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Everything posted by mizducky

  1. Whoa, college care packages, that takes me back. Myself, I was always a fan of the savory stuff--cheese, dry sausage, crackers, smoked nuts, tins of smoked fish, etc. But I'd make an exception for really good intensely dark chocolate, or dried fruit. In my college dorm, those tiny bottles of Tabasco sauce were a much-treasured commodity--they could rescue the most insipid dining hall fare, or perk up the inevitable student staple, cheap ramen.
  2. By an interesting coincidence, just yesterday the instructor of my Japanese 101 course engaged the class in a discussion of what we eat for breakfast (great way for Sensei to slip in some cross-cultural comparisons while getting us to work on our conversational skills). She pointed out that the traditional Japanese breakfast tended towards savory/salty foods (miso soup, pickles, fish, etc.--all accompanying rice of course; after all, she pointed out, it's called asagohan, morning rice). She also professed amusement at general American preferences for sweet breakfast foods. I'm with her; I could get into rice and miso soup for breakfast. Hmmmm ... maybe I'll start doing that ...
  3. Totally into savory foods for breakfast. I grew up equating the ideal leisurely Sunday breakfast with bagels, cream cheese, lox (and/or other assorted smoked or pickled fish), and sliced onions and tomatoes. Or one of those big breakfasts for which US Northeast diners are notorious--huge over-stuffed omelettes with a massive side of hashbrowns; or biscuits and gravy; or hash ... Mind you, I did not eat those kinds of breakfast every day--in fact, school mornings did start out with cold cereal and milk; but nobody in my family cared for any of the super-sweet cereals--the farthest we'd go was that Life cereal with just the tiniest bit of sweetness to it. Cheese sandwiches (melted or not) have been my grab-and-go breakfast on the run choice for some time now. And I would have no qualms whatsoever of making breakfast out of the previous night's dinner, however savory, spicy, or non-standard breakfast food (cold pizza? cold Chinese food takeout? cold barbeque chicken? leftover half a burrito? bring it on!) Oh yeah--the breakfast burrito is Southern California's gift to savory breakfast lovers everywhere. I loves me some machaca and eggs in a super-fresh flour tortilla. P.S. Oh, and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. Black, or with milk only. Forget the sweetener.
  4. Y'know, I'm much more of a protein-lover than a carb-lover, and I'm not too heavy into the sweet stuff either, so that may be why French toast wins out for me. I love a really eggy not-too-sweet French toast made with a really rich eggy bread. French toast made with thick-sliced challah is heavenly. Syrup only if it's for-real maple, and even then just a drizzle, giving preference to butter. (Man, when's the last time I had French toast? Gotta fix that problem ... )
  5. Heh. Well, now that both the remedy and grammar extra-points queries have been more than adequately covered, I shall move on to a war story ... told in an eliptical fashion: you know those warnings on the boxes of frozen pizzas, that say let the pizza sit for ten minutes after it's removed from the oven before eating? There's a reason why: straight out of the oven, the melted cheese has an effect on the tongue somewhat akin to napalm. The reader is left to speculate as to why a frozen pizza was being consumed at all, and why the consumers couldn't be bothered to wait those 10 minutes, or even read the instructions. Hint: it was a late hour of the night, and some alteration of consciousness was involved. Needless to say, this was an immediate buzzkill.
  6. They sure do make my nose run--and it's an effect I've used to my advantage whenever I've had a cold, and needed a pleasant alternative to over-the-counter nasal decongestants. I mean, really: given a choice between artifically-cherry-flavored NyQuil and a big steaming bowl of hot-and-sour soup, which would you choose? This webpage supplies a plausible rationale for the effect. Works for me.
  7. Y'know, I would have thought the same thing (even though I'm an omnivore, I do low meat/no-meat meals on a regular basis). However, there's a great vegetarian cafe here in San Diego (VegNout) that specializes in big overloaded veggie burgers, and it's proved to me that the burger still matters. Not because I miss the meat from their sandwiches, but because they have a choice of veggie patties, and I definitely prefer one type to the others -- and I can tell the difference even with all the other stuff piled on top. By the way, if you click through to their menu I'll point out my favorite of their burger topping combos, their Western burger; they make good onion rings, so they're good on the burger. This leads into my personal rule for excessively-topped burgers: I really really do want to taste the burger under all that, and I want it to be a burger worth tasting. One of the reasons why, if I am stuck for late-night food and have to do a fast-food drive-through, I wind up at Carl's, because at least IMO their burgers taste more burger-like than the other options. It's also why I have never quite gotten the mystique of the In-n-Out burger -- I've done the animal-style thing, and it's fun to have a secret password thing going on, but the patties themselves strike me as ho-hum, so why pile all the other stuff on? Likewise, there are some excessive burger-toppings that I have mixed feelings about, regardless of where I've ordered them. After several encounters with blue cheese-topped beef burgers, I have come to the conclusion that the way most places pile on the blue cheese, its flavor completely blots out everything else -- and while I adore blue cheese, it's the combo of that and the beef I was yearning for, not just the cheese swamping the beef flavor. So I figure, if I want that combo, I'm going to have to make it at home where I can control the amount of cheese going on top. Yeah, I know it flies in the face of this whole excess-burger thing, but sometimes less is definitely more. Another by-the-way: my personal favorite for excessive beef burger here in San Diego remains Hodad's. The double bacon cheeseburger is ridiculously huge -- but the patties are also very good, and expertly cooked.
  8. I've done something similar to that steamed salmon recipe, only instead of salmon steaks, I put a black bean/shredded ginger/shredded scallion mixture over and around a whole tilapia (scaled/cleaned/gutted, head and tail still on). Cut three deep crosswise gashes in each side of the fish; shove a bunch of the mixture in the gashes, a bunch of the rest in the cavity, and scatter the rest on top. Steam until your fishy is done, and enjoy. In fact, I think the ginger/black beans/scallions combo would work pretty well on any fish, whole, steaked, or filleted. (I've not ever bothered soaking/rinsing the black beans--I like 'em pungent. And I'd use Shaoxing wine instead of dry vermouth, but the vermouth is probably a substitution for those who don't have a well-stocked Asian grocery available to them.) I also like to put salted black beans in Ma Po Tofu. Plays really well with the layers of Szechuan peppercorn/dried red chile tingle/burn. Storage: I tend to just shove the opened package in a ziploc bag, press out the excess air, seal it up, and put it in a cool dark cupboard. They seem to be immortal and indestructible.
  9. Hmmm ... the problem here is that with Mexican food, as with many other ethnic cuisines, "authentic" and "stringently vegetarian" are kind of disjoint sets. Even in an ostensibly meatless dish, the traditional cook will want to sneak in some meat products. Kalypso didn't mention these two because, frankly, they can't claim to be as autentico as Super-Concina (which is, I agree, totally fab). These two also have been known to have flakey service and uneven quality. But I've had good meals at both places--and your vegetarian fellow-diner will definitely have plenty of options: Ranchos Cocina - go to the location in Ocean Beach (OB), at 1830 Sunset Cliffs Blvd. -- not the frequently-overcrowded and service-lagged location on 30th St. in North Park. Very large menu; many vegetarian options, including a truly tasty shiitake-based meat substitute that can be subbed into many otherwise-meat-filled dishes. I also like their seafood soup a whole lot. Pokez -- Be aware that this place is a scene -- a SoCal-Mex corner taco shop run by Chicano skate punks, its clientele reflects its artsy/alternative/tattooed/boho neighborhood. Sometimes it's mobbed; at such times, service can lag and randomize like hell. But I've met the young man who inherited this joint from his family and turned it into a social hub for his friends and the neighborhood, and he's a mensch, a good guy. The food--I enjoy it a lot; it's not authentic Mexican, but it's totally authentic SoCal taco-shop burritos-big-as-your-arm fare. And they do vegetarian as well as with-meat dishes. Go on an off-hour (i.e. a weekday between the lunch and dinner rush).
  10. I'm another one that likes to take my time leisurely shopping for groceries. It's like a touchy-feely museum. Making risotto also sprang to mind -- I think that's one reason I've resisted all the strategies for faster and/or no-stir risotto strategies: part of me doesn't want to give up that ritual of stirring and adding and stirring and adding. About a month ago I made a big batch of Vietnamese salad rolls for a party. The process of wetting each rice paper, quickly laying in all the fillings, and wrapping it all up before the rice paper got too soggy to work with was at first kind of frantic, but as I fell into a rhythm it became a kind of zen thing. I was still tired and ready to stop by the time I turned out 25 of those suckers, but I was also feeling like a well-oiled roll-wrapping machine.
  11. Any cut of pork involving significant amounts of pork fat and/or skin has become my form of culinary crack. That includes bacon, pork belly, roast pork, ham hocks, trotters ... it comes in the house and gets cooked, it's gonna get et before sundown. So I buy in small quantities to minimize the damage. Alas, when I make my cheater's crock-pot carnitas, there's no way to do it in small quantities. But fortunately I can get pork belly in relatively small portions from the local Asian markets (the stuff they have packaged pre-cut in chunks for soup and hotpot), so I can control that damage.
  12. Sort of going off on a tangent, here, but hopefully a helpful one: While peanuts are used extensively in Vietnaese cuisine, there also seems to be some question as to the authenticity of peanut butter in such dishes as the peanut dipping sauce nuoc leo. See, for instance, the preface to this recipe: ... and this notation in the list of ingredients: At the same time, my web searches for nuoc leo recipes have turned up plenty of posts on food-geek boards saying things along the line of "hey, my family is Vietnamese and we always used peanut butter at home to whip up this sauce." Which comments led me to think of all the handy "this is far from haute, but boy is it guilty pleasure comfort food" shortcuts lots of American home cooks make in American recipes. So--extrapolating to the peanut butter vs. sesame paste question with these noodles: hey, it sounds like the peanut butter may not have been the original tradition, but y'know, things happen, people and products emigrate around the globe, it's illuminating to know the history and to try the variants, but there's no harm in liking the modern adaptations. P.S. re the nuoc leo -- the first time I made it, I hand-ground the peanuts. Every time since, I've substituted a good-quality all-natural (i.e. nothing but peanuts) chunky peanut butter. Works for me.
  13. I've often checked out this thread because I find everything about bentos fascinating, but have never tried making one myself -- only experienced storebought ones. However, now I'm returning to school (continuing education, partly for immediate resume-buffing in this current economic downturn, partly to explore new career options more in line with where my heart is) and will be spending Tuesday and Thursday on campus from about 8:30am to 6:45pm. The campus has a cafeteria and snackbars and all that, but I will burn a hole in my wallet--and probably also my gut--if I depend on them. So--guess it's going to be bento-making time for me! Which may endear me to the instructor of one of my classes: Japanese 101. Though she might be way dismayed at a lot of the Western foods I might put in there -- I'm thinking my Cali-mex style black beans/brown rice would be good. My immediate concern is coming up with foods and techniques to keep my bento from spoiling--even if I choose foods that normally require no refrigeration, the temperatures are currently getting up to 97 F/36 C here in Southern California, and there's no place for me to stow my food during the day except for the trunk of my (sweltering) car. I'm thinking taking it with me rather than leaving it in the car, and slipping a simple cold pack in next to the plastic container, as I saw nakji was doing way back in this thread, will do the trick.
  14. Mostly bowls, except the last ingredient to be prepped stays on the board. I know a lot of folks keep several ingredients on the board and just shove them aside to make room to chop, but I like a lot of "elbow room" on my board -- somehow that growing percentage of my board given over to little piles of already-prepped ingredients feels like it's cramping my style. And also I can be unpredictably clumsy -- it would be just like me to randomly spazz, or sneeze, or something while carrying a board full of stuff and dump the whole thing on the floor. Or go to shove one ingredient off a board into a pot, and manage to knock half of another ingredient in with it, before I meant to do so. Or be chopping a little too energetically and make a mess of my little piles of already-chopped ingredients. (When you're a lifelong Clumsy Person, you stay aware of all your possible failure modes. ) Plus I like the little flotilla of bowls.
  15. I'm with you, Chris. I appreciate a lovely salad every now and again, and I love having super-in-season ingredients for a ratatouille, but all other things being equal, all of my absolutely favorite dishes to make are long-simmered dishes of one sort or another. Though I still manage to sneak in a braise or two even in the heat of summer, by means of such strategies as sticking 'em in the crock pot overnight. Or just toughing it out and sweating it out. Hey, people pay big bucks to sit in saunas and jacuzzis -- mine just come with a meat course. What I'm just itching to make: some red-cooked pork belly.
  16. I think I own a great deal more Asian ingredients than the average non-Asian person. Though I bet my collection is only middling compared to a typical eGullet member, and pathetic compared to the average Asian household. Where I think I'm really obsessive, though, is in recreational cruising for interesting new markets and restaurants. Sometimes I'll take a drive through certain neighborhoods for no other reason than to see if there's been any openings or closings. Sometimes, when I see an "opening soon" banner, I'll keep haunting the neighborhood until the "grand opening" banner goes up so I can check the place out ASAP. Wow, when I typed that out, it sounded a little creepy. Food stalker behavior much?
  17. Gotta try a green chile cheeseburger. It's practically the state sandwich of New Mexico--and with good reason.
  18. I read this topic and felt I was not at all against the idea in theory, but was worried about what they eat. I don't mean in terms of the "euw, gross" factor -- that's just silly -- but in terms of urbanized birds concentrating pollutant toxins in their bodies, the way fish in urban rivers do. I couldn't resist the challenge of doing a little Google-diving, and found this long thread of answers to the question "Can I eat a city pigeon?" There's a whole lot of speculation from no evidence on there, but towards the end you run into some links to hard evidence about accumulation of lead in the bodies of urban pigeons, and pigeons as major carriers of Chlamydia. So, alas, it sounds like just harvesting the feral pigeons would not be a good idea. A few people in that thread, however, do suggest raising pigeons for food, starting with breeding pigeons bought specifically for the purpose. I confess I don't know a thing about pigeon keeping other than having seen urban rooftop pigeon coops in movies, but apparently it's a done thing.
  19. I just saw the movie yesterday, and reviewed it in this post in my blog. Some additional thoughts, also responding indirectly to some of the thoughts in this thread: No, it wasn't "Gone With The Wind," nor meant to be; words more like "charming" and "delightful" come to mind. I think Streep did a terrific job portraying Julia -- goodness knows the grande dame was so larger than life (literally as well as personality-wise) that the risk of falling into caricature looms large; and goodness knows that Streep's incredible technical skills at mimicking voice/accent/gesture made the risk of falling into caricature even greater; but Streep avoids that by going beyond impersonation to successfully inhabiting the character and making her live. This was especially apparent to me when her Julia was interacting with people she loved, such as her husband -- wonderful performance by Stanley Tucci; they really made you believe that they were absolutely mad about each other. The scenes where Julia interacts with her visiting sister (played by Jane Lynch) also grabbed me this way; as I say in my blog review, the actresses and the script quickly capture in word and deed the fact that these sisters were allies in dealing with a world that viewed women of their height as social misfits -- without preaching or nagging. There's another little bit that I loved that I didn't mention in my blog review, a short, deftly acted scene in which Paul comforts Julia when she has a flash of grief over her inability to have children. Now that's some fine acting. I confess Julie's half of the movie just couldn't grab me with the same level of engagement as Julia's -- it was finely done, with many cute moments; and of course as a food-obsessed blogger myself I'm not too proud to admit that I totally identified with all of Julie's reasons for blogging, including the self-affirmation bit. Hmmmm ... maybe it was because Julie's story was more in the conventional chick-flick genre, and all other things being equal, I'm normally not a chick-flick kinda gal. I did, however, get a hell of a kick out of the lobster-in-the-kitchen scene, including the choice of soundtrack song. Okay--maybe that was just way too easy, but again, I'm not too proud to admit it cracked me up. Interestingly, while there was definitely gorgeous and evocative food going on, I was much more captured by the drama of Julia's story -- and Paul's, too, as he runs afoul of the McCarthy era. I am embarrassed to admit that I have not read Julia's memoir. I need to get my hands on that thing. I'd known the basics of her life story before, but now I really want to know all the details. That woman kicked butt.
  20. I bet there's a whole bunch of state fair food concessionaires who are also kicking themselves ... and then picking themselves up and trying to figure out how to put it on a stick.
  21. Belated response to those bemoaning the lack of good Chinese food in San Diego ... it actually can be found, but you have to specifically avoid the places catering to the non-Asian clientele who prefer the "sweet, cornstarch thickened, oyster-saucy, broccoli-studded food." Rules of thumb: if you're somewhere in the vicinity of Convoy Street in Kearny Mesa, and the joint you enter has menus posted that are in Chinese only, and the clientele is predominantly Asian, you're getting warm. Not an ironclad guarantee--but the odds are more in your favor. My continued favorites in San Diego: Ba Ren for terrific non-dumbed-down Szechuan (love their cold appetizer selection); and Golden City for Cantonese (ignore the dishes obviously aimed at that weekday lunch break crowd, and check out the more non-dumbed-down items, like the hot pot dishes, and the ones with ingredients like bitter melon and salted fish).
  22. I remember watching an episode of one of Ming Tsai's cooking shows (think it was Ming's Quest) -- he was quickly peeling some ginger, and not being too concerned with cutting close or saving the little knobby bits , and made some offhand comment about how his parents would have scolded him for wasting so much. Yeah, ginger is cheap. And a lot of times I can't be bothered to try and salvage any but the biggest, easiest-to-peel knobby bits. But my own tightwad upbringing always makes me feel slightly guilty just throwing that stuff away. I wonder if there's some good use for it. Steeping as a tea, maybe? I too don't bother to peel it at all if I'm just cutting ginger coins that will be discarded once the dish is done, and at least that little bit of skin doesn't seem to have any untoward off-flavors.
  23. Here's a whole mini-dissertation on reheating tortillas from Rick Bayless's Fronterakitchens.com website. It recommends steaming 'em, though it also mentions griddle, microwave, and directly-over-gas-burner methods. It also discusses traditional and modern containers for keeping them warm once heated. Edited to add: Me, I'm often guilty of just flingin' a few in the microwave without even bothering to wrap them.
  24. Wow. That's beautiful. I keep meaning to try and recreate my maternal grandmother's recipe for gefilte fish -- I never got to experience it personally, but it lived vividly in my imagination through my mother's stories about the live carp kept swimming in their tenement apartment bathtub until its appointment with destiny. I may not go so far as to do the actual carp-in-bathtub part. But every time I visit the seafood department of 99 Ranch Market, and see their tanks full of frisky carp, I find myself thinking "Hey, if you ever wanted to give it a go ... there you go."
  25. Uhhhh ... no, not sick of pesto. But then I was making it back in the early 1980s, well before it had its turn at flavor-of-the-month overexposure. I was also eating sushi way back in the early 1980s, way before you could find second-rate surimi-filled California rolls in every supermarket prepared-food chill chest. Just call me Ms. Out-of-Step. I may be way off base, but I think what I'm hearing here is that all these flavor-of-the-month food fashions can lead to a sense of overexposure/overload -- IF one is running in food circles that heavily over-indulge in flavor-of-the-month thinking. That would include certain publications, certain restaurants, etc. etc. etc. And yeah, I totally sympathize. I recall the last time I ordered what purported to be a "spring roll" in a trendy non-Asian restaurant--the filling and the dipping sauce were so heavy in ginger that even ginger-loving me couldn't deal with it, it blotted out everything else. I resolved then and there to never order that flavor-of-the-month again in any restaurant that didn't have proven skills in handling it. But outside those flavor-of-the-month circles, I'm still wolfing down spring rolls like a sonuvagun. I guess I'm still coming down on the side of, if it's an appropriate flavor combination to the dish and to the meal, and it's executed with appropriate skill (for example not dumping in so much ginger, or chile, or what-have you, that it blots out everything else), then I'm happy with it. If it's just slapped on cluelessly and monotonously, just because it's fashionable, fuggeddaboutit. Besides, deliberately avoiding a flavor combo, even if it would be a terrific and appropriate thing to do, just because "everyone else is doing it," is its own kind of mental trap, y'know? Anti-fashion is still a fashion statement. I'm not saying that's necessarily what I'm hearing here ... I'm just sayin'.
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