Thursday, March 30, 2006
Well have I got the chocolate cake for you!!!! This evening I made and tasted possibly the most lethal creation in a 2lb loaf pan --- da da dum, the Quadruple Chocolate Loaf Cake from Nigella Lawson's Feast. Oh my friggin' god, my fingers are shaking writing this as the sugar is steadily entering my bloodstream. I wanted to have this post out tonight in case I slip into a chocolate coma and the authorities must be called.
I honestly don't know how we will finish this cake. Rafa has to be really in the mood for something so sweet and chocolatey.. Currently he is sitting to my right eating a Twizzler -- he fondly calls them Twizzles.
This evening was a strange one. I made the cake before starting on dinner because I knew that once dinner would be done I wouldn't be arsed to make a cake of this magnitude... Loads of stuff went wrong while making the cake including burning myself with some caramelized cocoa and sugar. There was chocolate literally everywhere in my kitchen - but oh, was this cake worth it... The four layers of chocolate are cocoa for the batter, then chocolate chips are folded in (good 'ol Toll House morsels!), then as the cake is cooling a chocolate sugar syrup is poured on the cake (cue: most painful burn in creation!), and then chocolate shavings are scattered on top of the sticky syrup. Once again I got rubble (yes, my chocolate was cold, I promise!!) and I was working really hard with my fantabultastic mezzaluna that I decided to scatter on chocolate bits as well as rubble - made it look more like the picture in the book.
Now what does this have to do with Tom N-D?! Well.... uh... nothing I guess. LOL. So really this blog entry is just to say that the cake, if you are to make it one day, is mega-huge in flavor and you need to have a big glass of milk ready. Also, don't bet on sleeping for 12 hrs following consumption. Too bad for me cause I usually go to bed in an hour from now...
Nothing left to add now except for check out the money shot on the top...
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
TO: All people reading me blog
FROM: Duh, me!
RE: Best/Worst Food Network Shows of 2005
Dear All people reading me blog:
Doing a completely random search on Google this fine morning, I came across a blog that listed the best and worst Food Network shows of 2005. For those not in the United Steaks of America, the Food Network is a channel that shows the likes of Rachael Ray, Mario Batali, Sandra Lee, Paula Deen, etc. In my humble opinion, and only in my humble opinion, the Food Network is absolute crap crap crap. I can't even begin to tell you how crap it is... Most of the shows are highly stylized, they are so difficult for average Janes like myself to relate to, and they are just plain boring!!! Now ever since switching off cable entirely (hubby and i is poor -- donations at the door, LOL.), I have turned to the likes of WLIW, PBS, and WLIW Create.. Now, finally some intellectual and interesting fooding going on! I love Simply Ming, I love Lydia Bastianich (she squeezes plum tomatoes too!!) and Andreas Viestad/Tina Nordstrom of New Scandinavian Cooking. Fantastic!!! I can't quite put my fingers on why these are so much better, but they are!
So back to this other blog. I will post the link with a warning first: Some of the comments made by people reading it are a bit on the crass side, like there were a couple of blokey blokes who think a certain Italian chef should do the show topless, etc., but I promise you for the most part the comments are hysterical and refreshing... and I hope that Nan, of January 23 2006 at 2:10PM, hasn't copyrighted the term foodgasm because I am totally using it from now on!!!
So read and enjoy!!
encl: Foodie NYC Best and Worst
Monday, March 27, 2006
I was curious to see how Tom's version would be and felt like this would be a perfect weeknight meal.
The ingredients came first: yellow, red, and green peppers (I omitted the green, don't like it) with some onions, garlic, chilli, and peeled plum tomatoes.
Some of the ingredients -- I love how colorful this dish is!
The chopped peppers, onions, garlic and chilli were sweated down for a few minutes while the peeled tomatoes were being prepared.
The veggies are sweating!!!!
I was quite keen to do this dish before the project began because almost the whole of the Pasta chapter in CL involves crushing peeled plum tomatoes over a sieve to get rid of as much juice as possible. This was what I had to do for this dish.
The crushed tomatoes were then added to the rest of the vegetables with some balsamic vinegar and slow-cooked for about 45 minutes till the peppers were quite soft.
After 45 minutes I didn't get the peppers as soft as I wanted but was getting quite hungry so impatience overcame precision.
The vegetables were added to an oven-proof dish, and a well was made in the middle into which an egg was broken. The dish was then baked in a hot oven for about 10 minutes until the egg was set.
We're ready for dinner!
Tom-Norrington Davies' Chakchouka -- Delicious UK, April 2006
It turned out really well! I thought I'd mess up somewhere with the egg breaking but I was quite pleased. The dish was quite flavorful, but I think I prefer the Israeli version. There's something comforting about scrambled eggs in a tomato-ey sauce... With Tom's recipe, it seemed like peppers were the key players, and I am not too keen on cooked pepper.. Rafa really enjoyed the dish, and at least it was a hit with 50% of the household.
At any rate, I am happy I got an introduction to one of Tom's savory dishes. He really excels in using simple ingredients and utilizes them to their best extent. I think Tom has a column every month so am quite looking forward to that, as a bit of a break from the book now and again.
Thinking ahead to the project that is starting in just under a week, I am gearing up to actually do this thing, for real! But now I realize that Passover is approaching mighty soon.. it falls between April 13th and 20th this year, which means that I won't be able to cook a lot of the recipes in CL, yikes!!! So instead of seeing this as an obstacle, I think it will actually be fun to pick out what I actually CAN eat for 8 days!
So here are the no-no's come Passover week... no bread, pasta, cake w/flour or leavening agents, rice, corn, peas, green beans, lentils... I guess you're wondering what on earth I will eat, ha!! That's why I think of Passover as the Atkins holiday - very limiting, carb-wise. Bad, bad Atkins!!
I am traditionally-Jewish enough to love the holiday and what it symbolizes, but secular enough to bitch about what I can't eat, LOL. And then I think about my ancestors living under the tyranny of the pharaoh, and I think how friggin' lucky they were that they didn't have pizzerias a couple of steps away from where they lived!!!
Ok, ok, back to the project. I guess the chapters I won't go into for that one week are probably going to be:
Eggs and Toast (if toast is an integral part of the egg dish)
Stir Fries and Curries (without rice and naan?! You kiddin' me!??)
Junk Food (what's the point of a burger without the bun -- and yes, Kosher for Passover burger buns are the most disgusting things in the universe)
So it looks like I'm going to be grilling a lot, eating loads of soup and salad, and finishing it all up with copious amounts of ice cream... Sweeet!
Another great part to the whole no flour thing is that Nigella's Easter cake from Feast seems to be flour-free... I am not sure how Kosher for Passover the Easter egg decorations are.. LOL, let's bet they are not! But I think it would be pretty cool if those did exist... But that's OK, I ate enough this past weekend to last me about 8 Easters... damn, they're good!
I think I am looking forward to this Passover more than any other before... bring on the matzah!!
Saturday, March 25, 2006
Rafa: Have you thought about dinner?
Me: Have YOU thought about dinner?
Rafa: No, what do you want to eat.
Me: I don't know.. you?
Rafa: I don't know.
(Few minutes go by, sometimes the same conversation gets repeated several times with tempers flaring and stomachs grumbling)
Me: Erm, ah, how about risotto?!
Even though the conversation could use some new dialogue from time to time, the decision we make in the end never gets old. Risotto. I love risotto. And the great thing about this project is that TND loves risotto! Since the Adventures in Cupboard Loving haven't begun yet, I thought I'd go to one of my standby risottos, Nigella's Pea Risotto from How to Eat. It is scrummy!!! Mmmmm.
Making da risotto
The final result
I think that I'll enjoy TND's Risotto chapter immensely!!!
My project is starting soon and I needed to reorganize a bit and make room for things that will soon join all the other contents of my cupboard.. The top shelf is a big disappointment to me-- basically 6 or so bags of dried beans and lentils I've had for ages and never manage to make a dent in... I don't know why when I buy them a little ding ding ding light doesn't go off to tell me that I am a lazy bugger and when given a choice I will always use canned beans instead of raw... Then I end up with bags of beans for the 'what if' situations that never seem to present themselves.. So that is why I am in cupboard like, not cupboard love. TND (yes still working on a fab abbreviation!) understands people like me.. Perhaps people like me are the reason he wrote CL... In the book, he gives a DIY course on cooking dried pulses (beans), so I am really looking forward to the Soup chapter for this reason.
Looking at the cupboard now, I see a few of TND's 'unmentionables', or rather his cupboard Lord Voldemorts... I guess I should be happy Tom isn't my next-door neighbor because after seeing this blog he'd storm into my kitchen and reorganize my entire cupboard while he had me locked away in the bathroom. As an example, Tom says to 'avoid stock cubes at all times' and advises to throw out all dried mixed herbs... Yikes! Now I take all of this advice with a grain of salt (haha, geddit??!) because I think to have a happy kitchen you need to fill it with items that make you feel comfortable... So I will use my stock cubes proudly throughout this project and never intend to throw out my dried mixed herbs -- I've accumulated quite the collection.. But apart from that I promise to be a good Jeannie and obey my master, Captain/Major Norrington-Davies.
Thursday, March 23, 2006
Ok ok backtrack. I am NOT living with two men, and I am not a gourmet chef extraordinaire, despite the pesky rumors that have been floating around. All I did was invite my good friend, Daniel, over for dinner with me and hubbykins a couple of nights ago.
But if there was a role for Mr. Roper, my dad would have to take it, complete with his very own laughtrack. Let me explain... My parents stopped by for a few minutes while the three of us were supping (not even sure if that's a word, BUT it should be!). My dad sampled a couple of things I made. He wrongly identified the kind of burger we were eating (laughtrack follows). He also managed to stick in his trademark funny phrase -- just like sitcoms in days of yore where one character had the same funny line in every single episode!
Here is our conversation:
Me: Papa, have some challah.
Dad: (chomp chomp) Why is it so sweet? (laughtrack)
Me: Papa, it's supposed to be sweet, it's challah.
Dad: Did you add sugar to it? (laughtrack)
Me: Of course I did (laughtrack), challah needs to be a little sweet.
Dad: It's too sweet.Challah isn't supposed to be sweet.
Me: Ok, Dad. (laughtrack)
So back to dinner. For ages now I have been an uberlame friend. I keep telling people lovely things I make for dinner and say 'ooh, next time I'll make it, you need to come over.' Of course, I never invited anyone over. I don't know why but as soon as the idea got into my head to invite someone over I went into ultra-panic mode. What will I make, I need to clean my apartment, my kitchen's too small, what will we do when dinner's over?? I overthink things soooo much! I get the trait from my mom and sister, we are worriers, big-time worriers.
So I felt I needed to nip this annoying quality of mine in the bud and invite someone over for pete's sake. That someone was Daniel. I've known Daniel for almost seven years now which means he knows my quirks (he thinks they're charming) and insecurities. So I felt at ease with him being my first ever guest. He is vegetarian (not that there's anything wrong with that) so I decided the menu would be Nigella's Mushroom Sandwich and her Pasta Primavera. The first is from How to Eat, and the second from Feast.
I did most of the preparations for the pasta primavera before Daniel arrived as it could be eaten cold or at room-temperature. I decided to do the mushrooms when he got in as it is to be eaten straight away. Basically it involves stemming portabello mushrooms, putting them cap-side down on a baking tray, spreading softened butter on the insides with some minced garlic and chopped parsley. Then they go into a 400ºF oven for 20 minutes. They are placed on buns smeared with dijon mustard and a few lettuce leaves and that's it, Bob's your uncle. I have no idea what that expression means but I like it a lot. I don't even have an Uncle Bob. :)
Mushroom Sandwich - How to Eat (Nigella Lawson)
The mushroom sandwich/burgers got three big thumbs up! It was soft and full of flavor; absolutely fantastic!! Even my meat-lusting husband liked it! I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that I paired it with potato chips to brainwash him into thinking he was in a pub drinking beer and eating the juiciest burger in creation! I know, wifey is smart!. He didn't think much of the pasta primavera though. He said, 'it's not his thing', which is Rafa-speak for 'I didn't like it.' For the record, I made the pasta thing before, and he did like it, just for the record you understand.
So that's one successful entertaining night down... I hope to entertain much much more because I have 175 recipes I need to cook starting in 9 days, and I don't plan on eating all of them by myself. Then the blog will have to be called 'When Beached Whale Met Pantry'.
Yesterday, I discussed the 'entertaining' night with my sister. Our running joke is that I never provide enough details of anything I do so she literally needs to pull this information out of me. All I told her was that the night was 'good' and 'Daniel and Rafa liked what I made'. A vast difference you see between my literary life and my real life. And now you understand why I don't have any friends, ha!
I did tell her what our father said about the challah. She pointed out to me that he was right, that the challah in Israel, where we grew up, was not as sweet as the challah in America. Well don't I feel like the fucking asshole.* So I think next time I'll put less sugar in the challah, LOL, just for authenticity's sake.
*I do often mind my P's and Q's, and not to mention my F's, A's and S's, but this was a direct quote from A Few Good Men said by none other than Jack Nicholson. Only Jack Nicholson can say a line like that and make it memorable! (For the record, I can't stand the guy so this will NOT be an Oh-my-god-I-heart-Jack-Nicholson type of blog.)
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
I'm not sure where I get this trait but I have to find a bargain, all the time. If I know I could get cheaper spices two blocks down, I will go two blocks down. I try not to be too strict about certain things, though, when I know that I could get better quality for more money. But the items I buy need to hold a special place in my heart, or in my hubby's heart.
Case in point, last night I bought two chorizo sausages and some fabulous arborio rice.
Rafa loves chorizo; I love risotto. It's that simple!
The funny thing about the risotto rice is I happened to just stumble upon it in this 'fancy, posh grocery store' and realized it would actually be cheaper buying it there. I've had great success using this particular rice (I believe it's superfino arborio rice from Italia!) so why fix what ain't broken?
I usually get these items every month or couple of months depending on when we run out. And I'm ecstatic that I will get to use them in some CL recipes!!
I'm going to make this project as enjoyable as possible. I am really looking forward to the Pasta and Indian chapters because that means I can visit haunts I don't go to often, or at all, to get the freshest and most authentic ingredients.
New York is a great city, don't get me wrong, but I'm not sure how keen I am on New Yorkers... I think sometimes they don't think outside of the box. If they want a range of not-so-easy-to-find ingredients they go to a one-stop superstore like Whole Foods that charges erroneous prices when they could just get on the subway and experience the real thing sold by real people that actually use those ingredients in their daily life! (Just in case you think I'm being preachy, Tom says the same thing, LOLOL!) Ok so enough of me then. I obviously am generalizing... No, not all New Yorkers are lazy ignormasuses (ignoramusi??).
So watch this space for fabulous adventures all over NYC. I think the first stops on the NYC culinary tour are Bensonhurst, Brooklyn and Little Italy for fabulous peeled tomatoes, and Jackson Heights for the best naan this side of New Delhi.
Monday, March 20, 2006
While in Seville this summer I had access to the UK edition of the magazine since Rafa picked one up for me in Heathrow a month or so earlier... In the US we don't get the UK edition, only the Aussie one. Seville gets so hot in July and August that sometimes all you want to do is just sit in front of a fan and not move an inch; that is when I came across Tom's Strawberry and Polenta Shortcake. It looked so nice and cool so I was quite tempted to try it.. and so I did when I got back home. Here it is, made at the end of September, 2005.
Strawberry and Polenta Shortcake - Delicious UK July, 2005
If this cake is anything to go by then I gots no problem with regard to this project. I made some changes to the recipe. I didn't have my scales at the time and I think I did a horrible job in converting into cups for the flour because I got two very very thin layers for my shortcake.. Yes, I know it's a shortcake, but not a short-arsecake. So to pretty it up a bit I added some cream to the tippy top layer with more strawberries and some chocolate 'rubble'. If anyone has any wise words as to how to get nice chocolate curlies I'd really appreciate it. I've tried all means possible but I either get dust or rubble.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
I have to be honest and say that at times my kitchen is a place that makes me want to run away! I guess it has to do with the fact that it is slightly bigger than a shoe closet, there is never any room to prepare and do things, and it is never clean enough (well that might have to do with my hardly cleaning it, ha!).
Tom introduces us to his kitchen:
"I live in a small flat in southeast London. I'm only saying that because I
don't want you to think that I have acres of kitchen space, an enormous
larder and a walk-in fridge at my disposal. My kitchen is fairly basically
equipped. I have a four-burner gas hob and an electric oven with a grill
function built in. I have two smallish store cupboards available for food,
as well as a fridge-freezer. I have two large saucepans and three small
ones. The lid of at least one has gone AWOL."
Now my turn:"I live in a small apartment in south Brooklyn. I'm only saying that because not everyone in New York City has Charlotte York's (SATC) kitchen on Park Avenue. My kitchen is fairly basically equipped (now that's an understatement if there ever was one). I have a four-burner gas hob (very very dirty!) and an oven that should be investigated by the government as is quite clearly a nuclear reactor disguising itself as an oven in a small one-bedroom apartment in south Brooklyn. There is a broiler/grill function but not exactly sure after three years of living here how it works. I have one small store cupboard (pantry for us Yanks) available for food and ironically a huge fridge-freezer that never seems to be big enough. I have the 8-piece KitchenAid pot/pan set so can't exactly tell you what constitutes as a saucepan or a frying pan."
To prove to you that I could not possibly be making this stuff up here's a pic of my kitchen, at its cleanest!
Top -- nuclear reactor oven next to sink
Right-- that is my total counter space
Here is the breakdown:
Pasta - 21 recipes
Risotto - 6 recipes (only six, boo hoo!!)
Toast - 24 recipes -- (hehe, not all toast I can assure you, lots of eggy omeletty dishes)
Salads - 13 recipes
Stir-Fry - 12 recipes
Grills - 14 recipes (instead of giving recipes for grilled dishes, Tom gives recipes for sauces and accompaniments and hints on how to best grill several items)
Soups - 14 recipes
Junk Food - 24 recipes
Indian - 15 recipes
Thai - 7 recipes
Afters - 25 recipes - (LOTS of different ways to serve ice cream -- never a bad thing!)
I've decided that this project is do-able in a 6 month timeframe. So 175 recipes in 185 days is about 0.95 recipes a day... (Or close to a recipe a day!) Erm, I can do it, I guess. I think a big part of completing this and being successful at it is to combine one or two recipes in each meal, like my fabulous friend, Sarah, does, and spreading out the meals so it won't be CL all of the time... I still have loads of Nigella's recipes and others I am quite tempted to try!
Saturday, March 18, 2006
I'm a completely different person when I write... in fact, at times, I feel like I don't have enough space to write everything I'm thinking... so now that I have a blog I don't know how I'll be able to curb my enthusiasm for all things culinary!! It's Day One and I've posted four times already!
That leads me to talk about my, erm, obsession with food close-ups... I will never ever agree to a close-up of myself, but my food is not so shy... or rather, their mummy (i.e. Me!) likes to show off all their beauty which includes every crevice and decorative touch. Case in point, my most recent contribution to a forum for Nigella fans:
Nigella's Chocolate Guinness Cake - in cupcake form (all dressed up for St. Patrick's Day)
I promise to keep things brief, relatively, in the future, but cannot promise no more close-ups... It's my thang!
A small stretch of Avenue U, the main thoroughfare in my Chinatown.
I love my neighborhood... I love that I can get fresh ingredients, that most everything is affordable and practical, that English may be the third or fourth language heard, that if I can't find something in one place, I can walk two doors down and find it there -- this last point explains why I felt compelled to show a pic of the main street on which I do my food shopping.
The 'supermarket' all the way on the left is really more like a mini-supermarket... It has your basic pantry ingredients and lots of canned goods and is also where I pick up Rafa's Stella Artois (muy necesaria!). They also never card me -- score! But, it doesn't have any fresh produce worth mentioning
A couple of doors down is the grocery store I frequent (with the red awning) -- I honestly never remember the name of it, I just always call it 'the grocery store'. They always have the fresh herbs I need and veggies and fruit. Here I get my milk, Rafa's bread rolls, and freshly grated parmesan... But I never, ever get basil or arugula (rocket)... I can't even begin to tell you how gross it is here.. For these I need to make a trip to the nearest Stop 'n' Shop, which I can't tell you what a pain in the arse it is to get to when one doesn't have a car... I pray for the day when they will start a delivery service. Hehe, what a lazy ass I am!
As the blog goes on I hope to give write more neighborhood anecdotes... There's not much exciting going on here at the moment... There is a smaller mini-supermarket (miniscule??) that opened up even closer to my building. I've already established they don't have beer... but that may be because they opened up two days ago... yes, I know, I'm quick...
Going through Cupboard Love, I noticed that most ingredients are incredibly easy to get.. I'm happiest about this because the less effort I put in sourcing ingredients, the more keen I will be to make a recipe at this point and time.. It's the phase in my life right now, and the reason I am starting this project, where I just can't be arsed... Here's when I say wassup to my Brit friends for introducing me to such quaint phrases ;)
- The long and short of it: pasta
- Fast but not furious: poor, misunderstood risotto
- The late, late breakfast show: eggs and toast
- A holiday package: larder salads
- Fast and furious: stir-fries
- Grills and spills: short-order meat and fish dinners
- The watched pot: soup
- Wrap it up: 'junk' food
- Staying in for a curry (part one): Indian
- Staying in for a curry (part two): Thai
- Indulging a sweet tooth: 'afters'
And the book:
I have had a more specific look at the 'unmentionable' ingredients so far; the ones I do not like at this point and time and haven't really figured out how I am going to make it in the end.
- Anchovies (9 recipes)!!!
- Bacon (6 recipes)
- Clams (1 recipe)
- Duck (3 recipes)
- Tuna (6 recipes)
There may be more, but that is it for now.. I think I can stomach the rest of the food I have yet to try... only time will tell.
I am REALLY looking forward to the risotto chapter; actually I may just start there first.
The project begins April 1, 2006, so watch this space!
I really like CL (Cupboard Love) a lot... I have to say, Nigella Lawson is still my queen.. but if there was ever a place for a Domestic God, Tom would have to take the top prize... He epitomizes everything I love about cooking.. that it doesn't have to be so flippin' hard! That you could get what you need around you, and even manage to not spend a fortune... Yay Nigella and Tom!!!
This is very important to me because I find myself not having much time.... correction, not having much patience, to go everywhere to look for ingredients, and I certainly don't have the income to pay for the more expensive ones...
So here I go to start this very fun and exciting new chapter in my life.. The logistics have not been figured out. (i.e. 'x' number of recipes in 'x' number of days) -- This is because I still haven't figured out how many recipes there really are! But all in good time, children, all in good time.