Presenting The Faux Gourmet!

The Faux Gourmet has been on hiatus for a while. I began this blog as a creative outlet during law school. After law school, I started other blogs on other topics and no longer needed this as a creative outlet, not to mention my diminishing free time.

But I kept cooking, kept taking food pictures and garden pictures, kept wanting to share the little tidbits of what I'd made. I occasionally did this on my personal blog (to which, I'm sure, people yawned and wondered when I'd post another cat picture). But I started to miss this space. Of all the blogs I have, this format, culled over several dedicated years and incorporating that adorable illustration by Sam Wedelich (see info the left) is by far my favorite.

So I'm back!

Expect short and sweet posts. Less food porn, more recipes and tips. If you want food porn you can look at any of the 5000 million existing food blogs. I don't have good lighting in my apartment and don't have time to style plates. I just want to make something yummy and eat it. If that sounds ok with you, stick around.

Looking forward to being back in touch!


The Faux Gourmet

Faux Gourmet @ Twitter

    follow me on Twitter

    Tuesday, April 29, 2008

    Eat it to Save it

    Been so busy lately haven't had time for full posts though I've eaten some lovely things in & out I'm dying to share (veal rolled with gruyere & spinach in a white wine and butter sauce, chiang mai curry, scallion gruyere biscuits).

    In the mean time, check out this fun NY Times article featuring, among other things, these luscious moon & stars watermelon.

    Friday, April 18, 2008

    A Brief Interruption from Our Usual Program

    If you're reading this blog, it is probably because you, like me, enjoy food, and are grateful to have the luxury of contemplating delights such as eating garlic infused olive oil or grilled prosciutto wrapped dates. Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in our own enjoyment of what we have that we forget how limited that luxury is, especially recently. Right massive food shortages and spikes in food prices all over the world have made basic staples out of reach for many, many folks. The New York Times describes one family in Haiti:

    Saint Louis Meriska’s children ate two spoonfuls of rice apiece as their only meal recently and then went without any food the following day. His eyes downcast, his own stomach empty, the unemployed father said forlornly, “They look at me and say, ‘Papa, I’m hungry,’ and I have to look away. It’s humiliating and it makes you angry.”

    As someone who gets to enjoy food much of the time, I was hoping you'd join me in doing three quick things to contribute to making things better.

    1. Learn about what's happening:
    I suggest taking a few minutes to read the full article from the NY Times about the problem, but it has been in the news quite a bit lately so a Google search will certainly give even more info.

    2. Skip a meal:
    We don't have to go hungry very often, so maybe choosing to do so voluntarily for just one meal can help us empathize. Skip a meal and donate the $15 to an organization like World Vision that is working to get food to people in countries like Haiti that are feeling the brunt of the problem.

    3. Tell a few friends:
    Eating together is fun; maybe giving together can be too.

    Thank you for being a part of making things better!

    Monday, April 7, 2008

    Garlic in Three Acts

    Science + loads of garlic
    = Ridiculously rich flavors.

    Taste & See: I'm not so great at following directions, especially with no obvious rationale. If "Because I said so" barely works with a live person I trust, what makes some cookbook author think I'm going to take orders from their invisible authority? But explain to me why I need to stir constantly, or use two separate bowls for wet & dry ingredients, and baby, I'm all yours.

    Enter Cooks Illustrated. Recipes in Cooks Illustrated (magazine + wonderful website with loads of archives) take some degree of commitment; the articles explain all the methods that didn't work before getting to the secret of, for example, the juiciest chicken you'll ever eat. But when you finally get to cooking, you not only know what you're doing, but why. And for me, that is the true secret of good food.

    For example, garlic.
    How do you get the most garlic flavor out of a handful of cloves? The very idea of infusing garlic into oil in three different stages would get a laziness veto, absent more information. But after reading Cooks Illustrated's brief lesson on garlic molecules I'm all but a three-stage evangelist.

    The Basic Science: The compound in garlic that gives it the garlicky flavor you know & love is called allicin. Allicin is produced when garlic is cut or crushed, but quickly degrades when exposed to air. However, if you put the garlic in oil, allicin dissolves & the garlicky flavor dissolve into the oil.

    When you marinate something, for example, shrimp, in oil with garlic, the garlic flavor from the oil coats the shrimp--even parts of it not in direct contact with garlic--and infuses the shrimp with even flavor. It is important to add a little salt as well; salt draws water, containing allicin, out of the garlic, and into the shrimp, at a faster rate than it would migrate on its own.

    Do It Yourself: My recipe is modified from a slightly more complex Spanish Style Garlic Shrimp, as featured in Cooks Illustrated.

    I made the shrimp twice but found the oil took on an incredible richness even without the shrimp and have since used it as a dipping oil.
    According to Cooks Illustrated, the three stages of garlic bring out three different dimensions of flavor. According to my taste buds, Cooks Illustrated is right.

    What you need:

    1 Lb Prawns, peeled, deveined, with tails removed (or approx 6 per person, optional)
    Olive Oil
    14-16 Medium Garlic Cloves, peeled
    1-2 Mild Dried Chilies
    Bay Leaves
    1 1/2 tsp Sherry Vinegar
    1 tbsp Fresh Parsley Leaves, chopped

    What you need to do:

    The basic recipe has three steps to impart three different kinds of flavor. You can make shrimp in garlic oil, plain garlic oil, or just use these techniques as part of other recipes that involve garlic and oil to bring out the best garlicky flavor. [Photos, Cooks Illustrated]

    1. Marinade: "Raw=Pungent: The minced garlic in the marinade gets cooked briefly with the shrimp, maintaining a hint of raw-garlic pungency."

    Chop garlic into small pieces & add to oil with a little salt. Toss with whatever you want to marinate. Tip: Put in ziplock bag for even coating & easy cleanup.

    2. Browned: "Browned=Sweet: Gently browning smashed whole garlic cloves infuses the olive oil with a sweet roasted-garlic flavor."

    Smash 4-5 large garlic cloves by setting a large knife over the cloves and smashing on the knife with your fist. Cook over medium low heat in olive oil covering large sauce pan 1/2 inch. When bottom browns, about 4 minutes, flip and brown on opposite side about 4 minutes more. Take out & set aside.

    3. Poached: "Poached=Mellow: Sliced garlic cooked gently in low-temperature olive oil loses its harsh flavor, becoming soft and mellow."

    Slice 6-8 garlic cloves thinly, length wise and add to oil. Heat, stirring occasionally, until slices are soft but not brown, about 6 minutes, and re-add browned cloves and add other herbs as you desire.

    To make Spanish Style Garlic Shrimp (or just Garlic Oil):

    Marinate shrimp in 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 cloves minced garlic, and a bit of salt & let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Omit this step to make oil only.

    Brown 4-5 garlic cloves in oil as directed above. Remove cloves from oil and set aside.

    Poach the remaining garlic cloves on low heat as directed above.

    1 bay leaf (or 1 tsp crumbled bay leaves) and 1-2 small whole dried chilies. Careful, the heat gets infused into the oil quickly so only use 1 if you don't like it hot. Increase heat to medium low.

    Add shrimp with marinade, if using, in single layer in pan.

    Leave shrimp undisturbed until oil gently bubbles, then flip shrimp and cook until cooked through, about 2 minutes per side.

    Increase heat to high and add sherry and parsley, stirring constantly until shrimp are fully cooked and oil is bubbling vigorously, 15-20 seconds. The oil, if made with shrimp, is not unlike the lusty shrimp I described from Zatinya:

    Enjoy with crusty bread and good wine!