Saturday, August 22, 2009

Why, Google? Why the Condom Ads? Why?

I think I have a pretty wholesome blog, but Google keeps putting Trojan condom ads on it.  Their ads are supposed to fit the content, so what's up with that?  Was it the rhubarb post?  I'm afraid to write about my shapely zucchinis now.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


I stopped by the Poulsbo Fish Park on the way into work today for a walk, and ended up getting in an hour later than I should have. No one else was there, and I entertained myself by meandering along the boardwalks and charging up the little hills from time to time for a better view. It was a warm, sleepy day and the park was quiet with a subtle smell of decaying vegetation. A great blue heron and I stared at each other for awhile. I think he wanted to catch me. The decline of summer weighed on me. I felt like everything around me was either dying or going to seed or laying in supplies against the oncoming winter. In the lyrics of the beautifully sinister and deliciously melancholy Mark Lanegan, "Nothing to talk about, as another summer dies, and not a thing in this world to do, except be alone in it."

Monday, August 17, 2009

Chinese Scallion Cake

This recipe comes from northern China. Some versions call for lard or sesame oil in place of butter, and I often substitute sweet onions or garlic for the scallions. Drew remembers a version filled with a fatty pork. These buttery cakes are chewy on the outside, soft on the inside, and are more substantial and filling than they appear. Because they are so dense and durable, I often pack them for long runs or hiking. You can also wrap up the raw cakes for freezing, and they'll do very well.

3 1/3 C flour
1 1/4 C boiling water
1/4 C butter
1/2 C diced scallions
5 tsp salt
2 TBL sesame oil (to coat rolling pin)
1/4 C cooking oil
Add boiling water to flour, stir with fork or chopsticks until evenly moist
Knead on floured surface for about five minutes, don't burn your hands!
Cover with a cloth and let set for about 30 minutes
Coat your rolling pin with sesame oil and replenish as needed. Roll dough into cylinder and cut into about 10 equal pieces (each piece will become a cake). Keep the pieces you aren't working on covered, and try to work fairly quickly, as the dough will tend to dry out
Roll a piece into a circle about 1/8th" thick. Evenly distribute about 1/2 tsp salt, 1 TBL butter, and 2 TBL scallions; stopping just short of the edge.
Fold edges up and pinch together so it looks like a dumpling.
Carefully roll out again into a disk. Don't worry if some of the scallions break through the dough.
Fry in plenty of oil over medioum heat until golden-brown on each side. As one fries, prepare the next one, and be sure to keep the pan well-oiled.
Cut into equal pieces and serve.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

This Won't Happen This Year

Last year we had such a late start to our summer that my tomatoes and peppers fell behind and never caught up. I had to harvest most of them green in September and bring them in to ripen. I had them all over the house for weeks. This year we've had plenty of heat and I'm already harvesting ripe tomatoes. The peppers don't look so good but where there's life, there's hope.

Suquamish Walking the Walk

My colleague Jean Boyle wrote an excellent post about the Suquamish Tribe's recent hosting of the Tribal Journeys event, specifically about the phenomenal recycling/composting effort. I couldn't agree more with her challenge to other Kitsap event organizers to learn what they can from the Tribe's efforts to make the event as green as possible. The Kitsap Sun ran a nice article on it as well.

Also, I'm not the warmest & fuzziest person who ever walked the earth, but I have to say there was sort of a glow around the event all week. Intensely spiritual events usually make me uncomfortable, but this one just made me happy. There was a tremendous feeling of goodwill, and I almost invariably saw people treat one another, as well as the grounds, with great courtesy and respect. A lot of the older people were visibly moved, and I heard many of them say that they never thought they would see an event like this in their lifetime. For decades they saw so much of their cultural slip away; the language, the regalia, the canoe carving and crewing, the songs and dances; and here it was back in force. There was also an evident pride in how well the event went and impressed the guests were. The Makah have a lot to live up to next year.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Anniversary Feast

Today is our fifth wedding anniversary, which we celebrated by eating ourselves to exhaustion, along with a modest amount of snuggling.

This morning we had coffee and the Husband's won ton soup, worked out, talked to family, then realized we wanted sausage. This led us to Sweeney's Country Style Meats & Seafood in Brownsville, where we purchased elk pepperoni, buffalo jerky, and various smoked sausages. Not yet satisfied, we continued down the road to Farmer George in Port Orchard and bought garlic sausage, ground bacon burger (I'd never heard of it but as soon as I saw I had to have it), and honey ham. Then it was off to Rite-Aid for beer (they have the best prices on beer & wine in our area - go figure) for a case of $9.99 St. Pauli Girl. We're frugal here at Zhutopia, except when it comes to sausages and boots and a few other key items.

We marinated some chicken wings and put a chocolate cake in the oven, and I made some guacamole with the first garlic, onion, and tomato from the garden this year to eat on baked corn tortillas. The appetizer was a plate of today's bounty of jerky and sausage with dill pickles and cheese, served with cold beer. The Husband took one look and said "the person who invented sausage must have been a genius." By the time that was done we were ready to deep fry the wings, and then we threw some zucchini slices into the leftover oil and deep fried it as well (I'm overwhelmed with zucchini this year. Eating it anyway I can. Soon I'll be making zucchini cocktails.) I heated up the tortilla rounds, slapped the fresh guac on it, got some sour cream to dip the wings in, and we were good to go. After cake we were so tuckered out from our exertion that we had a nap, then arose and brewed some outstanding Silver Needle white tea. The Husband is contemplating having some watermelon, but I'm done for the night.

It was a good day.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

War Cake

I'm not a natural-born cook. I once caught my shirt on fire while cooking noodles, and twice I've boiled eggs dry and had them explode. The second time I had to clean the bits of egg out of the popcorn ceiling. It was hard.

I'm less intimidated by cooking now, but I still avoid recipes with any hint of complexity. I like them to be relatively quick, easy, and made with ingredients I already have on hand. I'm also interested in simple, old-fashioned recipes from various countries; what you might call peasant food.

For all these reasons, War Cake is my kind of recipe. It's just a bonus that we also happen to be in a recession right now.

So here's the background: War Cake, also known as Depression Cake or Poor Man's Cake, became common during the Great Depression and again in World War II, when rationing limited the supply of many baking staples. It uses no eggs, butter, or milk; which makes it a good choice for those who avoid those items for dietary reasons. It makes a nice, moist cake that holds together well and is good with both coffee and whiskey, as modeled by the Husband below. My old family recipe uses butter in place of the shortening, so someone was cheating a little bit. Although in truth I often do the same, and add a little vanilla as well. This, however, is the unvarnished, true-blue recipe.

2 cups raisins
2 cups water
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup white sugar
2 cups flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
Boil raisins in water for 10 minutes (if you use a medium sauce pan you can mix the whole cake in it & avoid getting a mixing bowl dirty)
Add shortening and allow to cool
Stir in dry ingredients
Pour into greased & floured 9"x13" pan
Bake for 20 minutes

Monday, August 10, 2009

Happy Hour in Zhutopia

Stir-fried snow peas & a St. Pauli Girl. What's not to like?

Garlic Harvest

I'm starting to pull up my garlic. This group is Early Italian planted November 12 of last year and harvested at the end of July. I planted it later than I should have - October is best - but no harm seems to have been done. Now it's going into the pantry to dry, with a couple of bulbs held back to plant again this fall.

Garlic is easy to grow here in the Pacific Northwest. The one possible pitfall is rot if they get waterlogged in the water. I plant mine in raised beds or containers and haven't lost a single bulb to rot. I put a layer of lawn clippings down to ward off weeds and give a little insulation in the winter, and hopefully by spring it will also have provided some nutrients.

Chillin' & Grillin' in Suquamish, WA

Some scenes from Tribal Journeys 2009 last week in Suquamish, WA. 89 ocean-going canoes, some of which were on the water for two weeks, rowed by members of several dozen different tribes, pulled into town for the week. It was a beautiful event and the Suquamish did a heroic job of hosting. The Husband & I attended both as guests and volunteers and it truly was a pleasure to be a part of it.

Next year the Makah Nation at Neah Bay will be hosting and it should be magnificent.

For more pictures go here.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Rhubarb Recipe with Nudity

I love rhubarb, and it's the perfect Pacific Northwest crop because it thrives in cool weather. It's also one of the very few perennial garden crops, which endears it to me. My mother recently e-mailed me the following rhubarb-related gem:

I just remembered another (sort of) rhubarb recipe. Several years ago I was shopping for produce alongside a large hairy tattooed and partially nude biker, and he said that rhubarb combined with pineapple made the best pancake syrup ever. I never tried it, since I don't make pancakes.

I haven't tried it either, but generally rhubarb pairs well with sweet fruits, so the biker may have been onto something.

Anise Seeds

Aren't these beautiful? I don't cook much with anise, but when The Husband slow-cooks pork ribs, he throws a few whole stars in to add some sweetness.

From Whence I Came

This is my family's farm in Boundary County, Idaho, circa 1970. My parents still live there, and it looks about the same. My mom & dad always have maintained a large vegetable garden and some fruit trees, as well as raising livestock and cash crops. I mostly farm horsetail and dandelions. Such is the sad fate of the Pacific Northwest dilettante gardener.

The Husband & the Tavera Beans

Fresh garden vegetables are generally best when cooked by some type of half-naked hottie.