Monday, May 30, 2005

Traditional pico de gallo

This is what Cristina on the Chowhound message board insists is real Pico de Gallo. I call melon with lime juice, chile powder and salt Pico de Gallo because I have heard other people call it that. She insists that is called "fruit."

In any case, this is a refreshing summer salad.

Pico de Gallo

2 cups jicama, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
3 oranges, peeled and trimmed of white pith, chopped in dice
1/2 large red, orange or yellow bell pepper, diced
1 cup or more mild flavored cucumber, diced
Some people like paper thin slices of red onion, too
Some people like chopped cilantro
Juice of one lime
Your favorite chile powder to taste
Couple good pinches of flake salt if you have it, regular salt if you don't.
A nice drizzle of olive oil

Combine and eat. It gets better if it sits for a couple hours.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

My newest blog

Ever since I spent 3 weeks in Oaxaca last summer, I have been wanting to print my journal and photos, and I just couldn't figure a good, economical way to do it.

Duh! Yesterday it finally occurred to me: Who needs paper? Publish a blog!

So I chopped my word document up into chronological chunks, uploaded a zillion photos to (which, due to my techno-incompetence took longer than it should have) and about 10 hours of screen time later, here it is:

My Oaxaca Journal.

It is quite long and quite detailed. If you have a lot of patience and a masochistic streak, you can read all of it. Otherwise, read part of it or just look at the pretty pictures. There are more photos later in the blog than earlier.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Good bye low-carb diet

Of course I am lying about being on a low-carb diet. I would NEVER, both because I think it is a bunch of idiocy and because I am a carb-addicted vegetarian. A typical meal can be a bean burrito with a side of sweet corn and some carrots with a piece of fruit for dessert...bring on the carbs!

After about a year of holding myself back, I finally went into Sarai Panaderia at the corner of TO Blvd and Conejo School Road yesterday for some Mexican, Central or maybe South American pastries (I will ask next time I go in, maybe later today).

It was even better than I expected. They have lovely crumbly sweet empanadas in flavors from guayaba (guava) to cajeta to fresa (strawberry), the usual assortment of pan dulces and other pastries.

The two I bought, a cajeta empanada and a long, thin sugar covered cream filled pastry were both very sweet, especially the runny brown cajeta, and I ate them both before I remembered I had been meaning to take one back and share it with someone in my office...

The price? 50 cents apiece. That, my friends, is a deal.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Eat and Run

I haven't been posting much lately and I haven't been cooking much lately. I have been busy.

I have to tell you about one of my new staple lifesaving got-no-time-to-cook foods, Ajvar. Or, to be more specific, mild Ajvar, since the spicy version is a little much for me.

This middle eastern or Turkish dip has a smooth consistency and a flavor I don't get tired of. It is primarily red ripe sweet peppers, eggplant and tomatoes blended with some spices, including a few hot red peppers.

Thus, it is an almost miraculous 15 calories a tablespoon.

I eat it on crackers, on torn-up pitas, on bread, on quesadillas. The brand shown isn't the brand I buy, Zer Gut, but I couldn't find a photo and I was too lazy to get out the camera.

Cheese of the every-other-week

I just can't eat that much cheese! I wanted to do cheese of the week but I can't keep up.

This is Queso Quesadilla, a Cacique product . They make a line of Mexican cheeses, cremas and chorizo sausage. Their website has recipes and descriptions of what the differents cheeses are like, which is handy because they look pretty much the same when they are in their little round packages.

This cheese doesn't have a lot of distinctive flavor. But it is very, very smooth and melts like a dream - the perfect quesadilla cheese. It is much much better for quesadillas than monterey, which tends to separate, or stringy old mozzarella.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

A hilarious post about something weird

I keep hearing about stinky tofu. Here from Deep End Dining, is the whole horrible tale, all laid out with details you may not want to know. But it is hilarious, so hold you nose and give it a read.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Minty lime coolers

Mint syrup
Originally uploaded by suebobdavis.
We had dinner at Ciudad, one of the Too Hot Tamales' restaurants, the other night.

It is in downtown Los Angeles and was filled with beautiful hip people out having a beautiful hip time. But, surprisingly, they still let us in.

The food was good and the decor was very modern and fun with geometric shapes printed on the dishes and walls in warm colors like orange, yellow and brown.

My favorite part though, was the Minty Lime Cooler I ordered to drink. You know how much I like wine, but I was driving the 45 miles home and needed to have my wits about me.

I found the recipe online, but it didn't exactly make what I had at the restaurant.

The drink from the recipe is bright green with tons of delightful teeth-coloring mint flecks. The drink at the restaurant was clear, with just a couple tiny flecks of mint leaf.

I got busy at home today, trying to re-create the tasty drink without the annoying mint pieces. I figured they must have used a mint syrup, so I made a simple syrup with 2 cups sugar, 1 cup of water, and a big bunch of mint leaves. I just boiled it all together for about 10 minutes, then strained.

Well. The finished syrup is tan, not green or clear, and while it has a strong mint flavor, it is more of a cooked mint, not a fresh mint taste.

I put a couple teaspoons of the finished syrup in a glass with the juice of a lime and some sparkling water and ice.

It wasn't what I had at Ciudad, but it wasn't bad.

I am thinking next time I might cook the syrup, cool it a bit, then steep the mint leaves.

Any other suggestions?

Monday, May 16, 2005

Not roasted garlic

I got this idea from Angeli Caffe in Los Angeles. That restaurant is owned by the wonderful Evan Kleiman, who hosts a Saturday morning radio show about food, "Good Food" that is so wonderful I suggest you tune in online and give it a listen.

Anyway, back to the restaurant. One of the appetizers we ordered was roasted garlic, and it didn't come out in the usual form of a head of garlic that you have to messily squish the cloves out of.

It was individual cloves in a little dish of oil, so they were easy to fish out and smoosh on the bread.

Yesterday I was thinking about making some roasted garlic and flashed back to Angeli Caffe.

I thought, "Wow! I could roast the individual cloves in a whole lot of oil!" Then I thought "Hey, it's 87 degrees, why don't I do it on the stovetop?"

I heated up some vegetable oil and threw in a bunch of garlic cloves. Slowly simmered them for 40 minutes or so. Voila. Wonderful soft, easy to handle cloves of oily, "roasted" garlic.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Mystery Item Contest Winner

The mystery fruit is guava. Five people guessed right and Mika of the Green Jackfruit is the randomly-chosen winner of a big $5 Barnes & Noble gift card.

Congratulations, Mika, and thanks to everyone else who played.

Mika, email me your address and I will send you the card.

To answer the question, why is it brown on the outside, I don't know. Leaf scarring? Rattling around in my produce bag? I'm not sure.

The guavas we usually get here are actually feijoas, Feijoa sellowiana, also called the pineapple guava. But the one shown in the photo is a real guava, Psidium guajava. I have heard that they can grow ok in So. California but are better in warmer areas.

I have to admit the one I tasted wasn't quite ripe and the little seeds were hard as rocks. How do guava eaters get around those seeds?

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The cookbook shelf meme

Tag, I'm it.

Sweetnicks tapped me to be the next blogger to put my cookbooks on display. I have a modest collection. I got rid of about 100 cookbooks and 9 banker's boxes worth of magazines when I moved 3 years ago.

About a year ago, I sent my nephew Lyal a box of about 20 cookbooks while he was cooking professionally. And I have been trying not to keep magazines or to buy more cookbooks because I don't use most of the ones I have. The most used book on my shelf, besides my Tried and True binder, is Lord Krishna's Cuisine: the art of Indian vegetarian cooking by Yamuna Devi.

Having the internet really helps. I look up recipes online all the time instead of buying books and magazines. I also get recipe ideas from all the blogs I read.

Here are my answers to the questions:

1. Rationale behind what we're seeing?
It is as organized as anything else I own, which means not at all.

2. Most recommended?
That would depend on your taste. I have given away at least 6 copies of Jane Brody's Good Food Book. because I think it has good basic nutritional advice and because all the recipes work.

3. Cookbook that made you what you were?
American Wholefoods Cuisine - 1300 meatless wholefoods recipes, by Nikki and David Goldbeck
It was the first kind of comprehensive vegetarian cookbook I had ever seen, and I cooked obsessively from it for about a year, learning to cook. They have plenty of off-kilter tries at making vegetarian versions of meat dishes, so I learned a lot about what not to do.

4. Porniest cookbook?
I don't have any really big glossy books, probably on purpose. I am such a kitchen spaz that none of my dishes will ever look remotely like food porn.

A lot of my books are just plain text. The closest thing I have to food porn is Dessert University by Roland Messnier, but I bought it because I met him, not for the photos.

5. Sophie's Choice cookbook?
My Betty Crocker cookbook - inscribed from my mom - "Be patient. Good things take time." My first cookbook.

6. If you were a cookbook, which cookbook would you be?
Jane Brody's Good Food book. Packed with good nutritional advice and really tasty low-fat recipes. Not that I take the advice or cook particularly low-fat.

7. If your cookbook were extremely valuable, so valuable you might hide it with other valuables, where would that place be?
My most valuable cookbook is "Tried and True," a 3-ring binder with copies of every great recipe I have ever made, even those that I have in cookbooks. That way they are easy to find (it is the most organized thing I own) and I don't get my cookbooks stained while I am cooking.

It is right out there in the open.

And BTW, I really don't have many physical valuables. I think my real treasures are experiential, not physical. I wouldn't trade 3 weeks in Oaxaca or a walk through the Santa Monica Farmer's Market with Chef Tim Love for diamonds or gold.

My special cookbook is the Davis Family Cookbook. Each year everyone, including the kids, submits a recipe they like in their own handwriting along with a photo. We then make copies for everyone and distribute the updates. It is a fun way to see how everyone grows and changes. We have been slacking off for years, but I think it is time to start again!

This is a recipe of my grandmother's we found after she had passed away. Now all the great-grandkids have a copy.

And now I tag Nordljus. I hope she will go along.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Wine Blogging Wednesday

It's Wine Blogging Wednesday, a meme of Lenndevours , hosted this month by Sam of Becks n Posh , and I have good news and bad news.

First, to get it over with, the bad news: the wine I tasted today, a White Merlot by J.W. Morris, was horrible. I barely got one gulp down before the cherry cough syrup taste made me gag. Good thing it only set me back $2.99 at Trader Joes.

The wine is a glowing nuclear pink, and I had a feeling it wasn't going to be good, but I was in a gambling mood.

To make up for it, I am drinking a 2001 L'Aventure Optimus, a red wine that has the potential to make me forget about anything bad that has ever happened.

The good news, though, is that I was so inspired by this month's assignment that I created a whole new blog, Queen of Roses devoted to Rose Wines. Lots of links and photos. Check it out!

Monday, May 09, 2005

Cheese of the Week - Mimolette

I love this pretty orange French cheese called Mimolette! It is such a deep orange that it almost doesn't look like cheese. It comes in a really hard wax coating. The cheese itself is pretty hard, especially near the rind.

It is dense and tastes like the most perfect cheddar I have ever had. Not too sharp, not too mild, smooth, with a great nutty flavor.

Here is more information than you probably ever wanted to know about Mimolette.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Chicago, 1959

I was looking though cookbooks this morning for a dessert recipe for Mom's Day (I ended up with strawberry shortcakes with a vanilla-orange sauce and whipped cream, very nice) and this menu fell out.

I bought it a few years ago at a junk shop -- oops, I mean "antique store.". I just loved the cheesy graphics and, of course, the prices.

Here is the cover.

And the wonderfully compact wine list:

Gosh, I do wonder what sparkling burgundy tasted like!

And then a section with tonight's specials and prices. Everything seemed to be about $3, but a Sirloin Steak would set you back almost $6 in June, 1959. I still think that's too much to pay for a steak. I guess that's another reason why I'm a vegetarian.

Pimping my other blogs

I enjoy this blog, but it doesn't have a real focus to keep me on track. Food, wine, cooking, ingredients...Snackish does it all.

I created two more blogs dedicated to some of my favorite things. I linked them on the links sidebar, but here they are again.

Queen of Roses is all about Rose wines. Pink is one of my favorite colors, and it took Wine Blogging Wednesday #9 from Lenndevours to re-pique my interest in rose wines. News, reviews and links to other sites.

Beauty of Butter is all about butter, with butter news from around the world. No recipes yet, but I am sure it will come to that.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Kohlrabi - Sweet and Crunchy

Kohlrabi are a great vegetable. They just look so weird that many people don't bother.

Buy the smallest kohlrabi you can find because they get tough and strong-flavored when they are large. Green or purple doesn't matter - they are the same on the inside once you peel them.

Kohlrabi and Watercress Saute
This is a nice vegetable side dish from Epicurious .

1 pound small kohlrabi bulbs (about 1 bunch)
1 bunch watercress
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Peel kohlrabi and cut into julienne strips. Remove and discard stems from watercress. In a large heavy skillet heat butter over moderately high heat. Sauté kohlrabi, stirring, 5 minutes.

Add lemon juice and sauté kohlrabi, stirring, 1 minute more. Remove pan from heat and immediately stir in watercress. Season with salt and pepper.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

I'm not that bright

In my years of owning a rice steamer, I have been doing one thing with it: making rice. Then I use leftover rice to make vegetable fried rice, adding every veg I find in the refrigerator, eggs, ginger, soy sauce, herbs.

Last night I finally got the genius idea of just putting veg in the steamer with the rice. I used frozen peas, canned corn, frozen bell peppers, a handful of cumin seeds and some panir cubes - frozen Indian cheese.

The veg and cheese floated to the top and a nice crust formed on the bottom. Delicious!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Mystery Item Contest

This is a produce item that may be familiar to you, but I had never seen it before last Farmer's Market.

In the spirit of public participation, you are invited to take part in the first-ever Snackish Name That Mystery Item contest.

Email me with the botanic or common name of what this item of produce is.

I will draw from all the correct answers next Tuesday for and send the winner a valuable prize (a $5 Barnes & Noble gift card, if you must know).

Send answers to

Chateau Haut-Florin Bordeaux Rose

I got started on Wine Blogging Wednesday a little early. The theme this month is Roses, and I couldn't resist.

Roses (I have a Mac and the accents don't translate, sorry) speak of spring, with their beautiful pink color. With a glass of rose in my hand, I just want to be outdoors in the warm sun, having a picnic on the grass.

I found this Chateau Haut-Florin Bordeaux Rose in the Whole Foods wine fridge among about 5 other roses. I think it was $9.99.

It has a nose with more straw than fruit. Tasting, it first hits with a hint of strawberry, then a blast of kiwi fruit. Altogether enjoyable.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Palapa Azul Bars

Cucumber chile ice bars. Perfect for when you get that craving for a frozen cucumber-chile snack and just don't know what to do!

I first tasted these at the Natural Products West expo about a month ago. Some guys from Wisconsin stopped me in the aisle and said "You HAVE to try this!" They didn't even work for Palapa Azul - they were just enthusiastic eaters.

In Mexico, street vendors sell fruit ices known as "paletas." These are in that style.

They make a rainbow of flavors - mango, watermelon, strawberry, even a sweet corn - but I think these were the winner in the exotic category.

Unfortunately, though they are novel, I really don't like them. They are too spicy and the spice continues, so you never really get a break from it. The cucumber flavor is nice and strong but the chile starts to interfere after a while.

They would be fun at a party for people to try, but for everyday eating, I would buy the fruit flavors, which are really good.