Friday, June 29, 2007

zucchini baby

Yesterday my aunt gave me a giant zucchini from my uncle's garden. I put my zucchini child's picture up on flickr and he's now famous thanks to boing boing! Here's the famous photo:

Here he is next to a regular grocery store zucchini, and with a quarter for size comparison:

So what to do with a giant zucchini child? Apparently it's not really desirable to have your zucchini get this big, but he looks pretty tasty to me, so I won't let him go to waste. My first thought was bread, so I shredded part of him up and made a loaf and a dozen muffins. I used this recipe from the ol' Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book that every household seems to have:

Zucchini bread

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup sugar
1 cup finely shredded unpeeled zucchini
¼ cup cooking oil
1 egg
¼ teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
½ cup chopped walnuts

preheat oven to 350

In a mixing bowl combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, baking powder, and nutmeg. In another mixing bowl combine sugar, shredded zucchini, cooking oil, egg and lemon peel; mix well. Add flour mixture; stir until just combined. Stir in chopped walnuts.

Pour batter into a greased 8x4x2-inch loaf pan. Bake in a 350 oven for 55 to 60 minutes or till a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack.

Remove bread from pan; cool thoroughly on a wire rack. Wrap and store overnight before slicing. Makes 1 loaf (16 servings).

I didn't add the lemon zest, though, because I didn't have it. Also instead of walnuts I added a bag of salted sunflower kernels from the 7-11, and a couple handfuls of golden raisins. The result was good. A little too sweet, though. I'd add less sugar next time. And there will be a next time, since this double batch only managed to take care of about 1/6 of the zucchini baby.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

big giant smooshed sandwich

Summer time is picnic time. Every Wednesday I try to make it to the Missouri Botanical Gardens for the Whittaker Music festival. Basically, it's free admission to the gardens to hear some live music and hang out with friends. We usually have an array of snack foods...cheese, sausage, olives, etc. And some wine, of course. Yesterday, since I had a vacation day, I decided to make a big sandwich to share with everybody. I got the idea for this sandwich from the latest issue of Martha Stewart Living. Here's the original recipe.

My pesto consists of basil, garlic and olive oil. I added a few drops of sesame oil for nuttiness, since I was out of pine nuts. And salt and pepper of course. I also added some fresh parsley, because I had it.

For the rest of the sandwich I grilled eggplant, zucchini and red pepper, much like the original recipe:

The bread I used was LaBrea Pane Italian. It's one of my favorite breads, and it was the perfect size and shape for this sandwich. For the meat I used cappicola ham, and for the cheese I used an aged provolone.

I assembled the sandwich about 5 hours before picnic time, wrapped it tightly in plastic wrap and put it in a large pyrex baking dish, with another baking dish on top which I filled with bottles of water. The end result was fantastic. The picnic didn't happen, though, due to weather. I went over to my brother's house instead and he and my sister-in-law helped me eat the giant smooshed sandwich.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

barbecued beef potpie with a chipotle masa crust

I had a day off yesterday, so I decided to try a recipe that took a little more time than normal weekday food. I chose the Barbecued Beef Potpie with a Chipotle Masa Crust from the Red Sage cookbook. It's a cookbook I borrowed a while ago, and it has some great recipes. This one looked like fun. Kind of a challenge for me because I've never made a pot pie, and I'm not so good with baking-type things. But we love chipotle and I've been craving something tamale-like. So I got my potpie on. Here's the recipe:

Barbecued Beef Potpie with a chipotle masa crust

Serves 4

Barbecued Beef
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 ¼ pounds lean beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
½ cup red wine
1 cup premium-quality barbecue sauce
1 ½ teaspoons pureed chipotles in adobo
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
½ cup diced celery
½ cup diced white onion
½ cup diced carrots
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
2 plum tomatoes, blackened and cut into a ½ inch dice
2 small new potatoes, scrubbed and cut into ½ inch dice
16 pearl onions, peeled
1 teaspoon brown mustard

Chipotle Masa Crust
1 2/3 cups masa harina
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup barbecue sauce
¼ cup pureed chipotles in adobo
1 or 2 tablespoons water, as needed
1 large egg, lightly beaten with 2 tablespoons water

To prepare the beef: Preheat oven to 350. Heat the olive oil in a heavy casserole to medium-high heat. Sear the meat well on all sides and season with salt and pepper. Remove the meat from the casserole and set aside. Pour most of the fat out of the pot. Deglaze the pot with the vinegar, then add the wine, barbecue sauce and pureed chipotles. Bring the sauce to a simmer and stir in the meat and thyme. Cover the casserole and braise for 45 minutes in the oven.

Saute the celery, onion, and carrots in butter in a saute pan over medium-low heat for 5 to 8 minutes, or until slightly softened. Stir the vegetables into the casserole, add the tomato and cook for 1 hour more, or until beef is tender but not falling apart. Stir in the potatoes and pearl onions during the last 10 minutes of cooking. Stir in the mustard at the end and adjust the seasonings to your taste. Set aside to cool. This filling may be made up to 2 days in advance.

To prepare the crust:In the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer with a paddle attachment or food processor, combine masa, baking powder, salt and sugar. Add the butter and mix for 2 to 3 minutes, or until well blended. Add the barbecue sauce and pureed chipotles. Beat for 10 to 15 minutes if using a mixer or process 6 to 8 minutes. The dough should be fluffy and light. Add water as needed. The crust can be prepared to this point up to 24 hours in advance.

To assemble pot pie: Preheat oven to 325. Transfer the meat mixture to 4 individual baking dishes or to a 1-quart baking dish. Roll out the dough ¼ inch thick to the shape or shapes of the baking dishes and place on top. Brush the surface with the lightly beaten egg. Cut vents in the crust. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the top is well browned and the filling is bubbly.

Here's my ball o' crust:

It was pretty crumbly, hence the not-so-perfect finished product:

But it sure was tasty.

I used Ravenswood Ragin' Raven Zinfandel BBQ sauce. This is a great sauce. It's got a lot of heat. Also, for the red wine, I used Ravenswood Zinfandel. It was on sale, as was the sauce, and of course they are meant to be used together!

I skipped the pearl onions because the quality didn't live up to the price-tag, and I used roughly diced vidalia onion instead. I also used dried thyme instead of fresh, because I had it on hand. Considering the stuff cooked for more than 2 1/2 hours, I don't think it made too much of a difference. Then end result was really worth all the slow-cooking. The beef was flavorful and the sauce and filling were very bold and spicy. The crust had that distinctive masa corn flavor, which paired well with the barbecue filling. The crust has quite a kick to it, too. Although there was a fair amount of time involved, as the recipe points out, the components can all be made ahead of time. Even so, it's a fun vacation day or weekend dish.

Monday, June 25, 2007

ain't no need to go outside

Sunday morning, after sleeping in, Jack made banana pancakes. It was a rainy, lazy, late weekend morning and they were perfect. He simply added 3 mashed up bananas and some cinnamon to the plain Bisquick pancake recipe. The best part was the sauce. One part peanut butter to two parts honey and a pinch of salt, all heated up in the microwave and mixed together. Peanut butter, honey and banana is one of my all-time favorite flavor combos, so eating these was heaven.

One of my favorite food-songs is "Banana Pancakes" by Jack Johnson.

Pretend like there’s no world outside
And we could pretend it all the time
Can’t you see that it’s just raining
There ain’t no need to go outside

You can listen to a sample on Amazon. It just captures that certain mood.... Mellow, warm and yummy. Yup, that was our Sunday morning.

Friday, June 22, 2007

They're Baaaaack! Carnivore Cupcakes part deux-The Minis

Yup, I made meatloaf cupcakes again. They were requested for poker night. This time I made mini meatloaf cupcakes. So cute! I used the same recipe as before, but this time I cooked them in a mini muffin tin:

Also, this time I used REAL POTATOES for the frosting, since people threatened me with legal action for using the boxed junk :)
A couple months ago I nabbed this ancient food mill from a church rummage sale, which worked perfectly for making my desired lump-free mashed potatoes:

Potatoes after food mill:

So you can get an idea of the mini-size, here's me holding one:

I don't have much to add...these were pretty much the same as last time. So, here's just a couple more beauty shots:

Also, my last batch made it to the Meatcake gallery! Yay! Check out all the glorious meatcakes.

And if that's a little overwhelming for you in the meat department, check out My Paper Crane's super-cute vegan meatloaf cupcakes.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

leftover chutney and

A couple of quick updates! First, I added to my sidebar over there, under the local links. If you're not familiar, is a service that lets you basically bookmark and link to websites/online articles etc. and share them. So when I read an interesting article or story, or see a neat product or a yummy-looking recipe, I'll add it to my links list so you can all share in the joy. So be sure to check there if you're craving food articles/recipes/news/etc. I seriously add links daily, as I am addicted to the internets and all of thier food glory.

Second may be wondering what I did with my leftover rhubarb chutney. Well, I got some chicken thighs, seared 'em and baked them with the chutney on top. So good together. To accompany that, I made some cous cous. To make it, I sauted diced red onion and garlic in some of the drippings from when I seared the thighs (they were bone-in, skin-on thighs), then added some cinnamon, cumin, garlic pwder, ground coriander, crushed red pepper and salt and pepper. Then I added a can of chicken broth and enough water to make the 3 cups of liquid the cous cous box told me I needed. I also added a couple handfuls of golden raisins (those were in the chutney!). I cooked the cous cous as directed, and when it was done I added a large can of chick peas and a handful of toasted walnut pieces. I piled it on top of some baby sminach and put a chicken thigh on top, and voila! A quick tasty meal using leftovers and pantry items. Look!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Bifana (rhubarb chutney with pork)

Last night I made this bifana recipe. It was my first time cooking with rhubarb! That was exciting. I've only had rhubarb in a store-bought strawberry-rhubarb pie, so I didn't really know what the taste was like. I really like it. Tart and crisp...almost granny-smith apple-like. No wonder it goes so good with pork! Anyway, here's the recipe and some more pictures:

3/4 cup white sugar
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon dried red chile pepper
4 cups diced rhubarb
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/3 cup golden raisins
1 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin
2 teaspoons ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 sprigs fresh cilantro, for garnish

1 To make the chutney: Combine sugar, vinegar, ginger, garlic, cumin, cinnamon, cloves and red pepper in a large saucepan. Bring to simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Add rhubarb, onion and raisins. Increase heat to medium-high and cook until rhubarb is tender and mixture thickens slightly. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
2 Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
3 To cook pork: Sprinkle pork with cumin, salt and pepper. Heat oil in large, heavy skillet over high heat. Add pork and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes.
4 Transfer pork to roasting pan. Brush with 6 tablespoons of the chutney. Place in preheated oven, brushing occasionally with 6 more tablespoons chutney. Cook until thermometer inserted into center registers 155 degrees, about 25 minutes. Slice pork into medallions. Garnish with cilantro sprigs and serve with remaining chutney.

It was listed as a quick recipe, however the only way I would consider this quick is if you made the chutney ahead of time.

I served it with Jasmine rice and my favorite green beans. The green beans are something I threw together one inspired evening and they remain one of my specialties. I like to use these Tiny Whole Green Beans from the freezer section. They have a really good flavor and texture. I basically just stir fry them in vegetable oil with grated ginger and garlic, and add sesame oil, sesame seeds, soy sauce, crushed red pepper, chili oil and pepper. Maybe someday I'll make that into an actual recipe, but I usually just throw stuff in to taste and it turns out yummy every time:

Overall the bifana was really good. I have plenty of leftover chutney for another dinner. I might try it with chicken thighs. Pork tenderloin has very little flavor. You might want to use the chutney with a cheaper, more flavorful cut of pork, like pork steaks or something.

Friday, June 15, 2007


Last night I made Pasta Carbonara Florentine, a recipe from Cooking Light. Here's the recipe (I didn't follow it to the tee...see my notes after the recipe):

Pasta Carbonara Florentine
Cooking spray
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1 (6-ounce) package bagged prewashed baby spinach
6 slices center-cut bacon, chopped
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons dry white wine
8 ounces uncooked spaghetti
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg
1 large egg white
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and spinach; cook 1 minute or until spinach wilts, stirring constantly. Remove spinach from pan; place in a bowl.

Add bacon to pan; cook 3 minutes or until crisp, stirring frequently. Remove bacon from pan, reserving 2 teaspoons drippings in pan; set bacon aside. Add onion to drippings in pan; cook 2 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add wine; cook 1 minute or until liquid is reduced by half. Remove from heat; keep warm.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain well, reserving 1 tablespoon cooking liquid. Immediately add pasta and the reserved cooking liquid to onion mixture in skillet. Add spinach and bacon; stir well to combine. Place skillet over low heat.

Combine remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, cheese, pepper, egg, and egg white, stirring with a whisk. Add to pasta mixture, tossing well to coat. Cook 1 minute. Remove from heat. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately.

Things I did a little differently:
-I sauteed the spinach in garlic and olive oil instead of cooking spray
-I used more than one cup of onion...probably almost 2 cups...I just used the whole onion. I also added 3 cloves of chopped garlic when I cooked the onion. I didn't measure the wine, but since there was more onion, I used a little more wine, too.
-I used more pasta, too. a whole pkg. of whole wheat fettucine.
-I added an extra egg white to make sure the extra pasta/onions got all nice and coated. I may or may not have added more cheese, much for "cooking light"... :)

The verdict? Yummy! Silky and subtle and great with the Feudo Arancio Grillo Sicillia (also the wine I used in the sauce...I'm not a huge white wine drinker but this one will make more appearances this summer, for sure). Next time I'll add a bit more bacon and spinach, I think, but other than that, a good, simple meal.

Monday, June 11, 2007

well read, well fed (installment 8)-

Summer reading for food lovers

One of my favorite parts of summer is lazy days spent reading by a pool or in a hammock or out on a porch at night with a glass of wine. Lately I've been reading all food-related books. Not cookbooks, but actual novels and memoirs that have food as a major focus. First, I'll go through the first 5 books I've read, then there's the list of books I hope to get to this summer, plus some other people's food book lists. Without further ado...

How to Cook a Tart, by Nina Killham

This book caught my eye from a random library shelf. It's Bright pink, first of all and has a giant fork on it. The name amuses me a little, too. I turned to the back to see the blurbs so I could get an idea of what this books was about. Lo and behold, one of the blurbs is from Anthony Bourdain:
- “How to Cook a Tart is gastro-porn – as if Julia Child and William Burroughs had a bastard child. It mercilessly harpoons foodies, gourmands, health freaks, dieters and food writers with great style and deadly accuracy. Filled with magnificent descriptions of the best of food, the novel left me questioning whether I should cook less and have more sex – or cook more, just with more butter. Dysfunctional family melodrama, biting satire, scathing indictment and a call to the barricades, How to Cook a Tart takes no prisoners.” –Anthony Bourdain’s blurb on the book jacket.

Maybe I'm overly obsessed with the dude, but a blurb from Tony worked on me. The book is a perfect pool-side reading book. Darkly funny, sensuous and full of drama. Jasmine, the main character, is a cookbook writer, her high-fat, butter and flavor filled dishes losing ground to trendy diet books. Her husband is obsessed with cleaning his colon and her daughter hardly eats at all. The tart in question is her husband's young mistress, a thin actress who is also obsessed with cleansing, and also protein. It's not my favorite book of this group, but worth a read, for sure. Here's an excerpt:
“When Daniel had first seen Jasmine at the American CafĂ© in Georgetown seventeen years ago, he walked right into the wall. It was her way with the tarragon chicken croissant in her hands, her intense concentration, her closed, rapturous eyes, the large salad and double chocolate brownie at her table patiently waiting their turn. After salvaging his tray, he grabbed his veggie sandwich, overflowing with righteous sprouts, and sat as closely to her table as possible. He sipped his Perrier and watched while the vision before him sucked like a Hoover at her straw of Coke. She wetted her finger and dabbed at the flaky remains of her croissant. She took a deep, satisfied sigh and looked up, catching him staring at her, and smiled. He, with a mouthful of cucumber, tomato, avocado, and wholegrain bread, nodded back. She then actually smacked her lips and drew forth her salad. Daniel watched in amazement as she forked her lettuce into her mouth as economically as filling a trash bag with trimmings. Finally, she stopped and began to chew, grinning over at him, her eyes mere slits left in a face enlarged by two busy cheeks. Daniel noticed by now that he was not the only one who gawked. Whole tables chewed silently, breathlessly watching as Jasmine, her salad a mere memory paused. She sat up straight and rolled her neck around to release any tension. She hiked up her shoulders to her ears one at a time as if getting ready for strenuous exercise. One last roll of her head and a beatific smile for the waitress who swerved by her table to grab her two exhausted plates. Jasmine then reached for her dessert and drew it close. She gazed at it, contemplating the melting ice cream flowing down to moisten the side of the decadent chocolate brownie, the thinning line of chocolate sauce which pooled into the white cream before disappearing to the bottom of the plate. She picked up a fork, mumbles something Daniel didn’t catch, and began to slide bites of drenched brownie methodically into her increasingly warm and chocolaty mouth.
She met his eyes as he approached, licking her lips. Without a word he sat down before her. She chewed on her lower lip and said nothing. Daniel reached over and gently removed the fork from her hand.
“I hope you saved some for me,” he said.
She smiled, her teeth brown and white like a Jersey cow.”

For more information:
New York Times Book Review of How to Cook a Tart.

Bento Box in the Heartland, My Japanese Girlhood in Whitebread America, a Food Memoir by Linda Furiya

Of course I had to read this, what with my new Bento Box and all. Stories of the children of Immigrants always fascinate me, especially in the small-town Midwest setting. Furiya tells of being embarrassed when her mom packed her a bento lunch and all she wanted was a plain ol' peanut butter sandwich so she could be like all the other first graders. But she always loved the traditional food her parents worked so hard to keep at the table. This took place in the 60's, so ethnic groceries were not really around in the Midwest, and supermarkets sis not yet have a large selection of international foods. One of the big themes in the book is the struggle to keep the kitchen stocked with Japanese food. This struggle led to family road trips, meeting new people, and huge packages from relatives in Japan.The book is filled with storytelling, identity struggles, family, coming-of-age, history, and some really yummy sounding recipes. It's a great read. Here's an excerpt:
“The first frost of the season was expected that night. In the vegetable garden, the last few hakusai cabbages were draped in plastic, and indication that our meals would be heavy with sweet, hearty leaves.
On a cold evening, the perfect end to a meal was a bowl of tamago gohan (rice and egg porridge). This rice porridge was my comfort food, like chicken noodle soup was for my friends. Japanese mother fed their children this porridge when they had a cold or were recovering from the flu. The essential flavors of the porridge came from the rich broth that remained after chicken-nabe, a one-pot chicken and Chinese cabbage dish
It was unusual for Dad to cook, but chicken-nabe was his specialty, and the ingredients and dark wintry weather at hand suited this meal. Like the yakiniku, chicken-nabe is a communal meal prepared at the table, where those joining in can help themselves to the cooked chicken parts and hakusai cabbage as the please.
The clay pot sat atop a butane-heated tabletop burner that kept the broth, precooked poultry, and vegetables piping hot. We ate in happy silence, savoring the tender chicken and silky cabbage, dipping it in a lush, lemony-salty soy dipping sauce. As dad prepared to make the porridge, the meal was just starting for me. I watched Dad, as if he were catching goldfish with a handheld net, slowly drag a slotted spoon across the golden broth to strain the remaining bits of chicken and cabbage. When it was clear of the meat and vegetable, Dad turned up the blue flame of the gas stove, bringing the broth to a rapid boil before adding the fresh steamed rice to the pot. Like Italian risotto, the rice porridge required long constant stirring to prevent scalding. It was the rhythm of the stirring that seemed to put Dad in the mood for storytelling.”

For more information:
-The blog “What Did You Eat?” reviews the book and cooks one of the recipes from it, Roasted Pork Tenderloin
-Linda Furiya’s food columns from The San Francisco Chronicle

A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway is one of those writers I always feel like I should read more. A fascinating character, what with his six-toed cats in Key West and all. I remember reading The Old Man and the Sea when I was younger, because I loved the movie so. But other than that, my Hemingway repertoire is quite lax. A Moveable Feast was published a couple of years after he committed suicide. It's pretty much a semi-fictional memoir of the time he spent in Paris with his first wife. It was right before he got famous, and had him interacting with a circle of other famous authors of the time, like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein. The book makes for good summer reading, because the prose are straight-forward, and the picture painted of Paris is one of lively cafes and interesting characters, and of course wine and cocktails galore. Here's an excerpt:
“I would walk along the quais when I had finished work or when I was trying to think something out. It was easier to think if I was walking and doing something or seeing people doing something that they understood. At the end of the Ile de la Cite below the Pont Neuf where there was the statue of Henri Quatre, the island ended in a point like the sharp bow of a ship and there was a small park at the water’s edge with fine chestnut trees, huge and spreading, and in the currents and back waters that the Seine made flowing past, there were excellent places to fish. You went down a stairway to the park and watched the fishermen there and under the great bridge. The good spots to fish changed with the height of the river and the fishermen used long, jointed, cane poles but fished with very fine leaders and light gear and quill floats and expertly baited the piece of water that they fished. They always caught some fish, and often they made excellent catches of the dace-like fish that were called goujon. They were delicious fried whole and I could eat a whole plateful. They were plump and sweet-fleshed with a finer flavor than fresh sardines even, and were not at all oily, and we ate them bones and all.
One of the best places to eat them was at an open-air restaurant built out over the river at Bas Meudon where we would go when we had money for a trip away from our quarter. It was called La Peche Miraculeuse and had a splendid white wine that was sort of a Muscadet. It was a place out of a Maupassant story with the view over the river as Sisly had painted it. You did not have to go that far to goujon. You could get a very good friture on the Ile St.-Louis.
I knew several of the men who fished the fruitful parts of the Seine between the Ile St.-Louis and the Place du Verte Galente and sometimes, if the day was bright, I would buy a liter of wine and a piece of bread and some sausage and sit in the sun and read one of the books I had brought and watch the fishing.”

For more information:
-Washington Post review/article on the book
-Another excerpt

Bread Alone, by Judith Ryan Hendricks

I didn't have high expectations for this book. I was afraid it would be a bit to "chick-lit" for my taste. It had those aspects...woman going through a divorce, her ad-exec rich hubby dumping her for a younger prettier advertising associate. Yada Yada. However, I ended up really getting into the book. It made me want to hole up in a quaint cottage and bake bread. And I don't bake! So yeah, there's the heartbreak and the romance and "girl-power!" finding yourself of it all, but it's invigorating, inspiring and a good read. An excerpt:
“It wasn’t until I went to France that I tasted bread that wasn’t full of additives and air. It was like a religious conversion for me. In fact, it’s kind of like sex – one of those things that everyone thinks they know all about and they tell you how great it is, but which is actually pretty uninspiring until you have it one time the way nature intended it to be.
So, the first thing I do is cut the yeast in half. You don’t want the dough to set a new land-speed record. What you want is a long, slow rise to build the kind of texture and flavor that make people think you paid $5.95 for this loaf at the European Gourmet Bakery.
I combine the yeast with the water in a large crockery bowl, stir in the sugar, and let it sit for a few minutes while I measure the flour into another bowl. Then I stir the flour with the only big spoon I can find in this pitifully underequipped kitchen. When it clumps together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, I turn it out on the counter and knead it for ten minutes, adding just enough flour to keep it moving. Then I knead in the salt. Dead last. Because salt strengthens the gluten and makes the dough fight you.
When it’s smooth and elastic enough to spring back when I poke it, I oil a big bowl, slosh the dough around in it, making sure the entire surface is oiled. Then I put a damp towel over it and set it as far from the stove as I can. Someplace like a wine cellar would be nice, but CM doesn’t have one of those. I put it on her dining room table.
With half the yeast, it’ll take twice as long to rise, so I pour myself a glass of sauvignon blanc and start scraping dough off the counter.
The scent of yeast hanging in the air reminds me of my levain and the day that David came to my apartment with the Nixon mask and a pizza. The sharpness of longing I feel takes me somewhat by surprise. Maybe CM was right. Maybe I would be better off without him. But then why do I feel like howling right now? Why do I want to touch his face, smell him, feel his body against me?

For more information:
-Reviews of Bread Alone at the author's website
-Another excerpt

The Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine, by Steven Rinella

This book could definitely not be confused with "chick-lit." A memoir by Rinella about his quest to prepare a feast using recipes from Auguste Escoffier's Le Guide de Culinare...using mostly game that he has hunted himself throughout the United States. The book is so interesting...taking you throughout America on hunting quests for big game like Elk and Ram, as well as very small game like the elusive squab and plentiful sparrow. Though I wouldn't recommend this book to people who are squeamish about where meat comes from, I would recommend to anyone who wants to learn alot about types/cuts of meat, nature, conservation, fish, travel, farming and cooking. It really was eye-opening for me, a suburban girl who refuses to touch a gun. I have become more and more intriqued with offal lately, and Escoffier's recipe call for lots of it. Caul fat, sweet meats, bladders, livers, hearts, etc. And although he is hunting these animals, you get such a sense of the respect Rinella has for them and for nature. He's not hunting for sport, although most of his hunts seem quite thrilling. He's hunting to eat, and even to contribute the natural order of life. And he's having exciting, often funny adventures doing it. Here's one of my favorite excerpts:
"When you go on a big trip with a group of people, you feel a bond with them that lasts for months or even years. The bond is especially strong if it's a dangerous sort of trip, like canoeing in white water or hiking into a particularly sketchy and remote piece of wilderness. I think that bond forms because the people in the group know they're doing something new and perhaps uncomfortable, and they associate their fellow participants with that great rush that comes from being brave, from going all the way out. That first day's Escoffier meal was the only time I felt a bond like that form inside a house. My friends felt the bond, too. Our rented dinner table had been like a runaway raft, taking us into a crazy, uncharted gorge full of rare tastes and strange smells. Rather than run away, or feign lack of interest, my friends dug in and went for it. And they all came out on the other side, laughing and having a good time. And we still had two meals to go."

For more information:
-Review of A Scavenger's Guide to Haute Cuisine at Bookslut
-Another excerpt from NPR

So that's where I am so far in my summer reading. Here are some books that are on my list to read for the rest of the summer, thanks to lots of internet/blog browsing:

-Educating Peter by Letie Teague, via not martha

-Climbing the Mango Trees by Madhur Jaffrey, via Full Belly

-Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany, by Bill Buford, via Cooking for Engineers

-The Debt to Pleasure: A Novel by John Lanchester via New York Magazine

-Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia, by Elizabeth Gilbert, via NPR

-Comfort Food: A Novel by Noah Ashenhurst, via Amazon Listmania

-Little Earthquakes, by Jessica Weiner, via Bookslut

-Crescent, by Diana Abu-Jabar, via Brownie Points

-The Zen of Fish, by Trvor Corson, via Will Work for Food

As if that weren't a big enough pile of books for one little summer, check out some more food book lists:

A long ilist of Food-related books on

Albany Public Library’s “Book Appetit” List

A list of culinary novels

A thread on favorite food books on Serious Eats

also, check out past intallments of my Well Read, Well Fed feature for more good books about food.

Happy Summer reading (and eating)!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

second week of bentos

Are you sick of these yet? I'm not. I love my bento box!!! Here are some more that I made for lunches in the last week and a half:

Bottom: Soba (buckwheat noodles) with a dipping sauce I made from soy sauce, fish sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, sesame oil and red chili flakes, surrounded by mushroom "petals" To learn more about soba noodles and dipping sauce, a popular Japanese summer meal, check out Just Hungry's detailed entry on them.

Top: tomatoes, pickles, more sliced mushrooms.

Bottom: fried dumplings (pork cilantro which I bought frozen from an asian market), dipping sauce (pretty much same as the one I used for my soba noodles)

Top: tomatoes, pickles

Bottom: buckwheat noodles, sauce

Top: tomatoes, cucumbers, mushrooms sliced really thin

Bottom: Inarizushi, two topped with cucumbers and two with Wasabi Fumi Furikake.

Top: grapes, tomatoes

Also, there was a neat little article in the washington post about bentos (free regisration required). I learned that you should try to include the 5 colors in each lunch: Red, Green, Black, White and Yellow/Orange. I seem to have managed to do that on most of mine without even trying. The getting 5 different cooking techniques in there is much more of a challenge.

Monday, June 04, 2007

recipe hoarding

I have lots of recipes I've been bookmarking, photocopying, jotting down, etc. over the past month or so. Thought I'd dump some of them here for (hopefully near) future reference.

Coppa di Parma's roses. These are gorgeous and sound sooo yummy. Of course, it requires bread baking, which is NOT my forte, but I might be willing to give it a shot for these.

Ultra thin-crust pizza with onions, mushrooms and ricotta. Thin crust pizza using tortillas! neat!

Dates with grilled ham and cream cheese. So simple! A great appetizer or wine picnic finger food.

Baked peas with tarragon, yogurt and pistachios. I've been much more interested in cooking peas lately.

Case in point, Nigella made a pea curry on her Curry Feast episode that looks fantastic. In fact I want to make every recipe from that particular episode.

Pistachio shortbread. Mmmm...perhaps for desert after the curry feast!

Lemongrass marinated flank steak. Always keeping my eye out for grillable recipes! Lemongrass is one of my favorite flavors. Especially for summer.

Stir-fried pork with Holy basil. Looks easy and comforting.

And here's a cupcake recipe a friend recommended. It's from this book:

Fresh Pear and Gingerbread Cupcakes

1 package (14.5 oz) gingerbread mix
1 cup water
1 egg
1 medium-sized ripe pear – peeled, cored, and finely chopped
1 heaping teaspoon crystallized ginger, finely chopped

Dump everything in a bowl and mix it up. Spoon the batter into lined muffin tin. Bake at 350° for 18-20 minutes.

Creamy Lemon Frosting

3 Tbsp. butter
3 oz. cream cheese
1 ½ to 2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp lemon juice

Beat the butter and cream cheese ‘til well-blended. (Make sure they’re both semi-soft at room temperature.) Add 1 ½ cup sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Mix well. Continue to add powdered sugar, a tablespoon at a time, until frosting is at desired consistency. Smear over cupcakes and enjoy.