Archive for September, 2010

Newfound Nigella

September 23, 2010


In an effort to work through my horde of recipes, most of them from the New York Times, I’m finding that I like Nigella Lawson’s recipes the most.  A triple hitter from March 2, 2005 is an Indian inspired meal of Red Lentil Dal, Bright Rice, and Cucumber and Cilantro Raita.  I’ve made a lot of Indian food in the recent past, and a lot more raita, so I was impressed with this harmonious combination.  The dal was thick, stew-y, and sweet with chunks of sweet potato and tomato.  Bright rice provided the structure dotted with chickpeas, perfumed with spices and orange bell pepper.  Raita tied it all together, a creamy savory surprise.  After my raita run, I thought that I knew everything about raita.  Nigella’s version with scallions and cilantro elevated the “relish”.  Maybe it’s time to get her cookbook.

Too Many Scallions

September 21, 2010


I have come a long way with scallions.  From shunning all raw alliums from my plate to inviting minced scallions into my salads, these are milestones to my palate.  Now, I’m all about maximizing the bunch.  For salads and stir frys, a little goes a long way, but what about when I have a lot.  The sesame rice in the Moosewood Restaurant New Classics was a good start, using 1/3 cup minced scallions, a good part of a bunch, along with soy sauce and sesame oil.  Reminding me of Chinese sticky rice, but seemingly healthier with short grain brown rice, it’s a more flavorful base to an austere meal of tofu and greens.  Made in the 4 cup LeCreuset, it also browns nicely on the bottom.  Not only to I feel healthful, but less wasteful.

Ratatouille Smackdown

September 16, 2010


On the back of the Martha Stewart Easy Pickles article, is a ratatouille recipe.  In true Martha style, in which God (or is it the devil?) is in the details, this is a long and complicated recipe.  Maybe it is all the meticulous details that will make this otherwise easy dish something special – roasting eggplant and zucchini for an hour; blanching, peeling, and seeding the tomatoes; charring bell peppers.  And then cooking it all together in onions and garlic.  Three podcasts of This American Life and a mountain of dishes later, this marathon proved good.  The individual vegetables retained their integrity while harmoniously playing nice with each other.  But there’s got to be a better way.


Enter Clotilde Dusoulier’s Ratatouille Au Four from the Chocolate & Zucchini Cookbook.  All the same vegetables with the addition of rosemary, is tossed with oil and roasted covered for 45 minutes, and then uncovered for another 40 minutes.  Easy with down time to spare, it couldn’t be as good as the labor intensive Martha experience.  It was better.  With more caramelized flavors, I like it more.  And the simplicity of making it won me over.  Clotilde is my Martha.

Lessons from Philly

September 14, 2010

It’s no secret that I love Philadelphia.  It’s a great food town, and on the most recent excursion, I obsessed over three things all the way up to New York:

-Root from Art in The Age of Mechanical Reproduction – a liqueur made from various organic roots, it’s a boozy root beer; or if you so like, an apertif not unlike Averno.  Since you can’t but a bottle at its eponymous, well-curated store, I searched high and low at the state liquor stores to no avail.  Fate would have it that I procured a bottle at an event in NYC from people more intoxicated than myself who willingly gave it up.  The don’t know what they’re missing.

-Grilled smoked mozzarella from Amis – served with a house made giardinera, it was smoky, charred, and slightly melty.  Couldn’t I make this at home?  Yes and no.  At room temperature, grilling a slice of smoked mozzarella makes a melted rubbery mess, not what I remembered.  Freezing the slices helped it from melting prematurely, but better would have been a real grill, not a dopey grill pan.  Make that a superhot real grill.  Interestingly, it smells just like bacon when it cooks up.

-Fennel almonds from Tria – Heaven on earth.  I never knew how good almonds and fennel could be together, but it makes perfect sense.  Again, couldn’t I make this at home?  Instinctively, I minced fennel fronds and pan cooked the almonds in a little olive oil.  Again, not what I remember.  The fennel at Tria was golden, not dark green.  A search on the web revealed a recipe originally from Philadelphia Magazine, which I modified for me and my stovetop:

-ground 1T fennel seeds

-heat 1t olive oil

-add 1/2 cup almonds, cook until golden

-in a bowl, toss with ground fennel and salt and pepper

It’s a little bit of Philly to enjoy again and again.