Monday, December 08, 2008

Enough Wine?

To think,after two of my guests canceled, I was concerned that I would to have too much wine for Thanksgiving ...
Thankfully my friends were courteous enough to suffer through the extra bottles of wine. Hope it wasn't too much work guys; thanks to your dedicated wine guzzling, not one bottle remained.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Traditions Of Thanks.

Thanksgiving at my place is full of all sorts of traditions, some not as conventional as others; for example this one in which I spank the turkey before seasoning it.

Its hard to say how long this practice has been in effect or, how it got started in the first place, but it has become quit the Thanksgiving ritual and, I like to believe, it contributes to the overall tenderness of the meat.

Another Thanksgiving custom is the questionnaire. Every year my guests are handed a sheet of questions to fill out. The questions range from topics such as food, movies, to things like aliens, and yodeling. My favorite answer this year, was to question #6, What did the Aliens Tell you? to which one of the guests answered, I'm never clear who the aliens are... Perhaps they should be required to wear name tags.

One of the longest standing traditions is the Thanksgiving pinata. Every year Margeaux is in charge of its creation and every year, after stuffing ourselves with Turkey, we race outside to to take a swing at her sacrificial creation. From Turkeys, to kittens, Mermaids, and more Turkeys, everyone wants a swing. This year ever strangers on the street lined up to swat at the Alien ship that was sent here to spread Love and Light.

Then of course there is my very favorite Thanksgiving tradition, the dance. Every year I require my guests to do a little dance before they eat. ( click on this link to see last years, and the year before.) Every year, for days I work so hard; the dancing video was invented as a way to battle the Thanksgiving postpartum I feel when the whole night is over before I've had a chance to relax. The great thing about this year is that, between Ben's help in the kitchen, our wonderfully planned menu, and the smaller number of guests - eleven people - I was able to relax and hangout like all the rest. It was night and day between last years dinner of thirty people in which I only sat down long enough to swallow a few bites of food.

As it would appear to some, not may of these Traditions of Thanks fit into the conventional notions of tradition. They are traditions none the less, and each year that passes, and each set of Thanksgivingoers are housed under my ruff for one day helps to sustain them.

So the things I am thankful for this year: that it was my best Thanksgiving...ever, that that it was my first Thanksgiving with Ben and his parents, I'm thankful for my wonderful, WONDERFUL friends with whom I had the delight of spending the day and who still danced for me even though it was clear there was no postpartum on the horizon. I love all of you!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Your plans?

So what do you plan on doing?

It is the customary question one might receive when discussing future travel plans and, a question to which my uncustomary response, “I’m going to eat,” has earned some curious looks and quit a few giggles. I assume this is because people think that my answer is in jest and, although I am not entirely earnest, I’m not exactly joking either.

Ben and I were headed for Montreal for the weekend and almost everything on our agenda centered on food. In fact, there was so much eating to be done, that each and every meal had to be planned out just right, in order to fit it all in. Planning travel around food is fairly routine business for the both of us, I mean, what else is traveling other than an opportunity to eat different foods?

What did we eat?

Upon arrival we dropped our things off at the hotel and headed straight for Schwartz’s. Schwartz’s is to Montreal what Katz’s is to NYC. The front window display is simple and to the point. No frills, no holiday filler, just a huge pile of roast brisket, one on top of the other like a litter of puppies.
And that is what we eat, a pile of brisket, a stack of rye bread, Cole slaw, and fries.
It was a little bit strange being in a place so familiar, so New York, yet having your waiter speak to you in French; kinda like the juxtaposition of eating Christmas cookies on the beach in Mexico, or watching a snowstorm from a South American hammock hanging in your bedroom in Brooklyn.

Our next big meal was not until dinner the next evening. We had gotten reservations at Au Pied De Cochon at 5pm, the only available, and so we decided not to eat much that day so we would be hungry; after walking around all day in the cold I was ready to gnaw off my arm and probably would have had it not been layered under heaps of cloths due to the cold.

Au Pied De Cochon is famous for their extravagant use of duck fat, Foie Gras, and organs for example, poutine with foie gras in which the fries are cooked in duck fat, Lamb Shank Confit, and Boudin Noir Tart with Foie Gras, and even Tripe Pizza.

It wasn't easy but, with the waiter's help, we managed not to order everything on the menu. We started with a bottle of Vaqueras, two of the Foie Gras Cromesquis, and a blue cheese and apple salad. When the Foie Gras Cromesquis arrived our waiter advised us to let them cool for two minutes, to eat them in one bite, and to close our mouths entirely when doing so.
The reason why, the cube shaped breading happened to be oozing with molton foie gras. It was the closet thing I have ever had to a food orgasm!

For Entrees I ordered the Lamb Shank Confit, and Ben had the Boudin tart.

The Lamb shank was tender, buttery and rich, but not as rich as the Boudin Tart. After two bites of this this heart stopper, I could feel my heart pound as it struggled to force my blood through it's ever thickening arteries. Next to the Tart, my order seemed like the 'lite' choice.

For the rest of the night the two of us were Incapacitated. We did not have desert, we did not go out, we did not pass go etc. We struggled back to the Hotel, each of us secretly wondering if we were in the mist of a heart attack, and passed out, belly up.

Needless to say, the next day, our last, we were out of commission in the food department. We picked up a few last minute mementos - Cuban Rum and cigars, and some Raw Cheeses - and we headed out. Not without picking up some Vietnamese sandwiches for the road.
Caravelle is a Vietnamese food stand in one of the underground malls they have here. It does not look like much but Ben, having frequented the place back in his collage days, assured me that the food was more than memorable. Apparently the owner,
was memorable as well. Ben remembered getting sandwiches from this very gentlemen twelve years ago. Spicy? he asked us when we ordered our sandwiches, Yes, spicy, we responded in unison. The owner gave a little giggle, he clearly approved.

We enjoyed these babies later on that night after crossing the boarder successfully. What a perfect way to close a vacation that felt more like an extended late night food run.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

New York City Mice Sure Do Have Expensive Taste!

A few weeks ago I visited my mother and, as always, she sent me back to the city loaded down with specialty chocolates, Tahitian Vanilla, Vietnamese Cinnamon, and an array of pastry flour. Upon arrival, it was straight back to the grind and so I placed my bag of goodies on a shelf in the kitchen, and immediately forgot about them.

The bag was rediscovered this past weekend during a clean up after a visit from the exterminator. As I opened the bag I knew something was dreadfully wrong when flour poured from the bag onto the floor in a dusty cloud. As I unpacked the goods, it was clear that the mice who had recently come to colonize our home, had been chowing down on my edible belongings.
The Flour was strewn about like confetti, the cinnamon disregarded entirely - I suppose Vietnamese cinnamon is too spicy for their little tongues - and the 99% Sharffen Berger chocolate,
lets just say that New York City mice sure do have expensive taste. I can just imagine the little fellas jacked up on caffeine, and I wonder how bad their withdrawal symptoms will be when they come back to find their stash gone without a trace. I hope they don't get angry and attempt to exact revenge. Sound familiar?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Stroke of Good Luck

Sometimes getting lost is a pain in the the behind, and others it's merely a stroke of good luck. The other weekend, on our way upstate to visit my mother, Ben and I were so involved in conversation, that we not only missed our exit off the Thruway, we continued onward to miss a second exit. It turned out to be a fortunate mistake for, due to our extended tour of the NY State Thruway, we ended up driving through Saugreties and incidentally, right past Lucky chocolates.
Perhaps I should get lost more often.

Previous Lucky entries:
Somebody's Gettin' Lucky
La Vida Es Dura (Life is Hard)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Coney Island Tradition, its going going going, its gone.

Growing up in NYC, I have become very much accustomed to change. Neighborhoods grow, hot spots come and go, and landmarks that once stood tall, crumble and fade into the infinitely transforming landscape. In fact the changing scenery is so constant, that much of the time it goes unnoticed until one day, you walk by an Emigrant Savings bank without giving a thought to the fact that it was once the Fillmore East. Or, you stroll through the Disneydom of Times Square unable to recall the location of your favorite arcade as a child or the Hojo’s that stood faithful to its clientele for 46 years.

These are things you learn to take in stride, meaning, you stop expecting them to stay the same, you stop taking it personally when your favorite bar closes down or your most-loved building gets condemned, and you try as hard as you can to take part in the parts of the city that you love while they are still around to be enjoyed. That is why, when Ben and I found out that this last Sunday was to be last day of Astroland Amusement Park, we jumped in the car and headed for Coney Island. To be honest, the park was not nearly as crowded as we thought it would be, and though there were no overt signs of mournfulness, there was a faint whisper of melancholy accompanying the shrieks of every exhilarated ride-goer. Ben and I played a few games, to no avail. I was looking forward to finally going up in the Astrotower to see the coastal view from way up above, but was disappointed to find that it was not running. For the Water Flume, a ride in which you sit in a fake water log that is propelled down a twenty-foot water slide, we stood behind a couple who had already been on six times that day; they were trying to get in as many trips on their favorite ride before it closed forever.

After an hour or so, our stomachs were growling, and, not being the types to sit and watch the Titanic go under, it seemed like just the right time to participate in yet another Coney Island Tradition, Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitano.
This New York City eatery claims to be ‘the oldest continuously operating pizzeria in the US’ and is heralded as one of the very best by pizza lovers from all over the world.
There are of course vehement debates regarding the latter statement, and it seemed only right that Ben and I took a taste in order to enter the dispute. As we drove down Neptune Avenue, I was suddenly struck with a wave of panic, what if Totonno’s isn’t there anymore? It was a silly and unfounded apprehension, yet understandable in the shadow of the closing of Astroland . Still, I couldn’t help but wonder if the same suspicions clouded Ben’s thoughts as we searched adamantly for the pizzeria.
My fears were put to rest as we drove by the pizzeria to find it opened, and with only a few people waiting outside. Parking, on the other hand, was not so easy. It took twenty minutes of driving around and still we could not find a spot. After ten minutes the line had grown to about ten people so Ben let me out to wait in line while he continued the search for parking. By the time we were both in line, we were ferociously hungry and the smell of perfectly burnt dough that wafted out of the door every time it swung opened was like some form of sadistic culinary foreplay. Another twenty minutes and we were being led to our table. After two moments at the table the waitress was standing over us asking in a rather brusk tone, 'you know what you want?' It sounded more like a command than a question. Sure the service was a little coarse, but it kinda added to the old NY charm. We ordered a pie with half pepperoni and garlic, and half mushrooms and anchovies.
The anchovies were a little too pungent for my taste, but the peperoni and garlic was fantastic. Without a doubt it is the crust that makes the pizza at Totonno's; thin, crispy, but not at all soggy, and just the right amount of brick oven burntness.
This is the type of pizza that does not weigh you down, even after half a pie! I must say that I prefer the sauce and the cheese from Di Fara's, but to compare the two any more than that, would be like comparing apples and oranges.
As we stumbled back out onto the street, our bellies full, my mind wondered back to Astroland, for any moment, the amusment park would close for good and Coney Island would be changed forever. Maybe I should have ridden the Water Flume just one more time.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

"NYC Woman Goes On Egg Rampage, Story at 5"

Being a bartender, I certainly get asked a lot of questions; some of them funny, some stupid, and some of them just out right offensive. Still, I can always count on LJ to ask an interesting and unusual question now and then. Do you ever have homicidal fantasies? was the one he asked a couple of weeks ago. Now LJ is not the most gregarious of men, opting rarely to participate in conversation with the other patrons who frequent the cafe. Based on his morbid inquiry, I can only imagine that he would be a much happier man if his life were to be less populated with the more, lacking affiliates of mankind. And, I would not be surprise to find that he has passed an amusing hour or two daydreaming about making that a reality. Lauren, one of the waitresses and soon to be social worker, seized the question without her customary clinical inflection, Sure, Ive had some homicidal thoughts, she said with a wicked smile.Of course she's had homicidal fantasies, she's a waitress!

I'm pretty certain that most people have had homicidal thoughts at one moment or another; taking the subway at rush hour, sitting in traffic, trying to communicate with your credit card company via automated telephone systems. What does any of this have to do with food? Well, here's the thing, I have never had a homicidal thought. Not one. When someone almost knocks me off my bike with their car because they are carelessly yapping on their cellphone, I don't find myself lost in violent reverie, but instead find myself dreaming about eggs. That's right eggs. I close my eyes, and for just one moment imagine throwing a raw egg at them. I try to construct in my mind, the sound of the shell as it cracks open against the side of their face, then I try and picture the disbelief bloom on their face as the yolk drips down their cheek. That's usually all it takes for my anger and and frustration to melt away into childish laughter.

Of course some days are more frustrating than others, so when I get into a fight with the woman working the Grayhound ticket booth because she sold me the wrong ticket, or when the man across from me on the train says something perverse while making a gesture to match the vulgarity of his statement, I don't just imagine throwing one egg, I imagine engaging in an entire egg rampage. Some yuppie with an gas guzzling SUV cuts me off on my bike, SPLAT! Some self-proclaimed sidewalk preacher starts yelling at me about how I might die at any moment and that I will burn in hell because I am a shameless sinner , SPLAT! Not one person on the crowded train elects to give up their seat for a pregnant woman, SPLAT, SPLAT, SPLAT! There's no doubt that after a day of such activities, I would find myself in front of a judge. And oh how I laugh when I imagine him itemizing each and every one of my transgressions before making his judgment. How ridiculous the headlines would read, Crazed New York Woman Goes On Egg Rampage, Woman Takes Vengeance With Eggs...

As I went on and on explaining every detail of my egg fantasies, LJ laughed and Lauren just looked at me as if I were telling a tall-tale. I'm completely serious Lauren, I really do think about these things, I assured her. Lauren filled her tray up with drinks and as she walked away, said with a mischievous smile, You have got some problems girl. I'm the one with the problem, can you believe that? Is that an Official diagnosis, or should I get a second opinion, I shouted out after her, your the one with the homicidal fantasies!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Around the World in Thirty Days

So where exactly have I been? Let me see, it has taken me the last few weeks just to get through France, making pit-stops along the way in Bordeaux, Burgundy, The Rhone, Alsace, and the Loire. This past Saturday I spent zig-zagging across Italy and somewhere around Tuscany had a minor panic attack for there were so many miles, and countries, yet to cover. Sunday through Tuesday I spent half my time roaming The Duero Valley in Spain and the other half making my way from village to village in Germany. Wait a second, did I totally forget about Portugal? Oh crap! Today I am hoping to get threw Austria, Hungry, Romania, Bulgaria and if I'm lucky, Greece so that the next few days I can concentrate on Australia, New Zealand, and The Americas.

Thought it may appear that I am participating in a mad dash around the world, the sad truth is that I have spent the last few weeks at my desk studying for the WSET Advanced certificate Exam. I have been in such a panic over the exam (I am a terrible test-taker) that I have spent all my free time reviewing facts about soil composition in the Cotes d'Or, the number of hectres under vine in Argentina, and coming up with New World alternatives for Pouilly Fuisse, Cote Rotie, and Vouvray. In fact, just yesterday I was on the train reading my text book and the woman beside me interupted, "Are you studying for the WSET advanced certificate exam?" I looked up at her with strained eyes and shook my head 'yes.' " Don't worry," she said "its a lot easier than you think, you just have to remember the entire book." Not very funny if you ask me.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Festival Of Eggs

As the titian sun sank serenely into a blossom of blushing clouds, I peddled hastily in a race against time and temperature. I was on my way to a dinner party dedicated entirely to the egg and was fearful that my contribution, ice cream, was on its way to becoming soup.

When Chicken Boy (Ben) initially uttered the words, ‘egg-fest,’ I had no idea what to expect and must admit that the first images to cross my mind were of Paul Newman’s egg eating challenge in movie Cool Hand Luke.
As it turned out my ice cream did not melt and, luckily, egg-fest did not consist of us feasting on unwholesome numbers of hard-boiled eggs. Instead, what ensued was an eight-hour, six course observance of the egg in all its forms. Evan and Amber, the other participants, graciously hosted the event in their Red Hook home. Over thirty eggs were used to produce everything from fancy egg-based cocktails, to sauces, custards, souffles and much much more.

To kick the event off, we began with a round of Ramos Gin fizzes and a sorrowful toast to the recently diseased chicken, Beulah. (I have been hesitant to mention the demise of Brooklyn Chicken Beulah it came at the end of last week when she was abducted by an unknown and unseen, though very hungry, animal. Though I have a fear of birds, I must say that had grown to admired Beulah and all her spunk and was disturbed by the news.) We did not linger for long though and were onto a bottle of sparkling wine that was so yeasty and exploding with the undeniable aroma of stinky blue cheese that it could have stood alone as a liquid cheese course. This treat was accompanied by our first coarse, an egg flight – who say eggs make for a challenging wine Pairing? The flight consisted of a quail egg, chicken egg, and a duck egg. The duck egg was the richest of the three and the quail egg, the lightest and fluffiest. The chicken egg, possibly Beulah's, was somewhere in between.

The second coarse consisted of a bottle of Amber’s father’s White Meritage from California, a Bordeaux style blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, and an Arugula salad with cauliflower, olives, capers, and a vinaigrette tossed with crumbled egg yolk.

At this point, three hours had passed and it was time to get serious. Amber washed dishes as Evan prepared a mushroom souffle with a Brandy Sabayon and I assisted Ben with the task of making egg noodles. We didn't have a recipe, but that didn't stop us. With a pile of semolina, and egg yolks galor, we were two thirds of the way there.

For libation we took part in yet another egg friendly cocktail, cognac topped with maraschino beaten egg whites. This drink was so rich and extravagant, that we counted it as the third coarse.

With the egg noodles waiting patiently to be boiled, we tip-toed out to the back so as not to discourage the sensitive souffle with our giddy and impatient laughter. We did not exit soon enough however, for in the end the souffle refused to perform its one and only duty, to rise.

This did not at all put a damper on the festivities for, regardless of its disobedience, the souffle was delicious, and the sabayon was a rich and pleasing accomplice.

At this point - six hours and for courses into our fest- it was beginning to dawn on us what a successful endeavor our little egg fest had become. Though there was an abundance of food, and a slew of eggs, there was plenty of time and activity (cooking) between courses for us to reignite our appetites. With smiles on our faces we finished our last two courses, egg noodles with pesto and asparagus, and Sour Cherry Custard pie with Candied Bacon Ice Cream.

It is not often that you are able to escape the worries and troubles of the mundane world, but with the generosity and enthusiasm of our hosts and the donation of a great many fowl, our modest dinner party had turned into something greater than simply an observance of the egg and all its facets. Instead, it became a celebration of our shared zeal for the alchemy of the kitchen and its power to eclipse the temporal aspects of day-to-day living with the more wondrous material of life: the subtleties of good wine and drink, the phenomena of good food, and the fortune of good friends to share it all with.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Bacon is...

"Bacon is hot right now," so says James Norton, blogger for Chowhound's, The Grind. And who can really argue with him with July 7th being day one of Salon's week long series of stories dedicated to the Pork Belly. Sarah Hepola kicked off the event with her article Bacon Mania, in which she ventures to answer the question, 'Why are Americans so batty for bacon?' Now I am a professed lover of bacon and can hardly argue with anyone who wants to blabber excessively on topic however, when bacon becomes the product of intellectual debate, I must admit, it find it wholly unappetizing.

In her article, Hepola attributes part of bacon's growing popularity to the fact that it is, as she puts it, 'rebellion'. Now, sure pork has been forbidden by both the Torah and the Qur'an for hundreds and even thousands of years. And yes, bacon has been condemned by doctors and dietitian alike, but be honest people, can we really claim that Bacon's popularity is merely a fat drenched means of 'giving the finger' to the healthy, kosher, and halal. Though for some the finger factor may be an added benefit, I am certain that it is only secondary to the number one reason for its popularity, and that is that it tastes good!

Hepola goes on to claim that bacon is also 'sexy.' This one would be hard for me to contradict considering only four posts ago, I myself described how I made Candied Bacon ice cream in an attempt to woo a boy, claiming that in my opinion, 'any man who could turn down a scoop of this stuff atop a stack of pancakes must have some serious problems, or he could be a vegetarian. Either way, I'm not interested.' But wooing is very different than seducing and the notion of bacon as sexy makes me think of the Seinfeld episode where George Costanza is attempting to eat a pastrami sandwich while in bed with his girlfriend. Ah, not so sexy.

My biggest gripe with Hepola's claims about the 'bacon chick movement,' is that she claims that it is an Internet joke. To support her claim she links to this bacon flow chart, this add for a Bacon Robot, and the invention of Bacon cake, and Bacon ice cream. Though yes, these all happen to be very funny, they are at the same time, quit serious. Why just the other day i was frying up some bacon for a salad I was making and my thinking just so happened to flow down may of the same avenues mention in the flow chart. As for the robot, we all know how seriously I take my foodie robots. And the cake and ice cream, there is nothing funny at all about how freekin' amazing Bacon ice cream is. In fact, its so good, it doesn't make me want to laugh, it makes me want to cry. But perhaps, to some, this is extremely funny. To each his own.

Truthfully, when I think about it, Hepola's claims are not at all unfounded. What bothers me about it is just that, thinking about it. Bacon has somehow been transformed from a decadent breakfast item that is to be eaten, into an indulgent intellectual item that is to be dissected; so some of use like to play with our food, and some of us like to eat it. If there is something I myself am guilty of, its thinking and talking way to much about food. The one part of Heola's story I can really jive with is that, 'Bacon is America.' America is a free country and therefore, for you bacon can be subversive, silly, and sexy, and for me bacon can be breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I guess what I am trying to say is that, if bacon is anything, for me, Bacon is freedom.

Some more bacon for thought,
Bacon is dead! Long Live Bacon!
Belly Of The Beast
Going Whole Hog

Saturday, June 28, 2008

I Am The Coffee Robot...

In the early am, as I stumbled about my kitchen preparing coffee, I blabbered on and on to Ben about my dream of one day owning a Coffee Robot. Ben is of course no stranger to my pipe dream and has indulged my banter with an even balance of genuine amusement and patience. " What if you just had a coffee machine that was an alarm clock?" he asked as I put the water up to boil and heated two mugs. Now, almost everyone upon hearing of my fantasy, has felt the urge to stamp it out with constructive realism; little did I know Ben had join their forces. " What, do you not like the idea of a coffee robot?" I asked, eyeing him suspiciously. " Well, what if he just grinds the coffee?" he suggested, totally missing the point. "But your missing the point!" I replied. Calmly, I filled the grinder with coffee and held the button down, my distress visible in the creases that decorated my forehead.

Here's the thing, I'm really not as silly as I know that I seem. I realize that a mechanized coffee slave that has arms, and legs, that walks around your house, and brings you coffee, in bed, just the way you like it, just when you want it, is not realistic. This, is a fantasy, and fantasies have nothing to do with what's 'realistic.' After further discussion, Ben began to see my point, yet was still full of menacing questions. " How would you get a coffee robot? From a store, or would it be like going to the pound? Would you pick out your robot, or would it pick you?" He was certainly concerning himself with the logistics of it all, but at least he was in the spirit.

The water boiled and as I brewed the coffee, I heated some milk. " No, no, no, the robots would have to interview for the position and would have to demonstrate their coffee making abilities. There would be several models of course, some with treads, others with legs. They would come in a variety of colors and personalities. Some might be flamboyant, and others more reserved, they might even have a sense of humor." I brought the freshly brewed coffee over to the table and placed it down in front of Ben. " See, I make a wonderful Coffee Robot." I said, beaming with pride. " Careful though, its kinda hot because I heated the milk" I warned. " You heated the milk?" he asked "But I use the milk to cool the coffee down a bit. I don't like it when its too hot." My smug grin fell from my face like a drunkard from a barstool. " Don't trade me in" I pleaded. " Its just a matter of tweaking a few of the settings. I'm still a perfectly good Coffee Robot," I protested. Ben smiled behind his coffee mug, then took a sip, " don't worry, I'm not gonna trade you in."

A history in Coffee-
The FeFe Monster and The Coffee Fanatic

I Love You Coffee Robot
Grounds For Divorce
Giant Coffee Robots

Saturday, June 14, 2008

How Long?

I admit it, I am utterly inept at refrigerator maintenance. In the lonely depths of my refrigerator, lettuce will slowly wither away unnoticed for weeks at a time all the while unused lemons and limes transform into fossils and blue cheese becomes a whole lot moldier that it was ever meant to be.

My roommate and I are familiar enough with the ins and outs of our untrusty fridge that we know which milk containers are safe for consumption and which ones are best avoided. We know that the three week old pork on the bottom shelf is only there to keep the four week old Merguez sandwich company and that, the Merguez sandwich is there to keep some other piece of decaying food company. It's a faulty system I realize, but it suits us fine.

What poses a problem is when a guest attempts the battle ground of our fridge unattended. Just the other day I caught a friend reaching for a month old container of orange juice. It was only as she held the container up to her mouth that I realized the disaster that was about to unfold "Stop!" I shouted, giving my friend such a fright that she spilled juice on the floor. " What's up?" she replied rather startled. "I'm not sure if its a good idea to drink that" I told her. To be honest, I had no idea what the shelf life was for a previously opened carton of orange juice.

While trying to find information on the topic of spoilage, I ran across this very amusing post over at Will Work For Food entitled, How Long Will It Last? - yes it does sound a lot like the title of some demented game show, either that or some sorrowful blues song. In the entry wwff gives us the facts on how long food items will last from apples to eggs, and fried chicken to cold cuts. By far my favorite part is the run down on mold, 'Mold is not your friend. Yes, it may be soft and fuzzy, but it is not, by any means, friendly.' Well now I know.

And the juice? There was no info here about OJ, but further Internet research revealed that an opened container of orange juice will last for 5 -14 days in the fridge. So, as it turns out my Tropicana was over the hill and was probably only hanging around to keep its old companion, Milk company. Perhaps its time they both retired.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Texturally Challenged

All little kids like Peanut Butter and Jelly right? Wrong. When I was a little girl I was wild about Peanut Butter and could not seem to get enough of it, but was in fact scared of Jelly. You see, as a young girl I was what you might call texturally challenged in the eating department, anything too slimy on my plate and I was liable to cry. My slimy food issue was further complicated by my severe sensitivity to B-movie horror flicks and after seeing the 1958 version of The Blob, I vowed to never ever to eat that menacing gelatinous fruit compound we call Jelly.
No matter how hard parents and family members tried to convince me of the faultless attributes of fruit preserves, I held my ground and turned my nose to the stuff. As my friends easily munched away on their PB&Js, I would struggle through my pasty Peanut Butter sandwich, as it would stick to the ruff of my mouth without the aid or lubrication of grape jelly.

As an adult I have fully recovered from my fear of Jelly. And thank goodness I did, otherwise I would not have never thought to make this PB&J Ice Cream and Sorbet Swirl.
I am still working out a few minor kinks in the recipe, but this combination of Peanut Butter Ice Cream and Grape Sorbet sure is a nice way to cool off in a heat wave.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Trump Card

In the past, when pursuing a boy, I have relied a great deal on my abilities in the kitchen. This method has always worked well for me, I mean, who doesn't like it when someone else cooks good food for them? Recently however, I have found myself in a bit of a quandary in the wooing department. How do you woo a boy who can compete with you in the kitchen? How do you entice a boy who candies Cherry Blossoms,
who makes you Vietnamese sandwiches,
who makes Homemade English Muffins, fries up Soft Shell Crabs,
and makes curried Monk Fish Wrapped in Bacon with some weird looking vegetable you've never heard of before?
When trying to cultivate the affections of a boy who can cook, and does cook quit often, the only choice you have is to play your trump card, in my case, that would be Candied Bacon and Maple Ice Cream. It certainly isn't kosher, but it is damn good. And any man who could turn down a scoop of this stuff atop a stack of pancakes must have some serious problems, or he could be a vegetarian. Either way, I'm not interested.
Don't have a courting trump card of your own? That's cool, go right ahead and borrow mine.

Candied Bacon and Maple Ice Cream

8-10 strips of bacon
1/2 cup - raw sugar
1 1/2 cups - whole milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups - heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
3/4 cup - dark amber maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

Candied Bacon
  • In 2 batches, cook bacon in a 12 inch heavy skillet over med heat until it is lightly browned but still flexible
  • Transfer bacon to a paper towel to drain and pour excess fat from pan.
  • Return bacon to skillet and cover with sugar. Cook over a low flame.
  • Once the sugar begins to dissolve, keep a close eye out so it does not burn. Occasionally turn bacon with tongs until it is cover with melted sugar. It should look lacquered.
  • Remove and let cool on a paper bag.
Ice Cream ( This recipe comes from David Lebovitz's book The Perfect Scoop)

  • Warm milk and sugar in saucepan. Pour cream into a large bowl and set strainer on top.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape back into saucepan
  • Stir mixture constantly over med heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats spatula
  • Pour the custard through the strainer and stir into cream to cool.
  • Add maple syrup, salt, and vanilla then stir until cool over an ice bath.
  • Chill mixture thoroughly then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturers instructions
  • During the last few minutes of churning, add the chopped up candied bacon.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Dangerous Substance

Just this past week, I was introduced to a dangerous and habit-forming substance. It was such a luscious experience that I have found myself feverishly longing for it morning noon and night. My mind has been seized on it and can think of little else.

It all started when Ben, yes the one with the chickens, came over to my place with sack of chickpea flour in hand. “Have you ever had Madhur Jaffrey’s chickpea pizza?” he asked innocently enough. What do chickpeas have to do with pizza? I wondered silently, the crinkle in my brow disclosing my doubt. As I watched Ben sift, whisk, and stir the batter to a watery consistency, my eyes did a poor job of concealing their informal query, How was this watery paste going to form a crust?

Moments later, and a twist of Ben’s wrist, and the batter was gasping and squirming under the heat of the pan, unleashing a captivatingly nutty fragrance. We covered the pancake-like dough with whatever we could find in the fridge: cheese, bacon, sweet potatoes, pepadews, and pickled garlic, then stuck it under the broiler for a final blast of heat.
By the time this peculiar concoction was ready for consumption, the spell had already been cast. The crust was toasty and crisp and at the same time, delicate and buttery - a cross between polenta, pastry, and a freshly pressed tortilla.

As I finished my first piece, I was already planning future pizzas: Green Tomatoes, Goat Cheese, and Sweet & Spicy Tomato Chutney, Spicy Black Beans with Shredded Mandarin Pork, garnished with Fresh Lettuce and Avocado, Spicy Lamb Sausage with Wilted Watercress, Golden Raisins, and Roasted Red Peppers, not to mention an infinite number of something-out-of-nothing recipes. My mind was racing.

My pizza rampage- though imaginary at the time - did not end there, for when I visited my mother upstate this past weekend, what do you suppose I brought with me? “Have you ever had Madhur Jaffrey’s Chickpea Pizza?” I asked her eagerly as we discussed the menu for the weekend. My mother was soon hooked on the stuff and every night we happily satiated our vice with a newly invented pizza, forgetting all about our previously planned menu.

It was on the third night that I sent this e-mail,
My mother and I have made chickpea pizza every night I've been here. I just tried to sign into my gmail account as gourmetpizza (instead of gourmetpeasant.) I'm afraid may have started something very very dangerous!

It was pretty bad. I was beginning to crack up under the pressure of my infatuation and nearly vowed to never touch the stuff again. It was then that I realized, there's nothing sinister at all about the Chickpea. I was getting bent out of shape for no reason at all. Of course you will have to decide for yourself whether or not dreaming day and night about pizza is a potential problem. For myself, I've decided to embrace this new devotion as a positive development, for what would life be like without obsessive zeal for the garbanzo in all its forms?

Madhur Jaffrey's Chickpea Flour Pizza

  • 2/3 cup chickpea flour (see Notes)
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped tomato
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  1. Preheat the broiler. Sift the chickpea flour with the salt into a medium bowl. Slowly add 1/4 cup of the water, whisking constantly to form a paste. Beat with a wooden spoon until smooth. Whisk in the remaining 3/4 cup of water and let the batter stand at room temperature for 30 minutes, then stir in the rosemary.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a 12-inch nonstick ovenproof skillet. Stir the batter once, pour it into the skillet and drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil on top. Cook the pizza over moderately high heat until the bottom is golden and crisp and the top is almost set, 2 to 3 minutes. Burst any large air bubbles with the tip of a knife.
  3. Sprinkle the tomato, onion, Parmesan and pepper over the top, then place the skillet under the broiler and cook until the pizza is golden and crisp, 4 to 5 minutes. Slide the pizza onto a work surface, cut into wedges and serve hot.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Evolution Of a Bowl Licker

Some things you just don't grow out of. So much has evolved between my mother and myself over the years, cake batter is not one of them. Not once during my childhood did my mother fail to give me the mixing bowl of cake batter to lick clean.And not once, might I add, was I negligent in my duties as dedicated bowl licker. As you can see from this picture of my recent visit, this mother/daughter tradition is in no danger of extinction. Yum.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Urban Poultry - Beulah Sure Can Strut Her Stuff

Everyone, meet Beulah. Though she may look familiar to some, to most of you she probably looks like just another chicken; but don't be mistaken, she is no ordinary chicken. Beulah is no backwoods yokel, preferring the urban refuge of her Red Hook home to the humdrum existence of country fowl.

For the minor fee of surrendering her eggs to owner Ben Peikes, Beulah affords a lifestyle of which only few chicken's have ever dreamed. Her pastimes include, picking on her three sidekicks, eating cherry blossoms, hiding from Ben, and partaking in a soccer like sport involving grape tomatoes.

It was my recent pleasure to spend a Saturday afternoon watching Beulah strut her stuff on the playing field as well as show off some of the many stunts she has cultivated during her time here at Ben's 'Dikeman St. homestead.' Who knew that chickens could be so charming.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Serious Thoughts About Bacon...

Its my day off, and as I drink my coffee and stare out the window at the glorious spring day rouse itself from its chilly morning slumber, I can't help but wonder, is there such thing as leftover bacon?
This weekend I made a grand brunch for my roommate and friend. There was salad, there was French Toast, Scrambled Eggs and Mimosas but, most importantly there was lots and lots of bacon. Between the three of us, there were no leftovers of any kind and it made me question, had there been twice as much bacon, would we have eaten less salad or French toast in order to eat it all? There is no shortage of websites and blog entries providing all sorts of wonderful advice on how to deal with leftover bacon but, I can't help feeling as though I will never have the opportunity to try them because, as far as I'm concerned, there is no such thing.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Mama Mia, What a Pizza

The first time I tasted mole poblano I cried. I had been living in Mexico at the time and the woman I was staying with happened to be an amazing cook. She could make just about any type of food, Thai, Chinese, Italian, and of course her native cuisine, Mexican. I’ll never forget that first bite of that rich nutty sauce, a sumptuous wrestling match of smokey and sweet. The tears that welled up in my eyes had nothing to do with the artful blend of Pasilla and Guajillo chilies, neither did it have to do with the Spiced chocolate that was so lovingly stirred in at just the right moment. To be honest, at the time I had no idea what caused the crying episode. I was simply overwhelmed and that night I rushed to a phone both and called my mother to tell her about my experience. Considering I was such a long distance, she was rather surprised to hear from me, “Is everything okay?” she asked me having sensed the urgency in my voice. I paused for a moment not knowing what to say, then clumsily blurted out, “ I had mole. It made me cry.” As it turns out, along with all the Italian Pastry my mother gorged on during her pregnancy with me, she also consumed Mexican food in record amounts, Mole Poblano in particular! Well that explains my tearful discovery of the food I was prenatally weaned on.

I was recently reminded of this story when a very close friend and dinning companion of mine, Kara, made plans to have lunch. Kara, being pregnant and subject to random and overwhelming food cravings, was in charge of selecting the type of fare. As it turns out what she was craving most, was Pizza. “Bread, Tomatoes, and Cheese. Its all that I want” she informed me. “Well I know just the spot!” Di Fara Pizza is as famous for the pizza as it is for the wait for pizza (sometimes up to 2 hours). The Pizza is well worth the wait is the general consensus and in a city like New York where time is coveted in a fashion akin to power and wealth, that says something.

Kara and I planned to meet at Di Fara’s at 3pm on Saturday afternoon. As it turns out it was spring break and in total we waited two hours for the pizza. Here is the run down of those two hours:

Arrival 3pm

A crowded mess and not many seats. Little did I know that I would have plenty of time to poach us a table.

Kara arrives and we put in our order for a regular pie and sip our bottles of root beer while watching for a table. A woman sitting beside us tells us that she has been waiting for an hour and a half. I ask her why she is smiling. Her eyes widen with delight, ‘cause it’s worth it…and my pie is the next one up.’

We get a table in the back and finish our root beers. Classical music showered down upon the sea of patrons and the little green room seemed to inflate and deflate as people came in hungry and left full.


The group next to us receives their two pies. One of them guards the pies from the drooling crowd as the others pick out beverages. Wise decision, I think to myself as I hungrily eye their steaming pizza.

I get up to film the fames owner Mr. DeMarco work his magic on pie after pie after pie. (DeMarco is a bit of a perfectionist and works seven days a week. He is the soul architect of the pie, basically because he does not trust anyone to make pizza up to the standard that his patrons have come to expect). I film DeMarco drizzle olive oil atop a pie then place it in the sweltering oven, the gingerly retrieve a perfectly cooked pie, my pie as it turns out, from the oven. On lookers swoon and he finished my pie off with a sprinkle of grana padana cheese and some fresh Basil.

I was so hungry by the time we got the pie that I literally drank my first slice down in one messy slurp. How did Kara like her first piece? I couldn’t really tell you cause there was very little talking. The second slice we both savored. The crust was thin and perfectly burnt at the ends. The sauce was not overly sweet – one of my biggest pet-peeves – and the grana padana cheese added a level of complexity in both flavor and texture that caused an involuntary smile to well up from the depths of your soul.

By the third slice, Kara and I had slowed down to a moderate pace and I told her about my mothers Mole eating habits while she was pregnant with me, and the emothional affect it had on me decades later. “ Wow. So what your telling me is that its possible that, twenty years from now, my son or daughter (we don’t know the sex yet) is going to wander into Di Fara’s and start crying after their first bite of pizza?” I swallowed my last bite and brushed the crumbs from my lap, “Are you kidding me, I believe it’s in their destiny clause”