Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Fried Squash Blossoms
Oooh, la-la. And I do mean La-LA! If there is anything in this life more delicious than deep fried food, well, I am at a loss as to what that could be. Sure, the strawberries I am eating right now are natural perfection, but in the world of cooking, deep-fried is the way to go. Sigh.
Here I am typing away and wistfully staring at the photos of food-gone-by, wishing there were a way to bring the night back, (minus the part where we threw pebbles at the Ombudsman’s darkened window for 15 minutes, to the chagrin of his neighbors. Oops.) the way we laughed and ate with such abandon.
But I am ahead of myself…
I was at the gloriously abundant Hollywood Farmers market bright and early Sunday, and I bought some squash blossoms. What an amazing, delicate thing they are. Flowers big enough to fill with any random assortment of savories, and then, oh yes, then they are deep-fried.
I fed this delight to my dear, dear friend who has been referred to on this site as Ms. McGee, along with my typical bizarre assortment of vittles. (Pot stickers, a plate of radishes and some smoked nuts. Mmm. Smokey.) And it was good. Oh yes, it was. The blossoms were delicate and crispy, salty, flavorful and the ultimate paring for the merlot we drank (perhaps too much of?). And lemme just say this about that woman, lordy, she is a funny, funny girl and the best kind of friend. She never balks at a coffee table groaning under the weight of plate after plate of food.
But back to the blossoms. Dealing with the flowers is a little bit like playing Operation. They need to be handled with the gentlest touch, the petals pried open just so, the pistils removed, and stuffed (not too much kiddies, just a bit) a quick twist and into the batter they go. When they emerge, golden brown and bursting with flavor. Oh peaches, you really must make some today. I went for a Mediterranean mixture, but the filling, as long as its flavorful, is extremely flexible and open to options. Try this, and enjoy!
16 squash blossoms (squash attached or not, your choice)
¼ cup ricotta cheese
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon capers
pinch of chile flakes
¼ cup green olives
1 anchovy filet
assorted minced herbs (I used mint)
Pine nuts to taste
¼ cup corn starch
¼ cup flour
cold water or beer
(For a vegan version, use tofu instead of the cheese, and omit the egg)
in a large bowl, stir together the corn starch, flour and water/beer, until it is a slightly thin batter. Set aside for at least 30 minutes in the fridge.
Mince the garlic, capers, olives, herbs, pine nuts and anchovy together. Mix with the cheese and taste. Adjust the seasoning, then stir in the egg.
Stuff the blossoms, twist to seal (I know, it sounds like they won’t seal, but they are sticky flowers and it works.) and set aside. You can make them up to four hours in advance.
Heat vegetable oil (about 1 ½ inch depth) over medium high heat. Dip the stuffed blossoms into the batter and gently lower into the oil. After 2 minutes turn and continue to fry. They will take about 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towels, sprinkle with coarse salt and serve.
Squash blossoms come in varying shades of yellow and orange, with flavors that hint of the squash itself. They can be found from late spring through early fall in specialty produce markets. Squash blossoms are naturally soft and somewhat limp, but choose those that look fresh, with closed buds. They're extremely perishable and should be stored in the refrigerator for no more than a day.
Ricotta - Traditional, creamery, whey cheese made from cow's milk.
Grey Poupon mustard was named for Grey and Auguste Poupon. Grey invented a device that made mass production of fine-textured mustard possible. He joined forces with established mustard-maker Auguste Poupon around 1886, forming the Grey-Poupon firm.
Monday, May 29, 2006
Today in the U.S. it is Memorial Day, a day we honor and remember people who have died in battle. For such a somber holiday, it is also considered the start of summer, and therefore typically involves a barbeque with friends and family.
This year I cannot help but think about all the mothers and children, fathers, husbands and wives, brothers, sisters and grandparents and friends for whom this is no longer a day for a barbeque, but is suddenly a day they are in mourning for their lost loved ones. Since the beginning of the current conflict in Iraq more than 2400 U.S. soldiers have died, and for those families, the beginning of summer is not exactly something to celebrate.
(And now for the culinary stretch...) It is with that in mind that I am posting this simple technique for preparing horseradish, a common bitter herb. It is perfect with roast beef, over salmon, asparagus, mixed into salad dressings, and of course, is an essential ingredient in Bloody Mary’s.
1 8 inch piece of fresh horseradish
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 cup sour cream pinch of paprika1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons beet juice
Open the windows in your kitchen. The fumes can be quite potent. Peel the root with a sharp knife and cut into ½ inch pieces. Pulse in your food processor with the vinegar until it becomes smooth.
If using the additional ingredients (this will make it horseradish cream) add and pulse a few additional times.
The horseradish will be quite pungent the first day or so, and will stay quite strong if sealed and stored in the fridge, for up to six weeks.
The sharp and piquant flavor and the penetrating smell of horseradish become apparent when the root is grated or ground. This is because the root contains highly volatile oils which are released by enzyme activity when the root cells are crushed. In processed horseradish, vinegar stops this reaction and stabilizes the flavor. So the degree of heat is determined by when the vinegar is added to the fresh horseradish. For milder horseradish, the vinegar is added immediately. If exposed to air or stored improperly, horseradish loses its pungency rapidly after grinding. Fresh horseradish also loses flavor as it cooks, so it is best added towards the end of a dish when cooking. –GourmetGulch.com
Friday, May 26, 2006
A Very Crumby Post
Are you really interested in food and cooking? Seriously? Because I am about to test you on that…by writing an entire post (though, I suspect it will be short in length but heavy on filler) on bread by-products. Namely, crumbs. (Wow! The most boring post ever is in progress! This is sort of exciting! I always wanted to write about nothing!)
Yup. Breadcrumbs. And croutons. That’s what its all about today my sweet little peaches. (Hey! At least I’m not writing about the weather in other cities! This has actual culinary value)
You see, (below this post there) I recently bought some bread. A lot of it in fact. And being a single girl (did I mention I broke up with Sports Boy? It was the Sports. They just got in the way. A girl can only fake caring about ice hockey for so long before her heart freezes a little bit, you know what I mean?) buying a few loaves at a time just isn’t the most practical thing ever…or is it?
Turns out, it is! (Practical I mean) While I was – and am – certainly able to devour mucho pan, I still end up with a lot left over, and that is how waste-not-want-not comes into play. I make croutons. And bread crumbs (three kinds) for all sorts of culinary uses. I toss crumbs over my pasta, use as a thickener, and sprinkle over savory baked goods. (Casseroles and gratins and the like) the croutons I use in salads or for dips. Always a good thing to have on hand.
Recipes? You want recipes? Uh…ok.
For croutons. Slice bread to desired thickness. (Make the slices even) Lightly coat a sheet pan with oil (olive) and place the bread on in a single layer, turn to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toast at 350F for six to eight minutes. Remove and allow to cool slightly. Rub each crouton with a garlic clove for additional flavor. Store, sealed for up to a two weeks.
For breadcrumbs. Allow the bread to dry out completely. Grate on your box grater. Store, sealed, at room temp for up to three weeks. Alternativly, toss with some olive oil and herbs, toast on 250F for up to 5 minutes. Remove, let cool and store for up to two weeks. You can also just tear up the bread into larger bits and let them dry. that's nice too.
As you can see in the photo, I also went ahead and made Bread Salad. I'm shocked I haven't written about that recipe in the past, but a quick search of the site indicates I haven’t. Its really delightful. Just toss bread cubes with tomatoes, some balsamic vinaigrette, fresh basil and any other veg you like, let rest for a bit, season with salt and pepper and enjoy.
So there you have it my dearies. Not quite cheese-sandwich boring, but certainly a contender. Sigh. What can I say, I liked the photo and I really do think if life gives you stale baguettes, you might as well make croutons (and throw a party, with cocktails. At a roller disco. Now that would be fun…)
Mrs. Cubbison’s Croutons are MADE in L.A!
Stop by the Whole Foods on 3rd and Fairfax today for Louie's Southern Fried Friday. Demo times will vary. Samples are free to customers while supplies last.
Today’s celebrity chef birthday: Morimoto Masaharu, the last Japanese Iron Chef, is 51 today. He now has his own restaurant, Morimoto in Philadelphia. Otanjou-bi Omedetou Gozaimasu!
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
MADE IN L.A. - La Maison du Pain
Me and L.A....it's a perpetual love affair...
Welcome to the second installment of my series MADE IN L.A., finding foods made right here in the City of Angels. (More formally known as "El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles de Poriuncula")
How it is that I am sitting inside writing to you all instead of basking in the glory of the day, I cannot fathom…well, ok, I can…it’s simply because I am overwhelmed with delirious happiness for my latest MADE IN L.A. find. Not only have their ethereal products changed my daily life (for the better) but they are within walking distance! I mean it! I can actually get there faster on foot than in the car, and frankly this has made me into a new woman.
So the they in question is/are La Maison du Pain – House of Bread and Pastries (which, I guess should really be La Maison du Pain et de la Pâtisserie but who am I to quibble.) which is a super chic little spot on a seemingly innocuous stretch of Pico Blvd in the Wilshire Vista area. (For those of you who have never heard of Wilshire Vista, it’s Pico Blvd. just West of La Brea. Right off the 10. It’s a gem of a neighborhood.)
Prior to my first visit, I checked up on the company online and was given very sparse information. Two sisters and a bread bakery. That was about it. So I sauntered my sassy self on down there to check things out.
Coming down the hill from behind, I first spotted two men on the back stairs chattering away in French. A good sign indeed. Well, that and the stairs faced a parking lot with room for 5-6 cars, which is always a bonus indeed.
Inside the cheery little spot, with three or four tables inside and out for those of us who can’t quite resist immediate tasting, there is a rack of freshly made breads and on top of a glass case of pastries a little basket of samples (oh be still my heart!) On my first visit there was a sinfully buttery apple brioche, dark, moist chocolate brownies and a bread pudding that brought tears of joy to my eyes. I am no glutton (ok, that’s a total lie) so I resisted taking thirds, but they didn’t seem to mind when I went back for a second taste. Hee.
Not wanting to just take samples and flee, I started to chat with the absolutely lovely woman behind the counter, who, turns out, is one of the sisters who has blessed us all with her epicurean entrepreneurship. Checking if she was the baker, she smiled shyly and said she wasn’t, she had actually “imported a Frenchman.” Now THAT is my kind of lady! I wonder if I can do that too…sorry, I digress…
With a $10 minimum for credit card purchases, I was forced (forced I say!) to get a wide sampling of their delights. And with prices so fantastically reasonable, my total booty included a baguette of their house bread ($1.95), an olive studded round loaf, a fruit tart (which didn’t quite make it home to be photographed. What can I say, it was ripe and juicy fruit on top of a buttery pastry shell! Deeeelicious.), an orange crème financier, a chocolate tartlet and a butter cream frosted cupcake. It was red. The butter cream was white. I was gleeful.
Of the four pastries, I really couldn’t pick a favorite. The cupcake was just a bit on the dry side, but the butter cream (oh heavenly butter cream) was the perfect foil. Just enough mouthwatering enchantment on there to balance things out, without getting cloying. The tiny chocolate tartlet had a slightly hardened layer of dark chocolate over a devilishly creamy ganache and a perfectly baked shell. I wish I had been able to make it last more than three bites, but as decadent as it was, I couldn’t possibly have shown that sort of restraint. The orange crème cookie was almost the sweet death of me. I’m not accustomed to eating that sort of over the top empyreal foodstuffs. I mean, it was sweet, and chewy and rapturously tasty. Childlike in it’s coloring (bright would be a good word) and strong orange flavor, but adult in its sheer artistry.
And that brings me to the bread. When is the last time you ate a real French bread? Well kiddies, this is it. While the seeming gold-standard of Los Angeles area breads is (nearby) La Brea Bakery, they have, without a doubt, created a decidedly non-French bread in a way that Maison du Pain has joyfully corrected. All three of the breads I have tried meet the true standard of classical French crusts. Light and almost shattering, with a light and chewy interior tasting of pure wheat and in the case of the sour-dough, with a biting tang that makes the mouth smile. Overall, they have worked to create something that is perfect, and I for one am over the moon with happiness.
To think, I have a neighborhood bakery! Swoon. So if you are in the hood, I suggest you stop by soon, and taste what you have been missing.
La Maison Du Pain
5373 Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA
Legend has it that whoever eats the last piece of bread has to kiss the cook
Napoleon gave a common bread its name when he demanded a loaf of dark rye bread for his horse during the Prussian campaign. "Pain pour Nicole," he ordered, which meant "Bread for Nicole," his horse. To Germanic ears, the request sounded like "pumpernickel," which is the term we use today for this traditional loaf.
Brioche is a light but rich French bread made with a yeast dough and eggs, milk, butter and sugar
Joan Cusack will portray cooking legend Julia Child in a new film. The American gourmet was famous for introducing French cuisine and cooking techniques to mainstream America through her many cookbooks and TV shows. She died in August 2004, just two days short of her 92nd birthday. Cusack says, "Many people don't know all about the real Julia Child. She had this great marriage." The star admits her own cooking skills are less than impressive, adding, "Actually, Julia didn't start cooking until she was 37. I love that about her! It's never too late. Even for me!" –imdb.com
Labels: Made In L.A.
Monday, May 22, 2006
Purple Potato Pizza
This past weekend was a kaleidoscopic blur. Two parties on Sunday alone (a brunch that I spontaneously hosted for my most lovely lady friends, the other a family friend bash that went to the wee hours. Hee) neither of which helped with my rapidly diminishing brain cells, but it did prompt me to make yet another (I know, I know, what a bore I am!) right-from-the-pantry extravaganza.
It was late Sunday morning and while I dutifully had the pitchers of Bloody Mary’s mixed and ready to go, food wise, I was at a loss and time was too short to head off to the market…so what could I whip up with 2 hours to spare?
Veggie rolls were easy enough, then I baked off some chips and made a smooth and spicy bean dip, there was my classic mango, cucumber delight and a few other oddities that didn’t exactly scream brunch, but were tasty treats none-the-less, including this extra fun purple potato pizza.
Like pretty much everyone else who comes across purple potatoes, I am intrigued, but always sort of at a loss for what to do to really accentuate their flashy hue. This pizza (a starch-a-holics dream) is the best answer I have come up with so far…and lemme just say, it’s a dandy delight indeed. I also didn’t have any cornmeal, something I normally include in my dough, so instead used a bit of masa flour, and the results were seemingly identical. Go figure. The results are fab-u-licious and worth the time to make. My only change, should I make this again, would be to layer the potatoes much closer together. They overlapped on the uncooked dough, but when it baked and puffed up, they seemed a bit sparse. So when you make it, be generous! Try it, and enjoy.
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 packet yeast (1 tablespoon)
1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
2 cups thinly sliced potatoes
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons corn meal or masa flour
In a large bowl, combine the sugar, yeast and water, stir to combine and let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, slice the potatoes quite thin and toss in a bowl with a tablespoon of olive oil, a hearty pinch of salt and the rosemary
In a mixer add the flour, a tablespoon of the oil and 1 cup of water, and knead with the dough hook for four minutes on medium speed. Remove from the mixer, form into a large ball, coat the dough with some oil and place in a bowl with a damp cloth and let the dough rise for 45 minutes.
Coat the bottom of a jelly roll pan (cookie sheet with sides.) with the remaining oil. When the dough has risen, remove from the bowl, and shape into a long rectangle in the pan. Layer with the potato slices and bake in a 400F oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and let cool. Slice into squares and serve.
Makes enough for 10 people
The Spanish introduced the potato to Europe in the 1550s
More than half of the estimated 140 pounds of per capita potato consumption in the United States is in the form of fast or snack foods
Burger King Holdings Inc.'s shares rose less than 3 percent by the end of its first trading day on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday. The highly anticipated public offering began late Wednesday, when Miami-based Burger King sold 25 million shares of common stock at $17. The shares opened Thursday at $18, rose to $18.24, then fell back to close at $17.50. Chipotle, formerly a unit of McDonald's Inc., went from $22 to $44 when it went public Jan. 26.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Springtime Beet Salad with Sunflower Sprouts
Well my darlings, I certainly hope you all missed me desperately yesterday and hustled yourselves right over to Save The Internet to console yourselves/do the right thing, etc. And a huge thank you to Pim (the style-riffic Pim, I should say) for organizing our little Blog-Out. I sense it was a roaring success.
And now my sweet juicy peaches, on with the show…
Spring has been a wee bit tardy this year in sunny Southern California. The weather has been fine, but apparently not “crop-tastic” meaning we are just seeing things in the market that should have made their 2006 debut weeks ago. That said, its not exactly fall around here either, but this dish does have all the components of autumn, sassed up for May. Sunflower sprouts (in the fall I would use the seeds), beets and pears. Crisp, light and ultra chic. I should try it again come September and see how different it comes out! (Note to self…)
If you have a fear of beets, this is a great method, it’s pain-free, but not stain-free (hardee har) and the whole salad comes together in a snap. Adding goat cheese would be nice (cliché, but nice) and while they aren’t in the photo, dry cured olives add a great contrast.
Try this, and enjoy!
1 large beet, peeled and sliced paper thin
2 large firm pears, sliced paper thin
Large handful sunflower sprouts
12 dry cured olives, pitted
Salt and pepper to taste
Arrange the pears and beets on a plate. Top with the sunflower sprouts. Drizzle with olive oil and a light squeeze of lemon. Add salt and pepper, and three olives per plate. Serve chilled.
Makes four small salads
Grain and nut sprouts, such as wheat and sunflower, are rich in fats. While fats in flour and wheat germ have a reputation for getting rancid quickly (stores should refrigerate them), fats in sprouts last for weeks. While sunflower oil is our finest source of omega 6, germination of the sunflower sprout micellizes the fatty acids into an easily digestible, water soluble form saving our body the work of breaking it down and also protecting us against rancidity. Wholistic Research.com
A heartfelt congrats to Suzanne Goin of West Hollywood’s Lucques restaurant. Ms. Goin won the James Beard award for best California Restaurant! Take THAT Applebee’s of Rancho Cucamonga!
If you are in NYC this weekend, stop by the Culinary Festival!
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Save The Internet
Help Preserve Net Neutrality
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Today is a no-blog day. No food blogging, that is. Today food bloggers everywhere are uniting to send a clear message to Congress that Internet Neutrality is imperative to a democratic Internet, accessible to all.
Day Without Food Blogs
Monday, May 15, 2006
Fideos With Chickpeas and Beet Greens
“Slow Food is …the name of an international movement…to promote good food and the artisans who create it…” - The Pleasures of Slow Food
A few days ago I came across a recipe in The Pleasures of Slow Food cookbook that had me giddy with excitement. The title of this dish was the self explanatory (ha) Fideos with Special Chickpeas and Saffron. (Fideos, so far as I can ascertain, is toasted pasta.) The ingredients seemed terrifically incompatible and the method overly complex and labor intensive. But the idea of it all piqued my curiosity and heaven knows, I delved right in. I mean come on, how can I girl resist a recipe that seems to include every spice in the cabinet, should take a few hours, dirty every dish in the joint and end up being deeeelicious.
What also intrigued me was that (I had every ingredient without a trip to the market? Well, the helped) it seemed to be a fancified, over-zealous version of pasta with mole sauce, and I do love me the mole sauce. It’s so…historic, and not knowing much about Slow Food, this seemed like a great introduction. Plus, I wanted to try my sassy new vanilla salt.
So on with the show. (Perhaps a touch too) bright and early in the morning, I gathered my mise en place, made a few substitutions and began. Almost an hour and a half later, with a heck of a lot of assorted culinary equipment in the sink, I had my masterpiece. It was indeed pasta with mole sauce, silky, rich, complex, sweet, spicy, hearty, unique (perhaps a bit wintery. OK, altogether wintery) and a fantastic new way to enjoy your pasta.
On a side note, one of those things that I sort of always feel like only the Italians pay attention to, is that every pasta type has a purpose (to an extent.) and angel hair is meant for soup. End of story. Or so I thought until I tried this. The toasting gave a slight nuttiness and it the ability to hold up to the sauce without going all mush on me. Fan-tastic.
So when you have some free time, and the inclination to make a hearty pasta dish that is absolutely different than anything you have had lately, go on and try this…and enjoy.
(Ingredients Adapted, method, the same)
16 oz. Chickpeas
1 tablespoon oil
1 onion, rough chop
2 cloves garlic, peeled, minced
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon saffron (optional)
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
Vanilla scented salt
1 dried New Mexico chile
2 cups tomatoes in juice
3 cups water
1 pound angel hair pasta
1 cup beet greens, chiffonade
In a large soup pot, sauté the garlic, onion, chile, saffron, coriander and cumin until slightly wilted and fragrant. Add the tomato, vanilla salt (if not using vanilla salt, use regular salt and a vanilla pod, sliced lengthwise) 1 cup of water and the cocoa. Stir to combine, reduce the heat and let simmer for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350F, break the pasta into 2 inch pieces, spread out in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until slightly browned, about 4 t0 8 minutes. Remove promptly and set aside.
When the sauce is reduced slightly, taste, adjust the salt, remove from the heat and allow to cool. Puree and pour through a fine mesh strainer to remove all of the solids (I know! It seems like such a waste really. I suppose you could skip this step, but the straining really does make it quite the outrageously silky sauce.)
In yet another, shallow pan, bring the 3 cups of salted water (or you could use chicken broth) to a boil, add the pasta and let cook for 1 minute at a rolling boil. Add the chickpeas and cook until the water has all been absorbed.
Meanwhile (I know! Again!) sauté the beet greens in the olive oil (adding some garlic might be nice too, but do as you wish.) until just wilted.
When the pasta is cooked, add the sauce and beet greens.
Serves four to six
*** WOW...I had a bit of this sauce leftover and ate it a few days later, there just aren't words for how good it was after the flavors melded. Beyond superlatives.***
The threads that make up saffron must be picked from each flower by hand and more than 1,60,000 of these flowers are needed to produce just one kilogram ofSaffron filaments. -BabySaffron.com
California has lost its battle to require warning labels on canned tuna after a state judge concluded any warning of mercury contamination would needlessly scare people away from the fish. - The Oakland Tribune
Friday, May 12, 2006
Sticky Rice with Mango
Oh my goodness! Have I have stumbled upon the perfect dessert recipe? No baking and just four ingredients? How is that so? And yet…it seems to be. I am so super excited!
And what is it? Sticky Rice with Mango.
That’s right kids, you’ve seen it there on your Thai restaurant menus, maybe you’ve even sampled it and thought to your sassy self, “wow, now that is a supremely fantastic treat! Refreshing, light, sweet and delicious!”
Afterwards, perhaps you ventured back to your favorite Thai spot only to be shut out with a gentle reminder from a smiling waitperson that “Oh, sorry, mangoes aren’t in season. No Sticky Rice tonight.” The disappointment of it all driving you to the cold lychees in syrup, or (gasp!) neglecting dessert altogether. What a shame.
Well my friends, no more. Now that you have read this post (thus far anyway) and will be able to recreate this dish at home, and what a lucky kid you will be…because as I mentioned in the intro, it is dessert perfection, and – bonus – no baking required! The rice is just short of gooey, the coconut and mango perfectly complimentary, and overall, its a sheer delight. Try it, and enjoy.
1 cup sweet rice
½ cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon sugar
2 ripe mangos
Soak the rice in water for at least 6 hours (ok, that’s the tricky part of the recipe, but really, is that so hard to do?)
Cook the rice in the usual manner (2 parts water, one part rice. Bring the water to a boil, add the rice, cover, reduce the heat, steam for 15 minutes, turn off the heat. Let stand, covered 5 minutes.)
In another saucepan, gently heat the sugar and coconut milk just long enough to dissolve the sugar.
When the rice is done – it will be outrageously sticky, don’t fret, that’s why its called sticky rice after all – pout the coconut milk over and stir in. Serve warm or room temp with sliced mango.
Makes enough for four
Glutinous or sweet rice is a white, short-grained rice that has a sticky consistency when cooked. It can be found in Asian markets and many markets with Asian specialty sections.
Mangos have been cultivated in India for more than 4000 years. Beginning in the 16th Century, mangos were gradually distributed around the world, reaching the Americas in the 18th Century. There are two main types, the Indian and the Indochinese. – Edis.edu
Hee. I was quoted in an article about cilantro...aka, the devil's week. Grin.
Proposed new federal organic livestock regulations are coming under sharp criticism for failing to close critical loopholes that are allowing a handful of factory-scale dairy farms in western states to continue bringing into their milk herd new animals raised with antibiotics, hormones, and genetically engineered feed produced with toxic pesticides. The new rules ignore recommendations endorsed by the USDA's own expert advisory panel, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). In 2002 and 2003, the NOSB unanimously passed recommendations that all animals being brought onto an existing organic dairy farm had to be under organic management starting no later than the last three months of pregnancy. - HPJ.com
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
MADE IN L.A. - Kruegermann Pickles
This blog emanates from Los Angeles, the City of Angels, and my home town.
One of the myriad of things that constantly astonishes me about this wonderful city is the endless-endless-endless variety we are presented with every day. Variety of climates, foods, people, things to do, ways to get stuck in traffic, you name it. There is one thing though that I have noticed lately is severely lacking -- locally produced foods. And with the Eat Local challenge, it's become even more of a focus for me. Now, I don’t mean produce, since LA is no longer the agricultural mecca is was as recently as 25 years ago, (Oranges, Lima Beans, Avocados, Strawberries, we had it all) but I'm talking things like (insert the foodstuff your town if famous for) It’s It’s from San Francisco (mmm.) or even a locally made jam. We just don’t seem to have that sort of thing. Oh sure, super-mega-huge food conglomerate Nestle has their West Coast headquarters here, but that doesn’t exactly count, now does it.
I've asked around too. Jonathan Gold at the LA Weekly didn’t respond to my email. Neither did Evan Klienman of Good Food (she probably thinks I should just be taking notes on her show since they cover this stuff a lot…or, you know, maybe she just doesn’t read her fan mail…) or my favorite food writer Russ Parsons at the LA Times. Nope, not a word from any of them. So I did my own digging. Every market I have stepped foot in for the last month I have asked the same question…is there anything here – premade – from LA? I didn’t mean was the lasagna made in the back kitchen, or need to know that everything from Trader Joes is packed up in Monrovia, I meant, is there a family somewhere in this hood churning out their own frozen entrees, packaging it up and sending out to the stores? Is there someone still making pie, or selling jars of their mothers famous red sauce? What out there on the shelves is truly MADE IN LOS ANGELES? (And no, Jessica Simpson’s edible body lotion does not count either…for a variety of reasons!)
The answers surprised and somewhat saddened me. There isn’t much that I’ve seen so far, and the majority of what I have come across falls under the raw and/or vegan category (though, in fairness, that could be because I shop at Whole Foods a lot.) or some incredible tortillas, but not much else. It makes me wonder, where are the culinary entrepreneurs? Where I ask you, where!?
Well, wherever they are, I want to find them and feature them here for a (possibly) fascinating, occasional posts called MADE IN L.A.
For the first foray into this world, I stopped into the Cheese Shop of Silverlake (a perennial favorite) and asked what they could offer a girl trying to eat locally. The choices included a wide array of chocolates and (what I ended up buying, since the chocolates weren’t fair trade) these fantastic Hungarian style pickles by Kruegermann’s, made in L.A. since 1896. (I'm sorry, I had to italize that, I mean, 1896? That's amazing for this town...) Now that’s what I call locally made!
I tried the spicy (that was all they were actually selling) and I was blown away. Medium sized cucumbers that were snap-in-half crisp, not too salty, had a nice sour pucker and a lingering spicy kick, these are a new favorite indeed. Sadly, their website is a bit of a mess, but if you can find these in your hood, I hope you will pick some up. They are worth seeking out.
So that was the first entry into MADE IN L.A. Hopefully, there will be many more…and if you know of something tasty I should check out, please email and let me know!
The total annual world-wide salt production is equivalent to the amount contained in two cubic miles of sea water.
According to Pickle Packers International, Inc., the trade and research association founded in 1893, the perfect pickle should exhibit seven warts per square inch for American tastes. However, Europeans prefer wartless pickles. - Hungry Monster.com
In the United States, May in National Asparagus Month. It is also, National Hamburger, Barbecue, Egg, Salad, Salsa, Strawberry, Herb and Chocolate Custard Month
Labels: Made In L.A.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Fried Plantains with Chile-Ketchup
Sometimes the strangest sounding combinations turn out to be the tastiest. Chile-Mango, Mint-Eggplant, Chocolate-Peanut Butter, Kiwi-Jam-on-Steak (oh wait, that’s not tasty!) the list goes on…
Today, the girl who doesn’t eat bananas (that would be yours truly) had a sudden and inexplicable urge to consume some plantains she had seen at the Thai market, but how to prepare them and with what?
The Rock Goddess was on her way over and I had to whip up something extra special for her discerning palate (despite her moniker here, she actually toils night and day for the swankest catering company in town…and is my hero for it) that still met my tropical fruit urges. That and a quick glance into the cupboard, was all there was behind this random concoction that had me wondering, had I gone too far? Would it be a quality combo? Turns out, it was indeed a good mix of flavors, that we ate while sipping rum and giggling over the silliness that is life in LA…and I have to say, it was simply astounding. Smoky, spicy, sweetness. Cha-cha-cha indeed.
If you want to eschew the whole frying bit, just go ahead and buy plantain chips at the market, they are crispy where these are not, but it is easier to pull off if frying isn't you bag. I liked the freshly fried myself, which are not only beautiful with the browned flecks, but the smell in the kitchen is positively heady. For the ketchup, don’t be daunted by the ingredient list, it takes less than five minutes to cook up, and if you have any leftovers, it’s fantastic mixed in with black beans, on a burger or as a glaze for poultry too. Try it and enjoy!
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 small shallot, minced
1 large dried New Mexico red chile
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 cup chopped tomatoes in juice
1 ripe tomato, diced
2 large under ripe plantains
oil for frying
Grind the chiles and coriander in a mortar or spice grinder (or use pre-ground) then set aside.
In a small sauce pan, heat one teaspoon of oil and add the shallot and spices and let sauté for a minute or until the shallots are just translucent. Then add the rest of the ingredients (except the plantains) stir and lower the heat. Simmer for three to five minutes, taste, adjust seasonings and remove from the heat. Will keep in the fridge for about two weeks.
Meanwhile, slice the plantains into ¼ inch slices. Heat ½ inch depth oil in a small sauce pan and sauté the plantains until golden brown (about three to five minutes) drain on paper towels, sprinkle liberally with salt and serve with the smoky ketchup.
Makes enough for four as a light appetizer.
NEW DELHI (AP) - India is the world's biggest banana grower, with an annual production of 18.52 tons, or more than 20 percent of the total world output of 80.03 tons in 2005. Bananas are the world's most exported fruit, and the fourth most important food commodity after rice, wheat and maize. India, as the worlds largest producer, had contributed significantly to the "global genetic base of bananas," said NeBambi Lutaladio, FAO's agriculture officer. The FAO is calling for a systematic exploration of the wild bananas' remaining forest habitat, to catalog the number and types of surviving wild species. The food agency, which tries to preserve agricultural biodiversity, has sought better land management in India and the introduction of wild bananas in developing new species of the fruit for cultivation.
Hatch, known as the Chile Capital of the World, lies in the fertile Rio Grande valley, some 30 mostly-arid miles northwest of Las Cruces. The tiny town is the heart of New Mexico's chile land; over 30,000 acres of the succulent pods are cultivated annually. –Southern New Mexico.com
Sunday, May 07, 2006
Paper Chef 17 - Miso Socca with Vegetables Provencal
Was it only a few years ago that fusion cuisine was the hottest thing around? Sure, sure, now its all about Spain and either scientific foods or the truly home-spun, but six or eight years ago, the buzz on the street was "fusion, baby!" And the combo platter that started the whirlwind was a sublime Japanese-French mishmash that resulted in such divinity as miso glazed cod, sesame tuile with crème fraiche and tobiko, and well, a zillion other culinary delights.
That heritage (can we call it heritage at this point? Is it too soon? I do wonder.) made creating a dish for my favorite online event, Paper Chef, a snap in my opinion. The ingredients du jour (du mois?) lavender, miso, chickpeas and a local ingredient, well, that to me just screamed Provence, with a slight nod to, well, obviously, Japan…
The dish was easy to decide on, but heaven help me if it didn’t become a lavender-induced challenge. (I’m getting to be a broken record on this, but please do bare with me.) I recently moved to a new neighborhood, that is distinctly lacking in high-end grocery options, and it seems Herbs De Provence (a French spice mix featuring lavender) – in this hood anyway – is quite the rarity, and my option was to purchase it from my new boyfriend at Monsieur Marcel for an outrageous sum, make my own, or, as I ended up doing, using this insane looking bright purple (see the photo over there? That purple stuff is salt!) salt and some marinated olives. Then for my local ingredient, I fully intended on plucking a nice fat branch of that ubiquitous and fragrant hedge, rosemary, but alas, this hood seems to be “edible-hedge” free, so again, I opted for some lavender growing in my yard. Gee, I hope it was pesticide free…
The resulting dish was quite homey, would make a great party entrée if you have vegetarians (or you could easily add some roast chicken) it was a breeze to whip up and visually stunning. I do wish I had been able to capture a better photo, but my batteries were dying and my guests were hungry...I also must confess, I'm not entirely sure the miso added much, except salt, which the chick-pea flour desperately needs, so if you omit that, just add more of the blessed little crystals, ok? Now try this, and enjoy!
For the Socca
1 cup chick-pea (garbanzo bean) flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
2/3 cup cold water
1 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
1 teaspoon miso
For the vegetables
1 cup assorted mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (I used crimini and golden chanterelle)
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 clove garlic, sliced thin
6-8 herbs-de-Provence marinated olives, pitted and sliced (available in bulk at Whole Foods)
6-8 starburst or pattypan squash, cleaned and sliced
(Lavender) Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh lavender flowers for garnish
In a large, hot pan, sear the mushrooms in a bit of oil. When browned, add the rest of the vegetables and cook until just crisp-tender (it's important your squash are sliced thin, or they wont catch up here.) When done, set aside and make the crepes.
In a small bowl, combine the water and salt, and stir to dissolve. In a larger bowl, combine the flour, oil and miso and stir. Add the water and whisk to make a thin mixture, then let rest for 5 minutes (it may thicken). Add pepper to taste and prepare your pan.
In an 8 inch non-stick skillet (or crepe pan. I tried to use mine and it kept sticking. Crepes, pancakes, whatever, I just have never mastered them in anything but a non-stick pan. Sigh.) heat some oil and pour in a 3 oz. ladleful of the mixture. Cook as any pancake, flip and remove from the pan. Set aside and continue with the rest of the batter. This should yield about 6 finished socca.
Top the socca with the veg mix, and if using, add some crushed lavender salt.
Herbes de Provence combines sweet French herbs and flowery lavender with Italian herbs and fennel, demonstrating the historical influence of the Romans. – Penzeys.com
Socca is a chick-pea flour crepe that hails from the seaside areas Nice and Marseilles in Southern France.
This week in Florida, the state Legislature passed a bill naming the Key lime pie as the official state pie During a House debate Thursday on the state pie, Rep. Dwight Stansel, a Democrat, proposed giving the honor to the sweet potato pie, calling the Key lime alternative "nasty.'' ''I don't understand how anybody in this body can designate a state pie from a fruit that is not even grown in Florida anymore,'' he said. "That fruit is grown in Mexico.'' Sweet potatoes, Stansel argued, are grown in Florida and are "coming back to the kitchen table.'' But his pitch didn't work. The House voted 106-14 in support of the Key lime pie. The bill already cleared the Senate and will now be sent to the Gov. for his signature.
Friday, May 05, 2006
Recipe Collection Meme
I was tagged by Lex Culinaria for this recipe collection meme. As I have mentioned sporadically, I am a girl in flux these days. (Heck, it just took me 10 minutes to remember how to upload a photo! LOL) But I am SO close to being back, I can almost taste it. In the mean time, this is a great bit-o-filler, tasty and delicious, wouldn’t you agree?
Where do you obtain the recipes you prepare?
I have a few ways, but mostly, I just make things up. I have the extra useless ability to be able to recreate pretty much any dish I’ve ever tried (minus super high end dishes, like what I’ve eaten at The French Laundry…and even that, I’m pretty sure I could do if I had the time and equipment, and kitchen of course!) Like darling Lex who tagged me for this, I am especially inspired by photos, but the one place I get the most ideas, I would have to say, it from titles of recipes. I see a title and go from there, most often without ever even looking at what the recipe was that followed. Hee.
How often do you cook a new recipe?
Truly as often as possible. I positively crave new recipes and feel terrifically jaded when flipping through books and not seeing anything even remotely new. Aurg! I think it stems from a chef I dated for a few years (dear me, years and years and years.) who – get this – wouldn’t eat the same meal twice in a month. (Peanut butter sandwich twice in 30 days? The horror!) It sort of kick started me to constantly try new things, something I still do.
Where do you store your favorite recipes?
I had a great little book that recently seems to have been misplaced, but for the most part, my faves are in my little noggin or on this here bloggity-blog.
Tag at least one new food blogger for this meme ("new" as in only blogging a few months)
Heck, sorry, I have been such a super slacker lately; I haven’t got a clue who’s new. (Insert sheepish grin) So if you are new, and think you’d like to do a meme, by all means, go for it my child!
Tag at least one food blogger you visit regularly but never interacted with:
Again, haven’t been very cyber-oriented lately, and due to overwhelming shyness (ha)/certainty that most bloggers I visit I have emailed at least once, I will leave this one alone.
Tag at least one food blogger you constantly visit and leave comments:
Heavens. See above.
I do have to give a wonderful shout out (can I get a “boo-ya!) to Mrs. Lex Culinaria for tagging me on this, its been long overdue…
Oops. The Ombudsman (who is a blessing in my life, and a true friend. I moved in to the house across the street from his sweet self recently and he has yet to issue a restraining order. How much do you dig that? I sure do!) is here to ply me with tequila (it is Cinco De Mayo after all…) must dash.
Until I blog again…
“When asked in the 1600”s what were the three greatest evils Europeans had introduced to the New World, the Mayans first mentioned torture and genocide. But third on the list was the conquistadors’ propensity for ‘basting with lard.’” – In the Devil’s Garden – A Sinful History of Forbidden Food. Stewart Lee Allen.