His name was always Buddy

 

 

 

Today was RSD, and my beloved stood in line for an hour to fetch me this:

drive in saturdaybowie recordIMG_1342 Drive-In Saturday. This song is still somewhat of a hidden treasure, and it remains my one of my very favorites.  As a pre-teen, I found it on the B-side of one of my mom’s tapes, and I was hooked. I could never quite solve the riddle of the lyrics, and who Buddy and Twig the Wonderkid were (though she knows she really loves him), but I knew how it made me feel. It was strange and sweet, the combination of Bowie’s crooning voice, doo-wop backup vocals, whining nuclear sirens, and a swaying, nostalgic beat.

After many years, and thanks to the Internet, the riddle was solved: The song was written on an evening train ride from Seattle to Phoenix, apparently inspired by the nighttime void outside the window, and the occasional strange lights dancing around in the dark. It’s about a post apocalyptic world where people have forgotten how to get it on, but luckily for our young couple, there are some old pornos laying around for reference. Presumably, they triumph.

But there’s also a sad vignette about an old man, presumably forgotten, no longer needed. (He reminds me of the librarian in the futuristic Twilight Zone episode, who is obsolete and must be put to death.) With snorting head he gazes to the shore/Which once had raised a sea that raged no more/Like the video films we saw.

This record was a special gift, made even better by the choice for side two. It plays the live version of the song where “Jagger stared in people’s eyes and scored.”

Sigh.

 

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lovely little lambies

mile high

the mile high lamb slider

 

topped with feta

topped with feta

add red onion, tomato, curry ketchup, and put it on a brioche bun

add red onion, tomato, curry ketchup, and put it on a brioche bun

 

 

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seek beauty

Tulip, via Vintage Printable

 

Today I spent a good two hours looking through Vintage Printable, Swivelchair’s impressive collection of out-of-copyright antique illustrations. You can find out what this website is all about right here, and please do if you plan on downloading or printing any of these gems.

camellia

Here are some of my favorites, and thank you Swivelchair for all the time and work you put into this site. It is appreciated.
Botanical-Mushroom-Histilina-hepatica-Schaeff. Animal-Curiosity-Coral-Italian-2-662x1000 Botanical - Flower - Peonies, study Botanical - Anatomy - Root with holes, longitudinalBotanical-Artichoke-Italian

 

 

 

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Seared duck breasts (and right hand) with dried cherry sauce & potato pancakes

 

seared duck breast, cherries, potato pancakes

 

First, this is why we always place a towel on the handle of a saute pan that has just been pulled from the oven:

 

seared right hand, not so appetizing

seared right hand, not so appetizing

seared duck breast, worlds more appealing

seared duck breast, worlds more appealing

 

In my short time working in kitchens, I was so in-your-face about safety. “Hey, hot handle! Towel!” is what I’d yell during service when one of the cooks carelessly set a searing-hot pan on the counter and walked away. And in my home kitchen, I’ve always (always) slipped a glove over the hot handle as soon as it was out of the oven. But last night, drink in hand, deep in conversation with the Bear, I forgot where and who I was. Seconds later, I lifted that heavy and terribly hot thing a couple of inches in the air before the pain registered.

But despite the burns and the few hours I spent dipping my hand in cool water, last night’s meal was one of my very favorites. The duck was seared on the skin side for several minutes, and as that beautiful golden fat rendered from the skin, I spooned it onto the pan on the next burner over, which was waiting to fry up some potato pancakes. To go with the duck, I made a pan sauce with Sherry and this dried Chukar Cherries assortment of Bings, Rainiers, and Montmorency tarts.

Remember kids, always be mindful of hot panhandles in the kitchen, and always, always use your duck fat.

 

searing skin side down

searing skin side down

duck fat transfer

duck fat transfer

they're sizzlin' baby

they’re sizzlin’ baby

sliced, with cherry sauce spooned over

go ahead, baby

 

Seared Duck Breast with Sherry and Dried Cherry Pan Sauce

duck breasts
salt and pepper
dried cherries (fresh would work)
dry sherry (Port would work great here as well)
stock
butter

Preheat oven to 375.

Rinse the duck breasts and pat them ever so dry. Score the skin in a cross-hatch pattern, making sure not to pierce the meat. Salt and pepper the skin side.

 

scored duck

scored duck

 

Put a tablespoon of butter in your oven-proof saucepan and get it nice and hot on the stove before you place the duck breasts, skin-side down in it. If you’re making the potato pancakes, have another frying pan out; as the fat renders from the skin, spoon it into the pan next door. (If you’re not making potatoes to go with the duck, spoon the fat into a small container and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to make some mind-blowing potatoes).

Fry the breasts until the skin-side is golden brown and crisp and flip. Sear the other side for a few minutes, and place in the oven. At this point, my duck spent almost 10 minutes in the oven, and it came out only ever-so-slightly pink in the center — I could have taken them out a minute or two sooner. You’ll have to adjust the timing depending on the thickness of the breasts, and your personal preference for doneness. (Also, it is at this point that I start frying the potato pancakes. I have a cookie sheet waiting for the done ones, so that they can sit in a hot oven while they are waiting to be served. This keeps them from getting limp before service.)

Make the sauce: when your breasts are done, take them out of the hot pan and set them aside to rest. Pour off all but a couple tablespoons of duck fat, splash a liberal amount of Sherry and stock in the pan, and add a handful of dried cherries. As the liquid heats up, deglaze the pan and let the cherries simmer for a few minutes until they soften. Add salt and pepper, and take off the heat. Let sit for a minute, and then whisk in a tablespoon of cold butter.

 

shred the potatoes

julienned potatoes

and sweet onion

put them together with some egg and flour, salt and pepper

put them together with some egg and flour, salt and pepper

fry in duck fat

and fry in duck fat

 

 

Potato Pancakes

a few larger Yukon Golds
less than half of a sweet onion
2 eggs
4 heaping TBSP flour
duck fat and butter
salt and pepper

Wash, peel, and shred your potatoes and onion and put them in a bowl (I used a mandoline to finely julienne mine, and I liked how the shreds were wider than normal, while still being very thinly cut.) Blot or squeeze the potato mixture dry, though there shouldn’t be too much liquid if you’re using Yukons. Salt and pepper, add the eggs and flour, and mix it all up.

Make sure your oven is hot, and have a sheet pan ready to receive the cooked potato pancakes. While the duck is cooking in the oven, start frying these up in the hot duck fat (I added a little butter to the duck fat). I salt and pepper mine again at this point. Pop the cooked pancakes in the oven when the duck is out and resting. Serve with sour cream and applesauce.

 

 

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Teff Wraps and Black Bean, Feta, & Slaw Tacos

Sonoma teff wraps

 

In PCC yesterday, I came across these Sonoma gluten-free wraps. Right off the bat: I am  not gluten intolerant, and, as such, do not regularly buy products labeled gluten free. But these wraps jumped out at me because of the inclusion of one very special ingredient: teff.

You Ethiopian-food-lovers out there will recognize this as the main ingredient in injera, the sour, spongy flatbread you use to stuff mouthfuls of all that wonderful wot into your salivating maw. (Do you live in or around Seattle? Go to Lucy in Shoreline.) Everyone else: if you’re too lazy to go to Wikipedia yourself, teff is a grain in the lovegrass family that originated in or around Ethiopia way, way back when. Another tidbit: the word teff means “lost” in Amharic (you guessed it, this is a language spoken in Ethiopia) because the grains are so minuscule that, if you drop them on the ground, good luck finding them again.

I got the wraps home and tested them out in my version of this Bon Appetit gem: Crispy Black Bean Tacos with Feta and Cabbage Slaw. I have to give credit to the wonderful Smitten Kitchen, because this is where I first came across this tasty vegetarian recipe a few years ago. The combination of the coleslaw and feta and black beans is dynamite, and it’s fairly quick to throw together after work.

The wraps performed well. They have a great texture and they fry up nice and crisp, while remaining quite chewy and pliable. Unlike other not-white-flour tortillas, they didn’t get too stiff, and they didn’t remind me of seeded cardboard. When you read the ingredients you can see why they’re so chewy — it’s the tapioca flour. Also, in addition to the tapioca and teff, these contain millet flour, and, strangely, cultured corn syrup solids.  From what I’ve read, this appears to be a preservative (mold inhibitor) rather than a sweetener.

The wraps do have a bit of a different taste to them that lets you know you are not eating refined white flour — but that taste is delicate, and not too noticeable when your wrap is filled with flavorful ingredients like hot sauce and feta. Another plus is that they are more filling than a flour or corn tortilla — I found one wrap to be satisfying, and I wasn’t craving another. Overall, a nice product that this gluten-eating girl would buy again sometime.

Sonoma Gluten-Free Wraps
Ingredients: water, tapioca flour, whole grain ivory teff flour, whole grain millet flour, expeller pressed canola oil, soy lecithin, cultured corn syrup solids, colloid powder (cellulose gum, maltodextrin, carrageenan), contains less than 2% of the following: guar gum, sea salt, honey, aluminum-free leavening (monocalcium phosphate, sodium bicarbonate, corn starch)

black bean feta and slaw wraps

trust me, there are black beans under all that

 

Black Bean Wraps with Coleslaw and Feta
adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Bon Appetit

refried or loose canned black beans
green and red cabbage, sliced thin
red onion, fine dice
buttermilk
sour cream
mayonnaise
red wine vinegar
juice of one lime
feta
cilantro
avocado, sliced
radish, thinly sliced
wraps/tortillas of your fancy
hot sauce(s)

Warm your beans. Put the sliced cabbage in a bowl with some of the diced onion.

Mix up some coleslaw dressing: buttermilk, a dollop of sour cream and one of mayo, a splash of red wine vinegar, and the lime juice. Throw some of the diced onion in there, and season with plenty of pepper. Pour this over your bowl of cabbage, and set aside. (Note: If I’m using red cabbage, I don’t mix this up thoroughly, and I don’t make it ahead of time because the whole thing turns purple and it doesn’t look very appetizing.)

Put a couple of large spoons of beans in a tortilla, fold it in half and place it in a heated and oiled frying pan (just a half tablespoon of oil will do here). Fry on both sides just until the tortilla is browned and a little bubbly. Plate it, fill it with as much coleslaw and feta as your heart desires, and add cilantro, avocado, and radish slices. Top with one or two hot sauces (it was Secret Aardvark and Mezzetta’s habanero last night).

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Internet, you are making me hungry: a list

fork plate

 

The Essential Guide to Dim Sum: True story: I learned two little Chinese words – har gow – because it is my very favorite kind of dim sum and I thought it was important to know how to ask for it. Sometimes those aunties want to push the pork when all a girl wants is some big, fat shrimp. Looks like I need to add yu jiao to my repertoire, but please hold the tau zi fung zao.

The Ramen Rater’s Top 10 Instant Noodle Bowls from Around the World: Glad to see that two of my favorites – Nong Shim and Sapporo chow mein — made the list. Next time I’m at Unwajimaya I’ll have to see if I can find his #1 pick, the Indomie Special Fried Curly Noodles. (And while you’re at it Ramen lovers, get lost in this guy’s site for a while.)

Uni Hot and Cold: This is just…wow. Sex on chopsticks: uni wrapped in a shiso leaf, dipped in tempura batter and fried to a light crisp. Dirty, melty, dirty sex on chopsticks. Seeing an entire box of the tongue-like uni on display like that is so extravagant it gives me the vapors.

Gabrielle Hamilton and her Chicken-Fried Sweetbreads: No pictures to drool over here, but a loving description of the dish, its connection to the chef’s childhood, and a metaphor for life. One quote from this story struck a chord with me:

As a woman working in kitchens, I spent years trying to be strong and tough, smoking unfiltered cigarettes, eating raw steak, drinking bourbon, ignoring burns on my hands, all to prove myself to the ”boys.” That side of my personality, like some unnecessary gland, has shrunk over the years. Now I know who I am.

My favorite sweetbreads memory is that of the late Chef Scott Simpson’s Kung Pao preparation at his wonderful and fleeting restaurant Fork. His sweetbreads remain the gold standard for me: crisp, tender, sweet, and ephemeral.

Monk’s Head Flowers, Maker’s Mark, Fig Compote: Another unforgettable story from Luxirare. Really, this entire post could have been made up of links to this woman’s blog. I learned a new word today: Girolle. It curls the Tete de Moine into exquisite blossoms that apparently melt in your mouth. Sigh. Must try.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi: I dream of Jiro’s sushi, and of his poor oldest son who just wanted to be a race-car driver. This doc is about Jiro Ono, his legendary, Michelin-3-starred restaurant, and his two sons (in that order). Two things I learned from this: octopus for sushi must be massaged/have the living shit beaten out of it (for up to 50 minutes in Jiro’s kitchen by one of the apprentices), and that cooking rice under enormous amounts of pressure is a real thing that at least one person on earth still does. No rice cookers here.

 

 

 

 

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Hello 2013

2013 amaryllis

I woke this morning to the most beautiful, clear sunny day we’ve had in weeks. Apparently a little sun was all my stubborn amaryllis needed to finally open up.

Happy New Year, world.

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Happy New Year, Pig Face

 

pig face

New Year’s Eve: New pajamas, Prosecco, my favorite person in the world right next to me, and the Twilight Zone marathon on the tube…does life get any better?

Every year I’m surprised that the Sci-Fi network even continues to run this marathon. I can count on one hand the people I know who will admit to watching these — and they’re all well over the target audience for this network. But these episodes, they’re brilliant –all at once intriguing, wistful, soul-searching, and at times outrageously silly. You can tell that Serling and his elite group of writers dug deep into their childhood for a lot of these. There’s comeuppance, lots of scary-ass dolls, a few really nice dolls, and even some happy endings, but there’s always that twist. And every once in a while, you’re like, “look, there’s (insert famous actor’s name here*)!”

My heart will sink for poor Henry Bemis, a kindred spirit, for whom there was time enough at last:

there is timethere was time

I’ll cheer when Talking Tina offs Telly, aka The Worst Stepfather in the World:

talking tina

And I’ll think about writing a fanfic where Tina meets up with this bad seed:

bad seed

My money’s on the doll.

 

———————–

*

duvallklugmanredfordshatner

 

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Remembrance of Sandwich Past

lovely and amazing grilled veggie pesto goat cheese sandwich And as soon as I had recognized the taste of the piece of madeleine soaked in her decoction of lime-blossom which my aunt used to give me (although I did not yet know and must long postpone the discovery of why this memory made me so happy) immediately the old grey house upon the street, where her room was, rose up like a stage set to attach itself to the little pavilion opening on to the garden which had been built out behind it for my parents (the isolated segment which until that moment had been all that I could see); and with the house the town, from morning to night and in all weathers, the Square where I used to be sent before lunch, the streets along which I used to run errands, the country roads we took when it was fine. And as in the game wherein the Japanese amuse themselves by filling a porcelain bowl with water and steeping in it little pieces of paper which until then are without character or form, but, the moment they become wet, stretch and twist and take on colour and distinctive shape, become flowers or houses or people, solid and recognizable, so in that moment all the flowers in our garden and in M. Swann’s park, and the water-lilies on the Vivonne and the good folk of the village and their little dwellings and the parish church and the whole of Combray and its surroundings, taking shape and solidity, sprang into being, town and gardens alike, from my cup of tea.

M. Proust

I was just a kid the first time I tasted this sandwich. The cafe was located in the old-town area of my hometown. Some people still called it “downtown,” but that was a bit optimistic — by the mid 1970s it had been abandoned by people for the shopping malls of the burbs, for San Francisco across the bay.

It was the early 90s, and I took ballet lessons in old town, on the second floor of one of the dozens of run-down buildings of character in the neighborhood. We were taught by the Cicchetti method, or so the chain-smoking, hunched-over proprietress said, and I wasn’t any good. But I did love every painful, bloody minute spent on my toes in that bare studio. There was a fire escape that a couple of us would hang out on in our satin slippers and thin dancer’s sweaters to smoke a naughty cigarette and survey the dingy alley below, while Prokofiev played in the room behind us. I remember feeling very adult and very certain back then, much more so than I do now.

After one lesson, rather than going straight home, my mom and I took a walk around the block, and wandered into a kind of indoor strip mall. The building was old and stony and proper on the outside, but all late-80s-office decor on the inside. Like old town itself, the building was deserted save for the hopeful shop-keeps in the handful of stores that were up and running. You might remember these shops, with their bedazzled jean jackets and black  mini skirts, wooden African figurines made in China, and snow globes with big-eyed children trapped inside. There was a funny-smelling health food store there with a fine layer of dust on its baggies of wheat germ and bee pollen. The middle-aged woman behind the counter was sallow and whippet-thin, and she was desperate to sell my mother some new line of vitamins. I just wanted to get the hell out of this weird place and back to the comfort of my own neighborhood, my bedroom, and my phone. We made our way to the very end of the L-shaped interior, and there, right next to the fire door, was a storefront that smelled like butter and brown sugar and grilled something: a cafe in disguise. I remember it being called “Auntie M’s”, but my mother thinks that that was actually the name of the store across the hall. Memory is deceptive; who knows which one of us is right.

Auntie M (or whoever) served up two things I would come to love: giant, chewy-crisp white-and-milk chocolate chip macadamia cookies, and this dynamite sandwich. My mother had been making pesto — good pesto, the real deal — for years, so fresh basil was something I was familiar with. But the combination of that, creamy goat cheese, and smoky roasted eggplant and peppers was something new to me. It immediately obtained comfort-food status, and when Auntie M’s (or whatever it was really called) closed its doors several months later, we figured we would just have to make the damn thing ourselves.

When I bite into this sandwich, I am always taken back to that time in my life. A time machine in the shape of a sandwich.

wide open pesto sandwich

The Grilled Vegetable Sandwich

Take a soft, white baguette, cut it in half and warm it in the oven for a few minutes. Give one side a generous smear of goat cheese, and on the other, homemade pesto. (Please never buy the not-so-fresh crap that comes in a jar – it tastes funny and will ruin this magnificent sandwich.) Stuff the sandwich with roasted sweet peppers, eggplant, and sweet onions.

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Trader Joe’s appetizers review: Spinach & Kale Bites and Crab & Langostino Rangoons

Spinach & Kale Bites

kale bites box

 

kale biteskale bite closeup

I love spinach for breakfast, and I love the idea of breakfast appetizers, so I tried these little green beauties bright and early on a Saturday morning. The instructions on the box say to cook these for 15 – 25 minutes (vague?). They were perfectly cooked in 15 minutes in my convection Breville toaster oven (aka the App Monster). They were puffy and light right out of oven, and I let them sit for the recommended (at least) 5 minutes. I feel like if you tried to move them immediately out of the oven you’d have some break apart.

The verdict? Yes, these are tasty little green bites of savory goodness, and I will buy them again. They smell great when cooking, are moist on the inside while still having a light texture, and they manage to have a bit of a crunch from the panko. The kale is not discernible, and it is the 5th listed ingredient so I can’t imagine there is too much included.

Ingredients: spinach, eggs, panko breadcrumbs (unbleached wheat flour, sugar, yeast, salt), yellow onion, kale, Parmesan cheese (pasteurized part skim milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes), unsalted butter (cream), green onion, sea salt, black pepper.

Crab & Langostino Rangoons

TJs crab langostino rangoons

Jesus, these were gross. I had high hopes. I love crab rangoon, and I honor the person who decided to put cream cheese and shellfish in a wonton, fry it up, and serve it with that sweet, sweet red sauce. I have bought the langostinos from Trader Joe’s before, they’re good stuff, so I was imagining one of those big fatties in a wonton with some yummy crabmeat.

Alas, no. I could see no big chunks of langostino anywhere and the crabmeat was in fine, dry threads. But worse — much, much, worse — there was an unpleasant fishy taste here that no amount Mae Ploy would cancel out. Not crab fishy but more like bad-fish-sticks fishy. We each had one bite and threw the rest out.

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