Salmon with lemon sauce and mint

The picture in my mind is an oversized platter with two thin slips of salmon in a broad pool of translucent lemon sauce and sparse nearly completely cooked vegetables here and there glistening with sauce, and then incongruently, a few shell pasta pieces. 

Note to self: bigger platter, broader view. 

Ever since I read that thing about pad Thai followed by a comment that was more helpful than the article itself, I find myself asking, "Is this two-dimensional?" And if so then I seek to punch it out at least one more direction, usually along familiar lines, chile pepper flakes in this case. Often the missing dimension is butter or some kind of alcohol. 

This plate is graced with both cilantro and mint. Not just for green specks, they actually do mingle and alter the flavor of the areas of their propinquity so that each forkful is different yet similar, and because I have both herbs on hand. 

Lemon sauce:

* 1/2 cup water
*  1 tablespoon butter
*  1 level tablespoon sugar
*  1/16 teaspoon salt
*  lemon, juice of one whole lemon
* 1 heaped teaspoon corn starch
* 1/4 teaspoon mixed chile pepper flakes

Eggs with masa

The original idea was a flavorful masa cake base that is half cheese topped with a poached egg that would break over the cake and become the sauce for the dryer masa. I realized I do not care that much for masa in thick cake form. I thought of ways to lighten it considerably to something closer to a foam masa cake. Then I thought of using less cheese and mixing the egg directly into loose masa. The masa mixture would be very very loose, much more loose than for a corn tortilla, even more loose than for tamale filling. I'd say about as loose as crêpe batter. 

For two of those ↑ large quenelle things:

*  1/2 cup water. Other times I would consider chicken broth but tonight I am thinking about the water being the thing that conveys the rich clean flavor of the nixtamal maíz masa.  Water seemed a clearer conveyance than broth although less robust.

* 3 level tablespoons masa harina. 
*  two eggs
*  salt and pepper
*  cumin powder
*  coriander seeds powder 
*  cayenne red chile powder
*  another chile powder of your choice
*  chile flakes of your choice
*  fresh or tinned jalapeños.
*  1/2 small onion diced. These diced onions were zapped for 45 seconds in the microwave to knock the edge off the sulphenic acids and to cause them to shrink. I do not want onions to shrink from the thing that I am making resulting in air gaps next to all the onion bits. I want a light airy mixture, yes, but not like that. 
*  smashed garlic clove 

It's Hatch chile roasting time around here right now. I really must go out and buy a sack. Enterprising vendors, not necessarily campesinos, bring freshly harvested New Mexico chiles of varying intensities to surrounding areas. They set up large roasters, sometimes giant, that resemble a ping-pong ball cage used for bingo. There is a gas flame underneath. The cage is partially filled with chiles of like intensity and turned continuously over the flames until the chiles are singed black. The chiles are done when they are suitably black, 100% black. It's up to the customer to pick off the remaining black flakes before the chiles are frozen, if they last that long. This pictured above uses tinned serrano chiles, which are close to jalapeños but a little longer, thinner, and hotter. 

This masa harina is fun to cook. It looks so wet at first. If I were not familiar with it then I would be convinced there is no way it will solidify. Shouldn't worry. Even if it doesn't solidify, which it will, but even if it doesn't then the egg will take over and thicken the liquid so there is a broad range for error and for personal preference.  On low heat, the liquid mixture cooks first on the bottom just as an omelet. The nearly cooked material is pushed out of the way and liquid material replaced in the spot that was vacated. Repeat this pushing away of the material for a minute until you see the masa start to toast, the cheese melt, and the egg thicken to solid. The masa pulls away from the pan beautifully and mysteriously, yet adheres to itself without forming layers. It simply dries and stiffens noticeably while being pushed around. The cook can shape the nearly cooked masa and egg into a quenelle by tilting the pan and moving the material into the the edge, then rolling the quenelle in the edge of the pan using a large serving spoon. Remarkably, the pan is nearly completely cleared all material having been picked up by the cooked masa. The masa/egg quenelle is tipped onto a serving plate. 

Rhubarb cobbler

I did not make this. Dessert that I brought home from a party.

Other warm up items at the same party.  

There were other food items that came out later, fine things, mighty fine things, but by then the camera was set down. I was particularly taken with a cabbage slaw with all kinds of unexpected things in it, raspberry, blueberry, orange segments. 

I am just flat not hungry right now.  So I've been nibbling away like a little mouse. Half my weight in seeds a day.   

Instead, would you like to see a few things wot I made then mailed?  Three birthdays coming up in a few days for relatives of female persuasion. Three copies of the same card were produced then mailed to opposite parts of the country.

If you would care to see,  a pop-up card for you

Homemade pickles

Garden cucumbers grown out on the balcony. They didn't taste that great raw but they taste fantastic now.  Pickling various vegetables is turning out to be one of my favorite things, onions, garlic, fennel, carrots, sturdy vegetables like that. These are the quick process type of pickles, relish if you prefer, not the fermented type. 

Here is what I learned by making a few batches: 

*  Sugar and vinegar are heated then poured over cut vegetables.

*  Mix sugar and vinegar then top off the jar with water. 

*  To a point, the more vinegar and sugar, the better. So one cup each is better than 1/4 cup each but that's about as far as you'll want to go. This batch is not intense so I probably mixed in moderation. I suppose it can always be intensified. 

* Quart is a very good size. This is pint size.

*  Go as far as you like clearing out the spice cabinet but some things are standout spices for this sort of thing. 

*  Bay leaf adds body and depth as well as flavor. I use it a lot. With salt, it changes water into soup.  <--- possible 100% exaggeration for dramatic effect. 

* When it comes to seed spices it is very hard to go wrong if not impossible. Fennel, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, clove buds, black pepper, all those things go together and more.

* Garlic and fresh ginger are especially effective

*  Rice vinegar is a nice option

* It only takes a few hours refrigerated, but a day is better.   

These pickles are so good they knocked my pants off. 

Cucumber, tomato, mozzarella, pecan salad

A salad so simple that nothing extra can interfere, not even a plate!

Cucumber, tomato, mozzarella, pecans. 

Broken dressing, olive oil and incredibly delicious, carefully aged, and ridiculously expensive balsamic that I only share with special guests, like me, when me is unusually well behaved and smells nice, and myself, when myself has performed some praiseworthy deed, or I, whenever the impulse strikes I which turns out to be not all that often. 'Broken dressing' means no attempt is made to combine ingredients.

Okay, now LOOK!  I turned up the brightness on this laptop monitor by double which is still only half way and now my eyes are BUGGIN' ! Pictures, especially faces, are looking amazingly 3D.

The effect occurs mostly where contrasty detail is next to out of focus area. The focused area pops forward. Portions of the popped forward areas pop closer than other popped forward areas, which is simply stunning.

This picture is doing it. The three cucumber sticks with pepper on them are freaking me out.  

Lime pie, meringue topping


The lemon curd made earlier is so easy and delicious I wanted to try it again with limes. I also want to try it again with oranges. 

Here is how easy. You extract all the flavor out of limes that you can, zest and juice. Pick a liquid. I pick milk. Thicken the liquid two ways, with corn starch and egg yolk. Sweetener can be anything that is sweet, confectioners sugar brings with it additional corn starch.

The meringue is whipped stovetop in a double boiler so the whipped egg white is cooked as it is whipped. The result after being baked is close to marshmallow, but without gelatin of course. 

What? Numbers? Honestly, you wear me out. You realize I didn't have any numbers to start with so if you spot an improvement, I double dog dare you to try it. 

Graham cracker crust:

*  11 Graham crackers
*  4 tablespoons melted butter
*  2 level tablespoons sugar
*  1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
*  1/8 teaspoon ground clove
*  1/4 oz dark  rum because the bottle was right there

Method: Process the crackers to dust. Melt the butter and combine with everything. Press into a pie pan. Bake until browned, about 10 minutes at reasonable heat.

Lime pie filling:

*  2 limes, zest and juice. You could probably  go 3 or 4 limes
*  3/4 cup sugar
*  3 heaping tablespoons corn starch
*  3 egg yolks
*  3 cups milk
*  1 teaspoon vanilla extract
*  2 tablespoons butter
* 1/2 oz dark rum because the bottle was right there

Method: Put everything into a pot and whisk while bringing to a boil. The mixture completely thickens at the boiling point. It thickens further upon cooling, and further upon chilling.  


*  3 egg whites
*  1 level teaspoon cream of tartar
*  1 cup confectioner's sugar
*  1 teaspoon vanilla extract
*  no dark rum because the bottle isn't there anymore 

Method: Whisk everything in a thin metal bowl over boiling water until you behold the development of the whipped foam to a new substance that is creamy, thicker, heavier all done by positive thinking and will power and by gentle heat to 158℉, but mostly by gentle heat to 158℉. 

Folded scrambled egg, curly lettuce with dressing

*  2 jumbo eggs
*  butter in a non-stick pan
*  1/4 white onion, diced
*  1/8 teaspoon hot chile flakes
*  2 oz Mexican cheese, grated

Method: Mix everything except the cheese. Pour into a pan over low heat. Watch for the egg to set. Sprinkle the surface with grated cheese. Just as the top of the egg begins to set, fold two opposing edges toward the center. The egg disc is now a wide egg strip and has two straight edges and two curved edges. Lift one of the curved edges and fold inward toward the center. Fold again as if folding up a blanket. Fold again, then again out of the pan and onto a plate. 

Forgive the indulgence if you will, the large number of photographs for a simple egg. I almost didn't bother because the meal is not thoughtful, one of those things that staves off starvation and nothing more. Do not mistake this for an omelet or we will send you through the spanking line and mock you brutally. And then I thought, "What the heck." And then all of a sudden it's was like that bit in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance where a student complains about being stuck on writing an essay about the school and the professor tells the student to go out there to the front steps of the school and start describing the bricks, and then the student comes back and goes, "Oh, wow I just sat down and started describing the bricks and I got unstuck about writing and then everything poured out of me." The professor just stood there nodding knowingly. 

Roasted chicken sandwich

A few ounces of roasted chicken pieces are reheated to hot enough and for long enough to neutralize any microbial threat real or imagined. The chicken was roasted a few days ago, the bread was baked a few days ago, the aioli was cooked which made it possible to store and that was quite awhile ago. I'll be happy to see it go, actually.

For myself, assembling sandwiches is child's play. To make a sandwich now is to behave like a child. I feel myself regressing and approaching the matter as a boy. What would make it perfect from a boy's point of view? Well, we can get rid of those crusts first of all, and everything will fit without sticking out too much or slide out. It will be neat and not a drippy mess. How could I not think such sandwich-related thoughts? After all, I ate one almost every day of the school year. You can see what a bright little ray of sunshine I would have been to be around.

That left a lot of time to sit there examining my sandwich and critiquing before I ever actually attempted to make a sandwich. I asked about these things. Why is butter spread on the bread? Why is the bread square but the bologna is round? Why mayonnaise? Why block cheese? Why is the cheese cut thickly to thinly resulting in a cheese wedge? Why when you cut the final sandwich didn't you eliminate corners? Why did you cut the final sandwich? Why is the filling spread irregularly? Why are they wrapped in wax paper? Why don't you ever put crisps inside? 

Well now I am in charge, and I don't care if I trim off more bread than I use. Those trimmings are managed anyway and right now I am interested in ART and in playing with my food. This regression is comfortable. 

The size of this sandwich is determined by the size of the prepackaged slice of American cheese. The bread is trimmed to fit and so is everything else. One bread slice is painted with a homemade aioli light with garlic and bright with something sweet, and on another bread slice a commercial raspberry preserve is spread, to do for the chicken what cranberry sauce does for holiday turkeys. The cheese is under the reheated chicken to avail its melting carryover heat. The slowly and incompletely melting cheese corrals and holds crisp roughly shredded lettuce.  See? A sandwich from a boy's point of view. 

Know what would improve this sandwich? Thin salty potato chips, potato crisps, really stacked in there and smashed to form a thick reliable layer. The more the better. Potato crisp crunch in every bite. I must have fixed a thousand sandwiches this way. Some sandwiches were so well repaired they became predominantly potato crisps and all other sandwich elements were supportive.

Celery, peanut butter, raisins

Roasted chicken, couscous, Parmigiano

Mint impressively alters the flavor of leftovers. With the airy mint fragments, the chicken here becomes something completely different from the original roasted chicken, and if one's fix on reality is not so rigid that it precludes lapses, then with the first bite of this breathy mint couscous it is quite possible to be transported to Morocco.


Yes, Morocco. MOROCCO. MOROCCO. Look, this is my story, a'ight? and I'll tell it how I like. 

Chicken from two days ago. Goodness, has it been that long already? This shows that I am just flat not hungry, and that is bad because I can feel the pounds slipping away. Pants are looser. Belts cinch up a notch farther. 

Couscous from even longer ago. I'm surprised it is still serviceable. 

So I hosted a little thing over here and at the end people went, "Oh, let us get everything sorted or at least started," because everything is out in the open and always looks worse than it really is. The whole place shines right up real fast, but at the peak it looks hopeless. 

Then the people bailed. I did not get right on things because I was tired. I slummed it instead for days and increased the mess without first clearing the surfaces and restoring order. Eventually I used every piece of serviceware, even all the pieces I avoid because they're stupid, like the little bitty forks designed more for children than for salads. I never depleted them all before. The small pieces I don't like using act as a warning alarm that I'm nearing the end and to wash them. I bought several sets to make sure that I never ran out. It's a bachelor survival thing to plan on loading up the dishwasher without ever running out of a fork or a plate.

Did you see what happened to that roasted chicken? Honestly, my heart is not in it entirely. I am not very hungry and it is bigger than I thought. I intended to boil the carcass along with another chicken carcass that is saved in the freezer, you know, two battery chickens to equal the chickeny goodness of one free range chicken, but when this chicken here was started to boil it was clear that another pile of bones together with it is too much for my home equipment. 

The chicken was picked over, meat reserved, and the rest turned into soup. The usual thing except this time I returned all the vegetables that were originally the bed for the roasted chicken and themselves fully roasted and flavorful. For some inexplicable reason I wanted fennel seed in the chicken broth, so that right there will distinguish it from all the chicken broths, stocks, consommés, soups that preceded this one. But this chicken broth that I am showing you here has nothing to do with tonight's couscous. I am showing divergent paths that portions of the roasted chicken are going down. This is for educational purposes. These things are happening concurrently. 

The chicken broth is also flavored with long pepper.

I do not know what long pepper is. I haven't yet dared bite one to find out.

So the chicken broth is not done yet but in the meantime the chicken pieces are nibbled away. 

Potato cake, roasted chicken, egg

Roasted chicken from yesterday. Mashed potato from yesterday. Egg from when I do not know. Thinking about eggs makes me sad.

If I had chickens, they would each be provided their own little box with hay in it just like in the cartoons. A personal cell within the chicken collective. That reminds me, do you know why proper chicken coops have two doors?

For cross ventilation?  

Chickens dislike feeling trapped?

One for the human the other for the chickens?

Building code standards demand two exits? 

Makes escaping an invading predator easier?

No. None of these reasons. The reason is because if it had four doors then it would be a sedan.

Roasted chicken, mashed potatoes


Tonight, chicken gravy is made separately from roasted chicken. That is, the valuable pan drippings have nothing to do with the gravy tonight. It is all saved for later. Why? Well, because I didn't want to wait for the roasted chicken to be done to start with gravy, I didn't want to separate the oil from the drippings so that it can be measured, and because I can sort out the drippings later after the whole thing cools and use the drippings later for later meals and a range of things. It's made with commercial broth. So the chicken gravy is not part of the roasted chicken. There is a trace amount of curry added to the gravy. 

Two small potatoes are microwaved for 5.5 minutes and then pushed through a ricer. A small amount of milk is heated with a generous tablespoon of butter in the microwave for 45 seconds. The heated milk and butter are combined with the riced potatoes using a fork to keep the potatoes fluffy. Here is the thing: stop adding the warmed milk and butter when the desired hydration is achieved even if that means wasting some. The milk and butter are best heated in advance and it is impossible to judge in advance how much the potatoes will take up before becoming too wet. So do not use it all just because you heated it and are loath to waste it. In this case, for tonight, the extra heated milk and butter could go into the gravy and actually contribute, so the extra milk and butter warmed did not go to waste. Just sayn'. It is a strong impulse to use it all just because you prejudged that amount and heated it. 

The chicken is rinsed with cold water, dried, split, oiled, seasoned, and tented with aluminum foil, baked at 325℉/163℃ for an hour, then at 425℉/218℃ untented for an additional 10 minutes. Then tented again outside the oven to rest while the mashed potatoes (riced potatoes) and gravy are completed concurrently. 

Most American communities offer roasted chicken right there at the grocery store. Good ones too. At the big box stores, rotisseries of chickens are rolling continuously. The big box chickens are gigantic, in keeping with their outsized marketing niche, much larger than the regular grocery store rotisserie chicken, and, this is what is so amazing, a cooked rotisserie chicken from the reviled big box store that is fresh off the rotisserie and hot in its careful container, and expertly cooked and is delicious, and  is larger is even less expensive than regular-size raw whole chicken at ordinary grocery stores! With all these advantages of roasted chickens from the big box stores and from all the grocery stores, there is little point to roasting a chicken at home. With such great choices, you have to be a little whacked to even bother. 

Another thing that I would like to point out if it happens that you are not on the North American continent and perhaps you do things differently, and maybe even regard our ways as a bit odd. The chicken is cooked in the oven. The gravy is cooked in a small pot on the stovetop. So that is two electrical burners right there, one large coil for the oven and a small coil, one of four coils, on the stove top. The potatoes are heated in the microwave because that is the fastest and the easiest, and the milk and butter are also heated in the microwave for under one minute. So, three heating techniques at once, roasting, stovetop, microwave, for a very simple meal. If you think that is insane, then maybe it is. All these same things can be done on a campfire or in a solar oven.  

Potato, mango sauce

Mango coulis, mango foam, whipped mango, mango sauce.

You take your mango, peel it, pit it, cube it, and put it in a jar. Process with a stick blender until the fruit turns to foam, process for only a few seconds. Oh, lime!

Potato, the gateway vegetable. 

They're actually good for you if you can manage to avoid the customary toppings in excess, butter, sour cream, bacon, cheese. The idea here is to substitute a fruit sauce for regular potato toppings and see how we like it. 

This potato has butter because I wanted a fat element to slow the digestion of the fast-sugar mango and fast-sugar starchy potato. Two fast sugars together and the only thing to brake them is a single teaspoon of butter. 

Linguini in cream sauce, toast

Stiff dry pasta dough is extruded through bronze dies fitted to the machines of the pasta maker. The rough texture imparted onto the pasta surface makes a significant difference in the way the cooked noodle holds sauce, or even plain oil, but only for those people who decide to notice and value such things. 

By now you can easily deduce the simple ingredients, so guess.

Go on, guess. 

Guess, I said.

Okay Playas; select the contents of the box below to reveal the answers, or else just select all.  

Sauce Ingredients

* butter and olive oil
*  crushed garlic
*  white wine
*  cream
*  dry Italian herbs of choice
*  fresh herbs of choice, here parsley and cilantro
*  dry chile pepper flakes
*  salt and pepper
*  Parmigiano cheese, off the heat

I'm tired of thinking up precise amounts and then stating them as if you were not going to make your own adjustments anyway, or on the other hand, as if you were helpless or insufficiently creative to proceed without them. So then, in amounts that suit you just fine and that pass your built-in common sense evaluator. 

Bananas, ice cream, caramel

Bananas Foster. Sometimes dinner looks like dessert. 

I decided that flambé is BUNK !

Purely for showmanship and there is nobody around to show off to, so a step that goes "poof" and that's the end of that. I think flambés were big in the 60's but I have no real way to know for sure. That was back in the days when it was believed most of the alcohol is burned off. This is wrong. The alcohol is always mostly still there by 70%. 

On an episode of Restaurant Impossible, Robert Irvine teaches a crew how to make bananas Foster. Robert's version calls for two sauces, one to cook the bananas and another similar sauce to pour over the final product. I cannot see the need for that. This approach is just a way to get two alcohols into a flavored caramel. 

*  banana liqueur
*  rum

You melt yourself some sugar, in this case, brown sugar and refined white cane sugar. Sugar melts irregularly in patches spread out there on the bottom of a pan. It is fascinating to watch. The liquid sugar portion may darken faster than the unmelted portion so the process might need to be halted before all the sugar actually melts. The process is arrested by the addition of cream which boils away at temperature lower than it takes to melt sugar so arresting the process is violent and exciting. Then those alcohols ↑ are added, the pan tipped to the flame, and poof there is a lovely fire while all that ↓ is shaken together. 

*  cream
*  butter
*  cinnamon
*  ginger (impulse addition)
*  pinch of salt

Update:  Here is an example of a situation that makes me go, "Wut? Did that just happen?" There is no logical place to sort this so I will file it under "M" for,

"Man, oh man, these coincidences sure can be coincidental sometimes."

I made a version of bananas Foster. Photographed the finished plate. Ate the ice cream, bananas, and sauce. Resized and adjusted the photos. Uploaded photos. Wrote a brief post on bananas Foster. Solved crossword puzzle that featured bananas Foster.

Is that last bit funny or spooky?

The puzzle came from a file of puzzles in this format. Now the format has changed and so has the situation with the free puzzles, so when these are gone, that's it, there is no replacement. So I pick one randomly, thus diminishing the file of puzzles. It says "Sunday Challenge" so naturally a difficult puzzle is expected. I notice large open corners and an open cross in the center. Those are good signs for a serious un-themed puzzle. I am familiar with the constructor from previous puzzles and from the crossword convention web site. These things are usually bears. As it turns out, this one is not. I got "American History" from its three first letters and an unhelpful clue that refers to the other answer within the puzzle that runs all the way across and forms the shape of a cross with this answer, so that is the nearest this puzzle will come to anything so much as a theme. That the two clues are self-referential means the across answer will have something to do with American History and that is a very helpful clue to have, much better than the two clues provided which simply refer to each other. John Quincy Adams formed up with just two starting letters. From my point of view the puzzle is not difficult, in fact the opposite, so nothing close to challenging. Now you could probably go, "Well, maybe you got lucky this time like you did on the CLEP tests, and just happened to know the stuff they are asking."  And I would see the wisdom in that stance and not be tempted to argue because, after all, how many letters do you imagine were needed for "ice cream" to solve this bananas Foster ingredient clue?

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