Saturday, March 28, 2009

Food filled vacation and some tasty listening

I just got back into town after a lovely week away. The food was great, from asparagus fries to Oaxacan mole to a fabulous South Indian feast followed by heavenly cardamom rose ice cream. And those were just the meals eaten out! I had the good fortune to spend the week with two excellent cooks and together we ate all manner of delicious things from Hawaiian chicken to black bean soup. I visited a bustling Bay Area farmers market bursting with citrus fruits, strawberries, and all manner of produce that we can only dream of here in Oregon in March. And I made a return trip to a large Indian grocery where I stocked up on all manner of exotic provisions from lime pickle to Kashmiri chile powder. And my most exciting purchase? An idli steamer which will allow me to make these tasty dumplings in my own kitchen! More on that soon, I promise.

I haven't managed to make much more than green smoothies and toast since we returned late last night but I did want to alert my readers to something which I hope at least some of you will find interesting. My friend Liz is one of the hosts of The Yiddish Hour on our local community radio station. Most Sundays she plays a nice variety of music but tomorrow's show will be something different. Instead of music, she'll be looking at the intersection of food, sustainability, and Judaism. It should be a fascinating program for anyone interested in ethical food consumption. You can tune in to 90.7 fm (or stream live online) at 10 am on Sunday, March 29th or download the show at any point afterward here. This should be a fascinating program--I hope you'll tune in. More info on Liz's blog.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Fish again?

As I've mentioned here before, I'm mostly vegetarian. Cooking meat or fish always makes me a little nervous and I think I drive the guys behind the counter crazy on those rare occasions when I peer into the glass cases hesitantly, fumbling around for a coherent request. "Uh....yeah....I need some salmon? For a few people?" Most women of my age are quite competent with such requests and I still dither around like a 20 year old living away from home for the first time.

And for years it didn't matter. I had no need for flesh of any kind. But as my body has changed I have found that it rather likes the quick blast of protein a little meat or fish provides. I have been steadily working to increase my repertoire beyond fish on the grill and beef brisket, not that there's anything in the world wrong with either of these. When I was recently given a stack of old food magazines I came across a recipe for coconut crusted salmon with tamarind sauce that I've now made twice, and it's been a hit both times.

The recipe includes many of the flavors I love: earthy turmeric, tangy tamarind, and sweet coconut. It's got a lovely crunch from the panko and coconut crust, and the accompanying sauce provides lots of lively flavors. I served it along with saffron rice and a multicolored cole slaw (made by my youngest using a recipe from Mollie Katzen's Salad People) for a perfectly balanced meal. The fish is quite simple to make and comes together quickly, providing me with at least one fish recipe I can cook with confidence.

I typed up the recipe and posted it here before realizing that the whole thing is available at the Cooking Light website.

added later: I managed to get the turmeric stains out of a favorite shirt after the usual stain removers failed. The key seems to be to dab the stains with lemon juice and then leave the soiled garment in the sun for a few hours. Good as new! You can avoid this whole process by wearing an apron.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tuna Corks

There are lots of delicious looking recipes in A Homemade Life. I'm not sure what it was about these that intrigued me other than being made of things I generally have on hand (and let's not underestimate that appeal). The fact that anyone could write rhapsodically about humble tuna caught my attention and this was among the first recipes I tried. They're kind of funny looking: short, squat, and oddly pink. Despite this my kids gamely tried them (I think they were really hungry). The result--"not too bad" which would be high praise from anyone else. I rather liked them, too. They're easy enough to make, not as fishy as they sound, and provide a solid blast of protein should your meal be lacking. Also--as highbrow as the name bouchons de thon may sound, we got a kick out of the English translation: tuna corks. How great is that?

You'll find the recipe here. Let me know if you're brave enough to try them and what you thought.

How to Avoid The Dirty Dozen

I don't know about you, but much as I try, I can't always buy organic produce. Sometimes it's about availability and sometimes, quite honestly, it's about price. I suspect the latter is increasingly becoming a consideration for food shoppers as jobs disappear, savings dwindle, and the economy tanks.

We're trying something new this year. Despite famously picky children, we took the plunge and signed up for a share in the Winter Green Farm CSA which will provide us with a box of seasonal produce each week of the growing season. Our weekly shares won't begin arriving until May, but we are looking forward to lots of fresh, locally grown organic goodies. Until those boxes arrive, however, we'll be shopping at the grocery store and early season farmers markets which provide varying amounts of organic produce.

When I can't buy all organic, it helps to know where to put my money. Thanks to the good folks at The Environmental Working Group, those decisions aren't too tough. They just put out the fifth edition of The Shopper's Guide to Pesticides, which I find fascinating reading. There's even a handy dandy wallet sized pdf version you can download and take along to the market.

I was surprised to see that the item with the highest pesticide load was peaches. Peach season feels a thousand years away, but you can bet that I'll only be buying organic when the time comes.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Holiday Baking

I just went and looked up the post I wrote two years ago about making hamantashen for Purim and--horrors!--the dough recipe had disappeared! This is the best hamantashen dough ever as far as I'm concerned: moist, easy to work, and full of orange which enhances every filling I've ever used from classsics like poppyseed and apricot to the more modern chocolate and hazelnut. Most hamantashen dough is dry and crumbly and, in my opinion, just not all that appetizing.

I hunted around for a while and found the recipe living elsewhere and have updated the link so go get started with your baking. Even if you aren't Jewish, it's hard to beat the taste of a lovely, homemade hamantashen.

A Treat

Hello? Anyone out there? Probably not. Probably you're all reading regularly updated food blogs by fabulous writers. Blogs like Orangette, one of my very favorites. Molly Wizenberg's blog was the first food blog I read regularly and one of the strongest inspirations for starting a food blog of my own. I love the way she weaves food and loved ones together so seamlessly.

Her new book A Homemade Life was just published and I got an opportunity to hear her read last night at Powell's. What a treat! The chapter she read was all about her father but her details could have described my own father with a few tiny tweaks: basil for dill, ugly cat lamp for hideous wild boar statue. I loved listening to her explain how food pulled her away from academia and into a life where she could focus on her passion.

It occurred to me as I was listening that one thing I never hear about from the food bloggers I so enjoy reading is kids. Do any of you know who is writing about how they manage to satisfy a houseful of diverse appetites? If I only had myself (and other adults) to cook for and my own tastes to pursue, I can assure this blog would be a happening place full of fresh veggies, stinky cheeses, and wild experiments from all over the globe. When I started this blog I was trying to answer very simple questions about how to nourish myself and my family and how to keep appetites alive. Those questions are still with me and I hope to keep trying to find the answersand writing about it here.