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Everything posted by mizducky

  1. Hi, Ilana-- Apologies for my being so late to the party--my life got kind of overly hectic for several days in there. But now at least I'm all caught up with your blog (if not the rest of my life), and wow was that a great read and look-see. The series of eggplant dishes one after another had me swooning--I adore eggplant. And those okra, and the big fat bright red peppers, and just everything ... yep. Just glorious stuff. And I dig your enthusiasm too. Enthusiasm is cool.
  2. Gee. And the reason I never buy rolls or bagels out of the bulk bins is concern about them sitting out there for god knows how many hours getting stale. Which concern may be why people go fondling them all to check that they haven't become rocks ... which as many have pointed out then brings up whole other issues. I tend to think bulk bins worked best in the type of stores where they first evolved (or at least where I first encountered them)--hippie-alternative food coops. At the ones I've known, the members have been so invested in the store--not to mention so hyper about food health--that it felt like nobody would so much as dare to breathe near the bulk bins. Mind you, though, I'm aware that this Utopic vision has its share of holes in it. To give just a single example, I recall a frustrated notice in the local coop's newletter from the store's manager, to the effect that the persistent anonymous pest who would take single bites from packages of cheese and then put the partly-unwrapped cheese back in the cooler was at it again, and if anyone spotted this character in action to please alert her ASAP. So ... I dunno. At a certain point, one picks the level of denial one feels comfortable with.
  3. Thank you all for your responses! It helps to know that I'm not unique in freaking out at these personal space violations. I very early on had to ban Mr. E from either loading or unloading the dishwasher, for similar reasons. When he'd load the dishwasher, he'd put the dishes in so chaotically that I'd have to rearrange everything to get more dishes in than the few he'd plonked in. And his way of "unloading" consisted of being very good at putting away the stuff he'd kept in the same place for years and years ... and then guessing randomly at where stuff went that he didn't recognize, or else leaving the stuff piled on the kitchen counter (at least then I didn't have to guess where things had vanished to). And that's how it goes--yes, I do think it's great for him to take an interest, but when it means I have to re-do his work when he's not looking--or else deal with his miffed feelings when he did catch me re-doing his work--well, that gets kind of squirrelly for both of us. These are all great suggestions. I shall give them a try. Oh god. The people who obliviously block traffic in the supermarket drive me to distraction too. Sometime I think it's the leftover New Yorker in me--I want people to lead, follow, or get out of the way; I could care less which one, but pick one, and pick it now! That won't help so much when Mr. E's on his own meandering kitchen mission to "fix himself a snack" (incidentally leaving a trail of forgotten knives, jars, and smears behind wherever he worked), but I might yet find ways to adapt this strategy to when he starts hovering while I'm laboring to get dinner finished.
  4. Living with, and taking care of, my elderly friend Mr. E as I do, I've found myself making innumerble disconcerting discoveries about my own household quirks. One such discovery has been that I'm not as good about sharing kitchen space as I thought I was. Maybe it's because, in past situations in which I shared kitchen space, the other household member(s) weren't in the kitchen at the same time as me all that often ... and when they were, they tended to be on a similar page as me in terms of efficient movement. Mr. E is many lovely things, but efficient is not one of them. He tends to dawdle, rummage, woolgather, and sometimes just grind to a halt and stand there, distractedly watching me without saying anything--often just a few steps behind me. And it drives me NUTS!!!! Especially the standing behind me and watching thing. I swear I can feel this twitchy sensation between my shoulder blades just writing about it. He's not doing any harm--likely as not, the poor dude is having a senior moment and got distracted by whatever it is I'm bustling about. But tell that to the twitchy spot between my shoulderblades. And I feel bad about my reaction. I mean, it's not the world's biggest kitchen, but it's certainly manageable, and hey, it's his kitchen after all, he has every right to be in there. It's just that, like a cat, he has this magic ability to be exactly wherever I need to be just when I'm about to go there, so I'm either stuck continually shooing him away from whatever location he's woolgathering in, or just giving up and leaving the kitchen until he slowly meanders his way to whatever snack or sandwich he was intent on fixing for himself. And as to reasoning with him about how best to share kitchen space ... well, let's just say that it's not a concept he's apt to get his brain wrapped around. Does anybody else have funny foibles like this in the kitchen? Or other related problems with well-intentioned people sharing their kitchen space?
  5. Okay, so maybe I'm not a "pure" purist. Maybe I'm just a crank about certain food items. I'm not a martini drinker by habit, but when I want one, I want the gin/vermouth/olive creation. Maybe it's just my general aversion to overly sweet things, or my aversion to mistaking the form for the substance, but there's something about the tendency of some bars to just sling any old combination of (usually sickly-sweet) booze in that inverted-cone glass and call it a martini. Dude, it ain't about the glass, it's about the contents. Not that you'd catch me drinking any of those sweet concoctions regardless of the container. About pizza, I can be pretty schizophrenic. I have eaten my share of frou-frou goat-cheese pizzas and low-down everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-topping "garbage pizzas" and Chicago-style pizzas, and found some of them right tasty. But in my head, "real" pizza is New York style. Though I suspect many native Italians would, in turn, doubt the "realness" of even the New York style. Similarly, I find it challenging to be a purist about Mexican food in Southern California, due to the wide variety of things called Mexican food here. There's corner-taco-shop/taco truck Mexican. There's barrio Mexican. There's surfer-dude carbo-loader Mexican. There's haute-cuisine Mexican. And there are still further variations. All of these have their own "pure" ideal forms that can be quite enjoyable. Many bear only a passing resemblance to one or another authentic regional cuisine from within Mexico, if that. But I do know one thing--anything from a franchise chain, whether it be fast-food or fast casual or what-have-you, is beyond the pale as far as I'm concerned. Especially if the words "Fresh" and "Healthy" are emblazoned anywhere on the store signage. I'm all for fresh, heathy food--except when it's marketing code for "prettied up, de-hotted and de-souled for squeamish gringos." Bagels? I can roll with most savory additions, but bagels with raisins, blueberries, cranberries, or anything else sweet is just NO. Rule of thumb: if it would clash with nova lox and sliced raw onion, it doesn't belong in a bagel. And take those franchise chain steamed-not-boiled bagels out back and incinerate them, please.
  6. Turns out pork blood doesn't float very well. It's all hiding at the bottom. Not a huge amount, but certainly respectable for a garnish--though garnishes are supposed to stay on top, I suppose... oh well... Glad you enjoyed the photos, Ah Leung!
  7. Visited the Tet Festival again this afternoon--more crowds, and the vendors were starting to run out of stuff so no more nem chua to be found, but I still got to sample a few more goodies. First, I had to get some more banh khot--justified it on the grounds that I didn't get a photo of them last visit. But really, they're very photogenic: They're eggy/custardy, with bits of shrimp, ground pork, and scallion embedded in them. They are rather labor-intensive--the stallers making them had four portable burners running just for these, each with its own little eight-dimple cooking pan. But each order consisted of eight banh khot--in other words an entire panful--and each panful took a few minutes to cook, with the operator painstakingly flipping each banh khot over in its little dimple to cook both sides. And the other item this booth had on offer was coconut waffles--so they had a whole other line waiting for waffles to come off each of a handful of electric waffle irons. Definitely an instance of waiting for one's patience to be rewarded. There was no line waiting to get some of the rice porridge with pork blood: Their loss--this was really tasty. But I admit walking across the fair grounds in search of a seat while trying not to spill a sloshing bowl of piping hot porridge was a challenge. Maybe that's why they had fewer customers. Oh, and wound up trying one more papaya salad variation: This one was topped with shreds of dried beef jerky, plus some extremely fresh and flavorful basil.
  8. Checked out the San Diego Tet Festival just after it opened at 4pm this past Friday, and found it really enjoyable. (For those locals who want to catch it before it's over, the Festival runs through to 10pm Sunday night.) The festival is set up in a relatively compact grassy area in Balboa Park, at the intersection of Park Blvd. and President's Way. Arriving early as I did, I found few other attendees there, and a lot of volunteers still hustling to get things set up. Like most festivals of most any sort, this one has the ubiquitous carnival area and booths: But few festivals that I've been to have had these charming little cultural tableaux: That last tableau is described in the program as representing a typical convenience store back in the old country. Yes, I'm trying to get to the food. Alas, a lot of the food vendors were not set up yet, and at least one of those that was on-site was struggling with electricity weirdnesses: Still, there were a few up and running, and as time progressed more came on-line. Among the things I sampled--grilled sausage: Not pictured: the Tet specialty nem chua--little cubes of spicy, garlicky, chewy, sour pork sausage. The chewiness is from slivers of pork ear; the sourness is from natural fermentation. The cubes come individually wrapped in cling-wrap--seeing the bright red wrapped cubes laid out in a little cardboard tray, I at first thought they were some kind of candy. I really dug the taste and mouthfeel of these things. A Vietnamese/Lao-style green papaya salad--very strong on the chile and the fish sauce, minimal on the sour or sweet: Not pictured--another version of green papaya salad, this one milder, and garnished with slivers of liver and jerky. I love liver in any and all forms, so I enjoyed this quite a bit. Goi cuon, bo bia: These were kind of boring renditions, more vehicles for dipping sauce than anything else. Also sampled a bunch of other stuff, especially when I ran into fellow local food enthusiasts Candice and Kirk. Kirk has more photos and text up right now on his blog. Chuc Mung Nam Moi!
  9. I hope you don't mind me asking--have you ever been served any of these meats cooked by others, and if so, did you enjoy them then? Mind you, there are many people out there who don't cook liver properly (I have no experience with sweetbreads, so I'll stick to the organ meat I know much more about here), so it's eminently possible to have gone one's entire life never having tasted how good it can be ... on the other hand, it's always possible that liver will turn out simply to not be your thing, no matter how expertly prepared -- and that's okay too. The single biggest thing I've seen people do wrong with liver is overcook it. Plain and simple. It's amazing how fast it can go from juicy to shoe-leather in your pan. And a lot of people's natural reaction when cooking it is "oooh, organ meat, it's not safe unless there's no pink left!!!" Alas, by the time there's no pink left, you're definitely in shoe leather territory. Somebody earlier in the thread, I think, recommended half-a-minute per side in the pan. I agree, especially if you're working with thin slices of liver. And I never soak my liver in anything. Have never found it necessary.
  10. This article so piqued my curiosity that I did some extreme Googling, and unearthed this thread on another food forum on the history of the patty melt. The following quote comes near the end of the thread: And who knows what other claims to first invention might still be floating around out there. I blush to confess that the patty melt never registered on my personal food radar all that much. No doubt it was on the menus of many diners I'd eaten at over the years, but nobody around me ever got them, so I didn't think to. And it probably didn't help matters that I'm a dyed-in-the-wool reuben fan, and that's what I nearly always get in those kinds of places. But now I'm feeling inspired to deepen my appreciation of the patty melt. Next time I do a diner, I'm doing the melt.
  11. Also any Frank Zappa fan. I have fond, if humorous, memories of the time my sister decided she was going to make me a cake with lavender frosting for my birthday. An appetizing shade of lavender is surprisingly tricky to pull off by mixing food coloring, she discovered--the shade she produced looked okay in the bowl, but on the cake it turned out a kind of asphyxiation grayish-blue. We all ate it, but we all also had a good laugh.
  12. Okay, I can't resist: "We're only making plans for Nigel We only want what's best for him We're only making plans for Nigel Nigel just needs this helping hand..." Thanks for a fabulous blog!
  13. I've grown to loathe garbage disposals. Every place I've lived that had one, I had to constantly remember all the food items you didn't dare use it on because they would jam it up--essentially, anything fibrous, which is in effect most vegetable scraps and trimmings. It seemed like the types of food you could safely run through the disposal were so few, that I couldn't see what the point was in having one just for that small percentage of stuff. Maybe none of the disposals I've worked with have been good ones--but that's a whole lotta bad ones I've met instead. So at this point, I'd rather not ever take a risk on a garbage disposal ever ever again.
  14. I do like to experiment and expand my knowledge in the kitchen, and it's much more fun with an audience to taste the results--but I find that audience is much happier if it either has some advance warning or a graceful alternative. But before I pull the experiment on others, I do prefer to either do some kind of test run beforehand, or to cook the experiment early enough that I have time to make a suitable replacement. Sometimes a good test run just isn't do-able, which can lead to some interesting last-minute weirdnesses. Prior to this dinner I pulled off recently, I had practiced my whole steamed fish technique--but on single 1.5 lb tilapia. The morning of the dinner, I found beautiful big 4-pound tilapia at the market so I got one--failing to take into account that this big ol' fish exceeded the size of the wok I'd been using for fish-steaming. Oops. The fish got done eventually, and I had a "learning experience."
  15. At least according to Wikipedia, unprocessed olives are apparently not poisonous:
  16. I confess to being ambivalent about the word "foodie." Yeah, it's cutesy. Yeah, it makes me fear that there are faithful fans of the Semi Ho Maid who think of themselves as true-bloo foodies. Or, worse, that if I use the term to describe myself, certain naive others might think I was such a fan. Blech. At the same time, I have witnessed that non-food-enthusiasts are completely innocent of all these distinctions between serious and knowledgeable food enthusiasts and those who think of themselves as "foodies" because they faithfully watch whatever dreck is left on the Food Network. Trying to clarify these distinctions to such folks just causes eyes to glaze over. In conversation with such folks, you might as well say "foodie" because they won't really know or care about the difference anyway. (I say that with no disparagement whatosever--it's just the plain facts as I've observed them.) Among you folks and others who understand, I gleefully use the term "foodgeek" -- I've been a geek my whole life, so of course I would approach cookery with the same geekish intensity. "Gastro" as far as I'm concerned would be a big step backwards, for all the associations with "gastroenteritis" and similar terms already noted. In fact, my brain stumbles over the term "gastropub" every time I see it, for similar reasons. "Gourmet" and "gourmand" have their place, I feel--even though words borrowed from the French into English do tend to carry some lingering connotations of snootiness. I have been known to play off that perceived connotation, as with my sometime handle "The Tightwad Gourmand." In a recent email about what dish I was thinking of bringing to a party, I ended with "...for as you know, I like to play with my food." The recipient thought this was a riot. Despite, or perhaps even because of, its charming unwieldliness, I just might start referring to myself that way: as "one of those geeks who likes to play with her food."
  17. Sounds like someone at Domino's has delusions of anticipating the future of pizza delivery as envisioned by Neal Stephenson.
  18. Interesting. I hadn't heard that term "prebiotic" before either. Wikipedia offers a little more help: clickie One tidbit from the Wikipedia article: It's neat to know a little more about what this stuff does, but yeah, I think one would only need to go out of one's way to supplement this stuff in one's diet if that diet were severely lacking in produce and complex carbs ... I've been known to do the probiotic thing--eat good yogurt--after a cycle of antibiotics. Next time I might try fixing some Jerusalem artichokes too. (I wonder if konnyaku is the right kind of soluble fiber to play this game? )
  19. Heh. One of the weird things about menopause (I mean, besides the occasional need to stick my head in the open door of my fridge's freezer compartment for personal thermostat resetting purposes) is that food cravings once tied to "that time of month" now tend to strike at random. How do I tell them apart from your everyday run-of-the-mill food cravings, you may ask? Well, they tend to be for my traditional PMS-craving foods (meat, grease, salt, and more meat, grease, and salt); and they tend to be fueled by that peculiarly hormonal-feeling urgency ... ... she sez, as she works her way through the entire jar of teriaki nori she bought this afternoon. (Excuse me, I think I need to go stick my head in the freezer. Again. ) (Edited to fix an especially silly typo--"freezer DEpartment"? Wow! )
  20. Marukai Market, the Japanese chain of membership grocery stores with scattered outposts in the US, just officially opened its latest store in San Diego. The other two stores in the little complex at the corner of Balboa Ave. and Mercury St., Marukai Living (a housewares store) and Daiso (a so-called "100-yen shop," which in the US sells most items for $1.50) had been open for some weeks now, and the Market part had been showing some pre-opening activity. But then I got the word from my buddy mmm-yoso that they were definitely open for customers, so I decided to buzz on over. Alas, like a space bunny, I forgot my camera--but I urge you to follow the above link because Kirk did remember his, and did his usual thorough job of documenting the finds. Myself, I picked up just a few items for my dinner--including some very meaty, and very fresh, fish trimmings that made for an excellent soup. But I also noted Marukai's already-impressive fresh meat and fish offerings (incredibly beautifully-marbled meats all sliced and ready for the grilling/simmering/etc technique of your choice; some gorgeous thick super-marbled ribeye steaks at $5.99/lb; bounteous amounts of sushi/sashimi-grade fish in blocks or pre-sliced) and small but attractive fresh produce department. They had some very nice oden sets that I'll probably be checking out soon. Marukai's San Diego location is just a few blocks away from the two already-established Japanese grocery chain players in town, Mitsuwa and Nijiya. It'll be interesting to see how they cope with this newcomer, especially since my admittedly spotty survey suggests that Marukai is underpricing them. Oh yeah--when Marukai San Diego eventually gets its membership thing rolling, it'll be $10/year, or $1 for a one-shot guest membership. But right now, the cheerful young lady who greeted me said, they're not bothering with memberships, so if you're nearby you should come check it out! (And don't forget your camera the way I did.) More about Marukai here.
  21. I too have found TJ's house brand premaide frozen dinners rather hit-or-miss ... the big hits in this house, at least for Mr. E, are the chicken teriyaki rice bowls. There have been other frozen dinners we've tried that have been just meh. But then, I find most frozen prepared foods kind of meh almost by definition, mainly emergency things to heat up when there's no time to cook and no access to take-out, so there you go. TJ's frozen fish, though, I've had great experiences with--not the frozen cooked breaded fliets and such, I mean the flash-frozen raw fish. We had a filet of their flash-frozen wild-caught Alaskan salmon that was extremely impressive--great flavor. I've always ever shopped TJs for fairly specific items, but find a lot to love them for just based on those itmes. For example, TJ's still have the lowest prices on eggs in this town, at any rate $1.19 for a dozen basic extra-large eggs where other stores' prices are now regularly well over two bucks a dozen.
  22. Nun Racers! Woodchucks with Nunchucks! I'm totally feeling your son's underground comix vibe, man! And maybe Snakey Boy will eventually go down in history with Too Much Coffee Man in the Hall of Fame of Comic Strips With Food-Related Content.
  23. Alas, I can't put the peanut sauce recipe into RecipeGullet due to copyright rules, but you can check it out directly via this link. The salad rolls, I'll see if I get a free moment later today. They're so dirt-simple, though--the only tricky bit for me was learning how to work with the rice paper. Once I got that down, the rest was just slingin' stuff in and wrappin'. Edited to add: Aha! No need for me to post a recipe for the summer rolls on RecipeGullet, as there is already one up there: clickie And here's the link to Rachel's pictorial on making them: click-o You can really wrap just about anything you can think of into one of these rolls, as long as it's (a) not so drippy or warm that it'll make the finished roll soggy; and (b) not so stiff that it'll poke holes through the wrappers. I'm thinking next time I'm going to add some alfalfa sprouts--no, not traditional, but I'm thinking they'll make a nice, more flavorful and nutrititious substitute for at least some of the vermicelli noodles.
  24. I've actually gotten an invitation to a Superbowl party, for the first time in forever. Part of me wants to knock out a plateful of Vietnamese salad rolls, partly because they're that rare thing, a healthy yummy finger food; and partly because I have a killer recipe for the peanut dipping sauce to go with them. I'd also bring some crudite so none of the sauce goes to waste. However, if this week gets as busy as I fear it might, though, I can always go more low impact, and make some hummus bi tahini and/or baba ganoush.
  25. --Any of several varieties of tofu (regular firm, baked seasoned, fermented with chile, dried bean curd skin) --Konnyaku products--noodles, knots, blocks, etc etc --Condiments--especially Pearl River Bridge brand dark soy sauce, and toban jian --Veggies--esp. soybean sprouts; eggplants; daikon; bok choy --Dried shrooms/fungi--esp. shiitakes and wood ear --Sea vegetables, esp. kombu --The occasional fish head or chunk of pork belly
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