Sunday, January 26, 2014

Tofu voyeurism

We hit the vegetarian restaurant the other day just as they were making tofu in the glass-walled kitchen.

One last mix in the hopper before the lumpy semi-liquid cooked soybeans come out into a cheesecloth-lined tray.

After much stirring, the tray loses a lot of its liquid and the cheesecloth is folded up over the top to make a package.

The packages are stacked to firm up.  The tofu in the fried rice was excellent.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Great ideas in restaurantism

Our neighborhood Japanese restaurant has moved to bigger and nicer premises, and when we visited last week we noticed a new feature: a TV behind the sushi bar.  That's in addition to the regular TV, which is silently tuned to CNN news, filling us in on the latest manufactured scare story (this time it was piranhas eating up swimmers in Argentina).

This TV just plays an endless loop of fancy sushi rolls.

So if you are intrigued by the Zen roll but not sure whether you would like it, you can gaze upon it and decide whether it's love.

I don't like any of these fancy rolls.  I learned to love Japanese food almost 50 years ago when it wasn't trendy -- heck, it wasn't even on the radar screen of the food culture.  Sushi meant a small piece of raw fish on top of a little heap of rice, maybe a little seaweed in the picture for a basic roll.  And that's still what I love (and what they serve in Japan).  The new trend in sushi, resembling dessert more than it resembles fish, and with mayonnaise squiggled on top, is just too frou-frou for me.

Nevertheless I think it's a wonderful idea to put food porn on the TV in a restaurant.  I bet it increases their revenue a lot.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The last harvest

This afternoon was the last nice day we're going to have for a while.  It was almost 50 degrees out, and beautiful for walking, even though the brisk breeze and dark clouds to the west signaled imminent change.  We're supposed to have the coldest weather in 18 years, never getting above zero tomorrow.

I came home from my walk just as the first drops of rain were starting to fall, with a mission: to harvest the last of the parsley.  We've had a beautiful crop this year, but it will never survive below zero and snow burial.

It's on its last legs, with the stems already turning yellow and mushy from last week's cold and snow.  But the leaves are still green and I'll get a good batch of tabouli out of it.

Losing your parsley for the winter is no big deal; it happens every year.  But we're probably also going to lose our rosemary, and that's cause for grief.  We've been nursing this plant for several years.  The winters haven't been terribly bad, and this plant is an Arp strain, bred to allegedly survive as cold as -10.  The worst thing that has happened to our plant was being overrun a couple of years ago by an overenthusiastic zucchetta vine; the rosemary almost didn't live to tell the tale.  But it came back, and this year it was glorious.

We picked some and put it in a vase.  Not sure how long it will last for culinary purposes, but it will make the room smell good while the arctic winds howl outside.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Pie and milk -- memories are made of this

I love pie with fruit in it -- just fruit.  No lemon meringue, thank you.  No chocolate, no custards (except pumpkin).  No pies where sugar is the main ingredient in the filling, like chess or pecan.

But give me an apple or cherry or peach pie and I'm a happy camper.  Even better than that first slice is the next day when you have leftover pie for breakfast.  And then, since breakfast is supposed to have healthy foods, the best way to eat the pie is in a bowl with milk, with a spoon.

When I worked downtown, across the street was an old-fashioned cafeteria, in the same place since the Depression, staffed with the same old ladies since the Depression, serving old-fashioned food.  Their pies were legendary, and whenever anybody in our department had a birthday, somebody would go over to the cafeteria at lunchtime and get a pie.  Then at 4 pm we'd take a break and have birthday pie.  The birthday child would get to take the rest of the pie home.

One year on my birthday I got stuck on a conference call that would not end.  Outside my office I could see people bustling around setting up plates and forks, obviously ready for the party.  As was I, but I couldn't get off the phone.  A bit after five everybody else gave up and went home.  When I finally hung up at 6:15 there was an entire cherry pie on the counter outside my office with "happy birthday" written on the box.

What a wonderful birthday present.  And I didn't even have to share.