Friday, October 31, 2008

Product Review: "Silk" Apples

As the 20+ varieties of apples come in at the Central Market, I get new varieties to try out. One such was the Silk apple which was described as having a wonderfully smooth texture and delicious flavor. They looked like Golden Delicious to me which I am not fond of, preferring a good amount of tartness to offset the sweetness. Sadly, this is also how I felt the Silk apple tasted ... insipidly sweet.

I mentioned this likeness to Tom at lunch while handing him over his third Silk apple of the week.

He said, "I thought maybe they were just bred by someone who doesn't like apples."


You know, next time, he could speak up earlier ... I can make applesauce with any kind of apple and get that tartness in there with some lemon juice.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Best Simple Chili

By popular demand, I am reposting this which I ran in 2004 (that seems so long ago!). This is not too spicy as long as you are not using really hot chili powder.

Just remember ... no beans. As we discovered on vacation one time, we have raised the girls to be good Texans in that respect. "No beans," Rose said sharply. "Chili should never have beans and that is that."
Because you need something to have with the Skillet Cornbread, here's my favorite chili recipe. I found this in Matt Martinez' Culinary Frontier, one of the best Tex-Mex cookbooks ever. I almost always have to adjust seasonings but I can live with that because he has the easiest techniques I have ever found to replace the usual ones found in Mexican cookbooks.

From Matt Martinez's Culinary Frontier. I'm pretty sure I increased the seasonings in this but otherwise it is his recipe.

Step 1:
1 pound ground beef
3-4 tablespoons chili powder
1-2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 cloves minced garlic
2-3 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
4 tablespoons chopped onion
Brown the meat, then drain most of the fat. Add all the seasonings, garlic and onion and saute for 2 minutes.

Step 2:
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 cups water
2-4 tablespoons cornmeal
Add tomatoes and water, and simmer uncovered until tender, about 1 hour or more, until the meat reaches the desired tenderness. (If the chili seems too soupy, mix the cornmeal with a little water and mix it into the chili. Simmer for 15 minutes to thicken.)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Thoughts for Food

From my quote journal.
A salesman who travels southern Georgia and Alabama was told of a boarding house in a small town in his territory that had great food. One day he saw some cars parked outside of a house that looked right and went in. There were about ten people sitting at a big dining table heaped with food. He took an empty chair. He was a chatty type, and so were they. They passed the platters, and he ate his fill. When he stood up and asked the lady at the head of the table how much he owed her, she said, "Oh, you don't owe anything. This is a private home. We home you enjoyed your dinner.
Gail Greenblatt, quoted in A Gracious Plenty

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Weekend Joke

A young man was visiting his brother and sister-in-law for Christmas dinner. As he arrived at their house he found his young nephew, Mikey, helping them bake some cupcakes.

After they were done, his sister-in-law allowed Mikey to put the icing on. When the boy had finished, he brought them to the table.

"The cupcakes look delicious, Mike." his uncle said. He took a bite and said, "Mikey these are so good."

As he finished cupcake and took another, he again complimented his little nephew. "The cupcakes look beautiful, Mikey," his uncle said. "How did you get the icing so neat?"

His nephew replied, "It was easy. I just licked them."

The uncle turned pale. He pointed to the plate of cupcakes. "You licked all of these?"

Mikey replied, "Well no. After a while my tongue got tired, and I got the dog to help."

Monday, October 20, 2008

Thoughts for Food

From my quote journal.
We had a kettle; we let it leak:
Our not repairing made it worse.
We haven't had any tea for a week...
The bottom is out of the Universe.

Rudyard Kipling

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Weekend Joke

Three cooks, one from Kentucky, one from California and one from Oregon were sitting on a park bench passing the time. Suddenly, the cook from Kentucky reaches under the bench and drags out a new bottle of bourbon, takes a big swig, tosses the bottle into the air and shoots it with a pistol.

"What did you do that for?" asks the cook from California.

"We got lots of bourbon in Kentucky" was the reply.

Next the cook from California takes out a bottle of fine wine, takes a huge swig, throws the bottle into the air and shoots it with a pistol.

"What did you do that for?" asks the cook from Oregon.

"We got lots of wine in California" was the reply.

The cook from Oregon takes out a bottle of Henry's Private Reserve beer, takes a humongous swig and shoots the cook from California.

"What did you do that for?" asks the cook from Kentucky.

"We got lots of Californians in Oregon" was the reply.

Fine Art Friday - a day late

A Peeled Clementine by Duane Keiser

Pumpkin Bread Pudding?

Bread pudding made with challah bread, pumpkin, spices, half and half ... and then topped with a caramel sauce?

Oh, I am there, especially when I consider that I was trying to figure out what to make for Monday's book club. Could be time to get pumpkin-ish! And The Anchoress has it spelled out for us.

Friday, October 17, 2008

"Where are the Dallas food bloggers?"

This was the question that Jessie had when we were introduced at a party last weekend ... "You and Jessie need to talk. She's a food blogger!"

Indeed Jessie is a food blogger and much above the level that is held to around here. For one thing, she takes the most gorgeous photos of the results after she cooks. That makes Body and Soul Food a glorious and informative place to visit.

For instance, the above photo is the first time I've ever seen anything to interest me in anything cooked in "Crazy Water" though I've read many a recipe in Italian cookbooks for such a thing.

I don't know where the Dallas food bloggers are ... there must be others. (Actually I just came across this Foodbuzz listing so that answers one question.)

However, I'm very glad to have met Jessie and to have her lovely and delicious-looking blog to browse. Go check it out.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Thoughts for Food

From my quote journal.
A lot of people have never really had the chance to taste a decent apple pie, but after a minute's sensual reflection will know positively what they would expect if they did. They can taste it on their mind's tongue...
M.F.K. Fisher

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Weekend Joke

A wife was making a breakfast of fried eggs for her husband.

Suddenly her husband burst into the kitchen. "Careful ... CAREFUL! Put in some more butter! Oh my GOSH! You're cooking too many at once. TOO MANY! Turn them! TURN THEM NOW! We need more butter. Oh my GOSH! WHERE are we going to get MORE BUTTER? They're going to STICK! Careful ... CAREFUL! I said be CAREFUL! You NEVER listen to me when you're cooking! Never! Turn them! Hurry up! Are you CRAZY? Have you LOST your mind? Don't forget to salt them. You know you always forget to salt them. Use the salt. USE THE SALT! THE SALT!"

The wife stared at him. "What the hell is wrong with you? You think I don't know how to fry a couple of eggs?"

The husband calmly replied, "I wanted to show you what it feels like when I'm driving with you in the car."

Friday, October 10, 2008

I am increasingly approving of The Nutrition Diva

She is part of the Quick & Dirty Tips podcasting family. I enjoy several of those podcasts as a matter of fact.

What makes me point out The Nutrition Diva? She uses common sense. And science.

I like that.

For instance, I had fallen prey to high fructose hysteria (to my shame, as I now realize) and she helped shake me into common sense (emphasis added):
... As is so often the case, a little chemistry helps makes things a lot clearer. Table sugar, or sucrose, is actually made up of two types of sugar molecules; it’s about equal parts glucose and fructose.

Regular corn syrup, the kind that you can buy on the grocery store, has a different profile. It’s much lower in fructose than table sugar. You heard me correctly: Corn syrup is naturally quite low in fructose. And that makes it a poor substitute for table sugar. Things made with regular corn syrup don’t taste the same as things made with table sugar.

The breakthrough for food manufacturers came when they figured out how to produce a corn syrup that was higher in fructose. High-fructose corn syrup actually has about the same amount of fructose as regular table sugar—making it a viable alternative for food processing. Because corn syrup is so much cheaper than cane sugar, manufacturers quickly adopted it and high-fructose corn syrup has largely replaced cane sugar in manufactured foods.

But here’s what gets lost in the high-fructose hysteria: Foods and drinks made with high-fructose corn syrup are, in general, no higher in fructose than foods made with regular sugar. But they are cheaper. ...
Or this bit of information about how much water to drink? Now, this one I knew. But it was refreshing to hear a little known bit of information being brought to light through a venue that is fairly popular (or so I'd bet):
... I bet you’ve heard it said that you need to drink at least eight glasses of water a day in order to stay properly hydrated. Perhaps you’ve also read that by the time you feel thirsty you’re already in an advanced state of dehydration, or that most of us are chronically dehydrated. Chances are also good that you’ve been told that drinking caffeinated beverages like tea and coffee cause you to lose more fluid than you take in.

What would you say if I told you that all of these widely held truths are little more than urban legends?

I can almost hear your shocked expressions! The dehydration myth has become so firmly entrenched in our collective consciousness that it may indeed come as a surprise to learn that there is very little scientific support for any of these notions. ...

You don't have to listen to the podcast if you'd rather read. Full transcripts are available for each show.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Now Serving Hot Links

My Family's Noodle Kugel
From Smitten Kitchen. I've never been attracted to noodle puddings but this looks darned good. Also, Smitten Kitchen is where I found that fantastic Iced Coffee recipe as well as this Majestic and Moist Honey Cake recipe which wowed a group of people at our house earlier this week. (Rita, that's the recipe you asked for...) So, yes, I trust her.

Butter, Part 1
Finishing up the amazingly complete five part series about olive oil, Just Food Now turns their attention to butter. Great writing, interesting photos, and recipes. Dive in!

A Home Cooked Japanese Lunch
What do the Japanese really eat at home? Go along with World Foodie Guide and find out.

In Search of West Texas Asado
No, not carne asada. That's what Homesick Texan thought too but found out differently. I have to say those photos and that recipe look darned good. That may be some football kinda food for our near future...

The Scent of a Kitchen
Tigers & Strawberries is musing on this subject. I, myself, am partial to the smell of Chinese food ... good thing that I don't let it bother me that a stir-fry scent lingers until the next day. This is one I am going to muse further about myself.

Monday, October 06, 2008

100 Days of Holidays

Better Homes and Gardens has just launched 100 Days of Holidays.
  • more than 400 new slide shows
  • free recipes, craft projects, and decorating ideas
  • 100 daily email newsletters
  • 50 new how to videos
  • five fun new interactive tools
  • three online courses
  • new photo contests
I have been a fan of Better Homes and Gardens' Christmas cookie magazines and recipes for many, many years.

I wish I'd have had their website around when I was trying to come up with ways to fulfill our girls' Halloween costume ideas. One year, Hannah was Medusa. Now that takes some ingenuity!

If you check out their holiday section you can find not only costume ideas but recipes for some very clever Halloween goodies. Which all takes me back to the year that Rose made "brain" cookies. You know, if you use enough black food coloring, a garlic press, and some cookie dough ... you can come up with grayish brains with nice, gooey green frosting on top. Ugh! Everyone loved them!

Of course, the website will be moving on through the holiday season as the days whip by. I highly recommend this spot for those last-minute (or even planned) family necessities as Halloween parties, Thanksgiving celebrations, and Christmas gift needs pop up. What's best of all is that a craft-hating person like me can do most of these pretty easily.

Check it out.

(You do have to sign up, but it is free. When it goes to the second window that wants all your contact info, if you don't want to give it then you can just back out. You're still signed up and get access.)

Thoughts for Food

From my quote journal.
“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.”
A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Weekend Joke

Did you hear that in New York the Stop and Shop grocery chain merged with the A&P?

Now it's called the Stop & P.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Fine Art Friday

Churros in Barcelona from one of my very favorite photographers, Barcelona Photoblog.

Now Serving Hot Links

'Tis the Season for ... Squash!
How To has everything you need to know about cooking squash. With their usual thoroughness, they not only have photos and techniques but plenty of links to recipes.

Chinese Milk Scandal
Jen is in China with little ones ... looking into the scoop on the milk scandal has her needing a chemist.

What Real Hunger Means
Silk Road Gourmet has a sobering look at places in the world where stealing a handful of rice means the difference between life and death. She goes much further than the usual facile comparisons between the "haves" and "have nots" to consider how our society looks at food also. Well worth reading.

Slashfood Flickr Pool
I didn't know this existed! Glorious food photography from all over the internet.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Worth a Thousand Words

green tomatoes with yellow pot, fork and spoon by Marissa Verechia
Click through on the link above to reach her blog, pilgrim's breakfast, and see more wonderful art.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

A Simple Khmer Stir-Fry ... With Lots and Lots of Ginger

Reading Hot Sour Salty Sweet: A Culinary Journey Through Southeast Asia I was irresistibly drawn to this recipe which they described as being one where the ginger is both a flavoring and a vegetable. Let's see ... about two cups of matchstick cut ginger. Oy veh! That would either kill you or cure you it seemed to me.

This I had to try.

It was absolutely delicious. Clearly it wouldn't do to serve it to those who didn't like ginger but the flavors balanced out so well that we never felt overwhelmed. Don't get me wrong. There was plenty of ginger and it was plenty hot ... but oh, so very good.

I also liked the fact that it used catfish. I like catfish ... both for the flavor and the low, low price compared to other fish.

Stir-Fried Fish with Ginger
[traey cha k'nye -- Cambodia]

1 pound fish fillets (catfish, snapper, or any other firm-fleshed fish)
1/2 pound ginger, preferably young ginger
3 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil
1/4 cup minced shallots
4 scallions, trimmed, smashed flat with the side of a cleaver, sliced lengthwise in half and then cut into 2-inch lengths (I didn't have any on hand)
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Slice the fish fillets into strips about 2 inches long and less than 1/2 inch thick. Peel the ginger, then cut into fine matchstick-length julienne (this is most easily done by cutting thin slices, then stacking these to cut them into matchsticks.) You should have about 2 cups, loosely packed.

Heat a wok over medium-high heat. (I would just use a big skillet if that's what you have.) Add the oil and, when it is hot, add the ginger.

When the ginger is starting to turn golden, after about 3 minutes, toss in the shallots. Stir-fry until the ginger is golden-brown, 2 to 4 minutes.

Toss in the scallions, reserving a few shreds for garnish, and stir-fry briefly, pressing the scallions against the hot wok to sear them.

Add the sliced fish and stir-fry gently for 1 minute, using your spatula to separate the slices and to expose them all to the hot wok.

Add the fish sauce, sugar, and salt, stir gently, and cook for 3 minutes, or until the fish is just cooked through.

Add the lime juice, taste and adjust the seasonings if you wish, and turn out onto a platter. Garnish with the reserved scallion shreds and serve hot.

Serves: 4. Serve with rice, a clear soup, and a fresh tasting salad.