Freezing broccoli

(Tangerines. Franklin Park Conservatory. Feb. 2008. © Robin)

Once again, the photo has nothing to do with the post. It’s from my archives. Pretty yummy looking fruit, don’t you think?

It’s also a good reminder to me to be sure to get plenty of vitamin C.

This month of blogging about food has been fun. I’ve learned that my food photography skills are not nearly as bad as I thought they were. There’s plenty of room for improvement, but some of my shots were decent.

Anyone know yet what the NaBloPoMo theme for August will be? Just curious. I don’t think I’ll jump on the NaBloPoMo bandwagon again until November. It depends on the themes. If something grabs my interest and gives me another chance to practice my photography, I’ll go for it.

Yesterday Elaine, a new visitor to Life in the Bogs, asked how I freeze my broccoli. It’s very easy.

Preparation: You want to select young, firm, tender stalks with compact heads. Remove the leaves and any woody portions. Separate the heads into sections. I generally cut it up into portions that are ready for eating, but if there are some long stalks, I’ll just separate them into “spears.” Immerse the cut up broccoli in brine (about 4 teaspoons salt to 1 gallon of water) for 30 minutes to remove any insects that might be hiding in the heads (usually you’ll find some little, bright green, worms). If you haven’t already done so, split the spears lengthwise so flowerets are no more than 1-1/2 inches across.

I rinse it after it’s soaked. I don’t know why. You probably don’t have to.

There are two methods of blanching: Water blanching and steam blanching. Blanching, in case you’re unfamiliar with it, is the scalding of vegetables. Blanching kills off the enzymes that cause the vegetables to grow and mature. Without blanching, these enzymes would stay active even during the frozen stage and cause off colors, off flavors, and some toughening of the veggies.

I’ve tried both water and steam blanching. I prefer the water method. It seems to work better (for me. Your mileage may vary.).

Water blanch the broccoli in batches (usually one gallon of water per pound of veggies). Bring the water to a boil, then lower the veggies into the water allowing the water to continue boiling. Cover and start timing from this point. For broccoli, you want to blanch it for 3 minutes in boiling water. (Steam blanching time is 5 minutes.) I have a small wire basket that I use to lower the veggies into the water and to make it easier to get them out.

After 3 minutes, remove the broccoli from the water and immerse it in cold water for 3 minutes (the rule of blanching is that you cool it for as long as you blanched it). This stops the cooking process. You want to do this right away, as over blanching your veggies is just as bad as under blanching.

Drain thoroughly. I lay the broccoli out on a towel and kind of toss it around in the towel (gently!) to dry it. If it’s too wet, ice crystals will form and your broccoli will get freezer burnt. Blech.

Package the broccoli, leaving no headspace. Seal and freeze.

I use freezer bags, and suck the air out of them with a straw. One of these days I might invest in one of those sealing things that vacuum packs your food. In the meantime, this method works well.

Hope that helps. 🙂

The broccoli is in

(Getting ready to grill. © Robin, 2008.)

The broccoli is in! Yay!

I picked up my order from the farm down the street today. 17 lbs. of beautiful, green, healthy-for-ya broccoli.

Needless to say (but I will anyway), I’ve spent the day cutting, blanching, and freezing broccoli. I’ve been eating some of it too. It’s delicious. I’m always amazed at how sweet freshly picked broccoli tastes.

The photo above, by the way, has nothing to do with broccoli or anything else in this post. I took it a week or two ago when we were grilling veggies to go with our dinner. It’s my back-up photo. I’d have taken a photo or ten of the broccoli, especially after it’s blanched and takes on that gorgeous green color, but my camera is once again traveling without me. I’ll have it back again in a week. In the meantime, I’ll have to rely on my archives if I need a photo.

Got a call from the doc today about some blood work I had done. It seems I have iron deficiency anemia. Not sure why. I guess I’ll find out eventually. In the meantime, it’s high doses of iron supplements for me. I better make sure I get plenty of fiber with those supplements. They can be hell on the digestive system.

Post and run

(Some burrito fixin’s. © Robin)

There were refried black beans, hot sauce, and tortillas to go with that, along with meat for the carnivores.

No time to post much today. M the Younger will be moving out tomorrow. I’ve been chasing him around today, making sure he has everything packed and ready to go into the moving truck.

It’s rather frantic around here today.

See ya tomorrow.

Of cabbages…

(At the Hartville Market. July 2008. © Robin)

No time to write much of anything today. That’s probably just as well. I’ve been writing a lot the past few days. Too many words, perhaps. Blah, blah, and blah.

The cabbages will have to do for now.

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing wax —
Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
And whether pigs have wings.”

~ Lewis Carroll, From The Walrus and The Carpenter


(Grilled cheese & tomato soup. © 2008, Robin.)

Friday evening M and I went to Akron to return some fabric swatches (we’re looking to replace the futon we’re giving to M the Younger), and to enjoy a night out.

During the summer months free concerts are held at Lock 3 in Akron so before dinner we stopped to hear the JiMiller Band. They were good and we enjoyed their music.   They’re a jam band, a little Grateful Dead-ish.  We didn’t stay for the whole set as we wanted to have dinner in between the early and late rush. The restaurants tend to get crowded early with the pre-baseball game (the Akron Aeros) crowds and then again after 8:00 or 9:00pm with the club crowds. This particular Friday night was busy with the baseball crowds, many of whom were in the area for the All American Soap Box Derby taking place on Saturday.

We had dinner at Crave. M has been there before for business dinners. This was my first time.

The service was great, and the food was excellent. We started with the pan fried, buttermilk dipped, green tomatoes that were served with tomatillo salsa, crab meat, and a poblano chili sour cream. This photo, I’m afraid, does not do it justice as we’d already dug in by the time I thought to take a photo:

The tomatoes were warm and crispy on the outside, wonderfully tart and tasty on the inside. I particularly liked the tomatillo salsa that was served with them. M enjoyed the crab meat (also quite good).

My mother used to make fried tomatoes. Not always green, as they’re quite good when they’re almost ripe. She uses a simple recipe of flour, salt and pepper. Dredge the tomatoes in the mixture and then fry them up in hot oil. The frying can be messy business, one of the reasons I don’t make them very often. They’re served with parmesan cheese.

I like trying out the different fried green tomato recipes, especially when I don’t have to be the one making the mess to do so.

We followed the appetizer with a cup of the grilled cheese and tomato soup for me and the grilled Granny Smith apple salad for M. We more or less shared both dishes. The soup, I gather, is one of their signature dishes. Grilled cheese and tomato is comfort food to me (probably to a lot of people). The dish was a nice mix of comfort and contemporary, and very tasty.

The salad was fresh with a wonderful variety of flavors coming together in the apples, the bleu cheese, and the spicy candied walnuts. The dressing was light and just right, not overpowering the other flavors in the salad. In fact, I think it enhanced them.

For our main course we decided on sandwiches. M had the polento crusted blackened catfish poboy. I had the grilled zucchini, golden tomato, and marinated artichoke panini. The smoked goat cheese and hot pepper jelly went well with the veggies. Delicious! I can’t tell you about the taste of M’s sandwich as I’m not a fan of catfish (meaning I didn’t try it), but can tell you he thoroughly enjoyed it so it must have been good.

We walked back down to Lock 3 after our dinner, but didn’t stay for the Bon Jovi tribute band (Bad Medicine).  In spite of the fact that I’m from New Jersey, I’m not a Bon Jovi fan, and I’ve never been a big fan of tribute bands.  Sometimes they’re fun.  Mostly I’d rather see/hear the real deal if possible.  When it’s not possible, then a tribute band will do.

Lock 3 is located near the Akron Civic Theater, said to be haunted.  You can read about it here if you’re interested.

I don’t think you can see it too well in that photo, but the street was lined with motorcycles.  The only thing I can figure is that bikers are fans of Bon Jovi, or Bon Jovi tribute bands.  Or maybe they were just enjoying the lovely summer weather and it was a good night to come to Akron.  Either way, there was quite a gathering.  And some very interesting looking bikes.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch

Or dinner, as the case may be.

Back in June, while visiting Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, I wrote a post about The Anvil Restaurant. It was not a good review as our experience wasn’t particularly good.

So it goes. Right?

Wrong. That particular post would have faded into obscurity (it had not been getting many hits) had it been left alone.

Yesterday someone stopped by and left this comment on that post. I’ll go ahead and insert it here via the magic of copy/paste, saving you the trouble of clicking on the link.

kay turner

I don’t quite understand the problems that you have mentioned. I have been going to The Anvil for over 20 years and the food and service is always good. As every place can have their problems from time to time, I have been there when they were unstaffed and still had reasonable service and always good food and plenty of it. It is family owned and operated and I take offense to anyone saying not to eat there! After 23 years in business, they must be doing something right!
It sounds like you want something for nothing and if you complain, it is free is the new thing! Bash someone and get it free!
Shame on you for bashing them after you got the meal for free!

I responded, perhaps not as nicely as I could have. I was offended by the implications, something I’ll get to in a bit. I feel no shame in having stated my opinion about our experience that night. I do wonder, however, if Kay really read the whole post or just skimmed through it. I also wonder why someone should refrain from giving a bad review just because a meal was comped. No explanations or apologies were offered at the time. We didn’t even know the meal was comped until after a long period of waiting for someone, anyone, to come back to the table. That someone turned out to be our waiter with the check. He offered no explanations or apologies, either, but I’m not sure he knew what was going on since we didn’t complain to him but asked to speak with a manager.

Then it occurred to me that this would make an excellent post for today as it fits right in with the NaBloPoMo food theme. Thinking about the post I would write, I decided to check the reviews on TripAdvisor. M and I had checked the reviews AFTER we had dinner at The Anvil. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have gone there for dinner that night.

Imagine my surprise when I found a response from the management on the first bad review and the name is “Kaybab the owner.”

Interesting coincidence, don’t you think? Two Kays in one day? With similar writing styles?

Anything is possible, I suppose.

I thought the Kay Turner who left a response on my blog might be a local who might know the owner or owners or some of the staff. It would stand to reason that a regular customer or someone who has a link to the owner or staff would have good experiences and more than likely get better treatment. That’s cool. That’s what friends are for. The differences in our food experiences can be accounted for by taste. That’s cool, too. We don’t all have the same tastes in food (or anything), and that’s a good thing.

But that doesn’t negate the experience M and I had.

The problem, as I see it, is that both Kays (if there are, in fact, two Kays) missed the point. In my case, the point was that the service was poor. I pointed out in that post, at least twice, that M and I were not looking for a free meal. We asked to speak with the manager thinking they might want to know that the dish was not as described, and that it might be possible the chef used the wrong broth. If it had been a case of our tastes not matching the chef’s dish, well, so be it. It happens. We don’t expect a free meal just because our tastes differ or because we tried something new and didn’t like it.

We were looking for good customer service, something that has been quickly declining over the past decade or so. We wanted some kind of acknowledgment of our experience, be it an explanation or an apology or both.

There’s a saying that the customer is always right. Having worked in the service industry, I know better. The customer is not always right. Good business practice says to suck it up anyhow so the customer won’t go off and complain to everyone they know. I don’t necessarily agree with this either, but can see why some businesses go this route.

I know there are people who complain just for the sake of complaining. It’s their thing or they’re only happy when they’re stirring up trouble. I know there are people who are less than scrupulous who complain not because they have a legitimate complaint but because they know they’re likely to be rewarded with something free.

Someone who is good at business, and has been at it for a while, should probably be able to read people well enough to tell the difference between a real complaint, and one that’s made for other reasons be it just for the sake of complaining or to try to get something for nothing other than being obnoxious.

I was offended at Kay Turner’s implication that M and are I either of those types, particularly the last. We rarely complain about meals at restaurants. When you eat at an unknown place, without benefit of reviews from people you trust or who have tastes similar to yours, then you take your chances. The same is true if you try something new. You may or may not like it.

I’ve had one other free meal from a restaurant. It was a high-end restaurant where the wait staff were courteous, friendly, and trained to be there when you need them. I had ordered a flat iron steak, not having had one before. I didn’t like it. There was nothing wrong with the steak. It was prepared beautifully, with a wonderful sauce, cooked as I had ordered it. But, as will happen, it turns out flat iron steak doesn’t suit my palate. The waitress noticed I wasn’t eating my steak. She came back with the owner/chef who asked if I was unhappy with it. I insisted that the steak was fine, but that it turned out to be something I just didn’t like. The owner/chef insisted on making me something else, even after I refused several times. He insisted, he said, because he wanted our experience in his restaurant to be a good one. A short while later I had a nicely cooked and seasoned salmon fillet, and we weren’t charged for the steak even though the chef boxed it up for us to take home so M could have it for breakfast the next morning.

THAT is good customer service. Well above and beyond my expectations, that’s for sure. I would go back to that restaurant, whereas I will never go back to The Anvil. Not willingly, at any rate.

Even the major corporations are trying to practice better customer relations. I recently saw a story on the news about how some of the big companies are monitoring Twitter for complaints so they can rectify the situation before too many people decide not to utilize a particular company because they’ve heard so many bad things about them. Twitter is good for spreading the news, good or bad, and big companies such as Kodak and Comcast are aware of that fact.

That’s the funny thing about my review. I wrote it here, at my little blog that barely gets more than about 50-60 hits a day. I could have written a review at TripAdvisor. I’m registered and have written reviews there in the past. Good reviews. I don’t really like writing bad reviews as I prefer to give the benefit of the doubt in most cases. But treat me badly, and I’ll write it.

So, yeah, Kay. I dared to complain even after getting the free meal, because it wasn’t about the meal. It wasn’t even about the staff. It was about the management, and the way we were treated. I’m glad I found that response from the management at TripAdvisor. It appears to make my point for me — that the management doesn’t care. But that’s just my view. Your view may vary.

The empty plate

I took this photo the other day for a friend who needed a picture of a clean, empty plate and some silverware for a school project.

As I was looking at it this morning, debating whether or not to delete it from the vast quantity of photos taking up vast amounts of space on two hard drives, it got me to thinking about food in a way other than I’ve been thinking about it during this month of blogging to the theme of food.

I am fortunate. I do not have to go to bed hungry at night.

I live in a country where children are having serious health problems due to obesity, some getting mega calories from all the wrong foods (convenience foods) because they can’t afford the healthy foods. It’s about getting more calories for your dollar than more health from your food. Or, in some cases, the only food available comes from a convenience store or a fast food restaurant because there are no other choices in the neighborhood.

I’ve recently seen a few bloggers comparing photographs of obese children in the U.S. with starving children in Africa. Interesting questions are asked in this blog post.

I didn’t sit down here with the intention of editorializing on the subject of obesity. It would be too much like the kettle and the pot as I could certainly stand to skip a few meals. The thing is, I’m lucky that I have that option.

What I do want to do is point you towards a website you may already be familiar with. It’s the original click-to-give website: The Hunger Site. Head on over and click to give. It’s free and won’t take more than a moment of your time.