Monday, October 31, 2005


Happy Halloween



Please show compassion for the children who work on cocoa plantations. Always buy, eat (and share) Fair Trade Chocolate

Saturday, October 29, 2005


Kitchen Project: Roasting Peppers

In the interest of sharing, I thought I would periodically throw out some basic info and cooking how-to's.

For my first installment, let's chitter-chat on the super-easy, beautiful, pantry essential, roasted peppers.

Peppers in one form or another are plentiful all year long, but in the fall, the sweet red ones come down in price (especially at farmers markets) and aquiring an overflowing basketful is easy and inexpensive.

Trouble is, once you have scored your bounty, eating them all prior to their demise may verge on gluttonous overdosing. To avoid that I suggest this simple method, it will preserve the peppers, adds a pleasant smokiness, softens the texture and deepens the flavors altogether.

I typically set aside an hour or so to get these done, (usually combining this task with roasting garlic or some other cooking) just so I can get through a large batch. As an alternative method, you could line a sheet pan with foil, and broil a large batch all at once, turning periodically. Either which way, this is a totally worthwhile endeavor. I use the peppers in salads, on pizza, in sandwiches, pureed in soups, as garnish for any number of things, oh heck, the list just goes on and on. And the oil they marinate in becomes faintly tinged with color and flavor too, don't go throwing it out! Try this, and enjoy!


Scrub your peppers. (Red, green, chile, they all work)

Place directly on your gas burner with the flame on high.

Cook, turning as they blacken.

Remove from fire when totally charred on all sides and put in a large bowl.

Cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap and let the peppers steam for about 10 minutes. Take this time to clean the stove top.

When they are mostly cooled, pull off the tops, and rub off the char. Monika Powe Nelson, a tiny Texan I used to know would slap your hand if you dared to rinse the pepper to get the char off because she says that rinses away the flavor. Me, I do it anyway. Go with what works for you.

Make sure to remove all the seeds. Cut into strips and put into a glass jar. Cover with olive oil. You can add some herbs if you like, but NO garlic. That is the recipe for botulism, and nobody wants that. Seal and store in the fridge (yes, the oil will get solid. That's cool, just take it out 5 minutes before you use it. It will go back to liquid.)

And that's it. Easy peasy, simple as pie and all that.


Are you in Southern California? Tickets are still available for Make Trade Fair Live: A Concert To Support Oxfam America. Let's all do our part to support this worthy cause.

Japan will ease a ban on US beef imports after a Japanese panel declared on Monday that beef from young American cattle is safe if risk materials that could transmit mad cow disease are removed, government officials said. The panel at Japan's Food Safety Commission ended five months of discussion on the safety of US beef with a conclusion that beef and beef offal from American cattle aged 20 months or younger are at very low risk from mad cow disease if specified materials, such as bovine heads and spinal cords, are removed. It was not immediately clear when imports of US beef would resume, but media reports on Monday suggested it could be in December. ABS-CBN

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickling pepper; a peck of pickling pepper Peter Piper picked.
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickling pepper, where's the peck of pickling pepper Peter Piper picked?


Friday, October 28, 2005



A few days ago, while riffling through the icebox looking for something salty (its all about the salt with me kids. All about it. I swear, if I cut salt out of my diet, I would instantly be two sizes smaller) to nibble on, I spied a tragically lonely, single serving of wild caught Coho salmon calling out for some attention. Not being in the mood for sashimi, I cut short my quest for a nosh, and proceeded to pull together one of the worlds oldest preserved food recipes: gravlax. Sure, sure, it takes a few days to cure, but I have patience, and it is so very well worth the wait.

Now, as a long-time reader (ha ha) I'm sure you recall me saying this past summer I had found a recipe for Snapper Vera Cruz, the single most popular recipe taught at my cooking school. Turns out, I may have to revise that statement, since in the 18 months I spent at that fine academic institution we pretty much made gravlax once a week. That my peaches, is a heck of a lot of cured fish. Maybe they have an agenda I wasn't aware of...

Being obsessed (along with many other things - Pickles and cocktails come to mind) with Scandinavian food (My mother is partly Swedish after all. More on that some other time. It's fascinating stuff.) and what all, the consumption of vast quantities of this ambrosial (can you apply ambrosial to a savory food?) goodness has never been a problem for me. And the beauty is, you don't need much fish to feed quite a few people, you most likely have all the ingredients on hand, and it can be made in a heartbeat.

To serve it to the glitterati in your life in the most fab-ulicious kind of way, I suggest a slice of rye or pumpernickel bread, a thin layer of a 50/50 cream cheese-butter mixture, capers and pickled red onion. It is just the most beautiful combination of nearly translucent fish that has a hint of juniper, with the shockingly pink, crunchy onions and the creamy mouthfeel of the cheese. A mouthful of Valhalla. Try it, and enjoy

1 Salmon filet, skin on, bones removed, cut into 2 equal sized pieces
Equal parts white sugar and brown sugar
Salt equalling the sugar amount
Clear Spirits (I used gin. Aquavit or vodka are classic choices too)
Minced herbs (Dill is most traditional. I used Lemon Verbena because I had it)
Spices (I used cardamom. Try black pepper or cumin)
Freshly ground pepper

The recipe for this is pretty simple. Moisten the flesh of the fish with some of the spirit. (Wow, did that sound religious or what!) Top with minced herbs.

Combine the salt, sugars and pepper in a bowl.

In a non-reactive (meaning, glass or ceramic) dish, make a layer of the mix. Add the fish, skin down, coat heavily with more of the mixture. Top with another piece of fish skin side up, then pour the remaining mixture over it and pack down. Cover the container with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two to six days, turning once a day and draining any extra liquid. The time you leave it depends on how thick the filet is. To check it is done the fish will have turned completely opaque.

When done, brush off the sugar/salt mix. Slice as thin as can be and eat. Will keep up to a week.


The Food and Drug Administration sent letters last week to 29 cherry growers and packagers warning them that declarations such as Amon Orchards claim on its Web site that "cherries prevent cancer." Or Brownwood Acres Foods Inc., saying cherries "knock out gout," are "serious violations" of federal food labeling laws. - Washington

60 percent of the world's marine stocks are either fully fished, over-exploited, depleted or recovering at a slow rate. With seafood growing in demand, it is critical that sustainable fishing practices are followed. - Whole

A Swedish specialty, gravlax is raw salmon, cured in a salt-sugar-dill mixture. It's sliced paper thin and served on dark bread as an appetiser, often accompanied by dill-mustard sauce. Lox can refer either to cold smoked salmon, or to salmon cured in a brine solution (also called gravlax).

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Pickled Red Onions

Do I mention pickled onions quite a bit, or what? Since they are just one of my totally favorite things to make, I'm including the recipe to go with the gravlax post above. I first made these at a restaurant I worked in as a student and (can't name because just thinking of that chef makes me want to cry.) was constantly dipping my fingers into the jar for a taste because I found them to be so irresistable.

They go supremely well with any sort of charcuterie, pate, raclette, smoked salmon, on sandwiches - especially grilled cheese, and as an excellent bagel topping.

Minus slicing the onion (which, if you do by hand and not with a mandoline, can be time consuming) the whole thing takes about eight minutes to make and keeps for about a month in the fridge. The herbs and spices can and should be adjusted to your taste and what you have on hand.

They really impress people too, and you will never have to say how easy there were to make, unless you want to.

Oh, and please beware, simmering vinegar will fill your kitchen with fumes. It's not that big a deal, but it is strong.

1 large red onion. sliced as thin as you can get it
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 garlic clove
bay leaf
a teaspoon of mixed spices (I normally opt for thyme, black pepper and coriander)

In a sauce pan, combine the water, vinegar, sugar, salt, garlic and spices. Bring to a gentle simmer to dissolve. Taste to adjust seasoning. Add the onion and let simmer for two to three minutes, stirring once. Remove from the heat, allow to cool and store in the liquid.


Approximately 88 percent of the onion crop is devoted to yellow onion production, with about 7 percent red onions and 5 percent white onions.

Many cultures have historically fermented foods by burying them underground, producing a rotted, yet edible delicacy. The Chinese buried eggs; Islandic communities interred shark meat in the sand; Scandinavians fermented fish in the ground, along with cheese and a traditional liquor; the Scottish buried kegs of butter in peat bogs, slowly fermenting it for seven years before eating it; the Inuit people still bury whale and seagull meat.

Check out the beautiful IMBB round up at Kitchen Chick. Thanks chicky!


Thursday, October 27, 2005


Dried Plum Financiers

Mr. David Lebovitz, (a man who's work I simply adore) of food writing and blogging fame, has challenged the world to create a dish with dried plums, AKA, prunes. As a matter of fact, he seems to have already completed his round-up! (Foiled by time zones again...drat!)

Well, I happen to have quite a bit of knowledge regarding said fruit, having slaved deep in the heart of the California Dried Plum Board publicity machine for what seemed like eons, but may really have been one single, life altering year.

That's right kiddies, The CDPB (then known as the Prune Board) has on retainer a top flight food marketing agency to spread the word, build the faith and keep their festive purple banner raised through good times and bad. Happily it was a snap, since not only are those dried drupe fanatics the nicest of people, but they also are all about promoting something that is tasty, nutritious, eco-friendly, an excellent fat substitute (its true!) and an amazingly versatile ingredient. (You'd think I was still on the company bandwagon with this banter, and yet...) I just love me those dried plums I tell ya!

Sure, sure, some of you feel towards dried plums the way I feel about cilantro, (In other words, "no thanks") and I am not going to try to sway you to my way of thinking, since taste is taste and whatnot. What I will tell you is pretty darned fab are these financiers. A quick to make, breathy, crumbly French cookie/cake/bite that has the heady sweet nuttiness of almonds and sugar that opens your mind and palate. The addition of rich and chewy, dense and sweet dried plums only adds to the delight, but if you are so inclined, I think dried apricots are classic, and dried cherries would be a welcome burst of tang. Any which way, this takes less than six minutes to pull off (minus baking) and are a fanciful addition to anyone's repitoire. Super-fab-a-licious.

(I have been making these beauties for years, and follow my own hand written notes, though I am compelled to say the original recipe was created by Drew Nieporent. I think.)

2 Tablespoons of butter
1 cup ground almonds
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
pinch of table salt
5 large egg whites
2/3 cups butter, melted and cooled
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest (optional)
powdered sugar for garnish

Preheat your oven to 400F

Liberally butter (or much better yet, spray with bakers spray, these guys stick like mad) 12 non-stick small tart molds, (such as barquettes), or a mini-muffin pan. Put the molds on a sheet pan, and set aside until ready to fill.

In a large bowl, stir to combine the almonds, sugar, pinch of salt, flour and if using, the orange zest. Add the melted butter to the almond mixture and combine completely. Set aside.

Beat the egg whites until they hold a soft peak (this means they are whipped until just past frothy, and when mounded with a spoon, a small, soft tip will hold)

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold half the egg whites into the almonds. Add the rest, doing your best not to deflate the whites, while mixing throughly.

Spoon batter into the molds/pan, leaving some room to rise. Top with a small dried plum.

Bake for 7 minutes at 400F. Reduce the heat to 375F and let bake another 10 minutes. Turn the oven off and let the financiers cool in the oven for another 10 minutes. Remove and let cool. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.

Makes 12

Plum is the common name for a tree of any of many species of the genus Prunus of the family Rosaceae and for its fruit, a drupe. Of the plum’s more than 100 species 30 are native to North America. It has been cultivated since prehistoric times, longer perhaps than any other fruit except the apple. Alexander the Great is said to have introduced it into Greece from Syria or Persia, where the damson plum had long been grown. -

California supplies 70 percent of the world’s supply of dried plums

The European Union's senior court yesterday granted Greece exclusive rights to produce "feta" over the protests of cheese makers from Denmark, Germany and Britain. The Court of Justice ended a legal battle stretching back over a decade and upheld Greek demands that the name "feta" should be reserved for salty, crumbly white cheese made in Greece. All non-Greek producers will have to remove all references to the word feta and will not even be permitted to spell it differently."

I am flattered as a girl can be over this post at Yogurtland. What a delightful blog!

In 2001 the FDA granted the California Prune Board (CPB) permission to use "dried plums" as an alternative name to "prunes." The CPB requested the name change after research showed that the name "dried plum" offers a more positive connotation than "prune."


Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Los Angeles Food Blogging

According to their very own super-sassy website "The Los Angeles Times, a Tribune Publishing company, is the largest metropolitan daily newspaper in the country." Meaning, they tell a whole lot of people a lot of things on a daily basis. Leading me to believe they are all about getting the scoop first. Yet, so far as I have noticed, and despite coverage from Detroit and Tennessee to Australia, San Francisco and London, they have never once written an article about the Los Angeles based food blogging scene.

Lately this fact has been making me all kinds of pouty. Why? Because I love this city and I always think we could use a little positive PR with the international foodies. We may have a reputation as a place people don't love good food, (or, you know, eat very often) but this really is an amazing, delicious, diverse, food-centric and exciting city with a lot going on and a lot of people who are passionate about it.

So realizing I could take charge (charge!) I thought I would write about L.A. Food Bloggers here, on my own L.A. Food Blog, so you can see what great things people in the City of Angels have to say. The hilarious thing was, after looking around, at the 15 or so current sites (and 5 or so that haven't published in more than three months) that I am familiar with, I spy a problem. So far as I can see the lack of Times coverage could easily be attributed to the fact that at first glance, L.A. Food Bloggers on the whole, seem more like L.A. Restaurant Reviewers than home chefs.

Happily, with (at last official count) eleven-de-three-gazillion places to eat out, that leaves a lot of places yet un-blogged about and plenty-plenty to go around, which is awesome. To those sites, I say thank you (and thank you, and thank you! Yum!)

But wait! There really are lots of kids out there steaming and blanching, grating and reducing, and photographing every hand crafted delight. So without further ado, here is a tiny intro to the bloggers in this, the greatest city on earth (take THAT Topeka, Kansas) who are all about the food, and who thrill me with their culinary ramblings. And now that I have done their homework for them (brazen, aren't I?) perhaps the Times will give a shout out to these sites too for all the world (or at least, the newspaper reading populace of Southern California) to applaud along with us.

Soul Fusion Kitchen - Sylvie always seems to be making real food that real people eat. It is hearty, and down-home, and I always feel as if I pulled up a chair at her table. I don't know how she does it but she gets my mouth watering every time. "A roasty taste worthy of doing again."

Baking Sheet - On this quest to find my people, I came across Nic at Baking Sheet (via the Food Blogger Map) and I am stoked to report she rocks my world with scrumptious baked goods that look so good it is hard to turn away. "Chai spices are delicious and the mango offers a smooth, cooling taste to counter their spiciness. Unfortunately, morning is not a great time for dessert."

Delicious Life - Yes Sarah mostly does witty and charming (primarily Westside) restaurant reviews, but I sense with her new allotment of free time, more cooking will be in her future. The things she has whipped up in the past have not only won accolades, but always inspires. "I took a fork and first tickled the soft and tenuous walnut sprinkled top. The fork pierced deep into the souffle, which first made the faintest of feta sighs."

Fresh Approach Cooking - Oh that Rachael, what a fab-tastic girl. And what a chef! And such great pictures too! A little fluffy, and totally prone to hyperbole, she still has a rockin' good site that captures L.A. like no other (And did I mention she is cheeky? And modest?) "Each and every day you must, you absolutely must, have a meal that reminds you of the transcendence of food."

Delicious! Delicious! - Now this is what I call an L.A. food blog! Super delicious looking food presented as a screenplay. Gimmick or genius? I say, genius. "Caryn grabs a pound of flour from a bag, but it slips in her hands and the soft, white flour explodes all over the counter."

BBQ Junkie - Luis is on a BBQ odyssey out there in the Valley. Check out this awesome site for all your BBQ/grilling/smoking needs. "I made some kalua pig this weekend in my smoker."

Deep End Dining - Eddie is a star and willing to eat some challenging foods. With dignity and respect, he tackles some curious combinations all for us to read (and squirm) along with. While not a cooking blog per se, its also not a restaurant review spot. "These particular black mushrooms were mouth-watering, meaty orbs packed with powerfully earthy and perfumey flavors."

Potential Gold - Another site - written by a chef! I'm swooning! - that I was unaware of until just this second, but have a feeling I am going to love. "The fourth course was sliced Beef Tenderloin on Super Buttery Truffle Mashed Potatoes with Cippolini Onions and a Chantrelle Demi-Glace."

From The Pantry - Ah HA! I did forget someone! Oops. Miss Tanvi is a lacto-ovo-vegetarian who chronicles her attempts at baking, cooking, and making South-Indian foods. "...a few key ingredients, simple method and you have something delicious and hearty."

And that my friends, seems to be it. Pretty amazing group if you ask me. I do wonder though, in a city this size, if I forgot someone. So if you have or know of a food blog in L.A.* that doesn't just focus on reviewing restaurants, let me know! And for anyone I left out, I will certainly revise this and beg for forgiveness. And of course, no matter where you are, if you love food and want to start your own blog, I hope you are encouraged to do so!


* I know there are a few Southern California sites, but I am strictly referring to Los Angeles city proper for no reason other than I feel like it.

OH and reviewers (and some Southern California sites that aren't really in L.A.)? Here is the list I have:

Best of L.A. Chef Kristy Cooking and Baking Daily Gluttony Daily Olive Eating L.A. Hot Dog Spot L.A. Dining L.A. Ritz
Low End Theory Rate a Restaurant So Cal Foodie,
A Spicy Meatball

"Beer brewing company Anheuser-Busch says the company is looking for ways to keep consumers drinking beer as opposed to cocktails or hard spirits. Even though beer drinking has lost some ground in recent years, Anheuser-Busch remains by far the most dominant U.S. beer company. Brewing about 100 million barrels of beer annually, they control roughly 50 percent of the national market share. Second-ranking Miller Brewing Co. controls 19 percent of the market. To keep beer in the forefront, Anheuser-Busch has launched separate marketing campaigns nationally, such as distributing recipe books that encourage bartenders to mix beer cocktails using ingredients like grenadine and tomato juice." -SF

Need some shopping tips? Check out my guest blogger post on the extra-fantastic, uber-sexy, and just plain flashy, Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Monday, October 24, 2005


(Not Vegan) Pumpkin Pie

Tiffany. AKA The Mermaid, since she is sexy, beachy, (yet intellectual) and has a Siren-like ability to coerce even the most even keeled people (not that I count myself in with that group) to do things with just a flash of a smile and a bat of her impossibly long eyelashes.

It seems that just like our dearest peach Ms. LaRue, my Mermaid-like friend has a fixation with pumpkin, and recently wondered aloud on her extra-fab site Breakfast At Tiffany's (so chic!) if I may be able to provide some culinary relief by challenging me to make a vegan pie. (She isn't vegan, she is just a level headed and healthy girl) That's right. A vegan pumpkin pie. And seriously kids, how could I resist her request? I am nothing if not a girl who will rise to a challenge. (That's actually not true at all, but whatever)

With that I looked, I searched, I scrambled, I fretted (over a course of six to eight minutes) and in the end, with options including pureeing silken tofu, using $25 worth of maple syrup instead of sugar or adding prune puree for body and texture, I said no thanks. While I think being vegan is super fantastic, I also know enough about my limitations as a baker to not want to try to mess with a American classic. Ergo, the pumpkin pie you see right here on this page.

So for you, sweet Tiffany, here is a completely vegetarian virtual pumpkin pie. It was silken, and creamy (due to cream, I'm thinking) very spicy and had a strong and comforting pumpkin flavor. I would offer you a slice, but much to the joy of several people, every last crumb of it has been consumed. It took less than five minutes to pull together, and the scent of pie wafting through the house made the hour it was baking pure heaven. (And torture, knowing it had to cool before I could take a taste!) Try it, and enjoy.

3/4 cup (packed) brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
4 tablespoons flour
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin
1 1/2 tablespoons molasses
4 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1 9-inch pie crust, par-baked

(I made my own pie crust, but I am just not in the mood to write out my recipe. Maybe next week.)

Preheat your oven to 450F

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugars, flour, salt and spices. Place baking sheet in oven and preheat to 450°F. Whisk first 8 ingredients together in large bowl to blend. Whisk in pumpkin, molasses and eggs, then cream. Pour mixture into the crust.

Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 325F and bake until the center is just set, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven, and cool completely.

Serves 8


In an excellent example of solipsism, please do visit Breakfast at Tiffany's today (and tomorrow, since it was so durned long) for my extra cheeky shopping tips

Mexicans are Latin America's largest per-capita consumers of instant ramen. Diners consumed 1 billion servings last year. The Chinese ate nearly 30.5 billion servings last year. Outside that region, only the United States, Russia and Brazil gobbled more instant ramen than Mexico. Its consumers ate an average of 9.4 servings in 2004, according to the Japan-based International Ramen Manufacturers Assn.- LA

It takes approximately 40 gallons of maple sap to produce one gallon of syrup

Research has found that men find "pumpkin pie" to be the sexiest scent


Sunday, October 23, 2005


Sweet Potato & Corn Semi-Souffle

Oh dear. I am caffeinated to the hilt. I am so jittery I'm seeing double. Yikers. My mind is racing at about 1000/rpm. All of this is self induced of course, since I have had 4 super grande mega watt-lattes in the last two hours and am nursing another as I shakily type. The dismal weather has me trapped indoors, with a back log of purdy pit-chas to share and the single minded agenda to share them while attempting to quench an insatiable thirst. Or so it seems.

Here before you sits a picture of a corn and sweet potato semi-souffle (meaning, it uses the souffle concept of egg whites, but isn't all about the poof) that I made yesterday. I had no clue there was an online (yes, another) event (IMBB) for souffles this week, so it is just kismet I suppose that I made it. Despite its total lack of photographability (which may or may not be a word, yet I am on a forward streak and going back to fix it/check is off my agenda) was the mostest yummiest.

It is a multi step process that was pretty simple as long as you get all your ingredients and equipment out in advance. (AKA mise en place) The colors are terrifically autumnal, the combination of hearty potatoes and light as air corn souffle makes it a treat to eat. There are also a lot of sensational variations on this theme you could pull off. Adding some smokey chipotle chiles to the egg whites, using leeks instead of the potatoes or maybe including a layer of shrimp. The possibilities are endless. It also has the added appeal of having all the fantasy-like souffle etherealness, without the fear of a big deflate. Try it, and enjoy!

3 large sweet potatoes, sliced super thin
4 large egg whites, whipped to soft peaks
2 cups corn
1 large red bell pepper, small dice
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar (only use if your corn isn't too sweet)
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
pinch of salt (not shown)
olive oil (not shown)

Preheat your oven to 350F

Oil an 8 inch square baking dish with olive oil

Add the potato slices to a large pot of salted cold water, bring to a boil and simmer until just cooked, about 6 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Combine the corn, bell pepper, cream, sugar, pepper and salt in a large bowl.

Fold half of the eggwhites into the corn mixture, then add the other half as gently and throughly as possible.

Line the bottom of the baking dish with a layer of the sweet potato slices. Add half the corn mixture, then another layer of the potatoes, more of the corn and top with potato slices. Brush lightly with olive oil.

Bake, uncovered for 35 to 45 minutes, or until set and the top layer is lightly browned.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 4 -6 servings


Tagged with: +

The word soufflé is the past participle of the French verb souffler which means "to blow up" or more loosely "puff up"

I've said it before and I'll say it again: " The African word "nyami" referring to the starchy, edible root of the Dioscorea genus of plants was adopted in its English form, "yam". Yams in the U.S. are actually sweet potatoes with relatively moist texture and orange flesh. Although the terms are generally used interchangeably, the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires that the label "yam" always be accompanied by "sweet potato.'"

A Japanese government panel on mad cow disease, delayed a decision again today on easing the ban on U.S. beef imports. Japan bought about $1.5 billion worth of U.S. beef in 2003, making it the most lucrative overseas market for American beef products then imposed the ban on Dec. 24, 2003, after the discovery of the first case of mad cow in the United States.


Friday, October 21, 2005


23/5 Meme

I was tagged by Plum (cute) of My Favourite Plum for the latest and greatest Meme, cleverly entitled 23/5. The object is to quote the 5th line of your 23rd post and reflect.

So far, this is what I learned...blogger (the program) is confusing, each month of my archive appears twice (over there, to the left) and the first year or so this blog was fantastically boring!

It all started when a friend of mine who has a political blog, asked me to check it out. I had never heard of such a thing but loved the idea, since my cooking classes can always use a little PR. At first, I was posting recipes purely for my clients talking about what we had made, and how it went. Blah, blah, blah. It was all business all the time, and completely and purposely void of my personality.

One (fateful?) morning, I was chattering with a girlfriend of mine, who commented that she had looked at this site and said "It'll just say 'I like eggplant. Here is an eggplant recipe' why not write something? I want to hear what you have to say!" Oh sure, easy for HER, she is brilliant and funny (a comic-writer natch), and me? I'm a girl who has an obsession with brunch and cocktail hour nibbles. But a little light did go off, and I started adding some more comments before presenting recipes. I still had no readers other than my clients and friends (especially Ms. LaRue and P.K. The-Writer-Who-We-All-Adore) who were all very enthusiastic and encouraging, (and still are) so I was happy and merrily tooled along.

It was Legs McGee who changed all when she (very kindly) nominated my site for a Food Blog Award at the uber-fantastic blog, The Accidental Hedonist. Suddenly, I saw there were other "food bloggers" out there, and I had visitors galore. It was then I made a conscious choice to make this something more quirky and light, and very, very much, me. (My writing "voice" really is how I talk, paranthetical ticks and all) I began improving my photography, tweaking the formatting and adding my unique touches (my below the line comments and including pictures of ingredients, both of which I am tickled to see have taken off in various guises on other sites) to reflect who I am instead of keeping it as a biz blog.

So here am I writing post 357, and am pleased to report this site is exactly what I want it to be. (Minus the fact I am not tech savvy enough to tweak the template and make it look all fab.)

So a heaping thanks to Plum for tagging me and to all of you for reading, (this crazy-self-indulgent post.) I really like this silly little thing, (even if I was going to quit last week...) and despite the fact that in my daily life I am irrationally embarrassed at what a peculiar past-time it really is, (harassing from my friend the Ombudsman doesn't help) I quite enjoy myself and I hope you all enjoy it too. Most of all though, I really hope you are inspired to cook!

OH, and here is the quote from my 23rd post (or there-abouts):

They all seemed to love the food


According to, 61 other sites link to this site. Tags: and

My first food related job was at The Center For Culinary Development. I had a terrible crush on my boss

Author/food historian Betty Fussell changed my life


Thursday, October 20, 2005


Pan con Tomate

One of the great (and oh so trendy these days) tapas that I cannot resist (and happily, don't have to) hardly even qualifies as a dish, but in Spain, it is as ubiquitous as a well preserved church. It's the best kind of food to prepare, since you use your hands, tearing into the bread and tomatoes, shredding the basil (if you even use it) and pouring on the olive oil with abandon. Liberally season with salt, and ole! It is a dish beyond compare. The trick, as with anything that uses limited ingredients, is to find the highest quality products you can get your hands on. This time of year, it is all about the ugliest tomatoes, just on the verge of turning, that will make this something your guests will swoon over. Try it, and enjoy.

1 medium baguette
6 ripe tomatoes
1 clove garlic
olive oil
coarse salt
basil for garnish

Tear the bread up into manageable sized chunks. If you want to be more formal, go ahead and slice it. Let it sit out for a half hour or so if it is super soft (you want it to be a tiny bit stale). Rub each piece with the clove of garlic, just enough to leave a whisper of flavor behind. Tear the tomatoes, and rub them against the bread as if it were a cheese grater. You want to leave behind the juice and a trace of pulp, the essence of the fruit. Liberally sprinkle with olive oil and garlic, garnish with torn basil and serve. (The basil makes it a little bit Italian, but that's ok, right?)

Makes enough for six people

Small plate suggestions: Serve with dry roasted almonds, anchovies, thin slices of salty ham and some manchego cheese with quince paste

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The West Hollywood City Council voted to accept the recommendation of the WeHo Historic Preservation Commission and designate Irv's Burgers a local cultural resource, saving it from the wrecking ball. Irv's is located on Santa Monica Boulevard between La Cienega and Crescent Heights, and they really do make a tasty burger.

Waddaya know? This recipe is vegan too!

With a production share in excess of 35%, Spain is the worlds number one producer of olive oil.
Olive groves are cover more than 2.3 million hectares (5.3 million acres) of the country and some include trees that are more than 1000 years old.The earliest recordings of olive production date as early as 210 BC. Today, over 300 million olive trees produce several varieties of olives including arbequina, picual, cornicabra, hojiblanca, and lechin. - Colors of

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Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Dating a Foodie

Look at that picture there. Go ahead. See what it is? That there is a photo of the contents of a young British bachelors cupboard, minus six cans of baked beans. What you see here is cereal, custard, instant rice, (note the brand name), ravioli in a can, ham and cheese flavored ramen noodles and some chocolate milk mix. Classic boy fare indeed.

That was all I found in the pantry when I arrived on the scene. Being the food obsessed girl I am, immediate upgrade was the order of the day, and for a few shining moments he was game for it all. The trouble was that with his curiously insatiable taste for sweets, getting him to eat much of anything that wasn't chocolate covered or deep fried was a bit of a challenge. Oh sure, I gave it the old college try, but in the end, (and upon my departure) the transformation was less than noticeable and I had to admit defeat. Could it be that is why we didn't work as a couple? Perhaps. Because lets face it, any man who would rather eat ham and cheese flavored instant noodles than a home cooked meal, may not be the man for me.

Happily, I have moved on...sadly, he is still living on milkshakes and Jaffa Cakes. I have to say he really is a sweet, smart and funny guy, but heavens, would eating a green salad every once in awhile really have killed him?

So now that I have had time to reflect, I have composed a few thoughts to help with dating a food-obsessed woman. My barometer for all things male, The Ombudsman, thinks I'm being picky. Then again, he always thinks that and is a vegan...

And last but not least

The Jaffa Cake was introduced more than 60 years ago. Over 750 million jaffa cakes are eaten every year.

McVities the makers of Jaffa Cakes, fought a tribunal case in 1991 against the classification of Jaffa Cakes as a VAT-able chocolate–covered biscuit. It asserted that they were instead a tax-free cake, and won its case by bringing a giant 12-inch Jaffa Cake to the hearing.

Bird's Custard was invented by Alfred Bird in 1837. Their famous 'three bird' logo, was introduced in 1929.

Batchelors brand Roast Chicken Super Noodles are "Suitable for vegetarians"

Thursday, October 06, 2005


Banana Soup

After you delve into something as tremendous as pickle soup, the world opens up to you. You are suddenly awakened to the endless possiblities of soup and its hearty companions stew, chowder and bisque. Next thing you know (or, in this case, next thing I knew) a foray into banana soup doesn't seem like such an odd endeavor or even so big a deviation from the norm. I mean, I had the ripe little banana-beauties on hand, so I went ahead and whipped together this soup (in about 12 minutes.) in an effort to continue pushing the boundries of dinner. It's got a lot going for it, in that it is outrageously flavorful, creamy and robust, tangy (the lime did that) and has a good spicy kick. It also was sweet. Crazy, banana-flavored, coconut-milk-drenched sweet. An interesting and unexpected twist that I liked.

As a person who doesn't eat bananas (they make my mouth itch. I know, I know, too much information) it was still something I wanted to gobble up, figuring once they were cooked the negative effects would be, well, negated. Of course, I was wrong, but if you dont have such a (tragically pathetic) problem, I highly recommend this simple dish as an excellent starter on a brisk autumn night. It is a lot like a curry (I'm guessing due to the combination of coconut milk and curry powder) that is equally awesome over some fragrant jasmine rice or some thai-stick noodles. Try it, and enjoy!

1 shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 ripe bananas, sliced into thick rounds
2 stalks celery, sliced*
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 lime, zested
1 lemon, zested
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 cups water (or chicken stock)
1 chile pepper, minced
Parsley or cilantro for garnish

*Not all the ingredients were photographed

In a medium sauce pan, saute the shallot and garlic in the vegetable oil over hight heat until just browned. Add the curry powder, celery and banana and stir for a minute, trying not to break up the banana too much. Add water (or chicken stock) and salt. Stir to combine. Let the soup come to a gentle simmer and cook for 4 minutes to soften the vegetables. Add the coconut milk and the lemon and lime zest, remove from heat and serve.

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"Ten Washington, D.C.-area residents filed a class-action lawsuit against milk suppliers and retailers Thursday, asking that labels be required on milk sold here warning consumers of the effects of lactose intolerance."

Q. If you had fifty bananas in one hand and twenty-five pounds of ice cream in the other, what would you have?
A. Really big hands.

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Wednesday, October 05, 2005


Chicken California

I'm feeling quite spry today. I had a terrific time toasting the glorious weather over a long and leisurely brunch on Saturday (bucking tradition feels so good!) and reconnecting with a cherished friend from the past. She positively radiated happiness and it must have rubbed off a little bit, because I am ready to tackle the world! Whoo-eee. Being such a picture post-card kinda day, we opted to have a little al fresco lunch, something that tends to unnerve me, since planning a menu always gets my brain shooting off in about three thousand different directions...(does this happen to everyone or just me?)

In the end, in honor of her decade long exodus from this land (she had been living in Germany, which for a southern girl was a brave choice indeed) I decided to make my version of a California chicken - with a touch of spice, velvety avocados, vibrant tomatillas and a whole lot of sprouts. (Oh come on, what says California more than that combination!) On the side, a huge pitcher of icy cold blended margaritas was there to help make the years we missed out on eachothers company melt away. In case you cant tell by my rhapsodic commentary, it was a combination for the ages and one I will recreate soon. Try it, and enjoy.

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin
flour for dredging
large pinch ancho chile powder
salt and pepper
1 large avocado
2 roma tomatoes
4 tomatillos
1 small red chile pepper

In a large skillet, heat your olive oil until it shimmers. Meanwhile, on a plate, combine a few tablespoons of flour with the chile powder, salt and pepper. Coat the chicken with a very, very thin, but uniform dusting of the mixture, then immediatly slide into the hot pan. Do not fuss with the chicken, just let it cook for about four minutes to let it get really nice and golden brown. Turn and cook the other side, then remove and blot with a paper towel. Set aside to cool slightly while you make the rest of the salad.

Puree the tomatillos in a blender. Divide the resulting sauce between two plates. Top the sauce with a chicken breast and then the sprouts, chiles, avocado slices, tomatoes and garnish it all with a squeeze of lime. (And a dollop of crema, well, that would be divine.)

Serves two


Britannia Spice in Leith was named the best restaurant in Scotland by the Guild of Bangladeshi Restaurateurs, which represents more than 9,000 eateries across the UK. The Nazma Tandoori Restaurant in Aberdeen and the New Balaka in St Andrews were also recognised as finalists for the regional award. The success of the three east-coast restaurants will be a blow to Glasgow, which has prided itself as the "curry capital of the UK".

Tomatillos belong to the same family as tomatoes.

The Aztecs first grew tomatillos as far back as 800 B.C.


Monday, October 03, 2005


Chai-Poached Pears (Another Vegan Recipe!)

My all-time-favorite-boy, the Ombudsman, has been harassing me lately and I'm not clear what I should do about it. I don't know if it's his sweet and innocent way of trying to get attention, or what, but he keeps needling me to include him in a post, and so, here I am about to do just that. (Well, I actually already am, aren't I?)

The only trouble is, I need something to say that is food related or at least a little bit relevant to this site. We eat out together quite a bit, but that doesn't make for very interesting banter. I could spend a few minutes pimping him out to all the lovely ladies, (because he is indeed super foxy and all kinds of single) or I could ramble on about how deeply and cosmically it concerns me that he is a picky ol' vegan, (The boy is so committed, he refuses to wear wool. Thank goodness he lives in a warm - or these past few days - sweltering - climate) I could just share his deepest darkest secrets (the one about...well, maybe I'll spare you that) or talk a little bit about that time in Vegas when he ate an entire...oh nevermind, that's all a tragic bore.

You know what? I'll just talk about how he really, really needs to start cooking, since he spends far too much of his vast fortune in restaurants...and I think it's just high time he makes something on his own. In the spirit of his vegan crusade (15 years now and counting. Bravo sir! No cheese can tempt YOU!) I will share with you (and him, since heaven knows he is reading this...) a recipe for Chai Poached Pears. A tasty dessert treat I decree every boy should master. It is animal-product-free and to top it all off, the sweet smell of the simmering chai is so heavenly it will set a smile in your heart. (Oh my goodness, I'm a Hallmark card!) Try this, and enjoy!

4 firm pears, peeled, but stems intact
4 chai tea bags
1/4 cup brown sugar
pinch of assorted spices like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, star anise, or black pepper*
mint leaves for garnish (optional)

*Not all the ingredients were photographed

In a large sauce pan, combine the sugar and tea bags with enough water to submerge the pears. They will float, so you will also need a small heat-proof plate that you can place on top of them, in the pan. Bring the water to a gentle, low, simmer and cook for about 30 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and take out a 1/2 cup of the brewed tea. Leave the pears in the remaining liquid to cool.

In another small saucepan, reduce the 1/2 cup of liquid down to a thick syrup (about 10 minutes).

Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

To serve, stick a mint leaf into each pear at the stem, and drizzle the syrup over.

Makes four servings

If you don't mind dairy, serve this with a dollop of sweetened cinnamon-creme fraiche or some whipped cream


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"Brown sugar is sugar crystals in specially prepared molasses syrup with controlled natural flavor and color components. A number of sugar refiners make brown sugar by preparing and boiling special syrup containing these components until brown sugar crystals form. Others produce brown sugar by blending special flavored syrup with white sugar crystals." - The American Crystal Sugar Company

"The United States Fish and Wildlife Service announced Thursday that it would ban the import of caviar from beluga sturgeon in the Caspian Sea, after caviar-exporting countries in the region failed to provide details of their plans to conserve the fish. The species is internationally recognized as threatened with extinction. Beluga caviar is still available from countries in the Black Sea region, but information from three nations there is under review. The United States consumes 60 percent of the world exports of beluga caviar, a $200-an-ounce delicacy, the Rolls-Royce of caviars." -NY Times

L'Shana Tova! This evening is the start of the Jewish New Year. 5766.

Did you make Short Ribs with a Celery Duo for The (Second) Really Big Cook-Off?


Saturday, October 01, 2005


I'm Sorry, Did You Say Pickle Soup???

It's a well-known fact Angelenos don't socialize with their next door brethren (think about how after a crime the only thing reporters around here can get is the tired old sound bite "He was always quiet and kept to himself") something to which I normally ascribe. It was the inviting smell of soup that changed that for me. After months of catching a scent on the breeze, I finally broke down, knocked on my neighbors door and made friends, in hopes I would someday be invited in for dinner. I had no idea that I would end up not only liking my neighbor quite a bit, but would be lucky enough to have her teach me to make the soup who's aroma had haunted me for so long.

It's a (fantastic) old world Polish classic, that has changed my life. (A little bit anyway) It was hilarious to me that as we were cooking Renata continually exclaimed "I cannot believe you like this!" (I think because her overly-assimilated children cannot stand it, she assumes it is not something North Americans would like. I understand her kids reaction, but it also makes me a little sad to see, live and in person, how heritage recipes fall out of favor) To which I just shook my head. It's pickles isn't it? What's not to like? So if you like salt (and baby, this is salty) and are adventurous, try it out. I was so taken, I ate about a gallon right from the pot.

Odd (to Westerners) as it may sound, I tell ya, these Polish people are on to something...something GOOD. It's basically a vegetable soup with a beef bone stock, and a healthy dose of sauteed pickles that are thrown in at the last moment. It also included parsley root, which is a fresh a vibrant veg that I just adore. Renata could not empasize enough that you can only use brine cured pickles, (a la Bubbies brand) if you try this with vinegar cured it just won't work. Try it, and enjoy.

4 beef short ribs
5 allspice berries
2 bay leaves
1 leek, white part only
2 stalks celery, large dice
2 peeled carrots, large dice
2 peeled parsley roots, large dice
4 red potatoes, large dice
6 large pickles, grate and squeeze to remove excess liquid

In a four quart pot, cover the bones with cold water, add the allspice, bay leaves and leek and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer for 2-3 hours.

Remove the beef bones and discard. Add the remaining vegetables and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until just cooked.

Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, heat 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil and add the shredded pickles. Let saute for about three minutes (until they are a little bit dry) then add to the soup. Taste and adjust seasonings. It should really taste like pickles. If it doesnt, add 1/4 cup of pickle juice , remove the allspice and bay leaves, stir and serve warm.

Makes eight large servings


The 53rd Ohio Swiss Festival officially begins today in Sugarcreek with continuous entertainment, dancing, Swiss cheese and Trail bologna, a variety of amusement rides, a craft tents, souvenirs and food booths provided by local organizations and vendors scattered through out the village.

Parsley roots are typically sold with their feathery greens whereas parsnips are sold by the root.

Today is world vegetarian day!

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