Fried Calamari: Bookmarked recipe

So I "subscribe" to several foodblogs through Google Reader. The newest posts just show up on my Reader screen, and if something looks good I give it a star to save it for later. Back in April I starred a Fried Calamari recipe from one of my favorite blogs, (billed as "Greek Food and Beyond.") I love this blog because it's Canadian and it's Greek and it has many many informative posts. And tonight I finally got around to making this recipe. I highly recommend it! Here's a little photo essay on my progress:

Simple flour-dredging included corn flour, which seemed to give the resulting product an awesome hint of Fritos. (I mean that in a good way!) The calamari we had was just rings, which seemed appropriate for beginners.

Here they are frying. Check out the thermometer! I don't usually fry anything so had to go to the corner store moments before to buy oil. All they had was Wesson. Worked fine.

The result: very tasty rings, tender morsels, perfect with just a squeeze of lemon. Even our littlest one ate plenty. (We did not bother explaining to her exactly what "calamari" means...)

Thanks Kalofagas for one of many helpful and tasty-looking recipes. Please keep them coming!

Weekend Herb Blogging #197 roundup

It's been an honor to once again host Weekend Herb Blogging, the weekly event where foodie bloggers from all over the world submit posts highlighting herb or plant ingredients. Here are the submissions from this week (August 17-23, 2009), with each photo below each description.

From the Northwestern U.S., Bee and Jai of Jugalbandi used cacao nibs (below) in a delicious-looking Berry Chocolatey Energy Bar (Raw Vegan). I love the idea of a DIY energy bar. I also never realized that when your raspberries dry and shrivel on the bush, they're still totally usable!

From Chennai, India, Minu of Chettinad Fiesta tells us how to use mint in a Minty Pakoda. She writes that these "taste great with a cup of hot Masala Chai / Tea, especially on cold rainy evenings." I love non-sweet uses of mint--these look meltingly crunchy.

From Saratoga County, NY, USA, Rachel of The Crispy Cook offers one answer to the summer question of What To Do With Zucchini--Spicy Zucchini Relish. I love the before and after theme in this photo! Looks like this relish will be a nice hit of summer when the zucchini days are long gone.

Joanne from Eats Well With Others made carrot cupcakes with maple cream cheese frosting. What a great way to eat carrots. Joanne explains that these were made for someone's birthday--I wish I could just reach in and taste one!

Sra from When My Soup Came Alive made Mushrooms with Sage and Rosemary. The button mushrooms in this recipe are balanced by the same amount of paneer/cottage cheese, and flavored with garlic, red chilli, and herbs from a special garden. This would disappear REALLY FAST if it were set in front of me!

From California, msmeanie of Chocolate Chip Trips has another great take on zucchini, offering Indian-Style Zucchini Patties with Tamarind Chutney. Instead of the usual frying in oil, msmeanie decided to bake these--yum! This recipe will help you use up 3 medium zucchini.

From the UK, Ann of pig pig's corner learned that the tart hairy gooseberries she found are cooking gooseberries, and the sweeter berries later in the season are dessert gooseberries. She used the former to make Gooseberries & Blueberries Turnovers with Cream Cheese Crust. I cracked up at her description of the "crime scene" that occurred when the juicy filling leaked out during baking...

From Haslett, MI, Katie of Eat This also tackled zucchini, making a Zucchini, tomato and kale sauté. She writes that she recently received about a hundred amazing tomatoes, so it was a given that she would include some! This recipe looks like a tasty, healthy way to enjoy summer's bounty.

Kalyn, of Kalyn's Kitchen and the originator of WHB (thanks Kalyn!), sliced and marinated raw zucchini for a mouthwatering Zucchini Carpaccio with Lemon, Herbs and Goat Cheese. The ingredients are so simple, but I bet this dish could impress any crowd. Or make it all yours as a light lunch, like Kalyn did!

From New Paltz, NY, Winnie Abramson from Healthy Green Kitchen made a fabulous preparation from fresh rose petals called Kiva's Rose Petal Elixir. This rose (below) looks so open and gorgeous--seems like having rose petal elixir would make you just blossom, too!

Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything (and WHB's organizer--w00t!) was "lured by the tiniest of tiny vegetables," and made Sautéed Beetroot Shoots. These shoots are paired with garlic shoots to make an aromatic dish that's great hot or cold. Aww, they are pretty cute too!

Pam from Sidewalk Shoes poses this important question: "What says goodbye to summer more than food on a stick? Nothing!!" She made Bye-Bye Summer Herbed Chicken Skewers to take full advantage of her herb garden as the days of summer speed to a close... and school begins. Plenty of mint and plenty of parsley go in the chicken marinade, then you can grill with fresh vegetables of your choice.

From Sydney, Australia, Anh of A Food Lover's Journey is at the opposite end of summer, looking forward to it beginning and enjoying the weather starting to warm up! To celebrate she used matcha (green tea) in a Creamy Matcha Frozen Yogurt. Love that brilliant green color (it looks even better over on her blog!)

From Ontario, Canada, Jerry of Jerry's Thoughts, Musings and Rants found the perfect vegetable to go with some snapper: fennel. The resulting Pacific Snapper with Fennel Slaw was a great combination of flavors--and quick and easy too! Marvelous!

From Garda Lake, Italy, Cinzia of Cindystar had fun with friends and family turning 30 kg of S. Marzano tomatoes into Tomato sauce. This recipe looks great, and I just love the photos on her blog of everybody working together!

Brii, of Briiblog in English and also from Garda Lake, Italy, made a mysterious and fascinating-sounding liqueur featuring laurel, rosemary and salvia! Obscure Delirium Liqueur sounds like a good, mild way to enjoy the magical properties of salvia, maybe like absinthe is a good vehicle for wormwood. (I love that this changes color as it ages, too.)

Last of all, from Vermont, USA, my own entry is a cold Beet & Feta Salad. I craved beets because I thought they might have good heart energy--I've since found out that you can actually get beetroot in capsule form for building up your blood. Aha! The doctrine of signatures (what a plant looks like is what it's good for) strikes again.

Hope you enjoyed this recap--thanks again to everyone who sent submissions! Next week, Rachel from The Crispy Cook is hosting Weekend Herb Blogging #198. Click here for the rules if you're interested.

Beet & feta salad

Heart beet

My intuition says I need to spend more energy on my heart chakra, or, if you like, compassionately nurturing myself. I have a tendency to "overbrain" everything through excessive mulling and analysis. A steady summer diet of white wine has not made me any less spacy and "up in the clouds."

So I'm trying some new things to center myself better. Chocolate. Heart Health Emergen-C (those fizzy vitamin packets you mix with water). Raspberries, cherries, hibiscus, anything deep red. Plenty of water to keep that moist electricity pumping. (That's how I think of the heart--compassionate, electric and wet.) Nice aromatherapy like lavender and rose. And when I saw a gorgeous trio of beets at the farmer's market on Saturday, I felt they would be another great heart nurturer. A boiled beet even looks a little like a heart, red, fist-shaped and leaky on the plate. It also has good grounding energy--being a root and being such a deep dark color. So I decided to treat myself to a cold Beet & Feta salad for lunch today.

  • 3 beets, boiled and chilled, with skins slipped off
  • 2 T feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 T capers
  • 1 T apple cider vinegar
  • 1 T hempseed oil
  • salt & pepper
Slice beets as thick or thin as you like. Sprinkle with feta, capers, vinegar and oil. EAT! (On an August day, try to have all the ingredients be as coooold as possible.)

Beets have a nice smooth chewy-tender texture to them, and I liked the salty sass of the feta and capers in among the sweet docile beets. The hempseed oil, a big splurge at $20 for 16.9 ounces, is a favorite of mine in small doses. It has a distinctive rich, nutty flavor that really dressed everything up. Hooray for beets!

I'm submitting this to Weekend Herb Blogging #197, which I happen to be hosting this week! This blog event is organized by Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once. If you're interested in joining in (please do!) please check out the rules and send me your entry. The deadline is this coming Sunday, August 23.

An August Extravaganza

For weeks and days, he had been getting ready for one hell of a party. He was the finance minister after all, and married to a rich heiress, so he had plenty of money available to put on the best possible event. His new château was the height of opulence. One of his great achievements was to hire French craftspeople instead of importing talent or goods from outside the country. He hired a landscaper, an architect, a painter, a playwright, a poet. But these weren't any random, lowly employees--they were the best. Le Notre. Le Vau. Le Brun. Molière. La Fontaine. Big names.

The magnificence was meant to impress the guest of honor, the "god-given one," the king. It had already been quite a year for the king. His prime minister Mazarin had died in the Spring and instead of appointing a new one, the king said he'd do the job himself. He also had a pregnant queen and a sweet, retiring new mistress. Definitely time for a party.

What else was needed for the party? Orchestras, rockets, a giant shell that could carry a person across water, magnificent tapestries woven on the premises, horses and diamonds for door prizes, 6000 guests, stuff like that. He was tickled that Le Brun had painted his personal emblem, the upward-climbing and nimble squirrel, on the corners of the elaborate ceilings. He paced. He lounged. He gave orders, and more orders. He was ready.

The day came. Guests arrived. In fact they had been turning up all week. But the guest of honor would not come until evening. When the light of the low sun made the front gates blaze up in gold, the king and his family arrived.

He proudly showed them around his beautiful home. "Sire, it would be my honor to offer you the choice of anything that you see. It shall be my gift to you." The king was taking it all in. He was impressed, but not in a good way. The king smiled anyway. He wondered, Where was all this Stuff from? How did this guy afford luxury after luxury? This place was way nicer than the king's own palaces. As they started to tour the grounds the king smiled some more. And he said to his mother, "I think we must... take this guy down."

It was evening. The exquisite grounds were lit by torchlight. Fountains sang. Scores of precious orange trees stood proudly in their tubs. Music was everywhere. The host thought it was going well. And it was time for the performance. Molière came forward, acting distraught. The playwright addressed the king. "Your majesty, the entertainment for this evening needs your divine help. I've done everything I can but I have failed. If only some heavenly intervention were possible your Majesty--your own!"

The king raised his hand slightly, a slow, heavy gesture. The nymph in the seashell moved across the water and the audience gasped. Lights and players exploded across the terrace to begin the show! It was called "The Bores" and was so hilarious. Afterward, hails of explosions shook the grounds, and the music welled up sweet and fine. The king walked through the rockets to the midnight feast, his face lit as from a raging forest fire. It was an incredible occasion--hard to believe.

Please press play... then imagine the party here.

This is my version of the true story of Nicolas Fouquet, Finance minister to Louis XIV, who gave the fête at his château, Vaux-le-Vicomte, on August 17, 1661. 19 days later the king had Fouquet arrested. He had a long, long corruption/embezzlement trial, and then he was sent far away to a prison where he lived out his days. He died in 1680. Of course the party was not the sole reason he got into trouble. Louis XIV was suspicious of and disliked Fouquet for a number of reasons. But the ostentatious party was pretty much the last straw.

Whatever Fouquet took from him, he gave his king something tremendous--the idea of a château fabulous beyond compare. Something bedecked with expensive orange trees, something with fountains and grottoes and vistas, something involving Le Vau, Le Brun and Le Notre, something that would become Capital V Versailles. Thanks Fouquet.

  • Antonia Fraser: "Was it so wise to demonstrate wealth and magnificence in excess of that of the sovereign?" [Love and Louis XIV: The Women in the Life of the Sun King, Doubleday 2006.]
  • Lucy Norton: "He [Louis XIV] was, like all his courtiers, overcome by the beauty of Vaux and the splendour of the fête; but to him Fouquet appeared not as a generous host and future collaborator, but as a self-evident thief who had enriched himself from the treasury over the years the king was hard pressed to find money for the country's essential needs." [The Sun King and His Loves, The Folio Society 1982.]
  • Nancy Mitford: "His [Fouquet's] sins were not visited on his children. His daughter, the Duchesse de Béthune, was always kindly received at Court; under Louis XV, his grandson the Maréchal de Belle-Isle became a rich and respected soldier while his, Belle-Isle's son, Gisors, was a French Sir Philip Sidney." [The Sun King: Louis XIV at Versailles, Harper & Row 1966.]
  • I also remember the Anne Somerset book about the Affair of the Poisons that I blogged about in February, though sadly I do not own it.

Remembering John Hughes

The 80s are so over. That's what I'm realizing now that John Hughes has died. Of course, I was nostalgic for the 80s during the 80s. It's because I loved the music so much--I couldn't afford to buy the albums I wanted, so I wanted K-Tel compilations to start coming out immediately so I could properly wallow in new-wave wistfulness throughout the 90s and beyond. (Fortunately, the dollar bins at local record stores and the recent wonder of iTunes has let me build a collection in recent years. Just bought some Chaka Khan the other day!)

Circa 2006, one of my many self-imposed writing projects involved buying a pretty rubber-covered blue notebook and a fresh new black drafting pen. The crisp white pages and the stiff nib of a yet-to-be-used pen were supposed to call me to creativity. I would spend 20 minute chunks--or more! heck!--doing ex tempore writing exercises, and maybe develop some of the better ideas into articles or queries or something. This did not happen. I used exactly 3 pages before making the notebook into my WVEW playlist archive. Page 1: "Orson Welles." Page 2: "The Eighties." Page 3: "If I Had a Million Dollars." I note that my 80s essay is the only one where I used BOTH SIDES of the paper. Here's the first part:
Writing about the 80s, which is a kind of emotional or mental state depending on how old you were at the time, is like trying to describe a smell with words. People do it, and some well, but it's a lot easier to understand if you can experience it directly. The 80s is a feeling, a sensation, and is difficult to capture in any programmatic way, such as putting it into words. Also I personally went through so many phases in the 80s, from ages 8 to 18, that my own feel for the decade is tangled up in the craziness and yearning and creativity that is growing up and adolescence. What were my touchstones at least? The movies of John Hughes. Chewing gum in a sassy way. The sound of skateboarding. The absolute freedom of being able to do whatever you want and being pretty sure that someone will probably get pissed off at you for it. Being at home as a teen is like being in prison, yet I've never lived so vividly and with such hope and juice as I did when I was not yet loose... but waiting for it.
That's it--John Hughes is an 80s touchstone. One to be listed first. He was filming what I was living. He made my ridiculous teenage life seem like something legitimate, something interesting, and he gave me the language and the style to deal with what was going on. If you weren't a teen in the 80s, you might not care about John Hughes. Teens now might be getting the same feeling from Gossip Girl or something, I don't know. For us it was John Hughes, and he nailed it.

8*12*09 Beef Jerky Time dedicated to John Hughes and his excellent taste in music:
  • Don't You Forget About Me: Simple Minds (Breakfast Club)
  • Gloria: Patti Smith (16 Candles)
  • Wouldn't It Be Good: Danny Hutton Hitters (Pretty in Pink)
  • Weird Science: Oingo Boingo (Weird Science)
  • Fire in the Twilight: Wang Chung (Breakfast Club)
  • Young Americans: David Bowie (16 Candles)
  • If You Were Here: Thompson Twins (16 Candles)
  • If You Leave: OMD (Pretty in Pink)
  • We Are Not Alone: Karla DeVito (Breakfast Club)
  • Oh Yeah: Yellow (Ferris Bueller's Day Off)
  • True: Spandau Ballet (16 Candles)
  • Pretty in Pink: Psychedelic Furs (Pretty in Pink)

Sounds of Africa

This show (Beef Jerky Time 8*5*09) would not have been possible without Putumayo, the label that puts together "world" songs into cute compilations like Celtic Crossroads and Arabic Groove. For this one I relied heavily on African Playground, which is a kid's CD. Also I found some great stuff in the stacks at the studio, and brought a few of my own favorites (MC Solaar! Juluka!). Africa is kind of a big place to sample in an hour--I'm putting countries in parentheses for a little more structure.

Hoya Hoye: Seleshe Damassae (Ethiopia)
Scatterlings of Africa: Savuka (S. Africa)
Hello Hello: Mose Fan Fan (S. Africa)
Rain Rain: Ladysmith Black Mambazo (S. Africa)
Warm Heart of Africa: The Very Best (born Malawi), f. Ezra Koenig
Ogunja: King Sunny Ade (Nigeria)
La Paix: Amadou & Mariam (Mali)
Lasidan: Ali Farka Touré (Mali), w. Ry Cooder
Hijo de Africa: MC Solaar (born Senegal)
Mbube: The Mahotella Queens (S. Africa)
Jembaseng: Dembo Konte & Ma Lmini Jobate (recorded in the field in Senegal & Gambia)
Fever: Juluka (S. Africa)
Menomuno: Sanite (Uganda)
Mbiriri: Shona People (of Zimbabwe)
Sedjedo: Angelique Kudjo (Benin)

August Farmer's Market

Here's the haul. Keep in mind it's Lammas season, the traditional "grains harvest" time. I think of it as when corn starts to show up. (Fruit harvest is late Sept, blood harvest is October.)

Greens (2 kinds of lettuce & mustard greens), pickling cukes (we like them just raw though), and multicolored carrots.

Peaches, blueberries, 2 kinds of tomatoes,
2 kinds of onions, 2 kinds of peppers.

This is just a quick photo essay on a busy weekend. I will say those blueberries are about the size of quarters... just about. And fresh peaches are one of my favorite things. We'll be eating most of this stuff in salads, or the fruit in cereal or yogurt or just on the fly.

It's the time of plenty--enjoy!

Summer 2009 Music Raves

Summer space squash

A great new song is a bit like a zodiac sign. It's around for a month or so, then before you know it, we're off to the next one. That's how I am anyway: I have about a 4-week threshold for a wonderful, strange, high energy, bangin' new song. I'll listen to it all the time, run to it, cook to it, go to sleep with it, sing it in the shower, get it stuck firmly in my head. But soon enough and sure enough, it starts to fade away. Then a new song becomes ascendant.

So while the first part of this summer was all about Royksöpp (Happy Up Here), Lo-Fi-FNK (Steppin' Out), MSTRKRFT (Bounce) and Jack Peñate (Tonight's Today), the last month or so has been an arc of Black Eyed Peas (Boom Boom Pow), Basement Jaxx (Raindrops) and Kid Cudi (Day & Nite, Crookers remix). And the Peas are already a waning crescent, being quickly overtaken by a waxing gibbous Rye Rye (Rock Off Shake Off). (Oops, did I just mix my zodiac metaphor with a moon metaphor? SORRY.)

Here are some radio playlists, for the record!

La Cucaracha: Kumbia Kings
Git: Skeletons & the Girl-faced Boys
Fresh Blood: Eels
Deadbeat Summer: Neon Indian
New Heat: Stardeath & White Dwarfs
Personal Stereo (Penny & Ashtray mix): Flunk
Heat of the Moment: Asia
A Summer Song: Chad & Jeremy
Continue to Call: Nino Moschella
Canadian Dream: Andrew Vincent
Today It Is Even Better: The Very Most
A Sweet Summer's Night on Hammer Hill: Jens Lekman
Who You Gonna Run To?: Solid Gold
Juno (Ra Ra Riot/Andrew Maury remix): Tokyo Police Club
Paris Is Burning: Ladyhawke
I Want You D.A.N.C.E: Justice vs. The Jackson 5 (Mashup)

Tonight's Today: Jack Peñate
Summer Song: YACHT
Summer of Love: Paradise Boys
Summerboy: Lady Gaga
Triple Chrome Dipped (Osborne remix): Michna
Dying Is Fine: Ra Ra Riot
I Wonder Who We Are: The Clientele
Wounded: Jay Reatard
Any Way You Choose to Give It: The Black Ghosts
Day & Nite (Crookers remix): Kid Cudi
Raindrops: Basement Jaxx
O My Heart: Mother Mother

1901: Phoenix
Golden Phone: Micachu & the Shapes
Autobahn Music Box: Cut Copy
Hold the Line: Major Lazer
Fuego: Bomba Estéreo
Smoke Bros: Amazing Baby
Do You Remember the First Time?: Pulp
Hurt Feelings: Flight of the Conchords
If You Want Me To Stay: Red Hot Chili Peppers
An Anniversary Away: Reverie Sound Revue
Harold T. Wilkins: Fanfarlo
Back of the Van: Ladyhawke
Greens, Grays & Nordics: Deastro
Why I Write Such Good Songs: Kleenex Girl Wonder
Pupils Blink: Peggy Sue
Better: Regina Spektor

The No-Weed Vegetable Garden

Here it is!

Ummm, just to clarify, when I say "no-weed," that means I NEVER WEED out there! So it's in fact covered with weeds. My rationale this year was to plant things that grow faster and higher than weeds. I've learned from several seasons of gardening incompetence that I am never going to be a careful gardener on my current schedule. Here are the 3 stars of my small "weed-free" plot.

Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes (and also sungolds) in the largest size tomato cage.

Summer squash--these babies can outgrow anything once they get going.

Pole beans--they're just starting to flower and to... bean.