30.9.07

ocean of choice.



If I'd had a TV show in the mid 90s (and exactly why didn't I?), my theme song for the opening credits would've been "Vibracobra" from Polvo's Cor-Crane Secret CD (here's an MP3).

At least that's one choice in an ocean of potential choices, but this morning it seems right. It's not the coolest thing on the planet anymore, is it (too much Mighty Boosh lately, sorry Yanks) but in 1992 it sounded like it was searching for something that I identified with, either the something or the searching. This track in particular still makes me feel like I'm driving around a deserted suburban Raleigh, North Carolina office park at 4 in the morning searching for the one damn exit with an actual living security guard at it to let me out so I can get back to my Hampton Inn and try and sleep for 45 minutes before I have to get up, iron a shirt, drink some shitty hotel room coffee, find my way back to this office park, try not to eat too many of the crappy breakfast pastries, and micromanage my coffee intake for 3 hours so that I can do a sufficiently jacked-up 30-minute demo of some pre-beta software that will probably not do any of the things I'm about to show them by the time it ships...

Brrrrgh. The point was: that the driving around a deserted office park feeling was not bad in itself, and it was complemented nicely by Polvo's mix of playful curiosity and sarcastic frustration. And no one ever really sounded like Polvo again, which is a pretty amazing statement to try and stand behind, but there's always the "Who'd Want To" defense: their CD/album sound is an unwelcoming tangle of tinny guitar (and bass!) intros burying pop songs with lyrics that you either can't hear or can't decipher.

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All of which is related to Vegetarian Duck exactly how?: the Wikipedia entry for Polvo linked above finally forces me to take a moment and acknowledge the inadequacy and inaccuracy of Wikipedia in general: I use Wikipedia as the reference engine for this site because a) I think it will get better b) it has entries for lots of my more esoteric and/or pretentious interests and I like the idea of having a common resource for all of these, and c) it's not like these are life and death issues, is it: it's a indie rock band from North Carolina that about 400 people care about anymore.

Which brings me to my beef with this particular Wikipedia entry: straight-facedly citing Polvo as one of the primary instigators of "math-rock", a genre name which is used as a derogatory term in this and many other households ("how was the show?" "fucking math-rock bullshit" is a conversation I believe Mara and I had only days ago). Matt Sweeney from Chavez (another one of my favorite 1990s bands credited with being a math-rock pioneer) had this to say about the term math rock:

"It was invented by a friend of ours as a derogatory term for a band me and James (Lo) played in called Wider. But his whole joke is that he'd watch the song and not react at all, and then take out his calculator to figure out how good the song was. So he'd call it math rock, and it was a total diss, as it should be."

My point is: if I were me (except that I didn't know about Polvo), and I read the Polvo Wikipedia entry, I'd definitely go out of my way to avoid listening to them for even one second because of the cited math-rock association. In fact I'd probably go step on my calculator for even being reminded about math rock.

Ah well, at least the Polvo entry is 4,302 times more accurate and objective than the entry on noise music, which almost caused me to join the Wikipedia team and rewrite it myself.

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Last night I made zuppa di pesce with clams, mussels, and shrimp. This definitely isn't the accomplishment it sounds like: the evil Albert Heijn lured me in with their soy milk exclusivity program, and once they had in me in the frozen section they slapped the cuffs of convenience-oriented frozen shellfish on me. Stung.

AH has this bag of precooked frozen shellfish (known in our household as the Bag O' Death) that isn't good for much except dumping into an already-flavorful broth (after removing the tasteless squid and the inappropriate surimi from the bag), heating through, and pretending that you've made a real shellfish stew. So that's what I did.

The recipe I started with came out of an interesting little cookbook of Andy's, An Invitation to Italian Cooking by Antonio Carluccio. I say it's interesting (to me, at least) because Signore Carluccio seems to have been a celebrity chef, but this was back in 1986, before FoodTV even seemed like a good idea (assuming that it sounds like one now). And the recipes themselves are a slightly unusual selection of regional dishes, mixing the old standards with some personal family recipes that I haven't come across before. It's a nice book. Here's what I did.

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zuppa di pesce.

4 tbsp. olive oil
1 small red onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
half a glass of white wine
250g mixed shellfish (clams, mussels, shrimp for me)
2 pints or more fish stock
1 bay leaf
pinch saffron
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 slices buttered toast

Saute onion and carrots in oil for 5-7 minutes. Add wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add stock, bay leaf, saffron, garlic, and simmer for 20 minutes or until carrots are soft.

Add toasted bread, either to soup pot itself or to individual bowls. I added it to the soup pot last night and then to my individual bowl this morning. Both worked.

Serves 2-4.

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29.9.07

the egg of mantumbi.

















I was in the grocery store this morning when I noticed that the man in line in front of me had a live raven perched on his arm. As if the checkout lines at the Dirk van den Broek aren't dodgy enough. My first thought was, "how did this happen?" My second thought was, "Wow, are those...feathers in his hair?" The man had woven raven feathers into his dreadlock/braid hair arrangement, or maybe they just ended up there, leftover from a strong draft or intimate moment. He was buying tea and sardines, I'm guessing the tea was for him.

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For me this morning there was an organic boneless pork chop. I think it was a chop. It was boneless for sure. I hacked together a lazy fig/tamarind "chutney" to go with it: fig preserves, tamarind concentrate, ginger, cumin, a splash of coconut vinegar just out of curiosity...simmer the whole mess for 10 minutes or so. Tasty.

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The other night at the LYSN gig Hilary told me about The Mighty Boosh (official site), he couldn't believe I didn't know about it. I checked it out when I got home, and I can't believe I didn't know about it. I'm not a fan of tons of British comedy, but the stuff I do like is some of the most completely fucked (and funniest) humor I've ever seen. Chris Morris' Jam really just had me sitting there with my mouth open for about 2 weeks afterwards.

A transcript of a Boosh episode doesn't do us too much good because you miss Noel Fielding's (and his brother Michael's) voices, which sound exactly like Hilary, but here's one anyway. The synopsis of the ELECTRO episode is as follows: They work at the zoo. Vince is asked to join a pop band. Howard panics. Vince gets Howard involved. Together they attempt to break into the world of electro pop. But Howard has made a deal with the Spirit of Jazz many years before and it isn't long before his past comes back to haunt him.

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Scene 1.
Zoo. Exterior, near the hutches.


[Howard is listening to jazz blaring out of a small stereo, dancing twitchily. He is in a jazz trance. Vince enters, carrying a bucket.]

Vince: Hey, Howard. Howard. Oi, small eyes. [waves hand in front of Howard’s face, to no avail. Then to camera, sighing] He’s in a trance. A jazz trance. Every day he does this. It’s a pretty delicate procedure, getting him out. [slaps Howard across the face and jazz music stops]
Howard: [yelping in protest] Don’t do that. Ever.
Vince: What? Why?
Howard: Never do that to a man when he’s in a jazz trance.
Vince: Why?
Howard: I could have a heart attack! Eh? It’s like sleepwalking. I was deep in the juju then. I was chasin' the trane!
Vince: So what? Why don’t you try doing some work?
Howard: I’m gonna get round to my work, aren't I?
Vince: Are you.
Howard: This is my early morning procedure. Listen to my jazz, get myself juiced up, then go about my business.
Vince: No you don’t, you put your jazz on, go into a trance, ten past six, come out of the trance, go to the pub. That’s your day.
Howard: Have you got anything you could be doing, perhaps? Distributing seeds amongst the hoofed mammals maybe?
Vince: Yeah! I’m onto it…
Howard: Well how about it?
Vince: …because I started my day with this. [pulls a cassette tape from his pocket] Check this out. [Put tape in player and new-wave electro music comes out. Vince starts dancing semi-robotically.]
Howard: That is just making me feel physically sick. [Takes tape out of player and tosses it on the ground] What is that gloomy racket?
Vince: [In absolute disbelief] That’s the Human League!
Howard: That is electro nonsense.
Vince: They’re electro pioneers! They invented music!
Howard: Invented music?
Vince: Yeah!
Howard: What happened before them, then?
Vince: It was just tuning up before then.
Howard: Are you aware of the music known as jazz? Are you aware of jazz music? The movement of jazz?
Vince: [sighs] What do you keep going on about jazz for?
Howard: Because it’s the most important artform in the 20th Century. Hmm?
Vince: No one listens to jazz. Science teachers and the mentally ill, that’s all jazz is for.
Howard: You better take that back. You electro ponce.
Vince: Or what?
Howard: You better just take it back, that’s all.
Vince: I won’t be taking that back, I’ll be leaving it out there for all to see.
Howard: Drink it back up.
Vince: No. I hate jazz.
Howard: You hate jazz?
Vince: Yeah.
Howard: You fear jazz. Eh? [Vince looks sheepish] Ahh.
Vince: Shut your mouth.
Howard: Yeeeah. You fear jazz, don’t you?
Vince: No I don’t.
Howard: You fear the lack of rules.
Vince: No.
Howard: The lack of boundaries. Oooh! It’s a fence! No, it’s soft! Ahhhh! What’s happening? The shapes! The chaos! Eh? Has to be simple nursery rhymes for you, doesn’t it?
Vince: [distressed] Stop it. Stop the evil.
Howard: Simple little [to child’s schoolyard tune] “dee dee-dee de dee dee”.
Vince: Shut your mouth Howard.
Howard: The melody gets abstract. You mess your trousers. You run to your mummy.
Vince: Shut your mouth.
Howard: Eh? De-bop. Scoo-bup.
Vince: Don’t start scatting.
Howard: Bee-bup.
Vince: We don’t need scat at this point.
Howard: Dee be-de-bup-bow.
Vince: You better stop scatting.
Howard: Scoo-bup a doo-bup a deee KA!
Vince: This is your final warning.
Howard: Squiddily bee-bee, a scup –

[Vince throws the seedy contents of the bucket into Howard’s face and runs off]

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And so forth. Here's the YouTube of that scene. It's all on YouTube actually, go see it. And then buy the DVD, like I did.

The Hitcher. Series 1, Episode 8. One of my favorites. Great slap bass discussion in the Animal Transit Vehicle, and then a typically amazing cartoon at 8 minutes in. These are always exceptional, with genius narration from Vince. Then the awesome slap bass segment at the end.
Charlie. Series 1, Episode 6. Starts out a bit slow, but another amazing cartoon appears at 3 minutes or so. But in general not the greatest of episodes.
Jungle. Series 1, Episode 5. Lame beginning, but gets better fast.
The Priest and the Beast. Series 2, Episode 2. This is the episode that Hilary was referring to when he asked me if I'd seen The Mighty Boosh. Vincent and Howard are looking for a new sound for their band. The first 5 minutes are great, but I think it kind of disappears up its own Cheech & Chong-flavored ass for most of it, but then redeems itself in the last third.

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27.9.07

all those lines and circles.

















That miserable sadist Mara put on some 10,000 Maniacs this morning. Why, we must ask ourselves. Apparently she had their first hit lodged in her tiny fregola-sized brain and the only way she could dissolve the lodge was to befoul the apartment with the actual sounds of 10,000 Maniacs. And let me just say that, while I always found them to be stomach-churning, I'd never actually listened to the lyrics before. Mara was kind enough to sing along with the most offensive of them so that I could understand them better (using Natalie Merchant's equally offensive, completely affected accent/diction)...and I could scarcely believe it. Let's look at "Cherry Tree":

Over your shoulder, please don't mind me
if my eyes have fallen onto your magazine
for I've been watching and wondering
why your face is changing with every line you read.

All those lines and circles, to me, a mystery.
Eve pull down the apple and give taste to me.
If she would it would be wonderful, but my pride is in the way.
I cannot read to save my life, I'm so ashamed to say.

I live in silence, afraid to speak
of my life of darkness because I cannot read.

See? The singer, a 24-year-old artsy white chick, is illegitimate. She can't read!!!

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Regular reader(s) may recall the series of dinners last year that became known as "Smell and Learn"s (hereafter SnL). Last night while Andy dropped in to help Mara finish yesterday's Cotes du Ventoux, he revealed that he has been hankering for another installment of SnL. This coincides fortuitously with a half-assed "we should make cassoulet" topic that has been (ha, I wanted to say has been being) bandied about by Mara, Pete and myself.

Thus, we're making cassoulet during the weekend of October 27. Regular reader(s) may also recall a "now it's time to eat healthy" edict levied by our host some weeks ago; some bet-hedger should've mentioned the inevitable (I mistyped "unenviable", also true) lapses in vigilance that would occur. This will be one of them. I'm sure that many horrifically geeky planning posts will be borne here over the next few weeks, but for now let me just plant a reference to my primary source of cassoulet schematics: the first ever eGullet Cook-Off, devoted to, yes...cassoulet.

(Note: The cassoulet SnL has been postponed, 27 October will now turn its crusty eye toward gumbo instead. Here's the eGullet Cook-Off for gumbo.)

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Another Lapse in Vigilance showed up yesterday for breakfast (and more of them for dinner). It started out with its heart in the right place: the idea was to use up some spinach in an omelet. However, somewhere between the fridge and the pan the spinach was jettisoned in favor of tuna, onions, roasted red pepper and parmigiano-reggiano.

















Not that this is grossly unhealthy, but it's missing the leafy green vegetable that I was hoping to sneak in.

















Mara's the one behind the spatula at this juncture, and yes she does fine work: this was every bit as good as it looks...

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And then, during the day I accidentally started to read an eGullet topic about the unavoidable demise of raw-milk cheeses due to food safety issues. This made me realize that I needed to show my support for these deadly bacteria-coagulated milk products immediately by running downstairs to the Avondmarkt and plunking down some almighty Euros for as much raw-milk coagulence as I could afford.

















Which turned out to be 6 euros worth (I'm not made of money, you know). That's a bleu d'auvergne (mild raw cow's milk blue cheese), a brebiou (sheep's milk cheese from the Bearn region of southwest France), and a reblochon savoie (raw cow's milk cheese from the Alps). And other stuff too, while I was harming myself:











That's right, pate with Calvados and pain d'Ardenne, which I believe is a Belgian pork salami? Haven't had time to decode my non-English Google results yet.
Anyway, I started to get bummed out about the unhealthiness of our light dinner, but then I remembered: this is European food! You know, like the French! In my defense, I haven't eaten like this since the France tour in May. And I've really been doing pretty well lately from a diet perspective. Haven't I?

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25.9.07

spice of life and all.

















This tiny corner of the Internets continues to beg the question "are lame, uninspired updates better than no updates at all?" And the answer is: unknowable (to quote the immensely quotable Terrill Soules...I would love to include more context for this quote but the source poem has been revised into an alternate universe version which bears little resemblance to the version in my head).

So let's just talk about inexpensive fish. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only person on earth who enjoys catfish this much. It just doesn't seem to be one of those foods that people get passionate cravings for: BBQ, pizza, shrimp, pasta, sushi, etc.

But I am really going through some sort of infatuation with this lovely/lowly specimen, sticking to my once-a-week pattern for months now. Which means that I've had to develop an array of preparation methods for it so that my regular co-diners can participate in my catf(et)ish without suffering palate fatigue.

Below is the newest addition to the arsenal: slightly crunchy catfish pieces in a piquant Chinese black bean sauce. This version is the "I don't have any of the real ingredients, I've got to improvise" version, completely inauthentic. But the flavors work. The crunchiness is a bit unusual, I may switch to a mix of rice flour and something else. The distinctiveness of the crunch seems to be mitigated by placing the fish in the sauce for a few minutes. Anyway, this was just the sort of thing that my panga repertoire needed: no prep, spicy, light, yay.

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catfish in black bean sauce.

3-4 tbsp black bean sauce
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
2 tbsp ginger preserves
2 tbsp soy sauce
1-2 tbsp sake

600g pangafilet
1 cup rice flour, for breading
peanut oil for frying
salt
pepper
2 scallions, chopped

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Combine sauce ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes to blend flavors and cook off alcohol.

Coat fish with rice flour, salt, and pepper, and fry in a shallow layer of peanut oil until brown, 5 minutes per side or so.

Serve fish and sauce over rice, scattered with scallions.

amateur hour.

















Bleh...I've just been cooking in the laziest way imaginable, using the fewest steps possible to generate something that is generally mostly edible. Not a winning mission statement, that.

This lame directive usually results in "sandwiches", by which I mean taking a single piece of bread out of the bag, plopping something in there (some sardines in tomato sauce; a cut tomato, mayo, and mustard maybe; the "i'm not high, really!" peanut butter and ginger marmalade combo, etc.), and chomping it down in 45 seconds or less. Dunno what's up.

I did try to actively cook yesterday, but results were mixed: the soupish item pictured above was actually quite satisfying...it's basically a clam broth with bay leaves, a little crushed red pepper and saffron, the star of the show is not corn (as it appears in the photo) but fregola, one of my new favorite pastas.

At least I think it's fregola. I buy it at Bario Market downstairs (the Turkish guys), and while it really looks like fregola, it won't actually come out and admit to it, on the bag it just says "semolina pasta". It also looks quite a bit like Israeli couscous. And so yet another food nomenclature mystery unfolds at our sleepless narrator's grotesquely large feet...

Whatever this mystery pasta really is, it sports a highly attractive toothsomeness...I haven't been able to cook it past al dente (not that I've really tried), and it's just fun to eat. There, I said it. And the whole clam/saffron thing was a lovely match, making for a downright comforting lunch.

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Then I totally spazzed out for dinner. I bought 8 scallops at the fish girl, and some Calvados, and was going to make some recipe off of Epicurious, but then when I got home and looked at it again, I was like "meh, boring" and was all of the sudden planless.

Something I have been wanting to try was dusting my scallops with some sort of floury substance to allow them to pick up a better sear and not give off so much liquid. Tonight I chose cornmeal, because everyone knows that scallops and corn love each other to death, don't they. I also had some "duck bacon" in the fridge (thin, bacon-like strips of smoked duck breast) and some spinach I wanted to use up. Thus, the plan was: cornmeal-dusted scallops over smoked duck greens with a drizzle of reduced apple cream with a touch of unfiltered apple juice from Friesland and splash of Calvados.

















Yes, it sounds great but too fussy, doesn't it. It might even have been pretty good, but an unforseen problem arose: this is very very similar to the way I've been cooking catfish about once a week for the past 4 months. And, it turns out that while it's perfect for catfish, it's a bit much for scallops: they were overwhelmed by the "dusting" (just rolling them in fine cornmeal) and the spices (thyme, cayenne, pepper).

Ultimately it mostly reminded us of (and compared unfavorably to) my catfish, except with the added bummer that it was actually wasted scallops. The greens were good. The cream sauce was too healthy (no actual cream used).

Ah well. Back to catfish tonight.

23.9.07

shadow dancin'.

















Exhausted after yesterday's longness (?) and, well, yes...hardness: I injured my back with my 100-pound backpack, imagine that. Show was great fun to play and was enthusiastically received despite its rather shocking volume level...at one of the more intense moments in the set, Jaap the festival organizer was dancing with such velocity and sheer originality that it resists easy description....the best impression I can give you is one of an extremely excited squirrel combined with an Olympic speed skater. But much more energetic, and 52 years old. And looking like Rasputin.













Along with seeing some films, one of the nice things about this gig is that the vegan meals are well-prepared and we eat free. No pictures, but the menu was mushroom soup, a chickpea and pumpkin curry with tabbouleh and tzatziki (which initially struck me as lazy fusion, but it's actually quite a bit like the idea of an Indian curry over pilaf with raita and mint chutney, isn't it (sorry, spent too much time with the Brits lately), and soy milk vla (Dutch pudding-y substance), which I skipped, but the first two dishes were very enjoyable.

Oh, I forgot: the sound man was so unpleasant it was as if he knew what I was expecting and was just fucking with me to be funny. But he wasn't. We did the sound ourselves. Maybe I'll add an actual conversation next post.

21.9.07

weak after week.

















It's been a busy week of alcohol-free socializing...commentary to follow, but probably not until after Saturday's top secret LYSN gig, which will either be tremendous fun or the utter disaster that it's threatened to be every time we've played there in the past.

It tends to go like this: we show up, marvel at how cool and inviting and relaxed the general vibe and space is; wonder where the sound man is; smoke 13,174 boredom cigarettes waiting for sound man to appear; sound man eventually shows up with about the same level of sound man proficiency as the average Vegetarian Duck reader; we end up handling the sound ourselves, which is fine, but we could've saved ourselves 3 hours and 13,174 cigarettes if we'd known this earlier; we each make a trip home to search for cables most normal venues would have laying around, etc. Worst case, the sound man is not only ignorant and useless but also insecure and territorial, so while he can't do his job properly, he won't let us do it either...

All of which kind of ruins the cool and relaxed atmosphere for us, so this year we're prepared: we're just going to pretend that there's nothing but an un-plugged-in PA amp and speakers sitting in a field somewhere and it's our job to get it working.

Why do we continue to play here? Well, for one it's still 1968 here. And it's a very different and open-minded audience than we're accustomed to, their reactions are visceral, inarticulate, and fantastic. Plus the whole concept of what we do is foreign to them, and it's such a welcome change from playing to the same 50 jaded people all the time. Here's an a excerpt from post-show audience member conversation our first time there:

Audience Member: wow, that was amazing. so, how long have you guys been playing together?
Me: we've never played together before.
AM: [laughs] no, really.
Me: really...
AM: what do you mean?
Me: i mean this is the first time we've ever played together, ever. i just met the other guitar player for the first time 13,147 boredom cigarettes ago.
AM (cocks head, dog-like): what do you mean you just met him?

etc.

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Pictured above, Sunday's homemade Nolio for Scrabble: focaccia with caramelized onions, prosciutto, and a lemon-pepper cream sauce...cast your doubts aside, it's tasty.

15.9.07

integrity intact: let's eat.

















Gig over, no foul sins committed by me. I honestly don't know what our drummer is doing in this picture (I wasn't watching). But this sort of pose is not terribly unusual...his general setup on stage quite often looks like he's recently passed out at a party and everyone just piled random junk on top of him while he slept and now he's trying to battle his way out from under.

















Nice photos of Joost and Gunga, while I apparently confined myself to the more shadowy areas of the stage...

















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Back to cooking something besides toast tomorrow. If I feel ambitious, I'd like to try something based on the incredibly inspiring StudioKitchen's king crab treatment here: maybe surimigarnalen (uh, fake shrimp made out of surimi) with lemon-miso glaze, daikon, pickled peaches, peppercress, and pink grapefruit. Sounds amazing.

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9.9.07

general notice and flashback.















Sorry the posts have been pretty workmanlike lately, I've been, eh...thinking about other stuff (so it is possible) and the fact that there are posts at all is mostly to do with me not wanting to forget things. Yes, I know that's what drafts are for, but I believe I've already mentioned that for me Blogger drafts are about as useful as writing down something and then eating it.

I will be going back and re-working these lame posts whenever it is that I do return to normal blogging, because....I guess that's the way I write, I'm an editor.

Things should return to normal after this week's gig. I think my schedule this week would've been fine, except I stewpidly agreed to DJ all night as well as play, and that's just retarded, because on my list of timesucking obsessions, crate digging is second only to cookbook reading (which reminds me, exactly what is the correlation between DJing and cooking skills...more on this later). But I'm trying to manage myself a little better these days.

I've also got to cook something for our quarterly house dinner on Tuesday, for which everyone in the building signs up to make something of their own choosing. So far, people are making: guac and chips; salad; pumpkin soup; nasi tumpeng, yellow rice with tempeh and sambal; and a lemon tart. So it would seem that we need another hearty main dish to go with that yellow rice.

I've been thinking about doing something with eggs...the relatively old photo above (jaysus, who poured that glass of wine...was O'Neill in the room?) is of what used to be The Best Thing We Ever Made. This picture is from 2001, and the edible in question is a southwestern invention called the tamale tart, essentially a complicated quiche with a crust made from tamale masa. This one is a knockout: rosemary-infused eggs with a smoked mozzarella interior; a corn and roasted poblano relish; and a lovely (what? get him!) charred tomato and habanero salsa that is very mild but just perky enough.

It's truly awesome, but a bit of work. Not sure that the house meeting warrants tamale tarts. I'll keep ye posted, mates.

the last mac mac mackerel.






















This is one of those drawings that happens when you're sitting around after dinner with creative types and one of them says, "let's play that game where someone draws part of a picture, then folds it down so you can't see what they drew, and then they pass it on to someone else to draw the next part, etc."

I drew the head, having no idea that some witty person would label this as a portrait of me (while not knowing what it looked like). Except for the implied foot odor, it' s remarkably accurate I must say.

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One food tidbit to document: I've been reading about how chipotles and mackerel are supposed to complement each other for 10 years now, pretty much since I started cooking southwestern food (meaning southwestern USA). Regardless of the cookbook author, they pretty much all say the same thing: oily fish, strong taste and odor, chipotles cut through, blah blah blah. Maybe it's all the same cookbook author, come to think of it. Damn you, Chris Schlesinger!

I've never tried it, b/c I'm the only person I know who really likes mackerel. Furthermore, almost all of the mackerel I eat is smoked, and all of the recipes I've seen have been for fresh mackerel, grilled, with something like a chipotle vinaigrette.

But today for lunch I had a peppered, smoked mackerel filet sitting around, and decided to put it on a sandwich with a decent tomato and some chipotle mayonnaise (just a few drops of adobo sauce from the chiptole can actually, stirred into a couple tablespoons of mayo). And, yes, it was a great sandwich: the smokiness and tomato called to mind a BLT, the chipotle provided a bit of a tap on the shoulder of my one collective taste bud.

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I made this sandwich again the next day, and I'll have to say that toasting the bread was a wicked smart adjustment, the affair needed a bit of crunch. A cuke might not have been the worst idea either but I didn't try that.

Here's my as yet untested version of the chipotle vinaigrette recipe that I referenced above.

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mackerel with chipotle vinaigrette.

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1 tablespoon coarse Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon pureed chipotle chile and adobo

1 tbsp chopped cilantro

Juice of 2 limes

1-3 tsp raw sugar

3 tbsp EVOO

Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

2 mackerel filets

2 tbsp EVOO


Make vinaigrette with first 8 ingredients. Pour half over fish and let marinate for 1 hour.
Salt and pepper fish and grill or broil for 15-20 minutes.
Cut into portions and serve with remaining vinaigrette over top.
Also nice with a dollop of cilantro or basil mayonnaise on the side.

Serves 4.

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8.9.07

old, faithful.

















This dish materialized as part of our standard weekly repetoire a couple of years ago, but it proved too easy and too delicious not to overutilize, and we eventually burned ourselves out on it. Plus, our grocery store across the street stopped selling this "arugula mélange" that we were using for the greens: it was basically arugula, chives, dill, and some mâche (something like watercress but sweeter).

Now, yes, this is not very difficult to put together oneself. But it's kind of a hassle to keep the fresh chives and dill around, at least for us, especially dill because we don't use it as often as other herbs...so, my point is: it was very easy to just pick up some arugula mélange instead. Until they stopped making it, that is.

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Last night I busted this out for the first time in probably 4 or 5 months, and it was still fast, easy, great, and healthy. And we all like it, not just the humans in the house, but the kitties have a hard time resisting it as well (note the kitty paw coming in from the northeast here):


















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salmon and mâche
mustard, honey, sherry vinegar, walnut oil.

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250g salmon filets

4 tbsp walnut oil
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
2 tbsp coarse dijon mustard

2 cups mâche, or substitue watercress, arugula, mesclun, etc.
1/2 cup fresh dill, torn
1/2 cup fresh chives
salt
pepper

Oven on at 200C. Rub salmon filet with 2 tbsp walnut oil, and salt/pepper a bit. Put fish in oven for 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile combine remaining walnut oil with sherry vinegar, honey, and mustard. Whisk, taste, and tweak based on your sweet/sour/oil preferences.

Mix greens and herbs.

Take fish out, place on greens, drizzle dressing over top. We occasionally add toasted pecans, almonds, or pine nuts to the greens. Also nice with some goat cheese croutons/toasts on the side.

Serves 2.

ketchup time.


















How could I not have used this extreeeeemely hilarious pun before? I eat ketchup all the time. And, see, I need to "catch up" all the time.

Mimes putting gun to temple and pulling trigger, a la Seth Rogan in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Mr. Rogan's update of the gesture involved adding the messy exit wound spray from the opposite temple.

(NOTE: Huh, this scene isn't even in the screenplay, meaning that it must be one of those nutty improvisational bits we've heard so much about).

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I''ve been spending far too much time on the internets lately, mostly for music stuff, but you know how that goes...no matter what you're actually looking for, there's a tendency toward meandering. I'm trying quite hard to rein in my natual distractionist inclinations, but I just got sucked into the malignant whirlpool of CNN somehow (for the first time in months), and I can still feel its poisonous residue in the room....

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Ketchup really is my comfort condiment. And it pretty much has to be Heinz brand...nothing else labelled ketchup actually tastes like what I think of as ketchup.

So it was declared ketchup time at breakfast on Wednesday morning. Well, in all honestly it was declared tempeh time: there was a brick of tempeh languishing on the fridge door and it didn't have many good days left. The reason it was still sitting there weeks after I bought it: I've never successfully cooked tempeh before. I think that without fail my results have ended up in the garbage instead of in my gullet.

Tempeh is one of those unforgiving foods...if it's not cooked perfectly, it can be downright gross. So I fried it, and salted it, and...it was great. But it tasted so much like a french fry that...you see where this is going. Ketchup time.

4.9.07

pangapom.

















Yes, this looks almost exactly like the last time I made pom. However, there are some important distinctions. 1) This is a catfish (or pangafilet) pom instead of a chicken pom. 2) I did several things differently this time, including using way too much panga filet (the extra fish was reserved for another use before baking, but it ended up stealing some of the onions and tomatoes from the baked dish) and a little too much butter (the recipe below contains the measurements I should've used).

And thus my resulting texture, while more like the pom that I'm used to being served at Suriname restaurants, was less suited for standalone presentation than the last pom I made...this time it really kinda needed a baguette or some rice to go with it. The photo above is actually of ice-cold pom, that's the only reason it's got some shape. I know I'm not supposed to reveal those kinds of food styling details. Please don't tell.

















Regardless, it's just amazing how easy it is to make pom, I just can't get over it. Here's the recipe I was trying to make, but I didn't follow it, if I had, I think everything would've been just poi-fect.

















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panga pom (surinamese catfish and malanga casserole).

400g pangafilet, cut into 2cm strips
freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper

100g zoutvlees
150g butter
3 yellow onions, chopped
5 canned roma tomatoes, chopped
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
2 tbsp palm sugar

1 kilo pomtajer/malanga/new cocoyam, grated
1/3 cup celery leaves, chopped fine
the juice of 2 oranges, or one big one
the juice of 1 lemon
freshly grated nutmeg (maybe 20 gratings)
salt
pepper

Soak the zoutvlees in cold water for 30 minutes or so, then rinse and dice the meat. Rub the panga pieces thoroughly in a mix of equal parts salt, pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg. Brown the catfish pieces in a sautepan, using a little of the butter to facilitate if necessary. Add the zoutvlees and saute for 5 minutes or so, then add the rest of the butter and the onions, tomatoes, chicken broth and palm sugar, and simmer until the palm sugar melts.

Turn off the heat. Grab your defrosted, grated pomtajer. Add the orange and lemon juices and the celery leaves to the pomtajer, then add all of the liquid from the catfish mixture, and stir to integrate everything.

Spread half of the pomtajer mixture along the bottom of a buttered baking dish, and then place a layer of the catfish mixture on top. Top with a layer of the pomtajer mixture. Dot the top with butter if you feel like it.

Bake for 90 minutes at 175C. After about an hour check to see if the top is drying out. If it is, either dot some more butter on top, or if you think you've already added plenty of butter, you can mix things around in the baking pan to moisten. Before serving, salt to taste (you can't taste it earlier because uncooked pomtajer can make your stomach hurt really bad due to its high oxalic acid content, which is denatured during the cooking process).


















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In other news, the above photo shows the lovely Mara modelling our new standard-issue Moep Family protective headgear, a security measure deemed necessary after our latest domestic bungle: Mačka kitty accidentally (at least we're treating it as an accident) fell off of our 20-foot-high second floor railing and bashed her chin on the ground. She's fine, we think: brain function pretty undetectable as usual, appetite strong as ever...basically she's got a busted lip. I guess my point is: August's health jinx seems to be reluctant to relax its deathgrip on the hapless Moep Family in Apt. 100-M.

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