What Was On Hand No. 136: Slaw Dressing On the Shoulders of Mission Chinese

Pretty, but kinda wonky.

Pretty, but kinda wonky.

As part of my buddy Tancil’s birthday evening a while back, I ended up in Cobble Hill at Mission Chinese Food.  Mission Chinese used to live in the East Village, makes pretty much the best Chinese food I’ve ever had if you consider Chinese a cuisine that uses Chinese food as a launch pad into Chinese’ish awesomeness, and recently took up residence in Brooklyn after some kind of kerfuffle with rent in Manhattan.  These factors apparently combined to make The Times take notice and dedicate the “Eat” section of the Sunday Magazine to the place, something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before in my twelve or so years of subscribing to the Sunday Times.

So I went ahead and riffed on their recipe for Cabbage Salad with Sesame-Anchovy Dressing, which was okay except for the fact that I ended up ignoring the recipe’s measurements because I don’t know why and also substituting green-olive hummus or something like that for tahini because that’s what I had on-hand.  The results were pretty but mixed.

The next night, the fridge still full of unused cabbage and other CSA veggies looking for a fate, I combined the remaining “traditional” and red cabbages, spring onion greens, peeler- Continue reading

Driving-while-Drooling Road Trip Puzzle

Food-Road-SignIt’s Labor Day, everybody, your last chance for a summer road trip! And since (for me, at least), road trips go hand-in-hand with delicious local specialties, we’ve cooked up this little puzzle to test your knowledge of iconic dishes from specific cities. From the descriptions listed below, can you name the dish and the city with which it is most closely associated? Hint: if you’re in the continental U.S. right now, you could drive to any of these cities, though one would require a border crossing. A few of these are tricky, so if you manage to get ten out of twelve, consider yourself a road food champ.

  1. A crust pressed into a high-edged pan, filled with mozzarella cheese, chunky tomato sauce and toppings, and baked
  2. A French baguette stuffed with roast beef or fried seafood and dressed with lettuce, tomato, pickle and mayonnaise
  3. Shoestring fries topped with guacamole, sour cream, Cotija cheese and seared, chopped beef
  4. A particular kind of seafood, formed into a patty (often seasoned with Old Bay) and broiled, served with a lemon wedge and saltines
  5. A long roll (preferably an Amoroso roll) filled with thinly sliced beef and topped with provolone or Cheez Whiz
  6. An open-faced turkey and bacon sandwich, covered with Mornay cheese sauce and baked or broiled until brown
  7. Black-eyed peas mixed with diced vegetables in a vinegar-based sauce and usually served with tortilla chips
  8. French fries topped with fresh cheese curds and covered in brown gravy
  9. Buttered bread filled with roast pork, glazed ham, Swiss cheese and thinly sliced dill pickles, pressed and toasted in a plancha
  10. A cream-based soup prepared with potatoes, onion and a particular shellfish, but definitely no tomatoes
  11. Cubed red meat, deep-fried and served with toothpicks as utensils, with salt, hot sauce and crackers on the side
  12. A meat sauce spiced with cinnamon and allspice, served atop spaghetti and finished with finely shredded cheddar cheese, onions and kidney beans

Don’t scroll down or click Continue until you’re ready for the answers… Continue reading

The Potable Tomato

potabletomatoTomato juice that comes in a can is nasty stuff. This opinion of mine, I think, has its roots in a childhood aversion to the sight of it coating the inside of a glass. My favorite aunt regularly drank V8 for breakfast, and though I loved that woman dearly, the memory of a red, viscous mess being poured down her throat that early in the morning is, even now, enough to make me queasy. No amount of vodka and olives can make up for what is wrong with canned tomato juice. No Bloody Marys for me.

But some time ago, Roger (a.k.a. Godfather of Cocktails) suggested that I would warm to the drink if I made my own tomato juice or, better yet, since it would eliminate the coating sediment, tomato water. This past weekend, between taxing bouts of sunning myself on a dock and sunning myself in a hammock, I finally gave it a try and was not disappointed in the results.

Here’s what you do: you core and quarter about six large tomatoes and throw them in a blender with a little salt. Puree those babies and then put them through a cheesecloth. (You can either put a wooden spoon over a pitcher and tie the cheesecloth to it, or, if your pitcher is sturdy, you can just use a couple clothespins to suspend the cheesecloth from the side of the pitcher.) After it strains, you can drink the juice straight, and it’s liquid summer sunshine. But let’s be honest. What you should really do is put some vodka in it. Continue reading

Small is the New Big: Drinking Local

Courtesy The Brewers Association

Courtesy The Brewers Association

The other day I was enjoying a beer on my porch when my neighbor, who lives a luxurious ten feet away, came out of his garage lecturing his friend about the evils of Wal-Mart. His friend, who floated lazily behind him on a skateboard, remained silent. My neighbor went on to say he hadn’t shopped there for years and stopped going to McDonald’s as well, since they were epitomes of capitalist nonsense (I’m paraphrasing). His friend attempted an ollie in the driveway.

His fervor surprised me because it’s not the usual rhetoric I hear spouted in neighborhoods like mine, which is to say, poor ones in central Ohio. It cheered me to hear someone outside my little blue bubble of artist friends who understood what megagiagantoconglamamarts do to the local economy. The word is spreading, my friends. And just as the buy local and eat local movements are gaining ground, so the drink local fad is rapidly becoming not a fad.

Allow me to share some statistics directly from the Brewers Association, a nonprofit trade association that supports small and independent American brewers. They will blow your hops off! In 2013, there were a total of 2,822 breweries in the US. Of those, 2,768 were craft breweries. That’s 98%! Continue reading

Excuse Me, Waiter, But I Found a Tomato in My Gazpacho

gazpachoI’ve been on a gazpacho kick lately, since the cold tomato soup is easy to make and excellent summer fare. The other day, I was about to add a couple handfuls of basil to the blender, thinking, “Basil always goes well with tomatoes in Italian dishes.” And then I thought, “Wait, is this Italian or Spanish or something else?” And then I thought, “Man, I really don’t know much about gazpacho.” So I went hunting for some fun gazpacho history, and let me tell you, gazpacho has some murky little secrets it’s been keeping from you.

Gazpacho is, indeed, Spanish (though arguably Portuguese as well), specifically from the southern Andalusian region of the Iberian Peninsula. And it’s old, really old, though just how old is open to some debate. Some people think it might have its roots in Roman times, based on the fact that the oldest known recipes involve vinegar, and boy, those Romans loved their vinegar. But the more likely story is that the Moors brought over a soup from Morocco when they came to Andalusia around the 8th century, and the Andalusian peasants adopted it as their own since it was the perfect thing to eat while they were working in the fields.

Here’s the crazy part: wherever it came from, that original gazpacho had nary a tomato! It was a paste of garlic, stale bread, olive oil and vinegar, thinned into a soup with water. (A similar dish still exists in Andalusian cuisine, though it’s now called ajo blanco.) They might have added some vegetables and herbs when they were available, but tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers didn’t enter the gazpacho scene until much later, after Columbus brought them back to Europe from the Americas (What up, New World!?).

The name is also cloaked in mystery. Continue reading

Summer Garden Kasha Salad & Blackened String Beans Whatever-Style

IMG_1375The garden is kicking it thanks to the soaker hose-timer one-two, and we ended up with a bunch of monster-mature string beans.  The things double in heft overnight.  So, what to do?  These guys weren’t up to a gentle steaming.

Blacken.

And pair them with all the tomatoes bulking up in the garden, too.

First, the ‘maters, starring in an ensemble cast in Summer Garden Kasha Salad.

Combine in a big bowl:

Purty

Purty

  • One cup cold kasha (Kasha is buckwheat; barley would work as well.  Cook it with apat of butter in the pot, then chill in the fridge.)
  • One cucumber cut into small chunks
  • One bunch of parsley, chopped, with heaviest stems removed (We used broad leaf and, uhh, traditional? parsley.  I completely forgot that the former existed until the CSA dropped a potter version on us.)
  • One sweet red pepper, diced
  • Two monster or four medium tomatoes, chopped (We had Black Krim and Woodle Orange varieties.)
  • As much feta cheese as you can get your hands on (Bulgarian Sheep Feta is the Holy Grail.)

For the dressing, squeeze, shake, grind, etc into the bowl: Continue reading

The Belgian IPA: a Compromise We All Can Swallow

belgium-beer-flagFor the longest time I treated it as a fault, a failure of some sort. I tried to hide the fact from others and went to great lengths to avoid situations that could have revealed my failings. My tastes were a disgrace, especially for one who called herself a beer snob.

Now that I’m solidly in my mid-thirties, though, I feel old and wise enough to say What do you care? Shut up and drink your beer. So: I don’t like Belgian beer. ThereIvesaidit! So far, no not-so-merry monks have run into the room, robes a-flutter, threatening to bludgeon me with oversized wheels of cheese.

I’ve been drinking long enough to know that it is not the Belgian part of Belgian beer that I don’t like. That unique, expansive taste of Belgian yeast is delightful! Rather, it is the lack of hops that gets me. I need the dryness, the bitterness, the kick in the pants that is a well-hopped beer. And then I discovered the Belgian IPA.

Sweet mother of fermentation! Where have you been all my life?! My first Belgian IPA was a tulip glass of The Audacity of Hops in Boston’s Cambridge Brewing Company. I was suspicious. My favorite cute bartender with the Buddy Holly glasses served it to me and I eyed it sideways, its perfect head and cloudy orange hue suspect. But then I took a cautious sip and was hit with a face full of hops. I was instantly converted. Continue reading

Are These Zucchini Multiplying While I’m Not Watching?

zucchiniI love zucchini. Really. But this is the time of year when zucchini seems less like a vegetable and more like a species of highly reproductive rodent. Every time I think I have a handle on our zucchini supply, the CSA bombs me with another shipment. Last week, a stranger physically dragged Jason into a church up the street so she could foist a bag of zucchini upon him.

And I know I’m not alone. I know this because when I was in Ohio recently, my mom, while feeding us zucchini bread for breakfast, suggested that perhaps we’d like some nice stuffed zucchini for lunch. Or maybe we had a little extra zucchini room in our suitcases? When I asked her what was up, she sighed and said, “I keep telling your father to pick them when they’re smaller.” Enter Farmer Dwight, right on cue, carrying a zucchini the size of a surface-to-air missile and grinning mischievously.

So I’m going to share one of my go-to zucchini recipes. It’s adapted from one I found years ago in one of the Moosewood cookbooks. (One of these days, I will pay proper homage to Mollie Katzen and all things Moosewood, but right now I have to keep an eye on my zucchini, lest they try to mate again.) It’s delicious, a little unusual and good for using up zucchini. Who could ask for more?

Zucchini Ankara Continue reading

The Even-Movie-Characters-Gotta-Eat Puzzle

ratatouille

I fell asleep during this movie, so I didn’t use any quotes from it.

We haven’t had a puzzle around these parts for some time now, and since this is the season of free outdoor movies in New York (enabling me to see Sharknado for the first time last week–divine), how about a little silver screen brainteaser to send us all into the weekend? Name the movie from which each of these finger-lickin’ food quotes is taken. Be warned: some of these are tough nuts to crack. (I didn’t use “Take the cannoli,” or “I’ll have what she’s having,” because I respect you more than that.) For bonus points, name the actor and character who uttered each line.

  1. Lunch is for wimps.
  2. Yes, these crackles are made of synthetic goose and these giblets come from artificial squab and even these apples look fake, but at least they’ve got stars on them. I guess my point is, we’ll eat tonight, and we’ll eat together.
  3. Sometimes the spaghetti likes to be alone.
  4. But you know what does bother me? You know what makes me really sick to my stomach? It’s watching you stuff your face with those hotdogs! Nobody–I mean nobody–puts ketchup on a hot dog!
  5. And you know what they call a Quarter Pounder with cheese in Paris?
  6. Red wine with fish. Well, that should have told me something.
  7. What’s tiramisu? Some woman is gonna want me to do it to her, and I’m not going to know what it is.
  8. When I was a lad I ate four dozen eggs / Ev’ry morning to help me get large / And now that I’m grown I eat five dozen eggs / So I’m roughly the size of a barge!
  9. Remind me to tell you about the time I looked into the heart of an artichoke.
  10. Annie, there’s a big lobster behind the refrigerator. I can’t get it out. This thing’s heavy. Maybe if I put a little dish of butter sauce here with a nutcracker, it will run out the other side.

Don’t click Continue or scroll down until you’re ready for the answers.

Continue reading

In Search of Lost Time, Episode of the Pale Ale

It's true.

It’s true.

With apologies to Proust, I reflect on my history in beer. A long, meaningful, and eventful relationship.

In the small town where I live, everyone knows everyone. People who don’t know my name know my profession, and I answer to “Hey, Bookstore Lady,” on a regular basis. Without fail, the second thing people remember about me is that I like beer. A lot. Most of them do not know that my memory is stored in six-packs and cases like so many bottles of beer at the corner shop.

Time and devotion have ingrained beer in my life. The way others can mark their history by food or travels, I can with beer. The taste of certain beers will take me back to a memory as fast as any smell or song can. One sip of Labatt Blue and I’m a senior in college again, Thursday night pitchers with a basket of unshelled peanuts for $6 at the CI. Toss the shells on the floor, carve your name in the table.

A Harpoon IPA shuttles me to Boston faster than a speeding Chinatown bus. It was my go-to beer at every less-than-fine establishment I frequented. Its high hoppy buzz reminiscent of every dinner I drank at Charlie’s, a diner a block away from the bookstore where I worked. It reminds me of every boy I sat next to at the counter there, wishing they would just kiss me, and the black-and-white tiles, the chrome, and the lobster tank in the corner.

One night in Boston’s Publick House, I drank five Great Divide Hercules Double IPAs, much to the astonishment of my friends, and realized I wasn’t going to marry the man who had stayed at home that night. To this day it tastes of revelation. Continue reading