Monthly Archives: May 2008

>The Cheeze that Grillz

>Lemme see your Grillz!

So maybe a year ago I was listening to my favorite podcasted radio show Good Food from KCRW in Los Angelas and they had this article about this cheese that you could actually grill. That episode is here for your listening pleasure.

So this cheese, called Halloumi, is from Cypress and I recently discovered that they have it at 10th St. Market. Though I am unjustly (based on monetary payment) not featured in the new 10th St. Market commercial, and despite the fact that it’s kind of expensive I purchased a single block of Halloumi cheese to grill at our cookout yesterday.

OMFG.

This stuff is AWESOME. It really does grill, and does not melt. When it heats up it releases lots of its oil into this chewy, salty, blackened, cheezy mass.

As one thrilled party-goer remarked yesterday, it’s like grilled cheese without the bread.

Awesome.

For once I honestly can’t think of anything I’d want to do to this cheese. I don’t want to marinate it, or coat it, or soak it, or anything really besides eat it.

But I do think I’ll put it on shish kabobs at the next cookout I attend!

>Mojito: The Blank Canvas

>I have many food thoughts today post yesterday’s Memorial-day cookout. Therefore today will consist of several (maybe 3) individual blog entries about various foods.

A mojito is a classic cuban cocktail. If you want to know more about it, or about Ernest Hemingway’s love of it, or about Ernest Hemingway’s polydactyl cats you can check out the Wikipedia entry.

There are many different recipes; some use powdered sugar, some include varying amounts of juice, some call for mint schnapps (YECH!!), some of which I used to follow. Now I follow my nose, but I think of these basic proportions. All mojitos follow the same construction. All mojitos are classy, beautiful through a tall, clear glass, and most (sans schnapps) are light and tasty.

Ingredients
2 parts quality LIGHT rum (do not substitute dark)
1 part simple syrup
3 parts soda water
1/2 lime
2 sprigs of stripped mint leaves

Construction
1) Squeeze juice of 1/2 lime into cup and drop the entire lime half into the cup as well. Add mint leaves and simple syrup.
2)Muddle the mint, lime, and simple syrup together. This means that you will take a large blunt object and you will firmly squish all the ingredients together into the bottom of the glass. You can buy a nice muddler, but I use the end of my wooden lemon juicer. Though I have had a nice one on my wishlist for several years (see column at left).

Here’s a video of someone muddling a mojito:

3) Add rum and a scoop of ice. Top with soda water and stir.

Okay, that’s nice. Mojitos are nice and I think that the ability to make one should be in everyone’s cooking repetoire. It’s a great host trick, and a great way to impress the ladies. But as usual I can’t leave well enough alone, so I present to you the Mojito Variations.

I think the best way to vary a mojito is to add a light flavor to the simple syrup, and I think the best way to do that is to add a flavoring agent to steep while you’re making the simple syrup.

But what is Simple Syrup?

Simple Syrup is a basic ingredient in many traditional cooking applications. All it contains is sugar dissolved into water, usually on the stove. You can buy this stuff at a liquor store, but please don’t; you’ll only be wasting your money on corn syrup and water.

The only important thing to know about simple syrup is that the ratio of sugar to water varies according to your cooking need. Sorbet, for example, typically contains fruit pureed with a 1:1 simple syrup. Cotton candy uses simple syrup in its base, as does marshmallow, as does caramel.

For mojitos I typically make a 2:1 simple syrup. So, 2 cups of water to 1 cup of sugar. Simply place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat over medium heat until the sugar is melted. If you like you can let the mixture boil a little and the color will slightly darken.

So for a flavored mojito add some free-floating flavorants to the water while the sugar is dissolving. Allow the syrup to be at a very low simmer for about 10min. Turn of the heat and allow the syrup to cool. When it’s cooled strain out the flavorants and save the syrup in a jar or a bottle. I’ve never had any go bad, or really last that long.

My favorite mojito flavor is Lavender. I think it adds a subtle floral note that isn’t necessarily distinguishable from the original recipe but gives the drink a certain something something. But I’ve tried some other flavors, and they were lovely as well.

Mojito Flavorings: a list

2 Tbsp lavender
zest from 2 tangerines
2 Tbsp chopped ginger
2 Tbsp tarragon leaves
1 Tbsp Earl Grey Tea leaves (don’t let these steep, they’ll get bitter)
2 stalks of lemongrass, chopped
3 Tbsp fresh galangal chopped

On a side note: an interesting project to do with kids is to make a 1:3 simple syrup (1 cup water, 3 cups sugar) and put it in a sealed mason jar with a piece of string suspended in the middle. You’ll grow rock candy. And now that I write this, I think I should make my own flavored rock candy.

>On Vegetarianism: Round No.2

>There are a few things that people ask you constantly when you’re a vegetarian:

1) Whatever do you eat?
2) Why did you ask about fish sauce in that Thai restaurant or pork fat in that Mexican restaurant?
3) How do you get enough protein?
4) Why did you go vegetarian?

So my personal answers:

1) I eat anything that doesn’t have a nervous system. That eliminates poultry, cattle, swine, seafood, and insects. Everything else is fair game and that only leaves about a million things that I CAN eat.

2) When you’ve been veg for a long time you learn certain foods where animal products are a traditional part of the dish but not necessarily obvious. So almost every Thai dish includes some fish sauce (it’s truly disgusting, you don’t want to know), Mexican refried beans often contain pork fat or the rice is stirfried in that same lard, processed Japanese foods often contain bonito (a small anchovy-like fish) flakes, powder, or extract. And so on. I read the label of every new-to-me product that I buy and I am careful about what I ask for in restaurants.

3) I am very careful to eat a balanced meal for almost every meal (breakfast is often lopsided). I think about a ratio of 4 parts veggies, 3 parts carbs, 2 parts protein, and 1 part dairy. Vegetarian protein is definitely limited. You can get limited amounts of protein from grains and such, but my choices tend to be beans, tofu (kinda a bean anyway), and faux meats of many sorts. Protein is never the focus of my cooking, but is always included.

4) I went veg many years ago while reading a book that described in detail that the amount of grain and water used to feed 1 cow for 1 month could feed a family of 4 people for 1 month. There’s some even scarier numbers, but I think these make the point very clear. If we ate the food our planet produces directly instead of decreasing the productivity by eating that food 2nd hand through animals our planet would be able to feed everyone who lives here.

Okay, what a great hippie sentiment Mari! What does that have to do with me?

Well check out this story from today’s episode of NPR’s Morning Edition:
Experts Warn Senate Panel of World Food Crisis

The article says, “We are in the midst of a global food crisis unlike other food crises that we have faced, one that is caused not simply by natural disasters, conflict or any single event such as a drought. It is not localized, but pervasive and widespread,” (Henrietta Fore, administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development)”


Here’s the interesting bit from that article:

“More and more grains going into expanding world markets for meat and bio-fuels.”

So here’s what I have to say. I have moral reasons to not eat animals, you may not. But I don’t see how any intelligent person can ignore this controllable crisis and continue to participate in causing this epidemic.

This is an interesting stance for me to take, usually I’m of the mind that I’ve made my thoughtful moral decision and that you have made yours. But this is one of those cases where I simply won’t be making enough impact by myself.

There’s a whole other issue in the area of those thoughtful moral decisions. I feel like vegetarians have had that thoughtful moral soul-searching while their meat-eating counterparts have not. If the meat eaters had gone through that process and decided that they could be comfortable with themselves and their own moral standing while consuming animal flesh, then I would be fine with that. But I don’t think most meat-eaters have done this.

There are so many reasons to be a vegetarian: Animals, Planet, People, Health.
And though my source is a bit suspect Paul McCartney’s organization actually has a nice article about these:

And yes, I think if you’d like to fork out for local or wildly grown meat that puts a whole new spin on the whole business.

Think about what you do and what you do it.

>Blackstrap Molasses Ice Cream with Candied Ginger

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photo by Adam Zolkover- Molasses lover.