Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Stuff Next to an Empty Brita Filter1

In case you didn't follow the title link, hummus, is that stuff.2 The near-ubiquitous3 garbanzo bean dip4 is cheap, easy, and delicious. It may seem like some exotic middle-eastern spread, but that's about as full of stereotypes as these pictures of Jake Gyllenhaal as the (shirtless) Prince of Persia. Yes, the video game Prince of Persia (a startling likeness, indeed). Admission: those last two sentences were mere conduits for the JG near-nudie pics. Good thing they let me set my own desktop wallpaper at work.

Back to task: I've had Papa Bull's hummus recipe for the last couple years, and have used it basically any time that I intended to make hummus. "Hummus recipe" is a bit of a stretch. All it really requires is putting some basic and common goodies in a food processor in proportions that you find pleasing. I (barely) upped the ante by adding roasted garlic to this batch. Now, I may have mentioned during my discussion of Tzatziki that I was having trouble finding good tahina in Seattle. Joyva never has been up to snuff in my book. As it turns out, I was just looking for love in all the wrong places. The right place to look was the Latin American market down next to Pike Place. Obvi. That's where I found a container of Cortas, which was right up my alley. Incidentally, that link to the Cortas tahina is from I am confused. Nevertheless, the tahina is just what you want: creamy and sesamey (FWIW, I've had the best luck with lebanese tahina). Grab some and have at this:

{+} Papa Bull's Hummus

There's also been quite a bit going on in the world of food politics these days. I can't help but reflect on some of it here, but I've collapsed it for your sake. There's a whole slew of good links in there, so I do recommend taking a look and seeing if any of it piques your interest.

{+} Four assorted hand-wavings at recent food news that didn't fit elsewhere

Go make hummus. It's worth it.


Now I feel like I need another bit of food porn to balance things out. My haul from the Ballard farmers' market:

Beets and carrots. Also in the image is a book I just received, On Food and Cooking, which is a classic on science in the kitchen. Look for more sciencey posts soon!

1 Hummus.

2 Full disclosure: I may or may not be posting to regain some face after Kibbee and Rachel showed me up with a phenomenal looking pizza.

3 That I call hummus "near-ubiquitous" not only shows the acuteness of SWPL's satire, it lends credence to the accusations of classism/elitism that have plagued the slow-food/foodie/organic/locavore movements. At least since the middle of the 20th century there has been a financial divide between good food and junk food. Nowadays, most of the members of these food-related movements don't want to admit that there is financial floor to being part of the club. In many ways, they should be right about this. Take hummus as an example: the ingredients are cheap and readily available. However, it takes time to find the ingredients at the grocery store, and it takes time to put them together into hummus. It seems like both time, and other social factors that influence the desire to make food at home serve to separate the slow foodies from the rest of the nation. How one goes about changing a situation like this is not entirely clear, but some suggestions and perspective is offered by the recent articles in Mother Jones that I link to later in the post.

4 In a bizarre case of planetary alignment Kevin over at Food Junta just posted a white bean spread (read: hummus without chickpeas or tahina) recipe. Our moon cycles must be in sync. I confess to being too hummus-smitten to have made a white bean spread, but I will one of these days.

5 If you're going to mention Aristotle and Nietzsche, have more background than Bartlett's Quotations at your back. Especially if you're publishing in a policy journal. To say that Nietzsche's "transvaluation of all values" was about free love is about as stupid as saying that Einstein invented gravity. Furthermore, the oblique association of Nietzsche, Hitler, and Vegetarianism in the same footnote is about as calumnious as it gets. And please, if you're going to make gestures at having any idea what you're talking about in the realm of philosophy, spell simpliciter correctly.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Food porn

If this is food porn, Taste Test (A.V. Club) is food porn for S&M enthusiasts. As my good friends already know, the A.V. Club is a favorite site of mine, and in the spirit of making everyone in the world more like me (ya know, for their own good), I thought I'd pass this along. Taste Test is a feature, done once a week, I think, where the A.V. Club staff (usually interns) eat weird things and then talk about them. There is video, there is transcription, it's pretty funny, and will introduce you to things you will then wish you had never been introduced to.



When the Moon Hits Your Eye...

Oh my sweet, gentle readers, 14 hours later I can still taste the fresh, juicy tomatoes, feel the crunch of the bell peppers, smell the freshly toasted garlic, see the wonderfully browned tops of the one day old mozzarella, and, and, um, hear the olives, shaking in their aluminum can. You see, friends, last night, I stole Peter's idea, and Rachel and I made Pizza.

OH it was glorious! It was fresh, it was flavorful, it was easy and it was fun, but most of all, it was Peter's idea, and I stole it.

Before launching into the recipe (which, I know, is not the general practice in this space), a little background. Sunday began as all Sunday's do, Cafe Pettirosso and a Crossword, duly dispatched. Sitting around and shooting the breeze about the day's possibilities, the topic of the Ballard Farmer's Market was breached. Never mind that I had shot down that possibility when it was earlier mentioned, we were off.

The very first booth of interest was a cheese booth (surprise, surprise, there are probably 17 cheese booths at the Ballard Farmer's Market), where Rachel and I picked out a Cow's Milk cheese which was a bit pungent and very good, and then grabbed a tub of Mozzarella, which the woman behind the counter duly informed us was yesterday's milk, which was pretty exciting to hear.

We went in search of produce, but (it being winter and all) were unable to do better than beets, turnips, carrots, etc. which I vetoed on the grounds that I don't like beets, I don't like turnips, and we never use our carrots anyway. It was around this time that Pedro mentioned an interest in making Pizza that night. Now, normally I shy away from the labor intensive practice that is baking, especially seeing as I still work in a bakery, and don't particularly enjoy it. But for whatever reason, I had been thinking about baking that very day, cookies, bread, something, so Pizza piqued my interest. Long story short (I know, I know), rather than share my mozzarella with Peter, I stole his idea instead.

{+} K and R's Italian Love Fest

Serve with bread, olive oil and balsamic, with some red pepper flakes and thyme, pour some deep glasses of Chianti, and you are in for an adorable provincial Italian date meal.

oh friends, that's amore.


PS: terribly sorry to steal your proverbial thunder, Pedro, but I have a feeling your spirit of one-up-manship will see you though, no?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Great Chicken Adventure

Greetings Foodies,

I know it's been some time since I've posted. Apologies, apologies all around. This time I'm back with a vengeance, which means two posts back to back. At least that's what I'm thinking at the moment. Either way, some of you may recall the food odyssey that was Super Bowl XLIII. I experimented, rather successfully if I say so myself, with frying chicken wings and turning said wings into delicious hot morsels. I'd like to tell you a little bit about my experience, and perhaps share with you some words of wisdom. I had never butchered chicken wings before February 1. It required a sharp knife, nerves of steel, and well, wings. Being raised a vegetarian I have, sadly, little to no experience in preparing meat. Removing the tips and cutting each wing in half was definitely a strange adventure. That step made me somewhat squeamish, especially the part when I took the wings and moved them like they were still attached to the chicken. Ewww-hahaha-ewwwww. Either way, be glad to know I showed no mercy.

Anyway I guess I'll just kind of go over what I did. I can't say this recipe lends itself to a step-by-step sort of thing.

After you get over yourself and cut through bones (you will in cutting the wings, or you could buy pre-cut wings, I won't judge you....yes I will) you will get a "drummette" and a "double-bone"

Lay out the thawed (important step, take them out hours before doing this) drumettes and double-bones (the wings you cut in half) and salt them to remove some of the moisture.

You'll also want to heat your oil to 375º (note: Many recipes I read stressed the importance of having the oil at a certain temperature. Initially I thought that was going to be easy, but once I started throwing wings in hot oil I could barely see through the haze of smoke that emerged. What I'm trying to say is that I had a thermometer (see right) and I tried to keep it around that temperature, but shit, it certainly didn't and the wings tasted fine.)

Once the oil reaches 375º you're ready to fry! Put a decent number of wings in, I started with around 6. You want to be careful not to put too many wings in at once because that will cause the oil's temperature to drop.

Anyway, use a wooden spoon (see right) to make sure they're getting fried all over. I would highly recommend tongs for placement and removal.

Once they are done, meaning they've been in the oil from 6-8 minutes and are golden brown, carefully remove them with the tongs. I made sure to cut at least one in each batch open to make sure that they wee completely done. I blame the paranoia of poisoning one of my guests on the overcookedness of my first few batches, better safe (and charred) than sorry, that's what I always say. Please notice the sheer terror in my face.

Place the golden brown wings on top of some paper towels to remove some of the excess oil. Once they've rested for a few minutes, I just put them directly into the sauce.

Let them soak up the hot fiery goodness and then plate them with blue cheese and celery.

The sauce is a simple affair: two ingredients. In a saucepan combine equal parts Franks Red Hot and butter. That's it. Seriously. The two will combine into your standard wing sauce.

Let's see, some take-aways from this recipe:
  • Oil temperature, although important, can be inconsistent without terrible results.
  • Make sure you have the right tools (read: tongs).
  • Don't be intimidated by a large CAULDRON of BOILING HOT oil. Apron is recommended.
Thanks for reading.
-El Pollo Loco

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Chicken Curry
(the whatever'sinthekitchen version)

Hi-ho there strangers. This is a second attempt at what was once the greatest debut Seatfood blog post in the (albeit brief) history of the blogosphere. Once upon about a month ago Kribs sat at his computer, in his comfy green chair, having just supped upon a lovely, lovingly improvised Chicken Curry dinner, which he and his loving girlfriend had made that very evening. Rather than his usual Internet diversions, Kribs thought to himself "Kribs, you lazy sack, write it up for the foodblog before you forget what you put in it!" Knowing good sense when he heard it, Kribs set to the task of composing a deliciously clever write-up of his cleverly delicious meal. Long story short ("too late" you say?, "fuck you" I say"), I wrote it, lost it, swore, slammed my laptop shut, and never thought about it again.

Along comes Saturday afternoon, the little lady is darning some sweaters, Bruce is covering Woody on the turntable, and I felt like writing something.

This, like all good dishes, is a meal in which just about all of the ingredients can be substituted for whatever you have lying around the pantry or for whatever your dietary preferences may be. I, unlike certain other members of this posting community, am not a vegetarian, so I threw some bird in there, but there's no reason not to do it with Tofu if that suits your fancy.

{+} Chicken Curry

Anyway, Tofu for chicken makes this vegetarian, Cauliflower or Potatoes makes it a little heartier, an extra chili makes it a little spicier, and coconut milk makes it a good deal thicker. No pictures, because I don't have a DSLR and a 700,00 Watt bulb above my kitchen table, so they didn't come out so good.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I've got fantastic news

1. "Made in Spain" is now on hulu. What a glorious day today is. I get goosebumps every time José Andrés says "eh-spain." His accent is disgustingly adorable.

2. Mark Bittman was on the Colbert report. Check it out. For more info on MB, check out my Food Matters post, which has a bunch of links to other MB internet goodies.

In a somewhat related addition, I made this last night (sorry, no pics). Public service announcement: you cannot use Volcano Lemon Burst™ as regular lemon juice. Things become eruptingly lemony. Which led me to the conclusion that "volcano burst" is an accurate moniker. I have seared my taste buds with lemony-magma. This is a mistake that I will never make again.

Also, I added a link to my account in the right-hand column, which I have been a bit lax about using but have resolved to keep organized. Check it out for recipe ideas, and feel free to ask my thoughts on anything tagged "recipe[done]."

Taste of eh-spain,

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Let the Great Experiment Begin!1

I watched curling2 on TV today for the first time. Curling is that silly sport with the brooms that is the official snack-break of winter olympics watchers. I can't say that it holds a candle to ski-jumping or this (thanks, Will), but it is unequivocally more interesting than the biathlon, and here's why: (1) It's a strategy game--"rocks in the house," "he's got the hammer," "hard line," "let it curl"--all of the best strategy games have great, impenetrable idioms ("Sicilian defense, dragon variation" comes to mind). (2) You actually get to see what's happening, unlike the biathlon. I'm waiting with bated breath for the bullet-cam. You know, biathlon matrix-style. It's the only chance they've got. Watching a nice curl is kind of like watching a great ping pong or tennis game in slowmo where you get to appreciate all the spin put on every shot. (3) Finally, curling is a mixture of extreme concentration and at times--here's what I love about it--absolute panic. Sometimes they let the rock slide and the ice is completely silent, and sometimes the skip (please excuse my novice errors in curling terminology) is screaming at the absolute top of his fucking lungs at the sweepers to stop being such lazy assholes and sweep the goddamn ice. This panic on the part of the skip paired with the zeal and enthusiasm with which the sweepers comply with his panicked hollering is inherently hilarious. If the skip has botched his throw the most the can do is yell at the sweepers to clean up his mess. As if the skip's inability to do anything once he releases weren't tense enough, there's something that is fundamentally anxiety inducing in being forced to watch someone else do what you think you can do better. That's the kind of relationship I imagine between the skip and the sweepers.3

One reason that curling has showed up here is that after watching it, I had to get it out of my system. I just couldn't not talk about it. The other reason is that it has a vague, tenuous relation to poaching eggs, the actual subject of this post. I liked curling for the same reason that I liked a little egg-poaching experiment that I did a few weeks ago. A subtlety of motion and careful technique is essential to curling, and to well-poached eggs. However, there's also that oh-my-god-what-have-i-done, everything-is-going-to-hell, my-beautiful-egg-is-losing-it's-shape moment of panic that makes things so exciting as you try to coddle your poorly-curled egg into some sort of togetherness. This is part of the reason that people think that egg poaching and curling are difficult. Well, egg-poaching isn't really that hard, or so I discovered.

First of all, I know that doubling up on the eggs is poor form; however, you need to stop whining and poach yourself some. It'll be worth it. The light satiny texture of poached whites with the umami goodness of warm, runny yolk is glory incibuate.4

As it turns out, there's a lot of cooking that has to do with science and a lot of cooking that has to do with "science." I happened to be in the presence of a scientist (or "scientist"?) last weekend who mildly tolerates my food experimentation. Nicole was visiting me in Seattle and when it came time to make some brunch, she and I decided to have a friendly little competition between to egg-poaching virgins. Actually, saying that we "decided" is a bit disingenuous. Nicole strong-armed me with her spirit of antagonism into having a competition. Here are the results. You be the judge:

Nicole's Egg:

Peter's Egg:

In the interest of full disclosure (and not sore-loserness) I took the picture of Nicole's egg and she took the picture of mine. And you can't really judge from pictures anyway, so whatever. It's not like anyone's judging. But, if you are, notice that beautiful runny yolk oozing out of my egg's glorious dome, and think Hagia Sophia. Here are the thoughts that we gathered on technique:

{+} Poach an Egg

We ate our silky little nubbins atop a bed of garlicky sauteed kale and wheat toast. Like eggs florentine, but with kale. And minus the hollandaise due to my unflagging laziness. Here's the scoop5 on that:

{+} Eggs Kalentine It

However, the kitchsperiments don't end with poaching eggs. You may remember that in my tzatziki post I mentioned that straining regular yogurt could yield something that approximates the consistency of greek yogurt. At the time, I didn't know that. Now I do. After doing some egg cleanup, we moved on to kitchsperiment 2: thickening yogurt. We infused some ginger and ate it as a sweet, tangy treat with honey. It was creamy and spicy and wonderful. Here's the lowdown:

{+} Strained Ginger Yogurt

Well, friends, that's all I've got for now.

Keep on brunching,

1 Fünke. [Note: Clicking the footnote number here in the footnote now brings you back to where the footnote is in the text. How cool is that?]

2 The only reason that it caught my attention is that a dear friend of mine, let's call him Bideon (something so embarrassing must be treated with the requisite anonymity in this public forum), has joined a curling league. It's a fascinating study in despair to ponder how far in to the abyss you must have descended to think sweeping ice is fun.

3 This is almost certainly my projection rather than any sort of fact of the matter about the personal dynamics of professional curling.

4 Gid, you may have to correct my bastardization of Latin here. I'm not even close to making a real word. It's just that incarnate was not quite right and grated on my vegetarian sensibilities.

5 I am currently reading Scoop by Evelyn Waugh for a little book-gathering that I am part of. It's a dry and humorous satire of British journalism and politics in the first half of the 20th century. Also, it is unrelated to the Woody Allen movie. It is related to the new Brideshead Revisted movie in that Evelyn Waugh wrote Brideshead. Y'all can thank Kribs for the recommendation.