Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Flat Bottom Tacos You Make the Rockin' World Go 'Round

Ok, a quick diversion based on my latest food revelation. For years, nay DECADES, one great problem has plagued our dinner plates. Too often we find ourselves trying to fill a hard shell taco, only to have it tip over and spill its contents mid-preparation. I don't need to describe the terror and utter dismay as you watch the intended toppings come spilling out from their fried tortilla bounds - The mudslide of ground beef, the cascades of cheese, and each piece of diced tomato tumbling down like a boulder crushing your heart. It's every home cook's worst nightmare and we've all experienced it. It's ok, you can admit it. This is a safe place. Now, enter our hero:

Old El Paso Stand 'n' Stuff Taco Shells (note - the official name is "Stand 'n Stuff," but that second apostrophe should be there, so I added it). I saw these perched upon my grocer's shelf and reached for them with trembling hand. Had they really done it? Was this golden box my holy grail? Well, Taco Fans (ie- everyone), I can proudly report that the good people at Old El Paso have indeed done the impossible. Taco night no longer must be a stress-inducing event. These shells have a flat bottom so they STAND UP ON YOUR PLATE. I filled four of them at the same time, and no tippage occurred. This great riddle of the dinner plate has at last been solved.

Sure, there have been solutions before. Stands and racks have been created to hold your taco as you prepare, but these devices were more at home in a medieval torture chamber than a respectable person's kitchen. They were clumsy and inelegant - the blaster to the Stand 'n' Stuff's lightsaber. These shells are a clean and easy solution to a problem as old as time itself (I'm pretty sure I saw a picture of Edward the Confessor spilling his taco on the Bayeux Tapestry).

And so I urge Old El Paso - release the copyright on these marvelous inventions. Let the rest of the world manufacture the miracle of the flat-bottomed taco. You can't cure cancer and then not share the vaccine with the rest of the world. It's just not the way things should be done.

Maybe one of your competitors could solve the nagging problems that the Stand 'n' Stuff currently presents. They're extra wide, so the temptation to fill with more toppings far beyond healthy is great. Also, the width and shape leave the taco more susceptible to splitting in twain and a little harder to eat from an ergonomic standpoint.

But these problems don't detract on the majesty that is the upright taco. Thank you, Old El Paso, for making the world a better place.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Catching Up With the Chef (Part 1)

Yeah, yeah, I know I'm not a "chef" but I cook. And I drew that "Chef Eli" thing ages ago. You know, this thing:

Ok, well, I haven't posted anything about cooking recently, so here's a bit of a catchup on some of the fancier things I've made from cookbooks and whatnot.

Not long after I finished Selzer & Smuckles (the cooking, not the final blog post 6 and a half years later) I wanted to try something a little easier. I have a Trader Joe's cookbook that provided us with a nice lasagna with garlic bread. Nothing too fancy here, just a vegetable lasagna and a simple Italian bread. You know what, I apologize for bringing this up. There's no real story here. It's lasagna and garlic bread; I've done these things before. Everyone has. Melissa and I were watching a trio of Scorcese movies (Goodfellas, Raging Bull, and The Departed) and we needed a good, filling Italian meal. We paired it with some cheap Italian wine and lazed about for a day. I don't know if it was the lasagna, the wine, or the combination of the two, but I seem to recall that I got sick from this. Not violently ill, but sick enough that it stands out in my memory. Ok, moving on.

If you've been paying attention (and I think I've mentioned this here), I really want to learn to make some basic sauces. So much of cooking is just heating up a protein and then adding a sauce for extra flavor that it seems like I should know how they work. I decided that I wanted to make a nice hollandaise. I had a recipe from a Disney Newsreel (the company magazine) for an eggs benedict from one of the hotels and I wanted to try it. I promptly screwed everything up. First, I needed something easy for the night I was planning to cook it and ended up buying a sauce mix at the store, thus defeating the purpose of the recipe in the first place. Then I forgot to buy Canadian bacon or any other kind of meat, meaning I wasn't really making an eggs benedict. I ended up with, essentially, an unfinished, slightly high end Egg McMuffin. On the plus side, it was my first time poaching eggs and they came out very nicely. Looking around at other cooking sites, this is apparently harder than I thought it was. I guess not realizing how hard it is gave me the confidence to do it properly. I plan to try the same thing with flying an airplane in the future. That's easy, right? Oh, and note that I served this with the Perfect Home Fries Every Time from the Achewood cookbook. See, I learned something from that whole process.

One of Melissa's favorite meals is grilled pizza (who needs segues?). My parents made it often when we lived at home and it truly is a fantastic invention. Well, my parents got me a nice grill for Christmas, and I thought I'd try my hand at it. I bought a nice pizza peel at Sur La Table (that store is like a giant, shiny, overpriced porn store for me) and got to work. I used a pre-made dough from Trader Joe's and topped it with pretty standard stuff - pepperoni, bell pepper, onion, basil, and mozzarella balls. You pre-cook the dough on the grill before topping it, and I gotta tell you, it came off looking great. Well, apparently, it should have stayed on a few minutes less; by the time all of the cheese and toppings had cooked, the bottom of the crust was pretty well charred. This is not to say it wasn't delicious, you just had to get past that "burned" taste. I mostly bring it up because I'm pretty proud about how artistically I arranged the toppings:
Ok, my lunch is over, I'm out of time. I have A LOT more to post. This was going to be a two part post, and I think it just became three. Mark your calendars and just keep hitting refresh until I come back.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Ok, Fine, I'll Hug A Tree

I've always cared about the environment. Captain Planet taught me to recycle and I listened, damn it. However, I think I may have finally crossed the line into "Dirty Hippie" territory. I'll explain.

When I started working at Miramax, I started taking public transportation to work. It wasn't because I was trying to cut my carbon emissions, I was just tired of driving in LA traffic. Eventually, I started riding my bike to the train station in North Hollywood. Now that I'm working at Disney, I live less than 2 miles away from my office. There's literally no excuse for me to drive a car to work 90% of the time. So I don't. I ride my bike unless I have an offsite meeting or have to bring something large to work. People in LA look at me like I'm crazy. This city loves its cars to the point of cultism. Any mode of transportation that doesn't have an internal combustion engine is heaped with scorn and derision. But that's another blog post (oh yes, the angry bike rider post is coming...I'm sure you're thrilled). The point is, when you stand up at the Griffith Observatory and look out over the LA basin and you can only see about a mile in front of you through the brown haze that clings to the city, you can know that my commute is not contributing to that. I'm not trying to sound smug, but it's kind of hard not to feel a little better about myself.

Second, I bought myself a pair of blue suede shoes. I appreciate Elvis (though I'm not a HUGE fan), but this has nothing to do with that. Check them out, they're awesome:
As you can see with my blatant product placement, I got these from Simple Shoes. This is a company that makes eco-conscious, sustainable shoes. Larry David wears them, if that means anything to you. These are an early model, so they aren't the MOST hippie shoes they make, but they are made from what the company calls "eco-suede." I don't know exactly what that means, but I take their word for it. And the next pair of shoes I buy, when I replace the black Adidas I've had for about 5 years, will probably come from Simple, and they will be made of hemp. Deal with it.

Of course, while 90% of my transportation takes place using the bike and shoes and my own two legs, there are times in the sprawled out mess of a city I live in that I need a car. If you know me, you know that I hate cars. I think they're an outdated, inefficient technology that has long past the point of their utility. I just don't get the "mystique" of the American automobile. I can't comprehend standing around looking at cars or spending any money for an accessory that isn't necessary to make the vehicle get from point A to point B. All of that said, I LOVE my new Prius. Well, used Prius, but new to me:
It's not all about the gas mileage (which is FANTASTIC - I get 45 MPG without even trying), this car feels like the future. You know I love gadgets and technology, and this car feels like driving a gadget. I like to sit in it and pretend I'm piloting a Star Trek shuttlecraft (I'm not kidding). It doesn't hurt that since I can go 400 miles on one tank of gas, and that lasts me a LONG time. This car is really fun to drive, and that's hard to do for me. And yes, that's the picture from when I picked the car up...on the Disney Studios lot. That helps make it feel all the more magical.

So, let's tally it up - Doesn't drive much/prefers to bike, buys eco-certified shoes, drives a fuel efficient hybrid when he has to drive...let's add the fact that I go out of my way to recycle and I only buy sustainable fish and I think I can officially get my Tree Hugger card. Do I have to register somewhere like a sex offender? Is there an actual card, or is that just a hypothetical idea? I hope it's not a real card - printing is bad for the environment.