Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Economy's Tanking; Let's Eat Bacon!

Yesterday I was watching the Dow take a nosedive, and I somehow managed to OD on bacon. When faced with adversity, my usual recreational drug of choice is, like many women, a pint of Ben & Jerry's. However when faced with economic crisis, it seems there are those who buck up and continue to bring home the bacon. And then there are those of us who lose our nerve and eat all the bacon at once. What can I say? All this politicking makes me hungry. I am opposed to pork barrel spending. But I am completely in favor of pork belly cooking.

Recipe for a side of BS:

  • 2 cups brussels sprouts, quartered
  • 1 cup pork belly, diced
  • 1 cup pearl onions
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Sauté all the ingredients over medium heat in the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the BS and onions have caramelized around the edges, and the pork belly has cooked through.

I was reading AOL Food this morning - brussels sprouts were ranked #8 on their "most hated foods" list. Funny, most of the foods that made the list are up there with my very favorites. And many of the foods, when combined in a dish with bacon, are especially delightful. It's all in the preparation.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Test Kitchen: Florida Dreaming

Last night I was watching the Seminoles/Buffs game, and wondering what to do with the key limes I had in my fridge. I decided a Florida-inspired meal was in order, partially to celebrate the Gator's earlier upset loss to Ole Miss, and partially to mentally escape the currently drab Northeast weather. I ran over to consult my fish guys at Joon's on 98th and Amsterdam, and after a quick stop at the market I returned with some golf ball-sized scallops and Florida tangerines.

As it always is with my culinary experiments, I have a vision in my head but I'm not quite confident about the end result until I try it. To my delight, my citrus-scallop dinner was a touchdown. I'm excited to share the recipe below. On the other hand, I tried doing a key lime-ginger soufflé thing that was an absolute disaster. I think I was on the right track, but the recipe requires some tweaking. Also, I must have accidentally gotten some egg yolk in with the egg whites, because I was not able to whisk them to the right consistency. Even the smallest amount of yolk will hinder those heavenly stiff peaks. As a result, my fumbled creation fell flat. I'll work on it and get back to you. Meanwhile, try the citrus-scallop dish. It was ridiculously easy and fast, and the taste was wonderful. The cayenne effect was not a burn, but rather a pleasant tingle that my mouth enjoyed after I had devoured the dish.

for citrus-scallops on skinny green beans (for 2):
  • 6 jumbo fresh scallops
  • 2 tangerines
  • 1 big handful of skinny (or "French") green beans
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • Several dashes of cayenne
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Juice one of the tangerines, and soak the scallops in the juice, covered and refrigerated, for about 30 min. In one skillet, coat the bottom with olive oil and heat to medium. Toss the green beans with salt and pepper in the skillet and cook until tender but still crisp, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat and toss with most of the fresh cilantro, reserving a little cilantro for final garnish. In another skillet, coat the bottom with olive oil and heat to med-high. Two points: too much olive oil will splatter, so make sure it is just a thin coat, and the skillet should not be non-stick, so the scallops will properly sear. Season each side of the scallops with salt and a sprinkle of cayenne and sear on the med-high heat until brown, about 1-2 minutes per side. Be careful not to overcook, or they will become tough and chewy.

Peel and dice the other tangerine, and arrange the green beans on a plate to form a nest for the scallops. Place the scallops in the middle and garnish with tangerine pieces and the remaining cilantro. Serve right away, and pretend you're on vacation.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Fromage à Trois

FYI: The threesome story mentioned in the previous post was not mine. I unfortunately cannot lay claim to such an escapade. In fact, my idea of a threesome is me + a bottle of wine + some good French cheese. I tend to be drawn towards the washed-rind cheeses, the stuff of serious sensual ecstasy. Recognized by their pale tan, pink, or orange rind exterior, these cheeses are very pungent, and are best consumed right away. The flavors are often not as intense as the aroma, but its richness lingers on your tongue. My favorites are Epoisses and Affidelice, both creamy, and Comté, a semi-hard washed-rind cheese. These pair well together because of their different textures but similar nutty flavors. Typically, the more pungent the cheese, the more floral your wine selection should be. Ask a sommelier for a recommendation, or try a Pinot Gris or Riesling.

I never met a cheese I didn't like. But the rich, fragrant cheeses really send me over the edge. Pair with a luscious wine, and show me to bed.

Recipe for Fromage à Trois Mac (serves 4):
  • 1 cup grated comté (if you can't find, gruyere can step in)
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar
  • 1 cup diced rindless camembert (brie could step in)
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 cup whole milk
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 1 cup french breadcrumbs (no crust)
  • 1/2 lb. penne pasta
  • Salt for pasta water

Preheat oven to 375. Cook pasta to al dente in salted boiling water, according to directions, and drain in a colander. Prepare cheeses. Freeze camembert for several minutes for easier dicing. Mix all cheeses, and set aside 3/4 cup, covered, in the fridge for later. Melt 2 tbsp butter over med-low heat in a large saucepan. Add flour and stir until golden. Add the thyme and nutmeg, and then gradually whisk in the milk. Simmer until thick and smooth, stirring frequently. Stir in the cheese (besides the 3/4 cup in the fridge) until melted and creamy. Stir in the cooked pasta. Meanwhile melt the remaining butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat and toss breadcrumbs until coated and golden. Spoon the pasta and cheese sauce into either individual ramekins, or a casserole dish, and sprinkle remaining 3/4 cup cheese, then breadcrumbs over the top. Bake until bubbly and golden, about 20-25 minutes. For ramekins, check after about 15 minutes. For an extra risqué touch, pair the meal with a Ménage à Trois Red wine.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Bad Cow

Feeling quite uninspired today. Had dinner last night at The E.U. on the Lower East Side, and it was overall not a great eating experience. My dining companions on the other hand were delightful - had it not been for them I might have noticed how rare my English Burger was (I had asked for medium doneness), and escaped its consequences this morning. All worth it though - to laugh with friends and hear wild tales of threesomes and other vicarious trysts.

At first impression, The E.U. seems quite promising. Tucked away off the main avenues of the LES, it has the feel of a relaxed but stylish pub. Looking back, that same vibe now seems to be more of a forced effort. I usually peruse menus online ahead of time if I have the option, since I tend to be indecisive about all the tasty-sounding items when faced with the decision on the spot. Both menu items I was looking forward to enjoying - the Thursday special, Moules Frites, and the tasting of 5 handcrafted artisnal beers - were not available. In fact, the in-house menu was quite different from the one that is featured on their website, which threw me for a loop. Also, alcohol is not served, only beer and wine, which was a minor issue for our group. The appetizers were underportioned and overpriced. The $5 marinated olives had a nice flavor, but the fact that there were about 7 of them seemed like a joke. The service was pleasant and accommodating. When our main courses arrived, one of the steaks that was ordered medium-rare came out medium-well, and it was promptly replaced. As I mentioned, I had asked for standard "medium" doneness on my burger.

Quick side note: I always find it so odd when I am asked how I'd like my burger done. It's ground beef, right? Cook it until it's done! I like my steaks rare to medium rare, but with cuts of beef, it's the bacteria on the outside you need to cook off. When it's ground up, all that bacteria is mixed in there. I'm not picky with my food and I'm certainly not a germaphobe - I'll eat that raw cookie dough - but come on, just cook my burger, please.

Ok, where was I? Bottom line: we thought the food was just ok. If you're over on the LES, by all means check out The E.U. for a beer with a friend. Have an Old Speckled Hen and some English Sticky Toffee Pudding. But it's not worth the trip alone.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Erotica for Foodies

Last night my husband went to this high-ticket, black tie, fancy-shmancy benefit dinner as a representative from his company. Sadly, I wasn't able to attend. He understands me well enough to know that I don't care about the swanky door prize, and that I'm only mildly interested in his chat with First Lady Laura Bush. What I was really salivating over was the food. When he walked in the door, I was pressing him for the details - the succulent, juicy specifics of that pricey plate. And bless his heart, he brought me a copy of the menu. He knows me so well. Here it is for your drooling pleasure:

Fusion Seafood Duo
Citrus Crabmeat Salad with Jicama, Mango and Wasabi Peas
Grilled Cilantro Lime Shrimp Topped with a Nest of Crispy Yams
Spiced Plantain Chip, Thai Basil Mango Sauce
Cinnamon Grove Chardonnay

Grilled Sliced Filet of Beef
with Sauteed Onions
Oregon Coffee and Chili Rub
Cheddar Cheese Potato Pie
Rosemary Roasted Vegetables
Black Currant Sauce
Hidden Creek Cabernet Sauvignon

S'mores Terrine
Layers of Chocolate and Caramel Mousse
Glazed in Ganache
Topped with Marshmallow Brulee
Chocolate Shard
Warm Cherry Compote

If anyone needs me, I'll be taking a cold shower.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

All Shades of Crazy

In the city of New York, it is not uncommon to see things that you've never seen before. For me it's a daily occurrence. Correction, for me it's multiple-times daily occurrence. I'm no prude, but in the Midwest, from where I recently moved, men dressed like Vegas showgirls don't typically prance around on rollerskates in the park with 80's-style boom boxes in tow. That sort of performance was generally restricted to the stages of certain taboo-but-fabulous nightclubs. The incredible variety of people who call this place home is wonderful and inspiring. Some 8+ million, all unique, with so many different cultures, backgrounds and ethnic groups represented. People watching in New York is one of my favorite guilty pleasures.

Similarly, the variety of food available in New York is astounding. All these people from everywhere in the world, and they all need to eat. There's a guy on my street corner who sells fruits and veggies from his little cart. Every day he's out there, and every day I walk by; occasionally I'll check out what he's got. Usually it's the same stuff - tomatoes, plums, grapes, avocado, zucchini. Sometimes it looks good, sometimes not. The other day I was hurriedly walking past, late for whatever, but with a quick glance I noticed something I had never seen before. And not just never seen at the cart, but really never seen before in any of my Midwest market excursions. Cactus Pear for $1 - a roundish purpley bulb that seemed to have a case of bad acne. I made a mental note: I must return in the morning to check this out. But to my bewilderment, by the time I went back the next day, they were sold out. What were these peculiar things that had suddenly appeared, and who was snatching them up so fast? I decided they must be fantastic and made a B-line (or, more accurately, the 1-line train) for food mecca, also known as Chelsea Market. And lucky me, there they were on display right near the register.

I tossed a few into my basket, and didn't even make it home before I started googling. As it turns out, what I had picked up is an ancient and fascinating fruit that grows from cactus stems (hence the name). There are many different varietals, most of which are not available in the U.S. It is thought to have medicinal purposes, specifically for treating and preventing diabetes, and lowering bad cholesterol while raising the good. It normally ripens and is ready for harvesting in early fall, which would explain its sudden appearance. It is used most commonly for jams, jellies and spreads, dressing, beverage syrups, or dessert fillings. I was intrigued. I couldn't wait to get home.

Once in my kitchen, I wasn't quite sure what to do, so I just cut it in half to see what I was working with. Whatever the fruit lacked aesthetically on the outside it more than made up for on the inside. The middle is a gorgeous magenta, similar to the rich hue of a beet. If it had been fragrant, I might have passed out from the shocking contrast. The smell was very mild, and a little sweet, almost melon-like. The taste and texture was also like a soft melon or papaya. Coolly refreshing with subdued sweetness. Upon closer inspection, it was clear why it is so popular in jams and syrups. Not only is the inside so soft it almost melts, but it is also dotted with small, tough black seeds. They can be consumed, but foreseeing a stomach ache, I decided that for any of my recipes they must be strained out. I experimented with a simple syrup to ease into this new found treat.

Recipe for a simple Cactus Pear Syrup:
  • 2 cactus pears
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Peal the skin off the cactus pear with a paring knife, being mindful of any nubs or remaining prickles on the outside. Discard skin, and dice the flesh. In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil and add the sugar. Lower the heat to a simmer and stir until dissolved. Stir in the diced fruit, mashing into the syrup. Simmer for about 5-10 minutes until the magenta color has fully infused into the liquid. Turn off the heat and let cool, and push through a strainer. I tried a tablespoon of it mixed with some lemonade and a sprig of mint, and it was pretty tasty. It would make a great addition to a lime margarita.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Empanada Drama

One of the more thrilling small moments in life is that rare opportunity to introduce someone to something that you know is fabulous. To be present when they experience it for the first time. A favorite movie, a killer new musical group, a restaurant you adore. When I get to introduce and describe a food unknown to a friend, it's the ultimate joy. Last weekend some friends of mine were in town, and were aching to try something new. I met them for lunch, and we headed west towards Hell's Kitchen to see where our noses would take us. I asked, "What do you think about empanadas?" They looked at each other, looked at me... "Huh?"

After a brief pep talk and outline of what they were about to enjoy, I ordered three classic "Brasil" empanadas: traditional Brazilian-style empanadas with a blend of spices, ground beef, olives, potato and sauteed onion. One bite and they were delighted with the fragrant, flavorful pastry treat that was now a part of their culinary vocabulary and their New York experience.

One of my favorite empanada flavor combinations is sweet corn and cheese. I love experimenting with different cheeses.

Recipe for Corny & Cheesy Empanadas:

For the dough:

  • 1 cup corn flour
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg yolk

With the help of a pastry blender to cut the butter, blend all of the dough ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. When the dough can be shaped into a ball, set aside in the fridge to chill. There is no need to knead.

For the filling:

  • 1 cup sweet corn kernels
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup Mozarella (or try grated Manchego) cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Melt 1 tbsp of butter over med-low heat in a small saucepan, and sauté the onions and corn until soft. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper, and remove from the heat. In a medium saucepan, melt the remaining 1 tbsp of butter over med-low heat, and stir in the flour to make a roux. Stir until foamy, and then add the milk to make a bechamel sauce. Continue to stir as it thickens over low heat, about 5 minutes. Stir the cheese into the bechamel until melted and smooth, then fold the sauteed corn mixture into the cheese sauce.

Roll out rounded handfuls of the dough with a rolling pin on a buttered surface (flour works too, but butter tastes better). Dough should be as thin as possible, but still able to hold together. Drop a spoonful of filling in the middle of the circle, and fold the pastry to resemble a half-moon shape. Crimp the edges to seal. Transfer with a spatula to a baking sheet. Bake at 400 or deep fry until just golden. If you bake, brush each pouch with egg wash (egg yolk + 2 tsp water) before entering the oven. I have to highly recommend frying for a more authentic empanada experience.

For an extra pleasurable snack, serve with fresh guac and a mojito.

Cavities and STDs

As in, "sugar-transmitted diseases." Such as a gripping addiction to Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. I found myself in a curious debate over the weekend. The topic was candy. If you had to pick one candy to marry, and another to be just a one night stand, what would be your choice? My marriage pick was, of course, the aforementioned PB cup. It would be a union of passion - after years together, you'd think us to be newlyweds, the way I just can't seem to keep my hands off. The selection drew nods and some thoughtful looks. Whoppers, my one night stand of choice, must reflect some inner kinkiness judging by the way the thoughtful looks transformed to disgusted sneers. "Whoppers?? That's a weird pick." I stand by my decision. I prefer to enjoy them in dark, seedy joints... specifically movie theatres. Whoppers are a little different. There are no other branded malted milk chocolate candies out there, as far as I know. And they are not as readily available as, say, Snickers or my trusty Reese's. I think they make for a pretty interesting affair.

My brother selected the reliable and robust Snickers for marriage, and a Hershey's Whatchamacallit bar, "because it has everything," for his one-nighter. My husband opted to marry his childhood sweetheart, the Hershey's Zero candy bar, and to have a one night stand with Caramello (tramp!).

As you may have noticed, this sugary discussion was the inspiration for this weeks' poll. Vote for yours.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Hit the Sack

Okay, so maybe there are three worldly things I love: food, bed, and football.

Yesterday my Vikings finally pulled out a win, and I'm on track to win my first Fantasy game of the season if LT can rebound from his toe injury and kick up some yardage for me tonight. The Missouri Tigers are so far undefeated and have a respectable ranking. Ah yes, I do love football season.

Today is the first day of fall, my absolute favorite time of year. Fall is synonymous with football, but also fragrant comfort food and cozy down comforters that make their reappearance after several hot and sticky months in storage. In honor of my favorite season, below is the recipe for my favorite comfort food - an adaptation of my wonderful Grandmother's classic meatloaf. It is my objective for this site to grow a collection of recipes, tips, and photos, and I am excited that the first will be from my late Grandma. My biggest change to her original recipe is the addition of spicy chili-garlic sauce, but she was a spicy woman so I don't think she would have any objections.

Recipe for G-Pat's Spicy Meatloaf:
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1.5 lbs regular ground beef (not extra lean)
  • 1/3 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1/4 cup minced green pepper
  • 2 tbsp chili-garlic sauce (asian section of grocery)
  • 1 tbsp Worchestershire sauce
  • 1 large egg
  • Chopped fresh parsely
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter the bottom of a pie plate and set aside. In a large bowl, soak the bread crumbs in the milk while you prepare the other ingredients. Place the remaining ingredients in the bowl and mix well with your hands. Transfer the mixture to the pie plate and shape into a loaf. Bake for one hour. Cut into slices and serve with ketchup and a cold beer.

Don't forget to throw a russet potato in the oven for a tasty side. I like it with lots of toppings. Scrub the tater and poke a few holes in it with a fork. After an hour in the oven, let the potato cool slightly, and cut a criss-cross in the top. Press the ends together, salt the inside, and stuff a tablespoon of butter down into the middle. Grate sharp cheddar over the top, add a dollop of sour cream, and snip some chives. Mmm.

Variation: G-Pat's Spicy Meatloaf Mini-Burgers. For dinner in a hurry, give this a try. Shape the mixture into small individual patties instead of a loaf, and grill until done. Serve on toasted mini rolls with roasted oven fries.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Have a scrumptious weekend!

Hope it's this good.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Just Like Brian Wilson Did

That's right... you know the words.

I'm lying in bed (and it's fantastic). I had one of those really interesting dreams this morning - the kind that makes you want to lie awake piecing together in your semi-conscious mind what might have happened next. But now that I'm sitting upright, I don't really remember what it was about, nor do I think it was even all that interesting. It's like having a little too much to drink, and in your half-baked mind, 3-day-old pizza sounds awesome. Like, the greatest. But the next day, it doesn't seem all that tasty or memorable. My dreams are usually 3-day-old pizza. At the time, the greatest. After the fact, more like, huh?

As much as I think about food, I would think that it would rule my subconscious. But generally, food is restricted to my daydreams. My night dreams are apparently reserved for whatever weird random thoughts I am capable of creating. Old memories sewn onto new places and people, creating some sort of bazaar brain tapestry. My food daydreams on the other hand, usually involve real places and real food, and they almost always include some kind of cheese. I read recently that women think about sex about 34 times per day. I also read recently that cheese contains ten times as much PEA, phenyl ethylamine (which is believed to release the same rush of hormones as sex) as chocolate contains.

That statistic now makes sense to me. But I think I would have provided the study with a higher number.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Losing my Virginity

I must admit, I'd been curious.

But it just seemed so trendy, transient even. The cool thing to engage in. When I moved to New York, it was everywhere. Staring me in the face on every street corner. Beckoning to me; mocking my inexperience. I was nervous, a little excited, a little scared, but I knew it was time. I wanted it. I wanted to try raw oysters.

I consulted a worldly woman to talk me through my first time (you know who you are. Mom.). I needed to know what it would feel like, taste like. Those ugly little bastards scared the crap out of me. Selection was the key. A Pemaquid, Maine oyster ended up in my hand. I looked at it, swirled my finger around its shell to loosen the flesh, and prepared myself to swish it around my mouth before swallowing it down. I thought to myself, "This is actually kind of a sexual food moment. I truly am about to lose my oyster virginity." Needless to say, my expectations were high. And to my amazement, those expectations were met. It was an epic moment in my food world. In the small, concentrated area that is my mouth, here's what I believe happened: I am at the beach in Maine. The wind hits my face and I inhale exhilarating ocean air for the first time in years. The sand is warm, and suddenly the cool ocean sings and splashes me. Something has been awakened.

That was about 6 weeks ago. I recently tried to describe this experience to a friend who does not like raw oysters, and I encouraged her to give it another go. Selfishly, I wanted to repeat the incredible experience that I myself had. Here's the thing - nothing is like your first time. It gets easier, more comfortable and familiar. Not necessarily less exciting - there are ways to spice it up (try horseradish, or pair it with a spicy white wine). It's just different, that's all.

I am hoping, over the course of my life, to lose my virginity many more times. Maybe that makes me a food slut (I prefer "adventurous"), but I'll take it as a compliment.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Good Morning!

There are two worldly things I love: food and bed.
The kitchen and bedroom are where the magic happens. It is where my passion is ignited, but also where my most fundamental needs are met; where I feel comfort and ethereal bliss.

If you are interested in what I have to say, I am thankful for your support and value your readership. But perverts be warned: as I write about food and bed, this is not a testimonial to my antics combining the two. There will be no tales of whipped cream and nakedness. Sorry.

Rather, what I am interested in is the exploration of the topics of epicurean and sexual gratification and intrinsic links between the two. I am always on the lookout for that incredible dining experience, you know, that unforgettable meal that leaves you in such a state of ecstasy, a “food coma” if you will. Where will my search for culinary orgasms take me? What makes us favor one food over another? Are our tastes for food related to our tastes in bed? Is there a chocolate that’s better that sex (and more importantly, where can I find it?)?

It is a divine blessing to be human, to have the ability to enjoy food and bed. Have a good morning. If you can crawl back in bed, do. If you have access to some brilliantly delicious coffee, invite me over. I’ll bring the breakfast.