Archives for category: food

I am waiting for my heirloom native American O’odham keli baso melon to ripen. I sniff it every day. I have no way of knowing when it is going to be ripe, since I’ve never seen one before. I think it’s supposed to be yellow outside. The meat is exceptionally sweet and is white. It’s grown in the desert by the O’odham Indians of Arizona, and I got the seed from Native Seed/Search.

Which brings us to our healthy lunch meat recipe for the day — lentils. People mostly think of hot lentil soup as something for a winter lunch. I remember once, however, eating a cold lentil salad with a piece of grilled teriyaki salmon on top of it, with lots of nice fresh chervil at the Hay Adams Hotel in D.C.. Lentil salad is also absolutely unsurpassably delicious, seriously, one of the top — twenty, let’s say — eats when served with melon. Any kind, slightly cooler than room temp.

The secret of lentil salad, as I’m sure you know, is the secret of potato salad. Season it when warm. (Don’t put mayonnaise or hard-boiled eggs on hot potatoes, but do sprinkle it with chicken broth, or add your vinaigrette if that’s how you’re dressing the salad, and the onions. Add the egg-based stuff when it’s cool.

(You’d also do the same with green bean salad, or chard with pine nuts and white raisins, leaving out the vinegar or the lemon juice which would discolor it, until serving time.)

I have consulted the great connoisseuses of lentil salad — Elizabeth David (Summer Cooking), Claudia Roden (A Book of Middle Eastern Food) and Deborah Madison (Greens).  Roden and Madison both advise a lemon vinaigrette for lentil salad, which is my preference too. Only Madison calls for lemon zest in the vinaigrette, and for this she deserves a point. Greens, her masterwork, suffers from a certain vegetarian/Buddhist rococo touch, as if loading on the ingredients made up for lack of meat. Madison’s lentil salad has all kinds of Stuff in it, including mint, roast peppers and feta cheese. None of those strike me as specially ‘licious. David’s awesome austere lentil salad is seasoned warm simply with onion and olive oil and garnished with hard-boiled eggs, a perfect taste and visual counterpoint to the lentils.

Claudia Roden, a Sephardic Jew expelled from Egypt by Nasser, recreated a whole civilization in exile with her classic, and revolutionary cookbook.

My favorite lentil salad, for serving  with either grilled salmon or cool melon, has carrots in it, because their sweet smoothness and orange color add pleasure. And it’s dressed warm with something like Roden’s lemon vinaigrette. Since I’m on a lemon-zest-in-everything mission, I add the zest to:

Claudia Roden’s Lentil Salad

1/2 cup lentils, soaked overnight if necessary (check package directions)


3 T finely chopped parsley


7-8 T olive oil

Juice of 1 1/2-2 lemons

1-2 cloves garlic, crushed [she says they’re optional; I don’t think so]

Black pepper

1/2 t ground coriander or cumin [optional]

Use the large, dark brown lentils for this salad. Drain them after soaking, and boil them in a half-covered pan in fresh water until barely tender. This will take 3/4 to 1 1/2 hours. [Or get yourself a pressure cooker and liberate yourself from bean cooking times.] A pressure cooker [yeah, Claudia!] will reduce the cooking time to between 10 and 20 minutes, but care must be taken not to overcook the lentils. Add salt only toward the end of cooking time. Drain well.

Mix the dressing ingredients and pour over the lentils while still quite hot. Stir in parsley, and arrange in a serving dish.

A Book of Middle Eastern Cooking

But it would be good in the Elizabeth David version too. I bet she had hers with a few well-chosen bottles of rose.

I am also going to be making Armenian Lentil Soup, which uses fruit in a savory mixture, a combination that sends me. It has eggplant in it too. Seems to be a lot of them around lately.

Sam Cooke – You Send Me

Summertime, and the less Mama cooks, the happier everybody is. Last night, for dinner, I had mango sherbet and honey Dijon almonds from Walgreen’s. Yeah, baby.

Today I’m back to more or less real food. Surimi, to be precise. Louis Kemp brand bought in a four-pack from Costco. They say not to freeze it. I freeze it.

The Japanese have long worked many ways to extract different kinds of food from the sea and soybeans, there being not a lot of arable land in Japan. One of the things they’ve come up with is surimi, a paste made of pollock which is then flavored with artificial crab or lobster flavorings and formed into crab-like and lobster-like textures. It’s delicious, cheap, and low-fat. The Costco packages have recipes on them  that sound delicious for somebody who feels like turning on the stove.

I prefer not to.

Hence, insta-crab salad for an East Coast girl far away from home, dreaming of Vineyard lobster rolls. The key is celery, lots of it, and buttered grilled hot dog rolls. Louise Tate King, the goddess of all food Vineyard style, calls for 1/2 cup celery per two cups lobster per Mrs. Grieder’s Gay Head luncheonette formula. Lemon juice, a half cup of mayo and a touch of curry powder complete Mrs. Grieder’s awesome minimalist recipe. You may add grated onion as you please.

I lightened 1/4 cup mayo with 1/4 cup yogurt, added Tabasco and the absolutely crucial lemon juice and let the curry powder and the grilled hot dog rolls go. Maybe next time. Lots of really good organic celery makes this special.

Louis Kemp Crab Delites, aka surimi.

We love Louise Tate King here at the Rancho Atomico not least for the wonderful tribute she pays to the Portuguese, who are the world’s greatest sailors and whose delicious food can be found in ports the world over. The Martha’s Vineyard Cookbook has recipes for Holy Ghost Soup,  Portuguese sweet bread, linguica concoctions and the immortal Caldo Verde kale soup which probably kept the Portuguese sailors’ teeth anchored while all the limeys’ teeth fell out. In addition, there are ancient New England recipes and lore, including one of my favorites — it reminded me of the civil rights hero John Lewis’ preaching to the chickens as a boy — of an eccentric New England spinster who loved her chickens and wrote poems to them.

All this you can get for one cent off Amazon. Bawk BAAAAWWWK.

Here is the Homesick Texan’s Texas caviar I talk about all the time. She’s really good with assertive, balanced flavors.

Texas caviar with the first fruits of my heirloom Chimayo chile, which I am drying per Laura Hudson’s instructions at Mas du Diable.

At this altitude (Macondo is the other mile-high city >:-() cooking beans is something that pretty much does not occur. I don’t know how the millions of Mexis here do it — and they do do it, but me I never could get them cooked in under three days. So I got a pressure cooker and they’re cooked to perfection in 10 minutes. I got the one recommended by Cooks’ Magazine, the Fagor Splendid 6-quart pressure cooker.

I always feared pressure cookers but that was stupid. Soak beans overnight, have them cooked in 10 minutes = instant bean-based soup, chili, humus, what have you, much less expensively than canned beans, and with more delicious beans, too. I cook a pound of dried whatever — the one$ from the food coop are, in fact, prettier and ta$tier — and stick half in the freezer. There’s nothing more delicious for dinner than Hoppin’ John, if you’re wondering what to do with extra black eyed peas.

My other Healthy Lunch Meat Chronicle discovery was at the prepared food cold case in the local hippie dippie food coop. They call it Burmese Crunchy Ginger Salad, but Uncle Google tells me the Burmese call it gin thoke.

My name is Jeannette, and I’m a crunchaholic. Honest to God, I need to crunch at least every other day or there’ll be hell. to. pay. As in, sleepwalk to the 7-11 in my footed pajamas and rifle the potato chip rack in my sleep, awakening with a circle of Cheeto-colored salt around my lips that can’t be accounted for. Weight Watchers and Lean Cuisine could make you want to slit your wrists mainly for the LACK OF CRUNCH.

Gin thoke to the rescue. There are several recipes for it on the internets. The ingredient list from the Fante Se hippies who make it is as follows:

Here’s one with tomato and sesame with chick pea flour sprinkled over it:

And one with toasted chickpeas as part of the crunchies, as well as toasted chick pea flour, and not as nummy a fish sauce/lime dressing as most:

This one is my favorite so far, with sauteed dried lima beans and Napa cabbage:

The Fanta Se hippie gin thoke comes with the ginger and jalapeno nestled on the very finely shredded cabbage, with the sauce in a little lidded cup and the crunchies in their own baggie. I have to say, there is nothing, nothing, like crisp sizzled thin slices of garlic, carefully drained. Something I was making called for a garnish of these and I acquiesced to what seemed like another eon of labor just for decoration.

But no. Crunch Nirvana.

So any version of gin thoke that goes down here at the Rancho Atomico will haz garlic AND shallots, crisp fried. The peanuts, coconut and shrimp flakes are keepers too. The crisply fried yellow split peas are hilarious and absolutely delicious. Those Burmese!

I wonder what the toasted garbanzo flour is all about? I have some.  Maybe I’ll try it. I think I’ll try toasted chickpeas and tomatoes too.

But this week it’s Texas caviar, mmmm hmmmm.

I’ve started reading from its beginning the blog of a young father and artist, who makes his living being one, who is also a big foodie. I’ve known two other fine artists well who also lived to cook, and who were wonderful gardeners. I think it’s the same engagement with materiality rather, I submit, than sensuality. Hmm. Marxist materialism?

I was inspired to read this guy’s blog through Punk Domestics, which concept I’m much interested in. The PD blog is basically about DIY preserving — meat, jam, canning. I was hoping it would have more home-made household cleansers and tips. I am interested to know how it differs from the Gen X peak oil survivalist bunkerites and the competitive tiger moms intent on banning all germs, toxins, and vaccinations from the lives of their autistic children before they give up the SUV. One clue is the punks are urban and arguably exogamous.

Artisanal Brooklyn is strongly implied, with rooftop gardening and urban farming , food coops like Rainbow Grocery run by the grey spikes rather than the grey ponytails, ghetto green guerrillas and communitarian gardens implicated. As opposed to bunkers far away from the scary black people.

An Oakland guerrilla green tells her tale.

I am much concerned about humane meat and am pretty much not reassured by Jamie Oliver’s snuff films, the allegation that that famous empath,  Zuckerberg, kills all his own meat and became a man eating chicken gizzards. Now it is alleged he wants to learn to hunt.

I am not reassured by urban farmers growing turkeys and pigs in their own tiny rowhouse back yards. I am often horrified in the punk/survivalist blogs at the ignorant inhumanity with which domestic animals are treated, exposed to every disease and predator by people who don’t have the money for proper feed, fences, pasture, waste management, and veterinarians. And brag about it. I actually called the humane society in a rural Montana county to sic them on people shamelessly abusing goats. I’m trying to figure out how to do it in France.

I am curious about the punk canning mentality.

This young man now makes his own salami and Edam or Gouda cheese, in the tradition of the hippie generation of chefs like Paul Bertolli, who Italified Chez Panisse,  and the Gen X granny chefs like Mario Batali, Manhattan’s hot chef, whose father retired after 30 years at Boeing to make salami. Punk Domestics had a year-long Charcutepalooza based on Ruhlman’s new meat-curing Bible. These are not your hippie grandpa’s peace-to-all-beings vegetarians. I would suspect their ethics less if they were nicer to their ghetto rowhouse animals, and if they ate more tripe.

I am reassured that Ruhlman et al., if not the punk domestics, have engaged with, and give recipes for, the Marxist materiality of pig’s blood, heads, and ears. It’s not just about the killing, Zuckerberg, or the Ozzy Osbourne machismo of biting the head off  something besides a Whopper. It’s about the dead and respecting every part. It’s about authenticity.

The earliest parts of the young man’s food blog are interestingly concerned with the transformation of leftovers into something else, vegan onion soup into calzones, for example. There was a brief post on the composition and color of the plating of the leftover risotto balls he’d made into arancini. This suggests more an upcycling, hoarding, thrifting, transsubstantiation, magpie, collageur mentality than an actually discriminating palate.

We’ll see. The question is, how much salami do you need in the apocalypse, and whether or not this DIY everything is a full employment mandate scam, as I suspect attachment parenting/breastfeeding the ambulatory is for SAHMs.

Casting around for a slaw to go with Mark Bittman‘s fennel pork burgers, I remembered my old friend Sammy Gugino’s recipe for San Diego Fish Tacos. Sammy’s are better than anybody elses’ because of the well-thought-through cabbage/avocado/lime/creamy cilantro sauce/salsa verde thing. In an online fish taco discussion recently, I was grossed out by peoples’ arguing for the dry, over-picante,  naked grilled fish, nasty shredded iceberg lettuce, and grotty salsa combos. Crunch ‘n’ cream together kinda do it for me; conversely, fish and avocado alone — bag the taco — could take you to heaven. Avocado alone. Mmmm.

I don’t always — let’s face it, never — feel up to battering and frying fish. I have delightfully and blasphemously substituted fish stix for Sammy’s lovingly home-made fried fish. Stix is delicious.

What makes Sammy’s fish tacos the very best is the slaw, finely shredded cabbage with avocado, lime, green salsa, and Sammy’s outrageous special sauce.

You know how to shred cabbage finely, yes? Get a good chef’s knife, the $129 kind. Get a stone, a steel, and some mineral oil. Learn how to sharpen a good knife lovingly. Learn how to cut things by gripping the food with curled-in fingers, using your knuckles as a slicing guide.

You know you want it.

Quarter and core the cabbage. Lift off a segment of leaves no more than one inch thick. Flatten it on the cutting board with the palm of your hand while curling your fingers. The thinner, flattened segment allows you to cut hair-fine shreds of cabbage, or any size you want. I think maybe 1/8 inch shreds for Sammy’s fish taco slaw would suit me.

I think serving Sammy’s taco condiments without the fish would be the perfect slaw for pork burgers.

I think it will shape up this way, layered, not mixed, like on the taco. Cabbage, avocado, lime, creamy sauce, salsa verde. I might stick some crisp corn tortilla strips on the top. Mmmmmmmmm.

Doing foodie research lately into the influence of Edward Espe Brown and the San Francisco Zen Center (Tassajara cookbooks, Green Gulch Farm, Greens restaurant) on Alice Waters and the food revolution. Right now tracing the ancestry of recipes, to see the bloodlines, has me confecting one myself.

Offal is one of the great healthful and inexpensive meats. On today’s march, I am going to be cooking me a potful of tripe a la Paul Bertolli, Alice Waters’ second influential chef (the first being Jeremiah Tower).

Bertolli’s recipe in Chez Panisse Cooking is the best ever tripe recipe, after Jane Grigson’s in Good Things, Bertolli’s in a long-simmered minimalist tomato sauce, to offset what tripe does to a sauce, and Grigson’s French dish, Tripe de Gourin aux pruneaux, baked for hours with a bucket of shallots, carrots, prunes, thyme and butter, one of God’s gifts to the world. Yum. O.

Good Things, for its adventurous but unpretentious palate, its arrangement by chapters of Grigson’s favorite ingredients — Prunes, Carrots, Celery — is, I think I am now after 30 years prepared to assert, the best cook book of all time. A protege of Elizabeth David, who revolutionized British cooking in the early 1950s, when food was still rationed, Grigson was also a translator and the wife of the poet Geoffrey Grigson.

Jane Grigson, with the publication of English Food in 1974 set off the heirloom growers, locavore movement in Britain. In one of my favorite blogs, Neil Cooks Grigson, a young PhD. postgrad is doughtily cooking his way through English Food.

Jane Grigson, food hero.

But there are few sustained contemplations of pork neck bones. Not precisely offal but deeply inspiring and very cheap. Googling, I find mostly Kentucky mountain folks longing for home with their recipes for pork neck bones and poke sallit. Delicious, I have no doubt. In her early and authoritative The Art of Charcuterie, Grigson has a whole chapter called “Extremities”, with at least three recipes apiece for ears, tails, brains, tongues, heads, and feets of pork. But no neck bones.

But me, I am thinking, come fall and cooler weather, of browning them in the oven. Then making a Shanghai beef noodle flavor broth, with wine, soy sauce, star anise, fresh  ginger, scallions, orange peel. Then strain, defatten, pick off the meat, and serving boiling hot over cooked noodles, sliced kielbasa, cilantro, scallions, sizzled brown garlic slices, garnished with those outrageous pickled mustard greens. Bones to the dog nieces next door, Olivia and Maisie.

Mmmm hmmm. Mmmm hmmm.

I love grits with a blind passion, and have hacked and simplified a couple of recipes to come up with this delicious dish.

First, grill eight sweet peppers, red and yellow. Follow the directions in this recipe. Too hot to click the link? Preheat oven to 400. Core and halve eight peppers. Put them cut side down on a baking tray. Put them in the oven until the skins are well blistered, about 40 minutes. Let them cool. Julienne them. All those crazy people who insist the only way to roast a pepper is by holding it over a flame with tongs? And then skin them? Buh-bye. Skins is good for you.

Make four or more servings of grits following the directions on the back of the package of the five-minute quick kind, not instant. Omit the water and the salt. Use milk and a chicken bouillion cube instead. Stir constantly. When done, add two or three cups of grated smoked Gouda cheese. Stir and pour it into a serving dish. Or do it their way.

Serve it with half a cup of the pepper julienne on top of each portion, cold sliced meat, green salad and peach pah. Or just sliced peaches and blueberries, really, really, really cold, and tossed with a touch of peach jam.

Not exactly a cuisine dolce far niente candidate, but hacked sufficiently from its origins in onerous recipes to be headed that way. Irresistible enough to make you turn on the stove.

For the simple syrup:

2 c white sugar

2 c water

2 c tightly packed fresh herbs

(Alley recommends lavender flowers, licorice mint, and rose geranium. I got my licorice mint (lavender agastache anise hyssop plant) off eBay and added tarragon. I think this would be wonderful with just a few sticks of rosemary and lemon zest, as Martha suggests.)

Agastache foeniculum, licorice mint or anise hyssop.

Bring sugar and water to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Reduce heat and add fresh herbs. Simmer for five minutes. Cover and allow to cool to prevent aromatic oils from escaping. Steep overnight in the fridge. Strain and use as needed.

For the lemonade:

2/3 cup lemon juice (bottled tastes just fine)

1 c herb simple syrup

4 c good water (or soda water, seltzer or strong herb tea like Celestial Seasonings Mandarin Orange Spice)

Mix. Add ice and sprigs of fresh herbs and slices of lemon.

Makes about six cups.

I am all about a new profit model and  System D. My father was a big Green, and I grew up composting and recycling and worrying about the archipelagoes of pellets floating on the surface of the Atlantic, which he started talking about  in the 1950s, composed of shit and petroleum emulsified with detergent.

Me, my father, and the ocean. Puerto Rico, ca. 1950.

I am still researching the piece on Edward Espe Brown as the most influential cook of the 20th century. I am encouraged by my research into the source of his recipes — forensic evidence noone else has — that research into the ripoff use of his recipes by Waters, Tower, Katzen and Batali will reveal similar unarguable lines of descent, Waters being the alleged most influential chef of the 20th century, Tower being her main early influence and employee, Katzen being the east coast hippie chef who now serves on Harvard nutrition panels, and Batali the current rage of Manhattan chefs. Like Brown’s,  Katzen’s hippie chef/vegetarian books were and are massive best-sellers. Unlike Brown, she did not sign all her profits over to the Moosewood collective. (Maybe she did. I have to check that out. I bet she didn’t.)

Always been a foodie, worked in a restaurant for a couple of years, avid reader of a wide range of cookbooks. With EEB, I’m getting to the place where it’s all porn and what I eat is simpler. Last night I had cantalope, smoked local Tucumcari Gouda, artisanal sourdough and Costco butter for dinner. (Got to check that out and go for the humane butter.)

So I was very interested to see people I suspect of the punk, straighter edge, food distribution, Gen X Gordon Edgar  and Rainbow Grocery ilk, pace old hippies, featured in the NYT piece on small farmers. Some of them are now former migrant workers who have been taught organic microfarming by awesome organizations like Viva Farms.

And some of them are Lena Dunham dead-end urban job Gen Z refugees, living in an RV without internets and television, doting upon the doggie their rural setting now permits them to keep. They’re 25 and they met in college.

Jenny and Alex Smith, Matthew Ryan Williams for The New York Times.

They remind me a lot of the permaculture hustlers blog of young Australians I read. They make a living by inviting people to come and learn permaculture on their farm — while paying to farm it.

Planting freedom is a burgeoning idea, and not just at Viva Farms, which seems to be specializing in training former migrant workers. Black Americans returning to the south and planting Juneteenth emancipation gardens is one thread. Another is the discovery, preservation, and promulgation of nearly waterless vegetable crops and techniques, like pre-Colombian water catchment structures, developed by Native Americans in the southwest and sold as Noah’s ark crops, standing tall and dry against genetically engineered, faraway, water rights war-inspiring, unsustainable agribusiness.

I keep wondering if I plant the Tohono O’odham garden, will they prosper? I did plant their melons this year and await them with pleasure.

On the EEB research, one of the key pieces of the puzzle is Sibella Kraus, Alice Waters’ first forager, who was a line cook at Chez Panisse and went on to study agricultural economics and become a food activist.

This is one of the punk, System D, locavore jobs of the future. My father spent his life teaching sustainable fish farming in the Third World. Now it comes down to doing the same in the New World.

I’ve been surveying a bunch of cookbooks lately, tracing the development of Edward Espe Brown’s recipes, his influence on California cuisine (he did not invent mesquite grilling, since meat is not on his Buddhist menu, but he may have invented California pizza, Spago, Wolfgang Puck and all his pineapple pizza spawn), and on what is now the commodity fetishization of farmer’s market vegetables and locavorism. New York City’s number one chef, Mario Batali, dropped out of the fast corporate chef track in the 1990s and went to cook in a 25-seat trattoria in a small village in Italy for three years. He never stops talking about pristine produce and married his farmer’s daughter. He calls it Italy, but it’s really Eddie.

Edward Espe Brown

Edward Espe Brown (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of Espe Brown’s cooking foremothers is Adelle Davis, who was the nutritionist rediscovered by hippie dippie cooks like me in the early 1970s. I have my original yellowed edition of Let’s Cook It Right, and have not salted boiling food from the first day I read Adelle over 40 years ago.

Adelle Davis

Adelle Davis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I cracked her open recently, on my road trip, to do some of the tedious recipe comparison/origin work that is the backbone of the Espe Brown story. You never believe this of a nutritionist, and certainly not from the hippie-dippie ones, but what a good cook Adelle was!

Yesterday I made one of the aspics I pencilled a star alongside 40 years ago — slow and steady crosses the finish line, baby — and it is all I want to eat. Martha Stewart, having learned a lesson from Real Simple, a rival mag which pretends to be the anti-Martha but is weirdly anti-pleasure, has greatly simplified her recipes since the days I spent $100 on ingredients for minestrone and three days chopping that shit up, making stock, picking leaves off stems of herbs, and so on. This month she has a whole page of no cook soup, which almost qualify for the coveted Cuisine Dolce Far Niente tag I very seldom award.

So I made Adelle’s beet/smoked fish/apple aspic and Martha’s cantalope and chili soup. Cold fuds, mmmmmmm. Even with the enormous, perfectly tasteless cantalope I got from Smith’s, you bastards, and some doctoring with rice vinegar and honey, the soup is beautiful and mouth feely and almost tasty, and Adelle’s aspic is all I want to eat. She has one mother aspic recipe and about 50 changes to ring on it. I’m so psyched. Cold soup and aspic all summer long.


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