Shish Kabobs

Did you know that "shish kabob" is Turkish for "meat on a stick"? Surprisingly "kabob" is the "meat" part. So the next time somebody offers you some chicken kabobs or veggie kabobs, you can point out that useless bit of trivia. I'm sure you'll get all the same blank stares and hushed whispers that I do.

But shish kabobs are yummy. These ones are round steak, mushrooms, olives, onion, green pepper and pineapple. You may notice that olives and pineapple are not pictures. That's because those are nasty. We marinated the meat in Yoshida's Gourmet Sauce, and we used some more to baste all over as the kabobs cook.

The rice was dead simple. I sauted onions and green pepper in butter, browned the rice and dumped a can of vegetable stock in. Not quite a risotto, but not too different either. I used basmati rice. Not sure if that added anything in particular, but it was good.


Roast Pork Loin

As I was shopping last week, I needed another meal to fill in an empty spot on our calendar. A cute little pork loin roast struck my eye. Surprisingly my local Walmart carries a nice line of delicious, hormone-free pork products from Salmon Creek Farms out of Twin Falls. I've long been a fan of their ribs, which it appears I also need to post about.

I made up a wet rub of garlic (lots!), brown mustard, brown sugar, soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, and thyme. I meant to add some olive oil as well, but I ran out yesterday making pizza (yes, I've got pictures. Hold your horses!). Slathered the rub on and let it site for a few hours. I really should have brined the roast too. I always forget that.

Then I moved it to the grill, seared it on high for a few minutes each side and cooked it at ~300 degrees for an hour and a half. It smelled divine. The meat was somewhat dry, hence the need for brining. It needed some sort of sauce or gravy to accompany it. We ended up using just the brown mustard, which was good I guess. Helped with the dryness.

The accompaniment was a fresh pasta salad. It was hard to stop tossing stuff in. I think we finally settled on grilled kielbasa, ham, hard-boiled egg, mushrooms, spinach (from my garden, no less), green pepper, tomatoes, and colby jack and mozzarella cheese. Topped it with a vinegarette of canola oil (remember, I'm out of olive oil), garlic, parsley, basil, red wine vinegar and cider vinegar. We used to make this stuff out of a box, I think it was "Suddenly Salad". That stuff is crap compared to my salad. And these were all leftovers, so it was quite economical too.


Spam Tactics

In my Exim logs this morning I noticed a new tactic spammers have started using.

2006-06-14 14:19:24 SMTP protocol violation: synchronization error (next input sent too soon: pipelining was not advertised): rejected "To:" H=(tensai) [] next input="..."

I get these every now and again because I don't support pipelining and I have a 4 second delay on my SMTP greeting, but that's not what I'm showing you. The curious part is "H=(tensai)". For quite a while spammers have been using a strange technique of passing a HELO name of the host they connect to. The logic of that really is beyond me, but I really don't care since the way to defeat it is easy. Now they've mutated and the solution to this one is just as simple:

  drop    message = but that's my name
          condition = ${if eq {$sender_helo_name}{$local_part} {yes}{no}}

That config will drop any message where the sender identifies itself as one of my users. There's a small danger that some server's name will actually have the same name as me, but I'm kinda doubtful. Most hosts will use fully qualified names, I would think.


Barracuda Snafu

I was welcomed to work this morning by a wonderful little failure. Our experience was pretty much like the story explains, only worse. After our two clusters built up a queue of 42,000 and 46,000 messages, we got the new antivirus definition installed. For one system that has antivirus on the back-end mail server, we disabled AV scanning completely and that sped things up drastically. Still, considering that it had to handle its normally load and the backlog it took 4 hours to clear completely out. The other system took a good 7. "Service was fully operational about two hours later", my eye.

Sounds like fun, no? The only thing that makes it even better is that they did the same thing to us yesterday through some new feature they pushed out. Apparently it does a checksum on images and then looks that up in DNS. Sounds like a pretty good tactic, but something about it overwhelmed the system with DNS lookups.

Wish me luck for whatever bug I get to fight tomorrow.


Cheese Stuffed Jalapenos

A friend of mine described this delectably spicy dish. I started with neufchatel cheese which we had sitting around in the fridge. I mixed in a bit of garlic powder (garlic salt is evil!) and dried chopped onion. I think I tossed in a pinch of kosher salt as well. Mixed that around real good. It was pretty good by itself. I'm considering making a sandwich with the leftovers.

The hard part was getting the guts out of the peppers. I wanted to stuff them whole, rather than in halves as I saw a few recipes call for. The trick is to split them just enough to cut to dig the innards out. I used a combination of a paring knife and a small spoon.

Originally I figured I would secure the pepper together with a toothpick but it turned out the cheese made a great glue and the toothpick was unnecessary. I grilled them over medium heat for 5-7 minutes rotating every once in a while.

The first bite I had was spicy. I modified my eating pattern to get a bigger bite of cheese and that balanced it out. Still, not for the faint of heart.


Strawberry Cheesecake

Following the Unified Theory of Cheesecake (don't forget the crust), I put together a nice treat yesterday. Actually it was my birthday cake. It was based off 16oz of cream cheese and I put it in a 9 inch round pie pan. I really like the idea of using a spring form pan, but alas I have no such item in my house.

The only complication was that I forgot to start until way too late. We cut the cake after it had been in the fridge for only 3 hours. It was cool throughout and I didn't notice any problems. It cut just fine and the slices came free of the pan in one beautiful piece.



Building on my previous smoking experience I decided my next step would be a little chicken. Eventually I'll move on to ribs, boston butt, etc., but I figured chicken would be pretty simple and I know how chicken should taste.

First I brined the chicken with some salt (duh!), sugar and cayenne pepper for an hour. I dried the chicken with a paper towel and sprinkled liberally with my favorite rub. I didn't have a lot of time since I started late, so I only let it sit for an hour. Boy did it smell good when I pulled it out.

And that's pretty much where that story ends and the depressing one starts. The smoker caught on fire. Luckily I had my fire extinguisher on hand so it didn't turn into anything. Here's what I've learned.

  • Wood chips should be soaked. I've heard of that, and in fact it's what I did for the salmon, but I didn't see anywhere that it was required or even strongly encouraged so I figured I'd experiment a bit. Lesson learned, it doesn't work.
  • Fire extinguisher good, cardy-board bad. I'm going to be on the watch for something non-flammable to put my next smoker in. I still want to do the terra cotta, but I've more or less given up hope of finding a lid.
  • Don't leave it unattended. I actually had stepped into the kitched to grab the fire extinguisher when the fire started. I wasn't gone long which was good, but I should have been all ready before I started.
  • No smokers on the table. It left a funky film, which was easily cleaned up, but I think my wife would have killed me if I had ruined the table.



A great article about why President Bush's warrantless spying program, and the recently revealed phone record database, are a bad idea. I'm all for catching terrorists but let's not through out the baby (democracy) with the bath water (murderers). cue cliched use of Jefferson quote about trading freedom for security. What really ticks me off the most is when the Whitehouse whines about how we've let "the enemy" know about this weapon. Well excuse me, but I thought we lived in an open society here. And in other news, open source programmers are worried sick about Microsoft reading their code, possibly finding bugs. Duh, that's just part of the deal. The idea is there are more of us working on solutions than there are of them breaking stuff. Introducing heinous policies like these is like saving a tree from a diseased branch by chopping it down. Yeah, that's bound to work out well.


Smoked Salmon Redux

Shortly after posting about the salmon I intended to smoke, I was whisked away to Cheyenne, Wyoming on business. I barely had enough time and foresight to toss the fish into the freezer. I was a little worried about refreezing it, but the other option was to chuck it in the trash so I figured I'd be at least no worse off. And luckily it was only slightly freezer burned. I just thawed it for 2 days in the fridge with a big weight (stone bread pan) to squish some more juice out.

Today I jury-rigged up a smoker out of a cardboard box and the pieces of the terra cotta smoker that I'm still trying to build. My wife was a bit worried about having a hot object in a cardboard conveyance, so I made sure to have the fire extinquisher around just in case. Not a bad idea anyway, I suppose. Thankfully, no fire.

Following AB's recipe I cooked it until it hit 150 degrees F. Well, to tell the truth it was getting late and I was getting impatience, so I cut it off at 143. Please don't call the food police. The fish had been sitting in there for over 5 hours, so I'm quite sure any nasties had been eradicated.

The texture was a lot like canned tuna, but the flavor was so much better. So much smokier, although curiously it seemed to oscillate between strong and mild. The outside layer had developed this especially tasty thick, somewhat cruchy skin. The BBQ ribs I had in Cheyenne last week had a similar layer and it was equally delicious then. I believe those ribs were also dry smoked so I'm quite looking forward to using that technique on a lot more munchables. I had a bit of my salmon on a sandwitch with some mayo and it was to die for.

Not sure when I might next try the salmon. I have a feeling that wild salmon is a rare catch around here. I'm thinking that I may try smoking some trout if the streams are especially nice to me this year. I'll try out a number of different rubs and woods (I used apple, btw).


Pasta Salad

I was inspired to make pasta salad the other day, but unfortunately was out of town at the time, so I was delayed a few days. What a miserable time waiting it was, but I guess the results were worth it.

Basically I followed Joe's recipe. I used cheddar and colby jack cheese, deli sliced ham and turkey, and a plethora of veggies which seems to be where a pasta salad really sings its tune. We used mushrooms, cucumber, celery, carrots, and sun-dried tomatoes (which I made myself). I tossed it all together with a vinegarette of the tomato-infused olive oil and white wine vinegar, spiked with basil and mustard power. I also cracked some pepper over the top. So delicious. I served it with a slice of ham sauted in butter.



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