Friday, June 30, 2006

A Quick Book Review

Bill Buford

Bill Buford became fascinated by Mario Batalli and talked him into letting Buford work in his restaurant kitchen as an unpaid intern. Along the way we get insights into how a restaurant kitchen works, although those have been given in greater detail and with greater flair in such books as Kitchen Confidential and The Soul of a Chef. For me the fascinating part of this book came when Buford became hooked on food from his own point of view, doing endless research into when Italian cooks first began adding an egg to pasta dough and going to Italy to learn from a butcher who follows the old ways. In some areas he winds up surpassing Batalli's own knowledge of Italian cuisine. Along the way we see Batalli's career from owning a restaurant to becoming a celebrity chef.

For reviews of other recently enjoyed books, check my other blog.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Hot Links: The Food Police Edition


Monday, June 26, 2006

Road Trip!

Check out the Carnival of the Recipes at Book Lore.

Next week the Carnival will be hosted by Caterwauling. The theme for next week is Fireworks. Submit your spicy, sparkling and splendid food for this 4th of July spectacular.

You can send recipes or links to by noon CST on Saturday. If you wish to host a future carnival send a message to the same address with the word host in the subject line.

For a line-up of future Carnivals, visit the Carnival of the Recipes page on Blog Carnival. (You can also review all past Carnival of the Recipes there too.)

Thought for Food

I refuse to believe that trading recipes is silly. Tuna fish casserole is at least as real as corporate stock.
Barbara Grizzuti Harrison

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Sorry We Missed You ...

Closed restaurant

Gone to Texas A&M for a couple of days ... Hannah's student orientation. Times have changed because they have two day's worth of plans for the parents as well. And, iPods are charging at every available outlet in the house ...

In the meantime, I'll pass along this interesting info about absinthe...
Absinthe is a distilled, highly alcoholic, anise-flavored spirit derived from herbs including the flowers and leaves of the medicinal plant Artemisia absinthium, also called wormwood. Although it is sometimes incorrectly called a liqueur, absinthe does not contain added sugar and is therefore classified as a liquor. Absinthe originated in Switzerland as an elixir, but is more well-known for its popularity in late 19th and early 20th century France, particularly among Parisian artists and writers whose romantic associations with the drink still linger in popular culture. In its heyday the most popular brand of absinthe worldwide was Pernod Fils. At the height of this popularity, absinthe was portrayed as a dangerously addictive, psychoactive drug; the chemical thujone was blamed for most of its deleterious effects. By 1915 it was banned in a number of European countries and the United States. Modern evidence shows it to be no more dangerous or psychoactive than ordinary alcohol. A modern-day absinthe revival began in the 1990s, as countries in the European Union began to reauthorize its manufacture and sale.
Get the rest of the article here.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

From Cook's Illustrated, boy oh boy are these good!

There are tedious instructions for lining the pan with foil to make a sort of sling to lift the cookies out after they have cooled. I'm not sure why because I just sprayed the pan with cooking spray and cut them after they cooled right in the pan. They came out with no problems at all.


You can substitute white, milk chocolate, or peanut butter chips for the semi- or bittersweet chips called for in the recipe. In addition to chips, you can flavor the dough with 1 cup of nuts, raisins, or shredded coconut.
Makes 24 (2-inch) square cookies

2 1/8 cups bleached all-purpose flour (10 1/2 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), melted and cooled slightly
1 cup light brown sugar (7 ounces)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chips or chunks (semi or bittersweet)

1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position. Cut 18-inch length foil and fold lengthwise to 8-inch width. Fit foil into length of 13 by 9-inch baking pan, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan; allow excess to overhang pan edges. Cut 14-inch length foil and fit into width of baking pan in same manner, perpendicular to first sheet (if using extra-wide foil, fold second sheet lengthwise to 12-inch width). Spray foil-lined pan with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Mix flour, salt, and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

3. Whisk melted butter and sugars in medium large until combined. Add egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and mix well. Using rubber spatula, fold dry ingredients into egg mixture until just combined; do not overmix. Fold in chips and turn batter into prepared pan, smoothing top with spatula.

4. Bake until top is light golden brown, slightly firm to the touch, and edges start pulling away from sides of pan, 27 to 30 minutes. Cool on wire rack to room temperature. Remove bars from pan by lifting foil overhang and transfer to cutting board. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve.

Friday, June 16, 2006

New to the Blogroll

A few more good 'uns to check out.
  • Baking for Britain - exploring regional, old-timey British baking
  • Chez Pim - "musings on food, moods, and other barely interesting things."
  • Food Whore, The - a caterer tells all
  • s'kat and the food - living the food blogger's dream; hired by a newspaper and paid to write about food instead of merely having to blog

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Take One Panicky Husband ...

... who has to provide food for a potluck picnic while his wife is out of town. Add emails to a blogging pal for help. Toss in some simple but delicious recipes. What do you get?

Some really dandy photos for your blog (because it's all about me, Me, ME). Oh, and a happy friend who has discovered that he can cook after all.

He made Middle Eastern Chopped Salad, shown here with an adorable model who adds a lot of life to the photo.

And topped it off with Cyndie's Banana Pudding.


Monday, June 12, 2006

Name That Utensil

How good are you at knowing what utensils are used and what they are named? Take this quiz (I got 10 out of 11 ... and I think they were wrong, of course!). Via SlashFood.

Oat Bannocks for St. Columba's Day

This is a little late but still worth noting. We can begin working on those oat bannocks now so that we're ready next year.
By coincidence, today (9th June) is St. Columba's Day (patron saint of shepherds). In rural Scotland this was traditionally marked by the baking of an oatmeal, barleymeal or rye bannock - one of the few food stuffs that Columba allowed himself in his monastry on the island of Iona. The bannock would contain a coin and was shared between the children of the household. Whoever had the slice of bannock with the coin 'won' the job of looking after the new lambs for the next year (a prize coveted by children, for it meant that they were being granted great responsibility - better than a iPod, eh kids?).
Baking for Britain has the recipes, photos, and a whole lotta history. Check it out.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Rhonda Was Right ...

I am Thai food!

You Are Thai Food

Trendy yet complex.
People seek you out - though they're not sure why.

Via Discernment Dilemma.

The Flavor Meme

I saw this at Quoth the Maven and since I'd just been thinking lately about my favorite flavors it seemed like a natural. Looking at these it seems clear that I go for big flavors.
List five to ten of your favorite flavors.

For instance, if you read a menu, what are the words that jump out at you. Or if you had to plan your last meal, what flavors would be mandatory to include? If you're a true chocoholic, chocolate would be at the top of the list. This might include your favorite spices or condiments as well -- say you put cinnamon on or in things a lot.
  1. Mint

  2. Cilantro

  3. Lemon

  4. Lime

  5. Peanut

  6. Ginger ... fresh

  7. Ginger ... ground (which I maintain is different than #6 because fresh and dried ginger have completely different flavors ... as used in gingerbread).

  8. Garlic

  9. Blue cheese

  10. Butter (can't get shortbread without it ... mmmmm)


Thursday, June 08, 2006

Chocolate Mint Cake

Can you believe I actually remembered to take a photo of my birthday cake? Of course, it only took me two weeks to get it posted with the recipe ... but better late than never (my motto as of late).

I didn't have the original recipe, which my mother says was from a Better Home & Garden cookbook. I recreated it using layers of Easy Chocolate-Buttermilk Cake and then frosted them with this.

From The Cake Mix Doctor. There is not a bad frosting recipe in this book. They are all homemade as opposed to the cake recipes which fix up cake mixes. I don't use the cake recipes from this, preferring the texture of home made cake, but I do use it for inspirations on cake/frosting pairings. This is the basic buttercream frosting with mint extract substituted for the vanilla.

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter at room temperature
3-3/4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
3-4 tablespoons milk
1/2 to 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
Green food coloring

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed until fluffy, 30 seconds. Stop the machine and add the confectioners' sugar, 3 tablespoons of milk, and vanilla. Blend with the mixer on low speed until the sugar is incorporated, 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 1 minutes more. Blend in up to 1 tablespoon milk if the frosting seems too stiff. If you like, tint the frosting green ... I do like as you can see from the photo.

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 tablespoon butter

Melt the chocolate and butter together. (The butter helps keep the chocolate malleable enough to slice when solid. I forgot to use anything but straight chocolate when I made this. It was like a rock ... tasty but rock-solid and required a serrated knife to get through the top.) Cool. Pour over the top of the frosted cake.


Easy Chocolate Buttermilk Cake

This moist, delicious cake from Good Housekeeping Step by Step Cookbook is also one of the easiest I've ever made. Whenever I need a chocolate cake this is the recipe I use. Pair it with the Peanut Butter Frosting to get Rose's favorite combination. Go with the Chocolate and Mint for the birthday cake I remember so fondly from childhood. Or come up with your own.

2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1-3/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1-1/4 teaspoons salt
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans or 10-inch Bundt pan. (I frequently make this in a 9 x 13-inch pan, baking it for 35-40 minutes.) Dust pans with cocoa.

In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, and salt.

In medium bowl, with wire whisk, mix buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla until blended. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture and whisk until smooth.

Divide batter between prepared layers or pour into Bundt pan; spread evenly. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 30 minutes for 9-layers or about 40 minutes for Bundt cake. Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Run thin knife around layers to loosen from side of pan. Or, if using Bundt pan, run tip of knife around edge of cake to loosen. Invert onto racks to cool completely.

Meanwhile, prepare frosting of your choice. Place one layer, rounded side down, on cake plate. With narrow metal spatula, spread 2/3 cup frosting over layer. Top with second layer, rounded side up. Spread remaining frosting over side and top of cake. Makes 16 servings.


Monday, June 05, 2006

Summer Reading

‘Tis the season and here are a few of the food oriented books I’ll be whiling away the summer reading. Check here for a much longer list of non-food related reading that I may tackle. (Thank heavens for libraries!)
Tags:Food, Books

Saturday, June 03, 2006

I Feel Like Setting Some Stuff on Fire

Isn't it lucky that Pentecost is tomorrow so we can combine that innate desire for arson with our faith?

Here are a few ideas on how to combine that with cooking for Pentecost Sunday tomorrow.

I'll be making Pollo con Pina a la Antigua (aka Chicken with Pineapple from Cuba). It is the only recipe I could think of that I make which involves flaming up during the process. Luckily it is delicious and also different enough to intrigue company should you have any.

If you do have company and want decorating ideas, just hop over here.

From the Caribbean islands book of the Time-Life Foods of the World series, there is no doubt about it being authentically Cuban as I was in conversation many years ago with a young Cuban woman who knew the recipe instantly and began talking about the annoyance of cutting up a whole pineapple to make it. I have never had problems with whole pineapples but these days it is easy enough to buy fresh pineapple chunks in the produce section.

Chicken with Pineapple
To serve 6

3-1/2 to 4 pound chicken, cut into 6 serving pieces
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onions
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
3 medium-sized firm ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped OR substitute 1 cup chopped, drained, canned tomatoes
1/4 cup seedless raisins
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh lime rind
1/2 teaspoon crumbled, dried oregano
2 cups finely chopped fresh pineapple
1/4 cup medium-dark rum

Pat the chicken completely dry with paper towels. Rub the pieces with lime juice, sprinkle with the salt and a few grindings of pepper, and let them rest at room temperature for 5 minutes or so.

In a heavy 12-inch skillet with a tightly fitting lid, heat the oil over moderate heat until a light haze forms above it. Starting them skin side down, brown 2 or 3 pieces of chicken at a time, turning them with tongs and regulating the heat so that the pieces color quickly and evenly without burning. Transfer the chicken to a plate.

Add the onions and garlic to the fat remaining in the skillet and, stirring frequently, cook for about 5 minutes, until they are soft and transparent but not brown. Return the chicken and the liquid that has accumulated around it to the pan, reduce the heat to the lowest point possible, cover tightly, and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the tomatoes, raisins, lime rind and oregano, and turn the chicken about to coat the pieces evenly. Cover again and simmer for 10 minutes longer, until the chicken is tender but not falling apart.

Meanwhile, place the pineapple in a small saucepan and, stirring frequently, cook briskly, uncovered, until it has reduced to 1 cup. In a separate pan, warm the rum over low heat. Off the heat, ignite the rum and slide the pan gently back and forth over the range until the flame dies. Stir the rum into the pineapple and set aside. When the chicken is done, add the pineapple-and-rum mixture to the skillet and simmer for about 3 minutes, or until the pineapple is heated through. Taste for seasoning.

To serve, arrange the chicken on a heated platter and pour the pineapple sauce over it.