Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Rancatore's Cinnamon Cherry Chip

It was a perfect night to stop for ice cream at Rancatore's. I tried a new flavor, cinnamon cherry chip. It had plenty of large, dark (I'm guessing Moreno) cherry halves, huge chocolate chunks, and a nice balance of cinnamon. As always, the base was creamy and fresh. Yum.

Mum's Very Easy Calzones

My mother-in-law (let's call her Mum) had us over for dinner tonight. She and my brother-in-law (let's call him George) are on a homemade calzone kick. These really were amazing. She made us three: a ham, cheese and pepper calzone, a pepperoni, cheese and spinach calzone, and one she kept calling "the vegetable one." I tried some of each, and was not so excited about "the vegetable one," but was surprised to find it had meatballs, pepperoni, peppers and mushrooms. It really was a cheese-less calzone for a fellow diner who couldn't eat cheese. Why it became "the vegetable one" is still unclear to me.

Here's how Mum made them:
  1. Get fresh pizza dough from the grocery store.
  2. Grease a cookie sheet with Crisco.
  3. Roll out the pizza dough to cover the whole cookie sheet plus a little extra on one side to grab on to.
  4. Spread a layer of various fillings across the dough.
  5. Roll up the dough on the long side like a jelly roll.
  6. Cook at 350 for 45 minutes.
The filling can be anything you like. Mum recommended that you cook the meatballs in advance, and that you cook any ingredients that might juice as they cook, like the mushrooms or spinach.

Mum and George are on a quest for the perfect calzone. When they find it, I hope to report back.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Chocolate Cola Cake

We stopped at a Cracker Barrel on our trip home from New York. Cracker Barrel is always a fun stop, but we didn't have room for the chocolate cola cake on the menu that intrigued us. Gail found a recipe on that she baked for me tonight. The cake was fluffy and light with a subtle cola flavor. The frosting was a good glaze of moist chocolate.

Even though the picture shows cupcakes, we think they would be better in a pan. The cupcakes were just too messy with the glaze. The recipe below is for a 9x13 cake.

We think there is a delicious variant to try by substituting rum for the vanilla in the cake or the glaze.

Chocolate Cola Cake

1 c cola
½ c oil
½ c butter
3 T cocoa powder
2 c sugar
2 c flour
½ t salt
2 eggs
½ c buttermilk
1 t baking soda
1 t vanilla

¼ lb butter
3 T cocoa powder
6 T cream or milk
1 t vanilla
½ c chopped pecans
1 lb powdered sugar

Sheet cake pan or 9x13” Pyrex pan
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour cake pan.
  2. In large saucepan, bring cola, oil, butter and cocoa to boil. Mix sugar, flour and salt; pour in boiling liquid; beat to remove all lumps.
  3. Add eggs, buttermilk, soda and vanilla; beat well.
  4. Pour into pan; bake 20-25 min.
  5. While cake bakes, prepare frosting: In saucepan, combine butter, cocoa and cream; heat until butter melts. Beat in remaining ingredients, and spread on hot cake. Cool and cut.

Polish Pierogies and Beer

I seldom mention semi-homemade meals, but this is an exception. Gail got Poppy's potato and cheddar cheese pierogies at the supermarket. We topped them with some jarred mushroom and onion sauce and some sauteed garden vegetables: corn, tomatoes, beans and eggplant. The potatoes in the perogies were rich with butter and cheese flavors, but didn't have a salty, processed flavor. The whole meal was simple and delicious.

I enjoyed our Olympics beer pairings, so I got some new international beers. Tonight I poured a Polish Żywiec beer. I enjoyed it, but found it hard to get my American taste buds around. It is ostensibly a pilsner, and I can't find any features to say it isn't. But it was a little more bitter and a little less malty than the pilsners I'm used to. It was a good beer, but still confuses my taste.

Chocolate Covered Belgian Waffle

I was in Belgium briefly about a month ago. I wanted a quick bite before I got on the plane to come home. I almost got a doughnut, but glanced over and saw a chocolate covered Belgian waffle. Belgium is famous for three foods: Belgian waffles, Belgian chocolate and Belgian beer. I don't think there was beer in my waffle.

I should have taken the picture before I took a bite. Oh well, but what a bite. It wasn't the best waffle, nor the best chocolate, but it was the best airport food I've ever had. The waffle had crystallized bits mixed in of something like a mix of flour, sugar and butter. The chocolate was almost crisp like hard shell, but not brittle. It stuck to the waffle making it easy to eat.

This is a new guilty pleasure.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Grilled Shrimp with Friends

Earlier this week we had friends over for dinner. I would generally highlight the main dish (I grilled some shrimp), but the main dish was not the star of this meal. Don't get me wrong; the grilled shrimp came out beautifully.

Gail got some large shrimp that were pre-brined. You could brine them yourself for about a half hour in 1/2 cup of kosher salt to 4 cups water. You could boil the brine to get all the salt to dissolve, but then you'd have to wait for the brine to cool before adding the shrimp, and you'd be over-thinking it. You can see in the picture how I skewer the shrimp. That makes them easier to work with on the grill. I cooked them directly over hot coals. (Please use a chimney to light the coals and not lighter fluid. The shrimp won't stand up to the lighter fluid.) Don't over-cook the shrimp. Five minutes a side might be too much, but keep an eye on them.

There, I've gone and highlighted the shrimp. But like I said, that wasn't the star.

The star of the meal was Gail's garden vegetables. Look how beautiful they are. Gail dug fresh potatoes in the morning, and served them simply boiled with sour cream and chives on the side. The potato flavors shined. They were buttery and delicious all on their own.

I've become a huge fan of this particular garden saute. It includes beans, corn and tomatoes in a little olive oil. The beans are crisp and delicious and flavored by the sweetness of the corn and the sweet acidity of the tomatoes.

The salad was almost a garden salad, but we had to buy the greens. Who can figure why tomatoes and lettuce are the salad standards. Tomatoes are a hot season crop. Greens are a cool season crop. There is no time where they can be harvested together. But the tomatoes and cucumbers were harvested together, and were the super-fresh focus of the salad.

I love Gail's garden.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Pies 'n' Thighs in Brooklyn

After dropping off Noele, we went out to dinner with Anna to Pies 'n' Thighs in Brooklyn. What a vibe: Formica tables, red gingham, and chalkboard menus. The food was straight from a '50s diner, and we all had fried chicken, although Anna had hers on a sandwich with bacon. Yes, I do highlight the bacon. The chicken was delicious but otherwise simply fried chicken. For dessert, we shared a slice of their "bluebarb" pie. I don't think I need to explain that. That was a delicious piece of pie. If we go again, I'll still have the fried chicken, but I'll eat less of it and save more room for pie.

Eclectic Asian at Brooklyn's Talde

This weekend we spent some time in New York helping Noele get to her semester abroad in Prague. Yes, that was tough, but we are excited for her. On one of the nights, we took Noele, our older daughter Anna and her housemate to dinner in Brooklyn at Talde. Anna picked it using our tried and true method of searching restaurants by rating and picking the one we haven't been to.

Talde was a delight. While we waited at the bar for our table, we had an odd round of drinks that the bartender helped each of us pick: a seltzer with a splash of cranberry, a Sorachi Ace from Brooklyn Brewery, a lychee martini, an Alsatian wine, and the showpiece, a watermelon margarita decorated with a watermelon slice dipped in black lava salt. This should have been a hint of the meal to come.

Dinner was an equally odd pan-Asian mix with American twists. For example, we had a pad thai dish that included crispy oysters and bacon. Yes, bacon. And our Singapore noodles included corn and lobster. The food was both interesting and delicious. We would highly recommend Talde.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Olympics Day 17 (and final): British Fish and Chips

Tonight is the closing ceremonies of a great Olympic games. Congratulations London, you did a good job hosting. And congratulations to NBC for excellent coverage. But most importantly, congratulations to Gail for an amazing Olympics feast.

We started off the final day of feasting with a Japanese sushi lunch with Noele before sending her back to New York. We got takeout from Daikanyama in Lexington. They made some terrific rolls, which we augmented with edamame from Gail's garden and semi-homemade miso soup using Marukome miso paste.

A little later in the day I had most of a Sapporo Reserve beer from Japan. The rest I sacrificed to the batter for the fish we had for dinner. The beer had a golden straw color and a nice rich mouth feel. It had a light malty sweetness that finished clean. It tasted remarkably similar to the Murphy's stout I had with dinner, but without the chocolate malt flavors.

For dinner, Gail and I made fish and chips figuring that Great Britain deserved a second spot in the lineup for their performance. I think we've got the fish recipe tuned just right in the batter flavors, temperature and cooking time. I've added the recipe at the end.

The Murphy's stout from Ireland has a creamy head and terrific flavor. It was almost like drinking dessert.

British Fish and Chips
About 2/3 - 3/4 c vegetable oil for frying

For the chips (per 2 servings):
1 Idaho or russet baking potato
¼ t salt

For the fish (per 6 servings):
2 c flour, divided
12 oz fresh cold beer
1 t salt, divided
¼ t freshly ground black pepper

First make the chips:
  1. Peel, rinse, dry potato.
  2. Fill frying pan with oil, between ½ and ¾ full. Heat oil to 325 F (about med setting on our stove).
  3. While oil is heating, cut potato into ¼” sticks; dry thoroughly with clean paper towel.
  4. Fry, about 1 c at a time, until lightly colored but not brown, 4-5 min. Remove to plate lined with paper towels.
  5. Repeat with remaining potatoes; sprinkle with salt; serve immediately.1 ½ lb haddock or cod fillets, skinned and boned
  6. Keep warm in the oven
Then make the fish:
  1. Adjust oil temperature to 375 F (about med-high setting on our stove). Meanwhile remove skin and bones from fish, if necessary, and cut into 1” strips. Sift ¾ of flour into bowl; gently whisk in beer until combined. Stir in ¼ of salt.
  2. Pat fish dry; sprinkle with pepper and remaining salt; dredge in remaining flour. Coat fish pieces in batter; fry 4 pieces at a time, turning frequently, until deep golden and cooked through, 4-5 min.
  3. Transfer cooked fish to paper-towel-lined baking sheet, keep warm in oven while frying remaining fish.
  4. Return oil to 375F between batches; repeat for remaining pieces of fish.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Olympics Day 15: French Quiche

It's been a few days without an Olympics feast post, but we're back. Noele is home for the weekend, so Gail wanted to make an international, vegetarian dish. Quiche fit the bill. In addition, we had a feast from Gail's garden including a sauteed vegetable medley and a green salad. We also had sauteed kale from the CSA vegetables our neighbors brought over. As if that wasn't enough, Gail made a berry pie for dessert and I contributed by making her a cappuccino. What's the vegetarian equivalent to the fatted calf?

The quiche had garlic from the garden and sauteed leeks. It came out light, creamy and set up well. It was a good centerpiece to our French feast. I added Gail's recipe to the end of the post.

The side dishes were the real stars though. The kale had intensely full flavors like collard greens. It had a smoky flavor almost like it was cooked in bacon. The other three dishes were straight from Gail's garden. Everything in the salad except the greens was fresh picked including radishes, tomatoes, and a lemon cucumber. The lemon cucumber was small and round like a lemon, with very mild cucumber flavor. The vegetable mix was delightfully sweet from our first ear of corn. It also included eggplant, tomatoes, green beans and summer squash. The new potatoes were simply boiled and had an amazingly bright taste: a star among stars.

The berry pie had strawberries and the biggest blueberries we could imagine. They literally popped in our mouths as we chewed them. A scoop of vanilla ice cream rounded out this definitive summer dessert.

I had a Les Sans Culottes from Brasserie La Choulette. It had a grand sweet flavor, combining malt and hops. It was also slightly over bitter, and those great sweet flavors lingered a bit too long. Despite that, a pretty good beer.


1 prepared pie crust
2 oz Cheddar cheese (1/2 c shredded)
4 eggs
1 c whole milk (sour milk is fine; lower-fat milks will not set as well)
2 T diced onions
¼ t salt
½ t thyme
  1. Line pie pan with crust; preheat oven to 350 F; shred cheese.
  2. Beat eggs; combine with milk, onion, salt and thyme; set aside.
  3. Place pie pan on baking sheet. Layer shredded cheese into crust.
  4. Pour egg mixture over cheese; bake 40 to 50 min, until set.
  5. Cool at least 10 min before cutting. Serve warm or cold.
  • Use half-and-half, light cream, or heavy cream in place of milk for richer, firmer custard.
  • Use 1/8 t cayenne pepper in place of thyme.
  • Substitute Monterey Jack or Swiss cheese for Cheddar.
  • Add 2 c broccoli or 1 ½ lb spinach (trimmed, chopped, steamed, drained and cooled enough to not curdle eggs) to pie pan before adding cheese; pour egg mixture over.
  • Add ½ lb cooked crumbled bacon or ¾ c chopped ham.
  • Top cooked quiche with layer of sliced tomatoes; broil 1 min.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Olympics Day 12: Indian Baingan Bharta Tasting

Two of the things I love about my wife are that she makes us these wonderful international dinners during the Olympics, and she sets up taste tests of various foods. Tonight Gail got a serving of Baingan Bharta from three different Indian restaurants in town. You can see in the picture what came in the bags from Royal India Bistro, Khushboo and Bollywood Cafe. Let me state up front that Royal India Bistro is our family favorite. The owners are delightful and friendly. It's possible that the papadum was in the bag because they know us.

Lets start with the rice, which had more variety than I would have expected. Each used long-grain basmati rice cooked to the right level. But each had different levels of fennel seed spiciness. Royal India's rice was free of fennel seeds. It was just the plain rice with a slight buttery flavor. Khushboo had the fennel seeds mixed throughout, which I found a little strong. Bollywood's rice was (as they say) just right. It had a sprinkle of fennel seeds on the top with a light fennel seed flavor overall.

Baingan bharta is eggplant sauteed with tomatoes, peas and a whole lot of spices. We were split on which we liked best. I favored Royal India's, while Gail preferred Khushboo's. Both of us found the dish from Bollywood to be the most bland of the three, which isn't to say it wasn't good. It was just the least flavorful.
The dish from Royal India Bistro had the fewest peas, and a stronger tomato flavor. Gail found it strongly salty, and I didn't notice that. Both of us agreed that Khushboo's baingan bharta had the most intense flavors.  I found them reminiscent of a strong Indian pickled vegetable mix that I like, so I'm surprised I didn't prefer this intensity.

It's hard to declare a clear winner on flavor alone. All three were delicious, and we would have enjoyed eating any one of them. We still like Royal India Bistro best for the friendliness of the owners and many dishes we find distinctively better than we've had anywhere else.

I poured a bottle of Flying Horse Royal Lager Beer from India to go with our tasting. The beer had a slight malty sweetness and good bitterness. It also had a full flavor beyond what it's light-yellow color would suggest. But overall, it was not special, and the weak bubble structure gave it an odd feel in my mouth.
For dessert, Gail made a German apple cake. It came out with a perfect texture mix of crispy edges, silky insides, and gooey apple chunks. I thought it had a perfect level of sweetness that didn't mask the tartness of the apples. The cake in the picture is 1/3 of the recipe. It might make a good breakfast.

German Apple Cake
Makes: 13x9” cake

2 c flour
2 t cinnamon
¼ t salt
2 c sugar
1 t baking soda
1 c oil
1 t vanilla
3 eggs
4 c chopped apples (not big slices as in pie)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Mix dry ingredients, set aside.
  3. Measure oil in liquid measuring cup big enough to hold all liquid ingredients. Stir in eggs.
  4. Mix liquid mixture into dry; stir in chopped apples; spread into 13x9” pan.
  5. Bake 40-55 min.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Olympics Day 11: Moussaka and Greek Green Beans

I like the Olympics most for the sports I seldom see. I just finished watching the gold medal race of the men's track cycling sprint. Jason Kenny, the cyclist from Great Britain took the gold against Gregory Bauge from France. While it was called a sprint, the first half of the race was just the opposite. Kenny got out in the lead, and literally crawled while watching for Bauge to make a move. In the last lap, both men bolted for the finish. I have no idea why they chose that particular moment to start sprinting.

We almost forgot to celebrate Greece for the Olympics. That would have been an error. But I am glad Gail thought of it. She made moussaka with ground beef and Greek green beans for dinner. I say she made them, but I think she more accurately chanted over them. I put the recipe at the end of this article. The first slice of moussaka came out of the dish clean. This seems to be in part because she created a pan lining from the skin of the eggplant.

The flavor profile comes from the combination of cinnamon, pepper, clove and cumin. And there is a sweetness that comes from the vermouth and eggplant. Gail made the dish extra special by using potatoes she dug from her garden yesterday. She made a double batch, which used the one eggplant we had and another we got from our neighbors, Alan and Janice. Janice brought over the parts of their CSA share from Wilson Farm that they couldn't use. Thank you Alan and Janice.

Janice included some green beans, which Gail used to make a Greek green bean recipe she adapted from Once again, the dish was extra special because it included tomatoes from her garden. The sweet-salt flavors worked well with the moussaka. I've also included this recipe at the end. Gail simmered the beans for only 20 minutes this time, which was plenty by my taste.

I never did get a Greek beer to go with this, so instead I poured Young's Double Chocolate Stout from England. It seems fitting to match Greece with Great Britain for these Olympics. We initially picked this beer because Gail noticed chocolate in the name and was interested. The word "chocolate" in stouts usually refers to the chocolate (or darkly roasted) malt. Young's brewery actually adds some real dark chocolate, hence the "double chocolate" name. You can taste a strong, malty sweetness with flavors of both chocolate and coffee. This is a rich and full-flavored beer, but isn't as creamy as other stouts I've had, although it was really yummy.

Serves: 3
Hands-on prep time: 90 min
Start-to-finish time: 3 hrs

1 egg
1 med eggplant
3 T olive oil
¾ c chopped onion
1 clove garlic
10 oz ground lamb
¼ c sweet vermouth or port
1 t ground cinnamon
1 t salt
½ t ground cumin
½ t ground black pepper
¾ lb baking potatoes
  1. Bring egg to room temperature during preparation. Wash eggplant; cut in half lengthwise; score cut side without breaking skin; soak in cold water 10 min to keep from absorbing too much oil when cooking.
  2. Heat half of oil in large heavy skillet (if deep enough to boil potatoes in later, even better!) over high heat; drain and pat eggplant dry while oil heats; wear apron to protect against spatters. Place as many eggplant halves as will fit in hot oil, cut side down; sear 1 min without disturbing. Measure 1 T water for each half and add all at once, being careful of spattering; cover; reduce heat to low; steam 10 min. Transfer to platter to cool.
  3. Add remaining oil to skillet; adjust to med-low heat. Add onion; cook until tender. Add garlic; stir until fragrant. Add lamb, cook until lightly browned.
  4. When eggplants are cool enough to handle, scrape pulp with teaspoon; chop pulp into bite-sized pieces. Reserve skins.
  5. Add pulp to skillet; stir in vermouth and spices. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until liquid evaporates, 5 min. Transfer to platter to cool at least 30 min.
  6. While eggplant mixture cools, boil salted water for potatoes. Peel and slice into lengthwise chips, about ¼" thick.
  7. Par-boil potatoes 3 min; drain.
  8. Place oven rack in middle of oven; preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly oil deep casserole dish.
  9. Beat egg lightly; mix into cooled eggplant mixture. If mixture is too hot egg will curdle!
  10. Line casserole with eggplant skins, skin side down, allowing extra to hang over sides.
  11. Estimate number of layers you have enough potato slices for (this will depend on the sizes of both dish and potato slices). Layer potatoes and eggplant mixture, starting and ending with potatoes.
  12. Fold eggplant skins over top of layers to seal. Cover with lightly oiled foil if skins don’t meet.
  13. Bake 90 min; use a baking sheet to prevent spills; cool on rack 10 min before serving.
  • Substitute ground beef or poultry for lamb.
  • Sprinkle cheese over each layer of potatoes.
  • Substitute mashed potatoes for boiled slices.
  • Top with béchamel or tomato sauce

Greek Green Beans
Makes: 1 ½ c

2 t olive oil
¼ c chopped onion
1/16 t minced garlic
1 c green beans, trimmed & snapped into bite-sized pieces
¼ c chopped tomato
¼ t sugar
¼ t salt
  1. Trim and snap green beans. Heat olive oil in heavy skillet over med-low heat; sauté onion and garlic until tender and fragrant.
  2. Stir in remaining ingredients; reduce heat to low; simmer 45 min until beans are tender.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Olympics Day 10: Nepalese Bojan at Annapurna in Cambridge

We thought we were done with Olympics feasting when we went for our Formaggio Kitchen cheese cave tour. On the way home, we stopped at Annapurna, a little Himalayan restaurant on Mass. Ave. in Cambridge. We were served by the owner, a delightful man who we learned used to be a climbing guide in Nepal. He had climbed the mountain Annapurna twice, and was looking forward to going back to do it again as soon as he could.

Gail and I had a Nepalese dish called bojan. The dish included rice, a cup of lentils, cauliflower, okra, spinach and a dish of chicken in a sauce. The owner explained that in Nepal all these things would be mixed together by hand and eaten with bread served on the side. We decided to mix ours with our forks.

All mixed, the dish had a flavor we haven't experienced before. I'd guess it was a mix of cardamom, cinnamon and the lentils, but there was another spice I just couldn't place. There was not a bit of sweetness to it. I think that's what made it so unusual. Most other dishes we've had like this have some sweetness. This was a nice change. We would definitely go back for more.

Formaggio Kitchen Cheese Cave Tour

Gail and I are fans of Formaggio Kitchen, so when the opportunity to tour the cheese caves came up, we jumped at it. Tyler, the cave manager, gave us a tour of the two cheese caves in the basement of the store. Matthew, a buyer, taught us about the process of making cheese. Throughout, we were able to sample a number of delicious cheeses that emphasized what we were learning about.

Our tour started downstairs in the caves. The first cave was cool with water on the floors to keep up the humidity. It held many of the big wheels, with cheeses like Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, Gouda, and multiple Comtés of various ages.

Our first tasting showed the effect of aging with a "Frais" (fresh) goat cheese called Cabri d'Antan, and the same cheese after a few months of aging called "Affiné" (refined). The aging dries the cheese and develops a rind. The result is a richer and funkier tasting cheese.

While in the cave, Tyler gave us samples of some special cheeses using a cheese corer. He explained how he saves the end of the core to re-plug the hole, allowing the rest of the cheese to continue to age properly. He sealed up any remaining edges by rubbing them with a big chunk of butter.

Our second tasting compared two types of Abondance Fermier, a French cow's milk cheese. The first was aged 10 months and the second 16 months. Both were delicious, but the older cheese was dryer and richer with sweeter notes. We were interested to learn that these caves are not just for temperature-controlled storage. Formagio extends the aging process in their local caves, making a better product than you might get at a cheese shop without a cave.

We moved into the second cave, which was cooler and more humid than the first. That is where they store and age many of the wash rind cheeses, including a beer washed cheese. Tyler showed us some of the aging experiments he was conducting, where he made a wash of the rind of one cheese and used it to start a rind on a different fresh cheese.

The second half of our tour was upstairs at the cheese counter. Matthew explained the common elements in making cheeses. In describing the use of rennet, he talked about both animal and vegetable rennet types. Then we tasted two young sheep cheeses. The first was made with animal rennet, and the second with a special rennet used uniquely in cheese from Portugal. That rennet comes from a thistle plant that grows in Portugal.

Our final tasting was a wash rind goat cheese and a strong Roquefort cheese. The Roquefort was deliciously salty and tangy on its own, but Gail noticed how wonderful it tasted when paired with a little honey on the plate. That will be something for us to try at home.

Olympics Day 10: Kenyan Rice and Beans

Saw some great Olympics tennis today. Congratulations to Andy Murray and Great Britain on the tennis gold. While I was writing this, I got involved in the final minutes of the US women's water polo game against Italy. Both coaches were ejected. We won by a score of 9 to 6. Now we have switched to US women in volleyball against Turkey. The US can lose and still take the top spot in the next round. I think I can write and watch at the same time.

Gail made Kenyan Rice and Beans that worked perfectly for lunch. The flavors were slightly unusual, but worked well with the dish. It was a good flavor profile, but came out a bit bland. We added some salsa to snap it up. The vinegar and sweetness did the trick. Gail found the recipe at All Things Kenyan.

I had a lovely glass of seltzer water with my dish. We searched and searched for a Kenyan beer, and finally found Tusker yesterday. The beer poured with the limp head you see in the picture. I mowed the lawn today, so this lawnmower-beer was a decent choice. It reminded me of Miller, which I think of as the perfect lawnmower beer, but Tusker is five times the price.

FrogTape Outperforms Blue Tape in Accidental Head-to-head Test

I usually blog about food and drink, but FrogTape® has earned an exception. I bought a roll on a whim for a previous painting project. I admit, I didn't find anything special about it. I ran out of FrogTape in the middle of this weekend's painting project, so I replaced it with the standard blue tape.

I just got done removing the tape and was surprised that the cleanup under the green FrogTape was much simpler than under the blue. In all but a few spots, the FrogTape left a clean, sharp line requiring no cleanup. I needed to tidy up nearly every inch of the edge of the blue tape.

I'm sold. I won't even finish this roll of blue tape before getting a fresh roll of FrogTape.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Olympics Day 9: Another Odd Mix

I saw an odd mix of Olympic events today including boxing, basketball, soccer, volleyball (both kinds), water polo, and rifle. Rifle? That's a sport? I am hard pressed to call something a sport where success depends on not moving. Nevertheless, it was compelling to watch.

Gail made pelmeni again for lunch, this time with thinner dough. I was better with the thinner dough, yum. She had some leftover filling, which she sauteed as little meatballs. The pelmeni filling is a mixture of pork and beef with about as much chopped onion as meat. It makes a delicious meatball.

I had a Belhaven Wee Heavy from Scotland. It had a delightful red color, with a thick, malty flavor that didn't linger. This beer was a wee bit heavy for lunch.

Dinner was Chinese, perhaps the best Chinese outside of China. We went to Mary Chung's in Cambridge and had all our favorites: Suan la chow show, Peking ravioli, lion head meatball, and dun dun noodles. We forgot to take a picture, which is a shame since these dishes are all so photogenic. This picture will have to do to give you a sense of how good it all tasted.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Olympics Day 8: Australian Shrimp on the Barbie

A dear family friend spent a year traveling abroad including a long leg in Australia. She brought us back a large dish towel with Australian recipes, including a recipe for drover's damper. We wanted to make this bread in honor of Australia and our friend. Bread, though, is not enough for dinner so we added shrimp on the barbie. Very simple, and here's the recipe: Skewer the shrimp and cook them on the barbie.

In addition, Gail made us a delicious ratatouille of eggplant, tomato and leeks. The meal was wonderfully satisfying. It felt like an American meal. Shrimp on the grill is something we make all the time. And while ratatouille is decidedly French, it is a staple in our house in the garden season. Finally, the drover's damper was an unusual bread, but still felt American. It is a baking soda bread with a flavor half way between a biscuit and a white yeast bread.

The recipe said to serve the bread with either jam or golden syrup. We got Lyle's Golden Syrup imported from Australia. The flavor was like Karo Syrup mixed with maple syrup, and it had a honey-like texture. We thought it could use a bit more salt, but also found that it didn't need salt when served with a little butter. It is a versatile bread.

Drover's Damper

2 c flour
2 ½ t baking powder
1 t salt
2 t sugar
1 T butter
1 c milk
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Sift flour with powder and salt; stir in sugar.
  2. Rub in butter; mix in milk to form soft dough.
  3. Knead lightly on board till smooth; pat into round.
  4. Place in baking tin; glaze with milk. Bake until cooked through, 20-40 min, reducing heat if getting too brown.
For Beer Damper substitute beer for milk.

Speaking of beer, tonight I had the quintessential Australian Foster's, but to toss it up a bit, I had the ale. It had an amber color, with a lacy head. The beer was extra bitter on the back of my tongue, with a slight sweet aftertaste, which didn't over-linger. This beer drinks light, but is not a gulping beer. And, who can resist the Foster's oil can. I particularly liked the fire red pull tab against the gold top.

Olympics Day 8: Dutch Hodgepodge

I came home for lunch today and was greeted with the smells of sauteing leeks and sausage. Gail was making me a Dutch leek hodgepodge with sausage. I now see where that word comes from. This is a bunch of sauteed ingredients mixed into mashed potatoes, a true hodgepodge. The picture makes the dish look like something you would get in a high school cafeteria, but the flavors worked extremely well. What a delicious and simple dish.

Dutch Leek Hodgepodge with Sausage
Ingredient per serving

½ c warm mashed potatoes
½ T olive oil
½ c sliced leeks
½ c chopped red pepper
3 oz cooked wurst sausage
1 oz grated cheese
  1. If necessary, prepare mashed potatoes. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in heavy skillet over med heat. While oil heats, halve leeks lengthwise; spread leaves; clean thoroughly under cold tap water; slice into thick rings.
  3. Remove seeds from red peppers; chop into bite-sized pieces.
  4. Saute leek and pepper pieces until tender, about 5 min.
  5. While vegetables sauté, slice sausage into bite-sized pieces.
  6. Mix leeks, peppers, and half of sausage into mashed potatoes.
  7. Grease oven dish; transfer mixture in; arrange remaining sausage over top; sprinkle with cheese.
  8. Bake 20 min.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Olympics Day 7: A Bit of Everything

Spoiler alert. Actually, no, but I don't know why not. Tonight's results were spoiled for me at least four times today. I'll enjoy the events anyway, but come on people.

We made weisswurst for lunch. I browned them in a pan, then added some water to cook them through. If you need more recipe than that, I can't help you.

For dinner we started with a Ukrainian fish ball called tolcheniki. These were boiled and served on a bed of sauteed red onions. Our recipe only made two balls, so that dinner turned into a very nice appetizer. The flavors were very good, but a little bland. We think they would make a delicious fried fish cake, which would turn the flavors up a bit.

Gail had another dish nearly ready to go, so we added that to our meal. It was a Siberian pelmeni. Apparently, Siberians make hundreds of these things in the fall and store them outside over winter. Our recipe had the dough rolled to an eighth of an inch, and didn't go far enough to use all the meat. We are confident that thirty-secondths of an inch would do the trick. Gail cooked them three ways, boiled, steamed and pan fried, like Chinese pot stickers. The extra thick dough made it difficult to pick a favorite, but I liked the fried best.

My drink best fit with the weisswurst, but I held it off for dinner. I poured a German Aecht Schlenkerla Helles Schlenkerla Lagerbier. The straw color fooled me into expecting something lighter in flavor. It was quite bitter over a strong sweetness. While the sweetness lingered way too long, the flavor was good.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Olympics Day 6: Jamaican Jerk Chicken

It's early still, but we haven't seen a bit of Olympics. That doesn't mean that it hasn't been an Olympic day. We started it off with our last international coffee, Starbucks Brazil Peaberry Yellow Bourbon. Finally, a coffee that was better than what we usually get in the grocery store, although probably not better enough to be worth the extra price. The beans were smaller than normal, note the "peaberry" in the name. There was a noticeable aroma, and a full, but not burnt coffee flavor. It was a nice, rich coffee.

We made Jamaican Jerk Chicken for dinner, which was quite an adventure. The Simply Recipes recipe called for a habenero pepper, which freaked both of us out more than a little. I cut the pepper, carefully holding it with a paper towel to not get the capsaicin on me. I decided to pick out the seeds to moderate the heat.

After adding the chopped pepper to the marinade, I was careful to wash everything that touched pepper very well. I scrubbed the knife a few times, and then tested if I got it clean by licking the side of the blade. I was surprised that it made my tongue tingle, so I washed it a few more times.

Gail and I both admitted that we were a bit afraid to eat the resulting chicken. I took the first bite, and while it was slightly spicy, there was no problem. I would call it mild. I think we were wise to be careful, but after cooking it and discarding the extra sauce, I would have liked a bit more heat.

The chicken had strong flavors of the lime and cinnamon, and we both enjoyed it. Neither of us thought the flavor was worth all the fuss.

To extend the Jamaican theme, I poured a Red Stripe lager. It's been a long time since I drank a Red Stripe. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this easy-to-drink beer. It had a simple, malty flavor with very little sweetness. I particularly noted the full mouth feel with no lingering aftertaste.