Saturday, April 26, 2008

Back in business

The repair-guy came in a fixed a major water leak in the replacement refrigerator which, he said, should do the trick. But the next day it was still at 50 degrees so I complained again and, sick of my whining, the handyman (who outsources his appliance repair so it's not the same guy) came by and gave me an actually new refrigerator. Yay!

In retrospect, the replacement refrigerator was technically working correctly. The compressor was pumping out cold air, but with an underpowered fan dribbling it in and a leaky door seal letting it right back out again it may have just been approaching a new equilibrium in the safe temperature zone very slowly. Or maybe not. I can't say I care much at this point and I'm sure they can find a tenant who'll use it mainly to store vodka and mixers who won't mind if it's a little warm.

I've been off restocking and slowly getting back into the cooking mode. Now that I don't have a regular audience of people trying to figure out what to do with their CSA share I have to raise the bar on how interesting a dish has to be to be post-worthy. After this post, anyway; this post is mainly human interest.

I decided to try using the multi-grain blend I had such trouble with a while back. Since then I learned that adding salt to whole grains makes them take forever to cook and I figured that must have been my problem. It still didn't come out right this time around, but it did come closer. The baby garbanzos were less undercooked and the Israeli couscous less overcooked at the ten minute mark. Unfortunately, not salting meant that the pasta--the couscous and the orzo--tasted pretty crummy. If any of you have forgotten to salt your pasta water you know that salting afterwards doesn't entirely fix the problem. Plus I didn't get to toast the couscous which is an important step in building flavors. I stirred in shrimp, prosciutto and a bit of onion sautéed in olive oil and seasoned with smoked paprika and thyme and I ended up with an OK dish, but it could have been a lot better. I'm done with ill-conceived grain blends.

Another not quite note-worthy dish I made this week is beer battered chicken gizzards, squash, eggplant and mushrooms. The main goal here was to use some of the surviving CSA vegetables before they finally started rotting. Looking around at the various beer batter recipes I settled on this interesting one that calls for separating an egg and folding a meringue into the batter. One egg white is too little to beat in the mixer so I had to do it by hand. I think I managed a pretty good job considering and the batter ended up nicely light and fluffy. Briefly. The first batch turned out beautifully, but the process of coating the chicken and vegetables burst the bubbles pretty quick. I'll use a recipe with baking powder next time. The batter is yellowish because I used the Gullah-style seasoning mix I picked up in South Carolina a while back. I was going to recommend taht you mail order it from the Gullah Cuisine website and I think you should because it's just what southern fried chicken is supposed to taste like, but you can't. Sorry. I had a few different dips planned but I didn't make any because I didn't want to mask the flavor.

And I made another loaf of no-knead bread and once again I screwed it up. I keep forgetting to adjust for the humid Miami weather and make it too wet to support its weight when it rises. It's tasty (as I add whole wheat and rye flour) but it's dense and too flat to make a sandwich with. It's still good for croûtons and at least I've figured out the problem. Next time I'll do better.

I also made an ice cream, but that deserves its own post so more on that later.

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