Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

 

The picture of a belly dancing elderly woman says it all.

Casablanca Cafe: The picture of a belly dancing elderly woman says it all.

During my nearly 3 decades on this earth, I have eaten in hundreds, probably thousands, of restaurants across Europe and America. Only once did I refuse to pay for my dinner (a revolting Mexican place in Sacramento that served us what looked like leftover catfood in a corn husk). This was 8 years ago, and for the first time in 8 years, I came close to refusing to pay for my food today at Casablanca Cafe in Bloomington, Indiana. 

 

Casablanca Cafe was playing music that brought to mind weeping Moroccan clowns when we entered (later it became better, and then there was no music at all). The menu had a few vaguely Moroccan items, and a lot more American Italian items. It reminded me, disturbingly enough, of an airplane food menu. New to this place, I asked the waiter for a recommendation (other than their $22 LUNCH specials). He advised me to try the couscous, rather than the gyros sandwich which also sounded good to me. My husband ordered the lamb kabob with saffron rice and vegetables. The waiter brought out our drinks first, and I must admit that my “Michael’s Tea” was excellent, and seemed to contain homemade lemonade. My husband’s Moroccan green tea with mint on the other hand, at a very pricy $4.95, was so sickeningly sweet I couldn’t stand to drink it. (And I assure you I am not one of those people that thinks everything is too sweet) The bread, for which we had to pay extra (!!), came with excessively cheap olive oil, and something they called “balsamic vinegar”, which we suspect was actually just cheap malt vinegar, as the only thing it had in common with Balsamico, was that it was vinegar, and it was black. The bread itself, contrary to what some other reviewers seem to have experienced, was neither fresh nor homemade probably. 

 

A pile of flavorless watery swill

This is exactly what it looks like: A pile of flavorless watery swill

Then the food came out. As soon as I looked at it, I got a bad feeling. A pile of boiled broccoli, carrots and chick peas, on top of some plain boiled couscous. Sadly, it tasted even worse than I had feared. The couscous (something I normally love), was utterly devoid of even a hint of flavor. It tasted like cheap, watery couscous of the Walmart home brand variety. The vegetables, which were at least not TOO over cooked, were completely flavorless as well. The spices on top appeared to just consist of parsley, which is indeed a commonly used Moroccan, but which is also excessively bland. To my astonishment, even the currants had no flavor. (And having lived in England for two years, I know bland!) My husband’s lamb was even blander than his vegetables (which were identical to mine), and his “saffron rice” had no more flavor than your average pile of shredded plastic bits. It made me long for a packet of cheap Uncle Ben’s easy rice. (Hint to the cook: Just because it’s yellow, doesn’t mean you can call it saffron rice)

 

 

Casablanca Cafe Bloomington has the talent to make even lamb bland.

Casablanca Cafe Bloomington has the talent to make even lamb bland.

I liberally sprinkled salt over my dish after the first few bites. Then again, and again, and again. This food was so bland, it even seemed to make negate the effects of salt, like a black hole of blandness sucking up and annihilating flavor. I finally decided this wasn’t worth sticking in my mouth and eating, so I left the rest of my dish. I can honestly say I have eaten better food on airplanes. Sure, just the thought of airplane food makes me want to vomit, but so does the thought of this bland, watery swill. Actually, vomiting this up and having lunch elsewhere sounds appealing, but I’m afraid our wallets are empty after paying for this crap.

 

The final price for this slop? A whopping $40 (includes $5 tip) for two people, for lunch. No appetizers, no alcohol.

(Purchased: some pieces of bread, 1 tea, 1 tea-lemonade, 1 vegetable couscous, 1 lamb kabob. $40. !! )

Conclusion: My food left me wishing I’d ordered the Gyros sandwich after all. At The Trojan Horse bar.

Read Full Post »

These delicious hotcakes are light, fluffy, soft and so much better than your average Bisquick pancakes!.Top them off with some fresh honeycomb, and let the honeycomb flow down the sides. They’re easy to make, with ricotta and some every day pantry ingredients. Five to ten minutes prep.

Ricotta Hotcakes
(serves 6-8)
The recipe can be found in here and a PDF version can be found here.

1 1/3 cups ricotta
¾ cup milk
4 eggs, separated
1 cup plain all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
50g butter

Place ricotta, milk and egg yolks in a bowl and mix to combine.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into the ricotta mixture and mix until incorporated.
Place egg whites in a dry clean bowl and whip until stiff peaks form.
Fold egg whites into the batter using a wide metal spoon. Do this in two batches.
Over a low to medium heat, lightly grease a large non-stick frypan with a small portion of butter.
Drop a ladleful of batter into the pan and cook for two minutes or until the edges have turned golden brown.
Flip the hotcakes over and fry until it is cooked through.
Transfer to a plate. Top with appropriate condiments and dust with icing sugar.

NOTE: Hotcake batter can be stored up to 24 hours covered, in the refrigerator.

I found this recipe at: http://ilovemilkandcookies.blogspot.com (Thanks!)

Ricotta Hotcakes with Honeycomb

Read Full Post »

My Question of the Day: Why would a Midwesterner stand in line for 20 minutes for corn?

 

Today I got my first look at the Bloomington, Indiana farmer’s market. A charming collection of farm stands with ample heirloom tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and more, the Saturday Market offers a great opportunity to buy some (surprisingly affordable) locally grown produce, as well as unusually pretty flowers and delicious crusty bread. I was almost immediately faced with a serious oddity though, namely an absurdly long line (see photo) in front of a single stall. The line was in fact much longer than fitted on one photo. When I asked what it was for, a lady kindly informed that it was for corn. “What?!?” I responded. “Corn!” “Are you seriously telling me that a bunch of Midwesterners, in the middle of the Cornbasket of America, would stand in line for twenty minutes for CORN???” She assured me it was true. I did not bother to stand in line to try out the corn. After all, corn is corn, and it’s more common here than anywhere else in the world. I refuse to believe corn could be worth standing in line for, for twenty minutes, in Indiana.

I was fortunate enough to catch the market on a “Tomato Tasting” day where an array of local heirloom tomatoes was displayed for market-goers to try. Excited as I am about any heirloom tomato, I quickly joined the line for samples. The first tomato was okay, a bit sour for my liking, but not too bad. As I continued along the line though, my disappointment grew. Virtually every tomato was watery and bland. They didn’t even approach the blandest heirloom tomato you’d find at our Eugene, Oregon farmer’s market. In fact, the (local) heirloom tomatoes I’d bought at Kroger’s the day before were much sweeter and boldly flavored than any of these. The only exception perhaps was the Japanese Black Trifle variety from Stout’s Melody Acres. I still bought a pound and a half of various heirloom tomatoes at one stand, in the hope that those will be better.

To my great surprise, there were virtually no food stands. Some plain coffee (to which you can add a little syrup) and a bakery with rather expensive muffins ($5), cookies and other foods, that’s all! Someone could make a killing selling food here. The Eugene Frmer’s Market must have at least 20 prepared food stands… asian foods, mexican, BBQ, pastry goods, lemonade, and so on…) I must say though, my home made ice cream cookie sandwich from the bakery stand was absolutely fabulous, and I intend to buy another one, even at $4 or so a piece.

Highlight of the day: The beautiful flowers at the market (Okay, and the ice cream sandwich. And getting to drive my new Atlanta Blue BMW Z3 convertible on a sunny day). I’m not even sure what some of them were, quite unusual. I don’t like to spend money on flowers, because they die so fast, and the cats eat them, but I enjoyed admiring them at the market, and perhaps I will buy some after all next week. (Note: the flowers in the pic look a little like Carnations from a distance, but up close they are like some strange fuzzy flower carpet, bundled together, very odd)

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

After two weeks of putting zucchini into everything we eat (patties, cakes, breads, stuffed zucchini, BBQ-ed zucchini, and so on), I found the best recipe yet, for Zucchini Cheese Scones.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup butter (I only had olive oil, worked very well too)
  • 2 1/2 cups biscuit/baking mix (bisquick)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3 eggs, beaten (I suspect two eggs might be slightly better, makes it a little more scone like)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini (I put in two cups, just to get rid of more, and that worked out fine)
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese ( I only had Huntsman, which was perfect, as it combines a stilton (blue) and double gloucester (somewhat like cheddar)
  • 3/4 cup chopped almonds, toasted (Here’s where I suggest a possibly great alternative: BACON pieces!)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees

2. Saute onion in butter, til tender. 

3. Combine all ingredients, folding in the zucchini, cheese and almonds (or bacon) last.

4. Stick it in the oven in a round pan and bake for 25-30 minutes at 400 degrees. Slice into wedges, serve with butter. SCRUMPTIOUS!

Read Full Post »

I should have listened when people told me their stories of enormous piles of zucchini, of eating zucchini day in, day out all summer, wild tales of “drop and run” actions by neighbors who can’t get rid of their zucchini either, and so on. But I did not.

I had two zucchini plants last year, both in a pot. They grew a few little zucchini, most of which turned yellow at the end and rotted away. My yield was minimal, enough for one dinner of my mother-in-law’s famous and delicious ‘zucchini patties’. So this year I planted five zucchini plants, in the ground, with extra miracle grow and on the irrigation system. Oh yeah, people warned me… but did I listen? No.

The first few weeks things went slowly… the leaves grew, but the zucchini remained small and once again a number turned yellow and rotted before getting more than four inches long. Then the first big zucchini came (it had been hiding under a leaf and was a surprise). Then another, and more…

Zucchini soup, zucchini patties, zucchini stuffed with lamb, zucchini meatloaf.

And then today, only four days after harvesting all the big zucchini, with nothing over 4 or 5 inches left on the plant before the weekend, I went to check again. See the picture below for the results of four days worth of growth. That is a full size dinner knife next to it for comparison. And there are a number more just slightly smaller than the smallest in this picture.

*sigh* what am I going to with them now? “Drop and run?” Friends? Neighbors? The homeless? And with a lot more on the way, we’re leaving for Indiana in ten days, so we can’t harvest anymore after that… I think we’re having a zucchini vegetable stir fry tonight, with meat stuffed zucchini, and zucchini patties for the ‘carbs’.

Read Full Post »

We recently moved my grandmother into assisted living. Never an easy move, but her new two bedroom apartment is almost as large as the old house where she had lived since she got married in her 20’s. She has high ceilings, windows in three directions, and lots of light. She’s also made some new friends and really seems to be doing well. However, the old house is still full of junk so my mother flew in from The Netherlands to help us sort through old boxes, photographs, and so on.

Together we went through endless dusty basement boxes with doll clothes, photo albums, ancient sleeping bags, and seemingly endless rows of empty canning jars. Each type I pulled an old cardboard box or plastic bag out of a dark corner under the stairs, I was afraid I might open it up to discover dead animals, raccoons, or pet cats that disappeared before I was even born. Fortunately we suffered nothing but some hilarious discoveries of old 1950’s/60’s cookbooks, food with expiration dates going back as far as 1988 (!!), and most notably: A box of “Sparkles”. Apparently my grandparents used to arrange dances for friends in their basement (my mom says she and her sister were never allowed to attend), so they would spread these shimmering flaky ‘sparkles’ across the floors to make them smooth. I’ll try to get a picture of them if they’re still there next weekend. At least the sparkles are prove they were indeed dances that they were keeping my mom and aunt out of, and not some secret Lutheran cult celebrations of self-denial.

Many hours and torn up embarassing family photos later, we finally called it a day. We loaded up the cookbooks, photos, a working refrigerator from the 50’s and the collectibles that I was taking, and picked out some of my grandmother’s dozens of garden hoses and shovels to use in our own garden. (God knows why an elderly woman needs 18 garden hoses, 11 shovels, 5 hoes, and 3 wheelbarrows; it was like one of those “historical museums” full of donated farm crap. Monetary value: zero. Emotional/cultural value: Oh, wait… also zero.)

 

Just as we were about to get back in our car, my mom mentioned that the cherries were ripe. Never one to pass up cherries, I rushed out to the back to find the tree completely covered in perfect, luscious sweet cherries of the Royal Anne variety. Nearly every single cherry was ripe and untouched by insects. We picked everything we could get our hands on, and filled our mouths and bowls. My husband even climbed into the tree to get more. Finally, after filling some bowls and eating plenty more, we decided it was time to head home. We’re going up there again next weekend, and I can only hope that the cherries will still be good. And if we’re really lucky, the numerous figs on my grandma’s tree will also be ready for picking. They may need a little more time.

Read Full Post »