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Sunday, July 27, 2003
Call me the Sushi Master!
10:06 AM by Mike
OK, well perhaps not quite the "Sushi Master." How 'bout, the "Guy Who Took a Sushi-Making Course"?
Yesterday I participated in a two-hour sushi-making course/demonstration, organized by the Japan Center at the University of West Florida and conducted by the Japan-America Society of Northwest Florida. I attended with my friend Anthony Cornealius, who I've invited to be a guest commentator on the eatdrinkman blog. Anthony, an officer of the Japan-America Society, already has traveled to Japan and is studying Japanese in preparation for his next journey.
What a lot of fun we had. I've posted before about my recently acquired love for sushi and my desire to make it; this demonstration gave me a brief hands-on opportunity and the confidence to give it a try in my own kitchen.
Several ladies from the Society conducted the demonstration, led by Etsuko Morrison, who, I learned, was formerly a sushi chef at a local restaurant. The demo was packed; in fact, the Society had to add a second demonstration because of overwhelming response.
Each of us was given our own makisu (bamboo mat) for rolling our sushi, and we began the demo by practicing our rolling skills with white washcloths folded in half to represent the sushi rice. Then, after a brief explanation by Mrs. Morrison on how to prepare sushi rice, we dove into the hands-on, spreading rice upon the nori (seaweed wrap), adding the neta (filling) and then rolling.
Turns out I have a knack for rolling, but I put too much rice and filling in, a common beginner's mistake. My first roll was sloppy, but my second, in which the nori went on the inside, was much better. We then made a sample of nigiri (an oblong ball of sushi rice, topped with a piece of raw seafood, in our case shrimp), then a couple of other types, whose names I didn't catch.
Most of us in the demo suffered the same malady: sushi rice sticking to us everywhere. In fact, I'm having a hard time reading my notes for this, as the handout they gave us wound up with sushi rice on every page!
I can't wait to try sushi making from scratch in my own kitchen. It will have to be only for my daughter and I, though, 'cause my wife and my son aren't sushi lovers.
Friday, July 11, 2003
Mike's eatdrinkman Word of the Week
5:48 PM by Mike
If you're like me, and you watch a lot of Food Network, you hear the word couscous a lot ("... this entree goes great with a nice side of couscous ..." "... ah, this couscous reminds me of growing up in my mother's kitchen ...").
If you're like me, and you grew up in the suburbs, you're thinking, "What in the world is couscous?" Whatever it is, they eat a lot of it on Food Network.
As educated as I'm trying to become via Project eatdrinkman, I have to admit that I'm starting from a bare foundation when it comes to food sophistication. Growing up in those suburbs (in the South, by the way), we had rice as a side, and that's it. And it was Minute Rice at that. OK, maybe we had some corn and peas and stuff, but mostly a lot of Minute Rice.
So, when Tyler and Jamie and Emeril and Rachael and those guys start yapping away about couscous, I have to just grin and pretend that I know what it is, and live secure in the assumption that if I ever really need to know what it is, or to serve it, they'll probably have some down at the Wal-Mart.
My confusion over couscous comes from my general assumption that it's some kind of monkey thing. I seem to remember, from all those commercials for his videos, the image of zookeeper Jack Hanna with this monkey thing on his head, saying, "Have you ever had a couscous on your head?"
Perhaps, then, my actual question, when I hear Tyler and Jamie and Emeril and Rachel talk about couscous, is not "What in the world is couscous?" but, "Why are they serving monkey as a side dish?"
Finally, however, I could not stand it any longer. I had to break down and admit to the world that I didn't know what couscous was and looked it up. Couscous, according to the encyclopedia on FoodTV.com, is granular semolina, and is a staple of North African cuisine (in the suburbs of North Africa, they're probably wondering what Minute Rice is). "Cooked, it may be served with milk as porridge, with a dressing as a salad or sweetened and mixed with fruits for dessert. Packaged precooked couscous is available in Middle Eastern markets and large supermarkets. The name couscous also refers to the famous Maghreb dish in which semolina or cracked wheat is steamed in the perforated top part of a special pot called a couscoussière , while chunks of meat (usually lamb or chicken), various vegetables, chickpeas and raisins simmer in the bottom part. In lieu of a couscoussière , a colander set over a large pot will do. The cooked semolina is heaped onto a platter, with the meats and vegetables placed on top. All diners use chunks of bread to scoop the couscous from this central platter. Couscous varies from country to country--Moroccans include saffron, Algerians like to add tomatoes and Tunisians spice theirs up with the hot-pepper-based harissa sauce."
Couscous, as it turns out, is not to be confused with the cuscus, which is an Australian possum, and not a monkey at all.
Helping to spread the eatdrinkman philosophy
5:31 PM by Mike
Many thanks to Linda Larsen, who runs the Busy Cooks site over at About.com (http://busycooks.about.com). She's featured eatdrinkman in her list of recommended food blogs, and gives particular praise to Cathy's "Dirty Shoelaces" recipe.
I'm glad to have heard from Linda, because I hadn't yet encountered the Busy Cooks site. It's a great one, with tons of excellent tips, lessons and recipes for the busy cook and the beginning cook. It should be one of the first stops for eatdrinkmans everywhere.
Thanks again, Linda.
Friday, July 04, 2003
Fun on the Fourth
10:46 AM by Mike
Happy Fourth of July!
At the moment I'm peering out the window at the gloomy mess that calls itself weather here in Northwest Florida. Because of Tropical Storm Bill and his offspring, weather here in the Southeast has been spectacularly awful, with tons of rain, lots of wind and thick humidity. The sun fights to get through the clouds, and makes an appearance every so often, but it's just a tease; the clouds and rain come back eventually.
I mention all this because it means that I'll probably have to keep the new grill under wraps for yet another day.
But in my gloom about that, it occurs to me how much of an eating holiday the Fourth of July has become. I can't think of another holiday, other than Thanksgiving, where the primary activity for the day is chowing down. Christmas and Easter are worshipful holidays on which eating is a secondary activity. Thanksgiving is all about eating, although it's strictly an indoor event.
Yes, on the Fourth we head out to watch fireworks and celebrate our independence, but while we're waiting for it to get dark so we can fire up those rockets, we have to do something, so we might as well eat. Naturally food on the Fourth is mainly an outdoor pastime. Grill manufacturers love the Fourth; they should just call it Grilling Day.
And if you don't cook yourself, or head over to a friend's for a meal, then more than likely you're heading for a local festival or celebration where food - vendors, eating and cooking contests, etc. - is the central theme.
We're not a recipe site, per se, because there are already tons of recipe sites out there. If you've waited until this late hour to plan your holiday meal, head over to one of the sites listed on the left (you can't go wrong with FoodTV.com) and check out their holiday suggestions.
In the meantime, I'm going to hope it dries up in time for me to fire up the chimney starter and get some chicken on the grill. I'll probably do a quickie meal, grilling up some chicken breasts from the warehouse store, and serving them with Sonny's Sweet BBQ Sauce (also from the warehouse store).
I hope your Fourth is somewhat drier than mine. Happy Independence Day!
Monday, June 30, 2003
You learn something new every day...
5:07 PM by Mike
Watching the Food Network special "BBQ Boot Camp" the other day, I picked up a nifty tip from Steven Raichlen, the author of "How to Grill: The Complete Illustrated Book of Barbecue Techniques," and the leader of the comprehensive, three-day course in grilling which was the subject of the show.
One of the students asked the age-old question about whether to grill an item with the lid on or off (or, in the case of a gas grill, raised or lowered). Raichlen said he uses the hand-thickness rule of thumb: If an item, say a steak or chop, is the thickness of your hand or less, cook with the top off (or raised). If it's thicker than your hand, cook with the lid on (or lowered).
I had never heard that rule of thumb before, and it made me want to go out and pick up his "How to Grill" book to see what other nifty tips he has. The "BBQ Boot Camp" special, while pretty much a commercial for the three-day seminar, had a lot of great tips and recipes, although it made me wonder how much more a student gets by actually attending the $2,500-per-couple weekend.
Friday, June 20, 2003
How did we ever live in the kitchen without ...
10:19 AM by Mike
This is, I'm sure, going to be an ongoing list (and I have a feeling Rick will have his own contributions):
Squeeze-anything (squeeze ketchup, squeeze jelly, squeeze mayo, now squeeze peanut butter, etc.)
Those wavy, plastic taco holders
Floor mops with built-in squirt guns that shoot the floor cleaner out with a pull of the trigger (although any kid whose mom ever made him mop the kitchen floor invented this device years ago)
Zip-lock bags that have real zippers - those sliding zipper handles
Wednesday, June 18, 2003
Joining the wise men
4:58 PM by Rick
You simply need to make a couple of quick cuts on something you're cooking. Your cutting board is dirty. Your dining room table is soooo close... Take it from a preacher or a married man, whichever seems more significant: DO NOT give in to temptation. Yes, I strayed in the past, but now I've returned to the fold.
Thursday, June 12, 2003
Real men don't make summer salad
7:46 AM by Mike
Xovi Erfahrung buy levitra | cialis 10mg generikaWell, OK, I guess we do. In fact, the kind of salad I made the other night is one of my favorite meals to make, not so much because of the ease but because of the creativity.
I wanted to make a simple pasta salad, with bits of chicken stirred in. This was a quicky meal, to be made sort of on the run as I came home late from work. Because of this, I didn't have time to marinate the chicken, and I would be serving this straight out of the bowl after mixing, without time for the dressing to set. A salad like this really should sit for a couple of hours, if not overnight, in the fridge. Still, it turned out great and there was plenty left to take to work for lunch the next day.
The fun thing about making this meal was zooming through the aisles at my favorite Wal-Mart Super Center, just grabbing things off the shelves as they hit my fancy. ("Ooooh! Capers!") Here's the funny thing: I stopped at the section where they sold those pasta salads in a box - the anti-eatdrinkman approach - and scanned the box covers for ideas ("Olives! I didn't think of olives!").
The backbone of this salad is a good rotini, my favorite noodle (it sounds like something the Jawas would say in "Star Wars": "Rotini!"). This Wal-Mart no longer carries my favorite brand, Ronzoni, so I picked up Skinner instead.
In my sprint through the aisles, I grabbed a can of mushroom pieces (I didn't have time to prep fresh ones), a can of chopped black olives (although the store brand can that I bought should have been labeled "Pulverized Olives"), a jar of pimientos and the capers. At home, I already had a jar of artichoke hearts.
I quickly defrosted three chicken breasts in the microwave (this was a big bowl of salad) and started the noodles. Had I the time, I would have grilled the chicken breasts, but instead I did a simple searing in a skillet with no marinade, only salt and pepper.
Once the noodles were cooked, I built the dressing directly on the noodles, not on the side. First I poured on some olive oil, then added some balsamic vinegar. I wasn't quite happy with that taste, so I added some red wine vinegar. (Is it proper to mix vinegars? Uncouth? Is it dangerous? Could I have blown myself up? Oh, well.) Closer to the taste I wanted. I probably could have skipped the balsamic.
Then I broke apart some artichoke hearts, and even poured in some of the pickling juice from the jar. In went the pimientos, some olives, the mushrooms and some capers. I had wanted to add some chopped, fresh green and red bell peppers, but my daughter doesn't like peppers (she doesn't know pimientos are peppers), and I didn't want to watch her digging them out of her salad. Maybe some other time, when I prepare this for a picnic or something.
Also, in my rush, I didn't add as many herbs as I probably should have. All of the flavor came from the dressing and the components, which was great, but the right herbs could have been just the kick it needed.
The next time, I'll also add some sweet corn and perhaps something for some crunch, like chow mein noodles or celery.
Family's verdict (except for my son, who was out of town): Excellent. Keep it on the menu.