Stalking the Waiter

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

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Out of the Loop

Keybord issues. Missing letter, on lptop, witing for repirs. LOL!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Weekend Cat Blogging #41

Blondie and the possum
Because my camera and my laptop refuse to communicate, Blondie is making a return visit. This time she's eating with the younger, smaller possum. They are sharing what I think may be leftover pizza. Blondie could get along with Bigfoot. :G: She eats with all the other animals. One of these days I'll catch her eating between the possum and one of the foxes on film. Until then, it will remain an urban (rural?) legend.

That is not a very flattering pic of the possum. She looks like she got her snout wounded in a fight. Not one of the cutest animals around, but they are cute in their actions - they pick up food in their "hands" (five little black fingers) and really enjoy their meal, making a lip-smacking sound, although they don't appear to have lips. Tiny pleasures.

For lots more cute kitties, visit Clare and Kiri at eatstuff for the WCB roundup.

Weekend Herb Blogging #24 - Mustard Cress

Probably ten years ago, I bought my mustard cress seeds from Shepherd's Garden Seeds (see farther down for info on them) so I could use the leaves in tea sandwiches for a bit more zip than plain cress. That worked out really well - they tasted great, with their peppery bite and mustard zing.

mustard cress
The leaves in this pic are a little the worse for wear. It was taken in full winter, and it's another herb-like plant that had gone to seed and naturalized. I imagine the squirrels and possums took some sample nibbles but found the leaves too strong for their taste, or the plant would be gobbled off at the ground. I'm not sure whether I'll try transplanting a couple of these volunteers or just wait for their seeds.

I did some Googling and discovered quite a few recipes using mustard cress. It's appparently quite popular in England, and readily available there. Here are some links to recipes that sounded good: Also interesting on that last site, was an explanation, with photos, of how to make that lovely shredded daikon garnish. I could eat a whole bowl of this with wasabi-soy sauce "dressing." It's a pretty good site for recipes, and, if you're traveling to Japan or live there, it has info on restaurants.

A few simple uses for mustard (or any) cress:
  1. in a simple sandwich of tomato or cucumber or chicken or just bread and butter
  2. throw a few leaves into a salad for a little bit of bite
  3. toss individual leaves in a cold shrimp vinaigrette or potato salad
  4. garnish deviled eggs or a deviled egg sandwich
  5. use small sprigs on an herb pizza with Florence fennel and sweet onions

Buy the Seeds

Without spending a lot of time, I only found one source of the seeds, Sand Mountain Herbs. Before buying seeds or other gardening materials online, check the company out at the Garden Watchdog Guide to Gardening by Mail. You can search by company name or by the type of plant/seed you're looking for. Some of the comments on Sand Mountain read like ads, and they have one very negative review, so keep that in mind if you decide to use them.

Shepherd's Garden Seeds - This was a great company for ultra chic veggie and herb seeds. They were one of the first companies to have seeds for true haricots verts or cipolline and various other hard to find European plants and herbs. It was a small operation in Felton, CA. Their beautifully illustrated catalogues and seed packets won awards, and their descriptions were beautiful. It was criminally easy to over-buy, wooed by the lovely descriptions.

I'm not sure why, but several years ago Renee Shepherd sold the company to Whiteflower Farm. It lost a lot of it's chic appeal, and I've heard that service and quality were diminshed. However, I never ordered from Whiteflower, so I have no personal opinion. But, good news, Renee Shepherd has opened Renee's Seeds, still in Felton. You can order online or by phone, but they have no print catalogue. I went trolling for some of the things I used to buy from them, and they're still there, looking just as delicious as ever. I don't know if it's still possible, but you used to be able to order by phone and pick it up in Felton instead of waiting. Worth asking if you live in the area or are going to be visiting.

I'm off to order;
  • Windowbox Basil (love its tiny, peppery leaves)
  • Siam Queen Thai Basil (what a wonderful garnish or salad ingredient
  • Aline Mignonette Strawberries (wonderfully fragant, tiny berries)
  • Edamame Beans (why buy when you can grow and know they are truly fresh)
  • Rolande Beans (true French haricots verts)
  • Romeo Carrots (little round butterballs of carroty goodness)
  • Jewel Toned Beets (seeds for red, yellow and pinwheel beets)

Can't you just picture those Romeo carrots with the baby Jewel Toned beets as a salad, or even freshly steamed or baked. Sweet and colorful. When I lived in San Jose, I had the Rolande beans growing in a planter box on the deck - bush beans require very little growing room. It used to spook my roommate. We'd be sitting there in the evening, enjoying the temperature drop and the peace and quiet. He'd notice that there were tiny little beanlets on the plant, maybe an inch long and very thin. The next afternoon, they'd be full grown. ;+) I love fresh green beans!

I'm getting excited now just thinking about all these goodies. I'm going to be growing them in containers on the deck and trying to figure out some way to shield them from the marauding wildlife. I planted three dozen pepper plants of various kinds in San Jose, along with tomato plants. Between the squirrels, possums and raccoons, there were very few intact fruits for eating. Very frustrating. Up here, we have deer and foxes as well, and, in the summer, when it's dry, there are less edible weeds around, so they raid the veggie garden. I sympathize, but I want my veggies.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

My First Award!

Owen at Tomatilla has posted the results for Paper Chef #16. Haalo, last month's winner, was the host and judge. I was thrilled to be one of the winners:
Best Original Screenplay goes to B’gina from Stalking the Waiter for her heartwarming tale of friendship, loss and laughter.
If you haven't seen it (and want to), it's the entry below this one. :G:

It was fun doing my script, since I didn't have the time or energy to cook the actual food. Why don't you think about participating next month? It's a lot of fun.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Paper Chef #16 - It's Hard Out Here for a Shrimp

Just for fun. I had the shrimp and the other ingredients (minus the verjuice), but my life has been seriously OBE lately, so, here's my cinematic ode to Paper Chef #16. Like most screenplays, it's all in my mind. (Now, if the formatting doesn't go all to hell, it will be sweet.)

It's Hard Out Here for a Shrimp


B'GINA stands at the kitchen island, with food, including
basil and prawns, laid out in front of her.

She is holding a piece of paper from which she will read.

Her cat, LOULOU, is at her feet, watching, waiting for one
of those prawns to maybe hit the floor.

Let's see. Basil, verjuice...
(looks confused)
Prawns and something movie-inspired
or movie-associated
and/or something
. A shrimp ball is round.
A shrimp ball on a bed of basil leaves?

Looks down at LOULOU.



Or maybe mold it into the shape of
an Oscar statuette?
(back to printed list)
Make something to eat while watching
the Oscars

Looking inspired, she crosses to the refrigerator and opens
the door. There, on the center shelf, right next to the
bottled water and a carton of Whipping Cream is a package of
Pepperidge Farms Puff Pastry.

I knew I thawed this for a reason.

She takes the cream carton and the box of puff pastry out. She opens
the box and slides the contents out.

Want shrimp now!
(only, of course, in
cat language)

B'gina ignores her as she rolls out the dough on a sheet
of parchment, pressing firmly but gently to smooth any cracks
where it was folded. When it's nice and smooth, she uses
a small plate as a template to cut it into two circles.

Then the fun begins.

Boy, LouLou, the fun is beginning

(cat speak)
Yeah, yeah. How about dropping one
of those shrimp my way?

B'gina begins to cut freehand, teardrop-shaped holes,
carefully so as not to cut the parchment, in one
circle so it looks like an old movie film reel. She slides
the whole thing onto a jelly roll pan and pokes many holes
in them with a fork.

This is going to be sooo cool, once
I have baked these pieces according
to package directions.

She puts them into the oven. She shells the prawns and
sautes them in butter, olive oil and garlic. She removes
the cooked shrimp to a bowl.

LOULOU stalks off in disgust.

This is amazing. I have enough shrimp
left for a shrimp ball.

She puts some of the shrimp into the food processor, adds a
package of Philadelphia Cream Cheese, chopped onion and
cayenne pepper. She processes them until smooth.

I have no idea what verjuice is, so
I'm going to use Marsala instead.

She turns the heat back on under the pan with the shrimp juices,
adds a couple Tbsp. of Marsala and some of the Whipping Cream.
Stirring, she simmers it until it's well incorporated and

We see LOULOU sneaking behind B'GINA, eyeing the work island.

(cat speak)
I bet I can jump up there and eat at
least half those shrimp before she
finishes futzing with that sauce.

(looking over her
Would you like a shrimp, Baby?

She offers LOULOU one of the shrimp.

LOULOU scowls but takes it, after first licking it thoroughly.

(cat speak)
Hmph. She takes all the fun out of
being a huntress.
(chomps prawn)

Sound of timer OC.

Time to take the puff pastry out.
Wow. Everything is going to be done
at the same time for a change.

She puts the solid circle of cooked pastry on a plate, then
sets the one with cutouts on top.

Oh, no! I still have to get basil
into this thing.

She rolls a stack of basil leaves into a tube and slices it
very thinly, across the length, making a basil chiffonade.

(doing the things as
she says them)
There we go. Now I spoon the Shrimp
into the holes in the top pastry
circle. I'll drizzle the sauce over
the whole thing and sprinkle on the
basil chiffonade I just made, and it
will be astoundingly wonderful.


The television is on, showing the ending of the Oscar show.
Everyone is waiting in dread for the Best Movie winner.

B'GINA hurries in carrying the dish she prepared earlier,
Cinematic Shrimp. In her other hand she has the shrimp ball
she made.

She sets the Cinematic Shrimp on the coffee table. No one
notices, as they stare tensely at the television. LOULOU,
too, stares at the screen.

(on television)
And the winner is...Crash.

Applause from the television can be heard over the silence
in the family room.

Everyone looks back and forth at each other in wild surmise.
(Heh, I've always wanted to say that.)

Well, hell.

The plate with the shrimp ball tilts in her hand. We watch,
in slo-mo, as it falls onto the Cinematic Shrimp, splashing
sauce and breaking the pastry shapes.

Oh, no!

Everyone stares in horror.

Except LOULOU who sees her chance to do her huntress thing.

B'GINA sees LOULOU move and scoops her up.

Oh, no you don't.

Everyone laughs and the tension is broken.

This wasn't quite what I had in mind.
(looking at the smashed
pastry dish)
But I guess it's appropriate.
(gestures dramatically
at the dish)
I present to you my latest culinary
masterpiece, "Shrimp Crash."

General hilarity as LOULOU struggles to get loose.


Sunday, March 05, 2006

Dude! Today, for Lunch, I Had an Excellent Cheese Sammie!

Hey, how much more all-American can you get than a version of the tuna melt? This one's good for a meal, a snack, or appetizers.

As you can see, the melted cheese gets pulled down as you cut through the warm sandwich. This is a good thing, and we'll pretend that I did it on purpose. Because, you can really heap the tuna filling up and, when you cut it, and that cheese stretches, it holds it onto the bread! Amazing. Do try this at home, Kiddies.

For my tuna filling, I add a bunch of stuff, depending on what's on hand and what I feel like eating. Here's my choices, but you can pick your own favorites, or leave it plain.
  • Sliced or chopped olives
  • Sliced green onions or diced regular onions
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Mashed up hard boiled eggs
  • Diced pimento/roasted red pepper
  • Chopped pickles of whatever variety
  • Capers
  • Sliced or diced raw peppers
  • Diced or grated carrots
  • Diced celery

As they say, your choices are limited only by your imagination. There is one thing I consider essential, though - the shredded Parm. If you mix that in with the tuna, it will soften and begin to melt as the sandwich cooks, making it mmm-mmm creamy. I put provolone on top this time because that's what I felt like, but you can use cheddar or jack or American, but you want it to be something reasonably firm and that will melt.
  1. Slice a baguette or French/sub roll in half, lengthwise.
  2. Put it on a piece of aluminum foil and bend the foil up around it, but leave some room.
  3. Mound the tuna mixture on the bread and distribute evenly.
  4. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes, if desired.
  5. Top with sliced cheese. Try to keep the foil from touching the cheese, or it will be a mess to get apart after the cheese melts.
  6. Cook in a fairly hot oven, 400F degrees until the cheese starts to melt; 5-7 minutes should do it.
  7. Turn on the broiler and leave the oven door open. Stay there and keep an eye on it. It can go from golden to charred in a single moment of distraction.
  8. Remove from the oven and let stand for five minutes.
  9. Serve as is or slice into fingers. This is where the melted cheese pulling down when you cut into it is a good thing.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Weekend Dog Blogging #24

I am a dogless food blogger. But, this week, while I was sitting around watching the guys work on our septic system, this lovely, large, somewhat elderly gentleman strolled by. I don't know enough about dogs to guess what kind he is.


According to the tag on his rather cool looking collar, his name is Toby, and he has staff to answer his phone, number included.

He seemed kind of shaky when he arrived, and it was a warm day. So, I brought him some cat food and kibble and a bowl of water. He snarfed it all down, made a quick check of my kitchen - I'd left the door open - then settled down to rest and digest. :G:

For more doggie pics, visit Sweetnicks for the Weekend Dog Blogging roundup.

Weekend Cat Blogging #39

This week I have two visitors for you - two of the feral cats I feed. This is Tortie and Blondie.

Tortie and Blondie

The darker cat doesn't show it very well in this photo, but she's an all-over tortoiseshell with a tiger stripe. The little blonde cat looked all white at first, but now she's showing some pale orange markings. I don't know if that's a natural effect of maturing, or if it has to do with it being winter with less sun to fade her, or, even, if it's got something to do with having a steady diet for a change.

They each have very different personalities. Tortie is a little scrapper, aggressive and will even let me pick her up briefly when she's after food. :G: Blondie is very shy, making big eyes at anything she's unsure of. She never gets close enough to touch, althought I'd love to give her a cuddle.

For lots more adorable kitties, drop on over to visit Clare and Kiri at EatStuff for the Weekend Cat Blogging roundup.

Weekend Herb Blogging #22 - Keffir Lime Leaves

I had never seen Keffir limes or their leaves before my first Thai meal, at Krung Thai (the original location), in San Jose. But once I got a taste of Thom Ka Gai and those unusual and fragrant leaves, well, I was hooked. I discovered, very happily, that the OSH near my house had a Keffir lime tree, and I snatched it up. As you can see in the photo below, the leaves are sort of double, like two leaves stacked end-to-end. And the perfume! If I ever find a Keffir lime essential oil, I will buy it by the gallon.

keffir lime leaves

The classic use for the leaves and juice, for me, is Thom Ka Gai, a soup also made with coconut milk, lemon grass and, in this case with chicken (Gai), although you can also use prawns (not sure of the Thai word for that). Here's a recipe for a Thai fusion risotto, using that soup as the liquid. It's a little unusual, perhaps, but it makes a wonderful dish.

If you've never made risotto, here's brief description of the process. This is one of the things I use my StirChef for. It's an energy saver, mine.

Keffir limes
FYI, here's a photo of the limes themselves. They have a wrinkeld, ridged brain-like look to them. These are green, in the sense of being unripe. When ripened, they are a color similar to key limes. Their juice seems very sour to me, but I've never had straight lime juice from regular limes, so I can't really compare them. They smell like heaven, though.

Oggi, per pranzo, ho mangiato un panino del formaggio.

Thursday Cheese Sandwich blogging, late. I don't know if we're continuing to do this, but there are enough good cheese sandwiches around to make it worth the effort of keeping at it. BTW, if that Italian sucks, I got it on Babelfish. From what I still retain of one semester of Italian, it sounds reasonable to me. :G:

I stopped at The Fruit Basket on the way home from San Rafael the other day, and I bought a lot of goodies. Among them was a large, hot salame (P. G. Molinari and Sons, SF), and sweet Italian red onion. I had some fresh Mozzarella and sourdough bread at home, and, voila, or whatever the Italian equivalent of that is (ecco???), a cheese sandwich with moxie.

Fresh mozzarella is usually paired with tomatoes or roasted red peppers, which are foils in color and in flavor. I wasn't in the mood for either of those, though, and I had something red I did feel like eating - the hot salame. That gave me hot-salty and bland flavors. So, sliced sweet red onion gave me another color contrast, as well as another dynamic to the flavor and texture - crunchy as opposed to soft or chewy.

I made the sandwich open faced because it's pretty that way, and another thick slab of bread on top was just more than I wanted. I drizzled a little olive oil over the top, added a healthy squeeze of lemon juice (1/2 a lemon's worth) and a sprinkling of sea salt. Ordinarily, I'd have ground on some pepper, but using hot salame made that superfluous. Some chopped fresh parsley or basil would have added a fresh zing to the other, heavier flavors, but I didn't have any fresh - next time. It was a wonderfully complex group of flavors and textures, and I'll definitely do this one again. Maybe I'll go all crazy and do it not even on a Thursday.

Camera rant: Now, if I had a decent camera, that would have been a gorgeous picture. I so hate posting these crap pics, but it's either that or no pics. I used to sell my photos. I had shows of my photos. Grrrrr. These are just so ugly.

Those of you who, like me, grew up with SLRs that were actually adjustable probably know what I mean, but I'm so frustrated with this dang camera, which is indeed a digital SLR. However, for me, one of the big points of the non-digital SLR is the ability to focus at will, by turning a focusing ring.

How can you make a camera with no way to focus it, except to sway in the breeze until things become clear??? Now they want to focus for you. Only my camera obviously needs corrective lenses. I get everything into focus, push the button, it does it's little half click where it adjusts the light and focus, putting everything out of focus, then finishes the click, giving me a lovely, out-of-focus pic. So, for me to get a focused pic is just dumb luck and forget about aesthetics.

I've got a new Kodak, after swearing I'd never buy another product from the sucking Kodak company, and I've given myself many a virtual head slap for getting talked into this. The Olympus with extra lenses was only $200 more. I love all my Olympus cameras. I don't think they can make a bad camera. Why, oh, why do I do this to myself??? What are some of you shooting?