Category Archives: General Food Chatter

The Frog

So I had my first marathon-related dream of this training cycle last night.

It was an out and back course. I felt great through the half. But the turnaround featured an hulk-sized toad, who was harassing the runners and even picking some of them off.

I just…have no idea. But it was a very real-feeling dream, and I remember finishing and hanging out for the awards ceremony which not only highlighted the overall and age-group winners but offered a Hunger Games-style tribute to those who had fallen to “The Toad.”

At least it’s better than the stale old “I’m trying to run but my legs won’t move!” or the standard “All of a sudden I had no idea where the course went!” race nightmares.

And I think the underlying fear is pretty clear: that something out of my control will eff with my game on race day. You know, like the weather. Or the flu. Or a hungry amphibian the size of a house.

Anyway. It was kind of an entertaining dream.  On to more important things…like foooooood.

It’s just the two of us for Thanksgiving this year, so I’m planning a very laid-back mini-feast. (No need for Critical Path Cooking this year…although I’m definitely going to try to get some prep done when I get home from work tonight.) Instead of ordering a full turkey, I went for a 5-lb bone-in breast. Never cooked one of those before, so no idea how it will turn out, but it seemed easier than dealing with a whole bird and having leftovers until Valentine’s Day.

Thanksgiving for Two Menu (which means I’m halving most of these recipes):

To start:

Sweet Potato Soup [via Food Network] with Roasted Marshmallows, Pistachios and Fried Sage. I made this last year and loved it. And since I’m not including any potatoes in the main course, it fits in perfectly!

Main course:

Bone-in, skin-on turkey breast roasted with butter and herbs

Drippings gravy (hopefully the leaner breast meat still gives off some good juice)

Cornbread Dressing with Pancetta, Mushrooms and Apples [via Food Network] Another favorite from last year, although I modified the original recipe quite a bit! So glad I have last year’s blog post to look back and see what I did….

Tart Cranberry-Onion Relish [via Epicurious]

Roasted French green beans with browned butter

Dessert:

Whatever looks good in the pastry case + vanilla ice cream. I don’t have time to deal with pie or tart making this year!

Drinks:

Hot spiked cider [Based upon my best recollection of my friend Meg’s awesome recipe, which has been a staple at many holiday gatherings of days past!]

Wine (of course!) TBD – I still need to get to the wine shop!

Happy almost-Thanksgiving! Happy traveling (if you’re on the road). Happy running (if you’re Turkey Trotting…we’ll be getting our 8K on before all of the eating and drinking begins!) And of course, happy eating!

Do not touch

I have the hardest time leaving my food alone while it’s cooking. Maybe it’s from watching too much Iron Chef.

For some reason, when I put something in a hot pan, I feel the urge to wave the pan around: a circular flourish, flames kissing the bottom of the skillet as I toss its beautifully-browned contents (exotic secret ingredients!) into the air and then effortlessly catch them again.

But of course, I’m no Iron Chef. And there are no flames leaping from my electric stove. And I don’t cook with exotic secret ingredients. And lord knows I cannot catch.

It’s kind of funny how the urge to stir and toss strikes when it’s exactly the opposite that’s needed. Tonight, as I hovered over a pan of cubed tofu, I had to constantly remind myself: Do not touch. Do not move that food. No spatula. No touch, no touch, no touchy touch touch.

The reward was well worth a little patience: perfectly browned cubes that had no problem standing up to a hearty curry sauce.

Recipe: Curry Noodles with Tofu [Adapted from a Food & Wine recipe for Vegetarian Red Curry Noodles, which I would argue is not actually vegetarian because it contains fish sauce…not that I really care, but DERP, F&W, get it right!]

Using pre-crushed garlic, ginger and lemongrass, this dish came together very quickly and was bursting with flavor: more like a spicy stir-fry than a traditional soupy curry.

A crisp white always goes well with spicy food:

This Cottesbrook 2010 Sauvignon Blanc was a good match. Tropical flavors dominated – pineapple, grapefruit, guava – which played nicely with my coconut-based dinner. Very much on the sweeter side of the scale, with a little hint of earthy gravel, and really none of the spicy green pepper that you often get from an SB.

Bottom line: If you don’t mind a sweeter/fruit-forward wine, then get it! (Purchased at Total Wine, $10)

Weather weirdness: today, it was eighty-something degrees. Tomorrow, it will be forty-something degrees.

HEY WEATHER, KNOCK IT OFF.  I don’t need to get sick two weeks before my marathon….

Grill marks make food taste better

So. I’m not the only one jabbing at my eardrums with Q-Tips on a daily basis. This actually makes me feel much better about the habit. Thanks for all of your comments on yesterday’s little slice of self-indulgence!

Also: it would probably help if I got the date of my upcoming marathon right. CIM is on SUNDAY, DECEMBER 4. Not December 3. How awkward would that be if I showed up on Saturday?

Anyway. I am on my own for dinners this week, which usually means cooking and eating all of the things that my husband doesn’t like.

Like, um…tofu:

I know you are thinking: OMG TOFU! What a special, special thing to treat yourself to! Nah. It’s just that it had been sitting in the fridge for a while and needed to be used up.

And it was actually pretty delicious because of MAH GRILL PAN and those little stripes. Seriously. Why is that? Does food actually taste better when it has grill marks – even if they’re semi-fake? Or is is psychosomatic? (Or is it just me?)

Soba noodles, mini sweet peppers (Costco again!) and a delicious easy peanut sauce made this a quick dinner for one. I marinated the tofu slices in a bath of equal parts soy sauce and apple cider vinegar with a little brown sugar and sriracha sauce. Then I combined the leftover marinade with peanut butter to make the sauce.

As a certifiable peanut sauce fanatic, I offer you this tip: the creamy, processed stuff makes way better sauce than the natural stuff.

Much smoother and creamier. Probably the mono- and diglycerides. Mmmmm, delicious.

I popped open a bottle of Chard to enjoy with dinner:

Lately, I’ve been doing my grocery shopping on Sunday evenings. Because this is when the wine distributor reps are getting ready to shut down their sample table and are therefore likely to give extra generous pours. Which happens to make shopping in a gigantic supermarket on a Sunday night much more pleasurable.

A couple of weeks ago, they were pouring a bunch of Penfolds wines. The Australian brand is well-known for churning out decent affordable reds, but I liked their whites, too! So much so that I picked up a bottle of their 2009 Koonunga Hill Chardonnay.

Very light and crisp. No butter in here and just a hint of oak. Very fruit-forward with peaches and apricots and a little touch of both citrus and something a little earthier, like a sweet ripe fig. Definitely an enjoyable bottle, and one I’d happily serve to guests!

Bottom line: Buy it! (Purchased at Harris-Teeter, $10).

Off to do some productive stuff with the rest of my Wednesday. See ya later!

ME ME ME part eleventy; or, a ten things meme

Okay, I kind of love being tagged with these random Blog Awards. I mean, who wouldn’t? It’s lovely to know that someone is actually reading this drivel.

Also, hello, easy blog post.

So, thanks, Lisa over at Cow Spots & Tales for saving you all from…that.

This award seems to have evolved as a hybrid of two awards.

But the bottom line is that I’m supposed to tell you ten things about me. I can do that!

1. Every day, I must Q-Tip my ears.

Must. I don’t care that the Q-Tip package says not to put it in your ear canal. IT FEELS SO GOOD.

And they have to be real Q-Tips, not the generic store-brand cotton swabs. The tips of the generic ones get all puffy and loose and threaten to dislodge themselves in my ear canal. (Which is probably why you’re not supposed to put them in your ear canal…)

2. I have lived in every major region of this fine country.

Except for Texas, which I do consider to be its own region. And in which I have absolutely no desire to live. Sorry, Texas. North Carolina is as far south as I go.

In many senses “home” will always be Washington state, where I was born and raised – but I feel fortunate to be able to associate that word with so many places and experiences.

3. I still don’t really know what I want to do with my life.

I really don’t. Any ideas?

4. I’m totally a cat person. And totally not ashamed of it.

You probably know this if you’ve been reading this blog for a while. I heart kittehs.

The art of food-dish stalking at its finest.

Because although dogs seem fun, as far as I can tell, their activities consist mostly of chewing on your personal belongings, urinating and/or threatening to urinate on your floor, barking, and whining. What a colossal pain.

I’m not ruling out the possibility of owning a dog someday, and in fact, I think it would be nice to have a canine running partner. But the part where you have to get up early in the morning so that someone else can go to the bathroom? Bitch, please. (Pun intended.) I don’t even get out of bed in the early morning for my own peeing needs. I consider it, then roll over and go back to sleep.

Also, my cats will never annoy everyone else in the apartment building by yapping all damn day, nor will they shit all over public spaces, inadvertently causing innocent strangers to step in their excrement with their brand new running shoes. (Guess what happened to me yesterday?)

Cats FTW.

5. Requisite random fact item consisting of things I will not eat:

Canned mushrooms, deviled eggs, sea urchin, banana peppers, olives, raw tomatoes, creamed spinach, black licorice, sauerkraut, blood sausage, Cinnamon Raisin bagels. And anything pickled.

Agree? Disagree?

6. Requisite random fact item consisting of things I have eaten (mostly abroad) that sound horrible but actually weren’t that bad:

Cow brains (best tacos I have EVER eaten), pigeon, goat, kangaroo, shark, snake, alligator, frog legs, fried crickets (they taste like potato chips), Durian fruit (smells much worse than it tastes).

Okay, that’s enough about food.

7. I’m afraid of the ball.

Any ball. It doesn’t matter. If it’s headed toward me, I’m diving in the opposite direction. I will never be a trendy kickball/flag-football hipster.

But on the plus side, this probably why I am sitting here writing this quasi-running blog today. Because the only reason I went out for the cross-country team as a freshman in high school was because all of the other sports involved flying balls. And I’ve been running ever since!

8. I love Chardonnay.

This summer, I went to the annual Wine Bloggers Conference in Charlottesville, VA. Even though I don’t blog exclusively about wine…it was a great time and there was OMG SO MUCH WINE. It was fantastic.

But being around people who are much more thoughtful/picky about wine than I am, I definitely got the sense that Chard is the new Merlot. Unfashionable. Too obvious. For amateurs.

Well, you know what? I love the stuff. I love it buttery and I love it oaky. I love it served young and fermented in steel barrels, and I love it a little older and earthier. I daresay it’s favorite type of wine. Even if that makes me unfashionable.

Be right back, pouring another glass….

9. I’d a million times rather have money to travel and do fun stuff than have a big fancy house and fancy car.

Renting is underrated. That is all.

10. Guess what? I’m running the CALIFORNIA INTERNATIONAL MARATHON in Sacramento on December 3!

Good thing I’ll be able to put last weekend’s 20-miler to good use!  I’m thrilled, and this race actually works out perfectly with my schedule. I’m beyond excited to see one of my best friends and former teammates, Newt (um…not her real name…and I’m sure she’s glad that her college nickname has stuck with her) who lives in the area. And hopefully run a strong race on a fast course.

(Also, we were planning to head westward for a wedding the following weekend anyway, so there are plane ticket synergies there, too.)

So. Still bummed about missing Greece, but now throwing myself in to training for CIM. Seven weeks to go!

I think I’m supposed to pass this meme-award-thingy on to some other people. I’ll go ahead and tag a handful of blogs that are perennial favorites…feel free to meme if you want to (and I know that some of you love a good meme…)

Cheaper Than Therapy

Angry Runner

The Cookie Battle

Stylish, Stealthy & Healthy

Loteria Chicana

Leftovers 4 Lunch

Meals for Miles Blog

The Rundown

110 Pounds and Counting

Braise the Roof

I know memes are fun, but perhaps these ones are done. So I won’t be offended if y’all pass, but just know that I tagged your ass.

(Oh yeah, I love to rhyme. How did that not make it in to my random facts?)

Until tomorrow, when we discuss serious topics like world financial markets….

Just kidding.

Fueled by funnel cake

Can we discuss something for a sec?

Do you remember when these things first started showing up everywhere a couple of years ago? And everyone was all like “OMG, THAT’S THE MOST VILE THING EVER” and “THIS IS WHAT IS WRONG WITH AMERICA” and generally indignant that someone would have the nerve to combine a beef patty with two doughnuts, the consumption of which would obviously cause you to immediately gain ten pounds?

Well, I think that’s crap. I’ve staunchly supported the Krispy Kreme Burger – at least in theory. A Krispy Kreme donut is only about 200 calories. Even with two of them, it’s not that much worse than one of those giant fluffy buns that restaurant hamburgers are often served on. I’m not saying that either one is healthy, but just that the outrage was a little overblown and misdirected.

So a doughnut burger? I think it’s a fine idea. In the realm of delicious yet ridiculous things to eat on occasion, anyway.

No, the problem with the Krispy Kreme Burger is that it doesn’t actually taste very good.

And it looks like…uh, yeah. That’s cheese, I promise.

Last year at the State Fair, I overstuffed my belly with fried Oreos and corn dogs and thus had to regretfully pass on the Krispy Kreme  Burger. But I was intrigued, and at this year’s fair, I was more than ready to finally taste the creation I’d spent so much time defending. As soon as the hubs and I passed through the admission gates on Friday night, we made a beeline for the booth.

We sat on a curb and passed the storied sandwich back and forth, trading off nibbles. No one talked. Finally, the hubs broke the awkward silence.

“Um…this isn’t that good,” he said, pensively licking a frosting-and-cheese coated finger.

“Yeah, it kind of sucks, actually, ” I agreed.

And honestly, it rather pissed me off. For as much hype as this damn burger has gotten, it should be mind-blowing. Perhaps we just ordered poorly (would NOT get the cheese next time), but actually, I think the flavors just don’t jive. I mean, I would love to live in a reality where grilled beef and frosted fried dough could harmoniously occupy a mouth together…but sadly, I don’t think we do.

I’m still not gonna hate on the thing, though, just because I didn’t care for it. I stand by my opinion that as splurges go, it’s not that much worse than a regular burger. (Or than most entrees at crappy chain restaurants, for that matter.)

Anyway.

At least we had it better than the petting zoo occupants. All they got to eat were carrots!

They were selling little bags of sliced carrots for a buck at the entrance. How could you not? I mean, a steady stream of people walking around the perimeter with carrots…and you’re gonna be the one person who doesn’t have anything to offer them? Those animals are gonna look right through you.

Oh okay, llama. I’m glad I have your attention. Did you want a carrot slice? Please don’t use those oddly humanesque teeth to bite my fingers off.

For real, though, with the amount of carrots going in to those animals, I was shocked at the apparent lack of carrots coming out. If I ate nothing but carrots all day, I’d be shitting like a fiend. But their pen was very clean. I guess this is why I am not a “exotic and amazing!” farm animal.

After petting the zoo, we did a few rides. Can you believe the hubs had never been on that one where you stand in the big spinning cylinder and stick to the wall? That one was definitely a favorite when I was a kid. Except…I thought I remembered that the floor dropped away, leaving you screaming and stuck to the cylinder wall and praying that the carnie dude  below – who you could totally see in his little booth because THE FLOOR WAS GONE – would remember to turn the ride off before wandering away in search of another joint.

Apparently the floor doesn’t drop anymore. Count that as the second disappointment of the day.

Oh well. Even if the burgers are a letdown and the rides are all sissy, the fair is always a good time.

(I elected to take a picture of us with my phone, instead of buying one of those giant felt wall hangings where they put your picture in the middle, usually framed by an airbrushed heart and horrible caption like “4 EVER IN LUV.” Not that I ever bought one of those. Nope, never.)

The fair fare improved as the evening wore on. Funnel cake is always a hit:

And for something healthy, a chocolate-dipped, rainbow-sprinkle-encrusted frozen banana:

I’m happy to say that this nutritious food carried me through a lovely long run on Saturday morning. 13 mellow miles with some running buddies, then 4 miles at goal marathon pace, then 3 more easy to bring it to 20 total:

(Okay, so I had some fruit and leftover pizza when we got home…and a coffee and Clif bar when I awoke…and a pack of Chomps and a Second Surge gel mid-run…but I’m pretty sure it was the funnel cake that fueled those marathon pace miles!)

A seven mile recovery run today brings this week’s total just shy of 60 miles!

And with no doubles. That’s rare! I usually have trouble cracking 50 unless I do at least one two-a-day. I suppose that 20-miler helped.

Also, I’m THISCLOSE to finalizing marathon plans for this winter. Look for the OMG BIG ANNOUNCEMENT soon.

Cheers and happy Sunday!

What’s your favorite fair fare? And your stance on the Krispy Kreme Burger?

And then he gave me crabs

Warning: this post pertains to the dissection and consumption of sea creatures with cute little googly eyes.

My husband is from Maryland. Well, actually he’s from the ‘burbs of Chicago as that is where he spent most of his youth. But he was born in Maryland.

In spite of the fact that he moved away when he was like four years old, he claims to have these vivid memories of spirited crab feasts – you know, the kind with the kraft paper on picnic tables and piles of crabs in the middle. I’m skeptical, but one thing is for certain: the man loves his crab.

So I guess I shouldn’t have been shocked when I peered in to an innocent-looking sack of groceries yesterday and saw….this:

But I wasn’t expecting it. (I was expecting cat food! And eggs! And apples!) So much to his amusement, I nearly jumped out of my skin.

For a split-second I expected them to move; were they alive? No, they were cooked. And they were going to be dinner.

I was immediately filled with both excitement and dread. I love crab meat, but I hate extracting it from its shell. Perhaps that makes me a prissy-pants, but…the guts. They gross me out.

“Didn’t you ever gut fish when you were a kid?” the hubs asked as he loaded the crabs in to a series of foil packets, splashed them with a bit of beer, and sprinkled them with Old Bay seasoning.

No, I did not gut fish when I was a kid. I sidewalk-fried my share of worms and tortured the occasional potato bug, but that’s about where my taking of life from the animal kingdom ended.

Ten minutes later, we were seated in front of a steaming pile of delicious crab.

All that stood between me and my evening nourishment was a thick shell that required a mallet to hack through. Awesome.

The claws, actually, were no problem. Crab claws are straightforward. Kind of like lobster, and I’ve gotten pretty good at extracting lobster meat.

But the bodies, where the juiciest morsels are housed? I’m sorry, but how in the hell do I eat this?

A tutorial was necessary.

You locate the “key” on the belly, he explained.

You pull this “key” off. Then you wedge your thumbs lengthwise into the body cavity and pull the thing apart. You’re left with a top shell (garbage) and a bottom shell lined with…lungs.

[OMG GROSS. You’re welcome for the lack of photo here…]

The lungs, which I suppose are probably technically gills, look like spongy heads of garlic and it’s astounding how large and prominent they are. Approximately half of this creature’s body cavity appears to be occupied by them. Fascinating. Disgusting to remove, but fascinating.

Anyway. You scrape off the lungs and then you get to the guts.  Ugh, the gutsYellowy-green guts. Barf-o-rama.

Under the guts is a layer of cartilaginous shell and then – finally! – you get to the tender and sweet lump meat.  At this point you’ve been working for thirty minutes, you’re sweating, your wine glass is empty, your napkin is shredded, and a slimy mixture of Old Bay and guts (ugh) has worked its way under every single one your fingernails.

For your labor, you get a pile of meat approximately the size of a golf ball:

Which you drench in butter and consume in forty-five seconds, leaving you wiping your butter-slick chin with your filthy napkin and wearily staring down your next victim.

Or, you do what I did: you pout. Now, I’m not proud of this, but I’ll admit that there was a point during dinner when I furrowed my little brow and did my best to appear forlorn and defeated.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“The guts,” I whimpered.

And henceforth our lump meat piles were shared.

That may not seem fair, but hey – it was his dinner idea. And, oh gosh, he’s from Maryland. He was practically born knowing how to do this.

Seriously, if it takes me – with my large brain and opposable thumbs and my mallet – the better part of an hour to eat one of these things dead, what kind of bad-ass creature is hunting them alive?

So I googled it. Animals who eat crabs. Apparently, it’s primarily the octopus. I can’t even begin to wrap my brain how that one works.

You learn something new every day. Count among my daily educational tidbits:

  • If I had lungs as big as a crab’s, I’d be one hell of a runner;
  • Guts are disgusting;
  • I don’t ever want to get on the bad side of an octopus.
And I guess…now that I know how to dismantle a crab, maybe won’t shriek next time I see one in our grocery basket.

Toasted legs + grilled dinner

So remember how yesterday I was yapping about how awesomely great my legs felt after Saturday’s race, even after not cooling down?

Yeah…about that.

I headed out for a run in the late afternoon. No real agenda, other than to work out the junk. This was a cutback week for mileage, so I wasn’t going to do a true long run, but a 10-12 miler wasn’t out of the question, if I felt up for it.

The stiffness I’d been expecting after my abbreviated cool-down on Saturday reared its head about thirty seconds in to my run. So I kept the pace very mellow and even – gasp – walked a bit up the steepest of the hideous hills on my route. I love running around the Farmer’s Market/Centennial Campus area of Raleigh, but flat it is not.

It was a beautiful day, though.

And although my legs felt like trash, I thoroughly enjoyed the weather and the scenery. This enormous field sits in the middle of a defunct mental institution less than a mile from downtown. Creepy, but pretty. Raleigh is so random sometimes.

With 10 mellow miles logged, I committed to remaining in a sitting or reclining position for the rest of the day. I delegated dinner-cooking duties to the hubs and perched myself on a chair in the kitchen, sipping a beer and offering (less than) helpful commentary.

Another Pumpkin Ale! This one was from Blue Point Brewing Company out of Long Island, NY.

I love Blue Point’s Hoptical Illusion IPA, so I had high hopes for this. Unfortunately, it was just a little…boring. To its credit, it didn’t have the overly-spiced-Yankee-Candle-on-roids thing going on, and it was enjoyable enough, but honestly I got more of an orange-citrus vibe than an earthy-fall vibe. My favorite part of the beer was the extra-fluffy head, which gave the first few sips of this a nice hint of creaminess, with just a touch of nutmeg/cinnamon.

Bottom line: Meh. I’m guessing that hardcore pumpkinheads will be let down by this one. I’d say skip it.

Dinner was excellent, though:

Mini burgers with grilled peppers and onions on hunks of fresh (also lightly grilled) baguette. And (maybe?) the last of this for a while:

I’m going to miss corn on the cob season.

While flipping though the channels a couple of weeks ago, I landed on some grilling show with Bobby Flay on FN in which he explained that his favorite way to cook corn was to peel back the husks, remove the silk, re-swaddle the cob in the husk and, after a nice soak in cold water, throw the whole thing on the grill.

I usually just strip the cobs down and wrap ’em in foil, but last night we decided to try it the Flayster’s way.

It was a little messy dealing with the charred husks, but the corn was cooked perfectly! Apparently the silk can turn bitter when it’s cooked, which is why it must be removed.

Something to remember for next year, as the corn supply seems to be dwindling. You know when they go from eight-for-a-dollar to two-for-a-dollar that the season’s pretty much done. So sad. One of my favorite things to grill, without a doubt.

Anyway. Weekly runner numbers from last week:

Cutback week! Although with that race thrown in there, my legs don’t feel quite as fresh as I’d hoped they would, going back into mileage-building mode.

Recovery. Just one more thing that takes longer and longer the older I get, I guess. Hrmph.

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Sometimes, it’s just food

Tuesday night. Taco night. Yeah…the lack of excitement in the air was palpable.

Not because there’s anything wrong with tacos. In fact, these ones were pretty good, as healthy dinner fare goes.  But: no, it’s not a herb-encrusted rack of lamb or a delicately seared plate of scallops or an indulgent plate of fried whatever.

It’s…well, it’s just dinner.

And it takes 20 minutes to prepare and it’s relatively good for us and it doesn’t require a separate trip to the grocery store or cost an arm and a leg in ingredients.

Over the weekend, I was asked why I don’t blog my dinners/recipes as often as I used to. So I thought about that.

I don’t consider myself a master in the kitchen by any means – unless the skill in question is burning things under the broiler (why, broiler, why do you turn on me so quickly? There goes the last bagel….)

But I do hope that, over the nearly two years (!) that I’ve been depositing daily words on these here internets, I might have improved a bit. And with that, I think, comes a certain raising of the standards. To be able to say: oh, it’s just a bowl of pasta and it was just good instead of exceptional? Well, let’s skip that one, then.

And I don’t think this is a bad thing. I read a lot of blogs and nothing makes my eyes roll back in their sockets quite like: OMG you guys, it’s the best grilled cheese sandwich everrrrrrr! Make this now! Bread and cheese and butter! In a pan! Have you made this yet? It’s life changing! Now click through that link and pay me!

Um. I have a pretty high tolerance for hyperbole, but…it’s a damn sandwich.

And tonight for dinner, we ate damn tacos.

They were damn decent tacos, so if you want the “recipe” of sorts, it is here: Sweet Chili Lime Shrimp Tacos [<–not a link that pays me anything, just a site that a friend of mine developed that I prefer for housing and organizing my recipes, rather than cluttering them in the text here]

But I guess that is why I don’t blog as many so-called recipes as I used to. Because if I’m very lucky, my kitchen spews forth one or two excellent food products a month. And those are the ones I want to share. Everything else?

It’s just food.

It’s not bad but it’s not anything special. And frankly, if you are going to look at this site for recipes, I’d rather take a chance on you being wowed by something unique and risky than being underwhelmed by a common sandwich.

Anyway. So that’s that.

A few people have also asked how EL GATO GORDO is doing after his bladder infection flare-up.  He is doing great and we are back to our old antics!

Which mostly involve him begging for food and me forcing him to do the cabbage patch.

Also, randomly, I’d like to note that there is currently a pirate ship parked outside of my place of employment:

It is there for a very good cause…however, I can’t seem to stop myself from daydreaming about ways to use the functional water cannons (!) to harass the alfresco diners at the restaurant next door.

Any ideas?

After all, it’s just food….

Fig off

I’ve moved around a lot as an adult.  California, New England, New York, the South.  But food-wise, a little piece of my palate will always belong to the five years I spent in Cleveland, Ohio, and a little restaurant called The Flying Fig.

Barely 24 years old, I was already weary of the trials of living in a big city when I moved from Los Angeles to Cleveland.  They were, unequivocally, white-girl problems, and specifically the problems of a white girl who spends way too much money on food and drink and silly nightlife shenanigans.

“Oh, L.A. is awesome, but it’s so hard to get reservations anywhere,” I would complain while waiting in line behind one velvet rope or another.

My 23-year-old self is kind of embarrassing, actually.

Anyway.  I moved to Cleveland along with the (future) hubs and we found ourselves perched atop a seemingly untapped foodie pyramid.  The hottest restaurants? You could actually get reservations at them.  And a dinner there wouldn’t empty your bank account.  No, you probably weren’t going to dine alongside Elizabeth Berkley*, but there was indeed excellent food to be had in Ohio.

Our first major restaurant discovery was The Flying Fig.

Their braised short rib is still one of my top-five favorite meals.  Ever.  I’m convinced that this dish could go up against any restaurant in New York or L.A. and kick ass.

And their house-made Fig Ice Cream with Molten Chocolate Cake is still an often-discussed dessert in our household.

This weekend, with a storm raging outside and a counter full of ripe, in-season figs, I tried to replicate it.

Molten Chocolate Cake is actually really easy: I used this recipe from Food & Wine.

A frozen fig dessert is slightly more complicated, but I found a recipe that sounded like a winner at My Best Day Ever.  I converted it and halved it, so I’m going to repeat my version here:

Burnt Fig Semi-Freddo

Serves 4-6

  • One green-basket-full of ripe figs – about 8-10 – finely chopped
  • 1/3 C brown sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/4 C superfine (castor) sugar
  • 1/2 C cream, whipped to stiff peaks
  • 1.5 TBSP cream, unwhipped
  • 1 TSP fresh squeezed lemon juice

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high.  Add figs and cook until sticky residue steaks across pan, about 2 minutes.  Add brown sugar and reduce heat to medium low.  Cook, stirring every couple of minutes, until jam-like, about 20 minutes.  Stir in lemon juice and set pan aside to cool.  Once slightly cooled, stir in 1.5 TBSP of unwhipped cream.  Cool mixture to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, whip egg yolks with a hand mixer until thick and pale yellow.  Add superfine sugar a little at a time, while continuing to whip the mixture.

Carefully fold whipped cream in to egg mixture, taking care not to lose volume.  Fold in fig mixture.  Pour into a freezer-safe container and freeze for at least 12 hours before serving.

The whole thing together – warm molten cake with chilled fig semi-freddo – was absolutely awesome.  As good as the Flying Fig verion?  Well…almost.

Some running stats to end the week:

I guess I did okay with everything this week except strength training….um, story of my (running) life.  HEAT studios, I will see you this week!

*Jesse Spano favored my neighborhood sushi joint in Westwood.  Her signed Showgirls poster was on the wall and she was always there when we went there.  Probably the closest brush with fame I’ll ever have….

Don’t you wish you’d married me?

When I was little, we had this geriatric popcorn popper.  Seriously, I think the thing was one of the first air poppers to roll off the assembly line in the seventies.  It was my favorite kitchen appliance.

First, you had to survive plugging it in; if you didn’t do it just right, you’d get a smart shock from its tattered cord.  It would cough and sputter to life, sending shards of kernel and burned detritus into the air.

I’d pour the kernels in and then press my little forehead against the plastic cover.  More than once, the hot air singed my eyebrows or my bangs as I peered impatiently at the trembling yellow kernels, waiting for the first one to burst.

But the real thrill came after those first tentative pops, when the rest of the kernels caught on and suddenly an unstoppable wave of fluffy white came cascading down the chute.  I’d turn the bowl feverishly, trying to catch all of it. Invariably, a bunch of popcorn would end up on the floor and my mom would come in and make me clean it up while she tended to the much more illustrious task of buttering and salting the family snack.

Then I’d scurry into the living room with my singed bangs, clutching the bowl, and plop down to watch Step By Step or whatever.

It’s funny how a simple food can recall such vivid memories.

So when my husband mentioned a few weeks ago that it would be nice if we had a popcorn popper, I knew immediately what I was getting him for his birthday.

Lucky guy, eh?

So much sleeker and quieter than the air popper of my youth.  But the thrill of watching that ebullient tide of popcorn come down the chute is just the same.  And the “butter warmer” is just as useless.

Microwave and a pastry brush FTW.

My gift-giving may not be romantic, but it is always practical and delicious.

A cozy mug of beer to go with our late-night popcorn snack:

This Pranqster Belgian Style Golden Ale from North Coast Brewing Company was surprisingly fruity!  Lots of apple, banana and nectarine alongside something mildly floral but not perfume-y – like honeysuckle or rosewater.  For a strong beer, it was very easy to drink and I wished I had another on hand.  7.6% ABV.

Bottom line: Get it!  (Purchased at Total Wine, $2.25/12 oz)

Also: after complaining about being totally unmotivated about running the other day, I had a great run yesterday.  9 miles at something approximating 8-minute pace.  I haven’t run that fast in months!  It wasn’t exactly easy, but sometimes you’ve just gotta make yourself do it.

To  bring things full circle here with a horrible analogy, I’m hoping that run was like the burst of that first tentative kernel, and that there’s gonna be a whole bowlful coming down the chute this fall.

(I told you it was horrible!)

What was your favorite snack as a kid?