Artichoke 1, Knife 0

The Civee and I are huge fans of artichokes.  We love our daughter, but we’re not looking forward to dividing artichokes into thirds instead of halves like we do know.

I have a few different ways to cook the artichokes, but some of the best results I’ve gotten involve grilling them.  Usually, I’ll just stuff them then stuff them down into the coals, letting them catch fire and cook off for 20 minutes or so.  But there’s another way I’ve done it- cut the artichokes in half, boil them for 10 or 15 minutes, then finish them off on top of the grill.

Last night, I was getting the artichoke ready for boiling.  I cut it in half (after some struggling) with a large knife.  Then, using a smaller knife, I started to dig out the annoying fuzzy choke part of the thistle.  While digging out the innards, I heard a snap, but didn’t think anything of it.  It wasn’t until I took the knife out that I realized there was something wrong: the tip of the knife had broken off inside the artichoke.  I dug out the tip of the knife and finished preparing the artichoke.  But here’s an after shot of the knife:

It’s a shame because until yesterday, that knife had served me well.  But then I boiled and grilled the artichoke and it was worth it.  It was one of the best artichokes I’ve ever made.  The knife was a sacrifice the grill demanded.


A few days ago, I was trying to make spaghetti, but couldn’t find a can opener to open a can of tomatoes for the sauce.  The can opener was either in one of the many boxes at the new place, or back at the apartment.  But with a pregnant wife getting hungrier by the second, I didn’t have time to mess around.  I improvised, nearly adding a jar of salsa, but instead opting to add a bunch of chopped up vegetables to the ground buffalo meat we had on hand.

Regardless of my being ill-equipped to prepare the dinner I had in mind, the food turned out good.

Yesterday, The Civee’s family came up and helped us get all but a few boxes of the rest of our stuff out of the apartment.  So we have even more boxes around here than before.  But even more importantly, the grill is out back.  And I celebrated the end of winter by grilling some steak for The Civee and myself.  Grilling over here is different.  I have to go up and down some steps to get from the kitchen to the grill.  I’m still not sure of where everything is.  But it’s a different kind of fun.  And of course, the food turned out good.

So it’s going to take us some time to get out of all these boxes and set up.  But at least we’re here before the baby.

Now I just have to find the can opener.

By the way, I noticed that last year, grilling season started on March 16.  I’m chalking up this year’s late start to the fact that I had been sleeping and cooking at a separate location from my grill.  I hope the grill will forgive me.  Maybe to make up for it, I’ll get the grill a nice new brush his year.

King Tom Vs. Leftovers

I like to eat.

I like to cook.

But I hate leftovers.

In the past week, I’ve done a lot of cooking; flank steak, spaghetti and meatballs, trout and a chicken bouillabaise. And it was all very good.

And with the exception of the trout, we’ve had leftovers of everything. So the past few nights have been leftover-filled (with the exception of Sunday, where we had spaghetti courtesy of the Civee’s mother). On my way home tonight, I was dreading tonight’s prospective dinner-leftover spaghetti. Not that it was bad-it was some damn fine spaghetti and meatballs. I just wasn’t feeling it today.

Luckily, in the mail we receoved a buy-one, get-one free coupon from our friendly neighborhood Chipolte (although it was puzzling, as the Grandview Chipolte does not need help drumming up business). I convinced the Civee to go with Chipolte for dinner and save the leftovers for another night.

We weren’t the only customers with that plan. Half the neighborhood showed up, coupons in hand. And even though the burrito hit the spot, now I’m wondering if it was the right move, as the spaghetti looms for a future dinner, hanging over our heads like the Sword of Damocles.

I’m really hoping for something else to come up for tomorrow. If any of the finer restaurants in Grandview care to throw some coupons our way, it would be appreciated. I may even be able to throw in some leftover spaghetti and meatballs in exchange.

Best.Restaurant.Ever! (The Return)

If I’m ever on death row and it’s time for me to choose my last meal, I can’t say that I know what I want to eat.  But I do know where I want that meal to come from and who I want to prepare it.

In New Jersey, there’s a Japanese restaurant called Tomo’s Cuisine, chef-ed by a food magician named Tomo.  Back when I was in college, Tomo’s was located in South Orange and the Fat Triathlete and I frequented (and that’s putting it mildly) Tomo’s.  These days, it’s a tad more difficult, what with me living in Ohio and all.

Tomo’s has relocated to Little Falls, and on our trip to New Jersey this past weekend, the Civee, King Classic and myself (sorry, FT) stopped there for dinner on Sunday night.  The location may be different, but Tomo’s hasn’t changed a bit.

The place has six tables.  The other five tables were filled with people I assumed to be Tomo’s Sunday night regulars. Because it’s just Tomo and his server Fin, Tomo gets quite busy multitasking.  Because of this, Tomo has always had a set of rules in place, an older version of which appear below.  The rules are very important, and even though I knew these going in, I was pleasantly surprised to have rule #10 broken for me, as both Tomo and Fin remembered me even though I haven’t been there in eight years.

Anyway, about the food, it was spectacular.  Most people think of Japanese food as sushi.  Tomo can do sushi.  Tomo excels at sushi. But he does so much more than sushi.  In addition to a boatload of sushi, we also had a few appetizers, including a black seaweed salad, an asparagus/corn tempura, broiled conch in a soy/butter sauce and braised (for six hours) ox tail with potatoes and carrots.

As for the sushi, we got an assortment of rolls and nigiri.  Ordered a special surf clam (one of my favorites that I haven’t had anywhere else (or, rather, haven’t had as good anywhere else)), some salmon belly and two types of toro.

Altogether, if I ever get to pick a last meal, I’d want it to be something like that. It was great to go back (even if I had never been to the new place before).  On our way out, I thanked Tomo.  I could have thanked him a lot more, but remembering the rule about Tomo being very busy, I wanted to keep it short.

The unfortunate part about leaving was realizing that I wouldn’t have another meal like this until the next time the Civee and I were in New Jersey.

Now that I think about it, all I have to do is take 71 North, head east on Interstate 80, and it’s a straight shot to Little Falls.

Sure, it’s an eight-hour straight shot, but it’s worth it.

If you’re ever in the area:

Tomo’s Cuisine
113 Rt. 23 in Little Falls.
(Near the Willowbrook Mall.)

It Was a Beautiful Fish

Many years ago, my family and I went to Easter dinner at a somewhat-fancy restaurant.  While telling us the specials, in a non-specific European accent, the waiter remarked that the fish special, a red snapper was “a beautiful fish.”

My brother and I laughed at his comment and after placing our orders, spent some time imitating his declaration that the snapper was a “beeeeautiful feeesh.”  Partially because of his sales job, I ordered the snapper, and when it arrived at our table, I could see exactly why the fish deserved that description.  The fish was really good, and thanks to his description, it was one of the first times I ever thought of food as more than just something to eat.

Earlier this week, when grocery shopping, The Civee and I decided to get some red snapper, a fish that I have very little experience preparing, but one that I was eager to get on the grill.

While looking for recipies, nothing stood out–either we didn’t have all the ingredients, or involved more than grilling the fish.  However, we were also having corn, and I remembered was one recipe that called for grilling the fish inside some corn husks.  So I jotted down the procedure for using the husks and developed my own recipe using ingredients we had on hand at home.

There was one major deviation from the in-husk procedure that would probably be frowned upon by any serious culinary types.  We didn’t have any rope with which to tie the husks, so I used the next best thing: a Swingline.  I stapled together the husks (with enough room away from the fish), and it actually worked pretty well.  And while I’m kicking myself for not taking a picture or two, the fish came out, as the waiter would say, “beautiful.”  And just as important, it tasted good too.

For the salsa:

  • Juice of  two limes
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 2 roasted red peppers (jarred is okay), cubed
  • -1/4 cup honey
  • 1 bunch parsley, chopped

Combine ingredients, mix and refrigerate.

For the fish:

  • Red snapper filets
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1 shallot, finely sliced
  • Husks from ears of corn (1 ear per piece of fish)

Soak husks in cold water for at least 30 minutes.

Brush fish with oil (olive, canola, whatever you like).

Mix chili powder, pepper and salt and sprinkle over fish.  place sliced shallots on top of the fish.

Strain the husks.  Try to lay flat and place each piece of fish inside one (should be able to fit).  place another corn husk on top.  Tie (or staple) closed so each husk packet will hold the fish.

Grill over high heat, skin side down for 6 minutes.  Turn over and grill for another two.

Remove fish from husks (being careful of staples if you used this method), serve topped with the salsa.

Beef Jerky Business Cards: Why American Inventors Rule

The airplane.  Baseball. The Internet.

These are just a few things among the many that the genius of American Inventors has given to the world.  And the hits just keep on coming. For example, MeatCards, business cards made out of beef jerky.  The people behind MeatCards use laser beams to etch information into a slab of beef jerky, turning it from a delicious piece of food into a delicious piece of food containing potentially useful (or non-useful, depending on what you do) business information.

Of course, the safety of eating laser-etched beef jerky may be debatable, as Jason Kincaid at TechCrunch found out:

I haven’t receieved my MeatCards yet, and thus have been unable to taste the goods for myself. But I have been assured that they should in theory be edible, albeit with a strange laser-burnt aftertaste. That said, the guys behind MeatCards seem to be interested in finding a way to mark the cards with “Do Not Eat” to make it clear that they don’t want you to eat them – it just opens them up to too many possible legal problems and regulations. But they can’t stop you from doing it.

It’s probably not just concerns over eating super-heated beef jerky.  Would you really want to eat a piece of jerky handed to you by someone who’s been carrying it around in his or her back pocket all day?

Regardless, I still think it’s a great idea.

You Can Tune A Piano, But You Cannot…

Something that’s been stuck in my mind the last 24 hours:  Last night, The Civee and I were watching The Office when Michael said he “had a dream where [he] ate a peanut butter and tuna fish sandwich.”

This has disturbed me all day.

Not the idea of a peanut butter and tuna fish sandwich.  Sure, that’s got to be nasty.  But not disturbing.

Rather, it was the use of the phrase “tuna fish.”

We don’t say we eat turkey fowl for Thanksgiving (not that I would).  Nor do we grill steak meat during the summer time.  So why do we say “tuna fish” when referring to that gray stuff that comes in a can?

I have a feeling I will now be fighting this crusade for the rest of my life.

By the way, fresh tuna is much better than anything that comes in a can.  Case in point, this is one of the Civee’s favorite recipes (for someone who didn’t like fish before we got married):

Tuna Sticks in Pepper Sauce

  • 1 tuna steak per person
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 jar roasted red peppers
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of salt

Cut the tuna steak(s) lengthwise, turning each steak into 3-4 “sticks.”

Cover each side of each stick with the sesame seeds.

Place garlic, red peppers  and salt into food processor. Blend until peppers form a sauce.  Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and pulse to mix.

Heat a pan on high, adding the remaining olive oil.  Cook the tuna sticks for a minute per side.

Remove sticks from pan, plate and cover with the red pepper sauce.

Season's Greetings From All Of Us To All Of You

The calendar may say it’s still winter, but around here, grilling season has begun.

With the weather in the 50s and 60s the past few days and the daylight lasting past 7:30 p.m., The Civee and I decided it was time to start grilling again.  And as you can see from the above image, it was worth it.  We’re a little rusty, not having done the half-inside, half-outside cooking deal in some months, but we did just fine.

Pie From The Sky

I’m a fan of finding new and interesting ways of cooking things.  That’s why a recent posting from Popular Science is setting the idea wheels in motion.  The PopSci Web site answers the question: If You Dropped a Corn Kernel From Space, Would it Pop During Re-Entry?

Unfortunately, the answer is mostly inconclusive:

If an astronaut were to throw a watertight kernel out of that space shuttle moving at 17,000 mph, would the kernel reach hot enough temperatures to pop as it flew through the atmosphere? It’s possible, says Kenneth Libbrecht, a physics professor at the California Institute of Technology, but he can’t run the numbers to say for sure, because no one has measured how much friction a kernel generates when it moves through the air. 

We need to get the boys (and girls) in the lab working on this one right away.  If possible, this sets the stage for a revolution in meal preparation.  All cooking is is the addition of heat to food, and one could harness this for a profit.  

Don’t go stealing this, but here’s the idea:  When the Space Shuttles have outlived their usefulness, send them up to space as orbital kitchens.  You want a pizza?  Chinese Food?  Roasted chicken?  Just call and the chefs in the shuttle will put the ingredients together and just drop it into orbit so your meal lands on your roof.  And probably crashes through, destroying your house.

On second thought, maybe they should just stick to finding out whether ants can sort tiny screws in space.

Chicken for [Christmas] Dinner (This Time With Recipes)

In the past week, I’ve gotten many hits on the Kingdom from people googling Christmas Chicken Dinner.  I haven’t seen this kind of traffic since Jean Smart was in the cast of 24.  The only problem, the post involving those key words doesn’t really contain any information about chicken for Christmas dinner.  In the interest of serving the public, I share some of my favorite chicken recipes.  Depending on what floats your boat, they could go well with the whole Christmas thing.

Chicken and Bean Soup

  • 2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into strips
  • 1 cup dried white beans
  • 5 leeks (quartered lengthwise, sliced crosswise, washed and trained).
  • 1/3 stick of butter
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon tarragon
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock
  • 5 carrots trimmed, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 pound potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and diced
  • 14-ounce can Italian peeled tomatoes, chopped
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (none of the powdered stuff in the green container)
  • For the pesto (optional):
  • 5 large garlic cloves
  • Pinch of Kosher salt
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup Olive Oil

Soak beans in cold water overnight.

Sautee leeks in 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over moderate heat, stirring frequently for 1/2 hour or until leeks turn dark golden brown.  Add bay leaves, garlic, tarragon, fennel seeds and pepper, stirring for 1 minute.

In a separate pan, sautee chicken strips in 2 tablespoons olive oil until browned.

Drain the beans, add to leek mixture.  Add the stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat, add browned chicken strips and simmer, covered for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until beans are tender.  Make sure soup does not boil.

While the rest is simmering, cook carrots, potato, fennel bulb and orange zest in remaining olive oil in a separate pan, stirring often, until vegetables brown.  

Stir vegetables and tomatoes into soup.  Cook soup over moderate heat for 5 minutes.  Serve topped with the grated cheese and pesto.

To make the pesto: Mash garlic and salt, pounding vigorously into a paste.  Gradually add the basil as you mash.  Add cheese gradually until mixture reaches the consistency of a soft butter.  Gradually stir in the oil. You could do this in a food processor, but that takes away all the fun.

Honey Nut Chicken Sticks

  • 1 pound chicken tenders
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup of flour (whole wheat or all purpose)
  • 1 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup of honey nut corn flakes
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tablespoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 tablespoons steak seasoning
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Preheat Oven to 400

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Place the flour in a large, shallow. Coat the chicken in flour. Beat the eggs and milk in a shallow dish. Combine the cereal, bread crumbs, paprika, poultry seasoning, steak seasoning and vegetable oil in a food processor.

In batches, dip the flour-coated chicken into the egg mixture and then in the breading and place on then place on a nonstick cookie sheet or aluminum foil. When all of the tenders have been coated, bake 15 minutes or until evenly browned and cooked through. Cool enough to handle and serve.

Use warm barbeque sauce (Montgomery Inn), honey and steak sauces for dipping.

Artichicken Pasta

  • 1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • Whole wheat flour
  • 1 can of artichoke hearts
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 box spaghetti

2 tablespoons olive oil

Cook spaghetti for 10 minutes in a pot of boiling water.

Coat chicken in flour.

Sautee chicken in olive oil until browned.  Add chopped carrots, green pepper and onion.  Cook for five minutes or until vegetables soften.  Add artichoke hearts and cook for another two minutes.

Add chicken stock and deglaze the pan.  Add cream and cook for five minutes.

Drain spaghetti and toss into pan with chicken and vegetables.  Cook over low heat for two minutes.