Archive for May, 2015

French Onion Oats

May 28, 2015

It began, as it so often does, with leftovers. We grilled some burgers for Memorial Day, and since there was lots of fire to go around, we sliced up an onion and grilled that as well. The burgers were good (pre-packaged grass fed, not as good as the ones I do from scratch), but the onions were underdone. Not raw, just crunchy. Nice grill flavor. There were a couple slices left over, so I chopped them up for breakfast. Since no French onion soup is complete without a big slab of cheese, I sprinkled a grab handful of mozzarella on top.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of broth, quarter cup of chipped grilled onion. Quarter cup (-) of cheese. Less salt than normal because of the cheese.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the onion before the oats, the potato when you take it off the stove, and the cheese immediately you have dumped it in the bowl.

Results: Servicable. Onions really needed to be more brown. Perhaps next time brown them the rest of the way in butter before I add the broth.

Rating: *****

Green Thumb Up My Nose

May 25, 2015

Garden Report for 150525

Last week was a warming trend, peaking at 80F before plunging to 70F today. Next week will be a warming trend, peaking at 84F on Sunday.

Plants are going somewhat wild. The Lemon Boy yellow tomato has produced a couple of 1/2″ tomatoes already, and several others have blossoms. The lettuces are growing like mad, and may bolt on me, right after the rest of the cabbages do. BTW, we tried last week’s bolted cabbage leaves in a salad. Blanched, chilled in icewater and dropped in whole. Didn’t taste particularly cabbagy.

KHG tomatoes are big enough that I had to take off the ASW (Anti Squirrel Webbing) gear and put up the cages. Regular peas, snow peas, long beans and regular beans have sprouted. Cucumbers have suddenly spead to cover the whole pot.

Harvesting lettuce like mad, but it doesn’t taste as good as it did last year. Growing too fast? Too much water?

Surprisingly, this isn’t too far off what last year was like, and in fact, last year’s cabbages were bigger than the current ones at the end of May.

Fake ShalyapinOat Dregs

May 21, 2015

So, a couple of times now, I’ve talked about an anime called Food Wars (AKA Shokugeki no Souma). It’s about a cooking wizard whose dishes make people’s clothes explode off of them. Last time was about my unsuccessful attempt to recreate a fake version of his Steak Shalyapin (fake, because it used pork instead of beef). Unfortunately, no-one’s clothes exploded, although I did have to let my belt out a notch. Fortunately, there was a lot of rice left. OK, sticky, pasty rice, with lots of fried onions and rather too much post-maillard wine and shoyu sauce, with zero ume paste. A perfect description of dregs if I ever heard one.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, 1/4 cup of the leftover rice  and onions from a Steak Shalyapin, one cup of broth, salt. Add the rice before you add the oatmeal. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.

Results: Very Good. The overdone flavor of the sauce was cut nicely by the broth, the rice added a nice texture to the boiled-plant-seed oats, and fried onions are always welcome in oatmeal. I’ll have it again, next time I ruin a Steak Shalyapin. Maybe by that time I’ll have some ume paste.

Rating: *****

The future of the auto-car

May 19, 2015

There’s a horribly simplistic article over on Slate about what autonomous cars might mean for your morning commute. The author calls it “back of the envelope”, but what he really means is ‘through his hat’. His thesis is that (a) autonomous cars are coming, (b) comm-linked autonomous cars can do cool things like safely drive faster than normal cars, up to 120mph (c) many people commute over an hour or more one way, THEREFORE (d) we’ll be able to live 120 miles away from work and still make the commute, which will move urban sprawl into the next state.

There’s not enough pixels on this page to list all the unrealities here, all the major changes in laws and infrastructure and logic that would have to occur in order for this to happen. Things like, there can’t be any old time hand-cars on the road to get in your way. Or, to make these times you have to live close enough to a freeway exit to be kept awake by the trucks downshifting to get off, and your work will have to be equally close to the freeway (that, or the downtown speed limits will have to be raised to 60mph from 25). And so forth.

Myself, I think there will be major impacts of auto-cars, but I think it will go in the other direction. It won’t matter where you live, because you’ll be at work the instant you buckle up. If the car can link to other cars, it can link to the Internet, and if you can link to the Internet, you can work anywhere.

So, you get in the car and clock in at 8AM. The morning rush hour of hand-cars is already past, because those poor slobs had to be into the office by now. An hour or two later your car deposits you at your office and you seamlessly resume work, with no more interruption than a 9 or 10AM coffee break requires. Around three or four in the afternoon (an hour or so before the hand-car rush hour) you get back in the car, and continue to work until you arrive home, at five or six.

One set of predictions I’ve seen says that with auto-cars, few people will own one any more. They’ll call for one when they need it. Or maybe they can carpool. So, add some soundproof dividers, and have an on-call auto-car carry three or four people from the same neighborhood to the same district of the city. Maybe the commute is a little longer, because of the pickups and drop offs, but it’s not like that would interfere with work.

I’d like to say that turning all the lanes of the freeway into HOV-4 would cut down on the number of cars on the road, but I keep thinking of my DC days, when every increase in capacity was gobbled up by increased traffic before it was completed. Of course, we don’t have to restrict ourselves to auto-cars, what about auto-vans?

There’s some optimum seating capacity for a given density of suburban homes and urban businesses. For DC it would be easy — 90% would be within ten blocks of the Washington Monument, so the bigger the bus, the better. For LA, it might be harder, and we’d have smaller cars running around from Huntington Beach to Rancho Cucamonga.

Of course, if the robots take all our jobs, then we won’t have to worry about the commute.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

May 17, 2015

Garden Report for 150518

Warm last week, cool and rainy this week, warm and partly cloudy next week.

Made another couple of passes through the hardware store. Butternut squash, Zucchini, lemon cucumbers, pumpkins, herbs. Beans, yellow tomatoes, white carrot-shaped radishes (they were out of daikon seed). The lettuce I bought last report took a while to set up. The Purplestuff is doing OK, but about half the buttercrunch  just laid there for a week before perking up. Fortunately, the lettuce I loose planted earlier this year has started to come up, and I think we’ll have a good harvest there before the current crop runs out. I have lots of seed and will plant more every few weeks.

All the bedding plants are now in, and the greenhouse is down for the season. Planted some seeds in sections 3 and 4. Section 3 got bush peas and spinach, and Section 4 got bush beans and chard. Snow peas in a deck container. I have enough greens seeds for succession planting, but I need to get back to the hardware store for some more peas for Fall. If I don’t buy it now, they’ll have shipped it back. On Friday, I planted some seeds for zucchini and summer squash and spaghetti squash and acorn squash.

Two weeks old and already it's trying to reproduce.

Two weeks old and already it’s trying to reproduce.


Speaking of bedding plants. Two weeks ago I bought some cabbage seedlings. Not large plants, but nicely developed. Not quite as far across as a beer coaster. Planted them. This Friday, I noticed that the purple cabbage was starting to bolt. Yes, bolt. Four days above 70F (just), three days below 60F (easily), six days in-between, and the suckers are a foot high and putting out yellow flowers. Deb Tolman says the leaves should still be good, even if we only get one salad out of it. We’ll see how the replacements go.

For some reason the squirrels aren’t digging as much as they usually do. There’s still scads of them about. I have ASW gear (anti-squirrel webbing) up over Sections 1 and 2, but haven’t done the others yet. Instead, I just laid the metal shelving from last years composter failure flat on the ground on top of where the seeds are planted. That will keep the critters from digging until I get the rest of the ASW gear up.

Faking Shalyapin

May 15, 2015

So, here we are, back at the Food Wars (AKA Shokugeki no Souma) anime. Our Hero is in a contest to see who can make the best meat dish. If he loses, his club gets disbanded and he quits the school. If he wins, his bikini-clad carnivore challenger will join his club. Sounds like a reasonable bet to me.

This is a simple dish, but it takes some time to prepare. Note that I took the recipe from the manga, which adds some touches, like the ume paste and the post-onion sauce. It also changed the order of the cooking. And it changed the spelling of Шаля́пин.

1. You take a slab of cheap steak. I’m a cheapskate, so I used boneless pork chops, which is why it’s a fake Shalyapin.

Squint your eyes and pretend this came off of a pig

Squint your eyes and pretend this came off of a pig

2. Slash it with your slasher, and beat the snot out of it with a meat-beater.

3. Chop up a couple of onions and pile them on top of the beaten meat. I did it in the frying pan I was planning on using, and put about half of the onion underneath and half on top. Let them sit for an hour, turning them halfway through.

Lots of onions, the finer the chop the better

Lots of onions, the finer the chop the better

4. Fry onions. This is harder than it looks, ’cause there’s lots onions. Took a long time. Because of this, and (3), the house will stink of onion. Pretend you’re French. Set aside. (Note: the anime did the meat first, and cooked the onions in the meat drippings.)

I wonder what the difference is between cooking the steak in the onion juices and cooking the onion in the steak juices

I wonder what the difference is between cooking the steak in the onion juices and cooking the onion in the steak juices

5. Make rice. Don’t use too much water, like I did, or you’ll end up with something more like rice paste. Add ume paste. Um …e… no ume paste. Substitute a pinch of salt instead.

6. Fry meat. Don’t get it too hot, like I did, because you are going to want unburned fond. Set aside.

Butterfried steak

Butterfried steak

7. Make sauce in the frying pan, if you are using the manga recipe. A few glugs of wine to one glug of shoyu. Cook down and thicken. They used potato flour. I used flour flour. Don’t boil it too hard, like I did.

8. Stack the results in a bowl: rice, meat, onion, sauce. They used a standard roundhead-helmet don – bowl. I used a very flat soup bowl.

It better be chopstick-tender, or the rice will end up all over the table

It better be chopstick-tender, or the rice will end up all over the table

Results: The meal was not inedible, but I’d have been thrown out the back door of the cooking school before the sauce finished congealing on the rice. Rice was wet and pasty. Meat was not tender. No way it would have come apart with just a chopstick. You’d end up eating Shalyapin-onna-stick.  Underdone onion flavor noticeable, possibly from fragments sticking to the meat. Sauce tasted burned.

Comments: Quite aside from my failures as a cook, the whole marinade in finely chopped onion thing seems much overrated. Maybe it’s because I used pork instead of beef and pork doesn’t tenderize in onion or something. Perhaps I should have used chopped turnips. Plus, the manga recipe called for ume paste mixed in with the rice. 7-11 was all out of ume paste that week (well, it was right after Easter), so the rice was plain, with salt. Maybe that was it.

Oh, that ume!

Oh, that ume!

Her reaction was almost exactly, but not quite, totally unlike mine.

UPDATE: I tried it again, with a small, thin, beef, steak. Prepared it exactly as directed, except I used a little balsamic vinegar instead of ume paste. Tasted much better. Was in no way tender. Needed more sauce. Maybe do it as a gravy rather than as a sauce. And use a better cut of meat.

UPDATE: It seems that just scoring the meat improves the tenderness


May 14, 2015

Central to this recipe is the Tale of the Broth. MJ brought home a couple of smoked pork chops. Smelled like bacon, tasted a little like ham, AKA smoked pork. We had one, cut up in a browned onion sauce, over rice. We had the other, cut up in a commercial “Madras Lentils” sauce, over potatoes. The ML sauce was a little like chile. The bones and the ungnawed … ung-nawed … remaining meat went into the pot for broth (you really don’t need a lot of fixin’s for pressure cooker broth), along with the usual celery stalk and carrot, plus the top leaves of a leek that wandered by. The resulting broth had a smoky, BBQlich flavor, the smell of which varied non-linearly with distance.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of smoky pork broth. No salt.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.  Add the potato when you take it off the stove.

Results: Not bad. Smoke came through. Chile taste came through. Pretty good, if you like chile for  breakfast.

Rating: *****

Maiden Century

May 4, 2015

As they say in cricket. Yesterday I had 100 site visits, for the first time evers. It would be nice if they were in response to some insightful article, but it appears to be luck of the draw. Sixty-one hits were “Home Page / Archive”, whatever that means. Eleven were for my throwaway Fake Pork recipe. Three were for an early TL:DR, on Galileo’s Girls and Gitsune. The rest were onesies and twosies. And there was only one link clicked on: the shot of Angie’s underwear.

I don’t obsess over site visits, it’s more a mild, and somewhat bemused interest in what causes them. As far as I can tell, the things that drive hits are boobs (HOTD), prison rape (Cross Ange), and bacon (Fake Pork).


Green Thumb Up My Nose

May 3, 2015

Garden Report for 150504

May the 4th
( be with you)

This weekend marks the start of gardening season — a month early. Last frost isn’t supposed to be until 1 June, but this was a warm Spring.

Repaired and recored Section 1. Recored Section 2. Finished laying new irrigation hose on all four sections. Went mad at the garden section of the local hardware store. Put the anti-squirrel covers on Sections 1 and 2. Hung the netting for the hops.

Section 1 had a decided droop on the SW corner, an artifact of the original garden wall. I pulled off most of the cinderblocks from that end, and made an attempt to improve the lay. It sortof worked. The only way to get it right would be to tear down the whole wall. I found some interesting things during the repair work.

Droopy, weedy

Droopy, weedy

What, you were expecting Frank Lloyd Wright?

What, you were expecting Frank Lloyd Wright?

First of all, pretty much everything I had dumped into the KHG during the construction phase, three years ago, had rotted into nice, black soil. There were a few exceptions. First, while almost all of the phone books had rotted, the spines and clumps of pages of the thicker ones remained. So get a strong friend to tear those phone books in half before using them. Second, mettalic paper seemed to last — the sort they make teabag packets out of. Finally, I had dropped a couple of 18″ long quarter-rounds of pine into the mix, as a kind of makeshift hugelkultur. They were leftover from the wood for the fireplaces we never used. After three years in the soil, admittedly only one third the time needed for a tanner, they were as good as new, with no signs of rot. So much for Herr Hugel.

Second, there was a major difference between the Section 1 basket core and Section 2. Two was filled with lovely black soil, easy to dig out and mix into the main garden. Section 1 (with a smaller basket, closer to the tree, no liner) was full of roots and grass and detritus. As you can see from the pictures, I enlarged it, and added a liner, that will probably rot over the years.

Core 1 Roots and trash

Core 1 Roots and trash

Nice, clean, dirt

Core 2 Nice, clean, dirt

I wanted to look for some new sources for seedlings, but wasn’t successful. Google maps gave different results for a “plant nursery” search, depending on if I centered it on Spokane, or on nearby Cheney. This, despite the fact that the coverage areas overlapped. Second problem was, all the plant-nursery/greenhouse outfits I found were either a long ways away, wholesale/ornametals only, or out of business. So, I gave up and went back to our local hardware store.

As can happen when one is in a hurry — I go buying, not shopping — it’s easy to lose track of what went in the cart. So I came home with three Patio tomatoes, instead of two, plus two Brandywines, and a Zebra. Also four Bok Choy and eight Savoy cabbage. The cabbage into Section 2. The tomatoes went into Section 1, the deck, and the two hanging baskets (one Zebra and one Patio).

Went back to the hardware store on Sunday. Didn’t find any non-hot peppers, didn’t find any peas/beans. bought a flat of lettuce — buttercrunch and purplestuff. Put those in Sunday afternoon (divided more or less equally between, Section 2, Section 3, and a couple deck containers). Planted the squash seedlings what I grew earlier (two buttercup and two spaghetti) into Section 1. Also put the remaining patio tomato into a patio container and set it on the …. deck. There’s still space left for some other things, but that’s for next weekend.