Monday, June 20, 2005

Weekend TV Blogging

I actually managed to get some TV watching in this weekend, something I don’t do as often as I used to. A few highlights of the weekend:

1. I got to watch the Military Channel’s coverage of this year’s Best Ranger competition. The team I was rooting for came in third, but I was impressed by all of the competitors. For me, the biggest hero of the competition was eliminated during the night after the first day of competition. The competitors work in buddy teams of two. One team had a member who had injured his ankle climbing during an obstacle course. At the end of the day, the teams had to race each other in a 21-mile march carrying 65 pound rucksacks. The buddy of the injured ranger, a young lieutenant, carried both rucksacks for his team. That’s 130 lbs plus of gear. They didn’t complete the course in the required 6 hours in order to remain in the competition, but they were still marching at the end. As the Lt. put it, “We may not finish in time, but we didn’t quit!” These are the people who are defending our freedoms, folks. Watch this show and feel a little more secure.

2. I found myself watching an Indian movie on the AZN network. It was a war movie, and while I can’t remember the title, it was set in the conflict between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. It was actually a very well-made movie. The actors, according to the menu guide, are some of the big names in “Bollywood”. It used some pretty standard and recognizable plot devices and themes, but the depiction of combat was intense but not gory, and the acting was as good as most you’d see in a Hollywood war flick. The soundtrack was an Indian/Rock fusion that worked well, and the cinematography, especially of the mountain climbing scenes, was amazing.

3. I watched bits of a National Geographic Channel special on animal communications, and especially enjoyed watching the section on dogs, especially a study that indicates that dogs can distinguish cancerous tissue from normal tissue just by their sense of smell. I’ll be honest; I was biased, because I’m a huge dog fan. I love my own dog like a family member (albeit not as much as I love my wife or child), and tend to like most dogs I meet. I like big dogs, small dogs, smart dogs, dumb dogs, active dogs, and lazy dogs. I admire their loyalty to their pack mates (us), their
general tendency to accept us unconditionally and even worship us, their playfulness, inquisitiveness, and empathy. I read the results of a study that indicates that dogs have an incredible aptitude for reading human body language -- even higher that that of animals with a reputation for even higher intelligence, such as chimps. Other studies indicate that just petting a dog or cat can lower your heart rate. So naturally, I was a sucker for even more praise for our canine den dwellers.

4. I watched the latest episodes of "The Next Food Network Star". So far I've been unsurprised and fairly in agreement with the eliminations. I'm torn between rooting for Hans, who's the best cook on the show, and Eric, who has the most enjoyable personality and seems the most like a truly good person.

I also find myself saying "My gosh, I could have done that better!" a lot. I really wish I'd tried out for the show. I've had a passion for cooking for a long time, and have even contemplated culinary school in the past, but I'm a bit intimidated by the process of becoming a chef. However, the more in love with cooking I fall, and the more praise I get from people who read my recipes and eat my food (especially from TFR. She's very blunt about any dish that doesn't stack up), the more I think I might have finally found my calling.

UPDATE (6/21/05)

Thanks for the Memory to a comment by Triticale for reminding me:

5. I watched one of those "Week in Science" shows that highlighted, among other cool stuff (Like the imminent launch of the first solar sail satellite), a new device that uses UV light to detect counterfeit Single Malt Scotches.

Anyone who would counterfeit good Single Malt should be soaked in cheap bathtub gin and then lit on fire.

Smoking Break

This week's Carnival of The Recipes has been up since late Friday, and I've had a good amount of traffic from it as usual.

This weekend, to celebrate father's day, I treated myself to some quiality time with the smoker. The results were hit and miss. I finally figured out that if I fill the bottom bin completely with charcoal instead of just adding a chimney's worth, it will maintain a good, even heat in the right range for about 6-7 hours. Armed with that knowledge, I did a rack of ribs that put my first efforts to shame. I made a couple of changes to the rub recipe, one accidentally and one intentionally, that I'll have to remember. Sunday I tried another batch of jerky, and was disappointed. The marinade I tried was ok but not spectacular, and I overcooked it, leaving me with crunchy jerky. Because of this, and despite the ribs, TFR has proclaimed that I am spending too much time with the smoker and must give it a rest for a few weeks. So my next few recipes will be either grill or other cooking forms, nothing involving a smoker.

Because of all the kind comments by Songstress from over at News from the Great Beyond, I thought I'd start out with a recipe that will not only NOT require that she purchase a grill, but heck, doesn't even require a stove. You DO have a fridge, don't you Ms. S?

Saturday night I whipped up a batch of ceviche and served it on Sunday to TFR. She was so impressed she had to call her mom, her sister, and her boss lady to brag. For those of you unfamiliar, ceviche is a Mexican seafood dish which relies on the chemical reaction of lime juice and salt rather than heat to cook the fish. I like to refer to it as "Sushi Salsa". It's delicious if done right, and is an excellent hot weather dish, as it's light, refreshing, and requires NO contact with a hot stove. So here, without further ado, is my:

Sushi Salsa Ceviche

1 lb. fish (I use tilapia, but cod, halibut, sunfish, or any white meat fish will do.)
1 large onion
2 tomatoes
3 cloves garlic
1 pepper (I prefer habanero, but jalapeno or Serrano would also work.)
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp. oregano (obviously, for a Mexican dish, Mexican oregano is preferred.)
1 cup lime juice (Fresh squeezed is best, but bottled will do. Try to get key limes or key lime juice if possible.)

Cut the fish into quarter-inch cubes. Any smaller and they’ll tend to fall apart, any larger and they’re too thick for the marinating process. Place the cubes in a large glass bowl It’s important to use glass. If you can’t, don’t bother making Ceviche. If you insist, use plastic or stainless steel. Avoid at all costs aluminum or copper, as the chemical reaction with the lime juice will ruin the taste. Salt the fish generously. Cut the tomatoes and onions into similarly sized chunks, mince the garlic finely, and add the tomatoes, onion, garlic, cilantro, and oregano to the bowl. Salt and pepper generously.

Next, add the pepper. Most people use jalapenos, but I don’t like their flavor – it tastes too much like a strong bell pepper, and tends to dominate a dish. I prefer habaneros for two reasons: they’re hot as Hades; and their flavor aside from the heat is much more subtle. Using a habanero adds heat, but doesn’t interfere with the other flavors of the dish. If it’s too hot for you, a good compromise between the jalapeno and the habanero is the Serrano chili.

The next step is very important, especially if you decide to go with a habanero: Put on a pair of gloves. Habaneros are serious business. They are the hottest chili in the world, around 100 times hotter than a jalapeno. If you get any of it on your hands, and then touch sensitive tissue like your eyes, nose, or mouth, you will hurt. Trust me. Using a very sharp paring knife cut the pepper as finely as you possible can: the smaller the pieces, the better. Add to the bowl.

Pour in the lime juice, mix thoroughly. Add enough lime juice so that the entire mix is soaking in lime juice. Cover bowl, refrigerate. Marinate for 18-24 hours. Serve on tostadas or tortilla chips, garnish with avocado and more cilantro.