Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Cough Drop Wars

Why didn't I have this quality item a week ago?
I have been very sick lately: crazy fevers, sore throat and a nose run amok. Ugh! Food has been the last thing on my mind, dear reader, and as a result I have neglected you. I am sorry.
Today I am on the mend and ready to chat again. But what to say? I haven't eaten anything cool, there've been no aha! observations mid-meals. I barely want coffee anymore (these are dark days).

Ahhh, but I have eaten about 4,000 cough drops! Then this is what I have to offer, especially for those beseiged by flu and cold. I've sucked down 3 different kinds of lozenges, which all claim to soothe sore throats and help you cough less. I wasn't coughing, but damn my throat hurt. So here are the results of my unscientific (but very committed) research.

  • The clear loser of the bunch is definitely the Rite Aid Honey Lemon Cough Drops. These tasted the most like scary chemicals... which ones I don't know, but ick. Each contained 8 mg of menthol which did numb my throat, but even in my miserable sick state I noted flavors much like rubber gloves.
  • The Ricola Echinacea Honey-Lemon Herb Throat Drops were by far the tastiest: the honey flavor was the cleanest and the lemon wasn't medicinal. They weren't syrupy in the mouth; at times the lozenges were a bit viscous like honey, but mostly hard candyish. They have a more round, herby quality and a lot less menthol, only 2.7 mg. They didn't numb my throat very well, but they were delicious and full of echinacea (which I believe is a magical healer... hey, I don't claim to be a scientist).
  • Lastly, I ate vast quantities of Halls Ice Blue Mentho-lyptus Drops. They contain a whopping 10 mg of menthol and pretty much freeze your windpipe, which feels odd but at least the pain is gone. When I inhaled quickly through my nose, my throat felt like I'd stepped into the snows of Poughkeepsie, NY, in the dead of winter. The flavor is weirdly medicinal also, though vaguely minty and significantly less gross than the Rite Aid drops. They turn your tongue blue, which is cool in a third grade kind of way.

So to summarize: the Ricola were tastiest, the Halls Ice Blue were most effective, and in general I'd recommend staying healthy this winter if you can. None of them taste that good.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Lusty Orange

I must sing the praises of the Blood Orange. If you've never tried one: stand up, get your keys, go outside and don't return to this post until you've got one in your hot little hand. Seriously. I'll wait... hmmm, gotta call Linda back, do laundry this weekend, buy sexy black shoes with a lower heel I can wear with jeans-- oh, you're back! Good, let's get to it then.

Blood oranges are the lustiest fruit, their sharp citrus scent even smells adult. Don't waste them on the kids, or people who don't care about food. (Why are you hanging out with them anyway? You know they've got no soul.)
Originally from Sicily, these oranges dance on the tongue. The exterior looks like someone rolled it in red clay dust, and inside. Oh Goddess, inside each fruit is a complete and decadent sunset. I encourage you to peel the thin film that covers each segment; there is breathtaking variety in the colors within. And it varies with each orange, sometimes you see light pink that fades into a russet red-brown, or a deep fleshy purple with bright hits of orange, or even the color of claret wine.
And the taste. Blood oranges don't give themselves to you immediately, they tease and tickle on the tongue. They start with a nuanced tartness, not grapefruit harsh tart, but a hint of pucker that starts in the back of the mouth. The surprise and delight comes at the end when the high sweetness swoops in and magically balances it out, a twist that exhilarates.
How often do you find ecstasy in fruit? Their season ends soon, revel while you can.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Si se puede, or MexiCAN!

On Sunday night the Cooking Club convened again, this time for a Mexican fiesta. Que bueno! Que rico! Que sabor (flavor)!
One of the wonderful lessons I've learned as an Angeleno is that Mexican cuisine is not comprised of boring, heavy bean and cheese "chimichangas" (not a real word, by the way). My exposure to la cocina Mexicano growing up was limited to the horrendous chain restaurant Chi-Chi's, which is about as authentic as the Olive Garden's "Italian" cooking, ugh. While eating the boring salty food my dad always insisted on wearing the kids menu on his head (designed to fold into a paper sombrero), oh the horror. I wanted to crawl under the table with my stale chips... bad food and public shame? I'm out.
When I moved to California I thought I didn't like Mexican food; turns out I'd never really tried it. Ten years, no embarrassing Dad-hats, and many gentle tamales made by abuelitas (grandmas), multicolored moles prepared by folks from Oaxaca, and $1 tacos in the middle of the night: today I'm a full-on convert. My dear friend Ray's gift with the puerco has been an inspiration too, gusta mucho!
So Sunday morning I prepared my excellent puerco verde stew. I seared, then slowly braised 3 pounds of pork shoulder in my awesome slow-cooker with a sauce of pureed tomatillos, onion, garlic, chiles, some white wine (not a legit component of this dish, but I think it makes it better), and my deliciously authentic sauce thickener: I toast a couple corn tortillas over a gas burner, rip them up and then whiz them with a half cup of chicken stock to make a corn slurry of sorts. Sprinkled in some Mexican oregano, cumin, and ground fennel and let it stew for 6 hours. Then I removed the pork, shredded it with forks, let the whole thing reduce a bit and served it as tacos with corn tortillas, crumbled queso fresca and snipped scallions, yum! Many folks asked to take leftovers home, always the best compliment.
On the menu also were delectable sopes (a cousin to Venezuela's arepas) see example to the right, buttery cheese tamales, machaca (eggs, shredded beef, onions and peppers, a real champion's breakfast), homemade red rice and beans, and two kinds of enchiladas. Wow. Nina, our resident Baking Goddess, made a Mexican-style chocolate bundt cake- the last slice will rock my afternoon, if I can wait that long!
Susan, ever the elegant hostess, made me a lovely margharita which I enjoyed for both of us as she is great with child, uhh, nino :)
Ahh, Mexico, mi amigo, mi plato grande... gracias! Muchas, muchas gracias! Que delicioso, mi amor.

Monday, January 01, 2007

The Most Important Meal of the Year

Every year I feel a bit superstitious about Jan. 1, that it's important to set a good tone for the coming year. This can be challenging when one perhaps stumbled into bed at 3am the night before, after what we'll call "too much fun." Fortunately my friends Tanya and Erik were less self-abusive last night, so held a lovely New Year's brunch. I helped with the meat preparation; this photo reminds me of my mom and grandmother at the stove when I was small, all that's missing is a cigarette dangling from my lips.
I hope everyone's new year started with good company and delicious food. Our eggnog French toast was delightful.