Saturday, November 12, 2011


Sorry, my life is not lending itself to long blog posts at the moment.

One thing that has been characteristic of my time at home: FALL FOOD.

I find the dreary weather and shortened days overwhelmingly depressing on occasion (though I do find the angled light, clarifying coldness, and spectacular leaves quite pleasant), which means I must DO SEASONAL BATTLE. And, given my personality, I do seasonal battle with a cutting board, a frying pan, a mixing bowl, and an oven. (That's a rather. . . incomplete list.)

I've been baking and cooking quite a bit, and while I didn't photograph either the squash spice bread or the squash foccacia (best way to get rid of a vegetable you hate: bake it into bread), many of my other experiments I have indeed captured digitally.

Firstly we have the staple of my existence: the noodle boodle. This is a soothing reminder of independent days in Kyoto, as well as on of the only ways in which I regularly and willingly consume vegetables. (Cough.) The recipe is some variation on: one onion, chopped; one glove of garlic, chopped; one slice of ginger, chopped; carrots, julienned; and some mixture of whatever else we have -- mushrooms, celery, cabbage, sometimes chicken or pork. This is fried until the onions are brown; I add a plastic cup of water and probably a quarter-cup of Kikkoman teriyaki sauce, a package of ramen and seasoning, and cook for 5-10 minutes until all is pleasantly mushy. Usually at this point I crack an egg over the whole business and stir so that it cooks up in little sweet bits.

One thing I have decided is this: If I'm going to be home for a while, I'm going to be home -- which means I want to enjoy being Iowa, specifically, as a place apart from other places, with its own specific place-things and charms and also FOODS. I have used this as a justification to buy local foods such as this GOAT CHEESE from the Honey Creek Creamery. It had (because I ATE IT ALL) cranberries and horseradish. It was delicious.

Fall: season of soups. This was not one of my more successful ones, but here is some veggie soup. Much potato-ing, bean-ing, and indeed, cabbage-ing, was had by all. (I determined that if the end product is overall slightly greenish, that does not bode well for me eating it as leftovers.)

Here, we begin the BAKING SECTION. I am not the baker I once was, but I still enjoy having fresh bread, for instance. (I'm thinking later today I need to produce some CHAI MILK BREAD. I have recently become enamored of chai lattes. . . it's not a good thing. This is what happens when you go to coffee shops in Omaha to sit and work so you won't be distracted: You get sucked into the LATTE TRAP.)

As I am young and poor and trying to save up for various things, my mom struck a deal with me: She, who does not enjoy making pie, would pay me, who does enjoy making pie, to make and freeze ten pies of various dispositions. This seemed like a pretty good deal to me, though admittedly all of my (pre-paid) pie money went to pay off my French hospital bill from when I ran into the road sign and had to get six stitches in Normandy. :( The first three pies were strawberry rhubarb, and the second two were apple. I actually still have 5 or 7 pies yet to make, since we gave one away and my parents ate two. So.

This one is strawberry-rhubarb. 

And now, let's talk about comfort baking.

When fall rolls around, I want one thing above all other things: Pumpkin. I WANT A LOT OF PUMPKIN. And all the deliciousness that goes with pumpkin, i.e. cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and allspice. This more or less means that when I bake I insert pumpkin at random and hope it turns out okay.

Exhibit A. Pumpkin brown sugar rolls. (Recipe to follow in next post.) We drizzled the caramel Dad bought for dipping apples over them and ALL WAS WELL.

Exhibit B. Pumpkin oat scones, with crunchy brown sugar topping. These were okay but not okay enough to merit writing down the recipe. 

Exhibit C. (Not pictured.) Oatmeal pumpkin cookies.

Exhibit D. Orange hibernation soup with crispy potato topping (this didn't work quite as planned, but it was still good), a soup with mustard, sweet potatoes, and yes, pumpkin (among other things.)


Here, a slightly less successful and non-pumpkin related experiment: tomato-basil roll bread. (YES I WENT OUTSIDE TO TAKE THE PICTURE. THE LIGHT WAS BETTER.)

In the general line of food, but unrelated to those things which I awkwardly make myself. . .

Mom has been really anxious to take advantage of my time at home by going out to eat with me. My family is not terribly experimental in our food choices; generally it's stuff like Upstream Grill in the Old Market or Granite City by Westroads Mall or. . . something with beef, potatoes, and not a lot of seasoning. (We don't even eat a ton of Italian food together because my mom doesn't deal well with garlic.) So in addition to my home-cooked fall food, we've also had fall food from Vivace in Old Market (make your own pasta! with SCALLOPS), Amsterdam Falafel and Kebab in Dundee (which is pretty good, but it sadly doesn't hold a candle to Parisian versions of those foods), and, last night, Dhaba, which is an Indian restaurant on 117th St. Sadly we ate the naan and samosas before there was opportunity to photograph them. They were tasty.

I have to admit I was entertained by my dish, the "Dhaba Grill," which I take as evidence that the manager decided that a PLATE O' MEAT was just the thing to appeal to stodgy Midwesterners.

I was kind of annoyed at myself for not being braver and getting something I hadn't had before, so. . . NEXT TIME.

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