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Archive for June, 2009

Southern Comfort

It’s been a week, and I think I’m finally recovered to the point of being able to reflect on all the gastronomical delights New Orleans had to offer. What a wonderful place. I had such a lovely time with great friends (and one awesome dog) enjoying all the music and architecture and history and culture…and of course, the cuisine. Now I am a firm believer that if you can swing it and your friends are generous, that you should aim to travel primarily to the cool cities where they are residing. They know all the tricky things like who makes the best oyster po’ boys, see? What better way to see a new place than with someone who can actually show you what the  city is about? My friend, Alicia, is a native born and raised, so she has years of knowledge that was thoroughly exploited all weekend. Good hostesses are hard to come by, but we couldn’t have asked for a better time!

So, back to the food. Mmmm. I’ve been detoxing for the past week because I’m pretty sure I gained at least ten pounds indulging in the rich dishes New Orleans is famous for. Worth it, totally worth it. Now those of you who know me will be surprised to see that not only did I eat pickles, olives, deep fried and pie-type things, but I enjoyed every minute of it. I don’t know if it was the fish-out-of-water thing or what, but Southern food and I are friends. No gravy though, there are limits to my adventurousness.

Rather than exhaust my descriptive vocabulary with all of the appropriate words I can think of to describe how good the food is, I thought a pictorial narrative of my weekend of gluttony would do better to explain just how much I want to go back already!

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Thai Peanut Noodles

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This post makes me hungry! I haven’t eaten dinner tonight, and I just don’t think it’s a good idea to blog on an empty stomach, especially when you’re blogging about one of your most favorite types of food. The posts here make it  obvious that I like Thai food, but I very rarely cook a common dish you see in a restaurant. More often I’ll throw coconut milk or basil in a soup and call it Thai-flavored. This time I tried to create something similar to pad thai because I am beholden to all dishes involving peanuts and peanut butter. If you’ll remember back a couple of weeks ago I was challenged to create a meal for eight that could satisfy many tastes and include some pretty random ingredients, and although I tried to get away unnoticed with calling peanut sauce a cream sauce in order to fit in the parameters of cooking a meal with cream sauce, I felt a little cheating in this case was well worth it.

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P1020148When you develop aversions to certain foods as a child, I believe it’s important to occasionally give them another whirl as an adult to see if the dislike is still there. That’s how I became reacquainted with fennel last year in a fortuitous soup experiment and recently reinforced my loathing of olives after realizing that not even a hefty amount of vodka could make a dirty martini taste good. Radishes are all the rage these days and after another inspiring trip to the happiest place on Earth, Russo’s, I found myself in an adventurous mood with a bunch of radishes and these beautiful flowering chives in my hand. Dangerous.

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Last summer while I was out visiting San Francisco, my friend Sophie committed a unspeakably cruel act of torture…she took me to Bi-Rite Creamery. It was there that I first tasted the oh so sinful salted caramel ice cream and the love affair worthy of a Shakespearean comedy-tragedy began. Yes, I covet. Yes, I yearn. Woe is me, if only I lived at the corner of 18th and Dolores.

Now those of you familiar with Boston will understand that this is a city that takes its ice cream seriously. In fact, today is the final day of Scooper Bowl 2009, annual proof that this delectable and venerable dessert is not to be taken lightly. That being said, I have begged and pleaded with the local creameries to develop this flavor into their regular repertoire to no avail. So, even though it is currently 55 degrees and cloudy in Boston, and even though making your own ice cream is an enormous pain in the butt, I am left with no choice but to take matters into my own hands. And thanks to David Lebovitz, my efforts were not in vain.

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For my final quinoa trick (at least for a while), I felt it was only appropriate to give a shout out to the ancestral origins of this seed/vegetable ingredient. That, and I think I’m truly obsessed with all things Peruvian these days – pisco, quinoa, Macchu Picchu, you name it. I first came across ‘quinotto’ (quinoa risotto…clever,  or annoying? I’m undecided) during one of the best dinners I’ve had in Boston at Taranta and have been enamored with the idea of this dish ever since. Peruvian restaurants seem to be the new sexy thing in innovative haute cuisine and I for one am firmly seated and belted in to the bandwagon. Last week was a true Peruvian dining-lover’s paradise at my house: one roommate and I went to a cultural benefit dinner at a local restaurant where we sampled authentic cuisine and were treated to a demonstration on how to make ceviche (coming soon to an Esculent blog near you!), and another roommate returned from her trip to visit Peru bearing a wealth of spices for us to experiment with. Oh happy day! With that, the quinotto was finally ready to make its appearance.

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Here it is, installment #3 of my quinoa adventure. I’ve never made a veggie burger before, but it makes sense that quinoa would find its way here. The protein and mild flavor make quinoa a perfect candidate for creating all sorts of burger varieties. I had some leftover curried lentils (p.s. watch your lentils when you’re cooking, they are far less appetizing when they burn) so I decided to go with an Indian flavored version.

The important thing here is to make sure you include an ingredient in your patties that will make them stick together. I must confess that I tried to cook the burgers without an egg in them, quickly realized that the end result would look more like mush than burger, and took what were by then little piles of quinoa out of the pan to start over. Luckily, it worked out much better when I just added an egg and a little scoop of breadcrumbs. Much more burger-like then. I would imagine you could go to town with this kind of idea…whatever kind of flavors you’re in the mood for would likely end up as something delicious. Just don’t forget the egg!

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Oh, I love being around geometry nerds…no offense to any of my dinner guests the other night. Since I made up this recipe and am clearly no good at coming up with witty titles, we had a animated conversation about what to call these things I made where  this delightful term was coined and immediately favored. Pythagoras would be proud.

 

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Pay no mind to that colorful display of ingredients on the cutting board. That’s Kitchen Challenge Part 2. Thanks for the picture Diana!

 

This recipe was born out of a penchant for healthy competition and a cooking challenge posed by my out of town guests this weekend who requested a home cooked meal. Not only that, but they requested a meal that included the following ingredients: cheese, lime, noodles, bacon, cream sauce, and filo dough. I thought about possible dishes that could encompass all six ingredients in way that didn’t assault your senses, but I just couldn’t get behind the idea of lime-flavored cream sauce. So, I decided to divide and conquer: an appetizer and a main dish, each representing part of the list. Never one to turn down a challenge, here is installment #1 of Iron Chef Christa-style.

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