Sunday, February 22, 2009

Eggs Clean. Eggs Dirty.

David Foster Wallace was right* that one of the repercussions of being a college graduate (and particularly, in his case and mine, a philosophy degree holder) is the gnawing desire to intellectualize all of the banalities of life.** And it's a temptation that's hard to resist. I was in the kitchen two weeks ago with the aim of an eggy Sunday brunch. Now, before I get too deep into this I want to state the simple truth of things: I could not decide if I wanted a robustly flavored brunch (think garlic-onion-feta omelet style, maybe some red pepper flakes, buttered toast), or something more delicate (avocado-fresh mozz-tomato poached egg on an english muffin). So, I went both ways. Actually, I went a third way, which may or may not deserve to be indicted by the "over-intellectualization" accusation. The third way, and the subject of this post is Eggs Clean, Eggs Dirty.

It's a standard solution to any dichotomous but non-mutually-exclusive problem: choose both. I had the time. I had the resources. I had the ganas. I would have some eggs clean (subtle, delicate, fresh flavors), some eggs dirty (halitosis-inducing). A yin and a yang on my breakfast plate: o, beautiful balance. The Apollonian and the Dionysian, if you will.*** My breakfast had a guiding principle, a metaphysical foundation, a real theme that I planned to repeat in variation in weeks to come. This, for the skimmers, is where the "over-intellectualization" comes into play. For Chrissake, it's an omelet. As I cooked I flipped and folded and kneaded and tossed around in my mind the now-titled Eggs Clean Eggs Dirty approach to brunch. From there, it grew. (In the interest of full disclosure, no one loves a two-for-one like I do.)

Now, what makes it worse is that I proceeded to preach Eggs Clean Eggs Dirty. Will heard about it. He was unimpressed. Not to let this crush my enthusiasm, I brought it to Kibbee and Rachel. They let me down a bit more gently, "It's amazing you've got the energy to cook two kinds of eggs..." (Note, ellipsis, not exclamation.) I didn't think this was a question of energy, I thought it was a question of an idea having power. It had balance, it satisfied all sorts of urges, I never had to settle on a single flavor set for my eggs again. These more abstract qualities, however, proved less than compelling in the world of dishwashing (sometimes I rationalize K&R's tepid response by imagining doing dishes in their 8" x 10" dribbly-faucet sink). In response, I've backed off the Eggs Clean Eggs Dirty as a brunch for everyone, and rationalized it to myself as a good way to get two brunch recipes on the blog at one time.

Enough thinking, time to eat. Egg brunch, for me at least, somehow has this wonderful ability to become very complicated without becoming too messy or too time-consuming. I really believe that doing two kinds of eggs at one time is less burdensome than it first appears. You don't have to take my word for it, you can try it. If you're sappy, it's a great love brunch: one person makes eggs clean, one eggs dirty, and you split!**** But you have to call it Eggs Clean Eggs Dirty.

Here it is: a case study, theory in action:

{+} Yin
{+} Yang

Regretfully Yours,

* The 'was right' link is required reading. Here is some suggested reading.

** I'm pretty sure that DFW says "over-intellectualize." I don't want to commit to "over" yet because it seems unnecessarily pejorative to me. I expect my reluctance is nothing more than a knee-jerk defense of my default behavior. Whatever the case, what Wallace is actually after isn't a standard, cut-and-dry, conservative anti-intellectualism. Far from it (see: any non-fiction piece Wallace ever wrote). Instead, Wallace is worried that it's so incredibly easy to become absorbed in our own intellectual life. It's so easy to become caught up in the monologue in our heads and not pay attention to (1) what is happening around us, and (2) whether we are spending these moments of onanism thinking about things that really matter. For the real gist of it (and some better-crafted prose), read the linked speech. I just wanted to point out that Wallace thinks there's nothing wrong with a lot of the abstraction and intellectualzation that we do; and, I wanted to point this out mostly to defend my own habits. On an unrelated note, DFW coined one of my new favorite words in his essay "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never do Again": niagaracal. Like Niagara falls. This word is so money, but lamentably so rarely appropriate.

*** An abuse of terms, if ever there was one. But (1) I couldn't resist, and (2) we were talking about over-intellectualizing . . .

**** I'm convinced that this really sappy here's-how-to-make-it-if-you're-in-love tone comes from reading too many other food blogs. If I offended you, I apologize. If I embarrassed myself, ignore it.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Happy Valentine's Day, everybody! And a merry Christmas! So, I've already confessed to being a little delinquent in getting posts up on the ol' blogalog,* and this is one of the more tardy (though, there may or may not be a post about an August paella...) Since the Brothers Bull have moved in triplicate to Seattle, Papa and Mama Bull decided that they would visit their children for the winter holidays. We made a nice week and a half of it, including a trip to Whidbey Island (glorious in the cold light of the northwest winter sun).

M & C arrived in the evening on Christmas day, so we had our Christmas dinner on the 26th, and, as is only appropriate, all of the dishes were themed to be Christmas colors: red pepper risotto with lime, roasted garlic brussels sprouts with paprika, and pomegranate parsley tabouleh. Unfortunately, my pictures of the food are less than satisfactory. These were my young, naive, pre-DSLR days. This may be the best shot that I got:

The sprouts recipe is dead simple, and is essentially my aping the way that my aunt makes b-sprouts for every Thanksgiving. If you think that you don't love brussels sprouts, you're wrong. You do. If you need convincing, try this recipe. Or, if you don't need heavy cream to convince you (hell, it convinces me that nearly anything is delicious), try them roasted:

{+} Sprouts Recipe

Will and I have been eating our share of Brussels sprouts recently, and it's been grand. Just the other day we had Kribshire over for some spinach-feta-ricotta calzones, and had some of these on the side. I'll post soon about calzones--Will and I have been using a no-rise pizza dough to make our calzones, and it's damn easy. Also, calzones are brilliant cheese delivery devices, so you gotta love 'em.

I've always loved tabouleh, and got the idea for a bulgur-based salad with a pomegranate kick here. I made swapped the walnuts for almonds, bailed on the celery, and added a touch of lime juice to the dressing. I think it came out quite nicely as a way to spice up your regular old tabouleh. Also, for some reason pomegranate seeds, those tart little explosions of joy, remind me of that scene from RotK where Denethor goes all NOM NOMs (@25s) on that cherry tomato. Hilarious. Anyway, here's the salad:

{+} Pomegranate Tabouleh

Finally, we've made our way to the risotto. I've actually made this a number of times. Damn, risotto is good. Also, I used leftovers to make Arancini, which are unequivocally one of the greatest creations of Western civilization. My god, these are genius. I've got a pic, so maybe I'll add a post about them, but I more or less followed the recipe from Food Junta anyway. So, on to the red pepper risotto and the conclusion of Christmas dinner.

{+} Red Pepper Risotto

Look forward to hearing about some kitchsperiments that took place this weekend soon.

Taste of Italy,**

*I can't believe I've never thought of this before. IX points to whomever correctly remembers the book that I read this summer which features prominently the Guosim warcry.

** Eric may or may not have signed a drunken e-mail that I received from him about taking olive oil shots with this. Hey, it's in his blood.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Opa!: Tzatziki and Friends

I discovered the wonder that is a real, assertive tzatziki (i.e., not what is generally served on your falafel or souvlaki at that vaguely Mediterranean sandwich place) while on the Hellenic leg of my summer sojourn this year (for curious folks, there was also a Flemish leg, an Iberian leg, and an Ottoman leg--and they were referred to as such to the consistent confusion of other native (and non-native) speakers of English). At the outset of our aforementioned Hellenic leg, we encountered "herbage cheese balls" (which bore my two favorite characteristics of Greek cuisine: being drowned in olive oil and being delicious) and, the subject of this entry, authentic tzatziki. Served as an appetizer with fresh bread, Greek tzatziki is the absolute jam. It's got a yogurt tang, a garlic kick, the comfort of dill, some lemony love, and, made right, the added subtlety of some extra virgin olive oil.

After a middling-at-best attempt to recreate that Greek delight in Istanbul, I came back to the states and worked the recipe into shape. It is my go-to dip these days (which used to be hummus, and then was guacamole--both of which still turn up pretty often when Will and I are entertaining--actually, hummus less so these days because I can only find Joyva tahini in Seattle, which just does not do it for me; there's little sesame kick, and it's insufficiently creamy). It's not nearly as quick to make as hummus since there's some knifework involved, but in this eater's estimation,* the extra work is well worth it.

I don't have any great pictures of the process at the moment, but I'll add some next I make it, which will be soon. As matter of note, you don't need Greek yogurt (Fage, Oikos, and Greek Gods are the brands I've seen in supermarkets) to make tzatziki, but it REALLY helps. It's much thicker than regular yogurt and keeps the dip from being runny. If you can't get your hands on Greek yogurt, I've heard that you can approximate it with regular yogurt. The essential process is to strain more of the whey out of the yogurt so that it has the same sort of thickness. You should be able to do this with a couple layers of cheesecloth. Put the yogurt in it, squeeze, and then hang it for a bit from the faucet to let more of the whey drain. In fact, I'm planning on trying this soon and using the hanging time to infuse the yogurt with some other flavor (ginger, perhaps?).

Anyway, on to the recipe.

{+} Tzatziki Recipe

So, as I said, I don't have any pictures of straight tzatziki these days. I will soon. I do, however, have a picture of my Greek-themed open-faced eggplant & kale sandwich which sprung out of my mind and onto my plate last Monday. A bit heavy for a pre-soccer meal, but holy hell, it was delicious:

Might as well give you the "recipe" for that as well. It was really just the results of what was in the fridge:

{+} Eggplant Kale Sandwich Recipe

Chau chau** for now now!

*I've incorporated this construction into my idiolect after picking it up from one of my favorite purveyors of idiosyncrasies, Harold Bloom. E.g., "In this editor's lifelong judgment, Wallace Stevens is the principal America poet since Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson." I'm not sure everyone finds Bloom as funny as I do, but I've got a real soft spot for the man.

**You can thank the Chileans for this spelling. Also, pokemones.