Thursday, December 29, 2011

Recipe Book vs Lifestyle Blog

I have received numerous complaints about the fact that I don't give measurements for my dishes. The reason is simple, I am not Betty Crocker.

My goal is for men to get the idea out of their heads that cooking is anything less than manly. Men learn skills best by getting their hands dirty, doing things, not reading the instructions. I want all who read this blog to stop asking, and start doing.

One of the most recent complaints I received was about my gluten free fish and chips
"But how much almond meal do I use?"

Enough to cover the fish, I replied. 

What if I had said how much I used and then their filet was bigger? They wouldn't have had enough to cover the fish and the meal would not have been that great. What if they wanted to recreate fried chicken, would the same amount of almond meal be needed? More? Less?

How many bacon bits do you put in your salad? How many cups of oil do you use to make french fries? How much should a hamburger patty weigh?

Would you tell this woman to wear that bikini?

We know about coverage in areas of our lives with which we are familiar. We all need to get more familiar with different methods, different types of foods. 

Line up a bunch of almonds next to the filet. Make a rectangle slightly larger than the filet. That's how many almonds you should use.

I had to face the harsh realization that I cannot provide a blog post everyday. Thus I cannot give you a point-a to point-b travel guide to even one meal per day. As the saying goes: "Give a man a fish and chips, he'll have fish and chips for a day. Encourage a man to figure out how to bread his own fish, he'll either succeed, or not."

But seriously, if I give you an example of something intricate, like Filet Mignon, scallops, or crème brûlée, I'll be a lot more intricate with my directions. Because broken custard, rubbery shellfish, and overpriced crispy meat are scary. Having to throw away a little almond meal is not.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

What you know: Pass/Fail

There are certain pursuits in life that are more suited to a pass/fail approach. These include, but are not limited to: High School Physical Education, The State Bar Exam, the Fosbury Flop, and (BikeSnobNYC taught me this) Bicycle Racing. Let's add cooking for love (of friends, money, and of course, lovers).

No one who cooks at home has a perfect record. There will be at least one dish with at least one thing for someone to find wrong with it. If you cook enough to actually get some attention, some of that attention will have to be negative. But being great isn't about being perfect.

Look at Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox. He had more plating experience than you, in a way. But the best average he could hit was 0.406. Less than 50%, we call that a FAIL in academia. But he was one of the greatest.

Just realize that, in this craft, you ar dealing with a lot of factors: personal taste, emotion (yes, food has A LOT to do with emotion, especially for women, and that's why you're doing this, I digress), seasonings in season, vegetables in season, outside temperature, how much attention you can actually afford to pay to this dish, and the list goes on. Sometimes, you're just off your game. But a man who cooks is a man who cooks. If you are a man who puts barbecue sauce on burned steak, you are not a cook.

Basically, anything above that is what you're shooting for. And remember to focus on your strengths. Babe Ruth hit it out of the park, but that's because he couldn't run. If you can't nail the souffle, dominate the quiche.

Whatever your game, just keep bringing it to the plate.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What You Know: Shopping

You may have heard this tip for saving money: only shop the perimeter of the grocery store.

It will save most people money, but that's not why I do it. That's a symptom. Staying on the perimeter keeps you creative. You get the building materials for beautiful meals. You get opportunities to showcase your skills, your tastes, your personality. Go into the aisles and you'll see flash frozen chicken,  potato chips, crackers. What if you didn't have to think and you could mindlessly munch on crunchy salty snacks from a bag? Perish the thought.

Don't fall for it. You can get all the stuff in the middle delivered to you. Online stores specialize in it. It will save you time. Spend your time getting real ingredients and putting it together in a creative way.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Weekend Fuel: Builder's Breakfast

Sometimes, you wake up and need real food quickly. That's when I make this:

It's not really a builder's breakfast, but I call it that because it has some substance and it's more than just two eggs over easy with toast and jam. This meal will give you energy and you can do it in one covered pan.

I slice the sweet potatoes first, usually two small, and throw them into a pan on medium-high heat with a little olive oil. The sweet potatoes take the longest to cook, and they need to absorb the olive oil first. One medium to large onion go in next, and they need very little residual oil from the potatoes to release their juices. After stirring around, cover the pan and turn the heat down. When the sweet potatoes are soft (usually after a few minutes, you can figure out how soft you want them) move the onion sweet potato mixture to one side and carefully place two eggs in the vacant space. Cover the pan and turn off the heat.

After another couple minutes, you will be able to scoop your breakfast onto a plate, into a bowl, a to go container, a tiffin box, whatever you want. It's extremely versatile and portable. It's also a great dish for camping.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Deconstructed Classics: Bacon Salad

If you think you are going to take it easy and just throw a salad together, just quit. Go call Papa John's right now and go sit on your couch til it comes.

Salads are an art, just like any other food. Don't write them off as a waste of time just because the salad dressing commercials are so corny and pastel. If you think they are girl food, you are absolutely right. So learn to make them well and you'll attract more.

First of all, salad is eaten with a fork. So make sure the items can be eaten with a fork. Cut the lettuce into small, even shaped pieces. Make all the other pieces the same size. Have you ever seen a woman eat a salad? They meticulously stack each piece on the fork. First a piece of lettuce, then tomato, then cucumber, then they dip in the dressing. They treat it as art, so you should too.

In this case, I kept the bacon whole. Sometimes women do want to rip into a piece of meat, even when eating a salad.

The number of ingredients and color is what makes a salad. I used peaches, tomato, guacamole and bacon. As you can see, it gave it a nice range.

Salads are as boring as you make them. If you hate salad, you probably rely too much on other people to make you happy. Take control, make the salad awesome.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What you know: Choices

Choices are important to people. People fight for choices, they protest and reason and bribe to get a choice. The more a particular society is used to having a choice, the bloodier it is when the power of choice is taken away. The choices you make with your food are a gift.It is also nice to be able to give the gift choice when it comes to food. That's why it's so widely appreciated when someone packs your lunch for you based on things you like.

I have the privilege of having a guest blogger sharing her two cents. Seveerr is a muralist, a craftswoman, an equine afficianado and some other stuff. She is married to me as well. This is something she wanted to share with us all:

It occurred to me on this particular Monday that I had all my lunch,except for one thing- salad dressing. I try to avoid the Cafeteria at work for two reasons- the staff are slower than molasses,and temptation. So I sauntered down to the Cafeteria in order to score a few swigs of salad dressing,once there I realized that the entire soup and salad bar had been replaced by a multitude of pre-packaged donuts in all shapes sizes and flavors- but ALL donuts. Is this what we have to look forward too? Donuts for lunch? I was mortified. Not only was my salad dryer than dirt,but I will never forget my dressing EVER again. Eating healthy requires that YOU NOT LEAVE THE HOUSE WITHOUT ALL OF YOUR FOOD- or do without,because the alternative is DONUTS-and that's NOT good.

I like donuts, but she makes a point. It's a lot like being on open water, adrift. Something so simple, slightly out of reach. It can make even the most savvy traveler go nuts.When you pack lunch for the one you love, you are packing their survival pack. Pack it with care.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Weekend Fuel: Waffles

It's good to get to the point when you can make breakfast pastries without measuring. Pancakes and waffles are a mix of flour, eggs, fat, and sweet with a little salt and leaven. In my case this weekend, I was showcasing my gluten free waffles. It wasn't because I was entertaining people with gluten intolerance, I just wanted to show that there were alternative ways to make common breakfast foods to fit your lifestyle.

As I have said before, my wife is gluten free or wheat free for this phase of her eating plan. We went through this a while back too when she was put a completely allergy free diet, and I wanted it to still be enjoyable. If you have to cook without gluten, dairy, nuts and soy, these waffles are a winner.

I had played with rice flour, and I like it for a lot of things. But for items that are supposed to be fluffy and light and bind together, rice flour wasn't cutting it. The bread either crumbles apart or is hard as a rock. That's fine for some things, but unacceptable for waffles. So I used Tapioca flour. I heard it bound well and gave the bread some elasticity.

In the past, I have used a little coconut flour too. It helps make the waffle a little more firm. But my wife is allergic to coconut. Or so she says.

This is

4 parts tapioca flour
1 part rice milk
1 banana
1 tbsp agave nectar*
1/2 tsp aluminum free baking powder*
pinch salt (Iodized)*

*for every cup of flour

In the mixing bowl, add the rice milk and crush the banana into it. Then add agave nectar. Stir it really well.

In another bowl, mix the dry ingredients. Slowly add the dry ingredient while pouring in the flour mixture. Stop when you get to milkshake consistency. Since tapioca flour is so fine, the weather and altitude may affect your consistency. If the batter is too runny, add more flour. Too thick, like peanut butter, add more rice milk.

When you use this in a Belgian waffle maker, you'll see it rise and separate a little. Also, it will be a little chewy. Overall, it's pretty good and not hard like a rock. Our host took this first one from me and immediately started eating it. They are very appealing in appearance.

Be careful when making this for picky eaters, but girls usually like them. Especially girls from the Bay area, Southern California, and probably any metropolitan area where gluten is considered evil. Isn't it awesome when your real dietary needs become a fad?

The runt of the batter
I always get a runt, but this one is the prettiest