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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    Monday, August 31, 2009

    Playing Ketchup Ball

    From Columbia Crest's 25th Anniversary Celebration, August 2008

    Dressed up Ketchup
    kicks some serious condiment booty

    I've been with my family in Washington State for the past month. It has been a time of abundant food accompanied by bottles of ever-flowing (mostly Washington) wine. We have had feasts galore, both of our own making and at several delightful eateries. I even watched Julie & Julia, a movie about food and blogging about food, for goodness sakes.

    Yet for all this, you've heard nary a peep from The Faux Gourmet. Yes, I snuck in a few short posts at the beginning of the month & wrote a new Chef's Corner column for Airfield Estates, coming soon. But by and large, the past month has been a time for simply enjoying. Even Julie & Julia made me want to cook (with lots of butter) more than blog about cooking. And so my hibernations seem never to end; first the bar exam, then vacation--I'm forever teetering to one extreme.

    Taste & See: Teeter no more. I'm now on my way back to New York to resume "real life," day-dreaming about the dishes I'll make when I get home. It doesn't hurt that I've been watching Eat Drink Man Woman, with cooking footage that puts Food Network to shame. But for all this fancy stuff, I find my mind wandering back the same simple dish I've craved all summer long: a hamburger.

    Oh, you can dress it up with high-grade meat and fancy toppings if you want but at heart all I really desire is a hunk of juicy meat topped with melty cheese in the loving embrace of two cripsy-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside pieces of bread. And ketchup. Homemade ketchup.

    From Columbia Crest's 25th Anniversary Celebration, August 2008

    Ketchup is where I get fancy. I don't want Heintz's, or even Annie's organic (tasty though it is). Ever since Gourmet magazine's early summer feature on the ultimate burger I can't stop making homemade ketchup. It's freakishly easy and the homemade flavor so dramatically outshines something from a bottle it is almost a crime not to make it from scratch. Here's my adopted recipe; try it for yourself and if you're anything like me, you'll be dreaming up main courses just to have an excuse to drape your food in gorgeous red.

    Delightfully "viscous" (Gourmet's word) ketchup, on the burger & for extra dipping

    Do It Yourself: Some homemade ketchup recipes call for stewing down fresh tomatoes. Not a chance, with tomatoes $4/lb last time I checked, compared to 59 cents for a perfectly adequate can of tomato paste. Gourmet calls for canned stewed tomatoes but I didn't feel like cleaning a blender & took the easy road; ketchup made from tomato paste tasted pretty darn tasty to me.

    1 small can tomato paste
    1/2 onion, diced
    3 cloves of garlic, diced
    1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
    Chili Powder
    Apple Cider Vinegar
    Brown Sugar

    Here's the easy part: Saute down the onion & garlic til they're soft & brown, making your house smell wonderful. Empty the tomato paste into a bowl and stir in the onion & garlic.

    Here's the less-easy part: Season to taste. Oh, I know you want precise measurements but the truth of the matter is you probably like yours seasoned differently than I do. If I tell you how I do it & you don't like it, you may just go off ranting about my poor taste in condiments (not you, that *other* reader) and never give homemade ketchup its proper due.

    But since you insist, here's how I play:
    1/4 cup Brown Sugar
    1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
    1/2 Tsp Chili Powder
    1/4 Tsp Paprika
    1/8 Tsp Allspice
    1/8 Tsp Cinnamon
    Dash of salt.

    Then I season to taste.


    Tuesday, August 18, 2009

    Quick Links: Thailand through Expert Eyes

    Because she writes sentences like "a (mis)transliteration of the Thai alphabet which stabs in the hearts of all linguists like a poisoned dagger;" because she has mouthwatering photos of fat bananas grilling; because she, like me, thinks that a world without khanom krok is a world with one reason fewer to live...I recommend to you the (often-Thai) food blog She Simmers, starting with the beautiful entry about a very special Thai market, "Or Tor Kor."

    I have a very special place in my heart for Thai markets. I've written about them on WITP several times, including Better Be Street if You Lookin' at Me Parts I and II; Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Old AK; and Sugar & Spice. I can hardly think of a better afternoon than wandering aimlessly through a market, admiring rows of shiny fruit, shrieking at slithery creatures, observing the carnival of human expression, and of course, eating street food.

    If the written word + photos aren't enough for you, look up Anthony Bourdain's culinary take on Thailand (in a time of tumult) from August 17's episode of No Reservations, on the Travel Channel.

    Friday, August 7, 2009

    The Hills Are Alive

    These are a few of my favorite things.

    Taste & See: My whole affair with Thailand began the year after I graduated from high school, when I was an exchange student in Bangkok. A decade later my youngest sister followed in my footsteps (though she'd hate for me to put it that way) & embarked for Austria.

    During her exchange year I had a chance to visit her, and during the visit we ate a whole lot of her favorite foods--meat and potatoes, totally different than what she calls my typical "flee flee flou flah" cooking style. But Austria showed me how tasty downhome hearty food can be, and now I find myself wanting a little less flee flee flou flah, a little more schnitzel, goulash and wurst.

    In Salzburg, in between taking ourselves on an unofficial Sound of Music Tour & cavorting at a beer hall run by monks, we ate at a homey little Rick Steves-vetted restaurant where exorbitantly proportioned plates of meat and potatoes were served with gusto, and fresh house beer. Even if the food hadn't been entirely satisfying--full of flavor as the plates were full of meat--the owner, whose concern for our culinary experience was utterly charming--would have merited a visit.

    These dumplings were a crowd favorite, crispy outside giving way to tender potato mash inside. Comfort food defined.

    Roast sirloin steak with saucy onions, mashed potatoes & bland steamed vegetables--normally not a fan but here they provided a necessary foil to all the richness. Approx 11 euros.

    Meat plate! Three kinds of grilled meat, fries, rice & a few veggies (though veggies are clearly not the main idea here). Approx 12 euros.

    Roast pork, sausage, and a tennis ball sized "Knödel," that is, dumpling. Approx 11 Euros.

    And finally, my favorite dish of all, goulash with Knödel. The Austro-Hungarian equivalent of a curry, all warm saucy goodness. Approx 9 euros.

    After all that stick-to-the-ribs fare, we were revved up for an adventure in the chilly Salzburg mountain air. In fact, you might have even heard us singing...Goulash with dumplings and schniztel with noodles, bratwurst and liverwurst and warm apple strudel...all the potatoes that our waiter brings, these are a few of my favorite things!

    Do It Yourself:
    If you chance to visit Salzburg, Austria, stop by Zum Wilden Mann at Getreidegasse 20, or email for info at

    Thursday, August 6, 2009

    Galette Thee to a Bakery

    Presenting: The Lazy Person's Pie
    (What else do you expect from The Faux Gourmet?)

    Taste & See: Sometimes you have time for pie. Sometimes you have time to roll out two neat little layers of crust, to gently press the edges with a fork or layer a lattice topping. Sometimes you want your finished product to look cute and picturesque, ready for a photo-op with a pitcher of milk and bowl of cherries.

    Other times, you just want a tasty little workhorse, a little "rustic," code for, "frazzled on the edges," but in a warm & homey kind of way. With pie as with life. But crown an ugly duckling pie with mounds of bursting berries, or drape with caramelized onions and dot with chevre, and suddenly the workhorse is looking downright beautiful.

    Enter the galette
    . A galette doesn't put on pastry airs. No offense to pâte brisee mavens, but a galette puts the crust where, in this humble chef's opinion, crust ought to be: a supporting act to a brilliant filling.

    A galette is a kind of French open-faced pie. There's only one layer of crust, rolled out big and wide. The filling, which can be pretty much anything, savory or sweet, is placed in the middle. The edges of the are then crust tucked over, creating a kind of a stuffed-crust-pizza of a pie.

    There is no need to be neat; in fact, the charm is in the untidy folding of the crust, bursting out at reckless, uneven angles. And...that's it. That easy. And with a food processor, the crust practically makes itself. With this perfect last minute dessert in your bag of tricks, you'll need to get thee to a bakery no longer.

    Do It Yourself: Rather than give you a precise recipe, I describe the basic structure & give a few ideas to get you started. For more complete instructions, see this article break it down. If you're the type who prefers precise recipes, or just want further inspiration, scroll down for a list of links that will have you up to your ears in rustic pastries in no time.

    Crust: Use a “classic” pie pastry recipe (think flour, salt, cut with butter, ice water), and press go; the mix will roll itself into a little ball, which you, oh talented chef, need not knead or fuss with. Just roll it out (I often use a wine bottle) into a nice large mass (no extra credit for perfect circles), sprinkling as needed with a touch of flour for easy handling. Bake--it takes about 45 minute at 350 for the crust to turn golden brown--and serve.

    Savory: Inspired by a reader's letter in a past Gourmet magazine, this savory galette features butternut squash. Cut a squash in half, remove seeds, & brush with butter. Roast in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until soft. Peel off outer skin and mash with a hunk of chevre (I used about 6 oz for one medium sized squash) which should melt right in to the hot squash. I also added some sliced scallions for color and seasoned with salt & pepper. I also tossed assorted dried herbs—oregano, sage--in with the crust.

    Sweet: There's nothing quite like grilled pears. They caramelize into a lovely, mouth-melting mess, just begging to be topped with a bit of crunchy sea salt for contrast, both in texture and flavor. Slice a few pears and cook on a skillet in a bit of olive oil; toss with a tablespoon or so of sugar to ease the caramelizing process. I flavored the crust with a bit of sugar and lavender to give the pears a sweet place to rest and used wheat berry for crunch.

    For some more ideas see the following:
    Plum or Apricot Galette, courtesy SimplyFoods
    Apricot Cherry Galette, courtesy Cafe Fernando Food Blog
    Blackberry Galette, courtesy Savour Fare
    Savory Sausage & Fennel Galette, courtesy Food Blogga