Monday, June 23, 2008

Bon Appetit Drink, June '08

Every month, Bon Appétit has a featured drink and I figure, why the hell not?


The Michelada, at its core a simple mixture of beer and hot sauce, sounds like a drink concocted by cash-strapped college kids. But cerveza preparada (prepared beer) is a traditional favorite in Mexico and the American Southwest, where you'll never find it made the same way twice (and where it is often enjoyed in the morning after a long night). Some like the addition of tomato juice, but on a sweltering summer's day we prefer a crisp, refreshing version like the one from Israel Prado of El Chile Cafe y Cantina in Austin. It's our new favorite hot-weather cocktail.

Makes 1

1 lime wedge
Chile with salt and lime seasoning (such as Chilimon)*
Ice cubes
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 dash hot pepper sauce
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
1 12-ounce bottle Dos Equis lager

Run lime wedge around rim of 20-ounce glass [bigger than a pint - we used the infamous Coors Light football glasses from BWW - perfect!] to moisten. Pour seasoning onto small plate; dip rim of glass in seasoning. Fill glass with ice. Add lime juice, hot pepper sauce, and Worcestershire sauce to glass. Add beer. Sprinkle with more seasoning and serve.

*A dry seasoning blend of chiles, salt, and lime; available at some supermarkets and Latin markets.

This is surprisingly very refreshing. I thought the bite of the pepper sauce would remove that, but it seems to do the opposite. It's as if that little bit of kick accentuates the stimulating and crisp cold of the icy beer and lime juice.

The recipe doesn't mention that you should mix it and the picture in the magazine shows a darkness hovering around the bottom of the glass that implies you shouldn't, but it was much better when you stir it up and get all of the flavor in every sip. Also I didn't find Chilimon (although I love the name and will seek it out), but mixing kosher salt with chile powder seemed to suffice.

This drink is a nice change of pace. I find it much more refreshing than straight beer on a warm summer day.

Of course, let me know if you try it and what you think. And this isn't a meme, but I think I'm going to tag Chemist on this one. :)

Bon Appetit Meal, June '08

The meal Toast picked for this month was a wonderful combination of tastes and textures.

Farfalle with Chicken, Tomatoes, Carmelized Onions and Goat Cheese
4 to 6 servings

This pasta is loaded with appealing flavors: sweet onions and tomatoes, tangy goat cheese, earthy spinach.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large red onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons Sherry wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
8 ounces farfalle
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup low-salt chicken broth
6 heirloom tomatoes, cored, chopped (about 5 cups)
2 cups shredded cooked chicken (from 1/2 rotisserie chicken)
1/2 cup thinly sliced basil leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram
3 cups baby spinach
3 ounces soft fresh goat cheese, crumbled

Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions; sprinkle with salt and cook until beginning to brown, stirring often, about 8 minutes [probably actually went about twice that long]. Reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in vinegar and sugar; cook until onions are browned, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Transfer carmelized onions to bowl; reserve skillet.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain.

Add wine to reserved skillet. Boil until reduced to 1/2 cup, 3 minutes. Add pasta, onions, broth, and next 4 ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. Stir over medium heat to warm through, about 3 minutes.

Divide spinach among plates. Spoon pasta over spinach. Top with crumbled goat cheese.

This was a nice recipe. It was easy, but the prep work took a while - that's a lot of onion and tomato chopping. I used a chardonnay as it was the only white I had on hand and I used on-the-vine tomatoes instead of heirloom (Dude, heirloom tomatoes are expensive!). It turned out just fine with these two alterations.

The flavors were very fresh and light. You can easily get away with adding more chicken. That would only be a benefit. I used 4 ounces of goat cheese instead of three and probably could've done with even more. Mmm, goat cheese.

This recipe makes a lot of food. I did the full boat as we like leftovers in this family. Well, Toast had a helping and a half for dinner, I had one helping for dinner, then we still had 3 lunches from it (1 large one for Toast, two smaller for me).

All in all, a very good choice. Let me know if you try it and what you think.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

I like to call this one "I'm Getting A New Computer"


Can you tell I'm excited? Today I ordered a brand spanking new Dell Inspiron 530. For those of you who are acquainted with the geeky arts, it has an Intel® Core™ 2 duo processor, 2GB dual channel DDR2 SDRAM and a 250GB Serial ATA hard drive. I don't know what any of this means, but Toast says it's good.


Friday, June 13, 2008

Across the Cultures

(CAUTION - drunk post!) I have a coworker named Aphrodite. She was born in New York City, but her parents are straight-off-the-boat Greeks. Many people of other cultures, though, can't get her name right. People have called her "Ananconda", "Aphrodisiac", even "Arbor Vitae." It makes for much amusement in the workplace. There was once even an African American (read: black) gentleman who called her Nefertiti. Not even close phonetically, but similar in the goddess aspect.

Which brings me to my cross-cultural story - I bought Nubian Heritage soap. It's "100% Black Owned & Proud of It!" Excellent. I just hope that us white people can use it, too! The smells were so wonderful and the price was so right at Wild Oats (compared to the $6.29's of other soaps) (excepting the $1.19 of the most awesome Chandrika Ayurvedic soap of which I purchased two bars!) that I bought four, bitchez! Oh, the scents of the Black Seed Soap with Apricot Oil and Wild Honey (Cold Pressed). Or the African Black Soap (black box, black soap) with Shea Butter, Oats and Aloe (Deep Cleansing)! The first one that got me was the lovely Coconut & Papaya Soap with Vanilla Beans (this is said to be "Skin Brightening"). And then there's the Shea Butter Soap, of course, with Lavender and Wildflowers (Extra Gentle & Ultra Moisturizing). All so scrumpdilly, yo!

I realize that black peoples' skin is different from whites'. I went to a mostly black, some Hispanic and a little bit of whites high school. I know that black people get ashy skin. Other than that, I hope there's not much of a difference and that these Nubian Heritage soaps make me and my white husband clean and good-smelling!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Heebie Jeebies

I have a weird thing about skin. I have nightmares where a bunch of little spiders will come out of one of my pores. Or one where a pore is just a big hole, big enough you could stick your finger in, with a hair growing up out of the middle of it. Any holes in skin or things in skin really creeps me out. I bet it comes from my "Uncle" Archie - he had shrapnel in his skin from WWII and periodically a piece would come out of him. Just show up, sticking out of his body. He'd scratch at it and pick until he got it out. Then there'd be this hole in his skin that was so big you could stick stuff in it. I can barely type this I've got the heebie jeebies so bad.

Anyway, I tell you about this heebie jeebiness because I got bit by a tick this weekend. I don't know if it happened when I was mowing or when I went to Toast's ride (the parking area was a muddy lot near a lot of trees and water). I'm thinking it happened when I was mowing, because I was so sweaty and bug-pestered that I was just brushing the bugs off of me without really paying attention to what they looked like.

I wasn't sure what it was at first, but by doing a little bit of research, I found that the black dot on my arm with the red circle around it and the white circle around that was indeed a tick bite. No big. I'm sure Lyme Disease isn't pleasant, but I can handle it, if it indeed comes to that.

I just went about my business the next day. I told people I had a tick bite, but no one thought anything of it. One of my coworkers, Debra, had actually been hospitalized last year with complications from a tick bite. I showed it to her at about two in the afternoon.

"Oh, Tracy, the head's still in there! You have to get that out!" My eyes just about popped out of my head. Yeah, I have to get that out! I immediately went to my computer and scoured Google for pictures. I was mortified. And frozen. That was what I had in my arm. I could hardly breathe. I tried to do some work, but I couldn't. I was in no mental state to do anything, but go to the doctor.

I called and made an appointment, but couldn't even wait the hour and a half until I was done for the day. I left work immediately and headed straight for his office. The wait wasn't too long and I kept myself relatively calm in the waiting room.

They called my name fifteen minutes later and I only had another fifteen minute wait before the doctor came in. He concurred with Debra's assertion and was concerned about the bullseye rings, too. He left the room for a moment and came back with a scalpel. Normally my reaction to this would've been, "What do you think you're doing with that?" In this instance, however, I was perfectly willing to let him cut me, anaesthesia or no. Just get this out of me!

A couple flicks and the deed was done. I was immediately relieved. He gave me an antibiotic just in case there were any Lyme issues, but I didn't even care about that anymore. The terrible little head was out of my skin.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Morning Song

I lately realized that every single day upon awakening, I've got a song in my head. I don't know if it's remnants from a dream or if I'm in some sleep stage just before awakening that picks up radio waves. Either way, it's funky and it's not just me - Toast has concurred with me on this. Now we wake up every morning and ask the other what song is in their head. Do you experience this also? I bet if you pay attention, you'll find that you do.

As of late, I usually have songs that are played on the radio station at work, WRCH. It's not a bad work station, but I've had everything in my head from country songs to Madonna to this morning's tune, Not Gonna Write You A Love Song. I fear Celine Dion or Michael Bolton may be next.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Thank you, Sandman?

I've always raved to Toast about the Sandman comic series by Neil Gaiman. I had a friend who was huge into comics and he thought I'd like these. Well, he was absolutely right! I don't remember a lot about them as it was almost twenty years ago. I just remember they were wicked cool.

Anyhoo, I got Toast a few collections for Xmas and he, after finishing many other things he needed to read first, has been soaking them up like a sponge. For some reason, though, whenever I mention the name "Sandman", his thoughts go to this skit by Lenny Bruce called "Thank You, Masked Man." Of course he titters at the thought, because TYMM is absolutely hilarious. Classic shit. I hope you enjoy it. And definitely check out Sandman if you haven't already.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Bon Appétit Meal, May '08

Oh, Bon Appétit, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height that my tongue can taste and my stomach can stretch.

Truly, I have been a HUGE fan of BA for years, nay decades, now. I have read all the others, the Cooking Light's, the Gourmet's, the Food and Wine's. None can compare. It's their adventurous yet approachable recipes combined with wonderful asides covering spirits, travel and gadgets that make it a perfect foodie magazine.

As long as Toast and I have been together, we've had a tradition where I'll read each month's edition, dog-ear the recipes that I'd like to make and then let him pick out his favorite. Some have been great, some became semi-regular stars on the menu, others too labor-intensive or just not our cup of tea, but it's always interesting.

Thus starts the BA Meal of the Month! I hope you enjoy it.

The recipe chosen from the May '08 edition was Carne Asada (I can't help but think of that Taco Bell commercial with the lions saying, "Carrrrrrne asada") with Salsa Mexicana. Please note that everything in brackets "[]" are my comments. Also know that whenever I do a recipe for the first time, I follow it by the book. I'll let you know afterwards if I'd make any alterations.

Carne Asada
6 to 8 servings [halves perfectly]

Arrachera (skirt steak) is one of the most popular grilled meats in the Yucatán - served sizzling hot off the steel-drum grills of street vendors and at restaurants like La Parrilla in Cancún. [Did you know that skirt steak is cow diaphragm?]

8 poblano chiles
2 bunches green onions (about 12), dark green tops trimmed
2 pounds skirt steak, cut crosswise into 6-inch-wide pieces
4 garlic cloves, minced
Coarse kosher salt
Corn or flour tortillas
2 avocados, peeled, pitted, sliced
Lime wedges
Salsa Mexicana (see recipe to follow)

Prepare barbecue (high heat). Grill chiles and onions until charred all over, about 3 minutes for onions and 5 minutes for chiles. [Toast grilled these for the stated times and they weren't nearly charred enough. I found that you can't peel them very well unless they're charred, so use your judgment.] Transfer onions to plate; tent with foil. Transfer chiles to large bowl; cover with plastic and let stand 15 minutes. Peel and seed; cut into 1-inch-wide strips. Transfer to plate; tent with foil.

Rub steak with garlic; sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper. Grill until cooked to desired doneness, about 3 minutes per side for medium. Transfer to work surface; cool 5 minutes. Grill tortillas until warm and slightly charred, about 10 seconds per side. Cut steak crosswise into strips; transfer to plate.

Serve steak with tortillas, chiles, green onions, avocado slices, lime wedges and Salsa Mexicana.

Salsa Mexicana
Makes about 1½ cups [again, halves perfectly, although this is so good, you could have it with tortilla chips later]

12 ounces tomatoes (about 2 medium), cut into ¼-inch cubes
1 medium white onion (about 7 ounces), cut into ¼-inch cubes
2 to 8 serrano or jalapeño chiles, chopped
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Coarse kosher salt

Combine first 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Season to taste with coarse salt. Do Ahead Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

This recipe was awesome! It was flavorful and fresh. I had never had carne asada before and Toast had never had it with tortillas, but we both thoroughly enjoyed it. Besides the few notes in the recipe, it's easy to follow and everything came out great. I tend to not read recipes all the way through before I make them (character flaw), so I didn't know why we were cutting the meat into 6" pieces, but it worked out in the end. I wouldn't make any alterations, although Toast thought the meat should have been "zingier".