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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Anglo Saxon Whattitudes?

I loves me a ham sandwich.   My favorite ham sandwiches are those that are cut on the diagonal, especially if they are packed in one of those triangle "sealed with plastic" boxes that you might get in an Amtrak dining car or any place that sells pre-made "fresh cut" sandwiches in England or the US (in England you do not "make" sandwiches, you "cut" them).

The reason the diagonal cut makes them taste best is due to this Tenniel illustration for chapter 7, "The Lion and the Unicorn" from Lewis Carroll's "Through The Looking Glass".  As soon as I realized that the messenger was handing the King a ham sandwich, I decided that a ham sandwich should always be cut this way.  For some reason, when I was a kid, I thought he was handing the King a slice of pizza or something.  I knew it could not be that, but that picture sure did not look any ham sandwich I had ever seen.  All the ham sandwiches I knew were either on rye or pumpernickel bread and cut straight across, never on an angle.

I still don't know how they got that ham sandwich to have that shape (it still does not resemble any ham sandwich I have ever seen) but I content myself to cut my ham sandwiches, no matter the shape of the bread, on the angle.  Then I can remember Alice, the White King and his messenger with the Anglo Saxon attitudes.  If you do not know what that means, don't feel bad.  Neither does anybody else.  For proof, google Alice Anglo Saxon Attitudes and see what you get.  Or just forget about it and re-read Through The Looking Glass.  It's worth it.

Quotable Quotes; in the category But How Many Does It Feed?

"Hors D'oeuvre:  A ham sandwich cut into forty pieces."
Jack Benny

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Good Dressing Down!

I blogged about salads and dressing a bit ago and mentioned I prefer making homemade dressing except for blue cheese.  I also mentioned making dressing in a mustard jar that was almost empty.  Here is another dressing tip.  When your jar of blue cheese dressing is just about empty don't throw it out - yet.  Add a little oil and vinegar, or just add a little of your basic vinaigrette to the jar and shake it all about.  You'll have a tasty blue cheese vinaigrette for your salad

Remember the days of the steak house and the iceberg lettuce salad?  To make a classic steak house salad remove the core and outer, wilted leaves from a head or two of iceberg lettuce.  Cut the lettuce in wedges and place one or two in each salad bowl.

Top with sliced tomatoes or cherry tomato halves (sliced red onion and/or radish optional) and a good dollop of your favorite blue cheese dressing.  For the crowning touch, sprinkle a generous portion of cooked, crumbled bacon and a little crumbled blue cheese on top.  Garnish with freshly ground pepper.

This is a bargain when you consider that a head of iceberg usually sells for about a buck and this salad can cost upwards of $10 in a typical steak house!  (T)-bone appetit!

Quotable quotes; in the category I Don't Know What It Means But I'm Too Tired To Look It Up.

"It is said that the effect of eating too much lettuce is 'soporific'." Beatrix Potter

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Don't Put All Your Egg Salad In One Bread Basket

I had egg salad the other day. I love egg salad. I have tried different versions that add minced celery, pickle relish or other things but I just don't care for them. The closest I came was "Bacon and Egg Salad" which just meant adding crumbled bacon to my basic recipe. I was not impressed. The bacon did not stand out and I felt it was a waste of good bacon (luckily the egg salad was fine, with or without the bacon).

I think the reason I prefer my rather plain egg salad is the bread I serve it on. I sometimes use a hearty country style bread but any regular old grocery store bread will do - white bread, a soft whole grain, a denser whole grain - but the very best bread for egg salad is fresh Challah, that soft, golden yellow bread with a shiny brown crust. This lets the egg salad be the star with a good supporting cast. Buy Challah at a deli or wherever you buy your bagels if your grocery store does not have it.

My egg salad is basic and pretty plain. Remember, that's the way I like it. I was just thinking of cooking the eggs in egg coddlers, which I posted on recently. But that would mean a separate coddler for each egg. Too many to wash. Besides, they do just fine inside the shell - and since you'll be mashing the eggs anyway it doesn't matter if they don't peel beautifully.

My friend gave me a couple gadgets. One is a little plastic thing with a spring loaded pin inside. This is for piercing the end of the egg which is supposed to prevent the egg cracking during cooking. it works pretty well.
The other is a contraption with a slotted section to hold the peeled egg and another section that is threaded with wires for slicing the egg. My friend turns the egg in two or three directions in order to dice rather than slice. This guy works okay for slicing eggs for, say, potato salad but for egg salad I just smash everything together with a fork.

Be warned. I never measure. I just add until the taste and texture are about right. Here is my "recipe" for basic egg salad. I usually use about three eggs. This makes the amount of egg salad I know I will eat before I decide I would rather have ham and cheese.

Pierce the broad end of the egg with your egg piercer or a sharp push pin. Be careful not to squeeze the egg too hard or it will break. I sometimes pierce the narrow end too, especially if the eggs are less fresh. Place the eggs in a pan just big enough to hold them in a single layer and fill the pan with cold water to cover the eggs.

Bring to a full boil, then cover the pan and turn off the heat. Leave them for 10 minutes (or longer). Add cold water to the pan, draining out the hot water, and leave them until they are cool enough to handle, about 10 - 20 minutes. Remove the shells and either dice the eggs with your egg slicer or a knife, or just place them in a bowl and smash them with a fork, leaving them as chunky as you like. I like them fairly smooth.

Add a little mayonnaise, about a teaspoon per egg, maybe a little less. Also add a nice blob of any kind of mustard - plain old yellow, brown and spicy, Dijon - I use whatever kind of mustard happens to be open in the fridge. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.

Stir well with the fork, adding a bit more mayonnaise if you like. If you are feeling creative or happen to have any handy, add a pinch of fresh or dried herbs - oregano, basil, tarragon or thyme - or maybe a pinch of cayenne pepper or a drop of Tabasco sauce. Taste as you go and stop when you like it (or when you have tasted all the salad and have to start over).

I love this served on soft, fresh Challah, any whole wheat or whole grain bread, toasted or not, or even on toasted English muffins or bagels! Sometimes I even spread it on crackers, like dip.

If you want to make devilled eggs, just be extra careful peeling the eggs. Slice them in half, mash the yolks with mayo, mustard, seasonings and, if you like, a splash of vinegar or pickle juice and spoon the filling back into the whites. Garnish with a shake of paprika or a parsley leaf.

That's it! Easy, basic, tasty. The way things should be!

Quotable Quotes; in the category Yeah, I Think This Is How I Would Like It To Go!

"My career is pretty much over. I'm out in the Valley eating soft-boiled eggs." Tim Conway

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Oh It's The Nuts!

When I posted about Garlic Fried Rice a while ago I promised I would tell you about Garlic Peanuts and Adobo. Well I kept my word on the Adobo so now it's time to come through on the peanuts.

Peanuts fried with garlic can be found at Asian markets all over Chicago, mainly Filipino markets. They are sold in little plastic bags or in little plastic cups - some homemade, others commercially done. I have not met a garlic peanut I did not like. Essentially, they are shelled peanuts cooked in oil with fried garlic bits and whole fried garlic cloves. They are delicious, salty and aromatic. If you like garlic and peanuts you will like these. Here is how I make them - probably not at all authentically, some recipes seem to pre-boil raw peanuts then fry the nuts and garlic separately.

I take a jar of dry roasted or roasted and salted peanuts and put them in a skillet with oil and garlic. I usually chop the garlic fairly fine because I am not cooking the peanuts for very long (they are already roasted). I suppose you could cook whole or sliced garlic cloves until almost crispy. The commercial peanuts often contain garlic cloves still in their papery skins.

When the garlic is almost done I toss in the peanuts and stir and toss until they are coated with oil and heated through. Salt them unless they are already salty enough (the only way to be sure is to taste) and remove from heat to cool before storing in airtight containers or plastic bags.

Alternatively, you can put the peanuts and minced garlic in a baking pan large enough to hold them in a not too deep layer. Toss with some oil and roast in the oven at 250 f about 20 - 40 minutes, stirring every 10 - 15 minutes (imagine you are making that cereal party mix). When the garlic is done, remove from heat, cool and store but not before eating a good handful of these bad boys.

I once took a large container of these nuts with me on a fishing weekend with my brothers. Although we did not finish all the nuts, I was not allowed to bring the leftovers home with me. it was Jon who suggested the oven method. Both yield pretty good results.

If you need amounts figure about 2 tablespoons oil (olive, peanut, corn or whatever) and 4 - 8 cloves of garlic (depending on your love of garlic) for every cup or two of peanuts and go from there.

Quotable Quotes; in the category There weren't any peanut quotes and besides I like this one better.

"You can never have enough garlic. With enough garlic, you can eat The New York Times." Morley Safer