Category Archives: Food

Now batting: S. Scampi

I decided to deviate from my sister’s request list for Thursday night. Not out of disagreement with anything she would like to see on her plate, of course. Only because while I was picking up a prescription at Publix, I decided to wander past the seafood case. Shrimp scampi with angel hair pasta and bruschetta popped into my mind while I was looking, and since I’m easily swayed by menu suggestions at the moment, I got a couple pounds of shrimp. When I told my sister – the same one tossing out the “can you make that”, the same one who refuses to eat any sort of meat on the bone – she informed me that she doesn’t eat shrimp with pasta. No problem, says I, ever amenable and flexible, we’ll just serve them separately, and you can have the shrimp by itself. Can’t eat it, she says. Too much butter. She also won’t eat bread because she’s trying to watch her carbs for the upcoming swimuit season. This from a girl who has an athlete’s body and weighs maybe 117 soaking wet.

So it will be something else for her. I just need to figure it out. In the meantime, my mom and my other sister will happily share the main dish, and if my brother wasn’t such a rube, he’d be here to enjoy it as well.

The finished products

The problem with not being able to eat is not being able to taste this stuff. When no one is around or immediately available, it’s impossible to get a victim to taste test it before anyone else eats it.

The ribs came off the smoker after about 4.5 hours.

The meat has pulled away from the bone.

I pulled a portion to look at before everyone was home/awake, to see how the first time rib smoking worked out for me. It worked: nice smoke ring.

More cuts, as the fam began arriving.

Nice and juicy.

And did I mention the zucchini gratin? Still bubbling, right out of the oven.

Dinner, anyone?

Smokin’

Pulled the slabs from the brine and gave them a quick shower.

The rub.

The rub has: salt, brown sugar, paprika, onion powder, cayenne, garlic powder, cumin, chipotle chili powder, black pepper, mustard powder.

The first slab received a massage of coarse-ground prepared mustard.

And then a generous dose of the rub.

The other two slabs received rub only, and all three are ready to go.

A couple of water pans under the grates, some nicely burning charcoal and some hickory on the fire, and the slabs go on the smoker.

Now, it’s just a matter of minding the temperature and being patient. The first will probably be much easier than the second.

Slabby

There’s nothing like a nice slab of pork.

Three slabs of ribs.

Membrane? Gone.

Into the brine for about an hour. Once done with this step, I’ll pull them out, give them a rinse, then sprinkle them with rub and let them sit for about another hour. And then? Smokin’ time.

Saucy

Today is smoking day. While the ribs will have a rub, there’s always the issue of sauces. For this, sauces go on the side, and whoever wants some can pour their own. For some people, that means out of a bottle from the store. For us, that means some homemade sauce. I had intended to make several different kinds, but the cupboard conspired against me. The sweet/smoky sauce is the winner in this race.

Some ingredients, but not all.

The beginning, before the ketchup goes in.

After the ketchup, and a few minutes simmering:

The sauce is sweet to start, and then finishes with a bite. I actually tasted it – the first tomato-based anything I’ve tasted in more than six months. No tongue burn (hooray) and I got exactly the sensation my mother did when she tasted it (hooray again). Progress.

Menus, dictated

I tend to work with FoodTV on in the background. For awhile, when it was rerun after rerun, I had switched over to watching all the Law & Orders that were on various channels throughout the day. Now that I’ve caught up on those, it’s back to FTV.

The other day, Everyday Italian is on when one of my sisters breezes through. She stops for a moment, points to the tv, and says, “Can you make that? Let’s have that for dinner.”

“That” happened to be chicken cacciatore.

“Surely, ” says I. “When?”

We all compare schedules and decide that Thursday is best. Since my little brother has forgotten the cardinal rule – sponge off your family as long as you possibly can before moving out – and is leaving for Orlando on Friday, we’ll consider it a going-away dinner for him. Piece of cake, I think, and start putting together my recipe and my grocery list.

So I invite a dear friend over, and that makes five total for whom I’m cooking. That turns into six when one of the girls invites her boyfriend, then seven when the other invites hers, then eight when my mom informs me she’s invited a friend of the family.

No problem.

The boyfriends also brought along their respective dogs – three, total.

Have I mentioned yet what a madhouse it is when the family starts getting together?

So, Thursday’s menu was: chicken cacciatore, risotto with parmigiano-reggiano, steamed broccoli, and salad (which my sister made).

No photos of this one because I was running out of gas by the end and they were all hungry. The reviews were excellent, and one day I’ll be able to actually eat the food I’m cooking. One of my sisters took some of the chicken to work, where her boss termed it (and I quote) “Fucking kick-ass chicken”. I’ll put that one in the plus column. She also received a request from one of her coworkers to bring some in. At least the letovers won’t go to waste.

For tomorrow: barbeque sauces, the rub for the ribs, and some fresh foccacia. Sunday: an hour or so in the brine for the ribs, and then we be smokin’!

Shall we play a game?

I think that like most geeks my age, WarGames was the first movie I’d ever seen that had more reality than fiction in it about what you could do with computers. The movie was released the year after I had gone to this summer camp at the University of Western Maryland (real camp name: Gifted and Talented Summer Camp – I think someone’s creativity burner was on low the day they came up with that one). For one glorious week, a group of us had access to the computer lab, where we learned to do some BASIC programming and wrote a small text-based adventure game, complete with dragons, treasure, and goblins. The second week was spent reading Flatland and talking about perceptions of reality. Fun. The title of this post comes from WarGames, and is what Joshua (the computer) would ask the person who had connected.

In our case, it’s a simpler game than global thermonuclear war. A visual one. There are some images below, but for the purposes of the game itself, only the first two are important. It’s a game of spot the difference, and your challenge, should you wish to accept it, is to determine the difference between the first image and the second. The other images are for illustrative purposes. Ready? If so, click away to continue.

Continue reading Shall we play a game?

Working back

Yesterday, I did something that I have not done since the middle of last year.

I cooked.

Believe me, I’ve wanted to get back to cooking before this. Between healing, pain, and energy levels, though, it simply has not been possible. I decided that yesterday would be the day, and if it wiped me out for a few days afterwards, that would be fine. At least I could say I did it, and I could use the rest time to prepare the next menu.

Alas, I am still not eating, but the family said it was all delicious. In addition to working on getting strength back and getting back in the kitchen on a regular basis, I also need something to help the photography side of the food. I think what I need is a portable studio type of thing, to have a suitable backdrop and also be able to control the light better. In any case, the menu was this:

Balsamic glazed boneless pork chops with caramelized shallots, steamed broccoli with toasted garlic crumbs and lemon, and basmati rice.

I wish I had been able to get a better shot of the full plate, but this will have to do, considering there were few places to set it up properly.

This shot came out better. A closeup of the chop with some of the sauce.

I’m sure there will be more to come as I slowly get back into what used to be my life.