Sunday, August 8, 2010

The indeterminate value of propaganda and art

I've come to realize a few things lately. It's true that a French press makes one of the better cups of coffee that I've had in a while. While i do not yet have a verdict of Parisi coffee vs. KC Roasters, i think that either bean made as a home brew will prove the result of that.
Also, fresh/frozen green chile will always be better than canned. No questions there, even when it's 9 months old!
As for art, I've realized that art imagery relating to war is always propaganda. I err on the side of powerful depictions, soldiers, bodies, grizzly realities, though not too grizzly. Other artists have gone that same route, Botero with Abu Ghraib, Goya and the Franco Prussian War, or Picasso with his masterpiece Guernica. The Chapman Brothers, Kathe Kollwitz, and Otto Dix as well. But then I thought about those images, mothers searching through bodies, torture, humiliation, and horrors manifest in the form of action figurines, and it seemed to me that we are all as guilty of spinning information as the governments who spin the opposite side of a conflict.
Picture a military TV commercial or recruitment brochure, full of excitement, optimism, or positivity, and consider the nature of that propaganda and how staged it is and how it glosses over huge portions of the reality of war. Sure you can be a military doctor like the one in a photograph, but you'll be in a tent or room with screaming bloody colleagues, doing what you can to save their lives, or maybe just their limbs. My imagined visual of this is just that, imagined. My depiction of horror is just that, a depiction of horror. I often wonder if my depiction of a wounded soldier is any better than that of an actor in a military brochure, and on a virtual level I think I've come to see them as equal. Neither tells a complete idea and neither could possibly do justice to he reality that few of us will ever understand since we may never see war up close.
Check out Arundhati Roy and an article she wrote in the early days about the war on terror. I heard it yesterday in my car. I sat in my car for 20 minutes listening to it, unable to open the door to go into my apartment. I cried, I thought, and I felt helpless. It angered me, but then I thought more people should hear it. I can't name what station it was on, but I'm sure it's not hard to find.
And as for the coffee, I suppose my taste buds are different than yours, but I prefer the warmer softer Roasters. As with an image it is in the eye of the beholder.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Second thoughts on Green Chorizo: Part II

Over time I've eaten less meat, and this hasn't been out of a concerted effort, but more of an organic development. I grew up in Iowa after all, and meat was anything but scarce. The fact that I was two generations away from a lineage of butchers made the staple of animal protein even more prevalent. Knives were sharpened by hand near the butcher block which is a solid cross section of an old growth tree almost four feet across. Out on my own, my cooking often revolved around meat, usually chicken, which I got very good at, especially preparing on the grill. Subtle was the change, though, that meat began to appear less. My pasta sauces began to lack any sausage or chicken, letting vegetables take the center stage in a recipe. Pasta itself has dwindled to almost no presence in my diet. Again, this was not due to any effort to omit it, pasta just got replaced first by white rice and later by brown rice and quinoa.

So with all of those realizations in mind, I approached this subject of making my own chorizo. I love the idea of green chorizo, and it's a flavor combination that I haven't had, at least not in that form. My devotion to simplicity in my kitchen set up has kept me from owning a meat grinder as I am staunchly against owning specialized items like that. My habits hardly warrant something that only has one function. Storage is an issue, but also I can be realistic that I really only need a certain number of staple utensils or tools to prepare everything I will ever eat, though I wouldn't mine having a tortilla press, so it's not a rock hard rule. So I'm limited to store bought ground pork, which I found rather gross, super fatty, and really not tasty in any way. After trying to eat some of this pork in various dishes, I just couldn't bring myself to eat it, so I've been left with this recipe for green chorizo that may be left unprepared. What I turned to was one of my staple grains, quinoa, and I discovered a salad that was rather tasty, and it's resemblance to dip only made it more popular with other Mexican styled dishes.

  • 1/2 cup Tomatillo salsa (see previous post)
  • 1 batch quinoa prepared (1 cup dry cooked in 2 cups water)
  • 1/3 cucumber
  • 2 fresh tomatoes
  • 2 green onions chopped
  • 1/4 chopped red onion
  • 1 avocado chopped
  • 1/3 cup crumbled queso fresco
  • Salt and pepper

*You could also add fresh cooked corn off the cob, beans, edamame, other fresh herbs, or even grilled veggies, chicken, or tofu.

This is simple to prepare, as it's basically chopped up veggies mixed into cooked quinoa. To speed it up, when the grain was done I spread it out on a baking sheet and put it in the freezer while I prepared other ingredients. It cooled in about 15 minutes with a stir every 5 minutes or so. The cheese I added last so it didn't get too lost in the mixing. The dressing was essentially a salsa, so the whole dish had a tangy full-of-cilantro flavor. Very nice with a bean salad, warm tortillas, or grilled vegetables. We dined on this at a back alley barbecue in downtown Kansas City, highrise towers and bad graffiti all around us. I might be living in a very concrete heavy place, but it was nice to see that we weren't deprived of summer flavors and good times.

One last tip in case you have plans to make this and keep it. The veggies, especially cucumber, can be a bit fragile in the presence of lime juice or vinegar over time, so it might be better to use squash or other sturdier options as you might find mushy cucumber just a day away from when you prepared this. You could always keep the ingredients separate and make it to order, or just encourage your friends to chow down at a barbecue so you don't have leftovers. It works for a night, but plans can change and there's no reason it can't be enjoyed for days.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Second thoughts on Green Chorizo

I keep thinking about Rick Bayless, his really good cooking show, and how it reminds me of my work. I don't know a lot about Rick, but his depiction of Mexican culture on his cooking show raises the food and the people to a new level of respect. It falls in line with foodie fresh culture today, "eat local" and all that. From my experience across the border, it seems more a norm to eat what you have on hand, to eat fresh foods, and to eat local. It's crazy that we need a movement in the U.S. to bring this type of food culture about when in so many parts of the globe it's a regular part of life. Think about the salsa bar at a taco joint, and you'll see a perfect sign of this style of eating. Where we might have thought of it as a condiment bar, I think it is a sign of something more than that.

I'm not going to delve into a speech about the China Study, or about vegetarianism, I just love the salsa bar. When I have a taco in front of me and a choice of delicious toppings, a myriad of daily made salsas, green and red, and veggies I might miss on a daily basis like chopped radishes, or marinated parboiled jalapenos, I feel grounded. So this is what brought me to my recipe for today. A really REALLY simple and super good salsa using tomatillos that makes up the base for the Bayless Green Chorizo. I think it does fine on it's own, and it kills anything that comes in a jar, many brands of which I think ruin the profile of tomatillos for me and people everywhere by misrepresenting this tangy little green tomato.

  • 4 green tomatillos
  • 4 seeded roasted green chiles
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3 green onions
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 juice of lime
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt
  • 1 tsp mexican oregano
It's simple really. Just throw all these things in your food processor. Fresh, nothing cooked, and blend well. The cilantro doesn't need to be pruned especially well, just grab the leafy top of the bunch, twist it off, and throw it in. I chopped stuff up a bit, but it's probably not necessary.

This stuff is so tangy and good, I could eat it every day. And my next recipe is something I whipped up since I bought ground pork and it kind of grossed me out. I made a salad using this as a dressing, and it really rocked my world. So I'll get to that next, but in the meantime, enjoy this one with some chips or scorched tortillas.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

I've been researching Green Chile Chorizo, a recipe originating in Toluca, Mexico so I have read. I want to pair a red, green and white chorizo for a project/tasting coming up. The white recipe may be elusive, since there aren't many white meats, but we'll see. As I've been postponing more and more this cooking venture I've thought a lot about what my last post detailed. I feel it's all based in my inner dialog as an artist, but this attitude also reigns prominently in the art world at large as well.

This argument addresses IMHO art with intention versus making "consensus-friendly decoration", as the Guardian blogger Jonathan Jones puts it. I think that might be the case. I am reminded of what some friends said once, that..."the audience for artists is other artists." In my last post I mentioned Damien Hirst, the quintessential famous wealthy successful artist. I noticed today that he held an actual show of paintings done with his own hand and critics tore him apart. It was partly that he showed his work next to works by master painters, and partly that the guy just doesn't have the talent to make technically skilled art. He even said of his own color spin paintings that they were "basically meaningless." Maybe collectors don't care, but then it's obvious that an investment in art is not in meaningful expression, but in a commodity no different from a credit default swap. It turns out that skill does matter in some cases.

This brings me to other aspects of art as commodity like Jeff Koon's recently unveiled art car.

This is a real car, I think. I actually don't know, but I saw a picture of him sitting on the real thing. Yes he's rich, and yes his work is vapid. These works, Koons' and Hirst's, are signs of how strongly object and commodity are still held together, and how empty they are despite the dollar value. I hear not that MOMA is now collecting performance much like you collect a painting. They collect the instructions on what it is and then re-stage the performance when they like. How strange is that? Something that is temporal by nature is forced to become a commodity. Then they can sell it, even though it's essentially non-existent other than when it took place. It's like the shower you took today becoming art and then someone selling the idea that you took a shower to someone else. Then they pay a young sexy New Yorker to take a shower in the same circumstances and call it equal to the shower you took. Maybe there's some inherent genetic predisposition by humans to need to associate monetary value to each and every thing, but I don't know that I get this compulsion.

Now our art world is blogging/tweeting heavily about a new TV show called Work of Art, which is basically a competition by artists to one-up each other and get a big bag of money for their efforts, and maybe for being a good artist. It's so strange that this is what they claim will bring appreciation of art to the masses, making artists perform akin to fear factor or iron chef. Why not make artists cook against one another and then be forced to eat all the food before running an obstacle course? It makes about as much sense as the real show.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this, nor am I sure where to go with art in general. It's not to avoid objects for the sake of it, but more to think about what an expression is at its core and why we need objects to convey that expression. Art objects are great, and you'll see that in my apartment that I surround myself by them. I just like to think about these conundrums, and the daily occurrences in the art world. When I read about ideas about reformulating art in society both within and without capitalism, like in the new e-flux journal 17, it really gets my gears going. This makes me wonder about all this stuff we make and what we do with it. What the value of this stuff is, and what the purpose of over-valued stuff is too. I need to get a few tomatillos and I'm going to make some Green Chorizo, inspired by Rick Bayless. That is something I can put a fork in, tell it's done, and then eat knowing that I enjoyed it because taste-buds lie way less than art does.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Resisting Dematerialisation with Chorizo and Arizona Ice Tea

Over the weekend I spoke with my brother about the direction that my art might partially be moving towards involving potentially performative or interactive aspects of cooking along with more typical art objects. As seen in Marina Abramovic's MOMA retrospective "The Artist is Present", performance is finally blowing up after years of occurring but never becoming mainstream (and I hate to be the one to exemplify this show along with EVERY other art blogger). Just look at the abundance of college art curricula that don't even address performance as a practice. Its specialization, tending more towards theater and dance, have left it in a limbo that many avoid grappling with, and the preponderance of bad performance art hasn't probably helped either.

Abramovic claims that performance art edges on theater, but that it is real rather than pretend. Here's a post-show interview that is kind of interesting. I'm all for it really, despite the fact that I have rarely if ever seen performance art in person. There's an excitement to it; towards it's bold and courageous display in front of audiences who may or may not even understand what is taking place. People probably have trouble with interpreting lots of art, visual, audible, or performance, but that's not the point. I'm eluding to this renewed push for relational art, where experience is the conveyance of meaning, not objectification in a white walled space. Either way is a perfectly fine way of expressing yourself, but there's a growing trend here that I feel compelled to address, and one that ties to many things going on around me.

Art and life is curiously redirecting culture towards limited edition commercial object making (much of traditional art making, ie. prints, paintings, sculptures, etc.) versus the visual and audio culture that we readily consume becoming more and more ubiquitous and available in infinite reproductions on the web. Curiously I see it tying into the financial meltdown, art pricing, and the new wave of young artists finding their way out of school into the marketplace. What I've seen in Kansas City is a young push to capitalize on commodity, to make a screen printing business in basements, or to create objects gallery ready and with that certain glossy presentation that says too clearly that they are completely comfortable with art objects as collector fodder. It seems that art and consumer culture are vying to become one, and it's apparent as well in Hirst's huge self-purposed auction or in Murakami's hand bags. Art is simply business, and ideas can sometimes be subverted in the name of the sellable.

I saw an article from The Telegraph today about an upstart book-on-vinyl production operation. It seemed like a gimmick at best, but note the printed fine art object combined with the irrelevant collector technology. How many times can one listen to an audiobook anyway? When it was done in the past, there weren't cassettes or libraries full of CD's that you can borrow once and return. This is what they claim is the purpose of this,
The Underwood discs, scheduled to appear twice a year, represents part of the growing resistance to the dematerialisation of art. By emphasising tactility, scarcity (each issue is limited to 1,000 copies) and physical beauty, it offers something that can’t be digitally replicated.
Is there truly a "resistance to the dematerialisation of art"? With all innovation there is resistance to some degree. What is the value of continuing to make art objects? Lately I was in a gallery opening and people seemed equally invested in the experience of drinking free beer as much as they were in the art-gazing. What about the value of said objects? When the economy is down, and people can't buy art, should producers of art alter their approach to fit the economic realities? This I haven't seen, and its obviously represented by the multi-thousands-of-dollars that a young person's paintings are marked at here in Kansas City. Artists were taught in recent years a pricing model that isn't relevant anymore in the wake of the financial collapse. People aren't buying art, so should we still be pursuing the showing practice of white walled high-priced art displays? I'm not saying everyone should be producing limited edition stereographs of urban eccentric naked young people (if you want to pursue that idea, you can have it!), but what are we in the art game for? There are angles to pursue to make money, and there are ideas to demonstrate through our actions as artists whatever our practice, and when we go one way in an effort to demonstrate the other, these confused efforts only result in art that doesn't say what it intends, and thus isn't as valuable as something made for more commercial reasons. Is this making any sense?

So I guess where I come to is a place where making food as art has potential to satisfy all parts of the issues that I have addressed. I can offer an experience through eating, something that to me is the most relevant and ubiquitous of all experiences besides death and sex. And if I like I can commodify this approach, but neither arm of this will interfere with the other, I hope.

As for the overpriced art being pumped out across the globe, I hope that part of the education system that guided these artists into the art world has prepared them for the reality of having to fight to survive in a system that pays less and less and supports less of the most valuable expressions being made today.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Sometimes you just need a grilled cheese

Yep. Does that count as carbo-loading?

Miga so Hungry

Breakfast is mui importante. With a great deal on my mind today, it's good to have foods that I can fall back on. This weekend is a huge barrage of events including a big art delivery to a gallery in Des Moines, IA, tonight is the big Kansas City First Friday art walk for which I have to hang out all night and talk to people, and on Sunday the Pigman Triathlon is happening, for which I can only hope I'm prepared. I've trained, so I know I'll finish, though my time might not be the greatest. With all of that, it's better for me to just eat what I have, something easy, and today that meal was migas. Migas are many things traditionally, usually leftover bread or tortilla cooked together with egg, pork, or whatever else is lying around. I choose to make a taco version, still keeping with the ingredients, but a bit easier to eat. Mine included eggs, chile, and whatever I had leftover which was a sad looking green onion, some zucchini, and a lump of turkey. Corn tortillas last amazing long in the fridge, so those I try to always have on hand for just such occasions as this.

It's easy really. Chop everything up. Fry up your ingredients starting with peppers, then zucchini, and then the turkey mostly to warm up. When those are looking tasty, crack in a couple eggs and add the green onion. Season with salt and pepper, and cook until done. These days I've begun to cut out the egg yolks. One yolk for two eggs. I read this thing about the naked cowboy guitar guy in New York and he only eats egg whites. He stands around flexing and playing music all day in his underwear and apparently he doesn't eat yolks. FYI I've also cut out half and half for my coffee in favor of 2% milk. If you make gradual shifts you don't even know the difference. Sorry for the healthy talk, but I'm training for a race! Maybe I wouldn't mind a side job playing guitar naked.

Anyway, throw the mixture on some heated tortillas with a bit of cheese. I toast my corn tortillas over the gas flame of my stove which gives nice little char marks, and firms up the little guys so they don't break on me when I'm eating. No fat is required either, so I don't have to dirty up another pan or eat extra butter or oil. Splash with some hot sauce, keep the bottle close because you'll probably want more as you go, and enjoy! It's a filling meal, but when you have too much to do and never enough time to eat, it's worth starting the day with a belly full of damn good tacos.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Taking stock of the domestic life

Today is memorial day, and I thought it would be proper to say that I would never have this glorious domestic life if not for the sacrifices of our troops. I might have my reservations with most wars today, but if not for those who came before me and their choices to protect this country, I might not be able to choose to live the life I live. Choosing to be an artist is a dubious financial decision as it is! It's a big thing to offer up your life in the name of what you believe in, and that to me is awe inspiring. We should all reflect on that as we eat our steel-cut oats this morning. Oats with a splash of milk, cranberries, and raisins. No sugar, lest you offset your blood sugar for the day! Sorry, I read too much about food. Have a great day everyone!

And seriously, just look at the sheer joy on Oscar's face as he eats that chip! LOL!!!!!!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pizza 51

Ah, the artist life. When things go right, we are surrounded by art, artists, and damn good food. It's a craft thing. I have a high appreciation for things done well, for artistry in the kitchen and in the studio.

Today I met up with a couple people whom I only recently met here in Kansas City, Bob and Anna Atkins. Bob is a letterpress printer with his operation Skylab Letterpress, and Anna works for Hallmark as a designer. Talk about fascinating people, and we had what was probably the biggest slice of pizza I have ever seen. Pizza 51 is an old gas station, something I've found is a consistent sign of a good restaurant in KC. I paid $5.75 for a slice of pizza, with five hand picked toppings, and I couldn't nearly finish it in one meal. We're talking a slice the size of my head, and my huge Irish/Belgian head would make an unrivaled meal if equated in portion size!

The talk was great as we meandered from food to local corporate powerhouse Hallmark (which is probably interesting enough for a blog post unto itself), and of course we talked about printmaking. It's nice being around artists after my hectic year of travel, unemployment, and my exodus in Iowa. I have to say all parts of the past year were great. I traveled through India with my best friend, I got back into a kitchen, I signed on for a triathlon that's happening officially 7 days from today, and after all of it I'm here with a job at a print shop with nothing but open road ahead of me. It could only get better if I eeked out a source for health insurance. But then you can't have everything, but you can find ways to keep life good, prosperous and full of potential. So I've got that going for me, which is sweeeeeeeeeeeeet.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Slanging dental care products ala Costco

I currently work two jobs, so my time as home is limited, thus my domesticity is becoming a more focused affair; quicker, dirtier. Back to the impromptu ways that I love! I'll pass on a few lessons learned since coming here to Kansas City.

1) Costco is insane and no I don't need 10 toothbrushes. Can one become a dealer in supplies such as toothbrushes and Mach III razors? Perhaps that can be my backup plan since teaching is ridiculous to even consider.

2) When making lunch on the go, Quinoa is great as a sub for rice in beans and rice.

  1. Prep a batch of Quinoa. Add fresh garlic and onion while it's hot, olive oil, and salt and pepper. This is your base and you can eat it all week.
  2. Use some chopped up chipotles to your tolerance level. For me that's about three perbowl of food. This level of spicy consumption is attainable by you too, if you so wish.
  3. When you're making your to-go bowl of food, add the Quinoa mix and the chiles. Toss in whatever you have: spinach leaves, zucchini, cucumber, bell peppers, cheese.
  4. Final addition: Black beans straight out of the can, rinsed quickly. Again I owe it to Costco for coercing me to buy way too much of one thing. I have like 10 cans, and these with the rest of this mix makes for a great little meal, and it's simple.
  5. Eat with chips, tortillas, some hot sauce, sour cream if you're into the dairy cow emulsions.
3) Yogurt on the go is a great thing, also from Costco, I have a gallon or so to work on. Just make sure to seal your tupperware, or the yogurt liquid can spill out all over your calendar and sketchbook and leave you with this funky mess that isn't really possible to clean since it's inside your backpack.

Yep, if you're in need of 7 pounds of nuts, it's the place to go.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Nyerding out/Eating yogurt

O' say is that beef?

With banana in hand, my late night dinner in the print shop, I'm contemplating prints, food, interactive art, etc. It's a new direction for me personally, but I think it has to be a part of this new venture of mine. Recently I've started as Director of INKubator Press in Kansas City, MO. The funny thing is, I'm unsure about my future in prints. I know that whenever I leave it, I always come back and do it more than before and there are a lot of things to explore here in our shop.

I suppose that what I was thinking about was how can prints function in the art world today, and by that I'm wondering about the art world trends towards performance art, social practice, interactive art, experiential happenings, etc. Within that world, how does printmaking function? It's a question I haven't answered for myself, and in reality I hardly practice things like that, but maybe that's where this love for food could channel.

Is there a future in edible delights of a political nature? Could our family dream of someday opening a taco cart come to fruition at an art gallery? Am I capable of moving beyond impromptu cooking and actually be able to create recipes for contemplation and consumption? Hmmm...I think this post has generated something to consider. Whether you're into art or not, what do you readers think?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Love handles just not big enough to handle?

So I just updated my site within the depths of Blogger, and hopefully keystrokes of cooking goodness will begin to reach a few people out there. Following apparently doesn't do jack, so I added a few emails to a list, and there's an email subscribe link as well as the means to add to a google reader, which I highly recommend if you use iGoogle. I keep up on a lot of blogs now, and you can too. So keep up with my latest turmoil over the hot stove, and let me know what you think!

The Domestic Male

Case in Point

If you want the start of this, see the previous post.

So I followed a link on a blog, and came upon this trended site based on men cooking. Man Tested Recipes is the name, and yes the lead ingredients include meat, pasta, bacon, beans, beer, butter, cheese and chocolate. This is funny to me, as it describes a good portion of my palette, but it's also funny because combinations of these foods in large portions also leads to man boobs.

What is also terribly ironic is that my next recipe, a whopper I'm preparing based on a meal the other night, includes chiles, beer, meat, and a grill. I suppose you can't get around it, but I swear that I'm not choosing my materials or methods based on masculine prejudice. I just like flame seared asparagus. I lived in New Mexico, so my stash of chiles is straight from fields near my old house. (Man I miss running on those dusty irrigation canals.) Even with justification, my trends do lean towards the man-proven recipe direction, but I'll chalk it up to a genetic predisposition. At some point hundreds of thousands of years ago, humans discovered and tamed fire. The next thing was naturally some grilled critters that previously weren't nearly as tasty, and grilling was born. I'm thankful for that innovation, and you don't have to be a man or woman to appreciate that.


A domestic male might be someone who has cleaned his car...once. Yes, one time in the past four or five years. I'm an artist, and I travel a lot, and I don't have a lot of time to vacuum upholstery. That's my story. When I finally cleaned it, I kicked its ass!

He might do dishes or fold an errant blanket. For sure he'll cook up a storm for the most random of occasions, especially for a movie party where people will eat their fill of chipotle salsa and piles of various meats. With all of this domesticity comes a way of life, and with that a language to describe it.

Cooking is an amazing skill to have, and it doesn't make a man less masculine. On the contrary, it's becoming more and more common for men to cook. Now I'm not saying that a man who cooks has to be using insane spices, beer and pork in every other recipe as stated on Aldenteblog. I could care less about testosterone-related ingredient choices. But I'm saying that a man can be sensitive, whip up a mean Quinoa, and relax at night reading a scholarly article on the contemporary nature of printed multiples. (Sorry for the print nerd reference.) I'm not worried to say that a squirrel I saw was cute, but when it popped into my head my first thought was, "Aw, what a badass little guy!" That's where I'm coming from. Now I'm going to go make a spicy egg sandwich!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

In the running for the most terribly numb day of my life

I just did the dishes. I didn't wash that tea cup.


The Domestic Male

Ass Burning Green Beans

Green beans. Spicy, kickass ginger garlic flavor, and some green topped radishes sliced thin. A bit of orange juice and soy sauce make for a great background for this highlight of early summer. Add spice as you like. I like chile bean sauce.

Monday, May 3, 2010

No excuses when you're trying to live.

Yeah, sometimes I just eat a gas station corn dog.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Best food site ever?

I had to link to this site, which crosses the line for tasteful language, but not tasty sounding foods. It makes me laugh over and over. With a similar mission to mine, I feel suddenly like I write way to much crap in my posts when I could keep things so much more simple.

Who needs ingredients anyway? does go well with the freezer burn.

I promised to talk about my marinara, which was inspired by a show I saw where this dude made some marinara. What a wonderful modern day inspirado, detached food inspiration from cooking shows; just enough to get people to eat other foods than their daily burnt toast and JIF peanut butter.

So here's my crib sheet. I find that lately I am writing down little plans for my food, because some are too complicated for me to throw together, yet I don't need to measure much and I know the order of cooking before hand.

The plan was to start a simmering tomato base with canned diced tomatoes. You can soup this up to your own specs. I added turkey broth made from turkey parts, maybe two or three cups, and a splash of balsalmic. Salt and Pepper of course.

Then I sauteed up some garlic and onions in a healthy amount of oil, maybe a 1/4 cup. When they were tasty and fragrant, I added some capers and red chile flakes. This was what made the smell take off, and you can let this cook for just a couple minutes before throwing it in with your tomatoes.

To this I added the secret ingredient, fresh herbs frozen last summer that I discovered in the freezer. There was basil and rosemary. Be careful with the rosemary, it can be a bit strong. And then when I found the sauce had a tinge of bitterness, I put in some honey. Test it and alter as needed, but this was simple and damn good on those freezer-burned raviolis the other night.

The Domestic Male eats leftovers

The life of the Domestic Male is hard. Considering that I live in my parents attic and I'm 29 years old, you would think my daily routine consisted of bong rips and world of warcraft, but in reality it's a lot of hard work. I sit here and craft business documents, update websites, network with administration officials, and workout (or sulk because I skipped my workout!). Going into the details that brought me to this predicament is T.M.I., but it's enough to know that because of my situation, I have created this blog.

I find that my parents are collectors. Collectors of antiques, exotic species of rice, and $7 jars of honey. They have enough stemware to serve a party of 80, and they hardly drink! Still, it's the food accumulation that I find fascinating. My father gets compelled by fits of solidarity for small town grocers and comes home with the strangest things. My mother is an herb growing machine, the benefits of which are my huge increased consumption of pesto in the past two years. YUM! She has to throw it out, and I daydream of fried sage leaves. A perfect mix for me to live here, because the house comes equipped with everything an inspired cook needs, with just enough to push me to be creative since everything is so random. It was with this mood that I created a great breakfast today. Simple, sort of healthy, and so satisfying.

The basic parts: amazing locally roasted Brazilian and Costa Rican coffee from Roasters in Hiawatha, some broiled butter toast, and a homemade marinara with a couple poached eggs thrown in.

My next post will detail my thought on the sauce, but this was a breakfast of champions. And I'll throw in my advocacy for un-toaster toast here for free. We used to have this practice at the house for toasting bagels under the broiler with margarine. It leaves the bagel soft and chewy, and crisps up the top to a golden brown. (Unless you walk away during that crucial minute when the bagel is perfect, and you end up with a black charred thing that you might have to eat anyway because you're in a hurry to go wrestle somebody.) Anyway, it's the best toast, and it's how I did it today, with good bread, and I watched it like a hawk. So eat more poached eggs, be kind to your toast, and be a snob about your brew. Texas Toast has it's place, but not this morning.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Want some sauce for that meat?

I've been looking through my files and I have this humongous backlog of images and recipes to impart to you males out there who want a fresh endeavor in the kitchen. So I'll keep these brief and try to get some things together. They won't be super professional, but then the domestic male doesn't have time to measure teaspoons all the time when he cooks. I'm not a chef, I'm an impromptu cook. According to Gordon Ramsey, and this I heard second hand on NPR, a chef makes recipes that he can teach to other people. A recipe that can be created and recreated with the same mastery under which it was conceived. As much as I feel that I champion the impromptu recipe, unfortunately, it is up to everyone out there to work with me, and to work with their recipe, to make the good food that I try to make when I cook.

The pan shown here is a collection of vegetables, peppers, tomatoes, chiles, onions, garlic; basically anything and everything I have on hand. Throw in a green onion, maybe some ginger. So I usually cook all of these veggies in a good amount of olive oil, maybe 4 tablespoons. The best way is to cook each one alone. Cook the garlic cloves whole, throw them in a blender. Add some jalapenos, throw them in the blender too. Add tomatoes, and when they're cooked, throw them in the blender. When you've cooked everything in the same oil, the oil takes on a rich flavor of everything that's been in it. Add some of this oil to the blender as well. Throw in a glug or two of honey, and some lime juice, salt and pepper.

Now you have a rich mix of tasty vegetable mush. To this I add a handful of toasted nuts, and this could be walnuts, pecans, pistachios, or pine nuts. Whatever you have, make sure you toast them in a dry pan before you use them (wakes up the oils). You could also add some fresh herbs. This mix, which is a Cuban recipe originally, goes amazingly well on meat. You could also toss it with pasta and grilled veggies, or put it on rice. It's up to you, but on top of a grilled pork chop with cheese and melted under the broiler is my favorite!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Can I put product in my hair?

Should I, or should I not use (what they(women and hair dressers) call) product in my hair? Now I'm not talking the paternal, manly, chauvinist type of manly, just is this something a domestic male should do? I just got a new haircut, drastic in lengths and styling, but it lays kind of lamely in my face all day long. At some point I feel that I need to take a stance and attempt to control this mess, but it requires me to step up to the metro steps and use product. Why is it that part of me just objects to this action? Is it just in the name, or are men designed to avoid decorating hair growth if it calls for more attention than a straight comb can handle?

Friday, March 5, 2010

A little background on my cooking

I thought I would address my style of doing things. As I've been writing these, I've realized that I have very bad skills when it comes to getting dirty and making kick-ass food, and simultaneously taking great photos, getting measurements, and explaining it all for you to possibly follow. The thing is, I get inspired by something I randomly read about, something I ate once, or a show I saw about cooking. When I'm on a mission to take on something new, I go online and read about 4 recipes and then make a list and make up the rest. With some things, like banana bread or quiche, you should probably follow stricter guidelines, but with pasta sauce, hummus or wontons, just always remember that you should taste what you do along the way, and have faith that what you do will be edible if not damn good!

All of these recipes are mostly a gloss over on what to do. Rarely have I ever had specifics on how much of certain things I should put in a dish. However, I have to say that it isn't hard if you just keep in mind what kind of proportions you should have in most of your food, you should be able to re-create a facsimile of what I do. Most of these things turn out pretty great. You might make too much of something or too little, but these are things you have to learn at some point if you cook. Just remember these things.

Always taste every part of what you do. When you make a filling for a wonton, taste it before you make them. Taste a batter before you fry with it. Test your soup before you ladle it out. I'm a firm believer that you should be able to provide people with food that is seasoned right, so that they won't have to bother with it.

Don't leave what you're cooking unless you can leave it for 20 minutes and it will still be okay. Soups are okay, grilled meats are not okay to leave while you go do laundry. My dad eats lots of burnt meat, toast, and drinks cold coffee because of a habit like this.

Make extra because if it's good, you'll want leftovers of it. Some things don't keep so well, so use judgment on this one.

Be ambitious. I've been trying to make pizza dough, hence my doughy love handles, but it's not that easy. I've used crazy flours, attempting to get wheat flower, white, semolina and flax to work, and I'm almost there, but it might take a few attempts. My next is baguettes, which I'm sure I'll screw up, but why not shoot for something I love to eat that I've never made before? You can only learn about the foods you love, and maybe you'll nail it and learn how easy it really is.

Be prepared in your kitchen. Give yourself space to cook. Put a good sized cutting board on the counter with a towel under it so it doesn't move. Get rid of appliances that take up space that you rarely use. Clear up that real estate so you can spread out, make a mess, and clean everything up.

Use great knives. I cannot stress this one enough. If someone gave you a set of 20 serrated knives in a big honking block of wood, donate the whole thing to Goodwill and buy yourself a few good knives that will last you until someone decides to cut cans in half. Get one good chopping knife, one Santoku, and a bread knife. Nothing with crazy claims to it, just steel and a good handle. Henkels are nice, Japanese alloys look great, and learn how to sharpen and use real knives. Don't worry about your kids. Those cheap-o serrated things showing up in kitchens everywhere are probably more dangerous to people than real steel any day. Then when you have them, act like every time you cook is practice for Iron Chef. Get the knife skills down and you'll be more confident and quicker at cooking than you were before when you used steak knives on plates or counter tops.

Other than that, be confident that when you're cooking most things, you can change them along the way. It's all about balance in the end and flavors are particular to certain people, while good food is almost always good to everyone. If you have a recipe, just throw in what you have. Use the cookbook as a reference, don't quote from it. Like I said, this goes for most things. Baking is more specific, but stove tops allow for improvisation, and it make cooking so much more fun when you get creative with it.

Lima Beans? What am I your grandmother?

Yes, I decided to cook with lima beans. Frozen little green guys. As much as I thought I would never eat these, or cook them, it's actually turned out to be a tasty dish. Very tasty. I have to thank the cooking show I caught last week which used edamame, but you could probably use any type of green pea or bean. Maybe even garbanzos or other veggies. What I decided was to make little asian flavored raviolis. They've got a great zesty flavor thanks to the magic combo of garlic and ginger, and with a good broth, cilantro, soy sauce, and some lime juice, you really have a great meal, a meal that for the most part is very very healthy.

1 cup lima beans, thawed in water or in the fridge
2 cloves garlic
A lump of ginger about the size of a sugar cube
Handful of flat parsley
Coarse salt
Olive oil
Wonton wraps

Veggie broth-homemade or otherwise, maybe 2 quarts
Soy sauce
Chopped cilantro
Juice of a lime

What I did was mash the garlic, ginger and a pinch of salt in a pestle and mortar. This is pretty necessary to have a good mashing, and the oils don't get lost in your final dish. Add the parsley leaves and mash those in too. Once it's all lovely looking and juicy, throw it into a bowl. The beans also need to be mashed, so you could do those in the mortar too, or use a food processor. Either way, I wipe them in the pestle and mortar to pick up any leftover oils from the garlic smashing. Add a glug of olive oil, check your salt and pepper, and this is your filling.

The wontons are simple. They stick when wet, so watch that you have a dry surface to make these. Put a small spoonful of your green mash in the center of the wrap and with a finger dipped in water, wet just a finger width edge line on two sides of the square wonton. Pull the other side over and press the edges down so that you have a bulging triangle wonton. It should be sealed and look good. Avoid any extra water. Just use the minimal amount to wet the edges and then when they're done put them on a plate or platter ready to boil. Save them all up on that plate before you boil them. They cook quick. Just think of it as assembly line cooking.

With your veggie broth boiling, add a few of the wontons. Don't crowd them, so only three or four should be done at a time. They take about 4 minutes and shouldn't break open. Gently pull them out with a slotted spoon and rest them on a big plate or in bowls. Each person could be served about 5 for starters. Continue to cook them all. They don't need to be kept warm since you'll add broth at the end to each dish which will reheat them a bit.

When they're all cooked, keep your about half of your pot of broth cooking and add some soy sauce to the pot, maybe 1/8th of a cup. Add the lime juice and the cilantro, and if you want some green onions. Check the salt and flavor. Tweak if needed. Then laddle some of your tasty broth on to the waiting bowls of wontons. Top with a sprinkling of chopped herbs and a crack of black pepper. Eat immediately. Have extras for those who tend to eat fast like me.

Monday, February 22, 2010


Got Chickpeas?

Hummus is a filling and great dish for appetizer, side dish, or just as a meal if you want to eat your weight in mass quantities of thick tasty stuff. It's easy, and you don't need tahini for this one, which saves you $7 bucks and space in your fridge where that tahini will sit until next month when you decided to make hummus again.

Half a bag dry chick pea/or/2 cans chick peas
1 lemon
1 garlic clove
1/4 c olive oil
water to add until smooth
Salt and pepper

For dry beans, you have to boil them for a couple hours until tender. Canned, just drain and rinse them. Either way you go, put the beans in a food processor and pulse them. Add the juice of a lemon, the smashed garlic clove, and start the machine. Through the top hatch, drizzle the oil in. Season with salt and pepper. What you want is a smooth churning mixture, so if the oil doesn't do it, drizzle in some water until it's nice and smooth and screamin for pita chips.
For added flavor, you could add tasty cheeses, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, kalamata and green olives, fresh herbs like italian parsley or cilantro, use lime instead of lemon, add tahini if you have it with lime, add cumin, chile powder, smoked paprika, or try something else.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Pizza Dough

I've been working on making a good wheat pizza dough. I find it's inferior to white flour mainly because there is a lack of gluten and it doesn't rise nearly as much. My second attempt recently came out quite well and it was a tasty dough too. I'll update as I get it better, but for now it's something to try.

1 c wheat flour
1 c white flour
1 c semolina flour
1/3 c flaxseed flour
White flour to knead with

3 tbsp olive oil
2 cups hot water
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 packets yeast
1/2 tsp salt

Putting it together:

Sift together all the dry ingredients (not the yeast or sugar though) onto your working surface. It should get mixed that way better than just putting it all in a bowl. It's lighter too. You can put it all through a strainer too if you don't have a sifter device. Make a cavity in the center of the flour for the liquids.
In a bowl, mix all the liquids together with the sugar and the yeast. Wait for the yeast to bloom, which should be obvious. When this happens, start pouring it into the pile of flour. Mix this up as you go until most of the liquid is integrated. When it gets close, start to knead your dough ball with the white flour on your surface. The dough should feel light, poofy, and springy. You'll know it if you have it right. When it's pulled together well and forms a nice ball, spread olive oil over the surface and place the ball in a bowl.
Underneath this, put a heating pad to help the dough rise. After it has doubled in size, punch it down and you can use it, cut it up and save it, or I even have freezed it, though it might not come back as good as when it's fresh.
This will make a lot of pizzas. Roll it out on a floured surface and cook it on a pizza stone, or press it into a big pan with some oil and cook it that way. Either way, do it at about 475 degrees and don't skimp on the cheese.

A Domestic Male should take care of his mind and body

As we work around the house, and keep things clean, cook, and maintain the homestead, it's important to maintain ourselves physically. This year I'm doing my first sprint triathlon. It's a short version of what a full iron man is. A 5k run, half mile swim, and around 15mi bike. Unfortunately I'm broke and can't afford a gym, so I'm working out at home to prepare for this spring's race. I have a treadmill and I do pushups, hand stands, and core exercises. What I find is also great is shoveling snow. I feel like Rocky Balboa running up mountains, and it's turning out to be a great strength workout, and it keeps my driveway usable. So if you want to keep yourself sane in between house chores and making soup, do what you can where you are to keep fit. Below is a great training video. I'm going to go carry a log somewhere.

Rocky Snow Training Video

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Domestic Male seeks organization

As a domestic man, it is expected that we keep a good house and are organized about it as well. Today, I finally put a dresser in my room, and put my clothes in it. Pants are separate from shorts, socks have their own space. Talk about organized!

Tofu stir fry with broccoli

Ingredient: TOFU-FIRM
I believe this tofu was bought a long time ago. It's been sitting on the shelf of the fridge for months, and since I had a great dish at a restaurant in Providence, RI that was tofu, veggies, and curry. Great stuff. The tofu was fried, kind of spongy, and really good. My thought was to do something similar, not curry, but an asian type of thick sauce. I found a few recipe references, and then got to work.

Stir Fry:

Olive oil to sautee
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 package Tofu-firm cut into 1" squares
1 head broccoli cut into bite size pieces
3 cloves garlic minced
1/2 onion small onion cut chunky
Ginger, 1x1" piece minced
1 carrot chopped into match sticks
2 celery stalks chopped
6 green onions-roots cut off and white stalk cut in half
-save the green ends chopped for your final garnish
8 oz chopped white mushrooms
1 jalapeno or green chile diced
1/4 c chopped cilantro

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup chicken stock
A few drops sesame oil
1 tbsp sherry vinegar or apple cider vinegar in a pinch
1 1/2 tbsp corn starch

First thing to do is fry the tofu. What we want to see is golden little pillows of tofu, not crispy, but with more integrity in structure than tofu in the raw. On my first attempt, they stuck to the pan and didn't work out. It still tasted good, but you need hot oil to make this work and don't crowd them in the pan.

Mix your sauce in a separate bowl and set it aside. With the tofu ready and draining on a paper towel, the next step is to start your veggies. Start with some medium high olive oil and sautee the garlic and ginger quickly. This is one minute tops, and stir it the whole time. Next add the onion, broccoli, and chile. From here on out, I put the lid on to steam the veggies as well as fry. Give these a few minutes, and add your mushrooms, carrots, green onion stalks and celery. Toss this all around and give it a few more minutes to steam. Once your veggies are cooked but still firm, you can add your sauce. It should thicken while still on the heat. Once this happens, you can turn it way down. It's done.

Try this on some white rice. You could also use rice noodles or another soft grain. Throw some cilantro on top with the chopped green onion for some fresh kick at the end and enjoy.

Monday, February 15, 2010


New Mexico style baby! Pinto beans with ham chunks. Oh yeah.
These beans were inspired simply by desire. That and some ham hocks that I had. They're simple, and without much knowledge other than observation last year in my roommate's kitchen, I think I nailed down the recipe. They're great. You can eat them straight, with rice, as a dip with chips, or mash them a day later and make a refried bean burrito. Seriously top notch.

1 package of dry pinto beans
A soup pot full of water
1 package of two ham hocks or some kind of real ham with a bone in it
(a real ham bone with leftover meat on it makes your day here)

Olive oil for sautee
4 smashed cloves of garlic
1 onion chopped

3 cubes chicken or beef bouillon
2-3 tbsp Cumin
2-3 tbsp mildish Chile powder
Garlic powder
Onion powder

Cooking Directions:
Of course you could use good quality stock, or chick broth from a can, I just like how the little cubes give you the salt you want, some flavor, and they take up no space. You probably always have it somewhere in the cupboard, so in a bind, they work well enough.

Start with some garlic and onion in the pot. Sautee that down til it's transparent. You could also add some jalapeno, bell pepper, or other stuff, but really the beans are the main attraction, and this isn't chile con carne, so keep the added stuff to a minimum. At the same time in the same pot I throw in the ham chunks to brown up a bit. Not super important to do that early on, but that browning on the bottom of the pan only adds to the flavor later. When the ham and your veggies are looking good, add the beans and lots of liquid. I fill the pot to an inch or two from the top.

You are going to boil this whole thing for about 4 hours, or until the ham falls apart but the beans are still whole. It thickens itself. As it cooks, adjust your seasoning and add cumin and chile powder to your liking along with the garlic and onion powder. This is a preference thing, but you don't have to be shy with a big pot of beans. You could also add hot sauce, green onions, cilantro. You could always leave out the meat too, but if your a carnivore, please follow these suggestions.

When it's done, like I said, the ham should be tender and falling apart leaving big chunky bits throughout the beans. The bones can be pulled out to save everyone surprise dental work. And then eat up whichever way you see fit. This makes a lot of beans, so use them for a party, re-fry them, eat them for lunch and give some away. I always enjoyed them and never got enough, so it's good that I divined how to do it since I've left New Mexico.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Beef Kofta Kebab

Starting Ingredient: Lemon Greek Dressing Mix

When I moved back to Iowa, I took it upon myself to clean off the kitchen counters in my parents house. To make room, I had to clean out the old out of date spices, some of which are old enough to have what I would consider antique containers. I came upon a wealth of mixes, spices, and liquids that I knew would come in handy given the right ingredients. One that hit me was a greek dressing mix, which I used with lemon, olive oil and dijon mustard to make a snazzy dressing that I've been eating on my salads for a week now.

I always see a salad as a companion to a good main course, so I thought I might make a turkish type of kebab. I looked up kofta, dressings, and other stuff, and decided to make a beef kebab, not lamb like the recipes suggested which would make the dish so much richer but also not as good for you. What a came up with was as follows.


Beef Kofta Kebab:
1 lb 80/20 ground chuck
Olive oil
1/2 small yellow onion diced
1 egg
1/2 cup italian breadcrumbs
1 tbsp fennel seed
Some garlic powder
Some onion powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp parsley chopped or flakes
1 tbsp dry mint (*this makes the dish)
1 tsp red pepper flakes

Yogurt Dressing:
1 6 oz. yogurt-plain
1 half lemon juice
A squirt of olive oil
Greek dressing mix (includes basil, oregano, and most importantly mint)

Pita Bread:-grilled

Washed romaine and arugula
Chopped fennel
Kalamata olives
Cherry tomatoes-cut in half
Green pepper-chopped

Greek Salad Dressing:
Olive oil-3 parts
Lemon juice-1 part
White balsamic vinegar-1 part
Greek Dressing Mix-includes dry basil, oregano, mint and parsley

The meal is pretty simple actually. Mix all ingredients in the meat. Form that around metal or soaked wooden skewers. If it's not dry enough, add a little more breadcrumb. This should make 5 to 6 skewers. Grill it til your preferred done-ness.

Combine the yogurt ingredients. Mix and you're done.

Make the salad with everything fresh you have on hand. Salads aren't about certain ingredients, though fresh veggies, a marinated item (olive, tomato, artichoke heart), and a good cheese make every salad a success.

Toast your pita on the grill right when you pull the meat off. You should have some toasty bits on there, but watch to not burn it. Then try not to eat too much since every part of this meal will taste amazing.

Corn Chowder

It's Sunday. Valentines Day 2010. Last night I had a day off, and today my girlfriend is in town, so I want to cook something great. What did I find in the freezer? Corn. A big bag of corn cut from the cob last summer, and frozen waiting for me to find it. This is Iowa, so I knew that this amazing corn would have to be a star in whatever dish I make with it. For me, what's a great way to feature corn? Soup.

8 cups homemade vegetable stock
(celery, garlic, onion, and carrot with whatever else you happen to have)

3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp of
2-3 cups lowfat milk

4 cups of corn grated from the cob with liquid
5 cloves garlic
Half of 1 large onion, chopped
3 small red potatoes chopped

1 tbsp Dill, dry
1 tbsp Herbs de Provence
2 bay leaves
Some shakes of white pepper
Some grinds of fresh black pepper
5 tbsp of corn starch

Vegetable Stock:
I started by taking the ass end of the celery that I would usually throw out (washed off), along with all the leafy bits from a bunch of celery, and I threw it in the stock pot. I threw in a couple carrots roughly chopped down, some smashed garlic, old ginger cut open, green onion ends, stalks from fresh fennel that we ate in a salad the other day, and all the stem ends from a bunch of cilantro. Cover it all in lots of water, boil it for at least a half hour, strain it out, and you have a good veggie stock. I threw in some bouillon for salt and saved it in a bowl. Watch out that you don't grab that bowl while the liquid is super hot!

Order of Operations:
Take your clean soup pot, throw in some olive oil, and sautee your garlic and the onion until it's translucent. Add the corn, grated fresh from the cob, and if it's there, any of that milky liquid that comes with it. Add your stock and get the whole thing boiling. Also add your dry spices and check your seasoning. Add salt or more pepper if needed. Once you have this, add your potatoes and cook until their tender but not overdone, about 15 minutes.

In a separate bowl, mix the milk and corn starch with a whisk and once you've got no lumps, pour that into your soup. Make sure the heat is still high enough to thicken the soup a bit. Lower your heat to low. Add the butter as you like, and you should be done. At this point, keep it on low, and enjoy.

With my soup, I've fashioned some fresh bake-at-home baguette with a basil pesto dip. Also, using a frozen summer batch of sage pesto, I've created a sort of drizzle that we can add to the top of the soup when we eat. Just another herby flavor to add when we serve ourselves. You could also throw some chopped cilantro on top or some green onion. If you like it hot, add some Tabasco.

To finish it, I've made a pecan pie, which is my girls favorite, so it's going to be a delicious night on this Valentines Day. The best gift, I think, is food cooked with heart in it. People who eat those things will only agree with that.

One ingredient to start...

So why am I blogging about food? What makes my food worth writing about, or reading for that matter?

Well, the way I see it, everyone has food in their fridge. It seems like there is always a lot of random stuff that people forget they have. It might be meat that got frozen and forgotten about. Maybe it's seasonal vegetables or pie crust, or even a brisket that a friend gave you for free legal work. Whatever these things are, we all have our own variety, and I have chosen to make it my personal challenge to take these things, found in my parents packed fridge and freezer, and to make something great from them. It might not always work out, but then a cook can learn a lot about failed attempts at making a new dish. Practice counts in everything. So hopefully as I experiment, as I choose an ingredient around which I can build a meal, I'll gain insight into synchronizing different foods and seasonings.

Each dish is based on a found first ingredient.