Thursday, June 24, 2010

I know, I keep going on about the damn strawberries!

I finished a whole heaping pint of them last Saturday, and wished that I'd bought a heap more. I woke up terribly disappointed the next morning that there weren't any left, and was reminded of this illustrated book of the poem Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti where one of the protagonists eats magical fruit and pines away for it thereafter. I don't plan to do anything so melodramatic, but gosh dangit, I really wish I had some more of those right about now. Here's the salad I had for dinner on Saturday night:

a handful of fresh spinach
some strawberries
half an avocado
some blue cheese- a medium rather than extra sharp kind
balsamic vinegar & olive oil
salt & pepper if you want

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

File under "Life"; also under "Goddamnit!"


My putative arts job has evaporated. I feel strangely unconflicted. Driving to Scapoose every day was a pain in the neck. I now have a whole summer to look forward to again, and I am truly excited about that. Was it worth doing, even for 2 weeks? Well, yeah. I can now say with confidence that if there comes up something that I really really want to happen, I can probably swing it. I just gotta careful about choosing the right things.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Special Spud Salad

It's really only special looking; purple taters don't taste any different from regular ones. But the color does make them more fun to eat.

a pound & a half of new baby purple spuds
about 2 tablespoons each of whole grain mustard, cider vinegar, and real mayonnaise.
the green part of a scallion, chopped fine
1/3 of a yellow bell pepper, finely diced
some fresh parsley, minced
salt & pepper

Boil the potatoes in generously salted water. Mine were so new the skins could be scraped off under running water, but otherwise I wouldn't bother peeling them. They cook surprisingly fast, be a little vigilant or they'll boil into porridge before you know it. Once they're done, drain them and stick 'em in the fridge until they're about 90% cool, then break them into chunks with your fingers. I think they look better that way. Mix all the other ingredients together, toss with the taters, and taste for salt and pepper.

Hey, remember the strawberries I posted about? Well, the ones this week are even better. They look just the same, but these are like magic. I obviously respond strongly to food, but they did stop me in my tracks at the farmer's market today. They're these huge, firm red things, incredibly sweet and so intensely berry-tasting that you'd think they'd been treated with some flavoring agent. I think I annoyed the booth operators by buzzing their sample tray once too often. Note to self: the next strawberry plant I buy should be the variety named 'albion'.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Happy Dragonboat Festival

Happy Dragonboat Festival, originally uploaded by Chinkypin.
Here's the picture of the finished item. They were pretty good for a first attempt, but you should read the entry below for my thoughts on the whole process.

This episode brought to you by Pete's kitchen

And the forbearance of my sister-in-law, who likes to keep a cleaner house than I do. But my kitchen is inadequate for any real chinese feasting behaviors, so these are gonna get made over there. I'm writing this part ahead of time, obviously, because I have to do everything piecemeal lately. I have also suffered an alarming recrudescence of chineseyness, because I realized that the dragonboat festival falls on the 16th of June this year. So!

Chinese Tamales, aka zongzi, the spelling of which is negotiable depending on how you pronounce it. They're blobs of sushi rice with other stuff steamed in bamboo leaves. I got the recipe here, when I couldn't remember what dad put in his. I think it was usually pork and mushrooms. Mine will have 5-spice chicken, mushrooms, dried shrimp and egg. I really should have started my salty eggs soaking in brine about a week ago, but I'm hoping that a couple days and a boil in the supersaturated brine will do all right.

I got some pictures of the bamboo leaves, since I figured those are the part of the whole process that is likely to be novel to most readers. They come in big bunches. I dunno where Pete got these, probably at fubonn or uwajimaya. You have to soak them overnight before using them.


About a pound of chicken. Use something fatty, thigh is good
season with 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
a dozen szechuan pepper corns
2 lobes of a star anise
a generous teaspoon grated fresh ginger
a tablespoon of dark soy sauce
a tablespoon of sesame oil
a shake of black pepper is what I had, but dad would have said use white pepper.
a shake of onion powder. I ran out of fresh onion.

5 generous cups sushi rice
a dozen or so dried shiitake mushrooms
about 1/4 cup dried shrimp
3 salty eggs-you can buy these if you want. Less fuss. If they aren't cooked when you buy 'em, boil them before using them.

A pack of bamboo leaves. 2 leaves per zongzi, more or less, with allowance for breakage and screwing some up.
a bunch of string

Toast the coriander, anise & szechuan pepper in a small dry pan and then grind them into a fine powder with a half teaspoon of salt. Sprinkle the spice mix and all the other marinade ingredients over the meat and turn to coat evenly. I use frozen, so I do this part 3-5 days in advance and let it thaw and marinate at the same time.

The night before you want to cook, set the bamboo leaves to soak in warm water. I put a bread rack and a big 'ol glass paperweight on mine to keep them submerged. Also, put the rice in a large pan with enough water to cover it by about 2 inches. It'll expand a lot in soaking.

When you're ready to assemble the zongzi, drain the rice completely. The instructions I read online say to season the rice with more 5-spice, soy and minced onions, but I don't remember if dad did that or not. Soak the mushroom and shrimp separately in boiling water until they're mostly tender, then pour off the liquid. You might use the mushroom water to season the rice with, but don't use the stuff off the shrimp. Once you smell it you'll understand why.

Take 2 bamboo leaves and overlap them slightly side by side. Fold them in the middle to form a cone, then drop a heaping tablespoon of rice in. Put in a nugget of chicken, a bit of egg, a couple shrimp and a mushroom, top it off with more rice, and fold up the leaves into a tetrahedron-looking thing. Tie it up with a bit of string, and repeat until you've used up all the ingredients or your sanity, whichever happens first.

Steam them for an hour and a half. Don't eat the leaves. Duh, right? I worked with this kid once who had never eaten a tamale before. He said "the stuff on the inside is pretty good, but the outside is too tough and stringy". I said what'd you do, try to eat the cornhusk? Uh, yeah.

Happy dragonboat festival. More pics and assorted commentary coming soon.

As promised, more commentary:

I think these should actually be boiled. Both Pete & I seem to remember dad fishing these out of a vat of boiling water, then letting them drain a bit before serving. The steaming took forever, and the rice was still a little dry at the end. But mighty tasty; I did throw the mushroom water, a little soy, salt and spices in the rice.

The amounts called for here make nearly 30 zongzi. Don't bother making them in smaller quantities, the effort doesn't make sense for less than that. Be a little generous with the chicken. I ended up with some extra I'm going to have to find something to do with. You could also salt the mushrooms a wee bit. They're a trifle bland.

Don't worry about trying to get the bundles neat. There are videos online of people who know how to do this properly, and it's like watching people do card tricks. You know there's only so many leaves, fingers, and laws of physics, but you end up just as baffled after watching it done as you were before. I just use lots of string.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

#100: carrots in june, just like I said

Very small milestone. This is about a year worth of me, my lunch, and my things growing in pots. Today it's carrots. Plus, it's strawberry season at market. They're very shiny.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ok, real quick...

I think that the nature of these posts is going to become more erratic, and if possible, more cursory. So will my eating habits. For a while. In the meantime, I need to eat fast, and worry about other schtuff. The up side is that my job #3 is a potentially cool one- I work for an outfit that makes parade floats, giant puppets and stage pieces. Nothing creative yet, but we'll see how it goes- this was only my second day.

But when, and what, does that leave time to eat? Packaged food. Don't panic, I know the frozen food aisle from my elbow- here's dinner, makes one serving as you see it:

Pasta nuggets with braised chard.

Boil the nuggets. Your choice of type. These are tj's proscuitto perlini. In a skillet, at medium heat, combine about 4 cups of chopped chard with a tablespoon of olive oil and a half teaspoon of broth concentrate, then cover the pan. Stir once about every 5 minutes. The chard will loose 80% of its volume in cooking. When the chard looks almost cooked, put the boiled pasta in the pan and stir it up. It's done when the greens are all tender and wilty. Serve with a slice of lemon and a couple basil leaves, they'll make it taste very light and summery.

Word of caution: go easy on the broth concentrate. I got mine a wee bit too salty.

Oh, I grew the chard- it was getting eaten by catterpiggles, and I figured that I had just as soon eat it myself. Plus, here's Mr. Hummingbird again. I assume he's a Mr, he's pretty aggressive, and sort of menaced the camera while I was taking this picture. He didn't hold still much, this is the best shot I could get.