Friday, December 28, 2007

What the World Eats

Dom Bettinelli points out this photo essay, What the World Eats.

On some levels it is what we would expect with many packaged foods from the Westernized countries. On the other hand, I was stunned to see that a German family spends $500 per week to feed 4 people. Now what would this have been if a French family had been shown I wonder? I always am told that they spend on food the discretionary income equivalent to what Americans spend on technology. I have to say that I am now feeling better about my weekly grocery store bill as it generally is below the American ones I saw and I always thought it was pretty high.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Joyful Anticipation of the Coming Celebration

wassail

Then up rose Mrs. Cratchit, Cratchit's wife, dressed out but poorly in a twice-turned gown, but brave in ribbons, which are cheap, and make a goodly show for sixpence; and she laid the cloth, assisted by Belinda Cratchit, second of her daughters, also brave in ribbons; while Master Peter Cratchit plunged a fork into the saucepan of potatoes, and getting the corners of his monstrous shirt collar (Bob's private property, conferred upon his son and heir in honor of the day) into his mouth, rejoiced to find himself so gallantly attired, and yearned to show his linen in the fashionable Parks. And now the two smaller Cratchits, boy and girl, came tearing in, screaming that outside the baker's they had smelled the goose, and known it for their own; and basking in luxurious thoughts of sage in onion, these young Cratchits danced about the table, and exalted Master Peter Cratchit to the skies, while he (not proud, although his collars nearly choked him) blew the fire, until the slow potatoes, bubbling up, knocked loudly at the saucepan-lid to be let out and peeled.

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Omelettes Made in a Ziploc? That Just Ain't Right.

It's funny ... and weird ... and kind of intriguing. A homemade boil-in-bag breakfast. Men in Aprons have the instructions if you want to give it a try.

This really seems perfect for guys. It combines a science experiment with breakfast.

My secret informant, Siggy, confides that he has tried it and "it works great!"

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Crunch

This is a homemade Toffee-Popcorn-Nut recipe that my parents made without fail for every Christmas.

Me?

Well ... Dallas is so much more humid and I run out of time and ... ok, look, I'm not going to lie, especially with Santa checking that list. It's just that I will always put the other recipes first and by the time that I am nerved to deal with molten hot sugar, Christmas is upon us and we have more cookies than we can ever eat. "Why make more sweets?" I tell myself.

Also, truth be told, the humid weather does have something to do with it as well. I want it crunchy and chewy ... not soft and sticky. That ain't easy to achieve unless the Crunch is made only a day or two before Christmas, just when the time crunch really takes hold on my schedule.

Now that I have all that avoidance out of the way, I have to say that this is the popcorn that ruined me for any other toffee popcorn experience. Seriously. Nothing else stands up to that chewy, buttery, crunchy combination.

You know, this year I actually may make it. I can't stand to think of the girls never having this delicious stuff. Yep. I'm doing it for the girls. That's my story and I'm sticking with it.

Crunch

Step 1:
2 quarts popped corn
1-1/3 cups pecans
2/3 cup almonds
Mix popped corn and nuts on a jelly roll sheet (cookie sheet with edges).

Step 2:
1-1/3 cups sugar
1 cup butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup
Combine in a 1½ quart pan; bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue boiling, stirring occasionally, 10-15 minutes or until mixture turns a light caramel color.

Step 3:
1 teaspoon vanilla
Remove caramel from heat, mix in vanilla and pour over corn and nut mix. Stir to coat well; spread out to dry. Break apart and store in tightly covered container. Makes about 2 pounds.

Friday, December 07, 2007

I Don't Know About The Tom-inator, But ...

... I have no doubt that the rest of this is the best barbecue in Atlanta. Our co-worker Chris's brothers run it and he's given us some of their ribs as a Christmas gift before. Mmmm, mmm, good! As this Fox News guy attests to.

Fine Art Friday

Red Wine by Qiang Huang,
the featured artist in today's
Fine Art Festival.

Friday, November 30, 2007

How to Peel a Banana

Here's one reason to read David Leibovitz. He's so darned funny ...
*To Peel the Banana: Hold the banana in one hand near the base. With your other hand, grab the top stem, and pull it firmly downward. If it gives you trouble, rock it back-and-forth, trying to break the area between the stem and the skin just beneath. If that doesn’t work, take a sharp paring knife, being careful not to cut yourself, hold the blade facing away from you and make a small incision on the side of the skin near the tip. Set the knife aside the tear the skin of the banana using your hands, which should make the skin peel away nicely.

Pull each side of skin down from the banana, exposing the fleshy fruit beneath. Once the banana is almost completely visible, firmly yank the skin down as far as possible and extract the banana from the skin. Discard the skin (it can be frozen, well-wrapped, for up to six month and saved for another use, if desired.) The banana should be used immediately. If not, it can be pureed then stored in a container with a sheet of plastic film pressed against the top, and refrigerated for up to 48 hours.

(Disclosure: The International Association of Banana Peelers, Slicers and Blenders, nor any liquor companies, are sponsors of the site. The instructions for peeling bananas and the recipe are a direct result of my trial-and-error methods, which I developed exclusively for readers.)
The other reason to read him? Because this footnote accompanies a recipe called The Easiest Chocolate Ice Ream Recipe ... Ever which doesn't require an ice cream machine and evidently keeps a perfect consistency in the freezer for months! Wow!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Why Fruitcake for the Holidays?

Did you know that fruitcake is considered a holiday dessert to this day because of a law that was passed in England in the 18th century? The law restricted fruitcake consumption to the holiday season because it was considered far too rich for regular eating. These days, whether people think of fruitcake kindly or with deep suspicion, it is something to make, consume and share around the holidays.
Slashfood has the scoop. I don't make fruitcake but I love it ... and who wouldn't when it is from the Collin Street Bakery? Mmmmm ...

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thanksgiving ... Already?

Finally, this weekend I could no longer ignore the fact that Thanksgiving is this week. Luckily, our menu, like most, is set except for a few things which are my Thanksgiving "funny bone" and that I get quirky with every year. Variations are allowed by my family in the cranberry relish and sweet potatoes ... and that is only because I am the only one who eats them. Our day-after-Thanksgiving meal also is mandated by tradition. Chef salad featuring turkey (of course), blue cheese dressing and crumbled bacon (the real thing please!) on top. Mmmmmm, crumbled bacon ...

Here are a few links to recipes I've posted that we'll have at the feast.

Holiday Central
Ok, not my recipes but O Chef must answer just about every question you could think of there ... including any that my "short-hand" recipes may leave you with!

Herbed Thanksgiving Stuffing
This is the best stuffing ever and cooks in a slow cooker. I have made this four times now and never been disappointed. It really frees up the oven for other things and, if you happen to have a problem with sticking your hand up a turkey (no problemo here) then you're set free from that as well.

Skillet Cornbread
If you happen to like cornbread stuffing (which I do not), you may want to make this for your base. I've never found a better recipe.

Pecan Topped Sweet Potato Casserole
This was new for Thanksgiving last year and it was delicious. However, this year, I'm going to try Sweet Potatoes Baked in Cane Syrup from The Texas Cowboy Cookbook (scroll to the bottom of the post). Why? Just because it sounds interesting.

Mashed Potato Dinner Rolls
These are a favorite any time but especially at Thanksgiving ... all-American dinner rolls.

Cranberry Ginger Relish
I made this last year. Then I made another recipe when that ran out ... and then another. Well, you get the idea.

Perfect Piecrust
This is not a misnomer. Very easy and very delicious. It is long but that is to give detailed directions. You can't go wrong with this.

Pecan Pie
This is non-negotiable. Gotta have it.

Pumpkin Pie

Are you allowed to have Thanksgiving without this? Or watch the Cowboys play without having some? Nope.

We'll also be having some Greek Green Beans (a pound of green beans, juice of a lemon, a can of diced tomatoes, a chopped onion, some olive oil ... all simmered slowly for about an hour ... mmmm) and ... something else green ... maybe spinach? Not that we need any more food, mind you, but my mind quails at the sheer heaviness of it all without some veg to balance it.

LEFTOVERS
These are not usually a problem around our place but The Common Room has some interesting looking recipes, especially that casserole. Check it out.

Mashed Potato Dinner Rolls

This weekend I made a batch of these to have on hand for Thanksgiving. This recipe is from The Grass Roots Cookbook by Jean Anderson. I don't think it is in print any more so if you see a copy for sale, snap it up. It was the result of a "best cooks" series run by Family Circle, for which Anderson traveled thousands of miles and profiled many home cooks around the country known locally for their excellent cooking. This is one of the best cookbooks I know for representing regional cooking in the last days when such a thing was widespread and cooks vied to be the best. Every recipe I have tried from it has always been wonderful.

These rolls are no exception and my family loves them. They are the epitome of those soft, slightly sweet, buttery American rolls that are so difficult to find these days. Bakeries carry ciabiotta, authentic baguettes, fresh flour tortillas ... but a good American roll is hard to find.

I make these using leftover mashed potatoes. The fact that they are seasoned doesn't really make any difference to the rolls. Also, I have found it is good to leave the dough slightly sticky. Otherwise the rolls will be dry. I also tend to add 1-1/2 teaspoons malt powder (from King Arthur Flour) when I have it around.

If I am making them to serve to a large group, then I will bake them as described in the recipe. The result is very pretty, as our Japanese exchange student from long ago said, "Like a flower!" Otherwise, in a more utilitarian fashion, I make 48 balls of dough and put them 6-rolls x 8-rolls into a half-sheet jelly roll pan. (This is a large size pan that you can get from a restaurant supply company. I find them invaluable for cookie baking and much more.) I then freeze them in 6-roll squares to pull out for dinner.

Here is the recipe, straight from the book.

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup hot, unseasoned mashed potatoes
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 package active dry yeast (That would be 2-1/2 teaspoons for those using bulk yeast ... also available from King Arthur flour. I double this amount if I am in a hurry.)
2 cups warm milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
9-10 cups all-purpose flour (enough to make a soft but manageable dough)

  1. Combine butter, mashed potatoes, sugar and salt and stir until butter melts (if using leftover mashed potatoes, melt the butter and add it ... that warms up the potatoes). Cool mixture to 105 to 115 (or lukewarm).
  2. Sprinkle yeast over warm milk in a large mixing bowl (milk should feel comfortably warm when dropped on wrist). Stir until yeast dissolves.
  3. Add mashed-potato mixture to yeast; beat in eggs. Add the flour about 2 cups at a time, beating well to blend. Add only enough flour to give you a soft but workable dough -- it should not be so sticky that you cannot knead it.
  4. Turn dough onto a floured board and, with well-floured hands, knead about 5 minutes or until soft and springy (I do the mixing in my Kitchen Aid with the beater until it is "shaggy" and switch to a kneading hook for the kneading ... but for many years I made these by hand).
  5. Turn dough into a buttered bowl and brush the surface with melted butter. Cover with a clean dry cloth and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in bulk -- about 2 hours. (This dough takes somewhat longer than usual to rise because it contains only 1 package of yeast.)
  6. Punch dough down and let rest about 10 minutes. Turn onto a lightly floured board and knead lightly again -- about 2-3 minutes.
  7. Pinch off bits of dough and roll into balls about the size of golf balls. Arrange one layer deep, in concentric rings, in three well-greased 9-inch layer-cake pans (I also have used pie pans for this), spacing the rolls so that they do not quite touch one another (they will after they have risen). Cover pans with clean dry cloth, set in a warm, draft-free spot and again let rise until double in bulk -- about 1 hour or slightly longer.
  8. Bake the rolls in a very hot oven (450) for 10 minutes or until rolls are nicely browned and sound hollow when thumped with your fingers. Serve hot with plenty of butter.
  9. Note: Any rolls not eaten right away can be cooled to room temperature, then wrapped in foil (do not separate rolls) and frozen to enjoy later.

Monday, October 29, 2007

True Confessions of Two Chefs

David Leibovitz reviews Alice Water's new cookbook, The Art of Simple Food, and begins with a classic reminiscence.

During my interview at Chez Panisse, as I sat across the table from Alice Waters in the main dining room at the restaurant, she asked me, "What do you eat at home?"

Since I'm not exactly convincing when lying, I told her.

"I eat popcorn, mostly." And continued, "I'm a restaurant cook. I don't have time to eat at home."

(Although I did conveniently omit the fact that it was microwave popcorn...)

In spite of that, or because of my chutzpah, I got hired and worked at Chez Panisse for a long time. What nailed it for me and endeared me to Alice, years later, wasn't her politics or her philosophy on cooking. It was when I told her, "I really like to drink coffee leftover from the morning, with milk in it, that's been sitting on the counter all day."

And she said, "Me too."
Go read the review and take a look at that Gingersnaps recipe he excerpts. Mmmm, those look fantastic.

Cross-posted at Happy Catholic.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Fine Art Friday

The Bucket by Edward B. Gordon

Can this guy do a painting I don't like? Nope.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

How to Judge a Tex-Mex Restaurant

Here are a few guidelines: 1. It has to be family-owned. 2. A ramshackle space with added-on rooms is a positive. The most successful Tex-Mex restaurants started small and expanded due to popular demand. 3. It’s best if the patrons in the dining room look like the face of democracy. You want a mix of gringos and Hispanic customers; professionals and laborers.

Joe Gonzalez who, with his wife, Alma, opened El Jardin in 1975, offers a fourth tip: take careful measure of the chips and salsa.

“It’s the first thing that hits the table,” Mr. Gonzalez said. “Are the chips and salsa homemade, or does it taste like they’re from a bag and a jar? Right there you know if you’re in for the real thing, or they’re trying to save money.”
Indeed, this is exactly how I begin judging a new Tex-Mex place. Much, much more about Tex-Mex, that "native regional food," from this NY Times article, A Celebration of Tex-Mex, Without Apology. It's got plenty of input from Robb Walsh whose seminal Texas cookbooks I reviewed here. Thanks to Don for sending me the link to this enjoyable article!

NOT ENOUGH TEXAS COOKING?
Read about The Saga of Texas Chili and Terlingua.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Deep in the Heart of Texas: Robb Walsh

Whenever I see an unlicensed shade-tree barbecue stand along the side of a Texas farm-to-market road, I think of history's first barbecue salesmen -- those famous outlaws, the buccaneers.

In the French West Indies, the word for a barbecue grill is boucan (from Tupi, a Brizilian language). Boucanee means smoked meat. Hence, "buccaneer" is derived from the French word for "barbecuer." The buccaneers were a ragtag crew consisting mainly of French and English outlaws and escaped slaves. They hid from the Spanish on the island of Tortuga off the northern coast of Hispaniola in the mid-1600s. Although they would later be known for their seafaring exploits, their original business was smoke-cured meat.

The buccaneers hunted the wild cows and pigs left behind the failed Spanish settlements on the island of Hispaniola. They smoke-cured the meat and sold it to the passing ships. Hunted themselves by the Spanish, the buccaneeers banded together for their own protection. Eventually they gave up on the meat business and went to sea. soon they discovered that capturing Spanish vessels by surprise attack was a lot more lucrative than chasing wild pigs. Before long, the buccaneers came to be known more as fearless seamen than as barbecue purveyors. But many would argue that it was in their first occupation that they made their most significant contribution to humanity.

Like the buccaneers, Texas barbecue joints are forever at odds with the authorities. Barbecue is, by definition, a primitive cooking process. The health laws in many Texas counties do not allow restaurants to cook outdoors. Many barbecue joints build tin roofs, screened porches, and other elaborate facades to bring the outdoor cooking indoors (at least technically). In outlaw tradition, the best barbecue generally comes from the joint that is in the most trouble with the health department.
If you are interested in the history of American cooking, then Robb Walsh is a must read.

If you are interested in the history of Texas cooking, then Robb Walsh is a must read.

If you are interested in Texas cooking now as well as recipes on doing this yourself ... well you get the point.

Must read!


Yes, I'm a fan.

He has covered barbecue, Tex-Mex, and cowboy cooking with historical information, oral tradition, restaurant information, and current day cooking and tastes. He does his own research, takes his own photos when those he can find won't do, and makes it all so easy to read that you don't feel as if you are absorbing history.

Excerpts tend to speak better for his cookbooks than I can do.
The Tex-Mex Railway
"Tex-Mex" first entered the language as a nickname for the Texas and Mexican Railway which was chartered in 1875. Newspaper railroad schedules used the abbrreviation "Tex. Mex." for the rail line which ran from Laredo to Corpus Christi.

The Oxford English Dictionary has cited a 1941 Time magazine quote as the first use in print, but several earlier citations appear in small-town newspapers. An earlier use of the hyphenated form is found in this May 23, 1922, citation from the Mexia Evening News (Mexia, Texas): "... the new town of Marindo City on the Tex-Mex Railway, where oil is loaded ..."

The term came to be used across the U.S. to describe people of Mexican ancestry in Texas as in this item from The Gastonia Daily Gazette (Gastonia, North Carolina) May 29, 1926: "One year the offering went to the Tex-Mex school, the School for Mexicans on the Texas side." On September 19, 1928, the Newark Advocate (Newark, Ohio) published this definition: "Q. What are Tex-Mex? A. Texas-born Mexicans."
But what about the recipes I can hear you saying. What about cooking from these books?

Good question and, sadly, all my appreciation comes from reading the books as I have been doing basic subsistence cooking lately. However, I feel myself shaking that mood off and plan to make this recipe soon. For more concrete appreciation, check out Homesick Texan who not only cooks from these books but has actually spent time cooking with Robb Walsh!

Sweet Potatoes Baked in Cane Syrup

How long you bake it depends on how wet the potatoes are, Mama Sugar Sanders cautions. If the sweet potatoes give off a lot of water, increase the baking time until the liquid is reduced.

Serves 8

2 tablespoons butter
3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 cup cane syrup
1/2 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 350. Butter a medium baking dish.

Layer the sweet potato slices in the prepared baking dish. Pour the cane syrup over the top and dot with the remaining butter. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the baking dish from the oven and tun with a spatula so the top slices are on the bottom and the bottom slices are on top. Sprinkle with the sugar and return to the oven. Bake for 20-30 minutes more, until the juices have thickened into a syrup. Remove the pan from the oven and press down on the potato slices with a spatula so they are submerged in the juices. Allow to cool for 30 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Now Serving Hot Links

3 Easy Pieces
Spaghetti with Breadcrumbs, Quesadillas, and Shrimp. That's what three Dallas chefs cook at home for their families on their day off. Good looking and simple recipes ... I'd forgotten about Quesadillas as a potential meal so this was a nice reminder of a really quick, delicious save for busy days. This is the feature story of the food section at the Dallas Morning News and free registration may be required.

The King of Casseroles?
We Texans, like most Americans, love our casseroles. Though what usually sets a Texan casserole apart from its neighbors is the spices used. Not shy with the peppers, most Texan casseroles have a bit of a kick. And one of the most popular casseroles we make is King Ranch Chicken Casserole, a soft, slightly spicy, cheesy mixture of tomatoes, corn tortillas, chicken, cream and peppers. It goes down easy and is the ultimate comfort food.
Yep. I love a good King Ranch Casserole which I'd never heard of until I moved to Texas. Homesick Texan has not only a recipe but her always-fun-to-read commentary as well.

Mooncakes and the Mid-Autumn Festival
Growing up, our group of girl cousins were told that the Moon Goddess Chang E would powder her face so as to be at her most beautiful on that night. Being a deity, the powder that falls from her puff would bless young maidens with beauty. Hence, we should sit demurely with our faces upturned toward the moon and think "pure thoughts." ...

Also, I could not wrap my mind around why the aunts did not have to participate in the same vapid moon-gazing; at that tender age, I did not know of anyone in greater need of Chang E's magic powder than Second Aunt.
Memories of the Mooncake Festival ... a good read.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
As I anticipated, there is a heckuva a lot of agenda in the book. However, I find most of the agenda congenial. Because I've grown increasingly suspicious of anything that represents itself as "non-fiction" there are some facts I would like to check out--particularly things like whether a patent on a genotype gives you the right to shut down nearby farming operations into which your patented genes have dispersed by air. If so, we all have a lot to be concerned about with the control of the eight basic crops in the hands of only four companies.

But I've also grown used to the fact that a specific wildly idiotic example is held up as the universal practice. I'm also suspicious of unquoted sources and innuendo.
Steven Riddle is reading the latest trendy food-ethics book (the label is my own) and has reactions similar to the ones I have felt from simply reading enthralled foodies' reviews. Being Steven, of course, he is eminently fair and so also shares an overview, a bit of Ms. Kingsolvers' humor, and a danger that never would have occurred to him without the book. Certainly I never would have thought to consider this book alongside Dante's warnings about gluttons, even though I am currently working my way (very slowly) thorough that classic. Check it out.

Good Blogs Alert!
A lot of people probably have already discovered these blogs but just in case ...
  • Tigers & Strawberries
    Barbara Fisher has intelligent and interesting food writing as well as a passion for Asian foods to make at home. Take a look through her archives and you will find accessible recipes for a gaggle of noodle dishes as well as the more commonly thought of stir-fries ... many of them inspired by the sort of restaurant cooking she used to do. As well she has thoughtful writing on food subjects of the moment when they arise ... such as the media terror over fewer bees and the trendiness of cupcakes. (Which is to say that I agree with, right? Right.)

  • CHOW Tour: Mongol Rally
    From London to Mongolia, fish and chips to fermented horse milk, all in a month. Writer Joshua M. Bernstein and his crew are eating their way across 8,000 miles in the Mongol Rally... Which leads to such seminal moments as ...
    What interests me more are pinkie-size bricks that appear to be made out of the stuff that’s inside malted milk balls. I walk up to a woman wearing a vibrant purple dress and a green headband. Her front four teeth are fake, which she demonstrates by disconcertingly sliding them around her mouth while talking.

    She tries to sell me a bowl of milky liquid, which looks suspiciously like the sour goat milk I despise. But I do buy several bricks for five soms (less than a penny).

    “Moo?” I ask. Thankfully, animal sounds are universal. I’m guessing it’s milk curds.

    The woman nods. “Aaruul.”

    Mims and I take a bite of one brick. It’s as dry as chalk and tastes like sour Parmesan.

    “All the moisture has been sucked from my mouth,” Mims says.
    Good stuff.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Rise of the Food Police

A city councilwoman is proposing a moratorium on fast-food restaurants in south Los Angeles, which has more such eateries than any other part of the county.

The ordinance proposed by Councilwoman Jan Perry would stop new fast-food restaurants from opening in the area for up to two years while the city establishes a long-term plan to deal with the restaurants that have been linked to health problems.
Big Brother casts his eye on the populace and decides that less freedom is better. So much easier to slap a negative law down (or to propose one) than to look at something positive ... such as reworking the city to create walking friendly neighborhoods, etc.

What's next? A stop on the scales before you can buy some Oreos?

National Cream Filled Doughnuts Day

9. In an episode of "The Simpsons," what did Homer trade for a doughnut?

a. Bart
b. A piece of pie
c. His soul
This is the only question I knew the answer to in this doughnut quiz (well, ok, I knew the answer to #5 also ...). Celebrate by taking the quiz. Via Serious Eats.

Fine Art Friday

Krispy Kreme 3 by Duane Keiser.

He is today's featured artist in the Fine Art Festival. For more of his featured paintings, go here.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Fine Art Friday

Die Schwarze Pump (The Black Pump)

Check out the Fine Art Festival which will run for at least seven days, which features this artist today.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Crush is On

First, I must say that de-stemming and crushing a bucket of grapes is an absolutely wonderful experience. I sat outside on a stump, pulling clusters from one bucket and plucking them into a second bucket, one after another, just enjoying the solitude and allowing myself to get lost in thought. As I began crushing handfuls of grapes, making sure none of them eluded my fingers, I imagined these grapes as being my own sacrifice offered to God. All my work, all my difficulties, all my life...broken open and poured out, so the Winemaker could use the juice to make something far greater.
So says The Yeoman Farmer who has a number of fascinating reports and ruminations up about grapes, harvesting, and wine. Via Catholicism + Wine.

Cooking for the Beautiful People

Mediterranean Summer: A Season on France's Cote d'Azur and Italy's Costa Bella
by David Shalleck

Somehow David Shalleck pulled off the feat of making his book suspenseful. The difficulty of achieving that is explained when you realize that the book is about cooking for some supremely privileged people aboard their yacht.

Shalleck is trying to find himself as a cook. He has failed what he sees as "tests" from culinary authorities Alice Waters and Nathalie Waag. They understand the essence of cooking and being a chef in a way that he does not even begin to comprehend. In an effort to close the gap, he then embarks on a series of apprenticeships in different Italian kitchens, sponsored by Faith Willinger.

Finally, he becomes the personal chef for a couple we know only as La Signora and il Dottore. He has a series of challenges to overcome. First of all, though the yacht, Serenity, has been completely refitted, no one ever had a cook give the specs for the kitchen so the limited facilities seem extremely daunting. Indeed, at time, such as when a floating party of over 100 people are expecting a many-course meal, one wonders that any chef could overcome such limiting conditions.

The greatest challenge, however, is pleasing his employers who do not want any dish to be repeated, want to experience the atmosphere of their various ports of call along the Mediterranean, and do not give very much feedback, which Shalleck intensely desires. The employers are not made out to be bad people. Quite the opposite, Shalleck has respect and a degree of liking for them. As shown in the book, they become their own personalities, albeit strong ones, and we also can respect their desires. I found myself in suspense after each situation to see if La Signora would give approval to a meal.

As well, we see Shalleck's more limited interaction with the crew, his journeys every morning to the markets where he will get inspiration for meals, and get a bird's eye view toward living aboard a ship as an employee.

If this sort of reading is your cup of tea, as it is obviously mine, you will enjoy this book. Highly recommended.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Chocolate Festival Cake

One person took a bite and said, "Peanut butter! I love chocolate and peanut butter!"

Another sampled his slice and said, "But it isn't just peanut butter and chocolate. There's some other flavor in there."

I told them, "Bananas. It has bananas in it."

Yet a third person said, "Is this technically difficult to make? Because I really want the recipe."

The first two people chorused, "Us too. We want that recipe."

What makes this an unusual conversation is that this was at a birthday party and the speakers were all college sophomores. If you don't have any college aged kids, just think back to your own late teens to realize how unlikely this request for a recipe actually is, to say nothing of the entire conversation. Needless to say, this cake was popular.

Hannah's friend, Jenny, picked out this cake from Maida Heatter's Cakes. I had never seen a cake with such a combination of dominant flavors: chocolate, peanut butter, and bananas. We were all intensely curious to see what it was like.

It is hard to describe the taste, as you really can taste all those dominant ingredients, however, as reported above it was a huge success. Give it a try.

Notes:
Heatter is well known for exhaustive instructions in her recipes. I revised a few of her technique notes for simplicity's sake ... and have adapted the recipe below to reflect those changes.

The icing contains a raw egg which would have worried me about salmonella if all I listened to were the sound bytes of major media. Here is a link which talks about food risks and raw eggs, which are much slighter than you would know from the way it is generally presented.

Serves 24

For the cake:
Step 1:
3 cups (12 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare 10 x 4" tube pan by buttering pan and then dusting all over with unsweetened cocoa powder. Tap excess cocoa out of pan and set aside.

Combine above dry ingredients and set aside.

Step 2:
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup smooth peanut butter
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 pound (2-1/4 cups, packed) dark brown sugar
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 cup (about 2) finely mashed, fully ripened bananas
6 eggs
1 cup strained unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until soft. Beat in the peanut butter and vanilla, then the sugar, scraping bowl as necessary with a rubber spatula. Next, mix in melted chocolate, then bananas, and then the eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated after each addition. On lowest speed, add cocoa, still scraping bowl as necessary, and beat until smooth.

Step 3:
1-1/4 cups milk

On low speed, beating until smooth after each addition, gradually add about a third of sifted dry ingredients, the half of milk, then another third of dry ingredients, then remaining milk, and then remaining dry ingredients.

Turn mixture into prepared pan. Briskly rotate the pan a bit, first in one direction, then another, to smooth the top.

Bake for 1 hour, then cover the top loosely with foil to prevent overbrowning, and continue to bake for an additional 25 -30 minutes until a cake tester gently inserted into the cake comes out clean (total baking time 1 hour, 25-30 minutes). The top of the cake will crack during baking.

Cool in the pan on a rack for 20 minutes. Then cover with another rack, turn the pan and rack over, remove the pan and let the cake cool upside down on the rack.

For the icing:
16 ounces milk chocolate, broken up
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped coarsely
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 egg
12 ounces (1-1/2 cups) smooth peanut butter

Melt both chocolates. Add butter a few pieces at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon until smooth.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg just to mix, then add the peanut butter and the chocolate mixture (which can be warm or cool) and beat until very smooth. As this mixture cools it will thicken; you might want to chill it quickly by putting it in the freezer or by placing the bowl in a larger bowl of ice and water. Or just let it stand a while. When it is thick enough to hold its shape beat it again for a moment.

This is a lot of icing and makes a thick layer. Spread it first on the sides and then on the top of the cake. With a long, narrow metal spatula, smooth the sides first and then the top.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Coming Soon ...

The cake that made three college students ask for the recipe. And if you know college students, then you know how rare that is.

Now I just have to find the time to type in the recipe, amidst prepping for Hannah's birthday celebration en famille tonight and last minute purchases to prep her for going back to college tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Nut Museum

"In the outside world, nutcrackers are the nuts' mortal enemy," she explains. "Here, nuts and nutcrackers can be friends."
I am so sorry that the Nut Lady died before we got a chance to visit her museum. She really sounds like she had a great sense of humor. Though her museum is closed, the virtual museum lives on on the internet. Check it out.

Monday, August 06, 2007

A Delightful Sampler of Recipes from Around the World

STREET FOOD by Tom Kime

This cookbook is a charming if quick look at the recipes of street vendors all over the world. Laid out with DK Publishing's customary focus on photography and clean style, the recipes and prose are highlighted in a way that literally made my mouth water (and that is not enviable when one is reading at 11:00 at night with no way to get Spiced Grilled Chicken with Coconut Cream!).

Author Tom Kime had the enviable task of traveling the world to choose the best of the best, eating his way through the streets of India, Sri Lanka, the Caribbean and more. The result is a collection of recipes are that are both savory and simple. I especially enjoyed the Indian and Southeastern Asian recipes, but my mouth is wired that way. I have the Potato and Cumin Curry and Crispy Paratha (stuffed with scallions, ginger, cilantro, and jalapeno) marked to try. Even though the Southern Europe recipe selection was not what I usually think of (showing just how varied the recipes are), the Pan Fried Red mullet with Preserved Lemon, olives, and Parsley also is marked as a must try. Of the recipes that were of sorts that I already have made from other sources, most notably the Vietnamese and Thai selections, Kime's recipes looked not only authentic but streamlined enough to make me contemplate them for the near future. He accompanies these recipes with journal entries that put the recipe in context of his travels. I could have done with more of this but I love to read about travel as much as food so that is a personal inclination more than a criticism.

Two features I really liked in this book were the Recipe Navigator, which helps sort our unfamiliar foods in categories such as "Best in a bowl," "Finger food," A meal in itself," and the extensive menu ideas in such categories as Barbecue, Leisurely Lunch, or Cozy Night In.

Brunswick Stew

I have meant to share this recipe with y'all so many times. However, the cookbook (my beloved The New Doubleday Cookbook) is huge and the idea of lugging it to the office (yes, I do too much blogging at work!) stopped me until this time.

Today I am at home waiting for the oven repairman to come (scheduled time between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. ... and you thought that cable companies were bad about making people wait upon their convenience) and so have remembered to type this in.

This is a family favorite. My own family made it often in the sumer as I was growing up, although not from this recipe. It always was one of those "no recipe" dishes as I recall. When I came across this recipe it added just enough "umph" to make it even more savory and tooth licking (the addition of tomatoes and a bit of sugar to the broth are the essentials of what is different). I always make a half recipe because that makes plenty for a meal and gives us half left for the freezer.

Serve it with biscuits, preferably those dead easy Cream Biscuits or Skillet Cornbread ... both are so delicious with honey.

1 (6-pound) stewing hen, cleaned and dressed
1 gallon cold water
2 stalks celery (include tops)
1 tablespoon sugar
5 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cut in 1/2" cubes
3 medium-size yellow onions, peeled and coarsely chopped (I leave the onion whole and put it in at the beginning to flavor the broth, then discard it afterward)
6 large ripe tomatoes, peeled, cored, seeded and coarsely chopped (I substitute two 14-ounce cans of diced tomatoes, drained)
2 (10-ounce) packages frozen baby lima beans (do not thaw)
1 (10-ounce) packages frozen whole kernel corn (do not thaw)
1 medium-size sweet green pepper, cored and cut in short, thin slivers (I don't use this)
2 tablespoons salt (I use 1 to 1-1/2 tablespoons)
1/4 teaspoon pepper (I use more)

Remove fat from body cavity of bird, then place gird and giblets in a very large kettle. Add water and celery, cover, and simmer 1-2 hours until just tender. Remove bird and giblets from broth and cool. Strain broth and skim off fat. Rinse kettle, pour in broth, add sugar, all vegetables but corn and green pepper, cover, and simmer 1 hour. Meanwhile, skin chicken, cut meat in 1" chunks and dice giblets. Return chicken and giblets to kettle, add remaining ingredients, cover, and simmer 40-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste for salt, adding more if needed. Serve piping hot in soup bowls as a main dish. particularly good with coleslaw and Hushpuppies or crisp corn sticks.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Linguine with Salmon and Tomatoes

This is from The Dallas Morning News food section from long ago. It was absolutely simple, fresh, and delicious. Certainly it made a perfect second-night use for grilled salmon and I can imagine it doing equally well with other grilled fish such as tuna or swordfish.

This made more than 4 servings for us and I actually made sure the sauce was ready before the pasta so that the linguine wouldn't all stick together waiting to be tossed with the sauce.

8 ounces linguine
2 teaspoons olive oil (divided use)
3 or 4 cloves thinly sliced garlic
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 cup whole grape tomatoes (I had cherry tomatoes and cut them in half)
Freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish (I didn't have fresh dill and didn't use any at all)
1 tablespoon butter
2 (4-6 ounce) cooked (leftover) salmon filets, flaked

Cook linguine according to directions, reserve 1/4 cup cooking water and drain pasta.

Meanwhile, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil on medium-high heat in a large nonstick skillet. Add garlic and crushed red pepper; cook 1 minute or until golden and fragrant. Transfer to a small bowl.

Reduce heat to medium, and heat remaining oil in same skillet. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring frequently, 2 to 3 minutes or until skins begin to split; crush a few tomatoes with the back of a spoon. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.

Add reserved pasta to skillet along with dill, reserved cooking water nd butter; toss to combine. Gently stir in salmon. Heat salmon briefly. Serve immediately. Garnish with additional dill. Serves 4.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Food Talkin'

When hanging around the retreat during the slow times, our talk turned to cooking. Here are some of the recipe links which came up:

Quick and Easy
Tuna Noodles

Used for the Team Potluck
Spicy Caesar Dressing

Given to Others
(Which means that Rita included these in the family cookbook made for her little brother now that he is on his own.)
Creamed Jalapeno Spinach
Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Just Because It's a Favorite of Mine and So Easy

Easy Chocolate Buttermilk Cake

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Now Serving Hot Links

Chinese Food Recommendations for Foreigners
Ben, who is living in China, is putting together a guide that has thorough information about various dishes, including a photo, the characters for the name, a pronounciation guide, the name we would call it, and a brief description.

Is Cooking For Your Family "Retrograde June Cleaver" Nonsense?
Barbara responds to a commenter on a NY Times story about personal strategies for putting home cooked meals on the table. Needless to say it was the commenter who made strangely judgmental remarks about cooking dinner.

How Do You Carry Your Groceries Home?
Slashfood's article looks at various approaches but winds up endorsing reusable bags. This is an approach I also would endorse if I didn't need the plastic bags for what is scooped out of the litter box and the paper bags for putting our newspapers out for recycling. Needless to say, I view those bags as a valuable commodity in our home.

What's In Your Food Sur-Thrival Kit?
Serious Eats asks what foods you keep around in order to not only survive but thrive. My list would include: egg noodles, albacore tuna, olive oil, garlic, Parmesan, Central Market flour tortillas, tortilla chips, and refried beans.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Breakfast in Hong Kong

Clearly this is another spot where cultural differences make a big difference ... I see that they do have a nice cuppa java there though ... From Tien Mao's Little Read Book.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

A Different Kind of Kitchen Confessions

ALONE IN THE KITCHEN WITH AN EGGPLANT:
Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler
"A potato," I told my brother, when he asked what I'd eaten for dinner. "Boiled, cubed, sauteed with olive oil, sea salt, and balsamic vinegar."

"That's it?" he asked. He was one to talk. He'd enjoyed what he called "bachelor's taco night" for three dinners and counting.

"A red cabbage, steamed with hot sauce and soy sauce," I said the following night.

"Do you need some money?" he asked.

But it wasn't that, or it wasn't only that. I liked to think of myself not as a student on a budget, but rather as a peasant, a member of a group whose eating habits, across cultures, had long appealed to me.

"Are you full?" my brother asked.

"Full enough," I said.

"What about protein?"
Introduction
This was the beginning of Jenni Ferrari-Adler's journeys cooking only for herself. Later, rereading Laurie Colwin's seminal essay on cooking only for oneself, she was struck by the fact that we are all connected by the fact that we cook for ourselves in a drastically different way than we would ever feed other people. Thus was the idea for this delightfully entertaining book of essays by twenty-six widely varied authors. The intriguing mix includes cookbook authors such as Marcella Hazen and Paula Wolfert, and authors like Anne Patchett and Haruki Murakami. What becomes clear is that everyone takes on the task of self-feeding very differently.
Eight p.m. and stomachs all across the land are beginning to rumble. Down in the village, women are darting out to buy last-minute baguettes before the shutters on the boulangerie crash shut for the night. The men are drinking aperitifs of cold Chablis at the cafe-bar and chatting in duos and trios and quartets about why the village needs a new well. Any minute now, their coins will clink onto the counter. They'll wrap scarves around their necks and wanter their separate ways through the wood-smoke-scented air, along cobblestone streets, in the final wisps of light, toward home. And there, waiting for them in the warm glow behind the windows, will be more talk and laughter, and no doubt an enormous pot of coq au vin or boeuf bourguignonne or pot au feu, one of those mellow, classic, slowly cooked dishes, the privilege of families and intimate gatherings of loved ones.

Bastards.
The Lonely Palate, Laura Caulder
I remember well those days when I only had myself to cook for. I tended to have large salads as daily fare while cooking meals on the weekends that I could divvy up and freeze for later consumption. However, I came from a family where food was our religion (think French attitude living in Kansas). Most of the people I knew never cooked for themselves at all. They lived for those visits home or invitations to join friends who had families. In these days of frozen dinners, which were not nearly as good or available in the days when I was single, I fear very few will undergo the trials and pleasures which we see detailed in these varied, fascinating essays.

The funny thing is that this book arrived in the mail on the day that I have a weekly, early evening class which puts everyone in our family on their own for a meal, instead of our usual practice of sitting down together. I settled down to begin reading, pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn't a recipe book but filled with essays, before my solitary meal. It was only then I realized that on my one weekly chance to have a "meal for one" I invariable take great pleasure in the same thing ... Page Whole Yogurt (Greek), drizzled with honey, a handful of walnuts, and a glass of Viognier to finish. It was the perfect beginning to a book that is about that very same thing ... whether we choose to cook, to go out, or to forage for our dinner when alone. You too may find that these essays prompt similar reflections and remembrances of your own, which simply adds to the value and enjoyment of this book.

I found the every selection delightful and this struck me as possibly the perfect summer reading for anyone who enjoys reading food writing.

I can't resist closing with a bit of the M.F.K. Fisher essay. Fisher is the penultimate essayist and food writer and this essay gives you a taste of her appeal and sense of humor.
And the kind people -- they are the ones who have made me feel the loneliest. Wherever I have lived, they have indeed been kind -- up to a certain point. They have poured cocktails for me, and praised me generously for things I have written to their liking, and showed me their children. And I have seen the discreetly drawn curtains to the family dining-rooms, so different from the uncluttered, spinsterish emptiness of my own one room. Behind the far door to the kitchen I have sensed, with the mystic materialism of a hungry woman, the presence of honest-to-God fried chops, peas and carrots, a jello salad and lemon meringue pie -- none of which I like and all of which I admire in theory and would give my eyeteeth to be offered. But the kind people always murmur, "We'd love to have you stay to supper sometime. We don't dare, of course, the simple way we eat and all."

As I leave, by myself, two nice plump kind neighbors come in. They say howdo, and then good-by with obvious relief, after a polite, respectful mention of culinary literature as represented, no matter how doubtfully, by me. They sniff the fine creeping straight forward smells in the hall and living-room with silent thanks that they are not condemned to my daily fare of quails financiere, pate de Strasbourg truffe en brioche, sole Marguery, bombe vanilla au Cointreau. They close the door on me.

I drive home by way of the corner Thriftimart to pick up another box of Ry Krisp, which with a can of tomato soup and a glass of California sherry will make a good nourishing meal for me as I sit on my tuffet in a circle of proofs and pocket detective stories.
A is for Dining Alone by M.F.K. Fisher
*All quotes are from a review copy, which was an uncorrected proof for limited distribution. Final quotes in the published hardback may differ somewhat.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Hungry to Know About Ratatouille?

My embarrassingly long review (yes, I loved it in so many ways) can be found here.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Kao Mok Gai (a.k.a. Thai-Style Chicken Biriyani)

Or as we will be calling this in our household, Thai Chicken and Rice. This came from Saveur, who got it from "Nancie McDermott's seminal cookbook Real Thai." It was simple and delicious.

I originally planned to make this over the weekend but when felled by a virus had to adapt plans for after work yesterday. I skipped the marinating time and didn't skin the chicken (no time!) ... it was simply wonderful.

Step 1
1-1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper (I used plain old black pepper)
6 shallots, roughly chopped
5 cloves garlic
1 5"-inch piece fresh peeled ginger, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup water

In a blender, combine all, puree to a paste.

Step 2

6 skinless chicken thighs, halved crosswise through the bone (I used regular whole thighs)
6 skinless chicken drumsticks

Toss chicken and spice paste together in a large bowl to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature to let marinate for 1 hour.

Step 3
2 tablespoons peanut oil

Heat oil in a large wide pot over medium-high heat. Add chicken and all the spice paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until paste is deeply caramelized and the chicken is just beginning to brown, 12-14 minutes.

Step 4
2-1/2 cups jasmine rice
2-1/4 cups water

Add rice to pot and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1-2 minutes. Add salt to taste (I used a couple of teaspoons or so) and water; bring to a boil while stirring occasionally. Cover pot, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until rice is just tender and chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes. Remove pot from heat and let sit undisturbed for 15 minutes. Uncover and, using a fork, gently toss together the chicken and rice.

Step 5
2 kirby cucumbers, trimmed and thinly sliced
Thai-style chile sauce, such as Sriracha

Serve immediately with cucumbers and chile sauce on the side.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Now Serving Hot Links: The Recipes Edition

These recipes just sounded so good, I'm sending you round to see them for yourselves.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Pace Chicken Vegetable Salad

My mother picked this up either from a Pace Picante label or from their website. Either way, it is absolutely simple and simply delicious. It is especially nice to grill extra chicken on the weekend and then make this salad during the week.

Step 1:
1 pound chicken breasts, grilled, diced
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 medium zucchini, quartered, sliced
1 cup frozen corn, defrosted
1 avocado, diced
1/2 cup green onions

Combine all ingredients.

Step 2:
1/2 cup Pace picante
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons cilantro, minced
1/2 teaspoons cumin

Make Dressing: Combine all. Add to salad. Let set an hour, chilling. Serves 4.

This is infinitely adaptable … try black beans, grilled steak, etc.

Fine Art Friday

Jadeite & Cherries by James Neil Holligsworth

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A True Artist Looks Only to Results, Not to Time Spent

That explains why this baker is the artist that I never will be ... 4 hours of working with marzipan is something I never will do. Check out the post for upclose photos and a a link to a photo-tutorial. Simply amazing!

Via Bill and Slashfood.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Summertime and the livin' ain't easy in ...

Somehow I didn't get the premiere taped last week but Fox showed it before this week's episode and we caught up last night. Just a few things stand out so far:
  • We have never seen any kitchen team get their service finished on the second evening of serving, much less finish the service for the other kitchen.
  • We were so happy to see egotistical, backstabbing Tiffany leave.
  • We couldn't believe that Rock didn't nominate Aaron. Was it that he was trying to eliminate possibly better competition? It seems that it would have been a kindness to send Aaron home. He really can't take any pressure at all.
  • Gordon Ramsay showed a newer, softer side when dealing with building up Aaron. There's the hidden "management" side that a good leader must have. Know when to yell and know when to support.
  • So far we are pulling for Rock, Julia, and Melissa.
  • One of the guys said that when Ramsay is yelling he has wrinkles like a shar pei. Nope. We go with the English bulldog ... but as one of the girls said, during the infrequent times when we see him smile he is a cutie. (What can I say? This is roomful of girls watching!)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Ratatouille ... Something for Foodies

Although the story line has its charms, the precisely rendered detail of a professional kitchen will appeal to the food-obsessed.

The Pixar crew took cooking classes, ate at notable restaurants in Paris and worked alongside Mr. Keller at the French Laundry in Yountville, Calif.

“As a former actor and dancer, I have spent a lot of time in restaurants, but I had no idea of that vast difference between France and America, and especially the three-star restaurants in Paris,” said Brad Lewis, the producer. ...

Throughout the film, the characters work on dishes like steamed pike with butter, braised fennel and heirloom potatoes or grilled petit filet mignon with oxtail and baby onion ragout topped with truffled bordelaise and shaved Perigord truffle. The idea was to create food so authentic that people would leave the theater with an urge to cook and eat. But it turns out that computer-generated food can look much scarier than a computer-generated bug or car.

“We didn’t want something to look really photo-real,” said Sharon Calahan, the director of photography and lighting. “If it starts looking too real, it starts getting pretty disturbing.”

A scallop, for example, needs ridges and bumps to look realistic. But add too many and the shellfish becomes grotesque.
This New York Times story about the making of Pixar's upcoming movie about rat-chef Ratatouille and French haute cuisine is fascinating. Via Eats.

Frito Pie, How Do We Love Thee? Let Us Count the Ways ...

Photo source: Roadfood
Back in 1932, a year generally regarded as the nadir of the Depression, a San Antonian named C.E. "Elmer" Doolin tasted a home-fried corn chip in a Mexican cafe. He was so intrigued by its taste that he paid $100 for the chip's recipe and the right to market it.

Not that Mr. Doolin actually had $100 cash. He borrowed the money from his mama, Daisy Dean Doolin. Mrs. Doolin must have had an unshakable faith in her son, because she gave C.E. her diamond wedding ring to pawn for that $100 loan.

What's more, she let him set up shop in her kitchen and mix batch after batch of corn dough, which was shaped into strips by extruding the dough through a converted potato ricer. And she fried innumerable strips of ground corn in hot vegetable oil while C.E. and his brother, Earl, experimented with perfecting the chips. One can only imagine how many hours she must have spent scrubbing oil splatters from the walls and floor. ...
It is Fritos 75th anniversary and what better way to celebrate than with a tasty Frito Pie? Yes, they're a guilty pleasure for me. I love 'em. The Morning News has a round up of recipes, local spots to find them, and even (gasp) a story about a New Mexico wanna-be who is making the claim to inventing our beloved Frito Pie. Now, that's just plain wrong! (Free registration required.)

Friday, June 08, 2007

DMN's New Food Blog

Eats is off to a running start with where to pick blueberries near Dallas, restaurant news, and various other interesting posts. If you live in Dallas it definitely is worth checking out.

Fine Art Friday

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Poetry Thursday

Oh, cinnamon toast
So fragrant, crisp and golden
Such a tasty snack

Monkey

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Let Me Tell You a Story ...

ForgottenClassicsAlbumArt
A podcast featuring great authors and stories that should be better known.
A little about the authors and their stories, with samples.

Yep, that's right. It's the special, mystery project. You wanted to know what I sound like? Here's your chance. And that's Tom on the intro so you get a two-for-one deal here.

You can download the file from Forgotten Classics or subscribe through iTunes.

Gimme a dip of Strawberry-Celery and ... ummm ... one of Sweet Corn and Italian Thorntree Honey

You may never take the kids to Paciugo for veggies. But, this summer, the Dallas-based gelateria is introducing a dozen new flavors that include stealth carrots and beets as well as creative adult combinations based on vegetables and herbs.

For the kids, "sometimes we need to win with appearance first," owner Cristiana Ginatta says. You know: Kids order by color, not flavor. So Banana-Beet entices with its maroon hue, and Banana-Carrot is a cool cantaloupe orange. Like all of Paciugo's gelatos, the colors come from fruits and vegetables, not additives.

Banana trumps, straight up and simple, in these kid-friendly flavors, with just a whisper of veggies.

Not so the adult hybrids. Ms. Ginatta says she started searching for combinations with the most popular fruit flavors: strawberry, mango and banana.

"Then, I looked for a vegetable to pair with these three," she says.
Dallas Morning News (free registration required)
Okaaaaaaay ....

Actually some of the flavors don't sound bad. The Lime Mojito for example sounds like something I could get into. But pecan ice cream with bits of blue cheese? Corn ice cream? Hmmm ... possibly a tiny bit as a palate cleanser but I don't know ...

For the adventurous who live in Dallas and want to give them a try, here are the new flavors:
  • Banana-Beet
  • Banana-Carrot
  • Deep Ellum Blue Pecan
  • Lime Chile Mango
  • Lime Mojito
  • Mango-Cucumber
  • Mediterranean Sea Salt Caramel
  • Orange-Basil
  • Pineapple Mint
  • Strawberry-Celery
  • Sweet Corn and Italian Thorntree Honey

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Orbiting Gourmet Style

The meal was shared by the six people onboard the station on April 12, the anniversary of the first human trip into orbit--made by Yuri Gagarin in 1961. The crew gathered in the Russian Service module, which is the social center of the complex. And as the diners orbited the Earth at 17,000 miles an hour, they spent a hour or more enjoying the duck pâté and roast quail, as well as rice pudding and apple fondant for dessert. Mr. Simonyi described it as a "festive" occasion.
So much for freeze-dried ice cream, which we kids deemed a treat in the 70's when we could lay our hands on it. Here's the whole story.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Every Picture Tells a Story


Although, in this case, you need to go check out the explanation at Barcelona Photoblog for this Fideua, the pasta version of widely known rice paella.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Mom's New York Cheesecake

I think I remember Mom saying that this recipe is an amalgamation of pieces she put together to recreate her favorite cheesecake. I tend to prefer a graham cracker crust but am leaving her crust here for those who do not as it is quite tasty as well.

Step 1:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 cup sifted flour
1/4 teaspoon lemon rind
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Make the crust: Preheat oven to 400°. Cream butter and sugar, add egg yolk. Then add other ingredients. Pat 1/3 of dough in bottom of a 10-inch springform pan. Cook for 6 minutes, cool completely. Meanwhile, raise oven temperature to 475°. Butter sides of pan and put remaining dough around the sides of the pan. Crust will only come up 1/3 of the sides of the pan.

Step 2:
2-1/2 pounds cream cheese
5 eggs
3 tablespoons flour
1-3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon lemon rind
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup cream

Make the filling: Beat cream cheese until soft. Mix in all remaining ingredients. Pour filling into crust.

Bake at 475° for 7 minutes, lower temperature to 200° for 2½ hours. Turn off oven and let cake sit in oven with the door slightly ajar for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool, refrigerate overnight.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I Hear Ya, Sistah

Tonight at the dinner table, Gabrielle put down her fork, pushed away her empty plate, and sighed. She closed her eyes briefly before looking at me thoughtfully.

"I just weally ... weally like gravy," she said.
I'd say, "Who doesn't?" except that Hannah eschews it. Silly, silly girl!

Mom's Tortellini Salad

Looking through here I seriously cannot believe that I haven't put this recipe out there for everyone to try. It is a consistent favorite with everyone who tries it. My mother came across it long ago in a restaurant magazine. Naturally, it was provided with quantities for buffet brunch servings so she had to tinker with it to get it just right for family portions.

Step 1:

1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup yogurt
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon oil
½ bunch parsley

Process all ingredients in food processor until well mixed.

Step 2:

1 pound frozen cheese tortellini

Cook tortellini until tender. Cool quickly and toss with dressing. It will seem as if there is too much dressing but don't worry, it thickens up. Cool overnight.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Well Said

From my quote journal.
When I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and it is all one.
M.F.K. Fisher

Monday, May 21, 2007

"I have been wanting to ask you ..."

My family and I saw the seasons pass in the valley. The children went to the local school, where they learned along with the three R's how to trap and skin rabbits, how to stake pastures to hold the forest's hogs, and how to mend a hand-drawn threshing sled made to a design unchanged since the Iron Age. With Maria's advice and under her tutelage we acquired a donkey, a kitchen garden, and a household pig -- the last, I stipulated, only if Maria helped me at its final hour. The pig thrived mightily on the scraps from my kitchen. Finally, on a late October day deemed suitable, the moon being in the right quarter and the pig having been fattened to the correct weight on acorns from the surrounding cork oaks, Maria's husband and brother-in-law arrived at sunrise to prepare for the dreaded event. Soon afterwards Maria, her cousins, and her mother appeared to help with the kitchen labor. The children were packed off to school early, and all day we worked salting hams, seasoning sausages, stuffing black puddings, and spicing chorizos. That evening, as she prepared the traditional celebration meal of chicharros, pork skin fried crisp; kidneys in sherry; and garlic-fried liver which follows a country matanza (butchering), Maria finally asked the question which made me embark on this book.

"Tell me," she said, her voice sympathetic as she leaned over the table and restored control of the sausage casing to my clumsy fingers for the fifth time, "I have been wanting to ask you ever since you and your family arrived, but I did not wish to seem inquisitive. Please forgive me, but did your mother teach you nothing at all?"
That experience launched Elisabeth Luard on a voyage of discovery that lasted for 25 years as she and her husband moved around Europe. They would connect with locals wherever they went and she would begin learning about peasant traditions with food.

This book is a treasure not only for those who are interested in food history as I am, but also for those interested in good cooking. Luard presents us with the culinary heritage of over 300 recipes from around 25 European countries and manages to acknowledge all fairly evenly ... even Bulgaria is well represented. Recipes usually open with a few comments and often with quotes from times past which cite the dish or main ingredient in some way.

Although a scholarly work, this also is eminently readable, as witnessed by the fact that this is my second time rereading purely for the pleasure of her prose. Organized by basic ingredients, which she points out is the way that peasant meals are themselves often organized, Luard's book is a treasure trove for anyone wants to get back to basics ... whether that is reconnecting with eating according to the seasons, vegetarian cooking (although there are good sections on meat and fish as well), simplicity in ingredients or the many other varied ways that cooks often view their craft these days.

I will be featuring some excerpts from this book occasionally.

Rubik's Cube Cake


Now that's a fun cake! Via Neatorama.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Fake Flavorings Really Are Hazardous to Your Health

The workers, by and large, have been young and healthy. None were smokers, and none had any history of lung disease. But after working at plants that produce food flavorings, they all had one thing in common: they could not breathe.

Over the last several years, California health officials have been tracking a handful of workers in flavoring factories who have been incapacitated with a rare, life-threatening lung condition — bronchiolitis obliterans — for which there is no cure or treatment. Usually found only in people who are poisoned by chemical fires or chemical warfare or in lung transplant patients, bronchiolitis obliterans renders its victims unable to exert even a little energy without becoming winded or faint.

“The airways to the lung have been eaten up,” said Barbara Materna, the chief of the occupational health branch in the California Department of Health Services. “They can’t work anymore, and they can’t walk a short distance without severe shortness of breath."

... In each case, scientists and health officials say, the common dominator is exposure to the vapors from a pungent yellow-colored flavoring called diacetyl, best known for giving microwave popcorn its buttery goodness.
They are calling the disease "popcorn lung." Now that is a crying shame. And for what? Just one more reason to use real butter, y'all.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Now Serving Hot LInks

OWNING CHINESE STIR-FRY
Barbara at Tigers & Strawberries is posting a step by step primer on Chinese stir fry basics ... you may never have to use a recipe again!

THE KITCHEN DIARIES
One of my very favorite readable cookbooks is The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater. Culinate has a good review.

ADS VERSUS REALITY
The prettied-up ad photos of fast food versus the real thing are shown here. We already knew this but it's still a good reminder about just how much "truth" we are shown in advertising when it comes to food. Via Darwin Catholic.

FOOD AND WINE MATCHER
Wine Matcher is an interesting concept. It’s an easy-to-use interactive tool, covering everyday meals as well as tough matches such as spicy dishes or desserts. Check it out.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A Small Town in Louisiana and Some Boudin

The Pig Stand was a white cinder block building with hand-written signs telling you what they offered and a couple of windows to order the food. The people on the sidewalk were mostly thin guys with crepey skin and women with pale skin and loose upper arms from eating too much deep-fried food. Everybody was drinking Dixie beer and eating off paper plates and laughing a lot. Guess if you had to stand around eating barbecued ribs in this kind of heat you had to have a sense of humor.

An enormously wide black woman with brilliant white teeth looked out of the order window at me and said, "Take ya awdah, please?"

I said, "Do you have boudin?" I had wanted to try boudin for years.

She grinned. "Honey, we gots the best boudin in Evangeline Parish."

"That's not what they say in Mamou."

She laughed. "Those fools in Mamou don' know nuthin' 'boud no boudin! Honey, you try some'a this, you won't be goin' back to no Mamou! This magic boudin! It be good for what ails you!"

"Okay. How about a couple of links of boudin, a beef rib with a little extra sauce, some dirty rice, and a Dixie."

She nodded, pleased. "That'll fix you up jes' fine."

"What makes you think I need fixing?"

She leaned toward me and touched a couple of fingers beneath her eye. "Dottie got the magic eye. Dottie know." Her eyes were smiling when she shouted the order into the kitchen, and I smiled with her. It wasn't just the food around here that gave comfort.

Passing cars would beep their horns and diners would wave at the cars and the people in the cars would wave back, sort of like everybody knew everybody else. ...

A couple of minutes later, Dottie called me back to the window and handed out my order on a coarse paper plate with enough napkins to insulate a house. I carried the food to the street, sat the Dixie on the curb, then went to work on the food. The boudin were plump and juicy, and when you bit into them they were filled with rice and pork and cayenne and onions and celery. Even in the heat, steam came from the sausage and it burned the inside of my mouth. The dirty rice was heavy and glutinous and rich with chicken livers. The rib was tender and the sauce chunky with onion and garlic. The tastes were strong and salty and wonderful, and pretty soon I was feeling eager to dive back into the case. Even if it meant being called Jeffrey.

The black woman looked out of her little window and asked, "Whatchu say 'bout dat boudin now?"

I said, "Tell me the truth, Dottie. This isn't really Ville Platte, is it? We're all dead and this is Heaven."

She grinned wider and nodded, satisfied. "Dottie say it'll fix you up. Dottie know." She touched her cheek beneath her left eye and then she laughed and turned away.

Voodoo River by Robert Crais