Mmm… Food


Week 11: Eat This Book
March 27, 2009, 7:59 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

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Eat This Book by Ryan Nerz.

2 Stars.  Entertaining, but more fluff.  There were a few glimpses into the people behind the personalities of the Competitive Eating Circuit, but on a whole I was left feeling like I had watched a 5 minute news excerpt.  The kind of story that might be presented on local news after one of the local food contests was presented.  Eh.

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Week 10: Heat by Bill Buford (Where’s Week 9 you ask? I’d like to know too)
March 12, 2009, 4:38 pm
Filed under: Books, Restaurants

It happens every year.  I should come to expect it, but it still trips me up.  I’ve fallen behind on my reading.  I made it to Week 9.   The redeeming part is that I fell behind on my Food reading.  While I did not complete my food book (I was on vacation remember) I did finish the second half of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and also listed to Chokeby Chuck Palahnuik on CD.  So two books in one week really… just not food related.  I do hope to make up for lost time and back read for Week 9, but…

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Week 10 – Heat {An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany} By Bill Buford

Ilana is my reigning champion for book recommendations.  SHOUT OUT!!!  This is the third on the list of ones she suggested and she has chosen a winner.  I guess when your friend is a Creative Writing Grad Student who left the culinary world of catering and restaurants though, recommending good food books comes naturally. PROPS!!

This book was very entertaining, and while focusing on a wide variety of experiences, he strings them all together in a cohesive manner that keeps the reader interested.  Never having worked in a professional kitchen (Taking orders on a pre-printed pad at Rollies Hot-Dogs when I was 17 doesn’t really count) I am still amazed at the incredible effort, blood sweat and tears that go into churning out food at a restaurant.  In Heat, we get a glimpse into the inner working of Mario Batali’s Italian restaurant Babbo.  We witness the madness of learning to work the grill station.  Moving up from prep work to want to make the Pasta.  What a task.  Overwhelming really.

In addition to all the effort and work Bill puts into learning food and cooking at Babbo, he also makes incredible efforts to complete training that Mario Batali completed, by traveling to Italy and learning pasta from the same woman that Mario did, and then travelling to Tuscany where Batali’s father learned butchery from Dario and the Maestro.  Super fascinating.   

My love for Italian food too makes me love this book even more.  The day I finished it I met up with my old roommate Stacia for dinner, where we dined at Spacca Napoli on these fine pizzas. 

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The menu there is all in Italian and the waitress helped us out with explanations adding “The owner is the only one who speaks Italian, the rest of us have to figure it out along with you”  HA!  But it seemed so fitting in a pizza place where the owner spent a great deal of time in Italy learning pizza and then imported his crazy expensive wood-burning hand crafted stove to replicate the tastes for here in Chicago.  Cheers to you!!!  And to any others out there like Bill Buford who go to the source to learn the original. 

4 Stars.  Read this book.



Vacation Cooking does it again!!!
March 11, 2009, 1:27 pm
Filed under: Cooking

Our second nite in Wisconsin treated us to Cornish Hens stuffed with couscous, almonds and dried apricots, with a side of steamed broccoli in olive oil and orange zest!  Soooooo cute!!! and super tasty.  Double bonus tokens all around.

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The Cornish Hens were a discovery from a Food and Wine Herbs and Spices cookbookI picked up at a garage sale this summer.  It’s kind of fascinating in it’s organization.  There are of course different ways of organizing cookbooks.  Some seem to follow a meal progression with appetizers up front, main dishes, sides, desserts, drinks.   Others follow the seasons from Summer to Fall into Winter and Spring pairing fresh ingredients from each time period with recipes to enjoy.  But this cookbook listed recipes by main spice or herb.  The cornish hens were from the Cinnamon section.  The couscous was flavored with cinnamon and cooked ahead of time before being stuffed inside the hen for roasting.  The moisture made the hen super juicy and tasty.  I guess that couscous with apricots and a cinnamon flavour is a traditional North African food stuff.  However my guess is putting it inside the poultry may not be so common??  I don’t really know though.  My knowledge of life in North Africa is limited at best.  Non-existent may be a better sum up.  But anywhoozle, this was a tasty treat, although as April said, Cornish Hens are super cute with an individual one for each guest, but a chicken would work just as well and would cost a whole lot less!!!  Ah well, vacation is for experimenting and doing things you might not normally do.  Well at least my version of vacation is, and April went with it this time 🙂



Vacation Cooking in Wisconsin
March 9, 2009, 12:59 pm
Filed under: Cooking

Ah.  Vacation.  Last week we spent some time away from home, holed up in a cute little cabin located in Twin Lakes Wisconsin.  We took the time to relax with the dog, make fires, read Harry Potter and of course cook!!!  The cabin was outfitted with a full kitchen which fit our needs quite well.  We planned our meals and brought all our food with us (although we later learned the local Sentry grocery store was well stocked and shopping could have easily been done up there. They even had white asparagus. You can’t find that stuff at most of the local stores!!!)  We did bring some pans with us, and this was good as the mismatched oddness of what was available wouldn’t have suited our needs.  Of course when we told our friends about our trip and the things we brought with us they laughed.  A microplane and a ricer aren’t on most peoples lists, but we took the time to be adventurous with new food stuffs.  Our first nite there I made a sweet potato gnocchi and April made an Asparagus salad with orange, onion and goat cheese.  Scrumptious!!! 

 

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I’ve never made gnochhi before, and while there were a few snags, the finished product was quite tasty.  If you believe Martha Stewart (and I do) a ricer is key to making gnocchi.  It mashes the potatoes and adds an airiness to the batter which is essential to a good final product.  The potato gets pushed thru a fine mesh that mashes the potato into fine bits, that can then easily be mixed with the other ingredients.  The sweet potato (5medium) got combined with 3C all-purpose flour, 1C chopped watercress, 2 finely chopped garlic cloves, and salt and pepper to taste.  The mixture was very sticky (I needed more flour, but didn’t have any extra with us) and was a little hard to work with and form into little balls to cross hatch with a fork as in the traditional method of preparation.  They looked more like lumps.  Little orange lumps.  Toss the lumps into boiling water for a couple of minutes until they come bobbing to the surface.  Then, they needed to be popped under the broiler for another 8 or 9 minutes until light golden brown before topping with Parmesan and parsley.  Serve.

 

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The salad was also super tasty.  The asparagus were blanched in boiling water for a couple of minutes.  Just enough to soften them a little bit and bring out the bright green color.  They were tossed with orange slices, red onion and goat cheese and mixed with a dressing made from fresh squeezed orange juice, red wine vinegar and a few other flavourings (I wasn’t in charge, and dont’ have the recipe with me) but ooh ooh ooh.  Asparagus is oh so tasty!!! 

 

Oh vacation. I miss you so much already!!!