Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tita's sweet and sour meatballs

1lb ground beef
1/2 onion
2 cloves minced garlic
1 egg
Salt, pepper
2tbsp flour

make into meat balls and flatten
fry in oil to brown (some pink in center)

sliced bell pepper
remainder of sliced onion

Fry briefly w/LITTLE (pinch) salt and pepper

water (maybe 1/2-1cup?)
vinnegar 2 tablespoons
2tblespoons sugar
2 slices ginger
sweet and sour sauce to taste (use real, not thai chili)
1/2 tblespoon corn starch w/ water to thicken (end up with about 1/4 cup)

Finish cooking meat in sauce, adding in cornstarch slowly to thicken.  add in veggies set aside at end and serve with rice

Monday, July 12, 2010

Meatza incarnation # delicious

Another meatza, this time with ingredients in... austria!

1 package wildflower leaves (seriously, you can get them here, pretty awesome)
2 tblspoons butter
2 cloves garlic
1 pound ground meat
tomato sauce
gouda cheese
salami slices

Saute garlic with wildflower leaves in the butter.  Mix with meat and put into pan (I used a bread pan.)  Oven at 190C for 10 minutes.  Pull out.  Put on toppings and put back into oven until cheese is done.  Take out, enjoy.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Three Andrew Recipes

First, the mixed drink.

An 'Andrew'
1 part pomegranate juice
1 part orange juice
1 part dark rum
splash of sprite

Biakabutuka Omelet
2 eggs
1/4 cup salmon
10-12 slices pepperoni
2 spears asparagus, cut
Mozzarella cheese

Baltimorean Omelet
more crab
oh and toss on some old bay
and maybe a couple of eggs

Monday, June 14, 2010

Another all meat pizza!

Here's another one for the carnivores out there.  I made it up as another way to finish off the stir fry chicken I make each week.  It's a pizza in form only incidentally and there may in fact be an italian name for what this actually is.  Regardless, it was tasty.

Enough chicken to cover pan.  You can either pound out a chicken breast into a thin sheet or just use up left over chicken pieces.
Tomato sauce to cover chicken
Cheese of choosing.
Meat and toppings of your choosing.

Place chicken as the "crust" and add toppings to taste.  Place under broil for 10-15 minutes until done.  Serve and enjoy.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Why food isn't just "food"

Food is not just food.  I'm surprised by inane justifications of eating that reduce it down to just nutrition.  We can and should talk about the nutritional quality of food, but food is never just food.  It is not just about ingesting something that sustains us then we poop it out.  If food were just nutrition we would all take pills that fulfill our requirements for the day then that would be it.  But we don't do that.  Instead we decide to prepare meals; those preparations are cultural acts.  What is in our meal, how we prepare it, the history behind that meal, the history behind its preparation, what are the symbols involved in it?  These are all questions and qualities of the food that need to be and should be considered.  Food is a symbol, a political act, a dating ritual, a protest, and an affirmation.  Food is never 'just' food.

I love my sister, but when she said food was just food I felt that holly righteous rage inside of me and the need to smote her from every mountain top from here to Middle Earth.  How could food just be food?  Didn't she realize that the simple act of making breakfast for dinner was more than about just food?  Didn't she realize that she was reinacting something our parents had done with us since we were really young?  There's a history behind that meal, there are memories, emotions with that meal.  The fact she chose to share a portion with me was HUGE... she almost never does that.  So there are elements of social bonding behind it as well.  This was not some TV dinner plopped in a microwave, this was my sister reaching out, attempting something she rarely does and doesn't feel comfortable doing.  The meanings behind all it were so important, so meaningful.  To proclaim that food is just food, well that takes away a lot of that, strips it away and lays it bare to the hot sun to rot.  It was like completely discrediting all that meaning, making it so that the social bond she was trying to forge was trivial.  How could she do that?  How could she trample on how touched I was at her offering to cook something for me?

To me it reflects something very disturbing about how Americans increasingly view food.  We talk too much in deconstructionist terms, breaking down food into components, nutrients, instead of viewing the food in whole terms.  A lot of the nutrition debate is phrased like that too.  We talk about optimal macronutrient ratios and calories instead of the deliciousness of the apple, or using whole foods.  In numerous studies on diets it has been shown that people who consume whole, fresh foods eat healthier and better and sustain weight loss longer than those who focus on ratios of protein, fat, and carbs.  People who cook their own food from scratch show the same.

Why though is hard to pin down.  A lot of people assume that when you focus on fresh whole foods you're guaranteed to ween yourself off the processed food high in carbs, sodium, and Frankenfats, and that is why those people are healthier.  Or all that preparation with the food means we eat less because we value it more.  All that is probably true, but even then we are still thinking about breaking down the food into valuable parts instead of seeing the value in the whole.  I'm going to throw out another theory though.  I think consuming whole food, preparing it yourself is healthier because you apply more of the cultural and social into it.  There's love there.  There are bonds shared and broken.  It's healthier not simply because the nutrients are better, its healthier because there is more of the non-physical wrapped up into it.

I'm fond of the Papuan example.  I think they have the way to think about food right.  For them food is wrapped up in everything they do.  It's common among them to not think with their heart (which is an industrialist/ mechanical viewpoint, something to share at another point) nor with their head, but rather with their stomachs.  When you eat food prepared and grown by someone else in their culture, you consume a part of that person.  That work that goes into the meal is an actual, physical (to them) part of them that you then consume in the act of eating.  In essence everyone is a cannibal, and no-one really has a problem with that.  (In point of fact, this is where some of the mistaken cannibalism reported to westerners comes from, an example of misunderstanding a worldview.)  It's beautiful.  When people are married and have "arranged" marriages, those marriages are consummated in lavish feasts and pigs/ livestock are exchanged between the participants.  You give me this wife here for those 200 pigs I loaned you three generations ago.  The consumption of those pigs cements that bond between the two families, villages, tribes.  When people die their spirits live on in the trees, crops that the villagers eat, further extending their memory and giving back to the continued health of the village.  How could food just be about food to them?  Try explaining a carbohydrate to these people.  They'd probably nod politely and go "uncivilized foreigners, don't they realize this food contains the spirit of my ancestor and provides for our continued good health?  They keep consuming bad spirits, maybe that's why they're so fat and unfit?  They need to consume more of their ancestors."

Perhaps that's an extreme example, but it's also an illustrative one.  My sister though not fond of religion (she hates it, though I make the argument her atheism and liberalism are also religions, she's probably not fond of that either) would be hard pressed to deny though the symbolism in a passover feast or thanksgiving meal.  How about Christmas day dinner?  We don't consume ham at Easter just because its ham, we consume it because in a way it embodies and resembles the flesh of Christ.  These meals bring people closer together, they're symbolic in terms of what we eat and how we eat them and consummate social bonds.  You typically don't invite strangers to dinner (though if you did, that's an example of your charity) you invite loved ones, or potential loved ones who you want to create closer social ties with.  We even get uncomfortable when invited to dinners, celebrations that involve social bonds we're not quite ready for.  The 3 week boyfriend invited to a passover meal with the girlfriends parents.  Why we are uncomfortable isn't simply nervousness, it also reflects our apprehension of closer ties when we're not quite ready for them.

People who cook their own food from scratch intuitively I think understand a lot of that.  They understand that the love that goes into a meal and the journey of that meal means as much as the end product - a blob of nutritious gobble gook.  We even say that "our love went into this meal, you will eat it!"  I think that makes the meal more real, more nutritious in ways that go beyond calorie counts and macronutrient ratios.  That's why people are healthier.

I don't think my sister quite understands that.  I don't think she quite understands love that way.  In her worldview where food is just food, people are therefore just people, who should be used and abused to suit her own whims.  In a world where food is just food you can reduce people, de-humanize them, strip them of social and cultural meaning.  What is the point of life then?  Its very nihilistic, bleak, and unimaginative.  Where are the shades of color and meaning that define life like I see it?  How do you respect people as people in that world?  Maybe then that phrase she employed "food is just food" reflects a lack of that deeper something within her, that eye, that heart, that stomach that understands and feels the social bonds created.  Those single golden threads that unite all of us, that tie us all together into this great beautiful world.

Food is not just food, its life.

Friday, May 21, 2010


Ok really it is a Meatza, but to appease the family I'm staying with I called it Maetza and told them it was an authentic Lebanese dish.  I even played it up a bit and told them I'd found this recipe when I was perusing a couple of Lebanese websites looking for something delicious to make them last night.  It wasn't until dinner that I finally admitted that no, it was in fact an primal all-meat pizza.  Now in fairness, at this point I got some rather strange looks from my friends mother who thinks I'm a low carb nut-job.  But it did bring about a discussion about being Primal, what that means, and how we can apply it to our lives.  Maybe worth it in the end.

1 1/2 pounds of meat, and none of that reduced fat foolishness that was all over Giant's shelves yesterday (I used Lamb and Bison)
2 Cloves minced garlic
Basil, oregano, cilantro.
1 can diced tomatoes or tomato sauce/ pizza sauce (abt. 2 cups.)
Soft cheese either white or yellow, preferably from a good source.
Toppings: anything you want.

Preheat oven to 450 w/ cast iron (or pan, whatever) inside.  Mix meat with garlic and herbs (I picked these fresh from outside, amazing) and make sure it mixes well together.  Place meat in a thin ~ 1/2 inch thick sheet on bottom of your pan, create a small 'lip' to hold in sauce with meat like the crust on a regular pizza.  Put this in the oven at 450 for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, get your toppings ready.  Last night, we had caramelized onions, sliced tomato, asparagus and spinach.  After 10 minutes take out pan and drain off most of the grease.  Add on your toppings starting with the tomato sauce first, then cheese, and finally the veggies.  Put back in the oven and cook for 20-30 minutes until veggies are roasted and cheese is melted.  Take out, serve, enjoy.

Note: Last night we used diced tomatoes on the pizza, then filled the rest of the cast iron with another two cups of tomato sauce and cooked the asparagus in that.  After we pulled it out we drained the asparagus tomato sauce mixture off and served it as a light soup.

Salmon and Sweet Potato

Another easy roasting recipe.  Preheat oven to 400 with pan inside.  Add 1 diced sweet potato with some olive oil, salt, pepper and cook for 10 min.  Take out and add in salmon with olive oil, salt, pepper, and some paprika on top for kick.  Cook another 20 min or until done.  Take out, serve, enjoy.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Don't have a picture for this yet since I haven't exactly made it yet, but this is more of an idea than anything else.

I've been puzzled by something, how do you get a good smokey flavor when you don't want to cook on the grill?  It took me probably about 5 minutes to come up with a solution and I think this will work well.

Grab your cast iron (if you don't have one, how will you ever take care of the kitchen gremlins?) or roasting pan.  Now grab a hand full of those mesquite chips you find in the bbq section, soak them, then toss them into the pan.  Preheat the pan.  Now lay your kabobs on top such that the skewers are suspended over the chips.  Set the oven for 425 and cook until done.  I suspect this will work well, dunno yet, looking forward to trying.

For that matter though, why can't you use this method with other meat?  Grab one of those small grates, put it on top of the cast iron w/ mesquite chips, and roast meat on top of it.

Like I said, I haven't tried this yet.  It also might be prudent to use a pan you don't cook other things in just in case the wood burns to the pan or if you don't want the rest of what you make tasting like wood.

How to cook simply yet tasty

I don't understand people when they say they 'can't' cook or when they say they don't know how.  Cooking is really incredibly easy once you put in a little bit of time into it.  I'll explain here one simple way to make tasty food that is adaptable to a wide variety of situations, foods, and tastes.

First thing you have to do is get a cast iron skillet.  Now go, I'll wait for you to come back, bring about $20 with ya and get a 10 inch cheap one.

Back?  Fabulous.

Now go to the grocery store and pick up some meat and veggies, I don't really care what kind of meat (fish, chicken, beef, lamb, whatever) and I honestly don't care about your veggies either.  If you like artichokes go get them, they're in season.

Back again?  Great.

Now toss it all in a preheated cast iron with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Set your oven for 400 degrees and roast until done (probably about 30-45 min depending on the meat and veggies.)  It's easy.  Probably took you all over 5 min to prepare, and while you're waiting for it to be done you can be doing other things like exercising, reading, watching glee, whatever.

That's basic, easy, and most importantly its ingrained in our DNA to do it.  This is primal stuff here.  Our ancestors have been doing essentially this since we learned fire plus food equals delicious.

Of course you can jazz it up a bit, maybe you want to marinade the chicken a bit or give your beef a good rub (salt, pepper, paprika makes a great one.)  If you've got a lot of caramelized bits on the bottom, deglaze the pan with some beer, wine, or broth and heat that for a bit on the stove then serve over your meal.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Impressions of an cooking experience

I've been cooking since I was probably 11 or 12. One of my first cooking memories is of the ubiquitous Easy Bake Oven and making bad soufflĂ©s to friends and family out of our apartment in Tokyo. If you haven't had the pleasure of using the easy bake oven let me explain it to ya. For one thing, its designed for 6 year old girls and very much not for carb hyped attention deprived 12 year old boys. Its essentially a giant lightbulb in a plastic container that heats up these little pans of sugar and flour into something vaguely resembling food but upon closer inspection is more akin to armor plating. Little Debbies - and very few little Tom's unless those Tom's have abnormally high pitched voices - spend countless hours pretending they're great pastry chef's in Paris, concocting some sweet treats to appropriately adoring parents who "ooh" and "ahh" at their precious children.  

Well I was 12, so ya know, I didn't have that adoration. In essence I failed miserably at it. See I'm a gadget guy, I like things that do stuff. Give me gismos, knobs, dials, and I'm a happy man. If I can pretend I'm the helmsman on the Starship Enterprise then it's perfect... that's the level of sophistication I want. I want to be able to yell out in the middle of cooking creme brule "DAMNIT MR. SCOTT! Give me more POWER!!!!!" or "reroute power from the environmental controls to the phasers now!" See I'm looking for the interaction of the cooking process. Of turning cooking into a story with a plot. Beginning, middle, and end with a fair dose of heroism mixed into it. I want to swoop in at the last second and save my soufflĂ© from sudden disaster at the hand of the Klingons and their evil cooling bird of prey's as they seek to arrest the rise of my bread. Screw automation, I prefer the seat of my pants as guide and judge rather than the vagrancies of some clock.  

So I hated this thing. I loathed and despised it. It was too easy and more likely than not completely ruined my souffle. How I used to wonder, was something meant to make the whole cooking process easier making it so much harder for me? Why can't I cook a soufle? I mean it says its soooo easy right there on the box... I was depressed, saddened by all this. And now thinking back upon it, in all likelihood my parents had bought this damn contraption for my younger sister. How was it that it works for her but not me? Am I that much of a failure in the kitchen? I wanted to strip this little plastic box down and rebuild it. Maybe I could give it a little something to make it work for me like a timer and temperature control. Ooooh... how about a current control valve so I could control the heat inside the box, maybe make it so I could cook at a lower temperature for longer and thus keep the souffle in its rising activation state longer to reach its full potential. Ahhh.... and maybe give it a fighter bay at the same time for my little lego airplanes so they would attack my siblings and get them off my back when I play on the computer. I mean, that's what that big space in the middle of it is for right?  

Well I never did give the thing a fighter bay. I'd get distracted, full of failure I'd retreat to catching turtles from the pond or read another Hardy Boys novel or something. So many things to keep me occupied, so many things to prevent the completion of this or that project of mine. But that germ of cooking was born.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Roasted Chicken and Carrots

Another kinda primal-ish recipe!

Marinated Chicken breasts, thighs, whatever (Sesame dressing, a touch of olive oil, probably 1/8th cup of apple cider vinegar, 2 cloves minced garlic, minced onion, whatever you have on hand basically)
Carrots and/or other veggies

Preheat oven to 400.
Place chicken and veggies in pan, toss in over with some of the marinade. Cook for 30-35 minutes until chicken is done and veggies are tender. Pull out, enjoy.

A note on marinades:
My dad (I know shocking right?) taught me a full proof delicious marinade for chicken when I was 12. Take a bottle of italian salad dressing and a diced onion, mix together, and pour over chicken. That's it.

On the more technical side, what makes a marinade a marinade are three notes. Your first note is the base of the marinade, which is something high in acidity such as beer, wine, yogurt and/or vinegar. Your second note should be an oil like olive oil or sesame oil in about a 1:2 ratio with your first note. The third and final note/s are the aromatics. If your goal is something more spicy then this is something like a couple of chipotle chilis. More subdued and typical is a diced onion. Maybe some oregano or cumin depending on what you want. Feel free to mix and match.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Primal Monday: Enchiladas and mashed cauliflower

Today is the first Primal Monday and quite likely the last. I looooove mexican food and enchiladas are at the top of my list of loves. I've half borrowed this recipe from the Eat This! blog but mostly its my own.

2 Marinated chicken breasts (Overnight w/ olive oil, apple cider vinegar, 1/2 bottle of sesame salad dressing, 2 cloves of garlic mashed, 1 chipotle chili)
1/2 red onion
1 1/4 cups left over salsa
Handful of small tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
Touch water

Preheat oven to 375.
Red onion, salsa, tomatoes, olive oil, oregano, paprika, salt pepper into blender and blend until smooth. Pour over chicken in skillet or baking dish. Cook for 45 minutes or until done. Serve with slice of avocado. Feel free to add whatever else you want or mix and match in the sauce, really up to your own tastes.

Mashed Cauliflower for 2
1/2 head cauliflower
2 tablespoons butter
1/2-3/4 cups whole milk
salt and pepper to taste
Handful of cheese

Boil cauliflower for 10 minutes in water until tender. Drain water. Put cauliflower in blender with 1/4 cup milk and blend until smooth. Pour back into pan and add remaining milk, butter, salt and pepper, and cheese and heat until everything is melted and delicious. This really does taste exactly like mashed potatoes, pretty amazing.

You can either serve separate or if you're like me, you put the cauliflower inside your enchilada roll.  Because I live with a carb junkie at the moment, I rolled up some cauliflower with chicken and some of the sauce in a tortilla from Trader Joes, topped with a bit of cheese and put that in the microwave for 20 seconds until just melted.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tuna Tapas!

Yes I know these are meant to be appetizers served with cervezas and company. I made them as a dinner for one after a stressful day at work, just as good.

4 Tablespoons Olive oil
1/2 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
Sea salt, to taste (or kosher)
8 1/2-inch baguette, cut into rounds (tortillas cut in half and folded works just as well, and easier)
2 plum tomatoes or 1 small tomato
4 ounces tuna
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

In a small saute pan over low, heat 3 tblspoons of the oil. Add the onion and cook slowly until golden brown, about 20 minutes. if the onion starts to stick or burn, add 1 tablespoon of water. Season with salt, then let cool to room temperature.

Toast the bread, then set aside.
Place a grater over a large bowl. Halve the tomatoes and rub the cut sides across the grater until all the flesh is grated. Discard the skins. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the tomato, mix, then season with salt. (A little bit of paprika does wonders too)
Spread the tomato pulp over the toasts. Place 1 tablespoon of the onions on each, then top with 1 tablespoon of the tuna flakes. Garnish each with chives, then drizzle with oil and season with salt.
Start to finish: 30 minutes
Servings: 4

Leftover turkey? No problem.

Best part of the holidays for me are the leftovers- specifically the parts other people throw away. Turkey bones, chicken bones, ham bones, duck bones, all of it is a culinary gold mine. With that in mind, here's what I made tonight.

1 drumstick with meat
1 cup chopped ham
1/2 med onion finely diced
1 cup celery chopped
1/2 cup mushrooms sliced
1 carrot chopped
2 medium red potatoes diced into 1 inch cubes
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 bay leaf
2 cloves minced garlic
5 oz (half a package) frozen spinach
5 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
Salt and Pepper to taste.

Saute onion with olive oil for 3-4 minutes or until soft and translucent. Toss in drumstick (and if you have any other bones, toss those in as well) leftover turkey meat, ham, celery, carrots, potatoes, bay leaf, garlic and frozen spinach. Cover with chicken broth and water (if you want more turkey taste use 4 cups of water instead of the chicken broth and add a 1 1/2 tsp of salt.) Bring to a boil for 2 minutes then reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour. After an hour heat butter in microwave over medium heat, when melted stir in flower til its a kind of paste. Then slowly add in milk stirring consistently. After this transfer this mixture to the soup. Remove bay leaf and bones, then enjoy.

Really the veggies/ body of the soup are fungible so feel free to mix and match at your leisure.

Pulled Pork

I've adapted this from a recipe from my good friend Erik Black. Credit really goes to him.

1 boston butt (really pork shoulder, but I like the sound of boston butt better) ~2 pounds
1/2 diced onion
1/3 cup apple vinneger
2 tblspoons olive oil
2 tblspoons worcheschire sauce.
2 tblespoons brown mustard
Brown sugar to cover.

Preheat oven to 250. Place the butt in either a roasting pan or cast iron skillit. Sprinkle salt and pepper on top. Rub on a thin coating of brown sugar over the butt. Mix the vinneger, olive oil, and brown mustard together and pour over butt. Toss in the onions. A good general rule for time is 2 hours for every butt pound. If ya want, toss it on the grill for 30 min to char before putting it in the oven. Be sure to save the juices though. Once pulled the pulled bits will easily (and deliciously) soak them up. The taste is a nice ballance between the tartness of a North Carolina pulled pork, and the sweeter bbq sauces you'll find at the store.

Easy all-purpose peanut sauce

I miss Indonesia. Nowhere else quite like it on earth with its sweet and savory sights and smells. One of the things I miss most are the peanut sauces you can get at any road side stall. Sate - meat on a stick - was and is one of my favorite foods on earth. Making it though can be a pain at times if you're trying to be authentic and/or you don't have much time. Fear not though, I have your quick 1 minute solution to great tasting peanut sauce.

2 tablespoons almond/peanut/cashew butter.
1 tablespoon thai chili sauce
1 tablespoon milk

Combine in a small dish, put in microwave for 30 seconds on defrost to heat, done.

Now depending on how you like it you can embellish it as well. Toss in a packet of ginger (leftover from takeout sushi of course) or maybe some tabasco sauce for heat or brown sugar for sweetness. Throw it on chicken for the grill, or in stir-fry to mix things up a bit.

Almond Crusted Salmon with Asparagus

I remain on a quest to compile a ton of easy, primal-ish recipes that are healthy, and delicious. Also, being able to make the whole thing in a cast iron is a plus. That said, today's foray was a perfect example of a successful execution of this culinary philosophy.

Makes 2 servings:

1 Wild Salmon filet (substitute other wild caught fish if ya want, never buy farm raised though)
8 Asparagus spears (green or white)
1 tblspoon brown sugar
1 tblspoon honey
1 tblspoon brown mustard
Handful of crushed almonds

Preheat oven to 375. If you want your asparagus softer, plop them into the microwave on high for 30-60 seconds. Mix brown sugar, honey, brown mustard, and crushed almonds together. Put filets and asparagus in a cast iron skillet and coat with mixture. Put into preheated oven and cook for 20-25 minutes depending on how done you want it. Take out, and enjoy.

Alternate sauce:
1 tblspoon brown sugar
1 tblespoon olive oil
1 tblespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tblespoon mustard

New Blog

It occurs to me that I've needed to start a dedicated food blog. Just a place where I can upload recipes, food thoughts, food porn, etc... This will be separate from GulliversProteanGimp which of course is where I'll continue to update with diet/nutritional/fitness/political rants that no one ever reads. So voila, here I go, enjoy the food porn.