The Step Lively and the Step Lightly, featuring Ginger Syrup

The Step Lively was invented by Yaga Griswold, with a little help from myself. Her recipe:

2 oz. Barbancourt 8-year rum
2 T. ginger syrup
1/6 lime

Combine rum and syrup. Squeeze lime into glass and throw the wedge in, too. Add lots of ice.

For a Step Lightly, replace the lime juice with four ounces of crushed pineapple (I find a potato masher to work well for the crushing) and four ounces of seltzer water. Serve with a spoon for fishing out the tasty pineapple bits.

To make ginger syrup, wash well and thinly slice about four to six inches of ginger. You do not need to peel it. Rinse the sliced ginger and put it in a small saucepan with one pint of water. Bring the water for a boil, and then let it simmer for a couple minutes. Cover the saucepan and let it steep for a couple hours. Remove the ginger, and bring the liquid to simmer again. Add one cup of sugar and stir until dissolved. In the fridge, it should keep for pretty much ever.

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The Morocco, featuring Preserved Lemons

Remove and discard pulp from lemon rind. Rinse rind, slice into thirds, and place on cocktail skewer.

Shake liquid ingredients with ice in cocktail shaker; strain into chilled Martini glass. Garnish with lemon and serve.

Preserved Lemons

Wash lemons thoroughly. Quarter and remove all visible seeds.

Cover the bottom of a glass jar with salt and throw in any spices you want to include. Roll each lemon quarter in salt, coating as thoroughly as possible. Place it in the jar. As jar fills, press down. Your goal is to force enough juice out that the lemons are mostly covered in their own juice when the jar is filled. When the jar is mostly full, sprinkle some more salt on top, close the jar, and let it sit at room temperature for two weeks. Should yeild about two jars, depending on the size of your jars and your lemons.

Notes:
Addenda:

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Hearts of Darkness

I only actually tried making this once, so further refinements of the recipe may well be called for. This dish was inspired by the confluence of a surplus of biscuit mix lying around the house, Jarret's food pr0n rants on dark chocolate and prefab pastry dough, and Arun's Vegan Desserts and Poker birthday party. Considering how my poker playing came out, I'm glad the dessert was pretty good.

Mix 2 Cups Biscuit Mix, 2 Tbsp Brown Sugar, and a Pinch of Salt with about 1 Cup Soy Milk. Add the soy milk little by little--the mixture should come out fairly firm--a little softer than biscuit dough.

Flour your hands, and, using about a Tbsp at at time, wrap the dough around the pieces of 1 Trader Joe's Pound Plus Dark Chocolate Bar or equivalent, broken into squares. Take care that each square is completely enclosed.

Place the squares on a cookie sheet. If I got my quantities right, you should have enough dough to cover the entire bar. If you're gonna err, err on the side of too little dough. Dark chocolate left over is never much of an inconvenience....

Bake the squares in a 350° oven for about twenty minutes. Remove when tops begin to brown. Serve hot; eat with caution--the interiors are hot and runny. Yield: about 40 pieces. Most people can eat about two.

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Fresh Salsa

I'm afraid this is an anti-recipe with few exact quantities or unshakable prescriptions--a veritable cullinary Choose Your Own Adventure, but as someone who eats a little of this stuff almost every day, I'm convinced that varying the proportions depending on available ingredients and momentary whim is good for you.

Remove the tops from the peppers.
Core or do not, by taste.
Jalapeños vary greatly in heat by season and grower, so try to taste any batch before using them. The bulk of the heat comes from the seeds and seed pulp, so one needs substantially more cored peppers to achieve the same heat as a given number of uncored peppers. By all means, experiment with other kinds of peppers, but taste before you use (caveat: the bottom part tends to be the mildest, so don't let that fool you) to prevent an inedible or insipid batch.
Chop the peppers into halves or thirds, and, if you have a food processor, put the peppers in FIRST. This ensures that they are evenly and finely diced.
It's not too bad making this recipe without a food processor. Recruiting assistants is recommended, however, since you'll be doing a lot of chopping.
Remove the tops of the tomatoes, halve, and add them.
If using tomatillos, you'll also want to wash them thoroughly to get rid of the stickiness. If using canned tomatoes, drain the tomatoes thoroughly and toss 'em in.
Peel and quarter the onion. Toss it in.
Add the lime juice and salt.
Saute the gag until firm, then add it to the other ingredients. Heat it more briefly if you like your gags runny.
Blend in short pulses until all ingredients are coarsely chopped. Taste and adjust proportions.

Hacksaw notes: WASH YOUR HANDS NOW, WITH HOT WATER AND SOAP. Consider doing it twice. Certainly do this before touching any sensitive bits or mucous membranes.

Tips:

Q&A

Q: No cilantro?

A: No cilantro. Charlotte & Shani can't stand cilantro, and I've never felt that strongly about it one way or another, so out it goes in my recipe. If you wish to include it yourself, Feel Free, as they used to say at Infocom. A similar principle applies, of course, to the respectful disposal of spleens.

Q: This doesn't look like salsa to me. It should be thicker.

A: If you pre-blend half(or more) of the tomatoes, you get a more conventionally salsa-like texture. Canned tomatoes also contribute (quelle surprise) to a more canned salsa effect.

Q: What about garlic?

A: Garlic is cool. Go a little light on it--it gets much stronger after a night in the fridge.

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The Big Muddy

Combine all ingredients in twelve-ounce glass. Garnish with mint sprig and serve.

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Encyclopædic Dal

The recipe for this rather well-recieved Vegan dal dish was mooched from Khalid Aziz' Encyclopedia of Indian Cooking, ISBN 1-8547-1026-5, which gives it the dismayingly prosaic and unacceptably vague name "Indian Lentils."

Since I have never faithfully followed Aziz' recipe, I shall describe my own hacked, compromised, and roughly doubled version instead. The ingredients list looks a little daunting, but its not bad if you've already made the jump of acquiring a basic indian spice collection. If not, what are you waiting for?

I find life less stressful if I take all these dry seasonings and measure them into a bowl in advance. Otherwise, I end up frantically juggling measuring spoons while something scorches.
These I put in another bowl.
Pick through the lentils, rinse them, and boil them. I kept adding water, so I'm not sure how much you need to start with. I'd say give them about an inch over the top and keep an eye out. Let them cook until the lentils have softened, and the cooking water has started to thicken. This should take a little more than half an hour.

Meanwhile, chop up those onions and garlic, and fry them in the oil. when they've started to soften (two or three minutes), add the first batch of spices, and fry for another minute or two. Then add the second batch, and, stirring frequently, fry for another couple minutes. I found at this point that the powders had drunk up all of the initially huge-seeming quantity of oil.

Aziz says at this point to add the lentils to the pan. Because of the relative sizes of the vessels in question, I inverted this, and stirred the onions and spices into the pot of lentils.

Add the salt, and cook for another five minutes.

Add the coconut milk. If you like, you can also add some dried coconut for texture.

You now have a pot of the nastiest-looking gloppy yellow stuff you could imagine, though it tastes rather lovely. You are urged to hack up and toss in some fresh tomatoes just before serving to lend a little visual variety.

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Peanut Butter Stew with Chicken and Tomatoes

Adapted from "African Chicken Stew" in the idiosyncratic and rewarding Sumptuous Indulgence on a Shoestring by David Yeadon (ISBN 0-8015-0962-9).

This is as close to a direct transcription of the approach I employed at my recent SemiAntiSocial as I could manage. Quantities are approximate and can be varied to taste. A vegetarian version seems plausable, but hasn't really been tried yet.

INGREDIENTS:

Brown the chicken parts in the olive oil in an eight-quart saucepan over high heat. Remove.

Deglaze the pan with a couple teaspoons of the sherry, and brown the onions until they start to soften.

Add the ginger, garlic, peppers, and marjoram. Heat, stirring frequently, for a minute or two.

Add the tomatoes with juice, break up the tomatoes with the spatula a little, and bring the mixture back to a boil.

Mix the bullion, peanut butter, and water together in a bowl or measuring cup, and stir the mixture into the pot.

Chop the chicken into one- or two-inch pieces and add them to the pot, along with a few more teaspoons of sherry

Let simmer for about forty minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve over basmati.

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Tomato-Garlic-Chevre Dip-Type-Thing

This was thrown together from stuff in my fridge, and then got very good reviews, so a) quantities are very approximate, and b) I haven't had a chance to tinker with and refine the recipe yet.

Pulse tomatoes, garlic, rosemary, salt, and a little of the olive oil in a food processor for about ten seconds.

Combine in a bowl with the cheeses and sunflower seeds, and mash with a fork, adding the olive oil a little at a time until the texture is smooth rather than crumbly.

Serve with crackers or toasted bagels.

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Cheater's Sesame Noodles

Okay, this another one that's shaky on proportions, I'm afraid. Bear with me.

Boil one pound of spaghetti until cooked firm.
Mix two ounces of soy sauce, four ounces of tahini, and one tablespoon of sambal oelek (which can often be found at Star Market, and always at the markets in Chinatown). You should now have a thick brown paste, about the consistency of peanut butter. Taste and adjust proportions. Make it a little saltier than you think it should be--chilling seems to reduce the subjective saltiness.

Slowly stir in to spaghetti until sauce evenly coats noodles.
Chill, covered, in refrigerator.
Before serving, sprinkle with chopped scallions.

Left over sauce mix can be stored in the fridge for just about forever.

ADDENDUM: Months-old sauce doesn't get moldy or anything, but the sesame oil in the tahini does go rancid. Just warning you.

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