Thursday, August 21, 2008

Omnivore 100

Kyla sent this, and of course I had to take the test. Most of these not only eaten, but have cooked.

This Omnivore 100 meme via Sam at Becks & Posh, in turn via Andrew at Very Good Taste.How It All Works:
1) Copy the list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.4) Optional: Post a comment at Very Good Taste, linking to your results
The 100

1. Venison – yup still some in my freezer which I butchered with some friends
2. Nettle tea – yup in Britain
3. Huevos rancheros – all the time
4. Steak tartare - ditto
5. Crocodile (have cooked alligator, does that count?]
6. Black pudding (Comes from heaven, had the best ever in Dublin last year)
7. Cheese fondue of course
8. Carp - Just a big gold fish. Sure
9. Borscht – Make it often, wearing a babuschka
10. Baba ghanoush – ditto, on the stove top, the eggplant, not the babushka
11. Calamari – plus whole baby octopodes, a few weeks ago
12. Pho – taught how to make it by a Vietneamese student of mine
13. PB&J sandwich – Are you kidding?
14. Aloo gobi – Among the few things my wife demands I cook
15. Hot dog from a street cart – dining al fresco
16. Epoisses – bien sur, very stinky
17. Black truffle - yes, freshly shaved, and white in Umbria, much tastier
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes – made it from blueberries as a kid
19. Steamed pork buns - yum
20. Pistachio ice cream – double yum, but not the green stuff
21. Heirloom tomatoes - sure
22. Fresh wild berries – all the time
23. Foie gras – seen it butchered here in Stockton too
24. Rice and beans – Red beans and ricely
25. Brawn or head cheese – Adore it, but haven’t found a head yet to make it
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper - yes, but not the whole thing. I did whizz some in a blender once, and a friend sipped it and nearly died.
27. Dulce de leche – takes a long time to make, but beautiful
28. Oysters – of course, Olympia my favorite
29. Baklava – make it and the phyllo sometimes
30. Bagna cauda – with cardoons
31. Wasabi peas – regular snack in my house
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl - yes, but it is grotesque
33. Salted lassi - ditto
34. Sauerkraut – will be making some again shortly
35. Root beer float – YUM-O
36. Cognac with a fat cigar - when I can afford it! Hennessy XO
37. Clotted Cream Tea – Yup, but what a way to ruin good tea
38. Vodka Jelly/Jell-O – I went to college, right?
39. Gumbo – Z’herbes served by the hands of Leah Chase, recently
40. Oxtail – von Suppe, just saying achsenswange excites me
41. Curried goat - yup in Jamaica
42. Whole insects – not yet, but I was given a box of crickettes that are on my desk now, so I guess I’ll have to taste them.
43. Phaal - yes, tasted it two times, going in and on the way out. Ouch
44. Goat's milk - yum, made into cheese too
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth $120 or more – I’m sorry to say, yes.
46. Fugu - Nope
47. Chicken tikka masala - yup
48. Eel – I have a pet eel in the freezer, named Stanley.
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut – yes, though ours went out of business.
50. Sea urchin – yum, raw. I’ve stepped on them snorkelling too
51. Prickly pear – yes, only passable, saguaro syrup is interesting though
52. Umeboshi - yes
53. Abalone - just minutes out of the water. Pounded with a hammer.
54. Paneer – I was taught to make this by an Indian woman in the Bronx
55. McDonald's Big Mac Meal – afraid so
56. Spaetzle – Fun to make, and say
57. Dirty gin martini – yes, made with my sweat socks
58. Beer above 8% ABV – OH Westvleteren in Belgium this spring
59. Poutine - OH, yes in Montreal
60. Carob chips - nope, but I’m going to look for some now. There are carob pods on my desk
61. S’mores - to perfection
62. Sweetbreads – breaded and fried
63. Kaolin - I nibble on it all the time in the pottery studio
64. Currywurst – In Germany last summer. Disgraceful.
65. Durian – Bring one to my frosh food class every year
66. Frogs’ legs – yes yum, and whole crunchy frog
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake - sure
68. Haggis – toasties in Edinbutter, my colleague serves it at every Robbie Burns party
69. Fried plantain - yum
70. Chitterlings or andouillette – had one in Arles that tasted like crap.
71. Gazpacho – red and white
72. Caviar and blini – yes, mine are pictured in the Reaktion catalogue, and will appear in Pancake any day now
73. Louche absinthe – Everyone knows I’m an addict
74. Gjetost or brunost - yes, going to Norway in a few weeks for the real thing
75. Roadkill – no, but I’m game. I guess it’s game.
76. Baijiu – yes, I blogged about it not that long ago
77. Hostess Fruit Pie - My mom gave them to me all the time
78. Snail – yes, from my own backyard
79. Lapsang Souchong – My favorite
80. Bellini – the drink and the painter
81. Tom Yum – Yum indeed. Siam Street’s is incendiary
82. Eggs Benedict – got to love it
83. Pocky – yes, but not very fond of it, my son disagrees
84. 3 Michelin Star Tasting Menu - Yes in the Loire Valley
85. Kobe beef – Yes, though now it’s fashionable to say wagyu I think
86. Hare – yes, potted. So was I.
87. Goulash - yes, and am still astonished, it’s soup, not stew
88. Flowers – even those you’re not supposed to eat
89. Horse – yes, steaks from a horse butcher in Rome, and even shredded on a pizza
90. Criollo chocolate - yes
91. Spam – yes, I admit. Even Spam Lite on a whim
92. Soft shell crab - sure
93. Rose harissa – Not yet
94. Catfish – yes, fresh from Oak Park. Tasted like mud. Wonder why.
95. Mole poblano – Of course.
96. Bagel and lox – I’m a Jew.
97. Lobster Thermidor – yes, but I don’t get it.
98. Polenta – of course, even the Precolumbian pulmentum of millet
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee - yes
100. Snake - I’ve blogged this too, killed and cooked myself. Rattler.

So I got a 94. Nope I take that back. 95. I just ate one of the crickettes. Disgusting. But crunchy.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Wine Barrel Top Becomes Serving Tray

As a person with virtually no skill using tools or things mechanical, I had reason to rejoice this weekend, not only for not sawing one of my fingers off, but for actually accomplishing what I set out to do, at minimal expense and bodily pain.

If you happen to find the top to an old wine barrel - this lovely one was plucked from the firewood pile among cast off staves at a friend's house (who happens to be a wine maker at Van Ruiten) the process is quite simple. Note it's real French Oak, Nuits-St. Georges.

First, pull the staples out and sand the hell out of it. I have an old electric sander, for which apparently the right size sandpaper no longer exists, but I tore larger sheets up, and it worked. The edges were pretty banged up, so I spent a good hour or more at this. Be sure to inhale the dust deeply. It's therapeutic.

Then you need to stabilize the slats. I did this with strips of oak screwed into the back. Who knew that the only thing holding wine barrel tops together is shims and supernatural radio waves? If you are using an ordinary screw driver, as I did, prepare to spend a few hours of gruelling screwing (hmm - that doesn't sound so bad), after which your palms will be a blistered wasteland and your forearms will feel like limp pasta.

Then buy some drawer pulls. These nice grape leaf pulls cost 3 bucks a piece at OSH. The trick is, since they have to be screwed in from behind (hmm, again) you have to make sure the length of the bolt meets the hole in the pull on the other side exactly. I first thought I could saw down longer bolts. No. And then realized that if I drilled one narrow hole, then drilled a larger hole over it so the bolt would be sunk in about a half inch on the back, it would be just the right length. Prepare to spend several hours mulling over this, replete with curses.

Then I decided, since the whole thing was kind of white and pasty looking, I poured a cup of dark red zin over the top and bottom and rubbed it in. The rest went down my throat. The color came out rather nice. Then I waxed it with a combination of beeswax and mineral oil, which I make once every decade and keep around just for waxing freshly sanded olive wood spoons and such. The nice waxy surface disappears once you cook with it, but the process is exciting.

Eh, voila. And I should mention that I saw similar, though not so nice ones in shops at Napa last week, selling for 100 bucks. Their handles were like silver oven racks, yucky. I also saw them in Sur la Table in Berkeley, but couldn't see the price. Speaking of Sur la Table, I asked them if they had a tamis. They had never heard of such a thing. You know, a hoop sieve. For finely pureeing food? The guy showed me a food mill. Mais non, pas de tout. If anyone knows where to buy one, let me know. I'd especially love one strung with horsehair.

Anyway, this new serving tray is so LARGE, that I can't carry it through the door to the outside table. And WEIGHS so much that I fear if anything were actually placed on it, my arms would be instantly ripped from their sockets. So, for the moment, much labor, and a nice looking tray, that still needs a place in my house. Actually, placed on one of my counter stools, it makes a nice rotating table for parties. There it is!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Absinthe Lollies

Ok, it was with skepticism that I purchased these two little boxes of lollies containing four each for a cool 20 bucks with shipping and handling. That's 2.50 each. From Lollyphile. And I thought, of course a smattering of flavor and green food coloring, mostly sugar. But no. The absinthe lollypop is in my mouth at this very moment and it's really bitter, funky. The real thing. I can't imagine you could get alcohol in a lollypop, but maybe thujone? I am feeling a little weird to tell you the truth.
I especially love the cross over of forms. An old "tomato marshmallow" recipe was posted on the ASFS listserve the other day - coming originally from The Old Foodie, which I have to try, along with Martinimallows and Vindaloomallows. But why not absinthe? There's my weekend project!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Almond Butter

After reading a few late medieval almond butter recipes, I decided last night to turn those dazzling whites (shown below) into the real thing. Mind you, this is not ground almonds, what is today labelled almond butter as an analogue of peanut butter. This is actual imitation butter, formerly used during Lent when real butter was forbidden.

I am simplifying the procedure, but basically you take raw almonds that have been soaked a day and night and peel them by hand. Roasted almonds or those that have been processed in any way won't work. I know they're all routinely pasteurized now, but that really doesn't cook them. I had about a half pound.

I put these into a wooden mortar and pounded them with a drizzle or two of rosewater, for about a half hour. I could have gone longer. Add water a dribble at a time. The smooth mixture is still pearly white. Then put the mixture into a big bowl and pour over very hot water. Let sit for about 15 minutes. Add a little sugar, and a pinch of salt. You now have almond milk, and let me tell you, it was remarkably similar to milk, in consistency, color, and very surprising to me, in flavor. It tasted nothing like the souped up sweet toasted almond flavor they put in commercial almond milk you can buy at Trader Joes and such.

Then put a dash of vinegar into the milk, and it does some very subtle curdling. just enough so that if you pour it into a strainer lined with coffee filters, the water part then slowly drips out, and what you have after an hour or two is a very thick creamy substance that looks rather like thick sour cream. I put this on another filter/blotter and popped it in the fridge. The only thing I was missing was the saffron to color it yellow, which I think is essential for the deception. Mine was still bright white, but looked very much like whipped butter.

I spread it on toast this morning, next to another piece with real butter. They tasted completely different, of course - mostly because of the rosewater. That's the flavor medieval diners were after, and it was quite pleasant. Concrete almond fat basically. I think if you colored it yellow and left out the rosewater and added more salt, you might convince someone that this was a low fat butter spread or something. Of course it's not low fat, but neither is it a hydrogenated transfat.

I think I may have a business opportunity here, for vegans especially.