Eating fresh fruit when it’s in season

8 09 2013

Ahhh, cortland apples are now popping up at the Greenmarkets.

My most favoritest fruit.

Last year it seemed as if it wasn’t available until late September, and then the apples were small and given to softness. They were still around in the markets into November, I think, but by late season they were all soft.

Which is too bad, because while the taste is pleasing, it is the sweet-tart in combination with the dense crispness that makes the cortland so delicious. That first bite explodes the apple, as if its juice were under pressure beneath the taut skin, snapping you to the fact that this is not a meal to be eaten mindlessly: attention must be paid.

I expect to pay attention daily for the next six weeks or so.


“Brand loyalty is for suckers”—that’s my thing.

However. I should also point out when something is well done, well, that matters.

Years ago, when I had more than two dimes to rub together, I bought some really nice pots, pans, and knives through various open source sales at Dayton’s. I was in the midst of trying to convince myself that I would enjoy cooking and thought that good stuff would aid in that endeavor.

It didn’t: I don’t really like cooking. Still, the good stuff is good, and to the extent that I do cook, it helps.

Anyway, one of the pots I bought was a Calphalon, and it was that lid which shattered a few weeks ago. Given that Calphalon is a fairly high-end product, I thought I’d check if the lid were covered by warranty. It was an old lid—over ten years old—and there was something on the site that mentioned certain old pots & pans weren’t covered.

But nothin’ about lids, so I thought I’d send an e-mail, inquiring. And I heard back, and after a few back-and-forths (requests for further information, a jpeg of the lid in question), the very nice customer service rep, Tony, said he’d said me a new lid.

Which completely surprised me: I really thought he’d send an apologetic “it’s too old. . .” email and include a link for where to purchase a new lid.

So I got it, and while it’s not as good as the old lid—the brim is wider (I think because it’s meant to fit on multiple pots/pans) and the glass isn’t as rounded—it’s still a mighty fine lid, and I am very glad to have it.

For free.

I stand by Brand loyalty is for suckers, but just because I think it’s silly to decide a purchase solely on brand, it’s also silly to ignore the good experience one has had with a product. It’s not that from here on out, I’ll only buy Calphalon (assuming need and finances, of course), but they’ll at least get first look.


Oh, and that whole don’t-like-cooking thing? This pretty much extends to everything food-preparation.

I mean, I kinda—kinda—like baking, and I’ll happily help someone else in the kitchen, but if you were to ask me, Absurdbeats, how do you like to relax/entertain/enjoy yourself? cooking ain’t appearing anywhere in my response.

Actually, I find this whole DIY-trend to basic living mildly alarming. I have no desire to grow my own cotton, weave my own cloth, sew my own clothes, make my own pasta, or churn my own ice cream. Yes, I’ll occasionally whip up a batch of cookies, and I do make the best caramel corn in the world, but I do these things because I like to eat them, not because I like to make them.

Okay, yes, I wouldn’t mind a garage in which I could put some basic woodworking tools—table, miter, and band saws, drill press, sander (and I’d take a class on how truly to work this stuff, rather than half-assing it as I currently do)—and I did kind of dig throwing pottery. And yes, if I had a yard, I’d probably give a garden a go—tho’ if I didn’t enjoy it, I’d plow that sucker under and put in some berry bushes.

But on the food-and-clothing front, I am more than happy to have someone else do the work. I do some sewing repairs because I’m a cheap bastard who hates waste, and I cook some stuff because I’m a cheap bastard who finds it easier to make the basic shit myself rather than overpay for it.

It’s just not that hard to make a plate of pasta.

Anyway, on the not-overpaying front, I did make 3-ish batches of pesto today. My basil was still growing, but the plants were getting so little light that it was past time to pull ’em up. I’d have had more basil had I not clipped a bunch recently, but I think I got enough to get me into next summer.

I could have supplemented with some Greenmarket basil, but I thought I’d see how far my own stuff would take me. If it’s not enough, I’ll adjust next year.

One point in my favor this year: I figured out ahead of time how to assemble the mixer such that I don’t spill the contents when I remove the container from the motor. It’s really not that complicated, I know, but last year I put some part outside of the jar  that should have gone inside of it, and when I lifted that sucker up. . . pesto everywhere.

And you wonder why I don’t enjoy kitchen life.


Come Mister tally man, tally me banana

28 07 2013

Remember: no food is produced without labor.

Good on Mark Bittman for this most basic reminder of a most basic fact of human life.

We need food to eat, and that food does not come from nowhere. Oh, food corporations would like us to believe that food comes from nowhere—think of the efforts to ban unauthorized filming of conditions in pig and chicken plants—or from some mythical somewhere in which a smiling man lovingly plucks a strawberry or head of lettuce and pulls himself upright to show us the bounty of the Earth, but, really, they’d rather us not think about the workers stooped over in a field, exposed to pesticides and herbicides, cutting and tugging hundreds of pounds of fruits and vegetables out of the dirt every day.

And slaughterhouses? No one wants to think about slaughterhouses.

I’m not exempting myself from this. I don’t know where most of my food comes from: that I’m assiduous in buying only fair-trade coffee beans only highlights how little I do to source every other item in my diet. Nor do I inquire as to the conditions in the kitchen of the restaurants or (more commonly) the local joints I visit.

Bittman gives one way to begin paying attention:

Well-intentioned people often ask me what they can do to help improve our food system. Here’s an easy one: When you see that picket line next week, don’t cross it. In fact, join it.

I mentioned in my last post that those who are most directly affected by a phenomenon ought to take the lead in directing how to respond to it. Bittman’s advice fits nicely into that schema: the workers themselves are acting, and in so doing, are telling the rest of how to act.

Hear, hear. If you want to get paid fairly for the work you do, then you should support others getting paid fairly for the work they do.

We all should be paid fairly for the work we do.


h/t: Erik Loomis, Lawyers, Guns & Money

Mmmmm, cheeeeese

23 06 2009

A follow up: Before I implemented my Fordist approach to lunch production, I did make a stove-top version of the mushroom/cheese/tortilla thingamajig.

It’s similar to the, um, m/c/t thingamajig, but good to eat right then and there!

For a single serving, I simply saute mushrooms & peppers (no tofu), season, then scoop onto mustard-smeared and cheese-strewn tortilla, roll, then return to pan (low heat), to allow cheese to melt and produce a nice, crispy exterior (I flip the roll when one side is golden; I also flatten it—because that’s how I roll [sorry, couldn’t resist]—but it’s your lunch: do what you like).

I eat eat it by hand, but do note that  juice usually drips out of end. Oh, and I do use hand-rolled tortillas for the EatRightNow version—I do notice the difference.

Other cheese-tortilla variations:

If I want to be neat, I combine a sharp cheddar and decent mozzarella cheese on an olive oil-smeared tortilla, add salt & pepper, fold into neat package, and toast on stove top (low heat) flipping once.

Sometimes I add a thin slice of tofu; sometimes I smear tortilla w/pesto; sometimes I add marinara sauce internally; sometimes I use marinara sauce as a dip.

If I want to be messy, I simply turn this all into a quesadilla, smashing the torts as flat as possible and causing cheese to ooze out of the sides and bubble into a crispy golden deliciousness.

Hot cheese and tortillas. You really can’t go wrong.

Feeeeeed me!

23 06 2009

Comin’ home on the train tonight, I had a coupla’ ideas for a blog post.

Got home, pooft, gone.

Still, here’s something I can contribute: Lunch!

I don’t really enjoy cooking, but as a cheap bastid, I prefer to bring my lunch to work rather than eat out. Thus, the cheese-and-mushroom wrap, easy to make a bunch ahead of time, handles freezing-and-thawing well, and, post-thaw, ready in 2 1/2-to-4 quick nuker* minutes!

  • 2 packages mushrooms (I buy pre-cut, since I’m too lazy to chop ’em up, but if you like slicing fungi, go for the whole ones; alternatively, you could use an egg slicer.)
  • Approx half a package of firm tofu, sliced into 1 cm cubes
  • 1 large fresh hot pepper, or generous tsp of hot pepper flakes
  • Approx 2 cups cheese, coarsely grated
  • tortillas
  • spicy brown mustard
  • salt
  • 1-2 tbsp vegetable oil

Heat oil in large skillet, along with pepper flakes. (If using fresh chilis, wait until oil is hot to add).

When oil is hot, add chilis, mushrooms, and tofu. Season liberally. Reduce heat to medium-low. Stir occasionally.

While mushrooms and tofu are cooking, grate cheese.

Prepare tortillas: spread mustard liberally around tortilla, then add the desired amount of cheese in middle of tortilla.

When the liquid has evaporated or nearly evaporated from the skillet, the mushrooms & tofu are done. Remove from heat.

Ladle mushroom/tofu mix over cheese in center of tortilla. Add more cheese to top, then fold and roll tortilla.** Repeat until shroom/tofu mix gone. (If using a medium sized tortilla, this should yield about 9 wraps. Burritos. Whatever.)

Wrap each rolled tortilla in plastic (works better than waxed paper to keep stuffed tortillas together). Double bag and toss in freezer.

If having for lunch, remove 1 or 2 from freezer the night before to thaw in fridge. Remove plastic, set on decent microwave-proof plate (i.e., not styrofoam or any sort of material which will melt upon contact with hot cheese), cover with waxed paper or paper towel (to keep tortilla from drying out) and nuke* on high 2 1/2 to 4 minutes (depending upon strength of microwave). Do note that it is highly likely the mushroom roll will at least partly come apart, so make sure you have a big enough plate.

Oh, and you’ll need a fork for this baby.

*If you don’t have a microwave, reheat on stovetop, in a small covered saucepan, on low-to-med-low heat. The point is to give the innards a chance to heat through before you burn the tortilla.

**Handy roll technique: fold tortilla in half over shroom/tofu/cheese mix, then pull top half toward you with fingers. Roll, either folding in sides as you roll or, if you have space for another roll, after the first one. Set aside, fold down. Or just go to Chipotle and watch how they roll their humungous burritos—same idea.

A few additional points:

  • I buy the cheap button shrooms because they’re, well, cheap. And in this dish, I prefer them to the so-called ‘baby bella’ shrooms.
  • Similarly, I forgo the more expensive hand-rolled tortillas in favor of regular ones—since they’ll be frozen, you won’t really notice the difference, anyway.
  • That said, you will know the difference if you use fresh tortillas over those that have been sitting around in your fridge for a coupla’ weeks: fresh tortillas roll soooo much easier.
  • And, continuing the cheap/frozen theme, no need to use expensive cheese. I like a sharp or extra sharp cheddar, but monterey jack, brick, colby, or any other good melty cheese will work. (I’m not a fan of American cheese product, but hey, if that’s your thing. . . .)
  • Ditto with the mustard: save the grey poupon for your fresh sandwiches.
  • Since I commute near a Trader Joe’s, I use their sliced button mushrooms, firm tofu, and regular tortillas. (I also buy my cheese there.) Why? Cheap. If I could find something cheap and more local, that’s what I’d go with, but in the meantime, this works.
  • Finally, it’s painfully obvious that you can swap ingredients in or out as you see fit. I like spicy mustard and the kick from the peppers; if you don’t, then leave them out.

As I mentioned, I’m not really a big cook, so I like that in about an hour I can prepare a bunch of meals, to be eaten over the course of a week or a month. And, as a bonus, these wraps/burritos/rolls actually taste better eaten the next day or after having been frozen & thawed than if eaten that day. I don’t know if the flavors get a chance to meld or something funky happens in the cold dark, but there it is.

And there it is. Relatively fast, relatively cheap, relatively hard to mess up, and pretty darned tasty.

Good eatin’!

This is the last day of our acquaintance

27 04 2009

The whole world ending is only an abstractly-sad prospect. A particular person’s world collapsing is acutely so.

Jon Katz at Bedlam Farm has been chronicling the last days of a dairy farm, noting that he had been hoping to persuade the farmer, Jon Clark, to allow himself to be photographed.

Go, look at the photo of Jon Clark, posted at 9:02pm, April 26, and the other shots of the barn and the cows and the emptiness which follows after a man’s life has been tugged away from him.

I grew up in a small town in a dairy farming area. When I was a little girl I wanted so much to live on a farm. I loved animals and the whole idea of haylofts and horses and running through rows of corn.  Then I got older, and my loves shifted to theatre and partying and, oh yes, sleep. Still, when my high school friend K. asked if I wanted to help her with the evening milking at her family’s farm, I said sure. Hey, it’s all automated now, isn’t it?

Ha. Yes, there are milking machines, but each one has to be hooked up to each cow, and each teat has to washed before or after (or maybe both—I don’t remember) to prevent mastistis. Anyway, once you’ve managed to slip the suction cones over each teat, you have to plug the tube running from the cones into the overhead pipe, where the milk is sent streaming down the length of the barn to the milk-collection room. Given my vertical disadvantage, this was a challenge.

Hell, given my clumsiness, the whole operation was a challenge. K.’s family had, I don’t know, a hundred? a few hundred? cows, and the twice-a-day milkings each took a couple of hours (even when they weren’t, um, helped by the likes of me). Then, of course, there was the moving of the cows out of the barn and into the pasture and back again. And checking the chickens and feeding the horses. And the mucking out of the stalls, and the hauling of the piss-and-shit-layered hay out of the barn and into I cannot remember where.

Wheelbarrows: They seem like such a simple technology. Really, what could be harder to push around? Well, add a hundred or so pounds of whatever, and you keep it on the straight and narrow. At one point I had K. in the barrow, and I managed to steer so well she ended up in the shit trough. (Yes, she got me back.)

Farming is incredibly hard work, and family farmers especially always have to be concerned with prices and credit and commodities markets. For those of us who like both to eat and to take care of the animals (or whose products) we consume, paying attention to where our food comes from is not just paying attention to the animals, but to the men and women, boys and girls, who tend to them.

Men like Jon Clark, who loaded his favorite cow Sable into a truck and sent her away.