Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Cover Band

Every once in a while there’s a magazine cover that I can’t stop looking at. It’s provocative, risky, eye-catching – not your typical O: The Oprah Magazine cover with a curly-haired black woman laughing back at you, mouth gaping, eyes twinkling. It’s not your typical food magazine cover either, the sliced pie or the cross-sectioned sandwich overflowing with cheese, meat, some kind of heirloom tomato, and maybe a baby hydroponic lettuce. Sometimes, the magazines go out on a limb, and sometimes they hit a home run.

Today I received the September issue of Gourmet magazine and the cover of this month’s issue stopped me dead in my tracks.


I’m not just saying this because it’s the “Paris on a Budget” issue and because my love of Paris, Parisians, Parisian food, etc, is more than well known, having lived there for a cumulative total of 11 months. I’m saying this because…well… it is GORGEOUS.

The photo, below, is a market stand in one of the fresh-air (plein-aire) markets on a typical Parisian street, with cardboard signs announcing the amount of each kilogram of whatever food it is. These stands are gorgeous, much like the food stands lining Main St. in Flushing, New York (which I recently visited, explored, and fell in love with).

The funny thing is, I JUST took a picture like this at one of the markets in New York, on the outskirts of SoHo called “The Garden of Eden.” I’ll post both the picture of the cover and the picture I took at the market side-by-side so it becomes more and more obvious to you why I should work at Gourmet in the future.

No. Seriously.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Omnivores Hundred

from Chocolate and Zucchini blog:

"The Omnivore's Hundred is an eclectic and entirely subjective list of 100 items that Andrew Wheeler, co-author of the British food blog Very Good Taste, thinks every omnivore should try at least once in his life.

He offered this list as the starting point for a game, along the following rules:
1. Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2. Bold all the items you’ve eaten (I've added an asterisk for the items I'm particularly fond of).
3. Cross out any items that you would never consider eating. (I've used italics, since Blogger is kind of lame in its formatting)
4. Optional extra: post a comment on Very Good Taste, linking to your results."

1. Venison

2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare*
5. Crocodile (but alligator is a favorite)
6. Black pudding* (in the form of boudin noir)
7. Cheese fondue (Hooray for birthday dinners in Switzerland!)
8. Carp
9. Borscht*
10. Baba ghanoush*
11. Calamari
12. Phở** (one of the great things about living in VietTown in Orlando)
13. PB&J sandwich (I had one during my first trip to the US when I was 15; I did not quite understand its appeal)
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart*
(a.k.a. Dirty Water Hot Dog)
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes (strawberry wine is SO good)
19. Steamed pork buns*
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes (so many this summer, I'm almost tomatoed-out)
22. Fresh wild berries*
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans (having a Latino boyfriend, it's necessary)
25. Brawn, or head cheese (I'm sorry. It's just too gross)
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper (I'm not sure I see the point)
27. Dulce de leche* (In coffee, it can't be beat)
28. Oysters** (Nothing better than a fresh oyster with lemon and a dash of Tabasco)
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas (They don't really float my boat)
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi (I've had mango; I think I'd like the salted version)
34. Sauerkraut**
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar (I'll take the cognac, but hold the cigar)
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O (It'll take a lot for me to do Jell-O shots again)
39. Gumbo*
40. Oxtail*
41. Curried goat (I've had this in the Sierra Madres in Mexico prepared by Indians. Kinda gross)
42. Whole insects (I would try them, but they'd have to be dead, and cooked)
43. Phaal (I'd try a forkful, but wouldn't order it for myself)
44. Goat’s milk (I'm not a fan of milk in general, so I prefer it in yogurt or faisselle form)
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/€80/$120 or more (I probably wouldn't order it, but I'd drink yours)
46. Fugu (I don't think I'd take the risk)
47. Chicken tikka masala**
48. Eel* (I've only ever had it in sushi)
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi (I've recently bought a jar, but have yet to open it)
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal* (guilty passion)
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine (but if I ever make it to Montreal, I'll try it)
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin (again, I'm not sure I see the point)
64. Currywurst
65. Durian (I've seen it, but never tasted it)
66. Frogs’ legs*
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake** (fried dough = love)
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain* (ditto Latino boyfriend comment)
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette**
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini*
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill (I think I'd be so horrified I'd lose my appetite)
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail* (yum)
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum (I may think about making this tonight)
82. Eggs Benedict**
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant (someday...sigh)
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate*** (if you could see me right now, I'm standing and clapping)
91. Spam (I was raised in the South. Enough said)
92. Soft shell crab*
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish*
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox*(
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

I may think about making my own list sometime. I'm sure it would be different. But for now, I'll just bask in the glow of my eating prowess and set some goals to eat my way through the rest of the ones I haven't tried. Do the same!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Oodles of Noodles

My dad is Italian. By no means, however, does this mean that he has any special ability whatsoever in the kitchen. He can eat like an Italian, but put my father in front of a stove, and he’ll probably open it up and figure out how it works rather than light it up and make food. So when my mom was in the hospital for a few weeks when I was seven years old, our diet was limited to two things: Campbell’s Condensed Split Pea soup, and a concoction that somewhat hearkened back to my father’s Italian roots – using the word “somewhat” as loosely as possible.

This creation that we ate for dinner four nights out of seven was called, in accordance with my dad’s predilection for sing-songy names about pretty much everything, “oodles of noodles,” from the classic Italian dish “molto pasti.” You can see the resemblance.

It was a simple dish, one that combined slightly overcooked noodles (the term “al dente” never seemed to make it into my dad’s Italian verbiage), dried Italian seasoning, butter, salt, and LOTS of Kraft Parmesan Cheese in the cylindrical container. It was white, it was greasy, and it was good. One family video we have is of me terrorizing our enormous, 25-pound orange cat (so named, Purr-Purr), while my dad mixed the Oodles of Noodles.

The day my mom was released from the hospital was the last time I ever saw my dad cook anything that wasn’t popped in the microwave.

Recently, my dad had a mild heart attack and had a Pacemaker installed in his chest. Saying that makes him sound like a 1990 Ford Taurus with a bad alternator, but the truth is, he truly believes that he’s the Terminator.

Now that my dad isn’t top notch and I can cook for him, the next time I go home to visit, I’ll make him my own version of Oodles of Noodles:

Spaghetti with Bread Crumbs (Oodles of Noodles revisited)

½ lb thin spaghetti noodles
½ T extra-virgin olive oil
¼ c Italian-style bread crumbs
¼ t crushed red pepper
1 small garlic clove, minced
½ cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
zest of ½ lemon
Block of Parmiggiano-Reggiano cheese

Boil spaghetti noodles until al dente, drain and drizzle olive oil over noodles. Toss to coat. Transfer noodles into a large serving dish. Mix next five ingredients together and add to spaghetti. Toss to evenly distribute mixture. Serve topped with large shavings of cheese.

Serves 4

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Whippet Good

I was just privy to a tri-cubicle debate on the semantics of Reddi-Wip whipped cream. The problem: we can’t actually use the brand name “Reddi-Wip” in the recipe.

It’s not like Reddi-Wip is one of those brand-name-turned-proper-name issues like Kleenex or Xerox. In those cases, any photocopier could be a Xerox or any light paper used for the ejection of nose monkeys could be called a Kleenex. In this case, Reddi-Wip connotes a particular brand. And we can’t have that.

But what do you call it, if it’s not Reddi-Wip? We threw around the words aerosol, pressurized, canned, and my favorite: spray. None of those words, unfortunately for our Copy Editor, were all that appetizing. But come on, what’s so appetizing about heavy cream solidified by liquid nitrogen? Every time I hear that signature shhhhhhluck! sound, all I can think about are the interminable nights behind the counter at Seattle’s Best where we passed the time only by doing whippets (Google it, if you don’t know what whippets are) in the back room. Talk about nostalgia.

The cold, hard reality is that Reddi-Wip is gross. So gross that they couldn't even spell EITHER of the words in the name correctly. But would Reddi-Wip be any better if it were called Ready-Whip? I'm not sure, it would probably still be chemically processed whipping cream set with liquid nitrogen. Do you really want to put that in your body? I really feel that any food sold in an aerosol can, akin to hair spray or wasp repellent, should be obliterated from grocery store shelves, and from diets in general. I'll attach my favorite REAL whipped cream recipe below. Eat real cream. Maybe just a little of it, especially if you're watching your fat, cholesterol, etc. But, please, for the love of all that's holy, don't eat liquid nitrogen.

I think the copy editor finally settled on using “can of pressurized whipped cream, such as Reddi-Wip” in the recipe, which is fine since we’re just suggesting Reddi-Whip and not actually endorsing it.

The food semantics around here are incredible.

Favorite Whipped Cream

1 c heavy whipping cream (the real stuff)
1/2 c powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 t vanilla bean paste (preferably Madagascar paste)
zest of one lemon

In a cold mixing bowl, beat whipping cream on high speed with an electric mixer until soft peaks form slowly add powdered sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest and continue to beat just until stiff peaks. Don't overbeat, or you'll have some really sweet butter.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Fleeting Fig

On a blistering Saturday, a few weeks ago, my roommate Donna and I were strolling through the Birmingham Farmer’s Market. Among the verdant (ha!) baby zucchini, the flimsy white boxes overflowing with field peas, and the slices of buttercup yellow watermelon being passed around, my eyes latched on to one of my favorite fruits of summer. The elusive fresh fig.

They were round, plump, juicy-looking, not like the poor little anemic ones we see in the markets in Orlando. These figs, whose ruby-red center lay glistening with clear nectar, were Alabama figs, probably plucked from the tree hours before arriving at the Farmer’s Market. I gravitated toward them while Donna admired a box of Cherokee Purple heirloom tomatoes.

As I leaned down to the green cardboard box full of the little figs to inhale their unique floral aroma, I heard Donna behind me, “Don’t buy figs. My neighbor has a TON.”

Okay, then. I spent my four dollars on a tub of local goat cheese. Good trade off.

When we got home, we walked next door to Kim’s house. Her tree was weighted down with the heft of so many juicy Brown Turkey figs, each holding a fleshy center full of fragrant syrup and tiny seeds. I had forgotten to bring a bag, so I hiked up my dress and gathered the tiny morsels Hungarian-potato-picker-style in the skirt of my dress. Of course, I ate about as many figs as I collected.

As I bent down to pick a few from the bottom of the tree, I caught the unmistakable smell of rancid fruit, decaying at the root of the enormous plant. I should have taken that as a warning.

I had grand plans to make a fig upside-down cake – a gorgeous concoction of sautéed figs in a cast iron skillet with lemon-scented cake batter poured over them and baked for 25-30 minutes and then turned over on itself, revealing the caramelized fresh figs. It seemed too good to be true.

I remember reading somewhere that fresh figs are extremely perishable – meaning that they begin to decompose very quickly – and they weren’t kidding. The next day, only five of those figs were salvageable, and as I leaned over to pick the non-fermenting figs out of the bowl, another waft of that rancid fruit smell pierced my nostrils.

Lesson learned: The next time I pick figs, I will use them immediately.

Friday, August 01, 2008

First Full-Lengther

While I'm preparing for:

1. My boyfriend to come visit me this evening from Orlando so he can eat more than just eggs and sausage.
2. My next blogpost on my new obsession with fresh figs,

I'll just post a link to my first full-length review that was published in Orlando Weekly on July 23, 2008.


Enjoy, and stay tuned!