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mizducky

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Everything posted by mizducky

  1. Heh. The peculiar Thanksgiving dinners I've had to suffer through, because neither I nor any member of my family was involved in the cooking thereof... It's really an ethical as well as aesthetic challenge when I'm a guest at a non-family-member's Thanksgiving. I too have many fond memories of the foods of this holiday, especially since I got so heavily involved in the holiday's cooking as a kid. So it's really hard for me to balance my appreciation to the host for including me in their household's celebration with my chagrin at the often-dreadful things I see said host do to the food. Fortunately I have never been submitted to a Thanksgiving dinner where the host was either obviously stingy or dead-set on imposing his/her current health fanaticism on me. But there have been a number of Thanksgiving meals where I've just had to console myself with the thought that I'd make myself my own little roast cornish hen or duck to make up for the lovingly-botched turkey I'd just consumed.
  2. My history with clams was just the opposite--aside from one visit to the Jersey Shore when I was maybe four years old, the majority of my family's summer vacations were to New England--either Rhode Island or Cape Cod--and so I grew up eating and loving whole fried clams with bellies intact. The first time I encountered those strip clams, I was massively underwhelmed--"where's the juicy bits?!?" I too have been away from New England for so many years that I have nothing substantive to add about best N.E. clam joints. But I can at least vicariously drool over the subject matter. As to breaded vs. battered: while the ones I loved as a kid were pretty much all breaded, these days I think I'd prefer them battered. But the reality is, these days I'd probably take whatever (whole!) fried clams I could get.
  3. The little lobsters blew my mind too. So cute! (And so many to pipe out just so--must take the patience of Job...) All your work looks fabulous, I must say. I imagine it might possibly feel more inspiring artistry-wise to, say, create a bunch of realistic-looking cake/fondant purses than to build a cake/fondant Barney -- but hey, I can also imagine the labor and skill level are quite comparable. God knows I sure as heck wouldn't be able to knock out a Barney cake if my life depended on it.
  4. As others have already said, for anything that involves anything resembling stir-frying, I find a good mise-en-place to be essential--if I don't have all my ingredients properly prepped and within arm's reach of the rangetop as I fire up the wok, the dish is pretty much doomed. By extension, when I'm making a risotto or a dark roux, I don't want to be walking away to complete any prep, because I just *know* the 90 seconds I'm over at the counter chopping stuff is the precise moment that my cooktop will decide to have a temperature spike and scorch what I've been so carefully cooking. So--all things prepped and at hand in these cases too. My clean-as-you-go does tend to bog down a little bit as I reach the end of a cooking session, but I do get most items cleaned up (or at least into the dishwasher) as I'm done with them. And as I said before, any of my mise-en-place containers that contained dry, non-goopy, and/or non-meat ingredients only get a rinse in hot tap water, because IMO that's all they really need (mind you, the hottest water out of my tap is set to Pretty Darned Hot).
  5. I dunno, the concept of typical Seattleites being intimidated by the Broadway neighborhood doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. For one thing, isn't the market that's about to move currently across the street from Seattle Central Community College? Seems like tons of students pour in and out of that school daily without being intimidated by the neighborhood. And that location's just down the street from the huge QFC at the corner with Pike--I'd hardly think QFC would have invested the huge amount of buckos for that building if they thought there'd be a problem with customers staying away because they disliked the area. Plus ... well, this may be my own biased impression, but I would think the typical Seattleite customer for an urban farmer's market would be sophisticated enough to not be particularly weirded out by any of Broadway's more colorful frequenters. This older article in the Stranger makes for some interesting reading, not so much for what it says as for what it implies about the sequence of events with the Fremont-sponsored market versus this new "replacement" market. Methinks the real issue is that the Fremont-sponsored market just didn't like the competition of this "new" market that has apparently been on the drawing boards for awhile now. But then, I do tend to have a suspicious mind that way ... (Especially since I lived in Seattle for over ten years before I moved down here to SoCal, several of which were spent living in Capitol Hill just blocks from all this action.)
  6. mizducky

    Passover Chicken Soup

    Most of my techniques for making really flavorful chicken soup have already been covered by others. Let's see, what else can I add? ... well, a little pre-browning of at least some of the ingredients can help add flavor. Give the carrots, and maybe some of the chicken parts/carcasses, a little roast in a low-ish oven till they get some color. Brown some of the onions in a little schmaltz or oil. That kind of thing. Another thought: my secret ingredient for jacking up the flavor of soups and stewed dishes is mushrooms--fresh or dried. They're rich in naturally-occurring glutamates, so they add that savory kick without needing to go wacky with the Ac'cent (not that there's anything wrong with that, but I just think glutamates in mushroom form bring more flavor to the dish). I have been known to use a pressure cooker to wring a whole lotta flavor out of a bunch o' soup-making ingredients in a relatively short amount of time. I note that when Alton Brown did a show on making beef broth in a pressure cooker, he recommended adding a shot of brandy just before serving to brighten up the flavor. I don't know that brandy is such a good match with chicken, but perhaps a little white wine (kosher of course in this case) would help matters along, whether you pressure-cook or no. And above all, I too think getting a really flavorful chicken broth was a good bit easier in our parents' or grandparents' day when chickens were not so heavily mass-produced, and you could easily find older birds and live birds. In their absence, it might be worthwhile to start your soup-making with a free-range bird or parts thereof.
  7. Actually it's hard to see in the photos I chose, but the wires are supporting gum paste butterflies...........they are suposed to be flying around the bunnies. I put the butterflies all thru the buffet. Those are the only wires. ← D'OH! Okay, now that you've pointed them out, I can see the butterflies. Yes, it's the Cock-eyed Duck once again misinterpreting photographic information!
  8. Okay, just as long as you remember I said it was "large for a co-op." In other words, it's not all that big. I'd hate to have you shlep all the way down from the LA/Inland Empire area just to be let down once more. On the other hand, I just made a shopping expedition there this afternoon and noted they had in stock cherimoyas, yellow beets, and these beautiful short fat bright-yellow (as opposed to orange) carrots. And they had the dinosaur kale again. So they do get a lot of interesting things packed into a modest space. Also noticed that several of the produce items, like that kale, come from Be Wise Ranch--I think somebody else already mentioned them; they're a organic farm just north of San Diego that has a CSA program. I just might sign up for that.
  9. Yes, they are all cake, with a couple of drinking straws used for support dowels. ← Are my eyes deceiving me, or are there also a couple of thin white wires coming off of every one of those bunnies? (Do they make the bunnies' eyes light up? ) I got an even bigger kick out of the bunnies because of one of the more lame-ass classes I had in high-school home ec, where we were supposed to make these bunny cakes out of layer cake cut and re-assembled. Unlike your cute bunnies, our home-ec bunnies were irredeemably hideous. (And they didn't even taste all that good.)
  10. Ain't that the stuff that comes in a can? Ayuh! ← "Boston Brown Bread: Is a traditional American bread made from mixed grains, usually a blend of rye and wheat flour with cornmeal, buttermilk and molasses. Raises with bicarbonate of soda, the mixture is placed in a tall cylindrical mould and steamed, not dry baked in the normal way. The Puritan community of New England served this bread on the sabbath with Boston baked beans." (source of quote) Yeah, you can buy the bread in a can ... and somewhat ironically, many current recipes suggest using a clean empty coffee can or similar as the mold since not too many people own the kind of mold originally used for it. But I suspect the bought-in-a-can bread stacks up to the home-made version about as well as canned baked beans compares to their from-scratch version.
  11. I did a little web-research on the Berkeley Bowl and Monterey Market, and frankly it sounds like they are unique outfits not only in the context of California produce markets, but probably further afield than that. So I don't think it's so much a question of something particularly ailing Southern California for not having similar markets, but more a general void for that kind of market, period. That doesn't mean that such places can't happen anywhere else, by any means. In fact, given that SoCal wouldn't be such a long haul from interesting suppliers of quality produce, it could probably happen down here too if someone ran with the idea as did the Yasudas of Berkeley Bowl or the Fujimotos of Monterey Market. I note also that both Berkeley establishments are in fact family-owned and operated independent markets, with multiple generations involved in management. This by itself is not necessarily a guarantee of smooth sailing management wise--I see, for instance, that the Berkeley Bowl management had some unpleasant dealings with their employees as the latter endeavored to become unionized--but I do think that a market started by private individuals with a passion for their product and a family commitment to maintaining the mission has a distinct advantage in terms of producing a store with some "soul," for lack of a better word. Meanwhile, for my own vegetable wants and needs here in San Diego, I have lighted upon the People's Food Co-op over in Ocean Beach. Yeah, it's a bit of a shlep from where I live. And while it's gorgeously appointed and sizeable for a food co-op, it's not huge. But at least on a first visit, its produce department looked to be knocking the tar out of the local Henry's and even 99 Ranch that I frequent. And the prices, while not rock-bottom, seemed pretty darned reasonable to me given the quality.
  12. Ooooh! Forgot about the cranberry bread. Speaking of breads, I see nobody's mentioned Boston Brown Bread yet. I also seem to recall that the play "The Belle of Amherst" included a bit in which Emily Dickinson gave a recipe for something called "black cake" that would make enough to feed a small army. I dunno anything else about the history of this recipe except that it's apparently an authentic recipe for which Dickinson was known; especially in the context of that play, it felt way New England-y. Here's a link to a version of the recipe cut down a bit and adapted to modern kitchens.
  13. Yeah, when I first started getting serious about my mise-en-place, back when I was first teaching myself how to do a proper stir-fry, having a flotilla of little bowls became key. Those itty bitty Pyrex bowls, the ones my mom used for instant pudding when I was a kid, are just perfect for most small items like yer garlic and other aromatics. For the larger-volume items, I wind up pressing into service all sorts of random bowls and containers, so that eventually my flotilla looks pretty motley--especially when I start creatively stacking some of the bowls because I'm running out of counter space.
  14. I'm sort of a modified organized cook. If it's a recipe I've never done before, especially if it involves unusual or exotic-to-me ingredients, I'll do the full-fledged make-a-list make-special-shopping-trip business. If it's one I'm more familiar with, I'm a bit more laissez-faire, but I'll still get my mise-en-place pretty well lined up before I start, and have at least a mental gameplan WRT the various steps in the method. And when I do my mise, I'll seldom go as far as measuring out individual spices (unless it's a curry or some such, where I'll have a little bowl that I'll have dumped together all the measured spices that are going in together). But at the very least I'll have all the little spice containers and the measuring spoons close at hand. And anything that needs preliminary prep work will be all prepped and waiting in their individual bowls. I also make a reasonable attempt at clean-as-you-go, a major necessity in kitchens short on counter space (i.e., just about every kitchen I've ever worked in).
  15. Yeah, if you have a low tolerance for acidity, pickles are likely not going to be your thing. Are there other sour foods besides vinegar that you've noticed you either don't care for or prefer in lesser quantities than other folks? How do you feel about lemons and other sour citrus, for example?
  16. Eating a big meal, especially one heavy in fats and/or in potentially stomach-irritating foods, right before bedtime is almost guaranteed to exacerbate my reflux disease. It's a simple matter of mechanics--you fill the stomach full, get it just starting to generate digestive acids, and then get horizontal so those acids have an easy time splashing up into the esophagus. Result--the killer-awful heartburn of a GERD attack. Even if you don't currently have GERD or a chronic heartburn problem, a consistent habit of going to sleep on a very full stomach can, over a long enough period of time, help precipitate a case of GERD, by the same process described above. Get yourself in a position to allow stomach acid to splash out of the stomach enough times, and eventually that acid can cause enough damage to put you in a world o' pain. And once you get GERD, it really doesn't go away. Those fancy proton-pump inhibitor drugs help some, but only some. You might think it won't happen to you, because you've been doing it for years without any untoward effects. But I have to say, I used to think the same. I got away with eating big greasy meals before bedtime, plus various other stomach-irritating habits, for literally decades, thinking nothing of it ... until the day of my first GERD attack. Now that GERD has forced me to drop coffee and booze out of my life almost completely except for an occasional treat, and has made it nigh impossible for me to enjoy chiles and other spicy foods without risking serious pain, I do wish to hell I had listened to all those warnings about how eating big meals late at night can be "bad for you," as opposed to laughing those warnings off as old wives' tales. So I offer my experience as a cautionary tale--especially if you want to enjoy a long lifetime's worth of consuming chiles and booze and coffee.
  17. Another vote for the Grand Buffet on Rte. 17 in Ramsey. When I was back east visiting family a couple of years ago, several of them recommended this joint, which was just a mile or two away from my motel. I thought it was pretty decent for a buffet-style Chinese restaurant. Busy on a weeknight, but not obnoxiously zoo-y.
  18. Hawkeye sounds a whole lot like my last cat. Jimmy Dean, the Rebel Without A Clue was always underfoot, always attacking me, always behaving just plain weird, and I loved the little bastard. His more misbehaved self earned him many nicknames, the only G-rated one being "Beastie Boy." He was getting a little too old for long-distance moves, so he now bedevils the life of a friend of mine back in Seattle. Blog on, o Pastry Maven! Be fearless in exposing your non-standard eating habits, secure in the knowledge that at least one of your readers does no better (and probably does a helluva lot worse... )
  19. I consider chicken backs and necks to be the my private reward as cook for all my hard work. All the "pretty" portions of the chicken I'll serve to my guests, especially the squeamish ones who don't like to mess with the unsightlier looking pieces. But I save the bonier pieces like the back and neck for later so I can enjoy their messy pleasures in the privacy of the kitchen. The meat nearest the bones really is the tastiest--and that's totally leaving aside the whole issue of fried chicken, where all the crannies in the back-piece turn into havens for more yummy crust. Fie on the breast quarter, say I, with that huge hunk of relatively characterless flesh that requires no labor to get at! I'll take the bony bits, along with the thighs, any day. Edited to add: Simulpost, snowangel, I swear!
  20. Heh. Cooking has been therapy for me in more ways than one. Some of the most significant bummers I've been working through in the past several years have been due to the onset of various health weirdnesses impacting my mobility etc. Oftentimes when I'd be having an especially bad bout of whatever (arthritis flare, for instance), all I'd want to do is just lie down and wait till it passed, but sometimes, especially when it was bumming me out emotionally as well as physically, I'd go on a tear of cooking especially healthy dishes for myself. Usually these would be vegetarian dishes brimming with vegetables--stir-fries, stews, soups, etc. Fortunately most of my arthritis symptoms are in the hips and knees, so I could sit and chop with abandon. I dunno if these bouts of healthy cooking/eating make all that much long-term impact on my physical health--it would be much better, I know, if I could sustain this kind of food pattern all the time--but the "zen of chopping" thang would definitely console me in the moment, not to mention the consolation of accomplishing a physical project despite the fact that my body was "betraying" me. P.S. While web searches have turned up a variety of what I'd view as sites of questionable veracity recommending all kinds of food regimens supposed to help with osteo-arthritis, I have found no such recommendations from any trustworthy source (I mean, beyond the glucosamine/chondroitin supplements, which I'm already on). If anyone has come across more helpful info, I am all ears. Please to PM me rather than hauling this thread any further off-topic than I've already done.
  21. Current housemate, a.k.a. Fearless Housemate or FH for short, is pretty damn funny (in all senses of the word) about food stuff. He really does appreciate food, both highbrow and lowbrow, but very seldom essays anything more complicated than boiling water for pasta or microwaving pre-packaged foods. Once in a very blue moon he'll cook a batch of Rice-a-Roni, and afterwards the range-top will look like there was a minor explosion at the Rice-a-roni factory. And he has this bad habit of forgetting items in the microwave. Once or twice he's also mis-set the 'wave's timer for hours instead of minutes--do you know what kind of unholy stink one of those Healthy Choice meals in the plastic dish can make when melted down to a scorched hockey-puck? Definitely Not Pretty. Ironically, given the couple of microwave meltdown incidents, FH also has extreme sensitivity to cooking smells, especially garlic. This cracks me up given he's a nice Italian-American boy--vhat, the Eye-talians from Youngstown OH don't use garlic? And he has this odd aversion to eggs. To his credit, he does not mind at all if I cook or eat eggs in his presence, and only asks me to avoid cooking really stinky/garlicky food when he's trying to catch up on his sleep after a particularly grueling gig. I simply reserve my most potentially-stinky cooking experiments for when he's out of town or at least out of the house for several hours, which happens frequently enough that it doesn't really cramp my style. Mind you, if I were hunting for a total-stranger roommate and were presented with these various food issues, I'd more than likely choose some other rooming situation. But FH and I are best friends, and I find more than enough benefits in living with someone I like and (mostly!) get along with to outweigh what would otherwise be drawbacks. As it is, we're both in the habit of cutting each other slack for our various idiosyncrasies (and believe me, I've got more than my share). Besides, what's not to like about a housemate who loves to pay for other people's dinners out? Just the volume of excellent sushi I've consumed at FH's expense more than makes up for having to strategize my garlic cookery.
  22. By an entertaining coincidence, the first I ever saw of those early Cuisinarts was in the households of assorted MIT-graduate friends of mine. I was fresh out of college and these friends helped me take my first steps towards raging foodie-hood. Heh--there's no geek like an MIT geek, and there's no cooking geek like an MIT cooking geek. Them wuz fun times. One of these MIT Cuisinart-dudes also had a garbage disposal in his well-appointed kitchen, another first for me. I recall a couple different instances of me pulling a brain-fart and absentmindedly calling the garbage disposal a food processor or vice versa, to my friends' great amusement. (Hey, they both whirl 'round and grind stuff up, right?) But I didn't mix them up anymore after my first food-processor-based cooking project, a big batch of gazpacho if I recall correctly. Just surveying the mighty mound of vegetables I shredded, and contemplating how much time and knuckle-skin that would have taken if done by hand, guaranteed that the food processor concept would stay etched upon my brain forever. Meanwhile, a couple of run-ins with a badly backed-up garbage disposal indelibly etched that gizmo's concept into my brain as well, with rather less happy associations.
  23. What I love about pickled foods is that pickling not only adds flavor and tang, but changes the very texture of the foodstuff. As the acidic citrus juice in ceviche "cooks" the fish by denaturing the protein, the brine-fermenting process alters the foodstuff to produce a whole different experience. A classic brine-fermented no-vinegar-added cucumber pickle has a texture that is almost more like meat than vegetable--and still retains a nice bit of crunch. For those of us who are pickled-food fiends, there's nothing else quite like it. As we now have all kinds of other ways to preserve foods, it's no longer strictly necessary to pickle them for preservation. But just as people still adore salt-cod dishes even though the need to preserve fish that way has passed, people will still be loving their pickles because of the whole flavor/mouth-feel thing. Plus pickled foods (at least those pickled by traditional fermentation methods) are touted by a number of folks as having numerous health benefits.
  24. Maple syrup, and various derivatives thereof (maple sugar, candy, etc.). Yum. Okay -- not a dish in itself, as such. Unless one is given to sneaking a swig straight from the bottle. (Hmmmm ... no confessions here ... )
  25. mizducky

    Marrow Bones

    Even when I was a kid and had no idea what marrow really was or that other people considered it a delicacy, I was enjoying it whenever it "accidentally" turned up on my dinner plate (inside chicken bones, beef shanks, etc.). When I discovered that marrow really was a "done thing" in major cuisines, I felt the same kind of sorta-goofy vindication as when I discovered that the Japanese savored salmon skin (in sushi, etc.)--"see? I wasn't a freak for thinking that stuff was good eats and not trash!" Yeah, many Americans can be pretty funny about that kind of stuff. Just leaves more for me, I say.
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