Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Sunday, November 28, 2010
The distance between Noel and Doris's rural home in Machipongo and any stores has prevented me from ever going shopping the day after Thanksgiving. Instead, our Black Friday tradition is to go out back and pick some kiwis. Each year the number of kiwis grows and the vines get more tangled. Of course, the most beautiful kiwis are always the ones just out of reach. Even with a ladder, picking all of the kiwis is impossible, but that doesn't stop us from trying. The egg cartons of kiwis that we pack to take home don't make a dent in the hundreds of kiwis in plastic grocery sacks in the gazebo.
Packed and ready to head home in my carry-on bag. They're still pretty unripe, but I can't wait for our pretty green slices of Virginia!
Friday, November 26, 2010
Families gather across America each year on the fourth Thursday of November. Sweet potatoes or mashed potatoes, turkey or tofurkey, every family does it differently. I think it's safe to say that my family does it differentlyer than most.
I don't know how to begin to explain the origins my favorite family tradition, so I won't attempt to justify it. All I know is that for the past few years, several days before our Thanksgiving trip to Virginia, my mom stops by her favorite Asian grocery store. We wrap the sweet and savory treats in wrapping paper and load them into our carry-ons.
After stuffing ourselves with the classic Thanksgiving feast, no one has room for the pumpkin or apple pies that are waiting in the kitchen, but when a bag of colorful packages is passed around, everyone takes one. It's not Thanksgiving without trying some of everything: the seaweed, the pocky, the cracker nuts, the dried mango. I wouldn't have it any other way.
You may remember how much I love pocky. It's a little ridiculous. This time we had original, Men's pocky, caramel milk, and some very fancy patterned one that was excellent.
Dried fruit chips. These are actually not really very good, honestly.
Hi-Chews are amazing. I love the mango flavor most, but all of them are great.
Dried mango. Mmm.
I'm honestly perplexed as to why cracker nuts are not more common. They seem like the obvious solution to America's obsession with addictive snack foods. Over the peanut base is a coating made of a cracker and a topping of something powdery, salty, and delicious. When I'm a rich old man who watches football and drinks beer all day long, I will never be more than two feet from a bowl of hot and spicy cracker nuts.
Not pictured: lots of seaweed snacks and many intriguing types of ramen.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Coral Cale? Koral Kale?
I'm off to Machipongo in twelve hours! Tonight, I will dream of stuffing and sweet potatoes and gravy and fresh baked bread and warm chocolate chip cookies. I'll be back soon with 10 pounds on my hips and hundreds of pictures on my camera.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Monday, November 22, 2010
I ate lunch in the Delphi Elementary cafeteria on Friday, and while it wasn't the worst hamburger I've ever had, it made me infinitely thankful for the food that I eat on school days at lunch. Today, when I came home to find a half of a grapefruit from the high school's orchestra fundraiser waiting on the counter, I tossed out the boring peanut butter and apple sandwich I had been planning on making. Instead, I concocted a refreshing salad with crispy lettuce and juicy pomegranate seeds tossed with nothing more than olive oil, salt, and pepper. The grapefruit juice dripping from each lettuce leaf brightened the grey day.
In the past few days, we've been eating roughly one pomegranate per day for two people. I wish pomegranate season would continue forever.
Lamb with garlic, parsley, shallot, cumin, and cracker crumbs.
I suggested that perhaps we ought to be vegetarian most of the time; we would eat meat only on weekends. Incredulous, she replied, "What would we do on the weekdays?" Silly me! I guess I didn't think that part through before speaking.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Jeni's is to ice cream as wine is to grape juice. While wine is fundamentally the same as grape juice, just liquid derived from a grape, no one grabs a plastic bottle of wine from the vending machine for lunch or pours a tumbler of wine for a toddler. No grape juice connoisseurs evaluate a poetic description of the flavors before buying a bottle and no one holds expensive events centered around exploring grape juice's scents and tastes. In much the same way, Jeni's, in a simple world, is ice cream, yet it is anything but. Jeni's is not to be piled onto a warm slice of apple pie, dolloped into root beer, or doused in Hershey's syrup. I find that to be best appreciated, Jeni's should be served in small quantities: one spoonful in a tiny bowl or a frozen bite of ice cream licked off of a single spoon.
The strange thing about my relationship with Jeni's ice cream is that despite the number of pints of Jeni's that I have helped to consume, I have never actually been inside one of their stores. I know the ice cream only from afar because of the pints that my mom has tucked inside a cooler and driven home from Columbus, Ohio over the years. As my sister and I treasured each spoonful of these eagerly-awaited treats, my love for Jeni's grew into a passion.
This past weekend, my mom came home with a special load of Jeni's. Instead of a boring cooler filled with ice packs, she came bearing a styrofoam cooler with a large chunk of dry ice that cooled a total of six pints of ice cream. This fortune was stored away in the freezer for a party of my mom's, but even though I missed the get-together, I still managed to try all of each of the six amazing flavors. After our Munster debate meet, I brought two friends over for a brief ice cream taste test. While most teenagers would be watching tv, Shriya, Alex and I were sampling one flavor at a time. And I must say, they were the two best people with whom I could share my treasure, never complaining or making fun of my mild obsession.
Of these six specific flavors, the only one that I had already tried was Gravel Road, a delicious blend of caramel, salt, and almond flavors. The next was Askinosie Dark Milk Chocolate. I was a little worried that for a dark chocolate lover like me, this would be too sweet and creamy, but that wasn't the case. The ice cream was perfectly creamy and smooth, but it was mixed in with real dark chocolate that balanced out the sweetness. The Grapefruit Hibiscus sorbet was the fan favorite, although it wasn't my personal favorite. It was the only non-dairy one in this batch. That's fine with me, because my favorites are the rich, decadent ones, but sometimes a lighter sorbet is perfect. According to Alex, eating the sorbet was exactly like eating a frozen grapefruit.
Below is the Star Anise with Candied Fennel, one of the more gentle flavors that we chose, topped with extra candied fennel seeds for crunch and color. I love the idea of licorice ice cream. It makes so much sense, yet I've never seen it done before. My two favorites were the most surprising flavors of the batch in that if you heard their names, ice cream wouldn't pop into your head. The first is Olive Oil with Sea Salted Pepitas. Olive oil ice cream is apparently unpalatable to some people, but it makes me feel like a Greek goddess being fed spoonfuls decadent, divine ice cream. The second is Oakvale Young Gouda with Vodka-Plumped Cranberries. Gouda, one of my favorite cheeses, is a gentle flavor that blends in to the cream at first, then develops as a flavor of its own. The cranberries manage to be juicy, not dry, and extremely delicious.
Six flavors, all uniquely delicious. And because my descriptions can never match the real thing, look at the seasonal and signature flavors on Jeni's website. Cocoa Zin, anyone? Blackstrap Praline? I can't wait for Mama Mia's next delivery of hand-picked Jeni's flavors.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Things it's nice to return home to:
A small, friendly dog
A guest (parent of said dog)
Three bubbling pots of applesauce
The goal of this applesauce adventure was two fold: using a large cardboard box of apples from the Ericksons and utilizing my mother's amazing new kitchen tool. What is it? Yeah... that's a good question. Basically, its some sort of sauce mill shaped like a giant triangular sieve held up by a stand with a wooden pestle to squish things against the holes. I have no idea what to call it. Anyways, you pour in your sauce and squish it against the sides to smash it up. Words are failing me here. Let's see it in action.
Pretty ingenious, eh?
My very excellent mother cooked up two different kinds: a deliciously sweet cinnamon sauce and a tart one pink with black currants.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Mama Mia was appointed to the highly esteemed position of Swiss Chard Eater while some neighbors are away on their sabbatical. This weekend we walked over to their house to harvest some of the delicious leaves that are hiding under a cloth contraption that keeps away the cold.
The leaves are just gorgeous in the background.
Cooked and ready to eat with lemon and nutmeg.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Friday, November 12, 2010
Thursday, November 11, 2010
With my mom out of town this past weekend, I had to figure out my own meals, yet between work on Friday, a debate tournament all day Saturday, a concert on Sunday, and sleeping at my friend's house, I didn't end up cooking a single meal for myself. The one thing I did make was a dessert for the reception of our Wabash Valley concert.
I needed something quick because of my busy weekend. I knew that we had Rice Krispies at home, which is unusual, so I picked up some marshmallows at Payless. I wanted to try a recipe from Smitten Kitchen for salted brown butter rice crispy treats to do something a little different. In the end, I didn't feel that they were that different from normal rice crispies. They were definitely delicious, but I didn't think that the brown butter was particularily distinctive. My guess is that I didn't let it brown enough before turning off the burner, but I was very nervous of burning it accidentally. Either way, they were a big hit.
Scraping up the last bits of melted chocolate
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
In the car on my way to Indy this afternoon, I started polishing the grapes on the wooden tray that sat between the driver's and passenger's seats. I had never before noticed the incredible beauty in a grape. I think that I want closeups of red grapes as my wallpaper in my bedroom.