Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I Wanna go to Panama!!!

And paint boats on the beach, and sell rum drinks out of coconut shells, and grill fresh seafood and play my guitar.
Calgon, take me away!

Salt Crusted Snapper is Yummy!

And pretty easy. And delicious, if you're into the whole fish thing, which I am - thank you very much.
This is one of my favorite meals. It's very easy.
Thanks, Babawa in Nashville, for reminding me that I know how to make this!

Just take a whole 3-4 pound red snapper (or other similarly sized fish) that's been gutted, and stuff the cavity with fresh thyme and garlic, and maybe some lemon slices too.

Rub the whole thing with olive oil, and place on a foil lined baking sheet (I use heavy duty foil, truly a godsend!)

Then take 4 eggwhites and beat them silly. When they start to tell foolish jokes it's time to add kosher salt or coarse sea salt until a relatively thick paste forms. It could take a couple of cups.

"Paste" this paste all over the fish until it's completely covered and about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick.

Roast in a 375 degree oven for about a half hour. You should smell the fish, herbs, and garlic perfuming your house (or apartment, condo, what have you) .

Then crack off the crust (which breaks away in big chunks) and lift the "top" fillet off. The skeleton running through the middle will then lift out easily allowing you to access the "bottom" fillet (which is really not the bottom of the fish, just the other side). Whaaa?

Eat with a green salad and a drizzle of olive oil and squeeze of lemon. Simple perfection.

Sorry for the continuous absence of photographic evidence. Must. Get. New. Digital. Camera.
(Would settle for the software cd for my current Canon Powershot A80)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Happy Halloween

Who (or what) will you be for Halloween? I have a witch hat with grey hair...

Enjoy the last day of October, people! Can't wait till daylight savings time ends, so it's a little lighter a little earlier. I'm all for energy conservation, but the dark mornings are getting to me.
Maybe I need one of those light lamps or something. Maybe Prozac?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Colony Collapse Disorder

CCD. More proof that we can and will label every being with a "disorder", even if that someone is a honeybee.
It's another malady that's likely caused by poor nutrition, exposure to pesticides, a virus...ain't that America.

On another note, while I'm on a role, impeach!


We ate a late lunch yesterday, as is our custom on the weekends, at Ichiban in Cranston, RI.
It was our second time there, and it was fantastic.

We like to eat out during the "in between time" on the weekends - that window between the typical lunch and dinner hour. I think we started doing this out of a combination of laziness and crowd avoidance, but whatever the reason, it has become our habit.
Yesterday was rainy and dark in Providence, a late-October Saturday perfect for sleeping even later than usual. We didn't pull our act together until mid-afternoon, so by the time we were actually in the car ready to seek out a meal it was close to 4pm.

Our initial plan was formulated while pumping gas at the Shell Station on Wickenden Street, which incidentally is exceptionally busy on the weekends. We'd head south to Seven Moons in North Kingstown, one of our favorite haunts, and gorge ourselves on spicy lettuce wraps, sashimi, and salt-and-pepper shrimp. We knew we wanted something delicious and Asian, and we hadn't been there in a couple of months.

Somehow plans changed and Ichiban came to mind. Located in a non-assuming, very low profile cement block building on Gansett Avenue in Cranston, this Korean/Japanese restaurant is a respite inside, rich with wooden decor and welcoming aromas. Scattered among the spacious booths, tables, and sushi bar, there were only a handful of patrons when we arrived - just the way we like it!
We were greeted warmly and seated in a big comfortable booth. Our waitress was sweet and very attentive and kept us happy.
Ichiban has a wide and varied menu. They do the whole sushi thing, and do it well. Since we had sushi on Friday night (yes, from Sakura, thank you very much...we are nothing if not creatures of habit) we passed this option up. We'd sampled tuna, salmon, and yellowtail on our last visit in March, and it was very fresh, expertly sliced, and flavorful, and served with lots of smiles.

We ordered a couple of glasses of Clos du Bois Chardonnay to start, and then The Doctor had to take a phonecall from a neurosurgeon, so he told me to choose some starters. I decided upon an order of yakitori (factoring into my decision - we had just seen a show on the Travel Channel with a lip-smacking American that featured all forms of it, and the Dinnerman had regrettably missed out on a yakitori experience on a recent trip to Tokyo) , and an order of naruto, a low-carb sushi roll with cucumber on the outside, surrounding your choice of fish (we got yellowtail) and avocado.
Superb. The yakitori was so good! It was chunks of white meat chicken skewered in typical fashion in a teriyaki sauce. But this yakitori went the extra mile. The 2 skewers were not small, for one thing, and they included bell peppers, onions, and carrot in addition to the traditional scallion. The chicken was slightly dry, and in my opinion thigh meat would have been better here. The Doctor did not agree with me, being the loyal white meat fan that he is. I go both ways, depending on the scenario.

On to entrees! I picked the spicy calamari, $12.95 (billed as a chef's special on the menu at the restaurant, but nowhere to be found on the take out menu I had at home, which I tried to reference in preparation for this post). I asked for it extra spicy - I specifically said spicier than they would think a little American woman would want. It wasn't very spicy. It was, however, a delicious plate of tender squid pieced sauteed in a flavorful brown sauce with bell peppers, straw mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and onion slivers. Yum. It came with white rice, and I had enough for 4th meal (er, 3rd, in this case) later at home.
The Dinnerman ordered the Tangsooyuk, $13.95, a huge plate of breaded, fried pork pieces (also available with beef) with bell pepper chunks, onions, and pineapple in a sweet spicy sauce that reminded me of the jalapeno jelly we bought in Little Compton last May, but a melted state. It was served with a pile of shredded cabbage that was topped with what tasted like ketchup.
The jelly sauce was slightly goopy, sweet, spicy, not really my thing but he loved it. It was an enormous portion, and he was so enthusiastic about this dish that we had to field inquisitions from neighboring tables. Think "When Harry Met Sally" but less demonstrative and with a man.

Ichiban means "number one". It's a place where excellence is sought after, and the customer's happiness is the goal. They strive to accomodate everyone - from a party of 2 adults to a party of 12 that came in while we were eating, with 5 young children. It's seamless. The kids were at their own adjacent booth, contentedly eating their (succulent-looking) plates of chicken wings and never wanting for a refill on their Shirley Temples. The adults, in the abutting booth, were happily sipping their pink boat drinks and devouring their sushi - extra spicy!

Go to Ichiban. Say Steph sent you.

Ichiban Korean-Japanese Restaurant
146 Gansett Avenue
Cranston, RI 02910
(401) 432-7220


Here are a couple of things I overheard in the past half hour.

Man to woman, in the liquor store while I was purchasing beer for the games:
"I don't know what to buy. You're the one who wanted to go shopping for wine; I just wanted to stay home and take a nap."
Yeah, that's about right.

Steven to the television while I was upstairs folding clothes:
"Oh my God!" (and here, in my ignorance, I am thinking something noteworthy happened in Gillette Stadium, perhaps, but no...)
"Look at the size of her ass!!!"

(He was referring to a certain figure skater from a certain prominent east coast family that seems to have the ability to produce quality figure skaters, who apparently consumed a few too many carbs this summer.)

Scariest thing I've seen today:
That new Geico commercial featuring the Cabbage Patch adult. WTF? That's gonna give me nightmares, for sure, you wait.

Go Sox! (The Pats don't need my help - 52 to nothing? Come on,'s not even a contest anymore.)

Close Your Eyes and Smell

No, it's not a game of finger or toe, but rather what Kenny said to me last night before giving me a giant bag of tomatoes and peppers, fresh from the farm.

It was a beautiful rainy windy late October night in New England, complete with giant raccoon in the courtyard, whom I chased around for a while like a spaz.

Nothing better!

Friday, October 26, 2007

My Bad

Ok, so Dr. Dinnerman has some issues with my spatchcock granuloma post. Essentially he feels I minimized his expertise, and made it sound like he performed a random act, when he of course did no such thing. Everything was planned, honed, intentional, and forethought.
I know that, but perhaps don't have the language with which to express it. (Use your words, Stephanie)

So, the amendments. The Dinnerman didn't just "do something" in that area with the crater/callous on my left middle finger. He performed a "sharp dissection" and "extracted a black foreign body" that was barely visible to my (somewhat impaired though I won't wear my green glasses) vision.
Of course I remember this now, but apparently I wasn't using all my words at the time of composition of that last post.
I have extended an open invitation to the Dinnerman to be a guest blogger here at his will and whim.

He knows all my passwords. Perhaps you will soon have the pleasure of reading his words directly. God knows he makes infinitely more sense than I do!

Love you, Dinnerman! Let's eat.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Spatchcock granuloma

A couple of months ago I was spatchcocking* a chicken to ready it for the grill when in a fantastic display of dexterity, I sliced open my left middle finger. I cut an impressively deep chunky flappy wound which started to gush blood all over the kitchen and throb like hell, so I tightly wrapped it in bandaid after bandaid.
After many hours it stopped bleeding, and then it hurt like hell. After several days the wound seemed to be healing nicely, though it still hurt like hell.
The area then began to morph into this strange mound with a crater-like hole in the middle. It looked almost like the callous that you get on whatever finger you rest your pen on, but with a hole at the top like a volcano. Of course, I kept picking at it and squeezing it because as anyone who knows me knows, I can't leave anything alone.
A couple of weeks went by and it wasn't improving much, if at all. It hurt too. Like hell. So I finally asked Dr. Dinnerman to take a look.
"Hmm", he said, "This looks like a foreign body granuloma."
I reminded him how it happened.
"I shall call it a spatchcock granuloma!", he said, obviously pleased with himself.
He dug around in there with his ever present tweezer-like tool for a while, but couldn't really visualize anything in there. He did, however, make it hurt like hell.
But he evidently did something, because the mound on my finger started to shrink and within a week it was gone.

The chicken was fantastic, by the way. Dr. Dinnerman loved it.
It was, all in all, a worthwhile endeavor. It was also an interesting social experiment.
People give you funny looks when you tell them you spatchcocked a chicken. Some ask you to expound upon what it means to spatchcock. Some just smile and nod.

*Spatchcocking is the process by which the backbone is cut out of a chicken to flatten it before cooking. It allows for more even cooking in less time.

Moving things along...

Tip of the day from the Dinnerman:

Eating hot peppers is a good cure for constipation.

I would like to add that fish oil capsules help as well.

Monday, October 22, 2007

A Limerick for Kenny's Apples!

Back to the list later.
This post is an ode to my friend.

I love Kenny!

He brings me jalapenos, bell peppers, tomatoes, mangos, kiwis, ginormous carrots, luscious red onions, and beautiful, sensual, crisp, tart and fabulous golden delicious apples, straight from Smithfield.

Thanks Kenny!

Oh Kenny your fruit is so sweet
About this I can't be discreet
If I had no arms
Your fruit with its charms
Would force me to eat with my feet

Sunday, October 21, 2007

You Don't Know Me

So, you think you know me. Well, I don't think you really do.

Since I am still painfully anonymous online amidst a plethora of food bloggers, I now tag myself for a meme. (And I'm not even educated enough to know precisely what that is).

Here are 5 things you must know to know me:

1) I am really an Aries even though I was brought up Pisces.
Yes, it's true. My mother even had an "ode to Pisces" framed on her wall alongside my sister's "ode to Libra". Mom is long since gone (rest her weary soul) but those astrological stigmas remain. I recently found out that since I was born in the Eastern Standard Time Zone, where it is always later than most places in the world, and since I was born late in the day on the last day of Pisces, that in fact the sun was in Aries when I decided to emerge from the womb.
I am aware that being born on the cusp imbues one with qualities of the two straddling signs, so my entire life until now has not been a total joke (ha!).
Still, it's been a challenge, dealing with this newly imposed identity. I, an Aries. I think it fits better, actually. Sorry for bringing this upon you all, but all I can think of is that Hitler was an Aries too, though at the tail end, on the other cusp. (If you're not into full disclosure and filterless monologue, then don't read my blog!)

My Chinese is here. More tomorrow.

2) I have always loved the taste of orange Triaminic and Kaopectate.

3) I love the smell of a skunk.

4) Junior Mints were once my favorite candy.

5) My dad once had UB40 in his basement and didn't know who they were.

(but that's not really about me, so...)

5a) I make the best popcorn you've ever had - the old fashioned way.

There's a lot more to me than that, but I am having a mental block right now. I am also somewhat conflicted with where to draw the line regarding personal facts that no one knows on this rather public forum which I have advertised extensively to all who know me.
It might get more real, people, give it time.

There was a beautiful skunk near the car tonight, puttering around. I didn't get a whiff of him time!

Go Sox! (even the homeless around here are jazzed up!)

Fast and close sushi in a downpour

It was a dark and stormy night, and the rain was coming down in sheets. As the heavens spewed forth buckets of cats and dogs upon our humble city, we grew hungry. Only sushi would do - fast and close sushi.

So, in the little rental Corolla we piled (long story, involving a young kid making a left turn from the right lane, that ubiquitously attempted traffic faux pas in these parts) and up Wickenden Street we drove to pick up our fast and close sushi at Sakura.

Sakura is not fancy sushi nor is it my favorite (currently that's in Manhattan - haven't yet made it to Japan), but it is very fast and very close. And when it is very busy (which is most of the time, at least when the "kids" are back in town for college) it is very fresh.

We gorged ourselves on sashimi, nigiri, maki, edamame, and shrimp fried rice in the dry comfort of our living room and were treated to the lovely sound of the best kind of downpour - one that doesn't get you wet.

Which brings me to expound upon something that has always bothered me about this culture (well, one of the many things) and has continued to bother me in ever increasing intensity since I have returned from Italy last June, and that is how hurriedly Americans dine.
I have seen the other side. I have experienced the pace of a Tuscan meal, the naturally relaxed cadence of courses. I have eaten the meat, drunk the wine. And I will never be the same.
Restaurants don't even open until 8 pm over there. Italians seem to trickle in after 9. Courses are brought out in a leisurely fashion; the check is never left for you until you request it. Never does one feel rushed or unwelcome. That is a culture that treats food as an celebration, drawing people together. It felt so natural, to eat this way.

So there are reasons we patronize Sakura. And a very important reason we get it to go.

(I've been quite parenthetical this morning.)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Blueberry pizza crust

So I had a dream last night that I ordered a pizza from Fellini's with all kinds of meat toppings. They said that they were out of their regular crust, but I could choose from crostini (?) crust, cinnamon raisin crust, and blueberry crust. I chose the blueberry and ate the pizza.

Definitely some misfiring in the synapses, my friends. All that Menage a trois I drank had nothing to do with it.
Happy Friday.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

For the Love of a Latte

Almond lattes from the Coffee Exchange on a cloudy Thursday morning = nirvana.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Fillings, Fall, and Soup

Fillings and fall require soup, so after Dr. Dinnerman's trip to the dentist this autumn afternoon I made him some of the variation-on-a-theme-of Italian Wedding variety.

Smells up the whole house, and tastes fantastic.

(Rachael Ray is in the background making her first pot of "choup" ever, which I gather is a cross between a chowder and a soup? Thinner than a chowder, thicker than a soup...she's also informed her viewing audience that "EVOO" is now in the dictionary...why do I do this to myself? I could be typing to the ambient noise of the nightly news)

So, my soup involves sauteeing carrots, garlic, celery and escarole in some shmaltz and olive oil, then adding chicken broth, water, and salt. I made mini meatballs which I broiled. They consist of about a pound of ground beef, some breadcrumbs, an egg, some grated romano cheese, and some parsley. Yum-o. (sorry, couldn't resist)
When the veggies are cooked, add some acini de pepe pasta, cook till al dente, and serve with some grated cheese. Maybe add a salad on the side, and some grilled jalapenos that your friend Kenny gave to you, just because he loves you. (wait, that's just me)

It doesn't hurt to have a little cheese plate too: maybe some St. Marcellin, some almonds, some grapes, some crackers, some vino.


Off now to continue my job search. The market sucks here in RI. Many other things suck here too. It's a very beautiful place in many ways, but it's very corrupt, parochial, provincial and insular. There are the haves and the have nots here. It's a great place if you are from old money and well connected, or on welfare. Proceed at your own risk if you are anyone in between. If you haven't been here, you don't know what you're missing. I mean that in both the best and worst senses.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Drosophila issues

I have a fruit fly problem.

I confess, I do not refrigerate my tomatoes. I am thusly plagued with drosophila melanogaster (from the Greek for black-bellied dew-lover, for all of you word enthusiasts out there).

What do I do, people?

I have googled this, and I have dishes of apple cider vinegar (specially purchased for this latest household challenge, I might add) mixed with Palmolive sitting on my counter. Well, we'll see.
(Look at how those two words, well and we'll, have the same letters, but different meanings because of the apostrophe!! - like It's The Same Old Song, but with a different meaning since you came along...)

Help me fight this pestulance!

I think they are breeding, and I am a clean person, dammit.

What We Ate

Quickie post.
Last night we had wonderful Indian food from Taste Of India on Wickenden Street.
Lamb curry, kadai chicken - no cream, extra hot, garlic naan, papadam, raita, kachumber salad, mulligatawny soup, meat samosas...we do this often on Monday nights! Dr. Dinnerman loves it, and so do I.

Yesterday I made a gravy, which some of you may refer to and think of as a tomato sauce.
I learned years ago that technically speaking (or culinarily speaking, whichever applies as you see it), a gravy is made with meat and a sauce could be made without. Where it pertains to the tomato based dressing for pasta, a gravy is better. It took me years to figure that out, and years to come up with a quotidian gravy method.

Here's how it goes:
I pour olive oil in a big stockpot, then brown some sausage and boneless pork country style spare ribs. Then I turn them over. Then I add garlic - minced or as I did yesterday, whole peeled cloves.
After the meat is sufficiently browned, I add 2 28 oz. cans of Pastene crushed tomatoes plus just about one can of water. This simmers for about an hour and a half.

Then I refrigerate this concoction for at least a day. I used to make this and serve it on the same day, but it tastes so much more developed and rich the day after.

There you go!

This recipe is so easy, and foolproof, and sooo gratifying. Dr. Dinnerman declared tonight's gravy to be the best yet, and believe me, I have made many a gravy for this man.
So, try it. You'll like it.

As a prelude I made naked peppers. Take some hot peppers (such as Italian red long hot peppers, Hungarian hots, or regular jalapenos or poblanos) and stuff them with a mixture of ground chicken or turkey, breadcrumbs, an egg, grated romano cheese, and salt and pepper. Bake at 375 until the filling is cooked and the peppers are tender. Drizzle with good olive oil, and eat. These were inspired by the peppers at Primo Vino in Little Italy in Cleveland, OH. Mine have not yet lived up to Robert Fatica's. But give me time!

Incidentally, last week I tried a gravy variation with only beef meatballs. Not so much.
You really need the browing-of-the-pork component. It adds so much, and makes all the difference...all the difference.

Gravy and radiatore in our bellies, we can now sit down to watch the Red Sox give it all up to the Indians. Such heartbreak. Such is the stuff of this existence.

At least we eat well.

Until next time...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Deep Roots

Having roasted some potatoes tonight, I started thinking about autumn and how it's the perfect time for root vegetables. It got me to thinking about my own roots.

I have always lived and loved food. Born into an Italian-American family, food was front and center from the beginning. I was the first born child to my crazy hippie parents and we lived next door to my 2nd generation Italian grandma and grandpa, who were all too willing to indulge their newest grandaughter (the first one on the same coast) - and what better way than through her stomach?
So, I ate, a lot, and often. Some early memories include grandma teaching me to slather Ritz crackers with soft butter and top the affair with a slice of pepperoni. Of course, there was the ever present box of the pre-packaged donut trilogy on the counter, and I would proceed methodically - first the powdered, then the cinnamon, and only under the most dire pangs of hunger would I devour the plain.
There were pizzas ordered with glorious grease pooling on the surface, grandma's Sunday gravy - started the night before, always with pork ribs, sometimes with meatballs - gracing lasagna, ravioli, or cavatelli. Grated cheese, pepper, heaven on a plate. Sometimes grandpa would order fish and chips on Fridays, sometimes baked schrod (which he pronounced, "shraahd"). If we were lucky, we could witness the rare occasion he would make his famous freezer-to-the-frying pan pork chops, grandma hollering in the background, "Jaaack, goddammit, I just cleaned the stove!"
"Goddamn woman, doesn't leave anyone alone", he'd grumble.

Grandpa had a huge sweet tooth. Never was the freezer without a package of Klondike bars or a tub of Newport Creamery coffee/vanilla ice cream. Never was his room, the den, devoid of a stash of chocolates and nuts on the steps next to his couch.
So many memories, so much to say. Struvoli, ribbon candy, cherry slices, and butter balls at Christmas; egg biscuits, rice and ricotta pies, Easter bread, and cheyone at Easter; fresh tomatoes with red onion and cucumbers from the garden with the tops of the basil in the summer...
Grandma would find wild mushrooms at the roots of oak trees in the fall, and pickle them so we would have them for the holidays. She would pickle the eggplant too, and sometimes even make cucumber pickles. Her pizza was cause for celebration, and if you weren't in close proximity when it came out of the oven, you were out of luck.
In my mind, my life is marked with what was eaten, when.

I had the opportunity to spend time with grandma in 2001, just around the time of September 11th. I had been through a tough breakup, and would routinely visit her (6 years a widow for the second time) in the mornings with coffee and bagels/crullers from that New England staple, Dunkin Donuts. I got a glimpse of her life like never before. I learned details I had never known. How she, at 23, lost her first husband in the second world war to an aviation accident, when she had a 2 year old in the hospital with pneumonia and was pregnant. I learned about how close she had been to her own father, who died in his early fifties. I began to somewhat understand how she had become so fearful in life of losing people. I grilled pizza for her. I grilled salmon, with garlic, which she loved even though she thought she wouldn't. I made soup, and roasted chicken, and braciole. I steamed lobster and summer sweet corn. I took her to the farm to buy eggplant and watched as she pickled it and put it in jars. I drove her to yard sales on Saturdays, and sat behind the wheel of the car as she pilfered wild mushrooms from people's yards.
Then she was diagnosed with lung mets from kidney cancer. She declined rapidly and passed away in early January 2002. I am grateful for the time I had with her, and for the love she gave to me. I am grateful for the love of food that she showed to me all of my life.
I am not a perfect grandchild or person by any stretch of anyone's wildest imagination. I have made many mistakes in my years on this earth. But I am capable of loving, and the best way I do this is through food.

One day several years ago I was talking with my sister and she remarked, "Steph, all you ever talk about is food."

For a long time I was uncomfortable with that. But I am who I am. I challenge anyone to change his or her nature. This is me. Comfortable or not (and I have never been, if you couldn't already tell)

Well, anyway, go Pats!

Ex-Utero and hungry

So, this is the beginning. Having been inspired and entertained by the likes of Orangette, Gluten Free Girl, and The Amateur Gourmet, I have decided to muster an attempt, however feeble it may seem, to find my own voice in food. I've been in utero in the blogosphere for too long. I'm comin' out!

Even the best laid plans run into roadblocks, however, so it should come as no surprise that my poor planning resulted in an inability, for now, to post photographs. Apparently when my hard drive crashed some months back along went the drivers for my digital camera. Efforts to download them have thusfar proven ineffective. Hmm.

Today: The Doctor walked up the street to Cafe Zog and brought back everything bagels surrounding bacon, egg, and provolone cheese, accompanied by vanilla nut lattes. Though their bagels are seriously lacking in the "chew" department, any breakfast that requires no effort from moi is greatly satisfying. Hit the spot.

Tonight: Grilling tuna steaks brushed simply with olive oil, kosher salt, pepper, and lemon juice; jumbo shrimp skewered and seasoned with a cajun blend; big long hot peppers; and jalapenos.
Made a salad of radicchio, chicory, romaine, grape tomatoes, red onion, garlic stuffed green olives, feta, and steamed snap peas soaked in a mixture of red wine vinegar, sugar and salt.
Oh, and roasted red potatoes with whole garlic cloves and more hot peppers.

What can I say? The Doctor is hungry.

Till next time.
Will continue to pursue the facilitation of picture evidence that we do, in fact, eat around here.