Back from vacation:Laura’s Thai wraps

July 25, 2006

I can’t remember at the moment if Barb has already posted these, but I made them for dinner tonight, and that’s reason enough to talk about them. Because Thai wraps can be found in many different incarnations, and I haven’t yet met one I didn’t like. This is again a method, more than a recipe, so make substitutions freely. Here’s what we had:

Outer wrap: plain flour tortillas. You could use those fun green ones colored by spinach, or some other variety. We like the plain ones.

Add some or all of the following:
•Cubed pork loin, leftover from last night’s grilling
(Or chicken breast, or beef strips, or shrimp–you get the idea.)
This should be heated quickly in a hot frying pan with soy sauce, or hoisin sauce, or plum sauce, or whatever sauce floats your boat.
•Some sort of shredded green–we used our standby, broccoli slaw–the kind you buy in bags at the grocery store.
•Cooked rice (Completely optional. In this instance, I had some leftover risotto with porcini mushrooms, which was very tasty.)
•Sour cream or plain yogurt (I like the yogurt best, but I had neither tonight, so I didn’t add them.)
•Cilantro. (I know Barb thinks this is non-optional–I’m a little more relaxed in that respect. I didn’t feel like getting up and retrieving it from the fridge, so we skipped it tonight.)
•I have also on occasion, but not tonight, thrown in either fresh or grilled slices of red bell pepper.
•I’ve even been known to add things like raisins, just for the fun little je-ne-sais-quoi they add.
•A non-optional thing, which is required if one is to call these THAI wraps: peanut sauce.
And the way you make peanut sauce is, you put a big gob of peanut butter in a sauce pan, add some chicken stock, a little curry (optional, optional!), a little cayenne or white pepper, and a little soy or terriyaki sauce, and heat it all over low heat until it’s mixed and creamy–it should be pourable but not runny.

So then you plunk all the various ingredients onto plates on the table and let people build their own. This is quite a wonderful way to use up a little bit of leftover meat, which we frequently have at our house, and Barb never has at her house. I promise you, this will become a staple meal in your house, because they are so flexible in ingredients, and so well-loved by everyone.

Must-try foods in various places

July 1, 2006

Since I am currently on vacation at our family cottage in MI, I got to thinking about foods that are the essence of a place. When we come here, from MN, we often “go over the top”, meaning we drive over the U.P., across the Mackinac bridge, and down. The food that you MUST have if you are going to that region, is 1)fudge. 2)cherries. 3)pasties. (Important note: Pasty rhymes with nasty, NOT with hasty. Otherwise you have something that teenage girls gigglingly wear to create chestal illusions.) Pasties are an amazing thing with meat, potatoes, rutabagas (which I make it a policy to never eat, EXCEPT in pasties), and various other things, all wrapped in a pastry crust. Scrumptious!

And then there’s Duluth, MN. If you’re in Duluth, you go out to the little fish stand on the end of Canal Point Park–the one that’s shaped like a ship–and you get their deep-fried walleye, which is a fish that Duluth almost owns. Except–I’m just remembering that I had some of the best walleye ever at the North Peak Brewing Company in Traverse City, MI a few years ago. It was breaded with a home-brewed beer batter that was heavenly.

A sad thing that I miss when I’m here at the cottage: there used to be a Cajun restaurant here in this teeny little village. It was run by a couple from New Orleans–and who knows how they ended up HERE–and they had the most incredible food. I always ordered the Cajun boil, which involved a huge pot of smoked sausage, potateos, corn, crawfish, shrimp, and crab legs, dumped out in front of me on the table. I’d have a bowl of butter, a hammer for cracking the crab, and a roll of paper towels. No other utensils. It was seriously fun food. I try to make a Cajun boil at home at least once a summer. It requires guests who are into eating with their hands, and into sitting and talking and eating for a long time.

Some other places that have been quintessential food experiences:
Arturo’s, in Joshua Tree, CA–burritos as big as your head.
Sunday morning brunch at either the Wawona Hotel or the Ahwahnee Hotel, in Yosemite.
Amanda’s Fonda, in Colorado Springs.
Gianna’s Italian Restaurant, in Oakhurst, CA–now defunct.
El Cid, a Mexican dive in Oakhurst, and also in Fresno.
Le Croissant French Bakery in Fresno.
The Hong Kong Inn, Grand Rapids, MI.
hot chocolate near the bonfire, at the outdoor ice skating rink in Yosemite Valley.
crusty bread, soft white local cheese, and a bottle of vino, on the beach in Malta.
Roast rabbit at a little courtyard restaurant in Mdina, Malta.
Fresh-off-the-boat-choose-your-own-slice swordfish in Mjarr, Malta
Nocciola (hazelnut) gelatto in Sliema, Malta
Marinated mussels at a trattoria in Rome
Open-air grilled fajitas at some dive in Santa Ana, Mexico
Chef Hoppe’s in Morro Bay, CA
eating sourdough french bread on Pier 39 in San Francisco

Well, I could go on. My idea of vacation is to eat my way through a place. My memories of places I’ve been always include “and we ate this, sitting there, and then had some of that.” The food defines the experience–makes it not just a memory of things we saw, but of things we touched and tasted and smelled; and of conversations we had while we ate.

Cooking and sisters

July 1, 2006

This is LB, the younger of the 2 sisters involved in this blog. I would agree about the sacredness of cooking together. Several years ago, we annexed a friend of mine as an honorary sister, mostly on the strength of the fact that she and I had been cooking together once a month. One of us would plan the menu (4-5 entrees, plus 1-2 desserts or treats–all of which were made in enormous quantities for the freezer), and I would do the shopping, and then we’d spend a whole day in her kitchen. Kids would play downstairs, and we would cook and talk. This woman knows all the dirt, trust me.

Anyway, when BK asked me to do a blog with her on food, I immediately had ideas of what we could include in such a site. All the various foods we make that are “methods”, not recipes. Things we’ve invented from scratch. Recipes we’ve modified. Comfort food from Mom and Grandma. Places where we’ve eaten, where you can get the quintessential whatever. And thoughts about how food is more than fuel.

And I should tell you, my sister is a genius with food. Seriously. I would eat anything that came out of her kitchen. I have my occasional flashes of genius, but she is a perpetual genius. My genius lies more in being smart enough to follow her around and get ideas, and in calling her when I want to make banana bread but have no bananas. Most of my really great meals have started with a phone call to my sis…”Help, I have 2 chicken breasts, one cucumber, some basil, and a loaf of sourdough–what am I having for dinner?”

I invite you to join us in My Sister’s Kitchen–where everything tastes better.

Hello world!

June 30, 2006

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