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An epic sandwich: the Fried Green Tomato Muffaleta

Jul. 17th, 2011 | 08:13 pm

We had Fried Green Tomato Muffaletas for lunch, and I think they're one of the Great Epic Sandwiches of All Time and thus worth recording.

OK, let's start with ingredients.

- Bread: I like an interesting sourdough roll, something with a bit of crust on it. Traditional muffaletas don't; I think they're missing out. I think I used Acme Bread's Sour Deli Roll.
- Tapenade: Use your Cuisnart to make a paste of black olives, green olives, cornichons, red onion, garlic and olive oil. Proportions are entirely up to you. It helps if you make this a day or two in advance. You want a pretty damn tapenade, as it should be spreadable.
- Green tomatoes: These are exactly what it says on the label. You don't need special green tomatoes; unripe regular ol' red or yellow or whatever tomatoes (ideally, of course, from your own garden) are what you want here.
- Cheese: I like an aged gouda; fresh mozzarella would, I think, be interesting. Provolone is traditional, but frankly I've never seen the point of provolone. Slice thinly.
- Greens: arugula/rocket is probably your best bet. Wash, have ready to hand.
- Fryin' stuff: two eggs, beaten, on a plate; a pile of medium-to-coarse ground yellow cornmeal sprinkled with salt and pepper.

Alright. Let's get cooking. This is one of those meals where you want to have all your ingredients ready before you actually start assembling.

Heat up your cast iron skillet to medium-high with enough oil to coat it - unrefined peanut oil is a good compromise between smoke point, healthiness, and tastiness.

Slice your tomatoes into 1/4" slices. Dip into beaten eggs, then toss in cornmeal, and lay on the bottom of your pan. Obviously, only one layer. Cover. Get everything else ready. After about five minutes, take the cover off and flip over with a spatula, and cook another couple of minutes. I find that one pan makes enough tomatoes for about three or four sandwiches; that's about one large green tomato, maybe two.

Meanwhile, turn on the broiler in your oven, unless you have a biggg toaster. Slice your bread rolls in half, put under the broiler to toast up. Take out when they just start to turn brown, and smear both sides with tapenade. Put one layer of fried green tomatoes on them, and then one layer of cheese. Return under the broiler long enough to melt the cheese. Remove, put on some arugula, put the top on the sandwich and serve.

This isn't your traditional muffaleta, but the juiciness of the FGTs makes it a truly epic sandwich. I think I first had it at Huey's On The River in Savannah, GA; this is gently modified, but respect where respect is due.

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Alice Waters has more superlatives than Martha Stewart

Aug. 13th, 2010 | 10:49 am

http://blogs.kqed.org/bayareabites/2010/08/03/scouting-alice-waters-bay-area-eats/

According to the article, Ms. Waters enjoys:

- simple, PERFECT salad
- authentic tortillas
- wonderful plants
- the best sushi
- incredible, delicious coffee
- the finest bread in the Bay Area, period
- a superb bar
- divine cheeses

my head is asplodin' from all awesomeness. i think the colors in her world are much brighter than the colors in mine.

-jim

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Great bread without all the kneading

Feb. 24th, 2010 | 01:45 pm
mood: yeasty

Great news --- same great homemade bread with less labor!


THE CURIOUS COOK: Better Bread With Less Kneading

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Rum-raisin oatmeal cookies

Oct. 2nd, 2009 | 10:13 pm

the cure for early-onset autumn syndrome

 This is really just the chocolate chip-walnut-oatmeal cookies, with some adjustments (And rum!)

Based on my:
Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies (see recipe elsewhere)
Basic recipe by Christine Rivera / found online and corrected by Jim
 
Ingredients:
1/2 cup shortening (Use the reformulated Crisco with no trans fats)
1/4 cup applesauce
1/2  cup dark rum
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
 
1 1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. soda
 
3 cups oats
1 cup raisins
 
Yield: about 4 dozen
 
PROCESS:
 
Toast the oats. Preheat the oven to about 300 and spread the oats over one or two baking sheets. Rotate the trays and alternate shelves for even baking if the oven is not even. The goal here is to get the "rawness" out of the oats so they are a little dry, very slightly crisp... you should smell toasted oats in the air. Don't overdo it and don't worry if they're not evenly toasted. I think this takes 10 to 30 minutes depending on (I have no idea what)
 
Put oats aside to cool (you need to free up the baking sheets for the cookies)
 
Turn the oven up to 350. It'll be ready by the time you are
 
 
COOKIES!
 
1
Sift together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt, and soda) and set aside
 
2
Cream shortening, applesauce, run, and sugars in a big bowl (everything else is going to end up in this bowl)
 
3
Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well. Continue creaming the shortening into the mixture but don't try to make it even... should be a bit lumpy and will smell amazing once the vanilla is in.
 
4
Fold the dry ingredients into the wet (yes, this is counter to the usual "wet into dry")
 
5
Using a heavy spatula, stir in the oats until they are evenly distributed. The dough's going to start getting pretty heavy at this point. Deal.
 
6.
Stir in the raisins
 
... mix it all well so all the goodness is evenly distributed through the dough.
 
Drop by 1- to 2-tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheets
 
I strongly recommend that you use parchment paper rather than any kind of grease
 
Bake 10 to 15 minutes (7 minutes on the top rack, then rotate the sheet 180 degrees and continue until finished on the bottom rack -- even if you think your oven is perfectly balanced). Bake 'em til they are golden brown.
 
When finished, pull the sheet out out and slide the entire piece of parchment paper with cookies atop onto a flat surface. Take the cookie sheet aside and cool it (drop it in the snow outside, wave it in the air, place it on the metal countertop, whatever, you need to reload it soon). Ignore the cooling cookies for 5 minutes. Then, using a spatula, lift them from the parchment and place them upside down on a plate to cool - even if using cooling racks, upside down lets them cool and degas/dry a little faster... 
 

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Starbucks is "reworking" its food offerings again

Jun. 3rd, 2009 | 09:39 am
mood: Righteous

http://www.boston.com/business/articles/2009/06/03/starbucks_reworking_baked_goods/

How many times does it take, to get it right?

Sure, the food biz is complicated, but come on now. I must have walked past three dozen small restaurants yesterday. They all had menus and food and customers... even the little guys seem to work it out.

I think Starbucks has a whole other set of problems not related to food.

I'm imagining this change happened only after extensive committee meetings, tastings, conference calls, lots of spreadsheets and Powerpoint decks and expert opinions, driving the latest upheaval in the "not for drinking" department down at 'bucks (is this their fifth reworking of "food" in five years? were there more?).

And this time, oh yes this time is different, they swear. They are going to get it RIGHT this time... so right that they won't have to hold another food reworking in six months, though it seems they've been on the every-six-months plan so long that it may be an unbreakable habit.

OK Starbucks, listen up:
- food isn't about committees or focus groups, NOT EVEN at your size, unless you are McDonalds, and you are not McDonalds
- try sitting down with a nice decaf latte and taking a good hard look around some of your shops
- what would make people happy? Maybe nothing. I've seen your customers.  But think.
- how about your staff? Slacker didn't work so you upgraded them to "fussy.' That only empowered the already-fussy crowd your places draw, to be even more fussy. Bad move. They can't be enjoying this constant turnover of the brand.
- and you're confusing customers with the constant flip flopping.

Back to basics, kid.

Bagel sandwiches are acts of love made at local cafes. They simply do not translate to microwaveable baggies... especially not in your stores where the customers can SEE the prepackaging. And seriously, remember those scones-in-sealed-bags? How appetizing is that? The poor things were suffocating. Don't do that again, please.

Maybe this just cannot be corporatized, averaged out, dumbed down, and made palatable to N-million customers at M-thousand stores in X-hundred distinct markets.

Go local. Let your managers source stuff down the street and let the customers know you're doing it. Let the offerings be different in different stores, to reflect the tastes of the region, or local whims. That'd be good for everyone, if you can avoid meddling from the top. Yes, it may mean constant change. That's ok. The tree outside my window looks a little different every single day, but it has probably stood there, all strong and sturdy-like, for fifty years.

- Jim

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Grilling a pizza, with JofishAndJim

May. 13th, 2009 | 05:41 pm
mood: chipperchipper

FA:
- No, you can put the dough right on the grill rack. Make sure it's real clean and maybe spray with cooking spray BEFORE LIGHTING.
- Yes, the dough should be on the sturdy side, but not crazily so. I've grilled some great thin-crust pizzas.
- Grill marks on pizza are just plain cool.

Basic concepts: Grill with lid closed = oven + bonus direct flame.

I've been grilling pizzas since last summer, but Jofish hasn't, so I was thrilled to show him something new. I'll have a charcoal (rather than propane) grill this summer / looking forward to trying a pizza on one of those. For now, these instructions assume a nice propane grill.

Process:
1. Clean the grill rack. Spray with cooking spray or brush with some olive oil if you feel like it.
2. Preheat grill nice and hot - Jofish was liking 500 degrees. The grill i used last summer had no thermometer. Anyway, HOT. 10 mins.
If you preheat with the burners all the way up, turn them down to their lowest setting when cooking the pizza.
---
3. Get the crust(s) and all toppings ready to go (they go on FAST when it's time). Crusts should not be too sticky.. toss in a little more flour if they are. I said a little. Don't dry it out, you just don't want any incidental sticking to happen.
---
4. BAKE SIDE 1: Place all the toppings and tools you may need near the grill. Open the grill. position the crust, and close the lid. You get about 10-15 seconds to rearrange things before it starts baking too much to rearrange. Use fingers. Work fast. CLOSE THE LID. stand back. no peeking.

5. Check the crust after 5 mins and use your judgment. The time to flip the crust is when the down-facing side is cooked and has nice grill marks, and separates easily.

6. BAKE SIDE 2 + TOPPINGS: When the first side is done, time to make a pizza: turn the crust over, immediately paint with olive oil (if you wish) then put all the toppings on it. Work fast since the grill is cooling fast... Close the lid and wait for the second side to cook, for the toppings to warm up and cook a little, and the cheese to melt...

7. EAT

actual photos:


-- Jim (with Jofish and Erin)

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In praise of grilling

Apr. 15th, 2009 | 04:05 pm
mood: satisfiedsatisfied

Nothing new to be learned here. I just wanted to remember a nice dinner.

It's above 40 in the evenings now, and there's still some propane in that little tank so...

I've been in need of a pretty good, not too expensive meal... in my world this counts:

2 inexpensive ribeye steaks covered on one side with rosemary, sage, and black pepper
a dozen shimp, skewered, lightly brushed with oil and a hella good shake of chili powder
caesar salad, heavy on the lemon, with homemade garlic/rosemary croutons and not too much cheese
sauteed baby bella mushrooms
a couple of glasses of a good pinot noir, found on sale and well worth the price
.... and good company to share it with

-jim

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Scanwiches

Mar. 9th, 2009 | 11:29 pm

scanwiches.com : Optical scans of cross sections of sandwiches.

Why didn't I think of that?

- jim
 

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2:52

Jan. 28th, 2009 | 08:57 pm
mood: working

My microwave oven has a button labeled "Popcorn"

When i press that button, the oven is automatically set to full power for two minutes, fifty-two seconds.

Why two minutes and fifty-two seconds?
What do they know that I don't?
Is there some fine print on the popcorn box that I've been missing for a couple of decades?


Googling "2:52" finds a few useful things...

And finally, something related directly to food:
Reason 2-52 of why eastvan is the best
(imo the opening paragraph and the very last comment, as of this writing, seal the deal):

of all the 24 hour food joints in vancouver that I know about eastvan is home to 5 out of seven spots. the naam dosent really count cause its a veggie spot so really it should be 5 out of 6. Theres nothing like the feeling of knowing no matter what time it is you can still get tripe and cheesecake without fail.

...

Posted by Flora on Sunday 18th January
Bad experiences at Pho Hoa… my friend projectile vomited while I was sitting across from him

- jim

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Managing minutiae, or how to know your coffee chain has grown too big, too fast

Jan. 24th, 2009 | 03:36 pm

Boy chasing a wheelIt's a pretty good sign that the franchise is spinning well ahead of the franchisor when the necessary micromanagement, just to keep the place running consistently, means that too many people have to be retrained too many times about too many petty details that should have either been worked out in advance, or delegated to the best instincts of local management.

Starbucks has really show its weaknesses lately. That massive expansion did seem a bit suspect, particularly given the then-recent failings of Krispy Kreme and Abercrombie in their respective over-expansion binges.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2008665670_starbucks24.html

One-step-forward-two-steps-back excerpts from the above article:

• Initially, Schultz said he was eliminating heated breakfast sandwiches because their smell overwhelmed the aroma of coffee. Then, Starbucks decided to keep the sandwiches because it found a way to minimize the smell (by subtracting a piece of cheese).

advertising

• Early on, Starbucks held a three-hour retraining session for store workers nationwide, showing them how to properly pour espresso and foam milk. Then, it decided that a key feature of the training — pouring espresso into a clear shot glass to check quality — was not crucial after all.

• At first, stores were allotted extra hours for a new initiative to brew freshly ground coffee each day. Then, the hours were reclaimed and stores told that the extra time was always meant to be temporary.
[ ... ]
Still, confusion and disappointment have grown among store workers who comment about their jobs at StarbucksGossip.com.

"If we don't catch a break this company is going to lose every great partner that it has," wrote one 10-year employee. "I am sick and tired of being blamed for not meeting my budget when the economy is in a recession. I used to be proud of my company ... now i [sic] am embarrassed and feel physically ill everytime [sic] I have to go to work."

 
- jim
(image by Alexanda Boyd, on Flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/igbyjones/394586888/)

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