Sunday, December 31, 2006

Yes, I'm afraid Dick Clark is still alive.

After an ear piercing plane ride back, thanks to a pesky head cold, I'm back in Florida realizing just how much I hate cold weather. The little vacation in Virginia was good -- saw some family and folks and ran out of time to catch up with everyone. Sadly though, I cooked nothing more than a cup of tea. There just wasn't time. Not to say I didn't eat...

Oh how we stuffed our faces. For the most part, we gorged on large portions of authentic 'future-mother-in-law' Cantonese fare. I also tried my first durian which was quite the experience. I could smell it on my fingers for hours afterward. We also returned to Williamsburg to some of our favorites.

There lots of kitchen essentials under our family Christmas tree which I'm excited to play with. We also brought back enough cookies and chocolates to last until '08. Alas I didn't get to cook one Christmas cookie this year so I think I will have to make up for that this week and try out some new recipes. I don't really want to eat them, just make them. I'm making sorbets tonight -- pomegranate chambord and kumquat cardamon. I do hope my ice cream maker cooperates.

Happy '07.

Monday, December 18, 2006


Is it really December? I get rather confused when I see people swimming in the (non heated) pool and basking in the sun. Its put me in a rather non-Christmastime mood. And it seems like I've been spending more time with the 'currently listening to' section of this blog than with the food part. I'll try to catch up.

We've had some pretty lovely wines lately. A 2004 Avila Pinot Noir which was so crisp and clean on the tongue its hard to believe it a pinot. And a fine French red from Minervois 2002 -- Le Bois des Merveilles with as fine a finish as any.

Food? A little. It appears that none of my pictures have turned out. So I'll sit here and munch on Hanukkah cookies, wondering why my latke project was such a failure. I'm headed back to VA this week where I'll be baking cookies like mad and putting my two cents in on the family xmas dinner.

Thursday, November 30, 2006


Well Thanksgiving is over and done with and yet I still have leftovers in my fridge. This entire week has been spent eating turkey potpies and big slices of pumpkin clove pound cake. I think I have finally made a dent in the leftovers. A lot of the rest will be thrown away as it has reached the 'way-too-long-in-the-fridge' phase plus I'm not a big leftover fan anyway. It was a good time cooking with my mom and spending an average of $360 on Black Friday shopping like everyone else did.

So I've lived in Florida nearly a year now and have been so disenchanted with the whole orange thing. Where are they? All the oranges I've seen come from California unless you go to an Indian River Fruit stand I suppose. This weekend however, I uncovered a wonderful new variety that I can probably now call my favorite. The scarlet navel (aka the red navel) is wonderfully sweet yet caustic on the lips. Inside the flesh is the color of a perfect ruby grapefruit. Its love, truly.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


So I'm done with the cranberry sauce and the pumpkin pound cake a la Warren Brown is in the oven right now smelling up the whole apartment with wonderful clove. Plus the turkey is thawing in a brine and everything else is ready to be assembled. I'm siked.

Last night I felt compelled to make a nice pre-thanksgiving dinner for P and I since it would be our last alone night for a few days. It was pretty thrown together but turned out quite nicely. I wrapped some chicken breasts with prosciutto and cooked them until tender. Then I found this amazing! orange cauliflower at the store that is my new favorite food of the week. I caramelized it with garlic and red pepper flake. A simply dressed watercress salad with sea salt, pepper, and olive oil finished it off.

Oh I also found some crazy cheeses. A fig, walnut, and golden raisin boursin (second favorite food of the week!), a sage dubliner, and a elderberry dubliner that had a chap-stick quality.

The cake is almost done.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Its probably a bad idea to blog whilst hungry. Hopefully this dark chocolate Toblerone will tide me over until dear P gets home and we can go out for our weekly sushi date. I think its finally Fall in Florida. I never thought I'd miss cold weather, but I'm beginning to think that I am. This weekend we went to the 'Return to France' tasting part...I've lost count. This was a fun one. All of the essentials were in place -- wine, French winemakers with poor English, paté, and little bits of cheese. What more does anyone need really? Oddly enough, we tried 1 pinot and the rest were chards from Burgandy.

The first were from the Voarick Family of Aloxe-Corton near Beaune. The pinot was a Parnand-Vergelesses and there was a chard as well each being a 100% blend. The pinot was boring and overly chalky. The chard was super mineral and super delicious. Then we tried a Corton-charlemagne (Grand Cru) that was the most expensive I've ever tasted at $70, but not nearly as good as the Pernand.

Then we tried a chard that for some reason tasted like bacon to me. No one else got it so don't take my word for it. This chard was a Domaine A&P De Villaine Les Saint-Jacques 2004 with 100% chard and a hint of muscat which was very interesting.

The rest were Robert-Denogent's
'Clos des Bertillones' -- smelled of scotch
'Les Pommards' -- very citrus-y
'Les Reiss' -- juicy
'Les Taches' -- true flavor of the grape

Afterward, Diana and I made a pre-thanksgiving/clean out the fridge dinner. I marinated/basted some turkey tenderloins with apple jelly some chicken broth and loads of rosemary. I cooked them nice an slow on top of the stove until they got a nice carmalized crust despite being skinless. The flavors went nicely on a bed of fennel. Then we experimented with spaghetti squash and came up with a puttanesca type deal with tomatoes artichoke hearts, capers, and red pepper flake. This is my new favorite thing. I will definitely be making it for thanksgiving but maybe altering it slightly to better fit with the other side dishes. We had a nice pinot with all this wonderfulness -- a 2005 Laetitia Estate from the Arroyo Grande Valley in CA.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and I'm so excited to finally be doing all the cooking. Stay tuned.

Friday, November 3, 2006

The consensus is I may or may not be allergic to brussel sprouts. They are so very delicious nonetheless.

Tonight we did Indian food in a jar. Sorta. I noticed the milk I bought was about to go bad so I made some paneer. How about that? Then I chopped up some nice lamb chops and cauliflower and threw it all together with my jar-o-korma and it turned out to be a rather tasty lamb/paneer/cauliflower korma. For starters I tried to replicate this salad we always get at Stonewood, which is sadly the best restaurant in town. I threw together some mixed micro greens from a bag clearly marked 'NO SPINACH' tossed with lightly sauteed baby asparagus, torn prosciutto, and bits of baby brie all wilted and delicious. A simple sweet balsamic dressing topped it off and it tasted just like the Stonewood originall if I do say so myself.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


I've never been much for Halloween. I only went out as a kid a handful of times. We never used to have trick-or-treaters at my house back home and I haven't had any since I moved out. The night is still young though! I have my carved pumpkin lit on the deck and a drawer full of PEZ to any brave youngster who would dare trick-or-treat in an apartment complex.

So in the spirit of Halloween I made some mango lamb chops (note the carnage above). I used Major Grey's Chutney (which I think could be the best thing ever) to baste them. I accidentally overcooked mine but P's were perfect. Since a giant hunk of meat isn't quite enough, I made some garlicky green beans and yuca. This was my first attempt with yuca and I have to say I need some more guidance. For P I made basmati while I stuck to the yuca to avoid the omega 6's. Does yuca have omega 6's?

So I probably should do some homework on yuca. For example, don't eat yuca raw as it contains free and bound
cyanogenic glucosides which are converted to cyanide in the presence of an enzyme in yuca. I guess I shouldn't have tasted it raw then. Tapioca and tapioca pearls in bubble tea are made from this stuff. You can also make gnocchi, purées, soups, and stews. At $0.67 a pound, I've got to get into this yuca craze -- assuming there is one of course.

Monday, October 30, 2006

My cat is obsessed with cornish hens. Every time I cook one he's roaming and crying for a taste -- from the moment I cut the carcass in half to crisping in the oven then finally, to the table. Normally he never bothers much with our dinner, but when there are hens around he nearly jumps on the table to take a bite. Last night I was generous and gave him some to nibble on. I will surely regret this later.

So another cornish hen. Ah, regul
ar chicken is so boring. This one I lightly seasoned with salt, pepper, and Herbes de Provence. I then roasted each half until the skin crisped up and it was still juicy and served it atop some wonderful Swiss chard wilted with garlic and walnuts. Baby English potatoes roasted with chives and lots of salt served as a side.

This is him with a full stomach.

Friday, October 27, 2006

In case you haven't noticed, I've been a bit of a reading machine lately. I'm sure you didn't notice, but you'll have to take my word for it. I have a stack of books piled up by my bed anticipating being opened.

If you're into food then you know who Ruth Reichl is. For those of you who are not, she's the former food critic for the LA Times, the NY Times, and now editor and chief of Gourmet magazine. I finished reading Ruth's book Garlic and Sapphires weeks ago and found it to be some of the most enjoyable reading I've done in awhile. It is true what they say about this book, reading about the food is almost as good as eating it. This is one food book that actually will make you hungry. If the salivation factor isn't enough, I also learned a lot about haute cuisine from this book -- she paints a lovely picture of each dish she tastes that sticks in your head. The Le Cirque chapter is priceless, infamous, hilarious, ridiculous.

Despite all the reading I've been doing, I haven't been doing very much cooking. I've been in a depressive food funk as so often happens. I think I'm on the up and up as of this week though. We had dinner early this week out at Spanish River Grille which was both tasty and inspiring. The experience got me thinking about new combinations, new styles and recipes. I was tempted to bring my camera like all good food-bloggers should but I wussed out -- maybe next time. The food was simple but flavorful and well prepared. I'm still thinking about that gazpacho. Even more tempting was the sea scallop cooked in duck fat atop foie gras with figs and pomegranate reduction. Another time.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Tasting Notes

The tasting this week marked the one year anniversary of the Wine Warehouse in our area. Wines from South Australia and Italy were both featured.

Pino & Toi 2005

60% Tocai, 25% Pinot Bianco and 15% Pinot Grigio. A super crisp white with loads of peach and pear. Quite pleasant but not extraordinary, the $10 price tag was even better.

Heartland Viognier/Pinot Gris

What a rare blend! This was wonderful with lots of full flavors of melon and pear. I don't think I've ever tasted such a complex white before. The finish was lovely after it danced on your palate layer after layer

Almondo Roero "Sparse" Arneis 2004
This one we liked the least. It was the most mineral of the three whites with flavors of citrus peel, peach, and apricot. The low $10 price tag made it more desirable.

Heartland Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
Another Heartland wine from South Australia winemaker Ben Glaetzer. Glaetzer was voted winemaker of the year this year by Robert Parker. Excellent on the nose and wonderfully minty on the finish. Velvety tannins with dense blackberry and cassis flavors. Another bargain and truly excellent.

Heartland Shiraz 2004
At the tasting I found this wine to be extra, super spicy and lovely. When we took it home, got the right temperatures and tasted it last night it was even better, with a perfect balance of spice, chocolate, and fruit. This is quite possibly the best Shiraz I've tasted (dare I say it!). For under $20 each, this and the Cab are a must buy.

Barbera d'Alba 2004
The first of the Italian reds from the Piedmont region produced by Bruno Giacosa. This one was 100% Barbera d'Albe which I had never tasted before. Because of that, I found this to be unlike any wine I've tasted before. With an excellent balance of flavors and a nice finish, I enjoyed my first Barbera experience. For $25 though I was reluctant to give in to it.

Dolcetto d'Alba 2005

All of the Bruno Giacosa wines have been rated 93 which I could probably appreciate after tasting the Barbera but after tasting the Dolcetto I was confused. This it described as 'the little sweet one' with rich grape and spice. I couldn't see it. Sure I'm no wine connoisseur but this one I found rather plain, and so did my other friends tasting it. A good nose is about all I could give it -- weak on the palate and even weaker on the finish.

Nebbiolo d'Alba 2004
All of these wines had rich colors and this one was particularly violet in color. Nice and fruity on the nose but overall still pretty unimpressive for a 93 rating. These last three Italian wines are probably best as food wines. I would much rather enjoy them with food than in the tasting setting.

After the tasting, Amber so graciously made the five of us dinner -- a wonderful tapas style post-tasting treat of fried plantain latkas and buffalo empanadas. We enjoyed the Heartland Cab with these tasty treats.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Fall Food

The weather here today is amazing. It makes me glad to live in Florida. In the middle of October it feels like Fall yet is still wonderfully sunny enough for people to lounge by the pool. Open the windows -- it is incredible.

Since Fall is in the air I've been trying to get into all this Fall food since it is abundant. I've never been one for gourds but I'm trying to appreciate vegetables more as a whole. Its a slow process. I want to revert back to the summer days of tropical fruits and fresh fish.

I've been thinking lamb, duck and game hens lately. Plus butternut squash, pears, and pomegranate. Last week I tried some cornish rock hens with an Indian twist. I've been relying on epicurious entirely too much lately for ideas and this one surely was an excellent choice. Simply take a hen, thawed and split in half. For the sauce mix plum jelly, mango chutney, curry powder and chicken broth until they come together. Baste the hen halves and roast until tender and wonderful. I went for basmati to accompany and topped with scallions and half a lemon juiced -- peanuts would have been great if I had any lying around.

In other news, I now own a ice cream maker. I'm going to go sorbet crazy with the thing, just you wait.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Dirty Sugar Cookies

I picked up Ayun Halliday's Dirty Sugar Cookies per a suggestion Joe made on his blog Foodie NYC. After reading it, I can't say enough good things about this book. Its more a book about life than a book about food. Its growing up and trying new things -- from cafeteria grub to trendy tofu to exotic Asian fair.

This book is hilarious. Ayun writes for the East Village Inky zine in NYC and is the author of her blog of the same name and a couple other books. She includes recipes at the end of each chapter in this book. My favorite has to be the 'shitty kitty confection' which is basically a cake-like litter box filled with half-melted tootsie rolls thrown in. Other recipes are just as crazy. What a truly wonderful book.

Reading this made me realize that one day I'm going to have kids of my own (despite what I've been saying for the past 20 years) and I'll have to feed those kids. I'll have to give in to the elaborately decorated birthday cakes and cupcakes, the school lunches in nondescript brown paper bags, and worst of all the struggle to make them not afraid to try new things! I'm really keeping my fingers crossed that the half-Chinese in my kids will predispose them to more adventurous eating. Fingers firmly crossed.

Saturday, October 7, 2006

red, red wine

So I don't eat red meat. Lamb is the only exception. I have to say that I'm beyond tired of going to the grocery store only to find chicken (with rib meat!) or pork. Occasionally I'll splurge on some decent fish and I picked up some rock hens the other day and contemplated a duck. I've come to realize I don't have the same motive for avoiding red meat as I did back when I gave it up 10+ yrs ago. Back then I just hated beef in all its forms -- hamburgers, roast beef, steaks (because I always had them well-done gasp!). Now I've come to realize, like many other things, that I just never liked beef because it was never made correctly. Burgers still kind of freak me out and I'm rather proud of never eating a burger at a fast food place or restaurant of any sort my whole life.

So I sucked it up, forced back a gag in response to the bloody naked meat, and bought an inexpensive (yet flavorful!) skirt steak. I cooked it simply and drenched it in a sweet red wine sauce made from a dry red, sugar, bay leaf, worcheshire sauce.

Red wine risotto is one thing I make that makes my mouth do backflips. The smooth, creaminess and perfect balance of flavors lingers on my tongue the entire evening. It is simple to make if you can stir for 40 minutes. I'll admit to adapting (another word for 'steal') this recipe from Giada DeLaurentis, whose giant head and cleavage have mesmerized me for quite some time. It truly is wonderful and I have to make it more often and experiment with different flavors.

red wine risotto
1 C risotto
3 1/2 C low sodium shicken broth
3/4 cup dry red wine
2-3-more cloves garlic minced
2-3 shallots chopped
2-3 Tblsp butter
1/3 C thawed peas
1/2 C grated parmesean cheese
salt pepper to taste

the secret here is the wooden spoon
sautee the garlic and shallot in the butter then wine and then add rice toasting it
add 3/4 C of warm broth gradually stirring constantly watching as the rice soaks it up
stir for a minute or three each 3/4 C you add until all the broth is gone
lastly add the cheese, peas, salt pepper and oh creamy and delicious

So more red wine-ness to accompany the steak and to accompany this we finished off a bottle of a really wonderful French rosé. Domaine De Fontsainte Gris de Gris from 2005, which is really cheap and really wonderful -- with a beautiful deep pink color.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Indian Food Fest 2k6

Daytona Beach has absolutely no Indian food. Ok, ok we have one little joint beach side that's just not good but sometimes when we're desperate for it, we give in. One of my goals for my week off from school was to make paneer. Yesterday this is what we did. It was loads of fun and documented in pictures. Behold our Indian food fest 2k6...

Making paneer can be rather intimidating and in some special places you can even buy it frozen or something. Not so in this crumby town. Don't be fooled by the recipe, it is really a cinch to make if you can curdle milk. First take 8 cups of milk (organic whole milk is best) and bring to a boil in a really big pot. When it is rumbling and foaming up add 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice and wait. Let the curdling begin! It will look disgusting but it is truly delicious.

Let it just sit and do its thing on low heat. It will separate and turn yellowish . I'm not really sure when to stop this but you'll figure it out. Next, strain the big bowl of ew into a colander lined with cheesecloth. Let all that whey go down the drain. It will begin to look like cheese now. Drain it and drain it well. Squeeze the hell out of it by weighing it down with whatever you have on hand, a brick would do. You want it to be in a nice squarish, shape so you can later cut it into cubes. That's pretty much it now make Indian food with it!

The E Coli outbreak stopped us not! I luckily had a package of chopped frozen spinach in the freezer from long before the spinach shortage. To make Saag Paneer puree some wonderful garlic, ginger and onion to a paste then add that to a big pot full of thawed spinach and stir. Throw in some yogurt, cream (buttermilk if you have it), garam masala and chili powder. Simmer it for about 20 minutes and it might thicken up. Add the paneer cubes (you can fry them if you like) right before serving and this will thicken it too but some cornstarch or arrowroot will do the trick too. Piece of cake.

With some ground lamb we experimented with Keema. Brown the ground lamb (or beef or whatever) drain it, and set aside. Infuse some oil with cloves, cardamon pods, and bay leaf. Once that is piping hot add garlic and ginger paste, turmeric, cumin, garam masala, chopped tomatoes and onion. Throw in some yogurt and cream then add the meat and peas. I think this one needs some heat, so add some Thai chiles or serranos for good measure.

It pretty much took all afternoon to make all this but I make it sound like it was easy. I did have some help from my sous chef Diana, it was a good time. I also attempted to make my favorite hot sugary balls of fried dough -- aka Gulab
Jaman. The recipe I used advised me to make a dough with carnation powder, Bisquick, yogurt (there it is again!) and a little milk. Roll out a bunch of little balls and deep fry them until they look like delightful hush puppies. Meanwhile you should make a syrup to soak them in with water, sugar, cardamon pods, and a splash of rose water. Soak the hush puppies in the syrup and well, they double in size! This part was unexpected. The shape didn't hold and things got a little mushy. They tasted pretty good but aren't the gulab jamun I'm used to from restaurants. I'll prob try again with a different recipe or the same recipe with some modification. I have loads of Bisquick now and I'm not a fan of pancakes. What to do...?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Food Milestones

I've been a long time fan of Anthony Bourdain, particularly an avid viewer of his shows A Cook's Tour and No Reservations. His book Kitchen Confidential has been on my wishlist for months and I've picked it up nearly a dozen times but never purchased it until a few weeks ago.

I'd recommend this to the foodie and nonfoodie alike just because of the typical Tony-style crude humor, obscenity, and debauchery that amuses all, regardless of food knowledge. What struck me most about this book though was his description of his first oyster -- the first moment he knew that food was important. Ever since finishing this book, I've been trying to pinpoint that time in my life when I first started to take food seriously -- when food started dictating my every move. I ate a lot of awful stuff growing up and am having a really hard time deciphering the good memories. After all, we remember the bad memories more often than the bad. Like the time when I gorged myself on Chinese food and projectile vomited all over our new carpet, or the time I puked in my mom's shoes, or etc. I used to be one the pickiest eaters of all time, now look at me. As Tony says, "I'll try anything once."

My fondest food memories in childhood probably come from biting into fresh fruit and having the juice run down my chin. Good fruit in our local crap hole Food Lion was pretty rare, and exotic fruits like plums(!) and peaches were a special treat when my mom would bring them home. I distinctly remember eating an entire bag of small oranges in one sitting as well. When our cherry trees were weighed down with wonderful dark red plump berries, I would be stained from head to toe with cherry juice. Our old fashioned cherry seeder was always my favorite chore -- I'd grab handfuls of pitted black heart cherries and shove them in my face.

I have fond memories of visiting 'exotic' restaurants with my mom on our weekend shopping trips. I don't think any of these places exist anymore. We'd splurge on French food at La Petite Aurbage where they actually had steak tartare on the menu. I would gag at the thought. Chinese food, Thai food, authentic Mexican were also some of the more exciting adventures we'd take. The things I ate at these establishments were less than adventurous. Its going to take me some time to figure out what it was that forced me to develop my palate -- what it was that steered me in the direction of food enthustiast.

Friday, September 22, 2006

This week

Adam, the Amateur Gourmet (whose book I'm terribly excited to read!), did a post a few weeks ago of the 10 best things he had eaten that week. I was thinking of his post and all the tasty tidbits I'd eaten this week. Unfortunately, I've been camera-less this week so you'll have to use your imagination.

Ginger Ice Cream
Diana and I had lunch at the one and only Thai restaurant in town, Songkran, which is normally pretty awful but I had heard rumors that they were doing some serious changes so I thought I'd give them another shot after my 5-month absence. My eggplant 'special' was less than special -- overly salted like everything I've ever eaten there. Dessert was another story. We decided to splurge on their ginger ice cream and honeydew melon sorbet. Both were quite wonderful but the ginger ice cream was heavenly! The idea didn't really appeal to me on hearing it but that's why I jumped to try it. This alone makes me want to break down and buy an ice cream maker tomorrow.

Roasted Garlic and Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes
I made these last night to go along with some sauteed veggies and Coho Salmon fillets with mint butter. Since my mom insists on always using an electric mixer when making mashed 'taters instead of using some elbow grease with a masher, I gave it a try and made a HUGE mess. There was potato all over my shirt all over the walls -- on everything within a few feet radius. I was intentionally not careful while beating though, because I was having so much fun making a mess. I ate these again today as a snack and they are still wonderful.

First Pomegranate as an Adult

My first pomegranate experience was in elementary school or maybe 6th grade after learning about the Greek goddess Persephone. I told my mom I wanted to try a pomegranate and somehow she managed to find one in our produce challenged local Food Lion (I'm rather puzzled by this). I took it to school for show-and-tell but I don't really remember eating more than a seed or two. Siripon had them cheap this week so I stocked up for our Rosh Hashanah party tomorrow night. Cutting this thing open to behold hundreds of glistening seeds all grouped together like jewels, was a pretty amazing experience. I'll be making a salad with them tomorrow night.

Bok Choy with Bacon and Pine Nuts
Diana cooked this up over at our place this week and gave me permission to steal it. Bacon renderings bok choy and pine nuts made for a wonderful combination that I will be making very soon myself.

Homemade Toaster Strudel
I had some leftover puff pastry and guests wanting dessert so I improvised. I thawed some frozen black cherries and blueberries. In a bowl I whipped ricotta a few tablespoons of whipping cream with a tad of icing sugar, vanilla, and Cointreau. Once the puff pastry puffed, I topped one square with the whipped mixture then a spoonful of fruit then another square of pastry. They were pretty impossible to eat with a fork so we just picked them up and ate them like sandwiches, which reminded me of all those toaster strudels I used to eat before school -- saving the icing packet until last, sucking it down by itself.

Garlic and Chive Boursin Cheese
Boursin cheese is my new favorite thing in the
world. I salivate just thinking about it. I've mentioned the wonderful cracked black pepper kind in previous myspace blogs, but I can't seem to find it anymore at the grocery store. They used to have several different spreads to chose from but now they just have garlic and chive. This was so good I ate it for breakfast! Normally I'm a little freaked out by eating non-breakfasty food for breakfast but this cheese makes you warm and fuzzy all over. Enough said.

Kuentz-Bas 2004 Alsace
This is a mystery wine. I have no idea the blend of varietals but its good! It went nicely with last night's meal. Honey, tart pear, and a crisp finish.

Rosh Hashanah feast for next time!

Monday, September 18, 2006


My lack of blogging is a result of being in the middle of finals and countless other exams the past two weeks. I've been eating out a lot and throwing together quick curries and other simple, unextraordinary eats. After finals I have a week off to do nothing but be lazy, catch up on reading and work my poor little kitchen to death. I intend to bake and bake and bake and whip up all sorts of things that I've been meaning to learn how to do or just experiment with. I'm terribly excited.

The only thing of note that I threw together was this wonderful fig, feta, and mâche salad with honey balsamic vinaigrette I had absolutely no idea what mâche was but it looked so wonderfully soft and silky in its container. It was just that. Mâche is also known as Lewiston cornsalad, mache, mâche, doucette, rampon, lamb's lettuce, field salad, nüssli, nüsslisalat, rapunzel, and Rampien. I prefer 'rapunzel,' but lamb's lettuce seems to best describe the texture and softness of the green. It makes for an excellent pre-fall salad.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Post Potluck

Last weekend's potluck was so much fun, we decided to give it another shot this weekend. Instead of having surprise-randomized types of dishes, we settled on a theme -- sort of. It turned into a tapas style meal but with fall type foods -- fall tapas.

We each made a ridiculous amount of food. The table only could hold about half. I made a white cannellini bean dip with toasted oregano pita chips, Cuban bread toasts with either tomato, parsley, and feta mixture on top or roasted red pepper, feta, and caper topping. In addition, I threw together a simple asparagus and artichoke heart frittata, and roasted fennel orange salad with mint. That was just a third of it all.

We also had... sweet potatoes roasted with sesame seed and toasted coconut, pumpkin bread, pumpkin bread pudding with caramel brandy sauce, cognac glazed carrots, bacon wrapped dates, fried plantains, and Gruyere and bechamel cauliflower. To wash all this down, we downed a bottle of Gewurz, Sin Zin, St Francis Claret, and Pumpkin Ale.

Afterward we had to walk it off on the beach and just sit and digest slowly. I'll mention the recipe for the roasted fennel salad because its wonderful and it was requested of me to make it yesterday despite all the other food we had. Its a piece of cake to throw together and it really is wonderful.

Roasted Fennel and Orange Salad
1 roasted fennel bulb (either slow roasted in the oven or sauteed stovetop until tender)
1/2 large red onion thinly sliced
2 oranges segmented and juices reserved
2 tblsp chopped mint
2 tblsp chopped fennel fronds

for the dressing,
whisk orange juice, salt/pepper, while drizzling olive oil until emulsified
Dress the salad and serve cold or at room temperature

Saturday, September 9, 2006

Starfruit Mahi-Mahi

At Siripon's little produce market, I've been terribly lucky to find super-sized starfruit very cheap. Last weekend I picked up 5 or 6 ready to eat for a whopping $0.75. The greener ones run me about $0.99 per pound which when compared to the grocery store is just crazy. These things are massive, seriously.

I went through a big fruit salsa phase a few months back where I'd put fruit on every piece of meat I could think of from pork, to all types of fish, chicken, anything with peaches, mangoes, pineapple, plums, etc. It was endless, and I grew very tired of fruit atop meat. With these starfruit though, I was itching to chop them up and load them on top of something.

The starfruit salsa (if you can call it a salsa), was simple so not to overpower the light, crisp freshness of the starfruit. I added one single roasted chili some lemon juice, sugar, cilantro, and a touch of salt. For the Mahi, I sauteed it until flaky just with a light dusting of salt, pepper, and ground coriander. I also found some strange globe zucchini's at Siripon's that I'd never tried so I sliced those quite thin to act as a bed for the fish. Finally, some sticky coconut rice finished it off. This was a perfect end of summer type dish but does summer ever end in FL?!

Friday, September 8, 2006

Alexander Valley Vineyards Tasting

Alexander Valley predominately produces Sonoma-style reds, so yesterday we tried two whites and seven reds. The best thing about the whites and the zins we tried was the artwork. We took home a poster of the Sin Zin that I'll frame and hang somewhere as it compliments some of our other artwork. So here's what we tasted and my two cents as best as I can remember. It should also be noted that the servers pour entirely too much at these tastings, and I wind up not tasting much toward the end despite all the tidbits of finger food I eat.

The New Gewurz
Considering gewurztraminers are normally pretty expensive, this one was definitely the best value of all the things we tasted. For $8 you really can't beat it. And the taste? Wonderfully light and crisp as a good gewurz should be.

Estate Chardonnay
Normally chards aren't my favorites because I find them rather 'boring.' This one was pretty nice -- more complex than others I've tried. Its oaky from being fermented in French oak barrels.

Temptation Zinfandel
(92% Zin and 8% Sangiovese) This one was full bodied with black fruits and currants. Spicy, but nicely balanced.

Sin Zin
Another great black fruit zin - black cherry, plum, blackberry and very black peppery. Super fragrant and delicious.

Redemption Zin
The last of the deadly and sinful zins, this was the most complex and the most expensive. It was described as the 'antidote' to the sin zin with a wonderful fruitiness and smooth finish. I meant to try this one again but didn't.

Estate Syrah
Ridiculously light. Slight touches of vanilla and blackberry but this one really lacked any umph. Tasted like...water?

Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Wine Enthusiast gave this one 90 pts and this was my favorite of the Estate reds. It had a lot more body and balance than the others. Silky smooth finish and still under $20.

Estate Merlot
I've yet to taste a merlot that is different from all the rest. Merlot is just merlot so far, although I've tried so few. This, like the syrah, really lacked the umph I was looking for from the fruit.

This one checked in at $45 but boy, was it tempting to splurge on. This was a blend of 80% Cabernet, 13% merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 1% Malbec, and finally 1% Petit Verdot each from their finest Bordeaux from each vintage. Wine Enthusiast rated it a 93 pts and its won some other awards. Its good. Really good. This was the one that they really poured too much in my glass...twice. It had a nice long finish with tones of chocolate, plum, black cherry, and cassis. If I stored wine, I would definitely buy this one to save for a few years.

Thursday, September 7, 2006


Last night I made my first hollandaise. I was rather excited about it myself and it actually turned out quite lovely. So I don't really know what all the fuss is about when it comes to making hollandaise, its not that hard to screw up. Plus, if you do screw up you can pretty easily remedy it. All you need is some elbow grease.

I have been reading The New Kitchen Science: A Guide to Know the Hows and Whys for Fun and Success in the Kitchen which isn't the best book in the world, but its mildly interesting. Last night I was reading the chapter on sauces so I used some ideas from that chapter in my dinner. Sort of. The book is pretty elementary stuff that you'd learn from watching a couple of episodes of Good Eats. It is rather unsophisticated, basic knowledge and there is virtually no mention of technique or advanced skills.

Anyway. I made some hollandaise with a big handful of thyme mixed in to top my roasted asparagus (Note the glistening stalks). It looks a little runny here but it thickened up after I took the picture. In addition, I made some chicken breasts topped with a mushroom vermouth gravy that was wonderfully thick and creamy.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Lamb Burgers with Mint Mayo

I don't normally eat red meat but I think I have been converted by these lamb burgers. I actually had to eat two because I was still salivating after the first one.

For the lamb:
1 lb ground lamb
1-2 tblsp grated onion
1-2 cloves minced garlic

Mint Mayo:
5-6 tblsp mayo
handful mint
lemon juice
maybe a clove of garlic I don't remember
blend in food processor until minty smooth

Finish with caramelized onions and toasted bread.

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Fizzy Fruit

This is an absolute must repost I just read from Derrick Schneider's food blog An Obsession with Food.
Fizzy Fruit! will be hitting the shelves and changing the way we look at fruit.

Sunday, September 3, 2006


Yesterday a bunch of us hit up the Daytona Flea and Farmer's Market. I definitely don't make a habit of going here regularly since its always filled with scary people selling overpriced junk that no one really wants. The produce is also less then stellar and only slightly cheaper than the grocery store. The only thing to note that we picked up were some wonderful ornamental white eggplant. They also had heirloom black tomatoes which I'll mention later.

So the flea market was so-so, but afterward I went to see Siripon. Although it was the end of the week and she was low on everything, I picked up about 5 perfectly ripe starfruit for $0.75. We decided to do a potluck type thing over at our apartment so I thought I'd whip up some simple things like a red Thai curry and a potato salad. The potato salad was not the typical run-of-the-mill 'tater salad but a recipe I've been addicted to in Fine Cooking magazine. It has roasted potatoes, roasted corn, red onion, cherry tomatoes, and really you could put anything in it then top it off with a red wine vinegar dressing. It beats those mayo based salads by far. For the curry I simply threw in whatever was left in the cabinets -- sweet potato, carrots, white eggplant, and some chicken breast. It turned out to be a giant amount of curry but I have to say its the best one I've ever made for some reason.

The potluck was a success and certinaly something we all will be reapeating soon. We had all the above in addition to fried plantains, homemade hummus, black heirloom unblended gazpacho, carrots with sundried tomoates and goat cheese and loads of wine. Naturally. You may notice from the picture that all the food barely fit on the table. The keen eye might also notice that we drank red wine out of white wine glasses and white wine out of red wine glasses. I'm still not sure how that faux pas happened...

After we digested, we threw together a nice cheese tray with some starfruit and drank port and peanut butter cup martinis. These are becoming my new favorite drink I think just because they look so pretty. They are made simply with milk, Bailey's, Kahlua, and Hazelnut liquer. I like to rim the glass in cocoa powder just to add that extra layer.

Friday, September 1, 2006

Indian Food in a Can

Yesterday marked the grand opening of World Market in Daytona Beach. Sure we have these back in Virginia but I had still never been so I was rather excited. I picked up some PEZ I needed, a ridiculously cute miniature kettle egg timer, P's favorite beer of the moment Spaten Optimator, and some Indian food in a can.

Now before you jump to any conclusions remember this, many good things come in cans. There is canned curry paste, Wolfgang Puck canned soups, and...Fancy Feast? Ok, maybe there aren't too many, but the idea of something as complex on the palate as Indian food in a can was too much of a novelty to pass up. I picked up Palak Paneer and Baingan Bharta. And...well...

The take home message is this: don't be fooled by the novel idea of delicious convenience in a can. Served over a basmati pilaf made it slightly less bad, but I kept telling myself that it only cost $2.99, don't kick yourself. This is almost as bad of an idea as snakes on a plane or those big testicles that hang from truck hitches.

Monday, August 28, 2006

A Fish Story

Whenever I tell my mother that I had fish for dinner she seems strangely surprised -- shocked even. I guess its hard to believe I'd still want to eat fish after growing up with it always on the table. It would be correct to say that I dreaded having fish for dinner growing up, granted it was the freshest stuff anyone could ask for -- straight from the water to the table.

Now that I cook for myself, I have a new appreciation for fish simply because I know how to cook it. I never knew fish could taste so good if you didn't fry it. No matter what kind of fish it was (with some exception) my dad insisted it was best fried and that is how we always had it. He kindly spared my mom the task of post-dinner cleanup by frying it in his garage with his special breading blend.

While I was living at home this past fall, I took it upon myself to broaden the horizons somewhat and fry the fish myself. I simply replaced the predominantly corn meal batter with Italian breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese lightly pan fried in...olive oil. My version won the favor of my dad but I'm not sure he's adopted it.

I never fry fish at home but with these cod fillets I was wanting some crunch. I crusted one side with a light sprinkle of breadcrumbs and loads of fresh thyme. I thought it would be interesting to pair the lemony flavor of the fresh thyme with the rich flavor of coconut so I made coconut basmati to accompany it and served them up on a bed of sautéed cauliflower.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Blogger or Bust

I've moved out of the small, small world of Myspace into the world of real blogs and blog people. Stay Tuned.