Thursday, August 30, 2007


If people worried about their cars as much as spammers think men worry about their member, the subject headings in my spam folder would look like this:

1. my chauffeur and I recently started driving for the first time recently and he keeps slipping out of gear
2. let the big car fairy visit you"
3. Would you like your bumper to grow up to 3inches longer?
4. One little pill and you could drive all night long
4. buy f1r$t rate G44OL1NE

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Tomate en Pan Crujiente for Tuesday

Today I tried a new addition to my lunch. (Are those audible gasps of shock I hear? no? Just the fan you say?) A sandwich version of
pan con tomate. Actually, this is such a bastardized version that I don't think you can still call it that, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. I got the idea for this tomato sandwich from an article last week in the nyt gushing over ways to use the abundant (abundantly gushing? perhaps. oh dear) tomatoes now in season. Thank you Melissa Clark! One of the more simple (elegant?) recipes was for toasted bread rubbed with garlic, drizzled with olive oil, further rubbed with tomatoes, and perhaps a sprinkling of salt too. I like this as you get these bright and harmonious flavors and textures to come together quickly. With this simple idea in mind I made an "adaption" that would transport more easily to work.

Over the weekend, I went to a farmers market for some fresh nectarines. I also picked up some green/red heirloom tomatoes. These have the most amazing flavor. The main flavor is an intensified tomato but with the smallest hint of bitterness. Oddly, they taste vaguely salty, which is not a flavor I have ever found in homegrown tomatoes before.

For the sandwich I toasted some asiago/olive bread last night and let it cool till this morning The garlic, sadly, was omitted lest my co-workers grow angry (I already occasionally nasally assault them with cooked broccoli). One slab of toast was drizzled with olive oil while the other was covered with centimeter thick slices of the farmers market tomato (and a dash of black pepper). I let the liquids seep into the bread as I got ready. I then tightly wrapped the bread in plastic. When I ate it later it has a soft middle with a satisfyingly crunchy exterior and the great flavors of the bread, tomato, and oil. We could call it tomato in crunchy bread or tomate en pan crujiente which is fun to say. I will hope "google translate" has not led me astray. Any better name suggestions are welcome.

ps: Why does blogger hate me? It seems to take my nicely typed paragraphs and squish them all into one giant super paragraph. Why can't it accept that smaller paragraphs make for nice reading? Rawr.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Another Monday and More Ice

I awoke this morning to my roommie knocking on my door, which I tried to ignore (for a bit), and when she insisted still knocking I peeked out and found workmen had entered the apartment. They were here to tape up our windows. The managers of our apartment complex have decided to rip out the old pool and apply fiberglass, sand the fiberglass, and then re-coat the fiberglass with more fiberglass. Unfortunately, our little apartment is right over the pool. The pool re-surfers (workmen? pool-dudes?) began Thursday and Friday of last week and we were choking on the fumes both evenings we come home. It was lovely.

The managers agreed to have the windows sealed this morning, and hence the workmen in our apartment. Our windows were sealed by the sweaty workmen while I made a smoothie with coffee ice cubes, milk and banana. I love this recent addition to my breakfast as it has the consistency and flavor of an ice cream with the morning caffeine I need and some fruit!

The rest of the day was just a typical day, except for some very exciting news. Some friends who recently moved to Seattle sent out a pregnancy announcement and attached a sonogram of the fetus. In the email they mentioned that since they have been in Seattle they have been in some serious Mexican food withdrawal and are adjusting to the more prevalent rain. Unlike some sonogram images this one actually looked like a little baby. I am thrilled for them and know they will be excellent parents. I'm tempted to send the sonogram back with a photoshopped burrito in the fetus' hands. Then they would clearly see the family resemblance.

This evening I came home to find my room had the faint scent of the workmen from this morning. It was odd and gross to find a scent left over from 9 hours earlier. I wanted to make a mint and lime icee to cool off but with the mint on the balcony and our windows taped shut I had to improvise. I needed something else that would be cool and refreshing to blend with ice. In the fridge I found a bag of celery a friend brought over a few weeks back when I needed maybe three stalks for a recipe. His misunderstanding and abundance - he brought two large bags - ended up being greatly serendipitous. I'm not a fan of celery in general - I find it too stringy - although it is wonderful very cold with ranch dressing and hot buffalo wings. I thought "what the hell" since I would have probably thrown the celery out in a few weeks anyways. I usually feel too guilty to throw out perfectly good foods in my fridge even when I have no earthly idea how I plan to use them. Please don't ask me how they get there in the first place.

I roughly chopped the celery and whirled it with some ice and a squeeze of lime. It was wonderful! What I had worried would be an over-powering green-ness was actually nicely cut with the tangy lime and mellowed into a sweet base. Further, and this was thrilling, while I had thought celery from a blender would be a stringy mess it actually was very similar to the consistency of the blended ice. The celery was a slightly-sweet but non-cold version of blended ice.

The rest of the evening was spent at my sister's place (since I still had to air out the male BO from my room) watching "Thank You For Smoking" and eating leftover panang curry. I was also simultaneously writing this here entry and trying to advise an old friend on how to practice flirting. His homework this week is to make eye contact once a day with someone he does not know. He must hold this eye contact for a fraction of a second longer than he is comfortable and then smile very slightly to break the contact. I'm not sure if he will get immediate results but I am hoping he begins to build some confidence.

And that was Monday. This post was not really building to any sort of structured recipe. I am just trying to write some more and to occasionally remember what it is I have been eating. So I will end it by slinking off to bed. Night!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

4 Times the Fun and Months of Chicken Soup

About two months ago my computer started to blue screen (one word or two?). I would start it up and it would bluescreen on me and then I would restart it again and it would be fine. It was slightly annoying but I just ignored it. This is not a rational thing to do, but I saw no immediate harm. Around this time, in the heat of the last weeks of June, I got a hankering for chicken soup with dill. The soup is a pretty basic chicken, celery, onion, potato, and carrot affair with bits of salt, pepper, and dill thrown in. I added cheery tomatoes at the very end.

By mid-July the computer was bluescreening whenever I tried a complicated maneuver, such as opening extra files or looking at the monitor disapprovingly. This was more worrisome. I ran scan-disk and it seemed I had a lot of hard-drive problems. I suspect finding usable hard drive space was like a game of Minesweeper for my computer - one wrong move and it was all over. I also got in the habit of running my anit-virus software and ad-aware every other day or so. I was also enjoying the chicken soup for my daily lunch and making it every weekend. By this point I had replaced the potatoes with yams or sweet potatoes and added squash. When I was making my containers of soup to bring for lunch I always topped them off with some pre-cooked lentils (thanks Trader Joe's) or wine-cooked noodles.

With the arrival of the hottest days of August my computer decided it had had enough of these bluescreen shenanigans and refused to boot to windows. I had backed everything useful to a backup hard drive (useful toy, I suggest you get one) earlier so this was annoying but not oh-my-whatever-will-I-d
ooo wail inducing. I lived through August in my third-floor walkup without air conditioning by making mint & lime icees (mint+lime+ice+blender!) while enjoying hot chicken soup during the day in my over-conditioned windowless lab.

Usually I made the soup on Sunday night to prepare for the week ahead. I was often too tired by the end of cooking to divide it into containers for the week's lunches to come. So the large soup pot was then shoved onto the top shelf of the fridge which is shared with the roommate. This worked initially (June, part of July) as she was out of town and I had the apartment to myself. Once she was back I have occasionally found bottles of cranberry juice or milk shoved onto my lower shelf as I am taking up an inordinate amount of space on the top. Over time the condiments have migrated to the fridge door to the point where they jump out every time it is opened. It adds a nice bit of adventure, I think.

[As a side note: I also tried making Gazpacho for the first time. I followed Lobstersquad's basic version from her gorgeous blog but used asiago/olive bread as that was the only bread I had around and balsamic vinegar (likewise, only type around and please forgive me Ximena). Further, instead of adding a lot of water I blended it with ice. I have had gazpacho once before in a Spanish restaurant years ago and barely remembered it. For a tomato lover this is eye-poppingly good stuff. I finished off the whole batch in a few hours, purring contentedly. ]

After a few weeks of a computer-less existence at home, I took action. It sometimes takes me a while to get something done. I often go into web-surfing lazy mode once I get home. Without a computer I had Vanity Fair to distract me. But my subscription ended with the September issue and I haven't decided if I will renew. They are trying to charge me twice the rate of my original subscription. How rude. So instead of sending Conde Nast Publications $15, I decided to fix the computer and spent a good $130 (after taxes etc.) for a 160G hard drive. On the soup front I have found that with the addition of squash pieces, a little cinnamon is heavenly.

And yippie skippy the damn computer works again! And my old hard drive was a puny 40G! I am now wealthy with four times the space! I can open multiple programs once again!

With the new hard drive the hot spell of summer seems to have broken. It feels like fall, a few days short of September and I have lost interest in chicken soup for now. However, after having made it six or seven times I at least have a good idea of the order and timing I like for it. Yea new hard drive, yea changing weather, and yea new recipes to come!

Simple Chicken Soup:

1 Whole chicken, cut up or 6 chicken thighs*
2 large carrots peeled and cut into 3-inch pieces

2 onions peeled and quartered 3 tomatoes (or 16oz cherry tomatoes, yum)
1-2 stalks celery cleaned and cut into 3inch pieces

1-4 large sweet potato cut into thick slices

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1Tbsp dill

* I found that I preferred a lot of sweet potato and not so much chicken. I ended up cooking 2 split breasts and taking a few pieces for my lunches.

1. Take a half teaspoon salt, and a bit of pepper and
salt the chicken: Lay the pieces out on a plate and sprinkle salt over the chicken with a dash of pepper. The chicken should be very lightly covered.

2. Prepare veggies: While the chicken sits, scrub veggies clean, and chop. They should be largish hunks, perhaps half the size of a fist. Most will be tender once cooked so they do not need to be bite sized and too much chopping will mitigate the ease of the recipe.

3. Cook: In a large stalk pot place hard veggies of yams, carrots, and celery (add celery later if you plan to eat it, I find it unpleasant in this recipe so I usually discard). On top of veggies place chicken, add dill and cinnamon, and cover with water and bring to boil. Then reduce heat and simmer 15 min. Add onion, squash, and cinnamon and simmer another fifteen min. Finally, add tomatoes and cook another 5 min.

4. Skim fat and taste to correct seasoning. Remove celery if you want. Serve and enjoy!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Comfort Food: Salmon Soy Lemon Honey

This is a recipe I have probably made nearly 100 times. I will go for months on end where it is made at least once a week. I like to keep it in single-serving containers to bring to lunch, eat for dinner, or enjoy for a midnight snack. It is warm and sweet and you don't even need to chew it too much. It is one of my ultimate comfort foods. Plus, it has four ingredients and is fantastically easy and quick to make. This is a totally satisfying dish.

I got this dish about two years ago when I was flipping through cookbooks looking for something new to do to salmon. In a Martha Stewart cookbook I found this in a slightly different form. It had a teaspoon of coriander seeds. Martha instructed we first toast the coriander seeds and then grind for the sauce. Further, one of the liquids was specified as 1/4 cup while the other was specified as 5 tablespoons. Since I did not yet have coriander seeds and it made me slightly bonkers that she said 5 tablespoons (instead of a 1/4 cup and another tablespoon?) I omitted the coriander and now make the sauce with equal parts soy sauce and honey. Also, I don't bother measuring the lemon juice, I just squeeze what I can from half a lemon.

Did I mention this recipe is very easy? The only step that takes a little more time is removing the skin from the salmon. I have learned that if your knife is relatively sharp all you have to do is glide it back and forth under the skin and the skin will come off easily. Let the knife do the work.

[about the picture: I have noticed a lot of my recent pictures are looking kind of brown/orange. This salmon is mostly pink, brown, and orange. So I just composed a picture using some of the ingredients. I think lemons are especially lovely when freshly cut.]

Soy-Lemon-Honey Salmon

4 4-6oz pieces salmon (skin removed)
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 lemon (juice from...)

(1-2 tbs olive oil, you will also want a timer)

1. Mix honey, and soy with squeezed juice from the half lemon.
2. Pour some of the mix over salmon to coat.
3. Pour olive oil into a pan, making one or two trips around in a circle. Heat the pan to medium-high heat (I use 7 on my stove top's 1-10 dial).
4. When oil is hot place salmons in pan. Cook at medium-high heat for 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low heat (#4 on my 1-10 dial) and cook another 2 minutes. Flip salmon over and cook another 3 minutes at the medium-low heat. Remove to a plate.
5. Turn heat back to medium-high and reduce sauce until it just begins to bubble. (3-5 minutes). You want to watch this as the sauce smells terrible if you burn it.
6. Serve! I suggest over rice that has had edamame beans added in the last 3 minutes of cooking.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Not for Vegetarians, a story

Last Saturday I spent a few hours with a friend in Hillcrest looking at clothing, eating donuts, and then grocery shopping. Before I get to the story a little background is needed. Hillcrest is known for a few things. The first is that it has some really good restaurants: India Palace (my favorite Indian restaurant in San Diego), Bronx Pizza, Crush, … and those are just what I named off the top of my head. Also, I have always wanted to visit LaVache. Second, it seems to have a younger crowd of people wandering about and would make a far better college town for UCSD than the current UTC. Another thing Hillcrest is known for (and this is salient for the story's context) is being the most gay-friendly town in San Diego (as far as I know, although if someone wants to correct me please feel free to say otherwise).

After we had walked around trying on clothing and I get my orange-glazed donut (don’t knock it till you have tried it) we go to Trader Joe's. I was buying ingredients for a chicken tagine dish among other things. My guy pal purchases his groceries ahead of me and is idling and looking at the floral arrangements beyond the check out line. As the cashier passes the my chicken over the scanner it drips liquid onto the counter and he basically flips out: "hold on, you chicken is dripping!" He then puts the chicken in a plastic bag and whips out some Trader Joe's antibacterial spritzer napalming the counter and his hands.

Up to that point my interaction with the cashier has been the general Trader Joe's friendly chit-chat that seems to be part of the company's manifesto. So I am somewhat concerned by his distress and ask"oh, sorry, are you a vegetarian?" I go on to explain that I had a roommie in the past who would get somewhat squeamish around raw meat so I can sympathize if he feels icky about touching meat.

"No, I'm not a vegetarian. I’m just afraid of salmonella. Actually I eat meat. In fact," he then pauses for effect and smiles at me "I like meat a whole lot more than the average guy". Ah, yes, the things you learn. Of course had I been a little quicker on my feet I could have pointed to my guy pal who at this point if off in his own little world and say "So does he."

BTW: the picture above has nothing to do with the Trader Joe's part of the trip. Take a look at the guy on the bike. While walking around I was passed by a guy on a bike with his cat riding on his shoulders. This is the only photo I took after my brain processed this and I ran after him for a shot.

Melissa Clark's Extra-Sharp Leeks Vinaigrette

A few weeks ago I read of a new recipe. "Extra-Sharp Leeks Vinaigrette" by Melissa Clark in the NYTs. She described it as "bright and jolting, but still satiny and sweet from the leeks". It sounded like a new flavor combination I would enjoy, and it was based on ingredients I tend to have around the kitchen.

I'll admit I did not follow the recipe exactly. I had thought my experience with leeks would allow a few moderations in the cooking technique. About 6 months ago I was cooking a leek based vegetable soup almost every Sunday night. It was a nice end to the weekend as I went into a zen mode while cleaning, chopping, and stemming whatever vegetables I had in the fridge. The veggies were steamed in batches depending on time needed to soften and then put into my Cuisinart, mixed with spices, and topped with roasted tomatoes with cheese or sautéed cabbage or petso. I'd bring the soup for lunch and throw whatever meat I had recently cooked in too.

As it got warm I lost interest with the soup, but had learned to deal with leeks. First, remove the darkest green parts and stem. Slice lengthwise into quarters, open, and let sit in a pan of water. Run your hands through the water pan and remove whatever dirt is sticking to the leeks. Rinse the leeks a few times under running water and plop onto a towel or spin through a salad spinner to dry. Once they are mostly dry, steam for 5-7 minutes until they are soft but have not fully changed color. And then have your way with them.

So back to the recipe which calls for cleaning the leeks but keeping them mostly intact and then tying them up before boiling them. My problems with this method are twofold. First, I did not feel like hunting for string and then having to free the leeks after cooking (yes, I am lazy). Second, I though boiling them might remove more of the flavor than steaming (from my days of soup making). So I cooked the leeks for the dish my way than made the vinaigrette with a small modification. I do not have red-wine vinegar. I currently have three types of red balsamic vinegar and one white balsamic vinegar (super friggen good) and feel somewhat silly about the occasionally suicidal jar that jumps from my cluttered counter when it gets jostled. So I substituted equal parts red balsamic and red wine for the red wine vinegar. That works right?

Unfortunately, the finished dish just tasted like cooked leeks with mustard. It was not a transformative dish - the type you make with 5 random ingredients that makes you and your guests go wow. For my tastes the mustard was too strong while the leeks were too weak. I realize I got this dish under an article on how strong mustard can be, but for me the balance was not there. I think if I randomly decided to make this dish again I would try the bundling and boiling as suggested and maybe purchase the correct vinegar. Heck, perhaps i will actually follow the recipe as written. Or I will sautee the leeks in the olive oil with some other seasonings (rosemary?) before adding some mustard. Or, if I have a hankering for leeks, I'll just make soup.

Extra-Sharp Leeks Vinaigrette
Adapted from Melissa Clark, NTY 050907)

5 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, roots trimmed, halved (
quartered) lengthwise and rinsed
5 tablespoons hot Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (
I just squeezed all the juice from a lemon)
1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar (or 1/4 tsp red wine + 1/4 tsp balsamic vinegar)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper.

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Reunite leek halves; bundle leeks and secure with kitchen string. Simmer until fork-tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and unbundle leeks. Let cool.
steam leeks, covered, over boiling water for 5-7 minutes. Poke with a fork for softness)

2. Whisk together mustard, lemon juice and vinegar. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Slice each leek half lengthwise into thirds. Toss with vinaigrette, to taste. Extra vinaigrette will keep in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to 1 week. (Note: If you happen to forget about it, don't try sniffing it 10 days later. It will not smell good.)
Yield: 4 servings.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Tomato Lust

Cherry Tomatoes... ready to slather on chicken
I've been on a tomato kick lately. I had not thought about them for a few months and then about two weeks ago I started smelling them in grocery stores. Not that their fragrance was more pronounced, I just started grabbing packages of tomatoes and inhaling. Perhaps I have some sort of lycopene deficiency but I think about them during the day. My recipe searches are geared towards incorporating tomatoes into the evening. I've been having tomatoes roasted in chicken recipes and tomato salads with buffalo mozzarella, olive oil, vinegar, and salt. I have a renewed love for them and will post a recipe in a bit.