Review of Smart Casual: The Transformation of Gourmet Restaurant Style in America by Alison Pearlman:

I'm just mad I didn't write it first. Likewise, there was an essay earlier this week on femivores that almost but not quite goes where this needs to go:

One of the things that deeply concerns me about our food (and/or green) movements, is that it's become so much about consumer lifestyles that it cannot get the broad base support needed to enact genuine social & political change.
Last month I read Jennifer 8. Lee's Fortune Cookie Chronicles

This month [profile] da_lj read it and responded in kind:

He does a much better overview of the material than I do in my post and has some interesting points, the most interesting being the question of 'open-source food' where Chinese food in America has managed to create a diaspora of restaurants more numerous than fast food franchises, independently owned, and yet, still some how homogenous.

Daniel comments, "the networks of communication (and travel) meaning the restauranteurs cooperate and share the successful strategies, making for just as much intelligence as the top-down franchises... It makes sense, but I want to see more research into this, as well!" ([personal profile] jofish22 this question made me think of you!)

He also asks why (American) Chinese food is so much cheaper than other 'ethnic' counterparts, including Italian and Indian.

I haven't checked to see if any of my local Chinese restaurants are open for Easter... but I definitely plan to hang out with the heathens this year. Any heathens out there?
Gave up the goods on the baklava recipe for Mom's Easter Singles Feast. I did not plan the rest of the meal.

I also thought I would share this one with you. It is pretty much all fat and carbs, but a tasty alternative to powdered mac 'n cheese and much faster than the baked variety.

One-Pot Stovetop Mac in the Alfredo style: )
I tried this no-knead yeast bread last night. It turned out dense, but chewy & fabulous with the slight hint of 'breaskfast' taste to it. I freely adapted the recipe to use up some of the weird bits and pieces left in my cupboard. I used a variety of different flours, throwing in some wheat germ because I ran out of wheat flour. There wasn't enough museli, so I substituted uncooked rolled oats. But it still turned out delicious. I'm posting the original recipe so you can make your own adaptations. Don't be afraid to use museli with fruit and nut. It only adds to the breakfasty goodness.

adapted from Nigella:

2 3/4 cups whole wheat bread flour
2 cups good quality, oaty, unsugared museli (do not use granola)
2 1/2 t rapid-rise or instant yeast
2 t salt
1 cup milk
1 cup water

1. Blend dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients. Mix.
2. Transfer to a greased 2 lb loaf pan. Put into cold oven, setting the temperature @ 225 and letting rise for 45 minutes.
3. Turn up heat to 350 and let cook for 1 hour.

The best part... it warmed up the house (I have yet to turn on the heat, but evenings have gotten very cool) and filled it with the smell of baking bread.
Those of you who have spent any amount of time with me socially lately will have noticed that there are a ridiculous number of bundt cakes showing up. Not only are they easy, unfusy, and serve an ever expanding number of people without seeming ungenerous; I've been experimenting. I've also been in the mood for baking cakes, but not necessarily eating them. I thought I'd share one of my favorites. This is an ideal recipe for those of you with an abundance of eggs, or who are sick of banana bread as the solution to browning bananas:

Banana Sponge Bundt )
from the Pernil recipe in Giving Thanks

1 large head of garlic, broken apart, and cloves peeled. (serious garlic lovers can use two heads)
1/4 c fresh oregano, or 1 1/2 T dried
2 t salt
2 t black peppercorns
3 T olive oil
1 5-6 lb bone-in, pork shoulder, untrimmed

Directions )
I was rehashing that oh-so-familiar anecdote about going to an expensive dinner w/Ex and having the lining come out of my coat at the coat check. I needed a new coat, which he wouldn't pay for, but was about to sit down to a dinner that would cost as much as a new coat.

A new irony occurred to me: I can't remember what we actually ate that night, or who we dined with. For the most part I can't remember what was consumed at most those expensive meals. So much for the cost of fertilizer, eh?

When I think of Ex and food I remember the gnocchi they served on the plane when we first travelled to New York together. I remember the fresh cream chocolates one of his friends brought back from Beligium for me. I remember the Bolognese pizza at the place where we'd go for lunch after fights with our therapist. The handpicked cherries he had for me the first meal at his (Boulder) house, and how I'd never tasted fresh figs, before. Bagels & whitefish on Sunday mornings while I fumed at the Styles section in the Times. The last meal I remember eating in NYC: a seasonal Bento box at the same restaurant where we ate on New Year's just two days before he broke up with me.

But for the most part, for having lived more than three years with a man who introduced me to so many new tastes, and who spent a great deal of money on food experiences, I remember almost nothing at all. How many meals did we share together? How can I remember so little of all those food experiences? I suppose it's because I can remember so little about him nurturing me in other ways.

My food memories of larger NYC are simpler: the Taco Taco taco at the taco joint down the street (and there wonderful aguas frescas: sorrel, horchata, tamarind), the sandy scones at Repast across the street from the 92nd Street Y. The cheeseburgers from the greek diner downstairs, the cheesecake and illy cafe at the cheesecake place down the street. I remember all these things because I remember the relationships I had with the proprietors. They were my neighbors, they knew me by name, knew what I liked to order and where I liked to sit. They were sad when I left the city and I miss them as much as I miss their food.

I also remember the wild variety of Chinese food found throughout the city. The Rose Earl Grey at the T Salon. Congee at Congee House, which was gone only shortly after I arrived. And the roast chicken I made a few days after 9-11, inviting everyone I knew in the city to come dine with me. Only a handful of people came to dinner that night, almost none of them are living in the city now.

It occurred to me in recalling this that perhaps simple foods are best. Not only in our ability to recall them, providing stable foundations for our memories, but because simpler foods don't overpower the relationships they represent. When I go, I want people to remember my bread, my quiche, and my beef stew. Also my gift with leftovers and the delight I get from feeding people.
Yesterday, on a whim (???) I made crystallized ginger.

Then I realized it had potential for a dessert:

It involves vanilla icecream, topped with peeled and sliced fresh peaches (as they are not yet in season I used inferior canned), drizzled w/ ginger syrup, a sprinkle of ginger sugar, (the sugar and syrup are both byproducts of crystallized ginger) and then a few slivers of crystallized ginger on top. Not only is it luscious and sweet, it's got a spicy bite.

Still deciding if the fresh peaches should be soaked in some kind of light, sweet, wine (a Muscato, perhaps). Would that add depth to the dessert, or would it be too jangly and complicated?

What would the rest of the meal look like? A quiche (light leek, or something smoky with salmon or bacon?); a light salad of mixed greens (why not?) with my fresh ginger/citrus dressing and some strawberries & avocados for texture and color; and some crusty bread slathered with salty butter, to make sure no one leaves hungry.

Who wants to come over for dinner? This dinner does not have to involve seduction, though I've always dreamed of someone falling in love with me for my words or my cooking. (Sadly, it will never happen over my cookies, which are dreadful.)

I'm also working on a ginger martini. (Also utilizing the ginger syrup & sugar.) I can't decide if I should go the vodka or boubon route and whether or not it should involve citrus. I'm also a little stumped on proportions. What do you think?
This is an adaptation of two recipes from the Times last week using ingredients I had in the house:

Cheesy Grits w/ Swiss Chard )

I sent the recipe to my mom and she wrote back, "I don't like grits."

I wrote back, "Then use polenta, it's pretty much the same thing."

Maternal grandma was Southern. I've always liked grits. The question is when did I first have them if mom didn't serve them. (We were a very oatmeal kind of family growing up.) I think it may have been a boyfriend I had in college who was from Georgia, the childhood comfort feeling I get when eating them could be total fabrication.

EDIT: Now that I'm thinking about it, Mary Ann was probably the one who gave us kids a taste for grits. She was a friend of the family who was from the same region as my gma. Most of the regional values transmission came from her. She worked in the mines and built us bunk beds, in additon to making us hush puppies, etc.
adapted from Harumi's Japanese Cooking

(Serves 2)

.5 oz thin rice noodles - cooked or soaked according to noodle directions, leave slightly crisp so they don't overcook in soup
4-5 oz frozen spinach (preferably not in a big block)
2 cups water
1/2 t Better than Bouillon chicken stock (or whatever stock one has on hand, should be 25% strength to amount of water used)
1/2 T sake or white wine
salt and white pepper to taste
light soy sauce to taste
1/2 T sesame oil

This makes a very light soup, you can add a few drops of chili oil after its finished if you're looking for something spicy.

Bring water to boil. Add stock, wine, noodles, spinach. Season with salt, white pepper and light soy sauce to taste. Finish with sesame oil, chili oil optional.
For [personal profile] ashfae who would probably be interested in knowing this recipe is from Diann, the secretary at CTRC.

Recipe follows... )
By happy accident I've concocted a new and delicious variation of lasagna. This week I made kind of a blah butternut squash and tomato soup. Then I tried cooking a lasagna and rather than make more sauce, I decided to use the rather disappointing soup along with regular lasagna ingredients (Italian sausage, ricotta, some mozarella, a little parmesan.)

The result is delightful. Sweet and rich, while less acidic and heavy. Now I'm thinking of all the squashy possibilities for lasagna, including a vegetarian version with melting chard, and sage leaves fried crisp in butter and crumbled on top.

For best results, I recommend laying easy on the mozzerella and using a lot of ricotta with a little parmesan for bite. A vodka sauce will work in place of my soup, along with a roasted and pureed butternut.


Now I've got an oatmeal chocolate chip walnut cake cooking while I listen to election results. I wonder who the judge was who didn't allow polls with technical trouble to stay open past 7. We'll have to make sure to vote not to retain him next time around.
I was making a cheese sauce and had run out of milk. So I substituted 1/2 cup of plain yogurt, mixed with 1/2 cup hot water for 1 cup of milk. Not only did it work just fine in the recipe, it added an extra, tangy, kick to the bechamel sauce, which is usually too bland, particularly in cheese sauces.
For [ profile] arialas on the occasion of her new home:

When I was a little girl, my mother made all our bread at home. This was done once a week, usually on Mondays. As our family went through several loaves each week, she would make it all at once, using a large, metal tub in which to knead the dough and let it rise. This tub was also the tub that we were washed in as babies. Thus the whole process of baking bread, from texture of the dough kneading, to the yeasty smell of bread rising, and the taste of hot bread slathered in honey or butter, has always been associated with family and the home.

There came a point in my life when I was horribly ashamed of the hearty wheat slices my mother put in my lunch. I wanted soft, white, bread like all my friends. But since then, I have learned to love baking bread myself. There is nothing like fresh baked bread to make a house a home.

Honey Whole Wheat Bread )
This article cracked me up. I mean no disrespect to non-carnivores, but I know a very obnoxious person who is currently on the raw food kick. Even before reading the article I couldn't figure out how she had the time and money to sustain it:

(my favorite line from the article is:

Lunch was a chopped salad with what would have been a perfectly respectable Dijon-cider dressing, if the recipe hadn't called for stevia, an herbal sweetener that turned the vinaigrette into a sickly-sweet mess. (Ms. Rose specified that if you can't find stevia - presumably because you live in some benighted no-Whole-Foods-land - you can substitute Splenda. How someone who rails against the evils of processed food can recommend molecularly engineered sugar, I don't know.)

I always wonder about this myself. I mean what's wrong with sugar? If it's that bad for you, why not stop eating it altogether instead of using bizarre substitutes. This is coming from someone who went sugar-free for more than a year. I KNOW what it's like to live without it, and what a boon substitutes can be.

Also: But after spending 50 bucks and several hours for a khaki disk that tasted like artificially sweetened guacamole, I vowed to never again trust anyone who tried to get me to eat something by comparing it to moisturizer.

Have any of you noticed the recent trend in spa products designed to emulate desserts. Instead of eating dessert, one spreads it all over one's body.

But then, I'm not "fashionably cadaverous" and suspect I never will be.
A brilliant op-ed by Julie/Julia (she got famous by having a blog in which she worked her way through the entirity of Julia Child's The Art of French Cooking,) about the difference between shopping and cooking, and the growing cultural elitism of organic. My question is shouldn't everyone be able to have access to good, healthy, food? Shouldn't we make that a priority in this country?

Believe it or not, I am actually a proponent of reintroducing Home Economics to our school curriculum. Granted, I never took a home ec class (I had a large hand in running our household by the age of 8, due to the being the eldest child in a economically disadvantaged family), but I am shocked, SHOCKED, so few people know how to cook, clean, budget, or even do their own laundry.

My read on the obesity "epidemic" (is it contagious?) is two-fold:

* Americans are getting older = Americans are getting fatter. The demographic bulge of the baby boomers translates almost exactly into the "rise" in obesity.

* Pre-prepared foods = obesity. Convenience foods are notoriously high in the bad stuff (fat, salt, sugar, preservatives) and notoriously low on the good stuff (fiber, nutrients). We saw a major explosion in convenience foods in the last 10-15 years, and there seems to be no sign of it stopping. No one knows how to cook anymore. Everyone is afraid of butter.

* I forgot my last point, but I will observe that children these days are enormous. Not fat, necessarily, but Amazonian. I feel like a veritable circus dwarf next to many teenagers. What is making them so huge?




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