Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I Am Grateful

So Eli is probably the only person who will know why I gave this post the title, but I wanted to let her--and everyone else reading this know--that I came across a cookbook written by the chef at Cafe Gratitude

The best part of stumbling across this recipe is the comment left by one of the reviewers about feeling so peaceful after the meal ... which is exactly why we started this blog in the first place. 

Besides, I'm getting ready to roast another hog in a couple of weeks. I figure it's time for me to stock up some karma points in the meantime by exploring vegan cuisine.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Some good (local) coffee and meat

OK, OK, I am not against local food. In fact, I really like buying from local farmers, including in the Charles Town, WV farmers market on Saturdays. I just don't pretend that I am reducing my carbon emissions by buying from them.

I like two sellers in particular, Black Dog Coffee, which is run by a coffee fanatic, and Roxley Farms, which sells the best hamburgers I have ever had.

Eat less (meat), not local?

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It's hot here in the DC region this weekend - pretty early in the season, if you ask me. So how can we contribute in the fight against Global Warming? Changing our eating habits (and discarding some earlier preconceptions) may be a bigger part of our battle kit than we thought:

It's how food is produced, not how far it is transported, that matters most for global warming.... In fact, eating less red meat and dairy can be a more effective way to lower an average U.S. household's food-related climate footprint than buying local food.
That is from a new study by Christopher Weber and Scott Matthews at Carnegie Mellon.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

How to make a fabulous seafood dinner

Go to the coast of NH and get the following. If lobster is not available, you may go to Hannaford's Supermarket in Manchester, but don't give them your credit card, because they tend to lose that information.

Some Fresh Clams
Fresh Oysters
Fresh Lobsters

Give the Clams and Greens to your wife to fix
Give the Lobsters to your brother to fix
Shuck the Oysters yourself


In praise of defiance

“No way I am going to charge people $10.50 a pound.”

That was what an old lobster fisherman outside of Hampton, NH told Mari this past weekend. We were on our way to the beach with my family and saw a hand-lettered sign that read “Lobster” and pointed down a gravel road. My brother was visiting from Guatemala, and he really wanted some lobster, so I took a right and wound around the back of a house to a small clapboard building at the edge of an inlet. There were lobster traps and other fishing paraphernalia stacked in the yard.

Above the door of the building was a sign that said it all: Defiant Lobster Co.

We went in and asked for lobster. The man told us that he did not have any. He said that it was the off-season for the NH lobsters, and that he usually bought lobsters from Maine during this time, but that the wholesale price was too high.

“Wholesale prices are over $9.00 a pound, so I would have to charge people $10.50 a pound. And I just won’t do that. I have been lobstering for over fifty years, and I have never seen prices this high.”

I was stunned. First, that he would only charge a $1.50 markup. And second that he would simply refuse to sell something at a certain price. The economist in me was doing backflips.

I spend a lot of time in Silicon Valley, where the talk is all about “scalability” and “margins” and “pricing power.” This lobsterman had pricing power over me – that’s for sure. I would have gladly paid $10.50 a pound or more, because I was in a hurry and really wanted that lobster.

But the lobsterman was not a profit maximizer – he wanted to make a decent income, but he also had a sense of what I have come to call market “aesthetics.” He would not participate in transactions that he felt were not right in some way.

This reminded me of a time in Indonesia when I was having a big dinner party, and I needed a whole lot of avocados. I went to a small stall at the market and told the man I wanted his whole stock. “I can only sell you ten,” he told me. “What? Why not all of them?,” I asked. I thought he would be overjoyed to sell them all at one time. “Because," he responded, "if I sold you everything I had, sir, I would have nothing to do for the rest of the day.”

Back in Hampton Beach, I thought about arguing with the lobsterman. But instead, I talked to him about the ups and downs of the lobster market over the decades - something I could never have done at the local profit-maximizing supermarket. And then I bought some really nice clams and oysters from him (at a price he considered fair), and I took them home. They were very good.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

An Iron Chef Near You

(cross posted from where I actually get paid to blog :)

I smiled with a bit of homesickness when I opened the food section of the paper this morning. Before my best friends got to be over thirty and we all scattered to the four winds, we were young lushes in DC. We spent many a drunken night in epicurian exploration, which led to the first of 3 iron chef competitions between myself and our best man, JB. What started as a simple wager (who could cook a better meal) soon became an obsessive, time and $$$ intensive competition -- 5-8 courses, with wine and cocktail pairings and experimentation to the highest end. We would prepare for day (s) in advance, and be exhausted at the completion. Our spouses relished in defining the secret ingredients (including the likes of caramel, lychees, Bourbon, and ginger); JB and I found intense competitive joy in continuously one-upping each other; and our friends invited as judges were lucky to be spoiled to the nines.

Apparently friendly iron chef competitions are becoming more popular amongst friends. It's really a good time (just don't let it consume you :); I highly recommend buying a few secret ingredients and inviting over some friends.

For the full article (and a few helpful hints), check out:

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Pickled Eggs a la Dacha

[Note: updated on 3/30/08 to increase the amount of salt and to add nori.]

Here is how you do it:

1. Go to Walmart and buy a gallon glass jar. Wash it with hot water, rinse well, and dry.

2. Get the following ingredients:
⁃ 18 eggs. Not too fresh because they don't peel easily after hard boiling.
⁃ 1/3 gallon of white vinegar
⁃ a little bit (not too much) balsamic vinegar
⁃ a cup of white wine vinegar
⁃ 1/6 gallon of water
⁃ 3 tbsp of Pickling Spices
⁃ 1 tsp tumeric
⁃ Hot banana peppers - 12 oz jar. Discard juice.
⁃ Salt - 6 tsp
⁃ Sugar - 3 tbsp (you need sugar to balance the vinegar)
⁃ Hot pepper flakes (optional if you have the bell peppers)
-About 4 sheets of nori (japanese seawed sheets), if you can find them

3. Hard boil the eggs and then plunge into a cool water bath. My brother says to not let them get cold, but I don't know if it matters. Maybe it does, maybe not.

4. When the eggs are cool enough, peel them (underwater is best, and start at the fat end), and put them in the glass jar.

5. Take the rest of the ingredients (except the water, which you can heat separately if you want) and chuck them in a big pot (preferably not cast iron, since it reacts with vinegar). Mix good. Bring to just under a boil, and then simmer for 5 minutes.

6. Pour the water into the glass jar on top of the eggs, and then pour the rest of the solution in there. Pour slowly and to avoid sudden major changes in the temperature of the jar so it won't crack.

7. Let the whole deal cool for several hours. Then stick it in the fridge for about 2 weeks. But you can try one egg after one week to see how it is. That is what I am going to do. I even read one guy's recipe who said it was good after two days.

Some additional notes and ideas:

a. Some people say that using the water included in this recipe is better because the eggs don't get as rubbery. Some recipes call for more water than vinegar. Other recipes call for all vinegar.

b. If this recipe gives you more liquid than you need to cover the eggs, you can just keep boiling more eggs and chucking them in there. Just make sure to keep track which eggs are done.

c. Washington State university says to stick the whole deal in the fridge right away after pouring the solution in the jar. But seems to me that that would heat up the fridge and wreak havoc. My brother tells me he leaves the jar out to cool for 2 days before putting in the fridge. The store out on Mission Road seems never to refrigerate the eggs at all (but on their other hand their eggs are not that good).

d. You can also use sliced onions and/or jalapenos - what ever sounds good is worth trying.

e. Try using malt vinegar or apple cider vinegar and brown sugar on a batch sometime and tell me how it is.

f. Hot spicy flavor is important for pickled eggs. They will be bland without the hot peppers.

g. Here is a guy named Stan who has done 18 batches if you care to read them all:

h. It is important to use enough salt to offset the vinegary taste. The nori seems to have the same effect - it "tames" the harsh vinegar.