Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Soup Attack: Spinachy Egg Drop

I love to invent soups. By golly. This, I believe, is the one, two, three... fourth soup I have posted about! ("About which I have posted." My Mom's a bit of a grammar cop. Hi Mom.)

Now, when I say "invent", I'm not sayin' that I didn't kinda get inspired by something I ate before or something I've heard of. What I'm sayin' is that I like to russell up a pot o' deliciousness based solely on what's in the fridge.

Today I had lots of eggs and thought, hey, how about trying egg drop soup! You just drop the eggs in... uh, some soup, right? Right? Well, as it turns out, yes!

"But wait," you say. "Why is it green? I've never seen green egg drop soup. This is a scam." Hells no. Don't be hatin'. It's green 'causa spinach! Here's how the session went:

Chop and sweat two onions for 20 minutes. Then two (of those Tetra Pak) containers of vegetable broth into pot. Blend with hand blender. Dump in a bag of organic baby spinach, wilt and blend again. Whisk two eggs, then pour in slowly while whisking the soup around. Throw in a cup of finely-grated Pecorino Romano (this also takes care of the perfect amount of salt) and whisk some more.

And wallah! (As a fine reader of this blog likes to say - LOL!)

And you can't see it in the photo, but just under the surface, just under that grated cheese garnish, is a prize! A whole egg cracked into the soup and left whole to poach. When you're ready, just poke it and let the yolk leak onto your spoon.

And as usual, was even better the next day. With an excellent taste:ease of preparation ratio!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Losing MEME Virginity

I am fairly new to this blogging thing. Like for example, you can see that I'm still using a cookie-cutter Blogger template and I only have about 1650 on my "unique reader" counter down there in the right-hand side bar. Most of all, you can tell I'm new because until this week, I had never, EVER, been tagged for a MEME.

Now, I'm not saying I was up nights worrying about it, but I was kinda feeling like the kid in the lunchroom who maybe forgot to wear deodorant. And never bathed. And brought a fermented fish head for lunch. But I digress.

I am now officially Not A Complete Food Blog Loser because the fabulous Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice has tagged me for the "Cooking Challenges of 2006" MEME! Thank you Ivonne. I love you, and like do you wanna come over after school and we can hang out this weekend and ... Ivonne? Hello?

Anyhow, it's um, not like I've been planning out what I would list if I ever got tagged for this MEME, um... but I do happen to have 5 ideas all primed and ready to go.

The 5 Cooking Challenges that I Dare Myself to Do in 2006 are...

1) Bake a cake from scratch. And I know which one I wanna do. I will have to buy a sifter!

2) This one isn't really a cooking challenge, but it is food related: Eat NO refined sugar for two whole weeks. And lest you think I'm turning "kooky-healthy" on y'all, I'm not. True, I am curious to see if it makes me feel any different, but the real motivation is to see how good sugar tastes when I go back to it! Mmmwaaahaha! (Maybe that's when I bake the cake!)

3) Try organic delivery. I have almost signed up so many times but stop at the last minute, thinking that I want to be in control of the produce that winds up in my fridge. Problem is, when I shop, I don't always buy organic, and I think I should. Added benefit: a box of veggies chosen by someone else would force me to cook new things!

4) Get a real wok and learn how to stir-fry for REAL. I'm talking high heat and mad skills. I make plenty of "stir fries" in my regular non-stick skillet on medium-high heat, but I know I'm a hoser. While I'm at it, need to expand my cooking oil knowledge. As it is, I operate only with olive, canola, a little sesame for flavoring Asian and flax-seed oil for salads. Healthy, yes, but I know there is so much more out there. Peanut, nut oils, corn, grapeseed, sunflower, soybean...

5) Bake Bread. Real bread. With yeast and kneading. You knew that was coming. I have marveled at breads on other bloggers' sites. (There's even one dude, the famous Professor Salt, who has the cohones to bake bagels!) But I have bread-bake-a-phobia bigtime. I think it might come from someone telling me things like, "You have to have the proper oven or don't bother," and "It's so easy to make a mess of bread." Well... nobody ever died from birthing a foul-tasting brick from a lame gas oven, so I'll give it a go! (If anyone has a delish bread recipe suggestion you think I could handle, now would be the time to come forth. Preferring hearty/healthy, rustic whole grain...)

Cool. I'm now on record and must live up to the dares. And now I'll tag some of my fave fab foodie folks... this MEME's fer you!

Joe at his delicious blog Culinary in the Desert
Shauna at her tasty blog Gluten Free Girl
Sarah at her hilariously yummy blog The Delicious Life
Polly + Dieter at their lip-lickin' blog The Second Helping House
The very naughty Courtney, Trobee, Trina, Ruthie, Vanesa, Peter and Kathryn at their spicetastic blog Naughty Curry

Friday, January 27, 2006

Born Again: Jalapeno Corn Bread

What I mean by "born again" is that I tweaked the heck out of this recipe to make it actually aaaalmost healthy! The original one comes (I think) from Southern Accents, but came to me on a greasy scrap of paper from my friend Caro about 10 years ago.

Here are some of the ingredients I substituted to make it better for our bods...

Evaporated cane juice sugar. Less processed and in this case, organic. But still sugar, no doubt about it. Whole wheat flour works well in a hearty pan bread like this. Almond milk is what I had on hand, lightly sweetened, so I adjusted the recipe for it. And of course, the biggie - the recipe used to call for Crisco which is a major no-no for the arteries. This non-hydrogenated, no trans-fat margarine worked perfectly. By the way, I know you can't substitute things willy-nilly when doing more complicated baking, but in this case it seemed to work.

Get ready! Chop chop!

CAVEAT: I have NEVER before published a recipe on this blog and there is a good reason for that. I am a freestyle cook who rarely follows (and certainly doesn't invent!) recipes. Things usually work out pretty well but sometimes there is a disaster. I am terrified of "real" baking and have only made cookies and easy (non-rising) breads such as this. If you make this cornbread I would like a report - and don't worry, I have thick skin. (Sniffle... no, really, I'll be fine.)

Ok, here's what I did:
1 1/2 cups non-bleached, whole wheat flour (original called for all-purpose)
1 1/3 cups yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup cane juice sugar (original called for 2/3 cup white sugar)
5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 to 1 cup (to taste) jalapeños, seeded and chopped
1 3/4 cup almond milk (or soy, rice, skim milk, adjust for sugar - original called for 1 1/3 but whole flour dictates more)
5 tbsp non-hydrogenated margerine, melted (original called for Crisco)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup liquid honey plus more for drizzle

1) In a large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt and chopped jalapeños until well mixed.
2) In a smaller bowl, whisk together milk, margarine and eggs until frothy.
3) Add liquid ingredients to dry and fold.
4) Add honey.
5) Pour mixture into greased 8x8 or muffin tins. 325F for about 25 min or until golden brown.
6) As soon as you remove from oven, drizzle honey over entire surface, allow to sink in.
7) Delicious while hot and can be re-heated in foil.

We see you little jalapeños! Time for a trip down the muffin hole!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

NYT: Food Critic goes Undercover

This is a fun article in the New York Times, published January 25, 2006. Food critic Frank Bruni goes undercover as a waiter and gains some due respect for servers. Love it.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Documentary: The Future of Food

Last night we watched a documentary directed by Deborah Koons (Jerry Garcia's wife!) called The Future of Food.

It's an interesting piece about genetically modified foods and the possible dangers therein. It also exposes horrendous issues like small farmer (Percy Schmeiser) VS. giant conglomerate (Monsanto). Scary!

This film most definitely takes a point of view and does not purport to show "both sides of the issue," but I still found it fodder for thought and a launch pad for further research. Besides, I like a point of view. Especially when it's the right one.

It is most definitely worth 88 min. of your time if you care at all about what you put into your body and the people who grow it. And of course you do! A must-watch for all foodies, chowhounds, chefs, and thoughtful individuals.

Watch the trailer here.

Join The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Food here.

Maybe a comment if you've seen it? ...

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Taste Test: Lord of Biscuity Cereals

I love biscuity cereal. Sometimes I snack 'em down one by one with a big mug of tea on the side. Other times I place each biscuit on a soup spoon, submerse it for precisely the right amount of milkabsorption time and eat a whole bowl methodically as such. Am I a cereal nerd? Oh yeah, totally.

It seems that suddenly there are so many variations on biscuity cereals out there, that I am forced to do an emergency taste test. I picked just eight out of the many available because I don't have the bling to buy more. Cereal is expensive. Dag!

Here is a bold statement on the side of a box of a cereal that will be reviewed in a moment.

Such bravado! I'll be the judge of that. And of all the rest of you biscuity delights as well.

Without further ado, I present to you the results in order of Best to Worst:

In first place by a whole aisle of cereal is our Lord of Biscuity Cereals...

Kashi's Organic Promise Autumn Wheat. Simply the best. It is, as promised on the box, "lightly sweet" with 7g of sugar. It's got a really awsome loose weave made from thin strands. Perfect for dry crunching OR a quick milk soak, keeping the crunch so long as you don't douse & neglect. You can eat a bowl of these and not feel like you ate candy for breakfast. I can't taste the organic (though it is a nice bonus), so this does not sway the results. Get it at
Trader Joe's for cheap!


Next up is Autumn's cousin...

Kashi's Organic Promise Cinnamon Harvest. Same weave with a light cinnamon taste. It retains rightful use of the term "lightly sweet", though it has 2 additional grams of sugar, coming in at 9g. I like it almost as much as Autumn Wheat.


In third place we have a surprise...

Plain old Trader Joe's Bite Size Shredded Wheat. It's not sweet at all because it's got zero grams by way of sugar. Definitely the healthiest choice. I almost didn't include it in the test. But I'm glad I did because it's got a hearty wheaty taste that is worth noting. The weave is completely different - a VERY tight bind (similar to your traditional Post Shredded Wheat). Some days call for zero G's.


In fourth place, we have...

Malt-o-Meal's Frosted Mini Spooners. The weave is completely different here. A medium weave made from thick, strong strands. Extremely crunchy. The Spooners claim to be "lightly sweetened" but I would correct that to say "pretty honkin' sweet". Clocking in at 11g of sugar, things are getting serious. As for the claim on the side of the box (see top of page), yeah, they do taste every bit as good. But read on to see if that's something to brag about. Besides, it's kinda lame to be a cereal-copyist and not come up with your own idea. Poseurs.


In fifth place...

Ralph's Frosted Bite Size Shredded Wheat. Identical in weave to the Spooners, but these are really too long to be considered bite size. Also, they are not "crispy" enough. A very slight chemical taste. Soaks up milk nicely though. 11g of sugar as well. Please give me a break with the "lightly sweetened" line. You cereal box writers are worse than James Frey!


Moving on down to sixth place we see our first Kellogg's...

Kellogg's Bite Size Frosted Mini Wheats Vanilla Creme. Well, they are VERY vanilla creamy. Overwhelmingly so. True, they have a weave like no other, the traditional perfect Mini Wheats weave, but they are so unbelievably coated with sugar it kinda ruins the texture. The box says "lightly sweet" but now they are just plain lying like Bush. With 12g of sugar, you might as well eat cookies for breakfast. Remember the jingle, "Whole-wheat goodness on one side, light frosting on the other"? Light frosting? No wonder more than 23% of the nation is fat.


In seventh place is another Kellogg's treat...

Oooeeeh! Kellogg's Frosted Mini Wheats Strawberry Delight. A complete artifical flavor sensation. Slathered with 12g of sugar, these also boast little pink flavor specks within the biscuit. See 'em? If you are a 9 year old girl in a princess costume who gets to eat one box of sugar cereal per year, this might be your top choice. Best Friends Forever!


And our last place goes to a foreigner who I had such faith in, but alas...

Kellogg's All Bran Choco, which I picked up in Spain! I got very excited as this is a flavored-but-not-frosted biscuit cereal. But it tasted like doo. I had a few and threw the rest of the box out. Just plain bad. However, I have to give a shout-out to a delicious biscuit cereal that you can only find in Canada: Kellogg's All Bran Strawberry Bites and the others in that family that I've had (I think there was an apple one and maybe blueberry?) These are little biscuits with some fruit filling in the center. Not too sweet and perfect without milk. Another reason to move to Canada.

By the way, if anyone can substantiate the claim on the side of this box of Kellogg's, I will be amazed:

Less tired? I just ate a bunch of fiber and I am plain tuckered out!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Mushroom Soop for Rain

Lots of rain recently, so we needed soup.

Went to the Japanese grocery and got loads of delicious ingredients...

A selection of mushrooms:

Those thick-stalked ones are eringii. Meaty. The tiny ones are enoji - smaller than bean sprouts, even. There's a pile of fresh shitake in there, and the dried bunch is kikurage (wood ear mushroom), which I went on to reconstitute in water - they grew very big!

And here is a bag of sansai zenmai:

I think "sansai" means "wild", and "zenmai" is a sort of fern. I never bought these before, but they looked like they'd be good in a mushroom soup.

And here are some mystery greens that will go in at the last minute:

I saw the name of them at the store, but I have forgotten.

And here is today's prize:

Fresh burdock! I love burdock, but up 'til now have only had it as tsukemono. I asked a nice Japanese lady in the store how I should cook it and she suggested peel, slice thinly and sautée with olive oil, mirin, sake, soy sauce. I will try this next time! But this time, they're going in the soup. And I am not going to peel them because why lose the fiber and nutrients?

No moneyshot of finished soup this time because I forgot. Oops. You will have to imaginate it. Earthy and delicious.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

How Can a Cheese be so Good?

"Well if you love it so much, why don't you marry it?!" Ok. I will.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, my new spouse and delicious snack, Ski Queen Gjetost cheese!

I can't pronounce it, but goddamn if I can't marry it and eat it in a variety of ways.

It hails from Norway and is a delicious blend of boiled whey, goat's milk, cream and milk. It is very sweet and has that goaty, barnyard flavor that I love. It's kinda like your pet goat took a soak in a vat of caramel and cream and then you let it harden and called it cheese. That is Gjetost.

I bought this small block in California at IKEA. I bought a large block of it in Montreal last winter and it was much darker in caramel color. Not sure why. I don't remember a difference in taste.

Today I am going to try it on this nice Fitness Bread. And then I might go for a run like the nice lady on the package.

When you melt it, it takes on a whole new flavor. It makes me want to marry it all over again.

Lest you think I go around marrying cheese at whim, I'll have you know that I've been having an affair with Gjetost cheese since I was 8 years old. Went over to Debbie Bernstein's house after school and her mom gave me a chunk for snack. I had never tasted anything like it. And her mom wasn't even Scandinavian. And we were in DENVER in the 1970's for god's sake. See, it was meant to be.

Royal Potatoes au Gratin

That's right, people. I call this dish Royal because it is purple. Purple potatoes are what I had on hand from the friendly potato guy at the Farmer's Market when I suddenly decided, for the first time in my life, to make Pommes de Terre au Gratin. Or Taters O'Gratin if you wanna be Irish American about it.

When I got the unsolicited idea, I thought to myself, first, "What the hell?"

And then, I went with it and thought, "Well, how hard could it be, I mean, without dumping a can of cheddar soup and some crispy fried onions on some potatoes?" So, I looked at a few random recipes online, then did what I normally do: remember a few basic ingredients from what I've read then forget everything and stumble blindly into what could be an unmitigated disaster.

First thing I did was slice the potatoes thinly - I know they are supposed to be eventually layered. Or scalloped. Wait. What does scallopped mean? Ah. Never mind.

Next, I carmelized some onions and scallions and then put some flour in there - I gleaned this from somewhere. Helps with thickening, later on right? ... Right?... Hello?

Then, I poured some almond milk in there. Not a typo. I didn't have regular milk on hand, so I figured what the heck, it'll just be a bit sweeter than normal. And then I stirred in a bunch of carefully and professionally selected grated cheese. That is to say, I looked in the cheese drawer which contained a 2/3 used packet of grated pizza cheese from Trader Joe's (which I think is parm and moz), a hunk of emmenthaler and some low-fat smoked gouda.

I layered purple potatoes and cheese sauce a couple times and sprinkled the rest of the grated cheese on top. Salt, pepper and paprika. Baked covered at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. Then for 10 more minutes with the cover off.

And voilá!

Come on, don't be shy. Step right up.

Mmmm! A fresh side-dish of steamed broccoli and red pepper with a tasty dressing of flax seed oil, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, Braggs, a dash of ponzu sauce and some toasted sesame seeds.

And that, my kind reader, was dinner. And it contained the color purple. And purple is always good. But I am still confused. Is Potatoes au Gratin ie: Scalloped Potatoes a fancy French dish or a white trash staple? ... Anyone? ... Beuller?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Spain: When in Spain... Eat Candy!

When anywhere, eat candy, actually. But I happened to be in Spain, so...

It's fun to go into candy stores in different countries. You get all sorts of new taste sensations. This neatly backlit candy store was in Granada.

Some of those little mini Smarties/m&m's are white chocolate. And Swedish berries of all flavors, even lime. And little balls of soft licorice and coffee flavors combined.

Contribute to EP's Dental Fund. Thank you.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Spain: Market Finds

These are fresh water-cured olives. Surprised I would ever try one of these again? Well, they were delicious!

And there were lots of black truffles to be found. I think it is the season.

No wonder all those "wild" pigs we saw were always rooting around like mad!

If I were a pig, I would definitely go for the truffle-hunter job rather than the serrano ham job. (Kind of a dead-end job, you know?)

And check out this interesting seafood called percebes, otherwise known as gooseneck barnacles:

Aren't they gorgeous? Never did get to try them. I wonder how they're cooked? They only grow in a few select places in the world... mostly Spain and Western Canada!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Spain: Bonjour Bon Noir!

Next up, Granada. Here is a view of the Albaicin neighborhood from the Palacio de Comares at the Alhambra.

All that palace-viewing made us hungry, so we went looking for treats.

Found a really hot chocolate shop called Bon Noir. Everything was perfect in this place - the decor, the identity, the presentation of chocolates.

It was austere, with brick, stainless steel, sliding glass, and completely focused on... chocolate!

We went omakase, with the owner picking out Lemon Tart, Marsala Creme, Green Tea, and a Cinnamon/Ginger Creme. All truly delicious. And the little box came with a small pamphlet about how to properly enjoy chocolate. God, I love people who love food. Most especially chokky.

If you happen to be in Granada, do not miss it. Bon Noir, Plaza Bibrambla 10, Granada, CP, Spain.