Oh, wait: yes it is. And the humidity. I have a feeling my poor injured mother never believes me when I say that it's "hot as hell" here, because she lives in the desert, where if she looks at the thermometer today or any other day this summer, it says 107°F (that's 42°C to you Euronians).
In contrast, when I bitch about the 4 days of hot weather we'll have had this summer, she innocuously asks, "Geez. So, how hot is it?" And I have to say, "eh...80? 85???", and we cue the pussyboy music and I just hang up in shame. UPDATE: My poor injured mother just reminded me that her monthly air-conditioning bills during this summer are costing more than my monthly rent. So I'll quit with the whining for now, but this fact reminded me of another recent Onion video: Bush Tours America To Survey Damage Caused By His Disastrous Presidency.
Mara made something completely unreasonable for dinner. Unreasonable in that it doesn't really make any sense, it shouldn't work, etc. but it was really really good. Basically it's like a yam neua, a Thai beef salad? Plus homemade American-style blue cheese dressing. I know. And I'm making fun of Paula Deen. Here's what it looked like before the application of The White Menace:
I still can't figure out how the flavors got along so well together. Lime, mint, gorgonzola, mayonnaise, sour cream, and fish sauce. Maybe b/c there was no cilantro? It wasn't like okonomiyaki, where the flavorclash really is unusual and it takes you a minute to adjust. This just seemed normal, like a Benetton commercial, and we ate every single bit of it. Unsolved Mystery. Oh, and yes, those are frozen grapes being used as ice cubes for a glass of cassis. Not this, the non-alcoholic kind.
This other recipe here is something that happened because we needed cold food. It's based on something from the Mayo Clinic Obesity Discussion Forums. I hope that's the last time I'll be using that sentence on this blog.
Hollandse garnalen are the tiny little shrimpuses. These are not Hollandse garnalen, they're just tiny little shrimp, thank you Fact Checking Department. More later on this. This recipe didn't have nearly enough mayo for Mara, so if you're Mara? Double the mayo for starters, and then add more mayo to taste.
granny smith and tiny little shrimp salad.
100gr Hollandse garnalen or other tiny little shimp (about 1 cup) 2 tablespoons diced red onion, or 1 shallot 1 granny smith apple, cored and diced finely juice of 1 lemon 1 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley 1 tbsp chopped chives 3 tbsp mayonnaise maybe a little lemon zest
Combine. Refrigerate until refreshingly cold. Serve on crackers or knakkebrod, taking care to drain it a little...the non-Mara version is quite healthy, and by that I mean liquidy.
Hot buttered corn on the cob. Ice-cold watermelon. Two foods which can flip the caveman switch without warning. Before you know it, you've got a row of huge destroyed corn kernels where your front teeth should be and watermelon seeds stuck in your salty, butter-smeared eyebrows. And that's why we have no real photos tonight.
Mara and I were talking about some kind of very summery dinner for tomorrow night because it's supposed to be a million degrees and because we haven't eaten dinner together for the past couple of nights (dogsitting, music work, etc). Somehow we were having problems coming up with anything other than corn on the cob and watermelon on the possibilities list. Here are some other ideas gleaned from perusing the Dinner thread on eGullet:
A wedge of boring old iceberg lettuce sounds perfect, chilled, with just a tiny bit of homemade blue cheese dressing. Oh, and some crumbled bacon on top. Sorry!
Marinated cucumbers. Weird, b/c as I just mentioned a couple posts ago, I don't really like cucumbers. But as I also said, I've been liking this thing I've been doing with allspice and cloves, etc.
A Caprese salad sounded good to me just now. Not the bad kind, a good one. Easy on the excellent (not Excellent) mozzarella, heavy on the basil and tomatoes. And good balsamic, nicer than the one we have.
David Lebovitz was just talking about frozen grapes, but I have no idea where I saw it. I had never heard of this, but I guess everyone else has. But this dessert appealed to my inner bradipo. So I bought some and froze them, and yes, they're better than non-frozen grapes.
Miscellaneous Corporate Linkage: The BBC has also been giving this summertime food thing some thought. If you Google "Picnic Food", you get their site, which doesn't have a ton of recipes, but their choices are well-considered. The Food Network also has a page where they try to pull some picnic ideas together here.
The accelerating rate of posts can only mean one thing: procrastination. J-Kim and I have agreed to do a short-notice "avant-country" duo for a night at the Smart Project Space in August (set up by Seamus), in which we'll be performing only songs from The Louvin Brothers. It remains to be seen exactly how we will meet the seemingly contrary goals of remaining "avant" and keeping these songs "beautiful"...I should probably go learn these songs instead of writing the post about fruit that I'm thinking about writing.
Some time later: I learned a couple of the songs (or, let's be honest: I jotted down the chords for a couple of the songs and fucked around trying to make them slightly less beautiful but still acceptably beautiful, to no real avail...mostly I just made them dorky-sounding and then in frustration injured my fingers trying to do unlikely pedal steel bends), so now let me share with you an inspired post from another blogger about the incomprehensible Paula Deen. This is what other people are doing instead of bruising their digits.
Good God, if I'm ever feeling homesick for Southern food, please remind me to go to Holly Moore's website. Her His (thanks, Klary) tours of the South have hit many of my own favorite joints, from places that I could navigate blindfolded (Silver Skillet) to one-time-only memorable meals (Blue Heaven in Key West) , to places that I'd completely forgotten about (John's Country Kitchen and The Coffee Cup in Charlotte).
Even further south, we find some stewed mope that Klary bought a couple weeks ago. These are from Suriname, and they're a member of the sumac family, usually called Java plums or hog plums in English. Quite confusing to eat: they're rather pruney-tasting, but there's very little meat on these babies, they're like 97% pit, which makes the price tag seem a bit exorbitant.
Ah, well: not every impulse buy at the toko can be a winner (actually, my success rate with impulse buys at Asian grocers is about 11%. 83% of my Asian impulse buys are inedible chewy things that smell like either stale fish or garbage or both, so comparatively speaking, the stewed mope was quite a successful purchase. The other 6% of my Asian impulse purchases are refrigerated coffee drinks, BTW).
Eh, not much that you people would be interested in. Alcohol-free beer tasting (my favorites from this bunch are the Bitburger for its extremely beer-like taste and the Grolsch for its "beer candy" vibe). Greengage plum eating (picture temporarily stolen from Wikipedia). Sweating (not pictured).
Then: I'd forgotten how much I love the taste of guava.
Parenthetically, I also forgot exactly how much we used to listen to Ween's Pure Guava (actually parenthetically: I also totally forgot about their aborted Pizza Hut jingle). I don't even remember when or how we might have lost our original copy, but I re-downloaded it yesterday, and it pleased us greatly to finally re-receive "The Stallion, Pt. 3"'s aged, manly, and thoroughly nonsensical payload:
Don't caress the weasel and don't fall too soon Don't seek the blood from the panther Don't take a trip to you soon I'm the one helding the time back from the sun As I scope the lobe
I picked up some guava jelly the other day at our local toko and promptly forgot about it until this morning, when it ended up on some "free toast" from the bar downstairs.
Someone who lives or works in our building has just recently started working in a health food store, and every night (or almost), they have been bringing some of the expired loaves of bread home and leaving them in our lobby with a little note saying "Please take these. Thanks!" So, we've taken them a couple of times, and while they're definitely not fresh baked, they're not terrible either.
But guava, right. I'd like to use it more often, especially in savory things, but my little roommate is not really eating too much meat these days, which is where you most often see guava used. Maybe we check out this Shrimp with Guava-Lime Glaze recipe....
Or maybe we find a way to stick guava in a quesadilla. It's no secret that we love our quesadillas around here, and yesterday I was reminded yet again of exactly why: they're one of those simply perfect foods. Most of the time, the more you do to a quesadilla, the more likely you are to fuck up its basic elegance (the duck confit quesadilla being a notable exception).
Yesterday for lunch, Mara took four corn tortillas, some shredded hard goat cheese, a little butter for frying, and made a perfect lunch. Served with red and green salsas (out of jars), I really had a hard time imagining anything much better.
It looks like a few intrepid explorers have attempted the guava quesadilla before, with mixed results. The primary complaint seems to be that they're too sweet, and indeed our first attempt with goat cheese and guava jelly was more like breakfast or dessert than anything else. Filled with molten lava (freshly melted sugar = ouch). Adding a piece of ham to the contents, while delicious, brought us even more squarely into "upscale diner breakfast" territory.
So I'm buying a can of actual guava, we'll see where that gets us.
A watercolor experiment by Mara: Egon Schiele's Seated Female Nude with Raised Right Arm (1910), freshly painted on brown Kraft paper and taped to our window so the light shines through the still-wet parts.
The young Mr. Schiele's original:
On eGullet, it seems like it might be worth checking out the unpromisingly-monikered Recipes That Rock thread. No, there's no musical tie-in, thank god...these are just the newly-discovered recipes that an especially discerning group of home cooks have added to their "permanent" repertoire this year.
Things have seemed pretty quiet around here, maybe you've noticed.
But it's all just a result of that wonderfully consistent equation describing the currently inverse relationship between how busy our real life is and how much of it gets documented here. Add to that equation the fact(or) that we're supposed to be blogging less than usual, and what you end up with is zeronimous activity (yeah, my math's not so good).
Here's the proof (oh, stop it):
last night: our first Dutch Scrabble match ever, with a smart Dutch woman and her main robot man.
Klary made a really delicious and quite unusual Sicilian impanata (think empanada) of swordfish, red peppers, salted capers, and crushed red chile in a flaky crust flavored by orange zest and white wine. After having had the leftovers today for lunch, I can honestly say I've never had anything quite like it. We made our (and Jamie Oliver's) reliable ol' tuna + pine nut polpetti, along with my first offsite farinata...both not bad, I'd say on average roughly 84% as good as they've ever been. Our gullets were topped up with a prune and Spanish brandy ice cream afterwards from a David Lebovitz recipe....wheee. I'm still full.
It's probably best if I say nothing about the outcome of these Scrabble games (know your audience!). UPDATE: In a display of true class, our gracious hosts have themselves revealed the outcome: Americans 2, Nederlanders 0.
Um, let me just say that this was never going to be a fair fight. As Dennis disbelievingly observed at some point last night (in Dutch), "It actually has nothing to do with the words, it's only about strategy!" As we used to regularly observe back in my schoolyard days, "No duh." And as any regular reader of this blog knows, we play a lot of Scrabble around here, so our strategy skillz are on the dope side. Thank goodness the four Dutch words I know have high point values.
Saturday: a birthday "drink" for our pal Ron (below, hugging what appears to be a howling zombie woman, I don't remember her at all) at beer mecca In de Wildeman (a VDuck Top 5 Amsterdam Beer Joint). A Dutch custom (at least among our carefully-chosen friends) that I particularly love is that when it's your birthday and you invite a bunch of people out for a drink at a bar, you pay. We were able to escape this potentially hull-crushing beer attack with only minimal damage sustained.
Friday: Scrabble and dinner with P-Woe over here. I made my standard unrepeatable ginger catfish, long beans with speck, nasi goreng, and those pickled cucumbers with allspice and cloves. Don't look too closely at this plate, it's kind of a sloppy, smudgy disaster. But this is the kind of picture you have to settle for when you're having a Man Night (clandestine, unfussy...just like the sex!). Worse than the gross photography, I lost two unbearably close (four and six points), come-from-behind games to P-Woe.
Thursday: a night at OT301. DJing was fun, though the trajectory of my opening salvo (a semi-ironic mashup of screwed vocals and mechanical drones) was ruinously skewed by the unexpected appearance of two Scandinavian families with young kids. "It's that six six long dick slim nigga sticking your chick..." Call me sensitive, but I didn't want the responsibility.
Monday: Incongruous. During the day: lots of sun and The Best Tosti In Amsterdam with the mooperbird. At night: chilled Pinot Noir at Bubbles and Wines (wha?) with the, ahem, "label bosses" for the Double Headphone Project. Bad, bad music, bad scenery...but at least we could laugh about it.
Afterwards, off to Sound Garden for a palate cleanser of Weihenstephaner and Black Flag. Unfortunately, I may have scrubbed the ol' palate a bit too hard: the next day it was throbbing enough to make my whole head hurt. It was as if I was hungover.
Sunday: Kwakoe by myself for some geeky picture-taking and "further research". Nearly derailed by stormy weather.
Saturday: Kwakoe with some knowledgeable, adventurous eaters. Unsurprisingly, this is the right way to do Kwakoe. Although my participation was nearly derailed by the closure of the North-South metro line.
According to Het Parool, that is. This is the ham and cheese tosti from De Kat in de Wijngaert, and right behind me on the window of the cafe was a two-page review from the Parool touting this little guy as the best in the city. Who am I to say it's not? We like De Kat a lot, and though this isn't my favorite thing on their menu, it's a darn good tosti.
It's Kwakoe time again (go here for last year's pictures)....and I just went two days in a row. Is that wrong?
Below: Tjon's, easily one of the best worst vendors at the whole shindig; spareribs from Patrick's Catering and a big ol' Djogo beer; a mixed pile of bloedworst, vleesworst, bere, and fladder from DMC BBQ, which I thought was better than everybody's except Tjon's, and even then it's not really an apples/apples comparison b/c their sauces are so different...let's just say they're both among the best I've had at Kwakoe. I preferred them both to those of the lauded Humbert Vyent, where I was first introduced to these worst last year; a chicken sate with pitjel for Mara, also from Patrick's...I thought this was just maybe the best chicken sate I've ever had, ever.
Return excursions are planned. Hopefully the somehow Culiblog-associated Lucky Mi mobile kitchen will be there when we return, and hopefully we will be able to find it.
Ah, those Siennese ciaccini. Instead we have wannabe crostini awaiting final topping before going under the broiler. Top: perfectly ripe Comice pear and chopped arugula, preparing to be topped with gorgonzola and a drizzle of walnut oil. Bottom: perfectly ripe cherry tomatoes ready for a blanket of mozzarella and fresh basil leaves. Not pictured: an interesting Terschelling cranberry and gorgonzola mixture.
No focus on blogging or eating here, instead we've turned the dining room into a recording studio and attempted to capture the elusive charm of the guitar quintet on "tape". The farewell part refers to our evolution from a terrible code name to a possibly OK actual name.
The following photos detail exactly what implements are necessary for the modern guitarist to ply his craft and still sound "unguitarlike" without using any digital effects pedals. Top: Alfredo and Raphael's shared station. Middle: Jasper's extremely well-organized arsenal. Bottom: my own collection of plastic, foam, and metal. And my foot.
No more internet news. I can't seem to stop drifting down to the Comments sections. So a completely uplifting piece of news like "Starbucks to close 600 retail outlets" is ruined for me by the formless, primal grunting that follows it. Do they have touch screens? It's amazing that they spell as many words right as they do.
I suddenly sound like Ignatius J. Reilly, which must mean that it's time for an Internet Break. See you after a bit of cleansing.
Getting a bit warm here, 80°F, which doesn't sound so bad until I remind you that we don't gots no AC, and my preferred sleeping environment is somewhere around 55°F.
But what am I complaining about? It's summertime. In fact, I'm not even complaining, I'm commenting. I'd also like to comment on the National Smoking Ban that went into effect on Monday, and the fact that I (like many other people in the country) have used this occasion to once again rededicate myself to a more smokeless way of life.
Which means, of course, that very soon it will be time to start craving sweets. In preparation, I'd like to direct our attention towards something that sounds perfectly suited for Craving Fulfillment: Baklava Sundae with Grilled Peaches. I'd probably use apricots instead, my ice cream choices would be pistachio or cinnamon first, and I'd call the recipe something less Good Housekeeping-sounding, but conceptually, yis: I'm there.
Elsewhere: interview with chef Rick Moonen about sustainable seafood here.
Adam Balic has a nicely-researched look at the global migration and general history of shrimp paste here.
Also: I bet you're wondering how the ol' grocery budget is coming along. It's coming along fine: for each of the past weeks we've spent under 50 euro on groceries. 7 euros a day, two people, roughly 3.50 a day. Biggest expenditures: coffee and shrimp. Close behind, catfish and smoked salmon. No real surprises, but it feels good to be keeping track of it.
Mara made this for the umpteenth delicious time last night and I realized today that I've never put the recipe up here. Here is some verbiage cribbed from my eGullet foodblog last year...the recipe itself as written below is the newest refinement. Which is why the amount of liquid in the photos doesn't really match the recipe...we've reduced the oil/butter requirements a bit.
gambas al pilli pilli.
2-3 tbsp neutral oil, we used sunflower today 2 tbsp butter 6 to 10 pilli-pilli chiles (these might be AKA guindilla chiles? anyone?) 1/2 large onion, chopped, this is optional 1 roasted or fresh red pepper, cut into fat julienne 1 ripe tomato, coarsley chopped, canned is also fine salt and pepper
12 shrimp, halved lengthwise 2 tbsp butter
2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced 1/4 cup celery leaves or flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Add oil and butter to wok, saute the little pilli pilli chiles for 5 minutes or so to infuse the liquid with a little heat. Then add onion and pepper and tomato and saute until tender or however you like your onions. Bring the sauce to taste via salt and pepper. Remove the sauce from the pan and reserve.
Heat the wok to high, melt the 2 tbsp of butter and then add the shrimpies. Saute for a minute or two, until they're almost done, then add the reserved sauce and the garlic, and heck, a bit more butter if you feel lucky. Leave on heat for another minute or two until everything's warmed through, then serve in a bowl with lots of good bread for dipping. You could remove the chiles first if you were serving guests who are chile-sensitive: these are hot. Garnish with the herbs, I think the parsley is a very nice addition. Serves 2.