Category Archives: Text

Top Chef’s Padma Lakshmi whores herself for a burger and some $$$.

I just saw this video in Salon.com and I cannot get over the shock of seeing Padma Lakshmi, of Top Chef fame selling herself in this commercial for Carl’s Junior (or another burger company, I can’t imagine anyone paying attention to what the product actually is). If you are a guy, you’ll probably think the video is really hot. As a woman I find it repulsive. Doesn’t she make enough money on Top Chef, modeling and writing cookbooks, that she also needs to cheapen herself in a commercial like this?
I also just heard that she is Salman Rushdie’s ex-wife – which doesn’t surprise me, the guy may be a great writer, but he’s also a publicity whore.

The same?!

Last night I made a simple rice pilaf for dinner – using leftover lamb and a Russian spice mix that I really like. I also added grilled shrimp & turkey kielbasa for some variety.
Mika saw what I was cooking and said something like “but we already had that!”. Why yes, we have had that a couple of times in the past, but it’s been several months since I last made it. I was pretty surprised that she could remember a specific dish that I made so long ago and I was quite amused that she’s gotten to expect something new every night. I do have dishes that I repeat like spaghetti & meat sauce and chicken and dumplings (not to say boxed mac & cheese), but pilaf is not one that I repeat often. And most other dishes I make are either part of my international cooking project, or recipes I find on epicurious or another such site to use up a leftover ingredient or to satisfy a particular craving – I seldom repeat these dishes.
Anyway, both Mika and Camila liked the food – or at least Mika ate the shrimp and Camila ate something.
Tonight I’m going to serve leftover lamb (I still have quite a bit) with Trader Joe’s Yellow Curry sauce. I expect the sauce will be too spicy for the kids, and they weren’t too keen on the lamb to begin with, so I’ll have to figure out something to give to them (and let’s not have it be mac & cheese!).

An egg beater

beater.jpg
For some reason that I can’t quite remember, my aunt Gladys gave me, quite a few years ago, the metal/plastic egg beater that belonged to her and my grandmother (Gladys never married, so she lived with her mother until the latter died). I don’t know how old it is, it was probably bought during one of their more recent trips to the US, in the early 1960’s, though it could be older.
It’s a simple tool, an eggbeater like most others – though this one has plastic beaters. All the other ones I’ve seen have metal ones. Of course, plastic is not as sturdy as metal, and this one has a broken piece. It also has rusting metal. Still, 50 or 60 years later, it still works perfectly.
I don’t know if I’ve used it since I got it, at least a decade ago. When I moved to this house, I put it on the top shelf of a kitchen cabinet (the one I can’t reach without standing on a chair). Whenever I’ve had to beat eggs, I’ve used an electric mixer or a whisk.
Yesterday, however, Camila and I were making flan together, and the recipe called for four beaten eggs. I didn’t want to use the stand electric mixer for that, and yet I knew we weren’t going to get far with a simple whisk (Camila now insists on doing everything, but she still doesn’t have the skills to do everything well) – so I took it out. Camila had never seen one before, and I know it would interest her.
As I said, it works perfectly. What an easy, quick way of beating eggs! After we were done, I thought I should buy a new one (though they’re about $13 at Amazon!, my friend Cynthia recommends looking for one at a thrift store, and I may still do that). I’m actually afraid of using this one – not just because it’s rusting – but because I don’t want to get it any more broken. I feel as if I had borrowed it, rather than inherited it, and I have to return it in as good condition.
It’s not as simple as that, of course. I also have my grandmother’s old Better Homes & Gardens cookbook – that book that I perused so many times as a child. And I have their recipe book, where Gladys or Granny hand wrote so many recipes. I’ve thought about cooking from those books – trying to make that delicious sponge cake with lemon frosting, the white cake with chocolate-dulce de leche frosting, or the chocolate-mint cake, which along with pies, were their signature dishes when I was growing up. I haven’t been able to do it. Granny has been dead for 30 years, Gladys died only 2 years ago, however, and I still can’t think of her without falling into a well of tears. Perhaps using their stuff, cooking their food, is too strong a reminder that they’re no longer here. I want to cook their food, but for them – and I never did, and I will never be able to do it now.
In addition to the eggbeater, I also have the kitchen timer that I grew up hearing ring at their home. I’ve started using it because all the other times I’ve had, have broken. It’s good that I use it, right? It might get stuck otherwise. It hasn’t broken in 50 years, it’s not going to break now. Right?

Coconut

How the hell do you open a coconut? I bought a peeled coconut today at an Asian market, thinking that it’d be easier to open as it didn’t have the skin. Lord, was I wrong. It was too hard to cut through (I don’t want to think about the damage I’ve done to my newish knives!). I ended up hitting it with a hammer, but could only make a smallish whole. Well, it was large enough to get my hand through it – and then I discovered that the sides were very soft! I guess it was a young coconut, but definitely they were not shredding material. I had nothing else, so I used them anyway. Let’s see how dinner (coconut pork) turns out.

A day of cooking failures

Today was not my day. I made both ribs and peanut butter ice cream, and both of them were a failure.
For the ribs, I used this recipe for Memphis Style Ribs, from the BBQ Bible, a book that has given me many a good recipe. However, either the instructions of how to cook the ribs were wrong, or I just didn’t know how to follow them, for I completely burnt them. They were pretty much inedible. I still have a rack of spareribs and I will have to find another method for cooking them.
The problem with the peanut butter ice cream was not the recipe, but me. I just overcooked the custard base, This created a heavy custard with almost (but not quite) a chalky consistency that would not aerate or freeze properly. The results weren’t bad per se – it tastes good – but it doesn’t quite have the consistency of ice cream. Still, I’m finishing it. I may try the recipe again sometime, though I’ll probably look for a simpler one.
Tomorrow is Memorial Day and I’m planning on cooking several things (burgers, chicken, potato salad). I’m a little apprehensive now. Wish me luck!

A day of cooking

I spent yesterday cooking. It’d been a long time since I’d spent much time in the kitchen – I haven’t had a dinner party in a very long time. I didn’t last night either, but I made a whole Cameroonian menu for Mike and I (the girls, of course, did not want to touch anything but dessert, and they had chicken noodle soup instead). It was only 3 courses and fairly easy to make.
Harder was the boeuf bourguignon I made following Julia Child’s recipe. It wasn’t hard per se, just took a while. Same thing for a bolognese sauce I made that I will serve over pasta later this week (tonight we’re eating the beef).
I still have more cooking for this week – I’m planning on making a chicken dish with prosciutto and rosemary as well.
Recipes for all as soon as I put them up.

Nairobi

I’ve been in Kenya now for 2 1/2 days and four meals. Not enough to say much about the local cuisine, but lack of information has never stopped me before.
My first lunch here consisted of stewed beef served with cabbage and chopped tomatoes over rice. It was pretty good, reminding me of a homemade stew that could have come from anywhere in the non-eastern world (by which I mean, it wouldn’t be at home in the cuisines of the subcontinent and of north and southeast asia). It was tasty and familiar food, and I enjoyed it. And it’s a good thing I did because it seems that the variety at the kitchen that serves the building where the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (where I’m working) is located, does not serve a wide variety of food: beef, vegetable curry, bean curry and rice and beans seem to be the extent of their menu. It is, however, super cheap. I think we got two beef curries and three soft drinks for $6. One single sandwich at a local delivery place would have cost at least that much. The one thing I do have to note is that the meat is pretty fatty and tough – no idea why that should be so.
I made a similar discovery that night, when we got together with a group of people from work. One of them, a Kenyan, had brought some roasted goat that he had made – and once again it tasted very good but it was tough and fatty. It was accompanied by what seemed to be a non-spicy red pepper and vinegar sauce, which also was very tasty.
The rest of the meal consisted of filled pastries bought at the supermarket. I had half a beef pie and I didn’t think it was very good, though other people enjoyed it. I didn’t partake of the samosas or eggrolls (at least they looked like egg rolls). A couple of pretzels where chewy and not too tasty.
What was much better was the pizzas we ordered. Thin crusted, Italian style, the cheese and toppings were flavorful and tasty. I don’t want to know how much they cost, however 🙂
Yesterday we had leftover pizza/focaccia for lunch and Nico, the head of the No Peace Without Justice operation – who have brought me here – made pasta with tomato sauce. He is Italian 🙂 It was quite good – though he complaint he didn’t have the ingredients for it.
I will write more about my adventures eating in Nairobi, though it doesn’t seem like the food will be too adventurous. It does seem like western food will be quite expensive, however. Yesterday I went to a couple of cafes in downtown Nairobi (not the nicest area of town) and a capuccino and a banana milkshake came to $6. Pretty western prices.

Flan, alas

I was at home with the girls with no plans to go out, and I wanted to make something cool for them. I never have that many ingredients at home – no chocolate chips for cookies, nothing for a pie, no patience for ice cream – but I had just bought a bunch of eggs, so I thought I’d make this simple recipe for flan, that I’d very successfully made before. I’d double it so there would be plenty for everyone. Or that was the plan.
It wasn’t until I’d beaten the eggs that I realized that I only had one can of condensed milk. The second can had expired in 2004 – and I’m not that adventurous. Yes, I could have just divided the eggs in two, but what would the fun of that have been? Instead I decided to substitute the can of sweetened condensed milk with an equal amount of dulce de leche. The results were just plain weird.
When I took the “flans” (and I do mean the quotation marks) off the oven, they had risen as if they were souffles! They fell as they cooled down. Even weirder was the consistency. I can’t quite describe it. It was denser and nowhere as smooth as a flan – it lacked its bubbles for instance. And yet it was too smooth to be considered chalky or caky or even brownishy. Somewhere in between, I guess. The taste was sweet, not at all like flan and only a bit like dulce de leche. It wasn’t bad, but I felt it was flat.
All in all, it wasn’t an experiment worth repeating.

Review featured on Salon

I just found out, by looking at my web logs, that a month ago Cary Tennis linked to my review of Lovejoy’s from one of his columns. I think that’s very cool because I love Car Tennis, he’s by far my favorite advise columnist (not that I read that many advise columns, mind you). So I’m thrilled he read something I wrote – even if he was mildly making fun of it.

Onions

onion.jpgOnce again I forgot to buy onions so I can’t make the dish I meant to prepare for tonight. *Sigh* This happens to me too often.
I think I’ll suggest that we go to Los Pericos for dinner – and buy some onions on the way back. At least I can prepare the food tomorrow.