Friday, September 30, 2005
Somehow, I don't think that it is humanly possible to eat Jelly Belly's with a friend without laughing. The same goes for when you are selecting which chocolate you want out of a box. Or when you're trying to decide what piece of amazing sushi you want first at Matsuhisa's. Bottom line: simple, happy food moments are filled with contagious joy.
So far today, I have eaten the following flavors: orangesicle flavor (50-50 bar), cinnamon, juicy pear, strawberry daiquiri, plum, pink grapefruit, tangerine, toasted marshmallow, buttered popcorn, coconut, caramel apple, cantaloupe, cappuccino, root beer, peanut butter, tutti-frutti, watermelon, wild blackberry, and holy crap, I think I might have eaten others that I can't even remember!
Wow, I don't normally consider myself a candy person. But I think that it's the adventure of trying new flavors and seeing if you can identify them that really gets me. What I would really love is a class that teaches you how to taste foods. How to isolate different flavors from a medley and determine the makeup of any food item. Imagine how invaluable that would be. Like training your nose with a Le Nez Du Vin kit. (I was going to explain what these kits are, but it will be more fun if you google it. Be sure to look at the fault kits.)
I'm pretty darn excited because tomorrow we are going to see Nine Inch Nails and Queens of the Stone Age at the Hollywood Bowl. I can't wait! I am going to put together an awesome picnic basket to take in with us. I hope that you have fun, too, with whatever you're doing!
Thursday, September 29, 2005
Here are a few really cute things that I have seen over the last few months. They are both miniature and food related. Score!
First, take a look at Kooki Sushi. This DOES have a purpose...a very yummy purpose! This is a confection, believe it or not! It has chocolate and gummy parts and who knows what else. I found this at www.kookisushi.com. They have other sushi pieces or whole bento boxes to choose from. Even the plate is edible on this mini masterpiece.
Second, I love these very cute felt donuts from www.sewdorky.com. They also offer a variety of "flavors" and they are about life size. I thought this one with the nuts was really cute but they also have some that have pink frosting with sprinkles, among others.
And last, but definitely not least, are these SO cute earrings. I think that this website is my favorite!! Amy at www.amyville.com offers other items, such as bacon and eggs, toast, chocolates and more. Also, it's neat because you can select exactly what you want for your earrings. You can mix and match a whole chocolate candy with another that has a bite taken out of it! Her items are made from Fimo (or a Fimo-type substance) with sterling hooks, wires, etc.
This just might inspire me to try something creative...you never know!
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
It was a funny experience. As I sat there watching all of the other parents walking up, I realized...this is what my Mom must have experienced at her first school function. Sitting there, amongst a crowd of people that all had one thing in common: we all had children. It was sort of eerie. First of all, I am used to being around some single people who don't have children. And, with the exception of a handful of folks, I realized that they were all...well, let's say older. Does that mean that I am older, like them? Being only 28 years old (a very young 28 at that), I felt like I had just joined a league of some sort involuntarily.
I have the new responsibility of trying to sell all sorts of crap out of catalogs to my coworkers. I am supposed to be donating my time and money to all sorts of causes. I am going to be at events where the main subject will inevitably be: KIDS! Not that I don't love to talk about kids. I just don't want to talk about kids all the time. Let's get real. I want to talk about food all the time.
The next thing that struck me was that there weren't that many parents in attendance. I actually asked a woman next to me if this back to school night was for the whole school, or just half of it. She said that the turnout was actually pretty good. Depressing.
The evening continued on, with one PTA member after another rambling on about what they're doing this year. Events, fundraisers, stuff they want us to buy. And don't forget the pauses where the principal stepped up and gave swift translation into Spanish for those parents who had missed out on the monologues' meanings.
Now, one particular fundraiser stood out to me. The Book Fair. The book fair is going to be at our school next month, during October. The students will be able to buy books and a portion of the proceeds will benefit the school. However, in addition to raising funds by selling books (and I am guessing they won't get a big percentage of the proceeds), Scholastic is offering schools the opportunity to receive donations from their families that will go 100% into a fund for the school for future book purchases. It's like a savings account for our school. And, what's even better, Scholastic is going to match those funds, dollar for dollar, and those monies raised will go to needy schools (probably those in Louisiana right now).
So, this is an awesome opportunity, right? We can raise funds that will go directly to purchasing books for our school AND support schools in need across the USA. So, what is the ambitious goal of our PTA? A measly $1,000. For a school that supports K-6th grades, I just don't get it. They have "high hopes" that every family can donate $1. So...back to my original question. Where's the enthusiasm?
I personally hope to raise $100 by asking everyone I know to donate $1 (or more, if they can afford it). I guess it comes from my attitude. I try to give the best from myself and I try to coax the best out of those around me. So, why wouldn't you have a really grand goal, say $2,500? With around 500 families at our school, it would only take $5 per family to reach this goal.
I am probably destined to be on a PTA one day. Which totally freaks me out. I hardly have enough time to cook, bake and craft as it is now! Bottom line is that I will probably always be able to do more than they ask. And nothing is too much to ask when it comes to supporting the school that my son attends. If we don't support the school, who will? As my son's kindergarten teacher puts it: they're poor.
On a separate but related note: Box Tops for Education. I never really understood what those little coupons on some of my grocery store items were for. Well, it turns out, if I collect them and give them to my son's school, the school can then turn them in for money! Pretty neat trick, huh? (And BTW, can I redeem any? :-) Just kidding!) Anyway, if you have any of these and don't already give them to a local school...please, please start saving them. If I had known that they could make a difference to my son's school I would have started saving them long ago. If you want to mail them to me, send me an email and I'll give you my address. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ok...REALLY, no more about school. Tomorrow I'll be back to my usual food talk!
Monday, September 26, 2005
The very first recipe in Daniel's book is a learning recipe. It seems to be designed for folks like me (that is, beginners who don't know what they're doing). While that may sound like a joke, it really is true. If you don't know anything about baking bread (which is totally different than say, baking a cake), then you will probably feel a little lost without some helpful guidance. The author seemed to know right where I was coming from and provided very helpful tips to achieve the desired results. For example, he'd say that you can test if you've kneaded enough if you pull a little bit of the dough away from the ball and it springs back.
I was tempted to try out some of Farmgirl's tips (from her 10 Tips for Better Bread), but I decided that I would just try the book's version first and see what happened. Here is my first ball of dough, proofing before baking.
I thought that it went pretty well, overall. The bottom crust was a little firmer than I would normally like, but still good. It had a very "wheaty" flavor and tasted great with the huckleberry jam that I recently received as a gift. Here are the finished loaves and some cut pieces.
The few little hiccups that I had were these: I couldn't find anyplace where you can buy a 6 quart wooden bowl for the dough; I couldn't buy the flour I needed in bulk from my local Henry's grocer; and some of the brands listed in Daniel's book are too old to find anymore. But the good thing is that if you just want to try your hand at baking and are not sure if it's for you...you can try any of these recipes with regular bowls. I used glass and it seemed to be fine. I did record everything about this experience in a small journal to be sure that I had notes in case I bake these loaves again. The over thermometer was very helpful. My oven is gas and the knob is not as accurate as you'd like to think.
Now I'd like to try baking a bread that my family would eat more often...probably a farmhouse white like FG had posted in June. Maybe she'll send me the recipe...? :-)
I had a blast trying out a new recipe this weekend! What did you do?
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Here is my lovely new blender, as modeled by my accommodating son. It is a Bamix, which I had never heard of, but according to my husband is supposed to be a really good brand. I am looking forward to trying out a few things with my blender. First, I want to make smoothies. Since I like them so much from the Jamba Juice, I just have to try making them at home. Second, I want to use my blender to make jams and jellies. And the last thing that I want to do is use the nifty little cup attachment that came with it. It has blades inside the cup and a lid which the blender then goes on top of and voila, mini food processor!
Here is little Toejam herself. She looked so pretty with the light from the outside making her pupils shrink down to little slits.
OK, down to business! On the topic of foodie films, I discovered something interesting. While there are films that mainly focus on food or cooking, many of my favorite food scenes are simple moments instead of full films. Another thing that I discovered is that I should be ashamed of the fact that I haven't seen Tampopo, Babbette's Feast and others. These appeared again and again on the foodie film lists on the web.
And while I have not seen some key foodie films, there are still many moments that I feel are noteworthy.
In Like Water for Chocolate, the quails with rose petals that Tita prepares makes me long to taste one. Having never eaten quails or rose petals makes no difference...I am sure that they must be divine! The looks on their faces...the heat that rises in the skin of those who are eating...the uncomfortable way Tita's mother is shifting in her seat...and the way that Pedro and Tita seem to be experiencing each other from across the table. Boy, it makes me hungry in a couple of ways.
Big Night, which featured Tony Shalhoub (before he became Monk) and Stanley Tucci, is a tale of two brothers who try to save their failing restaurant by risking it all on one big dinner. The dish that caught my eye was called timpani. They made it in a large dish, with a crust on the bottom and then layered with veal, beef, pork, chopped sage and marsala wine. In the center, after the first ingredients are layered, they add another layer of crust and stuff the middle with hardboiled eggs, mushrooms, prosciutto, penne and mozzarella. When it is served, the pan is inverted and it is sliced like a pie.
And of course, the kid in me is patiently waiting for a mention of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. When I was younger, the scene where Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder) takes a bite out of a buttercup after drinking whatever was inside of it made my mind go into overdrive. What did it taste like? Was it sweet or flowery? And if watching Violet Beauregard taste that three course meal in a piece of bubblegum didn't drive your imagination wild...well, I don't know what to say to you besides, good day sir!
And one last small mention to finish off this post. The film Amadeus was brilliant. I have enjoyed it many times. And every time, the scene that I loved the most was when Constanze Mozart goes to Salieri's home and enjoys a confection of some sort. Soft, round, powdery white little buns with a bit of filling peeking out of the top. The scene is also somewhat sensual in that the buns she eats match the soft, powdery, round shape of her bosom, at which Salieri is staring.
Enough of my rambling for one day! If you'd like to find out anything more about these films (or others), you should check out the IMDB (internet movie database) at www.imdb.com.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
If you live in the Los Angeles area and consider yourself a sushi lover, there is a fabulous restaurant waiting for you. A word of caution however: if you eat here, it may ruin other sushi restaurants for you! I can hardly find another sushi restaurant that lives up to my standards since I started going to Matsuhisa's.
Matsuhisa is located on "restaurant row" in Beverly Hills. The prices match the location. When I am having a good year, it usually means that I have been lucky enough to eat there once! The first time I ever saw Nobu Matsuhisa was on the Martha Stewart show (on Food Network). I had no idea who he was, but he prepared a dish that looked so scrumptious that I immediately went and downloaded it from the internet. It was a dish called "new style sashimi."
For those of you who have enjoyed this dish, your mouth is probably watering like mine. Nobu's new style sashimi is different from regular sashimi because it explodes with flavor. No plain ol' sliced fish on a plate here. The fish (your choice, I've ordered yellowtail, tuna, salmon, and spanish mackerel) is first sliced extremely thin. Next, a small amount of minced ginger is dabbed on top of the fish, followed by a few tiny pieces of julienned ginger and a few chives. After a few sesame seeds are sprinkled on top, yuzu sauce is lightly drizzled over the dish. Yuzu are a Japanese citrus fruit that are about the size of a tangerine and quite tart. In the US, fresh yuzu are extremely difficult to find, but the bottled juice from the fruit is usually acceptable for most dishes.
Now, here comes the most important part of the process. Just before serving, a combination of olive oil and sesame oil is heated almost to the point of smoking, and then drizzled on top. This last step is so important because it takes all of the individual ingredients and fuzes them together. The fish is still raw and now is a flavor sensation in your mouth. No wasabi or soy sauce necessary at our table, thanks!
For anyone who is adventurous enough to prepare sushi at home (I guess I am too chicken still!), here is the recipe. As for me, I will gladly pay $18 for this piece of heaven in my mouth. At least once a year anyway. And if you think this dish sounds good, you should try: Kobe beef with asian mushrooms, sizzling when they bring it to your table in dish straight from the oven, still rare in the middle but seared to perfection on the outside; lobster ceviche, crisp and fresh tasting with its lime juice and veggies; and finally another favorite of mine, yellowtail with thinly sliced jalapenos and fresh cilantro.
I hope that you all get a chance to enjoy a meal at Matsuhisa's (boy, I sound like a paid advertisement...Nobu if you're reading this, I will work for food!). Join me tomorrow when I explore yet another facet of the foodie: foodie films.
18 ounces red snapper fillet
1 teaspoon finely grated garlic
1 (3-inch) knob ginger, peeled and julienned very thinly and plunged briefly in cold water
Menengi or chives
2 teaspoons white sesame seeds, toasted
Yuzu Soy sauce, recipe follows
1 carrot curl, for garnish
New Style Oil, recipe follows
Cut fish fillet into paper-thin slices using the usu-zukuri cutting technique: Place fillet horizontally on chopping board with skin side up and tail end to left, steadying that side with fingers of left hand. Hold very sharp, long, thin-bladed pointed knife so that the top, blunt edge is inclined sharply to the right and, from the left side of fillet, start cutting paper-thin slices. Keep the blade at an acute angle to achieve a clean cut across the grain. The fish is sliced in one drawing stroke. Let the weight of the knife do the work as you draw the blade back toward yourself. Keep fingers of left hand clear.
Arrange fish slices on serving plate. On each slice dab a little grated garlic and place ginger spears and a few menengi or chives. Sprinkle sesame seeds over fish. Drizzle yuzu soy sauce over top of entire arrangement and garnish with carrot curl.
Just prior to serving, heat the New Style Oil in a small frying pan until just before it begins to smoke. Pour it over fish slices and serve.
This recipe may also be followed using shellfish, beef or tofu.
Yuzu soy sauce: 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon yuzu juice (best if fresh, but bottled available in Asian markets) 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce
Combine in small bowl.
New Style Oil: 6 tablespoons pure olive oil 2 teaspoons sesame oil
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
When it was my turn at the front of the line, I told AB to sign my apron "to my long lost lover." Boy, you should have seen the look on his face! His reply was, "What?" So, I repeated what I said. Instead, he wrote, Go Cook Something on my apron (along with a signature). He was very funny and took the time to have a photo with every single person who waited in line. And I noticed that when we were leaving (3 hours later), he was still patiently signing books and taking photographs with fans.
So, despite his reluctance to give me a funny quote on my apron, he made me like him even more. And according to him, "W" on his show wouldn't know a thing about cooking if it weren't for what he tells her to say. And his sister...isn't really his sister. It was also very interesting when he described having to move from the kitchen he had used for quite a while (it was in someone's house), and the process they went through to make the new kitchen look like the old one. They built the new kitchen on a set to look exactly like the old one...even down to having canvases hanging outside the windows that look like the old back yard. It's amazing...I'd never known if he didn't tell us!
Monday, September 19, 2005
Foodies speak a different language than "normal" people. We also see travel in a totally different light. Before I know what hotel I want to stay at, I've usually already scoped out the restaurants in any destination city. And let anybody say whatever they want. In the end, I will still remember the satay and salt and pepper scallops that I ate at Wild Ginger in Seattle, while my trip to the aquarium is now just a vague blur of water and things moving in it.
In my search to create all things yummy at home, I have started to seek the advice of others. That, I have found, is the best way to discover the tricks of the trade. With no grandparents on hand to show me how to bake an authentic loaf of crusty bread (and frankly, I don't think mine could've in the first place), where else should a food nerd turn? Well, I could try recipe after useless recipe from amongst the hundreds of baking cookbooks, or I could save my sanity and get a little friendly advice from more experienced bakers/cooks.
Farm Girl (at foodiefarmgirl.blogspot.com) offered a truly enlightening set of tips for baking bread. And Amazon.com provides a ton of insight by the folks who really know the truth: the consumers!
For noodles, try Nina Simonds' Asian Noodles: 75 Dishes to Twirl, Slurp and Savor. I have made the cinnamon beef noodles and the rainbow peanut noodles. Out of the this world. For simple everyday cooking, try Paula Deen's Savannah Country Cookbook. It's not for everybody...if you have to weigh in once a month somewhere, you'd better skip this one. And now, I am waiting for my local library's computer to give my cell phone a call and let me know that I have a book on hold. I have requested Bread Alone: Bold Fresh Loaves from Your Own Hands by Daniel Leader and Judith Blahnik. I'll keep you posted after I've tried a recipe (no pun intended).
And to the other food nerds out there, embrace what you love. Go ahead and use terms such as chiffonade, crudites and immersion blender. There are enough of us now to create our own country! Besides, judging by Weezer and the Verizon Wireless guy, along with countless others, it is way cool and sometimes sexy to be a nerd. So, foodies, on your mark, get set, cook!