FOODIE BOOKS FOR KIDS: This Little Bunny Can Bake by Janet Stein

Baking. I know, you know. So let's not go over this again.So I was admittedly nervous when I first saw This Little Bunny Can Bake by Janet Stein at a Random House preview. "Oh, it's another baking book," I said to myself. I think I've talked about this before, but I feel like baking can be overdone with kids - it's that whole preciousness thing: cupcakes in cute paper cups, cookies cut into cutesy shapes, gingerbread houses. You know what I'm talking about. So I expected this book to give me a cavity.

Not the case here. I credit Stein's stellar artwork: the limited palette gives it a modern, graphic feel. It's minimalist but still visually interesting. The art is done in brush and ink, all in varying tones of blacks, whites, and grays. Bunny is pink. The doors to "Chef George's School of Dessertology" have bright red stars on them. The text is red. Bunny's cake has pink icing. The cover is fantastic - it's bright with lots of appeal and sure to catch a child's attention when placed face-out.

The text is brief enough for storytimes with the pre-K set, but older kids will see all kinds of hilarious details: all the books recommended by Chef George are actually written by Chef George and the spoonbill (haha!) is stirring bugs and fish into his batter. In the midst of all the baking, Chef George is teaching them about teamwork, cleanliness, concentration, and - of course - presentation! To top it off, the endpapers have recipes which, unfortunately, will probably get cut off a bit by library processing. On the upside, the recipe for "C.G.'s Chocolate Salami" will probably escape unscathed, which is a good thing because even I am tempted to try it!

It should be noted that Janet Stein studied art in the U.S. and studied food in Barcelona with an award-winning chef. It shows.

Eat, drink, and study at the School of Dessertology!

Stand up in the cafeteria and stab them with your plastic forks!*

It's been a difficult couple of days for me in the blogosphere.

First, through Bitten, I found this article by Tom Lee, which takes Alice Waters to task for elitism relating to her proposal for school lunch programs. Let's start with Bittman's comment: "...we forget that most people in the United States neither know nor care about such things, and that a large percentage of those are not, in general, eating well." I get what he's saying: we foodies can get a bit "precious" about our food. But I also have real problems with the thinking that, just because people don't know or care, we shouldn't try to raise awareness, fight for the integrity of school lunches, and share our passion with any who will listen. When it becomes elitist is when someone - let's take Bittman as an example - sits in their fancy kitchen, waxes poetic about organic school lunches, but doesn't actually do any real work to make it so. By definition, I am an elitist. Alice Waters is not. She has done the real work.

I get what Tom Lee is saying and I did agree with him that Waters is shooting for the moon and we might want to think more practically. BUT I don't think she's "dicking around" by using terms like "organic" and "locally produced". Not only that, but I resent his saying so. She's done most than the rest of us with the Edible Schoolyard, proving that it's viable and it can make a difference. And I have real problems with a system that has made "organic" and "locally produced" so difficult to procure: why should these be the hallmarks of the elite and pretentious? They shouldn't be. Alice Waters is right. I could really go off on this for ages, but I fear that I have already proved that I can't be terribly articulate about these sorts of things. But do read the article and think for yourself about it. Because I think we can all agree this isn't going away anytime soon.

The other article I read was from this week's NYT Dining section: "What's Eating Our Kids? Fears About 'Bad' Foods" by Abby Ellin. It just rubbed me wrong. Or maybe I'm only having one of those weeks... I guess I should have expected some backlash. But it just seems to me that the article is focusing on such an extreme example and holding it up as truth to all us foodies: Beware! Your kids could end up like this! Even the graphic accompanying the article is ridiculously sinister and foreboding. The article is focusing on the sensationalistic, the extreme and the alarmist. I'm disappointed.

Along these same notes, I have had some interesting discussions with Adam lately about drug addicts, religious fanatics, and foodies...and how they're all related. I made some flippant comment about religious zealots being a bit like drug addicts. Adam disagreed, pointing out that, if you were to ask a drug addict, they would probably agree that the whole world should not be addicted to drugs. The difficulty with the fanatical religious folks is that they think everyone should be addicted. Well, there's also a bit of this in the foodie too...and I have to admit there are certainly parallels. I've talked here, here, and here about the "conversion experience" and I totally want everyone else to have one. I don't understand why more people don't care and I desperately want to make them care: if only they could see, they would understand. I want people to see that the life of a foodie is the right one. Definitely parallels, I can't deny it.

I have some book reviews coming up so stay tuned. I promise they'll be frothy and fun...no more of this heavy dwelling. A little less coffee...more Champagne, please!

* Pleeeeeeeease forgive my blog post title. It's a quote from Pump Up the Volume. I couldn't resist.


Oh, the baking! My eyes, my eyes!

I know I can't keep begging you guys for baked goods, but still...

...More than Burnt Toast made Caramel Sea Salt Brownies, for heaven's sake!  And watched Chocolat!  This is a cruel conspiracy to make me start baking!  Without a KitchenAid!

REVIEW: Edible Schoolyard by Alice Waters

As I mentioned earlier, I received Alice Waters' Edible Schoolyard: A Universal Idea in the mail - again, thanks to Chronicle for the hook-up.

It took me about 20 minutes to read it in its entirety yesterday, as it is part information and part photoessay.  With that in mind, there's no reason why each of you shouldn't seek out this book.

As most of you have gathered from personal experience with me or from my blog alone, I have a propensity for gushing.  I'm just that way and, when I do gush about something, it is absolutely sincere; I assure you that when I don't like something, you'll know it (Don't even get me started on Edward Tulane.  Just don't.).  So I'm about to gush about Edible Schoolyard:

Inspired.  That is both the best word to describe Alice Waters' project and the way to describe how I felt post-reading.  I desperately wish I could share some choice quotes with you to show you what I mean, but Waters has such a lovely manner of storytelling that there isn't a way to share with you, unless I were to post paragraphs at a time.  Instead, I will share the "Principles of Edible Education", as listed by Waters:


A school garden, kitchen, and cafeteria are integral to the core academic mission of the school, so that ecology and gastronomy help bring alive every subject, from reading and writing to science and art.


From preschool through high school, every child is served a wholesome, delicious meal, every day.  Good food is a right not a privilege.  Providing it every day brings children into a positive relationship with their health, their community, and the environment.


School cafeterias buy seasonally fresh food from local, sustainable farms and ranches, not only for reasons of health and education, but as a way of strengthening local food economies.


Hands-on education, in which the children themselves do the work in the vegetable beds and on the cutting boards, awakens their senses and opens their minds, both to their core academic subjects and to the world around them.


A beautifully prepared environment, where deliberate thought has gone into everything from the garden paths to the plates on the tables, communicates to children that we are about them. 

The book demonstrates ways that the Edible Schoolyard put this into action at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, from the garden flowers that the kids put on the table to the ways that the garden was worked into the curriculum.  For instance, when the kids harvested the autumn squash, it was used in a lesson on circumference, mean, and median.  Recipes were given to them in one format, and the kids were told they needed to double the recipes (so they could practice their fractions).  They learned about ancient history, as they prepared meals as serfs and lords...the serfs, of course, getting no meat and much simpler fare.  On a non-curriculum level but more human level, Waters shows how the kids learn cooperation and manners, as eating at the school in this manner is oftentimes the only shared meal these kids have in a day.  And they learn that the kitchen and the table are a unifying, neutral place where people come together and share.

If you're looking for specifics on how to start an Edible Schoolyard program, this won't help you too much - it's very vague.  However, you'll learn the eye-opening tidbit that this certainly didn't happen overnight: the school didn't even have its first edibles until 3 years in because, naturally, the soil had to be primed for production.  Waters talks in 3-5-7+ year increments.  The other thing you'll learn is that, if you're interested in the Edible Schoolyard, you'll most likely have to look outside your school district: Waters makes it clear that there was no monetary support available from the school nor the district.  Everything came from donations, both materials and monies.  Waters definitely doesn't give a check-off list of ways to make this happen for your own community (if you've read Alice Waters and Chez Panisse , you'll understand that the way Edible Schoolyard came about was fairly typical of Waters); this could frustrate some readers.  On the other hand, Waters is all about creativity and innovation and, I think, that she leaves a lot of room for that.   As we know, the world's communities are so different and, to implement an Edible Schoolyard, it would certainly take some tailoring to your own specific neighborhood.  So I do encourage you to not get all black-and-white and institutional about this.  Instead, let us consider ways that we can do this in our own manner in our own communities.

This isn't a children's book; in fact, the school & libary marketing rep at Chronicle did let me know they were marketing to adults.  However, that isn't saying that this book doesn't have a place in parent/teacher collections in your children's room.  In fact, I think that would be a prime place for it.  The cover is gorgeous: put it face out and see what happens.  You could inadvertently inspire someone, which is often the best way to do so.  

This book has given me more food for thought than I had imagined, particularly as I am about to enter culinary school.  Yep, you heard it here.  I'm giving my down payment this week and getting fitted for my "whites" (Oh. My. God.).  So, as I enter the program, I'm thinking of ways I can make a difference.  Ways that I can inspire a "conversion experience" in others, just as I have experienced one myself.  And how to keep food, food policy, and the joys of the kitchen in the consciousness of as many people as possible.

Eat, drink, and make a difference though food.

Note: It should be added that, if you want the practicalities of implementing such a program at your local school(s), the Edible Schoolyard website offers lots of information and suggestions.  The website alone is fascinating, but it also helps supplement many of the book's points.

Foodie book for kids destined for the Big Screen

I heard it here first, and IMDb confirmed it:

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi and Ron Barrett is being made into a film.

It is scheduled to be released in the U.S. in September 2009 and stars a long list of current SNL members and alums.  Mr. T is voicing Earl Devereaux.

In a similar media-related theme, I'm home today with a sick Kiddo so we're watching lots of Disney Channel.  A couple weeks ago, I blogged about Disney's Pass the Plate initiative.  This morning, it was an animated cooking show called "Tasty Time with Ze Fronk".  

In the course of the short mini-show, Ze Fronk makes a recipe (in this case it was a tuna sandwich).  The website has recipes and videos so you don't have to try and catch it on Disney Channel.  I was also pleasantly surprised to find that Ethan Long is the creator - huzzah!  While I certainly don't think Disney produces stuff like this out of the goodness of their hearts, I will still watch it and enjoy it.  The emphasis on "deliciousness" and recipes is particularly pleasing to me.


Salted Chocolate and Cranberry Cookies

Well, you all know how I loathe baking.  And you know what I do for friends that bake for me...two words: Bacon Fest.

So anyone want to make these delectable cookies* for me?  We can work out some sort of exchange, right?

* Photo and recipe courtesy of Grab Your Fork.


And now back to the books...

Lest you think all I talk about is beef and bacon, I want to share with everyone the galley I got in the mail today from Random House:

The Sweet Life of Stella Madison by Lara M. Zeises (July 2009). Blurbs by E. Lockhart and Sarah Dessen - not bad!

Seventeen-year-old Stella has famous foodie parents but Stella is all about the drive-thru. When she gets a summer job writing food articles for the local newspaper she needs a crash course in all things culinary. Romance and coming-of-age ensue, of course.

I have high hopes for this one based on the "About the Author" in the back: "Lara enjoys playing Iron Chef in her own kitchen, especially when the secret ingredient is bacon. She worships at the altar of Alton Brown but credits her mother for turning her into an avid home cook and bona fide foodie."
And there I go...mentioning bacon again. But seriously, can I be Lara's new best friend?

Eat, drink, and wait awhile longer for the review on this one...


Bacon Fest 2009

So awhile ago, Amateur Gourmet posted a recipe for Crispy Salted White Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies and I wanted them.  But you know about me and baking.  So I told my friend Josh, a fellow gourmand and a passionate fan of all things pork-related, that if he made me the cookies I would make him a meal consisting of all bacon-themed dishes.  He made me the cookies - they were sooooo goood! - and thus was born Bacon Fest 2009.

Josh and Lori came over at 4 p.m., which was a little early for the actual appetizer I had planned so I started with a quick and easy hors d'oeuvre recommended by Tyler Florence in Food & Wine : bacon strips with mustard.  Bake bacon strips at 375° for about 20 minutes, until crispy.  Drain, then serve them with Dijon mustard for dipping (warm or at room temp).  I used a kicky Dijon honey mustard.

For the appetizer, I made Reblochon Tarts with Bacon and Fingerling Potatoes from Food & Wine.  I couldn't find Reblochon at my nearby cheese store so I substituted Taleggio; the recipe also says you can use Saint-André.  The recipe also calls for "cold all-butter puff pastry."  I don't know if the Pepperidge Farm puff pastry is all-butter, but I used it and it turned out great so I wouldn't worry about trying to find something fancier.  The tarts were good and Adam thought they shouldn't be changed, but Josh and I thought it tasted too much like breakfast - we wanted some acid, some bite.  In the future, I might try lemon zest...a sharp Cheddar...or even Gorgonzola.  The recipe recommended a Pinot Noir so we drank it with A to Z Pinot Noir from Oregon; it paired perfectly.

For the main dish, I made Pan-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Fennel and Pancetta-Molasses Dressing accompanied by Roasted Bacon-Wrapped Lady Apples.  The pork recipe comes from Michael Chiarello's book, At Home with Michael Chiarello , but I did some adapting (Chiarello wants you to sauté the spinach - I didn't).  Since there's no link, here's a rough recipe: 

Dressing --

1 lb. pancetta, sliced 1/4 in. thick
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 tbsp. thinly sliced garlic
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh sage
1/4 c. light molasses (Chiarello calls for light, but I could only find dark.  Worked great so don't sweat finding the light stuff.)
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar (the vinegar really stands out so don't use really crappy stuff)

3 pork tenderloins, 1 to 1 1/4 lbs. each (I only used 2 for the 4 of us.  We ate it all but, good god, it nearly killed us)
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
8 oz. baby spinach
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

Make the dressing:  Cut the pancetta slices into julienne strips 3/4 inch long and 1/4 inch wide and thick (these are Chiarello's measurements, but I assure you that I didn't have a ruler out and you shouldn't either).

In a large skillet, cook the pancetta over med heat, stirring occasionally, until it is almost crisp, about 5 minutes.  Raise the heat to med-high.  Add the shallots and cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally.  Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until it turns golden-brown, about 3 minutes.  Add the sage and cook for 10 seconds to release its fragrance (believe me, you'll smell it!).  Stir in the molasses and vinegar.  Cook until half the liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes.  Remove from the heat.  I made the dressing about 3 hours ahead and just reheated it on the stove before serving.

Preheat the oven to 425° F.  Evenly coat the tenderloins with the fennel mixture.  In a 12-inch ovenproof skillet, heat the olive oil over high heat.  When the oil is hot but not smoking, sear the tenderloins on all sides, about 5 minutes total.  Move the skillet to the oven and cook the tenderloins until an instant-read thermometer registers 155°F for medium, 6-8 minutes (I don't have a thermometer.  I took it out after 6 minutes and it was med-rare, which is what I wanted.  Add another minute, if desired.)

Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the tenderloins to a cutting board to rest for 3-5 minutes.  Reheat dressing, if needed.  Slice the pork tenderloins across the grain on the diagonal.  Lay spinach on a platter and lay pork on top.  Spoon dressing over the top.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

For the apples, I went to Epicurious and entered in "apples" and "bacon".  And here is the resulting recipe .  I adjusted it: 1 slice of bacon and 1 apple per guest.  Preheat oven to 400°F.  Cook bacon in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, turning over once, until edges are lightly browned but bacon is still flexible, 6-8 minutes total.  Transfer to paper towels to drain.  While bacon cooks, core apples, if desired (I did), from bottom, with pointed end of a vegetable peeler or a paring knife, leaving stems intact (this is dangerous work, people - watch those fingers!).  Wrap a slice of bacon around each apple, securing ends with a toothpick.  Brush a shallow baking dish with some bacon fat (YUM!), then add apples to dish and bake, uncovered, 10 minutes (this left our apples with some crunch still...add more time if you want a more cooked result).

Per Chiarello's recommendation, I bought a dolcetta to drink with this: Gianni Voerzio dolcetto d'alba 2003.  Again, it was a lovely pairing.  Here is the party on a platter:

For dessert, I couldn't bake, obviously.  That would defeat the reason for having Bacon Fest for Josh!  So I made "Bacon Candy":

1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 lb. sliced bacon

Combine sugar and cinnamon.  Cut each bacon slice in half, crosswise and coat each slice with the brown sugar mixture.  Twist bacon slices and place in a 13" x 9" baking pan.  Bake at 375° for 15 minutes or until bacon is crisp and sugar is bubbly.  Place cooked bacon on foil to cool.  Serve at room temperature.

I served it with vanilla ice cream dusted with freshly grated cinnamon:

One more wine note: awhile ago, I blogged about meeting Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page at Pour on the Upper West Side.  I also blogged about a wine - Corte Rugolin Valpolicella Classico - that was described as having "salty, fresh bacon on the nose."  Naturally, I saved it for this occasion.  I didn't get the bacon on the nose, frankly, but it was a bright and juicy wine, nevertheless.  I would absolutely plop down $21 for another bottle of this - worth the price.

With every ounce of food consumed, it was time to call it a night.  Bacon Fest was over for this year with promises to repeat the tradition annually...until Josh suggested doing it every 3 months.  Lord help us.

Eat, drink, and toast to the pig!

Nothing says "I love you" like beef.

Adam and I decided about five years ago that we didn't want to celebrate Valentine's Day anymore.  We decided to be anti-Valentine's Day: we ate nachos, drank beer, watched action movies, and then slept in separate beds.  And the tradition continues, only we're slightly more gourmet about the whole affair: this year we made chili dogs.  Specifically, we made Chocolate Chili and put it on top of pasture-fed beef hot dogs.  It is one of the most satisfying, filling meat dishes you could ever eat, particularly in the throes of winter...and the perfect way to say "I love you but I don't feel pressured to buy you materialistic, probably useless things to demonstrate that love."  Sometimes hanging out in sweats and laughing at Armageddon is the best way to be in love.

Chocolate Chili  
(inspired by Michael Chiarello)

Serves 4-5.

1 1/2 lbs. beef chuck, cut into about 3/4 in. pieces
Freshly ground pepper
Kosher salt
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon, plus 1/2 tsp.
1/2 tsp. ground cumin, plus 1 tsp.
1 tbsp. chili powder, plus 1 tbsp.
Masa harina (Mexican corn flour)
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
2 heaping tbsp. rendered bacon fat (we keep a cup of it in our fridge)
2 red onions, peeled & minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded & minced
1/8 c. tomato paste
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 -2 (12-oz) bottles beer (we prefer a smoked malt beer, such as Schlenkerla Rauchbier...but Guinness or Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout work too)
8 oz. canned diced tomatoes in juices (just eyeball it)
1/2 qt. chicken stock
2 (12-oz) cans black beans
1-2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, cut into large chunks

Place chuck in a large bowl.  Season liberally with pepper & salt.  Season with 1/4 tsp. of the cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. of the cumin, and 1 tbsp. of the chili powder.  Mix this well and coat the meat with the masa harina.  The flour will thicken the sauce.

Preheat a Dutch oven on the stove over med-high heat.  Add the olive oil and then the coated meat, spreading it evenly so it covers the bottom of the Dutch oven in 1 layer.  Sprinkle any remaining flour and/or seasoning on top of the meat.  Leave it alone, without turning it, so the meat will brown or caramelize.  Add the bacon fat.  As it browns, turn each piece with tongs.  Once all sides are caramelized, remove the meat from the pan with a slotted spoon and place on a cookie sheet to cool, leaving juices in the Dutch oven to sauté vegetables.  Add the onions and garlic and saute for 5 minutes over med heat until they start to caramelize and get soft.  Add the jalapeňo and allow to to cook for 2 more minutes until soft.  Add the tomato paste.  Add the remaining 1 tsp. of the cumin, 1/2 tsp. of the cinnamon, the oregano, and 1 heaping tbsp. of the chili powder.  Add beer.  Stir to incorporate everything.  Add diced tomatoes, and stir.  Then add the reserved meat.  Add chicken stock.  Simmer for 1 1/2 hours until meat is tender.  Strain juice from the black beans, add the beans to the chili pot and bring up to simmer.  Then add chunks of bittersweet chocolate.  Stir until it melts.  Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.  It also freezes well for up to 3 months.

If you don't want to do this chili dog style, you can also use tortilla chips for dipping.  I've also grilled slices of ciabatta and used that to dip.  My personal feeling is that you should NOT use cheese with this recipe - why mess with perfection?

Eat, drink, and celebrate not celebrating.


You've Got Mail!

I was sitting at my desk this morning and look, look, look what came in the mail:

Edible Schoolyard by Alice Waters!!! Thank you soooo much, Chronicle!

I browsed quickly through it, and the photos are gorgeous. I'll be sure to post an entire review once I read all the way through. However, I was thrilled when I spotted a page with "Principles of Edible Education." There are five principles total, which I'll share eventually, but here is the first one...just to whet your appetite:

A school garden, kitchen, and cafeteria are integral to the core academic mission of the school, so that ecology and gastronomy help bring alive every subject, from reading and writing to science and art.

Oh my god. It's like someone speaking directly to my soul. Not to be too dramatic or anything...

Eat, drink, and thank goodness we live in the same world as Alice Waters.


"Too-short girl in the high-stacks world of librarianship" *

As I mentioned, I'm a little behind in the blogosphere (it's the fabbity-fab life, remember?)...

...so imagine my delight when I saw three new posts from Tiny Little Librarian in my Bloglines! I love her stuff. Keep blogging!

If you haven't checked her out and you work in a library, what the heck are you waiting for?! Go. Now.

* My post title is TLL's tagline on her blog.

Airline Food, Red-Wine Soaked Fried Bread, and Homegrown Stimulus

Once again, I find myself having to apologize for the dearth of blog posting lately. You see, I have a glittering, sparkling day-to-day life that often prevents me from writing as much as I like - I'm terribly busy and important doing any number of fabulous things.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

And as is customary when I've been absent awhile, everyone else has still been blogging. I have found all kinds of fantastic treasures in my Bloglines and email inbox:

  • The List Universe has put together the Top 10 Most Overrated Novels. I'm down with Emma being on that list, especially when compared with Austen's other work. The listmakers got the right one; if they had stuck Sense and Sensibility on there I would have had some choice words for them. However...the Lord of the Rings trilogy?! They're out of their minds...or they're just as bad as those trolls that come along and say useless things with the sole purpose of pissing people off.

  • I heard from Ellen at Avec Sucre...who heard from Clotilde...about this complaint letter sent to Sir Richard Branson regarding the food on a Virgin flight from Mumbai to London. Funny, funny stuff, my friends. Read it and weep.

  • ALA has posted the phone calls made to the authors and illustrators for the Youth Media Awards at ALA Midwinter. Fun stuff! My favorites were Laurie Halse Anderson saying over and over, "Oh my goodness, oh my goodness!" and when hearing that she would be invited to be on the Today show Beth Krommes said, "I watch that show every morning!" For the record, I found Neil Gaiman's swearing hilarious!

  • In yet another intersection of food and children's literature, Readers' Books in Sonoma has a fantastic display idea: "homegrown stimulus package." In addition to having child-friendly books like Tillie Lays an Egg and Extraordinary Chickens on display, they also have locally grown eggs and will soon have local produce and preserves. Talk about exemplifying the idea of community! Thanks to my daily Shelf Awareness email for that tidbit.

  • I can't believe I'm admitting this but...I found a version of milk chocolate that I actually like. Café-Tasse has been my chocolate of choice for awhile (with Dagoba, Vosges, and Scharffenberger making cameo appearances). My favorite Café-Tasse bar has been the Noir-Café (dark chocolate with coffee); however, I unintentionally grabbed the Lait-Café last time I was at the store. Well, you heard it from me first: it's Really Good. Incredibly creamy, equally rich. And it doesn't taste all jacked up on sugar. Granted, I'm not converted - I'll still go for the Noir. But I will thoroughly enjoy the Lait while it lasts. (And this all reminds me of an article in the NY Times a year ago today about milk chocolate making a comeback. I scoffed a year ago but now...)

  • I'm a geek and here's why: I get the email updates about Spain...On the Road Again. I've been watching the show casually and enjoying it. It would be so wonderful to make some of the food that they eat but I feel that part of the reason it looks and sounds so good is because it is local to Spain. I'm just not going to get the same freshness of produce and seafood here...because, you know, I'm in NYC in February. Nevertheless, I might have to try this recipe. To quote Mario: "Fried bread soaked in wine...dangerous." Indeed. Here's it is:


Serves 6

* 3 cups olive oil
* 2 cups dry Spanish wine
* 3 large eggs
* Eighteen half–inch–thick slices crusty Spanish bread (or substitute a baguette)
* 1/4 cup sugar, mixed with 1/4 cup ground cinnamon

* Mosto (recipe for Mosto follows below)

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat until it reaches 365 degrees Farenheit. Meanwhile, pour the wine into a large shallow bowl, add the bread, and let soak for 8 minutes. In another shallow bowl, beat the eggs until well mixed. Working in batches, remove the bread from the wine, draining well, add to the eggs, and let soak for 2 minutes; drain well, add to the hot oil, and cook for until golden brown, about 1 minute per side. Drain on paper towels, then sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar, drizzle with mosto, and serve to friends.

Mosto: Boil 3 cups of dry red wine with 1 cup of sugar, a cinnamon stick, and a splash of fresh apple cider until it is reduced by three-quarters (it will be thick and syrupy). Allow it to cool, then store it in a clean wine bottle. Use whenever you need a sweet, grapey punch, in everything from a salad dressing to an ice cream topping.

  • I have only very recently discovered the blog of my two new friends, Cindy and Lynn. They reviewed Dear Julia and I loved what they had to say. I hadn't made the parallel between Zemser and Joan Bauer but I think Cindy is right on.

Eat, drink, and beware of that food on Virgin...or any airline really.


Extra! Extra! Ultimate Croissant saves the world!

Publishers Weekly recently posted an article, "Comics Publishers Enter the Kitchen."  Not surprisingly, food is entering the world of manga.  In particular, I loved the bit about Yakitate!! Japan, which features a 16-year-old boy that has "other-worldly baking powers."  Thank god someone was blessed with them because we all know I have no such powers.  Here is a great quote from the PW article:

Says one character when a classmate offers to teach him how to make croissants for a competition, “Just learning how to make it won’t do jack for us… what we need to make is… the ultimate croissant that can defeat even Suwabara!!”


Eat, drink, and fight the forces of evil with pain chocolat!


I Went to London Tonight

I couldn't decide what to name this post: "Diet?  What Diet?!"...or "Nigel Slater is my New Boyfriend"...or "I Love the UK"...but I had to settle on the one I did.  Just know that I didn't make the decision lightly, though...

While in Denver for ALA Midwinter, I spent a ridiculous amount of time in The Tattered Cover, which is just a haven for book lovers, a Mecca.  While there, I discovered Nigel Slater's Real Fast Food, which promises food ready to eat in 30 minutes.  Naturally, I ignored that because this whole 30-minute-meal thing is crap.  While perusing the recipes, though, I thought they all looked simple but flavorful, fun but nourishing.  So I bought it.

And tonight I am not sorry.  The first "recipe" I made from the book was the "Chip Butty", which wasn't even a recipe.  Apparently it's a "French-fry sandwich" that's a "true British institution."  Nigel gives no recipe, but only tells us that we have to  follow the rules:

- Use thick-sliced crappy bread (or "plastic" bread, as he puts it).  The craptastic bread soaks up the grease better.

- Fry the potatoes in drippings, not oil.  Then generously apply salt and malt vinegar.

- The sandwich must "drip with butter."

Lastly, Nigel suggests that the sandwich is best when eaten "slightly drunk."  MY KIND OF RECIPE.

So here is what I produced:

There are no words, truly, to describe this.  I slathered butter all over the damn place, and I fried the potatoes in lots of bacon fat, which I keep saved in my fridge.  I doused the whole thing liberally with malt vinegar.  By the time we had dinner, Adam and I had finished our first beer.  We drank our second beer with the meal.  We had a third beer for dessert.  Slightly drunk?  Done.

I don't know if this is how the Brits actually do it, as I've never been to the UK, but my version still rocked.  And to top it off, I played my "Euro mix" on the iPod while we ate: British Sea Power, Bloc Party, Buzzcocks, The Smiths, Dolores O'Riordan, The Libertines.  Adam looked at me, grease dripping down his finger, and said, "God, this makes me want to go to London."  Which is just about the best compliment I think a cook can get.

Eat, drink, and travel. 

Note: Upon further research, I don't think I did the chip butty right.  I sliced my potatoes in a mandoline and fried them up that way.  But everything I'm reading says you need to do them in a traditional "French fry" manner.  I don't know, though...I think I still liked my variation - it laid flat, almost like a thick potato panini.  Additionally, I don't think I was supposed to the grill the bread.  My sources are telling me I was supposed to put butter inside the sandwich and let the hot fries melt the butter...and not have grilled bread.  Hmmm...

See here, here, and here.