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

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Not The Right Season

     The past two days were all bright and sunny.  On Friday it was warm enough to run shirtless at Track, and spend the evening walking the neighborhood with my friends before we went to see The Hunger Games (which is one of the best book based movies in awhile).  On Saturday, Mom spent all day working in the yard, and Cy, Dad and I walked to the park with a 5-gallon bucket of water balloons and a sling-shot.  With hopes of more warm, sunny weather, I set out today with a plan.  I was going to make basil lemonade, and cinnamon-orange sorbet, and paella.  But instead, the sun deigned to peak out from the clouds today, so we've got a summery meal, and a gray sky.  There's just a little hint of sun behind the clouds, a point that's a little bit brighter than the rest of the sky.

I started early this afternoon, making the lemonade.  The recipe was from the New York Times, Mark Bittman's food column.  I juiced lemon's, strained the juice, and steeped the rinds with basil and sugar before mixing it all together.  Once the lemonade was chilling in the fridge, I moved onto the ice cream.  From the same NYT issue, it's a cinnamon-orange sorbet.  I put sugar, a cinnamon stick, and and orange zest into orange juice, cooked it until the sugar dissolved, and threw it into the ice cream maker.  A few hours later, we got started on the paella.  It too, is a Bittman recipe, (uh-oh is this turning into another Bittman tribute dinner?)  It's a chorizo and clam paella, and is proving to be a little troublesome, though it should still be good.

     Wow. The paella was really good, the chorizo, onions, clams, rice and peas created an amazing flavor, not really something I can describe, it was far to complex for me.  Let's just stick with, "It was good," and say that the only disappointment was that the clams weren't quite done when the rest of it was.  The basil lemonade was just as amazing, with a complex flavor not usually seen in lemonade.  It was incredibly sweet, and layered beneath the lemonade flavor, was just a little hint of basil.  It would have made great popsicles, and is definitely a recipe I want to remember for this summer.  The ice cream was also amazing.  Somehow, it was creamy despite being just 2 parts orange juice, 1 part sugar, a cinnamon stick, and some orange zest.  It was orange ice cream at it's very best.  Also a recipe to remember for the warmer months.  All told, an amazing, complex dinner, but maybe not the right season.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

What Is In Your Wine, And Steaks

     A few minutes ago, Dad and Cyrus sat huddled around the grill, trying to start it in the middle of a rain/snow- drizzle/ hail storm.  Now, with the grill alight, the the rain clouds have cleared out to make it a beautiful day.  Thats the way its been for all day.  This morning, Cy and I ran in the Shamrock Run's 5k, as we finished the weather was warm and sunny.  When we got home, there were a few seconds of snow, and intermittent rain and sun, at one point the backyard shed was steaming.  Despite the questionable and unpredictable weather, Cy decided to open grilling season today.  He's got steaks on the grill, and a salad in the works.  Outside, tending the grill, his breath is as visible as the smoke.
"Our local reactor" at full power.
The blue glow is Cherenkov Radiation
surrounding the core.
     The past few weeks I've been taking a Saturday Academy class at "our local nuclear reactor" at Reed College.  Tucked into the basement of the Psychology Building, the reactor sits at the bottom of a twenty five foot pool of water. On one side is a hallway, the other side is a control room, and the third and fourth sides are concrete and brick walls to the outside.  One of the things we got to do for the class, which was attended by a total of 8 kids, all except me from the distant suburbs, was NAA.  NAA stands for Neutron Activation Analysis, and is a process by which the atomic makeup of the objects irradiated in the reactor can be inferred.  Everybody tested different things, from table salt to chewing gum (surprising finds: selenium in the salt, titanium in the gum). I tested three wine corks, a French red, an Argentine red, and a white from Washington.  Each of the wines had selenium, sodium, potassium, and arsenic, and the reds had cadmium, bromine, and cobalt.  The French had thallium, and most surprisingly, gold.  The Argentine wine had iridium and tellurium.  Both the French and Washington wines, though not the Argentine, had measurable amounts of manganese and radium.  It's interesting to think that there's titanium in our chewing gum, and gold in your wine.

     While I've been telling you about the atomic makeup of your wine, Dad and Cy have been dishing up a wonderful meal.  Our main course is a set of New York strip steaks, with green beans and baked potato sides.  Together it's a really wonderful meal, I'd rank it among some of our better all-time.  The green beans were greasy and soft, and charred and crunchy, catalonian style.  The steak was mouth watering-ly juicy, and the myriad spices on top gave each bite a complex flavor.  It had been generously rubbed down with the "Back of the Yards" spice mixture from the Chicago Spice House that our Uncle Clark got us hooked on. It looks like the day will end on a bright, sunny note.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Spaghetti and Meatballs, A Pre-Grill Placeholder.

     On Friday, the sun was out and shining strong.   My English class had our lesson outside, and us distance runners on the Track team ran shirtless, even though it wasn't to hot, to celebrate the sunshine.  The rest of the weekend, was not so grand.  Yesterday saw Cyrus marching with the Sellwood Band in a St. Patrick's day parade, the whole time there was a light drizzle.  Today, the sky has been all clouds.  Which we assume is not what the people at the estate sale we visited were hoping for.  It was a little house across the street from Cy's school, and there wasn't much in the house that interested us except for a few old newspapers.  We got two, an Oregonian from May 1, 1945, headlining the Soviet capture of the reichstag, and Mussolini hanging by his ankles, as well as an Oregon Courier-Journal from April 14, 1945, headlining FDR's untimely demise.  The sun just wouldn't come out, and while I wanted to start grilling season very early this year, fate was not on my side.  Luckily I had meatballs as a backup plan.
     The kitchen has been filled with wonderful garlic and onion smells all afternoon, as well as plenty of grandes cajones de carne jokes (though meatballs are actually alb√≥ndigas).  Right now, the stove has all four burners going, one for the sauce, one for the pasta and two (for the meat)balls.  The cooking itself is now almost over, between the sauce and the meatballs I was involved for the whole time.  The meatballs have lots of meat, parsley and fennel seeds and mushrooms, the sauce is mostly just tomatoes and onions.

The kale salad recipe.
     The food was good, though not great.  The meatballs were inclined to fall apart on your fork, and they had the same texture as the spaghetti, so while they tasted good, they were hard to eat, and hard to know you were eating.  Mom's kale salad was good, though admittedly I'm not a very big fan.  Mimi absolutely loved it though.  A good meal overall, though not worth it's continuous two hours of prep.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Bacon Grease

     Today has been the nicest day yet this year.  The sun is shining, and the weather is warm enough to go outside in a t-shirt.  All day, you've been able to hear people mowing their lawns.  This morning Mom made a pie, and we put up our magnetic knife block, which we have had for years, and put on the knives that Dad (yesterday) and Mom (tomorrow) got for their birthdays.  For dinner, Cy's going to make pork chops with green beans and stewed apples.
     Right now, Cy's chopping the apples, (though not with the new knife), and Dad is prepping the green beans.  Cy says the new knife is great, and though I haven't gotten the chance to use, it does look really cool.  The pork chops are sitting out on the counter, waiting for the moment, alongside their batter.  Once the green beans and apples are on the stove, they'll get dipped in salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic powder and paprika, then be dredged in flour before being thrown onto the stove to cook in bacon grease. mmmmmm.  In an instant, the beans, apples and pork chops are done.  I think this might be the first Sunday Dinner we've had during daylight this year.

     The pork chops were awesome.  They were juicy, and the batter was ridiculously flavorful.  The green beans were good, Cy cooked them Catalonian style (lots of olive oil and sprinkled with big chunky sea salt), and the apples were also great, they had just a touch of cinnamon and clove in them that set off their apple flavor.  The apple pie, for dessert, was excellent.  The filling was one of the best I've ever had, though it was a little sparse.  The crust was very tasty too, though a little tough.  Between courses Mom opened up her Birthday present from Cy, Dad and I, a photo book.  The pork chops were amazing.  My theory: bacon grease.