A “Whooda Thought” Fungus

I’m no longer one much for sweets, but I keep a jug of genuine maple syrup in the pantry for cooking into various specific dishes like salmon marinade, cooked oatmeal, and banana nut muffins. Yesterday, I poured a tablespoon into just such a marinade, and noticed some little bits of foreign matter in the measuring spoon.

I subsequently tasted and smelled it and it seemed decidedly off, having a dusty basement vibe. Researching this, I discover that, despite my long held belief that maple syrup doesn’t go “bad,” it is indeed vulnerable to a specific type of mold. This mold had permeated the opaque jug and was sitting in a thick layer on the bottom, which I discovered by pouring it into a glass measuring cup. UGH!

There are numerous opinions on this, with some sources claiming that this is a recent problem resulting from hurried production, and yet others insisting that this has always been around. All I know is that in my whole life I have never seen this before now.

In any case, since a jug of maple syrup is likely to last months in many households, I looked for preventatives. The obvious one is to refrigerate the syrup after opening, which slows down, but does not eliminate the problem. Another is, logically, to buy smaller quantities and use them up faster, and a third controversial one is to mix in two tablespoons of vodka when you open the container.

In any case, no matter what you chose to do, if you keep any kind of sugary syrup in stock, be sure to take precautions regarding the formation of mold. Keep it in a glass bottle, predominately in the fridge, and check for strings of slimy sediment before use. Apparently, the mold won’t make you particularly ill, but it ruins the taste and smell, and can cause gastric distress in sufficient quantities.

There you have it.

Agave Agape

The essence of agape love is goodwill, benevolence, and willful delight in the object of love. The essence of agave is tequila.

Almost anyone can manage to ferment some sort of sugary fruit juice and produce a rudimentary hooch. A tad more sophistication is required to extract the alcohol through distillation and concentrate it into some semblance of moonshine. History proves that almost all cultures, from ancient to current, brewed up and consumed some kind of alcoholic beverages. The laborers that built the pyramids simultaneously nourished their bodies and dulled the pain of hard labor with a beer ration of a gallon and a half per day, per man. Archeologists tell us that this was likely a hearty starchy brew that could double as a meal, but ancient Greek brewers were not unknown to add a level of sophistication to their brews, using herbs like thyme, coriander, and chamomile.

The advent of distillation, though, opened an entirely new world to their craft and spawned a completely new branch of the alcoholic arts, of which, broadly speaking, there are today, three; brewers, winemakers, and distillers. These arts often intertwine in products such as fortified wines (Madeira, Marsala, Port, Sherry, and Vermouth are examples) or  Sake, often called “rice wine” when, in actuality, it is a brewed beverage. Additionally, the distilled alcohols are often flavored by aging in used wine barrels, or, as in the case of Brandy or Cognac, are essentially distilled wine.

It seems intuitive, then, to think that depending on what sugary mash is the base of the fermentation, the flavor of the end product will be subtly or significantly different. Original vodka, made from potatoes (starch / sugar, essentially the same thing as far as the yeast is concerned as enzymes are used to convert the starch into simple sugars, the favorite food of yeast) is said to have a completely different flavor and mouth feel than the much more common grain vodkas found in the West. (Unscrupulous producers of cheap grain vodka sometimes add a bit of glycerin to mimic the mouthfeel of an original potato vodka. Ugh. They also “brag” about distilling it “twenty times” as if it were a badge of honor, when in reality, they are just trying to literally distill the crap out of it.) In any case, Vodka is often referred to as a “neutral grain spirit” and as such, has very little natural flavor. Hence, the proliferation of “flavored” vodkas, of which there are, today, endless varieties.

Conversely, some base stocks do impart a distinct flavor to the resulting ferment, rum leaving the caramelized sugar cane or molasses flavor in the final product, and tequila, by law made from blue agave plants, retaining its very unique and identifiable vegetal “cactus juice” flavor and delightful sweetness. Technically, the Weber Blue Agave from which “real” tequila is made isn’t a cactus at all, but rather a succulent, which take approximately eight years to mature to harvest. And, unlike a grape vine, which can be picked clean and then will grow a new crop the following year, the agave plant is harvested whole and “used-up” in the process, so tequila producers have to plan ahead, way ahead.

Of course, as with any particular variety of “hard likker,” tequila comes in an endless range of honesty, quality, and enjoy-ability.  There are those who say that they never touch the stuff, because of a one-night stand that resulted in a violent hangover and a three-day headache. Likely, they were not victim to tequila, but rather to an adulterated swill made from as little as 10-15% cheap tequila, made potent by the addition of grain spirits, made golden by the addition of caramel, and made sweet by the addition of cane sugar. Fine tequila is no more likely to hurt you as is good scotch or any other unadulterated premium liquor. Enough of any of these will make you regret the sunrise, but that’s not the liquor’s fault, it’s your fault.

So, let’s pop a cork and sip some utterly delicious tequilas, shall we?

Continue reading “Agave Agape”

Party Favor(ite) Recipe

We had a little get-together recently and I made a variety of dips and sauces, but by far, the one that got the most positive reviews for the evening was my curried hummus, which is super simple to make and takes just a few minutes. Here, for all that are interested, is the recipe;

Curried Hummus

8 oz               Organic Plain Hummus
1 Tbsp.         World Market Hot Curry Powder
1/2 tsp.         Fresh Ground Pepper
1 Tbsp.          Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
1/2 tsp.         Sugar
1/2 tsp.         Old Bay Seasoning
1 tsp.             Dried Dill
1 tsp.            Granulated Dried Garlic

Salt to taste. If served with salty chips, use very little. If served with plain crackers or plain bread, amp it up a bit.

Combine all the ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Stir thoroughly to incorporate all the ingredients. Don’t whip in a lot of air. Refrigerate for 2 hours or more to allow flavors to combine. Serve with pita bread, naan, or chips. All the quantities are “to taste,” so adjust as you like, but don’t forego the lemon juice. It makes the whole thing “pop.”

This curried hummus is good as a substitute for mayo on sandwiches, a veggie dip, or a seasoning for many soups.  Enjoy!!

Mustard is Cheap! Why Make Your Own?

guinness-stout-mustardSuper Easy and Delicious Home Made Mustard

I recently ran across a really simple and wonderful recipe for those of you that like a really nice robust tasting mustard. I have nothing against traditional American “yellow” mustard, and I actually think it’s the perfect condiment for “dirty-water” hot dogs, and “razor” burgers (which also require a fat dollop of Heinz Ketchup, in my opinion).

But, this mustard is for the heartier meats, like Leberkäse, corned beef, or smoked ham. It’s heavenly on a pastrami or roast beef sandwich too. Additionally, it can be customized with added herbs and spices to focus its flavor toward a particular dish, with addition of honey, powdered rosemary, dill, or horseradish for example.

Read on for the recipe.

Continue reading “Mustard is Cheap! Why Make Your Own?”

Steel Cut and Kañiwa Too!

Steel Cut Oatmeal with A Wonderful Addition – Kañiwa

Ready for Your Favorite Condiments
Ready for Your Favorite Condiments


OK, I know it’s hard to expect that you will all want to make some cooked oatmeal for breakfast for a number of reasons;

  1. You were forced to eat it as a child and hated it ever since.
  2. You have only had either “Instant” oatmeal, or plain rolled oats, or worse, (ughhh) microwaved oatmeal and they were awful.
  3. You can’t imagine taking the time to make oatmeal that takes 50 minutes, start to finish.
  4. You don’t know what Kañiwa is and you’re not into eating stuff you don’t know.

BUT, I am here to expand your horizons, make you more healthy, and experience something new and delicious.

What follows is a recipe with some pictures that will take a while to prepare, but isn’t labor intensive. While it’s cooking, you can read the Sunday paper, check your email, or just enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee watching the sun rise. But, please give this a try; that list of reasons above will melt away with every bite like butter on a hot griddle.

So, continue reading for the whole story….

Continue reading “Steel Cut and Kañiwa Too!”

Food Worth The Drive Even If Gas Was Expensive – Cafe 25:35

You may have gathered from some of my posts, I like GOOD FOOD. As much as I like cooking it myself, it is also sometimes nice to let someone else do the work and be waited on. So, I’m always looking for new restaurants to try, and often, I am disappointed by blandness, sameness, and “production line” cooking. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, many restaurants don’t even employ a Chef anymore. Not that there aren’t some pretty talented line cooks around, but it seems that the only places that still employ real Chefs are high end dinner places. As for breakfast and lunch, fuhgettaboutit! But, read on, there’s hope!

Continue reading “Food Worth The Drive Even If Gas Was Expensive – Cafe 25:35”

Onions Without Tears? Fan-tas-tic!

By now, you know I like to play in the kitchen and sometimes I actually make something edible. Since I have leaned more towards the vegetable based dishes, and try to use meat as more of an occasional ingredient, almost like a garnish, big flavors have to come from somewhere other than browned meat and its juices.

One of my favorite sources of richness comes from adding onions, in their great varieties, into many dishes. Carefully caramelized, even the common white onion adds a wonderful depth of flavor to stews, the sweet mellow sauerkraut I mention in the SMOGG Pizza recipe elsewhere on this blog, and Chicken Paprikash, to name a few. By the way, if you do not know how to properly caramelize onions, you are missing out on one of the most delicious ingredients you can make. It takes patience, but is really worth the effort. Look it up on a recipe site and experiment.

But, many people hate preparing onions because of the tears that accompany the slicing and dicing. Sulfurous compounds in the onion (syn-propanethial-S-oxide) waft into the air when you break the onion’s cells, and combine with the moisture on your eyeball and produce a sulfuric acid. The acid “burns” your eyes, and the body produces tears to try and dilute and wash away the acid. So, you “cry.”

Well, CRY NO MORE, because my sous-chef (wife) developed and tested a kitchen solution that WORKS!

Continue reading “Onions Without Tears? Fan-tas-tic!”

Italian, German, French – SMOGG Pizza

By now, you realize, if you have been reading this blog, that I don’t generally publish recipes for “conventional” food. I like to try and stretch the reader’s palate a little, and encourage you to try foods and combinations that tend to drift a little from what most people are used to eating.

Well, here we go again! I call this SMOGG pizza, and I am really using the term “pizza” in the more artisan, avant-garde sense. Although it’s a bread like base, and it’s covered in cheese, there’s no tomato sauce component, and there’s one ingredient that will, like many of my recipes, instantly discourage a portion of my readership. But, as always, I encourage you, no, I beg you to indulge me and give this a try. Then, if you find it does not appeal to you, by all means, comment. Rip it apart, complain, call me a moron, but do something!

Sauerkraut Pizza6


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What the Heck is Gochujang? Oh, You Eat It!

I love finding new ways to use old standard ingredients, and what could be more standard than chicken and rice? This dish is going to make you find new places to shop, try new ingredients, and discover new flavors. I know it looks like a lot of work sorting out the details, but I promise you two things; First, it’s not as complex as it looks at first glance. I made this today in about an hour. Second, whatever it takes, it’s worth it.

Gochujang Chicken & Rice
Gochujang Chicken & Rice

Gochujang Chicken w Shishito Peppers
With Shishito Peppers on Top



Please continue  and read the recipe. I think you will find it worth every minute.






Continue reading “What the Heck is Gochujang? Oh, You Eat It!”

Hearty Dinner With a Bonus

Because some of you have asked for more food, here’s another recipe that  not only satisfies on a number of levels, but this big batch almost assures some leftovers that get even better when allowed to rest for a day or two. The Germans call that “Ziehen,” which translates to “draw,” as in drawing the flavor out of the ingredients. Also, it gets you to hunt for a fabulous spice blend, common in Morocco, that you will use again and again once you taste what it can do for a dish. So, continue reading for the recipe, and a bunch of additional information. Continue reading “Hearty Dinner With a Bonus”

OK, Let’s Make Lunch

For my first cooking post, I’m going a little out on a limb, considering the main ingredient. You see, it’s a food that doesn’t have a very favorable reputation among average diners. Most people I have talked to about it said that they were put off by the smell, and because of that, never tasted it. Well, this recipe mellows both the smell and the taste, elevating it to new heights on the palate.

Kimchi Soup Bowls 2

Click the link in the full article below for the full recipe.  Continue reading “OK, Let’s Make Lunch”