Monday, February 28, 2011

The joy of reading about cooking

And eating, of course!

I don't know what I was looking for, but I found former Gourmet magazine editor Ruth Reichl's blog! I've read most of her books: Comfort me with apples, Tender at the bone and Garlic & Sapphires. DS has my copy of that last title with him in Minneapolis.

Over a week or more, I read most of the blog entries. I enjoyed her recipes, family dining and  farmers' market experiences a lot, and her restaurant meals least. Why? The chances I will get to eat - or want to cook - these types of meals are slim. And I grow older, I find my tastes in food are becoming simpler.

The experience of a myriad of spices in cooking Indian vegetable dishes, or making my own pesto, or the timing of cooking shrimp is as complex as it gets for me. And when I sit down to a restaurant meal, if I'm paying a lot for the one steak I eat each year, I want to have the best service I can afford.

Back to Ruth Reichl's blog, the post I found most helpful was a list of food books. Some of them, I've read - Kitchen Confidential, The man who ate everything, The Tummy Trilogy. If you're looking for some of the others on the list, sorry - I've borrowed them.

I started by reading Fair shares for all, which was painful from page one; I'm not sure I'll finish it. It's a memoir by the former copy editor of Gourmet magazine. I question the necessity of using word like janissaries, aphotic and minatory in a food memoir. I can't recommend it.

To counteract the frustration I was feeling when reading Fair shares, I started on The language of baklava - another memoir, and a joy to read in comparison. At the point I'm now reading, she captures perfectly the clueless semi-awareness of an 8 year old.

I also picked up Indian home cooking by chef Suvir Saran. I loved his other book, American Masala, where he says the loveliest words I've read about cooking vegetables in the Indian way: "It is said that no one makes vegetarian food as well as we do in India, where vegetables are romanced and entertained in ways never imagined elsewhere." Though he goes on to say that other ethnicities also glorify vegetables, I believe the words of the quote.

What are you reading?

Ruth's books

Ruth's blog:

A few good books recommended by Ruth Reichl

Chef Suvir Saran's blog

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Way to spend a Wednesday afternoon

I used my last WOW tomato at the start of the week, and desperately wanted MORE.

Why WOW? When you taste these tomatoes, you'll know the answer. And that's just the red ones. The orange and yellow ones are even better - low acid, juicy and sooo ono! Not to mention the heirloom tomatoes - so ugly only a mother could love them, but pure bites of heaven.

For a potluck, I made a salad of sprigs of watercress, red onion slivers, feta, pecans, Bosc pears and the yellow and orange WOW tomatoes with a balsamic vinaigrette. One of my coworkers PICKED OUT THE TOMATOES and ate ONLY THOSE! Well, she does know what's good.

I love farmers' markets. I don't hesitate to tell the farmers what I love that they grow. I'm only sorry I can't buy more produce - the two of us can only eat so much!

So, the way we spend Wednesday afternoon, every two or three weeks, is to head to the Blaisdell entertainment complex, in downtown Honolulu. Every Wednesday, the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation hosts a farmers' market from 4 pm to 7 pm.

The vendors put up tents in the parking lot and they range from produce to honey, nuts, Middle Eastern food by my friends from Da Spot and garlic ahi and shrimp linguine plates from our friends at Hawaiian Style Chili Co. Yes, they are our food friends because they provide consistent quality and tasty choices, and we go back to them time and again.

I've read lots of snippy comments about this market at Yelp, but those commenters can have the zoo that is the Saturday Kapiolani market. This one is laid back and chill, and you have the chance to see or make friends, or tell the visitor he shouldn't eat the skin or seeds of the papaya. (This really happened!)

WOW Farms

Wednesday Honolulu Farmers Market

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Odd thoughts about food

Dinner tonight was corn from the Waialua farmers' market, asparagus and diced red bell pepper with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and garlic salt. Also whole wheat spaghetti tossed with homemade pesto and steelhead salmon seasoned with salt made by a friend's church. There are leftovers of the last two.

DH says that was a very good dinner. Our running joke is from Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life, where her father says, "You know, we eat better at home than most people do in restaurants." And, we're not joking. Wizenberg writes the blog, Orangette, well worth a look.

Back to asparagus, I asked DH if he, like me, had grown up eating canned asparagus. Yes, with a dressing of ketchup mixed into Best Foods mayonnaise. The other dressing we knew was shoyu - soy sauce - mixed with mayo. He didn't know anything else until he had dinner at a friend's house, where salad was served with Tropics French dressing. Do the French know "our" French dressing? Highly unlikely. Or French toast.

Do the Russians know our Russian dressing? Don't bet on it!

My favorite homemade dressing is extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, some hot sauce, sea salt and a drop of agave syrup all whisked together. Vary it with freshly ground black pepper and some Dijon mustard or balsamic vinegar.

My thoughts turned to other canned vegetables. Say yes to canned corn. A definite no to canned beets. Fresh beets are wonderful - I bought some from our local city-sponsored open market last week. Peeled and sliced into matchsticks and tossed with lemon, balsamic, sea salt and cracked pepper, they were fresh and vibrant. Yes, I wore gloves. Later, we ate the beet tops sauteed in olive oil, with more salt and pepper - with jaja mein, of all things.

Today, I cleared out my handbag of all those odd things that accumulate - a bill I'd paid, empty envelope, old receipts. One was from one of my favorite new places - well, it's a new branch - Nijiya market. I love this Japanese market, and need to watch out, or overspend. My purchases were 2 kinds of dashi and brown rice shrimp tempura sushi (delicious!) Our son - visiting from Minneapolis - was with me, and his choice was a tray of uni.

Be careful what you feed your children when they are small, for they grow up wanting uni panini from El Quinto Pino and foie gras. I should have guessed this when the first sign he read was, "Foodland". Cooking is not his strong suit. He makes pasta with jarred sauce in his studio. With lots of Parmesan.

Both my guys think cooking is dangerous, and claim to be afraid of knives, the stove and hot oil. Well it IS abunai (dangerous) - said the woman with the current second degree burn on her wrist, a souvenir of eggplant hitting hot oil. What I do for curried ratatouille! I have a big old scar on my index finger - a New Year's Day memento from a dull knife and a pile of vegetables for Portuguese bean soup. The cut wouldn't heal; I went to the clinic.

A bunch of very odd thoughts, indeed!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Second Breakfast

I hate Costco. I go there, but only every 3 to 5 weeks. I know some people go there every few days, but aside from the ones who have 4 milk drinkers in their family, I just don't understand it.

My trips there involve a list, and it's usually about a dozen items, including things like steelhead salmon, rotisserie chicken, and a case of V8 juice for the DH. Yesterday, the list had 18 items on it - a lot more than usual, and I actually found only a dozen of them.

Fresh blueberries were on the list, as I'd eaten all the supermarket ones. You have to admit Costco has some lovely fruit. But when I saw the blackberries, I put the blueberries back! I also picked up a carton of strawberries. I've already eaten some of both in my second breakfast today.

I sliced a small bowlful of strawberries, added a couple of tablespoonsful of plain yogurt, drizzled with about a teaspoon of agave syrup, and topped with a couple tablespoonsful of granola. I may regret the yogurt (lactose intolerant) but it sure was good! Yes, I have to make my own granola when it runs out - anyone have a good, simple recipe?

My first breakfast today? Food writer Wanda Adams' "Moonstruck in the morning" breakfast. I made this with slices of basil tomato sourdough from the North Shore Baker Dude fried in butter, then smeared with Nigella’s onion mush. Topped with thick slices of WOW tomatoes lightly fried with the eggs. This was different, lovely, and I wasn't hungry until 11:30.

Yes, today is Monday, but DH has the President's Day holiday off, so I thought I'd give him a good breakfast!

A lot of the blackberries and strawberries are already in the freezer, so I don't have to go to Costco every few days, or even every few weeks!