Thursday, July 28, 2011

Requiem for a lost warrior: Buster the cat update

Last week the great hero-cat Buster got rode out of town on a rail.  Granted living with a warrior is not easy.  Blood is shed.  Relationships can be strained.  Frequently, stitches are required.  But my mouser is gone and I am sad.  The first incident was unfortunate -- Buster attacked another cat.  But cats do fight each other. It's their nature.  The second incident was also unfortunate.  Buster sent a little white dog to the vet hospital but the stupid dog (it's my dog so I can say this) shouldn'ta oughta have chased after that particular cat.  I don't care if Buster was sitting on our front walk. The dog should have known she was out classed by a factor of 10.  Sadly, Buster left gashes on the arm of the sweet  lady who walks the beagle and animal control had enough. Buster was relocated.  My peaches got eaten by squirrels no doubt while they were singing ding dong the cat is dead in celebration of their new freedom.  Goodbye Buster.  I will miss your mad skills even if you were a menace. 

China: 5000 Years of History in 26 Days

gate by ahamiltongreenDear readers. Can you forgive my 30 days of silence? I can only offer the excuse that access to Blogger is blocked in China.

From July 1-26 I toured that massive country including Beijing, Xi'an and Shanghai with a group of Chinese-born teenagers including my daughter Lia and her dear friend Jenny.

During the first half of the trip our days were managed by CTS (aka China Travel Service). We luxuriated in four star hotels and gorged on scrumptious multi-course banquets. Educated, diplomatic and well-connected tour guides shepherded us to the front of endless lines as we worked our way through the sights that represent major moments in Chinese history.

Our long but comfortable march took us through Tienanmen Square, The Forbidden City, The Great Wall, The Peking Opera School, The Song and Tang Dynasties, as well as art museums, shadow puppet shows, the terracotta warriors, traditional gardens, traditional foods, traditional shops, river towns and more.... all representing what seems like an endless stream of human activity and more than 5,000 years of Chinese history.

Between sights, we traveled on first rate tour buses with good sound systems and good air conditioning--the kind of buses that are never too hot or too cold, too loud or too soft. Together with  40 wonderful fellow traveler we scratched at the surface of a country that is too big to understand in the same way that the Grand Canyon is too deep to comprehend until you get on a mule and plunge the depths.

During the second half of the trip our accommodations changed. We stayed in a Chinese boarding school--think hard beds, bad food, gasping air conditioners and guarded gates to keep us in as much as to keep others out.  Uncomfortable?  Oh yeah.  But here we were invited to pass through a massive gates that both figuratively and literally guard the guts of China and here we began to reach a deeper level of understanding about what it means to be part of the complex ancient and at the same time all new behemoth of China rising.

I hope to work through my memories and photos with you over then next few days.  Take care and thanks for your patience.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

911 for a charred pot

Before: a charred mess
of a chili pot

Maybe it's my approach to cooking.  For one thing, perhaps smoking hot isn't the best temperature for every food.  For another, when food is bubbling away, maybe it would help to peek under the lid once in awhile...maybe a little stir would help.  Whatever it is, I find myself trying to repair a mess of charred crust on the bottom of my pots now and then. If you have a beloved pot with charred food on the bottom don't despair,  this no-fail method will get your pot back on the cooking line fast.
After: ready for the next fire

  • Fill the ruined pot with water ... 3/4 full is a good start
  • Add a generous handful of baking soda
  • Cover and heat to boiling
  • Turn down the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes
  • Use a heat-proof spatula to scrape the bottom while it simmers
  • Empty the mess into the sink and fill with HOT water
  • Scrub the remaining black crust with baking soda using a scratch-proof scrubbing pad (like the back of a blue sponge)
  • Rinse and repeat if necessary.  

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Broccoli for Jessica

Broccoli can be fun!  Well...maybe fun isn't exactly the right word, but it you work with this cancer fighting ninja, you can create a healthy side dish that doesn't suck.  Here's how:
  • Chop a head of broccoli into small pieces (less than an inch).
  • Coat them in olive oil. I use extra virgin and make sure they are.
  • Throw them in a smoking hot wok or frying pan.
  • Toss in a generous helping of salt and pepper.
  • Sautee for 3-4 minutes.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Real Deal: Seasoning Cast Iron Woks and Pans

Seasoning a cast iron wok
I've been singularly unimpressed by the advice on the web about seasoning cast iron pans and woks.  I guess you get what you pay for right?  Luckily enough, the good people at Cook's Illustrated  have taken matters into their capable hands in their "Summer Grilling" issue.  Adapting their technique for seasoning cast iron grills, here's the method that finally worked to give my cast iron wok a lovely indelible sheen.
  1. Heat the pan as hot as possible. You're aiming for smoking hot. 
  2. Dab a smidgen of cooking oil on a paper towel or rag.  Using tongs rub the oil on the hot cast iron until it turns dull.  Expect a lot of smoke... use the vent or better, do it outside on the grill.
  3. Repeat
  4. Repeat
  5. Repeat and keep repeating until the metal stays shiny. It took me about 8 repetitions.
This method creates a sheen on the wok.  The wok becomes remarkably easy to clean... just wipe it down.  Nothing sticks.  Thank you Cooks Illustrated.  It's well worth the cost of an issue to know these things.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Bermuda Grass Update

In April I spent a few hours pulling, digging and grubbing out all the little pieces of Bermuda grass I could find in a few patches of my garden.  This included rebuilding some of my lambs ear beds.   So far the results aren't bad.  I keep after the new growth as it emerges.  The real story will be told in August when the ground gets hard and no amount of water will keep plants alive in this bay clay soil.

Garden Update June 7, 2011: The Triumph of Roses

Last year June 7th brought my first handful of green beans and I thought last year was cold... this year the weather was cold and rainy until yesterday and nothing is happy about it.  The basil is shivering, the tomatoes are slacking off.  The poor Italian lemon is bereft in a poor canopy of scraggly yellow leaves.  On the plus side, the lettuce is still growing and the strawberries pay this kind of weather no-never-mind. Also doing well are mint, chocolate mint and red chard.  And roses... the roses always seem to triumph don't they?