Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I entered a lentil recipe contest. There'll be pictures of other eats here, as soon as I find my camera. For now, enjoy the lentils.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The best of this, the worst of that _ it feels like most of what you read this time of year are these superlative sorts of arguments that take place in polar realms. Nothing like a good list, I suppose. Maybe that's why I was really excited to see an especially listy gift come into play at our annual office giftswap. We have this really fun tradition of stealing eachother's bounty -- there are a lot of rules that you don't need to know to understand that I swooped in and stole a cookbook today from a sweet man who works in the back office. He looked fairly shocked that I robbed him. Don't worry, he got another gift.

And I got the new Food & Wine cookbook, which takes the BEST recipes from the 25 BEST cookbooks of the year and compiles them all into a very attractive cookbook. That's a double-best, for those keeping score. No more than a few Food Network cookbooks made the list (Emeril, Bobby Flay and the Neelys), and they are on equal footing with recipes from Thomas Keller, Lidia Bastianich and Gerald Hirigoyen (whose tapas book has made me swoon at the store a number of times, though I have yet to buy it).

Some recipes that have already caught my eye:
7 1/2 Hour Lamb Malbec with Rosemary and Lemon
Thomas Keller's buttermilk fried chicken (honest to goodness, the picture made me a little weak-kneed)
Quinoa Paella with Chicken & Chorizo
Cafe Au Lait Creme Brulee
Cinnamon & Cardamom Buns

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The fruitcake has always offended me. Those strange, chewy, brightly colored bits inside that dry brick of so-called cake. I like fruit. I like cake. People shouldn't do such things to things I like.

That said, fruit desserts are frequently a disappointment in my thinking. In the sacred hierarchy of the course eaten last, I'm a custard/panna cotta/flan fan first, a chocolate fan second and somewhere down the line, close to last, I am a fruit dessert fan. I feel fairly certain I could go the rest of my life without eating another piece of apple pie and be quite content.

But I've been messing around with that orange cake recipe I found in Saveur, which I thought might make a good cake base for pineapple upside down cake. I had a mango that I thought I'd try as a cake topping instead of pineapple, but the mango I poked at for days went from hard and unripe to rotten in the space of what must have been one golden hour, so I missed my shot. Instead I segmented an orange and added some currants and golden raisins to a bit of melted butter and brown sugar in the bottom of the pan. I should have used more oranges, but I was timid because I feared they might burn or stick or something. But they worked out really nicely. And I think I've got a nice fruit dessert recipe that I'll keep.

Orange cake, with currants, golden raisins and orange segments.

I also tried to make kimchi again. I didn't have an Asian pear, so I added a couple sliced red bell peppers for a bit of sweetness and crunch. Otherwise, I followed this recipe to a T.

I tasted it today and the cabbage hadn't softened quite enough to meet my liking, so I added a bit more rice wine vinegar. I suspect that the "quick" style recipe means there's not going to be as much fermentation as I'd like. We'll see.
I feel completely certain now that the croque madame is not a chicken sandwich.

The only Food Network show that I DVR is "Alex's Day Off." (I'm pausing for applause. That there's only one DVR commitment to this channel is something of an achievement for me.)

This morning, I found that she does the croque with a fried egg, too! Her sandwich is, of course, a touch fancier than my little open-faced eggy sammy, but not by much. She basically makes a cheesy bechamel to put inside two slices of bread, along with sliced ham. And on top, along with more bechamel and gruyere, she likes a perfectly fried egg.

There's no sign of a couple ingredients I tossed in, but I do like my Dijon mustard and lemon on this sandwich, so maybe I'll incorporate those into my bechamel instead of bay leaves like Alex does... Hm, actually, I wonder if lemon juice would curdle the bechamel or something.

One thing for certain: she also makes a champagne cocktail called a French 75 (a raw sugar cube, splash of gin, orange juice, lemon juice and champagne). I want one.

Friday, December 10, 2010

"And the winner is: lowered taxes and more spending. Wait, that wasn't an option. That would be like 'Hey, you know how we'll all get in shape after New Year's? Laziness and bacon.'"
-- Jon Stewart (Daily Show, Dec 7, 2010)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

In a rare break from a recent spate of Zone bar and instant ramen meals, I went to Loteria Grill tonight before we went to a show in Hollywood.

The Michelada Clasica made me swoon. I love Mexican food and beer, and I especially love it when my beer tastes like Mexican food. The Michelada is a beer cocktail served on ice in a salt-rimmed pint glass, and it should always be served the way Loteria Grill does it: with Worcestershire sauce, Tapatio, Maggi (which I had to Google: it's boullion!) and fresh lime juice. It really hits the spot on a hot August day, but the spicy-ness of the Tapatio warmed me up tonight.

The tacos I chose from the broad-ranging menu were easily the tamest: shredded beef and carnitas. I prefer the carnitas at Yuca's but the beef at LG was juicy and tender. On the way home, I told myself that next time I'm getting a shredded beef burrito _ which is something I never order. Though, I might be too curious to order something I've already tried.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

In images: Munzallet Bi Aswad

Step 1: Bake a layer of eggplant. I think next time I'll use split Japanese eggplants for this.

Step 2: layers of ground beef, fresh tomato slices, green bell peppers. And under it all, half-baked eggplant.

Out of the oven, served on (overcooked, oops) rice.

Extreme close-up: the eggplant mushed up a lot.

I topped the whole thing with a mess of pomegranate seeds, scallions and fresh mint.
Just got back from Jon's Marketplace, this crazy multi-ethnic grocery store at Hollywood and Vermont.

It's in an interesting borderland of hospitals, an art park and the big Scientology center, a swath of land that lies between the snazzy, celebrity packed Los Feliz neighborhood and the interesting side of Hollywood (with Zankou, Arclight, Amoeba...).

Shopping carts are not allowed to leave the store, which means they don't need to have employees lurking in the parking lot gathering them, and they don't need to worry about people taking them beyond the lot itself. There are a few homeless people in that part of the neighborhood.

The employees speak no English and are extremely nice. Everyone in the store is a little older, a little foreign-er and the stuff in there is considerably cheaper than your average grocer. The bell peppers are also a little smaller, the meat displays are at least 30 years old and today's promotional sample was Hot and Spicy Ramen bowls. I was served by a very bored young woman who was slapping around a small microwave next to a stack of styrofoam bowls. The cheap, awkward to eat soup was hot and spicy, and each bowl is 440 calories. I took 2 for a dollar.

Today's finds at the store are all the things you could find in my mom's kitchen growing up: barbari bread, pita bread, Persian sour cherry jam, pomegranate syrup, bulgarian feta cheese, royal basmati rice, dried fava beans, Lea&Perrins. There's also King Kelly California Orange Marmalade, which I accept no substitute for now that I'm back in California and spoiled for access. It's less bitter, fresher and more local than Dundee's.

There's also a slew of Goya products that make me feel like I'm back in New York: their Manzanilla olives are small, firm, green and perfectly briny but not too salty. Capers and roasted peppers, to stock the pantry.

I realized recently that hummus is the only Arab food that I regularly make, though my Persian pantry should be amenable to a lot of crossover. I have this really beautiful cookbook called "The Arab Table," and in it was a recipe I've been wanting to try because it uses one of my favorite ingredients: eggplant.

The Munzallet Bi Aswad seemed like it might be a forgiving recipe because author May Bsisu says it's "prepared slightly differently from one country to the next." The version she makes (and I made this afternoon) is the Syrian version, which is flavored with pomegranate syrup and served over white rice.

Basically, I roasted some eggplant, topped it with browned ground meat, onions and garlic, on top of that a layer of tomato slices, and on top of that sliced green bell peppers. Cover it all with blend of beef stock and pomegranate syrup. Bake in the oven for an hour, which is what I'm doing now. I'll post pictures after it's ready for supper.

(Update: I messed with the recipe, adding 2 tsp pomogranate syrup and 2 tbsp tomato paste, inspired by my friend Amanda's recent story about a fix her mom suggested to a completely different recipe. Gave sauce much more body and flavor. )