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Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

Note to self: Do not bake sweet potato fries, then put the half-sheet pan on top of Mr Man’s high-powered toaster oven and forget about it. 

Today’s fun fact: “When oils or fats are heated in cast iron at a high enough temperature, they change from a wet liquid into a slick, hardened surface through a process called polymerization. This reaction creates a layer of seasoning that is molecularly bonded” to the pan.

Good for seasoning cast iron, bad for baking pans and the person who has to chisel scrape scrub off that bonded oil.

Go ahead, ask me how I know.

The fries were really good though.

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Photo by Benjamin Zanatta on Unsplash

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Today is the first time I will be making Swedish meatballs for Christmas Eve. I’ve helped my father, many times, but have never made them in my own house. 

The recipe we grew up with was my grandmother’s. Every year we would pull out the little wooden recipe card box and find a three by five index card in her handwriting, with my father’s annotations at the edges. You could tell which one it was by all the lingonberry stains. 

I loved that it was a family recipe, and that every time we made it I remembered Christmas as a kid at my grandparents’ house in Chicago. 

I will admit that I didn’t exactly love the recipe. A decade or so ago we all admitted that maybe, just maybe, the meatballs weren’t all they could be (sorry, Grandma!), and tried an alternative. Here’s what I had to say about that:

… a few years ago we made the shift from Grandma Johnson’s handwritten recipes (so homey!) for dishes like Swedish meatballs and limpa and roast pork to the spectacular versions of same in Marcus Samuelsson’s Aquavit. Yes, an Ethiopian-born immigrant throws down on traditional Swedish food and wins big. See what I mean? The food still says home, only better:) 

The Universal Language? | J.R. Johnson

So this year we’re doing the new old family recipe. It won’t be the traditional Christmas Eve smorgasbord with family, but it will feel like the holidays.

Mr Man and I have already made the quick-pickled cucumbers and are letting them steep (half the sugar though, and no apologies!). As soon as the juice is at full flavor it will be time to make the meatballs. 

Until then we’ll kick back, listen to classic Christmas music and make the most of this Christmas Eve. 

God jul everyone!

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Photo by Valentin Petkov on Unsplash

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Today’s numbers: 18, 6, 4, 2.

  • 18: pounds of mushrooms*
  • 6: pounds of pears
  • 4: quarts of mushroom soup
  • 2: loaves of bread

I made cream of mushroom soup, fresh bread, plus pears poached with lemon, cinnamon and cardamom. And that was pretty much my day:)

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Photo by Dmitry Kovalchuk on Unsplash

* That was a lot of mushrooms.

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One of our neighbors has a decades-old grape vine that is both enthusiastic and agile, and it has branched out to surround our shared yards, three fences, and at least two trees. It is also a prolific producer of grapes. Wildlife like them, but sometimes too much. Last year we were a hit with wasps, which I could have done without.

This year, hot off the pick-your-own fruit farm, I decided to try a bit of juicing.

Grapes + Instant Pot == juice, and it’s dark purple and dang tasty.

I should have used a higher grape-to-water ratio, but didn’t want to waste the fruit if the recipe was a dud. The juice is just about sweet enough to drink straight and tastes of minerals and a fall afternoon. I suspect these grapes would make fantastic wine.

Have I discovered one of the long-lost vines behind the prized vintages of the Elven Court in Exile?

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Photo by Roberta Sorge on Unsplash

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I’m looking for a good German plum cake recipe. There are (of course) many versions available online, but the problem with that is you never quite know what you’re getting, and I only have the one batch of plums.

There’s also an added complication. I am looking for a plum cake recipe because I made one as a teenager, and it was astoundingly good. Flavorful pastry base, creamy plum filling, and delightful streusel crumble on top. Now, that remembered experience is the standard to which I hold all future plum cakes. 

Was it actually as good as it is in my mind? Maybe not, but I think so:) My mother also remembers the cake. It was her favorite type of German dessert, from when she lived in that country once upon a time. She brought home a classic German cookbook, source of the original plum cake recipe. 

I hold out hope that she still has the cookbook, and can find that recipe, but until then, I am on the hunt for the kuchen of my dreams.

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Photo by Alexandra Kikot on Unsplash

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If we do find aliens someday, I hope they are carbon-based and heck, while I’m wishing, mammals. Why? Because I want to try their food.

On some days I think that food is as close to a universal language as we’ve got. This is hardly an original thought, but the millions of cookbooks and posts and discussions on food and its importance only serve to make my point.

dinner

Food is good stuff. It supports us, sure, but it also helps define us as individuals and as social animals. What did you have for lunch today? How did you get your ingredients? How did you cook it? Did you share it?

Many folks’ introduction to other cultures happens over a meal. I grew up in a small town that was relatively isolated in terms of culture. Meat by the loin, heaping helpings of potatoes, sweet corn, one overcooked and somewhat suspect green at the edge of the plate. That sort of thing. I still have a soft spot in my tastebuds for pork and sauerkraut, but by and large the food was straightforward, hardly adventurous.

My parents took care of that.

Facing down a future with nothing more radical than chicken and waffles (yes, my poutine-loving Canadian friends, it’s a thing and you’d adore it:), the parental units got their hands on books like The New York Times Large Type Cookbook and Mrs. Chiang’s Szechwan Cookbook (both of which I still have on my shelf) and went to work. My palate and my social perspective are better for it.

An article on NPR talks about a group of Hungarian foodies fighting anti-immigrant prejudice with dinner. What a brilliant idea. Eritrean sourdough pancake bread, Somali fried bananas, or Afghan pie with fresh Syrian cream cheese? Sign me up, and while I’m there introduce me to the people too.

Think about your day, and the role food played in it. Did you go out to the barn to harvest eggs? Or did you open the refrigerator? What would breakfast look like (yours or mine) if the international shipping industry shut down?*

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Food is a big deal, and sharing it is sharing part of who you are. It’s why we invite people over for dinner instead of going out, It’s why Italy, of all places, has made significant progress in gluten-free food awareness as a way to make sure that gluten intolerance doesn’t get in the way of social communion.

Honestly, I’ve always felt that one major flaw in much speculative fiction revolves around food. Let’s see, fantasy = stew plus berries and mead, science fiction = rations that sound a lot like the worst protein bar you’ve every had or meals in a pill.** That’s not entirely fair but it’s not all that far off, either. It’s also not, from my food-oriented point of view, all that realistic.*** Sure, humans can put up with a lot when we must. Conflict, migration, that first year away from home, all times of upheaval, culinary and otherwise. But people still remember their traditions.

What we really want is that moment when life returns to normal, and among other things “normal” means real food. Whether your definition of “real” means Thanksgiving dinner or a Ramadan feast or congee, we use food as a touchstone. Lose that, and we lose an important piece of ourselves. (That doesn’t mean we can’t change, as my childhood diet attests, but it’s not like I’m eating hydrolyzed protein three meals a day either. Things got better. And hey, I feel the urge to add yet another footnote!****)

I’ve always been a bit shy but I learned early that one surefire way to start a conversation is to ask someone what they eat.

So if aliens arrive and invite us to the table, I’ll bring a fork.

* Note to everyone suffering from imagined caffeine withdrawal right now: yaupon is a caffeine-containing tea plant native to the United States. Because aliens, zombies, or no, mornings need a boost, amiright?

** For future reference, fellow SF Canada writer Krista D. Ball has a highly detailed and useful book on realism in fantasy food (just how long does it take to make stew and how in blazes do I carry leftovers?): What Kings Ate and Wizards Drank.

*** For a fascinating look at the intersection of food and space exploration, check out NASA’s Food for Spaceflight or read the section on food (titled “Discomfort Food, When Veterinarians Make Dinner, and Other Tales of Woe from Aerospace Test Kitchens”) in Mary Roach’s excellent Packing for Mars.

**** A good example of this is our family’s holiday smorgasbord: a few years ago we made the shift from Grandma Johnson’s handwritten recipes (so homey!) for dishes like Swedish meatballs and limpa and roast pork to the spectacular versions of same in Marcus Samuelsson’s Aquavit. Yes, an Ethiopian-born immigrant throws down on traditional Swedish food and wins big. See what I mean? The food still says home, only better:)

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What’s this, what’s this? The New York Times has put their entire recipe archive online for free. That’s 16,000 recipes available to anyone with a net connection and a penchant for deliciousness.

Here’s a sample recipe sure to delight all Canadians (ketchup lovers, the lot of them;): Stir-Fried Chicken With Ketchup. Sounds potentially suspect to me but wait, it’s from Mark Bittman, whose recipes for butterscotch and lamb and brownies are now household staples. The man can cook. Also? Fifteen thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine other recipes waiting to be explored. Like the fabulously named They Didn’t Burn Rome in a Day.

Enjoy!

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I like to cook. I like science. I extra like it when the two come together. Since Canada Day is coming up on July 1st and Independence Day is on the 4th, I thought I’d bring you this easy (and kinda science-y) way to tell if you have enough propane in your BBQ tank to make it through the festivities.

Thank you, America’s Test Kitchen:)

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