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Help convert a meat eater to vegetarian dinners!

Spanakopita is excellent. And I like to make portobello sandwiches -- a nice big mushroom seasoned with olive oil and salt and pepper and balsamic, in a really nice bun.

Something else I do when planning veg meals for non-veg people is to keep in mind the mouth feel of chewy/juiciness/fattiness/umami that characterizes meats in my mind. By bringing those qualities to my veg dishes, they seem more 'filling' and 'good' to people who are used to eating meat.

The first vegetarian dish I ever made for my husband was deep fried tofu cubes, straw mushrooms, and water chestnuts in a vaguely chinese-american style sauce with soy and ginger and garlic. I put it over rice, and served some ginger and lemon glazed carrots along with it. He liked it, and now (only 12 years later) even occasionally requests veg meals.

Oct 19, 2010
AnnaEA in Home Cooking

Do you think eating at restaurants has broadened your palette & made you a better cook?

My restaurant dining has absolutely been educational to me - the main thing that I deliberately use restaurants for is trying expensive or rare ingredients that it would be difficult for me to obtain, or that require experience to work with, as well as many that are just "out there" compared to what I grew up with. It was a lot less threatening to me to face my first calamari as an app at my local Greek place then as a frozen square of rings and tentacle clusters defrosting on my counter.

I whole heartedly second DoobieWah's "read lots of recipes" technique also -- I think that you can really excellent sense of the core identity of a dish by reading a wide range of recipes for it.

And watch cooking shows - it's just plain fun, and a very affordable way to get an idea of how a dish should look.

If you are just getting started with serious home cooking, I would also recommend hitting up your local library for a copy of 'Master Recipes', by Stephen Schmidt. He gives bare bones core recipes for a wide range of dishes, and follows them up with wonderful variation recipes, letting you see how the bones look clothed. In my opinion it's one of the very best teaching cookbooks out there. Unfortunately, it is out of print, but I think it well worth searching for a library or used copy.

Oct 19, 2010
AnnaEA in General Topics

Upscale lunch with my 10 yr. old in Cleveland?

Boo, hiss, wailing, moaning, gnashing of teeth. My car has decided that it is more important for it to have new bushings then for me to take my daughter out for a nice dinner. :(

But when we do get the car sorted and everything back in line, we are definitely going to to the Greenhouse Tavern - I talked to someone there on the phone when I booked the reservation and they were very nice about the whole child thing, which some places aren't.

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The Greenhouse Tavern
2038 E 4th Street, Cleveland, OH 44115

Oct 19, 2010
AnnaEA in Great Lakes

What to do with a pound and half of duck liver?

I just got back from a slaughter night at my CSA farm, and came away with a nice haul that included 1lb 13 oz of muscovy duck livers, that I have no idea what to do with. Can I freeze them until I assemble the additional ingredients I need for a nice pate of some kind, or do they need to be used tomorrow?

I also scored some nice sausages, and some goat ribs and chops which I am excited to get to try!

Oct 19, 2010
AnnaEA in Home Cooking

Putting pots and pans in the dishwasher- why not?

Dunno. I put everything that fits
(except my knives, and cast iron) in the dishwasher, and none of it has ever seemed any the worse for wear. And my wok. It doesn't fit, but even it it did I'd clean it by hand.

Oct 18, 2010
AnnaEA in Cookware

Throwdown: Toaster Oven vs. Microwave

I like air popped best, myself.

Oct 18, 2010
AnnaEA in Cookware

Throwdown: Toaster Oven vs. Microwave

I miss having a toaster oven terribly, and I'd miss having the microwave just as much. In my ideal kitchen I would have both.

As it is, I am toaster oven-less because all the things I could do in my toaster oven I can do in my regular oven. Except perfect cinnamon toast. ;( But I can't use either to rapidly defrost something from my freezer trove, or easily re-heat the cup of tea that got cold while I was on hold with the electric company. The microwave can also function as an additional "burner" on my stove when I am doing complicated cooking, letting me melt butter or reheat stock or warm veg while all my stove top burners are being used.

So my vote would have to go for preferring the microwave.

Oct 18, 2010
AnnaEA in Cookware

Upscale lunch with my 10 yr. old in Cleveland?

Thank you! We read over the menu's together and her vote was for The Greenhouse Tavern, so I've gone ahead and booked us. I'll be back with our reviews next week!

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The Greenhouse Tavern
2038 E 4th Street, Cleveland, OH 44115

Oct 18, 2010
AnnaEA in Great Lakes

Do you lie about food?? [Moved from Home Cooking]

I always did that with my daughter too, until she got old enough to stop asking me what she liked. I think we avoid a ton of childhood pickiness that way.

Oct 17, 2010
AnnaEA in Not About Food

Good food in Canton, Ohio

The Pataya has closed. The owner got *really* weird towards the end. A new place is opening (open?) in the site, but I haven't had a chance to try it out yet.

Oct 17, 2010
AnnaEA in Great Lakes

Upscale lunch with my 10 yr. old in Cleveland?

My daughter has turned 10 this past summer, and I want to start introducing her to fine dining now that she's old enough. I'm going to be in Cleveland with her on the 26th of October, and was wondering if anyone could suggest some places that do a nice weekday lunch and have an atmosphere appropriate for a child - ie, not extremely formal, and not extremely boozy?

Palate wise, we're good - she's an adventurous eater, and is familiar with a wide range of foods, so cuisine wise, anything goes.

Oct 17, 2010
AnnaEA in Great Lakes

Seven Spices

Spices

Salt
Pepper
Cumin
Fenugreek
Cilantro
Dried Chiles
Cinnamon

Ingredients

Rice
Chicken
Soy Sauce
Garlic
Ginger-root
Vinegar
Broccoli
Spinach
Lentils
Lemons
Mung Beans
Soy Beans
Tomatoes
Carrots
Celery

Oct 14, 2009
AnnaEA in General Topics

How to select and ... um ... deal with a live chicken from the farmers market?

If you want to kill a chicken in your home, wringing it's neck is probably the best bet. Decapitation and throat cutting can both be pretty messy. We kill ours at the farm where they're raised - hang them upside down by the feet, and slice the jugulars. They flap like made for a little while, but that's just reflexes -- if you get the throat properly cut, the chicken is unconcious in seconds.

Plucking is messy. The chicken needs to be dipped in water that is at least 140 degrees F, but no more then 170 degrees F. Too cool, the feathers won't loosen, too hot and you can accidentally cook the skin, which makes it rip when you try to clean it. A little bit of dish soap in the water helps, as does a little bit of washing soda. You have to swish it around really well to make sure the water gets to the skin all the way.

I pluck on a table covered with newspaper, and roll up the feathers in the paper and pitch them when I am done. If you want to save the feathers to use for anything you need to dry pluck the chicken, which is harder to do.

You also have to work quickly, or rigor mortis will set in, making the chicken harder to work with.

Your naked bird will be much smaller then the feathered bird -- expect about 1.5 to 2 lb difference between live weight and dressed weight.

After plucking and cleaning, it's best to allow the chicken to rest in the fridge over night before cooking -- this allows rigor to fully pass, and helps ensure you get tender meat.

Breed does effect taste a bit -- check out the Ark of Taste breeds at the Slow Food website to get an idea for good breeds to look for -- we have Buckeye's.

Skin - if you buy a bird in an ethnic market, don't be surprised if the skin is black or red -- Asian and Hispanic cultures prefer colored skin chickens.

Expect less breast meat, and an all around "skinnier" looking bird if you buy anything but a Cornish X (pronounced cross). Cornish X are the standard grocery store chicken.

Oct 14, 2009
AnnaEA in General Topics

What do you love and collect?

Teapots. I am an avid tea drinker, and probably have about 20 different teapots. My most prized are a pair of antique single serving size brown clay pots, made in southern Ohio for Irish railway workers in the 1800's.

I have a lot of single serving size teapots (people keep giving them too me as gifts), and it's been very nice to have so many -- easy to make several teas to try my new teas, and once I had a tea tasting party, and was able to brew eight different teas each in a little pot. Very fun.

Sep 30, 2009
AnnaEA in Not About Food

Looking for local Tofu in NE Ohio.

Sounds like I needs get me to Cleveland. Thank you all.

Sep 30, 2009
AnnaEA in Great Lakes

Grass-fed beef vs. Grain Fed beef

After reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, we switched to 100% grass fed beef. The ranch we buy from raises Scottish Highland cattle, so I can't comment too much on the taste difference of grain fed vs grass fed, because SH meat is different to begin with. We like it a lot.

The huge difference I did notice is in the organ meats - much much tastier then grain fed. Given the sickness that grain feeding can induce, I think this makes sense - the liver of a healthy animal tastes better then the liver of a sick animal.

Liver story -- my husband hates liver - for years after we were married I couldn't get him to eat it(even bribery failed). He'd try a taste, and spit it out -- once he vomited. I picked up a couple of lbs of liver to try when we were testing different grass-fed suppliers, sauteed some for supper, put the left overs in the fridge, and got woken up at 1 am by dasHusband asking "when did we buy the steak? it's delicious".

So far, I've tried out the grass fed liver on several avowed liver haters, and every one has liked it -- I really think that the difference in feed and health is whats affecting the taste.

Sep 29, 2009
AnnaEA in General Topics

Dim Sum in NE Ohio?

I am crazy craving dim sum, but in no mood to spend a day cooking. Anyplace I can get it within an hour or so of Cleveland?

Sep 29, 2009
AnnaEA in General Midwest Archive

Good food in Canton, Ohio

Ichiban Japanese Buffet - recently opened. AYCE buffet with sushi bar and hibachi grill. Food on the buffet is standard acceptable, best if you can get it right after it comes out.. Good squid salad, seaweed salad. Below par miso soup.

The hibachi cook knows how to cook beef - it's been perfectly to order every time I've gotten the hibachi.

Sushi -- what's out will be fresh but ordinary, anything you ask for will be dreamy, and if you tip well and talk intelligently to the sushi chef, you may find an unexpected offering turning up at your table.

I think they do have a menu, if you ask for it.

Sep 29, 2009
AnnaEA in Great Lakes

Good food in Canton, Ohio

Update on Pataya: Food has really gone downhill. Lin has been in the newspaper for some pretty serious health violations in the kitchen, and the last time I was there and ordered the Thai tea I got a cup of foul fermented ropey scum. Avoid.

Sep 01, 2009
AnnaEA in Great Lakes

Looking for local Tofu in NE Ohio.

Hi,

I live in Canton, OH, and am looking for a reasonably local source for good tofu. I am sick of tetra pack.

Any suggestions? Or do I need to break out my blender and start making my own....

Anna

Sep 01, 2009
AnnaEA in Great Lakes

Problem with "My Recent Posts"

I have a favorites list???? *lol*

Well, now you know how much attention I pay to things. ;) I'll have to do that. Thanks for the tip!

May 27, 2007
AnnaEA in Site Talk

Problem with "My Recent Posts"

I'm getting this also -- it's very frustrating. I am maintaining a single thread on my regional board for my restaurant reviews, and I have to manually check it every time I visit the site now.

Really, if I write a post, I think it should show up on the "My recent posts" listing. What's the point of having the feature if it doesn't work??

May 26, 2007
AnnaEA in Site Talk

Good food in Canton, Ohio

Their baba ganoush(sp?) is good, but I find their hummus a bit pasty for my tastes. Other then the hummus, I've never been disappointed with anything I've ordered.

Dishes that stand out - their house rice - it's made with ground meat (lamb or beef - it varies) and pine nuts. And they make a wicked good sambusic (sp?). The grape leaves are good - served yogurt rather then lemon but you can get lemon if you ask. And they have (or had last year - I don't drink much) a decent wine selection.

I believe they have live entertainment on the weekends - a belly dancer, I think. And Sundays you'll get the after church crowd from the Greek Orthodox churches in town.

I hope you find a good meal for the birthday party!

May 26, 2007
AnnaEA in Great Lakes

Strange Pairings that Taste Uncommonly Good

Basil and chocolate.

No really. Try it sometime.

I discovered this when I was making pesto one day, after I had made some brownies. I dropped a bit of the basil accidentally into the leftover brownie batter, and was going to throw it out, except it smelled *amazing*. So I tasted it, and it tastes *amazing*.

May 25, 2007
AnnaEA in General Topics

Good food in Canton, Ohio

Pataya - a Thai/Chinese place on 30th street, near (but across the street from) Sears. Lin is back in the kitchen after having taken off for a while due to a baby in the family, and the food is good again. Not as perfect as Sukho Thai, but about a quarter of the price. There is also a special menu of Vietnamese dishes at the end of the week - but good luck on ordering from it - the kitchen seems to be perpetually out of the Vietnamese ingredients. The best dish so far - a crab/noodle soup which is to die for. It's not a menu dish, but ask if Lin's made it - it's delicious. The coconut fried bananas are also excellent.

Taggarts - An old timey ice-cream and burger place. They serve phosphate soda's, in your choice of lemon, lime, cherry and vanilla (I think - might be wrong on the vanilla), have great burgers, and really good home made ice cream served in crazy large scoops (ice cream splits should be split - you can't finish one of these alone). The ice creamery side of the restaurant has a kosher dairy certification - the letter of certification is posted in the front window of the restaurant.

May 25, 2007
AnnaEA in Great Lakes

Sage advice, please!

Sage is good for seasoning white beans.

Put 1 cup of white beans in a heavy pot with four cups of water, a tbs of dried sage (I'd use about three fresh), a tbs of salt, and a quarter cup of olive oil. Let simmer over medium low heat until done - any where from 1 to 4 hours, depending on the age of the beans. Add more water as necessary to keep from drying out.

May 15, 2007
AnnaEA in Home Cooking

Isn't there anything good to say about life as a chef?

Working in a kitchen is hard, often crazy work.

That said -- I loved it. Even my worst day in a kitchen was better then my best days at any other job. I loved the pace and energy of the work, and how it demanded that you be able to think fast and move fast and make the right decisions at the right moment.

And I loved the autonomy -- as long as the right plate with the right food is going out at the right time, how get there is totally up to you (caveat on this - I never worked in really high end places. my bosses were usually thrilled if more then half of the kitchen staff showed up sober) .

Another I loved was the scope for creativity and just plain fun you had in the down times -- I remember one time working at the Chinese restaurant, and cadging a cup grand marnier from the bar one day when we were totally dead, and teaching the dishwashers to make crepe suzettes. Fun.

May 13, 2007
AnnaEA in Not About Food

Tiny delights of food

The sound of a good hearth bread cooling - it crackles delicately, like rustling tissue paper.

The little symphony of pings after canning, when the jars are cooling and sealing.

The explosion of scent when you first throw garlic and ginger into a hot wok.

How blanching vegetables turns them jewel bright.

How when you've made a really good sandwich and served it to someone who isn't expecting a really good sandwich they take the first bite, and then stop and pull the sandwich away and look down at it before taking the next bite.

May 13, 2007
AnnaEA in Not About Food

Jam out overnight - any good?

They should be fine -- they'd be too sugary and too acidic for any nasty gazigglies to set up housekeeping in that quickly.

In fact, I think that the greater risk for leaving a preserves out is them drying up and getting stiff. That, and losing flavour.

May 11, 2007
AnnaEA in General Topics

Question about measuring flour...

I think it depends on what you mean when you talk about "universal standard". The US is really the odd man out when it comes to measuring stuff -- we use a fairly old fashioned volume measurement system which doesn't convert easily from measure to measure internally, much less across systems.

Now, if you turn to commercial baking in the US, you will find a universal standard -- weight. It's consistent and reliable, and it allows for easy changing of recipes up or down in quantity (assuming chemistry allows - cakes get tricky).

Talking about cups to grams is just off base though -- cups are volume, grams are mass and there is no direct conversion because things have different densities.

The problem with flour is that it's a powder, and that it makes it real easy to compact in a volume measure. That's why cookbook authors who use volume measurements are so thorough in telling you how to measure - because volume measurement isn't real accurate for powders.

Now where the common conversion of 1 C of flour = 4.5 oz = 125 grams came from, I'm not really sure..... but it is the common conversion, and also about as close to a "universal standard" as your going to get.

May 11, 2007
AnnaEA in Home Cooking