Friday, June 29, 2007

Your Weekly Libation

I'm a proud Chicagoan (okay, okay, former North Shore suburbanite who finds it easier to say Chicagoan), so naturally, this cocktail caught my eye. I'm not usually fan of brandy or bitters, so it's quite the experiment, but I'll be giving it a try sometime this weekend. At the very least it gives me an excuse to go to the liquor store.

Chicago Cocktail
Ingredients
2 oz. Brandy
1 dash Bitters
1/4 tsp. Triple Sec
Ice

Directions
Rub a slice of lemon around the rim of a glass and dip it in powdered sugar. Fill the glass half way with ice. Stir ingredients with ice and strain them into the glass.

Enjoy the drink, folks, and enjoy the weekend. I'll see you on Monday.


-Jim, wishing we had more cocktail recipes on the site, wink wink nudge nudge

Thursday, June 28, 2007

I'd like seven more please...

Ok, so I'm a hypocrite. I apologize to Japan, and then I continue on with my global cuisine eating ways. But, I just can't help it. And worry not, this time I'm not stealing all the "fish in the sea," if you will, maybe just some lingonberries.

Yes, the dish that I've come to profess my love for today is....(drumroll please)


SWEDISH PANCAKES!

Ah....yes, I had them for dinner last night at Walker Bros. Original Pancake House, and I was in heaven. Sorry America, Swedish pancakes "take the cake" in the pancake contest. I like them better because they have a light, yet crispy crepe-like texture, and they're served with a perfectly complementary (no, not complimentary) lingonberry jelly.

Here is my step-by-step process to enjoying Swedish pancakes:
1. I cut the pancake into sections
2. Spread a light to medium helping of the lingonberry jam along with freshly whipped butter (that Walker Brothers serves it with) - careful, you don't want to douse the pancake too much.
3. Roll it up, and indulge!

If anyone can tell me if this is how the pancakes are actually served in Sweden, I would love to know! I've never been.

-Hillary, waiting for someone to give her a recipe for Swedish pancakes (hint hint)
Editor, Recipe4Living

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I have class, I just don't know where I left it

Maybe it's 'cause I'm a born-and-bred Midwesterner who, for the longest time, considered a 12-oz. steak a really high-class meal. My tastes are not sophisticated. I'm slowly learning to appreciate the finer things in life, but that growing appreciation has never extended to elaborate wedding cakes.

Yes, they are beautiful. Edible art, in fact! But when I can't bite into a cake without encountering six-inch layers of frosting and whole soggy strawberries, I'm not enjoying my dessert. And they're hideously expensive--what is it, like, ten bucks an inch? So while I'm happy as a clam looking at a wedding cake, when the time comes to eat dessert I'd rather have some caramel-swirled triple-chocolate brownies and high-quality vanilla gelato (see? that's kind of fancy!) than suffer through all the needless frippery inside all that pretty icing.

So what happens when I leave my wild and crazy guy lifestyle behind and settle down with a six-figure wedding bash? I don't want to spend the dough necessary for a towering monstrosity of fondant and fruit, but ritual demands I smash a piece of one into my new bride's face (or is it the other way around?). What's an iconoclast like me to do?

Why, I simply rent a cake, of course! With convenient services like this one, I pay a tiny price for an impressive foam cake covered in real fondant. It even comes with one real slice of cake, so the bride and I can make a good show of consuming the mm-mm-good fancy cake. Then it's wheeled into the kitchen and the real stuff is brought out a few minutes later, with no one the wiser, except for the folk sober enough to say "hey, this tastes like you bought it at Costco!"

It's a brave new world.

But I might reconsider my cake policy if I get to eat this one:



Nom nom nom.

-In all probability, Jim may make baklava for his wedding

A New Love Named Sassafras

Don't tell R, but I fell in love last night. While having dinner at a Louisiana-style Bluegrass restaurant in Highland Park, I met a dish called sassafras. Even the name sounds enchanting, doesn't it? Say it with me: sassafras. I actually would have completely overlooked the seemingly unremarkable title of "Tilapia Sassafras" on the menu had my mom not mentioned its excellence.

The complete description of the dish was this: "Pecan Coated Tilapia Flash-Fried, Topped with A Wild Mushroom Sassafras Sauce, Grilled Shrimp and served With White Rice And Green Beans." The dish came on a wide, oval platter featuring pieces of the pecan-coated tilapia crispy and brown from the frying, with a brown sassafras sauce pooling around the edges. On the other side of the plate was a large pile of green beans glistening with butter and garlic, a mound of white rice already soaking up the surrounding sauces and a skewer of Cajun-spiced shrimp.

The dish was phenomenal. The fish was crispy on the outside, but flaky on the inside and the mushroom sassafras sauce was creamy without being too heavy. Its flavor was unlike any mushroom sauce I'd ever tasted where the mushroom flavor was clearly present, but not over-powering. I would have licked the platter had we not been in public.

This mystery ingredient that caused my taste buds to dance? My beloved sassafras. Technically, sassafras is a plant with a capacity for a great many things. Its scent can be used for aromatherapy candles and its oil makes an excellent insect repellent. But when its leaves are dried and ground, it becomes filé powder, a spice commonly used in Cajun cooking. Genius.

When I got home from dinner, I searched anxiously for a recipe, but found none. I would LOVE to recreate this sauce, but would certainly need a recipe. Any southern cooks out there who are willing to share??? Submit them to the site and I promise to make it and share the results!

-Max, already plotting where to find filé powder for other Cajun recipes

Too little...too late?

The sushi craze is bigger than ever in America right now, with new sushi joints popping up all over the place. Yes, sushi is quite "in." Of course I realize this isn't news to anyone, as at this point it might even be on the verge of "out." But, irregardless of your opinion of sushi, it may not be around for too much longer. Or, at least, sushi as we know it.

You see, America's growing interest (along with China's and Russia's) in the artful Japanese creation has led to a shortage of the most common ingredient used in sushi: bluefin tuna. Not only are bluefin tuna fisheries already being depleted by their original and most frequent consumer (Japan, of course) but global demand for the raw fish is adding quite the insult to injury.

What's ironic about the situation is that the spreading of culinary traditions across the globe is usually seen as a form of flattery and an extension of cultural influence, but for Japan and its economy, the global sushi "trend" has been nothing short of a detriment. The NYTimes article that reports on Japan's crisis analogizes that tuna in Japan is as important as steak in America.

Imagine America without steak! Even if you don't like red meat, there is no doubt that steak is a sun around which the American economy's planets revolve (but of course, we have multiple "suns.") I mean really, what would America do? Well, as fellow blogger Jim has already so eloquently pointed out, notorious chef Gordon Ramsay has recommended horse meat as a healthier and better tasting steak substitute. America is fortunate enough to not have to resort to any backups (yet), but even if that weren't the case, Japan may beat us in the horse races (pun entirely intended).

Yes, you guessed it! Horse meat is Japan's backup plan!

To keep the sushi economy alive, some Japanese chefs have decided to use raw horse meat or deer to make their sushi. Forgive me if I'm wrong, but the thought of this in America would likely turn stomachs away from sushi for good (and maybe that is their intention!) But in Japan, both raw horse meat and deer are considered delicacies for natives. They just haven't been placed inside a jacket of seaweed and rice before (not that maki is the only way to enjoy sushi.)

So, a thought on globalization, if you're still reading:

Do we want to continue spreading our culinary traditions? Often food, no matter where you come from, is based on local resources, which means that sharing the traditions with the rest of the world seems to mean sharing the resources too. At some point, you'd think, a country would have to be selfish, because people in other parts of the world may not appreciate or need a food the way that country does. In fact, one person's food adventure is another person's staple, so where does the boundary lie?

I'm not naive as I realize that my comments and thoughts are entirely based on my being American. I know I come from the melting pot world where I'm fortunate enough to have food influences from all around the world readily available to me. And further, I know that this isn't the case in the rest of the world.

Having said all this, I extend my sympathies to Japan for a loss that I could not fathom. I also would like to apologize for America, China, and Russia adding to your problems. But at the same time, it is your fault too Japan because you created something entirely too delicious. I'm going to miss tuna sushi, dearly.

Run for the hills horses! You're next!

-Hillary, wishing tuna would reproduce at a much higher exponential rate
Editor, Recipe4Living

P.S. I'm not fully aware of the gravity of the tuna fishery depletion, so it's possible this is a very temporary scare and we will not have to say our goodbyes to the precious bluefin tuna.

Hell hath no fury...

...like an unconditioned subway train at rush hour. That was my sweaty morning: a train ride with a mob of angry, overheated New Yorkers. I walked into work today with the inarguable need to stick my head in the freezer. I feel better.

With the heat over 90 degrees F, I've been dreaming of some cool treats and tricks to cool off.

  1. If you do not have an air conditioner, fret not. Here's a way to make one and run it for *much* cheaper, as developed by a couple very warm, very clever college students.
  2. Make a few Ice Straws to stir that cool lemonade, ice tea, or refreshing cocktail.
  3. Best of all, whip up a batch of Watermelon Granita.
Watermelon Granita

This refreshing, ice dessert is thick enough to be eaten out of bowls, or can be made into a drink.

Ingredients

1/2 C. superfine sugar
1 C. water
4 C. ripe seedless watermelon fruit, cut into chunks
Juice of 1 lemon
1 lime, sliced

Directions

Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan and stir to combine.
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 1 minute. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Place watermelon and lemon juice in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Pass the fruit puree through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl, using the back of a spoon to push liquid through. Discard any solids or seeds. Add cooled sugar-water and stir to combine. Pour mixture onto a metal pan to a depth of 1/4-inch. Place in freezer for 30 minutes until crystals begin to form. Scrape mixture with a fork to break it up, scraping the ends and sides of the pan where it might be most frozen. Refreeze for another 30 minutes. Repeat this process several times for 2-3 hours until frozen and crystallized. Place dessert cups or glasses in refrigerator to chill. Scoop granita into chilled bowls and garnish with a slice of lime on the rim.

-Caley, hating the MTA and luvin' the freezer

Photo compliments of Flickr, chotda

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

No more food heroes




In these troubled times, when up is down and left is right and night is day and black is white, you gotta look for the constants. The age-old truths that, time and time again, provide a rock of stability in the sea of madness that is our modern world.

Like popcorn.

Remember popcorn? Oh, sure, you're serious foodies, you've moved on to greater snacks, but remember for a moment: the excited child getting overbuttered popcorn at the movie theater. Jiffy-Pop bulging in the pan at grandmother's house. The building-filling smell of artificial butter as golden microwaved fluff poured into a bowl.

Popcorn will always remain a happy constant in our lives, there when we need it. Safe, nostalgic, harmless buttery goodness.

Or not.

Apparently, the chemical additive diacetyl--used as a component for butter flavoring in popcorn and other products--can cause serious cases of bronchitis obliterans, a nasty disease that scars your airways and, eventually, necessitates lung transplants. Several workers have already contracted the disease, and 9 out of 10 lab rats died within a day of exposure. The rats were given double to triple the amount a worker encounters in the average workday, but an amount similar to what a worker would be exposed to while peeking into the butter vats.

Now, the workers get exposed to far more of this stuff than any of us ever will, but we still gotta watch out for the diacetyl that cooks into the popcorn as the bag heats up. If enough accumulates, who knows what could happen?

Ah well, at least I still have ice cream.

-Jim out, hoping someone submits non-microwave popcorn recipes to the site

Ratatouille!

If you haven't heard yet, the Disney-Pixar movie about an aspiring chef, who just happens to be a rat in Paris, is coming out this Friday (June 29th!) And...

I AM SO EXCITED!
(Yes, that's me.)

Why? You ask.

Well, for one, I love Disney movies. Two, I've been reading and writing all about ratatouille nonstop over the past couple weeks at Recipe4Living.com (go read my article and enter our Ratatouille contest!) And three, what could be cuter than a rat named Remy testing out his skills in the kitchen?

Do you need any more encouragement? Maybe you're thinking this sounds like an advertisement but I get nothing out of you going to see the movie, honest. I'm just gracefully passing along something for you to enjoy! :)

-Hillary, currently spreading white cherry and Ratatouille love
Editor, Recipe4Living

A Pupusa or Two on Saturday Afternoon

What would motivate me to travel all the way out to Brooklyn on a Saturday afternoon despite several subway transfers? Well, the best Latin American food in the greater New York area is what. And by best, I mean I might have to make the trip a weekly excursion since my mouth is still watering.

The New York foodies and many, many others have been buzzing lately regarding the Red Hook soccer fields. Recently, the city informed the Latino food vendors that their Temporary Use Agreement, granted by the Department of Parks and Recreation, would not be renewed. The city wants to open up the park to concession bids, ensuring a sizable amount of money for the city, but surely bringing an end to the vendors operating at Red Hook for the last ten years.

I went out to Red Hook on Saturday to see for myself why these vendors are so wonderful. First of all, the food was easily some of the best I have had anywhere in New York. Salvadoran pupasas, thick corn tortillas stuffed with cheese or pork, are made by hand continuously by a couple of vendors, and served with a pickled cabbage relish called curtido. Some of these delicious pupasas are pictured above. They seem rather simple, but these babies are mind-blowing. Other vendors sell fresh ceviche, which I have certainly discussed before.

Sampling some Mexican cuisine, I also enjoyed some fresh, chorizo tacos with plenty of spicy salsa and guacamole. Chorizo is Mexican sausage, and I want it much more often than I can find it. To wash all this down, I enjoyed a tall, cold cup of horchata, which is the sweet drink made from rice, almonds, and usually some cinnamon. An impressive juice stand also had fresh watermelon juice and limeade.

With all this food, J* and I settled down to watch some soccer at the fields. I couldn't have been happier. Looking around at all the vendors, with their makeshift tables set up, I can see how important these vendors are to the community. Families from all over Brooklyn and New York are enjoying the food, the weather, and the soccer, and certainly not just Latino families. This is what makes New York great, and would certainly be a tragedy if lost.

Save Soccer Tacos.

*Update*

According to Serious Eats, the vendors at Red Hook can stick around at least until the end of soccer season, October 28th.

Monday, June 25, 2007

When life hands you leftovers...

Make Leftoverade!

Ok, that was lame, I know. But there is a point to this, I promise! When I was a kid, I was never good at eating leftovers. Ok, I'll be honest. I'm still not good at eating leftovers. Sometimes, at work, I'll be good by clearing out my contributions to the communal fridge in order to avoid spending more for a new lunch. But usually, I like fresh. I'm sorry, fresh is just more appealing!

If you think I'm a terrible and wasteful person for thinking this way, just wait two more seconds before you blame me. I have a plan for redeeming myself. Here goes:


There is a new movement called "replating." This organization, that you can read about at replate.org, defines the coined verb:

Their goal is to spread the word to as many people as possible, making replating a movement that makes sure less food is wasted, and more hungry mouths are fed.

So, I'm doing my job. I'm passing on the word. How's that for redemption?

- Hillary, about to go eat some leftovers...
Editor @ Recipe4Living.com

The only cooking show hosted by an appetizer



Way, way back before time was time online and I still got all my viral video fixes from places like Newgrounds, I saw a cooking show that was heavy on humor, thick with food science, and hosted by Alton Brown trapped in an octopus' body.

I'm kidding.

Sort of.

I'm referring to Deep Fried, Live! A series of flash cartoons designed to make cooking fun--and teach you about things like, say, the science behind brining a turkey before you deep fry it--hosted by a friendly if accident-prone talking octopus named Tako.

I don't know when the last episode came out, but there are currently 8 in all, and all are worth watching. One of the creators, Rob DeBorde, is actually a writer for Good Eats, and the connection is obvious. Tako has a penchant for silly puns and geeky humor, and he offers a wide breadth of cooking knowledge. Much of this info is shared in a particularly handy way--clickable notes on the side of the screen, narrated cheerily by Tako, that automatically pause the show and unpause it once they're finished. You can also click on icons that pop up contextually--i.e., a little knife when Tako mentions good knives--to shop for the best cooking tools. It's a bit like Good Eats meets Pop-Up Video, all hosted by a cartoon octopus.

And I can't wait to make that octopus' cookie recipe.

-Jim, out.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Pie to try

If I didn't mention this in my last post about the movie Waitress, Jenna's pies are enough to make anyone salivate through a movie. Whether or not they do taste good, they sure look good and are worth a try!

Here's my favorite pie recipe that she makes for her friend before a date:

Falling-in-love chocolate mousse pie

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
2/3 cup water
1 (4-serving) box chocolate flavored pudding mix (not instant)
1 (1-ounce) square unsweetened chocolate
2 cups (1 pint) whipping cream, stiffly whipped
1 (9-inch) baked pastry shell

In a large saucepan, combine condensed milk, water and pudding mix; combine well. Add chocolate. Over medium heat, cook and stir rapidly until chocolate melts and mixture thickens. Remove from heat, beat until smooth. Cool. Place in the refrigerator and chill thoroughly. Stir. Fold in whipped cream and pour into prepared pastry shell. Chill four hours until set.

Makes 8 servings.


You can also find it at Recipe4Living.com if you want to add it to your recipe box.

It's the weekend, you have time to bake! Go ahead and try it!

Friday, baby!



Nearly 5:30 on a Friday evening. All of our readers are gonna have a night out on the town, right? Hit those bars, buy tacos at two in the morning, eat something some guy hands you and then just freak out for a while...

Ah, but slow down there, Raoul Duke. If you're frugal like me, you want to have the same amount of crazy fun for half the price, right? That's why I'm going to recommend a cocktail every Friday, one you can whip up yourself without worrying about saving your singles for the bartender. So without further ado, my recommendation for this week:

Planter's Punch.

This libation's got a storied history in my family. Responsible for endless nights of drunken revelry and eventual total unconsciousness at a little Sea Island, Georgia pub called The Loggia Bar, it's delicious, strong, and absolutely perfect to sip (or pound) on a hot summer night. The mix of juices and three kinds of rum will make you feel absolutely tropical, not to mention absolutely...well, you get the picture. And since the Loggia got bulldozed in May, you'll be drinking a little (or big!) glass of history.

So enjoy, you party people. And remember, always drink responsibly.

Nonnarcotic Insomnia Cookies

Daily Candy NYC ran one of the funniest and most appealing newsletters today. I giggled with delight, largely because it was about cookies...warm cookies delivered to your door between 8pm and 2:30 am. Insomnia Cookies is popular on a handful of college campuses (obviously) but they've now opened it up to Manhattan with a bakery at W. 4th St. in the West Village. Ooooh, this magical city I live in! If I didn't live on Roosevelt Island, I would be ordering this very night. Perhaps I can order from a bar? Do you think Dublin will have cookie delivery? Perhaps served with hot toddies on the side? (Read all about my love of hot toddies here.)

Aside from s'mores, improvised on a gas stove due to lack of campfire here (they are still good!), I can't think of anything I would like more at midnight. But, Daily Candy is right, there is a serious risk of addiction.

Devote at least 30 minutes for delivery. Until you know how you’ll react to Insomnia Cookies, you should not drive or operate machinery. You might want to take them with alcohol, though milk is recommended and can be delivered. Most cookies include some risk of dependency.


Award-Winning Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies

Thursday, June 21, 2007

More than just pie

I saw the movie Waitress last night, and in short, it inspired me. If you’re worried this is going to be a movie review, don’t turn away just yet, it’s not. It just happens that this movie, centered around pie, motivated me to do some thinking about how food can be an outlet for so many facets of our lives.

In order for you to follow along with me, I do however need to give the obligatory summary of the movie (Warning: it may be considered a spoiler) so here goes:

Waitress is about a woman named Jenna who is depressed from her marriage to a terrible husband, as well as her lifelong loneliness. Again and again, she finds herself trapped in the abusive relationship, partly due to financial struggles. To her further dismay, she finds out she is pregnant with her husband’s child. The only outlet through which she feels comfortable sharing her emotions is by baking pies. She even names pies after her feelings while inventing them. After a series of life-changing events, she eventually finds exactly what she has been looking for in the baby she resented all along. She cuts off ties from everything in her old life and “starts fresh,” keeping only one thing the same: her love and passion for making pies.

When it comes down to it, I think cooking is an outlet for a lot of people. In terms of family, cooking can be a way to bridge generational gaps or settle differences. It can also make you feel like you belong. Cooking can evoke a sense of identity depending on with, for, or by whom you cook. And, not to stereotype, but for many women it can be very self-gratifying to be able to say they watched their mother’s or grandmother’s in the kitchen and are now carrying on their family’s food traditions. Even Jenna (from Waitress) does the same thing. Food keeps memories alive; recreating traditions time and time again from ancestors long ago.

Cooking can also be a form of expression. Like Water for Chocolate (the book and the movie) is about a woman named Tito who loves a man married to her sister but was never able to be with him physically. She expresses her love and intimate feelings for him through her cooking; feelings that he reciprocates and embraces while eating. Jenna, the woman in Waitress puts all of her emotion into her pies which explains why they are considered the most fantastic pies in the world.

It goes without saying that food is a basic need for all of us, but that is exactly why it helps us to relate to one another. Sure, food has its stratifying differences, from reputations attached to caviar as well as to chicken fried steak. But I think that when we cook, regardless of what the food is, or where it is from, we are fulfilling a hunger for something more than our own stomachs. We are fulfilling a hunger for self definition, expression, and maybe even sometimes, relationships. I think the expression “made with love” applies well here as the best meals are those that have meaning.

Food has the ability to nourish the soul, as well as the body, and I don’t think it could hurt to just realize that from time to time.

I got nothin' today, so...



Here's a cat eating a birthday cake.

...yeah.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Wilbur, no!



Okay, okay, it's in poor taste, but I couldn't resist. In my daily blogging I encountered a series of articles about all the kerfluffle (does anyone say that word outside of blogging, like, ever?) surrounding Hell's Kitchen star chef Gordon Ramsay's apparent enjoyment of horse meat.

Ramsay's no stranger to confrontation, given his short fuse and inclination to use an f-word I'm not allowed to type here (hint: it's not 'food'). But I'm willing to bet this is the first time his opponents have basically thrown their crap at him.

See, in a May episode of Ramsay's hit Brit program The F-Word, he tried and liked horse meat. Yep. Ramsay ate pony, horsie, equine, the fa-a-amous Mr. Ed...and according to him and his cohort on the show (journalist Janet-Street Porter), it's not only delicious, it's something everybody should have more of.

Cue a--*cough*--manure-storm.

I've written a piece about the pros and cons of eating horse meat (seriously, someone give it a name already) which you can find over at R4L, and after researching the topic all day I can safely say this:

I want to try horse meat.

Yes, I know, horses are pretty and majestic and noble companions with big, soulful eyes and kind hearts and Gandalf's horse could totally understand human speech and that's great. But I'm a curious omnivore who loves him some red meat, and I have no sentimental attachment to horses. In fact, one of them tried to kill me in Hawaii, and another saw fit to keep grinding my leg against a barbed-wire fence for half a mile at a dude ranch. Luckily I was wearing heavy jeans at the time. Cows ain't done nothin' to me, and I eat them at least once a week!

Unfortunately, while I'm certainly allowed to cook up some horse steaks if I so choose, I'll have a hard time finding them. Slaughtering horses for human consumption in the United States is illegal, and thanks to a recent ruling in Illinois slaughtering 'em for export to that sweet overseas market is now illegal as well. So if I want to get my horse fixin' fulfilled I'll have to go to jolly old England.

Well, on the bright side, I might meet Ramsay this way. But he'd probably call me a ponce and make me cry, because, y'know, that's what he does.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Beer Flights on Paddles

I like to try things. This can be translated into: I like samplers. Hence, the beer flight! If you've never had a beer flight before, allow me to make a recommendation. If you're ever at a microbrewery and haven't tried all of their beers, get the beer flight! Pictured above is Flatlander's entire selection of house brews for a cool and refreshing $4. That's 50 cents more than their regular beer price and you get just as much, if not more, beer! Everyone has their own style of beer flight presentation but I thought theirs was pretty cute and creative: it came on a nifty looking paddle with 5 mini pilsner glasses. Being my first Flatlander's experience, it was the perfect way to try out the place.

I must admit though, I don't just get the samplers the first time I go to bars; the sampler is often my menu selection of choice. Usually, when I go to RAM, I "sample" their beers (if I'm not getting their rootbeer floats!). They used to let you try their 6 beers for $1.99 (and it would even be HALF PRICE on some nights!) Now I think it's $2.99, but still.

Beer flights are good deals my friends!

I'm Moving to Ireland

Ok, ok, this is not exactly news for anyone that knows me. Nonetheless, it's been one of those days that I can't stop thinking "Holy #$&% I'm moving to Ireland." I'm moving to Dublin in September to pursue my goal of being a lifelong student, and where I will also continue my love of food. I've heard things about the cost of dining out in Ireland which make me think I'll be cooking more than here in NYC. In that spirit, I decided to devote my regular blog reading to some awesome Irish food blogs today. The rumored Irish "gift of gab" is true people.

  • Val's Kitchen writes about "American-Style" fluffy pancakes. I had no idea we could take credit for that! Giving me something to look forward to, Ireland is that "Atlantic blasted island of rain." Bring it.
  • The Humble Housewife makes me somewhat ravenous with these:
  • The super-close-up pictures served up with wit at Stuff yer bake are amazing. And, yes, the title of the blog amuses me greatly.
  • Martin Dwyer tells me that duck fat is freely available in supermarkets in Ireland....And that I will be cooking my cabbage in it. Awesome.
Might I finish with my favorite Irish food recipe at Recipe4Living.com?

Sweet Potato and Wild Mushroom Lamb Stew

Enjoy.

Make Your Own

It's very possible that my organizational need to control things carries over into my food habits. In fact, I'm pretty certain it does. At stir fry restaurants, I always choose to "make my own" instead of opting for the already designated ingredients mixtures. And at delis or sandwich shops, I most definitely "build my own" sandwich just the way I like it. I make no exception with pizza.

As a lazy college student, there was always a frozen Boboli pizza crust waiting to be defrosted and covered with whatever was in the fridge. And while many may frown upon the use of prepackaged pizza crust, it certainly makes life a whole lot easier! (Well, nothing would be easier than Jim's recent discovery, but that's a whole other story.)

But when I recently found out that Trader Joe's makes a ready to bake pizza dough, I made the switch from frozen. I got the whole wheat flavor, but their herb dough looks delicious too! I really love making my own pizza because I can use fresh ingredients like sliced tomatoes and basil and whatever else I feel like. Last night it was tomatoes, sliced mushrooms, fresh basil and goat cheese. (Looks like Pam at Cave Cibum had the same idea.)



















I like my pizza thin and crispy, but I found it hard to really get the bottom well done. Next time I would probably use half the dough and roll it out thinly. I also highly recommend investing in a pizza stone if you think this is something you'd make on a regular basis. Other than the slightly chewy crust, the pizza was fantastic! The combination of mozzarella and goat cheese was gooey without being overwhelmingly cheesy and the fresh veggies were excellent.

So whether you're a control freak like myself or you just like pizza, this is an easy way to please everyone.

Goat Cheese Pizza with Mushrooms and Tomatoes

Ingredients

1 pkg. pizza dough (I recommend Trader Joe's brand)
1/2 C. tomato sauce
4 Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
4-6 mushrooms
2-3 basil leaves, chopped
Goat cheese
Mozzarella
Parmesan

Directions

Let pizza dough come to room temperature and roll out on floured surface. You may want to only use half of the pizza dough for a very thin crust. Move dough to pizza stone.

Cover dough with tomato sauce. Then layer tomatoes, mushrooms and basil. Sprinkle a few handfuls of mozzarella and crumble goat cheese over the top. You may add grated parmesan if you want.

Bake in 425 degree oven for 8-10 minutes or until done.

Note: you can substitute any ingredients that you'd like for toppings.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

You Have Committed Steak Crime

Generally, I do not subject myself to large quantities of beef. An occasional burger or beef stir-fry will insert itself between my preferences for fish, chicken, pork, duck, etc. Sometimes though, when especially ravenous after a long day, I crave as much of the cow as they will put on my plate. I want nothing more than a big, juicy steak, preferably with some sort of Gorgonzola (my poor, poor arteries) and creamy mashed potatoes.

This weekend, my family was in town, including my two tall sisters (6' and 5'9" respectively) and my equally tall mother. After walking around Manhattan all day on Saturday and some serious shopping, we had worked up quite an appetite. Since we were going to Joyce Dance Theater on Saturday night, we wanted some sort of steakhouse in the Chelsea area. The concierge at their hotel recommended Frank's, and told me it was "very reasonable" for my frugal-minded family. It was not. The cheapest meal was well over $30, as the sides were also ala carte.
Since we were at a famed steakhouse, we all ordered Petit Mignon. The above is a good illustration of what we got. A fine piece of beef like MIGNON should always be prepared medium rare. Anything else and you are ruining the steak. J* and my steaks (yep, he was meeting the fam) were very far from medium rare. They were dry and flavorless, and made me want to cry as I begrudgingly ate my money away now that we had no time to order anything else before the show. My mother and sister's medium steaks had absolutely no pink. What a crime!

Seriously, how does this happen? It's called a meat thermometer! Adding insult to injury was the fact that the restaurant was almost empty as we dined. What were they busy doing back there? In my opinion, if you are spending a lot of money for a good steak, you should NEVER have to pay for a hockey puck. We fought our way to $50 off the bill, but that was the extent of it. The waiters saw me taking pictures of the steaks, but unfortunately none of them came out for this post.

Thumbs down!

Photo compliments of flickr, su-lin

No. No, it cannot be.


I quote the Book of Revelations:

And I heard, as it were, the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see. And I saw, and behold: a pizza vending machine.

Yes, that's right. Some mad Italian scientist saw fit to make a vending machine that sucks in dollars and spits out piping hot, 9" pizza pies. If you look at the gallery on the site you'll see two critical facts:

1) The pizzas are cooked by an open heating element, meaning they aren't just microwaved.

2) The pizzas actually look somewhat appetizing.

They spent 5 million bucks in R&D creating this thing! It spits out a fully cooked pie in about two minutes, with three varieties per machine and a crispness setting controlled by the machine's operator. Now I can finally get that crisp rising-crust flavor at the Des Moines Greyhound station!

Okay, okay, this is actually really cool, but I have a good reason to panic. When convenience reaches this level, it won't be long before we're living in a grim world where robots do all the work and slowly learn to rebel. When that day comes, all we can do is hope Will Smith is still around to save us*.

*Initial title of this post: "AW, HELL NAW"

Monday, June 18, 2007

Cider tastes better than beer.

Yeah, I said it. And I'll say it again, in bold letters: CIDER IS BETTER THAN BEER. I'm not saying that beer is bad or anything, but I like hard cider better--and I shouldn't be mocked for the preference.

Go to a bar with your buddies. Plop down in the stool, get the bartender's attention. Ask for cider. Even if you're a 6 foot 5 Hell's Angel with "LOVE AND HATE" tattooed on your knuckles, bloodstains on your chopper, and a bandoleer across your chest, your pals are going to stare, possibly laugh, and probably ask if you're sure you don't want a Smirnoff Ice.

Screw that noise. I was introduced to cider by a 300-pound Irish bus driver who could pound pints of the black stuff for six hours straight and still want whiskey afterwards. That's pretty damn manly. And what's this association with Zima and "alcopops?" Cider was what you drank long before beer took hold in this country, with pints pounded down by everyone from hard-bitten frontiersmen to John Quincy Adams. It only lost its popularity when beer breweries arose near urban centers. And like so many other things, that was all the Germans' fault. Lousy Germans*.

Luckily, cider seems to be making a comeback--in England, anyway. It's nice to know that if I'm ever in London and I ask for a pint of Magner's or Scrumpy Jack, I won't get snickers or funny looks (which is good, because I am emphatically not a bloodthirsty Hell's Angel).

If you'd like to read a brief history of the drink I love so much, check out my article on the main site. And next time you see a guy asking futilely if the bar stocks Woodchuck, show some sympathy. An American cider-lover's existence is a torturous one.

*In reality, Jim has nothing against the Germans, nor does he wish they would "go back to Germania." He just wishes they wouldn't make such good beer.**
**If any Germans are offended, Jim deeply apologizes, as he knows that Germans are not "all smiles und sunshine."

A "Big" Disappointment

Ordinarily I'm not one to complain about restaurants and food establishments, especially those that have been at the top of my favorites list for years, but I have to say I am disappointed. If you've read my profile, or happen to know me, you might know that I have an obsession with Big Bowl, the restaurant. Ever since it moved to an area about 5 minutes from my house, I've been ordering their chicken satay appetizer, lemon chicken entree and a hibiscus iced tea to drink.

I went recently though, and things just weren't the same. Maybe it was the hyped up expectations after a long semester at school without a nearby Big Bowl, or maybe my perceptions serve me correctly. I'm not quite sure, but my main problem was that portions were much smaller and presentation was lacking.


If you'll notice in this picture of the chicken satay, there are only 3 skewers of chicken! Aside from that being a small number for any sharable appetizer, there used to be 5! Ok, I know that was back in the day, they had cut it down to 4 first. Yes, Big Bowl, I'm watching you and I'm not such a fan of your sneaky ways of diminishing how much food one gets in their order. What's worse, they got rid of the cucumber salad that it came with! Chicken satay needs to be served with cucumber salad, not an unattractively colored lump of I don't even know what. Even their peanut sauce is different! Used to be chunky, now it's straight liquid that falls all over the plate upon serving.

I complained about the portion to the waiter noting that it used to be bigger and he laughed in my face and said, "Oh, did you want to just order another?" Great service buddy. Maybe if it were free.

Perhaps I'm overreacting, but please understand that this happens to be one of my absolute favorite foods ever. I like the way they prepare it, or shall I say prepared, and I just can't deal with change like that.

The hibiscus iced tea and the lemon chicken did stay up to par though. I will give them credit for that. I didn't even realize that the hibiscus iced tea had free refills and that was a definite perk!

Will I go there again? Probably. Even though the portions were smaller and the presentation wasn't the same, the truth of the matter is it still tasted really good. If you noticed, I was just disappointed because I wanted more!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Salvaging Deliciousness



As a new chef, I'm terminally likely to totally screw up half the recipes I attempt. It's okay, I'm learning, but occasionally, wrestling with failure, I feel like Ralph Wiggum struggling to open a milk carton.

So after botching one of the first steps of making Baklava, I was feeling kinda low. The friends I was cooking with, however, had other plans, and what they decided to do made me feel, for the night, like a real chef:

We improvised.

The problem with our Baklava recipe was, we tried to speed up the defrost process of the Fillo dough with warm water, assuming the bags involved were hermetically sealed. They weren't, which left us dough rather soggy at the edges. But the middle of the roll was fine--and after some cutting, we had lots and lots of thin strips of Fillo. That'd be one helluva narrow pan of Baklava...but what else could we make?

Tarts, as it turns out. With a maniacal look in his eye and an inspiration I'm still trying to understand, one of my friends started mixing up spare stuff around the kitchen--raspberries, cinnamon, some lemon zest from the baklava---until he had a bowl full of deliciousness. Meanwhile, my other friends began laying down strips of Fillo.

We took turns layering the paper-thin dough and filling it with the raspberry mixture, making funny shapes (including what can only be described as a raspberry tumor). It was my idea to fold the dough into triangles, someone else's to make some sauce with honey intended for the baklava, someone else's idea to...you get the idea. It was like cooking by wiki.

The results? Well, I'll give you a hint.


YUM.

The recipe can be found here: Improvised Raspberry Honey Tarts.

Enjoy! I know I did.

Mochi goodness

I'm a huge fan of mochi ice cream; always have been, always will be. Mochi is a sort of sticky rice that encases a ball of ice cream leaving a dry dessert with a gooey and creamy inside. It comes in all sorts of flavors from mango to green tea, to red bean or your simple vanilla. Despite its Japanese origins, the first time I had it was at Bob Chinn's crabhouse. And while the restaurant is quite close to my house, it was rather inconvenient for my budget. The problem was, at that time (and this was years ago) I couldn't find it anywhere else. It seemed to be sort of a rare thing to carry, even in restaurants. If I was going to continue feeding my addiction, something had to change.

Well, as it turns out, they now sell it at the grocery store! Trader Joe's to be exact, but I'm sure others have it too. So last night, I had the pleasure of eating mango mochi in my very own home. No tip necessary! Best idea ever.

And, this newfound magnificence led me to get a bit creative in the kitchen last night. I made a quick and easy dessert that would be appropriate for any fancy occasion, and it was quite possibly the best thing I've ever put together!


All you need to do is serve one mochi ball and surround it with fresh berries or even mandarin oranges. The ice cream leaks out a bit at the bottom through the rice and mixes with the berries (which the mango flavor is suited quite well for.) It is refreshing, delicious, you name it. I'm in love.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Cooking Disaster Carnival (How Macabre)

All the bloggers here at Chew on That love to eat. For example, after a trio of spicy crunch maki on Monday night, I couldn't turn down two-dollar wings with my beer at the nearby bar. But, we don't all claim to be master cooks. (Well, maybe Max does when none of the other bloggers are around...I've heard things about her risotto) Learning to cook is also about experimentation (and, um, food), and that means things occasionally go terribly but hilariously wrong. I tried to make falafel from scratch once with a mixture that stubbornly refused to remain balled, and ended up with oily muck.

It's especially fun to hear about these cooking disasters from our fellow food bloggers (some much more seasoned than we).

So, send in your crazy cooking disaster stories for what will be a very amusing blog and article at recipe4living.com. I'll be sure to give you some nice link-love at both locations.

Mail me at: caleywalsh at gmail dot com

Ow! My heart, my liver, and my brain!


Oh God.

Some woman from a health nut's nightmares has created bacon vodka.

Bacon. Vodka.

The thread originally appeared on 4chan's Food and Cooking board, but was deleted before its madness could reach the rest of the internet, where it would undoubtedly harness man's collective desires to 1) combine things that should not be combined and 2) harm his liver and his heart simultaneously.

It has since been archived in Google Docs. Enter to see pictures of the entire process and the reaction of 4chan's forum, but be warned: the language on the site is not safe for work, and the content is not safe for the human mind itself.

You say cicada, I say cicAHda

I'm sure everyone has heard all the 'buzz' about the Midwest's cicada invasion, a mobbing of creatures notorious for their 17-year hibernation period. And by buzz, I'm not just making an incredibly corny pun, I'm actually referring to all the crazy things people out there will do to incorporate a cicada into their everyday lifestyle: a warm welcome, if you will.


Yes, less frequent occurrences offer a multitude of opportunites like say, the Walter E. Smithe furniture cicada sale (find the cicada videos in their drop down menu) where they serve freshly squeezed cicada juice and "if you miss it, they won't have another sale like this for 17 years!" Or, you can get even more creative, like my friend's uncle, and make cicada paperweights (little treasures to cherish those little buggers while they're gone). The sky, or rather, the June (July? when do they leave?) soil is the limit with these flying noisemakers and like the good human hosts that we are, we go out of our way to make the most of their visit!

So, what do we do? Naturally, we eat them! Well, ok, not me personally, but you might be surprised how much cicada consumption goes on in these short months. Here's my favorite YouTube cicada video, also a news broadcast on local television channel WTTW.

"Cicada Gourmet Dining"




If you watched, you got a little taste of cicada tempura sushi rolls, some refreshing cicada and jam endive snacks, and even deep fried cicadas! If you're inspired, check out some more cicada recipes.

Most importantly, get 'em while they're around, because the next freshly caught cicada delicacy won't happen for another 17 years!

Enjoy! Or, take a look at this little guy first...







Potato Pancakes and Art Fairs

I tried to spend every waking moment of last weekend outdoors. It was the first consistently gorgeous weekend that Chicago has seen this season and I just couldn't get enough. Saturday was spent strolling (and sometimes shoving) up and down Wells St. for the Old Town Art Fair. Unfortunately, the art was pretty expensive - and a lot of it was those cheesy pictures of ballparks and cityscapes - but we found other ways to entertain ourselves, namely beer and food.

Vendors from Old Town had set up stands along the street, so you could choose over-priced mini-portions and sample the cuisines (I'm not exaggerating here, they were really charging $3 for one egg roll). Kind of like the Taste, but without the tickets and on a much smaller scale. I did, however, stop at the booth of a Polish restaurant that had huge Polish sausages on the grill, pierogies with potato filling and the largest potato pancakes I have ever witnessed. This was not something I was expecting.



















In my mind, potato pancakes are reserved specifically for Hanukkah at which time I try to consume as many as possible to hold me over until next year. But as soon as I saw these 8-inch latkes, I simply had to have one. Actually we had three, because that's how they were selling them. Three 8-inch potato pancakes with sides of sour cream and apple sauce. I was in heaven.

The consistency was a little thick for me, I think the potatoes had be chopped too finely, but the flavor was nice and oniony and the outside was crispy and brown. It was an unlikely surprise on a hot day in June, but now I only have 6 more months until I get them again!

Just in case you can't wait, here are some of Recipe4Living's favorites:
Potato Latkes
Sweet Potato Latkes
Hanukkah Latkes
Grandma's Potato Latkes with Ginger Apple-Pear Compote
Authentic Potato Pancakes

Photo courtesy of Matt Terski on flickr

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Bringing back the soda shop era

I went to RAM (a local microbrewery) the other night to meet some friends. I wasn’t in the mood for beer, so I decided to go with a root beer float for a decent $3.99. Much to my surprise (and quite frankly, my embarrassment), I received the largest overflowing mug of vanilla ice cream and root beer deliciousness that I have ever seen in my life. If you’ve been to RAM, you might know that their desserts are notoriously humongous, but never have I been served a drink in such gigantic proportions. To make matters more embarrassing, while I couldn’t help but crack up hysterically at the ridiculous sight of what now became my gluttonous mission, the waitress kept a completely straight face (she also just happened to be extremely unfriendly.) No grin, no nothing. If it weren’t for my friends, I might never have had validation that this float was out of the ordinary.

The root beer float option however, is not. Maybe it’s just me but I’ve been noticing root beer floats, or the float concept in general, popping up all over the place. Some have even gone so far as making root beer float cakes (see more recipes at Recipe4Living.com .) Sure, it’s no new idea, but perhaps it’s becoming trendy to bring it back. Wendy’s is in on it too. Visit one lately? They now have frosty floats where you can pick any soda to mix with either chocolate or vanilla frosty (their version of ice cream.) And, each time you get one you have a chance to win a Wii! Bringing back a classic is downright genius if you ask me. Not to mention, the combination of carbonation and ice cream is delicious.

This trend, so to speak, has put me on my own mission: to bring back the phosphates. What’s a phosphate you may ask? Well, the writers at cloudcreations.com explain:
“Phosphates were carbonated beverages made-from-scratch by the 'soda jerk' using carbonated soda water, flavored syrups and phosphoric acid, an ingredient still used today in many brands of soda-pop including Coke. Popular flavors included cherry, lime (usually called a green river), chocolate and vanilla.”

But more importantly, they are delicious! Well, at least the chocolate ones are; the lime sounds iffy.

If you didn’t know what they were, don’t feel bad. It’s been my experience that anyone under the age of 50 that I’ve encountered has never heard of such a thing. And, neither had I until a few years ago when I took a trip to visit my grandpa in Florida. We went to a local diner where a whole slew of his friends had ordered chocolate phosphates. They would respond to my look of confusion as if I was the one who was nuts. Anyway, they forced me to try a sip, and in a nutshell, it was like a party in my mouth. Mmmm.

So I say, bring back the phosphates, and the entire soda shop era for that matter, because that generation sure knew how to indulge.

Monday, June 11, 2007

My Way or the Highway

I returned to New York on Saturday evening with a certain restlessness and a hankering for the Village. Despite the higher prices of food in the area, J* and I made our way to the lower east side. We missed the last showing of Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind at the almost too-cool-for-school KGB, so wandered over to a restaurant nearby called Candela, Candela. The joint is an interesting mixture of Cuban and Italian cuisine. The signs surrounding the outdoor seating enticed us in with "Cucina, Mojito Bar." Although I don't often digress from a cold beer in the summer, I do love me an occasional mojito with plenty of fresh mint, lime, and hopefully a strip of sugar cane (oh, and rum of course).

Despite the price ($16!), I was very excited about the three kinds of ceviche on the menu. Ceviche, a kind of fresh seafood salad marinated in lime juice and served cold without cooking, is the perfect food to enjoy outside on a warm, summer night. I've had ceviche with fish, shrimp, squid, scallops, and, probably my favorite, conch pulled right out of the shell in front of me (in the Bahamas). Thinking that we could split the dish and forgo anything else, we ordered the spicy, mixed seafood ceviche with lime at Candela, Candela.

Perhaps I am not accustomed to the Cuban variety, but I did not care for this ceviche. We were served a variety of seafood (shrimp, squid, and mussels??) in a large glass bowl, but the seafood was quite whole, instead of being chopped up (I was told this was Cuban variety). Nonetheless, I couldn't taste any lime or any other seasonings. It basically tasted like a bowl of fishy seafood (with flavors not altogether pleasant to meld). Now, fresh seafood is great, but not when I want ceviche. I want something a bit more liquid, with lots of lime, tomato, avocado, and whatnot. I want to scoop it up with plantains or tortilla chips.

With my experience eating in Mexico, I know now how strongly I prefer the Mexican ceviche.

Shrimp Ceviche Tostada

Shrimp is "cooked" in lime juice and blended with tomatoes, onion, and jalapeno

Ingredients

6-8 Limes
2 lb. Tiger Shrimp, raw, peeled & deveined (30-40 count)
1/2 Yellow Onion, finely chopped
4 small Tomatoes, diced
1 Jalapeno, finely chopped
1 bunch Cilantro, leaves only, finely chopped Salt to taste
Garnish:
1 pkg. Tostadas
2 - 8 oz pkg. Rico Guacamole
Cilantro leaves
Hot Sauce

Directions

Squeeze limes into large bowl. Cut shrimp in approximately 4 pieces each. Place shrimp and onions in lime juice, cover and let marinate in refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Remove shrimp mixture from refrigerator and add tomatoes, jalapeno, cilantro and salt to taste. To serve, drain lime juice from ceviche. Next, spread guacamole on top of tostada and top with ceviche. Garnish with cilantro and hot sauce.

Yield: 4 servings (2 tostadas per person)

Photo compliments of flickr, Andrea F Lee

Pankegg!



You gotta love the Internet.

It has horrified me, entertained me, and sometimes...inspired me.

This is one of those times. After watching a particularly good episode of my favorite (now ended) video blog The Show With ZeFrank, I knew my life would never be satisfying until I followed the instructions he gave me (watch til the end):

"Put a little oil in the pan, but make sure you add some butter. That's where the flavor is. Coat it, and then pour yourself a nice, big pancake. Now watch it. See those tiny little holes? Those are bonding holes, and they have a purpose. As soon as you see enough bonding holes, pick the pancake up and crack an egg under it..."

This mad scientist creation is called a Pankegg, and it is delicious. Over the weekend, my ladyfriend and I spent some time in the kitchen, putting Ze's recipe into action. Here are the results:



Cooking the Pankeggs was harder than I thought it'd be, mainly because juggling a half-cooked pancake on a spatula while you crack open an egg is no easy task. Attaining the "oozy, oozy middle" referred to by Ze also took some trial-and-error; twice I cooked the egg too much and was left with a yummy--but dry--Frankenstein's monster. The third time, however...



Success!

The mix of flavors and textures works really well. The cooked egg white combines with the pancake to make something exquisitely fluffy, and the runny yolk fills the role normally occupied by syrup.

While experimenting, I (at my ladyfriend's behest) also made an "egg in the basket," an egg-and-toast combination:



It may look like--and probably is--something served at some roadside greasy spoon, but again, the results make for one hell of a breakfast treat.

How do I top this? Maybe I'll combine sausage and pancakes! Naw, that'd just be crazy.

EDIT: There's been a request for egg-in-the-basket instructions as well, and since it is a valid alternative to the Pankegg, here they are: take a piece of bread. Butter it. Cut a circle into the center of the bread; eat the circular scrap that results. Put the bread buttered-side-down in a skillet, crack an egg into the hole, and break the yolk. Allow one side to cook, flip the bread, and lightly cook the other (to insure the whole egg white has been cooked). Enjoy with Pankeggs, Sausage-and-Pancakes-onna-Stick, and...God, I don't know, Raisin Bran with OJ instead of milk for a complete Mad Scientist breakfast.

Friday, June 8, 2007

This man is my hero.



The link is not exactly new, but content this good should be posted everywhere. All the time. Possibly surrounded by neon lights that say AWESOME. From Adam Kuban's A Hamburger Today:

How to make your own White Castle burgers.

Being a Chicagoan, I can get White Castle if I really need it, but this makes giving into The Crave even easier. And now the unfortunate souls stuck with frozen sliders can have a taste of something a bit closer to the real thing.

Hats off to you, Adam Kuban. As a fellow burger-obsessive, you're a man after my own cholesterol-and-deliciousness-clogged heart.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Top Chef


I don’t know about you, but I am an avid viewer of Top Chef (not to mention, just an all-around Bravo fan!). I make it my business to catch every episode of the show, if not once, as many times as possible. Somehow, that standardized reality TV formula they’ve got over there at Bravo sucks me in every time. I’m beyond addicted.

Anyway, I am greatly anticipating tonight’s competition between seasons 1 and 2’s casts (to air at 10/9 CST). It takes me awhile to adjust to new people so anytime shows bring back older casts, I’m a happier camper. This sendoff into the third season (to premiere next Wednesday) has got me wondering, “which cuisine reigns supreme” (totally stolen from Iron Chef, ok I LOVE cooking competitions)? Will it be Ilan’s saffron coma-inducing concoctions? Or will Harold’s laidback all-American and hearty style prevail? Yes, those two are the leaders of the season’s packs and if my instincts serve me well, I predict some sort of “throwdown” between the two Top Chefs.

TUNE IN and let me know what you think!

Unisex Design in Pink...

I'm such a baby when it comes to chopping onions. I've tried running the onion under cold water and even freezing the onion before chopping. I'm liable to make a couple knife strokes and run around the living room for awhile in tears. Luckily, RSVP International is here to solve that problem with style. That's right, they offer specialty Onion Goggles. A hefty amount of padding around the eyes crosses lab goggles with couture. Wear these around all the time and you'll be ready for serious onion-chopping at any time.

Hopefully a store near you is carrying these babies since you cannot order online. I'd really love to see what they charge...

Wear those goggles when you make this:

Tandoori Onion Salad

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Tastes like...burning...



The newbies have arrived! My name's Jim. I'm the other new editor here at Chew on That, and I'm thrilled to be here. You've already heard from my cohort Hillary; now it's my turn to tell an embarrassing story about food.

Since I could see over the hibachi and wield a pair of chopsticks, I've had a lifelong obsession with Ron of Japan. I love authentic Japanese food, but I also love Americanized Japanese food--and Ron's got that in spades. You wouldn't find teppanyaki this unhealthy in Tokyo (trust me, I looked), but the taste is worth the calories...particularly Ron's secret weapon in the restaurant wars, their amazing egg sauce. It absolutely destroys any nutritional benefit left in the already oil-soaked food, but it leaves you full, happy, and possibly incapable of movement (that's if several delicious Super Mai Tais haven't already knocked you on your oshiri).

That's not to say that Ron only offers teppanyaki, and that's where my story comes in. Recently, I was there with my family, happily guzzling cocktails and watching the chef prepare our appetizers. My brother ordered a new item, beef sashimi, and we all watched in awe as several dark red slices of raw steak were laid out before him.

Graciously, he offered me the plate. I reached for a slice and, worried I wouldn't like it, popped the whole thing into my mouth without even looking. Then I realized: I'd grabbed a hunk of wasabi-spiced hot mustard off the plate instead of the intended target. At that moment, the chef lit some oil on the grill, creating a towering fireball. Impressive, sure, but it could not have possibly been hotter than the inside of my mouth.

I screamed, hunched over the table, and spat into a napkin. I couldn't taste anything but hot for the next half-hour.

Always look before you eat, folks.

A Recipe for Disaster












If you haven't heard yet, there are some new editors at Recipe4Living.com! I, Hillary, happen to be one of them. :)

It was my first day on the job yesterday and in a very warm welcome, my boss took me out to lunch along with my co-editors. We went to Edwardo's Pizza, which is just down the street from our office. By the time we made it there, it was about 12:30 and my stomach was rumbling. Having gotten up at 6:30 AM (let's face it, for the first time in a long time!), my stomach was yearning for meal number two. So, naturally, I grab at the first edible item put in front of me. Edwardo's serves these great bread chips (for lack of a better description) with marinara sauce as their kind of bread and butter tantalizer. In hungry haste, I reached over to dip my crunchy bread chip into some tasty-looking tomato sauce, only to deliver that very dollop of sauce onto my brand new white shirt instead of into my mouth. Yep, that's right, first day of work and I have a giant red stain in the middle of my shirt. And yes, I got the pants too. Luckily, that stain came out. As for the shirt, no such luck.

So, now that I joined the team, I wanted to introduce myself. My name is Hillary, but you can refer to me as the girl who stained her shirt with marinara sauce on the first day of work. And while we're on the topic, I thought I would take this opportunity to share a few tips on what I could have done to get rid of my food mishap right on the spot.

1. Carry around that Tide To Go pen. I'm not kidding you. It works wonders. I have one, but just like many others, I forget to carry it around with me. Well, a word of advice (to myself included): CARRY IT AROUND. Buy another one for the purse. Buy three. It will be worth it, trust me!

2. That old club soda trick. Ask the waiter for some club soda (not in that overly snobby voice "Could I bother you for a glass of club soda? I seemed to have stained my shirt!") and just dab the stain. Try not to rub it in. You might make matters worse.

Photo courtesy of timsamoff at Flickr

Pecan-Crusted Goodness

I'm a big fan of fish, especially in the summer. And although it doesn't feel like summer in Chicago right now with constant rain and chilly temps, I needed a lighter meal and a break from the barbecue last night. Usually, I default to salmon when I want to make fish, just because it's so easy, but I got a bit more adventurous last night and brought home walleye pike. A quick pan fry in butter and the sweet, flavorful fish was ready to go.

I know a lot of people are hesitant to make fish on their stovetop for fear of the house smelling "fishy," but walleye pike is so light and un-fishy, it really wasn't an issue. Then again, I come from a family that smokes kippers on New Year's day, so fishiness is not really a main concern.

But last night's dinner was anything but fishy. I chopped up pecans in the Cuisinart until they were fine, but not pasty, and put them in a shallow dish. Then I dipped the fish in milk, then the pecans and then stuck them in the pan. In 15 minutes they were golden-brown and ready to eat. Walleye pike is an excellent fish to cook because it is so flavorful to begin with, it doesn't need much help. It will always make you look good. The pecans added just enough texture to offset the flaky fish for the perfect combo.

Pecan-Crusted Walleye Pike

Ingredients

4 pieces walleye pike
3/4 C. pecans, chopped fine
Milk
Butter

Directions

Chop pecans in a food processor and place in a shallow dish. In another dish, pour enough milk to dip the fish. Melt a generous amount of butter in a fry pan. Dip fish in milk and pecans and then lay in pan. Repeat with all pieces of fish. Pat extra pecans onto fish while in pan. Flip after 5-7 minutes or until brown. Cook on other side until done. Can be served with tartar sauce (but it doesn't need it!).

Monday, June 4, 2007

I Want My 'Cue


Stone's Bones in Merrillville, Indiana was always a good excuse to drive home to central Indiana from the North side of Chicago, or up to visit my sister in Chicago while still living at home. Good barbecue is an undeniable food passion of mine. Growing up in a very health-conscientious household (applesauce in baked goods conscientious), I developed an even more acute love for such forbidden fare. I loved calling my mom while at college and telling her I discovered items like chicken wings and Philly cheese steaks. *evil laugh*

Tender pork ribs, falling off the bone are pretty close to my food heaven. Thus, when I heard about the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party coming up this weekend, I squealed with delight and about fell out of my seat. Living in NYC in the summertime is the best! Even more thrilling, Serious Eats is giving away two Bubba Passes to the event, complete with the pleasure of Serious Eats guru Ed Levine's company, and a whole bunch of other 'cue goodies. Of course I entered!

In sweet, sweet anticipation of my win, here are some of my favorite 'cue recipes:

Sweet and Spicy 'Cue Ribs

Real Goooooood 'Cue Ribs

The BBQ insanity will just not end! Recipe4Living.com is hosting the Ultimate BBQ Recipe Contest. Send in your most creative barbecue recipe and you could win a deluxe gift basket with gourmet barbecue rubs and sauces. Send in an awesome BBQ recipe better than my ribs and I might just flip. (Hardy har har)

Friday, June 1, 2007

Psychedelic Veggies


Just when you thought you’d seen everything, along comes Purple Cauliflower. Sold under the name of Foxy CauliColor, this purple variety is combined with yellow, orange and white cauliflower to turn ordinary veggies into an extraordinary meal. I bet even your kids will love these fun colors.

The purple variety of cauliflower was developed by a Dutch company and is 10 times higher in antioxidants than the white variety. The Grocers Review has a great article giving a brief history of this unique veggie and outlining some of its health benefits.

Sold nationally, at Giant, Dierbergs, Piggly Wiggly, Whole Foods and ShopRite grocery stores, the 9.5 oz. bag or 9.6 oz. pack cost $3.00. Of course, cauliflower is not just great as a side dish, but makes a wonderful meal.

And while you’re thinking of all the great things you can do with CauliColor mix, check out some of our great recipes at Recipe4Living.

A Nice Gesture

I received an e-mail from Marybeth Mills , the co-owner of Peekamoose, after my post yesterday. (I felt they should know about the experience and e-mailed them a link). The note was very kind and helped to explain what happened on what turned out to be their busiest night in 2 years. As often happens with truly exceptional chefs and hidden gem establishments, it's hard to meet the demands of popularity, especially in an area with a small number of restaurants. She assured me that such service is not typical, and that the entire staff would take this constructive criticism as an opportunity to continue to improve. In regards to the tap water, the taste seems to be an issue with which they have earnestly struggled for quite some time, as permitted by Ulster County.

I'm certainly relieved to receive such a response, as I have heard such wonderful things about the food. I'm looking forward to giving the Peekamoose another chance.