Friday, April 30, 2010

Guitars, Buicks, Pineapple Pizza

The following post comes courtesy of the dreamy dude in my life, known in this blog as Special Someone. Although I initially pegged him for a "he's just not that into food" kind of guy, I was clearly mistaken. Also, anyone who uses the phrase "hogwash with Hollandaise sauce" is obvi a keeper.

Hello blog-world. The esteemed but exhausted Economical Epicurean (the EE) has passed the keyboard this week to the gentleman she calls her Special Someone (he is me) in the hopes that my rambling prose may inspire her to start blogging again regularly. Now let me preface this entry by highlighting the fact that I am very much not a writer, nor particularly known for creating the type of fine food focused alliteration that you have come to expect from the EE. As a side note, I did, however, start my college career with the best of intentions on becoming an English major. My first semester I signed up for a myriad of courses including ENG 101, ENG 102, ENG 103 and so on. It wasn't until half way through the semester that I discovered these were all Engineering courses. I was not necessarily the sharpest bulb in the pencil box back then. Obvi. Unfortunately, by the point I realized my error the die was cast and I was yet another victim to the allure of the siren song of thermodynamics. Alas. Anyway, I will try to minimize the misplaced modifiers and eliminate egregious errors but I must give apologies in advance for any absence of alliteration.

With that introduction out of the way, I now bid you greetings from the moral high ground of the Special Someone Estate (SSE), conveniently located in the ultra-trendy west SoDNoB (South of Duke, North of Beltway) district of Alexandria, in the humble Commonwealth of VA. Apparently, my one requirement in writing this blog is that I must, at some point, provide an absolutely delicious recipe that can be made by you the reader for pennies on the dollar. So I will get to that. Eventually.

First, a little more about myself. Aside from food and cooking, I have many passions and hobbies in my life. Those that probably most affect my culinary orientation and the style of my recipes include old Buicks, Film Noir, the art of Rafael DeSoto, guitars, softball and collecting antique pinball machines and other assorted old junk. So basically my cooking style has both a vintage and sporty but still artsy/musical flair to it. As can be imagined, variations on the ever classic ambrosia abound in the SSE.

Now there have been some rumors spread about me in recent editions of this blog that perhaps I only eat to live. The implication being that I am not a "food purist" or, dare I say it, even a "foodie," let alone qualified to ghost write a food blog. To that I say, hogwash with Hollandaise sauce. I have three main rebuttal points supporting my love of food:

Point A. Would someone who was not into food go almost six years eating the same meals based on the day of the week? This was back in the days when I worked a lot and didn't have much time to cook nor be as creative as I might like with food, so I just picked my favorite meals and had them repeatedly. I have heard, but do not know for a fact, that Julia Child used to do the same thing. BTW, in case you would like to recreate this scrumptious meal plan: Sunday was pizza night, Monday was fish sticks with macaroni and cheese, Tuesday was steak sandwiches, Wednesday was spaghetti, Thursday was chicken and rice and Friday was taco loco time. Saturday night was a wildcard night with anything goes. For the movie fans out there this meal plan may conjure up visions of Rainman, but I assure you it was for convenience and deliciousness--not out of disdain for food or compulsive necessity. Besides, it wasn't like I had pizza on Mondays and fish sticks on Wednesday. Which would definitely have been a little strange. Definitely.

Point B. If I wasn't into culinary delights, why would my parents have gone to all the trouble of trying to set me up with someone who had their own cooking show on television (or as the hipsters out there like to call it, "TV")? True story. After I returned from living overseas a while back, my parents were going on and on about how they had found this wonderful woman for me, how she was single (at least back then) and that she seemed really nice and perky. They were sincerely describing this mystery woman as if my mom had met her in the grocery store and she was dying to meet me. Eventually they revealed this perfect match was Rachel Ray. The kicker being that of course neither of them actually knew Ms. Ray, but were just very familiar with her "TV" show and thought we would be great together, presumably due to our mutual appreciation of food. Thanks so much for that dating help Ma and Pa--the EE is better than RR anyway!

Point C. This isn't so much a rebuttal point as it is a non sequitur observation that very few food blogs seem to include much discussion about 1955 Buicks. Which, when I think about it, is really kind of sad.

So now having clearly proven my "foodie" credentials (or as we like to say on the mean streets of SoDNoB--my "food cred") it is probably time to provide today's recipe. The short name for the meal is Lasagna with Pineapple Surprise, but my sister's lovingly applied but slightly longer name for it is "What the heck is in this Lasagna? OMIGOSH it is Pineapple. Good grief, you put it in everything so I am not Surprised." I came up with this one night when I was thinking about how much I really like pineapple on pizza, although unlike in the Hawaiian tradition I prefer it with pepperoni rather than ham. Since lasagna has many of the same elements as pizza (tomato sauce, mozzarella etc.) I decided to try it in my lasagna and with that impulse, a classic meal was born. The recipe is pretty simple--make your lasagna the way you usually do, just add a layer of pineapple in the middle. If you normally put ground beef in your lasagna, probably best to not include it in this pineapple version. My sauce of preference is Ragu Super Chunky Mushroom, which seems to harmonize quite nicely with the pineapple. Sometimes I like to also add a layer of pepperoni (or you can try ham), but that will be up to your tastes and budget.


Your lasagna recipe

1 can pineapple chunks or crushed pineapple (strain out as much juice as possible)

pepperoni (optional)

Anyway, hope you like it and do not consider it an iconic fail. Also, hopefully after reading this disjointed effort, the EE will now be motivated to return soon with yet another one of her great blogs!

Monday, April 12, 2010

On My Mind

I've been thinking a lot about whether to continue with this blog. On the one hand, writing and cooking are two of my favorite things to do. On the other, I've been lacking inspiration for quite some time. Not really on the cooking side, but on the "coming-up-with-worthwhile-things-to-say-about-cooking" side.

About a month ago or so I got a great haircut, the kind that real grown-up women get, one that seemed to give me a new lease on life, at least for a few days, or till I realized I would have to blow-dry my hair for an hour every morning to make it look the way it first did. Similarly, perhaps a makeover to this blog would be good for a spell. Anyone know how to do that kind of thing? I am pretty tired of this generic, late '90s-ish template.

Since right now I don't have anything to say that can be condensed into a single pat post, I will resort to a kind of list of recent musings on cooking and eating. Perhaps this will spark something worthwhile for a better-crafted post next time. One can hope!

~After a brunch of oatmeal with a bruleed crust, my friend Rachel W. was inspired to go out and buy a blowtorch to fancify her morning cereal. The other day she texted me that she was making oat bran brulee. Livin' it up while stayin' regular! So, if you too own a blowtorch, that's something fun you can do. Be careful, of course!

~I've started cooking a lot differently now that a Special Someone is around. I probably don't cook for him more than once or twice a week, but when I do, it's mostly goodbye weird one-pot experiments with ingredients that may or may not work together (see: this entire blog), hello real sit-down dinners with a protein, a starch, and a green vegetable. Like the grown-up haircut, maybe it's a sign of progress. Yes, I AM worth opening that whole package of chicken breasts.

~Speaking of Special Someone, one of our (hopefully not tragic) differences is that he eats to live and I live to eat. But he raved about this one experiment I created a few weeks back, sort of a pasta puttanesca meets spaghetti bolognese. Puttanese? Bolognesca? In any case, I made a spicy tomato sauce with ground turkey (instead of ground beef - so yeah, total insult to both puttanesca and bolognese. But still delicious). It had a lot of garlic, Worcestershire sauce (no anchovies on hand), olives, ground fennel seeds. It was really good, and that is all I can think of to say about it for now.

~I tried Mark Bittman's Minimalist recipe for "weeknight tagine" from a couple weeks ago, and have a few thoughts. I'm pretty sad about the end of his blog, Bitten. The Times has condensed all its food blogs into Diner's Journal, which I guess is good news for their budget, but bad news for those of us who have no interest in restaurant trends or wine. Anyway, this tagine, while delicious, was not the first dish of his I've tried that makes me question how well he tests his recipes. He calls for using whole chicken thighs, browning them on either side, and then basically braising them for fifteen minutes. The idea is to turn a traditionally time-consuming recipe into one you can make any weeknight. However, chicken thighs take a much longer time to cook than this recipe implies. My suggestion, if you are strapped for time, is to cut up the chicken into chunks. You can cook them whole, but it will take at least half an hour, not fifteen minutes. Other than that minor misdirection, the recipe is a near perfect mix of sweet and savory.

~As always, I'm really late in catching onto a food craze, but the banh mi sandwich is my new obsession. And it turns out I no longer need to travel all the way to wretched Virginia to get my two-buck fix: Saigonese in Wheaton makes one that, in my opinion, is superior to the original Banh Mi DC Sandwich in Falls Church. Eat that, NoVa!

So, I guess that's all I have to say for now. In the meantime, I'll hang around the stove and see what happens.