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.