Category Archives: cooking

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A very happy day

Began with the turkey trot with Sirma:
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That ended with us smiling with our medals:

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Followed up with some football in the back yard

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And on television:

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And concluded with a great meal headlined with turkey

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many side dishes

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And great friends

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A kids table

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And concluded with dessert

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And finished with a 1999 bottle of Canava Roussos Vinsanto

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A wonderful day of fun and joy with much to be thankful for ….

Save Raw Milk — Oppose AB1735

The California state government, bowing to the pressures of the large agribusinesses that do most of the farming, have chosen to ban the sale of raw unpasteurized milk. Of course, an outright ban would have been too obvious, so instead they made the requirements to ship so onerous, that the small farmers that sold the milk will no longer be able to sell it.

This is an outrageous, unacceptable, overreach by a state legislature to kill a segment of the farming community to serve it’s political paymasters in the large agribusiness under the tattered fig leaf of concern for the health of Californians.

If you care about the right of individuals to buy products that are safe then please go to this website:

 http://www.organicpastures.com/contact_lawmakers.html

And follow the instructions to protest this recent law.

As if we don’t have more important matters to worry about.

Heinz had better watch out.

My wife decided to go all out this year with her tomatoes.

She got several varieties.

She prepared the soil with chicken manure (yes chicken shit).

She watered.

She tended.

And before you knew it we had more tomatoes than we could feed three distinct armies with. And we tried. We took several baskets of tomatoes to work. We invited friends over to pick tomatoes. When people would show up we would give them tomatoes. But the never ending supply was truly never ending.

With the tomatoes in danger of rotting, my wife seized on the brilliant idea of turning them into ketchup. 

First we had to go pluck the tomatoes.

Then there was the slicing and dicing. Followed by the simmering.

 

Then she had to pack them up for the winter.

And finally we could eat. 

And yes, that’s two hamburger paties with fries. After all what goes better with ketchup than the perfect ketchup delivery vehicle known as the french fry!

Strawberry Jam Forever!

Every Sunday morning I go to the Sunnyvale Farmer’s Market.

My wife, fresh off her triumphant manufacture of plum jam, remarked that I could get any fruit I wanted to turn into jam, and she would do her magic.

I asked: How much fruit should I get?

And she replied: Whatever you think is appropriate.

You would think that after 9 years of living together she would know better. I bought 12 pounds of strawberries. Yes, 12 pounds. Why? Because I am Greek male, and that makes me incapable of buying the right quantity of anything unless someone tells me exactly what to do.

After an hour of cutting, followed by 10 minutes of stirring, we had a pot full of proto-strawberry jam stewing over a simmering fire.

My poor abused wife sat and slaved over a hot fire

( okay, she’s not that abused

)

to produce an excellent jam

that she then put into plastic containers

to be eaten over the winter.

Plum Jam!

The folks we bought our house from had a plum tree in their backyard.

One of the problems with a plum tree is that they produce a lot of plums.

And if you’re not careful you end up with plum jam on the ground.

Which inspired my wife to make plum jam in a jar.

First she had to pluck the plums from the tree using her professional plum picker made from a Brown University coffee mug and a stick.

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Then combine equal amounts of sugar and plum.

Boil and stir (that’s my wife stirring)

until you get the right consistency and color.

 

When it’s all done you end up with lots of tasty jam in lots of tasty containers

 

to remind you of the fact that next year you have to do this all over again :-).

Roasting whole lamb in the land of tofu eaters.

A great Greek Easter tradition is to roast whole lamb on Easter Sunday. Ever since I left Brown University I have been craving that dish. The problem was that for years I had no place to cook it. Living in apartments meant that I would have to find some largish open space that would let me cook a whole lamb over an open fire for approximately 5 hours.

This past August I bought a house. So my wife insisted that we use our large back yard to cook the lamb.

Little did I know that my adventures were about to begin.

To cook a whole lamb you need three essential components, a lamb, a fire pit and a 5 foot long rotisserie spit rod. The lamb was fairly easy to find. Draegers has a full service butcher that as long as you give them a two week warning will find a small whole lamb. The lamb was about 22 pounds in total and cost about 185$.

The fire pit was assembled from cinder blocks. We went to HomeDepot and bought them for a couple of dollars each.

The rotisserie spit rod was damn near impossible to find. In the land of tofu eaters (also known as the bay area) where eating meat is a crime against the animal kingdom and folks spend 100$ for the priviledge of eating raw uncooked vegetables, tools to cook whole animals are not easy to find. And unfortunately, since I’ve never done this before and I only knew the Greek word for souvla, Google was no help either.

I spent weeks on the web scouring for a solution. I found Big John’s how to roast a whole pig web site that had a 5 foot spit rod for sale for the bargain basement price of 250$. I got so desperate that I started looking at stainless steel rods, rebar, aluminium etc. The problem with all of those options was the toxicity of the metals. Rebar is made from recycled steel containing who knows what. Stainless steel may contain all sorts of very very bad stuff.

So out of sheer desperation we bought a 7 foot dowel that was 1″ thick for 8 dollars.

Turns out that it was the right decision.

However, the dowel had to be prepared. You need to pierce the animal and a 1″ flat top has very little piercing powel. So my wife had to wittle the dowel to a sharp point.

With the dowel in hand

and the lamb

we could actually start cooking.

First you have to prepare the lamb. Thankfully Vefa Alexiadou: Greek Cuisine helped. Vefa provided the key information about how to place the legs so that the lamb stayed in place.

My wife did most of the preparation.

But once we had finished preparing the lamb, it was time to cook it!

Cooking a lamb requires patience and good friends. The problem is that you have to continuously rotate the lamb else the juices fall into the fire pit. The lamb either gets burned or worse dries out.

Having friends is critical to cooking lambs. It takes approximately 5 hours to cook and it can be brain numbing work. Every 15 minutes my friends and I swapped. Critical to the whole cooking of the lamb is a well balanced fire and liberally and regularly basting it with a mix of oil, lemon and oregano.

When the lamb is finally cooked you know it’s cooked if removing the meat from the bone does not require the use of a knife. Ideally you should just tap the bones on the table and the meat should just fall off. We were not that good. But close.

Once the lamb was diced, the feasting could begin. Because we’re Greeks just having lamb was insufficient. My wife and her friends cooked spanakopita (Cheese+Spinach Pie), tiropites (cheese pies), mageiritsa (a soup made from the internals of a lamb), dolmades (vine leaves + meat and rice) and a Greek salad.

When everyone had finished eating there was much contentment.