Mooshy, Mooshy

I’m thinking “mooshy” this afternoon for two reasons. Hubby is having a dental procedure, so mooshy will be de regure for dinner tonight and the next several days. 

I’ve also had the episode of “Barney Miller” where Wojo’s girlfriend makes the detectives the hash brownies in my head. You may recall Detective Yemana’s line, “mooshy, mooshy, mooshy.” Yes, it’s up on YouTube:

We need to think comforting, soft, for ease of chewing as well as for psychological healing purposes. In her book Simple Abundance, Sarah Ban Brethnatch speaks of nursery foods, the ones from childhood that evoke memories of being nurtured, ones that we need to indulge in no matter how old we are to smooth the edges of a rough day. 

So for dinner, we will be having mushroom soup and banana sorbet. Other highlights for the next few days include tofu, pasta, and chili. If it gets mooshiser than that, please tell me. 

As I Was Saying…..

You may remember musings from earlier this week about odd food combinations.

I offer further proof, Gentle Readers. 

Are we that bored, as I postulated? Or have all the endocrine disrupters in the environment propelled us into a state similar to the hormone-induced appetite variations of the PMS-ing or pregnant?  

Even though I am guilty of eating peanut butter and potato chip sandwiches in my younger days (whole wheat, natural PB, strawberry jam, and organic chips), this is a no-go.

Unless the fries were really crisp and fresh, then maybe. But more likely not.



Notes from History, or Are We That Freaking Bored?

Did you see this?

This morning I’m contemplating Rome’s classical period. Too many people weren’t paying attention when their history instructors warned that “those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it.” Today’s western world runs parallel to the Empire in a lot of ways: sharply divided socioeconomic classes; the ones in the upper layers coming up with new ways to flaunt it at the expense of others; overemphasis on sporting events; and seriously weird combinations of food to appease jaded palates all reflect the waning days of its empire. 

If you wanted to flaunt your wealth back then, you might treat your guests to a nice plate of stuffed mice for an appetizer followed by flamingo brain casserole. More modern combinations include smoked ice for whisky based cocktails; the above Pepsi-flavored Cheetos; and the current craze of putting bacon in everything, pancakes and waffles excepted. 

Somewhere along the line, overabundance became the norm, bolstered by the rise of processed and pre-made food. Instead of the monotony of hunger, there’s the monotony of having too much, leading to all sorts of crimes against culinary nature. Cro-nuts (croissant dough shaped into donuts and fried); the above mentioned bacon obsession; deep-frying things like beer and butter; really? There are also the creative combinations encouraged by the manufactures of food-like products, such as pseudo-Chinese spareribs glazed with corn syrup laden barbeque  sauce laced with a pre-sweetened orange drink powder.

At least the Romans’ flamingo brains and mice were unprocessed.

While I do research for this blog and for the newsletter, I frequently, I come across food-like products that sound as if they were invented by bored eighth-graders, such as the above-mentioned items. Ridiculous combinations coupled with the incessant pounding of the cool factor have lead to very strange culinary combinations, indeed.

Sometimes a cleansing of the palate is needed. Do a media detox, not just turning off the tube or severely limiting it, but with magazines and food websites as well. Make a deliberate choice to eat simply prepared whole foods.  And watch your taste buds regain their equalibrium again.



I Think You Call It Brunch

Was this song playing? I don’t recall. But this is what it felt like on that hot day, sitting on the steps of my first apartment building with the cool breeze making my loose hair into an abstract sculpture as I drank my hard earned beer after cooking a good part of the morning.

This was a while ago. As in when I was in college ago. August 198…oh, never mind.

Eileen, one of my roommates that summer, came back from her parents’ farm one Sunday with the first of their potatoes and a good portion of a recently dispatched cow.  Somehow, gratitude for the abundance her mom and dad had gifted her with, and in turn us, spun into plans for lunch, dinner, brunch, something for the following weekend. 

Well there were at least three of the four of us who shared that apartment. And Emilie’s boyfriend John. And Charlie and Dave, two of my friends who lived down the street that summer, and one of their roommates, and a few others whom I can’t remember. They may have had a whiff of what we were cooking and wandered in off the street for all I know. 

But we had fun, and Emilie’s pancakes, and Eileen’s roast and potatoes, and my zucchini frittata, and some cookies my dad had sent earlier that week, and beer courtesy of Dave, Charlie, and whomever had shown up with them. 

Very good, very cold beer. 

After the first round of cleaning up, I sat on the front steps with my second bottle of the nectar of the gods. And I inhaled the good clean air coming off of Lake Superior, hoping that somehow, that afternoon would never end. 

It did. At least in that segment of the time-space continuum, it did. 

But all that I have to do is click that link, and I’m back on the steps, peacefully communing with nature and friends, and wondering where the beer put my feet.


Oh, Da-a-a-a-n-g, That Was Good!

Hubby and I went out to lunch yesterday at a new Asian restaurant here in town. It. was. goooooood…..

It’s a Mongolian buffet. For the uninitiated, diners get a bowl or bowls, Proceed to the buffet where you choose your noodles or rice, veggies, protein, and choice of sauce. Hand it over to the cook at the griddle and let her stir-fry it to perfection, then enjoy. This place had a couple of differences: little wooden paddles to indicate that you wanted tofu or a scrambled egg, and they brought your meal to you instead of having you wait at the counter. 

I had chicken, veg, and a cheat on the no grain thing in the noodles with coconut curry sauce. Had we not been in the middle of the dining area, I would have licked the bowl to catch the last drops of sauce. 

Before this place, there was another Asian restaurant down the road. Predominantly Thai, but a few Chinese and Vietnamese dishes were offered. The owner had a smile for everyone, embraced everyone’s nutritional quirks, and greeted her favorite customers with hugs. She was doing well enough to get past the red zone from buildouts and equipment purchases when her rent was raised $500.

She had no choice but to let the restaurant go. I choked up with her. 

There are two Chinese places that have survived the test of time. One is a sit-down/takeout place that’s pleasant, but not very exciting; the other a buffet that tries to be all things to all people. Alongside the lo mein and General Tso’s chicken are pizza, mac and cheese, and a salad bar. 

As in iceburg lettuce and shredded carrots salad bar. With dressing from the local discount grocery store.

Disclaimer: I can be very snobby about food. Hubby’s in the tech sector, and his local physical office is in a suburb with many other tech companies. The diversity in those corporations has allowed restaurants that offer authentic dining experiences to flourish.

Out here, not so much. Breakfast places abound. Really good, unpretentious places where you can fuel up for a good day’s work. But the brave souls who have tried to raise the bar of quality have been smacked down by the hand of quantity. The number of places offering something a little less basic for just a buck or two more that came and went like a shooting star out here reads like lists of war casualties. Some of the posters on Yelp were complaining about parking (it’s smack in the middle of town and dead center in the way overdue widening of the main road through town so it’s going to be a growth experience for a while) and the lack of a salad bar like the one described above.

However, my hope is that this-not-so-small-anymore town is ready to grow a little bit and embrace a bit more diversity in the restaurant department. Yes, our Mongolian buffet’s prices are more in line with places in the suburbs further towards Chicago, but if it means a higher quality meal, I have no qualms about turning over sofa cushions and going out less often.




A Farmers’ Market Birthday

Today is Hubby’s birthday. We’ll be going out to lunch tomorrow, though, since the restaurant that he wants to go to is closed on Monday.

However, on observation of the day, we will be celebrating with pasta and seafood here at home this evening. Accompaniments will include organic bread crafted from antique wheat, salad with field greens, and cheesecake in a jar. White chocolate-raspberry cheesecake, to be precise. 

I also scored some olives, scarlet runner and green beans, and a loaf of walnut-raisin bread from the same baker. Oh, and a couple of biskies for Oakley. 

Not too many more left, so grab it while we can.



In Praise of Crock-Pots

I love my Crock-Pots. Yes, plural. 

The 5-quart one is in use as I tap the keys. Two temperature settings, a timer, a nice big display make it perfect for braising a chicken or a pot roast. I’m making a chicken seasoned with garlic and tarragon with red potatoes, carrots, and leeks. I started it at 10:30 so it will be ready at 6 or so. 

The 2-quart one is great for lentil soup or some Indian dishes. I bloom the spices separately and add them for the last half-hour of cooking to keep them tasting fresh.

It’s not quite as good as having someone cook for you, but after a day, it’s not a bad alternative at all.




Last week, followers of the pre-Christian religions celebrated Lammas, one of the harvest festivals. In honor of this, I made a batch of eggplant stew. 

If you’ve had ratatouille, it’s the same concept, only without the peppers and zucchini. I had the stuff, but not the energy to go the whole nine yards with the chopping. 

I based my creation on the recipe in Cook Italy. It’s a basic red sauce with eggplant added. I did a couple of things differently: 1. rather than messing with scooping out the seeds, I salted the eggplant to pull the bitter juices out and 2. I sprinkled in a few red pepper flakes to give it a kick. 

That night, I had it over gluten-free pasta with a grating of a hard sheep cheese. Yum. I made pizza with a socca crust, goat cheese crumbles, and kalamata olives. The next night I had another round of pasta and sauce. 

My love affair with eggplant didn’t start until I was in my twenties and married. With a bowl of her baba ganouche, my mother-in-law made me into an eggplant lover. I had no idea what I was eating. All I knew was that it was one of the best things that I’d ever put in my mouth. She was a little vague about what was in there. I asked one of Hubby’s sisters. She replied, “Oh, yeah. Eggplant, tahini, and garlic.”

And that was all that went into this taste of nirvana. My version goes something like this:

Slice one good-sized eggplant vertically. Liberally salt the cut sides and let them sit for a half hour to pull the yuck out. In the mean time if you want to be fancy, roast a head of foil-wrapped garlic for about an hour. Otherwise, just chop it up very finely. Roast the eggplant halves at 350 for about 30-45 minutes until they go limp. (You can also grill them and the garlic for about the same amount of time.)  Scoop the flesh from the skin into a food processor along with a 1/4-1/2 cup of tahini and the garlic, then let it rip. Put into a pretty bowl and serve with pita triangles and veggies. 

Or…if you dive in with a spoon, your secret will be safe with me. Especially if you let me join you.