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Friday, August 29, 2008

Lists Are Fun

My last list has become a bit obsolete, so here's one I picked up from one of my favorite morning-reading blogs, Antidisingenuousmentarianism or something like that. Take it and do it yourself, if you'd like.
1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating. [I don't know how to do a strikethrough on Blogger, but I'll gray-out things I wouldn't eat.]
4) Optional extra: Post a comment at linking to your results.
1. Venison [We almost never had beef at home when I was a kid]
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile [Just alligator, caught by my wacky uncle in the Everglades]
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes [Dad made strawberry wine and Mom made elderflower]
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl [Would not eat a bread bowl]
33. Salted lassi [Salted lemonade doesn't count, I suppose]
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea [Just to be a jerk here: "clotted cream" is a part of "cream tea"; you don't ever say "clotted cream tea," because it sounds gross]
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal [Only because I hate the idea of an extra slice of bread in the middle of a hamburger]
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini ["Gin martini"? there's no other kind, folks]
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips [My mom went through a period of trying to pass carob off as chocolate to me and my brother, but it failed miserably]
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin [What the hell is this?]
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis [My folks make it every Robert Burns Day, but funnily enough I'm never around]
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake [Thanks again to that crazy uncle]

Lots of stuff here I'd like to try, though they wouldn't be at the top of my list. Maybe Kobe beef and snails would be up there. What can you all tell me about the things I haven't eaten? Is hare like wild rabbit? Tougher maybe? Can you really taste the rose in rose harissa? Seems like the rest of the spices would overpower it completely and make it not worth the expense.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Comfort Food

So the old back has not been doing very well for the last few days, and meals around here have been low-impact affairs centered around foods you can put between slices of store-bought sandwich bread. But tonight, aches be damned, I wanted something more interesting, so I made this Isan (northeastern) Thai dish from an old Saveur (June/July 2003), and it's making me very happy! It's a room-temperature larb—spicy and salty, with cooling mint. And very lime-y, thanks to the big bag of extra-juicy limes Clare brought over when she and her kids came to play on Saturday. (More about that fun day—Okrapalooza—later, I hope.) The original recipe called for minced grilled catfish, but I just thawed some lean ground pork and cooked it in a skillet until there were lots of crisp bits. I made the same dish earlier this summer with chopped leftover roast chicken, which was fine, but not as good as the pork, texture-wise.

This may actually be the best thing I've ever made, and it's one of the easiest very good Thai dishes I know of. The recipe as published was called Laab Pla Duk (Minced Grilled Catfish Salad), but with ground pork it seems more like what's commonly called larb gai* on menus.
Larb (?)

Adapted from Saveur
Serves 2 to 4

1 pound lean ground pork
1 tablespoon rice (jasmine would be best, but I used brown rice)
6 to 10 dried red chiles (I used 6 chiles de arbol, but the original specifies 10 Thai chiles)
Juice of 3 limes
1/4 cup Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
4 kaffir lime leaves, very thinly sliced
About 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
About 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (or use culantro or saw-tooth cilantro—mine died when we went out of town and it wasn't watered)
5 shallots, thinly sliced

In a heavy skillet, cook the pork over medium-high heat until no pink remains; drain if it gives off a lot of fat. Cook for about 5 minutes longer, until crisp and well-browned in places, breaking up the meat with a spoon. Transfer to a colander and set aside to cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, in a dry pan over medium heat, toast the rice until golden brown, then transfer to a spice grinder and let cool a bit. Grind to a coarse powder and put in a large bowl. Return the pan to medium heat and add the chiles; toast until blackened in spots, then transfer to the spice grinder, coarsely chop, and add to the rice.

Add all the remaining ingredients and the pork and toss to combine. Taste and add more lime juice or fish sauce if necessary—it should be very tangy and salty. Serve at room temperature.
This, incidentally, is our newly red table, which we've decided we like in the kitchen, even though it's in a weird position right next to the desk. The bug and I have our breakfast here now, and have a pretty bouquet of matching red spider lilies on it. In the evenings, I sit at the table and flip through magazines or something while Mr. Chalmers sits kind of opposite me at the desk (which he calls the computer lab) and we engage in veep speculation. The bug wanders in and out, as do the dogs.

*Edit: Larb gai, of course, being made with chicken, not pork.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Supper Last Night

This was really good, y'all. I rubbed a chicken all over with salt, Chinese five-spice, and cumin (I saw that combination, plus bacon, on squabs on Iron Chef the other night), then roasted it at 425 degrees until nice and crisp, basting once. And the salad is from a recipe on Epicurious: Green-Tomato and Honeydew Melon Salad. I couldn't find the pepitas in my cupboard (spice cabinet is next on my list of wood things to build), so I used sesame seeds, and then I found the pepitas. Of course, too, I used four times as much vinegar—Champagne and white wine vinegar this time. The tomato was a bit pink, but still tart and crunchy, a beautiful contrast to the soft, sweet honeydew. Mr. Chalmers and the bug liked this as much as I did; try it!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Our friend Clare, a true Renaissance woman in Crawford with an absurd amount of energy (she's building two or three houses with her bare hands, and doing it with a six-month-old strapped to her front and a two-and-a-half-year-old on her back), gave us a bagful of produce from her garden when the bug and I met her and her kids at the Chick-Fil-A (the new one on the East Side has a great—i.e., air-conditioned—playground). Among other things the bounty included these neat beans. Note the gorgeous dark purple ones; in real life they were almost iridescent. I have no idea what any of them are, but they were great just steamed in the same pot with some Yukon Gold and red new potatoes then tossed with Champagne vinegar and pesto.

On Saturday night, Mr. and Mrs. Chalmers went out to the Hold Steady show at the 40 Watt, and our neighbor from across the road stayed with the little Chalmers (until 2 a.m.!). I made a spinach lasagne for her dinner—anticipating that we'd also appreciate leftovers the next, long day while we recovered. And the first pie I've made in months and months: blueberry, with a cornmeal crust, from this very good recipe on Epicurious. It was lovely morning-after food.

Pie and crayon.

Our other neighbor, June from up the road, came by early one morning last week and picked up the bug. She and her two granddaughters, who've been playing with the bug all summer, often just taking her up to June's house for supper and bringing her back at bedtime, took the bug to swim at Lake Russell for the whole day! They got home at 5. I almost didn't know what to do with myself all day, but I managed to strip several coats of paint and contact paper off the bug's former diaper-changing table (an Ikea number from way back), sand it down, and "Americanize" half of a UK cookbook. And now I'd better get to the other half . . .