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sweet salads… actually a good idea.

22 Aug

oh hello, blog! The past weeks of August have been filled with a lot of distractions, namely re-painting my toenails, eating out a lot, and pretending to be gainfully employed. Obviously this cah-RAZY summer has not afforded me much time to commit to my writing… since… I have so much… going on (???).  I did write another article for the weekly, which will hopefully be published next week, and I took the so simple it’s probably illegal route which was to write about the Copper Hog. The same Copper Hog that I’ve probably already written about on here like, 6 times. What? There are very few places in this town that serve both hard liquor and food that doesn’t make you feel like you just took a bath in old dirty fry grease.

I liked one item on the menu so much that I decided to blatantly copy it at home… and share it with you similarly minded cheapskates.

Watermelon Salad a la Copper Hog

feeds 5 or 6 as a side (cut in half if you don’t have that many- this salad doesn’t keep well!)

-One mini seedless watermelon
-Half an English cucumber, cut into half moons
-About 5 Tbs chopped fresh mint (I think the more mint the merrier, but if this sounds like a mintsplosion to you, tone it down and it will be even MORE Copper-Hoggish)
-Three large lemons to turn into candied goodness (hold yer horses, I’ll explain later)

Since I am lazy I am going to go about this in a numbered list. DEALWITHIT.

  1. Cut the baby watermelon in half and cut the rind off it. Cube all the watermelon into about ¾ inch cubes.  If you don’t understand inches, just go for “bite size”.
  2. Put those watermelon cubes in a bowl with your half moon cucumbers and the mint. BRACE YOURSELF: The only remotely challenging part of the recipe is coming up! If you need to, pour yourself a cocktail.
  3. When I said remotely challenging, I meant “requires the use of the stove,” so don’t get too scared. Using a vegetable peeler, take off the lemon skins. Try to go as lightly as possible so you don’t get too much white skin on the underside of the zest.
  4. Once you have a bunch of zest chunks, scrape any obvious white parts off the skin with a paring knife.
  5. Cut the skins into long strips, as thin as possible.
  6. In a saucepan, bring 3 cups of water and 2 cups of sugar to a boil (I made that ratio up… so if it goes berserk don’t be surprised! But, uh, it should be fine).
  7. Let that simmer for a minute until the sugar is all dissolved.
  8. Put the zest into the saucepan and let it simmer on med-low for about 30 minutes or until the zest becomes somewhat transparent.
  9. When it’s finished, remove the zest onto a plate to cool and pour the liquid (which is now lemon simple syrup) into something else to save for later.

At this point I called it good on the candied lemon, but there is one more thing you can do to make it extra amazing… ROLL IT IN SUGAR. Why not? People like sugar, and that way the lemon zest doesn’t stay gummy. Regardless of sugar rolling or not, chop up the lemon zest and add as much as you deem appropriate to the bowl with everything in it. I spooned a little of the simple syrup over the whole mess and tossed it together, but I would be very careful of doing this if you rolled the zest in sugar, since this already a sweet dessert-esque salad.

That’s it! Now I’m tired so I’m going to stop writing, but seriously you should make this and impress people. Like, your mom and dad. Or persnickety friends. Whatever!

PUBLISHED! YOWZA!

3 Aug

Oh wow, I’m officially published! There’s something really magical about seeing your writing in print and not just on your same old computer screen… I guess that’s the smug feeling of validation I’m feeling. Here’s the link to my article online, but it’s probably more fun to read it on here: MEAT YOUR HEART OUT! Also, there’s something to getting paid, too that kind of says, “Hey, maybe people BESIDES YOURSELF like your writing!” …and that feels like a million edible sunshines.

So here you are.

Someone told me recently that the food truck trend is over- and later that day I read that tiki bars are the new couture. Well… I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have more food trucks any day. Though it might be a little hasty to foray into the world of side notes, here it is anyway: I find the whole arena of “food trends” infuriating in itself, since I think that trends should probably stick to the unnecessary facets of life, like hoop earrings. Or, you know, types of lap dogs. The fact of the matter is that even if food trucks are passé, I can’t think of one person who would oppose more mobile food in this town. Apparently Portland has over 200 food carts to choose from which lends the question, “how come I can only think of six here in Bellingham?”

Food trucks, besides being trendy (or non-trendy, depending on who you talk to), are a customer’s best friend. Usually low-priced, they’re easy to find, require little wait, and more often than not are run by passionate foodie individuals who are pretty knowledgeable about the food they’re serving. As an added bonus, there is no awkward menu-scoping, so if you don’t see anything you feel like trying you won’t have to exit through a front door with bells jingling on the handle.

While Bellingham could certainly use some more variety in the food truck arena, there is at least one downtown eatery that you’ve probably passed dozens of times. Serving up authentic German fare during both lunch and early dinner hours, Ilse’s Schnitzel Haus has been up and running since September 2010. Vegetarians beware: Ilse Bublitz, owner and sole operator, serves a variety of mouthwatering and potentially diet-altering meats.  Trained to cook in her hometown of Pirmasens, Germany, she owned her own restaurant for 15 years and served a menu similar to the one available at the food truck.  Since I roll past the truck every day on my bike to work, I decided it was high time to swing in and sample some unusually heavy food for such an uncharacteristically warm (for Bellingham, anyway….) summer day. I settled on the fried schnitzel, since an eager to explain Ilse told me that it was probably the most traditional food of Germany.

A Google image search earlier that day had elicited hundreds of photos of breaded and fried schnitzel, most served with little else but some lemon slices, and honestly I was skeptical about how good a plain old pork chop with lemon could be. In the spirit of authenticity, however, I agreed to give it a shot (and for $9.95 it is served with a heaping pile of simple but perfectly tangy and slightly warm potato salad). My boyfriend opted for the Bavarian plate; a sturdy paper plate loaded with Bratwurst, Polish sausage, bacon potato salad, grilled onions, a giant mound of sauerkraut, and a pretzel roll from Ralph’s Bavarian Bakery ($10.95 and seriously worth it, since two could easily split this). I typically veer away from sauerkraut, as most jarred varieties are too sharp and briny, and usually harbor a strange, too-crisp texture that screams, “I used to be cabbage, but then I got shoved into a jar of lactic acid bacteria and forgotten about!” Which is to say (for me, at least), ew, but Ilse’s? Her sauerkraut was miles away from those grocery store jars- it was perfectly soft, mellow, and light—a perfect pairing with those sausages and even with my schnitzel.

Though I did end up snagging occasional bites of the kraut and onions to pair with the schnitzel, with just the lemon juice accompaniment it was surprisingly satisfying with only the potato salad to keep it company. Though “schnitzel” can mean any number of things, this particular schnitzel was the traditional pork, pounded with a mallet until flat, then breaded and fried. It was tender, juicy, and filling. My boyfriend’s plate did call my name though, and I relented for a few bites of the insanely tasty bratwurst, which was blackened perfectly and (dare I say it again?) super juicy. Served with the bacon potato salad, which is the same as the regular potato salad but with substantial chunks of chewy smoked bacon, my only complaint is that I could have easily eaten about three times the amount of onions. If you close your eyes and eat a tiny bit of everything on that plate at once with a dollop of course mustard, you are instantly transported to a place in your imagination that looks remarkably like the Sound of Music (think the scene with the grassy hills and children in matching curtains).

The next day, just to prove my point to myself, I rode by again and ordered the dessert—an absolutely perfect apple strudel ($4.75). This strudel is a divine handmade pastry, stuffed with soft, not too sweet apples and raisins drenched in cinnamon sugar. Covered with powdered sugar, a dreamy vanilla sauce, and freshly grated cinnamon, this was so good that, sitting on a plastic chair devouring an enormous strudel by myself at 3:00 in the afternoon didn’t even seem remotely out of the ordinary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the way

25 Jul

In case you’ve been staring blankly at your U.S. map lately, stumped and scratching your head because TEXAS TOTALLY BAFFLES YOU… well, luckily for you the good old Dairy Delite back in Warren, PA has some insight.

 

Yes, Texas IS a meat sauce! I get that it’s redundant to say “Texas sauce is a meat sauce,” but I really couldn’t handle this sign… unfortunately the disgruntled elderly workers did not seem to share my enthusiasm for the wording. Against my better judgement I tried the Texas sauce (as ordered by C, slathered atop some floppy french fries and covered in a gluey melted provolone), and I was nonplussed.

Come to think of, actually I was pretty plussed (is that a thing people say?), since I don’t think ANYONE could try these things and not react strongly in one regard or another. Not to say I enjoyed it, but it did illicit my curiosity, if nothing else, as, upon further inspection, the meat sauce appeared to be a gelatinous pile of orange translucent… er…. stuff, with bits of ground beef no larger than grains of rice suspended inside the pile. It looked like an aspic gone psycho, and tasted like better-forgotten cafeteria fare of the early 90s. Despite all this, I definitely ate a solid 4 or 5 bites of the fry-cheese-gel (served appropriately in a paper boat, as there is no other vessel that would properly transport the creation without meat gel gravitating toward your lap). I’m honestly unsure why I kept eating it, but I suspect that it had something to do with a long-untapped childhood food memory of those coveted cafeteria lunches that my mom never let me buy in grade school (THANK YOU, MOM, I OWE YOU).

Anyhow, this is all just me procrastinating since I should be working on the food piece I’m writing for the Weekly about food trucks. I got the assignment today, and if I don’t totally blow it, will have my first food article EVER published in next week’s paper. Oh, and my photos, too. Score! I’ll post it once it’s done, assuming I don’t make a total ass out of myself and totally fuck up my tenses like you’ve probably noticed I already do on a VERY REGULAR BASIS. Also, no swearing. Also, no all caps, which is hard for me. How else will people know that I REALLY MEAN SOMETHING!? Oh, right, and probably no question mark/exclamation point combos. This is gonna be tricky.

The merits of food photography

14 Jul

I’m here on vacation with C in Pennsylvania, which essentially means that between swimming and boating trips I’m laying around looking like a burnt pork roast in shorts (and smelling like a sultry blend of SPF and sweat). While I’m recuperating from the heat I often flip through the daily newspaper and take special interest in the grocery ads… there’s something really fun about looking at other region’s food habits. Plus I like to torture myself with the constant comparison of prices- Pennsylvania food costs are a fraction of what I pay in Washington! But while perusing the ads this morning I found something somewhat disturbing…

Do you see what I see? I’ll give you a hint… it rhymes with “pickin’ chest”. That’s right- it’s the split chicken breast in the center of the page. Here’s a close up.

I’m distressed by this chicken plate. I guess they want me to slather it in paprika and black pepper, serve it on a bed of oily pasta, and accompany it with… shrimp? AND RASPBERRIES?! Well, I get that food photography sometimes calls for thinking outside the box for garnish and decor, but this is just depressing. I think if forced to sample this dish, it would be… dry. And… bizarre. And…. just, really, really dry. And really, really weird. I can’t even imagine the circumstances that led to this plate creation. Listen, I know I’m not a pro food photographer or anything, but photos like this make me seriously question those who manage to make money off this sort of thing. I don’t get it… are they tenured or something? Are there bribes involved? Lord only knows.

How to Make Your Dad Love You More (A step by step tutorial)

24 Jun

Over the years I’ve come up with a number of ways to semi- creatively tell my dad Happy Father’s Day, including, but not limited to: poetry likening my dad to a magician (age 11), coupons for daughter-done car detailing (pretty much every year of grade school), and the offer to do whatever my dad feels like ONE WHOLE SUNDAY PER YEAR (read: usually not much, which works out, since I’m historically pretty lazy about these things, obviously). As I’ve gotten older I’ve figured out that, since no one complains about being fed, food is probably the simplest dad-pleasing gift I can give. Or person-pleaser in general, for pretty much every occasion, except an overeater’s anonymous meeting, in which case, satiate the masses (HA! MASSES!) with some Crystal Light. This year my dad requested ribs for Father’s Day dinner as he has for pretty much as long as I can remember, but this year I decided to actually participate a little in the dinner making instead of couch sprawling for six hours straight. So here you are, the tutorial my heading implied might make your father love you more… which, let’s be honest, has no credence whatsoever.

Regardless, give it a shot, since dads are awesome (at least mine is!) and you should probably make a gesture every now and then to say, “Thanks for giving me the gift of life and also for bailing me out when I’m really, unapologetically, pathetically broke. Which I swear has nothing to do with my upbringing or lack of ambition, it’s seriously the economy/locale/unfair-edness of life! CHRIST!”

Wait, leave that last part out. HOOOO-KAAAAY. Deep breaths.

Step one.

Shuck some corn. But don’t get all Rambo on it and shuck it all off! Only peel it down, and leave the ends on, like you peel a banana. Get rid of the silk unless you want to make a pillow out of it, in which case, good luck, but that’s gonna fester in a couple of days, and I DON’T WANNA BE THERE.

 

 

Step two.

Not gonna bother with measurements, because as mentioned before THE LAZINESS. Mix together some stuff. Namely olive oil, chopped red onion, chopped garlic, some lime juice, some chili powder, salt, and pepper. But try to put more chili powder in it than I did, since it wasn’t nearly spicy enough for me, ok? Also, add way more garlic than you think you need since it mellows so much and also because garlic is crazy good for you and immediately distinguishes the people who you want to hang out with vs. the people who are way too needy and/or superficial to hang out with. Because seriously, if I hear one more person IN MY ENTIRE LIFE be grossed out/skeptical of garlic use, I might need to punch them right in the mouth. Garlic is delicious, healthy, and really doesn’t make you smell bad unless you’re a total weirdo and eat cloves raw.

 

Step three.

TAKE SOME TIME TO BOND WITH DAD (i.e. enlist his hands to help you here, since it gets tricky otherwise). With your bare hands rub the mixture (juices and solids) over the ears of corn, then fold the husks back up to their original position. I specify bare hands here because brushes and spoons are seriously a waste of time and effort. Plus it sounds a little badass. Hand the ear to dad, who can tie the corn so that the husks stay tight to the ear. You can use kitchen twine, but I just took some pliable husks, ripped them lengthwise so they’d be skinny, tied two segments together in a double knot, and used that for a tie. Dad can take that tie , loop it around the corn, and tie another double knot so it stays tight. That made sense, right? Honestly that was way too confusing for me to try to detail in writing.

 

 

Step four.

Here’s where I went wrong. I should have either oven roasted the corn first or allotted more time for the corn on the grill. Put the corn on the grill and wait for, I’d guess, a total of 20-25 minutes for the corn to cook through.  I was a moron and allotted 9 minutes (why I don’t know) for total cooking time, so I had to finish it in the oven. Rotate the corn several times throughout the grilling so it gets toasty all over and thoroughly cooks the thicker part of the ear.

Step five.

Peel the husks off so your family doesn’t make a gigantor mess at the dinner table and serve it around an epic pile of meat. Dad will be happy.

P.S. Precursor to step one/step six depending on your schedule and/or dad’s snackiness: 

My dad goes bonkers for chocolate chip cookies, so you should probably make those for dessert. But since I know my dad well (and I know he loves his chocolate chip cookies all damn day) I baked them as soon as we’d finished our waffle breakfast. My dad is usually a well-disciplined guy. For instance, for six months or more he gave up his Diet Coke habit after he had to get a cavity filled. He was 54, I believe, and doesn’t partake in any vices one usually ascribes to bad health- he’s just got serious gumption and straight-lacedness… but in the vicinity of chocolate chip cookies he loses all self control. I probably love making them for him just because it’s a pleasure to see him unabashedly downing cookie after cookie after cookie etc. etc. without guilt or bother.  So let your dad do his thing and make him his favorite dessert and go bananas for it. He deserves it.

 

Love you, dad!

Cake! It’s a… cake… walk. Right.

16 Jun

Ok, guys… I’ve been MIA from blogland for too long now, but there’s nothing more obnoxious in a blog that reading boring reasons that there haven’t been any posts, so I’ll spare you. In sum, I’m lazy and it’s sunny finally. That, and my part-time employment has allowed me numerous hours that I’ve been devoting to craftiness instead of foodiness. I did, recently, attempt to make a cake, though. I say attempt because even though it turned out DELICIOUS, it also turned out sadly void of the grandeur I had expected. Why? Well… turns out that you can’t just pick up a frosting tip for $1.89 at the craft store and churn one of these puppies out.

But that didn’t stop me from trying! Last week, amidst planning C’s surprise party, I realized that my pal Hannah had a birthday as well and she needed a host, so I offered up our house last Monday for the party. I’d never actually baked a cake from scratch before, and I turned to the trusty How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman for a recipe. Making cakes from a box is idiot-proof and relatively good tasting, though it mostly tastes like sugar. Making cakes from scratch, however, is insanely time consuming, and the end result tastes like an explosion of butter and sugar and eggs. They’re two different animals, but obviously I prefer scratch cakes.

Despite my CONSTANT VIGILANCE and DUTIFUL ROTATION of the cakes, they still turned out different shades of gold thanks to my totally outdated and somewhat evil oven.

But regardless, they rose evenly, were dense enough while still fluffy, and tasted like a butter fairy and 10,000 of her magical butter babies were cooked right into the pan. Mmmm… babies. Making the buttercream was easy enough, even with only one whisk in the electric mixer (the other literally burst in two since my mixer’s slowest speed is BOLT DOWN YOUR TABLES AND SECURE YOUR VALUABLES- TORNADO IS IN FULL FORCE). I thought Hannah seemed like a bright yellow rose kinda girl, so I mashed all the frosting into a bag with the frosting tip poking through and gave it my all. Well… let’s go ahead and blame the hot weather that day (not my total inexperience or impatience)- the buttercream roses looked like whirlpools of shame and despair, decidedly NOT ROSES. I was too downtrodden to take a photo. Instead, I scraped the icing off the cake and gave it another go with sort of a frilly-lacey/ unintentionally baby shower-esque icing job. Oh, well.

But Hannah seemed pleased and the cake was a hit, probably since everyone was too drunk to notice that it looked like the easter bunny cremated a bunch of Peeps for the frosting. Whatever.

For C’s birthday I had every intention of making another scratch cake with scratch frosting and impressing the pants off him, but that was an epic fail. Not the pants part, the cake part HEY YO. Just kidding. No, planning a surprise party for someone you live with proved to be VERY CHALLENGING INDEED and I made up numerous fake friend-dates when in reality I was running errands to get his stuff taken care of and/or utilizing my absent friend’s kitchen to make enchiladas.

It was the night before his party and I was frantically huffing through the aisles of CostCutter clutching my hand basket packed with party supplies, probably weighing a hefty 18 pounds by then (I refuse to use push carts for absolutely no clear reason)… and right as I started to break a sweat I plopped down in the baking aisle. I had an hour and  45 minutes before I was expected home, and I had to finish shopping, drive to my friend’s house, haul three loads of cookware/groceries into her home (she’s not really kitchen-equipped) and bust out some chicken thigh enchiladas and a cake. Not to mention I had to clean up, wrap everything, haul everything back down to my car and leave a detailed list of instructions to my second friend who was going to pick up the food from the house I was cooking at. So there I was in the baking aisle, and I thought, okay, I’ll by the box mix. BUT GODDAMNIT I WILL MAKE THE FROSTING. But the frosting was just sitting there, right next to the cake mix. It was like… Saaaaaaaaally… I only cost TWO DOLLARS! You’re crazy to pass me up! And I was like, BY GOD, THE FROSTING IS RIGHT! So I bought it, dyed it a zesty lime green and called it done. Again, it went over without a hitch, because at some time in the evening of the party, C was like “Is this from scratch?” and I was like, “……….no. Sorry.” But I don’t think he even heard my response because there were a million happy faces in our house and they all wanted to give him drinks and presents, so there were some good distractions. Plus I tried to cover it up with unnecessary cake decorations, which also seemed to work.

So, moral of the story is this, I suppose: CAKE IS ALWAYS GOOD. Regardless of how hard you try or don’t try. No one’s gonna argue with the fact you made ’em a cake. So there.

Steamed fish is way better than it sounds.

30 May

Because when I think of steamed fish I’m like, EHHHH….

But then I read this little ditty in the last book (well, second to last) I finished, and was like, THIS SOUNDS AWESOME. Mostly because it’s an absurd short cut that uses a rice cooker to steam fish AND make rice, which I am totally into.

 

Here it is:

Mahi Mahi (however much you can eat/fit into your rice cooker)
Rice (again, how much do you feel like eating? Put that much in your rice cooker)
For the fish rub:
2 Tb soy sauce
2 Tb sesame oil
1 Tb minced ginger

Green onions and cilantro for garnish 

Start the rice cooker. While the rice is cooking pour the fish rub mixture over the fillets and let them soak up the goodness. Wait until the rice has about 6 minutes left (I couldn’t really tell, so I just forced the button into the “cook” position since I waited until the rice was pretty much ready to eat. It didn’t matter.) and then lay the mahi mahi on top of the rice. Close the lid and let the fish steam until it flakes apart with a fork. Garnish with chopped green onion and plenty of cilantro.

That idea was taken from Judith Jones’ The Tenth Muse, which I really enjoyed for it’s insight into the world of cook bookery and essentially the beginnings of America’s food renaissance. It was rife with celebrity chefs (the likes of James Beard and Julia Child… the originals, not exactly Anthony Bourdain) and jaunty trips to Paris and classy restaurants, which essentially just made me long to be a pivotal food writer in the 60s. After I finished that, I took to Cleaving (Julie Powell), and finished it in no time flat. Although it was a great read as a memoir, her writing about butchery is difficult to follow and left me nearly as clueless as I was before the read. Granted, it’s probably pretty hard to describe in writing how to break down a whole cow, and I’m a visual learner, so I should probably just watch a documentary, I guess. Anyone heard of any good butchery movies?

Now I’m onto the last read, Cheesemonger (Gordon Edgar) and am already infatuated with his self described “cheese punk” lifestyle. What am I going to do when I finish this one and I’m out of food memoirs?

 

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