Monday, April 30, 2007


Sunday, April 29, 2007

More than a Memory

There was a marvelous article in the New York Times last week about the wonders of Wonder Bread, the premise being that surrounded as we are by organic, slow-food friendly options, we yearn for processed foods. Driven in part by nostalgia and also because there's true enjoyment in the flavor of the product, we eat what it seems we should shun.

Growing up in a house where dessert was usually fresh fruit, one would think that I'd find canned versions no fun, but I admit a lingering fondness for canned pears. I remember being in elementary school when I first encountered the pears in a plastic dish. They were sweet. They were slightly mealy and slimy so that it took a few stabs with my spoon before I could get in a bite, but I loved them. The spoon cut through the pear and the whole bite was sugary with a texture unlike anything else I'd encountered. And when the dish was empty, there was the best part, drinking the pear juice. I tried to explain to mum and dad that we had these great pears at school that were even better than the Bartlett pears we peeled at home. They laughed at my pedestrian taste, but from time to time, as a special treat, canned pears would show up at home. They still do.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Two Books

Snail mail is a wonderful thing, and I was surprised and delighted to receive Life is Meals (James & Kay Salter) in last week's mail. There's an entry for each day spanning an entire calendar year, totally random, covering topics from glassware to pasta shapes and even doughnuts (their spelling, not mine). To say that it's like reading the dictionary would be misleading, since the entries are engaging and personal, but they're also packed with information. And as far as aesthetics (because I do adore good-looking books) this one features beautiful colors, drawings, and the perfect heft and proportion for a bedtime read. It's difficult to not read a month at a time.

A less educational, but awfully entertaining read is Girl Cook (Hannah McCouch). It's classic chick lit, down to the fuchsia letters on its cover and the sassy protagonist who's young, though neither British nor in publishing. A fine addition to my collection of pink books, I flew through it in hours.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Fire It Up!

True phone call...

Me: Uh, Mom. Remember how you told me to finish the ribs in the oven?
Mom: Yes, did you put them in the broiler like I told you?
Me: About that. They're on fire.
Mom: WHAT?!

I was finishing a slab of ribs in the oven. I'd left the door slightly ajar as instructed. It was the first time I'd used this particular broiler. I guess I misjudged its firepower. My dinner burst into flames.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Look, But Don't Taste

My very first baking project was ambitious. Mum drove me to the store because I was too young to drive myself. We bought beautiful fluted pie tins and pie weights and hours later, after following a certain Ms. Stewart's instructions, had a dazzling array of miniature tartlets featuring blueberries and raspberries floating on a light creme patisserie.

A decade later, having mastered the pate brisee and creme patisserie many times over, I decided to made a Fourth of July treat. The crust was beautiful, the custard smooth, the berries unblemished. And then we sliced the tart (by now having realized that two tarts were far easier to manage than two dozen tartlets) and served it. There were some strange looks. I had a bite and got a mouthful of sweet berry and savory egg custard. Arugh! Where was the sugar?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Genoise That Wasn't

I decided it was time to expand my cake knowledge. Content to leave behind box mixes, I set my sights on creating a genoise - a delicious, airy, spongecake where eggs are the sole leavening agent. Like a good student, I read the recipe twice, three times for good measure. I tried out the entire recipe in my mind. I made the cake. And then I realized I hadn't preheated the oven. By the time I put the pan in the oven, 10 minutes had elapsed. The cake was truly a pancake. A centimeter thick, chewy, eggy, and sitting heavily in the sad little pan.

Oven now preheated, all ingredients pre-measured, I worked faster. And faster yet. Cake # 2 showed faint signs of rising. Cake # 3 may have risen to a fantastic 1.5 cm. But it was cake # 4 that was finally a leavened success. Good thing too, since I had just run out of eggs. I've not messed with genoise since.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


There's something wonderful about homemade whipped cream. It's easy to make when there's a hand blender or stand mixer available, needing only some heavy whipping cream and powdered sugar to taste. But I must admit a certain degree of trepidation ever since the double disaster that struck many summers ago. We were holed upon in a cabin in the woods, at least 30 minutes from the grocery store. Attempting to make whipped cream to accompany a chocolate cake, I miscalculated the blender's power and ended up with whipped butter. We dispatched someone to the store for more cream. You'd think I would learn, but no, we had our chocolate cake with butter that day. I'd over blended the cream twice!

Monday, April 23, 2007


At some point I decided it would be great fun to make sushi rolls. I made my own sushi rice - basically sugar, vinegar, and water mixed into the cooked rice. The result: sushi rice stuck on my hands and sushi rolls sadly devoid of said staple. I distinctly remember gnawing at my hands. I think I successfully made one roll.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Theme Programming

The Food Network always has superlative-filled weeks about good food and triumph. The Best BBQ Ever Week! The All-Access Pass to Omelets and Amazing Fake Egg Products Week! Everything You Could Ever Want to Know About Broccoli Week! But where are the failures? Welcome to Kitchen Disaster Week...

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Balsamic & Pesto

Seventeen syllables is too few to rhapsodize about the wonders of Frjtz, my favorite Hayes Valley haunt and a frequent pre-symphony treat. In honor of the lovely DK, who suggested I do restaurant reviews in haiku...

Frjtz two dips delish
Sisley, crepes, Hoegaarden too.
Why so far away?

Haven't Posted Any Food in A While

Friday, April 20, 2007

Toasty Treats

Sometimes I forget how great simple things are. Like a loaf of bread.

I'm usually loath to buy an entire loaf because I can't finish it before it gets stale. After a few slices of toast I'm breaded out. In a fit of conservation I'll usually freeze the rest of the loaf, only to have it reappear months later heavily frosted, still edible, but without the fresh bread breadiness that I so adore. And I'm not a heavy user of breadcrumbs so there's no further recycling to be done.

So this week, home with a fresh loaf of buttermilk bread, I embarked upon a series of toast treats. Of course, I did sneak in a few plain slices straight from the bag that were delicious, but for the rest, a toaster was essential.

Day 1: Cheese and Toast
Toast a slice. Shave thin slices of sharp white cheddar onto the toast. Toast again, but for less time. This might be my favorite new snack.

Day 2: Toast with Peanut Butter
The usual bread shortage has me resorting to crackers and peanut butter on most days, but to be honest, my PB consumption has been down for a while. So low that there's wasn't even an open jar in the house. With my newly opened jar of Crunch Time, I slathered it onto my very crispy toast for a nice snack. And then I discovered that it's even more fun to eat when the toast is cut into thin one inch wedges.

Day 3: Fake Panini
Prepare two slices of Cheese and Toast. Layer with turkey, tomatoes and other sandwich fixings. Smush the mess together and eat.

Day 4: Tea and Toast
Something about toast conjures up images of Britain. Brew a strong cup of black tea and add a dash of milk. Toast up some bread and slather with jam. I actually skipped the jam step because there wasn't any in the house. I settled for peanut butter and honey instead.

Day 5: Return to store for more bread. Who knew an entire loaf could disappear so quickly?

Thursday, April 19, 2007


On my fourth day at home with a cold, I dragged myself to the grocery store for provisions. I call this the "I'm miserable and will shop like a college student" shopping basket.

Ice Cream
Canned Soup

If only I'd tossed in a box of Macaroni and Cheese - then my basket would have been complete.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I'm looking forward to April 17th because...

...that would Ben & Jerry's Free Cone Day!

In truth, before I lived in Rhode Island, Ben & Jerry's wasn't much on my radar. I'd heard about it and perhaps even tried it, but other than Cherry Garcia I would have been hard pressed to name a single flavor. But it's inescapable on that other coast. There was a scoop shop mere steps from school and many of my missed breakfasts at the cafeteria morphed into late night ice cream treats. I flirted with Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, New York Super Fudge Chunk, Phish Food and Half Baked, but I didn't find true love until I hit upon Everything But The... Despite my usual fastidiousness, I would steal spoonfuls straight from the pint, which resulted in the problem of frozen hands. A dear friend came to my rescue and came back from her trip to the factory with a pint cozy - a very practical invention.

And then years later I visited the factory with the LB. We picnicked on the lawn of the Vermont State House, made a quick and wondered stop at the state liquor stores of New Hampshire, and finally arrived at the mecca - the factory. Of course we went on a tour. And paid our respects at the flavor graveyard. And each had an ice cream cone. I think this may have taken place in the midst of final exams.

But a fonder memory still would be of the LB, lined up on Meeting Street for Free Cone Day. With our boundless capacity for conversation and laughter, the lines didn't faze us. We stood patiently until it was our turn to pick our flavors. And then with our cones, we got back in line once more.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Strappy Sandals Prove Their Worth

Lest you think this is about to become E is for Fashion, which makes little sense on many levels, let me start off with a shout out to my shoes. Despite being heeled and not always incredibly comfortable, they stood up to my sprint through the lobby of Davies Symphony Hall. I stepped off the elevator already aware that it was past 8 PM to find a single usher in the lobby whose rapid get over here hand motion was both hopeful and ominous. Madly waving my tickets and asking which way to go, she pointed down the hall and told me to run. So I did just that. I could hear the audience's applause emanating from the hall which could only mean one thing. The music was about to start. Off at a full run, I miraculously did not catch a heel on the carpet and scrambled into my seat just as MTT crossed the stage. Whew. And a good concert too.

I blame this madness on Nopa. Happily, this would be blame in the best sense of the word, because it was the loveliness of the meal that made us forget the time and arrive almost too late for the concert. I'd read so many glowing things about the restaurant that I was prepared for it to fall short of expectations. And to my great delight and surprise, it didn't.

The decor is open and airy, the bar prodigious in the assortment of colorful drinks produced, and the kitchen a whirring hub of rotisserie, oven, stove and plating. We lucked out and were seated at a table overlooking the kitchen. It was great fun to see our food being prepared, finished, and then a minute later, have it appear before us. The salad of little gems was a modified caesar salad, lightly dressed and perfectly balanced with pulverized croutons and creamy slices of cheese decorating the top. A welcome change from the usual preparation of battered and friend, the calamari was braised in red wine, resulting in tender tendrils which went splendidly with the crusty slab of toast. The flatbread with spinach, red onion, and crumbled lamb sausage was nice, but with a squeeze of lemon and dusting of sumac, it jumped to mealworthy. And then there was the pork chop - tender, sweet, and lovely on a bed of cabbage.

The menu isn't particularly impressive and in an age of exotic combinations, nothing jumped out at me as particularly noteworthy, but the execution on these hearty dishes is magnificent. So of course, we didn't stop with savories.

Donut holes served with a rum caramel sauce were warm and so lovely that despite my shock at the generosity of the portion, I happily polished off the plate. And then the Shaft Blue Cheese with walnuts, dates and honey. Oh so yummy.

And then it was 7:48 PM and time to run.

Monday, April 02, 2007


I finally finished The United States of Arugula and it ended on a good note. So good that I'm sitting here mourning the end of the book, because it was just that kind of read, where I wanted it to go on and on and oh, wait, there's a bibliography.