Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cream cheese challenge

I have made this bold claim before, and I am making it now.

Cream cheese is good with everything.

An 18 year old punk I work with challenged me with this today. He said "nuh-huh (I swear, he actually said that) you can't tell me cream cheese would be good with lemonade". And without missing a beat I retorted "but if you mixed a little lemonade into cream cheese and put that on a muffin, I bet it'd be delicious!"

Try me, I bet I can make cream cheese taste good with anything. Stump me and I'll make you a cheesecake!


My friend Melissa convinced me to do a photowalk with her downtown last Friday. I only say convinced because although we approach April rapidly, temperatures were not terribly cooperative. I don't even know where my gloves are because it was 66 degrees some weeks ago. We decided to go shoot people downtown, which is always an adventure.

People are so curious about people with cameras.
"Are you students?" "Ah, no, but I'm glad I still pass for one :)"

"Are you professionals?" "Umm..."
This is a weird question for me. People pay me to take photographs. I don't sell "prints" but I get paid. I guess that makes me a professional... but wait, I don't make a living off it... so semi-pro? Freelance? Adjunct? Is "kinda" an appropriate answer? Whatever.

We got some good shots and it was great to go out and see another persons vantage point of the place and people.

From my lens:

I couldn't help but add some grain to this image and make it black and white. It reminds me of the stuff I shot in high school on HP-5 Film(for better or for worse)

Oh! I forgot to mention I rented the 85mm 1.8 lens for the day. I was hoping to rent the 1.4 but I didn't think to reserve it. It's still a great lens that's incredibly sharp and fast. It's on my list of "things to buy" in 2009.

This guy thought my name was Karen. I said, nope, but can I take your picture? He said yes and this his how he posed. Bad ass.

And Melissa's shots:

Melissa is a big architecture shooter... she just couldn't help herself!

These two were super cute.

It was right around the time of this shot a security guard told us to stop shooting. I asked I we could get permission from mall management, so we went and laid on the charm. It totally worked! I've heard nothing but bad things about people trying to deal with the "mall management" when taking pictures, so this was a fun surprise.

This guy talked our ear off after she captured this shot.

Ahh, quintessential downtown shot.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

5 people + 1 bottle of B&B = Fun Dinner Party

I totally stole that title from Chris's google status.

I got the idea of making the sweetbreads for more than just Kyle and myself on Monday night. If you're cooking weird shit, it's way more fun making other people eat it too, so I invited some culinarily minded friends.

Surprisingly, sweetbreads are not hard to come by aside from the fact that my hours aren't very conducive to me visiting the butcher. I sent Kyle on a mission to swing by Clancy's on his way home from work on Tuesday to pick up 2 pounds of sweetbreads... for $12. Talk about economic downturn, why isn't everyone making sweetbreads for their dinner guests. This stuff is cheap!

I started soaking them Wednesday night and changed the water in the morning on Thursday, and again when I got home on Thursday night. The water was pretty clear even after the 1st soak, so I figured they had to have less "ick" in them at that point. Though all of the recipes I read called for several changes of water, 3 would have to suffice as I was short on time.

Taking off the membranes was definitely the hardest part. There were a lot of membranes, and not a lot of patience on my part, especially since they were SO COLD. My hands are cold by nature, so I was just mad at those damn glands the entire time I was peeling them. Put that on top of the fact that I didn't really know what was supposed to be there and what wasn't, it was an interesting experience to say the least.

After peeling off membranes and cutting off valves (yes, valves) I covered the sweetbreads in salted water and brought them to a boil. I quickly rinsed them off and put them between two plates with 2 pieces of le creuset on top to press. This apparently gets more "ick" out, and renders them more tender.

Right after being pressed
Sweetbreads and B&B

I kept them pressed until it was time to dredge and fry the guys. Nothing fancy, just some flower and whatever spices I had handy.

Sweetbreads and B&B

I melted 1/2 stick of butter and went to town

I totally forgot to take pictures of the finished project, but Chris allowed me to snap some of the remaining glands from his plate.
Sweetbreads and B&B

I was kinda bummed because I didn't have a very good gauge on what I was doing and couldn't find a reliable recipe online to save my life. I essentially made up my own recipe, picking some tips up from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking (which is really a pain in the ass to cook from) and and a little from Gastronomique. While they were tasty enough, Chris told me the flavor and texture could have been improve by both soaking and poaching in milk rather than water.

Sweetbreads and B&B

I also think they could have used a sauce of some sort, but it was kind of a thrown together dinner party and we had loads of meats and cheeses along with homemade bread to nibble on so sauce was an afterthought. Peter was the only one to clean his plate

I think of the five of us, four had never had B&B before. I recall serving it to people back in my table waiting days, but never thought to try it. It was sweet and spicy and overall pleasant as a general consensus... and then the five of us finished the bottle (which was full when dinner began). Whoops.
Sweetbreads and B&B

Overall I'd say its fair to call the dinner a success, if not for the sweetbreads then definitely for the company. In six months maybe I'll try my sweetbreads again (or when my mom is in town, as she's a sucker for such things).

Next week: Undecided and not inspired (this isn't a good sign if it's only my 2nd week into this goal) Suggestions, anyone?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Weekend goal

I am really bad at meeting goals unless they are very well defined (or SMART goals... enter "gag me" face here). In a recent turn of 1/4 life crisis events I realized that I don't cook anymore. Not like I used to anyway. This is the saddest thing I think I've ever realized, and have been trying to improve my quality of life by making weekly goals. Marxfoods has helped because I would feel guilty if I didn't use the great stuff they've sent me. But I also need inspiration and adventure.

What is cooking, if not an adventure?

{Wow, that was cheesy. My employer would be so proud}

I think good cooking is the perfect balance of both practical (left side of the brain) and creative (right side). I need to stimulate my right side. I am far to practical 95% of the time (just ask Kyle).

Goal #1 Make dinner at home one night during my work week.
Wow, doesn't this sound depressing. I used to do this all the time and this seriously kills me.

Lets take a look at last weeks work schedule: Sunday 12-10pm, Monday 12am-10pm, Tuesday 12am-10pm, Wednesday 8am-6pm, Thursday 6am-4pm.

Maybe I would have made something on Wednesday, but I was so tired when I got home I practically collapsed. I passed up free pie from Chris, and I certainly did not go for a run. I think I ate pizza. I don't even remember. We cooked the Szechuan Chicken on Thursday, but I don't think my Friday counts as a weeknight.

Goal #2 Cook something I've never cooked before one night during the weekend. This could be as easy as poaching salmon, or as involved as homemade gnocchi (I crossed both of these endeavors off my list years ago).

This weekend is sweetbreads. I had sweetbreads for the 1st time on my 23rd birthday at El Gaucho (which is long gone) and they were good (though Kyle and I did eat pancreas in an frittata while living once which was pretty good and somewhat similar I think) I hadn't encountered them again (to my recollection) until we ate out with my parents at one of my favorite Houston restaurants Cafe Rabelais. I was being conventional and went with Red Snapper, while my mom ordered the sweetbreads which she hesitantly let me try. Damn it they were delicious.

I'm doing it this weekend, no questions asked, pictures to prove it.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

D'Lish Farmers Market

My City Pages Dining Newsletter reminded me that D'Lish was hosting their indoor farmers market today, and seeing as we needed to get out of the house and enjoy the weather, I figured this was a good start (not to mention we needed eggs). It's definitely really small, and has very limited selection, but we got some cheese from Shepard's Way Farms (where we will make it a point of touring this summer) and a locally made salsa and bread we otherwise wouldn't have.

We then headed to Surdyk's to stimulate the economy by buying a few wines not available at our place of employment.

Farmers Market

Farmer's Market

A patron inquiring about naturally made soaps
Farmers Market

A vendor making aebleskiver, a round danish pancake the size of a raquetball
Farmers Market

Farmer's Market

Farmer's Market

Farmer's Market

Farmer's Market

Farmer's Market

A vendor talks about her confections, which include cayenne shortbread and
lime and chipotle bark

Farmer's Market

A vendor answers questions about her spicy and sweet ginger syrup
Farmer's Market

Farmer's Market

Farmers Market