And I Can Cook, Too

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Pickle me Kumquat!

My housemate Ruth returned home from work yesterday with a very large bag of kumquats given to her by the head of our department. Normally I cheer at the offering of free fruit, but what’s a girl (or two) to do with 2 pounds of kumquats? The obvious answer, “put them in your G&T’s!” is only applicable in a country where I can actually afford the G. That rascal Ruth wisely pulled out some recipe books.

Brandied Kumquats, recipe by Stephanie Alexander

1 lb. Kumquats, whole
1 lb. Sugar
600 Ml. Brandy
1 Vanilla Bean

Place the kumquats in a large, sterilized jar. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise, and with the back of your knife, scrape along the inside of the bean to scrape up all the tiny little seeds that look like bits of dirt. Don’t skip this part! Those tiny little morsels are where all the flavor is, and if you leave them trapped in the pod your finished product won’t be as good! Add the sugar and the brandy to the jar, and stir with a skewer. Don’t worry if the sugar doesn’t dissolve, just continue to stir once a day for the next few days until it does. Label, stick on your shelf, and open in two months.

Pickled Kumquats, recipe by Stephanie Alexander

1 tsp. Salt
600 Ml. water
1 Lb. Kumquats
2 Oz. Sugar
½ Stick, Cinnamon
1 Tsp. Cloves
600 Ml. White Wine Vinegar

Bring the salt and water to a boil, remove from the heat and add the kumquats. Allow to sit for 12 hours. Drain.

Simmer the sugar and spices in the vinegar until the sugar is dissolved. While mixture is simmering, pack the fruit into a hot, sterilized jar. Top with the vinegar mix, and seal. Let sit for two weeks. You can use both the fruit and the syrup. Delicious with duck, chicken, or pork!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

September 29, 2007

Power Outage

When I first moved to Australia, I was still reeling from the Chicago Bears devastating loss to the Colts in Superbowl XLI. (Hey, it was there own damn fault. They failed to show up for the second half of the game). Upon my arrival in Oz, I was informed that living in Larg’s Bay automatically made me a Port Adelaide Power fan. Imagine my delight when the Power made it all the way to this years Grand Final, the Australian equivalent of the Superbowl. Naturally unwilling to simply watch the game from home, my friend Tracy and I found a vegetarian jazz club (more on that later) that was broadcasting the came with the volume down while a quartet vamped to the action on the screen. Tracy and I snagged a comfy leather couch that allowed us a bird’s eye view of both the game and the band, ordered a couple of beers, and got stuck in.

For those of you not familiar with Australian Rules Footie, allow me to explain: unlike American football players, 300+ pounds and wrapped in an additional 20 pounds of protective gear, Oz footballers are all built like American quarterbacks – lean, solid muscle, fast, and flexible. Rather than padding, their uniforms consist of tee shirts, sneakers and socks, and rather shocking and somewhat amusing short-shorts. In the game, there are 4 20-minute quarters, and the rules are, as near as I can figure, get the ball through your goal posts by any means necessary. If you have to run while dribbling the ball, go for it. If you have to kick the ball to another teammate, so be it. If you have to run over the opposing teams player by jumping up in the air, landing on his head, and squashing his face into the dirt, that’s what you’ve gotta do. No breaks, no time outs, no instant replays. This game is brutal.

And when I say this game is brutal, I am referring to this Grand Final. Over marinated mushrooms, roasted red pepper, herbed feta, and tasty yet curiously cold rice-stuffed tomatoes, Tracy and I watched as the Power was defeated in a record setting 119 point spread. Crushing.

Oh, and the jazz? It was fun – a unique way to enjoy a game. But I have to say it made it hard to yell at the tv set. All in all the day re-enforced two things I already knew: when you’re watching sports, you gotta have meat, and jazz and football don’t really mix.

But hey, I had fun, and I got a new hat.

Friday, September 28, 2007

You Say Tomato, I say Tomahto

The Cannibal's Tomato is native to Fiji and Tahiti. Shockingly similar to the plane old Beefsteak tomato, the Cannibal's tomato can be eaten raw or cooked for use in sauce. There is a rumor that the Cannibal Tomato is so named because the sauce was the perfect pairing with human flesh; for obvious reasons I've had a tough time testing that one out.

Look here for tomato art!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Aw, Nuts!

I was recently challenged to elucidate on the etymology of monkey nuts, and advised to keep my head out of the gutter. Head firmly held high (but with a knowing smile on my face) I embarked on my mission. What could this mysterious nut be? As I researched, I visualized exotic edibles found only in the far reaches of Asia used for medicinal purposes to cure lovesickness and male impotence. Exhaustive research and a quick peek in the Cambridge World History of Food at last solved this brainteaser.

The monkey nut (arachis hypogaea) is not a nut at all, but a tuber native to South America. Traces of the monkey nut have been found in archeological digs dating back to 800 B.C. Native Americans utilized the monkey nut by roasting and grinding them into a smooth, oily paste, a practice still employed in modern times. Rich in protein, B vitamins, magnesium, and iron, the monkey nut paste is a major source of nutrition for children across the country. That's right, elusive and ever so bawdy monkey nut is nothing more than your standard, everyday peanut.

So much for curing lovesickness.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Horsing Around

The Horse Mango is native to Southern Asia. It has a green and yellow peel and a bright orange flesh. Not eaten raw, it is typically used for chutneys and curries. If eaten before it is ripe, the sap will irritate the skin and cause a rash. Which is probably the real reason they cut down the mango tree in my old back yard.

Monday, September 24, 2007


The fox grape is a variety of berry that is thought to stem from an Old World species of vine known as V.vinifera. Varieties of fox grape include Concord grapes, California grapes, Red Globes, Ruby Seedless, and my personal favorite, Suppernong Grape.

Mankind has been making wine from this species of grape for centuries. It would be fun to travel to the part of the world where wine was first imbibed, but a few of years ago Mr. Bush decided to bomb it.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Sept. 23, 2007

Better Living Through Chemistry

Ok, the anti-depressants have kicked in and I'm feeling much better.

In other news, I have successfully completed the coursework section of my masters program, and am now in proud possession of a Graduate Diploma in Gastronomy. It is important that we all realize that this means I'm smarter than you. No, not you, Kim, but everyone else. I have officially begun my dissertation, which is on the use of food in American sitcoms. The research is extensive and exhausting. I'll bet none of you even remember the episode of "Lucy" where Lucy tries to smuggle a 25-pound cheese back from Italy by pretending it's her child. See what I mean? Exhausting.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

September 8, 2007

Nothing in Life Is Fair

Which is precisely what my mother would say to whichever one of her four daughters was complaining that a sister was getting some favor that she herself was not receiving. As usual, mother was right.

It is one of the cruelest and unfair truisms in the world that sometimes the very people who are causing all the hurt are the only people who can take it all away.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

"The cookbook is the only product of the human mind altogether above suspicion."

Joseph Conrad