Sunday, September 30, 2012

September in Instagram

Post-triathlon snack in New Braunfels

Planning my training goals (not always my training reality), for my half-marathon.

Margaritas on the patio!

Lot's of training runs along the Riverwalk.

Geoff sat in with an old friend when his band played San Antonio.

I've been learning weird things on my runs.

We chicken-sat this month.  They have developed some weird laying habits.

Much less well known than the Alamo.

Made pesto the old-fashion way.

Dramatic clouds (enhanced) on my longest run yet - 9 miles!

A sushi feast!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Here's to You, Senora Robinson

Haha.  So that "whole week of Dinner and a Movie" plan didn't go so well.  But I'll get to them!  Next up is The Graduate and a very 1960s meal - fondue!  I've always been a fan of fondue and I had been wanting to try this extremely non-traditional Fondue with Tequila and Chipotles.  I made a few substitutions based on what I had on hand.  I've found that as long as there is cheese and booze, you can improvise however you want with fondue.  Instead of the chipotles, I used fresh roasted Hatch chiles which were at their peak a few weeks ago.  Using white wine seemed strange in this dish so I substituted Lone Star.  It's the national beer of Texas!  I also decided to add some turkey chorizo, but I think that may have been guilding the lily.  I only make fondue about once a year, so I usually go fairly traditional, but I'm glad I took the chance and branched out.  If you have a favorite fondue recipe, please share!

Of course you can't have fondue without dippers!  While picking up a nice crusty loaf at the local baker is certainly an option, I opted to make the pain de campagne - a French country bread - from The Bread Baker's Apprentice.  It's a rustic loaf made mostly of white flour with a small amount of wheat flour for flavor and texture.  It comes together quickly and can be formed into boule for sandwiches or any number of other shapes.  With a bit of steam in the oven, I got a perfect ratio of crust to soft interior.  I formed half of the dough into an epi (wheat stalk) which not only looks fancy but also maximizes the exterior so that each piece has a crusty edge.  For some variety, I also roasted up a head's worth of cauliflower florets to dip in the fondue.

I enjoyed The Graduate mostly for the soundtrack (Simon and Garfunkel were a frequent presence in my childhood) and the casting of Mr. Feeney as the dad.  However, I had trouble keeping myself from seeing the movie other than through my own, modern lens.  I suspect that, in 1967, this was a tale of disaffected youth refusing to strive for their parents' suburban ideals and adults who aren't happy in the lives they built for themselves.  It's Rebel without a Cause, a toned-down Feminine Mystique, a bit of On the Road (like The Graduate's Benjamin, Sal Paradise just needs to get over himself, quit mooching off everyone around him, and find a job).  Perhaps because I've been a curmudgeon since age 18, none of this particularly resonated with me.  Dustin Hoffman, who was 30 playing 21 while looking 45, is funniest in his discomfort at being seduced by an older woman.  But I didn't much care for Benjamin and saw the movie through Elaine's eyes except for why she could possibly be attracted to him.  The moral of Elaine's story seemed to be "you are smart and driven young woman, here's a lazy, morose partner (who slept with your mom) to drag you down."  I would have been happier with the iconic final scene showing Elaine riding off in the back of the bus alone.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Royale with Cheese

We're kicking off an entire week of Dinner and a Movie posts with a modern (well, 18 years old) classic - Pulp Fiction.  Even if you haven't seen the movie, you have most certainly seen the "Royale with Cheese" scene.  Rather than try to imitate a Quarter-Pounder, or the more prosaic Royale with Cheese, I decided on the recipe for the Shake Shack burger I found on What's Cooking in Your World.  Except I didn't want to pay for sirloin tips and short ribs.  Also, my food processor is broken.  Also, I'm lazy.  So instead, I bought one pound of ground sirloin and it was still the best burger I've ever made. The key is that you don't mix anything into the meat.  In fact, you touch it as little as possible.  I just broke it into four pieces, heavily salt and peppered both sides, and the smashed a thin slice of onion onto one side before placing the burgers on a screaming hot cast iron skillet.  The resulting texture was slightly crumbly and really delicious.  I'm never mixing up my burger meat again.  You have to love a recipe where the end result is improved by putting in less effort.

Since the patties were so easy, you'll have more time to whip up a special sauce - equal parts mustard, mayo, ketchup, and pickles (homemade is great).  And, of course, you must have fries to go with your burger.  I have a favorite baked fries recipe that I've used in the paste that calls for coating the fries in corn starch to get that really crispy exterior.  This recipe from Ellie Krieger doesn't give the fries the same texture, but does call for toasting garlic in olive oil, using the garlicky oil to coat the fries before baking, and then sprinkling the crispy bits of garlic (and rosemary if your me) over the fries once they are done.  And that, my friends, is genius.

Okay, now that dinner is ready, what about the movie?  I really liked it.  I forgot how much I enjoy Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta, and even Bruce Willis.  I've seen some other Tarantino movies before so I was familiar with his pacing and love of violence.  I really like the way his characters speak - analytical and stylized - and I'm a real sucker for Uma Thurman so I was already predisposed to enjoy Pulp Fiction. The movie braids together apparently disparate story lines into a single film with a jittery timeline that clearly comes together in the end - a storytelling technique I usually enjoy as it allows your understanding of events to evolve in a natural way.  (Sidebar: Whenever there are multiple stories, you expect them all to come together by the end of the film.  Am I the only one who wants to see a movie where all of the storylines tie together except for one.  Man, that would drive people crazy.)  I'm not sure what I can say about Pulp Fiction that hasn't already been said and re-said so I'll just conclude by saying that if you haven't seen it (I can't the only one to wait 18 years, right?) and you have the stomach for the violence, you definitely should watch it.

Did this blog post leave you hungry for burgers, but wishing I was a better movie critic?  Check out my friend Bryan over at Bryan Loves Movies where he gives each movie a "Snack Food Analogy Rating" as in "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is pudding.  Even when I think I’m really in the mood for pudding, I always end up eating about half of it and tossing the rest aside."

Sunday, September 23, 2012

(South)western Omelet

I've been thinking about a Western omelet for a week now.  Ham, veggies, eggs, what's not to like?  Add some hash browns along the side and I'm a happy camper.  Now, the obvious remedy to this craving would be to go out to brunch at one of the hundreds of places in town that serve Western omelets, but I think you've realized by now that this isn't the way this story ends.  I'm picky about my omelets (okay, I'm picky about everything).  I love cheese, but not so much that the eggs are swimming in grease, lots of veggies (pre-cooked, not crunchy), and nice chunks of ham.  Don't even get me started on the mushy cubes of potato some diners try to pass off as hash browns.

To sate my craving, I started with the hash browns.  I only accept grated potatoes as hash browns.  You are entitled to your own opinion, but deep down in your heart, you know cubed hash browns are just roasted potatoes you are serving at breakfast.  To make four servings of hash browns, I grated 3 medium Russet potatoes and sprinkled them with about 2 tsp of salt.  After a few minutes of sitting, I spun them over and over again in my salad spinner until they had given up all of the moisture they could.  Dry potatoes are the key to crispy browns and that is what I am after.  I tossed the shredded potatoes with green onions and black pepper.  I cooked the potatoes over medium high heat in two batches using about 2 tsp of butter per side.  Be sure to start your browns cooking well before your omelets because I cooked mine for a total of 20 minutes to get a really nice, crispy crust.

While the browns were cooking, I sauteed green onion with red and green bell pepper.  At the last minute, I tossed in cubes of ham steak to warm through.  It took me forever to figure out how to make omelets.  For years would give up half way through and make scrambled eggs with vegetables mixed in or, seeing the failure coming, just set out to make a frittata.  The sticking point for me (sometimes literally) comes in trying to flip the omelet.  So I don't. For each omelet, I whisked two (gorgeous, golden-yolked) eggs from Veronica's chickens with just a splash of milk and poured it into an 8" pan over medium.  The result is a thin enough layer of egg that it will cook all the way through without you ever having to flip it. Once you get your eggs in the pan, let them sit for about a minute and a half without disturbing it.  Give the pan a slight jiggle and keep cooking until there isn't much wobbling, raw egg left on top and then add in just a sprinkling (2-3 tbsp) of extra sharp cheddar cheese, a thin layer of veggies, and some ham.  Remember that the egg layer is thin and fragile, so we don't want to add too much filling.  Then realize you have an avocado that is about to go bad, ignore what you were just saying, and add in fat slices.  Wonder why you don't have breakfast for dinner more often.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Catching up

Woooo-weeeee!  It has been busy around here.  What is it about September that always rushes by?  Or maybe the world just seems to be rushing by because I've been spending so much time running lately!  On September 8th, I completed the Wurst Tri Ever my second triathlon of the year and my longest to date.  A cold front came through through about an hour before the race began and made the temperatures perfect, but the wind pretty intense.  That's definitely a trade-off I'll take!

Veronica and I decided to compete in this tri for one reason and one reason only - the slide!  This is a way more fun way to start a race than clinging to the side of a pool until someone says go.  The slide drops you into a 70 degree spring-fed pool.  I was ready for it to be cold, but for some reason I wasn't expecting the pool to be full of plants (I even found some stuck to me when I hit the showers after).  After the swim, we took off on a very hilly bike ride with 15 mph headwinds for the first 7 miles.  Luckily it was an out and back loop (with lots of pretty farmlands and cows), so I flew on the return with the wind at my back.  By the time I got to the run, I was cruising.  The weather was gorgeous and some young deer ran with me for a few blocks!  

A few days later, my cousin Abbie was in town for business so we took her out to dinner at La Fonda on Main.  It's San Antonio's oldest Mexican restaurant and has a fantastic patio.  The weather has finally cooled down enough that we can eat outside again.  It's a weird quirk of south Texas weather that fall through spring is our outdoor eating season.  It was so great to catch up with Abbie, I wish we got the chance to see each other more often.  (Notice our cousin synchronicity - we showed up to dinner wearing the same necklace.)

Last Friday we did something I wish we did more often - see (and in Geoff's case, play) live music.  There are plenty of opportunities to see shows any night of the week, but it took an old friend from the Ataris coming to town to get us out of the house.  There were a couple great local bands opening up, the beer was cheap, and the bar was Stanley Kubrick-themed.  (You can watch a video of Geoff playing base on their last song, here).

I took it easy because Saturday mornings are my longest runs - 7 miles this week - in training for the half marathon. I have mostly been running along the Riverwalk, starting and ending at the farmer's market where I can pick up some produce, locally roasted coffee, and a breakfast burrito.  This week there was even a great rockabilly band playing while I stretched.  (If you want to donate to SBTX in support of my half-marathon, and get an entry in my custom-knit raffle here's the link.)

I've been trying to make some protein-packed snacks lately including these protein-poppers for before runs.  For mid-afternoon snacking, I made some homemade crackers and white bean dip.  The dip is super easy - cooked or canned white beans, lots of lightly toasted garlic, thyme, rosemary, and red pepper flakes thinned out the richest chicken stock you can get your hands on.  Good, healthy, and quick.  Okay, I think you're caught up now!  I'll be back soon, I promise.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Hey there, Crabcakes.

I really love crab in just about any form, but I have never cooked it myself.  I think it falls into my broad (unfounded) Kansas-based fear of cooking seafood.  Being far from any place where crabs are harvested, I was a bit skeptical of the tub'o'crab on offer at Central Market.  But it was on sale last week so I went ahead and give it a shot.  While I love crab legs  in butter, if you aren't on the coast, they are crazy expensive.  Crab cakes, however, can - and should - be made at home.  The lump crab isn't quite as sweet as fresh crab, so the other ingredients really pep it up!  I had seen this recipe for Faidley's Famous Crabcakes on TV.  It uses saltines instead of bread as a binder and contains a good bit of mustard, which I always like in crabcakes.  The result is a nice, light crabcake without too much filler.  I added a panko crust for extra crisp before sauteing and the result was definitely something I'd make again.  So far, trying new ingredients has been deliciously rewarding!

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