Anger Burger

In Which We Discuss Toilets

Posted by on May 30, 2012 at 8:22 am

I haven’t been discussing Crohn’s disease much lately, mostly because I don’t have anything new to say about it; I am sick some times, and not others.  When I am sick it isn’t critical (and in this I am profoundly lucky, and I know it).  I still don’t have health insurance, and therefore do not pursue treatment.

But something happened last Saturday that made me think about what I thought was a carefree, Crohn’s-having lifestyle.  I realized that what I’d actually done was to craft an intricate and rigid framework to live within, and totally without realizing it.  Anyone with bathroom issues does this, but I know where the bathrooms are in each and every store, and which are preferable.

  • The Trader Joe’s bathroom is easy access but a single-stall and people will rattle the door while you use it.  B-
  • The bathroom at Top Foods is easy access and large enough to never have a wait, but are sometimes closed for cleaning and are next to the employee entrance and there are often workers standing outside the door chit-chatting. B+
  • The Co-Op is no good on almost every level. D+
  • The bathroom at my work is off the main work floor, which means that we keep no secrets from each other.  We know one another’s poop schedules and occasionally comment on them.  No score, as it is like going to the toilet at your friend’s house.  (Super F from anyone else.)
  • The book store requires that you ask for a key, and then the bathroom is an uncomfortably large, echoey single-staller, and people rattle the door, giving rise to that tension that it’s not really locked well enough and someone is going to open the door straight to the bookselling floor and there you’ll be, pants dropped around your ankles, the sound of a hellmouth opening beneath you. F
  • Target’s bathrooms are perfectly accessible, perfectly large and always, always open. A+

Except for this last Saturday, when they weren’t.

Whatever it was that required Target to close their toilets on a busy Saturday I cannot say, but the look of horror on my Klonopin face must have been sufficient for a staff passerby to approach me and say “There’s a restroom next to the pharmacy!”  Really?  I was aghast.  How could I not have known of a second toilet option at Target?

Of course the pharmacy was like 100 miles away on the other side of the store, the side I’d just walked from after abandoning all my purchases in the sudden and urgent need to find a toilet.  (As an aside, I truly expect to be accused of shoplifting one of these days for my tendency to try and hide my purchases-to-be in a store just before using the toilet, since I’ve tried just leaving them outside the bathroom and come out to find them partially or all taken away.)  Back at the pharmacy I found it: a single-stall handicap access toilet recessed back in the blood pressure monitor area.  Well!  I had no idea!  Also: there was a line to use it.

I sat on a nearby bench and waited, focusing on remaining calm and loose.  If I tense, the urge increases.  While I sat and my turn came, a young girl of maybe eight darted by me and into the bathroom as her father shouted “Jenny! You’re cutting in line!”  He apologized to me, genuinely embarrassed, and I told him I understood.  I did and I didn’t.  I get that she really had to go.  But I’m 32 and if anyone is pissing or shitting themselves in Target, it is her.

I made it safely to the bathroom, but had plenty of time to wonder about my self-brainwashing.  I had essentially forgotten that I still had this issue.  I rarely go places where I can’t easily find a bathroom and in the back of my mind, I know which ones to hedge my bets on.  I swing between finding it frustrating and comforting that I could achieve a mental place where I forget that I have agonizing bowel movements that strike without warning, and leave me exhausted and shaking, headachy and weak for hours afterwards.  So I guess I still have Crohn’s disease.

17 Posted in Crohn's disease

Do Not Want

Posted by on Jul 24, 2011 at 5:09 pm

I decided to push my luck, see, because I’ve been feeling unusually healthy lately as far as my bowels not actively trying to kill me.  So I decided to go for broke: kale salad with brown rice and other gravel bits.

First, this brown rice blend from Trader Joe’s was languishing in my cupboard because it was essentially inedible.  Twice I’d tried to cook some up, each time finding myself the proud parent of a soup pot full of hard, damp rice and barley bits.  They had already cooked 10 minutes longer than advised, but still nothing.  It was like chewing rabbit feed.  And so then I thought: why not throw it into a salad?  The texture will be better appreciated, and hopefully I won’t be able to see what I’m eating.

The kale is beautiful right now, like I want to construct a car-sized pile of it and take a running leap into it.

After reading around on the internet a little,  I decided I wanted to make a dressing that was essentially hummus, but minus the garbanzo beans.  It tasted lovely and I was pleased with myself.

And how did it turn out?

Honestly?  Pretty tasty.  I liked everything about it, it was chewy and a little crunchy, rich and fresh-tasting at the same time.  And then I spent the next 24 hours sitting on the toilet playing my Nintendo DS.  So, sorry kale salad.  You go in the trash.

Kale Salad for the Stout of Bowel
i was very sad to throw this salad away, so please don’t let what happened to me because of my disease deter you from it – if you’re used to eating raw kale salads, you’ll be just fine.  also, don’t discard the lazy option of actually using hummus as the dressing – buy a tub of your favorite hummus, thin it with some olive oil and lemon juice and construct yourself this salad business.

dressing:
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 large clove of garlic finely grated or chopped very, very fine
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp salt + more to taste

salad:
1 cup (before cooking) mixed grains, such as brown rice, pearled barley or farro
1 bunch Lacinato (also known as black or dinosaur) kale
1 large or 2 or 3 small Persian or English cucumbers
1 or 2 chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint

  • Set about cooking the grains – they take about an hour to cook, so they get started first.  Cook according to package directions.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the salad dressing in a large bowl by whisking everything together and then tasting for seasoning.  Remember that the grains and kale can take a lot of flavor.
  • Prep the kale by washing it and then stripping the leaves from rigid center rib.  Finely chop the kale and rub the bits roughly between the palms of your hands.  This helps break down the kale a little before the salad is made.  It will begin to get very fragrant with an odor some people claim smells like bananas – I can only vaguely see this comparison, maybe if we’re talking about very green bananas.
  • Chop up the cucumber, tomatoes and mint and set aside.
  • Add the cooked grains to the bowl with the dressing and stir to coat, then add the kale, cucumber, tomato and mint.  Stir to coat and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

The Medicinal Value of A Giant Sloppy Hamburger

Posted by on May 3, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Perhaps the best¹ part about having Crohn’s disease is that no one thing triggers the disease quite like stress does.  Concerns and worries commute straight into bowel spasms, dehydration, inflamed joints, brimstone raining from the heavens, dogs lying down with cats, blah blah blah.  You know what’s stressfull?  Worrying about stress.

LET’S GET A BURGER.

There’s a lot of history around the Burbank location of Bob’s Big Boy, the kind of place where the walls are lined with vintage photos and the booth where the Beatles sat has a plaque over it.   And that’s all well and good, but that’s not why you go there.  You go there because the burgers are actually good and they know how to make milkshakes.  And you know, you need to replace about 4000 calories you failed to consume over the last week.

The thing about the classic Big Boy burger is that it’s basically a Big Mac.  Or rather, vice versa — the Big Mac was created specifically to challenge the fame of the Big Boy, and wouldn’t you know it, the Big Boy remains the victor.  It’s easily one of my top five burgers in Los Angeles, nailing the desire for a fast food burger square in the forehead.  It’s spread with plain mayonnaise and what they call “red relish” which as near as I can determine is just regular relish mixed with ketchup.  And I love it.  It’s perfect.

Bob’s fries?  Also delightful if not 100% flawless, still infinitely better than In-n-Out’s notoriously disliked flaccid specimens.  And parsley!  Who still does that?!  Bob’s, I guess.

¹By which I mean the worst.

Another Day, Another Salmon

Posted by on Feb 7, 2011 at 12:25 pm

My friend Carrie Anne also has Crohn’s disease and mentioned casually that she was having a hard week, so my colon was all IT’S ON, BITCH and decided to make it a contest.  And to be fractionally less flip: no, really, I was just minding my own business keeping to my diet when Carrie Anne was all, so, autoimmune diseases, and then my colon exploded.

It happens sometimes with Crohn’s, where you’re doing everything right and it doesn’t matter.  The good news is that recovery from these outbursts is generally easier than from aggravated flare-ups, but that’s one of those “The bad news is that your hand is possessed by an evil demon – the good news is that it can knit!” sort of scenarios.  You’re familiar with those, right?

Anyway, right on schedule I started craving fish protein.  And I’m acutely aware that many people reading this are terrified of cooking fish, to which I can only say: start with this recipe first.  It is very difficult to screw up.  The idea is that you cook the salmon in a very low oven for a twice as long as you’d normally cook it, and the result is fish that is buttery soft and moist.  And you have a window of like 10 minutes where you can go “Wait, is it done?  Did I screw up?” and it will A) yes, be done, and B), no, you did not screw up.

I like to marinade and cook my fish in what amounts to homemade vinaigrette, and in a pinch the vinaigrette does not have to be homemade.  You can just use whatever you’d like to put on your salad.

To cook more evenly, leave space between the fish pieces.  Do as I say, not as I do.

The raw fish sits at room temperature for about 20 to 30 minutes, or for as long as it takes you to get other parts of the dinner ready and the oven warmed up.  The longer it sits at room temperature the more evenly it will cook in the oven, and this is a solid rule for cooking almost anything, but especially meat.  There are very few instances where you want to put very cold meat straight onto heat.

I did not anticipate being unable to tell which was fish and which was vegetable when I took this photo.

Just to be difficult, I made roast vegetables with my salmon, which I don’t recommend you do unless you have two ovens.  The reason is that the vegetables need about 40 minutes at 400°, but the salmon needs 20 minutes at 250°.  In my single-oven instance, I roasted the vegetables first, set them aside, lowered the oven heat to 250° and left the door open for 2 minutes for the temperature to really lower, cooked my salmon, and then for the last 5 minutes of salmon cooking, I reheated the vegetables in the same 250° oven.  Stupid, but this website isn’t called Clever Burger for a reason.

The vegetables before roasting:

You can roast literally almost any vegetable for about 30 – 40 minutes at 400° and result in wonderfully caramelized, rich, soft, deliciousness.  Just coat them in olive oil and give them plenty of salt and pepper, and you’re golden.  Vegetables are cheap, you can experiment.  Mushrooms, as my sister pointed out the other day, roast down into something akin to taffy.  Beets turn into candy.  Thin slices of acorn squash soften and then crisp around the edges.  Quartered onions turn silky and sexual.  Fennel, as seen above, transforms from a Viking-hated, fibrous, anise-scented monstrosity into a buttery, tender, floral treat.  Halved carrots stay normal on the thick end and turn into crispy carrot potato chips on the narrow end.  Make a lot since most veggies cook down by 50%, and then use the leftovers cold in salads or chopped and added to rice the next day.

Improbable Salmon
as much as I want to say it is impossible to screw this salmon up, I know how the world works.  someone will screw it up.  so we’ll stick with improbable.  also, the government claims that 3oz is a single serving of salmon, and I’m here to tell you that is just solid fuckery.  there’s no way 3oz is enough of a serving of salmon.  i generally purchase a 1lb fillet and the Viking and I split it with maybe a small little serving bit leftover which one of us will eat the next day cold as a snack.   anyway, I’d plan on 6 – 8oz per person, which will result in some leftovers that you will be happy to have.  with this in mind, my recipe is for 2 people + leftovers, or 3 or 4 people and no leftovers.

1lb. of salmon, give or take

2 Tbsp. something acidic (lemon or orange juice, pomegranate molasses, or tamarind paste)
1 Tbsp. dijon-style mustard
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh mild herbs such as basil, parsley, tarragon or dill
1/2 clove garlic, chopped very fine or grated on a Microplane
3 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

or
store-bought vinaigrette, enough to coat the salmon

  • Remove salmon from the fridge, rinse under cold water and then pat dry with paper towels.  With your fingers, gently stroke the fillet to feel for bones the fishmonger missed.  If you find some, use a pair of needle-nose pliers (I own a pair that stays in the kitchen just for fish) to grasp the bone and pull it straight out.
  • Cut the raw salmon into smaller pieces, about serving size slices.  Aim for making each piece the same weight, meaning that the thick end of the fillet would get narrow slices, where the tail end would get a wider slice.  Don’t make any piece narrower than 1-inch wide, and aim for 2-inches.
  • Mix together the sauce by putting everything in a bowl and whisking until emulsified and thick -or!- put everything into a small, clean jar and shake it until mixed together.    Check for taste and adjust to your preference.  Make sure it’s a little saltier than you think is right, because it will be diluted when on the fish.
  • Coat each piece of fish with sauce and place on a baking sheet or dish layered with disposable foil – only if you’re interested in easy cleanup.  If you’re interested in saving the environment, don’t use foil.  Leave 1 inch of room between each of the salmon pieces and they will cook a little more consistently.  If you cluster them together, like I do when I am lazy, the pieces in the middle won’t cook as much as the ones on the edges, and you may or may not be sad.  Dump any remaining sauce onto the fish slices.
  • Allow to sit at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes while you heat the oven to 250° and do any other dinner preparations you want, like make rice.
  • To bake, set the timer to 15 minutes, put the fish in the oven and walk away.  After 15 minutes, test for doneness by breaking open the largest piece of salmon and checking that it flakes.  Salmon prepared in this manner will not turn opaque and firm – I repeat, it will not be like cooked salmon you are used to.  It will still be reddish-pink and quite moist and every-so-faintly transparent, but it will still readily pull apart into flakes unlike raw salmon – the flakes will just be so soft that you’ll have to really use a fork to see that they’re there.  If you’re unsure, let it cook another 5 minutes, what the hell.  It’ll be okay.  I assure you that after 15 to 20 minutes in a 250° oven, the fish is plenty cooked and safe to eat.  In fact, it’s safe at 140°!   It’s hard for some people to understand that fish can be quite soft and pink and still be cooked through, but when they taste it they’ll get over it.
  • EAT!

Corn Chowder and Dirty Leaves

Posted by on Nov 17, 2010 at 7:45 am

My Crohn’s disease manifests primarily as pain (thanks, biology!) and the inability to digest fiber, but for some strange reason, my body doesn’t mind corn.  Mike the Viking has literally slapped raw broccoli out of my hand before as it made its way to my mouth, but that might just be because he hates vegetables’ fucking guts¹ and not because he was worried about me.  Also I was drunk and someone parked me near the crudites, which was a disaster.

Anyway, the mystery: corn skins pass by undetected.  It’s strange but true, and I don’t argue with it.  I eat as much corn as I am able and pretend that I am normal people.

And here’s an anecdote that does actually pertain to this recipe, but also is my favorite anecdote ever.  It’s the story of how I knew I’d be best friends with my best friend, Leesa Leva, aka the Purveyor of Fuckery.  So, the short version is that she and I were still in that awkward stage where we weren’t sure how good of friends we were yet.  I don’t make friends easily (OH STOP) –  neither does she as it would turn out — and because it seemed too-good-to-be-true² at this early stage, I wasn’t yet sure I could be myself with her.

For dinner, I was cooking my old standby, corn chowder.  It’s a simple recipe that involves a lot of cans, so I tend to not make it for guests.  Too simple.  Still, for some reason I was making it and when everything was together in a pot I left the kitchen and then returned a while later to find Leesa skulking around and looking oddly alarmed.  In a rush, she told me that she was sure the chowder was still going to be delicious, but she wanted me to know that the window must have been open and something had blown into the soup, but she got it out and it would be fine.

She showed me the offending debris that she’d fished out of the soup.  It was the bay leaves.

How can you not love her?  You can’t not love her.

So, the chowder.  Many years ago I used to cut raw kernels from fresh corn to make the soup.  As the years progressed I discovered that no one could tell the difference between fresh corn and canned or frozen corn, and furthermore, it seemed better when I used at least one can of creamed corn (which contains no cream, but does contain a boggling quantity of food starch).  This recipe began as something respectable and has evolved into something Sandra Lee would commend.  How did this happen?  I don’t know, but people seem to like it, it costs about $5 to make a big ol’ pot of it, and the hardest part is safely opening cans of corn.

I really like to eat it with super-soft white bread, for which this recipe can absolutely 100% not be beat: King Arthur Flour’s soft white dinner rolls.  It makes a lot, but freeze one half after par-baking (read down in the recipe’s comments for details) and you’ve got dinner rolls for another day.

Corn Chowder with Debris
here’s a weird fact about myself: I don’t like potatoes in my chowder.  I find them bland and mealy at best, and prefer to not encounter them.  if you like potatoes, add them with the milk and cook them down until they are soft, probably 15 – 25 minutes depending on how large you cut them and what variety you use.  this recipe is also kick-fucking-ass with the addition of about a cup of flaked smoked salmon stirred in right before serving, or even finely chopped, crispy bacon.  if you like dark greens, add washed and chopped kale at the same time you add the broth.  basically what I’m saying is: this is a great base for any number of personalizations.  or, it’s good plain.  either way.

1 yellow onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely diced or run through a press
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 Tbsp. flour
1 14oz. can chicken or vegetable broth
2 14oz. cans creamed corn (I truly prefer S&W)
salt and pepper to taste
3 bay leaves
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme (optional)
1 small can (8oz?) evaporated milk  - not condensed!
1 cup instant potato flakes

  • Heat a large soup pot  over medium-high and add the butter and oil.  When the butter is melted, add the onion and saute until translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Keep stirring it, but it’s okay if the onions brown a little.  Add the garlic and stir to warm through.
  • Lower heat to medium, add the flour and stir thoroughly to make a thick paste of everything.  Cook 3 minutes, continuously stirring to keep the flour from sticking.  We’re cooking the ‘raw’ taste of the flour out.  The onion-and-flour paste may color a little, and that’s okay.
  • Stirring quickly all the while, slowly pour in the broth and stirstirstir to keep the flour from lumping.  If it makes you feel better, use a whisk for this part.  Add the two cans of creamed corn, stir to combine, and then add the bay leaves, the thyme and salt and pepper to taste.
  • When the mixture comes to a simmer, lower the heat until it just barely bubbles and allow to cook for 15 minutes to marry the flavors together.  Stir regularly, as the soup will try and stick because of the outrageous amount of food starch.  I know it all seems gloppy at this point, but that’s why we are now:
  • Adding the can of evaporated milk.  Why evaporated?  It’s a stronger milk flavor and very unlikely to “break” or curdle if you have the heat too high.  Also, it’s another can.  We’re collecting cans at this point in the recipe.  Bring the chowder back to a simmer and add the cup of instant potato flakes.  Allow to cook for another 15 minutes.
  • And we’re done.  Adjust seasonings for taste (it will probably need more salt) and add a little water if it’s way too thick for you.
  • Haul all those cans out to the recycling bin.

¹ Actually not true, but for Odin’s sake, don’t tell any of the other Vikings.
² At this point we’d already gone to a scifi convention together, where we’d met and flirted with Icheb and got to see a not-well James Doohan before he died.  That bond can never be broken between women.

Blurg, Ugh

Posted by on Oct 2, 2010 at 11:42 pm

It’s been a weird two weeks, you guys.  I can’t bring myself to participate in anything but bullet points.

  • So, it was like 113+ degrees last week.  Did I fail to mention that?  I didn’t mention it because it was such a ridiculous event and we sat huddled in the one closed-off room that has air conditioning and we were basically fine.  We ordered pizza and vowed to never speak of it again.  But the weather has been strange ever since, with hot days hitting the 90′s and then – most unusually – nights that aren’t cooling off.  The night before last I turned the AC off for the first time in a week and woke about 12 times in different pools of sweat.  Of course, there was a 30lb. sack of fur cuddled up to me on one side and a Viking-sized sack of fur on the other side, so that problem was maybe predictable.
  • The Crohn’s thing.  The problem, see, is that I don’t have health insurance.  Which, sure, there are low-income clinics, but let me tell you about how much those guys want to start in on a degenerative bowel disease with 15 years of patient history when they have per-patient clinic limits of ten minutes or less.  Basically each clinic I talk to says, “Who’s your gastroenterologist?”  To which I answer: “No one.”  And then I get put on hold in the hopes I’ll expire before they get back to me.  Which is becoming more possible as the days pass.    Not really.  In seriousness, the steroids I had (which were 3 year old leftovers, and not enough for a formal run anyway) are gone now and I’m maybe 60% better.  Details?  Sure.  I went from pewping dirty water every 3 hours in extraordinary pain to pewping dirty water every 8 hours in extraordinary pain.  At least now I can plan my days a little better.
  • Last month I discussed some drama that was causing stress that wasn’t really a big deal and I swore I wouldn’t talk about it until afterward but it’s still not afterward and still making me miserable.  I swear to fucking Tyrannosaurus Rex that I’ll tell you just the second I’m able.  And then you’ll be  Is that all?  What a pussy. And I’ll say yes, yes I am.
  • While on an errand that involved the above bullet point, the Viking and I decided to stop at a boutique shop and get fancy sodas to make ourselves feel better.  As a side, there’s this other fancy soda shop place in Glendale that I am dying to go to, but I refuse to go until my best friend can visit from Houston and ho with me (GENUINE TYPO AND I’M KEEPING IT) because she’s even more of a weird beverage hound than I am.   Back to the original point, which was that I bought this:

    And let me tell you, holy shit what a mistake.  I cannot begin to describe what happened.  First: I love birch beers, which if you don’t know can best be described as wintergreen-flavored root beer.  They’re an acquired taste.  Secondly, I have an obsession with spruce tip jelly, which folks in Alaska seem to make a lot of if my Googling “spruce tip jelly” has any real merit.  Supposedly it isn’t pine-y as much as sort of green and fresh and bright, which I think sounds amazing.   And it feels like wild-harvesting weirdness at the best: jelly from pine trees!  One day I will make some.  In the meantime, I saw SPRUCE BEER!  And two food desires collided and I was happy as a peach in a pie and I cracked into that thing with all the hopes and dreams a girl has ever had.  And then chugged into a bottle of carbonated Pine Sol.  No joke.  No exaggeration.  Pine Sol.  PINE SOL.  Like, not trees or spruce, but acrid, poisonous, artificial “pine” cleaner.  With a whiff of gasoline.  For a few drinks I was actually convinced there was something bracing and medicinal about it, and then, after took a break from it and belched what would be the first of HOURS of horrific, industrial cleaner belches, I finally broke down and admitted I couldn’t handle the spruce beer.

  • Curiously, this same company makes a very fine cane sugar cola, a slightly tart, mild and somewhat root-beery version that while not my favorite¹, is still a delight.
  • OH MY GOD I CANNOT STOP BURPING PINE SOL.

¹ A note on the Fentimans: my “secret” buying location is the goddamn stupid World Market. They sell for under $2 each there, whereas every other single boutique/gourmet food shop in town sells them for almost $4 each.

Japanese Doria – I Don’t Know Why it’s Called That, Either

Posted by on Sep 28, 2010 at 2:22 pm

The short version of the story is: you know that flu I had last week?  Well, it slyly worked its way into a full Crohn’s flare-up, which means I am on steroids right now.  In a way, I want to be all, “Dudes, its fine,” and in another way there’s always this skin-crawling sense of proximity that happens each time I have one of these attacks; this could be the hospital time.  This could be the one that the steroids don’t fix.  The last time I was this sick was the time I was at the top of Mauna Kea, as is mentioned in my “About” page at the top of the site up there.  Except, this time I didn’t have to shit outside and then ride with a van full of journalists 1.5 hours back down a winding mountain road, stopping twice to shit again in the red glow of the van’s brake lights.  But once again, that’s a story for another time.

So: steroids.  They’re insidious.  On one hand, they’re a miracle – the night I started taking them the pain stopped and I actually slept a full 8 hours without having to jump up and race to the toilet.  On the other hand, they’re like smoking weed and doing a little coke at the same time, but subtract any good qualities of either drug.  All the nervous energy you could ever want, minus the ability to focus it.  Except for food – particularly greasy, sugary food – you can focus on food.  Food that will never make you full, because the part of your brain that is tripped when your stomach is too full is totally incapacitated by the steroids.   And when you start to taper back off the steroids?  Oh boy, then the fun starts.  Ever been around a very, very sleepy 4 year-old that refuses to nap?  Magnify that.  A lot.

So the first day of my recovery phase, Mike the Viking suggested that I make doria for dinner, and I blew him off.  Because I don’t like doria, see.

Oh wait, what’s doria?  Let’s back up.

Japanese comfort food.  You’re not surprised that I love Japanese interpretations of foreign comfort foods, I know, so let’s move past that idiosyncrasy and cut to the chase:  doria might be Italian, but is sort of French at the same time.  Who knows.  But here’s what it is: a rice dish covered in cream sauce and cheese.

The most popular doria in Japanese restaurants (at least here in America) seems to be of the seafood variety – lots of shrimp and squid and scallops, it appears – but I can’t abide by creamy seafood.  The Viking’s favorite doria came from a restaurant in Seattle called Fort St. George, and is of the bacon and egg variety, of which I never could choke down more than a few mouthfuls.  And I love Japanese comfort food!  Fort St. George serves “butter squid with mayonnaise” for christ’s sake.  Oh, my heart.  Anyway, doria: white rice smothered in heavy, thick, gluey cream sauce and big pieces of soft bacon?  Nope.

Still, there was an air of challenge to his suggestion, and the steroids had me jogging in place while eating two cookies at the same time, so I jogged my crazy ass over to the computer and started looking into doria.  Turns out that Fort St. George’s version is pretty whack – most Japanese versions seem to be more of a European or Western-flavored fried rice topped with sauce, and this began to grow on me a little.  In fact, I decided that I could make something worthwhile, and more importantly, something within my strict carb-only recovery diet¹.

The result?  Much tastier version that Fort St. George’s, though not a wise main dish.  But as a side dish?  Divine.  Silky, creamy, mushroomy, comforting.  After I was done running laps around my kitchen and making motor-boat noises, it went down real nice.

Doria
there’s a lot of ways to make doria since its more a branch of food (like risotto) than a particular meal, but this recipes operates as a base anyway.  if making a seafood version (shrimp, squid, crab, halibut, salmon, scallops – you know what seafood is, right?), add it late in the cooking process just to barely cook through – it’ll finish cooking in the oven.  if making vegetarian, focus on the mushroom flavors and for odin’s sake, invest in some porcini mushroom powder.  it makes everything taste better.  provided that thing is supposed to taste rich and meaty.  otherwise maybe not.

2 C cooked and cold white rice
4 oz. pork belly or very, very mild bacon, diced small
4 oz. mushrooms, diced small
1/2 medium onion, diced small
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. ketchup
1/2 tsp. porcini mushroom powder (optional, but highly recommended)

for the cheese sauce:
1 1/2 C milk
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp granulated onion or 1/4 fresh onion, finely grated, juice and all
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 C grated fontina cheese, or any very mild, very soft white cheese

  • To prepare ahead of time, cook the rice and the cheese sauce to assemble later.  At least do the rice early, because it’s better if it’s cold and dry.
  • To make the cheese sauce, I have to say one thing that’s going to sound maybe bossy or judgmental, but I say it because I care about you and I want you to be happy: you should learn how to make cheese sauce anyway.  And I don’t really want to clutter up this particular post with instructions because I’m lazy, but without the cheese this is just bechamel, which is important.  Want to know why fancy restaurant lasagna tastes better than yours?  They use bechamel sauce in it, just a little.  True.  But in short: melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the flour and stir until foamy, stirring steadily for about 3 minutes.  Off heat, whisk in 1 C of the milk with a fleet hand – if you snooze, you lump.  Return to medium-low heat, whisking regularly while adding the onion, nutmeg, salt and pepper.  When the mixture thickens and begins to simmer, whisk in 1/4 C of the remaining milk.  When the mixture again thickens and simmers, add the last 1/4 C milk.  When the mixture again thickens and simmers, stir in the cheese and remove the sauce from the heat.  It is done.   You may now put it in the fridge by pouring into a container and placing plastic wrap directly on the surface of the sauce, otherwise a gruesome skin will form.
  • Prep all your meat and vegetables.  If using pork: saute this in a large saute pan over medium-high heat first, adding the onion, mushroom and salt when it melts off some fat but hasn’t started browning yet.  Keep stirring this mixture (turning down to medium if it seems to be browning faster than actually cooking down, if that makes sense) until reduced in volume by about 1/3 and showing lots of lovely caramelized brown pieces, about 10 minutes.  Stir regularly!
  • Add to the pan the rice, quickly stirring to thoroughly combine.  Add the soy sauce, ketchup, porcini powder and pepper, and then remove from heat.  This isn’t fried rice, this is just mixed rice.
  • Portion the rice either between 3 or 4 serving bowls, or one 9×9 inch casserole pan.  Immediately top with the cheese sauce, adding some extra shredded cheese to the top if you want, but the cheese sauce itself will actually brown without it.  Still, don’t make it a habit of turning down cheese.
  • Bake in 350° oven for 15 – 20 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling around the edges and starting to brown.  If bubbling but not browning, broil UNDER EAGLE EYE WATCH until aesthetically pleasing, probably 2 -3 minutes.
  • Eat and burn the shit out of the roof of your mouth.

¹ This part sounds like a joke and is not – no fiber, low protein. That’s what I can eat when I’m recovering. So it’s basically just me, a sack of rice and some cheese. Or potatoes, if I’m feeling risky. Sounds rad, except when you’ve finally gotten around to training yourself to eat better after almost a year of effort. Once again: fuck you, Crohn’s.

Freerange Salsa

Posted by on Sep 1, 2010 at 1:37 pm

I threw out my back in the shower this morning, so, in case anyone wonders why I have one shaved leg and one hairy leg, there’s your story.  This doesn’t have anything to do with salsa.  I took a Flexeril.

I have a strange relationship with salsa.  First of all, it’s rough on the ol’ Crohn’s.  All those vegetable skins, I guess.  Secondly, jarred and “fresh” salsa from the store all contain sodium benzoate, which I can taste because I have some kind of pointless supertasting skill just for sodium benzoate.  If god has a purpose for each of us, then mine is to detect the presence of preserving salts, I guess.  The last thing is that salsa is always so much better in a restaurant than when made at home.  This¹ always intrigues me.

But!  Mike the Viking used to use his powers of pillaging for delivering Mexican food from a restaurant in Olympia that had the best salsa ever, in spite of or perhaps because of the rest of the food sucking balls.  And he told me: they roast it.  Their secret was an even ratio of red bell peppers to tomatoes, and the peppers all get roasted until black and toasty.  The part I can’t bring myself to comply with is that they used canned tomatoes, which is insane, but also makes sense considering that tomatoes don’t really exist in the Pacific Northwest.

My recipe still isn’t exactly right – I think I tend to under-roast the peppers out of fear of over-roasting them, and I suspect the real secret may be in using canned tomatoes (baby jesus forgive me), but it’s getting much closer.  Also: the liquid fill line in your food processor is there for a reason.

Restaurant Salsa, Almost Perfect

3 medium sized tomatoes (or plain canned tomatoes if you’re feeling nutty)
2 red bell peppers
1 hot pepper of choice – I use something super mild like a poblano, pasilla or Anaheim
1 whole yellow onion
3 cloves garlic
1 – 2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
juice from 1/2 a lime
large bunch of cilantro, stems and all

  • Line a cookie sheet with foil and broil the shit outta those vegetables, everything but the cilantro.  Because my broiler has hotstpots, I have to monitor the sheet and pull out items as they start to blacken and rearrange the rest to keep them browning.  So much depends on your own broiler, the distance from the broiler, the size of the vegetables, yadda yadda, that I can’t give you any kind of guidelines on how long this will take.  You’ll have to just hover around the kitchen, use your nose to smell for when they start to blacken, and stop them before they actually char.
  • Oh!  And don’t peel them!  Leave the char on!  I fought this several times, insisting that they did not in fact leave all that burned skin on, and Mike insisted I was a fool.  He was not wrong.
  • Take note that both the onion and the tomato have a higher water content, and may not readily brown – this is okay, we’re just trying to un-raw them.  When all the peppers are done browning, remove the tomatoes and onions and garlic as well, no matter what they look like.
  • Throw everything into the food processor all together and pulse quickly until it is the texture you want.  Also consider putting about half aside when it’s chopped rather large and then processing the rest until practially smooth , mixing the two parts together when you’re done – this will make a nice thick salsa, but with some large texture still in it.
  • If you dawdle taking photos, the whole thing will puke liquid all over.  Just so you know.

¹ Want to know why mashed potatoes from restaurants always taste so good?  Butter.  And cream.  And salt.  In levels that you would never knowingly put in your body.  EVIL CACKLE!

A Stuffing by Any Other Name

Posted by on Aug 13, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Foods haunt me.  In the Pepcid way, yes, but also in the Ghost of Christmas Past way.   Despite the fact that making a recipe will generally cost me less than $5 out of pocket, I tend to avoid making something if I can’t emotionally reckon with it.  Despite being interested.  It’s complicated, let’s move on.

A recipe I’d been avoiding was Ina Garten’s Scalloped Tomatoes.  First of all, it’s not what I’d call “scalloped.”  I think because scalloped potatoes are just a gratin, which in turn is just a casserole with a topping of either bread or cheese, but… this is a stupid discussion.  I just flat don’t think that a pile of tomatoes and bread is “scalloped.”  Fight me on it if you want, but you’ll be the boringest troll ever.

ANYWAY.  The other thing that nagged at me was the simplicity of the recipe.  Ina tends to do this to me: something very basic that she gushes over and I think, why is she acting like that is so special? It’s total Huck Finn business, no question.  I have no doubt Ina could get me to paint her fence.

Oh, and then there’s the fact I can’t eat tomatoes.

Technically, I can eat them just fine.  But something with my Crohn’s disease detects the tomato coming in for a landing and basically blows up the entire airport if you know what I mean.  Sort of unrelated, I’ve been nursing the suspicion that the reason I can’t eat tomatoes is because of the skin.  I know.  After nearly two decades of this disease, you’d think I’d have Nancy Drewed this out by now, but I’ve had more important things to worry about such as how do I not think about donuts? and is that a spider?

It was a major leap, then, to realize that I could kill two birds with one stone: try to eat a lot of tomatoes but with no skins, and make the damn Scalloped Tomatoes already.  It helped that Smitten Kitchen made  it and wouldn’t shut up¹ about how great it was, too.

You should know that I’ve actually soaked this glass pan in acid to remove the brown stains, and they won’t budge.

Still unable to come to terms with the “scalloped” nature of this dish, I renamed it “tomato stuffing”.  My mom and I made a round of the stuffing last week and were, shock, immediately crushed out on it.  Most alarming was the fact that my stepdad, an avowed and card-carrying member of the Meat & Potatoes Society, not only ate a serving, but went back for seconds.  I reported him to the Meat & Potatoes Society and we haven’t seen him since.

For the record, I don’t like the texture that a lot of fresh Parmesan makes when baked on something.  I wish I’d stirred more into the stuffing.

Except!  We couldn’t let it be.  The final texture, he did gently amend, was a little too mushy for him, and really for us as well.  We liked it fine, but agreed that a more accessible version could be made by increasing the bread quantity and leaving the crusts on.  I take this a step further by adding that the advised 5 minutes of pan-frying the bread cubes is a prime example of too-little-too-late.  I recommend either having very stale bread cubes or even oven-toasting them in order to make a more stuffing-like texture.

And the final verdict?  Totally fucking delicious, and so far my intestines are keeping their opinion to themselves.  Do I dare say I can eat tomatoes?  I’m not sure.  It often occurs to me that the lamest part of having Crohn’s disease is the unpredictability — just because I’ve twice survived eating a heap of tomatoes without skins doesn’t mean the third time won’t lay me out.  Only time and my belligerent refusal to abandon tomatoes will tell.

Anger Burger Tomato Stuffing
greatly influenced by Ina Garten and Smitten Kitchen
there’s a lot of room for personalization in this, as you might imagine.  more vegetables, like gently fried leeks, would only improve things.  additional fresh herbs, like oregano and thyme, would take it further into Italian realms, though I can’t say I’d prefer that.  be advised that despite containing a boggling quantity of tomatoes – two and a half pounds! – the recipe still only makes a 9×9 inch casserole dish.  this would make a welcome variation at Thanksgiving, but I’d advise doubling the quantity.  lastly, it dirties a lot of pots and pans, but in the easiest possible way; everything but the final big pot (and casserole dish) just rinses clean with water.

1/4 cup olive oil
4 – 5 cups 1/2-inch cubes of bread, something sturdy and flavorful, with crusts left on.
2 – 2 1/2 lbs. good tomatoes, not too ripe but nice and fragrant
1 – 5 cloves of garlic, to taste (use at least one, but many more if you like garlic)
3 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. kosher salt
fresh pepper to taste
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil
1 cup freshly grated parmesan

  • Peel your tomatoes.  This can be achieved by Googling “how to peel tomatoes.”   Dice the tomatoes to 1/2-inch or smaller pieces and set aside in a small bowl, juice and seed and slime and all.  To the bowl of tomatoes, add: the garlic, diced fine or grated or crushed or otherwise terrorized, and the sugar, salt and pepper.  Don’t stir, just let it sit there.
  • If you want your stuffing with slightly dryer consistency, I recommend oven-baking the bread, tossed with the 1/4 of olive oil, at 350° for about 15-20 minutes.   Spread the cubes out on a cookie sheet and move them about during cooking about halfway through to ensure even browning.   Leave the heat on, but remove the bread and set aside.
  • Heat a large flat-bottomed skilled over medium heat.  Add the browned bread pieces, then add the tomatoes and stuff.  A few extra glugs of olive oil wouldn’t hurt either.  Heat together until just sizzling and incorporated, maybe five minutes, and then turn off the heat.
  • To the pot, add the basil and 3/4 cup of the Parmesan, stirring quickly just to barely combine.  Turn out into a casserole dish and top with 1/4 cup of the Parmesan.  Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the surface and edges are nicely browned and the edges are bubbling like looneytunes.
  • Let sit for 10 – 15 minutes before serving.

Some suggested additions:

  • Before adding the bread and tomatoes, saute the white part of one cleaned, chopped leek in 2 Tbsp. of butter over medium heat until soft.  Then add bread and tomatoes.  Or the same thing with two sliced shallots.  Or both.
  • Before baking, top the stuffing with 1/2 cup of shredded, dry (part-skim) mozzarella OR
  • About 5 or 10 minutes before the stuffing is done baking, top with slices/globs of the softest, sexiest fresh cow or buffalo mozzarella or burrata that you can find.
  • I hate getting on this wagon, but: bacon.
  • Top with fried or poached eggs as a main course.

¹She actually would shut up about it and only wrote maybe a paragraph about how great it was, but in my mind it was a neverending loop that followed me from waking to sleep like a particularly slow zombie.

HULK SLEEPY!

Posted by on Jun 2, 2010 at 11:45 am

Last week I talked about successfully eating a salad and the small ticker-tape parade that resulted.  Well!  Let me tell you.  All is still right with the world, because my body sent me an email re: it still doesn’t like fiber.

318-Cereal-Ezekiel-4-9_P

Specifically, I went out to acquire the most nutritious cereal I could find, the Ezekiel sprouted grain cereal.  I have some hesitation in buying Ezekiel products (specifically: taking nutrition suggestions from a work of fiction causes much eye-rolling on my part) but until there’s an atheist sprouted grain cereal I’ll have to make do.  And maybe it was the burning of righteousness in my bowel, but most likely it was the fiber: this did not go down well.  Crohn’s monster say NO.

Also: I bought it in part because I wanted Grape Nuts.  Why not buy Grape Nuts?  Because I thought it had high fructose corn syrup in it.  Does it actually?  Well, no.  So, I’m a moron.

To greater success, I bought this:

nsp-mnb092500

I’ve been a little obsessed with nutrient-packing lately in the hopes that it’ll make me feel better.  I’m not sure what’s going on with my health right now, but I suspect my body is changing how it has an allergy attack.  Let me back up a little.

When I was a young teen I had demonic-level hay fever attacks, the kind where I’d throw up stomachfuls of drainage.  Sorry about that — were you trying to keep from gagging?  I should have warned you.  I missed school and became more of an introvert than I’d been previously, which was very.  Allergy shots cured me for over 15 years (great, considering the average period of effectiveness is half that), but lately I think I’m having entirely new symptoms; instead of sneezing, runny nose and post-nasal drip, I’ve developed just the post nasal drip and what I call “mysterious retardation.”  My throat is sore all the time from the drip, and my ability to focus is totally kaput: at night I can barely sleep and during the day I can barely wake.  I’m entering into the grey fog of not-quite-insomnia, which is leaving my brain good for little more than watching old Star Trek movies on Netflix and trying (and failing) to knit a dog sweater.  Not awesome.

Almond butter!  I’m getting to it.  So the allergy thing combined with the Crohn’s is no good at all, and part of this is a complete loss of appetite.  I sit down to eat a meal and halfway through am nauseated.  I don’t like it one bit, I tell you.  In an effort to combat this I’ve really stepped up the quality of my meals: more vegetables, more healthy oils, more protein.  Enter: raw almond butter.  Almonds lose nearly all their vitamin A during roasting, among other nutrients, and I like the taste of the raw ones anyway.   Also, it’s good for my IMPENDING  HEART ATTACK to pay $8 for a single jar of almond butter.  If I got the organic stuff I’d be paying $20.  UGH.

I can’t tell if its working yet.  I’m angry?  That’s a good sign, right?

14 Posted in Crohn's disease