Grant McWilliams

Food Blog

Food Blog

Food is the only art you can eat.

For those folks who live in Cologne and Dusseldorf and love airplane food you can now get it delivered to your door!

I'm not entirely sure why anyone would want to eat airplane food when they could just go down the street to a real restaurant where the food is made of.... food and cooked fresh. If you attempt going down the street on an airplane you'll create a great deal of havoc when the passenger compartment decompresses and oxygen masks drop followed quickly by you plunging 40,000 ft to your grisly death. This I believe, is the main reason people eat the food their served on airplanes - they have very little choice.

However, if you long for those wonderful little plates of textured vegetable protein poorly pressed into familiar shapes resembling McDonalds' attempt at a chicken pattie then you're in luck because the catering arm of Lufthansa Airlines has announced that residents of the two aforementioned cities can order the very same food and have it delivered to their door. I have an idea, how about having Lufthansa carry out the reverse and have land food delivered to your airplane while in flight. Now you'd have something news worthy.

https://www.allyouneed.com/magazin/airfoodone_menukalender

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Recipe originally posted on recessionchef.com

I love rich food and I've come to love the mix of a rich sauce with meat over rice. You get this a lot with Thai curries, Indian Curries, Persian Korescht, and Afghan Quormas. This seems to be a very good format and economical too. Spices cost a lot but you don't need many and rice is cheap. Add meat of some sort and you have a great meal for a decent price. Living in the Pacific Northwest means that we have very limited selection of Persian restaurants and even when you do find one it's probably overpriced and low on quality. When I'm in Orange County I always eat at the Caspian Restaurant in Irvine not only for the environment but for the Fesanjoon. 

 

Fesenjoon (slang for Khoresht-e Fesenjan) is a "stew" made up of a sauce from walnuts and pomegranate syrup/juice. It's wonderfully tart and deep. You add chicken and serve over Basmati rice. Not everyone likes it but it's one of my favorite things to eat.

 

 I've eaten Fesenjoon at many restaurants and tried making it on many occasions. I've been somewhat successful but my Fesenjoon doesn't taste like the Caspians which is wonderfully smooth without being too sweet. Last week I ran across kshar.net, a site run by man determined to bring Persian culture to the masses. What brought me to his site was a three part series on Fesenjoon. His cooking style is a bit loose so you have to pay close attention to what he's doing to get similar results. He also doesn't argue about what SHOULD be, it's your food make it how you like it. He seems to be intent on letting a few ingredients talk as apposed to having many ingredients fighting for attention - I agree with this philosophy. 

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Ethiopian food is a treat for us locally. Although Seattle based Ethiopian restaurants can't hold a candle to those in other places like Washington DC they're still pretty decent and it's hard to argue against Ethiopian food in general. However, none of the local restaurants are very near me so I have to either drive in traffic or make it myself. 

I can get Injera bread from Amy's Mercato in Seattle and I can get Berber spices as several African grocery stores.

 
Naturally making both at home would cut the cost of this dish substantially but even buying my Injera/Berbere from local stores this ended up costing about $1 per person per meal.  Following is the preview recipe for Doro Wat. It's not hard but don't get impatient as it takes quite a while. Later I'll formalize it into a real recipe for the recipebook section of Recessionchef.
 
 
 
Check out the recipe at doro_wat recipe.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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I was cooking sweet potatoes in a bed of salt the other night and I hear a pop from my oven. Thinking a sweet potato skin had popped I opened the oven door and it was in fact my glass lid to my Calphalon Saute pan. Yes, it shattered at 400 degrees. Thank you Calphalon, I'll remember that when I replace it.  

With that in mind I wonder about the quality control of major brand names. You may recall that I had the "copper" core of my Emerilware made by Al Clad melt out and to my surprise find out the copper was in fact aluminum. Strange, it was even colored copper on the outside. I of course wrote an article and took pictures as well. 

I didn't pay a ton for the Calphalon pan but Amazon is listing it at $175 and on sale for $75. I think for either price the lid should withstand normal oven temperatures. 

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I was wandering by the local Quality Food Store (QFC) recently and noticed that due to it being spring and everyone wanting to BBQ they had a nice display set up with a grill and many bags of charcoal brickets but something was off. Upon closer inspection the grill they decided to surround with brickets wouldn't even be able to use them... because it was gas.  Maybe they have a package deal - if you buy the grill you get a free back of charcoal....

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Regular readers of the Man, the Myth, the Legend will know that I'm a big fan of pumpkins. See my previous pumpkin articles as proof. This year I did a Pumpkin Smackdown article on the best pumpkin varieties and tested based on flavor, texture, cookability, longevity and availability.  As you may recall I rated the Rouge vif d'Etampes (Cinderella) pumpkin the winner. Most other pumpkins even if they have decent flavor fall down in one way or another. Since I refuse to use "pumpkin" from a can my pumpkin buying season is fairly limited to October and possibly some of November due to the popularity of pumpkins at Halloween for the humans and the somewhat related popularity of pumpkins as food for farm animals in November. I put quotes around the word pumpkin in the previous sentence because what's in the can is listed simply as pumpkin alone in the ingredients list and yet it's BROWN. Pumpkin is NOT brown as you'll see in the photo in this article and in fact it's very very orange. I'm not sure why a can of nothing but pumpkin ends up being brown but I'm skeptical that they found some unknown variety of pumpkin with brown flesh. Until that mystery is solved by Scooby and the gang I'll stick to fresh pumpkin that happens to be bright orange. 

With that in mind you may recall from my Pumpkin Smackdown article that the Cinderella excelled on longevity. If left alone and their skin is not broken in any way they'll last up to 6 months. My daughter Natalya brought me several Cinderella pumpkins in late October. I cooked my last one tonight - 5 whole months later. A lot of people tell you that pumpkins need to be stored in dark cool places etc. but these pumpkins were stored in the front room under my Chippendale era Buffet at room temperature for 5 months. The trick is for the air to be dry (no garages) and to never break the skin. If you nick the pumpkin's skin you have to cook it within a day or two or it will rot. If the pumpkin is stored in a damp location it will rot. The longest I've ever kept pumpkins has been inside the house in a warm dry environment where they didn't get damaged. 

This pumpkin was a very large one which is why I waited until the very last moment to cook it. Because of it's size it wouldn't fit on my half sheet pans thus I had to cut it across the poles (instead of around the equator) and cook one half at a time taking nearly 6 hours. The meat I was able to retrieve from it will probably get me another 6 loaves of pumpkin bread and maybe another pan of Pumpkin Lasagna.

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We have some meals around our house that we cook often but there's no recipes attached to them. This is in part because it's all by taste and also because I haven't gotten serious enough to focus on making them recipes. One of those meals is Barbecue Chicken Pasta. This might seem out of left field until you realize that most people have no problem eating Barbecue Chicken Pizza. For the pasta rendition we substitute noodles for the pizza dough and add in some nice caramelized veggies. We're not exactly forging new trails here with grilled chicken, boiled noodles and sauce. However, what makes this meal a bit more complex and the reason I don't have a proper recipe for it is the sauce. There's a million jarred BBQ sauces on the store shelves but the problem is that none of them fit this dish. Most are too smokey, too hot, have too much vinegar bite or are too sweet. Since I just knocked out the four dominant flavors of BBQ sauce you may wonder what my vision is. I want a sauce with no smokiness, no heat, a touch of sweetness to complement the caramelized onions and peppers, a touch of zippiness and a whole lot of tomato flavor. What I want is a BBQ flavored tomato based sauce that's bright and lively but not overpowering. You'd think that with 30 million jarred bbq sauces that someone would have that combination but so far I've not found it.

Following is the very rough recipe. I'm not happy enough with it to put it in the recipebook on this site. Later when I get the sauce dialed in I will but for now it's just a blog post. Forgive me for being just a bit vague on things.

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It's been a while since I put up any recipes but I recently hosted the end of the quarter potluck for my classes and so in doing that spent most of a day cooking. On occasion I have a vegetarian student and I pull out the old favorite - Pumpkin and Mascarpone Lasagna. It also just so happened that I had just enough pumpkin left from my second to last pumpkin of the season. The recipe calls for 2 lbs which is quite a lot and I had exactly that.

The nice thing about this recipe is that it's nice, light and a bit exciting. The reaction you have after eating this is the same as the reaction from Butternut Squash Ravioli - you wonder why people limit themselves to boring meat/cheese and red sauce noodles. The flavors are bright and exciting, meat or cheese lasagna is boring and drab. Maybe it's not for everyone but so far every person I've fed it to really liked it and in addition it's good for most vegetarians (has dairy and eggs) and like many non-meat foods, it's cheap. In fact as I made it the cost is roughly $1 per slice of lasagna and half that cost comes from cheese. Shop around and you may be able to make it for less. 

The Recipe: Pumpkin and Mascarpone Lasagna

Note for anyone not willing to eat eggs they can just leave them out of the Bechamel. It will be less fluffy but still very nice.

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I was in a grocery store last week and I saw that they were carrying both El Monterey Chili and Picante burritos. I've never seen both in one store and have in fact bought Chili thinking I was getting Picante only to get home and spit them back out. I'm not a fan of my frozen burritos tasting like Chili powder. If I wanted chili powder in my mouth I'd combine it with tomatoes  and make chili with it. The Picante burritos though I like and after that unfortunate incident I've had to be very careful to read the package to make sure I was in fact getting Picante and not Chili flavored burritos. 

This display though accentuates the problem - El Monterey has two products that look nearly identical. Yes the shade of red is slightly different and there are a few words that are not identical but I feel these two products need to be more unique. So let's think about having two products nearly the same, most stores won't carry both because the number of people grabbing the wrong one and then returning them probably goes up. I don't know the protocol for returned goods but I bet it's a write off. So by only being able to sell one OR the other in each store you're cutting your market in half. It would seem that by making the packages drastically different they could put another product out there and increase sales. Just an observation.

 

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Phad Thai is a very easy meal to make at home if you have the right ingredients. There are several brands of Phad Thai sauce on the market and frankly I'm not entirely happy with any of them alone. However upon buying several and inspecting the ingredients list and tasting them I've found an alternative to making my own Phad Thai sauce - speedball them! Mae Ploy one of my favorite Asian product makers focuses on fewer ingredients in their jarred Phad Thai sauce and only lists 11 items. Ingredients include palm sugar, shallot, water, fish sauce, soy bean oil, vinegar, tamarind, red chili, salted radish, dried shrimp and salt.  Por Kwan, another popular company has 14 ingredients so in exchange for the shallots in Mae Ploy's sauce they have onion and garlic, tartaric acid, citric acid and sodium metabisulphate. From the ingredients list the Mae Ploy definitely sounds like the better product but the overall effect is a sweeter sauce. After experimenting I've found the best combination is a 50/50 mix of both sauces.  I use one large jar of Mae Ploy and two small jars of Por Kwan.

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