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Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

Aside from wallowing in my own postponed Winter blues, I have been spending the last few weeks getting accustomed to my new surroundings here at Casa de Leonard.  The Leonards were more than generous with their space, giving Scott and I not only our own bedroom, but an entire room to use as my office/workshop, and space to practice and record music in the basement.  We’ve both been blessed with a set of in-laws that are incredibly helpful and supportive, and for that I think we both are thankful.  So, after a month in sunny Florida, we arrived in Connecticut during the heart of snow-season.  Cold, dark, wet, nasty snow-season.  Yuck.

On the bright side, this should be our very last Winter (at least for a while) if everything goes to plan over the next year.  In Autumn 2010 we are planning to pull up our anchor once again and hightail it to Austin, Texas.   During our trip to China we were able to sit back and take a nice long look at our lives, a luxury one rarely gets to enjoy.  While we were looking we realized a few things:

  1. We hate Winter.  Every year during the dark cold months, Bobleo and I become fatter and more depressed. We’re done with Winter.
  2. One way or another, Bobleo is determined to make music a bigger part of his life.  So, he started practicing like a maniac, and is currently taking private lessons to take his playing to the next level.  By the time we hit Austin, a major musical hub, Bobleo hopes to be in the best musical shape of his life.
  3. We can’t afford to live in Fairfield County.  Or at least we can’t afford to live here well, or live here well while saving toward our future, or save toward our future without working 2 or more jobs each.  Another thing we realized is that we’ve missed each other, and we’re tired of working 2 or more jobs each.  We’re taking weekends off from now on.
  4. Although Connecticut is filled with friends, family, and personal history, we crave adventure.  Sometimes you can’t see what you’ve been missing until you step outside your life.  When we did, we found out just how happy getting lost, frustrated, and confused can make us.  Sometimes I count the number of exits off of 84 from here to Maine that I have been down.  As the number gets higher and higher, I feel more and more like a goldfish in a bowl.
  5. You can always go back home.  No matter how far you are, your family is your family and your friends are still your friends.  Sure, we’ll miss the people we love, but a handful of miles won’t keep us apart forever.

So, that’s why we are moving to Austin.  We’re just not done shaking our lives up yet.  Plus, Austin is full of everything that we like: music, food, movies, art, and crazy people.  Our choice became doubly lucky when we found out that two of my sisters are planning to head down there too!!  So, we won’t be entirely alone after all.

In addition to making big plans, we’ve been making music, Bobleo and I.  After years of pleading, he finally gave in and sat down to write some songs together.  They are not too shabby either, if I may say so.  The first that we wrote involved several beers, lots of yelling, and intermittent mediation by Bobleo’s father.  But after many hours of head butting, we came up with something pretty good.  The second song, (and a half – we have one that’s nearly done) went much more smoothly.  No yelling or name calling at all.  I figure it’s just another of a million things that we need to learn how to do together, so like fighting or running a household of chores, we’re getting better at it.  At this rate, we may even get an EP recorded without spilling blood.  We also learned a few covers, including: Train Song by Vashti Bunyan, Bad Things by Jace Everett, and Back to Black by Amy Winehouse.  We need to streamline our covers a little and add some more stuff that focuses us a little more, but we’re getting there.  We’re going for an alt. country kind of thing, but right now I think we’re still a little dis-jointed.

Tool of the Trade

On Sunday night we played our very first open mic together.  It was incredibly exciting.  I’m such a dork, but it really thrilled me.  I could hardly wait until we went out again last night.  To Bobleo this is cake, old hat, easy peasy, but for me it’s a leg shaking, nail biting, butterfly gutted lightning-fest.  I think we did OK.  If you’re around on a Sunday or Tuesday night anytime soon your welcome to come on down and see the side-show.  Widow Browns in Danbury on Sundays, starting after 9:30, and O’Connors in Brookfield on Tuesdays at the same time.  We’ll be doing each one religiously to get some practice under our belts as we try and complete an EP’s worth of recorded originals.  I’ll keep you updated on the status of our little project.

And finally, my crafty attention has been to creating this adorable little baby quilt for my favorite CB.  She is so very preggers, and will be delivering an amazing bundle of joy (or as I call her, CB Jr.) sometime next month! My friends, CB and Brian are going to be the funnest, cutest, most lovable parents ever, I just know it, and I can’t wait to meet tiny CB.  Anyway, the QUILT.

CB Jr.'s Baby Quilt

The Quilt was made with a Hello Betty Charm Pack by Moda, and backed with a Pink Plume Fleur de Lis print by Tula, both of which I purchased from Quilt Sandwich on Etsy.  The pre-cut squares made the patchwork a total breeze.  I don’t know if my cheating heart will ever go back to cutting quilt squares by hand.  This was too devilishly easy for me not to repeat.  I hand quilted the blanket with pink embroidery floss, and sewed a pink fuzzy bias tape on as a lining with the same floss.  The binding took FOREVER, but the perfection was well worth the extra time.  This was definitely my best quilt to date.  It had no puckering, no funky diagonal lines, no mis-sized squares or random holes.  All in all, I think it was pretty well made, especially for me.  I hope baby CB will enjoy it.

I’ve also been cooking my head off, but unfortunately I have not been good about blogging my meals since we came back to CT.  I have to find a way to take good photos in the Leonard’s kitchen, which also means stopping to plate before throwing the meal on the table, which also means not shoveling the meal into my face as soon as possible.  I so lack self discipline.  Here’s a peak at what eventually became sausage and pepper calzones earlier this week.

Chicken Sausage and Roasted Peppers Tossed With Fresh Basil

I’m having serious photography frustrations, as you may be able to surmise from the photos in this post.  The walls in my office are sky blue, which makes (I’ll give you one guess, no wait. I won’t) BLUE!!  It also has the best light in the house – which continues to tempt me into taking pictures in here, despite the blue-ness.  But then, I wind up with an irreversible blue tinge to EVERYTHING I photograph.  Must stop.  Must relocate.  What’s the definition of insanity again? Oh yes, doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Right. On that note, I’ll leave you all panting and heaving for the next installment of MaryHelenOrama. G’day mate.

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While I was in China, I learned a bit about Chinese cooking at a place called The Hutong.   It’s a very cool little Arts Center that focuses on culture, art, wellness, and much to my delight, cooking!  My very first class at The Hutong was on Dumpling Making.  Dumplings, as you may or may not know, kick ass.  They are delicious little pockets of joy and can be made in countless varieties, including some very tasty vegetarian/vegan combinations.  I’ve made them since the class, most recently for my sister, Heather’s birthday dinner.  I’m no professional.  In fact, my dumplings tend to look a little wonky.  Sophia, my dumpling teacher, told me that Chinese people call dumplings like mine “ass dumplings” (since they look like doughy little derrieres).  Well, they may look like hineys, but they taste like heaven.  That’s what counts, right?

By the way, these types of dumplings are called Jaozi (pronounced sort of like jow-zuh, but not quite). They are quite a bit like Pot Stickers or Japanese Gyoza.

So, without further ado, here is a crash coarse in dumpling making, ala me, based on what I learned at The Hutong.  I won’t repost their complete recipe, but I can give you a pretty in depth run down.  If you have any questions, please let me know!  I’m happy to help.

Dumpling Ingredients

Fillings
When we arrived, our teacher, Sophia, had laid out a spread of ingredients in small white bowls.  We were encouraged to sniff and taste each ingredient (expect the raw meat, of course) and learned a little about each one, and how it was prepped for inclusion in the dumplings:

Pork: The raw pork was ground, like hamburger meat.  Sophia told us that it is best to find pork that is heavily marbled with fat when making dumplings, as the fat is necessary for a smooth texture.

Eggs: These were scrambled in a hot wok with a little salt and oil, then chopped finely.

Tofu: Sophia used a very firm, but in all other regards, basic white tofu.  It was crumbled, then stir fried in oil to reduce its moisture.

Carrots: The carrots we used were minced in a juicer, but you can also use a food processor, or (heaven help you) a veggie peeler and knife to achieve the same, finely minced texture.

Pepper Oil: Pepper Oil is made by infusing dried flower peppers (red or green depending on personal taste) in oil.  Sophia uses a plain Soybean Oil and Red Flower Peppers and heats them over a low flame in her wok.  You can strain the Flower Peppers out of the oil when it cools, or leave them in it for visual flair.  But don’t let them wind up inside your dumplings. That would not be so nice.

Pepper Flowers

Black Wood Fungus: Also called “Wood Ear Fungus”, these mushrooms are purchased dried and then reconstituted using room temperature salted water.  The dried fungus looks like a black rose, but after it is hydrated it looks more like a squashy pile of seaweed.  Mince it finely after it is hydrated for use in dumplings. On a side note, according to Sophia, these mushrooms are used to cool the body, and cleanse the digestive system in Chinese medicine.  They can supposedly help with gall stones and other various digestive issues, but should be avoided if you are an overly chilly person.

Dark Soy Sauce:
A thick, dark, and intensely flavored soy sauce that is usually used on meats. This is used only with meat dumplings, as the flavor is too strong for veggies.

Glass Noodle:
Sophia had a good time making us guess what these stiff, white noodles were made of.  Our guesses included: rice, radish, and vermicelli, but were all totally wrong.  These special noodles are made from green beans and peas.  They become totally clear when cooked, and have a very unique, elastic-like texture.  They should be boiled for 3-5 minutes, or until they become totally transparent, then drained, but not rinsed.  When they cool enough to handle them, chop them into little, 1/2 centimeter bits.

Ginger: We used fresh, finely diced ginger, but Sophia assured us that you can also use dried ginger or crystallized ginger according to your taste.  An interesting note, the preparation of ginger, as well as the part of the ginger root used, affects is purpose when it comes to Chinese Medicine.

Shitake Mushroom: In China, these little brown mushrooms are readily available both fresh and dried.  According to Sophia, the dried mushrooms have a better flavor for dumplings, so we used the dried kind.  These are hydrated the same way the Black Wood Fungus is – in room temperature salt water.

Scallions (Chinese Leeks):
In China they have these enormous scallions, which they call either chives or scallions in English.  I am not sure, but I think they might be closer to leeks in actuality.  They use them constantly in Chinese cuisine.  For dumplings, they chop them very finely.  You can also use regular old scallions if you prefer.

Mystery Greens:
There is a very dark green leaf that is minced and added very commonly to dumplings in Beijing.  Our teacher, Sophia, called it Dill at first, but after we all smelled it we decided it definitely could not be dill.  She used the word “fennel” next, but I’m still not 100% percent sure it was fennel.  It had a slightly herbaceous, lemony aroma, but has a texture similar to spinach once its cooked. Up until the class I had assumed it was spinach or the dark leafed baby Chinese cabbage that I saw everywhere I went.

The Fillings
To make Veggie Dumpling Filling, you simply mix and match any non-meat fillings you like, then top them off with some Pepper Oil and a little salt.  (Tip: Dark Soy Sauce isn’t very good in veggie dumplings, AND if you are not a vegan, you may want to add a little egg white and whip the mixture up to make it a little more firm.) For meat dumplings, the process is a wee bit more standardized.  First, stir in a few teaspoons of Dark Soy Sauce into the meat, followed by the minced scallions, and some salt.  Crack an egg white into the mix and stir (in only one direction) until the egg whites whip up and get the mixture nice and sticky.  Once the mixture has gotten nice and firm, you can add your Mystery Greens and some Pepper Oil.  Add more Salt and Soy Sauce to taste, and maybe a little ginger if the mood strikes you.

The Dough
The dough is very basic, just flour and water, kneaded into a soft, but not sticky ball.  After you finish kneading the dough, set it aside covered with a bowl or in a lidded dish for about 10 minutes.  You can enhance the nutritional value of the dough (as well as the appearance) by using vegetable juice in place of water.  We used carrot juice and spinach juice, but there are countless other juices that could be used as well.  Beet juice, for instance, would create lovely purple dumplings.

Dumpling Dough in Three Colors

Once the dumpling dough is ready, it is rolled into a tube that measures a little less than an inch in diameter.  The tube is then chopped into 1 inch nuggets and dusted with dry flour.  We rounded the nuggets, then flattened them into discs using the palms of our hands.  You could probably use a cup or a mallet to get more perfect discs, but I’m not sure that’s really necessary.  The tricky part comes next.  You’ll need to flour your work surface, and get yourself a very small rolling pin.  Pinch one edge of your disc, then roll firmly into the center on three sides, (rotating each time).  Continue to roll the pin in very deep on each turn until you get your disc to be about 3 inches or so wide.  The goal is to make the inside of the disc thicker than the outside, so that the bit that holds the filling is strong, and the excess dumpling isn’t too chewy.  This took some practice, and for later inspiration, I took a short video of Sophia rolling her dough like an expert.

Stuffing and Folding
Another slightly tricky part, filling and folding the dumplings is a delicate art.  To a perfectionist, this activity could be maddening, but if you simply want to get that sucker closed, it’s not so hard.  Lay the wrapper flat in your palm, then use your other hand to scoop the filling into the middle. Not too much, not too little.  Pinch the middle of the wrapper closed first, then carefully pinch one of the edges together, and fold the remaining opening in the same direction that you folded the edge.  Repeat on the other side, and viola! Your little joazi is ready to go.

Cooking the Jaozi
After we had a platter full of dumplings which ranged in beauty from flawless to lumpy and weird (“Sexy Ass Dumplings” as Sophia says) we boiled ourselves a wok fill of water and dumped those suckers in!  This part excited me, can you tell?  I love boiling things in woks.  The steam!  The danger!  It’s really pretty thrilling.  Anyway, we boiled them until, and I quote, “they sink to the bottom, then rise to the top, then sink to the bottom again, then rise again, then sink and rise once more.”  Another clue to tell that they had finished cooking was to look at their shape.  Dumplings puff up while they cook, and when they’ve finished they shrink up like saran wrap.  You can also poke at the meat ones a bit to see how firm they are.

Cooking Dumplings

We also pan fried some, which were really really delicious.  To pan fry the dumplings, you heat oil in a wok, then place the raw dumplings in the pan, standing on their little dumpling bottoms.  Let them cook for a bit, until they become golden down below, then add a generous portion of water, and cover then pan.  You’ll know their finished based on the aforementioned saran wrap and poke tests, but you cannot, unfortunately rely on the sink and rise test this time.

Dipping
Jaozi are meant to be dipped!  They are most commonly, if not always, served with malt vinegar.  Most folks toss some hot chili pepper and sesame oil into the mix. (Myself included) And some people even like to add a little plain soy sauce to the equation.  Any way you dip them though, they should be pretty ding dang tasty.

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This was what I learned to cook during my second Chinese Cooking Class.  It incorporates ginger, garlic, and peppers, three elements that my teacher told me were necessary ingredients for almost all Chinese home cooking.  This dish is a basic stir fry that combines sliced pork in a simple marinade with fragrant wild pepper oil, savory wood ear mushrooms, dried lilies, and the cool crunch of fresh cucumber.  Served with rice or a cold salad, this makes an excellent main course.  Like many Chinese dishes  I have learned to make, this one takes a good deal of preparation, but with careful scheduling and about 30 minutes of prep the night before, you can pull off the main bulk of cooking in less than an hour.

Garlic, Ginger, and X'ian Peppers

Flower Pepper Oil

  • 2 cups Vegetable Oil
  • 2 tablespoons Flower Peppers

Stir Fry

  • 8 oz. to 1 lb. Lean Pork
  • 1 tablespoon Dark Soy Sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon Malt Vinegar
  • 1 Egg White
  • 1 cup Dried Wood Ear Mushrooms
  • 1 cup Dried Day Lily Buds
  • 1 Cucumber
  • 1 cup Flower Pepper Oil
  • 2-3 Eggs
  • 4 cloves Garlic
  • Fresh Ginger to taste
  • 2 – 5 Dried Hot Peppers, seeded and chopped into thirds (optional)

Goji Sesame Rice

  • 2 cups Steamed/Boiled Rice
  • 1 teaspoon Goji Berries
  • 1 teaspoon Raisins
  • 1 teaspoon Black Sesame Seeds

Phase One: Flower Pepper Oil and Rehydrating the Dried Ingredients

Flower Pepper Oil is a key ingredient in many Chinese dishes.  By infusing the spicy aroma and flavor of Flower Peppers into a simple base oil, such as Canola, Peanut, or Soybean, you can kick your stir fry dishes up a notch.  Pour at least 2 cups of oil into a wok, or deep skillet, followed by 2 tablespoons of dried Sichuan Flower Peppers.  Warm the oil over medium heat for 15 – 20 minutes, or until the pepper browns completely.  This process will fill your kitchen with the sweetly spicy aroma of Flower Peppers. Yum yum yum.  Remove the pan from heat and allow it to cool completely.  Once it is ready, strain the oil through a cheese cloth or fine mesh strainer to remove the Flower Peppers.  Keep the oil in a sealed bottle or container until it is used.

Infusing the Flower Pepper Oil

Wood Ear Mushrooms are also known as Brown Wood Fungus, Judas Ear Fungus, and Jelly Ear Fungus.  In your Asian grocery they may be called  木耳 mù ěr or 黑木耳 hēi mù ěr in Chinese or キクラゲ kikurage in Japanese. It is one of about a zillion edible mushrooms so be cafreful when you try to pick it out.  It looks like this.

Wood Ear Fungus and Dried Lilies

The yellow things on the right are Chinese Day Lily Buds.  They are called 金针菜 jīn​zhēn​cài​ in Chinese and are available at most Asian groceries.  If you have trouble finding them, take a simple approach and just ask for “dried lilies”.   Both the Wood Ear Mushrooms and the Lilies will need to be re-hydrated before they can be used.  This will take at least 30 minutes, so it’s not a bad idea to get this over with the night before if you know you’ll be short on time the next day.  Pop about 1 cup of each into bowls of cold, salted water and let them sit for 30 – 90 minutes.  Any less and they’ll remain dried out.  Any longer and they can begin to wilt.  When they have had enough to drink, drain them and set them aside, covered and refrigerated if you’re cooking them the next day.

Wood Ear Mushrooms and Day Lily Buds Re-hydrating in Salt Water

Phase Two: Prep Work

The first thing you’ll need to do is to slice and marinade the pork.  Start with a lean pork medallion and a very sharp knife.  Slice the pork as thinly as you can, and then chop the slices into bite sized pieces.  You can use between 8 ounces and 1 lb. for this recipe depending on the size of your crowd and your fondness for meat.  When the pork has been all cut up, toss it into a bowl followed by 1 tablespoon of Dark Soy Sauce, 1 tablespoon of Malt Vinegar, and 1 tablespoon Flower Pepper Oil.  This special soy sauce can be found at the Asian Grocery, but if you’d rather not add another odd bottle to your collection of household sauces, go ahead and use regular soy sauce.  It won’t affect the flavor all that much.  Add a little salt, an egg white, and a teaspoon of cornstarch.  Mix the marinade and pork well to make sure it is totally coated, then set it aside.

Large Slices of Ginger

Now comes the chopping.  In this dish, garlic and ginger play a major role.  You can go by your own taste on how much to add.  For me, I don’t hold back. I chop up about 4 – 6 cloves of garlic, and about 1/2 thumbs worth of fresh ginger when I cook this dish.  Peel the garlic and chop it into coarse, vertical pieces.  Shave the ginger, then slice it into large chunks.  These large cut chunks will add flavor, but are not meant to be bitten into during every bite of the meal.  As an added bonus, for those who don’t enjoy chomping into straight garlic or ginger, these large slices are easy to avoid.

Chunks of Garlic

Next, you’ll need to prep your re-hydrated ingredients.  Make sure your Mushrooms are totally drained, then carefully pull each one apart with your fingers, creating bite sized pieces from the giant individual mushrooms.  To prep the Lilies, pick them from the pile one at a time, and feel each end of the stalk.  If you feel a very hard nub at either end, chop it off and discard it.  You can leave the remainder of the lily whole, chop it in half, or even tie it in a knot if you want to get fancy.

Wood Mushrooms and Lily Buds Ready for Action

The cucumbers are next.  Get yourself a good sized English Cucumber, nice and long, but not too skinny.  Chop that sucker into 3 inch sections, discarding the round nubs on either side. Like so.

Chopping the Cucumber, Step One

Now, tip each section onto its flat side and cut it into 1/8 inch slices. Like this, and set them aside for later.

Chopping Cucumbers, Step Two

At some point it would be a great idea to throw on a pot of rice.  Long grain, basmati, whatever your pleasure, it’s best to have it steamed up, hot and ready when the dish is completed.  So get on it before you get cooking.  If you want to make your rice extra nutritious and delicious, not to mention extra interesting, toss in the following ingredients once the rice is finished cooking: 1 tablespoon Goji Berries, 1 tablespoon Raisins, and 1 Tablespoon Black Sesame Seeds.  Don’t these things look scrumptious together?  You know they do.

Goji Berries, Raisins, and Sesame Seeds, a Delightful Treat for Your Boring Rice.

What’s a Goji Berry you ask?  Sheesh.  If you must know, Goji Berries are small, red berries found throughout China, the Himalayas, and Tibet.  They grown on teeny little evergreen shrubs, and contain a boatload of goodies, such as antioxidants, beta-carotene, and the lesser known but very good for you cartenoid, zeaxanthin.  They are dried, and kind of look like pointy red raisins.  BTW, they are delicious in ramen.

Phase Three: Cooking!!

So you are finally ready to rock the wok.  Get the largest, most wok-like pan at your disposal and fill it with at least 1/2 cup of Flower Pepper Oil.  Heat that bad boy up over medium to high heat while you whisk together 2 – 3 eggs (depends on the size of your eggs, your appetite, and the amount of meat you’re using).  When the oil is hot, whisk the eggs like crazy to bubble them up, then drop them on in and watch the magic.  As a Westerner, the idea of deep frying scrambled eggs probably sounds completely crazy, but you’ll soon see the merit in this method.  Soon after your eggs hit the oil they will bloom into puffy delicious clouds.  Use a slotted spoon, or better yet, one of those round spatulas full of holes to nab the eggs out of the oil.  Once you’ve got them, drain them on a plate with a little paper towel and set them aside.

Now it’s time for the meat.  Are you ready?  Take a look at your wok first to assess the state of your oil.  It must be piping hot and plentiful.  Cooking the eggs may have reduced your supply, so go ahead and add some more if you think that your wok has less than 1/2 cup left.  Don’t be shy with the oil, you are cooking Chinese!  Trust me, no matter how much you add, they are adding more in China.  You really can’t overdo it.  Just make sure it is HOT.  Depending on your stove, you may need to set it on high.

Once you are ready, drop your marinated pork into the wok.  Right after adding the pork, take advantage of the slightly cooled oil by adding your chopped garlic, ginger, and hot peppers.  Continue tossing the pork until it has cooked.  Now, add 2 tablespoons of Chinese Cooking Wine followed by the Mushrooms and Lilies.  Cook these for a couple of minutes, stirring and tossing all the time.  Next, add the Scrambled Egg.  As you continue to stir, try to deliberately break up the egg.  Finally, add the chopped cucumber and continue to stir-fry just until the last ingredient has become hot.  Remove the mixture from the heat and serve it immediately along with your delicious, Goji Berry enhanced Rice.

Goji Sesame Rice

Sliced Pork & Wood Ear Mushrooms

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Meat: The Final Frontier

Bobleo recently remarked that my cooking skills have really risen to a new level since we returned home from China.  I couldn’t help but agree.  The flavors that I am now whipping out are far more impressive, and each meal that I’ve attempted so far has been not only successful, but memorably delicious.  So what has been missing from my culinary projects so far?  Was it patience?  Knowledge?  Technique?  Perhaps it was Asian influences?  Though I’m sure these things play a role in my growth as a cook, there has definitely been a far more influential puzzle piece missing for some time.  Before I reveal the identity of this mysterious component, let me first apologize to all of the sweet fuzzy creatures out there.  The thing that has been missing is MEAT.

You see, I spent the majority of my youth as a vegetarian.  My meat loving father jumped on the vegetarian train when I was about seven years old, much to the chagrin of my Mother, the proud owner of an entire freezer full of frozen steaks.  The experiment in vegetarianism was a long, difficult journey.  During the eight years my parents and sisters and I dedicated to vegetarianism we suffered through many a horrible dish.  My father would cook up insane concoctions nearly every time he returned from a business trip to the West Coast.  Inspired by the mysteriously delicious an inexpilicably meat free dishes he had encountered there, he would create strange and often disasterous meals.  My mother, more or less at a loss without her carniverous knowledge to work with, often served up steaming piles of mushy veggies and beans over pasta.  Though we must have been served hundreds of different combinations of this meal over the years, my sisters and I simply referred to the concept as “Vegetable Mush”.

These years had lead me to believe that my parents weren’t very good cooks.  A very strange thing, since they both come from food families, are adventurous eaters, and are probably the most genuine “foodies” you could meet.  They know how to eat, that is for sure.  It was always a mystery to me that they didn’t seem to be phenomenal cooks.  To be fair they each had a few dishes that could really knock your socks off.  For instance, give my Mom a piece of salmon and she can blow your mind.  Show up at my parent’s house on a Sunday morning and my father will stuff you with perfect Belgian waffles, and enough crispy bacon to feed an army.  They can cook, don’t get me wrong, but looking back at my childhood, the food wasn’t always so hot.

The missing heart of my parents cooking turns out to be that same element that I have just begun to dabble in: MEAT.  Bobleo and I have spent the last few weeks at my folks’ place in Florida, and over the time we’ve spent here we have been utterly stuffed with one delicious meal after another.  My parents have long since abandoned vegetarianism, and now that I have jumped off the boat they have been free to cook what they like best.  Oh lord, how long has this been going on?  What have I been missing?  Rump Roast, capped in fat and onions, roasted in a bed of garlic, Short Ribs braised in red wine and herbs, prosciutto, bacon, bacon, bacon!!!  I’m in love, and I don’t think you can turn that sort of thing off.

So, I begin my meat-ducation here in Florida as I watch my Mom expertly prepare various cuts of various animals in her kitchen every evening.  Dinner is an event at my parents’ house.  I thought that it was just a weekend thing, but oh no.  My Mom spends anywhere from 1 – 4 hours every day cooking, depending on the complexity of the meal.  They both hit the wholesale club on the weekend, scheming what to eat for the next week or two, and purchasing meat.  Every day my Mom hits the local market to pick up fresh veggies and herbs to go along with the evening’s meal.  It’s not the chaotic race to dinnertime that I remember as a kid.  Now, my parents cook for the love of it, a beautiful thing, and something I hope to pick up on over our time here.  I really have very little knowledge of meat.  It is a strange new world for me, but for the love of cooking, I plan to go boldly where I have never gone before.

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