Tuesday, May 31, 2005

the classic chocolate chip cookie

and so it's come to pass, another memorial day weekend. aside from being a day to honour our war-dead, isn't it also the unofficial (or official, i don't know) start of the summer. is it time to break out my white shoes and handbag? i am blissfully ignorant of the rules of fashion as can be easily evidenced by my year-round sporting of a pair of really tacky, 100% acrylic, red christmas socks, complete with gold trim. hmm, or maybe it's just bad taste.

but back to talk of memorial day, sort of. in all the years i've lived here in san francisco i've never once had a deck/patio/backyard/doorstoop big enough to set up a grill...not even one of those george foreman electric plug in types (not strictly true... i did once live in a place with a tiny concrete back yard but there was a shed back there in which dwelled a crazy lady, so it was kinda off limits). so every memorial day weekend i wait until the twelfth hour and get on the phone in a deseperate rush to all my friends either lucky or rich enough to have an outdoor space suitable for grilling. and a grill. and i bring along my sad little plastic wrapped frozen veggie burger and watch a freakin' noah's ark of animals board the good ship BBQ. and i always bring along a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies. these guys.

the original source of the recipe (my wicked stepmother) claims that these are "mrs. fields" cookies but i kinda doubt it's the same recipe. i think these are better. they are a classic and everybody always likes them. that is everyone except me 'cause my stankin' feet, acrylic sock shod, tacky arse just isn't crazy about chocolate chip cookies - now give me anything with peanut butter and we can talk.....

chocolate chip cookies
2 cups butter
2 cups white sugar
2 cups brown sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons + vanilla
4 cups flour
5 cups oatmeal ground into flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 24 oz. Bag of chocolate chips
3 cups chopped nuts

this makes a lot of cookies. i usually cut the recipe in half, or if i bake the whole batch i usually freeze the extra baked cookies for later. cream together first three ingredients until light and fluffy. add eggs and vanilla. sift together the flours (oat and unbleached white), salt, baking powder and baking soda. add to creamed mixture. stir in chocolate chips and nuts. drop large tablespoons of dough into a non-stick cookie sheet, flattening slightly. bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes, or until done.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

farm fresh!

just look at these beauties! my wicked wicked stepmother picked these up from the harry and david online catalog after easter for a whopping seventy-five percent off, which brought them to something like 1.30 per "egg." why the parenthesis, you ask, well, lemme tell you that these guys are filled solid with the most delicious, velvety smooth, creamy, decadent, toe-curling concoction of, oh my god, hang on to your salivary glands, bestill my heart, hazelnut chocolate. i truly do not think anything gets me going quite like hazelnut chocolate. especially when solid, oblong chunks of the stuff are somehow magically teleported inside of a real eggshell. well, the real eggshell part actually bums me out a little, although they are really cool. to get inside you have to crack the shell and peel.

the moral of the story? check out those specialty food/gift cataloges online for their after holiday clearance stuff. i can't wait till next easter. i mean the week after next easter.

Monday, May 16, 2005

praise seitan

seitan cutlets

at the end of the day there are two camps of vegetarians, those who fear The Meat Analog (and who can blame them with a handle like that, just imagine if fake boobs were called breast analogs or if dentures were called teeth analogs - it just sounds bad) and those who don't. those who remember that yeah, that porterhouse steaks or kfc chicken thighs or corned beef hash or the supreme being of all meats, The Bacon, well, it tasted pretty damn good. excuse me while i wipe a tear of nostalgia from my eye. and then (drum roll please) there are those vegetarians who claim to not have ever enjoyed the savage carnal delight of using those four sharp little meat shredding teeth we all own on our gentle fellow living creatures, four legged and finned alike. you know who i'm talking about. the prevaricators. the liars. those who fool no one. have i pissed anyone off yet?

the following recipe is for all of you who do not fear satan. for those that praise satan. who want to have a little more satan in their lives. i mean seitan. by the way, this is a rockin' shirt i found on the web. disclaimer: this is not my torso beneath the shirt and i don't work for these guys, but if you fancy this product you can order it here: http://www.herbivoreclothing.com

this particular recipe for seitan is from bryanna clark grogan http://www.bryannaclarkgrogan.com and http://www.vegsource.com/talk/beginner/index.html my personal vegan cooking bad-ass hero-ess. bryanna gives credit for certain modifications to ellen of ellen's kitchen http://www.ellenskitchen.com . this "chicken" seitan is absolutely delicious, neither chewy nor puffy with a neutral but not bland flavor that lends itself well for use in "chicken" cutlets, seitan schwarma, or thinly sliced as sandwich "meat". and the best part is that it is super easy if you have a bread machine and a slow cooker. probably a nightmare if you don't.

the dry mix:
2 and 1/4 cups pure gluten powder
1/2 cup minute tapioca (i usually grind it up a bit so they're not so big)
1/2 cup rolled oats
2 tablespoons fake chicken broth powder
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder

the wet mix:
2 and 1/4 cup cold water
1/4 cup tahini (roasted)
3 Tablespoons soy sauce

the cooking broth:
Mix in a large pot and bring to a boil, then keep at a simmer, covered:
7 cups fake chicken broth
7 cloves garlic, chopped
3 and 1/2 Tablespoons soy sauce
3 and 1/2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes

put the wet and dry mix in your bread machine in the order specified by the manufacturer. if kneading or using a dough hook and mixer, place dry then wet ingredients, kneading for about 10 minutes. if using your bread machine just run it through the dough cycle for just the kneading portion. if the kneading portion is short (10 minutes or less), unplug it to reset the mechanism then run it through a second knead. let rest for about 1 hour, covered. you can make your cooking broth at this time and have it ready.

the dough should be shiny and smooth. this is what mine looks like when i take it out of my bread machine.

once out of the bread machine, knead the ball by stretching and patting or rolling into a flat rectangle. fold in half and repeat, doing this 6 times, and folding so that the gluten strands are always going in the same direction. if the dough gets tight and won’t relax, just cover it and go away for about 20 minutes, and it’ll be easier to work with after that. myself, i fold it only a few times 'cause my satan, i mean seitan, is always very stubborn and rigid. form the dough into a piece that will fit into your crock pot, as thin as the width of the pot will allow. you may wet your hands to make the dough easier to handle. you can also cut the roast into two smaller roasts, if you prefer. and if you really fancy, you may do all of this in the nude.

oil or spray the inside of your slow cooker or pot. there should be some room for your roast to expand. pour some of the cooking broth in, place in the roast and cover with remaining broth, which should just cover the dough. cover and simmer on low for 6-8 hours , turning once halfway through. cool in the broth, then refrigerate well-wrapped. you can then slice it to your
preferred thickness and freeze for later use. i also freeze the cooking broth for the next batch of seitan i make.

to make the cutlets pictured at the beginning of the post, simply slice seitan (1/4 to 1/2 inch thick), shake the slices in flour and then dredge in either beaten egg or reconstituted egg replacer. then place the slices in italian seasoned breadcrumbs until well coated. preheat a little oil (1/8-1/4 inch) in a skillet or nonstick frying pan and fry until golden brown on both sides. serve with wedges of lemon. these fried cutlets reheat nice and crispy if placed in a toaster oven and also make delicious sandwiches for lunch the next day.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

salsa loca

one of the things i really miss about living in mexico is the salsa. everywhere i went there were at least two varieties on hand. one or both likely to burn you an extra hole both going in and coming out, if you know what i mean. in mexico salsa seems to be used as a preservative, a condiment and as an antidote to the heavy diet. in the northern high desert where i stayed, it was all cattle and cheese and tortillas, so you see a little hot salsa was definitely needed to keep the works running. one of my favorite least-favorites sights was the giant, boiling, lard-filled vats into which huge strips of pig skin, bigger than a small child, were submerged until they were all golden and crispy and bubbly, just screaming "heart attack". the thick brown smoke that somehow defied gravity and managed to rise up into the air despite it's obvious weight was nothing if not intense. porkfat fried pork fat. wow. anyway, getting back to the subject at hand, people would eat these three foot long pigfried porkrinds with some really, but i mean really hot salsa. for purely digestive purposes i imagine.

back to the good ol' us of a and i really miss my salsas. as i've mentioned before, i'm a huge fan of all condiments - there's nothing easier than opening a jar of salsa or harissa or tapenade or whatever and throwing it into whatever's cooking for dinner to add that little extra something. i'm also a cheapskate when it comes to buying little jars of things (unless it's some expensive cream guaranteed to make me look ten years younger), so i almost always make my own. here is a recipe for one of my favorites. it's completely adaptable to whatever types of dried chiles you have on hand (or can find - even in my local mercados in northern mexico i never found any cascabels for sale) - the only chile i would not omit is the chipotle. there is no getting around the fact that this wonderful smoked jalapeno is irreplaceable. this is also a good recipe for when tomatoes aren't really in season, as it uses only one. for more information on chiles go here http://www.g6csy.net/chile/index.html

salsa loca
2 cascabel chiles (can substitute guajillos)
3 guajillo chiles
1 chile de arbol
1 chipotle chile
1 tomato, broiled
1/4 teaspoon salt, to taste
1/2 c. water
1 clove garlic
2-4 Tablespoons cilantro
white vinegar, to taste

brush or rinse off any debris from the dried chiles and toast lightly on a comal. if you don't have a comal, a cast iron skillet or even a regular old frying pan will do. make sure you do not burn the peppers or the salsa will be bitter. what you're going for is a smoky taste - on a really hot comal a few seconds is all i really need, i usually press the pepper down with a spatula to expose more pepper surface to the metal. you can even skip this step and the salsa will still taste good. remove from heat. remove stems and chop or cumble. remove most (or all) of the seeds for a less hot salsa. broil the tomato either in a toaster oven or under or a broiler or you can even just boil it for a little bit if you don't feel like dealing with the whole broiling bit but the charring and cooking bit adds a very nice toasty flavor. throw everything except vinegar and cilantro into a blender or food processor (oh, if you're a purist feel free to break out your mortar and pestle but i think things taste better without little drops of my sweat in it). pulse until the salsa is smooth but retains some texture - you should be able to see little bits of seeds and stuff intact. add coarsely chopped cilantro and pulse once or twice. season to taste with vingear and additional salt. buen provecho.

Monday, May 09, 2005

happy birthday to me, now go visit my other blog

so we had another birthday this weekend. that's enough to make you reach for that bottle of don pedro you've been saving for the day you hit rock bottom. yes, i did partake of the rougher pleasures of el senor pedro, but i also had a great birthday that included an odd assortment of bars, restaurants, long walks (okay, just one) and tourist attractions, all with my good buddies, don pedro and the ol' ball and chain. for the story of my day of drunken debauchery with reviews of these hapless establishments we blighted, go to my other blog and read the birthdays, parts I thru IV. you won't be disappointed. trust me.

Friday, May 06, 2005

mashed potato head

huh? who, me???

this was supposed to look like a monster, instead it looks kinda like my mother, caught with a panic-stricken look of surprise on her face. think deer frozen in the headlights. poor mom. no, it doesn't really look like her, at least not since she stopped getting those perms.

this is a mashed potato head, the idea taken from clare crespo's book, the secret life of food, which i highly recommend if you have children or are just perennially immature, like me. there are projects like the shirt and pants cake, the blue jello gummy fish aquarium, flower pot cake and more. think white trash on acid. these recipes aren't really recipes, mostly ideas for getting creative and freaky with food.

for the mashed potatoes i use butter golds. they are the only potatoes i use these-a-days. i don't know how they did it, but these spuds cooks up super creamy and buttery tasting before adding a drop of anything. in fact, when i mash them i use only salt pepper and potato cooking water and boy are they creamy. the only place i've found them yet is at cosco. for more information on the butter gold, go here:

http://www.mtnking.com/butter_golds.html (no, i don't work for them).

so anyway, the hair is composed of steamed broccoli florets, the eyes, a halved pimento stuffed olive (though you could use black olives-kids generally prefer them), the lips are red pepper strips, ear and nose are sliced mushrooms, for the eyebrows i used yellow pepper strips, though green scallions sliced lengthwise is what was originally called for in the book, if i recall correctly. the teeth are roasted corn kernels - i liked the blackened touch.

to be perfectly honest this dish freaks me out a little. as a vegetarian there is something doubly jarring about digging your fork into something when it is looking back at you. especially when it kinda looks like your moms.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


just when all y'all are getting ready to break out the barbeques and blenders in readiness for summer, my mind turns to soup. steaming hot giant bowls of hearty soup. to be honest i can't stop thinking about soup. all year round. i just love the stuff. the other day i was going through an old box of "memorabilia" (ie junk) and i found one of those little books you make when you are in the first grade or something. the ones where you draw a picture of your best friend at the time and it looks like satan. you draw a picture of your parents and they look like momma-satan, poppa-satan and brother-satan (the latter of which wasn't very far off the mark). you draw a picture of your favorite food and it looks like, uh soup. i kid you not. soup and birthday cake, my two favorite foods circa nineteen seventy something. some things never change. by the way, the soup looked like a flying saucer and the cake looked like, um, satan.

1 cup red lentils (please go through all your grains to pick out rocks and dirt clumps)
6 cups water
4 tomatoes diced (or i small can of tomatoes)
2 c. diced onion
0-3 jalapeno chiles
2 Tablespoons minced fresh ginger
6 (yes, that six) cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1+ Tablespoon whole cumin
1+ Tablespoon whole corriander
2 cups shredded spinach
salt to taste

first sort through your lentils and pick out anything you don't want to eat, like dirt and rocks and discarded fingernails (reminds me of the time when i was eating indian pizza, felt something funny in my mouth and pulled out a very long pinkie nail that had gotten chopped off - needless to say that was the last time i ever had indian pizza). in a little skillet dry toast the mustard seeds, cumin and corriander just until they become fragrant - if you have only powder you can do the same but be very very careful not to burn. grind up the seeds in a coffee mill, mortar and pestle, whatever works for you. as for the jalapenos, add as many or as few as you like it - i generally removed seeds and veins cause i like it spicy but not 4-alarm. you can cook the onions in a little oil until they're soft, if you like, but i never do. throw everthing (including a little salt) except the spinach into a pot (or pressure cooker) and cook until the whole mess is soft. i usually remove about 1/4 of the soup and blend then return to the pot...this makes the soup a little heartier and with a better texture and flavor. near the end place the spinach in the pot (you probably don't want to add the spinach in before you blend otherwise the soup will get a little green-y), cover and simmer till soft. adjust salt to taste.
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