Sponsor
Subscribe

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

RSS|ATOM|RDF

Subscribe with Bloglines

Add to My Yahoo!

Accolades




SAVEUR.com's Sites We Love



Sponsor

blog advertising is good for you
Search Site
Recently


Endings, Beginnings
and Spaghetti

The Anna
Tasca Lanza
Cooking School

Springtime
in Sicily


Born-Again
Vegetable
Boiling

An Inspiring
Book


Cold
Comfort


The Pizza
Project

Happy 2012, Long Time
No See



How to
Cook Indian


Blogs Around the World

101 COOKBOOKS
San Francisco, CA, USA
AN ENDLESS BANQUET
Montreal, Canada
BLEEDING ESPRESSO
Calabria, Italy
CHEZ PIM
SF Bay Area, CA, USA
CHUBBY HUBBY
Singapore
CREAMPUFFS IN VENICE
Toronto, Canada
COOKING ADVENTURES OF CHEF PAZ
New York, NY, USA
DAVID LEBOVITZ
Paris, France
DELICIOUS DAYS
Munich, Germany
DESERT CANDY
Washington D.C., USA
DINNER WITH JULIE
Calgary, Canada
DORIE GREENSPAN
Paris and NYC
EGGBEATER
SF Bay Area, CA, USA
FOOD & THOUGHTS
Copenhagen, Denmark
FOOD BEAM
Côte d'Azur, France
GLUTEN-FREE GIRL
Seattle, WA, USA
GRAB YOUR FORK
Sydney, Australia
HOMESICK TEXAN
New York, NY, USA
IL CAVOLETTO DI BRUXELLES
Rome, Italy
KALYN'S KITCHEN
Salt Lake City, UT, USA 
KUIDAORE
Singapore
LA TARTINE GOURMANDE
Boston, MA, USA
LOBSTERSQUAD
Madrid, Spain 
LUCULLIAN DELIGHTS
Pistoia, Italy 
LUCY'S KITCHEN NOTEBOOK
Lyon, France
MATT BITES
Los Angeles, CA, USA
MY MADELINE
Boston, MA, USA
NAMI-NAMI
Tallinn, Estonia
NORDLJUS
Suffolk, UK
ORANGETTE
Seattle, WA, USA
THE PASSIONATE COOK
Singapore
RAMBLING SPOON
Chang Mai, Thailand
ROSA JACKSON
Nice/Paris, France
SEVEN SPOONS
Ontario, Canada
SIMPLY RECIPES

SF Bay Area, CA, USA
SMITTEN KITCHEN
New York, NY, USA
STEAMY KITCHEN
Tampa Bay, FL, USA
SWEET AMANDINE
Cambridge, MA, USA
TARTELETTE
Charleston, SC, USA
TEA AND COOKIES
SF Bay Area, CA, USA 
TOAST
Pittsburgh, PA, USA
THE WEDNESDAY CHEF
Berlin, Germany

Beyond Blogs

MORE FOOD LINKS... 

Thursday
Apr142005

Irn Bru

irnbru.gifHere's a useful bit of trivia: what are the only two countries in the world that have a local soft drink that outsells Coca-Cola? The answer: Scotland and Peru. The soft drinks in question, Scotland's Irn Bru and Peru's Inca Kola, share a remarkably similar profile, offering caffeine-rich fluorescent fizz that has spawned a national obsession.

Irn Bru has been made in Scotland since 1901 by the Barr family company. It started life back then as Iron Brew, which was an unquestionably more logical spelling, but in 1946 the government deemed the name to be false representation, due to the fact that the product isn't actually brewed. Amazingly enough, however, it does contain iron: listed at the very end of the ingredient list is 0.002% ammonium ferric (III) citrate. Don't know how much good that will do you, but apparently quite a lot, judging from the alarming number of toddlers to be seen on the streets here with bright orange bottles dangling from their mouths.

In fact, walk the streets of Edinburgh and you will see people of all ages and backgrounds quaffing the stuff. It's touted as the world's best hangover cure, which is a matter of serious debate among Scots. This claim does have some foundation in fact - all caffeinated drinks will soothe headaches to an extent, and sugary drinks replace lost fluids and sugars sustained after a particularly heavy night out (the only kind you can have here).

Irn Bru has been known for creating controversy with its advertisements, and in the words of one local "has the best adverts apart from beer".

kissposter1.jpg


Apparently its fame is spreading, as well - Russians, Japanese, and yes, even Americans are falling for it.

And what does it taste like, you ask? Irn Bru describes its taste as hints of citrus and vanilla. I don't agree. Like all good phosphorescent soft drinks, its flavor profile builds with a full bouquet of cotton candy and finishes with a crescendo of pure bubblegum.

 

Tuesday
Apr122005

The King of Sauces, Catalan-Style

romesco.jpg
Roasted Scallions with Salsa Romesco

In Spain, olive oil is like religion. Everyone has it, it's supposedly good for you, and people don't give it too much thought. It also permeates nearly every aspect of life in Spain, and can be found anointing everything from vegetables to meat, bread to dessert. It is so pervasive, and so versatile, that it doesn't seem to occur to most Spaniards that there could be anything else to embellish food with. Well, maybe apart from mayonnaise, but that's another post.

This entry is not actually about Spanish olive oil, although tomes could easily be written on it. Instead I wanted to give you the necessary context to fully appreciate the difference in saucing habits between Catalonia and the rest of Spain.  While most of Spain is happily glugging on the oil, perhaps frying a few cloves of garlic in it first or tossing in some parsley, in Catalonia cooks have invented and perfected sauces so rich and complex that they would give Escoffier a run for his money. The crown jewel of Catalan - indeed of Spanish - sauces, is (in my humble opinion) salsa romesco. Romesco is the creation of the inhabitants of Tarragona, a city which lies just south of Barcelona on the Mediterranean, and which until recently wasn't well known throughout the rest of Catalonia. These days, however, it's pretty much ubiquitous throughout the region, and you have a good chance of finding a delicious version in any restaurant that serves Catalan cuisine. Tell this to a Tarragonese and he will of course insist that nowhere outside of Tarragona is the sauce properly made.  In any case, it really doesn't matter, because the basic ingredients that go into romesco have the magical ability to taste fantastic no matter how you put them together.

The basis of a romesco is red pepper. In Tarragona, they use a local dried sweet-hot pepper called the ñora which is not widely exported (update: here's a source!); as a substitute Colman Andrews suggests Ancho chiles, if you live somewhere where you can find those. Penelope Casas in The Foods and Wines of Spain suggests a 'New Mexico' type dried chile, which I haven't tried. What I have tried, and liked very much, are simple roasted red bell peppers, or if you can find them, a bottle of imported piquillo peppers. What goes into the sauce next is a layering of flavors that build upon this pepper base like instruments in an orchestra: nutty toasted almonds, pungent garlic, sweet tomatoes, piquant vinegar, spicy chile, and rich, fruity olive oil. It is sometimes thickened with a bit of fried bread, can contain hazelnuts as well as almonds, is often slightly sweet as well as sour, and in general can go through about a hundred different permutations. It can be thick and coarse like a tapenade, or it can be fluid and smooth like fresh cream. It can be served as an accompaniment to grilled or roasted vegetables, meats or fish, or it can form the basis of a cooking sauce in which seafood is simmered. I've served it over pasta, and spread it on sandwiches. I'm sure you could even put it on pizza.

Whichever version you choose to make, however, and in whatever form you choose to eat it, it will be one of the most fantastically tasty things you ever have the pleasure of putting in your mouth. Give me romesco over olive oil any day!

'Tarragona' Romesco from Catalan Cuisine
3 dried ancho chiles, soaked in warm water for 1 hour, seeded and minced
1 small fresh hot chile, seeded and minced
extra-virgin olive oil
2 tomatoes
6 cloves garlic, minced
24 blanched almonds, lightly toasted
24 hazelnuts, lightly toasted
2 sprigs parsley, minced
2 slices fried bread
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
salt

Preheat the oven to 350F. Sauté the fresh and dried peppers briefly in a small amount of oil. Bake the tomatoes in a lightly oiled dish for 10 minutes; then remove and cool. With a mortar and pestle or in a food processor, make a thick paste of the garlic and sauteed peppers. Work in the nuts, parsley, and fried bread. Carefully peel and seed the tomatoes, and coarsely chop. Work the tomatoes into the mixture, then add vinegar and 2-3 tablespoons of oil and salt to taste. The mixture should be thickly liquid.

My Romesco
4 T. olive oil
1/3 c. blanched almonds
1/2 c. tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped (can be fresh or canned)
3 red bell peppers, roasted, seeded and skinned (or 1 small jar pimientos del piquillo)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 t. sweet paprika
1 t. sugar
1/4 t. red pepper flakes or hot chile powder
3 T. red wine vinegar
salt to taste

In 2 T. olive oil, fry the almonds until golden, about 2 minutes.  Put almonds, tomatoes, garlic, paprika and pepper flakes in a food processor; mix together the remaining oil and vinegar and add in a thin, steady stream while running the processor.  Season with sugar, salt and pepper, cover, and let stand 1 hour before serving.

Friday
Apr082005

The Spice Bowl

Everyone has a skeleton in their closet. Mine just happens to be a spice bowl in my cupboard.

It looks innocent enough; it's a big glass bowl probably intended for family-style salads, and inside are little bags of spices I've been collecting over the years for my Indian food experiments. The bowl used to be a box (or, more accurately, a tupperware container), but as the contents kept growing, I had to upgrade to the bowl.

The problem is that I'm highly ashamed of my spice bowl. In fact, probably very few of my friends have ever even seen it. If I'm cooking while they're around, I make sure I have all the spices I need neatly laid out on the counter before they arrive. I keep it stowed away in the pot cupboard, high on a shelf that nothing else of importance is stored on. Nobody ever looks there unless they have a reason to.

The fact is that I used to have a perfectly reasonable number of spices, a packet of cinnamon and some cloves, nutmeg, perhaps some curry and some cayenne pepper. They hung out in the front of my cupboard, next to the tea and sugar and ketchup, just like everyone else's spices. Then I discovered my love of Indian food, and things changed.

The few who have seen The Bowl ask why I don't simply get a spice rack. I just laugh. There were 42 spices in my bowl at last count. Have you ever seen a spice rack that holds 42 spices? Didn't think so.

I'm not sure why I'm so ashamed of it. Maybe it's the knowledge that I possess more spices than most Indian cooks that makes me feel just a teeny bit obsessive. Maybe it's the fact that I've never been to India, and I cook from cookbooks and buy my spices at the Middle Eastern shop on the corner that makes me feel as if I'm somehow cheating. Maybe it's just the complete chaos inside the bowl and the excessive amount of time it takes me to find what I need. I don't know. I just know that knowledge of its existence is not freely handed around.

Many of the spices in that bowl represent memories, souvenirs from trips I've taken and places I used to live. Many have crossed oceans with me. Spices aren't cheap, after all, and some I use so rarely that they stick around for years. No matter where I live, however, I can't imagine one of my cupboards not having that penetrating mixture of dusky, spicy, slightly stale aromas. Those spices have almost become part of the family.

Maybe someday I'll figure out what it is about that bowl that compels me to hide it. But for now, as long as the food I make with those spices is so tasty, does anyone really need to know?

spices.jpg

Masala Chai, Perfected

For one large or two small servings:
1 cup water
3/4 cup (180ml) whole milk
1/4 cup (60ml) evaporated milk or light cream
1 teaspoon loose black tea
1 (2-inch/5cm) cinnamon stick, broken
5 green cardamom pods, slightly crushed
5 whole cloves
1 (1/4-inch/1/2cm) slice fresh ginger, bashed a bit
2 whole peppercorns, slightly crushed
(optional additions, including mace, star anise, nutmeg or vanilla - not traditional but nice for a change)
sugar, to taste

Bring everything to a boil in a heavy-bottomed pot, then reduce the heat to medium low. For the first few minutes, you'll have to monitor the pot, taking it off the heat if necessary, because the violently bubbling brew will want to escape its confines and flood your stovetop. After that stage has passed, however, you should just let it quietly simmer for about half an hour. The longer you wait, the better it will be! At the end you should have just over a cup of liquid, depending on how long it's been boiling. Strain the liquid into cups to serve.

A word of warning: it's quite rich. Of course you can substitute lowfat versions for anything above. Or you could just serve it for dessert!