Sunday, May 28, 2006

Now Serving Hot Links

The Food Issue: The NY Times Sunday Book Review is all about food books ... which out-of-print books are people's favorites, reviews of a few new food biographies, and first chapters of four new books.

Carnival of the Recipes: it's a special Memorial Day Edition chock full of great recipes to share with your friends and families during this holiday weekend.

Pasta Cooked Risotto-Style: Chocolate & Zucchini's been experimenting with this technique which supposedly is ancient. Makes sense to me. I used to make a pasta and broccoli dish from Ed Giobbi via Craig Claiborne that used this technique and it was wonderful. Sadly, when broccoli-hating kids came along I quit making it and haven't thought of it until now. Hmmm ... time to pull out those old cookbooks and look it up. (Yes, I care less about their broccoli-hating now, insensitive mother that I am.)


Weekend Joke

From my in-box. Thanks Cynthia!
A couple goes for a meal at a Chinese restaurant and orders the “Chicken Surprise.” The waiter brings the meal, served in a lidded cast iron pot.

Just as the wife is about to serve herself, the lid of the pot rises slightly and she briefly sees two beady little eyes looking around before the lid slams back down.

“Good grief, did you see that?” she asks her husband.

He hasn’t, so she asks him to look in the pot. He reaches for it and again the lid rises, and he sees two little eyes looking around before it slams down.

Rather perturbed, he calls the waiter over, explains what is happening, and demands an explanation.

“Please sir,” says the waiter, “What you order?”

The husband replies, “Chicken Surprise.”

“Ah... so sorry,” says the waiter, “I bring you Peeking Duck.”

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Ingredient Alert

The Central Market is now making their own English Muffins. Contrary to their other "bready" practices such as with hot dog and hamburger buns which usually are too large, these are smaller than expected. And we're ok with that. They are delightfully "right" in that they have the chewy, hole-y, texture and toast up just right. Try a package if you're anywhere near a Central Market and see them.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Nutella Nuggets

This recipe won second place in Dallas Morning News' Christmas cookie contest. I whipped it up as a snack for Rose's pals when they had been laboring long and hard making a video with their interpretation of Julius Caesar for English class. The plate of cookies didn't last long.

I had been wondering how they would turn out with simply Nutella, crumbs, and an egg to hold it all together. They were delicious little bites and the powdered sugar really wasn't needed at all. Rich, chewy, intense chocolate and nut flavors ... mmmm, so very good.

Looking this over I see that I totally missed the "wait 20 minutes" step. Darn! Guess I'll just hafta make them again!

1 cup Nutella spread
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 large egg
Powdered sugar

With a mixer or in a food processor, mix Nutella, crumbs and egg. Form into 1-inch balls and place 1-1/2-inches apart on a greased cookie sheet or Silpat. Let rest 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake 8 minutes. Let cool in pan on rack. Before removing, dust heavily with powdered sugar. Makes 3 dozen.

Food Words: Egg and Yolk

Egg comes from an Indo-European root meaning "bird."

The brusque-sounding yolk is rich in overtones of light and life. It comes from the Old English for "yellow," whose Greek cousin meant "yellow-green," the color of new plant growth. Both the Old English and the Greek derive ultimately from an Indo-European root meaning "to gleam, to glimmer." The same root gave us glow and gold.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Peanut Butter Frosting

Boy, oh boy ,was this a delicious cake! Again, as noted over on HC, our cake was round not square but otherwise this is a remarkably good representation of it.

First up, is the frosting which is from The Cake Mix Doctor. Although I don't use the cake recipes since they are based on boxed mixes, her frosting recipes are superb. This frosting is less sweet than many and the peanut aroma fills the air, luring you to want to cut a piece every time you walk by.

I'll post the chocolate cake recipe soon but if you've gotta have it before then, of course, this works with any chocolate cake you want to make.

Makes 3 cups, enough to frost a 2- or 3-layer cake or the top of a 13x19-inch sheet cake.

1 cup creamy peanut butter
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted (I never sift)
3-4 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla

Place the peanut butter and butter in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed until fluffy, 30 seconds. Stop the machine. Add the confectioners' sugar, 3 tablespoons milk, and the vanilla. Blend with the mixer on low speed until the sugar is well combined, 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and beat until the frosting lightens and is fluffy, 1 minutes more. Blend in up to 1 tablespoon milk if the frosting seems too stiff.

Use at once to frost a cake of choice.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

B-16 and Foie Gras

In reference to the Chicago city council's ban of foie gras, Cathy Ward fires a salvo which has Pope Benedict's commentary attached (as then-Cardinal Ratzinger). My comments about his comments were made at her place.

Now Serving Hot Links

Italian Chef's Cookbook for Dogs
Truthfully, I just couldn't resist the cover which looks like our Daffy dog. Check it out at Slashfood.

Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking
Chocolate & Zucchini reviews one of my favorite books (both for cooking and just plain reading) so that I don't have to.

MFK Fisher's The Art of Eating
Similarly Food Bound reviews another favorite author's best works ... again so I don't have to.

James Beard Award Winners
A rather late notice but better late than never. Am I right? Of course I am!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Foie Gras: Yes or No?

The Chicago City Council recently banned foie gras. Apparently they did not approve because it was considered animal cruelty to produce the livers. This alone left me stunned. They picked out a particular food and banned it? What about regular chickens? They live short, miserable lives in a tiny cage. How about veal? I'm surprised they didn't toss that in with the foie gras.

Culinary Roundtable is a new podcast produced by the Culinary Podcast Network. The first episode featured a group of food writers and podcasters discussing the pros and cons of the foie gras ban. They started out with people on both sides of the issue who then had a lively (but polite) discussion. I found it very interesting and am really looking forward to their next topic in a couple of weeks.

Personally, on the foie gras issue I'd have to see some more scientific evidence about how cruel it actually is before believing it (listen to the podcast for thoughts on how the French ever discovered "large livered" geese in the first place). On the personal freedoms front, I already disapprove of public bans on smoking so you can guess where I come down on the foie gras ban.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Food Words: Custard, Cream, Flan

The nomenclature of egg-milk mixtures has always been loose. The English "custard" began as "croustade" in medieval times, and meant dishes served in a crust — thus, for egg-milk combinations, usually baked and unstirred, and so solid. Early English creams could be either liquid or solid, as could the French cremes. Those congealed past the point of creaminess became known as cremes prises, or "set creams."

Flan, a French word, comes from the late Latin for "flat cake."

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Midweek Joke

Thanks to Alex for this one!
A Blonde is overweight, so her doctor puts her on a diet.

He tells her, "I want you to eat regularly for two days, then skip a day, and repeat the procedure for two weeks. The next time I see you, you'll have lost at least five pounds."

When the Blonde returns, she's lost nearly 20 pounds.

"Why, that's amazing!" the doctor says. "Did you follow my instructions?"

The Blonde nods and answers, "I'll tell you, though, I thought I was going to drop dead that third day."

"From hunger, you mean?" asks the doctor.

"No," replied the Blonde, "From skipping."

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Exotic Chicken

For a barnyard commoner, the chicken has a surprisingly exotic background. Its immediate ancestor were jungle fowl native to tropical and subtropical Southeast Asia and India. The chicken more or less as we know it was probably domesticated in Southeast Asia before 7,700 BC, which is when larger-than-wild bones date from in Chinese finds far north of the jungle fowl's current range. By 1,500 BC chickens had found their way to Sumer and Egypt and they arrived around 800 BC in Greece, where they became known as "Persian birds," and where quail were the primary source of eggs.