A Favorite of the Underworld

I can’t remember which retelling of the classic Persephone being dragged down by Hades to his underground kingdom but it was probably some seedy romance that tried to fill in the gaps of the storyline while enforcing the somewhat lingering fad of the whole dominating man being too proud for his own good but actually having a cuddly center that just needed to be loved by some “headstrong” woman with amazing hair and the ability to forget how headstrong she is when in the presence of the sulty dark god of the underworld. But enough about my bedtime reading for now. Whichever book it was talking about he ghostly gardens of the underworld. Of plants that mimic those above ground but requiring no sunlight to grow. When I look at steamed cauliflower I always think that it looks like the ghost of broccoli. Or maybe the vegetable garden fairies just spilled some bleach and human are all like “Ooooo!”.

Either way (because these are both valid option as to why cauliflower is the way it is), cauliflower is an interesting vegetable that has recently taken on new heights. It has the unique personality of being rather bland in the flavor department but being able to take on a rariety of textures depending on how it’s prepared. While some of the attempts at making cauliflower cool clearly fall short of the goal I’m impressed with the way that it manages to take on new flavors easily and holds up to some experimental treatment. So far one of my absolutely favorite dishes is from Woodlands, a vegetarian Indian restaurant with a buffet on the weekends that could make a lover of deliciousness die with happiness. Not sure what it is but something like battered and fried florets then mixed with other sauteed vegetables in a sauce. I really do need to find out what it’s called.

But in the meantime here are some other forms of this ghostly source of nutrients that I thoroughly approve of.

 

Balsamic Galazed Cauliflower "Wings"

Balsamic Galazed Cauliflower “Wings”

Cauliflower Au Gratin

Cauliflower Au Gratin

Parmesan Cauliflower Bites

Parmesan Cauliflower Bites

Cauliflower Tots (with a How-To video!)

Cauliflower Tots (with a How-To video!)

Spicy Cauliflower Sitr-Fry

Spicy Cauliflower Sitr-Fry

Creamy Cauliflower Garlic Rice

Creamy Cauliflower Garlic Rice

Curried Cauliflower Soup

Curried Cauliflower Soup

Lemon Garlic Roasted Cauliflower

Lemon Garlic Roasted Cauliflower

Cauliflower Chowder

Cauliflower Chowder

Cauliflower Mac & Cheese

Cauliflower Mac & Cheese

Crispy Orange Cauliflower

Crispy Orange Cauliflower

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Food Porn: A Self Diagnostic

I just got back into the office from circling the campus to drop of papers here, set up online courses there, and planning community gardens everywhere I can find space when I saw the following article on The Daily Meal:

“Obsessively Photographing Your Food Might Be a Sign of Mental Illness”

The tag line was “Food Porn Sign of Mental Illness?” and of course I was a little concerned. Not that I have a problem or anything…

But let’s be honest, I occasionally take pictures of my food. Not that I’m obsessed with pictures of the food I make but because other people are. And I’m not being conceited at all. But I know some people… Some people…

However, we’re being honest here. *Now Entering the Foodie Quadrangle of Honesty.* I really like food. And if you’re in my happy little Foodie Nation you probably do too. You may even have referred to food in an odd way that may have been sexually confusing to your friends. I’m here to tell you that’s okay. But one thing is not okay and that’s being a food hoarder. If you make a batch of these:

Mandarin Orange & Olive Oil Mini Doughnuts

“Mandarin Orange & Olive Oil Mini Doughnuts”

you had better be sharing them. Because eating alone is nice and all but you don’t just hog all the mini doughnuts. That’s just bad form.

Also, if you make this:

Martha's Mac and Cheese

“Martha’s Mac and Cheese” from Smell’s Like Home

and eat the whole thing yourself…? Just stop. Really. Now I’m super concerned AND offended.

So this is my suggestion to all those poor lost foodies out there making massive piles of unhealthy foods and just eating it all without hindrance:

1. Stop that.

2. Call a few friends (including me)

3. Share

4. You may take photos. That part was never the problem so you just go right ahead and do that.

The Prophet Among Us

So I’m sitting in a coffee shop. One if those commercial ones. They aren’t paying me to advertise for them so I will not be plastering their brand name all over this post until they do. I haven’t say in a coffee shop for a long time. The last time I was sitting in one just to sit in one was last fall when all of my friends were struggling with the beginning of the semester and work and I was starting my stint as a professional beach bum/GRE studyer.

Its amazing how productive we feel in coffee shops sometimes. All I’m doing is sitting in a comfy chair, drinking coffee I had to pay almost $4 for and reading “Wathcmen”. How productive is that?

Watchmen: Before you judge my reading let me just say that this is actually reading material for WORK. That’s right. Curriculum development requires reading graphic novels and comic books these days. Well… When I’m the director anyways.

So here I am… Drinking coffee that I know is just going to make me need to pee and will inevitably bring on the lone-coffee-shop-patron dilemma (having a comfy seat and not wanting to leave your stuff to go to the bathroom). I look up and around at all the little peoples typing away on their computers or shuffling around a bunch of papers. Obviously there are other educators with their grading and then there are students with their papers and presentations. And in comes a family for afternoon tea and snacks… That one throws me off a little. Although, I suppose it shouldn’t because my mother would occasionally drag my brother and I into a coffee place of two and make us sit and do our work with our hot drinks while she worked.

I think there must be something about the atmosphere of other people that appear to be so busy that rubs off on us and gets us in the mood to be productive. So we read our comics with even more vigor. We’re analyzing the graphics, the play on words. It’s like we’re in school again and it’s almost soothing. To feel like we’re doing something with our lives. Why do we do that to ourselves? Why does it require some sort of setting like this to get our blood pumping, our brains working?

Whatever it is, this is the sort of place that does it and so it is done. The coffee and opening up neural pathways that haven’t experienced traffic this high in such a long time and it feels… magnificent. Suddenly I’m not just high on caffeine it’s like information overload! Oh my gosh! It’s Blake! It’s William Blake! No… not in person. That would mean I was high on something completely different. I mean in the book. “Watchmen” is just a reiteration of Blake’s “America a Prophecy”. Suddenly it all makes sense. We’re doomed.

America a Prophecy, by William Blake
If I haven’t mentioned it before I have a serious literary crush on William Blake. My iPad is even named after him (Billy) and has the following inscription: “I will not Reason and Compare: my Business is to Create”.

Perhaps the fact that there is a hurricane brewing off the eastern coast of America that has everyone in a bit of a frenzy that also lends to the statically charged environment (and the fact that I really have to pee!) but time speeds up (also the effects of the coffee) and I’m reading like crazy until it’s time to leave and go be productive by eating lunch. At this point I really wish I could get back into my office to start typing up all the incredible epiphanies I’ve just had so that I can release them on unsuspecting students next semester but it is never to be. The storm is getting worse and then they are giving it nonsensical names like Frankenstorm (doesn’t anyone actually read the source literature anymore?!). The university at which I work will be closed on Monday and Tuesday.

Sigh… The prophet is diverted from the cause once again. But I did get to bake! Since there was no school on Monday and that meant my brother didn’t have classes and my dad didn’t have to teach we all just stayed home, cooked, yelled, ate, yelled about cleaning up, cleaned up, had a party, watched a documentary about Sukiyabashi Jiro….

Click on the image for a link to the film website. Or go to the restaurant website here: http://www.sushi-jiro.jp/eng-index.html

On the menu during the storm? Well my Mexican sister/friend/roommate made some lentils and chilies rellenos (she had to improvise since she hadn’t bought enough chilies to supply the party people at our house). And I made: A chocolate mousse (the one I have tried and like from: “The Great Disappointment (of 2012)”); sticky buns (from: “Rising to the Occasion: Oci on Bread Part I”); Triple Bypass Mac & Cheese (from: “Take THAT!”); and of course, my favorite brand of coffee.

Mayorga’s “Cafe Cubano” (Click the image to go to the website). They used to have a coffee shop near my school that I used to study at and occasionally some of my professors would take us there to have classes. All their cafes have closed but I still got the coffee!

Now if only I could bottle the real productivity of cooking on a day off, getting work done, the coffee shop atmosphere, and my brain…

Take THAT!

So I’ve been spending a bunch of time with my grandma (the one with the horrifying coleslaw memories. The other one lives with me. See: “A Tale of Two Grandmas…”). Staying in her house always poses a difficult scenario. Growing up I always associated going to my grandparents’ house with vacation. Their house is only about 30-40 minutes from mine but when we lived overseas the commute was significantly…longer (usually about 2 days). So when we’d come to the US we would spend longer amounts of time with my grandparents and I was often exempt from most of my educational obligations.

During the day we’d all eat food my Gma approved of (low sodium, low fat, vegetarian, often vegan, and LOTS of fresh fruits and vegetables). But at night… At night…

When I was a kid my Gpa was still fairly feisty. He and I used to go into his basement office and play Myst and Riven for hours or record books onto tape together. He also used to have, what I now consider to be, the greatest sleeping habits. He’s wake up around 9am to do all his medicines and vitamins. Drink his coffee (thick, black and sweet). Then he’d go through the TV Guide and circle things he’d want to watch. He’d read in-between those things. After lunch he would take a good nap for an hour or so. After nap… more coffee. Then various activities including: Freecell with Gma, ordering new books, garden research, Chinese practice (to keep up with me once I started), Tetris, crosswords… and so much more. He also wrote a book about his time in China at some point. In the evening he and Gma watch “60 Minutes” during dinner and then my Gma would go and get ready for bed while Gpa would settle in for some late night TV and eventually a midnight snack. That’s where I’d usually join in.

On weekends it was the best because we would watch some of our favorite cartoons and shows, like “2 Stupid Dogs” and “Tom and Jerry”.

“2 Stupid Dogs”: Possibly the funniest, dumbest, and most mind shaping show from my childhood.

This is the time of midnight snacking. Cookies and milk. Ice cream. Desserts of all kinds. Saltines with cheddar and Worcestershire sauce (in the microwave for 20 seconds).

So now that I’m older I’m stuck having to help my Gma make her meals now that’s she’s forced to use a walker because of some recent accidents (the woman’s 91 turning 92 next weekend I think she’s earned a little service). So for breakfast it’s toast and fruit with some soy milk (no soy milk for me, thanks) and salad with soup that a swear has absolutely no taste whatsoever but Gma raves about it. And dinner was yogurt (because of the antibiotics in the hospital. Gma, not me) with something warm to drink down all the pills. My grandma also loves tennis. She made sure I knew that Roger Federer is her FAVORITE player and watched at least 3 games of his in a day.  I know she likes him as a tennis player but her sitting up straighter in her seat and clapping her hands and smiling/blushing every so often when they show his close-up or he wins would tell a different story. My grandma is adorable.

Roger Federer: My Grandma’s Indulgence

Well after all that healthy food (there was also a faux quiche made without dairy or salt) and watching physically fit people run around on the TV all day I needed to do something after Gma would go to bed in order to counteract it all. My taste buds needed some sort of reimbursement. So I would fall back on a couple old favorites while sitting up late at night playing on Pinterest and watching cartoons or “Top Gear”. Because my mommy loves me (and was more than excited to be able to take the weekend off to get some rest and help out with some international guests) she’d left me fully stocked with the works. Starting with this:

Ben & Jerry’s: “Chocolate Therapy”

As far as I’m concerned this is the top of the Ice Cream Food Chain right now. If you haven’t had it. Go have some. Even I can only eat it in small doses it’s so rich.

Also in the freezer, tucked behind the tower of frozen pizzas my grandma buys for my brother, was this:

Welsh Rarebit

I tried it two different ways. On tater tots and on toast. I prefer the traditional method with the sauce over toast but I found another use of the tater tots so it was not a disappointment.

As I was eating my sin on toast I was reminded of the saltines with cheese and Worcestershire meets macaroni and cheese. It was a beautiful thing. Brought me back to when I learned how to make macaroni and cheese from scratch. I’d always had it pre-made or one of those “kits” in a box. My Gma used to buy it for me at Christmas, the kind you put in the oven and you get those yummy burnt bits around the edges.

It was a picnic maybe 3 summers ago. Time is all winky wonky in my universe. It was a picnic for a group my brother was a part of  that all the families attend once a year. This year it happened to be in the house of a family where both parents were chefs who now teach cooking lessons somewhere in the Metro DC Area. All the details are fuzzy because I heard them 3rd hand. But whoever/whatever they are, they knew what they were doing in their kitchen. The wife/mother (who’s name I don’t think I ever learned) asked for a hand in the kitchen and my mom offered me up.

So there I was in a rather tiny kitchen space with a wooden spoon encouraging the melting of butter in a large saucepan while she was busy boiling a vat of water for the pasta. Here’s how the whole process was explained to me, keeping in mind that this was for a large number of people:

Put on a really big pot of water on to boil. In a large saucepan melt a stick of butter. Once melted add in a couple table spoons of flour and mix well until it looks a little like apple sauce. Over medium-low heat keep stirring the mixture until it begins to brown at the edges and smell fragrant. Add in about 2 cups of milk (that’s my years-later-guesstimate) and whisk. Then you start adding cheese. She used the pre-shredded stuff in bags. So about 2 bags of cheddar, 1 bag of mozzarella, and 1 bag of parmesan. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Mix it all until everything is all melty and gooey.  Somewhere in this process you’ve put in 4 boxes of elbow macaroni pasta into the boiling water and it’s cooked al dente. Drain the pasta and pour it into a large oven safe pan or dish and then pour the cheese sauce on top. Mix it all together and then sprinkle more cheddar cheese on top and put in in a 350 F oven for about 15-20 minutes until it’s toasted looking on top.

My brother being a mac & cheese fanatic has asked me to make this several times. For a smaller batch cut the butter to 1/4 stick and lower the amount of milk by about 50% and then add cheese to get the consistency you want. It’s still a lot of cheese no matter how much you’re making.

Needless to say I owe a good two to three hours on the bike with some heavier weights after all the making up eating I did to counter act the salads.

But to end this rant here is a montage of Macaroni and Cheese recipes and variations:

Southern-Style Macaroni and Cheese

Smoked Gouda Macaroni and Cheese

Greek Macaroni & Cheese with Roast Garlic, Caramelized Leeks

Smoked Gouda and Sharp Cheddar Mac and Cheese (with really good “How To” photos)

Beer Mac & Cheese

Fontina Mac and Cheese

Mac and Cheese with Roasted Chicken, Goat Cheese, and Rosemary (Although, in general, I’m not a huge fan of chicken)

Potato Skins Mac and Cheese (Also with good “How To” photos)