As I’ve written before, there is usually only one time an year that I yield to the temptation of delivery pizza. This year however, another Football even led to my breaking this tradition and ordering in again – the NFL Draft. Usually, this mid-season football extravaganza is over the weekend, when I settle down with my other favorite pigskin food – fried chicken. This year however, the NFL wanted to make more money and drag out the event, and thus started in on a freaking Thursday night – Thursday, I tell you! And since I try not to eat meat on Thursdays, I had to settle for pizza – the wife and I decided that we might as well check out what this Papa John’s hype was all about.
Super Bowl Sunday is one day in the year I allow myself to guzzle down cheap, watered-down mass-marketed bottled American lagers (piss waters as I normally refer to them as); my friends come over and between the Coors, Buds and Millers, we chug down quite a few of these flavorless brews – hey, they pay for most of the coverage of the game, going by the ads, so might as well give them their due one day of the year, right?
This year, though, my German brother-in-law Andreas, who I consider to be the definitive authority on beer, brought by a cool Polish beer to mix things up a bit. Zywiec, with a crisp white-background and a Polish couple dancing in ethnic costumes on its label, stood out immediately amongst the other generic beer bottles – and its taste didn’t let it down either.
One of my main complaints with the afore-mentioned piss-waters is that they try to compensate for the lack of flavor by over-hopping; I am not a fan of bitterness. Yet, Zywiec showed me how hops were probably intended to really work in lagers and pilsners – to complement the flavor, not to make up for the absence of it. The sharpness of the hops cut through the yeasty flavor of the beer (not much malt here, to my disappointment), giving the beer a nice, light, refreshing mouthfeel (which Coors can only dream about). The 5.6% alcohol kept the brew very chuggable, and made it the perfect complement to the delivery pizza (like I said, this was one night I indulged in the frat boy lifestyle) – I might have found my new football brew!
With all the marketing blitz surrounding Dominos Pizza recently, I’m sure you’ve heard of the story by now – they changed their 50-year old recipe in an effort to better respond to ‘America’s’ tastes, or so they say. So of course, the one day of the year we definitely order delivery pizza (Superbowl Sunday), I HAD to try the new Dominos pizza for myself.
I have always been a thin crust fan, and for the Superbowl Party at home, I ordered a majority of thin crust pizzas along with a couple of regular pies for friends who might not be thin crust fans. However, due to the immense number of orders on that day, there was bound to be some snafus at the local Dominos outlet I suppose, and we got mostly regular crusts. They were nice to me when I called to complain, and promised a free thin crust of my choice the next day – who was I to say no? So what you see above is the green-pepper thin crust pizza with original sauce that showed up at my door step – and I have to say, for all the hype, I am a bit underwhelmed by the pizza.
One of my food resolutions for this year was to move out of my normal comfort zones and try new foods and ingredients in my cooking. Cheese was one of the first ingredients I wanted to experiment with; as I taught myself to cook, I stuck to the safe and traditional cheeses to begin with – supermarket bright yellow cheddar, shredded mozzarella, and maybe an occasional bar of Monterey Jack cheese. Over the past few months, I’ve begun experimenting with some goat cheese, fresh mozzarella (a revelation!) and different types of cheddar.
Once I figured out the difference between mild, medium and sharp cheddars, it opened up a large world of customized used for me: flavor for a quesadilla? extra sharp ofcourse. A delicate omelet? medium for body but not to overpower the eggs. And for light sandwiches where I wanted to taste of the main ingredients to come through? The New Zealand mild cheddar above suited me perfectly.
It boggles my mind that there are countless ads in this country for instant energy drinks, natural energy bars, easy energy tables – but no one gets on a TV and says ‘Eat fresh fruit, you’ll have all the instant energy you’ll ever need’! I guess its just too easy for anyone to ever take it serious. OR, in this capitalistic world we live in, there probably just isn’t much money in get folks to eat fresh fruit - no big corporation needs to process anything and thus isn’t making any money off fresh produce, and the only folks who stand to gain from you eating fresh fruit is mostly the import companies and the actual farmers who produce the food – and who cares about those porr farmers anyways?!
But I won’t go off into a rant about how eating local (or even non-local) fresh produce is the best way to ensure farming remains a viable profession and we don’t end up as a world filled with more machine-produced that nature-produced food. (I’ll save that for another post). What I’ll focus on here is how eating fresh fruit can really help you save money and provide instant nutrition.
Let’s focus on the watermelon today, because this is such an easy-to-eat and easy-to-use fruit that is a breeze to cut at home without spending money on expensive watermelon juices or pre-cut fruit cups. Watermelon, with its dark green skin and bright red flesh, is just such a beautiful fruit to have around the house – whether you buy the whole fruit, quarters of market-cut fruit like in the photo above, or if u’re really laze and go for those containers of pre-chunked melow, having them around the kitchen will be a joy, I promise you!
I wrote last night about how waffles make a great, nutritious breakfast – something to help start off your day with sustained energy. However, dousing your home-made waffles with sugary, sticky, artificial syrup (yes, Mrs.Butterworth, I’m looking in your direction) just negates all the good nutritional karma you’ve built up. Not only do those ‘pancake’ syrups tend to be overly sweet and thus completely mask the delicious taste of homemade waffles, but just reading their ingredient lists is enough to give you science class flashbacks – tons of complicated compounds and additives, nary a natural item on the list. And once you get off the sugar high, which will be quick given the sweetness of the syrups, you won’t fee so good about you day anymore.
Pure maple syrup, on the other hand, has just the right hint of sweetness without being too heavy or numbingly syrupy. This is how nature intended us to complement our breakfasts – with the earthy, sweet tang of mapley goodness. Warmed up for a few seconds in the microwave, maple syrup becomes easily pourable onto your freshly made waffles - and boy does it add just the right undernotes while still letting the bite and taste of the waffles come through.
Now, I realize that maple syrup is pricier than the artificial syrups – but there are different brands and different varietals (a listing of which will be a separate post altogether) that can fit your budget. Don’t be scared off by the notion that all maple syrup is an indulgence; there are certainly options for the thrifty amongst us too. Specifically, I find that Grade B maple syrups are less expensive than Grade A, but still work wonderfully on waffles and pancakes. They have a slightly richer flavor and are thicker, but as I mentioned above, microwaving in a small bowl for a few seconds helps with the viscosity. I’ve been using a big batch of Whole Foods’ 265 brand Grade B syrup for a while now – I find it economical enough to even share with breakfast guests !
This was the first loaf of sour-dough bread I’ve ever eaten – and I have to tell you, I was a little underwhelmed. I’ve come to understand that sourdough bread is one of those polarizing foods that will split a population into believers and haters – some love it, some can’t stand it. Me? Eh – it wasn’t the best bread I’ve eaten, but it still had enough flavor and complexity to merit another try.
I happened upon this at the farmer’s market a few weeks ago; my favorite whole grain loaves had sold out so I decided to give this sourdough a try. Perhaps I should’ve stuck to a white sourdough to start off with – but who am I to say know to the healthy benefits of whole grains, especially now that the marketing world constantly hits me over the head with how many grains I should be having every day. (Any more and I wonder if I’ll turn into a horse, you know).
The slightly sour (duh) flavor of the bread contrasted nicely with the earthiness of the whole wheat, but also got dulled a bit by it, I think. A slice of this bread was good to dunk in to soup as it held quite a bit of the liquid and added a nice tangy undertaste, but did not go so well with a slice of pepper-jack cheese. The wife did not seem to care much for this bread, but I may give this another try next fall when the baker is back, and will definitely try a regular white sourdough first to see if we fancy it.
Sunday nights, especially in this time of the year when there is a chill outside and football on the tube, are for settling down with a good bottle of beer. I was never much of a beer fan, especially as an alcohol to be abused when going out on the town (stay classy with a gin and tonic or a vodka drink, people). But lately I’ve been finding that one bottle of beer works perfectly to take the edge off on a Sunday night, when all you want to do is to kick back with some good food, good conversation and the occasional scream at the wide reciever who dropped the ball.
At such times, you do NOT want to reach for just the generic big company flavor-less piss water that is mass marketed in the State (Bud is, I repeat, not good beer). You want to pick up a local micro-brew or an import with some complexity to it. Look a little deeper in your local alcohol store’s beer cooler and you are sure to find a beer that calls out to you – an India Pale Ale, a Pilsner or even a Stout, perhaps. Or hit up your nearest wine shop and ask for recommendations on a good beer - they are sure to carry a few that would merit mention.
You want a beer that stands up to the food you eat it with – not just to mindlessly drink the night away. Don’t get me wrong – when I want to just get wasted, I’d save my money, buy the cheapest coors six pack and call it a night. Some of these beers also have great labels and names, and make for wonderful conversation starters if you have company over. Don’t be shy about taking a unique six pack to the next house party you get invited to either – that cute blonde girl or baseball jock you’ve been crushing on might just be impressed with your new found beer IQ!
This week, I settled on the White Rascal – a Belgian-Style Wheat Ale from the Avery Brewing Company in Colorado. Wheat ale’s are one of my favorite kinds of beer – light and refreshing without being cloyingly sweet or’ hoppingly’ bitter. This ale is brewed, in the tradition of witbiers, with spices like coriander and Curacoa orange peel – and you know given my love for oranges, I had to try this. This is also an unfiltered beer, meaning the yeast used during the brewing process is left in the bottles, settling near the bottom. It gives the beer a yeasty nose and taste – but the spicyness of the coriander and zest of the orange peel more than compensate for any yeasty undernotes you may encounter. In all, the beer was an excellent pairing with the biryani the wifey and I made last night – and for the high-scoring Cardinals- Vikings game too!
This week was surprisingly busy, but luckily a ton of leftovers from last week, combined with a couple of soup and bread nights have gotten us through to the weekend. The bread we are using this week is a Multi Grain round from Whole Foods – yes, yes, the big bad organics supermart is still the best place to pick up fresh non-commercial bread in the winter when the farmer’s market near us closes.
And the breads from WF still taste much better, and contain much less nasty stuff, than anything you can pick up at the regular grocery store – since they claim to bake everything on their premises, we choose to trust them and feel like we’re eating a healthier bread. During my pre-thanksgiving Wednesday visit to WF, I saw a nice, large round of Multi Grain calling out to me; as expected, the texture and grainy taste of the bread has complemented wonderfully the many Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving left-over meals over the past few weeks.
This loaf froze wonderfully well also; I pre-cut the slices before freezing so all we’ve had to do is throw them in the toaster oven for a couple of mins to get a hot, crusty slice ready for whatever our appetites were on the mood for – a quick snack , a dunk for tomato soup or even, as I experimented with today, a perfect base to top my chocolate ganache with – using flavorful bread (and not just cake) as an unexpected pairing for the sweet, silky ganache being a trick I picked up from La Maison Du Chocolat, of all places!
The days leading up to Thanksgiving can be a bit stressful for any cooking-centric young couple; most are either hosting a party at home or heading to a family dinner and worrying about what fabulous dish they should take with them. We at eatlovecook usually rely on one small purple can of a simple herb mixture to get us through this holiday, choosing to make simple choices with what we cook and leaving ourselves plenty of time to mingle with family, play or watch some football and most importantly – eat till we can’t eat no mo’!
What is this magical mixture, you ask? Why, Herbs de Provence, ofcourse! Herbes de Provence, as it should correctly be called, is a mixture of dried herbs – the original combination, marketing would have you believe, was derived from the herbs individually used by Provencal grandmothers for centuries in their warm, rustic comfort foods.
Whether the legend holds true or not, the mixture is wonderful to use around the holidays – it provides plenty of flavor when used as a rub for the turkey I roast every year, adds a wonderful depth to simple mashed potatoes, kicks up a batch of oven-roasted vegetables into a Thanksgiving-worthy side-dish, and when added to the base of any soup can transport you to the south of France. Keep this in your pantry and you can quite easily pull off a sophisticated dish (or three) on Turkey day – and have relatives asking you to share your flavor secrets all evening long! And we all know that anything french sounding can only make you look sauve and sophisticated, right?