Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Bread and Coques

This photo is from Barcelona Photoblog where you will find not only wonderful photography but fascinating details of life there. Click through the link to see not only a wonderful description of spring in Barcelona but to find more links where there is more info about the food. For example, we learn that coques:
A coca is a sort of flat, elongated or round bread dough base baked and covered with different ingredients. Technically similar to pizza you could say, but different in taste. You can have coca de recapte where such base is adorned with escalivada - a mixture of aubergines and red peppers cut into strips and dressed with olive oil (recommended for "anti-baconists") - or you can find the sweet versions (trillions of them swallowed with cava on Sant Joan's eve) covered with glazed fruit, custard, pumpkin jam or just sugar and pine nuts. Although sold in pastry shops and bakeries we prefer the ones baked using traditional recipes and artisan wood fired ovens...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Delacata? No thanks, I'll have the catfish.

From Saveur comes this little tidbit tucked away in their story about catfish, which I take as a warning that repackaging means adding cost, not value.
Later this year a small percentage of U.S. farm-raised catfish will be sold as filets labeled delacata. Processed from larger fish, the custom-cut filets will be more than twice the size of regular catfish filets and sold at a higher price. "Let's face it, 'catfish' is not the best name, especially for people outside the South," says Jeremy Robbins, a marketer for the Catfish Institute, the industry group in charge of the makeover, which farmers hope will propel a fish with an inferiority complex beyond the deep-fried South and onto a bistro menu near you.

Look at what's in my fridge!

Yes, eight ... count 'em, EIGHT! .... bottles of Pom Juice which those lovely folks sent me to sample.

This is especially kind of them since I'd always passed by the juice section, casting longing glances at those nicely designed bottles that seemed so expensive. Never daring to try one.

The reason I was interested in pomegranate juice at all was because The Central Market used to have their own brand of pomegranate juice which was fantastic. Hannah and I were dashed down to find around Thanksgiving that it was no longer available. Nothing we tried was a good substitute ... and believe me, we tried lots of other brands. In fact, I was surprised at just how much choice we had.

Then the Pom people sent these samples, I took a look at my Soda Club sparkling water maker and ... and idea hatched. I threw open the fridge. Yes. Some of my favorite orange flavored sparkling water was left.

Here's how you make absolutely delicious pomegranate soda ... combine half pomegranate juice, half sparkling orange-flavored non-sweetened soda water (which is what I had to hand), and toss in a packet of sweetener (simply because it needed a touch of sweetness and I didn't think a little sugar would dissolve very well in that cold mixture.


Just as good as the beloved soda I couldn't find any longer.

For those without a Soda Club gizmo, try using Canada Dry sparkling water. I bet it'd be fantastic as well.

I will still be experimenting on other uses for the juice. Per a friend's recommendation, I tried mixing it with tea. No thank you. However, you must keep in mind that I do not like juice-flavored teas, as my friend Monette will never let me forget after a brush with her Mango Tea (which everyone else loved, let me hasten to add).

I never will think those little bottles are too expensive again ...

Monday, March 09, 2009

Mrs. Appleyard's Kitchen ...

... highlighted in this week's podcast at Forgotten Classics. Never heard of it? Neither had I until I discovered it in my mom's basement. Intelligently funny and some recipes too!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Celebrating Cracker Cooking ... and No, I'm Not Talking About Saltines

Which is all to say that this particular subspecies of the very earliest Americans, which I will refer to as Crackus Americanis, was an unusually diverse and colorful band of humanity, which took root and flourished all over pioneer America in the latter century. And though their affiliation with whips, poor dental hygiene, and old-time religion gave them a really virulent case of bad PR, they eventually came to embrace their name with humorous deprecation, in no small part because they evolved into such an intractable and stubborn race that self-referring with a derogatory term suited them down to the ground.

Their whole persona was wrapped up in being independent, self-sufficient, and boldly against the grain. If you ever come across a multimillionaire central Florida cattle baron, chances are he'll be wearing worn jeans, ancient pointed-toed boots, and the straw cowboy hat he bought at Woolworth's for fifty cents in 1953. To dress otherwise would be "getting above his raising" or even worse, sleeping with the enemy (that is, pretending he's Presbyterian and eats only biscuits).

There is pride in that defiance and an inborn conviction that by adhering to the rules of fashion or buying into the myth that money buys happiness -- well, that's the Cracker road to perdition. Soon you'll be putting sugar in your cornbread and drinking chai tea and sending your children to the Ivy League.

It's the thin end of the wedge.

My intention in writing this cookbook is to introduce readers (or for many, to reacquaint you) to this most original American subspecies that has greatly transcended its roots in the Colonial South, and now has children from Miami to Oregon, from Manhattan to California. This wide-ranging diaspora is well-documented along many tried and true migratory lines: Kentucky Crackers moved across the river to Ohio; Arkansans emptied out into Illinois, Arizona, and all points west; Alabamans packed up for Florida and Texas; and with the advent of the Greyhound bus, Georgia and Mississippi Crackers practically inherited the earth.

They left for the money, mostly, to labor in the coal mines of West Virginia and the engine shops of Detroit, and to become webfoot soldiers in service to our benevolent Uncle Sam. ...

I personally think it's time we rise up and introduce ourselves beyond the closest crossroads, and I heartily welcome you into my kitchen to celebrate the three pillars of Cracker life: food and laughter and food.

Relax, unwind, and don't sweat the fine print. The only rule of Cracker cooking is there are no rules. Just come, enjoy, and make these recipes your own. Add pepper, delete pepper; toss in a stick of butter or make it rigidly fat free.The secret to our long survival is our innate Cracker ability to mutate to fit the circumstances. If you're married to a Chinese man and like soy sauce, then throw in some soy sauce. If you're a vegetarian, then substitute tofu. The only things really sacred in Cracker Culture are faith, the love of family, and a certain holy reverence for the gift of telling a story with perfect comedic timing. Everything else is negotiable, including our food, and if you doubt my sincerity, read ahead to my section on wild game feasts and roadkill.
That is just a portion of the engaging and informative introduction to Janis Owen's cookbook in which she celebrates her Cracker heritage.

I'm not a Cracker or even a native Southerner but Owens makes me wish I was one. She has a lengthy and fascinating introduction to Crackers. The introduction has not only Owen's personal take on Crackers but traces the origins of the word and looks at their history as a people. She then proceeds to group her recipes by sections such as for a spring meal or soul food dinner. We not only get ideas of what to serve together but a great essay at the beginning of each section.

Her celebration does not stop at the delightful stories or frank and good natured recipe introductions. She includes black and white family photos with descriptions that give us a sense of place in long ago Florida. Her stories about religion as practiced by family members was both hilarious and insightful, as well as lovingly tolerant. Much more than a collection of recipes, this is an invitation to pull up a chair and see what makes a close knit group of Americans tick. And if you have a piece of Orange Pie while you're doing it, well, that's all the better.

As an additional example, I proffer this tidbit that shows Owen's honesty, openness, and humanity. Yes, I teared up a bit while reading. Grab a copy of the book for yourself and in between cooking meals read the rest of this.
Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday falls on January 15, and I offer up this soul-inspired menu in his honor and for all the rest of the heroes of the Movement: John Lewis and Ralph Abernathy and every single Yank, Jew, Episcopal pacifist, and student agitator among them. When they put their lives on the line and agitated Jim Crow into oblivion, they freed not only the people of color but also the children of the oppressor, who inherited the gift of diversity and eventually learned a better way (or at least some of them did; I did). It's a favor that can't be forgotten and won't be; not if this Cracker has anything to do with it."

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

A Few New Favorites ...

Discovered on my trip to Springfield ...
  • McDonald's McCafe Latte ... in the large drive-through size. It hit the spot and I didn't want a cola. Mmmm, latte ...

  • Mrs. Appleyard's Kitchen ... an absolutely delightful "forgotten classic" that I discovered in my parent's basement. Hilarious and intentionally so ... Mom and I kept picking it up and reading each other snippets all day ... and laughing our heads off. I'll be reading some of this at Forgotten Classics for the next episode.

  • Delonghi Coffee Maker. It is sad when you come home to find the coffeepot carafe cracked while doing dishes. Even sadder when you read the scathing reviews of most standard coffee makers at Amazon. This one not only had raves but also was available at the nearby Target. Excellent coffee was enjoyed this morning ... as we would hope from the snazzy Italian design!

Another new favorite, though not food related can be found at Happy Catholic.