lahmacun and Scrabble (followed by late-night peanut butter and ginger marmalade sandwiches) with professional, tournament-class Scrabbler Doug on Friday (I lost); Indian Iron Chef (and Scrabble) challenge with Phil on a long, pleasant Saturday.
Saturday's dinner became a challenge only after I discovered that one of my frozen salmon filets hadn't actually been frozen until what must have been weeks after it had been caught: extremely gross.
So I had to come up with some emergency backup plans using what was in the pantry, which ended up being some kind of dhansak-ish dish with urad dal; a saag paneer without paneer; raita; melon for dessert. Not bad for someone who doesn't make Indian food very often, though it may be my all-time favorite cuisine. Why don't I make it at home? Butter.
Then on Sunday, an unplanned dinner with Andy: he made a Thai coconut milk and beef soup, I made Vietnamese catfish in caramel sauce (Ca Kho To), which I'll do a full post on soon, because it's excellent, but I want to make it one more time first. And then last night lahmacun again with Doug and Mara.
Before my unexpected Indian Iron Chef, I went to the beach. Yay! My plan was to get there early, before the crowds, hang out for a couple hours, have lunch, and then hightail it back here to meet Phil at 16:00. My timing was superb. These pictures were taken at 11:00 am:
I have never ever seen IJMuiderstrand look anything like this. Have you? It was incredible, hoor! There were maybe 20 people on the whole beach until 1pm or so. At which point I had lunch, a beautiful plate of lightly dressed smoked salmon with capers and toast, and then I hopped on the bus, still amazed at my peaceful beach morning.
Michael Chabon, The Yiddish Policeman's Union
We had some folks over for a semi-impromptu dinner the other night, and I decided that, rather than continue to borrow Andy's Korean cookbook every couple of months and then forget I had it, I would return the cookbook once and for all, and commemorate the occasion by actually cooking some things out of it. And invite him over to eat it, since he's actually spent some time in Korea and would have some idea about accuracy.
So, I decided to try bibimbap (eG thread here) for the first time, since it seems to be one of those dishes that people get hooked on, and you know me, I can't help but enjoy getting hooked on all manner of things. When I told Klary that I was making bibimbap, she told me to "be careful, this could turn into a very healthy dinner," and I quickly realized she was absolutely correct. So we added donuts to the menu (hoddeok).
The bibimbap was fun to make, essentially very easy, and yes...healthy. It also provided a useful cooking lesson, in that the cooked vegetables were prepared with almost exclusively sesame oil, salt and garlic, with no soy sauce at all. I didn't realize that this was an option: it's actually way more multi-dimensional on the tongue than using soy sauce as the salty element, and more effectively highlights the natural flavors of the vegetables themselves, and in more distinctive ways. Me likey.
We used carrots, zucchini, gai lan, pak soi (each cooked separately and then separately dressed with sesame oil, salt, and garlic), mung bean sprouts (same dressing plus a little rice vinegar and a surprising amount of sugar) and bulgogi. We served it over our standard, completely non-traditional bulgur recipe: a little butter and a little soy sauce, sprinkled with furikake. We almost never make white rice anymore, it just seems to lose on every front in a direct comparison with bulgur: taste, texture, nutrition.
We also did pa jeon, scallion pancakes with minced shellfish (we used crayfish/rivierkreeften). These were good, I think they could've been better with more shellfish. And the dipping sauce recipe I used failed a last minute taste test and had to be scrapped in favor of a diluted soy sauce and sesame oil thing with a dash of black vinegar. Anyway, I'd like to try them again.
And then Mara, in addition to actually cooking the bulgur and pa jeon, decided to go nuts and bust out some hoddoek. I love it when she does this: I dive into an ambitious cooking project and she jumps right after me into the dessert end of the pool.
Hoddeok are donuts, like Chabon's shtekeleh above, that are not overly sweet, and sometimes rolled in sugar after they're fried. The molten center can contain a variety of fillings: ours contained either brown sugar and cinnamon, or honey and peanuts.
You know this, but I'll say it anyway: there's nothing like a hot donut. These were excellent, and yes, dipping them in a hot breakfast liquid the next day yielded shtekeleh-esque results.
Yesterday I bade pork farewell with my pen; today I did it with my lips, as well as the rest of my mouth. I didn't mean to, I thought we'd already said our goodbyes (see yesterday's post), but as fate would have it, Mara and I cycled past a very American-looking place (in a good way) called The Taco Shop, and as we glided past, she said over her shoulder, "It's supposed to be really good."
I was like, "Then why don't I know about it?" I pulled over and looked at the menu posted outside: tacos, burritos, chimichangas, guac...interesting, interesting. The thing that sold me on its potential authenticity more than the menu or anything else was the paint job and the general look of the place, total California surf shack. Hmm.
But Mark, it was just yesterday that you said you were through with the stuff, wasn't it dude? C'mon, man...lay off the pig. C'mon.
I am through with it, ok? Look, I've got a bag full of tofu and tempeh and fresh turmeric and leafy Chinese greens right here to prove it. I even have rice flour, for God's sake, and I have no idea how to work with the stuff. You c'mon. I'm serious about going vegetarian, really I am. I just need one last moment alone, just the two of us. Me, and pork. It won't take a second.
I'm totally grossing myself out. Bottom line: this is a real burrito. Amsterdam's only real burrito. I kinda knew it would be when I went in and was greeted by an American behind the kitchen counter. In English. Kind of a funny twist on the "they don't speak any English here, it must be the real thing" phenomenon we're used to in the States.
And it's above-average, as burritos go. Not my absolute favorite style: I'm a whole-bean man myself (these are refried), I prefer fresh green chiles to canned, and I like a little cilantro in my burrito if there's not going to be much in the salsa, etc. But I bet they'd be happy to put anything in there that they had on hand if you wanted.
The contents of their salsa verde burrito included: pork in a mild green chile sauce; fresh tomatoes; a mild white cheese that I forgot to try and identify by itself (there could even have been two kinds of cheese, I was blinded by hunger at this point); canned jalapenos; lettuce; and refried beans. Their smooth (vs. chunky-style) red salsa that came with it was completely serviceable, authentically Tex-Mex. Again, light on the heat and the herbs, but I understand why. The pork itself was done nicely.
IMPORTANT: This can be Amsterdam's only real burrito if you order carefully. I only tried the non-"smothered" green chile burrito with no bells or whistles. Mara was unfortunate enough to go without me and was somehow talked into "smothering" her burrito, which means extra cheese and a ranchero sauce. Needless to say, this changes the burrito rather dramatically, and not for the better. The photos you see here are of my merely "threatened" burrito...I just poured the salsa that came with it over top of it, so the burrito could get a feel for what could happen if I got pissed off and decided to smother the damn thing. To sum: don't smother your burrito and you'll be alright.
ALSO IMPORTANT: This isn't Mexican food, it's Tex-Mex mostly, influenced by direct contact with Mexican-American food but not generated by Mexicans. And there are some oddities: they use ground beef in their beef quesadillas and burrtios, and this I've never seen before and don't really want to, sorry guys.
Somehow The Taco Shop has been here 2 years without my burrito detector going off: must be time to change the batteries (but aren't they supposed to make some sort of sound to let you know the batteries are dead?)...anyway, this place is good news for everyone in Amsterdam except me.
Enjoy. I've got to go marinate some tofu.
Here's to good friends,
Tonight is kind of special.
the beer we'll pour
must say something more, somehow.
So tonight (tonight),
Let it be Lowenbrau (let it be Lowenbrau).
It's been so long.
Hey, I'm glad to see ya.
Raise your glass.
Here's to health and happiness.
So tonight (tonight),
Let it be all the best.
Ah, the good old days. Cheesy imported beer jingles. Sunny summers. Massive pork consumption by me.
Those days are all....gone. Goodbye, cheesy beer jingles. Goodbye massive pork consumption. I'll see you both in heaven.
Yes, it's that time of year here at Vegetarian Duck where we pause for reflection and glance back none-too-carefully over the year's "accomplishments", and...as we do so this year, it becomes apparent that there may well be a sort of confession to be made. What I'm saying is that, well: objectives are not being met (note the use of passive voice to avoid responsibility).
I don't know know if any of you recall, but the original purpose of this blog was to document healthy eating habits.
If you've only tuned in recently, this may surprise you. It was certainly a surprise to me as I found myself browsing the archives the other day for some reason. "Hmmm.....interesting. Yesss....but: wait just a cotton-picking minute here...hold up, hold up. You mean to tell me? This here is health food this man's going on about. Brrrgh (shudders). There's no call for that here at all, mister. None. Now pass me that ribcage. Naw, just the one."
Even as recently as two months ago!!!!! (exclamation points courtesy Barrel Fever)
So it is with a heavy heart, sloped shoulders, sagging gut and a generally sober, chastized demeanor that I return to...massive pork consumption! No...I mean, healthy eating. For real, people...for real (cue Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah", indicating that it's a moment of deep spiritual reckoning for our protagonist)...
Just so that we all understand what this means from an excitement perspective, behold my throbbingly sexy breakfast:
That's right, All-Bran cereal with oat milk, papaya and banana. Can you say "Old Man food?" I'm teasing. This was actually totally delicious, which means that I am now 100% certifiably an Old Man.
For real, now: ripe papaya is something that I have never loved, the taste is too close to the edge of an overripe floral note that reminds me of stagnant vase water or ineffective underarm deodorant or something (mmm!). But I started getting ready to give it another chance when eGulleter johnnyd raved about its restorative properties in his fantastic eG foodblog about Portland, Maine a couple weeks back, and then I read a couple other things about papaya being a legendary contractor in the liver repair business.
So I threw some on my All-Bran, and hoo-boy, that's good eatin'! You kind of already have to like All-Bran, which, being an Old Man, I do. But the papaya is actually a good match, significantly more interesting than the normal cereal fruit suspects (blueberries, strawberries, bananas).
OK, this post was supposed to be about how I'm supposed to be eating orange foods. Maybe the next post will be about that.
Yes I mean what you think I mean. What a foul turd of a song. I dropped this black satanic plum during my iPod DJ set in Bergen (everyone gets 5 songs) and it just stunk up the room for about 8 minutes. I thought it would be funny, and it was just barely amusing for all of 30 seconds. The albatross and the whales were not my brothers that evening, let me tell you.
But the reminiscing I'm talking about here is of a very different sort, possibly the best sort: pork. Lately I find myself thinking, "Hey, it's great that you've documented so much of your summer on your silly little food obsession journal that you call a blog," and then I come out here, and there's nothing.
And that's because it's all on eGullet. So here is the first in a series of attempts to at least get the pictures from this summer's adventures up here for non-eGulleters to marvel and wonder at.
We begin with the Kwakoe Festival. I went both 1 week before it ended, and then again on the last day. There were marked differences in everything but the smell of pork, that was the same.
So there I was in front of the sink today, holding a shiny clean butter knife in each hand. I turned around to face the kitchen island bar thingie, which I knew was the next thing I’d wanted to do, but once facing the island I was at a bit of a loss as to why I had not one but two butter knives, since I was the only one there. I looked down and saw the two pieces of fresh toast I'd just toasted. Ah, right, of course: one knife for buttering each piece of toast.
Welcome to temazepam. Luckily Thursday night’s dose was my last, and hopefully by tomorrow I will begin to return to Logic Land. And being able to type all of the letters in a word in the right order.
So I bet you’re wondering what that has to do with the hellish carnage pictured above, aren’t you? Nothing. But I’ll give you five whole U.S. dollars (equivalent to approximately 1 euro these days if I'm not mistaken) if you can tell me what book that photo is from (with a prerequisite being that you don’t already own the book).
Give up? Good, I can't spare the cash. It’s a photo from Jamie Oliver’s new cookbook, which is actually………pretty good. Entertaining, beautifully laid out and interestingly photographed, and pretty honestly Italian (for example, they're using the kid's plastic wading pool to catch the draining bloody entrails of a freshly killed animal...we saw that all the time in Italy). I’m borrowing somebody’s copy, and the reason I am is because when we were in Bergen last month:
Kenny made some very very good Sicilian polpette di tonno (tuna meatballs to me and you) based on a recipe from the book. He didn’t have the book with him in Bergen (which says several good things about Kenny), and couldn’t remember all of the ingredients because he was so fucking wasted (not really, he's a dad now), but what he did do was both attractive (though this picture does it no justice):
And really really fresh and delicious. Actually I think he did end up remembering all of the ingredients now that I've got the recipe in front of me: tuna, pine nuts, cinnamon, oregano, parsley, breadcrumbs, parmigiano-reggiano, eggs, and a lemon.
I’ve wanted to make polpette di tonno for a long time, I don’t know why I never got around to it. Sicilian food would probably have become my current cooking focus if I hadn’t gotten all goo-goo eyed over Surinamese food. I think it’s actually ga-ga eyed that I mean. Can it be either. Both? Is there a Dutch equivalent he wonders.
Anyway, my point was, Jamie Oliver, new cookbook, not bad…but for the love of baby jesus up in heaven, does Mr. Oliver have to be in so many of the pictures. Aaaaaaahh! Every other page, his faux-surfer mug is all proudly and goofily offending most of my sensibilities. Usually: I can stand a picture of the chef on the inside flap, plus one or two “action shots” either in the kitchen or “at the market” picking up something and pretending to smell it--that usually does the trick for me. Unless it's Tom Colicchio, then, well...the more photos the better, baby.
I may just need a Jamie Remover if I'm to look at this book any more. Or maybe someone give me another Crazy Drug an I just go all Hollywood psycho and slowly cut that bitch out of every picture in the book with my favorite childhood scissors, rocking back and forth and crying/mumbling (or mubling, as I just typed) all the while. Hmm, yes. But I think maybe I should wait until I buy my own copy of the book. Muble.
Hey, know how you can tell you’re a kick-ass cook? When you can make a rockin’, reasonably authentic-tastin’ (are pep-feignin', informality-indicatin' apostrophes another side effect of the medication, perchance?) tomato pasta sauce when your kitchen contains: no olive oil, no tomatoes, and no usable onions.
But you do have: canned mushrooms; canned black olives; tomato paste (not sounding very promising yet is it); dried oregano and rosemary; a lot of garlic; a nice jar of anchovies packed in oil; lots of fresh basil and celery leaf (ok there you go); and a substantial wedge of pecorino-romano cheese. And fresh ground black pepper and red pepper flakes.
OK, maybe not so impressive after all….but I thought it was a pretty tough challenge texturally. The sauce came out remarkably edible: I used an immersion blender to brutally impose a ragu state. And a long simmer mellowed the tomato paste-only problem. And I only used the oil from the anchovies. And I only re-bit my swollen lip once while eating it.
By the way, there's a point to Jamie's grisly-ness, and probly a valid one too...I was just "taking the piss," as those hooligans off to the immediate west like to say.
polpetti di tonno.
400g/14oz high-quality tuna
1 level teaspoon ground cinnamon
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
a handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
100g/3½oz stale breadcrumbs
55g/2oz freshly grated Parmesan
zest and juice of 1 lemon
New trivia: the wonderful Bottle Rocket's opening "ca-caw!" scene was actually filmed at Camarillo. Poor Owen.
Tonight was my first time back at the stove in a while, and I tried a spin on an old favorite substituting Surinamese ingredients for the original Southern stuff. Afterwards, General Consensus said, "These results are pretty goddamn tasty, PFC Morse: what the fuck did you do here, soldier?"
Well, sir, I: marinated my cod in Javaanse sambal (hopefully a recipe for this to follow), soy sauce, and sesame oil; substituted pink-skinned sweet bataat for reg'lar ol' taters, which meant I didn't have to use as much butter as I usually might...in fact barely any at all.
Sidebar: Ipomoea batatas, also known as boniato, Margarita, or kumara, is the version of the white-fleshed sweet potato that's used in Caribbean and South American cooking. But it's not actually a potato...they're apparently much healthier than potatoes).
One of my least favorite pastimes of late is the detective work necessary to figure out culturally-specific names for the same ingredient. Here's at least one helpful veggie-oriented resource for Asian/tropical ingredients.
Back to dinner: I also used palm sugar and butter in my corn; and sprinkled a touch of seroendeng and a tiny grate of nutmeg over the top when serving. In general a much healthier version of this dish. Garnished with celery leaves, basil, and chives...because my contract here requires me to sprinkle chopped green herbs over every dish I serve.
It really sounds like a fusion nightmare, but (mostly due to sudden energy wipeout) I seasoned with a lighter hand than usual, and the end result was suprisingly subtle and comforting. So subtle, in fact, that our Elizabethan collar-wearing Mačka kitty was able to enjoy many hand-fed morsels.
She is...a pitiful mess at the moment (it's been a run of rather dismal health for Apt. 100-M this month, hasn't it)...she's run into every piece of furniture in the house, can't eat or drink, and as a result has decided to just give up and lay there. Purring, though. We'll see what she decides to do at night to entertain herself (and Jo3n).
All doped up on (doctor-prescribed and appropriately self-administered) Temazepam this morning, and yet still awake, my thoughts eventually turned to food, as they usually can be counted on to do in times of psychic contortion.
In an effort to eat with a modicum of healthfulness, and to include my somehow-still-increasing (.....mmm, let's not say obsession, per se...let's call it:) interest in Surinamese food, I came up with this sandwich:
1 zuur haring filet (pickled herring) , patted dry
1 gezouten birambie, sliced lengthwise (a salted, pickled cultivar of the carambola fruit)
2 slices brown bread, toasted
1 scant tablespoon mayonnaise
Assemble, and eat over the sink because it's juicy.
OK, now what are the chances that a rather obscure tropical fruit that I happened to have in my refrigerator would have actual known drug interactions with the benzodiazepine that I am currently taking? Anyone? If the title of an abstract called "Inhibition of human cytochrome P450 by star fruit juice" revs your engine, you can read about it here.
Suffice to say, no more pickled birambie for this unfortunate fucker. But it was nice while it lasted. And I think there are other Surinamese pickles that would be just as lovely...you know, made with other, less-fucking-deadly tropical fruits.
couldn't we just talk
to each other in the dark
I probably should've mentioned this sooner, but: this week I've been semi-liveblogging my food-related activities over at eGullet.com. Totally fucking exhausting but a great exercise and ultimately pretty fun. Pictured above is my maiden voyage aboard the Good Ship Pom.
I'll need some time to recover, I'm eating nothing but oatmeal, yoghurt, and salad until further notice. And no pictures, please.