Author Archives for theRaggedys

Cooking with Cat

Re this blog’s title: we are talking about a cat beside us, not a cat in the cooking pot, so don’t get huffy.

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Because of the incredible popularity of our blog about our cat Ono and because we just discovered the YouTube Series “Cooking with Dog” (only 11 years after it premiered), Andy and I are seriously considering introducing a YouTube series, affectionately named “Cooking with Cat.”  The cat, obviously, is Ono.  Andy always hopes something we do or say or write will go viral.  This may be it.

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I discovered “Cooking with Dog” when we were researching recipes for our Deseran Dining In Dinner – It’s “Big in Japan” (thanks, Tom Waits!). If you haven’t ever seen Cooking with Dog, give it a watch – at least one episode…and way more if you have an interest in developing your Japanese cooking skills.   The episode on preparing “Japanese Souffle Cheesecake” is a definite go-to if you want to bake our grandson Moss’s Japanese Cheesecake.   Though Moss’s recipe isn’t quite the same, the technique needed is.  And that cheesecake is amazing.  So delicious.

The unnamed Chef in the video is impressive.  The New Yorker did a nice write up on the show back in 2017, as well as providing a link to the very funny introduction.  Chef and her dog still produce the videos every month or so.  Unfortunately, Francis, the poodle, who stars as the narrator of the series, has passed away.  All that remains today is a fluffy stuffed toy replica.  And Chef is clearly aging (don’t we all).  But the show must go on.

I have one comment: GET ANOTHER – live – DOG, CHEF!

As for me and Ono and YouTube, it ain’t gonna happen.  I was just kiddin’.  Ono has no interest in being a YouTube star (though I still aspire to do a Madhur Jaffrey-type rap).

Should you be interested in more thoughts on dogs and cats, I highly recommend this article on pet ownership and happiness. It’s a good thing we have Oakley, our dog, to even out having our two cats, Ono and Choco.  Those who only have cats are pretty unhappy folks! 🙂

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Choco, Oakley, and Ono – in a rare appearance together

And as for our Japanese-themed “Dining In” – in our minds it was great.  However, Andy (in Andy’s Corner) has been researching military Dining Ins, since that’s where we got the idea.  And it’s pretty clear we’re not living up to the expectations.  Toasts were non-existent.  There was no diagram explaining where to sit.  Foul language?  Mmmmm, let me think.  Even military aside, we didn’t do so well according to these two recent NYTimes articles on dinner parties:

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Definitely NOT at our Dining In: homemade parting gifts of thyme-infused olive oil and bundles of fresh herbs with palo santo wood

But even if we didn’t send each guest home with “homemade parting gifts of thyme-infused olive oil and bundles of fresh herbs with palo santo wood,” and we didn’t have a chef, and I didn’t forage the neighborhood to find beautiful branches or use fresh herbs for the table setting, we’re really enjoying these “not pot”-luck, get-to-know-new-folks and try-new-recipe evenings.  We learned about cute baby skunks found in chicken nests, how to rehabilitate vintage cast iron pans, how to properly pronounce “okonomiyaki” and about our families’ immigration to America.  Everybody pitched in with the cooking (who needs a chef?!) – and here’s what we ate:

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Commonality

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If Jeff Bezos can use the word “complexifier,” can I use the word “commonality?”  Can Andy in Andy’s Corner talk about the lack of commonality in our memories?

Harking back to my teaching days, I have a foodie test question for you:  What commonality do carrots, beets, asparagus, and chiles share?

Ahhhh, I just know you’d get it right – especially if you weren’t overthinking and looking for a real scientific-based explanation.  My answer?  They all can make your body react in a strange way.

Actually, the scientific explanations are worth a read.  It’s all about Capsaicins, CarotenoidsAsparagusic acid, and Betalains.  Don’t you love the “asparagusic acid” label?  Even I could have thought up that one.  You can find out even more from this L.A. Times article.

Since basically you don’t really need to worry about the impact carrots, beets, and asparagus have on your body (as long as you don’t ridiculously overdo carrot-eating or have a heart attack that moment in the bathroom when you forgot you just ate beets), I want to talk a little about chiles.  Or about the time we were visiting our son, Travis, who was living in the Pilsen district of Chicago – and we visited the fabulous Mexican/Black/Jewish farmers’ market, Maxwell Street.  And I rubbed my eyes after eating tacos served with some some fresh chiles.  And about the misery I experienced for the remainder of our Chicago trip.

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We were at Chicago’s Maxwell Street Market – but don’t know whether Rubi’s existed then.  Apparently their tacos are amazing.  Just watch out for chiles!

What’s an eater/cook to do to help herself when touched by the evil capsaicin? It’s all about milk.  Definitely not water.  Of course, washing your hands over and over with soap and water after handling chiles is a given.  But if you forgot and your eyes are stinging, a paper towel soaked in a little milk and gently rubbed around your eye might help.  If your mouth is on fire, try drinking a little milk.  Again, not water.  Leave it to the American Chemical Society to provide a fun little essay on the topic of capsaicin.

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When we helped our daughter, Sara, with the Tacolicious cookbook, we had lots of discussions about how to prepare chiles for recipes.  Do you remove the seeds?  Yes, most definitely, unless you like unbearably hot.  Do you remove the membrane too?  Ahhh, there’s the rub (but don’t rub your eyes! :).  According to various reports (here’s one), we have been misled when we believe all the spice is in the seeds.  In fact, much of the heat is in the membrane, which, consequently, should definitely also be removed.

And one last note.  The heat of fresh chiles is incredibly and disturbingly inconsistent.  Whenever you’re using them in a recipe start with a little, then taste, and then add more  – gradually.  Don’t ruin an entire dish by dumping in the recipe’s given amount, when the recipe may call for far too much, given the heat of that specific pepper.

We’ve previously posted some great recipes making good use of these four body-changing ingredients.   And we’ve got several more recipes to add to the mix.  Since spring has sprung and asparagus is just hitting the markets, we suggest you roast a bunch or two (we’ve posted the recipe – so easy and so delicious) and then use the leftovers in a simple salad – recipe provided below – from Madhur Jaffrey, who is 85-years-young and just got written up in the NYTimes because she did a rap on YouTube.  I want to be her.

And as for chiles, we’ve got another winner – this time from the Chef-of-the-Moment, Samin Nosrat.  The recipe follows these “favs:”

 

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Lovely little piece of art by Melinda Hall of Santa Fe.  Helps remind us that Anchos are simply dried Poblanos.

Nosrat maintains this is the most versatile recipe in her very popular cookbook SaltFatAcidHeat. Continue reading

Cold-hearted Sociopaths

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It’s been rough around here lately.  The rainfall in Sonoma County this spring has been crazy heavy.  Oakley hasn’t been to the dog park in weeks (see Andy’s Corner) and our Siamese cats have been inside with us an inordinate amount of time.  Our house is small for a 50-pound dog, two humans, and two cats – who happen to dislike each other – the cats, that is.  The humans do relatively okay together, especially when it’s NOT raining.  Whether the humans dislike the cats and/or the cats dislike the humans is a part of this little blog.

We’ve had nine cats in our 52 years of marriage, and I’d say six of them were real winners….the kind of kitties who snuggle up to you, rub against your legs, get on your lap, purr when petted, eat what’s given to them without complaining, are amicable with visitors, play well with others, don’t bite or scratch – and only catch mice and rats, not birds.  We loved them dearly and I’d like to think they loved us.

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Trace – who came after Zero and Minus  – all good, kind,  and loving cats

Then a few years ago we picked up a little kitten at the Sonoma Humane Society (Andy says “thanks, Chris!” :).  The folks there had named her Feisty, which should have been a red flag.  I’d lived about 70 years with cats and I had no idea a cat could be a cold-hearted sociopath.

It’s shocking how much comes up when you google “cat” and “sociopath.”  Perhaps my favorite comes from a funny little essay in London’s Telegraph.

What is there to like? What is the point of them?  Cats I mean. They torment, torture and kill smaller animals for fun, meow incessantly until they get fed or let out, sleep and bring absolutely nothing to the party. If a burglar breaks-in the first the thing out of the door, even before the TV, is the cat. A dog will not only let you know somebody is trying to gain access to your property but stand by your side to protect you.

 

 

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The cold-hearted sociopath as a youngster

OnoMoore – FKA Feisty – whom Andy wrote about and videotaped earlier – is our psychotic cat.  Andy thinks we’re being cruel dissing her in this very public way, but I think it’s all justified.  When asked to describe her, our SF family uses words such as “evil,” “terrifying,” and “demented.”  Andy and I take pains not to walk by her when she’s in a bad mood.  Oakley, our dog, won’t leave our bedroom if Ono is in the doorway.  God forbid that she’s in a chair you’d like to sit in.  Blood has been drawn more times than we can count.

I just wish Ono could read this and take note.

I’m no psychologist, but it’s pretty easy to find out what symptoms of sociopathy are.  Please note: there is no hidden political agenda here.  I’m just talking about certain cats, not certain people.

  • Arrogance
  • Using charm or wit to manipulate others for personal gain or personal pleasure
  • Grandiose estimation of self
  • Lack of empathy for others and lack of remorse about harming others
  • Serious violation of rules
  • Easily bored
  • Poor or abusive relationships

But maybe pictures are worth a thousand words?

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Using charm or wit to manipulate others for personal gain or personal pleasure

 

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Grandiose estimation of self

 

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Lack of empathy for others and lack of remorse about harming others

 

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Serious violation of rules

 

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Easily bored

 

Ono and Choco duking it out

Poor or abusive relationships

I’m not sure if “unusually picky eater” is a symptom of a sociopath, but it applies to Ono.  As parents we are generally advised to offer our children a wide variety of foods so that they never become too persnickety.  The same is supposed to apply to dogs and cats.  Accordingly,  we’ve tried to feed Ono endless variations of canned chicken, chicken liver, turkey, beef, and shrimp, all from very pricey and gourmet cat food brands such as “Fussie Cat,” “I and Love and You,” and “Chicken Soup.”   Yet it’s been met with total disgust on her part (like pawing as if she wants to bury it).  But Ono will eat tuna, salmon, and crab, if offered from a few select brands, so here are some fitting  recipes – for humans – all dedicated to the weirdest, craziest, wildest, most psychotic – and possibly the most fun – cat we’ve ever had. Continue reading

Lagniappe: A Bicycle Adventure and the Papi Hemingway Cocktail

Because this Lagniappe edition of our blog deals with cycling (in addition to a fantastic cocktail) Ann has allowed me to take the lead.  I will be brief.

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The official Tacolicious photo of Jared’s Papi Hemingway cocktail

The folks I ride with in the Santa Rosa Cycling Club represent all walks of life –  engineers, nurses, doctors, dentists, building contractors, lawyers, sheriffs, plumbers, teachers – we even have a rocket scientist and a renowned mountain climber.  But none of them, to my knowledge, has ridden a bike to Oaxaca and back nor created a world class cocktail. 

Jared Crabtree, the Tacolicious Beverage Director, has done both of these things.  His epic four-and-a-half month, 4,488 mile ride to Oaxaca and back in 2013 on his Surly Long Haul Trucker bicycle is an amazing saga. To give you a feel for it I am including a couple of snippets from the account posted on the Tacolicious web  page.  It is worth checking out for both cycling and culinary fans.

Setting out in early September, [Jared] made his way to La Paz (just that leg is 1,492 miles) where he got on a ferry to Mazatlán, and rode his way down the coast to Colima, turned north towards Guadalajara, then on to Mexico City, Puebla, and finally Oaxaca. In each place he stayed as short as a night or two or as long as a few weeks.

Jared bike on beach

… Being his own tour guide definitely came with its hiccups. When he set out from Mexico City to Puebla, he unwittingly set out over a mountain pass where, as the sun set, he found himself at 13,000 feet. That night he spent in frigid temperatures, tucking himself in as tightly as he could in his sleeping bag. His bike took quite a beating too. A spoke that ripped through his tire landed him at Casa Ciclista in Guadalajara—a community project set up for traveling bike tourists. There he got his frame re-welded and his back wheel rebuilt, so he could finish his journey.

 

Jared took some amazing photos and kept a blog (see it here; and be sure to scroll down to see the commentary, in addition to the great photos).  I love his description of his experience when he arrived at Valle de los Cirios which is near Ensenada:

I spotted a dozen different species of cactus, Joshua trees, and countless other thorny shrubs and bushes (sorry inner tubes!).  My campsite tonight is incredible.  Even just a short jaunt off the highway down a dirt road, I’m the only one around.  My legs are exhausted, I’m totally filthy, covered in 7 layers of sunblock and dried perspiration, but none of that matters.  This is the absolute freedom I have been searching for.. and I’m thrilled.

“Jared’s “absolute freedom” has been somewhat altered since that epic ride in 2013.  He is now married and has a one-year old.  He just emailed me this:

I still have the original bike frame I took to Mexico!  After being welded twice in Mexico and once by a frame builder in Alameda, it’s been decommissioned from touring and now acts as my errand bike and grocery runner, complete with flat handlebars and a big basket on front.
… As far as any more epic trips planned – my wife and I now have a 1 year old boy Rocco who is forcing us to focus on “less epic” trips – some camping in Marin is definitely in our future.  We built up a Rivendell custom “Hubbahubba” as a wedding gift to ourselves with the idea of braving the great divide.  Maybe one day!   
 
Jared on bike with 1-year old (1)

Jared with his one-year-old Rocco

Although perhaps not as thrilling as that historic ride, to my mind creating the Papi Hemingway cocktail was in itself an amazing achievement.  Who would have thought that rum, mezcal and maraschino liqueur along with lime juice, agave nectar, and a splash of bitters could be so delicious.  It has become such a popular cocktail at Tacolicious that customers demand it whenever it rotates off the drink menu.

Papi Hemingway Cocktail

Ann and Andy’s version of the Papi Hemingway cocktail

Ann and I recently tried to make our own Papi Hemingway based on the recipe below.

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Official Tacolicious recipe

Because we do not have the arsenal of sophisticated cocktail ingredients available to bartenders at Tacolicious, we tweaked Jared’s recipe a bit to go with what we had on hand.  The result was fantastic, although undoubtedly not up to snuff with what Jared would put together.  So, if you are unable to make it to Tacolicious to get Jared’s personal touch, please accept this recipe as our lagniappe gift to you.  Cheers.

Papi Hemingway Cocktail

  • Servings: 1 cocktail
  • Print
Slightly modified from Jared Crabtree’s recipe.  We doubled this recipe to make two cocktails. 

  • 1 oz dark rum
  • 3/4  oz mezcal
  • 3/4 oz Maraschino liqueur
  • 3/4 oz lime juice
  • 1/2 oz agave nectar
  • 4 dashes orange bitters
  • 1 two inch orange peel for garnish.
  1. Add ingredients to a shaker. Top with ice and shake.  Strain into a chilled coupe (or cocktail glass) .  Garnish with orange peel.

Recipe brought to you by Jared Crabtree,  BigLittleMeals.com, and Andy and Ann

 

Everybody’s Doin’ It

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Irving Berlin was focused on dancing when he wrote his ragtime piece Everybody’s Doin’ It Now in 1911.  However, the title pretty much sums up a current obsession – and it’s not dance.

De-cluttering.  Downsizing.  Organizing.  Tidying-up.  Death-cleaning (yes, the Swedes may have a dark side to them).  Everyone we know seems to be doing it.  When my CC/GPB friends met last September and decided what we hoped to accomplish during the next year, getting rid of “stuff,” seemed to be #1 on many of our lists.

When I asked our Brooklyn Hannah where she kept their new food processor, she responded without hesitation, ” Oh, I’m trying to de-clutter so I keep it put away.”  Yikes.  Hannah will have nightmares when she sees our kitchen clutter when she and our son, Travis, and her mom visit here in April.

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Marie Kondo.

A little background info in case you haven’t kept up:  Marie Kondo, the 34-year-old wunderkind from Japan, wrote The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up when she was about 27.  Her method is entitled KonMari and there’s more about it online than you would ever need or want to know.   Margareta Magnusson from Sweden followed up in 2017 with her own Scandinavian-style approach in “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter.”

 

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Margareta Magnusson

She’s WAY closer to my age than Marie Kondo, so I was amused that amidst her recommendations for städning – or cleaning – she suggests that you should be sure to “save your favorite dildo!”  Ha!

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Baking pans at our house…in serious need of KonMari or Death Cleaning

To honor these two really note-worthy women, we’re providing you with two great recipes – one Japanese and one Swedish.  How cool can we be?  But first we have to “KonMari” our frying pan situation.  Which can stay; which should go?

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Ceramic, carbon steel, stainless steel, and cast iron – they all bring me joy.  They all stay.

That big Lodge carbon steel pan (2nd from left) is great for pancakes.  But we’re fortunate and have a griddle on our Wolf range, so that’s where we normally fry our pancakes.   And, interestingly enough, that’s about all we do with the griddle part of the stove.  Should we KonMari it?

Enjoy the pancake recipes we’re offering up.  They’re different and they’re delicious.  And enjoy Andy’s Corner – where some cleaning up is not going to happen. 🙂

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