Tuesday, June 24

June Link Update

I stole a couple links from Kdubz at Living On The Vedge: First, Veg PA, an awesome guide to vegetarian eats in Pennsylvania. I wish I would have tapped this when I still lived there! And on that note, I was delighted (and surprised) to find Burrito Eater, a guide to San Francisco's ubiquitous tacquerias. I've already been to one gem on 18th and Valencia, and there are many more tortilla-wrapped conquests to be made.

The beloved Tastespotting tacked a legal notice to their web page and hightailed it out of cyperspace, so my new homepage is Food Gawker, "Where food is gawked." Go gawk, it's fun.

And, I fell in love with Rosa Jackson's Edible Adventures: Paris, Nice, and Beyond. She writes well, she cooks well, and she's galavanting around one of my favorite travel destinations. I'm part admiring and part jealous.

More Bay Area links to come, once I do things like find an apartment and get a job. Woot.

Transcendently Delicious

I recently dined at the renowned Chez Panisse in Berkeley. My experience was good...but not excellent. Perhaps the build-up of literally a lifetime of laudatory commendations propelled my expectations into the utterly unachievable realm. The meal was very good, and the wine was superb, but I don't know that I would call it extraordinary. I was relaying my experience to Nancy (yes, she has her own tag, too), and she posited this compelling query:

Okay, this is a legitimate question: have you ever had food that IS mind-blowingly good? That is transcendently delicious, as good or better than you imagined?

For this, I defer to my readers' thoughts. (But you can see my answer in the comments section)

Friday, June 20

By(e-bye) Giraffes

Did anyone else see that recently an Israeli rabbi says giraffe meat, milk are kosher?

Apparently the real question was whether the giraffe has enough stomachs (four) and thus chews its cud (it does). Cloven hooves -- check. Previously, it was thought that the issue was where, on the giraffe's extensive neck, to make the fatal blow (the shecht). However, experts have made it clear that "anyone who does not know where to shecht a giraffe either knows nothing about the laws of shechitah or could not hit the side of a barn with a baseball."

And that's all the news that's fit to print.

Thursday, June 19

An Unintentional Birthday Cake

Perrin and I have an ideal symbiotic relationship: I cook, while she chops, advises, tastes, helps me plan menus, and does the dishes.

However, our dynamic may be shifting. It turns out...she can bake.

White Chocolate Almond Pound Cake
Original recipe here.

1 cup butter, softened
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup finely chopped sliced almonds
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1 tsp lemon zest

1/3 cup (75 mL) white chocolate chips, melted
1/4 cup (50 mL) slivered almonds, toasted

In bowl, beat butter with sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each. In separate bowl, whisk together flour, chopped almonds, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture alternately with milk, making 3 additions of flour mixture and 2 of milk. Stir in lemon zest and chocolate chips. Scrape into buttered 9 x 13" pan.

Bake in centre of 325°F (160°C) oven until golden and cake tester inserted in centre comes out clean, about 1-1/2 hours. Let cake cool in pan on rack; turn out onto plate and let cool. Cut in half lengthwise; spread lemon curd (recipe follows) on one half; top with second half; spread melted chocolate chips over top and sprinkle with toasted almonds.

Lemon Curd
Taken directly from the beautiful yet utilitarian Joy of Baking web site, but cut in 1/3. Read more here

1 large egg
Juice of one large lemon
1 tsp finely shredded lemon zest
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
4 teaspoons unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into small pieces

In a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice until blended. Cook, stirring constantly (to prevent from curdling), until the mixture becomes thick: this will take about 10 minutes. Whisk butter into the mixture until melted.

An aside: Perrin's email conversation with her culinarily superior sister --

[Perrin to Ariel]
a few developments--
i have aquired a half a gallon of raw milk!
i am in the process of baking a cake. to be more specific, a white chocolate chip almond cake with lemon curd/zest.

[Ariel to Perrin]
i doubt that you are making the cake; a more likely development is you observing courtney or some other unsuspecting puppet to prepare the cake, whilst you scream out disencouraging, unproductive mythologies.

[Cmoore to Ariel]
Astounding but true. I saw it, unbelievingly, with my own eyes. Granted, I found the recipes, read them aloud to her, and offered useful tips like, "Now you stir it." But still, she made a (beautiful, exquisite, delightful, and delectable) cake. No puppets were harmed in the production of this dessert.

Wednesday, June 18

Soyrizo + Couscous = Success!

I've always been a little on the fence about couscous. Yes, it's easy to prepare, and yes, it can be delicious...but all too often, it's not. It's boring. No, I don't mean simple, which implies a certain stately elegance, but actually downright boring. Something about the fine, insubstantial texture, the lack of fat or flavor, and the general couscous-ness generally puts me off.

That all changed Passover 2008. I'm not Jewish, but I wish I was, and someday I might be. I often celebrate Jewish holidays vicariously through my various Jewish friends, namely one little Perrin (see tags, a.k.a. Penina, Penny, Jew, etc) whose younger sister is one of the very best chefs I know (at age seventeen, no less). Perrin went home for Passover and brought the (not quite kosher-for-passover) party back with her. There were roasted vegetables with salsa verde, herbed fish cakes with horseradish, wine-poached salmon, green bean salad with an apricot vinaigrette, very drunken charoseth, almond macaroons, mazel toffee (tasty enough to convert the most stubborn goyim)...and the most delectable couscous I have ever encountered.

I begged for the recipe -- I used every ounce of wit, charm, and cunning that I have -- but alas I haven't yet set my eyes on the hallowed words. I know there were pistachios, and I think apricots, and I'm sure the main seasoning was turmeric. A well-labeled Facebook album reveals the further addition of "dried figs, dates, red pepper, yellow pepper, and a lovely vinegarette [sic]" (what's in the lovely vinaigrette??) For now, I'm left guessing...


Here in Berkeley, I'm slowly settling into my new abode. Very slowly, since I'm hoping to move to San Francisco before the month is out. However, in the meantime I've taken notice of my rapidly dwindling checking account and vowed to eat in until I am once again gainfully employed -- reserving tomorrow, my birthday, for a visit to Chez Panisse, whatever the cost.

We visited the ever-impressive Berkeley Bowl and once we had regained our wits after wandering the seemingly endless aisles of foodstuffs we gathered enough ingredients to fuel our adventures. Remember my shopping list? Well, we didn't have quite the time, space, or funds to check everything off, but I did invest in my favorite staples: mustard, garlic, and lemons for seasoning; spinach, peaches, and mushrooms from the produce department; flatbreads and goat cheese; peanut butter; soy chorizo; and a six-pack of wheat beer that, upon reconsideration of our assets and the knowledge that our new roommates might contribute wine, I grudgingly returned while we were waiting in line. We invested in a few other delicacies from the produce and bulk food sections, and returned home triumphant, ready to COOK SOMETHING ALREADY. I don't use/record recipes, but here's a rough transcript of what I came up with:

Cmoore's Chorizo Couscous (for five -- it's a big house)
I believe the key to tasty couscous is, quite simply, fat. Don't skimp on the olive oil and flavorful add-ins like nuts, dried fruits, avocado, cheese, or, as in this case, soy-based chorizo, which is a wonderfully spicy contrast to the sweetness of apricots and steamed garlic.

2 cups semolina couscous (dry)
4 cloves garlic, minced (not crushed)
3 cups water
1 cube vegetable bouillon
A small handful dried apricots, chopped (10-12)
1 package soy chorizo
Cumin, dried dill weed, and cayenne pepper to taste
Olive oil
Optional: 1/2-3/4 cup crumbled feta

Salt couscous (1/4 tsp or so) and toss with garlic, cumin (maybe 1/2 tsp), and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large bowl -- it will expand! Place apricots, water, and boullion cube in a small saucepan set over high heat. Let boil; stir well to dissolve boullion and pour over couscous mixture. Stir with fork, cover (I used a kitchen towel held in place with a cutting board) for at least 15 minutes.

Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a wide, flat saucepan over medium heat. Add soy chorizo -- don't worry about shaping it into patties, but do try to create a flat, thin layer. Allow a dark crust to develop before stirring, then re-create a flat, thin layer. Do this several times until the chorizo has enough crunch to suit your taste. Stir roughly to create small chunks, then add to couscous. Season the mixture to taste: I probably used 1 tsp dill, another 1/2 tsp cumin, 2 Tbsp olive oil, and two good dashes of cayenne.

Serve with a green salad and maybe, like me, some very lemony sauteed asparagus.

Monday, June 9

Road Trip By the Alphabet

A - Asparagus soup - Pittsburgh, PA

B - Bumbleberry Pie - Bryce Canyon, Utah
[Honorable mentions for Beer, Buffets, Biscuits, Bourbon, and Bananas/Frozen)

C - Cheese! - Toronto, Ontario, Canada
[Honorable mention: Croissants - Fort Worth, Texas]

D - Dried mangoes with chili - Trader Joe's, Santa Fe, NM

E - Enchiladas - Denton, TX

F - Fry bread with honey - Santa Fe, NM

G - Goat-cheese stuffed piquillo peppers with caviar - Santa Fe, NM
[Honorable mentions: Grits; Green chili sauce]

H - Huevos Rancheros, and Habaneros. - The Southwest

I - Italian ice - A very hot day in Texas

J - Jalapenos - Raw, fried, pickled, canned, stuffed, chopped, or pureed

K - Ketchup! - On everything fried, grilled, breaded, battered, scrambled, roasted, or corn-based.

L - Lychee wine - Thai Tapas Bar; Pittsburgh, PA

M - Maple Syrup
[Honorable mentions to: Margaritas, Marinated mushrooms, Mexican pastries, and one truly incredible BBQ Mushroom burger in Memphis]

N - Nashville's best (vegetarian) barbecue sauce

O - Okra, fried - Memphis, TN

P - Peanut butter picnic - Little Rock, AK

Q - Quesadillas - Fort Worth, TX

R - Red beans and rice - Nashville, TN -- yes, they were vegetarian

S - S'mores!Campsite, rural West Virginia

T - Truffled french fries with stilton - Santa Fe, NM

U - Ubiquitous trail mix

V - Vegan hot dogs - Same campsite, West Virginia

W - Waffles - Waffle House; Amarillo, Texas

X - Xtra hot sauce, on everything - Anywhere.

Y - Yes we did drink a lot of beer. - Everywhere.
[Honorable mentions: Yellow raisins, yogurt pilfered from hostel]

Z - Zinfandel! - After I sent back the *white* Zinfandel in Santa Fe, NM

And the winner is....Santa Fe.


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