February 26, 2009

Top Chef jumps the shark

I am not going to spoil anything, because I am sure lots of you have yet to watch the finale on your TiVo, but I will say that the winner is NOT the best chef of the crew by any measure. Technicality piled on technicality piled on bad luck piled on the producers' need for Drama, and some of the strongest contenders were out well before their time. Feh. My only consolation is that it could have been worse.

Posted by foodnerd at 11:20 AM | Comments (2)

February 24, 2009

lazy hummus, or parsley-chickpea salad

Somehow this preparation popped into my brain all of a piece. Mix one can drained and rinsed chickpeas, a handful of chopped parsley, a chopped scallion if you have one, juice of half a lemon, a slight drizzle of olive oil, and two big spoonfuls Sabra tahini sauce, plus a sprinkle of salt & pepper. You could also include diced cucumber and/or garlic if you were so inclined and had them on hand.

Posted by foodnerd at 11:29 AM | Comments (0)

February 23, 2009

i *heart* nigel slater

I have a new food-crush on Nigel Slater. I'd read a couple columns of his in Gourmet. I read his book Toast, which I very much enjoyed and recommend. But then I stumbled onto his web-column in the Guardian's website, and I am smitten. I love his casual but unmistakably British tone, in which he can be offhand about leftovers, be elegantly particular about a technique, and talk about farting all in the same sentence.

But more than anything I love the recipes. They're clearly the result of a fellow foodnerd who reads a lot of cookbooks and spends a lot of time just making shit up in his kitchen, and they are so very English somehow. How is it that no one in the States, myself included, has ever thought to put a goat-cheese mixed with pickles and pickle juice from the jar into a beet soup? (Maybe they have, but I've not found them yet.) There's always a bit of marmalade or a bit of curry involved, in places I might not think to put them. Every single thing I've read on his column sounds absolutely gorgeous to eat. And it's become a must-read site for me, at least of late... swoon.

Posted by foodnerd at 10:11 AM | Comments (1)

February 22, 2009

Notes on NoodleFest 09

nu ro mian

We made our annual vat of nu ro mian last night, and we are in agreement that this is the best batch so far. A few things made it so:

- we upped the spicy even a notch further than last year, and that did the job. the bottles of chili oil went very nearly untouched at the table. 3 chilis + 3 tbsp of peppercorns + 10 tbsp spicy bean paste for the mild version, which was actually a little spicy. 14 chilis, 4 heaping tbsp of peppercorns and 12 tbsp spicy bean paste, three of them of the spicier type, for the spicylicious version.

- we found beef shank at the Kam Man market in Quincy, which is far superior in this application to the stewing beef from Costco. Loads more fat and connective tissue, and it shows in both the moistness of the meat (at last!) and in the richness of the broth.

- we went absolutely bananas with the tendon. Almost 7 pounds went into this thing, along with almost 11 pounds of shank. (Yes, we have rather a lot of leftovers.)

- we finally sorted out the logistics of large-scale noodle cooking. We bought a couple of cheapo electric range-burners at Target, and had one pot of water coming up to boil while the wide steamer-pot base was cooking 2 packs of noodles on the stove. This staging kept the noodles coming at a steady pace without suffering gumminess of any kind (unless they got left in the colander untaken for a while).

Posted by foodnerd at 06:19 PM | Comments (0)

February 18, 2009

dark chocolate almonds with turbinado sugar and sea salt

While at Trader Joe's today to get yogurt and milk, I saw a display of almonds covered in dark chocolate, with sprinkles of turbinado sugar and sea salt. That seemed both nom and a reasonably healthful treat, so I bought a tub to give them a try.


They're great. Toasty nuttiness with a solid dose of bittersweet chocolate, and a major hit of salt. Scratches every snack itch I've ever had. And since I just ate 4, and am already blissfully happy, that works out to 64 calories plus actual nutrition. Not bad for a treat. Hurray!

Posted by foodnerd at 01:33 PM | Comments (0)

February 13, 2009

also not about food but made of AWESOME even more than the last one

just click it: http://is.gd/jooY

Posted by foodnerd at 08:29 PM | Comments (0)

not about food, but completely awesome

The Unix timestamp value is the number of seconds since Jan 1, 1970 00:00.

Today at 6:31:30 PM EST, the Unix timestamp value is 1234567890.

(from one of my coworkers. this totally made my day. yes, i am a giant nerd.)

Posted by foodnerd at 02:15 PM | Comments (0)

corned beef hash, yankee style

Note to self: leftover boiled dinner -- corned beef, potato, carrot, turnip, cabbage, etc. -- is somehow even more delicious when all components are diced up and reheated in a skillet with a spoonful of dijon mustard and a little pepper.

How this is different from eating them as-is on a plate with said mustard and pepper I am not entirely certain, but it is distinctly more delightful as a hash. Maybe I just really like hashes (I do).

Posted by foodnerd at 01:51 PM | Comments (0)

February 10, 2009

rolled banana pecan cake with cream cheese filling

rolled banana cake rolled banana cake slices

I saw this recipe in Penzey's One magazine, and it seemed quite appealing. I love banana cake, and I like things that seem fancy but aren't actually complicated or fussy to create.

And then I found myself with extra packs of cream cheese to use up, and some overripe bananas, and the deal was done.

This recipe comes from a woman named Mary Harris, in Wasilla, Alaska. I do recommend subscribing to the magazine, as it is guilelessly charming and focuses on real people and the real stuff they cook and the reasons they cook it. Some of the recipes you might never make, but there are lots that you will, and some are real gems -- and the magazine makes very good reading.

Despite running out of regular sugar and having to fill in with some light brown sugar, the recipe came out remarkably similar to the photo in the magazine. It looks FANCY. It tastes like fancy banana bread. This is by no means a slur; I love banana bread, and having it in a suitable-for-dinner-party format is awesome. The cream cheese filling recedes more than I expected it would, but it adds a bit of creaminess and moisture to the overall effect. I used neufchatel cheese and skim milk, so the recipe as a whole is relatively light and healthy, and a serving is just a little slice, so it makes a perfect sweet for the end of a larger or richer meal.

Posted by foodnerd at 10:16 AM | Comments (0)

February 06, 2009

apple brown betty

I needed to clear out the last of the fall apples that were softening slowly in the back of the fridge, but I'm trying to hang on to this here wagon, so decided against a full-on pie. I thought I might do an oat-based crumble topping. I went looking in Joy of Cooking, found only sugary crisps, and then stumbled onto the brown betty section.

I'd heard of a brown betty, but didn't exactly know what it was; i sort of assumed it was another dumpling/biscuit-based dessert like pan dowdy, slump, buckle, grunt, and all those other names for what is essentially the same damn thing. But it WASN'T. It was a buttered breadcrumb topping. And I ask you, what is not to like about that? Not too sweet, just a little bit savory, and asking nothing of me but to chowder up the bread ends littering my fridge.

And I had a bunch of crumbs waiting around, left over from my cocktail party adventures. So I diced up the last heel of wheat bread, sprinkled on the finer crumbs, and wound up with my new favorite apple dessert. It is best warm out of the oven, though -- the crumbs sog up slightly if you let it sit. (Still good, though, I'm eating some right now.)

apple brown betty

Peel, core and thickly slice 6-8 apples (mine were smallish, i used about 8) and put them into a baking pan. My pan was 10x6 rectangle, but whatever fits will do. Sprinkle over a handful of dark brown sugar, maybe 1/4 cup, and cinnamon to your liking, I did it by eye and it was maybe 1/2 tsp to a tsp. Toss them around to coat more evenly. Smush apples down a little, then top with the crumbs. I drizzled with about 4 tbsp of melted butter, but you could probably mix the butter and crumbs directly like it said in the recipe book, and it would coat it more evenly. I used salted butter and I like the effect of the salt on this dish. Bake at 350 for 45 min to an hour, until crispy and golden brown on top and the apples are soft.

Posted by foodnerd at 12:42 AM | Comments (0)

February 05, 2009

back on the wagon

lunch on the wagon: beet-orange-radicchio salad with shrimp

As mentioned, back on the wagon, or at least trying really hard to climb up there, dammit. All that Arizmendi stuff was so good. Anyway, today's lunch was awesome:

expensive but delicious cooked shrimps from Whole Foods
salad greens from a box
salad topping of orange, beet, celery, scallion and parsley,
dressed in olive oil and rice vinegar, salt and pepper


(ps the beets were ready roasted from Trader Joe's cold case, so this was pretty much idiot-proof and really fast. those beets are just ok, nothing special, but they sure are handy.)

Posted by foodnerd at 02:54 PM | Comments (0)

February 04, 2009

i need a cigarette...

and I don't even smoke. Have you SEEN the current issue of Gourmet? Sweet Jesus, the bread porn in there is beyond belief!

For real, I think I am going to cut out the page with the full-bleed closeup of cracked-wheat rolls dusted with flaky sea salt, and frame it to hang on my wall. Good grief. I am a monumentally incompetent baker, and I want to run out right now and buy yeast so I can make these things. I won't, because I am actually turning over that new leaf I've been meaning to turn over and climbing back on the slim-down bandwagon, but I assure you I have been sorely tempted. Dang.

Posted by foodnerd at 02:15 PM | Comments (0)

February 03, 2009

Is this weird?

FoodNerd and I occasionally debate whether or not a given thing that she makes for a meal is weird. This discussion is completely orthogonal as to whether a given meal is delicious or no. Just whether it's weird.

Often, it's not even up for debate. Like the time we had Korean kim chi, a Japanese style cold sauteed spinach with sesame oil, garlic and sesame seeds, lightly pickled bean sprouts in rice vinegar and salt, some ham (deli ends) and some leftover rice. She was trying to make space in the fridge and it was the only stuff left in the house that wasn't for a party we were having the next day. And it was tasty. But... kinda weird.

So our weird dinner last night: succotash, steamed jasmine rice, a fried egg and shredded cheddar cheese. FoodNerd is vehement that this just ISN'T weird. I totally think this is weird.

So we ask you, Internet: Is this weird?

[Update: remember, you have to consider all components in toto.]

Take the poll!

Posted by tallasiandude at 11:19 PM | Comments (5)

Oakland Oatmeal Raisin NOM

33/365 Oakland Oatmeal Raisin NOM
Originally uploaded by tallasiandude.
We got these cookies at Arizmendi Bakery in Oakland, within walking distance from our friend R's apartment.

Best oatmeal raisin cookies ever.

I've always been partial to (shockingly) the Shaw's store-made oatmeal raisin cookies, but I've had to swear off them because they're made with nasty trans-fatty partially hydrogenated oils. (plus, they're kinda hit or miss.)

Spendy (we spent $13 on a little under 2 pounds -- maybe 12 cookies -- to take home with us and for the long flight home), but dericious.

And entirely organimagical. That's a word, right?
Posted by tallasiandude at 12:59 AM | Comments (2)

February 02, 2009

pizzaiolo in oakland

I was in the Bay Area last week for a company event, and I went up to the city for a brief visit afterward. It was sunny and clear and warm and gorgeous the entire time -- unlike last year when it poured rain the entire time -- and I somehow got California cuisine on the brain. Vegetables, salads, new american what-have-you... that's what seemed good to me. So we went to a place that my friend R knew about, which turned out to be the place down the block from Bakesale Betty's that I'd drooled over last year, as i pressed my nose to the glass and read the menu: Pizzaiolo.

Apparently run by one of the horde of ex-Chez Panisse workers, this is a mid-size room done up in low-key but comfortable style, with gorgeous modern bent-wood chairs and really weird art and a wood-burning oven for the pizzas. We figured it would be good: how could it miss, really? But this was one of the best meals any of us had had for a while -- everything was spot-on perfect.

We had two salads, a dungeness crab with shaved fennel, blood oranges and oro blanco grapefruits, and a grilled squid with rich spices, more fennel, meyer lemon and mint.

Then came fluffy-chewy potato gnocchi with a ragu of Berkshire pork -- I expected a tomato base but it was just a pork braise, unadorned and absolutely spectacular -- and ricotta ravioli topped with wild nettles and black trumpet mushrooms, delicate but vibrant in flavor, just enough to complement the remarkable tender, toothsome texture of the pasta.

There was a short rib of beef with big pillowy cannellini and kale and a sparkly green salsa. I kept mistaking that salsa in my mind for gremolata, because it was so perfectly lighting up the savory richness of the beef. This dish was so perfectly executed, it kept blowing my mind: braised short rib can be heavy, even when it's delicious, but this had some quality to it that was light as a feather, and there were nuances of flavor to it that I couldn't pin down.

We finished with two pizzas, since the place is known for its crispy-crust pies. These were indeed excellent, but certainly no more so than anything else we tried. We got a long-cooked-greens & sausage pie, which was a well-balanced and sophisticated rendition of the classic dish, and a wild mushroom-caramelized leek-gremolata pie, which was just insanely good.

They've got a small but useful beer list, and they recommended me a solid choice of red wine (I think it was a Barbera but honestly I'd forgotten what it was within about 30 seconds of ordering it). We skipped dessert because we were full and we knew they'd be wanting the table; service was leisurely, and we heard something about the pizzas being backed up, but we never felt neglected or without something delicious to be eating, so they handle that pressure well. Any other night, we'd have ordered desserts anyway, as they were absolutely compelling in their descriptions: chocolatey something with pistachio praline, persimmon ice cream, and so on.

Should you find yourself anywhere in the East Bay, I'd recommend this place without hesitation. You can be dressed up or down, hungry or just wanting a snack, and you'll be fed with the very best the Northern California breadbasket can provide. Just make sure you get in line by 5:15pm if you've not got a reservation; they open at 5:30, and you do not want to be standing outside being tantalized by the smells wafting forth.

Posted by foodnerd at 02:04 PM | Comments (1)