• Rutabaga, Celery, Dill, & Smoked Chicken Soup
  • Matcha Whoopie Pies with Sakura Buttercream Filling
  • Chicken with Oyster Mushrooms, Portobellos, & Napa Cabbage
  • Mushroom Chicken Pie
  • Pistachio Wasabi Beets
  • Sichuan Chili Oil, and variety of cold-chicken-based lunches
  • Lemony Pea and Radish Salad with Mint
  • The Fort Greene
  • East African Sweet Pea Soup
  • Lazy, Rustic, Haphazard, and Amazing Sour Cherry Pies
  • Malaysian Chicken Satay
  • The Wildman’s iPhone App
  • Welsh Cakes with Dried Apricots and Candied Ginger
  • Farmhouse Pork with Black Beans and Green Peppers (and Trotter Gear)
  • Black Pepper Tofu with Pork
  • Peposo
  • Toasted Hazelnut Chai
  • Kentucky Coffee Spread
  • Banana Guacamole
  • Spicy Shrimp with Wine Rice
  • Double Ginger Chocolate Chunk Scones
  • Artichoke and Blood Orange Salad (with frisee, parsley, and cardamom)
  • Chevre Truffles
  • Clementine Sassafras Ice Cream
  • Jack is Closed (but you can vote for our pie on Sunday)
  • Our Wedding
  • Pecan Mole
  • Son-in-Law Eggs
  • Saffron Turmeric Cake with Meyer Lemon Sorbet, Argan Oil Whipped Cream, Almond Brittle, and Thyme
  • My Triumphant Return, with a Book Giveaway!

Pork-Stuffed Leg of Lamb and Lamby Cranberry Beans

This post actually contains two recipes: Roasted Leg of Lamb Stuffed With Pork, Chestnuts, and Morels and Lamby Cranberry Beans with Itsy Bitsy Potatoes.

Dave and I just took the Pork and Apples class taught by Aki and Alex of Ideas in Food. We really enjoyed it quite a lot. I’m mostly thrilled that I finally got to butcher a pig’s head!

(That’s a photo of my hands, taken by Aki.)

Anyways, point being, it got me thinking about how important it is to me to use as much of I can of whatever foodstuffs I buy. For instance, I always save bones and vegetables scraps in the freezer for stock. Every time we make bacon, we add the extra grease to a tin can kept in our freezer. Hell, we still have a ton of sour cherry pits in our freezer from last summer’s harvest on the off chance that we can figure out how to cook with the nuts and make an exfoliating soap from the shells. Not to mention our many frozen bags of shrimp shells and fish heads, which lie in wait of my next chowder craving.

So, the day after the class, when we were looking over the lamb available at the greenmarket, I insisted that we get a bone-in leg of lamb. Sure, it’s more work, but I was still in a butchering sort of mood, and I figured we could use the bone to make a lamb stock that we’d use to intensify the lambiness of the overall meal.

This worked out just beautifully.

When cooking this meal, everywhere one would normally use water, we used lamb stock instead. Lamby bulgur. Lamby morels. Lamby cranberry beans and itsy bitsy potatoes. My effort to avoid wastefulness made the whole meal richer, meatier, and more delicious.

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Horchata, and a Deadline Extension for the Garlic Event

Many of you are probably familiar with the horchata you can buy at Burritoville, a pale, dairy imitation of the real thing made with fat-free milk, rice powder, cinnamon, and sugar. It’s potable, but doesn’t even begin to compare with horchata made with actual rice and almonds, cinnamon and vanilla, with no milk in sight.

Horchata is a sweet, creamy beverage that I love to drink when eating spicy foods. When Dave first tried it at a nearby Oaxacan restaurant a few weeks ago, he went on a horchata-making binge. And y’know what? I am totally okay with this!

In other news, I’m extending the deadline for Yes, Of Course You Can Pair Garlic With That! a week until next Monday, October 15, 2007 – a lot of people wrote in and said that they’d just run out of time, and honestly, I’m too busy to post the round-up this week, anyway.

Please take advantage of this extra week to get me some more wonderfully creative garlic pairing recipes!

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Reminder: Yes, Of Course You Can Pair Garlic With That!

This is just a reminder that the deadline for Yes, Of Course You Can Pair Garlic With That! is Monday, October 8th!

To participate in Yes, Of Course You Can Pair Garlic With That!, all you have to do is cook a dish that pairs garlic with something it’s not usually paired with. I have a really strong preference for seeing garlic/hazelnut dishes, but any unusual garlic pairing is fair game. Have fun with this!

The deadline is October 8, 2007 and I’ll post a round-up shortly thereafter.

Be sure to link back to this entry in your post. And once you’ve posted your entry, please send an email to me at habeasbrulee@gmail.com. The subject line should read “Yes, Of Course You Can Pair Garlic With That!”. Please attach a photo of your dish (if you have one) to the email, and tell me:

Your name
Where you live
Your blog’s name
Your blog’s URL
The name of your dish
Your entry’s URL

If you don’t have a food blog, feel free to post your entry on your non-food blog or in the comments to the original post.

More information available at the original post.

Sweet Potato, Chestnut, and Bacon Soup

This is meant as a direct response to the question – what do you do when you come across a monstrously large sweet potato that stares you in the face and demands to be bested?

You puree the sucker into soup, that’s what.

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Chewy Cherry Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’d been craving chocolate chip cookies for weeks before I made these. But I was always too busy, or occasionally, trying to take a day now and then without eating any desserts. (This is difficult for me. I don’t tend to eat huge quantities of dessert, but I like a little bit of sweetness at the end of my meals.)

Then my mother handed me a bag of dried cherries. She’d bought them for herself, but after tasting one, she decided that they weren’t actually for eating. They were for baking! And since she doesn’t bake, that meant that they were for me! Oh happy day.

I made these cookies to keep a carful of friends happy during the 2 hour drive out to the orchard where we went apple-picking a few weeks ago. When my friend’s pre-diabetic boyfriend kept eating them to the point where his hands started shaking, I figured they were a success – a dangerous success, sure, but a success nonetheless.

They’re a bit almondy, but mostly it’s that fabulous one-two hit combo of chocolate and cherries that makes them so very satisfying.

Be warned, though – they’re so soft and chewy that they tend to just fall apart. I suggest serving them to friends at home, where everyone is happy just grabbing pieces of cookie off the pile on the plate and sharing the joy together.

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Roundup of Food Blog Posts I’ve Enjoyed #11

I’ve been building up this batch of links a while now. These are food blog posts I’ve come across and considered gorgeous, interesting, inspiring, and overall well worth saving and sharing with the rest of you. I hope that you enjoy them as much as I do.

The photo above, well, that’s me. (Dave took the photo.) I started boxing about 6 weeks ago, and after a month they finally made me buy my own gloves. Boxing has been wonderful fun – it’s a great workout, and an interesting skill to learn. Not to mention a good way to work out aggression.

I was actually at a deposition earlier this week where my opposing counsel turned out to be another female attorney who loves to box. We resisted the urge to gamble the outcome of the case on a boxing match between the two of us, though.

Anyway, onto the food!

Deinin at Cloudberry Quark describes her Cabbage & Onion Stew as “a brown, sweetish mush that looks terrible.” Now, maybe that’s true, but it sounds like the sort of food my Hungarian grandmother would have served to me as a child, if only adding in cauliflower had occurred to her at the time. When winter comes, I’ll make this to help get me through.

It’s no secret that Tigers & Strawberries is one of my absolute favorite blogs of all time. So it should come as no surprise that I want you to check out a lot of Barbara’s entries. She invented spicy, floral, tingly, sugary cookies called Frostflowers. I can think of so many saucy dishes that would be wonderful served atop her Two-Sides-Brown: Pan-Fried Noodle Pancake. Although the recipe did not actually originate from Singapore, I keep meaning to try her Singapore Rice Noodles. And who can say no to a tasty plate of Beef Chow Fun?

Cenk from Cafe Fernando served his Gianduja Stracciatella Gelato between wafer halvas, making for a lovely hazelnut chocolate ice cream cake.

Diner Girl at French Laundry at Home made Cream of Walnut Soup. Now, I don’t really eat nuts (it’s a texture thing) or cream-of-anything soups (ditto), but this still made my jaw drop. I want to serve it with chocolate cake. Now.

Brilynn from Jumbo Empanadas, your hero and mine, has once again proven that she is the most daring baker of them all. When life serves her lemons, she makes Strawberry Mirror Cake… Ice Cream.

Bee from Rasa Malaysia is another favorite food blogger of mine. Her dramatic photos of her Sichuan-style Crawfish/Crayfish/Crawdad (麻辣小龙虾) caught my eye, and the recipe itself continued to keep my attention. And for a sweet follow-up, I’d love to try her Souffle Egg White Balls with Red Bean Paste (高力豆沙).

Bea from La Tartine Gourmande is a brave woman, and she proved it yet again by cooking her first lobster. Her tale of courage, not to mention Asian-Style Lobster Soup, is not to be missed. Nor would you want to miss her Peach (or Apricots) Tart, Sweet Almond Oil Crust.

If you are at all interested in molecular gastronomy, you can’t afford to miss Martin’s post at Khymos, where he shares his huge Hydrocolloid recipe collection.

Nicole at Baking Bites has finally given me a good reason to buy that guava paste which always taunts me at the store, by sharing her recipe for Cuban Shortbread Cookies.

I’m still putting off eating winter squash until it’s absolutely necessary, since I’m just not ready to admit that summer is over yet. Still, Michelle at Oswego Tea‘s Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash is an awfully good argument for starting winter squash season up again.

And if we’re heading into winter, I also want to try out Cara from Cara’s Cravings‘s Pumpkin Gnocchi with Sage and Toasted Pecan Cream.

Anh from Food Lover’s Journey generously shared the recipe for one of my favorite dishes, Fried Rice Noodles with Ginger Beef and Chinese Broccoli. Chinese broccoli can do no wrong in my eyes. Or rather, in my mouth.

Katie from Thyme for Cooking created a Warm Cabbage Pasta Salad that reminds me a bit of my grandmother’s cabbage noodles. One of these days, I’m going to make them both side by side, just to compare.

Haalo from Cook (almost) Anything at Least Once made the most beautiful Jewelled Amaranth you can possibly imagine. It looks like it should be served at a royal feast to a court of people draped in silk robes, seated on pillows.

Meena from Hooked on Heat made a scrumptious looking veggie dish, Bok Choy in Coconut Milk.

Keiko from Nordljus intrigued me with her White Sesame Ice Cream with Molasses Swirl, with White Sesame Tuile Biscuits. Would it taste like halvah ice cream, I wonder?

I was completely blown away by the thought of Pork Belly in Almond Milk, which I discovered over at Chubby Hubby. The post also features one of the sexiest photos involving pork that I have ever seen. Go take a look for yourself.

When Dave started obsessing over horchata, I had to google around to find a recipe for him. We ended up using a Horchata recipe from Josh at The Food Section, and it turned out great!

Along the way as I searched for horchata recipes, I stumbled across Chockylit from Cupcake Bakeshop‘s recipe for Horchata Cupcakes. These look incredible!

And speaking of tasty cupcakes, take a look at the Apple Cardamom Cupcakes with Salted Caramel posted by Garrett at Vanilla Garlic.

Pasta with Red Lentils, Ginger, and Spinach

This is way, way too buttery to be considered healthy, but I do consider it delicious. Red lentils shining like jewels among the pasta, bursts of flavor from the spinach, and that’s all it takes to keep me happy.

It is surprisingly gingery! The ginger comes out as a floral flavor here, not particularly sharp. Just lovely.

This is the dish that has inspired people to offer to chip in towards groceries if only I’d consider packing lunches for them, too.

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Chocolate Raspberry Napoleons

Not everything has to be complicated. These napoleons are dead simple and utterly delicious. The chocolate layers are made of an easy-schmeasy faux chocolate mousse, made by melting chocolate into heavy cream, chilling it, and whipping it like whipped cream. Phyllo is purchased, layered, and baked with minimal effort. And raspberries, oh, luscious, seasonal raspberries!

This came about because I found raspberries for sale at the greenmarket for half the price I’m used to, so I bought a bunch and came home looking for an excuse to play with them. They are more expensive and, honestly, tastier earlier in the season, but so be it. I wanted to take advantage of those last lovely berries trickling in before they were completely gone for the year.

Anyways, I am short on time lately, so it had to be a simple, fast recipe. A bit of brainstorming later, this is what Dave and I came up with.

(You know what our brainstorming is like by now, right? First he says that it has to involve chocolate. Then I say that there are other options. Then he says, if there’s no chocolate it doesn’t even count as dessert. Then I say, I want rose petal jelly with my raspberries! &c.)

I want to have a dinner party, just so I can serve all the easy food we’ve been making lately. Mango served with a dipping mix of sugar, salt, and cayenne. Some sort of straightforward fish dish. These napoleons. All of the accolades, none of the sweat.

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Yes, Of Course You Can Pair Garlic With That!

I’m announcing a one-time-only food blogging event: Yes, Of Course You Can Pair Garlic With That!

When I posted my recipe for dolmas (stuffed grape leaves), I mused that I should start a food blog event devoted to pairing garlic with hazelnut, a flavor combination that thrills me to no end. Dave and I discovered it when following some pasta recipe – the sauce was mediocre, but the first stage, hazelnut butter mixed with minced garlic, was fantastically good. I used the same pairing when making my dolmas, and loved the combination there as well.

In response to that post, one person commented:

Hi there,

I like to draw a line on the number of things you can pair with garlic and make these pairings successful. Peaches and garlic— no! Hazelnuts and garlic— no!

And here is why: garlic tends to do very well, super well, with things that are oily (olive oil), fat (cream, pine nuts) or acidic (lemon).
Hazelnuts do not contain as much oil as other nuts and for this reason, pairing them with garlic is less than optimal.
Do not forget that weird pairings, unusual pairings do not always mean successful pairings! The Greeks have been around longer than you and since hazelnuts grow in Greece, don’t you think they would have paired them together, to a great success?
So, experiment if you must but I do not predict great successes with this attempt! Sorry to rain on your parade!

Let’s prove her wrong! I disagree entirely on the garlic/hazelnut pairing, which I adore with all the adorings I’ve got. I’ve never tried garlic with peaches, but I bet I could make a pretty good barbecue sauce with the two of them together, at least.

The Greeks haven’t thought up every delicious food combination that can possibly exist. That’s the joy of food blogging – we can experiment and discover wild new creations, and sometimes they are great successes!

To participate in Yes, Of Course You Can Pair Garlic With That!, all you have to do is cook a dish that pairs garlic with something it’s not usually paired with. I have a really strong preference for seeing garlic/hazelnut dishes, but any unusual garlic pairing is fair game. Have fun with this!

The deadline is October 8, 2007 and I’ll post a round-up shortly thereafter.

Be sure to link back to this entry in your post. And once you’ve posted your entry, please send an email to me at habeasbrulee@gmail.com. The subject line should read “Yes, Of Course You Can Pair Garlic With That!”. Please attach a photo of your dish (if you have one) to the email, and tell me:

Your name
Where you live
Your blog’s name
Your blog’s URL
The name of your dish
Your entry’s URL

If you don’t have a food blog, feel free to post your entry on your non-food blog or in the comments to this post.

Not-So-Green Mango Salad

When I want to find ripe mangoes – lush, juicy, almost overripe mangoes, in fact – the Mrs. Robinsons of mangoes – all the shelves seem to carry are hard, tart, green mangoes.

But when I’m looking for tart, sharp green mangoes – more a vegetable than a fruit, clear and refreshing like citrus – the shelves are full of fragrant, sweet, tender mangoes that probably don’t even exist except for those times when I’m searching for the green ones.

Why do mangoes mock me so?

Whatever the reason, that’s my excuse for bringing you a not-so-green mango salad today, instead of the Burmese green mango salad Dave and I had intended to create. Made with mangoes that were somewhat unripe, firm and tasty without the dripping lushness or sharp tanginess of either extreme, this salad pops with fish sauce and sesame oil, sharpened with lime juice, and it has the satisfying crunch of raw red cabbage.

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Salmon Potato Galettes

These latkes look kinda fishy to me.

At least, that was was my first thought when I glanced upon the recipe in Mark Bittman’s Fish: The Complete Guide to Buying and Cooking. I was on a mission to make salmon for dinner, since we don’t eat nearly enough seafood around here, and Dave complains when I pick up fish that he considers too flavorful (mackerel) or too bony (butterfish).

It’s really unfortunate. I grew up sailing, and I love fish. I caught the first fish I ever ate, in fact. (It was a fluke.) I wish we ate more fish, and blame my recent lack of fishy meals on Dave.

This is a perfect way to use up leftover salmon that has become boring, or the flesh left on the skin after you’ve cut salmon scallops for some other recipe. It revitalizes leftovers, transforms them into something different, something… crunchier.

Though Bittman calls these galettes, I look forward to serving them as Salmon Potato Latkes when Channukah comes around.

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Dolmas (Stuffed Grape Leaves)

My family and I sailed around the Cyclades in Greece a few summers ago, and while we felt that the cuisine on the islands became tedious after a while, there were a few things we never tired of: dolmas, spanikopita, and milk pies.

My dolmas are a bit of a stretch from traditional Greek or Turkish stuffed grape leaves, which sometimes call for pine nuts but never hazelnuts, and which can call for currants or meat but rarely both at the same time. I think that hazelnuts and garlic were meant for each other, truly, and that meat can always be improved with a little fruit. (I plan to devote my life to creating hazelnut/garlic recipes, in fact. Maybe I should start a food blog event devoted to the pairing?)

To be fair, I’m still holding a bit of a grudge against some Greek traditions, anyways. When I tried to visit the island of Delos, we were turned away because the center of the ancient world was closed on Mondays.

I’d still kill for a good Greek milk pie recipe, mind.

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Ma La Chicken with Roly-Poly Squash

As anyone who grows vegetables can tell you, it is easy to find yourself drowning in summer squash. We’re not gardeners (I have a black thumb of death), but even so we find ourselves overwhelmed by the sheer abundance of squash this month.

Last week, Dave and I were wandering around Prospect Heights (a nearby neighborhood in Brooklyn) when we came across a plastic bag full of zucchini hanging from the fence in front of one of the brownstones. A sign above the bag declared that the zucchini came from a farm upstate, and begged passers by to take some. There is no escaping the summer squash!

Not that drowning in summer squash sounds like such a bad way to go, mind.

This dish tastes a bit like a meaty Szechuan version of ratatouille. ‘Ma la’ means ‘numb and spicy’, referring to the heat of the cayenne and the tingliness of the Szechuan peppercorns in this dish. Here, Dave melded that classic flavor combination with the very French/Italian combination of zucchini and tomato, which you’ll remember from the triumphant dish featured in recent film Ratatouille. (Incidentally, I just can’t recommend the film highly enough. Pixar really understands what makes great food great. I love the scene where they show how well they get it.)

Roly-poly squash looks like zucchini’s chubby baby brother. The taste is fairly similar, but when I have the chance to go for cute vegetables over monstrous ones, well, that’s just the way I swing.

Ma La Chicken with Roly-Poly Squash
4 large shallots, chopped
1 lb chicken breast, chopped into bite-sized chunks
2 bananas, peeled and sliced into 1/4″ thick rounds
3 small roly-poly squash (or 1 large zucchini), cut into thin strips (as if you were making crispy fries)
2 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 tbsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp ground szechuan peppercorns
1 tsp ground cinnamon
t/4 tsp ground turmeric
A pinch of ground clove
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a cast iron pan, add some oil, then add the chicken breast in a single layer and brown. Once it is nicely browned, remove the check and set it aside. Add in and brown the shallots, then return the chicken and stir in all of the other ingredients as well. Cook over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, or until done.

Olive Oil Fraud

The photo above is a bead I made (I’ve expanded my hot glass activities to include lampworking as well as glassblowing, lately). I love making glass jellyfish! It is completely unrelated to this post, which is about an interesting article I came across regarding olive oil fraud.

On Monday, the New Yorker published an article on olive oil fraud entitled Slippery Business: the trade in adulterated olive oil by Tom Mueller. The article describes the incredible pervasion of olive oil scams in terms of drug rings, with a lot of fascinating descriptions of how the European Union’s official olive oil tasting panels ferret out the frauds. I was surprised to read that:

More sophisticated scams, like Domenico Ribatti’s, typically take place at high-tech refineries, where the oil is doctored with substances like hazelnut oil and deodorized lampante olive oil, which are extremely difficult to detect by chemical analysis. In 1991, the E.U., recognizing that laboratory tests fail to expose many acts of adulteration, instituted strict taste and aroma requirements for each grade of olive oil and established tasting panels, certified by the International Olive Oil Council, an office created by the United Nations, to enforce them. According to the E.U. regulations, extra-virgin oil must have appreciable levels of pepperiness, bitterness, and fruitiness, and must be free of sixteen official taste flaws, which include “musty,” “fusty,” “cucumber,” and “grubby.” “If there’s one defect, it’s not extra-virgin olive oil—basta, end of story,” Flavio Zaramella, the president of the Corporazione Mastri Oleari, in Milan, one of the most respected private olive-oil associations, told me.

Musty, fusty, cucumber, and grubby! Cucumberish olive oil sounds like it would taste wonderful to me! What could the other dozen official olive oil taste flaws be?

My research uncovered the Olive Handbook, which revealed that the International Olive Oil Council’s standards for Olive Oil and Sensory (Organoleptic) Assessment list the sixteen official taste flaws as:

fusty, musty-humid, muddy sediment, winey-vinegary, metallic, rancid, heated or burnt, haywood, rough, greasy, vegetable water, brine, esparto, earthy, grubby, cucumber.

The Nibble provides an article on The Flavors & Aromas of Olive Oil, which includes a glossary defining the terms for the various desirable and undesirable flavors/aromas in olive oil. Reading that list was quite an education, let me tell you. It defines “cucumber” as

An off flavor that can develop if oil is kept in sealed bottles or tin cans for a prolonged period.

I would never have guessed that on my own! Poor, maligned, tastytasty cucumbers, I feel for you.

Fig, Sweet Potato, and Wild Rice Stuffing

I can’t really take any credit for this recipe, aside from the eating. It was almost completely the brainchild of our friend Bonnie, who had all the ideas except adding in the crispy garlic, which Dave came up with. I’m just playing photographer and stenographer, this time.

(Incidentally, Bonnie makes and sells the cutest, awesomest sock monkeys. I wish she had a website I could link to in saying this. If you are craving sock monkeys, you should let me know so I can send you her way.)

Stuffing is generally seen as a Thanksgiving tradition, and I know very few people who bother with it at any other time of year, myself included. What a damn shame. Now is the time for stuffing, it turns out, while the markets are full of fresh figs and local sweet potatoes. The figs add so much flavor to this stuffing, added in raw at the very end. The sweet potatoes add richness and pull up the figs’ sweetness to a level I prefer, and the texture of the wild rice is the perfect foil for the rest.

I must confess that stuffing is a misnomer, as we never stuffed this stuffing into anything but our bellies. What of it? The best Thanksgiving stuffings are usually those cooked outside of the bird.

Incidentally, this post is yet another entry for La Festa Al Fresco 2007.

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Stir-fried Pork with Pattypan Squash and Garlic Scapes

My wok has been yearning for seasonal vegetables. Since my bedroom door opens right into the kitchen, I can hear the wok at night, crying for fresh foods soon to go out of season and disappear until next spring.

I can’t sleep with a crying wok just a few yards away from my head. Something had to be done.

Okay, I confess: What really happened is that I told Dave that I wanted to make a quick ‘n easy stir-fry for dinner. He went out shopping and came back with all these wonderful colorful pattypan squashes and a bag of twistytasty garlic scapes. I think it was his idea of a compromise – I like pattypan squash more than he does, but garlic scapes are his favorite vegetable, bar none. He did all the chopping, then handed the bowls of ingredients over to me.

I’m generally the one who does all stir-frying at our place, as it turns out. He gets to do all deep-frying, and most of the broiling of steaks. I tend to bake cookies, he tends to bake breads. It’s been fascinating to see how we delineate kitchen tasks over time. For those of you who share a kitchen with a partner, do you split up areas of cooking like this, too?

I love the layered timing of stir-frying. I love the fast terror of it. I like to tell people that if they’re not afraid when stir-frying, they probably have the heat down too low. Be afraid! Revel in the adrenaline rush of cooking your dinner!

I love the different textures of the elements in this dish. I cooked the pork fairly rare, so it remained very tender. The scapes were just on the good side of the line between crisp and woody. The squash was tender and crisp all at once, a middle ground between the other two main ingredients.

With good ingredients, everything here is so flavorful that it just doesn’t need much in the way of seasonings to bring it to life. After all, it’s basically early summer on a plate. (Shh, it still feels like early summer to me, since garlic scapes have been available so late in the season.) Which makes it the perfect entry for La Festa Al Fresco 2007.

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Jambalaya, TOPP-Style

My partner, Dave, has a wonderful perk at his company, TOPP. Every other Friday, a small group of employees cooks lunch for the entire parent company. A different group each time. Everyone gets to participate.

Whenever it’s Dave’s turn, he makes my dreams come true by bringing men home to cook for me. That is, some of his coworkers come over and they practice their menus before unleashing the same recipes upon their coworkers.

Last time, they decided to make jambalaya, rice and beans, collard greens, cornbread, chocolate mousse, and tuiles. I am a lucky woman – I spent the evening curled up on the couch with my laptop doing lawyerly work and being a breadwinner, while the men cooked together for me.

Their jambalaya was just excellent, better than any I’ve had before. It was adapted from a combination of recipes that they found online and in cookbooks, tweaked further by whatever caught their eye at the store and in our pantry. It helped that, much like a Depression-era housewife, we store bacon grease in a can in our freezer. Because it makes things more delicious, that’s why.

I have never been at a company with such awesomeness as that. Of course, now that I’m in solo practice, I cook and bring in lunch for my entire company almost every day.

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Hazelnut Cookie Sherry Vinegar Swirl Ice Cream

This is my new favorite ice cream. I mean that. It is absolutely bursting with flavor, rich nuttiness, cookie crunchiness, and surprising sweet sharpness from the sherry vinegar swirl. God, this is good.

Dave pointed out that when we brainstorm recipes together they always turn out better than the recipes we create separately on our own, and he’s right.

It’s somewhat reminiscent of the Almond Cookie Ice Cream you can get at the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, which tastes a bit like cold, creamy marzipan. Our Hazelnut Cookie Sherry Vinegar Swirl Ice Cream is better, though, with the crunch and the sharpness added in. I’m just really pleased with myself today, as you can tell. Ice cream success will do that to a person.

A few paragraphs down in this post you will find not only an ice cream recipe, but also a recipe for the hazelnut amaretti that provide the crunch in this ice cream. They’re quite good on their own as well, if you’re into that sort of thing.

This all started with a kitchen full of excess hazelnuts, fresh plums, and fresh sage. What happened to the sage and the plums, you may well ask. Dave vetoed Hazelnut Sage Ice Cream (I can’t imagine why), and after one taste of this splendid ice cream, we completely forgot about the plums.

Dave recommends that you contemplate sage and plums while eating this ice cream, as it may bring you closer to sweet, sweet enlightenment.

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Walnut Chicken

This started out as an attempt at making Fesenjan, an intense Afghani and Persian concoction of chicken in a thick pomegranate walnut sauce. Dave got a bit carried away with it, though, and with the replacement of chicken stock and pomegranate molasses for mere pomegranate juice and a big splash of Shaoxing rice wine later, this really became a creation of its own.

I still hope to someday master the art of cooking Fesenjan, but the Walnut Chicken we managed to create instead is delectable in a different way. It’s meatier, in a sense, more straightforward, like a night playing Scrabble with your family instead of the carnival that is Fesenjan. We’ll be making this again.

This is the sort of food I would make for my brothers when I want to receive the most applause. Food that isn’t just fun, but truly about making people happy to have eaten it.

Also, that plate you see in these photos? I blew it out of hot glass myself.

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Turkish-Style Burdock Root

Burdock root, also known as gobo, tastes something like a nutty artichoke potato. The long, slender, flexible roots don’t look like much, but they have a lot of flavor if you slice them thin and braise them to bring it out. Don’t bother peeling off their thin skin, which is both tasty and good for you. (I found that I kept accidentally scraping part it of it off while washing it, but don’t worry yourself over that.)

Dave and I gathered a group of friends together to go foraging in Prospect Park (a/k/a our second, bigger backyard) with Wildman Steve Brill. The Wildman, who even answers the phone by that name, brought this dish as part of his packed lunch. He was kind enough to share it with the entire group, along with his homemade day lily sherbet. The burdock was so good, we were relieved to hear that he had posted the recipe to his website the night before!

The first year burdock with the tasty, tasty roots is a weed with large, wide leaves growing directly out of the ground. You can easily dig it up in NYC parks with nothing more than a small shovel and a peek at Wildman Steve Brill’s instructions.

This style of preparing burdock root is so simple that it can be hard to understand where all the flavor is coming from. Although the vegan Wildman would probably object, we like it best served alongside soupy rice simmered with a bit of bacon in chicken stock.

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Apple Caramel Ice Cream

Life has been busy. I’ve been to Portland, Boston, and home again. I won an acquittal in a murder trial, had lunch at the incomparable Love + Butter, foraged for tasty plants with Wild Man Steve Brill, attended the Fancy Food Show, and discovered that I love not only glassblowing, but lampworking glass beads as well. I am working on some interesting cases, developing a new community website, and am about to start writing (about food, of course) for Gothamist.

This is just a pile of excuses for not posting here more often lately, really. Travel, work, and an absurd collection of hobbies will do that to a person. I love you all, but my clients come first.

That said, my fridge is bursting with ingredients, my bookshelves with cookbooks, and my mind with inspiration. More to come, soon!

In the meantime, enjoy this wonderful ice cream, made by following a recipe found in Kate Zuckerman’s The Sweet Life: Desserts from Chanterelle. She’s right, it really does taste like a tart tatine.

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Roundup of Food Blog Posts I’ve Enjoyed #10

The photos in this post are of a failed cake. I won’t even bother posting the recipe, it was so unfortunately dry. But I still maintain that nutella and carmelized bananas are a fabulous topping for any cake.

In the meantime, these are links to food blog posts I thought were wonderful and well worth your while.

This Chickpea & Roasted Red Pepper Penne from Not Eating Out in New York (a practice I engage in quite often myself) looks dead simple and absolutely delicious, a perfect weekday dinner.

Matt made a tasty looking Plum Barbecue Sauce that will certainly be on my barbecue accompaniment roster this summer.

Johanna‘s Deconstructed Passionfruit Curd Pie both excites and depresses me. It excites me, because passionfruit is tasty, the recipe looks great, and I have a bit of passionfruit pulp in my freezer right now. It depresses me because I have so little passionfruit pulp, because passionfruit is so expensive around here and so little pulp can be salvaged from each.

These instructions on how to pack a bento box from Lunch in a Box got me so excited about making my packed lunches cuter, more efficient, and healthier, that I ran out to Chinatown to buy better containers of appropriate sizes immediately after reading it. I sincerely believe that what I learned from this post really will change my life for the better.

Vanessa made Wasabi Noodles with Grapefruit! That hits two of my favorite food groups at once – spicy, and grapefruit. Looks like another dead simple and utterly perfect weekday dinner to me.

From JenJen, a batch of gorgeous Lemon and Craisin Cookies. In her lovely photos, these cookies look light and refreshing and perfect for the warmer months we’re in now.

Speaking of my love of grapefruit, I just came across this recipe for Grapefruit-Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream. I would like to meet the person who thought that up and thank them personally, because it looks like the apotheosis of desserts to me.

And on an ice cream note, check out the Lemon & Chili Ice Cream that Deinin made. If only I could figure out how to clear enough space in my freezer to get my ice cream machine ready for work again!

Helen made the loveliest little Hazelnut Quince Tartlets you could ever imagine, putting her one good quince to exquisite use.

Barbara generously shared her secret recipe for the first Chinese recipe she ever learned, Sichuan Shredded Chicken With Garlic Sauce. After reading the tale of how difficult it was for her to recreate this chef’s secret sauce, I truly do appreciate it that she finally decided to post it publicly, now that the chef who created it has retired and closed his restaurant.

Strawberry Tarragon Sorbet

I dipped a spoon into the churning ice cream maker and gave it to my brother to taste.

“This is actually very good,” he said. “What else are you going to put in it?”

“Nothing,” I assured him.


This took place last Sunday, when we all gathered at my parents’ house to pick sour cherries off their tree. I made the base for this Strawberry Tarragon Sorbet at home, and brought it over to finish up using their ice cream machine. A sour cherry sorbet would have been more appropriate, but the greenmarket strawberries have been so lusciously inviting lately that I could not turn them down.

My brothers refused to let me take the remainder of the sorbet home with me when I left that evening.

I’m in Portland, Oregon now, and will be somewhere in the area for the next week, visiting Dave’s aunts. I’m told there will be a trip to a beach house and a mountain cabin, and of course time with a few friends and a visit to Powell’s before the end. Is there anything else I should see or do while I’m here? I won’t have much free time, but I can try, and I can make a list for next time of need be.

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Chocolate Malted Whopper Drops

I love malt. A good vanilla malted is one of my favorite things in the world, and I adore those Banana Malt Brûlée Spoonfuls I made last summer.

So for this recipe from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, I was up for questing all over to find a big carton of Whoppers so I could make it happen. I made these cookies for a NYC food blogger gathering last week, and brought it to the bar where we all met up. The cookies were half gone by the time I snuck out early, and people thanked me for leaving the rest behind when I left.

After I posted the Rum-Drenched Cocoa-Nana Bread, a mash-up of two Dorie recipes, and took the photo of these cookies, I started thinking about whether I should post about them at all. I had dinner with Dorie last night, and it occurred to me that it would be a wonderful opportunity to ask if she minded my posting her recipes occasionally.

My stance is that while I think that it is good advertising and can only help sales, and I know that is legal because recipes cannot be copyrighted, I still prefer to respect the wishes of cookbook authors who have given of themselves to create books that bring such joy into my life.

I am very grateful to Dorie for giving me the green light on sharing this recipe from her book, Baking: From My Home to Yours.

It’s been a wonderfully food-filled social week for me. The NYC food blogger gathering was a great way to meet a lot of local foodies, who all share such enthusiasm and friendly energy that I feel like I’ve known them for ages. If you want to be notified of the next gathering join the NYC food blogger mailing list. And meeting Dorie and her husband over dinner last night was also such a comfortable, warm experience! They were both so friendly that we were comfortably chatting together from the moment we met.

I do so love the warmth of the foodie community. It’s a grand life we share.

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Rum-Drenched Cocoa-Nana Bread

This is a combination of two recipes from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, one of the smartest and friendliest cookbook authors and food bloggers I know.

It remained moist and delicious almost a week later, and got rave reviews from my mother and Dave’s coworkers. (We bake a lot, so we have to give away most of what we make or suffer the weighty consequences.)

This really is just about perfect in every way. I intend to make it again and again, it was so good, and so easy.

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Banana Burgers

What do you do with a freezer full of banana rum ketchup? You make banana burgers, of course!

These were entirely Dave’s creation. He put them together one night while I was out at the gym, trying to find a boxing class that would be right for me. He timed them so that they would be done just as I came home. I wasn’t particularly hungry after my class, but he left some uncooked for me to make for breakfast the next morning.

I was a bit skeptical, but the combination of banana and pork worked very well. Add a few radish slices for crunch and some banana rum ketchup to bring out that umami, and it was just what I needed when I woke up in the morning and was hungry at last.

The banana is not overpowering, and you won’t be thinking about fruit while eating these burgers. You will be thinking, why is this burger so internally balanced in its flavors, and so delicious? The banana is the answer.

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Roundup of Food Blog Posts I’ve Enjoyed #9

That photo up there? That’s the older of my two little brothers. (He physically towers over me now, but still.) He just graduated from Bard College with a B.A. in Anthropology. I’m damn proud of him.

For the sake of pretending this post is about food, though, here are a few links to food blog posts I recommend.

David Lebovitz shared his recipe for Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream. I made it the other day, so I can personally vouch for it being out of this world. The crunch! The smoothness! The perfect texture! The salt and sweet and cold and oh, I can never eat another caramel ice cream again. I know, because I tried.

While we’re on the subject of ice cream, check out the Cardamom-Vanilla Ice Cream and Cardamom Biscuits made by Rob from Hungry in Hogtown. I have a busy summer ahead of me, I can tell. Rob also made Nutella Powder, using some interesting techniques that I look forward to experimenting with myself.

I am fascinated by the recipe for Pancake Soup I found over at Delicious Days. It looks like so much fun to eat. I should make it next time the younger of my little brothers comes over for dinner, because he and I share a lot of joy in kid stuff.

Barbara from Tigers & Strawberries made made Kho: Quick-Braised Spicy Caramel Pork. In the spirit of bacon toffee, I am convinced that pork and caramel must go together perfectly, and this is high up on my list of recipes to try.

If you like cake decorating, you cannot miss this cake of ultimate cuteness made by A Muffin Story. Threadless held a contest, Threadcakes, asking people to decorate cakes based on Threadless t-shirts. The winning cake was based on a shirt called Insomnia.

A Muffin Story also created a gorgeous Filbert and Raspberry Cake. You can read the story behind the cake here, and find the recipe here at her recipe blog, Never Bashful With Butter.

Aki and Alex shared their recipe for bacon broth, a clear consomme of porky goodness.

Lis from La Mia Cucina proved her worth as a browniebabe by making these scrumptious looking Lemon Mousse Brownies.

I want to like rhubarb, I really do. But somehow whenever I try to make it, it comes out bland and dull. Maybe I would have better luck if I tried Bea’s Rhubarb Tart instead.

Jaden from Jaden’s Steamy Kitchen (can you imagine a more sultry name for our favorite room in every home?) made Garlic Brandy Prawns that cry out for my attention. Soon, lovely tasty prawns. I will make you soon.

I am always on the look-out for new and interesting ways to cook with fermented black beans. So, I was delighted when Bee shared her recipe for Steamed Scallops with Fermented Black Beans. She even included enoki mushrooms, the only kind of mushroom I have ever been able to enjoy eating. Thanks, Bee!

Brilynn, who plays hard and has more energy and creativity than I would know what to do with, adapted my recipe for Raspberry Pomegranate Urfa-Biber Brownies into her intriguing Rhubarb Urfa-Biber Brownies. A little while back, I mailed out urfa-biber to anyone who felt like sending me something fun in exchange. Bri was up for it, and she sent me some honey, carefully wrapped in a really sweet little handmade bag. I loved the package, but seeing her put the spice I’d sent her to good use was even more of a treat for me.

I couldn’t help but laugh when I came across these Black-Bottom Cupcakes at Smitten Kitchen, especially after reading about how Deb wished she could have made the cupcakes prettier. See, when I was a kid, the deli near my school sold these under the name Ugly Muffins. I loved the name, I loved their craggly good looks, and I loved those cupcakes. Deb’s post brings back a lot of memories (and hunger) for me.

S’mores Cupcakes! This is one of the most brilliant baking ideas I’ve ever seen. Graham cracker cupcakes, filled with marshmallow fluff (homemade, of course), covered in chocolate ganache, with a toasted homemade marshmallow on top. Thank you, Cupcake Bakeshop! You have truly made my day.

Cucumber Salad in Two Grandmotherly Styles

When I think of cucumber salad, I think of all the love and sheer stubborn energy that only your grandmother can bring to the table.

My grandmother, my Ima, makes very classic Hungarian cucumber salad, with vinegar and (again, you guessed it) paprika. Alanna of A Veggie Venture learned to make cucumber salad with sour cream from her grandmother, her Nana.

Incidentally, Dave made the red bowl shown in these photos, and I made the clear bowl with the dramatic lip (I like to call it my Elvis bowl). We are still as exuberant about glassblowing as ever.

I was about to make Alanna’s Nana’s cucumber salad when I suddenly realized that I had never asked my grandmother to tell me how to make our family’s version. I called Ima immediately and asked her to tell me what to do. (We call our grandmother Ima, the Hebrew word for mother, because that’s what my mother and my aunt always called her when we were growing up.)

Ima sure was pleased to hear my voice, and even moreso to hear that I had called because I needed her advice. Sometimes I think that she takes her greatest pleasure in life in my admitting that there are still things left for her to teach me.

There always will be, I’m sure.

Both cucumber salad recipes start the same way. You mix thin cucumber slices with some coarse salt, and let them sit for an hour or so. The salt draws a lot of water out, and the cucumber slices become somehow soft and pliable without losing their crispness.

It’s a lot like preparing cabbage for many Hungarian dishes, in fact. That also starts with a step of salting and setting aside, to draw out the moisture and change the texture of the vegetable.

Don’t worry, you rinse the salt water away and press the cucumber slices dry before going any further with either of these recipes.

From there, their paths diverge.

Ima’s cucumber salad is a Hungarian classic, sharp with vinegar and pulled together with the hefty sprinkling of paprika that she throws into almost everything she cooks.

Alanna’s Nana’s cucumber salad is a gentler creation, sweeter, luscious with sour cream and vibrant with chives.

I made half a cuke of each, to test them against each other, and I still can’t tell which I prefer. I guess I’ll just have to keep eating them both until I can figure it out.

This is my second entry for Salad Stravaganza, assuming I’m permitted to enter twice.

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Chocolate Birthday Cake

Having a food blog makes you instantly popular. People email you recipes. Your mother may cut out recipes from magazines and ask you to make them for her, in fact. Even kids like you better once you start to blog about food.

My friend’s young nephew was eager to tell me of a recipe he had invented. He’d never made it, mind, but he thought that I should. He had thought of a chocolate cake, with a layer of chocolate pudding in the middle, covered by chocolate frosting, with a layer of chocolate cookie crumbs over that.

Turned out, his birthday was only a few days later.

My hobby is wish fulfillment. I like making people’s dreams come true. We had to make this birthday cake for my friend’s nephew. There was simply no other option.

The cake layers are adapted from (you guessed it) an Alice Medrich recipe. Instead of chocolate pudding, the center layer is Dave’s usual chocolate mousse. When we first made the cake, we covered it in chocolate ganache and cookie crumbs, but in this version we layered the ganache and crumbs between the cake and mousse layers, and covered the cake with whipped cream instead. To lighten it and cut the sweetness. Really.

Now, part of what I love about Dave is that he will throw himself into these projects with me, trying to make some kid we barely know have a dream come true for his birthday.

The rest of what I love about Dave is that when he scraped the cream fillings out of the Oreo cookies so he could crumble only the cookie bits for the cake, he collected all the cream filling in a small container and brought it along to give to the kid, too.

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Fava Bean and Cherry Salad

I first tasted fava beans a few days ago. I’m not sure how I managed to miss them until now, but I did. But now that I know how creamy they are, how fresh green and buttery in texture, I will be sure not to miss them again!

Preparing fava beans to be cooked is a two step process, one that I imagine would be most pleasant done with a group of friends sitting in rocking chairs out on the front porch (or here in Brooklyn, crowded together out on the front stoop).

First, you have to open up the pods and remove the beans. Next, you have to peel the thick skin from each bean. You can blanch them first if you like, but I didn’t, since they came off fairly easily without. It helps to have nails that can pierce the skin.

The flavor combination works well – it’s a great example of the adage, ‘Things that grow together, go together!’ This time of year, I become very brave, figuring that anything fresh and beautiful I find at the market will meld together with whatever else catches my eye. It tends to work out.

I don’t plan to bust out the grill until next weekend, but we have finally started eating dinner out in the backyard, at least. Dave pulls out the big photography lamp that we like to call ‘the sun’ and sets it up out back, running the power cord in through the window, to light our late night dinners in the summer.

The salad is simple:

Saute your fava beans in ramp butter, with some freshly ground black pepper, salt, and truffle salt to taste. When they are soft and creamy, stir in some sweet cherries, which you have previously halved and pitted. Mince some preserved lemon peel and stir that in, too.

This does involve a few ingredients you have to make in advance, but if you keep them always on hand, salads like this are quick and easy to create.

This is my entry for Vegetables, Beautiful Vegetables and Salad Stravaganza.

Banana Rum Ketchup

Rosa of Rosa’s Yummy Yums made this wonderful banana ketchup last spring, and I’ve seriously been waiting all year to try it out. See, Rosa? I didn’t forget!

Of course, I had to make a few modifications along the way. But that’s what food blogging is all about.

I brought this to a friend’s barbecue yesterday, but had to leave before anyone could try it. Half the fun of bringing food to a party is hearing how people react to it, so I’m a bit disappointed. But Dave and I had to get to the glass studio, where we’d reserved space in the hot shop to blow glass for 4 hours.

If anyone who was at that barbecue happens to read this, please let me know what you thought of the ketchup!

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Thinking Blogger Awards

I am extremely honored that Brilynn, one of my favorite food bloggers, saw fit to nominate me for a Thinking Blogger Award.

I’ll take any excuse to introduce you to some of the wonderful blogs out there for you to read. (I’m tempted to name my other blog, the Mental Disability Law Blog, but I will be good and stick with food blogs instead.) So, in no particular order, my nominees are:
1. Cook & Eat and Still Life With… – both of these blogs are run by the same brilliant woman, so I’m counting them together as a single nominee. I can never decide which impresses me more, her cooking or her food styling and photography. Rather than choosing, I suggest you read up on both. I learned most of what I know about food photography by reading her blog.

2. Tigers & Strawberries – Barbara is a professional, and it shows. Her blog is full of basic tutorials on stir-fry technique, becoming acquainted with each and every spice in your pantry, and more. Her blog is an incredible resource for anyone who wants to learn to cook Chinese, Indian, Thai, or Vietnamese food (and more!) from the bottom up, with great focus on understanding the basic building blocks of flavor and how to layer them together to great effect.

3. Rasa Malaysia – Bee is a wonderful photographer and an excellent chef. Her recipes come off as traditional without being dull, and every time I follow one of them, it survives the taste test and delights our dinner guests.

4. Hungry in Hogtown – Rob is a brave explorer of molecular gastronomy and the tastiness of really cute parts of cute animals. I look forward to his every post, because there is always something there to excite and intrigue me. He is probably the food blogger I would most like to cook with, someday.

5. Roots and Grubs – I mostly read this for Matthew’s tales of the adorable things his three-year-old daughter, Iris, does and says. How can you not love a parent and child who play a game called “I’m takin’ your bacon.”?
Winners, now you get nominate 5 blogs that make you think. Should you choose to participate, please make sure you pass this list of rules to the blogs you are tagging.

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to the original Thinking Blogger Award post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote.

Amaretto Brownies with Saffron Creme Anglaise and Bee Pollen Spice Mix

Dave wanted something chocolate and something creamy. I wanted to play more with Aki and Alex’s bee pollen spice mix, and thought saffron would pull everything together.

I hesitate to call these brownies. They were based on a brownie recipe, but adjusted and baked in muffin tins so that they were practically transformed into rich chocolate cakes. But still, since they remain brownies, this recipe is my entry for browniebabe of the month #2.

The bee pollen spice mix just sings here, adding this wonderful earthy sizzling brightness to the entire dish. It works as brilliantly with desserts as it does with savory dishes.

Matching it with saffron is perfectly sexy, since saffron threads are nothing more than the stigmas of the saffron crocus. The stigma is the part of the plant that receives the male gametes, known as pollen.

Point being, this is easily the sexiest dessert I have ever created – chocolate, a known aphrodisiac, supported and uplifted by male and female sex organs and gametes of flowers.

Spring is here! And Cole Porter is right: “Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it – let’s do it, let’s fall in love!”

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Sour Cherry Braised Lamb Shanks

And now we return to your regularly scheduled LambBlog. (It’s just that lamb is so cute and so tasty!) The sour cherry braising sauce is sort of sweet and sour and spicy and very rich. It is based on our homemade sour cherry sage flower jam, though you could probably substitute sour cherries, sage, and sugar.

My father’s sour cherry tree should be full of fruit in about a month or so, and I can’t wait. This year, we intend to follow the good example of the Hungarians in Tarpa (the town where my grandmother was born), who spread out tarp (pun not intended) under their plum trees and beat the trees until all the ripe plums fell.

It looks much easier and more effective than our usual method of climbing up on ladders and picking the cherries one by one, hurling each into the pots and baking pans spread out on the driveway below.
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Dinner with Aki and Alex

When Aki and Alex of Ideas in Food announced that they were moving back to New York City and taking on catering jobs, I was thrilled. I’ve been wanting to visit their restaurant for ages, but it was so far away, and now I had my chance. Nicole made it happen, and actually organized a private dinner for a few locals catered by Aki and Alex

When reading food blogs, I always wonder if the cooking is actually as good as it looks. When all I have to go on is brilliant writing and luscious photos, the taste remains a mystery.

Aki and Alex’s cooking blew me away. It was even better than it looks on their food blog. Not only are they brilliant chefs, they were also kind and friendly people. At the last minute, they expanded our menu from 5 courses to 10, without raising the price. They answered all our questions, and were patient with our chattering during the meal. I hope to sneak in some cooking classes from them in the fall.

Aki and Alex posted the menu they created for us here. Nicole posted her write-up of the meal here. I have photos of some of the dishes they served, but not all.

The first photo above shows our first course, Sake Cured Steelhead Trout Roe (crispy yogurt, arugula blossoms, banana jam). The banana jam was made with yuzu and lime, and the arugula blossoms were just a touch spicy. I’ve never much liked caviar, but I try to take leaps of faith with tasting menus, and I was well rewarded this time. This was incredible. I love the way it looks like a tiny terrarium, and the flavors melded together so perfectly that I closed my eyes and just floated away with every mouthful.

I failed to take a good photo of the second course, Artichoke Soup (comte, whipped horseradish, lump crabmeat). It was my least favorite course of the evening, though to be fair, I’m rarely much for cold soups. The whipped horseradish foam was just lovely, though.

Above was the third dish of the evening, Squid Salad (lime, scallion, nasturtium flowers). It was served with grilled squid and passionfruit poprocks. The poprocks absolutely made this dish for me, though it was lovely even without them.

Another guest and I got very upset when Dave left a poprock uneaten on his plate, and we wouldn’t leave him alone until he found it and devoured it. They crackled fruitily. I want to make flavored poprocks now!

Next we were served Ivory King Salmon Tartare (pecorino crotonese, claytonia, minus 8 vinegar), as shown above. I’d never had minus 8 vinegar before, and this was reduced to an incredible syrup. Like Nicole, I would have been happy with just a thimble of the vinegar to drink, and we were given went above and beyond.

Our next dish, Griddled Florida Shrimp (blistered ramps, bee pollen, meyer lemon), was one of my favorites of the evening. The ramps were tiny and perfectly fresh. I’ve been so excited to find them at the farmer’s markets lately. The shrimp was everything shrimp should be. The meyer lemon puree was very tasty, though I do wish it had been a bit more intense.

And the bee pollen spice mix, oh, Dave and I went home and immediately made some ourselves. It’s simple, really – bee pollen, grains of paradise, salt, and sugar, ground together fairly coarsely. It is stunning. It is my new favorite pantry staple.

Next, we had Seared Scallop (razor clams, petite potatoes, crispy zucchini). The scallop was perfect. The potatoes were teensy tiny, the smallest, cutest potatoes I have ever eaten in all my life. The razor clams made me want to run to my favorite Chinatown fishmongers immediately. There were also slices of that lusciously sweet Chinese sausage.

The disk on top is crispy zucchini and basil, held together with isomalt. I enjoyed it, but I felt it was too big compared to the small quantity of other foods, and it was prone to sticking in my teeth. Sure was gorgeous, though.

I took awful photos of the next few courses, which I can’t bring myself to post here.

We had Pork Shoulder (corn chips, baked pumpkin seeds, cilantro). Aki and Alex cooked pumpkin seeds in a pressure cooker until they had the soft texture of baked beans, and seasoned them as such. The pork shoulder was like pulled pork. The corn chip didn’t do much for me, but I adored those pumpkin seeds.

Then they served us Duck Bacon (pumpernickel gnocchi, king trumpet mushrooms, pak choi hearts), with duck breast that had been cooked for 24 hours in bacon stock (bacon stock!). I usually have to peel the fat off of duck breast, but this time, I ate it with great joy. The pumpernickel gnocchi were reminiscent of foie gras, and the pak choi hearts were tiny and flavorful. (I gave my mushrooms to Dave.)

Our first dessert, shown above, was Caseificio dell’ Alta Langa (musk melon, blis elixir, red amaranth). Again, perfection, with the light, luscious cheese matched with sweet melon and earthy amaranth. The blis elixir was another lovely vinegar-based concoction that I wouldn’t mind drinking on its own.

I have no good photo of our last dessert, which was Sunflower Seed Pudding (red wine-rhubarb, golden raisins, ricotta). The sunflower seeds were pressure cooked into tenderness, so that this was texturally much like rice pudding. The rhubarb was cooked in red wine and served as cubes of some jelly-like substance. I just loved the raisins with the sunflower seeds, though I wish the rhubarb had had a bit more zing to it.

Dave sulked a bit about the lack of chocolate, but I appreciated the variety, since chocolate isn’t exactly lacking in our household. We all went home thrilled, and Dave and I have had trouble bringing ourselves to eat this week, because all food seems boring and worthless compared to the memory of this wonderful meal.

Thank you, Aki and Alex! I can’t wait to cook with you in the fall!

Broccoli with Apple Cider and Horseradish

If you have studied symbolic logic, you are familiar with the logical operator x-or. ‘A x-or B’ means ‘either A or B, but not both’. A friend of mine once suggested that there must also exist the illogical operator x-and, where ‘A x-and B’ means ‘A and B, but not both’.

He put forth the word ‘broccoli’ as a perfect example of x-and. According to him, the word ‘broccoli’ has two c’s x-and two l’s. Thus, ‘broccoli’ has two c’s and two l’s, but not both.

Now, I am a very decent writer and speller (seeing as how that’s what I do for a living, in part), but nonetheless, that pretty much sums up how I feel every time I write down the word ‘broccoli’.

(Incidentally, this way of preparing broccoli is very tasty indeed.)

Do you have any examples of x-and in your lives?
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The Law Office of Danielle E. Sucher

Hey there. I have something completely unrelated to food that I would like to share with you today.

My name is Danielle E. Sucher. I am an attorney admitted to practice in the state of New York, and just a few weeks ago I put out my shingle and opened my own solo law firm, The Law Office of Danielle E. Sucher.

I have also launched a new blog, the Mental Disability Law Blog, featuring banner art by our very own Ximena of Lobstersquad. Don’t worry, I intend to keep this food blog active, too.

I spent the past year and a half or so working as a Court Attorney at the Criminal Court in Brooklyn, New York. My last day there was on March 23, 2007, when I walked out of my judge’s chambers and left my job for the last time.

It was time to make the leap. I will never have less to lose than I do now, nor will I ever have more support. With only my partner and my cat and our small Park Slope apartment, our expenses right now are probably the lowest that they will ever be. I am in an ideal position to make my dream come true.

It is astounding to me how often people suggest that I try to make my living as an artist, a photographer, or a chef. I always reply with, “Well, I was actually thinking of being a lawyer for a while.”

I went to law school because I figured it would be a fun way to spend three years, and it was. I continue to enjoy practicing law because it is an interesting and satisfying way to (as my judge once put it), if not save the world, save at least a few of the people in it.

My father has been a solo practitioner since the day he graduated from law school. He has always been my model of what a lawyer should be – a generalist capable of efficiently learning how to solve a wide variety of problems. When someone walks in the door and says their house is on fire, it is a lawyer’s job is to figure out how to extinguish that fire, whatever it may be.

When I graduated from law school, I refused to interview with the big firms. I did not want to deal with the bureaucracy. I did not want to sit in a back room without client contact for my first four years. You see, I wanted to be a lawyer. I worked as a Court Attorney to see how the court system functions from the inside, and I left so that I could spend more time advocating on behalf of the people who need my help.

And now here I finally am on my own, Danielle E. Sucher, Attorney & Counselor at Law. It feels like precisely the right place for me to be.

It goes without saying, but if you need a lawyer in New York, call me! I would be delighted to help out fellow foodies.

Disclaimer: This post probably constitutes attorney advertising pursuant to the New York State rules, though all other content on this blog exists for the sole purpose of discussing food and cooking, and not for the purpose of retaining clients for legal matters.

Beet and Crispy Garlic Salad

Until this past year, I thought that I hated all salads. I spent my life passing on my salad course at restaurants to my mother to eat for me. I knew that I liked spinach, sure, but that certainly didn’t count as salad in my mind.

Last summer, my friend Coby introduced me to a salad of mixed baby greens, beets, and chevre, with a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. He opened my mind to the idea that salad could be something interesting and delicious. We still make that basic salad occasionally, adding in some minced preserved lemon for extra kick.

Then another friend, Tse Wei, introduced me to a salad of watercress and sauteed pears. How marvelous! I slowly realized that I don’t hate salad at all. I just hate lettuce.

The salad featured in this post combines the sweetness of roasted beets with the savory crunch of crispy garlic, pulled together by the fresh greenness of, well, little green tasty things. Dave and I recently served a five course meal where this salad stole the show.

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Persimmon Mint Salsa

This started out as a mint chutney, until we chanced upon some gorgeous persimmons at the store. And I have been craving cucumbers lately. (To be fair, I am almost always craving cucumbers.) As we combined our key ingredients, we realized that it would be a shame to cook or overspice them. And so a salsa was born.

You can make this as hot or as mild as you like, by adjusting the amount of jalapeño seeds and ribs you leave in. We’ve eaten it with lamb shanks and short ribs so far, though I’m sure it would hold its own with a bag of chips.

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Turkish Red Lentil Soup with Urfa-Biber Mint Sizzle

I know, I know, I am posting too many recipes which call for urfa-biber lately. I am almost at the point where I will have to offer to mail a package of urfa-biber to anyone who wants it and has something interesting to swap for it.

This recipe was adapted from Paula Wolfert’s The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen: Recipes for the Passionate Cook – and by adapted, I mean that Dave likes to throw urfa-biber and curry leaves into anything he can get his hands on, and that I am a carnivore and abhor the thought of dinner without meat.

I like to make my croutons in a pan on the stove, because they inevitably burn when I try making them in the oven instead. I just pour a bit of olive oil into a pan and stir-fry cubes of stale bread until they are nice and toasty, sprinkling a bit of salt and freshly ground black pepper on them along the way. This works well, and I must say, the croutons (and the sizzle) make this soup for me.

In the end, we created a crispety, crunchety, spicy, meaty soup, which is satisfying enough to be a meal in itself.

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Baby Lion’s Head Meatballs

The best thing about these meatballs is the coating. Each meatball is dipped into a coating made of stock, dark soy sauce, and cornstarch, then seared until nicely brown before being braised further. The seared layer of soy sauce coating each meatball is a tremendous burst of flavor, and absolutely makes the dish for me.

The name Lion’s Head comes from the story that the meatballs are supposed to look like, well, lions’ heads, with the bok choy being the lions’ wavy manes. I must admit, to me they just look like dinner. Still, as I would rather find dinner in my kitchen than a pack of lions, that is quite all right with me.

To be honest, this time I am perhaps even prouder of the bowl than I am of the food. As I mentioned in my last post, Dave and I have been taking a glassblowing class, and we’ve been making some pieces that I think are pretty good. I created the bowl you see pictured in this post, and I think the angle of it is just right for serving some sort of amuse bouche. I may have to make a set of angled bowls at some point.

It’s an addictive hobby, working with hot glass is, so don’t be surprised if you see many more of my meals being served in dishes which we’ve made from now on.

The recipe below mostly comes from Barbara Tropp, but I mixed in some inspiration from Martin Yan, and made further changes of my own to create the version I’ve posted here.

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Roundup of Food Blog Posts I’ve Enjoyed #8

My partner (well, fiance) Dave and I have recently taken up glassblowing at our local glass studio, Urban Glass. The studio is spacious, well-equipped, and very safety conscious. They offer a ton of interesting classes. We are working our way through their glassblowing classes, and renting studio time to practice on our own as often as we can. It’s a thrilling art, and I am immensely enjoying learning how to blow and craft hot glass.

The photo above is of my favorite piece so far, a small pitcher I made right after learning how to add handles to my blown pieces. I love everything about this piece. I also love the following food blog posts, so after you are done letting me show off my handiwork, please explore the following links to find more beautiful food photography, interesting recipes, and some thoughts on the politics of food.

One of my absolute favorite food bloggers around, Rob of Hungry in Hogtown, made el Bulli’s deep fried rabbit ears with aromatic herbs. He really did convince his butcher to find him some bunny ears, then he flavored them, fried them, and ate the cuddly crunchy treats. Now, when I first saw his post, I wasn’t put off by the fluffy photo up top. My partner, my brother, and I immediately agreed that we wanted to make this dish as soon as we get a chance. It turns out that not everyone is as relaxed about bunnies as I am, though, and the comments left were both passionate and extensive. Rob addressed some of the political issues that were raised in his next post, I crumb in peace: deep fried rabbit ears and the politics of food. Whether your interest lies primarily in the deliciousness of food or the politics of food, checking out these posts would be well worth your time.

Abbacat, who occasionally blogs about food, put up an explanation for how to convince a small child to eat fish and cabbage. I may have to try this technique on some seafood-hating adults I know.

I am a bit peeved at the fellow behind Off the Bone, because up until about a week ago, he lived just a few blocks away from me, and now he does not. I had to go help kick him out of Brooklyn last Saturday so he could move back to Boston to rejoin his wife, who spent the past year in Siberia. I can’t fault his priorities, but I do miss him a lot. After all, who else would invite me over to eat spare homemade Bacon Toffee? Who else would give me the cookie dough from out his freezer when he realized it would never survive the long trip to Boston? I think the moral of this story is that I need more friends who live within a 10 block radius of my apartment. That, and bacon toffee is really remarkably delicious. It has salt, it has sugar, it has umami – what’s not to like?

Another friend of mine recently created a new food blog, Raspberry Debacle. We have a lot in common, not least of which is an absurd love of bees. And so I was utterly delighted when one of her first posts told the tale (and recipe) of Honey Bee Biscuits and Flying Monks. For some really spectacularly charming food photography, and a cookie recipe that sure looks good to me, go take a look at this wonderful new food blog.

While I’m on the subject of new food blogs, I must mention that I have been entirely entranced by the photography on another new-to-me food blog, Cloudberry Quark. Deinin’s Carroty Karelian Pasties, for example, look so good that I have been considering making a carrot casserole just so that I can have leftovers with which to make those pasties.

You probably already have Delicious Days bookmarked, but if not, now is the time to fix that. The beautifully illustrated step-by-step instructions for how to make Grandma Salazar’s Tamales are simply not to be missed.

Barbara of Tigers & Strawberries, another perennial favorite of mine, has done it once again by posting her recipe for a Vietnamese sauce known as Nuoc Cham. A sizzlingly fresh sauce that Barbara describes as having that wonderful Vietnamese balance of hot, sour, salty, sweet, and savory flavors, I think it may become another key kitchen staple around my apartment.

Meena of Hooked on Heat says that making this Hot and Sour Fish Curry is so quick and easy, she was able to do it while watching an engrossing Bollywood flick. I’m not sure I could throw the curry together nearly as fast as she did, but for food like that, I would be willing to spend the time to make it.

Bee of Rasa Malaysia always inspires me to brave Malaysian cuisine outside the restaurant, and in my home. I mostly just read food blogs and admire the photography, but Bee’s recipes I actually tend to try – and make again and again. I don’t think I know how to compliment her any more highly than that. And so you know that I will eventually get around to trying the dish featured in one of her more recent posts, Penang Hokkien Mee (Prawn Mee / Har Meen / Mee Yoke / 福建虾面). It is a soup based on a pork and shrimp stock, filled with pork, shrimp shallots, noodles, chili paste, and all sorts of good stuff. As usual, there is more going on in that one bowl than I think I could keep track of, but I have to try, and I’m sure that I will end up with a great meal in the attempt.

Curried Cauliflower

I just noticed that my photo of Sweet and Sour Lotus Root won in the Originality category for Does My Blog Look Good in This? – March, 2007. I am delighted and extremely flattered. Thank you!

On to the tale of the cauliflower. We hosted a fairly non-traditional seder this year. We served pomegranate ginger saffron brisket, striped bass, pear and watercress salad, and a scattered array of other dishes, including this curried cauliflower.

Of course, I forgot that one of my brothers tends not to like curry, and another one of my guests can’t eat cumin, so we ended up with a ton of leftovers of this very tasty dish. How lucky we are to live in the city! A friend came over a few days later to take those leftovers away, and save them from being wasted.

The fish dish was a gift from my (how strange it is to type this) mother-in-law-to-be. You better believe I’ll be serving chowder in it, next time.

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Pork Nests with Apples and Onion Confit, or, How Dave and I Became Engaged

I could tell you a tale of pork nests, and I have included a recipe below. This is a food blog, after all. But instead, there is something even more important I would like to tell you. (This is actually not the big news I was alluding to a few weeks ago. I will disclose that news soon, I promise.) This is too important for a post about pork nests, really, but that is how the timing seems to have worked out.

I woke up absurdly early this morning, and leaned over to wake Dave up. He puts up with my tendency to do this only because he falls back asleep so easily every time.

“Happy anniversary of one year living together,” I said.

“Would that be our aptiversary?” he asked. (We’ve been using January 23rd as our approxiversary. And the date we got Katya is our kittyversary. Why not have an aptiversary, too? For apartment, not aptness, of course.)

I agreed. Why not?

“Now that my crazy has been dealt with,” he continued, referring to our living together at least one year, “will you marry me?”

Of course. Of course!

We will not be setting a date anytime soon, mind. We do not intend to get married in any jurisdiction that doesn’t also allow for same-sex marriage, and I am not leaving the country to have a wedding that none of my friends would be able to attend. So, we expect to wait a while before we can actually set a date and have a wedding.

There was no engagement ring. Dave knows I hate wearing rings, because I find them very physically uncomfortable. Instead, he gave me a pendant his father once gave his mother. It’s a placeholder, he explained, until we can find the right signifier to use instead.

We are trying to figure out what sort of signifier to use instead of a ring. Pendants? Well, I have a lot of pendants and necklaces that I like to switch around and wear regularly. Matching earrings for both of us? Bracelets? I am not sure. Do you have any suggestions?

This is not an April Fool’s joke. This is for real.
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Raspberry Pomegranate Urfa-Biber Brownies

My partner, Dave, wanted to make brownies last night.

“Fine,” I said. “Make them with urfa-biber!”

Urfa-biber is our latest thrilling spice discovery. It’s a Turkish pepper, spicy and just extraordinarily flavorful. The literature all says that it tastes a bit like raisins, and I tend to agree. It has that depth of fruitiness to it, as well as a fair amount of spicy heat. We are both blown away by it, and we have been using it in such great quantities over the last few weeks that we will have to go out and buy more soon.

“Urfa-biber and raspberry, then,” said Dave. I tried to insist that he put in some pomegranate molasses as well, but he thought it would be redundant, what with the raspberry liquor. But when the raspberry just wasn’t enough, he gave in and added the pomegranate molasses after all.

These brownies are goopy! Do not expect them to solidify past something resembling a very soft fudge. Perfect with Cherry Garcia ice cream, though, or just a cup of milk. They pack a hell of a punch, tart and fruity and richly chocolate with a slow burn coming in at the end, and I will definitely be making them again.

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Pork and Chestnut Goulash

I hate shelling chestnuts. I always end up with sharp bits of shell poking the tender flesh beneath my fingernails until it hurts and bleeds. This is unappetizing, but true.

I love eating chestnuts, though. I was raised on chestnut puree as a snack food of choice, after all.

So when I came across this recipe, I hunted around until I found pre-roasted, pre-shelled, vacuum-packed chestnuts. Sound terrible, don’t they? Thing is, they were wonderful, just perfect, and I couldn’t tell the difference when they were cooked into this goulash.

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Chewy Maple Cookies

This recipe was invented by my partner, Dave. He was so delighted by the reduced maple syrup we had to create when making the maple crema that he wanted to use it as a cookie base as well. He threw in the rest of the ingredients by feel, figuring that the proportions should be something like Tollhouse cookie proportions.

The end result was an utterly mapley, chewy, almost candy-like batch of cookies. I find them deeply addictive, and hope to give some of them away soon to keep myself from eating them all. The only thing better than eating home-made treats is giving them away, after all.

In the end, it turned out that I like these more than Dave does. He usually has much greater tolerance for sweetness than I do, but somehow these are too sweet for him, but just right for me. I cannot explain this, but it is true.

These are basically maple candy in the guise of chewy cookies. Take from that what you will.
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Cardamom Almond and Black Pepper Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies

I am constitutionally incapable of looking at a cookie recipe without feeling the urge to add, oh, cardamom and black pepper. Or something along those lines. It’s just one of those things. Some people can look at a chocolate almond swirl of a cookie recipe and think, God bless this green earth and the cookies that it brings forth! I think, I wonder how far I can twist it before it breaks.

This recipe did not even come close to breaking. No matter how much cardamom and black pepper I threw in, the flavors didn’t overwhelm the general unity of the cookie. They came together harmoniously, melding into a cohesive whole so lovely that I had to really focus to pick out the individual flavor notes.

The texture here is thick and chewy, slightly on the dense side. I happen to prefer chewy cookies, and I bet these would be fantastic dipped in milk. I’ve been munching on them non-stop, alternating bites with sips of spicy chai.

These are also very convenient cookies. They can be sliced and baked while still frozen, so you can make the dough in advance and freeze it until you’re in the mood, or unexpected guests drop by. The cookies haven’t been around long enough to tell yet (I made them just last night), but my guess is also that they will keep fairly well in an airtight container for at least a few days.
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Pomegranate Ginger Saffron Braised Lamb Neck

My friend Lisa and I were out and about the other day, when we happened to wander past the farmers’ market at Union Square at around 5:45 pm. Most of the stalls were already gone, or were in the process of packing up to leave. We passed one of the few remaining open stalls, which sold lamb. A bit further on, there was another open stall, which also sold lamb. We turned around the corner to find yet another remaining stall, also selling lamb.

What could we do? We bought lamb. Lots of lamb.

I know, I know. I have been posting quite a lot of lamb recipes lately. I’m thinking I should just give up and rename the blog LambBlog: All Lamb, All the Time.

If you do not like lamb, this dish is not for you. But if you love that intense, glorious flavor that good lamb has, that which sets it apart from all other meat, give this recipe a go. Lamb neck is one of the most flavorful cuts you can find, though it does take some time and effort and messiness to pick all the meat off the bone.

That’s the thing about cooking meat on the bone. It ends up so much more flavorful, and you pay for that flavor in the hassle of devouring it. On the other hand, if you find it fun to pick meat off of bones, this is entirely a win-win situation. That’s where I stand.

(Well. If you don’t want the hassle, you could always just make this recipe with chunks of boneless leg of lamb instead of the neck slices. That would be lovely, too.)

The braise is tart and intoxicatingly vibrant, with the bite of the ginger and that lovely thrumming low note of saffron throughout, and the pomegranate as the structural element that ties it all together.

(This will be my last lamb post for a while. I promise.)

Note: I’ve actually made this recipe with brisket or lambshanks instead of lamb neck several times since originally posting it, and it’s been an even bigger hit with those.

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Green Chicken Korma

I don’t feel like I have any right to post recipes for Indian food. I mean, I’m a native New Yorker with a Hungarian/Ukrainian/Israeli/Jewish background, who used to cut class in high school to go out for dim sum just a few blocks away in Chinatown. And more to the point, there are so many absolutely incredible Indian food bloggers out there, who know more about Indian cooking than I ever will.

Ah, who am I kidding? I have a massive cookbook collection, easy access to all spices and ingredients I could possibly desire, and boundless joy in being able to figure everything out!

So, here is my version of green chicken korma, adapted from a recipe in 50 Great Curries of India by Camellia Panjabi. I fussed around with it until I was happy, and generally had a good time.

The result is toothsomely green, and very cheering to make and eat on nights when I get home late. It is absolutely a quick and easy dish to prepare, but the intricacy of the flavor would never give that away.
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Lamb Kofta with Apricot Sauce

Colette Rossant’s Apricots on the Nile: A Memoir with Recipes is precisely that, a tale of how she grew up with her grandparents in Egypt, interspersed with recipes for the foods of her youth. The story is charming and sad, about a little girl abandoned by her flaky mother and then reclaimed against her wishes as a teenager. The recipes are pure temptation.

Kofta are basically meatballs. I usually make my meatballs with bread soaked in milk in them to soften the texture, but here rice serves the same purpose. The apricot sauce is not so overwhelmingly sweet as you might think, as it consists mostly of lamby chicken stock, and is made smoky and sharper by the addition of ground chipotle.

Colette Rossant wrote that her version of this dish was served at the many family weddings she attended as a child. That sounds a lot better than the finger foods I’m used to seeing at weddings here in the U.S.!

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Leek and Oyster Chowder

As I’ve mentioned before, I love chowder. What you may not know is that I also love oysters. (In fact, I love all seafood, except perhaps jellyfish and sea cucumbers.) This leek and oyster chowder is scrumptious as only a simple dish can be. The broth is creamy and flavorful, and the oysters themselves are silky mouthfuls of the sea.

Please do not give in to the temptation to make chowder with pre-shucked oysters or store-bought fish stock. It isn’t really much of a hassle to do it from scratch, honest. And it’s just not worth eating, otherwise.

Unlike chicken or beef stock, which have to simmer for hours, fish stock can be made in less than an hour. My local greenmarket fishmonger gives away free fish heads and bones for stock. Check with your fishmonger to see if he can help you out.

As for shucking oysters, let me tell you, I am not the most efficient shucker in town. But I get the job done. All you need is a towel or clean rag with which to hold the oyster, and an oyster knife. The towel protects your hand in case the knife slips. An oyster knife is short, thick, and not very sharp. You can use a paring knife in a pinch, but only if it is thick enough to be sturdy and not bend under pressure. Holding the oyster in one hand, the trick is to wedge the shucking knife between the shells, as close to the hinge as possible. Wriggle it in, give it a good twist, and the shells will pop apart. At that point, it’s just a matter of sliding the knife in there to cut the oyster out of the shell.

One of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon is to buy a dozen Kumamoto oysters and a jar of cocktail sauce from the fishmonger on the corner of Chrystie and Grand (in Manhattan’s Chinatown), then stand over the sink shucking them and eating them raw, one by one.

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Fall-Apart Lamb Shanks with Almond-Chocolate Picada

This recipe is ludicrously long, but given that it comes from Paula Wolfert’s The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen: Recipes for the Passionate Cook, that should come as no surprise. If you have a weekend to spend lounging about the house and letting things cook, though, these lamb shanks are absolutely luscious and worth the time. They sure make the place smell wonderful as they cook.

This was one of those projects that I really feel I learned something from. I’ve never used crumpled wet parchment paper when braising before, and I felt it made a huge difference in conservation of sauce and ultimate tenderness of the meat. I so rarely make slow marinades and sauces with multiple steps like this, and having done it now, I feel like it opens up more possibilities in the future.

Dave likes to say that there are some things a person does which makes them gain a level, as if we were characters powering up in a video game. I think I leveled up in braising and sauce-making during the course of creating this meal.

I recommend trying this out as a learning experience, tasty dinner included at the end.

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Maple Crema

This recipe was recently published in the NY Times, and as soon as I read it there, I knew I had to try it. This is basically pure maple sugar in luxurious creamy form.

Looks almost like a créme brûlée, doesn’t it? Don’t be fooled. Adding any more sugar atop this custard would be a huge mistake. In fact, we had to make massive quantities of unsweetened whipped cream to cut through the sweetness as is.

That said, with the sweetness so tempered, the flavor was marvelous. I feel absolutely drunk on maple, having eaten this crema, and on a sugar high that is almost enough to cut through the cold that is keeping me home sick today.

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Chicken and Rice, Curry Banana, Roots and Rhizomes Stew

Soup’s On! February is soup month, according to Alanna of A Veggie Venture, and this is my contribution.

This stew was mostly a stone soup, but it also turned into an excuse to try out my new curry powder, Two Knives Special Curry Blend from Auntie Arwen’s Spice Blends. It’s a fairly mild curry, but intensely flavorful – more satisfying than any other curry powder I’ve tried (until now, I’ve usually purchased my curry powders at Sahadi’s or Kalustyan’s).

(I actually recently got a whole shipment of spices from Auntie Arwen as a holiday gift from friends. I know it’s cheating, but I’m loving the hickory smoke powder and mesquite smoke powder we got from Auntie Arwen, too. I’ll give you a few ideas on how to use those some other time.)

Like I said, this was a stone soup. Remember that story? The poor couple takes in the traveler for the night, and apologizes when the traveler asks for dinner, saying the pantry is barren and there is no food to be had. The traveler cheerily reassures the poor couple, explaining that she brought a magic stone with her that can be used to make stone soup. She washes the stone carefully, and places it in a big pot of water on the stove. Then she oh-so-casually asks the couple if they happen to have any leftover carrots, because that makes stone soup taste even better. Oh, yes, they have one droopy carrot left. Chop it up, in it goes. Any herbs in the garden, just to improve the flavor of the already wondrous soup? The barest few leaves, but yes, there are some, and in they go. And so on. In the end, the stone soup is just as delicious as the traveler promised it would be.

I love making stone soup, from whatever we happen to have around the house. (And whatever we happened to grab at the store without really pre-planning too much, to be honest.) It’s a great way to use up leftovers and foodstuffs that would otherwise go to waste.

There’s chicken in here, and this wonderfully nutty red rice we found at our local co-op. Lotus root we’d purchased in Chinatown a few days earlier, that had reached the use-it-or-lose-it stage. Bananas fried in more curry powder. Jerusalem artichokes, carrots, ginger, and all sorts of other good, tasty things.

We’ll be making this stone soup again on purpose, someday.

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Pink Grapefruit Ginger Cream Cookies

It has been a week since I last posted, which is longer than I like. I am sorry about that. Still, as I mentioned before, things have been busy around here lately. I’ll have some exciting news for you in a few weeks. While it’s very hard for me to keep my mouth shut about this one, I can’t make the announcement quite yet.

This is my slightly belated entry to Sugar High Friday #28: Sweet Seduction.

I asked my partner if he would consider himself seduced by these cookies, which I actually made just because I had a spare grapefruit in the fridge that I didn’t want to let go to waste. He doesn’t much like sugar cookies or grapefruit in general, but he declared these cookies “surprisingly inoffensive”. That counts as a seduction by the cookies, under the circumstances!

Me, I’m seduced by pink grapefruit juice every morning. It’s the only thing that really gets me up and ready to start my day.

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Recipe Index

I’ve been posting recipes here for almost a year now – it will be a year come February 26, 2007, in fact. In all that time, I’ve never put together a good index of the recipes I’ve posted here. In honor of my upcoming bloggiversary, here it is at last – my recipe index. I’ll come back and edit it as I post more recipes in the future.

Thank you, all of you, for reading, commenting, recipe testing, and absolutely inspiring me over the past year. I have made friends and found a wonderful community through writing this blog, and I appreciate it so much. Here’s to many more years of sharing our kitchens and our lives.

Note: The contents of this post have been removed, because this post has been superseded by my Recipe Index page. Please refer to the actual Recipe Index to locate any recipe you may be looking for. Thank you.

Monkey Bread

When is a bread not a bread? When it’s a monkey! Life has been pretty stressful for me lately, with some hard decisions still left for me to make, so my partner Dave and I decided to spend a recent evening just monkeying around.

We dipped balls of risen, yeasted dough into melted monkey butter (not really; Dave griped when I suggested buying organic cultured butter, even), then into monkey filling (ground chocolate, ground pecans, and sugar), and layered them into a bundt pan and allowed them to rise again before baking. It was not unlike building a croquembouche, in fact.

Pulling off balls of soft pastry covered in caramelized crumbles of ground chocolate and pecan to devour was a ton of fun. It would be even better as a party treat, since Dave and I can’t demolish a whole monkey bread on our own before it goes stale. (At least, we shouldn’t. Which didn’t stop us from scraping caramelized monkey filling out of the bundt pan to nibble on while waiting for the monkey bread to cool.)

I usually use cookbook recipes as a starting point, adapting them to my own tastes. This time, I directly followed the recipe from The Essence of Chocolate: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg. No changes, no adaptations, just the comfort of following directions from a cookbook that I know that I can trust.
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Sweet and Sour Lotus Root

Actually, it’s a rhizome. But never mind that.

I ordered sweet and sour lotus root at a restaurant not too long ago, and it was my favorite dish of the evening. Naturally, I tried to replicate it at home the very next day.

I looked at the wildly different recipes in Fuschia Dunlop’s two cookbooks, one giving the Sichuan version of this dish, and the other the Hunan version. My version uses elements from both of hers, combined with my memory of what I had tasted when ordering it at Grand Szechuan on St. Mark’s Place in Manhattan, and my general technique for stir-frying (and trying to avoid deep-frying when it’s too cold out to open the kitchen windows).

The lotus root remains crisp when lightly fried, and somewhat sweet. It loses its starchiness when cooked. The sauce is a fairly straightforward sweet and sour sauce, just thick enough to perfectly coat each slice of lotus root. As you make it, feel free to adjust the vinegar and/or sugar to taste to achieve the right balance of sweet and sour for your palate.

I find this delicately beautiful and tasty dish to be utterly addictive, which is a good thing, considering how much lotus root is sitting on my counter right now, waiting to be used.

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Balsamic Fudge Drops

I thought I could add balsamic vinegar to these fabulously easy cookies to make them even more interesting. I love balsamic vinegar with sweets as well as with savories, so how could it not work? In the end, I couldn’t taste the vinegar at all, but the cookies seemed more chocolatey than they ever had before, and were even more fudgy and chewy than the last few times I made them. The balsamic behaved as an enhancer of the chocolate rather than as a discrete flavor. I won’t make these cookies without it again.

This is yet another recipe adapted from Bittersweet: Recipes and Tales from a Life in Chocolate by Alice Medrich. Have you bought that book yet? No? Go buy it. Alice Medrich has never yet steered me wrong, and I swear by her recipes. (Except that I think light brown sugar is an abomination upon the earth and should always be replaced with dark brown sugar, and adding vanilla sugar and/or crunchy salt can only improve chocolate treats.) I’ve made them with just those changes before, but now that I have tried the balsamic vinegar, I am finally fully satisfied with the version of these cookies that will remain in my repertoire.

The best part is, you don’t even need a stand mixer to make these. The dough comes together in a single saucepan in just a few moments, and then the cookies take only about 11 minutes to bake. They are a great standby for when you are short on time but still looking for a seriously decadent chocolate fix.

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Roundup of Food Blog Posts I’ve Enjoyed #7

Barbara, my partner Dave’s mother, gave me a copy of The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen: Recipes for the Passionate Cook by Paula Wolfert for my birthday.

I tried out one of the easiest recipes in the book first, by throwing a few eggs into the oven at 225º after soaking them in warm water while the oven was preheating. The eggs then slow-roasted for about 5 hours. When they came out, they had this mildly smoky flavor and gorgeous golden color.

It turned out that even the smokiness couldn’t make a non-runny yolk appeal to me, but I loved cracking the shells open and finding the gilded whites like jewels hidden inside.

More to the point, here is another batch of food blog posts made by other people that I enjoyed immensely and recommend highly to you.

The capirotada I discovered over at Matt Bites is enticingly familiar, and at the same time thrillingly strange – almost the bread pudding I grew up with, it is actually a Mexican dessert calling for the inclusion of cheese and piloncillos (small cones of unrefined brown sugar).

This Creme Brulee Cocktail from Cook & Eat reminds me of the hot vanilla my friend Reene and I used to make, with milk, vanilla beans, sugar, and rum. Thing is, the creme brulee cocktail looks even better. Also from Cook & Eat, these Ice Cream Clouds (a/k/a Honey Elderflower Glacé remind me of a frozen maple mousse I made last summer. Again, L’s glacé sounds even better.

These Butter Prawns made by Rasa Malaysia look succulently savorysweet and utterly mouth-watering, made with grated coconut, birdseye chilis, curry leaves, and more. I also can’t wait to try out her recipe for Nasi Lemak, which she declares to be the de facto national dish of Malaysia. It involves coconut rice, anchovy sambal, hard-boiled eggs, fried fishies, and cucumber. I have been dying for an excuse to buy and use the dried anchovies I always see in Chinatown, and I think this is precisely the recipe I’ve been waiting for.

Nordljus‘s Mont Blanc with Poached Pear is exquisite – espresso poached pears sliced thin and dried to crisps atop layers of chestnut puree and cinnamon honey tuiles, served aside dots of chocolate and cubes of poached pear.

I only just discovered Annie’s blog, Bon Appegeek, but I’m already in love. I’m sure that Katya will appreciate it greatly if I follow Annie’s instructions for how to roast butternut squash rounds using domesticated animals you may have around the house. As for me, I’m filled with a strong craving for nurungji, a Korean dish of almost-but-not-quite-burnt rice scraped from the bottom of the pot. Annie makes this sound good. Actually, Annie makes this sound great. If that doesn’t say all that needs to be said about how wonderful a writer she is, I give up right now. Get over there and read through her archives like I did when I first came across her blog. Pronto.

Helene at Tartelette is a genius. I can tell, because she posted a recipe for Sweet Potato and Baby Vidalia Scones that is making me hungry even as I type this. I suspect I won’t be able to find baby Vidalias at this time of year, but maybe if I substitute leeks I can make do until they show up at the greenmarkets again.

I’m also craving Helene’s Chestnut Cupcakes with Swirled Chocolate Frosting. I have a great love for chestnut puree, and I’m eager to give this recipe a try to see what it is like when incorporated into a cupcake.

Bea, of La Tartine Gourmande, created this elegantly scrumptious Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Cake, with its Chocolate-Ginger Mousse. I want one. Enough said.

Stir-Fried String Beans with Pork and Pork

What do you do with leftover string beans sitting in your fridge? Start craving a stir-fry, perhaps. That could be the answer. Start poring through your favorite Chinese cookbooks, such as The Breath of a Wok: Unlocking the Spirit of Chinese Wok Cooking Through Recipes and Lore by Grace Young.

Find a recipe for a dry-fried string beans and ground pork. Realize that you have no ground pork in the fridge, and you really don’t feel like going out again tonight.

Think about alternative ways of adding porkishness to the beans.

Suddenly remember the tin can full of bacon grease that lives in your freezer, growing more full every time you render the fat from bacon to make chowder and pour off most of it into the can.

Run out of stir-fried bacon grease string beans before everyone can get seconds, and then realize that everyone wants seconds, including you.

Think about making this dish again.

Try following the recipe a bit more closely next time. No bacon grease. Ground pork, though somewhat more than the recipe calls for. It’s good, but it lacks porkishness.

Realize that bacon grease is actually key.

Make the recipe a third time. Bacon grease, in smaller quantity than the oil the recipe actually calls for. About eight times as much ground pork as it calls for, and increased quantities of some of the seasonings as well.

Munch away, watching your estimated leftover portions diminish.

Figure you’ve finally got it right.

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Malaysian Beef Curry with Thick Onion Sauce (Daging Nasi Kandar)

Winter means constant braising, and stew, and curry. Curry means flipping through half my cookbooks before finally settling on this recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s Far Eastern Cookery. With a few changes, the most important being some fresh galangal and ground cardamom thrown in to add much-needed high notes to perk things up and bring them together, this is one curry we’ve been making again and again this winter.

It can be hard to find fresh galangal, but if you’re lucky you may find an ethnic market that keeps frozen galangal on hand. I was extra lucky, and my local food co-op very briefly had actual fresh galangal for sale. (Then some of it got moldy, which led to people not buying it, which led to them not bothering to order any more or keep it in stock. Damnit.) Like ginger, fresh galangal always comes in larger quantities than you can actually get around to using before it goes bad – left to its own devices, that is.

What I couldn’t use immediately, I stored the same way I always store extra ginger – peeled, cut into largish chunks, and kept submerged in white wine in a container in the fridge.

This method of storing ginger was suggested to me a few years ago by a friend who had then recently graduated from the French Culinary Institute, and I have been using it ever since. It keeps ginger (or galangal) so well that you can substitute it whenever a recipe calls for the fresh stuff, with no noticable depreciation in flavor. As a perk, you also end up with intensely flavorful ginger wine (or galangal wine), that can be used to great effect when making sauces.

So, you see, storing ginger or galangal in white wine in the fridge is economical, convenient, and gives you an extra pantry item to play with later on.

If you can’t find galangal, which is like a sharper, more floral, and citrusy version of ginger, you might try substituting a combination of ginger and preserved lemon.

Actually, it just occured to me – let this also constitute my entry to the new food blogging event, Waiter, There’s Something in My… Stew.

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Stewed Garlicky Black Bean Spare Ribs

I’m sorry, we ate the stewed spare ribs up so fast, all I have left to show you are the bones.

Okay, okay, fine.

I saved a bowl for you.

The ribs were lusciously tender, the meat quite literally falling off the bones in the pot. That’s what hours of slow braising in a sand pot will do for you. The sauce thickened until it practically merged with the meat, and it was hard to tell where pig ended and bean sauce began. I want to say that they had a smoky quality, but they didn’t, really. It’s just the only way I can think to express how hearty and toothsome and sweetly meaty they were.

Eating them was an exercise in pure tomfoolery. This would be a great dish to serve to kids right before bathtime, or, well, to people like me. To manage these ribs, you have to just dive in and eat with your hands, sucking each rib clean of meat and sauce before plunking the bone into the bone bowl and picking up the next. Nothing says fine dining like licking your fingers clean before heading to the bathroom to pick shreds of fermented black bean out from under your nails.

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A KitchenAid Upgrade

My father is an attorney. He has a general civil practice here in Brooklyn, NY. He also has a history of clients who believe in trying to barter instead of paying legal fees. We’ve had the bagel man, the sports tickets man, the nut man, the painter, and more. I’m an attorney, too, but I don’t have the sort of practice where I get this sort of creativity from clients. (Yet.) Dad does.

One of my father’s clients owned a restaurant that was soon to go out of business. The client planned on auctioning off his various kitchen appliances and such. Dad figured we should go over there while the restaurant was still open, have dinner, and look around the kitchen to see if there was anything we wanted.

We wanted the chest freezer, the KitchenAid stand mixer (which was larger and more powerful than ours), and a ton of flatware and glassware. It turned out that the glassware was spoken for, the freezer was leased, and the KitchenAid was broken.

“Fine,” said I. “Give me the broken KitchenAid. I’ll fix it.”

Dad delivered it to our apartment a few days later. (Along with a massive bucket of flatware. Fantastic!)

Our new broken KitchenAid was an Epicurean, with a 6 quart capacity and a 475 watt motor. We looked it over when it arrived – broken whisk, no problem. That was about $20 to replace at Sur La Table. Plugged it in – it was a bit loud, but then, KitchenAids always are. Sounded like the motor was working just fine. What’s the big deal?

Ah, there’s the problem. The lever that raises and lowers the bowl is broken.

Wait, you mean we just got a perfectly good working KitchenAid Epicurean 475 watt 6 quart stand mixer, and all we have to do is replace the whisk and fix the lever? Okay!

We unscrewed the base of the mixer and looked inside. The problem appeared to be that the plastic lift lever (that which attaches the thing you turn with your hand to the thing that turns inside and actually moves the bowl) was broken. We googled around, and ordered a new one for about $8.

Problem was, we could not quite figure out how to open the machine up further and actually replace the plastic lift lever with the new one that was due to arrive in the mail.

So, I called up KitchenAid’s customer service number and asked them to talk me through replacing the lift lever. I told them our diagnosis and explained that all I needed was some advice on opening the thing up. The customer service representative asked for the model and serial numbers of the machine, and put me on hold while she went to see if she could find the information I was looking for.

“I’m sorry, the model you have has been discontinued,” she said when she returned. “We don’t have any new parts for that model.”

“That’s okay,” said I. “I already ordered the new part I need. I just need you to explain to me how to replace the broken one with it once it gets here.”

“But,” she continued, cheerily ignoring me, “I spoke to my supervisor for you, and she has authorized me to extend your warranty and give you a free replacement with one of our new 6 quart models.”

Now, I can be a bit dense sometimes, but even I know when to stop talking.

I said, “Thank you.”

“We’ll send you a new KitchenAid Professional 600 [575 watt] 6 quart stand mixer.”

I said again, “Thank you.”

She went on to explain that while the shade of grey I have no longer exists, she could offer me a choice of three other shades of grey. I picked the one that was in stock and would arrive soonest.

“Your new mixer should arrive in 7-10 days. All you have to do when it gets there is take the new model out of the box, then put your old machine into the box. You’ll have to write your customer ID number on the outside of the box. And then we’ll have UPS come back to pick up the box and send it back to us. Can I help you with anything else today?”

“No, thank you, you’ve already made me very happy.”

This conversation took place last Wednesday. The new KitchenAid arrived yesterday. 7-10 days must mean something very different (and much more delightful) in their world than it does in mine.

KitchenAid may not offer lifetime warranties on their products, but they sure do take good care of their customers.

Butternut Squash Risotto

Okay, this is probably the last post I’ll be making to clear out my old photos taken with my Canon PowerShot S400. (I want to post only better photos taken with my new 30D from now on.)

When we were visiting Dave’s mother, Barbara, she suggested that we make some butternut squash risotto, having been inspired when she saw my link to the Frankenstein’s Butternut Squash Risotto posted on Scrumptious Street a while back.

But we didn’t really have any computer access at her place, so we had to throw together our own recipe. It came out very different than I imagine Stephanie’s must have been, but also very delicious.

After we went home and made it again several days later, I knew I had to share the recipe with you.

If you are already familiar with making risotto, a few things about my recipe may jump out at you as, oh, wrong. Around here I prefer to call them different. My understanding is that in a traditional risotto, the onions are never browned, because the color would be inappropriate. But I think browned onions are tastier, the darker the better, so I do them that way. As you can see, they melted into the risotto and didn’t stand out as weird-looking anyways.

Also, most risotto recipes call for it to be finished with some sort of cheese. As Dave does not eat cheese, this step was edited out. I considered finishing it with cream instead, but the extra bit of stock at the end, along with that last bit of butter, really did the trick.
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Green Curry Shrimp

My partner Dave and I spent a fun evening a few weeks ago making green curry paste over at a friend’s new apartment, a portion of which was ours to take home and freeze. It’s always fun trying to follow recipes with our fussy friends – does the recipe call for ginger? Pfeh, we have some fresh galangal we found. Cilantro? The friend we’re with doesn’t like cilantro, so surely we can make a parsley-based green curry paste instead. And there is no such thing as too much lemongrass (there is, really, but we didn’t hit it this time).

I’ve actually developed the ability to be selectively blind when it comes to reading recipes. I’ll be glancing through a cookbook, and I’ll point out a recipe I think looks good.

“You won’t like that,” Dave will say. “It has nuts in it.” Or whatever the issue may be.

“What? Oh, no, not my version,” say I. “I’ll use cocoa nibs instead, or oats, or I’ll grind the nuts first.”

Or something like that.

Point being, parsley-based green curry paste for our friend was a tasty example of how well this can work out. Next time, I think I want to try basing the green curry paste on something more interesting instead, like basil or sage.

Our green curry paste was not as spicy as the storebought brands I’ve tried, but it was worlds more flavorful. You can buy red curry paste and make do (Mae Ploy is the brand that comes most highly recommended, and I liked it when I tried it), but for green curry paste, nothing will suffice but to make it yourself. Luckily, that’s not really a difficult or complicated endeavor. It requires little more than a shopping trip and a few minutes with your food processor.

This was our way of playing with it for the first time. Dave insisted on the shrimp, and I really wanted to play with the rock sugar I’d picked in Chinatown. I read a few recipes for Thai shrimp curries, then put them all away and threw in a dash of this, a sprinkle of that, until it started to taste like dinner.

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Banana Chocolate Chunk Muffins

This is Dave’s ancestral recipe for banana chocolate chunk muffins, slightly updated for the modern age. The key difference is that the modern age involves Chinatown produce stands with small, cute bananas, and cheap bars of Scharffenberger bittersweet chocolate at the Co-op.
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2006 Food Blog Awards – Best Post

I was blown away to discover that I was nominated and then chosen as one of the top 5 in the Best Food Blog – Post category of the 2006 Food Blog Awards. There are some wonderful posts out there, and I’m flattered that the tale of my granite countertops even made it to the top 5.

Of course, I’d be even more flattered if you’d wander over there and vote for me. Voting is open until January 9th. And while you’re there, please vote for your favorite food blogs in all the other categories as well.

(I won’t kid – this is tough work, choosing favorites is. For example, three of the five in the photography category are absolute heroes of mine. What’s a girl to do?)

Roundup: Sugar High Friday #26: Sugar Art

I want to thank and congratulate all of you. When I set the Sugar High Friday #26: Sugar Art challenge for this month’s Sugar High Friday, I was afraid I would scare people off, intimidate them out of just going ahead and having fun. Instead, you went ahead and made an extraordinary array of gorgeous treats, any of which I’d be proud to show off. This round-up is an incredible resource for anyone looking to decorate their table come time for dessert. Thank you so much for playing along with me this month!

Also, an extra thank you to all the people who wished me a happy birthday when sending in their entries. I’ll be turning 26 tomorrow, and your company and inspiration have made it a happier birthday for me already.

The photo up top is my 12 year old brother, Jordan, with the croquembouche we made for New Year’s Eve. Dave made one with a friend a while back, but I missed out, so this was my excuse to finally build a tower of cream puffs held together with caramel. Creating and then devouring that monstrosity was a wonderful way to bring in 2007. (We sent the leftovers to another party in Queens.) Happy new year to you all!

Now, on to the entries! They are posted in the order in which they were received.
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Cardamom Meyer Lemon Créme Brûlée Bubbles

This is my entry for Sugar High Friday #26: Sugar Art. Today is the last day to post entries, so please get them up and email me about them soon! I’m really excited about all the entries I’ve seen so far, and would love to see what the rest of you can come up with, too.

These are blown bubbles of caramelized sugar, filled with a standard créme brûlée custard flavored with cardamom and meyer lemon zest. Edible art, they are probably the prettiest and most elegant dessert I know how to make, and among the most delicious as well.

We taught ourselves to do this after seeing photos of Alinea‘s take on créme brûlée. (Yes, their custard is powdered. Ours is not. As you can see, if you blow the bubbles too thin, the custard starts to melt through eventually – so blow thick bubbles, or serve them quickly. I prefer the latter.)

Although we later learned that they shape their bubbles by coating balloons with caramel and then popping and removing the balloons once the sugar hardens, we decided to blow ours, because the photo reminded me of glass-blowing and I thought it might work. It did.

If you can imagine the two of us dancing around the kitchen for a couple of hours, whirling like mad, burning our fingers, wrecking tubes that were too narrow, and ending up with every available surface covered in ragged bubbles and strands of unintentionally pulled sugar, well, then, you’ve got a pretty good idea of what the learning process was like.

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Scallop Chickpea Tagine

When I first served this to two couples we had over for dinner, the women declared it too spicy, while the men dug in enthusiastically. I won’t try to interpret that data, but there it is. I’m not sure why any of them found it to be so spicy, though. I am sensitive to spicy foods; I love them, but they make my nose drip and my eyes tear and, on rare occasions, my ears pop. This dish is mild enough that I can eat it in polite company without reaching for a box of tissues, so it can’t be as hot as our guests seemed to think.

Dave thinks that something about it makes the heat linger, but I did not experience that at all. I just find it satisfying, a comfort food totally unlike those I grew up with.

This makes a wonderful vegetarian dish if you omit the scallops, which is how the original recipe from Cooking Moroccan by Tess Mallos actually went. I actually think I prefer it that way.

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Hortobágyi Palacsintak (Pancakes Stuffed with Meat Stew)

Now that I have my new camera, I figure I should post older recipes that have been sitting in my drafts folder with photos taken with the old camera, just to get them out of the way. This is one of the first meals I made after returning from Hungary this past summer.

Pancakes were the first things I learned to cook as a child, watching my grandmother carefully swirl the batter around the pan to the create the perfect coating, waiting for the bubbles to indicate that it was time to flip them. I filled them with jam and sour cream, or the mix of cottage cheese, cinnamon, and sugar that my grandmother insisted was the way she used to do it back home.

In my world, pancakes are always palacsinta (pronounced pah-lah-chin-tah; in Hungarian, they are pluralized with a -k suffix, but we always used the singular as a mass noun). Palacsinta are basically Hungarian crepes, filled with whatever you please and rolled up into a long tube. Growing up, I only ever had thick, fluffy American pancakes at diners and friends’ houses.

When we got to Hungary, we found that palacsinta were only eaten as dessert. The Tarpa hotel cook thought we were insane, the way my family kept ordering palacsinta for breakfast.

The exception to the dessert rule is found in Hortobágyi palacsinta, where pancakes are filled with a meat stew and served with a sauce made with paprika and sour cream.

What I have for you here is one recipe for a variant of the stew that fills the Hortobágyi palacsinta and the sauce paired with it, and a recipe for the palacsinta themselves. The same palacsinta are used for breakfast, dinner, and dessert. They are delicious and versatile. They are what brought me into the kitchen in the first place.
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Crispy Potatoes

The latest edition of Fine Cooking had instructions for making these potatoes. You get some baby red potatoes and boil them until they are soft. You then place them on a baking sheet and squish them flat, about 1/2″ thick. Sprinkle on some salt and pepper, and pour olive oil over them fairly liberally. Bake them at 425º until they are crispy, about half an hour or so.

They are unbelievably good. Of course, it helps to use high quality olive oil, freshly ground pepper, and crunchy coarse sea salt. Given the season, I’m thinking of them as being like latkes, only better.

Blogging by Mail

This post isn’t about cooking, or photography (see how I failed to make a still life out of all that stuff?). It’s about the sheer fun of sending presents to strangers, and receiving massive boxes of goodies in return. That’s what Blogging by Mail is all about.

Last time I tried Blogging by Mail, the package I sent to Singapore never arrived, and the package I received from England was integrated into our pantry before I could photograph it and post. This time, I decided to stay within the country so I could send some homemade treats to Enthusiastically Human. Little did I know that as I was baking for her, she was plotting to send me a holiday gift of her own.

Apparently the package I received was actually the second one my kind benefactor had put together for me. The first was destroyed in a car accident. Somehow Enthusiastically Human, whose blog name fits her perfectly, threw together a second package and sent it out.

What did I get? Well, there was coffee, and honey, and Arthur Bryants’ barbecue sauce, and Monin gingerbread syrup. There were homemade jellies, hot pepper and pomegranate. There was a book of cooking quotes, a food magazine, and a paper menorah. There were even a few horrifying yet fascinating candies thrown in (and I am sure she’ll understand that I use those words with great delight): a Cherry Mash, a Russel Stover, and a pair of Valomilks. I’ve never even heard of Valomilk before.

The only thing that didn’t make it was a jar of rosemary sugar, which broke in transit. It sure made everything smell nice, though.

I am so grateful for this gift, and I had so much fun putting together my package for her. Dave has been making gingerbread soda, and I’m all excited about the jellies.

This really lifted my spirits. Thank you.

Pear Liquor

Dave and I are members of the Park Slope Food Co-op, where we each do a two and a half hour work shift once every four weeks in exchange for the right to shop. Sounds crazy, maybe, but I can walk three blocks from my apartment and find fresh turmeric root, fresh galangal, curry leaves, organic everything, and incredibly inexpensive Scharffenberger chocolate. That’s worth a few hours a month of physical labor.

A few months back, we were stocking produce when Dave decided he had to buy a big sack of Stark Crimson pears. The problem with working with produce is that at the end of your shift, you know exactly what is freshest and ripest and best in the store, and you have the time to shop then and there. Those pears came home with us.

Dave rinsed them, chopped them up into approximately 1″ chunks, and threw them into a big mason jar with some cinnamon sticks and vanilla beans. He added just enough vodka to cover the contents, then closed the jar and left it in the pantry for a month or so, taking it out and shaking it occasionally. Once it tasted strong enough, he strained out the pears and spices, and added sugar syrup to sweeten the liquor.

We like to leave it in the freezer for a while before serving, as you would limoncello, so that it has a chance to thicken and chill. It is one of the best things to ever emerge from our kitchen. Sweet, rich, intensely flavored – neither of us tend to enjoy alcohol, but we can’t stop sipping this liquor, and he has another batch in progress already.

Also, did I mention that I have a new camera? The Canon 30D. It’s my first digital SLR (oh, let’s be honest – it’s my first SLR, period). These are among the first photos I took with it when it arrived last night. The photo of the liquor was taken with the Canon 100mm/f2.8 Macro lens, and the photo of Dave protesting (yawning, he says) was taken with the Canon 50mm/f1.4 lens.

They’re already better than anything I could do with my old Canon PowerShot S400 (what I’ve been using up to this point), and I still haven’t really figured out how to use this thing yet.

I love the new camera set-up. I want a better tripod and more lenses already.

I’m having a hell of a lot of fun.

Salty Oat Cookies

Teaism is a wonderful chain of cafes in DC.Their salmon ochazuke is delicious, and I am utterly addicted to their cinnamon apricot tisane. A year or two ago, I finally discovered their brilliant Salty Oat Cookies.

According to Teaism’s package, the fellow who originally came up with the Salty Oat Cookies wanted to recreate the experience of eating homemade cookies while out on the water on a boat, the salt spray hitting his lips and flavoring everything he ate. They do that perfectly, and bring back my memories of a childhood spent sailing as well.

After a few failed attempts at recreating those cookies, my friend Reene sent me the link to DCist‘s version. I mostly followed the recipe, just tweaking it a bit and adding extra raisins, and was blown away. This was it. Thick and chewy and salt-kissed, these were the cookies I’d dreamed of.

I made them for the kind construction workers who gave us this granite countertop.

When I was a kid, my father would take me sailing to get me out of my mother’s way. Once we were out on the boat, I would beg him to tell me stories, and the only one I can still remember is the story of the salt machine. I can’t tell it the way he did, but I remember the basic idea, and it went something like this:

Once upon a time, salt was very expensive and hard to come by. Food was bland and dull. Even the ocean was made of fresh water at that time, and no salt could be harvested at the shores. But there came a man, a brilliant inventor, who created a machine that turned water into salt. This was a device that could improve the quality of life of everyone in the world!

He sent message to the far off king across the sea, offering to sell him this device. The king agreed, and sent a ship to bring the man and his machine to the palace.

The man eagerly boarded the ship and set out to sail to the king.

During the voyage, though, he and the crew came to fighting. The crew were skeptical of his invention, and wanted him to prove that it worked. He didn’t want to take it out until he was in the presence of the king, because he knew his machine was very valuable, and if people believed in it, they would want to steal it, and he would be in great danger.

But the crew mocked him, and taunted him, and eventually it was too hard for him to bear. He took the machine out of its careful packaging and brought it above deck. The crew gave him a bucket tied to a line, and he lowered it carefully into the sweet, fresh sea, and brought it up full of water.

He cupped his hands and lifted a bit of water from the bucket, and poured it into the machine.

Out flowed a trickle of salt.

The sailors began to fight over the machine, each wanting to test it out himself, wanting to pour more and more water into it, watching the mound of salt grow at their feet.

The inventor began to struggle with them, demanding that they leave the salt machine alone so he could hide it away again in his cabin and keep it safe for the king.

As they fought over the salt machine, everyone trying to grab it, it slipped out of their grasp, and fell into the sea.

And that is why the sea we know is made of salt water, and not fresh. The salt machine still rests there today, at the bottom of the sea, turning water into salt forevermore.

I do not know what happened to its inventor.
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Roundup of Food Blog Posts I’ve Enjoyed #6

These are photos of a plantain maple tart tatine I made based on a recipe I found here. The best part was sucking on the split vanilla bean after it had been baked in caramelized maple syrup.

In other news, tomorrow is the deadline for nominating food blogs for the 2006 Food Blog Awards. There are a bunch of different categories where you can nominate blogs. Not to be too proud of my work here or anything, but hey, feel free to head over there and put in a good word for me and all your other favorite food blogs.

This post, however, is an unrelated list of food blog posts that I thought were wonderful and entirely worth going to check out.

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Lemon Chocolate Chunk Cookies and Granite Countertops

I was walking in to work the other day when I passed a large piece of gorgeous granite countertop leaning against the side of someone’s stoop. It had a sign taped to it that read, “Do Not Touch.” As I was staring longingly at it, a man came out of the building and told me that it was scrap, and the person who had asked for it had never shown up, and it was mine if I wanted it.

I was on my way to work, though, and couldn’t take it. I probably couldn’t even lift it. And of course, since I live in the city, I don’t have a car.

On the other hand, I’ve been dying for a nice piece of granite countertop. I miss my parents’ counters terribly. My apartment has wood and formica counters, and they are terrible for making pastry. You need a good, cold stone surface on which to roll out pastry. It keeps the butter cold and so the pastry turns out flakier, lighter, and much tastier.

I had no idea where we’d put it. But stone can be expensive, and this was a huge piece, and the man said it was scrap and would just get thrown away if I didn’t take it.

I said I’d come back to get it during lunch. He told me to just ring the bell and they’d come help me lift it into the car. I asked if I could pay him to cut it in half for me, but he said that sadly, they did not have the appropriate machine on site.

I went back during lunch, and called up car service as the guys started to lift the granite towards the gate. It took two of them to lift it; there was no way I would be able to get it out of the car and into my apartment on my own. Still, I had to try. I asked if they’d come with me, and promised them cookies if they did. They apologized, and said that they wished that they could, but they could not.

The car service guy refused to put the granite in his car, and drove away. $50 would have convinced him otherwise, actually, but that’s more than I wanted to pay for a street find.

The construction guys asked me to give them my phone number. They said they would try to get a guy over with a van to help me out, and they’d call if he showed up.

The next morning, Dave stopped by the Park Slope Food Co-op and somehow talked them into loaning him a dolly. He took it on the bus to the building with the granite, and rang the bell.

The guys hadn’t managed to get a van, but they had managed to get the machine they needed to cut the stone down for us. They cut it in half, and helped Dave load both halves onto the dolly. Each of them separately reminded him that I had promised them cookies.

Dave is the true hero of this story, because he actually carted these incredibly heavy pieces of granite countertop almost 2 miles and got them off the dolly and into our apartment. He returned the dolly to the Food Co-op, and called me up to let me know that I had to spend that evening making cookies.

I owed these men cookies, big-time. For that matter, if you need any apartment renovation done in NYC, let me know, and I will give you their contact information.

I made them two big batches of cookies, using up all the lemon zest that had been sitting in our fridge from the day before in the process. These are basically Mrs. Wakefield’s original recipe for Toll House Cookies, with a ton of lemon zest thrown in. They are lovely. Soft and chewy and very chocolatey with that floral citrus buzz bringing them to life.

I also made some salty oat cookies for the guys, and will post the recipe for those soon.

When I showed up the next morning with my big bag of cookies in hand and rang the bell, one of the guys bounded down the stairs at top speed, clapping his hands excitedly.

“Cookies!” he exclaimed as he opened the door. “We were really hoping you’d come!”
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Habeas Brûlée 2007 Wall Calendar for Sale Now

Last week, a reader emailed me to ask if I would consider creating a Habeas Brûlée 2007 wall calendar, so that she could buy a few to give to her boyfriend and friends as holiday gifts.

So, I put together a set of my favorite images from the past year, along with their corresponding recipes, to create the calendar.

Habeas Brûlée 2007 wall calendars are now available for purchase here.

I just ordered one for myself, and assuming I like the way it turns out, I know what all of my friends and family will be getting for Channukah this year.

Persian Pomegranate Soup (Ash-e Anar)

Tami of Running With Tweezers set a Super Souper Challenge this month, asking everyone to share their favorite soup recipes.

This is the first time I’ve made this soup, but it may become one of my favorites from now on. It’s adapted from a recipe I’ve had bookmarked for a while now in A Taste of Persia: An Introduction to Persian Cooking by Najmieh K. Batmanglij. I was just waiting for someone crazy enough to try it to come over and make it with me. So when my buddy Andrew came over last night, I was set.

As you can see, this soup has a lot going on. It’s sweet and sour and incredibly filling. The garnish is not only beautiful, but also functional – the pomegranate seeds bursting like living garnets add just the right last splash of tartness to each spoonful, and the garlic just melts richly into broth.

I am a devoted carnivore, and I have trouble thinking of anything as a meal unless it contains meat. With this soup, though, the meatballs are a minor concern, and I really feel that I got more energy from the rest of the soup than from the meat itself. How else can I explain a tiny bowl and two itsy bitsy meatballs filling me up?

It is a perfect winter dish, actually. Warm and hearty and satisfying even in small portions, it is a wonderful haven from the winds I hear howling outside.

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Apricot Hazelnut Squares

The worst thing about my latest cookbook acquisition, Essence of Chocolate: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg, is the terrible difficulty I had in trying to decide what to make first. In the end, though, I had to go with these cookies.

This turned out to be absolutely the right decision.

These cookies really push all my buttons – they are elegant and beautiful; they have several contrasting textures (slightly sandy cookie, crunchy crushed cocoa nibs, soft jam, firm, snappable tempered chocolate); they have nut flavor without nut texture; and they were a lot of fun to make. Each step is easy, but put together it’s an interesting project.

I will be making these again and again, I’m sure. They leave so much room for variation! Maybe with almonds instead of hazelnuts next time? Fig jam instead of apricot jam? I don’t know, but any which way, I’m confident that they will be delicious.

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Truffled Gruyere Risotto

I know it’s past the deadline for Hey Hey It’s Donna Hay Day #8: Tempo di Risotto, run by Cenzina at il cavoletto di bruxelles, but nonetheless, this risotto was so tasty and such fun to make.

Truffle salt is my latest discovery.

Truffle salt is just a blend of ground dried truffles and sea salt, but it is like magic. You sprinkle it on food, and it makes things more delicious. Yes, it is as simple as that.

That is exactly why Dave thinks of it as cheating. It’s sort of like MSG, which adds umami to food, making it more delicious. The primary Japanese brand name for MSG, Ajinomoto, means “essence of taste.” He’s right; it does seem wrong to use white powder (or even truffle salt) as the essence of taste instead of crafting disparate ingredients together into a complex masterpiece. Of course, I do it anyway, because it’s just that good.

Dave thinks that adding a magic seasoning is cheating, because it is harder and somehow better to build flavor without having to rely on something as versatile and dramatically effective as truffle salt.

Still, you’ll note that he does not feel the same way about salt.
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Kabocha Beef Tagine with Chickpeas and Preserved Lemon

The preparation for this dish must begin a month in advance, unless you already have a jar of preserved lemons lying around. The lemons are preserved in water and salt with a layer of oil on top, and for the first week you must shake the jar daily to redistribute the salt. After that, the lemons sit and cure. They must cure for at least a month before you can use them.

Under the cut, I have included instructions for preserving lemons and steaming couscous.

This is slow food. The long wait for the lemons to cure, and all the anticipation as you check in on them and tilt the jar to watch the increasingly viscous fluid flow. The soaking of the chickpeas overnight. The time taken to cut the meat and kabocha squash into chunks of equal size, and to grate the onions. The long, low simmering of the tagine. The rinsing of the couscous and the time for it to soak, followed by two or three steamings with additions of cold water and oil as you rub the lumps between your fingers to break them up. This is not the thing to make if you are in a rush, or not in a position to plan in advance.


All right, I confess: The kabocha squash was a last-minute thought, because we happened to have one lying around. You can use canned chickpeas instead of soaking dried ones overnight, and it will be fine. You should set up a jar of preserved lemons right now in any case, because you will think of something to do with them once they’re ready to be used. (For example, they’re brilliant when finely chopped and slipped under the skin of a chicken along with some garlic and parsley before you put it in to roast.) The tagine does take a few hours to simmer, but if you’re willing to eat late, you can get it started when you get home from work without a problem. A good vegetable cleaver makes the chopping go quickly, and costs less than $10 in Chinatown. Steaming couscous is a meditative, enjoyable task, and only requires a few minutes of attention in between steamings, with plenty of down-time where you needn’t worry about it at all.

It’s nice to think that we take the time to do things right, the slow way, the old way. It is also nice to think that we have time for activities other than work and cooking.

It can be frustrating to think about slow cooking when we lead such busy lives. My friends here and I are all typical overscheduled New Yorkers. Getting together requires taking out our calendars and planning weeks, if not months (and often, yes, it has to be months) in advance. Many of us work long hours, and when I get home from work, I’ve started to take on pro bono cases that fill my evenings. We take classes, go to events, spend time with our families and friends, and there is very little left for us.

It is strange to realize that my time is so much more valuable than it used to be. (This thought occurred to me as I was taking my time to sort cocoa nibs out from among bits of husk the other day, and realizing that I would rather spend a little more for pre-sorted, pre-roasted nibs in the future.) In school, I grew used to thinking of myself as having a lot of time, and very little money. Now, I have very little time, and a little more money, if not much. I have learned that sometimes I am willing to spend money in order to save time. A few years ago, I would never have considered that a reasonable exchange.

Still, we make it work. While tagines simmer, we work on other projects. When we go out, we make quick meals, and I can admit to having a penchant for frozen pelmeni. Dave and I try to set aside a weekend to ourselves once a month or so, where we slowly simmer stock for hours to freeze for later use, and cherish the time we have together without any other obligations as the stock cooks. We have to be fairly vigilant, or those weekends slip away too easily; there is always a last-minute invitation to an event we’d love to attend that weekend, and it is hard to turn those things down. But it is important to us to have that time together, so we do.

We want to make it work without having to sacrifice anything. We want to work hard at our jobs, spend time with our friends, work on many and varied projects, learn all there is to learn about the things that interest us, have time alone and time alone together, read constantly, and cook the sort of food that can’t come together in half an hour.

How do you make it work?
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Sugar High Friday #26: Sugar Art

This month, I am hosting Sugar High Friday, a traveling event that was originally created by Jennifer of The Domestic Goddess. Last month, Johanna of The Passionate Cook had the wonderful idea of inviting us all to make chocolate truffles, and oh, my, did everyone produce some tasty looking treats.

In fact, they were so beautiful that I feel very confident in my choice for December’s theme, Sugar High Friday #26: Sugar Art.

It’s time for the holidays, so let’s decorate the internet with our beautiful creations! You don’t have to do any complicated or fancy pulled sugar or sculpted marzipan – just make us a dessert that you think is cute or pretty or just plain fun to look at, and I’ll be impressed and pleased as can be. If you want to blow swans made of hollow sugar, go right ahead, but marzipan kitties, throwing a few toys among your cookies, or even the beauty of a sprinkling of powdered sugar meets this theme just as well. So rev up all that creative energy, remember how you used to do arts and crafts as a kid, and let’s play!

You do not have to be a great photographer – or even a photographer at all – in order to participate this month. If you don’t want to use a photo, feel free to describe in words what makes your dessert fun to look at, or the techniques you used to make food into art.

Now, the rules:

Your post must go up by Friday, December 29, 2006!

Don’t forget to mention and link to this announcement in your post and if you can, also include a link to the round-up once it is up.

Send an email with the following information to habeasbrulee-AT-gmail-DOT-com:
Your name
Your blog’s name
Your blog’s URL (homepage)
The title of your entry
Your entry’s permalink (individual URL)

Since the deadline is right in the midst of the holidays (in fact, it’s 4 days before my birthday), I won’t have the time to scour the internet searching for your entries – you must email me to notify me of them by the 29th!

If you don’t have a blog, send me your picture and write-up anyway, but be sure to do so as far in advance as possible so that I can publish it before the 29th.

How to Make a Truffle from Scratch

It was hard, trying to figure out what to do for Sugar High Friday #25: Truffles. After all, we all know how to make truffles – either you throw together a ganache and roll it in something, then keep it in the fridge, or you take out your chocolate molds and create chocolate shells into which you place whatever filling you please. There is a lot of room for creativity with truffles, and for tastiness, but it all basically comes down to a filling and a coating.

I’ve made a lot of truffles over the years. I wanted to do something more interesting for Sugar High Friday.

So, I made a single truffle. Entirely from scratch.

When I met John Scharffenberger a few weeks ago, I told him about my interest in making chocolate, and also my lack of interest in buying all the complicated machinery.

He told me that I could make chocolate in an Indian spice grinder at home. Easy schmeasy, no?

So, I took some Venezuelan Ocumare cocoa nibs, sorted through them, and removed all (well, most) remaining bits of husk. I scattered them in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, and roasted them at 220º for 18 minutes.

I put some of them into my spice grinder, which is really just a standard, cheap coffee grinder. I ground them into powder, and then added a dash of confectioner’s sugar.

I kept grinding them, stopping often to scrape down the sides of the grinder. Once, I took my proto-chocolate out and microwaved it for a few seconds in a small bowl to heat it up, then returned it to the grinder and kept going.

This is how to make chocolate at home. Easy schmeasy, and damned tasty.

To turn my tiny quantity of homemade chocolate into a truffle, I heated it up with a small splash of heavy cream and a tiny amount of butter, stirring it into the emulsion we call a ganache. I put the ganache in the fridge to chill, then rolled it into a sphere once it was solid enough to hold its shape.

I crushed a few more of the roasted cocoa nibs by placing them inside a sheet of parchment paper folded in half, and going over them with a rolling pin.

I rolled my sphere of ganache in the crushed cocoa nibs to coat it.

And that was that. One ocumare truffle, made from scratch.

One bite.



Cocoa Nib Caramel & Almond Butter Nougat Bars

These candies are what Snickers bars ought to be – soft, salty caramel with the luscious crunch of cocoa nibs, topped with almond butter nougat, and coated with dark, high-quality chocolate.

If I’m feeling very nice indeed, I will make boxes of these to give away for the holidays.

Buying candy at the store is always such a disappointment. Why not make your own? All you need is a candy thermometer and a dream.

Seriously, the only tricky aspect of this recipe is tempering the chocolate. And I won’t lie, that can be tough to get the hang of. But you can do it, and you can make candy bars so good you would never have appreciated them enough as a child (and yet so good that your children will enjoy them almost as much as you do).

Note: This is the candy I will be giving away to those people who promised to stop by my apartment tonight and take it. I made too much, it’s not time for holiday gifting yet, and if I don’t get rid of it I will just keep eating it. Really, I need to befriend more good eaters in my neighborhood, who I can rely on to rescue me at times like this.

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Stir-Fried Clams with Black Bean Sauce

I keep seeing these tiny, adorable clams in the Chinatown fishmarkets whenever I’m out shopping around there. They live in vast bins, not far from the live frogs and periwinkles that I keep meaning to learn how to prepare.

I have this thing about eating cute things. I like doing it. If I see something adorable and edible, I want nothing more than to pop it into my mouth. These clams were no exception. I wanted to cook them and eat them from miniature plates with a miniature fork, which is exactly what I did.

When I took them home and opened the bag to wash the clams, these two fell out locked in their tight embrace.

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Roundup: The Spice is Right VIII: Frankenstein’s Monster

The bird in the top photo was found in my parents’ house by the window, terrified, unable to escape. He was so scared that when we lifted him up with the pool net and carried him outside, he didn’t move at all. You can see how close he let me get to him in order to take that photo; there’s no zoom or cropping there. We were inches from each other, poor thing.

Unlike the bird, who did not do well in a house where he did not belong, the spices used by everyone who participated in the Spice is Right this month did very well in dishes where they do not traditionally belong.

This is the round-up for The Spice is Right VIII: Frankenstein’s Monster, where I asked you to use a spice (or blend of spices) with a technique or dish from a cuisine that typically never uses that spice (or blend). Everyone came up with such fun fusion ideas! Thank you all for playing around and participating this month.

The entries below are posted in the order in which they were received. For December, I believe that Barbara will be taking back control of the Spice Right at long last. I’ll be sorry to let it go, albeit glad to see her back.

Brilynn from Jumbo Empanadas made Masalicious Cheese Souffle. I’ll second her – this is genius! French technique using Indian spices led her to create what looks like an airy, beautiful souffle that I imagine had the most intense, pungent aroma floating around it. This is a recipe I absolutely have to try myself.
T and EJM from blog from OUR kitchen make Mexican food with garam masala, and this year they used garam masala when making their Frankenstein’s Refried Beans on Halloween night. Garam masala in Mexican cuisine sounds like it would work very well, and I am suddenly craving Indianised tamales very badly indeed.
Debi from Dejamo’s Distracted made Tandoori-Style Chicken with Cacao Nibs with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce. Debi actually used a spice blend she mixed up using amchoor as her entry for The Spice is Right VI: Back to School, Tandoori Masala. Except this time, she added ground cocoa (or cacao) nibs to the masala when roasting her chicken, which says added a warm, toasty flavor that she enjoyed. Cocoa nibs are just so much fun to play with, and this is such a creative and interesting use for them!
Jennifer from Eat Drink Talk runs a newsletter rather than a blog, but she decided to join in anyway, making Turkish-style Strawberry Salad with Black Pepper Shortbread. As Jennifer explained, in British cooking you would never see black pepper used in shortbread. So, she went against the cultural use of the spice, but at the same time used the classic combination of strawberries and black pepper. Jennifer was a traditionalist and a rebel all in one delicious go!
Stephanie from Scrumptious Street made Frankenstein’s Butternut Squash Risotto – an Italian dish made with turmeric! This monstrous use of turmeric in Italian cooking is inspired and beautiful – she even threw in some cranberries, making it a gorgeous treat of red against gold.
Sra from When My Soup Came Alive created Creme Caramel with Saffron and Pepper – a very unusual creme caramel indeed. I’m absolutely a fan of spicy desserts, so this sounds fantastic to me.
I made Sichuan Shrimp Chowder, using Sichuan peppercorns to add their distinctive tingle to a more traditional American shrimp chowder. Good thing Sichuan peppercorns are legal in the U.S. nowadays, hm?
Ivonne from Cream Puffs in Venice made Rice Pudding with Cardamom as her entry for both The Spice is Right and Dishes of Comfort. Cardamom is often used in Indian rice pudding, but for Ivonne, it is a spice that she almost never uses at all. With cardamom as a spice unfamiliar to Ivonne’s personal cuisine, she created a delectable dessert.
Kathryn from Limes & Lycopene invented Chermoula Risotto, another variant of the classic Italian dish, this time using a Moroccan spice paste. It looks wonderful – all the flavors that might go into an interesting couscous, but made with the slow simmering absorption method of risotto instead.
Jessica Brogan offended her partner when he caught her throwing powdered mustard into her Burning Wine Brownies. I am in awe. Her Jonathan may consider these a “disgrace to cooking,” but there’s no one right way to chop parsley, and I think it’s an absolutely brilliant idea.
@ from Yum Yum Mum Mum never encountered brussel sprouts until she came to the U.S., as they are not native to India. She and her family have been enjoying them ever since they found them here, though, and she perked them up with coriander, a spice not normally used with brussel sprouts in Indian cooking, when making her gorgeous Brussel Sprouts Baaji.
Gluten-Free by the Bay created Quinoa Pilaf with Cardamom and Sage. She entreats you to try out the recipe and help her find its missing oomph, so I hope some of you can offer her some thoughts there. I do think the idea of using cardamom in quinoa pilaf looks very good, so I bet that oomph is not too far away!
Becke from Columbus Foodie cooked up a batch of Cincinnati Chili, which, unlike more traditional chili, uses cinnamon, chocolate, and allspice. Sweet spices in savory, hot foods are wonderful, so I’m sure this works fabulously well.

Sichuan Shrimp Chowder

This is my entry for The Spice is Right VIII: Frankenstein’s Monster, where we are creating culinary mash-ups using spices from one cuisine in recipes or with techniques from another. Here, I have used Sichuan peppercorns to add a tingle to a bowl of classically American shrimp chowder.

The deadline to post your entries is this Wednesday, November 15th, so please be sure to notify me by email of your posts before midnight on the 15th!

When I was a kid, my Dad was a sailor. (And a lawyer, but never mind that for now.) We would sail around Long Island for a few weeks every summer, just me and my parents and my brother, Josh. (All this ended before my other brother, Jordan, was even born.)

My brother and father and I investigated the clam chowder carefully at every port. New England clam chowder (the white kind) was my job, and Josh was in charge of Manhattan clam chowder (the red kind). Dad, of course, collected his Daddy Tax and tasted from both of our bowls.

We still try to get to the Montauk Clam Chowder Festival when we can, though I missed it this year. Jordan tells me there was a great pumpkin chowder there this year, which I must try to recreate eventually. Point being, chowder is in my blood. And I’m not the only one.

According to Jasper White in his brilliant tome, 50 Chowders, the first written reference to North American chowder was in 1732, when Benjamin Lynde wrote in his diary that he had “dined on a fine chowdered cod.”

Chowder apparently grew from a way of preparing whatever fish you had on hand and making it easier to bear a diet of hardtack into the range of hearty maritime stews my brother and I grew up on and the ones we still enjoy today.

The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled in 1964 that a person sitting down to eat fish chowder in New England should anticipate that there may be a few fish bones in the chowder and should take care to be wary of them, and dismissed a suit brought by a plaintiff who had choked on a fish bone in her chowder. Priscilla D. Webster v. Blue Ship Tea Room, Inc., 347 Mass. 421, 198 N.E.2d 309 (1964).

The Court was very concerned with the “gustatory adventure” of sitting down to a bowl of chowder, and went to great length to ensure that chowder would not be adulturated on account of plaintiffs who don’t bother to check for bones before swallowing.

The Court went into such extraordinary depth concerning the history and importance of chowder in New England that I cannot resist the urge to reproduce the entire decision here.

Even if you are not delighted by the law as I am, try reading this judicial decision as the humorous food writing that it is.

Priscilla D. Webster v. Blue Ship Tea Room, Inc., 347 Mass. 421, 198 N.E.2d 309 (1964).
JUDGES: Wilkins, C.J., Spalding, Whittemore, Cutter, & Reardon, JJ.

This is a case which by its nature evokes earnest study not only of the law but also of the culinary traditions of the Commonwealth which bear so heavily upon its outcome. It is an action to recover damages for personal injuries sustained by reason of a breach of implied warranty of food served by the defendant in its restaurant. An auditor, whose findings of fact were not to be final, found for the plaintiff. On a retrial in the Superior Court before a judge and jury, in which the plaintiff testified, the jury returned a verdict for her. The defendant is here on exceptions to the refusal of the judge (1) to strike certain portions of the auditor’s report, (2) to direct a verdict for the defendant, and (3) to allow the defendant’s motion for the entry of a verdict in its favor under leave reserved.

The jury could have found the following facts: On Saturday, April 25, 1959, about 1 p.m., the plaintiff, accompanied by her sister and her aunt, entered the Blue Ship Tea Room operated by the defendant. The group was seated at a table and supplied with menus.

This restaurant, which the plaintiff characterized as “quaint,” was located in Boston “on the third floor of an old building on T Wharf which overlooks the ocean.”

The plaintiff, who had been born and brought up in New England (a fact of some consequence), ordered clam chowder and crabmeat salad. Within a few minutes she received tidings to the effect that “there was no more clam chowder,” whereupon she ordered a cup of fish chowder. Presently, there was set before her “a small bowl of fish chowder.” She had previously enjoyed a breakfast about 9 a.m. which had given her no difficulty. “The fish chowder contained haddock, potatoes, milk, water and seasoning. The chowder was milky in color and not clear. The haddock and potatoes were in chunks” (also a fact of consequence). “She agitated it a little with the spoon and observed that it was a fairly full bowl . . . . It was hot when she got it, but she did not tip it with her spoon because it was hot . . . but stirred it in an up and under motion. She denied that she did this because she was looking for something, but it was rather because she wanted an even distribution of fish and potatoes.” “She started to eat it, alternating between the chowder and crackers which were on the table with . . . [some] rolls. She ate about 3 or 4 spoonfuls then stopped. She looked at the spoonfuls as she was eating. She saw equal parts of liquid, potato and fish as she spooned it into her mouth. She did not see anything unusual about it. After 3 or 4 spoonfuls she was aware that something had lodged in her throat because she couldn’t swallow and couldn’t clear her throat by gulping and she could feel it.” This misadventure led to two esophagoscopies at the Massachusetts General Hospital, in the second of which, on April 27, 1959, a fish bone was found and removed. The sequence of events produced injury to the plaintiff which was not insubstantial.

We must decide whether a fish bone lurking in a fish chowder, about the ingredients of which there is no other complaint, constitutes a breach of implied warranty under applicable provisions of the Uniform Commercial Code, n1 the annotations to which are not helpful on this point. As the judge put it in his charge, “Was the fish chowder fit to be eaten and wholesome? . . . [N]obody is claiming that the fish itself wasn’t wholesome. . . . But the bone of contention here — I don’t mean that for a pun — but was this fish bone a foreign substance that made the fish chowder unwholesome or not fit to be eaten?”

n1 “(1) Unless excluded or modified by section 2-316, a warranty that the goods shall be merchantable is implied in a contract for their sale if the seller is a merchant with respect to goods of that kind. Under this section the serving for value of food or drink to be consumed either on the premises or elsewhere is a sale. (2) Goods to be merchantable must at least be such as . . . (c) are fit for the ordinary purposes for which such goods are used . . . .” G. L. c. 106, § 2-314.

“. . . (3) (b) [W]hen the buyer before entering into the contract has examined the goods or the sample or model as fully as he desired or has refused to examine the goods there is no implied warranty with regard to defects which an examination ought in the circumstances to have revealed to him . . . .” G. L. c. 106, § 2-316 .

The plaintiff has vigorously reminded us of the high standards imposed by this court where the sale of food is involved (see Flynn v. First Natl. Stores Inc. 296 Mass. 521, 523) and has made reference to cases involving stones in beans ( Friend v. Childs Dining Hall Co. 231 Mass. 65), trichinae in pork ( Holt v. Mann, 294 Mass. 21, 22), and to certain other cases, here and elsewhere, serving to bolster her contention of breach of warranty.

The defendant asserts that here was a native New Englander eating fish chowder in a “quaint” Boston dining place where she had been before; that “[f]ish chowder, as it is served and enjoyed by New Englanders, is a hearty dish, originally designed to satisfy the appetites of our seamen and fishermen”; that “[t]his court knows well that we are not talking of some insipid broth as is customarily served to convalescents.” We are asked to rule in such fashion that no chef is forced “to reduce the pieces of fish in the chowder to miniscule size in an effort to ascertain if they contained any pieces of bone.” “In so ruling,” we are told (in the defendant’s brief), “the court will not only uphold its reputation for legal knowledge and acumen, but will, as loyal sons of Massachusetts, save our world-renowned fish chowder from degenerating into an insipid broth containing the mere essence of its former stature as a culinary masterpiece.” Notwithstanding these passionate entreaties we are bound to examine with detachment the nature of fish chowder and what might happen to it under varying interpretations of the Uniform Commercial Code.

Chowder is an ancient dish preexisting even “the appetites of our seamen and fishermen.” It was perhaps the common ancestor of the “more refined cream soups, purees, and bisques.” Berolzheimer, The American Woman’s Cook Book (Publisher’s Guild Inc., New York, 1941) p. 176. The word “chowder” comes from the French “chaudiere,” meaning a “cauldron” or “pot.” “In the fishing villages of Brittany . . . ‘faire la chaudiere’ means to supply a cauldron in which is cooked a mess of fish and biscuit with some savoury condiments, a hodgepodge contributed by the fishermen themselves, each of whom in return receives his share of the prepared dish. The Breton fishermen probably carried the custom to Newfoundland, long famous for its chowder, whence it has spread to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and New England.” A New English Dictionary (MacMillan and Co., 1893) p. 386. Our literature over the years abounds in references not only to the delights of chowder but also to its manufacture. A namesake of the plaintiff, Daniel Webster, had a recipe for fish chowder which has survived into a number of modern cookbooks n2 and in which the removal of fish bones is not mentioned at all. One old time recipe recited in the New English Dictionary study defines chowder as “A dish made of fresh fish (esp. cod) or clams, stewed with slices of pork or bacon, onions, and biscuit. ‘Cider and champagne are sometimes added.’” Hawthorne, in The House of the Seven Gables (Allyn and Bacon, Boston, 1957) p. 8, speaks of “[a] codfish of sixty pounds, caught in the bay, [which] had been dissolved into the rich liquid of a chowder.” A chowder variant, cod “Muddle,” was made in Plymouth in the 1890s by taking “a three or four pound codfish, head added. Season with salt and pepper and boil in just enough water to keep from burning. When cooked, add milk and piece of butter.” n3 The recitation of these ancient formulae suffices to indicate that in the construction of chowders in these parts in other years, worries about fish bones played no role whatsoever. This broad outlook on chowders has persisted in more modern cookbooks. “The chowder of today is much the same as the old chowder . . . .” The American Woman’s Cook Book, supra, p. 176. The all embracing Fannie Farmer states in a portion of her recipe, fish chowder is made with a “fish skinned, but head and tail left on. Cut off head and tail and remove fish from backbone. Cut fish in 2-inch pieces and set aside. Put head, tail, and backbone broken in pieces, in stewpan; add 2 cups cold water and bring slowly to boiling point . . . .” The liquor thus produced from the bones is added to the balance of the chowder. Farmer, The Boston Cooking School Cook Book (Little Brown Co., 1937) p. 166.

n2 “Take a cod of ten pounds, well cleaned, leaving on the skin. Cut into pieces one and a half pounds thick, preserving the head whole. Take one and a half pounds of clear, fat salt pork, cut in thin slices. Do the same with twelve potatoes. Take the largest pot you have. Try out the pork first, then take out the pieces of pork, leaving in the drippings. Add to that three parts of water, a layer of fish, so as to cover the bottom of the pot; next a layer of potatoes, then two tablespoons of salt, 1 teaspoon of pepper, then the pork, another layer of fish, and the remainder of the potatoes. Fill the pot with water to cover the ingredients. Put over a good fire. Let the chowder boil twenty-five minutes. When this is done have a quart of boiling milk ready, and ten hard crackers split and dipped in cold water. Add milk and crackers. Let the whole boil five minutes. The chowder is then ready to be first-rate if you have followed the directions. An onion may be added if you like the flavor.” “This chowder,” he adds, “is suitable for a large fishing party.” Wolcott, The Yankee Cook Book (Coward-McCann, Inc., New York City, 1939) p. 9.

n3 Atwood, Receipts for Cooking Fish (Avery & Doten, Plymouth, 1896) p. 8.

Thus, we consider a dish which for many long years, if well made, has been made generally as outlined above. It is not too much to say that a person sitting down in New England to consume a good New England fish chowder embarks on a gustatory adventure which may entail the removal of some fish bones from his bowl as he proceeds. We are not inclined to tamper with age old recipes by any amendment reflecting the plaintiff’s view of the effect of the Uniform Commercial Code upon them. We are aware of the heavy body of case law involving foreign substances in food, but we sense a strong distinction between them and those relative to unwholesomeness of the food itself, e.g., tainted mackerel ( Smith v. Gerrish, 256 Mass. 183), and a fish bone in a fish chowder. Certain Massachusetts cooks might cavil at the ingredients contained in the chowder in this case in that it lacked the heartening lift of salt pork. In any event, we consider that the joys of life in New England include the ready availability of fresh fish chowder. We should be prepared to cope with the hazards of fish bones, the occasional presence of which in chowders is, it seems to us, to be anticipated, and which, in the light of a hallowed tradition, do not impair their fitness or merchantability. While we are buoyed up in this conclusion by Shapiro v. Hotel Statler Corp. 132 F. Supp. 891 (S. D. Cal.), in which the bone which afflicted the plaintiff appeared in “Hot Barquette of Seafood Mornay,” we know that the United States District Court of Southern California, situated as are we upon a coast, might be expected to share our views. We are most impressed, however, by Allen v. Grafton, 170 Ohio St. 249, where in Ohio, the Midwest, in a case where the plaintiff was injured by a piece of oyster shell in an order of friend oysters, Mr. Justice Taft (now Chief Justice) in a majority opinion held that “the possible presence of a piece of oyster shell in or attached to an oyster is so well known to anyone who eats oysters that we can say as a matter of law that one who eats oysters can reasonably anticipate and guard against eating such a piece of shell . . . .” (P. 259.)

Thus, while we sympathize with the plaintiff who has suffered a peculiarly New England injury, the order must be

Exceptions sustained. Judgment for the defendant.

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Meeting John Scharffenberger

I met John Scharffenberger last Thursday.

Yes, one of the founders of Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker.

I passed by my local chocolate cafe, The Chocolate Room, that afternoon, only to notice a sign in the window saying that John Scharffenberger would be there that evening to give a talk and sign copies of his new book, Essence of Chocolate: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg. I’ve been looking forward to the book, but I thought it wasn’t even out yet. Not to mention I had other plans that evening. But I came back anyway, eager to buy a copy of the new book and listen to the man give his talk.

Because of the complete lack of publicity, I was almost the only person in the cafe. I was certainly the only person there who had come to see Scharffenberger, aside from the people he had brought with him. There weren’t enough people for him to bother giving a talk, at least before I had to leave. So what? All that means is that I got a chance to just chat with him myself.

We spoke a bit about cocoa nibs, which are pieces of the beans from which chocolate is made. I am deeply in love with cocoa nibs, though they were hard to find up until a few years ago. Nowadays you can find them in gourmet stores, produced by Scharffen Berger and Sweet Riot. I ordered a few pounds of single-origin cocoa nibs from Chocolate Alchemy a while back, but I would not bother doing so again. The flavors were strange and wonderful, but the nibs come packaged with a lot of twigs and bits of hull, and need to be carefully sorted before you can even roast them. Scharffen Berger cocoa nibs come pre-hulled and pre-roasted, and although they don’t have the wide range of flavors that single-origin nibs have, they are very good indeed.

Mr. Scharffenberger told me that if I give them a call, they can sell me single-origin nibs directly. It would have to be a large enough order to make it worth their while, though.

Oh, said I. I do the occasional catering gig, but I’m mostly just a home cook. How big would an order have to be?

Five or six pounds at least, said he.

I can do that.

We also spoke about how to make chocolate. I always thought that I would have to get some serious, expensive equipment to make chocolate at home. But John Scharffenberger told me that all I really need is an Indian spice grinder. That’s what he uses when tasting and developing blends, after all, and when teaching kids about chocolate-making. This may finally be my excuse to buy the Sumeet Multi-Grind I’ve been wanting.

What John Scharffenberger was really there to talk about was the history of chocolate. He wants to tell people where cocoa beans come from, their history, and how they can be used. The book is full of stories about the farmers, about the beans, about the history of the company and chocolate itself. It is full of gorgeous photos of cocoa pods still on trees, and tales of how the guys at Scharffen Berger worked with the farmers in third world countries to teach them how to properly ferment their beans so that the buyers could make the best use of them (and thus want to buy more of them).

In the middle of our conversation, he excitedly grabbed my copy of the book out of my hands and flipped to one of his favorite photos of a cocoa pod cracked open, still fresh, with white gunk all around the beans.

“The white stuff is sweet!” he explained.

There are recipes in the book, too, and I am really looking forward to trying out a lot of them.

John Scharffenger said that he particularly likes the quick fix of smearing goat cheese and cocoa nibs on a slice of bread, himself.

Note: I just started blogging over at The Cook’s Kitchen, which is part of the Well Fed Network. This post will appear there as well, as will some posts from time to time that don’t get published here. If you go there now, you can find the tale of the Evolution of My Knife Collection.

Töltött Káposzta (Stuffed Cabbage)

Ivonne from Cream Puffs in Venice and Orchidea from Viaggi & Sapori are hosting a one-time event called Dishes of Comfort. They ask us to write about something we consider comfort food, one of the special dishes that meant a lot to us when we were young.

My grandmother has a fairly limited culinary repertoire. She makes a set of Hungarian dishes, and little else. But what she does, she does well, and this is the food I grew up on. Ima (we call our grandmother by the Hebrew word for mother) lives less than a mile away from the house where I grew up, and she was our default babysitter when my brothers and I were kids. Her food is comfort food for me, and stuffed cabbage is what she has made the most of over the years.

When I spent a summer in Israel during high school, I got to visit a set of our cousins that I had never met before. When I arrived, it turned out that Ima had called up her cousin Hugocs, who lives in Netanya, Israel, to tell her to make stuffed cabbage for me because she knows how much I like it. The stuffed cabbage Hugocs made for me in Netanya tasted just like the stuffed cabbage Ima has always made for me in Brooklyn, and eating it was like coming home.

As my father pointed out, they probably learned how to make stuffed cabbage at the knee of the same old woman back in the old country. They grew up together in the same little village (Tarpa) in Hungary, after all.

When I went to Hungary last August, I found that the food more and more closely resembled my grandmother’s cooking as I traveled north to Tarpa. Down in Pécs and Szeged, I found no stuffed cabbage at all. In Debrecen, the stuffed cabbage was mysteriously lacking in tomato paste, but was otherwise very similar. Finally, when we got to Tarpa, Ima’s friend Szaz Anna made us stuffed cabbage that was very delicious and very similar to Ima’s, except that she used lecso instead of tomato paste, and it was a bit spicier than Ima’s version. Anna gave me her recipe, but I prefer Ima’s stuffed cabbage, and it is my take on Ima’s recipe that I am sharing with you here.

To this day, when I call my grandmother to see how she’s doing, she usually tells me, “I made some stuffed cabbage if you want to come pick it up. It is too much for me to eat, you have to come take it. I made it for you.”

I called her before I started to steam the cabbage myself, even though I wrote down her recipe a while back. I think she enjoyed the call, though, and the reminder that there are still things she does far better than I. I couldn’t possibly rely on just my notes when trying to make stuffed cabbage on my own for the very first time, after all.

Well, in the great tradition of my maternal ancestors, I have made far too much stuffed cabbage. It is here if you want to come pick it up.
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Finnish Meatballs with Squid Ink Pasta

October is over, Halloween has passed, and pumpkins are quickly going out of style. It’s hard to find tasty baby pumpkins, anyway, so these function more as cute bowls than anything else. But the meatballs were absolutely delicious, and the mildly intriguing taste of the squid ink pasta balanced well with them. Kids in particular tend to love eating out of pumpkins (as, admittedly, do I).

The idea for serving meatballs with squid ink pasta in baby pumpkins comes from The Lake House Cookbook by Trudie Styler and Joseph Sponzo. The recipe for Finnish meatballs comes from the NY Times, which I made and share here with only some very minor adaptations.

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The Queen of Sheba

The Queen of Sheba was Solomon’s only match, as rich and wise as he, or more. Legend has it that it was she who told him of the lost vessel of blessed light that cast peace on anyone who stood in its presence, which became the greatest of his treasures. William Butler Yeats imagined the two of them together in his poem, Solomon to Sheba:

Sang Solomon to Sheba,
And kissed her dusky face,
‘All day long from mid-day
We have talked in the one place,
All day long from shadowless noon
We have gone round and round
In the narrow theme of love
Like an old horse in a pound.’

To Solomon sang Sheba,
Planted on his knees,
‘If you had broached a matter
That might the learned please,
You had before the sun had thrown
Our shadows on the ground
Discovered that my thoughts, not it,
Are but a narrow pound.’

Said Solomon to Sheba,
And kissed her Arab eyes,
‘There’s not a man or woman
Born under the skies
Dare match in learning with us two,
And all day long we have found
There’s not a thing but love can make
The world a narrow pound.’

The Queen of Sheba is also an almost-flourless chocolate torte, rich and overwhelming, made with almond meal. We like to serve ours with cocoa nib whipped cream. The cake itself does not come bearing brilliance and wit in addition to its riches, but it does tend to inspire them in others.

Dave made the Queen of Sheba for the last NYC food blogger potluck, and I had to promise to post the recipe for everyone, so here it is. Enjoy!
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Rosemary Currant Shortbread with Cumin Ginger Apples

When Rose and I got together a few days after our apple picking excursion, we decided to experiment with some of the apples.

The rosemary currant shortbread is her adaptation of a shortbread recipe she found on Epicurious. Back when we were dating, she and I made rosemary chocolate truffles together; a love for rosemary is one of the things we have in common.

I’ve been throwing cumin onto apples lately, which is most likely due to my poor memory and Kathryn‘s inspiring use of coriander in her plums in spiced custard. Kathryn suggested using coriander in apple pie as well, but I somehow remembered it as cumin instead. Luckily, cumin turned out to work well with apples, too. And I could not resist the fresh ginger I found in Rose’s kitchen.

Rose and I stressed each other out quite a lot when we were dating, but our friendship works smoothly and is extremely important to me. This dish is a wonderful example of how we play together; our every conversation turns into an excited bubbling up of inspiration, ideas bouncing back and forth. It is emblematic of us, really – two complicated and very different things that when combined, turn out to work well together.
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The NYC Food Bloggers Mailing List, and Dave’s Garlic Focaccia

I have put together a NYC Food Bloggers Mailing List. If you are a food blogger who lives in or around NYC, please subscribe to the mailing list here. We can use this to announce further potlucks, parties, classes, sales, tastings, and any other events local food bloggers might enjoy and are invited to attend.

Please spread the word, because the more NYC food bloggers sign up for this mailing list, the better our potlucks will be.

Thank you.

Dave makes this bread again and again, always disappointed, always trying to perfect it. I dutifully taste each incarnation, each perfect, and each better than the last.

It was a hit at the recent NYC Food Blogger Potluck, and I had to promise a few people that I would post the recipe. Here it is. Your compliments made Dave’s week, and I thank you, because I love watching him glow like that.

He is holding the bread in the top photo, while rubbing the fluffy white underbelly of our household floofin’, Katya.
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Dave’s Autumn Rice

Originally I was not going to bother posting this recipe, because it is such a simple thing, and not all that much to look it. Never mind that it is delicious and addictive and goes unbelievably well with our favorite skirt steak for a quick and easy autumn dinner. Never mind that it is an orchestra of flavor, full of tomatoes, onions, saffron, cinnamon, sultanas, mustard oil, port, and more. But then Dave pointed out something very important.

“Anything I have to make again twice,” he said, “is worth posting about.”

Twice again within a week of the first time he made it, that is. At my request both times. He’s right, it’s probably best to save the recipe at this point.

This recipe calls for mustard oil, which you can find at most Indian groceries or high-end gourmet stores. I get mine at Kalustyan’s. It is often labeled with “For use in ethnic cooking” and with “For external use only,” both statements on the same jar. The reason for this is that mustard oil is high in erucic acid, which is believed to be carcinogenic. However, mustard oil imported from Australia has a much lower concentration of erucic acid, and is safe for use in cooking. This is what we use.

Mustard oil is a thrilling ingredient to play with, so if you can get your hands on some of the Australian stuff, give it a try. It has a pungent aroma and subtle flavor that tends to help bring dissonant tastes together into a coherent dish. It is a wonderful tool to have in your arsenal.
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NYC Food Blogger Potluck (Post-Potluck Report)

Last Saturday night, I hosted the first-ever (to my knowledge) an entirely fabulous NYC Food Blogger Potluck. It was a smashing success, and I think we are all looking forward to making this a recurring event.

I made my french onion soup dumplings, though I should go back and edit that post now that I have developed a new technique. I took Rose’s mother’s advice on freezing the soup into a slush to make it easier to fill the dumplings, and it worked beautifully. I intend to do it that way from now on. Alternatively, you can make an extremely gelatin-laden soup, and just fill the dumplings with gelled cubes of it. The soup will liquify when the dumplings are steamed. That’s a somewhat longer process involving many chicken feet, though.

The photo of my soup dumplings above was actually taken by Vanessa, who kindly gave me permission to use it in this post.

I only mention my contribution first because it set the scene for the party. I was still wrapping dumplings when the first guests began to arrive, and as people walked in they washed their hands, sat down at our kitchen table, and began to help me put together the soup dumplings. It became an enjoyable, hands-on group project, and the perfect ice-breaker to get the evening going. I was apologetic for my disorganization at the time, but in retrospect I think the timing was absolutely right.

After all, once we’ve made dumplings together, we’re already automatically old friends. Isn’t it nice how things can work out that way?

Nicole, who blogs on Livejournal as nex0s, made the pumpkin-filled leeks shown in the photo above. She pureed the pumpkin with a spicy honey, steamed the leeks, and served the leek-wrapped pumpkin with a pomegranate sauce. It was complicated to eat, but very delicious.

Nicole has offered to host the next NYC Food Blogger Potluck, as soon as we come up with a date that most people can agree on. Rotating hosting is probably for the best. My father always said (and he got this from his father, who was in the Navy), “RHIP RHIR: Rank Hath Its Privileges; Rank Hath Its Responsibilities.” Well, hosting a potluck has both its privileges (delicious, bountiful leftovers) and its responsibilities (clean-up duty) as well, and I would feel guilty about hogging them entirely for myself.

Vanessa (from Vanesscipes) brought a vegetarian casserole made with black beans, chipotle, sweet potatoes, and spinach, with a masa harina crust. I’m not usually one to fill up on vegetarian fare, but this casserole was tasty and satisfying in every way. Vanessa was wonderful at getting us to actually discuss our blogging, with her great energy and enthusiasm and interesting questions for everyone. You can read her thoughts on how the potluck went here.

Jessica (from Su Good Eats) brought chocolate-filled macaroons. They were tiny and darling and I think they went so quickly that I didn’t even manage to snag one for myself.

Julie (from A Finger in Every Pie) brought a huge variety of treats for us. She brought parma ham bundles, green fattoush salad, pumpkin apple bread, and Korova Cookies (a/k/a World Peace Cookies). She hasn’t posted the recipe for the bread (yet?), but she did post several delicious-looking squash recipes for us to play with instead.

Lisa (from Homesick Texan) brought us a pot of Texas Red. This was chili like I have never encountered it before, dry and stringy and tender all at once, with a texture like Indonesian beef rendang or Cuban ropa vieja. She posted a two part explanation of how to make it (Part 1; Part 2), which would be a shame to pass up. After all, I’ve been eating leftovers of this for lunch all week and I’m not sick of it yet, which is really saying something for me.

Stephanie (from Scrumptious Street) brought her charming husband, and one of everyone’s favorite dishes of the evening (and my breakfast for the next week), a delicious butternut squash and roasted banana soup. We want that recipe, Stephanie, so please post it!

Stephanie (from The Adventures of Pie Queen) brought her mother’s carrot cake. She also brought the sad tale of her girlfriend who is stationed in Afghanistan but cannot actually get any Afghani food. She is stuck eating U.S. Army food instead. I really want to help out and make some Afghani cookies or something to mail to Stephanie’s girlfriend so she can eat Afghani food in Afghanistan, even if it was made in New York. Stephanie says that it usually takes 7-10 days for packages to get there, so any treats that last that long would be fine. Anyone have a good recipe we could use for this?

Tse Wei (from Off the Bone) brought a few loaves of homemade bread that everyone assumed were artisanal loaves he had purchased at some gourmet bakery. They looked magnificent. I utterly failed to try any, but they were a hit with everyone who did. There was this one moment in the evening where everyone in the living room suddenly realized that Tse Wei had actually made the bread himself, and fell to like starving cartoon wolverines.

My partner, Dave, made his fabulous garlic focaccia. He also made an absolutely perfect Queen of Sheba cake, which we served with cocoa nib whipped cream. I will post both recipes soon – I just have to get him to make that cake again so I can take photos first! He does at least half the cooking around here; I’m just lucky he lets me monopolize the food photography.

That is my youngest brother, Jordan, licking his fingers after eating one of Nicole’s pumpkin leek packets. He is in 7th grade and already a gourmand. He is the only 12 year old I can imagine who would taste our homemade sour cherry almond jam and sour cherry sage flower jam, and decide that he liked the sage flower version better because the flavor was “deeper.”

He declared all the food to be delicious, and enjoyed hanging out and getting to meet everyone. Despite being the youngest foodie there, he wasn’t at all out of place. But if he wants to come to the next one, I think he will have to cook something, too!

Thank you to everyone who came and made this such a success. There was not a single bad apple among our guests, and all the food was amazing. I look forward to more tasty potlucks, and to building more of a community among us NYC food bloggers. If any other food bloggers in the area want to join in next time, just let me know; you are more than welcome to be a part of this community.

In Defense of Picky Eaters

Barbara recently posted about how picky people are a huge pet peeve of hers. She was inspired to write about this by Amy, who wrote about how picky eaters make her a bit crazy. There was even a recent Washington Post article which implied that picky eaters are rare and suffer from some sort of disorder or childhood trauma. It always astonishes me that some people are so intolerant of the food preferences of others.

Barbara did explain in a later comment that it is people’s behavior with regard to their food preferences, and not the fact that they have those preferences in the first place, which actually bothers her. Her further explanation makes her view even clearer. That is a stance I entirely understand, because poor manners are unpleasant to be around no matter what their cause may be. But I do not understand feeling put out simply because the people around you like eating some foods and not others.

This is a conversation that comes up often in my household. My partner, Dave, asked at least one of our guests at our housewarming party whether they had any “eating disorders.” By this, he mostly meant that he wanted to know if they were vegetarian or kept kosher. I was a bit concerned, seeing as how we did have one guest who not only kept kosher but also had a history of bulimia. But even she was relaxed, and just laughed at his choice of words when she overheard him.

Mind, he is perfectly happy to keep track of people’s culinary likes and dislikes and cater to them. He was thinking of programming a database to help us to do so when we host large meals. He himself is probably as picky as I am, in different ways – he won’t eat cheese at all, or eggplant, or most pasta (Japanese noodles are the exception), or potatoes in most forms, or most salad, or olives, or raw tomatoes, and I have had to work at introducing him to more and more vegetables that he can enjoy.

What upsets Dave are not picky eaters, but people who have dietary restrictions with no basis that he happens to consider understandable, and which get in the way of social interaction via shared meals. He considers sharing a meal to be extremely important in developing friendships and bonds with other people. Feeding people is what he does. And when something gets in the way of that for reasons that he can’t understand (say, religion), he feels like his offer of friendship has been in some way rejected, which bothers him quite a lot.

But mere pickiness based on tastes and preferences? He sees those the way I see all sorts of dietary restrictions – as a puzzle we can enjoy solving in order to create the best possible dining experience for our guests.

As you can see, this is something that we end up discussing quite a lot, even as he spoils me by dissecting the fat off of bacon or picking all the mushrooms out of my portion of the food. He is very indulgent, my love is.

I once accused him of only keeping me around because I offer him a challenge in feeding me.

“I love you for other reasons, too!” was his reply.

See, I may be a creative cook and an adventurous eater, but I often describe myself as picky. I can’t stand the taste of peanuts, or oranges, or avocadoes, or pineapples, or pickles (of the used-to-be-cucumbers sort), or mayo, or anything that tastes like licorice. I don’t eat mushrooms, eggplant, or nuts because I find the texture to be unbearable – though I’ll eat things made with mushrooms that are big enough to eat around, and ground nuts in things (or pecan pie, where the nuts change texture dramatically) are fine with me.

The smell of canned tuna fish truly makes me feel physically nauseous. I was stuck on a boat out on the wine-dark sea last summer, with the captain smoking at the bow and everyone else eating canned tuna fish at the stern. I spent an hour or so out in the center of the boat, just below the mast, getting a fine sunburn while trying to breathe.

I tend to avoid olives, uncooked tomatoes, salads, and strong cheeses, because I usually don’t like them, but I will try them anyway on the off chance that my tastes have changed or that the one being offered is an exception. I used to say I didn’t like pork except in Chinese food, but by being willing to try it when people cooked it for me, I discovered that I can actually enjoy it in just about any formation except for pork chops. And I recently learned that I enjoy a salad of mixed baby greens with roasted beets, mild chevre, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.

I try to avoid acting like a jerk or a child when it comes to these things. If someone asks for my food preferences, I’ll let them know. I personally want to know my guests’ food preferences, so that I can be sure to make things they are more likely to enjoy. I can order from the menu almost everywhere I go, and if I order off-menu, it’s only to the extent of asking for no nuts or no mushrooms on top of some dish. I can usually just pick around the stuff I don’t like.

I don’t sit around going “Ewwwwww” about things. I did that as a child, but I grew out of that phase eventually. I just avoid the things I don’t like and eat the things which I enjoy.

Thing is, my preferences are my preferences, and I’m allowed to have them, and I don’t really understand why I should feel bad over having them. I have a fairly wide palate, and I’m very adventurous and into trying new things. If you have been keeping up with this blog, that should come as no surprise to you. But there are things I have tried and not liked and feel no desire to eat again, and I just don’t see anything wrong with that.

Apple Picking

I hosted the most incredible NYC Food Blogger Potluck on Saturday night. I am waiting to post about it, though, because I want to give everyone who attended a chance to put up their recipes for the food they brought so that my post about the event can be a sort of round-up as well.

For now, though, I would like to share a few photos from earlier today. You see, I finally got to go apple-picking!

I haven’t gone apple-picking since college. I always forget until too late in the season, or end up over-scheduled, or just can’t convince anyone to go with me. The last time I went was with my college roommates, who drove me to an orchard in exchange for apple pies.

They were a bit peeved when I filled our apartment with the stench of vinegar when I made my apple tomato chutney, but they relaxed once I cleared the fumes away by making a batch of apple butter as well.

(That’s my partner, Dave, crawling under the trees to get at the hard-to-reach apples earlier pickers must have missed.)

This year, my friend Laura got a ZipCar and drove us, along with our friends Rose and Josh, out to Milk Pail Orchard. We picked Fuji, Goldrush, and Granny Smith apples.

Well, no Granny Smiths for me. They always make my teeth feel funny when I bite into them. Seems to be a family trait; my brother reacts to Granny Smiths the same way.

Fujis are among my favorite apples for eating out of hand, along with Gala and Honeycrisp apples. This was my first encounter with Goldrush apples, and I got a very favorable first impression of them. They are tart and crisp enough to serve the purpose of Granny Smiths in baking, I think, but without the overwhelming sourness and tendency to cause that strange tooth feeling. I am looking forward to experimenting with them further.

Dave and I did take home over a bushel between the two of us, after all.

We will be making several varieties of apple butter later this week, and perhaps some chutney, too. I have a pile of ideas for apple dishes that I can’t wait to finally try out! Consider this post a warning.

Featured below is our hero of the day, Laura, with her hair leading so perfectly into the pumpkins behind her.

June 2017
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