Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Sundried Tomato Polenta Circles

Pretend for a moment that you were once a 13 year old girl (well, I mean, if you're a man. You lovely ladies can just flash back as needed).

Sometimes as luck would have it, you may have ended up at a high school party with older kids and beer and all sorts of forbidden fruit. It would be at one of these soirees you would have first laid eyes on him. You know the type, tall, hip and infinitly awesome with the penetrating eyes that takes a teenager girl's breath away. You would have turned to a blithering idiot if he looked your way, but there was no need to worry about that, since the odds were zero. You just hung out with your friends and imagined him as the Jake to your Samantha in vain.

That is the story of my early teenaged crush. Oh man was he just the coolest. He was so lax and popular and all-together I couldn't stand it. Always brushing his hair out of his eyes and making profound statements. I lurved him. I once even managed to stutter out a hello to him, but I'm pretty sure his response was to stare over my head and keep walking. I was in heaven. It was a totally teenaged experience and I sort of cherish it as part of my past.

Happily, I grew up, met boys who actually knew my name and developed a life. I also learned to cook, and that is why you are here, right?

The interesting twist is that boy of my crush still pops up on my radar with frequent regularity. It's as if I'm from a farming town in the midwest or something, I swear, instead of a town of 17 million. Turns out, my teenaged crush did quite well for himself. (Being the son of a famous person didnt hurt though) Our boy went on to be a model, act in a few movies, marry a super model, front a few bands, open a hugely popular nightclub, have his own radio show, and you know, the usual boring by the book stuff like that.

While I'm sort of impressed at my early signs of good taste, constantly seeing him plastered across 20 story buildings can throw me!

As a matter of fact, I saw him and his picture perfect child at the Whole Foods market yesterday and had a momentary blush-swoon-blush, though this time I managed to say hello in a normal voice. After that though, I actually had to force myself to not follow him down the frozen food aisle, where he was stocking up on frozen peas and ice cream (I wonder if the model is preggers?) but did *ahem* manage to bump into him in the produce section and twice over the tomato products. What can I say, old flames die hard.

In tribute to his extra-foxy, extra-fine self, I am posting a recipe for Sundried Tomato Polenta circles, simply because while I absolutly was not following him down the asiles, trying to look casual, I managed to pick up all the ingredients for this, and wanted to share.

So, should your teenaged celebrity crush ever show up at one of your parties I recommend making this. Now that you are an adult and in control you can make HIM swoon.

1 cup polenta
1 teaspoon fresh herbs, minced (I use thyme)
1 cup oven dried tomatoes
1/4 cup cured black olives
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
1 small shallot, minced
1 tablespoon freshly
grated orange zest
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese

Mince together the tomatoes, olives, capers and shallots. Add the zest, salt pepper and a few drops of olive oil. Season to taste.

Lightly oil a large baking sheet, set aside

In a large pot bring 2 cups of water to a gentle simmer. Salt the water, add the minced herbs and then add your polenta in a slow stream, stirring with a whisk until thickened, then changing to a wooden spoon, stirring constantly. Continue to stir until the polenta is thick and soft, about 25 minutes.

Pour the cooked polenta onto your oiled baking sheet, and do your best to smooth it out to about ¼ inch thickness. Let cool completely.

Using a small round cutter, cut out rings of the polenta. Top with the tomato mix and some grated parmesan.

Alternatively, you can cut the polenta into wedges and serve as an appetizer instead of as finger food.


Pamela Anderson has lost her bid to get the bust of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) founder Colonel Harland Sanders removed from the state Capitol building. The Governor has written explaining the bust will stay put, despite Anderson's claim that Sanders is a symbol of cruelty to chickens. In his letter, he wrote, "Colonel Sanders remains a Kentucky icon. His success story has been an inspiration to many. The industry he began has employed hundreds of thousands of workers over the years. His business and his legacy have been good for Kentucky." Anderson has fired back at Fletcher, calling Sanders' company one "that mutilates God's creatures." The actress has teamed up with animal activists at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to urge fast food fans to boycott KFC until the company agrees to clean up its slaughterhouse policies. - AP.com

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Cocktail of the Week: Cranberry-Vodka Lemonade

My downstairs neighbor is not quite what I would call quiet. Especially at, say, 4 am. As a matter of fact, that is when his techno-DJ-aspiring-self is loudest. Some of you may have noticed (then again, I doubt it, since no one really pays that much attention to such things) that a lot of my posts occur in the wee hours of the morning. That would be because he has me up and I can't do a durned thing to get back to sleep. (Thump, Thump, Thibbity-Thump-Thump)

So with limited options, (I am not the police calling type, and the building manager is a friend of his.) I have opted to move.

Yup. I am leaving this huge, chic, bright, SE corner-lit, cross-breezy, high on a hill, view of downtown, lots-o-closet space, low rent abode behind to re-settle my self and my things elsewhere.

Of course, it's not just so easy with me, since I am fussy about where I lay my head and whatnot. Plus, with my limited budget, it has driven me to make a huge, huge, HUGE life change. That's right kiddies, I'm getting...a job.

Sigh. I know, I know, it's madness, cutting into my ladies-who-lunch lifestyle all for the sake of a silent retreat, but alas, it has to be. (You should have seen my friends faces at this news. The shock. The dismay. The abject horror. And finally, the laughter at the mere thought of me putting in an honest days work.) So instead of spending my days at the spa, the gym and Barneys, shopping for food and cooking up delightful dinners, then drinking the nights away; I will be clocking in at some cheerless office and counting the hours until Friday. Whoa, whoa is me. (I can sense you feel my pain) It's been a long time since I actually worked in an office, but part of me is quite excited for the change of pace. And while I will still offer my cooking classes, (the "job" I have had for the past few years) it will be on a much more limited basis.

So that all being said, I ask you to join me in a moment of silence for my last four years of blissful "self-employment" (ahem) and bid adieu to this gainfully-unemployed girly-girl world I inhabit. It's off to the salt mines for me. And that my friends, calls for a drink.

Cranberry-Vodka Lemonade

1 75o ml bottle organic sparkling lemonade
1 750 ml bottle cranberry vodka
1 cup cranberry juice

Combine the lemonade, vodka, cranberry juice, and ice, stir to combine, garnish with lemon, drink and repeat


Actress Pamela Anderson, spokeswoman for the animal rights group People For The Ethical Treatment Of Animals, is campaigning to have the bust of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) founder Colonel Harland Sanders removed from the Kentucky state capitol. Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher is refusing the request. - KYFO.com

Country Time
lemonade flavor drink mix first hit the shelves in 1976


Monday, January 16, 2006


Fig Colla Italiano

It is a rare thing to see a recipe for something you just plain have never heard of. I mean, isn't that the appeal of restaurants like El Bulli and Moto? That the chefs there are actually creating all new takes on food using science and technology?

Well, I've been to Moto, and while I was impressed and the food really was outstanding, there was hardly anything inspiring there, since the odds of me using food grade ink in my printer to create sheets of edible pages are slim to none. (Though perhaps that is the wave of the future in home kitchens. HP are you listening? This could be a diet revolution! "Print out a slice of calorie free pizza and eat all you want!")

Me, I just want to be enticed to make some delicious food. I want to instantly crave it and be able to make my cravings a reality. Joyfully, that is precisely what happened while I was peeking in the Italian bar-food book Enoteca, by one of the Bay Area's great chefs, Joyce Goldstein. In that tome, she had a picture of what she called Fig Salami and I was entranced. (Not entranced enough to drop $35 on the book mind you, but still.) I was indeed inspired.

So using my noggin' I concocted my own version and thought it might be nice to share. It takes about 15 minutes to pull together, but requires a week or two of drying time, so be forewarned.

The results were supremely unique and deliciously satisfying. After two weeks on my countertop the resulting colla, or "collage" (I opted for that as the most descriptive word, since "log" and "paste" just don't seem so divine) when sliced, was quite dense and while quite dried still slightly sticky, crunchy (from the fig seeds), richly sweet, multi-layered (from the balsamic and port,) nutty and ultimately complex with the lovely punctuation of piney rosemary. It is indeed a lot like a grown-up fig newton without the cake (or gluten, I should add) A perfectly erudite addition to your cheese plate, especially with a creamy fresh goat cheese. Try this, and enjoy.

2 cups dried figs, stems removed, rough chopped
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons ruby port wine
1 tablespoon rosemary, minced
1/2 cup walnuts

Preheat your oven to 350F.

On a baking sheet, spread the walnuts out in a single layer. Toast in the oven until just fragrant, about 7 minutes. Remove from the oven, and take off the baking sheet immediately (if they stay on the sheet, they will continue to brown.)

While the walnuts are toasting, in a medium saucepan, combine the balsamic and port. Reduce, over a medium-low flame until somewhat syrupy, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

In a mixer (Cuisinart) combine the figs, rosemary, half of the nuts and port-vinegar syrup. Pulse until it is chopped up and comes together into a ball.

Remove from the mixer and form into a thick roll. Loosely wrap in parchment or wax paper and leave on your counter until it is quite dried, about two weeks.

When it is dried, slice and serve. Will keep on the counter for an additional month.


When Cato advocated the conquest of Carthage, he used as his crowning argument the advantage of acquiring fruits as glorious as the North African figs, specimens of which he pulled from his toga as exhibits in the Roman Senate. -In Mamas Kitchen.com

Today in the United States, we are celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It's Girl Scout Cookie Time!

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Friday, January 13, 2006


Food Loops! Fennel Stuffed Trout

You've seen them too right? Those crazy pink Food Loops? The adjustable silicone trussing straps that are oven safe to 675F/370C? I sure had, and when I ended up with a set recently, I just could not wait to try them out!

For my first experiment, I decided to make a basic stuffed trout, mostly because I wanted to start with something relatively easy that I wouldn't be upset about wasting if it hadn't worked out.

The Food Loop set comes with six loops, in an excellently vivid shade of pink that I suppose was chosen so they won't get lost in a drawer, or accidentally eaten (though, they would be pretty tough!). They also come with a small mesh storage bag that is dishwasher safe, which was a great thought on their part.

So what did I think? Well, they are without a doubt, absolutely clever in their design. They are long ropes basically, that are easy to handle and really do clench tightly and get a grip on the food. All of that without getting slippery-slimy they way twine does. I was also happy to learn that they cooled quite quickly after I took the fish out of the oven, so I could grip them with my bare hands to get them the heck off my gorgeous fish!

What I didn't realize ahead of time was that they are also pan safe, and I could have crisped the skin a bit in a skillet on the stove top first, but even without doing that I was super happy with the results.

The drawbacks? There is a bit of bulk you just wouldn't get with regular twine. The fish just couldn't lay flat on the side with the teardrop shaped end. I also had a bit of trouble turning the fish, again because of the bulk and also the extra length of loop that was sort of in the way. That being said, I wouldn't even consider that such a bad thing, since it is so outweighed by the pros.

So, if you want to try trussing with these fun little (FDA approved!) loops, I say go for it! To get you started, you can go with this recipe I made, its mind bogglingly easy and sumptuously delicious. Flaky, flavorful and easy as pie to make. Six ingredients, some Food Loops, 15 minutes in the oven and an elegant dinner is served. Try it, and enjoy!

4 Whole rainbow trout (boned)
4 Teaspoons unsalted butter
1 Small bulb fennel with fronds
1 Small (organic would be best) lemon
Sweet rice flour
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 400F

Slice the fennel bulb as thin as possible. Mince the fronds. Scrub and slice the lemon into thin rounds. Mix the fennel, fronds and lemon with some salt and pepper.

Sprinkle some of your rice flour (or if you can't find that, regular flour will do) on a plate and dredge each fish lightly.

Now stuff the fish as full as you like with the fennel and top each pile with a pat of butter.

Truss with kitchen twine as normal or with Food Loops.

Place on an oiled baking sheet.

Bake for about 15 minutes, flipping once to ensure even browning. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Remove the loops, fish out the lemon slices and serve (with or without the heads!) with the sauce that has pooled in the pan.


Rainbow trout earned a BEST rating from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program.

Gladstone's of Malibu claim they serve "the largest selection of fresh seafood on the West Coast."

Tomatoes are available by request only at Wendy's restaurants, a short-term policy that began in late December because of crop damage from hurricanes in Florida. Hurricanes made 2005 one of the worst years in recent memory for agriculture in Florida, which supplies more than half of the nation's fresh vegetables between November and February.

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Thursday, January 12, 2006


Beet Gazpacho

All excited, I called my mother with the news that I had created an outrageously enticing new soup. My mother, you have to understand, is a great deal smarter than I could ever hope to be, she is also well traveled and has led an extremely glamorous life, so when I do something even remotely interesting or clever, well, I just have to share.

Of course, on top of all of that, she is respectful and kind no matter how nutty and out there I sound. So as I went on and on about how unique, delicious and vibrant my concoction was, she just said things along the lines of "Mmm," and "Sounds good honey." When I was finished gushing, with that gentle voice only a mother can conjure, she simply said "Well sweetie, your borscht recipe sounds simply wonderful."

Oh. Right. My borscht recipe. And there I really thought I had made something completely different. What I thought I had made was beet gazpacho. But nope, upon further inspection, I did, in fact, create a soup that has existed for quite some time. Centuries even. Oh well, its still pretty terrific, and worth the effort. I do hope you'll take the time to make a blender full....but now that I know its a Russian dish, I just wonder, would it improve with a shot of vodka in it? Maybe next time. Try it, and enjoy.

4 large beets, roasted, peeled and cooled
1/4 cup best quality olive oil
3 teaspoons sherry wine vinegar
1 large cucumber, peeled and seeded
1/4 red onion
1/8 teaspoon dill seeds
1 red bell pepper, seeded
Water as needed
Dill, sour cream or additional oil for garnish

In a blender, combine all the ingredients and puree. Taste, and season with salt and pepper.

Let it settle, and pour through a fine mesh strainer.

Makes enough for four people


A study by the Wine Market Council found that American consumers scored Italian wines higher than California varietals on a measurement of satisfaction. The same wine drinkers said Italian and Australian wines were of better quality than Californian, while Australian wines were deemed the best value. The study, released during a presentation about attitudes of U.S. wine consumers, followed a report by New York brokerage Merrill Lynch & Co. this week that said California was slowly losing market share to imported wines. - LA Times

The Irvine California based restaurant chain, In-N-Out Burgers has accused a top executive of fraud and embezzlement. Richard Boyd, who was in charge of building In-N-Out restaurants and is still on the payroll, diverted construction materials and crews to his own property and charged the work to the company, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Boyd's attorney, Philip Heller, called the allegations "totally baseless and demonstrably untrue." - LA Times

The type of the soup that is named borscht differs slightly by culture. - Wikipedia.com

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006


Lemony Braised Leeks

Well, here is my simple question (and simple post) of the day.

Why is it that the lovely leek in all its slender glamour is almost always relegated to being an ingredient and never the star of the show? It's a truly wonderful vegetable that can really be something spectacular. (You get the feeling I like them, don't you? Turns out, I do.)

Being a mild flavored relative of the onion, it has everything we all really like about the onion, but without any of the the heat or the sting. That is why I sometimes take few moments to make a dish that is all about this awesome allium.

The subtle lemony flavor is vibrant and a perfect foil to any light meal and a great staple to have on hand for sandwiches, or on your luncheon buffet. It goes so well with cold meats you will not believe.

It is also just the most divine thing to make a day or so ahead of a dinner party, freeing you up for more important things, like mixing and mingling! Your guests may be skeptical, but with one bite, they will be won over for sure. Try it, and enjoy.

6 leeks, throughly cleaned
1/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
3 teaspoons high quality olive oil
Zest and juice of one lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 300F

Slice the white part and perhaps a little bit of the pale green part of the leeks lengthwise into 1/2 inch strips. Arrange in a heat proof dish. Add the chicken stock, oil, zest and juice, toss gently to coat and cover with foil. Cook, covered, until the leeks are quite soft, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly (or all the way). Serve with additional coarse salt and pepper, and maybe a touch more lemon zest.

If you are going to store them, take them out of the liquid.

Makes enough for six people as a side dish


A study described in a recent issue of the journal Obesity Research found that mice given fructose-sweetened water gained weight, even though they consumed fewer calories from solid foods than mice that drank only water. - Star News Online

As a child my family's menu consisted of two choices: take it or leave it. ~Buddy Hackett

The wind-whipped rains that battered the California wine country both flooded and muddied some of the nation's best-known vineyards. But vintners from the Napa and Sonoma valleys, where last year's grape revenues exceeded $600 million, believe the coveted wine crops escaped damage. - NY Times

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Monday, January 09, 2006


Paper Chef - Broiled Perch with Quinoa-Cashew Crust & Kumquat-Pineapple Salsa

Oh yea baby, this month I decided I was going to pander to the judges of Paper Chef. Not bribe mind you, just pander. Get into their heads, see what was there and concoct a dish so perfect they would contemplate flying down to LA to take a taste. It would be that fantastmagorical.

Yup. I had every intention of pandering. Down and dirty style. Pull out all the stops. Lay it on thick. Really blow the competition out of the water (and onto an island somewhere off the coast of nowhere) You get the idea.

Turns out though, there were a few things holding me back. Namely, that the judge is a humorous writer with a leaning towards fantastical whimsy, and I just plain am not that clever a girl, so a witty post wasn't on the list. Pout. And then of course, the competition is just too much fun to bring out any true sense of competition in me. Damn. Well, maybe next time the killer instinct will kick in (or at least the bribes) but not today.

So, in the end (as you can see) I didn't pander at all. I didn't make my dish in the shape of a penguin or include ingredients only found in a hardware store. I didn't spray-paint anything or do any interesting composites in photoshop, I didn't even write a funny post. (How DO comedy writers do it?) Nope, all I did was make a scrumptious dish, take the purdy picture, eat it, write this and send in my link.

It may not have been pandering, but it sure was delicious! Oh well, maybe next time.


Wait a second! I forgot the recipe. Doh! As you all know by now, (I'm hoping anyway) Paper Chef is an online event whereby four ingredients are selected at random and the participants have 72 hours to whip something up. This month the choices were Quinoa, Yogurt, Cashews and the mystery ingredient "something baby." (As in wee.) I opted for kumquats. Sure, they aren't the younger versions of themselves (heck, they aren't even citrus) but they are itty-bity, so I'm stickin' with it.

And the resulting dish? Broiled Perch with Quinoa-Cashew Crust & Kumquat-Pineapple Salsa. I used the yogurt under the crust, which kept the fish really tender and moist while under the broiler (that is the direct flame on the top of the inside of your oven that you use to brown things, for all of you who live in countries like England who call that thing by a different name that I don't know the name of) it also added a bit of tang to the rich cashew-quinoa crust. I liked the salsa because it was tropical, spicy, puckery-tart and fragrant-sweet, and went really well with the meaty fish and nutty quinoa. Aside from the time it takes to make the quinoa, this dish comes together quite quickly. Try it, and enjoy!

1 cup dried quinoa
4 filets perch or another white fish
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 cup cashews
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1 tablespoon macadamia nut oil
Zest and juice of one small lime
1 cup pineapple, small dice
1 small chile pepper, minced
3 leaves mint, minced
10 kumquats, sliced thin
1/4 teaspoon ground pink peppercorns
1 tablespoon macadamia nut oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 350F.

Toast the nuts until lightly browned, in a single layer on a baking sheet. About 6 minutes. Remove from the oven when browned and immediately chop in a small food processor until it resembles crumbly bits. (How's THAT for technical!)

Rinse the quinoa in several changes of cold water. (Don't skip this, it can be quite bitter if you don't)

In a medium sauce pan add the quinoa and enough water to cover by 1 inch. Simmer over medium heat for 8 minutes, until fluffy. Remove from the heat and drain. Add the drained quinoa to a steamer basket or sieve and place in a pan over some water (not touching the water), cover the pan/sieve with a lid and steam for an additional five minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

To make the salsa, combine the lime zest, pineapple, chile, mint, pink peppercorns, kumquats and macadamia nut oil and season to taste. Add lime juice as needed. Set aside until ready to serve.

Combine the steamed quinoa with the nuts, parsley and macadamia nut oil. Stir to coat.

Rinse the fish filets and pat dry. Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly oil it so the fish won't stick.

Coat the top of each piece of fish with a thick layer of the yogurt. Top each filet with a thick layer of the quinoa mixture and some salt.

Broil the fish 10 inches from the flame for 8 minutes or until the fish is cooked through and the topping is lightly browned.

Serve with the salsa

Makes four servings.



Pronounced keen wah, quinoa has been cultivated for 5000 years. It is classified as a grain but is technically the fruit of a leafy plant.

Quinoa, a seed grain of the Chenepodium family, it has a superior nutritional profile compared to other grains. It is a complete protein containing all the essential amino acids as recognised by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations. Quinoa's protein is of an unusually high quality. It is a complete protein, with an essential amino acid balance close to the ideal - The Produce Directory

January is National Fiber Focus Month

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute has statistics showing their 2004 efforts sold Japanese buyers 308,825 metric tons of wild Alaska seafood valued at more than $854 million

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Sunday, January 08, 2006


How to Cut Up a Pineapple

There are a lot of ingredients that can intimidate people. I for one, went years without buying any whole crabs because I didn't want to have one and not know what to do with it. The solution in that case was the ever wonderful resource
Fish and Shellfish
by James Peterson. Pictures and a detailed description explained each and every little step. I was a new woman.

Nowadays, the handy-dandy internet would have yielded the answer. Perhaps you are on this site right now to answer a question yourself, and maybe that question is...what on earth do I do with this pineapple?

Well kiddies, if that is why you are here, it's your lucky day because I'm going to tell you.

But I'm going to make you wait for it while I chitter chat about the pineapples I used. I found them in the market today and was sort of excited because I had never seen anything like them. They are taller, thinner and darker colored (on the outside) than the jet-sweet (jet-fresh? I forget) right from the Hawaiian Dole plantation pineapple I am used to seeing. They were actually from Ghana, Africa. I was so intrigued (and at $0.99 each!) I bought three. The flesh is almost white and the taste is much less perfumed, they are remarkably less stringy, have lower acidity and are much sweeter than more common varieties. I thought cutting them up was a much less daunting task than with a larger fruit, and the resulting 2 cups from one pineapple was perfect. No need to over indulge, and nothing ended up in my freezer.

So, how DID I cut up my perfect Royal African Sugarloaf pineapple? I'll tell you.

First, get out a large knife.

Slice 1/4 inch of the bottom off, and then do the same for the top. Discard. (Compost is nice.)

On this particular pineapple, the leaves had a saw-like sharpness, so do be careful if you find them too.

Next, stand the pineapple up on it's now flat base and slice away the rind, following the curve of the fruit. (Much like I did with this orange.) There will for sure be some"eyes" left behind...just cut them off too. (In the picture there I left the rind on, I thought it made it easier to see what was going on...but for sure slice off the rind before proceeding.)

Next, cut down through the center, to create two halves. Lay these down on your board and slice again, lengthwise, creating quarters. Stand each quarter up and notice there is a core. Slicing downward again, remove the core (see in the picture, where the cut is on the slice you are looking down at? That's what I mean.) Discard the cores (or use to infuse vodka) and slice the remaining portions in half.

Cut the remaining pineapple into slices, or chunks and enjoy.

The other option is to use a pineapple corer, but, well, I haven't got room in my house for such a single subject item, have you?

Tomorrow, I will share a recipe I made using this fresh treat!


The major fruit and vegetable growing areas in Ghana, presently concentrated within southern Ghana, are endowed with very favourable climate, deep rich soils and a remarkably knowledgeable rural agricultural labour force. This excellent combination of essential factors make the growing areas ideal for the production of top quality tropical fruits and vegetables. Ghana exports high quality pesticide-free produce. Currently exported products include pineapples, papayas, bananas, mangoes, chillies, tinda, karela, tindori, marrow and many others. - Ghana Trade.org

Pineapples were first cultivated by the Guarani Indians of Brazil and Paraguay. Most languages of the world adopted the word for pineapple from the Brazilian Tupi Indian word "nana" or "anana" (meaning excellent fruit), and not from the name "piña" (pine cone), which the first Spanish explorers gave it. Ananas is the name in French, Italian, Russian, Polish, Serbo-Croat, Romanian, Bulgarian, Turkish, Hebrew and Hindi.

Golden Pineapple is a variety developed by Del Monte in Hawaii. It is not only sweeter, but also contains three times more vitamin C than other pineapples.

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Saturday, January 07, 2006


Papaya in Vanilla-Lime Syrup

So I got back from my vacation this week, and I am relaxed as one girl can ever hope to be. It was such a wonderful treat. We were (gosh, I almost don't want to say, it's so fantastically underdeveloped) on an island off the coast of one of my all time favorite countries, the sublimely welcoming Venezuela, in a national marine park. I thought long and hard about staying forever. Just chucking it all and grilling fish on the beach for spare change. It was that tranquil. The foods we ate were all very basic and traditional, lots of plantains, grilled fish, black beans, a flan-like dish called quesillo and the national specialty, arepas. (A sort of filled corn patty) I was in heaven, even with the rain. (Tropical island, what are you going to do)

Because my Spanish lacks like nothing my trilingual family can believe (insert head hanging in shame), the odds of me getting a recipe were zero, and I think while the charming hostess of our incredible hotel was just as lovely as can be, she thought I was a little nutty when I tried to take a peek into her kitchen.

So since a slew of my vacation pics would bore you into a coma, and I haven't had a chance to recreate anything I tried there, hows about a nice recipe for papaya in vanilla-lime syrup. It's geographically appropriate anyway.

I have been known to have a hard time eating papaya. Sometimes it is too mealy for my taste, and has a distinct cheese thing going. (Does that make sense? Do you think that too? I just think it smells like cheese.) While green papaya salad is one of my all time favorite things, a juicy slice of the pink or orange fruit is not normally on my agenda. So, when I was playing in the kitchen late in Novemeber, I came up with this to take see if I could find something more appealing, and to contend with the monster papaya I had randomly brought home. (From the market! Not from my trip!) The process perfumed the fruit lightly, added to the sweetness, softended the texture a bit, and (bonus) kept for a week in the fridge. I served it plain, but it would be spectacular over (ginger?) ice cream. It's interestingly different, elegant and can be made in a snap. I think the variations on this theme are endless, but this was a perfect combination of flavors. Try it, and enjoy!

1 medium papaya, peeled and sliced into uniform pieces
(about four cups)
1 vanilla pod
1 cup white sugar
1 cup water
zest of one lime
Basil for garnish

Using a small, sharp knife, split your vanilla pod lengthwise and scrape the tiny black seeds into a large sauce pan. Add the sugar, water and lime zest and gently heat over a low flame to infuse the flavors and melt the sugar. When that is warmed through and bubbling lightly add your papaya and super gently stir to coat (there should be more papaya than liquid by a bit), let that simmer for four to six minutes. You dont want the papaya to get mushy so if that seems like its about to happen, remove it from the heat. After six minutes, remove the pan from the heat. Using a slotted spoon, remove the papaya and set aside. Turn the heat up to medium under the remaining syrup and reduce for 5 more minutes, or until thickened. Pour that back over the fruit and serve.

As an optional garnish you can add some basil chiffonade. To do that, make a pile of basil leaves, roll up like a cigar and slice as thin as possible.

Serves four to six


If you live in Houston Texas, and want to try Venezuelean cuisine, you can visit Miguelitos Restaurant

Want to buy a new Japanese Cooks knife? Check out this 10 inch Shun Elite for sale on ebay!

There are two types of papayas, the Hawaiian and Mexican. The Hawaiian varieties also known as Solo papayas. They are pear shaped, weigh about a pound each, and have yellow skin when ripe. The flesh is bright orange or pinkish, depending on the variety. Mexican papayas are much larger then the Hawaiian types and can weigh up to 20 pounds and be more than 15 inches long.

The white powder sold as "Meat Tenderizer" is composed mainly of an enzyme extract from the papaya.

Papaya King in NYC sells fresh fruit drinks and hot dogs. Some claim they are the best in the world.


Friday, January 06, 2006


Double Cherry BBQ Sauce

Mmm. Is that a great lookin' piece of chicken or what. I mean, not to toot my own horn (too much. toot, toot) but I am quite enthralled with that picture. Of all the pictures I have ever posted, that is indeed (by a long shot) the most unique.

Now looking over to your right, what do you think that is a picture of? If you look up a scoach, you'll see the name of the recipe I will be sharing today is Double Cherry Barbecue Sauce, so somewhere in your mind, you must be assuming it is chicken with said sauce. Am I right?

Well, it certainly is that sauce. I made it with Tellicherry Pepper and Dried Sour Cherries. You are gonna love it, because it was really, really lip smackin' good.

Thing is though, I ate it over some rice. Not too pretty to take snaps of really. Just a big ol' bowl of brownish who-could-tell-what.

So just so I would have a visual to stimulate your appetites (since heaven knows, it ain't my prose doing the titillating around here) I plated what you see and shot away. And while it may look tasty, the facts are, I didn't eat any of that. Heck, it wasn't even edible. Oh yes, the bbq sauce was divine. Smoky-sweetness with a hint of spice, but that isn't what I'm talking about. Are you confused? Here, let me walk you through it.

First, I cooked a partially defrosted chicken breast that was past it's expiration date, on a piece of foil in a 250F oven for about 15 minutes until it was just firm and milky white. I took it out and rinsed it off, and patted it dry. I then brushed it with a product called Kitchen Bouquet. I'm not entirely sure what Kitchen Bouquet is really for, but it makes things look nice and brown so on it went. Next up, I heated a long metal skewer over the burner and utilizing my excellent spacial relation skills, branded "grill marks" onto one side. Not easy, since the skewer was glowing red and I had to be extra precise.

I then took a bit of the bbq sauce, smeared it on and used my fingers to add a few strategic cherries and flecks of pepper. After that, I took a cup of warm water and dumped in some frozen corn (the plate needed some color) to defrost a little, not all the way though, since I didn't want to risk it getting shriveled. I drained that and gently patted it dry, then coated it with some corn syrup to give it a good sheen and help it stay up in more of a pile. I had some baby lima beans ready too, but they got nixed for being too pale. Not wanting to waste the tasty bbq sauce on a picture, I filled a ramekin 3/4 of the way up with some plastic wrap, and sacrificed a few spoonfuls of the magically delicious sauce on top to make it look full. Next I carried the whole concoction into the bathroom, set it down and took a few dozen shots. I dont have photoshop, or even picasa, so the post editing was minimal. I think I hit "enhance" and that was all. No cropping, no removing spots and no further color correction. After its photographic debut, the chicken went into the trash, the corn, down the sink and the sauce, back into the container I was storing the rest of it in. I've been enjoying it all week.

That all done, you end up with what you are seeing at the top of the page. Styled food. It's what you see when you flip through your favorite food magazines, all cookbooks and my guess is, more than a few blogs. At least to a certain extent. So does knowing that affect if you want to make the sauce or not?

I did this all for you my sweet readers, but I promise, if I ever do it again, I will always let you know. It was an experiment of sorts, and I hope you found it interesting. I sure did!

Now go on, try it (the sauce I mean!)...and enjoy!

1 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, minced fine
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 cup dried sour cherries, rough chopped
1 tablespoon tellicherry peppercorns, coarsely ground
1 tablespoon pink peppercorns, coarsely chopped
1 dried chipotle pepper. ground or chopped fine
Tiny pinch cloves
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons corn syrup
1 tablespoon molasses

In a sauce pan, heat the oil over a medium low flame and sweat the onion and garlic until translucent. Add the rest of the ingredients except the water. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Let simmer for about 20 minutes, adding water if it gets too thick. (The thickness of the end product should reflect your taste, I go for really thick) When it is where you want, remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Remove 1/4 cup of the sauce and puree the rest with your blender (emersion or otherwise) add back to the pot (you can opt to strain it here, but I didn't bother) add back in the un-pureed bit and let simmer a few more minutes (about 10) Remove from the heat, let cool, and then do with it what you will. Though, I suggest avoiding putting it on raw chicken. (wink)

Makes about three cups sauce. Will keep in the fridge for a month.


Unlike black, white and green; pink really aren't peppercorns, but they are called so because of their size and flavor.

Tellicherry and Malabar pepper come from the same plant and are harvested at the same time. The largest 10% bear the name Tellicherry. Tellicherry are better than small for much the same reason that vine-ripened tomatoes, fresh from a farmer's stand in the middle of August, are better than shelf-ripened tomatoes from the supermarket in January. It is only in the final weeks of ripening that the rich, sweet flavor develops. Immature pepper is still nice and well worth a trip to the market, but it is that extra ripening time that makes the trip half-way around the world seem like a worthwhile effort. - Penzeys.com

Kitchen Bouquet does not have a website. I called the number on the bottle though (800-537-2823) and did learn that it is good for a year and a half, does not have to be refrigerated, and is made by (wait for it!) The Clorox Company. Mmmm.

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Steamed Mussels with Fennel & Pernod

In the great cliche of our times, I have more than my fair share of friends that I cannot for the life of me find a spare moment to get together with, and it bums me out to no end. Recently I called the oh-so-hard-to-pin-down Rock Goddess to see what she was up to; while simultaneously deeply craving Moules Frites. Well, I almost fell over with shock when she not only picked up the phone, but suggested we go get some...right then. This being a few weeks ago, I had not yet aquired my new toy, the web-ready (read, Zagat on hand at all times) cell phone/camera/not an ipod (seriously, why can't I download music to that thing?) so while it seemed logical to just hop in the car and head out, things just couldn't be that easy.

Using our powers of deduction as to who would offer such a delight, (Somewhere French we reasoned. Or a seafood place. One, either, both, right?) and we traipsed off to the super fab French bistro, Cafe Stella, laughing all the way...until we got there and lo, it was closed for lunch on Mondays. That's ok, we'll find something, the ever upbeat RG said, (well, I paraphrased) as we hopped into her fantasti-classic Mustang and roared off back towards Hollywood and our next try, that bastion of seafood, The Hungry Cat. They could help us out, right? Alas, shut out again. We just kept wondering why there is no equivalent to the oh so chic San Francisco mussels hot-spot Plouf here in La-La Land (Why! Why!), but consoled ourselves knowing they are probably closed Mondays too.

Confident there was a solution to our cravings out there, we continued on our merry way. Lunchtime traffic held us prisoner for about another hour, but at long last we ended up (wait for it) at the Third and Fairfax Farmers Market, seated uncomfortably close to a has-been actor and the lips he is married to, drinking in the sunshine and some fantastic sparkling wine (sorry, forgot what kind) and it was as if a dream had come true. A quest fulfilled, and it was the best feeling ever. Good friends, good food. Mission very much accomplished, and we didn't have to drive to Malibu (read: far) to do it.

The mussels were plump and briny, the wine chilled, the frites liberally doused with sea salt and thyme and the company, well, hilarious actually. After indulging we happily ambled through Monsieur Marcel, the French/European specialty foods market I so often visit, and agreed that life is indeed, good.

If you too want to get silly with bivalves, here is my favorite super-flash-fast mussels recipe that you can do at home. It is superb if you like the taste of fennel. If not, leave that and the Pernod out and you will still have a delightful dish. Try it, and enjoy.

4 pounds mussels, cleaned
2 teaspoons butter
2 carrots
2 stalks celery
1 leek, white part only
1 medium bulb fennel, sliced thin
(fronds reserved for garnish)
1 lemon cut into six wedges
2 cups white wine
1/4 cup Pernod
1 teaspoon tarragon, minced
1/4 cup parsley, minced

Mince your carrot, celery and leek (I cut them into brunois. That is a little time consuming, so if you aren't there, its all good) and saute them in the melted butter in a large soup pot (that has a lid) for a few minutes. Add the tarragon and sliced fennel and stir. Cook for another three minutes. Add the mussels, lemon and the liquids, cover, give the pan a shake and wait, oh, say, four minutes. Open, stir and make sure all the mussels are opened. Discard any that aren't.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the mussels and the lemon wedges. Sample the remaining liquid and adjust seasonings to taste (I add some pepper and maybe another pat of butter), simmer for another minute or two over high heat. Pour over the mussels, (trying to leave any grit behind) and garnish with parsley and some fennel fronds. Serve with crusty bread.

Makes enough for four


Brunoise - a French culinary term for a 1/8 inch square dice

Despite spending $1 million in the last two years to assure Los Angeles residents that their tap water is not only safe to drink but also top quality, city officials spent $88,900 in public money during that time on bottled water. ($31,160 on Sparkletts.) "I am stunned," said City Controller Laura Chick, whose office compiled the bills. "This is the same department which spent millions of dollars for public relations promoting themselves and the quality of their drinking water." The DWP spends about $500,000 annually to mail a report on the quality of its water to its customers, as required by federal law, according to Jim McDaniel, chief operating officer of the agency's water division. The latest report brags that DWP water "meets or surpasses all water quality standards." - LA Times Jan 3rd.

The Pyruvate Scale measures pungency in onions and garlic. It's named after the acid in onions which makes cooks cry when cutting them.

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Monday, January 02, 2006


Devilish Cake

I'm on vacation but I wrote a recipe before I dashed off to this tropical paradise. I hear it's raining like crazy back home, so I am happy as a lark I'm not there. Until I return, enjoy!

This is a slice of chocolate cake. The give away I'd say is that it's brown. See? Brown. The only thing is, its not just a chocolate cake, it's a devil's food cake, and that means it's supposed to be red. Red? Yes kids, red. Or at least, reddish! I'm not all down with the science, but my basic (unresearched) understanding is that the chemical reaction between the buttermilk, cocoa and vinegar turns the cake red. Or, you know, it's supposed to.

So the question then becomes...is this still devil's food cake if it's not red? I don't know. I know that I went with a classic concept (minus using mayo as an ingredient. While it has a certain logic to it, I just couldn't go there) and came up with a very decadent, sophisticated, adult dessert without resorting to the use of food dye. Devilish indeed. Red? Not so much.

Try it, and enjoy. (Oh, and serve with whipped cream and a dusting of cocoa. Mmmm.)

1 cup white flour
1/4 cup dark chocolate cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
3/4 cups white sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs

Heat your oven to 350F

Butter and flour a 9 inch cake pan.

Stir together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside

In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk and vinegar.

With your mixer cream the butter and sugar for at least four minutes (as I always say, don't skip this. Take the time, it makes all the difference) then add the eggs one at a time, blending completely before adding the next.

Pour the batter into your cake pan and bake on the middle rack for 35 minutes. Check to see if it is done by inserting a cake tester or a toothpick. The cake tester should come out dry.

Add the flour mixture and alternate with the buttermilk, ending with the dry.

When the cake is baked, turn off the oven, open the door and allow it to cool for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool another 10 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack.

To serve, add whipped cream and a light dusting of cocoa powder.

Makes eight servings.


Drakes brand Devil Dogs snacks cakes (two oblong pieces of devils food cake with a cream filling) are available in stores in the Northeast of the United States, or for online purchase, here

"The reaction of acidic vinegar and buttermilk tends to turn cocoa a reddish brown color. Furthermore, before more alkaline "Dutch Processed" cocoa was widely available, the red color in these cakes would have been more pronounced. This natural tinting may have been the source for the name "Devil's Food" These days red dye is used to get the desired color. This was probably started after the introduction of the darker cocoa in order to reproduce the earlier color. It is also notable that while foods were rationed during World War II , some bakers used boiled beets to enhance the color of their cakes." - Baking 911.com

In 1902, the recipe for Devil's Food Cake first appeared in an American cookbook called Mrs. Rorer's New Cook Book by Sarah Tyson Rorer.

One in six British children think that broccoli is a baby tree


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