Tangled Branches: Satiated
riveting tales of how we sustain ourselves
Tuesday, September 28, 2004
Well, I finally found some moon cakes to buy. Tried to get some for last year's Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, but I waited too long or looked in the wrong shops or something and ended up with none. This year I was determined to find some. After a lot of Googling, I learned that there is a Chinese bakery called Maria's in Rockville, and they sell moon cakes. I know that Maria's is a chain (from reading S. J. Rozan's Mandarin Plaid, I think), but I figured it would be good enough since I had almost no expectations. So yesterday, I drove up to Rockville and found Maria's and bought the only kind of moon cakes they had that didn't contain egg yolk. Something about eating a hard-cooked egg yolk in the middle of a pastry is just unappealing. I saw a display of boxes of moon cakes with various fillings, all of which contained egg, according to the English signs in front of them. But in front of one pile of boxes was a sign written only in Chinese. So I asked the girl behind the counter if there were any moon cakes without egg, and she said the ones labeled only in Chinese were, and the filling was date. I bought a box and brought them home. When she put the box in a Maria's plastic bag, I learned from the bag that there are 3 branches of Maria's in northern Virginia. I guess you just have to know about them, because there sure is not much on the Internet.
The box was beautiful and contained 4 moon cakes of a square shape, about 2.5 inches on a side. I knew they were going to be heavy and rich, so I sliced off a tiny piece. It smelled of bacon grease. I ate the tiny piece. Then I cut another tiny piece and ate that. Then one more. Half the cake was gone before I realized just how heavy and rich it was. I liked it quite a lot, but you really have to exercise some restraint - half a cake is more than plenty. I'm still working on deciphering the Chinese label, but so far I have figured out that it says "pine nuts" and "date", which I already knew from eating it. Trying to determine where the bacon grease smell comes from. I think there is supposed to be lard in the pastry, but bacon grease? I know that some moon cakes contain ham, so that's another possibility, but I really don't see or taste anything in the filling that seems to be ham.
There will be no nibbling of moon cakes while gazing at the moon tonight here - we are getting rain from the remnants of Hurricane Jeanne. I wonder what they do in China when it rains on the Moon Festival.
Friday, September 10, 2004
Hash is a dish to use up leftovers, right? So the hash I made for dinner last night is never to be repeated because I will very likely never have that combination of leftovers again.
It started with leftover fajitas. I marinated a skirt steak in beer and some seasonings for a few days, and then we still weren't getting around to grilling it so I stuck it in the freezer - marinade and all. It stayed there for a month or so, but finally we grilled it and ate it with tortillas and salsa. I thought the seasonings were not quite right, especially the beer. So the leftovers sat in the fridge for a week.
Monday, we grilled a rib-eye steak with no accompaniment other than some potatoes and onions in foil, and some sauteed mushrooms. So there were leftover sauteed mushrooms.
Some time ago, I bought a can of Vietnamese beef broth, thinking I was going to make pho. The inspiration never struck.
And the pantry also yielded a can of Hatch green chiles that I bought about a year ago and never used. Don't know why.
And a few days ago I noticed a recipe for a southwestern-style hash in the Border Cookbook, on the page facing my tamale hash inspiration. And for additional inspiration, I reread John Thorne's "Fix Your Hash" from Serious Pig.
Here we go. I chopped up the remainder of a leftover onion that was in the fridge (about 2/3 of a medium yellow onion). I cubed (a little bigger than 1/4 inch) 3 potatoes. I cut the leftover fajitas in pieces about the same size as the potatoes. And cut the chiles into pieces a little bigger than the potatoes and meat. Sauteed the potatoes and onions (w/ salt & pepper) in some olive oil and a bit of butter for, oh, five minutes. Added the meat, chiles, and leftover mushrooms. Poured in enough of the beef broth to almost cover the ingredients already in the pan. Put the lid on the pan and left it to simmer (well, boil because I was in a hurry - if I had more time it would have been simmer). Stirred a couple of times, replacing the lid each time. When the potatoes seemed to be just about cooked, took the lid off the pan and added about a teaspoon and a half of ordinary yellow Plochman's mustard (shhhh....don't tell DH; he doesn't read this and he will never know), and about a tablespoon of Chile Man's Robert's Revenge Salsa. Let this all cook down, giving a stir every now and then. When most of the liquid was evaporated, turned up the heat a bit and let the mixture brown, turning it over a few times to keep it from burning.
That's it. We liked it, but it will never be the same again.
Saturday, September 04, 2004
We had another excellent meal at 2941 last night. This was our third visit and we have been very, very happy each time. This is an Occasion Restaurant (or occasional anyway) - lots of people there celebrating special days.
I'll only describe what I ate, and not what everybody else at the table had. The first thing on the table here is a nice assortment of their fantastic house-made breads. They don't come with labels, but I know that we were served Cherry Chocolate, French Baguette, Olive Rosemary, Pumpernickel Raisin, and maybe Parmesan Cayenne Focaccia. For an appetizer I had the Soup of the Day, which was actually 2 soups, served in 2 bowls on a rectangular plate. They were both served cold - one was a spicy gazpacho, and the other a creamy roasted corn soup - and both very good. DH had the P.E.I. Mussels. My main course was the Carmelized Sea Scallops and Lobster Tail. The lobster tail (and claw) was steamed (or boiled) until just cooked through; the sea scallops were cut with a crisscross design on the top surface, and browned. The sauce contained little pearls of tapioca, which was something like what I imagine bubble tea contains, even though I've never had bubble tea. DH had the Honey and Soy Glazed Chilean Sea Bass, of which I tasted a sample, and found that to be very likeable. My choice for dessert was the Chocolate Pecan Pie, served with Tempura Bananas and Tamarind Ice Cream. The pie was good, but for me the stars of the plate were the Tamarind Ice Cream (who would have thought?), and the Tempura Bananas. But then, I always want the fried bananas at Thai restaurants, so maybe that's just my prejudices. The ice cream was just a bit tangy from the tamarind, and a nice foil for the other things on the plate. DH had the Toffee Pudding.
And we enjoyed the meal and the company of friends, and stayed at the table for almost 3 1/2 hours. So when we were ready to leave, the staff was giving away loaves of bread. We brought home a loaf of Pumpernickel Raisin, and had some toasted for breakfast this morning.
Again, we were very, very happy....