Monthly Archives: January 2008

You are what you eat

Over at Offal Good, Chris Consentino makes an angry and impassioned commentary about the price of cheap meat.  And by price, I mean the exorbitant humane price of how cows are treated as they go to slaughter.  There is a secret video taken by the Humane Society at a meat processor in Chino, CA–the same meat processor that also supplies meat to children in schools.

It is disturbing to watch. They break, it looks like, every rule in the book for the sake of making money: drag the cows to slaughter, forklift them, beat them, electrocute them, until they stand and walk to slaughter. (They have to be able to stand in order to be slaughtered).

I’m no vegan, I’m no longer a vegetarian, and I know slaughter is still killing…but there have GOT to be more humane ways to treat and slaughter animals.

Know where your meat comes from.  Humane certified.

Girl Scout cookie season

Homemade Girl Scout Cookies in progress

I love girl scout cookies, especially Samoas (aka “Caramel de-Lites”)–this unique and tasty conglomeration of butter shortbread cookie, caramel, coconut, and chocolate. Soooo deliciously evil, especially as they come on the heels of the holiday, threatening to sabotage any new year’s diet.

I put in my order for girl scout cookies (samoas and thin mints) with a coworker and friend selling boxes on behalf of his daughter. But damn the wait!

I found a recipe for Samoas at Baking Bites–not only can I indulge my desire for Girl Scout Samoa cookies more immediately, I can avoid trans-fats by baking them at home!

Mine didn’t come out perfect, but I got my craving satisfied (and there are a couple dozen, packaged, to take to work tomorrow).

Some caveats for making them at home:

1) They take some effort (make the cookies, prep and apply the coconut and caramel coating, and prep and apply the chocolate). More than chocolate chip cookies, less than a fancy cake.

2) I’d add waaaay more caramel next time. I added the prescribed amount of coconut and it overwhelmed the caramel, such that the mixture was waaay “tougher” than it should have been (the caramel even when set, should be fairly “squishy”).

3) I’d skip the hole in the cookies. See the picture below:

Homemade girl scout cookies in progress

They’re a waste of time–I went to the trouble of cutting a hole in each, about the size of a straw…but the caramel-coconut topping covered the hole entirely. See the picture below:

Homemade girl scout cookies in progress

If you insist on having a hole, make the hole a lot bigger.

4)  The dough can get a bit “sticky”–the recipe said it should be a ball, but I don’t stress out if you don’t have a smooth ball of dough.  Add a little extra flour if you think it’ll help…and chill the dough in the fridge before rolling it out.  Even so, you’ll find yourself peeling the cookie rounds off of the parchment paper.  A delicate operation.  Don’t roll it too thin–otherwise, they’ll be too delicate and break when you start applying the gooey caramel topping.  See the broken pieces above?  You’ve been warned!

Overall: yum yum!

Go away, baby!

I consider myself a bit of a Asian noodle soup connoisseur. I could eat a bowl of noodle soup every day, and probably not tire of it, as long as the origin of the cuisine varied. Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Korean, Burmese, Chinese… I never met a well prepared bowl of noodle soup of any Asian cuisine that I didn’t like. Whenever the components are available, I like to squirt a couple circles of sriracha, a few dollops of chili paste, a dash of chili oil and two or three pickled jalapeno slices.

Recently, I returned to an old favorite of mine, Vien Huong, in Oakland Chinatown. A friend of my then-boyfriend introduced us to it in 1994. It’s one of those bare bones, hole in the wall places that seat different parties at the same large table in order to get customers in and out as quickly as possible. You have to order quickly and clearly, or else you’ll earn a scowl and the possibility of not being served again. Early on, they used the practice of dumping hot tea on the table to wipe it down, though I haven’t seen them do this in a while. Also, if you can’t use chopsticks, you have to request a fork. Charming, I know, but these kinds of places have their virtues – the food is cheap and quick. Look to the line outside the door, and it’s a sure sign that the food is also tasty.

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Wednesday, Thursday, Fried-day…

It's

About once or twice a year, I open my freezer to find…that I have trouble closing it again.

This occurrence doesn’t happen on a strict schedule or anything, but it seems I have a packrat sort of mentality when it comes to frozen goods. I’ll find some great steaks on special, and I’ll buy some–stick them in the freezer, “for later.” Or I’ll find some short ribs, get a sudden hankering for braised short ribs, change my mind once I get home, and stick THEM in the freezer, “for later.” Same goes with chicken, with fish, with fresh pasta, and other frozen goods.

Until, one day, I have real trouble closing that freezer door. It takes a good amount of readjusting the contents and pushing on the door with my knee to get the magnetic strip to stick. Why I never learn my lesson, I do not know.  But then I go on a frenzy eating everything out of our freezer, refusing to buy any more meat or frozen goods until that freezer is empty!  Eventually, that “for later” timeframe is NOW!

Most recently, I took some catfish and chicken breasts out of that fridge to thaw. I didn’t have a particular idea of how I would eat them, but necessity breeds invention, doesn’t it?

And so, “Fried-day” was born. I had a sudden brainstorm to FRY all of the items and make chicken schnitzel, fried catifsh, as well as fry some cauliflower…and make some hush puppies!

You’ll want to fry the items in a particular order–most importantly, the catfish last (otherwise everything will have a fishy taste). I fried them in the following order: hush puppies, cauliflower, chicken schnitzel, and then catfish.

Organizing is pretty easy–Prep the chicken first–pound the breasts until they’re about 1/4 inch thick, squeeze some lemon juice on them. Dip them in flour, egg, and then breadcrumbs, and set aside before frying. (The full chicken schnitzel recipe is here).

For the cauliflower–blanch the florets. Then shake them in a bag with matzo ball mix (that’s my version of “semi-homemade”). They’re ready to fry, too.

For the catfish (and you can use either corn meal or flour–but we prefer flour): Cut the fillets into about 3-4 pieces. Combine some flour, baking powder, and Lawry’s seasoned salt. Beat a few eggs in a separate bowl. Keep the flour and egg in separate bowls. Dip the catfish pieces in the flour mixture, then the egg, then back into the flour mixture. Set aside before frying.

The hush puppy recipe is below–and you’ll want to form them into balls right before putting them in the oil, so you’ll want to start frying them first.

What you end up with is a tasty pile of fried goods! And that’s usually a great thing.

The hush puppies (if you’ve never had them, they’re fried corn meal balls–but much more delicious than that sounds) couple well with ranch dressing if you’re someone who needs to dip them into something. The fried cauliflower, in our household, disappears like lightning–it is SO delicious cooked this way. And the schnitzel and catfish get nibbled on throughout the day, whether on their own, or made into a sandwich with pita, hot sauce, and hummus.

Recipe for hush puppies follows after the jump…

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Kubba batata at last!

A yummy bite of kubba batata

I finally did it! I did it, I did it! I made kubba batata (potato kubba or kibbe batata) at last! And it didn’t fall apart when I fried it. And it tasted just wonderful. The great kubba experiment has come to a victorious conclusion. Yesss. Years of curiosity, and months of obsessive hard work have paid off–much thanks to my readers who pointed me in the right direction with both suggestions and recipes!

The keys:

1. fine grade bulgur (thank you to Mercedes for the suggestion)

Bulgur

I tried to grind down the bulgur bought at Whole Foods to a finer grade, but it never got as fine as it needed to be. Buy your bulgur at a Middle Eastern market. Just look at the picture above–you can see the difference.

2. The shell contains egg and bulgur, in addition to the potato. The egg will keep your kubba from falling apart during the course of frying.

kubba batata shell

3. The kubba assembly is the trickiest part. Keep at it. And in my case, ask a person with bigger hands to help out. For some reason, the kubba were easier for my husband to form.

4. And the leftover filling? Use it to make some Uk!

Uk