Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Beets to Burgers Redux

As some of you know I've been reading a lot of food-related books lately: Heat, by Bill Buford (he was a lay apprentice to Mario Batali--about whose newest restaurant Del Posto I will get around to blogging soon), The Ominvore's Dilmma, by Michael Pollan, and now there's a new book out on vegetarianism (which I haven't even seen, let alone cracked).

But I thought this review from Slate did a great job of detailing the dilemma that Eli described so well in her inaugural post for this blog:

... vegetarianism grew up as an aberration swathed in asceticism and self-denial. Nobody was supposed to live sumptuously on a vegetarian diet; the point was precisely the opposite. Radical preacher Roger Crab, who became a hermit in 1652, renounced meat with a fervor typical of the early vegetarians and decided to eat only "broth thickned with bran, and pudding made with bran, & Turnep leaves chop't together, and grass." Had he been lucky enough to be a devout Hindu instead of a heretical Christian, he might have been eating the glorious vegetarian cuisine developed in the South Indian temple town of Udipi, notably those big, airy crepes called dosas, filled with spicy potatoes and accompanied by a few spoonfuls of coconut chutney and a little cup of hot, soupy sambhar, laced with vegetables and tamarind. When vegetarianism is about what to eat, instead of what not to eat, life picks up considerably.

In recent decades, the West has finally started to catch on. Anna Thomas, Deborah Madison, and all the other gurus of contemporary vegetarian cooking have dismantled the bleak, defiant approach to food that for so long characterized meatless menus in Britain and America. Nut patties and boiled carrots have given way to a new culinary tradition that draws on nearly everything in the edible kingdom—vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, grains, herbs, and spices—and evokes flavors from cuisines around the world. The absence of meat is unremarkable, just as it should be.

And who chooses to eat this way? People who like food, whether or not they call themselves vegetarians. There was a bloodless revolution, all right, but it happened in the kitchen. The rest is commentary.

Let's get back in the kitchen and lead the revolution ...

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Hallowell, nesting just south of Augusta along the Kennebunk has proven to be one of our favorite towns in Maine. It is home to the Liberal Cup, a a brewery and pub who's owners decided to protest the establishment of the Republic Planning Committee across the street. Mainer's have a sense of humor. Scott and I (though if you know my husband you know its really just Scott) have dreamed up half a dozen business plans for Hallowell -- including a bookstore, martini bar, and kayak rental/packed lunch spot.

Hallowell is also home to my favorite brunch spot -- Slates. Its menu, two full pages, is handwritten every day and resembles the notebook of a middle school girls. Its packed full of local ingreedients and yummy but uncovential combinations. Lobster and peapod omelettes with gouda cheese. Garlic, brocolli, and brie scrambled eggs. Bloddy Marys mistaken for horseradish with a touch of tomato juice. But the best part is the Brunch Bread -- freshly cooked bread with fruits and nuts. Slate's bakes the bread for each order, always fresh, alwasy warm, and always good.

Last Sunday was a normal Sunday at Slates, the wait time was a good 40 minutes and the food was as always worth it. Molly, Joe, Scott, and I were there -- it was part of Molly and Joe's culinary introduction to Maine (essential step in our 5 step migration strategy). We had just finished a delicious meal and were gaining enough strength to pay the bill and leave, when we were evacuated. What started out as plumes of smoke escaping from a poorly insulated building, turned into a wild blaze. The fire was officially extinguished more than 24 hours later. They were unable to save the building.

The future of Slates is yet unknown, but I am sure that hardiness will persevere and it will reopen. It is touching however given how quickly restaurants come and go in the world, how one restaurant can mean so much.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Truffle photos!

I have finally gotten my photo-blogging act together and managed to capture images of something I intended to blog about. Of course, these chocolate truffles were somehow doomed to delays all along. They were originally destined to be distributed to my colleagues at GlobalGiving on V-day. Then an old friend showed up from CA on the 13th and foiled that plan. And besides, V-day was a snow day here in Washington, and various people were out of the office as well. So they dawdled into the office on the 15th when there were even fewer people there.

However, I think they were pretty successful. The dark chocolate ones had a wasabi ginger dark chocolate ganache, dark chocolate covering, and toasted sesame seeds. The milk chocolate ones had dark chocolate/vanilla ganache and were trimmed with lavendar salt.

The recipe I used was from Epicurious, of course, and I split the ganache in two bowls, added powdered wasabi and ginger (after deciding that fresh wasabi and ginger could queer the consistency of the ganache, and the recipe seemed to make it clear that the ganache teetered on a delicate equilibrium) to one bowl, and vanilla to the other. I used Callebaut chocoloate in big bricks (from Whole Foods) for the chocolate, and pulverized it in the food processor to make the ganache (I didn't see how else to get that huge quantity of chocolate to melt in heated cream).

One interesting thing I noticed that the microwave tempering works quite well, but that when the tempered chocolote cools off, you are in danger of havind the chocolate get dusty (the look that Heshey's has often). As I dipped the truffles in the gloppier, too cool chocolate, it hardened with that dusty look. Things improved when I zapped the tempered chocolate ever so slightly again.

All in all it was lots of fun, although I had to go at it over sever nights to ensure it set at every stage. I have every intention of making more creative flavors--curry insides with coconut trimming, or berbere insides with pine nut toppings, something with pink peppercorns ... the possibilities are endless.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Soul food from India

With each passing day here, it reaffirms my faith in listening to that inner voice, intuition or whatever else we call it and to follow it to where it takes you. And so I’m enjoying the serendipity that’s brought me to this blog. I'm in foodie heaven, and loving it! Thanks Mari for inviting me here.

I'll write a short note of introduction since its my first post on the blog -- A culinary greenhorn, I only started my explorations over the past couple of years. While the smells from my Mom's kitchen were wonderful, I spent much time running around in sports courts to escape the 'girls should know how to cook ' stereotype. Recently, the dreary weather made me crave for home. And I indulged my homesickness with some Indian style soul food-- a huge bowl of lentil curry or Dal. I call it curry mostly because it is too rich in spices to be put into the soup category.

The yellow dal is one of simplest Indian meals and there are subtle and not so subtle variations to the recipe in different parts of the country.

Here's mine. In many restaurants in India, this is probably offered as ‘Dal Fry’.

Dal (Serves 2-3)

1.5 cup yellow lentils (pre-soak in water for about 10-15 minutes)
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 tsp of cumin seeds
Salt, Red chili powder to taste
1 tsp coriander powder
1tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp dried Fenugreek leaves
Half bunch fresh cilantro
1 tsp Blended mix of cloves, black pepper and cardamom (garam masala)

Pour a dash of oil and add cumin seeds. Once the cumin seeds start to release their flavor, sauté the onions till pink. Add all the spices and continue to sauté the onions, keeping the flame on medium. Using too little oil will suppress the full flavor of the spices. Sauté till the onions become a deep pink. Rinse the lentils and add. Add three cups of water and let the lentils cook on medium flame. Add more water if you would like curry, but adding more than 4 cups will dilute the flavor of the onions and spices.

Garnish with finely chopped fresh cilantro.

For simpler version, leave out all spices except salt, red chili powder, turmeric and coriander powder.

Happy experimenting!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Bev's Buck Eye's -- the best I've had

Its wicked cold here. When I was 13, my Dad and I got stuck on a ski lift in the middle of an ice storm. The power went out, the generator failed, and it took a couple of hours for them to crank us down manually while my slowly froze to the chair. That was the coldest I have ever been, until today.

We also have over a foot of snow... We had a base of 6 inches, and got another 12 Wednesday. We officially called a snow day. Bev in my office made Buck Eye's. These are the best darn Buck Eye's I've ever had -- and considering I use to work with two fabulous Buck Eye's, I've had my share of yummy ones. What made these so good was that the peanut butter center, while solid, was very very creamy. Must be the butter:)

Bev was kind enough to share her recipe:

Combine 1 cup PB, 1 3/4 cups 10X sugar, 1 stick margarine (i use butter). chill...roll into balls, put in freezer for a few minutes,and dip in melted milk chocolate. in lieu of double boiler, put one saucepan in a larger one that has a couple of inches of water in it. these freeze/refrigerate very well. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 8, 2007

More egg desserts--Pavlova

Another post to feed my recent egg obsession from Bron Marshall, who has a lyrical (and patriotic) post on Pavlovas. Has anyone ever tasted one? Crunchy on the outside, marshmallowy on the inside, topped with cream and tart fruit (kiwi, berries), and named after the legendary ballerina.

Monday, February 5, 2007


A trip to 'northern' Maine (quotes to emphasize that i could get to Paris France before I could get to the true north of Maine... it is one BIG state) had me thinking about good healthy dishes... Something that will fill me up and warm me up during this Artic-blast, while not leaving me ready for a siesta or reliving my freshmen 15.

Case in point -- the other day I was offered a choice of beef tips over mashers or polenta casserole for lunch. Perfect for a freezing cold snowy day, but less than perfect for making sure I get my doseage of good carbs.

I found one great solution at a restaurant in Camden. I thought this fell into Mari's quick and easy category. This recipe is a tribute to Dana who for as long as I have known her has eaten a spinach salad with feta and tomatoes every day for lunch. This variation was served warm:

Partially sautee a bag of baby spinach -- half the salad was still fresh greens the other was wilted.
Throw feta cheese into the pan and let it melt.
Add roasted red peppers, feta cheese, and pine nuts.
Serve as is, or add grilled chicken, perhaps even a grilled sausage, etc. I had grilled duck breast on mine -- not super easy but yummy all the same.