Went out to Drink a few days ago to bid goodbye to a new friend leaving town, and as could be expected at Drink, had smashingly perfect cocktails and very tasty food. However: one cocktail stood out from the rest, being outside my well-trodden realm of whisky + aromatic liquors, but gorgeously bright, richly flavorful, and entertainingly retro.

Enter Martinez: Old Tom gin, sweet vermouth, maraschino, bitters.

Wouldn’t have thought I’d like anything with maraschino, but apparently I do when it’s in balance with other ingredients. There’s a great deal of discussion in recipes about proportion and ingredients, and sadly I was one too many drinks in to retain what they used at Drink, but I believe the stage is set for some entertaining experimentation at home of an evening.

Vietnamese lemongrass pork

I made this pork about 6 weeks ago, and it came out OK, but not the way I expected or wanted it to be. It was very dark in color, sweeter than I’d like, and nothing like the delectable grilled pork I’d had in Vietnamese restaurants.

So this time I winged it, aiming for the flavors I crave. It came out much much better. And I am gratified to report that even though I did this to bone-in pork chops well over an inch thick, since that’s what I had and there was no time to butcher them into thin slices, the flavor penetrated well and the result was noms.

I used:
2 big-ass bone in pork chops, well marbled with fat

and stabbed them a bunch of times all over with my knife so the marinade could enter. Then I let them sit for several hours in:

minced lemongrass – I used the thick, tender 2-3″ of one stalk
several tbs fish sauce – I like this to be the dominant flavor
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
a squirt of agave syrup
1-2 tbs thin soy sauce (the regular stuff, not thick soy sauce which has molasses)
a drizzle of toasted sesame oil

Fire up the oven to 350F and start a cast iron pan on high but not full blast. Scrape the lemongrass bits off the chops. If you don’t have fatty meat, put a little oil in the pan. When the pan’s hot, sear the chops on both sides but be careful not to let it burn too much (the sugar will tend to char), then stick the pan into the oven for 10-25 minutes. Duration depends on how cooked they got in the sear, how thick they are, etc, so just poke them and if they are firm, they are done.

Pull them out, rest them for 10 minutes, then eat them up yum with rice and pickled veg, or make bun, or whatever you like to do with delicious fish-saucy lemongrassy pork.


Back in 2003 I went on a car trip in CA with my newish boyfriend, the tallasiandude. We had a really good time (nudge nudge wink wink) driving up Highway 1 and stopping every half hour to do something or other.

One of the stops was in Solvang, a bizarro tourist-trap town billing itself as a bit of Denmark in southern California. We stepped into a bakery and for some reason I was entranced by these simple-looking cookies. Little nondescript beige logs with an appealing crackly surface. I bought them even though they were some form of marzipan cookie — normally I hate marzipan or anything almond flavored besides almonds — because I was so entranced by them.

These were the most delicious cookie I had ever had, right there in that moment. No idea why. Still not especially fond of almond-flavoring, but with the memory of those cookies in mind, I tried a few almond-flavored things in Sweden last year and they were all delicious, so I decided to trust the Scandinavians in general on this topic.

Ever since that trip in 2003 I had been trying to find a recipe for those cookies on the internet. Of course I’d instantly forgotten what they were called, which hindered the search considerably.

But somehow or other, a few weeks ago I stuffed the right terms into the search and this recipe came up. Shazam! That looked like my cookie!

I resolved to try it. It even called for the very same brand of almond paste I had brought back from Sweden.

Today I made them, and I was right — same cookie. Crunchy chewy crackly outer layer, sticky marzipan innards. DELICIOUS! They stick to the parchment like a motherfucker, so next time around I think I will butter the paper. I wonder if I can source Odense almond paste anywhere closer than Sweden?

Vietnamese Week, Day 4 (dinner party)

Day 4 was a dinner party with friends. The pork belly and pickled bean sprouts went over a treat, and we made some shrimp on sugarcane (yum) and green papaya salad (turns out I really like cucumber in it) and some Pok Pok wings (holyshitOMGnoms).

The actual wings served at Pok Pok in Portland were better, I will grant, but these have a salty-sweet intensity that punched all my buttons. Everyone involved wound up with wing sauce everywhere and needed a bit of a scrubdown before the main course. Noms.

Also: avocado smoothies. Swoon.

Vietnamese week, days 1-3

I got a late start on Vietnamese week due to the presence of more leftovers than planned which needed eating, but since Tuesday I have made a few things. Using recipes off, a food blog by a pair of Vietnamese-Americans who seem to have pretty good taste.

Day 1: Curry

This one is from a can. It was a busy day, and I’d planned to make a curry-paste curry for a while and had a fridge full of eggplant, pepper, green bean, mushroom, and sweet potato that were about to croak. Sue me. It was delicious.

Day 2: Green Papaya Salad and Xoi Man

Green papaya salad, xoi man sticky rice.

xoi-man-sticky-rice-recipe (my chinese sausage was old and sad so I subbed in scrambled egg)

goi-du-du-green-papaya-salad (felt the need to add green beans, but otherwise just plain with mint and peanut only)

Day 3: Bo Kho

Bo Kho (Vietnamese beef stew) with rice noodles.  Please notice beef tendon front and center, from Snow Farm meat share. Yay, happy tendon! Bonus points for bone marrow steeped in delicious spicy broth.

Served with bún bò Huế rice noodles. Next time I serve this, I am going to cook the rice noodles in the broth so they aren’t quite so bland.  When they sit in the soup a while and take on the flavor, it’s much better.  Also improved by a shot of sriracha along with the lime and herbs and pickled daikon.

Ann’s delicious walnut cake

A friend made this for a party last weekend and it was really good.

Walnut cake
Serves 12

Butter (for the pan)
Flour (for the pan)
1 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups walnuts, ground medium-fine in the food processor
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs

1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan.

2. In a bowl, sift the flour, salt, cinnamon, and cloves; set aside.

3. In a food processor, grind the nuts until they are medium fine; set

4. In an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, if you have one, or the
whip, cream the butter. Add the sugar gradually in three stages, beating
after each one.

5. Beat in the eggs, one by one, beating only until they are incorporated.

6. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand. With a rubber spatula, stir in the
nuts, then fold in the flour mixture.

7. Pour the batter into the pan, smooth the top, and bake the cake for 45
minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out

Five Guys burger and fries

Had my first Five Guys burger for lunch today.  Meh.

It was ok, I guess.  Got a cheeseburger with everything and a regular fries, for a straight middle of the road experience.   Not bad, but not especially good either.

Soggy bun even eating it immediately on receipt.  Sauteed mushrooms are nice but unnecessary and probably the cause of the bun sog.  Didn’t expect double burgers, which balanced out all the rest of the mess on there but were really more than I want in terms of meat on my burger.  Not an especially tasty burger, and I think it would suffer if some of the extraneous toppings disappeared.

Fries are soggy.  A few crispy ones in there, but greasy as hell and frankly too thick cut and not cooked correctly to have the right crunch.  And a regular order of fries was too much for me and the tallasiandude, which is saying something.  They do seem to err on the side of “more is better” which isn’t really how I roll, especially when it comes to burgers and fries.


AND they source their ingredients industrially, which isn’t a deal-breaker but does put the final nail in the coffin.

Tasty Burger for me when I’m home, and In-n-Out when I’m in CA.  No contest.   Mmmmm, Tasty Burger….

Caribbean squash soup

I found this recipe in Saveur last month and it seemed pretty easy, and I had some butternut squash in the house.  I made adjustments as is my wont, and it turned out fricking terrific!  It’s in heavy rotation now, as it is easy, absolutely delicious, and violates none of the dietary constraints I am half-assedly semi-adhering to at present.

Here’s my version:

Melt a few tbsp butter in a saucepan over medium-high. Add a few cloves of chopped garlic, a chopped onion, and, if using, whatever kind of chilies you have or like; I use dried jalapenos and/or crushed red flakes.  Go easy unless you like it spicy (I do).  Cook until golden or at least soft and fragrant.  Add a container of Trader Joe’s cut butternut squash, a few cups chicken stock to cover (works fine with part water too), a shake of dried thyme, and a bay leaf; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; cook until squash is very tender, 30–35 minutes. Discard bay leaf.  Add a tablespoon of curry powder, a squeeze of lime juice if you have it, a grating of nutmeg, salt, and pepper.  Puree with the immersion blender.  Simmer a little more if you can stand the waiting and then have at it.

I omit the dairy because it’s not really needed, but if you felt like swirling something in at the end, I wouldn’t stop you.

Bread and Butter Pickles

10-12 small cucumbers, washed and prepped (slices)

4 medium onions, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup salt
1.5 cups packed brown sugar
1 pint cider vinegar
2 (3″) sticks cinnamon, broken (or not)
1 tsp whole allspice
1 tsp white mustard seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp celery seeds
1/2 tsp cayenne


Place cucumbers and onions in layers in bowl or colander, each layer sprinkled generously with salt. Let stand overnight or at least an hour or so. Drain vegetables, rinse well with cold water, and drain thoroughly. Dissolve sugar in vinegar in a kettle. Add cinnamon and allspice and boil 1-2 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients. Add drained cucumbers and onions, and scald 25-30 minutes, over very low heat but do not boil. Spoon pickle into clean glass jars, let cool, then put on lids and store in refrigerator.

If you are super lazy, you can just divide the rinsed and drained cuke/onion into the jars, divide the spices into the jars, and pour over the hot sugared vinegar to cover. Let cool, lid, then put in fridge.

Also, you may want different proportion of onion/cucumber — that should not affect the flavor much.