Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Sculptured Rocks and the Indian Amphitheater

See here and here for two of my writers' picks from a recent travel feature in the Globe. Apparently I like rocks and water. Next year I'll try to pick places that involve wind or fire.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bittman on Socialism, Vegetables and Hypocrisy

"So here's my question for every politician who has ever riled up an audience with the notion that liberals will 'force' people to eat their vegetables: Why is it okay to encourage people to buy junk food if it’s not okay to encourage them to eat vegetables? And if it’s not okay to encourage people to buy junk food, then why is the government still doing it?"


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Monday, December 20, 2010

Custard in a Pumpkin

I've wanted to bake custard in a pumpkin for so long that I think the urge must have originated in a previous life. Then, I assume, I was a rosy-cheeked hobbit with a fertile pumpkin patch and an overly productive flock of little hobbit-chickens (Cornish game hens?).

This year baking custard in a pumpkin (custkin? pumpkard? cumpstkin? pustard?) was actually one of my Four Fall Food Challenges, which also included crabapple jelly, acorn bread, and something else, because Four Fall Food Challenges sounds better than Three Fall Food Challenges even though I only thought of three.

Why haven't I blogged about the FFFC's? Because I didn't actually make any of them.

Until this past weekend, when I simmered lemongrass and star anise in homemade coconut milk to mix with the eggs and sugar that would fill the empty cavity formerly stuffed with seeds and bitter, stringy pumpkin pulp. I think it was definitely an improvement over a pumpkin au natural, and come to think of it, I know some people who would benefit from having their insides replaced with custard, too.

Baking a custpumptardkin is easy and fun, plus it's hard to imagine any dish that would be more at home in a fairy tale, with the exception of some sort of grim pie made from English orphans. I worked off of a recipe I found on-line, and I hesitate to share it without further tinkering. But the idea is really quite simple: make custard, scoop the guts out of pumpkin, and pretend that the pumpkin is a glass pan in a bain-marie.

If I were to do it over again, I'd use canned coconut milk, which is thicker than any homemade version I've ever concocted, less sugar, a pinch of black pepper, and not a pumpkin. Pumpkins are pretty, but I think a softer, sweeter squash, like a kabocha, kuri, or even an acorn (squash), would fare better.

And if I could really do it all over again, I'd still be that hobbit.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

A Food Hero

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Rejected Names For A Foodie High Horse

Yesterday's post included mention of my foodie high horse, which I called the Black Scallion. Here is a list of alternate names I decided not to go with:

- Feed Steed
- Epicurean Equestrian
- Appaloosa Pupusa
- Thorough Bread
- Venison Saddle
- Mark Bit-man
- Peanut Bridle
- Gallop Scallop (Or Paddock Haddock)
- Sel de Mare
- Pony of Brandy
- Idaho Stud
- Trotters
- Mane Plate
- Cote du Roan
- Port Clydesdale Fresh Catch
- Palomino Acid

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What I Ate In St. Louis

When I go to St. Louis for Thanksgiving I eat things that I never eat during the rest of the year.

That includes the obvious Americana served alongside the turkey, like sweet potatoes topped with toasted marshmallows and "green" bean casserole, but there are other things I eat before and after the holiday that sometimes challenge my conception of food.

Omelettes in a bag, for instance. For the past two years, my makua (Hawaiian for mother-in-law) has laid out a make-your-own omelette in a bag station for the many friends and relatives who gather for the holiday. Making an omelette in a bag is a lot like making an omelette out of a bag up until the part when you put in a bag. You fill a Ziploc with the egg mixture and float it into a simmering pot of water. When the egg and the orange cheddar pull away from the sides, it's done.

Does estrogen leak from the bag during the process? Let's just say I don't own any bras. Yet.

Then there was Lion's Choice, not to be confused with a lion's choice, though if a lion were to ever sample the "seasoned salt" that is the primary condiment at Lion's Choice, a roast beef-centric fast food restaurant native to St. Louis, it would surely enjoy it. (And then kill you.)

I have no idea what makes the seasoned salt so addictive, though I suspect that it's one of those things that make junk food as addictive as hard drugs.

Which isn't to say that I don't enjoy eating all of these things, which is to say that I do. If nothing else, eating like a suburbanite for a few days permits me to demount my high horse, which I only feed local, seasonal Asian greens and which I've named the Black Scallion.

It reminds me that although I wouldn't live as long if I ate like this all the time, I don't die when I do.


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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Anniversary Uno

I just returned from traveling for our first wedding anniversary and then for the anniversary of the apocryphal interracial love-fest we call Thanksgiving, though some Native Americans mark the occasion as a National Day of Mourning.

My travels included several interesting foodsperiences, which is a word that I just made up. I'll start with the anniversary.

First there was an indoor anniversary picnic of pâté (not to be confused with pâte), triple creme, baguette, sliced cucumbers, grapes, wine, and so forth. As I assembled that spread I learned something about myself: as much as I love Sichuan, when it's time to celebrate, all I want is French (or faux-French, as our meal may appear to connoisseurs, though it had the desired effect).

Breakfast the next day was Iggy's bagels and (responsibly farmed) smoked salmon, and thanks to my purchase of a champagne-saving cork, we drank dry mimosas then and throughout the day. In fact, we did little else, though we did walk up a ski run, where my elfin wife mugged for the camera.

An Indian dinner in Williamstown that night was unremarkable, but the moon looked pretty cool, and kind of like a buffalo.

Oddly, there was a John Harvard's Brew House in the hotel complex we were staying in, and on the same date for the second year in a row I found myself drinking their inoffensive, cartoonish beers: we went to the one in Harvard Square the night before our wedding.

We ordered a flight and did blind taste tests until we got them all right. And then, feeling even more celebratory, I guiltily ordered some buffalo tenders. Guess French isn't the only way I like to party.

Next time: culinary adventures in suburban St. Louis.

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