I have been hankering for a nice light rice salad to bring to work for lunch and so when I made fish the other night I purposely made extra rice and stuck it in the fridge over night. Last night I mixed it with a few fresh and a few canned ingredients and served it with a nice grilled chicken breast. Doesn't it look lovely? I would love to give you the recipe for the chicken breast, but it would consist of "open package of dry rub spices from New Zealand, rub on chicken breast, grill breast on cast-iron ridged grill pan" - not very helpful. Even the description on the dry rub package is unhelpful: salt, spices, pepper are the ingredients. It was lovely, though, a little salty and very peppery and, well, spicy.
However, for the recipe for a nice light rice salad (complete with secret ingredient) I can give you a few good tips.
I had never heard of rice salad until an old friend of mine brought it to a picnic lunch, back in the early days when I first arrived in France. It is a nice mixture, a bit of a change on pasta salads though in a similar vein. The secret ingredient and my favourite part is the sliced hearts of palm. I had never heard of these things, much less tasted them, before coming to France. I love them. I don't know what else to put them in (pasta salad?) but there is usually a can in my cupboard waiting for the day when I want to use up some leftover rice.
French Rice Salad
1 1/2 cups cooked rice
1 small can (about a cup) of sweet corn
1 can (a little more than a cup) of hearts of palm, sliced in rounds
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup of cucumber
1/2 cup (or more) of vinaigrette
Canned tuna, flaked or chopped anchovies
Chopped fresh or marinated red peppers
The friend who introduced me to this always used the cheapest store-bought vinaigrette and it tasted pretty good. However, I don't usually have store-bought dressing in the fridge so I made up a quick one myself with 1.5 Tbs grain mustard, 3 Tbs sherry vinegar, 1 Tbs chopped frozen "herbs for salad dressing" (available from the Picard stores in France) and 1/2 cup olive oil. Also, tuna is usually included but I'm not a big tuna fan. I got it out of the cupboard this time but tasted the salad before adding it and decided it wasn't necessary.
Mix all the ingredients together and serve. Or better still, make it up the night before and bring it on a picnic the next day. The longer the flavours have to mingle in the fridge the tastier it will be!
Found this via Chicagoist and FARK, among others. Zagat's released its 2004/2005 Chicago Restaurants Survey today and among the revelations - Chicagoans tip well. On average, a waiter at a Chicago restaurant will receive a tip of 18.8%, above the U.S. 18.5% average. While we don't tip as well as those free-spending 19.1% tipping Atlantans, we do much better than the 18.0% cheapskate Los Angeleans give aspiring actors/waiters.
That Chicago 18.8% is on an average tab of $31.64, up 4% from last year.
Meanwhile, Morsels at Chicago Magazine nominates Heat for the "Dubious Business Practice of the Week". When you get the check at Heat, they ask you to write in the tip before they run your credit card. The problem is the slip comes back with the tip now added in and a line for "additional tip"! I've got a tip for you - don't eat at Heat until they stop this practice. How many people have been tricked into double tipping?
I wonder what would have happened if Humphrey Bogart had eaten at Heat? Bogie once not only tipped a waiter, he toppled him. Bogart asked a waiter from Club 21 in New York who'd given him particularly bad service into the men's room, where he knocked him unconscious. The waiter got the last laugh, however, successfully suing Bogart for $15,000. That story and more can be found here.
Some time ago I came up with a simple accompaniment to fish that was a big hit with the Critic and has resulted in his wanting me to do the same thing every time we have fish for dinner. (Did I mention that he's somewhat conservative when it comes to food??) It's very simple and extremely flavourful. I love the fact that all the ingredients are usually to be found in my kitchen and so there is no special shopping involved. All you need is the following: fish, white wine, butter, anchovies, capers, shallots, a lemon.
For the fish, I usually buy a white fish such as halibut or cod. However, last night we tried this with salmon (on the Critic's insistence - "you know, that onion sauce you make??") and it worked pretty well too. I think it would be nice if you tossed some roasted cherry tomatoes into the mix too, but I'm not sure if that would result in divorce proceedings...
Filet of Fish with Onion and Anchovy Sauce
2 filets of fish
25 g butter
2-3 shallots, julienned (sliced in thin strips, to you)
1/2 a tin (about eight) anchovies (what a shame, have to eat the rest myself...)
1-2 Tbs capers
a glass or two of wine
a little lemon juice
Melt the butter in a shallow frying pan and add the fish. You can flour the fish first if you want, but I personally never manage to get a nice brown crust so I don't bother. When the fish is just done and has released some juices, remove to a warm plate. Add the shallots, chopped anchovies and capers to the pan. If it's a little dry, add a little more butter. It depends on what kind of fish you are using. Quickly cook on a medium heat until the shallots are soft and then add the wine. Turn up the heat and let it bubble away until you've reduced the volume to about half. Taste and add a grind of black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice to taste.
Serve the fish over a bed of wild rice with the onion mix and sauce dribbled over it. Last night, I served it with a salad of very ripe tomatoes mixed with a little olive oil and sherry vinegar. A nice, light dinner! (If you go easy on the butter, even Weight Watchers wouldn't complain.)
I would have photographed it but we got home late from a showing of Shrek 2 (yay!) and were tired and hungry and impatient. The good news is that it doesn't take any longer to make the fish than it does to cook rice - about fifteen minutes from start to finish!
The Too Many Chefs would like to congratulate Paul (of this blog and locussolus) and his now-wife Carolyn on the occasion of their wedding this last Saturday!
The Oak Park, Illinois ceremony and reception were lovely as was the bride (I guess the groom wasn't too shoddy either, but I'm not really qualified to judge).
Congratulations and best wishes for the happy couple! The two will enjoy their honeymoon in Costa Rica, where they plan to have way Too Much Fun.
I've been reading The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann recently and enjoying it enormously. (I put off reading it in translation for a long time in the vague hope I would some day miraculously and without effort become fluent in German.) And what, you may ask, does this have to do with food? Well, the first few chapters set me thinking about my favourite books and the eating habits of characters. I have long been a huge fan of the so-called Larkin stories by H.E. Bates (starting with the Darling Buds of May - read them, read them!!) and drooled over the descriptions of the morning to late night feasts: roast goose, pork with crackling, roast potatoes, melons swimming in Port, breakfast plates overflowing with bacon, eggs, beans, sausages and potatoes...but these characters are living an outdoor life, working and playing from dawn until dusk.
In the Magic Mountain, however, we are in a tuberculosis sanatorium before the first World War. Let me list for you what our hero, Hans Castorp, was offered in the way of meals on his first full day at the sanatorium:
First Breakfast: toast, rice pudding, oatmeal, cold meats, scrambled eggs, cheese, fresh and dried fruits, honey, marmalade, cocoa, tea, coffee and yogurt.
Second Breakfast: 1/2 a liter of milk (Hans takes beer instead), cold meats, toast, oatmeal, fruit.
Dinner (lunch): 6 courses including a hearty soup, a meat dish with garnish, a vegetable course, roast fowl, a pudding course, cheese and fruits.
Tea: an assortiment of hot beverages including, milk, tea, coffee, chocolate, tisanes and bouillon, yogurt, raisin cakes with butter, zwieback and marmalade.
Supper: 6 courses as at dinner, of which our friend consumes julienne soup, baked and roast meats, two pieces of macaroon and jam tart, cheese and pumpernickel bread. And another beer.
How did these people survive? FIVE meals a day, none of them exactly "light".
It's like they have nothing to do all day but eat and sleep. There is no mention of them all billowing up like marshmallows, which is in itself a small miracle. In fact Hans himself is amazed at the voracious appetites of the patients in the clinic:
"At all seven tables they filled their plates and ate: they ate like wolves, they displayed a voracity which would have been a pleasure to see, had there not been something else about it, an effect almost uncanny, not to say repulsive. It was not only the light-hearted who thus laced into the food - those who chattered as they ate and threw pellets of bread at each other. No, the same appetite was evinced by the silent, gloomy ones as well, those who in the pauses between courses leaned their heads on their hands and stared before them..."
Disturbing stuff, eh? Anyway, I just thought I would share that little tidbit with you. When I read the Larkin stories, I drool and wish I too lived in the midst of such a jolly, hungry, pleasure-loving crowd. But reading the Mann, I found my waistband a bit tight and no inclination to start working up tonight's dinner menu...
So what is your favourite fictional meal??
For those of you who want to vicariously experience the Paris Pot Luck dinners I've mentioned in earlier posts (and incidentally get some great recipes) you can check out the report by Pascale of C'est moi qui l'ai fait fame. She has once again generously opted to write in English for us. And I am personally impressed by her organisation in getting all the recipes from the participants and writing them up for us - thanks Pascale!
Special Flyover States Edition
New York Times - The paper of record shows its coastal bias by proclaiming Vermont the "most important center of American cheese craft east of California". I've got nothing against Vermont or its cheeses, but the inability of the coastal media to imagine anything but corn, soybean, and cows are going on in the vast middle part of the U.S. (you know, New Jersey to Nevada) is maddening. Maybe its just me, but I think they make some pretty fine cheese up in Wisconsin. (Just to beat this particular horse to death - this site indicates Wisconsin is making 350 types of artisan cheeses, twice the number California produces)
One coastal state where great things happen with seafood is Alaska. Yukon River king salmon are making their way to the lower 48 for the first time in 20 years and Timothy Egan's on it.
Down in D.C. at the Washington Post, Candy Sagon is wondering when martinis got so damn expensive. $15 for a splash of vodka and olives does seem high. The Post gives us a nice light dinner suggestion with Tuna, Pasta, and Lemon.
In the center of the NYT's flyover land, The Chicago Tribune's Chris McNamara notes the local rise of Latin-style grilling utilizing thinner, tougher steaks marinated well with a variety of spices, and cooked quickly over high heat. Cristina Minor advises us to think about the food-related sayings we use like "cool as a cucumber" or "apple of my eye". Sounds pretty nutty to me.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch site STLToday indicates Wisconsin isn't the only cheese-making state in the Midwest. A couple from Wisconsin have started a sheep farm in Missouri, bringing 300 heads and a lot of sheep milk cheese and smudge (sheep-milk fudge) to the Show-Me State.
In the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Dimon Kendrick-Holmes proclaims "Today we've got two fresh corn casseroles for you". And I've got one link for you.
Those in our audience with little nippers will appreciate the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's article on how to avoid food wars with your kids. I was surprised to read that picky eaters often turn into overweight kids. "What do you mean you don't want the pickled beet casserole?"
In Birmingham, they love the governor... No, wait, I mean in the Birmingham News, they love chefs Frank Stitt and Chris Hastings who are propelling the Alabama city onto the national food scene. Southern chefs, now your hot cross buns are burning fast?
I'm trying not to show a bias against southern cities, but I'll admit to not loving super-conservative Dallas (What does Dallas have that Fort Worth doesn't? A nice city fifty miles away). Maybe the Dallas/Fort Worth's Star-Telegram's Amy Culbertson is from the Fort Worth side. She interviews Louisville, Kentucky native Ronnie Lundy about heirloom tomatoes in all their wonder and variety. Lawrence Davis-Hollander's Tomato Festival Cookbook is also mentioned in the article.
Are you familiar with Vietnamese food? Polly Campbell of the Cincinnati Enquirer acquaints her readers with the two Vietnamese restaurants in town and gives an overvue of Vietnamese cuisine.
BONUS: Slate carries Sara Dickerman's advice that gourmets shouldn't snub the freezer. Pretty timely with Meg's post about making Raspberry cordials from frozen fruit.
EXTRA SUPER-DUPER SPECIAL BASEBALL AND POLITICS BONUS - The new and entertaining blog Chicagoist (Motto: "We're not Gothamist. Really.") carries a story about Kerry Wood hot dogs and ketchup for Republicans (you know, not Heinz?).
Do you have a food section you'd like to see covered? Do you know any good food sections that we aren't covering? Mail me (with a photo of your pet) and let me know.
Please note, we use the electronic editions for much of our work, so stories profiled here may be in the previous week's or next week's print edition. Also, many of these sites may require you to register. If you're not comfortable registering your real e-mail account, I suggest signing up for a "burnable" account at Hotmail or Yahoo to use just for these sorts of things.
There are a few projects in my life that tend to leave my friends and family scratching their heads in a bemused way, and thinking I'm slightly crazy. One such project is the wormery, of course (with the exception of my brother who is as crazy as I am). The other, is my raspberry cordial. I found this "recipe" tucked away in an article on the CNN site on something completely different (families with foreign relations? I don't remember really...). Anyway, the author threw out this intriguing bit: his or her Russian daughter-in-law made her own raspberry liqueur by simply layering equal weights of crushed raspberries and sugar in a large container, putting it in a dark cupboard with a loose lid to allow air to circulate and stirring every few days for a couple of months. I had to try it.
And it works! I've made it a few times now, and it makes a lovely raspberry cordial, suitable for gifts, adding to white or sparkling wine or drizzling over ice cream.
There are a few tips you need to bear in mind if you are going to try this at home:
Firstly, the air issue. As the raspberries break down, the sugar is transformed (don't ask me how, this is not a science class) into alcohol. One of the by-products of this (don't quote me) is oxygen. Or in any case, some kind of gas. Therefore it is imperative to leave an escape for the circulation of air. The second time I made the cordial, I bottled it too soon and fermentation was still taking place. Result: an explosion while we were at work and when we came home the raspberry juice seeping out of the cupboard made it look like we had a body hidden in there. How can you tell when it has finished fermenting? Well, as you stir it you'll notice bubbles rising to the top of the mixture. When you go to stir and discover there are no bubbles, this means you are getting to the end of the process. Wait another few weeks for good measure and then strain and bottle your cordial. If, when you open the bottle, you hear a "pop" noise (like opening a can of pop) you'll know you've bottled too soon. Just keep the bottle loosely closed for a while longer and test by closing it firmly for 24 hours before checking again for the "pop".
Keeping it clean. Before layering the raspberries and sugar in your container, rinse it out with boiling water. The first two times I made the cordial a tiny bit of mold appeared on the top of the mixture 24 hours after I started. I removed it with a spoon and it was fine afterwards. This time, I was much more clever and put a couple of inches of sugar on the top of the last layer of raspberries. Plain sugar on top, no air getting to the fruit: I think this should do the trick. You should also rinse the bottles you use for the finished product with boiling water before using them. This is alcohol after all, but it doesn't hurt to be careful.
Stirring. For the first week or two, stir with a long wooden spoon every couple of days. As time goes by the fermentation process slows down and you can make it less frequent, say once a week. You'll start to notice that there are fewer bubbles to stir out as you go; I figure if there are no bubbles there's no point in stirring, and wait longer for the next time. It helps to store the carafe in a cupboard you open regularly, but not necessarily every day!
Filtering. This is the only part of the process that is irksome. I've tried all kinds of suggestions for filtering and have yet to find anything that makes the process less messy and frustrating. The rest is so easy, though, you can put up with a little messiness in a good cause, right? Line a colander with several layers of cheesecloth. Place it over a large bowl. Pour in the raspberry "sludge" and start pressing with the mix against the sides of the colander with a wooden spoon. To extract the maximum liquid, you really should use your hands. (Wash them first, of course!) You can do this with fresh cheesecloth two or three times to filter the maximum amount of raspberry from the sauce; it's up to you and your instinct for laziness. A warning: if you pick up the ends of the cheesecloth and bring them together and squeeze down on the "ball" of raspberry sludge, it will inevitably spill over the edges and make a mess everywhere. It seems like a good idea every time, and then doesn't work as well as you would expect. (By the way, wear dark clothes for this part of the process!) Also, do not bother trying to filter with paper towels or coffee filters: I've seen advice on using each, tried them and found they just aren't up to the force you need to push the liquid through. You might try the coffee filters once you have filtered several times with cheesecloth, but I'm not sure it'll be enough. I have also considered using the juicer on my food processor (which uses centrifugal force), but it holds so little alcohol I think it's probably not worth the mess it would inevitably make.
Going blind. This is the most common reaction I get to telling people about my hobby, some lame joke about going blind. Let's use a little common sense here: we are not using a bathtub still. At most, the cordial seems to get about half the alcoholic strength of a glass of wine. It's really just enough to ensure that the liquid doesn't go off and you don't have to refrigerate.
Storage. The cordial probably won't keep more than a year or two; we have never managed to keep our share for more than six months. I say "our share" simply because I usually fill a couple of small bottles to give away at Christmas time and save less than a liter for home consumption.
For more information on making fruit liqueurs and liquors, you can check out the web site of one Gunther Anderson. His liquors mostly seem to involve adding store-bought alcohol to fruit to make new flavours, but he has some good advice on storage and filtering. Not only that, but he has my recipe for Prunes with Armagnac, given to me by a French friend's mother (under my maiden name). So obviously he is a man of taste and discernment!
One last note: in France, sugar is commonly sold in 1 kg bags. Raspberries, it turns out, are also sold in 1 kg bags when you go to a frozen food store, such as Picard. Coincidence? Maybe, but it eliminates a lot of messy measuring when you are trying to get equal weights of each ingredient! (Also, buying enough fresh raspberries, even in season, can be so expensive as to make you prefer buying your raspberry liqueur ready-made from the liquor store.)
So hopefully you will not find this a crazy concept. I'll report back in a few months time with a photo of the finished product. Unfortunately, the really pretty carafe I chose initially would only accomadate about half the mix so I had to switch to the old water-filter carafe you see in the photo. When the top cracked, I kept it just in case and as you see found a good use for it. (Don't recycle, re-use!)
Ingredients (note the pretty carafe):
Layered raspberries and sugar (not very pretty as I had to transfer from carafe, note the sugar all over the counter):
Here you can see why a water carafe with a lid is ideal for this purpose: it covers the carafe well enough to keep dust out, but the pouring lip allows air to circulate.
So, hopefully I will encourage some more people out there in my own personal brand of madness. I think it absolutely irresistible to make my own alcohol. (Does this mean I should call AA?)
Sometimes a seemingly elegant dinner can actually be pretty quick to make. This combination is one that I first tasted at the San Remo in Barnes, London (see my review here). It's not the Critic's choice, but I love the combination of a juicy steak and spinach and mushrooms. Our friend Michael was over for dinner on Monday to watch The Game (England v. Croatia) and I was tired and had a bit of a headache. So I was really in the mood for something full of iron and vitamins. Now the Critic was so involved in the game I'm not sure he would have noticed if I served fish heads. But Michael finished his plate and wiped it clean with a bit of bread, which either meant I didn't serve enough or he really liked it. Anyway, I really liked it. So, presenting... Steak and mushrooms on a bed of wilted spinach à la San Remo in Barnes. In 20 minutes.
For some reason, I find that a good steak rarely (oops, a pun) photographs well. This is why I haven't included this photo on the main page: if you have read this far, you are presumably interested and not to be deterred by a mediocre photo.
To start with, put your water on to boil for the side of spaghetti. Rinse and drain your spinach (two large boxes in my case). Wash/wipe and trim the mushrooms and slice them in large pieces. Slice two small cloves of garlic in thin pieces. Put the spinach in a large frying pan with just the water clinging to the leaves. Cover and put on a medium heat. Melt some butter in the bottom of another pan, add the garlic and after a moment add the mushrooms.
By now, the water should be boiling. Add enough spaghetti for three side dishes. Start a fire under the cast iron grill pan for the steaks. Sprinkle Lawrey's salt and a little pepper on the steaks. Stir the mushrooms. Check the spinach and turn off the heat if the spinach is wilted, but leave the cover on to keep warm. (I also added a little butter and salt.) Grate about 1/4c Parmesan per serving of spaghetti. Stir the mushrooms and add a little Marsala wine. When the juice has reduced and the mushrooms are soft, turn off the heat and leave covered.
When the grill pan is nice and hot and the spaghetti is nearly done, slap the steaks on it. Check the pasta. When it is done, drain it, add liberal amounts of butter (go wild!), then the parmesan and a bit of salt and pepper. Cover to keep warm and check the steaks - they probably need to be flipped.
When the steaks are just about done, put a layer of spinach on each plate and a mound of spaghetti next to it. Place a steak on the spinach and then spoon some mushrooms onto the steak and a few on the pasta. Dribble a tablespoon or more of the mushroom juice on each of the pasta mounds and serve with salt and pepper.
If your steaks are not too thick (mine were about an inch thick) the whole thing shouldn't really take more than 20 minutes to make. And - despite the evidence of the photo - I can tell you it looks, smells and tastes delicious! Serve with a nice rich red wine.
Until recently, scientists believed human consumption of grains like wheat and rice began about 13,000 years ago. A new find in Israel indicates we may have been consuming grains in some form 10,000 years earlier.
Human remains at a site called Ohalo II show evidence of early grain consumption. Over 90,000 plant remains indicate the principal food sources aside from hunted meats were "seeds from small grasses, augmented by acorns, almonds, pistachios, wild olives, raspberry, wild fig and grape." (Reuters via MSNBC).
Probably due to the intense manual effort required to process grain, this particular burst of grain-eating doesn't seem to have lasted, but it does indicate the days of nomadism and the hunter were fated to give way to the farmer and the field as long as 23,000 years ago.
I have a confession to make. I did not do a particularly good job preparing for this fifth edition of Is My Blog Burning? In fact, I hemmed and hawed for the last couple of weeks and finally decided to wait until this afternoon to choose my fish (though I had at least an idea of how I would prepare it). And the disaster, in the form of stupid miscalculation, struck. I toddled off to the market at 4:30 p.m., not realizing that said market closed around one, this being a Sunday. Oops. In my defense, I was visiting a market street, which usually has longer hours than the open air markets that only show up in each neighborhood twice a week. Still, I used to live in the neighborhood and should have remembered that the stalls close early on Sundays.
And so I returned back to our flat, fishless and despondent. However, salvation was there and I did not have to resort to a can of tunafish. (Mmm, sandwiches anyone?) I found a packet of smoked salmon that was only just inside its use-by date. Perfect. And so I decided to recreate a dish that I first ate some ten years ago on Christmas day, somewhere outside of Paris: a delightful mixture of smoked salmon, crème fraiche and pasta. I call it Lox and Pasta because it was a Jewish family that introduced me to it. (Don't ask why I spent Christmas day with a Jewish family in a country home in the middle of nowhere: it is a very depressing tale from my Depressingly Poor Days.)
This is another one of those recipes that is so simple it barely qualifies for the name. However, it is very tasty. And Kosher.
Lox and Pasta
200 grams smoked salmon, cut in thin strips about 2cm/just under an inch long
200 grams (?) pasta (does anyone ever measure? Enough for two...)
1 Tbs chopped chives (fresh dill could be substituted nicely, but I didn't have any)
1 medium pot of crème fraiche (about 1.25 cups)
zest and juice from one half a medium lemon
freshly ground pepper
50 grams (or more) of butter
Put the smoked salmon in a bowl, add the chives or dill, the zest and the lemon juice and mix. Add the crème fraiche and stir. Cover and refrigerate for a little while to allow the salmon flavour to seep into the crème fraiche. Set a pot of water to boil and add the pasta. Cook until just barely done and drain. Add the butter and a little salt (not much) if the butter is unsalted. Stir the salmon sauce into the pasta, grind some pepper over each serving and serve. (A tip: put the pasta in a very large bowl before adding the sauce. It will make the mixing much easier; otherwise you end up with 90% of the salmon on 25% of the pasta...)
It's a very simple, light pasta dish, perfect for a summer evening. Enjoy!
P.S. This edition of the Is My Blog Burning? is hosted by Wena. Please visit her site to find the other participants!
Sometimes a recipe isn't so much a set of ingredients with instructions as it is just a really good idea. Grilled asparagus falls into this category. I've seen it in many cookbooks and on various sites (the Epicurious site, for example, has several variations) and after reading all the rave reviews decided this week to give it a try myself. In fact, I consulted the "recipe" in the Nigel Slater book (I think it was Real Good Food, imaginitive title, Nigel) which consisted of the following instructions: wash and trim the spears and brush them with olive oil. Put them on the grill. Turn them as they cook. Remove from grill when done and sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan. And the result? Absolutely delicious. Our grill isn't especially even in its heating and so it took some manipulation to get them all cooked without having raw or burned bits, but in the end it was so worth the effort. They remain crunchy and have so much more flavour than steamed asparagus. The charred bits add to the general charm and I love the way just the right amount of parmesan sticks to their glistening bodies. I thought I would never find a better way to serve asparagus than steamed with a good hollandaise sauce, but I was wrong. God help me, I may have to reconsider my artichokes-must-be-steamed-and-served-with-lemon-butter rule!
Our weekly digest of the best of food sections in newspapers around the globe sees Bill Daley (no, not that one) kick off his Chicago Tribune wine column Uncorked, with a discussion of daring summer whites. If you'd like to be real daring, try biting into a hot pepper, the subject of health writer and neuroscientist Will Clower's article.
Afterwards, you'll need a little starch to take that sting out. How about some potato salad from Pam Anderson (no, not that one) in USA Today's Weekend?
In the nation's capital, The Washington Post's Katherine Tallmadge (yes, that one, I guess) sings the praises of the seasonal berry. They're delicious and healthy, too? Judith Weinraub tells us another healthy drink - orange juice- is getting squeezed by the low-carb craze.
Carbs be damned if you follow Brooklyn Brewery brewmaster Garret Oliver's advice to The New York Times' Mark Bittman (possibly the one you might be thinking of but probably not), and pair beer with your food instead of wine. Quoth Mr. Oliver, "Cassoulet can be like cement, but beer busts it up and makes it seem so much lighter." Iron Chef Hiroyuki Sakai's pupil Peter Hoffman busts out the romesco in a conversation with Dana Bowen. In the NYT's Magazine, Jason Epstein tells us the story of the quirky 1945 Cookbook, ''How to Cook and Eat in Chinese,'' by Buwei Yang Chao, which may be the first attempt at an authentic, rather than Westernized, Chinese cookbook.
San Francisco is known for its Chinese food, but the SFGate, website for the San Francisco Chronicle focuses on the crop of Royal Belheim Apricots; lucious fruits just about ready to hit stores.
Russ Parsons (related to that other one, but hasn't spoken to him in ages) at the L.A. Times instead writes about the fruit of the sea - specifically abalone. I love abalone, but why do have to call the part we eat the "foot"?
In the Prague Tribune, Libor Ševčík (um, yeah, him) gives us a CIA Factbook-like entry on Tuscany's wine production.
The first one's going to jail, so Egypt Today gives us Dina Sarhan (no relation to and not spelled the same as that one), the "Martha Stewart of the Middle-East". Dina's an engineering grad from American University in Cairo who learned her culinary skills in Australia where she lived for three years with her husband.
In London, The Guardian can't believe that the USDA has tried to classify french fries - and batter coated french fries, mind you - as a "fresh vegetable". Perhaps that will round out the other legendary USDA "vegetable", the ketchup of the late Ronald Reagan's (yeah, him) era.
BONUS: Chicago Magazine's online food column "Morsels" has this to say -
Leon’s BBQ #5, the 63-year-old South Side rib mecca, is opening at 2418 North Ashland Avenue before the end of this month. It’s a franchise, but will have the exact same everything as the original. I don't personally eat ribs (or any meat) these days, but if you do, and you're in Chicago, and if this place is ANYTHING like the one I've been to on the South Side, go forth and inhale some fantastic barbecue.
Do you have a food section you'd like to see covered? Do you know any good food sections (especially outside the U.S.) that we aren't covering? Mail me (please? I'm so very lonely.) and let me know.
Please note, we use the electronic editions for much of our work, so stories profiled here may be in the previous week's or next week's print edition. Also, many of these sites may require you to register. If you're not comfortable registering your real e-mail account, I suggest signing up for a "burnable" account at Hotmail or Yahoo to use just for these sorts of things.
Am I alone in this ailment? Last night I stopped at the supermarket on the way home from work and bought nearly a kilo of bing cherries. The Critic phoned while I was there and we agreed to meet up so he could drive me home. The traffic was bad and as I stood on the street corner waiting for him, I managed to eat about three-quarters of a pound of unwashed cherries. I know that cherries are sold covered with nasty pesticides and I knew I should wait until I got home and washed them but I literally could not wait. And I've been that way as long as I can remember, specifically with cherries. I mentioned in an earlier post the fact that my brother used to keep fruit at my grandmother's so that my sister and I could not get at it: as I recall, it was a bag of cherries that served as the straw breaking the camel's back. (Our mother, bless her, is one of those people who just grabs cherries by the handful from the counter, rather than carefully selecting only the good ones...unlike my brother and me.) When I lived in the Dallas/Fort Worth for one hot university summer, I think I lived on cherries and spaghetti alone. (Spaghetti was the food obsession of our host, Tom.)
They have to be Bings, really. Rainiers are prettier and some of the sour cherries are much nicer in pies and pastries. But for plain eating, give me a big juicy Bing: crunchy, sweet, juicy, it has it all. I don't even mind the pit; if there weren't something to slow me down I'd probably eat them even faster. As it is, I generally finish whatevers in front of me unless something interrupts. A meal time, for example. Or a national disaster. Otherwise, I never get tired of them, I rarely admit I'm full and I just keep eating.
And the two pounds I bought last night? There are about 15 left. If cherries were sins I'd be going to hell on the express route...
(On the contrary: according to the California Cherry Advisory Board, cherries are chock full of benefits!)
Ever since the night I came home meaning to make pasta and discovered I had less than a cup of every variety known to man in my cupboard (see Italian Sausage Risotto entry), I've been meaning to make up a pasta salad to use up some of these tail ends. Why pasta salad? Well, as a salad is a more casual affair it would go better with the messiness of mixed pasta shapes. Also, the remainders of pasta were all of a kind to go well in a salad: elbow macaroni, shells and rotini. (After all, if you get to the end of your spaghetti, you just buy more, right? No need to match the exact size and shape as it's all more or less the same.)
I'm sorry the photo doesn't make this look more appetising, but you'll have to trust me: it turned out pretty tasty. I'm just including the photo so that Chef Barrett doesn't start complaining about the lack of visuals!
In composing this salad, I tried to make it as flavourful as possible as I usually find pasta salads much too bland. It was pretty tasty last night at dinner, but the salad hadn't chilled properly. I'll find out at lunch time if I really succeeded!
Pesto Pasta Salad
1/2 fresh basil leaves (I really should have used more, but it already halved the leaves on my poor plant)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 clove of fresh garlic (the last of my last head, alas!)
2 tomatoes, chopped
3/4 cup sweet corn
2 Tbs capers
1 small tin of anchovies, less the chef's due (about 15 anchovies)
1 Tbs frozen chopped parsley (use fresh instead if you have enough)
1 Tbs frozen chopped parsley (ditto)
3 tiny spring onions (because I was grilling their brothers and they were too small and I didn't want to waste them!)
1/3 cup sunflower seeds (I intended to use toasted pine nuts, but didn't have any in the cupboard)
3/4 cup to 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 cups pasta (rotini and large shell pasta)
freshly ground pepper to taste
Start the pasta cooking in a large pot of boiling water. If the shapes vary greatly in size, you may want to put in the largest a few minutes before adding the others.
Put the basil in a mortar with a pinch of salt and the clove of garlic. Grind with the pestle until you have a paste. Add the olive oil to this paste and mix. Set aside and prepare the rest of the ingredients (chopping tomatoes and onions, grating cheese, etc.)
When the pasta is just barely done, drain it and toss it with the basil/garlic/olive oil dressing. Add the extra basil and parsley and chill for ten minutes or so in the fridge. Add the tomatoes, corn, capers, onions and anchovies and continue cooling. When the pasta has cooled at least to room temperature, add the cheese and sunflower seeds and toss. Taste for salt, pepper and Parmesan. Serve!
The mix of pesto, anchovies and sunflower seeds gave the pasta quite a bit of flavour. If you have any other fresh vegetables, I am sure they would also go very well in this salad. I think the only change I would make next time is to add more pesto, but then you would probably want to reduce the anchovy and sunflower seed content (and possibly replace the latter with toasted pine nuts, which have a less pronounced flavour). As it was, though, the salad more than fulfilled my goal of NOT BEING BLAND. Which is just as well, as I made a mountain of salad and will be eating it for the rest of the week...
The Critic has been feeling adventuresome and generous lately, which is a nice combination for those in his vicinity. Last night I spoke to him before leaving work and he said, "Let's find a restaurant in that new guide I bought over the weekend and try something new and exciting!" And so we did. Initially, we were going to try an Italian place around the corner from our apartment, which is in the guide and I have been wanting to try. But that wasn't really exotic enough, being literally five minutes walk from our home. And so, flicking through the pages of the book, I found an entry for a restaurant in the "Fun & Trendy" section called Barramundi.
To understand our reaction, you need to know that the Critic and I spent our honeymoon in Australia and fell head over heels in love with the fish known as Barramundi. It was a ménage à trois made in heaven: me, my sweetie and the tastiest fish in the world. Sigh. So, of course we had to try the restaurant.
Sadly, Barramundi did not, in fact, serve any Barramundi fish or indeed any Australian dishes at all. Well, we actually assumed that from the description in the book but decided to give it a try anyway. On the Critic's insistence, I called ahead to make a booking for two in twenty minutes as we got into the car.
The decor of Barramundi is very much what I would call Modern Parisian Chic: big imposing wooden doors leading into a cool dark interior with lots of wrought iron and jewel-tone velvets. There was a huge vase in the middle of the hostess stand, so we took this for a sign that we should descend to the lower level to find staff. The curving suspended staircase was pretty impressive and made me wish I was wearing more chic clothing.
Now far be it from me to say "I told you so" but I am not absolutely convinced that we needed to book ahead on a Monday night. There were exactly two people in the room when we arrived and they were both staff members. ("Maybe we are unfashionably early?" "Surely not at eight-thirty??") Still, the atmosphere (aside from being somewhat lonely) was not unfriendly and the waitress hit exactly the right note of arriving in good time to take orders and bring food without hovering. She allowed the Critic to pour his own wine without making us feel like it was an insult to her expertise. (Believe me these are rare attributes in a Paris restaurant!)
And the food? It was very elegant if somewhat traditional. From the "Fun & Trendy" rating we expected something a little more exotic than the menu we saw, but this is sadly quite common in Paris. French cuisine may be known the world over as being exotic and including things no one else would ever eat, but in actual fact Paris restaurants tend to be pretty conservative. To see the complete menu, you can consult this site. The Critic began with a Pastilla of Chicken, which was a kind of chicken stew in philo dough. He said it was very tasty and it must have been as it was gone before I could ask for a taste. I originally ordered the foie gras (shame on me, yes, I will burn in hell for my culinary moral sins) but they were out and so I settled instead on the Fraîcheur d'asperges vertes et blanches, petite crème acidulée . In addition to posing no moral problems, this dish was perfectly prepared, with tender but not mushy green and white asparagus fanned out over a lemony sauce. The sauce was so good that I mopped up the remainder with the crusty bread. For main dishes, the Critic ordered a Pavé aux 5 baies (big thick steak with five peppercorn sauce) and I ordered the sole. The Critic's steak was perfectly cooked and extremely tender but he thought the sauce was a bit bland. This is a shame, as a nice peppery sauce can be the perfect accompaniment to a good steak, in my humble opinion. The sole on my plate was very good, but there was nothing very innovative about it. In fact, to sum up I think this is the only problem we had with the restaurant in general: it was very good, but not very exciting.
That said, the restaurant guide mentioned that the restaurant turns into a trendy nightclub on Saturday nights, so maybe that is where it got the exciting reputation!
Dinner for two was fairly steep: with one glass of wine and one cocktail, it came to 130 euros, not including the tip. It was very generous of the Critic to treat me; I am spoiled that way!
Chef: Jérome Michot
3, rue Taitbout
Tél : 01 47 70 21 21
Fax : 01 47 70 21 20
Site : www.barramundi.fr
Métro Richelieu-Drouot or Opera
If you are interested in the infinitely more tasty barramundi fish, you can read all about it here. These versatile fish all start out male and the lucky few turn into females at adulthood. Not only that but they can survive in fresh and saltwater, although they only spawn in salt water. If you are ever in Queensland, Australia (or any other of its native waters) DO NOT MISS THIS FISH. It's a bit like sole, only much, much nicer. Nuttier, less fishy. Tender. Mmmmm....
Clotilde, of the Chocolate and Zucchini site, wrote recently about the Paris Potluck held a few weeks ago. Well this weekend the Critic and I both went along to Christoph and Suzanne's for the second pot luck. As usual, the food was delicious, with each one of us trying to outdo the rest. As usual, I agonised over what to bring. The Critic was in favour of a gazpacho but I didn't want to repeat myself and bring soup two times running. (This was just as well, as Christoph prepared two interesting gazpacho soups, one with strawberries and one with avacados!) In the end, I asked Christoph what would be welcome and he suggested dessert. I remembered that I had brought some cream cheese back from the UK the weekend before and decided to try my hand at something I haven't made in many years: a cheesecake.
We have our favourite supplier of cheesecake in Paris already: an American caterer and restaurant in the 16th called Percy's. They make the best cheesecake the Critic has ever tasted. So it was with great fear and trepidation that I began my own foray into the cheesecake world.
Many cookbooks and much time spent on the Internet later, I chose my recipe: Mascarpone Cheesecake from the Epicurious site and decided to add a seasonal touch by making some peach compote to compliment it.
Epicurious Mascarpone Cheesecake (as usual, my inevitable departures in parentheses...)
70 vanilla wafers (8 1/2 oz), finely ground in a food processor (2 1/3 cups) (I used about 3/4 a package of McVities Digestive Biscuits)
1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled (I used slightly more butter and still felt it was too little; in the event, the crust stayed together fine and my worries were for nothing!)
20 oz cream cheese (2 1/2 eight-ounce packages), softened (I used two because that was all I had)
8 oz mascarpone cheese at room temperature (about 1 cup) (I used 8 and 3/4 oz., as that was the size of the package and I wanted to make up for the missing cream cheese)
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt (just realised I forgot the salt - obviously not essential!)
1 cup sour cream (crème fraîche)
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter bottom and side of a 9-inch springform pan. (I couldn't find a springform pan on short notice and instead used a wider shallow tart pan with removeable sides.)
Stir together cookie crumbs and butter in a bowl. Reserve 1/4 cup crumb mixture for sprinkling over cheesecake, then pat remainder onto bottom and 1 1/2 inches up side of springform pan (about 1/4 inch/.5 cm thick). Put pan in a shallow baking pan and bake until golden, about 10 minutes. (I wasn't sure what this meant - did they mean a shallow baking pan with water? In any case, that was not an option as I didn't have a springform waterproof pan and the crust would have gotten flooded. Just put the pan in the oven alone.) Cool completely on a rack, about 25 minutes. Leave oven on. (I hadn't read the recipe too carefully before starting and did not realize how many times I would see "let cool completely". Running late, I let it cool less than ten minutes before proceeding to the next step.)
Make filling while crust bakes:
Beat cream cheese, mascarpone, and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium high speed until fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. (If you look at this picture, you will see that I did not read the directions clearly and added the eggs with the cheese and sugar. It worked.) Add vanilla, lemon juice, and salt and mix at low speed until combined. Pour into cooled crust and bake until cake is set and puffed around edge but still trembles slightly when pan is shaken gently, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool slightly in springform pan on rack, about 20 minutes. (Cooled ten minutes...see above comments about not appreciating the time factor.) Cheesecake will continue to set as it cools. Leave oven on.
Stir together sour cream, sugar, vanilla, lemon juice, and salt in a small bowl and spoon over cheesecake, spreading gently and evenly, leaving a 1/4-inch border around edge.
Bake cheesecake until topping is set, about 10 minutes. Run a thin knife around edge to help prevent cracking. (Unable to do this as the edge of the pie tin was crinkled. Luckily the crust came out just fine!) Sprinkle top with reserved crumbs and cool completely in pan on rack, then chill, loosely covered, at least 8 hours. (Or 45 minutes before leaving for pot luck and then another couple of hours while dinner was served and eaten at Christoph and Suzanne's!)
• Cheesecake can be chilled, loosely covered, up to 3 days.
• Cut cake with a long, thin sharp knife dipped in a tall glass of hot water.
Makes 10 to 12 servings.
The cheesecake - contrary to all my paranoid expectations - came out nearly perfect: creamy and sweet without being cloying, with a crust that miraculously stayed intact when it was served. Despite the many steps in the production (did you notice it goes in the oven THREE times?) I will definitely be keeping this recipe. The critic ate all his own piece and half of mine and kept saying in a puzzled accusatory way, "You never told me you could make cheesecake...!?!"
And it went very well with...
1/3 cup sugar (to taste)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 reserved peach water
This brought back my childhood in a big way because I got to use my collapsible wire basket that is just like the one my mother had when I was little. It fascinated me and I only acquired my own a few months ago (in Tunbridge Wells) after several years of searching. (Notice how you can use the handles to make a stand to drain your rinsed fruit? It collapses flat too. I love it.) Rinse your peaches and place them, in the basket, in a large pot of boiling water for about five minutes. Remove them by using a spoon to fish the basket handles out of the water and reserve 1/2 cup of the water. Refill the large pot with cold water and put the peaches back in to cool. Peel and pit the peaches and chop in small pieces. (If you didn't boil the peaches long enough it will be hard to peel - just put them back in some boiling water. It's a good idea to test a peach or two before tossing the remainder of the hot water.) Put the chopped peeled peaches in a medium saucepan with the water, the sugar and the vanilla. Stir and cook over a medium heat until the peaches are just about cooked through. Use an immersion blender to blend part of the peaches, making a thick peach sauce with plenty of chunks of peach. Taste for sugar and refrigerate. If you have any left after the cheesecake is gone, serve it with fromage frais, sweetened mascarpone or plain yogurt!
A note on the photos: I forgot to take any photos of the finished product. However, Pascale (of C'est moi qui l'ai fait fame) took many photos and has promised to cover the event in her blog. So check her site frequently and you'll probably catch a photo of the finished product!
One last comment: if you want a delicious cheesecake without going through all this work, I highly recommend the ones at Percy's. They are not cheap (40 euros last time we bought one) but they are delicious and come with either raspberry or peach compote (or both if you ask Percy nicely).
15, rue d'Auteuil 75016 PARIS
01 42 88 53 02
There's an old joke in the computer industry that if IBM bought Kentucky Fried Chicken (I told you it was old), they would market the primary product as "Hot Dead Bird!" and that if Xerox bought KFC (update the joke a bit) they'd market it as "Warm Dead Bird." Neither firm's marketing efforts are particularly well regarded, though their products themselves were thought of kindly.
I've found the real-world restaurant equivalent of good product and bad marketing. Below you will see a (necessarily large) picture of a check from a delivery from the Szechwan Garden restaurant at 2901 N. Broadway in Chicago:
As you can see, this marvelous repast consisted of "General Tao's Soy Gluten" and "Cruspy Bean Curd". Yum. Makes your belly all hungry-rumbly, doesn't it?
Now, the food itself was quite delicious. I can highly recommend both dishes and the restaurant itself. As a vegetarian, it's very pleasing to find 97 individual vegetarian dishes on this huge menu. The problem is in the language. I don't think I've ever eaten anything with a less appetizing name than soy gluten; unless of course, that would be something that was "cruspy", which sounds to me somewhere between crispy and crusty. Ick.
It's not just these two dishes that have the name problem. Looking over the menu, I find "West Lake Veggie Wheat Gluten Soup". That name is going along just fine until you hit "gluten". Given that my delivery person spoke no English beyond the basic integers, "Hello", and "Thank You", I suspect that the problem is that the owners and operators are not native English speakers. But I can't explain why they can use "Seitan" for "Mongolian Seitan", but use "wheat gluten" just about everywhere else. They even revert to "gluten" in the description of Mongolian Seitan - "Thin slices of luscious and tender wheat gluten stir-fried with mushroom green onion."
The menu uses "soy protein" for tofu about 60% of the time for some inexplicable reason. All these names are next to other much more appealing sounding dishes like "Snow Lotus with Lemon Sauce", "Emerald Bodie Roll", and "Melody on River (Hot or Not Hot)" which pass for poetry by comparison. Keep reading, and it's back to "Soy Gluten in Garlic Sauce", and the delicious sounding "Twice Cook Wheat Gluten".
Given this is the vegetarian part of the menu,I'll take "Chinese Orka and Tofu" to be Okra and Tofu and not some diabolical killer whale and soy protein dish (Imagine the size of the wok you'd need!).
They don't do this on the non-vegetarian part of the menu. You'll see no "Kung Pao ass of a cow", or "Braised Motile Muscle Tissue of an icthyoid" - it's "Kung Pao Beef" and "Braised fish filet". Perhaps there's a collective menu resource for new Chinese-Americans from overseas to use for restaurant menus and no one had tried to sell vegetarian food before?
My fear is that the unconventional names will keep you from this restaurant or from trying the dishes listed with strange names. Don't let it. The food here is a welcome change for vegetarians who like Chinese food but hate the veggie fried rice and stir fried veggie rut.
Be patient with their English, translate the items into more appetizing names in your mind, and enjoy a greater variety of Vegetarian Chinese food (and non-veg Chinese) than you could get from any other neighborhood chow mein joint.
2901 N. Broadway
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 525 6677
(773) 525 6678
Open Tuesday to Sunday 12:30pm - 11:00pm, closed Monday
Actually, that makes it sound like they died or something, which - thank God - as far as I know is not the case. However, I wanted to do something to thank them for the delicious gift they gave us last year of a jar of their precious Huckleberry Jam. I have taken to eating a piece of toast for breakfast in the morning lately, and this jam turned boring whole-wheat toast into a daily delight. Well, it's gone now and I am going to miss that jam. (Hint, hint, in case brother Kurt is watching...)
So what are huckleberries anyway you may ask? Luckily, we have that useful tool the INTERNET for such mystifying questions, so read on...
Firstly, and from my own experience, the taste: the taste of the jam is like a slightly more intensely flavoured blueberry. This is not surprising, as huckleberries are sometimes referred to as wild blueberries and are in the same family. In fact, the jam reminds me a bit of the Myrtilles Sauvages (wild blueberry, but don't you love the name??) available through the Bonne Maman line of jams. Of course Bonne Maman, good as she is, can't make jam like my big brother. It was a little soupy, but this meant you could spread a nice thin layer on your toast and not waste a drop. I also assume this probably means that Kurt didn't put in too much sugar, which is fine by me too.
I have never seen a huckleberry in the wild (coincidentally about the only place you CAN find them) but according to my research they can be found throughout most of the US. They look very much like blueberries and vary in colour from medium blue to a blackish purple. You can distinguish them from their cousins the blueberries by the fact that they have larger, crunchy seeds in them.
Blackberries are most common in the Pacific Northwest, where my brother lives and most national parks allow you to pick them for personal consumption. According to this site, the Glacier National Park allows you to pick and take away berries for personal consumption, but the Waterton Lakes National Park only allows you to take away what you can fit in your belly. Unfortunately, the only times I have visited my brother have been in the fall, too late for the huckleberry season. We shall have to remedy that one of these days.
In the Midwest, huckleberries are frequently found along river banks, which explains the connection with their illustrious namesake, Huckleberry Finn. In the Chicago area, the Black Huckleberry is the only variety you'll find. I never saw any when I was growing up, but then we did not live near a river. I'll bet my brother did, though, as he is a veritable berry freak. (He used to store fruit at our grandmother's house, a few miles away, so that my sister and I couldn't eat it. But that's another story...)
If you are interested in huckleberry recipes, you can either use them in any blueberry recipe or consult the list here. I will post my brother's recipe if he sends it to me, though I'm afraid it won't do me any personal good unless and until we move to the US. Still, at least I have a supply for the jam!
Hoboken is hot! Or so says the New York Times. R.W. Apple examines the Latin-infused dining scene in the town that birthed Sinatra. Eric Asimov travels to Mâconnais in Burgundy to discover the formerly cheap white wines of the region are moving on up to the Burgundian big time.
Robert Woulke in the Washington Post looks at what makes a great chocolate bar. I recommend you try the chocolate from Dagoba; It has a much more "vivid" and complete flavor than Valhrona or Ghirardelli. Were you the type of kid who liked the corners of the baked Mac and cheese? You'll like Renee Schettler's Crisped Pasta recipes.
If you are feeling esurient and would like to perambulate your way to infiltrate an establishment and negotiate the purchase of some cheesy comestibles, The Chicago Tribune has some recipes and backgrounds for cheeses of the artisanal variety. Ask for Mr. Wemsleydale.
The L.A. Times suggests you ravish your radishes. This is what comes of living in paradise - no respect for those of us who save our radish ravishing for root vegetable season. L.A. also claims to be "Burgertown, U.S.A.", the "birthplace of the hamburger" and even takes a swipe at Chicago, asking "can you name a famous Chicago hamburger stand?" (WARNING: Hometown-defending rant follows) If we have L.A. to thank for McDonald's, Jack in the Box/Carl's Jr., and Johnny Rocket's, then I'll take my anonymous but honest Chi-town burger barn over that mass-produced pap any day of the week. As for being first, the article points out there are stories about Chicago burger carts back to 1894, ten years before St. Louis staked its claim to have invented the hamburger sandwich. Chicagoans didn't make a big deal about it, because we assume the burger came over from Europe. You know, Germany? Hamburg? As for the mass-produced patty, White Castle was pumping out the assembly line burger in Wichita, Kansas two years before Bob's Big Boy in LA got its hands on the meat. These upstart West Coasters. Sheesh.(Rant ends)
Up the coast, the SF Gate is more sensibly celebrating something that actually is Californian - Portugal. Or rather, the 100+ Portuguese festas that occur in California in the Spring and early Summer. Recipes, including one for "Holy Ghost Soup" are included.
Australia is strangely without Food or Dining sections in its papers as far as I've been able to find, but New Zealand's multi-paper site stuff.co.nz carries a story about the bumper crop of grapes expected this year in her neighbor to the southwest. No help with prices, however, as demand for Aussie wines remains high.
If you want to know about New Zealand wines, you'll have to read The Japan Times article about the Otago region of New Zealand where pinot grapes are being made into fine red wines. Japan's own Tamba produces many of the most important foods in the country. Rick La Pointe travels and samples.
London's Guardian is all about improving the food our children eat (well, the food British children eat at least). You can bribe the kids to eat healthier, or perhaps you should rely on the help of that big-eared chap.
Perhaps the Prince could help his Commonwealth mates in Canada? In Toronto, the Star reports there's a fight to allow patrons to BYOB. Ah, freedom.
Unlike Barrett, we are intentionally kitchenless in our cooking lately. The weather in Paris has finally turned summery and on Monday we uncovered the grill and started enjoying the terrace. I didn't bother with photos on Monday as the food was nothing very interesting - hamburgers and sausages and potato salad. Last night, however, I thought of our loyal readers and came up with two competing recipes for lamb kebabs: Moroccan lamb kebabs from the Epicurious site and what I'm calling Caesar's Kebabs (my own invention). After trying them both, I really don't know which was better - both were delicious and very healthy when propped over a crunchy Iceberg lettuce salad.
One of the things I really appreciate about the Epicurious site is their system of allowing readers to rate the recipes. Sometimes reading the comments can be very edifying, often they are humourous, and even when they are really...well, brainless...they have a certain unintentional humour. In the case of these lamb kebabs I was impressed by the fact that none of the comments I read suggested improvements and all were raves: 100% would make it again according to Epicurious. That's a pretty good record.
Personally, I omitted two ingredients - the couscous side and the dried apricots which should have been grilled on the skewers with the meat. This was only because I didn't have the ingredients in the cupboard: with these exceptions once the lamb was purchased everything else was already in my kitchen, which is another plus.
1/3 cup olive oil
juice from 1/2 a medium lemon
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbs fresh mint, chopped
1 tsp salt
2 tsp grated lemon peel (oops, omitted that too because I'm lazy and had already tossed the lemon half)
generous grinding of black pepper
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
3 thick lamb cutlets, cut in cubes
Whisk all the ingredients except the lamb in a bowl to blend. Add the lamb and toss. (Epicurious says to halve the sauce and use half to marinate and half to baste - personally, I don't see the point in dividing the sauce, as the basting sauce is going to cook on the meat before you eat it anyway...) The longer you can allow this to marinate, the better. Cooking after work, I didn't really have the luxury to wait very long before threading the skewers. I threaded the meat with alternating pieces of onion and red pepper and a tomato at the end to make five kebabs. Grill to preferred doneness - about 8 to 10 minutes.
This was the first time I have tried to imitate the kind of kebabs you find in North African or Lebanese restaurants and it was very similar and very tasty. The spices went exceptionally well with the lamb. The onions were still crunchy, but cooked enough so that they were mild and the grilled tomato was very sweet, a very nice compliment. Next time I'll get the apricots, though, and try them! Also, I just reread the comments and realized there was one very good suggestion: serve with tzatziki (cucumber/yogurt/garlic sauce). That would have been even BETTER.
Not surprisingly, the genesis of the name of this dish came from the leftover home-made Caesar's salad dressing I found in my fridge. I wanted to use red wine, anchovies and rosemary for the second half of the kebabs, but I hate opening a tin of anchovies when all I need is one or two. (I can eat a few more, but there are limits to how many I can consume in a sitting and they just don't keep well even in the fridge!) So for this recipe (no real measurments) I took a couple of Tablespoons of Caesar's salad dressing and mixed them with a glass or so of red wine, a few sprigs of rosemary (chopped) a slice of onion and some pepper. Marinate for as long as possible and thread on the skewers with a tomato, chunks of mushroom, slices of red pepper and a few onions. I love the mix of rosemary, anchovies and lamb and they combined particularly well with the mushrooms.
So there you have it: a light summer meal that even Weight Watchers would approve. (But please don't ask me how many points...!) Chocolate for dessert, I think...
I'm suffering through Day 1 of the most difficult week since I began cooking.
Until about three years ago, my idea of cooking was reheating beanie-weenies. Nowadays, I look forward to cooking meals for my wife. I don't look forward to doing the dishes, and that's how this most difficult week came to be. I live in an apartment and our landlord has seen fit to redo all the kitchens in our building. This includes ours, and will mean that I'll end up with a much better place to try out those recipes I snare from all the great food blogs over there ----->.
AND it means we'll finally have a dishwasher. The pile of dishes in the sink has been a great disincentive to cook. It's a pain to wash dishes by hand. I'm convinced they breed in captivity. I don't mind loading and unloading a dishwasher at all. That, along with the new stove/oven and new refrigerator should make the kitchen a delight.
So in a week (or more likely two - you know contractors), I'll be cooking again and posting many more new recipes. For now, I'll live with my refrigerator in my dining room, and my poor cats locked up during the day in our 12x15 bedroom with food, water, a litterbox, and a lot of stuff to rip up, and you'll have to be satisfied this week with only restaurant reviews and food news stories from me.
Maybe we can persuade Meg, Paul, Dr. Meg, and Todd to put more recipe-posts up this week...
Last weekend, we had another birthday party for the Critic (will they never cease?) and in addition to the Tex-Mex food I planned on serving I bought loads of food that could be put on the grill if we started running low on nosh. As it turned out, there were fewer people than I anticipated and so I was left with a salmon filet, ground beef, chicken breasts and a couple of long Italian sausages. Most of this has found its way into the freezer, but last night I decided to use up at least one of the sausages. It was the first time I have seen anything as exotic as Italian sausages (!) in the meat section of my Monoprix, and I was curious to see how they tasted.
I planned on making pasta with either a sausage and cream sauce or sausage-tomato-onion combination and deliberated all the way home on which one to choose. (Nigel recommends the cream sauce, but then the tomatoes need to be used up and would be healthier...then again with cream we can have a tomato salad...)
Once back home, I was brought up short by the fact that I had about 2/3 cup of each of the varieties of pasta, no more. Back to my Italian cookbook, Essentials of Italian Cooking, by Marcella Hazan and I found a substitute dinner: Italian sausage risotto.
I didn't follow Marcella Hazan's recipe to the letter (do we ever?) and it's a fairly simple recipe, so I'm just giving my own version below. It turned out very flavourful. The Critic, who usually is especially critical of anything stodgy or caloric didn't complain at all. Well, he had one small complaint, which I rectified in the recipe below.
Italian Sausage Risotto
2 medium onions, chopped
2 Tbs butter
1 Tbs dried sage
1 Italian sausage (mine was thin and about two feet long)
2 cups Arborio rice (or Spanish paella rice if that's all you have on hand)
1 glass dry white wine
3-4 cups hot beef broth
1/3 cup (approx.) grated Parmesan
Sauté the onions in the butter until golden. Stir in the sage and begin squishing bite-sized pieces of sausage into the pan. Stir every so often so that the sausage continues to cook evenly as you add meat. The onions will brown a little on the edges, but this will add a nice flavour. Once all the meat is in the pan, stir a few times until it is all thoroughly cooked. At this point you may be tempted to drain the sausage and onions. I can only say that the end product will be a lot less flavourful (although admittedly healthier) if you do. I left it. Add the wine and turn up the heat a bit; cook down until most of the wine has disappeared and then add the rice. (I also added wine towards the end of the process and the Critic reckoned it left a slightly acidic overtone, so I probably should have stuck to Hazan's advice to add it at the beginning only.) Turn the heat back down to a simmer and stir for a few minutes until the rice turns transluscent and then add your first ladle of broth. Stir until the broth is absorbed and add another. Continue like this for the next twenty minutes or so, until the rice is cooked but has a bit of bite in it. Add freshly ground pepper and a generous grating of fresh Parmesan, stir and serve!
As a side dish, I sliced up some nice ripe tomatoes threw them in a bowl with some soft goat cheese, sprinkled a little olive oil, sherry vinegar, salt and pepper and mixed for a summery salad. Everyone finished his or her vegetables and our friend David accepted seconds on the risotto - the best compliment a cook can have!
You may be asking yourselves why - again - there is no photo? Well, tasty as a sausage risotto is, it looks like dog food in a photo. Or worse. So in order to avoid putting you off making it, I have decided to forego the photography. Once you smell the risotto, you won't care WHAT it looks like.
We've been deleting a lot of ads for products and services, which convinces me we need a formal advertising policy. Here's the new advertising policy for ads or links to commercial services placed in the Comments section of this blog by hand or by automatic process or program -
You are welcome to post ads in the comments section and expose your products to our generally well informed and quite attractive readers provided that you agree to the following terms -
1. You agree that the service we provide is valuable and that the select nature of our readers entitles us to charge a fee for every advertisement. Also, you agree that each and every ad or link to a commercial service will be allowed to remain for no more than 15 minutes.
2. You agree to pay me, Barrett Buss (me), US$1,000.00 per advertisement. Payment is due in hand within 15 days of the posting of the ad. Multiple posts in a comment section must be paid for individually. You may contact me at this e-mail address to get the address to mail the check to.
3. If your advertisement includes a link to a site that is not reachable (like many have been recently) there is an additional $500.00 charge.
4. If you do not pay the advertising fee in 15 days, an additional $500 late fee will be assesed for each 15 day period or portion thereof until payment is recieved by me.
5. All disputes regarding this contract between you the advertiser, and me will be resolved based on the laws of the City of Chicago, Cook County, the State of Illinois, or the United States of America, respectively.
6. Posting any advertisement in the comments section of this site indicates your acceptance of all these conditions.
Thanks. And we'll hold off on deleting your ads for 15 minutes and then we'll seek you out.
This will be a somewhat abbreviated version of the Food Section Digestion this week because... Well, because I got busy, OK?
You'll probably be busy too this summer freezing the bounty of the summer and the New York Times' Julia Moskin has some tips on proper freezer management. It may seem you're in the deep freeze socially once you have kids, but Alex Witchel introduces us to PlayDine, a service to thaw parents out and let them enjoy a nice dinner on the town. David Karp tells us rhubarb's back in season and it's trendy(?) It must be true, I read it in the New York Times.
In the Washington Post, Ed Bruske explores the zen art of poaching. That's poaching as in cooking in a liquid bath, not the thing evil hunters do in Africa. Speaking of evil - (how's that for a smooth transition?) Saturated fats are the devil, but they are so delicious, says Katherine Tallmadge. Perhaps citrus will redeem you from the saturated fats inferno. Try this roasted lemon dish from Jeanne McManus.
The Chicago Tribune has the best article of the bunch this week. They called for family heirloom recipes, the kind you only get if you hold grandma down and rough her up a little. I still have a scar where she bit me, but the joke's on her 'cause I have the teeth, too.
Speaking of teeth (or you know, writing about teeth), the L.A. Times has an article about the USDA trying to pull the teeth from the current standards for organic foods. The USDA is being brought into conflict with consumer groups like the Consumers Union and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt) who authored the 1990 bill that led to the standards and who is against weakening or cutting any of the regulations.
In San Francisco, the SFGate is all for cutting in general and wants you to make sure you use a sharp knife.
Which you can use to slice green beans for the traditional Summer Green Bean Salad Sarah Fritschner makes in the Louisville Courier-Journal.
You might want a glass of wine with that, but for heaven's sake, don't make it an English wine, says Malcolm Gluck in the London-based Guardian.
Maybe if you put it in an expensive bottle it won't matter. The Irish Independent reminds us of a study where wine experts all drank the same mid-priced wine, but gave it entirley different marks based on whether it was labelled as expensive or cheap. They even marked up a red that was really a white wine with a bit of dye in it to make it look red. They still think you should pop for the $10 bottle rather than the $5 bottle they accuse the English of liking.
That's it for this week. Do you know a food section we should be covering? Mail me.
Fellow TMC contributer Barrett gave me a cookbook by Deborah Madison for my birthday last year, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. As you will have gathered if you read any of my items here, I am an enthusiastic meat eater. I'm also an enthusiastic vegetable eater, although I do have a tendency to feel that a meal without meat is somehow only half a meal. The exception to this is the recipe for Goat Cheese Enchiladas with Corn and Mole Sauce from Deborah Madison's book. It's filling, really tasty and a wonderful mix of ingredients. Every time I make it (usually when I know a vegetarian is coming to dinner) it gets rave reviews from all, vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. If you are more organized than I usually am, you can also make it up well in advance so that it makes the perfect dish when friends are coming to dinner.
The first time I made the recipe, I didn't know where to find the Mexican chocolate or anise seeds called for in the mole sauce recipe so I bought a mole preparation in the wonderful Mexican grocery store Mexi & Co. Luckily, our friend Jonathan, who was a diplomat in the Embassy of the UK to Mexico, was around that time and was able to translate the directions from the Spanish for me. This time, the elusive mole sauce hid in the back of the cabinet defying me to find it. I looked everywhere. Everywhere, that is, except where it sat coyly in the corner of the cabinet in a jar slightly taller than I remembered it being. I gave up on the anise seeds, bought some Chilean chocolate (nearly the right continent, right?) and followed the recipe as described in the book. It still turned out delicious, although I have to say (heresy!) that I preferred the store-bought mole mixture to the home-made variety. Jonathan tells me that in Mexico no one makes home made mole sauce unless they have a full day to devote to it, which means that effectively no one makes it home made. They buy a preparation or just go to their favourite restaurants. So that is a relief to the cook in me! I leave it to you whether to buy a sauce or try Madison's:
Goat Cheese Enchiladas with Corn and Red Mole
1/4 cup golden raisins (Sultanas, in Brit-speak)
1/4 cup pine nuts (the first time, I substituted almond slivers which worked well too)
2 Tbs corn or olive oil
1 tsp minced garlic (well, two large cloves in my case)
1 1/2 cups corn kernels
1 1/2 cups grated Jack or Muenster cheese (I used Fromage des Pyrenées)
2 cups soft goat cheese
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
salt and pepper
1 cup vegetable oil for frying
12 corn tortillas
Red Chile Mole (recipe below or use a preparation)
1/2 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
Cover the raisins with warm water and set aside. Brown the pine nuts in a medium dry skillet, then remove. Add the 2 Tbs oil to the same skillet and cook the onion with the garlic over medium heat to soften, about three minutes, then add teh corn and cook for one minute more. Drain the raisins and put in a bowl with the pine nuts, onion/corn mixture, 1 cup of the Jack cheese, the goat cheese and the cilantro. Mix everything well together and taste for salt and pepper.
Fry the tortillas briefly in olive oil, drain them and fill them with the above mixture. Roll them and place them seam side down in a baking dish. Make the mole. (To this point, you can make them well in advance and refrigerate, covered.) When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 F (about 190 c). Pour mole sauce over the enchiladas, sprinkle with the rest of the Jack cheese and bake until heated through, about 20 minutes. Serve with the rème fraîche spooned over the top.
Red Chile Mole Sauce
1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1 1/4 teaspoons each anise seeds, cumin and dried Mexican oregano (omitted the anise and used normal oregano)
2 /12 Tbs vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 tsp minced garlic (1 clove, pressed)
1/3 cup ground mild red chile
1 oz Mexican chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 tsp sherry vinegar
Toast the seeds and oregano in a dry skillet, then remove to a plate as soon as they smell fragrant. Grind in a mortar. Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the onion. Cook, stirring frequently for about for minutes, or until onion is brown on the edgets, then add garlic and ground spices and cook for one minute more. Remove from heat, let the pan cool for a minute, then stir the ground chile into the onions along with 1 1/2 cups water. REturn to the stove and bring to a boil, stirring slowly but constantly so that the chile doesn't burn. It will thicken as it cooks, so plan to add another 1/4 cup water to thin it out a little. (Mine didn't...) Add the chocolate and stiru until it's melted. Simmer for ten minutes, then stir in the vinegar to bring all the flavors together. Taste or salt.
So there you have it. It sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn't that bad. Making the filling only takes about ten minutes and stuffing them not much more. One of the guests on the weekend was also present the first time I made the recipe (she's the vegetarian!) and agreed with me that the store-bought mole was actually slightly better. That also saves time! But either way, it really is a delicious dish. The Critic tried it for the second time and - despite the fact that it had all kinds of weird stuff like chocolate sauce and NO meat - decided he liked it a lot.
Barrett, you have the cookbook: try it!
One last note:
If you are here in Paris and looking for a good selection of Mexican specialities (and a few American goods too) I can recommend no better than Mexi & Co. I haven't tried any of their fresh prepared dishes because when I go there it's usually because I'm preparing for a Mexican feast of my own. However, I can attest that they must be using very good authentic base ingredients, as that is what they have in the shop. I'm not sure if they make the frozen tortillas themselves, but in any case they are not Old El Paso Industrial Disks, and very good quality!
Mexi & Co.
10 r Dante 75005 Paris
01 40 51 77 47
As a relatively newly minted vegetarian (ovo-lacto-pescetarian, really), I sometimes crave the meat-laden fare of my youth. My mother made few dishes, and most of them not really well (she baked my hamburgers, for Pete's sake). Without a doubt, she excelled at one sandwich - the Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato.
That is NOT what you see in the photo here, though. What you see is a combination of vegetarian substitutes that produces a sandwich that may surpass the BLT's of my youth. Here is my "recipe" for a great vegetarian BLT that I call the Fakin', Lettuce, and Tomato or FLT. My wife the long-term vegetarian is crazy for these things. There are a few brand names here, but if you have a product you prefer, use it. This is just the way I make these sandwiches today.
Fakin', Lettuce, and Tomato, per sandwich:
4 slices Smart Bacon
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 slices Natural Ovens Bakery Cracked Wheat Whole Grain Bread or other hearty wheat bread.
8 cross slices plum tomato
some lettuce (to taste but enough to cover two slices of bread)
2 teaspoons Vegenaise or to taste.
Substitute Mayonnaise if Vegenaise is not available, but you'll miss out. I like the taste and texture of the Vegenaise a lot better and it is much healthier for you.
In a skillet, fry the Smart Bacon about 2 minutes each side in the olive oil. Remove from oil and heat, let drip a few seconds, but do not blot. Bacon will get hard as it cools.
Toast three slices of bread. Spread almost a teaspoon of the Vegenaise on a slice of bread, add lettuce, 4 slices of tomato, 2 strips of bacon. Spread Vegenaise on a slice of bread, put dry side down in top of bacon. Repeat layers. Spread remaining Vegenaise on last slice. Place Vegenaise side down on top of sandwich, cut diagonally.
The bread is great toasted, and the olive oil helps to add just enough fat to give the sandwich the right mouth feel. The bacon doesn't have the right texture (it's a little too hard), but the sandwich tastes great, and the hearty bread helps with the fake bacon texture problem.
If someone has found a vegetarian bacon better than Lightlife's Smart Bacon, please let me know. It tastes great, but as noted, the texture's a bit too hard when cooked and cooled.
Also, if making two sandwiches, don't add more olive oil when you fry the second batch of Smart Bacon. What's left in the pan will suffice. Try toasting the "middle slice" of bread first so the outer slices are piping hot when you serve the sandwich.
I had to post this "recipe" because we've had these for dinner four out of the last ten nights. They're that easy and that good.
UPDATE: Will Baude over at Crescat Sententia, a favorite non-food blog of mine from my old school, writes that this is not an appealing sandwich at all, and suggests a grilled cheese with lettuce, tomato, and garlic aioli instead.
I have to respectfully disagree. Sometimes you just don't want cheese. Sometimes you want - or NEED - a B|FLT. Try the FLT out and if you hate it, try Will's suggestion. Or better yet, try both. His CLTgA sandwich also sounds great.
Modified pic from Odyssey Maritime Discovery Center
Alberto has announced the next Is My Blog Burning? and the topic is fish.
Wena at Mum-Mum is hosting on June 20th, 2004.
After soup, tartines, cakes, and rice, it's appropriate we have a fish course. I have a feeling a salad dish is in the works. The question Alberto's put out there is who will make a fishy dessert? I don' t know that I'm up for that one, but let me ponder a bit. It would probably be better than the lutefisk some of my ancestors survived on. Hey, maybe we can make an "I Wouldn't Eat it" and "IMBB?" cross-entry.