Thursday, July 22, 2010

Max and dinner

While I'm cooking dinner, Max sits in his high chair, dangling the stethescope we accidentally stole from the hospital when Zoe was there for her RSV. He's fascinated with the way it hangs from the table. He drops the stethescope and makes the honking goose sound that reminds us of Zoe. Erik feeds him two plums he mashed between his fingers. I overboil some extra cauliflower and Erik purees that in the Cuisinart. Zoe feeds it to him until she gets "so tired" that I take over. He also eats some plain cous cous. Except for the pork chop and the plums for peaches, Max ate a lot for what we ate for dinner. He needed a bath after. So did the floor but it was very good that everyone could sit at the table and eat together. After his bath, Erik handed him to me. He tried to eat my shoulder. He's a nestler. And he's always hungry but I think that runs in the family.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Pho for Ali

This is a recipe I have adapted from a Martha Stewart cook book.
For the broth:

4 oz rice noodles.
4 cups Beef Stock.
3 tbsp Nam pla (Asian fish sauce)
5 star anise
6 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 rounds of ginger
1 tsp. ground pepper

To accompany:
1 pound very lean sirloin of beef.
small onion, sliced thinly
jalapeno, sliced
1 lime, quartered
Sriracha Sauce
Hoisin (optional. Makes it too sweet, I think).

Freeze the sirloin for a about an hour so you can slice it thinly.
Soften the noodles in a bowl with hot water.

Combine stock, water fish sauce and spices in a large pot. Simmer broth for one hour (this should reduce the stock enough that you don't need more salt but if you do, add some.)

Slice sirloin as thinly as possible and pop it in the hot broth. Garnish with limes, basil, sriracha, onion and jalapeno. And hoisin if you must.

Pho Dai Loc

I was going to write a list of all the things I should have bought in Salt Lake: pants and duck liver, pork belly and pancetta, pajamas for Max and underwear for Zoe, apricots and tomatoes. I should have eaten at the Korean restaurant and at the noodle house but then we got back and I remembered, if I go to many stores, I will be able to buy most of the things I need. It's not the food, really, that I miss in Salt Lake. What I miss in Salt Lake is the people who take Zoe on picnics and feed Max cereal and bananas. I miss the people who grill non-COFC steak for me or love it when I cook them mushrooms. It takes a little while to adjust to being back and not being surrounded by Zoe players and Max admirers. However, I am catching up on Top Chef, Chopped and Next Food Network Star.
Watching those made me starving since I never really watch food shows in the day. All the things I had regretted not eating or buying in Salt Lake paraded in front of me. But I remembered (I was gone for two whole weeks and had forgotten) that if I apply myself I can get most ingredients, maybe even more cheaply and maybe even more locally grown, than I can get in Salt Lake. I can't get my mom, sisters or mother-in-law here more than a couple times a year, but I can get lemons for a dollar a pound. I went to Randall's the Butcher for chicken, bacon, eggs, ground sirloin and pork. Then, I went to the Farmer's Market store for those cheap lemons, even less expensive broccoli and cauliflower. As opposed to going to evil Safeway where I would have spent $125 on the same things, I got more and better for less. $20 at the Farmers Market Store and $28 at the butcher. Yay.
So Zoe, who came with me on these errands, deserved a treat. And we were still starving. We wanted soup. What's her favorite soup? Maybe Tom Gha Kai, but I had just finished writing a story about how Pho Bo cured her of one of her worst coughs. She doesn't have a cough but Flagstaff does have a restaurant that serves Pho. So I took her there. She was cautious. It had been a long time since she'd had the soup. We went to Pho Dai Loc last over a year ago. I worry about this restaurant. It's in the front of one of the run down motels on Route 66. This might not attract the downtown eating folks. And I'm not sure the people who drive down Route 66 in their restored Corvettes are looking for Pho. But today, it was still open. So we went in. There are two other people there at 12:45. Not entirely promising for its future.
But the ingredients are fresh. When we order the Pho Tai and the fried shrimp in case Zoe's palate has regressed (or progressed or gressed in any direction), it came with perfectly thinly sliced sirloin, fresh, not slimy, bean sprouts, lime and great thai basil. The broth is spicy and star anisey like it should be. I give Z some rice noodles and just a little broth to start. She loves them. She asks for more broth but I've already put sriracha sauce in mine. Oh well. She likes red hot peppers on her pizza. So I give her more broth. She drinks that up, along with her ice water, and then asks for more. She eats most of the soup and none of the fried shrimp. Those were left to me which were extra amazing--crunchy, toothy, and with a sweet and sour sauce. I called Erik to ask if he wanted some Pho to go. He did so we ordered another batch. On our way out the door, someone, perhaps one of those restored Corvette drivers, asks how the food is. I tell him delicious. I hope if 10 people go there a day, it won't go out of business.
An additional bonus, inside, they sell Asian Food products that you might not be able to get a Safeway.
Here's what Safeway's good for: milk, cat litter, beer, wine, cheese. And yogurt. Maybe one day, Flagstaff will have a Winder Dairy like Salt Lake does.
But the good news is, you can get Pho in Flagstaff and it's good. It's also just as good at home. Zoe wanted half of Erik's Pho too. She's full of Pho and sriracha like all good five year olds, downtown diners and Route 66 drivers should be.

Monday, July 12, 2010


Zoe is almost five. We're celebrating her birthday in Salt Lake with fried chicken from Meier's, homemade cupcakes and potato salad made by our fine relatives. I should have no gifts but I forgot. Zoe's at a kind of hilarious age where she tells everyone who asks that she would like the same thing. She will end up with 14 hula hoops on Friday.

I saw a picture of her from last year and I said to El, my mother-in-law, that's not from last year. She said, that's Italy. And it was Italy which was last year but in the picture, she still looks like a baby. She is the opposite of a baby now. She has a song that goes like this: Candy apple on a stick, makes my heart go 246. Not because I'm dirty. Not because I'm clean. Just because I kissed a boy behind the magazine. That's right. Hiding her naughty romance in the periodicals. That's my kid at 5. Thanks Mountain Jacks Camp! She also learned to swing, hula hoop and go under water in the swimming pool these past two weeks. She's learned that all grown ups do is talk and that if there are no kids around, it is no fun. Also, she says that unless you're dirty, you're not really playing. She has run through the sprinklers and eaten popsicles and complained about not having pretty enough shoes or a pretty dress for her birthday. She wants a princess backpack for her birthday even though she knows I hate princesses. She just looks at me until I come to my senses and say, OK, fine, it's your birthday.

Yesterday, she wouldn't talk to Erik's aunt or cousin in some super shyness but alternates super shyness with moments of true brazenness, like when she asks my mom's boyfriend for a taffy cookie. Sugar and sweets will draw her out with almost anyone.

She just ate a new cereal. Mostly, she just eats Frosted MiniWheats but this morning she said, I'm worried I'll still be hungry after Miniwheats. We gave her some fancy GoLean Kashi cereal instead. She thinks she's full for now.

When she's talking and telling a particularly long story, she'll pause for words she's forgotten and say "whatever it is" with open hands. That's how I see her mostly. She's open to the answer and she'll figure it out. I worry that she's so open that the world will crush her, but I imagine all parents worry about that. It's like being worried you won't be full before you even eat breakfast. Eventually, you just have to eat.

She still eats well. She's kind of off meat right now but still likes sweet potatoes, watermelon, peaches, blueberries, cherries, canteloupe and ice cream, cookies (Mother's Taffy) and regular, salt water taffy. She does not like french fries or ketchup.

She asks that people please don't bring anything yucky to her birthday. Yucky includes ketchup. It also includes mustard to which my mom agrees.

Zoe likes to help feed Max which means everyone is twice as messy as they would be if only Max were feeding himself. Max likes trout, salmon, peaches, blueberries and peaches and rice cereal. After the troupe of cereal eating monkeys sprinkled granules of rice on every surface and in every crevice, Erik asked her wash her hands and then to please go get his camera to which she said to me, my goodness he needs a lot of stuff. It's better just to want one thing--like a hula hoop.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Car Food, Summer Food, Salt Lake Food

So far, they all have one thing in common: hamburger. Something happens in the summer that makes me treat red meat less like dead animal to be served with some sort of reverence and thanks and more like potato chips. I can't eat just one and you just open the grill and out pop pre-made patties that are tossed out onto buns. I eat mine without a bun with a little salt. Just like a potato chip. I can eat two without noticing I ate anything. Sometimes, it requires a hot dog to inform my stomach that dinner is already over. I try to celebrate red meat like I do in the winter by making a more gourmet version. I'll do fancy hamburgers stuffed with jalapenos or with a little frozen pad of butter stuff inside, or, as Val made the other night, lamb burgers with delicious tzatziki sauce. But I'll also just eat whatever brown round thing comes my way. I'm not discriminating, at least in the summer, when it comes to burgers. On the drive up to Salt Lake, I had a double, plain Wendy's hamburger. Then last night, a plain burger from the Training Table. It was delicious dipped in Salt Lakean fry sauce* (making it, I guess, less plain). But I'm feeling cow sad and like I should take a break from the potato-chip like frenzy and eat something less dead and more healthy. Like potato chips. Except I think my in-laws are grilling hamburgers for dinner. Maybe I'll join my mother-in-law and have a garden burger. With fry sauce*.

* Fry sauce is made basically with ketchup and mayonnaise and some secret spices like at Hires Drive-in but at the Training Table, it is made with barbecue sauce and mayonnaise. Homemade versions never compare. Restaurants must add MSG or some other delicious, nearly illegal substance to make it taste so good and keep it so secret.