We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Tuesday, August 26. 2014
Drizzled with a little olive oil and salted, all of these are tasty: red onion, peppers, asparagus, tomato, summer squash slices, potato slices, pineapple, apple, etc. Anything can be grilled, and it keeps you outdoors.
Best way to grill corn on the cob? Soak them in the husks in a bucket of water for an hour or two, then strip off the roughest outer husks, then toss on grill. When the husks brown a little and the flossy stuff burns, they are done. A little salt to serve - no butter.
Monday, August 25. 2014
Photo below is the Marsh Mallow plant which is a native of marshy areas in the Old World, now wild in North America. You can read about it here.
Apparently it is easy to make your own Marshmallows at home.
I prefer my Marshmallows plain, on a stick over an open fire, preferably permitted to burst into flame to produce a black crust before blowing them out. Few can resist some campfire S'mores, but I can. Too sweet for me.
Saturday, August 23. 2014
Took this pic of a clamming boat coming into dock in Wellfleet in September a couple of years ago. The refrigerated truck will arrive just as he ties up.
Those are Sea Clams which are harvested along the Northeast coast by dredging, from deeper water than the Quahog of the tidal flats but much shallower waters than those inhabited by the deep-sea Ocean Clam. Here are Sea Clams up close:
Sea Clams are the main processed clam in the US, and their shells are commonly used as ashtrays.
The hard-shelled clam, the Quahog (Mercenaria mercenaria - why that name?) is the clam of Atlantic US estuaries and tidal flats. It tastes better, in my opinion, than the Sea Clam - especially when you dig them yourself. Unlike the Sea Clam, you eat the Quahog feathers and all: Littlenecks and Cherrystones - and the chowder-sized Quahogs.
This is from Thoreau's Cape Cod:
The entirety of Thoreau's report of his amusing 1849-1867 ramblings, Cape Cod, can be read here.
Thursday, August 21. 2014
We have commented on the subject of the human diet and health before, but it's time for another comment, because the NYT Science Times has written on it.
"Healthy food" has been an on-and-off American obsession, comparable to the obsession with flavor in France.
Since Rev. Sylvester Graham, a minister, vegetarian, and food-obsessive invented the Graham Cracker in the 1820s to provide "digestive fiber," Americans have been food faddists and vulnerable to food quackery.
More famously, Dr. John Kellogg of Battle Creek, Michigan, an 1870s charlatan with a diet fad, fooled Americans into thinking that cereal was breakfast food. It is not. In Yankee-land, breakfast is eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, potatoes, fruit and apple pie.
Eat what you want, and be happy. All humans are prone to "magical thinking" - aka "wishful thinking." We'd like to imagine that we have some control over things like health, and that things we put in our mouths will make a difference. There is essentially no evidence for that idea, assuming absence of a disease, or a problem like high cholesterol, or pregnant, etc.
Even being fat doesn't seem to make any significant difference to health. (Being obese is a bad plan, though.) I advise patients to eat plenty of salmon, trout and char for their magical properties, and whatever else they want; to exercise and work out if they want to be strong and fit but not because they will live forever; to lose weight if they want to look better and feel less tired; to eat all the salt and steak they want; and to avoid magical health diets. Vegetarian? Fine. Leaves more lamb and steak for me. Just don't imagine that it's about health. What's a healthy diet? Any average mix of stuff, but most of all - enjoy it, and don't fuss about it too much.
(Image from the excellent medical blog Kevin, MD. That steak could be a bit more rare, if you ask me.)
Tuesday, August 19. 2014
Readers know that the Soft-Shelled Crab (ie moulting Blue Crab) in all of its forms is perhaps my favorite food. My friends and I would catch them at the shore with bacon tied to string and bring a bucket of them home to Mom. She'd steam the hard-shelled ones, and sautee the soft-shells.
I love the soft-shells fried, sauteed, in a sandwich with mayo, Chinese-style - or anything. A perfect combination of juiciness and crunchiness, and you just eat the whole darn thing feathers and all.
Here's an easy one: Soft-Shelled Crabs on Toast.
Methods of crabbing.
Delicious photos of soft-shell crab recipes.
Soft-shells are often frozen for use through the crab season.
Monday, August 18. 2014
Garlic is one of the most popular flavorings on the planet, and rightly so. There is no point to growing it, because it is so cheap and abundant. Like taters and like pasta. Who would bother growing pasta these days?
Despite not being an Italian "garlic-eater", I love garlic. I am informed that I occasionally reek of it. Too bad. Actually it seems that the Chinese consume the most.
Various garlic types are wild all around the world. I was interested to learn that the handy Elephant Garlic is not really garlic - it's a Leek sort of thing.
Sunday, August 17. 2014
No visit to NYC is complete without a little side trip to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. The old Little Italy in downtown Manhattan has mostly been invaded by new Chinese immigrants who have been expanding Chinatown, and the Italians have moved through the tunnel to Jersey. Don't ask me why.
Is it a "safe" neighborhood? Hardly need to ask that about a heavily Italian neighborhood in New York, for several reasons. You do not need to lock your car. Many in the metropolitan area come by just to shop for Italian delicacies.
The restaurants do not take reservations, so you have to plan it out, be early, or wait in line a bit. Lots of folks I know like Roberto. I need to get there soon.
This person documented and photographed her routine shopping outings to Arthur Avenue.
Saturday, August 16. 2014
The Lobster Roll is right up there with Clambake as classic New England summer cuisine. Clambakes have to be made by you, on the beach in a hole in the sand just like the Indians used to, but every New England seafood joint has its own recipe for the simple Lobster Roll.
Here are a few recipes.
Other classic Yankeeland coastal dishes? Fish and Chips (with fresh-caught Cod in a light beer batter), Stuffed Baked Haddock, Shellfish on the half-shell, Chowder (clam or fish), fried clam bellies and fried oysters. 15 Classic New England Seafood Recipes: Clambakes, Lobster Rolls, Chowder
This will be one of those famous "user participation" posts you read so much about in Blogger's Digress. As we did in Bag O' Links, I'll add any additions left in the comments to the list ASAP. The rule is, two of the foods have to evoke a "Yuck!" when mentioned together, but go perfectly well when a third food is introduced.
Another oddity is pepper on bananas. You never see anyone peppering a banana, just because it would look too weird. In secret, or in the confidence of a mate, perhaps. I wouldn't know, I've never tried. It would just look too weird.
And here's one I bet you've never tried. How about munching on some barbecue potato chips... then washing them down with chocolate milk? Doesn't sound very appealing, I admit. We're back to that salt-sugar clash.
But, assuming you like egg salad sandwiches, the next time you have one, buy a bag of BBQ chips and your favorite brand of chocolate milk. It's just amazing how well the three go together.
How about garlic bread and soy sauce?
Exactly. But there I was the other night, eating some garlic 'Texas Toast' with some Chinese eggrolls, dunking the garlic bread in the soy sauce on the plate. Somehow the eggrolls magically tied everything together.
Continue reading "Food Quirks, reposted"
An annual re-post -
Why is the CDC based in Atlanta? Because Georgia was the center of malaria in the US, and elimination of malaria from the US was the CDC's first job. It's hard to imagine, but through the 1940's malaria was endemic in the southern US, and prior to that in the northeast too. Every doc in New England used to treat malaria routinely.
DDT was a major factor in the elimination of malaria in the US, but it remains a common disease in the Third World, in the southern hemisphere. And, sadly, DDT harms lots of other things, too, besides mosquitoes but probably isn't as evil as Rachel Carson claimed.
The long history of malaria would make a fascinating book. I'll just share a few facts: the germ which causes malaise, fever, and anemia is a plasmodium, a wierd one-celled bug. There are 4 varieties. The vector (meaning the thing that distributes the bug) is of course an anopheles mosquito, which squirts the germ into the human bloodstream with its anticoagulating saliva. The plasmodium reproduces in your red cells, then goes loose in your blood, where it is presumably sucked up by an innocent mosquito who spreads it further. Humans are the host of this bug (meaning their reproductive home). Like any parasite, the goal is to keep the host alive, while reproducing itself. If you kill your host, you sort of defeat your purpose (like over-taxing productive people), so malaria is more likely to cause chronic illness than death, except in the otherwise vulnerable. Fascinatingly, the sickle-cell trait of Africa confers resistance to malaria. Nature is amazing, which makes being an MD an astonishing privilege.
Prevention is simpler than treatment. Treatments include derivatives of sweet wormwood, as discovered in China in 300, and derivatives of cinchona bark (quinine), as discovered by the Spanish in the 1600s. The quinine treatment/preventative of course gave rise to the finest drink of the British Empire - the Gin and Tonic, which exemplifies the idea of making a virtue of necessity. A Brit will drink nothing without either gin or wine in it. Add a lime and the Limey can prevent scurvy too, as was attributed to Captain Cook. Thus truly a superior medicine for both body and soul.
Does the brand of gin matter? For martinis, yes. For gin and tonics, not to me anyway.
Sunday, August 10. 2014
I like cooked potherbs, aka a "mess o' greens" -of any sort: collards, turnip tops, dandelion, kale, chard, spinach, cabbage. Especially fond of collard greens, even though they are far from typical Yankee cookin'. The Romans got their collards from the Greeks (along with everything else), so collards have a long history as food.
I will not prepare raw greens, such as salad, but have been known to eat that rodent food when placed in front of me. My theory is that greens are meant to be cooked, either with a bit of meat, or with garlic and olive oil. But collards require meat.
If there are no spare ham hocks in the fridge, I cook them with bacon or a couple of slices of ham, and I like them with bits of bacon and/or chopped onion on top. Collards are in the cabbage family, and I love cabbage in any form due to my northern European peasant roots (I'll try to remember to post my favorite cabbage recipes in the fall). Collards do not smell good when cooking, and you just have to put up with it.
Here's some collard history, and a basic Southern collard recipe. It's a given that collards and their juice have to be served with corn bread, even if you live north of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Gimme some smoked short ribs or pulled pork, a bowl of collards, some corn bread, and a couple of beers, and this New England Yankee is close to heaven.
Addendum: Re raw greens, I forgot to mention cole slaw, known as "ragbag" among old timey Yankees. Home-made ragbag is a wonderful thing. I guess it's a salad, of sorts, and it works well with barbecue and just about anything else, including fresh fried codfish or a plate of fried oysters. Which reminds me that fried oysters were once food for the poor - hence the "poor boy" fried oyster sandwich. Yum.
One of my favorite chefs in town makes cucumber slaw. Slivered cucumber with slivered carrot with a vinaigrette.
Friday, August 8. 2014
Everybody loves the taste of basil. My father-in-law likes to just take a leaf and munch it up, and so do I.
It's all good stuff, good condiments for food. For meat, mainly.
Sicilian cheese is not very tasty, but I'll put in a free plug for the northern Italian Asiago. A fine hard cheese, and they now have it at Costco.
I tend to prefer stinky softer cheeses for dessert with a slice of fruit or some fruit preserves, but with an antipasto I don't mind hard cheeses. My favorite hard cheese? 6-month-old (ie young, before it gets grating-hard) Parmesan. Can't buy it in the US as far as I know. Second favorite? Pecorino. Third favorite? Dubliner. Now Asiago competing. I have yet to find an American cheddar that can compete with these things, but it might exist somewhere. A grandfather-in-law used to say "All good things come from Italy."
Ricotta Salata is good too, drizzled with some honey and sprinkled with chopped pistachio, but dog kibbles would be good with that too.
Tuesday, August 5. 2014
Assigned to bring a large platter of cold red meat to an outdoor supper party last weekend.
Decided to bring a platter of almost-carpaccio - thick Costco New York Strip grilled very rare - just a few minutes per side to sear it, cooled off, then sliced thin with my amazing meat knife. Although we love carpaccio, not everybody does so I sometimes fake it by sizzling the surface for about 3 minutes per side.
Decorate at time of serving with salt and pepper, some shaved Parmesan, and a splash of truffle oil and serve the platter on a bed of arugula or dandelion. Nice treat.
Photo shows one way it can be done. Yes, lemon can be ok with rare meat. Italians do like that. I'd say either truffle oil or lemon - not both.
Expert Gerry Tosh Offers A Wonderfully Informative Lesson In Conducting a Proper Whisky Tasting
It is informative, but I am fine with Dewars and sometimes Teacher's. If you offer me a rare treat, I will enjoy it though.
Sunday, August 3. 2014
Do you know where these typical American garden plants originated in their wild forms before being genetically-engineered over millennia by clever humans into the things we know and grow today?
Answers below the fold
Continue reading "Origins of garden vegetables: A quiz"
It's summer squash season around here, a two -to-three- month squash explosion during which little zucchinis turn into 1 1/2-foot Zucchis seemingly overnight.
Besides cold soups, it's fun to stuff those big zucchis. Google Stuffed Zucchini to find tons of recipes. Best ones I've had use seafood stuffings with clams and shrimp.
Scoop out the pulp, fill with stuffing, wrap in foil and bake until done. Brown the top at the end.
A "zucchini" (singular, zucchino) is an immature Zucca (gourd).
Friday, August 1. 2014
Dr. Bliss' Blissful Fish Stock (Fumet)
Clam chowder is very good, but cod chowder is great. Here's how I begin:
Chop up a hunk of salt pork into 1/2" or 1" pieces. Bacon is a poor second choice. Plus some butter. Chop carrots or parsnips, onion, garlic, celery - easy on the celery, one or two stalks. Sautee in the pork and butter until soft. There's your mirepoix.
Toss that into a stewpot, then a pile of fish heads and/or bones (from lean fish - no salmon, trout, tuna, bluefish etc. Heads are the best - your fishmonger has 'em and will happily give them to you). Add black crushed peppercorns, a bay leaf, some parsley, and one clove. A sprig of thyme is good. Cover with water and a cup or two or three of drinkable white wine, and simmer, covered, for an hour or two, while consuming the rest of the wine.
Cool it, strain preferably through cheesecloth but I use a strainer, chill in fridge then remove any fat on the surface. Some people like to find some bacon or salt pork in their chowder, so you can salvage them from the strainer, or make new.
You can reduce it or use as it is (I always thicken chowder with corn starch), as the base for fish soup or fish chowder. Don't use it as a base for New England clam chowder, though, because the fumet will overpower the delicate clammy flavor.
Clam Chowda requires a different recipe.
Wednesday, July 30. 2014
Grilled marinated pork chops and grilled asparagus with some steamed yellow squash on the side. Here's a tip: There's no need to cook the heck out of a nice 1 1/2-inch-thick Costco pork chop anymore. Trichinosis is a thing of the past. Pink inside is perfect.
Tuesday, July 29. 2014
Saturday, July 19. 2014
A repost -
Fried Squash Blossoms are a wonderful summertime traditional Italian treat. I harvested this platterful of them last night and we fried 'em up. When served hot, and lightly browned and salted, they leave French Fries in the dust.
On summer squash like Zucchini and Yellow Squash, the blossoms on the long stalks are the males, and thus expendable. However, I use both because there's always too much squash anyway. In fact, the blossoms are tastier than the squash. (I am fond of yellow summer squash steamed with salt, pepper, and butter, not so fond of zucchini except in soup.)
Almost forgot to mention that squash blossoms prevent arthritis, dementia, laziness, neurasthenia, depression, obesity, heart disease, and cancer - and most other sorts of death and disease. Guaranteed. For a few minutes, anyway.
This site explains how simple this is, using Marcella's method. Do not wash them at all because they need to be dry - just check them for bugs inside but a few tiny bugs just adds a little protein to the mix. Brown them lightly, drain, and eat sizzling hot. Photo below from Marcella's site -
Tuesday, July 15. 2014
Friday, July 11. 2014
I am gonna make us some. Maybe some Margaritas too, if I can find my lost shaker of salt...
Life has taught me at least one thing: have your Margaritas on the weak side and life will go better. Especially with bathtub-sized ones like the above, in Cabo last March.
Here's a good ceviche recipe. (It is "ce-BEE-chay.") All I would say about it is to make it 1/2" to 1" cubes, add some chopped garlic to the mix - not too much - and forget the parsley. It has to be fresh cilantro. Red onions, not white. Some carrot slivers are fine, too, to add some crunch but no cucumber, please. Avocado and orange slices for garnish, and definitely a bowl of chips. 2-4 hours marinating in the fridge - no more, no less. Some people quickly -20-30 seconds - blanch the seafood first, but it certainly is not necessary and I never do it. My local fish market has the freshest.
My family and I could live on this stuff, in the summer. Fork, and a spoon to finish off those delicious cool fishy juices.
What fish? Well, as I reported in March, Spanish Mackeral (Sierra) is the best for ceviche but you have to go out and catch that yourself. However, any salt-water firm-fleshed (ie not sole or things like that which would turn to mush) white-fleshed fish will do, as long as very fresh. Bay or Sea Scallops are a good addition, and I have had it made with just scallops. I don't think it needs shrimp, but a few whole shrimp in the mix works fine for a garnish. It's supposed to be about the raw fishiness. Too much hot pepper distracts from that, but too little is no fun at all.
Mahi Mahi, Fluke, Shark, Sea Bass all good. I've heard of ceviche-starved Yankees using Cod and Haddock. Maybe I'll give it a try because I love that Cod.
For an appetizer, you can put it in a little bowl on some lettuce like a normal seafood salad, but I like it as a meal. There are very few cold dinners tastier than this.
Got a favorite ceviche? Let us know.
Tuesday, July 8. 2014
My Rhubarb patch is having an excellent year.
Easiest thing in the world to grow in colder climates (comments there are useful). Just needs sun and fertilizer Spring and late summer/fall (bag of cow manure or whatever).
Can you gnaw on the raw stalks? You bet. Very tangy.
A few nights ago I made Rhubarb Compote (for on top of Vanilla Haagen Dasz) for dessert for friends. So much for those people who didn't think they liked Rhubarb.
Simple. I chopped up about 4 cups of Rhubarb stems, threw into a pot with 2 tbsp. of butter and a tablespoon or so of water, then stirred it around for about ten minutes with sugar to taste. I used only around 1 cup or less of sugar.
More delicious Rhubarb desserts, including Rhubarb Cobbler
Sunday, July 6. 2014
Got the entire immediate family crew coming, plus some significant others. Kids up from NYC, etc. Feeding 11 1/2 in total. Being the man, I am the Griller, and in summer, I like to grill everything outdoors. Winter too.
Vegetables grilled first, of course, because they are good at room temperature. I sort-of hate vegetables, but soaked with olive oil, salt and pepper, basil, then grilled, I can eat 1 or 2. Salads I will not touch. I have really had enough salads and vegetables in my life already, and pretended to like those animal foods for long enough. Family loves them, though, especially grilled Italian-style on a wood fire.
- Grilled asparagus, potato, eggplant, pepper, and red onion and some Asiago and Ricotta Salata on the side - as antipasto. Costco was out of summer squash.
- Two Birthday Cakes - we have 2 birthdays this week! I forgot to get the champagne.
Saturday, July 5. 2014
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