July 30, 2004
Maya's in Portland

Portlanders (Portlandians? Portlandoise?) - those people who live in Portland Oregon - are blessed with a hopping microbrew culture and some excellent restaurants. I mentioned Mother's earlier in my salmon hash recipe. I'd like to recognize one of the more humble but delicious fast-ish food restaurants.

At the corner of 10th and SW Morrison (1000 SW Morrison), Maya's Mexican food serves a high-quality take on the fast food Mexican served in way too many restaurants nationwide. By using fresh ingredients, a light touch, and quick preparation, Maya's avoids the problem of burrito deja vu.

The space is small, with stools along a window counter providing much of the seating, but there's ample room to sit outside and enjoy a warm breezy Portland summer night. Inside, the menu is written on an enormous blackboard hanging behind the main counter, and the variety is welcome. The standard chicken and beef dishes are here, but so are several fish and vegetarian options. Even if the food is good, I'm annoyed if a restaurant's selection includes only one or two items for the non-carnivores among us.

We ordered and sat outside with our drinks while the food was prepared. When it was ready, the waiter/cashier/cook brought our food out to us. My wife ordered a vegetarian fajita dish and I enjoyed a nicely spicy fish burrito. Often when a fast food Mexican restaurant tries to spice up a dish, the spice in the form of jalapenos or Mexican hot sauce overwhelms the flavor of the food. That didn't happen here, and the flavor of perfectly fried and not greasy whitefish came through in every bite. The guacamole side was bright green and perfect.

An added bonus is the choice of three different margaritas, and a selection of local beers. On the night we ate at Maya's, we had a choice of Black Butte Porter, Fat Tire Amber, Mac Tarnahan's Highlander Pale, and the beer I chose Deschutes Brewery's Mirror Pond Ale, a hoppy India Pale style ale with a pleasantly bitter taste and a sharp clean finish.

The beer went very well with the crisp tortilla chips which displayed no traces of the greasiness you can often find in chips at other places. We walked away from Maya's pleasantly filled and with more money in our pocket than we'd hoped we'd have after dinner out.

If you get to Portland, or if you live in Portland, make sure you try Maya's for an inexpensive light Mexican treat.

Maya's Tacqueria
1000 Sw Morrison St,
Portland, OR 97205
Tel: (503) 226-1946

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 9:32 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack
July 29, 2004
Baked Eggplant with Tomatoes


This time of the year, our local farmers market overflows with eggplants of all colors and shapes. Purple and hot pink balloons. Twisting asian eggplants that look like vegetarian sausages. And miniauture versions of all of the above. They're so inviting that I find myself buying several pounds and later in the week searching for ways to cook them before they rot.

I found this simple recipe, which uses summer tomatoes as well, in the Joy of Cooking and modified it based on what I could find in my refrigerator.

Baked Eggplant

Before you start, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the eggplants in half, and scrore the flesh side of the eggplant, taking care not to cut through the skin on the other side. Heat the olive oil in a large pan, reduce heat to medium, and cook the cut side of the eggplant until brown. Turn the eggplant and cook for two more minutes.

Place the eggplants, cut side up, in a shallow baking dish and sprinkle on the blue cheese and fresh pepper.

In the skillet, cook the tomatoes until they release some liquid and form a sauce. Ladle the tomatoes across the eggplants, cover with tinfoil, and bake for thirty minutes. A few minutes before serving, sprinkle on the oregano and briefly return to the oven.

Posted by Todd in New Orleans at 9:25 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack
Another Fishy Tale

sole.jpg
Until I rediscovered the delights of smoky grilled sardines, soles belles meunières have long been my absolute favourite fish dish. Barrett informs me that sole are sadly on the yellow list of the Seafood Wallet Card published by the Chicago Shedd Aquarium (meaning you should avoid them because of overfishing). Still, we only eat it a few times a year as it's expensive in restaurants or means a visit to the market to make at home. (I am so glad I found a good fishmonger at the market on Saturday!)

The classic French method of preparing them "belle meunière" is so elegant and tasty that I have never seen the point of experimenting with other recipes. Sole flesh is delicate and has a subtle nutty flavour that would be overwhelmed by anything more complicated that a light coat of butter, bread crumbs or flour and lemon juice.

Preparing Soles Belles Meunières

The first step, as always, is in obtaining nice fresh fish. If you have a fishmonger, ask him/her to remove the skin but leave the head intact. I know this puts a lot of people off, but sole is so delicate you really need the bones to hold the whole thing together. You'll coat the head anyway before you cook, so you shouldn't have the fish eyeing you reproachfully for long. And below I am giving you sure-fire instructions on how to eat fish off the bone elegantly. Trust me.

Because the fish cook so quickly and take up so much space in your frying pan it's impractical to cook more than two at a time. You could put the finished fish in a warm oven as you cook the next lot if you really want to impress your dinner guests, but I prefer to make this dish as romantic dinner for two. Luckily my sweetie loves sole as much as I do.

Once you have your fish home, rinse them off and put them in the back of the fridge until you are ready to cook them (ideally very shortly afterwards). If you are preparing other vegetables to go with the fish, you should start them now as they will surely take longer to cook.

Are you ready to cook fish now? Rinse the fish once more for good measure and pat them dry. Roll them in either flour (the classic way) or home made bread crumbs (which I find make it easier to obtain a nice golden crust). Put some butter in your biggest frying pan, enough to cover the bottom well. When the butter is all frothy, slap the fish down. They seem to eat up the butter at first; you may want to slide a little more down the sides of the pan if it looks dry. Keep the heat relatively high as you want to brown the fish quickly. The flesh will cook very quickly even at a low heat, but you don't want a soggy crust. When you can see the crust is a little brown, carefully flip it over to brown the other side. As you will see from my photos below, I'm still not expert at getting a fine, even brown crust. Remove the fish from the pan, and you will notice that there is a fair amount of brown butter left behind. Squeeze some lemon juice in the pan and stir up the crusty bits. Salt and pepper to taste and pour this sauce over the fish. Serve immediately!

How to Eat Fish on the Bone

So now you have your fish (head intact) on your plate and you are wondering what to do with it. I remember the first time my sister ordered sole in a French restaurant and she gave me a panicked look when it arrived whole. WHAT NOW?? Luckily I had been in France long enough to know what to do and for one brief moment her little sister was seen as a Sophisticated Expert. (Don't worry, it didn't last - I'm still the Little Sister.) Actually, it's ridiculously easy to eat a fish with bones in it. In fact half my readers, who already know this, have probably already murmured "tcha" and moved to a different page. For those who don't though, here goes.

First, look at your fish as an oval with a line through the middle of lengthwise. This line is where the spine of the fish is located. Basically, you have four slices of meat in the fish in front of you: one on either side of the spine on top and the same on the bottom. Logical, no? First cut a line with your fish knife along the spine on the top and slide it under the meat. You'll see that it hardly has to be cut; the fish flesh pulls easily away from the bone. Eat it. It's good. Here is a photo of my fish with a couple bites gone. You'll probably notice that the fish has fringe on the edges and that the meat ends here. Don't eat the fringe. Some fish (of the female variety) also have roe, a long pinkish sack on one edge. Some people love these fish eggs; I am not overly fond of them. They are perfectly safe to try, though, if you want to make up your own mind!

Once you have eaten all the flesh off the top of the fish, it is time to remove the skeleton. This is the fun part! Slide your knife under the skeleton and lift it. (Photo courtesy of the Critic.) You'll see it pulls away from the meat below cleanly. You'll need to hold the skeleton aloft with your fork while you use your knife to detach the meat from the head and the tail at either end. Then you can simply lift the skeleton away, either to the side of your plate or even better to an empty side plate. All you will have left is delicious fish. (See the finished product.)

Now that wasn't very complicated, was it? It actually takes a lot longer to explain than it does to show someone, but it is impractical for me to invite you all over for dinner one by one. Some fish are just fine filleted - salmon and tuna for example - because they don't have very fine bones and have dense flesh that holds together well on its own. However, for sole you really are better off leaving the fish whole and dealing with the bones once it has been cooked. You'll find that you have less of a problem with missed bones and even, maybe, that it's fun to play with your food!

If you are in Paris and would like to try sole belle meunière prepared by an expert, my suggestion would be to visit our favourite fish restaurant, Vin et Marée. There are a few of them in Paris, but our favourite is in the 16th (address below). The fish is bought fresh daily at the Rungis market and they are cooked very simply to bring out the best of their flavour. The menu changes daily and is presented on a chalkboard, although a couple dishes are nearly always there (including the sole). One other constant, which you must try if you do visit, is the baba au rhum for dessert. One day I will write a proper review of this restaurant and give you the full low-down but for the moment you'll just have to trust me. It's delish.

Vin et Marée
183, boulevard Murat
75016 Paris
Phone: 01 46 47 91 39
Métro: Porte St. Cloud

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 6:26 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
July 28, 2004
A Nice Glass of Fruit

juice.jpgI think I must be the last person on earth who is not a member of the Smoothie Appreciation Society. I can see that it's a nice idea, and that if you make one like Barrett's "Blueberry and..." smoothie with little or no sugar it's very healthy. But I have never been a big fan of milk products and fruit mixed together. My sister was the one who loved Strawberry Quik when we were young; I never could see the point. So when I have fruit that is getting a little over-ripe I just like to juice it. Plain and simple. Messy, yes. But oh-so-worth it. And this Sunday, I think I came up with my favourite combination yet.


So what was the magic combination? Three extremely ripe peaches, one crunchy apple, a handful of over-ripe apricots and about a dozen cherries. I use my Moulinex food processor. I tried to find a product description on-line but mine is a ten-year old model and I couldn't find exactly the same one. I suspect it is probably an older version of the Masterchef food processor. Whatever. I love it because it works well for the three main functions I ask of it: grating things quickly, liquidizing soups and sauces and making juice.

The food processor has a set of juicer attachments which do a pretty good job of reducing your solid fruits to a liquid form. (See my messy juicer.)The fruit is forced through the feed tube onto a rough surface that pulps it. The resulting fruit pulp is then is spun with the centrifugal force of the machine against a filter around the edge of the basket, and the juice falls into the container below.

It isn't perfect: just before the bottom of the machine has filled to the top I find that the filter is so covered with fruit sludge that it can no longer handle any new material. When this happens, the sludge starts hitting the top of the machine, where it can fall along the sides outside the juice-extracting basket into the actual juice. (Is anyone following this?)

Anyway, providing you take out the filter from time to time and scrape off the sludge, and providing you don't overfill the bottom with juice, it all works very well. The end product is a bit thicker than your usual store-bought juice but that is easily overcome: I add a little plain water to then juicer when I am through with the fruit to extract any remaining juice and water down the final product. Ice cubes are also a good addition as the fruit juice is even nicer when it's cold. And lastly (and best) I sometimes add a bit of sparkling water to the juice to make a juice spritzers.

We pregnant women have to do what we can to make exciting cocktails!

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 6:46 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack
July 27, 2004
Pike's Place Market Photos

Public Market at night
While in Seattle last week, my wife and I started each morning by visiting the Pike Place Market and picking up some goodies for breakfast. The Market is my favorite part of a city I'm growing very fond of.

Since 1907, farmers, fishmongers, florists, and food-purveyors have been brought together directly at the Pike's Place Market. The atmosphere is busy, but not harried, and the prices are reasonable. And you can be sure more of the price you pay for your peaches and perch are going directly to the farmers and fishermen and not being siphoned off by a variety of middlemen.

The very first Starbucks (complete with slightly racier mermaid/siren logo (scroll down)) is located across from the market in a row of shops that includes a couple of great bakeries, a cheesemaker, restaurants, more grocers, and a cutlery store well worth visiting.

The pictures from the market are next. There's a lot so this may be a largish download.

Market Street

Busy market

Famous for fish

Rockfish

These are still wiggling

Lots of fruit in July

Ranier cherries were delicious

Thai basil

Three colors of eggplant

That is a big peach

Music at the market

Lots of flowers for sale

night behind the market

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 11:50 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack
Who Wants Some Old Tomatoes?

that kooky tomato guy

A few years ago I started to interest myself in gardening on the balcony of our Paris appartment. I bought myself some books and bankrupted myself in the basement of BHV buying supplies (my favourite store in Paris - you can find anything in the basement of BHV) and planted seeds. My family and friends were delighted by the new trend as it gave them some new ideas for Christmas and birthday presents (mostly how-to books) and they were able to track my garden online for a while. Aside from my brother I think they thought I was getting a little flaky when I progressed to composting with my very own wormery, but generally it was seen as an amusing hobby. I guess as a result of my green tendencies a lot of friends and family suggested I try my hand at planting so-called "heirloom" seeds: those varieties that used to be common a hundred years ago and have all but disappeared from our earth today. I thought it was a great idea but it had a few practical drawbacks for myself: 1) it's all I can do to get the carefully genetically cultivated (not modified, heaven forbid) "normal" plants to grow in pots and 2) how would I know if they were turning out "right"??

Great idea, not so good for me personally. When shopping at the market, on the other hand...I am a willing and enthusiastic guinea pig!

heirloom toms 2.jpg As a result, I was absolutely delighted to find a stand at the market on Saturday that dealt with "anciennes variétés de tomates" (heirloom tomatoes). I knew I could only remember the name of one variety at a time (note to self: bring a pad of paper next time) so I chose a pound of the most interesting looking ones. Even so, it took me a little web research to reconcile my remembered name (calabèche pourpre) with the actual name of these tomatoes, calebasse pourpre (Purple Calabash). But we got there in the end and I'm able to tell you with confidence the name of these delightful little fruits. Don't you love the pumpkin-like shape? They look like they were made for a miniature Cinderella. (Incidentally, this probably is why I heard the name wrong initially - a calèche is an old-fashioned carriage in French and I think that was in my mind as soon as I saw them!)

heirloom toms.jpg Last night I sliced up two of them for a simple salad to accompany the main dish (which you will surely read about tomorrow if you come back for more). And the result? They seemed a little tougher than the usual varieties of tomatoes, which surprised me as the tomato seller was careful to inflate their bag and tie it tightly before handing it over. I assumed therefore that they would be very delicate, but in fact the skin was a bit thicker than usual and the flesh fairly dense. However, that does not mean to say they were less good than your average tomato. On the contrary, they were fully of flavour, a bit sharp but not under-ripe. Delicious. I have a few of the tomatoes left and I think they would probably make a very nice salsa or fresh chutney, not too soupy or too sweet. I'll have to hit the cookbooks tonight and see if I can find anything interesting! And next week, I'll bring my camera and notebook to the market and try some more of the new old varieties...and maybe manage to get a photo of the tomato seller where he doesn't look like a mad ax-murderer!

If you are interested in heirloom tomato seeds yourself, you might find the following links useful:

Gourmet Tomatofest (They have the purple calabash variety!)

Burpee seed catalogue

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 6:05 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack
July 26, 2004
Grilled Sardines

Shiny shiny fish
Wow. I have found the dish of my dreams, the perfect meal. It's so simple it almost doesn't deserve the name "recipe". It's what I should have made for the Is My Blog Burning? event but I was afraid the dinner guests might not share my enthusiasm for grilled fish. Also, let's be honest: you always want to show off with something fancy for the IMBB? which is a shame because this dish is the proof that simplicity and good products can outshine just about any elaborate recipe. And when you look at these shimmering silver fish, you know you have a good start.

Grilled Sardines

Take 4-6 fresh sardines per person (depending on how hungry you are and the size of the fish) and gut them. Okay, this sounds awful but actually it's pretty easy and I did eight of them in about five minutes. All you need to do is make a slit in the belly of the little fish and pull out all the goo. Rinse the fish, inside and out, under running water and put on a plate. It all comes out easily and will fascinate your cat, if you have one.

Dribble a little olive oil on the fish and then sprinkle with lots of thyme. (I had a plant that died from underwatering and just shook it over the fish - worked great!)

sardines with thyme.jpg

Heat the grill. In the meantime, slice a medium zucchini in thick wedges (about 3/4 inch or 1 cm). Toss them with oil and a little pepper. Once the grill is hot put the zucchini slices on it to start grilling. When one side is done, turn them over and put the fish on the grill. They will cook very quickly - after two minutes turn them over.

Wash a handful of baby tomatoes (fresh from our terrace!) and toss them with olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve immediately on his and hers plates: his with tomatoes, zucchini, fish and hot peppers and hers with tomatoes, olives, zucchini and fish.

Oh and you will surely notice the baked potatoes in my photos: I put some potatoes in the oven about 40 minutes before starting the rest of the dinner and finished them off on the grill.

Aside from starting the potatoes in the oven, the whole dinner took about 20 minutes from start to finish, including all the running back to the kitchen for forgotten items like salt and napkins. And the fish are delicious. You don't have to worry about deboning them as the flesh pulls away from the bones easily. You may end up eating a few small bones but they are like kipper bones: tiny and not lethal. The skin on the fish chars slightly and gives a smoky flavour to the meat and sardines are oily enough that it all remains nice and moist. This is seriously good food: I wished I had made twice as many when it came time to eat and kept going "mmmm" as I was shoveling them down. Even the Critic (who is extremely opposed to working for his food) agreed that they were good. So, too late for the Grilling Is My Blog Burning? you have my entry for Favourite Thing To Grill. Yum!

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 12:30 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack
D.C. Restaurant Week

If you're in Washington, D.C. this week, take advantage of Restaurant Week. Lunch at many of Washington's best restaurants is $20.04, and dinner is $30.04. Prices are for dinner only and do not include beverages, tip, or tax.

Our friend Sweth (who lives in the area and who posted this earlier) notes that those prices are a great deal at some of the participating restaurants, but a "colossal ripoff" at others.

This is the fourth Washington, D.C. Restaurant Week and runs from today through August 1st.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 11:02 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
July 25, 2004
This Little Pig Went To Market

rheims market.jpg

Sadly, it has been a very long time since I visited the local open air market. When I lived in the Auteuil neighborhood of Paris, I went to the market nearly every week: it was near the supermarket, it was small and easy to master and after four years I knew all the stands very well. The new one here in the 17th is in many ways much more exciting, with more exotic produce and spices, but it's also a lot more work. The narrow passage between the stalls means that an old lady with a trolley and a young one with a stroller can effectively block all traffic in either direction for what seems like hours. The market is larger, which means I have a tendency to do what I always do when faced with too many choices: panic and purchase indiscriminately. And then for the last four months I have been in need of a three hour nap every Saturday, which means choosing between the market and the supermarket. The one that has dishwasher detergent and delivers wins every time.

But now that I am in the so-called "honeymoon trimester" of pregnancy (more like an uneasy truce really) I decided yesterday to skip the supermarket in favour of the real market. And it really made me realize what I've been missing all these months!

market4.jpg

July falls between my two favourite periods for going to the open air market: end of spring and mid-fall. The down side is that a lot of the stall-holders have gone on holiday and it all seems a little empty and sad. The up side however more than compensates: fewer people means it is a joy to wander through the market and the stall holders who are left are much more relaxed and easy-going. They want to chat, they laugh more. And the produce is very, very good in July. So this was a very good time to finally get to know my market. I found quite a few interesting things that I hadn't noticed in the few visits I've made before:

- A stall that sells old, unusual varieties of tomatoes

- The Chinese stall that has the best produce

- A very good fishmonger (yay!)

- That you can smell some of the really good stalls about 10 yards before you get to them: the one with wonderful olives and spices that smells of North Africa, the one with the rotisserie chickens slowly rotating as they turn a beautiful brown, the peaches being cut open for tasting by one of the fruit sellers (good advertising, that)

market1.jpg

I also discovered that this market, like the ones you find in provincial towns, does not limit itself to food. You can buy generic type hair products, big underpants, cheap cotton dresses, kitchen gadgets, and all kinds of junk when you come to the end of the produce. Auteuil was much too upscale to deal in such silly, fun stuff.

market2.jpg

So I will be going back to my market a lot more frequently now. I was glad to have the chance to get to know it a little better with half of Paris on holiday - it seems less imposing somehow now. On the other hand, come September you will not see me there on a Saturday. I will take advantage of the fact that my workday begins at eleven in the morning and go on Wednesdays, when hopefully there will be fewer people!

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 1:28 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack
July 24, 2004
Pesto

mortar and pestoA million years ago, when Meg in Paris and I were roomies in a coachhouse on Seminary Avenue in Chicago, we had a concrete planter out front. At this point in time my culinary capabilities extended to boiling water. And I didn't always know what to use that water for - my girlfriend at the time laughed for seven minutes solid when I asked how to cook frozen ravioli. Boiling just didn't seem right at the time.

Now, I mention the planter because in that planter, Meg in Paris (who was then just Meg in Chicago, planning to go to Paris possibly) planted a variety of basils. We had lemon basil, purple basil, Italian basil, you name it. At the end of the season, Meg made a big batch of pesto, which I instantly fell in love with. Thanks to my limited skills, I assumed she'd used some sort of voodoo to make the basil in our garden turn into pesto in my belly.

Until tonight, I'd never tried making pesto. When the farmer's market my wife and I went to this morning had basil on sale, I knew my pesto-making-virginity was soon to end. And it did, deliciously.

Here's the recipe I used, cobbled together from a couple of cookbook recipes and an Internet formula or two:

Pesto

3 cups basil leaves, cleaned very well, spun dry
3 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1/2 cup grated Parmagiano Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
½ cup olive oil
Kosher Salt

Since it was my first time, I fel it was important to do things the old fashioned way, in a mortar with a pestle. I have a mortar and pestle thanks to the old girlfriend mentioned above.

Start by combining the garlic and salt. Mash with mortar and work the salt in to the garlic. Add the pinenuts. Mash and press in a circular motion with the pestle until the garlic, salt, and nuts are all well incorporated.

Add the basil leaves a bunch at a time. You can shred the leaves ahead of time to be more thorough, but I took them whole. Continue working the basil into the mix until you have a mostly uniform paste with no big leaves left. At this point, add the cheeses and mix throughly. I had to transfer the mix to a bowl to do this becasue my mortar had no room. Use a fork to mix the cheeses into the paste. Finally, add the olive oil and mash into the paste with the fork.

Taste for salt. It probably won't need any since the cheeses are pretty salty.

Serve on pasta or spread on crostini and broil. Heck, eat it by the spoonful if you want. It's much better than those store bought pestos and you made it yourself.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 9:01 PM | Comments (60) | TrackBack
I Know What Will Smith Had For Lunch Today

percys.jpg

Fried chicken. And how do I know? Well today's brush with fame for us was lunching at the table next to the Smith family at Percy's Place in the Auteuil area of the 16th in Paris.

Percy's place is a charming American restaurant which used to be just around the corner from us before we moved to the 17th. It is still a charming little restaurant, but now we have to make an effort to go there. As I was in the neighborhood today on a fruitless search for my favourite honey supplier (more on that later) the Critic and I met up for lunch. It has long been our contention that Percy makes the best cheesecake in Paris and you really have to check up on these claims from time to time to make sure they are still true, right?

When we arrived, there was already a large party filling the entire right side of the restaurant, and two small tables filled on the left. We took the one remaining table. (This should give you a measure of what I meant by small: 15 people make Percy's feel like it's really hopping!) The party on the right was a lively one, with lots of laughter and chatter. The first sign we had that something special was happening today was when the server brought out Percy's daughter and wife to meet someone at the big table next to us. Clue number two was when I noticed that the guy with his back to us looked suspiciously like Will Smith.

Being a discreet person, I texted the Critic. "Oh." He raised his eyebrows and looked again at the table next to us. "You might be right!"

In the meantime, we had our menus are were making our choices. It's not a very long menu, with just four or five starters and the same number of main dishes. The Critic chose well; he went for the crab cakes, which were very savoury and not at all greasy, served with a kind of cheese and herb sauce. Myself, I was less happy with the starter, which was chicken wings. I guess since I wrote about buffalo wings recently I was really expecting something greasy, gooey and spicy, preferably with blue cheese on the side. What I was served was a salad with little chicken wing bones, each with a bite-sized piece of meat on the end, fried to a crispness. It was very nice and probably a greater testament to Percy's culinary skills, but I wished I had asked in advance what they were like.

For main dishes, the Critic again beat me to the better dish by ordering a jumbalaya, which was moist and full of flavour. I didn't get a taste of the sausage (he eats fast) but they looked very good. I went for a much less exotic choice: meatloaf with mashed potatoes. The meatloaf was very tasty, with pepper flakes and a rich gravy. The potatoes were delicious. In France one doesn't usually get real mashed potatoes. At best, you get a soupy purée of potatoes (often made with olive oil instead of butter) and at worst you get something from a package. These were lovely potatoes. I'm glad they didn't serve more as I would have eaten it all regardless!

And now we come to the part where Percy's really shines: dessert. When we lived around the corner from Percy's we would sometimes order an entire cheesecake to take away if we had dinner guests. It was not cheap (40 euros) but worth every cent. And it still is. Absolutely delicious. It's light without being gelatinous, rich without being cloying and always served with a fruit coulis that sets off the sweet/tart ratio perfectly. From time to time, they do a seasonal variation on the cheesecake. The Critic tried the Tropical Fruit one today and although he said it was very good I must note that he made an unsuccessful attempt to switch with me halfway through them. I tried his and took mine back. Rumour has it the key lime pie and brownies are also very very good, but unfortunately we are slaves to good cheesecake and will never know.

The atmosphere and service are lovely at Percy's too - Percy himself often comes out to chat when things are quiet in the kitchen and the waiter is friendly and always happy to explain the items on the menu. Today, of course, all three staff members were more than happy to chat about the Smith party and the time that Will came for lunch two years ago when in Paris to promote Men in Black II. This time around, he was promoting I, Robot, which comes out in Paris next Wednesday.

And the Smiths themselves? They seemed a charming group: happy, relaxed and enjoying their time in Paris. Which is partly why we refrained from asking if we could take their picture. (The other part is that we are too shy.) But we know they were there and if you don't believe us you can ask Percy!

Percy's Place
15, rue d'Auteuil 75016 PARIS
01 42 88 53 02
Cost: lunch for two, including starters, mains and dessert and bottled water came to 87 euros. Not cheap, but the food was very good and the cheesecake sublime...

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 8:20 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack
July 23, 2004
Salmon Thyme Hash

Hash tastes a lot better than it looksI've spent the last week in the Northwest United States, visiting Portland and Seattle and have brought back an enthusiasm for the tastes of the Northern Pacific coast.

While in Portland, we breakfasted at Mother's, a popular brunch destination for tourists and native Portlanders (Portlandians? Portlandoise?) alike. I enjoyed a big dish of salmon hash while my wife broke her fast with marionberry waffles.

This isn't the recipe from Mother's, but is my attempt to create a delicious breakfast hash of Omega-3 laden fish and potatoes.

Salmon Hash

1-1½ pounds new potatoes, diced to ½"
3/4 pounds salmon filet, diced to ½"
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
3 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced
½ purple onion, diced to ½"
1 tablespoon capers if desired
salt and pepper

Heat the oil and melt the butter over low-medium heat. Toss the diced potatoes in the skillet until coated with butter and oil. Cover, and let cook for 10 minutes without turning.

After 10 minutes, add the onion, 1 tablespoon thyme, salt and pepper. Toss in pan, pat down, raise heat to medium-high and cook until onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Some potatoes should be getting gbd (golden, brown, and delicious).

Mix cream and mustards together, pour into skillet, toss to coat potatoes. If desired, add capers at this point.

Make a space for the salmon in the side of the pan. Add salmon and 1 tablespoon thyme to space in pan. Toss salmon dice until seared on all sides, then mix with rest of hash. Taste for seasoning, add salt and pepper as needed.

Serve in bowl with last tablespoon of fresh thyme on top.

For extra Pacific Northwest flavor, add 1 cup Wilamette Valley pinot noir wine to hash with the salmon and cook until wine is gone. Alternately, serve with side of fresh blueberries and cream.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 3:25 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack
July 22, 2004
Food Section Digest - July 22, 2004

This week we're doing the digest clockwise through the country.

Up north at the Chicago Tribune, Betsy Noxon believes that if you teach kids about farming, they'll put away their junk food. If you do get the kids interested in cooking, the Tribure has some advice for working with children in the kitchen. The most important things you need to know about wine can be found in the glass, according to Bill Daley. Don't be intimidated, just look, smell, taste, and savour. Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck has several innovative ideas for summer tomatoes: make a pasta sauce, toss them in a salad, or add them to a sandwich.

Julia Moskin of the New York Times reports on the problems of selling local produce in New York, while Pableux Johnson in New Orleans learns about an innovate program to get seniors into farmers markets and Elizabeth Weil visits a market in San Francisco where only the wealthy dare to enter. Providing further evidence of the Time's liberal bias, R. W. Apple Jr. guides Democratic conventioneers through the seafood delicacies of Boston. Has he no care for the Republicans who will be dining at home this weekend? Kay Rentshhler learns to grill fruit, and Mark Bittman takes a breather from his grill to steam some fish and veggies.

In the Washington Post, Alexa Beattie writes of a life marred by failed pies and tarts. When making fruit and flour desserts, Beattie now sticks to easier slumps, grunts, and pandowdies. Lisa Yockelson skips the crust all together and just tosses her summer fruit with a simply syrup. Continuing the fruit theme, Nancy Baggett offers recipes and curious facts about peaches. Did you know that peaches are native to China? Finally Carlos Aranaga shares boyhood memories of red cherries and the first time he saw "real live gringas" and Robin Kline, thinking of something besides dessert, grills bell peppers.

Proving that corporations haven't completely destroyed culinary diversity in the U.S.A., Lydia Martin writes in the Miami Herald about the Latin American sodas favored by Floridians. Serving up more Latin flavors, Linda Cicero offers a recipe for avocado pie and Renee Schettler serves up a shrimp cocktail soaked in rum. Candy Sagon interviews Southern food expert John Edge, who claims in Friend Chicken: An American Story that Northerners can make fine fried chicken. I'll believe that, but what kind of fried chicken do they make in South Florida?

Down in New Orleans, Judy Walker of the Times-Picayune teaches readers how to cook like a chef. Home cook Luther Ward already knows these tips, judging by his recipe for crawfish étouffée.

Heirloom tomatoes have started to appear in supermarkets, according to Russ Parsons of the Los Angeles Times. Will they lose their unique appeal as they become more widely available? Regina Schrambiling, burned out on the simple goodness of summer produce, has started to stuff her vegetables.

Dressing up kids food as a gourmet treat, Amanda Berne of the San Francisco Chronicle makes homemade ice cream sandwiches.

Next week we'll do the digest counter-clockwise. 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? E-mail us and let us 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.

Posted by Todd in New Orleans at 5:29 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack
Salad Days

cropped salad.jpgMain Entry: salad days
Function: noun plural : time of youthful inexperience or indiscretion ; also : an early flourishing period : HEYDAY (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

Summer has been very late getting going here in Paris but it finally seems to have arrived. As a result, I am now in the mood to take advantage of all the fresh vegetables that are now available in the markets. The fact that I am not allowed to eat salads at lunch in restaurants (because of the chance they might not be well-washed) means that I'm doubly eager to make myself a salad for dinner. As a salad doesn't really qualify as a complicated recipe (and it's darned difficult to be truly original) I'm grouping two of them together here: No-Work Buffalo Wing Salad (above) and Summer Cobb Salad.

No-Work Buffalo Wing Salad

Whenever I am back in the US, I love ordering buffalo wings. They have to be spicy, they usually are greasy and they must be accompanied by blue cheese dressing and celery. However, there is no denying they are a messy pain in the behind to eat. This salad, then, is my attempt to reproduce some of the elements that make buffalo wings delicious while not involving hundreds of napkins. Unfortunately, it also means you lose some of the flavour and much of the charm, but you can't have everything in this world. Salads should also be simple and quick to make, and this recipe is both.

Ingredients (makes two large salads)

2 chicken breasts
1/3 cup of your favourite barbecue sauce
several dashes of Tabasco (to taste)
a few dashes of celery salt

1/2 cup sweet corn
lettuce (mix of romaine and iceberg)
2 medium tomatoes
several slices of roasted, marinated peppers

1/3 cup blue cheese
1 heaping Tbs mayonnaise
1 heaping Tbs crème fraiche
1 Tbs sherry vinegar
1 Tbs Marsala wine
Several good grindings of pepper

Mix together the barbecue sauce with the Tobasco and celery salt and set the chicken breasts to marinate in it for at least fifteen minutes. In the meantime, prepare the other vegetables (chopping tomatoes, tearing lettuce, etc.). Prepare the dressing by mixing the last six ingredients. You may want to add a tablespoon or two of water to make it a thinner consistency. Slap your chicken on a grill or grill pan and start assembling the salad with all the other ingredients. I put the dressing on the salad before the chicken as it looked prettier and also meant that the chicken wasn't drowned in blue cheese. Turn the chicken breasts a few times to get some nice grill marks and when it is done remove from the pan and slice in thin strips. Sprinkle over the salad and serve!


Summer Cobb Salad

Actually, the nebulous connection between this recipe and a true Cobb salad is the lettuce...and the chicken breast meat. Otherwise I just threw together some things that were in the fridge that seemed like they would go well with these two. Since I started making sandwiches for lunch more often a couple of months ago I have discovered how useful it is to have a bit of lunch meat in the fridge. It's great as a midnight snack, goes well on salads and sometimes (if it's pork-based) is great wrapped around another piece of protien. But I digress...

Ingredients

summer cobb.jpgStrips of chicken lunch meat
Sweet corn
Lettuce
Baby Spinach
Tomatoes (cubed)
Feta cheese (crumbled)
Thin slices of fresh red pepper
1 heaping tsp grain mustard
1 Tbs vinegar
1 Tbs chopped frozen basil
1/3 cup olive oil
pinch of salt
lots of freshly ground pepper

Layer the first seven ingredients on your plate prettily. Put the remaining six ingredients in a small jar and shake, shake, shake. Drizzle this dressing over your salad and enjoy!


Here's to the heyday of salad vegetables!

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 9:16 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
July 21, 2004
Eggplant with Miso

eggplant miso.jpg

I am afraid that the above photo is not going to win any food photography awards. However, I sometimes wonder whether the famed Japanese obsession with plating and garnishing food doesn't come from the fact that some of their dishes are just inherently ugly. This is one of those examples. Looks like something invented for an episode of the original Star Trek series ("Captain, it's a Cardassian delicacy, reknowned for it's reproductive qualities..."), but actually it tastes very good.

Our friends Stacey and Wyatt (the ones who spent 18 months in Japan recently for those who are following the storyline) served these when we went to their new apartment recently for shabu-shabu. It was a delicious meal all around, but I was especially intrigued by the dish of eggplant and miso rounds, as it was something I've never tasted before. Also, I am always on the lookout for new eggplant recipes: I love them, but get tired of the same old preparation methods. So the very next day I wrote Wyatt to ask for the recipe. Wyatt answered that although he had made them, his recipe was "follow Wife's instructions" and I would have to ask Stacey. When she promptly obliged I was extremely pleased as it meant I could make them as a starter for my own Japanese-themed dinner last weekend.

So, without further ado, here is the recipe for Stacey's delicious

Japanese Aubergine Rounds with Miso

8 Japanese-sized eggplants or 2 American ones
1/3 cup vegetable or olive oil
4 tablespoons white sesame seeds
4 tablespoons sweet miso*
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons sweet cooking rice wine (mirin)

Cut off the stems and tops of the eggplants and cut them in halves (if Japanese-sized) or cut them crosswise in 1.5 cm thick slices (if American-sized). Score skin if extra big pieces. Heat oil in pan and saute eggplants on both sides until browned and soft. Arrange them with skin side down on a platter. You may have to do this in batches if all the eggplant won't fit in your frying pan at once. Let cool.

Toast and grind the sesame seeds to a smooth texture. Add the miso, sugar and mirin. Stir. Spread the mixture evenly over each of the eggplant parts. Serve at room temperature.

* Sweet miso is light yellow in color and the labels on the containers usually have a yellow bit.

The only advice I can add to Stacey's recipe is to drain the eggplant well. The ones we had at their place seemed less greasy than the ones I made and I think that may have been because I was too stingy with the paper towels.

The mixture of the nuttiness of the eggplant flesh with the sweet nuttiness of the miso is absolutely delicious. And, as I mentioned in the Is My Blog Burning? entry, I was able to use some more of the sweet miso in the marinade for the chicken breast. Now I just have to figure out what to do with the rest of the tub of miso...which is still 90% full...

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 9:02 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack
July 20, 2004
Cuckoo for Cocoa Cake

If you've had the good fortune to eat at the Chicago Vegetarian Diner, you may have tried the cocoa cake with chocolate mousse frosting. The cake is richly flavored and hides well it's Vegan origins. I've modified the original recipe to change out the wheat pastry flour for unnatural bleached pastry flour. I've also added a suggestion I haven't tried yet, but plan to try next time out.

The vegan chocolate mousse, which is used as the frosting, is perfect. I've never had "real" chocolate mousee that compares. This recipe makes a big batch. Serve the rest in layers in wine glasses with fresh whipped cream flavored with a bit of vanilla extract.

Cocoa Cake (based on Chicago Diner's Cocoa Cake)
Dry:
1 ¼ cup unbleached flour
1 cup pastry four, plus a big pinch
½ cup cocoa
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon baking powder

Wet:
1 ¾ cups maple syrup
1 cup water
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white vinegar
2 tbsp applesauce or mashed banana*

Oil an 8-inch cake pan. Preheat the oven to 350º F.
Sift the dry ingredients together in one bowl. Mix the wet ingredients in a second bowl with a whick. Slowly add the dry to the wet until lumps have disappeared and the mix is smooth.

Pour the batter into the cake pan, bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out smooth, between 30-40 min. Cool in pan. Run a knife around the edge to prevent sticking. Turn cake over to cool on cookie rack until room temperature before frosting.

Frost with Chicago Diner Vegan Chocolate Mousse (below).

*I have not tried the addition of the banana or applesauce, but the cake tastes like it would benefit from it. If you omit this ingredient, remove the pinch of pastry flour.

Chicago Diner Vegan Chocolate Mousse
4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups plain soymilk
2 tablespoons maple syrup
12 oz. drained firm tofu
1 teaspoon orange or mint extract (optional)

Melt chocolate chips in the top of a double boiler or in a metal bowl over a saucepan with an inch of water in the bottom.

Mix the tofu, soymilk, and maple syrup in a blender. Add the melted chips and extract (if desired), blend, and chill. It will firm up as it chills.

Once chilled, use to frost cocoa cake above.

This mousse recipe is close to verbatim from the Chicago Diner Cookbook and I wouldn't change a thing.

If you've never drained tofu, cut the brick of tofu out of its package, and place it on top of three or four folded paper towels. Place three or four paper towels on top of that, a book or other flat hard surface on top of that, and a can of tomatoes on top of that. You don't want to crush the tofu (i.e. don't use the Oxford English Dictionary as the book), but you do want to press the water out of the tofu for 15-30 minutes before you use it.

My spooky black cat likes the cake.

No, he's not missing an ear, he just won't sit still.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 11:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
July 19, 2004
You Call that Criticism?

Trusted food critics can be great guides to new places, but isn't it more fun to rail at their ignorance when they give your favorite spot a one star review? Philip Innes, writing for Slammed Magazine, tries to sort out which New York City critics deserve fame and which only bring shame to their publications.

The exhaustive chart he produces gives his survey an air of scientific objectivity, but in the end he only asks critics for three simple qualities: knowledge and curiosity about food, the ability to pull together well-structured prose, and fairness. In the food and media capitol of America, however, many professionals aren't meeting these minimal standards. According to Innes, "The chief reason so many people think they could do what we critics do is that so many of us do it so badly."

For anyone living outside of New York, Innes analysis of every New York Times regional critic may get tedious, but his copious examples of good and bad reviews provides a useful tutorial on how to be a restaurant critic. Put your local food critics to test and see how they stack up against the best New York has to offer.

Posted by Todd in New Orleans at 6:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Is My Blog Burning? Round-up of the 6th Edition

I have to say I'm truly impressed by the response to this edition of Is My Blog Burning? We have reached 35 entries and I am assured that there are still a few more that will be coming in over the next day. Congratulations and thanks to you all! For those of us lucky enough to have the space for an actual grill, this edition was only limited by our willingness to brave the elements. However, as Josh of The Food Section pointed out, the options for city dwellers are fairly limited:

1. Indoor grilling using a cast iron grill pan.
2. Public grilling at a...City park.
3. Emigration to suburbia.

Josh made the effort to penetrate suburbia and grill at his mother-in-law's house. Our friend Elise (of Simply Recipes) actually went out and bought a grill pan - what dedication! And then there were those (like my own Critic) who had to brave the elements or risked creating a fire hazard. Anthony of Spiceblog travelled hundreds of miles and Alison of general jinjur's journal has a lovely picture she took of the grill as she "stood outside staring at the fire with a gin & tonic until i was absolutely sure i wasn't going to burn the house down", which I loved!

On to the summary of our entries so far!

The first lot we will be exploring are those that I thought had the most innovative or imaginative ingredients. (I must point out, of course that ALL the recipes were imaginative in one way or another!!) Amy of Cooking with Amy used pomegranite syrup in her Mideastern-inspired Lamb kebabs. I was intrigued by Jun's Honeyed Bacon and Banana Bites which sounded delicious. Then there was Redbeard who gave us tips on how to grill oysters. I absolutely adore raw oysters and so have never been tempted to cook them, but now that I'm off the raw fish I am eager to try them grilled! Anthony of the aforementioned spiceblog enriched my culinary vocabulary with his references to yabbies and gnarly Mallie roots and had my mouth watering with his beautiful photos. (Visit his site for definitions and explanations, as he wisely included informative links!) Next, Irene of Cuisine Capers introduced us to an Argentinian sauce called Chimichurri, which sounded delightful on beef tenderloin with grilled vegetables.

Continuing with the ethnic trend, Santos contributed a traditional recipe from Guam in celebration of the 60th anniversary of Guam's liberation, Chicken Kelaguen, a lovely mix of grilled chicken, coconut milk, lemon and peppers. Deb from Murray Hill gave us the recipe for savoury Char Siu Bao (Barbecue Roast Pork Bun). And another Asian delicacy was posted by Mik of l'Art de Vivre: Pulut Panggang, which has the original idea of grilling rice (before you ask, they use banana leaves to wrap the rice and filling!). Renée, who hosted IMBB? 4 contributed her recipe for Char Siew or Chinese Sweet Barbecued Pork, which looks absolutely delicious. Moving away from Asia, Josh of the Food Section treated us to an Italian (I think?) recipe called Pollo al Mattone, or as he prefers to call it, Chicken under a Stone. Our own Italian Alberto of Il Forno treated us to a typical Thuringer delicacy of Rostbraetl, which is made of thin slices of bork neck marinated in onion, beer and mustard before being grilled. (Alberto is also, of course, the reason we are all her, being the originator of the IMBB concept - thanks!!)

It was no surprise to me to find that Dr. Biggles of Meathenge opted to participate in this edition of IMBB, as grilling seems to be something of a creed on his site! His post gave enlightening instructions on properly Smoking and then Eating Your Meat. We were also unsurprised to see any entry from Dave of the Weber Grill Cam, for his leg of lamb on the grill. Lenn of Lenndevours gave us another treated-meat treat with his Allspice Brined Grilled Pork Chops with Mango-Habernero BBQ Sauce and Mango-Apple-Corn Salsa. Derrick from An Obsession with Food contributed a Barbecued Brisket to the feast, with useful information on the preparation of the different parts of this cut of meat. I also appreciated the tip on how to prepare it more quickly if you don't have 10-12 hours to spare to slow cook it! Charlotte gave us several recipes for our delight, including Central Coast Barbecue Tri-Tip, Lamb on a Stick and Skewered Lamb with Coriander Yogurt. I learned another new word from Jo when I visited the Amuse Bouche site: spatchcocked! Her Spatchcocked Buttermilk Chicken sounds delicious and it's a great word to confuse people with. Cathy, from my little kitchen invented Birthday Chicken, a wonderful mix of fresh herbs, garlic and piment d'espelette. Ann-Marie from the fresh vegetables site gave us her recipe for Grilled Pork Tacos, which must have been lovely with the accompanying mango slaw!

In a more traditional vein (although always with creative departures) we had a few entries for hamburgers. Jim's Famous Hamburger Recipe was posted on elise's Simply Recipes and looked absolutely delicious in the photo. Then Owen from Tomatillo gave us four varieties of hamburger: BLT, ground turkey with cranberries (may I suggest the Thanksgiving burger, or is that too cliché?), the Greek Lamb Burger and the Kashmiri Burger.

We received quite a few recipes for fish or seafood dishes. We'll start with Foodgoat and Ladygoat who prepared grilled shrimp and (very exciting!) grilled soft-shell crab. Walker New York Eats grilled shrimp for us as well, this time with a fragrant tomato jam sauce and accompanying grilled flatbread. (Incidentally, Barrett of TMC included grilled bread in his entry - I must try this myself one of these days!) However, I'm not sure we are up to the Walker NY Eats standard of photography - a beautiful photo with this entry! The Upside-Down Pear also joined us (for the first time - welcome!) with a recipe for Theoretical Grilled Shrimp. Bill from Red Fusion gave us a new twist on two traditional New Orleans dishes: Barbecue Shrimp Toast. It sounds delicious and much less work than unpeeled barbecue shrimp! Seattle Bon Vivant treated us to a speciality of the Pacific Northwest with Grilled Yukon River King Salmon with Heirloom Tomato-Basil Salad and Steamed Purple & Yellow Haricots.

Salmon featured in a sandwich prepared by the Accidental Hedonist, with cheese, spinach and wasabi mayonnaise on foccacia bread, very elegant! Christine of I like to do stuff...also sent us a sandwich with grilled vegetables, something that Barrett and his lovely wife will no doubt appreciate! Alison of the General jinjur's journal site also had an interesting take on the grilled vegetable sandwich, with grilled radicchio and cheese.

Only two chefs addressed the gender gap involved in grilling, so I thought they deserved a special mention. Donna of There's a Chef in My Kitchen did some research and proudly presented us with her first (and very successful) experience with grilling: Asian Glazed Grill-Roasted Chicken. The Domestic Goddess handed over the reins to her man (while modestly down-playing the work she contributed) for a Grilled Salad. And as for myself, I neglected to mention in my entry yesterday that my own (male) Critic did "all the work" of cooking our yakitori. Vive la différence!

We had only two entries that were clearly not main dishes, so I thought I would put them together. Martine of Les Banlieusardes (Suburblicious in English) gave us a delicious recipe for grilled marinated bell peppers. I love the photo of the roasted peppers nestling in their jar! And Elsa of Macbebekin treated us to a lovely dessert of stone fruit in a pouch. A wonderful idea for fruit that is not quite too ripe - I'm definitely going to try it!

Lastly, Clotilde of Chocolate & Zucchini (and erstwhile IMBB hostess) was sadly unable to locate a grill but she made up for it by tasting the wonders of a Moroccan grill in the restaurant Le Dattier. She gives us a mouth-watering review for this edition.

Oops, a couple of late entries: Cassandra from Adventures in Cooking gives us A thoroughly green grilled dinner! and Jeanne has generously completely rewritten her lost entry Stuffed beef fillet on the braai on Cook Sister. Thanks ladies!

(Barrett here: The advantage of having the Too Many Chefs on two continents is that when one has to sleep the other is up and typing.) But wait, there's more! Kris at Bread & Coffee sizzled up some steak fajitas. That's Mmmmexican food at its finest. Petra at Chili und Ciabatta prepared a beautiful meal of Spanish Pinchos Muronos (Pork with Moorish Seasonings), Pa Amb Tomàquet (Catalan Tomato Bread), and a Spanish grilled vegetable salad. Deenie at winterjade's appropriately named Delectation grillpans a few of my favorite things in her Grilled Halibut, Scallops, & Baby Bok Choy with Garlic Black Bean Sauce. I've just been turned on to baby boks and I love the idea of grilling them.

Johanna at the Passionate Chef anticipated the IMBB? by a bit (umm... three months?) and has asked us to point out the Lemon Grilled Mozarella and Tasty Lamb Burgers and Stuffed Seabass and Achiote Chicken entries on her site. As a semi-veg-head, I can't really appreciate the lamb or chicken, but the sea bass looks great and I'm definitely trying the mozarella recipe.

Kelli, of Culinary Epiphanies also sent her entry with photos and recipes for her grilled dinner, including Bruschetta Kabobs, Eggplant Parmesan Mini Pizzas and Fruit Kabobs with Ginger Dip. All very original and tasty recipes!

Keep those entries coming in...we'll update again tomorrow if necessary!

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 9:08 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack
July 18, 2004
Is My Blog Burning? On the Grill?

yakitori.jpg

Welcome to the latest edition of Is My Blog Burning? hosted by yours truly, Too Many Chefs. For those of you out there who are still unfamiliar with this event (there must be someone somewhere surely?) you can visit our description of this edition or visit Alberto's site Il Forno to read about the original event. The entries are already flooding into our mailbox and it's going to be a busy but enjoyable day for us tomorrow going through them all and posting the links for your reading pleasure. But in the meantime, here is my entry...Japanese Grilling.

The Critic has only recently discovered the joys of good sushi. Initially, this was a great development for me, as I have loved it ever since my introduction to raw fish in Hyde Park, Chicago, in 1986. Initially, when we went for Japanese food the pattern was always the same: sushi or sashimi for me, brochettes (yakitori) for the Critic. But, as I say, he got over the raw fish phobia in the last year or two and one of the first good restaurants we discovered near our new apartment last year was Japanese.

Now, of course, the tables have turned and I'm the one who has to order yakitori at the Japanese restaurant. (See our announcement, if this confuses you.) And, as a result, I've gotten more interested in the various kebabs that are available and curious about making them. So this was my choice for the event this time around: authentic yakitori on the grill.

A little web research left me a lot confused, though. If you search for yakitori on its own you'll only find chicken recipes, but then if you do a search on "beef yakitori" you'll find a number of recipes. I decided to drop the "authentic" qualification and just settle for a lot of Japanese-inspired yakitori-type kebabs. I had planned on doing a fish version with either scallops or shrimp, but unfortunately the fish shop was closed for lunch when I tried to get some. So in the end I had four varieties: classic chicken yakitori, miso chicken, a vegetable mix and beef and cheese.

The marinades:

Classic Chicken Yakitori. I pinched this recipe from this site. It was very tasty and included nothing too exotic for me to find easily at the store: leeks, soy sauce, sake, mirin or sherry, sugar, ginger, garlic and scallions. I heated up the leftover marinade to boiling and served it as a sauce with the yakitori.

Grilled Miso Chicken Yakitori. This recipe, from Japanese Cooking for the American Table by Susan Fuller Slack, had two advantages: a) it was an original idea and b) it called for sweet miso, which I wanted to buy anyway for an accompanying dish, eggplants with miso paste (see a future post for the recipe!). The ingredients took a little more effort in the way of a trip to the Japanese food store for sweet miso paste (yellow label). The rest of the ingredients were fairly common: soy sauce, sake, mirin, green onions, ginger root, garlic and chicken. I skipped the optional seven-spice powder because I didn't realize I needed it until I got back from the store. (And I promptly kicked myself thoroughly because I had actually picked up a packet out of curiousity in the store and put it back as I didn't know when I would use it!) This marinade tasted lovely before adding the chicken and was also very good on the yakitori. However, it did have a disconcerting tendency to go a little pink-ish in the cooking, and I think this is why there were a couple of them left at the end of the evening. They were cooked, I swear! I varied from the recipe in three regards: breast meat instead of thigh, yakitori instead of grilled whole pieces and adding chunks of eggplant and leek to the sticks. All worked very well.

Vegetable Yakitori. I haven't actually seen any vegetable yakitori in any Japanese restaurant, but the essence of this event is creativity, right? I happen to think that vegetables are great when cooked on the grill, so I decided to do my own thing. I threaded shitake mushrooms, shallots, eggplant, zucchini and red pepper on the sticks and marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, mirin and toasted sesame seeds. They turned out very well, but I have to admit that shitake mushrooms do not benefit as much as white ones do from grilling. I think it's probably because they have so much more flavour to begin with: they don't need the extra intensity. In any case, it was by no means a loss!

Beef and Cheese Yakitori. These little babies are ubiquitous in Paris Japanese restaurants. After a lot of searching I am sadly coming to the conclusion that they may not actually be Japanese in origin, just one of those things that the local population has adopted because French people love them. (The cheese naan in Indian restaurants here are like that too - nothing like them appears in England or the US and most probably India either!) Anyway, I love them. Even in my sushi-eating days I was inclined to get a side order of them. Since I could not find a recipe I had to make this one up and I think I may have even improved on the original. The recipe is as follows: cut abondance cheese (or any other dense, not too flavourful yellow cheese) into sticks about 3/4 cm by 3/4 cm by about half the length of your stick. Wrap 3-4 slices of carpaccio beef around the cheese, overlapping at either end. Marinate in a mix of soy sauce, a splash of mirin, toasted sesame seeds and dried red pepper flakes. They do not need long to cook on the grill, just until the cheese has melted - by then the meat will be cooked.

Here is a photo of the miso chicken and beef and cheese yakitori marinating (you can see the remainder of the classic yakitori marinade, the yakitori already being on the grill):

marinated yaks.jpg

If you click here, you can see a photo of the miso chicken grilling on my grill pan (we divided the cooking indoors and out to get it done more quickly!). I would like to point out to another member of the TMC crew that despite the black grill marks you see on the chicken here, it STILL stuck to the grill. (In an earlier exchange about salmon teriyaki I got some smug advice on what Alton Know-It-All says about food not sticking if you leave it long enough so that it has black marks and essentially burns on the grill bars...)

This is a picture of the cheese and beef yakitori...mmmmmm....

And lastly, a photo of the table before we sat down and devoured. Yakitori make a nice dinner for guests in that you can make lots and lots of little servings and the guests can then pick and choose the ones they like best without feeling rude. With the yakitori we had rice (cooked with a splash of mirin and a smaller splash of rice wine vinegar and it got sticky - yay it works!), some of the "orange" pickle that Stacey recommended when we went to the Japanese store (it was okay, not as good as the pink), pickled ginger, soy sauce with wasabi (probably not authentic but good with yakitori anyway), eggplants with miso paste and a salad of tomatoes, cucumber and toasted sesame seeds. I should have taken a photo of our friends Tony, Sandra and Michael, who served as willing guinea pigs for the pseudo-Japanese dinner - sorry!

Check in tomorrow for all the exciting things the rest of our friends found to grill and barbecue!

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 1:33 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack
IMBB? 6 - I Know How Much Smoke My Apartment Holds

In the run-up to Is My Blog Burning? - Griller's Delight, I decided to grill an entire meal for four. My mother-in-law Rosalind McFall, her friend Susan Self (names added at RM's request), my wife, and I dined on the products of the grillpan. The dessert wasn't grilled, but fits in with the summery/grill/barbecue theme. Any of these dishes could be done on a standard grill.

The three items grilled for today's IMBB? were Grilled Tarragon and Thyme Flatbread, Asparagus with Sesame Seeds, and Seared Tuna with Mango and Red Onions.

About halfway through the asparagus, I realized the disadvantage of grilling in a room with no ventilation and a window recently painted shut.

My wife (whose heroic feet are seen kneeling on the butcherblock table in the photo above as she works on opening the window) shooed asthmatic me out of the room right after I'd come back in for the second air filter and started coughing. Her efforts chipped open our window and got the room ventilated and filtered.


Heroic air filter

Chastised, I turned the heat down to medium and continued the grilling.

Grilled Tarragon and Thyme Flatbread
½ cup warm water
½ teaspoon yeast
pinch of sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried tarragon
1 tablespoon mix of fresh tarragon and thyme, chopped

Proof your yeast by dissolving a pinch of sugar in the warm water. Sprinkle the yeast on top. Wait ten minutes. If mix is not foamy and there is no evidence of yeast activity, discard and try again with different yeast.

Combine live water/yeast/sugar mix with flour, oil, salt, dried thyme, and dried tarragon. Mix together until a dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead until smooth and springy. Place ball of dough ina lightly oiled bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and put in a warm place for 30 minutes to rise.

Reflour surface lightly, turn dough out, and divide dough in four equal parts. Roll out four parts into flat oblongs. Brush both sides with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with fresh thyme/tarragon mix. Grill each oblong 1 minute. Turn oblong 90 degrees and grill 1 minute more. Flip and repeat.

As flatbread comes off grill, salt to taste.

Asparagus with Sesame Seeds
1 lb. thin Asparagus spears
½ cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
¼ cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon sesame seeds.

Whisk together soy sauce, sesame oil, lemon juice, and sesame seeds. Place asparagus in small loaf pan or other handy marinating vessel. Pour marinade over asparagus. Marinate at least 30 minutes, turning occasionally to make sure all asparagus gets marinated.

Put the asparagus on the grill perpendicular to the grate. Grill until tender, turning occasionally to get all sides of the spears. Serve with marinade on side as a sauce.


Click for enormous smoky asparagus spears

Seared Tuna With Mango and Red Onions
Marinade
1 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 cup orange juice
2 tablespoon sesame oil

Dish
2 12 oz. sushi-grade tuna filet.
2 large red onions, sliced very thin (I use a kitchen mandolin)
2 large mangos, peeled and cut to ½" dice
12 cups baby greens

Whisk marinade ingredients together and divide into two bowls. Marinate tuna in one bowl, onions in the other for 30 minutes or more.

Get grill pan or grill nice and hot. Place tuna filets on the grill pan carefully. Discard marinade from tuna bowl. Sear filets for 45 seconds, turn 90 degrees, sear 15 seconds longer. Turn filets over, sear 45 seconds, turn 90 degrees, sear 15 seconds longer. Set filets aside to rest at least 2 minutes.

Toss mango, greens, and 2-3 tbsp marinade from onions in a big bowl.

Slice tuna filets against the grain into 1/2" strips.

Spread greens/mango evenly over platter. Place tuna on top of greens, put red onions on top of that. Serve immediately.

And so we did...

From the yummy noises that ensued ("Didn't you just make a yummy noise?") I think the meal was a hit. The stuff on the left in that picture is the flatbread, by the way. The tuna slices are buried in the middle of the enormous salad platter.

Our dessert was a delicious strawberry/rhubarb thing poured over vanilla ice cream that my mother-in-law put together. It was the perfect dish to finish an eventful meal.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 1:04 AM | Comments (21) | TrackBack
July 17, 2004
Meatless fajitas

fajita Vegetables
We've got another recipe inspired by the Chicago Diner Cookbook - Meatless Fajitas, based on the Chicago Diner's "No Meat-a Fajitas".

Fajita originate with the Mexican ranch hands of south Texas. As the Iowa Beef Industry Council tells us, "fajita" comes from the Spanish word "faja" - belt or girdle. The girdle of the cow (actually the cow's diaphragm) and other less desirable cuts of meat were given to Mexican cattle hands in Texas as partial payment for their work with the cows.

This vegetarian version substitutes seitan for the beef, and achieves a great flavor and texture.

Fajitas with Seitan, based on the Chicago Diner's "No Meat-a Fajitas"
Marinade:
&frac13 cup lemon juice
¼ cup light oil
3 cups water
&frac13 cup tequila
½ cup chopped cilantro
½ cup chopped parsley
1 jalapeno, seeded, white membrane removed, sliced*
2 cloves finely chopped garlic
2-3 thinly sliced scallions.
2 tablespoons cumin
2 teaspoons salt

*leave the seeds and membranes of the jalapeno intact if you like it hot.

Filling:
2 tbsp oil
1 white onion, halved, cut in wedges
1 green bell pepper, deseeded, cut in strips
1 red bell pepper, deseeded, cut in strips
1 yellow or orange bell pepper, cut in strips
2 portabello mushroom caps, cut in &frac13 strips
16 oz. seitan, cut into strips
1 16 oz. jar salsa - your choice

flour tortillas

Mix the marinade ingredients together. The original calls for the marinade to be blended together. I prefer to whisk, and leave the aromatics intact. Put the mushrooms and seitan in the marinade and let sit for at leat an hour or overnight.

seitan in marinade

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a BIG skillet over medium-high heat. If you don't have a really big skillet, you may need to do this recipe in batches in the skillet you do own. Even in a big skillet, you may feel like you don't have much room to work with until the vegetables start to collapse from the heat. Keep going, you'll get room.

When the oil starts to shimmer, add the seitan. Fry the seitan in the skillet until it begins to take on some brown color. Add the mushrooms, peppers, and onion and stir to mix the vegetables with the seitan. Cook for two minutes. Add the salsa.

Cook for an additional 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are al dente or a little crisp, but mostly softened.

Serve in tortillas with a cold margarita on the rocks.

fajitas in the skillet

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 9:40 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack
July 16, 2004
Door County, Part 3 - Cherry Wine and Fish Boils, but No Cheese

When we were in Door County, we stopped at the Door Peninsula Winery that specializes in fruit wines. We spent the $1.50 to take the tour of the facilities, which wasn't the most exciting thing I've ever done, but then we got to sample the wines.

I was skeptical. I've had fruit wines before and they always reminded me of the premium select versions of Mad Dog or Night Train, better used to ward off muggers than to actually drink. I selected a dry cherry wine and sipped.

Wine. It tasted like a good California wine, but with a cherry base rather than a grape base. I sampled the Cranbernet made from Cabernet grapes and Cranberries, the Chesum Plum wine, and many many others. Some were not to my liking at all - the Hallowine tasted like drinking sweetened fall potpourri - but many were quite good. Even the port they make is good, if underaged. Put that port away for ten years and it'll be solid.

We bought bottles of the Dry Cherry Wine, the Cranbernet, and a French Columbard that was light and full of pear and lychee flavors. In the U.S. as a whole, only 3% of the wines sold are fruit wines, but in Wisconsin, 75% of the wine sold is non-grape based. After trying the wines at this schoolhouse turned winery in Door County, I understand why.

We missed one of the great Wisconsin traditions by departing on a Saturday morning and not being in the Badger state on Friday - the fish boil. Whitefish, potatoes, and onions are boiled in a cauldron of salty water. When the food is just about ready the boilmaster tosses kerosene on the coals and the heat from the flare-up causes the water to boil over the edges, dousing the flames and carrying off the fish oil that's floated to the top of the cauldron. The cauldron is then carried on two rods to the serving area where coleslaw and rye bread are added. Dessert is a Door County cherry pie. This site has a nice photo essay on the boil and a scaled-down recipe from the Viking Grill in Ephriam. (A typical boil serves dozens, so the scaling back is much appreciated).

One thing we did not see a lot of in Door County was cheese. For a long while, my mother-in-law (who was driving) didn't even see herds and herds of cows at every other farm. It became a bit of a joke, "I'm here in Wisconsin, and we haven't seen ANY cows".

We did see a lot of Land O' Lakes signs which tells me most of the milk in Eastern Wisconsin is headed to butter factories. The cheese makers must be mainly in the western and northern parts of the state.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 6:45 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack
July 15, 2004
Food Section Digest - July 15, 2004

The best first line of the week goes to Julia Watson at the Washington Post, " Try wheeling a dead pig in a supermarket cart down Connecticut Avenue and see what it does for crowd clearance," in a story about roasting a pig in a wooden box called a Caja China. Renee Schettler writes up a recipe for a simple avocado sandwich that I'll be trying soon.

William Mullen at the Chicago Tribune warns that not all the fish sold as red snapper is actually red snapper. There's a nice graphic to help you identify your snapper. Chicago sailor Mike Esposito discusses the difficulties and delights of cooking on board a boat in the middle of Lake Michigan.

Paul's already touched on the Eric Asimov piece on the pricing of wine in restaurants in the New York Times. Dana Bowen talks to Peter Hoffman, a chef who is using deliciously salty anchovies in everything. Sometimes he uses a bit of lemon. The tart fruit is the subject of a piece by Johnathon Reynolds in the magazine this week.

In the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Marcelle Bienvenu laments that promising yourself you won't can, pickle, or preserve any of the fruits or vegetables from a beautiful summer is a fool's errand. Sarah Brown discovers the hunting camps that preserve Southern Louisiana heritage through such dishes as Redfish on the Half-Shell, Bacon-wrapped Deer-backstrap, and squirrel stew.

Shirley O. Corriher, in an article published at the Hartford Courant, explores the mysteries of fruit ripening, and rewards us with a recipe for fresh fruit in a ginger syrup. Linda Giuca and Christopher Prosperi also have a recipe for a jazzed up fruit salad with rum and toasted nuts, and it looks like it's a keeper.

In South Florida, the Miami Herald shares a story about, and a recipe for the confidently named dessert - Food of the Gods. The Herald is big on short, to the point food stories like Maricel E. Presilla's piece on albóndigas, or Latin meatballs, including a recipe for Ground Turkey Meatballs in cilantro-mint sauce (Albóndigas de Pavo Morunas en Salsa de Cilantro y Menta). One article that should be useful as you try the recipes from this Sunday's Is My Blog Burning- Griller's Delight is Doug Blackburn's piece, Barbecue is made for brews. I usually just look at the thermometer and adjust my beer accordingly (when it's above 90º out, the taste of a cold Old Style improves a lot).

The L.A. Times this week has gone French on us in celebration of Bastille Day with a picnic. Charles Perry believes Los Angeleans have the French immigrants to thank for kicking off the city's food and wine culture. Daniel Young finds part of the French culture involves easing into a meal with an apertif. French chefs (and fine chefs) everywhere are apparently driven batty by Food TV and the wild success of untrained food celebs like Rachel Ray, reports Corie Brown.

The San Francisco Chronicle's site goes Thai instead of French with recipes for Nam Prik, Thailand's "salsa".

In Sydney, at the Morning Herald's site, Luke Managan is eating salads, which he calls Lean, Green Machines. Can't you just hear that phrase with a broad Aussie accent?

Rick LaPointe in the Japan Times online bemoans the rise of convenience store foods and tests processed o-musubi (filled rice balls) from the local konbini.

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? E-mail me 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.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 10:06 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
Food Torture

Last night we were invited by our Australian friends Mike and Sally to join them for dinner and drinks and to watch the 14th of July fireworks displays from their ideally-situated balcony. (The Australian embassy, where they live, is very close to the Eiffel Tower and has a great view. The entire building is taken over every year by parties as the generous Australians open their doors to all their Paris friends.) It was a lovely dinner: a salad with lightly cooked scallops and an Asian dressing, roast chicken and lamb with potatoes and gravy, perfectly cooked green beans. But the pièce de résistance, was the cheese platter. Two large cheese platters, to be exact, dripping with gooey, smelly, tasty French cheeses. Epoisses, Rocquefort, Pont l'Eveque, Camembert, goat cheese covered with furry grey edible mold. And I sat there salivating and unable to eat any of it. Well, okay there was a cheddar and a goat cheese that resembled Spanish Manchego cheese that I could have. But I wanted the époisses. The Critic helpfully sat next to me singing its praises for hours it seemed. "Mike, I have to say that this is THE BEST cheese I have ever tasted. I really mean it. I had some époisses last week at the Musée du vin and it was nothing compared to this. Nothing." And then five minutes later (as he helped himself to more) he'd say it again. Mike had bought a full one kilo round of the cheese and there was still a little left when the fireworks started. About ten minutes after they finished someone noticed it was gone. "It must have escaped," said Mike, nodding sagely. It was that ripe.

Only six months to go...sigh...

For more information on this Burgundian Cheese of the Gods, click here. It's orange, it's round and it goes very flat and runny if it's well aged and left out at room temperature for a couple of hours. Mike's was literally dripping off the cheese board. And it smelled really good. If you find some, don't tell me.

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 6:27 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack
July 14, 2004
Pricing schemes

The New York Times has an interesting article on a phenomenon that I have to admit I have NOT noticed, namely a trend toward lower prices for wines at restaurants. I've always felt that wine pricing was one of the cruelest inequities (iniquities?) in the universe, so it's nice to see that things are changing, at least a bit.

There's no discussion of the economics of this pricing scheme and not much about whence the high prices originated, but it's not just a matter of having a captive audience. If the desire to drink wine in a restaurant is more highly correlated with disposable income levels than the desire to eat food in a restaurant, then the most profitable pricing scheme should reduce the food prices at the expense of the wine prices. I guess what I'm saying is that economic theory tells us this will be a short trend...

Posted by Paul at 3:50 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack
Wine and Peaches

Rarely do I prefer white wine to red. Sometimes with fish, but not always. When the temperature climbs too high, a cold, dry white can refresh. And, if there is no red in the house, I'm happy to drink a glass of white.

With heat advisories being issued almost everyday where I live, I'm craving a chilled glass of white more than a room temperature red. A friend recently showed me a new way to drink white wine that makes it a perfect afternoon refresher--white wine infused with peaches.

The recipe couldn't be simpler. Pour a bottle of white wine into a pitcher, drop in a sliced peach, and let sit for a few minutes. No sugar or mixers. No shaking or stirring. Serve each glass with a peach slice. The peach adds a delicate flavor and just a hint of sugar.

My friend's Italian-American family served this drink frequently. On a recent a trip to the Amalfi Coast, she noticed that the locals were drinking their wine this way as well. It looks like the recipe can be traced all the way back to Italy.

Posted by Todd in New Orleans at 2:58 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack
Vegephobia?


The redhead and I went to a barbecue party for the All-Star game last night. (I'm sad the National League lost, but glad Clemens got shelled. You think Piazza was telling the hitters what was coming?)

My wife and I are semi-vegetarians. We eat fish during the year, turkey at Thanksgiving and Christmas with the family, and I'll indulge in a steak twice a year. The hosts are pretty good friends of ours, so they graciously had some "not-dogs" to grill along with the rest of the full meat weiners.

We enjoyed the fake franks quite a bit, but apparently this anti-meat behavior wigged out a couple of the other guests. One of the funnier comments was a characterization of me as a "meat elitist" because I would infrequently eat steaks at Gibson's, but wouldn't have a lowly hot dog.

This was all in fun, and we laughed at our own expense, but there was one guy who kept pick pick picking. If we were having potato chips, he'd make a comment that we should be careful, there might be meat in there. When we sat to talk, he said, "If God wanted us to be vegetarians, he wouldn't have made animals out of meat."

Now, we're not vegetarians necessarily for ethical reasons. For me, it's mainly a health choice, so I didn't point out that, like animals, people are made of meat; I also didn't ask him if his family baked, boiled, or steamed his great-grandmother when she passed on.

About the time he dropped the fourth snarky comment or so, I'm wondering why this guy is belaboring the point so hard, and it hits me - He's a vegephobe.

He's attracted to vegetables, but hides it. Sure, he goes home to a nice dinner of pork chops or leg of lamb, but down deep he really wants a carrot. A thick, crunchy, carrot. He secretly worries that he may have vegetarian tendencies and worries that the right cook might cause him to question his carnivorality.

He's looked furtively in the stores at the Deborah Madison cookbooks, but quickly reshelved them when another carnivore came by; he lingers a little too long over the salad page on the menu of his favorite restaurant before ordering the veal; he dreams at night not of cattle on the range, but of a nice garden that, for some reason, he's flying over.

He has Burpee's Seed Catalogs hidden under his mattress.

Our Guy wants the Lunch That Dare Not Speak Its Name. He's a vegetarian trapped in a carnivore's body and he wants to come out of the meatlocker.

I can imagine the conversation,

Our Guy:"Mom, Dad, I have something to tell you. I'm not like other meat-eaters."
Dad:"What are you talking about?"
Our Guy:"I... I think I'm a vegetarian." (Mother bursts into tears).
Dad:"What?! You are not. You had a burger just the other day."
Our Guy:" I know, I know, but the whole time I was chewing I was imagining it was a lentil and bulghar patty!"
Dad:"Watch your language!!"
Mom:"It's a phase. Just a phase. In college, I was a VUG myself. A Vegetarian Until Graduation, but then I met your father!"
Our Guy:"Mom-"
Dad:"Get out. I won't have vegetarian filth in this house."
Our Guy:"But-"
Dad:"Out! And don't come back without a slab of ribs and barbecue sauce on your lips!"

Very sad. Maybe he can transition by being an omnivore. They eat anything that moves.

(Please note, before you write, I like meateaters. I don't have any problems with them. I just don't understand why a few meat-eaters are so wigged out by vegetarians. Now vegans - they're the crazy ones! )

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 1:07 PM | Comments (20) | TrackBack
Door County, Part 2 - Mars, Goats, and a Muppet

When we crossed the Wisconsin state line on the way up to Door County this last weekend, we stopped at one of my favorite places in the Midwest, the Mars Cheese Castle in Kenosha, where we had the good fortune to speak to the owner, Mario J. Venturi, Jr.

Mario made us try some of the best cheddar I've ever had, and gave us a bit of advice on our trip up to Door County. He advised we not miss the breakfast at Al Johnson's Swedish Restaurant in Sister Bay.

What Mario left out was the most notorious aspect of Al Johnson's - the goats on the roof.

The roof is covered in sod and grass, and the grass is kept under control by a small group of goats who are led up a ladder to the peaked roofs in the morning and who munch away the rest of the day oblivious to the noise of the crowds who watch them. I didn't get any pictures, but here are some links to pictures elsewhere of the goat infestation. There's even a children's book about the roof ruminants, The Little Goat on the Roof.

There are no goat dishes on the menu, so I'm pretty sure the sure-footed beasties manage not to fall off. The various fish dishes we had at Al Johnson's for lunch were pretty good, if not exceptional. They serve Swedish lingonberries with everything.

Meg tells me that I have to mention Ann Sather's here and make a joke about the Swedish chef. Ann Sather's is a Swedish tradition in Chicago and is currently owned by Chicago's first and only openly gay alderman, and all-around good guy, Tom Tunney. Ann Sather's is where most Chicagoans are introduced to mild, sweet, filling Swedish food. Among its best goods are the sweet sticky cinnamon rolls that hungry Chicagoans line up to buy by the dozens. Definitely worth a visit if you come to our fair city.

Oh, the Swedish chef? Um... OK, a frog, a pig, and a Swedish chef walk into a bar... No, that won't work. So... What's the Swedish Chef's favorite singer? Bjork, Bjork, Bjork! What villain on Star Trek does the Swedish Chef fear the most? The Borg, Borg, Borg! Would you like to see my extensive collection of Scandanavian credit cards?

(Pic swiped from CNN)

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 9:36 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
July 13, 2004
Corsican Olive Oil

olivadia.jpgYesterday we were privileged in my office to be offered an exclusive tasting of a 2003 cuvée of olive oil from Corsica. (Given my current condition, wine tastings are sadly off the menu as I find spitting to be both immoral and unladylike...) My colleague Anne brought in two bottles of olive oil produced by her brother David in Corsica. We have been hearing about this olive oil for some time from Anne, and I, for one, was very eager to try it.

This is not my first brush with the grand world of oleiculture: about a year ago, our friend Sam started dabbling in a small way in olive oil production with the help of his family back in Australia. Sam gave me a tiny bottle of his first batch and I husbanded it carefully, only using it on salads in order to let the full fruity flavour shine through. When I complimented Sam on the flavour, he modestly explained that the newer the olive oil, the better the flavour. Whatever. I thought it was great.

So I had all this in mind when Anne proposed a tasting for us.

The day came and Anne brought in not one, but TWO bottles of olive oil for us to sample. This is the first time I have seen the variety of olive displayed on a bottle of oil. Maybe it has always been there, but I have never noticed. She told us that David produces four different varieties of olive oil, but sadly she didn't have all four to hand. (Lucky for her, I say, as it must have been a pain to carry them in on the metro anyway!) At lunch time, Anne bought a baguette as a vehicle for the oil and we were all set.

The first oil I tasted was made from the picholine variety of olives. It had a beautiful peppery flavour that set it apart from the olive oil I usually use in my cooking. It might be a bit strong for a bland salad, but on ripe tomatoes or grilled vegetables I think it would be delicious. On bread alone, I could have devoured a cup of it. According to my research, the picholine variety can be green or black, but the black is most commonly used for oil production.

The second oil came from the Greek koroneiki variety of grapes. This bottle had more sediment floating in it, but had a more subtle flavour than the picholine variety. I found it was similar to the olive oil I buy from the local supermarket, albeit still much more flavourful. From my extensive web research, I have concluded that koroneiki olives are dark purple, ranging to black.

According to the Santa Cruz Olive Tree Nursery, both varieties produce well in dry warm climates and are resistant to drought. This is presumably why they are doing so well on the island of Corsica which has a hot dry climate. Both the oils are virgin and cold-pressed; I can also confirm that they are absolutely delicious when dribbled over a small piece of baguette. You wouldn't think that it would take a whole baguette to taste a little oil (there were about six of us) but we kept going back for more. The only down side is that Anne was a little vague on how to get hold of the oil here in Paris and what the cost might be. Two of us were definitely interested in purchasing a few bottles, so she is going to ask her brother.

However, if you happen to be in Corsica and want to stop by and taste the oil yourself I am sure you would be welcome. David sells the oil locally and to the public at a small shop on his property:

David BICHON, oleiculteur
le regino
20226 Speloncato
Phone: +33 4 95 61 54 15

Tell him you were sent by friends of his sister Anne - it will bring a smile to his face!

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 1:13 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
Door County, Part 1 - Cherries

I spent the weekend up in picturesque Door County, Wisconsin (motto "Man, there are a lot of people from Chicago here."). Door County is just entering cherry season, and the cherry trees are everywhere. Pictured are the fruits of our journey - strawberries, two types of cherries (one sweet, one tart), and fresh rhubarb.

At the farm where we picked up the cherries, there is a cherry pit spit pit. That's not a typo. Once you've sampled the fruit of the cherry, you are encouraged to try to spit the pit for distance. The men's record is 95' 9". I'm not qualifying for the Olympics in pit spitting anytime soon, but I had a pretty respectable go.

The darker cherries in the picture above are the usual sweet dark Bing cherries you often see in the supermarket. They are perfect for pies with a little added lemon juice, and require very little added sugar. I like to eat them straight, savoring the dark juice that stains my teeth.

The little red cherries are Montmorency cherries and they have a kick to them. More tart than sweet, Montmorency cherries have the bright saturated color that people think of as "cherry red". I'd never understood why that color was called cherry red until I saw these fruit. I like to eat these straight as well and enjoy the tart pucker.

Yes, TMC is a cooking blog, but sometimes you gotta just enjoy great ingredients as is.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 8:19 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack
July 12, 2004
Raspberry Cordial Update

Stirred and ready to ferment some more I wrote a while back about my recipe for Raspberry Cordial, a very simple mixture of raspberries, sugar and time. In it I mentioned several times how you can tell that the mixture is still fermenting when you see bubbles in the mixture when you stir it. I couldn't really show you what it looked like then because we were at the beginning of the process. I'd like to show you now, but unfortunately I'm not a great photographer. Here is what my somewhat fuzzy close-up of the top of the mixture looks like before stirring. Perhaps you can get a better idea of what I mean about the bubbles created by fermentation by looking at this photo of what the top of the broth looks like once you have finished stirring - distinctly frothy.

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 9:58 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
July 8, 2004
Food Section Digestion - July 8, 2004

Our staffIce Cream's been around for a long time, but the ice cream cone has only graced us for 100 years. In 1904 at the St. Louis World's Fair a vendor decided to serve vanilla ice cream in a cone and a star was born. The Chicago Tribune brings us this story on the ice cream cone's centennial.

In D.C., The Washington Post chimes in with Nancy Beggett's story on the first mention of Americans eating ice cream - in 1744. The Post also has a timely article on the difference between grilling and barbecuing and between gas and charcoal. Did you know, by the way, that we're hosting the next Is My Blog Burning? on July 18th? Did you know it's on grilling and barbecuing?

Up in New York, the barbecue the New York Times's Julia Moskin is covering has a Far Eastern flair. Florence Fabricant writes that it can take $1 million to start even a modest restaurant these days. And that's without considering the cost of the cheesie fry maker.


I'd noticed the fruit in the supermarkets is getting downright delicious. Russ Parsons at the Los Angeles Times visits a pair of growers who don't have customers but "apostles" of their lucious produce. Parsons has a second article in the Times today about how to pick the best produce even if you don't join a fruit-centric religion.

Georgeanne Brennan at the San Francisco Chronicles SFGate site puts her nose to the grind(er)-stone with tips for the enthusiast who wants to grind some meat.

Take that meat on the trail and you can have some fine cowboy cooking with the Dallas Morning News's Sharon Hudgins. Dallas is of course the home of Big Oil, Big Cattle and Big Granola. Well the home of granola bars in a pie, at least. OK, so the byline on the story is HOLLYWOOD, but the article is in the Dallas paper. Cut a guy some slack, will you?

We go from Big D to Tall D. Yeah, Tall D. You know, Denver? The Denver Post grew tall and strong by eating all its spinach.

Penelope Corcoran at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer answers a disturbing question - Are just-shucked oysters alive when you slurp them down? I hope so. I ordered fresh! There's a reason they don't shuck cows.

In New Orleans (where they have a French Poodle Parade for Bastille Day), the Times-Picayune has a trio of articles on "Snoballs" which are NOT snow cones, which require a knowledge of the science behind the frozen treat to understand, and which are available in flavors from chocolate to pickle. I don't know it's specifically Vlasic pickle flavor, Meg.

The London Times might be able to recommend a light summer wine under £12 to go with a pickle flavored Snoball.

The Guardian of London might prefer a cup of jo, a hot java, a saucer of bean juice, a nice hot black coffee, but it'd probably come from Starbucks. Speed ball or Thunder thighs, anyone?

I'm late today so I'm cutting the Digest short. 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 (Try not to use the Cheney-word) 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.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 11:43 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack
Ratatouille salad

Roasted vegetablesIt took me a good long time (25 years?!?) to realize what a wonderful vegetable eggplant is. Maybe it's partly the American name: eggplant sounds a lot less appetizing to me than aubergine. But even more than that, I think, it is due to the fact that the only dishes I knew that contained eggplant tended to be very slimy. Ratatouille. Moussaka. So when I gradually grew to like eggplant it was in spite of the slime factor. Exposure to home-made ratatouille and really good moussaka made me more receptive and eventually I was interested enough to try Nigel Slater's technique of grilling eggplant slices on a griddle pan (highly recommended). However, through it all I still found that the ratatouille, however well made, is still too much like a slimy sauce for my taste.

So when searching for a new idea for a salad for the 4th of July, I came up with the idea of combining most of the ingredients of ratatouille in a different way. Roasted, to be exact. I like all the individual ingredients, after all - it's just the effect of putting them together in a stew that I don't like.

To tell the truth, the first inkling of this idea came from my colleague, Anne, who told me she had heard that the vegetables in a "true" ratatouille are never stewed together but should be prepared separately and combined just before serving. To take it one step further, I roasted my vegetables and combined them just before serving.

Ratatouille salad

2 small eggplants, cut in large hunks (they will shrink in roasting)
4 small zucchini, also cut in large hunks (ditto)
1/4 cup olive oil
12 cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup feta, crumbled
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
Optional: roasted red and yellow peppers (one of my guests is allergic to peppers so I could not add them) and/or roasted mushrooms, roasted shallots (didn't have any)

Combine the eggplant and zucchini in a roasting pan (or two) and drizzle them with two-thirds of the olive oil. Get messy: use your hands to toss them well so that they are all lightly coated with oil. Drizzle the rest of the oil over the tomatoes in another roasting pan. Sprinkle the thyme over the vegetables. Don't they look pretty?

Put all the pans in a hot oven (200c/390f). The tomatoes will be done in fifteen minutes or less, but the others will need close to an hour. Toss the eggplant and zucchini from time to time and remove when they are tender. Once all the vegetables have cooled down, toss them together and sprinkle with the feta. If it seems a little dry, pour a little of the olive oil/roasted tomato juice over the salad.

Unfortunately, I neglected to take a photo of the finished product. You'll have to trust me when I say that it was very tasty and not slimy. (I did go a little overboard on the feta, though, and have accordingly reduced the amount in the recipe above.)

However below you can admire the roasted tomatoes in all their glory:

roasted toms

Another variation which is lovely involves leaving out the thyme and the feta and adding grated Parmesan and shredded basil leaves before serving!

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 8:41 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack
July 7, 2004
Found Foods

What do you get when you combine sushi and a Chicago-style hot dog? It's hard to describe the glory that is the Chicago Dog roll, so I guess you just have to go look at the site yourself.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 9:40 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
Another Special Announcement

The one, the only...Vlassic Kosher Baby Dills Too Many Chefs are going conventional and domestic all over. Barrett married his lovely Rebecca last autumn, Paul is still on a honeymoon with his beloved, and as for the Paris contingency...well we are expecting a new junior Critic some time towards the end of December.

So if you have noticed that some of my postings have been less enthusiastic recently, there is a very good reason: when suffering from morning sickness it is very difficult to write enthusiastically about food. You don't like planning meals, you don't like thinking about food and very often you don't like eating it. Unless it involves a sandwich made of white bread, mayonnaise and chicken breast with a pickle on the side. So yes, it's true about pregnant women and pickles, or at least it's true about this one. No inclination to mix them with chocolate ice cream yet, but separately they have both gotten past the morning sickness barrier with no problem.

Some foods you will sadly not see me writing about for the next six months due to dietary restrictions include: oysters, all the good French cheeses (i.e. runny or blue ones), sushi, rare steaks, steak tartare, anything with caffeine or alcohol...sigh.

Pass me the pickles...

(Note: they must be Vlassic Kosher Baby Dills and no other. The Critic dragged a huge jar back from Montana in May and if this child reaches its 18th birthday s/he will STILL be hearing about the time that dad had to drag the big jar of pickles back from the US...)

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 9:25 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack
July 6, 2004
Perfect Potato Salad

Now that you all have your creative juices flowing and are looking for the perfect food to grill or barbecue, I thought it would be nice to share a recipe for the classic accompaniment to a barbecue: potato salad. Or is that a Midwestern thing? I am never sure whether the things I find "normal" are actually a) "normal" b) American or c) Midwestern. Or d) "normal for my family "! Anyway, to me any outdoor eating requires a really good potato salad to round it off. This Sunday, despite the relentless Paris rain, we fired up the grill in honor of the 4th of July and I did my best to make the best potato salad in Paris. And I think I did pretty well.

In our family there were two camps of food thought on many dishes, including potato salad: the Irish grandmother and the Austrian grandmother. We each had our preferences for stuffing (Austrian), cookies (Irish), coffee cake (Irish) and potato salad (tie). Okay, so the last one was a tie. That is why the potato salad I make is a mongrel child of the two traditions. Austro-Irish potato salad.

The Irish grandmother made a very onion-y salad as I recall, with lots of mayonnaise and celery and egg. I find celery and egg to be irritating intruders in my salad and leave them out. The Austrian grandmother used more vinegar and (I think) slightly more bacon than the Irish one, no mayonnaise. I think: it may have been home-made mayonnaise, which tends to go more transluscent in a potato salad. Some tips I gleaned from the grandmothers and have worked out for myself:

- Red potatoes work better than golden ones. They do not break as easily and are easier to peel.

- Adding the dressing while the potatoes are warm will allow them to absorb the flavors better.

- There is no such thing as too much bacon in a potato salad.

- If you layer the potatoes and dressing as you peel the potatoes, you will need to stir less and the potatoes don't break as much.

For more tips on potatoes and potato salad production, you can check out this site I found.

Perfect Potato Salad

2 lbs red (waxy) potatoes
2 small onions
1 Tbs celery salt
400 grams (about two cups) of thinly sliced bacon bits, uncooked*
a handful of small pickles, sliced
2 cups mayonnaise
3 Tbs sweet mustard
1/3 cup cider vinegar
freshly ground pepper

While the potatoes are boiling (in their skins!) prepare the dressing. Fry the bacon bits while you chop the two small onions very finely. When I was little, I hated biting into potato salad and getting a large chunk of raw onion (still do in fact) and so I use my nifty onion chopper to get it really fine. (As an aside, I grabbed this one as part of my inheritance from my Austrian grandmother's kitchen. I felt so guilty about getting this prized item that when I saw similar models on sale in Paris I bought four of them for myself, my siblings and my eldest niece. Turns out they aren't actually that rare and no one was impressed...sigh.) Once the bacon bits are nice and crispy, remove them from the pan from the heat to cool. Do not drain!! Mix the bacon bits, the grease, the vinegar, the mustard, the mayonnaise and onion in a bowl. Add the sliced pickles and celery salt. You could also add some chopped tomato at this point although I didn't bother this time around.

Once the potatoes are just barely done, remove them from the heat and drain them. Fill the pot with cold water to cool them. You'll probably want to drain and refill with cold water at least once more to cool them to the point of being able to touch them. Drain the potatoes thoroughly, as otherwise the last ones you peel will be soggy by the time you get to them.

Peel the potatoes by pulling the skin carefully away from the meat. Slice in pieces about a half a cm or a quarter of an inch thick. Thick enough not to break too easily and thin enough to get a good dressing-to-potato ratio. Once you have a layer of potato slices in the bottom of a large bowl, drizzle dressing over the potatoes and start another layer of potato slices. Keep layering until all the sauce and potatoes are incorporated. Mix very carefully so that you don't end up with mayonnaise potato sludge and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.

The reason I thought this recipe worked so well is that I didn't stint on any of the seasoning, from vinegar to mustard to bacon. The sweet mustard gave it a distinctly German potato salad flavor. (My Fanny Farmer Cookbook calls for sugar in its German potato salad.) I thought about using capers instead of the pickle, but decided it would be a bit too posh for such a working class dish. And so it was delicious, both on the day and the next night as part of a dinner dinner of leftover barbecued chicken sandwiches with cold sausages and two kinds of salad!

* For the bacon, I used a variety of lardons you can sometimes find in France; they are called "allumettes" and as the name suggests are matchstick sized and shaped. They are more tender than the usual lardons.

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 6:29 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack
July 4, 2004
IMBB? 6 - Grillers (and Barbecuers) Delight

We are very pleased to announce that Too Many Chefs is hosting the next edition of Is My Blog Burning?

This monthly event bringing bloggers around the world together in the pursuit of great cuisine was begun by Alberto over at the excellent Il Forno blog. In the past few months we have sipped delicious soups from Alberto's initial IMBB, supped on tasty Tartines at Chocolate & Zucchini, danced through a Cake Walk at Renee's Shiokadelicious, went Around the World in a Bowl of Rice at Chez Pim's, and dished up a fishy Catch of the Day at Wena's mum-mum.

On July 18th, IMBB? will visit the world of Barbecuing and Grilling for the Grillers Delight. Celebrate the summer (or defy the Winter, you Antipodeans) by getting out and slapping some delicious dinners on the barby. Don't have a grill? Then use a grill pan indoors, or simply prepare a barbecued item or a grilled style item. If it's got barbecue sauce or grill marks on it, we want to sample it.

You do NOT have to be a food blogger to participate. All bloggers are welcome. In fact, non-bloggers are wecome as well! If you do not have a blog, but have some barbecue or grill secrets you're dying to share, then send them to us at toomanychefs@gmail.com and we'll be happy to post an entry for you. Please note that email address is different from our regular e-mail address.

If you'd like to participate, post your entry on Sunday, July18th. It does not have to be prepared on July 18th, but it must be posted on that day. Send an e-mail to the TMC gang at toomanychefs@gmail.com to let us know you've got an entry up and we'll be sure to feature it in the event summary the next day.

So have lots of fun coming up with some lovely grilled/barbecued delights and just remember that, as the wise man with no eyebrows once said, "There really is such a thing as too much lighter fluid."

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 10:01 PM | Comments (35) | TrackBack
July 1, 2004
Food Section Digestion - July 1, 2004

In this very special patriotic All American Fourth of July edition of the Food Section Digestion, we start in the nation's capital with the all-American obsession with weight loss. The Washington Post's Katherine Tallmadge writes that milk may actually help you lose weight. And not just milk - milk products like cheese! The key is calcium, the mechanism is not understood. While you puzzle it out, prepare some dips for your weekend barbecue from recipes collected by Bonnie Berwick.

Where are you going to hold that barbecue, anyway? The New York Times's Matt and Ted Lee think a public park grill is a fine choice. Hmmm. If you grill on a Saturday, can you still enjoy your sundae? Kate Rentschler thinks you can, especially if you accessorize.

In the Chicago Tribune, Annette Gooch (love the name) is a woman after my own heart as she explains just how the ice cream in that sundae works chemically. Wolfgang Puck recalls his first fourth of July barbecue and the food-coma it induced. Instead of the soporific potato salads one usually sees at a 'cue, Puck suggests succotash without suffering.

In Ben Franklin's hometown, the Philadelphia Inquirer recognizes that standard July 4th fare may not cut it in the Atkins diet world of today and offers tips for a low-carb Independence Day.

Up in the other hotbed of the Revolution, the Boston Globe offers up dessert in the form of Petsi's Blueberry Pie. I have NO idea who Petsi is. Maybe she was the inspiration for the Oven Steamed Salmon with Cucumber Scales, Peas, and Mayonnaise?

If you want to get out of town for the Fourth weekend, you could do worse than to head to New Orleans, American only because the mail in 1815 was slow. The New Orleans Times-Picayune's Brett Anderson tells us the tourist crowds are missing in the summer heat and the dishes at the fantastic restaurants in town are lighter and more adventuresome.

The Denver Post's Ellen Sweets celebrates the Red White and Blue with red, white, and blue potatoes and a mess of potato salads. Wolfgang Puck is snoozing in the corner already. Wake him up for some inventive watermelon treats that Sweets fixed up for the picnic.

What's a picnic without strawberries? Hsao-Ching-Chou in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer writes up some tips for picking good berries and some good ways to use the little flavor powerhouses at your barbecue.

But are you really barbecuing? Are you sure? Andy King writes in the Portland Phoenix that you don't know what you're talking about; unless you're slowly smoking your meat you're just grilling.

Maybe "just" grilling isn't fair. The L.A. Times interview Ludovic Lefebvre about, among other things, the difference in French and American attittudes towards the grill. All this while he grills a lobster with citrus and tarragon over Chinese binchotan wood. If you're more vegetarian, you could toss some fava beans on the grill. No, really. Just ask Regina Schrambling who likes favas grilled and eats them, pods and all. If you'd like even more wild ideas, Charles Perry rounds up the exotic in this summer's batch of barbecue grill cookbooks.

So for the Americans reading this whether at home or abroad - Grab a brew or a glass of wine, go forth and grill ye this weekend, whether ye grill hot dogs or pulled pork, or lobster, or portobello mushrooms and celebrate the 218th birthday of a country that gave the world the charcoal briquette.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 8:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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