Anger Burger

F-Bomb Salad!

Posted by on Apr 30, 2009 at 12:31 pm

Dude, I’m exhausted.

I forget that being tired is a part of having Crohn’s disease and instead fret over how it is that an essentially easy-ass part-time job makes me need entire days of lying around doing nothing – which is not an option, of course, because every day I spend at work is a day the kitchen floor conspires to get TOTALLY FUCKING FILTHY.  Seriously, I don’t fling food around and Mike doesn’t even cook, how does it get like that?

To top it off, I’m mediating a fight my camera and my Photoshop are having right now, so sit tight while I figure shit out.  Also?  Super grumpus today.

  • We have an on-going issue with our landlord over the niggling issue of whenever someone starts a load of laundry in the laundry room, our hot water is no longer hot.  In other words, if I am taking a shower LIKE TODAY and someone starts a load at the exact same time then I RUN OUT OF FUCKING HOT WATER WITH ALMOST NO WARNING.  The handy-man, Ivan, insists that our hot water tank isn’t hooked up to the communal washer and thus does not understand why this is happening to us.  Everyone is baffled and yet, only I get to jump out of a cold shower with my legs half-shaved.
  • Oh, camera and Photoshop squabble solved?  Turns out I don’t understand how RAW works.  Rad.
  • I have to go to my credit union, aka The Shittiest Credit Union Ever.  We have a joint savings account which we don’t need because we actually needed a checking account but they wouldn’t give us one because their credit search for Mike glitched and failed to turn up anything (seriously, his credit result just printed out as “N/A”) and they have a policy to NOT do a second search.  What?  But we needed a joint anything tout de suite for some legal garbage and now?  Even after having a savings account?  They wouldn’t let Mike deposit HIS OWN PAYCHECK because they had to CONFIRM HE REALLY WORKED THERE.  IT IS A MOTHERFUCKING CHECK, YOU ASSHOLES.  I’m too lazy to switch to another credit union that isn’t within walking distance.
  • Grump!
  • My pepper grinder broke!  What a douche!  I go through about a pepper grinder a year because I refuse to pay $80 for the Porche one or whatever, but this is getting ridiculous.  And I really liked that one, too, it was heavy.  Which is how I judge quality.
  • I have a headache and I took Excedrin before remembering I still have Darvocet and now I have to wait a few hours for my stupid liver and/or kidneys to process the Excedrin.  Bodies are lame!

I’m going to go for a walk and think about all the things I should have done today.

Muffin? Cupcake? Muffcake?

Posted by on Apr 28, 2009 at 6:57 pm

A long time ago I came up with the term “electro-photonic auto-tarot” because I like unwieldy, hyphenated things (if I were to ever marry I would hyphenate at least once and probably add a third word in there while I was at it).

In essence: determining destiny by the frequency by which a topic appears on the internet.  This was before memes, but it still works if you take care to consciously ignore the things that are identifiably encouraged and instead focus on the inexplicably popular.  I’m not making any sense, am I?

An example of this is a strawberry muffin recipe I’ve encountered probably three or four times, each time thinking as I read it, “Well that sounds delightful,” only to later realize it also sounded familiar.  With this in mind I can’t reliably say where I saw it first, but I’m certain that if you’re a regular at the usual food-blog haunts you’ll come across it.

Today I saw it again and thought, “Alright, yes, calm the fuck down,” and went to buy some fresh strawberries and buttermilk.  The recipe is simple — a single bowl, a muffin tin, you’re good to go — and as I would later come to realize, also tasted simple, which isn’t really a compliment.

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How can this be?  It has vanilla, butter, sugar, strawberries and lemon zest — lemon zest, for shit’s sake!  The recipe just reads like a list of things that taste great.  Somehow I ended up with a defiantly uninspiring end product.  Perhaps it was because I opted to leave out the cinnamon?  I don’t know.  I added a lemon juice and confectioners sugar glaze that seemed to help, and pawned a few off on the neighbors who are British and hopefully have no sense of taste.

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I should also note that during the course of the afternoon I’ve eaten about five of these so far so perhaps they are tastier than my forebrain is letting on.  Reptilian-brain Sunday appears to love them.

Strawberry Muffcakes

2 C. all-purpose flour
1 Tbl. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. fresh nutmeg
½ tsp. ground cinnamon (I’m just saying, I didn’t add it)
2/3 C. sugar
zest of 1 lemon

2 eggs

1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla

6 Tbl. (3 oz)  unsalted butter, melted

1 cup finely diced strawberries

  • Preheat oven to 400°.  Grease and flour muffin tin if you must, but you’re a fool for not using liners.
  • Whisk together the dry ingredients, including the zest.
  • Add the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla, stirring until smooth, about 30 strokes.
  • Add melted butter, stirring until incorporated.
  • Gently stir in the diced strawberries.
  • Spoon into 12 muffin liners, filling almost to the rim.  Don’t worry, they won’t overflow.
  • Bake about 18 minutes, or until golden and springy to the touch.
  • Allow to cool, and then if you so choose top with a simple lemon glaze:

stir together until smooth and use immediately

½ C. confectioners sugar
juice from ½ a lemon

2 Posted in Make It So

Men Are Sandwiches, Women Are Pickles?

Posted by on Apr 27, 2009 at 2:31 pm

I’m thinking about writing a best-selling self-help book called “Women Love Vinegar, Men Are Predictable” or something like that, I haven’t really worked out the title yet.  All I know is: most women I know are goofy on vinegar.  And I don’t necessarily mean in that “I’m pregnant and I want to eat a giant pickle” way, though yes, also in that way.  I really just mean: most women I know would be blissed out on finding the sourest, harshest, most enamel-destroying pickled item they could find and I don’t really know why that is.

Enter: Korean food.

Man, I’ve turned into a junkie, and to my own surprise.  My first few experiences with Korean as a teenager were totally disgusting, to put it politely.  I ordered a bibimbap that was basically a cup of rice floating in a gallon of fryer oil (what? I don’t get it either) and my vegetarian friend, after asking three times “Does this have any meat, any fish in it? No?” received a pot of bubbling soup that consisted almost entirely of squid entrails.  And that was the good trip.  It wasn’t really until I moved to Los Angeles that I finally understood Korean food.  PICKLES.

For those who aren’t familiar with it, a quick introduction to Korean food, specifically Korean BBQ:

  • Korean is all about the banchan (sometimes spelled panchan) or little dishes of “free” pickled things.  I put the free in quotes because, to be fair, the price of the banchan are included in the price of the rest of your food, which is what sometimes makes Korean food seem a hair pricier than its Chinese or Vietnamese equivalent.  Banchan can be anything from the dreaded (and delicious) kimchi to a suspiciously American-tasting potato salad.  Many places will gladly refill these little dishes, too, so if you have a favorite you can ask for more.
  • The BBQ part of the BBQ usually means grilled meat, if that wasn’t already clear.  You do this yourself, in most cases, on a table-top grill.  The naysayers will see this as having to “cook your own food” whereas the connoisseurs will understand that this means you get to eat meat at your own pace and cooked exactly to your liking.  No where else can a person who likes rare beef and a person who likes charred beef sit and eat the same meal side-by-side.
  • Any decent Korean BBQ joint should have excellent quality meat – after all, that’s why people go there.  If the meat seems funky or low-grade, get your ass out of there STAT.  Korean BBQ ends up being pretty healthy eating, since you’re cooking meat without a lot (or any) oil and sides of pickles (which are super-healthy and good for digestion).
  • If you’re timid or confused, follow my general advice for eating any ethnic food: go when the restaurant is going to be most busy so you’re surrounded by people who are essentially demonstrating exactly how you should eat.  And whatever, you’re an American in America, who cares.

Since the banchan are always made in-house, some places are better than others, and the selection changes by the day.  My local favorite Korean joint, Genwa, busts out a mean banchan.

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This is my all-time favorite, a very common banchan called ojingeochae mu chim.  Ha!  I wish I were joking.  Anyway, it just means  “spicy dried squid strips” give or take, which tastes a hell of a lot better than it sounds.  It’s mildly fishy, but the greatest appeal is a dry, chewy texture I can only describe as “squid jerky.”  I want a side of this with every meal.

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My other favorite pickles are just whatever fresh, crunchy, vinegary thing is going that day. This one tasted like sesame oil and vinegar, but other than that I don’t know what it was.   By the way, there were twenty of these little white plates of banchan, to give you an idea of the beautiful abundance of this kind of food.

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Look, my boobs!

Last night we didn’t want to commit to a lot of BBQ, so we just ordered bibimbap, which is sort of in the category of stir-fried rice, except not.  At it’s most basic component, its just white rice topped with cooked vegetables, meat or seafood (or none at all) and a fried or raw egg.  You mix all this together just before eating.  The really good versions come in a super-heated stone bowl that fries and pops right at the table, so that the bottom of the rice turns chewy and crusty WHICH IS FUCKING AWESOME.  Sorry.  Anyway, bibimbap is the ideal Korean gateway food.  If everything else scares you, just order that and you’ll be happy.  This was plenty for the two of us and costs about $15, so you can see how what can appear on the surface to be overpriced ends up being reasonable.

Ever since this meal the other night I’ve been thinking about how easy it is to make banchan, what we’d call in America a “quick pickle.”  Not kimchi, of course, which requires fermentation, but just vinegar-dressed radish type banchan.

Great, I guess that means I better go stock up on some vinegar.

5 Posted in Eatin' Fancy, Obsessed

Red Meat

Posted by on Apr 26, 2009 at 9:10 am

For a long time I haven’t been into beef, with the exception of hamburgers.  No hot beef injections for this lady.  Even at the ubiquitous Los Angeles taco trucks I’ve fretted and groused and settled on chorizo, which tends to be made from pork parts that you wouldn’t discuss in polite company¹.

Predictably, my Vikinger half, Mike, needs regular red meat or his blood gets thin and he can no longer hear Odin’s call.  The red meat of choice around here is a flat iron steak marinated in a little soy sauce, a dash of worcestershire, a pinch of garlic powder and a healthy mountain of fresh black pepper.  Even Mike doesn’t eat too much, probably an ounce or two more than the recommended 6oz. serving, so even though we’re killing animals and destroying the environment we feel righteous.

Except, as I mentioned: I just haven’t been into it.  I do this sometimes, I stop enjoying a food for a while so I stop eating it.  When it is an expensive, unhealthy item like beef I figure I’m doing everyone a favor.  And then I read Smitten Kitchen’s post about steak sandwiches.

Now, this was when, back in February?  So for the last two months I’ve been thinking about steak sandwiches almost every day.  I’ve made a few (certainly none as photogenic as SK’s) and each time I think, this will be the time it no longer tastes so good to me.  And I’m wrong.

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Yesterday turned into the Great Sandwich Marathon for reasons I can only attribute to my profound laziness.  Three sandwiches, three meals.  I didn’t even cook the steak, I came home from work and there it was, and it took little effort to smash it all into a hand-to-face delivery system.  Whereas Smitten Kitchen goes for a slather of dijonnaise and caramelized onion, mine is more often than not graced only with a thin layer of mayonnaise and a tongue-destroying quantity of the hottest, nastiest horseradish I can find.

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Check out my hella soft white bread, bitches.

As much as I despise getting home from work at nearly midnight, a late-night steak sandwich that requires half-asleep flossing to get back out of my teeth has a predatory quality I enjoy.

***

Please note that I have updated the links page with list of my own personal observations about Crohn’s disease.

¹Since we’re not polite company, chorizo is usually made from: lymph nodes, lips, lungs, and salivary glands.  Its the salivary glands that crack me up every time.

1 Posted in Food Rant

Can I Just Order a Tap Installed?

Posted by on Apr 25, 2009 at 11:17 am

Last month I had two impacted wisdom teeth taken out, an event I don’t recommend having done but was nevertheless way less horrific than I psyched myself out for.

The worse part for me was that the nerves along my face were pinched from swelling and trauma, causing my tongue to go numb for about a week.  I could still taste, but I felt like I had the worse case of cotton-mouth this side of the 1960′s.  At first I sipped at water, little sips every few seconds, which worked out well since I needed to be taking in about a kiddie-pool’s worth of water a day.  But by the second day — and there’s no really nice way to put this — my mouth tasted like ass.  And water made it disperse better over my tastebuds.

Worse than ass, actually, my mouth tasted like weeping tooth sockets, a metallic pusy (I SAID PUS-Y) flavor that I couldn’t shake.  In doped-up misery I opened the bottle of Pomegranate Green Tea I picked up from Trader Joe’s, thinking that even though it’d be sweet I could maybe thin it out with a little water.

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Except, it turns out it is made out of methadone.  Or maybe Prozac, I don’t know, but I cannot stop drinking it.  To be totally dramatic: it got me through my wisdom tooth extractions.  It turns out it isn’t very sugary at all, and despite its dark color tastes like I wish water actually tasted, clean and almost vegetal.  I don’t necessarily condone that you drink more than a gallon a day like I was, but since it’s sweetened with blend of cane sugar and agave nectar, I figure you’ll die of something else first.

4 Posted in Obsessed

The Finest Burger In Los Angeles

Posted by on Apr 24, 2009 at 9:00 am

I generally disregard those “Top 10 Sushi Restaurants!” lists without so much as a glance; in Seattle, for many years running, the “best” sushi was a highly Americanized, overpriced restaurant that no one we knew went to.  Of course, then word about our sushi joint got out and forever after there was at least an hour wait — even on weekdays — we were infuriated.

On the other fork, my all-time favorite Seattle restaurant came recommended by way of an article interviewing a local chef who was asked, “Where do you look forward to eating out at?” and his answer was a then-unknown¹ little strip-mall Vietnamese restaurant on the edge of the International District.

And then we have the Great Debates.  What makes a perfect pizza²?  Well, depends on where you are from, what kind of budget you’re working with and whether or not you’re a moron.  What makes the perfect sushi?  Well, that’s a little easier, but just as open to argument; fresh fish is inarguable, but once you start to get into the $100+ a person type shit, well, it can only taste so good and then you’re paying for performance.

And then we come to the humble hamburger.

Any native Californian will give a range of “best” hamburgers around Los Angeles, including but not limited to In-n-Out, Apple Pan, Pie ‘n Burger, Tommy’s, and Fatburger.  Almost never listed is Astroburger.

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The avocado burger of my dreams.

While I can only vouch for the West Hollywood location, it’s the heartiest vouch I’m capable of making.  The week before I first went, there was a late-night stabbing in front of a restaurant full of people, and I said to Mike, “Mike, we gotta go to that Astroburger place.”

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I like how I’m closing my eyes to bite, like a python.

And fuck whatever the place looks like, the burger is lord here.  With a charbroil grill behind the counter and a menu suspiciously long menu (pastrami burger?  breakfast burrito?), Astroburger cranks out the most consistently excellent burger and fries I’ve ever had.  I can’t even bring myself to try anything else on the menu, I’m just so happy to have a good burger.

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And when they add the extra dollar for the avocado?  You get the avocado.  I mean, I hope you really like avocado.  Oh, and I lied when I said I never ordered anything else: I gave the onion rings a shot and found them lacking, though locals seem to love them.  I just can’t get behind a breaded ring, you know what I mean?  I’m a battered girl, through and through.

¹It has since become outrageously popular, raised prices (several times) has expanded and renovated within 3 years of first opening and the owners have started a second restaurant.  A somewhat off-putting state of affairs, but as long as they keep making their own weird, addictive version of bánh khọt then I will continue to eat them, no matter what the cost.

²For the record: Angelenos have no fucking idea what makes the perfect pizza.

8 Posted in Eatin' Fancy

Salad (With Pasta)

Posted by on Apr 23, 2009 at 9:00 am

I made a pasta salad to snack on while the weather calms its ass down, but didn’t get any good photos of it.  Cheers!

Anyway, ages ago there was a Cooks Illustrated article about the theory of good pasta salad, and it changed the way I make them.  The general idea was:

  • Make the vegetable-to-pasta ratio higher on the veg
  • Over-dress the salad a smidge
  • Serve with fresh greens (spinach, arugula, etc.)

So basically what you’re making is a kind of saturated pasta salad, low on the pasta, that you then serve over a bed of greens that benefit from the overdressing.  It kind of all evens out.  The result is pasta salad that doesn’t feel like a medicine ball being thrown at your abdomen.

My usual routine goes a little something like this:

vinaigrette that I eyeball but which consists of

balsamic vinegar
lemon juice
olive oil
salt
sugar or honey
lots of pepper
squirt of good mustard
some fresh herbs if I got ‘em
lemon zest
garlic or shallot run over the Microplane to make a fine paste

and then a pasta salad that consists of

½ lb. pasta
1 lb. fresh green beans, cut into 1″ lengths and blanched for 3 minutes in salty water
½ bag frozen peas
¼ thinly sliced red onion
large handful of finely shredded basil
probably more salt

Anyway, you get the general idea.  Like all pasta salads, it tastes way, way better after a few hours of sitting and best of all the second day.  If there’s a heat wave comin’ I highly recommend getting this in the fridge the night before, making sure you have a stash of spinach, arugula or other favorite green on hand and then allow yourself to be smug when you don’t have to cook for the next two days.

When serving, lay down a small bed of greens and top with pasta salad and some fresh cheese (I think the cheese should always be withheld until serving).  In our case I topped mine with just some fresh parmesan, while Mike topped his with diced salami, diced sharp cheddar and a some parmesan.  We were happy.

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I can’t be bothered to take a decent photo.

Until today, when I realized that even a cup of fresh arugula is borderline more than my digestive system can handle, so when I eat it for dinner again tonight it’ll be sans verte.

1 Posted in Make It So

A Sour Fruit for a Sour Lady

Posted by on Apr 22, 2009 at 9:29 am

If I had to pick a favorite fruit, I’d have to narrow it down to two, after which I’d squirm and whine about having to choose just one:  rhubarb or passionfruit.  Even now as I type it, it seems so twee, like who do I think I am, Marie Antoinette?  Why can’t I like bananas like every other asshole?

First, I have to address the issue of being a tortured fruit lover with Crohn’s disease.  Crohn’s — my Crohn’s, at least — does not like the fruit.  If sugar is the culprit, it is distressingly a reaction that does not apply to processed sugars, which my colon seems to have little issue with.  I prefer to think it has more to do with the unique fiber of fruits, a theory that gains merit when I point out that apples and pineapples are the worst, while melons and bananas are the easiest.  Cooked fruit is no problem at all.

It’s very hard for me to stand in line at the grocery store and watch customers purchase whole quart-containers of lurid, peeled and diced fruit which will almost certainly be their only lunch item based on their painful thinness and bloodthirsty expressions.  But you see, I want to be that fruit-eater.  I desperately want to just eat an entire mixing bowl of undressed fruit salad, I want to upend whole punnets of raspberries and strawberries into my mouth.  I want to sit down with a knife and a pineapple and only one of us is getting out of there alive¹.

That being said, cooking with fruit goes a long way toward satiating myself, and it’s something I have down to a more-or-less mindless art.

But quickly, back to the rhubarb and passionfruit. I love acidity, much more so than sweetness.  With such a preference you’d think that citrus would be my vice, but something about citrus’ acrid bitterness can be touch-and-go with me².  But sourness is key; I had always considered myself merely tolerant of banana’s bland pap until I had the opportunity to eat a stumpy little tree-ripened “Candy Apple Banana” in Kauai.  While the growers emphasize their sweetness, I must respectfully disagree — they are deliciously, delighfully, addictively sweet-tart.  It was a banana epiphany.  I ate pounds of them. (They were also a superior texture, fleshy rather than the almost bready fluffiness of the dreaded Cavendish banana.)

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Both rhubarb and passionfruit are known for being inedible without added sugar, but are less praised for their ephemeral, exotic floral notes.  My beloved rhubarb is incomparable, as I confirmed when I purchased a package of artificially rhubarb-flavored gummies in New Zealand that tasted like regurgitated peaches. It was a painful injustice to the Edwardian gravitas of bizarre rhubarb.  The leaves of the rhubarb fan out like massive aerial lily pads in a shade of dull evergreen.  I love that those uninteresting leaves are totally poisionous as well – they don’t need bright colors or berries to ward you off, you’ll get the hint after you’ve already eaten them.  What a passive-aggressive plant!  But the stalks, the bright magenta-red stalks, are so acidic that a single nibble will suck the moisture from your entire mouth.

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Conversely, passionfruit, or lilikoi, is practically not fruit at all but a papery husk filled with green-yellow snot and crunchy black seeds.  But what astounding green-yellow snot it is!  The slimy liquid is so saturated with tropical umami, so densely flavored and astonishingly nuanced that even a small amount can be mixed into a pitcher of other fruit juices and suddenly the whole thing is TROPICAL PUNCH!  Fresh passionfruit drizzled over plain cheesecake becomes PASSIONFRUIT CHEESECAKE.  Lilikoi chiffon pie, the Hawaiian favorite, consists of just a half a cup of passionfruit juice whipped together with eggs and gelatin to make a rage-inducingly excellent dessert.

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Sadly short of having passionfruit to work with, I am happy to make do with rhubarb.  Today a pile of such freshly cut (but overpriced) rhubarb wooed me into taking a sack of it home, and I did what I do best: I made up a crumble.

Rhubarb Crumble

this makes a 9×9 square pan

for the crumble, a Nigella Lawson recipe tweaked almost beyond recognition

¾ C. unbleached flour
¼ C. untoasted wheat germ
¼ C. whole wheat
1/3 C. rolled oats
3 Tbl. unbleached sugar
3 Tbl. demerara sugar (Nigella specifies this is for “crunch” and I agree)
½ tsp. salt
the zest of 1 lemon (save the lemon)
1 (4 oz.) stick of butter, melted

  • Put everything but the melted butter into a bowl and toss together, making sure the lemon zest isn’t clumping.  Add melted butter and stir until incorporated.  Set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 350°.

for the rhubarb filling – in this case I realized that 1 ½ lbs. was not enough and added some raspberries, but the raspberries could have been practically anything — I’ve done mango, apples, pears, strawberries and plums

1 ½ lbs. rhubarb (or 2 lbs. and omit the other fruit), sliced into ½-inch chunks
1 C. frozen raspberries
¼ heaping C. of brown sugar
juice from half a lemon
very tiny dash of vanilla

  • Toss everything together in a bowl and turn into a 9×9 pan.
  • Top with the crumble and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until juices bubble up the sides of the pan.  If the crumble has not browned at all, I recommend a few WATCHED! minutes under the broiler until toasted.

You’ll notice the recipe has very little sugar, and this is intentional.  The topping is fairly sweet, and the rhubarb is left to be itself.  The added lemon juice isn’t so much for sourness, but for flavor.  You might also note there is no thickener for the fruit — I find this small of a dish doesn’t need it, as well as the fact that the crumble tends to absorb the liquid after a few hours rest.

¹ And by “alive” I mean with a brand new colostomy.

² Not so with grapefruit salad, a recipe I’ll address at a later date.

10 Posted in Make It So

When the Common Sense Hits the Fan

Posted by on Apr 21, 2009 at 7:51 pm

You might have seen in the news that Southern California has been experiencing a record heatwave — I’m here to tell you it’s all true.

I’ve taken to walking the 2 miles to and then from work every day because it’s just the right distance for me to feel invigorated rather than tired, and also I’m a penny-pincher.  The thought of driving just two miles to work is embarrassing even for my lazy ass.

However, should the temperature rise above 100° Fahrenheit, all standards of decency are discarded.  I busted out the car, cranked up the air conditioner and rode in blissful self-largess until I got home and realized that I was still too hot and miserable even to make dinner.

Enter: European.

O blissful European.  That most bastardized and beloved of meals.  When I was young my parents called a simple, uncooked dinner of bread and/or crackers, fruit, cheese and maybe meat “European,” as though the only difference between us and backpackers in the south of France was our continent.  Better than calling it Freestyle Parenting Dinner, which is a legitimate alternative.  Or Unseasonal Heat Dinner, as in last night’s case.

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I already had a loaf of bread lying around getting stale, so some fresh grapes, a salami mix and sliced Persian cucumbers built up the bulk of the meal.

In the past I’d create a salad caprice – layers of fresh tomato, basil and whole mozzarella dressed with vinegar and olive oil – but in the last few months I’m really starting to come to grips with what might have to be my final goodbye to tomatoes.dsc_0416

Years ago they didn’t bother me, much to the surprise of my Crohnies, each of whom couldn’t digest tomatoes any more than they could digest driveway gravel.  Eleven years after I was diagnosed with Crohn’s I am finally starting to understand, oooh, that’s what tomatoes do to you.  You’re not really enjoying your disease until a slice of fruit-vegetable makes you pray for death, that’s what I always say.  However, the only real impact?  No more salad caprice.  Or rather: turns out that salad caprice is pretty good even missing a primary ingredient.

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At the last minute a boiled egg sounded good enough to suffer boiling a small pot of water (O, the humanity!) and all told, I think my body handled it pretty well.  Of course, I got stressed out about work all last night and this morning and then triggered a minor flare-up again, but fuck it.  Nothing a bottle of wine can’t make a lady forget.

2 Posted in Crohn's disease

Johnny Get Your Diastatic Malt

Posted by on Apr 20, 2009 at 9:00 am

For a few weeks now I’ve been baking this utterly benign, utterly American and utterly delicious white bread – this, after a straight year of fervent part-rye, wild yeast No-Kneading.  I don’t know if it’s the resident Viking I live with finally wearing me down¹, but one day I just wanted a goddamn baloney sandwich on a loaf of bread that didn’t turn the roof of my mouth into ground beef.

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I should point out that I’m among the great lazy bakers of this country and most days I’m too lazy to walk to the store to buy a loaf of sliced sandwich bread.  “Lazy” might be the wrong word.  Agoraphobic is closer.  That in mind, when I say this white bread recipe is just as easy as leaving a bowl of No-Knead slop overnight to form gluten strands, I’m not fucking around.

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This bread recipe is found on the internet easily enough, having come from no grander point of origin than the Betty Crocker Cookbook.  Depending on which edition you’re working with, it has been called over the decades:

  • Jewish Challah“  I assure you this recipe is not challah, though even the most recent edition of the Betty Crocker Cookbook advises the baker to make a “challah braid” in which they simply give directions to make a braided loaf.  Better Crocker seems a little confused that challah is an entirely different recipe.
  • Country Crust“  I feel compelled to spell it “Kuntry Krust”.
  • Rich Egg Bread“  This name is as misleading as calling it challah; it has an egg, yes, but one egg gets lost in nearly 4 cups of flour and a cup of water.

All of this works to distract the baker from the most important point: this is a delightful, All-American white bread.  The crust is soft but brown, the interior is tender, yeasty and the texture of sturdy cotton candy.  It is about as close as you’re going to get to Wonderbread without suckling from Satan’s high-fructose corn syrup teat.

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As a matter of practicality, I always braid this loaf.  It makes a better size slice for my taste, but it also suits my vintage oven better (in which a modern turkey will literally not fit).  Also: people are mesmerized by the ability to braid dough.  Really.  It’s the kitchen equivalent of doing a backflip.

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Also!  Because I’ve been tossing out picture-perfect loaves for the last few weeks, today my loaf decided to look like a super-mutant.  Classic.

Lastly, a note on the use of “diastatic malt” in the recipe: diastatic malt is an ingredient utilized by professional bakers to increase yeast productivity, browning and flavor.  There’s nothing insidious about it — it’s merely barley flour — and a scant teaspoon per loaf makes the bread even softer.  A $4 1lb. bag from King Arthur Flour will last you ages.

Kuntry Krust White Bread

3½ C. unbleached bread flour
2 tsp. kosher salt
2¼ tsp. dry instant yeast  (1 packet)
1 tsp. diastatic malt

¼ C. unbleached sugar
2 Tbl. good olive oil (plus extra for greasin’)
1 egg
1 C. hot water, as hot as your tap will run

  • Grease a glass or metal bowl with some olive oil.
  • In the bowl of your stand mixer, lightly stir together the flour, salt, yeast and diastatic malt.  Fit mixer with the dough hook.
  • In a 2 or 4-cup Pyrex measuring up, stir together the egg, sugar and oil while your tap runs to hot.  The egg, sugar and oil should be almost exactly ½ cup.  Add the 1 cup of hot water, which will bring your measurements up to 1½.
  • While mixer is running on low, slowly begin to add the hot water/egg mixture.  The tidier you are about this now, the faster the dough will incorporate without you having to scrape shit down.
  • When everything seems pretty much together, set the mixer to medium and let it run for about 10 minutes, or until the dough seems smooth and pleasant to the touch.  There is a chance that about 5 minutes in the dough will seem way too wet to you (sticking to the sides of the bowl wet), but you’ll be adding more flour when you knead by hand later, so relax.  Kitchenaid now says that allowing your mixer to run for longer than 5 minutes at a time (or 3 on tough items, like this bread) will wear your machine out faster, to which I say: no shit, Sherlock.  But I didn’t buy the mixer to keep it in a museum, I bought it to make bread.
  • Turn the dough out onto some more bread flour sprinkled on a work surface.  Knead for about 3 minutes, adding more flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking to you or the surface.  Form a ball, put it into the greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set somewhere warm to rise.  If you have a gas oven with a pilot light, inside the oven (turned off!) is a good place.  If you have an electric oven you’re on your own.
  • Let dough rise about 40 minutes, or until doubled.
  • Turn out dough onto work surface again, which hopefully you haven’t yet bothered cleaning, and cut into three even hunks.  Firmly but working fast, roll each hunk into a long rope, pulling a little to achieve length, and then braid.  I find it’s easiest to braid directly on the baking sheet (or on the Silpat or on a piece of baking parchment, and then sliding that onto the baking sheet).  Cover the braid with the plastic wrap from the bowl you hopefully haven’t yet thrown away and set on top of the oven while it heats up to 325°.  It will just about double during this time.
  • Remove plastic, put bread into oven and bake for 35-45 minutes or until the crust is a rich brown shade and the bread makes a slight hollow sound when you thunk it.  Remove to a rack to cool.
  • Get impatient, cut while still hot and eat with butter.

¹Not that he didn’t like the No-Knead, but as a rule he prefers soft breads over crusty.

3 Posted in Make It So