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!

xx

The Faux Gourmet

Faux Gourmet @ Twitter

    follow me on Twitter

    Friday, August 27, 2010

    The Bounty of My Garden

    From seed to plant: pure magic
    Taste & See:  This is the bounty of my garden!




    Some of it anyway. I have officially planted kale from seed and grown enough for Hana & me to eat a meal's worth. Well, a meal if you add the pesto I made from my Italian basil plants, fat with drooping leaves; the roasted CSA tomatoes with garden rosemary and fistfuls of holy basil from plants so full it doesn't look like I've trimmed a thing; slices of baguette and glasses of Alexandria Nicole's Shepherds' Mark.


    I don't know why my basil is so beautiful when my thyme and oregano, sharing a pot, dried out completely. And I'm tempted to be frustrated that of all those seeds I so carefully patted into trim rows of earth around Easter, only the kale took root, and even that has only grown enough to fill this small bowl.


    But I'm delighted. I grew something from seed! This kale used to be a little brown ball in my hand, barely big enough to see. Now I'm eating it for dinner.


    Isn't that a miracle?

    ***

    Note - this is a repost of a post on a new project where I post a little of this and that, whatever inspires me. Which is a spin-off of a less new project where I post stories about interacting with and observing people in the city. You're welcome to take a peek at & amuse yourself with both. In fact, I hope you amuse your heart out.


    I hope to post consistently here again soon, but in the mean time, thanks for being patient as I come and go in between other work. 

    Tuesday, August 3, 2010

    Dogmatic Evangelist

    They're dogmatic about good food.

    Taste & See: I'm sort of on indefinite hiatus while I work on a few intense writing projects elsewhere (sorry) but wanted to give you all an FYI: one of my fave cheap eats, former street food cart Dogmatic, has redesigned their menu yet again and is now offering, in addition to the sausages, sides, salads, and homemade sodas ...

    Energy shakes & SLIDERS! Yes, Dogmatic has entered the game. And not only are the sliders paired with the same delightful sauce already used on the sausages (truffle gourmet, swoon), they have a BISON BURGER. Swoon again. As if I needed another reason to visit.

    Dogmatic is on the NW corner of Union Square, just to the left, on your left. Enjoy!

    Friday, April 16, 2010

    Day in the Life of a Faux Gourmet

    See how this Faux Gourmet keeps it real

    Taste & See:  You know how some times your fridge is just kind of sad?  Not empty, per se, but the ingredients in it don't naturally lend themselves to concoting a meal?  Mine has things like: caramel sauce, fudge sauce, pickled radishes, chutney, soy milk, chicken broth, sourdough starter, corn tortillas, curry paste, and about 30 kinds of sauces in various jars and bottles. Yu-ummmmy. Um, OK.  

    Never fear.  There's no need to skip breakfast, go out for lunch & order take-out for dinner (you know who you are...).  Not when you're a faux gourmet.  A Faux Gourmet, mon cherie, beholds an empty fridge and sees an opportunity.  I mean, how else do you think I came upon my classic, much beloved "Tortilla PBJ Crepes?" [On a similar note, see here:]  Yeah. That's what I thought.

    Breakfast:  No photo, but it was a sight to behold.  First, the starting ingredients:  
    • Old ketchup from Pomme de Terre that I kept after throwing away the leftover fries because it was Just That Good. 
    • End of a loaf of bread from a party almost 2 weeks ago. Yeah. I kept it. I've been dutifully eating as much bread as I can to slog through my overactive bread supply but there you have it; I can only eat so much toast. 
    • Beautiful Feather Ridge Farm eggs, purchased at Northern Spy Food Co. (the restaurant has a little market in back). 
    • Leftover cheeses from said party. 
    • Leftover guacamole, from a different party.  I host lots of gatherings, which leaves me with lots of random foods.   It's what I do.
    Nothing to eat? No sir. In fact, this Faux Gourmet made a ... Mexican-American Eggs Benedict. Or something like that.  Start an egg a-poaching.  Toast slice of bread, spread ketchup & add cheese, toast some more.  Top with egg.  Top that with a dollop of guacamole. Voila!  It helps that the egg is a beautiful, beautiful egg.  The uber-yellow runny yolk over the guacamole is kind of heavenly, you heard it here first.

    Lunch: 99 cent Paneer Makhani, procured from Jackson Heights grocery store.  I've had this box in my desk drawer at work for a while, waiting for "one of those days."  It's one of those days.  


    I've had this box in my desk drawer at work for a while, waiting for "one of those days."  It's one of those days.  But want to know what 99 cents bought me?
    "The simple splendor of Indian cottage cheese in a creamy tomato sauce romanced with a light bouquet herb, kasuri methi, works wonders.  Relish with Tandoori naan bread."
    Romanced with??? How do they afford to sell for 99 cents when they pay writers like that? I present for your romancing pleasure, my 99 cent  Paneer Makhani.


    Pretty good deal! Really tasty and flavorful, exactly as you'd expect with all that romancing going on.  Paneer texture a bit rubbery but it did come in a box.  Also not the most filling of lunches (there are about 5 paneer cubes & I didn't have the foresight to bring rice), but that's OK; I have leftover eggplant bruschetta from a recent picnic...

    Dinner:  "Crashing" reception at a law school reunion reception.  Not really crashing, since I'm invited, but let's be honest:  I'm going for the free cheap wine & canapes before dashing off for more free wine at an art school show.  Here I'm actually going for the show; the free wine is just a side benefit.  Win-win!

    Monday, March 29, 2010

    Springy Little Ode

    May I recommend this springy little ode to ramps, one of the first crops / harbingers of spring? It is lovely, I assure you. I finished with an urgent desire to run down to the farmers' market when ramps appear (next week, I think) & buy them, as this author says, by the garbage bag load.

    (From Gourmet: gone but not forgotten).

    Monday, March 22, 2010

    What were they thinking?

    Sometimes computers are smart (see, beating the smartest humans at chess), other times...well, they just aren't a good substitute for discretion & good sense.

    Those of you who read regularly know I'm a fan of home-cooked food, local ingredients, eating healthfully, supporting small business, DIY, etc etc.

    What possessed the google ad algorithm to place a Domino's pizza ad between my posts about (1) how you can make a fresh, farmers' market meal of a homemade burger & vegetable sides for nearly the same $/time cost as fast food and (2) a locally homemade foodie treat? Really? DOMINO'S PIZZA? I don't even merit, say, Papa John's? I love pizza (see, about three posts down. SWOON!) but Domino's? When you could eat Motorino, or Grimaldi's, or Keste, or even homemade?
    Oh my. Ad Fail.

    Now I'm going to have to do a post on homemade pizza.

    Sunday, March 21, 2010

    Big Mac vs. Farmers' Market

    Another great link, this one from the Sustainable Food Center. You think a home cooked farmers' market meal is more expensive and slower than drive-through fast food? Maybe. Or maybe not.

    So what's lacking? Know-how? Desire? Access?

    Bacony Goodness by Mistake

    Bacon Marmalade.

    Yeah, you heard me. I'm not saying more, other than: yum. The video, by fellow Brooklyn foodie Liza de Guia (@SkeeterNYC), speaks for itself.
    Watch the bacon marmalade video here.

    I, for one, am excited to get my hands on some of this & make some bacon marmalade-grilled cheese sandwiches.

    (Liza has a host of fine videos at Food Curated. Check it out!)

    Saturday, March 13, 2010

    With a little help from my friends

    Muffins with a margin of error

     
    Taste & See: I am not a good baker. I am good at making sauces, I am good at making decent meals out of barely-salvageable bits found in the back of the fridge, I am good at making people feel happy and well-fed when they visit me. But a baker, I am not.

    I have not learned to accept this.  I occasionally forget I am a bad baker and embark on a baking project and wind up with too-hard biscotti I nonetheless crunch through, nearly ending up with broken teeth and dental bills for my trouble. Bread billed as "hearty" becomes dense and gummy.  Cookie bottoms are burned as I forget, yet again, to set a timer.

    Sure, there are some things I can bake--I've fooled people with a certain pumpkin bread dozens of times, and I've successfully pulled out regular loaves of no-knead bread since learning how earlier this winter. I can even pull my act together when it is really, really necessary and make a dynamo 3 layer chocolate cake for a friend's birthday.  


    But casual, "just mix up some muffins for Saturday brunch" baking? Ugh. I am totally prone to throwing in extra flour on accident, compensated by extra liquid. Or forgetting a step. Or more likely, ignoring a step. And then my Saturday morning feast becomes a lesson in forcing myself to eat my mishap, in hopes I'll learn from my mistakes.

    Why am I shooting myself down, you ask? Merely to build up the beauty of this muffin recipe borrowed from Apriosa blog, written by a friend of mine. I've made these successfully twice; that means the first time wasn't a fluke. I didn't follow the directions with any more precision than I usually do; while I used measuring cups, kinda, and more or less added all the required ingredients, I took some liberties. 

    Normally my family just calls my topless muffins "tea cakes," politely pretending I wasn't aiming high. And yet, these came out beautifully, crispy crust, soft inside, nice and tall.  These muffins must have a built-in margin of error: just my kind of muffin.


    It also helped that I used homemade butter. Not farmers' market butter, which is darn good (I like love am fanatical about Ronnybrook's maple butter). HOMEMADE. Like, I made it.  Like, the kind that, in grade school, came about after shaking a jar full of cream for an hour on the pre-Thanksgiving pilgrim day at school, in which we made bread, butter and jam. That was my favorite day of the year.




    Only, thanks to a twitter friend, I didn't use a jar. Sure, if you want nicely toned muscles or want to don your best prairie-petticoat and capture that pre-electricity romantic feel, a jar is great. But I had muffins to make; I poured my mixture into my Kitchen aid. By the time the muffins were in the oven, the butter had separated. By the time the muffins were baked, I had butter, buttermilk, & an unrelated big mug of coffee. Not bad for a bad baker! 

    Do It Yourself:

    With a little help from my friends, even a bad baker can make good muffins, and the butter is just the plum-easy cherry on top. Have a good breakfast!
     

    Apricosa's Soda Muffins, ala The Faux Gourmet
    Makes 8

    Ingredients

    • 1½ cups whole wheat flour
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 3 Tbs. sugar
    • 2 tsp. baking powder
    • ½ tsp. baking soda
    • ½ tsp. salt
    • ½ tsp. cinnamon
    • 2 Tbs. butter, room temperature
    • 1 cup dried fruit (I like apricots; she suggests raisins)
    • *1¼ cups buttermilk or substitute
    • 1 egg
    *While making homemade butter produces buttermilk that could, in theory, be used here, I didn't make mine in time and my grocery store didn't open early enough to dash over to get some. What's a girl to do? You've got a couple options, courtesy Life123 & my own experience. They may lack the "rich tang" of real buttermilk, but in a pinch they still make for baked goods of which you can be proud:
    • Add Acid:
      Add approximately 1 Tbsp acid (ie, vinegar, or if you haven't got that, lemon juice) to a cup of milk.
    • Yogurt:
      Use the same amount of plain yogurt that you would need of buttermilk.  This is my preferred method, though I substitute about 2 Tbsp per cup with water, because I use very thick yogurt. Do not use flavored yogurt or yogurt with fruit!
    • "Half & Half":
      Mix half plain yogurt and half whole milk; you may want to add one half teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice to this mixture as well.
    • Milk:
      That’s right, plain milk. Buttermilk is just the liquid that is removed in the butter making process, see below, and is actually low in fat.  To thicken the milk and make it slightly sour, add one and three fourths teaspoons of cream of tartar to an eight-ounce cup of regular milk.
    Instructions
    • Preheat oven to 400°F.  
    • While oven heats, whisk first 7 ingredients in a large bowl.
    • Blend butter into flour until incorporated, then stir in dried fruit and coat well with flour mixture.
    • Whisk buttermilk or substitute and egg together, then add to dry ingredients and stir to blend. 
    • Divide batter among 8 large muffin cups lined with muffin papers.  Apricosa suggests using an ice cream scoop; a spoon worked fine for me.  
    • Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 23 minutes. Remove muffins from pan.
    Cool slightly on rack before removing muffin paper or it will stick. Store any leftover muffins in an airtight container.  


    Apricosa offers this most helpful hint:  To get leftover muffins back to fresh-baked glory, remove the muffin paper and toast the entire muffin in a toaster oven.  You'll end up with that delicious, crunchy crust again.  Enjoy!

    Homemade butter

    Makes approximately 1 cup buttermilk and 1 cup butter

    This recipe is hardly a recipe; making butter is just a matter of shaking cream til the fats (solids) separate out from the liquid. But if you've never done it, it may be helpful to read my account of what to expect during the shaking process so you don't worry you've done something wrong when it takes awhile.



    Instructions

    • Mix pint of cream with 1/4 cup of live, plain yogurt and let it sit, refrigerated, at least overnight. (I left mine for two nights and it was fine). 
    • Mix with a kitchenaid mixer on slow-medium using the whip attachment until the liquids and solids separate. 
    It takes about 15 minutes and goes through several stages. At first it will look like nothing is happening; after 5-10 minutes it will look like whipped cream.  Suddenly, out of nowhere, the liquids and fats will separate and it will look kind of gross and chunky. Keep going just a tiny bit longer, turning down the speed so as not to splatter the liquids all over your kitchen.  The butter is done when it the solids are in a few big lumps, relatively hard.
    • Set a colander over a bowl and pour the solids into the colander, catching the liquids in the bowl--there's your buttermilk. 
    • Rinse the butter under cold water, remove all traces of buttermilk, which makes butter go rancid. 
    • Squeeze butter dry in a cheesecloth or several layers of paper towels and shape into a rectangular log or serving bowl. 
    Variations:  Make like Ronnybrook and flavor your cream/yogurt mix.  I haven't yet gone down this path but I'm looking forward to doing so, dreaming about rosemary butter and brown sugar butter and ancho chile butter. Will keep you posted! 

    Monday, March 8, 2010

    An Angeleño Eats in Brooklyn, vol 2: Carb Fest

    The NYC Carb Trifecta

    Treasures untold await.  Until you read this.  Then they'll be told treasures. But still waiting...so go eat them!
    Taste & See: There are a few foods associated with NYC that every visitor should try to eat, and, perhaps no coincidence, many of them are carbs. 

    A prime example is bagels.  The best of these is generally agreed to be H&H, at W. 80th & Broadway, on the Upper West Side.  During his 93 plates project, The Wandering Foodie wrote about his expedition to H&H, and really said all that needs to be said.  I won't be redundant, except to agree wholeheartedly: just order whatever's most freshly baked & tear into it like a lover.  The Angeleño concurs.


    Next on the list is probably pizza. Sure, we quibble with other cities around the US that make good pizza, but NYC's overall quality-per-slice average is pretty phenomenal. Even the bad pizza is good.  It is possible I've had better pizza at random locations around the US than the best pizza I've had here:



    Mushroom & Prosciutto and Pear Pizzas, Wine O'Clock, Prosser, WA
    BBQ Chicken & Meat Combo Pizza, Pizza A Fetta, Cannon Beach, OR (the Thai chicken is superb but alas, I haven't got a photo of that).

    But I'll never really know, unless these rival pizza makers set up shop right across from each other, fire the pies, and immediately feed me.  So far I have been unable to create such a gathering and thus rely on the charity of others who have taken on the terribly wonderful task of consuming pizza from Franny's to Keste in the quest for the best.

    I took the Angeleño to Keste, on Bleeker between 6th & 7th in the Village, widely regarded as "best," whatever that can possibly mean in a city with such great choices.  I'm a huge fan, and my huge pizza fed me twice, which was handy, given that it cost about $25. The waiter neglected to note the price when he described the special in glowing terms.  I mean, I could have asked, but why spoil tales of rucola & prosciutto with a price tag? The Angeleño & I were a little sticker shocked at the total bill but he was more than persuaded: NYC makes good pizza.

    *It should be noted, of course, that Keste, like many of the other great NYC pizza joints, doesn't make New York style pizza. It makes la vera pizza napoletana, "true" pizza, of the style of Naples.  But if borrowing someone else's culture and blending it in to what's already there isn't what it means to be American, I don't know what is. I'll gladly claim Keste as ours.

    Finally, the NYC carb trifecta wouldn't be complete without the cookie.

    What, you didn't know we are famous for cookies?  Oh, man. Someone swindled you good if you came all the way to NYC and didn't taste our famous cookies.  I mean, I can understand wanting to hide the good stuff from our guests, but it is still not very nice.

    Tell you what.  I can't make you the famous cookie; none but the sacred cookie masters can do that, though many of tried. But I can give you a big fat photo, right up in your cookie-craving face. 



    Oh. That just added to the craving? Sorry.

    Levain Bakery
    , W 74th St, just off Amsterdam on the Upper West Side, is the cookie temple. I'd recommend trying them all, but that will cost you half a Keste special pizza, so you may want to pick one and savor it.  I love them all, but the oatmeal raisin is the sleeper favorite; you just don't see it coming.  The Angeleño was a fan of the double chocolate.  A Levain cookie, still warm, gooey with melting chocolate, savored on the steps of a nearby brownstone on a chilly day is about as close to perfect as you're going to find this side of heaven.  


    Levain's cookies are so big, a small man can fit inside! Amazing! The Angeleño eats on, nonplussed.
     
    Next time you're in town, forget the five star restaurants and get yourself a cookie. 

    Thursday, March 4, 2010

    ATTN: AWESOME EVENT SATURDAY NIGHT!

    I don't do this often but I want to plug an event happening this Saturday night that I'm helping put together. It features art from the talented lady responsible for my lovely new blog header, Sam Wedelich. If you like that, wait til you see what else she can do! There will also be live performances, an MC who writes for Jimmy Fallon, yummy snacks & cool people. Best of all it is free. :)

    My good friend at Over Stiff Drinks wrote up this description. I wholeheartedly agree & urge anyone in NYC to come out & join us!

    ***

    Introduction: Sam Wedelich

    There is a rad show opening this Friday in the flotsam/jetsam gallery I help run. There are talented artists participating; and I am not just saying that. There is a lot of crap out there to be seen, and I am unabashed in calling it out and avoiding seeing it; you will not see it this Saturday. There is also a (free) rad singery-songwritery show combined with the gallery opening.


    True Stories
    Sam Wedelich & Corey Hayes
    Show Specs:
    251 W 80 Street (Btwn B'way & West End; All Angels' Church), NY, NY 10024
    Opens March 6: 6-7:30 Opening, 7:30-9 Coffee House Concert, 9-10 Reception & Second Viewing

    Sam Wedelich (a.k.a. Dwell Deep)

    Sam is a full time artist/illustrator/poet. That's ballsy. Most of her material is autobiographical, but in that universal way, not a I-have-a-peanut-allergy-and-can-you-believe-they-put-peanuts-in-my-waffle! sort of autobiographical. Sam does a great job blogging and tweeting updated illustrations and notifications about new Etsy items, and when you're lucky, a poem or two. Also, she might rebuke me for mentioning it, but Sam and her husband, Russ, have also recently formed a band with another set of my favorite spousal musicians, the Paul-Shores. You WILL hear about it when they leak me more info.

    Here is an exhaustive list of Sam/DwellDeep's links.
    Homepage: www.dwelldeep.com
    Blog: www.dwelldeep.com/blog
    Twitter: twitter.com/dwelldeep
    Etsy: www.etsy.com/shop/dwelldeep

    [AN ASIDE: Please follow, subscribe, and visit them all. In this social media driven culture, small businesses can grow based on viral media, but that requires foot traffic. Even of you never read what she posts or says or buy anything from Etsy, please consider adding the links to feeds, readers, etc. and just letting them sit there. What's one little placeholder? When it comes down to getting featured on art blogs and press, a lot writers will judge an artist's, crafter's, blogger's professionalism based on their popularity (subscribers and hit counts). It's not necessarily fair, but it is the way things work. Help out a small business, subscribe to their blogs, twitters, et. all.]


    Still to come:

    Corey Hayes
    Catherine Hanna and Simnia Singer-Sayada
    Melanie Penn
    Paul Johnson

    Monday, March 1, 2010

    Airfield Estates Chef Corner

    I write a food column a few times a year for Airfield Estates, a family run winery in my hometown, Prosser, WA. It is a great company and makes absolutely fantastic wine. I'm lucky to partner with them.

    Hope you enjoy the new column, featuring corn cakes, braised kale, and spicy tomato sauce. Yum.

    See also past columns Lightning Braised Beef and Tagine (or, if you're not sure what tagine is, "Pot Roast with a twist.") I don't always write about such heavy food, I promise! The summer edition featured lovely fresh produce but isn't available on the Chef Corner website at the moment. You can find the "Make Summer Last" menu here, however.

    Saturday, February 27, 2010

    An Angeleño Eats in Brooklyn, vol I: RBC Coffee

    The Slayer Does its Job & Then Some


    Taste & See: Caveat--little of this series is actually based in Brooklyn. While the Angeleño in question did spend most of his NYC visit in Brooklyn, I admit we did quite a bit of Manhattan eating--but that doesn't mean Brooklyn food isn't better! But if you get the reference, and perhaps even if you don't, "An Angeleño Eats in Manhattan" lacks a certain charm. So there you have it--no truth in advertising.

    But I digress. When an Angeleño was stranded in our fine city due to inclement weather, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to show off the food we have to offer. Sure, we may lack taco trucks and the dizzying array of "grown in my backyard" fresh produce, but what we do have is pretty great. His week to kill before his plane could depart was the perfect opportunity for the Angeleño & me to embark on a little culinary adventure, tasting our way through some of my favorite spots.

    One of our first hits was RBC, a new cafe in Tribeca. I confess I didn't go to RBC for the location, the atmosphere, the menu, or any of the other reasons one might choose to while away a caffeinated afternoon. No, I came to RBC for the Slayer.


    I'd just read on Tasting Table about a beautiful espresso machine made in my beloved Seattle, selling for about $18,000 a pop. Apparently there are about 20 cafes in the world that have them. This fun video was all it took to convince a coffee lover (me) & a tech lover--that is to say, a man--to check it out. It is worth watching to the end to see the espresso dripping like pudding and the coffee grounds packed like thick molasses biscuits.

    So through the snow we trekked, on a pilgrimage to see this fantastical machine for ourselves. Upon entering RBC it seemed appropriate to approach the sleek beast hushed and on tiptoe. The baristas couldn't have been kinder, welcoming us behind the scenes to view the nifty mirrors tilting up to allow a glimpse of the dripping espresso.


    I had a Macchiato, an espresso with but a touch of milk, to better appreciate the power of the Slayer on raw espresso. It was intense, green, almost springy, a little more acidic than my latte-drinking self could fully enjoy, but I could tell an espresso aficionado would be blow away. I could only appreciate its greatness vicariously, like those critic-adored indie indie bands that you shamefully must admit you don't actually enjoy listening to.


    The Angeleño had a Cortado, an espresso with a bit more milk, too strong for him but perfect for me. Both drinks were a wonder to behold, thick with power and crema.


    RBC also has, in its favor, charming little cookies, a Vietnamese latte (bringing back fond memories of Barefoot Coffee, of which I've written before & one of my favorite haunts during my California days), and guest-bartenders who appear at set times like coffee rock starts to whip up specialty drinks for the adoring fans. So far, so good.

    Now I'd like to go back and see what the Slayer can do with different beans, with different proportions of milk--with a Macchiato, the Slayer was a bit too aptly named for me.

    Do it yourself:

    RBC | http://rbcnyc.com/ | Twitter
    71 Worth Street, Manhattan (@ Church/Broadway)
    7-7 M-F; 9-7 S & S

    Friday, February 26, 2010

    Pop!

    A cozy treat to warm up winter.
     

    Taste & See:  Start with a dried ear of corn.  Oh, you don't have one of those?  Well, just go to the farmers' market and have a friendly man give you one for free.

    That's what I did, sometime last fall.  Just sauntered on by the booth selling expensive mushrooms at the Grand Army Plaza farmers' market and after exclaiming in only-partially-mock surprise at how much my little brow bag of chanterelles cost, the nice man with the beard and plaid shirt--not a hipster, an actual, "I do this for a living farmer"!--reached into a carton behind him and pulled out a maroon ear of corn, dry as a bone.  


    "Here," he said, "take this.  Just throw it in the microwave and make yourself some nice homemade popcorn.  Great for a crisp fall day."

    And it was a crisp fall day, a beautiful one.  Then it was a cold slushy winter day.  Then it was a cold slushy winter week.  And a cold slushy winter month.  Then I broke my arm and didn't go to work for three days.  Then I finally got ready to go to work, on a Friday, feeling grand after a week of downtime.  I walked 2 blocks, fell on my tush, checked my email to see work had been canceled, and promptly walked back.

    This, turns out, was the perfect, perfect day to make that popcorn.  I microwaved it about 5 minutes, on a plate covered in a big plastic bowl.  That was just about perfect; when I stripped the cob & tossed back in for another minute to get the straggling kernels, I filled the microwave, then the apartment, with smoke--but notably, the smoke alarm did not go off.  It goes off when I make toast. It goes off when I turn on the oven. But when I fill my microwave with thick brown clouds it is silent? WHAT?

    For your part, you can start with popcorn, however you choose to make it.   Then comes the fun part: caramel sauce. Yum.




    Caramel sauce comes in a jar, if you want to be supremely lazy, but even better, it comes in the form of butter & sugar & salt, swirled together over heat for about 10 minutes, or until it reaches about 300 on a candy thermometer.  I let it get to 310 on accident and it got pretty crunchy--which was great, on popcorn, but makes the leftovers a little harder to use.  But whatever you choose, do yourself a favor and use a thermometer; it isn't easy to eyeball bubbling sugar.

    Do it Yourself
    Ingredients: 
    • Handful of nuts (I used cashews; pecans or walnuts would be lovely as well)
    • About 3 cups popcorn
    • 6 Tablespoons butter
    • 1.5 cups "sweet":
      I used about 1 cup raw sugar, 1/4 cup honey and 1/4 cup maple syrup because that's what I had on hand. 
      You could use all sugar, or for more maple flavor, you could use all maple syrup.
    • 2 tsp good sea salt


    Instructions:

    • Make popcorn.
    • Melt butter.
    • Add the sweet and the salt and stir to combine, allowing to get hot & bubbly, up to 300 for a softer sauce or 310 for more crunchy.
    • Meanwhile, toast nuts in oven or on sauce pan til golden.  Once toasted, promptly remove from heat or they'll burn, you'll waste money, feel stupid, and perhaps even set off your fire alarm.  Not that I'd know.
    • Combine nuts, popcorn, and sauce to coat.  Break clumps into smaller pieces to make it easier to eat once caramel hardens.

    Thursday, February 25, 2010

    Browned Butter Braised Cauliflower

    Trust me. Browned butter even makes cauliflower tasty.

    Taste & See: I know, I know.  I had you right up until I said "Cauliflower."  Browned butter, yum.  Braised, good plan. But cauliflower? Really? That's like...bland. And mushy (or else too crunchy). And has that weird floret texture thing going on.  Really? Cauliflower?

    Yes. Trust me.  Cauliflower takes on a whole different feel under direct heat, whether "braised," as here, or roasted.  It gets soft & chewy, while still retaining some texture, and as the heat burns the tips of the florets, the natural sweetness shines through.  And oh yeah, the browned butter doesn't hurt either.  

    I like this dish because it is cheap--one head is about $2 and makes a side dish for 4.  It helps me get in some seasonal veggies even in the sparseness of winter.  And this dish requires very little prep: the head is thrown in whole and gets soft & tender deep inside as it is brushed with layers of brown butter as it cooks.  And you know, cauliflower may be a vanilla veggie, but dressed up like this it actually looks pretty darn good.

    Do it Yourself:
    Ingredients
    • One head cauliflower
    • 6 Tablespoons butter
    • Salt & Pepper
    Instructions
    • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
    • Brown butter, preferably in a light-colored saute pan; allow to melt and swish back & forth until butter takes on nutty aroma and deep caramel color.  Remove from heat & pour into bowl.
    • Set cauliflower head in shallow pan and brush with one layer of butter.  Cover with foil and place in oven for about 45 minutes.
    • Every 15 minutes pull out and brush with another layer of butter.
    • After 45 minutes, remove foil and place in oven until tips brown, about 10 minutes more.  Brush with any last butter, salt & pepper. 

    Thursday, February 11, 2010

    And when I said Stir Fry

    in previous post: I meant Fried Rice. #Fail.

    Sorry folks, I really do know my generic Asian (American) dishes. :)

    Tuesday, February 9, 2010

    Victory Fried Rice

    Kim Chee FTW!


    Taste & See: Picture this scenario: A massive snowstorm is coming in. You're craving hot, cozy comfort food but you have almost nothing in the house except leftover spinach dip and even your frugal self can only eat so much of that. You scrounge the cupboards & fridge and find only the reliable staples. Yet you still whip together a tasty, healthy, easy, hot & spicy meal in a matter of minutes. VICTORY! You're so good!

    Well, no doubt you are. But to be fair, this recipe is *so* easy and hardly requires anything--it will make a chef of even the most take-out prone eaters. Those of you in Middle America might be confounded as to where to get kimchee, but I found mine in my ghetto neighborhood grocery stores...and I live in a historically Jamaican neighborhood. So give it a shot. Have some on hand and you've got yourself a meal. Many meals, actually, but tonight we're focusing on victory fried rice.

    This meal is truly a gem, not just for the ease and the fact that you can make it with so little on hand-it is really, really good. Maybe you think you don't like kimchee- it is too sour, too spicy, too weird. Not so here! The sour and spicy kimchee relaxes when pared with soy sauce & hot rice. It all blends together to make a big bowl of hot, mushy, yummy goodness. Victory!


    Do it Yourself: Victory will soon be yours, my friends.

    Ingredients
    Leftover rice
    Egg
    Soy sauce
    Oil
    Kimchee

    All things you should have on hand anyway. You want old rice because it is cold and hard and perfect for frying-steamy wet rice just gets clumpy. Bonus if you have sesame oil & some additive (ie, pieces of pork or frozen peas) to round out the fried rice.

    Instructions:
    • Heat oil (approx 2 Tbsp canola & 1 Tbsp sesame for 3 cups rice) in wok til just smoking.
    • Add rice and stir to coat in oil and heat.
    • Dowse with soy sauce such that rice is brown but not soaked.
    • Add kimchee to taste (I added about 1/2 cup for 3 cups rice but no reason you can't add more or less) and any other flavorings (I added about 1/2 frozen peas).
    • Stir til combined.
    • Crack egg or two over the top and cover to hold in heat.

      Egg should begin to cook but it may not cook fully. That's ok. You can scrape the rice from the bottom (it can get stuck to pan and crispy but don't let it burn! Waste of good flavor!) over the egg to combine and let it cook.
    Enjoy!

    Thursday, February 4, 2010

    Restaurant Week Winter 2010: Del Posto

    Princess for a few hours


    Walking into Del Posto, Mario Batali's newish upscale Italian (what else!?) restaurant, you feel like you're entering the palatial receiving room of royalty, or at least ancient nobility. The service doesn't quite make you feel like you yourself are royalty, but it does at least feel as if you might be royalty's guest.

    For someone who usually eats lunch out of Tupperware at her desk, royalty's guest isn't half bad. It is true that no matter how much I may look like I fit in at restaurants that cater to...people who never eat lunch out of Tupperware at their desk, I know deep down inside I'm just a pretender. But once seated, sipping the gratis grapefruit juice bellinis served in champagne flutes to every table, some of the dis-ease slipped away and for a few hours, I did feel a little like a princess.


    The bellinis were a lovely touch. I wouldn't have ordered a drink--not only because it was lunch & I had to get back to work. Remember, I'm Tupperware girl. But it felt very chic (and perhaps, princessy?) to have a pink glass on my table.

    The wait staff was kind enough, but it felt, just a little, like we weren't quite as important as other tables. Perhaps I'm projecting my slight sense of feeling out of place onto what was, in reality, perfectly good service, but at times it felt like the smiles and banter directed to the wealthy Cuban couple to the right, the overwhelming attentiveness to the elderly couple to the left were superb, whereas we were simply seen to.

    I was especially taken aback when my dining partner's pork was quite underdone, and rather than spring to attention to rectify the situation, two waiters simply stood by our table, confused. (Though they eventually replaced the pork with another main).

    But take this minor complaint in stride. The overall experience was a delight; I left feeling pampered,
    like I'd spent much more on the experience than the $24.07 (+ tax & tip) it actually cost. The ambiance is stately but not staid. And the food? Well. The food was GOOD. Real, real good.


    Taste & See: The bread was warm and served with a small dishes of delicious butter (we were informed of the cow's geographic origins) and aged balsamic.


    First courses:

    Winter roasted vegetables with dandelion greens, truffled hazelnut dressing, and an "Sformato" (unformed- that is, loose, not molded or shaped) robiola, a soft Italian cheese made of the milk of cow, goat and sheep. It was very satisfying and the texture of the vegetables was excellent.


    Warm Cotechino, a house-made sausage made of pork with an Umbrian lentil vinaigrette and dried fruit "mostarda," or mustard. The sausage was very flavorful, despite it's pale hue, but it was the dried fruit mostarda that stood out; I could have eaten a whole pot of it. The lentils provided a nice, earthy contrast--though I may have preferred that flavor in something without so much texture.

    We did not try Pasta e Fagioli, described as "a hearty soup of white beans, pasta & breadcrumbs, and Tuscan cabbage marmellata."

    Main courses:

    Slow roasted Pork (Heritage USA loin of Berkshire pork), served with a sunchoke puree, grilled prosciutto and lambrusco conserva. This was simply fantastic. The pork itself was done beautifully (except for my friend's little undercooked problem)-tender, moist. A dusting of sesame seeds provided a nice crunchy contrast. Just as with the fruit mostarda/lentils, the earthy sunchoke puree (how'd they think of *that*?) was, strangely, amazing, full of life, and a beautiful contrast to the sweet & acidic lambrusco--an Italian red wine grape--conserva.



    Garganelli al Ragu Bolognese, hand made quill-shaped spinach pasta with what the menu proclaims to be Mario's favorite sauce, a stew of veal and pork, finished with tomato & Parmagiano-Reggiano. The pasta was light and had just the right amount of chewiness. The subtle spinach flavor was a great base for the depths of flavor in the sauce. Taking a bite felt like sitting by a fireside in a cottage somewhere in the Italian countryside on a winter's night.


    We didn't order the seared filet of organic salmon with watercress salad, sauteed shallots, chestnuts, truffles and trumpets.

    Dessert:

    Against our waiter's recommendation, we both ordered the tartufo al caffe, a dark chocolate orb with Sant'Eustachio coffee and candied lemon. The lemon brightened the whole affair; it's slightly acidic pop really highlighted the sultry chocolate and coffee.



    Delicious, but our waiter was disappointed we didn't try the Butterscotch semifreddo served with sour melon, blood orange and milk jam. Also available, a spina rossa polenta budino with huckleberry marmellata and vanilla gelato.

    Wine pairings available for a further $24.07; Monday through Friday, year round, a three course prix-fixe lunch is available for $29.

    After paying a mere $24.07 for our feast, we swept up our things and headed towards the door, only to be chased down by the hostess, who pressed the customary truffles into our hands. She turned my friend who'd had the undercooked meat, handing her another box: "Two for you, we're so sorry for your troubles."

    Do it Yourself:

    Del Posto is at 85 10th Ave; (212) 497-8090

    We didn't have reservations; there were a fair number of tables for 2 open for lunch but reservations are otherwise recommended.

    Sunday, January 17, 2010

    Brussels Sprout Bliss

    Momofuku's Momofuku vs.
    The Faux Gourmet's Momofuku

    Image originally from Gourmet Magazine; available at Epicurious.com

    Taste & See: Um, wow. I had a culinary experience tonight that blew my mind. It involved Momofuku, the NYC restaurant group with a cult-like following for the things it does with pork belly, ramen (featured in list of NYC's 50 tastiest soups!, and cereal flavored milk. Momofuku serves swoon-worthy roasted rice cakes with a thick red spicy sauce, modeled after the Korean dish dok boki. I had it over three years ago for the first time and the memory has filled me with bliss ever since. I love authentic Korean dok bokgi with a deep passion but Momofuku's version, crispy on the outside & gooey within, is another planet.


    Image from Momofuku.com

    I ate at Momofuku (noodle bar) the other day & naturally, ordered their roasted rice cakes, among other things. Swoon. And double swoon: I planned to enjoy the leftovers at home with caramelized brussels sprouts. You see, at that same meal three and a half years ago, I ate brussels sprouts at Momofuku for the first time. I totally lose foodie cred by admitting I only had brussels sprouts for the first time 3 years ago. But stay with me. Those brussels sprouts changed my life. I'm a Brussles Sprouts Girl now, and I owe it all to (Momofuku chef) David Chang.

    I thought it only fitting I attempt to recreate Chang's recipe for my at home version. Gourmet magazine (RIP) published a version of Momofuku's brussels sprouts a few issues back. I dug it up on Epicurious & went to work, making a few adaptations along the way. Even knowing a recipe comes from David Chang isn't enough to make a recipe purist out of me.

    My meal of (left-over) roasted rice cakes, reheated in a toaster oven & freshly caramelized brussels sprouts was stellar. Blow my mind stellar. But the big surprise was that even though Momofuku's contribution tasted just as good as it did that day at the restaurant, it was my homemade play off Momofuku that really bowled me over. Warning, folks: these brussels sprouts are addictive. Like, crack brussels sprouts. Oh wait, Momofuku already took that name...

    All this to say: here's an intensely pleasurable way to eat your veggies. Dig in!

    Do It Yourself: Momofuku's (Sort of) Brussels Sprouts--Caramelized Brussels Sprouts

    Ingredients

    Roughly 2 cups brussels sprouts, trimmed & halved lengthwise
    2 Tbsp canola oil
    1 Tbsp *fresh butter
    4 Tbsp fish sauce
    4 Tbsp water
    4 Tbsp white sugar
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    3 Tbsp mint, finely chopped
    3 crushed, stemless dry red (Thai) chilies (approx 1 1/2 inches in length)

    Instructions

    Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in upper third. Cover a baking pan with a piece of foil

    Toss Brussels sprouts with oil & arrange cut sides down on the foil. Roast in oven approximately 40-45 minutes, until outer leaves are tender and very dark brown. If your brussels sprouts are on the small end, check at 30 minutes. Don't stir or turn.
    Meanwhile make the dressing by stirring together water, sugar, fish sauce til sugar dissolves, then adding garlic, mint & chilies.

    Remove pan from oven, lift foil and slide brussels sprouts into a bowl. Add butter and toss to coat. Finish by tossing with just enough dressing to coat.
    *I used maple butter from my local farmers' market. The fresh taste of the butter and the tinge of sweetness add a lovely richness. Even if you can't get 'maple butter,' it is worth the hunt & the splurge to find the highest quality butter possible. You won't believe the difference in taste--and it requires much less butter to get the same luscious flavor.

    Tuesday, January 5, 2010

    Quick Link: World's Most Difficult Roast Chicken

    Hint: One of the steps involves having sex.

    Loved this blog entry on Americans being taught we're too stupid to cook. Like, we're incapable of making The World's Most Difficult Roasted Chicken.
    That's my kinda faux gourmet. Give it a read & see for yourself if you're up to the challenge.
    Excerpt: The World's Most Difficult Roasted Chicken

    Turn your oven on high (450 if you have ventilation, 425 if not). Coat a 3- or 4-pound chicken with coarse kosher salt so that you have an appealing crust of salt (a tablespoon or so). Put the chicken in a pan, stick a lemon or some onion or any fruit or vegetable you have on hand into the cavity. Put the chicken in the oven. Go away for an hour. Watch some TV, play with the kids, read, have a cocktail, have sex. When an hour has passed, take the chicken out of the oven and put it on the stove top or on a trivet for 15 more minutes. Finito.

    (But be careful, you might find this so boring that you’ll start thinking about making stock next. Don’t. Too hard. Takes too long. You’ll have to clean the pot. I’m telling you now. Don’t risk it. Consider yourself warned. Don’t blame me if you wind up with something delicious on your hands.)

    By Michael Ruhlman

    Friday, January 1, 2010

    She Walks in Jello

    Happy New Year folks. Maybe you need a little motivation (or a little humor) to move you towards your New Year's weight-loss goals, or maybe you just want to be amused as you go on eating butter (I definitely fall in the latter camp--as well as going for long runs in the park and biking around Brooklyn. Eat well but get out & play too!). In either case, in lieu of She Walks in Beauty, Lord Byron's lovely ode to a lovely lady, I present you with:

    She Walks in Jello

    She walks in jello, like a piece
    Of chocolate cake and chicken pies
    And all that's best of fat and grease
    Meet in her tummy & her thighs;
    Thus inflated to obese,
    Which heaven to scrawny sticks denies.

    One pound the more, the more to see.
    No belt impairs the ample grace
    Of waves which roll her stomach's sea,
    Flabby flesh from feet to face
    Where settles each new calorie.
    How vast, steadfast, their dwelling place.

    And on these cheeks and o're those hips,
    So soft, that rub'ry element.
    Chubs that squish through fingertips,
    And tell of days in glut'ny spent.
    A body built to budge and dip,
    A mouth whose use is evident.

    Bon Appetite!