Friday, October 29, 2010

Saveur: Turkey in Poblano Mole

It still seems a bit too early to talk about Thanksgiving recipe ideas, but the November Saveur came yesterday... and I was surprisingly excited by their turkey section... so here we are. I was planning on making cassoulet again (though Bourdain's recipe) this year, but then I saw this turkey in poblano mole recipe by Rick Bayless... and I think I'm in love. Just making the mole sounds incredibly complex, involved, and excruciatingly detailed with tons of ingredients... which is exactly what I'm looking for when I've got multiple days devoted to cooking something awesome. I'll once again be the only meat eater this year though, so I've got to figure out if I can halve it or something. I would assume they don't sell half of  a "skin on boneless turkey breast"...  but I've never looked... I guess I could just go with turkey thighs instead. Hmmm.

Happy Birthday to Anna!

Sources claim she is turning 29 AGAIN this year. Remarkable!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pressure Cooker Beef Bourguignon

Pressure Cooker Beef Bourguignon

So another pressure cooker recipe from Pressure Cooking for Everyone... being a stew served on a bed of something starchy, it isn't even that visually distinct from the last one (though I would argue this is a significantly better photo)... and be warned, I've got an additional pressure cooking cookbook from the library that I want to test drive, so you'll be seeing this type of posts for a while yet I suspect. However, I do understand that this topic is only useful to people who own (or are looking for reasons to own) a pressure cooker, so I'll try to interject some single atmosphere cooking in between explorations of stews on starch and fifteen varieties of pressure cooked risottos (not that bad I hope, but I make no promises).

Before I get to the ingredients and directions for the recipe, I did want to air out one pet peeve I have about pressure cooking cookbooks... including Pressure Cooking for Everyone... in that they tend to focus solely on the "time under pressure" when mapping out how long a recipe is going to take. I suppose it's not a lot different from "30 minute recipes" where they completely ignore any prep time, but giving the time the recipe is going to be under pressure doesn't really communicate much of anything about how long before you can get the meal on the table... and obviously some of this occurs in many a traditional cookbook as well, but I think it  is most egregious in pressure cooking, where it seems the authors are bound and determined to give the impression that you could bang out beef bourguignon in a pressure cooker as quickly as you could bake a frozen pizza. However, with a 15 minute prep, browning the meat in batches (say 5 minutes), sauteeing the mushrooms and other veggies (another 5),  getting the cooker up to pressure (5-10 minutes), the pressure cooking itself (20 minutes), and finally defatting the cooking liquid and making the sauce (10 minutes)... a "20 minutes at high pressure" recipe took about an hour to make. Now, there's nothing wrong with that, and an hour in the kitchen is about what I expect making a real dinner on a weeknight... but I don't know why there is such an effort to be misleading about the cooking times. Isn't the fact that I can make fantastic beef bourguignon in an hour start to finish amazing enough? It's gotta be something on the order of 2-3 hours for every "normal" recipe I've ever seen...  so why oversell it?

So that's my mini-rant and warning to prospective pressure cooker owners... don't get fooled by "time at pressure" into thinking you can whip up beef stew in thirty minutes... but that said, high pressure cooking does give you some pretty sweet weeknight dinner options that would be otherwise unimaginable.

So finally, let's move on to the recipe itself, that regardless of timing came out wonderfully:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 bacon strips, coarsely chopped (Tip:  freeze the bacon for 15-20 minutes before chopping)
  • 3 pounds beef bottom round, cut into 1.5" chunks
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 10 ounces button mushrooms, quartered
  • 4 medium carrots, cut into 1" lengths
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots (2 medium)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup hearty red wine, like Zinfandel or Merlot
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick), at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  1. In a 5-7 quart pressure cooker, heat the oil over medium heat. Fry the bacon until crisp and browned, about 5 minutes, and then drain on paper towels (reserve). Pour all but one tablespoon of the fat out of the cooker and into a bowl (reserve).
  2. Return the cooker and fat to medium-high heat. In batches, adding reserved bacon fat as needed, brown the beef, turning occasionally, about 4 minutes. Transfer the beef to a plate and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Add another tablespoon of bacon fat (or olive oil if you're out) and reduce the heat to medium. Add and cook the mushrooms, carrots, shallots, and garlic, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms soften, about 5 minutes. Add the wine, bring to a boil, and deglaze the pot by scrapping up the browned bits with a wooden spoon. Stir in broth and tomato paste and then return the beef and any accumulated juices to the pot.
  4. Lock the lid and bring the cooker to pressure over high heat. Adjust the heat to maintain pressure and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and quick release the pressure and then open the lid away from you to block any escaping steam. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the meat and vegetables to a serving bowl/plate and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.
  5. Add in the reserved bacon, and let the cooking liquid stand for 5 minutes before skimming any fat from the surface. Meanwhile, work the butter and flour together into a smooth paste in a medium bowl. Whisk in about a cup of the defatted cooking liquid into the paste as you bring the rest of the cooking liquid to a boil, uncovered, over medium heat. Whisk your thinned paste into the boiling liquid and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened and no trace of raw flour remains...  about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Either pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables to serve, or as I prefer, portion meat and vegetables over a bed of noodles and top with sauce individually.
Now, I don't particularly think that defatting a stock/cooking liquid, as laid out in step 5, is at all effective and didn't bother with it... I simply trimmed excess fat off of the bottom round before as I cut it up. However, if you are really concerned about your sauce being too fatty I'd really recommend a fat separator instead of this "cooling for 5 minutes and skimming" business. It costs $15 and it actually works, which is an oft overlooked feature... I would hesitate to ever make gravy without one. Cooling in the fridge to the point the fat starts to solidify also works really well, but is much more time consuming and thus more suited to stocks and the like in my humble opinion.

Regardless, despite all of the niggles I've brought up, I was really happy with how this came out. I really don't see how you could get the same depth of flavor and perfectly done vegetables and meat in anything less than 3 hours without a pressure cooker (see coq au vin). Being able to do it on a weeknight, in an hour, is the absolute best argument for owning one... and I don't really see why you should need another. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tofu Chicharrones

Tofu Chicharrones

Above is one piece of a meal assembled from Viva Vegan!, by Terry Hope Romero... one of the coauthors of Veganomicon (in the running for best cookbook name ever). Viva Vegan! is focused on traditional Latin cooking, a style that has always seemed to me to be strangely underrepresented in meatless/dairyless land, beyond the ubiquitous bean burrito... and Romero addresses that lack quite ably... adapting much more than just Mexican cuisine.

The tofu chicharrones pictured were meant as part of the filling for pupusas we made a few weeks ago, but they were so good by themselves I thought they deserved a standalone post. Plus, it was a complicated enough meal that if I didn't break it down into more manageable pieces I was never going to post it. 

Chicharrones were completely new to me... and thus I cannot comment on any kind of authenticity issues... but it's vegan anyway, so you know anything genuinely authentic about it is going to be for a given (large) value of "fake"... I doubt there are many cooks in Latin America substituting tofu for pork belly... but whatever, it's chewy, smoky, greasy and good. I haven't done much with frozen tofu before... Anna has been in a phase of not bothering with it since we started cooking together... and I have to say it's pretty neat how the texture changes.

As just mentioned, this requires frozen tofu, so if you don't have any already in the freezer you'll have to stick some in the night before. If you do already have said frozen tofu, you can let it defrost in the fridge until you are ready for it.

  • 1 pound firm tofu
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • l tablespoons liquid smoke
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons agave syrup
  • Peanut oil for frying
  • Kosher salt 
  1. Freeze entire package of tofu overnight. The next day, remove the package from the freezer and place it a bowl of warm water to thaw. When thawed... it can take several hours, especially if you aren't good about changing the warm water regularly... drain the tofu, remove it from the package, and cut into 1/4" slices. It will look something like this:
  2. Frozen Tofu
  3. Layer the tofu slices between paper towels and place a folded kitchen towel on top. Place a plate on top of the tofu with a heavy can or two and press the tofu for at least thirty minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, in a large plastic container with a lid, mix together soy sauce, liquid smoke, crushed garlic, vinegar, and agave syrup. Tear up the pressed tofu into 1/4" or smaller pieces like so:
  5. Torn to pieces
  6. Admire how bereft of water that pressed tofu is: the better to soak up a marinade! Add the pieces to the container with the marinade, cover, and shake vigorously to coat the tofu. Set aside for 15 minutes, but come back occasionally to shake the container a little more.
  7. In a heavy bottom skillet, heat about a 1/2" of peanut oil over medium heat. The oil is hot enough when a piece of tofu sizzles instantly and browns within 30 seconds.
  8. Fry in generous 1/2 cup increments, using a slotted metal spatula to turn and occasionally press the tofu pieces. Remove the tofu to a plate lined with paper towels once the pieces are golden brown with crisped edges... about a minute or two (at most) for each batch. Salt to taste.
As mentioned, we used tofu chicharrones with some refried black beans as a filling for pupusas, and I imagine they would do just as well as a filling for anything from tacos to burritos. They'd also be great, I'd bet, just mixed into some beans... and frankly, they are so good I liked just munching on them as a snack. Totally worth making if you are a vegetarian or vegan... especially if you've not really done much with frozen tofu, as the technique is worth exploring... but I think it will be eyeopening to meat eaters (like me) as well. No, it doesn't taste like fried pork belly, but the possibilities of using tofu prepared in this way is worth appreciating in its own right.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bill Clinton a vegan... sometimes.

A pretty interesting article on the "Bill Clinton Ate Here" effect abroad, has the following tidbit:
For health reasons, he is a vegan these days, and during recent travels on behalf of Democratic candidates his diet has included miso barley soup, black bean burritos and cauliflower and potato curry, typically prepared by a member of his entourage. Overseas, however, he’s been know to stray.

“He had the filet mignon last time he was here, four months ago,” says Javier Blázquez, the son of the owner of Casa Lucio. “The doctors tell him not to eat it, but he does anyway.”
As they say, read the whole thing.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Making gnocchi out of cheese?

I can't say they look super appetizing, but it's certainly an interesting idea from Bittman.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Moon Only Vaguely Irritating Mistress?

There be water in that there dirt:
NASA announced its groundbreaking discovery of lunar water last November. Now, a more detailed analysis of the data—the subject of six research papers being published in the journal Science—concludes that there is a lot more water on the moon than anyone expected, about twice the concentrations seen in the Sahara Desert.
Start planning your vacations now!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

How to Make Homemade Mustard

Hank Shaw at The Atlantic:
The famous Grey Poupon mustard—Dijon has been a center of mustard-making for nearly a millennium now—is traditionally made with stone-ground brown mustard and verjus, the tart juice of unripe grapes. I prefer this style of mustard, and most of my homemade mustards are grainy like Dijon. I grind my seeds with a spice grinder, but you could get all old-school and use a mortar and pestle.

The best mustards, in my opinion, combine brown or black mustard seeds with white mustard powder: The two sets of chemical reactions complement each other and make a more complex mustard.
Much more (including recipe) at the link. Personally, I would indeed "get all old school."

Cooking Science at Harvard

With all the hype molecular gastronomy, techniques like sous vide, and concepts like Cooking for Engineers have gathered lately, it shouldn't be surprising when somebody approaches cooking from a scientific prospective... but I admit I rose an eyebrow when I heard about Harvard's new course:
..."From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science", an undergraduate course that uses the kitchen to convey the basics of physics and chemistry, a most unusual Ivy League approach to science.

Each Thursday, David A. Weitz, a physics professor, or Michael P. Brenner, a professor of applied mathematics, covers the science concepts. On the following Tuesday, one of a select group of top chefs, some well versed in kitchen technology — like Wylie Dufresne, of WD-50 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, or Grant Achatz, of Alinea in Chicago — talks about cooking techniques that illustrate the science.
So what is it? A gimmick to allow Harvard to leech some of the cultivated cool of celebrity chefs? A clever way to get poli-sci and history majors to experience laboratory science? Probably a little of both, but I know I'd love to take it. But besides the slight problem of not being a Harvard student, it seems chances would be slim regardless:
Nearly 700 students wanted to enroll. By lottery, 300 got in.
Oh, Top Chef... is there anything you can't do?

If you're curious, here is the first lecture... the first 20 minutes are about the structure of the course, then Harold McGee comes on:

Looks like all the lectures will be on YouTube, so we can all follow along at home.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pressure Cooker Ropa Vieja with Saffron Rice

Old Clothes

While Anna has been diligently making beans, risottos, and soups in the pressure cooker we purchased last winter, I can't say I ever completely caught the pressure cooking bug. Alton Brown's Chili was quite good, but other than that, I had yet to find a recipe to make in it that seemed very exciting. Part of that is due to my attraction to very...  uhm... "ornate"... recipes with lots of precise steps, whereas a pressure cooker is more oriented towards speed and simplicity. But I think the main issue has been not taking a step back and realizing what a pressure cooker excels at. You don't need a pressure cooker to make asparagus. Sure, you can make it in a pressure cooker, but there is no compelling reason why you should. It takes just as long to cook as any other method at your disposal and you're at the disadvantage of not being able to see it while it's cooking... and thus at a much higher risk of ruining it. So if quick cooking vegetables where perfection is a razor's edge balance between "crunchy" and "mush" aren't its strength, what is? Anything that needs long simmering or braising. Soups, stocks, stews, pot roasts, beans, etc. What's similar about all these type of dishes? They use cheaper ingredients but still manage great flavors through long cooking times. Economical and tasty is a great combo, but of course only stay at home parents or people who work at home have any hope of getting a traditionally cooked pot roast on the table for a 7pm weeknight dinner. Enter the pressure cooker.

This recipe is from Pressure Cooking for Everyone by Rick Rodgers and Arlene Ward, is a fairly simple Cuban style pot roast called "ropa vieja" or "old clothes" in Spanish... due to the strips of veggies that resemble tattered fabric. You'll want to serve this with white rice made with a pinch of saffron in the cooking liquid. Since the chuck steak is two dollars and change per pound, that pinch of saffron might be the most expensive part of the whole dish. I'm not generally an olive/capers kind of guy (I keep trying, but it's just not working out), however I thought they worked really well here. Anyway, here is the ingredient list and directions:

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 lbs (3/4" thick) beef chuck steaks, cut into 4 to 6 pieces
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 1/2" strips
  • 1 medium carrot, cut into 1/2" rounds
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded, cut into 1/2" strips
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
  • 28 oz can of whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup chopped pimiento stuffed green olives
  • 2 tablespoons bottled capers, rinsed
  1. In a 5 or 7 quart pressure cooker, heat the oil over medium heat. Next brown the chuck steak on both sides in batches, about 4 minutes per batch. Transfer to a plate and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Add onion, carrot, bell pepper, and garlic to the pot and cook until the veggies are softened, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add tomatoes, stock, oregano, and cinnamon and use a wooden spoon to deglaze the cooker (i.e. scrape up the brown bits). Return the beef and any accumulated juices to the pressure cooker.
  4. Lock the lid onto place and bring up to high pressure over high heat. Adjust the heat to maintain pressure and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and quick release the pressure, being sure to shield your face with the lid from escaping steam when you remove it. Transfer meat to a serving platter and cover with foil.
  5. Let the cooking liquid stand for 5 minutes and then skim any fat off the surface. Add the olives and capers and cook, uncovered, over high heat until the mixture has thickened slightly, 3 to 5 minutes. Pour the sauce over the meat and serve with saffron rice.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tailgating: Sausage, Peppers, and Onions

Getting Ready to Tailgate
I went to the Ravens/Patriots game this Sunday with a friend who was enjoying his first year of season tickets. My dad shares season tickets to Orioles games so I've taken him down to Baltimore to see the Red Sox destroy the Orioles a few times, so he thought that the opportunity to watch the Ravens play the Pats would be a good return of the favor. Of course he didn't say anything about the Pats beating my Ravens in overtime, but c'est la vie.

We both agreed that tailgating would be fun...  something I've never done before... so he purchased a relatively inexpensive portable gas grill, and I went about looking for a suitable recipe for tailgating. What I settled on is half recipe of something I've tried with good success on a full size grill: sausage, peppers, and onions. The basic idea is to put some partially cooked onions (microwaved) into a disposable little foil pan and layer on your peppers and sausages... then you cover with foil and cook the whole package on the grill to render some of the sausage fat into the onions before finishing the sausages and peppers directly on the grill. It's nice to keep everything in one package and most portable grills aren't going to have a separate burner for cooking the onions (though my friend's did). The following is adapted from a Cook's Illustrated recipe (sub required).
  • 1 large white onion, halved and cut pole to pole into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 medium green peppers, seeded and cut into 1/2" strips
  • 1 lb of sweet or hot Italian fresh sausages (4-6 links)
  • Hoagie Buns
  • Small disposable pan, small enough to fit on your little grill but big enough to hold everything
The night before:
  1. Combine onions, salt, and pepper in medium microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high power until onions begin to soften and tips turn slightly translucent, 4 to 6 minutes, stirring once halfway through cooking (be careful of steam).
  2. Let the onions cool, and then transfer them to the disposable roasting pan. Place sausages and peppers in single layer over onions and wrap roasting pan tightly with foil. Put pan in the refrigerator until you're ready to leave.
At the tailgate:
  1. Heat up your grill for 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Place roasting pan in center of grill and cook 15 minutes. Move pan to one side of grill and carefully remove foil cover. Using tongs, place sausages and peppers directly on grate. Grill sausages, covered, turning every 1 to 2 minutes, until golden brown on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes. Grill pepper pieces, turning once, until charred patches form, 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Transfer sausages and peppers to platter and loosely tent with foil.
  4. Continue cooking onions, stirring occasionally, until liquid evaporates and onions begin to brown, 5 to 10 minutes longer.
  5. Toast your buns. Serve sausages on buns topped with peppers and onions.
Obviously, those times are approximate on the grill. I started pulling the pepper pieces off as they got nice char marks and just threw them in the pan with the onions. You also might prefer thicker slices of the peppers... the original recipe called for quartering the peppers... so they are easier to handle and don't risk falling through the grate, but then what do you do with those giant pepper pieces? Cut 'em up after, I guess?

Anyway, a nice and tasty recipe that's pretty easy to execute on a windy and blustery day with a beer in your hand.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Champlain North Ridge Trail (Formerly Bear Brook Trail)

What was I saying about the wind?

EveryTrail Hike Link

EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in Acadia National Park

This is the hike we did on Columbus Day weekend. We had planned on a longer 5.2 mile out and back hike that would have taken us to The Bowl, but it was just too cold, overcast, and windy to make that idea appealing. The weather doesn't always cooperate with your vacation plans, especially in Maine. Still, it was a nice hike. North Ridge Trail/Bear Brook is probably the easiest and least strenuous route to the top of Champlain... so if you're intimidated by Precipice (like me) this is your best bet to take in all those pretty views without fear of falling to your death.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Homemade Pasta

Pasta by Anna, Sauce by Jason
Anna did all the work here on the noodles (though I did make the sauce from fresh tomatoes), but I thought they came out very well. She did one of the versions from Bittman's HTCE but used our 00 flour. It was somewhat shocking how thin she was able to get the noodles by running it through the machine three times as instructed (maybe a little too thin actually). Anyway, it's easier than you think and seems worth doing... we've had the pasta machine gathering dust in our cabinet for years now, so it was a very good thing Anna broke it out and had a lot of fun making the fettuccine. Now that I've seen it done, maybe I can help next time and we can try a filled pasta or something else more exotic.

EDIT: Whoops! Photo back.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

MacBook Pro Challenge Update

Sadly, it looks like I'm falling short of my $500 price point goal... screwed up mainly by the cost of monitor and a copy of Windows 7... which cost over $200 all by themselves. But even if we exclude those costs... which isn't really fair to be honest... it would still cost probably $600-700 to construct a desktop that would exceed a $2000 MacBook Pro from my quick lunchtime perusal of Newegg. Sow while I could construct a pretty decent computer for $500, it would be more like a grand to reach expensive Apple laptop standards when you factor in all costs.  So off by a factor of two in my guesstimate, but in my defense when I upgrade my own computer I don't need to buy things like a monitor, keyboard, mouse, or copy of Windows. Here's a parts list (that doesn't include those things) that I put together quickly:

Shuttle Barebone System
i5 2.8 GHz quad core
4 GBs of memory
GeForce GT 240 512MB
Western Digital 500GB 7200 RPM HDD
24x DVD Burner

Which clocks in at $670.74. Not too shabby. The video card is fairly pedestrian and budget oriented, but from benchmarks I could find at a glance, it looks like it would blow the doors off the GT 330M in the MacBook. If Anna wants to do this for real I'd probably stay away from the "barebones" system and look for some combo deals to get a case, power supply, and motherboard... save some money and get better quality parts... but the small form factor is nice.

Freezing Coffee Beans



I told Anna last night that I could build her a computer that performs better than a MacBook Pro for $500. Now I need to see if that boast is accurate. The conversation that led to this declaration was precipitated by the fact that, with the release of Cataclysm, WoW will no longer support her aging PowerPC. Can't really be too hard on Blizzard there, since not even Apple supports her aging PowerPC, but it still sucks.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Marinated Queso Fresco

Marinated Queso Fresco
There was some worry that the queso fresco would be too mild and thus overpowered by the flavor of the herbs, but I did not find that to be the case. In fact, I thought I probably should have used more sliced cayenne peppers to make the element of spiciness more noticeable... but the cheese is great with just with some nice bread (we bought a wonderful semolina loaf from Chase's). I can't wait to use the oil tossed with some noodles once the cheese is all gone. If you're curious to try it (and you should be!), David Lebovitz's recipe for marinated feta can be found here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Chase's Daily, Belfast ME

Whenever we're "down east" in Maine we make a point of hitting Chase's Daily, in Belfast (technically "mid coast" I believe, but close enough), either for Saturday lunch or Sunday brunch. Chase's is both a vegetarian cafe, and the front end to a local farm, so while you wait to be seated you can peruse some pretty gorgeous produce.

Potatoes and Tomatoes

Nice, huh? This is probably one of the last batches of tomatoes I'll see... I'm not going to be back up for another few weeks and so I suspect it'll be mostly potatoes and squash by then.


I like to look at what's available before we sit down... so we can figure out what we want to make for dinner... and then pick up what we need on the way out. On this particular trip we had already decided what we were making that evening, so those sexy tomatillos up top didn't call me like they normally would.


At the height of summer it's probably more advisable to grab what you can, when you can, because at the end of a leisurely lunch things can be pretty picked over. If you're eying any of their amazing freshly baked bread you're also going to want to ask them to put it aside for you... since the baguettes and batards can be gone before breakfast is over.

Dining Room

The main dinner area is a quaint cafe area that, while it looks quiet in this picture, can have pretty significant wait times even in the dead of winter... getting there when the produce comes out (around 11 from my experience) seems to me to be the best strategy. [UPDATE: Anna thinks the produce generally is out earlier than 11... regardless, the point is that if you come for lunch at 11 you probably won't wait much for a table, but if you come at 1 you certainly will. Standard "popular restaurant" stuff.]


The food is entirely vegetarian... no meat... but eggs and cheese are involved, so you can still get your Sunday omelet if that's how you roll. Usually there is at least one vegan option... or at least something that can be ordered without dairy... though I don't believe they necessarily guarantee it, they'll at least know what you're talking about if you ask.

As an omnivore, of the innumerable vegetarian places I've eaten, I would have to say that Chase's is my favorite. Even on their special Friday and Saturday night dinners, it's not quite the fine dining experience of a Horizons or an Upstairs on the Square... but it's consistently excellent seasonal and local food that is incredibly tough to beat. They don't try to make vegetarian fare the mimics traditional meat based dishes... no fakin' bacon here... they just cook to get the most out of the freshest and best ingredients, and really, what more can you ask for than that?

Friday, October 8, 2010

URL Updated

I decided to pony up the BIG $10 so that Chimpanzee Tea Party can have its own URL... (shockingly not taken!). I believe the blogspot address will redirect there indefinitely... or, I suppose, until I decide $10 a year could be better used buying a yearly burrito... so there is no need to update your bookmarks or RSS feeds. The only meaningful change is the "Email Me" button over there on the right, which will send email to my account at jwhamner (at) so you can contact me there instead of going through my Blogger profile.

Otherwise, I'm about to head up to Maine for a long weekend, which means no blogging in the new digs for a while... but hopefully we'll cook and hike enough for me to have plenty of material when I get back. Though unfortunately both me and Anna have been recently struck down by the plague, so I make no promises that we'll be super active.

See you Tuesday.

Cooking Myths

I feel like the blog is becoming just a redirect to Food Lab posts... but Kenji's list of six kitchen myths is really good and pretty eye opening to most of us I'd bet. I knew about the "salting beans" one because I'm a Cook's Illustrated guy, but both the "don't need a giant pot of water for pasta" and the "moist cooking method" ones were genuinely surprising to me.

UPDATE: From the comments of the above post comes a very interesting post from the French Culinary Institute's technical guys (bookmarked!) that says you're better off soaking sliced mushrooms in water and cooking them in a very crowded pan! Hurrrrwhaaaa!? I definitely need to try this.

Food52 and New York Times Best Potluck Dishes

I'm not sure I've even ever been to a potluck, so that aspect is a little lost on me... but it's a pretty cool interactive feature that has some nice looking recipes. I've been meaning to try some Food52 recipes so maybe this lovechild between the new and old media is the place to start? I could certainly (unwisely) eat up some braised pork belly.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Dried Herbs

From J. Kenji Lopez-Alt:
Savory herbs that tend to grow in hot, relatively dry climates—like oregano, for instance—have flavor compounds that are relatively stable at high temperatures, and are well-contained within the leaf. They have to be, in order to withstand the high temperatures and lack of humidity in their natural environment. Other arid herbs like rosemary, marjoram, bay leaf, thyme, and sage fare similarly well in the drying process.
Useful information (note the absence of basil)... makes me feel better about using dried herbs in my marinated queso fresco. Click through the above link if you're interested in The Food Lab's take on New York Style pizza sauce.

Marinating Feta Queso Fresco(?)

I saw this post on Serious Eats about marinating Feta cheese with jalapeños (inspired by comments to David Lebovitz's more general Feta marination post) and was quite intrigued...  but I didn't have any Feta... what I had, was a lot of queso fresco wanting to be used . Queso fresco is a Mexican fresh cheese that shares a lot of similarities with Feta in texture and saltiness, but that is quite a bit milder. Will it be overpowered by the spices and peppers? Possibly. But it was worth the (minimal) effort to find out.

I used a fresh cayenne pepper instead of jalapeño... and since we were also low on fresh herbs, I put a couple of sprigs of rosemary in, but the rest of the spicing was accomplished with dried spices like epazote, Mexican oregano, and a dash of aleppo. If I had a lime available in the crisper, I would have used pieces of its peel instead of lemon... to keep with the Mexican thing (OK fine, I know aleppo is from Syria)... however, maybe the theme of this effort would more aptly called "what I had in the fridge" to which the lemon fit admirably.

We'll see how it comes out, but I'm pretty excited to try it.  

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Kimchi Crisis!

Morning after close up
NPR reports on Napa Cabbage shortages in South Korea:
An unusually long stretch of bad weather nearly halved the latest cabbage crop, causing prices to soar. At markets in Seoul, shoppers were up before dawn fighting to buy heads of Napa cabbage that once cost about $4 but now go for as much as $14.

Seeking an immediate substitute, the government temporarily suspended tariffs on Chinese-imported cabbage and other produce this week, part of a plan to rush an additional 100 tons of the staple into supermarkets and stores. The Seoul city government, meanwhile, is providing the busiest markets with 300,000 heads of Napa cabbage at just 70 percent of the market price — enough to feed 10,000 households.
I guess the good news is that there are dozens and dozens of kimchi recipes in South Korea... though I'm pretty sure the most popular are the cabbage based varieties. I don't know how much the failed South Korean crop will affect the price of Napa Cabbage here in the US... South Korea has(had) fairly large tariffs on imported Cabbage... but while I was hoping to make another batch of kimchi this fall, I don't think I want it quite bad enough to pay $14 for a head of cabbage!

Foraging for Television

Am I the only only one who is this way? I don't know. I sort of like foraging for shows. I like to watch television, but I like watching it on my terms, and I'm afraid that if I got cable liquid television would start shooting out of the wall, and thenwhere would we be.
I am equally fearful of cable or satellite television... though I'm not sure I've ever thought of it explicitly in terms of "drowning" it seems a fairly apt metaphor. While I don't bother with bit torrents... if I can't find a show on Hulu or Netflix Instant Watch... I generally don't watch the show. Anna is more devoted to shows she likes, and thus gets DVDs of full seasons to watch... but having a whole disc full of shows that you have to watch on a deadline is way too much pressure for me. I guess I basically view TV shows as something to keep me occupied if there is nothing on the intertoobs... with the notable exceptions of Anthony Bourdain and the original Robotech series (both on Netflix Instant Watch) that I could basically watch all day, every day.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Monkeys Self Aware?

Via Wired:
It was once thought that only humans could pass the mark test. Then chimpanzees did, followed by dolphins and elephants. These successes challenged the notions that humans were alone on one side of a cognitive divide. Many researchers think the notion of a divide is itself mistaken. Instead, they propose a gradual spectrum of cognitive powers, a spectrum crudely measured by mirrors.

Indeed, macaques — including those in Populin’s study — have repeatedly failed the mark test. But after Rajala called attention to their strange behaviors, the researchers paid closer attention. The highly social monkeys only rarely tried to interact with the reflections. They used mirrors to study otherwise-hidden parts of their bodies, such as their genitals and the implants in their heads. Mark tests not withstanding, they seemed quite self-aware.

“I think that these findings show that self-awareness is not an all-or-nothing phenomenon,” said Lori Marino, an Emory University evolutionary neurobiologist who was not involved in the study. “There may be much more of a continuum in self-awareness than we thought before,”

According to Emory University primatologist Frans de Waal, the new findings fit with his work on capuchin monkeys who don’t quite recognize themselves in mirrors, but don’t treat the reflections as belonging to strangers. “As a result, we proposed a gradual scale of self awareness. The piece of intriguing information presented here may support this view,” he said.
I do have to say that stuff like this is why I'd never do science in animal models... at least not primates.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Pizza! Pizza! Pizza! Pizza!

Pizza, Pizza, Pizza, Pizza

Clockwise from top left: Squash and Blue Cheese, Shiitake and Gruyère, Swish Chard and Goat Cheese (awesome), and Oven Roasted Tomatoes and Mozzarella.

I know I've been cooking nothing but pizza lately, so I swear this will be the last pizza post for a while... even I'm getting a little tired of it, and that's not something I ever expected to say.