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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    Sunday, September 27, 2009


    Why did no one tell me about that typo?


    Sunday, September 13, 2009

    Quick Links: Airfield News

    Howdy folks, two quick notes for my fellow wine lovers. (I assume that includes *everyone* reading this...)

    First, my latest column is featured on the front page of Airfield Estates' latest newsletter! Check out the pdf (it isn't on the website blog yet) for vibrant photos & recipes to inspire you during the last days of summer.

    Second, congratulations to Airfield Estates for winning Wine Press Northwest's wine of the week award. I wrote a food pairing for the wine, the 2007 Vineyard Salute Bombshell Red, last spring. Check it out here!

    About the wine, from Wine Press Northwest:

    Appellation: Yakima Valley

    A slightly risque cartoon of a stewardess may have contributed to the appeal, but the price and quality deserves attention. A tongue-wagging blend of Merlot (50%), Cabernet Sauvignon (32), Syrah (11%), Malbec (3%), Sangiovese (2%), Cinsault (1%) and Counoise (1%) combines for a nose of blueberries and coffee, black cherry and cedar, and sun-dried tomato and cola. Flavors of opulent blackberries and chocolate - accented by blueberries acidity and mild tannins - make this fairly easy to pair with a variety of meat dishes. Rated "Outstanding" by Wine Press Northwest magazine.

    Price: $16.

    Cases produced: 631.

    Food matches: Pair with rosemary-rubbed lamb pops or barbecued beef ribs.

    Airfield Estates, 560 Merlot Drive, Prosser, WA 99350, 509-786-7401

    Thursday, September 10, 2009

    In Praise of Canned Food

    If you only take one thing away from this post, it is this: buy canned tomatoes.

    Really, truly, I beg of you: buy canned tomatoes.

    Why, you ask? Isn't canned food for giving away to the Salvation Army around Thanksgiving when you clean out your pantry and find one can of tuna and one can of kidney beans you don't even remember buying? Doesn't Michael Pollan hate canned food?

    Well, I don't know if he does or not. But I do know that when you get home from a long day and are trying to come up with something to eat, driving through fast food or calling your local take-out place often sounds easier than whipping up a feast of organic acorn fed free range heirloom la la la. Not that I have anything against eating like our pre-historic ancestors; I mean,
    organic acorn fed free range heirloom la la la is good work if you can get it. And who can quibble with the idea of only eating foods you can actually pronounce? Not I.

    But I can pronounce tomato, which is the only thing in a lot of canned tomato products. And cans are cheap. And cans stick around in the cupboard forever, lowering the chances my fellow cook-for-one-ers (or two-ers) out there will end up making compost out of half their produce. To my mind, all this makes canned tomato a darn good happy medium for a busy gal (or dude) on the go who still wants to eat half-decent food.

    But they've more to offer still! Chopped tomatoes are already cut for you. Yeah, like, you just open the can and toss in. Crazy! And tomato paste is all pureed and thick-like, perfect for adding body to dishes...or for diluting and becoming a sauce or soup on its own. (Or Ketchup!) Stewed tomatoes have a thick sauce and a bit of flavoring. Tomatoes brighted up a dull dish, tame over-spiced food, add texture--that comfy, sink your teeth in feeling, and can be seasoned to go a thousand different ways. Honestly, they're downright heroic.

    Do it Yourself: Here are three ways I used stewed tomatoes this week, just the beginning of infinite possibilities.

    Greek Yogurt Salad
    Stir approximately 1 Tbsp lemon juice into 1/2 cup greek yogurt. Season with cumin, chile powder, salt and pepper.
    Pour in approximately 1/3 medium can stewed tomatoes, including juice, and stir to break up tomatoes.
    Stir in about 1 cup diced crunchy vegetables such as celery, red onion, and cucumber.
    Garnish with parsley or enjoy as is.

    Fridge cleaning spaghetti sauce
    I first made this when I had very little in the fridge, pouring in a bit of this and that to try and create something interesting to pour over noodles. The sauce was so good I ended up doing without the pasta and gobbled it up on its own...and looking for excuses to have leftover ground meat to make it again.

    Brown about 1 cup ground pork or beef (or a mix) over medium heat with 2-3 minced cloves of garlic.
    Dissolve in approximately 1 tablespoon harissa, 1 tablespoon fig jam, and 1/2 cup apple cider or 4 tbsp cup cider vinegar. Add 1/3 medium can of stewed tomatoes and add more liquid as needed to maintain saucy consistency.
    *I had about 1/2 cup sauteed onions leftover in the fridge. I added them to the mix to great success.
    Allow to simmer gently while stirring. Season with salt and pepper.
    Melt in approximately 1/4 cup goat cheese.

    Stewed tomatoes over rice
    Ok, this isn't really a recipe. But hear me out. I had some chicken and rice with a chili adobo sauce for dinner. The sauce was a bit too powerful and lacked texture until I emptied my final third of a can of stewed tomatoes on top and heated the whole thing. It was instantly richer. The intensity of the chili sauce melded into the tomato juice and spread more evenly over the whole dish, instead of shocking me every few bites.

    Now that's what I call Faux Gourmet Success! And it was all brought to you by canned tomatoes, which you should immediately go buy. They're cheap & will last forever, and you'll start using them in everything...but if you don't , you can always donate them to the Salvation Army.

    Monday, September 7, 2009

    Scallops a la Perfection in 4 Easy Steps

    A no-fail scallop preparation
    makes the most of my indulgence

    *My camera is *still* broken so my photos are all via iPhone for the time being; they're OK but not exactly candidates for food porn. I hope that doesn't keep you from salivating!

    Taste & See: I associate scallops with splurging. They're one of my favorite foods, but I rarely buy them, and when I do, I get frozen, not fresh. Who can afford fresh scallops? Not this girl on a budget. Then I started frequenting the seafood stand at my local farmers' market. The first time I went, the girl behind the counter was bagging up two plump little scallops for a couple who planned to walk over to a park bench in the sun and enjoy them raw, just like that.

    Aha! All this time I'd been thinking if I was going to enjoy a delicacy like scallops I'd have to shell out some insane sum and prepare a feast. I hadn't though about buying only a few and savoring them for the pure pleasure of their taste. But from then on, buying a handful of scallops from the farmers' market has been a ritual treat. They're $13.95/lb at the stand I visit, and a quarter pound provides a couple rounds of scallopine enjoyment.

    How to prepare them?
    This is another potential headache. Though they are delicious raw, as I learned, I love them even more seared, a crispy coat over a meaty interior. But scallops can be rather finicky. They're easy to overcook, getting all tough and chewy, a complete waste of a mollusk. Part of my aversion to buying scallops was the fear I'd indulge on a choice ingredient only to carelessly demolish it in the kitchen. But as I've discovered, the only real tricks are using a good pan & remembering less (cook time) is more (flavor & texture).

    One option: drench in butter, cover with bacon bits, biscuits and a mound of mashed potatoes. This is a dish I had at a small pub in Maine in spring 2008. This is a great way to prepare scallops if you want to gain weight quickly and walk around with a bowling ball-esque lump in your stomach for several hours after your meal. Seriously, what was I thinking? But butter and bacon cover a multitude of sins, so it can't have been all bad.

    For my part I prefer things on the simple side. I bought this amazing new sear pan last week (read more about it here) and it seared my scallops beautifully, as you can see. (Ha! I got it for $50 on Amazon; at the time it was $150 everywhere else but now I see the venerable Williams Sonoma has also discounted the pan to $50. Go Amazon!) My vanity is tickled to have grill marks since as I live in a box with no yard and no grill. Here is the 'recipe' I have devised for seared scallops a la perfection,
    combining the pan's searing instructions, common sense & my own whim.

    Do It Yourself: Seared Scallops a la Perfection, for one

    Heat the pan at medium high heat sans oil about one minute, til pan is hot. To test, flick a dab of oil on to pan; if it sizzles it is hot enough.

    Add a small amount of oil; I prefer flavored grapeseed oil, usually Lime Riesling oil from apres vin. It adds a hint of lime that pairs beautifully with the delicacy of scallops. Frequent readers know I'm obsessed with Lime Riesling oil; it wins the award for "food product I'd sponsor if asked."

    Sear scallops: Set 4 scallops on pan and cook on each side about a minute; use tongs to gently turn. I also like to toss in a few herb leaves--basil, here--to fry up in the oil and accompany the scallops. Remove seared scallops from pan, set on small plate and cover.

    Make sauce: Turn off heat on pan and add about a tablespoon of butter. When it has melted add about 1/4 cup white whine. I used
    La Vie Douce, a sweet Roussanne from Prosser, WA's Maison Bleue Winery. I sometimes add a dash of lemon or lime juice if I have a fresh one handy; it brightens the sauce, making it more summery. Scrape up any bits left in pan from scallops and stir all together. Pour sauce over scallops and garnish with something green for contrast. I used lime basil leaves to match the oil.

    Indulge away!

    Saturday, September 5, 2009

    Quick Links: Dinners Under $20

    This article from Apartment Therapy The Kitchn is truly in the Faux Gourmet spirit- Dinners for 10 under $20. Think you can't have dinner parties on a budget? Think again. Enjoy!