Anger Burger

The Yogurt Cure for Sadness

Posted by on Mar 12, 2010 at 3:24 pm

It’s been a good-news, bad-news kind of day.  The bad news is that I’m 99% certain I have developed alcohol intolerance.  Stop laughing, jerk.  I’m serious.  It’s been getting progressively worse over the years, but after a Korean friend noted that I appear to have “Asian Flush,” I looked up the symptoms and hello, end of my coping mechanisms, nice to meet you.

I’ve always gotten rosy cheeks from alcohol, but that’s just cute, right?   Right.  So we’ll say it started with the nasal congestion, which I thought was weird.  Want to tell when I’ve been drinking in the last 48 hours?  I sound like I’ve got a cold.  Then came the instant headaches and slight heart flutter.  So, that’s not great.

To make myself feel better, I made the best damn yogurt in the whole world.

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Dumping a tub of yogurt into paper towels does not seem like it will end well.

My mom and I were watching an episode of the Barefoot Contessa in which Ina Garten makes what she calls on the program I think “breakfast yogurt”.  This is an excellent example of a recipe where I go “Phhht, that’s lame.”  And then I can’t stop thinking about it.

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Pat it down and make it tidy, my little OCD friends.

Part of the problem, I thought, was Ina’s technique for draining water from yogurt: place into paper towel-lined strainer, set said strainer over bowl, wait 3 to 24 hours.  This is going to be a mess.

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But there it went, immediately purging water.  Eventually it would purge almost two cups of water.  That’s ridiculous!

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I’m a big fan of doing stuff half-assed, but I decided to wait and drain the yogurt overnight anyway.  The next morning, the paper towels are totally waterlogged and the yogurt is no longer dripping.

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Find yourself the best honey you can afford.  This is good advice generally speaking, but also sort of moot to us poor folks: the best honey we can afford is the cheapest honey.  Still, I splurge like anyone else.

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And now here’s where you’re wondering what the hell is going on.  The idea, see, is to replace the lost liquid in the yogurt with some better-tasting liquid.  Any fruit nectar will do.  Avoid fruit juices with added sugar and/or real thin ones – I like Looza and Ceres both of which are found at health food stores and have a wide variety of interesting flavors (Looza even makes banana!).  I fought my passionfruit fetish and tried guava instead.

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Some orange zest.  Ina used like a pound of it, whereas I used just a pinch and found even that to be overly strong.  In the future I might not put the zest in at all.  Unless I make citrus yogurt.  Mmm… citrus yogurt.

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Like the honey, the best vanilla you can afford.  I love Neilsen-Massey’s vanilla bean paste (which isn’t really paste at all, but gel).  I only end up using it for stuff I want vanilla bean seeds in and use a cheap one for everything else.

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But lets look at the yogurt.  And we have cheese!  I mean, it’s not like we knew this wasn’t going to happen, lots of recipes call for drained yogurt — just adding fresh chopped herbs at this stage would make an amazing spread for bread or crackers.  But we’re making yogurt.  From yogurt.  I know, bear with me.

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Ina says to start with 1/2 cup of fruit juice, but not only did she end up using a whole cup on the program, but my two batches at home have both required more than a cup.  I guess if you only drained it for 3 hours it might only accept 1/2 cup of juice, but what can you do.  Also!  More on this later, but I’d make the yogurt a little thinner than you think you want it.

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Fruit!  A mixture of dried fruits and fresh for good flavor.  I used raisins and sour cherries, but you can use whatever you want.  Again, more on that in a bit.

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Toasted almonds!  Now, this is the part where I might lose some people.  Nuts in the yogurt?  I know, but they not only add mature, complex flavor, but they add lovely crunch that I am aware those among us with texture issues will find abhorrent.  To which I say: I’m sorry that you live in such a narrow little world.

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And here we have it, minus the part where I forgot to show the addition of fresh blueberries.  Use your imagination.  Still,  perhaps you don’t understand how great this is.  This is super great. This yogurt?  Tastes like European yogurt.  Tastes like something you’d order for breakfast at a fancy restaurant and think, “This is great!  But I could make it myself.”  And you’d be correct, you can make it yourself.

Breakfast Yogurt
brought to you by Ina Garten and to a lesser extent by Sunday Williams
this recipe was originally found in Ina Garten’s The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook and is called “Orange Yogurt,” a name I find to be bizarrely insufficient, in large part because it’s more of a technique than a recipe.  but I think you get the idea.  this recipe reflects my changes, but the original is here.

1 quart plain yogurt, any kind
1/4 C. honey
1/2 cup mixed dried fruit (cut small if needed)
1/4 – 1/2 C. nuts, toasted and chopped into smaller bits
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 – 1 1/2 C. fruit nectar, to thin as needed
1 – 2 C. fresh fruit

  • The day before you want to make the yogurt, line a sieve or pasta strainer with two layers of paper towels (those of you on the eschewing paper towels bandwagon can figure it out yourself) set over a bowl to catch the fluid.  Dump the yogurt in and fold over the paper towel to cover the yogurt and keep a skin from forming.  It’ll stick just from wetness.
  • The next morning, dump the water from the bowl and start fresh with a new bowl.  In it put the honey and vanilla.  With a whisk or spoon, slowly add about 1/4 C. of fruit juice and mix thoroughly with honey to thin.  This’ll help the honey blend in smoother.
  • Add the yogurt, which will be thick and fall cleanly from the paper towels.  With the whisk, begin adding the rest of the juice, putting in just a touch more than you think you want, provided you aren’t going to eat it all right away.  If you are going to eat it all right away, make it just as thin as you want.
  • Add the dry fruit and nuts.  Do not add the fresh fruit (blueberries are okay because they are so self-contained) until just before serving.
  • I think the yogurt is best when it then sits for a few hours or even overnight again.  If it sits for more than a few hours, it will thicken up a bit more again, possibly a lot.  This is okay – just add more juice to thin to the right consistency.

Some notes on the recipe: like I said, this is more a technique than a real recipe, and the possibilities are painfully beguiling.  Fresh figs chopped with strawberry puree added to some peach juice?  With walnuts and and fresh rosemary?  All-citrus with fresh plums?  Peach nectar, fresh peaches, some cinnamon and granola stirred in?  I mean, you can see where this is going, right?

Also, it’s remarkable how different yogurts behave.  The first attempt I used Nancy’s full-fat plain, and it made a lot of fluid, stayed rather soft even after 24 hours and was eventually a bit too tart for my mom’s taste.  The second batch used Stonyfield Farms low-fat, produced less fluid but set up pretty firm and was too mild for my taste.

So?  Get to it, even if you start draining the yogurt right now you can’t eat it for another 24 hours!  Hurry!

9 Posted in Make It So

Punishment Cereal

Posted by on Mar 10, 2010 at 7:36 pm

Occasionally, I register my disgust on the internet, like so:

I was so disappointed today when I went to purchase my usual
weekly box of Alpen and discovered the familiar, cheery red and white
box was now a badly-designed dull brown.  Such poor graphic design!  The
photographs of the grains and the color palette look like something from
the 70′s – and not in the happy, Scandinavian way that Alpen looked
before.  I’m not sure what possessed you guys to change the box so
drastically, but I’m sad to see it.

Sincerely,
Sunday

What am I going on about?  Oh, why, just this totally retarded box redesign from my favorite healthy cereal, Alpen:

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Please tell me I’m going nuts, because where I’m standing from, this looks like a lovely, sort of retro but pretty delicious-looking cereal that has been transformed into a 1970′s-made-for-TV-movie cereal comprised of mulch, horse hay, compost and owl pellets.

Alpen had this to say in its defense:

Thank you for the email giving us your review of the new Alpen box
design.  We are very sorry you didn’t like the new graphics.

We appreciate receiving our customers’ suggestions and comments about
our products, and we have forwarded your comments about the packaging to
the appropriate department to take under consideration.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any further comments.
We hope you will continue to enjoy our other products in excellent
health!

Regards,
Kathy Zorn
Technical Services Coordinator
Weetabix North America
Barbara’s Bakery Division

Kathy, I didn’t respond because I don’t want to be the lunatic who keeps emailing you about the Alpen box, but I just want to understand what is happening.  Do you want Alpen to fail?  Was this an act of vengeance?   A spurned lover down in the box design department, perhaps?  Some Republican scheme to torture eaters of hippie cereal?  The last part I’d understand, but in all seriousness, it’s working.  Each time I pour a bowl of Grim Alpen for myself, I think, here’s one bowl of muesli closer to my demise.

On Second Thought – No, Still Awesome

Posted by on Mar 8, 2010 at 11:01 pm

I feared another visit to Beau Legs.  The first time was almost certainly a fluke, and I am a big fan of carrying torches for things too-good-to-be-true, for decades if necessary.  Still, I’m tired and have a long day ahead of me tomorrow and the part of my brain that runs on fryer grease was atrophying, so I risked it.

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I needn’t have worried.  Everything I said about Beau Legs last August is still true, and more so.  The “Captain Platter,” a basket with battered halibut, cornmealed catfish and tilapia filets, clam strips and breaded shrimp were in danger of being outshone by the perfect french fries and really irritatingly excellent hushpuppies.

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One order was enough for my dad and I to share, even if I did confirm to myself that nope, I still don’t like cornmeal fried fish anywhere near as much as I like it battered.  I’m sure that Beau Legs would let me substitute them, too, since each piece is hand-dressed and fried to order.  The clam strips weren’t quite as soft and sweet as last summer, but seafood, like all agricultural products, changes with the season.  Maybe by summer they’ll be dreamy again.

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My dad and I agreed that next time we’re sticking with our respective favorites (battered halibut for him, clam or oysters for me) and an extra side of hushpuppies.

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The proprietress was handling the front of the house solo as she was last time, and when the crowd had a lull she came over and asked me, “You like clam chowder?”  I love it, I told her.  She came back with a sample cup of it and would you be surprised if I told you it was excellent?  You shouldn’t be.  I’m just not sure how I’m going to fit in a bowl of it along with my oysters and hushpuppies on my next visit.

0 Posted in Eatin' Fancy

Baked Yams Tahiti & String Beans Smitane

Posted by on Mar 5, 2010 at 11:38 am

I’ll give you two for the price of one in today’s Respect Your Elders: Baked Yams Tahiti and String Beans Smitane.

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I genuinely thought “Smitane” was jibberjabber until I looked it up and discovered it was a real thing, but more on that in a minute.

Let’s discuss this Baked Yams Tahiti, shall we?

2 lbs. cooked peeled yams or 2 (1 lb.) cans of yams
1 C. crushed pineapple
2 ripe bananas
1/4 C. dry sherry
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
dots of butter
miniature marshmallows

  • Drain yams and pineapple, mash together with bananas.
  • Add sherry, salt and pepper and whip together until smooth and paste-like.
  • Smear this caulk into a casserole dish.
  • Cover top with butter and marshmallows.
  • Bake uncovered at 350 for about 45 minutes or until golden.

First, an anecdote: I grew up living near my Grandpa “Warhero” Vern, an avid fisherman who used the multi-colored miniature marshmallows as trout bait.  I didn’t even understand until I was maybe 9 or 10 years old that it was actually intended that people ate those miniature marshmallows.

Anyway, the Baked Yams Tahiti doesn’t offend me, exactly, as much as make me wonder if there’s some way to salvage it.  I’m kind of into it, even though I don’t like the texture of smooth yams (or squash, for that matter).  If it weren’t “whipped smooth” would it really be bad?  Probably not.  Would I eat more than 3 ounces even if I fixed it?  No.  Still, it makes me want to have a vintage recipe potluck just so I can eat three spoonfuls of a bunch of these things.

Speaking of, how about String Beans Smitane?

2 lbs. fresh string beans (3 lbs. frozen)
1 C. finely cut onion
1/2 cube butter
4 tbsp. flour
1 C. mayonnaise
3/4 C. sour cream
1/4 C. dry white wine
salt and pepper

  • Cook beans in a small amount of salted, boiled water until just tender.  Drain.
  • Saute the “finely cut onion” (not sure specifically what that means) in “1/2 cube” (which I assume was 2 oz. then as well as now) butter until limp, which sounds surprisingly more dramatic than softened.
  • Stir in the flour.
  • Add the mayonnaise, sour cream, wine and salt and pepper and stir through to blend, just until combined, and remove from heat.  Add beans and serve.

Okay.  So, to start with, even though “Smitane” is a real thing, this isn’t actually it.  Smitane is a light brown sauce with onions, wine and sour cream added to make it a lightly creamy, oniony sauce.  Sounds good, but I know what you’re thinking:  LET’S ADD A CUP OF HOT MAYONNAISE.

You’re Doing It Wrong

Posted by on Mar 3, 2010 at 9:57 pm

My poor dad.  So, we’re driving around Olympia and he says to me, “I want banh mi,” and lo, there is a giant sign off 4th Ave. at Little Danang that reads something like “Vietnamese Sandwich $3.99″ or some such business, and I tell him: “The pho is pretty good there, let’s try their banh mi.”

I’m gonna tell you right now: keep driving.

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I was about to call the above photo Warning Sign #1, but then I remembered the part where we sat for 20 minutes while our sandwiches sat on a counter top while the guy working talked on a telephone and wouldn’t take our money.  So then Warning Sign #2 would be the above.  A cornmeal-rolled hoagie roll is not a baguette.   And can we all just give a collective indignant gasp at, is that motherfucking lettuce?!

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Well at least it has cilantro — WHAT THE FUUUUUCK.  Where’s the cilantro? Where’s the pickled veg?  THE CUCUMBER?

Okay.  Deep breath.

Okay, no, screw that noise.  These guys robbed us for $8 and then kicked us in the necks and then stole our money and then gave us rabies and painted “ANGER BURGER SUCKS” on the moon.

4 Posted in Eatin' Fancy

Curried Meatballs and Noodles

Posted by on Mar 1, 2010 at 9:07 am

Okay, now this is getting interesting.  Superficially, this seems like a foul endeavor.  Upon closer examination, it’s maybe not so bad.  And then somehow we find ourselves back again at urpy stomach-churning offense.

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1 lb. ground beef chuck
1 Tbsp. minced onion
3/4 C. packaged corn flake crumbs
salt & pepper
1 egg
2 C. undiluted evaporated milk
2 Tbsp. shortening
1 medium onion, sliced
2 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. curry powder
1 140z. can chicken broth

8oz. medium egg noddles

  • Combine beef, minced onion, corn flakes, salt and pepper, and 1/3 C. of the evaporated milk.  Form into 12 balls and brown in shortening over medium heat.  Brown sliced onion at the same time.  I assume you take the meatballs out now, though no one really knows.
  • Add flour, curry powder and some salt and pepper at edge of pan and blend with the fat.  Gradually add the broth and the remaining 1 2/3 C. of evaporated milk, cooking over low heat until sauce thickens slightly.  Of course, with that little flour, the emphasis will be on “slightly”.  You’ll basically have curry broth.
  • Serve meatballs and the liquid over cooked noodles.

I find myself doing this with modern recipes too, wondering why part of the dish seems appealing to me despite obvious flaws.  In the case of curried meatballs and noodles, we have essentially boring meatballs with a thin gruel of milky curried gravy — made from tinned milk,  no less, which has its own peculiar flavor — and served over noodles.  This is not good.  Instead the devil on my shoulder keeps whispering “But Japanese curry over noodles is good!”  I am here to tell you: the devil is correct, but the implication is not.  Stick with the Japanese version and do not stray.