Sunday, November 29, 2009

Talking turkey...

Thanksgiving is at an end, the family has returned home, football has been played, and its time to clean. We all go through the routine, we all get to do sit ups for weeks to pay for our bounty. But if the experience is the same, the why isn't the dinner? We all know what we love about thanksgiving, but what don't we know? I am taking the time now to look back on what I consider to be the three most underrated food items which may or may not be at your thanksgiving feast. You may agree with me, but be warned, by not agreeing, you only strengthen my case.

3. Fruit Salad. Lets face it. Thanksgiving is a holiday for feast and good times, health should not be a consideration. But that does not mean that our taste buds must suffer. The author of The Physiology of Taste, Brillat-Savarin points out the distinction between hunger and appetite. He states that your appetite, ability to eat, is entirely separate from your hunger, your need to eat. This explains how you can eat a food item until you are full, but upon arrival of dessert you are renewed in your desire to feast. This is the point of a sweet and tart fruit salad. Have it in a bowl on the side, use it to cleanse your palate. This will give your tongue a break and keep the meal satisfying. Not to mention a few vitamins for your trouble.

2. Cranberry Sauce. Bring 2 cups sugar and 1 cup water (simple syrup) to a boil. when sugar dissolves, add one bag (16 oz) whole cranberries. stir until cranberries pop and fall apart. Let cool. total effort? 15 minutes. Why do we bog ourselves down with a muddles canned product from the store when less effort than mashed potatoes will give you such a delight. A sweet jelly which rouses the spirits. It makes turkey sing, stuffing pop, and even lets your kids color the veggies as they enjoy. Cranberries are packed with vitamins and the smell is fresh enough to keep you in a good mood. Turkey, stuffing, potatoes, gravy, mushrooms, blah blah blah. that is a plate of grey and white. throw some bright red on there and look like you know what you are doing.

1. The number one most underrated item at your thanksgiving dinner is... Stuffing. I know, I just lost some readers because all of you know stuffing and use it often, but you don't understand stuffing, so it is extremely underrated. First of all, it is only stuffing if it is cooked inside the bird, otherwise it is "dressing". Now stuffing is delicious, we all know, but it is also dangerous. That's right, stuffing is the leading culprit in a failed thanksgiving. did you know that? Stuffing packs the bird, thus giving more mass within the turkey. This means that more cook time is required to raise the internal temperature to the proper level of food safety. Fully cooked stuffing usually means dry turkey, since the proper internal temperature makes for a greater outer temperature. You can go ahead and make your turkey juicy and delicious, but now the stuffing is not at a safe temperature. I'm sure you will be fine, but Salmonella could lurk within. I recommend dressing in the future, instead, fill the turkey with citrus and aromatics, discard after, enjoy the meal.

So you see, some things need a second look, and others need a harder look. don't change grandmas recipe, just give a little respect to your food. Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Magical Fruit...

There are few foods in the world as complex and as beneficial as the small bean. It is representation of human history and is a basis in many cultures diet. Beans are as complex a carbohydrate as you can find and packs enough protein to substitute meat at proper amounts. Beans will be around longer than you and I. Its about time we all take this little friend for what it truly is, delicious.

In a previous post I already discussed the merits of adding beans to rice, but what if you just wanted beans and you wanted them in the most delicious fashion possible? Well I think I have that covered for you. Start with one bag (16 oz) or pinto beans. empty the contents into a pot of cool water and let sit at least 12 hours before you plan to cook. The newly soaked beans are swollen and ready.

Now this next step is up to you, but I think I have found the best option. You need some serious flavor. You want to add to the beans a bone, preferably with meat. Pork is the best option for this as it is salty and flavorful. Go to you local butcher and for a few dollars you can walk home with either a Ham Hock or a Ham End. Both have a ton of flavor, a good deal of meat, a lot of fat and will make your beans sing.

I chose the Ham End and your butcher would probably agree with me. Put these pieces into the beans fill with enough water to cover a few inches above beans. You want enough water that after a long boil you still have a soupy mixture. Add maybe a tea spoon of salt and put the pot to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and let it sit for one hour.

After the boil, remove the ham end and cut as much meat as you can from the bone, dice that meat up and return to the pot. Discard the bones and fat. Return to boil, then simmer for twenty minutes.

Here is your choice. You can use a slotted spoon and remove your new treasures or you can use a ladle and get the broth as well. I choose the latter. A splash of tabasco sauce, or spicy white vinegar will make the flavor sing. Enjoy it, as I'm sure this will quickly become a family favorite.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Its Alive...

When you take the remains of something to build something else, does it have to be a monster? Is it possible, or even probable that things are changing for the better or even for the good? I think that reusing is as close to good as you can get and I'm not just talking about your plastic bottles.

I'm talking about soup. Not just any soup. I mean my soup. A creation that I saw coming together and made it happen and it did not start with soup, it didn't even start with broth, no this sordid story begins with grandparents and change of plans. Id like to tell you about how a plan can come together.

Grandparents on both sides were coming over for dinner. We bought two giant (I can eat my beef, but these were mammoth) cuts of beef. If I had to guess I would say 48 oz a piece. We were going to grill them up and give meat to everyone for two days. Two short phone calls later, the guests are all skipping and we have a lot of food; Apples. My solution? Applesauce.

I mean that figuratively. The crock pot was assembled, the meat seared, a sauce made. The sauce was tomato sauce, tomato paste, Worcestershire, Cayenne pepper, cumin, garlic, salt and pepper, a dash of soy and half a bottle rose wine. I know, sounds good. 24 hours later we are making tacos with some serious flavored meat. When that was all gone, we had about 4 cups of some serious flavored gravy.

After some soul searching (calling my chef cousin) I had a plan, I had the ingredients, I was going to make this sauce better, tastier, more flavorful than it was before. I was going to make soup. Into a pot went some olive oil, garlic, and the parts of mirapoi (Carrots, Celery, Onion) that I'm allowed to use (onion is forbidden in my house, don't complain, I already feel the loss). When that cooked up, I added the super beef sauce, a large can of chicken stock, water, bouillon to compensate the water, salt, pepper, some chicken breast(raw), and a few dash spices (I don't remember exactly). When the chicken was cooked, I removed, chopped and returned it. I then added egg noodles and peas, let this simmer until noodles cooked, then I feasted.

There you have it. A flavor explosion of a soup that is hearty, warm, perfect for these cold days. I have half the batch frozen for later consumption and the other half was eaten within days of it being done. Sometimes in life your going to have a lot of little when your looking for something big. Its up to you to make a plan, stick to it, get help when you need it, and make something big for yourself.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fire of Life...

I took a trip last week. This was no ordinary trip, I was traveling out to the expansive mid-west for an opportunity to see new additions to my family and spend some much needed time relaxing and taking my time to enjoy a new area. By relaxing, I mean I was working in the rain moving large rocks from the woods to a flower bed so that other people can marvel at how beautiful nature is. I needed a reward.

I found this reward in the heart of the magnificent Greek district located in downtown Chicago. For those of you think of only greasy thick pizza when asked about the fine cuisine of the windy city, I dare say you are doing that town an injustice. Chicago is also home to some of the best hot dogs in the nation (even if I get a cross look when I request ketchup) and lesser known except for the locals who pride themselves of the fact, a fantastic Greek district.

The time was 7:30, the place was the Parthenon. When you enter, you are greeted by a boisterous woman who says hello to every new face and leads you to a table which is very close to the surrounding tables, a bad sign? I might have thought so at first. As the night went on, you realized that they were going to fill their walls and the group was to feast together at the sights and sounds presented.

We began with a delicious salad made with feta cheese and anchovies and a crusty bread. This led to a group of eight sharing three bowls of soup, we all tasted the Lentil, the Egg Lemon, and my favorite, the Navy Bean. We made our order, received our wine and little did we know what we had started.

Quick additions were made immediately. A traditional Greek appetizer was brought to us, cheese wrapped in filo dough and lit on fire to the crowds amazement and shouts of "OOPA!". I still don't know what that means. Then the food came. The meals were put in place then immediately moved, portions passed, flavors tested, wine drank, laughter echoed. I had half my meal still on my plate when my body told me, "no mas". Put a fork in me, I was done.

I am not Greek. Not even a little, but for two and a half hours, I was laughing, shouting, drinking the wine, and enjoying the flavors. I drank bitter Greek coffee and tried to read my fortune in the mud (I saw only mud - a bad sign?) I had more cheese than my digestion cared for and still I look back and see that as a high point of the trip. There were many Asians, Indians, Whites, Blacks, and of course the Greeks. They were all enjoying a culture other than their owns. They were all opening their eyes to another world. That's the beauty of life, some people don't have to move rocks for a relative but there heads are still hidden beneath one. See the light. Get out there and learn what someone else has to offer.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Too Much Good...

Call me crazy. It seems to me that if you take a good thing and mash it together with another good thing, you should end up with a super good thing. What followed was a journey through my very being as a food lover. I love rice. I love beans. Join me now as I tell you my journey through the monster known as... Rice and Beans.

I didn't eat beans until recently. I love them now. little sacks of awesome. But now I eat them and I am curious how to use them better. I decided that I must love rice and beans so I set out to create it. The first attempt was with Caribbean style. Basically it is beans prepared and flavored with coconut milk, Cinnamon, assorted other spices and rice is then added.

This is an odd flavor. sweet. dessert like. in a word? unsatisfying. I didn't like it. It was just not a combo of flavor that I enjoyed. not to mention that I used a whole pepper with seeds and didn't get a bit of spice. oh and fun fact, the coconut milk burns acrid, bitter, and black if you over cook it even slightly. Ok, moving on.

I was at a grocery store chain which I will refer to in code, Hole Foods. Hole Foods has a cafe area where they pride themselves on food options for all people, including a vegan food bar. They had a rice and bean dish there and I grew intrigued. The product!? miserable. poor flavor, over spiced. The dish was savory and cold. unappetizing and disappointing. So, I heated it up. Slightly better, but on a whole, the flavor was the same. No dice.

Why was this so hard? I wanted to just get to basics. Bag of beans, check. Ham hock, check. Lets do this. I just boiled the beans with the ham hock until the beans were tender. I cut the meat from the bone and returned it to the pot and added the rice to the salty, meaty, hearty mixture. With a top off of water and a return to boil, it was ready to cook.

This was great. Delicious. Meaty, not too salty. It was just as god intended it to be. Just rice and beans. how hard was that? I think that in the end its nice to know that two rights can make a wrong and that to each his own. I may not have liked the other options but its important to keep trying. I will try more in the future, but this is a start. I will continue to delight in life's most delicious flavors.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

On Love...

"I may not be a smart man, but I know what love is" - Forrest Gump

What does it take to fall in love? Is it a journey within the eyes of another, or a look within oneself that makes it love? What does it mean to love? They say, "It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all". I cry foul play at this sentiment! To love is to be open, to put your heart within the scissors blades and place the grips in the hands of another. Can you decide that you are in love or will love choose you? I dare say that I have chose the woman, but I did not choose to love her. Quite the contrary. I found myself in love with her. Love comes to man and makes him sing. A touch, a smile, a kiss, or even the frown beneath the eyes of a disapproving stare, all confirm what your heart knows already knows is true.

In reality, a candle holding the night at bay from the wind has more a chance than love. Chaos. Two people run the roads of life hoping their paths connect. Disorder. Worlds within a world, trying to understand those they meet when they barely know themselves. Passion. The recognition of your ability to be strong and, at the same time, weak with another. Is man the sword and woman the sheath? But what of, "The souls recognition of its counterpoint in another"? Does this mean yin for yang, or is yin for yin possible? A dance, then, founded in challenge, a relationship that demands progress; only the best will do.

What is love to me? Mutual association. My very being, split in two. An explanation of who I am which at first demands the description of another. Completed by another person, myself in them and they in me. To remove that piece means unthinkable pain. Reducing a soul to pieces so that one can try to start over. Is it best then to move on when uncertainty nears? Spare yourself the torment, collect your tears and whats left of your dignity and let that person go? I would sooner burn my house, the symbol of my safety and happiness, to the ground than, "let" that someone go.

Symbols. A representation of something more. To love is to make a person into a beacon which shines with the light of everything good in your life. Could you throw away your childhood blanket, bear, or other item which you held so dear? Would it be any easier if these symbols spoke, moved, and knew you better than you know yourself? I know that out their, out the window of my life, I am imperfect. But with love, I shine immaculate and without fault. How can one desire that feeling to leave?

At times, however, the heart cries. You feel the scissors tighten as you stare through tears, pain flowing through your very being. A short tone, a cold shoulder, bitter indifference can all erupt from your lover to you. However, you hold fast because you know that with a smile, a mere whisper, you will feel relief and more. You can forget the darkness fore it makes the light shine brighter as you dare to fly again.

Without love, is this feeling possible? Meetings of the heart are the moments of Kings and Gods; should mortals have to suffer for such arrogance as to dare to love? Human nature and free will cannot be changed or controlled. It is in each of us the power to choose our own life. I do not wish the control or command of anyone else. I'm just a boy who's been in love. That's all I'll ever be.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Seems Impossible...

Have you ever had one of those days? For that matter, one of those months, years, lives? Sometimes it just seems like no matter what you do, you cant get ahead. Life will challenge. You never know what is going to happen until it happens, but then what? I always see things as sink of swim. But you can just see how things are stacked so that if you so choose to sink, the world will put its foot down to speed things up.

Well I say no more. I heard a great philosopher make a life statement that made me think. He said, "We will eat that elephant one bite at a time". The philosopher was my dad. He is no philosopher. And it made me laugh more than think. What a way to picture things.

You see, its all about perspective. Did life give you lemons or lemonade? I know, I'm sorry. I'm as tired of that adage as you are but hey. I am currently being trained at work. I sit in a room and learn and get paid. Its boring, its redundant, its tailored to the simplest denominator... but wait. I'm getting paid to sit. I'm stealing.

This is a little exciting.

Each hour ticks by and my Grinch smile curls and curls and curls. I put my finger tips together and eye ball my instructors... the fools.

obviously this is ridiculous, but hey. I had fun. Fun. Change the way you think. Your fired? big whoop, you complained about that job all the time, go do what you want. your poor? learn simple pleasures? Campfires and beer are just as good as movies and steak. When I find my fridge empty at dinner time, I don't cry. I get creative.

Life is an elephant. Maybe yours has his trunk sky high in the symbol of good fortune, or maybe yours is sitting (I said SITting) on your face. All you have to do is take a bite and make your way to the top. may take a while, but you can do it. One bite at a time.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Axiom #2

The meaning of life is to find the very best of whatever your into and surround yourself with it at all times

Since the beginning of time itself, life has existed. This can mean the life of a split second, crying out with its moment in the grand spectrum of time as it dies away just as quickly, the life of the universe, post big bang, an awe inspiring clock work of sophisticated and powerful forces colliding in the most dazzling and violent ballet ever written, or even the life of simple bacteria which one day will grow and evolve into a race of beings that can one day type their thoughts of their one celled ancestors upon their personal keyboards. Yes, life is not just how we know it and it is everywhere. The real question is, why? What is the meaning of it all? Well I don't know the answer to that. The lesser famous, but just as important question is more explicit. What is the meaning of our lives?

Day after day, we humans wake up and proceed upon our lives with an almost animal instinct to remain active. But why? What is the point of it all. Most people will interrupt their one of their days for at least one moment during their cosmically insignificant time and wonder why they are on this earth and why they must toil endlessly. Why is their life significant?

I'm here to tell you why. Of course I could preface this with many, "in my opinions...", and "maybes", but that's not the case, this is what I believe so I will proceed with my facts.

Your life is significant because it is yours. Its the only thing that can never be taken from you. Your past, present, and future, are a book which you are writing. You may be helpless to change events or location, but your attitude, your thoughts, these are all yours and no one can touch them.

That is why, as Ive stated, the meaning of life is to make this story as personal as you can. If you love beer, then try every last one until you have found your favorites, then drink them. If you like skiing, go to as many mountains as you can and find the one you enjoy most and love it. If you love God, then love him for ever, if you love sin, then go out and fill yourself to the top. This is not however an invitation to impede the life of another. Your purpose is not to convert, to harm, or change. Just be open and share. Smile when they say no, and be helpful when they say yes.

If you cant afford these things, then work to get them. Dream of how to make your perfect toy, food, boat, car, your perfect life is not far. Make a plan, earn them. I bet its even better that way. Take the first step towards a life you can be proud of.

Life is here for your enjoyment, if you are upset, mad, sad, or in general displeased, then you are playing the game wrong. The rules are simple, the odds in your favor. Your favorite thing is waiting. Go enjoy it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Razor Thin Line...

I just made a great Clam Chowder. It was thick. It was creamy. It was flavorful and meaty; everything a clam chowder should be. The truth is that I never made a clam chowder before. I am ever growing in my culinary talents and some stones are still being turned. For instance, I have made Rues for gravy but I have never made one for soup. I was scared, I was nervous. I watched it bubble on the stove like a hawk. As Ive said, Ive done it before, but never for a soup. What if I messed it up?

The rue was fine, of course, the soup delicious, the dinner complete. I know what your thinking. If I never made one before, how did my clam chowder turn out so well. Ill tell you.

It was stolen.

I went online, I found a recipe, and I made something I have never made before. I didn't tell people I made someone else's soup, I told them it was mine. Home made. Did I lie? Truth is, I actually used two extra slices of bacon, an extra potato, and removed the onion from the original recipe. I also changed the spices. So, if the difference between two peoples recipe can be a secret ingredient, then how do we define ownership? The fact is that when it comes to a recipe, there is no owner. I changed it, I own it. The moment I deviated even a spice or two I took it for my own.

That's the power of creativity. Why say 'yes' to anything handed to you. Take the frame, use the advice, but in the end its you that makes your world special. If you like spicy, make spicy. You don't have to follow every direction to the letter. Get out there and make your life something that you can enjoy. Make it unique. Just like you.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Like a Pheonix We Rise...

Summer is noticeably coming to its chilly end. The Days of heat, although relatively few these past months (where I live, at least,) are dwindling to cool afternoons and great "picnic" weather. The life of the world is being reflected all around me.

As I look out into my yard, I see what is becoming of my garden. The once bushy, lush, green patch out my door is becoming thin and sickly. The Tomato plants which once stood as six foot ever mindful monitors of the life developing within its caged walls now fall over and become brown as the last of the fruit it produces is plucked from it by my hand or by ground hog. The zucchini plants which disappointed me are shrinking and you can see that their time is coming to an end. My garden, synonymous with the attitude of nature is smiling its last smile, producing its last effort to prolong itself through seeds, and bidding a fond farewell.

The truth is that that garden will never be there again. Those plants die and the dirt changes and even if I mimic it next year, the garden I have this year will be gone forever. Like these plants, humans too wake up day after day, year after year, and look at themselves in the mirror and see the same face they saw yesterday. This face, however, is not the face they had a birth.

So when did we change?

We can see that we are as gardens. same body, same parts, and same scheme as we have always had, yet we change and that's all there is to it. I am not the man I was when I was 10, so I must have changed along the way. Its best to embrace the things we have now and look foreword to the changes of the future. It will make everything easier if we allow the "new" to enter us and embrace it as if it were a long lost friend.

I have noticed change in my life; I am now an uncle to a healthy happy young boy. I was not an uncle a few days ago, but now my life has changed forever. I didn't even feel it happen.

Monday, August 31, 2009

No rain, No rainbows...

Life is a garden, dig it. Crying a river? build a bridge and get over it. Every cloud has a silver lining, yes, we all have THAT friend, but when is it time to use such wisdom? I have a story of fighting the odds, making something out of nothing, pulling oneself up from the bootstraps and carrying on, I'm talking of course about muffins.

A good friend of mine welcomed my family home from a two day trip with muffins. Mmm, muffins. However, all was not well. The recipe was found online and the batter may have been tampered with and over mixed, resulting in the final product being way too dry, yet delicious. There was even fudge in the middle. So here we have great flavor in a desert of a dessert.

I'm sorry to say it was not my brain child which followed, but the recommendation was fantastic. Bread Pudding. Bread pudding, to those that don't know it, sounds weird. What a combo. The reality is that it is just an absorbent bread soaked with a sweet custard and baked. So we took the muffins, cubed them, and covered them with a mixture of eggs, milk, and sugar, and let it all soak. We decided to make a crumb topping with brown sugar, butter, and slivered almonds (that's what we had, I would prefer pecans.)

After a bit of time to soak and about 40 minutes in the oven, the final product was splendid. Savory and sweet, soft, moist, and all in all a delicious product. It was not perfect. In fact, if I did it again I would skip the brown sugar. But the muffin and the fudge? Oh baby, you cant miss with such all star ingredients.

The point? Some things are not meant for the trash can. Take a second look and see how you can fix it. In retrospect, the bread pudding was tastier than the muffins would have been if they were moist. Just something to think about.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Stubborn or Blind...

There was a time in my life where a few times a day I would have to inconvenience someone. I was like a king the way I was special amongst other people. My will was exacted or my fury wrought. I was a picky eater and I would not stop until I was feeding upon food of my liking.

It began much worse than it is now. I would only eat ketchup with hamburger and then only when it was absent of the bun. I would not eat tomato sauce on my noodles, and anything green? forget about it. I would discriminate over color, shape, smell, and above all, texture.

I got better. I warmed to ketchup and tomato sauce by my teens, but for the most part veggies were not my idea of a good time. Then in college something amazing happened. I began to cook regularly. I cooked for myself, for others, for groups, for ladies, I was a cooking machine. I realized something. I was having a great time imagining meals that I had no intention of eating, yet I still found my mouth watering (thank you Iron Chef.)

So now I sit amongst all the other people in life who can order a salad with anticipation, ask for a menu item without changing it, I will even eat a few vegetarian meals each week now. But does that mean that I am right? I still go to Wendy's and ask them for my favorite meal, the Spicy Chicken sandwich, plain. I will only put pickles on a burger (see earlier posts.) I still cant eat raw tomato even though I love each and every one of its products, I wont touch brussel sprouts, and occasionally there are things that gross me out.

In the end, I believe that everything should be tried. I spent a semester in Mexico. things were tried. Get out there and open your eyes. Its ok to be picky where picky is preferred, but you have no excuse to not broaden yourself. I now prefer onions on my cheese steak and mushrooms on my pizza. I look foreword to my next change of heart and so should you.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Think About it...

I would like to tell you a short story. This will not be a story like the ones you have heard before. There will be no noble knight, no dashing spy, and no unlikely hero who time itself has chosen to risk their life for the greater good. No, this is the story about a boy named Dave.

Dave spends every day watching those around him. He need only look out his window and he can see them, all around. The most common sight are the flyers. These people need no wings or planes, yet they move gracefully and quickly through the air with no effort at all. Another popular ability is exhibited in the Strong-Ones. these people can lift enormous weight even though they are of normal build and normal height. Among the remaining people are the psychics who can read minds and those who can breath under water. Everyone could do something. Every one except Dave.

Dave has no power. This is because Dave has something that no one else has, Dave has the truth. The truth stumbled upon Dave in the form of a book, which was discovered in a box in the woods. This book changed his life forever; it explained everything. You see, it all starts at birth. The child is reported as well as the names and abilities of the parents. A few months later, a card arrives with the childs future power. For the next fourteen years the parents regail the child with stories of what to expect. They let him play with others who will hold that power and on the their 14th birthday, the child wakes up and has a new power and a new life.

The book made it so clear. The human brain is a magnificent thing. It can mimic pain and joy when there is neither, placebos are able to make your mind create symptoms when all is well, it can even kill itself if it is made to believe it must. With enough stimulus it can even make you fly. Why not? If a child knew, absolutely knew, that he would have a power when he was fourteen, and didn't know other wise, why wouldnt he? The brain will make it real because thats all it knows.

Dave understood all too well. He is now seventeen. He was supposed to fly.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Spice of Life...

I don't think I have been shy to admit that I love pickles. My favorite batch of pickles is, as mentioned in previous posts, very spicy. This is because of the delicious pickled cherry peppers which float atop the brine. I am also particularly fond of pickled whole chilies, a la the canned ones you get in the Spanish section. I ate them like chips in Mexico. In my garden I planted two cherry pepper, and two chili pepper plants. I had little other plans for these jewels other than to pickle and enjoy them.

About a week ago I had my first opportunity. I had about 6 or 7 cherry peppers and no chilies, but that was ok. I also wanted to get some hot oil out of the deal, so I began to do the following: First, I removed the stem and seeds of the peppers. Next, I sliced the peppers and put them in a pan with vegetable oil. After a quick saute, I added about one and a half cups veg. oil, and about one cup of white vinegar and let it boil. When the peppers were soft and resting in a red oil, I removed to a jar and let cool.

I was so excited. I couldn't wait, a day later, I gathered my brother, mother, and grandfather, and bragged about what I had done. I made some crackers with cheese, served and watched. Not even my mother minded. I quickly threw one in my mouth... nothing. How could I have been so stupid?

You see? I relied so heavily on the vinegar increasing the spice by opening taste buds that I forgot to put the spice in in the first place. you see, the peppers spice lies in the ribs and seeds. The very ribs and seeds that I removed in the first step.

Round two. I have about 9 cherries, and close to 10 chilies now. I put slits in the chilies and sliced the cherries WITH SEEDS. I now want to make a spicy vinegar since I now have a pepper oil, so I boiled 2 cups white vinegar and half a cup water. I added to this a tsp Koser salt, 1 tbsp sugar, and a clove of garlic. I layered the peppers in a jar and poured the boiling mixture over, covered with a paper towel, and let sit til cool.

The result. Very spicy. the aroma alone made me cough since I was not ready for it. Threw one in and chewed, spice filled my tongue, the vinegar made the whole flavor pop. Very bright and very delicious. I just cant get enough of these little treasures. Good and good for you.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

my idea of a good time...

I am shocked and at times appalled at what people will charge you for food these days. I understand that farmers need money and better ingredients mean better food but what are we really paying for? Are Wendy's commercials right? are we paying for the flair? the idea that you walk into a restaurant and it has its interior designed like an old villa, there are bottles of wine in view, and oil bottles organized like art, means that you have to pay for it all in the end is absurd. Even if that place offers endless soup, salad and bread sticks, I still don't want to pay like I just took some one out to propose. I don't think of myself as cheap. I am living within my means at the moment and shouldn't have to suffer because of it. I cant believe I'm about to say this... but I think the French have got something.

I am referring to "Fooding". According to, a dictionary (I think,) fooding is defined as:
A restauranting trend which emphasises food as a style choice, usually via new
or fusion cuisines in combinations or factors not related to food, such as a
unique or trendy atmosphere.

In short, what this means is that you don't need the black tie to get a black tie meal. This all came about because there were more chefs arriving in the work place with classical and gourmet training and not enough gourmet positions to accommodate them all. These brave men and women then began to open their own restaurants with minimum funds. Imaging a bar that served you prime rib and fillet mignon, roast duck, and subtle cuisines that you only see on iron chef, yet at a price the matched the atmosphere. You could enjoy this presentation with a beer watching a sporting event. That is what I'm talking about.

I say we all need to stop putting such a price on aesthetics. I understand that with food like fajitas we buy the sizzle, not the steak, but do we have to pay outrageously to enjoy a 3 dollars worth of skirt steak, tortilla and veggies? Don't abandon your favorite restaurant, just make sure you are getting what you pay for.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Three times the charm...

I ate over the weekend. That's an understatement really, thanks to my older brother just having to age another year, I found myself feasting like it was my favorite holiday, Thanks Eastermas. However, there are some things in life that you find and never forget. I had something over the past weekend that truly made my mouth dance.

I was at an Italian style restaurant that has never in my previous two visits pleased me. I don't know the rules, so I am not sure if I can say the name, but I will say it rimes with Barrabbas. Anyway, as I have mentioned, in the long run, this restaurant is simply mediocre. The previous dishes lacking that little extra that makes you want to return. I have previously complained that their beer list was cliche (bud, Coors, miller, Sam Adams, Heineken, corona, give or take a few, sounds familiar?) and lacking a true selection for proper food pairings.

All complaints aside, my brother was nice enough to take my good friend and I out with him and his wife. I remembered something he had eaten on my last visit, which I wanted over the fish that I was so offended by at the time. All I could remember was goat cheese. I searched and searched and there it was.

Chicken Bryan. A char grilled chicken fillet, butterflied, and covered with a bright lemon, butter, basil sauce. Atop this seasoned and most certainly loved piece of meat sat the crown for the king, two slices of creamy goat cheese. The side was simply broccoli (I opted against mashed potatoes because of carbs.)

When you put this morsel in your mouth, you could not help but close your eyes to allow your tongue to experience every level of flavor. First was the burst of lemon in the smooth butter sauce, then you were able to experience the seasonings of the meat itself. The final compliment was the cheese. Creamy. Smooth. Turning the bite into an experience which you tried with all your strength to swallow slowly. The lingering flavor was not as inviting as it was demanding of another bite. I did not at the time, but a meal like this will pair perfectly with a light in color or lemony beer. I would recommend a Paulaner or Franziskaner Wheat, if a Pale ale is not available.

I will not jump to return to this restaurant, due to past disappointments, but in the future, hold the menu, please. Ill just have the chicken.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Axiom #1

Beer is at the same time, as complicated, as sophisticated,
and a better product in general than wine.

This is, I know, a bold statement to make. But hear me out. First of all, I want to admit that I am slightly biased. Three years moving cases of beer for a living gives you a lot to think about. There are so many styles and brands, names and pictures, walls upon walls to look upon and dream. Every case a new world, every bottle story. but hey, that's just me.

Beer begins at the boil. You take the grains you want and you, in essence, make tea. Grains range from very light to very dark (dark grains make dark beer.) You can, if you wanted, make a beer dark in color with less flavor than Coors Light (so please give dark beer a break, it just looks scary.) Malt is the primary flavor of the beer. It gives it its main body and mouth feel and makes the beer sweet. The hops are added to balance the sweet with bitterness and give the beer its flowery aroma. You can also add spices to the boil or during fermentation to change the flavor.
As you can see, the beer process is more complicated than that for wine and the combinations are more vast. Have you ever heard of a coffee or a chili pepper wine? These are very real and very tasty beer flavors. Beer has so many different grains to chose from, sure you have many varieties of grapes, but there are so many more types of grain and any number of varieties for these types.
The original beer was lumpy, bitter, and cheap. Its no wonder that it took second chair to wine in history. That does not make the beverage worthless, though. Mesopotamian culture had a god for beer. Industrial England built itself on the backs of workers who drank beer primarily. Even our president, poor taste aside, chose beer over wine.
It's no mistake that, "He who invented beer was a wise man", was a true Socrates quote. This beverage has survived throughout the course of man, built cities, and has only gotten better. With micro-breweries growing, we find ourselves in a beer revolution. Beer is gathering power and we are very good at making it. Don't kid yourself that the stuff of frat parties is an indication of the industry on whole. Would a wine drinker curse his beverage because Franzia exists? There is a world out there waiting to be discovered. Go down to your local bar with even a half decent selection and order yourself a bottle of human history. Tell them Geoff sent you.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Sorry Price of Left Brain Use...

I get to have a treat soon. There is a particular item which at the same time arouses many emotions in me; nostalgia, delight, giddiness, and of course... hunger. I am talking of course about meatloaf. the meal everyone knows and only a few fear (I'm guessing they eat the wrong meatloaf.) But this is a journey I had to come to on my own. A trip around my own head and back to where the heart is.

This story begins about the time I was 10 when my father told my mother that her meatloaf reminded him of dog food. Don't jump to conclusions, my father is the hardest eater to please. He wont eat anything complicated. He wont even eat chicken. Enough about him; fast foreword in time to my college years when a scent, being the strongest memory activator, reminded me of a dinner we hadn't had in years. I asked my mom why she stopped making her meatloaf that I remember so well and you can see why.

A rebirth, nay, a renaissance if you will, took place in those weeks to come. However, I am no ordinary lover of the kitchen, I am one to experiment. I will get into that later but even when I brewed beer, the style was not as important as the ingredient. The twist to make it unique, to bring out its essence. I turned this murderous eye on my poor mothers meatloaf. I made creativity upon it.

I began with the meat itself, I used pork for flavor and turkey for health. I then removed the mouthwatering sauce in favor for a bacon shell. I shrieked and laughed into the night as I made my monster and it lived... oh, it lived. But some beasts are not meant for this earth. The meat, lacking proper fat was dry, the edges thick with rendered bacon grease. Not even mashed potatoes could save this feast.

I learned a lesson that day. There are any number of ways to prepare a dish but there is only one way to do it right. Soon I will make the meatloaf as it was made by mother, with the same meat, and the same sauce. I will love it, and I will mourn the empty pan.

"If it aint broke, don't fix it." It goes to show you, that creativity is fun and all, but within reason. Ill try to keep mine under control.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Lords of the Universe...

Its a funny pair: Philosophy and Science. The original odd couple. I had an audience that I'm not accustomed to the other day. I sat on a couch facing two cousins, my brother, a good friend, and I began to express an idea so deep routed in science that it philosophically blew my mind. I have decided to allow you this nugget of (could be) truth.

To begin, I want to make it clear that I believe in intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. That's all, I'm no Area 51, UFO chasing crackpot, I just want to clarify.

Right, so I make no excuse that I am a fan of Beer, but I'm not alone. Every culture that has ever existed has fermented alcohol. Usually by accident (breath in that wild yeast,) this act has become sort of mundane. We take for granted what yeast actually do.

Yeast are a fungi. They are a single cell organism used commonly in baking and fermenting. Yeast metabolize carbohydrates(fermentable sugars) and produce ethanol (C2H5OH). That's right, yeast eat sugar and release alcohol. Perfect little helpers.

Alcohol is by no means unique to earth. Astronomers have seen entire clouds of alcohol in the Universe. But think about our little yeast creatures. Millions of years of evolution have produced this creature and anyone who can grasp the idea of evolution knows that it is chaotic at best.

Lets just imagine that yeast are an anomaly, not shared in the universe. Could it be that the aliens that everyone fears for their destructive powers and vast intelligence are not able to make alcohol whenever they want? Natural alcohol would be a scarce resource. That would meant that when it comes to willful fermentation, we are kings.

Its possible. Maybe there is nothing out there which acts the same way. Maybe our schnapps, wine, liquor, liqueurs, beer and of course, Mead are creations that will one day make us the envy of space itself. Its a lot to think about, but I like to think that we could be the downfall of an entire civilization as we have seen throughout history when alcohol is introduced (poor Mexican Indians.)

Think about it.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Change of Heart...

Every one oppinions. One day, and it mights have already happened, you will have a moment of self insight. You will realize that within your mind lies a belief that you always had but never really thought about it. I had such an insight the other day.

There I was, basking in the semi cool, totally refreshing waters of a friends heated pool. This was one of those days when Lady Luck herself favored me and I was going to meet an old college friend and sure enough, there would be a pool there as well. I do not own a pool, so Me: 1, Universe: 0.

There I was in the heated pool, telling my friend about the afternoon plans, and he shrugged them off. What was his problem? That jerk totally takes for granted that he owns a pool and here I am happy to see two in one day. Then he looked to me and said, "going swimming just isn't a treat for me".

My god. It turns out I'm the jerk. He wasn't taking anything for granted, I was just pinning a label on him so that I could feel better about what I didn't have. This is not to say that there aren't those in the world, and there are, who will lord their things over you like a badge, its just saying that some done mean it. I personally wont change my life with this revelation, but I think I can cut some people a break. Not my friend though, I mean TWO pools in ONE day!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The true super food...

This one time, I had a craving. No, I wasn't pregnant, but I couldn't help myself. I could barely consider having a sandwich without first pulling out the large jar that I get from my grandfather. They are just so tasty; salty, full of flavor, and a mouth watering spice. I guess I should just admit it; my name is Geoff and I'm addicted to pickles.

As I said, its my grandfathers fault. He buys 5 gallon buckets of pickles from an Italian market, sorts them into jars that he has and tops them off with pickled cherry peppers. The result is one of the finest dining experience that you could ever have from a jar.

This is what was on my mind when we were almost empty in one of our jars, and a fine dinner idea came to me. I had heard a rumor that a restaurant chain, lets just refer to them as C-fil-A, gets their signature chicken sandwich by first marinating them in pickle juice. This would explain why when you order a sandwich from them, it is only topped with pickles unless otherwise requested.

So there I was with a jar of juice and some chicken breast. Why not? I cut the breasts thin and covered them in pickle juice. For those that don't know how a brine works, it is as follows:
  1. Meat is placed in a seasoned liquid that is very salty.
  2. The salt enters and seasons the meat
  3. The added salt causes the meat to swell with extra juice, making the cooked product more juicy.

Eureka! obviously pickle juice is just a celebrated brine! This makes things interesting. I move the meat from it's container, to beaten egg, to seasoned flower, back to egg, then to bread crumbs, I finish the prep work for my sandwiches. Fyi, the double breading makes a difference, more crunch and the breading will stick to the meat better. I fry them to a dark brown, not burnt, because I love the crunch, then I move to the sandwich. I take the very pickles who's juices made this meal possible and line a hearty roll.

I love fried chicken, but I have never had an experience like this. The meat was juicy, spicy, and flavorful. The pickles had their usual kick, making the whole sandwich pop. All in all, I would say that is was, by sandwich standards, Too Fine. So go, take with you a proven restaurant secret and next time you want to surprise someone, brine the meat and double bread. I know Ill love it and you'll look like a miracle worker.

Monday, August 3, 2009

True Heirlooms...

Unfortunately, I have lost a great Uncle. I barely knew him, but in times like these, you always wish you had spoken to them more, or gotten to know them. It was an accident which, so tragically, ended his ripe life at 79, so who knows how much longer he would have lasted.

As I sit and think about him, my mind keeps going back to his stuff. Things. Property of his which is now being handed out, according to his wishes, as keepsakes and heirlooms. I sit and watch the silver and china being sent to nieces across the country, help to move large pieces of furniture, and even box up the small knick knacks of a life lived and cant help but wonder what to me is most important.

Many people have the fortune of one of the most important heirlooms and don't realize it. I'm talking about something that is as valuable as any fancy cabinet, I'm speaking about recipes. paper evidence of your ancestors nourishment and prosperity.

It is something which is more important in some families than others, but the family tradition of cooking is passed down. Ever wonder why, as you sit in a murky funk at your school cafeteria, why they cant seem to make mashed potatoes like your mom? That's your history your comparing to. Your mom is not a magic woman, but she is the keeper of knowledge which you should seek out.

I write this post at home with a dreamy scent filling the air. When I inhale deeply, I can smell the tradition of my family on my dad's side, my child hood, my adolescents, and my future all at the same time. To the casual onlooker or guest, it is just a pot of tomato sauce (they, of course, think theirs is better) but to me its so much more than that. That is MY tomato sauce, and when I have kids, it will be theirs.

I dont want to fight with my brothers over the possessions of other peoples lives. I don't want to be eating off a table hundreds of years old, with silver, handed down generations, trying to remember how my mother made her poppy seed dumplings which I love so much over chicken. I want to receive phone calls from my kids one day saying how they miss my cooking and cant wait to be home, like my mother had from me.

My mission to you: You know that simple side dish you had growing up? That rice, noodle, potato, or soup that you loved so much? Get that recipe and make it this week.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The thing with friends...

What is it with friends these days? It seems to me that sites like Facebook and Myspace and the such put such emphasis on expanding your "friend lists" and less emphasis on friendship.

I can remember when I was a lad of elementary age, I got into a school boy quarrel with my baby brother, Matt(Baby being relative, he is only a year younger than me). This particular exchange was me showing my dominance by boasting that I could name 100 friends. That's right, 100! I began to name, much to the chagrin of my mother who had to listen to me, 100 people which I was friendly with.

Good thing I grew up! Oh wait... My facebook is currently friends with 301 people (oh yeah). But what really makes a friend? I graduated high school with around 150 people. We have all met. I was friendly with them all, but the truth is that when I graduated, I kept a handful of people close and they are all still my friends to this day. for the sake of future posts, they are: Olsen, Chris #1, James, Ian, O'malley, Kessler, and... well lets just call him Colin. 7 Friends. Man, I'm popular.

I see that friend lists now are back to pissing contests and "Anything you can do, I can..." arguments. I'm all for a connection between past and present, but in the end, its best to know whats most important in life. I know who gets my fullest attention when they are in town, The people Ive known longer than Ive had my old dog. Just keep it in mind.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Eggplant Parm recipe

Two eggplant - 1 Can Hunts Tomato Sauce
1c Bread Crumbs - 1 tsp Basil
2tbs Butter - 1 tsp Oregano
2 Eggs - 1 Green Pepper
2 hand fulls Grape Tomatoes - 1 tsp Red Pepper Flake
2 Garlic Cloves (peeled sliced) - 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 C Shredded Cheese

Preheat oven 350 degrees (F)
Slice eggplant thin, soak in egg 10 minutes. Melt butter, add to bread crumbs. Cover eggplant with crumbs Fry in Oil till brown, set aside. In pan, slice garlic, add to oil, and turn heat to medium. cut tomatoes in half, add to Olive Oil with Green pepper, When soft, add tomato sauce, pepper flakes, oregano, basil, simmer for 15 min. Lay eggplant in baking pan slightly overlapping, pour sauce on top, top with cheese of your choice, bake for 10 minutes, serve over pasta.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Poor Man's Loin...

I decided to play god once. I changed the landscape, asserted my will, and created life of my choosing, and in my order. I called this world "Garden", and it was so.

Seriously though. In one row, I wanted to plant 4-5 eggplants. (Is it an Eggplant or an Eggplant plant?) I was, however, late at the store to buy these bushy plants and only managed to score two; one Japanese, one regular purple. I lamented the pathetic representation until harvest time. These little plants will not stop throwing fresh eggplant at me. I'm pulling on average 1 a day. I have a problem... or do I? It is here that I dare to discover which variety is better and what style to cook in.

Variety is easy as can be. Cook them both and taste. The Japanese eggplant, being long and thin, produce many more, so I cook them first. I never had a Japanese eggplant, but I decide to grill them (inspiration but not recipe by Bobbi Flay). A little olive oil, salt, and pepper, then a hop onto the grill (gas). The result? tender. flavorful. Absolutely identical flavor to regular eggplant. ok, tie for variety.

I still had quite a few Japanese eggplant(s?) left so the next day I sliced it thin on the bias, and proceeded to bread and fry them into thin chips. Delicious. throw some salt on them when they are still hot with oil (which eggplant absorbs oil, fyi don't leave sitting too long in pan) then enjoy. I quite enjoyed that, but I was far from done with these little gems.
The next night, Pasta was the decision. My garden is vomiting food at me now and I need to use it, so I think Veggie Sauce. ok, I'm part Italian, lets do this. Simmer some garlic in oil, add halves of grape tomatoes till reduced, then add diced Jap. eggplant and zucchini. I salt and pepper here, then add tomato sauce. Stir it up, season to taste, served over Farfalle(bow tie) pasta. Delicious. Eggplant a little mushy, but good.
Last, the titan. The all famous, "Eggplant Parm". I have two beautiful regular Eggplant, I dip in egg, cover in bread crumbs, then I fry in some oil. At same time, I make a sauce. (again, I had veggies to use) I cut up grape tomatoes, and some fresh Green pepper and put in oil with garlic until soft, add salt and pepper. I then add Hunts sauce, Oregano, red pepper flake and Basil. Eggplants in dish with sauce on top and a lot of Mozzarella. Put in Oven for about 10 min.

Who wins? If you cant tell by reading, it was the Parm all the way. Nice spice, delicious kick, and great cheesy-ness. Well the way I cook it. But I like my cooking. Hands down the way I will do it for friends in the future. Glad to clear that up early in life.

Better with age...

I was thinking about one of my life's finest moments. I am talking of course about the time that I gave to my tongue the taste of a truly amazing beverage. I am referring to the Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA.

This is certainly an amazing brew. It was almost fate that I was sitting with my two good friends, Brad and Calen, when Calen brought out this beauty. The date brewed, (seemingly meaning less to some) a year to the day we decided to drink it. I don't believe in "Signs", but come on. That's pretty cool.

We poured this gem out into three anxious glasses and shared a moment of silence. This beer is famous for its complexity and its power. The Dogfish profile forming the exclamation point on the cap says it all: "This beer is not for Children". The color was a gold amber, slightly cloudy with the lively yeast. We inhaled a scent that screamed hops and was as fresh as the plant itself. We drew the amber liquid past our lips and into our hearts. The mouth-feel was commanding and full bodied, the taste was fresh and complex. At first you had an amazing sweetness from the Malt, but the linger was a pleasant bitter from a perfect choice of hops. Simply put, amazing.
This life changing moment stayed with me for many months. I later found myself in a bar, my last night before 6 months abroad. I decided, "To hell with cost, I want a 120!". The bottle arrived, only a few months from date of brew, I poured it slowly, aching for the perfect head. Smelled the ambrosia, brought it to my lips, chewed, and swallowed. terrible.
You see, I learned a lot that day. It turns out that the difference between 3 months and 12 was all the world. That extra time was enough to let the yeast grow and thrive. They feasted on the sugars within and produced a totally complex, magical experience, which must be enjoyed before you leave this world (Space ship?)
"All things come to him who waits - provided he knows what he is waiting for"
- Woodrow Wilson.

Conclusion: I have learned much from beer that I can put to my life. For example, you always save the good beer for your good friends, just as in life you never hold back when you have the opportunity to help a friend. But now I realize that with time and patience I can, like my coveted 120 become better with age.

In the Beginning...

I would like to begin this blog with a brief, "Thank you". This is for all of you who have, if only for this short moment, decided that my opinions are worth viewing. With that said, enough about you, lets talk about me.

I have often found myself thinking about the three subjects that I feel the most connected. Those being, quite obviously, Beer, Food, and Philosophy (I am not liberal, I don't drink coffee, and I hate hippies. Go figure these are my three). With Philosophy in mind I thought that it was important for me to lay down the ground rules. In Philosophy, all thought has to be based off basics of logic called Axioms (i.e. an object cannot be not the object, a = a, a /= ~a). That being said, I thought that I would state the rules followed by my blog.
  1. Beer is at the same time, as complicated, as sophisticated, and a better product in general than wine.
  2. The meaning of life is to find the very best of whatever your into and surround yourself with it at all times
  3. Philosophy is a vital way of exploring the universe from the birth of a star, to a single chew of your favorite food.

That being said, I will now dedicate the space here to examining my life as I see it. My thoughts and opinions have a home now and I invite you to follow along. I hope it makes you think, but above all I hope you can laugh. I offer no apologies to what will follow and look foreword to what Ill say next...