Thursday, May 31, 2012

movin to the country, gonna eat a lot of peaches

I  just ate a heavenly peach.  one of the first blog posts i wrote when we moved back to Atlanta in 2006 was about peaches. and cherries - which i'm happily seeing in stores these days. 

i know it sounds naive, but i'm still amazed after all these years whenever i bite into the first good peach of the season. i'm instantly transported back to childhood. i remember eating a peach in the garden of a cousin's house, and then burying the pit hoping it would soon sprout into an enormous tree. and i wonder if it ever did. i love tasting food and having the memory associations.  imagination is a wonderful thing, isn't it?

the below is from June 2006. i still feel the same way about peaches and cherries. maybe it's because, like twilight, their glory moment is so short; we spend the rest of the year moaning and longing for those late Spring days when we can get our grubby hands on them again.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006
fruit, glorious fruit
Posted on 11:02 AM by french tart

i have been eating the heck out of some fruit since we moved to georgia. i've been making up for eating all those sour, hard, dried up peaches that show up every year in northern grocery stores. the kind where you see them in spring and think, "Oh i'd so love a good peach!". and then you bring them home and will them to ripen and nothing happens. so you get frustrated and bite into one anyway, and it's so dissappointing and unfulfilling that you end up eating the whole thing out of spite (an action your stomach will thank you for later while you're hitting the porcelain god). i hate those days.

so i've more than made up for past peach actions by eating as many as i can in the past month. fresh georgia peaches are so fucking good, i could cry. i bit into one just now and was rewarded with peach juice gooshing all out and all over my shoes. it's okay, cos i'm wearing new laceless chuck taylors and they need to be broken in. and it's okay because it's the best damn peach i've had since yesterday. this is forgiveable. if it didnt goosh out everywhere i'd send him flying across the sea of cubes, surely to hit one of my engineers dorking away three aisles from mine.

this weekend i saw that cherries were on sale for cheap, which means we've now entered the Golden Two-Week Window when cherries are in season and abundant and cheaper than 7 dollars a pound. this is prime time to grab all the cherries you can lay your hands on. i have yet to buy some, but will. an abundance of cherries in one sitting can send you to the porcelain god as well (dont i know this all too well), so one must be creative and integrate them in small portions throughout the day. such as pitted cherries bobbing around in sangria; THE BEST THING EVER.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Ew! Leftovers!

At my last job when I worked in an office, I had a cube neighbor I called Pointy Faced Cube Neighbor. Not to her face, are you kidding? I’m not THAT evil.  I referred to her by that name when I bitched talked about her on Twitter.  She would show up in the office maybe twice a week, surf the web for a few hours, then complain about her kid's school/church/social function that she had to take part in, and leave early. The rest of us in the office made so much fun of her work ethic, but deep down we were all supremely jealous because none of us could get away with that crap with our respective bosses.

We liked her much more on the days she would work from home (and nap all day, as she once confessed to me), because if she was in the office and not surfing the web, she would clip and file her nails, get on the phone to complain to various utility companies about various bills, and generally  be an annoying distraction.  The only time she wasn’t annoying was when we’d talk about food.  She could converse about wine and stinky cheese like nobody’s business – and I’m all about that. I found myself liking her – but only during those few conversations.  The rest of the time she was annoying as all get out.

One day at lunch I had reheated some leftovers from the night before and brought them back to my desk. She sniffed appreciatively.  “What’s for lunch today?”, she said, to which I replied, “Leftovers from last night…” and before I could continue, I saw her face as she recoiled in disgust. “Ew”, she said haughtily, “We don’t do leftovers in my house”.   “Oh”, was all I could say. Later on I thought of good retorts, but at that moment, I was blank. And speechless. Who does that? Who says that about other people’s food they're about to eat?

Actually having said that, I had two other instances in that same office with two different people who said tacky things about my food.  One time I was heating up some stewed lentils in the office microwave, and a girl walking by told me my food looked, and I quote, “Nasty”.  Another time, our office manager stopped me from peeling a blood orange because she thought the orange was rotten. When I explained it was a blood orange and it’s supposed to look that way, she said, “Why would you want to eat something called a blood orange? That’s disgusting”.  Maybe it was something in the drinking water in that building? who knows. The place was rife with bad-mannered people.

So what’s not to love about leftovers? Some food tastes much better the next day, after the flavors have melded and done their magic.  Lasagna, Bolognese sauce, stews of any kind, all these are friggin’ miraculously delicious the next day. And who can resist the temptation of a cold slice of pizza, eaten while standing in front of the refrigerator with the door wide open while staring into it? Years ago when I was at my uncle Jimmy’s funeral in Miami, I had a discussion with a bunch of long lost relatives from Mississippi and Alabama about our mutual love of cold pizza and cold spaghetti.  It was interesting that it took a funeral for us to discover that about ourselves and each other.  That was also the time when two of my great aunts introduced me to the wonderfulness of a fried green tomato.  “Here, child, go fetch me that containah of bacon fat out of your Grandmothah’s freezah”. Um, WHAT? YOU FREEZE BACON FAT??  But after one bite, never again will I doubt a Southern cook. Never.

Maybe some people walk the walk and talk the talk, and just can’t cook; maybe this was Pointy Faced Cube Neighbor’s problem.  I don’t recall her ever talking about actually cooking a meal; we mostly talked about restaurants and certain chefs, and memorable meals.  For all I know, she hated leftovers because her cooking sucked, so naturally anything left over the next day would suck even more – I’m only speculating here, I never actually got to the root of her problem.  I should have asked her on the spot, when she got all arrogant with me about my Ew Lunch; but I was so irritated by her that I turned my back and ate my leftovers lunch with as much gusto and sound effects as I possibly could.  Tactful, I know. I’m good like that.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

on labels.

A few years ago I went to lunch with some vegetarian friends, and ordered a tofu dish. One of the group said to me, “Oh! When did you become a vegetarian?”.

Me: “I’m not vegetarian, but I like tofu”.

Dead silence fell around the table.

Friend 1: “So, you’re NOT vegetarian”.

Me: “Correct. I still eat meat. But I like tofu”.


Friend 2: “I don’t get it. You’re saying you’re not a vegetarian? But you’re eating tofu.  Meat eaters don’t eat tofu”.

Friend 1:” So, you’re vegetarian then, right?”

Me: (SIGH).

Why is it that we as a people feel the need to label and categorize everything? I don’t eat meat with every meal or even every day. I subscribe to Vegetarian Times magazine; I do a raw detox fairly regularly; half my cookbooks are vegetarian, vegan, or raw. But I’m no vegetarian.  I like to eat; that is all. And if that means bacon for breakfast and coconut wrappers with cashew cheese at lunch, so be it (hey – cashew cheese is not bad, as I’ve recently discovered) (I just don’t want to eat it every day).

I have been vegetarian in my past. When I was a broke college student in Savannah, it was out of necessity – beans and rice are cheap and plentiful – besides not knowing how to cook meat properly.  Prior to that, I did go through a stint as one of those full-fledged vegetarians who give the stink eye to meat eaters.  It was when I lived in Florida, and my roommates and I threw a party.  A bunch of us decided to drop acid, climb onto the roof of our house, and throw rocks at our other roommate’s boyfriend since none of us liked him very much and it seemed like a GREAT idea at the time (incidentally, I ended up dating that dude a few years later – but that’s another story).  When I climbed down from the roof, I emerged into the kitchen where a couple of people were skewering meat for the grill. And let me tell you, acid and food do not mix. I thought I was going to be sick just watching them putting meat on sticks. And I couldn’t eat meat for a long while after that, until I had a series of dreams about hamburgers and was lured into the Steak 'n Shake down the block from the house.

So why bother with labeling? Does it matter so very much? I roasted a chicken last night, and it was delicious. This morning I had miso and sweet potato soup for breakfast.  I’m not even an omnivore, as meat isn’t the principal food in my diet.  Perhaps I am omnivegetarivore. Let’s make that a word!

As I stated above, I like to eat; that is all.  And that is my manifesto.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Friday, May 4, 2012

on enchiladas and why my Spanish sucks.

So tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo. Contrary to popular American belief, this is not Mexican Independence Day (that day is later on in September). May 5 commemorates the day that the underdog Mexicans kicked some serious French ass in a battle oh so long ago.

My friend Charles has told me for years that he thinks I should not celebrate Cinco de Mayo, on principle. He’s gone so far as to say he forbids me to take part in any festivities. I haven’t seen Charles in about 15 years. We’re pen pal type friends – and by that I mean we actually write letters to each other, the old fashioned way with pen and paper. We keep stationary stores in business. Charles hasn’t embraced the Internet age and doesn’t intend to. While it’s true that I type easier than I write, I don’t mind the whole letter thing because it helps me maintain my penmanship which is otherwise used only to sign credit card receipts and make grocery lists. I have never written to Charles about how I usually do celebrate Cinco de Mayo, in the sense that I have Mexican food on that day. I don’t get stinkin’ drunk, I don’t make a total ass out of myself, but I do partake in a bit of When In Rome syndrome.

So lately I’ve been on this somewhat serious quest to learn Spanish. Other than culinary Spanish (like, PLATOS POR FAVOR, and the occasional swear word), my Spanish sucks. Part of the reason is that I don’t devote as much time to learning as I’d like to. The running joke around this house is that I have too many hobbies, and God, do I ever. I like stuff and doing stuff. Perhaps I should specialize and stick to one hobby, but what fun is that? I take an interest in everything. Anyhoo- since I’m learning from these mp3 thingies, I tend to march around the house shouting vocabulary words and verb conjugations, because why not? How else am I going to learn? I haven’t gone so far as to stick Post It notes on everything I own with the Spanish word for whatever it is written on it, but hey that’s an idea!

One word I’ve grown fond of is bocacalle. It’s so much fun to shout out. ¡Bocacalle! Our Hispanic neighbors whose house abuts ours out back probably think I’m nuts for screaming Intersection! and probably wonder what kind of game I’m playing with the dog. I think I like to shout out foreign language words willy-nilly because of my friend Patty. She and I determined that if you’re out in public, one must shout out things like C’EST SI BON and COQ AU VIN because it’s fun, especially if one uses a funny voice. So it’s because of her that I’m now shouting out ¡BOCACALLE! and IMPERDIBLE. Tomorrow I may just shout out things like COMEMOS MUCHOS TACOS because why not? I mean no disrespect. I’m having fun while learning. Allow me this little frivolity.

I’ve made the enchilada dish below a couple of times recently, and I’ll more than likely make it tomorrow. It’s heavily borrowed from one of Rick Bayless’ recipes. I love that man. I wonder if he goes around shouting Spanish words while he marches around his kitchen? It’s an amusing image. I'd like to think he does.

For this recipe, I used a ton of leftover pulled pork from a pork butt I smoked a while ago and froze. I didn’t do anything special to the meat after it defrosted to prep it for its Mexican transformation; I just heated it up. I typically make a North Carolina-style vinegar-based sauce that I mix into smoked pulled pork, but that flavor blends well with this Mexican situation. You could use any leftover meat, or even roast a chicken or buy one already roasted from the grocery store and pull that apart and use that. I have no measurements for the leftover meat; just use whatever you have and you'll probably be fine.

Enchiladas with salsa verde

Small corn tortillas (I buy a big package but only use 12 and save the rest for another recipe. How many you use will depend on how big your baking dish is and how much filling you have).
Leftover shredded meat
Monterey jack cheese (or you can be more authentic and get some queso fresco or even queso Oaxaca)
1 pound of fresh tomatillos, husked and washed
2 serranos or jalapeños, stemmed but not deseeded
 6 or 7 sprigs of cilantro
1 small onion, chopped
Couple of cloves of garlic, peeled
2 cups chicken stock
Vegetable oil

1. Make the salsa verde:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Toss in the tomatillos and chili peppers. Cook until the tomatillos are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain.

Toss the tomatillos and peppers into a food processor (or blender) along with the cilantro, the onion, the garlic. Process until smooth but still retaining a texture (I kept mine kind of chunky cos I like it that way). 

Heat up a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. When hot, toss in all the tomatillo purée; it will sputter and pop and whatnot and make a racket. Stir, stir, stir. Stir for about 4 minutes, then slowly add the chicken broth. Return to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes. Season with about a ½ teaspoon of salt. Set aside and keep warm.

2. Heat up your shredded meat in a saucepan. Heat up another skillet and warm up your corn tortillas one by one for about 30 seconds on each side, then set them to the side until ready to use.

3. Preheat your oven to 350 F.

4. Put some of the warmed salsa verde in a plate, and take one of the tortillas and lay it in there, flip it over (you want all the surfaces of the tortilla to have been shown the sauce), and lay a couple of tablespoons of your pulled meat into the center. Roll it up and put into a baking dish. Do the same with the rest of the tortillas and filling.

5. My baking dish is on the small side, so I have room for 12 rolled and filled tortillas. When your baking dish is full, pour some of the remaining salsa verde over the enchiladas. Top with a tablespoon or two of grated cheese, cover with foil, and put into the oven for 10 to 15 minutes at the most. Remove the foil, sprinkle with more grated cheese. Eat. ¡COMEMOS! And yes, my baking dish is in the shape of a pig. ¡UN COCHINO!