Monday, December 26, 2005


Happy New Year! 10 Favorite Foods Meme/Black Eyed Pea Risotto

Happy New Year to you all! I have a delicious recipe to share that you are going to adore...

But first, yet another meme. (Is that pronounced Me-Me? Or Mehmmm?) I was tagged by the enviable Ilva at Lucullian Delights to list my ten mostest favoretest foods.

Instead of going along with the pack and cataloging the obvious: foie gras (boo on people who are against it), falafel, fish tacos, pickles, goat cheese, sushi, truffled french fries, champagne, chocolate with fleur de sel, peach pie, gazpacho, my Mother's cooking and so on, I thought I would list my ten favorite recipes that I have posted here over the last 365 days.

Each recipe (minus most baking, I'm sure) is an original recipe that I wrote about/made because it was something I wanted to eat. Some things worked, some didn't, but they were all tasty (at least, the ones I wrote about!) and I am quite proud of them. Even though some of the listed choices pre-date my camera days, I do hope you will indulge yourself and try a few, I know you won't be disappointed.

In January 2005 I had just returned from an amazing family gathering in Santiago, Chile. I brought back a recipe for Tuna Empanadas that we had spoiled ourselves with while there. At home, I make a double batch of these at least once a month and freeze them. They are sublime. Perfect for parties or as a quickie cocktail snack.

February saw me having a quiet evening at the bachelorette pad with Dollface, Ms. LaRue and my fantastic boy (who is a) friend, The Librarian. Dollface and I had eaten at (the late, lamented) restaurant Umenehana a few nights before and decided to recreate their Lychee cocktail for our friends. It was divine.

March was quite the month! I went wine tasting with The Ombudsman, the (now ex) BF got some fresh squeezed orange juice, I wrote a scathing review of The Geisha House restaurant, and I taught a cooking class that included Yogurt & Chile Broiled Chicken. (And that kitchen? I still dream about it.)

Ah April, what a fun 30 days that was! The best month I had all year, indeed. I went to a Dodgers Game with The Ombudsman, ate lunch at Barney Greengrass (well, I do that most months. Giggle) and had a sublime dinner at the Hotel Bel Air with the Rock Goddess, got hectically lost in the wilds of the Valley and appeased myself with (the worlds greatest foodstuff) fish tacos, guest posted on Breakfast at Tiffany's, went to an uber glam party with Dollface and Ms. LaRue, and made some exquisite crackers. If you have never made crackers, I urge you to do so! They are the BEST!

Come May, I made a drastic (if short-lived) life change and traipsed off to England for some Cheese Rolling and other such silliness. I was pretty excited to be there but my cooking seems to have suffered for it. In the interest of introducing the Brit-boy to some of my favorite pantry staples, I made a huge batch of Kumquat Chutney. To-die-for indeed.

June. Let'see, lots of fun stuff, but I'm limited to 10, so I'll skip this month.

July I spent in Chicago, Missouri and New York. While flitting around I found time to make my all time favorite ice cream. White Peach and Candied Ginger. Luscious. (Oh, and because it took me an eternity to figure out how to post pictures, like many other times, the photo is a separate post. I know how to fix it now, but frankly, I'm too lazy to do it.)

August was a blast. I got in some trouble with my buddy Charlie and ate myself silly, but again, being limited by this meme to 10 choices, I will move forward.

Remember September? Sam at Becks and Posh challenged to food blogging world to come up with a vegan recipe. Well, since my best friend, The Ombudsman happens to be a vegan, and falafel are one of my favorite foods, so I had no trouble choosing! (Though, that fig tapanade was pretty sensational too!)

October. Spooky! I was a busy little Miss! Griping that the L.A. Times wasn't covering food blogs, griping about the (now ex) Brit and making prune cookies. Am I a riot or what! On the more upbeat side of things, my favorite recipe of the month has to be my first Kitchen Project, for roasted peppers. Versatile and tasty. Mmm.

Then came November, I remember it well. (Wink) I was quite ambitious last month I see, and I have a lot of favorites posted. Fried baby artichokes, noodles and cabbage, roasted garlic and leek bread pudding, those crazy-delicious sweet potatoes and heaven knows the cinnamon beef noodles made my mind swim. The winner though will have to be the warm mixed nuts. I make these all the time, and well, that post still has me shaking my head in wonder.

Which brings us to this month, the final month of 2005. Even with a ton of holiday parties, a pile up of work and visiting hither-thither, I still seem to have busted out quite a few festive favorites. The cauliflower soup for instance, and those darling short bread cookies. And let us not forget the pot-stickers! Yum-a-licious. My favorite though? Sticky Toffee Pudding. Glory-be, was that ever good.

But the best, I have saved for last. The best recipe I have for you kids is new and it's for Black Eyed Pea and Spinach Risotto.

It is an old Southern tradition to eat black eyed peas in the dish Hoppin' John on New Years Day to bring luck and happiness, and that is exactly what I wish for each and every one of you. Luck and happiness in the New Year. Try this, and enjoy. It amazed me it was so stunningly scrumptious and filling. And isn't being amazed the best?

Happy New Years my peaches! I'll be back in 2006!


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, minced
2 cups aborrio rice
2 cups white wine
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups minced spinach
2 cups cooked black eyed peas
2 tablespoons butter
Black pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese (optional)

Bring the white wine and chicken stock to a gentle simmer in a large pot. Add a hearty pinch of salt and the bay leaf.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and saute over medium low heat until translucent. Add the rice and stir to coat with the oil.

Using a ladle, add a bit of the wine-stock, stirring the rice until absorbed, then add another ladelful and so on, continuously stirring until the rice is cooked through and creamy, about 30 minutes.

About three minutes before you feel you are done (27 minutes in) add the spinach, allspice and peas to the rice. Stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings.

You want the end dish to be somewhat soupy and really flavorful. Add the butter (and some parmesan if you like) mix throughly and serve with black pepper.

Makes six to eight servings

Leftovers (if you have any) are great mixed with some egg and flour and made into patties.


Black Eyed Peas aka cowpeas (not the tastiest name ever...)are dried peas that are beige in color with a small black 'eye' in their centers.

Hoppin' John is a dish of rice, collard greens, black eyed peas and ham. The greens represent dollars and the beans, coins

Non-foodie fact: For luck, women in Chile wear yellow panties on New Years Eve. Just wanted to share. LOL.

Japan celebrates New Year's with a seven-day festival that begins January 1. Food is prepared ahead of time so that no cooking needs to be done during the festival. On New Year's day, a wide variety of dishes called Osechi ryori are served elaborately in lacquered boxes -- each dish is a symbol of hope for the new year. -

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Sunday, December 25, 2005


Happy Holidays! Potato Latkes

Happy holidays everyone!

Charles Dickens wrote: This is the "season of hospitality, merriment and open-heartedness." It is..."that happy state of companionship and mutual good-will, which is the source of such pure and unalloyable delight, and one so incompatible with the cares and sorrows of the world" I hope this is true in your world as much as it is true in mine.

And now, a quickie, basic recipe for that Hanukkah treat, potato latkes, should you be in need. For Jews, Hanukkah is a holiday that centers around eating fried foods. (It commemorates the miracle of the oil. For more on that, read here) and that just brings a smile to my face. I do love the fried foods! Another (much more classic) holiday fried-delight is/are sufganyot - also known as jelly donuts - (thats right kids, Jews invented jelly filled donuts!) but the recipe just seemed too involved to try and convey. Besides, I'll take savory/salty over sweet any day.

These are nothing too fancy, just pure and simple golden deliciousness. As a huge advocate of eating fried foods, (occasionally!) I have to say, I wish I thought to have these more than once a year, they are humble yet refined perfection. This is actually the first time I had ever made them, and I was quite pleased with the results. Tasted just like they should. Fancy that. I hope you will try them, and enjoy!

5 large baking potatoes, peeled
2 small brown onions
3 eggs
1/4 cup white flour
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil

Using a box grater, first grate the onions and then the potatoes (if you do it in this order, the onions will help keep the potatoes from oxidizing/turning brown) into a large bowl using the smallest holes. Please refer to the photo to see what you are looking for. It should look like uncooked mashed potatoes when you are done, not shreds. This will take a bit of time and some strength for sure.

After all that grating what you have will be watery. Do your best to drain off the excess liquid before proceeding.

Next add in the eggs and stir. Add the flour, salt and pepper (to taste) and stir.

In a medium sized pan, heat 1 inch of vegetable oil over a medium flame. Using a ladle, pour some of the mixture into the oil (carefully!) and let fry until golden. Turn and fry on the other side, about three minutes total. When crisp, remove from oil and drain on paper towels.

Makes about 10 medium latkes. Serve with sour cream or applesauce


"Latke" is the Yiddish word for pancake, which the Jews living in the Pale of Settlement in the 17th century probably adapted for Hanukkah. "Because their daily diet consisted of potatoes and bread, they wanted to include a special dish cooked in oil to symbolize the main miracle of Hanukkah." - Joan Nathan, on Good Food

"Chanukah is also observed with games of dreidel and the eating of festive foods. These are traditionally fried in oil to commemorate the miraculous oil in the Temple. In America and much of Europe, the traditional food is latkes (potato pancakes). However, in Israel, jelly doughnuts are popular, and Sephardic Jews, who didn’t have access to potatoes until recent centuries, traditionally eat other fried foods like zelebi (a deep-fried dessert shaped like a snail)." -

One year ago today an earthquake triggered tsunami killed more than 220,000 people in India, Thailand and other countries. There are still many who are homeless or displaced. If you can, please do give to the Red Cross.

The basis of the traditional Swedish Christmas dinner spread (julbord) is the classic smörgåsbord, featuring pickled herring, liver paté, sausages, meatballs, rye crisp bread, as well as special holiday items such as veal brawn, rice porridge, and the Christmas ham (julskinka). Holiday beverages include julöl, a Christmas beer that is darker and sweeter than the average lager; mumma, a mix of beer, ginger ale, sherry and cardamom; and glögg, a hot red wine flavored with cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and raisins. - Sweden

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Friday, December 23, 2005


Sticky Toffee Pudding

I love the Chateau Marmont hotel. I would do PR for them for free, only they don't seem to need it. (And, I sort of am right now anyway) The fabulous history, sublime decadence and hedonistic memories (cheeky blush) brings me to a surreal corner of LA living that cannot be replicated anywhere. The parties I have had there and attended there have all been outrageous. The staff there, well, they go above and beyond in accommodating your every whim and desire and they do it with such style you cannot imagine. Sure, it's a bit trendy, but if it's been trendy for several decades, well, I call that a trend I am happy to follow.

What is all this rambling about? Well, its about that fantastically interesting British dessert Sticky Toffee Pudding. Let me just clarify that to the Brits, who claim this dish, all desserts are called pudding. If we had to give it a North American counterpart/pseudonym it would be Steamed Date Cake, but that's not quite as romantic a name, now is it. Anyway, back to the Chateau. For a few winters now (winter in LA, AHHHhhh. The best. A balmy 75 today. That's what? 28 celsius?) the fab kids over at the Chateau have offered a Sticky Toffee Pudding on their lobby bar dessert menu that I have become fixated on. It just warms me to the soul. And then what happened? It disappeared. That's right. Gone. In a pout a few weeks ago upon finding this out, I ordered some other confection, and while being satisfied, it just wasn't what I had wanted.

So being the girl I am, I made a comment. And in the bestest-happiest turn of events, they promised to make me some if I called 24 hours in advance of my next visit. I felt like a high-roller. I mean seriously kids, is that the coolest ever or what? Truth be told though, I was a little bit guilty at the thought, but dove in and called once to let them know I was coming a few days down the line. And it was worth it, unfortunately, I could also vividly imagine the kitchen staff cursing me at adding to their tasks and never did it again. It was with that that I just figured maybe I could make my own.

I searched some cookbooks (Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver) and came up with nothing. Maybe everyone already knows how to make this? I checked the BBC Food site and found a few somewhat passable sounding recipes, but not wanting to A. microwave it or B. buy golden syrup and/or treacle, I went with this version as a launching point. (You can see, I strayed quite far.) In the now classic television-chef recipe writing tradition, there is a lot to be desired here. Specifically, a description of what the heck a small pudding mold is, how many people this should serve, mentioning you should chop the dates, and well, a few other things.

So I made my own version and it was beyong amazing. Imagine if you will, a time when sugar was something most people never tasted, so a dried date, chewy and naturally sweet that had travelled from an exotic locale would be a treat indeed. This is like that. Tasting something exotic and delicious, tremendous and sweet, decadant yet accessible. The cake itself is just beyond compare. It is indeed sticky, sweet, fruity, warming and dense. It tastes like thick, rich, sugar. Of course my version is not at all traditional, but it is just too, too wonderful and a snap to pull together. Try it, and enjoy.

1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup softened butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 cups dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
For sauce
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons rum or brandy

Preheat your oven to 350F

Sift (or stir, whatever) together the flour, baking powder and salt.

In a food processor, cream the butter and sugars for five minutes (stop to scrape the bowl if need be) until throughly combined (don't skimp here. The more you cream the better). Add the eggs one at a time until completely incorporated. Add the dates and flour mixture and pulse to combine (do not over mix at this point)

Pour the batter into a 4 cup, heavily buttered oven proof dish or six (also heavily) buttered ramekins. Leave 3/4 inch room at the top, so they can puff up in the oven (they fall when cooled though)

Place the dish(es) into a 2 or 3 inch deep pan and add carefully add enough water to the pan to come almost 1/2 way up the dish(es). (Be sure not to get any water into the puddings!) With great care, put the pan in the oven and bake for an hour and ten minutes.

Turn the oven off and open the door. Allow to cool this way for 10 minutes.

In a small sauce pan melt the additional butter with the sugar over low heat. Add the alcohol and stir to combine. Spoon half of this onto your serving plates.

Pull out the whole pan out of the oven and carefully remove the puddings. Invert and serve with more of the butter sauce poured over.

Makes six servings


A study published in the BMJ, confirms that even experienced bartenders tend to unwittingly pour more alcohol into short, wide glasses compared to tall, skinny ones. That means two cocktails from a squat tumbler might actually pack the punch of 2 1/2 drinks. So instead of that martini glass, those watching their drinks might want to ask for a highball glass instead. - Washington Post

WOW. How cool is THIS? It has five leaves, stands 14 inches high and is nicknamed Methuselah. It looks like an ordinary date palm seedling, but it is a piece of history brought back to life. Planted on Jan. 25, the seedling growing in the black pot in Solowey's nursery on this kibbutz in Israel's Arava desert is 2,000 years old. It is the oldest seed ever known to produce a viable young tree. The seed that produced Methuselah was discovered during archaeological excavations at King Herod's palace on Mount Masada, near the Dead Sea. Its age has been confirmed by carbon dating. Scientists hope that the unique seedling will eventually yield vital clues to the medicinal properties of the fruit of the Judean date tree, which was long thought to be extinct. - SF

Check out this inspiring post on Gluten Free Girl. I simply adore Shauna. what a sweet, sweet girl.

Toffee is
a chewy and tender candy made of sugar and butter boiled together. It must be a reference to the sauce this cake is served with.


Monday, December 19, 2005


Butternut Squash & Parsnip Soup

There is a supreme amount of happiness that I attach to this deceptively basic soup recipe. I just think it is without a doubt, the best, but it came with a lesson.

You see, when I was in cooking school, they had the students (as all cooking schools do) create a menu and then execute it for the in-house restaurant.

For this two week excursion into somewhat real restaurant cooking (the ratio of chefs to patrons was absurdly off, but for the most part, it was the most true-to-kitchen-life class they offered) each senior class member was paired with a new student and in pairs were given tasks such as "make soup" or, "man the grill." This soup was one of two (along with a rich and spicy tortilla soup) my exceedingly talented partner and I offered to guests for lunch and dinner for two days in a row.

At the end of the two days the chef instructor came over to critique us and...we failed. He hated the way it tasted and said that it didn't even qualify as a soup. It should have been strained, we should have added cream, blah, blah, blah. I was startled. I thought it was sublime. Besides, we had sold out of it half way through dinner so someone must have liked it. My partner went pale. His 4.0 average was gone. He was livid. I tried my best to salvage our grades, but alas, we both concluded it was either a case of the Chef being a pill, (a common personality trait in that group I fear) and nothing to do with the soup at all or maybe the dude just hates parsnips. Who knows. Any which way, it was a bummer of a lesson. Then again, you can't win them all, right?

Having been a chef instructor of sorts for awhile now, I can honestly say this is not only the easiest thing to make, it is outrageously flavorful, and I am (smug) pleased to report, the single most popular menu item I have ever offered my cooking class clients. They are sophisticated foodies and they LOVE it. So there. It is naturally sweet from the parsnips, rounded out with the squash and earthy onions the secret ingredient is the apple cider vinegar, which brings a lively (zing!) back-note. It is warming and hearty, outstandingly healthy and just plain lusciously delicious. Try it, and enjoy.

2 large brown onions, sliced in half
3 large parsnips, peeled, cut into halves
1 large butternut squash, sliced in half lengthways, seeds removed
3 sprigs thyme
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
Apple cider vinegar
Roasted squash seeds for garnish

Preheat your oven to 350F

Line a sheet pan with foil

Place the onions, parsnips and squash sliced side down on the foil lined sheet pan. Liberally coat the vegetables with olive oil (on all sides) toss on the thyme and some salt and pepper.

Roast about 1 hour, making sure to turn the parsnips half way through.

Remove the pan from the oven when the onions and parsnips are browned and a knife inserted into the squash goes in smoothly. Remove the thyme and allow to cool somewhat.

The roasting process will have lifted the skin right off of the squash. You should be able to pick it off.

In small batches in your blender or food processor, puree the vegetables with the stock until smooth. (Warning: You cannot fill a blender with hot liquid more than half way. It will blow the top off. Or worse, the bottom.) At this point you have options. You can strain it, add cream or just leave it as is. I like it as is.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add a tiny splash of apple cider vinegar (about 1/2 teaspoon to start), taste and add more as you see fit. It really perks it up. You'll be amazed.

Garnish with toasted squash seeds and thyme to serve.

Makes 8 - 10 servings

To roast the squash seeds, clean them and toss with some vegetable oil, smoked paprika, salt and pepper, then put on a parchment lined sheet pan in a single layer and toast at 300F for 20 minutes. Remove when lightly browned. Keeps in a covered container for a week.

"The Babylonians first converted wine into vinegar in 5000 BCE using date palms, grapes, and figs. Japanese Samurai warriors supposedly used a vinegar tonic for strength and power." - Nutrition

The name vinegar comes from a French word meaning "sour wine." It is produced by the action of yeast and bacteria on grains or fruit juices.

According to this is "parsnip" in Russian: пастернак

Proof I am a food blogging geek. I made a Caesar salad this weekend, and knowing that my post on it from March needed a picture, added it. Check it out.

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Sunday, December 18, 2005


Swiss Chard Tart

I was at the farmers market stalking the big leafy greens when I ran into (not literally, silly!) some friends who were shopping for a brunchy-lunchy shin dig. Their excellent master plan was to see what was to come to the market and wait for inspiration to strike.

Unfortunately, after 40 minutes they were more overwhelmed than inspired, toting a few perishables and timidly asking the farmers what they thought would be an impressive addition to their table. The results of that survey were spotty at best, neither of these kids being the most comfortable in the kitchen.

So there I was, totally over-glammed for the practically pre-dawn hour and giggling to myself while wondering if Dinosaur kale could be made into a chic new handbag material, when they gleefully pounced. Laying on the praise and adoration as thick as peanut butter, I was pressed into service helping them out and I have to say I was pleased as punch to help. (It also got my an invite to the brunch. Bonus) Of course, I had no master plan either, and no recipe at that, but when in doubt, go with a tart I always say. (OK, I have never uttered those words, but you have to admit it sounds fail-safe.) And this is the result, a Swiss chard tart. (which forces me to wonder aloud, what makes it Swiss? Hmmm?) It was a snap to do too and used a great, seasonally appropriate green. It was a thrill. A crazy easy olive oil crust, some flavorful chard with extra festive red stalks, salty cheese and voila, the brunch choice of champions. Try it, and enjoy.

1/2 cup white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil
1 1/2 pounds Swiss chard
3 large eggs
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese

Preheat your oven to 375F.

In a large bowl, combine the flours, salt and pepper. Add the water, mix, then the oil, and mix. Press that mixture into the bottom of a 9 or 10 inch tart pan with a removable bottom.

Wash your chard and then chop it up. Put it in a large pan over medium heat and cover. Cook until wilted, which should take about three minutes. Remove from the heat, uncover and allow to cool slightly.

In another large bowl (or the one you made the crust in, wiped out though) add the cheeses and eggs. Stir to combine. Add the chard and stir. Pour that mixture into the tart shell. Place the tart shell on a baking sheet (or wrap the bottom in foil.) for 35-45 minutes. Remove and let cool slightly, slice and serve. Mmmm.

Makes 6-8 servings


Swiss chard is a biennial form of beet; even though it does not develop tuberous roots typically associated with beets. Probably of Mediterranean origin, Swiss chard seems to have emerged as the most commonly used name for this vegetable, which has a number of aliases: Italian spinach, spinach beet, perpetual spinach, silver chard, seakale beet and silver beet. Chard tends to draw salts from the soil, which is why it is higher in sodium than most vegetables. - Birds Eye

Pecorino: And Italian sheep's milk cheese that is available fresh or aged

Wisconsin produces 2.4 billion pounds of cheese annually, making it the top cheese-producing state ahead of California at 2 billion pounds, said Robin Engel, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. - WFMY News

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Friday, December 16, 2005


Friday Stew

Hola! I hope you are all having an extraordinary day so far. It being Friday and all, I thought I would do some housekeeping and remind everyone about a few things (boring, but true) before sharing a recipe.

First off, I am super excited to see how popular the Menu of Hope raffle raising money for the Kashmir region earthquake relief effort has become. Quite a bit of money (more than $5,000 so far) has been raised. If you haven't had a chance to donate there is still time. I am offering a box of the surreally scrumptious Jin Patisserie chocolates and as a seperate gift for another donation, a shiny new 3.5 inch Wusthof Classic Paring Knife. Simply go here, make a donation of at least $5.00 and write in the comment section what gift you would like to receive.

The second thing on my itty bitty nudge list is that today is the final day to put in your nominations for the 2005 Food Blog Awards. This site was a finalist in the Best Recipe category last year and it was a total thrill for me. Just being a part of it really did change things in my little world and for that I will be forever grateful. Why not take a sec and nominate a site you enjoy. You know, share the love. There are tons of amazing blogs out there and they all deserve a little recognition.

And now, for the recipe of the day. It is for joy. Look around you, see the world and all it has to offer. Close your eyes and picture your loved ones. Go outside and listen for the birds singing and feel the sunshine on your face. Know that each and every day is a gift. Laugh at me for being so sentimental and then go cook something.


The Silver Spoon is the seventh most popular book on internet bookstore giant's sales list.

Additional Amazon oddness: the number one book on Amazon is The Chronicles of Narinia. With one less letter and one different one you get my last
name. The number two book is 365 No Repeats by some overly perky Food Network Chef that I share a first name with. Fun, huh?

B&R Farms in Hollister California, sell the most amazing apricot products. The dried apricot chutney will blow your mind. Trust me. Their recipes are awesome too. Check them out.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


Mushroom-Ginger Potstickers

Why hello you sweet things! How are you today? Let's dish. Have you ever gone into a restaurant and ordered something off of the menu with a full mental picture of what you were going to receive, but when the food is set down, it is unfamiliar or maybe just a little bit off? You know, maybe you asked for a wienershnitzle and got veal instead of a hot dog? That kinda thing.

Of course, with a zillion possible variations on any one theme, is there really any absolute version? Even with classics - something tried and true, we almost always tweak it to our tastes, to what is available or to what we are able to pull off. And if you have never even seen the original version, who is to say your version is off? Right? Right. And for me, it's exciting to see how someone else interprets a dish I think I know so well.

All that said, I made pot stickers last night. At least, what I consider pot stickers. Tasty bites of pan fried and steamed stuffed noodles. I could eat them all day. I have had pot stickers in restaurants in North America, but never in Shanghi, (where I guess they originated) so I only know this style, and I can honestly say they meet and exceed my own expectations for yumminess.

They are tricky to serve as a cocktail snack because they require utensils to dip them into the salty, tart and gingery sauce, so I suggest serving them as a starter to a meal, or just for yourself as an indulgent morsel. (Though, if you are going that route, cut the recipe by 3/4, ya?)

The method, one you have tried it, it quite simple really. Authentic, of course not, but scrumptious none the less. The best type of food.

The basic idea is that your ingredients need to be minced fine and cooked, then the potstickers built and cooked. The ingredients themselves can vary any which way you like, so long as you end up with about 2 cups of filling for 24 wontons. At that point you can keep them for a few days (no more than three I would say) and make them to be served hot. The beauty here is that unlike with pastry type turnovers, the noodles and the filling will stay the same size when cooked, so you can stuff them as full as you like, so long as they seal shut. Try them, and enjoy.

24 wonton wrappers
2 pounds mushrooms
2 cloves garlic
1/2 small onion
2 tablespoons ginger
A few scallions
Vegetable oil
Soy sauce
Sesame oil
2 teaspoons Shaoxing wine or black vinegar
Sesame seeds
1 cup water, chicken or vegetable stock
Chives for garnish

Optional additions:
Minced chicken or pork, water chestnuts, celery, cabbage, carrots, chiles, peanuts or cilantro

Finely mince the mushrooms, garlic, onion, ginger and scallions. (And any other ingredients you want to add.) In a large saute pan over medium heat, saute the minced ingredients until they are fully cooked. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.

Mix together your dipping sauce. It should be to your taste (obviously) but to get you started, go with three tablespoons of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of the wine/vinegar, a few drops of sesame oil and a teaspoon of minced ginger. Whisk that together and then add a sprinkling of sesame seeds. Taste and adjust.

Pour a little bit of water into a small container.

Place about a teaspoons worth of the filling onto the lower half of each of the wontons. Lightly moisten the top edge of each noodle, fold over to create half moons and press down to seal. (Ideally you would create a few decorative folds at this point, but you know, who has the time...)

In a large pan with a lid, heat a few teaspoons of your vegetable oil until it is rippling. Carefully add the potstickers in a single layer. Do not move them. Let cook for three minutes. Peek under one and see if it has browned. When they are browned add enough stock/water to just cover the bottom of the pan. Slap on the lid and let steam three minutes. Remove from the pan with a slotted spatula onto a cutting board. Blot with a towel if they are super wet.

Garnish with sesame seeds and chives and serve


Black Vinegar: A dark complex vinegar made of glutinous rice and malt somewhat similar to a balsamic used in Chinese stir-frys, braises and sauces. Substitutions: Red rice vinegar - Gourmet

Japan’s two-year-old ban on American beef was lifted and Colorado ranchers sent their first shipment out Wednesday. Japan is putting limitations on types of cattle that will be accepted, "all animals must be 20 months or younger." - Cattle are Colorado's top commodity - there are approx. 2.5 million head, valued at $2.5 billion statewide - Denver Post

Dumplings have been made in China for more than four centuries. They are still a favorite in Shanghai and Beijing, where hundreds of specialty stalls make nothing else. They should be eaten with a dip of vinegar and shredded fresh ginger. Dumplings are called "pot stickers" because the base of the dumpling is crisped and browned in oil before steaming. - Do

There is still time to take part in Menu for Hope. If you haven't made a donation yet, perhaps a brand new 3.5 inch Wusthof Classis paring knife will tempt you, or a box of Jin Chocolates. Just go to First Giving and make a $5 donation and specify in the comments section what item you would like to win. (A full list of items is here). All money will go to Unicef, to help with the Kashmir region earthquake relief effort.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Gingerbread with Cranberry Poached Pears

I once worked (slaved?) at a restaurant with a pastry chef who's baking made my mind swirl. She was not only hilarious, lovely, smart and kind, but this woman, this BAKER, was named (prophetically?) Baker. She earned bonus points in my world by being nice to me when I was not exactly excelling (may have had something to do with the fact that at the time, my cooking was slow as molasses on ice. That and I could never really reconcile myself to wearing those hideous checked pants) at the gig. She took me under her wing, and inspired me with her endlessly creative recipes.

This recipe is a cheap knock off of something she used to make, and while it could in no way emulate the fantasticness that she produced, it is still totally yummy and worth the effort.

I may still not be much of a baker, but I am still always willing to give it a go, and I hope you will too. The components are gingerbread cake, cranberry coulis, and cranberry-cinnamon poached pears.This is not so much about the recipe (you could poach the pears any way you like, and use any gingerbread recipe that strikes your fancy) as it is about the composition and building of flavors and textures.

The cake will have a spicy warmth to it, the pears a tart coolness, the coulis adds color and a fruity sweetness and the whole thing together equals heaven on a plate. While you are baking the cake, go ahead and poach the pears. Everything needs to be cool when you start to assemble anyway. A lovely addition would be some cinnamon whipped creme fraiche, but alas, I did not have any. Try it, and enjoy.

4 whole firm pears, peeled
1 cup cranberry juice
1 cup water (and more if needed)
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 cinnamon stick or 1/2 teaspoon ground

1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup white sugar
1 cup water

1 cup butter
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
3 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon warm water
2 cups white flour
1 cup water, boiling

Preheat your oven to 350F.

Butter and flour a 9- by 2-inch square baking pan. Line the bottom with buttered parchment paper.

Melt butter in a small pan over low heat and then set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, sugar, molasses, spices, and salt then and add the melted butter and whisk to incorporate.

In a cup dissolve baking soda in warm water and whisk into the batter.

Sift the flour over the mixed batter and whisk until combined well. Add boiling water in a slow stream, whisking, and pour batter into baking pan.

Bake gingerbread in middle of oven 45 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool gingerbread in pan on a rack. When cooled, turn the cake over, peel off the paper.

Meanwhile, in a medium sauce pan, combine your cranberry juice, water, sugar, orange zest and cinnamon and heat over a low flame to melt the sugar. Add your pears and place a small round (heat proof) plate directly on top of them to keep them submerged. Cook at a very low simmer for about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove from the heat and cool the pears in the liquid. When cooled, remove the pears with a slotted spoon. If you are making the dessert later, store the pears in the liquid.

While the pears are poaching and the gingerbread is baking, combine your coulis ingredients (cranberries, water and sugar) in a small saucepan and simmer over a low flame for 30-45 minutes. Strain the cranberries out using a fine mesh strainer and set the liquid aside. fish out a few of the cranberries and add back to the sauce to use for garnish.

To assemble the dessert, you will first need to slice the pears in half through the stem. Remove the seeds with a melon baller or a sharp knife. Then to create the fan effect, lay the pear half down on your cutting board and slice from just below the stem down to the bottom, repeat four of five times moving across the pear. When sliced, push down slightly with your hand and it will fan out. Voila.

Next up you will need a round cutter. (or, a tuna can with both ends cut off, that has been scrubbed) Cut out four circles of cake, then slice them in half through the middle. (Equator) Brush with some of the cranberry coulis to moisten. Layer with half a poached pear fan, top with the second circle of gingerbread then dust with some powdered sugar and a few of the reserved cranberries. Make all four of your cakes, then pour the remaining coulis on four chilled dessert plates. Add the cakes and put the other half of the pear on the plates and serve.

Makes four

Oh, and those cake scraps? Keep them, gingerbread only gets better the next day. Mmmm.


Coulis. A mixture—often a fruit puree—that has been strained of tiny seeds or pieces of peel so it is perfectly smooth.

In Medieval England gingerbread meant simply "preserved ginger" and was a corruption of the Old French gingebras, derived from the Latin name of the spice, Zingebar. It was only in the fifteenth century that the term came to be applied to a kind of cake made with treacle and flavored with ginger. - Ginnys Gingerbread

California produces 60% of the nation's total Bartlett pear crop

I am adding another item for the Menu for Hope. If you haven't made a donation yet, perhaps a brand new 3.5 inch Wusthof paring knife will tempt you. Just go to First Giving and make a $5 donation (or really, any amount more than that you care to) and specify in the comments section what item you would like to win. (A full list of items, minus this new addition is here). All money will go to Unicef, to help with the Kashmir region earthquake relief effort.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Goat Cheese & Anchovy Stuffed Cascabel Peppers

Those deliriously perfect, outrageously cheerful red cascabel peppers drive me to distraction. I am constantly buying them, without plans for what on earth I can do with them. They normally end up mixed with some eggplant, or minced into any number of rice and pasta dishes. But that always seems so UNFAIR. How can something so whimsical not earn a starring role?

That, coupled with an article in The New York Times Style Magazine on the Spanish affinity towards filadefia cheese (that's what they call any cream cheese) led me to a transatlantic culinary pow-wow with Maria-Jose, my resource for all things Spanish (and beloved sister-in-law). Could I make something with these peppers AND some cheese?

One thing instantly came to mind for her, and she was all about me trying it. With her Andalusian lisp (yes, she lisps, yet, hasn't got a lisp.) meshed into her dead-sexy English, she instructed me "Oh Ray-schell! You thake de filadelfia, and you, how is it you say? Give it mince up with thelery, and you take thee limon, and deth-herb-thes..." well, you get the idea. I could listen to her talk all day all lilting and joyful. The recipe she did end up giving me was delectable, but for my taste, I added some goat cheese just for the tang, but other than that, it is indeed her creation. And exactly like her, they are stop traffic glamour, super model beautiful, internationally spicy (oh, you know what I mean) and a vision indeed.

The other night, to get ourselves (more) excited for the annual Warren Miller movie, Higher Ground (which I highly recommend!) I had some friends over and offered the resulting peppers with some extra smooth sipping tequila and put out the extra filling as a spread for crackers. The crowd seem to have enjoyed them immensely. Thank goodness I set one aside for myself, because otherwise, I would have been shut out. I suggest doing the same if you are offering these as a cocktail nibble. I cut down on the anchovies called for in this recipe, but if you like them the way I do, go ahead and use three instead of one. Either which way, I urge you to try this...and enjoy!

26 cascabel peppers
olive oil
1/2 cup goat cheese
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons cream cheese
zest of one small lemon
a few teaspoons minced chives
1 small anchovy, minced
1/2 clove garlic, minced
1 large pinch Spanish paprika
Chives for garnish

Preheat your oven to 300F

Pull off the stems of the peppers and fish out the seeds. When you have them all done, put them in a nice oven proof pan (I used my loaf pan, lined with foil for easy clean up) and cover with olive oil. Roast for about 25 minutes or until they are just starting to soften. Remove from the oven and let cool in the oil.

Meanwhile, combine the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl. Season to taste. The butter is in there for a few reasons, one to add a smoothness and pleasant mouth feel, but also it cuts the taste of the stronger goat cheese, and potentially too recognizable cream cheese. It also makes it just taste yummier.

When the peppers are cooled, use a slotted spoon to remove them and do your best to wipe off the residual oil. The oil left in the pan is a keeper. It will taste slightly sweet.

Fill the peppers with the cheese mixture. The best way to do this is to wet your hands (slightly) and roll small balls, then drop them into the peppers. Garnish with sliced chives and serve.

Makes about 26


Cascabel peppers are moderately hot (4 on a scale of 10) and the name means "jingle bell" in Spanish.

"Over breakfast in San Sebastia¡n, Spain, a friend I was visiting volunteered a list of the five things the Spanish could not live without: 'coffee, cigarettes, jamon, freshly squeezed orange juice and filadelfia.' - Peter Meehan,

Cream cheese originated in the United States in 1872 when a dairyman in Chester, NY, developed a "richer cheese than ever before," made from cream as well as whole milk. In 1880, a New York cheese distributor, A. L. Reynolds, first began distributing cream cheese wrapped in tin-foil wrappers, calling it Philadelphia Brand. -

Please don't forget about A Menu For Hope! Donate $5.00 for the Kashmir region earthquake relief and win some great prizes.

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Monday, December 12, 2005


A Menu For Hope II

Oh my dear, sweet loyal readers. How I wish I could reach right through this screen and give you all a warm hug today. Why today? Because today, I have to ask something of you. It's not a big something, but it is a something that MEANS something.

As we all know there was a horrifically devastating 7.6 magnitude earthquake on October 8th in the Kashmir region of India and Pakistan. The people who live in the area are still fighting for their lives. Shelter is scarce, the weather is extreme and aid has been slow in coming. While we are here (where ever your "here" may be) millions go without. I know I sound dramatic, but it IS dramatic and needs our attention.

In an effort to do something, food bloggers around the world have gotten together for an event called A Menu For Hope II. We are offering items in a virtual raffle and the cost to you my dears, is $5.00 a ticket. That's right my peaches, five smackeroos and you can win a fab gift (complete list here) from your favorite food blogger AND do something good for humanity. Does that not sound like a deal? It is indeed.

The first item I am donating is something that is near and dear to my heart. A box of the outrageously sinful Jin Patisserie chocolates. (As seen in the photo over there, which I took from their website. Lovely website I might add. Check it out.) Made in fantastically funky, Venice, California by the altogether luminescent Kristy Joo (a graduate of my alma mater, The California Culinary Academy I am proud to say), these exquisite delights are beyond compare.

The 12 piece, 2 pound box of chocolates includes: The de Concubine, Passion fruit, The du Hammum, Mango Kalamansi, Caramel Clove, Cinnamon, Pandan, Chrysanthemum, Lavender, Ginger, Café Rhum, Black Roasted Sesame.

It is a treat worth having.

So what do you do? That's easy my loves. Click here, and donate. Do this before December 27th. Specify in the comments section of your donation form which item you want and then on New Years Day, check back to see if you are the winner.

And now, for the small print: Menu of Hope II, via Just Giving, is raising money for Unicef with funds earmarked for the earthquake victims in the Kashmir region. Each $5 donated gives you one chance to win a prize of your choosing. Just state which on in the 'comment' section of your donation form. You can donate more than $5 of course, each $5 will give you one chance at one prize. (Yes, you are allowed to specify more than one gifts if you donate more than $5.) Menu of Hope II will not be collecting any money, Just Giving will forward all the money raised directly to Unicef.

I will be adding more donation items in the days to come. Please do take the time and open your hearts and pockets for this worthy cause. Thank you all so much, you are all shining stars in my universe.

And lastly, please visit some of the other fantastic food blogs participating in this important event. Chez Pim, Becks and Posh, Chocolate and Zucchini In Praise of Sardines Gluten Free Girl and many more. They are all offering incredible items and I hope you will take the time to check them out.


Unicef was created by the UN General Assembly on December 11, 1946 to respond to the suffering of children in European countries devastated by World War II. In 1953, UNICEF was made a permanent arm of the UN to address the plight of children in world wide. UNICEF was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1965.

Every day, more than 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes--one child every five seconds

Most of the affected areas are in mountainous regions and access is impeded by landslides that have blocked the roads. An estimated 3.3 million were left homeless in Pakistan. The UN reported that more than 4 million people are directly affected, as winter snows start. Many of them are at risk of dying from cold and the spread of disease. It has been estimated that damages incurred are well over 5 billion US dollars. - Wikipedia

Sunday, December 11, 2005


Field Roast Salad

If you are at all like me, it doesn't matter how many times you go to the market, there is always something new and fresh that catches your eye and sends your mind to the kitchen. But when in doubt, you can always ask for a sample of something from the pre-made/prepared food section, right?

That was what I did earlier this week. While wistfully eyeing the prepared salads at my local Whole Foods, I asked for a sample of what I'm pretty sure was called Smoked Tomato Field Roast Salad. It was, in a word, tasty. Chewy, crunchy, piquant, creamy, slightly sour, a wee bit sweet, and of course, smokey. I was intrigued and knew I had to have more, yet, having ventured into the market at the ultra-busy lunch-hour, I didn't want to bother the kind deli man with questions, and instead went along my merry way.

A few nights later, I called and asked for the ingredients (later I found out they would have given me the actual recipe, but hey, that would have taken some of the fun out of it) and recreated it on my own with changes. One of my additions was TVP, or texturized vegetable protien. It is a great pantry staple and I always have some on hand. While you could make a vegan version, mine is simply vegetarian. But either which way, it's something different and really flavorful for sure.

I was unfamiliar with field roast, and had to go buy a packet. It is one of those meat replacement products (based on seitan) that aren't on my radar much. It had a sort of nutty, wheaty, pleasantly chewy, slightly smokey sweet tomato flavor. Reading their website, I have to say, they (or he, founder David Lee) are just the kind of company I like to support. Small, family owned, socially conscious and making a damn fine product. I will have to try more of their offerings.

The salad was without a doubt, delicious, and something I will make again. It would be perfect for a picnic or a quick lunch served on a wheat roll with a big glass of apple cider. You could serve it in any place you would tuna salad I suppose. Try it, and enjoy.

4 slices Smoked Tomato Field Roast, crumbled
2 stalks celery, minced
1/4 red onion, minced
A few chives, minced
1 heaping tablespoon pickle relish (secret ingredient indeed)
1 cup TVP, soaked in water until soft and drained
2 teaspoons homemade mayonnaise

Combine all in a bowl, and stir. Season to taste with salt and pepper. I know, its a "duh" kind of recipe, but hey, those are useful too. I do hope you'll try it.

Will keep in a covered container for up to five days.

Makes enough for 2-4


In the US, if you have questions about meat, poultry, or egg safety call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854. The Hotline is staffed by food safety experts weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern time.

"Grains, legumes, and/or dairy were generally not available to hunter-gatherers; such foods were provided in significant quantities only via agriculture, and have been a significant part of the human diet for only about 10,000 years or less." -

North Americans eat, on average, 53 pounds of bread per year. A family of four could live for 10 years off the bread produced by one acre of wheat. One bushel of wheat will produce 73 one-pound loaves of bread. AG Day

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Friday, December 09, 2005


Kitchen Project: Caramelized Onions

When food is cooked slowly, it not only evenly browns, it naturally becomes sweeter, richer and more complex. The introduction of heat, as a kiss rather than a bang, will change a sharp taste to something mellow and meltingly accommodating. Suddenly your basic ingredient is open to a whole assortment of additional flavors and uses. We have seen this happen like culinary stardust with prior Kitchen Project posts - like those on roasting garlic and blistered peppers. It is a wonderment indeed.

So here now, for your reading pleasure, I am going to once again offer up a recipe of sorts, though maybe I should call it a technique. Which ever way, it is indeed a Kitchen Project, (Part of my series on things to do when you want to spend time in the kitchen) and this time up, it's that culinary darling, caramelized onions. Everything you could ask for in a recipe, extreme simplicity resulting in a sublime flavor.

The standard, brown, storage onion, as we all know, is readily available year round pretty much everywhere, and is cheap as chips. It is a member of the lily family, and heaven knows it can make you weep like a small child when you go at it with a knife. Despite a host of folk remedies, the only tried and true method I have ever happened across that fixes the tears is to keep doing it. The more onions you chop, the less likely you are to cry. (Shrug) There is also some relief to be had if you chill the onions first...or so I hear.

Like that first time you steamed a huge bunch of fresh spinach and ended up with about a teaspoons worth of jewel-toned wilted leaves, you will be amazed at how a huge quantity of silvery slivers will end up a scant offering after awhile on the stove. That is the main reason I do this in huge batches. So when you have the time and have committed to doing this, just remember, it's going to take pretty much the same amount of time to cook down twenty onions as three. While three seems like a nice do-able number, I strongly suggest you just go for the gusto and make a mad huge batch. Besides, there is no reason to bother with just one onion when the resulting product freezes perfectly.

That said, on with the show.

You are going to need:

And maybe some sugar

For tools, you should have:

A good sharp knife and some dedication OR a slicer. I got mine in Chinatown for $14. Remember, in Chinatown you can negotiate better prices with most vendors. Don't be shy. (I have to say, I also have a fancy pants mandoline that is huge and cumbersome, impressive and shiny, and hardly ever sees the light of day. My smaller one is feather light, dishwasher safe and gets pulled out almost daily. Food for thought indeed.)

To begin, cut your onions in half through the root end. Do this with all of them first. My theory on cooking is that if you only do each step once (peel all, mince all, whatever) it streamlines the process. Next up, slice the tiniest bit of the tip/top off of all of the onion halves. Then peel off the skins (of all.) and starting at the tip end, slice the onions into the thinnest possible half moons.

In a large pan melt 1/2 teaspoon of unsalted butter per 4 onions, over low heat.

Add the onions to the pan and do your best to stir them so they are all coated with some of the melted butter. Its ok if the pan is full to the brim, they cook down.

And here, you turn the flame to low, and stir every four to six minutes for a good long time. The onions in the picture took just under three hours. If at any point you sense the onions are in need of some more butter, (read: they are getting crispy) don't be shy about throwing in another pat.

If you want to cheat (and I'm not advocating that so much as just letting you know it can be done) sprinkle some sugar over the entire batch about 10 minutes into cooking. The sugar will brown quickly, so while you will get the color and sweetness, your onions will not really have released so much liquid and will still be relatively crunchy. With the long form method, you are going to end up with nutty sweetness and soft onions; with the addition of sugar it will have a more pronounced sugar sweetness and less of the natural carmelized taste.

Sometimes for giggles, I add some minced rosemary or sage in towards the end of cooking, but thats just guilding the lily (hardee har).

Now what do you suppose you do with this glorious batch? The classics are French Onion Soup and Pissaldiere. From there, I challenge you to come up with your own uses.


Vidalia® onions are sweet onions grown exclusively in a 20-county region in Georgia

The name onion stems from the Latin word unus meaning oneness or unit

Libyans consume approx. 66.8 pounds of onions person/year. The worlds highest per person consumption. North Americans average 19 -

Why not be a sport and check out Kate's post on the 2005 Food Blog Awards...she is taking nominations until Midnight tonight. (Totally un-subtle cough, cough, wink, wink, hint)

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Thursday, December 08, 2005


Four-Flavor Glazed Chicken

I know, you're just dying for me to post a recipe for a nice little chicken nibble that is perfect for passing at your Tis' the season party, aren't you! Well, the least I can do is accomidate. As as matter of fact, with this delightful little recipe, it is absolutely my pleasure to tell you all about it.

Deceptively simple to make it is just the most outrageously flavorful and a perfect festive treat. Also, let's face it, everyone is just plain over satay with peanut sauce (oh ok, not really, but it's still a nice change of pace) and looking for the next big thing. Well kiddies here it is. Your next big thing. The snack your guests will be clamoring for.

The flavors, heavily influenced by Southeast Asian (Thai mostly) cuisine will turn your head. A true balance of salty and sweet, (again, a theme with me) spicy and sour it's like nothing you normally get on the cocktail party passed food tray circuit.

For my guests, I served it with a simple cilantro dipping sauce, but it hardly needed it. Then again, a sauce is always festive, ya? The dipping sauce added a great contrast in colors and a perfect lemony-vibrancy chicken sometimes just calls out for. Try it, and enjoy.

4 chicken breasts, partially frozen
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 shallot, minced
1 thai bird chile, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon fish sauce
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/2 small lime

In a bowl, whisk together the shallot, chile, ginger, garlic, water, fish sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar and lime juice. Set aside

About 15 minutes prior to cooking slice your chicken, using a serrated knife, lengthwise into strips. A single breast should yield four to six strips. I recommend doing this while its a bit frozen, since it makes it easier to slice evenly. Set aside to completely defrost.

In a large saute pan heat the oil over a high flame and add the strips in batches (too many and they will stew versus brown) to brown. Turn after two minutes to brown both sides. When almost cooked, remove from the pan with a slotted spatula and place in a single layer on the baking sheet.

Reduce the heat to medium low, add the sauce and let simmer until slightly thickened, about three minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings to balance the salty, sweet, sour and spicy. Add the chicken back into the pan and turn to coat, continue cooking in batches until all the chicken is cooked.

(If you want to put the chicken on skewers, thread them after they are cooked, its messy, but easier than soaking them and whatnot. You can also do this recipe with whole chicken parts.)

For the dipping sauce, I blended a full bunch of cilantro, a tiny drop of fish sauce, a few chile flakes and some vegetable oil. Easy peasy.

Makes enough for eight to ten people as an appetizer


Called "nam bplah" in Thai, fish sauce is the water, or juice, in the flesh of fish that is extracted in the process of prolonged salting and fermentation

Thai chiles or prik haeng are, very (spicy) hot, topping out at 8 out of 10 on the heat meter. They are small, bright orange-red and thin skinned

Wynkoop Brewing Co. is searching for the most passionate, knowledgable beer lover in the U.S. Submit a "beer résumé" detailing your beer-drinking philosophy and displaying your understanding of beer, its history and its importance to civilization. The winner gets FREE BEER FOR LIFE. For more info visit their site Wynkoop.

HEY. Why not be a sport and check out Kate's post on the 2005 Food Blog Awards...she is taking nominations until Friday.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005


My Blog Went Up In Flames! Round Up

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, gather 'round for the most fantastic, stupendous, outrageous show in town.

Step right up and take a peek, but be warned, what you will see may astound you, it may delight you, but it also may very well make you uneasy. Fear not! Paramedics are on hand. So pay your penny and come into my tent, to cast your eyes on the bizarre, the outlandish, the positively overexposed "My Blog Went Up in Flames!" (A one-off event calling for the worst of the worst food photos) But only if you dare...

Let's start with a jolt, Crayfish Channeling Dali from the darling Ms. Squeezeweasel of Gastronomy Domine

Come a little closer and read what she has to say "Would you put this in your mouth? Apologies for the poor focus - I was under a degree of stress. This was part of a truly dreadful meal at a restaurant which I ended up not writing up, because I couldn't think of a single nice thing to say about it. Four of us ate, and each of us had the same sauces drizzled on our very different (and mostly deep-fried or baked until good and dead - the crayfish were an abberation) food; there was a horrendous gloppy thing that was meant to be a balsamic reduction, I think (I suspect it was caramel deglazed with some red wine vinegar), a green thing (words fail me) and a red thing which I suspect was Thai sweet chili sauce out of a bottle. These three sauces were sploshed over the (frozen, and, I think, soaked in sugary water) crayfish, over an arrangement with halloumi, over a (frozen) fishcake and over a dark grey, gristly steak. The poor sod with the fishcake was also rewarded with nature's most vinegary and butter-free beurre blanc. It was like the shallot vinegar you put on oysters.

The second photo was taken on the way out of the same restaurant. I didn't dare review it in case they hunted me down and drowned me in a spare barrel; they started making a very loud fuss when they saw me taking pictures."

In case that photo is a tad too small, and you just have to know, the writing says "Food Only" Speaks for itself, doesn't it.

(Personal note: I have to just say thank you for that photo, I almost passed out from laughing...)

Are you amazed yet? If not, this should change your tune, it's "Preznit Giv Me Turkee." A peek into Cookie Crumb's Thanksgiving...Eek! "It's Thanksgiving dinner in the dining room of the senior community where my parents live, and there wasn't a green vegetable to be found in the entire buffet line. You are looking at (clockwise, from "noon") a hunk of roasted turkey the carver couldn't be bothered to slice thinly; a pockmarked chunk of sweet potato (I suspect a raisin was embedded in that scary hole); creamed carrots with an overdose of dried thyme -- actually the only herbal flavors on the whole plate; and a scoop of mashed potatoes drowning in a sploosh of decidedly non-turkey gravy (onion was the predominant flavor).

Lighting: Oh, just say "ambient old folks home."
Backstory: See above.
Appetizingness: You judge. I brought sandwich baggies in my purse, in
case there was something good to smuggle home. They remain pristine,
No way was I going to blog this mess. But I sure hope you will.

Along with this one (title unknown) there is this next one from D. at Culiblog, and it's our piece de resistance, from the always beautifully shot Culiblog but due to the somewhat graphic nature, I'm going to simply leave it as two links...view at your own discresion. (They are pictures of an animal being skinned.) Now that is what I call burning down the blog!

The Unprofessional Chef says of this Provencal dinner "I really don't understand why a lot of restaurants around the world insist on very very dim lighting.... Try as I might, I couldn't take a decent picture of the food. Since it was so dark, I attempted to take this picture of gazpacho with the camera flash which made it even worse (and me horribly conspicuous in the fancy
restaurant). In the end, I had to borrow a penlight from the wait staff and shine a teeny tiny light in order to illuminate the dish (just barely).The pictures in that entry were generally all bad but this was the worst. It looked very unappetising but tasted very nice though. I'd give this photo the title of 'Gooey sludge with Green Muck'.

An excellent title. Nothing says delicious like low lit impossible to identify foodstuffs. This is a strong contender for the blue ribbon indeed!

Don't you all just NEED to know what restaurant this came from? Maybe with a sugar sweet pretty please, she will whisper it in our (comment section) ears...

F. at Blog Appetit lets us know that "I thought of declining, since there are no bad food photos, there are just photos you don't know how someone else managed to take on your camera! One is of some bread in France. It was too early in the morning for wine, even in Paris, but the shot looks like I already had a few. The other is of Banana Blossom Salad at the Hotel Metropole cooking class in Hanoi. It was before I learned my camera had a "cuisine" setting that cut back on that glare!" I for one am thrilled she took part...

And here from the always whimsical Mrs. D at Belly Timber a whole slew of shots that will thrill and delight, especially if you want a little hand in your food. "We couldn't resist and scrounged up a few lovely photos for your Flamey blog com competition. What fun!" An excellent addition to this sideshow indeed. (And does thay hand not look like a bottom? Why yes, it does!)

From far off Malaysia on the excellent site Tham Jiak our hostess tells us "I came up with my concoction, which was on the spur to feed a hungry guy who just woke up from a deep sleep, I promptly serve him on the newspaper he was reading (if you look closely it is in the background) and had a quick snap with my poor quality digital camera plus bad lighting from my dining area, you get the idea how this is going to turn out. Well, I did not fuss to take a better picture when I saw my dear boy with a spoon on one hand and a fork on the other, looking wild eyed at the food with saliva dripping from his mouth (alright I might be exaggerating a little, ok, maybe a lot), and so I chuck the PDA away and let him dig into the food. Well, so here goes to the ugliest food picture I have ever taken but yet given thumbs-up by a hungry guy (well, when you’re hungry, your thumb is bound to come up eh), but trust me, I tasted it and it can well fight those out there, except maybe a tad too sweet. (I’m such a food critic, *roll eyes)."

The ever industrious Andrew at Spittoon, joined in too, despite a lack of bad shots. "I never keep any bad photos - have taken loads though. But The more I look at these two the more I think it was a really really bad move to post the...thing is a foodie blogger (and great food photographer) i correspond with regularly loves them..." I have say, of the three he posted, I like them too.

Over there at Passionate Nonchalance (excellent blog title!) Aria has posted a vivid shot of Lentil Chestnut soup..."I know what your thinking. Somethings not right, right? Is it the tannish beige color? Mmmm beige. The prison cafeteria consistency? Mmmm prison. What, you say you don’t eat liqified zombie flesh? Maybe something nice and grey to drizzle on top? My mistake was putting too much of the finished soup into the blender. I wasn’t paying attention and spaced out adding more and more untill there was no turning back."

The lovely Lady Amalthea at Noshes Thoughts and Reves brings us a photo of Duck with Quatres Epices and Coriander Seeds. "The boy was in the States, it was summer and I was getting into reading food blogs. I found this reipce...and made it for myself" Read the rest of her fantastic post here.

Next up, the vibrant, the glowing, the positivly pink, Persian cherry and lamb pillau, called
Abalu pollow from Tigers and Strawberries, a thought provoking and lovely blog even with such daring shots. She wants you to know "It is a fantastic dish, made with fresh or dried sour cherries, little lamb meatballs, either almonds or pistachios and basmati rice.And when it is
finished cooking, it looks lovely and tastes wonderful. However, at the stage at which this photograph was taken, which was after the cherries were cooked in syrup, the meatballs were browned and the rice had been sauteed in the lamb fat, but before the cherry juices and chicken broth was added--the pillau looks rather less than appealing. I did post a picture of the finished product on my blog--that is the photograph where it is fully cooked. It isn't so hot, either. The depth of field is too shallow and I realized as I looked at the very pink-shaded red rice that I had forgotten to add the saffron or turmeric--which helps give the rice a more scarlet rather than rose color. As for the lighting--it isn't too bad, wonder of wonders. But the cold light of the flash did its best to make the little meatballs apear grey." As a final thought, she says (and I heartily agree!) "Thankfully, my ability to take decent food photographs has improved over the past few months."

Faboo Barrett from Too Many Chefs was happy to share, and I wonder who wouldn't love "A lovely bowl of Wrightwood Squid.

Second is the legendary artichoke and spinach pizza, the photo for which was SO bad we replaced it with one of Soupy Sales."

This photo here, well, it wasn't exactly an entry, but since the dashing and daring intrepid world traveller Brett, of the extra-licious In Praise Of Sardines, posted a recipe for Slow Roasted Cauliflower with Pounded Anchovies. Not exactly a contender for a bad photo award, but as we (almost all) know, cauliflower is just plain hard to get a purdy shot of, and since he mentioned this contest in relation to the picture, well, I just went and swiped it. So there.

And now my dear patrons, before you go on with your day, one last dazzling, dizzying compilation of catastrophes. Behold the collage of shots that Shutterbug Sam had the time to compile.

She managed to cover every photo faux pas, from too much flash to odd composition, blurry foods and just plain unappetizing. Kudos dear Sam, you have out done us all!

So a huge thank you to you all, for taking the time to come by and view this one off Meme, and of course to all the people who sent in photos...and remember, even the most sensational shots most likely have a ugly cousin sitting somewhere on a hard drive.

Now, who do you think should take home the blue ribbon?


This took a crazy long time to compile, so if I made any mistakes, I am sorry, and please do email me to let me know.

Oh, and Kate at The Accidental Hedonist is taking nominations for the Food Blog Awards, stop by and check it out.

Check out this site for tips on how to take good food photos!

The Pentax Optio S55 Digital Camera comes with a food setting

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