Ada Cole

Your Local Author.

Home Late from the Photoshoot Salad, or, Sesame Three-Way. June 11, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — adacole @ 7:05 am

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Oh man, kale.  Kale is the ‘it’ thing, a sort of highly nutritious green shoe leather.  I’ve made some oven fried kale chips, which are fantastic, but kind of a lot of work and of dubious healthfulness.  I pretty much resigned myself to being left out of Kale Club until I finally figured out how to make a raw kale dish that tasted great and didn’t require a chewing commitment reminiscent of cud.

Dan liked this so much he asked me to write down the recipe.  If your pantry habits are the exact same as mine, this takes about 5 minutes to assemble.  If not, probably a few extra, but still worth it.

Raw kale needs rough handling to make it edible.  Remove ribs, wash.  Tame by julienning it very thinly – roll or wad leaves into a tight bundle and cut into quarter inch strips – and put into a bowl.   Bruise it thoroughly by massaging in olive oil, sesame seed oil, and a pinch of salt until it turns dark and wilts to about half volume.  I use hot sesame oil.  If you don’t have this, use regular, but add some cayenne to the dressing.

In another dish, mix some tahini, lemon juice, and a dab of honey together.  Add a little bit of water so you can stir it, but not too much.  Depending on your social plans, add some garlic powder.  This will end up being very thick, but don’t worry, the kale will conquer it. 

Add some of the dressing to the bowl of kale, and massage together.  As with many things, it’s much easier to add more dressing if you have too little than take it out if you have too much, so do this in stages.  When the kale is dressed to your liking (taste it), top with some sesame seeds (optional).

Put into bowls.  I topped mine with matchsticks of cold, cooked bacon, chopped hard boiled egg, and fresh cracked pepper.  You don’t have to do the egg, but Dan and I both felt the smoky/salty bacon worked well with the bitter/sour/sweet dressing.

Other things that would probably taste good:

–          Curls of parmesan.

–          Pan toasted high-quality breadcrumbs.

–          Green onion or some other oniony thing.

–          Tuna salad, maybe.

Pantry notes:

Tahini – You know what’s bad for you?  Oxidative rancidity.  But luckily, sesame is resistant to this particular evil, so tahini keeps almost indefinitely.  When I buy a can, I blend it smooth with an immersion blender right in the can, and portion it according to my favorite hummus recipe into portion cups and keep in the fridge.  This cuts hummus-making time down to mere minutes.  This is also useful for doctoring store-bought hummus. And now, hopping on the kale trend.

Lemon juice – lemons are easier to juice if you microwave them for 10-15 seconds before proceeding.

Sesame seeds – my mom toasts these for me.  If you don’t have my mom, you can get them pre-toasted, or toast a big batch yourself in a dry pan and keep on the shelf.  Use whole, or lightly crush with a mortar and pestle for full flavor.

Bacon – I bake a pound of bacon at a time in a 400 degree oven, turning every 5-10 minutes until done.  Most people suggest baking directly on foil, but I put the bacon on a rack on a half sheet pan to drain away the fat as it cooks.  Don’t go all the way to ultra-crispy.  Allow to cool, and then keep in a bag in the fridge.  Food safety experts will probably tell you this will keep for 20 minutes, but I’ve found it will keep for a week, easy (that is, if you don’t eat it all).  You can have bacon on demand now!  Microwave for 15 seconds for hot bacon.  Pan fry to crisp up for breakfast – just needs a minute or two per side.  Chop cold for salads, devilled eggs, and everything that is better with a little bacon in it (which is everything). 

Hard boiled eggs – I like to do a handful of eggs on Sundays (while the bacon is in the oven) because this makes for very easy protein mid-week.  Older eggs are better for hard boiling (although your yolk won’t be centered, they will be easier to peel), so it’s a great way to finish off a dozen.  To avoid the green sulphur guck, bring cold water and eggs to a boil.  When big bubbles break the surface, let boil for a minute, and then pull the pan off the heat.  Let the eggs sit in the hot water for 10-12 minutes.  Chill.

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Asian Mom: An insight. August 2, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — adacole @ 6:26 am

You know I have an Asian mom, but unless you also have one, its hard to know what that really means.  Going into details on cultural pluralism would make for a fairly dry blog post, so I thought I would just share a little insight into my life, you know, just to give you the flavor.

My mother, off the boat now for over 30 years but still fresh, came to house-sit for us while we were in California.  Her first move was to get into a car accident in Olympia on her way up.  No one was hurt but her little truck was totalled.  This was heartbreaking for her as that was the first brand new car she ever bought on her own.  My incomparable MIL went to pick her up off the side of the road.

This was not without hiccups because my mother’s cell phone died midway through all the conversations required to locate her, make arrangements, etc.

Long story short, my MIL found herself stuffing her car with my mom and everything that was in my mom’s car.  Lest you picture an overnight bag and a pillow and maybe a small sack of things from the glovebox, the haul included a chop saw, lumber (“to build a shoe stand”), an 18″ diameter stainless steel bowl full of lettuce, and my mother’s travelling box of food (I can’t be trusted to have on hand obscure culinary ingredients like salt.)

I swear to you, my mom was trying to figure out a way to remove the bed liner from the truck and tie it to the roof of my MIL’s Audi when my MIL finally had to gently, but firmly, put her foot down.

So my vacation was full of calls to discuss the intricacies of navigating insurance and car rental, etc.  I don’t really mind this.  I have been doing it for years.  I did my mom’s taxes starting when I was eleven and the first time I saw red was when I was arguing with my mom’s mortgage broker when I was 17.

During one call, she lamented her new cell phone.  We accidentally used all of our upgrade slots for iPhones (one of them took a running leap off the couch and died in a splat on the pergo), so we had to get her one of those $10 prepaid phones and just put her SIM card into it.

“I don’t know.  I think something wrong with my new phone.” she says.

“Really?  Why’s that?” I think this is going to involve confusion about how to set the alarm or retrieve voicemail.  iPhone has spoiled me so I will be no help in this situation.

“Well, battery dies.  I have to charge it all the time.”

“Uhoh.  How long does it last on a charge?” I’m imagining having to go back to the dreaded At&T store.

“Oh…” She thinks for a long time.  “Seems like…less than a week!”  She is disgusted by this.

I laugh.  “A WEEK?  Is that why your phone died during the accident because you hadn’t charged it in a week?”

“Yes!  Don’t laugh.  My old phone lasted least ten days.”

“Well, why don’t you just plug your phone in every night before you go to bed.  Make a habit of it.”

“EVERY NIGHT?!”

I turn to Dan and relate this information to him.  He says, “Yeah, no iPhone for her.”

So with this and that, the week passes.  She gets upset with Enterprise car rental, she refuses the lowball offer from the insurance company.  She shops for new trucks.  You think that this would have pretty much occupied her week.

But no.

When I came home, I found that she had been very busy indeed.

She washed and folded everything in the house made of fabric.  This includes a backpack that she found in the garage.*  So now I have a laundry basket full of dog sweaters, toys, and other random scraps that have no home.

She dug a trench in the back yard, “for drainage.”

She moved a ton of soggy old rotting grass clippings from over here to… over there.

She filled a small divot in the yard where a tree had died.  “So you don’t lose your back.” she says.  “Lose my back?”  “Yeah, you step in it, go the wrong way, lose your back.  Don’t laugh.  Very dangerous.”  “I’m not sure that ‘lose your back’ is a phrase, that’s all.”  “Well, whatever.”  (This was followed by a prolonged argument between us about which plants were oregano and which plants were thyme.  There was a lot of leaf crushing and insisting.)

I had told her that my smallest dog seems to be a little bit squeaky now and again, and I found that an aspirin helps her so it might be a little bit of pain.  I gave her the bottle of 81mg aspirin with the instructions to give her one if it seemed like she needed it.  While I was gone, she decided that dog was fine and to give aspirin to a completely different dog.

Now I know what you’re thinking, laundry, yard work, pet care.  This is all pretty common stuff.  Here’s the kicker.

She also painted a room in our house.  At random, with absolutely no warning, and in a random color** of her own choosing.  In semi-gloss.   When I finally went in there and saw it (and flipped out a little), she said coolly, “I wondered when you’d notice.”

Lest I come off as ungrateful, please understand that one of the great joys in my life is enjoying all of these surprises wondering what she’ll come up with next.

*”Uh, my mom washed a backpack of yours…is that okay?” I whisper to Dan.  “Sure, it will be nice and clean for Goodwill.”  He says back.  My mom comes running.  “Goodwill?  You don’t want it?  Can I have it?”  Lest you think this is an exaggeration:  QED.

**it’s called “Asiago.”  I found the paint chip under the sink.

 

Am I doing this right? July 14, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — adacole @ 8:17 pm

Dante was the Original Gangster of Circles

 

64 words about Steven Hwang. March 27, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — adacole @ 3:23 am

64 words about my Uncle In-Sam (Steve) were published in the San Bernadino Sun on Thursday:

A man who was struck by a car in Ontario died of his injuries Wednesday, coroner’s officials said.

Steven Hwang, 70, of Ontario, was pronounced dead at 2 p.m. at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton, according to the San Bernardino County Coroner’s Department.

Hwang was struck while in a crosswalk at the corner of Philadelphia Street and Grove Avenue at 5:50 a.m. Tuesday.

Very straightforward, isn’t it?  A man died.  If you lived in California and read this in the newspaper, you might take note because you know right where Philadelphia Street is, or because your cousin works at that particular hospital.   There’s not a whole lot there, really, in terms of story – it’s a news bite.  You can hardly tell 70 years have passed since he was born in Seoul, Korea during a war.

For me, the story is contained in the four words: “pronounced dead at 2 p.m.”  After I called my mom Wednesday morning to let her know and help her prepare to fly down, my cousin sent me a text:

“Do you know if your mom wishes to see him?” it read in part, “We’ve just been asked if we should take him off of life support.”

Pronounced dead at 2 p.m. describes my uncle failing to return from his habitual morning walk.  My aunt calling my cousin at work, who then searches the internet for news and discovers, tragically, that an unidentified man was struck in a crosswalk that morning near their family home.  In that scant space is a rush to the hospital to make a heartbreaking identification.  Pronounced dead at 2 p.m. describes a family coming together and deciding how to decide if it was time to acknowledge that my uncle’s injuries were irreparable.  And then to decide who needed to say goodbye before they removed assistance and he lived his few final hours. 

Clearly, the news is not the story.  Isn’t that weird to think about?

Most of our daily news is inert, consisting of information that gives us something to talk about but cannot lead to any meaningful action.  – Neil Postman.

News plays a dangerous game with our instincts.  We are fundamentally compassionate – willing to give our food, money, time – even blood – to our fellow man.   But our survival requires that we are rewarded by, even addicted to, that which is novel.  It’s a dangerous pairing for the reason Postman posits: the state of being informed is meaningless.

As a reader and sometimes-writer, I believe very strongly in the human story.  It has only seven basic plots.  Or thirty-six. Or twenty. In my work and ruminations, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is actually only one story, just three words:

The human changes.

This is sometimes about love, but not always.  It takes a lifetime or a moment, and it alters the course of the world or it doesn’t.   We demand character development within every novel, tv show, or movie.  How did the people who went through this thing change?  How are they different because of what happened?

We are in the heyday of minute-by-minute updates, there are thousands of headlines produced every second.  Life is a constant conversation, a wave of snippets and blurbs.  Donne mused, “any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind”,  but is being informed the same as being involved

It’s raining headlines and our culture handles it poorly.  Out of genuine compassion, we have birthed tragedy-trendiness, where empathy quickly deflates into a well-meaning but sickening sanctimony.  When something terrible happens, we have to buy the teeshirt, and then tweet about it.

After my uncle passed, I reflected on that news story versus his life.  What is missing from those 64 words is the story of the people that are changed because of him.  He fathered four beautiful daughters, giving rise to generations.  His wife of 30+ years and his family are forever altered by his presence and sudden passing.  The person that struck him, and the people that struggled to save him – they are changed, too.

What is missing from those 64 words is the same thing missing from all of our news – the story of humans changing.  Those stories are the ones that have the power to connect – and change – us all. 

My Uncle was pronounced dead at 2 p.m on Wednesday.  Lives have been changed by his presence and his passing.   Rest in peace, Uncle In-Sam.

 

Gifts and Stocking Stuffers the No-Crap Way December 22, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — adacole @ 3:14 am

It seems like more and more people are trying to give good gifts that don’t end up in a landfill.   I think even now, it’s easy to be sucked into the retail frenzy.  To achieve a No-Crap Christmas, I try to give gifts that have at least three of these five characteristics:

personal – just for you.  So out there that no one else want it, almost.  These are my favorite gifts to recieve and include things like bees, chicken coop, fonts, and so on.  Could be something that you have specifically asked for, or relates to one of your unique interests.

special – Dan says, “people should get what they want – not what they need.”  So if you need a new transmission and want an iPad, i’ll get you the iPad.  Needs have a way of taking care of themselves, and when they are satisfied, you feel relief.  Fulfilling a want provides delight.

unique – I love to give some sense of exclusivity.  This is always on the list for items I get Dan.  Rare shoes from Japan via Korea, donuts I have to pay a courier to overnight, the last copy of an art book.

experiential – hopefully, the first three begin to migrate gifts away from being just any old thing, more clutter for Goodwill.  However, the best way to avoid this entirely is to give an experience.  Favorite experiences I’ve given and received:  trips, tickets to Cirque du Soliel, special pass to take a lap on Laguna Seca, lessons from a teacher or mentor, trips centered around a passion or interest.  Also filed under ‘experiential’ are transient things that can be enjoyed and discarded without filling your house:  special chocolate, imported beverages and sodas, gift certificates to specific restaurants.

quality – I know all the best things, and if you have specified an item you want, if it comes from me, it’ll be the best one available.  Sometimes it’s not possible to source something that hits any of the four points above.  Time or budget runs short or all those ideas you had during the summer mysteriously ran dry.  In this case, Dan and I often give tools or niceties based on items we have and enjoy.  Hard to go wrong with a Unicorn Pepper Mill.

The goal is to avoid anything from giant endcaps; things ordered from Amazon or other retailer’s ‘deep discount’ gift ideas list; gift cards at an everyday store, or worse, a store you don’t shop at; or random sweaters where the only element of personalization is that it’s roughly for your gender and close to your size.

It’s a bit late for this as I’m sure you have all your major gifts squared away, but there is one specter that looms:  Stocking Stuffers.  It’s very hard to get a stocking full of little items assembled without buying at least some crap. 

The first Christmas I was Mrs. Dan Cole, I noticed my MIL’s stocking was bare except for the few items she put in there herself.  Heartbreaking!  Since, I have gotten very good at stocking stuffers and I start on 12/26 for the following year.  I’ve since gotten feedback that my 30+ item stockings are just a little too much to bear and have scaled back quite a bit.  But for all you out there who need little items here is a long list of non-crap ideas based on last year’s stocking for my MIL as above.

Every year, I give 9V batteries and Super glue.  This serves as a reminder to loved ones to change the batteries in their smoke detectors.  Super glue always dries out before you can use it all, and it’s the best thing to reach for when you’ve cut your finger in the kitchen.  Also in this category is Sharpies.  You can never find a sharpie when you need one.  Buy a pack and put one in every stocking.

Samples are easy to pick up throughout the year and are fun.  In this case, a couple of breath mints in a few flavors. 

Hosiery Gloves are inexpensive at Nordstrom and handy for handling anything delicate, including artwork and photos.

Nightlight/Flashlight – anything that comes on when the power goes out is a win in my book.

Tide Pens really work.

Socks are easy and if you get nice ones, a Christmas staple.

Notepads, novelty popcorn, artsy post-it notes, fancy dryer cloths, travel Q-Tips, chapstick/lip balm, mini toothbrushes are all examples of the things that are easy and inexpensive to pick up when you are on the lookout throughout the year.

Sweater Stone is an easy find and very handy.  Any clever devices make good gifts because you often don’t think to pick them up for yourself.

I often pick up gift cards at stores where it is appropriate to give a small denomination and the recipient regularly shops.  I hate all gift cards and only give them in edge cases.  Given my MIL is often at Trader Joes, this card for $5 or $10 can buy a little treat without inconvenience.  Coffee cards, sandwich shop, also candidates.  Chevron is popular in our family.

If you know of a really nice shampoo or lotion, a travel size can be a good gift.  That’s not to say Pert Plus or Pantene, but the kind of things where a single bottle is a splurge.  In this case, these are fragrance free or naturally fragranced and fairly pricey as full sized.

My dream home has a pair of scissors, tweezers, fingernail clippers, a pad of paper, scotch tape, and a pen in every top drawer in every room.   All these items make good stocking stuffers because you can’t really have too many.  Tweezers can get pricey – when they are a main gift, you can expect to pay $25 or more – but Revlon makes a quality pair for around $5 – $7.

A small ornament, magnet, locket, keychain or fram nice photos in it is always popular.

If you’re stuffing the stocking of the dogless person who spends a lot of time watching your dogs, a lint roller is good penance.

Eyeglass repair kits are worth about $1 at the store, and are virtually priceless when you suddenly find you need one. 

I’ve also given packets of safety pins, lemon shaped soap, and sometimes I sneak in something really outrageous, like a necklace.

For Dan, I like to get fun things from the art store, like a Stainless Steel Sharpie, or rechargable batteries.  Dan’s brother loves rhinos, so it’s easy to pick up small rhino-themed items throughout the year.  My mom is pragmatic and so I give her toothpicks, a bar of Dr. Bronners soap, and her favorite flavor of suckers from Sees.

Finally, my favorite stocking stuffer I’ve ever received was a pair of all-stainless pull-apart kitchen scissors from Italy.

 

Potatoes and Proverbs November 15, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — adacole @ 8:59 am

photo by the ever adroit Dan Cole

Ronald Reagan popularized the proverb trust, but verify, which he generally presented as a translation of the Russian proverb doveryai, no proveryai.

Trust has no place in the kitchen, at least when it comes to potatoes.  Oven heat is sketchy to begin with, broilers alien and fickle.  Potatoes – well, have you ever bitten into a beautifully golden potato and hit a raw spot?  Potatoes seem to have some kind of benign resistance built in, some phantom ability to withstand oven heat until your featured protein has faded to cool and rubbery.

So when it comes to potatoes, avos’ da kak-nubud’ do dobra ne dovedut – ‘maybe’ and ‘somehow’ won’t make any good. After preparing potatoes as needed – washed, scrubbed, diced, sliced, what have you – throw them in the microwave, tossing every minute or so.  Use your instinct for the total time needed.  Try 5 minutes for a bowl of home fries, 8 minutes for 3 well-stabbed whole potatoes (turn instead of toss)

Using this method, you can quickly broil fingerlings as above, or churn out incredibly light, fluffy, divine baked potatoes in a surprisingly short amount of time.  Instead allowing them to show up late to a plate of (gag) cold eggs and gummy pancakes, you are the boss of home fries or hash browns and can make them toe the breakfast timeline.  Even the grill can be trusted with a potato that’s had a head start, and you won’t have to burn the outside to get there.

The best part – the microwave improves not just the timeline, but the outcome, particularly the texture.

The fingerlings above are organic Yukon Golds from Central Market.  I saw the sign for $3.49 and grabbed a bag.  It wasn’t until the checkout I found that was the per pound price which was roughly equivalent to actual Yukon gold.

Since industrial potatoes are absolutely bathed in carcinogens and neurotoxins, it’s important to get organic potatoes, and the price isn’t always exorbitant.  Farmers markets usually have reasonable prices, and a local potato has a heady mineraly flavor.

Given the investment, the Doberman in charge of after-shoot cleanup was out of luck.  Instead, I grated the leftovers this morning and tossed with rice flour, a touch of water, obliterated garlic, and a little organic fat-free milk powder.  Formed into patties and fried in schmaltz (add olive oil to raise the smoke point), they passed muster with the resident Hash Brown Aficionado.

I leave you with one last proverb: delo mastera boitsya. Work is afraid of a skilled worker, or, more plainly, work goes well when you know what you are doing (at least when it comes to potatoes).

 

Guilt and Intuition Stroganoff November 14, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — adacole @ 8:30 am

prodigious photography by the incomparable Dan Cole

Foreword.

This blog post that doesn’t want to be written.  I apologize in advance if it is terrible, but it just will not be written.  There are so many things I want to reference, but everything refuses to be found.  A Julia Child quote is ungooglable, and my copy of Julie & Julia is MIA.  Dan and I just tore the house apart looking for a specific issue of Food & Wine.  Here it is, finally, (it was under the mail), and I am going to continue, but I have to warn you, we’re off to a shaky start.

Missing Ingredients and Intuition.

I never share my recipes.  There are lots of reasons, some (most) of them largely selfish, but one of the more realistic reasons is that recipes are insufficient to communicate what people want to know.  That is to say, a recipe fails to answer the question, “How did you make this?”

I’m in the middle of reading Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman who asserts that medium constrains and defines message.  So from that perspective, I find the format of recipes to demean, even undermine, the fine act of cooking.  Recipes transfer information, certainly – ingredients, their quantities, and general preparation order and guidelines – but are missing critical dimensions.

Every dish requires something that usually remains unlisted – some emotional component – fearlessness, grim determination, even indifference.  (If this blog post wanted to be written, I’d quote Julia Child here, where she instructs,  the aspiring cook, mid-recipe, to hold positive thoughts in mind while completing a particular step.  Since I can’t find my book, that sad sentence stands in stead.)

When I first went after cooking, (and ‘went after’ is putting it mildly), I used to struggle with recipes.  I cook things over and over and over until they are perfected in general, but some things were an uphill battle from the start.  I’d face a disaster in the pan, rising panic, and read recipes out loud – one. word. at. a. time. through. gritted. teeth.  “What do you MEAN? What are you trying to tell me?!” I’d yell at Christopher Kimball’s picture.  Over time he went from looking professor-ish and trustworthy to downright sardonic.

I needed a conversation, and recipes only repeat themselves.

Despite my religious adherence to meticulously detailed instructions (down to the brand of vinegar or olive oil, the specific model of knife or potholder – I own measuring spoons for ‘pinch’, ‘dash’, and yes, ‘smidgen’.)  I’d fall flat much more than seemed fair.

And it was really because I was missing something that I’ve previously called translation v. interpretation, but today I feel like borrowing from New Orleans and calling it lagniappe. In that failure of a medium – the precise recipe – I mistakenly thought that success was in precision.  I barely looked at what I was cooking sometimes, so obsessed was I with watching the timer on the microwave count down 15 seconds per side while I blindly ignored until golden.

I read in Food & Wine (December 2010)  today an article called “How to Become an Intuitive Cook” which describes, in part, what I’m getting at:

…I began to hear from professional-chef friends that recipe addiction was uncool, that no self-respecting chef would admit to using cook books.  But there’s a lie tucked inside that attitude: Pro chefs…forget to mention that they’ve all cooked other chefs’ recipes thousands of times while coming up through the ranks…

[The author visits Thomas Keller, who refers to Ma Gastronomie]

The recipes were off-putting in their sheer Frenchness and frighteningly imprecise…”Poach 2 eggs for each person to be served, and prepare a jelly with pig’s feet and some veal and chicken bones.  In the bottom of a mold, arrange a little foie gras and the poached eggs…pour in the jelly, allow it to set, and serve chilled.” I broke into a cold sweat just thinking about all the unexplained techniques.

[Keller goes on to comment after a few tiny recipe examples]

“See, I love that!” Keller said.  “You have to have confidence to be able to do that.  That’s like two sentences! … That’s why this book was so beautiful to me; it allows you to be the chef.”

Guilt.

So that F&W article put me in the mood to make something from pure intuition, but the other emotional ingredient in tonight’s supper is guilt.  My interest in local food borders on the obsessive, and by ‘borders on’ I mean, ‘is a naturalized citizen of’.  The need to buy what I believe in led me to the purchase of a sixth of a cow.  After my rapture subsided I realized two things:

1. I had no idea how much ‘a sixth of a cow’ was.

2.  If it was bigger than a box of Kleenex, I had no place to put it.

So this led me not only to purchase about $200 worth of meat, but also $350 worth of chest freezer.  All the while, I blissfully ignored the fact that I rarely, if ever, cook with beef.

The cuts are too complicated, matching them up to recipes is exhausting.  Beef dishes usually make more than Dan and I are interested in eating, and beef is too expensive and risky to experiment with for a crowd.  (I never never wing it when it comes to serving friends.  Like a musician, I practice for my concerts.  I take your trust very seriously.)

After paying my brother-in-law for lawn mowing with beef:

“Please, take anything you want from the chest freezer.”

“How about this pot roast?”

That’s the only thing I know how to make. “Yes. Absolutely.  Take the pot roast.”  At least it will get eaten.

And begging my mom to take some:

“Why did you buy hamburger, mom?!  I have a ton in the freezer!”

“I forgot.”

“Well, take some when you go.”

“We’ll see.”

So I still own about 1/7th of a cow.  The guilt is overwhelming.  So much money, so much trouble, and I have it on good authority that this cow was loved.  I’ve been promising myself week after week that this Sunday I am absolutely going to lucky-dip into the freezer and cook whatever I pluck out.  Sunday after Sunday has passed.  I’ve been avoiding the garage, but time ticks on, and I refuse to allow that fine animal to become the world’s most expensive dog food.

So today, I took the plunge and dreamed up my own version of improvised Beef Stroganoff.  I cooked up something stamped CUBE STEAK while Dan read the definition aloud from his iPhone.  I used some techniques I learned from making scratch-made green bean casserole one Thanksgiving (great, but maybe not two hours of prep great).  I used my own chicken stock and schmaltz, and where any recipe would certainly fussily demand the noodles be cooked separately, I just threw everything together in my favorite cast iron pan.

It was a very satisfactory experience.

Afterword.

Some notes on food photography, mostly for Tobin.

  • Natural light and shallow depth of field.  If you don’t have natural light, you will need some fancy math that Dan will have to explain.
  • Shoot after the meal, on a full stomach.  It’s much less frustrating that way.  Before serving, do pick out the nicest looking bits and reserve for photos.
  • If, during your meal, your beautiful cream sauce separates in the pan while awaiting its closeup, reconstitute with some mayonnaise or whatever else is on hand.  It’s not dinner anymore.  Professional food stylists use things like Kitchen Bouquet, WD-40, and chemical steam.  I refuse.  All enhancements are edible, because no matter what you do, the Doberman will find it delicious.