A finicky guy's exploits in finding gustatory (and other) satisfaction in his kitchen, his neighborhood, and beyond.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Alert: Mustard Oil may be Harmful to Humans. . .and Snails!

First off, a warning, courtesy of my reader birdmommy, who informed me that in her area, mustard oil had been recalled from stores because of adulteration with highly toxic argemone oil.  This new knowledge has led me to take more seriously the injunctions on bottled mustard oil, which state that the oil is not to be used for consumption.

Argemone Mexicana — how could something so pretty be deadly?

As I am very fond of the pungent flavor of mustard oil — mustard has really become an indispensable color on my culinary palette — I have begun an online search for a safe source for it.  So far, I have contacted a little family-run operation in Australia who market organic mustard oil without additives or adulterants.  If I find out that they ship to North America (and at a reasonable price), I will pass along more information for you.

Until then, maybe it's better if we all relegate our mustard oil to the massage table.  It apparently also works as a snail killer, which doesn't make me want to run out and drink a glass of it. . .but, then again, I'm not a snail, so I guess I'm safe.  As long as the oil is argemone-free.

Please do not feed mustard oil to this cute little guy
Now that we have that bit of unpleasantness out of the way, let's focus on our favorite subject: FOOD.  I would be remiss if I left you thinking after yesterday's post that my homemade soup was an unqualified success.  The truth, my friends, is a little more colorful.  About the color of Boysenberry Bubble-Yum, in fact.

When I turned off my soup pot in the morning to head off to the gym, I left a delightful-looking batch of brownish broth with lovely little bits of this and that floating in it.  I came home to discover that my soup had congealed into a lump of technicolor gruel which I will have to call "Purple Porridge."

I only slightly boosted the color saturation in the photo for effect.
The Purple Porridge was in all actuality a perfect winter meal.  It tasted delicious (my stock had a strong celery flavor, but I adore the taste of cooked celery) and warmed us up as we sat, looking out at the continuing blizzard.  If purple clashes with your decor, you might want to leave out the red cabbage, but I for one do not mind festively tinted foods, especially on grey days.  (And I insist on coloring my food only with food, not with bottled chemicals.  I still have leftover pangs of embarrassment from my first cake-decorating project, in which I in about the 8th grade slathered a chocolate cake, a cookbook, and most of a kitchen with purplish (!) frosting that dried to look a little like concrete.  I was shocked that —without peeking under the cake cover — my mother correctly guessed what color the icing was.  Years later, she admitted to going over her entire purpled kitchen with a soapy sponge after I left the room.)

One more lesson learned — how educational this tradition called "lunch" can be! — was to remember that rice, even after cooking, soaks up more liquid than you can imagine.  (Have they thought of rice litter boxes?)  If you want to end up with actual broth in your soup, add the rice at the last minute, or cook it with more water than usual so that it is already saturated when you add it to your soup.  In any case, warm soggy porridge is high on my list of comfort foods, so no harm done.

Willy, another warming touch for a chilly winter day 

The weekend is nigh, everybody — find a big bowl of your favorite comfort food this weekend and treat yourself.  If you have a moment during the day today, leave a comment about the wackiest-colored food you ever produced.  I need a lot of color in my life to combat the gloom outside my windows.

My balcony garden is not very inspiring in January

23 comments:

  1. Glad to have helped! Working together, just think of how many snails' lives can be saved... :)

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  2. We have lots of turmeric growing in our garden, so we eat vivid yellow rice and curries. Re rice for kitty litter- that's what we use! It's made from rice husks.

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  3. Maybe a box of rice at the end of the Chihuahua treadmill?

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  4. Once I made gray meatloaf, not exactly a wacky color but certainly not a good color for meatloaf. There's no happy ending either, it didn't taste any better than it looked.

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  5. My cousin consistently makes green pumpkin pie. No one else can replicate this and no one (my cousin included) can figure out what she does to make it turn green. It always tastes just fine, but it's weird to look at.

    I made your sausage and saurkraut dinner last night. It was delicious! I didn't think DH would like it, but he did. Although some how I ended up with enough for dinner last night (DH and me, not the kids), lunch today and dinner at least one more night.

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  6. Nice job, Liara! Just think how good it will feel to pull an already-made dish out of the fridge at dinnertime. . .and have to do nothing more than heat it up.

    Green pumpkin pie? Is your cousin a leprechaun, by any chance? That would explain it.

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  7. Mae, do you have to dry or otherwise prepare the roots of the turmeric plant before cooking with them? Or do you just grate it like fresh ginger? Is it a pretty plant? Are any of the other parts of the plant useful? (Do you feel like you're being interrogated?)

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  8. Whenever I make turkey gravy, I am still reminded by my family of the time that the gravy was green. I think it was the fresh sage that was the culprit, but yep, green gravy. Yum. (It was actually tasty, though.)

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  9. Families can be so slow to forget our errors. . . .

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  10. When I was in about the 5th grade, I was baking a cake at my grandma's, whose kitchen held every different, exciting, exotic ingredient know to mid century woman. When I finished the vanilla buttercreme frosting, I decided to use some food coloring (which we never had at home) to make it more exciting. I don't know what color I was trying to make, but the more color I added, the less I liked the result. When it turned "Army Green" I was ready to throw it all away, until my grandmother dumped almost a whole can of Hersey's cocoa in the bowl and solved the color problem. Delicious!

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  11. Grandma's response was pure genius!

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  12. Purple food tastes better! At Thanksgiving in Maui a few years ago, we had purple mashed pots and they were probably the best thing I've ever eaten. YUM.

    Snuggle up, Buttercups! It's going to be awhile before that white stuff melts. More soup! More soup!

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  13. I had some time to read your blog. It is lovely. Thanks for your help too with my questions. I am especially fond of gardening.

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  14. Michael, you were curious about turmeric. I just peel it and grate it like ginger, but I use it in more generous quantities because it has a mild flavour. You can use the leaves to wrap little packages of food for steaming or baking, and the rhizome is a useful medicine and dye. It's a beautiful plant that comes and goes with the seasons. In the dry season, the plant above ground disappears. When the rain comes, it grows long, luxuriant leaves and a flower comes out of the ground, like a very large pine cone made of pink tissue paper. It grows enthusiastically with no attention at all and produces a lot of rhizomes. It grows in the same climate as ginger, so maybe people in Hawaii are growing it.

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  15. Thank you, Mae. I hope your info inspires some warm-weather-inhabiting readers to grow their own ginger. Given the foot of snow currently covering my balcony planters, I am guessing that I will have to continue to rely on the powdered stuff I get at the Indian market!

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  16. Well, I doubt this qualifies but here goes: when I was kid we had Cream of Wheat as a winter breakfast almost every day. It was inexpensive and filled us up till lunch (no in-class snacks like today.) To liven things up and to prevent complaining my mother gave us a set of food coloring bottles. I ate a lot of blue Cream of Wheat!

    As for real colors, I like to grow heirloom tomatoes and combine them into a salad that has red, pink, purple, green, yellow and orange varities. Seeing them all together is really startling but beautiful.

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  17. Phyllis, your entry definitely qualifies! You win for both your blue CofW and for your stunning salad.

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  18. Oh how I still love finding that purple color in my cookbook on that frosting page. What a special memory.

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  19. Hi Mom! Everyone pay attention to whatever this woman writes on my blog: she's the one who is going to teach us all how to make killer pie crusts.

    How cool is it that my purple icing color is still evident in Mom's cookbook, over 30 years later?

    XXOO

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  20. When I first moved out of home I made a frittata (in a wok, actually - I had to feed quite a lot of housemates) with red cabbage in it. The frittata looked great that night, but the next morning the leftovers glowed an almost fluorescent blue!

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  21. Fluorescent Frittata — I love it! We could not devise such a psychedelic dish on purpose if we tried all night.

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  22. I didn't read the earlier mustard oil post, but have you tried your local Indian grocery store for mustard oil? We use it in cooking ever so often, so the mustard oil you find there should be safe for consumption.

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  23. Thanks, Reethi, that makes me feel a little better. I'll go back to obtaining my mustard oil from the Indian grocer. In any case, I never heard from that farm in Australia.

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