ahi tuna salad


Looks like mah dadgum flash didn't go off.

The tuna is the type that comes frozen and vacuum packed individually. It is thawed rapidly and carefully by microwave pulses. Removed before it has a chance to cook in the slightest, and still mostly frozen. It is easier to slice that way, and it will completely thaw on its own soon enough. 



This is not the coveted bluefin tuna, which is a threatened species, and a crime against conscience if not nature to hunt down and slaughter and destroy the population just for our own incremental pleasure, and just flat bad karma besides. Ahi is yellowfin tuna, which you can see plainly ↓ is a completely different species altogether. 


This salad is a vegetable-salvaging project. The fennel, mushrooms, jalapeño, sugar peas and lettuce are all old, and they are not long for this world. It is almost a shame to match them up with this tuna, but one does what one can with what one has, and by these small sacrifices we do our part for the ideal of conservation. Shut up, we do. 


I wish there were some tamarind on hand around here. That would be nice. 


This is a pathetic wrinkled specimen of ginger root, but sometimes one just has to make do. It is either use this or toss it and use powdered ginger instead, which is its poorer second cousin, but in a case like this probably a good second choice. Or else pre-diced ginger that comes in a jar which is also a poorer second choice. Or else candied ginger which is dehydrated and sugared. Or else pickled ginger which is actually quite nice. And if all that fails you can skip off to the bottle shop and come back with some ginger ale and see how that goes. There is also dried ginger -- but who in their right mind would try that? 





Then the lettuce, then a quick toss.

This salad is really good even though the vegetables are not the most fresh. As I began to near the end of my plate, picking away with my chopsticks, pairing pieces of this and that with each bite as we chopstick-pickers do, the anticipated finish began to develop into dread. I wanted so strongly to continue so I slowed down. And then I realized there was more back there in the kitchen and  my heart leapt right out of my chest and flew around  with glee that I could replenish my plate. That's how delicious it is. 

If I would make this for you, I would leave out the jalapeños, or else I would trim their inner seed-bearing membrane so they are not quite so hot. I would also back off from other strong flavors or dilute the dressing with water so that all those things do not predominate over the tuna so completely as this does. 

almond brittle


*  2 Tablespoons unsalted butter and
*  1 Cup cane sugar
*  1 Cup whole almonds 

Ingredients ↑ are combined and heated stovetop to 300℉ / 150℃

Sugar hardball stage is listed variously as 250-300℉ / 120-150℃ .  This batch was taken to 350℉ / 175℃ whereupon the sugar turned excessively dark. Most people will not like this slightly burned taste, but I do. I recommend including at least 1/4 Cup up to 1/2 cup corn sugar to help the sugar caramelize evenly without seizing, going all grainy and difficult. I'm living dangerously over here and carelessly by cooking the butter and almonds together instead of melting the sugar first, then adding all other ingredients.  When the sugar caramelizes to your satisfaction then add:

* 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 2 to 3 teaspoons vanilla extract

Stir. I use a dinner knife to stir. The mixture foams dramatically and violently, and satisfyingly. Pour out the mixture onto a greased tray, kitchen parchment paper, or Silpat. Spread the mixture evenly as possible. As the mixture cools it will reach a stage were the edges can be pulled and the entire mass stretched. This stretching assists in developing the texture you are familiar with. Skipping this stretching results in an excessively dense product similar to glass. 

The mixture cools fairly quickly, you'll find it breaks into pieces within a few minutes. 

WARNING: Do not let any hot mixture touch your skin. It is much hotter than boiling water. It will stick on your skin and burn, much like napalm 877 'cept dif'ernt. 



strip steak, mashed potato


A strip steak is grilled outdoors.

Old leftover baked potatoes are smashed.

One cup gravy is whipped out on the stovetop.

After reading several pages on lighting techniques, the conclusion is drawn that the Big Green Egg is no different in this respect than any other grill except perhaps a little easier. The BGE is wheeled outside for its second trial.  The process of getting the wood coals glowing and the oven chamber heating up to maximum takes about eight minutes. 

A strip steak is thawed and brought to room temperature. The steak is placed on the grill when BGE's oven chamber attains and maintains a temperature 650℉/345℃ . I notice it will not go higher. I investigate based on the BGE FAQs read last night. Upon inspection, I notice that when the lower vent is wide open then 1/2 of the window is blocked on the inside by a vertical clay barrier. This tells me that the gap in the lower fire box is not properly aligned with the outer vent door. This must be corrected by first removing the upper grill where items are cooked, then removing the remaining charcoals, then removing the smaller grill that holds the charcoals, in order to reach the inner circular ceramics that comprise the fire box and then rotate that assembly so that the vents align properly. This will provide full air flow. But what a mess! That's the plan. Even so, 650℉/345℃ is an admirable oven temperatures indeed. But it can be even hotter. 

The steak was overcooked. I'm good at this sort of thing, and even I overcooked the steak and not by neglect either. I was going on the intuition I've developed by just flat being ace at this sort of thing and now I have to make allowances for outrageous heat containment. 
True story. I went camping with a small group to a spot outside of Boulder Colorado. I took a bunch of stuff in coolers to experience a more refined outdoor living than the usual campout crap. Wine, wine glasses, service ware etc. I didn't use 3/4 the stuff I took up, but I was ready for anything. I was about 22 years old and not exactly like my roughneck friends. 
Up there the next day my acquaintances were cooking the life out of a pack of hotdogs on a makeshift grill. They had wood sticks underneath on fire and they were cooking the hotdogs over flames. I sat there and watched the hotdogs spit and sputter, their juices drain into the flames causing the whole thing to flare. Being the mad little arsonists they were, only flames would satisfy. They apparently didn't realize the hotdogs were already cooked and needed only to be heated over glowing embers, not flames. They persisted pushing around their hotdogs, poking them with sticks, moving them around until they blackened completely by extreme Vulcan torrefaction. I watched amused, and a bit dismayed, observing them destroy their meal. Finally I couldn't hold out any longer so I formulated a phrase that I thought suitably understated, "I think your hotdogs might be done."  They ignored me, of course, and kept right on killing the already cremated. Finally they ended their sadism and found they couldn't possibly eat the result. 
When the upper daisywheel on the BGE is closed and the lower vent also entirely closed, then the coals are suffocated almost immediately and the oven temperature drops within minutes to 250℉/120℃ cool enough to roll back inside, but I left it outside anyway because nobody seemed to be around. 

The potatoes were more of those small potatoes leftover from a week ago. I'm impressed they're still useful. Glad not to waste them. They were heated for just a few minutes in the microwave then split open and scooped into a bowl. A tablespoon of butter along with 1/4 cup heavy cream was heated in another small bowl. S/P mixed all together and the potatoes roughly smashed with a fork

One tablespoon butter was heated in a pan along with 3/4 tablespoon A/P flour. S/P  and a teaspoon Madras curry, then one cup commercial chicken broth whisked to a flavorful gravy.  





salmon salad

A section of salmon filet is heated through, seared on all sides. While the fish cools, a few salad vegetables, yellow bell pepper and sweet white onion are heated in the same pan, but this is only because this particular bell pepper was going wrinkly. 

I actually considered rolling out the Big Green Egg just to cook this single slender salmon section, but then I thought, "What are you, a nut?" That would be so wasteful of precious BGE energy and extravagantly long pre and post cooking heat up and then down. But I love it so, I really do, it is almost worth it. 

A simple vinaigrette is prepared with olive oil and fresh lime juice seasoned today with celery seed and fennel seed heated through. Which, as this vinaigrette contains no actual vinegar, might rightfully be called chauxette instead, but, that would be coining a new word then wud'nit, and the L'Académie française does not tolerate such heresy and I sure wouldn't want the French version of breathing down my neck blog.

The Force is quite strong in this one, Obi Won. I am still sensing the power of breathy licorice  fennel even so long as an hour following consumption of this delightful salad. Although I do like it, and I like it a lot, I would hesitate to serve this to guests, even a weaker version of it. You know how picky people can be, finicky little fuss-buckets like they're at a restaurant or something. Annoyingly fussy, finicky, picky, mimsy little muppets demanding all to conform to the lowest most unimaginative common denominator. Their own. Always disappointing and resolutely so, as if the trait were an asset and not a character flaw.  









scallops, pasta


This is one of my favorite things because it is so fast and easy. The scallops are still frozen hard. They're zapped for 30 seconds, still frozen but not as hard. In their frozen state they are cut to smaller pieces. This is a strange thing to do with large sea scallops valued for their size. Better to just use smaller bay scallops for this, but I used what I have and what I have is sea scallops. 


You know what else is weird? This is the second time today I set up a shot and then neglected to take the shot. I'm losing my mind. Okay then, imagine a plate with: 

*  a pile of chopped up sea scallops
*  a pile of diced onion, and 
*  a small pile of chopped garlic. 

The little mise en place is held for the pasta to cook al dente. A colander awaits in the sink along with an empty coffee mug. When the pasta nearly done but not completely soft then the pasta water is poured first into the mug until it fills and then through the colander as the pasta is dumped. Now there is a cup of reserve starchy pasta water used to form a sauce. Remember:

butter + flour + flavored liquid = gravy
fat + acid = simple dressing

Consider then, in the same pot that the pasta evacuated, 

Butter + olive oil to prevent the butter burning, then the onion and garlic to flavor the fat, then the pasta water to form a sauce and to thicken it with its starch, then if you like lemon or lime to acidify to brighten the scallops. 

Extras, if you like: Aromatic herb, wine, sun dried tomato, pine nuts, pretty much whatever you like or whatever you have on hand. 



The scallops are added to the hot oil still frozen. No need to be all fussy about it.



~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~

This particular email means a lot to me. It came across at the same time I was on a call from another person thanking me for hosting Paul's party on Friday. Doesn't anybody send cards anymore? That reminds me, I should probably check the mail. 

The thing is, this email comes from a person who himself hosts gatherings that are quite large or else there would be little point. He hires bartenders, caterers, waiters, and clean up crew so that he can spend the whole time properly -- doing his best to make sure nobody steals anything, I suppose. I know as fact the anxiety, anticipation, and preparation makes him insane because I've been around to see it. Tragic.

Subject: JUST WONDERFUL!!!
I have to say that when you emailed me with the invite to Paul's birthday I thought that there would be six to ten people.  Wrong!
You really created a wonderful night.  You have an ability that few have in that you can have pressure all around you but you just stay on your course.
Great atmosphere, good friends, and super food.  All the bases were covered.
It was great to see you and thanks for inviting me,
                                                                                                   Bob

corn breakfast



The thing is, I have giant sack of frozen corn and three bags of masa harina and I also have popcorn that was milled to powder here at home. That is a lot of corn in various forms for a regular bloke. I also have about 15 or so jalapeño chile peppers, or maybe it's 8, or possibly 6. Look, I didn't count them, okay? The point is they are left over from a giant package of jalapeños and they're starting to go wrinkly. It'd be a shame to waste them so I'm trying to make use of the things that are here in abundance, especially the things on their way out. 

I am also still trying to invent something spectacular with these ingredients. This is good, very good, but not quite ready for Prime Time. 

Frozen corn is processed to tiny bits. The frozen bits are mixed with masa and other Southwestern ingredients, onion and jalapeño. Oh poop, I forgot garlic. That would have been good too. Plus nondescript melting Mexican white cheese. Then coriander and cumin because apparently I have to put those in everything now. You might want something else. You know, a fresh herb wouldn't be bad either. It's just that some days I don't feel like picking around with them. Plus little leaves always end up on the floor, and I'm sort of tired of fussing with these floors right now.






All of that stuff ↑ is combined with commercial chicken broth. Milk probably would have worked too. I added enough broth to form a sludge. But then the sludge turned into paste so I added more broth. Then that turned into paste so I added more. I wanted to heat the mixture and keep it sludgy as possible. I debated for a moment about using a pot or a pan. I figured a pan would be easier to clean so I used that. As soon as the mixture hit the heated pan, the most wonderful aroma swept outward and immediately transported me to Mexico in my mind

I love love LOVE this combination of ingredients. 

The mixture fries quite attractively, I think due to the cheese inside. The entire pan was flipped as you see those chefs on TV do without a spatula. But I wanted the pile to be broken up with crispy bits inside and out, not like a big thick pancake which isn't interesting. 

I enjoyed eating this very much and I will undoubtedly make it again and and again to suit myself, like my own secret thing except it's totally public published on here, but I will probably never serve it because it is oafishly insufficiently refined. 

This concludes the corn breakfast.

❀ ❀ ❀ ✿ ✿ ✿ flowers ✿ ✿ ✿ ❀ ❀ ❀  butterflies ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ✿ ✿ ✿ 

Below is something I debated not posting because it is not directly food-related and tends to distract from the purpose of this blog. It's a bit political and the greater part of me resents its intrusion. Still, it arose from my interest in food and my writing about my activities relating to food. 


Should my happy blog be suddenly closed down it will probably because of this: (links unavailable on screen capture below.)


I don't think I will ever forgive George Bush for creating the Department of Not just because it has turned air travel, something that used to be nearly pleasant and almost fun into an experience perfectly dreadful, but because that particular nasty expansion of government is unacceptable to my well-being and contentment. Its mission creep, its ever expanding milieu, is unbearable. It is untenable. I will support any candidate of any party, or no party at all, who swears on a stack of sacred texts to do their best to disassemble that Department or at least shrink it to near insignificance if that is possible. Bush said himself after the attacks to carry on as usual or else the so-called terrorists will have won, but then he proceeded to change lastingly and possibly forever my country that once stood a chance at being lovely. 

Here my happy blog devoted to things wot I made then ate ends up talking about government intrusion because government has poked its intrusive nose into my happy blog, and I do not like that.

I have no idea if an individual at is a fan of this blog, if that is the case then, "Hi !" *waves*, odd though thatis the only post I wrote where I see 's ISP has visited, or if somebody referred my blog for inspection, or if their algorithmic word-crawling filters on their awesome complex of super duper computers picked up the red-flag terms that I used in that post, "" and "" which these shaky words evade, or what. The thought of my own tax dollars paying for something so terrible that I do not support, extending its tentacles from its original purpose to come so lowly poking around my little blog then is a bad thing to see. I would kill it if I could, send everyone involved off packing, off looking for something else to do.

I did not realize that was in charge of upholding the ban ons until I noticed them sniffing around mypost.

But then by looking further into this thing I had only sensed up to then, I learned among many other things that a Winipeg woman was recently stopped at the US/Canadian border and selected for random search. Upon discovery of a singleegg she was given a choice to either surrender the offendingegg or face a $300.00 fine. The US government sent the woman, oddly coincidentally named Bird, a 7-page letter asking her permission to destroy the egg (where destroy means giving the candy egg with its toy inside to some border security's kid). If Bird wished to contest the seizure she could pay $250.00 storage fee while the two sides wrangle over the issue. US officials say they've confiscated 25,000eggs in 2,000 separate seizures last year.

Sheesh.

This thread on Metafilter about that news item is straight-up hilarious. The members there have a field-day with the item. The item linked above talks about border security and Metafilter members assume , and it is that is sniffing about my page. 

One guy in that Metafilter thread launches into a long and amusing philosophical exegesis purporting to be a segment of the seven-page letter Bird received, a diversion he says the letter makes on the nature of real material, the void at the center of the egg which resembles the empty space of a vase which is the reality of a vase, the void in vase's center being the thing of value when filled with something that is not the vase. That something, in the case of the , being the toy that fills the void of the egg, compensates for the failure of product (chocolate egg) to meet expectations, for no product ever adequately fulfills expectations on its own. It's always the prestige and the babes you imagine you get with the new automobile, the tapes you get free with the VCR, the prize on the inside cap of a bottle of Coke, the prize in the box of Cracker Jacks. It is quite a long comment and something of a task to go through, but I found it very interesting that a commenter would post such an extravagant and wonderful thing elaborating so thoroughly on a pique that I thought was entirely my own. 

But then later in the thread another member calls out the author of that post in a manner so subtle that it is easy to miss. He says simply, 

"I didn't know Slavoj Žižek was a Department of agent. That explains a lot."

Slavoj Žižek is a philosopher.  I did not make that connection.

Then way further down the Metafilter thread, amusing comment upon amusing comment upon amusing comment, then this,

"Something something..and what the hell is this? 

The member links to yet another separate article on another page written by the philosopher Slavoj Žižek and loaded withreferences all over the place, the item is titled, with lots of photos ofs, that reads word for word what the first lengthy philosophical comment near the top of the Metafilter thread incorporated without citing, indicating plagiarism by that Metafilter commenter to the very worst degree. 

Tsk tsk.

But wait, there's more. See? And here I thought all along that I was alone in my views, the only one who felt this way aboutchocolate eggs being banned. Come to find out, everybody feels the same way. Praise the Lord! I am not alone. 

Reason.com picks up the item. As usual, the comments there to the article are more interesting than the article itself. It's heart'nin, I tells ya, and all of this gives me hope for a brighter future, free of these surly no-class intrusions on our real-life freedoms.

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