Friday, August 31, 2018

When GMO goes too far...? (aka "When proofreaders go to the store...)

(Fair warning: No recipe this week. Also no video.)

I'm sure you've all seen the test where you're shown a color word that is actually colored differently than the word's name. It's apparently a test to see whether or not your brain can deal with cognitive dissonance or something like that. (I don't actually know if that's the right term. But it has to do with being able to hold two competing thoughts in your mind at the same time.) Anyway... it's like this:

There's another part of that test where you're asked to say the color of the word, and not simply the word. Which is more difficult to me than trying to hold two competing thoughts at the same time.

I'm not sure what that says about me. (I also don't know that I want to know what that says about me.)

At the same time, however, there's a part of me - the editor/proofreader side - that simply wants to correct these and make them match up. I want the Blue to be blue, and the Yellow to be yellow.

(I'm suddenly wondering what those would be like if you were colorblind - or on a black-and-white screen, for that matter.)

So, that cognitive dissonance is something that I've always found interesting - and it sometimes follows me into the grocery store.

You see foods that are "the wrong color" all the time. Purple potatoes. Yellow tomatoes. Purple carrots. Yellow beets. (Why is it that so many foods alternate between other colors and purple or yellow?)

You also see mini-foods, like personal-sized melons, or overgrown things like giant squash. They've all been modified along the way, and we've gradually accepted them - even if part of our brain thinks "That's not what they were like when I was a kid!"

Well, last week I found something that even I couldn't wrap my head around. I fully admit that it shocked the editor in me - while part of my brain was also thinking "Wait. Is that something new that I don't know about?"

What do you think?

Personally, I think that that is taking genetically modified food just a little too far.

For now, I'll see you in a week!


Do you ever have a point where your job carries over into your life and it makes you wonder what the heck is going on? Does it impact your food choices - or your shopping sanity? Let me know what you've found that has made you go "Hmm...?"

Friday, August 24, 2018

Focaccia - Plus

Sorry I missed the past couple of weeks. Frankly, the response was so good to my last post that it really threw me for a loop. I wasn’t sure how to follow it up.

I finally decided that the best way forward was just to keep moving. So I hope you’re all okay with me going back to food, because that’s where I am this week.

Once again, I’m going to refer you to the Smitten Kitchen website for the finer points of this recipe - including the actual recipe.

I swear this is not going to become a “Julie and Julia”-style blog. I just keep stumbling across great recipes from Smitten Kitchen right when I need them. That’s what happened for this. I was looking for something to use as part of an appetizer for dinner with friends, and came across this focaccia recipe.

I’ve never made much bread – and this recipe is pretty quick, as far as breads go – so I thought I’d give it a shot.

Let’s dive in…

So, the ingredient list is really short. Gotta love that.
Yes, I consider the parchment paper in the background to be part of my mise en place - otherwise, you know I'd have forgotten it until I had dough and oil on my hands. 
Of course, we’ve got the amazing white-on-white-on-off-white photos at the start…

I’ve had issues with yeast not reacting due to water temps in the past, so I did verify that I was within the range listed on the side of the jar.
We typically keep the jar in the freezer, to keep it for as long as possible, so the temp is pretty important.
It looked a little more interesting once the water went in. After all – with flour and water you’re either going to get dough or glue. (Sometimes both.)

After some quick stirring, I was pretty sure we’d dodged the glue bullet and landed in the realm of dough.

A perk of doing this recipe in the summer is that the house is relatively warm, which helps the dough to rise.

No surprise for any of you who have been reading me for a while: I set it on top of the fridge, where the temp is even warmer than other areas.

After 90 minutes, it had pretty much doubled in size, so I opted to go from there. If you let it rise too long, you kind of “use up” the power that the yeast has, and later on it might not rise when it bakes.

As you've no doubt guessed by now, I opted to go with the recommendation of parchment paper on the bottom of my pan.

Which I poured some olive oil onto.
Quick! Rohrschach test: What’s it look like to you?
The next step felt a little odd, and I don’t know why I wasn’t supposed to just do it with my fingers, but I followed the recipe instructions and used two forks to pull the dough from the sides of the bowl, and kind of mound it all up into a ball.
It’s still spreading at this point, so it’s a little like trying to keep pudding in a pile.
Instead of lifting the ball gently with my forks, I eventually just picked up the bowl and dumped the dough into the pan with the oil.

There was something kind of glee-filled about the process of rolling it around in the oil. It was messy as all heck – and felt… weirdly squishy… – but it was also really kind of oddly fun.

This resting period felt a bit like someone hit the pause button just when the movie was getting interesting. But I dutifully set the timer and walked away.

If you look closely at the photos, you’ll see that it did grow a bit during that time, but I have to admit that it might just have ooshed out to the sides a bit due to gravity, not yeast.

I pushed and pressed and prodded to stretch it out to the size of the pan. Or at least the size of the parchment paper…
I’ve always kind of wondered why focaccia had a dimpled top. Now I know.
I decided to skip the traditional rosemary for this one, and sprinkled the top with sea salt and garlic powder.

I did NOT peek at it while it was baking. (Believe it or not) and when I pulled it out of the oven it had some light browning on top, as well as a golden edge and golden bottom.
It’s a little odd that you can’t see the salt and garlic on top. But that could be my opinion simply because I’m used to seeing the rosemary there.

So, how was it?

Oh, as was foretold in the video, I did use this for Book Club with some “bruschetta topping.” (Or, as I referred to it in the video, “Italian salsa.”) The mix is: one red tomato and one yellow tomato, some basil, salt, black pepper, and parmesan cheese.

It was very tasty.

One caveat: Depending on how you wrap this up (and whether or not it’s completely cool and dry before you do), the salt you sprinkle on it before you bake it might “bloom.” This happened to me. The next day it looked like I had little mounds of soft dough on the top of the bread under the loose plastic wrap. It looked a little odd, but no one seemed to mind that when I served it.

Speaking of my Book Club - is there a book you've read where the food was really enticing? Was it fiction, non-fiction, or a cookbook? I'd love to hear what you like to read - and why. 

Friday, August 3, 2018

Writing a Milestone (sorry - no food this week)

Sometimes, even I lose the words to say what I want to say. So, this week, we're getting a fully text blog post, with no video.

A week ago, my friend Steve was in town, and he and I had a great time running around and seeing the sights and eating (a lot) and laughing (a lot) and just enjoying each other's company. It was fun to watch Steve and Christopher get to know more about each other, considering that Steve and I have probably known each other for about 23 years, but they've only spent a few days together.

Sidenote: Should that construction be "to watch he and Christopher get to know..." or "to watch him and Christopher get to know..."? Honestly, I wrote it about 5 times and I'm still not sure, which is why I'm using an actual first name - even though I almost never do that. Blame the grammarian in me.

But, on one of the nights, the two of us were driving through downtown Minneapolis and I said "That's where my old French teacher used to live." Of course, he responded with "Did she move?" And I had to say, "No, she died."

If you know the two of us, you know that that was both slightly uncomfortable and a little sad - but also kind of stupidly funny. The out-of-the-blue unintended dark humor punchline.

For some reason, that same kind of thing happened a few different times during the long weekend.

"How's your old roommate?" "She died a few years ago - but at least she's not sleeping on the couch in the middle of the day any more."

"Oh, did I ever tell you about my friend?" (Spoiler alert: by the end of the story he may have been dead. Or possibly on the lam. Honest. Being on the lam is actually one of the possible outcomes to the story.)

But Steve left on Monday, and we settled back into normal life. (Don't worry - Steve's fine. This isn't that kind of blog post.)

And yet, on Wednesday, I had to deal with a different kind of personal memory. One that makes me sad, but also makes me laugh, smile, and ponder a lot of "what if...?" situations.

As some of you may know, my brother died of acute myeloid leukemia when he was 16 - back in 1975. I was 8 at the time, and he had just finished his junior year of high school.

Christmas photo from 1974 (my apologies to my sisters, whom I cropped out for their own privacy) - Yes, that's me on the left, before glasses and facial hair -- and braces.
I have really random memories of him - many of which are connected to photos I've seen, because when you're eight years old you don't go around looking at people and things and thinking "I need to pay attention because in 43 years I'm going to want to remember this."

He was tall (and not just because I was 8 - he was somewhere around 6'4" at 16). Thin and naturally athletic - fit. And he tanned after about 5 minutes in the sun in the spring and stayed that way until October. The kind of tan that bleaches your hair and makes you kind of all one color. I still envy that - even in the age of sunscreen and pallor.

He was musical. And smart. He liked to cook. He had a thing for Olivia Newton-John. (It may be a good thing that he wasn't around for the "Physical" years.)

Oddly enough, though he was around all the time while I was growing up, I really don't know much else about him.

I remember that he had great clothes - but it was the early 70s, so the bar was low. And I don't know if I remember - or just assume - that he had a wicked sense of humor. (And, yes, I sometimes have one-sided conversations with him when things go all catty-wampus and it seems like someone with a wicked sense of humor must have had a hand in it.)

About 10 years ago, I wanted to put something together to kind of memorialize him, but couldn't figure out what to do with it. Even so, I got some very heartfelt messages from people who knew him. They all said the same kind of thing: He was one of the cool kids. The popular crowd. But he made everyone around him feel like they belonged. He was easy to be around - something that seems like it should be easy for all of us to do, but somehow isn't.

There are a lot of things that have happened in the past 43 years that I've kind of assumed he's been around for - somehow.

But he never met Christopher. And I think they would really like each other.

To this day, I still think of him as my slightly protective big brother, the one I look to for validation - even though I'm more than 3 times as old as he ever was. In my mind, he is still 16 - tall and tan with an open smile - yet somehow always older than me.

Wednesday, August 1st, was his 60th birthday.