Sunday, August 30, 2009

jai ho

Yesterday Katherine and I went to our first India Fest. For some reason (probably because of its size) it was held at the AgriCenter, normally the home of horse shows and gun and knife expos. It was loud and bright and very tasty (not the gun expo). There were a few small exhibits devoted to henna and immigration lawyer services, but this thing was primarily a food fest. There were at least 30 different booths showcasing food from every single region in India (and there are quite a few of those). And the best part was the price! I got a mango lassi, a big fat spicy vegetable samosa, and spinach vidai, each for only $1. HOWEVER, the climax was not almost getting knocked over by a 7-year-old dressed as Shiva but rather a lovely little dessert (also $1) called sandesh. It tasted a bit like cheesecake, those less creamy and without the tang. You're probably thinking that those are the best parts of cheesecake, but hear me out. Not only was it the perfect way to clear my palate of the vidai (TOO SPICY), it was the most beautiful mint green in the world. It could rival the macaroons of Laduree. The only natural way to achieve that color is with pistachios, but I didn't really taste any. Right when I got home I Googled that business and was sadly unsuccessful. The only recipes I can find are image-free and don't involve pistachios. I want the color as much as the taste (which comes from paneer, which I had never realized would work in both sweet and savory items). I could maybe replicate it with ricotta? But maybe the whole point was to savor it while I had it and then wait for next year.
Still waiting to buy a memory card for my camera....soon, though, soon!

Friday, August 28, 2009

One of the best respites from the 100-degree heat we've been experiencing lately has to be bubble tea. Southeast Asians would know, since they have to cope with temperatues far worse than this. My favorite bubble tea in Memphis is what they serve at Pho Saigon (at Poplar and Tillman), particularly the fruity flavors. Though I am less than enthusiastic about Pho Saigon's food (tofu needs to be given a flavor, not left to its own bland devices), they know their bubble tea. I prefer the less tea-like options in weather this intense (heresy, I know), like the strawberry I ordered last night. It is like the perfect combination of a smoothie (usually too chalky at smoothie shops) and a milkshake (a vice I like to only give into rarely); not too light, not too heavy. And while, like a good American, I like my desserts sweeter than most people can handle, Southeast Asian cuisine (most Asian cuisine, for that matter) does not have a tradition of sweet foods. This is where the tapioca comes in. Besides giving the drink texture and visual interest, the pearls (from the starch of the half-toxic cassava root) help to counterbalance a sweetness the Asian palate is not accustomed to. They also make the thing a novelty, which always sells (for a while). Apparently bubble tea wasn't invented until the 1980s in Taiwan. Thanks, Wikipedia.
I promise this is the last food ramble!

Monday, August 24, 2009

About a pie

Last night I made a Key lime pie from scratch for the first time. Being the incredibly novice foodie that I am, I was unaware until recently that a Key lime is an actual fruit, a very different little guy than the common Persian limes you toss in a gin and tonic. I don't really know what I thought before; that Key lime pie was some sort of regional specialty developed in the Florida Keys? Probably popularized at Margaritaville* or some other beachfront horror? Wrong. Key limes are real, folks, and they are really tiny. For three cups of lime juice, an amount which requires about 4 regular limes, I juiced what felt like 400 Key limes. Actually, it was about 20. I even have a battle scar: a tiny cut on my index finger. Luckily I am too wimpy to use very, very sharp knives and I spared myself a trip to the emergency room. In addition, the whole thing had to freeze for 6 hours, which would not be an issue were it not for the fact that my freezer has decided to retire. I had to leave the pie at my parents' house, meaning that my dreams of the breakfast of champions, pie and milk, were tragically unfulfilled. However, it just arrived home (not my stomach--yet) in all its melty glory, ready to vindicate my index finger for its suffering.
If you are planning of making a Key lime pie while summer's still around, I suggest that your lime juice be comprised of half Key limes and half regular Persian limes. Garnish the pie with some Key lime slices and no one will know the difference. Your fingers will thank you.
And oh, DON'T FRET at the lack of photos to accompany this riveting post. I'm saving up for a memory card to go inside the squeak-inducing tiny camera that Andy gave me recently. Soon!
*=A few months ago I saw a bumper sticker that said "W.W.J.B.D.?". You guessed it, "What would Jimmy Buffet do?". I think the problems facing this country would be fewer if these bumper stickers, and a willing market for them, did not exist. This phenomenon is beyond me. "Margaritaville" shatters my nerves in the same way that Rupert Holmes' Pina Colada song takes 5 years off of my mother's life every time she hears it. The same goes for the pathetic late Beach Boys' song "Kokomo." For being such a fun place, the beach sure does inspire some of the world's shittiest music.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Back in the saddle again?

Thanks in part to a fairly steady internet connection (thank you, neighbor who is both too lazy to secure your network or name it--Netgear?), as well as a glut of free time during this hot, jobless summer, I have decided that the time is ripe to give this thing a shot once more. Despite the lack of a working freezer or a fridge that can keep milk good for longer than 2 days, I am cooking, lots. There have been both successes (the chocolate cake with caramel icing I made for Andy's surprise birthday party) and impressively elaborate failures (the dark chocolate cake with chocolate ganache that made Elizabeth gag). At least I learned something from plumbing the depths of culinary failure: I took that cookbook to the Goodwill drop-off straightaway.
Also, since I last updated this sad little abandoned blogette, two new family members have entered my life! The permanent one is a cartoonish tuxedo cat with a huge gut named Johnny that I acquired in April from Mewtopia, a really great cat rescue in East Memphis. The temporary addition to my laughably small apartment is a petite stray cat, wooed by cans of wet food from the shadows of my building's basement, who answers to both "kitten" and "Skinny Minnie." She is my first official rescue (Lil Bitty 4ever) under the umbrella of Purrs and Whiskers (P.A.W.) Pet Rescue, the organization that I founded (and am still the sole member of) a few months ago. Being unemployed gives you lots of time to think. Clearly. Currently, I'm working on getting a vet on board to offer discounted services. My solicitation letter is, I think, pretty convincing.
Also also, I've realized lately how much my life has changed in the past year or so (in the best way possible). Less than two years ago, you were far more likely (read: 99% likely) to find an overturned can of malt liquor under my bed. Today that spot is taken by decapitated cat toys and lots of dog hair. After partying a leeeeeetle too hard for a while there, I am ecstatically happy with the way my life has turned, mainly due to my wonderful boyfriend and my fat dog (mortal enemies, by the way). I thought it might be interesting to chronicle my entrance into the domestic realm, as well as the shockingly complicated world of non-profit animal rescue. Interesting to ME, that is. We'll see if anyone else falls for it.