Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Pig and Chicken

I was having breakfast at the excellent Bette’s Oceanview Diner down on 4th St in Berkeley the other day and I felt like pancakes.

Waiter: “Our pancake special today is sour cream and banana, with two eggs and chicken, ham, bacon sausage.”
Me: “Sounds great, I’ll have that with eggs over easy and chicken sausage.”
Waiter: “No, I’m sorry, the sausage has chicken, ham, and bacon.”
Me: <blink…blink> “Ummm, OK!”

God bless America.

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Triumph of the Baked Pasta

I hate buying pre-packaged frozen food at the store because I think its bland and bad for you, but I love to put together various one-dish dinners and freeze them myself because they are tasty and convenient.

Long a staple in our freezer has been various forms of lasagna we like; with turkey sausage, without, zucchini, sometimes with goat cheese, yum. Well I tried a new “format” this weekend that I say wins hands down over the traditional long wide noodles and stacked presentation.

Basically instead of going through the palavra of boiling the noodles and laying everything together, I instead simply used some penne tossed in tomato sauce as the main component and then mixed in layers of mozzarella, parmesan, and basil leaves. The result was a fantastically tasty baked pasta dinner that could provide an excellent canvas for the addition of any of our other favorite ingredients, and doesn’t suffer from the sometimes dried-out ricotta layer that is so necessary for structurally sound lasagna. Yum!

(Shoot, I should’ve taken a picture)

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Cha Yen

I was studying at home the other day during one of our really hot spells and I was craving something cool, sweet, with caffeine. Since I’m limiting my intake of chemical-ridden soda sugar water I decided to make some iced tea.

One of the things I really grew to enjoy in all my traveling through Southeast Asia was the tasty and refreshing ice tea that you usually find. I’m not talking about the sickly-sweet and milky “Thai Iced Tea” (which I’ve never actually seen in Thailand), but a translucent reddish brew, usually sweetened with sugar syrup and garnished with a lime. I’ve never been able to duplicate this at home with either black or green tea because the flavor just isn’t right. I’ve done some searching online and people recommend some kind of pre-packaged Thai tea bags with special tea leaves, spices, and (yuck) food coloring. Not wanting to go shopping for another specialty tea that I’d use once then let go stale, I tried to figure out what I could use in the house and then I had an epiphany…oolong.

Oolong is a kind of tea different from black or green. Well actually its made from the same leaves but processed very differently. It maintains the refreshing character of green tea while trading the “bright/freshness” for a deeper/richer body. Plus, when brewed in a clear vessel it turns the perfect reddish hue for my favorite drink.

I generally keep a tin of Golden Dragon Oolong from Peets for late-night caffeine hits. Its a fantastic blend, if not a little expensive. This was an experiment though, so I brewed up a big pot on the strong side, dumped it over some ice to cool/dillute, and made some simple syrup on the stove (2 cups sugar, 1 cup water, slowly boil until thick). Pour over ice, sweeten to taste (not too much), add a slice of lime (cut against the grain for appearance)…perfect! (And with a serious caffeine kick)

It brings back memories of perhaps the best glass of iced tea I’ve ever had. After a three-week trek through the Annapurna range of the Nepal Himalayas, my friend Rob and I went to a well-regarding restaurant in Kathmandu called “Chez Caroline’s”. Having subsisted for the past month on dal bhat (rice and lentils) and filtered water, eating somewhere with actual napkins and plates seemed pretty luxurious. When our drinks arrived in a clear glass with tons of ice, both of us were hesitant because of the “don’t drink the water” mentality we’d cultivated (amazed that we were still alive after filtering water from what turned out to be essentially a village run-off stream at the start of our trip). I excused myself to wash my hands and when I return Rob had a look on his face that was a cross between sheer terror and utter delight.

“Try the tea…”

I did, and I saw what he meant…I’ve been trying to duplicate that in the states ever since, along with their creme brulle and chocolate mousse…

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Tender is the Loin

After that last GTD post I needed to write something to prove I do more than just sit managing action lists all day.

I dropped Alexis off at the airport yesterday because she was flying south for a week-long archaeology boondoggle in the Mojave to attend the opening ceremonies for the newly restored Kelso Depot and then to Ventura for a conference hosted by the Society for California Archaeology. I’m glad she can get away to immerse herself in her career the same way I do regularly, and I’m glad I’m getting a weekend at home alone where I can focus on that aforementioned Ethics paper. So of course the first thing I did was to plan a big dinner “with the guys” last night.

I’d been looking for an excuse to try out what I learned from Alton Brown’s recent Tender is the Loin episode where he disassembled an entire beef tenderloin from Costco and turned it into filet mignons, chateaubriand, carpaccio, and even a tasty looking philly cheese steak. So I went to our local wholesale cavern yesterday and picked up an entire “pismo” (cryo-vac’d tenderloin primal). After 45 minutes of trimming and cleaning I was left with some very nice pieces of meat, half of which I put away to save for later, and the other half of which I carved into some nice little filets to throw on a mesquite BBQ. Matt, Heath, and Jonah came over (and Shac showed up later on) and I made a great menu of green-pea risotto, grilled asparagus, salad, and a cheese course to match these delicious little steaks. I have to say, the meat was delicious (I guess that’s what the “choice” label means), and I look forward to my next usage of the ingredient later today. Hmmm, carpaccio or cheese steak… Yum!

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We had the opportunity to try a new restaurant on Solano Avenue last night; BenDean I believe is the proper capitalization. First read about this new contender in the East Bay Express, which really liked the food. After a fantastic dinnger, Lex and I can not disagree!

I had a very tasty brick-pressed chicken with cheddar cheese polenta and Lex the pork tenderloin with spatzel. Yum! Desert (hazelnut tart) was fantastic as well. Very happy to see a good new restaurant on the scene around us, as a few of the new places we’ve tried recently have been bad bad bad.

Also tried a new white wine varietal: viognier (from Bonterra, an all-organic winery). The server described it as a “less-sweet riesling”, and it was a perfect accompaniment to both of our mains. Very tasty, a nice and crisp white with a lot of fruit flavor.

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A Simple Margarita

Late on Sunday night a co-worker of mine had mentioned that he’d spent the whole day drinking margaritas, which of course made me crave one. Luckily I had limes in the fridge, and was able to enjoy the simplest, tastiest margarita recipe I know.

As in everything food related, quality ingredients are the most important thing to start with. Fresh lime juice, quality tequila, and suprisingly, simple triple sec is all you need. For tequila I like Patron Silver; great tequila and reasonably affordable if you find it at Costco or Trader Joes. I use regular old Hiram Walker triple sec, avoiding anything fancy like Gran Marnier, as all I’m looking for is a simple sweet orangey flavor. When squeezing the limes you might want to roll them on the counter before you cut them open to free up some of the juice. Squeeze them in to a glass, add ice, and mix (for one serving):

1 part lime juice (2 regular sized limes)
1 part triple sec (1 oz shot)
2 parts tequila (2 x 1 oz shot)

Garnish with lime…and please, don’t put any damn salt on the rim.

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