Using your noodle

I’m loathe to admit that I purchased an entire set of dishes based solely on the fact that I thought they would photograph well, but these were on sale at the Crate and Barrel website so I figured it was an exception. And I had a gift card. And what fool-headed person came up with the gift registry? I mean, taking a heady, happy, recently bejeweled girl and telling her to go to a store and make a list of things she wants without buying them is ridiculous. But then to make those available online? That is beyond my comprehension. I have spent more time on my gift registry than I have on all the other aspects of the wedding combined. Fact. But honestly, every time I start thinking about things like flowers, music, or photography, I get distracted by potential gifts. Like, “oh, I don’t know…maybe chrysanthemums, or those tiny little blueOH MY GOD ALLCLAD MAKES A CROCKPOT!?!?” It’s a little sick. And I investigated approximately one bazillion china patterns, thinking that there is no possible way that I can begin life as a married woman without having a set of plates that I’m not allowed to use and probably also a matching gravy boat. It turns out that I mostly hate china patterns. But I found a winner–white with a platinum band. It’s simple, and it reiterates my basic opinion about yellow gold (it’s for oldey-timey folk and/or hookers). (And pimps).

Anyway, I bought some dishes was my point. And then I had to design an entire meal of food that would highlight my primary point (Look! Dishes!). The thing is that my new dishes were noodle bowls, and I have never eaten a noodle bowl that didn’t come in a styrofoam cup with a paper lid and dessicated mixed vegetables laying, corpse-like, on a clot of dried “noodle” substance. And those were the culinary equivalent of waterboarding. I googled noodle bowl recipes, and came up with some interesting sources, namely Martha F. Ing. Stewart. When did she take up Asian food? Has she found a pattern for knitting chopsticks? Is she breeding her own silkworms for “neat little hand-crafted kimonos”? I don’t get it.

I ended up with a noodle bowl that sprung forth entirely from my imagination, as well as my desire to give Willie an empty peanut butter jar to carry around in his mouth and hopefully distract him from his main hobby; jamming his nose up your butt when you’re not looking and then bouncing gleefully around when you shriek. Willie has apparently taken a date-rape approach to the word “no.”

The bowl was soba noodles, which are buckwheat Japanese noodles that are ostensibly quite difficult to make, if the complaining on Iron Chef is any indication, tossed in a sauce of peanut butter, shoyu sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and cayenne pepper. It was garnished with julienne carrots, cucumbers, and onions, and topped with thinly sliced flank steak. Mmmmmmmmmmm. Noodle bowl.

An aside: Yes, my julienne are a little…voluptuous. But chef says that I can do things however I want them when I own Kristie’s Snarf ‘N’ Barf. And guess what, buster? My house IS Kristie’s Snarf ‘N’ Barf, and if I want to serve big-ass julienne, I’m going to.

I can now assert that the reason the Japanese are so thin is because they have to eat with twigs, which, it turns out, are a monumentally inefficient way to carry food from a food vessel to a waiting mouth. My shirt looked like it had been tie-dyed with a series of brown strings and blotches, though, so that was nice and artistic. Maybe it’s just a function of my poor attempts at a pincer-like movement with the sticks. It mostly just ended up with me trying to get a twig underneath a food chunk and kind of catapult it off the edge of the bowl into my mouth. It was approximately “none” successful.

I’ve eaten with chopsticks plenty of times before, but it was usually after getting completely thwanked on sake at one of the flippy-spatula places where they put shrimp in their hats. I don’t know about you, but I’m not about to eat a shrimp, let alone a shrimp out of someones headpiece. So my main point here is that you have to be drunk to eat with twigs.

Needing blubber for the cold

It’s “nippy” outside. I’ll give it that. It’s not cold, it’s not wintry, it’s not frigid–it’s nippy. At best. But people are FREAKING OUT. They’re throwing Winter Storm Advisories around like they’re tootsie rolls at an underfunded parade, and everyone is bringing out their parkas and worrying about the driving conditions, but it’s mostly just raining. Excuse me, San Antonio, but I’d prefer that you don’t say “Winter Storm Advisory” when it’s not really a winter-style storm. What it is is a less-than-summery drizzle. You are all pussies.

I try to tell people, “this is nothing; you should see Colorado,” but it’s not getting the point across that I’d like. They assume, when I say that, that Coloradoans are basically just really outdoorsy Eskimos. That we live in icy fields dotted with igloos and dogsleds, narwhal trophies hanging above our ice-mantels. All I’m trying to say is that it actually SNOWS in the winter outside of this bunghole city. Colorado gets over 300 days of sunshine a year. It’s warm and gorgeous and you can be outside in the snow without a jacket sometimes because the air near the earth is much warmer than the air 50 feet above, leaving the ground level balmy and delicious while the atmosphere is producing snowflakes. But when we say “Winter Storm Advisory,” we actually are referring to winter storms. And you should probably be advised of such storms, given that sometimes (if you pray and wish really hard) you’ll get snowed in for a couple of days and not be able to go to work or the gym, and possibly your power will go out leaving you no choice but to eat entire pints of ice cream at one sitting to keep them from melting and making a mess. And it’s AWESOME.

Also, how did a land of people so far removed from the chill of real winter determine that it needed a protective layer of blubber? Even in my hometown Eskimo village, we knew that we weren’t the Arctic and didn’t have to bulk up to protect ourselves from hypothermia. Silly Texans.

So I’m all bundled up in my adorable Puma tracksuit, with the heater off and some soup simmering on the stove, trying to pretend that I’m back home and maybe could go outside and make snow tunnels in my new snow outfit, come inside and have some cocoa, go to bed under a million fluffy covers, and then wake up to 70 degrees and the snow melting. Because Colorado is badass like that. I’m homesick.

Yesterday it was so warm here that dinner became “Italian bistro” themed and we drank wine and ate way too much. At least we’ve got diverse opportunities for good eatin’.

I constructed a kind of complicated food structure of the following:

A mozzarella “steak” base
Twisted tri-color linguini tossed in a uber-quick, tasty, and light filetto de pomodoro sauce
Spicy Italian chicken sausage cut on the bias (or “cut on the bayou” per Chris)
Sauteed sweet onions and green peppers
and fresh parmesan-garlic grissini

Isn’t it pretty? Here’s a close-up:

And then as a special treat we did an almond and cherry chip cannoli for dessert. I had never had a cannoli before, but I thought they were delicious enough to eat half of the filling with a spoon before I managed to put it into the cannoli shells. In my defense, I had to let the chocolate dry before I could fill them. Right? RIGHT??

I love Italian food. As a matter of fact, if I can’t live in Colorado, then my second choice for favorite state is Italy. Don’t try to force your crazy geography ideas on me. Italy is absolutely a state.

Take out, schmake out

Sure, the Indians make some insanely good takeout. I’ll even go so far as to say that it is the best type of takeout, period. Maybe that’s why the “takeaway curry” is more popular in England than the notion of orthodontics. The reason is probably both a) the complex flavors and textures that make Indian food a guaranteed mouthgasm and b) the fact that very few of us have a freaking tandoor with which to create tandoori chicken and naan, etc. Here’s a good question, actually: why is it that white people seem to be the only type of people who don’t have crazy-ass heat sources for the making of dinner? I mean, the Chinese have their woks resting on burners with such high heat that they’ve evolved not to have facial hair from years of having it singed off. The Mexicans have their underground caverns of heat that can roast a whole goat, tin cans and all, in not enough time for you to escape before being fed goat. The Indians have their giant clay ovens that they slap their bread against, creating a very similar result to possibly chucking a piece of wonderbread onto the surface of the sun. It’s amazing. But Americans? Europeans? Shit no! We’re supposed to be cooking over surfaces that are, at best, “fairly warm.” I understand that the average home cook is more likely to set their home on fire than they are to make an edible foodstuff that isn’t made from Miracle Whip and canned tuna. But that doesn’t mean we should all have to suffer with appliances that can’t cut the mustard.

Fortunately, if you avoid the tandoori-style items, you can create some fairly respectable Indian-esque food at home in very little time. Now, I don’t recommend going out to your Indian friends and being all like “Hey! Mr. Patel, come try this curry!” because they will laugh at your ass and then go home and talk about how ridiculous your attempt was. The good news is that when they make their Indian takeout food to sell to you, they’re making it to pander to the tastes of silly Americans. So even if they won’t respect your effort, YOU will think it tastes just like good takeout.

So, yeah. It was great. But the second I can figure out how to set up a tandoor in my house, it’s oooooonnnn. Maybe I’ll just buy a kiln from the arty-folk store and see about throwing some dough on the sides. At WORST, I’ll come out with a new hobby.
Here we have basmati rice steamed with turmeric and coriander, green peas with butter and garam masala, garlic naan (totally purchased), and a tomato and coconut milk version of chicken curry. Sure, it said “biryani” on the curry paste I found at the expensive-food-store, but I spiced it up a bit so as not to have to feel the shame of a thousand nations.

Can you plagiarize food?

I’d really like to know about rules and ethics concerning food-plagiarism, or if it’s totally okay for me to make Nutella crepes a mere two days after having eaten them in a restaurant. Does it make it any less unimaginative that I added strawberries and topped it with whipped cream when the restaurant totally didn’t, instead electing to just throw some pecans at it and call it a day? What about if the only reason I changed it is that I didn’t have any pecans? Is it okay since I made my own crepes, which is apparently a process only slightly less difficult than amending the constitution? What if I told you I paired the crepes with Eggbeaters and leftover spiral ham that were scrambled together with copious amounts of black pepper? What if I just provided you with another picture of said crepes so that when you get lonely at night and can’t find any interweb spots that will let you see naked pictures of the cast of Saving Private Ryan without your credit card, which is in your pants, which you’re not wearing, obviously, that you have something to keep you warm and inappropriately aroused?

I went at these things like a spider monkey. Honestly. They tasted like dessert, but were technically brunch. Kind of like the Leapster learning center that plays just like a video game but is actually a great way to teach kids to spell, which they will promptly forget as soon as they get ahold of spellcheck and learn to be unforgivably lazy. I don’t use spellcheck, never have. I’d like to say that it’s all a function of my superior intellect, but it’s actually a function of the fear that I’d try to type the word “asswad” and accidently end up replacing it with the word “assured” or something like that. Horrifying.

My over-consumption wasn’t a problem, though, since Chris and I got up at 7 and ran 13 miles in a time so incredibly fast that I’d go so far as to say that we “weren’t walking”! Suck on that, Olympic Committee.

Hippie Sushi

It’s been a loooooong day. But I will spare you the details of my trials and tribulations and instead wax poetic on how awesome of a night we had last night, and give you some pictures of tasty things. Deal?

So last night Chris and I went out with a group of students from my culinary class. It all started at the end of the school day, with a few of us deciding to go out and have a beer at a local burger place. One beer turned into three or four, which led to a semi-drunk proposition of gathering our respective spouses and dragging them to the restaurant where several of the students work. Chris and I had already been to this restaurant a time or two, since it was the only place we could find that would let us have Willie out on the deck with us when he was a tiny puppy. In Colorado, every restaurant allows well-behaved dogs on the patios, but here that appears to be a no-no. I think it has something to do with the…quality of dog ownership in the area. Think gang members with trained-to-be-aggressive pit bulls and chihuahuas (breeds that are both fine with proper owners, but have potential to be very bad in the wrong hands). Anyway, it’s an amazing restaurant, and was amazing again last night.

I’m taking into the consideration that one of the student’s spouses was our server, another student was working the garde manger station in the kitchen, and another student who was eating with us is also a chef there, but it was really a fantastic experience for these reasons:
–I was still drunk, and got progressively drunker as the night progressed, which was awesome for me except for that with the addition of alcohol my normally loud and blunt attention-getting behaviors become even more loud and blunt (but I think at least pretty amusing).
–They gave us complimentary “truffle fries,” which were crispy shavings of potato with parsley, truffle oil, and parmaggiano all over them. And then I was all over them. And then they were all over me, because they were actually fairly messy to eat. Still, OMFG so good.
–Chris tried foie gras. I was unwilling to do so (still both a)believing that it’s an inhumane practice and b)not being super excited about eating any liver, let alone diseased liver). He said it was “an experience.” I was, however, super excited about the snobbery that can be linked to having a table full of culinary students, littered with things that included truffles and foie gras, while drunk off my arse
–The chefs came out to visit our table and discuss food-snobbery
–We got shushed several times by the management (if I remember correctly) because we were a bunch of loud motherfuckahs on the patio of a very high-end and semi-romantic restaurant.
–The garde manger guy, who reminds me of my little brother in that he is a misogynist with a wicked sense of humor, came out to visit and began loudly swearing in front of all of the restaurant guests. That cheered me up.
–I got to try a drink called a “Moscow Mule” which was totally delicious and was served in an icy copper cup. It transported me back to a time when one had to wait in bread lines outside of the Kremlin in the biting cold. Silly Ruskies.
–I drank most of a bottle of prosecco.
–My entree, a chopped Kobe steak with brandy and caramelized onion glaze, was pretty damned tasty. I then realized they had a chopped kobe burger that was made out of the same meat but was $10 cheaper. I was too drunk to care.
–I wasn’t the only one who ordered dessert. I had the sticky toffee pudding, which tasted amazing and like it had 6500 calories–mostly butterfat–but I again was too drunk to care. The other girl had nutella crepes, which were indescribably good as well.
–One of the appetizers had black trumpet mushrooms, which is a fungus I adore.
–We decided it’s a “finer things club” like on the Office, and we’re meeting again next week at a restaurant that is owned by the family of one of my classmates (the girl who was out with us). It’s apparently very highly regarded, so it should be a great time.
–The group of people is genuinely, in my opinion, comprised of the very best and brightest and funniest people in the class.

It felt good to bond with people who live in Texas. I’ve always really enjoyed Kyle and Brandon, but adding the others to the mix made me feel like a part of something good. And I don’t care if that makes me sound like a lonely old bag who has a group of church kids come to her house to help her clean her attic and eat stale sugar cookies and look at a photo album of her cats, later saying “it made me feel young again.” I’m happy.

I’m also happy because of the food we’ve been making as of late. Like this pork loin with roasted pears and leeks and a stone-ground mustard crema, finished with homemade chicken glace.
It’s an adaptation from a recipe that was in my Williams-Sonoma catalog, and it was excellent. It was served over a flavorful garlic barley, and stuffed with rich pesto. Heavy on the cream, but that just made it rich and delicious, and also not able to eat more than a spoonful of the sauce for fear of extraneous thigh-jiggle taking root in my trouser department. BTW, how wrongly neglected is barley? It’s like this chewy, nutty, hearty little grain that’s kind of like brown rice if it were to develop a personality and maybe start going out and meeting people instead of sitting at home alone waiting mournfully for the nation to realize what a total gyp regular white rice is, nutritionally. I lurve barley. Especially cooked in thick beef stock with garlic and olive oil and parsley. Give it a try.

A good balancing act was achieved by making a big ol’ pile of vegetarian sushi another night. We got these bitchin’ little soy wrappers with flavors like sesame, spinach, and turmeric. I think seaweed tastes like total gonad so I’m usually limited to tuna nigiri. That’s partially because of my stance on any fish that isn’t a raw tuna, but partially because of the whole seaweed business. Anyway, these wraps eliminated the worry. They were stuffed with sushi rice (natch), carrots, mirin-marinated tofu, cucumber, radishes, green onions, aaaand that’s pretty much it. I served them with thai sweet chili sauce and meyer lemon cupcakes. Aren’t they gorgeous? Like a little rainbow of vegetarian delightful-osity. It’s a great thing to have in your food-repertoir in case you ever meet a completely hot vegetarian and want to deceive her re: your appreciation of a good piece of sashimi, but don’t want to give up the idea of serving sushi with enough sake to guarantee she’ll be taking off her hemp-shirt at some point in the evening and showing you her braless basoombas.

Fun with Kristie

I’ve done nothing of record, so here are some fun facts and thoughts from throughout my day:

1-Giada’s boobs are huge, sure. But her head is really way too big as well, and I think there are plenty of big-boobed girls out there who have normal-sized heads, they just aren’t holding bowls of food. I think it’s a deadly combo for guys, given their strong association of food with boobies (hearkening back to their infancy). I think if Heidi Klum were ever holding a piece of food, most guys would just pass out from joy. Take that, Giada.

2-I’m pretty sure the apple I just ate had a conjoined twin. It had a second butt kind of jutting out the bottom left-hand area. I know “butt” probably isn’t a scientific term, but I swear to God I googled the crap out of it and could find no official nomenclature. It’s that part of the apple that is directly opposite of the stem, and looks kind of like…a butt. It was also sweet in an unholy, cloying way. Awful. I thought “Jazz apple? Sure. I like jazz. I like apples. Load me up.” I ended up buying $7 worth of saccharine-ass apples. I think I’ll make apple sauce with it tonight. I like my applesauce sweet.

3-There’s a kind of “elaborate” looking blonde girl in the group of students who just started for the 2009-2010 school year at our school. She’s not banging down the doors of hottyness, and dresses inappropriately for school. She’s a hair-tosser, too. I heard her complaining about the the original, adorably-German chef I had at the beginning of the term. She was crying and said he was mean to her. I am considering offering current evil chef money to let me watch on her first day of class with him, when she begins skills. He’s going to EAT her SOUL. One chef doesn’t have a mean bone in his body, but the other chef doesn’t like silly blonde girls.

4-I made cinnamon rolls (again).
I luuuuuurve cinnamon rolls.
These were a different recipe than I usually use, requiring me to purchase (gasp! cringe!) potato flakes. I would never have guessed that I’d ever purchase potato flakes. I felt like a traitor. Like a kitchen war criminal. Like I was committing culinary genocide just by having them in my cart. I wanted to explain to people as I walked by “Hi, just in case you were wondering, I’m definitely only using these as an ingredient to bake. I’m not going to, like, EAT potato flakes. Because that’s repulsive. Oh. I’m sorry. I didn’t see those potato flakes in your cart…” I didn’t use the KAF frosting, though. I made my own with cream cheese and powdered sugar, with just a schmear of some vanilla bean paste.

5-The kitten is getting progressively even cuter, but isn’t a good sleeper. Every time I woke up last night she was either scaling something, purring and mewing at a high decibel, or licking my lips. Do you know what it’s like waking up to a tiny kitten licking your lips? I felt like a petophile (HA! Get it? Because it’s a baby? And it’s a cat? Oh nevermind.)
She’s “helping” me write this by sitting in a desk draw (“Where do you keep your kitten?” “Oh, right next to the hole-punch”), and sometimes coming out to stand on the “7” key for a while until my computer looks like it belongs to a crazed football fan who never QUITE got over the John Elway years.

That’s really all I’ve got for now. I’m making a good dinner, though. I think Chris is starting to suffer from scurvy, since last night’s dinner was, no bullshit, buffalo chicken sausages baked in refrigerator pizza dough. I’m a terrible woman.

By Request

Here is Kyle’s adorable kitten. She’s kind of a saucy little minx, and has REPEATEDLY told Willie and Mao where to stick it. Maddie, my female kitty, is shunning all of us. I don’t even know where she is.

Cat Cora has taken a bizarre shine to my oven mitt. I would think this was completely messed up, except for that the only reason it was even where she could reach it was that Willie has commandeered almost all of them as “toys.” I guess animals like oven mitts. I’m going to try to find Cat Cora a pink oven mitt tomorrow to take home when she goes back to her daddy. Which will make me sad. Can I demand visitation after only 3 days?

Holy Balls!

First, allow me to tell you that I am sick. It’s been chasing me all day, and after my workout I feel completely like shit. It’s probably mostly that I’m exhausted from a week of dodging culinary bullets at school and getting no sleep, but I think it’s also probably a virus on account of how much I wish I could throw up, and not only so I can be all Mary-Kate thin. It’s most likely Ebola. Or Hanta. If only I knew a doctor…Oh wait! I do! But when I tell him I’m sick with Ebola, he usually says “Po’ you!” and then pats my head. Which is darling, but not exactly racing for the cure. I need supportive care. A needle-free IV, perhaps. Otherwise known as a popsicle. Oh, and I’ll have none of that orange popsicle business. Go cherry or go home, is my motto. To cover my bases, I usually just say “red” when asked what flavor I want. That means I’ll get either strawberry, cherry, or fruit punch, all of which are leaps and bounds beyond friggin’ orange. Also, I only like expensive popsicles. The cheap ones you can suck on the end to get some juice out, and then it’s all white and flavorless in that spot, like it’s been attacked by a popsicle-vampire. At that point it’s useless. So maybe some Dreyers All-Fruit, or whatever they’re called.

Thank GOD last night’s dinner was had before I was stricken down in my prime. I got the hook up on some black truffles. I already had some white truffle oil. I don’t know if it’s a culinary sin or not, but I made a risotto with prosciutto, onions, peas, parmeggiana and white truffle oil. Then I cooled it, formed it into balls, and deep fried the balls to a golden crisp.

I have a COMPLETELY sluttish laziness re: marinara. It’s a trick I learned when I was grilling pizzas and didn’t have any sauce, nor the amount of sobriety required to create a sauce out of a series of ingredients. What I DID have was a can of good-quality diced tomatoes with basil, oregano and garlic. I opened it, put it in the blender with a good pinch of salt, and then used it. And it was SO good. Perfect. I have used it for many pizzas since, and for any marinara dippin’ sauce I need in situations of mozzarella sticks, garlic bread, whatever. I swear on it. You should try it. Anyway, I put the arancini (fried risotto balls) on a little puddle of cheater-sauce and shaved some black truffle over the top.

I will say this: after eating deep-fried white truffle risotto with “marinara” and black truffle bits. After biting through the crisp exterior of the arancini to find rich and creamy spiked with bits of awesome and the earthy sex-fest of truffles. Well, much like black, I don’t think I can go back.
So let’s just say it’s okay to use black and white truffles together. We’ll call it “tuxedo” and make people pay a lot of money for it. Because we run with gangs and do what we want, right?

Okay, I’m going to go back to the couch and commence dying. I hope you’re all appropriately awed by the tuxedo concept, as well as sympathetic and making arrangements to come to Colorado for my funeral. I mean, clearly I can’t be buried in Texas. I have worked too hard to be nice to homeless people and kittens to spend eternity in hell.

Generally Speaking

Chris has a freakish love of General Tso chicken. General Tsao, General Cho, General chicken, whatever you want to call it, it’s his favorite. The exception to this is PeiWei’s version of General Tso, which he absolutely detests. He forgets how much he hates it in the months between PeiWei visits, and always tries to order it, and I always say “Chris, you hate PeiWei General Tso,” and he always responds “I don’t hate the General. The General is awesome.” Occasionally he listens to me and orders something else, and occasionally he orders the General and then gets home, declaims its awfulness, and then proceeds to take surreptitious bites of my dish in between morose bites of his. I don’t know why he won’t listen. I guess he just really loves the General.

General Tso chicken is basically crispy-fried chicken pieces and whatever veggies might please you, coated in a sauce that is equally ferociously spicy and cloyingly sweet. It’s good, I’ll admit. I wouldn’t ever really eat a whole order of the stuff (me being more of a beef with garlic sauce kind of girl), but it’s nice enough. Since San Antonio is a city with a strong tradition of reporting about how filthy the inside of local restaurants are, I’m afraid of ordering Chinese food here. Unless it’s PeiWei, which is really, really overly rich and about as authentically Chinese as Renee Zellweger.

The result of this aversion is that I try to make Chinese food at home pretty frequently. I’ve ranted before about how poorly the average American makes what they call “stir-fry,” which is pieces of overcooked protein and limp, frostbitten “Chinese Medley” vegetables tossed in a sauce that is usually garlic, soy sauce, and cornstarch. It’s icky. I used to be the same, believing stupidly that one could wok on a plain ‘ol home stove, and also believing that soy sauce was the holy grail of ethnic seasoning. Now I know better. But I’ve never attempted the General, because I figured if I fucked it up I would lose kitchen credibility with Chris, who has always assumed that I stand alone in the kitchen with a wand, muttering incantations until a pot roast appears. I didn’t want to lose that sense of reverence. That sense of respect. That sense of appreciation for the hard work that takes place in our kitchen, and why he has to clean it up after dinner (because I’m exhausted from all the wand work). Yesterday, I attempted it.

I called my brother to ask him what was for dinner. He knew that I meant “what should I personally make for dinner?” because he’s family and we understand each other like that. He came up with “bourbon pork pot roast.” I don’t think he knows what that means, but it was a solid approach. I thought I’d whip up some bourbon chicken. When I searched the recipes, though, they were all kind of lame. But I did see, on one site, an advertisement for General Tso recipes. It inspired me to tackle the challenge. Man. What a payoff.

It’s a sauce of sugar, shoyu, white wine, rice vinegar, truckloads of chilis, some other things I forget, and cornstarch. There’s a great sweetness to it, and a kick of heat that distracts you gently from the front end, while the back end fire sneaks around and punches you in the uvula. I cut up some skinless chicken thighs and tossed them with eggs, white pepper and more cornstarch, then put them in the fryer. Twice. Vegetables (zucchini, carrots, green bell peppers, and water chestnuts) were blanched separately to crisp-tender, then both the chicken and the veggies were tossed in the thickened sauce. SO good. I’d make it again tonight, but I don’t want to ruin the magic.

Also, we got something called the EGO-light, which has helped enormously with our photos. It was pretty inexpensive, but MAN is there a quality difference. For example, the photos aren’t yellow. Hocus-Pocus!

Big Tuna

We’ve been watching all of the back episodes of The Office, having only recently become enamored of it. It’s a really, really funny show. Somewhere alongside of Arrested Development and (I’ve heard) 30 Rock. I look forward to giving that one a shot. A lot of simple dinners and bottles of wine have accompanied this new fascination. One simple dinner as of late involved one of my New Kitchen Gadgets. The pink Himalayan salt block. Yeah, I hadn’t heard of such a thing either, but it’s gorgeous and awesome and really, really heavy. So heavy, in fact, that the airplane people tried to make us pay extra to bring it in our bag. Nine pounds may not seem like much, but it was definitely the heaviest thing in the bag, and they are only allowed to weigh 50 pounds, so it was a sizable chunk. This meant that Chris had to pimp out his military-ness, which is something he completely loathes, but which I find endlessly amusing. We got to take it aboard for free, so um…rock on.

We decided (I decided) to color-coordinate a bit for its blog debut. Thus, we have cubed ahi tuna and sushi rice patties, with a side of sauteed shitaakes and baby bok choy, and a pile of mirin-glazed cippoline onions. Sha-zam!

I hate seafood so millionty much, but I swear that raw tuna is a thing of wonderment. It’s like a beautifully rare prime rib and a honeydew melon all at the same time. And no fishiness, which is pretty much the only reason it gets to enter my mouth. Oh, and it’s beautiful. Pink and luscious, not all salmon-colored like…salmon. Ach, ja.

So, the salt block. Salt lick, as we’ve been calling it. It imparts a sweet, delicate saltiness to all that rests upon it. It can be used to sear, serve, shave, whatever. It’s incredibly versatile, really. And then it can be washed, dried, and re-used. It loses mass, obviously, during this process, but it’s a big ol’ friggin’ hunk of salt, so my guess is that it will be around for a long time. Drying it on the counter, it turns out, leaves salty white streaks everywhere. Like my face after a marathon.

Here’s a tricky lil’ nugget of info; the Austin Marathon is in 4 weeks, and I haven’t run more than 5 miles since the last marathon. So I’m REALLY deconditioned and will probably die during the run, but now that I’ve told everyone that I’m doing it, I am pretty much locked in. I have a fierce sense of pride. And spite. Unless I’m at the doctor or dentist’s office, at which point I become a sobbing little baby. This is what happened at the doctor’s office on Tuesday.

Chris had finally gotten me a walk-in appointment with an arm specialist to deal with the elbow/wrist situation that has been fucking up my program for the last 10 weeks. I’ve lost so much arm tone that I’m starting to get those weird old lady wattles near my tricepticles, and I can only imagine how scarring it would be to see me whisking anything if they develop into full-on flaps of awful. So I went in, he examined it, pointed out the fluid and chunks of elbow cartilage that are floating around in there getting caught in joints, pressing against tendons, selling drugs to children, vandalizing public property, etc. It was productive. He drew on the paper that was covering the exam table with a Sharpie, which instantly reminded me of Macaroni Grill, and I’ll be honest-I was really hoping he’d give me some crayons and tell me to go at it myself. Maybe draw a picture of my pain or something. That’s not what happened. What happened was that he suggested a shot of corticosteroids DIRECTLY INTO MY ELBOW via my funny-bonal region. I froze, but then agreed thinking that I could make an appointment and then avoid it until I matured or until my arm fell off, whichever came first. But then he said, “I’ll get Marty to prep you.” Wha? Yeah. He was going to do it RIGHT THEN. I had had NO TIME to mentally prepare myself. I started to cry. A lot. I really, really don’t like needles. I’d be really unsuccessful at smack-addiction. I cried the entire time that Marty prepped me, the entire time I waited for the doc to come back, the entire time he drew the shot up, and then switched into borderline hysterics when he took the cap off of the harpoon he was planning to stick into my own personal joint. It was HUGE. He stuck me, told me to relax (Come the fuck on, buddy. Are you kidding me? You have a NEEDLE in my ELBOW. I will relax when there is no longer a threat to my person occurring.), then said he was going to “reposition,” which meant digging and thrusting the needle around to no obvious end, while shooting a burning fluid into my body. It was awful. And then it went numb. I was cradling my arm against my body like a newborn babe for the next 10 minutes, while the doctor kept making helpful suggestions like, “move it around to get the medicine dispersed.” HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Excuse me while I laugh heartily with my deadened limb. I am the kind of person who will cradle an arm against my body for upwards of 24 hours if they prick my finger to take a drop of my blood. This was far worse, and I anticipated having to keep it pressed against my chest for the better part of January.

When I got home, it started to hurt in a way that made me reminisce fondly of the gentle tickle that was the thrusting needle. It was terrible. Chris was very patient. And after the week of pain, it is now feeling much better. It probably won’t help me run that marathon…

Oh, food? Tunatunatunatunatuna. Sorry. I had forgotten this was a food blog.