Drew’s Magical Salad

I actually have a really hard time making salads. The big problem is the dressing, I suppose. The store dressings I’d get never tasted as good as restaurant dressings. Also, I had a bad habit of buying ranch dressing and continuing to use it for long after the expiration date, whereupon it gets a weird tangy flavor. I was young and innocent in those days, and assumed that salad dressing had the shelf life of any other condiment. Ranch, in particular, has a bad habit of pooping out on you entirely too early, due to it’s large dairy presence.

I also had a Caesar salad phase, and it is practically impossible to buy Caesar dressing from the store and have it taste anything close to good. For me, at least. This is all possibly because I was(am) a cheap bastard and generally avoided anything higher then Kraft-quality, due to the price tag.

Then along came Ken’s Steak House honey mustard dressing. It is a glorious thing indeed.

And also, I should mention, along came Drew, equipped with the Tripps Restaurant gained knowledge of how to make a decent salad. And thusly, we have this baby, which he even made all artful for me:

Salad

It uses romaine lettuce, tomato, croutons, sliced almonds, tortilla bits, parmesan cheese, american cheese, and the aforementioned honey mustard dressing. Yay!

Ah, leftovers (the beans persist!)

So the beauty of the bean concoction that I made yesterday lies strongly in its cheapness. $.60 for a can of beans, $.60 for a can of tomatoes, a scoop out of a large bag of frozen corn that cost $1.50, a chunk of cilantro for a buck, and misc. seasonings already sitting around. And the rice: a scoop out of a 10 lb bag that cost $6. Oh how I love Asian grocery stores.

And the beans go on forever, as beans are want to do.

Wrap

My lunch. Or rather, half of my lunch, as the other side of this baby was rather identical to the first.

I got bored and soaked some chicken parts in bbq sauce for awhile, baked them, and they worked as excellent accompaniment to the Delightful Bean Scourge.

Chicken with beans

I cropped that, not necessarily for the artistic feel, but because the chair that plate sits on isn’t exactly promoting of a healthy appetite, if you know what I mean. And by this, I mean it had been sitting in the sun for a few days and had accumulated the sort of look that such a piece of furniture is apt to acquire, especially considering the feisty tree and bushes nearby.

I still have beans left, somehow. I promise I won’t take any more pictures of them, really.

Tex Mex Concoction

There really are very few things that wouldn’t benefit from having a large quantity of chipotle tabasco sauce dumped on top of them. Well, maybe not ice cream I guess. Or my car. Nonetheless, the point here is that chipotle sauce is the Sauce of the Gods.

So I was feeling Tex-Mexey tonight and decided to dump a bunch of crap in a pan and see what happens.

Tex Mex Concoction

Ingredients used: Can o’ black beans, can o’ diced tomatoes, a pile of frozen corn, a pile of cilantro, a bit of cut up onion, vegetable oil (with the onion at the beginning, before dumping everything else in), vinegar, cooking wine, chili pepper, chipotle sauce, and cumin. Err, and rice.

First lesson of the night: don’t dump in the cilantro until the last minute. It may be tempting to just fling it into the pan all willy nilly whenever it strikes you, just don’t do it. It may be begging you on it’s flimsy little legs flashing you cilantro currency, but don’t do it. I put it in at the beginning, and not too long after that was met with some severely spinachey and flaccid Cilantro. Flaccid Cilantro! No good at all! Luckily, I had some extra that I dumped in at the end, for maximum cilantro-ness.

Concoction on Rice

It really was quite tasty. However, you know what I completely forgot about that would have seriously maximized the taste? The cheese! I had gotten some cheddar explicitly for this, and of course I only remember this fact several hours later.

It means that this dish is officially vegan! That is, unless I got the can of meat-eating killer tomatoes. Again. Oh well, At least they’re high in protein.

Asian food festival!

So there are few things I heart more then food festivals. Got the chance to attend Richmond’s Asian American Festival this past weekend, and it was delightful indeed. Most food festivals tend to focus on a particular country (for instance the local Lebanese food festival is absolutely fabulous). However, the Asian festival focuses on an entire region of the world, meaning there were food stands for 15 or so countries there. And I was forlorn for not getting the chance to gnaw on something from every single table. Alas.

So I took pictures of the few things I ate that were a.) photogenic and that b.) I actually remembered to photograph. See, I was mesmerized by this gigantic inflatable lobster that sat atop a moon walk, such things make it difficult for one to remember one’s camera-ey duties!

Chat Pati

This is a soup from Bangladesh called chat pati, and was quite tasty. The ingredients are: chickpeas, potato, egg, cilantro, onion, tomato, cucumber, green chili pepper, and tamarind juice. And this indeed contained all of those, it started as mostly just the chickpeas with the option of sprinkling other things on top, and of course I got everything. Mind you, afterwards I picked out the chili peppers, as a.) my mouth has a difficult time dealing with Death, and b.) the cha (chai?) tea I was drinking was still entirely too hot to function as a decent means to cool one’s mouth from spices. I would love to make this sometime.

Filipino Cake

This is a Filipino dessert…of some sort. A cross between a pudding and a cake, it seemed. I would be able to tell you the name, but the handy dandy booklet I got upon entering the festival that lists all of the countries, their foods, plus ingredients in each, sadly fails to mention it. It’s spongy and yellow and delightful, seemed like it had coconut milk in it, definitely had shredded coconut on top, and, as a bonus, I totally discovered bits of corn in it. According to Google, it might be maja mais? Not sure. One thing I learned from my Google search is that I apparently need to try more Filipino dessert products, so much glutinousness!

Peanut butter brownies, with bonus chocolate

So, a few weeks back Drew and I came into a boon. Easter had ended, and anything that was vaguely being marketed for easter was hardcore discounted. At Ye Local Grocery Store, there was a lovely discount bin filled with unwanted candies. This is how we came to acquire 20 bars (or rather, $5 worth) of giant ‘Disney Princess’ chocolate bars (hereafter known as Princess bars).

Ordinary peanut butter brownies often need a little spicing up, and here’s where a Princess bar comes quite in handy. We bagged it up, and smashed it up. Err, smooshed it up, rather. Apparently it’s hard to smash a bar into small chunks when it’s been sitting in 70-80 degree temperatures all day. Nonetheless, Large Chunk of Chocolate became Small Chunks of Chocolate, so all was good.

As an aside, if you are looking to effortlessly rid yourself of some Do-si-do girl scout cookies, I recommend smashing them up and putting them into peanut butter brownies as, much to my chagrin, they seamlessly integrate themselves, leaving not a trace of tangible cookie behind.

The remainder of some chocolate chips were sprinkled on top. When they came out of the oven, I was all like ‘Hey! I’ll spread the chocolate around and make it look like frosting!’ This obviously did not succeed very well:

Peanut Butter Brownies Closeup

The advantage of this closeup top-of-the-brownie-conglomerate mixture is that you can totally imagine there’s some magic brownie planet out there in the universe whose surface looks like this. And someday, when the US space program gets crackin’ and starts zipping all over the galaxy, some lucky astronaut will get to sink his/her foot into this gooey dirt and roll around in it and have brownie fights with the other astronauts. Who knows, maybe some hungry grad student is busy staring at this from a telescope right now.

So this is what the brownies looked like in edible Earth form!

Peanut Butter Brownies

Alas, the batch barely lived over a day. But then, such is life when you are delicious and made with peanut butter and chocolate.

Rice concoction

So I totally didn’t make this one:

Rice concoction

This is something that Drew came up with a little while back, inspired by a vaguely similar dish eaten at a Lebanese food festival. The essential ingredients are rice, red pasta sauce, and green beans, seasoned with garlic, salt and pepper. Delightful add-ons include cheese (this particular instance uses feta as well as parmesan), and I believe there was also some cumin added. Indeed, It is quite squishy and delightful.

Beans, Beans, the Musical Fruit

I believe that pork and beans are rather akin to sake – good either hot, or cold, but never lukewarm.

beans!

This is a neat image if you ignore the fact that a.) there are stains on the potholder, b.) it’s a bowl of beans sitting precariously on a stuffed chair, and c.) this might just be the last thing you’d want your Fondue au Chocolate to look like.

I’ve had erratic appetites in the past few days. Thusly, that bowl of (hot) beans was breakfast. I also engaged in a pre-dinner appetizer of beans, cold and straight from the can. It was, indeed, beantastic.

Mock Sesame Chicken

There seems to be a secret to making sesame chicken that is good and right and delicious in every possible way. I have yet to discover that secret. Even greater then that secret is the hidden knowledge of how to make gluten (a form of imitation meat) soft and springy and delightfully chewy, combining perfectly with said sesame chicken sauce to surpass in deliciousness any sesame chicken dish made with real meat. Let’s just say that I’m still searching.

So many combinations of sugar and spy sauce and sesame seeds have I mixed. So many packets of dried gluten, squishy gluten, and puffy gluten have I boiled and/or fried. Some attempts have been close – almost but just not quite there. Other attempts have been a mere mockery, like chewing sugary earlobes.

Mock sesame chicken

This is my dream, the delicious dream I hope to someday capture. I can only hope that the China Panda Chinese Restaurant will spring a leak of knowledge, and then I will feel true enlightment.

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As an aside, the extra sauce that Carolyn passed on to me from China Panda the other day was quite good with dehydrated gluten balls that were boiled until soft. The gluten is pretty much there; the chewy fried texture, while it would certainly be delightful to achieve, is not really a necessity. The secret is the sauce though. Oh man, so good. So good, in fact, that I just plain forgot to take a picture of my own attempt at this today. D’oh!

Canned Tuna Fishes is gourmet eatin’

I realised my brain apparently hadn’t had enough food today, so fishes it was. My only form of fish that I currently possessed was tuna, and thusly canned tuna fishes it was.

Canned Tuna Fish

Into my bowl of squishy delights got dumped some ‘salad dressing’ (AKA pseudo mayonnaise with tanginess) and chipotle sauce. You know, when it comes down to it, there are just not that many things that wouldn’t get improved with the addition of chipotle sauce.

I had 4 crackers left. This was regrettable. So I also had 1/2 a tuna sandwich, along with the tuna & crackers. This still succeeded in giving my brain it’s necessary foodstuffs, but was not nearly as delightful as those four crackers. To put it in more mathematical terms: Squishy + Crunchy > Squishy + Squishy.

Lamb Sub

I have this problem, where I make a thing of meat or pasta or something similar, and I never put in enough ingredients. When I use a recipe, this generally isn’t a problem, but it’s not often I follow recipes (when cooking, at least). I hate having to wash 837482073 measuring cups, and I like to get all frothy and dump in random crap. This does result, on occasion, with food that is blander then it should be, as what would be a large chunk of (insert seasoning of your choice here) to sprinkle on top of a single serving is just barely anything when poured over a large pot or pan of something.

So I dumped in lots of crap this time.

First, the lamb. I shredded up some onion, then some cilantro that was just dying to be used up, then dumped in a vast quantity of garlic, an almost-but-not-quite-as-vast quantity of cumin, some coriander, cinnamon, red pepper, black pepper, and possibly something else I’ve since blocked out. Fried it up, then dumped it on a toasted bun. Onto this I dumped my own concoction of tzatziki sauce (yogurt, lemon, garlic, cucumber), some feta, lettuce and tomato, and the result was this:

Lamb sub

In making this, I delicately placed the meat on, strategically slathered the sauce, painstakingly placed the tomato, and lightly layered the lettuce, so that everything stayed there and the sandwich was about 3 feet high, give or take a foot. Then, I squashed it down with my hand, cut it, and took the picture above. As I began to eat, pretty much every single ingredient attempted to crawl onto my hand and fall down on the plate. Lucky for me, only about 30% of them succeeded. Pure deliciousness! And, with the vast amounts of seasoning added, it ended up tasting seasoned rather then like Death Sheep In My Mouth. This is a good thing.