Until last week I had never made popcorn on the stove. Well at least not as an unsupervised adult. Do you all know how easy it is to make? Very. And cheap! And not bad for you! A winning combination if ever there was one.
But you know what makes it winninger? Worcestershire sauce. I’m sure Anna will poo poo this particular good + good combination but don’t listen to her, internet. It’s awesome. I used to make it all the time with microwave popcorn in my New York years (read: when I was broke) and am very pleased to have been reunited with a favorite snack.
Thank you, me, for that random popping corn purchase six months ago.
My mom’s food was always ugly, but almost always tasted great – and she was constitutionally unable to cook the same thing twice. Most great meals were the product of some divine flash of inspiration while stirring a soup or pondering the spice cupboard. But lightning never struck the same way twice.
In our way we talked a lot about food over the years, trading descriptions of good meals we’d stumbled into. I don’t think I ever asked her about the cooking she did in my growing up years. But as I get older, and more unavoidably adult with a job and a husband and cat to feed, I think I have a bit of insight into her methods.
When I lived with my mom, she worked til 5 or later, came home, stared at the wall for a bit and made dinner for us. Which sounds remarkably like the bulk of my evenings. What was lacking for her – and for me – was any kind of forethought or plan about meals. You cooked what you had. Because we were both rather random shoppers, we tended to have a lot, and a lot that needed to be eaten quickly. (Trouble with expiration dates is apparently genetic. who knew?)
I think about this now, because 4 nights out of 5 I spend my last 10 minutes at work picturing the contents of my fridge and wondering what the hell I can turn into a meal. I suspect my mom spent a lot of her last few minutes at work doing the same thing. While I’m not in her league, it’s also my saving grace as a cook. I can’t follow recipes, can’t measure things, have no particular techniques mastered – but I’m willing to get creative, and know that whatever mess comes out, Jesse will eat it.
Which brings me to Wednesday. I had two chicken legs and four sausages which all needed to be eaten, and not much else. The answer? Meatballs.
This cake always gets me thinking how much food is linked with memories. This kind of nameless cake (unless you can pronounce Broeckeleskuchen, well done if yes) for example, a favourite amongst dear friends and colleagues, is one that my greataunt Hedy taught me many many years ago and is the first cake I ever made. Greataunt Hedy was my extra granny and I remember sitting on her kitchen stool while she made some Swabian dish like Maultauschen (only on Easter of course), Dampfnudeln or Sauerbraten and telling me about her time as a cook for field hospitals in World War 2. She also made a great hot cocoa with a fresh Brezel to dunk into. No family occasion to this day passes without this cake, a chocolate hazelnut cake essentially, and no doubt this cake will go on through the generations. I miss you, Hedy!
Get 6 eggs (separated), 250gr sugar, lemon zest and grind of half a lemon, 200gr ground hazelnut (for some reason that’s gold dust in this country, you can substitue with ground almonds), 125gr plain flour, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon baking powder and 200gr chocolate cut in rough, relatively small pieces. You can use either milk or dark, depending on preference, but make it’s a good one. Make sure it all has room temperature.
Cream softened butter, sugar and eggyolks until nice and creamy and light. Add cinnamon, a pinch of salt and the ground nuts. If you can sieve the flour with the baking powder and then add gradually. Beat the eggwhites into proper stiff white peaks and then fold in. Lastly add the chocolate. All of that should go into a ring springform, in a oven with 200 degrees, and be baked for about an hour. You can cover it with melted chocolate, but it doesn’t need it to be honest.
by Flickr user mjgfoster (Creative Commons license)
Of all the food-related tragedies of not living in LA, perhaps the most tragic is life without pupusas. (For those curious, the most tragic non-food-related tragedy is life without sunshine. But that’s a topic for a whole other blog.)
What makes this even sadder is that I didn’t discover the magic of pupusas until after I left LA. How unfair is that?
Last week, LAist rubbed salt in the wound with a feature on pupusas, describing them thusly: ” It tastes like the result of an unsweetened pancake mating with a quesadilla.” Which probably doesn’t sound like the best thing in the world, but it is.
My experience of LA pupuserias is extremely limited, but I heartily recommend the stall at the Hollywood farmers market for a tasty start to a Sunday.
That’s my homesickness for the day. Now back to my coronation chicken sandwich.
Jiffy corn bread mix is one of those things that I never remember to bring back from the US. And when I remember to ask people to bring it over, they tend to look at me like I’m nuts, and then they don’t do it.
But it’s so good! And so cheap! 49 cents at Shim See deli, an egg and some milk, maybe some jalapenos, maybe some cheese if you’re feeling crazy. So I was very pleased to see this the other day. Especially as I’m 100 pages into The Omnivore’s Dilemma aka Corn is Trying to Kill You. Corn may be trying to kill us all, but we have some good times, too.