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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    Tuesday, May 29, 2012

    What to Do with Herbs vol 3

    Thai-ish Fried Rice

    Taste & See: It's inevitable: at some point in the summer, you will have too much caprese. 

    Sure, it's well and good in June, when can't get enough of the season's first tomatoes and basil drizzled in olive oil and balsamic. But at some point you begin to dream of other uses for basil. Maybe you make pesto. Maybe you throw some on pasta. But do you really still that tiny nagging voice in the back of your head wondering, "Isn't there something more?"

    In fact, there is.

    You may associate fried rice with cheap Chinese food, thawed frozen peas and carrots. You have been mislead.

    Thai-style fried rice is nothing like Chinese-style fried rice. It usually incorporates a colorful array of vegetables, and is often served with some combination of fresh cucumbers, tomato, and spring onions, doused with fresh lime juice, and given a shake or two of zingy white pepper.

    Like most dishes on this site, you're meant to use up what you have on hand. I prefer a simple mix of tomato and dark greens, but almost any chopped vegetables will do. (Caveat:
    Denser vegetables like carrots need more time to cook, so add them first, or even do a brief pre-stir-fry, so nothing gets burnt while you wait for the carrots to soften.)

    It's also perfect for incorporating handfuls of mixed basil. (If you grow different kinds of basil, you often have small amounts of each plant begging to be used, but not enough to season an entire dish with one variety. This is a great dish for mixing. Thai basil, spicier than the kind used in Italian food, is particularly good. Go figure.)

    I love this dish because it is cheap, quick to make, uses up leftovers, delivers a 1-dish balanced meal, and tastes great -- truly faux gourmet.

    What You Need:

    About 1 cup day-old rice (At least! The harder and dryer it is, the less it will stick and the less oil you need.)
    Vegetables of your choosing (I used about 1 cup torn spinach leaves and 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes)
    Handful of basil leaves
    1 egg
    Seasonings to taste: soy sauce, rice vinegar, chili sauce (You could use fish sauce instead of / in addition to soy sauce. I used brine from pickled carrots / daikon instead of vinegar - you can see the pickles on the side in the photo above.)
    Garnishes to taste: lime juice, white pepper

    What to do:
    Heat oil in wok, turning wok to coat sides. Add garlic slices and fry briefly; do not let burn. Add rice and stir to coat with oil, breaking up any clumps. A wide, flat utensil works best, so you can lift and turn the rice, rather than stirring it as you would with a spoon or spatula.

    Add seasonings to taste; not too heavy - you can always taste & add more. Add vegetables in order of most to least dense. In my case, I start with a handful of cherry tomatoes, then incorporate the spinach. Move everything to one side of the wok, add a tiny bit more oil, and crack in egg. Scramble it in the pan, incorporating into rice and vegetables as it cooks. Add basil and stir to incorporate, gently cooking.

    Serve with fresh lime juice and white pepper. A garnish of cucumber and chopped spring onions is nice as well.


    Monday, May 21, 2012

    What to Do with Herbs vol 2

    Fish Veracruz Style

    Taste & See: Like the most recent post, here's another simple dish full of complex, rich flavors you can make almost entirely with stuff in the pantry, plus a jolt of fresh herbs.

    What do you have in your pantry?

    You have pungent, flavorful, long-lasting things. Things that you can add in small doses to de-borify basic staples. Things that keep for ages. (To be fair, some of the below should be refrigerated.) Things that don't cost much, at least not for the work they do. Things like:
    • A good array of spices, dried herbs & dried chilies. What is a good array? It depends on what you like to cook, duh. But it's also not a bad idea to just buy something and learn how to use it. I never used Aleppo Pepper until this awesome cookbook inspired me to shell out a few bucks for something I've since come to love and sprinkle on EVERYTHING.
    • Olives, capers, anchovies, preserved lemon : Last forever, a little goes a long way.
    • Canned tomato, tomato paste, sundried tomato: Do you see a theme?
    • Roasted red peppers: The miracle jar that makes you feel like you actually do eat more than just carbs and cheese.
    • Garlic, ginger, onions: Great in everything. Just keep on hand. Being without garlic when you need some is like having to read a whole lecture on your pantry before getting to the recipe .  .  . uh, er . . .
    I could continue but hopefully these suggestions give you an idea. 

    What's the point?

    Let me spell it out: pantry + fresh herbs = blah weeknight evening when you're tired and hungry but don't have much on hand, you can still eat a decent dinner without ordering in or working hard. 

    This is pretty much why this site exists, but I feel a mild need to remind you since I'm just now coming back from a hiatus, lest you're here looking for something super fancy. This blog is about faking fancy. Are we on the same page?

    Alright, lecture over. On to the recipe.

    Baseline Recipe:
    Red Snapper, Veracruz Style, from Epicurious / Bon Appetit.

    This is an adaptation. I'll just tell you what I did - I didn't have everything on hand & didn't feel like measuring precisely.

    I wasn't expecting much - I just needed to use up the fish. But even though it took just minutes to throw together and didn't use anything fancy, this dish was so flavorful and satisfying. I actually wished I had company so I could show it off. And PS, the sauce would be fantastic even without the fish.

    What You Need:
    Jar of home preserved tomatoes. (Oh, you don't preserve your own tomatoes? Kidding! Just keep some cans of diced tomatoes on hand, like I said!)
    Olive oil
    Small onion (+ half a leftover shallot I needed to use up) 
    Bay leaf
    A few tablespoons chopped fresh oregano and parsley
    Fillet of porgy (a fish similar to Red Snapper available at a budget price at my farmers' market)

    What to Do: Preheat oven to 425. Chop garlic, onion & shallot in food processor; saute briefly in olive oil. Meanwhile, put a colander over a bowl and dump in tomatoes. Press down with a potato masher or spoon, reserving the drained liquid. Add (what is now) tomato puree to onion mixture, allowing to thicken (about 1 minute). Add bay leaf, chopped herbs, handful of raisins, spoonful of capers, and tomato sauce. Simmer until it thickens.

    Put about a half cup sauce in a shallow baking dish (I used a pie pan), add fish fillet, and top with remaining sauce. Bake about 15 minutes or until fish is just opaque in center. Garnish with more chopped parsley. Serve over rice.

    Thursday, May 17, 2012

    What to Do with Herbs vol 1

    Single Serving Pasta with Mussels

    Taste & See:  If you're anything like me you are (a) often cooking for 1 (b) often looking for half-decent meals you can make with what you already have on hand and (c) stoked about your herb garden but often unsure what to do with your beautiful greenery.

    But even if all of the above don't apply, you probably appreciate easy recipes that taste like you cooked without requiring much planning. Potted herbs are great for that - they give a nice fresh zing to whatever you pull out of the pantry, and you can just snip whatever you need as you go, without worrying about using up a whole bunch of herbs. Moral of the story: grow herbs.

    Here's a simple dish in that vein. You can make this in about 15 minutes for one or more people. 

    What you need: 
    Herbs of various kinds
    Dried pasta
    Steamed mussels: garlic, ginger, dried pepper, white wine

    Note: Mussels are ridiculously cheap and easy to cook. At my bougie Brooklyn farmers' market, they're $3/lb, and a half pound feeds me for at least 2 meals. Everything else falls in the "keep on hand" category.

    To cook mussels: Add a splash of white wine + about a tablespoon of roughly chopped garlic, 1 dried pepper broken in half, 2 chopped cloves of garlic and a half pound of mussels to a big pot. (Any of these ingredients can be omitted if you don't have it.) Cover and turn on medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until mussels open. Keeps a few days.

    To make pasta:  Make pasta according to directions on the box. I like this with angel hair. While pasta cooks, take about 20 mussels per person out of the shells and, if cold, briefly reheat (~20 seconds in microwave). For each serving, chop about 3 tablespoons worth of assorted herbs -- I like oregano, thyme, and parsley -- and a clove or two of garlic. Mix herbs and mussels into pasta and sprinkle with salt.