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

Ingredients
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,
Ben,
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!
Madeline

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

Ingredients
  • 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
directions
  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.
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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.

3:20
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.’

4:00
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.

4:30

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.

5:00
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”
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