08.12.08: the cheese stands alone

feats of kitchen magic i attempted this weekend, arranged by vivacity of reception (ascending):

ye olde vegetarian chili. i still love this recipe - hell, i nearly marched up and congratulated the woman who created it when i recognized her at a bar in brooklyn last month - but it's not as easy as it once was to eat it for three days in a row (i'd halve the ingredient portions, but what does one do with partial cans and peppers?). joe has started scooping out an extra-small quantity for himself when we execute the Vegetarian/Omnivore Couple's Mid-Recipe Split for Meat or "Crumble"-Adding, which is as close as he will come to saying he's over it. this batch of chili was a bit more interesting than the few that preceded it, as the red habanero i added was made of witches and at least twice as strong as i'd expected it to be, but that's not the sort of interesting i had in mind.

fourth of july roasted tomato salsa. i knew i wanted to try a roasted salsa for our friends' barbecue in jersey on saturday, and this recipe (from one of jen's favorite food sites) beat out a similar one (from a pepper porn site, which can be the best or worst place to search for salsa, depending on your audience) because it calls for a dried guajillo; i've been looking for an excuse to visit our local mexican deli/grocery (a wondrous place with both huitlacoche quesadillas and a whole wall of dried peppers for sale; it's second only to penzeys in my spice-hunting affections). the roasting tomatoes and caramelizing onion made the apartment smell glorious on friday night, and the guajillo did indeed give the salsa a deep earthy flavor. in concentrating on keeping the heat level under control, though, i managed to forget about keeping the onion in check: if you like them, like me, you'll dig this salsa (which functions like a sweet tapenade, almost). if you don't, like joe, well...make sure you use a small onion (i didn't), and maybe cut the amount in half. also, keep LOTS of salt on hand: salt makes everything better, but it makes most salsas sublime.

"don pablo's" queso dip. salsa was my first barbecue contribution, but a fellow jerseygoer's paean to all things nacho stirred up my own feelings; when i suggested bringing queso as well, i had a cheese mob on my hands. i've tried making queso fundido with authentic queso blanco, but the finer cheese, she is temperamental and clumpy (and forms big unsatisfying curds without a constant heat source). i needed something that would withstand an hour in a tote bag on the A train and revivification in a microwave, and that something was, er, queso ghetto. i didn't actually find the two-pound brick of velveeta the recipe required, so i bought forty singles and spent five minutes peeling and dropping them into my vat of buttery onions and off-brand ro*tel. i ended up cheating on the heat - i added two diced jalapenos to the sauteed onions and two pickled jalapenos to the finished vat - but i must say, internets, my hat's off to the processed queso. when we switched from chips to dinner, the cheese came along and ended up on hot dogs, too. god bless america.

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 how much does a velveeta log cost in your neighborhood? have you ever thought about buying one?

02 do you guys have any good chili tricks i should know about? note: pork does not count.

03 how about mosquito bite relief tricks? those jersey bugs hit me like we hit that cheese: i suffer, internets.


tom said...

I've always found that long-sleeve shirts and pants are very effective in getting you to stop itching those bites, which drives down the irritation (and the need to itch) remarkably well. How effective this is in a concrete universe like midtown Manhattan -- more sweat, more uncomfortabletude -- is debatable, however.

valya said...

01 i have no idea, because no, i never even considered buying one. do they even sell those here? i will check next time i'm at safeway.

02 yes! i never make chili, but i enjoy doctoring other people's. my favorite additions are cinnamon and/or unsweetened cocoa powder, for a mole-like richness.

also, my brother once won a chili cookoff with a vegetarian chili using portobello mushrooms.

03 oddly enough, i just heard that calendula cream works nicely. but it was in the context of buying a baby shower gift, so: http://www.californiababy.com/calendula-cream-2-oz.html

G said...

01 log? they come in logs? dude, that's scary

02 looked at the recipe, and she does what I do. Beer, corn meal, sweet and hot peppers... try adding coriander and cinnamon to the spice mix, perhaps?

03 ice cubes on the worst bites, old wives' tale of marking an 'x' in them with a fingernail. that's all i got. much like caffeine, my tolerance to bites is formidable, due to overexposure as a youth.

lauren said...

i'm finding that while there are many itch relief options (i am trying them all), there's very little Out There on how to actually accelerate mosquito bites' disappearance. that's a big concern, too, as i have twenty on my right knee alone, and the few i got earlier this summer appear to have scarred(!). that never happened before: is this part of leaving my twenties? suddenly permanent insect bites? to be honest, i would prefer something like droopy boobs. there are fixes for those.

jen said...

01 - good god, no! that the primary reason i moved out of idaho. better cheese selection in the grocery stores.

02 - this is a good classic veggie chili*, it doesn't reinvent the wheel or anything. but i am quite fond of it: http://slithy-tove.net/2006_02_01_archive.html#19feb06

maybe you'll find something useful to mine out of it.

*is it poor form to cite my own blog? probably.

03 - its been a while since i've hung out in nature, so i'm low on bug-bite remedies. but i'm getting all psyched for my camping trip to wisconsin next week, so if you make any new discoveries, let me know! (my friends took an anniversary hiking trip to wisconsin a few weeks ago, and were literally forced to RUN back to their cabin to escape the hordes of bloodthirsty bugs)

Sara said...

@jen, on 03, rumor has it avon's skin-so-soft has great success as a repellant. however, no word on its healing capabilities...