Saturday, November 25, 2006

Monday, November 20, 2006

Whose home for the Holidays?

With Thanksgiving coming up this week, I raise this hypothetical question:

Which Food Network chef would you most like to have Thanksgiving dinner with (and why)?

For my money, it would probably be Tyler Florence or Michael Chiarella because they seem like they might actually be able to have some fun and their recipes always seem delicious.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Botulism, giardia and other foul organisms

Does anyone else share my frustration with the quality of food-related programming on television these days?

There's enough written about Rachael Ray's horrendous-ness to last a lifetime, so I won't dwell on that except to use this line that I have been wanting to unleash for a while:
She's re-E.V.O.O.-olting!
I must say, though, that she deserved to win the Iron Chef battle last week over Giada deLaurentis, better known in our household as 'Giardia'. Giada is so smug, so cocky and so... well, gross, really! Did anyone see her stick her finger into the food several times during the battle? Hasn't she heard of a spoon?

Speaking of smug -- what about the contestants on Top Chef?! PUH-lease! There are a couple of clever ideas and a few teaspoons of talent, but more than anything they just seem to be HUGE egos clanging around a kitchen. That might be exactly why they will succeed!

Having said that, I would take any one of them over host Padma Lakshmi, who really gives me the creeps! That woman has enough botox in her face to sedate an elephant. Look carefully the next time the show is on (it's on pretty much all the time on Bravo) -- she really is only capable of one facial expression. There's one hilarious scene in last week's episode where she shows surprise at a contestant's accusation of cheating by making her eyes bulge to twice their normal size!

I know a lot of you will think I'm just being catty. I also know a lot of you watch the show just so you can imagine old Paddy naked. For you, I have an early holiday gift.

On a brighter note, I thank public television for keeping Jacques Pepin on the air. He's charming, funny and an excellent chef. He tells great stories as he demonstrates his clever and unpretentious recipes and he seems to enjoy himself while doing it. His French accent is a laugh too. In short, he's a delight.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Culture Vulture?

Hungry for another quiz? Try testing your knowledge of foodie pop culture and let us know how you do! Evidently I need to watch more of the Food Network, which comes as a bit of a surprise!

Brown is Beautiful

OK... I just took another quiz and found out that in addition to being like feta cheese, I am also like a brownie:
"... you melt on people and people stick to you. You're kind and affectionate. You're a good listener whether you know it or not and people look up to you no matter how they act. Everybody has a place for you in their heart."
Which is sweet, I guess. I mean even though brownies are square and heavy, I suppose better a brownie than pork rinds or something. Not that I have anything against pork rinds. I mean they're strong and salty and not afraid to speak their mind.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Test your cheesiness

If you were a cheese, what kind of cheese would you be? Find out by taking the cheese test. It turns out I'd be the charismatic and confident feta. Who knew?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Cheese Whiz is in the House!

As many of you know, I spent a few weeks this summer brushing up on my knowledge of a subject dear to my heart (well, my arteries actually!). That subject: CHEESE

I am certainly not an expert... not yet, at least. It's amazing how much there is to learn! I mean, you start with milk, salt and a culture and you end up with thousands of variations, flavours, textures ... it's truly amazing.

I thought it was important, however, to share a little of the knowledge I have gleaned. So to start with, I'll address some of the questions I've been receiving:

What is the real difference between mild, sharp and extra sharp cheddar?

Cheddar is like the head of the cheerleading squad. That is to say it's America's most popular cheese, although it was originally developed in the village of Cheddar, in the Somerset region of England.

Cheddar is made from adding a starter culture to heated milk, which produces lactic acid. Eventually, chemistry leads to the formation of curd, from which 'whey' is removed. The curds are then formed into a smooth mass and shaped into blocks.

The blocks are then aged. The amount of aging they receive determines the cheese's 'sharpness'. A mild cheddar is usually ripened for about six months. Up to a year generally brings about a sharp cheese and extra sharp comes after two or more years.

Incidentally, the yellow colour of cheddar is generally derived from 'annato', also known as 'achiote'. In its natural incarnation it is usually white or cream coloured.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Daily Bread

An idyllic oasis in the Iranian desert offers a unique dining experience.

The Zein-o-Din caravanserai stands in the desert outside Yazd, where it has been for at least 400 years. It was first constructed to offer shelter to caravans travelling along the legendary 'Silk Road' - the trading route that connected China's Yellow River to the Mediterranean Sea. Today, travellers of a very different sort rest their heads there. The ancient brick and mud structure was renovated about two years ago and is now a luxurious hotel catering mostly to European tourists.

An eager staff of four looks after every need of the visitors. It is Mohammad's job to make taftoon, a flat, round bread served with every meal at the caravanserai.

First he divides the carefully kneaded dough into medium-sized round loaves. These are then 'hand-thrown' with the expertise of a Napolitan pizza maker. The next step is to pierce the flattened dough with a fork, cover one side with caraway seeds and, using a cushioned pad, stick it to the inside of a scorching hot clay oven.

The end result is a perfectly cooked bread, similar to Indian naan and best eaten hot. At breakfast, taftoon is accompanied by feta cheese, slices of fresh cucumbers and tomatos and preserved figs. For lunch and dinner it is eaten with dishes such as gormeh sabzi, koresht-e bademjan and one night at the caravanserai, even ground camel meat.

Feel like trying taftoon yourself?

Friday, November 03, 2006

I'm your pusher man

"I just want you to know you've ruined my life," my friend told me last night over a bento box and a bowl of miso soup. "Ever since you introduced me to sushi I can't stop thinking about it. I crave it every day. It's like opium."

He was distraught, but I just smiled proudly. Another win for our team.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

An Ode to the Hound

Just a quick note today to talk about the merits of a really great food-related site:

I have turned to this food-obsessed forum many times -- and the hounds never failed to help me out in a pinch.

For example, when I was in Africa and wanted to bake a cake but had no mixer, blender, food processor or other kitchen gadget and only a finicky oven, the hounds pulled through with delicious, easy-to-make recipes.

Just last week I was looking for a place in New York where I could buy very small quantities of spices -- again, they didn't let me down! Within minutes I had my answer!

As I write this, hounds are discussing the best sushi in Philly, beloved but discontinued foods and favorite Thanksgiving recipes.

Chowhound describes itself as:
"...a community of people who doggedly seek out amazing food and drink experiences, then humbly share their finds with the world on"

Check it out.

Coming Soon...

Cupcake Throwdown... Washington DC vs. New York City