Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Five Links

Post format totally copped from Jeff Rient's Gameblog.

Emeril Lagasse's Chicken Marsala recipe Replace the onion powder and garlic powder in the spice mix with minced garlic and shallot (add when you cook the mushrooms) and you're good to go.

In Praise of Fast Food Not sure I'm ready to praise fast food, per se, but the industrial food revolution has been good for us in a lot of ways. I want high quality processed food that makes my life easier while still being food.

L.A. schools' healthful lunch menu panned by students. The key here is the third paragraph from the bottom.

Oven-Fried Sriracha Chicken Incredibly good.

Vegetarian Eating in the Land of Iceberg Lettuce A New York vegetarian moves to Kansas. 

Friday, January 6, 2012


“Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good.” -- Alice May Brock

I couldn't live without garlic. Garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper. Those are the foundations of my home cooking, and garlic is my favorite, although it's probably the least important out of the four. But damn, is it delicious. I know people who cook without garlic, but I don't understand them.

Garlic is largely what got me into cooking-- real cooking, the way I do it now. Mark Bittman's Pan Sauce recipe, which begins with an aromatic vegetable, sauteed in fat or oil, then add a little salt and pepper and a little flavorful liquid. (Usually, but not always, an acid.) That's the beginning of most of what I do in the kitchen, that's the beginning of almost every meal that's based on what I have in the house, rather than a recipe and a grocery trip. Discovering that, and mastering garlic, dramatically expanded the range and power of my kitchenosity. 

Usually garlic is the foundation of a dish, rather than a centerpiece, but sometimes, man, I should want some barely crisp, chewy, browned-until-sweet garlic, and whatever it's on is just the delivery mechanism. My mom has a recipe for shrimp with fried garlic (which I really need to get for myself) but I make pasta.

Linguine with Garlic
5-6 cloves of garlic, crushed or roughly chopped
1/4 lb. of linguine (or other pasta, but linguine is ideal)
2 tbs olive oil
salt & pepper

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and salt it. Cook the pasta 6-8 minutes, or until chewy. (al dente!)
2. Put the oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Saute the garlic until it begins to brown. Add a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper.
3. Toss oil and pasta together. Serve. 

Variation: Linguine with Fried Eggs
As the garlic softens, break 2 (or more, when I'm really hungry) eggs into the pan and fry them in oil until the white is hard but the yolk is still runny. Break up the egg some as you toss it together with the pasta; the yolk and top of the white will finish cooking in the heat of the pasta and oil, and create a delicious, creamy sauce.

The non-egg version is actually new for me. I picked up Spaghetti with Fried Eggs in college, made it a bunch, and eventually determined that I really needed to leave the garlic in the final product. And add more garlic. A lot more.

Just garlic is another lesson I learned from Bittman, and it is a delicious lesson indeed. He adds chiles and a few other spices, and while I'm sure that's delicious, garlic, olive oil, and boxed pasta are the things that I always have in the house (in great, Costco-provided quantity!) so that's what I go for when I really need some cheap, easy comfort food.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Wheat Thins

So it turns out that it's godawful hard to find crackers that actually have fiber in them. They go on and on about how they're "whole grain" and "multi-grain" and "made with seven seeds and nuts" but as far as I can tell if the box itself doesn't say "Fiber" it's all useless. Wheat Thins Fiber Selects are pretty good, though. 6 grams of dietary fiber per 13 piece serving doesn't make them a nutritional powerhouse by any means, but they're easy and keep well, which makes them a good work lunch option, and they beat out a lot of the contenders in that category.

I eat them with cashew butter, which I just discovered, and is delicious. I always hated peanut butter as a kid, and still do, but I wanted to add another source of vegetable protein to my diet, above and beyond legumes and grains. That means nuts. Me being me, that means wandering around the grocery aisles where nuts be and picking out some random things that I have some vague notion will be delicious or am otherwise curious about. Curiosity, in this case, very much rewarded.

All talk of grams and servings aside, I actually try not to pay too much attention to nutritional information. I do, somewhat obsessively-- I'm the only person I know who regularly reads nutritional labels and ingredient lists-- but I try. Compulsions notwithstanding, I don't think it's that useful. I've only flipped through In Defense of Food, but the idea, from there, that food is about more than its parts, and that we don't fully understand what's in food or why we need it, has stuck with me.

In particular, I suspect that modern nutrition's attitude towards fat and towards types of fat is deeply misguided. Odds are good that the sodium scare is problematic as well. To the degree that increased fat content makes food more calorie dense, and proportionately less nutrient dense, well, obviously that's problematic. But I'm still interested in cooking with lard-- because I suspect it's not any "worse" than the mechanical concoction that is vegetable shortening, and on the occasions that I eat fried food, or pastry, why not?

So I try not to obsess over the numbers. Eating food that's as colorful, plant-based, and unprocessed as I can is more important. (Nutritionally, anyway. Tastiness is, as ever, key.) I don't always succeed, because numbers are so dang fun. And fiber is important. It's only recently that I've realized how big a difference getting enough fiber makes to the way I feel, and just how much fiber is "enough." So when I'm going to be eating crackers or pasta or otherwise boxed, packaged grain type food anyway, I do check that number.