Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Happy New Year, 2008


To one and all, I wish you a very, very Happy New Year.

And now...a drinking song.

Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind? Should old acquaintance be forgot, and auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup! And surely I’ll buy mine! And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

We two have run about the hills,and picked the daisies fine; But we’ve wandered many a weary foot, since auld lang syne.

We two have paddled in the stream, from morning sun till dine; But seas between us broad have roared since auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand my trusty friend !And give us a hand o’ thine! And we’ll take a right good-will draught, for auld lang syne.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Menu For Hope 4. Win Dinner at Camaje or Hammacher Schlemmer's Upside-Down Tomato Garden

***Update: At the close of bidding we raised more than $90,000! There were 38 bids on the Hammacher Schlemmer Upside-Down Tomato Garden and 31 on the dinner for two at CAMAJE. Thank you all so much, and good luck in the drawing!!!***

It is my great pleasure and honor to offer not one, but two fantastic gift prizes for this years Menu for Hope 4.

What am I talking about?

I am talking about an annual online raffle event started by food blogger/philanthropist/all around fab lady, Pim Techamuanvivit, to raise money for a worthy cause during the holiday season.

This year, we (and by we, I mean me and you and international food bloggers galore) will be raising funds for the UN World Food Programme. We are specifically going to help provide school lunches for children living in Lesotho, Africa.

To explain, allow me to quote Pim, "The program is a model program in local procurement - buying food locally to support local farmers and the local economy. Instead of shipping surplus corn across the ocean, the WFP is buying directly from local subsistent farmers who practice conservation farming methods in Lesotho to feed the children there." And by providing these lunches, a child stays healthy, misses less school and has a better chance in life.

A worthy cause indeed.

So, as I said, I am extremely proud to be offering two fantastic and very food-centric gifts that for a minimum of a $10 donation, you may win in our raffle!

Now open up your wallets and join on in!

The first, (CODE UW19) is dinner for two* at the ever-excellent Camaje Bistro & Lounge on MacDougal Street in New York City. (And yes, you must be in, or go to, NYC to eat the meal...)

I was supremely fortunate to be treated to a fantastic dinner at Camaje recently. After the first sublime bite, I knew had to ask Chef/Owner (Friend/Inspiration) Abigail Hitchcock if she would be willing to help out with this cause. And because she is such an amazing soul, she did!

I just wanted so much to share with one of you the wonderful experience I had. It is such a warm and inviting space and the food, well, the food is superb. It is restaurant that will capture your heart.

Chef Abby makes a meal like none other. Delicious, refined and daring, it is without parallel. I love this woman, I love her food.

I hope you will bid on item UW19 to experience for yourself just how rewarding a meal at Camaje can be.

For loads more info, visit her website to read all the glowing accolades and tempt yourself with a few sample menus...and check out her cooking classes and dark dining... they are amazing.

Next up, the incredibly generous people of New York's Hammacher Schlemmer (America's longest running catalog, known since 1848 for carrying the Best, the Only, and the Unexpected.) have kindly donated an Upside-Down Hanging Tomato Garden! (CODE UW20)

The garden is an ingenious, compact planter that "takes the toil out of tomatoes by elevating the planting bed so vines grow downward. Hanging vines need almost no attention as tomatoes ripen in the air (not on the ground) where they won't rot. Complementary plants like basil, parsley, rosemary, and peppers can be planted on top, which holds up to 80 lbs. of topsoil."

It is a marvel. And wow, talk about eating local...nothing is more local than your own home!

Think about it kids...this could be all yours, for donating to a good cause.

Now get donating and let's make this year a great year for the children of Lesotho.

Here are the simple instructions on how...

1. Choose a prize. (There are many more listed on food blog website Chez Pim too! Don't feel limited to these.)

2. Go to our donation page at First Giving.

3. Specify the prize you would like in the 'Personal Message' section in the donation form. Each $10 you donate will give you one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for UW19 and 3 tickets for UW20. You just write 2xUW19, 3xUW20.

And that's it!

Bids will be accepted until the end of day, December 21st 2007. Winners will be announced on January 9th on Chez Pim.

Thank you all SO much, in advance, for your generous support of this event!

*Some restrictions apply.

Please visit Hammacher Schlemmer online to see their amazing array of products, or if you are in NYC, their landmark store is located at 147 E. 57th Street New York, NY 10022. They can also be reached toll free at (800) 421-9002

CAMAJE Bistro & Lounge is located at 85 MacDougal Street (between Bleecker and Houston)New York, NY 10012. The telephone number is 212-673-8184. Zagat's 2008: Food: 23, Decor: 15, Service: 19, Cost: $35. "With the air of a "secret" find on an "out-of-the-way Paris street", this "terrific little" Village bistro's French-American fare comes via a "sweet" staff; it can be a "squeeze", but it's "romantic" for dining a deux; P.S. "try the cooking classes" or don a blindfold for one of their 'Dark Dining' events."


Saturday, December 15, 2007


Hazelnut Cake with Apples

Dear Auntie Shesh,

Thank you so much for reading! You are so amazing, and I love you so much.

As I exclaimed, when I was at your warm and welcoming home, I couldn't get enough of your easy, crumbly, moist and delicious walnut cake.

It was perfect.

As you know, I enjoyed it after the wonderful dinner you made.

Then had a slice or two for breakfast.

Then because it had lasted so long, I went ahead and had the last bit as an early lunch.

Then it was all gone.

I'm glad you all woke up so late, and didn't catch me in the act.

And I'm glad you got a few slices before I supped it all up, because I would have felt terrible if I had eaten it all.

Oh Auntie, I adore that you (like your little sister) are such an amazing chef, baker and cake decorator. Thank you for sharing all of that with me. Its so fab.

And thank you for sharing this recipe! I'm sharing it with everyone else now, with a few tweaks of my own.

So readers, try this and if you can, I encourage you to share it with your Aunties, and, of course, taste the joy.

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup chopped hazelnuts
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons butter
6 small apples, cored, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 350F.

Lightly butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan and tap out the excess flour.

In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt and whis until well mixed.

Using an electric mixer set on medium-high speed, cream the butter and sugar.
Add the egg yolks and beat until smooth. Add the dry ingredients in 3 or 4 batches, alternating with the milk and ending with the dry ingredients. Stir well and fold in the nuts and vanilla.
Using an electric mixer set on medium-high speed, beat the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks.

Fold the whites into the batter just until mixed. Spread the batter in the cake pan. Bake in the center oven rack for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

To prepare the apples, in a sauté pan or skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat and cook until just softened.

Sprinkle with the sugar. Add the spices and lemon juice and mix well. Cover to keep warm.

Whip the cream and sugar until the cream is thick but not dry.

Add the cinnamon and continue whipping until the cream is the desired consistency. Serve the cake topped with the apples and cream.


Most of the 'cinnamon' sold in the U.S. is actually cassia

Several recent lawsuits are alleging that some of the nation's biggest retailers and grocery chains sold "organic" milk that wasn't organic. The lawsuits target Target, Costco, Wal-Mart and other chains. They focus on the stores' sale of milk from Colorado-based Aurora Organic Dairy, which recently agreed to change its practices after the USDA found more than a dozen violations of organic standards. Among them: that cows had little access to pasture, that Aurora moved its cows back and forth between conventional and organic farms, and that it sold milk as organic that did not meet federal standards. The stores sell Aurora's milk under their own in-house brand names, such Target's Archer Farms.


Friday, December 07, 2007


Dark & Spicy Gingerbread Cake


It was shaping up to be a bracingly chilly night, (by Los Angeles standards) and it was time for my dearest Ombudsman to thrill us with his annual holiday concert (he plays in an orchestra in his free time. Oh that man. So suave.)

The Hostess was coming over for a bit of warming sustenance before we headed out for the two hour, pre-dinner, Haydn extravaganza. In my hazy holidazed state, I commited three hours to whip something up that would sustain us. Inspection of my overburdened pantry shouted out that gingerbread and mulled wine were the order of the day. The natural fit for a winters night and the ingredients were all on hand.

While my usual gingerbread recipe is quite nice, I decided on a whim to see what else (the late) Mr. Sax, author of flawless cookbook, Classic Home Desserts had to say on the matter. It is my go-to tome for solid baking ideas indeed, and for years, I have stuck with a recipe he calls Eliza Acton's Gingerbread.

But for some reason, my attention drifted to the left side page, and what did my dancing eyes see? The gingerbread therein? Well my dears, it was East-West Ginger Cake, developed by the one and only David Lebovitz of Parisian baking/blogging fame! How chic and fab is that!? Color me giddy.

There was no doubt about it, I had to make it. But, being me, I changed it make it less sweet and more richly spicy. What I retained from super-chef David was the fantastic simplicity of the method, and the judicious use of fresh ginger. He really was on to something there! Brilliant.

It is impertive that in making this you recall that, in the grand tradition of gingerbread cake, this really, really, really does improve as the days go by. So if you can keep some on hand for three days, you will have a cake beyond compare.

Try this my dears, and taste the joy.

2 3/4 cups white flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 T. melted butter
1 cup molasses
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup boiling water
1/4 cup minced fresh ginger
1/2 cup golden raisins/sultanas

Preheat your oven to 350F

Butter and lightly dust with flour a 10 inch square baking pan. (Don't try to do this with canola oil bakers spray. Wow does that not work.)

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ground ginger and fresh ground pepper.

In a large bowl mix together the sugars, oil, melted butter, molasses and eggs. Beat them with an electric mixer until well blended. Stir in the dry ingredients until just incorporated.

Mix the baking soda into the boiling water. Careful, this will fizz. Pour that into the batter and stir. Add the ginger and raisins and stir again.

Pour into the pan and bake for about 1 hour, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Let cool completely before serving. Ideally, let it sit for two days, then serve.


Sweet Suzanne. Is there nothing she can't do? She "baked a bitter­sweet chocolate soufflé crêpe topped with a Banyuls glacé, " indeed. I am so privileged to eat her desserts so often!

Looking for an amazing meal in NYC? Try Camaje!

The Tsukiji fish market, transit point for 3,000 tons a day of the world's freshest seafood, in recent years has become a prime attraction for intrepid foodies. With the number of curiosity seekers growing, an outright ban is being considered (and seems reasonable in light of the dangers). And the market itself faces shutdown and relocation, probably in 2012, to a much larger and more modern facility at Toyosu on Tokyo Bay -- though the move has generated controversy, most recently because the new site, formerly owned by Tokyo Gas Co., has been found to be contaminated with toxins that include arsenic. -


Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Cream of Leek Soup

Let us be Frank.

Or, Helen.

Really, does it matter?

I mean, if I told you that was a picture of, say, cream of leek soup...that could be entirely true.

But I'm being Frank (despite the fact I am Rachael) and have to isn't.

It is something else entirely. What, I'm not really sure even you want to know. It is just such a fantastically ghastly concept, it makes me shudder to recall it.

So I shall share a Cream of Leek soup recipe...since that is warm and lovely, and it is possibly a variation of what that soup really was. (Dreary and unsalvageable. And not at all my idea to make. I tried to extract myself from the proceedings, I assure you. It just proved fruitless. What can I say.)

Below though, is my Cream of Leek soup recipe, for a bowl of heady delight. Meltingly sweet leeks, and a touch of cream. I am willing to bet, the results will look alarmingly like that which is pictured above...oh had that only been this...

Now go on and taste the joy.

7 leeks, white and pale green parts sliced
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1 cup white wine
6 cups chicken or onion stock, warm
1 cup heavy cream, warm
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper
Crispy bacon for garnish

In a small sauce pan, heat the wine.

In a large soup pot, melt the butter. Saute the leeks and onion until softened. Add the flour and stir.

Slowly add the wine, stirring to combine. Let simmer, stirring, for three minutes (you are trying to cook off the raw flour and wine tastes)

Add the stock and the rest of the ingredients, except the bacon

Let simmer for five minutes.

Serve with bacon garnish.

Makes eight servings.


I found this blog, which has real Austrian recipes

Pop Rocks were developed in 1956 by General Foods research scientist William A. Mitchell and introduced to the market in 1975. Tiny air pockets of carbonation (CO2) are released when melted in your mouth and has a mild "crackling" sensation and "popping" noise. - Pop Rocks

The Bella Turkey Burger at Ruby Tuesday's Restaurants has 1,145 calories. A Jamba Juice Chocolate Moo'd Power Smoothie has 900. The Chipotle Mexican Grill Chicken Burrito has 1,179. Chili's Awesome Blossom packs 2,710 calories and Outback Steakhouse Aussie Cheese Fries with Ranch Dressing has 2,900 calories. Even if you split those "starters" with three friends, you'll have downed a dinner's worth of calories before your entrée arrives. - Men's Health Magazine, 20 Worst Foods.


Monday, December 03, 2007


Beets & Onions & Carrots with Trader Joe's Dried Fuji Apples

While browsing the menu in some of your local dining establishments, you may have noticed the propensity of the proprietors to describe every last itsy bitsy thing that will be on each tantalizing platter, should you opt to order it.

So much so, that when you order the such-and-such with a dusting of blah-blah and sprinkling of whatnots, you can actually end up deflated that the whatnots appeared in such small quantities so as not to have exactly merited being mentioned...driving you to distraction, or worse, dissatisfaction.

And yet...

This excessive description behaviour continues.

Why is this do you suppose?

Me, I think it is because the person crafting your first impression of the victuals, wants you to know exactly what they are proposing you consume. They want no surprises. No one sending a piled high round of porcelain back to the kitchen untouched, based on the fact an offensive component had not been described.

And in all makes total sense to me.

I mean, I tend to get amped imagining the Grass Fed Neiman Ranch Porter House Steak on a bed of Star Route Farms Arugula (I have no idea if the good people of Star Route really grow that, but I'm a touch lazy at this moment, and will just have to ask you to indulge me on that one. It was the first name that came to mind. I could have just as easily said Bellweather Farms, though, I think they make goat cheese...oh...nevermind) with Fennel Pollen and Maytag Blue Cheese on a Acme Sourdough Baguette Crouton with a dusting of fresh ground Malabar Black Pepper. But if after all that, a smattering of Paramount Farms Salt Roasted Pistachios make a guest appearance, well, that can throw a girl. Perhaps prompting a return.

So I say, keep up the novel writing approach. It suits me just fine.

This dish too, has all its components up front. Sweet, crunchy, boldly beautiful. It would make a menu proud.

Try it, and taste the joy.

3 large beets, roasted
1 large red onion, sliced
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
2 oz package Trader Joe's Dried Fuji Apples, Diced (or any dried apples, though, I gotta say, these things are beyond amazingly delicious.)
3 Teaspoons red wine vinegar
Olive oil, salt and pepper to taste

Peel and slice the beets. Toss with the onions, carrots and apples. Season with red wine vinegar and olive oil. Toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.

Serves six as a side dish


Figgy Pudding dates back to 17th century England. The ancestor of figgy pudding (and plum pudding) is a medieval spiced porridge known as "Frumenty". Today, the term figgy pudding is known mainly because of the popular Christmas carol; We Wish You a Merry Christmas.

Sufganiot are jelly filled Israeli donuts, typically made on Hanukkah

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