Above you can almost make out some of the many culinary spoils I brought back with me from Spain. I was greatly relieved when the Critic agreed that on the way back to Paris we would not need to put down the roof on the car, as it meant I had loads of space for gifts and spoils in the car! (On the way down to Spain, the car was scientifically packed by yours truly to use nearly every cubic centimeter of space, as the roof of the car folds into the trunk when you go topless.)
You will notice that there is not a single ham included in these goodies. Are you amazed? You would be if you have travelled at all in the rest of Spain. However, as we discovered on our trip, the region of Catalonia does not subsist on a diet made of 90% dried ham! Judging by the restaurants we frequented, Catalonians live on fish, fish and then some more fish, with a few side orders of vegetables. Also unlike the restaurants I remember from a famed tour of Madrid, Seville, Cordoba and Grenada in the company of Barrett, the fish was not fried. Frankly, Catalonia was full of happy surprises in terms of its cuisine!
So, now you know what food crimes Catalonia does not commit. Let me tell you what they DO cook. Grilled fish of every variety, swimming in garlic. A lovely pepper and almond sauce called romesco. Juicy botifarra sausages. (Okay, they may be pork-related but have absolutely nothing else in common with the dry ham I got so tired of in the rest of Spain!) Cold dishes such as escalivada (aubergine, onion and red pepper salad) and exqueixada (a salt cod and tomato salad). Oh and I nearly forgot to mention the anchovies, which were without a doubt the best anchovies I have ever tasted in my life.
It's funny to me (and sad) that I spent two weeks touring Spain with Barrett and another partner in crime, Charles, and we somehow managed to miss the best part of Spain for tapas, seafood, sausages, salads, anchovies, paella and gazpacho. Okay for the last two, maybe some would send you to Valencia or Andalusia. But they were pretty good where we were staying too!
So, in the next few weeks I'll be trying desperately to reproduce all these greate tastes here in Paris. I bought myself the best cookbook on Catalonian cuisine that I could find in tourist shops. I brought back with me dried sweet peppers (used for the romesco sauce), dried hot peppers (for the Critic's delight), two kinds of pre-made romesco sauce, two kinds of sardines, some garlic sauce that was mentioned in the guide books as being similar to the French aïoli and two jars of the hot peppers that I can sometimes find in our local Monoprix supermarket but not consistently. You'll also notice the box of tiny bottles of local alcohols and the large bottle of ratafia from Monserrat. I am sure they will make for interesting reviews as well.
In addition, I will be visiting the local Spanish speciality shop in our neighborhood (mentioned in connection with my paella post) to quiz the owner about fresh sausages and those lovely plump Catalonian anchovies. Now that I am a more informed consumer, I am hoping to find great things in our Spanish store!
One last note on items bought in Spain: I managed to find several rather spiffy prizes for our quiz winners. You were not as numerous as I had hoped in participating but perhaps once you see the great prizes you can win you'll start lining up for the next one! Watch this space...
My reading list has recently been crammed with books about food. The books noted here are interesting, informative, or amusing. I encourage you to read each one.
John McPhee is one of America's best essayists. He's long been associated with The New Yorker magazine, but he's best known for his works on geology and nature (Coming Into the Country, Assembling California, Pine Barrens, Encounters With the Archdruid), and his book that showed just how easy it is to get the information necessary to build an atomic bomb (The Curve of Binding Energy). In 1967, McPhee published his second book, Oranges, which looks at the orange industry and how it changed from its inception as a fresh fruit business to its then-current state as feeders to juice concentrate factories. McPhee looks at the land, the history, and the husbandry of orange groves. I had not been aware that citrus trees, like grapes, are grown on a root stock. The root stock is rarely the same as the upper part of the tree since the best foraging root stocks produce awful oranges. As a consequence, oranges in Florida (at least in 1967) were grown primariy on lemon tree stock while lemons in California were grown primarily on orange stock.
I'd like to see an update to this book. Orange juice in 1967 primarily meant frozen reconstituted OJ. In the book, McPhee acknowledges this as he visits with the inventor of the successful concentration process. The fresh fruit market and fresh juice market were anemic comparatively. I'm sure today the fresh markets would be more important. This short volume is worth a quick read if just to see how much things have changed since 1967 and to get a feel for how that glass of Minute Maid made it to your table.
I've been reading Harold McGee's book On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen for months now, and I expect to be reading it for the rest of my cooking life. McGee created an instant classic in 1984 when he published this book that gets into not just the how's but the why's of cooking. Alton Brown is said to be a big fan of McGee's books, and you can see how On Food and Cooking might have inpired the mad scientist and entertainer in Brown.
The book runs through food science in a simple way that assumes basic intelligence on the reader's part. This isn't a book to skim lightly on the subway, but neither is it one that requires hours of interpretation. McGee explains the mysteries of food science by getting down to basics.
Why do egg whites foam and how do they work in a cake to provide structure? What roles do fats play? Why is dark meat dark? How do pit fruits like Peaches and Apricots differ from "false fruits" like strawberries? And most importantly, McGee tells us what the answers to these questions should mean to our approach to cooking these foods.
There's a little bit of chemistry and physics in the book, but the approach is that of a cook, not of a biochemist. If you liked tinker toys, watch "Good Eats" on the Food Network, and took stuff apart as a kid, you'll love this book. If you want to understand how to make your souffle rise, and how to cook a perfect steak, this is also the book for you. It isn't quite as entertaining as watching Alton Brown do his Mr. Wizard meets Julia Child impersonation, but it's a good book to have around, even if you only read a chapter a week. Once you've read it, you'll go back to On Food and Cooking to confirm facts, clarify theory, and learn more about the food you cook.
I'm mad at Vogue. Not only am I male and not in the fashion industry, but if I were female, I doubt I would be the kind of person who read Vogue. As a consequence, I hadn't read Jeffrey Steingarten until just recently. The Man Who Ate Everything is a collection of Steingarten's columns from the swank fashion magazine that showcases his wit and knowledge about all things food.
The title is a reference to Steingarten's first assignment for himself as a food writer. Everyone has food prejudices, and Steingarten's included aversions to kimchi, organ meats, Indian desserts, and blue foods. One by one, Steingarten found ways to enjoy all the foods he thought he despised, with the possible exception of Indian desserts and blue foods.
Steingarten writes to make you laugh as often as he does to educate. I enjoyed particularly his trip to the lab where the fat substitute Olestra (of "anal leakage" fame) is made, and where he surreptitiously fried potato chips in a big vat of the stuff, much to the chagrin of the PR people who were supposed to be watching him.
This is a book for casual browsing as the volume is chopped up into individual essays of a few pages each within themed chapters. I had a little trouble reconciling with Steingarten's attitude towards vegetarianism, but I had the same problem with Anthony Bourdain, and I ended up enjoying his first book, also.
I do actually hate Steingarten, of course, since he gets paid to travel to sample great foods in Vienna, Japan, New Orleans, France, and other parts of the globe. If you decide to retire, Jeff, do give us a call, won't you? Just kidding about the hating you part...
The next IMBB? has been announced over at There's a Chef in My Kitchen. Is My Blog Burning? 8: Lift Your Spirits High takes place on September 19th, 2004. Each dish submitted to Donna in Harrisburg must feature wine or spirits as a central component of the dish. I'm guessing that excludes beer.
I like this theme and I've got ideas already. Perhaps a meal that's alcohol fueled at every step from appetizer to dessert will be in order. I had a few of those in college, though there it wasn't really "cooking" so much as it was "pouring" (and then "passing out" followed by "waking", then "groaning" and "regretting" followed by "wondering where my left shoe went".)
Usual rules apply. Make the dish sometime between now and the 19th, post it on the 19th, e-mail Donna to let her know you've finished. Wait until write-up and enjoy the creativity of the wonderful food-blogging community.
This is my wife Rebecca's recipe, modified from a Sicilian Deep Dish Eggplant Pizza recipe from Recipezaar (which they pinched from Cooking Light magazine). It's relatively quick and the pizza is delicious. I monkeyed with the dough recipe a bit to soften it up. The first time we made the Recipezaar recipe without the butter and extra olive oil the crust was tough as nails. This crust is more tender and lends itself to less crunch filled dining.
The pizzas are relatively low-fat, and have lots of flavor. It's different from the classic Chicago style deep dish or stuffed pizza, but still passes the credibility test. Don't skip the cornmeal step or you'll never get the pizza out of the pan.
Rebecca's Eggplant, Artichoke Heart, Mushroom and Tomato Deep Dish Pizza
makes two 9" pizzas.
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons or one package dry yeast
1 cup warm water, between 80 and 120 F.
2 1/2 cups AP flour
1/2 cup wheat flour
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
large pinch kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
large pinch or two of dried herbs optional
1 tablespoon cornmeal
Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water, let stand 5 minutes. If it foams a bit, you've got live yeast, if not, toss it out, go get live yeast and start over.
Add flour. oil, butter, and salt to yeast mix. Stir until dough forms. Gather dough up and turn out onto lightly floured surface.
Knead dough for at least 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. Kneading forms gluten, which is the rubber band of the bread world.
Add flour to board and work into dough until dough is not sticky
Spray a big bowl with olive oil or cooking spray, put dough in bowl and cover.
Let rise 1 hour.
Punch dough down, divide in half.
Form ball with half the dough, roll out on flour coated board into 11 inch circle. You're stretching the dough, not mushing it. If you like, pick up the dough and streth the sides lightly to make the circle longer. If you MUST, toss dough in the air while spinning to help circle flatten out and stretch. Try to avoid humming Italian opera arias.
Lightly grease and sprinkle half cornmeal in round 9" cake pan. Place the dough into the cake pan and push down into the pan so the bottom is covered and the dough comes straight up the sides. If you like crispier crusts, spray crust on either side with olive oil spray before putting it in the pans.
Repeat with other half of dough.
Cover and let rise 30 minutes.
1 1/2 cups artichoke hearts or 9 oz. frozen package
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes, unseasoned, drained
you can use fresh tomatoes, but blanch the skin off the tomato and dice into 1/2" chunks. Ive also use 2 16 oz. cans. The extra doesn't seem to hurt the flavor.
1 cup sliced mushrooms, or more if desired
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning or good Oregano
1 cup minced red onion
salt and pepper
2 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded.
Sweat garlic over medium heat in the olive oil.
Add eggplant, cover and sautee 5 minutes
Add artichoke hearts, thaw and heat through.
Add tomatoes, cover and sautee 5 minutes
Salt and pepper to taste. You may add oregano or thyme or basil or other herbs if desired.
Layer 1/4 cup mozzarella on top of pizza crust in each pizza
Spoon half of eggplant, artichoke, and tomato mixture into each pizza crust.
In same pan used before, sautee mushrooms until tender and add half to top of each pizza.
Cover top of pizza with 1 cup cheese each. Add rosemary and Italian seasoning on top of that.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Bake in oven for 30 minutes or until cheese on top in golden brown.
Remove from oven, let cool 5 minutes. Remove from cake pans (they should lift out easily if the crust hasn't hooked over the edge). Cut and serve with wine and salad.
Clearly, you can use this as a base for a lot of different types of pizzas. I recommend putting cheese at the bottom no matter what you do, and seasoning along the way. A little salt in the filling makes a huge difference in the taste.
The visit of a friend from out of town brought five of us together for a quick meal - we wanted to eat well, but easily.
Of course, pasta to the rescue - some fresh tomatoes from the market, a few basil leaves from the garden, garlic, salt...perfetto!
The new-found, quick treat came with dessert. My lucky friend has a heavily laden pear tree just outside her back door.
We picked the most ripe green-brown bulbs and chopped them up while the pasta water was boiling. Into the oven they went with a simple crumb topping - butter, sugar, flour, a little cinnamon. (We also made a peach and cinnamon-basil fruit crisp - same simple topping plus a touch of nutmeg...also delicious).
By the time we were finished with pasta, salad, and garlic-kissed, olive-oiled toast, the pears were bubbling in their juices. The surprise came when I sipped a bit of pinot noir right after a bite of those pears, still slightly crisp and not overly sweet.
The combination was incredible. I'd never had the mix before - was it the touch of cinnamon? the almost but not quite ripeness of the fruit? the intensity brought on with the oven's stewing? or magic?
Each week, we pick three posts we particularly enjoyed over the last week from the vast community of excellent food bloggers. Maybe these posts were funny, maybe they were great recipes or a particularly well-written review of a restaurant. Maybe they just were the right post for us at the right time. If you haven't read them, this should give you a chance to go back and catch them before they disappear into the archives.
It's an Is My Blog Burning? week (good job, Readbeard!), but our purpose here is to introduce you to posts you should read that aren't already linked all over the net. So none of our links this week are from IMBB entries. If you want to see those entries, head on over to lifeinflow.
This week's posts in no particular order:
A. The Amateur Gourmet is always worth a read for his amusing take on the food world. This week, the AmGourm (I really just want to call him the AmGam, but it doesn't work) brings reality television to the blog world with Gourmet Survivor, 2004. The first round is a photographic scavenger hunt. Make sure you read the comments and follow the links to the photo albums of the prospective Survivors. They're hilarious. Next week on this blog - Amish Sous Chef!
1. FatMan Seoul reveals the world of South Korean (and other Asian) cuisine to us every week through his photographs and commentaries. I could pick one of his entries as a post of the week every week just for the beautiful pictures. This week, he introduces us to budaejigae, or "soldier's stew".
I. The Food Museum Blog, I've just recently discovered. In honor of the Olympics, which are closing this weekend, I've picked a post on the challenges of cooking for a village full of Olympians as seen, in part, by Warren Conference Center Executive Chef Todd Boule.
We honored the Olympics this week. Next week, I'm sure we'll have something for the Republican Convention. Anyone have a recipe for a bunch of birds that only have a right wing?
Here's a fascinating article (from a great blog) about the winemaking process once the grapes have been grown. It's written in a very engaging and simple style, so there's something for the scientist, the dilletante, and the poet.
This is it: the Final Friday Food Quiz. I wrote all these quizzes before leaving on holiday and so do not know what the response has been. Did you like them? Do you want to see them continue? You'll have to let us know by participating! Send your answers to email@example.com. It's never too late! (Until the answers are posted next Friday, that is...) Along with the answers to this quiz, we will be announcing the WINNERS of our quizzes, along with the fabulous food prizes they will receive. But for now, you must fill out your answer sheet for the fiendish food questions of final quiz number four...
Too Many Questions: the TMC Friday Food Quiz #4
1) Battle Creek, MI is famous for being the birthplace of what food product?
2) What kind of cheese is pictured here? (Hint: it's the only one that uses this special cheese cutter.)
3) What does the Chinese five-spice powder generally consist of?
4) Ruote de carro pasta is shaped like what object?
5) Semolina is made from what grain?
6) What famous chef started the charity Cheeky Chops for underprivileged youths who want a start in the food industry?
7) Ruth Wakefield developed what famous recipe and later traded it for a lifetime supply of chocolate?
8) The film Babette's Feast was based on a short story by what writer?
9) The definition: Steak that has been marinated in oil, lime juice, red pepper and garlic for 24 hours before being grilled. The cooked meat is cut into thin strips that are then usually wrapped in warm tortillas, accompanied by a choice of garnishes including grilled onions and sweet peppers, guacamole, refried beans, etc. The term?
10) What common pastry was invented in Austria in 1686? (Hint: they were at war with Turkey at the time!)
ANSWERS TO QUIZ #3
1) Two cups of unsifted flour is equal to roughly how many grams? a) 280g b) 290g c) 300g d) 310g Answer: a (Fanny Farmer Cookbook)
3) What is uglifruit? A cross between a grapefruit and an orange, originating in Jamaica (see Food Trivia site)
4) The definition: A mixture of finely chopped mushrooms, shallots and herbs slowly cooked in butter until it forms a thick paste. It's used to flavor sauces, soups and other mixtures, as well as for a garnish. What is the term? Duxelles
5) In which city did Ray Kroc open his first McDonald's franchise? Des Plaines, IL (According to this site, he was copying a place with golden arches that he saw in California, the thief...)
6) What famous chef was born in Pasadena, California, on August 15, 1912? Julia Child
7) If you are allergic to tree nuts, can you safely eat dishes with nutmeg in them? yes (See the Food Allergy Network.)
8) What country is the leading beer consumer per capita? Czech Republic (See Guinness world Records.)
9) The recipe for Lea & Perrin's Worcestershire sauce originally came from which country? India (See http://www.valenet.com/lea-and-perrins-worcester-sauce.htm)
10) The first diet soft drink, called the "No-Cal Beverage" was launched in what decade? a) 1930s b)1940s c)1950s c)1960s Answer: c (see http://www.didyouknow.cd/fastfacts/food.htm)
I've been using a thing called an RSS aggregator to read many of my favorite blog sites (including this one). If you don't have an aggregator or don't know what I'm talking about, I recommend Bloglines. Sign up for free. Anyway, I just came across an RSS feed for Project Gutenberg texts.
Project Gutenberg has been collecting public-domain works and putting them into computer-readable formats since 1971. If you'd like to subscribe to the feed, point your rss aggregator to http://www.gutenberg.net/browse/recent/today.rdf.
So what does this have to do with food? Last night, I was notified by Bloglines that among the latest works added to PG is Marion Harris Neil's The Story of Crisco.
The Story of Crisco was clearly written for Proctor & Gamble and the text is fabulous. Some of my favorite quotes:
First, on the merits of Crisco:
"It seems strange to many that there can be anything better than butter for cooking, or of greater utility than lard, and the advent of Crisco has been a shock to the older generation, born in an age less progressive than our own"
"Equip your children with good stomachs by giving them wholesome Crisco foods--foods which digest with ease.
They may eat Crisco doughnuts or pie without being chased by nightmares. Sweet dreams follow the Crisco supper."
Advice is given on arcane matters such as choosing the best meats:
"A hare when fresh killed is stiff and red; when stale, the body is supple and the flesh in many parts black. If the hare be old the ears will be tough and dry, and will not tear readily. Rabbits may be judged in the same manner. In both, the claws should be smooth and sharp. In a young hare the cleft in the lip is narrow, and the claws are cracked readily if turned sideways."
"_Smelts_ should be stiff and silvery, with a delicate perfume faintly suggestive of cucumber."
(For those of you under 30, "_Smelts_" is an old-timey computer way of indicating the word Smelts should be underlined or otherwise emphasized, as in "Smelts")
The book goes on to give good advice on cooking methods, converts various Imperial units, offers usual cooking times for foods, tells you how to carve various beasties, and then offers page after page of recipes.
Certainly, all the recipes feature Crisco in some way or form, and they are older heavier dishes in many cases, but a lot of them sound very good. I'm intrigued by the Flounder a la Creme, the Colcannon, Curried Cauliflower, and by the Savory Lentil Dish.
Not all the recipes are winners, but it's worth a good skim. If you don't like Crisco, you can substitute olive oil or butter or cream. Or you could try the recipes as is. I've heard the best pie crusts are made with Crisco or leaf lard.
This isn't the only Gutenberg food-related text. If you find interesting recipes in any of these books, think about sending the people at PG a donation to cover the cost of scanning, OCR'ing and proofreading these entries:
Woman's Institute Library of Cookery by the Women's Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences:
Volume 1: Essentials of Cookery; Cereals; Bread; Hot Breads:
Volume 2: Milk, Butter and Cheese; Eggs; Vegetables
Volume 3: Soup; Meat; Poultry and Game; Fish and Shell Fish
Volume 4: Salads and Sandwiches; Cold and Frozen Desserts;Cakes, Cookies and Puddings; Pastries and Pies
Volume 5: Fruit and Fruit Desserts; Canning and Drying; Jelly Making, Preserving and Pickling; Confections; Beverages; the Planning of Meals
The Healthy Life Cook Book, 2d ed. by Florence Daniel
The International Jewish Cook Book:1600 Recipes According to the Jewish Dietary Laws with the Rules for Kashering; the Favorite Recipes of America, Austria, Germany, Russia, France, Poland, Roumania, Etc., Etc.by Florence Kreisler Greenbaum
School and Home Cooking by Carlotta Cherryholmes Greer
The Physiology of Taste by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, translated by Fayette Robinson
Simple Italian Cookery by Antonia Isola
Many Ways for Cooking Eggs by S.T. Rorer
...and many, many more. Search for Title Words on the PG site to find other works to explore.
Our weekly roundup of what's in the food section of your favorite papers begins this week in the good old U.S. of A.
I'd start in my kind of hometown, but the Chicago Tribune didn't have anything I thought worthy of mention, which itself is worthy of mention, I thought. So let's start just outside my hometown with the Suburban Chicago Daily Herald and their cook of the week Jeanne Neifert who got her kids to eat "strange" foods through constant exposure.
The Washington Post prints an article about Nancy Tucker who is still unemployed and fishing for her dinner. Fifteen chefs tell Walter Nicols and Candy Sagon about their favorite things about this rapidly ending summer, including some fantastic stories about customers. Katherine Tallmadge makes the startling discovery that despite the desire for supplements to make us healthy, the best place to get your nutrition is still from... food.
The New York Times starts with a story about the D.C. region and Silver Queen corn, which is increasingly sought and increasingly rare as local farmers grow modern hybrids. This Sunday is the start of the Republican convention in New York, and it will be a very different group of people crowding the tables at the best restaurants in town. Wonder who foots the bill? Summer's end also means the start of sagra season in Italy. Sagras are big parties focusing on harvest time or on regional foods. Invite me, please!
The Hartford Courant invites you to try some of the new condiments like mojo, chutneys, and salsa that are displacing mustard, mayo, and ketchup. Linda Giuca writes a Food Notes column that digests food stories and press releases. How original. Actually, it's very good.
In St. Louis, the Post-Dispatch's Joe Bonwich writes about wines handmade in Bethlehem - Bethlehem, Missouri, of course.
Salt Lake City's Salt Lake Tribune counters with wine made in Idaho. Let's have a taste-off.
Speaking of off, Marcelle Bienvenu of the New Orleans Times-Picayune makes some savory cheesecakes. Readers responded to Judy Walker's call for their uses for crab boil and came up with a bunch of good ideas. There's no crab boil in Times-Picayune reader Stephanie Mayoral's recipe for a no-bake sprouted almond and carrot cake which is also featured this week.
I'd like to slap Georgeanne Bennan of the San Francisco Chronicle for suggesting that Californians can reproduce lovely barbecue she had at the beach in Crete and imagine they're basking on the Mediterranean. As opposed to imagining you're at the OTHER most beautiful place on earth, the beaches of Northern California where you'd actually be sitting at the time? Too much heaven, I guess. I'm more sympathetic to Lynn Char Bennett's Oklahoma memories of frozen fruit which leads to making sorbets. There's some excellent tips in her article on making your sorbets hang together and taste delicious.
Russ Parsons of the Los Angeles Times finds delicious exotic produce in the markets thanks to Laotian immigrants to the smoggy city. Donna Deane delight in draining drinks of delectable draughts of iced dea - er, tea. Regina Schrambling is wondering if the Atkins fad has peaked and will fade soon.
In the Sydney Morning Herald via New Zealand's Stuff page, Jill Dupleix tells us men are the new chocoholics. On the same site, The Age's Andrew Stephens sticks in his thumb and pulls out a bunch of puddings. And I don't mean Jell-o. In Croatia, the Big Mac is facing competition from the home-grown Srdela Snack chain which serves fish and a glass of wine for only two euros.
The Prague Tribune's Libor Ševčík educates us about Portuguese green wines or Vinho Verde
In Cairo, the Al-Ahram Weekly's Reem Leila reports that bad eating habits are producing a generation of sickly Egyptians.
Come with me now.. into the future! Or at least over to London's Telegraph's website which has a story filed three weeks from now (look at the date - October 10th, 2004) about some of the best cheeses of the season. It won't take 1.21 Gigawatts to melt these delights.
That's is for this week.
If you saw the picture inside my Brasilian passport, you'd think I'd bought it from the same guy who sells "Guchi" purses and "Rolax" watches on the corner. I don't look Brasilian, my name isn't Brasilian, I was born in the states...but call me a gaucha.
Since my mom was born in Porto Alegre, the Brasilian government considers me a long lost daughter, a gaucha on permanent leave from her true nation.
Even though I can count the times I've visited Brasil on one hand, I've used that same hand about a thousand times eating Mom's feijoada. Considered the national dish of Brasil, it's probably the national dish of Mom's household, too. We ate it about every other week when I was growing up and every family reunion includes at least one steaming, savory bowl of this tasty black bean concoction.
The real deal is made by slow cooking black beans with garlic, salt, and the parts of the pig that nobody else would buy. Yum, yum, huh?
While catering a recent board meeting, I pushed the limits of the "box lunch" mentality with a crock pot. To keep the same sentiments of the traditional feijoada (soft beans coated in lovely, fatty, beefy, thick juices) and still meet my strict time constraints, I left out the ears and tail but was sure to include all the bacon drippings (no vegetarians voiced their convictions during this meeting...).
Hoosier Gaucha's Quick Feijoada (enough to feed a board room)
Lightly saute 12-15 slices of bacon. Remove all the bacon from the pan and saute a large, sweet onion (roughly chopped) and half a bulb of garlic in all the drippings - scrape the bottom of the pan to get all the good stuff stuck there.
When the onions are soft, add the sauted bacon and a ring of roughly chopped kilbasa or sausage. Add one or two cans of pre-cooked black beans, a bay leaf, and season with salt and pepper. Let everthing simmer together until the flavors are intense and well blended.
In another pan, heat 5-6 cans of pre-cooked black beans, seasoning with salt and pepper.
Mix everything together in a big bowl and carefully transporte it to the board room. Don't forget the following accompaniments on your way out the door...
***12-15 servings sturdy brown rice - make it with a combination of beef stock and water
***7-8 oranges, peeled then sliced - this is a traditional side dish (as are farofa - kinda like greasy saw dust - and a bacon-flavored cabbage dish)
***pico di gallo - a simple mix of chopped fresh tomatoes with a little red onion, hot pepper, and salt (though not a traditional condiment, my Brasilian uncle started topping his feijoada this way years and years ago - since then the family hasn't sat down to table without it)
***banio maria - this traditionally Brasilian carmel flan is actually called a "pudim" in portuguese, but family tradition named it after the banio maria, the double boiler used to make this rich, smooth dessert - it's the perfect sweet treat before going back to the board meeting agenda
Remember to put the cachaca in the freezer before you leave - a caipirinha on a warm summer night is certainly the way to unwind after a day in the board room (have two and you might become fluent in portuguese...but won't remember a word the next morning).
"Let's see, I don't think I've made East Meets West Mushrooms and Chives in a long time."
"Really, is it good?"
"I don't know. I've never heard of it before."
This conversation took place when I was the only one home... OK, so this recipe really falls into the category of dishes-I-made-up- because-I-had-stuff-in-the-fridge- I-really-ought-to-use-because-I- went-to-the-trouble-of-going- to-the-farmer's-market- and-buying-the-produce- so-the-least- I-could-do- is-eat-it.
I purchased a bunch of herbs at the Chicago Green City Market a week or three ago and with proper storage methods I learned from Alton Brown (wash the herbs, dry them thoroughly, then wrap in a moist paper towel and put in a ziplock bag), the sage was still in good condition.
The chives, which I bought at the same time and gave the same treatment, were starting to droop juuuust a little. Also, a bit more than a package of white button mushrooms were calling out, "Use us! Don't let us rot in the fridge like that eggplant dice you had left over that you're never going to use!" Cheeky monkeys had me dead to rights on that one.
So I made something up to use all these ingredients. It's fast and easy and the end result was more than just credible, it was tasty. I will specifically buy the ingredients for the purpose of making this dish in the future.
East Meets West Mushrooms and Chives
1 teaspoon of olive oil (West)
12 fresh sage leaves (West)
10 oz. button mushrooms, stems trimmed and quartered with an X cut.
1 bundle of chives, about the diameter of a medium carrot, cut into 4-5" lengths, with flowers if possible
2 tablespoons soy sauce (East)
1 tablespoons rice vinegar (East)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (ummmm... East?)
salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, drop the sage leaves into it and sautee until the leaves just begin to crisp up.
Add the chives and mushrooms. Stir to coat and to mix well. Sautee about four minutes.
Add the soy sauce, rice vinegar, and red pepper flakes. Mix well, salt and pepper to taste.
Sautee until chives are wilted but not limp and mushroom are mostly tender. This may take five to eight minutes. Serve immediately.
The sage and olive oil mix nicely with the rice wine vinegar and soy sauce. There's no clash of cultures as you might expect from such geographically diverse ingredients. Like Nixon and Mao, detente is reached.
OK, I know that coming up with original content and recipes consistently can be challenging (ahem), but I stopped over at the Food Network site a week or so ago and found this recipe for a mini-cheeseburger salad from Rachael Ray. (NOTE: Original link pointed to this.)
Basically what we're looking at in this recipe is a romaine salad with pickles, mustard dressing and... sliders. Like those little greasy burgers you buy by the sack, but in a salad. Yeee.
White Castle might yet use this as their "healthy salad choice."
Rachael, what are you doing? I'll pay you $40/day to bury this recipe in the backyard and never speak of it again. E-V-O-O? More like E-V-I-L.
Clearly the pressure of rapid celebrity has taken its toll.
Popcrazy came to the same conclusion in their December interview with this extra-perky media force. Check the caption on the last picture - Aww, she's so crazy!
Yes, she is.
Q: Do you like dumplings?
A: I don't know, I've never dumpled.
And I hadn't, really. I've made ravioli before, but I had never made dumplings until this week's IMBB event "You're the Cutest Little Dumpling" hosted by redbeard. I looked at a bunch of dumpling recipes and came up with a definition of a "true" dumpling which is the Northern and Eastern European idea of a bready lump cooked by simmering in a liquid. Sure, there are filled pastas and wontons and all that other good stuff but this was the definiton of the one true dumpling I was working towards. The one that would unite all England! (Uh, sorry. Went to a Ren Fair this weekend and I got a bit carried away).
The first step was to assemble the makings of the dumplings, prepare them, and simmer in a liquid that would, itself be good to eat. So here's my recipe for
Hearty Lentil Stew with Onion Dumplings
2 medium onions, chopped (or 1/2 a huge onion and another one like I did)
3 celery stalks, chopped to 1/2" dice
3 carrots, chopped to 1/2" dice
4 quarts vegetable stock
3/4 cup red lentils, washed and picked over
4 tablespoons flour
2 tsp cumin
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 bay leaves
In a saucepan, heat one tablespoon of the olive oil and add the onions. Stir to coat and sautee over medium heat covered for 15 minutes until onions are tender, but not carmelized. Set aside to cool a bit.
In a large pot, heat the second tablespoon of oil, add carrots and celery. Salt and pepper lightly. Stir to coat and sautee over medium heat covered for 10 minutes until celery and carrots are al dente, giving a bit of resistance when bitten, but not a lot.
Add 1/2 cup of onions to soup pot, add four cups of stock, one teaspoon of cumin, and both bay leaves and stir to combine. Add red lentils, stir. Raise heat until pot boils, reduce to simmer and cover for twenty minutes.
Meanwhile, combine four tablespoons of flour, one teaspoon of cumin, and rest of onions. Salt and pepper lightly to taste. Put bowl in refrigerator for ten minutes or until simmer time for soup is over.
After stew has simmered twenty minutes, form 1" balls with onion mix and lower into the soup gently. They may not seem like they will want to hold together, but if you've mixed well, they will. Carefully spoon them into the liquid. Cover and simmer for ten minutes more.
Dumplings are done when they hold together pretty well. Spoon out soup/stew and dumplings into each bowl and eat.
Be careful, this stuff is serious and holds heat REALLY well. Make sure you let the stew cool a bit or have a cold glass of something handy to keep you from burning your throat. I think I will hold off on making this again until Fall or Winter comes. It's a great cold weather dish, but it was a little too hearty for late summer.
See all the Dumplings in a row at Life in Flow.
We had a bit of a dinner party this past weekend, and I promised some of the attendees I would post the menu here. I hope to revisit some of these dishes with full recipes soon, but for now, just the menu. We decided to go French (mostly), in honor of Julia Child.
Mushroom Pate (liberally adapted from this recipe)
Chevre Chaud with Arugula and Mustard Vinaigrette
Vegetable Soup with Chervil and Creme Fraiche
Mixed Greens with Apple Roquefort dressing
Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise
Flamiche and Stuffed Artichokes
OR Chicken Fricasee with Vinager and Tarragon
Lemon Tart (recipe here)
Bread Pudding with Cranberries and Chocolate Sauce
This was our biggest dinner party yet, at 16 attendees (although one was a baby). Next time, maybe we'll cook a little less.
Each week, we pick three posts we particularly enjoyed over the last week from the vast community of excellent food bloggers. Maybe these posts were funny, maybe they were great recipes or a particularly well-written review of a restaurant. Maybe they just were the right post for us at the right time. If you haven't read them, this should give you a chance to go back and catch them before they disappear into the archives.
This week's posts in no particular order:
A. Cooking With Amy is always good reading, entertaining and informative, and she proved it again this week with her post on the FREE online cooking classes available from the CIA (no, not the spooks, the Culinary Institute of America). For some of the courses, you can even recieve credits.
I. Informative isn't always necessary. Entertaining works well as well. I don't know where they found it, but foodgoat posted this cartoon that made me laugh. These grapes won't be raisin any little grapes anytime soon...
1. Maki at I Was Just Very Hungry recounts a trip to England and discusses the intricacies of English savory pastries. Suet, suet, and more suet in the crust seems to be the key. The picture of the famous iron bridge in Ironbridge is a bonus. It seems less dense than the pork pie in another photo.
That's the bunch. See you next week!
Welcome back to the third installment of the TMC August Friday Food Quiz! For those who have not been following this THRILLING web event, you can look at our first and second quizzes. Each week I post ten questions and you send your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will announce the winners of the quiz at the end of the month of August. You can see the complete rules on the post for the first quiz, but please remember one small rule change: the competition for each week's quiz is open until the next quiz is posted. Enjoy the quiz and good luck!
Too Many Questions: the TMC Quiz #3
1) Two cups of unsifted flour is equal to roughly how many grams? a) 280g b) 290g c) 300g d) 310g
2) What is pasta shaped like this called?
3) What is uglifruit?
4) The definition: A mixture of finely chopped mushrooms, shallots and herbs slowly cooked in butter until it forms a thick paste. It's used to flavor sauces, soups and other mixtures, as well as for a garnish. What is the term?
5) In which city did Ray Kroc open his first McDonald's franchise?
6) What famous chef was born in Pasadena, California, on August 15, 1912?
7) If you are allergic to tree nuts, can you safely eat dishes with nutmeg in them?
8) What country is the leading beer consumer per capita?
9) The recipe for Lea & Perrin's Worcestershire sauce originally came from which country?
10) The first diet soft drink, called the "No-Cal Beverage" was launched in what decade? a) 1930s b)1940s c)1950s c)1960s
ANSWERS TO QUIZ #2
1) What are the three main ingredients of the Basque speciality, piperade? peppers, onions, olive oil (if you put egg instead of the olive oil, we'll accept it too - definitions vary and you might consider the oil a given) (various)
2) How many teaspoons are there in a tablespoon? 3 (Fannie Farmer Cookbook)
3) The definition is: A dry seasoning blend that originated on [a] Caribbean island...and which is used primarily in the preparation of grilled meat. The ingredients can vary, depending on the cook, but [this spice] blend is generally a combination of chiles, thyme, spices (such as cinnamon, ginger, allspice and cloves), garlic and onions. [It] can be either rubbed directly onto meat, or blended with a liquid to create a MARINADE. In the Caribbean, the most common meats seasoned in this fashion are pork and chicken. What is the term? Jerk (Epicurious)
4) What is John Kerry's favorite food? Chocolate chip cookies
5) What is G.W. Bush's favorite ice cream flavor? Pralines & Cream (iVillage)
6) At what temperature Fahrenheit does water boil? 212 (Fannie Farmer Cookbook). Ed. Note - We know, of course, that this is at sea level. The temperature decreases as you gain altitude and the pressure drops. That's why you have to boil your raviolis longer in Denver than in Death Valley
7) When were graham crackers invented? a) 1764 b) 1829 c) 1911 d) 1938 Answer: b (See Food Facts & Trivia)
8) What is the Palermo speciality sfinciuni? It is a stuffed pizza - yes, Chicago did not invent it!
9) In which city can you dine at Café Atlantico? Washington, DC
10) On French wines and cheeses, what does the abbreviation A.O.C. stand for? appelation d'origine controlée
Where to begin? A recipe almost always starts with the ingredients...
1 constantly updated blog of tasty adventures
5 too many chefs, logging creative entries and tempting recipes
1 dear friend, who happens to be the sister of Chef Paul
1 average Hoosier gal, who happens to almost always be hungry
Blend well together, season with good faith and a generous invitation, and enjoy.
That's the beginning of me. Let me introduce myself - I'm Corrie in Indy. A born and raised Hoosier (no body really knows for sure how Indiana natives got that name), I met Chef Paul's sister Jackie many years ago in Italy. We ate our way through those months together on a study abroad program and I was fortunate to come away with several gifts, including a bellissima amica and a deliciously dedicated commitment to food. Cooking it, eating it, studying it, remembering it...I was forked.
Since that first trip to Italy, I've tried to steer into opportunities to keep my spoon in the pot at least in some capacity...19th century foodways programming in Hoosier museums, an internship cooking three meals a day for 24 guests on a water-locked island in upstate New York, catering business meetings and retreat lunches for co-workers, and, currently, a part time pantry chef position at one of Indianapolis' premier restaurants, Elements.
Learning more about food and its preparation and the way it brings people together is almost as much fun as actually eating - and I love to eat. So naturally, when Jackie's brother Paul asked if I might be interested in joining Too Many Chefs, I jumped (or sauted, or bruleed, or seared) at the opportunity. What an honor! Thanks for the invitation, chefs!
I look forward to blogging with this talented group of cooks and writers and to hearing from you, our fellow hungry readers.
More soon. Stay well and eat well,
Corrie in Indy
This week the news is all about Julia, cheese, and a shout out to a fellow blogger.
It's Olympics time, so we start in Greece this week. Connie Phillipson writes in the Athens News on how the modern Greek diet evolved. Recipes for an apricot marmalade tart and stuffed peppers with feta are included with the article.
Feta might be one of the cheeses coveted by Joe Prytherch. He's got an article in the London Guardian this week about cheese, glorious cheese. I've just acquired 96 rennet tablets so this is a subject near to my heart. Friends and family be warned, there's cheese coming your way. It's cheese season!
On stuff.co.nz, New Zealand's Daily News is offering recipes and a story about Whitebait, a small transparent fish that's itself coming into season down under. Bok choy is also in season and Steve Manfredi of the Sydney Morning Herald has a go at the small chinese cabbage. Why an Aussie newspaper is on a New Zealand site, I can't say. Kiwi, kiwi, kiwi, Oy , oy, oy?
The SMH itself has an article on tapas in Barcelona, which is notable for the recipes for Crema Catalan, Chicken with Samfaina, and Pimentos stuffed with Salt cod puree that accompany the piece. If you've thought about chucking it all and starting a farm or a bakery in the country, you'd do well to read Jacqui Taffel's article about Aussies who have moved to the country and are making it in the food industry. Some are struggling, and some are doing well. All are living their dream.
Many dream of sulfite free wines, but the Japan Times tells us that's just silly. In a piece that uses classic John Stossel phrases like "peudo-science" and "trend-consciscious", William Campbell describes how sulfites are used in the wine industry and conducts a tasting of sulphured and sulfite-free versions of wines.
You won't find a wine store with great selection in the middle of Alaska where, eight hours east of Anchorage, The New York Times' Julia Moskin reports on the struggle of man against nature, giant kohlrabi, and the chefs who produce fine food at the edge of civilization R.W. Apple, Jr.(tm) recalls Julia Child, who died last week at 92. In a development that I can't yet classify as delightful or revolting, milkshakes are back on the menu at fine restaurants around the country, but the flavors are a little odd, like tomato, coconut milk and kaffir lime.
Julia Child is on the mind of Judith Weinraub at the Washington Post, and she shares a Julia Child recipe for a Fresh Apricot or Fresh Peach tart. Robert Wolke answers the questions of an apprentice cheese maker about mold and old (or about blue cheese mold and aging to be more precise). Janelle Erlichman Diamond shares a technique for omelets in a bag, suitable for cooking in the great outdoors.
The Chicago Tribune's tribute to Julia Child involves her recipe for sole poached in white wine and a "jolly sweater". Bill Daley writes a perfect Chicago story as he tries to pair wine with hot dogs. There's also a ton of recipes for tiny tasty treats in Heather Shouse's article on mezze/tapas/small plate dinners.
The cheese story conspiracy continues in New Orleans at the Times-Picayune where Judy Walker answers the question "what is rennet?". Marcelle Bienvenu writes about fig preserves and writes a recipe for fig cake and fig tarts. Who knew figs grew in Louisiana?
Olivia Wu at the San Francisco Chronicle knows that heirloom tomatoes are all the rage right now. Karola Saekel gets the Julia rememberance duty at the Chronicle and uses Child's recipe for steak au poivre to eulogize her.
The Denver Post goes a bit Julia crazy devoting their entire food section to her. Kristen Browning-Blas quotes Child, four beautiful recipes from Child's books are included, Ellen Sweets recalls dinner with Mrs. Child, Kyle Wagner talks about her impact, and Bill St. John's recollections about Child are saddled with the hideous headline, "She baked us a Batch of Love". I don't think Julia would have approved of the headline, but she might have appreciated the story.
Julia would have loved a big batch of zucchini, of course. The Los Angeles Times features the August avalanch with recipes to help us use up the 300 pounds of zucchini we'll no doubt receive from our gardening neighbors. Laurie Winer gets us back to the Olympic theme with Greek recipes fit for a god. Russ Parsons is the one tagged to recall Julia Child for the Times and does a pretty good job of it.
And of course, we'd be remiss if we didn't point you to fellow food blogger Clotide Dusolier's article in the LA Times about the Wine and Fooding Tour 2004 in Paris. With luck we'll be digesting Clotide's stories more frequently in the next few months.
Until next time.
picture from beyondgourmet.com's Julia Child shrine
Do you ever make this kind of sandwich, with toasted wheat bread, sliced mushrooms sauteed in butter (and a little white wine or lemon if you like), sprouts, gruyere, and mayonnaise? It's so good, you should have one today.
Another, even simpler sandwich involves some toasted wheat bread, thin sliced Canadian or Vermont cheddar (it has to be white), sliced fresh tomatoes, and mayonnaise. Also good enough to try right now.
Asian soft drinks.
Three little words that strike terror into the hearts of all reasonable men. If you haven't experienced the variety of strange things that East Asian countries grind up into a liquid and call a soft drink or a soda, count yourself lucky.
You may remember from many months ago the first I Wouldn't Eat it: Marmite, wherein I ate yeast waste - yes, yeast crap - disguised as a yummy breakfast treat on toast in the name of science.
I've been looking for a suitable followup and I found it a while back. Since then, this can of lurking terror has been looming in my fridge, along with the three cans of Busch beer from last Christmas we keep for when my father-in-law visits.
What is this terror? (Cue dramatic music) It is... PENNYWORT DRINK!!! (OK, cut the dramatic music.) Pennywort drink. A drink made from pennywort.
What the heck is pennywort? As you can see, there is a lovely picture of the pennywort plant on the can. It's pretty, and I think I'd say "Ah, look at the lovely plant," if I walked by it in the woods, but I don't know that I'd think "Ah-ha, there's a nice something that'd be refreshing mashed up, filtered, sweetened and put in a can."
People do drink the stuff, though. According to sites I found on the web, pennywort is a water loving plant that grows in marshy areas and is used in herbal remedies and teas for, among other things, leprosy.
I have noticed bits and pieces falling into the sink in the morning, but I was pretty sure I was just losing my hair. Better be safe and try it out.
It's cold. I'm sure that's how it needs to be to suppress the flavor as much as possible. Let's give it a sniff.
Ah. Well, it's not the worst thing I've smelled, but it does have the distinct odor of boiled lettuce with maybe a hint of broccoli or mushy celery. You know how one year the hot scent of the year is musk and the next it's citrus? I'm pretty sure this scent never gets a year of its own.
Why do I do this feature? I'm guessing it's a masochistic tendency and a willingness to give up the body for the team. OK, let's taste the boiled lettuce juice.
It's sweet. The first impression I get is that it tastes like a sugared mess of veggie garbage juice. It also has a note I can't place but that is so familiar... Ah, I know - in junior high school when the terrarium got going and had a steamy scent to it. Not exactly bad, but thick, humid, and vegetative.
This drink tastes humid. Who knew?
The ingredients listed on the side are: WATER, PENNYWORT LEAVES EXTRACT, SUGAR, CITRIC ACID (E330) and then the whole thing again in Spanish, though its a product of Thailand, and there is no Thai writing on the can. I think that proves the Thai people are smart enough not to drink this muck.
The color is a drab green, almost as if someone had boiled down a lot of leaves into a muck that really shouldn't have been boiled down. Imagine all-natural spinach soda to get the color in your mind. No, make that spinach-kale soda. Mmmm... olive-drab-licious.
According to the nutritional information on the side of the can there are 140 calories in a can of this still water drink. One serving is calculated to be in each can. Ugh. I can't imagine finishing a can of this stuff.
I thought there was an outside chance that FOCO's Pennywort Drink bebida De Pennywort ("Pennywort that makes you sick in bed") would be a pleasant surprise, but I knew it was an outside chance.
Overall, this is nasty. Not as bad as the marmite, but I'd have a hard time finishing a whole can of it. One more sip. Ugh. Dr. Brown's Cel-ray tastes like Cristal compared to this junk.
Hey, maybe that's my new angle. I'll pretend I hate expensive delicious things and try them out so the manufacurers will send me freebies.
Frankly, I hear vintage Dom Perignon and beluga caviar taste like the bottom of a shoe. Prove me wrong, Fox and Obel!
This January, my wife and I went to Cancun for the second part of our honeymoon. The sun was great, the water was warm, the drinks were weak, and the food in the hotel zone was pretty ordinary and American. The exception was La Destilleria, where the tequila was fantastic and the food included quesadillas made with squash blossoms and huitlacoche, a black smeary fungus that grows on corn and is also known as corn smut.
I found squash blossoms at the farmer's market last week and decided we should try to reproduce the delicious squash blossom quesadillas we enjoyed six months ago. I can't really call this a true recipe because it's so easy. Call it guidelines. The greater part of the effort is in prepping the blossoms, and that's not even much work.
Squash Blossom or Huitlacoche Quesadillas
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon corn oil or other oil
1 can huitlachoche
Make sure you start with organic blossoms. You don't want to end up eating pesticides with these. To clean the blossoms, cut off the stem and the bottom part of the flower where it's hairy and green. Make sure you get the pointy green leaves along the bottom as well. Reach in from the top and pull out the yellow stamen from the center of the flower.
Be careful. I was watching a fine international film (I think it was the Three Stooges go to the Moon) as I cleaned the blossoms, and was startled when a buzz went through my finger tip. Along with my squash blossoms, I'd purchased a bee!
Once the bee-free blossoms are trimmed and he stamens removed, rinse them once lightly to get off any dirt and dry them carefully with paper towels.
In a non-stick pan, add a tablespoon of oil (corn if you have it), and a minced clove of garlic. Heat until the garlic becomes fragrant and smells delicious. Add the blossoms and sautee over medium heat very briefly - for maybe thirty seconds to a minute - until they wilt. Set aside.
Huitlacoche is a very difficult item to find but if you happen to be in a gourmet or Mexican grocery store, look for it. I spent way too much on a little 3 oz. can of the stuff, mixed with onions. The idea of eating something called "corn smut" may not appeal to you, but its delicious stuff and adds a deep mushroomy flavor to the quesadillas. I've never seen the stuff outside of a can so I can't tell you where else you might find it. To prepare the huitlacoche... open the can.
Make sure there is still a bit of oil in the pan. If it seems like less than a teaspoon, add a small amount more. Place a taco-sized flour tortilla flat in the pan for about 20 seconds until it takes on a very little color on the bottom. Flip the tortilla. Sprinkle chihuahua cheese in the middle and to one side of the tortilla. Next, either spoon a stripe of huitlacoche or drop a couple squash blossoms onto the cheese. Fold the other half over and press down lightly.
Fry for about 30 seconds, flip, and fry for about 30 seconds again. Both sides should be light brown and a little crunchy. If the tortilla is oily, raise the heat for the next one. If the tortilla is dark brown or the oil starts to smoke, drop it down a little.
Put the completed quesadilla on a plate in a 150 degree oven to keep warm while you finish the batch. I usually cut the quesadillas into four triangles and serve as appetizers.
I've also had luck using the same technique with a roasted skinned poblano cut into strips and added to the quesadillas. Experiment.
One note - squash blossoms are too expensive in this country. Certainly every squash blossom harvested now means one less zucchini or squash later. If you read recipes for squash blossom soup or for other dishes that use squash blossoms, you'll see the quantities used are enormous. The little batch of blossoms you see above were $5 at the farmer's market. Ouch. They must be much cheaper in Mexico.
If you enjoy growing zucchini, but get overwhelmed by the harvest each year, using squash blossoms for a recipe like this lets you trim the crop back a bit and still enjoy produce you grew yourself.
Salty. Sweet. Sour. Bitter. Umami.
These are the five basic tastes. We're all pretty familiar with the first four, but what is umami? In 1907 according to this site, "Professor Kikunae Ikeda of Tokyo Imperial University was thinking about the taste of food: 'There is a taste which is common to asparagus, tomatoes, cheese and meat but which is not one of the four well-known tastes of sweet, sour, bitter and salty.'"
We might describe the flavor as "savory" or "earthy". Ikeda eventually invented a seasoning which carried umami flavor in a form which could be used as a seasoning. Glutamic acid (or glutamate) is the base form of the umami flavor, which Ikeda transformed into monosodium glutamate or MSG. Unfortunately, MSG also causes adverse reactions in a large group of people. When you get a headache after a bowl of chow mein from your local Chinese take out, you can blame Kikunae Ikeda.
But don't give up on umami. There are other ways to add this flavor to your foods and create an unexpected richness.
Add some of one of these foods to a sauce or a stirfry or saute to add that difficult to describe something that makes the dish - Thai fish sauce, shiitake mushrooms, Worcestershire sauce, truffles (and truffle infuesd oils and butters), parmesan, oily fish such as anchovies, mackerel, blue fish, or sardines, Japanese bonito flakes, and the food Ikeda used to isolate glutame - kombu broth (kombu is a type of seaweed). All have a strong umami component.
Properly aged beef develops an umami flavor that fresher beef doesn't have. If you can't get aged beef for your dishes, you might consider adding a little of one of the ingredients above to the dish to enhance your fresh beef's flavor.
Substitutions are best when they're unexpected. Image a dissolved anchovy or a dash of fish sauce in a tomato based pasta sauce or a dash of truffle viniagrette on creamy leeks (a dish we had and loved at Campagne in Seattle).
If you don't add umami flavors to your food, you can always drink them. Certain wines also have umami flavor in them, primarily rich broad reds like Australian Shirazes. Some Chardonnays and Champagnes can have the flavor as well.
Picture from Australian Broadcasting Company site
This spring I noticed a lot of mentions of rhubarb in magazines, webzines and blogs. It seems to me that our pink friend is rather trendy this year, showing up in everything from a classy dessert for Clotilde to a Rhubarb and White Chocolate Lattice Tart in the May edition of Bon Apétit. These all sound lovely, but I'm a bit conservative about certain foods, including rhubarb. I started making it one way when I was about nine years old and so far I have seen no reason to change.
So what is this childhood classic? You stew about four to five cups of chopped fresh rhubarb with a dribble of water (just to keep them from sticking to the pan while they start to cook) and about 3/4 cup sugar. When it's all mushy and compote-like you taste again to see if there is enough sugar. You refrigerate overnight. The next morning, you put some bread in the toaster. In a grand adult revolutionary move, you use whole wheat instead of white. And then you spread a thick layer of cold rhubarb on your hot toast. It's wonderful. The toast is warm under your fingers, the rhubarb cold on the roof of your mouth. There is this sweet, warm soft layer of bread where the two meet. It's heavenly. It makes me feel like I'm nine all over again.
That said, I made a lot of rhubarb recently and my mother is not around to help me eat it up. So I will have it on its own as a dessert after lunch. I will pour it over unsweetened plain yogurt for a healthier breakfast. I might even try one of those elegant recipes, though I'm still not sure it will ever compete with the classic: rhubarb on toast. Mmmm.
For more information than you ever wanted on rhubarb, check out this site. They will tell you how to freeze it, how to grow it, where it comes from (Asia) and even give you the following charming limerick (from PeterW):
Rhubarb when raw is so tough
And its leaves contain poisonous stuff,
But when cleaned and de-soiled
Dipped in sugar and boiled
Then the stalks are quite tasty enough
Each week, we pick three posts we particularly enjoyed over the last week from the vast community of excellent food bloggers. Maybe these posts were funny, maybe they were great recipes or a particularly well-written review of a restaurant. Maybe they just were the right post for us at the right time. If you haven't read them, this should give you a chance to go back and catch them before they disappear into the archives.
This week's posts in no particular order:
I. Kate at the Accidental Hedonist examines the issue of class and how it relates to food. The $27 hamburger, the origins of the sandwich, and upscale soul food are brought into the discussion in a short, thought-provoking piece that should be read by anyone who is interested in the topic.
A. Pim of Chez Pim went to a marvelous party with fellow food bloggers from the San Francisco area held at the home of Heidi, from 101 Cookbooks fame. In attendeance were Amy of Cooking with Amy, Alder of Vinography, the recently relocated Alaina of NYC Eats, Anne of The Cheese Diaries, and Derrick of Obsession With Food. Watch their blogs over the next week for more info and recipes from a great sounding party. Pim supplies a recipe in her post for ice cream made with vanilla and creme fraiche - one of the desserts she brought to the get-together.
1. The final selection this week is a sad one. It's the first post in nine months over on the julie/julia project by Julie Powell who famously cooked her way through Julia Child's first cookbook, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". Powell posts her thoughts on the passing of Julia Child at 91.
Until next week, Bon Appétit.
CNN is reporting that Julia Child has died. Child introduced French Cooking to a wide audience in America through her many cookbooks and PBS cooking shows.
Child was born in Pasadena, California as Julia McWilliams, and grew to 6' 2" tall. She served with the Office Of Strategic Services in Washington D.C., Ceylon, and China during World War II. Her husband Paul Child was assigned to the U.S. Information Service in Paris after the war, and Julia learned fine French cooking, with an emphasis on butter and cream at the famous Cordon Bleu cooking school in that city.
In 1961, she released her book "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", which she wrote in collaboration with friends Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle. Judith Jones recalls the making of the book at Knopf here. WGBH in Boston saw the potential in the book for a new kind of public television show and in 1963 "The French Chef" based on "Mastering..." premiered with Child as a host. It was wildly popular and inspired a generation of chefs.
Child's unique vocal style was parodied by comedians for years. The most famous of these was Dan Akroyd's "Save the Liver" sketch on Saturday Night Live.
Child's kitchen from "The French Chef" resides now in the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian has a great collection of stories about her on their website. Food TV chef Sarah Moulton, a former food prep assistant for Child, helped prepare the items for the Smithsonian exhibit.
Child was 91 and will be missed by gastronomes around the world.
Yes, it's time again for the TMC Friday Food Quiz! So far, the response has been less enthusiastic than we had hoped but our thanks go out to all those who sent in answers to the first quiz. To the rest of you out there, however, I have this message: send us your answers, even if you don't know them all. No one got all the answers from the first quiz and the odds are REALLY GOOD if you want to win. This is cheaper than the cheapest lotto ticket and so far you have a better than one in ten chance of winning! Okay, you won't be able to buy that second vacation home in the Bahamas with the winnings, but a prize is a prize after all. Even a cheesy one.
If you want to check out the questions from the first quiz or consult the rules, click here.
One other item to note: due to the low number of responses, we have decided to give you a full week to send in your answers. You have until next week's quiz is posted to send your answers to email@example.com. (Since the exact hour of our posting is unpredictable, this will add a little spice to the proceedings.)
Answers to last week's quiz may be found at the end of the new quiz. Good luck!
Too Many Questions: the TMC Quiz #2
1) What are the three main ingredients of the Basque speciality, piperade?
2) How many teaspoons are there in a tablespoon?
3) The definition is: A dry seasoning blend that originated on [a] Caribbean island...and which is used primarily in the preparation of grilled meat. The ingredients can vary, depending on the cook, but [this spice] blend is generally a combination of chiles, thyme, spices (such as cinnamon, ginger, allspice and cloves), garlic and onions. [It] can be either rubbed directly onto meat, or blended with a liquid to create a MARINADE. In the Caribbean, the most common meats seasoned in this fashion are pork and chicken. What is the term?
4) What is John Kerry's favorite food?
5) What is G.W. Bush's favorite ice cream flavor?
6) At what temperature Fahrenheit does water boil?
7) When were graham crackers invented? a) 1764 b) 1829 c) 1911 d) 1938
8) What is the Palermo speciality sfinciuni?
9) In which city can you dine at Café Atlantico?
10) On French wines and cheeses, what does the abbreviation A.O.C. stand for?
ANSWERS FROM QUIZ #1
1. What was the theme of the first-ever Is My Blog Burning? event? Soup
2. Royal Ann, Morello, Lambert and Richmond are all varieties of which fruit? cherry
3. The definition is: French for “miller’s wife” (or "female miller"), referring to a style of cooking whereby a food is seasoned, lightly dusted with four and sautéed simply in butter. Such a preparation is served with…beurre noisette flavored with lemon juice and parsley. What is the cooking term? Meunière
4. Italian Pecorino cheese is made from what kind of milk? Sheep
5. Born April 1, 1775 and died February 2, 1826, this French lawyer, magistrate, and politician wrote one of the most celebrated works on food. Who is he? Brillat-Savarin
6. If your recipe calls for baking powder and you do not have any in your kitchen, what other two ingredients can you combine to make some? baking soda and cream of tartar
7. What is the most poisonous funghi (measured in number of fatalities caused)? Death Cap (Amanita phalloides), see Guinness World Records site
8. 19th century British sailors were issued with limes and lime juice to prevent which disease? Scurvy
9. What does this little gadget do? It's a grapefruit sectioner (sorry about the image; I didn't have access to a good photo editing program when I copied it!)
10. Who discovered the process for producing champagne in 1693? Dom Perignon, of course!
We took a couple weeks off, but we're back with the weekly survey of the best articles in the Food Sections of newspapers around the U.S. and around the world.
We start with my favorite story of the week which appears in the UK's Daily Mail about "the most dangerous supper in Scotland". The Stonner is a "fat-laden pork sausage, wrapped in a doner kebab, soaked in batter then deep fried" and comes in at over 1000 calories and 46g of fat. It sells for a mere £3. Creator Saei Sangag says the stonner is selling like hotcakes (which you'd have to eat 10 of to match the calories in a single stonner).
In the (London) Guardian, Nigel Slater answers questions from his readers with his usual aplomb. Taken to task by a reader for only giving metric measures for his recipes, Slater replies in part, "We are only talking about a new set of scales, Ms Bennett, not a sex change." In the same issue, novelist Justin Cartwright thinks out loud about how Britain's "parochial attitude towards cooking" has shaped the British character.
France and the U.S., long time friends, have been at loggerheads recently. The Tocqueville Connection reports on an American-style diner in Paris where native Parisians and Americans come together to talk civily and commiserate. Amusingly, the one American cultural trend the French at the diner don't comprehend is the Atkins craze.
Simon Thomsen at the Sydney Morning Herald wants to get you a cup of coffee. A cup of Australian coffee. The tiny continent is becoming a big producer of quality coffee.
"No man can eat 50 eggs." But if one could he'd probably be found in New Zealand where they wolf down 55 million eggs a year. Read about it at stuff.co.nz.
The English language Athens News from Athens, Greece chooses to navigate the calm before the Olyympic storm next week with an article on hot peppers, many of which are grown and available in the markets of Athens. Bite the wrong one, and you might run 26 miles for a glass of soothing milk.
In Tokyo, the heat is in the weather rather than the peppers, and its the perfect season for relaxed grazing. Robbie Swinerton tells us Tokyo is ready for grazers, and describes a method of drinking sake with different flavors of salt, similar to the U.S. method of shooting tequila.
On to another foreign land - Los Angeles - where the L.A. Times writer Russ Parsons interviews and prys recipes out of chef Josiah Citrin, a master of chicken.
Hsio-Ching Chou at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer writes about "custom-canned" tuna, which is troll-caught, contain less mercury than the big commercially canned fish and, Chou reports, tastes a lot better. At $3 to $6 a can, it had better taste a whole lot better.
Eugenia Bone in Denver is a mistress of zucchini blossoms and other locally available foods, whether local for her at the time is New York City or her North Fork ranch. The author of the "At Mesa's Edge" cookbook give us a batch of recipes for everything from trout to the aforementioned zucchini blossoms.
Marcelle Bienvenu at New Orleans' Times-Picayune knows that you don't bother trying to cheer up a blue crab. You just eat the darn thing. But you don't have to reserve that liquid crab boil for depressed crustacea. Judy Walker finds plenty of people who use crab boil with ribs, corn, and other foods.
The Washington Post ties into an Olympic theme with Judith Weinraub telling us how Athens got its groove back. Or rather, how Greek cooking, which had surrendered to French recipes, came thundering back as its own distinctive, marvelous cuisine. Looking to the local Asian markets, the Post gives us uses for sugar cane.
The New York Times features bluefish this week. Dana Bowen takes on the difficult fish, and the Times gives us three recipes to try featuring bluefish. In Bordeaux, Frank J. Prial reports that while the great estates are cashing in, the smaller winemakers are not faring well in the face of reduced French wine consumption, foreign competition from the U.S. and Australia, and onerous labelling requirements that prevent growers from adding the grape variety to the label of any wines but the most comman. Their solution? Raise prices. It doesn't make sense to Prial, either.
What doesn't make sense to me is how New York City allowed a real-estate developer to mess up the deal to bring a Sam's Wine and Spirits to Gotham. Instead, the Chicago Tribune reports, the Chicago and Internet wine and liquor superstore will open its second location in the Western Suburbs of the Big Onion. Sure, you've got better bagels in NYC, but you've never been to a REAL hooch barn until you've walked into Sam's with its 4,322 varieties of French wine, 3,621 U.S. wines, 3,623 Australian wines, 165 New Zealand wines and 131 South African wines. Bill Daley might be headed there to get some Riesling, a wine critics adore, but the public shuns.
Did I really say the stonner story from Scotland was my favorite article this week? Well, maybe I was wrong. The one that made me smile was this Tribune portrait of the mother of the fine food craze in America and the woman who taught us home cooking could mean not just burgers and macaroni, but cassoulet and brie en coute - Julia Childs. Childs says shes not ready to be "pushing up the parsley" just yet and remains alert and active at 92. Must be all that low-fat food she taught us to make. Save the liver, spoil the chef, I always say.
picture of Ms. Childs linked from WGBH Boston website
The essence of creative cooking is improvisation. Sometimes that improvisation is a response to a lack of ingredients. Don't have whole milk? Mix cream and skim. Don't have shrimp? Try the recipe with scallops. Necessity has created many an inventive dish from the materials at hand.
And then there are the dishes you make just because you think they sound cool. A year or so ago, we had guests over where every single item on the menu was purple. (I did mention my wife is a patient woman, right?) We started with a leek-potato soup made with Peruvian blue potatoes, moved on to a red onion tart which turns purplish in the oven, and had on hand purple drunken goats cheese. The rind is stained a deep purple by soaking the cheese in crushed wine grapes.
The picture you see (and which you can click to open a larger version) are some of the star ingredients in a dish I wished I'd had at that meal. I took the pesto recipe I posted a week or so ago and substituted these gorgeous purple basil leaves I bought at the Chicago Green CIty Market, and some walnuts, while upping the proportion of nuts to leaves and decreasing the cheese somewhat. The result is a bitter but delicious basil-walnut pesto with a deep dark purple coloring.
I might increase the oil over the original recipe and use walnut oil instead of olive oil next time. I might include some blue cheese as well. Or I might not. I might try tarragon instead of basil or any of a thousand variations.
You get the idea. Experiment. You might very well create something disgusting (in which case, give it to the dog and call for Chinese), but you might also make something new and wonderful. As you experiment you'll figure out how a dish "works" and what you can vary and what you can't.
One caution - this doesn't work so well with baked goods. Freaky magical chemical reactions happen in the oven, involving stuff like glutens and disaccharides and elves. Yes, elves. I haven't seen them, but I know they're there. So expect to be disappointed if you do much more than tinker around the edges of a successful baked goods recipe until you figure out what makes a cake (for instance) do that fluffy lovely thing it does. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try, but you should be more ready for the laws of chemistry and physics to hate on you. (Why you gotta be a baker-hater?)
Last week's speech by Eric Schlosser took place at the the Chicago Green City Market. The Chicago Green City Market, Chicago's "only sustainable green market", is held every Wednesday in Lincoln Park at 1750 North between Clark and Stockton between 7:00am and 1:30pm from May 19th to October 27th. What makes the Green City Market different from other farmer's markets around the city and around the country are the strict guidelines producers must abide by to be eligible for the market.
I have a copy of the questionnaire which probes deeply into the farming and production practices of prospective vendors. A sample of the questions -
4. What practices do you follow to produce a high quality product?
5. How do your production methods reflect "harmony with nature, showing care and respect for the earth." Explain.
7 a. Do you use any purchased products or inputs to control your weeds? Which? Describe your weed control practices:
7 b. Do you use any purchased products or inputs to control insects and disease? Which? Describe your insect and disease control practices:
Other questions ask for details of feed supplements, confinement practices, and health maintenance of livestock for those selling animal products, and questions that root out just how much of a processed product (like cheese, honey, jams, sandwiches) is actually made by the producer and how much is just assembled. It's a high standard. Getting into the market requires organic farming methods for foods produced locally (locally is understood to include Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan, as well as Illinois), and under sustainable conditions that won't destroy the soil or harm livestock lines.
Why is this important? Not only do you get pesticide-free vegetables from a market like this, you also get better tasting vegetables and more variety. A commercial producer of tomatoes can only sell big round tomatoes that are picked green and gassed at the warehouse to induce the turn to red. An organic producer who is going to the Chicago Green City Market has control over the transport of the vegetables and fruits and knows they won't have to sit for long periods of time before being sold. He can pick an ugly but flavorful tomato or peach and bring it to market knowing it will find a buyer who will appreciate the intense flavor of fruits and vegetables allowed to grow and ripen naturally. Basically, better farming methods and local markets lead to better foods for you.
The market takes advantage of the rich talent pool of local chefs each week, who come to demonstrate techniques and dishes for which they are famous. Rick Bayless from Topolobampo and the Frontera Grill was the guest June 9th, Gale Gand from Tru and the Food Network's Sweet Dreams gave a demonstration July 21st, and tomorrow, Janice Martin from Tweet on North Sheridan Road will be in attendance. Paul Kahan from Blackbird will be the guest September 22nd, and on other days chefs from the Four Seasons, The Everest Room, Pili Pili, and the Milk and Honey Cafe will show their stuff. Recipes from these demonstrations are on their site.
That the market exists only for a short time each year and only on Wednesday mornings and early afternoons is Chicago's shame. That it exists at all is due to the pride and hard work of writer, chef, activist, and author Abby Mandel.
If there's justice in the world, Abby Mandel will eventually become better known for her role in developing the Chicago Green City Market, now in its 5th year, than for her best-selling cookbooks or the classes she teaches. Mandel writes a weekly food column for the Chicago Tribune and the Dallas Morning News that's run for the last 15 years, and is a former editor of Bon Appetit.
Her work with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley helped to bring the market into being in Lincoln Park. I hope she'll continue her work and try to expand the market's presence into a more permanent location where Chicagoans can enjoy local organic produce year-round.
I took a batch of photos at last week's market. The deep colors of the produce, the variety of products available, and the rich scents everywhere (especially by the herb tent) don't come across completely in these pictures, but I hope you'll get a sense for what you're missing if you don't get a chance to get to the market.
Chicago is going to have its very own version thanks to San Pellegrino, called Chicago Dine Out from August 16th through August 29th. At restaurants all around the city, you can buy lunch for $20 and dinner for $35. One whole American dollar from each meal will go to Meals on Wheels, a very worthy charity (who deserve a lot more than a buck a meal if you ask me), and you get a free bottle of San Pellegrino water. You may have noticed from the logo for Chicago Dine Out that San Pelelgrino has pasted their name all over the event like an aqueous Donald Trump.
No, neither Charlie Trotter's, Trio, Tru, Green Zebra, Shine, Everest, nor the Harold's Chicken Shack in the West Loop are participating, but you can take advantage of the deal at some real fine eateries including Rick Bayless's Topolobampo, RoSal's in Little Italy, Oceanique in Evanston, or Nacional 27 among others. For a complete list, navigate to the annoying all-Flash site (why do people DO that?) and click the Participating Restaurants link.
Did we mention San Pellegrino's involved?
Each Saturday, the Too Many Chefs crew will pick our favorite posts since last Saturday from other food blogs.
I'm the one writing it up today, so here in no particular order are three posts from the last week that we really liked.
1. Chocolate and Zucchini is a formidable food blog and one of the first I read regularly so many months ago. Her recipe for Velouté Froid de Courgette au Parmesan, aka Parmesan and Zucchini Chilled Soup is a C&Z instant classic. The ingredients are slightly unusual but make perfect sense together in context, and the final soup is a winner. I have a batch of yellow zucchini squash I'm adapting the recipe for this weekend. A chilled soup in the hot summer sun... And can you ever go wrong with Parmesan? No, I didn't think so. Brava, Clotide!
A. The sun-drenched South Atlantic shores of Cape Town, South Africa are home to Brian and his blog Kitsch 'N Zinc. Given the nature of the web, you might expect all the the featured posts to have lucious pictures, but Brian draws a clear picture of the action in your head using only words in a post that would have worked well on gopher. His post on Friendly Waiters had me nodding my head and chuckling in recognition.
I. If Que Sera Sera were a food blog, this dining tale of terror might be my pick for the third slot for this week, but it isn't, so it isn't (got that?).
Instead, I'm going to serve a craving I've had by pointing to elise's Simply Recipe's Blueberry Pie recipe. I've had a taste for a good fruit pie for the last week, and the one pictured is gorgeous. If the recipe cooks half as well as it looks, and if I can convince my wife to let me buy fresh berries for the pie instead of frozen, I should be enjoying a slice of this treat with dinner tomorrow.
I'm cheating a little to add one addition that doesn't really fit the jacket of a blog. Through redbeard's foodpornwatch, I came across the beautiful à la carte site and this post on tomatoes, which fpw tells me was updated Friday night. Don't miss the detailed and well documented tomato recipes ringing the article. Is it a blog? Well, for now, think of it as a bonus offering.
Since landing in New Orleans almost a month ago, I've always eaten my po'boy sandwiches with seafood. If you can get an eleven-inch sandwich stuffed with shrimp and oysters for five dollars, why would you eat anything else? This afternoon, though, I decided that I must expand my culinary horizons. With a sense of adventure, I walked down to my neighborhood grocer and ordered a Fergie, a warm po'boy made with ham and roast beef.
With a hot sandwich wrapped in white paper, I headed home to discover what I'd been missing.
Honestly, I wasn't expecting to find something fabulous once I unwrapped the sandwich. I assumed that deep fried seafood was the main attraction to the po'boy. This ignored, though, the central tenet of New Orleans cooking--if it's not delicious, then they don't sell it.
I had ordered the Fergie dressed, which in my experience typically means mayo, lettuce, tomato, and dill pickles. When I unwrapped the sandwich, though, I found that on this occasion the pickles had been left off and a new ingredient added--brown gravy. In most parts of the country, one spreadable fat would be enough. Not in New Orleans, where they logically assume that if mayonnaise tastes good and gravy tastes good, then the combination must be doubly delicious. And you know what? They are absolutely right.
Also posted at A Frolic of My Own.
August is traditionally the silly season in Europe and so we are instituting a month of food quizzes to get in the spirit of things! How does it work? Each Friday, we will post ten questions on food. You send your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org. From the correct answers received in the first 24 hours after posting, we will randomly choose a WINNER to receive one cheap food-related prize. (Trinkets, fridge magnets in the shape of baguettes, you get the idea: we will try not to get you into trouble with the Department of Agriculture by sending snails or the like.)
We will be posting this quiz each Friday during the month of August, partly because I can write them up in advance to cover the period while I’m on holiday (yay!!) and also to see how much interest there is out there for this kind of a feature. If you like the idea, show us by participating! If it’s kind of popular, we’ll continue on a monthly basis. If you make our hit rate go through the roof, we promise to continue on a weekly basis. It’s all up to you.
1) Send your answers to email@example.com. If you send the answers to any other email address, they don’t count.
2) Please do not post the answers in the comments or we will have to hire someone to come to your house and discuss manners with you.
3) You can look up some of the answers on the web, but we will think you are wimps if you do – it’s between you and your greedy conscience. The prizes are cheesy enough that we hope you will enter this contest for the sheer fun of it rather out of an obsessive competitive urge.
4) We are always right. If you think we are wrong, you can tell us in the comments (obviously after the quiz is over and our answers have been published). We will then give tell you in no uncertain terms why YOU are wrong. Or grovel, it depends. Either way, the our decision in awarding the prize is final.
5) What happens if - unthinkable - we stump you all and not a single person gets all the answers? Well, in that case we will probably award the prize based on the funniest wrong answer. Bear this in mind when answering.
6) The right answers will be posted one week after the quiz. We will announce the winners of ALL the quizzes (and send out the cheesy prizes) at the end of the month of August, when I get back from the south of France and Spain. If you want us to publish a pseudonym rather than your real name, please supply us with said fake name and your geographical location, e.g. “Snuggums, from Bangor, Maine”. If you want us to plug your web site at the same time, grovel. We’ll consider it.
And so, without further ado, please find below the First Friday Foodie Quiz. Good luck!
1. What was the theme of the first-ever Is My Blog Burning? event?
2. Royal Ann, Morello, Lambert and Richmond are all varieties of which fruit?
3. The definition is: French for “miller’s wife” (or "female miller"), referring to a style of cooking whereby a food is seasoned, lightly dusted with four and sautéed simply in butter. Such a preparation is served with…beurre noisette flavored with lemon juice and parsley. What is the cooking term?
4. Italian Pecorino cheese is made from what kind of milk?
5. Born April 1, 1775 and died February 2, 1826, this French lawyer, magistrate, and politician wrote one of the most celebrated works on food. Who is he?
6. If your recipe calls for baking powder and you do not have any in your kitchen, what other two ingredients can you combine to make some?
7. What is the most poisonous funghi (measured in number of fatalities caused)?
8. 19th century British sailors were issued with limes and lime juice to prevent which disease?
9. What does this little gadget do?
10. Who discovered the process for producing champagne in 1693?
Eric Schlosser smiles Wednesday as a food geek takes his picture.
Eric Schlosser's book Fast Food Nation is an examination of what we eat today and how that food is produced and delivered to us. What Schlosser found was that more profound changes have occurred in the commodification of food and its transformation into an industrial product in the last 25-30 years than in the previous 20,000. The New York Times Book Review called Fast Food Nation "...a fine piece of muckraking, alarming without being alarmist."
Schlosser spoke yesterday at the Chicago Green City Market, an organic food market open every Wednesday at 1700 North Clark in Lincoln Park.
The day was rainy, but the small tent under which Schlosser spoke overflowed with people who stood in the intermittent drizzle to hear him speak about food, health, agribusiness and the role of government agencies in the regulation of our food supply.
Schlosser spoke fluidly as he spoke about how amazed he was when he began researching Fast Food Nation by how little he really knew about the food he ate. His book ended up being "about the problem," and he praised the Green Market. "What you see here is the solution."
Some of Schlosser's asserions in Fast Food Nation and in his speech may be difficult to believe at first, but he backed them up. If food had changed so much recently, why hadn't we noticed? Shlosser believes its because the food still looks the same, though it is a totally different product. In his book, he asserted that a hamburger that 30 years ago came from one animal might today contain meat from 100 different animals. He took the opportunity to correct the number in his speech, "Today, the number is close to a thousand different animals. Parts of a thousand different animals are in that one burger."
The danger in this, according to Schlosser, is that if one animal is sick, one thousand times the number of people could be exposed to that meat . Much of Fast Food Nation and much of his speech yesterday concerned abuses in the meat industries. Schlosser deplored the conditions cattle are raised in in the U.S., citing a feedlot in Greely Colorado where over 100,000 cattle are crowded together in the manure, and asserted that the conditions pigs are raised in are even worse. He also referred to the recent footage of a poultry farm taken in a Pilgrim's Pride plant that supplied chickens to KFC as an "animal Abu Ghraib."
This was an aside to the main point of his talk which is that this kind of food is just not good for people either biologically or politically. The founders of our democracy linked land ownership and farming to Democracy. Now, agribusiness has taken over and where family farms once stood, now 12 agribusiness conglomorates rule. In the U.S., a nation of 300 million people, only 2 million are now farmers directly involved in the production of food for the remaining 298 million.
The agribusiness combines, which he compared unfavorably to the Trusts Upton Sinclair wrote about in The Jungle, control the markets and the prices smaller farmers recieve for their goods by the virtue of their size. Today, when you spend a dollar for corn or tomatoes or beef at the supermarket, only twenty cents of that dollar goes to the producer, the lowest amount in our history, according to Schlosser.
Some might see this as progress, since we spend less on food as a percentage of our income than any other nation. Schlosser argues that like many large businesses, agribusiness socializes the costs while privatizing the profits. By this, he means that the costs are pushed to the victims of the broken inspection and food quality system, particularly in the meat segment, where Schlosser says fixing the system would add 1 penny per pound to the cost of food in the U.S., but the producers refuse to go along with it. Costs born by the citizen/consumer and not by the giant agribusinesses include "the rise of food-borne illnesses, environmental costs, and the rise of obesity which will shortly become the number one cause of preventable death in the country."
Schlosser reads a page and a half of milkshake ingredients
One of the best received parts of the talk came early on when Eric Schlosser illustrated his point about the change in food by describing how strawberry milkshakes used to be made. "You'd take milk, some strawberries, some sugar" to the ingredients in a milkshake from a fast-food restaurant today by reading a page and half from his book which consisted of nothing but the list of ingredients in that shake.
"You can't make that at home." he said, a line which was appreciated by the sympathetic crowd of about 150 people.
Schlosser ended his speech on a note of hope. The organic food movement and markets like the Chicago Green City Market (which I'll write more about tomorrow) are the hope. The Green City Market, he acknowledged, takes place in a fairly well-off section of town. The essence of the change needed is for markets like the Chicago Green City Market to spread throughout the city and service not just the upper middle class and the well-to-do, but the working class and the family that often has to worry more about getting food on the table than about the health effects of that food twenty or thirty years down the road.
Schlosser in front of Green City Market sign
A brief Q&A after the talk allowed Schlosser to expand on the way costs are borne by the consumer instead of by the companies making these profound changes to our food-chain. He acknowledged again the difficulty and the importance of gettig organics and sustainably produced foods to the lower-middle and working classes, when the fast food companies spend $3 billion/year in marketing (Full disclosure: the public relations firm I work for during the day benefits from some of that money).
A man in a chef's coat asked Mr. Schlosser to expand on his critique of the meat inspection system. "Caveat emptor - Let the buyer beware." was Schlosser's answer. Schlosser described how the USDA, which was supposed to regulate the meat industry was "a case study in how a government agency can be captured and corrupted by the industry it regulates."
Schlosser cited the meat-industry-past of many current USDA officials, and gave as an example of the consequence of those connections a case in Texas where the USDA bought the industry assertion that since salmonella occurred naturally in beef (usually from fecal contamination), it could not be considered an adulterant and could not be prevented by regulation from supermarket shelves.
He contrasted this with the Danish meat inspection system. Denmark, which is one of the largest hog butchers in the world has an efficient system that allows an inspector to shut down an entire plant if salmonella is found anywhere in the plant. As a consequece, sanitation is taken seriously and the meat in Denmark is safe.
A student asked Schlosser what the worst fast food place was, what the best place was, and if he still ate fast food.
Schlosser cited McDonald's as the worst of the bunch. Not because they are any worse in their practices than othe chains, but because they are "the largest and most powerful, and so mean." The best place he thought was In and Out Burger, a West Coast chain where though the food is not organic, it is lightly processed, the milkshakes are made with milk and ice cream, the potatoes are peeled on premises, and which is still family owned.
Schlosser doesn't eat at either chain, or at any other fast food restaurant not because he's afraid of getting sick but because he doesn't want to give them any of his money.
The final question had to do with the idea of irradiation of meat and other foods as a way to clean up the industry.
Schlosser has clearly thought about this question before. He raised the concerns that some people have about irradiation damaging vitamins and possibly causing more free radicals, but dismissed them for a different reason to oppose irradiation of the general food supply which resonated with the audience and with me.
If the food producers are allowed to irradiate their meat instead of fixing the inspection process what you get may be "irradiated meat with irradiated feces. Let's get the shit out of our meat instead." The crowd applauded. It's pretty hard to argue the "pro shit-in-meat" position.
Eric Schlosser with Chicago Green City Market founder Abby Mandel
Overall, Schlosser came across as very reasonable. Some important questions did remain unasked. No one raised the question of whether organic farming could produce enough food to feed a nation of 300 million without drastically increasing the cost of food to the poorest Americans and forcing a large part of the population that had fled rural life for the cities in the last century back to the farm. I'm sure some would question the economics of some of his arguments as well. These are points with room for debate, but I feel Schlosser did an excellent job of outlining the problem.
He raised good questions, seemed to know his stuff, and was appreciated by the crowd. If I hadn't already read Fast Food Nation, I'd have purchased a copy last night. Even if you don't think you agree with his perspective, you should check out a copy of Fast Food Nation from your local library and read what he has to say. It'll help you form an informed opinion one way or the other.
I'm looking forward to his next book, which he told us will cover prisons in America.
The third and last adobo recipe for the week is, once again, chicken adobo, but this time I've added some new ingredients, including onions and tomatoes. To me these things seem somewhat out of place, since the adobo my family made always omitted vegetables, but I've adapted this recipe from a coworker of mine from the Social Security Administration who was a good Filipino mother too...
This is also the simplest recipe, because it doesn't call for two different cooking stages -- the meat is simply boiled in the liquid ingredients along with the vegetables and spices.
Several chicken pieces
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/8 cup vegetable oil
1 cup water
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 sweet onion, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
10 whole peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 dried chipotle pepper
Last I heard, chipotle wasn't a very Filipino ingredient, but I've seen it used in adobo recipes before and it adds a good smoky character here.
Combine all ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil for a minute or two. Reduce heat and simmer until the meat is tender. You may have to replenish the liquid in the pot once or twice; simply add water.
Serve with jasmine rice and fresh mango slices.
Somerset Maugham once said "To eat well in England you should have breakfast three times a day." And one of my favorite English breakfast foods is the crumpet.
The perfect crumpet, even more so than the perfect english muffin, captures the tension between crisp and tender. The outside crunches as your teeth bite into it and are cushioned immediately by a spongy soft crumb that loves to absorb butter and jam. Oof.
After our foray to the Crumpet Shop near the Pike Street Market in Seattle a few weeks ago, I knew I had to learn to make my own.
I'd never made crumpets from scratch before, and to the best of my knowledge, I'd never known anyone who made crumpets from scratch before. When I want to learn a new recipe and have no teacher, I turn to the Internet, where everything is true and the advice is always good. (Ummm...)
Google turned up a few crumpet recipes, which I compared and contrasted. The one that looked the most promising was this one from History.uk.com.
I went to Sur La Table and picked up a set of no-stick crumpet rings (though they thought they were egg rings) for about $7, the next morning, I began the recipe.
The first try I started to measure our the flour until I realized just how much flour a pound and a half is. Good grief! I was trying to feed my wife and myself, not the Royal Fusilliers. I decided to halve the recipe.
The first batch of crumpets turned out poorly. The outsides were nice and crispy but the insides were still batter. And they didn't have that nice soft bubbly crumb where the batter had set. Basically, they looked like they didn't have enough oomph!
So a few days later, I adjusted the recipe and gave it a second try. This time, the crumpets were just the way I like them. The key was doubling the amount of yeast in the original recipe (or actually, keeping the amount of yeast the same while halving the rest of the recipe).
Here now is my adaptation of the crumpet recipe from history.uk.com:
3/4 pound All-Purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups of milk - use butermilk if you like buttermilk crumpets
1 tablespoon dried yeast
pinch of sugar
Sift the flour and salt together in a large bowl.
Heat the milk to lukewarm - between 80 and 100 degrees Farenheit
Pour 1/2 cup of milk into a glass or bowl, stir in the yeast and sprinkle the sugar on top to feed the little yeasty beasties. After about 5-10 minutes, you should have a foamy head on the milk. reheat the rest of the milk to 80-100 Farenheit if it has dropped in temperature.
Form a well in the center of the bowl of flour and salt. Fill the well with the 1/2 cup of milk and yeast. Add the rest of the milk. Stir to combine, trying to fold air into the mix while combining the ingredients. Continue to stir until a thick batter forms.
Cover the bowl and set aside to rise for 45 minutes.
After the rise, the contents of the bowl should look like a big puffy uncooked loaf of bread. Here's where the diet goes out the window - Grease the (preferably non-stick) skillet you will use with butter. Grease the rings as well, and place them on the skillet. Over medium heat, melt the butter and heat the rings until they are the same temperature as the skillet (about three or four minutes).
Raise the heat just a little. Heat control is very important with this dish. You have to find a medium between burning the outside of the crumpet while the inside is still batter, and leaving the heat so low that the butter leaves the crumpet greasy. All stovetops and pans are different - you'll have to experiment a bit.
Pour enough batter into the rings (I use about half a cup per crumpet) so the ring isn't overflowing, but so the bottom is covered. The batter will be sticky and tricky to work with, so be careful when adding it to the rings. Do not move the crumpet for five to seven minutes until the surface looks pretty dry and bubbles have formed holes throughout the top of the crumpet.
Carefully remove the ring, flip the crumpet, and cook the other side for two to three minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
When you're done with the batch, you can eat them right away with butter and jam, use them as a base for an openfaced egg sandwich, or let them cool and toast them the next day for breakfast.
I haven't tried the alternate method of cooking described in the original recipe - using a baking sheet to do a big batch of crumpets all at once - but if I acquire more rings, I may give it a go.
While stuffing a chicken with snow, Francis Bacon caught the case of pneumonia that killed him. Baby wasps taste like scrambled eggs, but unsurprisingly reindeer tastes like game. John F. Kennedy began the dinner celebrating his 45th birthday with Crabmeat baked in Sea Shells.
This odd assortment of trivia, along with other facts of dubious utility, can be found in the recently published Schott's Food and Drink Miscellany. The book's author, Ben Schott, promises "a collection of vital irrelevance and uncommon knowledge surrounding the worlds of food and drink." Now if someone could just tell me what Francis Bacon was doing to that poor chicken.
Like the Amateur Gourmet (mentioned below), I like to browse the food channels on TV. I would have to choose a weekend when the Critic was away on some other business if I wanted to get unlimited access to the remote control for a foodie marathon, but Saturday mornings are generally pretty safe while he goes to the gym. Last Saturday, I caught part of a show (don't remember the name, don't remember the host) and one recipe sounded interesting. The presenter said it was a dry rub he had tasted in a restaurant in Greece and he had pestered the chef until he was given the recipe. That was very energetic and praiseworthy of him, and it's a shame I didn't take the time to note the exact ingredients (or even the name of the enthusiastic presenter). I did keep most of the essentials in my tiny brain, however, and mixed up my own dry rub on the basis of it.
Greek Spiced Pork Chops
2 Tablespoons fennel seeds
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
lots of ground pepper
1 clove garlic
I started out grinding the fennel seeds in my mortar and pestle, as recommended by the BBC chef. He obviously has kitchen minions to do his bidding (or much stronger wrists than I) because after five minutes I decided that life is too short for grinding fennel seeds by hand. I put all the spice ingredients in the small container of the hand-held blender and zapped them. (You can see them in said container above this text.) I then rubbed the pork chops with a cut garlic clove, spread a little olive oil on them and covered them with the spice mix. The Critic did his usual masterful job grilling the meat and when it was done David and Matina (she's Greek, you'll remember) and the Critic all said it was absolutely delicious. I think they were right - this will definitely stay in the recipe box! The only change I might make in the future would be to serve it with some aioli, as pork chops can get a little dry on the grill. Using olive oil to make the spices stick helped, but I think a sauce would be nice too.
This recipe differs from the last one not only in the type of meat being used (an important distinction!) but also in the way the meat is browned. Instead of sauteeing the meat before adding the liquid ingredients, here the meat is broiled near the end, which means the fat has already been rendered.
3 lbs country style pork ribs
1 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
6-8 cloves garlic
lots of pepper
Country style ribs are a relatively cheap and very fatty cut available in American supermarkets. (You can also get beef ribs, but I can't yet vouch for their appropriateness in this recipe.) You'll definitely want to trim away large pieces of fat before you get started.
Cut the ribs into 2 inch cubes. Add all the ingredients to a large stockpot and bring to a boil for a few minutes. Be sure you have enough pepper -- this dish should actually be somewhat spicy. Reduce the heat and simmer; once the pork is cooked through, remove the pork to a broiler pan and arrange in a single layer. Broil the meat until it is browned on the side facing up (in my broiler this takes about 4 minutes, but broilers can be very different). Remove and turn the individual pieces of pork so that the browned sides are down, and broil the meat again, this time for a slightly shorter amount of time.
(An obvious variation here is to grill the meat; I have not tried this, but my guess is it would impart a somewhat alien flavor on the dish and might not brown the meat as effectively. It might be worth a try sometime, though.)
When both sides are adequately browned, return the pork to the pot. Simmer for a few minutes, and serve with jasmine rice and tomato wedges. The sauce should be spooned over the rice rather than the meat.
Not to drive traffic away from our site, but if it's still Tuesday, you really should go check out the Amateur Gourmet's Food TV Marathon blogging session in progress now. It's full of the wit and humor-filled observation that makes his site so popular with the kids.
Amateur Gourmet is one of those sites that always makes me think, "Rats, I wish I'd thought of that!"
UPDATE: He's bailed. Eight hours of basic cable food shows was more than enough for one man. The field is now open. Who will take on the challenge to watch 17 1/2 hours of programming in a single 24 hour day? And remember, that includes such rough spots as Roker on the Road and The Best Of...
Last year for the first month in our new apartment we were without a kitchen. We had boxes and appliances in boxes, but no stove, no oven, just a microwave and an electric kettle for cooking. As a result, we bought ourselves a nice grill and did all our cooking outdoors. After ten years of living in Paris with no access to a barbecue, it was heaven. I began then to appreciate the fact that grilling in France can be even better than in Chicago, because of the variety of produce. (Except for good corn on the cob, alas!) Our friend David, whose wife Matina is Greek, introduced us then to the beauty and simplicity of grilled squid. It makes a beautiful photo, too, doesn't it?
Since I started exploring our local market in earnest I have begun making forays into the wonderful world of Fish I Have Never Eaten. Since I come from the Chicago area, where river fish are inedible and ocean fish inaccessible, this encompasses a very large number of species. I am hoping to chronicle some of the experiences - hopefully all positive - here at Too Many Chefs. So above you can see my first purchase of squid. Squid bodies, to be exact. (Blancs d'encornet in French.) When David and Matina brought squid for grilling last summer they were smaller, either babies or a different variety. We marinaded them in olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper and they were tender, a little crispy in places and delicious. The ones you see here were a little tougher. I think next time I'll stick to the small whole ones for grilling and use these large pouches as God obviously intended: for stuffing and baking! Still, they were very tasty and by no means a failure!
The next fish we tried last night was not a complete departure, though it was my first attempt to cook it in France: Rainbow trout. At least, I think it was rainbow trout: the French was Truite à la chair rose (pink fleshed) and it looked like rainbow trout to me. As we were grilling the fish whole I disregarded the Critic's suggestion of cooking it with almonds (um, yes, they fall off...) and simply dressed it again with olive oil and lemon juice. I think next time I will pop some fresh herbs in its belly, perhaps thyme. However it too was delicious just simply grilled.
And now we come to the exciting fish, the one that took me a fair bit of web research to discover its English name. In French, it was called a pageot rose and I bought two lovely 8-10 inch fishies with big glossy eyes and slightly pinkish flesh. I discovered it is a species of Sea Bream, although I'm not entirely certain of the exact variety. It seems to be a Blackspot Sea Bream, which you can read about here. I forgot to take a photo of the fish before cooking them, but you can see them on the grill here. I wish I could tell you exactly what spices were rubbed on this fish because it was wonderful, but unfortunately, it was a bag of spices that the Critic brought back from New Zealand for me and the ingredients are not listed. It was a little spicy and might have had some curry-type spices in it. It went very well with the flesh, which was a little dark and very flavourful.
I am fast becoming a big fan of grilled fish, I have to say! I was a bit leery of grilling fish at first because I don't have any of the fancy fish-cages you are supposed to put fish in to grill them. However, as long as you grill them whole (or use squid, which doesn't flake) they stay together just fine and come out with a wonderful slight charred taste. Actually, the easiest part about grilling fish is the fact that I hand the plate of raw fish to the Critic, who does all the work!
One last note: sea bream are not on the Shedd Aquarium Seafood Wallet Card, but it is not on the red list according to most sites I consulted. Rainbow trout are just barely in the green section (yay!) and squid, sadly, are firmly in the yellow section. If anyone out there knows of a similar source of information on fishing practices, but based on European fish, I would be most interested to hear about it!
Here are the fish on our grill. I wish I had remembered to photograph the trout, in particular, once they were cooked: it looked very pretty with its pink flesh peeking out from the charred skin. We were hungry!
For me one of the essential food "quests" -- those back burner searches for some beloved/remembered food or recipe that never quite get satisfied -- is for adobo. For those who don't know, adobo is the national dish of the Philippines, in its simplest configuration just meat cooked with vinegar, soy sauce, and garlic (although for me, black pepper is also a fundamental ingredient). As a half-Filipino, I grew up eating the stuff, which was usually cooked by my mom, occasionally by my grandmother or an aunt. This culinary experience is probably the extent of my connection to Flip culture -- maybe that helps explains the dish's significance to me?
I've talked extensively with my mother about making adobo, which is obviously helpful (especially since the dish I'm trying to recreate is hers, or at least my memory of hers) but perhaps not as authoritative as you'd think. My mom is herself always changing her recipes, finding new ways to make adobo less fatty or less salty, depending on whatever health concern she has at the moment. Her adobo has definitely evolved, which means the recipes and suggestions I get now arent necessarily satisfying. I've also consulted other relatives, friends, numerous cookbooks, and the internet.
At any rate, I'm going to be posting three different recipes for adobo this week. Each recipe is different from the others and represents for me a completely different interpretation of adobo. I won't tell you which recipe I like best (that might be dispositive, for those cooking along at home) until I've posted all three, and even then the answer may not be clear.
The first recipe is for chicken adobo.
several chicken thighs and legs
6 cloves garlic
1/2 cup vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 cup water
freshly ground black pepper
a bit of vegetable oil
Trim the fat if you like -- I find that this particular recipe can be very fatty. I personally would never remove thee skin, since I have such fond memories of eating adoboed chicken skin as a kid, but do as you need to do!
This recipe is basically a fricasee. Preheat your oven to 300F. In a large ovenproof pan or dutch oven, saute the garlic in the bit of oil (not too much, since thighs and legs are so fatty) and as it starts to turn golden add and saute the chicken. The goal is to brown it without burning it or the garlic -- this requires a lot of movement. Generously pepper the chicken on every side as you saute it. When the chicken is somewhat browned, add the liquid ingredients and let them boil for a minute or so. Make sure to coat the chicken in the liquid. Cover, and throw it in the oven for 30 minutes.
When it comes out, it should be done. There should be a substantial amount of liquid left, and if you want you can thicken it up some before serving. Serve with jasmine rice and tomato wedges, spooning the meaty, garlicky liquid over the rice.
Adobo famously gets better with age, so make sure you hang on to the leftovers.
I'll admit being a little disturbed by the latest Is My Blog Burning? announcement. This redbeard guy - was he talking directly to me?
After a moment's reflection, I realized that "You're Just the Cutest Little Dumpling!" is the name of the next IMBB? and not a sentiment addressed to me. I've disconnected the camera from my computer though, just in case.
In case you hadn't sussed it, the theme of IMBB? #7 - "You're Just the Cutest Little Dumpling" is dumplings. Of any variety. And there are plenty of varieties of dumpling.
On August 22nd, 2004, post an entry on your blog about dumplings of any variety. Post a knish to nosh, an apple dumpling to gang up on, or dip some dim sum in some dank dip and let redbeard know by e-mailing him at "redbeard at arrr dot net" (change the "at" to that circle a sign thingy, and the "dot" to a full stop if you speak British-style English or to a period if you speak American-style English)
All the detals, rules and info about the event can be found on life in flow.
Dumpling, by the way is defined in the Fourth Edition of the American Heritage Dictionary like so:
1. A piece of dough, sometimes filled, that is cooked in liquid such as water or soup.
2. Sweetened dough wrapped around fruit, such as an apple, baked and served as a dessert.
3. Informal. A short, chubby creature.
Leaves a lot of leeway, though there is a debate over on the comments for the announcement about whether filled pastas like ravioli are dumplings. My entry will be one that conforms to either the first or second dictionary definition. There's less squirming that way.
The inspiration for this salad was a recipe by Nigel Slater for Baked Couscous and Summer Vegetables. All credit to Nigel for mixing together a lovely combination of ingredients, but I have to say that baking couscous is a really stupid idea. Especially in the summer. The beauty of couscous, and what makes it an ideal summer dish, is in its preparation: boil one volume of water, remove from heat and add one volume of couscous, cover and stir after five minutes. Yes, there are special couscous cooking pots that allow you to steam the grains, but at the end of the day soaking in nearly boiling water works just fine for me. These are the instructions that were on the package, after all. So who wants to heat up the oven in the summer? Not me!
I don't make couscous very often because the Critic doesn't like it. I don't understand this: couscous is as innocuous as rice, a vehicle for tastier items. I also love the nubbly texture. Still, I've had a hankering for some couscous and so a salad seemed like a good way to avoid making an entire couscous meal which might not go down well. For the record, the Critic, ever critical, did not change his mind (though he admitted it was "okay" and might have been better if I had added jalepeno peppers). Our dinner guests last night, however, thought it was lovely. And so did I!
Couscous and Grilled Veggies Salad
1 cup couscous
1 red pepper
2 small zucchini (courgettes)
1 small eggplant (augergine)
1 heirloom eggplant (aubergine)
a handful of tiny cherry tomatoes
2 heirloom purple calabash tomatoes
2/3 cup sweet corn
1 cup chopped cucumber
4-6 chopped spring onions
2/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup chopped fresh coriander
1/3 cup olive oil
juice of half a lemon
For the sauce
1 container plain yogurt
juice of half a lemon
1 Tbs spicy paprika or (better) harissa paste
Bring one cup of water to boil and remove from heat. Add couscous to water and cover. Stir after five minutes and remove to a large bowl, using spoon or fork to break up grains. Set aside to cool.
Slice the zucchini and eggplant in thickish wedges (about 1 cm), brush them with the olive oil and grill them. I let mine get a little burned here and there - it only adds flavour to the end product. Cut the pepper in half, seed and also place on grill. When the pepper is cooked through and blackened on the skin side, put the halves in a plastic bag, close and place in refrigerator to cool.
Chop and slice all the rest of the ingredients (as appropriate) and add to the couscous. Dribble the remaining olive oil and lemon juice to taste in the salad. By now, the pepper should have cooled down enough to handle. Remove it from the fridge and peel as much as possible of the skin from the pepper. Don't worry if a bit remains, as it's perfectly edible. Chop and add to the salad. Stir and stir some more. Taste and add some salt if it seems to need it.
For the dressing, just mix the three ingredients and taste for spiciness.
Serve warm or cold, with the dressing on the side for those who want to spice up the dish a bit.
This makes a very light, healthy summer salad. I think the dressing really adds to the final dish, giving it a little pizzaz and keeping it from being too dry. If you think your guests will like it too, you might want to double the amount. In any case, it's easy to throw together another batch if you run out! Also, obviously the quantities and variety of vegetables depends on what you have to hand and what you like: I nearly grilled some large hot peppers for the Critic but decided the other guests might not appreciate them. Some might add a larger proportion of cilantro/coriander to the mix. And if I had more tomatoes on hand I probably would have added more of them, too. And now I'll be eating it for lunch this week: I suspect that being stored in the fridge overnight will have enhanced the flavour of the salad and made it even tastier!