Food

Baked Eggs with yogurt and chile

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This really is my favorite new brunch recipe. It's from Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty and I find that I've been getting a lot of mileage out of this cookbook. The recipes are vegetarian but not in a "I can't eat meat and that sucks" vegetarian kind of way; instead, it uses lots of inspiration from Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and even Asian ways of cooking and flavoring things. So you never feel like "oh my god I'm missing meat". 

This recipe is ridiculously easy to make but the results are so deeply satisfying. I think it also holds a special place in my heart because it uses kirmizi biber, a Turkish dried red chile flake that we encountered everywhere when we were in Turkey. In fact, we've been using up our supply that we bought at the farm that we spent a few weeks working at - we'll have to make a trip to Sahadi's or Kalyustan's soon to remedy that situation.

Pfeffernüsse

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I was tired of sugar cookies and decided to try something different this year for the holidays. They came out pretty well, I wish I had been able to find regular molasses rather than blackstrap molasses - then I think the flavor of the spices would have come out a little more. They're not that difficult to make - just a lot of waiting. I suggest making the dough the night before and baking them in the morning, or vice versa.

pfeffernusse.jpg

The recipe from the Gourmet (R.I.P.) Cookbook after the jump!

Thanksgiving

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The spread!, originally uploaded by ambienttraffic.

A very nice day - with family, Mariokart, and LOTS of food.

Alternative Food Systems

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It's a gorgeous day, everything just feels so bright. It was so nice to be back into the warm-weather-pattern-of-doing-things, i.e., stopping by the farmers' market at Union Square this morning to do some grocery shopping. I hadn't been going much for the winter, there's only so many potatoes and apples one can eat. I picked up some gorgeous asparagus, tatsoy, eggs, pork chops, ground turkey, fresh baby garlic, radishes, yogurt...I'm getting hungry just thinking about all this food! But seriously. Since we moved to New York, I've been thinking a lot about food systems and how one's buying habits can support one system or another. There are so many things that we don't think about when we go to the corner deli to buy lunch, or go to the supermarket to pick up a pineapple or a steak, or eat dinner at the cafe on the corner - where the food is coming from, the process through which it went through to end up in your hands, the people whose effort it took to bring it to you.

I've been trying different strategies to support the food systems I care about. In Manhattan, it seems like you can get almost anything you want, whenever you want, provided you have the money to pay for it. In Bedford-Stuyvesant, it's a little different. Bodegas make up the bulk of places to buy food in our neighborhood. They stock items like milk and eggs, but carry mostly industrially processed, prepackaged foods beyond basic dairy items. They don't have much in the way of fresh fruit or vegetables - if I do find an onion it's usually sprouted!

It seems like this issue is picking up some momentum and public exposure because of the increase in food prices across the board - people are wondering, why has the price of flour jumped 100%? Buying groceries shouldn't be a luxury. I hope that I can do my best to stick to buying and shopping at places that are concerned with where the food is coming from.

Pappa al Pomodoro

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I have to say that Pappa al Pomodoro is the best "lazy" soup ever. It's basically stale bread soup. You throw some stale white bread in a pot with onions, garlic, tomatoes, some herbs (fresh basil is a plus), and chicken stock, wait about twenty minutes, and voila, you have a satisfying meal. It's creamy without the cream, thanks to the chunks of stale bread that melt into the broth. It's economical - use canned tomatoes in the winter, and who can beat using a stale heel of bread for something so tasty? And it's EASY. And it's especially wonderful on cold winter days.

So remember - save those stale pieces of bread!

Chinese food

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I love Chinese food. I love rice casserole with stinky dried fish. I love roasted duck. I love steamed fish with scallions and ginger. I love beef with sour melon. I love noodles with just about anything in it. I especially love dim sum(although I can do without the chicken feet, sorry...but I am starting to eat tripe).

However, I think I have some kind of weird mental block with cooking and eating Chinese food. I don't know what it is, but it's extremely difficult to motivate myself to make any kind of stir fry or soup or whatever. Occasionally I'll buy some greens from Chinatown, or frozen dumplings, but that doesn't really count. I like cooking. But I can't choose to make Chinese food in my house on a regular basis, and it's not like it's any more diffcult to make it than any other cuisine. If you asked me how to make stir-fried noodles, I'd just give you a blank stare.

Maybe it's the fear of messing it up - like I have my grandparents and parents invisibly watching me over my shoulder, and I have all that to live up to. You'd think that it would be easier to cook Chinese food, considering that my grandfather owned a Chinese restaurant and would chop up lobsters for us on Saturday nights when I was a kid. My parents fed Chinese food to me and my sisters while we were growing up - even when we complained about not getting pizza, and they made us black bean pork instead.

Maybe it's the nostalgia. It just doesn't feel right to eat Chinese food without my family. Even when I go out, I'll choose just about any other Asian cuisine over Chinese any day. I only have a vague idea of which restaurants are good in Chinatown, and I haven't done much exploring. And it seems like I only go for dim sum when another family member is present.

Maybe I don't appreciate it as much as I should. Although, as a child, I disliked most of the food that I listed at the beginning, so at least it's a step. Perhaps because I've been eating this food for all my life, it's hard to get perspective on it. Like I'm too close, and it's not something that I think I desire. I was introduced to other Asian cuisines (Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese) much later in life, in college. It was something new, exotic. So I think my relationship to those kinds of foods is different.

Or maybe it's that I'm afraid that whatever Chinese food I'll have will never live up to my expectations. It'll never compare to the memories from my childhood, of what those foods were like. Or maybe they just remind me too much of my childhood - that I rejected these foods in the first place, and I'm just feeling too much guilt.

Perhaps I'm analyzing this way too much.

restaurants galore

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So I've been neglecting the food part lately, and I should write something down before I forget what the food was like at a couple of restaurants I've been to recently. I think that New York has amplified my semi-obsession with food, with basically anything you could possibly ever want to eat at your fingertips.

Yakitori Canteen - Park Slope, Brooklyn on 6th ave. - This place must be new. Super cutsey (in that kind of bubbly plastic-y Japanese way) decor. All kinds of yummy things on skewers. The desserts are must-try. We got free beer too!

Manhattan Diner - somewhere on the Upper West Side. Pretty standard diner food but they have the best coleslaw ever! It's crunchy and has dill and raisins.

Balthazar - NO I did not go there for dinner, are you kidding? I popped in for breakfast with my sister. We both had Belgian waffles that were pretty amazing. Don't know what was in the batter but it was tasty - very fluffy and light, crunchy on the outside. The fruit that came with it wasn't anything to write home about, however. And (surprisingly, maybe to me) the service was really good and not snobby. I have to say that I'm a sucker for the French bistro atmosphere.

Rice to Riches - on Spring Street - this place is ridiculous. In a number of ways. Their whole schtick is rice pudding. In twenty or so flavors. At astronomical prices. As in $6 for a single portion (which really feeds two people). The decor is super hi-tech sleek, with video monitors and shiny plastic all over the place. And yes I got suckered in, and I do have to say, their rice pudding is pretty damned good. Not that I would necessarily go back there (really, $6 for rice pudding? I think i might go for ice cream instead next time). But it's something that you probably have to do at least once just say that you did it.

Kaya and shabu-shabu

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So last night was the last time that I will be able to eat at Kaya, whose sushi is much better than the overrated Fukakyu down the street. Apparently the owners are converting Kaya into a shabu-shabu themed restaurant.

What is shabu shabu you ask? Well I was dying to know too. It's hot-pot cooking, sort of like fondue but with soup instead of cheese and meat instead of bread. At Kaya they've already installed these hi-tech warmers at each booth, they're these large shiny black ceramic plates that are bolted into the table.

Yay more gimmicks! It's sort of like do-it-yourself hibachi. Apparently it's going to be the only "full-service shabu-shabu" in Boston. woohoo.

simple pasta sauce

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Last night Wayne brought some ravioli home from Whole Foods, but we didn't have any pasta sauce. I remembered one of my favorite sauces at a restaurant in Lucca that seemed easy enough to make - "salvia e burro" - sage and butter. So I melted some butter down, threw some dried sage leaves in (fresh would have been better), and added some salt. I tossed it with the ravioli and it was amazing! Definitely should be tried at least once, it's so ridiculously easy to make. It really brought out the flavor of the porcini mushrooms in the ravioli.

I love Italian food.