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.