Friday, October 14, 2011

Food magazines--Reading about cooking

I do miss Gourmet, even though there was too much in it and of very uneven quality.  I would begin by ripping out all the pages with ads on both sides, making the magazine much thinner.  The ads and the lifestyle promoted were abhorrent.  But there were always some interesting recipes.  It was a sort of gluttonous feast.  Nowadays when I get copies of Food and Wine with the same miserable ads, I rip out the few recipes of interest and throw out the magazine since there is so litle in it.
It's a pity about Fine Cooking.  They have lovely food and cooking related ads.  But the recipes are so mediocre that the magazine is of no use at all, and I have given up on it.
So my favorites are Saveur, which always has much of interest, and Cook's.  I used to dislike Cook's. Every article assumed that the recipe to be discussed was deserving of being "saved".  Recreating lunch room nostalgia and the worst of church pot lucks was disappointing, to say the least.  But they seem to have gotten over it, and now some of my favorite recipes have come from the often careful analysis of how food chemistry and technique can interact to make us all better cooks.  Perhaps the best example of this interaction is the recipe for Rosemarry Foccacia.  It is perfect.

I have been thinking about the concept of "talent".  Maybe some folks really are born with special skills, or at least the ability to learn faster.  But mostly, I think, the question is one of intention:  What is it that you want to accomplish?  Then the issue is  for  how much failure can you forgive yourself and how stubborn are you in going back to try again and again.

My intention in cooking is to use food in season, to celebrate diverse people"s comfort food, and most important of all, to make the food be vegan as often as I can.  Sometimes it doen't work, but I do keep trying.  And because we keep trying, it is never boring!  We can always look forward to repeating earlier successes, in season.

   Noel and I teach weaving.  Much of it is difficult, but the principles of forgiving mistakes and being stubborn are what produces good results in any philosophy of the day!

Friday, August 19, 2011

There's No Accounting For Taste!

It is interesting that it can be considerred desirable to dine under rather miserable conditions in the latest big name/association restaurant.  We recently went to one such.  Worst about it was the noise level--constant, for the two hours it took for them to feed us--the worst acoustics of any restaurant in which I have eaten!  We were packed in like sardines.  One had to turn sideways to get out past other tables, in an unattractive room on a drab street.  Not enough light to read the menu.  No bread, no olive oil or butter.  And the place was packed on a Tuesday night.

I'm sure that the servers earn a lot of money, at least I hope so.  It has got to be miserable working there, since the discomfort engenders hostility.  I dont know how  much;  we saw some, and we certainly didn't communicate any of our own dissatisfaction.

Oh yes, the food.  It was good, very good--not great though--and if it had been great, would it have been worth the physical discomfort? I dont think so.  It occured to me that take out was a solution.  however, they dont do take out.

So these diners are the opposite of our customers.  Indeed, we recognized no one there.  We have no fancy named chef who is,of course, not present.  We have space between tables  Very little noise.  A beautiful view.  Home made bread.  Butter.  Good olive oil.  And our customers tell us that the food is good, very good.  To each his (or her) own!

Recently we went to two restaurants that we liked.  We returned to Navaratna in Stamford.  It is an Indian all vegetarian restaurant.  It was comfortable and the food was good.  Stamford now boasts 2 of our go-to restaurants: Fez and Navaratna.

And we have now been three times to Shiraz, in Elmsford, New York.    It is only a half hour from Westport and well worth the trip.  This is Persian  (Iranian) cuisine.  It surprised me in that there were so many differences from Turkish and Syrian food.  Also, ther seems to be a lot that borrows from India, with a slightly different slant.  Lots of vegetarian appetizers and at least five different pilafs.  And they do make the most amazing rice dishes.  Perhaps best of all is the grocery store next door with many kinds of basmati rice, an incredible selection of spices and Iranian cookbooks.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Saving Summer

You likely have your favorite ways to preserve the gifts of Summer; these are mine.

Raspberries and blackberries from the farmer's market are very tempting, and I always buy too many.  The easiest thing to do with the raspberries is Edna Lewis' recipe for sugared raspberries.  Measure your raspberries, turn into a bowl and add an equal amount of sugar.  Use a fork or potato masher to crush the fruit.  Turn into jars and refrigerate.  They will keep a year in the refrigerator and make a delicious topping for pancakes, cake, or ice cream.

I make a blackberry/pasilla chile syrup from a '90's Gourmet magazine recipe.  Remove stems from 4 dried pasilla chilies (available in Mexican markets) and turn into a pot.  Add 2 cups sugar, one and one half cups water and a quarter cup of lemon juice.  Bring to a boil and simmer 10-15 minutes, or 'til syrup, exclusive of the chilies, measures 2 cups.  Meanwhile, puree 1 cup blacberries in a blender.  Strain into a bowl.  Now pour syrup and chilies into the blender and process.  Pour into the strainer over the blackberries.  Stir and strain.  Keep this mixture in the freezer, where it will never be totally frozen.

The blackberry/pasilla syrup makes a delicious Tequila Sunrise.  For each drink, turn 1 tablespoon syrup into a tall glass.  Add 3 tablespoons silver tequila and 1 teaspoon lime juice.  Finish with a half cup orange juice.  Add ice and stir. 

Yesterday I made the first slow roasted tomato sauce of this season....At last we have a plethora of home grown tomatoes!  The recipe is in our  Best of Bloodroot cookbooks, both of them actually.  We really like this easy recipe. Cut up but dont skin the tomatoes, any and all kinds!  Turn into a shallow pan.  Add lots of whole garlic cloves and lots of olive oil.  Bake at 325 degrees for 3 hours, stirring now and then, until tomatoes caramelize.  Add basil sprigs  for the last 10 minutes, and salt to taste.  A whole hot chile may be roasted with the tomatoes.  Freeze, for January joy.

There are lots of hot peppers in my home garden and at Bloodroot.  The best thing to do with them is to pickle them and can them.  Even if you dont like spicy, a pepper from this pickling is a delicious accompaniment to many dishes.  And a jar of these pickles make a great  present for heat loving friends.  The recipe will be in my next blog.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Those delicious fruits of Summer: How to make them last. Maceration!

So many fresh, local fruits at the farmer's market, I cant help it, I buy too much!  It started with strawberries; they were especially abundant and delicious this year.  I bought too many.  After the glut of them with sugar, the rest sat in the refrigerator and it seemed, immediately began to rot.  Then came an issue of Saveur, with a note on macerating strawberries.  The berries I did this with kept, refrigerated, for more than a week.  And they tasted more intensely strawberry, but not sweet.  What a great technique. Great over ice cream or cake, or with yoghurt.

When the yellow, red, and black raspberries had a similar effect on me, I treated them the same way.  The fruits, though still uncooked, lose their substance and are soft, but I figured they would make a great pie.  I strained the copious juices from the fruit, added a little sugar, two tablespoons cornstarch, and stirred the wet mix constantly over a moderate fire (in a pot, of course), until thickened and clear.  Then I baked one of my coconut oil pie crusts completely.  Let it cool, then piled the fruit in it and topped it with the thickened sauce.  Gorgeous and delicious.  The lime and gin accentuate the fruit flavor in a delightful way.

To macerate, here is what you do:  For one pound of fruit, combine in a bowl the scraped rind and juice of one lime, three tablespoons of demerara (or brown) sugar, one half teaspoon of ground cardamom, one half teaspoon salt, and one tablespoon of gin.  Stir.  Add fruit.  Saveur said to quarter the strawberries lengthwise, but halving them is fine .  I didnt do anything to the raspberries.  sliced some peaches, just added a few blueberries.  You can divide your fruit in separate bowls to later arrange them in circles or other patterns in your pie, and combine all the juices to thicken and spoon over.

Now I have to think what to do with the gooseberries and currants waiting for me in the fridge.  I couldn't resist them either!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Destination restaurants

I am constantly evaluating what makes a restaurant a destination---a place I want to return to over and over again.

This thought is not in reference to Bloodroot, though I hope it is attractive in the way Noel and I want it to be.  Rather, it is the Tuesday night places we visit that bring up the issue of comfort.

Hopefully, the restaurants I like best are not too noisy and are lit well enough so that I can read the menu.  Hopefully the staff is respectful--neither fawning nor condescending.  Hopefully prices seem reasonable when compared to the quality of the meal.  And finally, portions are not gargantuan  and not gloppy!  One restaurant where we like the food very much is noisy, poorly lit (I have to use my flashlight to read the menu), and not particularly friendly.  We still go there for the good food, but not often.

This last week we returned to a restaurant we have been matronizing since it opened---how long ago?  At least 10, maybe 15 years!  It is Buddha Bodhai in Flushing, Queens.  We used to go almost every month.  Nowadays, as we age and the traffic gets worse, we go only 3-4 times a year.  Michael Wong is the chef.  He is tall and wears a tall chef's hat.  He is constantly experimenting and when he sees us, he always tells us about his latest recipe.  We never look at the menu and just get whatever he suggests.  The food is always interesting and usually delicious.  Chinese vegetarians traditionally use meat analogs, and if that turns you off, dont go to Buddha Bodhai.  We enjoy almost everything that Michael cooks.  We eat too much, for very little money.  And no matter how full we are, we feel light and happy by the time we reach Greenwich.

A much more expensive restaurant in Manhattan is Kajitsu.  There is a single menu with the fixed price of $70.00 for 6 courses, $50.00 for 4.The price shocked me, and I did not expect to return, but the food wowed me, and we have returned 3 times.  Each time I am enchanted by this restaurant's  vegan Shojin cuisine.  Little exquisitely presented portions  are delivered  in a restrained but elegant setting.  They use "namu"--a version of wheat gluten, again a meat analog.  It is a special occasion restaurant.Two years old, they change their menu every month, supposedly inspired by what is in season.  Perhaps Japanese seasons  differ from ours, since they seem to use foods not in season here!  It is a small quibble.  The restaurant is excellent.

So those are the extremes of my favorite vegetarian (actually vegan) restaurants.  I love them both.

Somewhat closer to home is Fez in Stamford.  Purportedly Moroccan, with an Indian chef, they do not feature a vegetarian menu.  However, they offer 3 small plate appetizers for $16.00  We always choose roasted cauliflower with raisins, roasted potatoes with chipotle mayonnaise and chick peas with okra.  Then we get a larger dish, such as Haloumi butternut squash sandwich and find this to be a bargain dinner for two!  Physically comfortable, the only negative is finding parking on this restaurant lined street.

If you go to Buddha Bodhai, I suggest that you ask for food that "the women from Connecticut "get.  ( our Bloodroot flier is pinned up near the cash register)  And take note of the female Buddha on their altar.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Eating Out on Tuesday

May 19, 2011

We go out to eat almost every week, and since my best inspiration comes from diverse cuisines, we go to ethnic restaurants that are not vegetarian, but where vegetarian dishes are traditional, and therefore, available. 

For example: Bereket in Black Rock, Bridgeport, is a Turkish restaurant.  Food there is of Mediterranean inspiration.  My favorites are the feta cheese filled "cigarros", more than decent falafel, and several excellent (though cold) eggplant dishes.

In Stamford, a Greek restaurant called Eos does eggplant dishes at least as well.  There are also lemon-oregano potatoes and flaming saganaki cheese.

In Fairfield there is Fin, a Japanese restaurant (run by Chinese) where they make lovely vegetable dumplings and shitaki sushi. 

And  Pho Saigon, in Bridgeport will make the famous Vietnamese soup vegetarian on request.  It is delicious and very reasonably priced.

More next time!

Let's begin...

In this space  I will go on about my issues…..mostly about food: such as where we choose to eat when not at Bloodroot, or what markets for shopping.

Sometimes there will be conversation about a particular dish or about a book, or what's special in the garden.  We will see what comes out!  I hope you like it.