News about me, and my thoughts, jokes, and stuff.

Sean's Blog

We Don’t Use the Open Fire

I have alluded briefly in previous posts to our having chestnut trees on our property.  There is one in the front of the house, by the driveway, and one on the edge of the backyard.  Both are by the property line with one of our neighbors.

Chestnut trees are odd for a couple of reasons.  One is the flower shape (the male flowers, as the trees do have 2 kinds).  They are very long and thin flowers.  Then there are the fruits in which the nuts themselves grow.  The fruits are spiny all over, and those spines are very sharp and painful (you only want to pick the things up with thick gloves on).

In the late summer, the fruits begin to fall off the trees, and split open (sometimes in that order, sometimes in the reverse).  We usually try to do a daily check to pick up the latest nuts that can be found on the ground.  The empty spiny husks we leave to dry out (eventually we collect them to be burnt in our wood stove).

The first year we lived in this house (2008), we discovered the hard way that chestnuts provide a home for babies.  Baby insects, that is.  The first time we had collected a lot of nuts we just put them in a paper bag on the kitchen counter.  After several days, we could hear noises coming from the bag – and it turned out that lots of little larvae had chewed their way out of the nuts and through the bag, and were crawling around on the counter (presumably looking for someplace to pupate).  We ended up throwing out a lot of those nuts.

In 2009, we got tons of nuts, and figured out from various sites on the Internets that refrigerating the nuts was a good way to keep the larvae at bay.  So we’d leave the nuts on the counter to dry for a day or so, then bag them and put them in the fridge.  When we had a chance, we’d cook them.

Cooking them involved first cutting an ‘X’ in each one, i.e. making two intersecting cuts with a knife, so that steam doesn’t cause the nut to explode.  That cutting is not hard to do, as the shells are fairly soft compared to other nuts.  We initially roasted them in the oven for 20 minutes or so, and then wrapped them in a towel to steam for a few minutes (to help soften the skins and make them easier to peel).  Peeling them was the worst part, as the flaps of shell created by the cuts would have opened outward, but also hardened a bit, so one would have to grasp pointy parts and pull them apart.  This could be somewhat painful, and on a few occasions drew blood.

Once each nut was peeled, we’d cut it open and examine it.  Some nut meats would need bad spots cut out, and some would be really hard and would just get rejected outright.  We’d always eat a few while doing this, and then put the rest away for later use.

As you can probably tell, processing chestnuts is a bit time consuming.  The process of cutting slits in a batch of nuts (approximately 70 to 80 of them), roasting, peeling, sorting and such, would generally take 2 to 3 hours.  That second year, we had so many that we had to devote most of our evenings over 3 weeks or so to dealing with them.

Next post: What we do with the nut meats, and finding a better way.

Posted by seaking on 11-10-2011 at 11:11 pm
Posted in Food with 0 Comments

Pumpkin Update

Not long after I started this blog, in the Autumn of 2005, I posted a recipe for pumpkin pizza.  I’ve recently made another (delicious) variant on that recipe.

The crust is the same, as is the amount of gouda cheese.  This version uses more pumpkin or squash, covering most of the cheese surface.  Besides the gourd, the other topping is sauteed leeks, which are placed between the cheese and crust (i.e. the leeks go on the crust after it’s spread, followed by the cheese and then squash).  It’s a wonderful meld of flavors, and needs nothing else.  I made this variation for the first time a couple of weeks ago, using pie pumpkins, and made some more such pizzas tonight, this time with acorn squash.  Yum.

Posted by seaking on 11-15-2010 at 11:11 pm
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If you can imagine it…

So this evening well after dinner, as often happens in our house, I was cooking a meal that we’ll eat for dinner the next few nights.  I was criticized for the fact that it smelled good, but was not to be eaten right away.  The conversation turned to the suggestion that perhaps I should make things that are unappetizing, so as to avoid this situation.

Among the ideas we came up with were things like franks and beans (somewhat unappetizing even to those in the household who aren’t vegetarians).  This ended up morphing into pieces of hot dog in sloppy joe sauce.  We quickly dubbed these Sloppy Dogs, and had a good laugh.

Then, we thought to check Google, and found that they already exist.

(and, dare I say it, some of them sound kind of good)

P.S.:  In related news, I saw this post this evening on the blog Cookrookery, and couldn’t resist adding some suggestions in the comments.

Posted by seaking on 11-11-2010 at 11:11 pm
Posted in Food, Surreal with 0 Comments

Pilgrimage

On a trip to Michigan over the July 4 weekend, I decided to finally go visit a place that I’ve known about for over 15 years. For that length of time, I’ve been cooking using recipes in various cookbooks published by The Moosewood Restaurant (or rather, by members of the collective that runs the restaurant).

The restaurant is located in Ithaca, NY, which is just far enough from expressways in the state that it isn’t a convenient stop if one is crossing through. I figured I should finally take the extra time required to go have a meal there, and see just what the place is like.

It’s located in an old building that’s been made into a little mall. This is the building:

dewitt2.jpg

dewitt1.jpg

And here are exterior and interior entrances to the restaurant:

moosewood2.jpg

moosewood1.jpg

They have a very large repertoire of recipes, as they’ve put out more than a dozen different books over the years. As a result, they don’t have a set menu – they offer small lunch and dinner menus that change daily.

I had a bean burrito with onions, peppers and hot sauce, served on a bed of brown rice. Also had a bottle of local ginger beer, and a blueberry-apple cobbler for dessert. The food was good, but ultimately no better than I’ve had at other vegetarian restaurants, and somewhat pricier.  I’m glad I made the trip once, and I’ll certainly eat there again if I find myself in Ithaca, but I won’t go out of my way to return to the place.

Posted by seaking on 07-27-2008 at 03:07 pm
Posted in Food, Travel with 0 Comments

Walk softly and snack on a big stick

One of the more fun presents I got for Xmas was a package of Giant Pocky.  For those not familiar with the Japanese confection known as Pocky, it is crunchy sticks coated in chocolate (or other flavors not shown on the page I linked to – of which there are many).  I’m a big fan of Pocky, though don’t eat it all the time because it tends not to be cheap.  I’ve tried several flavors, but never the Giant ones, though I believe they were probably  reviewed by Ms. Boo (though I can’t find a review in her snack review archives).  The Giant version are quite a bit bigger than the normal kind; I photographed them here next to an ice-cream truck for comparison:

giantpocky.jpg

As you can see, the scale is well above that of a human vehicle.  Giant, indeed.

Regular-sized Pocky has the sticks grouped in bags within the box – at least 4 sticks to a bag.  These are individually wrapped:

pockystick1.jpg

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When unwrapped, they look like the usual chocolate kind, only bigger:

unwrapped.jpg

And they taste about the same, except that the biscuity stick taste (kind of like a barely-sweet cracker) dominates the chocolate more, perhaps because the chocolate layer is not as thick in proportion.  They’re still tasty, as they use a slightly bitter chocolate on these (as opposed to Men’s Pocky, which is even more bitter).  They’re still good, and I’ll definitely eat the whole box (though it will take a while to go through).

seanpocky.jpg

Posted by seaking on 01-27-2008 at 04:01 pm
Posted in Food with 2 Comments

Greaser Fruit

I didn’t pay much attention to the sticker when I bought the melon – only enough to type in the PLU# at the self-scan checkout.  After I got it home, though, I was surprised to discover a reference to The Outsiders on my honeydew:

ponyboy.jpg

Nothing gold can stay, of course, and the melon is no exception – we’ll eat the whole thing within a week.

Posted by seaking on 10-13-2007 at 10:10 pm
Posted in Food, Surreal with 0 Comments

Baker’s null set

Yesterday I headed for downtown Noho, looking forward to picking up some bread at our usual bakery (Bakery Normand).  I hadn’t gotten any bread there in a few weeks, because I was trying to use up some store-bought stuff that I had bought too much of.  I missed the nice, fresh wheat and flaxseed bread they make, and wanted to pick up a couple of loaves.

I got there and discovered a sign on the door indicating that they were closed for vacation, and would be back at the end of the week.  Annoying to be sure, but I decided that I could go to a different bread bakery in town (Hungry Ghost Bread Co.), and get some there.  It’s pricier, and not quite as good as BN, but still nice bread.

Turns out that they were specially closed as well for the next couple of day – no reason given on the sign.  Bah!  I ended up getting some okay bread at a small grocery store across the street from HGBC, but I have to wonder if there is a bakers’ conspiracy convention going on.

Posted by seaking on 08-01-2007 at 07:08 pm
Posted in Food with 0 Comments

Again with the Swiss

Although it’s by way of Canada. Last weekend I happened to be in what’s primarily an office supply store in downtown Amherst, but which has a candy section at the front. I noticed they had Coffee Crisp candy bars. “Ah,” I thought, “they import Coffee Crisp here.” You see, Coffee Crisp is one of my favorite candy bars (which is strange, since I don’t like coffee), but has only ever been available in Canada, despite being made by Nestle, a U.S. company.

There was something odd, though. The price was 35 cents per bar, or 3 for a dollar. “That’s really cheap, since it’s imported!” I either thought or said out loud. I picked one (or maybe three) up, and noticed that the package was different. In Canada all packages have to be marked in English and French. These bars were labeled in English and Spanish. Then I noticed, in smaller print, the URL nestleusa.com. “Could it be true?”

A check of the web later confirmed it – Nestle is now selling Coffee Crisp in the U.S. An online petition effort helped make this happen, apparently. It hasn’t got very wide distribution yet, but fans can lobby stores to carry it.

All I can say is, “Yum.”

Oh, if you’re wondering about the Swiss link, it’s that Nestle’s parent company is based in Switzerland.

Posted by seaking on 03-25-2007 at 07:03 pm
Posted in Food, News with 0 Comments

Intangerines

The fruit you can’t pick up.  Also not very filling.

Posted by seaking on 12-13-2006 at 07:12 pm
Posted in Food, Humor with 0 Comments

Don’t Eat at Marge’s Kitchen

I don’t normally write restaurant reviews, but then, this isn’t really a normal review. That is to say, I have nothing to say about the food at Marge’s Kitchen, because I haven’t actually had any.

Here is the story: Marge’s Kitchen is a small breakfast restaurant in Northampton, MA. It’s a short walk from where we live now, and, as we often like going out for brunch, we decided to try it today. The menu is not very extensive, but has most of the breakfast staples, and has very reasonable prices. There are a few unusual items as well, such as the choice of sweet potato home fries in addition to regular potato ones. The place also seems to have a slogan: “The customer is never right.” I found this amusing at first, but apparently it isn’t a joke. More on that later. Click Here to Read More »

Posted by seaking on 11-26-2006 at 10:11 pm
Posted in Food, News, Surreal with 0 Comments

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