Friday, December 31, 2010

Bistro Daisy

The boyfriend and I celebrated an anniversary this week and I have been looking forward to a fancy dinner with him for a while! Sadly, because of the huge winter storm, I ended up stuck in Chicago for the better part of our special day so we had to postpone.

The next day we opened a bottle of bubbly and sat on our porch in the remarkably mild weather. It felt so good to be HOME and reflect on the past year and, obviously, to savor some champagne! I won't bore you with details and cut right to the chase. We went to Bistro Daisy. It was outstanding. This is where I need to bring my mother next time she visits.

It's beautiful inside, the wooden bar is lovely, the ceilings are painted a sky blue and the chandeliers look like they are original. But what really shone was the food. I normally only like my oysters raw or fried but I ordered an appetizer of poached oysters with an Herbsaint cream broth, fennel, tomatoes and bacon. WOW. This may be one of my favorite dishes of 2010. The excellent bread served to us sopped up the juices perfectly. Now my grandmother definitely never cooked with oysters or Herbsaint but something about the aroma of this brought me back to Sunday dinners in her kitchen so naturally, I loved it a little more for that. My sweetie got the sweetbreads, which were very good, but the accoutrements of sweet potato, bacon and pecans were not the perfect foil for the already rich meat. I like the zing of citrus to contrast such a rich dish.

For entrees, I ordered the duck with cracklings and a brandy-orange-foie gras demi. It was very tasty but I think they took the skin off to make the cracklings (which were addictive by the way!) but that meant that I lost the crisp skin with savory meat in each bite. I sort of missed that. It was good but GAHHHH!!!OOOOHHHH!!! MMMMMMMMMMM!!! The lamb shank that Ben ordered was out of this world. This is last-meal worthy food. The meat was unctuous, so luscious and flavorful, cooked in a bit of a tomato sauce with MINT and this taste made me think of my grandmother all over again. I would have thought Bistro Daisy had French leanings but I felt like I was in my Sicilian grandmother's basement kitchen. Basement kitchen, you ask? Yes indeed, the second kitchen in the basement where the real cooking happens but I suppose that's another post.

We skipped dessert in favor of espresso and a glass of port but they brought us a baked Alaska anyway, which was very sweet. Sweet of them, not overly sweet to taste. I don't know what they do to their meringue but it was the creamiest I have ever tasted, so much so that it just makes you want to slide it up against the roof of your mouth and mash it around with your tongue to prolong the experience.

We walked back to Nashville Avenue hand in hand in the breezy and wonderfully warm night air and really, I could not have asked for more. Go to Bistro Daisy, take your beloved, order the lamb.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Windmill cookies! Be still, my childhood heart!

I recently read about the new Gourmet Cookie Book and that therein lies a recipe for Speculaas. Not familiar with these, I did a little research and lo and behold! They are actually my favorite windmill cookies that were served at snack time by every school or day care I ever went to! Maybe this is a northern thing, I have asked several people here if they know what I'm talking about to no avail. Anyway, real speculaas are a very traditional Dutch cookie. They kind of remind me of sugar cookies, except that they are a deep brown and spiced warmly, dotted with toasted almonds. I made a lot of cookies this weekend and these seemed to be the hit.

This recipe is from Gourmet but please note my changes at the bottom because I had some issues.


3 cups flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon ground aniseed

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ginger or white pepper

2 stick (1 cup) butter, softened

1½ cups firmly packed dark brown sugar

3 tablespoons milk

¼ cup flour (for rolling the dough)

2-3 cups blanched almonds, chopped lengthwise

2-3 lightly beaten egg whites


Published in Gourmet in 1971, these cookies have been baked in the Netherlands for centuries.

Into a bowl, sift together 3 cups flour, baking powder, spices and salt. In a bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter with brown sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Stir in milk. Gradually add the flour mixture, stirring until it is well combined and form the dough into a ball. Knead the dough on a board sprinkled with flour. Roll it into a rectangle ¼-inch thick. With a sharp knife or cutter, cut the dough into rectangles 2½ inches by 1½ inches. Put the rectangles on a buttered cookie sheet. Decorate them with blanched almonds by gently pushing the nuts into the dough. Brush cookies with lightly beaten egg white. Bake the cookies at 375 degrees 12-15 minutes, or until they are firm.

My notes: I had neither ground clove or aniseed but I think it's perfectly acceptable to add more ginger and pepper or maybe if you're adventurous, some cardamom. I mixed the dough as directed and it seemed awfully dry so I added an egg. That seemed to do the trick and then I was able to roll it out just fine. I also skipped the egg whites at the end and just pushed the almonds into the dough, which worked fine and then I didn't have to think about what to do with those egg yolks. Also, I am pretty generous with the almonds but I probably used 1/2 cup of blanched, toasted almonds and that was plenty. (I had all those leftover almonds and so it inspired me to make chocolate financiers but I am stopping here!)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Elixir G

I went to Pal's for drink on Friday and let me just tell you how much I like Pal's. It is a comfortable neighborhood joint that also serves upscale cocktails without the pretense often found at other places. I got the Gingerita, which scared me a bit because drinks with cutesy names often are laden with super-sugary liquors and pre-made syrups and so I asked what was in it. Ginger vodka, ginger beer, ginger juice and a bit of fresh lime juice. It was excellent. The ginger juice is apparently from some organic ginger farm in California, it's called Elixir G, which sounds like something you might have imbibed at a rave circa 1997. Despite its sketchy name, it is DELICIOUS. Not available in the great state of Louisiana, I wrote the company and they told they they could ship it to me for $10 a bottle and I could send them a check upon receiving it. How's that for customer service? Anyway, get yourself a bottle of this stuff or just go to Pal's and drink theirs.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Heaven on Earth: Gene's Po-Boys

You wouldn't guess it from the charming exterior, but Gene's Po-Boys is the shit. This Pepto-Bismol pink landmark has been filling happy bellies for years and every time I am in the neighborhood, i make it a point to stop by. Their hot sausage is, quite simply, inimitable. It's super garlicky and redolent of spice, topped with cheese and mashed altogether in the perfect Leidenheimer loaf. I took an out-of-town friend there last night and he was floored. Could not believe that New Orleans gets the hype for its roast beef po-boys and not the hot sausage. While they are certainly popular in the city, I'm fairly sure most tourists come here with red beans and jambalaya on their minds more than hot sausage.

Can I rhapsodize about the hot sausage just a little more? Bear with me. I just can't stop thinking about it, which is where the danger lies because once you have one, you start plotting activities and routes to get you near to Gene's at all times of the day, thank GOD they are open 24 hours! Although in truth, I have never been there during the day, which you may want to do actually. It's generally surrounded by people asking for change but if you're not bothered by it, neither am I. Please go to Gene's next time you come to New Orleans. Or if you live here and you have never been, please go immediately. You will be so happy.

Sorry I have no pictures, usually Gene's po-boys are consumed rapidly in the car because I cannot resist their intoxicating aroma on the drive home!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Georgian Cilantro Sauce

I am not sure how I spent my Saturdays before but my routine for several months now has been coffee in bed while I peruse the internets, hitting the gym, and then settling in for back-to-back episodes of "The Splendid Table" and "Louisiana Eats." Generally what I hear goes in one ear and out the other. This is not because it isn't interesting but because between the 20,000 food blogs I read, constantly reading updates on Yelp and voraciously attacking the weekly food installments from the NY Times and Gambit Weekly, I get a little overly saturated with information.

Anyway, this sauce, native to Georgia (country, not state), piqued my interest and I finally made it on Sunday. It's very tasty, I slathered it on some chicken thighs (all over, including under the skin) and then made my boyfriend go outside and grill them in the 26 degree weather. I am a cruel mistress.

I didn't have any parsley so I used all cilantro in its place. That's it, no other changes.

2 ounces dried apricots

1 cup boiling water

1/3 cup shelled walnuts (1 ounce)

2 to 4 garlic cloves (to taste), halved, green shoots removed

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt (more to taste)

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Pinch of cayenne

2 cups cilantro leaves (2 good-size bunches), coarsely chopped

1 1/2 cups parsley leaves (1 1/2 bunches), coarsely chopped

1/2 cup coarsely chopped mixed basil, tarragon, and dill

5 tablespoons walnut oil (or more, to taste)

1/2 cup soaking water from the apricots, as needed

1. Place the dried apricots in a bowl and pour on the boiling water. Let sit for at least an hour, more if possible, even overnight. Drain over a measuring cup and retain 1/2 cup of the soaking water.

2. Turn on a food processor fitted with the steel blade, and drop in the garlic. When it is chopped and adhering to the sides of the bowl, stop the machine and scrape down the bowl. Add the walnuts, and process with the garlic. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the drained apricots, the lemon juice, salt, pepper and cayenne to the bowl, and process to a puree. Add the cilantro and other chopped herbs, and puree, stopping the machine to scrape down the sides several times. Combine the walnut oil and soaking water from the apricots, and with the machine running, gradually add it to the puree. Process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, and let sit for one hour. Taste and adjust salt. Serve with beans, chicken, meat or fish, grilled or roasted vegetables, or grains.

Yield: 1 1/2 cups.

Advance preparation: This sauce will keep for several days in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before using.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Somebody Loves Me

The boyfriend missed me while I was gone and he welcomed me home with this. This would be seared redfish on homemade gnocchi, topped with watercress and a bit of bacon, sauced with a dijon beurre blanc and finished with truffle oil. I love him.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


I am cold. I went to Chicago for Thanksgiving and it was about 22 degrees there, about 80 in New Orleans when I left. During the four days, I pretty much stayed enrobed in my favorite fleece pajamas and beshawled by miscellaneous afghans. Family members kept going on walks and shooting off to the movies but not me! I entered the house on Wednesday night and I did not emerge until Saturday morning on my way to the airport!

(By the way, T-Day was great. I love my family. I can't believe we can put 16 of us in one house for four days and all enjoy it so thoroughly. It probably helped that we were lubricated by perhaps dozens of bottles of wine and champagne, plus a liberal amount of "the brown," as my uncles affectionately call their stash of Basil Hayden. My nieces are delightful. I ate with wild abandon. I luxuriated with books. Too bad I didn't take any pictures but I leave it to the pros in my family. Gordon? Greg? Cory? Where are the photos? This is your not at all subtle hint!)

Anyway, the weather changed dramatically whilst I was away. It was chilly in NOLA too. Then weirdly it was 78 and humid. Yesterday the temperature inside the house (nothing on, open windows) was 76 degrees. By evening, it was 61. I relented and let the boyfriend turn on the heat. Although I am reluctant to turn on the heat, I do love the chill, brisk walks and soup-making. I made a split pea soup the other day with smoked turkey instead of ham and it was fine but I really prefer the swine. Tonight, I am thinking about a Jamie Oliver recipe for soup with pancetta, barley and sage.

This is weird. Split peas and barley are my new cravings? Oh well, go with it, I say. I'll update you on how the soup turns out!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Thanksgiving List 2010

I think you know the drill now, it's my family's annual make a list of what you are thankful for! If you'd like to read other people's lists or post your own, click here

* Parades for every occasion. That’s NOLA, baby!
* Hotels with free wi-fi. You’d think they all have it but you would be wrong.
* Chivalrous strangers
* Duck stock
* Oysters and having them back after a frightening hiatus.
* Electric kettles
* Fig trees
* Having a washer and dryer on the GROUND FLOOR and INSIDE my house! No more creepy basements or scary sheds for me!
* Discovering the Alto Adige region of Italy and their beautiful wines
* Bayou St. John and Spanish moss
* Pumpkin spice lattes on crisp, fall days, walking the pups and kicking through delicious smelling leaves (I just came back from Denver, obviously I am not referring to New Orleans)
* Being able to walk to work (now that it is not 8,000 degrees out every day)
* Having a dog who knows when I am sad and gives me lots of kisses
* The boyfriend being a super handyman. There are many other reasons I am thankful for him but man, that walk-in closet he built me is GREAT!
* Free, spontaneous street music
* Toasted brown rice green tea
* Fresh caught fish. Again, the boyfriend delivers!
* Sidereel
* Sounds of the streetcar
* Yelp
* Quiet nights and fleece pajamas
* Being able to always go home

Favorite Book: Hmm, I read a lot of duds this year. The books that were most notable include “Who Will Run Frog Hospital?””Watership Down” and “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian.”

Favorite Album: I don’t know anything about albums, when was the last time I actually bought one? Anyway, I’m liking Buika lately.

Favorite Movie: Once. I’m sure this came out a while ago but I am woefully out of date.

Favorite Meal: This is hard because I eat so damn good. I’m going with dinner at my house with my love, my New Orleans brother, my best friend, her babies, my mamma and Gregoire. Grilled oysters, drum and amberjack with chermoula and tzatziki, mustard greens, corn and potatoes, shredded beets, ginger-poached mirliton and a fig vinaigrette. Bruleed bananas foster over homemade lucuma-manjar ice cream. Good food and SO MUCH LOVE.

Favorite Wine: I’m adding this category this year. Orin Swift’s “The Prisoner”

Friday, November 12, 2010


I just got back from visiting the Mile High and I ate LOTS of good food, too much really to detail here so I'll just give you the highlights.

Cuba Cuba: Delicious caipirinhas and chorizo empanadas!

Steuben's: Rhode Island calamari kind of threw me for a loop, what is that? Well, since there is a large Portuguese population there, they fried the calamari but served it with olives, tomatoes, garlic and onions and it was very tasty.

NoRTH: Even though I dislike the pretentious way this is written, it was one of my favorite meals. We shared several appetizers including a salad with strawberries, goat cheese, hazelnuts and avocado. It sounded kind of weird but it worked and the goat cheese was ultra creamy. Excellent prosciutto bruschetta and calamari served over a perfectly dressed arugula salad with grilled lemons. My entree was a short rib osso bucco that was excellent and huge and I admit I ate the whole thing. I had a Nutella cake for dessert, it sort of had the texture of a flourless chocolate cake and it made even the non-chocolate lover at the table swoon. I also had a glass of Pinot Nero from the Alto Adige region, which is quickly becoming my favorite wine region.

Panzano: Grilled Caesar salad, always a hit. But the piece de resistance was prosciutto-wrapped prawns with a date-honey-pine nut sauce and sprinkled with a bit of gorgonzola. Stellar. I was sad I didn't have room to try the apple-date fritters for dessert.

1515: Well, we started with a bottle of Orin Swift's "The Prisoner" and if you haven't had this wine and have recently gotten a birthday card full of money or a small bonus at work, I urge you to try it. Beef Carpaccio with truffles, jumbo scallops on a bed of corn puree were both good starts. The croissant soup was very interesting; it came with a egg cooked sous vide and asparagus in the bowl and then the server poured the soup (croissants pureed in chicken stock) into the bowl over these ingredients. Then you swirl the egg around and it becomes extra-luscious, plus you could actually taste the slight sweetness and buttery goodness of the croissant! We also had a salad dressed beautifully with copious tarragon.

Rioja: Apple and basil soup was unremarkable but the housemade bread (I chose kalamata olive bread and a rosemary-goat cheese biscuit) were absolutely delightful, really, they just don't make bread that amazing in New Orleans or at least I don't know where to find it. I had a saffron-manchego risotto that exemplified what I often hate about poorly executed risottos, hard rice. Yet. The flavor was good and it had, YES, a pistachio-pine nut stuffed date on top that really set things off, plus ribbons of arugula and radicchio and a citrus ver jus. I don't know what Denver's obsession is with dates but I can so get with that. For dessert, I had a lemon-yuzu tart with a cornmeal-pinenut crust (decent), served with limoncello granita (tasty but pedestrian) and a pinenut brittle ice cream (yuuuuummmm!). Excellent espresso served with a froth and a lemon rind like it should be.

Thank you Denver, for being so delicious, thanks Tulane for footing the bill, thanks to my lovely Rebecca and Kim and Bob and Jeanne for their inimitable companionship!

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Girl and the Fig

Unfortunately, this is not a post that includes me waxing poetic about a meal I ate at The Girl and the Fig but someday I will get to Sonoma and do just that! No, no, I've just had a number of fig-related encounters over the past month that I'd like to share.

-I bought some beautiful, fat-bottomed figs at Whole Foods and mixed some gorgonzola, chopped walnuts and rosemary together, stuffed the figs and drizzled with balsamic vinegar and they were delightful. I bet they would be good with a scoop of vanilla ice cream but lovely in their own right.

-I often have an egg scrambled with spinach and snippets of basil from my massive basil tree (yes, it's a tree, woody stalk and all)for breakfast. The other day, I also had a piece of toast, smeared with fig preserves, piled with basil-flecked egg, and who knew that the combination of basil and fig was so perfect? I can't recommend it enough.

-Speaking of those fig preserves, I also put them on some savory bread I made this weekend with squash and feta. It seems that fig preserves taste delicious on everything.

-I bought "Good to the Grain" by Kim Boyce for my sister's birthday and while I haven't had the pleasure of sitting down with it and perusing, I expect her to make the Buckwheat Figgy Scones and send me the recipe. One of the steps has you make FIG BUTTER with port and red wine. How can that not sell you?

-I have a fig tree on the corner of my street. It seems largely untended and generally unloved. It's not very nice to ignore perfectly good figs so sometimes I will pick one or two. There really is nothing better than taking a walk in the morning on your day off, grabbing a few fresh figs and sitting on the porch in the sun while you eat them. Perfection.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Cheese(s) of the Week

Enjoyed an evening of cheese and wine last night with the inimitable Mary Beth aka best roommate ever. It was so nice to spend one of these cool, early fall evenings with good company and these delectable selections.

Bucherondine: Reminds me of Humboldt Fog (mmm!) with the ultra-creamy goat cheese center, surrounded by a runnier layer.

Appalachiam Tomme: Never heard of this, sort of a cross between cheddar and Gruyere? This would make a super grilled cheese.

Roth Kase Gruyere Surchoix: Oh my. Nutty, with those little crystals that I love so much.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

I'm Eating Good

Me and the man have been cooking at home more and we have had some damn good meals in the past couple of months. A few weeks ago, we went to Pensacola and this great fish market called Joe Patti's. They had just about every kind of seafood you can imagine so we got some grouper and monkfish, which I love but rarely see anywhere. Ben seared our lovely monkfish, served with roasted squash and asparagus and topped with squash seeds he had seasoned and toasted.

I didn't really grow up eating pork chops, I like them, I just never really had them so I never really make them. Plus, we have been eating a ton of scallops and fish and shrimp so when Ben made these pork chops last week, it tasted like one of the best things I've eaten in a while. He made a balsamic reduction with sage to glaze them, then made a black-eyed pea salad with tasso and I made some roasted broccoli which I will tell you about in a minute. It was all so earthy and rich and warm but not heavy at all. Make it. Don't skimp on the sage.

So, about that broccoli. The Wednesday Chef is beginning to be my favorite blog, I just want to be her and vacation in Italy at my mother's house, who lives there naturally, and take whimsical, nostalgic photos. This recipe is actually Melissa Clark's recipe, whose life I also covet because her weekly Times article always has her throwing together random things in a simple and elegant way. I loved this recipe, Ben and I both enjoyed the crisp bits of broccoli and extra lemon squeezed over top. Now I just roast the broccoli all the time, whether or not there's shrimp to go with it. I served this with a beautiful tomato tart with Gorgonzola, basil, chives and tarragon. You don't need a recipe, although you could certainly Google it and find one. Just make your pie crust however you make it, layer the ripest tomatoes you can find over it, sprinkle cheese, a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper and herbs and bake it.

Speaking of tomatoes, I read this article in the New York Times and who can resist the end of summer ode to tomato? I can't and since we were driving past a stand that boasted "Tomatoes for Sale that Actually Taste Like Tomatoes," well, I bit. I even went out and bought Robiola, which has a similar texture as Brie but tastes a bit funkier and while I liked it, I did not like the $29.99/lb price tag nor how it made my refrigerator smell. Sub Brie, you'll be fine. I also wanted to bake to tomatoes some, the recipe doesn't say too but they were just so JUICY! I would say to DEFINITELY drain the tomatoes, cut side down. Also, I found the butter to be strange and extraneous so I'll skip that next time. So I out the tomatoes and the chicken on a platter with some toasted baguette rubbed with garlic and oh, how that juice crept into all the shaggy bits of the bread was just otherworldly. I mean it, but I discovered some of the magic disappears as leftovers. Some things improve the next day, this does not, so invite some people over and sop up every bit of juice with every crumb of bread.

One more thing. I bought peaches that taste like peaches from the Tomato guy and made Smitten Kitchen's Peach Shortbread and it is amazing but be forewarned you might eat three pieces in one sitting. My changes:

-I used whole wheat flour instead of white. No one noticed and thus, the shortbread was obviously transformed into healthy food, no matter all the butter I used.

-I used four peaches and not two. I'm sure there is something to be said for a light layer of peaches but I like to overdo things.

-I toasted about a 1/2 cup of almond and chopped them up to add to the topping. I think you should too.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Jazz Mass and Satchmofest

Where else in the world does a city celebrate a jazz legend's birthday with jazz mass and a parade? I'd wager that no other city does it like New Orleans. I went to St. Augustine's for their annual jazz mass to honor Louis Armstrong back in early August. I got there 15 minutes before mass and it was PACKED! Treme Brass Band was the featured guest, how do you love that? The priest sang "What a Wonderful World." It was pretty incredible. Unfortunately, it was about 4000 degrees inside and while I don't quibble with anyone's right to wear or not wear deodorant, I am still kinda pissed at the girl standing next to me who chose NOT to and also chose to fan out her armpits right in my face throughout the service.

After mass, there was s second line out front and all the way down to the Mint where, of course, the music played on and on all day. We sampled an organic daiquiri...

...watching DancingMan 504 work his jelly... ...and ended up at Mona's on Frenchman. I've never been to that location but it was just as good as the Banks Street location. Word to the wise; their iced tea is awful, it tasted like slightly minted water, which isn't awful sounding actually but it sho ain't iced tea. Hummus is hands down my all-time favorite, baba ganoush also wonderful. I thought their grape leaves and kibbeh were sadly lacking but the spreads and dips selection more than made up for it.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Five Favorites

Some other New Orleans bloggers are listing five favorite food items so I thought I'd join in the fun.

-Perfectly pulled espresso
-Lemon ice
-Roasted beets, carrots, brussel sprouts and cauliflower
-Chicken livers with pepper jelly (OK, now I verging on whole DISHES that I like but if I'm going to have chicken livers, that's how I want them)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Yes, Please!

Oh joy! I had a successful day in the kitchen, which did much to assuage my wounded ego after yesterday's bread-making debacle. I sort of knew this recipe wasn't going to work, not enough liquid in the dough. I did read in the comments about a similar bread that also contained oats but this other version called for soaking the oats in water or milk. That seems to make a lot more sense. In any case, my bread was not good, not one bit, it did not even redeem itself once toasted and slathered with butter.

So today, I made this, which is one of mine and my papa's favorite summer recipes. I used scallops instead of bacon, still delicious but perhaps a scallop-bacon combo is in the future because there is no way that could be bad. Also, without consulting the recipe, I caramelized an onion, only to find out it wasn't called for but still quite good. I made the pesto with walnuts instead of pine nuts and just in case you were wondering, peeling blanched walnuts is a real pain in the ass.

And now for the piece de resistance. I made a pie. Rhubarb. And homemade vanilla ice cream. But the real star was the crust. I come from a long line of accomplished pie-makers so there's always that pressure. Plus, after my colossal bread failure, I felt like I needed to prove something to myself. Okay, well and to Ben too, lest he think I can't bake. I made this pie crust and oh LORD, it was on point, best pie crust I've had in...maybe ever. No, no, that couldn't be but it was outstanding, thank you Deb for being my ever-trusty consultant. In addition, I read Shirley Corriher's chapter about pie-making in her book Cookwise so I was feeling ready! The only change I made was to use half butter and half lard. Don't hate me. After all this consultation, I was worried about things not being cold enough, especially since who the hell makes pie, or bread for that matter, in New Orleans in August. I put my cubed lard, butter, flour mixture, bowl and rolling pin in the freezer 30 or 40 minutes before using it. I even put ice cubes in a bag and let it properly cool down my counter before getting into it. I would show you a picture but the rhubarb was kind of a weird, greenish color, not that pretty pink I like so much. While perhaps not picture-worthy, it's worthy of just about everything else, tender and flaky, ginger-scented rhubarb, cool vanilla, oooh my! I wish I could send a piece to my grandmother, I think she'd approve.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Chocolate Spice Sorbet

Last week when Mamma and I took refuge in Sucre from the unrelenting sun, I had a chocolate sorbet. Now, I like fruit sorbets because they are refreshing and light but really, if you want to get right down to it, I will take an ice cream any day over sorbet. But for some reason, perhaps the spice, this sorbet called my name. It was a rich, dark chocolate brown and now that I've tasted it, I don't think I'll ever look at chocolate ice cream the same. You see, the cream or milk or whatever dairy actually mitigates the flavor of pure, unadulterated chocolate sensation. Kind of like the difference between rich, full dark chocolate and its more insipid milk-chocolate brethen. So, there's the incredible punch of chocolate flavor. Then there's the spice. I was told the sorbet had cinnamon, cardamom and ginger and it reminded me an awful lot of those chocolate cookies at Christmas, you know, the ones with grape jelly and clove and light, white glaze topping? Is this a Buffalo cookie? An Italian cookie? Because people here don't seem to know what I am talking about. Too bad because that cookie is awesome, especially if you get someone who still uses lard to make them.

I could not stop thinking about this sorbet and this weekend when I stupidly bought an enormous thing of soy milk just days before going out of town, I decided to make my own with soy as a base. I used about 2 cups of soy milk, although water would be fine. Then I added a cup of sugar, a 3.5 ounce bar of bittersweet Perugina and 1/2 cup of dutch processed cocoa. By the way, Hershey's special dark costs $3 and this stuff from Holland cost $9, about which I was a bit put out but I sprung for it anyway. I added ground cardamom, ginger and grated nutmeg and cinnamon. Then a shot of vanilla and a shot of strong coffee to round it all out. Oh, a bit of cayenne and a pinch of salt for good measure. I love, love, love the flavor of the spice with the chocolate, I could eat this for the rest of eternity. Although next time I think I will skip soy and do water (even though it kept a sorbet-like quality, not dairy-like or creamy at all) and I will use fresh ginger, cardamom pods and some of those little, bright red Thai chiles. The ground spices gave good flavor but there was a slight murkiness or dustiness that I think I can avoid using fresh ingredients. Finally when I topped it all off with stewed figs last night, I knew I had hit the sorbet mother lode. Make this!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Where is My Waistline Continued?

Where was I? Ah yes, Saturday, mid-afternoon. After Coquette we went to The Joint for some smokin' BBQ, just thinking about it is making me want some of their meltingly good brisket, especially that line of fat that rides along the top of each piece. After a cruise around the 9th Ward and a little down time at the house, we were ready to hit downtown for some live music. John Boutte was playing at dba and even though I think he is a primadonna, I also love hearing him perform. It was a great show, he made me chuckle, he made me tear up a bit and there was this incredible guy who came up and did this spoken word sort of piece using New Orleans street names to create a narrative that combined history and politics and other local tidbits. I should go take advantage of living in a city with such wonderful music more often.

Sunday morning Mamma and I went to mass at St. Augustine's in the Treme. I'm sure I've been to mass here before but long ago and infrequently so it was interesting to see how it differs from Mass I am used to. Like the peace section, which went on forever, maybe a full 15 minutes! At Holy Cross, you'd wish peace and kiss cheeks with people in your pew and in those directly in front or in back but at St Aug's, people perambulated! They made their way! I went over to peace with an usher and she said "peace, my baby," which delighted me and people who couldn't get to you flashed the international sign for peace (two fingers). I found this both hilarious and endearing. Afterwards we went to Betsy's Pancake House, where there was plenty more "How we doing, my babies?" and "Everything all good, my darlings?" Oh, and two poodles getting amorous in the flatbed of a pickup truck across the street. Good, solid, breakfast entertainment.

I sent the adults off to the French Quarter to play while I went grocery shopping because Ben and I really wanted to cook for them, plus we invited my Louisiana family to join in. We have never cooked for others together, nor have we entertained in our new place and it could have been a mess but went off without a hitch. Except for the broken window but that's neither here nor there. Donovan now knows the difference between glass and plastic and thank god he didn't hurt himself worse, as he put his foot through a window and then pulled it back in with nothing more than a tiny cut on his foot.

Amy first arrived with Donovan and Neely in tow, Mamma and Greg got back and we all piled into the kitchen to hang out and have some wine before dinner. We made crawfish dumplings and charbroiled oysters to start. I was sad that I could only find Atlantic oysters. In fact, I'm so sad about it that I can't say any more except that they turned out very well, even though they weren't from the Gulf.

We also grilled drum and amberjack with chermoula and tzatziki to top it off, a hash of mustard greens, corn and potatoes, a salad with shredded beets, ginger-poached mirliton and dressed with a fig vinaigrette. Finally, for dessert, bruleed bananas foster over homemade lucuma-manjar ice cream. It was fantastico.

Here is my fireplace, appropriately decked out with a coveted shoe from the Muses parade and a picture of my grandparents. I like seeing Donovan and Neely's shoes there too.

It was a night I won't soon forget, some of my most beloved people in the world who rarely, if ever, see one another, it was very special indeed. And delicious of course.

Greg left the next day and Mamma and I were pretty low-key the rest of the time we were there. We went to the Creole Creamery for dinner (well, we had a salad first but who cares about that?). I had white chocolate-pink peppercorn, Sicilian pistachio (I think it had a hint of cardamom in it?), chocolate-cherry and....I don't remember but I liked them all. Mamma had a kinda over-salted salted cashew chocolate but her other flavors were good, especially the lavender-honey, which is one of my favorites.

We also went to Lafayette Cemetery, shopped around the cuckoo crazy antique store on Magazine where you never know what you will find and ended up at Sucre for more cold treats, it was HOT! Then I had to bring my mamma to the airport, which was sad but luckily I get to go home this weekend so parting wasn't too hard. See you soon Mamma! See you soon Buffy and wings and pizza and chicken finger subs! Chiavetta's and sponge candy and chocolate-vanilla twists at the Custard Corner!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Domenica, Delachaise, Cure, Coquette, Camellia Grill, My Goodness, Where is My Waistline?

It's been an exciting few weeks around here with the move and house guests and summer just generally being the wild whirlwind that it is. When did summers stop being languorous and fluid and turn into visitor after baby shower after wedding after concert? Jesus Christ, I'm tired and it's only mid-season!

A couple weeks ago, a co-worker asked us to go out for happy hour. I'm new on the job and I'd like to extend my social circle a bit so I wanted to but Ben and I going to a concert. She suggested the following Friday, also out for me as my mamma and Greg would be here. So she suggested Wednesday, which wasn't great for me at all but there is only so many times you can turn people down so I agreed. We went to Domenica, Besh's newest restaurant, because they have a killer happy hour. Half-price drinks, any drinks, not $2 Bud Lights, which is the norm for happy hour offerings. And half-price pizzas from their brick oven. Wild mushroom, bacon, ricotta and yard egg? Or speck, gorgonzola and pecan? Decisions, decisions! The pizzas were very good, thin, well-blistered crust and they have a nice wine selection so I got a $12 Pinot Bianco from Alto Adige for $6 that was mighty pleasing.

Next day my mamma came to visit! We went to Baton Rouge to see Miss Amy and the kiddos. She made us a delightful shrimp remoulade and boudin, mmmmm! When we got back to New Orleans, we went to Cure for a cocktail. It was happy hour, what do you know! I am so glad that happy hour seems to be morphing into lower-priced specialty cocktail and wine as opposed to well vodka and cheap beer. I love this change. I had read on another blog that Cure's pisco sour was better even than any in Chile. Frankly, I disagree and for $9, it was outrageously small. I got a $5 Sazerac (hurrah for happy hour specials!) and it was pretty good but I would have preferred more bitters and a chilled glass. Yet. It was delightful inside, decorated like an old apothecary shop and they had a nice little menu so I'll be back for happy hour to see how their Pimm's Cup is. Afterwards, we went to Upperline and I was excited because they have their 3 course Garlic menu all summer and I've been wanting to go there for ages. But I just wasn't that hungry after eating a cheese plate at Cure. I got an unremarkable salad, in fact, it was kind of watery. I also had the Oysters St. Claude but the oysters weren't seasoned that I could taste and the St. Claude sauce used an unfortunate amount of the pre-minced garlic that marinates in embalming fluid for who knows how long. I liked how the interior was designed though, lots of local artwork and quirky memorabilia, so I will give it another shot someday.

Greg arrived the following day and after sending them to Mahoney's for po-boys while I went to work, we went for a post-work cocktail at the Sazerac Bar in the old and beloved Roosevelt hotel. Well, for me it was a post-work cocktail but as Greg put it "I've been in New Orleans for six hours and haven't had a drop of alcohol yet. That's got to change!" The Sazerac is delightful, full of well-appointed furniture that probably warmed the ass of Huey Long and other New Orleans notables back in the day, and paintings commissioned by the WPA lining the walls. The last time I was there, the bartender was explaining the history of the bar to people, making up new drinks and allowing us to sample, all in all a very pleasant experience. This time, our bartendress was a stiff woman in a white jacket that reminded me of a straitjacket. Her demeanor was about as playful as her uniform, which was kind of off-putting. I don't mind paying a lot for fancy drinks but I do expect them to be good and these were okay but forgettable. Sigh. I do so enjoy taking visitors to the fancy hotel bars here but much better cocktails were had the next day at Coquette. I'm getting there!

After the Sazerac, we went to my favorite wine bar, the Delachaise, for some snacks. The fried frogs legs were delicious and drizzled with a tarragon-butter sauce, my idea of heaven. Goosefat-fried pommes frites are always a winner and my salad was a nice foil to the fried offerings. Exhausted and sated, we turned in for the night at a respectable 9:30.

The next morning, Greg wanted to hit the Camellia Grill, which I think I only went to once and it was a very, very long time ago. Their schtick is jiving with the customers, which can't help but make you smile unless you are the duds who were sitting next to us. I literally felt the fun draining out of me just sitting next to them, not a smile cracked the entire time. Anyway, the pecan waffle was outstanding! Why would anyone make any other kind of waffle ever? It had a lovely nutty chewiness to it that I might have to have again tomorrow morning.

When afternoon rolled around, we decided to go to Coquette for a pre-lunch drink, hey, they were on vacation and I was tour guide so I had to! Wow. I had a French 75 with apricot brandy, which brought me back to when the Ritz first opened in New Orleans. We'd go hear Jeremy Davenport after work and I tried this magical cocktail, made with apricot brandy instead of regular brandy (or gin, not my style at all)and loved it. Mamma had a lychee martini, which was wonderful and balanced, which is tough to pull off because lychees are so sweet. Greg had a very solid mojito. Not only were the drinks stellar, the staff was very friendly and informative and the inside is beautiful but not stuffy. Original tin ceilings, gorgeous wooden bar etc. Plus all their cocktails are $5 on Thursdays. I will be back! Wait, I just realized I let a Thursday pass me by without thinking about that. Oh well, next Thursday then.

The rest of the weekend is forthcoming; John Boutte, grilled oysters and limbs going through glass. Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

July 8th, 2010

Yes, that's the best I can do for a title because there is really going to be no cohesive element to this post.

The first day after my week of denial was a special day for me and the boy so we made a marvelous dinner to celebrate that AND to welcome me back to the world of STEAK and ICE CREAM and WINE!!!!! We grilled some steaks simply and topped them off with a knob of a shallot-tarragon compound butter, which may be overkill but nonetheless, I encourage you to try it. We had a grilled romaine salad with pan-seared scallops and the most garlicky, buttery, peppery homemade croutons. As if we didn't have enough decadence-ahem, butter-, we fried some potatoes, tossed some in garlic butter and finished with shaved romano. This meal will be going on the menu at the restaurant we open. Also, I'm pretty certain the measly eight-tenths of a pound I lost during denial week came back after this dinner. No matter, 100% worth it!

I bought Ben an ice-cream maker, which means I bought myself an ice-cream maker, and made my first creation, the cardamon pod scented bliss that it was. Here's what I did.

Crush up about 20 pods of cardamom, so the seeds are exposed. Heat with 1 2/3 c. heavy cream, just to a bare simmer and then remove from the heat. I let this sit overnight but probably a few hours would do. Strain the seeds from the cream. Bring the cream, 1 cup of milk and a scant 1/2 cup of sugar to a simmer, just enough to dissolve the sugar. Whisk together four egg yolks and a scant 1/4 cup of sugar Slowly add the warm milk-cream mixture. I worried about curdling so I tempered the eggs a bit with a few eggshells of the milk mixture, then whisked in the remainder. Let this cool in the refrigerator and put it in the ice cream machine for about 30 minutes. Transfer to a container and freeze for about an hour.

It was super, I mean, I really cannot say enough about this ice cream except that you should make it and share it and eat it. I brought this to a picnic with some pound cake cupcakes I had made. One fine friend had made sangria and I though how nice that would be, the pound cake, the ice cream and the wine-macerated berries. But said friend also brought THE Chantilly cake from Whole Foods so we skipped the pound cake and berries.

I made mango sorbet the next day but it was kind of a dud because the mangoes were a bit past their prime, do you know what I mean? They get a very unpleasant flavor as they age that I can't quite put my finger on but I didn't like it. To save it I added some lime, mint and cayenne. I really liked the kick of the cayenne after the sweet, icy beginning but sadly, that over-mature note remained. Anyway, now I can't wait to do cardamom again and praline-bacon and salted caramel and peach-basil and lucuma-manjar!

I made this carrot salad, which had a number of things going for it. Namely, it was posted on smittenkitchen, which has never steered me wrong. Second, it had harisaa, mint and feta! Yes, yes, yes! I made the harissa last week and had it on eggs before making the carrot salad and it was so good that I couldn't wait to make the salad. But guess what? It was only ho-hum, I think the addition of sugar was unnecessary and actually kind of gross. I much preferred the carrot salad I made during Denial week of carrots, ginger, cranberries and scallions.

Monday night was our farewell dinner for Tabitha. I have made a very good friend here and I am sad to see her leaving us to go to medical school in Shreveport at the end of the month. But she needs to go on and challenge that big old brain of hers and God knows she isn't doing it here, sitting on the porch drinking Rose and eating cheese like we are so wont to do. Anyway, four of us got all gussied up and went to Susan Spicer's new place called Mondo. Overall, we really enjoyed it although it was nothing mind-blowing. I sort of think that's how she envisioned this place though, a neighborhood place that's casual and you can pop in for a glass of wine from their thoughtful wine list and some snacks. But it was no culinary mecca like I think so many people expect from Susan Spicer.

Highlights were the shrimp and pork meatballs on the lemongrass skewers and creamy crab toast. The breaded artichoke was pretty boring and awfully stringy but the lemon aioli was a bright spot. The steak tartare was fine but there was so much caper and pepper and so on that it detracted from the beef. If there was actually even any beef at all, I'm not sure. I'm kicking myself for not trying to soup of the day, a hot and sour soup with duck dumplings.

My dinner was perfectly passable, fish "Muddy Waters" (which in a meneuiere with jalapeno and anchovy) with roasted potatoes, except I didn't care for the fish of the day...tripletail? Triple beam? Triple threat? I usually hate five-spice powder but Tabitha's Chinese duck was very tasty, if a little small, as was the accompanying turnip cake. Corrinne got a steak with bearnaise and OOOOH, I cannot get enough of tarragon lately. I don't even know how the steak was because I focused on those lovely, licorice-like, grassy bits of tarragon in the sauce. Emily got a very well-cooked (I mean rightly done, not overcooked)piece of lamb with ricotta agnolloti that might be what I order next time I'm in. For dessert, lemon tart, coconut sorbet and sweet potato-pecan pie with almond-sherry ice cream. Sorbet, good, lemon tart, lemony, sweet-potato pecan pie with ice cream was STELLAR. I really liked the ice cream, the sherry complemented the almond so well and the almonds tasted deep and toasty.

All in all, a very nice meal, although we wanted a perhaps finer dining experience than they offer. We wanted some port or sherry after dinner, no such luck, but with such company, who really needs it? Anyway, I think next time I'll skip the high-brow meal experience and sit at the bar with a glass of wine and a pizza from the wood-burning oven. Oh, and those meatballs!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Straight and Narrow, Days 4, 5, 6, 7

Day 4

I had oatmeal for breakfast, sweetened only with banana which I cooked for a few minutes first to bring out some of the sweetness. Although overall it didn't have the sweetness I'm used to, I got used to it after a couple bites, the walnuts helped too.

I had a pretty craptacular day at work, I would have REALLY enjoyed a glass of wine after work but I abstained and went to a new class at the gym that I've been eying for a few weeks.

Day 5

Oh, Day 5. Not a great day, I started out by leaving the house early so I could get out of work early, I like to do that on Fridays. Not only did I not catch an early streetcar, the usual 8:10 one that I take never came. By 8:30, I walked to another busline and took that, got to work ten minutes late and, oh, did I mention that it was 93 degrees at 8am? So I wasn't in a great mood when I got to work and my insane boss had emailed me 14 times and left 4 voicemails, delegating two weeks worth of work to be done by 5. Sweet. I immediately wanted to stress eat so I scarfed down a bunch of cherries and an orange without tasting either one. After an hour or two, when I had made myself feel physically sick with stress, I overdosed on peanut butter, I don't even know how much, it was embarrassing. It must have been a lot thought because I wasn't even hungry for my lunch until 3pm.

Speaking of lunch, that was a high point of my day. I made dahl a couple days ago and it was delicious. I haven't made dahl in a very long time but it is total comfort food for me, my mother had it on heavy rotation when I was a kid and I always loved the creamy lentils and the cool coconut. Only thing was I usually make raita and mango chutney to go along with it. But since dairy was out and chutney has so much sugar in it, I ate it with those wonderful dried cranberry and fresh orange scented collards and I was more than satisfied.

Feeling weary, I dragged myself out of the office and decided that I was going to break with the diet for one evening. Actually, I stuck with the diet, I just allowed myself some wine after a hellacious day. I met up with some friends for dinner at Lola's and we ordered sangria, yes we did and I don't feel bad about it! I also ordered this soup that was INCREDIBLE! It was a cold chilled almond and garlic soup, topped with grapes. It was flavorful and refreshing and I decided I could drink/eat this at every meal for the rest of the hot ass New Orleans summer. Until I googled it the next day and found out it has bread in it and is pretty much a caloric bomb. Damn. Oh well, I still urge you to try it, it's fresh and elegant and unique, you can impress your friends when you tell them this is an authentic, Spanish white gazpacho, I'm going to try this recipe.

Day 6

I hauled ass at the gym this morning and spent the rest of the day eating dahl, reading my book and getting my house in order. I haven't been home in a couple weeks because my car was in the shop and so I stayed at Ben's. Either he'd chauffeur me around (thank you baby!), let me take his car or I'd just take the streetcar, which is easier to pick up at his house than mine. I did get my car back on Friday but umm, I'm not sure why they had my car ten whole days and didn't even do one of the major things that needed fixing, thanks guys. What a bunch of morons. Then I worked a party that night, a wedding with 300 guests and when we broke down the buffet and everyone was in the back kitchen eating roast pork and pasta with caramelized onions and mushrooms, I felt a little faint as I nibbled on strawberries. That pesto-crusted tofu I made earlier just didn't cut it for me. Then they cut the cake and they had all these little cupcakes and oh my, it was hard. but I didn't give in! Even when I felt like I might fall over with hunger and exhaustion at midnight!

Day 7

I almost said screw it and had coffee for breakfast. But I didn't. Ben and I did some shopping for the new house, I'm moving on Thursday and I am SO EXCITED!!!!! Anyway, we got a lot accomplished and then we had a picnic at City Park, it was magnifique. I made a very good lentil salad, I used a dried lime that a friend brought back from Abu Dhabi and it lent a nice, subtle citrusy note. Some onion, cilantro, red bell pepper and a vinaigrette were the only additions. I also made some hummus (Ben ate it with bread, carrots for me). Ben made vegetable spring rolls with roasted beets and this stunningly colored and delicately flavored cherry-mango sorbet, just fruit, no sugar. It was a perfect evening, not too hot, not too many bugs, sitting on the water's edge under a live oak. What a life!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Straight and Narrow, Days 2 and 3

Day 2

Well, today I'm sleepy, is it a lack of coffee? Or is it that I've been sitting on my butt in the same spot for several hours at a riveting Institute of Medicine Conference? It's certainly not a lack of sleep, I went to bed at 11, woke up with a start at 7:30 and had some bizarre dreams, the last of which included Beyonce asking to borrow my deodorant and I was embarrassed to tell her mine was down to the little nubby pieces stuck in the plastic.

Back to the conference. I initially kicked myself for choosing this week to be on the straight and narrow since I'd be at a conference downtown for two days. Not only did that mean I'd have to plan, pack and lug around food all day but I'd have to forgo the ubiquitous continental breakfast pastries. Actually, these didn't tempt me too much and I sipped on lukewarm green tea and nibbled on cherries and slices of sweet potato all morning. For lunch, I had soba noodles with teriyaki tofu and potato salad with a tarragon-shallot vinaigrette. After that, I took a walk and passed by Starbucks, man, did it smell enticing! Even a post-lunch walk could not keep my head from drooping as I listened to presentations on genotoxicity, industrial effluents, renal excretion levels and anaploidistic sperm. Weird, huh? This is usually when I'd hit the coffee or sweets to give me a little rush.

The conference ended at 4:30, I quickly changed into my penguin costume (that's the black and whites worn in the restaurant, I think it makes me look like a penguin) and headed over to the Foundry for my evening shift. I got there with a few minutes to spare, shoveling potato salad in my mouth for my "dinner." It was one thing to turn down slightly stale doughnuts in the morning but I knew I was really crazy when I started turning down PECAN-BREADED OYSTERS that the kitchen blithely nibbled on from a huge mound in the back or the ENORMOUS slabs of King Cake everyone took home with them. I started feeling a little light-headed halfway through the shift but fortunately the party ended early, I was out by 9.

Day 3

Still sleeping long and hard, which is fine, less time to be tempted by food. This morning at the conference, they had BEIGNETS! I didn't even look at those sugar-dusted, golden pillows of deliciousness, I'm getting better at this! I told my co-worker nonchalantly "It's not as if these are the last beignets on earth, who needs them?" She responded "Won't you be sorry when tomorrow is Armageddon?" Damn her. Today was much better because I could go home after the conference instead of to another shift. Hit the gym, hit the grocery store, came home and made dahl and Bryant Terry's collard greens redux from his excellent Vegan Soul Kitchen cookbook. (As a sidenote, I am no vegan but I do like my vegetables and new, innovative recipes are always welcome, pro-biotic, raw, whatever). By the time I was done with that, it was almost 10, which is around bedtime for me, read a few pages of my book and was out.

I'm not finding this too difficult yet actually, I mean, sure, passing the oysters, the beignets, eating my black beans while watching my boyfriend dig into some sopressata, Cotswald and fresh bread wasn't EASY but doable. The hardest part for me at this point is all the work it's taking to make sure I have an endless stream of appropriate foods, every night when I am done with work and the gym, I'm cooking for a couple hours to get ready for the next day. But it feels good for once to say, hey, I don't need that, because self-control is not something I've ever been very good at it. We'll see if that's how I'm feeling in a few days!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Body and Mind Recalibration

I think I've always had a pretty healthy attitude towards food, if you overlook my slight preoccupation with it. But I've never been one of those people who wants to curb my appetite or have guilt associated with certain foods. In fact, I'm a strong proponent of the whole mind over matter thing so that if I am eating dessert, I don't say "Oh, this second piece of Chantilly cake from Whole Foods (which is incredible) is making me fat." No, instead I prefer to say "This second piece of Chantilly cake is making me strong and beautiful," because by doing that, it negates the caloric intake, right?

Additionally, I work out a lot and I generally eat very well, lots of vegetables and whole grains, not much processed, canned or pre-made food. So I have gotten myself into this habit of eating whatever I want based on those two factors. I don't know how I got here but I find myself eating (or needing) a dessert EVERY DAY. Once I start eating the sweets, I feel like a junkie, like I'm calculating how much more I get eat or what I'll eat after that. It's a sickness and I must quell my inner junkie! Even with "good" foods, I will just continue to keep eating unchecked, paying little attention to how my body responds. Anyway, I have decided for one week to give up MEAT, SWEETS, WHEAT, DAIRY, CAFFEINE and ALCOHOL. Sure I'd love to lose a pound or two but I really am more interested in eating more mindfully and practicing self-control, never one of my strong suits.

Incidentally, I fully expect to fail by Friday but right now I'm going strong! I am keeping eggs because I don't think they have that same difficult to process element that cheese and milk and yogurt have and also because I think I'll need to protein. For breakfast I had my usual egg and spinach with green tea and no coffee. I didn't miss the coffee but I sure was yawning until 10am. I had fruit for my mid-morning snack, which was not as satisfying as yogurt or peanut butter or Goldfish or Luna bars but amazingly I held out until 12:02 to eat my lunch of black beans, kale and brown rice. I also have a Creole tomato-basil salad, cherries and a carrot-ginger salad to tide me over until dinnertime.

Is it terrible that all weekend I was cramming in fried shrimp poboys and smoked cheddar and a lovely Rose? And that I wanted to buy huge steaks for a farewell to red meat sendoff party last night? That I have already checked all FIVE of my favorite food blogs this morning and that just moments ago I was salivating over Joule restaurant's dessert menu offering of Banana tarte tatin with rum caramel and coconut whip cream? What is wrong with me? Let's hope by Day Seven we see some improvement!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hits and Misses

I seem to have lost my mojo since living in Chile. There I grappled with poorly equipped kitchens, the lack of tools and ingredients I was used to, not to mention having to learn how to measure things from my recipe sources (usually in the silly American system) using metric system containers. 100 grams of butter? I had no idea what that even looked like. Plus, the ovens range from 1-8. I am clueless there. Anyway, since moving back to New Orleans, where there are over 1100 restaurants, not to mention working in a restaurant, I did far less cooking than I have any time in my adult life. So I have lots of misses lately, perhaps I can just blame it on the recipes. On the flip side, there have been a number of hits.

This weekend, I was having a birthday party for my roomie. She's been talking for months about Coq au Riesling, an Alsatian twist on the French classic, so I thought that would be a good choice for our main dish. I found this recipe from Nigella Lawson but then I tweaked it a little, mostly because I was too lazy to walk ALL THE WAY over to the computer to re-consult my recipe but also because my chef boyfriend intervened and who am I to argue with his expertise?


* 1 cup bacon lardons
* 1 leek, finely sliced
* 12 skinless chicken thighs or 2 3/4 pounds thigh fillets
* 3 bay leaves
* 10 ounces oyster mushrooms torn into strips (4 cups)
* 1 bottle Riesling
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 1 to 2 tablespoons freshly chopped dill leaves
* Buttered noodles, optional

Heat the oil in a casserole or large wide pan and fry the lardons until crisp.

Add the sliced leeks and soften them with the lardons for a minute or so.

Tip in the chicken thighs, bay leaves, torn mushrooms and wine.

Season with salt and pepper and bring to the boil, cover the pan and simmer gently for an hour. Like all stews this tastes its mellowest best if you let it get cold and then reheat the next day. But it's no hardship to eat straight off. Whichever, serve sprinkled with dill and with some buttered noodles, if using.

Two nights before the party, Ben told me to "saute no more than half my aromatics," so I cooked down half of the leeks and added a couple carrots too. I couldn't find that darn bulb of garlic but I would have! I added the wine and let that cook a few minutes, turned it off, chilled and put my chicken thighs in the marinate overnight.

I DID flour and brown my chicken, although Nigella doesn't and while I think that gave it a deeper layer of flavor, plus the flour thickens the sauce, it was a pain in the ass. I guess that's mostly since I made over 6 pounds of chicken. Then I continued on, layering the rest of my aromatics with chicken and more wine and some stock. This was done one night before the party because, as I have indicated, I'm lazy and wanted it out of the way. But also I think that these sort of stewed dishes taste best when they've had some time to thicken and mellow. It was indeed a hit and I have REALLY enjoyed it as leftovers for lunch. It would be great over potatoes or rice or with some garlic bread instead of the egg noodles. Next up, strawberry shortcake, both a hit AND a miss!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Baked Asparagus with Tarragon and Shiitake

Tonight I tried Melissa Clark's Baked Asparagus With Shiitake, Prosciutto and Couscous, although I left out the prosciutto because I forgot to pick it up at the store. I'm not sure what her angle is but she writes an article each week for the NY Times and every dish seems like some serendipitous and totally off the cuff success. Naturally, I hate her a bit for that but I forgive her because I always, ALWAYS want to eat what she's making.
She describes a method for cooking asparagus that yielded an asparagus like she's never tasted before (her sentiment), apparently a slow-cooking method made it absorb the other flavors of the dish without getting overcooked. Yes, it was delicious, although I think it would have been equally delicious if I sauteed the whole thing in 10-12 minutes versus waiting a whole hour to slow roast at 200 degrees. I do think the tarragon made the dish, in fact, I liked tarragon before but I don't know if I ever tasted it in a dish that made me like it as much as this one. Actaully, I think the tarragon flavor was such a wow factor, that I have re-named the dish Slow Roasted Asparagus with Shiitake and Tarragon. Couscous soaks the juices up nicely (and I so wish there were more!) but really, does it need to be in the title? I think not. It would be fine over rice or quinoa.
Eat with Marques de Caceres white rioja.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


When I was in Chile, the words and the stories were a constant feed running through my head. I also had a lot more free time. I can blame my much fuller schedule or that I am not in a new country, full of prompts for me to comment on. Whatever the case though, I've been feeling remarkably stagnant, missing that steady stream of playful phrases and clever stories. The best way to remedy that, as I know, is just to start. So even though I may not be witty or remarkable in any way, I like to look back on this day last year and know that I went to dinner at Atano with Alberto and had perhaps my favorite wine while I was in Chile, Ventolera, a pinot noir from the Leyda Valley (I didn't know that as I started writing this but was just able to look it up because, go figure, I actually documented it, unremarkable as it may have been that day!). Maybe in May 4th, 2011 I will be interested to know that I enjoyed a glass of Li Veli Passamante today, which I liken to drinking liquid violets.

Tonight, Ben and I went to Cooter Brown's for oysters and they were perfectly salty and not too cold and just wonderful. Add to that the nostril-clanging burst of horseradish and the muskiness of Lea and Perrins and I was in heaven. Eating oysters seems particularly poignant right now, in light of the oil spill in the Gulf. It makes my time in New Orleans seem all the more precious, not just because my seafood consumption may be severely limited very soon, but because this region just seems to be hit again and again, threatening the way of life here in a very permanent way. After our oyster dinner, we walked around the Riverbend neighborhood, quiet, stately, picturesque. I could smell the dank moisture of the river and house after fence after tree was loaded with wild jasmine, making me just want to fall into the blossoms and breathe deeply. We also saw a magnolia tree in its first bloom.

I've been in New Orleans now just over seven months, which is longer than the whole time I spent in Chile. That realization makes me a little sad and wistful. I remember thinking the same thing when I realized I had been back in Buffalo longer than I lived in New Orleans. A good reminder to take it in, breathe deeply, walk enchanted streets at dusk, reflect but mostly, be here now.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Catch Up

Since I have felt like life is an endless string of unreturned phone calls and emails, I haven't been able to attend to most basic tasks, much less the blog. I have (attempted) to write down little musings daily, which usually end up being about food. Let's catch up on what I've eaten since December.

12-3-09 Languedoc at the Delchaise with Alycia.

12-9-09 New haircut. Dinner at Ralph's. Wagyu beef.

12-13-09 Dinner with Adam and Kristin at Mr. B's. Grouper with crab meat. Pimm's cup at the Roosevelt Hotel.

12-14-09 Snifter of Frangelico, porch, lightning storm.

12-16-09 Oh my god, La Divina Gelateria, chesnut, honey, pinenuts and rosemary.

12-23-09 Package of cuccidati arrives in the mail from Mamma!

12-25-09 Christmas in Slidell with the Boos family.

1-1-10 Life is beautiful.

1-3-10 Dinner with Ben at the Orleans Grapevine.

1-6-10 Horinoya! Black sesame ice cream is my new obsession.

1-7-10 Wake up at the W, order room service, lounge in my robe. Dinner at the Butcher.

1-15-10 Off to Seattle. I love Beatrix!

1-16-10 Besalu for breakfast and afternoon naps, oh yes.

1-19-10 Lunch with Nika at Boat Street Cafe, dinner with Anna-Beth at Quinn's pub and salted caramel ice cream at Molly Moon's.

1-21-10 My Lucy girl turns three!

2-7-10 Holy shit, did the Saints just win the Super Bowl?

2-8-2010 Pho Tau Bay with Ben and Alycia, Sucre, early birthday dinner for Ben at Cochon.

2-13-10 Endymion! Champagne! Smoked meat!

2-18-10 Mahoney's makes a po-boy with fried green tomatoes, grilled shrimp and remoulade.

2-21-10 Ben finally cooks for me! Grilled steaks and shrimp with brie.

2-25-10 Off to Baton Rouge to see Amy, Neely and Donovan. Beautiful day with my babies. Le Chat Noir and sushi.

2-26-10 I'm 31! Doberge cake for breakfast. Oysters and champagne for lunch with Paul and Emily. More oysters and chamapagne with Ben at Luke.

3-2-10 Off. 25 cent oysters at Luke. Chesnut ice cream at Angelo Brocato's.

3-3-10 The view at Second Line movie studio is AMAZING!

3-10-10 Tulane wants to interview me TOMORROW. Holy shite.

3-11-10 Driving down Dumaine to work, I noticed the trees abloom in the early greens, whites and purples.

3-13-10 Went to New Orleans Museum of Art for the "Dreams Come True" exhibit, which details Disney's fairy tales. Favorite was illustrations for Sleeping Beauty,done by Eyvind Earle.

3-15-10 Finally get a nice day when I'm off to eat the first crawfish of the season, sitting on the levee with my baby, watching the sunset.

3-16-10 Ben makes grilled redfish with a crawfish crystal-butter sauce, braised greens with andouille and a cajun hash. Every element perfect. Delicious with Cakebread Sauvignon Blanc.

3-17-10 I got the job!!!!!!!

3-19-10 Viva San Guiseppe! Missing Buffalo and my family. Went to St. Joseph's Cathedral to see the altar.

So I guess that's my life over the past three months. Now, lest you think life is all afternoon snoozes and dinners with my love, please know I didn't want to bore you with savory nuggets like "Time change and a LONG. ASS. DOUBLE." Or "Clocked out with 34 hours in three days. Dead tired." But overall, life is good, I'm eating well. More to come.