Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I've been paying too much for ginger

So I have a sick Finn staying at my house, and I thought I'd make a batch of my favorite cold remedy for her. Old-time Greenpoint residents will recognize this as an adaptation of good ol' Gombu's "Winter Remedy" recipe, the tried and true combination of fresh ginger, honey and lemon. Gombu got the Greenpoint Coffeehouse chopping and boiling the ginger, but I've had much more success with the following method.

Peel and coarsely chop the raw ginger, and put it in a blender or food processor with just enough water to keep the whole mess moving. Once the ginger is basically liquified, extract the juice either by putting it in cheesecloth or a jelly bag and squeezing. If I don't feel like getting the jelly bag out I'll sometimes just squeeze it with my "brutish Wisconsin hands" (as MSF once colorfully put it).

This method is way more efficient and produces a much more concentrated product than boiling, so it goes a lot further.

Then squeeze a couple lemons in there, add some honey, some hot water and you've got a delicious refreshing tonic that will soothe your throat, clear up your congestion, and taste great with a couple ounces of scotch in it.

But I just realized that I HAVE BEEN PAYING TOO MUCH FOR GINGER. I once bought organic ginger for $8/pound at a "natural grocery store" near my job. That was bad, but I was desperate and I knew it, so what can you do. Lately I have been buying ginger in bulk for a dollar a pound at one of those little Chinatown markets on Grand street. I have been so completely chuffed to carry around one of those red plastic bags, knowing I only paid 5 bucks for the whole sack. With my chest puffed out and my head high I have vainly paraded the streets of lower Manhattan for months, drunk on the joys of knowing that I had insider information, that I had found the best price on ginger. I once even got up on a stage in front of a paying audience and told them where to get cheap ginger.

But I was wrong.

Today I stopped by that little market under the Manhattan bridge to get some celery and carrots for my fish stock, and there I saw it, mocking me. Ginger, large golden cloves of beautiful ginger, for


I don't know how they're doing it, and I'm sure however they're growing it is giving the planet whatever the planetary equivalent of AIDS is, but I bought about three and a half pounds of it just for fun. And the guy charged my $1.50 for it because it was under four pounds! That comes to 42 CENTS A POUND!

Excuse me, I have to go put my head between my knees for a second.

Okay, I'm back. But if anyone knows a retail spot that has a better price on ginger, let me know so I can kill you.

Friday, October 28, 2011

fight club

Two episodes of breaking bad after waking up I was finally ready to try to eat something. All the usual symptoms, the headache, the nausea, the regret, were so heightened I had convinced myself I had a disease, plus I had a fat lip and my jaw hurt so bad could barely open my mouth. Trying to piece it all together, a couple fragments stood out pretty clearly.

I had been playing crotch-punch with D. after I got off my shift at the bar. A couple people wanted to do shots and my buddy gave me a glass of Thomas H Handy Sazerac Rye, (super zippy, lots of peppery spice, hot burn in the throat, some softer toffee and a little lingering floralness, 127 proof!) and I was into my I-don't-know-how-many-th beer, so things got a little out of hand. D. and I got tired of hitting each other in the nuts, and somehow the play-fighting transferred over to D.'s wife, K. The part I don't remember is what I did to her exactly, but I did something and suddenly she was sitting on the ground holding her mouth and mad as a hornet. I felt pretty bad, so I did what I usually do when a woman is mad at me, I apologized and said "go ahead, hit me as hard as you can." She punched me so hard in the mouth that the BACK of my head hurt. I tasted blood in my mouth and this guy who claimed to be a marine was soberly nodding his head, saying "yo, I really respect you for that." K. and I hugged, everyone laughed, and we continued along our business of getting drunk.

While I fried up some eggs and a couple slices of Quattro Farms smoked venison sausage I cut a slice of the rye bread I had baked the day before to munch on. "This'll never work" I thought as I tried to somehow chew the slice of bread without unclenching my throbbing jaw. Luckily my tea was ready, (licorice coated oolong [don't judge]) so I dipped the bread in that until it was soft enough to eat.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Reader Survey

Okay. Just now, while gently warming some Enoki mushrooms to put on a pulled pork and kimchi beet sandwich (just tryin stuff out), I received the following email.

Have you ever tried a pomelo? They have them in the stores here and Dad is curious.


Couple of things. My parents are on an extended trip in Poland right now, so the fact that I received this message at 8:30 suggests that my mom was up and fretting about the pomelo situation at 2:30 am.

You have to understand that my dad has eaten the same breakfast every day for probably about 40 years. A half a grapefruit and a bowl of Wheaties is what the man needs to fuel himself for a day of never making any mistakes ever, and now he has seen a pomelo. Intrigued, perhaps, by its similarity to the trusted grejpfrut, yet repulsed by its difference, who knows how many nights he has lost to the wild confusion of desire before confiding his troubles in his wife, who, unable to tear her husband from the morass of temptation into which he has fallen, turns to me.

Should he try a pomelo? Perhaps all these years he has been missing out on a unique passion; the daily consumption of a citrus fruit whose every nuance seems to be moulded to his palate. And then what? If he allows himself this little deviation, what's to stop him from, within a year, having a secret second family in Cleveland, a meth addiction and six DUIs? Who knows.
Also, he might hate the pomelo, in which case he will have eaten a fruit that he hated.

Have I ever had a pomelo? Honestly, the answer is "I don't remember." Probably, but I've also had pickled tongue in aspic, unidentifiable fish, mystery rubber-hose-looking organ meat, tripe pancakes, blood soup, donkey sausage, and more. And these things stick out a little more in my limited memory.

So, dear readers, I too find myself overburdened and confused, and I turn to you for help.

Have you ever had a pomelo? Should my dad try one?

Also, I kind of can't believe they have pomelos in Poland, I remember when you couldn't get a banana there (remind me to tell you the Polish banana story some time).

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Technical Difficulties

Just a quick not on the absence of photographs in the latest blog post, and in future posts.

A couple months ago I spilled an entire cup of coffee on my laptop, and it stopped working. Except for this miraculous period of two days in which it came back to life, it continues to not work. All blogging and other internet business is being conducted on my girlfriend's crappy netbook, which, even though it is less than a year old, is an unbelievable piece of shit. One of its many handicaps is that it is not able to interface with my digital camera, which is also dying.

So, there will be no more photographs in the forseeable future, until we are able to buy a new computer (or if you're really really impatient you can always make a large cash donation to hurry things along, I promise it will probably go to the computer fund).

The good news is that my mom got me a slow-cooker for Christmas, so there's a whole new world of possibilities there. My grandma also got me an twelve inch long "Marine Combat Knife" with a black blade (so that the glint doesn't reveal your position when you're marauding in the dark). I don't think this has any breakfast applications, but it's still good.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Steaming Grey Meat Sludge Breakfast

Listen, I'm really really broke right now, like "steal twenty bucks from your girlfriend to get to work" broke. The good news is that I am employed, and I've got a job with great perks. That's right, I work at the Union Square Greenmarket. Market freebies make being broke tolerable, a little more "French peasant" and a little less "crushing urban privation." Anyways, yesterday, down to my last few dollars for the third time in a week, I was chatting with the duck folks. They mentioned they had a ton of duck liver that wasn't selling. I saw that the regular price was a half pound for 4 bucks, and guessing they would give me like half off I asked for a half pound. They gave me a whole POUND for FREE! I blew the last of my cash on a discounted artisinal baguette and finished out the day. The plan; Duck Liver Pate!

I did a couple quick smartphone recipe searches (I know, I know, broke with smartphone, it's terrible I know) to get an idea of whether I needed anything. The basic recipes called for liver, herbs, duck fat, shallots and garlic. A couple recipes called for adding cognac or armagnac, which, hah, no fucking way I'm buying cognac right now. Everything else I had at home, including a couple ounces of duck fat I had rendered off of some discounted duck legs a few months ago.

The livers were kind of gross to clean; there's weird connective tissue you have to pull off and occasionally a blood vessel will burst and suddenly things get surprisingly bloody, but the stuff that comes off is a real treat for the dog. Once the prep is done it's a pretty easy process, melt the fat (you could also use butter or lard, of course), soften the shallots, then throw in the garlic and herbs and the livers and cook for a couple minutes on each side, deglaze the pan with a little booze (I used a couple teaspoons of Dolin sweet vermouth, but you could use cognac [you rich piece of shit] or sherry, port or brandy), pour it all in the blender, buzz it, let cool and refrigerate for a couple hours. Easy.

A couple gross things that happened: When the livers were in the pan the heat got too high for a minute and I'm guessing blood vessels deep inside the liver started to burst. The lobes, which were turning grayish, would make this little popping sound and quiver a little bit. One lobe popped so hard that it jumped about three inches and a spurt of maroon/gray something hit me in the face and sort of slid down my glasses lense. Later, after the first couple seconds in the blender I opened up the lid and looked down into a steaming mass of gray sludge. When I stirred it with the wooden spoon it made slurpy/sucking noises.

I let it cool and put it in a shallow tupperware thing in the fridge for the night. This morning I melted a little butter in the skillet and threw in a couple of slices of baguette and two eggs. I cooked the eggs over very very easy, and just sprinkled a little salt and pepper and rosemary on top. I spread the liver on the toast and ate the shit out of all of it, dipping the toasts in the rich yolk as it ran out onto the plate. I felt like a fat king. You should also know that I've had about three more pate toasts while I've been sitting here typing this up. If you're reading this today, get in touch with me NOW and maybe you can come over and have some, I doubt it will survive in this house more than a day or two.

In summary, this was a rare poor man's treat, the whole thing costing me less than 5 dollars for what will be several meals. But even without the freebies, you could make this for under 20. Here's where everything came from. Incedentally, these purveyors are the ones I consider to be the best in each category.

Duck Liver: Hudson Valley Duck at Union Square Mondays
Garlic: Anthony Road Winery at Union Square Saturdays
Shallots: Don't Remember
Sage, Thyme and Rosemary: Keith's Farm at Union Square Wednesdays
Baguette: Buon Pane at Union Square Mondays
Eggs: Knoll Krest at Union Square Wednesday and Saturday

other ingredients
Vermouth: Dolin Sweet
Salt and Pepper

Saturday, March 20, 2010

More French Second Breakfast

After a few weeks in Brest, my traveling companion and I had a few days to explore Brittany. Due to a stroke of good luck, we were able to base our operations out of the same hotel we had been staying in. On a shoe string budget as we were, every day I packed myself the same ham and emmental on mini-baguette from the hotel breakfast. Here are a few photos of some of the places this sandwich was enjoyed!

Nature Conservatory in Brest

Le Conquet

Ile d'Ouessant

Mont St. Michel

Foret de Paimpont

Back to Brest

Sunday, February 28, 2010


Part 1. French Hotel Breakfast

Oh man, it was so good! D. mentioned later that he felt like he had finally had the "complete breakfast" that cereal commercials used to taunt us with. So right! I had a little bowl of muesli with mixed fruit and yogurt, a tall glass of "jus de pamplemousse" (one of the best words in any language), some scrambled eggs (not wet!) some delicious smoky bacon, and a piece of whole wheat toast. I dined not alone, but with myself. The only interruption of my pleasures at table came when I tried to work out the coffee situation. There was no coffee in the room, just an automatic espresso machine, and a, well, not waitress exactly, but breakfast attendant zipping in and out of the kitchen and rearranging tables. I missed a chance to flag her down for a coffee before she disappeared, and after a few minutes I just decided to make myself one. I think I knew that what I was doing was wrong, but I did it anyway. As I groggily tried to tamp down the espresso in the filter which I had clearly overfilled, the breakfast attendant suddenly appeared behind me and shooed me aside. I thought about arguing with her (I am a professional after all), but thought better of it. Banging out the handle, she completely started over. She was nice about it, I'm pretty sure that a good 85% of the judgment I felt pouring off of her was projected. Anyways, the coffee was pretty good, and gave me enough alertness to savor my meal. Before I left I took advantage of one of her lengthy absences from her post to make myself a little sandwich for later, and to grab a pear from a very rustic looking bowl of fruit.

Part 2. The Last Man on Earth

After buying some really stereotypical French groceries at a fantastic market (more on that soon), I wandered across the estuary to a street I had read about in the guidebook, Rue de Saint Malo, the only 17th century street that survived the Allied bombing of Brest during the Second World War. The Germans were using Brest as a base for their U Boat operations, you see. Here's the street.

The whole thing is only about 2 or 300 feet long, its derelict buildings adorned here and there with traces of hippyishness. Only one building has been largely restored, the elements kept out of the 400 year old foundations with a roof made of large sheets of ridged plastic sheeting.

When I got to the street, there was no one there. In fact, as I wound my way through the maze-like suburban neighborhood trying to find it, I barely saw a soul. Feeling somewhat adventurous (and partly driven by the need to find somewhere, stat, to take a terrible, terrible shit), I poked around inside the ruins. Within the walls some wooden party related structures had been built, painted garish shades of fuscia, and scrawled with anti-fascist slogans. A few impossible looking outhouses, a stage of sorts, even a bar with a smattering of found chairs arranged haphazardly around it. Down at the end of the street, at last, I found a reasonable seeming outhouse that even had about a half a roll of toilet paper in it. I thought to myself, "I will return yearly to the streets of St. Malo and stock all the outhouses with TP, in gratitude for the respite I feel this day." The system in place was that you were meant to cover your tracks with sawdust, a great idea, except it requires you to turn back towards the abominable thing you have just done. I muscled through the horror and got back out into the sunlight and brisk Atlantic wind.

I climbed the stairs at the end of the street, which led to a small car park from which you could look down on the street, and over it to the estuary and the bay, the skyline dotted with massive shipping cranes towering over the ancient embankments. I decided to go back down into the ruins to have my Second Breakfast. Heading down the stairs and back into the ruins, I found this little spot.

Thanks, hippies! It was a great little spot, up a small set of stairs high enough to overlook the main level and collect a little sunshine, but nestled underneath some larger walls. And quiet, except for the seagulls and the occasional distant sputtering of a Peugot. I unwrapped my meal, a simple ham and swiss on mini-baguette, and one of the rustic looking pears.

The sandwich was good, and the pear reaffirmed my belief in pears. The cold rush of juice in my mouth made me think about the American grocery store and its need to have shelves full of identical fruits, and how the modifications needed to make this happen have given us a hard, bland pear. The bowl I had picked this one out of looked motley, with a splotchy, misshapen collection that I instinctively knew were going to be delightful. As the juice ran onto my jacket I took another bite of my sandwich and watched the cats come and go. Washing up in the fountain, I felt the satisfaction of someone who has sated their needs alone in the wilderness, and the happiness of the last man on earth.