December 31, 2004

Hey, you found us!

We used to be at, and then we were only at and now we can be found in BOTH places!

We are extremely happy to report that our domain name issues have been resolved and we are now open for business in both locations. No more confusion, no more lost time looking for your favorite (we hope) chefs. This is a good way to start out the new year!

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 8:38 PM | Comments (2)
Almost Moosewood Chickpea Soup

As far as I'm concerned modern vegtarianism began with Mollie Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook. Katzen's charming hand drawn illustrations enliven recipes that are a far cry from the dark days when a vegetarian diet consisted mainly of big salads and nutloafs. Today top restaurants and chefs cater to the vegetarian and light palate and I think Mollie Katzen deserves a lot of the credit.

I'm a big fan of her second book The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. From that book, I prepared a chickpea soup that is filling and nutritious without being heavy and greasy. This soup will fill you up and give you energy to make it through a cold winter night.

I've tweaked it a very little bit to eliminate the optional and expensive saffron while retaining the flavorfulness it brings. This dish is tasty the first night it's made but delicious after a night in the fridge letting the flavors develop.

I've also changed the directions and reorganized the ingredients list a bit to make it easier to make quickly, but the recipe is still Ms. Katzen's Galician Garbonzo Soup and the credit for the mix of ingredients go to her.

Almost Moosewood Chickpea Soup
Stage 1 Veggies
3 - 15 oz. cans garbanzo/chickpeas drained and rinsed - 1 can set aside for stage 3
4 1/2 cups water - divided into 2 cups for stage 1 and 2 1/2 cups for stage 3

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions cut to 1/2" dice
6 medium cloves of garlic minced - half set aside
1 potato peeled and diced
1 carrot peeled and diced
1 celery stalk diced
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Step 3 Spices
2 bay leafs
2 teaspoons mustard powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 teapsoons tumeric
2 teaspoons paprika
cayenne/Tabasco, black pepper, salt to taste

Step 4 Finishers
Reserved can of chickpeas/garbanzos
1/2 cup frozen or fresh green peas
1 medium tomato peeled and seeded

Stage 1:
Blend two cups of water with two cans of garbanzos/chickpeas in a blender until smooth. set aside.

Stage 2:
In a stock pot, heat oil and add potato, onion, celery, carrot, 1/2 the garlic, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Sautee over medium heat, stirring frequently for 10 minutes. Near the end of the 10 minutes, add the red wine vinegar and stir to deglaze the pan.

Stage 3:
Add the puree from Stage 1 plus all the spices, plus the remaining 2 1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Stage 4:
Taste and adjust cayenne, salt and pepper balance. If you don't have cayenne, you can use Tabasco sauce. Don't overdo it with the hot stuff. Add the tomato, remaining can of chickpeas and 1/2 cup of fresh or frozen green peas and the rest of the garlic to the soup. Cover and simmer for an additional 5-10 minutes before serving.

If you would like to try this Ms. Katzen's original way, eliminate the paprika and tumeric in favor of a 1/4 teaspoon of saffron and don't add the red wine vinegar until Stage 4. I think it makes sense to use the vinegar to deglaze the pan, and I was very happy with the results of the change.

I highly recommend you go to the store and take a look at the Moosewood Cookbook and the Enchanted Broccoli Forest if you haven't had the pleasure of these two fabulous introductions to a vegetarian cuisine that isn't boring.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 3:53 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack
December 30, 2004
Gearing Up with Krasny and Don

We've written a couple of times about restaurant supply stores. These stores have all the gear you'd need to to stock a restaurant from cocktail napkins to 40 quart stockpots and everything in-between. Some are even open to the public.

I took a trip yesterday to the near northwest side of Chicago to visit two of these stores that you should know about if you live in the area. One I had visited many times before, the other was new to me. Both offer bargains and equipment you might not find anywhere else in the city.

Just north of Diversey at Clybourn in a half public housing, half big-box retailer area near the Chicago River, I first visited Krasny & Company. Krasny is big on selection, but short on presentation. The space is dark and dingy, but the goods on display are plentiful and varied. The first thing to catch your eye is a glass case with examples of glassware inside. Now I know where people get those enormous pickle jars you see in delis (or more disgustingly pickled egg jars you see in older bars).

Restaurant china, disposable party plates and cups, pizza rounds, ladles; just about everything basic you would need for a restaurant or basic cooking chores is here. Cookware here is basic and utilitarian - you won't find big brand name pots and pans like AllClad or Calphalon, but you will find pans you can beat the heck out of.

I do not recommend forming an opinion of the place from their awful website. They've been around since 1918 and in their current location for 25 years.

If your tastes tend towards a more consumer-friendly experience, you might cross the river and head down Elston, past the Target and Great Ace and MicroCenter to Edward Don and Company.

The storefront to Edward Don and Company is inconspicuous buried in among a long string of megamarts, but once you get inside you'll see that the selection is as good or better than any higher priced Sur La Table or Williams-Sonoma you've ever been in.

Don is similar to Krasny in that it emphasizes prices over presentation, but their presentation is much better than Krasny & Co. There are two rooms inside Edward Don's store. The front room, where you enter, is sized like a small store jammed full of kitchen gadgets and gear. This store is much more consumer oriented than Krasny. The front space is light bright, though packed. You can find much of the same materials here that you'd find at Krasny, but for a little bit of a price premium. One Lodge cast iron skillet I looked at in both locations was 10% cheaper at Krasny.

The back room of Edward Don's outlet store is more like Krasny's with steel shelving holding mass quantities of everything from bug spray to paper plates to uniforms to glassware.

I found several items at Edward Don I did not see at Krasny. Among these were a pancake "blooper" - that trigger pull pancake batter dispenser you see in busy diners - a sports ball cake mold (useful for making cakes for fans of soccer, baseball, golf, etc...); and a skillet I could sit in (no exaggeration - this thing was 3 1/2 feet across).

Krasny had the edge when it came to prices, glassware, and probably the basics. Edward Don will be my choice when I'm looking for tough to get or branded items like Wusthof cutlery, Nordicware bakeware, giant skillets, and odd cake molds. Don has the edge on uniforms and linens as well.

Unlike Krasny, Edward Don has a nice website where you can browse and even puchase some of the goods available in thier store.

These two are far from the main batch of restuarant supply houses on the near West side just past Greektown. But there are stores in almost every city that provide restaurant goods, and many are open to the public. Make sure you check out the store in your town so you'll know what's available and whether you can do better than $100 for that knife you're about to spring for pr when you want glasses just like the ones in your favorite greasy spoon.

Krasny & Company
2829 N. Clybourn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60618
773-477-5504 Fax: 773-477-5512

Edward Don Outlet Store
2525 N Elston Ave
Chicago IL

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 12:51 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack
Turkey Macaroni

It feels like it was only yesterday that I was writing about things to do with leftover Thanksgiving turkey. And here I am writing about leftover Christmas turkey. The only difference between the two in our household is that we always have much, much more of the Christmas leftovers. This year we were three adults (and one milk-fed baby) and the turkey was...the same size as the Thanksgiving one that fed 10 and gave us loads of leftovers. Obviously, I needed to come up with some new ideas for the leftovers. And I thought of an old favourite of my mother: Turkey Tetrazzini. According to the Epicurious site, Chicken Tetrazzini is another one of those dishes that was named after an opera singer, Luisa Tetrazzini. (Incidentally, what is it about opera singers that has inspired so many cooks to name dishes after them? Do we no longer have any singers worthy of a good innovation? Britney Spears Spears? Perhaps not...)

Getting back to the dish: it requires spaghetti. I had very little spaghetti in my cupboard. So we have Turkey Macaroni. It's basically my interpretation of a Chicken Tetrazzini with turkey and macaroni substituted. Creamy, filling and very satisfying on a cold dark December evening. Maybe I should name it Turkey Newman, after one of my favourite singers, Randy Newman?!?

Turkey Macaroni (a.k.a. Turkey Newman)
serves 2-4

this is not very photogenic!1 dozen mushrooms
1 onion, chopped
2 small carrots
1 fat clove garlic
1 cup or more of chopped turkey meat
1/2 cup turkey stock
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sherry
2 tsp flour
1/2 a nutmeg, grated
2 pinches of salt
generous grinding of pepper
1 to 1 1/2 cup macaroni
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Set water boiling in a saucepan and add the pasta. Start the sauce (below) but keep an eye on the pasta and drain when it is done.

Clean and slice the mushrooms and sauté in a lump of butter. When they are soft and most of their juice has been absorbed, remove to a bowl and sauté onion in another lump of butter. Crush the garlic, peel and roughly chop it and add it to the onion. When the onion is soft and the garlic is fragrant, add the mushrooms to the pan, raise the heat and add the sherry. Add the nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. When the sherry has all but cooked away, add the flour and cook for a minute or two. Add the turkey broth and then the cream. Reduce the heat.

Add two-thirds of the sauce to the pasta and stir. Pour in a buttered soufflé or baking pan. Sprinkle the turkey meat over the pasta and then the rest of the sauce. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and Parmesan and bake in a hot oven for half an hour, or until brown and bubbly on top. Serve with a nice crisp salad and a glass of dry white wine!

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 11:20 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack
December 25, 2004
Most imaginitive Christmas present 2004

Camembert Things are a little chaotic here in the Paris contingency of TMC as you have probably gathered. However, I thought I'd just post a quick comment on the most imaginative foodie present, which my darling husband gave me yesterday. Knowing how I have longed for Forbidden Foods through the last nine months of pregnancy, he presented me last night with a gourmet cheese platter, including some of my favourite unpasteurized French cheeses: Camembert, Crottin de Chavignol (a creamy goat cheese), Comté, Roquefort...I'm in heaven!

My stocking was also full of goodies from the gourmet section of the grocery store, but these cheeses were a really clever gift for a chef who has been deprived for so long! (Let me point out, nevertheless, that our best gift - our son - was more than worth the temporary sacrifice!)

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!! It's hard to imagine any of you having as happy a Christmas as we are having here in Paris but I hope for your sakes you do! (Unless you prefer a happy Kwanza, non-denominational holiday period or Hannukah...!)

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 2:19 AM | TrackBack
December 23, 2004
VOTE! (And maybe this time it'll count. Even those of you in Ohio)

The 2004 Food Blog Awards are here and voting has begun over at the Accidental Hedonist.

Head on over and vote for your favorite blogs. You might notice we are a finalist in the "Best Group Blog" category. We're thrilled to be nominated but we'd be even happier to win. Wait, I don't think we're supposed to admit that. Ummmm... oh to heck with it. We'd love to win!

We'd appreciate your vote if you enjoy Too Many Chefs (if you don't enjoy our site, then ask yourself this question - What really WERE the root causes of the Industrial Revolution and where the heck did I put my car keys?).

I'm from Chicago so ordinarily I'd advise you to vote early and often but I'll settle for you voting early. Did I mention you should vote now?

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 7:10 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack
December 21, 2004
No Goose for You

I've just come face to face with the fact that I'm a complete hypocrite. As readers of this site know, I'm mostly vegetarian. We eat fish regularly, and I eat turkey on two holidays (Christmas and Thanksgiving) and I eat meat two other days of the year chosen by me.

We go to Kentucky for Thanksgiving, but for Christmas, the in-laws drive up here. (By the way, if the in-laws are reading this - avoid Northern Indiana tomorrow. Try jumping over west of Lake Michigan early since I believe Northern Indiana is going to get hit with another 8 inches of snow.)

This year, in my head, I had visions of a pseudo-Victorian Christmas. I'd already committed to making a figgy pudding so I thought we should try cooking a goose this Christmas to really make the day Dickensian. By that I don't mean cold hungry children dying in the streets Dickensian, I mean more Scrooge tossing down a coin to a boy in the street to buy the biggest goose in the window Dickensian. You know, without the harsh realties of the eary 19th Century London.

So first I went where all aspiring goose-cookers in an urban setting would go - Whole Foods. Whole Foods is the emporium of fancy and schmancy when it comes to gourmet foods. There are places you can go that do a better job in certain areas (I'm thinking of Chicago's Fox & Obel), but few with the size or seelction of a Whole Foods. Whole Foods didn't let me down; they had geese, and organic geese at that. I was all set to put a nice 12-15 pound honker in my cart when I turned the bird over and saw the price - $87.43. Even a smaller goose was $63. (For those of you in the Euro zone that's about € 12 at current exchange rates (kidding (sort of))). Considering geese are very high fat birds, you're paying an awful lot per pound for not much meat on those birds.

OK, so I went home gooseless. But since I had three very heavy bags of groceries, I hailed a cab to take me home. The cabbie was a friendly Mexican immigrant who didn't know the English word "goose". "You mean like a duck?" he asked. "No, well, sort of. Honk Honk! You see them in the park a lot." "Yeah, a duck!" he insisted. "Uhh, not a duck. Honk Honk!" I flapped my hands like wings.

I'm pretty sure he thought I was trying to buy a flying car for Christmas. He gave me in any case the information that there existed on Armitage just east of Western a place called Ciales that could set me up with a goose cheap. I made sure he meant a bird of some sort and not the type of bird who used to frequent Bucktown in the days before the vice squad started cleaning up the streets. For some reason the conversation deteriorated into a discussion of how he buys bull testicles ("huevos del toro"), slice them real thin and cooks them up with lime juice. Thanks but...

I liked the idea of a fresh bird and figured even if I didn't get a bird there it was a good excuse to go to Arturo's Tacos at Western and Armitage, the best taco/Mexican fast food joint in town. After a few gift buying stops and a great avocade sopes at Arturo's, I walked east and found at 2141 W. Armitage Ave. Ciales Poultry.

The store front is very yellow and painted by hand with big letters. Inside, the smell is more like a pet store than a butcher's shop. A small front room with stainless steel display cases filled with organ meats and varietals and dim lighting greeted me on entry. The front room led to an intermediary room where a child was watching TV and two other men wearing butcher's aprons stained with spatters of dark blood joked together.

The smell is prominent because Ciales kills and cleans the birds to order. A glass door with a sign advising that entry to the next room is at your own risk; beyond were stackas and stack of cages. I admit, I figured this might be the case, but I believe you should know where your food comes from. I asked the man behind the counter if I should buy a bird today if I were serving it. "I kill for you now. You come back 20 minutes."
"No, no, I just want to know if I'm serving it on Saturday, when should I get a goose from you? Today? Thursday?"
"Ah, you get any time. You call me, I'll get ready for you. Half-hour".

That's when I asked the question I shouldn't have asked. "So how much would a 15 pound goose cost." He wandered back to the room where the child was watching television and said something in Spanish to the taller of the two guys who were joking aorund. The tall man wandered back and to my shock, grabbed a live goose out of one of the cages. Pinning its wings behind it, he brought it out to the front room. "We weigh for you now," the counter man told me.

The tall man lifted the bird by its wings and put it on the scale. The goose's wings were magnificent. Angel wings in paintings were definitely inspired by the wings of geese and swans. The head of the goose was much squarer than I imagined. The goose didn't flail or struggle. In its eyes I projected a resignation to its fate. Dirt smudged the side and top of its head. "Thirty-two dollars," the counterman said. "Is good?"

I took the counterman's card and told him I'd call him in the next couple of days before coming to pick up the goose, but I had no intention of doing so. When I got out in the fresh cold winter air, I muttered, "Oh my god" under my breath and walked a block east to the map room to sit, have a coffee, and gather myself together.

My father-in-law and brother-in-law hunt and I know that every sausage or steak or chicken leg or turkey I ever ate was once a scared animal about to be executed. I admire the hunters because they do face the source of their food and have to reconcile themselves up close to taking a life to feed themselves - something I don't think urban supermarket-hunters don't ever do.

My vegetarianism has not come from a moral perspective regarding the animals. My reasons for vegetarianism revolve around my own health and around the convenience of serving vegetarian entrees in a house where my wife actively dislikes the taste of beef and pork and chicken.

Today, though I think I saw there are other reasons to become a vegetarian. I'm not naive. I understand animal byproducts are in 80% of the common household items we use, but when I was confronted with the smell and the sight and the beating heart of my prospective Christmas dinner, I couldn't go through with it.

However, I have another principle that I hold highly, and that's the importance of being a good host. For a few minutes I was tempted to ditch the idea of poultry altogether and to force Tofurkey on everyone, but it would have been too rude. I couldn't do it. So, on the way back home, I stopped at Gepperth's Meat Market on Halsted and bought an organic turkey for Christmas - a dead, cold, plucked turkey in a box - one I would never have to see alive, one I'd never see as an animal, but only as meat.

I'll cook the turkey up and serve it and eat and even enjoy some of it, but I'll be thinking of that live goose, and I think I'll probably cut one of my floating meat days out of the calendar next year. Christmas is about birth and life. I'm going to try to keep my thoughts oriented that way.

By the way, if you don't share my squeamishness, Ciales Poultry looked about as clean as a place with live poultry could be and the prices were very good compared to the alternatives in the city. Meat-eaters should give them a call at (773) 278-1118

Goose photo from KATU News Portland -

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 1:58 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack
December 20, 2004
One More Chef (Well, Chef-In-Training)

You may have noticed we've been a little quiet here for the last few days. We've been a bit busier than usual, especially Meg in Paris who took time off from rattling pots and pans to give birth a beautiful baby boy.

I've asked Meg and her husband The Critic for permission to post a picture of the little nipper, and if they give the OK, we'll soon give you a look at little Kieran - 7 pounds, 20 inches, born December 18th in Paris.

He's pretty darn cute. Everyone came through the process in good shape.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 7:49 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack
December 16, 2004
Food Section Digest: December 16, 2004

Our irregular food section digest returns this week. Everyone is thinking about Christmas. What to eat. What to drink. What to buy. I've been meaning to get my Christmas shopping done myself, but when I think of the mall I always need a drink.

The Kitsap Sun roasts pumpkin seeds for a tasty snack. Perhaps they should have run this in late October? And no, I have no idea where you might find Kitsap.

Out in Napa, they're talking about wine. No surprise. A column on wine education links to a helpful website listing wine festivals around the nation. Is it even legal for Salt Lake City to have a wine festival?

The Toledo Blade gives tips for making an annual holiday roast. Do people really only roast once a year? I guess my family only cooked twice a year: Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Having a crowd for Christmas? The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel urges you not to sweat the seating arrangement and just serve the meal buffet style. Isn't suggesting that midwesterners adopt a buffet style a bit like suggesting that Americans might enjoy larger portions? Harold McGee has published a new edition of his classic On Food and Cooking. Who knew that McGee got the idea for the book while a graduate student in literature at Yale? Who knew that McGee has his own website?

Baumer Foods, makers of the best hot sauce in Louisiana, have grown their business in recent years by bottling niche sauces for other companies, according to the New Orleans Times Picayune. Outside of Louisiana, their signature Crystal hot sauce is most popular in Saudi Arabia.

Chicago's Daily Herald answers the question, "What do you get when you cross a Russian Jewish father and a Japanese mother?" (I swear, that really is the question they ask.) In the case of Nina Finn Elgin, you get a natural fusion of two radically different cuisines. In produce news, Pomegranates now have a brand name and are growing in popularity.

It's Christmas time, and that means that we all have a duty to prop up the U.S. retail sector. The Baltimore Sun suggests some gifts for cooks. Columnist Rob Kasper learns to "stomach" haggis.

The Boston Globe knows that it's not the holidays without hard liquor. Learn how to make sophisticated cocktails at home. You don't want to drink on an empty stomach, so try the paper's suggestions for a standing rib roast.

The Memphis Commericial Appeal finds John T. Edge, the director of the Souther Foodways Alliance, searching the town for burgers and fries. Leslie Kelly suggests some new books to get the uninitiated up to speed on Southern cooking. Emeril is not the only chef hawking cookware it turns out.

The Forth Worth Star-Telegram reports that recently murdered guitarist Darrel "Dimebag" Abbot used to order his pizza from Charlie's in Dallas. I don't know why they ran this story, and I'm not sure why I'm mentioning it.

Chocolate tasting parties are the new fad, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. The paper also reports that chocolate might be healthier than previously assumed, so have an extra piece.

At the mighty New York Times, Mark Bittman aims to satisfy America's lust for fried food by showing us how to deep fry at home. Nothing is more dangerous than a bad knife in the kitchen, so choose your blade wisely following these tips. Fruitcake has a bad reputation, but good candied fruit can make all the difference. Let's face it, most wine lovers are geeks. Several new books will feed their obsession with the obscure and the delicious. On a sad note, the chair of the James Beard Foundation has been indicted for stealing from the organization. All eleven board members resigned. In other hard news, a former-Michelin critic lost his lawsuit claiming that he was fired for critiquing the guide's method. Come on Michelin, what did you expect when you hired a critic?

Regina Schrambling, of the LA Times, savors expense spices. Chocolate can be improved with mint or orange. David Shaw dreams of a white truffle under the Christmas tree.

In the chilly Rocky Mountains, the Denver Post reports that a shaky economy has made life hard for pastry chefs. John Henderson checks out the tailgating fare in Atlanta. Wine columinst Tara Q. Thomas samples lesser know Champagnes and reports that they're all delicious. Obsidian Stout, the Post's beer of the week, will keep you warm on those cold Colorado nights.

Maureen Jenkins, of the Chicago Sun-Times, travels to Tuscany for the olive harvest.

Forget the Golden Globes, the Dallas Morning News has named the winners of their annual Holiday Cookie Contest--Dorothy Lacefield's Key Lime Sables.

Christmas is all about deciding who is naughty or nice, or tasty and tart when talking about wine. The Sacramento Bee names the best California winners for 2004.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer investigates the Thermomix, a magic device that "chops, grinds, mixes, blends, steams, heats, stirs, weighs, times, kneads, whips, stews, homogenizes." It even washes the dishes.

Dispelling the myth that D.C. is not a serious food city, the Washington Post recommends cook books for "the simple reason that they're huge" and will look impressive under the tree. Elinor Klivens bakes five perfect cookie recipes, guranteed to be the hit of your office party. On a less appetizing notes, the Post touts all the benefits of fiber. Chestnuts are in season this week. Roast some on a fire! The Post also profiles fellow blogger SauteWednesday. Hey, what about Too Many Chefs?

Even in the winter, cooking is all about the heat in Lousiana. The Baton Rouge Advocate tastes Cajun Blast, a local hot sauce. The paper's recipe for Cornish hen contains no hot sauce, but it does use a generous helping of that other Cajun staple--cream of mushroom soup. Try this dish with a side of Savory Sweet Potatoes, which does include a kick of spice.

Forget about the latest cookbooks, the Chicago Tribune asks culinary experts for their choices of the greatest books. Quaff a full-flavored cabernet for Christmas. Personally, when I'm around my family I'll drink anything with alcohol. Jane Ammeson listens to a food audio books about food while preparing dinner. Liz Atwood offers a few appetizers to feed guests while the main course cooks.

What do chefs eat at home for the holidays? The South Florida Sun-Sentinel is on the case. If Deborah Hartz has any say in the matter, they won't be cooking with factory-farmed food.

I hear that everyone is beautiful and hip in Miami, and for Christmas they're drinking cutting edge cocktails. The internets can be dangerous, what with all the porn, viruses and low interest mortgages. The Miami Herald also found a few bad cookie recipes. Sansó, a company confiscated by Castro in 1961, is again producing canned yuca for homesick Cubans.

The Tennessean debunks granny's cooking myths. Is that anyway to treat the family during the holidays?

Down in Palm Beach, Chris Tauber and Tom James debate the merits of KFC's new lunch specials.

That's it for this week. I'm tired and hungry. As always, we welcome any suggestions for food sections worth covering. Hopefully we'll be back next week.

Posted by Todd in New Orleans at 10:38 AM | Comments (2)
December 15, 2004
Caveat Emptor

bad gadgets.jpgWhen I looked through my cupboard recently for favourite tools you can get as Christmas gifts I also noticed the ones lurking in the back of drawers that were not so successful.

Luckily, none of these were actually gifts so the only one feeling bad about my telling you about them will be me. Do not buy them. Do not put them on your wish list. They will probably linger in my drawers for years because I hate to admit they are completely useless, even though I know they are mostly useless.

1. Starting on the left, the mostly useless herb chopping tool. The theory is that you roll it over your herbs and it chops them finely. The fact is that unless your herbs are bone-dry they mostly just stick to the blades. What doesn't stick to the blades seems to scatter to the four ends of the earth. This might be useful as a pasta cutter, if I didn't already own one.

2. In the middle: the adjustable cheese slicer. It sounded like a good idea: you can move the back of the slicer closer or further from the wire to have different thicknesses of cheese slices. The reality? The button you are supposed to turn to hold the bar at the right thickness has never actually held it and so I have a cheese slicer that makes big, thick slices. Period.

3. Lastly, the wooden-handled cheese grater. This is not a bad buy on the surface: it grates reasonably well and is easy to store and pick up quickly. However, its fatal flaw is the pretty wooden handle. Beware of anything with a wooden handle attached to a metal tool, as your dishwasher will surely melt whatever glue is supposed to be holding the two elements together. And you will try to fix it with wood glue or rubber cement but nothing will change the fact that you really need to get a brand new grater made of a single piece of metal.

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 6:00 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
December 13, 2004
Pound Cake - Plain

Why is a pound cake called a pound cake? Well, if it's made badly you can pound nails with it, but really, it's because the recipe uses a pound of three key ingredients - maybe four - I didn't weigh the eggs.

The pound cake is a basic cake that should be in the repertoire of anyone who ever pours batter into a mold and bakes it to make a cake. It can be jazzed up in any number of ways. Add a little bourbon or brandy and it's New Orleans style poundcake. Put a little lemon zest in the mix and you have a light lovely base for all kinds of desserts.

I thought I'd start simply with a basic vanilla pound cake. I made this recipe yesterday so I'd have a base to put the cranberry and dried fruit sauce on that I was planning on making today (and which turned out marvelously, I might add).

Pound Cake
1 lb butter - room temperature
1 lb cake flour, sifted
10 eggs
teaspoon of salt
2 cups/1 lb granulated sugar.
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Grease and flour a bundt or other tube pan.
Preheat oven to 350 F
Sift flour and salt together. You really want cake flour for this recipe and not all-purpose flour.

In a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, waiting until the egg is completely incorporated before adding the next one. Keep mixer going.

Turn mixer down and add 1/3 flour. Raise speed on mixer until flour is incorporated. Reduce speed, add next 1/3 flour and repeat. Reduce speed, add final 1/3 and repeat.

-An aside here. If you don't crank the mixer down lower than you think you need to before you add the flour you will have a lot of powdery flour mess to clean up later. Don't ask how I know this...

Stop mixer. Scrape down sides with a spatula. Add vanilla and mix 30 seconds more or until vanilla is incorporated.

Spoon mixture into prepared bundt pan. Smooth out top as best you can. Put pan in the oven and bake for one hour and ten minutes until top (which will probably split) is golden brown and delicious.

Remove bundt pan from oven and run a knife around the inside rim of the pan to separate the cake from the sides.

Cool on a wire rack for at least one hour before serving. Cake may taste "eggy" when warm. If this taste disturbs you, reduce the eggs to 8 eggs and two yolks.

Serve with vanilla ice cream and a glass of milk or with the delicious cranberry sauce I'll post tomorrow.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 7:00 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack
December 11, 2004
Mmmm...melted cheese...

There's no way to make toasted cheese and apple slices look appetizing on filmI think my obsession with food must have started at a very young age. I remember distinctly reading Heidi by Johanna Spyri and being intrigued by the simple lunch of toasted cheese on bread that Heidi and her grandfather would eat each day. I even remember sliding a couple of slices of Kraft American slices on white bread under the broiler of my mother's oven, hoping to taste this magical dish. It was awful. Gooey, bland and just plain disappointing. To my credit, I always assumed that this was not because the idea was a bad one; something had gone wrong in the execution. Melted cheese and bread just sounded like a great idea.

When I first came to France and had a salad of "Chevre chaud" (Goat's cheese melted over bread) I finally had a clue why Heidi and her grandfather were so lucky. It is wonderful.

And then there is the dish in my photo above. This one is true to the Heidi-ideal in that it's something I make when I want a simple, tasty hot dish. It takes about two minutes to make and I am somewhat ashamed to say that the idea came from a commercial. (Help! I am a victim of good marketing!) To wit, Lea and Perrins' Worcestershire sauce commercials. Place thick slices of good sharp cheddar cheese on brown bread (toast it first if you want to take the time). Sprinkle liberally with the Worcestershire sauce. Slide under the grill/broiler and leave until the cheese is bubbly. Remove and eat immediately. It's wonderful. The combination of sharp melted cheese and Worcestershire is a bit reminiscent of cheddar with a good English pickle, for those of you who have tasted pickle. (This is not the same as a pickled cucumber, for the Americans out there: English pickle is a thick disgusting looking goop made of various unidentifiable vegetables, very strong in vinegar flavour and strangely addictive.) In any case, the "wooster-sher" sauce gives a little lift to the sharp cheddar and the bread is a solid base in flavour and in actual fact. Heidi would love it.

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 12:36 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack
December 10, 2004
Stocking stuffers for foodies

garlic press.jpgI recently exchanged a series of messages with fellow TMC Barrett in Chicago about Christmas presents for spouses and other holiday matters. Barrett told me that his in-laws complain that he is difficult to find presents for. Now this I find inconceivable. Firstly, anyone who has an established hobby - cooking, biking, constructing models, whatever - is obviously a sucker for every little gadget that comes along. Our good friend Barrett is something of a geek (as even he will allow, I hope) which means that the gadget advantage is even more pronounced. You are worried that he already has the gadget you found for him? Well, there are so many out there that the odds are he doesn't. As all our readers must know, the marketing departments of all foodie-gadget makers are constantly coming up with the newest fads for us, ever changing.

So, to help Barrett's in-laws, as well as any other friends or family of foodies out there who are at a loss at Christmas time, I have scoured my kitchen looking for the most useful little gadgets I have found over the years. These are the ones that actually get used; more later on the failed experiments.

At the top of the post is my favourite garlic press. Okay, it's true that most of the foodies on your list will already have one. However, the odds are good they won't be happy with it. I went through three garlic presses before I spotted this one at my brother's house one Thanksgiving and made a not-so-subtle bid to get one for Christmas. Bless him, he came through and I love it. It's made by Henckels (the knife-makers) is solid, has no paint that will flake off and cleans easily because it has two removable inserts (giving different grades of pressed garlic - fine and coarse). Best of all, the press mechanism goes all the way down to the base of the press, meaning every tiny last bit of garlic is extracted. The garlic press I threw away on receiving this one stopped a few millimeters from the bottom, leaving a big chunk of unused garlic to my great annoyance. The one before it had paint that flaked and the one before that broke in my hands one day. A good garlic press is worth more than its weight in gold.

mini slicer.jpgThis is a present I bought myself recently, and it was a real indulgence but so far I love it. It's a mini-grater and slicer, suitable for garlic or nutmeg or little pieces of cheese or whatever you like. You determine whether you are grating or slicing and which setting by placing the feeder on the appropriate side and sliding it over the part of the tool you want to use. (Grating and slicing are on either side, and then there are variations in width/holes.) It's easy to use, easy to clean and fun! If I want thin slices of garlic, I just roughly chop the cloves, toss the pieces in the feeder and run it over the slice area. I normally use the nutmeg grater that comes with my nutmeg (a flimsy tin scraper) but when you need a LOT of nutmeg, you can prop this baby over a small bowl and grate much more efficiently. It goes in the dishwasher and even if it didn't would be extremely easy to clean. Perfect for a stocking!

REAMER.JPGWhenever I browse a cooking magazine or a specialty cooking shop I check out the lemon reamers and I sniff in a superior way. I have to say that nothing on earth beats a simple old-fashioned wooden reamer. You can have your fancy onces that are placed over a bowl and filter out the seeds. You can show off with a beautiful white porcelain hand-held one (and they are beautiful to behold!). But for my money, nothing beats the old wooden one. Okay, you have to fish out the occasional seed it's true. But this is much easier to clean and to store than the plastic straining ones. You can hold it over any kind of receptacle, not just a bowl of a set size. The ceramic white ones are lovely to look at but porcelain doesn't have the edge that your wooden one does and don't efficiently ream. The wooden one is cheap, it's efficient and it's easy to store - what more do you want?

SPATULAS.JPGSpatulas. You may think I'm crazy here, but bear with me: these are special. I used to buy cheap white spatulas at the supermarket. And then, being somewhat slow-witted, I would ruin them one by one, using them on hot frying pans or sauce pans getting the last bit of soup or sauce. The cheap ones melt. Fact. These spatulas are made by Le Creuset and are guaranteed not to melt at in insanely high temperature. (No, I don't remember exactly how hot, but they have not failed me yet.) The proof of their worth is the fact that I bought one out of frustration one day (having melted my last cheap one the day before) and found after a couple months that I loved it so much I needed another. That way, if one is in the dishwasher you still have a clean one. So your foodie already has a good can never have too many. When you make a wonderful sauce, you really, really want to get every last drop out of the pan. Trust me.

So those are the specifics I found for Christmas shoppers out there. Other tips I would give include: wooden spoons (you can never have too many in these days of non-stick pans), unusual sauces and spices, interesting pepper mills, pretty terrines and custard cups (a lot of cooks see these things as too "frivolous" for self-gifts, thus perfect for Christmas gifts).

Then there is my favourite: chopping boards made of exotic woods. We started a collection of beautiful chopping boards when on our honeymoon in Australia, and I've been adding to them ever since. They are so pretty that I don't use them for chopping, but serve cheese on them. Each one holds 2-3 cheeses and so the platters can circulate your table and no one can hog the whole cheese platter.

Happy shopping!

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 6:19 AM | TrackBack
December 9, 2004
Now Bring Me Some Figgy Pudding!

You sing songs as a kid and often have NO idea what the words mean. Famously for me, I thought the Steve Miller Band's "Big Old Jet Airliner" was "Bingo Jed Had a Light On" for YEARS. What exactly did "Bingo Jed Had a Light On" mean, in my estimation? I had no idea. But then, what the hell is a pompatus of love?

The problem isn't always in misunderstanding the lyric. Sometimes you just have no clue as to what the words mentioned in songs are. Vocabulary changes over time. Christmas songs are especially bad. "Here we go a'wassailing..." Huh? Wassailing? Frankincense? Myrrh? Virgin? Figgy Pudding?

But that's what we're here for today - figgy pudding. What you are looking at is the tail end of a genuine figgy pudding. I've always thought of puddings as the creamy panna cotta type stuff you get in snack packs with ring topped lids (yes, I AM a child of the Seventies, why do you ask?), but the English - most of the Brits, actually - mean something entirely different, and much more like a cake.

I stole this recipe from I've changed the directions a little to reflect my experiences, but the process and the ingredient list comes from that site.

The figgy pudding itself is great if a little strange to modern tastebuds. If you like Fig Newtons, you love this. If you like Christmas flavors and smells, you'll like this. Heck, if you like wassailing, you'll like this recipe.

Figgy Pudding
16 oz. dried Calimyrna figs (the light brown ones, not the black ones)
1 3/4 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cup AP flour
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
3 eggs
1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
1 tablespoon grated orange peel

Hard Sauce:
1 1/2 cup confectioner's (powdered) sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick) softened
2 tablespoons brandy
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Grease a 2 1/12 quart bundt pan with spray or butter.

Cut stems from figs and discard. Cut figs into 1/4" dice

In a a medium saucepan, heat milk and figs over medium-low heat but do NOT bring to a boil. Cook for 10-15 minutes stirring occasionally. The figs will perfume the milk and the milk will soften the figs.

The mixture may look curdled, but don't worry.

In a medium bowl (not your mixer's bowl, we'll use that next), mix flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt.

In your mixers bowl, beat eggs one minute on high. Reduce speed to low and add butter, bread crumbs, orange peel, and warm fig mixture.

Slowly incorporate flour mixture. Beat until just blended.

Pour/spoon the mix into the greased bundt pan. If using an intricate mold/pan, push mix deep into all crevices so it will take the shape when baked. Level top as much as possible. Giving the pan a half twist back and forth will sometimes help the mix find a nice level surface.

Cover the mold with a piece of aluminum foil greased on one side, greased side down.

Place the mold in a roasting pan and place on oven rack. fIll with hot tap water 2 inches up the side of the mold.

Bake for 2 hours or until the pudding is firm and it is pulling away from the side of the bundt pan.

Now, make the sauce. With a mixer, mix all the sauce ingredients together until creamy.

Remove the pudding from the water bath. Remove the foil and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before unmolding. Invert bundt pan onto a serving plate/cake stand and remove mold. It should come away easily.

Serve warm with sauce. The sauce is more like frosting at room temperature, but if you heat it a bit, it will melt. I liked it more frosting-like.

If your friends make this treat when you visit - don't go until you get some. Don't go until you get some. Don't go until you get some, then bring it right here.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 7:00 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack
December 8, 2004
2004 Food Blog Awards

Kate at the Accidental Hedonist has announced nominations for the 1st Annual Food Blog Awards. The Food Blog Awards honor the best in food-related weblog writing.

Nominations are being accepted NOW through DECEMBER 19th in the following categories:

Best Overall Food Blog - This is an open category. Food, wine, recipes, restaurant reviews? It matters not. Nominate your favorite.

Best New Blog - This category is for any food site that has been introduced this year (2004). You must have at least 4 posts in a month, for more than one concurrent month. It would be nice if the site has recently posted, but it's not a requirement.

Best Group Blog - This category is for the food blogs out there who have more than one contributor.

Best Post - This category is for that one post that you remember over the course of the past year. It may have educated you.. it may have made you think, it matters not. It just has to have been posted on a food blog.

Best Non-Blogging Food Site - This category is for the one site we all go to that deals with food. It can be corporate if you wish, or it could be run by one guy out of a garage in southwest Peru. It just has to be food related, and not be a blog.

Best Site Design - This category is to celebrate the web designers out there. Nominate the Food Blog which you think looks real purty.

Best Food Blog - Writing - This is the category for the Food Blog Site which consistently writes high quality posts. Quality can be defined in any way. The site must have at least 4 posts per month, for seven concurrent months.

Best Food Blog - Recipes - This is for the site that consitently posts the best recipes that inspire you to cook. The recipes should be either their own, or should acknowledge the source of the recipe in the posts. The site must have at least 4 posts per month that are recipes, for seven concurrent months.

Best Food Blog - Humor - This category is for the Food Blog Site which consistenly makes you laugh. The site must have at least 4 posts per month, for seven concurrent months.

Best Food Blog - Wine - This category is for any blog that deals with wine. The site must have 4 posts per month covering wine, for seven concurrent months.

Best Food Site - Chef - This category is fairly straightforward. It's for any food blog written by a chef. The chef should be able to prove that they worked, as a chef or cook, at some point during this year, and have posts on their site to prove it. The level of the chef is unimportant. It could be a Food Network star, or the person making hot dogs from a cart.

Best Food Blog - CityThis category is for any Food Blog that covers the food scene surrounding a specific city. The site must have 4 posts per month covering this city, for seven concurrent months.

Best Food Blog - Theme - This award will go to the one blog that focuses on one specific theme. This could be a food blog that's dedicated specifically to hamburgers, grilling, chili peppers or any other singular topic. Please exclude wine from this category, as they will have their own category.

Best Food Blog - Food Industry - I am looking for nominations for any food blog which covers the food industry. You can define food industry in any way, be it the restaurant industry, agra-business, wine industry, whatever. The site must have 4 posts per month covering this industry, for seven concurrent months.

Best Food Blog - Restaurant Reviews - This Food Blog Award is fairly straight forward. I am looking for nominations for Food Blogs that do restaurant reviews, at least one a month, for seven concurrent months.

For the record, Too Many Chefs is eligible for many of the above categories. We started in February 2004, and have been writing for 10 consecutive months at this point.

I should point out that I'm protesting the lack of a "Worst photography" category which I'm pretty sure I personally could have won hands down.

Go now, my minions, and nominate the blogs you feel are most deserving of these awards! You've only got until December 19th to get your nominations in!

EDIT: Full list of awards added with Kate's direction. Thanks!

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 3:58 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
New Orleans Food Forums

It's a little embarrassing, after a long period of silence, to appear at TMC and promote myself. Luckily, I have no shame. Last week I wrote an article for the New Orleans Gambit Weekly about online food communities in the Crescent City. Many of our readers will be familiar with the national boards, like eGullet and Chowhound. Those curious about New Orleans cuisine, though, might want to investigate some of the local sites featured in the article.

Posted by Todd in New Orleans at 2:25 PM | TrackBack
Smoked Salmon Mushroom Quiche

What you are looking at is the very last piece of a delicious smoked salmon and mushroom quiche I whipped up this weekend.

While shopping in the local Market Place, I came across a pack of smoked salmon trimmings. If you are in the mood to make a salmon dish that needs chunks of salmon instead of a whole filet or steak, keep your eyes open for these trimmings. They usually cost about half as much per pound as the filets and add just as much flavor. The chief difficulty is stopping yourself from snacking on them before you cook.

I ran through the ingredients to a smoked salmon quiche in my head. Clearly, I needed mushrooms to pair with the salmon and some cheese, but what kind? In the cheese section a selection of applewood smoked cheeses presented themselves to me. Smoked salmon - smoked cheese - made sense. I selected a smoked gruyere and headed home to make my quiche.

The particular quiche I made was delicious but had a fatal flaw - the crust's texture was like cardboard. I'd been afraid of adding too much water to the dough and ended up kneading it far too long and produced a crust with far too much structure and gluten. Don't drown your crust here, but also don't under-water it.

Smoked Salmon Mushroom Quiche
1 cup AP flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 stick (1/2 cup) softened butter
cold water (from 1 tablespoon to 1/4 cup)

1 lb mushrooms, sliced
1/2 onion, diced
2 tablespoons garlic
4 oz. smoked salmon trimmings, cut into uniform 1"-2" pieces.
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 oz. shredded smoked gruyere cheese
1 tablespoon herbs de provence
3 eggs
1 1/4 cup whole milk

Grease a 9"-10" cake pan with at least 1" sides.
Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Mix together the flours and the salt thoroughly. Work in the butter with your hands until the dough resembles pea-sized clumps. Add enough cold water to make dough hold together nicely. Add water very slowly. The right amount will depend on the ambient humidity and the temperature of your kitchen. When it holds together and feels like it will let you roll it, you're there. Roll it one around on a lightly floured surface, and rest the dough ball wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough into a circle large enough to fill a 9-10" cake pan. Lay the dough in the pan so it comes up at least 1" all the way around. Make several small holes in the bottom of the crust with a fork.

Put a piece of parchment or aluminum foil on top the crust and load it up with dried beans to weight the crust down. Bake crust in oven for 25 minutes. Remove parchment/aluminum foil and beans and bake 7 minutes more.

Meanwhile, mix eggs and milk together. Refrigerate while you do the rest of the recipe.

Pour olive oil in sautee pan and heat through. Add chopped onion and garlic and sautee for 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and herbs and sautee 5 minutes more.

Lay down a thin layer of gruyere on the bottom of the prepared crust. Spoon the mushroms (except for a tablespoon) on top of that. Add another layer of cheese. Distribute the salmon on the next layer (again, except for a tablespoon), and cover with remainder of cheese.

Pour the custard (milk/egg mix) gently onto the crust. When done, add the reserved salmon and mushrooms on top in a suitably artistic manner.

You might be tempted to salt this quiche somewhere in here, but don't. The smoked fish and cheese has plenty of salt for the dish.

Bake in 350 F oven for 35-45 minutes until the top is golden brown and the center is just set to the touch. A toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean of egg goop (there may still be some melty cheese goop without worry). Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with a lightly sweet white wine and a side salad.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 6:52 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack
December 7, 2004
When Life Gives You A Lemon

LEMON.JPGWell, we all know what you are supposed to do when life gives you lemons, right? But what do you do with a single lemon? Specifically, what do you do when your darling baby lemon tree that you have carefully cherished since last March finally gives off its one perfect piece of fruit?

My darling critical husband suggested a nice gin and tonic to accompany our first citrus product, but as I am still in abstinence-mode this didn't seem entirely fair to me. (Can you tell he's English, by the way?) It's a small(ish) lemon, so I don't think we would get more than a half glass of lemon juice. If my stepdaughter were here, she would just eat it raw; one of her more charming food obsessions is a love of raw, unsweetened lemon. But that's not really me, either.

So, to all our clever readers out there: any suggestions? What can you do with a single lemon to enjoy its unique home-grown flavour without mixing with other waxed, non organic, store-bought ones? I noticed that Pascal's recipe (on C'est moi qui l'ai fait!) for lemon curd only calls for two lemons, so I could conceivably make a half recipe and a small cake. Any other ideas? I am depending on you all!

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 12:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
Sweet Beets and Bitter "Greens" Salad

Beets are the red-headed stepchild of the salad bar. For so long we've suffered through with the nasty canned beets at the local salad emporium that we've lost sight of what an amazing vegetable beets can be.

Like most children I had a serious aversion to beets after the very first time I tried them. I don't remember the experience exactly, but I'm sure it was early in life and the beets were limp, pickled, and flavorless. Beets = yuck.

As part of my culinary adventurism, I happened on a restaurant a few years ago in Seattle just a block or so from the Hotel Monaco where I stayed. (Bon Vivant, maybe you can help? It was a little bit south and east of the hotel.) They featured a red and gold beet salad with blue cheese and walnuts with walnut oil dressing.

I skeptically but gamely ordered the salad and was very pleasantly surprised by the result. The beets were cubed finely, dressed perfectly and served on a bed of bitter greens that balanced the sweetness of the beets. I almost cancelled my main course and ordered another round of the beet salad appetizer.

This is not a recreation of that dish, but an incarnation of the spirit of the dish. I couldn't find walnut oil at the time I made this (I now have some), so I used peanut oil. You can of course substitute whatever you like. I wonder how hazlenut oil and hazlenuts would do.

Sweet Beets and Bitter "Greens" Salad

2-3 gold beets
2-3 red beets
one small head radicchio - the round kind
4 small-medium belgian endives
4 oz. crumbled blue cheese
2 small limes (not key lime small, but regular small)
1/3 cup plus 2-3 tablespoons of walnut oil (or peanut oil to substitute)
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon dried thyme
3 oz. shelled walnut halves

Peel and dice the beets into 1/2" dice. Keep the gold one separate from the red if you want best color. If you don't care about the color, mix them together.

Place the beets in a roasting pan (or two pans if you want them separate) and lightly drizzle two or three tablespoons of oil on them. Salt the beets lightly and roast in a 350 oven until mostly tender - about 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile, core and shred your raddicihio into 1/4" strips. Cut the ends off the endives and slice into 1" strips diagonally along the heads. Mix raddichio and endive throughly in a big bowl.

Mix together 1/3 cup nut oil, apple cider vinegar, thyme, and a pinch of salt. Taste. The dressing should be just a bit too oily.

Remove beets from oven and let cool five minutes. If you've put them in separate pans by color, combine the beets and toss with 2 tablespoons of the dressing you've just made to coat thoroughly but lightly.

Add all but one tablespoon of the dressing to the raddichio/arugula mix and toss. Juice the limes into the arugula/raddichio and toss again.

Toss walnuts in reserved tablespoon of dressing.

To serve, place a heap of "greens" (reds and whites, really) on a plate. Make a divot in the center of the greens and pile the beets up in the center of the plate. Crumble blue cheese around the beets, and sprinkle walnuts around the blue cheese.

This dish hits all the tastebuds. For sweet, you have the beets; for salty, the blue cheese; for bitter, the greens; for sour, the lime juice on the greens; and for umami, you have the walnuts. It's addictive. If the texture of the beets is just right (tender but still giving resistance to the teeth), you'll have a hard time walking away until you've cleaned your plate.

I served this last week to my wife as a main course in an enormous bowl. She proclaimed it "too much food", but proceded to devour the entire mess. It's pretty low calorie (depending on your oil usage), and should give you a shot of vitamins your body may not be used to receiving. One warning - the aftereffects the next day can be a bit dramatic, but don't worry, you're not dying, that's just the red betacyanins from the beets passing through.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 7:00 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack
December 5, 2004
Posts of the Week
Too Many Chefs post of the week

Three posts enter. Three posts leave. We pick three posts every week from the blogosphere of food sites we love. Here's this week's holiday themed batch in no particular order:

1. Becks & Posh is not only the name of a great newcomer to the blogosphere but also is Cockney rhyming slang for "That food website we like so much." True story. This week, B&P make some nice Spiced Marmalade Marzipan Tartlets.

A. I am from the Pepe LePew school of French, but you don't have to be a full-on Francophone to know that C'est moi qui l'ai fait ! is on to something with Vin chaud aux épices.. Some might translated that as "hot spiced wine", but I know it really means "Hot wine of picklesthat smells good and makes your head ache in the morning". True story. Get your French-English dictionary out and translate the recipe or send it through Google's language tools.

I. This weekend we bought a Christmas tree and hung our wreath on our door. I'm listening to Nina Simone's "Little Girl Blue" (a great song sung over the background of "Good King Wenceslas") as I type this entry. So yes, I'm in the spirit of the season. So is Life Begins @ 30 which is running a two-part series on buying local foodie presents this holiday. I'm not in the Bay Area, but I may just have to work up a parallel list for Chicago food lovers.

Now if it would only snow.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 9:30 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
December 3, 2004
Miso Soup with Vegetables

It's getting cold out there.

I tried to get by the other day with a heavy sweater. And I mean heavy - this sweater is designed to be the only outerwear you need for temperatures down in the teens. It was plenty warm until I hit Michigan Avenue and Lake Street here in Chicago, and the wind whipped right through the tiny holes in the weave and right down to my bones.

A sweater and a good coat will keep your heat in, but on a really cold day, you also need to heat your down deep insides. Soup is the answer. Most winter soups are heavy affaris, but I don't always want a thick soup with cream and the like. Often, especially during the heavy-food-rich holidays, I like nice hot thin brothed soups with loads of vegetables to fill me up. Miso is ideal.

Most people think of miso soup as either something you get at the sushi place or in an instant packet. It's more natural form is as a paste made from soybeans and fermented rice or rice koji. I find mine at Whole Foods, but any natural foods or Asian/Japanese market should have it. I use yellow miso, but you can experiment with other types for different flavors.

While you shop for miso, look for konbu - or Japanese kelp/sea vegetable. This particular soup uses a purely vegetarian dashi (or soup base), but for a more traditional base, add bonito flakes - a form of dried fish - and strain from the broth before using.

Miso Soup with Vegetables
1 zucchini, cut into 1/2" wedges
2 cups broccoli, cut to bite sized florets and thinly sliced stems
3 small bundles rice noodles (one package)
9 cups water
10 square inches konbu/kelp
4 tablespoons yellow miso
4 scallions, sliced diagonally into 1" lengths
1 red thai chile pepper, sliced thinly and seeded
1 onion, diced 1/4"
2 cloves minced garlic
2 tablespoons sesame oil
scant pinch white pepper
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 package firm tofu

First, we make a basic dashi: Wipe the konbu/kelp with a barley moist towel. Do not wash. Place konbu in a bowl and cover with 9 cups of cold water. Let sit for one hour. Remove and reserve kelp, and strain water. This water is your konbu dashi.

Chop half the konbu into small 1/4" strips. Reserve rest of konbu for another recipe.

While the kelp is soaking, drain your tofu. I highly recommend using fresh tofu packed in water rather than the tofu packed in those aseptic containers that last forever. You'll have to make room in your fridge, but the fresh stuff is much easier to work with and tastes better, too. Press the tofu to squeeze some of the water out of it. I put down a layer of paper towels on a small plate, then the tofu, then another layer of paper towels, then another plate upside down and top it all with a marble pestle I have as a weight. You could use a medium sized book or a big can of tomatoes as a weight instead to gently push water out of the tofu.

Why do I press the tofu before cutting it up? If the water is pressed out, the tofu will be thirsty and will absorb the flavors of the broth much better. I always press my tofu before using it for at least fifteen minutes. You'll be shocked how much water you get out of a block.

In stockpot, heat sesame oil. When hot, add garlic and onion and sautee until onions are translucent. Add soy sauce and white pepper and stir throughly.

Add dashi/kelp water from first step.

Add zucchini, broccoli, chopped konbu, scallions, and chile pepper. Stir, and reduce heat to just a simmer. You don't want to boil this soup to death.

In a bowl, cover rice noodles with water to soak. You can also cut your tofu into 1/4" dice at this time.

Simmer for 15 minutes and test zuchhini and broccoli stems. Add tofu. Continue to cook until the vegetables are tender.

Once vegetables are tender, drain noodles, rinse lightly, and add to soup. Reduce heat to below a simmer and let sit five minutes.

Add miso and stir thoroughly to combine. You should not boil this soup after you add the miso.

Taste and adjust seasonings. You may even want more miso. Feel free to add lemongrass, lime, any other seasonings you like, though I like the subtle flavor the soup has as it is.

When thoroughly warmed, go find a snowdrift and jump into it.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 10:03 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
December 2, 2004
What to do with leftover turkey...

turkey curry.jpgFor those of you in the US, it has now been one week since Thanksgiving. Maybe, if you are lucky, you have already finished up the last of your turkey. In our household, however, we generally get a turkey at least twice as large as we need. For the Critic, this satisfies some strange primal urge that I have never entirely understood; for me, it just means lots and lots of good material for creativity. I hope you have been vigilant in saving turkey bones and made yourself some soup stock. (Our bird was bigger than our stock pots, and even broken down had to be simmered in two!) On the day after Thanksgiving, you may have made yourself the obligatory turkey sandwich. You can also make a nice turkey and dumpling stew, substituting the meat in this recipe. Alternatively, you can make a turkey pot pie, using this one.

And then, at some point, you start getting tired of the taste of turkey. This is when I turn to a recipe with pizzazz, one that will almost-but-not-quite hide that turkey flavour: a curry.

Actually, I got this idea from Helen Fielding's book, Bridget Jones' Diary, where Bridget is dragged to the traditional post-New Year's Eve turkey curry buffet by her parents. It sounded like an eminently intelligent thing to do with leftover turkey and so I scoured my English cookbooks for a good curry recipe. I found one, on the first try, in Nigel Slater's Real Cooking: A creamy, clourful, fragrant chicken curry (page 86).

This is an adaptation of the recipe, which Nigel describes thus: "A seriously unauthentic dish, this, but who gives a monkey's for authenticity? All that really matters is whether something is good to eat. And this is. It is neither Thai nor Indian. A few purists are going to be really pissed-off, especially about the crème fraîche." How can you not love this man? For me, he has his priorities firmly in the right place.

So here is my version, a Creamy, colourful, fragrant (spicy!) turkey curry. Courtesy of Nigel Slater. Serves 4.

1 1/2 cups chopped turkey meat, heavy on the dark meat (the original recipe called for chicken thighs only)
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
2 knobs of ginger, about two Tbs when finely chopped
3 plump juicy garlic cloves
a large bunch of coriander leaves and stalks, chopped
1 Tbs chopped fresh or frozen basil
1 Tbs dried chili flakes
2 tsp cumin seeds
10 green cardamom pods
1 Tbs ground tumeric
6 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 a small zucchini/courgette (optional - threw it in because I had one needing to be used)
1 pot of unsweetened plain yogurt
juice from half a lemon
4 heaped Tbs crème fraîche
salt to taste

Put a little oil or butter or both in a large deep frying pan and set the onion to soften. Add the ginger and garlic. In the meantime, open the cardamom pods and extract the black seeds. Crush these with half the cumin seeds with a mortar and pestle or (if you don't have one) in a plastic bag with a rolling pin. Add these and the rest of the dried spices to the onion mix and let it simmer a while, even if this means a bit sticks to the bottom of the pan. Chop the tomatoes and add them to the pan. As they give off their juice, use it to scrape up the bits of spice on the bottom of the pan. Add the coriander, reserving a tablespoon or so for garnish if you are that kind of person.

Add the chopped courgette and turkey and simmer for a while. Taste the sauce for spiciness. I originally added about half the amount of tumeric, and at this point mixed more with the yogurt before adding it to the starting-to-be-rather-full pan. Add the crème fraîche, lemon juice and basil. Simmer for about ten minutes or so and taste for spiciness and salt. Nigel's recipe did not call for any salt, but personally I found it needed a good helping of it and the Critic added more after I served it.

Put on your basmati rice to boil, give the curry a stir over a low flame and leave it to simmer. Pour yourself and/or your partner a glass of wine and wait for the rice to cook. Serve with fresh basil and/or coriander and enjoy!

As for the REST of your leftovers, I would recommend doing what I did: use your freezer to its capacity. When I made the turkey pot pies, I made enough for three extra pies and froze them. The fourth piece of pâte feuilleté will be used to make a turkey curry pot pie for the freezer. And I think I have about 2/5 liters of turkey stock in various Tupperware bins in the freezer, waiting for future stews and soups. We are down to our last pound of meat!

Weight Watchers Note: you can reduce the number of points per serving for this recipe to 2.5 (not counting the rice) by using 0% fat plain yogurt and reducing the single cream or crème fraiche to 2 tablespoons. Use only one tablespoon of oil to soften the onions and garlic as well. As for the rice, I was perfectly satisfied by a small serving (75g) when I laid a layer of steamed cauliflower over the rice before adding the curry. Cauliflower is wonderful with the flavors of this curry and fills you up just as well as rice at a fraction of the calories!

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 8:36 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack
December 1, 2004
12 Days of Cookies

The Food Network sends out an e-mail newsletter this time of year with cookie recipes perfect for the holidays. I've just received my first e-mailed recipe for Ginger Spice cookies.

Run over to Food Network and subscribe to get the next 11 days of sweet inspiration sent to you.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 12:07 PM | TrackBack
Cannellonis aux Champignons

On my way back from a quick trip to Vichy a few weeks ago, I picked up a magazine to amuse myself on the train. I have been trying to sample some of the lesser known (to me anyway) food magazines and this time opted for Cuisine et Vins de France. I have to say it was a mine of interesting recipes and a few tempting deals for wine. Luckily for me, it included this recipe for a vegetarian main dish which came to mind when I invited a vegetarian to Thanksgiving dinner. Actually, I should point out (this being France) that it didn't include a "vegetarian dish", so much as "a dish which didn't happen to include meat"! It was in the section devoted to the lowly champignon de Paris, the standard white mushroom which, in this country of exotic fungi, is often snubbed or left on the shelf. Ironically, I nearly substituted more interesting mushrooms in the recipe but didn't find any that looked good at the store on the day I was shopping!

The photo of Cannellonis aux Champignons in the magazine is a lovely minimalist stack of three rolls on a white plate on a white background. I'm not sure how they managed to cook the cannelloni in a gratin dish with cream sauce and cheese and yet remove each perfect roll afterwards. Never mind. Mine looked good too (though not the same) but I forgot to take a photo. So this is one where you'll have to use your imagination!

I made very few departures from the original recipe here. I reread the section on cannelloni in my Italian cookbook and used Marcella Hazan's advice to dip the pasta in cream sauce before filling them. I also added nutmeg to the cream sauce as it seemed like too good an idea to ignore. (I love nutmeg!)

Below is the modified recipe. I sampled it only in the leftovers form, as on the big Thanksgiving day there was no room in my belly for non-traditional dishes! That said, about half of the dish (serves 6) was gone by the end of the meal and it got good reviews all around.

Cannellonnis aux Champignons

12-15 cooked pieces of cannelloni
350 grams of white mushrooms
200 grams of fresh spinach shoots (this is actually two fairly large packages!)
250 grams of fresh ricotta (a standard pot)
100 grams of Parmesan (I guessed on this one)
80 grams/two small handfuls of pine nuts
40 grams butter
20 cl (or more) of cream
a few leaves of basil
Salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste

Preheat the oven to 375F/180C and butter a gratin dish. Trim and wash the mushrooms and cut in cubes. Saute them in a large nonstick pan with half the butter. Wash and spin the spinach and add them to the mushroom/butter mixture. Add the rest of the butter and cover to steam the spinach. Add half the pine nuts, all the ricotta and half the Parmesan. Salt, pepper and reduce this sauce slightly on a low heat.

Dip the outside of the cooked cannelloni sheets in a saucer in which you have dribbled a little cream and grated some nutmeg. Spread the filling over the square and roll it up. Place it in the gratin dish with the end of the roll facing down. Repeat until all the filling and cannelloni have been used. Dribble cream over the top of the cannelloni and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan, a little more grated nutmeg and remaining pine nuts. Bake for half an hour in the oven; the top should be a little crusty and brown and the cream should be bubbling. Decorate with basil leaves before serving.

According to the magazine, this would best be served with a white Anjou wine!

A note on the ingredients: I made the pasta with three eggs and about three cups of flour. Next time around I will make more of an effort to put the pasta in the machine lengthwise so that the strips will actually be wide enough to make cannelloni. In this case (my first attempt!) I was forced to double the strips to make a wide enough cannelloni square, which was fiddley and made for a somewhat pasta-heavy middle of each cannelloni, where the two strips overlapped. Mabye this is obvious to the rest of you out there, but I foolishly assumed the pasta strips would somehow magically get wider instead of longer as I put them through the smaller settings of the machine. Oops!

The recipe also called for toasting the pine nuts in a pan and adding them to the dish after baking instead of before. This seemed silly to me and indeed the nuts roasted very nicely in the oven on top of the Parmesan. I also skipped the basil. Next time I'll try putting some in the filling (and then feel more honest about using it as a garnish!).

This made a delicious, creamy satisfying main dish. I like vegetarian dishes that don't scream "VEGETARIAN!!!" at you as they don't tend to leave you feeling half-fed at the end of a meal. It's hard to get rid of those inbred notions like "it's not a meal if it doesn't include meat" and this one is so good you won't even notice the meat is missing. If you are already a vegetarian, this of course isn't an issue any more! (I hope!)

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 2:19 AM | TrackBack
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