Wednesday, November 28, 2007

beef vermicelli for the law student's soul

Wednesdays are, hands down, the worst day of my week. I have four badly-spaced classes on Wednesday, and I'm usually scrambling to finish an assignment for Legal Writing during the afternoon. On the Wednesdays when memo editing leaves me stressed and miserable, I like to go to the food court at Super 88 for lunch.

I'll grant that the average food court is nothing to write home about - even if I do have something of a soft spot for them - but the one in Super 88 is not your average food court.* Super 88 is an Asian supermarket, and its food court is filled with little places that prepare all sorts of Asian cuisine. The Vietnamese place, Pho Viet, is one of my favorites.

The food at Pho Viet's is delicious, and the prices are kind to a student budget. As long as there's no seafood involved, appetizers cost around three dollars, and entrees about seven. I find that if I order one of each, I can get a second meal out of the leftovers. (That's one more meal I don't have to worry about, leaving more time to study for exams blog about food do other stuff.)

I had beef vermicelli for lunch today - warm glass noodles topped with grilled beef in lemongrass marinade, ground peanuts and green onions, and accompanied by a salad of fresh bean sprouts, cucumber, carrot, and mint. Fish sauce and chili paste are served on the side, and you season everything to taste.

I like to mix the salad right in with the vermicelli - the crunch of the carrots contrasts nicely with the softness of the noodles, and the lemongrass in the beef marinade echoes the grassy flavor of the bean sprouts. It was exactly what I needed after a morning of Contracts and Civil Procedure.

Beef vermicelli is served hot, but the leftovers are just as good cold, so I ate them for dinner along with a side order of pork spring rolls. The spring rolls taste good cold, too: somehow, their crispness becomes an agreeable softness without turning soggy. Full and satisfied, I went off to my writing class in a mood that could almost be described as good.

Wednesdays may still be awful, but food from Pho Viet's goes a long way towards making them bearable.

*I was a mall rat in my teen years. I plead boarding school. There was nothing else to do on Saturday evenings.

Monday, November 26, 2007

thankful for mashed potato sandwiches

I am ambivalent about most American holidays. I suspect you have to spend your childhood in America to fully appreciate Halloween, just as I suspect you have to be truly American to fully appreciate the Fourth of July. Thanksgiving, however, is a holiday I can fully embrace. Sure, I'm a little fuzzy on the details about what it's supposed to celebrate (pilgrims?), but what glutton doesn't love an excuse to feast?

I love being an international student when Thanksgiving comes around. I get invitations to Thanksgiving dinner from friends, classmates, and even professors. I get to participate in a different Thanksgiving every year, and no two are ever the same.

This year I spent Thanksgiving in Vermont with Bella. The Thanksgiving spread was traditional New England, right down to Bella's mother's homemade pickles. With the exception of frozen green peas, the same meal could have been served a hundred years ago. Dinner was excellent. So were the leftovers.

I'm convinced that Thanksgiving dinner exists largely as an excuse to have leftovers.* It's quite possible that I love Thanksgiving leftovers more than the dinner itself. (Granted, this might just be because I've never had to come up with new and creative ways to use up twelve pounds of leftover turkey breast.) Leftovers mean doorstop sandwiches. Messy, drippy, turkey-mashed potato-gravy sandwiches, to be precise. Turkey optional.

My favorite dish at Thanksgiving is mashed potatoes and gravy. And I love starch-on-starch sandwiches, so it makes perfect sense to combine the two.** I know most people give me odd looks when I mention mashed potato-and-gravy sandwiches, but it works beautifully: buttery potatoes, salty gravy, and a nice, dense bread - preferably rosemary- to provide chew. A slice of turkey gives added texture, but it's not essential.

Mashed potato-and-gravy sandwiches taste best at midnight. They're messy enough that they should probably be eaten with a knife and fork, which is exactly why they taste better when you use your fingers. (Just make sure you have lots of paper towels handy.) I might give the turkey a pass, but I'm thankful for mashed potato sandwiches.

* I know there are food writers out there who have written about leftovers, and done so far more cleverly or eloquently than I ever will. I know I read one article on the subject in the Sydney Morning Herald's Good Weekend magazine, sometime between 1996 and 2000. It mentioned bubble and squeak, and pain perdu, and some sort of shrimp fried rice. I believe the accompanying recipe was for some sort of fried rice too, but I could be wrong. On the off chance that there's someone from Sydney reading this blog... does anyone remember the name of this article?

**I brought potato chip and mashed banana sandwiches to school regularly as a kid. (Don't knock it until you've tried it. They're salty and sweet and the potato chips provide a pleasant crunch.) The chip butty is a thing of glory. And you have no idea how delighted I was when I went to Paris and discovered that a sandwich grec often comes with the frites in it, rather than on the side.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I'm not dead yet!

Went to Bella's for Thanksgiving, had no internet. Will be back to write about mashed potato sandwiches tomorrow.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

from dim sum to diner, or how I ate too much today

Oof.

There are reasons why going to dim sum, baking scones, and hitting a classic diner, all in the same day, might not be considered a smart idea. I'm sure the reason "That leaves very little time to do the Contracts assignment you weren't really absorbing on Friday" is one of them. But the only reason that really matters is my quietly protesting stomach: I could probably rival a Thanksgiving turkey in stuffed-ness right now.

So how did I get to this state? Well, it starts with Wing. A lot of things start with Wing, because he's one of those characters who comes up with mad ideas and then convinces people to go along with them.* Two weeks ago, he announced that he would be in town this weekend. Plans were promptly made for a dim sum lunch in Chinatown.

Dim sum are Cantonese, and Wing is originally from Hong Kong, which means he's right at home in a dim sum restaurant. My parents are from Beijing, so technically, it's not part of my "home" cuisine. However, my parents are skilled in the art of eating other people's cooking, and dim sum are one of those things they latched on to with great enthusiasm.**

When I was young, my family would go out to dim sum every Saturday for lunch. The restaurant would always be loud, chaotic, and crowded. (A quiet dim sum restaurant is either an oxymoron or a mob front.) The scene at China Pearl this morning was familiar, to say the least.

We were a party of eight - Wing, Matt, Tom (the photographer of the previous entry), myself, and four other friends whose names I won't mention because I don't yet have permission to blog about them. Of these eight, Matt and Tom had never had a real dim sum experience before, so Wing and I took it upon ourselves to educate them. Of course, Wing did most of the actual ordering. I recognise most dim sum by sight, but I only ever learned some of their names, and in a mixture of Mandarin and Cantonese, no less.

We started out slowly, with the dishes that go over well with just about everyone: shrimp dumplings (ha gau), pork dumplings (siu mai), and roast pork buns (cha siu bao.) Shrimp dumplings are one of my personal favorites (something about those chewy rice skins), but most of the party professed a love for the roast pork buns. I admit, China Pearl does do them well: the buns were full and fluffy, and the filling had generous chunks of roast pork in a glossy, sticky sauce.

Matt and Tom were keeping up without a problem, so we proceeded to the next round of dishes: various types of rice noodle rolls (cheong fan), and sticky rice and chicken in lotus leaf (lo mai gai). I thought the sticky rice was particularly good, but then again, I'm somewhat biased because it's another of my favorites.

Next up: steamed meatballs (ngau yuk gau), stuffed tofu, stuffed green bell peppers, and turnip cake (lo bak gao). I was a little disappointed with the turnip cake - the squares were pan-fried to a golden crispy finish on the outside, but a little too mealy within. However, Tom particularly liked the steamed meatballs, so I considered that round a success.

We hadn't lost anyone yet, so we presented the final challenge: chicken feet and steamed tripe. Both Matt and Tom gamely tried the former, but we had to do a little prodding where the latter was involved. Matt was initially wary because he'd experienced French-style tripe (strong odor and flavor), but cheerfully joined us in egging Tom on once he discovered that the steamed tripe was quite a different dish (remarkably mild).

Tom was wary because, well, tripe is cow's stomach, and the idea created something of a mental block in his head. When he finally tried it, his reaction was mixed: taste fine, texture bad. "It's like chewing on a ginger-flavored rubber mat," he remarked. I wasn't too upset - I love tripe, and no-one else at the table was a big fan, so I had most of the dish to myself.

We finished the meal with silky tofu in syrup, and mango pudding. (We tried to get egg tarts, but every time the pastry cart came by, they were out.) The tofu wasn't bad, but the mango pudding looked and tasted like insipid Jell-O. I suspect it may have been bought ready-made, rather than prepared in-house, which was a little disappointing. Still, it was a good meal overall, and both Matt and Tom professed to enjoying themselves. Wing and I were pleased.

Late afternoon found us back at Matt and Nathaniel's, which is where I made another batch of not-scones, and we ate more than half of them as a teatime snack.

The first tentative noises about dinner plans came around seven in the evening. Somehow, in the time between dim sum and not-scones, Tom had managed to develop a craving for cheeseburgers, so we debated the merits of various pubs and burger joints before finally settling on the Deluxe Town Diner.

Wing, Matt, and Tom all ordered burgers, but I couldn't face the thought of red meat, and opted for a Cobb salad instead. Note that a Cobb salad is still not an example of dietary restraint: it contains chicken, bacon, avocado, hard-boiled egg, and blue cheese in addition to red onions, black olives, cherry tomatoes, and mixed greens. At the Deluxe Town Diner, it comes in a bowl almost large enough to serve as a bath for a small infant. It was also far tastier than any salad served in an establishment billing itself as a diner had a right to be (no iceberg lettuce or mealy tomato wedge in sight), and of course I polished off the entire thing. It's a wonder I didn't have to be carried out to the car on a stretcher.

So if anyone needs me, I'll be curled up on the sofa with a cup of peppermint tea and and my Contracts book, digesting away. I still have to make sense of that reading assignment.

*Ideas like beer-battered, deep-fried bacon. Which I'm not writing about unless I get at least three comments from the morbidly curious. You can find more of Wing's mad ideas at his blog.

**My mother, as I've mentioned, doesn't like to cook. Our usual Sunday lunch is "Kitchen Sink Soup," a concoction made by boiling noodles with a week's worth of leftovers. (Not only does it contain everything but the kitchen sink, it also looks a lot like the gunk left in the sinktrap after you've done the washing up.)

in search of the perfect scone

If at first you don't succeed, don't take up skydiving go back to the drawing board and try again. The last of yesterday's not-scones were polished off this morning, so I decided a second attempt was in order this afternoon.


If you haven't already guessed from my haphazard approach to measurements, I'm more of a cook than a baker. I'm perfectly capable of following a recipe to the letter, but prefer it when I don't have to. When I bake, "mad scientist experiment" is the description that comes to mind.

I tried to strike a compromise between the biscuit recipe and my standard scone recipe yesterday. Today I made the scones almost exactly the way I usually would, but used the biscuit technique. The results were better, though the name is still awkward.

Closer-But-Still-Not-Quite Scones

(Based on a biscuit recipe from Orangette. Makes about 15 scones. They go stale quickly, so you'll want to have other people around to eat them.)

Preheat the oven to 450F. Oil a cake tin. Get out a large mixing bowl.

Dump three cups of self-raising flour and a quarter-teaspoon of salt into the mixing bowl. Take half a stick of chilled butter and cut it into small pieces. Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Mix in one cup of currants or raisins.

Measure out two cups of whole milk plain yogurt (I recommend Stonyfield Farms) and stir in half a cup of milk. Crack in one egg. Add this to the dry ingredients, and stir until the mixture comes together in a very wet, very sticky dough.

Dump a cup of plain flour into another bowl. Use a quarter-cup measure or an ice-cream scoop to portion out lumps of the dough; dust them in flour, and pack them into the cake tin. Brush the tops with milk. Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes. Serve warm with butter and jam.

(Photo credit goes to Tom, a friend who's in town for the weekend. Tom is a Fine Arts major with an interest in photojournalism. He is capable of operating a digital camera. You can see more of his work here.)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

almost, but not entirely, unlike scones

The scone is a poor, confused baked good with an identity crisis. It doesn't recognise itself when it crosses the Atlantic. There are scones ("sk-ohwns"), and then there are scones ("sk-ons"). Americans eat the former. The inhabitants of the British Isles (and other formerly British countries) eat the latter.

"Sk-ohwns" are sweet, sold at Starbucks, taste like muffins with a crumbly texture, and sometimes come slathered in frosting. "Sk-ons" are not sweet, are not sold at Starbucks, and bear more of a resemblance to biscuits than anything else in American cuisine. In a traditional Devonshire tea, they're served with jam and clotted cream. When I talk about scones, I mean "sk-ons."

The best scones I have ever eaten may be found at the Vaucluse House Tearooms in Sydney. They're light, tender, and perfect with a nice cup of tea on a chilly afternoon. Unfortunately, Sydney is a long way from New England, and so when I want scones, I have to bake them myself.

I spent a good part of my senior year in college attempting to perfect a recipe for scones. I lived in a co-op with twenty other students, so I had plenty of guinea pigs. Every Saturday, I'd get out a giant mixing bowl and whip up a double batch. They would disappear within an hour. Unfortunately, this is not so much positive proof of my baking skills as it is a reflection of the average college student's appetite. Some of my attempts turned out fairly well, but the scones were still far from perfect.

It was cold and blustery this afternoon, which made the idea of teatime very appealing. So I got out a mixing bowl, and tried to tinker with the recipe again. This time, I'm afraid I went too far.

I saw a recipe on Orangette a few days ago that promised light, tender biscuits. I thought I'd apply the technique to scones - after all, they bear a passing resemblance to each other. You can see where this is headed. I ended up with a pan of light, tender, fluffy biscuits. They were almost, but not entirely, unlike scones.

Unauthentic Biscuits That Are Also Not Scones

(Makes about 15 biscuits. They go stale quickly, so make them only if you have other people around to eat them.)

Preheat the oven to 475F. Oil a cake tin. Get out a large mixing bowl.

Dump three cups of self-raising flour and a half-teaspoon of salt into the mixing bowl. Take three-quarters of a stick of chilled butter and cut it into small pieces. Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Measure out two cups of whole milk plain yogurt (I recommend Stonyfield Farms) and stir in half a cup of milk. Add this to the dry ingredients, and stir until the mixture comes together in a very wet, very sticky dough.

Dump a cup of plain flour into another bowl. Use a quarter-cup measure or an ice-cream scoop to portion out lumps of the dough; dust them in flour, and pack them into the cake tin. Brush the tops with milk. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Whatever you call them, they're not bad with jam.

I like to cook with alcohol. sometimes I even add it to the food.

I'm back. I've been absent because my latest research memo swallowed my life. Now it's done, the weekend lies ahead, and I'm free to write about vodka. Penne alla vodka, to be precise.

I have been informed that in order to make my blog more interesting, I should offer details about my personal life. You may consider the following my idea of offering details about my personal life:

I was introduced to penne alla vodka by Jake. Jake is my ex from freshman year of college. He helped me become the monster serious foodie I am today.

This blog is partially Jake's fault, because not only did he understand the appeal of a culinary career, he encouraged my interest in it. The elder son of a food writer and a book editor, Jake considered enrolling in the culinary program at Johnson & Wales himself. He's now in New York, studying forensic psychology. His blog is The Daily Jimmy. It's not a food blog, but he occasionally posts about cooking and restaurants.*

Penne alla vodka was one of the first dishes Jake prepared for me. It's quite a simple dish - pasta with a tomato-cream sauce, livened up with vodka and red chili flakes - but it tastes far fancier than its preparation would suggest. Prepare it for yourself as a weekend indulgence, or make it part of a dinner party menu and impress your guests.

Penne alla Vodka

The original recipe does have measurements, but the original recipe is in a cookbook Jake still owes me, so you'll have to bear with my usual haphazard approach. You can use vodka you wouldn't really want to drink - Poland Springs comes to mind - but do make sure you have good pasta, Italian canned tomatoes, and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

(Serves four as a main course, six as a starter, and one for three days straight.)

Set a large pot of salted water on to boil. Meanwhile, melt about half a stick of butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan on low heat. Add a good dash of red chili flakes and a generous splash of vodka. Make sure you're not sticking your head over the pan while you do this, as the fumes will be eyewateringly awful.

Open a 28-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes. Drain off most of the liquid, and dice the tomatoes roughly. Check the pan. The worst of the fumes from the butter-vodka mixture should have dissipated. Add the tomatoes and a sprinkling of salt. Stir. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook until the tomatoes soften. Check for taste. It should be slightly too spicy. You're going to add cream, which will mellow the flavor.

By now, that pot of salted water should have hit a rolling boil. Throw in a pound of penne. Rigatoni will also work if you assumed you had penne when you actually didn't. (Please don't use macaroni unless the only other alternative involves bashing up sheets of lasagne.)

Get out a carton of heavy cream and pour enough into the sauce to turn it pink. Stir, check for taste, and turn down the heat. Get out the grater and a hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano, and grate a heaping pile of it.

When the penne is cooked, turn off the heat, drain off the water, and return the pasta to the pot. Add the sauce, and stir until the pasta is well-coated. Sprinkle generously with the cheese and stir again. Serve the pasta. You can add more cheese to taste at the table.

Note: I like to add torn fresh basil leaves to this pasta, but then again, I like fresh basil in just about everything.

*Jake is attempting to make money off his blog, so he'd really appreciate it if you visit and click on his Google Ads. Of course, this shameless plug works both ways: Jake, if I don't get my cookbook by the time you and Michelle tie the knot this summer, I'm holding your wedding gift hostage.

Monday, November 12, 2007

how to feed fifty kosher vegetarian celiacs on a budget

So they weren't all vegetarian, and none of them were celiacs, but I did spend a lot of time cooking kosher food for large groups of people on a budget in college. It's something of a long story, so I think I'll save the full explanation for when I recount the time I tried to make ravioli for fifty (almost) single-handedly.

When you're trying to plan a menu and juggling multiple dietary restrictions, single recipes that do double duty are worth their weight in gold. Not only is this recipe kosher, vegan, gluten-free, and easily made in large quantities, it's also cheap, nutritious, reheats well, and freezes without protest. You can think of it as a different spin on chili.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Stew

I think this originally came from epicurious.com. I've scaled this recipe down so that you'll get two or three meals out of it, but you can make a big batch and have ready-made meals for weeks if you have the freezer space to spare.

(Serves one, with leftovers.)

As far as produce goes, you'll need two sweet potatoes, three cloves of garlic, a hunk of fresh ginger, one white onion and a red bell pepper (on a sesame seed bun.) You'll also need a can of black beans, and remember to pick up a carton of orange juice if you're like me and don't have any in the fridge because you never drink it. Do a spice cabinet check: cumin, chili powder, and cayenne if you like heat.

Peel and dice the sweet potatoes, onion, and bell pepper. Mince the garlic and grate the ginger. Heat vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed pot and sauté the onion. Season with salt. Add the garlic and ginger. Stir. Season with a generous sprinkling of cumin, chili powder, and cayenne if you're using it. I do mean generous. You should be saying "Oh, crap. I think I overdid it." (If you season too timidly, you'll have bland stew, and you can't make up for it by adding extra spice later, because spices need dry heat to release their aromas. )

When the onions start to smell really good, add the bell pepper, and keep stirring. Once the bell pepper has softened, open the can of black beans and dump them in. You can rinse them first if you like, but I find that the stew thickens up more quickly if you don't. Keep stirring.

Add the sweet potatoes, and pour in enough orange juice, or orange juice and water (I'll let you decide which you prefer) to cover everything. Stir the mixture again. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until your sweet potatoes are tender and the beans have started to break down, about forty minutes or so. Check for seasoning; salt to taste. I like this best served over fried or soft polenta, but rice works too.

Note: You can use ground ginger in place of fresh if you're short on time. On the other hand, if you have time to spare, it's worth the trouble to zest some orange rind to toss in with the garlic. It really brightens up the flavor of the sweet potatoes, and you can snack on orange segments while you're waiting for the stew to cook.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

warm, stewy things for those short on time

It's November, and the days have turned from being pleasantly brisk to bitterly cold. I've decided that autumn in New England has claws, and they come out right around the time when it starts getting dark at four in the afternoon. This is the time of year when I start wishing I could hibernate. Unfortunately, I haven't yet worked out the details, and so I do my best to console myself with warm, stewy things instead.

As much as I love slow-braised meat, or bean stews that cook for hours on the stove at a bare simmer, I don't always have the time or patience to wait that long for dinner. My favorite quick stews are tomato-based, with eggs added for protein.

During the semester I spent in Rome, I monitored in the photo lab and would often be one of the last students in the building when security came to lock up for the night.* I'd arrive home with my stomach growling, so exhausted I could barely think straight, and head straight for the kitchen. I'd make "poached eggs puttanesca" - canned Roma tomatoes stewed with garlic, anchovies, olives, and capers, and an egg or two cracked in and cooked until barely set - and eat it with grissini, because I'd inevitably be out of bread on those nights.

The following recipe is the same idea, but better. Chachouka (also shakshouka; it has multiple variant spellings) is a spicy mess of onions, peppers and tomatoes with whole eggs cooked in it at the very end. It's found all over Northern Africa, but particularly common in Tunisia and Morocco. The onions, peppers and tomatoes are the essentials, but spicing varies dramatically depending on the region.

Chachouka

Though you can make an attempt at authenticity and serve it over couscous with grilled merguez on the side, if you're like me, it'll be something you'll cook when you haven't had time to go grocery shopping and you're down to the very last odds and ends in your crisper drawer.

(Serves one, with possible leftovers)

First, do an ingredient check. Assuming you have eggs, at the very least, you'll also need a can of whole or diced tomatoes, two or three cloves of garlic, an onion that hasn't sprouted, and those slightly wrinkly red or green bell peppers that have been languishing in the crisper drawer for a very long time. If you don't hit all the points on the list, consider making an omelette instead.

If you have everything, proceed to the chopping stage. Dice the onion, mince the garlic, and cut your bell peppers into strips. Dice the tomatoes too, if they're whole. Heat olive oil in a a shallow, heavy-bottomed pan, and sauté the onion and garlic. When the onions are soft, add the bell peppers.

Now it's time to raid your spice cabinet. Red chili flakes add kick, paprika adds sweetness, and cumin or turmeric will add interesting depth. Use your judgement; season to taste.

When the vegetables have been seasoned and start to smell good, add your tomatoes and turn up the heat. Stir. Keep stirring. Once the tomatoes have cooked down a little, turn the heat down to a simmer. Crack your egg(s) into the stew (I recommend doing only as many as you'll want to eat in one sitting - add fresh ones if you have leftover stew), and put a lid on the pan. Cook for just a few minutes, until the white is set but the yolk is still soft. Serve with leftover rice, slightly stale bread, or any other starch you may have on hand. (No saltines unless you're truly desperate, please.)

You can eat this straight out of the pan. I promise I won't tell.

*I majored in Fine Arts with a primary concentration in art history and a secondary concentration in black-and-white film photography. This is why it's such a joke that I can't operate a digital camera. I still maintain that they're two completely different beasts.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

food to warm cold fingers: an excursion to the north end

This story begins with a pair of gloves.

I owned the same pair of black leather gloves for seven years. They were warm, they were comfortable, and the leather had reached that perfect stage of broken-in-but-not-yet-worn-out. And then they vanished sometime towards the end of winter last year. Their disappearance peeved me deeply, but the rest of the winter was mild, so I didn't replace them.

And then I forgot about not replacing them. Which was how I ended up wearing the fingerless gloves I made for a costume party (thrift store gloves with the fingers cut off) out on another excursion with Bella this morning - this time to the North End.

Though Bella had an easy time of luring me out into the cold - the magic words were, I believe, "fresh cannoli" - she had her work cut out trying to keep me there. As much as I wanted to watch butchers make hand-ground sausage and read the menus posted in the window of every single restaurant we passed, I just couldn't concentrate. By the time we reached Bova's Bakery, a favorite of Bella's, my stomach was barely a blip on my radar. Thawing out my fingers had become a far more pressing concern.

Bova's is a large bakery, and its glass cases are filled with all sorts of pastries and cookies, but nothing really jumped out at me until I glanced in the back, and saw one of the bakers arranging calzones fresh from the oven. Both my fingers and my stomach rejoiced: I could have an early lunch, and it would keep my hands warm, too.

The calzones at Bova's are enormous. The dough is wrapped in such a way that the fillings peek out temptingly: ham and spinach, meatballs in red sauce, breaded chicken and broccoli, and various others. I didn't want anything too heavy (I had to leave room for cannoli), so I decided on a calzone stuffed with asparagus spears, mozzarella, and just a thin slice of prosciutto. It came in a neat wrapping of greaseproof paper, accompanied by a small mountain of napkins.

Calzone firmly clutched in both hands, I followed Bella (she'd had a late breakfast, so she passed on the calzones) back out into the cold. With my fingers no longer a pressing concern, I turned my attention to my stomach. The calzone dough had a light, crusty exterior and an agreeably chewy interior. The asparagus spears in the filling were soft but not soggy, and their faintly sweet flavor contrasted nicely with the salt of the mozzarella and prosciutto.

Did I mention that the calzone was enormous? We took our time wandering over to the Modern Pastry Shop, and Bella still ended up having to wait as I finished up the last few bites. At least staring at the display in the window gave her a chance to anticipate pleasures to come: there were trays piled high with cannoli shells, sfogliatelle, and other delectable confections.

When we entered the shop, Bella spent some time peering into the case before deciding on a bar of torrone, an exquisitely sticky nougat made with egg white, sugar, and almonds. Though I did take a look, just to see what they had, I already had my mind made up. I wanted a cannoli, and a cannoli was exactly what I got.*

Once again, we headed out into the cold, and while Bella nibbled at her torrone, I bit into the cannoli and tried not to get powdered sugar all down my front. (I succeeded. Mostly.) The shell, crisp and flaky, gave way to a creamy, faintly lemony filling. It was rich without being too sweet - any sweetness came almost entirely from the powdered sugar - and just the right size.

Bella insisted that we make a stop at one more bakery, just to see it, before we called it a morning. Maria's has an enormous selection of traditional southern Italian cookies, and they make gorgeous marzipan fruits, too. I decided I'd had enough sugar for one day, but Bella ended up buying a small box of mixed cookies to snack on later.

And then we headed out once more into the cold. Macys-ward. I needed gloves.

*Yes, the singular is cannolo, if you're being a stickler for Italian grammar. But it's like ordering a croissant at Au Bon Pain by asking for a "qwa-son," when everyone in the store calls them "cross-onts."

Friday, November 9, 2007

dinner with Bill, and a chicken dish for those who don't like white meat

You've met Matt. Now meet his brother, Bill.

Bill is one of the few people I know who can out-talk me on the subject of food, though that might just be because he's been at it for longer. Bill is an enthusiastic amateur chef who loves to eat. He does a glorious spicy fried catfish with shrimp hollandaise, and a Caesar salad that is better than sex.* The first time I ever met Bill, we discussed the finer points of baking meringues. He didn't recognise me the next time I met him - but he did remember the conversation about meringues.

At dinner with Bill last night, the conversation followed a meandering route, beginning at ways to prepare Thanksgiving turkey, wandering through Jeffrey Steingarten's essay on the perfect bread, detouring at the wines of Bordeaux, passing through the impossibility of obtaining fresh garden peas in Boston, and finishing up somewhere around the best way to prepare lamb sweetbreads. Matt was in charge of the menu: pasta with fresh basil pesto, and - despite my initial misgivings - a dish made with boneless, skinless chicken breast.

As a rule, boneless, skinless chicken breast is not my idea of good eating. It's dry, it's bland, it's, well, unappetizing. My personal hierarchy of chicken cuts is something like the following: thighs > drumsticks > wings > breast. Dark meat is better than white, and meat on the bone is preferable to meat off the bone. Boneless, skinless chicken breast is usually something I'll eat only if the alternative is, say, tofu casserole.**

But take a boneless, skinless chicken breast, pound it translucent, sear over very high heat, and serve it with a lemon-caper sauce, and you suddenly have my full and undivided attention. The result is called chicken piccata, and it is wonderfully succulent and flavorful.

Chicken Piccata

Cheap white wine is fine for the sauce, but use fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and don't skimp on the quality of the chicken or the capers. Fussy imported French or Italian capers in white vinegar work best.

(Serves one, with leftover sauce that goes nicely on pasta with a grating of fresh parmesan.)

Take your fresh boneless, skinless chicken breast and butterfly it completely, so that you have two separate pieces of chicken. Pound out the chicken between sheets of clingwrap or greaseproof paper, whichever you have on hand. You want the pieces thin and lovely and translucent.

If you'd like your chicken with added crunch, sprinkle it with flour or fine cornmeal (both sides) and shake off the excess. Heat a small quantity of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan until barely smoking and put the chicken in. Sprinkle with salt. Cook the pieces until they start going white around the edges, then turn them over. The chicken should be an appealing shade of golden brown. Move the pieces to a plate; cover and keep warm.

Turn down the heat on the pan, and add a tablespoon of butter. (For a thicker sauce, add half a teaspoon of flour, and whisk it with the butter until smooth.) Add a splash of white wine and the juice from two lemons. Stir. Bring to a simmer, and reduce until you can no longer smell alcohol fumes when you stick your head over the pan. Add a few teaspoons of capers with their juice (exact number determined by how much you like capers), and simmer for a few minutes longer. Salt to taste.

Serve the chicken with the sauce spooned over, and a dusting of finely chopped parsley if you feel like being fancy. Spaghettini or polenta is a good accompaniment.

*Should you wish to try a Caesar salad that is better than sex, and you haven't made the personal acquaintance of Bill, you might consider an excursion to Frankie and Johnny's in Cape Neddick, Maine.

**Tofu is good, tofu is great, tofu is not a direct substitute for meat. It doesn't belong in casserole any more than cheese curds do in stir-fry.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

a recipe with a story to tell

There are two kinds of recipes in the world: those that exist to be prepared, and those that exist largely for the pleasure that comes from reading them. One is instructive, and promises that if you do as it tells you, you'll have chicken stew or chocolate torte on the table when you're done. The other makes no promises whatsoever, but does so in a way that tells you a story.

And oh, what a story it is.

The single greatest example of a storytelling recipe is Thompson's Turkey, the legendary mad creation of journalist Mort Thompson. Thompson's Turkey has been written about by everyone from Craig Claibourne to Jeffrey Steingarten. The authors of Hungry in Hogtown have an entry about their experience trying to prepare it. Depending on who you ask, Thompson's Turkey is either a work of culinary genius, or the product of a sadistic mind.

It begins with the instruction to obtain an enormous bird - "one that looks as though it gave the farmer a hard time when he did it in" - and then, to steal an expression from Julie Powell, it continues with an ingredient list longer than most divorce settlements.* Merely assembling everything you need for the stuffing probably takes longer than the cooking time for a normal roast turkey. However you look at it, this is not a recipe attempted by the sane.

Then again, a lot of recipes aren't written for those of sound mind. Therein lies the true genius of Thompson's Turkey. You can't take its hyperbole seriously, and yet you can't quite dismiss it - a turkey tender enough to fall apart when spoken to harshly, and juicy enough to gush waterfalls of liquid when pierced with a fork? It's an incredibly seductive notion.

At some point, while reading the litany of instructions for chopping and mixing and stuffing and basting the monster bird from hell, you will realise that this elaborate preparation is an utterly absurd endeavor. And yet it is this very absurdity that makes it so tempting. Preparing a Thompson's Turkey isn't just cooking - it's an adventure.

Thompson's Turkey is more than just a recipe that sends cooks out on expeditions for water chestnuts and Coleman's mustard and leaves them in tears (pun intended) while trying to figure out how to extract the juice from an onion. At its heart, Thompson's Turkey is a very funny commentary on the reasons why we cook.

*Author of Julie and Julia, but the expression is stolen from her essay, "A Menu Marathon." You can find it in Best Food Writing 2004.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

solomangarephobia

Karyn over at hotpotato wrote a thought-provoking post about cooking for one, and it made me wonder how much of the "feast when partnered, famine when single" phenomenon is just an extension of the fear of dining alone.

The fear of dining alone is apparently known as solomangarephobia, and Adam Roberts (The Amateur Gourmet) expresses it best: "For many, the fear of dining alone is the same fear that causes them to marry the wrong person, to maintain destructive friendships, and to participate in group suicide." If the fear of dining alone is bad, however, the fear of dining out alone is far, far worse.

Dining out alone is not looked at as a choice, but an absolute last resort. There is an entire body of literature (I checked) on dining out alone that offers tips and coping strategies and possibly hotlines for emergency counseling services. I wouldn't be surprised if someone starts a service in NYC - because such things always begin in NYC - that matches up strangers for meals just so that they won't have to sit at tables all by their solitary selves.

Oh, wait. That's online dating. Never mind.

I can only conclude from my research that I must be part of a tiny minority, because I enjoy dining out alone. I went out for lunch at Zaftig's Deli yesterday. I sat in an alcove by the window - just me and my plate of meatloaf and mashed potatoes - and had a quiet, peaceful meal.*

I grew up in a household where shouting matches were frequent, and there was no ceasefire during meals. Arguments were begun, continued, and concluded at the table. Meals were a time to refuel, not family time. We ate together simply because it was the most efficient way of doing things. When we dined out, my parents refrained from arguing, but the dynamics at the table were still strained. Sometimes, the only advantage of dining out over eating at home was the improvement in the food.

I find dining out alone to be a selfish act of the best kind. I choose the place, and I order exactly what I please. I can order dessert if I want it. (My mother doesn't approve of dessert.) And I can luxuriate in the silence. There will be no arguments if I'm dining out alone.

Some people see dining out alone as the embodiment of their greatest fears. For me, it might be one of the greatest freedoms I have.

*Good, but nothing to write home about. I think I'll try the beef tongue sandwich next time, and see how it compares with the one at Rubin's.

Monday, November 5, 2007

"Gunpowder treason? Maybe it's something you eat, like treacle toffee."

It's Guy Fawkes Day. I've never lived in Britain, but I grew up reading British children's literature, so I'm no stranger to the holiday. In fact, there's a story about Guy Fawkes Day in one of my favorite series, the Sam Pig collection by Allison Utterly.

Sam Pig lives in a cottage in the woods with his brothers and sisters and their guardian, Brock the Badger. The stories read like The Wind in the Willows with more whimsy. They were great reading for a young glutton (most British children's books are, curiously enough) because the characters are always eating the most exotic and delectable-sounding things.*

In the story about Guy Fawkes Day (it's in the book "Sam Pig and Sally," if anyone's curious), Sam Pig and his family build a bonfire, set off fireworks, and make treacle toffee. I have a fascination for burnt sugar in all its forms, and I always thought that treacle toffee must be particularly sticky and delicious.

I think it's something about the alliteration and the e's. Go ahead, try saying it. "Treacle toffee." It even sounds sticky.

I briefly considered making treacle toffee, but it appears that getting hold of treacle on short notice might be difficult in this country. The food dictionary informs me that treacle is a by-product of the sugar refining process, the sibling of golden syrup (used in golden syrup dumplings and Anzac biscuits, both much-loved favorites of Australian cuisine) and a cousin to molasses. Though a quick search on Google tells me that indeed, molasses may be substituted if treacle is not available, "molasses toffee" just doesn't have the same ring.

Treacle toffee might be better left to my imagination. I think that as far as Guy Fawkes celebrations go, I'll just re-read my Sam Pig books instead.

*I am not alone in this opinion. See this post at A Finger in Every Pie.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

of basil and lemon and pomegranates, and artichokes and queens

Though I wrote about buying produce and discovering incredible falafel at Haymarket, it occurs to me that I haven't mentioned what we cooked last night. So. Here's a question: what do you get when you leave the Basil Queen and the Popcorn Ball Princess in a kitchen with ten artichokes, eight lemons, two pomegranates, and a bushel of basil?

A. Really sour artichoke stew.
B. A regrettable attempt at trendy salad.
C. Artichoke-lemon-pomegranate-basil pesto.
D. None of the above.

The answer, fortunately, is D. We're not that crazy. We made steamed artichokes with sharp lemon hollandaise, angel hair pasta dressed with basil-almond pesto, and basil puree to freeze for the winter. The pomegranates we saved to eat plain. We were joined in our feasting by Matt, who contributed a nice Australian chardonnay to the repast.*

(Sorry, no photos. I forgot to ask Matt to bring his camera, and Bella has lost hers.)

Strictly speaking, it is not prime artichoke season. Artichokes are at their best during the beginning of spring. They are harvested in mid-autumn, however, and when you love artichokes as much as I do, you won't think twice about what you're having for dinner when you see a stall selling five for $2. The only question will be whether or not you have a pot large enough to steam ten of them at once.

I find that artichokes make for fantastic snacking - I lived in a co-op during my senior year of college, and when I wrote my honors thesis, I'd often kick off an all-nighter by getting out the steamer basket. I usually eat them plain, but I know most people like them with sauce.

If you're going to go to the trouble of making sauce for your artichokes, you might as well go the whole hog and make hollandaise. Classic hollandaise is delicate and creamy with a slight lemony flavor - and this is what you want if you're making eggs Benedict or poached sole - but for artichokes, I like something sharper.

Really Sharp Non-Classic Lemon Hollandaise

I learned to make lemon curd before I learned to make hollandaise sauce, and I tend to think of it as being a bit like lemon curd without the sugar. This is modelled directly on a lemon curd recipe from Gourmet, and effectively flips the flavor profile of classic hollandaise. Instead of "buttery, with a tang," it's "zing, tempered by butter."

(Not a recipe for one. It doesn't reheat very well. This probably makes enough for fourteen or sixteen artichokes.)

Juice enough fresh lemons to produce one third of a cup of lemon juice. Top off with enough tarragon white wine vinegar to make a half cup of liquid. Set aside. Get three-quarters of a stick of chilled butter (six tablespoons) and cut it into six pieces. Set aside.

Take two eggs and two egg yolks, and whisk them in a bowl over a pot of barely simmering water. Add the lemon-vinegar mixture bit by bit. Keep whisking, and remove the bowl from heat if it looks like you might be in danger of making scrambled eggs. Eventually, sometime after your arm has gone numb, the mixture will start to thicken. Remove from heat when the whisk leaves a trail in the sauce. Whisk in the butter one piece at a time, until fully incorporated. Add a little salt to taste.

Serve immediately with artichokes. It's also nice over grilled salmon.

*Artichokes do things to the tastebuds. Water tastes sweeter, as does wine. This is very bad for red wine, but not quite as awful for white. The wine Matt brought, an unoaked chardonnay from Wishing Tree, was pretty forgiving.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Bella, the Popcorn Ball Princess, discovers falafel

Saturday is the high point of my week, because it's the one day when I can pretend that law school doesn't exist. A good Saturday usually involves a trip to an open-air market, a late lunch, and a lazy afternoon followed by an evening of cooking and eating. My partners in crime are usually Matt and Nathaniel (see previous post for more about Matt); the open-air market is the farmer's market in Waltham; and late lunch happens at the Taqueria Mexico.

But not this Saturday.

This Saturday I was dragged - despite the atrocious weather - on a mad expedition to Haymarket by my friend Bella. The child of foodie hippies from Vermont, Bella is my personal source for fresh homegrown produce. As her nickname would suggest, she makes fantastic popcorn balls: gloriously chewy, buttery, and caramelly. (In fact, if I'd known that she planned on making a batch on Tuesday, I would have written about popcorn balls rather than Tako the Octopus for Halloween.)

I've only been in Boston since late August of this year, so I didn't know about Haymarket until Bella mentioned it. The farmer's market in Waltham has good produce, but it's really a little too sedate for my taste. I discovered that Haymarket is more my style: boisterous and chaotic. It reminded me of Rome or Beijing. Had Bella warned me to keep an eye on my wallet, I would have felt completely at home.

We bought artichokes, lemons, pomegranates, and a vast quantity of basil. And then we discovered a falafel place. Not just any falafel place. It might be more accurate to describe it as THE falafel place.

My mother has an aversion to cooking, but dislikes eating in restaurants. Her standard solution to this problem is takeout, and in Sydney, which has a large Lebanese population, this often meant doner kebabs or falafel wraps. So when I saw a hole-in-the-wall Lebanese grocery advertising falafel, it seemed like a good place to get lunch – particularly when Bella confessed to never having tried it.

I had my doubts when we walked in. The prepared food area was a tiny stand with two metal folding chairs off to the side. Containers of baklava and piles of bagged flatbread stood in haphazard stacks on the counter by the cash register. In the back, I could see a plastic-wrapped platter of what looked like rice pilaf next to a tray of what appeared to be french fries. Oh great, I thought. Everything's premade and reheated.

There were a few customers in line, however, and the falafel, hot from a dip in a tiny deep-fryer, looked decent enough. I figured that Bella could try it, and I'd see how the seasoned flatbread held up. When we placed our order, though, the man at the counter smiled enthusiastically, and instead of a tray of premade or premolded falafel, he brought out a huge bowl of uncooked falafel mixture. I realized that these falafel were going to be something special, and promptly changed our order to a double.*

The man at the counter tasted the mixture, adjusted the seasoning, and then proceeded to mold the falafel by hand. Into the deep fryer they went, while he laid out pita, spread it with hummus, and added tabbouleh, onions, and tomato. Out came the falafel, golden brown and fragrant, and then the question: eat in or take out? He encouraged us to eat in, saying that he wanted to see us enjoy our food. I didn't mind staying, but Bella was ready to head home, so we chose takeout. The man at the counter must have been serious about wanting to see us enjoy the fruits of his labor, though, as he offered us a falafel each, straight from the fryer.

The first bite was almost enough to make me change my mind and settle into one of the folding chairs. The falafel were deliciously crisp on the outside, and wonderfully soft inside. They were solid without being heavy, and perfectly seasoned, too. Bella and I were silent as we ate them, and then effusive in our praise. The man at the counter seemed pleased by our reactions, and told us to come again.

There's no doubt that we will. With the Waltham farmer's market closed for the winter, but Haymarket open all year, I suspect he'll be seeing quite a lot of us in the coming months.

*Another place where you'll find exceptional falafel is "L’As du Falafel" in Paris, on Rue des Rosiers in the Marais (4th arondissement, Metro stop St. Paul. Look for the restaurant with the queue out the door.) The place does a roaring business, so the falafel are always hot and fresh. They come in a pita pocket with roasted eggplant and a deliciously drippy sauce.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

quiche alsacienne

Yesterday night, I ditched my Criminal Law reading in favor of baking quiche alsacienne. I was aided and abetted in this display of poor scholarship by my friend Matt. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that he enabled it, because I used his kitchen.

Matt's apartment (he shares it with Nathaniel, who I'll introduce more fully later) has a big, beautiful kitchen with a gas stove. I share an apartment with three roommates I never see, and my kitchen - which has an electric stove - is small, dark, and depressing. Whenever I do any real cooking, it's usually at Matt and Nathaniel's place. (Incidentally, Matt and Nathaniel are the ones who dubbed me the Basil Queen.)

Matt is the youngest child of Francophile foodie parents, which makes him extremely tolerant of long conversations about food and all things food-related. He is also remarkably unflappable in the face of vast quantities of butter, bacon, cream, and eggs, so I knew he wouldn't object on dietary grounds if I proposed that we bake quiche.

Quiche alsacienne is a variation of quiche lorraine, adding onions to the basic trinity of eggs, bacon, and cream. It is incredibly bad for your arteries. Salad is strongly recommended as an accompaniment. (We tried to redeem the meal with a side of sautéed fresh spinach. Admittedly, this might have worked better had we not sautéed the spinach in the leftover bacon fat.)

Quiche lorraine and its variants are very difficult to screw up once you have the basics down. Good quiche is easily attainable. Great quiche, on the other hand, is considerably more elusive. Quiche is seasonal: a great warm-weather quiche is not the same as a great cold-weather quiche. Warm-weather quiche, which is often eaten cold, demands a firm filling. It should be frittata-like, slicing neatly into solid wedges. Cold-weather quiche should be messier.

A great cold-weather quiche is a study in textures: tender, creamy egg, punctuated by soft onion and faintly crisp bacon, encased in flaky, buttery pastry. A great cold-weather quiche is also a trick of timing: it should be served hot enough to be painful, but not hot enough to burn. If it's a truly great quiche, you'll breathe through your mouth when you take the first bite, but won't wait for it to cool before you take the second.

I didn't achieve great quiche last night. The filling wasn't quite tender enough, and I should have used less water when making the pastry. I'm pleased with the way it turned out, but not entirely satisfied. That's okay. I have the whole winter to keep trying.

Note: I am embarrassingly inept with a digital camera. I swear the quiche was more appetizing than the above photo would suggest. Now that I've made my token effort at food photography, can I please keep this blog text-only?

Quiche Alsacienne

(Serves three with hearty appetites, or one for three days straight.)

Begin with your favorite butter pastry recipe. I use one that Matt's mother gave me - I haven't asked her if I can share it, so I can't post it (yet.) Make enough pastry for a 9-inch pie dish, plus a little extra, so that you'll have an excuse to bake a fruit tart later.

Preheat the oven to 350F. While the pastry rests, get your bacon (you can use lardons if you insist on authenticity, but I find that it's not worth the trouble of hunting them down.) Cut it into small strips or dice, depending on the thickness. Fry the bacon in a heavy-bottomed pan on medium heat until it goes lightly brown on the edges. It should not be crisp. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Make a token effort to refrain from snacking. Do not dispose of the bacon fat.

Get a medium-sized onion and dice it very finely. Sweat the onions in the bacon fat over low heat until they caramelize. Transfer to another plate lined with paper towels. (If there's still bacon fat in the pan, and you really don't give a damn about your arteries, now would be the time to sauté that fresh spinach.)

Roll out your pastry and line the pie dish. Rest it further if your recipe calls for it. Prick it and bake it blind for ten or fifteen minutes - you don't want soggy, undercooked pastry on the underside of the quiche.

In the meantime, grab a large bowl, a whisk, five or six eggs and a small carton of heavy cream. Beat the eggs. Whisk in a little cream at a time, until the egg mixture is pale yellow and has lost most of its viscosity. Add a pinch of salt, and a dusting of black pepper, if you like.

To assemble, get the pie dish, and pile in the bacon and onions. Make sure they're evenly distributed. Pour the egg mixture over and let it settle before putting it in the oven. Set a timer for thirty-five minutes, and keep checking back every five minutes after that. The quiche is done when it's set but not solid. For those appetizing golden brown spots, put it under the broiler for a minute or two. (Keep a very, very close eye on it if you do.)

Let it cool just a little. Serve when it's hot enough to be painful, but not hot enough to burn.

respect your food. kill your lobster.

I meant to introduce my friend Hilary's blog in a post about baccalà (dried salt cod), as she's carrying out a year-long research project on cod fishing and fisheries. But she wrote a post about ethical eating, and it was thought-provoking enough to make me want to write a post of my own.

Whole Foods, in an effort to appease animal rights protesters, has stopped selling live lobsters. Instead, it now sells prepackaged lobster meat. Using the latest advances in new technology, you can now have humanely-killed lobster that doesn't even need to be shelled. It's a solution to the immediate dilemma, but not an answer to the bigger problem: we don't know - we don't want to know - where our food comes from. Odd as it may sound, I think that in general, this society lacks respect for food.

We can't respect that which we don't acknowledge, and we do just about everything we can to avoid acknowledging that meat is dead animal flesh. The problem does not lie in how we regulate the food industry, it lies in the way we think. We are not going to make any decent progress in slaughtering animals humanely if we don't acknowledge the act of slaughter first.

I'm still working through my personal views on the ethics of meat. I am not an animal lover, and I don't believe it's morally wrong to eat meat. But I don't think my position is irreconcilable with the notion that food animals should be treated well and slaughtered humanely.

We don't respect our food because it would put us in uncomfortable positions. Instead, we bargain to ease our discomfited consciences. We say, "We are going to eat these animals, so it's only fair that we treat them well and slaughter them humanely," as though one action could cancel out the other. Instead, we should say, "We are going to treat these animals well and slaughter them humanely because we are going to eat them, and our food is deserving of respect." There is nothing inherently shameful about the act of killing an animal for food, provided that we don't turn away from the connection between animal, death, and dinner.

I would argue that it's important to keep the live lobsters, because what the hell else does your average suburban American ever cook that makes the connection between animal and dinner explicit? There are ways of killing lobster that are more humane than boiling it alive. Why don't we focus on promoting humane ways of killing a live lobster instead?

My pet theory is this: there is a hierarchy of discomfort in the various methods used to dispatch lobsters, and the humane way of killing a live lobster is more discomforting than the idea of boiling a lobster alive. Boiling a lobster makes the connection between animal and dinner explicit, but it glosses over the actual death. Boiling is an indirect kill: drop the lobster in, clap the lid on, and count the minutes until dinner is served. The death isn't witnessed, and thus, the reality of the death can be avoided. Responsibility for the death can be avoided. It's a passive evasion: "The lobster was killed," vs. "I killed the lobster."

The humane method, on the other hand, allows for no such evasion. Thrusting a knife into the body of a lobster and slicing down through the head is as direct a kill as you can get. It is discomforting. It's incredibly discomforting. But at least it's honest. The lobster, your dinner, deserves that much respect.

So kill your lobster. Accept responsibility for killing it. And then tuck in.