March 23rd, 2009

Kneading, Cheap Cookin

Recipe: Elkloaf 1.0

This was tonight's supper, served with green beans, rosemary-tomato bread, and blackberry-mulberry cobbler.

Elkloaf 1.0


Ingredients:
olive oil
1 handful of Rosemary & Olive Oil Triscuits, crushed (1/2 cup crumbs)
1/4 cup half-and-half
1 egg
1/8 of a sweet onion, diced (about 1/4 cup)
several sun-dried tomatoes, diced (1/2 cup)
1 pound ground elk
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
1/2 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon rosemary

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350º. Grease a loaf pan with olive oil.

Put a handful of Rosemary & Olive Oil Triscuits in a plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin, until you have 1/2 cup of small crumbs. Pour the crumbs into a large mixing bowl. Add 1/4 cup half-and-half and one egg. Allow the mixture to sit for a few minutes so the crumbs will soften.

Meanwhile peel the onion, cut it into sections, and dice until you have about 1/4 cup of onion bits. Put the bits in a small bowl and set aside. Dice the sun-dried tomatoes. Add them to the bowl with the onion bits.

To the large mixing bowl, add 1 teaspoon oregano, 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, and 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper. Put the ground elk into the large mixing bowl, tearing it into small pieces with your hands. Add the diced onion and sun-dried tomatoes. Mash and knead the mixture until thoroughly blended; it should be fairly smooth and stick together well. (If it’s too dry, add a little more half-and-half; if it’s too wet, add more Triscuit crumbs.) Pat the mixture into an oblong shape and lift it into the loaf pan.

Pour 1/2 cup ketchup into a small bowl. Add 1 teaspoon oregano and 1 teaspoon rosemary. Mix with pastry brush. Use half the sauce to cover the top of the meatloaf, spreading it evenly with the pastry brush.

Cook the meatloaf for 55 minutes. Remove it from the oven and brush the remaining sauce over the top. Return the meatloaf to the oven and cook for another 5 minutes. Serves 5 people.


Notes:

If you can’t find Rosemary & Olive Oil Triscuits, try substituting plain Triscuits plus 1 teaspoon rosemary and 1 teaspoon olive oil.

I had 1/4 of a sweet onion left over from a previous recipe, and didn’t need to use all of it. You can add more onion if you wish. This time the onion bits didn’t cook completely, although the meat did; they were still a little crispy. Next time I’ll try sautéing them first. Some meatloaves seem to soften onions more than others, even if the onion bits are of similar size.

I used kitchen scissors to cut the sun-dried tomatoes into strips, then held them together and cut crosswise to dice. This is the first time I’ve tried cooking with sun-dried tomatoes, and I’m thrilled with the flavor and texture. I like them much better than fresh tomatoes.

The flavors in this recipe are designed to complement the robust flavor of elk meat. Other game meat such as moose or venison would probably work. It’s not optimized for beef, though you could try that if you don’t have access to game.

Use a good tomato ketchup for the base of the sauce. Avoid ones that already have a lot of spices, or that list high fructose corn syrup as the first or second ingredient; you don’t want it too complex or too sweet. I used organic ketchup, which is nice and tangy, and made a perfect carrier for the oregano and rosemary. The sauce dries to a bright sticky coating with intense flavor.

The five of us devoured the whole meatloaf, with just enough room left for dessert. My partner Doug suggested adding a little Worcestershire sauce next time, but I’m sufficiently delighted with this version to post it now.
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The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense (revised) now available!

You can now order the revised edition of The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense by Suzette Haden Elgin (aka ozarque on LJ). It updates the book's concepts for contemporary life and examples. If you're new to the concept, verbal self-defense helps defuse arguments and other hostile language. It's useful for everyone in ordinary conversation, but also for writers who wish to achieve a particular effect of gentle or aggressive speech in characters. I have the old edition of this book, and will get the new one if I can afford it; but in any case, this is one of the top 5 or so books that I recommend most frequently to people.
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Indentured Servants

I was disturbed by this article about the exploitation of foreign workers:

FOCUS: Barbara Koeppel | Indentured Servants, Circa 2009
Barbara Koeppel, ConsortiumNews.com: "Feeding on this and last years' gigantic job losses and fear of more to come, anti-immigrant anger is exploding across the U.S. Thus, Nativists like Arizona's Sheriff Joe Arpaio are nudged to over-the-top nastiness: Just a month ago, he proudly paraded his villains (aka illegals) through the streets of Phoenix before deporting them."
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Yardening at Fieldhaven

Today I got outside for a little while and pulled the leaves off the cistern garden. Later I'll need to spread some topsoil or compost on it. The catnip, spearmint, chives, rhubarb, and comfrey are all sprouting. Ladybugs swarmed out of the dead leaves, and there were some worms under the litter too. I'm pleased at these signs of a healthy garden.

A few crocus are still blooming but most are done. The first daffodils are blooming. Buds on hyacinth are showing. Forsythia is starting to bloom too. Many of the shrubs are leafing out now, but the trees are just starting to open their buds.
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Climate Change Myths and Facts

This article discusses how hard it is to get an accurate idea of what's happening with any contentious issue, once people start skewing the information for their own ends. Basically, there are several ways to deal with this:

1) Learn which news sources tend to be the most reliable over time. Information there is more likely to be accurate than information from unknown sources.

2) Information based on hard facts observed in the real world is more likely to be accurate than opinions, interpretations, estimates, or forecasts.

3) Distrust anything that is very strident in a particular direction. The more slanted a piece, the less likely it is to be accurate. Good science and good journalism both call for an exploration of two or more sides to an issue. In order to make a sound argument, you must address and disprove the main points in favor of the opposing viewpoint or hypothesis.

4) Learn to identify logical fallacies. Most inaccurate material will contain one or more of these. The more you see in a piece, the less reliable it is.

5) Understand basic principles of logical thinking, scientific method, history, geography, social and hard sciences. Compare new material to previous material. Data points that conflict established knowledge are less likely to be accurate -- but bear in mind that sometimes knowledge does evolve.

6) Collate input from many different sources, from different ethnic, economic, and political backgrounds. Triangulate the scope of an issue by absorbing as much information about it as possible. Identify the main points of contention. Seek hard facts that support or undermine them. Which are more compelling and convincing? Why? Look for congruent areas where people who disagree about some things agree on a certain point; that point is more likely to be true. Identify areas where not enough is known yet to make a firm decision, and seek more research. Identify and discard clearly unreliable information (citations that don't pan out, logical fallacies, etc.). Sift what remains for the most solid bits and begin to assemble your stance from those.


I do this all the time with news in general, but particularly in my areas of interest. This is one reason why I often batch items together that relate to different aspects of the same issue. It's also why I watch for good counterpoint articles, so I'm not seeing -- or sharing -- only one side. And it's why I complain about people burying good arguments in left/right straw man flame fests.
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Personal Meme: What Part of Spring Are You?

This is not bad for a whimsical little personal quiz:

You Are Blooming Flowers
You are an optimistic person by nature. In even the darkest times, you are hopeful about the future.
You feel truly blessed in life and can sometimes be overwhelmed with emotions.

You have an artist's eye. You are always looking for beauty in the mundane.
You have a good sense of aesthetics, especially when it comes to shapes and color.
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