Ok, I have no idea why I should be writing to you about these things, but when I look at pictures of these bright red, rock hard, beach bodies, I can’t help myself.
As an FYI, I have harbored a life-long dislike of seafood that I have recently fought against with the tenacity of a salty old sea captain. Check out my Fish Fears post for a full run down.
My trip to Maine last week resulted in a huge break through. Sign after sign advertised lobster rolls and lobster stew, steam lobsters and boiled. The sea I gazed upon was full of lobster pots with their innocuous buoys floating on the surface of the water. It was a complete set up.
This lady is loading lobsters into a wood fuel steamer- come now- my food loving soul could not fight the power any longer. The state of Maine demanded that I like lobster before I crossed the border back into New Hampshire- and gosh darn it the state got its way.
Sweet, rich, and sometimes chewy, Zack and I shared bits of those $6.50 a pound sea roaches with finger tips slicked in drawn butter. Until that moment, I never understood the phrase “sweet surrender”. How sweet it was though- how sweet it was.
So it turns out that this stuff is quasi poisonous.
When I bought it in Chinatown last week, the veggie guy told me it was called “Chinese Spinach”. With such pretty green and purple colors, I didn’t care that the description was mysteriously vague.
Rather than do the smart thing and look this vegetable up for cooking suggestions etc., I went to my go-to simple veggie prep.
For every cup or so of veg., put one tablespoon of sesame oil into a pan.
Let the oil get hot enough to make a nice sizzle when tested with a sprinkle of water.
Toss the veggies into the hot pan, and keep them moving around for a minute or so.
Pour a few tablespoons of soy sauce over the hot veg and continue to toss until they are tender.
I put a cover on harder vegetables like green beans letting the steam finish them off. ( No fire is needed under the pan)
You can grate garlic or ginger into this, but really it taste better without. You will not believe how good and simple this is.
OK, back to the poison part.
So in preparation for this post, I did my journalistic due diligence and looked up “Chinese Spinach” a.k.a. amaranth. As a recap, I cooked an ate this stuff last week. Here are a few notes from Wikipedia:
“can inhibit the absorption of calcium and zinc”
“should be eaten with caution by people with kidney disorders, gout, or rheumatoid arthritis”
“Reheating cooked greens is often discouraged, particularly for consumption by small children”
BUT IT WAS SO PRETTY.
So, I’m not dead. That’s good.
Try the sesame oil thing, you’ll be glad you did. PEACE OUT
Most of us have come to terms with the idea that white flour is the devil, but when it comes to baking, kicking the powder habit is tough. Baking from scratch requires a considerable amount of effort and anything less than optimal results can be a real disappointment.
Fear of failure is not an adequate excuse. (so I tell myself)
To get that monkey off your back, I suggest taking it one baked good at a time.
My first whole wheat attempt was with these chocolate chip cookies, and I’ve got to say that I like them more than the original.
There are many types of whole wheat flours out there, so I decided to dip my toe in the WW world with Trader Joe’s White Whole Wheat Flour.
This flour is milled from naturally occurring albino wheat. It’s like training wheels in the WW world because it has more nutrients than refined, white flour, but it doesn’t have the strong flavors and leavening issues associated with traditional red flours.
Because I’m sure it was tested by a team of chefs and fed to a whole bunch of focus groups, I used the cookie recipe on the side of the flour bag. You know what they say, “Never be afraid to mimic success.”
Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups flour 1 tsp salt 1 tsp baking soda 1 cup brown sugar 1 /2 granulated sugar 1 cup butter (softened) 1 tsp vanilla extract 2 eggs 1 12oz package semi sweet chocolate chips 1 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F Combine flour, salt and baking soda in a small bowl. Blend well and set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter adding brown and granulated sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat until creamy. Add flour mixture to the large bowl and blend well. Mix in chocolate and nuts. Drop round teaspoons of mixture onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for approximately 8-10 minutes. Makes 30 cookies
Gomen means sorry in Japanese (i.e. Gomen, I broke your eggbeater).
Somen rhymes with gomen.
On this very hot day (yesterday really), I would like to apologize for disappearing from the blogosphere by offering up Japanese somen noodles. They are cold, require very little time and almost zero effort—ordering drive thru is tougher.
For those unfamiliar with Japanese food, somen is a great gateway drug.
The most popular way to eat the thin, wheat based noodles is to dip them into a cold, savory soup. This is the first Japanese food I learned to cook and eat, and I still make it all the time.
Gomen, I was a negligent blogger, but I hope these noodles will make amends.
1 noodle bunch
¼ cup somen soup base
¼ cup water
1 green onion (chopped)
Boil noodles according to instructions on package.
Drain noodles, rinsing under cold water until all noodles are cold.
If you want really cold noodles, toss a few ice cubes into the bowl.
Mix somen soup base and water in a small bowel. (Each diner should have their own soup bowl)
Season your soup—some like to use wasabi or ginger, but I keep it simple with green onion.
Grab a bunch of noodles with your chopsticks and dump them in the soup
Fish some noodles from the bowl and eat. Be sure to slurp. Slurping shows appreciation to the chef.
*Somen and soup base can be found in the Japanese section of Asian food stores and in some supermarkets.
The world is getting smaller. You can now tweet 10,000 people what you ate for breakfast. But the world of electronic closeness seemed far away as Zack and I hiked through the remote villages of Ecuador’s Quilotoa Loop.
I’m talking: grazing cows, dirt roads, and long stretches of empty land. Cell phones didn’t work. Small flocks of sheep ate grass unattended by the side of the road. After miles of passing through farms and pine groves we came to a little town that consisted of: a school, a church, two farms and a few smaller dwellings. Imagine my surprise when I heard the tinny, staccato intro of that 1995 rap favorite, Gangsta’s Paradise by Coolio.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get down and dance like I was at the club. This was an opportunity for cultural exchange that I was not going to miss out on. I let my inhibitions go as five or six town townsfolk looked on. They were hoeing in the garden and I was dancing to Coolio. After a few beats they looked away from my spectacle and went back to work.
Check out the scene I stepped into.
Thanks to Zack for the camera work!
***I didn’t get into the true digital, digital get down until I was off camera***
So it seems globalization is alive and well even in the remote villages of Ecuador.
Italian, Chinese and Bagels were listed under the restaurant section of my Ecuador guide book.
That pissed me off.
But then I realized that the authors might be hinting at something.
It hurts me to say that Ecuadorian food was bad, but it’s the truth. Oily and rough around the edges, the food was bland and unappealing.
Meat was a big feature, but it was often difficult to identify. Maybe that’s a good thing.
This was a good breakfast of chicken soup and eggs, and it cost about $3.50, but soon after I became violently ill for 2 days. On the plus side, I lost 4 pounds! (Disclosure: getting sick is all part of the experience and it won’t stop me from eating local food.)
A walk in the park got me these two beauties from a couple of vendors. The first tastes better than it looks and the second looks better than it tastes.
Crunchy, roasted corn and white beans topped with tomato sauce and fish chunks may sound weird, but it didn’t taste so bad. The plantain chips made it seem kind of like nachos.
People were swarming this dessert cart when we showed up. I think this stuff is whipped sweetened condensed milk; it tasted like fake whipped cream. They did, however, let you pick your own toppings.
To be fair, there were some good things like my friend Rodolfo’s cebiche; I’ll be sharing that recipe with you later.
Breads and cakes from the omnipresent bakeries were fresh and tasty, and fruit and veg. were always available in the market.
Fresh, blended juices were very popular-- like this one in the on-the-go plastic bag.
I even had a gourmet dinner when we stayed at a $28 a night hacienda. It was chicken and leek stew with puff pastry and an apple crumble cake for dessert. Very good. Check out the hacienda kitchen.
I’m sorry if you’re disappointed about the food; I was too. Luckily this trip was about a lot more than eating. Keep checking in and I’ll fill you in on the rest. What do Ecuadorians eat