31.1.08

b-b-b-b-b-b.

















Yesterday we finally achieved the Worst Weather of the Year. At least it's hard to see how it could get too much worse than this without being upgraded to Cosmic Frigging Windstorm status like last January, a storm which blew the fronts off of buildings, knocked trees into canals, etc.

We, of course, weren't around for that one, so we can't really compare the two head to head. I guess what I'm saying is, the conditions were very cold and very windy (40F with 40mph winds), and that meant staying inside and making some comfort food.

Mara placed a request for bibimbap, and it was a stellar suggestion. Trouble was, we only had two reasonable vegetables in the house, green beans and something called "tender stem broccoli" that I got at the Natuurwinkel.

I almost never go to the Natuurwinkel anymore because someone works there who I really don't want to talk to. Does this ever happen to you? Where you so badly want to avoid talking to a particular person that you no longer go to a place that you used to go all the time and would ideally still like to be going to?

So I don't go to the Natuurwinkel anymore. Yesterday, however, I made a gross tactical error. I somehow thought that, using only my manly intuition, that I could detect this person's presence (or absence) without actually going into the store. So I fired up the ol' Intuition Simulator, and after verifying that my nemesis wasn't working at that moment, I went in.

I turns out that I cannot actually detect whether or not a certain person is working without going into the store. Because of course they were there. Not only were they there, but they came up to the cash register as I was checking out because someone needed a price check. I think we call this a "backfire". Evasive maneuvers, Mr. Sulu! Good thing I had my headphones on. I just stared at the wall like a dog who's been yelled at.

So that sucked. The broccoli, though, was good enough to be almost worth it.

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minibibimbap, hastily jotted.

250gr beef, thinly sliced
400gr young broccoli, cut into 5cm lengths, 1/4-inch thickness
400gr green beans, cleaned
8 tbsp sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, pressed
salt
1 tbsp soy sauce
1-2 tsp orange zest, minced
1 tbsp shao hsing wine
salt

Marinate the beef in 2tbsp of sesame oil, 1 clove of garlic, 1 tbsp soy sauce, the orange zest, and 1 tbsp shao hsing.

Meanwhile blanch the green beans and broccoli (separately). Shock the broccoli in cold water, but not the beans. Place each in their own bowl and salt to taste. Then toss the beans and broccoli each with 2 tbsp of sesame oil and a clove of pressed garlic. Marinate them for at least an hour and preferably 3 or 4.

When the veggies are ready, saute the beef in a wok over high heat for 5 minutes or so. Sprinkle sesame seeds over beef.

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UPDATE: Well, well, well. Miss Mara made her own bibimbap on Sunday, and it's the most beeyooootiful one yet:

30.1.08

better days will haunt you.



YouTube, Destroyer of Worlds. I just found this yesterday, one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite guitar bands of the early 1990s, the video for which goes a considerable way towards explaining why only a handful of 25-year-old men ever knew who they were. I think the highlight for me is the very Mara-like dance move at 2:51.

Why am I posting it here, yes, fine question. The video is haunting me a bit. Also to remind myself to remain alert for another NYC gig from them this year, so that I might place myself amongst the members of the audience. And the below is just to celebrate the glory of the Internets and for, well, Further Listening:

Chavez: The Guard Attacks/Unreal is Here (remastered) (MP3)

Chavez's "The Guard Attacks" is a song you would play for a Martian who wanted to know what electric guitars are for. It's only three minutes long, yet Clay Tarver and Matt Sweeney splatter the walls with power chords and explosive harmonics, surging from peak to peak. Plus, the words are funny ("Your uncertain age gives me the shakes"), and the drummer is a madman. -Rob Sheffield, Rolling Stone

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I made "my" black bean + duck chili tonight, photos n shit later maybe...but maybe not.

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29.1.08

kool thing.



It never ceases to amaze me how thick I can be linguistically. I mean I'm OK with English, but I am just dumb as toast when it comes to dealing with more than one language, or recognizing cross-language similarities. Sad, really, considering where I hang my hat.

For example today I was sitting around, taking a break from trying to avoid doing my taxes, and my mind wandered itself all the way over to the U-nited States: I started thinking about cole slaw (also referred to as cabbage salad in some places, but the two can also be very different things). After a few moments appreciating the technical points of putting together a good cole slaw, I turned my gigantic, supercomputer-like mind towards deriving the provenance of the term cole slaw. I looked out at the grey Amsterdam skies, put my feet up on the arm of the couch, and let the ruminating begin. Who was this Cole character? A wealthy cabbage baron from Savannah? A Confederate general. Or a BBQ pitmaster. Someone's mother. We don't know.

Well, I didn't know. So I checked the Google Wire, and...let me just say for you non-Dutch speakers out there that the word for cabbage in Dutch is kool (pronounced like "coal", or, well..."cole") and the word for salad is sla. Duh.

The cole slaw reverie resulted in a dinner that sounded great but was let down by some really insipid salmon: kind of pale and watery and tasteless...is this what farm-raised salmon is tasting like these days? Blecch. Also, my cole slaw didn't have time to soften up. Anyway, BBQ salmon plus corn w/chipotle butter and underage buttermilk cole slaw was what it was. Kool sla.

So, also, we now know that, in the video, one of Kim Gordon's go-go dancers is wearing a belt that says "cabbage".

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28.1.08

anything you don't eat?






















We were having our Dutch immigraation lawyer and his wife over for dinner back in 2002, and a week or so before they came we asked them (as one does), is there anything you guys don't eat? This was their response via email:

"Only a very few things we do not like, as: winning pâtes, quiches, pies, chutneys, sauces, oils, biscuits and toffee; Cuisine sauces (For use in your own creations), traditional Chutneys, Organic mayos, Salad dressings, Sun-dried and chargrilled vegetables, Artichokes, courgettes, tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers, Salads in a jar and easy to prepare risottos, Flavoured tagliatellis, Pasta twists with a difference and culinary rice from Italy, Luxurious mi-cuit foie gras from the SW of France, rough terrines from Alsace and Aquitaine and a selection of pâtes from regional France and Italy, Dried wild mushrooms, Italian and French truffles and their derivatives, Greek Pine & Fir tree honey, French pure fruit jams, English spiced honey, Agenais cocktail of fruits, Valrhona cuisine chocolate and Pruneaux d'Agen. Tagliatelli with smoked salmon, Simple Cepe /Porcini Pasta, Pissenlit aux lardons (dandelion & Bacon salad), Omelette with Truffles (Serves 4), The perfect Wedding Breakfast! Baked Aubergine & Mushroom Pie or Gratin, Chorizo Puffs, Chinese Canapés, Tricolore salad, Consomme Sylvestre, Wild mushroom soup and...eh, so many other things..."

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27.1.08

ladyfingers.

















This is Saturday's Okra Pile. I had intended to make some gumbo, but once again I got distractified by my double headphones, and ended up just throwing together an Indian recipe for Bhindi Bhaji. Very simple: oil, chopped onion, cumin, coriander, turmeric, chili powder and a can of tomatoes. And 500gr of cut okra. Cook until sliminess abates. This is not the most thrilling okra recipe I've ever made, so if you've never prepared okra before, don't start here.

But: what made the leftovers roughly 75 times more interesting was the addition of 1 blazingly hot Ethiopian red chile pepper and 2 tbsp of organic peanut butter, taking it in an African direction. Really!

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passage.










If you ever find yourself feeling a bit too optimistic, try playing this for 5 minutes. I did, and got rid of that pesky good mood in no time at all!

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Later that evening...equilibrium was restored via a scoop of Häagen-Dazs Coconut Macaroon with sautéed bananas. Try this if you live in a territory where Coconut Macaroon is sold. If not, H-D vanilla with sautéed peaches and cinnamon works pretty well too, and it's good luck to sprinkle a little bourbon on your peaches (blush) before you warm them up.

order up.

















Ah, solo dining (well, you can see my non-human expediter Mačka above checking the integrity of this plating). Normally this would be an opportunity for me to cook something that my roommate does not thoroughly enjoy. Something with lots of trassi or other stinky fermented fish products, most likely.

Last night, though, I was "wearing the double headphones" and didn't really want to stop for an extended cooking session. What? Oh, you caught that bit of new lingo I'm using? Yeah: "double headphones" refers to my new "home studio" recording technique (my "home studio" is my "laptop"). Due to an as-yet-undiagnosed technical problem, I currently have to wear two sets of headphones simultaneously in order to monitor both myself and the tracks I've already recorded. I'm sure I don't have to tell you that this look is potent, sexually explosive, something like 180-proof aphrodisiac, bitches be climbing up to my third-story window just to sneak a peek at the double headphones. And I just slowly turn my incredibly cumbersome headphone helmet in their general direction and flash them with the "what up, bitches" eyebrow raise. And they, eyes fluttering, unable to control their limbs, slowly release their grip on the windowsill and plummet, moist and trembling, to the littered street below.

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Since I couldn't stop DHing, I just wanted to open a jar of something and throw its contents and several other barely considered items in a wok together, so I did the following. Thing is, unless your mango chutney is 1) homemade and 2) Surinamese, your results won't taste anything like mine. Not that I made mango chutney or anything, but it's another Surinam Food Amsterdam product from the toko downstairs (SFA, besides being totally unGoogleable, are the makers of Surinaamse Sambal X-Hot, the only combination condiment/tooth pain reliever on the market) , and you can tell just by looking at the color of the brick-red mango pieces in the sauce that it's barely related to those Major Grey or Patak characters. Plus, it gots habanero in there.

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tjatnie kip met kouseband
.

1/2 cup Surinamese mango chutney
3 tbsp walnut oil
2 chicken breasts, cut into 2cm cubes if you are so inclined
1/2 cup chicken broth
300gr haricot verts or Chinese long beans, cut
2 tbsp ketjap manis
1 tbsp butter

I combined the walnut oil and chutney and marinated the chicken in it for a couple of hours. Then I got a wok hot enough to de-flesh this Lil' K-Pon if he wasn't careful and dumped the chicken in there to brown it. After a few minutes I added the chicken broth and put a lid on the wok for 1o minutes or so. When the chicken was cooked I tossed the haricots verts in there and put the lid back on to steam everything for 5 minutes or so, then added the ketjap manis and butter and tucked in. Served 1 last night and should do another one today.

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26.1.08

bit, kibbeling.

















I've talked about kibbeling a bazillion times here, but I've somehow never taken a decent picture of it before, usually because I'm too busy burning the roof of my mouth with it.

So, what I always say about it is: you wouldn't believe the lightness of the coating. Yeah, yeah. What I don't usually say is: this particular fishmonger liberally dusts their kibbeling (after it's fried) with a spice mix called simply viskruiden, from a brand name called Degens, but the mix itself is pretty unsimple and does a great job of elevating this into something beyond fish 'n' chips.

The ingredients to Degens Vis mix are: salt, coriander, mustard seed, white pepper, ginger, mace, nutmeg, fenugreek, chives, chervil, something I can't identify called lavaswortel, marjoram, thyme, rosemary.

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noir binge.

















As part of a questionnaire somewhere, I was just recently forced to acknowledge that my favorite film genre is the noir, which the barely recognizable these days Roger Ebert calls "the most American film genre, because no society could have created a world so filled with doom, fate, fear and betrayal, unless it were essentially naive and optimistic."

Seeing Gone Baby Gone on Thursday reminded me that I should probably catch up on the classic noirs that I haven't seen yet (or rewatch the ones I haven't seen in a while, like Touch of Evil) before watching another single new movie that rehashes one of the classic plots (private detective gets involved in something that's not what it seems). Some research on the Google wires turned up several hundred opinions on what the "essential" original noirs are. From that buffet of information I have placed the following tiny nibbles on my plate:
  1. A Touch of Evil, Directed by Orson Welles (1958)
    Starring Orson Welles, Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh
  2. Out of the Past, Directed by Jacques Tourneur (1947)
    Starring Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, Kirk Douglas
  3. Sweet Smell of Success, Directed by Alexander Mackendrick (1957)
    Starring Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison
  4. The Killers, Directed by Robert Siodmak (1946)
    Starring Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardner, Edmond O’Brien
  5. The Killing, Directed by Stanley Kubrick (1956)
    Starring Sterling Hayden, Elisha Cook Jr., Coleen Gray
  6. The Asphalt Jungle, Directed by John Huston (1950)
    Starring Sterling Hayden, Sam Jaffe, Louis Calhern
  7. In a Lonely Place, Directed by Nicholas Ray (1950)
    Starring Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame
  8. The Lost Weekend, Directed by Billy Wilder (1945)
    Starring Ray Milland, Jane Wyman, Phillip Terry













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UPDATE: so I bought #1, 2, 7, and 8 today, 10 euros each. I also bought a half kilo of okra. What is I gwine to do with it: okra fritters? gumbo? And why does the rest of the text after a numbered list lose its correct line spacing? Oh, right, 'cause Blogger is still a piece of shit.

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Also, I watched In a Lonely Place yesterday, and I must say that I would like to know what Gloria Grahame would've thought of the ol' double headphones. If. You. Know. What. I'm. Sayin':




























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25.1.08

tat for tit.

















Klary generously donated to us some of her this year's batch of erwtensoep, or snert (or Dutch split pea soup), and it really was a knockout. And we're not just saying that so we get to be on the snertlijst for next year.

The biggest differences between Klary's construction and the versions we've had in the past were: the consistency (not as thick as most we've had), and the variety of meats therein: not just rookworst (sausage), but plenty of shredded pork, and it makes a huge difference in terms of livening up the overall texture. Klary also says that her extra-long cooking time is a vital factor, and well heck we believe her. Here's her recipe.

In response to this textbook snert delivery, we're going to return fire with a batch of something from our past that the shredded pork in this soup immediately brought to mind: Brunswick Stew.

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Most BBQ joints in Georgia worth anything at all offer Brunswick Stew on the menu, but I had my first taste before I could even drive, because it used to make regular appearances on our school lunch menu (which I'm sure was just the result of someone opening an industrial-sized can of Castleberry's). We drifted apart for a while there, Brunswick Stew and I, when I went down to Florida for a spell, but we found each other again after I graduated from "college" and started discovering the aforementioned Georgia BBQ joints.

I also started becoming a pretty regular visitor to St. Simons Island, the closest attractive coastal area to Atlanta. On the way to St. Simons, you pass through none other than Brunswick, Georgia, home of...

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Well, not really. Looks like Brunswick Stew may have originated in Virginia. But nonetheless, there's plenty of darn good stew to be had as you head towards the Georgia coast.

The biggest challenge in making this is going to be finding a recipe that serves less than 12 people. Yes, I know I can fractionize the dang things, I ain't retarded. But you know, sometimes they don't work out quite right.

Anyways, here's what I dug up, recipe-wise: About.com has several recipes, but I've never had bell peppers or ham in mine, so I'm-a suspicious. In fact, none of them really look right.

Ah, right. Here's the eGullet topic on Brunswick Stew.

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24.1.08

all the mandelas.

















Remind me to tell you about the shockingly entertaining Henry Rollins talk I went to last night (for free). I'd always kind of thought that he was an obnoxious, unfunny macho meathead, but last night he filled 3 hours with what is probably the funniest, most engaging public speaking I've ever seen, and I've seen plenty (hitches up pants above waistline and blows nose violently into a cloth handkerchief). Plus he's a pretty killing impressionist (as in, he does impressions), or maybe that's called a mimic if you're not so serious about it. Whatever, consider me converted. Maybe I don't know everything.

(ETA: After a little bit of research, I've decided that he wasn't always as good as he is right now. In fact, even as recently as 2004, he sounds pretty much like Evan, Mara's younger cousin, used to sound: amusing, engaging, deeply knowledgeable about certain deeply geeky subjects, highly opinionated, a little obnoxious and basically putting on a show every time he opens his mouth, but without being quite as funny or smart as he wants to be. This is fine if you're out in the backyard grilling, but not something I'd pay money for, and definitely not something I could imagine listening to 3 hours of. So, maybe I just caught him on a really good night at the Paradiso.)

There was a howler of a segment about what we can expect from Mr. Bush's English now that Karl Rove is not around to organize Bush's thoughts (this is but one recent revealing/terrifying example). Mr. Rollins likened English words to sheep grazing in a pen inside Bush's mind. Rove the shepherd used to keep the pen shut and the sheep tended, but now the gate to the pen is open and the sheep are roaming freely over the countryside, eating garbage and standing on cars, and there's absolutely no telling what they'll do next, so these are exciting times.

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Chinese cooking coming along sizzlingly, ha. Below is today's lunch: pork with sichuan mustard greens and peanuts, and broccoli with oyster sauce (and a leeeetle butter). This pork was 100% simple and cheap, plus them mustard greens is supposed to be mighty healthful. The pork recipe came out of my newest Chinese cookbook (which one? get it, Wei Chuan, ahahahahahaha), which is a dang sight more useful than my first one. Anyway, I'll be making this pork again.

















And Mara made this last night out of beans and a shirt (the below photo, not the above photo). In about 10 minutes. If only there were some kind of Top Creature Maker contest or something like Ready, Steady...Make a Creature! She'd dominate them like she does me.

23.1.08

in a braise of glory.






















This is the as-yet-unnamed new rescue puppy at the Atlanta compound. Molly and Easy would approve I'm sure.

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I seem to be a bit behind the curve, as they say, with regard to Molly Stevens. God, I bet they still say that, don't they, those fuckers. Who knows what else they say these days. I'm glad I don't know.

So, yeah, I've been meaning to take a gander at All About Braising since I came across Klary's effusive praise for it somewhere, and then I saw this eGullet thread about it, and then recently MattBites posted about it, suggesting that he was the last sentient being on Earth to be cooking this shizz.

And so, I'm here to claim what is rightfully mine: I am the last geeky cooking person alive to discover All About Braising. Behold, you dirty rat-bastards! All kneel before the Littlest of Capons!

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Here is Ms. Stevens' Braised Endive With Prosciutto recipe, cooked by me for lunch today:

















Yes. The best endive I've ever had, no contest. Completely non-bitter, and you could drink the sauce (which I know should be a little darker, but I was hungry) by the shot glass. Some scrumpy mother stole the damn prosciut' off this plate before the camera could be located.

Bonus: more of Ms. Stevens' recipes are online here. The below is a work in progress, mostly the same text as the link above at the moment, but I'll be VDuck-izing it shortly.

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braised endive with prosciutto.

3 Belgian endive (witlof)
1 tbsp unsalted butter
3 thin slices of prosciutto, cut lengthwise into 1-inch-wide strips with fat left on
1/4 cup chicken stock
freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp cream


Heat the oven to 175C.
Butter a baking dish.
Cut each endive lengthwise in half.

Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When the butter just stops foaming, add endive, cut side down, and cook until nicely browned, about 5 minutes. Turn the endive and brown for a minute or two on the other side. Transfer the browned endive to the baking dish, arranging them cut side up.

Still over medium heat, add the strips of prosciutto to the skillet and turn to coat them with the remaining butter, or add 1 tbsp if you need to. Drape the prosciutto over the endive in the baking dish. Add the stock to the skillet and bring to a boil over high heat. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen any brown bits, and pour the stock over the endive and prosciutto.

Cover the baking dish tightly with foil. Braise until the endive are collapsed, 30 to 35 minutes.

Remove the foil and baste the endive by spooning over any juices from the pan. If the pan is dry, add 2 tablespoons of water. Braise, uncovered, for another 8 to 10 minutes, until the pan juices have turned a caramel color and almost completely evaporated. Pour over the heavy cream and bake until the cream takes on a caramel color and thickens to a sauce-like consistency, another 5 minutes or so. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 2 or 3.

17.1.08

poppin' the protein.

















Whew! Easiest show ever at OT301 (which now has an updated Wikipedia entry, interesting) tonight. It helped tremendously that almost no one came to the show and we did last call quite early, at 12:30am. Are my priorities askew?

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I sustained an impressive, nearly artful 14-part burn today when accidentally dropping a not-dry-enough chicken breast into a wok of boiling oil from an unsafe height (can't really take a picture of the whole thing b/c my arm doesn't bend that way). Fryer burns are really not pleasant: avoid them if you can. Grip your chicken tightly.

















After much creative cursing, some ointment and a good bit of gauze, the new plan was: chicken breasts coated with a rub of coriander, cinnamon, salt and cumin, then seared in walnut oil for 3 minutes or so per side. Then add 1/2 cup chicken broth and 1 tbsp of this biber salçase mild red pepper paste and reduce for 10-15 minutes or so maybe, adding more chicken broth as needed. And I think that's all I did.

What I should've also done was to make a yogurt-dill sauce to drizzle on top, but I was lacking the two main ingredients. Instead, I just sprinkled some crushed almonds on top. The end result was thoroughly edible, with a surprising depth of flavor...though not especially Turkish-seeming without the yogurt sauce or some sort of fresh herbs. A good camp from which to base further explorations.

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Note to self: check out Superuse, which I found out about via this superlative Culiblog post.

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Too: must cook braised endive soon.

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Grr: exciting recommendations for that Berlin trip we keep talking about. Must try making goulash sometime soon.

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Eaten today:

3am: All-Bran with soy milk, honey and almonds, 300kcal.
6am: 1 egg with sesame and chili oils and one piece of bread. 200kcal.
12noon: 1.5 eggs and 100gr mushrooms. And a little brie. 350kcal.
4pm: One-half mango lassi. Two wholegrain hazelnut-currant things from Bakkerij Annee. 300kcal.
8pm: looks like it's going to be some kind of pizza product. Approach with caution.

Good hydration, but...leafy green vegetables? None.

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16.1.08

persian purgin'.

















Bit of a bait and switch afoot here. Though that was a convenient title for this post, I'm afraid that this next lurking fridge troll is not Persian at all, it's biber salçase. Literally, eh..."pepper paste". Turkish.

What we use this for? I mean, I read the Wikipedia entry, but I need recipes. In English, por favor.

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Well, this is not a bad place to start.
This is also very informative.

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15.1.08

star blecch.






















Well that was fun.

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The above is a picture of our friend Felipe from December's legendary Down With Hip-Hop Rally (here are the rest of the new photos, not my work, and probably NSFW), which I'll stop talking about any minute now.

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+++
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Lil' K-Pon back at the helm here, plotting a course for the planet Persia. It's time to clean out the refrigerator again, and this time the country with the most underutilized condiments is...Iran!

Our first contestant is something that's pretty delicious, but you can really only consume it in small quantities, which it doesn't mind since it's a condiment. It's a member of the torshi family, which is the general term for pickled things in Middle Eastern cooking. If you've been to an Iranian or Turkish grocer, you've noticed the rows and rows of pickled things: obvious choices like whole tiny cukes, garlic cloves, small eggplants, turnips, carrots, cauliflower...and less obvious ones like unripe fruit and nuts. Anyway, I think these are all classified as torshi.

In addition to "whole object pickles" (yep, freshly coined), there are all kinds of relishes and chutney kind of options. And this brings us to the contestant in question, ladies and gentlemen: pickled bandari!

































I thought bandari meant eggplant. It doesn't. It's what this relish is called. So this is sort of an Iranian pickle relish, but with eggplant as the primary ingredient. It's extremely sour, but not overly salty or one-dimensional. Here are the rest of the ingredients (it also looks like there are some kalonji/nigella seeds in there):

















Practical uses? Well, that's what this post is all about. It's been sitting unused in my fridge because I hadn't thought of anything good to do with it.

Today was its maiden voyage. I sauteed some merguez sausages and meanwhile stirred together a new futuristic condiment that was half Heinz ketchup and half pickled bandari. Excellent idea. We followed up with a mayo/bandari hybrid that was equally excellent.
















Either of these would be gorgeous on a burger, hot dog, Turkse pizza (lahmacun), or, well...merguez sausage. And the bandari/mayo idea would also be an awesome coleslaw dressing, were you in a mind for such a thing. In fact, toss the coleslaw with the mayobandari, serve merguez on top of it with ketchupbandari drizzled on top and finish everything with a sprinkling of raw sweet onions and cilantro....score!

OK. More Persian explorations soon, as the fridgepurge continues.....

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More research is as usual proving that I might not know what I'm talking about. Here is a recipe for a Persian torshi that sounds very much like what is pictured above.

13.1.08

kablooey.

















Bit of crash 'n' burn over the past couple days, plus an upset tummy that doesn't care what it eats. Of course, I made a kilo of salmon on Saturday that is absolutely the last thing I'm interested in eating at the moment. Thinking about trying to Sichuan it into something exciting, but salmon is not really a Chinese fish, is it. I'll let you know if it works.

Photo: some more pictures from the Down With Hip-Hop Rally have turned up. BTW, I'm supposed to be dressed as DJ Aaron Funk, also known as Venetian Snares, a dude who always struck me as totally bogus. I've just never understood all the excitement over his little charade. Here he is in "action":


















See? Gross. BTW, here's a recipe completely "adapted" from Chez Pim.

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crispy catfish and green mango salad.

500gr pangafilet
enough oil for deep frying

1 cup green mango, julienned
½ cup shallots, thinly sliced
½ cup cilantro, chopped
¼ cup green onion, finely sliced
¼ cup of unsalted, roasted peanuts
2-3 tbsp lime juice
4 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp palm sugar
3 tiny green Thai chiles, finely chopped

Cook the filets on a piece of baking paper in a 200C oven for 25 minutes. Set aside until cool.
Use a fork to fluff the cooked fish, lay the fluffed meat out on a plate to dry.
Heat oil in a large pan until hot, fry the fish fluff in batches until golden brown, being careful not to break up the fish too much in the pan.

In a large bowl, toss all the salad ingredients together, tasting for a good balance of sour and sweet. Toss the crispy catfish into the salad just before serving.

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11.1.08

bowl of red.

















Do you know anything about the chile queens of San Antonio? All I knew was a couple of paragraphs' worth in the The Whole Chile Pepper Book, which is an eminently readable survey of the world's chile traditions. Anyway, the above link is to an NPR special that will fill in some of your gaps.

















I knew I wanted to cook with chiles last night, but it was Mara who suggested chili (one of the least-good Wikipedia entries I've seen in some time, by the way). This is probably mostly to do with the fact that Andy has been making really good "chili" about once a month since the summer, and when he makes some, he usually brings us a bowl (or two, if we're lucky!). He just made some last week, but I don't think Miss Mara got to put her tooth on any of it...

So the only matter up for debate about tonight's chili was: what style? I used the quotes around Andy's chili because it contains a number of things that, if they saw them, would cause hardcore chiliheadz to spontaneously combust: carrots are probably the most flagrant violation of chili law, but his also contains beans, which as you probably know are a massive point of contention. Call his version "European-style".

Regarding our style choice, our two big options were: New Mexican, which is simply cut beef, beef broth, and chiles; or San Antonio-style, which uses ground beef instead, and adds onion, garlic, tomatoes, and some herbs and spices.

I've eaten enough ground meat chili to last me the rest of my life, so we did New Mexican chile con carne, augmented by some Texas-style spice. I may have been a bit overzealous in defatting this as it cooked...the flavor could be a bit rounder than it is. But it looks and smells beautiful, and pretty good chili is about the same as pretty good pizza or pretty good sex...it's plenty good enough. And if you need it, the round fatness can be retrofitted using crema, or creme fraiche in our case.

















To see what real chili geeks put in their brews, check out the websites for the two major factions of chili cooking in America, the ICS and the CASI. Still looking for a good source that explains the feud between the two and what the differences are in their cooking styles.

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border-style chile con carne.

1 kg riblappen or biefstuk if you see it on sale like I did
2 tbsp walnut oil (the non-border-style ingredient)
4 cups beef broth
4 ancho chiles
4 guajillo chiles
3 cloves garlic
3 tsp cumin
3 tsp oregano
1 sweet onion, for garnish
or maybe pico de gallo if i get around to it (I did)

Details forthcoming.

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If you're curious, diet is still in effect, yesterday was a good day. Went to the gym, plus:

Breakfast
: smoked salmon sandwich on whole wheat with mayo and mustard. 350kcal.
Snack: couple bites of hungover Mara's tuna melt on whole wheat that I made for her. 100kcal.
Beverages: 2 cups of coffee. 1 rehydration drink. 1 Earl Grey.
Lunch: Weird. Nothing.
Dinner: a couple small bowls of chili. A couple tiny pieces of cornbread with butter. Even if this was all 1000 calories, I'm still cool for the day.
Later: Grapefruit at 22:30.

9.1.08

i am, everyday, people.


Am I really going to post every day in 2008? That would be unnecessary, I think, but that doesn't mean I won't do it.

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An especially nice show downstairs tonight. Not just the music, which was mostly top-notch, but it was a crowd of many of our favorite rarely-seen people all reconnecting after the holidays (Gunga, Hil, Steve, Wilbert, Michael, Ab, Ron, Sean, Viljam). And any time any of the Chicago crew is around, you can count on conviviality until late in the night. Mara fell prey to this tendency, drank a bunch of Zattes, and is now paying for it today by having me cook her anything she wants.

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Breakfast: leftover cauliflower (200kcal).
Lunch: half an egg and lite Emmenthaler sandwich (250kcal)
Beverages: 1 cup of coffee, maybe 2. 1 fizzy water. 1 apple juice. 1 cup of Earl Grey.
Snack: 1 block of leftover fried tofu. 200kcal?
Dinner: 2 smallish faux-konomiyaki (no flour), mostly bamboo shoots and mushrooms. 1.5 eggs, 50g oude kaas. 400kcal seems like a generous estimate.
Late Night: ah, had another block of tofu at midnight because dinner was at 4:30pm. Boo. 200kcal.
Even Later: Oops. Invented important new snack food: friconomiyaki, it's a cross between frico and you-know-who. No flour, you just saute some onions and shredded chinese cabbage for a few minutes, then drape a slice of cheese over top, like you're working at Waffle House. The cheese will start to melt, but you aren't having any: you flip the whole thing over, so now it's cheese side down.

Now the cheese will start to get crusty, and that's when you flip it over on itself so it sort of rolls up. If you can manage to tuck the top flap in and roll forward, you get something like this:

















Well, this one busted, kind of. But you get the idea. O-sauce on top, and it's very very much like being at a Japanese Waffle House. And less than 200 calories each! Don't forget to smoke a bunch of hash first. Because otherwise you won't be able to eat dessert: papaya with roasted peanuts and a little vanilla ice cream . Um, 400kcal?

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Oh, right. Analysis? Far too much cheese. Definitely not enough water. And an unacceptable amount of sugar. The biggest problem was probably eating dinner too early, so that later when the munchies showed up at my door around 3am, I was receptive to what they had to say. And they had plenty to say.

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8.1.08

unisumbitch.


We're now back to a more minimal posting style as well, relegating elaboration to a back-burner strategy while continuing to mix metaphors like a bull in a proverbial china shop (two-finger salute emoticon goes here).

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Unfortunately, we're still titling posts as if we've got time to elaborate on things. Unisom, for example. I'll get to the actual research portion of it eventually, because it's important, but in a nutshell...

Back in 2003 or so, my chronic insomnia was increasingly demanding a non-alcohol-based resolution, and I started taking Unisom every night. It worked: I slept. But my mood every morning could be classified as somewhere between uncharacteristically irritable and irrationally short-tempered.

For a long time I thought that this was because we'd just been through a devastating 2 years, and Mara and I were at each other's throats, and I was at my wits' end. As time passed and I started putting myself back together, I attributed my general bad mood during these years to social/relationship/financial trauma plus too much drinking and smoking weed.

At some point in early 2006, I discovered melatonin, which though less reliable, was a much better influence on my psyche: I could get by with less sleep than with Unisom, and I generally woke up in a good mood. Sometimes, though, melatonin wouldn't work, and I'd take some Unisom, and the next day I'd notice a bit of that bad mood hangover thing happening.

Just recently, now that I'm not drinking or smoking much at all at the moment, it's becoming clear that Unisom has an absolutely terrible effect on my mind. I took one Sunday night because I hadn't been sleeping especially well, and all day Monday I felt mean, unpleasant, lethargic, pessimistic, short-tempered...in other words, like 2003-2005. Mara said, "Wow, this is...familiar." Monday night and last night, melatonin, and I'm back to normal.

So, I'm putting this up here so that it's Googlable, and so that if anyone else out there is trying to figure out if Unisom is fucking up their mind, they might find someone to compare notes with.

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The photo above is to remind me to call Jen and Ken. This photo is Mara and Ken at the beach in Bergen back in July 2007. I like whatever it looks like Mara is doing. Kenny usually looks quite a bit happier than this.

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Hit the gym today for the first time in 2008, congratulations you fuckwit. Eaten:

Breakfast: 1 Valess schnitzel w/ ketchup (200kcal).
Snack: 150 gr kibbeling, (400kcal).
Beverages: 1 soy cappucino from Tampopo (200kcal). 3 cups coffee. 1 kombucha drink (100kcal).
Snack: 1 piece of lite Emmenthaler cheese, melted (70kcal).
Dinner: delicious leftover cauliflower (eh...300kcal?).
Dinner: 4 or 5 bites of slightly disappointing red-braised tofu from my new Chinese cookbook (hmm...200kcal?).
Late Night: no eating after dinner. Wow!

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Yeah, about the tofu. In America, they used to have this PSA or cartoon or something that warned kids (and parents!) about the dangers of leaving pans on the stove with their handles pointing out. You know, because this makes it verrrry easy to be walking by the stove, not really paying attention, and inadvertently bump into one of the pot handles, or wok handles as the case may be, and upend the entire boiling, bubbling mass onto the kitchen floor and/or your own self. I didn't do this, but someone else in my apartment did.

The few bites of it I had before it hit the floor were ok, not awesome, making that the second recipe from my new Chinese cookbook that was just ok, not awesome. Bummer.

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So, my analysis of the day's eating: fat content a bit high. Cheese content a bit high. Sugar levels acceptable.

Don't worry, I don't think I'll do this consumption catalogue every day. Just until I remember what it's like to eat less than 2000 calories a day again.

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Minimal posting style? Pfft.

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goodbye, slugboy.

















Today's complete lack of interesting (to you) activity explained why I've been posting so much lately: because lately we've been cooking and eating and socializing our asses off, so there's been lots to talk about.

But I think today signals a bit of an end to all that. At least to the holiday version of it all, which is fine by me. Time for a bit of moderation.

Obviously I'm not the only person alive to make this kind of decision this week: this is the week when my gym will be full of people I've never seen before, many of whom have never seen a gym before. It's almost inspiring, but after you've seen a few of these New Year's hopefuls, it's kind of like in a National Geographic show when you see all those baby sea turtles on the beach struggling to reach the water, and you think "how inspiring" and then the voiceover intones something like "only one of these 153 adorable youngsters will live through the night".

I was a turtle that didn't make it to the sea last year. My attendance record at the gym was about as good as it was back in high school Chemistry (I still have bad dreams about coming in to take a test that could've been in a different language, the vocabulary was so unfamiliar), and my results were about as impressive.

So here's to a more successful visible (vs. say...mental) health effort in 2008. Not just for me, but for all y'all: at this moment I'm specifically thinking of our online friends over at the Triple Gay Diet Blog...but really, best wishes to everyone.

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Pour moi, yesterday was an OK start.

Breakfast: Oatmeal with walnuts, a little unrefined sugar, and soymilk.
Snack: A couple of rendang/carrot atjar nibbles here and there.
Snack: An egg with a little ketjap manis. And a nibble of Green & Black chocolate that a customer sent us.
Snack: A half-cup of chopped chicken breast in chicken broth with wilted spinach and pecorino.

Dinner: a variation of the old standby, baked salmon with greens and roasted cauliflower. A couple of notable changes: capers, currants, walnuts, and pecorino in the cauliflower; and the dressing for the greens was not the usual walnut oil business, but was just excellent olive oil, excellent mustard, and the juice of an excellent orange. And a tablespoon of unrefined sugar. Again, not photogenic at our mole-friendly light levels:

















Then: small bowl of All-Bran with currants and halfvolle milk at 1am after the fighting cats woke me up. Bummer. We try again today. But then...we try again every day.

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7.1.08

the great chariot hoax.

















The Humor Alert Status reached a threat level of dark, dark black last night. Mara showed us her garbage find. Phil demonstrated his breathtaking speed over extremely short distances. I came up with the perfect birthday gift for the man who has everything (tentatively called "I'll Cut You", but we're still putting that through some focus group testing).

Rendang with atjar came out very good, but very difficult to take an appetizing photo of (see below). Lil' K-pon rocked the house with 3 straight wins despite having letters like these:




6.1.08

nice cans. eeeiiaa!!!

















Goldang, I've been posting like a house on fire. A house on fire that can barely speak English.

Speaking of which, we played Scrabble tonight and I felt lucky to be able to play any words in English at all...I had like 4 vowels the whole game. Pete had the opposite problem, and between the two of us we had no choice but to let that monkey woman walk off with the game.

Before that, we had a satisfying and educational dinner of cassoulet. From a can. I knew this was going to the case, it wasn't like Pete said "I'm bringing cassoulet!" and we got all excited and then he showed up with two cans. We were plenty excited anyway, because we figured the French wouldn't go through the trouble to do this and then fuck it up. Or would they?







































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"They" didn't fuck it up. Nor was it amazing, it was...pork, duck, and beans. Well-salted, plenty of fat as you can see.

















And it was plenty satisfying baked in the oven for a while and served with some crusty (and lightly charred...oops) bread. I must say I preferred the duck version, simply for the novelty of "duck 'n' beans" vs. the old standby of "pork 'n' beans". But what we should've done with both of them was to throw a shot of cognac in there and put some fresh-buttered bread crumbs on top before we baked them.

















But we didn't. Elsewhere, for nutritional reasons we included a green salad with pears, tarragon, and sugared walnuts, and for non-nutritional reasons we topped it with crumbled gorgonzola. Surplus gift chocolate for dessert.

5.1.08

flower pepper.


another mystery solved.

















We're only halfway through my uncelebrated birthday, but already my suddenly magnetic inner birthday core is sucking birthday-related trivia directly out of the world around it. Check it: so far I've learned that

1. I was actually born at 10:53pm on 5 Jan all those hundred of years ago. This has important ramifications in Chinese zodiac-type stuff. We'll explore shortly.

2. My grandmother Antoinette called me Little Capon, "comparing your birth weight to her rare luxury chicken", according to my dear mother.

3. The photo above is from last year's Lost Second Birthday Party, and it reveals, among other things, some of what we ate.

Languishing in front of Clare and Andy (guess which one of these two can drink more cocktails without looking completely sloshed) are the remains of a predominantly Spanish/Portugese cheese and charcuterie plate (Cabrales, manchego, membrillo, 3 different chorizos), supplemented by some wonderful olives that Yannis picked himself in Greece over the holidays.

Notice I didn't even mention the guy dancing with the skeleton in the background. That's Phil, he's coming over tomorrow for some Scrabble and beef rendang (I will be having a petite portion myself).

Speaking of which...of course: as soon as I put my foot down about this so-called healthy eating business, Pete is bringing over cassoulet tonight. It is my birthday...maybe we'll start the Little Capon Reduction Program on Monday.

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4.1.08

daddy's little fatty.















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Roly Poly
Eatin' corn 'n' taters
Hungry every minute of the day

Roly Poly
Gnawin' on a biscuit
As long as he can chew it, it's OK

He can eat an apple pie
Never even bat an eye
He likes anything from soup to hay

Roly Poly
Daddy's little fatty
bet he's gonna be a man someday

Roly Poly
Scrambled eggs for breakfast
Bread and jelly twenty times a day...

--"Roly Poly", Merle Haggard.

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It's that time again, where we tighten our belts and bid a temporary adieu to reckless grubbin'. I say "we" here, but it's just me, isn't it. This roly poly's been plumpin' up for a few months now, so it's time to once again tighten the thumbscrews of healthy eating onto my unstoppably choppin' opposables.

Come to think of it, this "we" character didn't even do such a great job with the last "return to healthy eating" spell back in May 2007, did "we"? In our defense, other shit was going on. How fortunate that our current refocusing is occurring concurrently with a new year and a new birthday, two psychological albatrosses (whatever) that usually carry at least some motivational weight.

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Diets suck because of their restrictiveness. And their cheeselessness. And their manilnesslessness. Because it makes you sound like a teenage girl, "I'm on a diet." I will attempt to foil this bit of buggery by pretending that I am going to research Chinese cookery over the next month or so. Chinese cooking is an area in which my knowledge is limited to the very superficial, but I do know that there is not a whole lot of cheese involved.

I can cook the basics. Tonight we had chicken and mushrooms in black bean sauce:

















and it was totally good, though in this photo it closely resembles alien innards or Human Ear Salad. But chicken's easy. And not really something that I eat a lot of. And a black bean sauce isn't rocket science either: fermented black beans, garlic, ginger, shao xing wine, chicken broth, soy sauce. So I'll be trying to get beyond the 3 Chinese things I can already cook and concentrate on fun new ways to cook fish, tofu, seitan, and all manner of other weirder shit.

I bought my first-ever Chinese cookbook today, Yan-Kit So's Classic Food of China. Still looking for my first proefkonijnen (literally "test rabbits")....

...but in any case I should probably start toasting my Sichuan peppercorns...

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