Monday, March 31, 2008

Poor old cold poodle

Couldn't find the sweater I cut to fit her last fall, so I pulled out another. Pretty in pink?

Tweet. Tweet.

Groovy Girrrrrrrl talked me into Twitter. I've been avoiding it. It's hard enough to create some sort of interesting blog post every day that doesn't make me sound like a Total Loser with No Life.

Back when answering machines came out, I waited a long time to get one also. I didn't want to know just how many calls I wasn't missing.

Well, I'm trying Twitter. I put the little widget thing over there in the sidebar, too. So you can see just how unexciting most of my days are. WOO.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Braised beef short ribs in citrus chile sauce

Some time back I saw a recipe for steamed pork spareribs with black bean sauce I wanted to try. Except I didn't really read the recipe carefully and all that stuck in my head was "ribs."

I came home from the butcher's one day with beef short ribs, thinking I'd try that recipe. But, as in carpentry, where you measure twice and cut once, cooks aiming for a particular dish should read the recipe twice and shop once.

Happily, cooking is not exactly like carpentry. If you get the wrong ingredient, you just go in a different direction.

Beef short ribs are nothing like pork spare ribs. They're much tougher and meatier and pretty much demand braising to become edible. I looked through my assorted cookbooks and Epicurious and assembled a hybrid dry rub: about a teaspoon each of salt, cumin, oregano, fresh tangerine zest (courtesy of White on Rice Couple!), plus a half-teaspoon each of fresh ground pepper, cayenne, sweet paprika, coriander powder and a pinch more of dried orange zest.

Smeared it on the ribs and left them to soak it up for the next 24 hours. You can use less time (as little as an hour), but more is better. At least, that's what I told myself when I'd spent all afternoon running errands and then weeding and planting and suddenly it was getting dark out and how the heck did it get to be 8 o'clock already?!?

Here's the mise en place:
Beef shortribs cut in 2- to 3-inch pieces
One can of low-salt chicken broth (about 1 2/3 cups if you make your own. Good for you!)
One large onion, diced small or minced (depends on your preference)
A small can (14.5 oz.) of diced tomatoes
Two tablespoons of diced green chiles (I used the mild variety. You can also use chipotles in adobo or something spicier)
Six cloves of garlic, minced
A quarter-cup of orange juice. You could also try lime juice.

Sorry, I didn't arrange these in order of use, but by bowl size!

First you need to
brown the meat
on all sides in
a little olive oil
in an oven-safe pot.
You'll need to do it in two batches so you don't crowd the pot. You may also need to disable your smoke detectors if you do not have a really good stove hood. Be prepared to open your front and back doors and haul out your big box fan.

Better yet, sear the ribs on the grill.

Now's a good time to preheat your oven to 350.

Once the meat is browned and set aside on a plate, toss your onions and garlic in the same pan and saute them until they're soft. They might brown a little, too, since there are leftover spices in the pan. That's fine.
Pour the broth in and bring it to a boil, scraping up all the browned bits from the bottom, then add the OJ, chiles and tomatoes.

Put the ribs back in the pot with the meatier side down. This amount of meat fit perfectly in a 6-quart Dutch oven without being really crammed in. Put the pot in the oven, covered, for about an hour and a half.

What goes with a nice meaty spicy dish? Mashed potatoes, of course. I sweetened them up with a couple of parsnips.

This gave me a chance to try out the Oxo ricer I bought after the holidays for $5. It obviates the need to peel the potatoes, since the pulp mashes through but the skins stay behind. (Red potato skins aren't all that great in mash.) The parsnips' fibery bits also get left behind.

Once they were riced, I added half a stick of butter and a splash of milk, and just a little salt, and mashed them with a regular masher. They came out verrrrry smooth but not gummy.

Meanwhile, the meat came out of the oven and went back to the stovetop, where I tilted the pot and spooned out as much of the fat as I could, then let everything simmer for half an hour to reduce the sauce further and make the meat more tender. You could also add a few more fresh chiles at this point if you wanted to spice it up more.

This dinner needed something green besides chiles, though.

You know I like kale. Wild Oats had this pretty bunch of lacinato kale (a.k.a. dinosaur kale) and I couldn't resist, despite its not being as big as my head. I sauteed it with a little garlic and then let it simmer in water until it was thoroughly tender.

When the kale was done, I dished it up with some potatoes and a couple of ribs, and spooned the sauce over the meat and potatoes.

Mmmmmmm ... meaty! The ribs are really tender and tasty, and subtly flavored. You can detect the chiles and the citrus, but they're not overpowering. (I meant to garnish with tangerine slices, but forgot. Oops!) The potatoes are a nice mild and sweet foil for the meat.

The kale, though, was a mistake. It tasted fine, but was too heavy a green to go with this already hearty dish. A small salad would have been a better choice.

My timing is a bit off, since this is a good winter dish. I can maybe justify it by telling you that it did snow here last night. But save this thought for next fall when you're craving some hearty rib-sticking fare.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Looking chipper! Packard Clipper

I was walking down my old street today and ran across this lovely hunk of steel. Totally rococo on the chrome.

What kind of impression would this front bumper leave on anything it hit?

I also happened across a '76 Impala with the front of the grill missing. The owner said it used to have some Texas longhorns bolted on the front, until he T-boned someone's car and left the horns embedded in it. No one was injured, he said, but I didn't inquire further as to who was at fault.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Coming soon to some beef near you

Tried and true

I'm in the posting doldrums right now. Got a bunch of stuff keeping me busy but it's not really stuff to share with the world at large. So you get pictures of the dog. And candy. And spring flowers. Which are nice in their own way.

This daffodil is blooming in my yard right now. I can enjoy it through the window today, as we've gone back to the 30s and it's all cloudy. I used to laugh at people here who would complain about one or two cloudy days. Now I'm one of them.

And then there's the bread. Always with the bread, no matter the weather. The Nutella and the bread. Which in this case came together very nicely. We've got swirl, people!

We may not have sunshine but at least there's chocolate.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Easter detritus

I get the whole egg thing, and the bunnies. But sticking a circus peanut into a cartoon-chicken-shaped mold and calling it Easter candy is just weird.

I eat it all anyway.

P.S. Did you know that "detritis" is pronounced deh-TRITE-us? I only learned that a couple of years ago. One of those words I knew from reading but never heard said aloud.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Sometimes I just feel too tired, or too lazy, or, like today, just too under the weather to fix a proper meal for lunch. And I don't want to spend the money or effort to go out or order in.

I could resort to a bowl of cereal or oatmeal, but as it happened, I had something better in the fridge. A little cheese, a little salami, some crackers, and some sundried tomatoes. This made for a fine little lunch, and I didn't feel like a total culinary loser for eating cereal. (Lord knows I've done that often enough. I'll bet you have, too.)

The cheese is a little strange. It's hickory-smoked cheddar, but it has the consistency of Velveeta. Tastes OK, but I don't think I'll get it again.

This is kind of a cop-out post, too. I have no ideas for anything better right now.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Out of the cocoon

Here's Sophie at 7:30 this morning with about five months' worth of hair. I let it grow out because her old bones (she's 13!) get really cold in winter otherwise. But once the days start warming up, it's a burden. I'm told dog hair is even warmer than sheep's wool.

Here she is at 12:30. The groomer would've liked more time with her to go over some uneven spots, and I'm not really happy with her tail, but I needed to get to work, so I'll tidy her up later.
I know, she looks a little butchered; the contrast is shocking, isn't it? Such a skinny, stick-legged critter under all that hair! She's hunching over a little in what looks like embarrassment, but it's really because she suspects treachery from the camera and that I might not give her the bone she's expecting. She got the bone, though, and in another week or two she'll look just fine. I know she'll feel better, too!

Sleek but exhausted

I'll post clearer before and after pics later. These were from my phone.

Poor Sophie

It's Grooming Day.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Smoooooth 1966 Dodge Charger

As I've said before, I like to keep an eye out for interesting cars when I'm walking Sophie. I know where all the cool ones are in the neighborhood, but once in a while a new one pops up.

I present the 1966 Dodge Charger. Sweet! It's in very nice shape, and usually lives in a garage, as it should.
This is a fair-weather vehicle, for all its bad-ass looks. The owner came out while I was shooting it and pointed out that window on the fastback has nothing to clear it off. Snow and rain just sit on it, so you can't see a thing out the back in any kind of inclement weather.
Still, it's a looker!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Eggs everywhere

Tomorrow's Easter, so all week food bloggers have been talking about (hyperbole alert) nothing but eggs. Eggs eggs eggs. Dyed eggs, eggs with asparagus, chocolate eggs and chocolate eggs. And chocolate eggs. Plus chocolate bunnies.

Well OK then.
I made some eggs. Scrambled slowly with a splash of milk, served over toasted cheddar cheese bread with a sprinkle of salt & pepper, and a pinch of fresh chives.

(Edit: Over at 101 Cookbooks, commenter Joel posted this link to Gordon Ramsay's video on making perfect scrambled eggs. I feel so validated, since my technique is quite similar.

Break two eggs into a heavy skillet, add a splash of milk and a knob of butter. Turn the heat on pretty low and start gently stirring with a silicone spatula to mix everything together, then keep stirring slowly. As the curds form, lift them from the bottom. Eventually it will all be cooked, and you can keep it cooking a little longer if you like your eggs dry. But keep the heat low, and don't add your seasonings until the end. Salt, pepper and chives are really all you need.)

Those fresh chives? They're from a pot in my back yard. Yes, the chives are sprouting again, so I shan't lack for ready garnish again until November. Hooray!

There, I've done my part. What are you doing with your eggs?

Dinner at Sunflower in Boulder

Before last night's show we stopped for dinner at Sunflower.
I'd never been, but Jenny suggested it, and I also saw it got a good review from Claire at Culinary Colorado. We didn't have a reservation, but didn't have to wait more than five minutes to be seated.

Lovely crusty rolls covered with poppy and sesame seeds arrived promptly, along with a butternut squash puree to spread on them. Tasty, though I think butter would've been better.

We started with a cheese plate: manchego, Spanish bleu, goat cheese and a dauphine (I think). At the time I thought "I should write these down." But oh well.
It was all quite good, along with a red-onion jam, dried cranberries, apple slices, strawberries and walnuts. A few crostini, but we were also brought more soft rolls, which I preferred.

The same plate, after 20 minutes, was as empty as it could be.

For our entrees, Jenny chose the Sunflower Salad (field greens with carrots, cucumbers, sunflower sprouts, grape tomatoes) with chicken.
I was tempted by many things on the menu (the salad Nicoise, the venison tenderloin, the bamboo steamer of vegetables, noodles and chicken with coconut-peanut sauce), but the recitation of the specials distracted me. I opted for a bowl of Rhode Island seafood chowder (with bacon!) that was hearty and hot, and nicely spiced. On the peppery side, but not more than I could handle. Very filling.

To balance it, I had to have the salad of sliced pink lady apples with watercress, red currants and ginger dressing. I got the dressing on the side and I'm glad I did. The flavors of the fresh fruits and watercress were so bright and clean. A little dab of dressing was good, but I didn't use it with every bite.

Wow, that was a really good dinner. I had a glass of Spanish brut cava with it (I like bubbles), and Jenny chose a Carneros pinot noir (Mont Saint John).

We still felt full hours later. And I was glad there was water readily available at the concert, as that chowder and cheese left me with a powerful thirst. Small price to pay, though.

Speaking of prices, Sunflower is not cheap, but you get good value and service for what you pay. It's a good place for special dinners when you're willing to spend a bit more and take your time.

Sunflower Organic Dining
1701 Pearl St
Boulder, CO 80302
(303) 440-0220

José González at the Fox

I don't go to concerts very often, so it's funny that the two I've been to in the last six months have both been José González. Last October he was at the Bluebird. But my friend Jenny called me up yesterday and said, "Let's go!" So we cruised up to Boulder and had a very nice dinner (more on that later) and took in the show.

Mia Doi Todd was the opener. She has a lovely voice and some amazing guitar skills.
We stood in the front for a while (hence the wobbly photo – nothing to brace the camera on for a long exposure), but then moved back to where we could lean on a railing. It's tiring to stand on a concrete floor for so long! Or maybe we're just getting old.

As they were setting up for José González, the room began to fill with fake smoke, which I thought was odd. Maybe they were trying to invoke the nostalgia of the days when you could smoke during shows? (Not that long ago.)

But once the music started, the reason became apparent.
He had some pretty dramatic lighting effects going on, with whole arrays of lights in back that changed colors and rotated, sending striated beams across the audience. They must have hired a really good lighting designer. It was impressive without being overdone.

However, I have to wonder about being exposed to that smoke stuff night after night. It's got to be hell on your lungs and vocal cords even if you're not singing.

But the music, of course, was brilliant.

Here's José González's website. Warning: It's all Flash, which is obnoxious to me, but you can listen to some of his songs there.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Ready for the concert to start

What can't you put in this bread?

I had some thin-sliced Italian dry salami, so chopped some up and threw it in with grated cheddar to make a small round loaf just for me.

The cow-orkers want to know when I'll make it for them.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Now appearing ...

In my yard!

Must plant more of these for next year.

It was in the mid-60s today. Will we get more snow? Of course! It's forecast for Saturday.

Tangerine treat

You may recall the lovely flowering tea I received from Diane and Todd of White on Rice Couple.

Well, today, there was a package waiting for me on my porch. Inside, this note:
And some California sunshine!
What a beautiful cluster of tangerines, straight from Diane and Todd's tree. Thanks, you guys! You rock!

I would send you some snow, but I suspect your traffic is bad enough without it. I'll have to see if I can find a shippable equivalent that will wreak less havoc.

Tending the flock

I took these photos last summer. I used to know a woman who lived a couple doors down. She built her dream home there, specifically designed for "single woman with dogs and occasionally visiting mom."

That house has wide stairs with deep treads, a plunge tub, passive solar heating, and a kitchen cupboard that is really a tunnel with a dog door at the end. And bowling balls for decorations on the garden wall.

This is not a photo of that house. This is a house down the block.
I asked her about this place, which looked much the same back then. "What's up with that?" I asked. An old guy lives there, she said. He's harmless.

I should say that was 10 years ago.

Fast forward to last summer, when I've moved closer to this street, and I see the guy sometimes. He walks to the store, or he works in his yard. He looks like he's in his 80s, with a long white beard. He's tall and stooped. He looks like he should live on a Swiss mountain and have goats.

But he doesn't have goats. He has ideas.

Like goats, his ideas are unruly and a bit scattered. They don't follow the rules. Not the usual rules, anyway.
When I pass him out walking, or go by his yard, he says hello. He asks how I am. He remarks on the weather and my nice dog. He's very pleasant. He doesn't try to tell me anything out of the ordinary.

His house says it for him.
Fast forward again, to a couple of months ago. I walk by the house. There's a dumpster in the yard. A man is there, not the old man, throwing stuff in it.

"What happened to the old man?" "He died." Oh.

This guy doesn't know anything else. He's just doing a job.