Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Movin' on over...

to superpaleokids, b/c apparently I was not the first to think of "not quite paleo" and I feel kind of stupid using the same title as a guy who has been writing about his own paleo eating for several months longer than than I have. I find I am more specifically focused on the kid's nutrition anyway, so this should work out.

See you there!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

I can make anything my Krispy Kreme

and that's not good.  :-/
I have been eating really "clean" lately, yet I've been overeating and snacking and generally not doing too well with the whole fat loss regimen. Apparently I can make anything my Krispy Kreme. Blueberries? Bingo. Sweet potato? Yup. Almonds? Yeah, but actually not unless I'm eating with something like blueberries, so I guess that's only a sometimes binge.
Why does this have to suck so much? Oh yeah, right, because I spent the formative years of my metabolism fucking it up with highly refined carbs and lots of 'em.

I think I need to get back to basics and limit my diet to protein, fat, and very, very minimal fruit/veg. Or, perhaps even better, stick with non starchy veg that I don't like that much so I fill up on friggen green beans or spinach and avoid, y'know, diving into that bag of terra chips.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Lengua Tacos

Well, ok, not actually tacos, but the best taco filling from the taco bus that we so love and cherish. We've asked if they would just sell us the filling in a dish so we can still eat in the fabulous bus lot from time to time, but they wouldn't, so I set about figuring out how t make our own tongue recipe.

I never tried cooking tongue before now, it was pretty daunting to be honest since I didn't grow up eating it and had no idea what it was supposed to be like other than the taco bus stuff. (plus it looks pretty gnarly just sitting there at the store...) So I got a general idea from various internet searches describing tradition lengua recipes from Mexico and went from there. Most recipes suggest a crockpot but I prefer my enameled cast iron dutch oven and just threw in a chopped bell pepper, onion, garlic, cilantro, salt & pepper. Then set the whole raw tongue in with all of that and cover with water. Put it on the stove over high heat and get the water simmering, put lid on and let it sit over low-med heat to continue simmering while the oven preheats to 275 degrees.

When the oven is preheated put the pot in and leave it there for a few hours. After braising for some time the scent of cilantro and onions should force you to peek in at the concoction. If this is the first time you have tried this you may pull a horrified face at the oily greenish stew with an entire (enormous) tongue sitting in the middle of it, but fear not! Take the pot out of the oven and let it cool. (turn off the oven at this point as well...) When the tongue is cool, put it on a cutting board and brandish your favorite paring knife. Peel the rough outer layer of skin, and remove as much of the fairly icky fatty gristle bits from the base of the tongue as you wish. (I scrapped it all, the dogs had a feast.) Slice the pristine tender muscle meat that is left into several strips lengthwise, and then dice it by cutting the strips into bits.

Mix the diced tongue with some chopped sweet onion, cilantro, and the juice of a lime. (You could cut the lime into quarters and toss that in as well) Add enough stock or bone broth to make the whole thing fairly moist but not watery.  I had some good chicken stock that had been boiled down earlier in the day to almost a syrup, but whatever stock you have would be ok here, the other seasoning will take precedence. Taste to see if you need more salt or pepper, adjust if necessary, and voila!

James and the kids did eat this with corn tortillas, but I love it just as a cold salad in a dish. If you want to serve it hot just heat the meat and stock together before adding the cilantro, lime and onion.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Magnesium Bicarbonate Water

I've always had a bit a of trouble maintaining even minimal mineral levels, such that when I was a kid during the (very very hot) summers in southern Spain, I would habitually get to be in so much muscle pain that I would be relegated to a wheelchair or have to use a cane when my ankles inevitable gave out. Of course, nobody really knew what was causing this, but since it was always spurred by hot weather everyone assumed I just needed salt, and I was forced to drink cupfuls of horrible table salt infused tap water. I do continue to like and need salt on food (at least, I find it palatable at higher levels than the hubs, and felt less well overall when I cut it out on an experimental basis) so I keep it in our diet by using sea salt with most meals. I'd like to give Redmond's Real Salt a try, but we have to finish our current container of sea salt first. I really feel like it is a bad direction the way everyone is jumping on the anti salt bandwagon, looks a lot like low-fat did a couple of decades ago...

I have been wondering what other minerals I would do well to consume more of and in what quantities/ratios. Obviously calcium is important for pregnancy and nursing, which I have been doing for 5 years straight so far, and it is showing in my teeth. I eat canned whole sardines and oysters which have calcium, but maybe not enough? Calcium is not absorbed properly from many sources and it is crucial to have enough magnesium with it for it to be used in bones rather than scatter throughout the body haphazardly and leave deposits.

Anyway, since calcium and magnesium are the big ones I have the most immediate need of (as far as I know) I looked into supplements, but found that most magnesium tablets are not well absorbed and are pretty much a waste of money. There are some promising bone meal calcium pills that I might pick up, but they are a bit pricey, and quite frankly taking huge handfuls of supplements all the time gets old fast. The best bet for magnesium seems to be transdermal through magnesium oil for example, and also in water as magnesium bicarbonate which leads me (finally) to the main topic of this post.

I have the philosophy in general of "leave it alone" and avoid dicking with or otherwise interfering with natural processes, but if I can engineer the situation/intake/etc to more closely approximate the natural conditions my body evolved to handle without risking collateral damage I will go with it. For example, it is generally accepted that most people are pretty deficient in vitamin D, especially since heeding the advice to avoid sun exposure, etc. I feel very comfortable taking a much larger dose of vit. D than the label suggests b/c I am pretty sure it will help, and at least the amount I take will not harm me. (I'm not talking super megadoses, just 5000 iu or so, if I were to go significantly higher I would get a blood test to double check that my levels indicated the need) Likewise with magnesium, it isn't going to hurt you, eg, if you take too much your body will excrete it and you will remember not to take so much again! However if you are deficient you can have all kinds of problems that could really make you miserable.

Anyway, the theory is that there were much higher mineral levels in the soil (and thus water) back in paleo days, and people swear by the healing properties of ancient mineral baths or springs with uber high levels, so why not just make your own? It's hella cheaper than buying cases of water from California or traveling to the Baltics every year. Plus, you can be really specific as to the concentration and variety of minerals in the water. (and taste, btw) I have been using the "recipe" from affibers.org (I guess they are a group dedicated to atrial fibrillation sufferers, a muscle spasm of sorts btw, often helped by correcting your magnesium levels!) which is:

3 Tablespoons (45 ml) plain milk of magnesia, active ingredient should say magnesium hydroxide [Mg (OH)2] (I don't use Phillips brand but that is a standard that would work)

1 liter plain seltzer water (cases from cash 'n carry are pretty affordable) get it cold by leaving in the fridge overnight

open the seltzer w/out agitating, you want to keep as much fizz in as possible, and pour in the milk of magnesia. Close the bottle tightly and shake it up. let it sit fir a few minutes until the water looks clear and the sides may have caved in (no longer bubbly). If there is any residue at the bottom just shake it up again and let it sit, I've never had any residue remain after 2 shake ups. Keep it in the fridge and dole it out into whatever containers you prefer to drink/carry water in. The 1 liter seltzer bottle of concentrated magnesium bicarbonate will dilute into 12 liters of drinking water. Or, you can do as I do and just keep a measuring cup near the fridge to pour 1/3 cup of the concentrate into an empty 1 liter water bottle and fill it up the rest of the way from the fridge filter. Repeat as necessary, and make a new bottle of concentrate when you run out.

I really like the taste of our homemade mineral water, but if you don't you can add a squeeze of lemon (will alter the ph of the slightly basic water) or even try a minute bit of salt. (I'm interested in trying the Redmond's as I mentioned, but also black lava salt sounds interesting)

I have read that one way of checking if you need more magnesium is to check the ph of your urine, if it is 5 or lower you are in trouble, and theoretically drinking the magnesium bicarbonate water will lessen the acidity (which can cause calcium to leach from your bones, etc, etc...) and can be checked by subsequent urine tests. I'm not really worried about the ph level quite frankly b/c if it was highly acidic I would expect it to be lessened by the mineral water, and if it wasn't whats the harm in drinking it anyway? I think that any step you take in changing your diet or lifestyle should be predicated by research and consideration, so even if you don't buy in to all the snake oil sounding claims of a certain supplement or diet, is it what you are physically able to process in a healthy way? I mean, maybe fish oil (for example) will turn out not to be the magic nutrient it appears to be, but even so, are you harming yourself by eating fish several times a week? (don't start on the mercury levels, they are negligible in stuff like sardines...)

The greatest benefit I have found since starting the mineral water routine (well, if I'm honest, only benefit, other than enjoying the taste) has been a bit surprising. Baby Ben has had some symptoms of reflux in the past and recently was having extremely acidic pee, but I was at a loss as to anything I could do about it. I've already cut out all dairy and grains, almost all soy (save the small splash of soy sauce every few weeks to season pork) and legumes, most fruit, and I just don't eat much other than meat, fish, apples, blueberries and coconut, so what to do? This is exactly what happened with my older 2 at the same age as well, and I always figured it was something I was eating (it seemed to correlate with eating bell peppers with my middle child and tropical fruit with the oldest) and all I could do was comfort them  and change diapers quickly. I remember even getting burns on my nipples from breastfeeding through this with my middle child who seemed to have it the worst. Her breath smelled like vinegar it was so bad. The various pediatricians never had anything much to say, and I couldn't find anything else to try after massive food elimination. The older 2 grew out of it by age 1 or so, and it just seemed like a typical miserable few months of colic/teething/who knows why fussy baby.

Anyway, within hours of finishing a cup or two of the first batch, Ben was happy. No vinegar breath, the pee burns on his bottom cleared up the next day, and he's been great the past 2 weeks. Even the really very bad heat rash (or so we thought) under his neck fat (yes, he is adorably chubby...) disappeared. Keep in mind that it has been much hotter this week than it was when he had the razor burn looking rash, and I suspect it was the acid in his saliva that was soaking his chin and neck since he started teething. Mind you, he is still teething, so it's not all sunshine and rainbows over here, but the change was startling and remarkable. I wonder if my breastmilk was deficient in magnesium previously and that led him to have too low a ph of saliva and urine? I have even been feeling kind of shitty about my middle child breaking her elbow when she was just over a year old, if she had been getting optimally mineralized breastmilk would her bones have been stronger? I remind myself that all along I have been doing the best I knew how to, I didn't know what I didn't know about vitamin and mineral deficiencies a couple of years ago. This is going to be an ongoing process obviously.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Grilled Wild Salmon and Simple Scapes

We found wild sockeye salmon on sale recently that was already filleted and boned. How's that for fast food? I've had this fancy schmancy fish grilling accessory from Williams Sonoma for several years and never really used it, so I was quite excited to finally give it a work out. (luckily I have another fillet in the fridge for tonight! We have done more fish on the grill in the past month than in the previous 5 years on the east coast, woot west coast living!) We had some limes but no lemons, and I must admit I was a bit wary of using them as I usually do lemons, but good lord they were awesome. Somwhow the "lime-ness" was just perfect to offset the briny saltiness of the skin. mmm. right, right, anyway, the whole proposition takes hardly any time at all and even less effort. Get the grill pre-heating, you want it roaring hot for this one. Lay the fillet skin side down in your fish "cage" if you have one, (if not I bet you would get good results from tying the herbs and citrus on with kitchen twine, or just marinade the fish and leave them off for the actual grilling) and squeeze a halved lime over it. Drizzle with olive oil as well. Then slice the lime into pieces and lay them along the top of the fish. Strategically fling a few sprigs of rosemary and dill in between the pieces of lime, and sprinkle sea salt and black pepper over the whole mess. Close the cage, flip, and get some olive oil, salt & pepper on the skin as well. (if the scales have not been removed, do it yourself, it's well worth it!)

By now the grill should be plenty hot, just put the fish on, skin side down for a few minutes, flip it over when parts of the skin look crisp and browned. (it won't be uniform, but when a fair portion of the skin looks like this you can bet it will be damn good when it's done) I took it off when bits of the lime and herbs just barely began to char and the flesh came out to be perfectly done. I'm not sure exactly how many minutes I left it on each side, but going by appearance and smell did the trick. I will double check tonight when we do the second fillet.

The skin was crackling good, the flesh was perfectly briny with hints of herb, and the lime had had the perfect acidity and flavor for enhancing the fish as well as the scapes. (I never would have thought to squeeze a lime over warm scapes before last night, but I will in the future!) The scapes were the very last of the season, we won't be seeing more until next year sadly. I think I've been holding on to them too long in the fridge as well in my futile attempt to make them last longer into the summer. Some of the tips had dried and yellowed, to the point where they were a bit tough even after cooking which was disappointing. Anyway, it is probably for the best that they are seasonal as I found myself overeating a bit and not digesting as well as one might hope. Though it may have been a but windy here, (you might think I had gotten into some dairy or something!) it appears that none of what I have been eating bothers baby Ben! This is a huge breakthrough since it seems like so many things negatively affected him when I had a larger meal repertoire. He even had a record "happy playing by himself"  time this morning while I prepared an avocado and "cereal" (coconut milk with chopped almonds, macadamias & blueberries)  for Maggie & Sophia's breakfast. (Ben "playing by himself"=laying around cooing, gurgling, grabbing toes and so forth)

Right, so to prepare the scapes I got a large frying pan quite hot with a good wodge of olive oil in it, (maybe 1/3 cup?) and tossed in half a can of anchovies (They were leftover from a can I opened last week, frozen in a ziplock bag for convenience) and the whole mess of previously 'washed, dried, and cut into manageable pieces' scapes. Stir around for a minute so everything gets well coated in oil, the cover and walk away. Seriously, leave it alone. You will never achieve the rich deep brown of caramelized vegetable if you keep fiddling with things  while you cook! After a few minutes you may lift the lid (everything will suddenly by vibrant green) and give a stir so as to give other surfaces a chance to get to the bottom of the pan to brown. Put the lid back on, and leave it alone again. Do this a few times, and you will have delicious, browned crispy on the edges/creamy on the inside garlic scapes perfect for serving with a squeeze of lime and grilled fish, or really, any other protein of your choice. Note that I did not season the scapes other than the half can of anchovies, any additional salt would have been too much, and obviously they did not need extraneous garlic or other of my "usual" seasonings.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Fillipino style pork kababs

Had some pork (shoulder) to use over the weekend so threw it in a gallon ziplock bag (after cutting it into roughly 1 inch chunks) with a squirt of ketchup (tomato paste would be preferable) some lemon juice, soy sauce (really non paleo, no equivalent really, maybe sesame oil?) and a pinch of brown sugar and plenty of garlic. After a couple of days there was a fair bit of liquid in the bag which I tossed, and threaded the pork chunks onto my very cool skewers (flat metal, conducts heat, prevents meat slippage) and tossed on the preheated (high) grill. After frequent turning for 15-20 minutes we achieved perfect crispy fat w/cooked through seasoned pork. Nom. Nom. Nom.

Served w/leftover anchovy sauteed green beens, but I didn't feel like eating any. I ate a hot dog on the side, and the kids mostly ate hot dogs and green bean plus raw sliced peppers, but found they really really like the pork as well . (particularly the "crunchy" parts) James of course would have no part of it. How did I end up married to such a food wuss?! I should take that back I guess, the issue for him is really textures, not the conceptual origins of the food. Wish he would get over his fat/meat thing though!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Paleo "Cereal"

We usually eat eggs for breakfast around here, but sometimes you want a change, plus the kids always want to have unusual treats like Daddy eats (non-paleo dude who keeps crunchy oat o's in the cabinet for himself) so we gave this a try the other day and it was a huge hit.

Roughly chop a handful of raw almonds (well, as raw as you can get, which is getting more and more difficult what with all the regulation requiring pasteurization and irradiating food in warehouses) an equal or slightly smaller amount of roasted salted macadamias (the roasted salted flavor really enhances the other ingredients, it's like the savory flakes in a fruit cereal or something) and a handful of fresh blueberries. Pour coconut milk over just to cover (note: shake your container of milk well, this is not the time for oily chunky coconut goop), and there you go, coconut fruit nut crunch "cereal". I assume it would be equally good with some chopped strawberries but we don't have any to try it with, (The season was very bad for strawberries here, too much rain to pollinate or some such thing) and possibly frozen fruit as well. You might even find it good sans fruit if you are really watching the fructose.

I have not calculated out exactly what the per/bowl cost of this cereal is but it doesn't seem too exorbitant since we get the almonds and macadamias @ Costco and the coconut milk in a giant can from cash 'n carry, and pick the blueberries ourselves for $1.50/lb.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Coconut Milk Ice-Cream!

I like this ice-cream either as "plain" vanilla, though really vanilla is hardly plain to me! The sweet vanilla bean background to the coconut is pretty damn awesome. I use a splash of sugar free torani vanilla bean flavor syrup, but if you want to be more dogmatic you could use a real vanilla bean and some honey, or as  little sugar as you like.

The strawberry version is equally good. I used to use a thawed, mashed up bag of frozen trader joe's strawberries per 2 cans of coconut milk with 1 tbs torani syrup, but since we've moved and there are no trader joe's, but there are lots of wonderful local farms I just chop some fresh berries, however many we happen to have or tastes good. If you use enough berries there is no need for sweetener.

The blueberry binge from last week has luckily not set off any major problems or continued binging, but I have found lots of delicious new treats featuring our leftover bounty. I am going to freeze several pounds on a baking sheet and them keep them in the freezer in a ziplock bag for future use in icecream (just tossed in the mixer with the coconut milk like the strawberry version) or, possibly heated for a bit to make them warm and syrupy and put the mess over some nice cold vanilla coconut ice-cream. (mmmm) Have I mentioned how happy I am having the fab pesticide free blueberry farm so close? Have I? Maybe we'll go picking more tomorrow...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Best Crunchy Walnut Dill Pepper Chicken Salad

Take your container of chicken bits from the previous day's Costco rotisserie.

Add mayo (homemade preferably) about 1/3 cup for our needs, but do it to your taste.

A bit of Dijon mustard, maybe 2 tsp.

Several strips of bell pepper (I keep sliced raw peppers in a baggy in the veg drawer for snacking) diced small.

A couple of tbs of very finely diced onion. (We picked up some fab sweet walla wallas last week at a farm-stand!)

1 handful walnuts, kind of squeezed so as to break them up into smallish pieces. (I really like the added crunch and it ups the omega 3's!)

As much dill as you wish to add. (You could use other herbs if you prefer, basil or tarragon might be nice.)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Fish Crackling

Or, salmon skin crisps as they actually came out!

Place leftover salmon skin on non-stick foil, place in 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.

I think I did leave the tray in the oven just a little bit too long, the skin ended up just a bit darker and crunchier than I had hoped for, but I expect perfection next time at 5 minutes less. Still, the resulting fish crackers were very satisfying! (I've done this with chicken skin and the result was equally fantastic, better actually.)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Costco Rotisserie Chicken

A Costco rotisserie chicken for us usually entails the following:
1) lunch of mama salad plus 2 baby salads w/ chunks of dark meat and one breast or 1 leg per child & 1 breast for mama
2) Picking the meat off the chicken and saving the second breast for "he who prefers lean meat" to take to work with salad for lunch (This is usually done a couple of hours after lunch b/c whoever picks the chicken gets a lovely treat of munching on whatever skin wasn't finished at lunch and whatever bits are juicy and attractive)
3) Best Crunchy Walnut Dill Pepper Chicken Salad, recipe to follow.
4) Bone broth simmered down with the carcass and all the leftover gelatinous collagen bits, and the skin and fat that were not browned enough to be appetizing earlier, and a splash of vinegar.

I can't think of a better paleo "to-go" meal than this. We used to get take out when James was coming home from work late, but since going a bit stricter it has been quite difficult to find something that he can pick up. I usually do the Costco run in the morning and the kids and I have chicken for lunch but I will surely be requesting a dinner rotisserie pick up from now on!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Blueberry Binge

Who binges on blueberries? I do! That's who. We picked 11 pounds today of the most blueberry-ie tasting, hugest, awesome blueberries you can imagine. And then I ate most of them.

ok, ok, not really most of them, but a kind of obscene amount. And then I had an apple. And some Tuscan melon. (like a small cantaloupe) And banana.

Also ate some good protein, (eggs, kippers, pork) but really it was quite a fruity day. I am calling it a re-feed and forgetting about it.

We set up the dehydrator with apricots from our tree, and bing cherries from a few miles away, and then James pureed a bunch of apricots and blueberries and cherries with a tablespoon of local raw honey to make fruit leather. I am not interested in any of that so the higher sugar content per/ounce doesn't concern me greatly. I think James is going to take most of it to work for snacking, but I will let the kids have some too. I am looking forward to making some blueberry coconut ice-cream, and lots of other blueberry treasures, but will try hard to eat it in moderation. I expect the family to eat most of it so that shouldn't be terribly difficult.

ok, off to knit and watch Orient Express! (sooooo excited, love David Suchet!)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Beets in the Bag

Not sure how paleo modern beets are, but they are certainly tasty & beautiful! I have been prepping large batches of them lately by separating the greens and keeping the leaves that are in good shape, soaking in a big bowl, rinsing, spinning dry and stuffing into a gallon ziplock bag in the fridge until I am ready to cook them. I then wash the beets, and wrap up a few in a foil "bag" with no oil or seasoning or anything, and then stick in the grill whenever we next have some meat ready to go. I leave them in the hot grill for quite a while, perhaps 30-45 minutes? Turn the bags over once, and when cool (I just leave them to cool when I turn the grill off) I stick 'em in the fridge. There have been a couple of times where 1 bag leaked a bit so it might really be better to double the layer of foil, or stick them in another container.

When I have time (hah!) I can unwrap a packet of grill roasted beets and easily slip the skins off, chop roughly and drizzle with good extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice and rice wine vinegar for a very tasty and refreshing summer side dish.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Blueberry Picking

I feel so lucky to live in this place surrounded by small farms and fruit growers. Growing up in NY I longed to live on a farm with animals, though of course now I appreciate all the local museums and subways, and not having had to get up early and feed the chickens, and well everything. (I kind of miss the city sometimes...) Since getting back home isn't really an option, we have chosen a location (at least for a couple of years) that is providing us with fantastic opportunities for local foods. We are in the middle of various apple orchards, cherries, pastured chickens, pigs and cows, I could go on. The cost of living is pretty darn cheap as well, so I have been able to indulge in seriously good eating along paleo lines for the past year. It's been fantastic for the kids as well, they have a place to play outside! And we go fruit picking, and for picnics and nature walks, and all kinds of great stuff. I am concerned that when we leave here I  will have a hard time adjusting, but so be it. In the mean time we enjoy what we have. Life is fleeting, according to the guy with the last of the garlic scapes at market last week.  ;-)

Today we picked a few pounds of blueberries, and ate most of it. Will have to go back on the weekend! Maybe with daddy's help we can get enough to last a week?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

NY Strip Steaks on the Grill

For a long time I have been a big proponent of the ribeye as "perfect cut of steak" camp, but last week James picked up some NY strips because, well, he prefers lean steak, and it is an easier cut for him to trim. I know, sacrilege. At least I get his fat. Anyway, I usually give him grief over him being so difficult and picky, I think it particularly bothered me to see a perfectly good ribeye dissected and ruined, but this time, well, I have never eaten such fantastic NY strips! How is this possible? They were only choice, (the prime cut was twice as much) and I didn't do anything special with them, but wow, they were just perfect. I may have to switch camps for a while...

I prepped 2 steaks (roughly 16 oz each) by placing in a dish, drizzling with red wine vinegar, olive oil, sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and quite a bit of dried oregano. I sometimes add a touch of cumin, but not this time. It is sort of my quicky version of the adobo seasoning used on everything back home in spanish harlem. Somehow it just makes stuff good, really good, no matter what. Chicken? you bet, slather it on and roast or grill. Pork chops, hell yeah, sit 'em in it over night and grill over high heat for an awesome crust and knock your socks of smokey scent while you wait. Sweet potatoes cubed and roasted in this mixture? Heaven.

So anyway, I let it sit for 30 minutes or so (over night would have been better, in fact, when I have time on the weekend to prep for the next few days I often make a big ziplock bag full of whatever meat we will be eating and mix the seasoning/marinade  in the bag and just toss it in the meat drawer to take out as needed) and got the grill screaming hot. I like my steak pretty rare, but deeply seared, so that's how I cook them, though I just leave the second steak on the grill once I am done and turn the heat off so James can get his annoyingly overcooked meat.

Let the steaks sit without touching them for 2-3 minutes with the lid closed, then give a quarter turn so they  get those tasty perpendicular grill marks, put the lid back on for 3 minutes or so, the flip the meat over and repeat. If you want the meat more cooked turn the heat down (or if using charcoal/wood move to a cooler area of the grill) and leave the meat on until you like it.

Of course once you take the meat off the grill it needs to sit for 5 minutes, agonizing though it may be to wait! I use this time to pour a glass of wine (or a second one, because one doesn't like to grill empty handed, am I wrong?) and throw together sides if anyone really wants them. (chopped tomato, avocado, salad, etc...)

Then, sigh, succulent meat, crisped fat, salty crust, just as it should be.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Garlic Scapes

Is there any more intoxicating and wonderful seasonal food than garlic scapes? I can't think of any, at least not while I can smell and taste the creamy sweet garlic of the bud lightly sauteed in olive oil! I prepare these by snipping off the tough bit at the end and then chopping the scape into smaller sections (I didn't always do this, but having to eat one handed while nursing a baby has taught me to prepare ahead of time if possible) and putting them in a bag in the vegetable crisper. This way I can grab a handful to throw in a hot pan whenever the opportunity presents. (after searing a steak or pork chop for example) If I have some I like to throw in an an anchovy or 3 and a bit of the olive oil they are packed in. The anchovies disintegrate pretty well and just give a lovely savory-ness to the cooking oil. Put a lid on for a minute or 2 and then take it off and stir  everything well, and arrange artfully on a plate, allowing the curling tendrils to drape over each other in a gorgeous tangle. Drizzle the cooking oil from the pan on the scapes until you can't help but slurp up the glistening concoction.

Baggy of delight and promise!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Home Made Garlic & Dill Olive Oil Mayonaise

I finally did it. Do you know how many years I have been quietly ruminating over home made mayo? Well, a lot. Of course, once I got started I got a bit cocky and added too much oil right after everything initially emulsified, so I had to start over, and go on to screw it up again. yup. Third try was the charm apparently, or maybe it was that I stopped trying to use the Cuisinart and just got out a bowl and whisk, but for whatever reason it finally worked out, and was amazing.

I'd been a bit reluctant to make the mayo partially because it is such a hallowed food to me. I didn't want to mar the sacred creamy tangy taste that peps so many dry or tired foods. I have been known to go "off" foods for months at a time through some particular bad experience that ruins them for me. Throwing up a sandwich with pickles on sourdough when I was pregnant, for example, put me off both for almost a year. So you can see why I was concerned, how would I function without mayo or olive oil it it turned out horribly wrong? As a  preventative measure James suggested I use light olive oil which at least would have a chance of being masked by other flavors, unlike the strong extra virgin stuff I use for everything else.

So, I separated 2 gorgeous orange yolks from the morning eggs (we have 2 Rhode Island Red hens in the front yard) and dumped them in the food processor. I suggest skipping this step and jumping right to the whisk and bowl, but in case you want an exact play by play I will continue... Turn food processor on, begin drizzling 1 cup of light olive oil in through lid. Jump up and down and grin like idiot as it initially emulsifies and you see globs of creamy mayo substance accumulating on sides of container. Pour too much olive oil in too quickly, and see oily goopy liquid mess. Make frowny face. repeat.

Get out a clean bowl and an electric whisk and get 2 more egg yolks into the bowl, start beating, add a teaspoon of the oily goopy liquid from the food processor. When thoroughly incorporated, add another teaspoonful. Continue in this manner, carefully doling out the contents of the food processor into the bowl, never adding more until the previous bit is completely integrated, until....voila! You have real mayonnaise!!! Add a pinch of sea salt and the juice of 2 lemons, and there you go. I nervously tasted a finger tip-full, and found it faintly olive-y tasting, but not unpleasantly so. Then add half a grated clove of garlic, and as much torn dill as you please, and I dare you not to close your eyes and hum as you lick the whisk.

I am quite confident in the freshness and healthiness of our egg yolks, but if I was not, or if I were pregnant, I might quick pasteurize the eggs by dipping in simmering water for 30 seconds or so.

I am planning lots of experiments involving various fats (bacon drippings, chicken or duck renderings, etc) and acids, and I guess if any are not really delicious I can thrown in garlic and dill so no one can tell.  ;-)

One thing I found a bit odd was how thick/stiff our mayo got. I wonder if that is normal or if it is because I ended up with lots of extra yolks by the time I got done. Anyway, the thickness sure doesn't bother anyone here!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Whole Grilled Salmon

It is salmon season here in the great northwest! Salmon is my favorite fish, followed closely by tuna, so when the opportunity to buy a whole (smallish) salmon for $4.99/lb presented itself I jumped on it. (really, I practically tripped over the shopping cart lunging for it...)

oh. my. god. What a fantastic grilling opportunity. Others may be grilling hot dogs and burgers, but our Independence Day celebration was a bit different this year! I recently watched an episode of BBQ U (Steven Raichlen, of Primal Grill awesomeness) in which he grilled a whole salmon for a wedding feast. There was an aioli dipping sauce which inspired me to finally get around to making my own mayo as well. (It was a success, but should be it's own post I think) So following Raichlen's demonstration, I cut out a cardboard template (really just a narrow rectangle, 1/2 of the bottom of a bottled water box) and wrapped it in aluminum foil. I scaled the skin with a serrated knife by running it against them opposite the direction they lay. It was a messy proposition, luckily I was working on the deck, but I do wish it was done when the rest of the processing happened behind the scenes. At this point I got the grill going, lit all 4 burners on high and closed the top.

After placing the salmon on the "plank" (I'm sure you could use a real plank of wood here, just make sure it hasn't been treated with any nasty chemicals, and soak it in water for an hour or so before grilling) I made slits in the top half and seasoned the fish inside and out with sea salt and black pepper. I drizzled olive oil over the whole thing then and caressed it into the cracks and massaged it over the skin. I couldn't remember which herbs Raichlen used, so I placed dill and rosemary inside the fish and lemon slices in the slits and inside the fish. I thought onion and garlic slices would probably be traditional and tasty, but I wanted pure sweet coral salmon flesh with just the hint of lemon and herb without distraction.

Turned off the center 2 burners and placed salmon on plank on the grill, closed the cover and let cook in the indirect heat for 35 minutes. 35 minutes of anticipation, inhaling the smell of roasting lemon and herbs, and imagining the crisping salty sticky fatty skin shortly to be in my mouth. Thankfully, (though I do think the fat in salmon has such health benefits I rather do wish my family would partake) nobody else wanted any, so I delicately peeled away the skin on the top half, and found it just as I had imagined.

I think all this food fantasizing and imagery has some basis in childhood issues. Perhaps more navel gazing will sort it out eventually. I find that even when I am making healthy choices I over romanticize food, it really shouldn't be such an event. At least not all the time. I am torn between the desire to eat to live (not live to eat!) using food as fuel only, and the real pleasure I get from preparing delicious and inventive foods. I think cooking in all it's forms is a major way that I care for people, food has always been so important to me, makes me feel better, comforts, etc, etc, that part of me feels it must be this way for others, so I can show love for other people by giving them delicious food. I am aware of how awful this is because when I was a child I was under the distinct impression that it would be hurtful or insulting to not overeat a "special" dish that relatives or friends had prepared and I certainly never want my own children to feel pressure to eat when they are not hungry! For this reason I am also hesitant to make certain foods even as special unusual treats for fear that my children will associate them with mommy making something special and thus good/important to eat. I don't want them to have any emotional attachment to cookies, the physical reaction to sweet will certainly be enough. I try hard to focus my creative efforts on cooking tasty, particularly healthy foods that I hope will become lifelong favorites for my family both because of the taste, but also the experience  of "mom's home cooking" that gets so many addicted to high carb comfort food.

Back to my salmon! The flesh was cooked perfectly to my taste, almost raw close to the bone, perfectly tender and opaque the rest of the way through. The sea salt and lemon along with the herbs went perfectly with the sweet sea taste. It was a hit with James but Sophia (4) and Maggie (2) were not such fans. I was surprised because generally they have really advanced pallets, but so be it. They like canned salmon plenty! We set aside 5 more servings of just the salmon for the next couple of days (so really it worked out to be a fairly economical meal) and I made quite a mess of my face and hands sucking the fat off the bones and under the fins. I was really too full to finish the skin from the bottom half (plus it wasn't crispy) so I spread it out on the foil plank and wrapped the whole thing in saran. I am going to put it in the oven tomorrow to crisp up so I can have salmon crackling! (omg, swoon!) I also mushed up all the bones and fins into a small pot and covered with water, added the herbs and lemon slices and a splash of white wine vinegar and simmered for a couple of hours to make an absolutely delicious broth, which is in the fridge waiting for me to reheat, add gelatin, and make a sort of aspic. I am smiling giddily thinking about this... You might think the smell of fish bones simmering would be perhaps slightly unpleasant, but it was not. Even James thought it was lovely with the dill and lemon making the house really smell wonderful.

 We ate leftover cold grilled zuchini and yellow squash, leftover lemon/olive oil beets (also grilled, will make a separate post) and some sliced cherry tomatoes in olive oil and white wine vinegar.Can you tell we have been grilling quite a lot lately?

The real star on the table (besides the salmon of course!) was the freshly made mayo from our own chicken's yolks and light olive oil. I used lemon juice for the acid, and a bit of lemon zest and garlic. I think there was a bit of olive oil taste, but it was severely overpowered by the garlic so it was not even something I could experiment with this time. I will make another batch soon as we are almost out of this one already and leave it garlic-less to see how we like the olive oil taste. This is a huge breakthrough for me b/c I have been totally daunted by the idea of making my own mayo for years, even though I was familiar with the process. I loooooooove trader joe's organic mayo and it is a huge staple for me, but I hate that it is made with soybean oil, if I can get in the habit of making our own mayo with olive oil or chicken fat (oooh, duck fat perchance?) , etc, I will be very happy.

ok, ok, more on mayo next time!