IF you’re thinking about helping out this might be a good approach.
I have moved! I thought I could wrap you all up and carry you with me to my new and improved site, but alas, that is proving to be quite problematic. Please check out my new, improved and beautiful new blog site: www.chefslastdiet.com and if you’ve enjoyed reading my blog, please resubscribe. I hope to see you there! And please invite your friends too.
Did you ever have something you were sure you didn’t like; sure in the way that a three year old just knows she doesn’t like that very thing she ate last night? Well, that was me and congee. I just knew I didn’t like it. I have had ample opportunity to try it, both here and in China where I spent almost three weeks waiting for the processing and paperwork involved in adopting my daughter. Every morning there it was, that white gloppy mess, and I knew I wouldn’t like it. I have seen it roll by each and every time I’ve had dim sum (and that’s a lot) and confidently shook my head no. Well, like that three year old, I was just plain wrong.
Last Thursday I met my friend Sarah for breakfast at the Cube Cafe here in Philly. She got the meat congee and I got a sesame Hong Kong Waffle, which is a whole other post, but here is what that looks like, each of those ‘bubbles’ is about 1″ in diameter. Anyway, Sarah’s congee looked pretty good, but it was still hot last Thursday, so I went for the waffle, but I kept thinking about that congee. Friday was a cool day, and I was still thinking about congee, so I decided to go back to Cube and try it. First of all I need to say, this congee has to be the best breakfast deal in Philadelphia, if not the entire U.S. I got that bowl of congee and my choice of hot beverage for $2.50, which would have been a pretty good deal even if I didn’t love the congee, but I did!
I got the meat congee (on Sarah’s endorsement) and it was mildly meaty and topped with roasted peanuts, and fresh scallions. It was excellent, and I decided I would try to make it at home. I found a few recipes, did my typical hybridization, using the recipes as a guide for water/stock/rice ratio, as well as timing, and today for lunch I had my very own, very easy, very delicious chicken congee. I started with 1 cup of rice, and half a chicken, and ended up with about six (or more) cups of finished product (I ate some before I remembered to measure the yield). I am already hooked, and ready to start making all kinds of versions as soon as I finish this batch, which could take me all week.
I have always has a particular affinity for Chinese food in general, and breakfasts in particular. I’ve posted here before about my breakfast issues, and my disdain for that current breakfast hero oatmeal, and cereal of most sorts. But congee, or jook as it’s sometimes called is my answer to breakfast! It is warm and tasty, cooked with ginger and some chicken stock, and is almost soup, and I love soup! I was dubious about cooking the chicken in the porridge mixture, thinking it would be dry, but it came out tender, moist, and flavorful.
If you prefer sweet morning cereal (to that I say yuk, but that’s just me) you can make congee with coconut milk and the sweetener of your choice. It does take a while to cook, but it reheats well, just stir it with a bit more water, and top it with whatever you like. I am also going to try this in mt slow cooker. I drizzled mine with a bit of soy sauce and some scallions. I think peanuts are a nice addition, but who keeps peanuts around? If you haven’t tried congee I urge you to. It’s a nice alternative to other hot cereals, and I’d love to hear how you make it!
Auditions for this year’s Blogger Idol awards have started, and I have submitted an application! Though I have been featured on a few sites; Gourmandize, Blogher Food, and received the Versatile Blogger Award from WordPress, this is the first contest I am entering as a blogger. If you’re reading this, I hope you’re a “liker” of mine will support me by following the event on Twitter and Facebook.
I am both excited to be involved and a bit nervous about the feedback/criticism/raves I am going to receive. Doing something like this is a leap of faith in myself; even more so than starting the blog initially. Though there are all kinds of prizes, I am much more interested in the opportunity to get greater exposure, valuable feedback, to challenge myself and to gain recognition.
I started this blog after a middle of the night ‘divine download’ came to me. I woke at 2:30 a.m. one morning to a clear picture of what I should be doing, and it all started with writing a blog about food, and my rocky relationship with it. As it has evolved I have enjoyed exploring my own history in food, new recipes, new ideas, reading even more about food than I had before (which is saying something!) and getting to know fellow bloggers in my new community.
I haven’t been at this long, and I can already see how my voice, my point of view and my message have expanded and developed. I am learning as I go, and finding teachers in unexpected places. It’s been really great for me so far, so I will ask that ubiquitous question; how was it for you?
One night while shopping for a salmon dinner I had an interesting encounter. I was living in Stamford, New York; a small village in Delaware County. I had a diner there called The Hungry Moon. It was a small diner, in what I already mentioned was a small town. There was one bank, one grocery store, a disproportionate number of bars, and two diners. Owning one of the two local diners made me highly visible, and I quickly found out that everyone knew everyone else’s business, which naturally had its advantages as well as it’s drawbacks. But this story is about my salmon dinner.
I was at the Grand Union, the only grocery store in town, and since a good deal of my food was provided by the diner, I was picking up just a few things. I had a small basket in my hands and was waiting in line behind two women who each had full carts, and seemed to be friends. Among other things in my basket was some broccoli, and a piece of salmon. I love looking in other peoples’ carts and baskets to see what they are buying, in my Whole Foods Market days I loved bagging groceries- it gives me a glimpse into who someone is, to see what they like to eat, and this is also a fun way to see new products (yes, I freely admit to being a grocery nerd). Anyway, with that in mind, it didn’t bother me that one of the women in front of me checked out my basket, though the conversation that followed did.
Woman #1, turned to her friend, made an unpleasant face, and chin point to me and said full voice, “Huh, I wish I could afford to eat salmon for dinner”. When I then looked into her cart—and not the least bit sneakily—I was surprised to find it filled with frozen dinners as well as all kinds of other junk. Her friend took a look and said “Yeah, must be nice to be rich”. (Which I certainly was not.) I wanted to tell them that contrary to what they thought, my salmon dinner was a much more economical option as well as nutritionally sound choice that the crap in their carts, but I didn’t, I just got embarrassed, looked away and pretended to read the magazines in the rack.
I don’t fault these women for their beliefs, though they were rather rude…. We live in a world filled with cheap calories. One in which people are led to believe that a $3.00 frozen meal is a good value, where fast food seems like a wholesome economical way to feed a family, and where people are too tired, stressed or don’t know how, to cook. Salmon may be a luxury to many people, but the irony is that so is a frozen meal. It’s really a shame that schools no longer teach home-economics, to both boys and girls! The practical skills that kids could learn in a semester or two of home-ec would be skills with a lifetime of rewards.
I have always been conscious of the ingredients in my food, and lately I have been reading more and more about what is happening to our food supply I have become more acutely aware of the ads in print and on television touting the wholesomeness of all types of frozen and prepared meals that are far from wholesome, and certainly not whole. I wish I had been more open to talking to those women at the store so long ago. I wish I had been able to talk to them kindly and honestly about their choices compared to mine, but that’s not really so easy. I wish I could reach more people and show them how simple and how much less expensive it is to cook a real meal rather than to buy what a huge company fashions for them in a huge factory, and only resembles food. I wish it was easier to feed a family fresh, real food, than to grab a box of empty calories from the freezer section of any grocery store including the ones selling ‘natural’ and ‘health’ foods!
I have caught jam fever! Thanks to Marisa McClellan of Food in Jars, I am now entering a new realm of cooking; I am putting things by. I know I haven’t made a lot of things yet, so far I made some divine lemon curd, some pickled beets, which I don’t love, but am determined to eat, and the latest project, Tomato Jam! Last Thursday was the last day of summer break for my daughter, so she and her friend Sophia and I spent the day making tomato jam and filming the entire process.
Unfortunately, due to technical issues I am unable to share the video with you, but it was quite a process! We started with a whopping five pounds of tomatoes, and ended up with not quite three pints of jam. I am going to make some more, and will use a lot more tomatoes. The recipe said the yield would be four pints, but I think and extra wet summer has given us some extra watery tomatoes. They took a long time to cook down too. Though I was disappointed with the amount of jam we got, I am very pleased with the jam.
It is great, and now that I’ve made it I can make it again and adjust it to my taste. I accidentally added too much clove (making jam with two thirteen year old girls, while one of them is making a video can have a negative impact on my ability to focus) and though I did my best to scoop it out, I think there is a bit too much clove flavor. I will also cut down on the crushed red pepper because it is a little to hot for me. That being said, it is incredibly beautiful! It is a deep red, and it is thick and luscious and so good I want to offer free tastes to people passing by my house, but I will refrain from doing that.
If you haven’t canned anything, now would be a good time to start. I live in Philadelphia, and there are still tomatoes, peaches and lots of plums at the farmers’ markets. You don’t need much in the way of supplies, and if you are anything like me you will feel such a huge sense of accomplishment, awe and pride just looking at these lovely jars it will be well worth the effort. You need to line them up where you see the light reflected to get the full experience, though I think its best to store them in the dark.