29.4.08

walnut-powered.

I had one of those mornings where I once again thanked myself (and the other decision-makers involved) profusely for never having children. I am just not cut out for dispensing patient, gentle understanding to lesser-evolved and/or more helpless creatures than myself before noon.

Especially if I haven't slept well. Case in point: I wake up at 5:58am to the incessant yowling of one chubby calico cat (who is now rubbing up against my leg). I groggily acknowledge that 5 hours of sleep is not going to be enough for today, but sadly there are enough undesirable items on today's todo list that my mind is already being invaded by them and I know I won't get back to sleep. So fuck it, I'm a big boy, etc. I get up and feed the cat(s).

Except there's no dry food. Fine. That just means that we have a Gourmet Treat of canned food, tuna. Which makes everyone happy when they hear the can. Extremely happy, so much so in fact that Chubb Rock eats hers so fast that I don't notice she's eating Jo3n's as well until it's almost all gone.

Sigh. Ah, kids...they can be so cute. I stamp my foot once to remind Chubb how many dishes of food she's supposed to eat per meal, and she gallops away like a bloated squirrel. OK. Mission accomplished. Now: coffee. I hear the rhythmic gurgling of the coffee machine doing its thing, and I imagine a nice, steaming hot cup of...wait a minute. I didn't turn the coffee on. Say...that's not the coffeepot! It's....yes! The sound of a cat that has eaten too much too quickly, a sound which directly precedes the sound of 73 papertowels being ripped off of their dispenser and the Tourette's-style cursing of a crabby, crabby cat owner. Good morning!

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24.4.08

elsewhere.













There is an almost complete lack of cooking and/or thinking about food going on here. Unusual, but understandable: my Double Headphones Project incurred some sort of crippling software corruption disease and required a couple days of highly manual reconstructive surgery. Which sucked, but seems to have (fingers crossed) worked.

If you've ever experienced a corrupt Word or Excel document you have some idea of the angst that ensued. If you've ever worked for months on a constantly-changing document, say a thesis or dissertation, or software development project, something to which you've made literally thousands of edits, carefully backing it up as you went, and still had it suddenly fuck up fatally and mysteriously as your deadline swiftly approached, you've got an even better idea of the panic.

What sort of food is best served under these circumstances? You'd be surprised: broccoli, cauliflower, tempeh, and tofu have been the staples during Emergency Week.

What we're not eating? The Lady's Brunch Burger pictured above. Yes, those are glazed donuts.

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22.4.08

macaron noir.






















The talented yet thoughtful Klary thankfully responded to my perpetual lack of macarons by providing us with a healthy sample from Pâtisserie Tout. They weren't even leftover from her Macaron Smackdown a few days earlier, they were brand-new (at least that's what she told us)...that's the kind of gal she is.

And, I enjoyed the holy heck out of them, frankly. My favorite was the cassis (+ maybe white chocolate?), and the pistachio was also very pleasant. Mara liked the strawberry, and I thought the chocolate one was just kind of good.

Mostly, though, it felt like a certain kind of completion to finally have a real macaron in front of me and not have to have gone to France to do it. Thanks!

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17.4.08

yay masa/no mas.

















We've had a slightly dreamlike few days of cooking, eating, drinking. socializing, etc. Dreamlike in a good way, including last night's extra-dreamy tamales, but I now need a few days of returning to reality, so will catch up with you once that's been achieved.

What you're looking at here is the final assembly of the shrimp and basil tamales by our esteemed colleagues Klary and Dennis. Yes, we made our dinner guests assemble their own dinner. But, you'll agree, right?: one of the coolest things about cooking for other people, and especially cooking for other people who come from previously faraway lands, is the opportunity to make for them something that is somehow comfortingly familiar and yet absolutely unlike anything they've ever tasted before. Even better is revealing how un-secret and essentially simple the construction process is, and a tamale is a nearly perfect teacher in this regard.

These tamales in particular taste like the essence of southwestern cooking to me. Mostly due to the BBQ sauce in the masa dough and the smoked mozzarella added to the filling. This may sound like a smoke overload, but to me at least the end result is quite subtle and mysterious. The marinade for the shrimp also adds some sneaky complexity: hazelnut oil, lime juice, and rosemary.

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16.4.08

fun with foodism.


You're looking at my favorite item from last night's soirée: that's right, a quiche. Not just any quiche, but a totally unexciting and overexposed quiche: the spinach, red pepper, and feta quiche that we threw together at the last minute when it seemed like too many people might be coming.

But even though everything else we cooked came out as well as or better than expected, the last leftover bite of this quiche was what I was eating at the end of the night.

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spinach, red pepper, and feta quiche.

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1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 handful fresh spinach, chopped
5 eggs, beaten
1/2-3/4 cup feta, crumbled
freshly cracked pepper
bladerdeeg


Line a tart pan with crust, bake to set. Actually you don't even need a recipe for this thing, do you. This is just so we remember the proportions. And the temperature. 170C. For 30 minutes.

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14.4.08

too haute.



Right. So if you're one of the people who is eating at our place this week and you want to be utterly surprised when your food shows up in front of you, you may want to stop reading now. I leave the decision in your hands.

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Above: tamale dough for shrimp and basil tamales. Below: those homemade chipotles en adobo I was talking about a few posts back for a top secret duck adventure.

I'm also working on integrating a Dutch coldcut into my southwestern cooking. It's basically very thinly sliced (what I believe is) cold-smoked beef, and it matches up especially well with this prune thing I've been making. Here's the question: is it too fusion-y to make a smoked beef quesadilla with prune, shallot, and pine nut preserve? And if not, what cheese/salsa combination are we talking about? I'm thinking goat cheese and pico de gallo. Let me "run some tests".

THE ANSWER: Smoked beef, goat cheese, prune/shallot/pine nut stuff makes for an excellent quesadilla. It's very rich, so you need to cut into small slivers. And you probably need to saute the smoked beef first before putting it in a tortilla, because it seems to give up a good bit of fat when heated. And I'm using flour tortillas for this one b/c corn is just a little distracting.

prepping.

















Lack of interesting posts around here b/c we've programmed ourselves into a jam-packed schedule and there's not a lot of room for true leisure, which seems to be the heading under which "blogging" falls.

Thus instead of blog posts we get shopping lists and vacuuming. Which I guess is good, it was time for that yearly Spring Cleaning thing where we try really really hard to get rid of some stuff. But we're so bad at getting rid of things. I have a hard time even throwing away leftovers.

But anyway. This week we have: a day of shopping and cleaning (today); a day of Italianish cooking for 10; an evening of attempted southwesternizing for some new neighbors; rehearsals with a new band (a minimalist electric guitar quintet, which sounds frightening, but the other members are all pretty cool players). Plus hopefully some serious progress on the Double Headphone Project.

Here's a test run of a timballo di melanzane I'll be making on Tuesday. We wanted to see if we could do an eggplant parmigiano in some form factor other than a big casserole that you scoop out lunchlady-style. Still not sure we got it right, but it tastes good: a ton of basil and very light coating-free frying sets it apart from traditional, heavy Italian-American eggplant parm.





































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UPDATE: Of course it's Poverty Emulation Day at the Dirk: no canned tomatoes on the shelves, and no flour. Did we catch them off guard by showing up to shop? I actually love this because it would never happen in America.

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13.4.08

in the mood for love.












This is a reminder to myself to remix the Tetsuo: The Iron Man soundtrack for my next DJ set. And to buy some hot dogs.

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10.4.08

google taunt: "albert heijn" and "guacamole".

















Just to jot down a couple of things I keep meaning to write about, kind of in the vein of last week's vegetable soup horse meatballs:

Albert Heijn is now selling their own "guacamole". If I hadn't already thrown away the container of it I bought, I'd do a review with photos here. Why did I purchase it at all? Mmm, yes. Let's call it curiosity.

And hope. The first ingredient was avocado, and there weren't too too many other ingredients on the list. This made my dangling tentacle of optimism tingle with hope (please refer to the Pandora's Box entry from last month for the backstory on hope). But taste-wise...yeah. Not anything like guacamole.

But...not really quite like anything else, either. Most European guacamoles at least taste like creamy salad dressings or green-tinted creme fraiche, something you've seen before. This was alien and completely inorganic-seeming, like something you might use somewhere in your automobile. Or spaceship. AH, please reconsider.

Here's a good guac recipe.

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Also on the list of "items to be processed": the inconsistency or evolution of Marqt; Dulce de Leche from De Avondmarkt and how perfectly it combines with peanut butter and bananas (similarly, why do white chocolate and salted hazelnuts combine so complementarily?); how easy it is to lose your picnicking chops over the winter and completely botch your first outing of the season (no knife, no mayonnaise, no salt, no plates); what to make this coming Tuesday for a hungry band of musicians...we're doing focaccias but I would love to have some other warm options, something like lasagna or baked eggplant, but lighter....need to borrow Andy's Marcella Hazan book...

Um...let's see: why the amateur big band that practices in our basement every Thursday NEVER EVER GETS ANY BETTER. They are still playing the same songs they were when we moved in, and Holy God Up Above, they are no closer to being in tune or rhythm or in touch with any of the base characteristics of music in general. Have you ever heard the Thai Elephant Orchestra? They're way better than these guys.

ALSO: Secret notation for Mara. Squeak By Scim vs. Good Luck Pumper. IHLOFWYT. WLAL. GMAB. Remember!

PHOTO: This is focaccia dough with one half prune, onion, and pine nut confit and the other half romesco sauce and manchego cheese.

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8.4.08

be little with me.

















My BIMhuis debut was fine, thank you, and now I may return to the occasional musing over matters culinary. Unox vegetable soup contains meatballs made from horse. Just wanted to throw that in there. Maybe that was their thinking as well ("Hey, Jos, we still got some of them horse meatballs sitting around? Yip. Well what say we just chuck 'em right on into this here vegetable soup? Sure thing, boss. And throw in a cup of MSG while you're at it. And see them squirrels out back? Yes, boss...etc.").

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A brief technology moment/rant/exorcism: Mara got a new laptop today, which is cause for minor celebration. Her old one was a hand-me-down that (out of spite no doubt) had long ago given up any aspirations about being "a good laptop", somehow managing to constantly overheat while not actually doing any useful work. This new one is our first non-Dell computer purchase EVER in our history of computer buying, because the Dell Inspiron laptops we bought in the years 2000-2005 were seriously awful (this excludes my current Dell laptop, which has been a joy to work with thus far, probably because it's not an Inspiron).

And so here, to cast out the toxic detritus from my aura, I'd like to send out a brief but wholly sincere "fuck you" to Dell for years of deliberately not acknowledging the heat-related engineering problems with the Inspirons so that they wouldn't have to do a recall and/or couldn't be sued. Nice one. "Good job." Anyway, the new member of the family is an Acer Aspire. Wish us luck.

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Sometimes when Mara is working on something around the dinner hour, I like to pepper her with tiny sandwiches. That's what these are: the pointy ends of a baguette cut into petite crostini about an inch wide. Top: mushroom oil and manchego; above is goat cheese, chives, and half-dried tomato. Not shown are the two most successful ones: romesco, mint, and manchego; goat cheese and prune/onion confit.

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And to close, a Scotland moment entitled Attack of the Future Meatballs:

5.4.08

birds of paradise.

















Today I am making my own chipotles en adobo. I'm not smoking the peppers or anything, I'm just taking dried chipotles and simmering them for an hour two hours three hours with vinegar, onions, garlic, lots of water, and a top secret tomatoey ingredient, after which point I should have the equivalent of a couple cans' worth of useful chipotles.

Today's a good day to do it b/c Mara is out of the house, and though she likes chipotles, she's quite sensitive to chile fumes. I myself am not, so I'm always surprised when she starts coughing and spluttering like she's just run out of a burning building.

Normally this re-ack-tion happens even when I'm doing things correctly in the kitchen, but the last time was especially bad, actually one of my worst kitchen fuckups ever: I was toasting a whole sheet of guajillo chiles in the oven. And for some reason, I still don't know what happened, I set the timer for 8 minutes instead of 2 minutes.

Um, don't ever do this. Dried chiles are...dry. And thin, and prone to blackening very quickly if unattended, and the smoke they emit could be classified as a chemical weapon.

Pictures later. For now, I give you a photo of the two men who opened my mind to the pretty profound amazingness of seriously well-written modern poetry: the oft-cited Terrill Soules and my 2nd-favorite poet, Mark Strand. Here's an MP3 of a nice interview with Mr. Strand that begins with him reciting one of his poems from memory (after he talks about not being able to remember many poems anymore), and then he reads a fucking ruthlessly ruthless poem by May Swenson at the 17-minute mark that you shouldn't listen to too late at night.

Also: I present one of my favorite of Mr. Strand's poems to you here.

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ALWAYS

Always so late in the day
In their rumpled clothes, sitting
Around a table lit by a single bulb,
The great forgetters were hard at work.
They tilted their heads to one side, closing their eyes.
Then a house disappeared, and a man in his yard
With all his flowers in a row.
The great forgetters wrinkled their brows.
Then Florida went and San Francisco
Where tugs and barges leave
Small gleaming scars across the Bay.
One of the great forgetters struck a match.
Gone were the harps of beaded lights
That vault the rivers of New York.
Another filled his glass
And that was it for crowds at evening
Under sulphur yellow streetlamps coming on.
And afterwards Bulgaria was gone, and then Japan.
"Where will it stop?" one of them said.
"Such difficult work, pursuing the fate
Of everything known," said another.
"Down to the last stone," said a third.
"And only the cold zero of perfection
Left for the imagination." And gone
Were North and South America,
And gone as well the moon.
Another yawned, another gazed at the window:
No grass, no trees...
The blaze of promise everywhere.

~Mark Strand

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LATER
: I give you a picture now, but not of the chipotles, which took forever to soften. The adobo itself was ready after the first hour, but I had to keep adding water and simmering in order to get the chiles to become even remotely unleatherlike.

The picture I am giving you now is to remind me of this great little Asian bite I've been eating lately when I find myself thinking something fried sounds good. I also think that it's completely servable to guests, which is worth my noting because we always have a hard time thinking of bite-size appetizers.

Basically, it's fried tofu or tempeh with okonomiyaki sauce. Or tonkatsu sauce, or even oyster sauce mixed with a little ketchup. Or ketchup with ketjap manis added. Basically you're looking for a thick sweet sauce with a vinegary component. Though tofu and tempeh are both soy products, they have very different flavor profiles: tempeh heads in a more nutty mineral direction, while tofu makes for the creamy blandness side of things.

So for this reason tofu needs a bit of an assist that tempeh doesn't. Enter furikake, the Japanese sesame seed/seaweed/infinitely diverse other ingredient sprinkle that we tend to use a lot of around here (eG thread here). Really the way to do this is to fry your tofu, blot it, give it a brushing with whatever sauce you're using and then sprinkle it with furikake. I myself was having this snack while my morning coffee was brewing and therefore did not have the foresight to sauce-then-sprinkle. I sprinkled-then-sauced (tee-hee).

And of course since there was a component that had a fish element in it (furikake), the royal taster showed up to make sure I didn't need any help.

4.4.08

help. please.

















Something hideous is going on in my basement (?). It's an unlikely mix of two especially unpleasant sounds: on the street, it sounds like 50 eight-year old boys are being pulled apart limb from limb like roasted chickens by some remorseless and hungry satanic beast. I sympathize with his motives and support his efforts, I just wish he would finish the job: the screaming has been going on for about 3 hours now. And in the music venue, there's some kind of long-winded bluesrockmetal band playing almost-familiar tunes at a magical frequency that is oozing through our walls and floorboards and all over me.

I was being productive, practicing in Andy's room (he's out of town), but the band was louder than I was. So I gave up and came back to my room, but right now they're louder than the TV that is on to drown them out. And on TV it's Eten met Bianca, but even her potent cuteness wandering around the Rungis market (largest wholesale market in the world) isn't enough to soothe my aggravated sensibilities.

Ah, I just went to the website to find out what it is: a birthday party for parents of an elementary school in our neighborhood. The parents are the band, which explains why the kids are all outside in the street. They call their style of music "kleuterpop", which is a new term for me. It has something to do with teenybopper music, but what I'm hearing right now sounds like ZZ Top. Music for aged, bearded teenyboppers. Can anyone make any sense of this?

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2.4.08

that explains it.











As someone who revels in the grammar-rule-thwarting creative possibilities of profanity, I'm generally unamused when uptight people begin to autoclench in the presence of the unholy word. I'm also tinily depressed when otherwise intelligent-seeming people expend a lot of effort arguing that cursing is a "crutch" to hide the fact that one can't think of anything truly creative to say. To which I of course unimaginatively say, "bullshit".

So it was with intrigue and a measure of satisfaction that I read Steven Pinker's highly informative piece on human swearing called What the F***. Join me, won't you?

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The screencaps here are from a movie that wouldn't be the same without its bad words, Me and You and Everyone We Know.

))<>((.

Forever.

¡cocina!






















As The Hypothetical You will recall, a few weeks ago I went through a re-immersion into my old Mark Miller cookbooks and ate chipotles every day, etc. etc. etc.

(By the way: this "etc. etc. etc." thing you see here is pronounced "ect ect ect", in tribute to [the formerly very funny but now crippled by stardom-related pressures] Angry Alien's Amy's Diary animation. The November 2 entry should clear this up.)

One cookbook that I totally spaced on was ¡cocina!, by Leland Atkinson, which may have been the first southwestern cookbook I actually bought, having (now that I remember) stolen the Coyote Cafe cookbook from my poor parents.

The Atkinson book is attractive and educational, packed with instructional segments and non-autopsy-looking photography (unlike the Coyote Cafe book). There aren't really that many recipes, maybe 40 or 50, but I don't think we've ever cooked anything disappointing out of it. And it contains some of our very favorite recipes of all time, one or two of which we'll be revisiting in a couple weeks for some non-southwesterners.

The reason I mention all of this is to remind myself to pick up another copy of this book whilst Amazon has it listed for 0.52 cents (in US dollars, which I think is too insignificant to even be converted to Euros. I think probably just looking at or thinking about a Euro coin is worth 0.52 US dollars at this point).

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1.4.08

antisleep.

















Good afternoon everyone. No time for blogging at the moment: it's the crush of the music season, everyone is either recording, playing, or releasing music like there's no tomorrow. Well, at least they're playing like there's no tomorrow. There wouldn't be much call for recording and releasing music if we found ourselves in a "no tomorrow" situation.

Yes'm, that's what you get for using lazy cliches: utter nonsense. Welcome. We are operating under a sleep deficit, people. We've gotten hilariously bad at getting a good night's sleep if we have early morning appointments, and we both did both of those today (early appointment, bad sleep).

On my way home from mine (early appointment), I stopped at the much-ballyhooed Marqt for the first time (here are some photos of Marqt from someone's Flickr account). My initial impression was that I liked it but I found myself not buying much when I was there. The produce was not so amazing, though they did have fresh papaya, chervil, sorrel, thai basil, and a couple other things that you don't see too often here. Little minus: only one chile pepper variety, which is disappointing.

The highlights were the fish, meat, and cheese counters. There was some really gorgeous fish, and with lots of smoked options and homemade fish salads (instead of the ubiquitous industrial brands like Johma). I bought some good-looking wild salmon which wasn't outrageously pricey, and couple of pieces of cheese for Mara, a Taleggio called La Cascina, and something called The Red Love of Antoine (pictured above). For those of you silently noting the "light food" and "cheese" incongruity, all I can say is that these are very small pieces of cheese. Small and "light".

Ultimately, I guess I would've considered doing more of my daily shopping at Marqt, but most of what I buy these days other than fish and Surinamese condiments is produce, and I was not totally blown away by theirs.

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Elsewhere, for dinner tonight I'm adapting a recipe from Lang Leve Vis!, and it seems like it might work out well. Just to remind myself of how it goes together, it was something cooked in smoked butter, but since we're lightening things I thought I'd put the butter somewhere more controllable: a sambal/butter mixture that just gets "dotted" here and there, 1 tbsp per plate maybe. And another tbsp of butter for the salmon itself. The sweet and sour leeks were really easy and they're delicious. Let you know what happens with the whole thing...

UPDATE: If I were a real foodblogger? I would never let you see this separated sauce. But this is what happens when real life intervenes. You plate, the phone rings, your sauce separates, and you briefly consider de-plating your dish and re-whizzing your sauce, until you realize that that's utterly, unhealthily insane.

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pimenton-dusted wild salmon.
lemongrass broth, sweet and sour leeks, sambal butter.

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UPDATE II: The results were OK, but I think I'll use the individual components in other preparations instead of making this again...not really my style. It probably would've come together better if I'd served it with potato mash, but, really...we could say that about many dishes.

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