Friday, July 30, 2004

Putting the Mal in Tamales

It's too bad. Those were good tamales. The first three at least. I won't be going back to that place.

Tamales and Sidral

Having gotten out of work early today, I stopped at a tortilleria on West 9th St. in Bradenton. I've passed the place every day on my way back from the Herald, but never made it in. The place looks like a regular Mexican grocery: boxes of limes, papayas, fresh and dried chiles, as well as a refrigerator full of sodas in glass bottles. The store also had a glass case full of ornate-looking cakes, as well as trays of more ordinary looking breads and pastries. The only light in the store seemed to come from its front door and a large red heating lamp that beamed down on bundles of tamales and wrapped platters of roasted chickens. Sitting beside the plexiglass warmer was a young lady wrapping stacks of tortillas in sheets of wax paper. Only when I approached the counter to ask about the tamales did I notice a low window that connected the store to a kitchen. The tortillas were fed through this window on a rotating wire rack. The girl plucked them off the rack, stacked them and wrapped them. I grabbed a bottle of Sidral (apple soda) and asked for an order of the pork tamales. For just over five bucks I got half a dozen tamales and a soda. Not a bad lunch. I'll definitely go back for the tortillas, and maybe a roast chicken.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Not Cooking Here

The lemongrass stalks that I used for tea the other day have sprouted quite nicely. I think I'll put them in some dirt tomorrow afternoon. I'm a little concerned that there might be some other, less-intentional sproutings going on in the kitchen sink area though.

That being said, we went to The Castle for dinner tonight. No, not the club in Tampa. The Castle is a small German restaurant in the plaza next to Target on 41. It doesn't look like much from the outside, but once you step inside it's quite easy to forget that there's a parking lot just ten feet away. The small dining room is lit with soft glowing chandelier-style lighting fixtures and the entire room is outfitted with wooden trim. Both the beer list and the dinner menu were quite lengthy. I finally settled on bigos, a sort of hash made from sauerkraut, beef, sausage and mushrooms, served with roasted potatoes. Renee had pierogies, which, despite my usual indifference towards them, were quite good. Patrick and Fallon had kielbasa and stuffed cabbage, respectively. A little pricey, this place, but, since I wound up taking another meal's worth of food home, I didn't really mind.

Sunday, July 25, 2004


I made ziti with leeks and sun-dried tomatos early this afternoon. It served as lunch and then another meal later in the day. I guess dinner was sort of stretched out over the course of several different meals: the ziti, some pizza and then stuffed shells at Renee's. Along with the ziti there were string beans with oregano, vinegar and olive oil. I have my mom to thank for both of those recipes.

Wild On Salmon

Matthew brought home a side of wild salmon yesterday. I kick myself for not taking any pictures of the filet, as the meat was life-jacket-orange. We broiled the salmon for about ten minutes and then covered it with a paste of cilantro, ginger, garlic, onion, lime juice and zest, honey and chiles. We then pressed panko crumbs into the paste and slid the fish back under the broiler for a few more minutes.

Seen here with boniato mash and herbed green beans, it was very impressive overall.

I'd also pulled some lemongrass from the garden that morning.

I trimmed the stalks and bruised the woodier ends with a knife handle before simmering them in a pot of water. When the water was fragrant, I strained out the stalks and used the infusion to brew some green tea. This was sweetened with honey and put in a pitcher to cool until dinner, where it went quite well with the salmon.

I just received an email saying that someone has added me to their contact list on flickr(the service I use to host photos). Who are these people?

Jam Like Smuckers...

...For all you motherf--So, Renee made some peach jam yesterday. I know this is supposed to be about my cooking, but I figured I'd put it up here, since I took pictures and peeled some peaches and checked the temp of the jam every now and then. Really, thats about all I did. I don't know how the jam will fare in it's Ball-jar-assisted leap towards immortality, but it tasted pretty good yesterday. A more detailed account of this Fanny Farmer-like endeavour should be available from Renee sometime.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Five-Spice Chicken

I'm still getting used to the broiler here. I pulled the chicken out just in time. The skin came out nicely crisp, the sugar in the marinade having carmelized slightly. I think I'll be doing this again sometime: chicken thighs marinated in soy sauce, vegetable oil, sugar, ginger, garlic,chili flakes and five spice powder.

The five spice powder is new to me, although the prominent star anise flavor is definitely what I was going for. Having never used it before, I'm not sure how this brand--from the "ethnic foods" section of publix--compares. I do know that on the jar's label, there is a recipe for some sort of chicken dish. The recipe calls for a "trying" chicken and "sah," both of which I can only imagine are engrishizations of frying chicken and salt.

I'm beginning to learn that meat dishes are not really that photogenic. I took about a dozen picture of the chicken and this is the best one that I came up with.

I've taken to doing close-up pictures of food (1) because I like the way the camera captures some of the texture and (2) because my kitchen is even less photogenic than a chicken thigh.

The broiled asparagus also came out well, despite being a little bit past its prime.

I think I need to start listing my photos as private on my photo-hosting service. In the five minutes that these pictures have been online, two different people have posted comments about the chicken thighs. One said "mmmm" and another said "This looks like a picture of a bad accident." I see it as my duty to give these freaks one less thing to look at. I mean, here you have the pictures to go along with the descriptions of the food. I don't even know how these two found my chicken pictures. Guys out there, trollin for poultry pics? Quit starin'.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Sun-dried Tomato Frittata

Lunch today was a frittata with sun-dried tomatoes, onions and mint. Once I get a small saute pan with a handle that won't melt, I can really step my game up as far as the frittata is concerned. For now I'm just honing my flipping skills. Today's three-egg frittata flipping went pretty well, although I still do it over the sink. Considering that the sink was full of dishes--many from last nights muffins--I don't know that half cooked egg would have been any better splattered there than on one of the heating elements. I needn't worry about that though, because all of the frittata stayed in the pan this time.

First the anatomical baked goods photos and now this egg picture that--to me at least--looks vaguely geological. Funny.

There are plenty of sd toms (Waterfront warehouse lingo) left. Maybe some pasta with leeks and tomatoes for dinner. We'll see.

Raspberry Muffins

Last night I decided that muffins would be a good idea. It's hard to tell from this picture, but each muffin is filled with raspberry jam. I took a few pictures of the split muffins with molten jam in the center, but they looked a bit too, shall we say, anatomical? If you look closely you can see some jam peeking out of the edges.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Mussels with Lemongrass

To repay Guapo for a fine bowl of rabbit soup, I had him over for mussels in lemongrass broth. A variation on the mussels steamed in white wine, butter and thyme, this version uses ginger, lemongrass, garlic, onion and chicken stock for the steaming liquid. Seen here served with linguine (publix doesn't seem to carry rice noodles), fresh mint and cilantro, the mussels were accompanied by a cucumber, lime and mint salad. I wasn't sure how many people I'd be feeding, so I also made crispy tofu in a sweet pineapple chili sauce ala Simon at 915 in Key West. The mussels and cuke salad have once again proven to be bulletproof recipes and I think I improved the chili sauce over last time. It still isn't as good Simon's version with sweetbreads, but it isn't bad considering there was nothing glandular involved.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Thigh Meat

Last night's meal was one of Mark Bittman's chicken thigh recipes from this week's NY Times. I havn't made any recipes from the Times' dining section in a while, but, seeing as I now have a full-sized oven, I decided to bake some chicken. Not that I wasn't baking chicken before, mind you. The Delonghi convection oven turned out its share of fine roasted birds. It's been on my fecal roster ever since it shocked me last week though.

The big oven has proven quite useful already. It--along with my goodwill cast iron skillet--produced a very pretty cherry clafoutis. I'll be sure to post pictures of the next one.

At any rate, the chicken thighs were brushed with dijon mustard and then dredged in a mixture of bread crumbs, minced garlic, italian parsley, sage, salt and pepper. They baked for about 40 minutes at 400, until the breadcrumbs turned a nice woody color. The chicken was served with some very thin asparagus spears. I tossed them with olive oil and kosher salt and broiled them until their skin blistered slightly and my cheap walmart sheet pan buckled.

I had intended to take a picture of the completed meal, but by the time I remembered, there was only one thigh and three asparagus spears left. No matter how small a plate you put that on, it isn't really a bountiful image.