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Everything posted by mizducky

  1. Hmmm ... I've got to say, those "WILL EAT/WON'T EAT" lists do strike me as much more about idiosyncratic food aversions than any kind of nutritional rules. She's avoiding fat, but wants to eat pesto, cream sauce, and avocados?!? And most recipes for hummus and baba gannouj I've ever seen contain a goodly amount of olive oil, and it's kind of hard to make a risotto without butter or oil. And what's this business about her thinking cauliflower has no nutritional value?!? It's actually high in vitamin C, a fair source of iron, and one of those cruciferous vegetables touted by health authorities as helping to prevent cancer. Also, I can't help noticing that a lot of the vegetables she rejects as having bad taste, smell, and/or texture are those that are legitimately nasty in their canned versions, and that often become nasty when overcooked to death as still happens in many American households. Did your wife grow up in a family that served such abused vegetables? That might have a lot to do with her aversions. This at least is actually a bit more understandable. Lots of kids have still-developing digestive systems that are more highly sensitive to spices and strong flavors than adults. And it also has to do with exposure--kids in places like India with highly-spiced cuisines not only grew up with such food from the git-go, but experienced spices through their mothers during pregnancy and nursing, so their digestive systems are primed to handle them.
  2. Y'know, somehow this has me even a little more concerned that your wife's apparently illogical reactions against fats. For the typical person who's deep into the low-fat eating thing, vegetables are usually their best friends and allies. Are there any vegetables she really *does* like to eat? Frankly, it's beginning to sound like it's not just an issue of wanting to eat "healthy," however we might question the logic behind that, but of some more complex issues about food altogether. I've had some friends with very specific food aversions--they're typically deep-seated, usually learned really early, and not really subject to logic. With most it's just one or two foods that are deeply loathed, though I do have at least one friend for whom it's easier to list the foods she will eat as opposed to the ones she won't. I even have one such aversion myself--I, who have been known to eat just about anything. I loathe canned tomato soup. I dunno why. Hated it since I was a kid. Color, smell, texture, all make me want to go *ick*. I love tomato anything else. Fresh, cooked, salsa, name it. I even love home-made tomato-based soups. But get that Campbell's out of my face and back on the wall where it belongs. But the thing is, I'm not likely to starve or get beri-beri due to a lack of Campbell's in my life. Your wife may be making you crazy with her non-logical reaction to fats, but as she's eating sour cream and such her diet isn't lacking in them (though there's still some question there about your wife's concept of what's a healthy vs. unhealthy fat, with her rejection of olive oil and such). Not getting enough of the nutrition offered by vegetables, though, is a bit more troubling. As is leaning on pre-packaged foods, even if they came from the health food store (as others have already pointed out). Especially when one is dieting, shortchanging oneself on good nutrition is a recipe for getting oneself very very sick. I know, I've also been through some extremely kooky diets, and I can tell you it is Not Pretty. I really do feel your wife might benefit from a consultation with a *good* nutritionist. Said nutritionist may wind up saying a lot of the same things you're trying to get through to her, but y'know, it's like the "consultant as witchdoctor" effect: sometime it takes an outsider with a fancy credential to lend credibility to the (already-existing) message.
  3. Given those constraints, I'm afraid you're really not going to win this one--especially given constraint #1. Above all, it's like they say about therapy: the person has to *want* to change. If your folks don't see the coffee as a problem in the first place, they're just not gonna do anything about it, no matter how many suggestions and even gifts of good coffee that you give them. Family--ya gotta love 'em ...
  4. I'm not totally sure what size a racquetball is, but a quick googling suggested they're about 2 inches in diameter, which I would not consider a "small" beet. Marian Morash (Victory Garden Cookbook, my go-to book for vegetables), suggests the following categories for beet sizes: Baby beets: 1 inch and under Small beets: 1 to 1 1/2 inches Medium beets: 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches Large beets: 2 1/2 inches and over The smaller the beets, the more tender and more delicately-flavored they will be. Conversely, the bigger (and older) they are, the greater their tendency towards strong off-flavors and woody texture. Personally, I try to stick with beets no larger than 1 1/2 inches in diameter. By the way, Morash's prefered oven-cooked beet method is as follows (and her comments provide some insight--or at least another set of opinions!--on the temp/time questions): "Trim and wash whole beets, leaving skins on. Put beets into an ovenproof pan, cover, and bake at 300 [deg F] until tender. Count on 1 hour for 1 1/2 inch beets. Beets cook best at a low temperature, but when you're baking other dishes at a higher temperature, such as 350 or 375, add approximately 1/4 inch water and check occasionally to make sure the water doesn't evaporate ... High-temperature roasting of beets without water results in a richer, almost charred flavor." Oh yeah, I'm not remembering whether this has already been brought up, but I find that when you trim beets, it's good to leave about an inch of green-stems on. If you cut the stems off completely, they'll bleed beet juice like crazy--which in addition to the mess potential, means the beets are losing liquid content, in other words drying out. Which is another reason why high-temp roasting of beets needs to be done carefully, because they can dry out and become unpleasant. I think it's also why so many beet "roasting" methods involve covering them or wrapping them in foil--not so much because the goal is to actually cook them by steam, but more as a way to retain their moisture rather than drying out. (edited to fix tyops )
  5. mizducky

    Dinner disasters

    Well, it would have been a total disaster if I hadn't managed to rescue the situation almost in spite of myself, but my first attempt at cooking for a crowd was at least a disaster to my nerves and stomach lining. I volunteered to supervise the end-of-season recognition dinner for a community chorus I used to sing with. The church hall they regularly used for this dinner as well as rehearsals had a big kitchen equiped with big restaurant-quality appliances, so I figured no sweat--even though I had little experience in using them. I was also blissfully naive about the logistics of scaling up for large groups--like, how large quanities of food can take exponentially loooooonger to heat up and to cook. (All you pros out there can feel free to snicker at me now... ) Anyway, I'd had what I thought was this brilliant idea of serving a baked potato bar with various toppings, and of course was totally blind-sided by the physics of getting all these potatoes baked off in time. I think I naively assumed that restaurant-grade ovens would have the muscle and BTUs to come up to temp and deal with it, but no ... (okay, pros, you don't have to snicker quite that loud ... ) Fortunately, the compulsive streak that makes me always show up hyper-early for things rescued my naive ol' butt--I got to the kitchen early, put in all those taters, noticed pretty soon that the ovens were taking forever, and began with increasing anxiety to jack up the temp. I did succeed in getting the taters all just *barely* cooked enough to serve the dinner only a tiny bit late, and managed to not submit anyone to either an under-cooked or over-scorched potato. But man, was I ever a gibbering basket-case by the time that evening was over. I've cooked large-group dinners since then, but thankfully have gotten a whole lot smarter about the matter.
  6. You're a better person than I am, Gunga Din. If I'd been forced to see folks that behaved like that as often as you did, they may well have not stayed alive, because I might have been tempted into killing them.
  7. Beets are yet another one of those vegetables that taste a whole lot better fresh than they do when preprocessed (whether canned or otherwise). They are also yet another one of those vegetables that, even when fresh, have traditionally been mishandled by a lot of cooks, such that a lot of folks grew up thinking they were irredeemably awful--whereas it really was the cooking method that was awful. It's crucial to throw out all your memories of beets as prepared by school lunchrooms, beets out of cans, beets overcooked to death by a well-meaning family member, overly sweetened pickled beets--just disregard all those kinds of previous experiences. When you start with fresh beets and handle them correctly--basically, cook them just until tender and no more, properly seasoned but without *any* added sugar--they are some of the yummiest things in the world. Edited to add: don't mind me--I have a friend from the Midwest whose mother believed in cooking vegetables to death, and so hated most vegetables, and in the process of deprogramming her from her childhood post-traumatic stress re: vegetables I became a bit of a freaky-geek about the whole thing.
  8. Yeah, it's not just the quantity of bacon, but also the quality. Not to mention the lame Wonder-style bread. And he didn't even bother to toast the bread--no wonder it disintegrated Now if I were going to assemble a Bacon Overdose sandwich--not that I'm planning to, mind you, but if I were--I'd go with some high-quality thick-sliced pork product, probably on a toasted French or Italian loaf sliced in half lengthwise, well-lined with mayo and lettuce to prevent leakthrough. A pound-plus of bacon distributed across an entire Italian loaf is still pretty excessive, but at least the excess is diluted over a larger acreage of carbohydrate/larger number of servings. (Erm ... actually, depending on what time of month it is, this concept might not always look so over-the-top to me ... where did that PMS food cravings thread get to, anyway? )
  9. A roasted egg is one of the traditional items on the Passover seder plate. See here for more info.
  10. Y'know, I have mixed feelings about the whole "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome" flap. I can buy that a lot of it was overblown, and that at least some of it was motivated by fear of "exotic" foods ... But still ... when I was a kid, my folks took us out for dinner fairly frequently, and I swear it was only after dinners at the local Chinese restaurant that my brother and I both fell sound asleep in the back seat of the car on the way home. After dinners at other places, yeah we'd be full, and a *little* lethargic because of that, but still had more than enough energy to be obnoxious to each other, as siblings in the back seat will do ("Mom! He's hitting me!" ). Under normal circumstances, my brother and I would *never* curl up next to each other peacefully, as we always did when being driven home from the China Pearl. It was such a remarkable departure from our usual behavior, I used to wonder about it even as a kid--why did Chinese food make me so sleepy? It wasn't until years afterward that I started hearing the rumors about MSG's alleged side-effects. Plus, hell, I was six or seven years old at the time this was happening--while I may have been inquisitive enough to go "hmmmm...", what the heck did I know or care about additives in food back then? So I think in my case I can eliminate the possibility of some "placebo effect" with regard to these dinners that put me to sleep. To be sure, there could be any number of other explanations for this phenomenon--for all I know, the chef of that little Chinese restaurant may have just had a heavy hand with the naturally-occuring glutamates (soy etc.). But ... there it is, for whatever it's worth, an admittedly highly annecdotal data point for your consideration.
  11. I haven't been, myself, but my Seattle tea-fancying friends swear by the afternoon tea at the Queen Mary in Wedgewood. My favorite teahouse in Seattle was the Kuan Yin, but that place, while IMO excellent, is not going for the British feel--it's more an all-round gourmet tea establishment with a decidedly new-agey feel (it's within a block or three of a major naturopathic training school, a number of whose students and staff seem to find their way over there). Or if you really want to go for the gusto, you could always take your folks on the boat up to Victoria BC for afternoon tea at the Empress Hotel. That I have done, and it's fabulous, as is all of Victoria. (Save time for the BC Museum if you go.)
  12. The fricassee would be a good candidate to either cook or serve (or both) in the crock pot--that's why it came to my mind. One less thing to take up burner space on your stovetop.
  13. I was intrigued when I discovered that mushrooms and kombu were among the many foods rich in naturally-occuring glutamates. No wonder they turn up in so many recipes as flavor-enhancers. It's not like I'm all that achtung in avoiding refined ingredients per se, but still I prefer my glutamates "packaged" in foodstuffs that bring a bunch of other nutritional/aesthetic values to a dish besides their glutamate content. In other words, given a choice between a plateful of sauteed mushrooms and a spoonful of MSG crystals, I know which one I'd rather chow down on.
  14. My aunt in Brooklyn used to make a huge pot of chicken fricassee whenever she had the extended family over her house. It was always a favorite with everyone, and had the advantage of being a relatively low-impact dish that could be made ahead, could stand up to reheating, and could stretch to feed a crowd. When I grew up enough to hear about French and American-southern fricassees, I did wonder about the Jewishness of my aunt's dish. But apparently, at least according to the notes to this recipe, versions of fricassee have been kicking around American Jewish households for a long time. My aunt's recipe was a little more like this one, with meatballs in addition to chicken. P.S. You didn't mention if you had a crockpot available--that might help with the cooking/serving of this big spread you're planning.
  15. Hey, if we're gonna branch out into non-human "offspring" ... A roommate of mine when we were both in our twenties had a huge cat named Catsup - usually deliberately mispronounced as "Cat-soup." Catsup bore such a strong resemblance to the cats drawn by B. Kliban that I soon started calling him Meatloaf a la the Kliban definition of "cat" ("one hell of a nice animal, frequently mistaken for a meatloaf"), and the alternate name stuck. Another cat in my life I named Orange Julius because of his markings: he was a gorgeous little orange-tabby-point Siamese, and his non-point body fur was the most amazing shade of pale orange. Only kind of food-related: Orange Julius also had a nickname bestowed on him by my brother (he has a knack for it)--Agent Orange, on account of this cat's propensity for defoliating all my mom's houseplants. Oh, and another cat of mine was named Jimmy Dean, the Rebel Without A Clue--but that was equal parts reference to the actor and the sausage-maker.
  16. Oh dear. My first time stumbling across this thread. Tuna colada. Oh dear. Confessions from my own misspent youth: I was one of a small cadre of high school marching band members who would smuggle booze into the football games--I took some perverse pride in being the one who suggested pouring the contraband into an empty green gingerale bottle, and being the one to do the buy at a local convenience store that never carded anyone. Our tipple of choice was this nasty pre-mixed screwdriver concoction called "Tango" -- as the name suggests, it tasted as if it had been made with Tang. There was of course all the usual misguided hijinks with Boones Farm psuedo-fruit-flavored nonsense. The best bad-drink story from my college days was actually a non-booze fake-out. Some friends and I were responsible for throwing a dorm-wide dance party, and despite having bought several half-gallons of cheap vodka with which to make punch, we'd run out of the booze with an hour of party still to go. So we mix up a punchbowl full of the punch base sans booze (the base was admittedly pretty vile to start with--an overly-sweet concoction containing rainbow sherbet among other things). We set the punchbowl out on the refreshment table, and then one of our number goes parading out, ostentatiously bearing one of the previously-emptied half-gallon vodka bottles, now filled with plain tapwater. Having succeeded in getting the attention of everyone in the hall, he pours the entire half-gallon into the punchbowl. The crowds descended on said punchbowl like rabid animals--some of them actually started behaving as if the stuff was getting them off. Meanwhile we're secretly laughing our butts off. This became one of the high-points in the history of my little college posse.
  17. At some point in our childhoods, my little brother got into teasingly calling me "Ellen Ellen Watermelon." I hated it. It was in college when the nickname "Ducky" was hung on me. My brother was actually responsible for that one too. I liked it a helluva lot more than his previous effort, and that nickname in some form or other has stuck to me ever since. And yes, I am a figurative cannibal in that I adore duck. (Hmmm ... overdue for a roast duckling adventure ... have to see about rectifying that ... ) Off on a tangent: the family lore is that my very first spoken words were "apple pie" ... closely followed by "pizza pie." Food fascination obviously started way early.
  18. Vegetarian (mainly potato) pakoras from a local Indian takeout joint. (Their eggplant bharta and mutter paneer didn't turn me on quite so much, though their naan was quite good, with a lot of nice char from the tandoor. Next time I'll know to choose more stuff out of the tandoor.)
  19. Heh. Noting that you did say you'd already checked out DeLaurenti's ... How about Borracchini's down on Rainier Ave.? I confess that I have not personally tried any of their cured meats, nor have any idea who makes them (when I lived in Seattle I mainly went there to get cakes--their carrot cake is IMO to die for). But I do recall their deli department doing a land-office business whenever I went in there.
  20. A true tribute to his Seattle roots. ← Shorts in Seattle? I'd think rubber boots before shorts. ← I'm here to personally attest to the propensity of a certain segment of the Seattle population for wearing Batali-esque shorts year-round, regardless of what the weather is doing. The year-round Seattle shorts-wearers tend to be male, in the twenty-to-thirty-something age range, and given to a certain post-grunge skateboarder look, which look includes those baggy quasi-knee-length shorts, often paired with interesting footwear (though I'd not seen anyone sporting orange clogs a la Batali--more often it would be interesting technical/hiking shoes, old-school Converse "Chuck Taylor" high-tops, or Tevas with socks). I used to see at least a couple of fellow Microsofties in such shorts all the time when I was taking that interminable bus commute across Lake Washington to deepest darkest Redmond. It really is a Seattle thing, and it makes me smile every time I see Mario rockin' that look. Edited to add: Simul-posts R Us.
  21. Oh god. It is to weep. And onion board! Good lord, I think it's been a decade or more since I've had some of that.
  22. I used to do a whole lot more home cooking, even when it was just for myself. But nowadays I have to deal with tempermental joint problems that often flare up with little warning, plus an erratic work schedule, such that I'm often too rushed, too tired, or plain old too achey to cook anything more complicated than pasta or at most an omelette ... or to just order takeout. However, this past weekend was my big fried chicken experiment, so guess what I ate off-and-on this entire past weekend, and yesterday too--buk buk buk! And today for brunch/blunch, I made a simple cheese omelette.
  23. Fortunately, Brown has found a way to wad a huge amount of hard-core cooking-geek info into an entertaining package, or else, yeah, I'd figure the Food Network marketers would have found his show too brainy for their prime-time infotainment concept well before now. That, and he's won a couple of prizes ... and he's demonstrated via Iron Chef America his willingness to play the more purely food-entertainment game with FN too ... Okay, I am completely and totally speculating here, but can't help wondering if there was some kind of quid-pro-quo: "Hey Alton, do ICA and we'll be sure to renew your Good Eats contract." Far-fetched? I dunno. Maybe I just have a naturally suspicious mind.
  24. Not only is celery root excellent, but that bit of the root/stalk convergence always left at the bottom of a bunch of celery to keep it from falling apart is similarly excellent. If you like celery and/or celery root flavor, don't let that celery bunch base go to waste! I usually wind up just cleaning it up a bit and eating it raw as a "cook's reward" snack, but it's also good diced up in anything for which you'd use the stalks or the root proper. And that Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray is the best, innit? The beverage of choice with a big ol' Katz' Deli sandwich. (Okay, now I've made myself food-homesick again... )
  25. And while we're at it ... I haven't had a bialy in so long, it's criminal. Whereas bagels--even the current bastardized psuedo-bagels--have made it out of New York and gone nationwide, apparently no enterpreneur has yet been so motivated to similarly franchise the bialy. This is good, to the extent that bialys have yet to be bastardized beyond recognition. But it also means I have to wait till my next visit to the New York Metro area to sink my teeth into that chewy flour-dusted goodness (if bagels are supposed to "fight back some," as Lawrence Block is paraphrased above, bialys could then be said to fight back lots and leave your jaw knowing it had a workout). Or maybe I could whimper to my brother in Manhattan to ship me some in his next care package. (Was inspired to try and Google what San Diego considers the best bagel in town. Turned up several references for Einstein's and Bruegger's. <shudder> Someone please tell me there's something better in this town ... though if the doughy pseudo-bagels are storming even New York, I may be ready to abandon hope... it's like the invasion of the pod-people or something. )
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