Tag Archives: kitchen

More like Spam or more like Alpo?

AlpoI’m sorry I’ve been away. I’ve been agonizing over my work situation, and also went to visit the nuns (seven hours each way on the bus). But I had time to long after something to buy.

A story: Someone I knew admitted to having eaten Alpo. The dog food reputed to be the meat of last resort of impoverished senior citizens. It was pretty good, he said.

He did not specify the circumstances, whether poverty or curiosity, that had led to that ingestion, but he sparked my curiosity.

SpamYou see, like everyone who has some connection to Hawaii’s local culture, I love Spam, which too is canned meat. Spam is excellent sliced, fried, and served on fluffy, sticky steamed short-grain rice like Kokuho Rose brand. Serve in stir-fry dishes with vegetables, cut it into matchsticks and put on top of your ramen, and of course make sandwiches.

KokuhoRoseRiceSpam is an excellent ingredient in omusubi (rice balls) or sushi, replacing the traditional pickled plums in the former and the boiled shrimp in the latter. This video shows the simplest way of making this homestyle comfort food. Did you know you can make delicious sushi on the cheap? Indeed you can!

Being a poor graduate student, I looked for ways to eat more cheaply, since I subsisted on sandwiches from the convenience store. So I decided to try Alpo.

When I opened up the can, I was surprised at how good it smelled. I saw bits of offal in it, veins and such, but being an eater of such delicacies as fish eyeballs and chicken hearts, I had no hesitation at its looks.

I dug into the can. Oh, the horror! The horror! It tasted indescribably nasty; the bits of offal were rubbery to the point of being unchewable; and the heavy grease had no flavor, being more appropriate to a tallow candle or lubricating a garden fence hinge. Promptly I threw the can away. The word “animadversion” was made for such a situation.

CannedBeefMeatSo I was intrigued when I ran across “Canned Beef Meat” on the Lehman’s website. “Be prepared to cook hot, wholesome meals in an emergency, or simply stock your pantry for your family’s everyday dining.” “Enjoy in all your favorite recipes: stews, soups, casseroles, ethnic dishes and more.” Ethnic dishes? Hmm.

The sole ingredients are beef and salt. I can’t help wondering: Is it more like Spam or more like Alpo? At least it’s made for human consumption, but…

I would love to find out. But at $10.95 plus shipping for a 28-ounce can, it is too expensive to fulfill my curiosity. Maybe you can try it and let me know.

The flesh pots of the Amazon

Hello again! I hope you had a fine Christmas and will have an excellent 2014.

Now we have finished the feast and afterfeast of the Nativity of God in the Flesh. You have read my mentions before of the eating guidelines in my religion. So for the forty days up to Christmas, I went pescetarian, mostly ovo-lacto vegetarian. But from Christmas on, I went whole hog, so to speak, eating red meat at least twice a day. This is not normal for me; for health reasons, I usually eat poultry or fish, not red meat.

320px-Tim_RussertAnd then I remembered Tim Russert. You remember him, too, the tough, hard-nosed, yet pleasant and likable political journalist on Meet the Press for so many years. In 2008, at the age of 58, he suddenly, shockingly collapsed and died of a heart attack at work, despite doing well on a cardiac stress test only a couple of months before.

It was shortly before Russert’s sad and unexpected death that I had read the following excerpt from his 2004 book “Big Russ and Me.” It’s a love poem to meat. I can do no better than to repeat his lyricism in a paragraph I find literally mouth-watering to read.

Tim Russert Big Russ and Me 92

I have not read the book, but having read that passage so shortly before Russert’s death made it spring to mind when the news came. Obviously, this man had a taste for meat, preferably fatty, processed meat, and it was none too good for his heart. But oh, that passage sure makes it sound tasty! The flavor and feel of salty fatty meat is incomparable.

But when that passage came to mind again a few days ago, I thought, “Why do I have cookbooks about meat on my Amazon wish list? I don’t even have a kitchen!”

Obviously, it’s food porn for me — pictures and ideas just on the item page, not even owning the book, stimulating the contemplation of meat, particularly in fancy varieties I can’t even get in my neighborhood.

As with the arroz con leche I wrote about earlier, I should avoid more than very occasional intake of processed or fatty meats, no matter how pleasurable they are. And I should drop the contemplation of it from my mind.

And so, today, I am removing from my Amazon wish list all cookbooks solely about meat. I do not need to have them stimulating my gluttony. Enough that I should eat red or processed meat once a week or less; no need to actually fantasize about it.

I have been like the Israelites in the desert.

And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.

God sent them manna to eat, which, although nutritionally complete, apparently was as appetizing as those round rice cakes with the texture of styrofoam, and they complained about that, too, and eventually God sent them pre-slaughtered meat and killed the ones who ate it, specifically because of their lust for it, and not because it was meat per se.

33 And while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord smote the people with a very great plague.

I choose to give up those books about luscious, delicious meat because there is no sense in fantasizing about it; I should simply enjoy it in the quantities I should have — say, going to a restaurant on Easter for a sirloin — instead of luxuriating in the daydream.

Charcuterie book Odd bits bookBones book

Too sweet to eat

This recipe probably should be called not “Arroz con Leche” but, rather, “Death to All Diabetics!” It is delightfully and lethally full of sugar, starch, and saturated fat.

Furthermore, not only is this bad for anyone with blood glucose control issues, it is one of those dishes, like lobster drenched with margarine and served with glasses of champagne, that meets the ascetic dietary rules of my religion for the pre-Christmas season while utterly violating their spirit (which is why those rules are only guidelines and not religious law). This dessert is really a feasting food, and only if you aren’t diabetic, hyperinsulinemic, glucose intolerant, or the like.

eagle-brand-sweetened-condensed-milkThoughts of this recipe have been bothering me for a solid month and a half. I can imagine its milky, coconutty, starchy, sweet, delicately spiced rice flavor and chewy grainy texture with such vividness that I have been constantly tempted to buy all the ingredients and beg my friends to let me use their kitchen to make it. I yearn for the taste of condensed milk, which is a canned cream-colored substance composed of whole milk cooked with so much sugar it is extremely viscous, and almost solid when chilled, and for the aroma of coconut milk, which is a thick product much richer (i.e., fattier) than coconut water.

I want to take a big bowl, fetch a pint of this rice dessert, and go to town, my eyelids drooping half-closed in pleasure as I chew slowly, lick my sticky lips, and suck on the spoon. No matter if I’m nauseated, sleepy, and headachy for a full day afterward while my blood sugar soars through the roof — the pleasure’s the thing.

Just like my other fantasies of acquiring particular objects, the desire to eat arroz con leche is another manifestation of a type of greed — gluttony — that I wish to turn away from. I share the recipe with you partly in case you are one of those people who can eat anything (at least a bit now and then) without ill effects or religious strictures, but mostly because this blog really has been helping me to let go of these pesky greedy obsessive thoughts about things I choose not to indulge in. Herewith:

Arroz con Leche

By Elizabeth Carrion
Published October 11, 2013
Fox News Latino

Ingredients

  • 3 cups water
  • 3-4 cinnamon sticks
  • 5-6 cloves
  • 1 inch piece fresh ginger
  • 2 cups short or medium grain rice
  • 12 ounce can coconut milk
  • 12 ounce can evaporated milk
  • 14 ounce can condensed milk
  • ½ to ¾ cup raisins
  • Ground cinnamon

Directions

  1. Add water, cinnamon sticks, cloves and ginger to a large pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Strain to remove spices. Add same water back to pot.
  3.  Add rice and simmer on low for 30 minutes.
  4. Add coconut, evaporated and condensed milk and continue to cook on low until rice is tender to your preference. Mix frequently so that rice does not stick to the bottom of the pot.
  5. When ready, fold in raisins.
  6. Serve in bowls and sprinkle with ground cinnamon.

Tip: If rice is not tender enough or has dried out, add milk ½ cup at a time and sugar to taste.

Serves a crowd.

http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/lifestyle/2013/10/11/hispanic-heritage-month-arroz-con-leche/

Bundt exotica

Bundt CakeYou know what a bundt cake is, even if you may not have known what they are called. They are toroidal cakes that are baked in special pans with a hollow center so that heat can come up and cook from the center, which is why bundt cakes are so much taller than ordinary sheet cakes. Although many recipes can be baked in a bundt pan, the stereotype is a yellow poppyseed cake with lemon glaze drizzled over the top. I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad bundt cake – the thick center helps keep them moist.

Wikipedia says:

The Bundt cake derives in part from a European brioche-like fruit cake called Gugelhupf which was popular among Jewish communities in parts of Germany, Austria and Poland.[1] In the north of Germany Gugelhupf is traditionally known as Bundkuchen (German pronunciation: [ˈbʊntkuːxn]), a name formed by joining the two words Kuchen (cake) and Bund.[2]
Opinions differ as to the significance of the word Bund. One possibility is that it means “bunch” or “bundle”, and refers to the way the dough is bundled around the tubed center of the pan.[2] Another source suggests that it describes the banded appearance given to the cake by the fluted sides of the pan, similar to a tied sheaf or bundle of wheat.[3] Some authors have suggested that Bund instead refers to a group of people, and that Bundkuchen is so called because of its suitability for parties and gatherings.[4][5]

Because of the topic of this blog, I don’t often talk about what I want to own that there is no compelling reason not to own, things I really may buy for myself someday.

One of those is a toaster oven. I don’t mean those little things that are sold to college students in August; I mean the spacious ones that are often promoted as “second ovens” (in addition to the one underneath the stove I don’t have in my nonexistent kitchen). I could own a big toaster oven as my One Nice Piece. I could cook far more healthy food in it than the chow from the diner across the way. I just have to get rid of more of my stuff to make space for it. No reason not to own one. I don’t mind the smell of baked food getting into my closet.

320px-Sydney_Opera_House-_2006For years, I have mused on what I can cook in a big toaster oven, ranging from simple chicken and vegetables to olive rolls and brioche. But there is one piece of baking exotica I have wanted for years that I do not think I should own. That is a bundt pan that, instead of being shaped like the usual fluted ring, is shaped something like a cathedral, or, as it looks to me, the Sydney Opera House. (Yes, I guess this is another example of my fascination with tech without moving parts or electricity!)

Nordic Ware, an early and current manufacturer of bundt pans, makes a variety of unusual shapes ranging from a heart, a Star of David, and a rose, to holiday forests and fairytale castles and cottages.

Cathedral bundt pan

The cathedral bundt pan catches my imagination because it’s pretty, it’s unsentimentally stylish, it’s spectacular, it’s sure to elicit comment wherever I take a cake. Most people have never seen anything like it.

But I do not have much use for one. There’s just me to feed at home. My church buys food for its coffee hours instead of going potluck. I would rather buy my coworkers something really special, New Skete Cheesecakes, once or twice a year, in order to support the nuns there. And if I wanted to carry around a cake, I’d have to get a cake carrier. Suddenly, what seemed amusing seems like a whole lot of storage space for the pan and carrier. And you know how much storage space I have. Cake fantasies aside, this is not a fun idea for me any more.

If you, however, like to bake and have a convenient audience and some storage space, I think it would be lots of fun for you to get at least one of the cleverly shaped Nordic Ware bundt pans and play with them. How un-boring they are! We are getting into good baking weather, when it is pleasant to come indoors to enjoy the warmth and fragrance of baking goods. You can make a few cakes and learn the pan’s ways in time for the holiday season. And then you can make gifts that will always be appreciated, as well as something tasty for you and yours. Yum!

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