Saturday, July 17, 2010

Endless lawnmower issues...

I suspected that the spark plug was an issue since last week I had got the machine to run by cannibalizing the plug from the snowblower. Well, today I went out and got a brand-spanking new plug and a gapper. The lawnmower ran for a bit and then started to sputter. I checked the air filter and it was full of dirt. Even once the bulk dirt was out it still caused the mower to quit whenever it went into place over the air intake.

I don't feel too bad though: The plug came from a little hardware store that didn't have filters anyway. I will have to go to the big Sears Home Center for the filter. Meanwhile the lawn is still growing.

Out of coffee and it is hot outside.

Our oven is excellent for roasting coffee; it has a convection mode and is gas rather than electric. These two aspects allow it to do a good dark roast in about 10 minutes. The only drawback is smoke. Roasting creates a lot of smoke. This is not a problem in the temperate times of the year since the open windows will air-out the house in short order. In the Winter it is unpleasant and drafty to have windows open and in the Summer if there is a heatwave--such as we are having now--there are big drawbacks to opening the windows and running the oven at 470 degrees F.

I've done it before and am doing it again today: Roasting coffee on the charcoal grill. The first batch is a little over roasted, but I think it will still make serviceable coffee. The 2nd batch was really perfect, a nice Vienna roast--lighter than French but darker than American. The 3rd batch, doesn't seem to want to finish: I guess the coals only go for so long and these batches have been taking around 30 minutes each.

One nice little benefit from all of this is that the grill has burned-away any accumulated grease.

Look a little closer

A little bee, completely covered in pollen.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mostly Meat

There are three things which make for a tasty marinated meat dish, I instructed my wife--as if I was some kind of expert: Though I do think the following is sensible.

1. The marinade.

2. The cut of meat--no matter how you flavor a crappy specimen of flesh, it will still be dry, tough or whatever.

3. Cooking technique: There are a million ways to ruin the most perfect cut of meat--burn it, under-cook it, cook it too slow, etc.

All of this was brought about by a visit to a new "gourmet" shop in town. The name of the place inspired thoughts that it was primarily a meat place and a good portion of the joint was meat, but less than half. The rest was a selection of mostly what we would consider upscale items rather than gourmet. The problem was that they didn't have much of a selection in any category. They had breads, but only sliced (a good brand) and a smattering of artisan loaves. They had some nice cheeses, but a selection any one of our supermarkets easily match. As for the meats, it was not a full-service shop. They had some USDA Prime steaks, various chops and sausages, but mostly they had vacuum sealed packages of marinated meat. This is what my wife primarily rejected. First, she didn't expect that their marinades would stack-up well against what any competent cook could throw together and the prices were super high. Added to that, it is impossible to judge the quality of a piece of meat when it is swimming in goop.

We got nothing from this place.

Later, I went to Costco for various items and scored. They had USDA prime beef! One package was about $8/LB and was a boneless rib eye roast. This is a good deal since the regular grocer charges almost that much for USDA choice grade. I am dry aging the whole piece and will cut 3-4 LB of it for a Christmas roast and the rest into steaks of various thicknesses.

Since it was my day-off, I also got a package of three racks of baby-back ribs. I put a dry rub on them and slow cooked them for 6 hours. Half were for dinner and the other half for an easy meal some other time.

Besides the shopping, I had run with my wife at lunch-time, worked on the cars and picked-up some plywood for a project--so I was kind of tired. Still, after the big rib meal and the earlier slow run, I wanted to really go out and get a hard workout. I went into the failing light for a 7.85 miler and even at that late hour it was hot and sticky. I felt great when I was done though, for a while. When I went to bed, the chills set-in, plus I felt dehydrated. Later, my skin turned burning hot and my perpetually cold wife couldn't stand having me close. All turned to normal within a couple hours of hitting the sack though. I suspect I had a bit of heat exhaustion.