27 May 2009

El Rayo Is Okay But A Portland Extension to the Alameda-Weehawken Burrito Tunnel Is Still Needed

The reviews are pouring in for El Rayo. Except for one plaintive cry for attention, most are pretty positive. There's still a Mission District shaped whole in my heart, but El Rayo is okay. I'd still like to see a Portland Extension to the Alameda-Weehawken Burrito Tunnel though. There is no finer purpose to put engineering to. As far as fish tacos go, I'm digging Olive Cafe more.

And because every post ought to have an image, here's a burrito cat:

26 May 2009

All I ask for is a fresh eggplant and a star to steer her by …" or, Veggie Day in Ghent

A few weeks back, the City of Ghent began observing "a regular weekly meatless day, in which civil servants and elected councillors [sic] will opt for vegetarian meals" in an effort "to recognise [sic] the impact of livestock on the environment." As part of the effort, "[a]round 90,000 so-called 'veggie street maps' are now being printed to help people find the city's vegetarian eateries." [Via the BBC.] I guess our version of the veggie street map is here at Avery's Commune Tested, City Approved.

21 May 2009

Treehugger on Ramps

Treehugger has an article (well, more of a simple admonishment really) on the sustainability of ramp and fiddlehead foraging. Apparently the taking of ramps is restricted in Quebec—something that was news to me.

18 May 2009

You Are What you Eat

Mark Menjivar's "You Are What You Eat" photogallery. What are those tomatoes doing in the refrigerator and why is she desiccating her greens!? Check out the take out only person's fridge.

[Via Eat Me Daily.]

13 May 2009

Mother's Day Dinner

We made Mother's Day dinner at my mum's house where we can bring out fancy dishes and make these untutored French dishes look presentable.

Oyster Course

I love oysters, but for some reason I have never gone through the trouble of buying and shucking them myself. Now I know why and it has something to do with the several slightly infected holes in my hand. Some important things I learned about shucking oysters: (1) pick out your own oysters if you can, and choose ones that have a nice gap at the hinge where an oyster knife will fit well; and (2) if you have a stubborn oyster that refuses to open, stick it in a really hot oven for a few moments and it will loosen up enough for you to finish the job (thanks Mom for that trick).

These Damariscotta River oysters were excellent with …

Green Chili and Cilantro Mignonette

  • 1/3 cu. red wine vinegar;
  • 1/2 of a shallot, minced;
  • 1/4 to 1 tsp green serrano chili, minced;
  • 1/4 tsp. sugar;
  • 1 tsp lemon juice; and
  • 1 tsp or so cilantro, chopped.

We found these Minton Majolica Oyster Plates in the attic of my grandmother's house and it's simply ridiculous what they sell for at auction. It's nice to have an excuse to bring them to the table.

Vegan Alternative: broiled baby eggplants—they were sort of oyster shaped.

Fish Course

Bourride is a French classic fish dish that involves no cream and, therefore, no abdominal cramps for me. Instead, the richness is achieved with aïoli enriched with additional egg yolks that is blended into the fish broth to create a light emulsion. There is serious garlic in this. This dish is very simple in spite of the seemingly complicated emulsion at the end. What it really all comes down to having an absolutely perfect stock. In our case, it was really hard to track down enough fish racks at the last minute to make a properly intense stock. The carcass bin at Harbor Fish is almost always dominated by salmon racks rather than with the white fish we needed. It's best to make an order for whole fish or whole racks and be sure to specify that you want the heads left on. I ended up not having enough fish bones and the stock suffered a bit for this.

Vegan Alternative: A sorrel soup, that, unfortunately, turned out more than a bit like paste. Further research is required for a good creamy sorrel soup that is vegan.

Salad Course

Greens from New Leaf Farm are already appearing with nasturtium blossoms in them. This was also my first experience with borage (leaves, not flowers). I wanted to like borage very much, which is cucumbery as everyone says, but I think I will leave it out of salads and try to find some better purpose for it.


Poached rhubarb with dairy free ginger ice cream. Both components are excellent, but the ginger ice cream is a keeper.

Dairy Free Ginger Ice Cream
Blend up the following ingredients and put them in your ice cream maker:
  • 1/2 cu. coconut milk;
  • 1 cu. soy milk;
  • 1/3 package of silken tofu (about 6 0z.);
  • 1/2 cu. vanilla soy yogurt;
  • 1/2 cu. sugar;
  • juice squeezed from the pulp of about 1 inch of ginger root, grated in a microplane; and
  • a good handful or two of chopped crystallized ginger.
Great dairy free ice cream recipes may be found at Vegan Ice Cream Paradise.

One Last GRO Post; Also, Zucchini Noodles For Dinner

I need to stop posting about GRO, but I think I've got the place figured out now so one last report is worthwhile. There's a sort of trifecta on their menu that consists of (1) the Fun Guy in the Sun Dry (or whatever it's called) salad, (2) their nori roll, and (3) the zucchini noodle appetizer (which is a perfectly good lunch). Also, all of the smoothies and chocolates and cookies are excellent, but that stuff doesn't a lunch spot make. Hey GRO guys, if you are listening: you guys need some specials.

The zucchini noodle salad is dressed with some concoction involving almonds and sesame oil and lemon juice and other yummy bits. It's quite good.

Using pureed nuts to create creaminess is a clever vegan trick that I decided to recreate for dinner. I made an almond-basil variation of Vegan Yum Yum's tomato basil crema, using half whole wheat spaghetti and half zucchini "noodles" for the pasta. While I'm glad that Olivia's Garden produces hot house tomatoes, they still aren't the real deal by any stretch, so I can't wait to come back to this recipe when real tomatoes are available. But even with the off-season tomatoes this was wonderful and it fooled my daughter into eating lots of zucchini.

For making zucchini noodles you could in theory run the zuke lengthwise through a mandolin with the proper insert, but the better method is to use a "magicook" spiral slicer. I know the price on amazon seems high, but I think I've seen them for cheap at Sun Market in town (which is the better place to buy one anyway). It's worth buying a Benriner slicer just for the engrish on the instructions.

N.B.: GRO has their shroom room set up in the back and you can now watch them grow shitaakes.

11 May 2009

The Trireme

In Agrigentum there is a house call 'the trireme' for the following reason. Some young men were getting drunk in it, and became feverish with intoxication, off their heads to such an extent they supposed they were in a trireme, sailing through a dangerous tempest; they became so befuddled as to throw all the furniture and fittings out of the house as though at sea, thinking that the pilot had told them to lighten the ship because of the storm. A great many people, meanwhile, were gathering at the scene and started to carry off the discarded property, but even the youths did not pause their lunacy. On the following day the generals turned up at the house, and charges were brought against them. Still sea-sick, they answered to the officials' questioning that in their anxiety over the storm they had been compelled to jettison their superfluous cargo by throwing it into the sea.
James Davidson, Courtesans and Fish Cakes: The Consuming Passions of Classical Athens (1997) (quoting Timaeus FGrHist 566 F149). Courtesans is a great food book, by the way.

Cooking With Dog

Cooking With Dog is bizarre and hilarious:

The only problem is that I can only identify about 85% of the ingredients Dog is talking about.

08 May 2009

An Offal Aside

Veal sweetbreads at Emilitsa for the win.

06 May 2009

Trendy Springtime Eating: Ramps, Sorrel, Rhubarb!

My take from this afternoon's Farmers' Market:

  • Fiddleheads
  • Chives
  • Shallots
  • Sauerkraut
  • Sorrel
  • Rhubarb
  • Catnip
  • Flowers
I knew I wanted to do something with the sorrel. Some recipes for sorrel "pesto" over here looked good, so I made one from a bag of sorrel from L & A Farms, 5 or 6 ramps from Rosemont Market & Bakery, a dozen chives from Thirty Acre Farms, a couple handfuls of pine nuts and about 1/3 of a cup of olive oil.

Things I learned: a salad spinner works really well to dry steamed or washed fiddleheads so they can be sauteéd. I guess that should have been obvious to me before now.

Also: we're working on an excellent rhubarb crisp. Tonight's breakthrough was adding Grand Marnier and ginger juice. Next job is to get the right amount of crisp to rhubarb.

The "Food Blog Code of Ethics"

Oh, for crying out loud...

04 May 2009

It Is Surprising How Often Julia Child Is Cited By Legal Scholars

My favorite usage is one I found accidentally several years ago:

Suddenly, [a substantive element,] or a process, or a time sequence will turn up, and there is astonishment, frustration, and even disaster. We therefore urge you … always to read the [Constitution] first, even if [its application] is familiar to you. Visualize each step … and you will encounter no surprises. [Constitutional] language is always a sort of shorthand in which a lot of information is packed, and you will have to read carefully if you are not to miss small but important points. Then, to build up your over-all knowledge compare the [text] mentally to others you are familiar with, and note where one [section] or technique fits into the larger picture of theme and variations.

Sarnoff, Joshua D., Cooperative Federalism, The Delegation Of Federal Power, And The Constitution, 39 Ariz. L. Rev. 205 (1997) (quoting Julia Child et al., 1 Mastering the Art of French Cooking x (1979)).

03 May 2009

Pseudo-French Night, Take Two: Two Angry, Tacky Whiting and a Fricassée of Chicken in Cognac

One of the spots where I like to eat lunch outside during the summer is by the empty forty ouncer bottles on the granite blocks right behind Harbor Fish. The danger is being shat upon by herring gulls; the benefit is checking out what's available at the market.

[By lumierfl.]

Two whiting cost me all of $2.53. I want to stay away from the more overfished species and figured I had done so with whiting, but it turns not to be the most sustainably harvested fish afterall. In any event, here's the tacky 1970's-ish thing I did with it:

Merlan en Colère (a/k/a Whiting "Angry Style")
Adapted from Jacques Pepin, La Methode (1979)

Simply whiting battered with egg, one tablespoon of oil and some seasoning and then breaded and fried with their tails stuffed into their mouths. It took about 8 minutes in 350° safflower oil to cook them. Someone who knew what they were doing might even manage not to overdarken the batter. I had never had whiting before, which, turns out to be an excellent white fish that is mild in flavor and not overly bony like many of the small, skinny fish.

In our most recent Crown of Maine order I picked up a broiler from Tide Mill Farm of Edmund, Maine (and not Smyrna as I had originally thought (thanks, Psst!)). Although it was a fine bird, I think I'll be stick with Maine-ly Poultry whose chickens are available fresh. Also, Maine-ly Poultry doesn't cut the skin across the lower part of the breast to tuck the drumsticks into. The fricassée above was made by soaking the chicken pieces in one cup of cognac overnight and then draining the pieces, browning them with lardons, and cooking them slowly for half an hour with pearl onions and the reserved chicken-cognac brew. The sauce was excellent, but soaking the pieces in cognac overnight was a blunder; the chicken tasted like licking in the inside of a charred barrel. I'd give them six hours if I were ever to do this again. The idea is from Anne Willan's excellent French Regional Cooking.


The cognac flavor really mellowed overnight and the left over chicken made great sandwiches with bacon from Caldwell Farm, cornichons, tomatoes, avocado and mayonnaise.

01 May 2009

G(R)Oing Nuts for Smoothies

Nutty smoothies inspired by those on the menu at the hipster vegan dive, GRO, and currently heavily in vogue at home with my daughter:

  • Sleeping Beauty Needs Calcium: 1/2 cu. coconut milk, 1/2 cu. almond milk, a handful of sliced almonds => WHIRR! => 1 banana (sliced and frozen), 1/4 cu. cacao powder, 1 additional cu. or so of almond milk, agave nectar, maybe some crushed ice => WHIRR!;
  • Eiiiiieeeee: 1/2 cu. coconut milk, 1/2 cu. almond milk, a handful of pecans => WHIRR! => 1 banana (sliced and frozen), some maple syrup, more almond milk, cacao powder, maybe some crushed ice => WHIRR! (without the ice and with more maple syrup, this would make a great base for a vegan ice cream); and
  • Space Donkey: 1/2 cu. coconut milk, 1/2 cu. soy or almond milk, lots of of pistachios => WHIRR! => 1 banana (sliced and frozen), 1 cara cara orange (rind and membrane cut away, segmented), more soy or almond milk, honey => WHIRR! (this one is the best).
[Names provided by my daughter.]