Burger with Dijon wadjet

Potato discs shallow-fried by two-step method. Shrimp tossed into the oil briefly after the heat was cut.

Melon and grapes

Watermelon, honeydew and black olives.

Psyche! Those are grapes.

Shrimp and grits

Saw this on Bobby Flay Throwdown and it looked pretty good -- and ya know what? -- it is. My version uses quick grits prepared with homemade chicken broth, sharp aged cheddar cheese, with garlic. The sauce is a brown roux with kombu/bonito dashi (traditional Japanese seafood stock), and fresh garlic. Shrimp dry rubbed with paprika, habanero, onion, S/P with random bits of uncured ham, which I tend to keep on hand in lieu of bacon. Chipotle in adobo for enhanced BANG! Tablespoons of heavy cream in both grits and sauce for smoooooooothnesss.

So you can see for yourself what a dietary disaster this is; corn, chicken schmaltz, butter, cream, and tortilla, but hey, if you're going to go wandering off the plantation you might as well go for it.

I can't wait for my stomach to stop swelling so I can have MOAR!

Sourdough, NorthWest

Not much bigger than dinner rolls if those dinner rolls were baked for a linebacker just off of Lent.

I erred. Presently I have only two ceramic cloches so the three loaves took two baking sessions. Phone call and disconnects at the critical moment caused me to lose focus and turn off the oven along with the timer which signals persistently and irritatingly enough to demand immediate attention . The oven was on as high as it can go. Didn't notice the oven was off until the third loaf was ready for the lid to be removed. I thought in that moment, "Bollox! This one is ruined." The whole key to success is a wet dough directly into a rocket-hot cloche. The powerful heat inside the closed cloche allows for maximum oven-rise while keeping the dough moist long enough to stretch fully before setting. Then the lid is removed to crisp and finish the loaf. The oven had cooled to below 200. Turning it back to 500 meant a slow rise while the temperature came back. I was surprised thirty-five minutes later when I removed the lid for the finishing burn and saw the loaf did rise just fine. I expected it to be flattened. This taught me there appears to be a broad margin for error when using a ceramic cloche.

A pauper's salad. VVV Where the pauper is nobility.

Did you know in the days of yore, about the time Marco Polo was banging around, pepper was so dear it was kept locked? It was.

Heirloom tomatoes, green beans

If you see the odd heirloom tomatoes, don't hesitate to buy them. They're usually a little bit misshapen and possibly ugly but they make a fine salad all by themselves. No oil, no acid, nothing but sea salt.

You really must have fat in hamburgers or the patties fry up to tasteless chunks of something synthetic. If you buy that low fat stuff , or whatever over 85% that is presently so popular, you can add olive oil before forming patties. I suggest adding water as well.

That's right, water.

Green beans steamed for as long as it took me to mess with that other stuff -- slicing the tomato, shaving the Parmigiano, digging out the olives, scooping condiments.

Tuna cranberry salad

The lady in front of me at Whole Foods bought this salad. The sign said tuna, cranberries, mayonnaise. Sounded simple enough, I thought I could do better at home. I wondered why they shredded the tuna to smithereens. What, do they have something against chunks?  And of course at home we have handmade mayonnaise, which is a whole 'nuther ball game. Enhanced here with celery and tomato and green onion. I could have kept right on enhancing, cucumber, olives, Parmigiano, curries, etc., but the Whole Foods version seemed simplicity itself, and it sure looked good. I used craisins.

Peaches and blueberries

Curried popped corn

With Vindaloo curry.

Folded eggs, twisted bacon

Twisted bacon as seen on the wicked noodle. Theirs is better than mine. I think the success with twisty bacon relies upon starting off with high quality evenly cut bacon which this isn't. Baked, and watched like a Border Collie that's afraid it's going to miss a trick.

Eggs gently folded and built up, removed from heat before completely setting. Anointed with scallion, capers, flecked Parmigiano and tarragon, an herb which I'm beginning to like.

Scrambled eggs with red beans

Is that a sexy pile of scrambled eggs or what? It almost looks 3-D, it does.

Started soaking dried red beans last night with the intention of making ordinary beans with something something something in 'em. They looked great starting out.  I dumped them in the pressure cooker with smashed garlic, baking soda and herbs, and never let it get to the second notch of pressure. I was careful to keep the pressure on low, then set a timer for thirty minutes. The pot cooled down the slow way on its own without being rushed with a douse of cold water. That amounted to further cooking. When I opened the pot I could see the whole mass of beans had gone all 'splody and turned into a veritable mush. For some reason, the red beans also turned black. Blacker, even, than genuine black beans. I guess that's supposed to teach me to cook soaked beans under pressure for only five minutes. Or something.  

Anyway, it didn't look much different from anything I've had at least a hundred times in Mexico. OK FINE! Thirty times in Mexico. So I added Mexican-y type things ... epazote, chipotle in adobo, garlic, onion, canned tomato, and as you can plainly see, cilantro. Oh blast! I forgot cumin. This is better, actually, than any beans I have ever eaten. I hope I can duplicate this sometime. I also cooked them with baking soda. That with the epazote to counter the discomfort associated with beans and legumes. I'll tell ya * PARF * how that works out. Legumes. Ha ha ha. That's a funny word.  

Lately I've been making omelets the low-heat delicate way of gently pushing cooked curd toward the center of the pan, piling it up, then removing from heat before it entirely sets. So now I'm thinking, why bother with omelets, and just make scrambled eggs that way? So that's what I did. I like this. I'm going to host a brunch where I turn these out for everybody then let guests adorn them however they wish, shredded cheese, cream cheese, capers, diced onion, lox, diced ham, sautéed 'shrooms, whatev'. But every plate will come with Mexican BEAN SLUDGE!

Broccoli and vegs. in chicken broth w/white wine

I've neglected my all-time favorite go-to quick meal. The simple version is merely sliced broccoli burnt in a hot pan with butter/olive oil then de-glazed with a splash of white wine. Chicken broth and a scant 2 oz cooked spaghetti added at the end. The whole thing is fast as it takes to bring a pot of water to boil and the spaghetti to cook, which is fast.

This is the elaborated version. Not shown, the pre-roasted and frozen chicken bits and the hand-made chicken broth in jelled form. (The rest of the chicken broth is stored in frozen ice cube form)

This is one of the ceramic bowls that Dale in S.F. made.

Catfish in miso

I have a large bag of catfish bits with which something must be done. <--- br="" damnit.="" did="" end="" flipped="" i="" it="" just="" see="" sentence="" so="" t="" the="" there="" what="" with.="" with="" word="" wouldn="">
I really wanted pad Thai because I just now saw a Bobby Flay pad Thai throw-down and that put me in the mood but I don't have any rice noodles and I don't have any more tamarind paste, nor any shrimp so there goes that. But I can approximate the idea using ingredients that I do have, so there I go.

I do have miso in quantity and tofu, two extraordinary Asian contributions to world cuisine. I also have mirin (sweet rice wine) and fish sauce (fermented anchovy in water) so I'm set. I also happen to have napa cabbage which can substitute good vegetable carbs for bad noodles carbs, and chunky peanut butter that can substitute for peanuts in pad Thai.

I added onion, garlic, and broccoli.

These ingredients were built up in a pot starting with frozen catfish. I got that going then added all the rest of the ingredients with broccoli next. If you were to watch me do this, you'd think I'm insane, but there is method to the madness. It's like a liquid stir-fry. You begin with the ingredients that take the longest, catfish in this case because it's frozen. Ordinarily it would be last because fish is most tender. The frozen fish will be cooked at the same time the dense broccoli will be cooked so I do not add all the water at once. I fry these ingredients in scant oil to get them started, then add a small amount of water to stop the frying and start the steaming which hastens the process. Everything else goes into the pot in rapid succession. It doesn't look like soup until the miso is added and the color changes. The peanut butter, an odd ingredient, adds another dimension usually missing in miso soup but it is nearly identical to the way miso mixes. The soup is delicious, but it lacked peppery heat and acidity, so I added Sriracha, which has both, at the table.

Salmon, imitation crab, fusilli

Asparagus cut into small pieces and cooked briefly in the pasta water after the pasta was removed.  Immediately doused in ice water to arrest the green color. 

Homemade mayonnaise.

Asian green beans

* Toast sesame seeds in hot dry pan. Stand there and watch them turn brown. Remove to a separate plate.
* Toast pecans (or almonds, whatever) in the same pan. Remove to another separate plate.
* Flavor oil with ginger and garlic in the same pan.
* Add cut beans and sufficient water to steam until tender.
* Add cut mushrooms and finally add cut bell pepper craisins and pecans.

Take care here not to cook the life out these tender vegetables. Try to aim to remove from the heat early. Things continue to cook a little bit off the heat.

* Spritz with juice of fresh lime and plate.
* Top with toasted sesame seeds

See? You have flavored oil and lime juice combined at different times -- BANG! -- a rather strong salad dressing right there. Green beans need all the help they can get. Here, with the sweet bell pepper, sweet/tart craisins, citric lime, the extraordinary combined umami of ginger and garlic you've got all the gustation your excited flavor sensors can handle in one meal. If you must kick it up a notch, and you would be insane if you had to, NTTAWWT, then I'd toss in a few chile pepper flakes. For me, this side dish is a meal, and if it's OK to say so myself it's absolutely delicious, and you can eat as much of it as your glutenous little heart desires all day long and still be within The Zone™, and South Beach™ phase 1, and Weight Watchers™ proscribed diets.

Asparagus and two fried eggs

Why do Americans always fry two eggs? Because to Americans one egg is not un œuf. Ha ha ha. See what I did there? I never tire of that joke. In The Zone™ and South Beach™ phase 1 approved.

With minced onion and jalapeño. Please notice too the amazing miraculous floating parsley leaf.

Jalapeño poppers

Jalapeño poppers made from canned jalapeño peppers, cheddar cheese, and won ton wrappers.

Sealed tightly with water with cornstarch glue. It's important to seal while rolling so that no cheese escapes. Otherwise you get a huge mess in the oil.

Oil at 350℉.

These cook within a few minutes. Serve immediately, the crispy goodness is fleeting.

Chicken livers

This is the remnant Bell & Evans chicken liver remaining from ramaki. I wanted to get it out of the refrigerator, and I couldn't just waste it, and I have no pet cat nor a dog, so I ate it. I suppose I could have dressed it up in bacon or used it to adorn some rice with a savory cheese sauce, but I'm lazy so I dusted it with flour and pan fried it in butter as minimally as possible.

Fruit, Jello

I do not understand why this amazing product is so thoroughly and sorely maligned on the internet and in books, as in James Lileke's The Gallery of Regrettable Foods, which you can buy used on Amazon for $3.20. The fall of Western civilization traced through Jello ads, Jello killed the dinosaurs, terrorists encase Sears Tower in Jello, Jello myths debunked on Snopes (it's made from bones and hides, not hooves), Jello shots being a certain indicator of white trashiness, all this leveled against an amazing product.

Jello seems like such a great idea. And so does Jello fruit cups, so what gives? How can its aspicy sugary goodness be denied?

The other day I was eating a bowl of mixed fruit and thinking, "This would be a lot better if it were just held together with Jello." But not canned fruit and not thoroughly encased in shimmering Jello like they do in school cafeterias and in hospitals. How 'bout if solid Jello was used as a base with a second layer holding the edges of fruit that is then covered with more fruit unconnected to the Jello. Doesn't that sound great? Solid Jello. That right there is funny.

I am hopeless, and probably untrainable because I like this.

Fake crab salad

I used homemade mayonnaise, and this time it was heated over a double boiler fashioned from a thin metal bowl and an ordinary pot. I used a regular whisk, just to see how much fun it would be.  Turns out to take longer than I imagined.  It kept looking like it was on the verge of breaking so I kept removing the bowl from the heat and continued whisking vigorously making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl.   

I didn't have enough vegetable oil so I used a combination of melted butter with olive oil and all the vegetable I had to bring the total amount to a measured cup. Lime juice only, whatever came out of one juicy lime, no vinegar this time.  Freshly grated ginger and garlic.  +Dijon style mustard, and S/P.  Had I thought of it, I might have added a little sugar, as it turns out, it is totally delicious without it.

It looks like a lot of shredded carrot in the salad but it's only one medium size carrot for two packages of fake crab meat and two stalks of celery, 1/4 medium size white onion, and a few black olives from a jar.  Yuk.  A jar. They're squishy.  Oh, almost forgot, bacon., because I have a package opened and I want to use it.

Served on a cut up tomato, with a small bunch of grapes.  This is proof you can make a delicious salad out of just about anything.  Normally I'd put pickle relish in the mixture but I left that out this time.  The salad is so delicious I want to go right back and get more, which I can do with impunity because it is so doggone healthful. 

You know what would be good in this? Cucumber. Apple. Orange pieces. Raisins. Pecans. I could just keep adding stuff so it never runs out and changes in composition over time. Canned tuna. More mayonnaise. Cubed ham. Basil. Mango. Mint. Grand Marnier. Jicama. Chiles. Curry. Broccoli. Sweet peas. Corn. Canteloupe. Hard-boiled eggs. Cranberries. Leeks. Fennel. Gummy bears. Ok, maybe not Gummy bears. 

Paneer salad

* Paneer cheese
* cucumber
* tomato
* taragon
* a few Romaine leaves

* Dijon style mustard
* Raspberry jam
* Raspberry vinegar
* Vegetable oil (scant amount, much less than ordinarily)

Paneer is a fresh cheese that is set with acid, lime, lemon, or vinegar, and not made with rennet so it's suitable for your vegetarian friends. It's foolproof, and easy to make, and making it at home produces a creamier version than what you would buy commercially. It's a fresh non-aged unadorned white cheese similar to queso blanco except commercially it has no salt added. It's also the sort of cheese that doesn't melt, that's why it's usually pan-fried before including into another dish, much like tofu, or roasted on a stick as with paneer tikka, a sort of shish kabob kind of thing with bell pepper and curry. Here, I completely alter the cheese by adding salt and thyme just as the curds are drained to set.

I brought a half gallon of milk to a full boil then added the juice of one juicy lime, it totaled six measured teaspoons. It was supposed to only take four teaspoons but the milk wasn't curdling to my satisfaction so I added more until I could see the curds separate from the whey. (Oddly, this doesn't make the cheese taste limey) Then I cut off the heat and let it sit for five minutes, drained into a cheesecloth lined strainer and added salt, crushed pepper, and thyme. Then I pressed to drain and compress using the weight of a heavy stone mortar and took a nap. Opened it up a few hours later.

Fried eggs

Oh, my God!

I freak out every time this happens.

Actually I'm instantaneously transported through the decades to the past at that spot when I totally freaked out about this the first time, when I was five years old and shown by my mother the eggs she opened into the pan. They're twins! This never fails to make me a little bit sad. I was aware then, at five years of age, the eggs would develop into chicks, if they were left alone by us and if they were fertilized, just as the fruit seeds I planted in dirt developed into plants, so I was aware then that by eating eggs I was destroying the potential for darling little chicks, and that can put a boy off eggs permanently. I contrive in my mind a farm scene where a hen is sitting on six eggs and then one day seven chicks appear as if by magic -- it's a bloody numerical miracle! -- another of the awesome and delightful mysteries of life. Slain.

Speaking of regret over being a baby chicken killer; by cracking open four eggs to whip out a batch of cupcakes, like yesterday, I'm admitting to myself of being a serial chicken-abortionist, and that makes me a little bit sad too. This happens every time I crack open an egg and especially happens whenever I crack open a number of eggs at once, and that transport to childhood happens automatically every time I open up a double-yolk egg. "They'd be twins!" My inner child yells inside from a long-distant past that is still quite present. Then the taint of remembered boyish sadness descends. Then I lift the emotional pall, deftly by practice, and turn to heat up some home-made green chili in the same pan the chicken pre-fetuses were fried, because what would a plate of aborted sadly unfertilized unusually doubled Gallus gallus domesticus ova be without green chili when it's already right there on hand in its little plastic container? Nothing, that's what. I have tortillas too, but they're frozen, and frankly, on chicken-miracle day I can not be bothered with thawing.

See how our big fat scientific selves obfuscate with language to assuage and to put a distance between the reality of what we're doing and the experiences of our precious littler emotional selves?  

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