Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Cheater's stew

So I have accidentally figured out a way to make decent stew on a school night that doesn't involve actually making the stew on the weekend before. I made coq au vin (used the New Best Recipe after checking out the Cordon Bleu and Julia Child versions) several weeks ago, and accidentally ended up with a lot more vin than the coq required. So after reducing the liquid down I reserved about 2 cups and put it in a ziplock bag into the freezer. I had no idea what I was going to do with it, but it seemed like a bad idea to throw it down the drain. Last night I had gotten chilled in the morning and badly wanted to have some stew for dinner, except I only had an hour to get dinner ready. Sauted some chicken pieces, set them aside, sauted garlic and minced onion until browned, threw in the chicken with a can of tomato puree and some canned chicken stock, diced turnips, carrots and celery, and the 2 cups of reduction from the coq au vin. Simmered for an hour, which was long enough to get the veg and chicken quite tender, but had the rich flavor of a stew that had actually been simmered for many more hours than that.

(serves 4)
<1lb chicken, cut up (any parts, pref without skin)
2 carrots
4 turnips
2 celery ribs
1 onion
2 garlic
1 can tomato sauce
1 c chicken broth
2 c reserved reduction from some other dish that you actually spent time simmering and reducing properly.

Combine as above.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A sense of place

I went to a Josh Ritter concert last night (he came highly recommended to us from Jessica Stoner at Pandora) and although I had heard his songs before, it was only by listening to him in concert, in person, that I realized how much he defined himself by where he is from, which is ... Moscow, Idaho. And seeing him there in person it all sort of makes sense--crazy subtle songs about the missile silos and the cold war (as if he's old enough to really remember the cold war!), wolves, westerns, gold mining--the almost perfect tension between a really subtle sensibility and the obscurity of Idaho.

So why am I writing about Josh Ritter in this food blog? Because of 2 somewhat random things. As he took the stage in his natty new suit, he said that to be suited up in Idaho, all you need is a fluorescent orange cap--and admitted that it might pass for a suit in Maine. Which of course reminded me of Eli (Eli, were you there when Jessica confessed to her crush on Josh?) who despite being from Connecticut, followed her own sense of place further north to Maine, and I really do believe that that is where she belongs. It just feels right. And then the whole concert was an exposition of how place was a deep source of creativity for Ritter. And while I have all sorts of explanations about how I lack that deep sense of place that Josh and Eli do, in food sensibilities, I definitely feel Japanese. And I believe that this vestigial sense of place fuels my enjoyment and creativity in food.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Tip from Michele:

A good foodie friend (actually, I think I mean a good friend who is a foodie) recommended this website to me--she knows Suzanne, who is one of the founders. I haven't had time to explore it fully, but it looks great--I already found a recipe I want to try for chickpea flatbread, and I like the tip on how to free up pomegranate seeds.

The only question that I have is something I've actually been pondering for some time, which has to do with cookbooks. Loulie's has a nice section on cookbooks, and I suspect everyone on this blog has their own set of favorite books. What frustrates me about my cookbooks is that I have really only scratched the surface of most of them, and every time I give in to temptation and acquire another cookbook, I realize I'm putting myself further away from ever really getting the full value out of my existing cookbooks. Maybe it's because my own approach to cooking meals is to head to the market, buy things that look fresh or appeal to me on whim, and head home to look for a recipe that will use them--and it tends to put me on a shorter exploratory leash.

How to other people approach the dilemma? How often to any of you plan out menus (daily, weekly) and then systematically go out and get everything for it?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Macaroons and angel food cake

I've become mildly obsessed with meringues lately. It started over Christmas when the Washington Post published a cookie insert that included a raspberry goat cheese meringue cookie. (I've reproduced the recipe below, with some suggested modifications). They were a big hit, so I moved on from there to rosewater angel food cake (courtesy of Now I have to confess I've never thought it was worth eating, let alone making a cake that didn't include butter or egg yolks. I've long believed that fats are essential to enhancing aromas (and the science bears me out) so I was very pleasantly surprised that rosewater and lemon icing and raspberries really did the trick.

And for the next post that includes a recipe, I resolve to include a photo.

The meringues can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks; the cookies can be assembled, covered and refrigerated a few hours before serving. The modification I've suggested is to add almond flour to the mix, so that the meringues don't cook up with a peak, which makes them very odd to balance and store when you sandwich goat cheese and raspberry jam in between)

3 large egg whites

1 cup almond flour

1/2 t cream of tartar

3/4 cup superfine sugar

Pink food coloring paste (optional)

About 3 tablespoons raspberry jam

4 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Line 1 or 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

Mix almond flour with sugar.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (with whisk attachment) on medium-high speed, beat the egg whites, until foamy. Then place the bowl of egg whites into a pan of hot water, continue whisking as the whites heat up to 100 degrees. Remove from hot water, add cream of tartar. Gradually beat in sugar/almond flour, mixing to incorporate after each addition, until a smooth, glossy, stiff meringue forms. Add a dot of food coloring paste, if desired.

Use a dot of the meringue mixture to stick down each corner of the parchment paper on the baking sheet. Drop the mixture onto the baking sheet in 1/2- tablespoon amounts spaced 2 inches apart. Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours (if you are using 2 baking sheets, rotate them top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking). The meringues should be crisp on the outside and should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Carefully dislodge them from the paper and rest them on their sides to cool completely.

To assemble, spread half of the meringues with the jam and the other half with the goat cheese, on their flat sides. Press each jam half against a goat cheese half, resting the cookie sandwiches on their sides. Cover and refrigerate if not serving within 1 hour. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

Going Whole Hog

As anyone who reads my other blog knows, I have a thing for pigs. It was reinforced the other day when the Washington Post issued a whole food section on pigs, sausages, rillettes--all foods I looove. And the thing people marvel about when it comes to pig is the notion that you can use the whole beast (another book on my to read list). So it is in the spirit of the whole hog that I'm joining Eli in this new foodie blog. I've tried my best to represent my whole self in one blog, but the excitement I feel about being able to write more extensively about food--the eating and the making of it--is proof that this is definitely the way to go.

I'm also excited about the idea of this being a group blog. The eclat with which we simultaneously proclaimed our readiness to become vegans, and the speed with which we both abandoned the idea are both true--and it was a very joyful moment. To be able to recreate this in virtual space is a very cool notion.

Beets to Burgers

As soon as I realized that in cyber space you could be anything you wanted -- I knew I could finally be ELItheCHEF, my alter ego -- the part of me that loves to create and experiment in the name of Epicurian Exploration. Building lasagnas is architecture to me. Rolling out pasta is cathartic.

I know I'm not alone in the world because the great thing about foodies is it doesn't take long for us to self-organize, connect, and share. We could be in that taco joint and we'd know we were there because we had discovered the best tacos around (Natasha's in Portland is my bet -- lightly grilled haddock with apple slaw, wasabi cream, roasted habanero served on a crispy taco).

There are costs to be a foodie -- never able to diet is one of them. This site may have had its birth as Mari and I emerged from a Vegan restaurant in the Mission thinking that a Vegan lifestyle might be a rewarding toxic-free way to live. The concept was quickly dismissed as we realized that as Vegans we'd have to say no to the best darn cheese burger in town when it passed our paths. In a foodie's world, beets and burgers are equals.

Before this site came many meals, restaurants, conversations, blog entries (and more blog entries). We thought a common space would be all the more 'fruitful.' So share a recipe. Put out an epicurian challenge. Discuss the best darn taco's in town. Join Foodies without Borders.


As for me... Its 6 AM in Portland and snowing. My motivation for leaving bed this morning is a lunch meeting at Duck Fat. Duck Fat has gained a global reputation a la Bon Appetit for rendering french fries from duck fat in the Belgian Style. I'm very excited to get my first taste.