Thursday, June 30, 2005

Mini Book Reviews

Quick comments about the last few cookbooks I've read. (The numbers indicate the order in which these were read out of the total books I've read this year so far.)
  • 54. Becoming a Chef by Andrew Dornenburg - commentary and insights from various famous chefs. Interesting for a while but unless you have personal dreams of becoming a chef it is not that riveting. However the book was very well written and I will be seeking out some of Dornenburg's other books.

  • 53. The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham - wonderful book with a wide variety of recipes for breakfast dishes that often range past what one would normally consider for breakfast such as chipped beef. This range also allows one to consider the book past breakfast time for light evening meals or nonmeat meals for Lent. Everything Cunningham writes is reliably good and usually fairly simple and this book seems to follow that pattern.

  • 52. A Continual Feast: A Cookbook to Celebrate the Joys of Family and Faith Throughout the Christian Year by Evelyn Vitz - This is much more than a cookbook as it is organized according to the liturgical calendar with very good explanations of the evolution and meanings of different customs and rites. This includes sections on days of fasting and abstinence and saints days. Aimed primarily at Catholic and Orthodox families there is still a lot of information for exploration by Protestant families interested in tradition.
For comments on the non-food books I've read recently, go to Happy Catholic.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Fox Bros BBQ

Fox Bros BBQ, a catering company owned and operated by two brothers from Texas, serves the best barbecue I’ve had since I did time in Texas. Pulled pork is available every single night of the week, but I recommend a Wednesday night appointment. That is the one night of the week they drop off dry rubbed ribs and killer brisket, which arrives with a distinct purple ring and spicy dry rub that sets it apart from anything else I’ve ever encountered in Atlanta.
Remember those ribs and sauce that Chris gave us at Christmas? Well, though he's not making BBQ in Atlanta, Chris is a Fox brother and, therefore, connected. I've gotta say those were some of the best ribs ever. It's nice to see that Chris' brother is getting the recognition he deserves, which isn't too easy if you're a Texan barbecuing in Atlanta.

If you get a chance be sure to try this spot.

Vacation Journal: Chili

We were having lunch at Braum's on the way to Kansas City last week and Rose was talking about how silly it is for people to fight over regional differences in barbecue. We then started thinking of different "American" food that had regional differences worth fighting over ... coleslaw, chowder, chili.

All ecumenism abruptly ended when I mentioned chili with beans.

"No beans," Rose said sharply. "Chili should never have beans and that is it." Proving I suppose that you can take the girl out of Texas but you can't make her put beans in her chili.

Braums is highly recommended thus proving that small regional chains can be very good indeed. Their ice cream is absolutely sinful making Tom remember when Bluebell was local and the family would get cones on their way through Brenham. It is such a good thing that we don't have a Braum's very close by or I'm not sure I could resist the temptation.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Now Serving Hot Links

CHOCOLATE-COVERED CHERRY PIE
Grab the recipe at Illuminated Culinarity. This is not making that Post-Vacation Vow any easier.

THE REAL MEANING OF "LOCAL"
Independent America has lunch and breakfast at the Farmers Diner and has a revelation.
We thought we knew what it was to "think local" and we are on the right track. We do and enjoy a lot of local business in our corner of the world. But after spending time with Tod & enjoying the products of the diner, local is taking on a deeper meaning for us. It's a way of life, a priority shift. A relationship with the land, those who nurture it, and the lifeforce it provides for us.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Closed for Vacation

Closed restaurant

Gone to my family reunion in Kansas City. Back on Tuesday. Until then enjoy the weekend joke and thought for food. Want another joke? Drop by my other blog.

Thought for Food

Noncooks think it's silly to invest two hours' work in two minutes' enjoyment; but if cooking is evanescent, so is the ballet.
Julia Child

Weekend Joke

Three cooks, one from Kentucky, one from California and one from Oregon were sitting on a park bench passing the time. Suddenly, the cook from Kentucky reaches under the bench and drags out a new bottle of bourbon, takes a big swig, tosses the bottle into the air and shoots it with a pistol.

"What did you do that for?" asks the cook from California.

"We got lots of bourbon in Kentucky" was the reply.

Next the cook from California takes out a bottle of fine wine, takes a huge swig, throws the bottle into the air and shoots it with a pistol.

"What did you do that for?" asks the cook from Oregon.

"We got lots of wine in California" was the reply.

The cook from Oregon takes out a bottle of Henry's Private Reserve beer, takes a humongous swig and shoots the cook from California.

"What did you do that for?" asks the cook from Kentucky.

"We got lots of Californians in Oregon" was the reply.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Middle Eastern Chopped Salad

Shamelessly stolen from Love and Cooking. This wakes up your mouth! I almost didn't have enough to put on the dinner table (as if I had any room for dinner by that time). Just couldn't quit tasting a spoonful here and a spoonful there. Easy, delicious, lasts for a few days ... what are you waiting for? Go make it!

Middle Eastern Chopped Salad
from Ranee Mueller

1-2 regular cucumbers (peeled and seeded) or 1 small English cuke (peeled, seeding optional)
3-4 roma tomatoes
1 sweet bell pepper (I like yellow for color contrast but red is ok)
About 1/2 pound feta cheese
About 1/2 pound drained weight good quality pitted Kalamata olives
Chopped Italian parsley - at least 1/2 cup volume
Juice of one lemon

Chop veggies into usefully small bits (no larger than thumbnail is good) and toss in a bowl. Chop olives roughly and crumble cheese. Toss crumbled cheese, olives, and parsley in. Add salt/pepper/lemon to taste. If you hold this salad it will throw off liquid, but it keeps for a while in the fridge.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Discovering Heaven, Texas-Style

Viva Epicurea is on a cross-country trip discovering the best of mom-and-pop cooking wherever they go. Right now that includes a great little BBQ place near San Antonio and Santa Fe style Mexican food in Austin (is that legal, even in Austin? hmmmm...). It's worth reading just for the photos alone. Take a look.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Just Don't Stand Under the Lights Too Long

chocolate_fashion_show
Model at Beijing's Salon du Chocolat.
20 actual top chocolate makers participated in this event, creating edible garments.
Via Too Many Chefs
I think any comment I could make is superfluous.

A Thought for Food

Tea's proper use is to amuse the idle, and relax the studious, and dilute the full meals of those who cannot use exercise, and will not use abstinence.
Samuel Johnson

Friday, June 10, 2005

"Search your peelings, Cuke. You know it to be true."

Store Wars is one of the cleverest and funniest parodies of Star Wars I've ever seen. Take five minutes and watch it. You won't be sorry.

(This is a rare double posting on both my blogs but it is both so funny and so foodie that it just had to happen.)

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Three-Crust Blueberry Pie

Cipâte aux Bleuets (Quebec)

This recipe is from the Time Life Foods of the World series, American Cooking: New England. If you see any of these cookbooks in used bookstores be sure to grab them. They are incomparable for both describing American food or food from around the world as well as the cultures they all derive from.

This is the blueberry pie that my family made every summer. Nothing could be simpler or more delicious. I did take a couple of liberties in adding a bit of flour to the blueberries. I like juice but this slightly thickens it. Also, I baked the pie at the recommended temperatures from the piecrust recipe.

To make one 9-inch pie

1 tablespoon butter
Pastry for a double-crust pie (use this recipe for Perfect Piecrust. It's the easiest ever and makes a ton of dough.)

6 cups fresh ripe blueberries, washed, picked over and dried between two layers of paper towels
1-1/2 to 2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
flour

Preheat the oven to 450°. Spread the butter over the pie tin. According to the instructions in the pastry recipe, roll out the pastry to make the bottom layer, top layer and, using the scraps, a middle layer of crust that measures 8" (I rolled it out and then used an 8" cake pan to cut around).

Put the bottom layer of pastry in the pie tin. Mix the blueberry ingredients gently together in a large bowl until well combined. Taste the berries to see if you need the extra half-cup of sugar or not. I always put a spoonful or two of flour in with the berries to slightly thicken the juices. Put half the berries in the pie tin.

Lie the middle layer of pastry over the berries and then cover with the remaining berries and top layer of pie crust. Trim pastry edges and crimp together firmly. Cut a 1 inch hole in the middle of the top crust. I cut a cross in the middle and turned the edges back. It was a little prettier that way.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 375° and continue baking for 35 minutes (total baking time will be 1 hour). This is a very juicy pie and I always put a couple of pieces of foil on the oven rack below the pie. Otherwise you will have a lot of burned sugary juices on the bottom of your oven ... a horrible mess.

Serve warm (although this is good for breakfast too!). the center crust, which will steam as the pie bakes, will have a dumplinglike texture and absorb some of the berry juice.

Nutrition Basics - Vitamins III

Vitamin d

FAT SOLUBLE, cont'd.

VITAMIN D
Vitamin D is responsible in part for the proper formation of bones. A lack of vitamin D results in the disease called rickets, a condition in which bones grow abnormally. People with limited exposure to sunlight, which is necessary to produce vitamin D in the body, may need to eat foods fortified with vitamin D, such as milk and cereal, to get the amounts needed for proper health.

VITAMIN E
Vitamin E is an antioxidant, like vitamin C, that protects the body from damage by free radicals (reactive forms of oxygen produced by the body's metabolic processes) and may have cancer-fighting potential. It is found in a variety of foods and is not difficult to obtain from dietary sources unless a person is following a low-fat diet.

VITAMIN K
Vitamin K is associated with proper clotting. Although it is produced by bacteria found in the intestines, a person who eats a varied and healthy diet obtains about half the Daily Values fromfood, particularly darkleafy vegetables.
The Professional Chef, 7th Edition
by The Culinary Institute of America

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Hell's Kitchen

Call it light summer entertainment. Call it an interest in cooking. Call it a desire to see if Gordon Ramsay is really as horribly cruel as we'd heard in the reviews. We taped and finally watched the first episode of Hell's Kitchen.

We did think it was pretty unfair to make the teams work in an opening restaurant the very first day of the show without more than two hours of training. We did not think that Gordon Ramsay was unnecessarily cruel. I've read enough "behind the scenes" kitchen exposés to know how crazy chefs can be. The smearing of the dinner plate on people's chests if the dish wasn't right was rather dramatic, but whatever. And, it did seem to bring out the best and worst in people, especially if you consider that the best person from the red team was a mother who has never cooked professionally at all. She had a willing and humble attitude and it took her far.

Also, I liked the fact that Ramsay was unremittingly cruel to the customers as well as the cooks. Playing no favorites. He also was noticably kinder to people who were humble or obviously afraid. Not nice. Just kinder than he was to the others.

We'll no doubt tune in again to see what happens.

Eating Out

Anne's Food has a lucious sounding recipe for Nigella Lawson's Nutella Cake.

Mere Recipes gives us a really great sounding Sausage and Pepper Stew.

Spicy Barbecue Sauce

This recipe came from Gourmet long ago when I used to have a subscription. It is my favorite sauce when i remember far enough ahead of time to make it. It is fairly hot the day it is made and mellows the next day.

Step 1:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cups chopped onion
4 minced garlic cloves
Cook the onion and garlic in the oil until softened.

Step 2:
1/3 cup dark molasses
1-1/4 cups ketchup
2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
1-1/3 cups cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons Tabasco
1-1/3 teaspoons cayenne
Add all other ingredients and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20-30 minutes. If you want it smooth, purée it. Use to baste beef, chicken, or pork during the last third of its grilling time.

Makes about 2-1/2 cups. Let sit for one day to meld flavors. Also delicious as a regular (on-the-side) barbecue sauce.

Simple Barbecue Sauce

Grilling season is upon us. Actually, here in Dallas, it never really left but we will just humor the rest of the country on this. Here is one of the easiest basic sauces ever. It is from one of Matt Martinez' cookbooks (can't remember which at the moment but I can recommend both for good, simple recipes).

1 lemon, juiced
1 cup ketchup
1 cup tomato sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire
1 teaspoon prepared yellow mustard
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons white vinegar
3 tablespoons orange marmalade

Bring to a boil and let simmer 5 minutes. Yields 3 cups.