Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Eye of the Beholder

"Hot waxy tranny mess" is the first thing that came to mind when I saw this bowl. The Java Junkie thought, "Where's my credit card...." How can two women usually so in tune with each other see something so differently? Bright side? I'll never ask to "borrow" it (borrow being the polite term for her handing something over without knowing she was actually giving me a gift...). Take the "Bowl Poll", and tell us what you think.
What do you think of the bowl?
It's a hot tranny mess, Shamu!
It's seriously fierce, Java! Buy it NOW!
Free polls from

What rhymes with à l'alsacienne...?

Since our dear sweet southern Aunty is having a limerick contest, and since we think there's nothing that bacon can't make better, we've happily combined the two. Enjoy! (Click on Aunty's link to enter the contest!)

We revel in all things porcine -
of it's virtues we just must opine.
If you'll cook up some bacon,
we're yours for the takin'
for pork on a fork is sublime!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

But can you taste the rainbow?

It was the first thing that caught my eye as I headed into my grocery store. How could it not? Bright red, yellow and orange flesh glowing like neon. It was beautiful. Stunning...It was, well, gastropornographic. I had to buy some, if only to pay homage with my trusty Nikon. But once I had paid for the objects of my obsession, I began to wonder...does orange watermelon differ in taste from red or yellow?

One of the things that I like about Top Chef are the challenges they devise to test the chefs palates. Identify the ingredient. Identify the better quality product versus it's cheaper alternative. A refined palate is not something that comes as standard equipment on every chef. It has to be developed; trained. So the color of the melons fascinated me . Can you taste color? Was one color of melon selling better than another? Would the feng shui of the orange melon fit in someones kitchen better than the red?
My quest went on. We all know what happened to the mighty lunch box apple. Once upon a time there was a fantastic apple called the Red Delicious. These days, it's certainly still red - but delicious? No, I think in the drive for that eye pleasing shape, color and juiciness, the poor Red Delicious developed into a pale tasting ghost of it's former self and nearly took down the State of Washington's apple industry with it.

Is that what's happening with all varieties of fruit and veggies? Is some marketing minion somewhere giving a Power Point presentation about the advantages of style over substance? Are we breeding out the taste as they breed in the PR Buck Banger? Could we taste the difference if they had? If you boiled each of these potatoes and served them to someone blindfolded could they tell the difference between the three? Would the waxiness of one potato give it away? How many people buy purple potatoes to see if their mashed potatoes will turn out the same vibrant hue as the flesh, or fade to a pale lavender with cooking? (OK maybe that was just me.)

This is the only way I enjoy peppers. Photos yes, food NO! Yet these are merely the three most common colors. I've seen orange and purple, but apparently there are blue, brown and white varieties. Are the reds sweeter than the greens? Are the yellows as tart as their lemony color would have you believe? Like the purple potatoes, does the heat from cooking affect the depth of color? And how does a farmer decide which one to grow?

There is a wonderful diversity in the vegetable kingdom (that's right, kingdom...). White asparagus, purple garlic, cauliflower from creamy off white to day-glo chartreuse; chiles, radishes, carrots, tomatoes, peppers and even Swiss chard come in virtually every color of the rainbow. But vegetables and fruit aren't only for the eyes, they must also consistently please the palate. Just ask the tomato and apple farmers how much they've really lost. Getting your product to market while it still looks good does nothing for your bottom line if no one buys your product knowing it isn't palatable. And the last time I checked there weren't taste buds on my eyes.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What, no Flay?

Those whose televisual existence hinges on a steady diet of food pornography can look forward to an interactive side dish, in the form of Destineer's upcoming 'Iron Chef America: Supreme Cuisine.' The game is hitting Nintendo Wii and DS this fall, with four celebrity chefs having lent their name to the project: Mario Batali, Chef Cat Cora, Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, and commentator Alton Brown.While gameplay details are still a bit fuzzy, players will compete in a series of cooking challenges similar to those found in the television show.
[From: USA Today]

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Blast from the past...

Remember these? For those of you who don't know, or who are just too young to remember, this is a vintage ice cube tray. For me it was a torture device straight out of the middle ages. First, you had to muster the strength of a female Romanian shot-putter to pull the frozen arm up, taking care to avoid the sharp frozen edges (which were cleverly designed to gouge your knuckles, causing you to bleed profusely into the ice). And all of this had to be accomplished with bone dry hands, or you would be stuck fast to the evil contraption (frozen metal - there's a brilliant idea!!) Then there was the age old problem of finding a single straight male human being responsible enough to refill the tray once enough ice had been chiseled, rattled or banged out for it to be considered empty. The emergence of plastic trays put those relics out to pasture, but the plastic trays apparently inherited the same mysterious component that rendered the male of the species unable to lift their metal predecessors to the sink, fill them full of water and replace in the freezer. Eventually, some inventive man solved this problem altogether by creating the automatic ice maker, thereby relieving himself and others of his kind the torture of ever touching an ice tray again.Now comes the Iceorb from Fusion Brands. A stylish multi-tasker, it not only makes ice cubes and holds the ice cubes it makes, but can also serve as an ice bucket for your champagne a or cooler for your potato salad at your next picnic. You might even be able to use it to make Jello shooters.And it's even dishwasher safe! Now the only question is - Once the Jello shots are gone...who's going to load the dishwasher?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Another problem solved...

Have you ever been stymied as to how to present your molecular gastronomy masterpieces in a fashion suited to the masses? Do your foams and faux caviar lack the right canvas upon which to shine? Then you'll be pleased to know that the good folks at Merchant 4 have just the thing for you!These beautiful bone china pieces will dazzle even the most hardened of traditionalist foodies into trying at least a taste of your Porcini Amber & Parmesan Air.Party on Wylie. Party on Grant.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Julia's best kept secret wasn't a recipe...

WASHINGTON -Famed chef Julia Child shared a secret with Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg and Chicago White Sox catcher Moe Berg at a time when the Nazis threatened the world. They served in an international spy ring managed by the Office of Strategic Services, an early version of the CIA created in World War II by President Franklin Roosevelt. Read the full story here.

The Gals Go Gadget Gawking

Shamu's find:
Meet the Gastrovac. It's touted as a compact appliance for cooking, frying, and "impregnating in a vacuum", but with a price tag of $5,750.00, it had better freakin' well walk my dogs and do my taxes as well! And that "impregnating in a vacuum" feature? I'm fairly certain that's illegal in my state. (And if it's not then I'm sure it will be soon, along with stem cell research.)

Java's find:
Perhaps the most twisted appliance I’ve ever seen, I present the leather clad "Orgasmatron 3000", a washing machine with "benefits" (note the built in saddle...). The settings, that range from a quick "Oh!" to the le petite mort setting of "Ooooooooooooooh!", will have everyone wondering why you have suddenly become obsessed with getting those whites whiter and colors brighter. Riding crop not included...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I dunk, therefore I am...

I went to my favorite coffee spot this morning to have a latte, and sit and read the paper in peace. Every now and again, I casually dunked the cookie I had purchased into my latte. As I dunked, I noticed a woman glaring at me, her eyebrow raising each time my cookie hit the coffee, and I began to wonder if I was committing some heinous social faux pas. Everyone dunks don’t they? Don't they?!?!?
Are you a dunker?
I want to, but I'm afraid.
Free polls from
This incident got me thinking about the very essence of dunking and the propriety surrounding its execution. Is it acceptable to dunk in public, or should dunking be confined solely to the privacy of one's own home? Should anti-dunkers force their dunking convictions upon pro-dunkers or vice-versa? After due consideration, and a quick consult with *Miss Manners, I decided that this woman's singular act of snobbery had left me unmoved, and that I would continue to dunk proudly, knowing in my heart that it does not in any way reflect upon my civility.

Personally, I am an equal opportunity dunker; I have even been known to plunge a donut now and then. But cookies remain my favorite dunk, and shortbread and sugar cookies in particular. As store bought cookies go, Le Petit Ecolier biscuit cookies with extra dark chocolate are excellent, as are Walker's Shortbreads and even Lorna Doones. But the finest dunk I've ever had are these homemade sugar cookies.

Pat's Sugar Cookies

Preheat oven to 375

4 1/2 C. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 C. sugar
1 C. powdered sugar
1 C. butter, softened
1 C. canola oil
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond extract
pearl sugar

Sift together flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt. Set aside. Beat sugar, powdered sugar, butter and oil together until smooth. Add eggs, vanilla and almond extract. Mix well. Add dry ingredients and stir well. Place small balls of dough on cookie sheet and flatten lightly with a fork. Sprinkle with pearl sugar and bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes. Cool on rack.

I know, it's a lot of butter and oil, but I hope that will not deter you from trying this recipe. It makes about 40 wonderfully rich, sandy cookies. Even the non-dunkers among us will enjoy them. And to those of you who are not dunkers, but who are dunk-curious, I suggest that you ease in slowly, perhaps starting out with a dunking aid. Enjoy!

*Miss Manners says dunking is fine, as long as you break the donut or biscuit in half before dunking.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Misty watermelon memories...

August. It's seems I've always lived in places where the weather in August meant two things: Oppressive heat and choking humidity. When I was a kid, escaping the heat meant a trip to the beach, with it's soothing, rhythmic ocean waves. Sadly it was only a brief respite, forcing us to be much more resourceful when back in the non-beach world. Sprinklers were an old standby. The Slip and Slide was fun, but after the "Slip and Slide as Sledding Ice Ramp" incident the previous winter, we couldn't always count on our parental units to unearth the beloved yellow plastic sheet from it's well hidden storage place. (The same place, I think, where the lawn darts of danger had been stowed in perpetuity.) Ice cream was always an option but hand cranking that homemade ice cream gizmo as a kid got old very quickly. But it was when Mom broke out the watermelon that we were most happy.This is how I remember watermelon. A huge oblong thing that you had to carry with both arms. A huge thing full of seeds. Sweet as candy and bursting with juice. I always envied my brothers because as soon as my mom would start carving out hunks, they would skin out of their shirts, and were soon covered in the red stuff, seeds sticking to their skin like ticks. It wasn't just a snack, it was entertainment. Who could spit a seed the furthest? Who was most accurate? Could you shove a seed into one ear and shake it out the other? Would a watermelon seed germinate in your stomach if you swallowed it? Would the vine snake out your...well, you get the idea. Watermelon was summer. Watermelon was also the only remedy to "Old Bay Burn". Old timer Marylanders know what I'm talking about - that sensation your lips experience after consuming a healthy pile of steamy hard shelled crabs. Watermelon balm works every time.

Flash forward to today's hot and sticky August. The watermelon? Smaller and seedless. Frankly I think the seedless part is a gyp. Are today's parents so paranoid of the dangers of watermelon seeds that they are something to be avoided at all costs? I think the youth of today are missing out. Then again for all I know Nintendo Wii has a watermelon spitting game you can play with Grandma in the living room. Feh.The watermelon of the new millennium comes in all shapes, sizes and colors, from the traditional oblong to teardrop to square to tiny and round, and from Orangeglo to Yellow Crimson and Cotton Candy. The above beauty is a "Jade Star", and the bonus for me was that it was grown locally and sold at my local supermarket. Less gas spent transporting the product to the store and getting it from the store to my home. One thing that hasn't changed - the sweet, satisfying goodness of a mouthful of ice cold watermelon.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Whale Meets Grill

Another fine Summer weekend, and I was in the mood for meat. And not just any meat - ribeye. Grilled ribeye. But I didn't want to just grill the ribeye. I wanted to expand my ribeye elevate my ribeye range to new heights. A quick email to the Java Junkie solved my dilemma. With lightning speed, she dashed off a recipe for poblano stuffed ribeyes. And she included a decadent bonus bacon studded veggie side dish of her own design to boot!

Time to shop. Ribeye is not cheap, but you do have options if your funds are limited. I just happened to be at the "Big Box Warehouse Store" buying the "Big Bag" of dog food for my canine companions when I remembered there was a "Big Meat" department. As a rule, I don't buy meat there - I just don't consume that much beef. The prices, however, convinced me that putting some steaks in the freezer would be "thrifty" as opposed to spending a big hunk of change at my favorite "Whole Foods Grocery & Pay Check Depository". I even toyed with the idea of buying a rib roast and cutting the steaks myself, but having never attempted to efficiently cut an expensive hunk of beef into smaller slabs of beef, I decided that this would be better suited for a future project. Dog food and steaks in hand, I was off to the preparation stage of my mood fulfillment.

The Java Junkie enjoys a certain friskiness in her cooking, and the recipe she suggested (courtesy of Dave Dewitt of New Mexico) is a prime example. It starts by rubbing a mix of coarsely crushed black, green and white peppercorns into the tender meat. A subsequent bath in a marinade made with a liberal dose of habanero sauce bumps the heat meter up another notch. Not content with just spicing the outside of the meat, she delights in the hiding of a plump, roasted poblano pepper within a little "pocket" cut in the side of the steak. I'm not big on spicy food or, frankly, most of the members of the pepper family, but the Junkie knows my weakness...You guessed it - this fiery little package was wrapped in BACON! I was sold.

Poblano Stuffed Ribeyes
4 bonelesss rib-eye steaks, cut 1 to 2 inches thick
4 green New Mexican chiles, (poblano) roasted, peeled, stemmed, and seeded
4 strips uncooked bacon
2 tablespoons red peppercorns
2 tablespoons white peppercorns
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 tablespoons habanero sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced

Slice the steaks horizontally to create a pocket, but do not cut all the way through the steak. Place a green chile into each of the pockets. Wrap a strip of bacon around each steak in the same direction as the pocket and secure with a toothpick.
Wrap the peppercorns in a kitchen towel and with a meat pounder or rolling pin gently pound the peppercorns until coarsely crushed. Press the crushed peppercorns into the sides of each steak. Place the steaks into a non-metallic pan.

To make the marinade: combine the habanero sauce, Worcestershire, soy sauce, vinegar, and garlic powder in a bowl. Pour the marinade over the meat, and marinate in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 hours.

Preheat the grill and bring the steaks up to room temperature before placing on the grill. Grill the steaks over medium heat for about 12 to 16 minutes for medium-rare or until the internal temperature reaches 150 degrees F.

Place the steaks on individual plates and serve.

Frankly, she's lucky I didn't just fix up a mess of the bonus dish that she didn't even name - she just called it "The Side". My name for it? "Bacon That Deigns To Allow Vegetables To Share The Same Pan". There's really no easier dish. Cook bacon, slice and add veggies, fry until done. Watch even the most ardent veggie hater ask for more. Why is this dish such a winner? Of course, bacon is the easy answer but really it's the bacon in a decadent marriage with sweet Walla Walla onions and sweet corn. The zucchini and yellow squash are just filler, a resourceful cook's strategy to use cheap and plentiful veggies from their gardens. It's the almost caramelized onions with the sweet corn enveloped in the loving embrace of bacon sweat. Don't cheat it though, get the good sweet onions. You'll taste the difference.

"The Side"
Olive oil
6 medium green and yellow zucchini, washed, quartered and then cut diagonally into medium sized chunks
2 red jalapenos, seeded, deveined and finely diced
1 small sweet onion (Walla Walla or Vidalia), diced small
1/2 cup fresh corn kernels
12 thick slices pancetta or lean bacon, cut into chunky pieces
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
A small bunch fresh thyme, leaves picked and chopped, (if you can get flowering thyme, reserve the flowers for garnish)

Heat a very large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add a good splash of olive oil and fry the pancetta or bacon until brown and crisp. Add the zucchini, jalapeno, onion and corn and two big pinches of black pepper, not just to season but to give it a bit of a kick. Sprinkle in the thyme leaves, give everything a stir, so the vegetables are coated with the bacon-flavored oil, and fry until zucchini starts to turn lightly golden and has softened slightly, and onions are translucent. Garnish with sprigs of thyme and thyme flowers.

I was sad I was the only one to enjoy this fine meal - but not too sad. Being the guinea pig myself only encourages me to make and share with others to...Enjoy!