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

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    Tuesday, June 16, 2009

    Accidental Bean Soup

    Another happy kitchen mistake:
    Pasilla chile + black beans + yogurt
    = whoops, that was good!

    Note: Please forgive the lack of photographs. I've been holding back because my camera is in the shop but this dish was so tasty I figured I should at least note instructions for re-creating it, and if I was going to go to the trouble, might as well share them. Besides, it is bean soup. It is brown and chunky. Maybe better if you don't see photos.

    But I digress. The bean soup actually started with a plantain. I was at the grocery store in my new neighborhood, which is home to a lot of people who are not white yuppies (unlike my old neighborhood). The grocery store has a lot of things in it that reflect this diverse ethnic makeup--thinks like yucca, plantains, and rosewater. For my part, I had fond memories of a friend from the Caribbean's delightful rendition of platanos, plantains, sliced and cooked in a sweet syrup. I thought I'd replicate it if I could, but I wasn't sure if I should get a green or a ripe plantain.

    Naturally, I got one of both. I mimicked her sweet dish with the ripe one, but that still left me a green plantain. I knew I could fry it & make chips, but normally I don't really thrill to the idea of deep fried anything, so I sent out a tweet, hoping some of you could help me out. I wasn't overwhelmed with responses online, but a woman at a coffee shop opposite me offered this advice for particularly tasty fried platanos: dip them (short soak is more like it) in salt water in between two separate rounds of frying. I decided to give it a try, already envisioning the pasilla chile chevre dip I'd make to go with them . . . Ah, pasillas, my flavor du summer. I can't get enough of their rich, smoky flavor--adding not so much heat as complexity.

    But then I had only the tiniest bit of chevre. No matter, I had a bit of yogurt. I'd soaked the pasilla chili in hot water & dumped it all the wok, loath to lose out on any flavor, so it was pretty watery. No matter, I'll dump in a can of black beans for body. Brilliant! But the beans had quite a bit of water themselves, and I just didn't have the patient for it to simmer out.

    By the time I blended it all together in the food processor I had about four cups of materiel, way more than I needed for dip. Plus, it was nothing like the creamy dip I'd envisioned. It was actually rather soupy. Soup! That's it! I'd made a soup. Now that was brilliant. My roommate wandered over and took a big spoonful, confirming in delight: "That is delicious!" Indeed it was, and it was a total accident but one I'd gladly make again. Here's the recipe so you can too.

    Do it yourself:

    Toast a pasilla chile over a dry skillet for about 30 seconds on each side. Cut out the stem & seeds and soak in about a cup of hot water.

    Fry one large chopped onion and five cloves smashed garlic in oil. When onion is soft, add the chile and the water.

    Cook a few minutes more then add one can black beans, including the liquid.

    Spoon about 3 tablespoons chevre and 1 cup yogurt (I used plain, Greek-style yogurt) in the food processor. Pour in the onion-beans-chile mixture from the pan and blend together til just mixed; soup should be chunky.

    Serve warm, with twice-fried plantains if you like.

    Friday, June 5, 2009

    Movin' on up, movin' on out, nothing can stop me

    Hello dear readers,

    As some of you may have seen from my tweets lately, I have recently moved. I have spent the past month preparing to leave my box of an apartment in midtown, Manhattan, foodie desert (though there are oases of sorts - see this fun article about a blog I love devoted to finding them).

    Yesterday in a whirlwind of sort I loaded boxes and boxes (Turns out I own: kitchen paraphernalia & food, clothing, books, and a teensy, tiny bit of decor/furniture. This very accurately reflects my priorities!) into a big van driven by two multi-pierced, heavy-lifting bartenders/movers for hire and schlepped out to my cozy new home in Prospect Heights, nestled on the northeast side of Park Slope and Prospect Park.

    It was quite a hassle of an experience, including a jammed bridge, a parking ticket, and a cherished dining room table that doesn't fit in the hallway of my new place! When I finally collapsed on my couch in the new apartment, I couldn't help but wonder if it was worth it.

    It was. It is. It will be. Today is a new day and I'm feeling so excited about how this new place will shape and contribute to my foodie ways (faux gourmet, of course). My new roommate is a fellow foodie and we are going to get along fabulously. The rain drips on the plot of land outside our living room, watering our potted fresh herbs and tomatos she bought the other week.

    There are separate spaces for the roomy, by NY standards, living room & open kitchen (and notably, my personal space, a real bedroom with a real door!), perfect for entertaining. We will have a table that doesn't double as my desk. We have counter space. We have, get this: a dishwasher!

    There are farmer's markets and plant stores and food coops, stone throws away, and a growing Brooklyn foodie cult to enrich our stores in myriad creative manners. Once my camera is finally fixed I'll have real daylight in which to take photos . . . and I may even spring for some dishes that aren't borrowed from my mother's college tupperware collection on which to plate my creations!

    It will be a while before I'm fully settled but in the mean time I'm just grateful to be starting anew in a place that will nourish me, body and soul. I'm so excited about what lies ahead & I hope you will continue to join me!


    Taste & See: Faux Gourmet Housewarming Cake

    Cooking when your kitchen stuff is all in boxes is kind of like making French food: every step in the recipe requires a whole other recipe. "Combine flour, baking soda, baking power and salt" really means unpack the box of dry goods lugged from my old kitchen and the kitchen utensils box with the measuring cups; "cream butter and sugar" means set up my kitchenaide. Baking myself a housewarming cake to enjoy on a rainy afternoon was a great way to start the long process of settling in here!

    I used a recipe from this month's magazine, but being the Faux Gourmet, I, of course adapted it. I didn't have everything it required but my the recipe below with my substitutions nonetheless created a lighter-than-air (with a surprise crispy crust) that has found me sneaking back to the kitchen for bites all afternoon.

    Do it yourself:

    1 cup flour
    1 tsp baking powder
    1 tsp baking soda
    1/4 tsp salt
    1/2 stick butter, softened
    2/3 cup plus a bit more on the side
    1/2 tsp vanilla
    1 large egg
    1/2 cup milk (I used soy; tasted great!)
    1/2 cup yogurt (I used blackberry)
    1 cup frozen blueberries
    1 tsp white vinegar

    Preheat oven to 400 F. Butter & flour square cake pan.

    Combine flour, baking power, baking soda and salt.

    Beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar at medium-high speed until fluffy (about 2 minutes), then beat in egg and vanilla and beat well.

    Mix in flour mixture in three batches, alternately adding soy milk, yogurt and white vinegar, until just combined.

    Spoon batter into pan and scatter fruit over the top. Spinkle sugar over the top and bake until golden, about 25 minutes.


    Tuesday, June 2, 2009

    Guest Entry: Spinasse

    Three blogs for you:

    Frugal Foodies has a slogan I can get behind: "Would rather be poor than give up good food." Of course, my blog tries to make it possible to have the cake & eat it too, but FF blog has lots to love about it.

    Amateur Gourmet is my blog doppelganger; I can only hope WITP matures into something like that over time . . . of course, preserving my passion for travel, the Pacific Northwest & otherwise lovable quirkiness. (It is lovable, right . . . ?)

    Seattle Field Notes blog brings us a review of Spinasse, which you may remember from my ecstatic tweeting re: their homemade pasta a few weeks ago. SFN does a monthly review of restaurants in the Seattle area, with which I have a love hate relationship. Love, because it whets my appetite . . . and hate because I'm envious & wish I could be there to try first hand! As FoodMayhem said on an earlier post, if only Washington weren't so far away. Maybe this summer after I'm settled in my new apartment (which has a backyard!) I'll have a Washington Nostalgia Meal for my loyal NYC-based readers to celebrate the bounty of the state that nurtured my faux gourmet sensibilities. Any takers?

    In the mean time, I present SFNB on Spinasse:

    Note: all photos from Spinasse website.

    Taste & See: I've been looking forward to going to Spinasse with my parents and sister because they love authentic, rustic Italian food. They came over for part of Memorial Day weekend, so I jumped on the chance to take them here and I'm glad it worked out. Christy's sister Caroline also got to join us for our Sunday night dinner. All I knew about this place is that the chef makes fresh pasta every day and that it has been one of the top new restaurants in Seattle (located in Capitol Hill near Pike Street).

    Now to the goods. We were seated at a community table, which we shared with two other groups. This wasn't so bad because we got to see what others were eating. Right after we sat down, were given complimentary bruschetta (one with some sort of pate and one with a somewhat sour cheese). This reminds me of a conversation I had with my sister Jeannie about whether the unexpected free food is worth the premium you pay for the rest of the food. I think that if you are going to a restaurant with premium prices then you're prepared to pay that premium, so the sticker shock isn't a factor and the unaccepted treat is just a bonus. What do you think?

    The menu follows a traditional format of Antipasti (appetizers), Primi (pastas), Secondi (meat), Contorni (sides/veggies), and Dolci (dessert). We started with the sampler antipasti, which allowed us to get a taste of all the delicious starters. These aren't the kind of appetizers you get at some place like the Olive Garden (calamari, artichoke dip, or flatbread). I could hardly interpret half of the dishes and really didn't know what to expect. My favs were veal with tuna maionesse (sounds weird, but yummy) and rich anchovy fillets. Next we ordered one of each of the homemade pastas (fine cut egg pasta with ragu, ravioli with butter/sage/pine nuts, and "random wide cuts" of pasta with braised pork). Each of them had such a rich deep flavor that complemented the light and fresh pasta. I know Jeannie wished they had gnocchi...maybe next time. We like these so much we got another round because of the rare opportunity to get this high-quality pasta (and we got to keep the leftovers!). For the Secondi, we had some sort of pork chop and a rabbit dish. I think I like the rabbit better, but really the pastas were the highlight of the night. We also got some roasted turnips and their greens and some potatoes. For dessert, we sampled the chocolate torte.

    Aside from the food, the restaurant was quite small with capacity for only 45 or so, and no waiting area. The bar looks straight into the kitchen, which looks more like a Julia Childs kitchen than a typical industrial type kitchen. I would love to sit up there and watch them prepare all the delicious food. The bar is used by the chef/owner Justin Neidermeyer to make his pastas in the morning. Service was a little slow, but we got there pretty late and they kept the kitchen open for us as we were a little slow in getting our orders in, so that was nice of them. I enjoyed the food, but I don't feel compelled to return. I got the experience I was looking for as I enjoyed the meal with my family, but in the end it isn't really my style of food. I'm starting to realize my style of taste with food. While I enjoy watching all the gourmet cuisine made in shows like Iron Chef and the intrigue of techniques used, I don't enjoy eating the food as much. At first I thought it was the type of restaurants that serve that type of food (see La Cirque), I think it has more to do with the food itself. I still can't quite pinpoint what it is that I don't like, but I'm enjoying going through the process of developing my preferences, both with the food I eat and they ambiance of the restaurants I eat at. So in the end, like I said, I enjoyed the experience of exploring a new restaurant, trying new tastes and being with my family, but I don't feel like I need to go back. Another reason is that there are so many other exciting restaurants in Seattle, some on my list and some yet to be discovered, that if something isn't quite right for me, then there are plenty of other fish in the sea.

    Now, don't just take my word for it. Check out these other reviews by people who actually get paid to write this stuff.