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Category Archives: Recipes & ingredients

Sci-Food

As international cuisine has exploded in popularity I thought it might be nice to talk about a new trend in fashionable eating. It is not inexpensive, but you can guarantee your guests a unique treat with some tastes that they literally have never experienced before. Yes, we’re talking about interstellar cuisine.

Here is a pairing that only the gods could have dreamed up – the tangy meat of the hargneux combined with the soft, delayed explosive umami of the eclote make for an unforgettable dining experience.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

The hargneux is found only on the planet Telemachus, which orbits the star Alpha Centauri B, and has only been recently named officially. AC B is part of a triple star group which is “only” 4.3 light years from Earth, making it about as close to us as it’s possible to get in interstellar terms. Because Telemachus is so close to AC B (only four million miles, versus the Earth’s 96 million from the Sun) the radiated intensity of the star makes it uninhabitable for Earthlike life, but some of the fauna there has been found to be quite tasty when it is prepared properly. The hargneux, which is poisonous and extremely bitter tasting in its normal state, becomes a very different entrée indeed when it is subjected to spangyfication (specific doses are important, but we’ve got that covered) and has become trendy lately, but there’s a reason for that – it tastes great!

VeniBlog

Eclote bulbs come from much farther away; Achernar is 139 million light years off, but to a transport equipped with an Al Qalb generator the difference is immaterial, so obtaining the ceruleated bulbs from Eclote is not really much more difficult than getting your bit of hargneux. You just have to have a decent retailer in your neighborhood, and there are more and more of these today as the popularity of interstellar cuisine expands.

I do not have any hargneux handy to show you step-by-step photos of the dish, but the process is not complicated and you shouldn’t have any trouble following the directions, which are really very simple. I do have an old photo of some slices cut for another dish, though:

Hargneux2Blog

Telemachean Hargneux With Ceruleated Eclote Bulbs

Ingredients (Serves four)
6 hargneux tentacles, carapace removed (reserve the spongy brainlike matter for another dish)
1 medium eclote bulb, growth arrested (see note*) and sliced
Olive oil
3 large shallots, sliced
Several large cloves of garlic, sliced
2 tablespoons WD-40 (Important: DO NOT SUBSTITUTE ANYTHING ELSE or the dish may be poisonous; the WD-40 is neutralized by proteins in the bulb while they degrade and become incredibly tasty)
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup sherry
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

Instructions
Sauté the shallots in olive oil, then add the sliced eclote and garlic. When they start to soften add the WD-40, which will change the odor of the bulb, releasing an irresitable aroma. When this happens the WD-40 has been neutralized. Cook the bulb until it stops making sounds of any kind.

Meanwhile: slice the hargneux into cross sections about 1/4 inch thick. Spangyfy the hargneux before adding it to the rest of the dish; try a setting of 60 µ∆ for 20 milliseconds or until the slices change color. Important: do not overspange or their extradimensional protein hooks may change polarity, and while you probably won’t notice the difference, any Telemacheans present certainly would. Just allow the flesh to start to turn purple but stop before it changes completely.

Add the hargneux sections to the bulb, using a wooden spoon to stir; metal will react with the hargneux at this temperature, causing an unsightly stain. Deglaze with the mixture of orange juice, sherry, and fresh thyme leaves.

Serve with deglazed bits and sauce, side dishes of your choice, and enjoy.

*Stop the eclote’s growth as soon as you get it home by placing it in the freezer. It will not freeze, but it will stop expanding and if you do not do this you will soon feel like Mickey Mouse in The Sorceror’s Apprentice. In its arrested state it is easy to manage and it won’t feel the cuts as you slice it into medallions. Ignore the vocalizations.

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2014 in Images, Recipes & ingredients

 

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Pictures Of Lily (CHOCOLATE!)

ChocBlog

As much as I love the old song by The Who (and that means a lot), I like another Lily now, too.

I train dogs, but Lily isn’t a dog. Lily is a candy company and they make a chocolate bar that I think is pretty interesting. Around here, we use them a lot like money.

Dogs brought me the chocolate bars in that picture because chocolate is my preferred medium of exchange. Some of the dogs I know come to visit for the day or even a few days (which is why there are so many chocolate bars in this picture) and they have decided to pay me with chocolate for the experience; this, I think, is a great idea on their part. One dog by the name of Misha has given me so many that we sometimes call her Wonka, but the real-world Wonka bars aren’t very good and they come from a parent company I’d rather not buy from.

I don’t want just any chocolate, and they know that. These enthusiastic critters know that I want one brand and one flavor, so that’s what they bring. Is that good dog training or what?

DaggerChocBlog

I can’t stand milk chocolate, and normally all I used to eat was 85-90 % dark stuff, but I find that if I eat too much of it I get, well, jittery, for lack of a better word. I stumbled across these Lily bars when someone gave me one as a gift and I left it in my freezer because I figured if it had stevia in it I wouldn’t like it; stevia has a weird, bitter aftertaste that totally makes me turn the other way. Eventually, of course, I ran out of “good” chocolate and got desperate and tried it. To my considerable surprise, I liked it. These are not like most other chocolate bars, that’s for sure. For one thing, while the label says they are sweetened with stevia, they also have inulin and erythritol in them, and in much bigger quantities. I suspect the label features stevia so prominently because of its PR value; it is certainly not the biggest sweetener in the product by weight.

Some people have problems with these ingredients; inulin is a mildly sweet (and somewhat bulky) prebiotic that your body doesn’t actually “eat” but the bacteria in your gut will consume it. Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that has no calories and is not quite as sweet as table sugar by volume. Because the nutrition label of the Lily’s bars tells me they are 55% chocolate instead of the 85-90% I am used to I would expect the Lily’s bars to taste like milk chocolate, but they don’t, because the other 45% is not sugar; there isn’t any sugar in them. While they don’t taste like the very darkest chocolate available they are surprisingly intense, given that 55% figure – let’s say that to me they seem somewhere in between, no matter what the actual percentage is.

And I don’t taste the stevia at all. Big plus.

LeoChocBlog

Of course, the dogs can’t have any of this; chocolate isn’t good for them, and in sufficient quantities it can really hurt them.

Because I left the first bar in the freezer and liked it that way, I have continued to store them there. Frozen, they remind me of Nutty Buddies (if you are old enough to remember those), probably because of the almonds. Whoops, I forgot to issue the standard disclaimer: this company doesn’t know me from a hole in the ground, I didn’t get paid for this article, and they probably wouldn’t even think much of it since I have little interest in the other flavors, which don’t work so well for me. But this one…it’s a keeper, and if you want to try something a bit different (there are so many good chocolates out there, after all) this would be a place to start. I’m guessing the target audience for this is people who want low-sugar chocolate, appreciate fair trade products, know something about ingredients and either want or aren’t bothered by the sweeteners they’ve used (inulin, erythritol, and stevia), and who are willing to pay more than the price of a Lindt bar.

StriderChocBlog2

One more tool for your bag of tricks, because the dogs like treats, but so do we. And the dogs aren’t bothered at all if they can’t have these.

Del&DagChocBlog

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2014 in Dogs, Recipes & ingredients

 

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Mrs. T’s Onions & Basil

Basil5

Here’s one of Mrs. Tyrannocaster’s easy summer recipes, another great side dish like her roasted peppers.

OnionsBlog

Since I’ve pretty much given everything away in the picture above, let’s get right to it.

Mrs. Tyrannocaster’s Onions & Balsamic Basil

Ingredients
3 large red onions, sliced
1 cup packed fresh basil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3-4 tablespoons avocado oil
Salt & pepper

What To Do
Toss the onions with 2-3 tablespoons of oil. Roast for 20 minutes at 400F. (You might want to use a lower temperature if you are not using avocado oil, which has a high smoke/oxidation point.) Stir, add more oil if needed; cook another 10-15 minutes. Add balsamic vinegar and cook until soft and sticky, 5 minutes. Stir in basil, which will wilt; add salt & pepper to taste and serve immediately.

BasilBlog

Here are the onions after they have cooked for a while, with their added balsamic vinegar:

Basil2Blog

Here is the added basil:

Basil3Blog

The finished dish, ready to serve:

Basil4

With a meal:

Basil6

Top left, vampire-resistant aïoli. Clockwise from the meat: Pastured lamb steak with vermouth and thyme glaze; the onions; shredded red cabbage and carrots sauteed in lard with sesame oil and wheat-free soy sauce; baby asparagus roasted in avocado oil. – Mrs. Tyrannocaster

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2014 in Health, Recipes & ingredients

 

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Viruses or Vampires? Repel One Today!

RawGarlic

The first time I ate some raw garlic I didn’t know any better; I grabbed a big clove, peeled it, stuck it in my mouth and chomped down on it. Then I started chewing. Here is an actual photo of me thirty seconds later:

GarlicHoundBlog

Well, I learned a lesson, didn’t I? This stuff is really, really potent in its raw form. That’s what makes it such a good (and interesting) addition to your medicine chest because it works on bacteria that you don’t want in your system, even including viruses, and that’s something that antibiotics can’t do. For me, that last bit of information was a real eye opener.

The first time I heard about using raw garlic from what I would consider to be a credible source was when my naturopath told me she had stopped a sinus infection with it. This got my attention, because I have a history of these, or I should say I had a history of sinus infections when I was still eating wheat; I haven’t had one in the three years since I stopped. So I did some reading and found that people claim it cures just about anything. Immediately, my skepticism kicked in because you find the same thing about everything from vitamin E to Kombucha. I like Kombucha and I make my own, and I even see some health benefits to it, but come on – some of the claims are preposterous and it’s hard not to feel the same way about garlic. But garlic has a lot going on for it.

First, there’s that interesting notion that it can kill viruses, something that antibiotics cannot do. And fascinatingly, it even acts on resistant strains of bacteria that have developed in response to the use of antibiotics and the bacteria are not able to develop resistance to the garlic because it does not operate the same way biochemically that the antibiotics do (apparently it even kills MRSA, the resistant staph bacterium you may have heard about); this is cool, indeed, even if they are only speaking of direct application to the bacteria, which is unclear to me in the reference.

Hence my experience above. I had felt like I was starting to get a sore throat, so I gave the garlic a try. It really did feel like the cure was worse than the disease, what with all the steam coming out of my ears, the flashing purple light I saw, the bells ringing in my ears, just kidding – but it was too strong for me to do on a regular basis. But then I noticed that the sore throat never progressed. Right, it’s just anecdotal evidence but I found it intriguing. (If I say “I broke my leg” it’s just anecdotal evidence, too, but the leg is still broken. You have to start somewhere.)

The Linus Pauling Institute has considerable information on garlic and I appreciate that they show you when the data doesn’t bear something out. For a good rundown on the nuts and bolts of garlic’s properties and how to work with it, try this site.

Finally, this ancient article in the Chicago Tribune can point you in all sorts of directions if you are interested in the plant.

There is an immense amount of material available on garlic so I won’t load this post down with more links when you can probably Google sites tailored to your specific interest – I am more interested in trying to figure out how to eat the stuff raw. It doesn’t do you any good medicinally if you cook it, but in its raw form it’s pretty corrosive when you try to just eat it. So further experiments were necessary.

While a lot of people like to eat it in salsa I find that the easiest way for me to take it is mixed with fat, and in my case that would be mayonnaise. We make our own mayonnaise because all of the commercial products we have access to are made with soy, a “food” that I want nothing to do with. While I wrote of my frustration with trying to make mayo using MCT oil we don’t seem to have such problems with olive oil and if you use very light olive oil the result tastes a lot better than the bitter mayonnaise you get with extra virgin oil. And since I love aïoli using garlic with mayo is a no-brainer indeed. For me, the best way to eat raw garlic is to mash a good sized clove in the press, let it sit for 15 minutes (this step increases the production of allicin, one of the Good Guys in the story and without a doubt the inspiration for Elvis Costello’s song) and then mix it with a tablespoon or so of mayonnaise and some salt. Then I eat it with a meal. For me, raw garlic on an empty stomach is not a good thing, so I always eat it with some food.

A blob of mayo with garlic in its natural habitat:

GarlicMayoBlog

Note: the wide angle lens makes that blob look bigger than it really is. I like mayo, but come on!

Clockwise from the mayo: Tri-colored carrots and chopped red onion simmered in butter with mixed herbs; pastured beef shanks braised with port and root vegetables; romano beans sauteed in butter, salt and pepper.  -Mrs. Tyrannocaster

It was so hot last evening that I had a rather small meal, which explains the mingy quantities of food for a dinner. 🙂 I could have also just mixed the crushed garlic with some of the bone marrow you can see next to the shank in back and added a bit of salt but I didn’t think of it in time. That’s delicious, though, and I’ll do that tonight since dinner’s going to be the same entrée.

Important note (besides the mention of fermenting garlic, which is in the comments): use only garlic that you know has not been irradiated. All garlic that comes to us from outside the USA has been nuked. That’s one tangible benefit to buying organic; radiation not allowed.

Stay young and monstrous.

Also…Välkommen till alla mina nya besökare från Sverige! Mina farföräldrar kom från Sverige i slutet av 1800-talet, men tyvärr talar jag inte svenska. Jag hoppas att du tycker om min webbplats. (Thanks to Risto of Rikstone Amps for translating that for me.)

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2014 in Health, Recipes & ingredients

 

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Three Peculiar Plants

Medlars, fore, and persimmons, aft

I want to talk about three plants, two of which are strongly related to the supernatural landscape and one which is just weird. All of them are well known within certain circles but virtually unknown elsewhere, so they occupy a funny spot in our groupmind. I don’t see any reason why someone should group all three together, but I’m not going to let that stop me. I think they are interesting.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop

If you only heard the title and never heard all the lyrics, you could be forgiven for thinking that Billie Holiday’s song Strange Fruit was about medlars. Instead, it is about black corpses hanging from trees in the South, but medlars are right up there for strangeness, all right.

Medlars really are pretty odd. The trees, while pretty, have a comparatively short life, so they don’t produce as much fruit over their lives as many other fruit trees, and the fruit they do produce is…well, like I said, strange. Medlars are a fruit that you don’t eat right away; they have to blet, which is tantamount to saying they have to rot. After they are picked green, they are left to sit while they decompose from the inside out, their flesh turning from a whitish, solid texture to a brown, pulpy substance that looks and tastes something like grainy apple butter. They are about the same size as small figs, or ping-pong balls. Oh, and there are giant hard inedible seeds in the fruit, so you don’t get much you can actually eat out of a medlar, and I haven’t yet told you that it’s covered with a skin that resembles (and is about as tasty as) wrinkled gray paper that cannot be peeled off without taking huge chunks of the “flesh” with it. To me, the inside of a ripe medlar has always seemed like what a spider must expect after its digestive juices have finished softening up something it snared a few weeks ago. All and all, medlars are not preposessing. Unlike the fruit in the song, they are not particularly bitter although they are not especially sweet, either.

They are a fruit you eat in the winter, which probably helped their appeal. They must have been a food for desperate folk; the tree goes back a long time but it’s hard to imagine anybody, even in the Middle Ages, dreaming of a medlar-filled paradise up above where they might retire when they die. No, these are fruits for the hard luck people, the scrabblers, the ones with no other good options.

As a result, while medlars are not going to be anybody’s favorite fruit, they make for a great metaphor. In fact, it’s hard for a cynical person to look around and not see them everywhere. Whether you think the glass is either half full or half empty, a half a glass of medlars…let’s not even go there.

As far as I know, medlars don’t have any ties to the occult, but I have a couple of other plants for you that most definitely do. Mandrake and John the Conqueror roots have a very strong presence in supernatural lore; the former, in tales from Europe and the Dark and Middle ages and the latter, in the black culture of the American South.

Neither mandrake nor conqueror root, but still creepy

Neither mandrake nor conqueror root, but still creepy

The list of roots with “magical” properties would probably be enough for several posts, but I picked those two because of their popularity in culture and media throughout the ages – and if you thought the mandrake root was something JK Rowling invented for Harry Potter, boy were you wrong! Like many of the extraordinary items in her series of books, the mandrake is something she got from the real world (just like Nicholas Flamel, for instance) and it’s a good reason why the Potter books can work well for teaching children about a variety of things you would not expect at first glance.

The mandrake root appears in folklore much the way JK Rowling describes it. But its appearances go back to the time of the Bible and continue up through today’s pop music. Lookie here:

And Jacob came out of the field in the evening, and Leah went out to meet him, and said, Thou must come in unto me; for surely I have hired thee with my son’s mandrakes. And he lay with her that night.
The Bible, King James Version, Genesis 30:14–16

Or what about Shakespeare?

Shrieks like mandrakes’ torn out of the earth.
Romeo and Juliet IV.iii

Would curses kill, as doth the mandrake’s groan
Henry VI part II III.ii

Or John Steinbeck?

We even had a mandrake root – a perfect little man, sprouted from the death-ejected sperm of a hanged man.
The Winter of Our Discontent

More recently, Deep Purple had a tune about them:

I’ve got a mandrake root, and it’s a fever in my heart
-Deep Purple, Mandrake Root (on Shades of Deep Purple, 1968)

Other than Harry Potter, the most recent appearance that I am aware of is in Guillermo Del Toro’s fascinating movie Pan’s Labyrinth (El laberinto del fauno, 2006), which is set in the Spanish Civil War:

Mandrake, Pan's Labyrinth

Mandrake, Pan’s Labyrinth

From the strange fruit in Billie Holiday’s song to American slavery is not a big jump, given its subject matter. And that’s where most of the references to the third plant originate; finally, the big kahuna of American Rhythm & Blues culture, the John the Conqueror Root. Here is a short summary of the background on this root and its users:

Hoodoo originates from the magical practices of the Congolese slaves that were abducted and brought to America. While the original tribal religious practices were subjugated by the slave masters and the slaves were forced to convert to Christianity, the original magical practices were preserved and adjusted for the flora and fauna of the new world.

Back in Africa, the rootworkers and conjurers there used one root that conferred upon its bearer strength, prowess, luck and fertility. This root was even edible, and often used in magical talismans and workings. This root doesn’t grow in the temperate climate of the United States, so they sought out the magical knowledge and wisdom of the local Native Americans for similar local herbs.

Note that this site also sells the root, and apparently the root is useful just by reason of its presence, as nobody eats it or makes tea from it. In other words, it is magic. Or placebo, if you believe in western medicinal explanations for things.

John the Conqueror supposedly was an American slave who never submitted to his white masters, and who went on to become part of the cultural landscape in the black world of the time, his reputation growing over the years until now he is regarded as a legendary figure with magical attributes and, as is often the case with such figures, whimsical and/or arbitrary actions to those who rely on him. He seems to serve the same function in that society as Iktomi, the Lakota Trickster. All of the American Indians recognize the Trickster, although he is not aways a coyote; he might be a spider or even a rock. In any case, the Trickster is a figure to watch out for, because you might just get what you ask for, but with a sting in it. Or maybe just the sting. This also has a great deal in common with the old European tales of fairies, brownies, and such – and I am explicitly not including Walt Disney in this comment. His influence has done so much to pollute the waters when it comes to these creatures that it’s a real shame. Anyway, back to the Conqueror root.

There are innumerable references to the root, which is often pronounced John the Conqueroot, in literature (notably, James Lee Burke’s novels set in Louisiana), blues music, R&B, and of course, Cajun music. One of the best known is the Willie Dixon song recorded by Muddy Waters and everybody’s brother:

Oh, I can get in a game, don’t have a dime,
All I have to do is rub my root, I win every time
When I rub my root, my John the Conquer root
Aww, you know there ain’t nothin’ she can do, Lord,
I rub my John the Conquer root
-Muddy Waters, My John the Conqueror Root (written by Willie Dixon)

My own personal favorite mention of the root is from Mason Ruffner’s vastly underrated and largely forgotten album from the 80s, Gypsy Blood, which was produced by Jimmy Page.

In the bridge of the song Under Your Spell (starting at 1:47 in) Ruffner sings

I’m goin’ down to the station,
Ride that train to New Orleans.
I ain’t gonna be your fool no more
Goin’ back to New Orleans,
Gonna see a voodoo queen and a hoodoo man,
Get a mojo hand, have a John the Conqueror root
Danglin’ from my boot
And a gris-gris charm, just like Doctor John.

Doctor John, of course, is the Cajun/R&B roots guy who sings about all the Louisiana hoodoo tropes, so Ruffner is referring to a referral here. I always like that.

So there you have three plants, two of them with purported magic qualities and one which really seems like it should have them, given its multiple foibles. But at least you can eat medlars without getting sick even if you won’t get a lot of nutrition from them. All three are interesting, though for different reasons and sometimes you just have to learn a new thing, right? I’ll bet for most people here, medlars are a new thing.

Stay young and monstrous.

Also…Välkommen till alla mina nya besökare från Sverige! Mina farföräldrar kom från Sverige i slutet av 1800-talet, men tyvärr talar jag inte svenska. Jag hoppas att du tycker om min webbplats. (Thanks to Risto of Rikstone Amps for translating that for me.)

 

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Mrs. T’s Roasted Peppers

When people decide to stop eating wheat and/or other grains or just decide for whatever reason to “go paleo” their first reaction is often one of confusion about the specifics; what do I eat? I thought it might be nice to talk about how we address that question, especially since it seems like many people don’t cook from scratch. To this end, I’m going to get Mrs. Tyrannocaster describe a couple of our meals and I’ll also offer up one of my favorite recipes.

I have side dishes on the brain (as opposed to dishes made with brains). They are incredibly useful when you make enough to get a few meals’ worth out of them, and the variety is endless, just as it is with entrées. One of my personal favorites is bell peppers (although I don’t really like the green ones that much) and I thought I’d give them a mention here.

Assuming you don’t have a problem with peppers of this sort, which are members of the nightshade family and thus a potential issue for some people, peppers are a very good way to get some color onto your table and some micronutrients into your body. I hate all those posts that enthuse about antioxidant-packed powerhouses and all the other buzz words the web loves so much, so I won’t dump a lot of background information on you. I’m just going to assume you’re interested in learning another way to fix these things.

My favorite dish of peppers is also quite easy to prepare so Mrs. Tyrannocaster makes it reasonably often, and I’m going to get her to comment on this whole thing later on.  If you haven’t tried roasting these, you have to do it at least once; they are delicious – sweet, juicy and crunchy at the same time, and they are also gorgeous on the plate.

Mrs. Tyrannocaster’s Roasted Peppers
(That would be Poivrons à la Tyrannocasteuse, LOL)

Ingredients
3 bell peppers, sliced (Trader Joe’s sells bags of red/yellow/orange organic peppers, which is what we used here)
1 pepper-sized onion, sliced
3 tablespoons avocado oil (This is an expensive oil, but you can find it a Costco at a pretty good price. It has an extremely high smoke point, so it is good for roasting and frying.) If you don’t have avocado oil, coconut oil works well too and adds a sweeter taste, or use what sounds best to you.

Instructions
Slice the vegetables and place each slice into the roasting pan individually, balancing them delicately dump them in:

Peppers2blog

Add the oil and toss them around so they are reasonably evenly coated. Roast at 400F for about 40 minutes, turning occasionally. Could something be more simple? Here’s how they will look then:

Peppers3blog

That’s it! Serve them along with whatever you have, but the great thing about this is that if you make enough to last for a few meals you are set for a bit; cooking from scratch takes more effort than using prepared food-like substances, but it’s worth it…if you make enough so that you don’t have to do it constantly. This quantity will give us enough for 4-6 individual servings, depending on how hungry you are. We always try to have three vegetable dishes on the plate in addition to the main entrée; this is really something of a necessity when you don’t eat starchy carbs like potatoes, rice or (of course) bread.

Now, here are the peppers being used for the first time at dinner, and I am going to let Mrs. Tyrannocaster (in italics) talk about the meal itself:

PeppersDinnerBlog

Clockwise, from the meat: Thrifty steak strips! Round steak and sliced onions sauteed in bacon drippings, then simmered in the remaining gravy from the pot roast we’d just finished up; the peppers; sliced kohlrabi sauteed in home-rendered lard with cherry tomatoes and oregano; fresh spinach wilted into butter-sauteed slivers of carrots and diced celery.

And here they are making their second appearance at lunch the next day:

PeppersLunchBlog

Clockwise, from the meat: Pork belly with an Italian lemon, aniseed and salt rub, slow-roasted in white wine (leftover); spicy pear chutney made with pears from our tree; shredded cabbage sauteed in butter with lots of black pepper and some salt; same spinach as above; and the peppers.

You can see how the vegetable dishes get rotated, so it’s nice to try to have enough of them around to make that possible. This is one reason why we like roasted vegetables; they are so easy to fix and eat immediately but you can have them again later and they reheat nicely – a gift that keeps on giving. Is steaming some broccoli easier? Maybe, but while I love steamed broccoli with good butter on it I need some variety, and roasting seems to provide that.

I like having better descriptions of these dishes than I am able to provide from memory, so I’m going to see if I can’t get Mrs. T to do this more often. And I have another side dish recipe in the wings, just waiting to take a bow. Oh, and an important point: while cooking your food from scratch like this takes time, Mrs. T has a full time job, so it can be done. I think the “secret” lies in making enough so that there are always leftovers.

Stay young and monstrous.

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2014 in Health, Recipes & ingredients

 

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They Eat Lard

What a great title for a horror movie!

What a great title for a horror movie!

I am working on something a lot less snarky but it’s not ready for publication, so since I rendered some lard yesterday morning I thought I’d take a few minutes to run down the procedure in case any of the unsuspecting victims who stumble on this blog might not know how to make it. It’s quite easy, and since we know now that lard is actually good for you, there’s not much reason not to use it. It also tastes wonderful.

Of course, I’m not talking about the hydrogenated glarp you buy in the store, usually in the “ethnic” section.

Real lard is just pork fat which has been melted and the remaining solids removed. Most people make it from pork fatback, which you can think of as uncured bacon with no meaty part in it – it’s just fat. I used a pound of fatback, which cost me $3.50 from a butcher that supplies very good, hazelnut-finished animals. (If you happen to be in Portland, I really recommend these guys. And they don’t know me from Adam so there’s no quid pro quo going on here.) The pound of fatback will make enough lard to just about fill a 16 ounce tub.

1. Cut the lard into small pieces, put it in a kettle and add enough water to come up about even with the top of the lard. The water is there to keep the lard from burning at the beginning of the process. At first, you can use a pretty high heat, but this first step is just to boil off the water and get the lard started. Once most of the water is gone you must turn the heat down. Here’s my lard after it’s started to boil, with some water still in the pot:

Lard1

2. Turn the heat down and let the lard bubble, stirring occasionally. As the lard liquifies, the solid bits will get smaller and more and more liquid will surround them. The bubbles will get smaller and smaller, and eventually the small pieces of solid matter will start to turn brown – at this point I pour off the liquid into a metal bowl:

Lard3

3. While the liquid cools I finish rendering the cracklings, which is what those solid bits are called. I do this away from the liquid so that if I mess up and overdo it I won’t give the rendered lard a browned taste. You can still use it if you do, but you probably wouldn’t want it in anything that isn’t a savory dish. I don’t eat grains so pastry is not on my menu, but if you want to you can make the best tasting, most flaky pastry you ever had with this stuff. This is what our great-grandparents’ pies were made with.

Lard cooling; it will be entirely ivory when done.

Lard cooling; it will be entirely ivory when done.

4. That’s it. Put the rendered lard in the refrigerator, where the lard will turn white (unless you really overcooked the cracklings first, LOL), salt the cracklings and taste ‘em; they hit the “french fry spot” better than anything else I’ve found since I stopped eating starchy carbs. Or put them directly on something and have a snack:

My usual patented, mismatched lighting for eating

My usual patented, mismatched lighting for eating

You can, of course, render other types of fat too. Here’s how you can make tallow if you have some beef heart handy. I realize that’s not too likely, but some might find it interesting, although the basic technique is the same as that used here for lard. In the absence of beef hearts (which usually have quite a bit of fat on the outside) you can do the same thing with suet, which you could get from a decent butcher.

Stay young and monstrous.

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2014 in Health, Recipes & ingredients

 

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