October 25, 2007

You know its bad when when...

I am nervous and have stress due to the upcoming defense of my "dry tome".
As a result, I have had a chronic stomach ache for two days, and all food sits like lumps of clay.
Thus, my appetite is affected. I am usually on of those people who eats because of stress, so this is actually kind of a novelty!

October 20, 2007

I thought it was better than this...

Does it count that I am listening to the "Whiskey in the Jar" by Metallica?

I am nerdier than 94% of all people. Are you a nerd? Click here to find out!

October 15, 2007

A fine Mahock to you all.

Apparently today is "blog action day".
It is only a coincidence that I post. After all, why expect "Action" on a Monday?

Pork Hocks. I have a strange fascination. Fleshy, soooo Fleshy, with skin that looks like an albino cowboy (Leathery but white). And so many bones! All that gooey marrow and gelatin just waiting to be stewed, and ward off future arthritis (or so I've read).

Apparently, bone broth contains more-absorbable calcium. However, this is a "fact" posted by Broth Endorsers, and may or may not have scientific merit. In spite, from a food perspective, broth should be embraced, and MSG shunned.

I wanted broth. Just to drink, like a beverage. My own personal Bovril. It is sometimes more satisfying than soup, and more nourishing than tea (no, I am not an old lady, merely practicing). My single hock was slow cooked overnight with celery, onions, carrots, S&P, garlic and loads of fresh savory spice (thyme, rosemary, sage). I got a great broth, which was my goal. Mission accomplished (very little fat by the way).

I am now left with this big chunk of boiled meat with skin on. I am not a fan of boiled meat. It is stringy, sad, and, well, boiled. However, I hate Wasting Food more than I hate Boiled Meat. It disgusts me to read recipes for pork hock that tell you to throw all the skin pieces away and just keep some meat bits. This cannot be right, I have eaten several Chinese hock dishes that have had savory skin or nicely-seasoned chewy bits.

And so begins the experiment.
I made a sauce of goo. The classic miscellaneous improvised BBQ sauce that manages to incorporate every sugary-based condiment you have in the house at the time. Honey garlic sauce, oyster sauce, sherry, molasses, brown sugar, garlic, balsamic, tomato juice, ginger, other stuff that appeared... I marinated my bone-free meat chunks in said goo and then cooked in the oven for ~50 minutes at 350. It got dark, gooey, chewy, and tastes like awesome BBQ. I don't know if I can duplicate it, but it was fun. I have made two meals out of one. Thus, A Fine Mahock to you all.

September 21, 2007

How my garden betrayed me.

I have been neglecting my rants, I have been writing a dry tome that has been sucking my humorly goodness. Tome is almost done and humor is starting to run up, like sap tubes in spring.

I get really pissed off at food fads. Like, "Oh, Rack of Lamb is so 1999, ifyoumust, try the wild boar chop." Preferably with some currently accepted veg item, and a starch that needs the poisons boiled out of it (Taro anyone?). We have the potato; its awesome, why change?

This brings me to Arugula. How tired am I of hearing about Arugula. It is a humble green, no more special than Cress or Mustard, or even the haughty, bitter Endive (the green squiggly kind, not the posh white stuff that costs 10$ a LB). Arugula has no more appeal than a nobel romaine, the ethereal butter lettuce, or the delicate, and classically solid, Leaf (green or red).

But have you been able to watch a food show without this ubiquitous chlorophyll?
Posh salads, weird stirs fries, even as soup garnish; Arugula is everywhere, and don't you dare say a bad thing about it.

This brings me to a tangent. I started a garden. In August. Normal, prepared people don't start gardens in August, but I had to have one NOW, and decided it would be a good way to secure a plot for Next Year. Thus, the desperate scramble to plant something that would grow in a couple of months time. Thus, I go armed with radishes and lettuce mix.

I watered and weeded a few times, grew some successful radishes, and have some aphidey cabbage plants. However, I was forced to ignore the plot for a while (due to said Tome), and didn't visit for ~ 2 1/2 weeks. When I went back, I was pleased to find large quantities of this fresh bright green that had grown from the mesclun mix.

I took a grocery bag of this green home, thinking, naively, that it was mustard greens. I Googled it. Not mustard greens. Arugula. Vast stupid quantities of healthy, enthusiastic, dark green Arugula. The romaines and leafs were tragic, limp, yellowish.

I guess there is a reason that Arugula has taken over.

I smell a conspiracy, easier to grow? In five years it will be the new Iceberg. Enjoy the pedestal, my green friend. Soon, you too will go the way of Baby carrots and microgreens, only to be replaced by something "current". Like food loses its nutrition because it goes "out of style".

July 8, 2007

Mmmmmm, Marketing.

My greatest accomplishment today was going to the Kwik-E-Mart. These are 7-11 s converted to the convenience store with the Simpson's theme in preparation for the upcoming movie premiere. There is only one in Canada, and it is a 20 minute bus ride from where I live. Woo Hoo!

Therefore, as a Simpson's fan for many years, it is mandatory that I attend at least once and drink a squishy with a hot dog. A popular place, there was a line up to get into the door, but at least I was not the only dork with a camera...

July 7, 2007

The Good, The Wierd, and The Slimy, brought to you by Me and The Man.

And now for the long-awaited results of the aforementioned pizza, as well as other amusing sundries regarding Things That Have Happened With Food during the past week.

1) The Famous Pizza.
Let me remind you that this is all from scratch. Now purists out there might argue, The Man did not grind his own wheat, or make his own cheese, but neither did he knock-up the cow to produce the calf that made the milk. Nor did he plant the fields, or create the universe in general (though he may act like it sometimes). In short, scratch means I bought flour and cheese, and all the rest is fresh veg from our great local produce store.

The Man has a good touch with dough, where mine tends to Dwarf Bread. The crust was very simple, flour, yeast, salt, water and rose to a fluffy soft, elastic perfection. Topped with a sauce of fresh Roma tomatoes, garlic, basil, various classic pizza veg, smoked farmers sausage and mozarella. It was pizza from the Gods. The Young One was given the test pizza topped with scallions, green pepper and anchovies, as per his instruction. Only nine and already he has a thing for anchovies… The innovation was to cook it in a cast iron frying pan so the bottom gets crustillitious.

And thus began a week of pizza gluttony. Bales of Dough sat in the fridge waiting for the moment when they would be chosen to be converted into more and more pizza. These were glory days with no end in sight.
“Lets eat Pizza forever”, we said.

Alas, for our greed, The Man was punished. Perhaps, rather than being from the Gods, it was meant for them, since the pizza betrayed him in the End. It happened innocently enough, while removing the final pie from the oven. The handle of the Cast Iron pan was not entirely covered by the oven mitt, and a slight slip caused the handle to come in contact with skin. 450 degree cast iron is hot and burns instantly.

Now The Man is sporting a Burn Bubble the size of a quarter, and nursing within his soul, the ultimate hurt that the pizza did not love him as much as he loved it. The pizza burst his bubble. Lets hope it leaves the burn alone.

2) The Wierd
I decided to dabble in baby octopus again. Not having ever eaten it when it was made by someone who is competent at cooking it, I am not sure if I suck at it, or what it is supposed to taste like. I draw on my calamari experience and decide to coat it in corn starch and fry it in my wok. I think they were O.K. Greasy, crunchy things sprayed with lemon rarely go awry. They had an appropriate fishy flavor that was reminiscent of fast food fish house. Fun, rubbery and suited my non-meat mood. It probably worked because of the tartar-style sauce of Mayo (yes, store bought, and yes, I can make it myself), terragon, garlic olive oil, and dill pickles. The Young One certainly liked them, and I have had much worse at a so-called seafood restaurant.
Would I serve them to a customer? Probably not until I tweak the recipe, perhaps braising them first would be better to tenderize the meat a little.
Will I try again? Absolutely yes, they are just so irresistably cute....

(not as cute as quails, but much less tragic.)

July 6, 2007

Vat Ham is always in your blind spot.

I received a compliment on my healthy lunch. It comprised an organic spring mix salad, topped with rasberry and white balsamic (which sucked), topped with grated mozarella. Yum. The complimentor failed to notice my PIECE OF HAM.

This "Ham" is the epitome of what is wrong with what we accept as "food". It was a thinly sliced rectangle of pink, moist, glistening goo with patches of darker pink that look like they might have come from meat at some point. On the scale of Ham quality, this is as low as you can go. It is one step above spam, or its copiers. Its distinguishing feature is that the texture is smooth rather than grainy. This still does not disguise the fact that it was protospam.

This rectangle of "meat" was obviously molded in a tube, and is probably designed to adjust the pallet of the masses to Vat food. Very soon in the future, we will get products such as these that were grown in a Lab. Tissue Culture Gone Awry.

On that note take a look at www.spam.com. This website is awesome in its weirdness. Its scary that it sells.

June 30, 2007

Here is an example:

Courtesy of:
Read this and ask yourself: "Does this make me hungry?"

Agar Agar: An extract of algae, it is a gelling additive that has no aftertaste. (Works really well if you put it in a petri dish and grow bacteria on it.)
Calcium Chloride: Used in conjunction with Sodium Alginate, it can turn drops of a liquid solution into caviar-like orbs with soft-skin
Carrageenan: A gelling agent similar to Agar Agar
Dextrose: A variant of sugar that can be used to shorten the time needed for doughs to rise
Egg White Powder: Simply egg whites with the moisture removed, can be used in the same preparations as regular egg whites to achieve more concentrated flavors and textures because there is no additional water
Gellan: A gelling agent similar to Agar Agar
Glucose: A variant of sugar, it delays sugar re-crystallization and prevents moisture loss
Isomalt: A variant of sugar, used for sugar pulling and casting, it is resistant to humidity and stays flexible longer than regular sugar
Lecithin: Made from soy, it is a natural emulsifier that is commonly used to stabilize foams and create "airs" (Creating "airs" would we? Certainly putting them on...)
Sodium Alginate: An extract of seaweed, it is a cold gelling agent that is activated in the presence of calcium (i.e. a solution of calcium chloride)
Sodium Citrate: White odorless crystals that prevent fat globules from sticking together
Transglutaminase: Commonly known as Activa or meat glue, it is used to chemically bond two or more proteins together (Meat Glue? Is this how one would form a Ham?)
Trimoline: Invert sugar, a syrup obtained from beet and cane syrups, it is uncrystallizable
Xanthan Gum: Produced from maize and soymeal, it is used to stabilize suspensions and emulsions, a common subsitute for eggs and gluten.

Carbonation: The injection of carbon dioxide into a food product such as citrus wedges so that the juice squeezed out of it is carbonated (Fizzy Lemon)
Emulsification: The action of combining two insoluble products with each other, a common technique used to make mayonnaise (As a technique, I don't think this belongs, mayonaisse is pretty mainstream)
Oil Spherification: The use of an agar solution in cold oil to create liquid spheres of various sizes
Spherification: The use of an alginate solution in a calcified bath to create liquid spheres of various sizes (What happened to Tapioca? Is this like bubble tea?)
Vacuum Distillation: The use of a vacuum to separate alcohol from an alcoholic solution (Some call this Moonshine)

June 29, 2007

And the Rant continues...

I am only learning about Molecular Gastronomy (MG). I am not against it in principle, but as a molecular biologist/immunologist, I don't think that a physicist should have started such a field. Leave some things to the Old Wives; food is a biological imperative.

My main concern is that MG is an offshoot of Food Science, and NOT, the Science of Food. This trend is coming from the same Food Scientists that design "box foods". Is Kraft Dinner now going to be Haute Cuisine because it uses certain powders?

Food Science has existed for years.
It has been devoted to making things in Cans and Boxes edible and emulsified after being: Picked, Steamed, Boiled, Frozen, Stewed, Boiled, Stored, Dried, Reconstituted, Baked and Microwaved etc. (i.e., imagine other abuse). Just add fat and salt for flavor.
Few Chefs are chemists, and vice versa.
Food Science is NOT interested in preserving FRESH.
It is about marketability to masses who have lost their taste, or their time (a tragic testament to our culture).

I am not against the Science of Food; that is fascinating, and I love it. How can you complain about the Bugs that make Cheese (Dear Lord, Yes, more CHEESE!) , or Wine/Beer (see previous), or even yogurt! - Love the Bugs.

However, I do not like the trend of making lab techniques edible. Agar and deconstructed amino acids have their place and it is not in our bellies. MSG is a prime example. I know people that refer to MSG-containing soup as: "Poop-water."
Mmmm, Diarrhea is soooo sexy.

Picture Chemist: "But it's an amino acid, it is part of protein, it must be OK..."
To Be con't...

Regarding the last Post's photo: Its called an "ELISA" PLATE- stands for Enzyme-Linked ImmunoSorbent Assay. I put a lot of mouse blood on those trays - tomorrow its going to be 112 samples.

The rodent rock was painted by Beth James. Seeing as how she is dead now, (she doesn't strike me as a woman who lived by euphemisms such as "passed away"). I hope animal research will someday help people with the illness that killed her. (i.e., terminal brain cancer). I am in different field, so it may not be me. For Now

June 27, 2007

Is This Your Garnish?

I have decided, Broken Mice stays.
This will be a Lab Scientist's rant regarding the growing trend of "Molecular Gastronomy". Where does this trend end?
We must fight against Vat Food.

As you may be aware, animals are frequently used in research. This is currently accepted and may cure some diseases. However, if the "Gas" crowd is to be any indication then no stone will be left unanalyzed, and unfortunately, served (the minerals make it crunchy!).

Are we soon to find Rondentia on our plates? Rat stuffed with Agar? Mmmmm, just add a sprinkle of NaCl, a beverage comprising a squirt bottle of ethanol, and Dig in!

Would you braise it, or grill it? Better yet: Autoclave! This style of steam bake is sure to make the meat bone-meltingly tender. Keep all the bits in. The spleen makes it yummy.

Jackson Labs will have to design a whole line of new transgenic mice for “Gas” Restaurateurs. You can have mice that provide the enzyme for bean digestion (if your beans are “unprocessed” and not referred to as some Lectin derivative), or better yet, Alcohol Dehydrogenase. The rodent cure. Eat your meal, drink your face off and feel fresh and pretty in the morning.

Take that anti-GM, Organic crowd. It’s the first season of Survivor with a garnish of Posh on.

I suppose one rodent animal would be acceptable, a classic Hassenpfeffer (refer to bugs bunny for explanation). Although, Rabbits always looked like Cats gone wrong and stupid.

Perhaps rabbits are successful because cats realized they didn’t want to be good eating. Target someone else.

Cheers, Here’s to creatures who know how to do rodents right.

Eat food, think stuff.

Lamenting the Zza.

Pizza never happened. We were all to Lazy to go to the store to buy the requisite ingredients; we needed olive oil, cheese and fresh basil. The Young One offered to go, but he is too young to go on his own.
Damn- give it a couple of years.

So what to do?
Naturally if you are too lazy to go to store, then you are too lazy to cook. The ultimate solution: Take-out!

Had a coupon: 3 pizzas, three toppings, plus cola, salad for 26.99 + tax/delivery (~2.50). Ordered extra topping for at 0.75 cents each. Should come to ~33.60, which is what the phone guy told me. No problem.

Pizza guy comes, order comes to 38.50! Insanity!
I suck it up and pay him (with tip because I don't want to be an ASS). Thinking all the while, "Oh, well if the pizza is good, then that extra $5 is not going to change my life."
Open the box the box: I ordered ham, pinneaple, bacon and Bl. olives. Unreal, No Bacon , no Bl. olives. Those were the clinching ingredients for me, so I paid extra AND didn't get what I wanted. Whoopee. i was not impressed.

Did I do anything? No.
Had good service for years and won't complain about one screwup but, IT STILL BUGS ME.

I wonder if by writing this down, I am immortalizing my sense of outrage. I could have let it go, but now the suffering will be drawn out for eternity - or until the server crashes.

June 24, 2007

Sugar meat, part Duh.

First, I let it sit too long - two days in fact, due to not being inspired enough to cook it.
Second, and this is the "duh" part, sugar will also draw water out of meat. The biochemist in me was not speaking very loudly when I came up with this plan. As a result, the meat came out kind of dry.

Osmotically speaking, this makes perfect sense. Water goes from lesser concentrations of solutes to greater concentrations of solutes. Solutes being things such as salt, or this ill-formed plan: sugar.

I need to design a marinade at physiological salinity, or slightly more if I want salt to enter into meat ( the whole brining concept - Yum)

Molecular Gastrononmy? Not so much, as I find this trend of laser cooking, foam-making, water-bath poaching, liquid nitrogen freezing, test-tube serving, pipette dispensing, chefs rather disgusting and a bit unecessary. Why pay thousands for a water bath when you can use a double boiler?

When you have cultured flasks full of bacteria (basically liquid protoshit), you do not want your dinner dispensed in that same style of glasswear. For me, its like saying that a toilet seat has a nice design so why not place the hors' dourves on it? Or better yet - the soap dish would make a lovely dessert plate. Bathroom sink soup anyone? I can go on, but won't.

Sometimes science, and common sense can find itself in the same place.

Flavorwise, the combo worked great, especially with the deglazing, and it combined well with my cilantro pesto. The Man didn't like it, but he is not a huge fan of this flavor combo anyway since he doesn't like ginger and meat.

Tonight: The Man will make pizza. This is his forte and will be accomplished true to scratch starting from olive oil scented dough, and finished with fresh basil and unccoked roma tomato sauce with anchovies, spanish chorizo, and sundried olives. I look forward to the discussions, disagreements, and ultimately, the cooperation that will inevitably result from this endouvor.

On that note: Breath air, Think food.

June 22, 2007

Sugar Meat

No, this is not a reference to young tender man flesh. Maybe another day.

I have decided to try this approach to cooking pork chops.

Take meat off bone, or be smart an use loin chops without bones.
Slice really thin, like what you would see at a Korean butcher shop. Its easier if partly frozen.

My goal is a dry marinade (if that exists), thus I have sprinkled the sliced meat with brown sugar, freshly grated garlic, fresh ginger chunks, chopped green chilis and seranos. Then mix with two spoons to combine the flavors. Let marinade for several hours -more if you have patience. DO NOT use salt - will take out moisture. Black pepper, also a nice addition.

My plan is to fry meat in wok in hot oil, and deglaze with soy and med. dry. sherry. I started with dry rub so as to cause meat to sear well.
I also have a cilantro pesto type thing that I will use as a garnish/sauce.

Serve with grain.
I will let you know how it works out.

June 18, 2007

Maybe I'll give this another try. Don't know what happened to all my clever pictures...
I woke at 4 am thinking about bean recipes. Wierd.