Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Lady and the Tramp.



I was NOT referring to myself in the title, nor was I eluding to my inner trampy stripper.

Oh c'mon, s/he's in all of us. You can deny it all you want, but when your 'jam' comes on, that inner stripper comes on out!!!

1901 by Phoenix does it for me--"folded, folded, folded, folded!"--and there goes my nice family oriented post--right out the sunroof.

William loves Lady and the Tramp dinner night--but he is quick to point out that this isn't a traditional Lady and the Tramp dinner as they didn't eat garlic bread on their date night. I wasn't about to cover the specifics as to why they skipped the garlic bread on that one.

So William rocks this great garlic toast that he does all by himself except the cutting of the bread. It's a great way to get the kids involved regardless of age. I asked William if I could write about his famous garlic toast, and after careful consideration of all possible outcomes, he said yes. I was relieved because I have been so busy that I can't even think about my next post let alone write one. So a big THANK YOU!!! shout out to Dub K for chippin' in on this one.

Has it really come to this?

Yes, yes it has.

Now, in true William fashion, he did have one caveat--"Be sure they use the dinner rolls from Pavilions, Dad!". Yes, I reassured him that I was already planning on sharing that anecdote of making an out of the way stop just for those rolls.

I love his use of the word "they." He automatically assumes that more than one person will read this post!

William's Famous Garlic Toast
2 Tbsp cold salted butter
1 tsp pressed/minced/or frozen crushed garlic
a shake of salt
a small glug of olive oil
3 French dinner rolls (from Pavilions/Safeway/Vons) cut in half

Put the tsp of garlic and 2 Tbsp butter in a microwave safe ramekin or small bowl.

Heat them on high for 15-20 seconds, don't worry if the butter melts completely, you can set it up in the freezer if need be.

Remove it from the microwave, add a shake of salt, a quick swirl of olive oil, and mix it all up. If it's a bit loose put the ramekin in the freezer for 3-5 minutes until it firms up a tad.

Cut the rolls in half and spread the garlic butter on nice and thick.

Toast in a toaster oven buttered side up using the 'medium' toaster setting. Once that's done switch it to broil and let it broil for 2-3 minutes until they brown nicely on top.

These are best when served with Spaghetti and Meatballs, and it's not a true Lady and the Tramp Dinner, until you split a spaghetti noodle with a loved one.

Preferably done before eating the garlic toast!!!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Executing Dinner

No good could possibly come of this...

alt + f4

"When possible, make a U-Turn..."

This isn't even one of those "Do as I say, not as I do!!!" moments, because, in all honesty, it is a "Don't do as I say, or as I do (did!!!)"

To put this in perspective, if this were an episode of Top Chef, you would have broken free from that cocoon-like couch of yours and screamed at me, "What are you thinking Alvarado!!!!" as I fumbled and punted my way through this self-imposed quickfire challenge.

Disaster of epic proportions, steakicide, or palate cleansing, cannot even begin to describe this culinary catastrophe.

I would have been packing my knives even before Padma sashayed out and gave everyone their elimination challenge--cook a Tomahawk Steak over a Bunsen Burner using only an eyelash curler.

It all started with a phone call from my wife, Sara, and a seemingly innocuous sale at Fresh and Easy.

I should have known, I sent her there to grab zucchini and fresh tomatoes.

NY steaks were on sale, and they looked too good to pass up.

me: "NY steaks?"

Sara: "NY steaks!"

me: "Where's the zucchini?"

Now, it's not too late to quit right now. Switch to a more reputable blog like Chez Pim, Orangette, or SmittenKitchen.

SO there sat a value pack of NY Strip Steaks in the refrigerator. A ticking time bomb if you will.

Each day they sat there the sell by date just glaring at me each time I opened the refrigerator door. "Cook me, cook me, COOOOOooOOOoOOoOoOoOOOoooooooOOok me...."

Finally, I set a date to cook the steaks. Two days after the sell by date said I should, but we sometimes live dangerously here in Casa Alvarado.

I got home by 5pm and Sara would be home around 5:45/6 with the kids. I took a look in the pantry and somehow against all better judgment and wisdom (what little I have) I start on a quick marinade.

Not a dry or wet rub, but a marinade--stone cold sober, I made my go to quick marinade. A lean cut of meat IMHO should always be cooked with a flavorful rub at a high temp for a short amount of time. Where was my humble opinion then?

In go the steaks into my tamari marinade, where the marinade is going exactly is beyond me, seeing as these steaks had very little marbling on them, and I had to get those puppies on the grill by 5:25--the grill which has no gas...

*multiple loud expletives*

(Relax, relax, the kiddos were not home yet.)

So just to recap here what exactly went wrong here? a) Sara bought the steaks, b) they sat for 5 days in the fridge, c) I marinated them for all of 5 minutes, d) No reputable source of heat for these steaks, e) all of the above.

For those of you playing at home, e it is, and oh no, we are not even cooking yet!

Steaks in a marinade and no gas... I bust out my griddler, pop on the grill plates, and set it to sear. The green light comes on after 10 minutes and I supposedly am ready to sear. I put the steaks on and nada, nuffin', a big ol' goose egged zero. I take half of the steaks off and drop the top on to the steaks. Double the heat and half the time can't be a bad thing right? Well maybe if I had done a nice rub, but with some of that marinade still on the steaks, I essentially start to steam the sh!t of them.


I turn on the broiler and yank the rack out of my toaster oven thinking I might be able to save these poor souls.

I can't even begin to tell you how the side dishes were going. It's hard enough rehashing the steaks alone. Maybe I should have done just that at that point. Chop up 'em up and make hash.

Or lemonade?

So in go the the steaks under the broiler and there in just under 10 minutes, half turned to shoe leather on the outside, and remained raw in the center, and for the other half they were well done throughout.

I look up from the sizzling steaks turned gristle in time to see Sara pull up in the van and start to unload the kiddos.

A cold sweat pours over me--I have been caught in the act.

It's too late to hide the corpses and order Poquito Mas, but it's never too late to whip up some steak sauce to cover up the horrific and brutal murder that lies beneath.

Now why didn't I think of that?!?

I just spent the entire dinner apologizing for the steaks, and telling the boys that they couldn't have steak, because if they did, they would never want to eat it again.

"Forever daddy?" asks William.

"Forever-ever." I reply.

"Daddy?" William is formulating a phrase, perhaps an all absolving sentence as he so aptly and often does. This is a deep one too. The stress of it all will soon be over with one sweet utterance out of my older boy's mouth, and only from his.

Sara and Gavin are too busy chewing the F out of their "steaks" as he looks me sweetly in eyes. God, that just makes my day, y'know?

"What buddy?" I smile in kind.

"Maybe mommy should cook the frozen pizza tomorrow night for sleepover?" he shrugs.



Damn, he's smart.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Making scents of it all...

"The thing is... is that's what it smells like all the time. You can't smell it until there is moisture to carry the scent into your nose."

These are the thing my mom and I speak of when we start drinking tequila.

btw for all you Tucsonans out there, Blanco has Happy Hour from 4-6pm, and this is now on my list of positives for living in Burbank. Otherwise I would never make it home without having a blood orange margarita.

There is a smell that is somewhere between spraying water on dirt with a little bit of fresh cut grass thrown in here and there when it begins to rain in Tucson that is essentially akin to the Sonoran Desert making an "ahhh" sound after drinking a really nice beer after a really long day at work. Way different than Geoffrey Holder and a can o' 7-Up, but you're on the right track. The Sonoran Desert never seemed to have that deep of a voice, or laugh for that matter. Sigh yes, but laugh? No.

Then again, maybe 109 degrees in the shade is it's laughter?


Ain't nothing funny about driving around the mall for an hour just so you can park in the shade of a mesquite tree which provides about as much shade as a sundial, yet somehow manages to move faster than one.

Smells transport us. Bean curd and diesel fumes scream Bangkok to me, roofing tar makes me think of my Tata, and just before the rain hits in Tucson--that smell takes me home.

Speaking of transporting smells, I wandered into the Spice Station this past weekend and fell in love. I happened across a new chile pepper while grabbing some Indian spices for a work project, and I paired it with Durango Hickory Smoked Salt, Olive Oil, Fresh Garlic, and Rosemary to make a wet rub for some bone-in rib eyes to throw on the grill for Father's Day.

Urfa Biber, I love you, you raisiny, tiny kick o'heat, sweet thang you! I'm not gonna lie to you. I even put a little bit of bacon drippings into this rub. It was an amazing way to add flavor and fat to an already flavorful and well marbled cut of beef.

Extreme behavior?

I remember a time when I was eating a bunch of Tangelos and drinking whiskey, and I just kept missing my Grandpa so much... and then it finally dawned on me that I was missing him so much because I smelled like him. Sometimes I'll scratch a Minneola Tangelo at the grocery store just to say hi.

I put it right back on the pile when I am done. Maybe it's kinda like setting a place for Elijah, or is it just a cup?

Happy Father's Day Grandpa.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Rites of Passage

from June 2009

Stay with me on this one:

"Thou art the sum of my heart in the morning; thou art the dawn of truth in my soul, thou art the dew of the rose's adorning, thou art the woven whole. Thine is the grace to be steadfast in danger; thine is the peace that none can destroy; thine is the face of the need-driven stranger; thine are the wings of joy. Thou art the deep to the deep in me calling; thou art a lamp where my feet shall tread; thy way is steep, past the peril of falling, thou art my daily bread. Thine be the praise of my spirit uplifted; thou art the sea to each flowing stream; thine be the days that are gathered and sifted; thou art the deathless dream."

My faith is at the center of my being, and that being so, I am very protective of it. I hold my faith to be mine and mine alone, as no one has seen or done or experienced events exactly as I have in those exact same moments. Our faiths may intertwine, or they may run parallel to one another, always within in reach but never quite able to meet in the middle without derailing all of humanity.

My religion is an amazing one for me, as one of the tenants we hold dear as congregants is the free and responsible search for truth and meaning in each of our lives. "I" "teach" a class to a group of 8th graders each year that explores the big questions in life: Is there a god? What happens after you die? Why do bad things happen to good people? What do you believe in? I use quotation marks because really there are four of us, and mostly we ask questions and then listen. We are the ones being taught. We are the ones having our faiths challenged.

It's just that simple.

At the end of the year, the youth put together their own service in which they lead the worship and throughout the service they answer these questions alone in front of the entire congregation. Twice.

This year was flat out AMAZING. They quoted Max Ehrmann, Dr. Howard Thurman, Abraham Lincoln, Gloria Steinem, Melissa Etheridge, and most importantly their grandmothers.

My Grandmother Margaret baked the best cookies, made the most amazing homemade strawberry preserves, and put together possibly the most horrendous dish I have ever laid on taste buds: Italian Enchilada Casserole.

My other grandma was my "Nana" Dora, who had the same 8" yellow skillet of refried beans on the stove for her entire life. Every time I'd visit, she'd heat up the beans, adding another spoonful of Snow Cap Lard to the pan. How this pan managed to stay at the same level over the years and still taste like refried beans escapes me to this very day...  Magic.

Both of these great women passed down a love of food to me, and they're with me every time I cook at some point in the process.  They may have felt completely differently about actually cooking and I'm pretty sure they looked at it as yet another chore, but in my minds eye it was always done with love.  Whether it was my Nana burning a hot dog over her gas stove until it charred, or my Grandma looking quite surprised when I drenched everything with her red wine Good Seasonings Italian salad dressing, it was always done with love.

While I may not sit down to a burnt hot dog and lard fried pinto beans drenched in Good Seasonings Italian salad dressing tonight, or ever really.  I will think of the way my Nana measured salt by how it felt between her fingers, and how my Grandma would pull the raisins out her Post Raisin Bran Cereal if she needed to.

And she did.

What about yours?