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Archive for August, 2009

Fireside Break

Some books seem more alive than others.  I found this 1949 copy of James Beard’s The Fireside Cook Book today in a used book store.  Banged up and worn through, it was love at first sight.  Opening with description of prehistoric man enjoying a salad, he then compares the caveman’s roasting of a saber-tooth tiger to the modern housewife making Sunday dinner.  The illustrations by Alice and Martin Provensen – turtle troubadours, snatches of music, lobsters taking swigs from wine bottles, foxes teaching hen school, devils and angels – keep pace with the text.  I’ll have to read it cover to cover to find out why those clams in booties are attacking that chicken with pitchforks.  While his love of the old world is evident, his Whitman-like enthusiasm for new world American pulses throughout.  Everything about this book makes you smile. Read more

Pan y Chocolate

Since August has been more hectic than I’d planned, I’ve been enjoying my own kitchen vacation this week.  With family visiting,  I’ve avoided my usual pitfall of putting together an over ambitious meal with only a 50/50 chance of success.  This morning I kept it simple.  I found a Catalan recipe in Anya Von Bremzen’s The New Spanish Table for toast with chocolate and olive oil.  Just a baguette brushed with olive oil then toasted or broiled for a couple of minutes till golden, covered with melted dark chocolate then sprinkled with Maldon sea salt.  With only a few basic ingredients, I can dwell on which chocolate to use or whether my olive oil is sufficiently “fruity”.  An easy lesson learned, and something to remember the next time I’m elbow deep in the kitchen. Read more

Universo Venezuela

I was happy to hear that Miss Venezuela had won the Miss Universe title for a historical second year in a row.  Though I don’t follow the pageant and can’t speak for the universe, they do seem to want it more than any other country.  I think it was seeing this in the news that reminded me of a Venezuelan restaurant I had wanted to try for a few weeks.  When I read in the New York Times about the patacón Maracucho served in El Cocotero, I felt deprived.  Having grown up on fried plantains, Read more

Oh Fig!

A friend coined the term produce shopaholic on her blog, Mindy’s Recipe for Disaster.  If I’d read her post earlier, I may have recognized the symptoms before I went on a why-not-bender at the Park Slope Food Co-op yesterday.  Though I love figs, I rarely buy fresh ones.  I have plans for tarts and compotes, but the slightest delay and they’re past all use.  Still, I couldn’t resist when I found organic Calimyrna figs.  I reasoned that the green ones would at least give me a head start, and they were so cute and plump I had to take them home.  A quick search online and through my books gave me a couple of ideas.  I had some this morning drizzled with peppered honey and Spanish goat cheese with sweet olive oil crackers.  It was sweet, spicy, flowery and creamy all at the same time.  The recipe from Bon Appétit could not be easier, so there is no reason to put off using them straight away.  I also found an interesting recipe for fig compote with red wine and spices among the formidable 1080 Recipes, one of my favorite cookbooks/step stools that I’ll try next.  Now that I’m hooked, I’ll need more figs.

For the complete Fresh Figs with Goat Cheese and Peppered Honey recipe click here.

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Last Gazp

I know it will still be warm in September, but with August almost gone, summer is definitely slipping away.  I wanted to include one more gazpacho recipe before it was over, using the few tomatoes that had made it to market despite the late blight. I checked Saveur for recipes and found this post featured on their best of the web section, which led me to delicious days.  A wonderful site maintained by Nicky and Oliver, a couple based out of Munich, the recipe itself comes from their friend Carlos fittingly named Gazpacho con Tropezones or stumbling stones.  Once I’d finally jumped to the right page, I found it as easy and straightforward as the recipe promised, and just in time.

High Line Break

My great uncle once wrote that he had an impure love for cities.  Though he was describing 19th century Havana, the New York City High Line is the perfect expression of the sentiment.  I’d been hearing about it since it opened but hadn’t gone till last weekend.  An elevated railway last used in 1980, it’s been transformed into an promenade cutting into the New York City Skyline.  With nature and design in perfect balance everywhere you look, it’s a beautiful tightrope.

Pastel de Mango Verde

I still remember seeing the “Cookies” sign for the first time.  Just off the corner of Smith Street, I was drawn to the bright blue storefront realizing with disappointment that they were closed for the night.  Peering through the grating into the store (it was pretty sad), I knew I’d be back.  I reasoned that if an entire bakery was dedicated to just making cookies, they must be really good cookies.  If the same cookies were displayed  lovingly gift wrapped, they must be uniquely great.  I’ve been scratching at their door ever since. Read more

New Stop

After writing about Calexico a few weeks ago, I learned that some friends from the neighborhood were about to open Oaxaca, their own taqueria on Smith Street.  I’ve known the young owners for a long time since they grew up nearby and worked at Lobo, one of my favorite brunch spots.  Though still in high school, they never scowled, even if I did something stupid like ask to split an order of french toast or substitute my home fries for fresh fruit.  That’s why I was so excited to come across this mostly positive review in this weeks New York Times Dining & Wine section.  Though it’s still coming together, they’re off to a good start.

Huevos en Cemitas

A couple of years ago, I found a recipe for eggs baked in brioche that I decided to make for Mother’s Day.  It went over better than I’d hoped since it reminded my Mom of a breakfast she’d loved as a little girl in Cuba.  Not having had it since then, she vaguely remembered ham and béchamel sauce added to eggs baked in rolls called cemitas.  I was especially curious since I’d always thought of traditional Cuban breakfast as pressed pan cubano and cafe con leche.  A few weeks ago, a friend lent me her copy of the book Cuban Cookery by Blanche Z. De Baralt.  An American who lived in Europe and studied at Packer Collegiate, a few blocks away from where I live now, she moved to Havana at the turn of the century  with her husband, a Cuban doctor.  Published in 1931, I fell in love with the combination of her Edith Wharton English with her use of “our” and “we” to describe traditional Cuban food.  She’d clearly gone native, and I liked her that much more for it.  When I found her notes on Huevos en Cemitas or Eggs in Rolls – a  hollowed out breakfast roll filled with chopped meat, petits pois, and cream sauce topped with a raw egg and baked till set – I knew I’d found my mother’s missing recipe. Read more

Vicarious Eating

A few weeks, I listened to the Times Talks podcast from November 2008 where Eric Asimov from of the New York Times moderated a fascinating discussion between Anthony Bourdain and El Bulli’s Ferran Adrià.  While Adrià’s passion and intellect were in full display, the slide show that accompanied his evocative words was not.  While we’re used to watching people talk about and enjoy food we’re not eating, listening on my iPhone to an audience ooh and ahh over the photographs being projected that I also wasn’t seeing, was just sad.  Normally, I could let my imagination run wild, but I don’t think my imagination would be a match in this case.  That’s one reason I loved this post by the Amateur Gourmet, Adam Roberts, about his visit to El Bulli this month.  It’s exactly how I may have imagined my own meal there but in comic book format with video clips.  By far, my favorite vicarious meal this summer.

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