A Couple of Tarts

We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink, for dining alone is leading the life of a lion or wolf. ~ Epicurus

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I *Heart* KCRW

Many of you might already be familiar with the radio station KCRW, a public radio station out of Santa Monica. It has become well known in the last few years for its music programs, particularly Morning Becomes Eclectic with Nic Harcourt (whom I also *heart*). They are always introducing new bands to the masses and have live performances by the likes of Beck, Belle & Sebastian and Cat Power, all the time. Even if you don't live in the LA area, you can catch Nic and other great DJs on the internet using KCRW's handy simulcast feature or by listening to archived shows.

If you've already heard of KCRW, you still may not have heard of one of its non-music shows, Good Food. (Unless you are a friend of mine and I have talked your ear off about it.) Good Food is on every Saturday morning at 11:00 am PST (that's 2:00 pm here on the east coast). It's hosted by Evan Kleinman, a local restaurant owner. Do you remember the Saturday Night Live skit from the 1990's which featured a radio show based on food? I am convinced it was a knock off of Good Food...but don't get me wrong, the KCRW version is awesome! They cover so many fascinating topics that if you love food, you will just eat (hee!) it up. Sure, it's a little LA-centric. Each week starts off with a market report from the Santa Monica Farmer's Market that causes me to think wistfully of California produce. And usually Jonathan Gold from LA Weekly is on talking about his latest hole-in-the-wall food find. But it will actually make you wished you lived in LA, at least for the hour you are listening. Kleinman does feature many topics of general interest as well. In the past few weeks, some have included: catfish, red wine headaches, summer preserves and pudding contests. If you happen to be around in the middle of the day Saturday, definitely tune in. Otherwise, check out the archived shows and listen to one that sounds interesting. I'm always learning something new. And I've even started a list of places to try next time I find myself visiting the family in SoCal.
K. (NYC tart)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Fishing with Karen

I apologize in advance if any of the images or descriptions offend any readers (especially my vegetarian blog sister). If you have an aversion to fish, fishing or anything having to do with getting the fish from the water to the table, you should probably skip this post. (Tune in next week for mangosteens and LA radio!)

Okay, now that it's just us, I can tell you about the amazing time I had this past Saturday fishing off of Long Island. A group of people from one of RFC's circles rented a boat for a day of fishing. Wives, children and girlfriends were invited. Yay! Truthfully, when this was first brought up, I was more looking forward to the prospect of being out on the water that the actual fishing part. I didn't think I would do too much of that, maybe give it a try. In fact, what happened was that I fished just about the whole time we were out. And I actually caught about 15 fish! Most had to be thrown back because they were too small, but I did reel in four "keepers," three sea bass and one porgy. I did a little research and what I caught was specifically a black sea bass. Porgy refers to a number of similar fish and is very flat. I couldn't figure out which kind I had pulled up. RFC was also lucky, catching about the same amount as I did. I do believe luck had a lot to do with it. I am sure under other circumstances skill plays a part, but with at least ten lines going off every side of the boat, it seemed you caught a fish if one decided to nibble on your particular bait (we used clams). It was super cool to learn how to use the fishing pole, the reel, the release. I hooked my own finger many times in the beginning before getting the hang of grabbing the line. The least pleasant part was unhooking the fish. I found myself apologizing to my catch as I struggled to work the hook out of its mouth, and sometimes it's eye (yuck!), even if I was about to throw it back in. Two of the fish I meant to keep made a mad dash for freedom as I finally got the hook out and flopped right back over the side of the boat. Towards the end of the trip, one of the crew collected our catch and filleted them for us. He made quick work of the fish, gutting and skinning them with only a few flicks of the knife.

We took our prized bag to RFC's and fired up the barbecue. We seasoned the fish with salt and pepper, fresh dill, olive oil, and lemon and wrapped in tin foil packets. The end result was simple and light, a perfect late-summer dinner. The sea bass was the more tender of the two, although both were on the firm side. The porgy was fishier tasting and a little bony. It was very satisfying to be cooking and eating the very fish we had caught that morning. Most people, myself included, don't have much of a connection between the source of food and what shows up in the refrigerator. This was just a small way to see the link.

Friday, August 25, 2006

La folie pour les mures

Dave had his first class at UNC yesterday. Is it back-to school time already? Ce n'est pas possible! I look forward to the crisp, fall days, yet I am not ready to say good-bye to the summer fruits. I allowed cherries to come and go without a pie or tart in sight. Now I am in a mad dash to take advantage of the berries before they disappear. Is it possible that the seasons are growing shorter with each passing year? Whatever baie is your favorite, it will be perfectly complemented by a touch of lemon and a nice dollop of cream. It can be a simple creme chantilly or creme fraiche, marscapone, clotted cream...The citrus will bring out the bright cheerfulness of the flavor and the cream will balance out the natural acidity.

Lately, I have been feeling homesick and find myself craving the blackberry. It is the first fruit I can recall eating. Up until the age of four, my family lived in a quaint, Upstate New York neighborhood where the blackberries grew wild. I remember eating them unadorned and was surprised by the tart flavor and appealing texture. Shouldn't there be more dishes made with blackberries? I decided to do a some research about this mysterious fruit(which is actually not a berry at all). To my delight, it is part of the Rubus family which is a nickname for ma puce. According to Wikipedia, if you pick them after September 15th they are cursed because the devil has claimed them. Je vois, elles m'envoutent.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Brooklyn Shout-out

This weekend I will be baking my little heart out for a couple of friends in honor of their birthdays. As I don't get to do this kind of baking (cake, filling, frosting-the whole nine yards) very often, I'm thankful for the excuse to dust off these skills and give them whirl. But first, I needed to stock up on a few supplies and, because I have a little time on my hands, I took the train out to my old neighborhood and stopped by my favorite kitchen shop, A Cook's Companion on Atlantic Avenue. This little store has a rather large selection of cookware, gadgets, knives, and baking supplies and I don't think their prices are that much higher than bigger retailers. They have lots of options for cake decorating and I was able to get everything I needed in one shot. While on Atlantic, I couldn't help but wander a few doors down to another local favorite, Sahadi's. What I like best about this Middle-eastern shop is that you can get spices, nuts, dried fruit, and grains in bulk. Go in late November and you will be surrounded by British women stocking up on ingredients for fruitcake and steamed pudding!

While at A Cook's Companion, I ran across an issue of
Edible Brooklyn. This is a brand new quarterly which focuses, obviously, on the food scene all over Brooklyn. It is wonderfully put together, with articles ranging from fresh mozzarella to the food in Coney Island. I wish there was an equivalent for Queens! You can check out their website for locations all over the borough where you can get a copy for free(!).

A Cook's Companion
197 Atlantic Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 852-6901

Sahadi Importing
187 Atlantic Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 624-4550

Monday, August 21, 2006

Summer in a Jar

I love the idea of making jam. It sounds so homey and old fashioned. My Grandma D. used to make jars and jars of it from the apricots and plums growing in her backyard. It was thick and sweet with chunks of fruit. You could eat it right out of the jar, but we spread it on the stacks of crepes she made periodically or filled the cream puffs she whipped up at the drop of a hat. The taste of these fruits, even in the raw form, still conjure up afternoons spent at her house watching cartoons. Despite all my experimenting in the kitchen, my own jam-making experience is severely limited. To be honest, I am too afraid of doing it incorrectly and giving myself or someone else food poisoning.

I started to feel a little more comfortable with the notion two summers ago on a trip out to Oregon to visit G. We spent the morning picking raspberries and then the afternoon making pectin based jam. In this version, you don't cook the fruit, the pectin does all the work of gelling it. It was tasty and beautiful in the jars and I got to bring some back with me to NYC. But still I shied away from the kind of jam where any kind of heat was involved.

That is, until Sunday. I was procrastinating yet again and reading food blogs, when I saw Pie Queen's post on making
apricot jam. With some words of encouragement from her, I tried my hand at it. And success! I now have three beautiful little jars of apricot jam sitting in my fridge just waiting to be spread on toast, mixed into yogurt, or spooned over ice cream. One jar will be off to S.'s kitchen and another might find a home with someone else because this jam has to be eaten within a month. RFC and I had some this morning and it really was like keeping summer in a jar. It was sweet, but not too, and almost the consistency of a compote. Now that I have overcome my fear of making jam (over twelve hours later and feeling fine!) I am all set to grab some plums, peaches or nectarines before the season is over. So if you have any old jars hanging around, send them my way!

UPDATE: The jam was delicious the first few days after I opened the jar, but a week later I noticed what looked like mold around the rim. Just to be on the safe side, I'm going to toss the rest of the jam. Next time, I think I need to sterilize the lids (I only boiled the jars) and let them cool upside down. Obviously, more research and testing needs to be done!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

links, moi aussi!

Karen, You are not the only one procrastinating. In the wee hours of the night (morning, actually), often I can be found reading blogs. Every new one sends me on a hunt to find more posts and admire their photos. Since we launched our site I have added only one link. This was after asking Karen 20 times how to do it. Shamefully, it required three tries to be successful. The humiliation has worn off, so I will have another go at it.

My lists of favorites include--

Je suis en accord avec Karen
Chocolate and Zucchini
She is the Queen
David Lebovitz
I love his witty posts and sumptuous recipes

A few to add
La Tartine Gourmande
Bea is Frenchwoman living in Boston who loves the word tartine as much as I do. Her prolific blog is beautifully photographed
Blogging from Singapore, Chubbyhubby can inspire with a single picture
A fellow catlover living in Suffolk, UK
3 guys from California (2 from the Bay Area, 1 from the OC) now living and eating very well in New York City
travelers lunchbox
A young couple who are true world travelers living in Edinburgh, Scotland

And to feed my ame francaise
Clea Cuisine
Wonderfully charming
c'est moi qui l'ai fait
Pascale (aka Scally) exemplifies joie de vivre
Passion fusion
Perspective from a student of architecture living in Paris

I had no idea how many blogs there actually were. As Karen stated, we are novices to this world. There are so many to choose from and each one offers a delightful voice and opinion. I am very lucky to share this with space with my friend Karen. She has a truly adventurous spirit and palette. Remember that green (or was it purple) pastry from Krystal's Cafe in Woodside? Only you could convince me to try that.

Friday, August 18, 2006


What I am supposed to be doing these days: finishing my thesis application; preparing for my new teaching job.

What I am actually doing these days: going on the internet, discovering and then reading food blogs...what may be described negatively, though not unfairly, as procrastination.

This whole blogging phenomena is actually pretty new to me. It's only been in the past six months that I really started reading and following various blogs, specifically, food blogs. Even then, there were only two or three I regularly checked out. It was reading and then sharing them with my blog sister, Dora, that inspired us to start one of our very own. (Truth be told, it was Dora who said, "We could do this. We should do this!")

Recently, we upped our tech savviness and figured out how to add links to some of our favorite food sites on the left hand side of our blog. And just now, I added a few more to the list that have struck me as particularly interesting and fun to read. Have you checked them out? No? Do you need a little push? A little more reason than the fact that they are on our blog to begin with? I thought that might be the case, so here is a little run down of our fave food blogs and a taste of why we think they are so great.

These three are the trifecta of my little world. They are the first ones I actively took an interest in and the ones I check every day to see what's new.

**Adventures of Pie Queen is by a food writer who used to live in SF, but now lives in my old neighborhood in Brooklyn. I am a sucker for the Bay Area/Cobble Hill references. And c'mon, she loves to bake! How can I resist that!
David Lebovitz has been one of my pastry idols since way back when I was a pastry chef in SF. His book, Room for Dessert, is one of my all time favorites and I constantly consult it for inspiration and recipes. He used to work at Chez Panisse but now lives in Paris and conducts chocolate tours. What I wouldn't give to go on one of these...sigh. Aside from food, he also writes amusingly about being an American in Paris. This and the next blog are for you Francophiles out there.
Chocolate & Zucchini is by a young Frenchwoman, Clotilde, in Paris. She also lived in the the Bay Area at one point (do you sense a bias?). Her writing is charming and I am partial to the photos she posts of her creations and discoveries. She has a book coming out soon that I can't wait to get my hands on.

And here are a few I only just ran across recently:
Farmgirl Fare: Have you ever dreamed of chucking city life and buying a place out in the country? Well, this lady did just that. She left the Bay Area for Missouri over ten years ago and writes about her experiences on her blog. For all you animal lovers, there are many pictures of her sheep, dogs and cats, as well as of her donkey, Dan.
**Cupcake Bakeshop: If you are in the mood to make cupcakes from scratch, but want to try something a little different, then this site should be one of your first stops. I have to admit, I haven't tried out any of the recipes yet, but damn, these cupcakes look good!
delicious days is a blog out of Munich. I have just started to explore past posts, but there seems to be a lot on life in Germany.
The Girl Who Ate Everything: This girl gets around! And I mean that in a goes-out-and-tries-lots-of-new-eateries kind of way. She is an NYU student and maybe the dorm food options push one in this direction. But whatever the impetus is, she is constantly writing about new little places. And taking photos of them. In just the week I have been reading her posts, I already have a list of five or six places that I want to check out.

Finally, being LA born and raised, I do have to represent my hometown. As much as I and most people I know, come down on it, there are some great aspects of the area. (Really. No, REALLY, I swear!) And I do have some peeps who live/visit there and might want some inspiration. The Delicious Life, by Sarah, is a fun read. She's another one who is always trying new places. And while you are being open to what SoCal has to offer, take a look at Matt Bites.

Hey Dora! Do you have anything to add? I know you do your share of food blog surfing. What do you have to say about
C'est moi qui l'ai fait? I've looked at it a few times and wish I remembered more high school french!

Is it pathetic of me to say that I want to be friends with all of these people? Hang out with them, cook with them, go out to eat with them? Maybe a little, but they seem so cool. Luckily, I have a lot of people who (whom?) I actually do know who like to explore the culinary landscape.

But I still wouldn't mind spending some time with Clotilde, David and PQ once in a while.


Monday, August 14, 2006

un repas avec notre voisine

Sundays are becoming an excuse for me to get into Italian Mamma mode and cook as many things as possible. What does a chef do on her day off? Faire la cuisine, bien sur. My neighbor recently returned from her summer holiday in Germany, and it was a perfect excuse to have her over for some food and wine. She came bearing the gift of cheese which makes her perfect in my book. This was no ordinary fromage. It was Gouda from Gouda and it arrived studded with whole cumin seeds.

This was actually the second gift. A week before we received some traditional German Fare--Lindt Pralines Hochfein, Kartoffel Knodel Botato and Jager Sauce. All that remains of the chocolate is one marzipan piece. The last 2 are packaged and labeled in every language but English and French. The only German word I recognize is mit. I suppose that doesn't help me out too much. Did I mention that my neighbor and her husband are both linguist professors?
I was instructed to soak the packets in cold water for 15 minutes, cook them for 2 minutes and allow them to cool. It certainly seemed simple enough. The result tasted similar to the ramen you made in your college dormroom. Depending on who you are this could be a good or bad thing. I am tempted to send a box to Karen and see if she can sass it up.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Northern Exploring

This past week I escaped the heat and humidity of NYC and took a road trip north with RFC. We went up into Vermont, towards Burlington. Our first stop was in Putney, Vermont, to have lunch at Curtis's Barbecue (Route 5, exit 4 off I-91). We found this place courtesy of Jane and Michael Stern's recently revised book, Road Food. RFC opted for the pork sandwich, while I went for the small order of ribs. Both were right off the barbecue, which was manned by Curtis himself. I am usually not one to order ribs because I am almost always disappointed with the amount of meat. Curtis's ribs had a thick slab of meat that practically fell off the bone. Yum! They were literally finger-licking good.

After our pit stop in Putney, we were off to Underhill State Park, where we spent a couple of nights camping. Unfortunately, it rained most of the time, but it was still beautiful and incredibly green. We got to experience an all-night thunder and lightening storm from the comfort of RFC's little tent, which really came through by keeping us dry despite the torrential downpour. I tried my hand at campsite cooking for the first time in probably ten years. One night we had the standard mac and cheese, but the second night experimented with couscous and canned chicken. We threw in some canned carrots and beans, curry powder and dried garlic and onion, and voila!: a tasty, filling dish that we devoured after our mountain hike.

Next, we treated ourselves to a night at a B&B in Burlington. A trip to Magic Hat Brewery was in order, being that their Number 9 is one of RFC's favorites. You can get unlimited shots of whatever beers they have on tap, which included a couple that aren't available in NYC yet. For dinner, we had tasty pizza at American Flatbread-Burlington Hearth. They serve a thin crust rendition with a variety of toppings to choose from, many of which use local ingredients. The next day we took advantage of the beautiful weather, rented bikes, and explored the amazing bike path that runs alongside Lake Champlain. We may not haved spotted Champ, the lake monster, but we did have gorgeous views.

RFC and I went back into New York, to Troy, to visit his friend K. I hadn't been to this part of the state and was charmed by the architecture of the town. There were houses akin to what you find in parts of Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope. K. was a lovely host and took us to the weekly farmer's market where we sampled fresh baked pastries and Indian food made right at one of the tables. K. also showed us her plot at the community garden and we harvested potatoes, onions, corn and parsley which later became the makings for a late afternoon barbecue. I have always thought there is nothing like the taste of tomatoes and strawberries fresh from the garden. Now I have to add to that list potatoes practically right out of the ground. To cook them, K. simply sliced them, added a few slices of onion, and sprinkled it all with rosemary and olive oil. This was wrapped up in a tin foil packet and placed on the grill for about 30 minutes. You can't go wrong with this combination. (Thanks K. for all your hospitality!)

Our road trip ended with one last stint of camping at Lake George. We joined a few of RFC's buddies, one of which took on most of the cooking duties. We were car camping here, so meals were much more elaborate. Bacon, eggs and potatoes came off the campfire grill one morning and fluffy, perfectly browned french toast the next. I got to try my first garbage plate late one night made from the breakfast leftovers, plus a can of chili, some sausages and a few handfuls of tortilla chips. It was probably best I couldn't really see what it looked like with the light of the campfire, but I can honestly say it was delicious, and that's not just because I had had a few beers.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

le petit dejeuner

Our mothers have always told us that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I have to agree, to skip it is a bad idea on all levels. Hopefully, whatever you eat will be accompanied by a cup of joe. My passion for coffee was deeply influenced by a post-college job at Peet's in the East Bay. It was still a small company at the time and they took great pride in their craft. I have tried various brewing methods over the years. In college, I thought the French press was nec plus ultra. After a trip to Italy, I fell in love with an Italian stovetop maker. And from time to time, I pull out the Chemex and pay homage to Mary Tyler Moore. My current favorite is not as aesthetically pleasing, but the Melitta single cup, makes an intense, soulful cafe. The process has become a very personal ritual. I have no tolerance for wimpy "brown paper water" imposters. My family and friends have helped in my quest for a perfect cup of coffee. Over the years, I have received a grinder from my mother, a daily mug from my brother and belle-soeur and a travel mug from the NY tart. The travel thermos keeps a perfect temperature and reminds me of Joe's in the West Village. The temperature has reached to almost 100 degrees, but I cannot imagine drinking iced coffee. C'est sacrilege!

Now onto the question of nourriture. What is the proper accompaniment? The finest bread you can find. If you are like me, you hope to never hear another conversation involving carbs. Ca m'ennui. A slice of baguette or miche from Weaver Street Bakery is the perfect start to the day. Spread some Beurre d'Isigny and Les Comtes de Provence Clementine Preserves to make it sublime. Before you deal with the stresses of the day, take a moment to have an inspiring meal and to be present.

Bonne Journee.

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