smoked out.

Mara went to Frank's Smoke House this week and at some point retasted his lightly smoked salmon cakes with mango chutney and found them to still be delicious. Since this is a household that really likes fish cakes, we decided to see if we could recreate these even without owning our own smokehouse.

Two minor points of interest: we used Liquid Smoke for the smokey component here, but I'd also like to try smoked salmon (maybe two tablespoons minced is where I would start?), or bacon would probably also be not terrible.

And, you may notice that there's no egg in these cakes. Didn't need it.


frank's salmon cakes with mango chutney.

500gr salmon filet, chopped roughly into 1 cm pieces
1/2 cup scallions, chopped
1/3 to 1/2 cup bread/cracker crumbs
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp Surinamese masala (we use Chan's) or your favorite "curry powder"
2 tsp liquid smoke (or 1-2 tbsp smoked salmon, minced)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp lime zest
salt and pepper to taste

mango chutney



I've been making omelettes for Moop the last couple of days, today's was really Repeatable: good-yet-cheap tuna (packed in oil, from the Maroc), pointy red Turkish peppers, red onion, Manchego, and black pepper. Standard disclaimer: if all you've ever had is crappy water-packed supermarket tuna, this is going to sound nasty. Get yourself some good tuna.


tortilla de atún y pimiento.

Saute 1/2 red onion and 1/2 pointy red or green pepper til soft. Drain 1 can of good oil-packed tuna, flake into skillet, stir briefly to combine with onions and peppers. Sprinkle 3 tbsp Manchego over top, heat through (5 minutes or so). Remove tuna filling from skillet and set aside. Add 3 beaten eggs to skillet, wait 1 minute until bottom is set, and return tuna filling to skillet in Omelet Formation. Sprinkle again with a little Manchego and several healthy grates of black pepper. Do not salt without tasting first, this will probably be salty enough. Continue as you normally would. Serves 2.




Hmm. What sort of foodstuff would have necessitated the use of this hammer and chisel to render it useful?

I'll give you a hint:

This is the delicious and purportedly extremely healthful substance that comes out of the victim after you drill holes through its eyes (and no it's not Ash or Bishop).

That drill bit might sound harsh, but the next step is to throw a towel over its eyeless head and bash it with a hammer a few times until said head cracks open. I wish you could have seen Mara's face while she was doing the bashing. SO HAPPY!!!

Unfortunately, the next step is way, way, way less fun. With a sharp knife, or, if you've recently cut yourself quite badly and are having self-trust issues, a vegetable peeler, separate all of the white coconut meat from the brown skin. More on this in a bit.


alligator point, 1990.

The person on the right in this photo just sent me this. Yes, Alligator Point is really what this beach was called 20 years ago (we were in Florida).

And that really is me on the left, somehow. Obviously this was before I knew how to cook. And yet I seem to already have known that having pockets full of beer was Good Planning.



ceylon down the line.

Say what you will about his solo career, but Lionel Richie had some legendary moments with The Commodores.


Seems like we have a lot to catch up on, you and I, but...maybe not. Let's see, Friday Mara and I made an extra big batch of jalfrezi sauce, with the idea being that I would use this as a component for the dinners I was serving on Saturday and Sunday. It's a great recipe, the most important tips being: if your final results don't taste right, it's either 1) not cooked long enough 2) not salted properly or 3) not buttery enough.

For Saturday I geeked out a little bit and made what I thought was going to be an "extra" curry, the Sri Lankan coconut thingie. Basically fried catfish in a coconut milk sauce featuring roasted coconut, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, and something else (beginning stages pictured above). But then two unexpected dinner guests showed up and the "extra" curry wasn't so extra anymore. I didn't even snag a picture of it before it got gone.


Sunday I went to brunch. I don't think I've ever typed that sentence on this blog before. But it's true, that's what I did. The highlights for me were sweet potato biscuits, grits, and a deadly cranberry cake with a brandy-butter sauce.

Then I came home and kind of re-made Saturday night's dinner, but with pork subbing for the paneer. And instead of a Sri Lankan curry I did these roasted caulifower vada or pakora or bonda or pakoda or bhaji or something like that. Here it is with its two Thoroughly Repeatable friends, the tamarind-raisin chutney and a coriander-mint-yogurt chutney.

And here's the pork jalfrezi.


tamarind chutney.

2 tbsp tamarind concentrate
1 cup hot water
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup palm sugar
2 fennel seeds, crushed
1/2 tsp cumin

Combine, and simmer for quite some time, maybe 45 minutes.



I'm sure there's a more descriptive name for what I am than "obsessive", maybe someone can help remind/enlighten me as to what it is so that I don't spend another hour of my life stuck in a marginally-useful Googhole.

The symptoms: when "interested" in a subject, I tend to crave detail, beginning with the basics and quickly working towards the "most interesting" nooks and crannies I can sniff out. If the subject's entire realm of knowable detail is a tree, metaphorically speaking, then you will most definitely find me out on the tiniest dead-end branches, squinting metaphorically off into the distance in search of other branches to which I might metaphorically leap (someone witty should say something hilarious here about a brother's metaphorical weight and the likelihood of any metaphorical branch supporting his metaphorical leaping without his ending up in a tangle of detail-obsessed limbs on the floor of his Imaginary Knowledge Jungle, but...).

Which brings me to my current "interest" in the cooking of Sri Lanka. I'm not proud of it, it's just the way my mind works.


(insert perfunctory and poorly-researched three-sentence history of Sri Lanka here)

I can see how it happened. Unbeknownst to y'all, I've been playing around with Indian food lately, a cuisine that I was once quite madly in love with but had to abandon in the interest of possible good health, or at least something we'll call "less bad health".

As a result of this previous "interest", there aren't too many regional styles of cooking over there with which I'm completely unfamiliar, but Sri Lankan is (was) one of them. And as you can imagine, I have a real problem leaving these last stones unturned.

And thus, we turn them. Tonight I'm making a Sri Lankan curry. Elements of distinction? Coconut, cinnamon, cardamom. Toasted, to boot.

Until then, here's this:



got a brain, got a brain, like a peanut on a plate.

OK, the secret is out: I'm a bit hungover today after yesterday's afternoon show at the BIMHuis stretched into a bit of a pub crawl.

Luckily my helper picked up a roti from Toko Hangalampoe. It's not the most photogenic thing around: that's potatoes, long beans, an egg, and three pieces of chicken in a curry broth with hot Madame Jeanette sambal and flaky roti bread (for me, the highlight) to wrap everything in.

i can explain.

Serious diet begins tomorrow. Today...I had to say some goodbyes. Pork belly and hoisin? It was great to see you both this morning, thanks for stopping by. Catch you later, guys.




De Avondmarkt now suddenly sells every imaginable variety of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. I like imagining that it's their carefully-considered response to Dirk and AH both suddenly being open on Sunday now. Take that, you corporate bastards!!!


I made this tempeh again, marinating it last night and cooking it up for breakfast. I can't tell if it's actually really good or if I've just gotten really attached to the taste of tempeh. Because of the marinade, you can't really cook it to proper Tempeh Brownness (and thus proper Tempeh Crispness neither); in fact, this time I even left the maple syrup out of the marinade (intending to glaze with it at the end) and the soy sauce still burned a little.

But...I could still see eating this quite often. Mara hates the un-crisp texture, so I'm guessing this is not an appropriate recipe for the as-yet-unconverted.



the holy trinity + 1.

In our little red well-intentioned but ultimately unfinishable homemade cookbook, there's a page titled THE HOLY TRINITY. This refers to three courses that, if served in succession, will almost definitely make you feel better about everything except your diet and your breath.

They are: caesar salad, tortellini alfredo, and shrimp dijon. Three classic examples of Ohio River mining country Italian-American home cooking that my spellchecker wants me to capitalize in order to make them sound fancy (Caesar, Alfredo, Dijon).

But capitalization would make it seem like they're supposed to be an implementation of some "authentic" dish, while in reality these are very much their own pretty classic Americanized things that just happen to be saddled with some Europeanized monikers.

Here's also where we'll put the TNC recipe, though it's not officially part of the trinity. As I pointed out earlier, of course you could sex this up with fancy cheese and other modifications, but the one below is the version that provides the expected and necessary comfort.




THE HOLY TRINITY recipes are all from the Mara side of the family, which is why I mention the Ohio River Valley, but to be honest I haven't yet tried to track down the exact provenance of these versions. I don't mean provenance like the legend of Caesar salad or fettuccine Alfredo: I mean, more like when did people start making this specific version and exactly where does it still get made like this. 

I'm curious b/c I suspect that there are some things about these recipes that are specific to Italian immigrant cooking in mining country (specifically in our cases Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania). And I suspect this simply because so many of Mara's family recipes have turned out to be highly geographically specific, such as pepperoni buns (this whole NYT article has lots of good Italian miner background) and fiadone.

Fiadone are especially interesting in this regard because, the last time I looked, I could find almost nothing about them online. Of course, I was spelling them "fiadune" because that's the spelling I somehow came up with from Alverta's recipe card, and it was highly probable that my spelling was incorrect.

Oh, right: what are they....as I know them, made by Alverta, they are little ricotta-filled baked raviolis. Not very sweet, not very savory, just niiice. Googling around here in 2010, my first hit is Clotilde describing fiadone as a Corsican cheesecake, sounds like a promising avenue, especially if you consider that up in northern Ohio there used to be a town called Corsica. And that the food of the "real" Corsica is pretty Italian-influenced. 

But all of this turned out to be a Googhole smokescreen or cheesescreen or some kind of screen. Some further careful Googling reveals that fiadone con ricotta are a well-known specialty of Molise, which is next to Abruzzo, which is where Mara's family is from, so yes. They brought them with them. So did other Abruzzini, it looks like.

And I just wasted about an hour learning all kinds of things about Corsica.


the caesar salad.

1/4 cup good olive oil
1/8 cup good red wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp anchovy paste, or 2 mashed anchovies
1 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1 head romaine lettuce
1 cup (just to be safe) pecorino or parmesan cheese, grated coarsely

Combine first 8 ingredients, dress lettuce leaves, top with cheese and possibly more black pepper. Serves 4.


the tortellini alfredo.

1 cup crème fraîche
1 cup pecorino, grated fine
2 tbsp butter, softened
2-3 cloves good fresh garlic, pressed
salt and pepper to taste
enough tortellini for 2 people

Put pasta in salted boiling water, combine sauce ingredients in a bowl. When pasta is done, drain, and put back in saucepan, add sauce, serve. Serves 2.


the shrimp d'jo3n.

24 shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup clarified butter
4 cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 cup bread crumbs or crushed toasted almonds
1/4 cup pecorino or other hard cheese, grated
paprika for dustimg

Melt butter in saucepan and divide between two round shallow baking vessels. Add 2 cloves of garlic to each vessel, let's say it's a ramekin because vessel sounds weird. Divide shrimp among ramekins, turning once to coat with butter/garlic. Top with bread crumbs and pecorino, and a sprinkle of paprika. Place under broiler until attractively browned. Commence to placing of teeth upon said shrimpuses. Serves 2.


the tuna noodle casserole.

1 can tuna packed in water, drained (if packed in decent oil, reserve)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup red onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil (if tuna didn't come packed in oil)
1 cup pecorino, grated fine
3 cups noodles, cooked

Saute celery and onion in olive oil, or 1 tbsp oil from the tuna can. Combine celery and onion with rest of ingredients in a baking pan, maybe sprinkle some more cheese on top. Bake at 170C for 30 minutes. Serves 2 or 3.


snowballs or thumbprints.

Hey guys. Did you know that this post is my 801st on this blog? Far out.

People actually used to say that, "Far out".

I keep forgetting to read Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking. A while back I had decided I probably couldn't handle it, but then I just read an Elisabeth Kübler-Ross book for this new project we're working on, and I survived that, ha, "survived", and so, I figure I'll probably be OK with Joan. So I got to get a copy, yo.


In other news, we are entering a period of healthfulness after several months of gradually doing everything wrong again. Wish us/me luck.

Tonight, we will be working on some last comfort-y moments. I'm thinking I'll try this again, and Mara is working on some kind of egg roll.

More later.



In recovery from several days of heavy socializing and a successful gig. At the moment all we want is comfort food. For lunch today that meant: pasta with tuna, celery, onions, mayo, and Parmesan...the quick and European tuna noodle casserole (TNC). Why is this abomination so darn satisfying? Recipe to come, but til then you can marvel at someone else's recipe here. And here. And...here.

Below, a related recipe. Related, in that it comes right before tuna noodle casserole in our homemade cookbook under the heading I NEED COMFORT FOOD.


the PMS sandwich.

1 good onion, sliced
1/2 lemon
1 tbsp butter
1 good poppyseed kaiser roll
1-2 slices Emmenthaler, Gruyere, or Gouda
2 tbsp mayonnaise
freshly ground pepper

Melt butter, saute onion briefly, squeeze the half lemon into the pan, arrange onions into something that might fit on the bottom half of a Kaiser roll, place the cheese on top of that pile until it really melts. Put the mayo on the top half of the roll, put the onion-cheese pile on the bottom half, grind pepper, close, eat, feel better for awhile.

behind the wall of cheese.

A food shop in Liguria. Photo by Andy.


piroshky piroshky.

If you go to 5:15 in this video, you'll see a visit to Piroshky Piroshky, the smell of which is one of my most indelible food memories ever. When in Seattle for weeks at a time, I used to try to do exactly what Bourdain says he would do: eat at Piroshky Piroshky every day until I just couldn't stand it anymore. Except I could never not stand it anymore.

And this, well...two completely unrelated but totally trustworthy sources posted it yesterday so I had to check it out, and, yes, it's worth a couple seconds of your time: