Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ah, Much Better!

Watched the Rally to Restore Sanity/Fear yesterday morning and my mood  improved dramatically,  enough so that I posted the recipe for Sans-Burger Bean Pot, what I made for dinner last night.  Made enough to choke a horse, so we will be having left over Bean Pot for quite a while.

I had intended to do a bunch of plumbing yesterday, so that my Sunday would be free for brewing another batch of beer (this one's going to be an experiment for a possible holiday brew.)  I managed to get some work done, but unfortunately, my wife fell asleep on the couch instead of going to Home Depot to get the parts I needed, so I ended up watching college football the rest of the day.

So today was the major plumbing day.  Managed to get the boys bathroom mostly done and completed the hot-water recirculating loop, so we can stop running cold water down the shower drain every morning, waiting for the hot.  In the summer we catch the cold in a bucket and use it to water the garden, but there's not much point in that when it's raining.

There's nothing like wrestling around under a bathroom vanity trying to contort yourself into a position where you can install a bunch of valves.  I am pretty whooped after an afternoon of all that crap.

So I threw together something for dinner and now I'm having a Jack Daniel's, blogging and splitting my attention between the Woild Series and Sunday Night Football.  I'm also keeping an ear open for Trick-or-Treaters, but there's not much chance of any of those showing up.

I have an experiment in the oven, a variation of a recipe on Epicurious, Pumpkins Stuffed with Everything Good.  I am taking liberties, because believe it or not on Halloween Day I could not find a standard pumpkin after trying at two different markets.  So I ended up with these little guys, which I hope will work just as well.

I'm using a mix of White Bread and Dark Rye Bread.  Neither was stale as called for in the recipe so I dried some slices out in the oven.  Unfortunately, some of the bread broke into crumbs when I pulled it off the racks and now the oven is smoking like a chimney.

Oooh, wow!  I had some leftover filling, so I just threw it in a ramekin and baked it up with the pumpkins.  Just checked on the pumpkins and they need another 15 minutes or so, but the ramekin was done.  Darn tasty little savory bread pudding!

Oh well, I will post a little update after dinner to let you know how it all turns out.  For now, I think another beverage is in order and then a quick search of the Video on Demand to see what sort of Zombie fare is available for this evening's viewing.

Happy Halloween!

Serve with a glass of Julian Hard Cider and it's a meal all by itself.  Pretty darned tasty, although no Flying Dutchman.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Too Depressed to Blog

If I had a vocabulary I would be in a funk.

Maybe my mood will improve when the elections pass.  Or at least the election advertising.

If nothing else, maybe I'll start to cheer up when Juan Williams is out of the news cycle.  I actually renewed my membership with NPR immediately after they canned that jackass.  I couldn't stand him ever since his interview with then President Bush.  The sound of Juan blowing kisses at Dub-Yah was making me nauseous.

Jesus Christ!!  My DVR just cut off the final segment of the Daily Show with President Obama.  My mood was just starting to improve.  And to make matters worse, when the DVR cut out, TMZ was on. (The channel was on Fox because of the World Series; don't get me started on Tim McCarver.)  If TMZ doesn't make you suicidal nothing will.

Now I'm trying to revive myself with some bad theater; Shoot to Kill.  Where is MST3K when I need them.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bounty Hunters and Pot Roast

Last week I was watching a classic motion picture, Hannie Caulder, in which Raquel Welch, under the tutelage of bounty hunter Robert Culp, becomes a gunfighter so as to exact revenge on Ernest Borgnine, Jack Elam and Strother Martin, the three of whom killed her husband and, ah, had their way with her.    We meet Robert Culp as he rides in, a dead outlaw with a price on his head tied across the saddle of his pack horse.  At this point a question occurred to me; do you suppose old west bounty hunters minored in undertaking?  I mean westerns are littered with bounty hunters hauling dead guys around the desert, waiting to cash in at the next Sheriff's office.  You would think things would get a little rank.  So, it occurred to me that, obviously, these guys must already be embalmed.

But enough philosophy.

It was an interesting weekend, culinarily speaking.  I was being a very good (vegetarian) boy, perhaps too good.  Starting off Friday evening with a longer and more frustrating day at the office than I had hoped, I hit a mess of traffic on the southbound 215 en route to the homestead.  I had called Larry, my neighbor, to see how his commute was progressing, figuring that if we were stuck fairly close to each other on the freeway we could exit to some convenient bar to wait for traffic to thin out.  Unfortunately, or I guess fortunately for Larry, he was well ahead of me and close to home.  We agreed to meet at his house for a post commute cocktail.

(Here I should plug my concept for increasing ridership in carpools.  Various public agencies from the AQMD to CalTrans to whoever are always trying to come up with ways to incite people to carpool.  Excuse me, I suppose that should be "incentivize."  (God I hate that.)  My concept is simple; legalize drinking for riders in carpools.  The concept is not that radical, it's just taking designated driver to its obvious limit.  Think how much more enjoyable the ride would be, kicking it in the back seat with a frosty brew or maybe a nice Suavignon Blanc.  And the peer pressure from the drivers, encouraging their fellow carpoolers to drive so that each can get his turn behind the glass.  Ridership would skyrocket.  I'm thinking about trying to qualify this for the California ballot.  What the heck, screwier stuff comes out of our initiative process.)

Anyway, made it home and hooked up with Larry for a little Jack Daniel's.  I decided that we were in no mood for cooking, so we treated the Pimms to dinner at Oggi's.  I was sorely tempted to have something with MEAT, but I settled on a personal size  pizza, the Bocce Ball, with alfredo sauce, spinach, roasted garlic, red bell peppers and Gorgonzola cheese.  Plenty decadent without the meat.  A small Greek salad and a couple IPAs and it was a dinner made in heaven.

Saturday morning came around, Denise sleeping in, and I decided to mess around in the kitchen.  Denise had been saying she really wanted a nice flaky biscuit, not having had one in a long while.  I decided she would have to settle for my biscuits instead.  Strangely, I ended up making vegetarian biscuits and gravy.  Shoot, they were nearly vegan.  Not motivated to bake from scratch, I got out the Bisquick.  Started mixing them up and discovered I only had about a teaspoon of milk in the carton.  No problem, pulled a box of soy milk out of the pantry.   Biscuits in the oven, I started on the gravy.  A white sauce of SmartBalance, a little flour, soy milk and some MorningStar Farms Hot and Spicy Sausage Patties crumbled into the mix.  All things considered they were moderately acceptable, especially when smothered with fresh ground black pepper and habanero sauce.

Sometime on Saturday we were out harvesting miscellaneous goodies from the garden, including tomato worms, and I found this on the back lawn.  We had been missing our kitchen sheers for a while.  Apparently I, or someone, left them out by the garden and Leo converted them to a chew toy.  Idiot!

Oh well, for dinner we made eggplant parmessan with eggplants from the garden.

Breakfast Sunday was Pumpkin-Habanero Waffles, the pumpkin from last years garden by way of our freezer and the habaneros fresh from this year.  I substituted Citrus Olive Oil for the butter, but otherwise it was a pretty standard waffle recipe with an added half cup of pumpkin puree and one very finely minced habanero, seeds and veins removed.   They were very good, but the citrus kind of overpowered the pumpkin and frankly they could have used a second habanero; the spiciness was very subtle.

Lunch was just weird.  We had some leftover sauerkraut in the fridge, I think from our hot dog thing a while back, and loaf of rye bread hanging around.  Denise thought we could use up the kraut on meatless Reuben Sandwiches.  Something about a Reuben with just Swiss cheese and sauerkraut sounded wrong.  Unfortunately, I made it wronger.  I figured we could try some sort of fake lunch meat.  Sprouts carried nothing like meatless Pastrami or Corned Beef, so we bought fake turkey and fake salami  slices.  Piled in combination in the Reuben, they provided a more or less appropriate profile; bread, cheese, meatish-something, kraut, bread.  Taste was a little weird, but the swiss and kraut pretty much overpowered the rest of the thing.

Now, by Sunday evening, I'm thinking that I have strayed from my inner Gumby, not really adhering to the flexitarian ethic.  While at Sprouts I succumbed to the siren song of the meat department and bought a CHUCK ROAST.  It did happen to be a chuck roast from Open Space Meats, grass fed, low in bad fats, high in Omega-3's.   Besides, this was the first half-way cold weekend of the fall, signalling the start of Dutch Oven season. Dutch Oven Sunday with the Pimms.  Fired up the coals in the backyard around 3:30.  Browned the roast, then a little mirepoix, garlic, red wine, tomato sauce, salt, pepper and cumin.  Back in with roast.  A couple hours and several charcoal briquets later I threw in some parsnips, carrots and red potatoes.  Another hour and it was ready.  The Pimms brought desert, a nice apple cobbler in Larry's Dutch oven.  A pretty tasty Zinfandel with dinner.  All Excellent!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Chili's for the Chileans!

Tonight my lovely wife and I went out to dinner at Chili's to celebrate the successful rescue of the Chilean miners.  Well, celebrating that and the $20 Chili's gift card that my wife won at her office party.

All in all, the rescue was pretty exciting stuff, happy news and a pleasant diversion from all the other CRAP to which one is normally subjected in the daily news cycle.

I toasted the rescue with a traditional Chilean beverage, Newcastle.  Well, actually, I chose Newcastle because it was the only decent brew on tap.  Had the miners been Yardhousians, instead of Chileans,  we would have had a decent assortment of brews with which to toast.

I  went to the Newcastle web site to find some tie in to mining; unfortunately I was stumped by their prompt designed to determine that I was of legal age before entering the web site.  Kept entering my birthday as mm/dd/yy and finally realized that they wanted mm/dd/yyyy.  Once into the web site you are greeted by some beautiful people, welcoming you to "The Block."  The thing is, they are all AMERICANS!  I thought Newcastle was an English brew.   I was hugely disappointed, so much so that I immediately hit the back button and fled.

It turns out that all was not lost.  Upon further Googling, I discovered that in addition to the Newcastle Brewery, Newcastle is also the home of The North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers.

So now it all makes sense.   Go to Chili's, raise a pint of Newcastle and toast the miners and their rescuers.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Curses! Trapped Like a Rat!

Spent much of my Sunday in my attic, continuing the plumbing project that by now Denise believes to be perpetual.  I was a bit fatigued when the day came to a close, so I decided to pour myself into several Margaritas.

Monday evening was spent with a bit of projecting, but mostly with a return to home brewing after a summer hiatus, whatever that is.  After a stop at More Beer in Riverside earlier in the day I arrived home with ingredients for an American IPA, a Porter and a Mild Brown Ale.  I fired up the IPA and it is now quietly fermenting away in the closet.  In about I week I will dry hop it and probably start on the Porter, which I'm planning to make into a Chipotle-Porter.

By the time I had mostly cleaned up from the brewing I was beat.  Went to bed and read a little bit from "Beer: Tap into the Art and Science of Brewing" (which was Nick's text book for the fermentation science course he took at UC Davis) and then passed quietly into sleep.

I was awakened sometime around midnight, by my wife, from a blissful sleep, the kind that you only really appreciate once you're wide awake and sleep is gone for good.  Denise informed me that there was a rat in the family room.  Apparently it had wandered in through a gap in the screen door.  How it managed to let Denise spot it I will never know.  I came out and started overturning furniture with no real expectation of finding anything; it was a rat after all.  After some fruitless searching it occurred to me that the windows were wide open, all the lights were on and I'm running around in my underwear upsetting furniture.

I retreated briefly for a pair of shorts and then resumed the search.  Unfortunately for this rat, it lacked the patience to just wait for me to give up and go to bed. It leaped out from underneath some exercise equipment (an excellent choice of hiding place, considering the remote likelihood of our ever finding it under there) and about scared the crap out of me.  It hid again, bolted again and eventually ended up in the kitchen hallway, leaping at the door like it was trying to reach the knob.  I had opened the patio door wide, in hopes that it would panic its way out of the house, but no such luck.  The chase continued through the laundry room into the half-bath where I thought I had it cornered.  It made an end run back out the door and then committed a fatal mistake with a right turn into the pantry.   The second right would have led out the patio door.

With it cornered in the pantry I started excavating the miscellaneous tins and boxes to try to get at the thing.  With it uncovered and cowering I pinned it in the corner with a mop.

At this point it started SCREAMING:   Aaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh, Aaaahhh, Aaaaahhhhhhhhhh, Aah, Aah,  Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh, A-ah, Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah, Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh,..............!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  

About this time I was thinking that I should have given sanctions and diplomacy a bit more time.

The rat is screaming, its lower half pinned under the mop and its upper body twisting around to get a good look at the asshole who's trying to kill it.  I have decided by now that this is a girl rat, due to a striking resemblance to Duchess, the boys' pet rat we had some 14 or 15 years ago, and one of the sweetest pets you could hope to have.  Now how am I supposed to bash this poor little girl's brains out.

I managed to trap the thing under a box, closed off the open end with a dustpan and took the thing outside, with Leo now in tow to see what was so exciting.  What to do with the thing?  I opted to throw it into the street where it laid for a brief bit and then scurried off to the far side, there to probably die of massive internal injuries.

I returned to bed with no real hopes of getting back to sleep, but eventually managed to nod off.

Tonight I could use some relaxation.

Came home and experimented with Pumpkin Habanero Risotto, which I decided was darned tasty.  A little side salad and a cold mug of Lagunitas IPA and it was not a bad meal at all.

By the time I finish this post I will be about ready for bed.

Not that I expect much sleep.  I will probably be haunted by...
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh, Aaaahhh........................!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Farm Workers

Happy Saturday!

Sometime shortly before Nicholas returned to Davis, he, Denise and I went out to lunch at the Public House in Old Town Temecula.  This is one of our new favorite places, if for no other reason than their excellent beer selection.

After lunch we wandered the streets a little bit and stopped in at the Temecula Olive Oil Company.  While Nick and I were sampling the  oils and vinegars at the tasting bar, Denise was wandering the store, finding a flyer for an olive picking event at the company's olive orchard east of Temecula.  Actually, I don't know precisely how the event was billed, because I don't think I ever actually looked at the flyer.  Based purely on Denise's description I agreed that the idea sounded like fun and Denise began recruiting for the event.  My sisters Kathy and Jackie with her husband Mike all opted to join us for the day.  Thirty-five bucks a piece for an opportunity to learn a little bit about the olive oil business, pick some olives, taste some product, watch the pressing, all with a lunch of gourmet pizza from a travelling wood-fired pizza oven.

The day turned out to be a bunch of fun and very informative.  The place is beautiful.

We started off with a little tasting.  They have some very tasty olive oils, some infused with roasted garlic, basil, citrus, etc.  Delicious.  As you are tasting an olive oil they will mix a little Pomegranite or Vanilla-Fig-Balsamic Vinegar in with olive oils to create some very tasty vinaigrettes.

It's a little funny, sipping olive oil straight from a little portion cup, but it doesn't take long to get used to it.

After the tasting, we followed one of the proprietors down to the trees and learned more than I can possibly hope to remember about olives, olive trees, harvesting, grading of olive oils, why "extra-virgin" is largely a marketing thing, etc.  This was one of the highlights of the event for my spouse and sisters, as our guide was apparently smoking hot.  They dubbed him BTBR.  Apparently they overheard some woman saying that he looking like Billy Ray Cyrus.  They disagreed; "Better Than Billy Ray!"  They seem to have found him personable, intelligent, articulate and beautiful.  Just like me.

Olive Poo!
From the trees to the olive press, we got to see a little of the process of crushing the olives, which results in something looking like tapenade, "olive poo" I believe was the technical term.

The poo (or pooh, but that always makes me think of the bear) is expressed onto these circular metal screens, the screens then layered into a press and from thence, flows the oil.

Going to Press
Interestingly, you don't get a hell of a lot of oil.  I don't remember the specific numbers, but I think they said a ton of green olives produces about 25 gallons of oil.  Later in the season, the more mature, darker olives produce something like up to 80 gallons per ton.  Again, don't quote me, I wasn't taking notes, but you get the idea.

The crusher was pretty entertaining.  Big stainless steel rollers circle this vat and mash up the olives to free the oil and water from the fruit.  Apparently the olives are very bitter, but the bitter products are water soluble and separate out during the crushing process.
They grind olives, pits and all, the pits helping to break up the cell walls and free more of the juices.  The remaining pulp apparently makes good compost or bio-fuel, being very high in energy.

Add caption
 After the pressing came the picking.  It turns out, they staged the picking as a competition.  Two or three-person teams were supposed to pick as many olives as possible in a 15 minute period.  Denise and I put in what I considered to be a very respectable 7 pounds, considering that I was trying to be thorough and not waste any olives.  Jackie and Mike took the competition very seriously, their haul weighing in at 17 pounds.  Kathy was the only smart one, opting out of the competition and manning, excuse me, wo-manning the camera.  Sadly, Jackie and Mike finished second to another couple whose bag weighed in at 18.  There was some small controversy about the judges ruling, Jackie being fairly sure that her bag also showed 18 on the scale, but hey, this ain't college football.  No instant replay.  Besides, it was lunch time.

There was quite a line for lunch.  Happily, beer and sangria were being served, so I purchased several beverages to make the wait bearable.  The food was very good, salad and pizza, the pizza as I mentioned from a mobile pizzeria, Amalfi Mobile Pizzeria.  They had a pumpkin pizza that was really interesting, tasty, apparently invented last night, according to the staff.  I don't recall everything that was on it, but I am going to have to try a knock-off.  We got into a short conversation about wood-fired pizza ovens.  Apparently if you install one of your own these guys will come to your house and show you how to use it.  I am now freshly motivated to build my own.

For desert they served some chocolate brownies made with their Citrus Olive Oil.  I have got to find that recipe.

After lunch the show was mostly over.  Denise and I purchased a fresh bottle of Roasted Garlic Olive Oil and a bottle of the California Balsamico Bianco, a white balsamic vinegar made with honey produced on their ranch.  I believe one or both will be going into our dinner this evening.

I took the opportunity to buy Arbequina Olive Trees.  I was told these are smaller trees that will do well in pots.  I was also told olive trees like good drainage, which probably explains why my current tree is not producing; our soil is for crap, almost pure clay in spots.

Not to be outdone, returning to our house we had a little harvest festival of our own, picking some tomatoes and limes to send home with our visitors.  I even sent a habanero pepper with Jackie and Mike, recommending habanero peanut butter cookies, a personal favorite.

Anyway, in the end it was an excellent day.

More pictures can be found on my Picasa Olive Picking album.

Meatless Monday!

(Sorry, late post.  I wrote this on Tuesday evening, but failed to post it.  But you get the idea, better late than never.`)

Tonight I am relaxing with a Julian Hard Cider.   I saw it on the beer menu at Stone Brewing last night and again tonight in the beer aisle when I stopped in for a few items at Sprouts.  Decided to grab one, which was not inexpensive at $7.99 the 22 oz. bottle.  Got home and split it with Denise.  Delicious!  I may have to make a run down to Julian to visit their operation.

Threw some Meatless Sour Cream Noodle Bake into the oven and watched the Smithsonian Channel wage the final stages of the war in the Pacific while I finished my cider.

(Re. the Meatless Sour Cream Noodle Bake, I made my Mom's recipe, substituting Yves Meatless Ground for the ground beef.  It was pretty good, but I was also using homemade tomato sauce, which is quite a bit sweeter than that canned.  If I do this recipe again I think I'll add a little smoked paprika to give it spicier bite and cut the sweetness a little.)

On the subject of meatless, Monday night Denise and I went to Stone for "Meatless Monday."  I had a Stone Smoked Porter, Pizza Port Cow Stout and a Pliny the Elder Imperial IPA from Russian River Brewing.  Oh, we had vegetarian food also.
Chipotle Hummus with Crostini
Had a very good appetizer of Chipotle Hummus with toasted slices of baguette, I guess technically crostini.  For dinner, Denise order the Citracado Parkway Salad and the soup of the day, which turned out to be something French, Soup du Jour, I think he called it.  (Actually Smoked Eggplant.)   I had the Arrogant Bastard Ale Avocado Tacos.
Arrogant Bastard Avocado Tacos
It made for a pretty pleasant evening.  Thank god though that there are no weekdays the start with "B"; I don't think I could stand a "Beerless B-day!"

Turns out that they do have Tacos Tuesday.  I will definitely have to check that out.

I suppose before closing I should give Denise some kudos for preparing something a little different last weekend.  We have had a boatload of grape tomatoes coming out of the garden this year and somewhere Denise found a recipe for fried grape tomatoes.  They are left on the stem, battered, deep fried and served with a little garlic aioli.
Fried Grape Tomatoes
As she described this recipe to me I couldn't see how you would get batter to stick to an unpeeled tomato, but I supposed it was worth a try.  As the picture shows, the batter did not, in most cases, stick to the tomato, but no matter; it all tasted delicious.

Earlier in the week I had reincarnated my sourdough starter.  It had been in the refrigerator, untouched, for probably at least 6 months and had developed a thick, blackish, leathery skin (possibly an animal friendly alternative to shoe leather) and the starter extracted from beneath the skin was the consistency of spackle.  Nonetheless, I fed it, let it rest for a while and it seemed to recover nicely.  I converted it into a couple loaves of French bread.

So, dinner was somewhat casual and not particularly well balanced; bread with olive oil for dipping, fried tomatoes and garlic aioli.   With a little vino it was not bad at all.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Ugly Duckling?

I thought I'd spend a minute today on something relatively new, at least new to me.  Sometime this summer the boys and I were shopping at Sprouts, I don't recall why, but in the process happened across a huge display of "Ugly Tangerines."   They really were some ugly little spuds, er, citrus products.  They looked like some sort of bizarre cross between a tangelo and a toad.  They were also huge, by tangerine standards, big as my fist.  We bought a few on a whim, figuring no matter how bad they were they'd make for a good story.

We sampled them at home and they were FANTASTIC!  And I don't usually get all that excited about fruit.

Some time later, Nick and I were back in Sprouts on an Ugly Tangerine run.  Checking out with a half dozen or so, the guy behind us in line said, "What are THOSE?"  "Ugly Tangerines," Nick, I and the woman at the register replied in unison.  "They'll change your life," added the cashier.  Nick and I thought about that for a millisecond or so and decided she was absolutely correct.

They remind me a little of those segmented chocolate oranges that seem to show up around Christmas.  You know, the ones wrapped in foil, you whack the thing on the counter, unwrap and all the little segments fall out by themselves.   Ugly Tangerine skins pull away so easily and the segments fall apart; you'd assume they were some cunning GMO, combining the DNA of a tangerine for taste, chocolate orange for packaging and a little bit of hacky sack for appearance (the leather kind, not the knitted ones.)

You can see an Ugly Tangerine in action in the following video.

These are actually pretty attractive ones.  Some of them are really homely.  A very little research suggests that these are actually Shasta Gold Mandarins, developed at UCR.   I don't know, the photos I've seen of the Shasta Golds seem distinctly more swan-like than the ugly duckings flocking to the stores in Temecula.  Whatever, ugly in this case is only skin deep.