"Those who forget the pasta are condemned to reheat it." ~Unknown

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Practice Makes Perfect

We're making sushi again. I've made sushi twice before, and every time I've been amazed by how incomprehensible the cookbook is. Does everyone have gram measures in their homes except for us? Besides, 20 grams of sugar is not necessarily equivalent in volume to 20 grams of salt! How did we end up with a British - Sushi cookbook anyway? It's kinda funny how the first time I decided to make sushi Dad asked me if I was sure I didn't want to try something easier and then this morning Dad asked if I was sure I didn't want to try something harder. It really is interesting how you can go from completely ignorant to almost an expert so quickly. Fear too, is kind of similar I think. Two other dishes really scared me before, (lasagna & pirogi) but the third time I've made those dishes they didn't seem as scary or exotic or cool. I started cooking and before I had started it seemed like I was done. All the little setbacks are predicted now. The lesson I have learned is that if it seems hard, try it three times, then it might be easy.

The sushi rolls are being cut. Some are sitting on plates, ready to be eaten; others wait to be sliced, their outsides colored either black-green or orange and white. It looks just like plates of sushi in a sushi restaurant. The salmon sashimi looks to be straight out of a restaurant too.

The first course of miso soup was good, but the wakame (the Japanese must have 1000 words for seaweed) was a little thick and a little slimy. Otherwise the miso was good. The sushi though, that was really good. The salmon in the sashimi could have been fattier, and the roe wasn't spread that evenly on the California roll, but it was good. We had to deal with the Sellwood-Moreland sushi dilemma of course but this was by far the best sushi dinner yet! We have a sushi restaurant in our neighborhood that makes really large sushi rolls. They are too big to put in your mouth all at once, but you can't really bite them in half without them falling all over the place. We call that the Sellwood-Moreland sushi dilemma.
The sushi was beautiful and it was free from a lot of the old mistakes that were in the other sushi dinners. Practice really does makes perfect.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Dutch Tacos

It rains a lot in Portland. The other day I heard somebody say "Yesterday I saw Oregonians with umbrellas." That is a sign that it was raining really hard. Of course, it is a rain forest. Despite the rain Portland is home to one of the most vibrant outdoor dining scenes in the nation, maybe the world. Food carts, are an interesting phenomenon. It came from a combination of organic food loving hipsters who had just graduated from college (or maybe not) and wanted to start a restaurant. But starting a restaurant takes a lot of start up money that these hipsters didn't have. So instead they start a low budget food cart. One of the very first was FlavourSpot. FlavourSpot was run out of a video store parking lot on Lombard street. Like a number of carts it serves a foreign variation on a classic dish here in America. In this case waffles. When the hipster manning the truck gives you your waffle he hands you a foil and wax paper wrapped package with just a little corner of waffle sticking out on top. As you unwrap the foil and pull down the wax paper you find a waffle folded in half. Then you bite in. Depending on what you ordered you may taste maple syrup and sausage, or nutela, or turkey, Havarti and bacon.
Tonight Cy is making a home made version of these so called "Dutch tacos". He's mixed together the waffle batter while Dad was shaping sausages, then Cy got together all the fillings while Dad read the instruction manual for our waffle iron. (It's a really nice waffle iron but we've used it once in the year since we got it. Our last waffle iron was an antique that exploded into a ball of blue sparks and acrid smoke, at least it made our Saturday morning a little more exciting. Maybe better to stick to antiques that don't involve electricity.)
The waffles look good, but they don't all get done at once. For the fillings we have a sort of self serve filling bar. Set out for the waffles is lemon curd, whip cream, strawberries, maple syrup, and sausages. Mmmmm.

That was good. It was delicious and sweet, or delicious and savory depending on the fillings. And there's plenty of leftovers. Our thick Belgian waffle iron isn't quite on par with the thinner circular ones at FlavourSpot. These took only about 45 minutes to make, perfect for anybody to make on a week night, and there's plenty of leftovers.
While we absolutely love these home made waffles, it's good to know that there are experts we can go to for still better "dutch tacos" on the cheap. The ambience of a picnic table in a parking lot on a cold rainy morning can be magical. Friends and family are what make a meal.

I almost forgot, heres FlavourSpot's website http://flavourspot.com

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Power of Paprika

I remember the first time I had goulash. It was my first summer at sleep-away camp, dinner on Thursday night was goulash, red meaty sauce and noodles. I loved it. Then as I was trying to decide what I was going to cook tonight, with grandparents in town it had to be something extra special, Mom suggested I make a goulash recipe she had torn out of a magazine years ago. I thought goulash was the best idea ever.
Which put us here, and now. Dad is working on his trademark apple crisp for dessert and we have the dough for dumplings resting in the corner. Memma (our name for our grandma) is playing checkers with Cyrus, and we're all snacking on some cheese and paté that we picked up while we were shopping earlier.
Dad's apple crisp is coming along well and the dough has rested for it's requisite hour. The onions are having a little trouble caramelizing simply because there's so many of them. The dough for our dumplings has been kneaded and now gets to rise for the next hour and a half. We're now working on cubing the meat for the goulash.
We're really having a lot of trouble getting those onions to caramelize. right now we have three separate skillets on the stove with onions in them, Memma has been designated the chief onion caramelizer and is standing over them, stirring and trying to get the darned things to caramelize.
We got the onions to caramelize and now the meat is browning (also in three separate pots) a few moments ago Dad and I set out on a monumental task. Peeling and crushing 22 cloves of garlic. Thats not a typo, 22 cloves of garlic. It's a lot of garlic. In a few moments all the garlic will go into the three pots on the stove that have the pork browning (and sizzling, you can hear it upstairs).
All the meat went into one pot, the onions went in too, then the 22 garlic cloves, followed by the paprika and tomato paste, then the beef stock went in, followed by the caraway seeds, the marjoram, and the salt and pepper. Now the orange Le Creuset pot filled to the brim with orange (from the paprika and tomato paste)juices and meat will simmer away for the next two and half hours.

We just got to stab the dumpling. After we boiled the dumpling for 13 minutes we pulled it out of the water, and immediately stabbed it three times on both sides of the loaf. It was kinda fun, and no I didn't actually get sent to an anger management class. Now we get to eat!

The pork was wonderful, and when doused in the paprika sauce, which just exploded on our mouths, the pork was absolutely amazing. The dumpling was surprisingly bland, though, like the pork, when covered in plenty of the sauce it was amazingly flavorful. Dad and I were both interested and amazed by this meal. It was a lesson in the power of paprika.
And Dad's apple crisp? Amazing as ever. He has the apple crisp down to a science.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Dark November Night

Cy really loves mac' n' cheese. While the rest of our family finds the stuff from the box palatable he loves it. Then, occasionally, Mom will make this excellent, crusted cheesy but not goopy mac' n' cheese. As with most of our other great meals this one comes from the Gourmet cookbooks. Normally Mom will make this mac' n' cheese for us about every three weeks, but it's been a lot longer than that since we feasted on the crunchy cheese and bread crumb topping of this dish. Figures of course, that Cy would be the one to make this dish.
The crust has been mixed together, cheese, bread crumbs, and butter, and the roux that makes up the inside of the mac' n' cheese is being whisked together, red pepper flakes, flour, milk and more butter. Dad is grating more cheese and Cy is stirring the roux. It just started raining hard.
The weather today has been really strange. One moment it's been bright and sunny,the next it's pouring down rain. We were at a birthday party earlier today. It was bright and sunny and a lot of people were on the back deck outside. Then suddenly everyone came rushing in. It was pouring rain. Hey! It stopped raining!

The pasta, roux and crust (not to mention all the butter) have been incorporated in the baking dish and have been sent into the oven for half an hour.

The macaroni and cheese is out of the oven our guest is here and the collard greens are just finished up. We eat!

That was a good dinner. Until now I didn't know that the recipe called for red pepper flakes and Mom didn't put them in, Dad has whipped some cream to go with the loaf cake and the berries that Friend Ben brought. Cy practices his trumpet.
The cake was very good, and with the splash of whip cream and the berries it was a taste of summer on a dark November night.