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!


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    Saturday, February 28, 2009

    Cheap Tricks Vol. 3: Beginnings

    A trio of simple appetizers
    makes a memorable first impression.

    Taste & See: Well folks, as promised, I'm on a roll. Keeping it simple, much like these three 'recipes' for fancy-looking, delightful-tasting, amusingly-easy starters. They're a perfect way to impress guests at a fancy dinner party (or better--make guests feel taken care of), but are simple enough to whip together for friends who drop by unexpectedly.

    It is a universally acknowledged fact that a single fig in possession of delicious flavor must be in want of goat cheese and prosciutto. All the more so with a bundle of figs. These ingredients just go together so well . . . do a google search and you'll find a hundred variations: fig-goat cheese-prosciutto tarts, prosciutto-wrapped figs, goat cheese-fig-prosciutto bundles. Fig crostini an optimal mix of easy to do, fancy-looking result. And with ingredients like these, obviously delicious.

    Do it Yourself: This tasty little number is made by letting whole dried figs swim in a sea of honey, balsamic vinegar, and a splash of alcohol (top choice is port; a springy red is also good), reduced down to a syrupy mess. There's no set ratio; adjust to a flavor you like, and try experimental additions! The figs soften up, making almost a jam. Toast baguette slices for a minute or two per side while you're waiting. Spread with goat cheese and prosciutto and spoon figgy goodness on top of that. If you keep kosher, I'm sorry. (Just kidding: it still tastes good without prosciutto.)

    Next, this glossy dish is brilliant in its jewel tone . . . but deceptively so.
    Apricot pecan brie is about as hard as making brownie-mix brownies. Probably easier: It is nothing more than a wheel (or slice) of brie warmed up slightly, a jar of warmed apricot jam pour over the top, and a handle of lightly toasted pecans tossed in.

    Another delicious version, baked brie, takes ever so slightly more work. Set brie atop sheets of phyllo dough, rub with curry powder, and pour the (cold) jam over. Wrap up the brie, jam safely tucked inside, and bake for about 15 minutes. The crispy phyllo dough is a very satisfying contrast to the buttery brie. Again, experiment with different fillings; for example, it is also delicious with fig jam.

    Last but not least, the cheese tray. Really, who doesn't like picking at cheese off a cheese tray?

    Below: Multiple cheeses; apricot brie dish; smoked salmon, lemon & crackers; rolled ham; toasted pecans; jam; dried figs.

    Let me attempt to convince you to never throw another event without a cheese tray. One, if your food isn't done yet when guests arrive, they'll still have something wonderful to munch on--something that involves bite sized pieces and is ripe for interaction. Two, no one can really go through that much cheese all at once, so an individual, or even couple, is limited to trying different kinds very slowly, bits at a time. Cheese trays let you make mass exploratory voyages. Three, very very little prep time. Four, it just tastes good!

    Convinced? Now, how about trying this pair?
    Pear & aged Irish cheddar, no pun intended.

    Thursday, February 26, 2009

    Cheap Tricks Vol. 2

    Short but sweet. Literally.

    Taste & See: I owe this cheap trick to one of my all-time favorite coffee shops, Barefoot Coffee Roasters in Santa Clara, CA. I know, Santa Clara, not your top pick for cafe scene. And it is in a strip mall. But the coffee is of the highest quality of almost any place I've ever been. The baristas are totally committed to coffee as art. They even have free coffee classes! Be still my heart!

    And there are all kinds of inventive drinks, like vanilla bean latte, vietnamese latte, a particularly odd-but-incredibly curry-lime-coconut milk coffee that won an award at a barista competition. The process of making the drink is described as:

    "She coats the rims of two fancy glass mugs with lime juice and sugar, mixes the espresso with curry powder, turmeric, allspice and caramel, and steams a combination of coconut and nonfat milk. She sprinkles the saucer with Citron Oolong tea to accent the aroma and then torches the top of the foam to create a sweet crust. "

    (I know, sounds awful, and even though I can't explain--or recreate--it, I remain scintillated at the very memory. Read about other wild & crazy signature drinks here.)

    My favorite, though, was the creme brulee latte. Brulee pretty much anything and it is delicious, but what compares to a crackly crispy sugar crust laying atop a cloud of silky foam and intense espresso? Nada. Very simple to make- just cover the foamy top of your cappuccino with sugar and torch with your brulee torch. What, you don't have one? Excuse me! Good thing toaster oven (better) and broiler (acceptable) will also work--but in that case use a heat safe mug and be careful with the fingers.


    Wednesday, February 25, 2009

    Cheap Tricks Vol. 1

    Back to WITP's roots:
    Random food-moments from the Motherland

    Hello dear readers,

    I've been away quite some time now. I flatter myself that some of you missed my chirpy little missives on food, so I'm sorry for leaving you alone like this. It isn't like me and I'll try not to do it again. The longer I stayed away, the more I felt I had to bring you to make up for my absence, until it became an insurmountable obstacle.

    But I'm determined to get back on the horse. I've eaten so very many delightful things over the past few months, many, I'm happy to say, made by my own hands, and I am excited to finally get around to sharing the love. You see, I've missed you too! You have no idea how I enjoy hearing from you; I love knowing that my writing or recipes has somehow added a little more deliciousness into your lives. Let's have more of that, starting again now.

    To kick off my return I thought I'd just share a few food photos just for the fun of it, and a few good old-fashioned faux gourmet tips & cheap tricks, from my kitchen to yours. I'm a busy gal with a full life. I may not have time to write about cooking it, but I think it is fair to say if I have time to cook it, so do you.

    A Few Thai Frivolities

    Let's kick it off with . . . juice n' jugs. You buy a serving of juice, like longan, rosella, or coconut, and it comes in a cheeky little clay pot jug. I have to admit, I actually find them rather frightening. Longan, by the way, is Thailand's greatest fruit export, accounting for more income than pineapple, pommelo, or (shockingly) durian, also known as "the fruit that smells like poo." Yes, it does. Longan, however--well, I didn't really eat it often. Maybe because most of it is exported.

    Next we have fresh shrimp, fishballs, crab and . . . mango. Because, when I think of how I'm going to arrange my raw seafood display, I always think lining it with fresh mango is a good idea.

    Thais do love their cute things--that's na-rak to you--so why would you be surprised to see rice served in the shape of a teddy bear?

    Even better. Who said veggies couldn't be fun?

    Next, I'm very pleased that this woman sells the product that she sells. Indeed, she was born to sell this product:

    These sausages are delightful, and this is coming from someone who is not really a fan of the genre overall. But these are spicy and rich, with a the perfect degree of tension in the casing, in contrast to the squishy goodness inside. These are sausages a person could get an unhealthy craving for.

    They're served for breakfast with cabbage and spicy dipping sauce, not more than a few baht each. I want to say 10 but I can't find the notes I so meticulously took. I was probably too busy gulping down sausages.

    This delightful lady and her enormous smile is parked outside the soi next to Ari shopping center, right below the Ari BTS stop. It is worth your while to find her next time you're in Bangkok, if not for the sausages, then because her effervescence have you grinning in no time.

    Hopefully I'll be back again very soon, with another cheap trick for your viewing, and eating pleasure.

    Monday, February 2, 2009

    Winter Farmers' Market

    Quick Tip: Apricot Jam + Fresh Black Pepper Chevre + Whole Wheat English Muffin = Yes, please!

    I often think of farmers' markets as a summer activity but I was delighted to find my local market thriving this weekend. In addition to spicy Italian sausage, organic eggs, apples by the bushel, rack of lamb, winter root vegetables, and a plethora of baked goods, I found all kinds of treasures to liven up the non-cooking cooking I find myself doing when I get busy. Read: toast bread. Spread something yummy.

    I picked up a jar of
    Beth's Farm Kitchen Apricot Jam, ($8) made & grown in the Hudson Valley. Containing nothing but apricots & sugar, essentially the filling of my favorite summer dessert, apricot cobbler, it was more or less summer in a jar.

    Image, courtesy Beth's Farm Kitchen.

    Next I wandered over to the Lynhaven Goat Milk Cheese ($6; stand, hard pressed to choose between goodies like Honey Chevre & Chevre with cranberries and cinnamon. I ended up selecting Cracked Pepper, a nice all purpose flavor with a kick.

    Back at the ranch . . . spreading a toasted English muffin first with the chevre, which gets kind of nice and melty on the warm muffin, & then the jam: Oh, yes. A very tasty snack with a pretty good nutritional balance (but I'm more concerned about the taste, let's be honest)

    Do it yourself:
    Try mixing any kind of jam (though I like non-berry jams better- pumpkin or apple butter, pear jam, etc.) with chevre or even cream cheese on warm bread of some kind. Another favorite: pumpkin butter & cream cheese on whole wheat tortilla.

    My goodies weren't cheap compared to a box of Philly & a jar of generic jam, but like fashionistas justify spendy purchases with the "price per wear" statistic, my goodies turn quite a few cheap-o slices of bread into something extraordinary, and the "price per snack" is still cheaper than buying an oily muffin at a corner stand.

    I bought my items at the Union Square Farmers Market, New York City.