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Archive for December, 2009

Lucky Lentils

I was surprised when I read Martha Rose Shulman’s New Year’s Dishes for Prosperity and Longevity, in the New York Times.  Though she writes that Italians consider lentils good luck at the beginning of the New Year, she doesn’t mention that they’re also popular in Latin America and Spain.  I know because I’ve been forcing them down New Year’s lentils for years.  Not my favorite bean, I’m purely in it for the prosperity.  So if you’re Italian, Hispanic, or need a little luck, here’s a recipe to start the New Year.

Boxing Days

It’s been all about the boxes these days – the boxes I packed my kitchen into when I learned hours before Christmas vacation that my apartment was being renovated, the boxes I’ve been wrapping for gifts, and the ceder box or caja china I sat by for hours this afternoon with a 70lb pig roasting inside for Nochebuena.  Let the de-boxing begin and have a Merry Christmas!

The Mean Reds

I hadn’t planned on going to Fifth Avenue and when I did it was grudgingly. I was rushed, I was cold, it was Christmas but didn’t feel like it. I was having the mean reds. When I found myself just a few feet away from Tiffany & Co., the breakfast cure was so close it was worth a try. I wasn’t Holly Golightly, but it was Tiffany’s and it worked. Bright and precise, it really does turn the reds to rubies and the blues to sapphires for the moment you’re there. The best holiday songs are about the Christmas you’re not having so it was relief to find a place that’s just what it should be in a season of high expectations. If you find yourself with the same situation and no yellow cab to get to 57th Street, here are a few Tiffany windows to tide you over.

Shops Around the Corner

Shopping in Brooklyn can be a unique experience, each store its own world staffed by the designer/owner/manager who’s set up shop.  Going into the final week before Christmas, I decided to do a quick tour of my favorites looking for housewares and kitchen gadgets, preferably utilitarian but with something more.  After all, if they’re pouring out the same 1/2 cup of milk, why shouldn’t measuring cups come shaped like matryoshka nesting dolls or salt and pepper shakers as penguins for that matter?  Here’s what I found:

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Estrellas de Chocolate

I’ve become deeply suspicious of Cuban cookies.  It’s not really the cookie’s fault.  They’re just not what we do.  Growing up, home baked cookies weren’t foreign but they did have the exoticism of something you’d mostly like get at a friend’s house.  Tres leches, meringues, tocino del cielo, flan were home, toll house was not.  The last couple of months, I’ve tried a few forgettable variations. I follow the recipes to the letter but cusubes elude me and my caballitos de queque were cinnamon drenched failures.  This being the cookie season, I looked though all my Cuban sources for a new recipe that was traditional but workable.  Many called for Crisco with 1950′s abandon while others were really turrones (blended with more Crisco). Read more

I Still Want To

Today marks a year since I put up my first post,  I want to eat my Christmas tree, so I thought it would be appropriate to re-post now.  When I started, I had a vague notion that I wanted to write food and that all my titles would end in ellipses.  Since then, I’ve found my focus, spoken to hundreds of people willing to answer thousands of questions, and become the person at the restaurant who photographs her food.  I was worried that I would run out of things to write but I’ve kept this site going and had the opportunity to write here, here and there.  I must have really been hungry.

December Daze

Decembers are a blur whether or not it’s snowing.  With no plans to host, I’ve decided to spend the holiday party season as a kind of foreign exchange student.  I’m just showing up when asked and however they’re celebrating, I’ll just go with it.  Last Christmas was my family’s turn to have Noche Buena dinner and before that I had a party for friends before everyone went their separate ways, so it’s just not my year. Read more

The Lists

With so many “best of” lists coming out not only for the year but the decade, it’s good to have a focus.  Looking at the best of cookbook lists that are coming out, I realize that the year has gone by in blink and I have a lot of reading to do.  From what I’ve seen so far, I’m happy that Francis Mallmann’s Seven Fires is popping up, hope to see Michelle Bernstein’s Cuisine á Latina included on more, and need to make jasmine rice pudding from The Craft of Baking, by Karen DeMasco and Mindy Fox, immediately.

Click here for Caroline Russock’s Cook the Book take on Serious Eats and here for Eat Me Daily’s roundup.  Finally, just for fun here are the top 10 flash mob pics of 2009 in case you missed any.

Figure Eights

There’s always a point when I finish a post and choose a country category that feels a little dishonest.  Well not so much dishonest but not the whole elephant either.  When I decided to write about Latin food, I knew that it would be a fuzzy focus and difficult to define.  Buñuelos, fritters popular throughout Spain and Latin America, are a good example.  Originally from the Iberian penninsula, they’re either Arabic or Sephardic, or maybe both.  Typically made from a wheat-based dough that’s flavored with anise, they’re rolled into balls or discs and deep fried then topped with a syrup or honey. Read more

Playing with Food

I am always inclined to buy fresh quinces.  I think it’s the soft gray down that clings to them so that they appear freshly hatched, like apples in baby blankets.  Actually using them however is a different story.  Too often, I leave them on my counter to look pretty and forlorn until I make a last minute attempt at transforming them into some kind of edible paste or jelly.  It seemed a shame to always take something fresh and sugar it down to pulp, no matter how delicious it is with manchego.  Determined do it differently this time, I started to look for quince recipes that didn’t end in membrillo. Read more

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