Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Day 151: Muffaletta

For years and years I didn't know what muffaletta was. It sounded fried to me. Like a pillow of dough. Like something that would fill your mouth and muffle your voice. (I make some strange root-word/root-sound connections with words when I don't know their actual definitions.) Maybe a doughnut of some sort.

Then I learned it was a sandwich. Still didn't really know what it was. Thought maybe it was like a Monte Cristo, sticking with my it-must-be-fried theory, which would put it in line for one of my favorite foods ever (if you've never had a battered, deep-fried ham and cheese sandwich, dipped in jam, you've never really lived.) I learned it hailed from New Orleans, and I thought of beignets. There was a lot working toward my theory that this thing must be fried.

Then about a year ago, I was at a bar with friends and one of them ordered a muffaletta, explained to me that it had three kinds of deli meat and a tangy olive spread on crusty bread. Wow. Not deep-fried, but still pretty tantalizing. But at that point, as happens on a regular cycle with me (and will have to happen again soon--darn my love of food and my thunder thighs), I was cutting calories, so I didn't try it. And I haven't really had an easy, here-you-go opportunity to have muffaletta again. (Muffuletta? I'm seeing multiple spellings on the interwebs.)

Until last night. It was the special at the Elk. So when I got back from California, that's what I had. Or, part of it. For lunch, my family took me to Angelo's burger place in Carlsbad and I had a monstrous avocado burger (or most of it, since a lot of it fell in my lap) and some fries, so I wasn't incredibly hungry. But I hadn't been able to sit next to my husband on the last leg of the flight back, and he had to go home and take care of the cat and go to work this morning while I had to stay in town to defend my thesis (this afternoon at 1:00!!!), and I wanted to buy time with him, so we had dinner. Anyway. That was a long sentence. But back to the point:

I love muffaletta. It is spicy and tangy and the bread was perfect and the olives were amazing. I still have half of it in the fridge to be eaten as a post-thesis-defense snack/meal/whatever. And, the more foods I eat that originate in New Orleans, the more I think I need to go there and eat. And eat and eat and eat. And then, probably, come home and diet. Oy.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Day 150: Oh, Baloney

While at the store the other day, my mother spotted a package of meat she used to eat as a child: mortadella. I had never had it--I'd heard of it, but I really had no idea what it was. So we bought some, and today we had it for lunch. My first thought was, hey--this tastes like bologna. And you know why? Because it is.
To be fair, this is not Oscar Meyer bologna. It's from Bologna, Italy, and it's made in a similar style of compressing meats into one sausage. Unlike your standard lunchbox bologna, mortadella is dotted with what I presume to be fat. It's spicier and less rubbery. It's the Cadillac of bologna, if you will. The real stuff, un-Americanized.

I had it on homemade white bread with Swiss cheese and tomatoes, plus a grainy mustard and my mother's favorite, Miracle Whip. Which threw me off at first. The Miracle Whip flavor definitely shone through. But I also tried my mortadella on its own, so I feel confident of its flavor. Either way, it was a yummy sandwich.

I would wrap this up with some statement about my love of Italian sausage, but I can't say it without sounding dirty. Anyway. That's some good meat.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Day 149: Holding Swai

Today was a rather fishy day. First, we took a trip to the Birch Aquarium in La Jolla, CA to look at the fish (that's me with the big whale statue outside). Then we went to Alfonso's Mexican Restaurant to eat some.

At the aquarium, we learned a lot about seahorses and jellyfish and, of course, we found Nemo (or one of his brethren). At the restaurant, we learned a tiny bit about something called swai, which I hadn't heard of until this afternoon.

The first thing I learned about swai: it's not good.

I didn't think so, anyway. I ordered a fish burrito, and trying to be a bit healthier and less wimpy about my fish order, I asked for the fish grilled instead of fried. But when I got my burrito, I discovered that it was filled with a pretty fishy fish, one that seemed to have its skin on, one that kind of tasted like it smells when you walk out onto a pier. Oceany, fishy, dirty. I had no idea at that point what kind of fish I was eating--I kind of assumed it would be something like cod--and the waitress, when asked, said it was swai, which she said was a lot like tilapia. Okay. I've never had tilapia, either. Whatever it was like, my dad had the same fish in his fish tacos and he agreed that it was not the tastiest. He was the one who said it tasted like dirt. And then, when we went down to La Jolla Cove and got down near the cliffs, we smelled that smell. Which is like dirty fish. Or bird poop. Or fish poop. So you can understand why I ate less than half of my burrito and lost my appetite for quite a while. (That's La Jolla Cove in the picture.)

Later, at home, after a little nap (I also had a melon margarita at lunch which was not disappointing at all but actually quite yummy), I looked up swai fish on the interwebs. Apparently, the dirty descriptor is appropriate--it's like a Vietnamese catfish. It's also pretty cheap. Which explains why a restaurant would choose to serve it. I've had regular catfish before, fried with a substantial sauce, and I liked it that way, but I don't think my burrito filling was rich or sharp enough to stand up to it. But hey, it was something new.

Day 148: Peachy Keen

My mother has a beautiful book called Culinaria Italy, part cookbook, part culinary history. It's big and heavy and it contains so many recipes I would like to try. We flipped through it yesterday, looking for something to make for dinner that I'd never had before. There were so many options, so many beautiful pictures and recipes to be perused, that we spent longer looking at the book than expected, cutting into the time we thought we had to prepare dinner. So in the end, we went to the store and bought pizza fixings. For the crust we used a really lovely flatbread, and we made one margherita pizza and one with Italian sausage.

I love a good trip to the grocery store, especially when visiting California, where the selection of foods is often larger and nicely diverse. This time, while selecting a bunch of root-on basil (it keeps a lot longer than cut basil, when you keep the root end in a glass of water), we actually ran into the man who grows the stuff, a man from Archi's Acres, who was quite happy to see us purchasing his product. He told us about his program for hiring vets who suffer from PTSD, which seemed pretty appropriate considering it's Memorial Day weekend. He was a lovely, friendly man, and his basil is excellent.

Back home, we put the pizzas together, but since I'd obviously had pizza before (though not the type of flatbread we used for the crust... I should have written down the name and now the wrappers are out in the trash barrel), I had to have something else. For that purpose, we bought a bottle of prosecco and some white peaches. It was a simple recipe we found in Mom's Italian book: bellinis. For those of you who don't know, a bellini is a drink that originated at Harry's Bar in Venice, Italy--one of the most famous restaurants I can think of. Unfortunately, I've never been there despite the fact that I have been to Venice. When I was there, I was nineteen, had no money, and had never heard of the place. I spent hours searching for a particular gelato shop the travel guide recommended, but it would never have occurred to me to look for a famous bar. Famous bar? I would have said. Ppppbbbbthhh. Ah, to be young.

Anyway, I've heard of Harry's Bar now, and I've always wanted to try a bellini, so I pureed some peaches. Unfortunately, I didn't read the recipe closely enough and I peeled them, which I wasn't supposed to do, which explains why my bellini (pictured above) is not particularly pink. I also don't think the peaches were in perfect condition, and I don't think I got my puree smooth enough. It was still tasty, though. I almost wish I'd just bought a can of Kern's peach nectar--that was the original plan, but they didn't have any at the store we visited and I didn't feel like going to another, plus I thought real peaches would make a better drink. Maybe they did. I don't know.

Next time I have a bellini, I will probably trust a bartender. Maybe the next time I have a bellini it will be at Harry's Bar in Venice. For those of you who would like to try it at home, here's the recipe:

(Serves 1)

Scant 1/4 cup ice cold puree of unpeeled white peaches
2/3 cup chilled prosecco

Place the puree in a chilled glass. Top with prosecco, stir quickly, serve immediately.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Day 147: Pho Fun

Last night, my parents took my husband and me to a little pho place near their house (sorry--if I knew how to add the little accent mark, I would). The best part of that statement is that we're in California, with my parents! The second best is that I finally had some pho.

I have friends who love pho, who go out to eat it as often as possible, but as fate would have it, I'd never encountered it until this trip. I sort of knew what it was: noodles in broth. The particular pho I ordered contained rare steak and well-done brisket. I did not try the tendon, because I wasn't sure about that. Anyway, the menu stated that their broth was made with oxtail and beef and all those wonderful bones, and that it cooked for ten hours. Wow! Then they add the meat and the noodles and herbs, plus you add more herbs (basil) and bean sprouts and jalapenos and lime juice at the table. And then you dig in with spoon and chopsticks (or fork) and though the noodles are slippery (not as slippery as the udon Ian ordered, but still) and I'm no whiz with the chopsticks, it's worth the effort. It kept me full all evening, and very satisfied.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Day 146: The Incredible Inedible Egg

This morning I attempted some fancy scrambled eggs. I'm not one to mix stuff in with my eggs or do much fancy footwork. I might add a little cheese. But recently, I made some sundried tomato pesto, so I thought they might go well together. I was incredibly wrong.

While it was cooking, this mix smelled like dog food--owing, maybe, to the pine nuts? But still I gave it a chance. It was an ominous red color, not very pretty at all (I would have taken a picture but the hubby and I are embarking on a trip tomorrow and he seems to have packed both cameras away who-knows-where).

It didn't taste like dog food. I don't know what it tasted like. Like stale sundried tomatoes if there is such a thing. I'm sure there's some culinary explanation for this. Maybe just that my pesto wasn't up to snuff.

Oh well. Another day, another lesson learned.


I've been very adventurous today--for lunch (early lunch, I know, but I only had a mouthful of eggs and coffee for breakfast) I made a new type of smoothie. You see, I'm in the process of moving out of my Spokane apartment, since grad school is ending, and I figured I ought to use the food I had in my fridge and freezer. The milk had gone bad, but I had frozen strawberries and orange juice (you can tell my husband was here this weekend because I never buy orange juice except for him). But that seemed a little lacking. I also had some pecans in my freezer (I keep them there so the oils won't spoil--greatly extends their shelf life), so I threw a handful of those into the blender, too. And guess what? It's great. And vegan. So: here's the recipe.

~1 1/2 cups frozen strawberries
~1 cup orange juice
~1/3 cup pecans

Blend well

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Day 145: In Purgatory

Today, the hubby came home for lunch and I made him a dish I've been curious about for a while: Eggs in Purgatory. It's a pretty basic dish: eggs cooked in pasta sauce. That doesn't mean, to a certain extent, that I didn't screw it up. It also doesn't mean that the outcome wasn't good.

You see, I put in too much pasta sauce. The most basic recipe I could find said heat up one cup pasta sauce, crack in two eggs, cover and cook until whites set. Okay. I remembered most of that. I just didn't remember the proportions. So I dumped in a whole jar of sauce (2 1/2 cups) and cracked four eggs onto that, which meant they had more of a tomatoey jacuzzi than was intended--not too much more, but more. It was actually a little scary to watch them as they cooked, with the sauce bubbling up through the whites--it was more like eggs in hell.

But then they started to look like poached eggs, and I grated some parmesan on top and served them.

This was a first for me in a couple of ways. First, I've never had eggs in purgatory. But more importantly, I've never had an egg cooked to this particular level: solid whites, partially runny yolks. It was a little scary. This was probably one of the best ways I could have started, though, since I could sort of hide my yolks in the sauce. Wimpy, I know, but you've got to start somewhere, right? So one day, when I have my first eggs benedict, I won't be afraid of the yolks.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Day 144: All Dressed Up

Some months ago, my husband and I went to one of our favorite stores in Spokane, Oil and Vinegar, and bought a mystery bag (this is an incredibly fun and relatively cheap-for-the-customer way they periodically clear out their stock). In it, there was an amazing cherry tomato and shallot chutney, amazing garlicky crackers, a little oil dipper pot, and a bottle of strawberry balsamic vinegar. There may have been something else, but these are the things I remember.

We ate the chutney and crackers right away. We also used some of the strawberry balsamic to use as a dipper for bread, but this stuff is super sweet, so we didn't use a ton. It's yummy, yes--but still, super sweet.

So last weekend, we finally went to Oil and Vinegar again. We chose a complimentary oil for our vinegar--a lime riesling grapeseed oil. We tasted it at the shop and it was pretty good together, so we bought some, brought it home, and I began concocting a salad to go with it.

Here's what I put together:

1 cup sliced strawberries
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1/2 cup crumbled feta (I used reduced fat because it's firmer)
4 cups baby spinach
~1/4 cup oil
~1/4 cup vinegar (don't trust oil and vinegar measurements--I drizzled and eyeballed it)
salt and pepper

I tossed it all together in a big bowl, and we were so eager to eat it, we didn't even use plates. We ate it out of that bowl. It was kind of fun, and certainly a new experience. A very tangy salad--definitely don't leave out the nuts. If anything, you might want more nuts. It adds a lovely toasty nutty crunchy meatiness. Yum yum yum.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Day 143: Home Remedies

I've seen people marvel at the fact that ginger ale is made with real ginger. They can't believe it because ginger ale really tastes nothing like ginger. These people haven't tried ginger beer.

If you like ginger like I do, you'll find this stuff delicious.

I know, it seems like semantics: ale vs beer. Splitting hairs and whatnot. But the beer is an entirely different brew. If you don't like the spice and particular earthiness of ginger, you will not like this stuff. If you don't like candied ginger, you might not want to pick it up. But if you have a stomachache, this stuff is a good idea.

You know. Because ginger helps with nausea. It's funny, because people drink ginger ale for their tummies, and they think it's the same as lemon lime, so they drink lemon lime for their tummies, too. Maybe the carbonation helps, too, for certain tummy troubles, but it's the ginger that's the active ingredient. Personally, I always have something gingery before I get on a plane, and usually I pack some ginger snaps, as well. Flying to and from Thanksgiving and Christmas is the best for me, because ginger snacks are in no short supply. I will bring candied ginger, too--I would bring ginger ale (or, now, ginger beer) except for that whole no-liquids-or-gels thing.

If you don't believe me about the ginger vs nausea thing (mainly associated with motion sickness), check out this episode of Mythbusters. Grant tries out various cures, pukes a lot, and then--the ginger kicks in.

Day 142: Sweet and Spicy

Yesterday, I had two things I'd never had before. One was a "martini" that tasted like key lime pie. Really. I got this at the Peacock Room in Spokane, and it was one of those drinks that could easily be mistaken for dessert. It even had a little graham cracker dust on top. And whipped cream. Now, I am not usually one who drinks alcohol with whipped cream. I am one to smirk at those who do. I ordered it because I thought it would be like a gimlet, but with vanilla vodka (the menu description was vague). But you know what? It was really good. Maybe the whipped cream drink drinkers are on to something.

Second, I went to sushi. Mostly, I had rolls I'd had before. But I also had a spicy tuna roll, which blew my mind. I was not expecting to like raw tuna so much. But--I can't even describe it. It was my favorite roll of the evening. I'm getting to the point where I could probably trick someone into thinking I knew something about sushi. I also had seared salmon and a California roll, and an asparagus roll...avocado roll... what else? Anyway. It was sushi. I'm always proud of myself after I eat sushi. Unfortunately, my sushi buddy will be moving back to Hawaii soon, and I will be sad. I will probably email her every time I have sushi and brag about my new fishy conquests.

Maybe one day I'll try the mussels. Ian had them and liked them. I stared them down for a minute and changed my mind.


Day 141: Hazelnutty

Sorry, I've been a delinquent blogger. But here's what I had on Friday: Rogue Hazelnut brown beer.

Normally, I don't go for the darker beers, but a friend came up to me and said his beer was like Christmas in a cup. I was skeptical. He had me try it.

It was Christmas in a cup.

Now, I consider myself a fairly wimpy beer drinker, but this stuff rocked.

If you go to the Rogue website, you'll see these tasting notes:

"A nutty twist to a traditional European Brown Ale. Dark brown in color with a hazelnut aroma, a rich nutty flavor and a smooth malty finish."

So I guess I like nutty beer. Which makes sense, since I like nuts.

Try this stuff.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Day 140: The Lameness Continues

Yes, I had something new yesterday. Sort of. A new flavor. Sort of. A flavor I've had and a food I've had, just never together.

I had orange Jell-O.

Okay okay okay. I'm going to start going whole hog again soon.

Ooh, whole hog. I've never had that before.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Day 139: Free Sample

This is really super lame, but the only new thing I had yesterday was a free sample at Starbucks. It was a coconut cream frappuccino, and it was dang good.

I like the idea of free samples. I especially like to go to Costco on the weekend and have a free sample lunch. My husband is a bit of a free sample junkie--he has no qualms about going to the same little sample kiosk over and over, obviously savoring more than sampling. Which I understand. He pays for his Costco membership. He's going to get his money's worth.

And actually, this makes me less timid about taking free samples. I especially have a hard time when there's a crush of people. Even if I know I might want to buy the product in question, and genuinely want to taste it first, if someone pushes in front of me for that little toothpicked ravioli or paper cup of soup, I will back down.

Which is why I like the Starbucks free sample model. Tray delivery. Offer it to you at the register. Let every customer feel special.

Which is my way of padding a post that is actually pretty lame. But I do think the coconut cream frappuccino thingie is super yummy, and I'll probably buy at least one this summer. So sampling: effective.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Day 138: Apricot

It might surprise you, but until today I had never had a fresh apricot. Dried, yes. It was one of the things I learned to like in the last phase of this whole process of becoming a "perfect omnivore" (or at least a better omnivore than I've previously been). I figured, since I've learned to like the dried version, the fresh version would be a cinch. So today, I tried one.

I'm going to give this apricot the benefit of the doubt. The fuzzy skin was off-putting, and the flesh was not nearly as flavorful as expected, and kind of mealy. This leads me to believe my apricot was not fully ripe. I don't know. I mean, I love apricot beer (the unfiltered wheat kind from Pyramid--yum!) and I feel like I know what an apricot is supposed to taste like, but maybe I'm assuming it should be sweeter because the more candied/manipulated versions I've had are sweeter. I don't know.

The best thing, though, about today's apricot experience comes from Wikipedia. I like to do a little research on the food I'm eating (let's hope this page is reliable) and I discovered a little apricot tidbit (besides how much they love them in the Middle East): apparently, US Marine Corps tankers think they're bad luck. They won't eat them, transport them, or even say the word "apricot." Supposedly this is because there were apricots around when some Sherman tanks broke down. If you happen to know the fuller version of this story, I'd be very curious to hear it.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Day 137: Ratta-tatta

I've had ratatouille before. I've made ratatouille before. But I've never had or made it with Japanese eggplant, and I've never made it this way.

Tonight's dinner started out as an attempt to recreate the ratatouille dish from the Disney Pixar movie. But, given that it was my first shot, it didn't turn out that way. I sliced my veg (Japanese eggplant, yellow squash, zucchini) on my Japanese mandolin, but mine is a fairly cheap model that doesn't do the requisite paper-thin slices. Also, I didn't have the shallow dish required. Also, I didn't produce a thin enough sauce. So it turned out more like a stew, but the process I put it through still made for the most scrumptious ratatouille of my entire life. In my attempt for the movie presentation, I moved everything into a baking dish and layered the vegetable slices in a pretty way, but the recipe calls for baking it in the same dish you cook the sauce in, because that's how I plan to do it next time.

Ratatouille Almost-a-la-Pixar:

2 Japanese eggplants
2 small zucchini
2 small yellow squash
1 medium/large yellow onion
1 medium green bell pepper
1 medium red bell pepper
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 tbsp olive oil
1 can tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup orange juice

Rough chop the onion and bell peppers. Puree them in a food processor, until they're really pulverized. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and one clove garlic in a dutch oven, until the garlic starts to brown. Discard the garlic and add the pureed veg, dried herbs, salt and pepper; cook for about 20 min over medium heat, until the mixture is more brown than red. Add the tomato paste. Cook about 5 minutes more. Taste for seasoning. Add tomato sauce, water, and orange juice. Bring to a boil; reduce to simmer. Cook with the lid slightly ajar for approximately one hour, until the sauce is nice and thick. In the meantime, slice the squash, zucchini, and eggplant on a Japanese mandolin, or thinly by hand. Preheat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit. When the sauce has reduced, stir in the squash, zucchini, and eggplant. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the veggies have softened. Serve with crusty bread.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Day 136: A Trip to Shropshire

Yesterday, we visited the cheese shop in Moscow, ID, and Ian picked out a type of cheese we've never had before: Shropshire. Today, we dug into it. It's like Stilton, but creamier. And, obviously, it's yellow.

The more varieties of cheese I try, the more similarities I see between them. When describing any cheese, it seems you can relate it to several other varieties (I could also say it's like Dutch blue or Gorgonzola). It's almost disappointing, actually, but I guess it's to be expected considering they all come from the same, or very similar, base ingredients.

Shropshire blue cheese is a pretty new cheese variety, first made in the 1970s. It's made from cow's milk. It has no actual connection to Shropshire. It was first made in Inverness, but I guess Inverness doesn't sound as good as Shropshire.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Day 135: AMAZING pasta salad

Once again, I've gotten a new issue of Food Network Magazine, and once again, it's provided a culinary revelation.

That being: pasta salad.

It's one of their features they do: a mix-and-match type thing. This month, pasta salad. So I put rigatoni, creamy parmesan sauce (recipe in magazine), steak, bell pepper, asparagus (today's farmer's market find), and sun-dried tomatoes together. And man, was it good.

I have had, if you'll recall, my troubles with pasta salad. But this--man, this is good. This is worth eating as often as possible. I have been hoping for a good pasta salad recipe for quite a while, and I have been satisfied. I will be attempting as many pasta salad variations as I can in the next few weeks.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Day 134: The Young Eccentric

Tonight, while dining out, I had a delightful drink that I've been meaning to try for a long time: the young eccentric. It includes vodka, lemon, pear puree, absinthe, and rosemary. The rosemary is a garnish, but you should really leave it in the glass if you ever have one of these, because it perfumes the whole thing. A really delicious drink.

It was not only my first time having this particular concoction, but my first time having absinthe. Well, sort of. Because absinthe isn't 100% legal in the US. Versions of it are. But the key ingredient, a chemical called Thujone that traditionally comes from wormood, is not. So they filter it out and call it absinthe, but it isn't absinthe really. But I'd never had this non-absinthe, either. And when I next find myself in France, I will have to have a glass of the real thing, in a more traditional serving style. I will raise my glass to Toulouse Lautrec.

Anyway, this drink, I thought, was dangerous. My companions thought it tasted pretty alcoholic, but to me, that alcohol taste tasted more like licorice. I could have kept drinking these things. But I was a good girl. I only had one. Still, next time I visit South Fork, this will probably be my drink order. At least, if it's a special occasion.

For more about absinthe and the terms of its sale in the US, go here.

Day 133: Another Quick One

So, it's thesis season, plus Blogger was down yesterday, so not much time to blog! (I turn in my thesis on Tuesday, the 17th, and defend on the 31st! Eep!) Anyway, yesterday I put broccoli in my mac n cheese, which is something I've never done before, but I wanted mac n cheese and I wanted to be a wee bit healthy, and many people put cheese sauce on broccoli so there you go. It was good. I mean, if you like vegetables in your mac n cheese.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Day 132: A Quick Note About Yogurt

I eat a fair amount of Yoplait yogurt, because they have interesting flavors and low calorie counts. When I saw a thick and creamy cinnamon roll variety, I was intrigued. It was, indeed, thick and creamy, but it only had 100 calories. I figured to thicken it up you'd have to strain out a fair amount of liquid, turning it to a Greek yogurt type consistency, and that would up the calorie count. But no--how do they do it? With gelatin. Strange. But that's why it doesn't feel like Greek yogurt in your mouth. It feels like flan. As for the cinnamon roll flavor, I'm not sure it works for me. It tasted almost exactly like the time I stirred cinnamon into vanilla yogurt. It was fine. But the warmth of the cinnamon and the tanginess of the yogurt seem to have an inherent dissimilarity.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Day 131: What do you get when you cross a soybean and a dachshund?

A tofu dog!

Which is what I had for my new thing of the day. I was really craving hot dogs, but I thought, that's bad for me, plus I'd had it before, and then it occurred to me. I've never had tofu dogs! So I rushed right out to Rosauer's and bought a package of them. Plus regular hot dog buns which are probably not vegan, so it's a strange mix, but still a vegetarian one. Oh, and some salt and vinegar Pringles. Which could have been more salt-and-vinegary.

Really, a tofu dog isn't that similar to a hot dog. But it isn't that dissimilar, either. The shape is the same. They inject it with a smoky flavor that somewhat simulates a hot dog, and it had a fairly robust texture, which I found surprising. But there are two elements that really make a hot dog for me. That snap as you bite through the casing, and the hot, meaty animal fat. Obviously, this tofu dog had neither. Doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it. Just means it isn't a hot dog.

That being said, they are really low calorie and lack the health problems/sketchy ingredients of real hot dogs (though I usually buy Hebrew National, which are less sketchy, but are hot dogs nonetheless). And they taste good. And they are pretty good for you. So there's one reason to try them, whether you personally eat meat or not.

Day 130: Rutabaga

"Rutabaga" is a fun word to say. Like "rhubarb," which is another vegetable I don't think I've ever had. But it's not just fun to say; it's fun to eat, too. Or, at least, it's pretty good to eat. Me, I boiled it and mashed it with hot milk and butter, like I would with a potato. Of course, I accidentally allowed that hot milk to boil, which clouded the flavor of the final product (you know when you order your latte extra hot and the milk has that particular flavor--not burned, but definitely cooked in some way) but the rutabaga flavor definitely came through. It's definitely a root vegetable. You know--hearty, earthy. Somewhere between a potato and a parsnip and... celery root? There are probably hints of turnip in there, too, but I don't think I've had a turnip before, either. At least not that I can recall. So I'll have to have a turnip, too. Which will be fun. Turnips make me think of bunny rabbits. I have no idea why.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Day 129: Lox

I know I've mentioned this before, but when I worked at Big Apple Bagels in San Marcos, CA, there was one menu item that the sandwich makers hated to make: a bagel with lox. These bagels were almost always ordered with cream cheese and capers, as well. And while capers fascinated us (we were all young, most of the staff was about 16 and female), the lox would leave its scent on you for the rest of the day. All that oil and the fishy smoke of it--well, that's what I smell like now. Because I just had, for the first time ever, a bagel with lox, capers, and cream cheese.

I thought I'd conquered smoked salmon. I really did. And maybe I just put too much on my bagel--though it didn't really seem that way--or maybe my salmon was cut too thick, or maybe I was used to it and my immunity has already worn off. Either way, I shuddered several times as I was eating this, and only once because of the capers. There were moments when I thought it was a lovely thing to eat. And then a little too much fish would hit my tongue and--I don't know. It's sweet and oily and fishy and it doesn't process too well in my brain. But now I've had it and I know what it is. So there's that.

Now maybe I'll go have an apple.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Day 128: Cheesy

Today, at the grocery store, I ran across a cheese I'd never heard of. Beemster Dutch cheese. It didn't tell me what variety, really--just "Dutch"--and it was yellow and firm and it looked like a good shot at something I'd never had before. So I bought it, brought it home, and ate some.

It's a waxy cheese, not the most pleasant taste but not the worst either, something part stinky part bland. It had a flaky texture to it, pulling apart with the kind of flakes you find in fish, and at times it was vaguely (very vaguely) reminiscent of parmesan. But I couldn't pinpoint what variety of cheese it was. When I looked up "Dutch cheese" online, the first definition I found was cottage cheese, which definitely wasn't right. And then, after going to the Beemster website and finding no indication, I discovered some help at about.com, which told me the most popular Dutch cheese was gouda, and that a popular manufacturer of said cheese was Beemster.

I've only ever had smoked gouda, that I can recall, and I like it, but mostly for its smoky flavor. This was not smoked. Nor white and soft like the gouda I remember. Instead, it was yellow and firm. An interesting experience, but not necessarily the cheese I'm going to pick up for my next cheese plate. Especially since I still don't feel confident in what kind of cheese it really was.

Today's fruit: pineapple and coconut (frozen pineapple, coconut milk, and pineapple juice blended into a smoothie--another combo I've never had before--yum!)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Day 127: Coffee in Vietnam

I mentioned a couple days ago that I've been very interested, lately, in my 50-smoothie fold-out that came with my latest Food Network Magazine. One of the smoothies in particular caught my eye as something worth trying, especially now that I've overcome my fear of cold coffee. It's the Vietnamese Coffee smoothie, and it's pretty darn good.

Basically, it's a Frappuccino, or a frappe for you non-Starbucksers. Chilled coffee, sweetened condensed milk, ice, and chocolate on top. You could totally just put sweetened condensed milk and coffee over ice and you'd have Vietnamese coffee without the smoothie part, which I'm sure would be good, too. But there's something about the texture of this, with all the ice nicely blended it (I had to chip some ice off a big block of it that used to be a bag of ice, and it went into the blender mostly crushed already, so I got a lovely, pillowy consistency). And topped with just a tiny bit of chocolate, it's great. I don't even need to taste the chocolate--it's really a light sprinkle on top, and you don't get chocolate in every gulp--just the aroma mixed with the coffee is lovely. I used a 60% cocoa chocolate, grated it over my glass, barely a fraction of a chocolate square.

Of course, sitting here drinking my Vietnamese coffee, I don't have any of the scenery I might have in Vietnam. I have a view of the house next door. Someday, maybe I'll visit, and have real Vietnamese coffee in the real Vietnam.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Day 126: Tangerine...Dream?

After my rip-roaring success with tangelos, I was excited to try a plain old tangerine. I figured, if I liked the hybrid so much, I was bound to like the original. Tangelos could have converted me to the cult of citrus fruit lovers. But then I had my tangerine.

I didn't think it was terrible. It was fine. But there were elements that I wasn't expecting. Like the seeds, for example. Every single segment had seeds. Two of them. And a lot more connective tissue, which was difficult to remove. I'm sure a tangerine contains much more fiber than a tangelo, but that's not really my main concern when eating it. In fact, I probably removed half the fiber while trying to get to the sweet flesh.

Which wasn't as sweet as the tangelo's, nor as perfumed. It was okay, but nothing extraordinary.

But, since I ate it, it means I ate fruit today. I also ate strawberries. And at the moment, I could really go for a tangelo.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Day 125: Adventures in Smoothie Land

It's been a few days since I've been required to eat foods that freak me out, but I guess I'm not quite out of the habit. You see, I've been drinking a lot of smoothies lately--partially inspired by my 50 Smoothies foldout that came with a recent Food Network Magazine, partially because it's starting to warm up outside. Mostly, I've been making the smoothies up as I go. I throw frozen fruit, yogurt, juice, whatever into a blender (or food processor if my blender is out of commission), buzz it up, and drink it. But the little smoothie pamphlet contained a smoothie recipe that really intrigued me, that I never would have considered making if I hadn't been on my recent culinary adventures and didn't happen to have cottage cheese in the fridge. Here it is:

Blend 2 cups chopped pineapple, 1/2 cup cottage cheese (I used low fat), 1/4 cup milk (I used 2%), 2 tsp honey, 1/4 tsp vanilla, a pinch each of nutmeg and salt, and 2 cups ice.

Normally, I would have passed that recipe by. It would have been on par with some of the green smoothie recipes I've found involving things like kale (I probably should try those at some point, and maybe I will, but in the past I would have gagged at the thought and moved on). The most intriguing part about this was that I couldn't imagine how it would taste. Normally I'm good at mentally synthesizing flavors and figuring out how a combination will taste, but here, I couldn't quite imagine it. I had to know. So I went out, bought a pineapple, and this morning, turned it into a smoothie.

So guess what? It's delicious. I don't think I would ever have guessed its ingredients, either. No--I KNOW I would never have guessed its ingredients. Especially the cottage cheese and nutmeg. Pineapple, yes. Something creamy. Milk. Honey, because it's such a common smoothie sweetener.

I may have to go through this little pamphlet smoothie by smoothie. Could be pretty fun and pretty delicious.

As for fruit, I know the day isn't over and thus I might have more, but I have had a hefty amount of pineapple already.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Day 124: The Pistachios Are in the Pudding

Tonight, I discovered the wonder that is pistachio pudding. Well--fat free, sugar free, instant pistachio pudding--but it was still good. And I would imagine that the full-fat stuff would be amazing. And I would be very interested in learning to make this stuff from scratch.

I'd had pistachio ice cream before, but couldn't imagine it as a pudding. Though, really, ice cream is basically frozen pudding. So there's that. But this stuff had reconstituted pistachios. Interesting stuff. Ian wasn't as big a fan. But I sure liked it.

I also had a strawberry-kiwi smoothie this morning, because I had frozen strawberries and a kiwi that I had to use up. I was afraid the kiwi flavor would be overwhelmed by the strawberries, since there were so many more strawberries than kiwi. But it ended up very well balanced. Lots of seeds, but that was okay.

Today's fruit: strawberries, kiwi, tangelo, apple (woot!)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Day 123: Banana-ish

Tonight, I had my first encounter with the plantain, a member of the banana family. Plantains are a much starchier, less sugary cousin of the banana--in fact, to my mind, they're barely like a banana at all. This may have something to do with the ripeness of the plantain I prepared tonight, but the fact that plantains are most often (and most recommended) served cooked supports my claim. The moisture content is lower in a plantain. The peel is much more difficult to remove. In nature, if I were an animal wandering around wondering what to eat, I think I would decide plantains were too difficult to deal with and go for something else. Which is the kind of defense mechanism vegetables generally have. That, and some vegetables tend to make you a little sick when you eat them raw. I don't know if raw plantain will make you sick or not, but it certainly wouldn't be pleasant, I can guess that without trying.

Here's how I prepared my plantains: boiled, then mashed with some of the boiling water, salt, and olive oil. Pretty simple. I had them alongside a pork chop and some caramelized onions (we had a couple of onions that were on their way out and Ian and I both love a caramelized onion, so we eat them as a side dish on their own, not just as a topping). The recipe I had said you could substitute the plantains with potatoes, and that confused me at first. But actually, they were quite potato-ish. Maybe a little more starchy. Ian said he detected a hint of banana flavor, but I almost wonder if that was psychosomatic: they look like bananas, so they must taste like bananas.

I think I'm going to have to experiment with plantains: different preparations, different levels of ripeness.

As for today's fruit: strawberries (in smoothie form) and plantain (if you count it as a fruit)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Day 122: Tangelo

I learned today that a tangelo, one of the many citrus fruits I've never eaten before because of my former aversion to their texture, is a hybrid of a tangerine and a grapefruit (or pomelo: tangerine + pomelo = tangelo). I also learned that tangelos are juicy and delicious, far less fibrous than any orange I've eaten, and, in general, absolutely amazing. I might have a new favorite fruit on my hands. And my elbows. And my couch and my skirt. Seriously, this fruit was very juicy.

So. Day one of phase two? Super easy. Super enjoyable. I think this is going to be, in general, a fun phase. And maybe a healthier one, too, since there are so many fruits I've never tried before. Also, I'm thinking that I might make myself eat at least one piece of fruit a day for these four months, regardless of whether it's my new thing or not. Cuz it's healthy. So I'll probably report that at the end of each post, as follows.

Daily fruit: tangelo and apple