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

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!

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

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.

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

Monday, May 07, 2007

Kitchen Essential: Butterbell

Siggy went looking for a Butterbell and found this post lingering back in my archives. As he wrote, "It is high time for a repost!"
butter bell

This is the best thing going for keeping butter soft without refrigeration. It works even in the middle of a Dallas summer, although I do change the water every day or so when it is hot outside. You pack the butter into the "bell" part while the other section is about 1/4 full of water. The water creates an airtight seal around the bell when both pieces are together. Thanks to the butter bell we always have soft butter for our bread! I have seen these available at King Arthur Flour, Sur la Table, and Butter Bell, the original purveyors.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

When Wine and Movies Merge

Educating Peter: How I Taught a Famous Movie Critic the Difference Between Cabernet and Merlot or How Anybody Can Become an (Almost) Instant Wine Expert
by Lettie Teague
"That sounds a lot like phylloxera," I replied.

Phylloxera is a tiny insect related to the aphid and a native of North America that can destroy entire vineyards, if not wine regions. It was responsible for the devastation of nearly all of Bordeaux in the latest nineteenth century. By the time the Bordelais had figured out what had happened, almost nothing was left of their vines. "Phylloxera sounds a lot like what happens when Jerry Bruckheimer gets involved in a movie," commented Peter.
Can a man obsessed with "fatty Chardonnay" for less than $10 a bottle be taught to appreciate wine? That is the challenge which Lettie Teague must master when she begins teaching her wine-challenged friend, Peter, about the "Facts of Wine."

Peter, a film critic for Rolling Stone, has a tendency to voice his opinion in bold, sweeping statements that relate practically everything about wine to movies and directors. Teague, the wine editor for Food & Wine magazine, not only manages to steadily educate Peter bit by bit but does it so engagingly and understandably that she educates the reader along the way. She begins with simple basics such as how to taste wine, bottle shapes and colors, and the six basic grapes. Chapter by short chapter we then tour the wine making areas of both the Old and New Worlds.

Teague finishes up with such practicalities as pairing wine with food and what to do in a wine shop. Her personable style and obvious knowledge combine to make the entire book an interesting and painless education in wine. I definitely will be making notes from this book to help me branch out in my wine drinking.

Highly recommended for an easy-to-take wine education or simply as an entertaining read for those more knowledgeable than I about wine.
In fact, the Finger Lakes region of New York is particularly well suited to such grapes as Riesling and Gewurztraminer -- even if the region's varietal visionary, Dr. Konstantin Frank, was denounced as a madman when he made this observation some fifty years ago. At that time, only hardy native varietals such as Catawba and Baco Noir were grown; noble grapes such as Riesling were considered too delicate to withstand the cold. But Dr. Frank, a native of Germany, believed the climate was much like that of his home country and therefore suitable to the same grapes. The local grape-growing forces not only disagreed with him, but at one point discussed having the exceedingly vocal Frank carted off to the loony bin. (Perhaps the first time that growing Riesling has been thought to be a sign of insanity.)

When The McCartney's Come to Lunch. Yes, Those McCartneys.

Nigel Slater discovers that, for one thing, Paul makes a really ripping salad dressing.