Friday, April 29, 2005

Cheese of the Week - Goat Cheese Swiss

I skipped the Cheese of the Week last week because it was so good that I ate it before I got a photo of it. (Gosh, I have no idea why I can't lose weight!) Oops. It was a buttermilk blue from Whole Foods and I am not sure who made it. It was de-flipping-licious though - tangy and not too rich (for blue cheese) and just the best.

The photo is of a Goat Swiss, or so Trader Joe's calls it, because it does have tiny tiny holes, some liquid-filled. Is that a bad thing in cheese?

It is extremely goaty, which is good if you are me and bad if you are Mr. Snackish. It tastes like a traditional Swiss not at all. If there is any of that nuttiness in there, the goat comes in and butts it right out (sorry, couldn't resist).

It is very, very white, like goat milk, and doesn't have a strong aroma. I combined it with some roasted portobello mushroom and red pepper sauce on a pita for a strongly-flavored sandwich that I liked a lot.

It is a Trader Joe's house label. Made in Wisconsin.

A Sign of Spring

Big fat shiny fava beans were at Farmer's Market today. I got them and peeled open the pods with their weird cottony centers. Popped out the beans and cooked them for a minute in boiling water. Waited for them to cool a bit, sliced open one edge with a sharp knife and popped out the shiny, spring-green insides.

And we ate them just like that.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

A cultural phenomenon

You'd look queasy, too. The man in the photo just polished off 70 chiles at a jalapeno-eating contest. It is part of our annual Spring festival and chili cook-off here.

Seven people competed, six guys and one girl. Most people were finished after about 20 whole jalapenos. They kept getting redder and redder as they chewed. One bald guy's head looked like a summer sunset.

I talked to the winner for a minute. He said he knew he could win.

The problem was that he thought they weren't going to have the jalapeno contest this year, so he ate a bunch of chili first...urg.

Several contestants lost it in quite spectacular ways during the contest. One guy ate about 40 chiles before staggering offstage, dripping in sweat, to heave on the grass behind some parked cars.

When I caught up with him about 10 minutes later, he was still in an altered state of consciousness and unable to speak intelligibly.

I love food. I don't quite understand the need to turn it into a torture contest. I guess it is kind of like a stomach triathlon. Painful, but I suppose there's the satisfaction of having done it.

Baked Tofu

Splish Splash Tofu Thursday

Once again we meet our friend Mr. Tofu. The first time you encounter him, he may seem a little bland, boring even. But upon closer acquaintance, you begin to realize that he is just very subtle and understated. In fact, underneath that smooth exterior, there is a party animal, a chameleon, really, just waiting to get out and take the world on.

Put any type of outfit on him and he is ready to go. He can be dressed up in a panko crust or tossed in teriyaki for some fun luau action.

Ginger and Spice Baked Tofu
1 cake firm tofu, pressed under a weight for 30 minutes

2/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine
2 Tbsp cider or rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp maple syrup or honey
1 Tbsp molasses (if you don't have any, just use more maple syrup or honey)
1/4 tsp five-spice powder
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp chile powder (I used chipotle)
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
3 green onions, sliced

Mix marinade ingredients. Slice tofu in 1/2 inch slices and marinate in sauce, turning frequently, at least one hour. Remove from marinade.

Broil or put in toaster oven on hottest setting about 4 minutes on each side.

Serve atop a lovely bed of greens.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Wake up healthy

I mentioned my naturopathic doctor, Melissa Metcalfe, in a previous post. She is this incredibly healthy-looking blonde woman who rides her bike to work...about 10 miles.

I have had medical doctors with pallorous skin and a smoker's cough. I feel better about going to someone who clearly takes good care of themselves.

Dr. Metcalfe is always talking about getting enough fiber in your diet. And since most Americans frequently dine on fiber-free fare like potatoes, white bread and white pasta, she is probably right to keep mentioning it.

This is her incredibly healthy and fiber-filled breakfast recipe:

Dr. Melissa Metcalfe's High-Fiber (and we do mean HIGH fiber) Oatmeal
1/2 cup long-cooking (at least 5 minutes) oats
1/4 cup wheat bran
1 1/c cups water

Bring water to a boil. Salt if desired. Add oats and wheat bran, stir, turn heat down to medium and cook until done, about 5 minutes. Leave a little more moist than you normally like your oatmeal.

Remove from heat and stir in
1 scoop unflavored protein powder

If desired, add berries and/or sweetener (I simply have to - I use maple syrup).

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Giada deLaurentiis, Too Hot Tamales, Ludo Lefebvre

The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books last weekend had its own culinary stage, complete with stove and cooking demos. Of course I had to go!

I got to see two demos and the tail end of a talk by Ludo Lefebvre of Bastide Restaurant in Los Angeles, who apparently didn't cook due to some stove problems. He was there pushing his book Crave, with its sex-god cover.

Ludo is rather dishy - he looks like a long-haired, tattooed Tom Cruise, complete with big shiny smile.

He has a better accent, though (he is French). Pat of Eating L.A. reviewed his book on her blog.

Giada de Laurentiis really surprised me. I always just thought she was a pretty woman with a famous name, but she is a Cordon Bleu grad and worked under Sherry Yard, the estimable pastry chef of Spago.

She took the stage by force in her trademark low-cut blouse, charming the audience of about 500 with humor and her 10,000 watt smile. She moved with grace, interacted with the audience between slicing and dicing, and really looked like she was having fun up there.

She even made jokes when the woman who pushily volunteered herself (Giada had asked for any questions...the woman leapt up and asked "Can I eat what you make?" ) from the audience to help on stage ruined the first dish, white bean dip, by dumping a whole bowl of salt into it. ("Didn't that look like a whole lot of salt to you, Kim?" Giada asked, truly baffled.)

I got a shot of one of the dishes she cooked, pasta with asparagus and prosciutto:

The Too Hot Tamales, Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken, have been working together so long that they are like a vaudeville comedy team, setting up each other's punch lines and cracking wise.

They are probably some of my favorite TV cooks, though. They shamelessly pimp their Whole Foods products, their cooking tools, and their books - Saturday's main item was a Too Hot Tamales pepper grinder designed by Mary Sue's husband ("It has a lifetime guarantee!"

Their recipes seemed really good and easy. They started with some great drinks, like a fizzy mint-lime cooler, that I can't wait to try. They did warn that it leaves little green specks of mint in your teeth. Then a watermelon aqua fresca that you could add tequila to...sounds good to me.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Why DO Starbuck's pastries suck so badly?

This is a great article from theSan Diego Union Tribune in which their food critic attempts to determine why the world's largest coffee chain can't supply a decent pastry.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Orange to the second power

Yes! Colored orange (at least on the inside) and flavored with orange, this sweet potato dish is an orange double-whammy. Foodgoat hosts this month's Is My Blog Burning? online food blog event with the theme of orange.

My entry has a mix of some of my favorite flavors - chiles, warm-flavored spices and orange.

This recipe comes via Rick Bayless, cookbook author, Chicago restaurant owner ( Topolobampo and Frontera Grill, Chicago ) and ambassador of real Mexican cuisine.

It is called "Camote Adobado" - sweet potatoes in a chile-orange sauce.

The recipe involves a lot of chile toasting, soaking and blending, cinnamon, cloves, orange juice, orange zest and honey.

All this wonderfulness turns into a dark red paste that you pour over sliced sweet potatoes and bake for about an hour. I took it to our "cultural diversity" potluck at work and forced it on my co-workers, who regarded it with fear and suspicion (it does look pretty weird.

But what the heck. I love it. I brought the leftovers home and have been eating them for 2 days. They taste great.

Trust me on this one.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Cherimoyas and White Sapotes

I was emailing Fatemeh of Gastronomie about two of my favorite fruits and thought I should post it in case anyone else has wondered about these.

Around here cherimoyas are fairly expensive, from $2.75 to $4 a pound. They have to be hand-pollinated - that is why they are costly. They taste delicious (I believe Mark Twain said "like deliciousness itself") but have lots of big black seeds that are pretty easy to remove, but are all throughout the fruit - one in each of those scaly little sections.

I like sapotes because they have the same sort of creamy delicious flesh as cherimoyas and they only have seeds in the middle - usually one or two big and one or two small flat ones. The big seeds are really big, though, so buy the biggest sapotes you can find (if you can find them at all).

Here sapotes are only about $1 a pound in high season but are only sold at Farmer's Markets, not in stores, and here is why: they sit around hard and green forever. Then they go from ripe to overripe in about a day. One moment they are perfect and the next they are rotten. So you have to watch them carefully!

That is my rare fruit lesson for the day. For more fruit facts, check out The Evil Fruit Lord's blog The Fruit Blog . He gladly answers fruit-related questions.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

A Trifling Ginger Molasses Cake

This dessert did double duty. We were having a potluck at work on Thursday AND I knew Sugar High Friday was the next day - how convenient! I leapt on the molasses bandwagon with sticky abandon.

First, I had to find a recipe. Last week I indulged my molasses lust with Garlic Tofu Bites from a Whole Foods recipe.. But for Sugar High Friday I needed something sweeter and more molasses-y.

I picked up a Ginger Cake recipe from I wanted something pretty simple, since I knew I would be making it between 6:30 and 8 a.m.

I got up and got to baking, splattering the whole kitchen with molasses and flour in the process (I am a natural-born mess. If I were a Peanuts character, I would be Pigpen .

The recipe involves a lot of ginger and a lot of cinnamon, as well as a whole cup of molasses and another of butter. These are a few of my favorite things. The wild part comes when you add baking soda to a molasses and hot water mix - it makes a huge brown foamy bowl of molasses sauce.

The instructions say you can either put this in a 9 inch springform pan or 18 muffin tins. Since my springforms are sadly missing in action, I went the muffin route. The little cakes baked up well, but then, well, wouldn't come out of the tins.

The cake is so soft and tender that the tops ripped right off or chunks of the bottom stayed stuck to the tins.

Desperation being the mother of invention, I decided to improvise. I cranked out a batch of wonderful Straus organic whipped cream , lined a bowl with it, and started adding cake chunks. More whipped cream, more cake. Voila -kind of a last-minute trifle.

I took it to work and people loved it. They didn't know it was a saved disaster.

Next time I make it, I would add some fruit - peaches or cherries or something to add more texture. And if I had time, I might even make some pudding or pastry cream so I could call it a real trifle. But even being a fake trifle, it was dang good.

Creme de la creme

Today I found out what Creme de la creme really means. I bought some Straus Family Creamery whipping cream.

I had never bought it before, but I was eagerly anticipating tasting it, since everything else they make is so good. Their whole milk yogurt is the best yogurt I have ever tasted. It is smooth and rich and like the essence of a sunny, grassy field all right there in a plastic carton.

Their European-style butter is equally good.

So I opened the cute little glass bottle of whipping cream this morning and the top looked a little weird. Not liquid. I stuck my finger in the neck of the bottle and voila! The cream of the cream had all gathered at the top, making something even thicker and more sumptious than cream itself.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

An ugly little tasty semi-disaster

These are Garlic Tofu Bites from a Whole Foods recipe I found on the web. They look more disastrous than they taste, fortunately.

Here's the idea: cubes of pressed tofu, marinated for 2 hours in a tangy sauce made of tamarind paste, soy sauce, ketchup, molasses, garlic, ginger and a couple other things. Then they are rolled in sunflower seeds and baked for 20 minutes.

The problem is that the marinade is thickened with cornstarch and becomes too thick for a sauce and too thin for a spreadable paste. If you are a Virgo, this is enough to give you a heart attack.

So when you take the cubes out of the marinade, it either slides off or clumps on, giving the attractive presentation seen in the photo. Your hands or utensil will be covered in gloopy marinade and so will the kitchen be.

The sliding gloop also creates a hella-mess on your baking sheet.

Thank goodness for Dawn Power Dissolve, which I also call "Oven Cleaner Lite." I am not shilling for them, but dang, that stuff cleans up some horrible messes without much scrubbing. Just make sure the room is well-ventilated and you rinse well.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Wine from those wild men at Au Bon Climat

Originally uploaded by suebobdavis.
I love the Au Bon Climat boys. They make some great wines out at the Central Coast Wine Warehouse in Santa Maria. Some of the various labels out of CCWW are, of course, Au Bon Climat but also Makor, Qupe, Cold Heaven, Ici/La bas, Il Podere dell Olivos, and then is labelled "Borgo Buon Natale 2000 Primogenito/First Born" which makes me think they had a couple days around Christmas 2000 and started fooling around making wine. That's just my guess.

I met these guys when I used to work at a wine label printer, the now-defunct Printing Connection in San Luis Obispo (The former owner, Scott Remmenga, is now a winemaker himself with Alapay Wines in Avila Beach.)

We printed the labels for some of the CCWW wines and they were always some of my favorite customers, especially Jim Adelman of Makor Wines, who has a heart of gold and never get the recognition he deserves, maybe because he is so dang humble and wonderful. Am I rambling?

Back to the is a tocai fruiliano/pinot grigio/pinot bianco blend. The proportions are listed as 40%/37%/27%, which either means someone has worse math skills than even me, or that they have lifted the rule on percentage being in 100 parts (well I keep hearing coaches say their teams need to "get out there and give it 110 percent!")

Not your usual white - it is more like a viognier than a chardonnay or sauv blanc). It is a zippy, fruity, spicy, mouth-filling blend that is complex with some kind of wild mix of floral and grapefruity, lemony, nutmeggy flavors.

I would have never known that this was a CCWW product except that I used to print these labels where I worked. As far as I remember (it has been a while) the Majolica tile border was painted by Morgan Clendenen, Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat's wife (and a winemaker in her own right - Cold Heaven is her label). She apparently has a business painting and selling tile, too.

I found this at Trader Joe's in Westlake Village, CA for $8.99, wedged in among the other whites. It is well worth the price. Buy some and have fun getting your guests to guess what the heck they are drinking.

Hate Emeril?

A lot of people don't like Emeril, most famously Anthony Bourdain, who insulted him (along with vegetarians, vegans and a lot of other people) in his breakout book "Kitchen Confidential."

Well, I know that Bourdain has apologized for calling Emeril a "fuzzy-headed Ewok" because I heard him do it at a cooking demo. He said Emeril had met him at a party and was far nicer to him than he needed to be, and that every employee of Emeril's he had met said Emeril was a really great boss.

Taking shots at Emeril seems almost too easy. I mean, really really if you have seen one of his shows, you have seen 'em all.

If you are in the mood for a long, impassioned and very funny anti-Emeril rant, check out this new blog by Sean-Michael Lewis.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

George Foreman grilling

I spent the day at a Food Network shoot of an upcoming show, (I am not making this name up) the Next Grilleration George Foreman College Grill-Off.

Four teams of three university students (Duke, Georgetown, U of Missouri - Columbia and Pepperdine) met under the blue Malibu skies at the insanely gorgeous Pepperdine campus to create four-course meals using the George Foreman grill, toaster ovens, two electric burners, blenders and that's about it.

George Foreman himself was there, and can he talk grill! He makes it sound like all he and his wife do is cook on it all the time. He is a brilliant spokesman because he sounds like he really, really believes in the thing and loves it to pieces.

Quiz: How many GF grills have been sold worldwide so far?
a) 2 million
b) 10 million
c) 17 million
d) 70 million
Answer at bottom of the post.

The students came up with some pretty creative little GF Grill meals - crab cakes, seafood quesadillas, pancetta-wrapped asparagus, grilled pineapple. It almost made me want to rush out to Target and get me one.

One of the teams were hotel & restaurant management majors from U of Missouri. The Pepperdine students were nutrition majors (and the only team to grill tofu). And the two other teams come from "Grilling Societies" - campus social clubs for people who like to barbecue.

The guy from Salton, the people who make the grills, said the new ones are coming out soon with 5 interchangeable plates so you can make waffles, flat things, etc.

The answer is d) 70 million. I didn't ask George Foreman how much his cut was, but I think he is doing okay. He looked happy, anyway, with his gorgeous daughter taking the shine off his head with a makeup brush, posing for photos with people from the crowd, and talking up his grill.

I hung out with him for a little while, asking the usual reporter-type questions which he patiently answered. No, I did NOT ask about naming the kids all the same thing ("George Foreman'). Remember, the man was once heavyweight champion of the world and probably still packs a mighty punch.

He seemed a little bummed that people now know him more for the grill than for boxing, and lit up when I told him how much my co-worker Robert idolizes him. He happily wrote an elaborate and personalized autograph for Robert on the back of a reporter's notebook.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Sicilian Red - Nero d'Avola

Originally uploaded by suebobdavis.
In a bit of a rush for Wine Blogging Wednesday hosted by Ronald of Love Sicily, I picked up this Nobili di Trinacria Nero d'Avola at Whole Foods Market.

Other bloggers have mentioned that they could "only" find Nero d'Avola and were disappointed that they couldn't branch out more in tasting Sicilian wines. I had never tasted a Sicilian wine before that I remembered, so it was all new to me. Had never heard of Nero d'Avola and had no idea it was a common varietal. WBW is a good opportunity to get out of my West Coast Pinot Noir rut (yes, I was drinking pinot before, long before Sideways, she said in her best wine-snob voice).

Whole Foods only had 2 Sicilian reds, and I flipped a coin and bought this one.

At first taste, it is both tannic and tastes high-alcohol (the label says it is 13% alcohol.)

After a few more minutes out of the bottle, it started to mellow a bit.

It isn't terribly fruit-forward but has cherry and currant flavors with a little clove and cinnamon. A weeknight dinner wine with red-sauce pasta or red meats. It is about what you can expect from a basic $8.99 bottle of wine. The Suebob Spectator rates it a 76.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Food Blog News of the Day

It's a big, fun food blog world out there. Thanks to the handy Food Porn Watch, I manage to check out really cool blogs from all over.

Two blogs with a Pacific Rim flair are both celebrating first anniversaries. Pinkcocoa Tabetai, a gelato fiend from Syndey, Australia, and 'Ono Kine Grindz, the blog about all things Hawaiian (and beyond) deserve congratulations and thanks for their amusing and colorful posts.

My vote for recipe of the week goes to Nordljus for Grilled Quail with Rose Petals. Ok, ok, I'm a vegetarian and I am never going to make or eat this. But I'm not going to make or eat 90 percent of the recipes I see, so can't I just relax and enjoy the beautiful photography and the idea of rose petal sauce?

When I need a vacation in my mind, I head over to Noodle Pie for a fascinating and fun trip through Saigon street food. Graham Holliday is a really good writer, funny as hell, honest and brave (rice & blood porridge – to a gringo vegetarian, that's brave.

There's a new tool in the food blogger's belt: Food Blog Scool brought to you by Sam of Becks & Posh, an excellent Bay Area blog.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Medjool dates with feta and chipotle?

What a weird combination! What was I thinking?

Well, there is a restaurant, AOC, in Los Angeles that makes appetizers of bacon-wrapped dates that everyone keeps talking about on the Chowhound message board.

Bacon - what is a vegetarian to do? Dates are so wonderful, with their sweet chewy stickiness. I wanted to make something similar to AOCs appetizer, but meatless.

Let's take apart the flavors (and do it with what is on hand in the kitchen LOL)...bacon is salty and smoky...How about that container of feta cheese for the salt and my favorite spice of late, Penzey's chipotle chile powder, for the smoky?

Cut open big fat medjool dates, remove the pit, and stuff the space with good salty Bulgarian sheep feta. Sprinkle on some chipotle pepper and taste.

Hm. Is what Chef Suzanne Goin had in mind? The feta is more tangy than bacon but plenty salty. The chipotle powder adds a spicy kick. Not smoky like bacon, but not bad, either.

I imagine that the dates at AOC are served hot, since uncooked bacon is so limp and unpleasant.

Pop them in the nuke-box for 10 seconds. Voila. Hot dates with melty cheese...

I have no idea if this is anything close to how the AOC dates taste.

But in the end, like the poem about Walrus and the Carpenter and their oyster friends "They had eaten every one."

PS Where did I find that groovy plate? It was made by the Stangl Pottery Co. of Trenton, New Jersey, which operated primarily between 1940 and 1970. This is the lovely "Yellow Tulip," designed by Kay Hackett, an artistic genius who created all my favorite Stangl patterns. Looking at Kay's Stangl patterns make me nostalgic for a time when really, really cool stuff was made right here in the USA.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Parmesan with whole peppercorns

Originally uploaded by suebobdavis.
Greg wanted to throw this out. He was mad that I had left moldy cheese in the fridge for so long. That's not mold spots - those are delicious spicy whole peppercorns.

Cheese of the Week: Parmesan with Peppercorns

This is the Trader Joe's Belgioso Peppercorn Parmesan.

While I love it, I am not exactly sure what to do with it. I like to grate Parmesan or cut it in thin curls with a really sharp veg peeler. If you grate this, its whole porpose of having lovely whole black peppercorns embedded in the cheese is lost. Cut into thin curls, the peppercorns pop out and leave holes in the cheese with missing peppercorn spots.

I have settled on cutting it into fairly thin slices with a sharp knife - I lose some peppercorns along the way but whatcha gonna do? – and eating it with bread or crackers, olives, nuts and fruit.

Obesity: Calories don't count!

A groundbreaking nutrition study by the Institute for Food, Policy and the Family in Virginia says obesity is caused not by calories, but from a lack of enjoyment of food and inappropriate settings while eating it.

'Our research indicates that the worldwide obesity epidemic is not so much a problem of overconsumption as underenjoyment," said Dr. Elyse Carnahan, chief nutritionist at the Institute.

Following the eating habits of 4,500 Americans, Western Europeans and Japanese, the study showed that what you eat isn't is important as when and how you eat it.

"Eating in the appropriate setting is surprisingly important," Carnahan said. "The results of the study went against everything that we thought we knew about calorie intake."

She added that more important than actual calories is a calorie index the scientists developed after completing the 6-year, $3.7 million study.

"The calorie index of foods rises or falls depending on enjoyment of food and setting," Carnahan said.

On the calorie index, a 600 calorie Big Mac eaten in the car on the way home from working overtime has almost 3 times the impact that a 600-calorie slice of cheesecake eaten at a party with family and friends.

"It defies conventional wisdom," Carnahan said.

The study may help explain the "French Paradox" that has long puzzled nutritionists: why do the French, whose penchant for high-fat, high-calorie foods like croissants and foie gras is well-known, maintain slim figures and low rates of heart disease while Americans bloat up like oversized SUVs?

"French people enjoy their food," Carnahan said. "It's really that simple."

The study also explains recent rises in rates of obesity in Japan and Europe, places where people have traditionally been slim.

"As they eat more like Americans, on the go, in front of the TV and often alone, they are beginning to look more like us," said Carnahan.

"Unfortunately," she added.

Carnahan said the study shows the importance of eating in a pleasant setting, with family or friends, and with few distractions from food and conversation.

"Emotion is so imporant to caloric index," Carnahan said. "A tension-filled meal at the table is almost as bad as fast food in front of the TV. Not quite, but almost."

Carnahan said her group tracked rises in caloric index to unpleasant conversational subjects like confrontation and blame. Talking about weight loss and calorie-counting at meals were no-no's as well.

"The worst is for someone to say 'Oh, I'll bet this lasagna has 1000 calories,'" said Carnahan. "Complaining about high-calorie foods ironically sends the caloric index through the roof."

Starbucks 2, Peets 1

After my post about Delocator I ended up going to Starbucks twice and Peets once yesterday. LOL.

It wasn't my fault, honest. We were in Orange County for much of the afternoon and evening for an Angels game (Angels won 8-3, yay, and Bengie Molina hit a beautiful centerfield home run!). We were wandering around in the afternoon and I was dying for caffeine after a huge Stanton Mexicatessen burrito, so into Starbucks we fell. After the game we wanted to meet up with a friend and he suggested...Starbucks, so there we were again.

I went to Peets willingly for a comparative coffee tasting at 11 a.m. I tasted Colombian, Costa Rican, Guatemalan, Blend 101 and Anniversary Blend. Colombian was a classic, innocuous cup that would be welcome anywhere. Costa Rican and Guatemalan were both more complex and interesting - Costa Rican was my favorite single-origin taste. Blend 101 is complex with a lot of bright acidity. The Anniversary Blend is a lovely, smooth rich blend with a lot to offer.

Peet's is giving away free drip coffee, both iced and regular, all day on weekends and from 1 to 3 p.m. weekdays all month to celebrate their 39th anniversary. And if you stop in on Fridays, you get a free 1/4 lb of Anniversary Blend.

Those people are just too dang nice, and their coffee really, really puts Starbucks to shame.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Mayordomo Mole Negro

Mayordomo Mole Negro
Originally uploaded by suebobdavis.
Photo from the Gourmetsleuth website

Enchilada Enfrijolada Enmolada

My latest obsession, thanks to the fine people at Whole Foods Market, who stock Mayordomo Brand Black Mole is enmoladas.

These were inspired by a visit to Oaxaca, in southern Mexico last summer. I took a cooking class with the wonderful teacher Susanna Trilling. We met her at the Wednesday Farmer's Market in Etla, where we got to tour the market and sample local foods. Then we had a snack at a cafe in the market.

The cafe's specialty is enchiladas, enfrijoladas, and enmoladas. A bit of linguistic sleuthing will tell you that the words are related and describe foods that are prepared the same way, but with different ingredients. Enchilada is something that is in a chile sauce, enfrijolada is in a bean (frijol) sauce, and enmolada is in a mole sauce. In this case it was tortillas, but there is also an "enchilado" cheese that has been rubbed with a spice paste and is red on the outside.

These enchiladas are not the meat and cheese bombs we get in the U.S. They were simply corn tortillas (I never saw a flour tortilla in Oaxaca) lightly fried, dipped in sauce, folded in neat quarters and presented with a tiny bit of sliced onion and a few cheese crumbles.

I found the Mayordomo Mole Negro the other day. I have seen Dona Maria Mole on the grocery store shelf here but have never heard anything good about it.

Mayordomo is a chain and has several stores in Oaxaca City. You can smell the chocolate being ground from a quarter mile away. The shops are full of big bags of unprocessed cocoa beans.

They have a big mill with a hopper where the cocoa beans, almonds and other ingredients for drinking chocolate or mole are poured in, and a thick wonderful chocolate paste comes out the other end.

Black mole is only one of the 7 traditional moles of Oaxaca but may be the most well-known outside the area. It is a mixture of chocolate, chiles, nuts, and other ingredients. Depending on who you ask, ingredients may include burned chile seeds, blackened tortillas, bananas, tomatoes, sesame seeds...

There are also other, smaller chocolate mills all over town. It is quite a cottage industry.

Anyway, I have been using my newfound mole this way: I heat some water in a frying pan, add some vegetable stock base (chicken is more traditional), get it all hot, put in a few tablespoons of mole paste, mix and let it cook down to a thick paste. I warm corn tortillas in foil in the toaster oven meanwhile. I dip the tortillas in the sauce until they are soft, fold them into quarters, top with a little Mexican queso and eat.

The mole is the tiniest bit gritty from all the dried and ground ingredients. But it is rich and tasty and good.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Locating locally-owned coffee shops

I found this site Delocator that helps you find independently-owned coffee shops. Here is what they have to say:

"Delocate is a web-verb created for this project as a defense mechanism for independent business establishments. The term is defined as an action that creates complex competition analysis. This is achieved by locating both the targeted corporation store(s), Starbucks in this case, and the independently owned alternative(s) based on their physical proximity using comparative online retail store locator technology. On the web site, users are enlisted into a temporary coalition to post information about cafés in their neighborhood (for instance, location, hours, open mic. nights, local artist exhibits, book readings, wireless internet service availability, organic and/or vegetarian food options, etc.).

Those who supply the database also have the opportunity to leave their email addresses, as a method of endorsing the café and leaving a trace of authenticity to the location postings on the site. On the results page for each search, listings of both independently owned cafés and Starbucks retail stores are presented. By comparison of numeric quantity and site-specific detail, the viewer/searcher will see evidence of the unchecked aggression and power that corporate businesses have in our communities."

Hm. Unchecked aggression? Power? I know the personal is political but is it a freaking cup of coffee or not a freaking cup of coffee? Being a proudly raving liberal myself, I often have to take a deep breath and check my conspiracy-theorist tendencies. I think we often take on a victim mentality and lash out in frustration at successful organizations.

Maybe Starbucks is evil. Maybe not. All I know is that I really don't like their coffee very much and appreciate a way to find alternatives.

I added my 3 favorite locally-owned places to the list. I admit, though, I have a deep and abiding addiction to Peet's, ever since they moved into town about 6 months ago. Are they on the dark side too, being a chain? I sure hope not.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Out of the Kitchen

Originally uploaded by suebobdavis.
Every once in a while you have to get out of the kitchen. Here is a shot of my beloved Goldie, who had just rolled in some sort of stinky poop, enjoying a springtime hike.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Cast Iron Pan Seasoning failure #1

I flung myself headlong into seasoning my nice old Griswold cast-iron frying pan (see previous post). After settling on palm oil as a likely seasoning agent, I smeared a heavy layer on, looked up the oil's smoke point on the internet, and cranked the oven up to 450 degrees.

After a few moments, the magic carpet of smell swept me back to a time 20 years earlier...suddenly I was at the Mann Esplanade 3 Movie Theaters in my blue polyester uniform, standing in front of a huge popcorn machine, adding about 2 pounds of kernels to the popper. (I used to sometimes pop 50 pounds of kernels a night. I wonder how many cubic feet of popped popcorn that is.)

If there had been a doubt in my mind that we used palm oil to pop in at the Mann Theaters, it is gone now. I am willing to testify in a court of law that I popped huge amounts of popcorn in heart-clogging palm oil. The smell was unmistakable.

Smoke began wafting from the oven and I shut it off. More wafting. Fan on. Fan on high. Even though the oven was off, the pan kept smoking for a good half hour. I left it in the oven overnight.

The next day I got a comment on my blog saying "Don't use palm oil! It will leave a sticky surface. Try Crisco instead."

It turns out the smoke point of white palm oil is 450 degrees. Who knows what it is for the red palm oil I used.

Ok. Now I have a disgusting, sticky pan. I guess I will have to scrub it down to remove the gunk, then start all over again. I will keep you posted.

The upside is that Greg says the red palm oil helps his dry elbows. Always look for the silver lining.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Extra Strength Vegetarian Lard

My mom gave me her old Griswold cast-iron frying pan. I am quite honored. She got it when she was first married - in 1946. She says it is just too heavy for her to lift anymore.

I wonder how many meals I ate that were made in that pan. Pork chops, meaty spaghetti sauce that was cooked for hours, pineapple upside down cake...

The problem is that it has lost its seasoning and is a tad rusty. After consulting a bunch of online sources, it seems the best way to season cast iron is with a heavy fat. Most sites recommend lard or suet and cautioned against vegetable oils, which can apparently break down and become sticky.

My vegetarian soul rebelled at the thought of smearing pig or beef fat on my cookware. First, I would have to go buy some and end up wasting a lot, since I wouldn't have any other use for it. Then my kitchen would smell like cooked animal grease, which I find pretty revolting.

Finally I found a website that mentioned a perfect solution - palm oil! I knew they were selling it at Whole Foods, so I picked some up. It is the stuff that they used to cook theater popcorn in until some guy who had had a heart attack took out full-page ads in the NY Times claiming it would kill you because it was so saturated.

The dude is right about the saturated part. It makes beef fat look light and fluffy.

From the Pritikin website:

Jeff Novick, MS, RD, LV/N, Director of Nutrition at the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa in Aventura, Florida: "All these tropical oils are highly saturated fats. Like butter, cheese, and meat, tropical oils raise LDL cholesterol and clog arteries with plaque, increasing your risk of a heart attack."

"In fact, tropical oils can have more cholesterol-raising saturated fat than even butter," emphasizes Jeff. Coconut oil is 92% saturated, making it more saturated than butter, beef tallow, or even lard. Palm oil, though it contain less saturated fat (50%), is full of a type of saturated fat, palmitic acid, which appears to be most conducive to heart disease.

I tasted it and it left a nice greasy coating in my mouth that rivalled the last time I ate a piece of bacon ( I did it to freak my friend Steve out - he was tormenting me about being a veg about 5 years ago and I just reached over and ate a piece of his bacon. It was worth it just for the horrified look on his face.)

I will go try to season the pan and let you know how it comes out.

A Cooking Public Service Announcement

Sharpen your knife.
It will improve your quality of life.

Angeli Caffe, Los Angeles

Here's the problem: I am a culinary adventurer who loves to try new things. I am partnered with a Capricorn who would go to Jerry's Deli every time we go out if he had his way. So we compromise. I choke down Jerry's every once in a while, (why does everyt dish on their thousand-item menu taste EXACTLY the same?) ignoring the food while enjoying the large comfy booths, and he indulges my forays into weirdness for the occasional gem I uncover.

After 3 years of going to Louise's Trattoria he finally consented to go to Angeli Caffe on Melrose. I had been wanting to go there for ages and now wonder why I waited so long.

The food was soooo good, and it has the added feature of being right across the street from the Groundlings improv comedy theater where many fine comedic actors like Mike Myers, Lisa Kudrow, Pee-Wee Herman and Phil Hartman got their start.

I didn't take photos. I still have a hard time with taking photos of my food in a public place. I love to look at others' photos of restaurant meals, so I suppose I should get over my reticence.

What we ate:
A perfectly thin-crusted pizza margherita
Minestrone (Jim & Greg)
A nice arugula salad with oil-cured black olives (Me)
Penne with sausage (Greg)
Risotto with clams (Jim)
Feather-light sundried tomato gnocchi (Me) - they were so gravity-defying they practically floated an inch off the plate.
Spinach and Broccoli rabe sauteed with garlic (all of us)

Friday, April 01, 2005

My version of Groundnut Stew

Yam Curry
Originally uploaded by suebobdavis.

Adventures with Black Cardamom

My friend Jack will never live down the time I asked him to dinner and he said "What are you cooking? More stewed vegetable matter?" I was pretty mad. I mean, I invite him to dinner and he insults my cooking? I had to remember that Jack really, really loves a nice slab of flesh food and didn't have the same fine appreciation for veggies that I have developed.

Tonight I made stewed vegetable matter for dinner, and if I must say so myself, it turned out pretty good.

I was determined to use some black cardamom pods I had gotten during my Penzey's adventure, and they said it figured in African curries.

Deciding to fly by the seat of my pants without a recipe, I made yam curry with tofu and almond butter. There is an African dish called "Groundnut Stew" that uses ground peanuts or peanut butter, depending on whose version you make, and this was my take on that.

One of the great annoyances of getting older is that you sometimes develop intolerances to certain foods. As of about 2 years ago, peanuts began to disagree with me. Not one of those life-threatening allergy things, just a certain queasiness...So I made this with almond butter, which added a nice smooth nutty richness.

Yam Curry with Tofu and Almond Butter
1 tsp cumin seeds, lightly crushed
1 tsp coriander seeds, lightly crushed
2 tsp black mustard seeds
3 Tbsp vegetable oil

In a heavy pot over medium high heat, heat oil, put in seeds and leave until the mustard seeds begin popping.

1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp turmeric
4 black cardamom pods, lightly crushed and contained in a tea ball
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp chipotle powder
1/2 tsp cumin
Add spices to pot and stir for a few minutes until they release fragrance and separate back from the oil.

2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
Add to pot and saute a few minutes

1 cake firm tofu, pressed with a weight on top for about half an hour to remove excess water and diced.
Add to pot and saute a few minutes

1/2 sweet red bell pepper, diced
about 3 cups yams cut in 1/2 inch dice
Add to pot and continue sauteing for another 5 minutes or so

1 15-oz can peeled and diced tomatoes
3 Tbsp almond butter
Add to pot, cook until yams are soft or until you feel like eating.

I served this with fresh corn cut off the cob and packaged frozen parathas (cooked, of course). The black cardamom adds just a hint of mysterious smoky camphor flavor. You might not notice it unless you were looking for it.