Sunday, May 27, 2007

writing, not cooking

D is top chef again--I'm in the throes of revision, the 3rd revision, cutting ruthlessly (it's easier to be ruthless the 3rd time around, I find--more distance).

But here is what happened yesterday--see picture above--a transformer, or something, blew up on the telephone pole by our driveway. Blew up with a loud crack, fell off, and burned merrily. And this is food-related, why? Because it happened when I was making lunch, in between Chapter 3, At Lily's House, and Chapter 4, Moonville. Happily, I had saved before we lost power. (I don't even want to think about the alternative.)
The fire department came in record time, the electric company, too. Amazingly, it was all fixed within an hour. If I was a poet, I'd write a panegyric to Cleveland Public Power--they not only fixed it with dispatch, they swept the burned and broken pieces up before they left.
Lunch: leftover rice, mustard leaves and basil from the garden, half an onion chopped, small cubes of smoked Mozzarella, olive oil, cider vinegar, sea salt--warmed slightly and tossed.

Friday, May 11, 2007

home-rolled crackers

D and I have decided that we want to reform our snacking behavior--not by stopping, for heaven's sake, but by buying or making healthier choices. Popcorn popped in olive oil: we've been doing that for a while (tastes fine). Ice cream: only the best, and only once in a while (sometimes a while is shorter than other times). Nuts: good fats!
But we both love crackers, and the crackers we love are transfatty. It's true that Ritz has come out with healthier crackers, but they're not the same, and if the crackers we eat aren't going to be the same, we decided they should be extremely not-the-same.
"We should make our own crackers," we said to each other all winter long, but like many self-improvement projects, it didn't happen. But the last time one of us said it--D--I had just read Heidi's post on crackers, which sounded good, and very doable.
D made the 1st batch, using Heidi's recipe for Spicy Polenta Cheese Crackers (which she got from Patricia Wells's book, Vegetable Harvest), changing the fat, and substituting brown rice flour for polenta, because of a dearth of the latter and just having bought the former (and using less, because we hadn't used brown rice flour before).
Spicy Brown Rice Cheese Crackers
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
3/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 1/2 tbs olive oil (substituted for butter)
Preheat oven to 375. Combine 1st six ingredients (Heidi used a food processor, D used a wooden spoon and one of those piecrust making things that have wire loops). Add the oil and mix further, much like you do for piecrust. Knead for a few seconds on a floured surface and let it rest for 15 minutes (although D forget this last part).
Roll it out as thin as you can--Heidi says to 1/16th of an inch--ours weren't that thin. Cut into rounds or strips or squares, put on ungreased baking sheet, bake for 12-15 minutes (our oven is hot, so we baked them for just over 10 minutes).
They just spicy enough, faintly cheesy, good with wine and cheese. They weren't crisp, except at the edges where they were thinner, so we're thinking next time we'll have to roll them out as thin as Heidi recommends. But they were very good, and they kept well for 4 days (which is as long as they lasted). Most important they were easy enough to adopt as a regular snack habit.
I made a 2nd batch substituting a different kind of cheese and teff flour which were not as successful--tasted great but were more like thin biscuits. But we're looking forward to more experiments.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

odd restaurant behavior

Yesterday I went to Sergio's, a Brazilian-ish restaurant in University Circle, with a friend. This isn't a restaurant review, but I will say that we both had the Carioca Burger, with 2 sauces (one a kind of salsa, the other intensely green and pesto-like), and crispy fries which came with an amazing spiced ketchup for dipping. And we shared pistachio gelato for dessert, fighting politely over the crunchy nuts. Everything was very good (I guess that was a review, a mini one anyway).
But the odd thing that happened at the next table is still on my mind. We were seated on a banquette with several small tables spaced out along its length, and 2 women were at the next 2-table. I can't describe them (and probably shouldn't) because I didn't want to inspect them--it's hard to observe someone minutely and covertly who is only an arm's length away from you. With good restaurant etiquette, you are supposed, usually, to pretend that they are invisible, and that you can't hear their conversation.
But in fact, although I observe this convention of invisibility, I always eavesdrop if I can (I consider it my duty as a writer), and in the interstices of my own interesting conversation with Plan B (writing, MFAs, our bookish childhoods, etc.) I heard snips and bits of the talk at the next table--nothing startling, just 2 friends out for lunch.
But at one point, I heard one say to the other "isn't this good?" and I glanced over to see what they were talking about, for in restaurants, don't we all want to know what they're eating at the other tables? don't we all feel that we might have missed the best thing on the menu?
So I slid my eyes sideways: they were eating biscotti, and I began to lose interest, since I don't like biscotti (too hard, often flavorless). But then I remembered that there was no biscotti on the dessert menu (we had just looked at it). And when I looked back, I noticed that they seemed to have taken it out of a bag.
Our pistachio gelato arrived just then, and under the cover of our waiter's setting it on the table (marvelously pale green, in a martini glasses, the 2 spoons with their handles pointing in opposite directions, ready to be grasped by our opposing right hands), I saw that yes, it was a bag, partially hidden under a napkin. I could see but not read the printing on the bag, a small transparent bakery sort of a bag. They were eating at one of the best restaurants in town and had brought in their own food!
I wanted so much to say to Plan B--look at what they're doing! But our tables were so close (I could have broken off a piece of the biscotti without even straightening my arm all the way), that I refrained. And then I forgot about it in the flurry of our departure, both away to our respective offices.
But how odd. And why? Sergio's has other magnificent desserts besides gelato--their coconut cake is amazing, for instance. And isn't this a variety of high incivility? I've been in places (Arabica coffee houses) that have signs prohibiting people from bringing in and eating their own food, but I guess Sergio's didn't think they'd have to go this far.