29.11.09

pseudonymity.

















Above: Sunday's sunset.

I just dreamed I met someone whose kids were named Absinthe and Persimmon. I think they may also have had tentacles.

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This is one of the first "fancy" dinners I ever tried to cook, in 1997 I think. I remember it being wonderful, but I'm trying it again tonight and we'll see what we think. ANSWER: Pleasant enough, but I'll be in no hurry to repeat it.

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You may have noticed that every other foodish blog in the InterWebz has done a Thanksgiving recipes post. We did not. Although we did participate in a medium-scale Thanksgiving meal (15 people or so?), I must say that the highlight of it was the absinthe (perhaps the source of the tentacle dreams?). Good carrot cake, too.

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27.11.09

hey asshole.



So, eh...we live in something like a housing co-op. We've just gone through an episode where it slowly became apparent to everyone that one of the newer tenants was, mmm, how should I say this...a big inconsiderate asshole dickface. Serieus, yo. Let's call him R.

I could go on for a good while about R. (who can totally go suck a bag of dicks), but I'll limit my scope in the interest of finishing this post. In his brief but memorable tenure here, R. accomplished many annoying and/or dangerous things, but one of my faves was the endless constructionizing: R. loved power tools, and had no compunction at all about using them at all hours of the day.

Not inside his apartment. Out in the common hallway that five apartments share (so as to not get sawdust in his apartment). 8am, 10pm, all day from 8am to 10pm, whenever. I'm feeling whiny here, but trust me, after a couple weeks into a project it would begin to wear at one's composure, as in this actual re-enactment.

Me: "Hey honey? Have you seen the--"
R: "GHKGHGKHGKGHKGHKGKGHHKKGGHKGHKGK...."
Me: (waiting)
R: "...GKGHGGZGZGZZWERVGVGVKVKGVKGVKVKVK...."
Me: (waiting)
R: "GHKHKhkzkzkzkzzzkz. Wzzz. rrrr."
Me:
R:
Me: "Honey?"
R:
Mara: (can't hear me anyway b/c she's got her headphones on to block out the power tools)
Me: "Do you know where my--"
R: "GHKHKGHKZXZHKSSKHXKZCHHKZKCKZHCKZKCH..."
Me: (soils self in impotent rage)

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Over time, everyone who lived here developed their own personal pet peeve(s) about R.: his mistreatment of the bathroom he shared with his next-door neighbor (don't ask); his obsessive need for more and more storage space (no lie, he eventually took to furtively cramming his belongings up above the ceiling tiles in the common hallways, furtively b/c it's a fire hazard); hmmm, right, his shutting his screaming child out into the common hallway as some sort of punishment ("Papa, pleeeeeeeease let me in....puhleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeze", etc.); eh, his propping our security doors open for hours at a time, unattended, after everyone asked him a zillion times not to; his blah blah blah.

By the time he'd lived here for few years, he'd rather impressively managed to alienate everyone in the building, and after weathering a few public shitstorms of criticism, he moved out (in true form, he left behind a truckload of stuff he didn't want...although I can't complain too too much about this, that's how we ended up with a piano, which has almost made it worth having known R.).

My point is!!! After a lengthy interview/screening process, we selected a new neighbor from the 15 final candidates, and she happens to be the long, long, longtime girlfriend of one of the longest-term residents. A pretty good pedigree. She's very laid-back and sweet (so far), and she (with the help of her boyfriend) have been moving in for the past couple of weeks, painting, decorating, building, sawing (inside her apartment) etc. Normal shit.

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This morning my eyes open at 6:45am, even though I don't really have to be up until 9-something to go to Rotterdam, and I'm wondering why I'm awake. Then from the hallway I hear the distinctive whine of hi-speed metal-on-stationary metal. Someone is sawing through metal in my hallway at 6:45am. Am I dreaming? This can't be. Certainly, Long-Time Resident and Girlfriend are not out in the hallway with a saw???

I don my ninja gear and prepare to terminate. Or, I put on pants and stumble into the hallway. There is no one. Que pasa? Then, from the back courtyard, I hear the power saw, 120 times louder now that I'm in the hallway. It is quickly joined by a jackhammer, twice as loud as the saw. Someone ten houses down is having their foundation rebuilt.

Ehh...sorry I doubted you, Long-Term Resident and Girlfriend. My next question is: how is this person with the jackhammer not being killed by his even-closer-than-me neighbors?

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26.11.09

dit is wat je niet mag doen.























Mara found this lying in a puddle on the street and was compelled to rescue it due to its awesome sad weirdness. At the top it says "Dit is wat je niet mag doen", or "This is what you mustn't do". And then there's the illustration of this thing that must not be done, which is mysterious in the extreme. Obviously a family, but where are they? In a tent? And what could possibly be inadvisable about their supplicating posture? I'd love to hear any ideas.

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Below, top: last night's unphotogenic but excellent bibimbap by Mara. Middle: current inhabitants of the kitchen island, also by Mara. Bottom: Surinamese snijbonen by me, easy and good.




23.11.09

catfish étouffée.















EDITOR'S NOTE: Hmm, I have no idea when this post is from; it was a Draft, and then I published it just now, and now its lost its "originally written" date.

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ORIGINAL POST: No time for inspired commentary, but wanted to get some pictures and recipe notes up: above, test kitchen muffin tasting (*blushes*); middle, my "peanut butter" roux; below, resulting catfish étouffée.

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Étouffée (from here on out tilde-less). When I first started cooking from scratch, back around 1990, some of the first things I cooked were what we non-Louisiana dwellers have come to think of as "Creole and Cajun food". In 1990, "Cajun cooking" had just ridden an improbable decade-long wave of huge trendiness in America, and it was nearly impossible to find an American cookbook without a jambalaya or red beans & rice or shrimp Creole recipe (here's a brief bit by Chuck Taggart about that whole phenomenon, and here's something more academic). I know jambalaya was one of the first delicious things I cooked at home.
























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catfish etoufee.

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1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp black pepper
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried thyme

6 tbsp butter
1/2 cup flour

3 stalks celery, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped (optional)
3 cloves garlic

1 can tomatoes
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp Tabasco sauce, or more, to taste
1 bottle dark beer (not stout, but something dark)
2 bay leaves

600gr catfish, cut into bite-size pieces
a mess o' scallion greens

21.11.09

tomatillo, overtoom.













Intuitively enough, the remedy for a repetitive stress injury is to stop repeating the stressful motion. So I'm taking the weekend off from playing, all I ask is that my new and hard-won right-hand callouses still be there on Monday please.

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On Friday night, instead of me hunching improperly over a torture device of a guitar, we hung out and cooked together, always a pleasure, and on Saturday night we spent some quality time in the old hood, revolving around a trip to the Filmmuseum to see Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg.














Those are indeed dead horses buried in snow. After the movie, we pretty much had to pop into Vondelpark's new burrito joint, Tomatillo, to see what was what.

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As you may know, we don't really do restaurant reviews here, and what follows here shouldn't be considered one. One of the main reasons we don't do reviews is that we are a biased-ass motherfucker (one who obviously hasn't quite grasped the subtleties of the editorial "we"), and we are getting too old and tired to worry about trying to put this bias aside, even for a couple of paragraphs.

And so thusly we stumble forward, biased. The relevant bias in this particular case is minor but still I suspect that it held some sway over my assessment of Tomatillo: that I really wanted a shrimp burrito.

Like, for hours before the movie, there was a gently pulsing thought balloon over my head filled with a plump shrimp burrito (salsa verde, monterey jack, no rice). I knew Tomatillo had no shrimp burritos. And yet, my mind kept generating the thought balloons. People behind us in the theatre could barely see the screen through all the shrimp burritos.

Once we were at Tomatillo, a Plan B needed to be examined. We ended up getting two things to take away: a steak and black bean burrito with tomatillo salsa, and a chorizo taco with pico de gallo. Sounds good, right. When we got them home, this is what they looked like:






















Sorry for the crap pictures, but still, do you see any problems? That's the chorizo taco. Yes, I'm talking about the lettuce. OK, yes we are 7000 miles from Mexico. I hear you. OK, slack has been cut. I liked this in spite of the abundant wilted lettuce (maybe shredded cabbage is a better idea for to-go orders?) and the lack of shrimp. They make their own chorizo, and it tastes almost exactly like the chorizo I used to make, so...yes. That's good. Also, their pico was exemplary.

And the shrimpless burrito? Also pleasant, though I can't say it was 100% my style, I don't really love rice in my burritos. But the steak was nicely seasoned, featuring a prominent cinnamon note (and maybe apple in the background?), which I like...but the tomatillo salsa was pretty undetectable (Mara said she had some in her half), and this left the whole thing lacking a tiny bit of tartness.

But I'm nitpicking, yo, probably because neither item was a shrimp burrito: both the taco and steak burrito hit the spot and I'll probably be back to try the pork before long. Service was totally friendly, and the place seemed like an alright place to hang out and eat, with nice non-cheezy uptempo jazz standards on the stereo, etc.

Ah yes. My only other gripe would be the €9,50 price tag for the steak burrito...dass expensive, and it's not like it's because of the steak: the chorizo burrito is 7,50. The ingrained values of the American eater in me know that a burrito should not be more than twice the price of a falafel (the last carne asada burrito I had in Phoenix cost $4.45, which is just about 3 Euros). But...the rest of me understands, really it does, and I'll be back to support them (as my local Tex-Mex establishment) before too long.

Overtoom 261
Amsterdam

pom kroket?

So, we're working on this piece in Rotterdam, which I think is going pretty well except for the RSI troubles that J-Kim and I are experiencing. J-Kim's been having them for months, mine just began about two weeks ago, but somehow neither of us immediately associated the relentless and nearly-incapacitating neck and right shoulder pain with our recent adoption of new (for us) right-hand fingerpicking techniques. Turns out that your fingerbones are connected to your neck bones after all.

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When I get to Rotterdam on rehearsal days, I take the tram to Tiendplein, which plunks me down right in the middle of like 12 Surinamese/Chinese tokos. I also arrive right at noon, so it would seem natural to do some lunchtime snacking over the next couple of weeks. I think I'll start with Kiem Foei on Monday. Rotiland also has some great reviews, and Sangam might be nice for a post-rehearsal curry if that ever happens.

20.11.09

very good friends in the city.














We somehow have a piano now. A free piano.

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mara's nuoc cham.

2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 tsp sriracha
2 tbsp raw sugar
juice of 1 lime (or roughly 1/4 cup)
slightly less than 1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
some chopped coriander (optional)

Makes a cup or so.

18.11.09

pom nom nom nom nom.























Mara made her first pom today. I know that looks like "porn" if you are reading quickly, but naw, man...she made her first porn years ago.

This was the same old pangapom recipe, and it worked pretty perfectly. In fact, it's been getting better since it came out of the oven, and if it weren't about to be all gone, there's no telling just how good it would get.

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superfreaky, yow.



Wednesday, 1:12AM. After an unusually satisfying evening of Available Jelly, I necessarily stepped into the role of post-drinking, pre-bedtime cook for J-Kim and the Mara (pasta with tomato, butter, garlic, pecorino). I myself? Still not drinking.

After we put J-Kim on a bike pointed in the general direction of his house, Mara fired up Rick James' legendary ode to adventurous women for a brief Dance Moment, and I realized that I had no idea what Mr. James was saying during my favorite vocal portion of the song, so I Googled it, and what it is, is: "Three's not a crowd to her she says." Kind of disappointing, considering the rest of the song's quotability quotient.

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Mara assembled something very collegiate yet very delicious just now (and by collegiate I mean something munchies-derived made from existing pantry items), something for which I wish we could keep the supplies around all the time. But it's so good and so easily made on the barest of impulses that I don't think it's safe for us to have the raw materials within grabbing distance. Maybe everyone else already knows about this kind of thing, but Mara's such a dessertmaking fool that we very rarely resort to quick and dirty solutions like this. You can get all of ze supplies at the Dirk.

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cherry, cream cheese, biscuit.

Take 1 Pally Country Biscuit (for you Europeans, this is a sweeter-than-average digestive biscuit; for Yanks this is something Nilla wafer- or graham crackerish but considerably less sweet).
Spread a reasonable layer of Philadelphia Cream Cheese on it.
Finish with a tablespoon of Jonker Fris cherry pie filling on top (I bet guava jelly would be awesome as well)
This is essentially a cheesecake, made in less than 30 seconds.
Repeat as necessary.

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15.11.09

smoked kale.


















Just so I could stop talking about it, I made it for lunch today. And it's delicious, a really good side dish. Ze problem is...it's going to be a bitch to translate the recipe for repeatable home cooking.

Cue whiny verbiage that no one cares about: the biggest issue is that the original recipe says "salt and sugar to taste", and the only way I could get mine to taste right (and by "right", I mean like Southern-cooked greens) was to salt and sugar my individual portions after I'd filled my bowl via a slotted spoon: otherwise the salt and sugar all got lost in the pot liquid. I'm thinking I'll use less water and more butter next time, and just go for broke on salting and sugaring the cooking liquid.

Also: We have no smoker, so the dreaded Liquid Smoke was called off the bench. If you have a smoker, cold-smoking the kale for 5 minutes is the thing to do. For me, Liquid Smoke was just fine. I think it's no longer the embarrassing cheat it used to be. Unless you're a real BBQ person, and then of course you're right, it's evil.

All that said, it really was good, and so I'm going to work on it a bit. This is just a placeholder recipe until I can buy some unprocessed heads of kale this week and try it again.

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smoked kale.

50gr butter
1 onion, brunoised
5 drops liquid smoke
1 clove garlic
250gr kale (mine was pre chopped, that's how I know how much I had)
1 liter water
2 tbsp cider vinegar
lots of salt and sugar to taste

Serves, eh...4 probably.

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14.11.09

push the button.

















I'm dealing with a FAILBlog addiction. Please hold on.

Speaking of addiction, what is it with cats and boxes? They can't help themselves. I'd love to be able to talk to the cats for a few minutes about this.

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Mmm. Needed to make a simple dinner for 3 tonight: simple 'cause I knew I wouldn't have much time to prep, or much available attention span to cook with, so I decided to do mussels alla Diavola, or fra Diavolo, or whatever grammatically-questionable Italianesque name you want to use for "mussels in a spicy tomato sauce over pasta."

Except the pasta was nixed at the last moment in order to leave stomach room for more mussels, which I now know was actually a bit of a mistake: sure, they were fine by themselves with bread, but this recipe really needs pasta to counterbalance the sharpness of the sauce.

Last time I made it (which I was sure I wrote about here but cannot currently locate the post), it was pretty perfect. I think I even used cheese. Remind me to get to the bottom of that whole Italians/cheese/seafood thing. Anyway, for my own future reference, here's the recipe I use.

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What I didn't make for dinner was going to be pretty awesome I think. That smoked kale business, with the mushrooms and the pistachio pistou thing, and that corn pudding I was stalking. And maybe a little fried catfish. I just didn't have time. De volgende keer...

11.11.09

baby laugh-a-lot.


















Hey, Mara's "potentially life-threatening muscle disorder" from 2001 is in the news today. I understand why they're doing it, but downplaying the connection between GBS and the immunization seems a bit, oh I don't know, disingenuous to me, GBS being as rare as it is.

But, yes, on the other hand, Mara contracted it on her own without being immunized, so, eh...what am I saying. I'm saying I can't believe that in 1976, 25 people died from GBS as a result of swine flu vaccinations. And I'm glad Mara didn't meet a similar fate in 2001. Otherwise, she wouldn't be able to say cute things like, "Depth charges are cool," as she just did. Also? Gradually ascending paralysis would be a pretty shitty way to die.

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Speaking of shitty ways to die, here's another morbid little article about prisoners' last meals.

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I'm enjoying my tenth alcohol-free day in a row. Note to self: you feel better, don't you? Now if I could just stop eating I'd be all set.

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10.11.09

repeat that, repeat.













Hey everybody! This is feigned enthusiasm, but listen!!! Google Maps finally has Street View for our street (and it was done on a nice-looking summer day). So if you are a faraway reader and you know our address, stick it into Google Maps and check it out (if you're unfamiliar with how this works [Pitts], you stick the address in [street, number, and city are enough], click on Search Maps, then drop the little orange dude on the red pushpin).

This is pretty much for our moms. 

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Breakfast today was the salpicon again (a fresh batch) on a sandwich. The recipe as written has a hard-boiled egg in it; we opted to separate the egg out this time. There's also a little mayo on the bottom piece of bread there. It was great again today, good enough to serve to someone other than us, though I think I'd make the bread optional, maybe using toothpicks as the delivery method.

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While we were eating, this passed by on the street outside:













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salpicon de gambas.

enough water to cover your shrimp
and say....2 cups of unshelled, possibly still-frozen shrimp
2 bay leaves
i don't know, a tsp of freshly ground pepper
1 lemon, quartered
1 tsp thyme

1/4 cup or less red wine vinegar, depending
1/4 cup light olive oil
4 tsp brine-preserved capers, chopped finely
4 tbsp cornichons, chopped finely
1/2 sweet onion or the whiter parts of 2 scallions, chopped
1 hard-boiled egg
coarse sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

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Add first set of ingredients (minus shrimp) to a pot and bring to a boil. Add shrimp, boil for 2-4 minutes or until pink or whatever your personal Shrimp Doneness Indicator is. Drain, cool, and peel shrimp.

Mix second set of ingredients together. Add cooled, peeled shrimp and stir to combine. Let marinate at least 2 hours, though probably not more than 8 hours unless your shrimp are big enough to handle it. Eat.

Serves 2.

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9.11.09

tapas @ la casa.













This was supernice: salpicon de langostino (shrimp in caper and cornichon vinaigrette) from Penelope Casas' Tapas. We, um, had it for breakfast. On bread. We shall have it again.

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8.11.09

one sweet potato.













Hilly made sweet potato biscuits today (from Dorie Greenspan's recipe), how's that for awesome. And not only did I get some hot out of the oven with peach preserves, but a couple got sent home with me for Chomping Beak to munch on. Go Hilly.

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a crimson oonce.



Is anyone else really unsurprised that there's some kind of Dance Party in the basement tonight? I mean, considering my desperate need for sleep and everything. At least it's mostly extremely boring electro house so there's nothing to grab my interest...until the next Balkan clarinet break, that is.

The above is what I'm listening to to drown out the DJ. If 200 electric guitars don't do it, what will.

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6.11.09

please release me.













(Photo: The 4-year-old Cole Mitchell)

During tonight's middle of the night browsing I came across Roadfood.com's recipe page. That corn pudding had better start running for the hills, I am coming after it.

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pouch frenzy.













Back in my tiny housepouch here in Amsterdam, struggling with the usual jetlag issues as well as a full rehearsal schedule. To soothe my savage breast, The Flightless One whipped up some other tiny pouches for my personal and less tiny inner pouch, specifically some homemade eggrolls (loempia) and the banh xep chay from a couple weeks back.























I have to agree with KK, this sauce is a knockout, especially when the dumplings are still very hot, which is a pretty small window of time. It's not just the scallion oil, but the combo with the custom srirachized soy sauce. Recipe to come.


4.11.09

desolation.













1) Actually this is just whining. I'm having a bad flight. Thank God I can't sleep on planes b/c if I could I'd want to strangle the woman next to me who has coughed 7,439 times already this evening and the flight's not even half over. The one bright spot is that sometimes she stops coughing and just snores with a sound like the wood chipper in Fargo. I'm sure this isn't fair of me, she's probaby someone's mother, daughter, etc. But Jesus.

2) Looking back on happier times, I had a great food experience today. After my first flight from Phoenix to Atlanta (3.5 hours), I had a layover in Atlanta (7 hours) before my flight to Amsterdam (8 hours). In order to not just spend 7 hours drinking beer and watching NFL highlights, I walked around the airport for an hour or so. During my travels I came upon a Paschal's, a supposedly hallowed name in Southern soul food cooking. I wasn't awesomely hungry, but really all I'd eaten so far today was peanuts and beer, and some collard greens sounded really good.

In the interest of research I had a fried chicken platter (dark meat), which came with two vegetable sides, in my case collard greens and what were called candied yams (but you and I now know that they were candied sweet potatoes).

The fried chicken was just OK, and frankly I only had about 3 bites of it, because I was captivated by my two vegetable sides. They were AWESOMELY GOOD. Thus I will be trying to recreate this when I get home.

I also want to try Kevin Gillespie's Smoked Kale.

3.11.09

i'm so high.













(Photo credit: The 4-year-old Cole Mitchell)

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Wi-Fi again at 30,000 feet. This is a good invention.

Unrelatedly, I have some questions:

1) Americans will not only apologize for accidentally running into you, but they will also apologize for accidentally walking too close to you. A woman walked past me today and whispered, "Sorry". What about? We weren't standing in line, she wasn't obstructing my view...what had she done wrong???

2) As my good friend Terrill Soules once observed, "It is impossible to not think about sex in an airport." I'm pretty sure I'm paraphrasing him as usual, because that sentence sounds a bit awkward, but nonetheless: in my experience, he is absolutely right. But why???

3) Delta Air Lines is serving an "Almond Butter Sandwich" as part of their breakfast menu (you have to pay for it). What percentage of the passengers on this flight know what almond butter is???

4) Who, who, who brings a child on to an airplane and gives them a DVD player to watch WITHOUT HEADPHONES??? This is the kind of thing that gives parents a bad name. This person has somehow not noticed that every other living creature on the airplane is listening to audio via headphones EXCEPT FOR THEIR CHILD. This is a rhetorical question by the way, the answer is "the inconsiderate assholette in seat 41B".

5) This isn't a question. You may have noticed that the links off to the lower right here have changed recently, as they tend to do. I'd like to highlight Poesy Galore, a blog run by a librarian/cartoonist that is really hitting the spot for me lately. She's a great filter for catching intellectually stimulating bits that are careening around out there on the Information Superhighway.

6) Also not a question: I must be really, really tired, because I just fell asleep for 20 minutes on an airplane, which I never, ever do. I truly cannot wait to see my bed and all the creatures that normally hang out in it.

7) I guess the questions are over for the moment. I had a very good shrimp burrito last night, from Baja Fresh, who I've maligned on this site before I believe. Not everything we got was good, the chips were stale as all get-out, but that burrito was pretty darn perfect.

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like a balloon.



I'm going to be up, up, and away pretty soon, so I thought I'd leave you with this: two of my favorite indie-rock guitarists and singers from the 90s were briefly in the same band, a band whose live performances were legendarily boring, even more boring than this pretty boring video, but their records were good. It's a pity Ash never got to sing, that would've been quite the duet.

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1.11.09

mo hanh, please.












This photo is a perfect encapsulation of my last Sunday in Phoenix: NFL on the TV, scallion oil being made as an experimental turkey condiment for dinner, and a USB cable off to the right representing Technology Day here at the homestead.

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The scallion oil is inspired first by David Chang's Thanksgiving leftovers bit for Food and Wine, and secondly, by Scimmieland's Vietnamese dinner from a couple weeks back. Chang doesn't cook his scallions, while the traditional Vietnamese mo hanh that Mara made does fry them for a few seconds.

I'm undecided. The simple, traditional recipe is what I tried first, and it seemed good, but not amazing. My normal tendency would be to upgrade to the Chang version, but instead, I'm going to just salt the mo hanh as is and see how it works. Eh, no. Actually I Chang-ed it and it's more to my taste.

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zombieland.

















This is what it looked like outside our front door at 9pm.

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This is what it looked like outside our front door three hours earlier, two of the most pensive little superheroes ever photographed.


















Later, the adults were forced to don less-super yet stiflingly hot outfits. That would be, left to right, me, Dad, and Kyle.







Several battles were fought, I'm not sure what about, this one features (L to R) Dad, Dylan, me, Mom, and Cole.


















There was an elaborate haunted house across the street, and between that and our attention-grabbing display, our avenue was the hotspot of the foothills.