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Entries in food thoughts (23)


RESPONSE: Comparing Apples and Oranges

As I often do on my several-mile walk to work, I took the opportunity yesterday to listen to my favorite food-oriented (and indeed, favorite) podcast, The Sporkful. The episode I enjoyed that morning pertained to apples and oranges and to a general comparison thereof (even against the strong headwinds of prevailing wisdom).

Photo: Flickr CC/limonada

Now, The Sporkful, I feel, exists in the same food-space as this blog. As Mark and Dan, the gentleman podcasters behind the show articulate, The Sporkful is "not for foodies, it's for eaters."

I feel the same way about Hungry Sam, which is why my posts range from a determination of the categorical imperatives of salad to the recipe for my vanilla chai-infused french toast. Ecclectic? Yes. Insane? Maybe. Interesting? You tell me.

Back to the point. In "Comparing Apples and Oranges" Dan and Win (guest) took the position that oranges are superior to apples for several reasons: the superfluity of apple varieties is absurd; apples' cores are an obnoxious bit of trash; and apples become bruised or blemished while oranges have a pristine wrapper in the form of the peel that keeps the fruit pure and unsullied. I'd like to respond somewhat and involve myself uninvited in this discussion, and then I want to hear what you guys think:

Click to read more ...


How to Herb-Roast Turkey Breasts and Conquer Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a tough holiday for chefs. On one hand, it's a moment in which skills can shine and new and creative versions of traditional dishes can be crafted. On the other, the person(s) in charge of planning and executing the menu fight two uphill battles only tangential to ability in the kitchen:

  1. Thanksgiving inspires in many Americans a series of clearly-defined expectations (e.g. "THAT's NOT THE WAY MY MOM MADE YAMS!!!"), and
  2. Thanksgiving is an organizational nightmare.

To the first issue: there's almost no overcoming the "expectations" challenge, unless everyone around the table has had similar lifelong Thanksgiving experiences. So, instead of leaping over the hurdle, I say bust right through like the Kool-Aid guy crashing through a wall. Instead of being subtle and mixing recipes up just a little, do something different enough to circumvent expectations. No, I'm not going to provide you alternatives for every dish, but how about we start with one strategy you can employ with the Turkey?


 NOTE: I say "Turkey" with a capital "T" (which rhymes with P which stands for pool) because Turkey is the centerpiece of any (non-vegetarian/alternative) Thanksgiving. Have you ever seen a Thanksgiving spread without a shining, golden, monumental KING Turkey perfectly centered among the sides?

Anyway, one still-impressive but rather easy way to jazz up the Turkey is by herb-roasting a few breasts. I suppose this only works if you're feeding people who tend to prefer white meat; however, the method I'm about to elaborate includes a little dark as well.

Click to read more ...


Coffee Creep

The AM Fix. Also, this cup says something about ninjas. Huh.
First off, although I try not to apologize for absences from writing, in this case, I blame it on the stress of looking for/eventually finding/and moving to a new apartment, as well as about four weeks running of heavy weekend commitments, including travel. So, to those of you for whom Happiness Is settling back a couple times a week and reading about food I've chewed on, my heartfelt apologies.

Really though, I know there are only MAYBE two people who fit that description (ok, I can really only think of one), sooo I don't feel that bad. Onwards!

I can't believe I haven't yet blogged about my serious coffee problem. So here we go! Hungry Sam vocab word of the week:

Coffee Creep: This all-too-often under-diagnosed malady refers to the constant, never-ending uptick of coffee consumption in those who nevertheless wish to limit their intake to some reasonable quantity, like 8 cups a day.

Clearly, I suffer from Coffee Creep.

I always have the best intentions. I will say, my New Year's resolution, now 4 1/2 months old, to only drink decaf or half caf after noon has held, but the amount of caffeinated coffee I drink BEFORE noon has been on the up. On mornings that I brew at home, I normally enjoy a solid 18 oz. of coffee (which sounds like a lot, until you figure that it's only about two good-sized mugs worth). However, this is up from perhaps 12 oz. two months ago.

Then, the nice weather has been killing me, because even after brewing at home, of course I want an iced coffee, because Dunkin' Donuts effectively trained me years ago to understand that nice weather=large iced coffee. That's another 12-16 oz. Oy.

Oh Dunkin' Donuts. Your effective marketing campaigns/support of the Boston Red Sox have done their respective magics.

Now, mornings I don't brew (say, I buy coffee post-gym) are a bit better, and I probably stick to the 22 oz. in a large iced coffee for my full morning consumption. However, after a few days of tracking, I realize that these days correlation strongly with the days that I feel the need to purchase a half-caf after noon, generally between 3 and 4 PM. So given that, I'm still up around 30 oz. of caffeinated coffee.

I guess I'm not accounting for ice. Or am I just making excuses?

Either way, I'm a solid addict, but I'm under control. I don't think it's affecting my sleep, or at least if it is, I'm not conscious of it. At least I haven't "tripped" on caffeine in a while, or ended up in the hospital like poor Dave (college roommate) during finals.

Ok, folks. Back in the saddle.


BREAKING NEWS: Google Goes Foodie!

I am in no way affiliated with Google. Tribute only. Their property. Please don't sue me.
Ok, so this quick-quick post is less about food and much more about an AMAZING development in the already pretty awesome world of Google: Google Recipe View.

I already use Google heavily to find new recipes. Often, I'll type the name of a dish and a few of the ingredients I happen to have into the search bar along with the word "recipe," and I'll find some amazing stuff. It often looks like "chicken salad recipe mango curry walnut" or "lentil stew recipe carrot harissa celery ginger."

Now, Google has made this process AWESOMER (I'm almost like a writer, so I almost get to make up words). Go ahead, visit Google and type in the name of some food that you might make, say, "muffin." over on the right hand side, along with "Images," "Videos," "News," etc, will be "Recipe."

When you click on "Recipe," up will come some new options -- and therein lies the awesomeness. Google gives you the chance to narrow results by including or excluding some oft-associated ingredients, cook time, and caloric level (I'm assuming when available). The beauty of this is twofold: a) Google "gets" what I and presumably many others do with their product, and is tailoring the product to fit; and b) this will encourage others to use the Internet for recipe gleaning. Based entirely on a number of conversations with friends and coworkers, I don't think enough people consider the web for what it is: a veritable TROVE of excellent recipes to be enjoyed and cooking experiences to be had.

And, in the kind-of-entertaining category, because Google does the "instant search" thingy now, as I type in new ingredients or words, the list in "ingredients" is updated live and immediately. Life is good.


Winning the Future! With Cookies.

I know that each and every one of my readers is a civic-minded and politically engaged individual who watched the State of the Union (SotU) address last night. The theme of which was "Winning the Future." The acronym of which is "WTF." Wonky giggling.

Want a way to make sure the fun never ends? Do as Sarah and Shirley, two of our office fellows did, and make the experience a gastronomic one!

You see, working with three of the AAUW fellows, the young women who work at our organization developing public policy and government relations experience, I wrote up a "Making the State of the Union Interactive" sort of blog post for our org. The post listed a bunch of ways to enrich the SotU viewing experience, from a thinly-veiled drinking game (non-alcoholic punch, I promise) to wordclouding the speeches -- the president's as well as the official Republican response from Rep. Paul Ryan. And, I suppose, the officially crazy response from Michele Bachmann (if I lose readers over THAT comment, then I am sad).

The fellows were instrumental in making the post quite food oriented, and among their best ideas was the following. Behold: the Bipartisan cookies!

All that remained.
Note the different themes. Some are solid blue and solid red side by side, reflecting the way in which the two parties normally sit to hear the president's annual address. One is a ying-yang, which is crazy, because if there's ANYTHING that is truly unbalanced it's the U.S. Congress.

Others are red and blue spotted, which reflects the way the parties mingled last night at the suggestion of Third Way, a silly organization that thinks everyone should try to get along. Where's the fun in that?

Finally, I particularly like the closest cookie, which reflects the emotional state of our lawmakers as they were forced to sit next to one another and be civil throughout the proceedings.


Clementines: Nature's Tangerine-Flavored Candy

I forgot to tell everyone on Wednesday, but on Wednesday, Hungry Sam turned one. Which in blog years, means that Hungry Sam is a cranky and stressed out teenager. Or something!

To reward you all, I'm going to talk about clementine oranges. Which I LOVE.

Not true size. Or maybe, depending on the size of your computer screen.
Clementines are little oranges about the size of a large donut hole (or if you're from Canada, a large "Timbit"). They are easy to peel, generally seedless (although clementine FAILS occur; see below), extremely sweet, sold by the 5-lb. box, and are at their best in December, January, and February. I like them so much I may have eaten a whole box in 24 hours a week ago (although to be fair, I was doing the 13-hour drive from Maine to D.C. at the time).

The best part about eating a clementine is peeling them (which I promise I wasn't doing while driving, mostly). It's like a challenge each time to see if you can remove the rind intact. I mean, it's not hard, so you mostly just feel like a failure when you can't, but there it is.

The second best thing about clementines is that they're wicked healthy, so I don't feel bad about about bringing six of them to work with me as snacks. Also, now my office smells GREAT.

The third best thing about clementines is that they essentially taste like candy.

The worst thing about clementines is clementine FAILS. These occur when the clementine isn't sweet enough, is too firm (and thus IMPOSSIBLE to peel in one piece), or when there are seeds. I mean, really -- I eat these little babies instead of giant citrus because they're so easy. But when each of the eight segments or whatever has like three seeds, that's the opposite of easy. It's hard.

OK, that's all I have to say about that. Go buy yourself a box of clementines -- you won't be disappointed, unless you are!


Holidays in Maine Means Lobster and Tree-Shaped Cake

Without addressing the theological and cultural implications of a Jewish person doing Christmas -- I do Christmas.

Rather, my family does (and always has); my mother is Christian and doing Christmas (having a tree, exchanging presents, eating special dishes) is one of the many ways we have integrated the traditions and memories with which my mom grew up into our family's life. Plus, Chanukah is kind of a stupid holiday.

BUT that's not the point of this post. The point of this post is that Jen and I hit up my home in Maine for Christmas. A total of five cancelled flights led to two extra days in Maine for me and four for Jen -- and a number of extra meals with the family.


My mom made her EPIC lobster stew on Christmas Eve. This is truly epic -- NUMEROUS lobsters, picked and cooked in a rich but loose tinned milk-based stew. My mom's famous for this stuff -- just don't ask her about the time TWO consecutive batches were ruined due to the tendency of regular milk to curdle when interacting with the residue from the rubber bands around lobster claws. Don't ask my dad, either; he was the one who picked all those damn lobsters. Now, however, my parents have perfected the process; the result is a tangy, savory stew bursting with claw and tail meat.


My mom also whipped up a pretty super roasted beet, walnut, and goat cheese salad with the meal, one totally worth mentioning:

That morning, we feasted on an incredible french toast souffle, one which had sat and soaked in its batter in the fridge overnight. It souffled so much that we couldn't get it out of the oven without the peaks scraping the heating elements on the oven's roof -- and though this photo came after the souffle began to fall, I think it captures how buttery and airy the dish finished. It looks a little weird, but at the end of the day, this is the fluffiest, well-spiced, mouth-wateringest french toast EVAH.

Finally, the last few years I've been the one to make our family's traditional Christmas tree coffee cake. You roll out your refrigerated-rised pastry dough into a 10" by 16" rectangle and cover it in a mixture of pecans, dates, sugar, melted butter, and cinnamon. The dough is then rolled (hotdog direction) and cut into 16 even rolls. These are then arranged on a cookie sheet in the shape of an evergreen tree, painted with a little more butter, and are allowed to rise for a while before baking. We always frost with a little green vanilla frosting, like so:

This is a coffee cake in only the loosest of senses, for in truth, it's essentially an arrangement of sticky buns with a Christmas flair. So damn good.

In my house, Christmas isn't a religious event -- after all, my brothers and I are Jewish. But the Christmas foods are a touchstone, one that helps to make Christmas real and traditional and meaningful for my mother. Giving my mom the chance to be drawn back into wonderful memories from her childhood and to continue to make memories with her family (and this time around, with Jen too) is what it's all about.

Do any of you have interesting Christmas/holiday traditions and foods? Share in the comments section!