Wednesday, February 22, 2006

I Crack Myself Up

I was just going through an old blog of mine that hasn't been updated since January 2003 and some of the entries just made me laugh. Here's a good one from September 19, 2002:

"Cuisine." Right.

I hate those commercials that have a gaggle of fashion-victim-type women in yoga suits and perky hairdos, jogging or visiting the museum, declaring their pathetic excuse for dinner the night before:

"Last night I ate two pints of Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia, a package of Oreo Double Stufs and a Twinkie."
"I had a whole bag of Fritos, which I dipped in Nutella."
"I had three cherry tomatoes and a piece of radicchio, and a box of Fruit Loops."
"I had a tablespoonful of peanut butter and a package of dry Jell-O."

Then comes the kicker:

"Last night I had slices of tender grilled chicken bathed in garlic Alfredo sauce over penne pasta."

When the rest of the gals look at her with highly annoyed expressions, she confesses it was a Lean Cuisine.

Have you ever tasted a Lean Cuisine? Well, let me tell you that the word "Cuisine" applies more to dog food than to that crap. By comparison, the other gals' meals seem much more appetizing. Somehow the manufacturers of this product not only have figured out how to produce a meal with fewer calories but also with less flavor. The "grilled" chicken is as grilled as a Burger King Whopper - the flavoring is pure duPont. No self-respecting grill, not even a George Foreman, would cause something so nasty to merge from the tender embrace of its flames (or its non-stick grill-like ridges). Somehow, all frozen dinner meats taste like pre-masticated gym socks (with or without the "grill" flavor) and tomato sauce becomes an abomination when in the control of Stouffer's. Consider that many frozen "diet" meals consist of pasta with a red sauce - gummy overcooked noodles with a thin, acidy, off-tasting (like bad ice cubes) sauce. Now how hard is it exactly to open a box of pasta and toss some in boiling water, drain when al dente, and combine with a jar of Barilla? Of course, I would prefer homemade red sauce, but I understand that might be a bit time consuming for the average Jo(e). Chopped raw plum tomatoes, or tiny sweet cherry tomatoes, halved, and tossed on hot pasta with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and S&P'd to taste, would be a great fresh alternative to jarred sauce. But I digress.

I must confess that there was one Lean Cuisine that tasted good - meat and spinach cannelloni with white sauce. The meat was a mix of ground beef and pork, I believe, and the white sauce was remarkably like a bechamel that was even allowed to brown a bit on the top. This was one of the first dinners that Lean Cuisine produced, back before they realized that diet-conscious consumers were more motivated by the "less than 300 calories" claim than by a need for any flavor of any kind. So of course they stopped making this particular cannelloni but have continued to produce the red-sauced, "cheese"-filled kind.

So what did I have for dinner last night? How about fusilli pasta in home-made Thai basil pesto with fresh backfin crabmeat and grated Parmesan cheese (and not from a green cylinder, silly!) with a mixed field greens salad dressed with raspberry vinegar and extra virgin olive oil? Cooking the pasta took about 10 minutes longer than heating up a Lean Cuisine, but the taste rewards far surpassed the work involved.

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And here's a post from a few days earlier, with criticism of my favorite cook (that's sarcasm, folks!), Rachael Ray....

Busy Busy

Kate came to pick me up at noon and we headed out to Han Ah Rheum, a Korean grocery store in western Baltimore county. I was amazed by the produce section which stocked both Asian and Western veggies and fruits. I bought a bunch of Thai basil and a cherimoya, but didn't want to go too crazy, as I was spending the night at Kate's. She picked some veggies for dinner, and we continued our tour. The market was much like Uwajimaya, in that there were Western staples alongside the more exotic items like shrimp paste and rice stick noodles. The frozen food aisle was chock-full of dumplings and other yummies that I wouldn't be able to fit in my already-full freezer at home, and the snack aisle served up several different kinds of Pocky, as well as other interesting candies and cookies. Neal and I will definitely have to make a trip here in the future.

After Han Ah Rheum, Kate and I ordered some take-away ribs from Bill Bateman's. After lunch, we grabbed some Japanese candy and good old-fashioned American M&Ms and went to the movies. "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" was a big fat hit with us - it's so nice to see a movie that has no tragedy, no violence, no evil villains out to conquer the world. It was funny and tender and highly enjoyable.

Back at Kate's, we rustled up some dinner - pasta with roasted eggplant and tomato sauce, arugula salad, and crostini. The recipe for the sauce came from Rachel Ray's 30-minute Meals. Now that chick annoys me; she has a grating speaking voice and she thinks she is just too cute for words. Anyway, the sauce was a nice idea, but the recipe wasn't well executed. She called for roasting an eggplant in the oven for 15 minutes. Uh, well, that's hardly roasting. It was still raw in 15. Forty-five is more like it. Pureed in the food processor with garlic and parsley and salt, part of it became a spread for the crostini (as recommended in the recipe). I thought it was a bit bland, so doctored it up with sugar, fresh basil, pine nuts, and balsamic vinegar. The rest of the eggplant was mixed with a can of tomatoes and heated. Again, it was a bit bland, so it received more of the basil, a healthier dose of salt and pepper, the balsamic vinegar, and sugar. The spread went on toasted French bread slices and the sauce on bellflower pasta. The arugula salad was nothing more than fresh greens dressed with lemon juice and olive oil - fantastic. When it was all said and done, the dinner was pretty tasty, especially when chased with glasses of Moscato.

We watched FoodTV and ate helpings of Ghirardelli chocolate walnut brownies topped with Ben & Jerry's pistachio ice cream. It really should have been Wavy Gravy, but those idiots at B&Js retired the flavor. Big mistake, as it was one of the best flavors of ice cream ever invented - at least in my (and Kate's) not-so-humble opinion!