Stalking the Waiter

Riffing on foods, flavors and methods, that would be telling.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Avocado and Papaya Salad - I Laugh at Winter!

So, I made my 50k for NaNoWriMo, which means I will actually have time to cook food and blog about it.

And, because it's about time things started working right, I have gotten my baby digital camera to talk to the laptop, so pictures should ensue.

Later - Well, that was a bust. I'm going to have to drag a lamp into the kitchen or something. The fluorescent lights above frosty panels just don't give enough illumination for photography, and my flash pics have hot spots. Did I ever tell you I once made money selling my photographs in small galleries? Of course, that was 35mm. Different beast altogether.

With the hope that I will iron this out in the near future, I'm starting off with something simple but colorful - a salad of avocado and papaya slices with pomegranate seeds for an accent. Although this would be tasty with a variety of dressings, I'm going with a honey-based vinaigrette, a la Poppy Seed Dressing, but without the poppy seeds...and without the honey - I like corn syrup better, less likelihood of allergies.

I like the idea of avocado and papaya together for a couple of reasons. One being that their colors, though both soft, contrast nicely. Their flavors are also mild, but where the avocado is creamy, the papaya has a sweet perfume - nice together, but they need something to set them off. Pomegranates are in season, so I threw on a few bright, jewel-like red seeds for the contrast, some fresh ground pepper - I like Szechuan for zip - and it's beautiful and delish, too. I fanned the slices out into a ring, alternating colors, and mounded some pomegranate in the middle, with a few sprinkled on the plate, too. That's like taunting you, isn't it? It's delicious, never mind how it looks. :G:

If you left out the pomegranate, this would be superb sprinkled with a crumbled veined cheese, like Gorgonzola or Roquefort. The extreme saltiness of the cheese would make the sweet papaya zing and meld beautifully with the creamy avocado. A good grinding of black pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and a squeeze of lemon or a drizzle of a fairly light vinegar of your choice, and this salad takes on a whole different character.
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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

EoMEoTE - well, sort of

So far, the parameters of the EomEoTE events have always been outside my interest or capabilities. Since the same is true this month, I'm doing a pseudo-EoMEoTE for my own entertainment.
Do you remember those One-Eyed Susan breakfasts? The ones where you cut a circle in the middle of a slice of bread, butter it on both sides, pop it in a sauté pan over medium heat, and crack an egg so that the yolk fits in the hole??? I do, with great fondness. I still make them on occasion.

And another thing I haven't had in a while but that I used to love was either zucchini or eggplant fritters, the way Bertha Woodward used to make them. Well, she only did zucchini, but the same techniques/ingredients apply for eggplant. Those were yummy, too. But picture one of those fritters, with a hole in it's middle, just about finished cooking, then you break your egg so the yolk fits in the hole. By the time the fritter is finished, the egg is ready.
The basic procedure for the fritters is:

  1. Peel and slice the eggplant, cutting a hole in the middle of each slice about 1" across, salt and let set in a collander for 30 minutes to an hour. This will sweat out some of the bitterness and excess moisture - that technique is called degorgé.

  2. Set out three plates, one each with flour mixed with a little S&P, beaten egg, and grated or shredded Parmesan.

  3. Dip the slices in flour, shaking off the excess, then in egg, ditto, and, finally, in the cheese, pressing it into the coating.

  4. In a sauté pan, heat about a half inch of oil (I like peanut) until it shimmers. Add the coated slices of eggplant..

  5. After about three minutes, crack an egg over each slice, so the yolk ends up in the middle. Give it a minute for the egg to set, then turn carefully, so you don't dislodge the cheese or lose the egg yolk.

  6. When the egg is cooked to your taste and the fritter fork tender, you're ready to remove them to a papertowel-lined plate or cookie sheet.

Of course, these would be great, as is, with some sausage and toast, but think how it would taste served over either a nice cheesy polenta/grits or a kind of giant crostini - thick slice of crusty bread, toasted. Yum.
Tomato sauce would go nicely with the polenta/grits. With the toast, you could go pseudo-Eggs Benedict with a Greek, Moussaka-ish twist, and use an Avgolemono Sauce.
I'm sure you can think of other options.
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Sunday, November 20, 2005

Amazing Discovery - Carrot Magic!

Maybe there are some food scientists out there who can explain this, but, FWIW...

Have you ever noticed that if you have carrots in a salad with a creamy, salty dressing like Roquefort or Ranch, that they taste a lot like coconut? Those dressings really bring out the sweetness in a carrot. I think that's pretty magical.

Also, you know how cooking cabbage or Brussels sprouts can stink up the whole house/apartment building? Well, I discovered, years ago and quite by accident, that if you steam or simmer carrots in the same pot with the cabbage, there is NO CABBAGE STINK! None. Is that not magic?

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Love New Orleans and Its Food? Write a letter.

No finger pointing about what was not done or the assistance that wasn't there during and after Katrina, but now it's time to make up for all of that. There are a lot of people in a position to screw the people of New Orleans and southern Louisiana and, as a result, deprive the rest of us, not to mention the world, of one of our most exciting cultures. Read more ยป

Amazing Discovery - Fixing Provolone

Here I go again.

You know how provolone is pretty much a big hunk of waxy white cheese with barely any discernible flavor? It's fine in sandwiches with salame or pepperoni or something equally vibrant, but if you want to pair it with a nice, mild peppered ham, well, not so good.

I was making open-faced sandwiches with said mild ham, provolone, avocado and tomato. Because of the open faces and the avocado-tomato combo, it seemed natural to drizzle on a bit of EVO and add a nice squeeze of lemon. Some sea salt and a few grindings of pepper, too? Yes! That was so good. The provolone really seemed to fit then.

So, now, whenever I want to use provolone in a sandwich with mild-flavored accompaniments, it gets the EVO, lemon, sea salt, fresh ground pepper treatment. This is good.

Solutions, not just workarounds (like using a different cheese). That's what I like.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Weekend Cat Blogging #24

Since I've been busily trying to catch up on my NaNo word count, and I don't want to poop out after only one week, I'm going to post a pic of one of my dearly departed sweeties. This is Joey.

As you can see, Joey perfected the art of learning by osmosis. By the way, that's the unabridged dictionary, to give you an idea of how big a boy he was.

When I lived in Tucson, one of my bosses said he wandered in off the desert. He was seriously dehydrated but seemed otherwise okay. He finally asked one of us in the office if we'd take him because he was afraid his huge dogs were going to hurt him. They played so rough, and the cat didn't have the sense to avoid them.

He first went to a couple with a little boy, but the kid was convinced the cat was going to eat his face. I have no idea why. The mind of a child. So, I inherited him. The first night I had him, I had to shut my bedroom door and put a towel along the crack at the floor because he stunk so badly. The next morning when I opened the door to get ready for work, the odor nearly knocked me over.

After a quick trip to the vet, and a harsh talking to by the vet, from which I defended myself by explaining that I'd only had him overnight, he was hooked up to an IV and spent the day getting rehydrated. Voila! No more stinky kitty. He was so scrawny, though, and ragged, and aggressively affectionate, that I was afraid I'd finally found a cat I couldn't love. But he won me over, and he got fat and sassy and was just a big furry bunch of love. I'm glad he had a good home for a few years anyway.

Amazing Discovery - Kiwi

Well, I don't know how amazing it really is. Could be I'm the last person in the world to realize this, but...did you know that you could cut a Kiwi fruit in half and eat it from its skin with a spoon as if it were a bowl, albeit a hairy bowl???

The skin seems so thin and shreds so easily when you try to peel them, plus you get that juice all over your fingers. However, the skin is really quite sturdy and you can scoop out the pulp without making so much as a single fissure in its wrapping. :G:

Of course, if you're wanting the Kiwi for looks, that is, showing it's sparkly black seeds, you're still gonna have to peel and slice the suckers for the best display.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Weekend Cat Blogging #23

This is my first appearance at WCB, but I wanted to show Kiri and Clare that I was thinking of them. You can tell by my expression that I won't tolerate ill-behaved dogs. "Off with his head," I say. Or more fittingly, slap his owner in the Royal Dungeon. HRH, LouLou.

B'gina here. As Princess LouLou's mum, I, too, want to send my best wishes to both Clare and Kiri. I hope that neither of you suffers any lasting ill effects. We all owe so much to you guys for being the keepers of WCB for so long. And thanks to all of you at Masak-Masak for taking up the slack while Clare and Kiri are recuperating.

Take care and a big hug from both of us.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Paper Chef #12 - Another Bare Nekkid Entry

Yes, boys and girls, it looks like I am still photo-less. I've tapered off the posts, because they just aren't the same without pictures. Got a new power cable, now my laptop tells me that my camera has no pics in it. But the camera shows them to me, so, the kids seem to have issues with one another. I do have a couple pics from the Internet, but nothing of the food, itself. Anyway, to the Paper Chef. I hope this makes sense, since I'm about to fall asleep as I write it up. :G:

This month's ingredients are:

  1. Fish sauce

  2. Basil

  3. Oranges

  4. Lamb

Hmmm. Lots of playing around room there. Let's see what I can think up.

  • Oranges in a salad with the basil and some "Sweet" Onions, as a variant on the Orange and Red Onion Salad.

  • A basil jelly as a play on Mint Jelly with lamb? Basil is a member of the mint family, after all. (Notice I'm avoiding the lamb?) Here's a link to a generic recipe for Mint Jelly, if you like this idea.

  • I should do something with the orange zest or the peels. They've got a lot of flavor, and lamb can stand up to it.

  • Fish sauce - can use that as part of the marinade for the lamb, assuming I marinate it.

  • Candied basil leaves as a garnish or part of the salad.

  • Coating the outside of the lamb (assuming a rack or leg) with garlic, orange zest and fish sauce.

  • Some kind of lamb sausage with the orange zest as one of the flavorings.

And the list goes on and on. And I was running out of time, so, this is the menu I wound up with.

Greek Lamb Trainwreck
Orange, Basil and Onion Salad with Feta
Poppyseed-Style Dressing

I'm not giving proportions because it's going to depend on the volume you're using. If someone wants a ball park guestimate, email me, and I'll try to oblige. I don't measure when I cook, unless I'm preparing a recipe for a class where I have to give amounts, so, failing that, it's my best guess. You'll need enough basil for the Trainwreck and the salad. You'll also need enough oranges to have juice for both recipes, as well as the sliced oranges for the salad.

Greek Lamb Trainwreck
I call it this because it's a conglomeration of traditional Greek bits and pieces. It's mostly Pastitsio, with an orange-flavored Avgolemono and ground lamb, with Florence Fennel. I also put a layer of tomato sauce on the bottom, as I find that that extra tang goes well with pasta dishes made with cream sauce.

NOTE (added Wed, 9 Nov): Orange and meat is not as bizarre as it seems. What actually gave me the idea for this dish was a Greek pork sausage flavored with orange zest. I got that recipe from a wonderful sausage cook book which is, unfortunately out of print, The Homemade Sausage Cookbook, Selinger and Rechner (ISBN: 0809258641). It's worth it if you can find it used, since it's a wonderland of familiar and exotic sausages from around the world. Bertie Selinger was a cooking teacher and Cordon Bleu trained, so her instructions are clear and all food safety precautions are noted and explained. A great book.

You can see a list of southern Mediterranean sausages and their ingredientshere. There are four or five sausages which contain orange as a flavoring, which, I admit, surprised me. BTW, this is a good informational site, by Clifford A. Wright, I assume, based on its domain name.

Pastitsio Ingredients:

  • Ground Lamb

  • Crushed Garlic

  • Chopped Fresh Basil

  • Florence Fennel bulb sliced in 1/4" thick slices

  • Fish sauce

  • Pasta for Pastitsio

  • Tomato Sauce (plain, from the can)

  • "Avgolemono" sauce

Florence Fennel looks like a pregnant celery with green hair. Photo courtesy of

This is just one brand of macaroni pastitsio, but it gives you an idea what it looks like. I'm lucky to live in an area where we have produce stands (The Fruit Basket) run by a Greek family. They sell this type and many other unusual pastas under their own label.
Filling Instructions:

  1. Mix the ground lamb with crushed garlic and chopped basil

  2. Sauteed lamb in olive oil in a hot pan, something like stir fry.

  3. When it's nearly cooked, add the sliced fennel and a small splash of fish sauce (it's very salty). Keep tossing until the fennel is warmed through - it doesn't need to "cook."

  4. I used the traditional Pastitsio pasta, cooked according to package directions. I leave the pieces whole, and lay them in the baking dish in strips.

Sauce: Rather than repeating this basic recipe, I'll give you the link. This version is thick, almost like a Hollandaise. You might want to thin it with a bit more broth, and multiply it for this dish. And, of course, use orange juice instead of lemon.
So, here's the assembly:

  1. Pour a layer of tomato sauce in the bottom of the baking dish (a brownie or lasagne shape of pan)

  2. Lay the pasta strips over the tomato sauce, top with a layer of the cooked lamb and fennel.

  3. Repeat for a total of 2-3 layers. I like to end with pasta, but it's up to you.

  4. Pour the sauce over, giving the dish a few shakes so that it will settle down into the layers.

  5. You can top this with cheese, if you like. But if you've got enough sauce that it covers the top, that will turn a nice golden color on its own.

Bake at 375 degrees F. for about 30 minutes. It should be heated through, the sauce bubbling a bit, with a golden color. Keep and eye on it so the sauce doesn't burn on top. If it's getting too dark, lower the heat to 350.

Orange, Basil and Onion Salad

  • One or two oranges, peeled and slice horizontally

  • One "sweet" onion (Vidalia, Texas, Maui etc),, sliced in 1/4" slices and separated into rings

  • Fresh basil cut in ribbons - roll leaves in cigars and cut crosswise

  • Feta, cubed or crumbled in large large pieces.

  • Fresh ground pepper

  • Optional: Chop some of the green "hair" from the fennel.

Poppyseed-style Dressing
I wanted a sweet-ish dressing for this. So, I used a recipe for Poppyseed dressing but left out the poppyseeds.

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

  • 3 Tbsp. white vinegar

  • 2 Tbsp honey or corn syrup

  • 1 teaspoon fresh orange juice

  • Salt, to taste

Using only half the honey/syrup, whisk all ingredients until emulsified. Taste fir sweetness. When you have the sweetness to your preference, add salt to taste.
Layer orange and onion slices, top with dressing, garnish with basil, feta and fresh ground pepper (and chopped fennel tops).

I was pretty satisfied with this pairing, but I think if I make it again, I'll put some orange zest in with the ground lamb before cooking it. Also, I'd probably candy thin strips of orange peel and use them as a snack with espresso or something. I was too pooped to be bothered. The peels are in the fridge, though, pending a more energetic moment.

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