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In my communications classes, we talked about scripts. We use scripts, or knowledge of certain situations, to know how to act. For example, the grocery store, the doctor’s office etc. But crowded public events, such as a farmer’s market, can be a wild card. The best you can do is to try and stay out of one another’s way.
And then there are scripts-within-scripts, like how to line up for something. Full disclosure, this a story about how I made a booboo in a line-up situation, the ultimate booboo: cutting in line.
Now it wasn’t intentional. It was a busy produce stall with merch laid out on tables in a U-shape, with the cashiers in the centre of the U, in the back of the stall. Produce in hand, I scoped out the formation of the line-up. There were the people paying, a couple of people behind them, a couple browsing the lettuce bins, and people just generally milling around on the periphery.
I didn’t know if the lettuce people were browsing lettuce while in line, or just browsing. So I just picked a spot behind the folk who looked definitely to be in line. Cue the woman burning holes in my back with her eyes. I stared back. She says nothing. I say nothing to her.
To the lettuce people, she directs a question, “Are you both in line?”
Lettuce Man replies, “Well we thought we were!” Jocular chuckles.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know,” I offer by way of apology.
I am by now next in line. Burning Eyes summons the courage to speak, “Well now that you do, you should go to the back of the line.”
It was the little skit for my benefit on proper line-up etiquette that burned my organic new potatoes. I completed my wrong by proceeding to the cashier. (Hey, as long as I’ve gone this far…) I knew I was in the wrong. I knew it as soon as Burning Eyes started shooting daggers at me. But no one was willing to simply and directly say, “Excuse me, line-up is over here…” I would have cheerfully corrected myself and waited my turn.
Cutting in line is just not done, I know, I know. But passive-aggressive behaviour in public places – that’s gotta stop, too.
Stew is wonderfully unfashionable. Most cookbooks don’t have a Table of Contents entry, let alone an index entry, for it. I looked through many of high-concept, glossy cookbooks on my shelf before settling on this recipe for Chulitna Moosemeat Stew from the Best of the Best From Alaska Cookbook. This cookbook, with its humble cerlox binding (much favoured by community and fundraiser cookbooks) was a birthday gift from my in-laws who went to Alaska last summer. And now I’ve cooked from it, thanks to the organizers of this month’s WCC. Phew.
It was the perfect day for stew: outside, the winds were blowing at about 60 km/hr and up, and it was pissing rain in the bargain. And inside, I was bored and stir-crazy because I just finished school and my job. Wandering aimlessly and waiting for 90210 to start, I needed some cooking-as-project to do. This recipe requires some prep work and almost 3 hours of cooking, so it is definitely not a throw together after work affair. But it’s deelish, and definitely worth the work and the wait.
The recipe comes from the Riversong Lodge in Alaska – they serve it to racers in the Idataski, a long-distance ski race. According to the cookbook, they can’t serve moosemeat to regular guests, so they make it with beef most of the time. Which is what I’ve done here because moose are scarce around Vancouver.
Chulitna Moosemeat Stew
6 strips of bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
2-3 lbs of moosemeat or beef, cut into bite-sized cubes
Salt and pepper
10 pearl onions, peeled
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups red wine
1 cup beef stock
3 tablespoons brandy
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and pressed with the flat of a knife
1-2 strips of fresh orange peel (I used the peel from a mandarin)
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried marjoram
1 medium onion, peeled and stuck with 3-4 whole cloves
1 lb mushrooms, sliced thick
4 large carrots, peeled, OR two handfuls of baby carrots, sliced thick
Starting about 3 to 3 1/2 hours before you want to eat, heat a large frying pan or saucepan over medium heat, and fry the bacon until it’s all brown and crispy. With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and place it in a large, oven-safe casserole dish. Do not drain the pan.
Sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper, and cook it in the pan until the cubes are nice and brown on all sides (do the meat in batches if you have to.) Remove the meat to the casserole dish, reserving the juices in the pan.
Add the small onions and potatoes to the pan, and cook them until they are just a little brown and softened. While doing this, preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Add the cooked onions and potatoes to the casserole dish.
If there are lots of pan juices left, add the flour to them and whisk to thicken. (In my case, the potatoes and onions soaked up most of the meat juices, so there was hardly any juice to add flour to.) When the flour and pan juices are bubbling (shouldn’t take long) pour in the red wine, beef broth and brandy. (Another substitution: I had no brandy, so I just dosed the mixture with a bit of apricot brandy…)
When the mixture thickens just a tad, add the garlic, orange peels, marjoram and thyme, and stir to combine.
Place the clove-studded onion in the center of the casserole dish, and pour the liquid over everything. (Be sure you’re using a big dish – 2.5 to 3 L, at least.)
Place a lid on the casserole dish and bake for about 2 1/2 hours. If you wish, stir every once in awhile and taste the delicious liquid. When there is about 45 minutes to go, add the sliced mushrooms and carrots, and cook them until the carrots are tender.
To serve, remove the clove-studded onion and discard. Ladle the stew into big bowls and serve with rice or buttered buns, and red, red wine. Serves 4.
Because this cooks for so long by its lil’ ol’ self, there’s plenty of time to whip up some dessert. So, because I had some apples sitting around in the fridge, I decided to make my favourite comfort food dessert: Apple Crisp. It can be baked in the oven while you’re eating the stew.
I made this for two, but you can multiply as needed.
For the apples, get:
3 medium apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
smidge of lemon juice (to keep the apples from turning brown)
1 tablespoon of cornstarch
3 tablespoons of sugar
Mix the ingredients together in a small casserole dish. It should fill up one-half to two-thirds of the dish.
For the topping get:
1/4 cup of butter, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
dash of cinnamon
Mix the ingredients together in a bowl until it’s a nice crumbly consistency and the butter is incorporated into the other ingredients.
Pour the topping mixture over the apples, and bake in the 325 degree oven for 45-60 minutes, or until golden brown on top and bubbly underneath.
Serve plain, or with vanilla ice cream.
I hate ice cream.
Watch for the Weekend Cookbook Challenge round-up at weekendcookbookchallenge.blogspot.com.
Today, I’m making another favourite soup recipe, Chickpea and Leek, this time from Jamie Oliver’s The Naked Chef cookbook. I believe this is the one that accompanied his first series, the one where he was seen cooking in a wee kitchen somewhere in London.
As usual, I’m not following the recipe slavishly – I like to do things my own way, doncha know. Even if I find some of Jamie Oliver’s directions a bit fussy, though, I like his moxie for suggesting them. And I like to imagine his lisp as he writes things like “The chickpeas go really creamy and the leeks go silky and sweet” and “I’m a bit of fresh herbs boy.” Hello, sailor.
Anyway, here’s my take on the recipe. You can also find the original on the Food Network site.
12 oz dried chickpeas, soaked overnight (I use canned chickpeas, a 14 oz can)
1 medium potato, peeled
5 medium leeks (or two or three monster-sized leeks)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
2 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
salt and pepper (fresh ground, natch)
3 cups of stock, chicken or veg
Parm cheese, grated
- Cover the potato with water in a saucepan and cook it until you can just about stick a fork through it. If you are using dried chickpeas, cook them with the potato until they are tender, and then drain.
- While the potato is cooking, slice the leeks. Start at the root end and work your way up. Discard the tough green leaves. If the leeks seem to have a bit of grit in them, rinse them before cooking. In a big stockpot or Dutch oven, warm the olive and butter over medium heat. Put the leeks and chopped garlic into the pot and just sort stir to coat them with the oil and butter. Cook until the leeks are, in Jamie’s words, “tender and sweet.”
- Add the chickpeas and potato to the pot. (I slightly underdid my potato, since it will continue to cook when I added the stock.) Add the stock. I added mine all at once, but Jamie adds only two-thirds now, and adds the rest later on, to better control the flavour and thickness of the soup. Bring the soup to just a boil, then turn the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper as you wish. Again, I used stock cubes, which already have a lot of salt in them. Sacrilege, I know. As for texture, you can leave it chunky, puree it (maybe with one of these) or do as I do, which is smooth the mix out with a potato masher. If you’ve left out a bit of the stock earler, add it now as you wish.
- To serve, grate some Parmesan into the soup and ladle into bowls. Jamie reccomends a drizzle of good olive oil but if you are clumsy and only own crappy supermarket brand stuff like me, I’d say skip the garnish and get right to the eatin’.
My husband doesn’t eat leeks so I get this all to myself.
I give you lentil soup: cheap, easy, filling. Perfect for dinner after a hard day’s rhetorical analysis and frolicking though snowdrifts.
The recipe is from one of those terrifically generic cookbooks with lots of pictures. Book packagers come up with these things in Australia and Germany and Singapore, and then sell the co-publishing rights all over the world, which is why you can always buy them on a bargain table at the bookstore or at office tower lobby book fairs for about $5.
Anyway, this book is called The Soup Bible and the recipe is curiously named Garlicky Lentil Soup, even if does call for two measly cloves of garlic. I’ve made it about a thousand times and it’s still good.
I cup red lentils
1 onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped fine
1 carrot, or a handful of baby carrots, chopped into little chunks
2 Tbsp olive oil
2-3 bay leaves
sprinkle of dried marjoram or oregano (marjoram is slightly sweeter than oregano)
6 cups of vegetable stock
2 Tbsp wine vinegar
salt and pepper to season
1. Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat, and stir in onions, garlic, carrots, and lentils. I like to add them in that order and stir fry them briefly.
2. Pour in the stock, and add the bay leaves and marjoram/oregano and bring to a boil.
3. When the soup is boiling, turn the heat down to low, cover, and simmer for an hour to an hour and a half. Stir every once in a while so the lentils don’t stick.
4. After the hour and a half is up, remove the bay leaves, and add the red wine vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Hint: If you are using stock cubes as I do, don’t add too much salt since they are high in sodium anyway.
It’s my claim-to-brush-with-fame of the day: the Soup Nazi served me soup today. Yes, the man from Seinfeld was in New Westminster today, serving up the soup at a new cafe on Columbia Street. I even got my own personal “No soup for you!” as I tried to correctly order a Chicken Mulligatawny Soup. (I’d look up the actor’s real name, but am writing in a rush as America’s Next Top Model is about to come on.) He was really very nice.
The Chicken Mulligatawny soup was not so great – I don’t think it’s supposed to be so thick and creamy. The husband – dressed in jeans and runners for that Seinfeldian vibe – went back for seconds from the Soup Nazi. The clam chowder was much better.
Something really delicious and simple you can make is Roasted Mushroom Pizza with Herbs and Cheese.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Get yourself a fine piece of flatbread (I happen to keep naan bread in the freezer) and thaw it out if need be. Wash, trim and slice 4 or 5 medium-size white mushrooms. Definitely use fresh mushrooms not canned or dried ones.
Take a handful of fresh herbs – oregano goes well with the mushrooms – and wash and chop roughly.
Arrange the mushrooms on the bread in a single layer; pile up the excess on top if need be, they will shrink while baking. Sprinkle the herbs generously over the mushrooms. Grab a fine block of hard Parmesan cheese – Parmigiano Reggiano is the best, but Pecorino is cheaper and also very fine – and grate it over the top of the whole concoction.
Slide the pizza on into the oven, and bake for 20 minutes until the mushrooms are soft and thecheese is crispy. The mushrooms smell amazing as they bake. Depending on what kind of bread you use, the “crust” should be crispy.
When you can’t take the anticipation anymore, remove from the oven, cut into pieces, and eat it too fast to take any pictures.
Serves one, multiply as necessary for hungry friends.
Sometimes it’s fun to see how long you can go without grocery shopping…
Canned Creation #1: Ambrosia
Yesterday we got a surprise invitation to a casual barbecue. The request to bring a side dish/salad got me into a cookbook-thumbing tizzy, as we had no fresh vegetables or fruit in the house to speak of (just a couple of lemons and limes for cocktail purposes). We do however, have a shelf of canned goods that included cans of coconut milk, mandarin oranges, pineapples, and mangoes. The canned mangos were bought a very long time ago for some purpose I cannot fathom. In fact, the mangoes were in the cupboard for a year at my old apartment, packed into the boxes that sat at my parents’ house for that great while, and unpacked here to sit some more.
At almost every family potluck of my childhood, my late aunt made ambrosia salad, and her coconut/mini marshmallow/fruit concoction was the only kind of salad I could bear to eat. I didn’t have any shredded coconut or cream on hand, but I did have coconut milk. None of my cookbooks (including The Joy of Cooking) said whether coconut milk would thicken if whipped, so there was only one way to find out – experiment. As it turns out, coconut milk will thicken a little if whipped for a good few minutes, although it will not coat beaters or form peaks like whipped cream. However, it will thicken a little more if chilled. I’m not sure if adding sugar has anything to do with that. Anyway, to make it salad-y, to the whipped coconut milk I stirred in a can each of pineapple chunks, mandarin orange slices, and the aforementioned mangoes. Unfortunately, the orange fruit and white marshmallows in white goo did not make the most appetizing looking thing to eat. I had the idea perhaps that I could dress it with with a few leaves of roughly chopped mint and a sprinkled of grated lemon peel, but eck, no. The salad went garnish-less, and we took it to the barbecue in hopes someone would chance it – it did taste good, after all – even I am not such an accomplished food stylist.
Donovan ate a few helpings, mostly out of pity. Regrettable food.
Canned Creation #2: Tuna Casserole
This recipe, my favourite tuna casserole, comes from Diane Clement’s Zest for Life cookbook.
Anyway, I’ve been feeling down in the dumps lately so I wanted to make this, my favourite comfort food that can be prepared with whatever tends to be laying around in the kitchen cupboards – ie can of tuna, can of mushroom soup, can of sliced mushrooms. Here ya go:
1 1/2 cups of uncooked macaroni
Can of mushroom soup
3/4 cup of milk
handful of fresh chopped dill (feel free to cut a few leaves from my herb garden, locals)
2 tablespoons cooking sherry
Salt n’ Pepper, to taste
1 – 2 hardboiled eggs, sliced or chopped
Can of sliced mushrooms
Can of tuna
3/4 cup of fresh bread crumbs
3 tablespoons of melted butter
1/4 cup fresh grated Parm cheese
Pinch of paprika
1. Boil a pot of water and cook macaroni. Drain, etc.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. In bowl, beat together the mushroom soup, milk, sherry, dill, and salt and pepper. Set aside.
4. In an ovenproof casserole dish (ie Corning Ware), pour in 1/3 of the pasta, layer in 1/2 of the tuna, mushrooms and eggs, pour the next 1/3 of the pasta and the other 1/2 of the tuna, mushrooms and eggs. Pour in the last 1/3 of the pasta, and pour over the whole works the mushroom-dill mixture.
5. For the topping, mix together the bread crumbs, melted butter, Parm cheese and paprika. Sprinkle it over top of the casserole.
6. Bake the whole shebang in the oven for about 30 minutes until it’s all golden and bubbly. Yum.
So hungover. Upon inspection this morning, it seems that I drank half a (party-sized) bottle of Gallo Chardonnay all by myself. At least, I think I was the only one drinking the white wine last night. The husband was pretty chipper this morning, having yet again dodged the wrath of the hangover gods even though he was mixing his drinks. I’m feeling better now than I was this morning, although I’d rather not attempt long walks or solid food just yet.
Between drinking all those glasses of wine and getting the food on the table for my favourite people, I didn’t get to eat very much, or have a proper chat with everybody. It’s terrible trying to catch up with people, only to have to run off to buzz more people in, greet them, get them going with drinks, keep the food coming, and find my wine glass. “Now where did I put my wine?”
But it’s fun because beforehand, I get to obsess over what fod to make, go shopping, play in the kitchen with all my toys, and then have everyone packed into the kitchen, living room and patio all having a good time. What I also like is that although some people have to be there every party whether you like them or not (yep, that crazy wife of his has been around for years; believe it or not she’s improved…) we also always seem to get a new set of friends coming in to keep things lively. It’s fun to see your old friends hit on your new friends.
Unfortunately, Levi was less than impressed with guests coming into the house. When Jnads and Melanie came, they were the first to arrive, and the dog still out, and he was all barky and growly. He’s been doing this sort of thing as we have gotten him settled in; my mom’s theory is that now the dog has a home of his own, he wants to protect it. He was very good at staying in the den by himself – didn’t bark or scratch on the door or get agitated at the noise levels. When the last few people were here at about 1 am, we opened the door to his room. He came out, saw the group standing around the kitchen, and seemed to be trying to figure out the best way to run to his safe place under the coffee table. After two attempts, he went for it, crawled under and let out this huge sigh of relief.
So everyone was gone by the sensible hour of 1 am; I didn’t even have to brandish the Michael Bolton CD kept for such occasions.
All the food dishes were empty, which I take as a good sign. Besides chips, gummi bears, and rice crackers, we served smoked salmon (made by my Dad), hummus, tzatziki and pita crisps (brushed with olive oil and baked in the oven), salsa and tortillas, cheese and crackers, asparagus wrapped in proscuitto, tomato-basil bruschetta, and plenty of non-crappy booze. The drink of the night seemed to be Crown and ginger. There’s still a whole case of beer left, and the other half of that chardonnay bottle. You guys left too early!
Let’s do it again soon.